Be your own Alchemist 

Be your own Alchemist 

I recently expanded my knowledge of a technique called Prana Yama – the practice of mastering of our life force by controlling our breath.  When we learn to control our breath, and more importantly hold empty with control, we suspend our consciousness, taking us into realms we normally can’t access. We gain more ways to tangibly feel our consciousness kick and scream!

Prana Yama has the power to take us on a journey into our subconscious, and it’s magic for re-routing energy at a cellular level:  

It is the alchemy for connecting our conscious to our subconscious.

Prana is the Sanskrit word for Energy, life force, and it comes from everything: what you eat, where you go (nature), essential oils, spiritual places, all these things hold a charge. 

Here’s some science:  Free radicals & pollutants can steal our energy.  Prana can fill those gaps.  Prana is a negative ion on the O2 molecule, an extra electrical charge, so when it comes into contact with a free radical it balances the charge and cancels it out.  It’s also been proven that disease cannot survive in a highly oxygenated environment.  

The complete yogic breath is key to this practice, and here’s how you do it.  And as promised, there’s also three techniques at the bottom for you to try.  It’s a lot of words, but I promise it’s worth it. 

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BASIC BREATH TRAINING, courtesy of Jenika Bronson

The system of complete yogic breathing is key to obtaining the multifold benefits of a yoga practice.  Working with simple breathing exercises helps oxygenate the body, brings energy to all the muscles, organs and glands, revitalizes and relaxes the mind and the entire nervous system.  

Taking time every day to practice these exercises in a clean and quiet environment will help bring about quick and noticeable improvements in all areas of the physical body and have a calming effect on the mind. 

Some key points before beginning the breathing practices: 

*The breathing in yoga is done in and out through the NOSE.  This allows for oxygen and energy to circulate to the brain and nervous system and not just to the lungs.  It is very healing and awakening and begins a biofeedback process between the body and the environment outside. 

*If you are a smoker, please refrain from holding your breath as this will push all the toxins from the lungs directly into the bloodstream.  Instead, keep up with deep breathing and cleansing breaths (Inhaling through the nose and exhaling forcefully through the mouth) to help loosen up the lining of the lungs and begin a cleansing process. 

*Always practice these breathing exercises in a well-oxygenated environment free from heavy scents, pollution, or dirt/dust/mold. 

Part I ABDOMINAL BREATHING – “The Buddha Belly”: 30% of capacity

Energetically, this works with the 1st (root) and 2nd (sacral) chakras  

The first step of yogic breathing is working with the abdominal breath.  This breath helps bring energy and oxygen to the lowest lobes of the lungs and stimulates all the lower abdominal organs and glands.  This breath is excellent to practice if you are suffering from abdominal tension, constipation, liver, kidney, spleen, or pancreatic problem.  Also, practicing this breath on a daily basis will act as a preventative for these same issues. 

Step 1: 

Find a comfortable sitting position (cross-legged, sitting on your heels, or simply with your legs stretched out in front of you).  If all of these positions are too uncomfortable, this breath can be practiced standing up.  However, for best results a sitting position is recommended. 

Step 2: 

Bring your right hand to your abdomen. As you inhale, see if you can direct the air into your abdominal area as though there were a balloon inflating in your stomach.  Feel your abdomen pressing against your hand.  As you exhale, draw your abdomen back toward your spine.  Inhale, belly expands, Exhale, belly draws in toward spine.  Repeat for 5-10 deep breaths. 

Part II MID-CHEST BREATHING – 60% of capacity 

Energetically, this works with the 3rd (solar plexus) and 4th (heart) chakras 

This breath is also known as the “bellows breath” and works to laterally expand the ribcage energizing the heart, lungs, and upper abdomen.  It is the section of the breath that tends to be the most locked-up and might take a bit of patient effort to get a sense of the movement in the beginning.  Working with this section of the breath is excellent for smokers, people suffering from asthma and other respiratory problems, high-cholesterol, clogged arteries and to prevent and alleviate heart conditions. 

Step 1: 

Find a comfortable sitting position. To get a sense of this breath, place one hand on either side of the ribcage just below the chest. As you inhale, feel the ribs expand out to the side like an accordion. As you exhale, feel the ribs squeeze back into center. 

Step 2: 

Once you feel connected to the lateral motion, apply gentle pressure to your ribs as you exhale to get a sense of all the air being squeezed out of the lungs.  Repeat this breath 5-10 times. 

   

Part III UPPER-CHEST BREATHING – 10% capacity 

Energetically, this works with the 5th (throat) chakra 

This section of the breath tends to be the most natural for people and consists in the gentle rise and fall of the upper chest.  This breath brings air to the uppermost part of the lungs and sends energy to the thyroid gland, the heart, lymphatic system and into the head and brain.  Excellent for relaxation and stress-relief. 

