yoga is a way of life.. For inner peace and good health, practice yoga

yoga is a way of life.. For inner peace and good health, practice yoga

Monday, October 10, 2011

My "Occupy Wall Street" Experience on Oct. 9, 2011

Everyone's been asking what the "Occupy Wall Street" protesters want. Just read their signs! My husband Serafino and I went to downtown Manhattan yesterday to Zuccotti Park/Liberty Square near Wall Street to see for ourselves what's going on. It was exciting to be there among so many different types of people who want our current system favoring the rich to balance more in favor of the 99% of Americans who want a middle class way of life -- "The American Dream" -- that made America the envy of the world. Enjoy my slide show at "Peace and Health Cafe!"

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Movement is Peaceful

Most of you have heard by now about the "Occupy Wall Street" protests in downtown Manhattan, the movement that is mobilized against the corruption in our government and corporate sector leading to the impoverishment of most while enriching the fewest. Thus far the protesters have been peacefully practicing civil disobedience as utilized successfully by Mahatma Gandhi and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., with the NYPD exhibiting rather "thuggish" handling of the citizens exercising their right to assemble in public.

Without too much judgment, it is quite plain to most people in this country that our form of government and society has been pretty much "maxed out" by legalized and unregulated greed on a scale the world has never seen. Indeed, it is unsettling the entire world's economies and societal stability. A lot of power, isn't it?! Being able to turn the world upside down. So, without too much effort, most people agree there are huge problems that are perhaps now so huge that no one knows how to fix them. That's why people are finally taking to the streets because they "are mad as hell and not gonna take it any more." Certainly natural!
Tentacles of this rampant and unchecked greed include more than our financial and economic picture, but reach into the food we eat, water we drink, air we breathe, our educational system, municipal services, employment, health care, security and personal freedom. In fact, just about EVERYTHING in our lives. It's all on the edge, precariously perched and ready to free fall. 

Many of us are nervous, unsure how to affect "revolutionary" change, have one toe in the "Occupy Wall Street" crowd. I am about to pull my bank accounts out of Wells Fargo and open accounts instead in my local bank. If it's "all about money," I suggest we withdraw our money from the market. How else can we hurt the goliaths who are turning us into serfs? If we want a one-two punch, we could stop paying taxes to the government. But that would take a lot of people to make an impact and most of us are too afraid that we'd go to jail. Fear is one thing holding us in the serf position, the 99% of us who are not vasals or lords or masters of the universe.

But, go peacefully, and hold your head up high. The People shall prevail. Have faith. Do your part. Join the movement. Keep Gandhi and MLK in the forefront of your mind. 

Download Occupy Wall Street's Declaration made public on September 29, 2011 on my web site, (on right side of home page, by the peace apple).

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

You Are Already Peaceful

Greetings again, my dear readers, and thank you for being here. Thank yourself, too, because you have taken the time to "read a few good words," as Goethe advised, and this is a gift you give yourself. This is when you find peace inside yourself.

The recent series I presented here on "Peace and Health," was dedicated to the topic of Breathing. Breathing is something we all do, don't we? Ha ha. We take it for granted, but when we are conscious of it, aware of it as an actual act, we see we can utilize it to calm us, invigorate us, focus us. The same thing with peace, or what I'll call Inner Peace.

We all have Inner Peace inside of us. We were each born with it. So many people think that Inner Peace is something we "achieve" by "working at it," or a state of being that we will "arrive at" sometime in the future. The simple fact is it resides in you already and is the sanctuary you crave, the oasis, the calm in the midst of the storm, the balm that soothes your wounded soul. You might use your conscious Breathing to slow down to the point where you can access your Inner Peace.

Inner Peace is the bliss you feel from knowing that all is well, that your life is perfect just as it is, that you are required to be nothing more than who you truly are, a freedom that now is all there is and now is perfect and tranquil. From here you can move out into the world having been reminded of your core, that you are strong, and you can bring your peacefulness and happiness and contentment into the world and share it, spread it.

Your Inner Peace is already inside of you, always at the ready, an endless store, whenever you need it. It's there. This is how the world can become a place of peace instead of struggle, distrust, and sometimes war. We are all born peaceful beings and only need to be reminded!

