Tag Archives: yoga

Chuck’s Place: Finding Equanimity

Finding equanimity in nature…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

The ability to remain consistently calm, in this time of incessant turbulence and rapid unpredictable bipolar shifts, is a cherished resource. Equanimity greets every moment with equal attention, appreciation, clarity and calm.

Buddhist practice embraces equanimity as the ultimate attitude needed for successful transition from human to infinite life. The ability to be present, to not sow a seed of reincarnation—by distraction or attachment—in the dying process, frees the energy body to evolve in its definitive journey beyond human life.

The Shamans of Ancient Mexico also valued the relationship of equanimity and death. They reasoned that any moment in life could be one’s final moment, hence one should be fully present, alive, and equally appreciative of every moment in life, regardless of personal preferences.

The Shaman’s perspective is the ultimate Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all moments are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The Shamans cultivate equanimity as a program for living, the Buddhists as the key in dying. Both cultivate an attitude of deep calm in approaching life’s greatest encounter—its final moment.

How can we cultivate equanimity?

The Shamans contribute an attitude shift. Each day they remind themselves, ” My name is ________, a being who is going to die.” Far from being a morbid ‘Good Morning, World,’ this use of death as an advisor heightens one’s awareness to be fully present and engaged in every moment of the day, regardless of the activity.

How often do we lament a Monday morning, or the end of a joyous encounter? Even worse, how often do we dread an encounter or work task, and pray for it to quickly end. The intent of equanimity is to be equally calm and present to each equal moment, regardless of its intensity.

The Buddhists contribute the practice of meditation to still the mind, a great perpetrator of non-equanimity known as worry. Yoga, with its Hindu roots, uses self-regulation of the body to achieve equanimity. The practice of pranayama breathing exercises greatly enhances voluntary control of the autonomic nervous system’s mobilizing defenses, in the face of real or imagined stress, a valuable tool to achieve equanimity.

Autogenic training and self-hypnosis are tools to deepen the conscious relationship between mind and body. When we give the body a specific instruction when in a deeply relaxed state, the subconscious begins to listen and override its genetic, archetypal, or habitual programs.

Thus, we can instruct every part of our body to remain deeply calm while we remain fully awake and present to all conditions. Jan and I recently discovered the gift of Dr. Eleanor Eggers, a 97-year-old  semiretired psychologist, who developed a simple website giving away the secrets of her life’s work. This is her contribution to the greater good.

Her website offers the autogenic phrases that Elmer and Alyce Green developed at the Menninger Foundation, for deep relaxation, as well as other resources from her long and fruitful career. We happily pass on her website link: Dr. Eleanor Eggers.

Though, at present, we may experience limitation in exacting needed changes to our chaotic world, we are all free, as Victor Frankl would say, to assume the attitude we will embody in our encounters with that world. Equanimity ranks highest in our approach to life, in and beyond this world.

May all beings find equanimity.

Peace,

Chuck

A Day in a Life: Intentional Discipline

Discipline is needed if we are to grow anything... - Photo by Jan Ketchel
Discipline is needed if we are to grow anything…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

We all need discipline. We all need focus. Discipline must be honed, given attention and nurtured. It requires that we commit to giving ourselves something else besides that which is readily available for the taking, easily acquiesced to, or simply given in to. It takes focusing our attention on achieving some kind of goal, whether it be to find a good or more fulfilling job, exercise, eat right, lose weight, connect with our deeper self, or simply to quiet the mind of its usual rumblings, rants, and worries.

Looking around at how we conduct our lives we can begin to see where discipline is needed. It’s really pretty easy. We just need to listen to what we say to ourselves and others all the time. I once had a running conversation with myself that went something like this: “I must get back to myself, try to find a way to reconnect with my creative self, my seeking self, my spiritual self. I feel so far away from her. How do I find her again?” I’d find myself saying this to others as well, that I was trying to find myself again, feeling that I had somehow gotten lost and disconnected from my true path.

It became clear, as I began a more concerted effort to find that lost self, that the inner workings of my mental status had taken me in directions I didn’t necessarily want to go, but eventually found to be the directions I needed to go in, all leading me forward. In my discomfort in life and my disconnect from my spirit I discovered all that I needed to set me on the path to self-discovery and reconnection with the real self that I felt was lost for so long. Indeed she was lost, not in the way I imagined but in a much more profound way. I discovered that she was totally disconnected from life in this world.

I discovered that I’d kept my spirit safely tucked away, protected, or so I thought. Little did I know that she was fed up with being locked away. Little did I know that her biggest desire was to actually live in this world that I found so frightening. It was her push for change that really set her, and me, free. And then, once I opened the door to connecting with her, I realized there was no stopping her. But I also discovered that I had to have some kind of control over the sudden rush of information that she presented me with, all the hidden things about myself that I’d let her keep secret, the things I didn’t want to know about.

