The Presence of Peace: Breathing Calmly Amidst Holiday Stress

Julie Dunlop, author of Ocean of Yoga: Meditations on Yoga and Ayurveda for Balance, Awareness, and Well-Being shares tips on breathing calmly amidst holiday stress.

Are you one of those people who tries to “get through” the holidays? What would it take for you to shift to “moving through” the holidays or “experiencing” the holidays rather than just trying to get through them? Although the difference in this wording is somewhat subtle, it can be significant as we shift from survival mode into a more holistic acceptance of the process of being present—mind, body, and soul—for the holidays.The glow of Christmas trees, menorahs, and Diwali candles, along with many other images and traditions from richly diverse cultures, light our way through the holidays each year. Along with the beauty of holiday decorations and celebrations, however, often comes a fair amount of stress. This could be financial stress or the stress of physical exhaustion from simply trying to keep up with all of the extra events. It could also be emotional stress due to an injury or illness, challenging family dynamics, or grief from the loss of a loved one. Pause for a moment and check in: On a scale of 1 to 10, what is your current stress level? Breathe. Look around you. Then, look within. Is there any crisis taking place in the current moment, or is the stress generating from within? Feel the soft rhythm of your inhale and exhale washing through you with grace.

Gifts are often a part of the holiday season, whether we are shopping for gifts, purchasing gifts, making gifts, wrapping gifts, mailing gifts, returning gifts, or all of the above. Sometimes the most valuable gifts, however, are those that are intangible, such as peace, fulfillment, acceptance, joy, balance, and well-being. Consider also “The Gift of Collapse”:

(from Ocean of Yoga by Julie Dunlop):

 The Gift of Collapse

There is a precision in the symmetry of ancient civilizations and the geometry of modern society. In both Yoga and Āyurveda, we focus on balance, praising it as a path to well-being. And yet, if there is over-focus on balance, we can veer into perfectionism, judging ourselves without mercy. If there is a priority on keeping everything together, this constriction can keep us from being available to the vulnerability, the softness, the openness of living authentically. Sometimes it takes a complete collapse—physically, mentally, or emotionally—or all three—or at least a wobbling, a wavering, a significant undoing of our balance—to humble us, to recalibrate our systems, to re-wire our way of looking at ourselves and others. 

So the next time you fall out of a pose, fall out of a relationship, fall out of alignment with the person you thought you were, see if you can see this as an invitation for transformation rather than as a failure. More valuable than the appearance of perfection is the impeccability of our willingness to encounter our full selves. Through each collapse, our humility deepens, opening our heart-mind to the wisdom of both the imbalance and balance as shadow and light intertwine.

Consider the first three words that come to your mind when you think of the holidays.  Are there things that you think or feel about the holidays that you do not express? The incongruity of feeling or thinking one way and feeling pressure to act in another way can be challenging and stress-inducing at any time, but especially at the holidays. For instance, perhaps you are part of a large extended family that expects you to visit each year but you prefer solitude at the holidays, or vice versa. Perhaps you have a different set of spiritual or religious traditions than the rest of your family or choose to eat or behave in a different way than your family members. If there is a lack of acceptance of these differences, all of this can cause quite a bit of indigestion at the mental and emotional level, sometimes manifesting at the physical level as well.

Lion Pose, where we open the mouth, extend the tongue, gaze upward, and exhale forcefully, can offer a very therapeutic non-verbal release at the throat chakra. Try it five times and see what you feel.

While we may often think of yoga as physical postures on a mat, yoga actually has eight limbs. The first two limbs (yama and niyama) offer us ancient wisdom for daily life.  Ahimsa (non-violence) invites us to be compassionate to others and also to ourselves.  Given the many habits we have developed over the years and the strength that many holiday traditions hold, it can feel daunting to modify a holiday in any way. Tapas (the fire of transformation) can help. Through self-discipline, we can choose to change a way of thinking, speaking, or acting that can bring our holiday experiences into closer alignment with our priorities and beliefs. For instance, we might replace money spent on travel with money donated to those in need—or we might replace money spent on gifts with time spent with loved ones. The options are endless, and once a spark of innovation begins, the flow of creativity can bring forth healing on many layers in many different directions.

We may be able to change a lot internally and externally this holiday season, or we may not, given the complex constellation of factors in which we dwell. Santosha (acceptance) asks us to be content, to accept the current reality with truth, with grace, with authenticity. Given the nature of the translucent thread of impermanence woven through every moment, there may be changes awaiting our holidays that we cannot even begin to imagine. This is where the flexibility we may develop in yoga or another mind/body practice can support us, as we continue to adapt to the present—the gift of the present moment delivered to us in each unfolding breath.

Rather than pushing away any feelings of sadness, grief, loneliness, longing, or despair that may be conjured up by the holidays, see if you may be able to honor them, simply by acknowledging them as part of the journey. Taking the companion of a candle, sit with the warmth of its light, feeling in its glow the light that will return to your path.  Feel the flow of your breath, the rhythm of its presence that is with you always. Breathe in peace, forgiveness, love; exhale any hurt or anger you may harbor in your heart.

Then, placing both hands on your heart, breathe into all that you are feeling. After several minutes, then place your palms together, bringing to your awareness five things—tangible or intangible, small or large—that you are grateful for. Slowly unwrap each of these sacred gifts, taking time to appreciate the nuances of their origins, their abiding support. With appreciation for these gifts, consider what you may be able to give—to yourself and/or to others. In what ways might you offer an hour of your time, perhaps visiting with a friend or someone who is injured or ill, making a meal for someone, or sending cards, emails, texts, or photos with messages that resonate authentically with your heart?

Similarly, in what ways might you enhance your experience of the holidays through the gifts of the five senses?

Sight~

  • Consider FaceTiming or Skyping with a friend or family member you haven’t seen in a long time
  • Gaze for five minutes at a sacred image of a place, person, or object that means a lot to you, feeling the depth of your gratitude
  • Look inward, gazing at all the various pieces of yourself with acceptance, respect, compassion, understanding
  • Look up at night, taking in the luminosity of the moon and stars

Sound~

  • Call a loved one and enjoy the unique vibrations of this voice as it travels across the miles into the intricately designed curves of your ear
  • Listen to music—either an old familiar favorite or treat your ears (and soul) to a brand new artist, or even an entirely new genre
  • Enjoy five minutes or more of silence, feeling the gentle wave-like flow of your breath, experiencing the present of being present

Scent~

  • Bring fresh greenery, such as pine branches, into your home or office
  • Enjoy the scent of an essential oil, such as lavender, or choose a scented candle to light
  • Let the aroma of a traditional dessert baking fill your kitchen
  • Notice the aroma as you sip a cup of herbal tea, such a ginger, peppermint, or chamomile
  • Sit close to a warm crackling fire and enjoy the scents of the burning logs
  • Invite the scent of incense, such as frankincense or sandalwood, to waft through the home

Taste~

  • Make a favorite holiday food from your childhood and share it with someone (If you don’t have the recipe, look online for a similar one and approximate it as best as you can)
  • Try a new restaurant, or order something for the first time from a familiar restaurant
  • Treat yourself to ordering a new cookbook
  • Select several items from the produce aisle that you have never tried
  • Have a holiday potluck with your friends, neighbors, or co-workers

Touch~

  • Offer yourself the gift of massage, marma, acupuncture, or another form of bodywork
  • Go into nature and pick up pinecones, leaves, stones; touch the bark of a tree, the sand on a beach
  • Notice the feel of the touch of the wind as it brushes your skin
  • Enjoy a warm bubble bath or bathe with sea salt

Regardless of how you choose to explore or experience the holidays, know that while holidays can be a precious part of life, they are just one facet of the exquisite composition of life. Ultimately, every day is a holiday, a cause for reflection and celebration, when we take notice of each moment’s ephemeral nature and return to what resides inherently within:

Ocean Within
(from Ocean of Yoga by Julie Dunlop)

 Within you, an ocean of peace.
Within you, an ocean of love,
understanding, compassion flowing.
Feel its waves washing over you,
through you, washing every bone, every cell,
every feeling, every thought.

 An ocean of truth and beauty within.
The brilliance of sunlight dancing upon water,
and the gentle rhythm of the waves,
this beauty, this peace, alive and flowing, in you.

 You—an ocean of light.
You—an ocean of peace.
Your love, like the ocean, vast and deep.

 Flowing through you, the loveliness of the sea.

 You, the ocean.  You, the waves.
You, the light on water.
You, the peacefulness washing upon every shore.

 ~

For more information on Ocean of Yoga, please visit our website.