Please stop by the "Peace and Health Cafe" for some strong coffee, soothing tea, biscotti, or just to chat!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Breathing Project 4: Balancing Your Halves

I have enjoyed sharing with all of you this Breathing Project at "Peace and Health, and have heard from a number of you about being more aware of the importance of breathing consciously. To review, we have cultivated Awareness, Raising Our Energy, Smoothing Out the Kinks, and now we'll Balance Our Halves.

Balance in Mind and Body
We're now at Step 4, where we will bring the two halves of ourselves into balance and harmony. Each of us has duality, the good and bad selves, the happy and sad selves, the patient and stressed selves. Today's breath is called Alternate Nostril breathing (Nadi Shodhana in Sanskrit, meaning to "purify the nadis" or energy passageways. Nadi means "little river"). It's a breath for clarity in mind, and balance in body.

You will find a number of excellent videos showing Alternate Nostril breathing on YouTube.

How To Do This Breath
Sit in a comfortable upright position with your spine tall and yet relaxed, with eyes gently closed. You will use the right hand to close each nostril as follows: Close the left nostril with the ring and pinky fingers of your right hand and breath in through your right nostril. Close your right nostril with the thumb of your right hand and exhale through your left nostril. Inhale through your left nostril. Close your left nostril with the ring and pinky fingers again and exhale through your right nostril. You toggle back and forth from nostril to nostril, in and out. Your breaths can be long and smooth, breathing fully in and out.

If you want to go further, here is an introduction to Kundalini yoga. Breathing in through the right nostril, which is the warm sun or masculine channel, imagine the breath coming up from the base of the spine on the right side to the top of your head. Exhale down the left side, which is the feminine or cooling moon side, of the spine back to the base of the spine. Inhaling and exhaling, trace your breath up and down the spine on either side, activating the warmth of the sun on the right and the coolness of the moon on the left. In Kundalini yoga, at the base of the spine is a coiled serpent who is awakened and enervates your "little rivers" of energy. As you do this breathing pattern, your breathing eventually synthesizes from at first tracing up and down each side of the spine to finally flowing up and down the center of the spine. This is the harmony you will enjoy as you spend time in the Alternate Nostril breathing.

As always, I enjoy hearing of your experiences trying these breathing patterns. This one is very old, and effective. Don't forget to "drop by" for a FREE GIFT from the Peace and Health Cafe!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Breathing Project 3: Smooth Out the Kinks

By now, you are taking luxuriously deep breaths often, right? Step 1 of the Breathing Project focused on Awareness, and Step 2 on Raising Your Energy. In Step 3, we'll focus on using the breath to Smooth Out the Kinks. In Step 4, to come, we will send our breath, intentions, and energy into the world.

Smoothing Out the Kinks like Gentle Waves
Think of a gentle wave washing over you, and that is how we will think about this soothing breathing pattern. You might wish to close your eyes for this breath (after reading, of course!). Breathe in through your nose imagining the breath coming up all the way from your toes to the top of your head. Then when exhaling through your nose, feel a gentle wave of water wash down through and over your body all the way past your face, your shoulders, chest, arms, belly, legs, all the way back down to your toes. As if you are being coated in warm water or light or a breeze, trickling down your inner body. (Visualize cool water or refreshing breeze if it's hot out and that seems more soothing). Imagine releasing all of the stress or tension your body has been holding onto. Feel your face, jaw, shoulders, all of your body relaxing as you wash the breath over you. Breathe in and out this way as long as you'd like.

Try this breathing pattern using "ujjayi" breathing. Ujjayi is Sanskrit for "victory breath" and is a standard yoga pranayama breath. You close your inner throat muscles half way, a half snore, so that your breath is audible. Your breath takes on an ocean-like sound. This builds heat in the body, raising your energy level and at the same time creating balance. Give your inhalation and exhalation the same volume level with ujjayi breathing.

After several breaths using the ujjayi breathing, go back to your normal breathing and see how you have smoothed out the kinks. You can open your eyes and go back to your day feeling refreshed and energized, having visited the shore of your deep and true inner sanctuary.

As always, stay in touch and tell me how you feel after Smoothing Out Your Kinks!

