Sunday, April 15, 2018

Pratyahara- "Withdrawal of the Senses"


 When people think of "yoga" they usually think of the physical aspect- of getting into all kinds of strange & difficult poses. However, yoga actually defines a broad practice that can evolve into a lifestyle of physical, mental, and spiritual discovery.

Although it is derived from ancient India, even before the Vedas and the development of Hinduism, it is beyond any one religion or culture. It is an individual practice with many possibilities, in which the aim is simply the improvement of the self.

There are actually 8 aspects or "limbs" of yoga:
• Yama (moral disciplines) • Niyama (positive activities or observances) • Asana (postures) • Pranayama (breath control) • Pratyahara (control of senses) • Dharana (concentration) • Dhyana (meditation) • Samadhi (absorption into pure consciousness)

Over a year ago, I listened to an audiobook version of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, from which these 8 limbs of yoga were derived. It gave me a deeper understanding of the many aspects of yoga philosophy that can be used to develop the body, mind, and soul in a practical manner.

In the past year, especially since my lovely fiancée (and partner in this blog) Loretta began teaching, I have began a regular regimen of Asanas, or the physical aspect of yoga. This is only one part of an overall approach to conscious living that I have been implementing over the years. In many cases, I wasn't aware that the techniques of right living, sensory control, and meditation that I had incorporated from Christianity, Buddhism, and other sources were part of the yogic tradition, as well.

We have also begun exploring Kundalini yoga, which aims to channel the energies and life force that animate all living beings. I will probably post more about this in the future, but we recently watched an interview with Raja Choudhury in which he described the fundamentals of Kundalini in as clear & concise a way as I've ever heard.


In this video, he mentioned one of the limbs of yoga- Pratyahara, or "Withdrawal of the Senses". This is a practice which I resonate with deeply, because I have been working on mastering my sense perceptions, to dwell within the mind, for a long time.


Our mind is constantly bombarded with sensory input, especially in this world of digital media and endless stimuli. By withdrawing our consciousness & cutting off this stream of external sensations, we can begin to gain control of our own mind and ultimately understand our fundamental nature.

What is our fundamental nature? One-ness with God, the quantum field, Tao, the incomprehensible sea of energy patterns that creates all things. Our senses and perceptions divide this Unity into fragmented thoughts that distract us from the reality of the situation.

By withdrawing inward, strengthening our focus though meditation & visualization, and gaining mastery over our own consciousness, we can develop a deeper and more satisfying experience of life.

We can start with something as as simple as the breath, controlling how we breathe and focusing our  attention on it, to hone our mental acuity. From here, we can practice visualizations or other meditative techniques to draw the senses inward and re-connect with our source.

It is the essence of Conscious Living for You, and one that we will continue to revisit as we explore the many ways to live a healthier, happier life.

-Paul

Monday, April 9, 2018

IN-SHADOW- A Modern Odyssey


This short film written, directed & produced by Lubomir Arsov is an unsettling, yet eye-opening look at the artificial facades and mental prisons constructed by modern society.

It stylistically represents the many facets of our culture that keep people in a state of un-consciousness: mass media • info-tainment as news • the pharmaceutical and medical fields as a for-profit industry • vulture capitalism • ad-driven social networks • factory farming and overly-processed foods • soul-less urbanization • commodification of sex, art, & music • and so many other aspects of our experience that have been relentlessly exploited by greed and the desire for control over the minds of our fellow humans.

There is so much compelling imagery in this video, that's it's difficult to pick out examples. Just watch the video, and let it peel the veil away from your eyeballs. Although it explores the dismal state of world affairs, it ends with an uplifting return to the spiritual reality and inner light that exists within all of us. Each one of us, through more conscious living and a deeper awareness, can shed these imaginary shackles to live in a more meaningful & fulfilling way.

It is up to us to recognize our situation and pursue the methods that will allow us to break free of "maya"- the world of illusion that has entranced so many into a state of cognitive slumber. More people than ever are "waking up" to the lies we've been told and the systems of control that oppress our souls. This is one of the many works of art that calls to our souls and encourages us to transcend into a new way of thinking and being.


