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One Mou’ Time November 23, 2020

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Uncategorized.

“‘People who eat too much or too little or who sleep too much or too little will not succeed in meditation. Eat only food that does not heat up the body or excite the mind. When you balance and regulate your habits of eating, sleeping, working, and playing, then meditation dissolves sorrow and destroys mental pain.’”

– Krishna speaking to Arjuna (6.16 – 6.17) in The Bhagavad Gita: A Walkthrough for Westerners by Jack Hawley

Consider the human body. It is designed to change. It grows, expands, shrinks, and processes a variety of materials – using what is useful and discarding what is not. The human body has ways of healing itself; this is a proven and accepted fact, as is the fact that certain things can help the healing process – while certain things might help… if they don’t kill us first. When you look back through the history of the human race, and take into consideration all the different cultures and climates, you will find that every culture, in every climate, has had some kind of understanding about the way the mind-body works and some kind of medicine to help sustain, retain, and repair/enhance the vitality of the mind-body. In traditional and indigenous medicines, the proof was in the fact that people survived. In the modern world, however, research and empirical evidence (above and beyond survival) become critical and it’s not enough to know that something works; modern scientists want to know why something works.

Three things always stick out to me when I compare different types of medicine. First, I am struck by how much health care practitioners don’t know. This is not a criticism or intended as an insult, this is just fact – even modern scientists don’t know everything there is to know about the mind-body. Researchers are constantly discovering new ways that our mind-bodies work and don’t work; new organs; new treatments; new ailments; and they are continuously “discovering” the benefits of traditional and indigenous medicines.

“Normally, the body of an unenlightened person is like a dead wood, covered with a blanket of unawareness. For most people, the internal awareness is almost zero, unless there is pain in the body. Ordinarily human awareness keeps itself fully busy with the external environment.”

– quoted from OM Sutra: The Pathway to Enlightenment by Amit Ray and Banani Ray

The second thing that always sticks out to me is that the systems with which I’m familiar all involve an energetic mapping of the mind-body and its organs. The mapping systems are not the same, but there are similarities. For instance, in “Western” science (or modern science) the operation of the body relies on electrical signals transmitted to and from the brain traveling along neural pathways and through the central nervous system’s network of nerves connected to the spinal cord (in the center of the body) and the peripheral nervous system’s network of “unprotected” nerves and ganglia (bundles of cells).

As I am keeping this simple, let’s just say that there are 30 nerve-related segments of the spine, divided into four sections, that connect to every part of the body and that the peripheral nervous system is divided into two parts – the autonomic nervous systems (which is further divided into sympathetic and parasympathetic) and the somatic nervous systems. Also, important to note is the fact that some ganglia are bundled along the outside of the spine (hence why I refer to them as “unprotected”). Additionally, there are, of course, some reflex movements which can occur independent of the brain, but these still require connection to the spinal cord.

“Enormous activities are going on in our body; in our brain, in our heart, in our digestive system and in every cell of the body. Few people are aware of their physical beings. Body is the starting point in the spiritual journey.

The dynamic play of the energy of pure consciousness is taking place in each cell of our body, in every moment. The subtle vibrations and the movement of the energies in the body are the doorways to realize the Divine union.”

– quoted from OM Sutra: The Pathway to Enlightenment by Amit Ray and Banani Ray

In Eastern sciences, like Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Āyurveda, there are also energetic mapping systems. The former, for instance, involves meridians that it is believed are located in the deep tissue and fascia or connective tissue. Yin Yoga, which is based on TCM, focuses on 12 primary meridians connected to 12 organs. Unlike an early British doctor I once read about (who believed the meridian system was based on traditional doctors not knowing where organs were located) the TCM focus isn’t on the organs as much as it is on balancing the flow of energy to and from the organs. Particular attention is paid to the joints and various points along the meridians as this is where energy can become blocked, stagnate, or overactive – and these are also the points/places where the energy can be accessed. TCM meridians are paired with each other, specific organs, emotions, time of day, seasons, colors, minerals, elements, and types of energy – and there is a pair that runs down the central part of the body.

One of my favorite meridians is the Kidney meridian as Kidney energy is related to overall vitality and starts with K1, which is sometimes referred to as “the Well Spring of Life” or “Gushing Spring.” Along with Urinary Bladder meridian, Kidney meridian regulates the flow of water in the body and, as we are mostly water, it becomes critical to not only physical health but also mental clarity and emotional well-being.