Step 1: 

Bring right hand to collarbones. Inhale, feel upper chest rise (can lift shoulders as well), exhale, allow shoulders and chest to relax.  Repeat for 5 -10 breaths. 

Step 2: 

Apply gentle pressure to upper chest to get sense of resistance as the air moves into the upper lungs.  Repeat for 5-10 breaths. 


THE COMPLETE YOGIC BREATH 

The complete yogic breath is key to the yoga practice and consists in stringing together the 3 sections of the breath we have just learned.  Remember to breathe in and out through the nose.  With the inhale, we begin by bringing air to our abdominal area, moving it up to the mid-chest and then all the way into the upper lungs.  
As we exhale, we draw in the abdomen first, then the mid-chest and then the upper-chest.  This creates a wave-like motion with the breath and ensures that air gets into all the lung cavities and also that it gets expelled fully.  If this breath feels a bit strange at first, be patient and know that with a bit of practice it will become quite natural.  

Inhale: Belly, Mid, Upper. Exhale: Belly, Mid, Upper. Repeat 5-10 times. 


Start your day with 7 Buddha, 7 Mid, 7 Upper and 7 full yogic breaths. 


CLEANSING BREATH 

The cleansing breath is a technique to be used as a way to quickly get CO2 out of the body, and is quite purifying physically and psychologically.  If you have been doing vigorous exercise or simply feel a bit winded, this technique will help bring your respiration to a normal rate and allow your cells to re-oygenate.  This breath is also excellent to practice daily for people suffering from asthma or other respiratory problems as it helps keep the airways clear. Again, practice this breath in a clean environment. 

Step 1:  Take a full inhale into all 3 parts of the lungs. 

Step 2:  Blast the air out through the mouth, curling the head and shoulders down and feeling the diaphragm contract pushing all the air out of the lungs. 

Step 3:  Repeat 3-6 times and then return to the complete yogic breath for 5-10 deep breaths. 

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SELF-PRACTICE BREATHING TECHNIQUES

Imagine Prana Yama to be like a combination lock – when you punch in the right numbers, doors will open.  

By practicing measured breathing techniques we gain conscious control over something that’s usually done unconsciously.

Our breath really connects with our emotional states, so here are some combinations for you to try: 

1. SAVATRI

This is great for anxiety, or when there’s too much energy that doesn’t know how to be… 

Using your full yogic breath, you can calm your nervous system within a minute.  Best done lying down, with your head to the North. 

Rhythm: 

  • Inhale for a count of 8*
  • Hold for a count of 4*
  • Exhale belly first for a count of 8
  • Hold empty for a count of 4

*always a ratio of 2:1

Duration: 5-10 minutes, or as needed. Best before bed. 

2. MEDITATION & ESOTERIC TECHNIQUES

Plugs you in on a mental level and great for concentration.  This rhythm helps to run a current through your chakras, and is perfect for 3rd eye meditations.  Can be done sitting, but best done lying down during deep relaxation meditation. 

Rhythm:

  • Inhale for a count of 7
  • Hold for a count of 3
  • Exhale for a count of 7

Lying down, focus on your third eye and increase the rhythm to 9, holding for 3, exhaling for 9 for a few breaths.  Then increase again to 11, 3, 11, and finally  to 13, 3, 13.  After a few breaths, come back down to 11, 3, 11, then 9, 3, 9, then 7, 3, 7, and finally return to your normal rhythm, continuing to focus on your 3rd eye. 

Duration: 5-10 minutes, as you like.

You don’t need to do 7/3/7 (or full yogic breaths) during normal meditation practice, but you can use 7/3/7 to plug you back in if you become distracted. 

3. NASARGA BASTRIKA or FIRE BREATHING

Great for self-confidence, firing ourselves up, breaking bad habits.  It works with your solar plexus, your sun centre, and taps into your will power.  It creates a lot of energy, and it’s best to plant a happy seed whilst doing it.  It’s excellent for breaking any heavier denser self-pity feelings.  It also flushes out your lungs really well. 

NB people with high blood pressure or pregnant women should take care with this! 

Rhythm: 

  • Hands to mid-chest 
  • 40* x sped up mid-chest breaths (with life) with a forced out-breath
  • 4 full yogic breaths
  • Hold on the last breath (to add voltage and pressure)
  • Slowly release 

*this can be done 40 times, 54 or ultimately 108. 

Duration: once is enough! 

