Inner Drishti

DSC_0386 (2)About five days ago, I woke up with mild vertigo*. I get vertigo occasionally. Sixteen years ago while I was swimming in the ocean, a wave crashed down on my head, and I hit my head on something. Ever since then, I am vulnerable to getting vertigo. A head cold or stress can set it in motion.

If you have ever had vertigo, you know that the room can spin around. It can be scary. When I have dizziness, I use a drishti to anchor my gaze. A drishti is a focal point. I stare at one spot or object. I do not let my eyes off the object or spot. According to Wikipedia, a drishti, or focused gaze, is a means for developing concentrated intention. It relates to the fifth limb of yoga (pratyahara) concerning sense withdrawal, as well as the sixth limb dharana relating to concentration.

When I teach yoga, I instruct my students to use a drishti; especially for balance poses. I say to my students, “Steady eyes…steady pose.” And when I have vertigo, I must use a drishti. It is the only thing that keeps me from spinning around and around.

This past week when I had vertigo, I thought about what if I need to close my eyes. For example, if I am resting or sleeping or even during an emergency situation. So this week I practiced using an inner drishti. And when I did use the inner drishti, I found comfort and stability. I felt like I could manage my vertigo symptoms and it eased my fear of vertigo.

My inner drishti is a red rose. I picture in my mind the beautiful rose, like the photo above. I remember my time walking through the Wilson Rose Garden at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. I steady my eyes on the rose. I can see its delicate petals. I remember its fragrant smell.

I encourage everyone to pick an inner drishti. Practice using it. Maybe when you do the tree pose or some other balance pose, you can close your eyes and practice your inner drishti. Or practice using it before you go to sleep. Pick one image. It must be something beautiful, something you love. It should also be something you can see in nature or real life. Why? Because I think it will connect your brain with a positive memory, and this will trigger a pleasant sensation.

You have a powerful mind. You can use your inner drishti as a tool to calm your mind, increase concentration, and reduce fear.

Namaste, world.

*Suggestions if you have vertigo: get the over-the-counter medication called Bonine, receive physical therapy, wear Sea Bands (acupressure bands).

 

 

 

 

 

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Yoga: My Anchor

 

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Yoga is like an anchor for me. My boat (my body) is in the present; sitting on top of the water, and is exposed to the elements of life. But my anchor reaches deep into the unknown, and yet it creates stability. The depth of the water symbolizes how far I am willing to explore my spirituality. Can I work with my fears? Can I let go? Can I travel with ease and follow my intuition? I pick up my anchor and release it into the depths of mystery many times during the journey of my life.

According to Merriam-Webster, an anchor is a reliable or principal support. Yoga is a support we can depend on in our life. We need that support because the mind is like the wind. In the Bhagavad Gita, it says, “The mind is impetuous and stubborn, strong and willful, as difficult to harness as the wind. But it can be trained by constant practice and by freedom from desire.”

In the vast sea of life, the wind will push my boat around with recklessness – if I allow it. But I can become steady with my anchor, and let my sails harness the wind to direct my boat according to my plan. I will learn to ride the waves and become my own captain.

Namaste, world.

The Lived Life

butterfly girlI have been thinking a lot about the quality of life and death. My Buddhist teacher, Bhante Sathi, asked me one simple question that will not get out of my head. He asked me, “Are you satisfied with your life?” And I replied, “Yes.” When I look at my life, I am satisfied with everything that I did. I have a few things that I would do differently, but, all in all, I am satisfied.

An unlived life causes the fear of death. If you are happy with your life, then you can let go. But if you feel that you did not live your life, then fear can appear. Are YOU satisfied with your life?

Almost every day, I sit with the dying. I see my patients mortality and my mortality and the brief span of time that we call life. The Buddhists believe, just like in nature, there are two events: birth and death. I, too, believe that we are part of a cycle of birth and death (reincarnation). I do not fear death. However, I am curious.

Do you sleep at night? Sleep is the twin of death (Yalom, 2008). We experience a taste of death every night. Death is part of us, part of nature. And every morning is a symbol of rebirth. All things begin and end and then start again.

Most of my hospice patients decline until they are in a sleep-like coma. Also, they hold their breath. Some hospice practitioner’s call this, “Fish out of the water.” They retain their breath like a fish out of water, opening and closing its mouth. After they hold their breath, then they need to catch their breath. So it’s a cycle of retention (holding the breath) and fast breathing.

When I watch my patients breathe, I understand the importance of learning pranayama (regulation of the breath through specific techniques and exercises). Pranayama exercises help us to prepare for death. As a yoga practitioner, I understand the value of training the prana (breath/life-giving force). According to B. K. S. Iyengar (yoga master), it is best to practice pranayama with an experienced Guru or a skilled teacher.

Meditation also helps us prepare for death. Again, we watch the breath. In life, the breath is always with us.