 

 

A Tip for Practicing Meditation to Improve Physical and Mental Wellbeing

The below video tip is taken from Practical Zen: Meditation and Beyond by Julian Daizan Skinner, Foreword by Shinzan Miyamae

Using a system established by the ancestors of the Rinzai tradition of Zen, Practical Zen presents specific meditation practices in a practical and engaging way that will enable readers to live a grounded, strong, energetic life:

To learn more about Practical Zen, visit our website.

 

Create Your Own BaZi Calendar

Calculating the BaZi, a new release from September, can help you to understand how to recognise the various influences on BaZi (Chinese Astrology) and learn how to devise personalised astrological charts, without needing a Chinese calendar.

Detailed instructions show how your destiny is contained within your birth chart, and how to understand its changes over the whole lifespan. Dr Taylor Wu also explains the relationship between your individual BaZi chart and your personality, emotions, health, relationships, aptitudes, and life chances. With many examples, and worked exercises, including a detailed interpretation of actual charts and case studies, Dr Taylor Wu demonstrates how to bring the GanZhi principles to life.

We have an extract from the book here, in which you can read a brief overview of the philosophies upon which the calendar was built.

To read more about the book, please click here.

If you would like to read more articles like this and hear the latest news and offers on our books, why not join our mailing list? We can send information by email or post as you prefer, and please also tell us about your areas of interest so we can send the most relevant information. You can unsubscribe at any time.

What do your palms reveal about you?

To celebrate the release of Andrew Mason’s most recent book, Vedic Palmistry, we have released an extract from the book. In the extract, you can read about the lines on the palm, the difference between astrology and palmistry and what to expect from the book.

Click here to read the extract.

Click here to read more about the book.

If you would like to read more articles like this and hear the latest news and offers on our books, why not join our mailing list? We can send information by email or post as you prefer, and please also tell us about your areas of interest so we can send the most relevant information. You can unsubscribe at any time.


Titles by Andrew Mason

Rasa Shastra

An authoritative account of Asian Medical Alchemy, this book explores the herbo-mineral-metal based medicines used in these ancient healing traditions. The first resource of its kind, it provides exhaustive insight into the history of alchemy’s search for immortality, the variety of minerals used, and production methods.

Click here to read more.

 

Jyotish

A complete introduction to Jyotish, or Vedic astrology, with sample charts and clear explanations. Mason provides all the information needed to be able to understand this system of astrology. He also introduces Jyotish’s sister sciences, Ayurveda and Vaatsu, and shows how they interact.

Click here to read more.

 

Vedic Palmistry

Compact and concise information on how to determine health implications and life events using palmistry and Vedic wisdom.With a discussion of introductory level astrology and its integration with palmistry, no prior knowledge is required. An essential guide for anyone interested in Vedic wisdom, Ayurveda or yoga.

Click here to read more.

Andrew Mason Explains ‘Vedic Palmistry’

Andrew Mason, author of Jyotish, Rasa Shastra and the recent title Vedic Palmistry, explains the concept of ‘Vedic Palmistry’ in the video below.

In the video, Mason explains hand topography, all the lines on the palm and what to expect from the book.

To view Andrew Mason’s video on ‘Rasa Shastra’, please click here. Click here to watch Mason’s video on ‘Jyotish’.

If you would like to read more articles like this and hear the latest news and offers on our books, why not join our mailing list? We can send information by email or post as you prefer, and please also tell us about your areas of interest so we can send the most relevant information. You can unsubscribe at any time.


Titles by Andrew Mason

Rasa Shastra

An authoritative account of Asian Medical Alchemy, this book explores the herbo-mineral-metal based medicines used in these ancient healing traditions. The first resource of its kind, it provides exhaustive insight into the history of alchemy’s search for immortality, the variety of minerals used, and production methods.

Click here to read more.

 

Jyotish

A complete introduction to Jyotish, or Vedic astrology, with sample charts and clear explanations. Mason provides all the information needed to be able to understand this system of astrology. He also introduces Jyotish’s sister sciences, Ayurveda and Vaatsu, and shows how they interact.

Click here to read more.

 

Vedic Palmistry

Compact and concise information on how to determine health implications and life events using palmistry and Vedic wisdom.With a discussion of introductory level astrology and its integration with palmistry, no prior knowledge is required. An essential guide for anyone interested in Vedic wisdom, Ayurveda or yoga.

Click here to read more.

Andrew Mason explains ‘Jyotish’

Andrew Mason, author of Jyotish, Rasa Shastra and the upcoming title Vedic Palmistry, explains the concept of ‘Jyotish’ and what to expect from the book in the video below.

In the video, Mason discusses planetary portraits, signs and houses and remedial measures.

To view Andrew Mason’s video on Rasa Shastra, please click here.

If you would like to read more articles like this and hear the latest news and offers on our books, why not join our mailing list? We can send information by email or post as you prefer, and please also tell us about your areas of interest so we can send the most relevant information. You can unsubscribe at any time.


Titles by Andrew Mason

Rasa Shastra

An authoritative account of Asian Medical Alchemy, this book explores the herbo-mineral-metal based medicines used in these ancient healing traditions. The first resource of its kind, it provides exhaustive insight into the history of alchemy’s search for immortality, the variety of minerals used, and production methods.

Click here to read more.

 

Jyotish

A complete introduction to Jyotish, or Vedic astrology, with sample charts and clear explanations. Mason provides all the information needed to be able to understand this system of astrology. He also introduces Jyotish’s sister sciences, Ayurveda and Vaatsu, and shows how they interact.

Click here to read more.

 

Vedic Palmistry

Compact and concise information on how to determine health implications and life events using palmistry and Vedic wisdom.With a discussion of introductory level astrology and its integration with palmistry, no prior knowledge is required. An essential guide for anyone interested in Vedic wisdom, Ayurveda or yoga.

Click here to read more.

Saints, Sages and Ordinary People and Their Encounters with Aromatic Plants

An Invitation to Read: SEVEN SCENTS: Healing and the Aromatic Imagination by Dorothy Abram

     SEVEN SCENTS: Healing and the Aromatic Imagination is an invitation to enter the lives of individuals who have been transformed through their interaction with sacred fragrant plants.  I examine the historical lives of saints, sages, and ordinary people whose encounter with aromatic plants provided the means and method to heal the crisis of a divided mind.  Just as smell retrieves memories from the distant past, the power of the aromatic imagination constructs reality in the present.

The book begins by studying the origins of the repression of scent as an authentic source of knowing in Western society.  The consequences of that rejection for identity are tremendous: we live with this loss.  Echoing Western philosophy from Plato onwards, Freud claimed that, in fact, the evolutionary repression of the sense of smell was a necessary act that initiated our humanness.  Freud explained that by renouncing a four-footed stance in favor of a two-footed posture (that prioritized vision as the dominant sense for survival), humans repressed the sense of smell.

This profound absence continues to leave its trace in our lives today.  Yet, the sense of smell cannot be rejected in our pursuit of human wholeness. Questioning the emotional costs of such an act for contemporary society, this book proposes that reclaiming an aromatic imagination has the potential to heal this fundamental division in the senses.  Paying particular attention to the socio-economic setting that promotes such divisions within, this book seeks to locate and to elucidate the necessary attributes of an aromatic imagination.  Fragrant plants appear in cultural and historical settings worldwide and at various historical moments whereby we may pay witness to the power of reclaiming scent for contemporary consciousness.

Beyond theory, we must consider the lives and cultures that demonstrate the power of the aromatic imagination for what they may teach us.  In this way, we witness its power to unify and heal.  I examine seven fragrant plants and the people whose lives were transformed through their engagement with these fragrant sources.  These seven plants include:

  • Sandalwood (Santalum album)
  • Lotus (Nymphaea caerulea)
  • Neem (Azadirahcta indica)
  • Terebinth (Pistacia terebinthus)
  • Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum)
  • Spikenard (Nardostachys jatamansi)
  • Jasmine (Jasminum officinale)

The chapter on sandalwood tells the story of a female sage in 19th century India who healed a problematic case of madness through her use of fragrant sandalwood.  We would not have known about this powerful aromatic healer had she not entered the life of the mad priest of Kali, Ramakrishna.  Her healing method reminds us that, in addition to the physical upset, illness is a story—a narrative—that is constructed to make sense of experience.  It is the aromatic imagination at work.  The narrative that this female sage offered Ramakrishna enabled him to reform his identity from mad priest to divinely inspired saint.  Because they lived in a culture that honored spiritual insight and religious experience, they were named great teachers and creative geniuses.

The chapter on lotus (blue water lily) examines a traditional biblical narrative from the perspective of shamanism.  This is an unusual framework with which to analyze the book of Job.  The focus on the lotus opens new approaches to understanding that are not available without taking the plant and its meaning in the narrative into account.  In fact, it enables the reader to recognize Job as a shaman; that is, as a healer of humankind who gains his expertise through his successful underworld journey and the power of magical plants.  Analysis of this scented water plant reveals the emotional significance of Job’s journey.