Recommendation: start your day with this: FULL YOURSELF UP WITH PRANA such that you can meditate and just observe your breath full of Prana/energy. 
Just breathe, and enjoy! 

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Life: Brought to you by O2 

Life: Brought to you by O2 

We can’t survive without oxygen, simples, and our biggest fear/threat therefore is dying, or more specifically not being able to breathe.  

Biologically & physiologically, Oxygen is very detoxifying.  We all only use about 15% of our full capacity on a daily basis, and it’s been proven that disease cannot survive in highly oxygenated environments.  

Oxygen is basically the best health gift you can give yourself…  If you do but one thing today, breathe slowly and deeply…  

When we learn to control our breath, and more importantly hold empty with control, we suspend our consciousness, taking us into realms we normally can’t access. We gain more ways to tangibly feel our consciousness kick and scream!

To help you do that, I’ll detail some basic Prana Yama techniques in the next blog for you all to try.  For now, here’s some science about… (cue dramatic X Factor-esque intro…) 

OXYGEN: THE MOST VITAL ELEMENT ON EARTH!

From Oxygen, Life & Health Magazine 

“The most vital element on earth is oxygen. Without it human life could simply not exist.  Humans can live weeks without water and go without food for months but without oxygen, life could only carry on for a matter of moments.

 

No other element in the composition of the human body needs to be replaced on a second-by-second, minute-by-minute basis in order to keep the body functioning except oxygen.”

Ninety-percent (90%) of the body’s “life-energy” is created by oxygen.  All functions of the body are regulated by oxygen:

• All cellular metabolism requires oxygen

• Our eliminative processes work to rid our bodies of waste and toxins thanks largely to oxygen

• The functions of our brains require an abundance of oxygen for the abilities to think, feel and act

• Circulation of the fluids in the body

• Metabolic functions, assimilation, digestion and elimination

• Oxygen helps purify the blood and boosts the immune system

• Oxygen is our natural defense against all disease

• Oxygen has a calming and stabilizing effect on the nervous system

Oxidation occurs at the cellular level of the body.  It is part of that vital and complex process by which the body chemically converts nutrients into energy, and by which the body rids itself of toxins and other harmful materials. Without sufficiently high levels of oxygen (via oxygenation), oxidation cannot take place.  Without oxidation, metabolic function and therefore life itself ceases.

Oxygen is required for the four basic components needed for our physical body:

Proteins, Carbohydrates, Water and Energy

1. Protein = Nitrogen + Carbon + Hydrogen + Oxygen 

2. Carbohydrates = Carbon + Hydrogen + Oxygen 

3. Water = Hydrogen + Oxygen 

4. Energy = Oxygen + Carbohydrates 

Scientists are now discovering the fact that low levels of oxygen in the human body can disrupt the body’s ability to function correctly, severely cripple the immune system, open the floodgates of illnesses and disease and instigate premature aging.  

Deep breathing supplies the body with an abundance of oxygen!

Doctors now believe that the symptoms of chronic oxygen deficiencies in the human body begin initially with overall body weakness, fatigue and infection and progress later to chronic degenerative diseases such as cancer, arthritis, heart disease and so on.

Along with the oxygen depletion in the atmosphere these days, doctors point out that junk food is low in oxygen content and high in toxic preservatives.  Eating junk food or chemically processed foods on a regular basis forces the body to use up more of its precious oxygen reserves than usual in order to oxidize the preservatives and metabolize the few nutrients left.  Other oxygen robbing foods include processed white sugar and flour, caffeine-loaded drinks.

Physical and emotional stress also robs the body of large amounts of oxygen. 

Symptoms of Oxygen Deficiency:

• Overall bodily weakness​​​​. 

• Muscle aches

• Depression​​​​​​ 

• Dizziness

• Irritability​​​​​​ 

• Fatigue

• Memory loss​​​​​​ 

• Irrational behaviour

• Circulation problems​​​​​

• Poor digestion

• Acid stomach​​​​​​

• Low immune system

• Bronchial problems

• Bacterial, viral & parasitic infections

 

“Cancer has only one prime cause. It is the replacement of normal oxygen respiration of the body’s cells by oxygen-deficient cell respiration.”  Dr. Otto Warburg, Nobel Prize for Cancer Research

 

“Simply put, disease is due to a deficiency in the oxidation process of the body, leading to an accumulation of toxins.” Dr. Albert Wahl

7-Bullet Sunday: day 234

7-Bullet Sunday: day 234

What’s it been like being me the last 7 days?

1.  Becoming a Moonie graduate, bursting out my moon bubble and becoming a San Marcos Lake Atitlan local, for two weeks at least.  

In his 1934 travel book “Beyond the Mexique Bay”, Aldous Huxley compared Guatemala’s Lake Atitlan to Italy’s Lake Como.  The Italian body of water, he wrote, “touches the limit of the permissibly picturesque.” Atitlan, however, “is Como with the additional embellishment of several immense volcanoes. 

It is really too much of a good thing.” 

Lake Atitlan is indeed breathtaking, but nowadays it is leaving many visitors gasping for breath.  A thick brown sludge tarnishes its once blue waters – the result of decades of ecological imbalance, brought on by economic and demographic pressures. 

The unsightly and smelly layer, more than 100 feet deep in some areas, is chasing tourists away from Mayan towns in the area and posing huge cleanup expenses to a government already strapped for cash.  

Worse, the results of a University of California analysis found that the bacteria is toxic.  Scientists are urging residents to avoid cooking with, bathing in or drinking the water.    

Over here in San Marcos, thankfully the Lake’s not quite as unsightly as it can be in the main towns of Panajachel and San Pedro, so a dip in the Lake every day is still an enticing activity.  However, it seems to be taking a toll on business here too – I’ve seen several For Sale signs around town, and knowing the condition of the water is less than perfect is a stark reminder of the delicate Eco system we live in, despite the idyllic vistas we see everyday, and the impact we have on it. 

2.  Taking some valuable time for myself in San Marcos to re-acclimatise to the real world outside the Moon bubble, drinking in the transformation – figuring out how to blend the old and new into one sublime reality;  a sublime group of people brought together, who just want to make a positive contribution to the world (aww), now armed with knowledge, freedom and potential, how best to direct it, to integrate it all?  

The foundations are set, and experience is my best messenger, so it’s time for some action and to build my way. 

3.  Taking a week of intensive Spanish lessons – immersing myself (or trying to at least) in Latin American culture. Hoy, estoy hablando Espanol! Mas o menos :). 

4.  Several staggered and emotional goodbyes to my fellow Moon Course graduates.  Reflecting on the space we’ve held for each other the last 30+ days.  From the moment we met there was a beautiful understanding of each other, that we were all in exactly the right place with the right people.  

This is not the end dear friends, ’tis only the beginning #globalfamily.

5.  Getting into the swing of my own meditation, yoga and Prana Yama practice, holding my centre, keeping me connected to my light, and surrounding myself with that which supports my fullest expression. 

6.  Looking after Zeus, the resident Perro a Las Piramides: a mahooosive beautifully calm Alsatian, with a slight tendency to wander off, a big heart and a fear of fireworks – arghhh responsibility!  Where have you been old friend?

7.  Writing this from my current home, Jenikas place at Las Piramides, which has both a DOUBLE BED (yes, I’m star fishing) and A BATH!  Such a joy to still be near the temple and in this amazing place – lucky lucky lucky me! 

 

Full Moon

Full Moon

My Moon Course has finished.  It’s hard to express the transformation I’ve experienced and feel inside,  but in essence the last month at Las Piramides Del Ka has been like spiritual rehab and self-awakening!

By simply asking “Where am I?” in all aspects of self – my physical body, my emotions, my mind, my spirit – I’ve connected, balanced. 

By being open to everything, to the other side of creation, and by moving my mind to raise my vibration to have experiences, I have grown.  

By meditating, and developing my faculties of observation, intention, dedication and clarity, I have once again been humbled by the sheer power of my mind, of self-mastery, and how to have conversations with myself to find answers.


By practicing Yoga every goddam day I’ve challenged, balanced, energised, centred and connected with my physical body. 

By taking a conscious breath, I’ve opened up doorways in my subconscious, my soul, and opened my mind to experiences we all have access to, experiences that can give us all the knowledge we seek, from WITHIN:

The only prison we make for ourselves is in thinking there is only our physical body – you have to believe it to experience it, just keep calm and take flight. 

The simplicity is the truth: everything I need is already within me, within us all – all we have to do is Trust, Believe, Experience, Listen to the clicks (the clues) that are all around us all the time, and when the Student is ready to listen, the Teacher will come.  
If you’re in search of answers, ask yourself 4 questions: 

1. What is my Ideal, in terms of body, emotion, mind and spirit?

2. If those are my ideals, what do I need to do to achieve them?

3. If I know what my Ideal is, and I know what I need to do to achieve it, what’s stopping me from doing so? 

4. Where is the light? How does it manifest? When do I feel disconnected from it? What do I do to reconnect?

Pause, take a conscious breath, balance yourself and answers will come. The Universe will take care of the details in eternity. 

All you have to do Today is Shine.