In Āyurveda, Yoga’s sister science, the energy of the body is mapped along nādis (which I was taught means “rivers” or “channels” but can also be translated as “nerves” or “tubes”). Similar to the (pressure) points along the TCM meridians, there are marma points (marmāni) described in Āyurveda; however, most people in the West are more familiar with the idea of chakras (energy “wheels”). Marma literally means “a point that can kill” and they are the points where flesh, veins, arteries, tendons, bones, and joints come together. In other words, they are the points of life. In all, there are 107 marmāni (11 in each limb, 12 on the front of the torso, 14 on the back and 27 on the head and neck), with the mind being the 108th marma. There are at least 10 methods to promote good health and well-being by stimulating marmāni, including various types of massage, binding, and application of oil, paste, and/or various temperatures. Additionally, meditation and breathing practices can be applied.

Ancient Indian texts reference thousands of nādis throughout the body – and many of them intersect. For instance, some sources say that there are a 108 nādis that intersect at the heart chakra. (Others say 101.) Normally, however, when people (especially in the West) talk about these energy channels, they are referencing the three primary nādis that overlap at the center of the body (right around the same area as the spinal column), creating a spiral shape often compared to the double helix shape of DNA and/or the caduceus symbol associated with the medical arts.

Like the TCM meridians, the primary nādis are paired with specific types of energy (i.e., “Ida” being lunar, cool, feminine, left, yin energy; “Pingala” being solar, warm, masculine, right, yang energy; and “Sushumna” being non-dual, divine energy). They not only overlap in the same general area as the spine, some people have associated the location of those overlapping points – the chakras – with the basal ganglia (which are bundled along the spine). Like the TCM meridian pairing referenced above, chakras are also paired with emotions, colors, minerals, and elements. They are associated with parts of the body, functions of the body, and various aspects of our lives.

“If you believe you are a body, then you are consenting to the belief that you are your ego, which is the root of all your suffering. Bodies age and get sick. They experience aches and pains and have many limitations. Bodies are confined in time and space and, if all that weren’t proof enough, bodies eventually die.

If you believe you are a body, then you believe you’re a temporary being that is weak and subject to age, illness and death. Of course, yoga teaches us that we are not the body, but this is a difficult case to make when it feels so real to be in this body. It’s hard to say, ‘The body is an illusion,’ when your head hurts or your stomach is upset.”

– quoted from Yoga and the Path of the Urban Mystic by Darren Main

The third thing that always sticks with me is how traditional and indigenous sciences always seem to treat the whole being, while – up until recently – Western science focused on a single aspect of the body. Not even the mind-body… just a single part of the body, or a single part of the mind. What we find again and again, however, is that disconnecting the mind from the body leads to more discomfort, more dis-ease, and eventually death. Separating each part of the body from itself creates imbalance, which must be addressed in the rest of the mind-body.

The Sanskrit word yoga means “union” and the practice (physically, mentally, and energetically) is a way to address the whole mind-body and cultivate balance in the whole mind-body. It is a philosophy, not a medical science as we think of it today, but definitely a science of being. Dr. Amit Ray calls it a “science of well-being, science of youthfulness, science of integrating body, mind and soul.” As such a science it can be applied and paired with traditional, indigenous, and/or modern medicine to promote overall well-being.

“When we are aware about our body’s sensations, we can release physical pain, tensions or stress through slow movements.”

– quoted from Yoga The Science of Well-Being by Amit Ray

Tonight (Monday the 23rd) I taught my last (scheduled) Movember class of 2020. I choose poses B. K. S. Iyengar identified as being good for Kidney health and sequenced the vinyāsa practice with an awareness of the Kidney and Bladder meridians in TCM. You can request an audio recording of Monday’s practice via a comment below or (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

(Practice Note: There’s no music on Monday nights so the content sync up with the Movember playlists, but it will still make sense if you decide to use music from one of the earlier practices.)

The 75-minute Common Ground Meditation Center practice, in the spirit of generosity (“dana”), is freely given and freely received. If you are able to support the center and its teachings, please do so as your heart moves you. (NOTE: You can donate even if you are “attending” my other practices, or you can purchase class(es). Donations are tax deductible; class purchases are not necessarily deductible.)

Check out the “Class Schedules” calendar for upcoming classes.

“I want to be present and really in my body, grounded and open minded and open hearted, no matter what the conflict or the crisis is. And if I am numbing myself with food and with alcohol, I can’t then know that my emotional response is going to be authentic, is going to be in truth. My guess is that it is going to be reactive.”

– quoted from Revolution of the Soul: Awaken to Love Through Raw Truth, Radical Healing, and Conscious Action by Seane Corn

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