The 23rd Psalm, by Bobby McFerrin (dedicated to his mother)

The 23rd Psalm, by Bobby McFerrin

The Lord is my shepherd. I have all I need. She makes me lie down in green meadows, beside the still waters. She will lead.

She restores my soul. She rights my wrongs. She leads me in a path of good things, and fills my hearts with songs.

Even though I walk, through a dark and dreary land, there is nothing that can shake me, she has said she won't forsake me, I'm in her hand.

She sets the table before me, in the presence of my foes. She anoints my head with oil, and my cup overflows.

Surely, surely goodness and kindness with follow me, all the days of my life. And I will live in her house forever, forever, and ever.

Glory be to our Mother and Daughter, and to the holy of holies. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be world, without end.

Amen.

How are you?

Photo by Gina M. Gafford

Right now, it is a good time to check in with yourself. How are you?

Psycho/Social:

  • Family support. Right now with the Coronavirus, we need to make extra effort to keep in touch with family members. How are your relationships?
  • Keep a positive attitude. “We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves happy. The amount of work is the same. – Carlos Castaneda
  • Perseverance. The pandemic might make you feel “down and depressed.” Right now, more than ever, it’s important to take care of yourself and your loved ones. Never give up!
  • Help people. Can you find one way to help people? Donate food, donate money to an organization, or volunteer.

Physical:

  • Exercise. Do yoga, walk, jump rope, dance, lift weights, or use exercise machines. Do you exercise every day?
  • Eat well and take vitamins. Make sure to take vitamin D.

Mental/Emotional:

  • “Go with the flow.” Be in the present moment. Learn to let go of your thoughts.
  • Share your feelings with someone that you trust. Create strong kinships and bonds. Do you express your love?
  • Laugh. Have a sense of humor. Watch funny movies.
  • Reduce your time on social media. Don’t get trapped!

Spiritual:

  • Pray or meditate every day. It is important to connect with your inner self and the divine. How do you feel about God (or the divine) lately?
  • Keep in touch with your church or spiritual center. Attend services each week (online or in person). As a group, we can be there for each other in challenging times.

Namaste, world.

Audio Blog Post Reading of “Fluid Emotions” (5-Minutes)

Fluid Emotions (February 28, 2017)

Last night I had the most amazing dream. I dreamt that I was breathing underwater. I was about 20 feet underwater. The water was clear, and I could see the sun shining on the surface. While I was floating, two other human beings were floating near each other. One of the humans told me that if I continue to breathe the water, I would die. I didn’t listen to the human, and slowly a bright, beautiful light started to descend into the water. As the light saturated the water, I realized I was dying, and I woke up from the dream.

So what does this dream mean? According to gotohoroscope.com: To dream that you can breathe underwater also shows that you have obtained complete mastery over your emotions. Many times in dreams, the sea, or the ocean, or any body of water, will be represent your emotional state. When you are on a boat, you are showing that you can navigate through all of your complex emotional responses. However, when you are swimming in the water, this suggests that you have greater mastery over your emotions than you thought. You are in touch with yourself. (See more at http://www.gotohoroscope.com/txt/dream-dictionary-breathing-underwater.html).

I agree with the above statement. I am in touch with myself and my emotions. I can experience my feelings, and then let them go. In the past, I was so judgmental about my emotions. In my mind, I think I should have felt a certain way or that I should not have shown a particular emotion to someone. Now, I realize that at that moment, I felt that way. I am responsible for my feelings. Therefore, if I didn’t hurt anyone, I can let them go.

I like the quote from Awakening Joy by James Baraz: “I’ve seen the Dalai Lama get very serious, even cry, upon hearing about a tragedy and then, as the subject changes, laugh a few minutes later. His complete openness to the sorrows of the world lets him also be touched by delight, goodness, and joy when these arise.”

I was so glad to read that even the Dalai Lama will cry sometimes. The Dalai Lama is fluid with his emotions; without being attached to them. He is present moment by moment.