Thank You Las Piramides Del Ka for the greatest and most life-changing gift of all: for teaching me how to find and harness the Light & Life Force Intelligence within me, and that there is more to this World than meets the eye


Infinite Thank You’s to each and every one of my incredible Moonie friends who came on this journey with me, engorging my heart to near explosion and enhancing my experience beyond words.   I feel so blessed to have met you all, and I’m lucky enough to take them all with me forever #globalfamily.  What a beautiful existence we manifested!  I feel so very lucky to be alive, and to have this knowledge and awareness. 

Last but certainly not least thank you to Kali for our synchronicity that led me here, to my amazing parents, my brother and TK for this incredible birthday gift, and for making this happen.  I am beyond grateful. 

New foundations are set. This is not the end, it is only the beginning.  Now it’s time to build our way. 

I highly recommend this course, it could change your life:  Las Piramides Del Ka

Courtesy of Brianna Moon:

Chanelled from Chatty

And We open 🙏🕉

I am inside the Silence.  The Afterlife is as meaningful as the Present one.  The Invisible side of Creation.  Pray, really pray with your heart, and prepare yourself for life on the other side.  The Body relaxed, the Mind awake.  The Breath is the doorway to the subconscious.  

Most people believe in only what they can see, but there is a lot more than meets the eye.  Pay attention to the voice of the Heart, strip back the veil of mystery – you need to align all your spiritual bodies, words, thoughts, actions, feelings, to open the doors, to change your perception:  to live only in the physical body is to be in prison.  

Am I dreaming?  

The most important thing is to Believe, believe it so you can live the experience.  Open, open to everything, open your mind, open your heart.  It started with an Astral projection, acting with love and light is your best protection.  Ask for the experience you need to have from your Spirit.  

Where is your heart? Where is your mind? Be an instrument of higher energy.

In the Simplicity is the Truth, Creation is creating all the time, no end and no beginning: where your Spirit resides.  The Tree is a mirror of You, and when we study the system we study ourselves.  

If you have true Wisdom you don’t need to shout.  It’s something you can’t describe but when you receive it you know, though this is just one language to describe Creation, to provoke experience, clicks of deep understanding.  

The World of Emanation, The World of Creation, The World of Formation, The World of Manifestation – all the dimensions give you different knowledge: As Above, So Below.  Things related to Spirit and all things Eternal.  

What sets you on Fire?  When you know, you touch something true to your Spirit, like being in the right place, Here and Now.  And as All Things have come from One, Her Father is the Sun, you will seperate Earth from Fire, Energy that helps you evolve.  

You’re the bridge between two Worlds, and when the Student is ready to listen, the Teacher will appear.  The idea is for you to move your mind, to return home.  

I am inside the silence, but in the Astral Plane I speak. 

And with one conscious breath, here We close 🙏🕉

You can go your own way

You can go your own way

“Welcome to Hogwarts” he said, as I walked through the gate.  “This is going to be an interesting month” I thought to myself…

Sometime ago I decided to throw out plans, to Let Go and just go with the flow.  India is massive, and in the beginning just choosing what direction to go in was hard enough (FML).  I soon realised that if I just shut up, sat back and waited, the solution often presented itself.  It was then that I really started letting go of any idea of linear, logical, north/south/east/west routes, and instead to listen to my intuition and literally make this shit up as a I go along. 

That decision led me in directions I never expected, led me to simply fabulous people and places I might never have met/seen otherwise.  By being open to absolutely everything and going with what felt right in the moment meant I never shut any doors.  

I just stopped thinking about travelling in geographical terms and instead as a field:  I can go in any direction I want, I just have to follow the feeling and find my own way.   Plan B was everything else, Plan A was just being present in the moment and going with it. 

7 months later, I followed a feeling and flew Guatemala from Nepal, to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry. ok ok, Las Piramides School of Yoga, Metaphysics & Meditation in San Marcos La Laguna.  They’re basically the same thing.   

  

I’m halfway through week 2 of the 4-week Moon Course here at Las Piramides, and I’m certain it was the best decision I ever made.  

I’m doing Yoga every goddam day, meditating, getting in touch with my physical, emotional, mental and spiritual bodies, learning about metaphysics, dimensions, astral travelling, lucid dreams, channelling, Reike, Kirtans, healing techniques, mantras, I’m chanting Om Mani Padme Hum and I understand why, I’m opening my 3rd eye with Ommmmm meditation, I’m learning breathing techniques and Pranayama, I bought a crystal the other day and I’m living in a fucking pyramid!  

yoga every goddam day

  

my little hobbit house
 

I feel like Hermione Granger as I note down the instructions for Lucid Dreaming and Astral Travelling, dictated to us from one of the coolest, most authentic 60-ish year olds I know off’ve the 70’s (with the best anecdotes, FYI).  We’re not even halfway through the course yet, and we’ve still got another 5 dimensions to learn about!  It’s fascinating. 