-Paul

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Stress- What the Heck is it Doing to Your Body?


I have always been concerned with what "mental stress" can do inside of your body. The Western world has been dancing around the subject of what really causes diseases. When you speak with people about their diet and lifestyle in relation to disease, they seem to glaze over the fact that your "mindset and eating" plays major serious implications of future disease to the body. They almost become offended and refuse to hear a possible truth. Studies have shown what I have always felt to be a serious problem in our culture. Our mindsets DO AFFECT OUR BODY.

Science and scientific experimentation are revealing that mental stress is causing changes to our DNA. There was a time when I heard the word DNA, or genetics, and was immediately turned off, because I didn't understand things about DNA. I want to break it down for all of you to understand some research about DNA in the simplest of words, and provide you with material to see on your own, as well.

At the end of the protein-bound DNA strand called a chromosome, there is a protective case that goes around the DNA and replicates. This repeating structure is called a telomere. With aging and throughout life, that telomere is lost, but is replenished and keeps replicating at the end of DNA for further life. This telomere shortens due to the inability of polymerase (an enzyme substance to help build DNA) to fully replicate the end of the DNA strand. Shortening of the telomere is a protective role, by limiting proliferating cells that have sustained DNA damage and are vulnerable to oncogenic transformation (turning into cancer cells.) Of course, this is a protective factor, but limiting and killing the telomeres can also be of consequence occurring un-naturally due to oxidative stress and inflammation. These stress factors can damage and can cause permanent loss of these telomeres during cellular division.



Similar to polymerase, telomerase is a substance that replenishes the lost telomere. Of course, as we age, telomeres will shorten as a natural part of aging, which is understood, because we do not live forever. Studies have shown that this shortening process can be speeded up due to factors associated with telomerase length and bio-behavioral events. What does this mean? Telomeres can shorten faster and not replenish, due too psychosocial, environmental, and behavior factors. Your behavior and psychosocial stress can cause changes in your telomere length. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4112289/

Stress and your mental attitude can be "learned" or what is called "chronic." With chronic mental stress or even physical stress, cortisol, a hormone secreted when an individual is under stress, can be overstimulated due to stress and over-secrete, or secret more often. Cortisol exposure in the body DECREASES telomerase and therefore the telomere dies, or causes pro-inflammatory effects to the body. (For all the RN's reading, you know what inflammation does to the body, wreaks havoc!) Large amounts of inflammation in the body increases disease and heath risks, but worse, increases aging!

Research and clinical trials on individuals with chronic psychological stress and even sleep quality and duration, have shown negative effects to the telomeres. High stress individuals have shown to have shorter telomeres, and decreased telomerase actions along with higher oxidative stress. (The sample in the experiment was small, but many other experiments at the same level have shown similar effects.) http://www.apa.org/monitor/2014/10/chronic-stress.aspx

High mental stress can cause an increase in muscle tension. Chronic muscle tension over time can cause muscle atrophy (muscle cell breakdown) due to disuse of the muscle. This can lead to musculoskeletal conditions. http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/stress-body.aspx

Not to mention, high chronic mental stress causes compulsive eating, especially sugary foods. This is because there is an increase of the reward response in the brain every time you eat a sugary substance when in mental stress. The same effects happen with drug use. So, to all of you that do not feel you are addicted to sugar, and that it is NOT a drug, please rethink. Especially when you are feeding it to children, because you are setting them up for addiction in the future. (hmm I feel another blog post soon)

When you think of how this society acts and goes about their everyday living activities compared to other European and Eastern societies, and their view on stress and how it is linked to disease, it really makes you think.  Why are we so stressed out and so diseased?

It's time for you to seek what you need in your life to decrease mental and physical stress and take responsibility for decreasing disease in your body. You have more control over your body and its aging effects than you think. Practice relaxation techniques to decrease muscle tension and the health effects of stress in your body, and to increase a sense of well being in your body, instead.