Here is a mindful approach to working with difficult emotions (taken from the book Awakening Joy, by James Baraz):

RAIN -When you are in the midst of a strong emotion, take a few moments to try this approach:

  • Recognize what you are feeling and name it. Label it: Anger, fear, sadness, confusion.
  • Allow the feelings to be present, without pushing them away and without getting lost in them.
  • Investigate the feelings in your body and mind. Where in your body do you feel it? How does it feel in your mind – heavy, tight, open, agitated?
  • Non-identification is the key to freeing yourself from the emotion’s grip. What you are feeling is a human emotion that arises and passes away. It does not define who you are.

Namaste, world.

Be a Role Model in Challenging Times

Lake Superior, Minnesota (Photo by Gina M. Gafford)

Everyone is experiencing more psychological stress because of the Coronavirus. While shopping, my friend said she could see the stress in people’s eyes. This past week, I felt stress and frustration several times. I had to be strict and tell myself to “be a calm-ass!” I reminded myself that situations and feelings are temporary.

When I feel frustrated, it helps to look at the big picture of life. I need to ask myself, “What am I afraid of?” Frustration is another form of anger, and anger is another form of fear. Right now, there’s a lot of uncertainty and fear about the future. We all need to take one day at a time.

Along with my frustration, I’ve had a careless attitude. The issues around the Coronavirus doesn’t help (and it’s not an excuse to be rude or unkind). I must not let myself go down that path. I must keep my integrity and not give up on what’s important in life – like being kind, helping people, and making the world a better place.

Several things help me to feel more balanced and less frustrated, like increasing my self-care, be more mindful (do more yoga and meditation), and spend time in nature. I need to remind myself to be gentle with myself and others. We live in a unique and challenging time, and we need to be role models for others.

Namaste, world.

Audio Blog Post Reading of “The Magic of OM” (7-Minutes)

The Magic of OM (March 21, 2016)

Om (or Aum) is a sacred sound and symbol. Om is the universal sound, the first sound of creation. In the yoga sutras by B.K.S Iyengar (1993), “Aum is called Pranava, which stands for the praise of the divine and fulfillment of divinity.” Iyengar continues to say, “Sound is vibration, which as modern science tells us, is the source of all creation. God is beyond vibration, but vibration, being the subtlest of His creation, is the nearest we can get to Him in the physical world. So we take it as His symbol.”

I have been using Om in my pranayama practice. Yogic breathing is called pranayama in Sanskrit. Brown et al., (2005) defines pranayama as “meaning both control of energy and expansion of energy” (p. 189). In other words, Brown says that the breath is energy, and we have control over it. Brown (2005) states, prana is defined as breath or life force. According to Iyengar (1996), “pranayama by nature has three components: inhalation, exhalation, and retention. They are carefully learned by elongating the breath and prolonging the time of retention according to the elasticity of the torso, the length and depth of breath, and the precision of movements” (p. 33). Iyengar’s point is to learn to hold the breath for longer periods of time to increase the volume of oxygen in the body.

Breath links the body and mind. Yogic breathing techniques can be used to balance the autonomic nervous system and have a positive effect on stress-related disorders. When individuals are under stress, they restrict their breathing and decrease the amount of oxygen coming into their bodies (Wilkinson, 2002). Yogic breathing techniques increase the volume of oxygen in the lungs and help the body to relax and the mind to focus.

When I chant Om, I repeat it three times with a long expiration. Chanting Om has complex effects on the brain; especially in the Wernicke’s area and the thalamus (Brown, 2005). According to Brown et al., (2005), “Even just mentally chanting Om showed decreased metabolism, decreased heart rate, and increased peripheral vascular resistance in seven experienced yogic meditators” (p. 195). Chanting Om also increases the synchronicity of particular biorhythms in the brain (Zope, 2013). D’Antoni et al. (1995) state that “mantra production frequently employs the phonemes, m, and n, which are thought to evoke pleasant associations and feelings of release” (p. 309). The chant Om has the phoneme m in it.