I know what you’re thinking… “She’s gone full Hippy now”, and up until very recently I would have agreed with you.  

To back-track a little… 

I came to San Marcos two years ago, sat in Shambala coffee shop, observing many cliches around me:  Ali baba trousers, dreadlocks, and all Peace and Love maaaan.  My friends and I laughed a little at the time, remarking how we thought those kind of people had died out in the 90’s, and as it turns out they’d all retired to San Marcos to set up organic coffee shops.  I scoffed a little, and called them “Hippies”.

Now I’m on the other side of the fence I’m beginning to understand where “they” were coming from, and what they were aiming for, and I’m wondering – when did Hippy become a bad word?  

I’ll fully admit that for me it had slightly negative connotations at the time.  They were different, perhaps weaker for some reason I couldn’t express, alternative, running away, new age, definitely out there and something I judged because of ignorance.  

Labelling puts us into categories, segregates Us from Them.  It happens all over with things like job titles, fashion statements, religion, race, whatever – they’re all just ways we fit in, all different vehicles to use, and all subtly perpetuating apartness, a separateness from the Whole, in both positive and negative ways.

I didn’t want to feel separate from my friends or my family just because of a new perspective I was getting, so I began thinking “there should be a new word for this”.  I wanted a word that could encapsulate the beautiful essence of what I’m experiencing and seeing so clearly, without having to feel different, or separate, because I’m not different exactly.  I’m still me, I’m just becoming more of me.

I’m here with 20 other like-minded people who are just as cool, grounded, funny, and normal as my mates from home.  We’re not bonkers, I promise.  We haven’t flown away with the fairies.  We’re all very grounded, normal people from normal backgrounds (who still take a pinch of salt in their diets), we just all followed a feeling:  we’re here because we want to find out more about ourselves, and ultimately to make a positive contribution to the world.  If that’s what being a Hippy is all about, then yeah!  I’m all for it! 

Then I thought about it some more.  Why does there need to be a new word, or a word at all?  By finding a new word I’m just perpetuating that concept of categorisation, the idea of separateness, difference. 

So instead, I prefer to think of it like this:  

We can be everything.  You don’t need to label it, you don’t need to close any doors.  Life is a field remember, and we can all go in all directions. 

You could be the Grande Fromage of a big corporation, wearing a suit from Monday to Friday, or a person who just really likes video games, whoever, we can all embody the essence of what we’re learning, which is basically a way to be, a way to present yourself in the world for your own benefit and to make the world a better place.  It doesn’t need a name, you can just Be it, be the example. 

Keep the doors open, and Be the change that you want to see. 

Om shanti shanti Om, peace, peace, peace, love, light, freedom and compassion for all beings, light and blessings for your day, Namaste.

the Flip Flop Filosopher x

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

When was the last time you tested your boundaries, to see how far you could push yourself?  Or totally switched off from the grid, no screens, no contact, no news, no talking, no looking even.  On the 25th June, I completed a 10 day Vipassana Meditation course in Nepal, and it was one of the most game changing experiences of my life. 

So what is it?  

The word “Vipassana” means seeing things as they really are, not as you would like them to be.  It’s a process of self purification by self observation, a technique developed and taught by the Buddha.  It’s free and available to absolutely anyone, regardless of your ethnicity or religious tendencies.   It’s a universal technique that teaches you a way of life, a code of conduct, an art of living.  The goal is to learn how to live peacefully and harmoniously, how to have control over the mind, and how to live with the spirit of the mind full of love, compassion and goodwill (man).  To learn, all you have do is surrender yourself to a meditation camp for 10 days, and agree to 5 precepts: 

1. To abstain from killing any living creature 

2. To abstain from stealing 

3. To abstain from all sexual activity 

4. To abstain from telling lies 

5. To abstain from all intoxicants

Let be honest, we’re all just worried about #5… Ohh, and the 10 days of Noble Silence… Yeah, that… No talking, no gestures, no eye contact, no reading, no writing. Just you, your thoughts, and S. N. Goenka’s dulcet tones.

  

The schedule is demanding and, like Pavlovs Dogs, our days revolved around bells – some made us salivate, others made us “starrrrt agaiiiiiin”…  the 4am wake up bell, the call to meditation bell, the “time for food” bell, from 4am to 9pm every day, 11 hours of meditation and noble silence.