"Stop by" the Peace and Health Cafe for a cool herbal tea and chat: 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Breathing Project Step 2: Raising Your Vibes

We started the "Breathing Project" earlier this week with Awareness: Did you notice whether you were not breathing (unconsciously holding your breath) or actually breathing more often in a way that brings relief? This new awareness is important, so congratulate yourself! But here is extra credit: The point of the awareness is to bring yourself into the experience of the present moment, NOW, where life is lived.

Breathing Project Step 2 is about using your breath to Raise Your Energy, to raise your "vibrational level" as they say. Conscious breathing helps you exist in tune not only with yourself, but with the positive/higher vibration of the universe. Let's face it: You are most alive when breathing fully than when breathing weakly. 

Hiss Breath
This is a two-part exercise. First, I want to introduce you to a breath that comes from the Kundalini tradition of yoga. My hatha yoga teacher calls this the "Hiss Breath." Think of a snake (and if you explore more about Kundalini, you will discover the meaning behind the snake coiled at the base of the spine that awakens the chakra centers up towards the crown of the head). Take a deep, full breath in through the nose and then exhale while hissing, a long, strong hiss until you have fully exhaled. Now, here the key is to customize the breath for how you are feeling right now: If you are feeling wound-up, stressed, hyper and overly stimulated, then you want your hiss to be quiet, slow, calm. If you are melancholic, tired, exhausted and can't quite get going, then give your hiss breath all you've got, hissing strongly and with gusto. You can use this breath to wake you up or calm you down.

Whole Body Breath
Stand for this second part, as you will engage the whole body for this breath. Stretch up and back slightly while taking a big breath in, and then drop forward with slightly bent knees, sweeping your hands near the floor and behind your legs as you breath a strong breath out. Breathe in again as you sweep back up and back, and breathe out as you drop forward. Up and down this way. Always breathe in through the nose, but you can breathe out through your mouth if it is more comfortable. Or, you can swing your arms from side to side at shoulder height so you breathe in to the right letting right arm extend a bit behind you and left hand touches your heart, then swinging to the left so your left arm is extended and right hand touches your heart as you breathe out. So you are twisting from side to side gently, letting your head go with your arms. Allow your hands and fingers to fully stretch from side to side, too, and it is a great chest opener.

These breathing patterns (and there are many out there) bring needed oxygen into your body. It awakens you, allowing your energy and vibration to rise and expand. You are fresher, more alert, and have nice endorphins and fresh oxygen to help you feel a bit happier as you go out into the world in a healthy and positive way, attracting more positive energy and opportunities!

As always, write and let me know what you are experiencing.

Here is a closing quote, by T.S. Eliot:
   We shall not cease from exploration
   And the end of all our exploring
   Will be to arrive where we started
   And know the place for the first time.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Breathing Project: Let's Start

Welcome friends! Today's blog entry focuses on the ever-important topic of breathing. Yes, we all need to breathe, but we have the amazing ability to breathe in ways that are beneficial more than we may realize.

This Blog Has Expanded
Before we take this deep breath into breathing, I wanted to officially announce the opening of the Peace and Health Cafe,! It's your online source for advice and products to help you navigate today's challenging world. Check it out and keep in touch to let me know what you think.

Breathing Project
The "Breathing Project" here at Peace and Health is a mini-series focused on the importance of breathing for inner peace and good health. As many of you know, the practice of Yoga is the melding of movement with the breath, and a great deal of the focus is on breathing: Deep breathing, rhythmic breathing, breathing into certain areas of the body, etc. Yoga brings to the front of your awareness this simple act of breathing.

Perhaps you discover that when you think about it, you're not breathing at all! At least for many seconds, holding it tight. When you realize, "Hey, I am not breathing am I?" your breathing is then a big relief as you take a nice deep inhalation. You feel your whole body sighing and feeling great. "Why don't I do this all the time?" you say to yourself. Well you can.

While working on my new site, Peace and Health, there were many moments when I was so hyper-focused on tasks that I found myself not breathing much. It can happen to all of us, being so distracted that we aren't grounded in our bodies.

So, in this mini-series called "Breathing Project," let's start with Awareness. Become aware that you are breathing. If you can go a step further and really feel what it's like to breathe in and out, perhaps noticing things like your belly expanding and contracting, and the sense of relaxation or peace that occurs naturally, that would be fabulous.