In the shadows of my inner self I found my spirit waiting for me... - Photo by Jan Ketchel
In the shadows of my inner self I found my spirit waiting for me…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

Rather than simply have control—I was already an expert at that—it became apparent that I had to become flexible so that the secrets could be revealed at the same time that I could remain comfortably available, present in my life, to work and be there for those who needed me. Thus began a practice of achieving balance, not just when I was in my regular yoga class or working on my recapitulation, but at all times, both awake and asleep.

I soon realized that I was on a path of profound change and that everything had to become part of that path of change. Gradually the discipline I was honing in my yoga practice seeped into all aspects of my life. I didn’t do yoga all day in the usual sense of doing yoga, but I began a new kind of spiritual practice. I intended that the sense of calmness and wellbeing that I experienced in yoga class accompany me throughout each day.

With constant attention on breathing and movement, on how I held myself and how my lungs filled with air or didn’t, I brought a new focus and stability into my life. Every day my yoga extended into more and more hours, as I simply told myself to do yoga all the time: to let my mind be empty, my body loose, my breath naturally flowing. As I focused on my breath going in and out, I began to be more physically present in the world. It became easier and easier to shift away from stagnancy, complacency, and old moods and habits.

This intentional discipline worked then and it still works today. Yoga all the time is still pretty much how I go about my daily life, deepening and bringing a most naturally acquired spiritual practice into every day life by simply noticing my breathing, bringing my attention constantly back into my body, making room for my spirit to accompany me on my journey all the time.

We can only learn by experience. Simply reading about, or thinking about doing something gets us nowhere; we must get experience by doing, and only in allowing ourselves to have experiences can we change. That change will permeate every aspect of who we are, our thoughts, our bodies, our spirits as we discipline ourselves in a most natural and focused way.

Let your spirit come out of the shadows and soar! - Photo by Jan Ketchel
Let your spirit come out of the shadows and soar!
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

Institute a spiritual practice that is simple, natural, and holistically healthy. Simply remind the self throughout the day to return attention to the body. Discipline the mind by focusing it on the body. How is it sitting or standing? How is it breathing? What is it thinking? What voice is speaking; is it saying what you want to hear? Are you in your body? Is your spirit present? Ask the two to go to work with you each day, to be present, attentive, moving and breathing together.

In getting up each morning with the intention of staying fully physically present in the body, a breathing, moving machine that has plenty of room for the spirit to fully live as well, we discover that it is the perfect vessel for transformation. In honing the body, with discipline and effort, we eventually advance into a new self-awareness that allows for new levels of experience where, without fear, we tread with joy and eagerness. This is doing yoga all the time, awareness of self as body, breath, and spirit.

Focusing and breathing,
Jan

A Day in a Life: Softening Body, Lightening Mind

We stepped into the flow of the energy of the universe... - Photo by Jan Ketchel
We stepped into the flow of the energy of the universe…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

As we finished our early morning walk and stepped through the door, I was telling Chuck that my blog today was going to be about talking to the body in a soft manner, because the body likes to be talked to in this way; it responds to softness rather than hardness. Within seconds Chuck called excitedly. He had just opened the great master yogi B. K. S. Iyengar’s book Light on Life to the following paragraph: “When there is softness in the body and lightness in the mind, the asana is correct. Hardness and heaviness mean the asana is wrong. Wherever there is tightness, the brain is overreacting, and you are caught and trapped there; so there is no freedom. Performance from the intellect of the heart, with lightness, firmness, and at the same time softness means it is a total stretch, total extension, and total expansion. Asana done from the brain makes one heavy and done from the heart makes one light.” With that synchronicity our day began!

I recently asked Jeanne/Saleph for advice on how to better connect with her when speaking for her in a channeling session. I had felt her to be far away. She responded that really all I needed to do was relax and let the words flow through me. She was telling me that a softened body and light mind, freed of worry and thought, were the key, just what Iyengar stressed in order for the energy of a yoga pose to flow through one.

Saleph’s answer got me thinking, not so much in a heady way, but I began to pay attention to my body, especially when I wanted something from it. I noticed that if I spoke gently to it, rather than in a commanding manner it immediately responded. Easily and without fighting back it gave me what I asked for. This, I thought, is the key to everything! This is the same thing that Iyengar discovered.

If we are energy then we must learn how to relate to ourselves as supple and flowing energy rather than as tough and rigid matter. We might think it’s important to be tough and rigid sometimes, but as Iyengar goes on to say: “When should an asana be soft and when should it be rigid? In motion the whole muscle should be like the petals of the flower, open and soft. Never be rigid in motion; only be rigid after you have acquired the position. A farmer ploughs a field and makes the ground soft, a yogi ploughs his nerves so they can germinate and make a better life. This practice of yoga is to remove weeds from the body so that the garden can grow. If the ground is too hard, what life can grow there? If the body is too stiff and the mind too rigid, what life can live?