When you are satisfied with your life, there is no fear of death. You lived your life to the fullest! No regrets. The essence of who you are stays with you. You go to sleep as you, and you wake up as you. It is through wisdom that we see the truth.

Namaste, world.

Reference:

Yalom, I. D. (2008). Staring at the sun: Overcoming the dread of death. London, Great Britain: Piatkus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be Like a Tree in a Storm, by Thich Nhat Hanh

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A strong emotion is like a storm. If you look at a tree in a storm, the top of the tree seems fragile, like it might break at any moment. You are afraid the storm might uproot the tree. But if you turn your attention to the trunk of the tree, you realize that its roots are deeply anchored in the ground, and you see that the tree will be able to hold.

You too are a tree. During the storm of emotion, you should not stay at the level of the head or heart, which are like the top of the tree. You have to leave the heart, the eye of the storm, and come back to the trunk of the tree. Your trunk is one centimeter below your navel. Focus there, paying attention only to the movement of your abdomen, and continue to breathe. Then you will survive the storm of strong emotion.

You should not wait for emotion to appear before you begin practicing. Otherwise, you will be carried away by the storm. You should train now, while the emotion is not there. So sit or lay down and practice mindfulness of the breath, using the movement of your abdomen as the object of your attention. I am positive that if you do this exercise for twenty days, ten minutes per day, then you will know how to practice whenever a strong emotion comes up. After ten or twenty minutes, the emotion will go away, and you will be saved from the storm. – Thich Nhat Hanh

Tips to Reduce Stress

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I feel a little stressed out lately. I think my stress and anxiety comes from a combination of starting a new school semester, grieving the death of my father and two good friends, and worldly events. I had a few sleepless nights and a few panic attacks. I knew I had to get myself back on track. The best way to reduce stress is through self-care.

My self-care includes slowing down, staying home and resting, taking a bath, eating well, taking the time to reflect, getting a massage, listening to a relaxing podcast, meditating, doing yoga, walking my dog, and spending time with good friends.

Here are a few more tips for reducing stress (taken from Ridgeview Medical Center, Home Care and Hospice, Minnesota):

  1. Stress reduction in five minutes. Mediation, deep breathing, and yoga increases oxygen, moves your body, and focuses your mind. Just take 5 minutes twice a day (morning and evening) to do yoga and meditation. Studies show that this lowers blood pressure, releases healing hormones into your body, increases creativity, increases productivity, and increases your ability to handle stressful situations.
  2. Exercise at least 30 minutes every day. Walk your dog, walk at lunch, or set a treadmill up in your living room so you can exercise and watch your favorite show while you give your body life. Discover new exercises such as Pilates, Yoga, Tai Chi, or Qigong. Death rates from all causes, including heart disease and cancer, are much lower in people exercising 30 minutes a day. Exercise lowers the risk of strokes, diabetes, arthritis, cancer, heart disease, and osteoporosis.
  3. Laugh as often as possible to release healing hormones such as endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers. Do not buy pills for your stress. Rent a funny movie or go online to a humorous site daily. Laughter lowers blood pressure, reduces stress hormones, and boosts your immune function.
  4. Play and re-establish “child-like” qualities. Science tells us when we play; it increases our immune cells that combat disease. Playfulness also increases creativity and optimism at home and work.
  5. Pay attention. When we daily pay attention and learn to live a life of awareness and mindfulness, we become aware or our emotions, our choices, our relationships, our home life, our work, we can begin to live a rich life of awareness. Practicing mindfulness reduces anxiety and depression.
  6. Eat breakfast. Breakfast eaters are healthier and live longer than non-breakfast eaters. Research has shown that people who live to the age of 100 were consistent breakfast eaters or they consumed breakfast more frequently than non-breakfast eaters. People who eat breakfast consumed less fat and had a higher intake of essential vitamins and minerals, and lower serum cholesterol, which leads to a lower instance of heart disease.
  7. Get a pet. Studies reveal there are benefits of owning a pet, such as reduction of blood pressure and inducing a relaxation response in our bodies. Pets are emotional lifesavers, they help people experience intimacy and help with changes and loss in our lives.
  8. Create Friendships. Friendships are strong indicators of mental, physical and spiritual health. Friendship is not a luxury but is essential to work-life balance and your health. Studies show that isolation decreases immune functioning and increases mortality risk.
  9. Attitude of Gratitude. It is physiologically impossible to be grateful and experience stress at the same time. Research shows grateful individuals report having more energy and less physical complaints than their non-grateful counterparts. Studies tell us daily gratitude exercises resulted in high levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, optimism, and energy.
  10. Altruism and philanthropy. A generous soul lives a rich, abundant life. Altruism neutralizes negative emotions that affect immune, endocrine and cardiovascular function. Altruism creates physiological responses or “helpers high” that makes people feel stronger and more energetic and counters harmful effects of stress.

I hope these tips are helpful to you. Blessings.

Namaste, world.