On the "Exercise" page of the Peace and Health Cafe ("ADVICE"), you'll find further inspiration about breathing from Tony Samara.

As always, stay in touch with your thoughts, successes, and suggestions! Enjoy this quote from today's passage in my daily reader, "More Language of Letting Go:"

"Change often slips in when we're relaxed inside of ourselves."

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Spring Cleanse for Home and Soul

Suddenly, it's May! And spring is the perfect time for this cleansing ritual for both your surroundings and your soul.

Some of you may have heard me share this practice in the past, but it's good to be reminded of such a lovely way to restore balance. I learned it from friends who attended Maharishi International University in Fairfield, Iowa, from the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. And I've performed this simple ritual with excellent results when I've moved into a new home – to flush out the old energy and bring in the new – and usually once or twice a year when the seasons change or I have a desire to get past stuck or challenging times. It helps not only you, but family members, co-workers and those close to you in your environment.

Cleansing Ritual:
You will need a candle, a bell, and incense. First, open all the doors and windows of your home including closets and major pieces of furniture. Light the candle and incense and invite a friend or family member(s) to join you as you walk in and out of each room ringing the bell and allowing the candle light and scent of the incense to have a gentle presence in each space. What you're doing is setting an intention for the old energy, the stale, stuck, or negative, to exit through the windows and doors and allowing new energy, the fresh, light, and positive, to enter into your home. When you've walked through all the parts of your home from top to bottom, blow out the candle and incense and close up the doors and windows as you see fit. You've completed a gentle, simple ritual to make the switch from the old to the new, a perfect way to ring in the new season!

This cleansing works for the office, too, and I've known people (including family members) who have literally rid their new home of ghosts with this ritual, it's that powerful!

Please stay in touch and tell me if you try this cleansing ritual and experience any positive changes in your life in the days and weeks ahead. I wish for you all to enjoy happiness and the courage to live truthfully. This is a chance for each of us to "clean the slate" and begin anew.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

We Can Start Again Every Moment

Hello My Friends,

After a long absence from "Peace and Health," I'm back! It's so good to be among you all again.

Like you, I have been surviving and thriving in combinations of both. Like you, riding the ups and downs of life.

And like you, I am a sinner, not perfect, and could be a better wife, friend, daughter, sister, and member of my society. And of course, like you, I am doing the best I can.

During my absence of about four months, I have studied, practiced, read, listened, meditated, and thought. Plenty. I realize that at the end of the day, literally and figuratively, I (and you, too) can start anew, accepting gladly that what we did today has already become the past and our present can inform our future. We can try again tomorrow to be more compassionate, more kind to ourselves, be a better listener to those who need help, and perhaps recommit ourselves to our work, our relationships, our community.

I admit it's hard sometimes to be upbeat when the weight of world events is crushing our spirit. There are many books I've discovered that help me get through rough patches, some of them new, some of them ancient teachings. The practice of yoga and going for long walks in the fresh air makes a big difference, too, along with making sure I am rested and eat a very healthy diet that is right for me at this time in my life. All of the daily practice I do – the daily routines I have adopted – make a very big difference in how I "right" myself, get myself straight, smooth my feathers so to speak. Knowing something intellectually is only part of the picture. The rest, "life is the teacher," proves that experience tells us what we can trust.

We each have goals, dreams, and expectations. The Buddha's first noble truth is, "Life is suffering." It's hard to argue with that! Attachments to people, things, outcomes certainly bring us up, and down. Finding a way that helps you accept the changes that occur (with, or without, our consent or control) is a way to live the "middle path." I'm not a Buddhist, but have a reverence for what Buddha taught as a next step beyond yoga which is what he studied, predating him. Yoga is more than postures and breathing and meditation. Both yoga and Buddhism are forms of tough love that in the end show the sweetness of life.

Here are some links you might enjoy checking out. Till I write next, keep in touch! To me, that is the most important reason to live, to know we are meaningful in the eyes of others.

Video of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in 1968, "Life finds its purpose and fulfillment in the expansion of happiness." Watch till the end... he embodies what he says.

Video about fear, an informal interview with a teacher named Tony Samara: