Mind the Heart

I’ve witnessed and analysed many aspects of my life when I’ve sat in meditation, and last night was no exception. My meditation centred around the heart, as it so often does. Around me, I’ve got some wonderful kind friends and family. We laugh, have fun and know that we love and care for each other. Yet in spite of this, I felt a real sense of the fear lurking within our hearts, hiding in our inner world where no one (not even ourselves) can see.

My vision was of a few of us sitting on the floor in a circle, gathering and holding each other in a sacred space. In this circle we were able to face each other, to look deeply and honestly into each other’s heart space, without judgement. It was through this vision that I developed an awareness of the elements affecting our heart centre and, as I analysed each person’s heart (including my own) I saw the obstacle in the heart was FEAR. It tightens the heart, emotionally closing it down.

When our heart is fearful, we automatically try to protect the heart space. It’s an unconscious reaction. But if we take a step into the unknown, take a moment to search within our hearts, we may become aware of what’s causing the fear to arise. Fear can take many shapes and forms. Fear may present itself as depression, anxiety, stress, strength, pride or anger.

We love our children yet sometimes we sense a distance with them. Some parents relate easily with one child but find it difficult with another child. Perhaps they are withdrawn or not studious enough. Judgement of our children are a reflection of ourselves. We question our ability to be a good parent. Our parenting abilities can seize our hearts with fear, not knowing if we’re doing it right or making a complete mess. Fear affects the ability to make confident, consistent and rational family decisions.

A death in the family is a tremendous blow to the heart. The heart is overwhelmed with grief, sadness, depression and anger. We feel broken. How can the heart recover from such a setback? The path through this depends on the individual, but I do believe we need to let grief become our friend and not our enemy. What I mean is to embrace the pain and sorrow, acknowledge and get to know it, befriend it. By allowing sorrow to unfold, it will not allow grief to take hold of your heart. But by not dealing with the loss, stepping back into routine and putting on a brave face, the consequence can be catastrophic. The heart heals shut – as though you’ve locked the door and thrown away the keys. Where love once filled the heart, anger and fear develop, leading to some regrettable decisions with children, family matters, relationships and choices in partners.

Fear blocks our heart from love. Some struggle to find love, wrestle to keep love and others grapple with loving themselves and their body. Love seems elusive, but if we’re honest with ourselves and examine our experiences, we’ll discover the reasons why love doesn’t come easily. Whether we’re aware of it or not, relationships directly impact our self-confidence. Failed relationships, divorce, abusive partners, difficult rapport or affairs cause our emotions to tremble. If we consistently find ourselves in these challenging situations, we eventually lose our confidence and instead, foster an inability to make the right choice in a partner or feel that we’re not loveable, we don’t deserve love. We close our heart to love, it’s the only way to keep it safe.

Our lifestyle, food and addictions are all vulnerable to the fear within our hearts. A lack of love for self is an indication that we no longer care; we overindulge in food, we create addictions to drugs, cigarettes and alcohol. Because of the fear of love, we stop loving ourselves. Abusive relationships, depression and grief may all cause the lack of self-love. In order to turn it around, it’s necessary to stop, review our experiences and listen to our heart to find the cause of fear. Only with this knowledge will it be possible to encourage lifestyle changes.

The best approach to learn about ourselves is to review our relationships in life and the people around us. Is that connection based on love or fear? When our heart has love, giving to ourselves and others will feel easy and good, without effort. On the other hand, fear is exhausting and eventually leads to feelings of anxiety or resentment.

In yogic terms, the heart chakra is called Anaharta and in Buddhist traditions, we refer to the heart as Mind. We need to ‘Mind our Heart’.

Each day, take a few moments to stop and look inside your heart, observe and listen to what you sense there, without judgement. Just listen. Self-analysis and awareness are simple methods to unblock and open the heart centre.

Through this we might not change a whole lot, but we can be mindful of the choices, thoughts and actions we make in our lives.

Thought Connections

Our thoughts set the Universal Fishing Rod in motion

A chance encounter a few weeks ago has brought home to me the importance of our thoughts and that, when we think of something or someone, it’s as though we send out a fishing line to hook on to that thing or person, and it’s reeled in to us. We might catch a huge Marlin, an aggressive White Pointer or perhaps a little Rainbow Trout.

A few weeks ago, I decided to drive out to a retail outlet, one I’d never been to before even though my mum and sister frequented regularly. The moment I walked in, I noticed a lady look directly at me and I thought ‘Do I know her?’, though it quickly disappeared as I scanned, plotting my navigation around the store. I often do that. It’s a Buddhist habit as we tend to move clockwise when we circumambulate sacred objects, not that this store was sacred. Like I said, it’s a habit.

Interestingly, after searching for and finding what I was looking for, that same lady approached me by my name. I looked at her not knowing who she was and wondered if she was my mum or sister’s friend. No, nothing as boring as that. She was in fact my ex-boyfriends cousin. I don’t recall exactly how I reacted but I was pleasant to her, even though I racked my brain trying to recollect who she was. As we chatted, I came to know two important things from her:

1) Like me, this was also her first time in this store
2) She had thought of me in relation to another matter just the week before

These two factors kept playing in my mind over and over again. Before driving off, I sat inside my car thinking about our ‘chance’ encounter. Why, after almost 25 years, did we both happen to go to the same shop, a store which is not particularly near our homes, meaning we had to make a conscious effort to travel there.

Several days later, thoughts were still dogging me about this chance encounter. Was it really chance? What was I supposed to learn from this? Why was the universe presenting this to me? So, I decided to meditate on it.

I came to the realisation that it wasn’t about me at all. I didn’t need to see her or reconnect, nor was there any aspect in this encounter about my ex. No, it had to do with her. She mentioned that she had thought of me the week before and now, as I sat back reviewing the encounter, I saw in my imagination a giant fishing rod.

As she thought of me that time, it was as if her thought sent out a giant fishing rod to reel me in to her reality. That fishing rod (I like to refer to it as a Universal Fishing Rod) sent a lure to me and set me on a course where we would meet at the same shop on the same day and time.

I was caught in the web or line of someone else’s universal lure. So it wasn’t about me, it was her thought pattern that set the scene in motion, and the universe responded. I was just a pawn.

So how many times have I done that to someone else? Or something? I can think of a few incidences. This ‘chance’ encounter wasn’t really chance. It is just one example of how strong our thoughts truly are. Every thought, good or bad, sends out the Universal Fishing Rod (UFR) and reels in exactly what you have sent out. Maybe this is another way to explain Karma – Cause and Effect. If you send your thoughts out in a negative way, the UFR will return to you what you have asked for.

Perhaps we need to keep a check on what our thoughts are ‘fishing’ for? I know I certainly do.

Tibetan Healing Yoga

Nejang – Movement to Health

Published in ‘Living Now’ Issue 196, August 2016

Inviting movement into our lives is akin to a dance of life. In the Tibetan medical system, it’s an inner dance rather than an external one. Nejang is Tibetan Healing Yoga and literally means ‘purifying the energy of the body’. It’s a system used by physicians and their patients to balance internal energy, open the chakras and relax the mind.

This Tibetan yoga (known in Tibetan as Tsalung Trulkhor) has 24 simple, effective exercises or movements which can be used for general wellbeing as well as for curing specific disorders. Old Tibetan texts mention that these movements have basic healing functions and additional therapeutic benefits.

Quite simply, each of the 24 movements have various Tantric and Medical benefits. To garner any benefit from the exercises, they are to be repeated a minimum of three times. Let’s look at a few exercises but first, sit comfortably on the floor in easy cross legged position.

For each of these movements, you need to inhale, drawing the breath into the navel level and hold the breath while executing the exercise. Once the movement is completed, exhale fully as though expelling tension and toxins.

Neck – Vigorously rub or massage the sides of the neck, then stretch to the sides bringing the left ear towards the left shoulder. Repeat on the other side.
– On the Tantric level, this exercise is good for navel problems
– From the Medical perspective, it releases tension in the neck, helps headaches and aids breathing problems such as asthma

Eyes – Keeping the head facing forward and only moving the eyes, gaze upwards, downwards, left and then right. Repeat 3 times.
– Tantric level – this heals the eyes and balances lacrimation
– Medical level – balances the liver, gall bladder and pancreas

Head – Lower the head bringing the chin to the chest, and then raise the head up and all the way back, face to the ceiling. Repeat 3 times.
– Tantric – Balances abdominal bloating (of stomach and spleen energy)
– Medical – Cures headache and migraines, aids memory, clears the mind and relaxes internal organs

Shoulder shrugging – With the right hand, massage the left shoulder, then shrug and – release. Repeat on the other side.
– Tantric – Heals the heart
– Medical – Releases shoulder tension, great for lung problems, relaxes the diaphragm to release tension, treats hiccups.

The entire 24 Nejang protocol progressively moves you through each body part, culminating in the integration of the whole body, opening the energy channels and circulating blood. Like dancing, these movements invigorate the entire body and bring a flush to the cheeks.

Support the Body through the Elements

Making Diet and Lifestyle wisdom choices to get us through Winter

Published in ‘Living Now’ Issue 196, August 2016

During winter, we seem to catch cold after cold, taking multiple courses of antibiotics in an attempt to achieve (a perception of) health. But is this approach really helping us?

Tibetan medicine has important wisdoms which tell us otherwise. Ancient teachings of Traditional Tibetan Medicine (TTM) date back some 4000 years ago. Sowa Rigpa is the indigenous name for TTM, the healing science of Tibet.

Sowa Rigpa

When we think of an illness or disease, we immediately try to determine the pathological issues and pre-determined symptoms. However Dr Nida Chenagstang, a Tibetan born Sowa Rigpa physician and Ngakpa (lay monk) explains, “we should not merely look at the symptoms because illness relates to both the Body and the Mind.”

The relationship between the Body and Mind is expressed by the Five Elements – Space, Air, Fire, Water and Earth. In their purest form, they’re represented as the colours Blue, Green, Red, White and Yellow respectively.

These elements break down even further to three constitutions which are Wind, Fire (Bile) and Water/Earth (Phlegm).

According to Sowa Rigpa, the three constitutions help us know Diet and Lifestyle options which will boost the immune system and help navigate bumpy roads (and hailstorms) to unwavering good health.

Let’s take a closer look.

  • Wind types tend to be thin, talkative with an active (moving) mind, prone to anxiety and insomnia
  • Fire types have a standard toned physique, strong minded and a sharp mind, and razor sharp tongue to match!
  • Water/Earth types are stable, solid build, calm and sleep well, and they can be lazy

Feed your health

TTM says the fundamentals of enjoying good health and long life are a balanced Diet and correct Lifestyle choices according to our constitution.

Wind people should have warm, nutritious, oily foods. Try nutmeg, coriander, cardamom, cumin and mustard. From a lifestyle point of view, they’d benefit from staying in warm cozy places, pleasant smells and soft music, nourish their mind by socializing with friends and family, and should sleep around 8 – 9 hours. Meditation should be mind-calming and include breathing practices.

Nutmeg (Myristica fragrans) – is not a nut but the inner kernel of a peach-like fruit. Good tonic for heart, mental disorders, anti-stress, helps sleep, clears the mind, a mood enhancer for anxiety and panic attacks, gently strengthens body heat and improves digestion. Avoid large doses as myristicin can cause nausea and hallucinations.

Fire people need fresh, cooling foods. Try saffron, clove, turmeric, mint and basil. Regular eating and sleeping, they benefit from cool, shady places (avoid hot sun) and get 7 – 8 hours sleep. Meditation should be analytical style and include breathing practices.

Saffron (Crocus sativas) – treats excess heat in the internal organs especially liver and gallbladder, treats general inflammation and stomach ulcers. Saffron threads can be soaked in water for a great liver tonic. Gives a cooling effect and best for Fire types.

Water/Earth people need a hot, spicy and light diet. They should try ginger, chilly and cinnamon and need regular physical activity enjoyed with friends such as brisk walking or dancing. As they tend to sleep too much, they should instead aim to get 6 -7 hours sleep. Meditation style should be mindful walking and prostrations.

Ginger (Zingiber officinale Rosc) – has a hot taste and its post-digestive quality is warm. It’s especially good at assisting digestion of food, improving nutrient assimilation. Ginger is antiemetic and helps with diarrhea and vomiting caused by indigestion. It stimulates the blood and improves circulation. Fresh slices of ginger in hot water is perfect as a tea for the Water/Earth types as it gives heat to the body and boosts the digestion.

TTM shows us that with knowledge of the elements and energy according to our constitution, we can make wise Diet and Lifestyle choices to favorably support our digestion and immune system.

*I’d like to acknowledge TTM Journal as resource

The Circle

An ancient symbol that represents Eternity, Energy and Life of all beings

The circle represents the universe, both external and internal. In this image, the centre is brown representing the earth, the Earth Mother and the outer circle is blue, representing the sky, Father Sky.

Each colour represents the Four Directions; yellow symbolises the East, a place of vision and of new beginnings; red represents the South which is a place of trusting and learning; black is the West and represents a place of dreaming and introspection; and white represents the North, a place of wisdom.

Each colour represents the Four Directions as well as colours of people. Through this, we can trace the stages of growth in both the physical sense and emotional development.

In the centre there is a diamond of royal blue colour and this represents the Great Spirit, God, Buddha or Higher Consciousness – the ‘Within’.