The first few days are all about breathing…. Like, a LOT of breathing, but just your natural breath.   I couldn’t get my monkey mind to shut the fuck up – it’s surprising when you try reallllllly hard to not think of anything how much comes into your head.  

The conditions were challenging: the humidity was about 80% and the fans  worked occasional, which meant I sweated my arse off for most of the day, sweating out all my impurities and toxins.  Purging my system inside and out.  It was like rehab… 

Soon the schedule, the structure and the technique started to take over and I entered into almost a dream-like state. My inner world became so huge when I fell silent and just observed the world around me.  In the beginning, I did anything to keep my mind off the deafening silence in between the meditations, but after a while I found pleasure in stopping to smell the flowers, to watch the ants (FIFA), to just listen to the birds.  I know, I know how funny that sounds, and trust me I was as amused as you, but as I shut out the distractions, I left a quiet and peaceful mind, a mind that started to feel so vast and powerful, so full of potential. 

   

It’s not necessary to have to do the lotus pose for this meditation, just to find a comfortable sitting position that means you can sit for a period of time.  Despite months of sitting on nothing but divans, my western body still cried out in pain in a crossed leg position… My Knees, then my back, a numb bum, pins and needles in my feet on constant rotation.  

I made the ultimate mistake of looking around and comparing myself to my other inmates, who of course all looked so serene and comfortable, certainly not fidgeting every 5 minutes like me. Seriously, How the fuck are they all doing this?   I tried so many cushion configurations I lost count.  By the end of the course, everyone had their preferred set up, and watching them get them ready before the determined 1-hour-absolutely-no-moving-allowed sittings (that were introduced on day 4, 3 times daily) was like watching a golf pro set up for that a drive of the 1st tee. A check-list of about 40 and everything.just.so.

Dhamma Hall
    

Why did I do it?

What was I expecting?  Some kind of transcendental journey that would answer all my questions and give me some kind of out of body experience.   I feel a little foolish to think how much I wanted from it, how much I expected it to be like a magic wand, to fix me and take me places, a way of finding all the answers to all the things I worry about.  There are certainly some meditations/methods that can do that, this just isn’t that kind of thing.  

I hoped it would help me achieve stillness, strength, clarity, balance, help me tune into my emotions and intuition, to see my own potential and to hold space for myself.  The good news is, it helped me achieve all these things, and the technique was so simple, so real, and as a result wayyyy more visceral. 

How did it make me feel?

Initially, I felt apprehensive, frustrated, uncomfortable (sitting down for 11 hours may seem easy, but I challenge any of you to sit on the floor for even 15 mins without fidgeting);  by the end I felt so happy, relaxed, peaceful, grounded, and more in control of my mind.  Ultimately, I guess, a whole lot more aware/sober – it’s a 100% natural high. 

It felt like I was unlocking parts my brain, taking a journey of insight.  The mind is a muscle, it’s like I was exercising and relaxing it at the same time, like teaching it a new trick: Developing my faculty to focus within. Just to be, rather than trying to be.  To meet with pleasure and with pain and treat those two imposters just the same: it’s allllll about equanimity baby.  It all balances out if you just let it go, and you feel so much more free.

 
  

If this made me happy, does that mean I was un-happy before?  Yes and No, but for me this gives me a new way of seeing the world and a way to slowly eradicate negative reactions – there’s something in that.  It needs a few more goes to practice and to figure out how I realistically integrate it into my everyday life, but there’s definitely something in that.  

Am I happier now?  Yes.  Am I free from having wibbly moments of erratic emotion, tearful pathetic moments of ineptitude or flashes of anger?  No, I’m not out of those woods yet, but am I coping with those moments a lot better? Yes.  

“Good for you” I hear you say, but why should you care? How could this help you? 

It’s been useful to understand that everyone has a different experience, that everyone takes from it in a different way, and that you can only learn through your own experience.

Having said that, if you could see that there’s such a simple way to liberate yourself from tensions, you’d wish that for everyone.  I know not everyone can surrender 10 days to experience this for themselves.   I know I’m incredibly lucky to have been able to follow my curiosity.  It’s not my job to tell you to go, or to teach you the technique, all you need to know is that Vipassana is a universal technique that can help you exercise a healthy mind, happiness is a nice side effect.  

It’s NOT some cult or sect or religious rite of passage.  I’m still me – I’m just trying to be the happiest me I can be (cheesiest comment I’ll make all day, probably).  

The main aim is basically “May all beings be happy”, which is basically a nice thing. It doesn’t turn you into some reaction-less vegetable, it just turns you on to a different way of thinking.  It’s a sort of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which gives you choices about your thoughts. 