Synchronistically, this was the message from Saleph that percolated inside me all week. The body will not respond to harsh commands. It will, however, open like the petals of a flower if we relax, allowing energy to channel through us.

There are times when rigidity is right... but it is the softening that allows us to be there in the right way... - Photo by Jan Ketchel
There are times when rigidity is right…
but it is the softening that allows us to be there in the right way…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

As I relaxed my body, my mind automatically followed suit and relaxed too. As I began to gently speak the following words, “Relax your body, relax your mind,” I noticed an immediate reaction—I got extremely calm. Aside from the physical relaxation that I sought, I noticed other things as I spoke differently to myself. As my mind relaxed and got out of the way I began to look and feel different. I noticed how much lighter I felt and how normal worry and stress released. Things that might have plagued me were suddenly not so important.

“Relax your body, relax your mind,” became the mantra of the week. I have used this mantra before to go into light self-hypnosis and I’ve always found it very effective, but this week I took Saleph’s suggestion to heart. I put the mantra to the test and watched what happened as I intentionally and repeatedly relaxed my body and mind throughout the week. In the softness of the suggestion, I began to experience how right she was. My energy flowed better and calmer. Even though I spent a great deal of the week around workmen doing some work at our house, the calmness in me flowed and the workmen responded in kind. It was a most energetically serene week, without incident or conflict; everything went perfectly.

I realized that the way we talk to our body really does effect how it talks back to us. If we are harsh to it, it will not budge. If we are rude to it, it will be sad. If we are disgusted with it, it will not change. If we are angry at it, it will not respond to us but turn its back and ignore us. On the contrary, if we ask it nicely and gently and lovingly to help us change it will be right there, ready to assist. We are energetic beings and energy is fluid, not rigid. As Saleph was letting me know, energy responds to softness.

I began to think that this relaxed and positive way of talking to the self could offer real help and good results in all kinds of issues. If I gently suggest to my body that I would like to lose a few pounds, will it respond in the affirmative? I think it will. If I set the intent to treat myself lovingly, will my body come to aid me in learning how to love myself? I think it will. If I want to let something new into my life, will simply talking about it gently with my body yield results? I think it will. I’ve already seen the results in my own body as I’ve gone through the week.

We keep the snakeskin as a reminder of the need to shed the old and keep evolving... - Photo by Jan Ketchel
We keep the snakeskin as a reminder of the need to shed the old and keep evolving…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

The synchronicity of Chuck randomly opening a book to exactly what I had spoken to him about a second before is part of the energetic flow of which we are all a part. I cannot deny that being in a flowing energetic state has brought good physical and mental results. In addition, it brings home in this morning’s synchronicity how connected we really are to the magic of the universe; how in fact we are it.

Saleph’s answer to me was perfect. The more relaxed I became and the more I spoke in gentle and loving tones to myself, my usual doubts and worries about my channeling process fell away and my body became soft and my mind became light. My body seemed really happy to immediately respond with good feelings. It even gave me good advice. It told me not to worry so much, that it knows exactly what to do; I just have to let it!

Perhaps my experiences of gently speaking to the body will be helpful. Why not give it a try too?

Sending love and gratitude,
Jan

Chuck’s Place: Simply Sacred

We can create mandalas anywhere, to trace or walk, to calm or intend change... - Photo by Jan Ketchel
We can create mandalas anywhere,
to trace or walk,
to calm or intend change…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

The borders of the world are swiftly evaporating as we swirl ever so rapidly into our One World family. This transformation has been heralded by the diaspora of formerly-cloistered knowledge and practices of the world’s most ancient spiritual traditions.

Tibet is a regular at the White House now, in the form of the Dalai Lama’s chats with the President. Mindfulness has infiltrated into the core of brain research at major universities and is at the heart of modern psychotherapeutic treatment. The technologies of the Upanishads and the wisdom of the ancient Hindus is available in most adult ed programs, and in storefronts in most cities in the world, in the form of yoga practice. The energetic medicine of the ancient Chinese, in the practice of acupuncture, is now covered under most health insurance plans. The knowledge and methods of the Shamans of Ancient Mexico are readily available, to anyone seeking to deepen their energetic evolution, through the published works of Carlos Castaneda.

The age of exclusive godly gurus and saviors is over, at least in projected form. Even the Catholic Pope admitted to his human frailty when having to prematurely retire. The Dalai Lama’s successor is dubious; Carlos Castaneda ended his shamanic line; India is steeped in desecration of the feminine, and China has forgotten the I Ching.