Om is magical. I have experienced its effects on my mind and body. I am an emotional person, and sometimes I have a difficult time controlling my emotions. According to The Art of Living Foundation (http://www.artofliving.org), “rather than allowing the emotions to alter the breath (and cause physiological changes which may prove unhealthy), one can skillfully use the breath to transform one’s emotional state.” When someone is angry, the breath is short and quick. And when someone is sad or upset, the breath is long and deep. Om can be used to control the breath and balance the emotions.

I had a little health scare this past month. I found a few pink, scaly spots on my face. I was worried that I might have skin cancer. So, last week I went to the dermatologist. I made a plan that I would silently use the Om while I sat in the office, and during the consultation and treatment. I was surprised how chanting Om helped me to be calm and feel centered. I did not get upset, and my heart rhythm was strong.

I found out that I do not have skin cancer. I have Actinic Keratoses. It’s a common skin disorder from years of sun exposure. Actinic Keratoses is considered precancerous. If left untreated, Actinic Keratoses may turn into cancer. I am treating my spots (with liquid nitrogen), so hopefully, I will not get skin cancer.

I am counting on the magic of Om to balance the biorhythms in my brain and in my heart. I have to admit; I was scared that I was going to die from skin cancer. Deep breathing and prayer helped me connect with God and the universe. Life can be scary, so we need to learn to breathe through it.

Namaste, world.

References

Brown, R.P., & Gerbarg, P.L., (2005). Sudarshan kriya yogic breathing in the treatment of  stress, anxiety, and depression: Part I – Neurophysiologic model. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 11(1), 189-201.

Brown, R.P., & Gerbarg, P.L., (2005). Sudarshan kriya yogic breathing in the treatment of stress, anxiety, and depression: Part II – Clinical applications and guidelines. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 11(4), 711-717.

D’Antoni, M., Harvey, P., & Fried, M. (1995). Alternative medicine: Does it play a role in the management of voice disorders. Journal of Voice, 9(3), 308-311.

Iyengar, B.K.S. (1966). Light on yoga. New York, NY: Schocken Books, Inc.

Iyengar, B.K.S. (1993). Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Hammersmith, London: HarperCollins Publishers.

The Art of Living Foundation (http://www.artofliving.org)

Wilkinson, L., Buboltz, W. C., & Young, T. (2002). Breathing techniques to promote client relaxation and tension reduction. Journal of Clinical Activities, Assignments & Handouts in Psychotherapy Practice, 2(1), 1-14.

Zope, S.A., & Zope, R.A., (2013). Sudarshan kriya yoga: Breathing for health. International Journal of Yoga, 6(1), 4-10.

Going Solo

Gina camping with her dog, Liam

This past weekend, I went solo camping with my dog, Liam. I spent two nights alone in a private, hike-in site. One day, I spent some time with a good friend who lives close to the campground. We went kayaking and ate around the campfire.

Several years ago, I did solo camping. It can be kind of scary sleeping alone in the wilderness. I calm my mind by telling myself that I am safe. I also do things that I enjoy like, reading, building a campfire, or meditating. Since I am a woman, I carry pepper spray too.

Going solo camping has helped me face my fears, encouraged me to be self-reliant, expanded my appreciation of beauty and simplicity, and gave me the confidence to be myself.

Namaste, world.

The Breath of Life

I am paying more attention to my breath now that I have to wear a mask for work. Masks are mandatory in Minnesota. I normally breathe deeply, so it’s difficult to breathe when I wear a mask. Many times, when I am talking (with a mask on), I get out of breath. Not good.

It’s important to breathe through your nose only (no mouth breathing – unless you have a cold). As a yoga teacher, I know how beneficial it is to breathe through the nose. The nose will warm the air, cycle the air through the labyrinth nasal cavities, and clean the air. The nose is made specifically for breathing.

Everyone must breathe through their nose – even when sleeping and exercising. Mouth breathing can cause anxiety and respiratory problems. Also, every day take a few deep breaths – especially if you have to wear a mask.

Here is a breathing technique that will help you take deep breaths:

  • Slowly breathe in and out of your nose.
  • Take a very deep breath (through your nose), and hold your breath for 5 seconds, then slowly exhale.
  • Then take 3 normal breaths (in and out through your nose).
  • Repeat the cycle a few times.