Thank you for reading :)
Loretta

Thursday, April 5, 2018

The Goal of Meditation

Of course, the idea of a "goal" is one that is ultimately seen as empty through meditation, but we get the point...

Through mindfulness meditation & introspective concentration, the mind and its thoughts are recognized for what they are- waves of energy patterns, that can somehow be self-regulated by that amorphous quality of mind that we call "consciousness". This awareness & control comes through the practice of meditation.

"The goal of meditation
 isn't to control your thoughts,
it's to stop letting them
control you."

(Seen on R/meditation)

-Paul

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

April 2018 Yoga Classes

Loretta has been teaching yoga classes at The Fit Barn on Delsea for a few months now. They have been going really well, & I try to attend as many classes as possible to support my lovely fiancée. We began practicing yoga relatively recently, but it has become an integral part of our lifestyle over the past couple years. Yoga has greatly increased the quality of our lives- giving us more strength, flexibility, energy, muscle tone, and better overall health.

We have seen a lot of new faces in the classes, and there are many people coming back after feeling the benefit of the all-levels classes she is teaching. Those who attend the classes leave feeling happy & invigorated.

I just made the new graphics for April's classes. Since Loretta is working her night shift as a nurse tonight, I'm posting them up for her.



-Paul

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Breathe!

 

When it comes to meditation, physical activity, or just the act of being alive, there is one aspect that ties all these human experiences together- the breath.

When I first started learning about various forms of mindfulness meditation, such as zazen or pranayama, the core feature was paying attention to the breath. Mindful breathing has many benefits:

• Connects the mind & body, by consciously controlling a physiological function.

• Clears our head of the constant "monkey mind" activity & mental chatter, by focusing deeply on a singular activity.

• Increases oxygen levels to the brain & body.

• Helps us come to an awareness of our fundamental being.

It is the most simple and innate activity we can practice, yet it is something the majority of people don't even think about.

To start, all you have to do is put one your hand on your chest, one hand on your belly, and feel how you're breathing. Our usual mode is short, shallow breaths as we quickly fill our lungs & chest. To take deep mindful breaths, we inhale sloooooowly down to the diaphragm and expand the belly. Feel how you are breathing right now, and make the adjustment consciously. Continue to do these "belly breaths" and get used to how it feels.

Congratulations!!!
You are now mindfully breathing!

To continue this practice, take 5 minutes to just be with your breath and experience it completely. If thoughts start popping up, let them pass by and continue focusing on your deep inhales and exhales, feeling the belly rise & fall.

Eventually you may want to practice for an extended period of time, but the beauty of this simple act is that it can be done anywhere, for a few minutes at a time. This is enough to keep bringing your awareness back to the present moment and opening your perceptions.

Whenever you are stressed out, feeling anxious or upset, or need to focus, remember....

Just Breathe
-Paul

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Welcome to Conscious Living For You!


Thank you for visiting Conscious Living For You! We are so humbled that you have decided to visit!

My name is Loretta and my fiancé is Paul. We would like to inspire, and be inspired by others, through this site. Here is a little info about us and what we plan to accomplish through Conscious Living For You.

I am a RN-BSN in the state of NJ having had a MST/PCT certification for many years. In addition to being a health practitioner, I'm also a certified Yoga Instructor. I have a strong background in science, health, nutrition and a passion for naturopathy and Integrative Medicine.

Paul is a graphic designer and creative professional, with a deep interest in science, spiritual wisdom, and all types of knowledge. We were good friends for many years before becoming a couple, and are currently planning our wedding this summer.

We both passionately believe in the benefits of healthy living, and hope to provide a resource for people who share this interest with us.

Some of the topics we will be posting about include nutrition, spirituality, physical and mental health, environmental issues, both metaphysics and science, mindfulness and meditation. We will also talk about art, culture and whatever we find to facilitate a healthier existence for all beings.