One week on, and I’m reflecting on that pure joy feeling I had as I walked out the meditation hall for the last time, and how to adapt/apply this to my every day life.  It’s going to be a challenge, but one I’m happy to undertake. 

In the words of 90’s band En Vogue, “Free your miiiiind, and the rest will follow!”

Vipassana Meditation Worldwide 

    

   

7-Bullet Sunday: Day 143

7-Bullet Sunday: Day 143

A tardy summary of happenings and musings from the last 7 days:

1.  Ledakh – one of the most remote places I’ve ever visited.  The roads that give access to this place from Kargil in the West and Manali in the South are seasonal, and were only just opening up when we arrived.  Newly defrosted/scarred/under-construction roads, men at work breaking rocks, several bumpy, cosy, shoulder-to-shoulder boob bouncing jeep rides, patience/physical endurance/tolerance, a new appreciation for smooth tarmac like you wouldn’t believe.

The roads in Ledakh are like a metronome for its development:  the community need/want progress, and there’s a race to get the roads safe/give access in and out to those who’ve been cut off for months as well as getting the tourists in the quickest.  At the same time, they risk/worry about losing that delicate Ledakh heritage/identity that will begin to melt away as the Tourism soars.  I hope they succeed in protecting this special place. 

Nubra Valley

2.  Getting my first taste of Tibetan culture and getting excited for September! A new language, prayer wheels, stupas, prayer flags hung literally everywhere and flapping in the wind, Tibetan refugee markets full of beautifully tempting souvenirs, a new set of symbols and meanings, a kind of innocence, a thinner atmosphere/less oxygen (10k ft above sea level), brisk, colder temperatures, space, SNOW! breathless acclimatisation, peace and quiet (no beeping, no TukTuks), a much bigger, fluffier and teddy-bear-like breed of Steve, weathered and almost purple wind-burnt friendly smiling faces, clean, fresh mountain air – it’s enough to make you forget you’re in India, but with the pace of life set at 3 knots and a very relaxed/non existent approach to health and safety (thank god), you’re soon comforted by that familiar “Indian way” of doing things.  

 

Leh – not at war, LaLa’s Art Cafe with Leh Palace in the distance
 
The town balances looking like a construction site, a war-zone and an historic religious memorial all at the same time with a graceful simplicity, one of the many idiosyncratic talents of India.

3.  Driving 1 1/2 days to reach the Pakistan border, weaving and climbing through the vast Nubra Valley – another long, but stunning journey that took us up and over Khardungla, “the highest motorable road in the world” (18,380ft), and eventually spitting me out at Turtuk – the last village to be occupied by India and the closest I can get to Pakistan.  

Stood by the border check-point (a familiar sight for a Dumballer), it was a sobering moment for this kid from the Midlands – took the opportunity to pause and reflect on my fortunate predicament:  free to travel anywhere in the world, and at the same time acknowledging the slightly bonkers/surreal location that I found myself at on day 140.  I can see Pakistan!? 

Indian/Pakistan Border Crossing

4.  1st world problems: 

a) as my visa expiration date approach’eth, Jessington brain-fog sets in as to “where/what next” in the world?  For now, a no-brainer hop skip and a jump over to Nepal and a brief Denso reunion beckons – why the fuck not?!  I’m excited by the possibilities/opportunities that are to come, whenever the conclusion materialises.  

b) lengthy and quite regular Leh-wide wifi black-outs brings a welcomed off-grid quiet, save for the attempts to alleviate some acute pangs of missing family & friends through Skype and the like, which were rendered completely impossible or frustratingly sketchy #loading, #connecting, #nointernet, #1stworldproblems

5.  Finding inspiration in all sorts of places.  Most notably, from 3 talented podcasters whom I highly recommend you all take the time to listen and subscribe to:

1. The Comedian’s Comedian – Stuart Goldsmith
2. Distraction Pieces – Scroobius Pip
3. Adam Buxton

Your own podcast recommendations are most welcomed – get in touch or stick a link in the comments bit below.



6. Saying cheerio to the #GoodEggs Naomi and Clay, as they set off from Leh destined for Manali. #travelwankers, #clangers and my #globalfamily for the last 90+ days, I love the way they look at the world, the larfs we’ve shared, and the things we’ve seen together.  

Some have come, some have tried, and some have left defeated, but it’s that top-shelf calibre that glued all of us “Clangers” together.  You know who you are. “Hello forever”  😉 ©CarolineDensley.

7. Sampling Yak cheese for the first time, I can report it has the hardness/crunch of Parmesan/Manchego, yet the sweetness of Gouda/Emmental, and seemingly goes with absolutely everything on a Leh menu. Yakety Yak!  Don’t talk back.  Recommended.