The study of the pungently scented neem tree offers a fascinating inquiry into ambivalent states of mind brought together through interaction, inhalation, and ingestion of the leaves of this sacred tree.  It offers powerful lessons in healing through states of mind that must accompany the botanical cures for true healing today.  Highlighting the smallpox epidemic in India and the goddess called Sitala Mata who was believed to be in charge, neem demonstrates the power of faith to bring about healing.   The aromatic imagination heals the divided mind.

The passage of Abraham’s recuperation under the fragrant terebinth tree in the biblical book of Genesis sets the stage for a new look at the ancient tale and often studied story of the near sacrifice of Abraham’s son Isaac by the command of his God.  That is how we are often told this story: that the sacrifice was a God-given command to test Abraham’s faith.  However, by looking at the cultural context in which the act was nearly accomplished and by examining the Hebrew words used, the reader comes to a very different understanding that makes sense of this cruel request.  This evidence also demonstrates the quality of consciousness that Abraham achieved under the terebinth tree resulted in a compassionate ending to the episode.

Similarly, the chapter on fragrant tulsi narrates the specific qualities of plant, mind, and action that are required to bring about an altered state that expands consciousness.   Examining a maiden rite still held in India today, this chapter reveals the use of scents to describe emotional states of expression and achievement of unified consciousness.

Spikenard is well-known from the New Testament as the fragrant oil that Mary of Bethany used to “anoint” Jesus’ feet in the gospel of John.  By examining the original Greek text, we discover that Mary’s actions were directed toward Jesus, the man, in a profound and intimate gesture of relaxation and aromatic healing.

The chapter on jasmine examines this fragrant flower for use in healing epilepsy in the 19th century and in aromatherapy today.  In both situations and at both times, the scent of jasmine facilitated the physical control of symptoms and management of the disease.

In addition to their fragrant scents, all of these plants have psychoactive potencies that were employed in the healing practices described in this book.  But, it is the story that accompanies the botanical treatment by which healing is truly secured.  That story is different in each context where it appears.  However, in all the cultures and contexts that I examine in SEVEN SCENTS, the story pays witness to the achievement of a spiritual level of awareness.  That achievement is brought about through inhaling the scents of these sacred plants in a narrative cultural context.    Whereas the individuals in these chapters require healing from a conflict and crisis of consciousness—the divided mind—aromatic healing demonstrates a unification that is witnessed across cultures and historical eras.  This is the aromatic imagination.

Clearly, such diverse origins necessitate the location of a common underlying crisis; something that traces back to the origin of our shared humanity. I propose that the repressed sense of smell may finally have achieved its reappearance and vindication in the aromatic imagination.

We are healed with scent.

Jyotish: Extract

To mark the release of Andrew Mason’s book, Jyotish, we have released an extract from the book. In the extract, Mason discusses the background of astrology and introduces Jyotish.

Click here to read the extract.

To read more about Jyotish, please click here.

If you would like to read more articles like this and hear the latest news and offers on our books, why not join our mailing list? We can send information by email or post as you prefer, and please also tell us about your areas of interest so we can send the most relevant information. You can unsubscribe at any time.


More Titles by Andrew Mason

Vedic Palmistry

Compact and concise information on how to determine health implications and life events using palmistry and Vedic wisdom.With a discussion of introductory level astrology and its integration with palmistry, no prior knowledge is required. An essential guide for anyone interested in Vedic wisdom, Ayurveda or yoga.

Click here to read more about Vedic Palmistry.

 

Rasa Shastra

An authoritative account of Asian Medical Alchemy, this book explores the herbo-mineral-metal based medicines used in these ancient healing traditions. The first resource of its kind, it provides exhaustive insight into the history of alchemy’s search for immortality, the variety of minerals used, and production methods.

Click here to read more about Rasa Shastra.

A Feminine Approach to Bodywork?

1

by Liz Kalinowska and Daška Hatton

A feminine approach to therapeutic bodywork has interested me since I took my first tentative steps along this path sometime in the mid 1990’s.  I noticed that in my field (Alexander Technique / Craniosacral Therapy) most of the practitioners are women and yet most of the courses and books on the subject are written by men.  The feminine viewpoint is and always has been different, with a distinctive voice and function.  Although a massive over-simplification, the masculine approach tends to focus on techniques and results, while the feminine may naturally relate more intuitively and compassionately. Continue reading