I recommend the book, “Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art,” by James Nestor. I just listened to Nestor on a podcast. It’s fascinating to hear about his research on the breath. I ordered the book.

Be well, friends.

Namaste, world.

Emergency Backpack

**This blog is about spirituality and wellness. Part of prevention and wellness is taking care of yourself and your family during all situations in life. Therefore, I think it’s beneficial to post some blog posts about being prepared.**

An emergency backpack is essential! There are many uses for it. For example, you can grab it if there’s a tornado, an earthquake, or some other natural disaster. Or you can keep it in your car for emergencies. Keep the pack as light as possible, so you can easily bring it anywhere. Children need to have backpacks too.

Here’s more information for children’s bags: https://www.happypreppers.com/kidsbugoutbag.html

Here are some beneficial tips:

1. Practice with your emergency backpack. Take it camping or even to a hotel. You will find out very quickly what you’re missing. Also, practice using your equipment (tent, stove, water filter, etc.).

2. Make sure each adult bag has a complete set of items. Do not put food in one bag and equipment in another bag.

3. Make sure your bag isn’t too heavy. Walk around with your bag – take it with you on a hike.

4. Get a backpack rain cover.

5. Remember to pack your medications and vitamins.

6. Place plastic wrap over the opening of liquid bottles.

7. Pack enough food for at least three days (72 hours). MRE’s are lightweight and easy to pack.

8. Make sure to pack three pairs of wool socks.

9. Switch out clothing to fit your current season. Never wear cotton clothing in cold or wet weather.

9. Remember to create a plan for pets.

10. Hide cash (small bills) in your emergency bag.

See a full emergency kit/backpack list at https://theprepared.com/bug-out-bags/guides/bug-out-bag-list/ and at https://www.google.com/amp/s/bugoutbagacademy.com/free-bug-out-bag-list/amp/

A couple of months ago, I created my emergency backpack. I keep it in my car. It’s amazing how many times that I needed to go into my bag for simple things like, one time, I forgot my water bottle, so I grabbed my canteen water bottle from my emergency bag. Or one time I needed a sweatshirt, so I got it from my bag. A few times, I took out cash from my bag (and then replaced it).

Good luck to you as you prepare your backpack. I love knowing that I have everything that I need in one bag.

Namaste, world.

Equanimity in Changing Times

“With equanimity, you can deal with situations with calm and reason while keeping your inner happiness.” – The Dalai Lama

What is the quality of your mind lately? Do you feel anxious or scared? Do you feel calm and centered? How can you create equanimity in changing times?

According to the dictionary, equanimity is mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation.

Be careful of things that disturb your equanimity. Do you feel distracted and anxious when you watch the news? Are you on your phone or computer too long? Remember, the main purpose of your phone, computer, and television is to keep you “hooked.”

Below are some equanimity key points, by Rick Hanson, Ph.D., “Buddha’s Brain: The practical neuroscience of happiness, love, and wisdom:”

  • Equanimity means not reacting to your reactions, whatever they are.
  • Equanimity creates a buffer around the feeling tones of experiences so that you do not react to them with craving. Equanimity is like a circuit breaker that blocks the normal sequence in the mind that moves from feeling tone to craving to clinging to suffering.
  • Equanimity is not coldness, indifference, or apathy. You are present in the world but not upset by it. The spaciousness of equanimity is great support for compassion, kindness, and joy at the happiness of others.
  • In daily life and meditation, deepen your equanimity by becoming increasingly mindful of the feeling tones of experience and increasingly disenchanted with them. They come, and they go, and they’re not worth chasing or resisting.
  • Imagine the contents of your mind coming and going in a vast open space of awareness, like shooting stars. The feeling tones of experience are just more contents moving through this space. Boundless space surrounds them – dwarfing them, untroubled by them, unaffected by their passing.

“Trust in awareness, in being awake, rather than in transient and unstable conditions.” – Ajahn Sumedho

Namaste, world.