The legacy, the deepest gold of these ancient fading traditions, lies in their technologies, offering pathways to the soul. These methodologies, stripped of their proprietary and ritual wrappings are now available to anyone who chooses to engage in their practices. It is true that we still need teachers and guides as we experiment with these ancient practices. For instance, Kundalini, the powerful instinctive energy that lies coiled like a snake at the base of the spine in all of us, once activated, can wreak havoc with the central nervous system, such as triggering a physical recapitulation that may confusedly land one in the emergency room! It is wise to proceed with caution and seek out experienced guides and helpers for these practices.

But, by and large, our greatest guide is our own resonance. The teachers and teachings that are synchronistically drawn to us and resonate with our own energy are most likely to be trusted. We are all guided now by our own inner Naguals—the title afforded, in earlier times, to the leader of a shamanic party. No one else’s rules or resonances necessarily apply to our own journey. And that journey can take many different roads.

Many people value the concept of meditation. In fact, it’s at the top of many a New Year’s resolution scroll. Most, however, find its actual practice daunting or frustrating. When TM, Transcendental Meditation, was the rave in the 1970s, Dr. Herbert Benson, in his lab at Harvard, discovered the Relaxation Response, a simplified, demystified 10 minute practice that achieved the same physical and emotional benefits as the ancient esoteric mantras of TM. There are many simple roads to meditation, like washing the dishes with full mindful presence.

A calm walk on a simple path... - Photo by Jan Ketchel
A calm walk on a simple path…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

The ancient Tibetans and Navaho Indians used sand paintings of mandalas to heal and commune with deep spiritual forces. Carl Jung had his patients paint mandalas to connect with the healing support of their own deep unconscious during analysis. When I seek such a connection, I will simply walk slowly in a circle, then in a square, touching four points of that circle. In this simple gesture the energetic pathways to the deeper self are opened. A calm walk on a simple labyrinth can facilitate a similar experience.

The other day, Jan offered a recorded hypnosis to easily shift awareness and access deep calm from the sacred within. Hypnosis is one of those ancient practices: “En arche en ho lógos (John 1:1);” “In the beginning was the word.” And with words we construct our worlds and commune with our deepest spiritual forces. When we choose our words wisely, the words we take in and the words we exhale can invite in benevolent and compassionate energies to support and guide our journeys. It’s all in the word. A simple calm word can change the structure of water and what it does to us; it can become healing balm.

Partake in the simply sacred with the guides and practices that resonate. Trust your inner Nagual. Peace.

On the simple path,
Chuck

Chuck’s Place: Synchronistic Mirrors

What does this synchronicity mean??? - Photo by Chuck Ketchel
What does this synchronicity
mean???
– Photo by Chuck Ketchel

A wise yogi once shared his hard-earned wisdom with me: “Beware the allure of asanas. The heart of yoga is in pranayama, the breath.” My humble wife, earnest student of svaroopa yoga for many years, warned me long ago that I should approach inverted asanas with great caution and support.

Since young adulthood I have enjoyed inversions, particularly halasana, plough. Over a year ago, as I descended from that asana I strained my sacral muscles, initiating a long journey with back issues. Eventually, at my daughter’s hinting, I sought guidance from a teacher of the Alexander Technique. Most recently, particularly through the heart of the snow storms, I was amazed at the strength and resilience of my fully healed back.

The other morning, as I dressed, I was buoyant with energy, balancing on one foot as I raised the other to put on socks while standing. I quickly lifted my right leg, excitedly thinking how powerful I’d become, when suddenly a powerful pain shot through my sacrum. OW! I’d done it again!

I was thrown into immediate deflation, filled with negative judgments about my cocky stupidity. I was also in the midst of reading some lectures that Carl Jung, my intellectual nemesis, had given at the Tavistock Clinic in London in 1935. Ironically, he spoke of his own struggle with inferiority when a frequent guest at his home, Albert Einstein, would come and speak to him about his Theory of Relativity. Not being himself gifted in math, Jung said he “sank fourteen feet deep into the floor and felt quite small,” as Einstein tried desperately to communicate his thoughts. As I found myself sinking, I evoked Carlos Castaneda’s #1 dictum: “Suspend judgment!” That simple mantra is profoundly useful in allowing us to get to the deeper meaning of synchronistic events in our lives.

Of course I feel foolish for hurting my back so carelessly. But what is the significance of the event? What am I being shown? To get to the deeper meaning of events we can’t stay stuck in judgment, it too limits and clouds our view.

I am stirred to consult the I Ching to deepen my knowledge. I obtain hexagram #37, The Family. This hexagram speaks to the correct relationships within the family as the microcosm for all relationships in the world. I get a moving line in the 4th place: She is the treasure of the house… It is upon the woman of the house that the well-being of the family depends. Well-being prevails when expenditures and income are soundly balanced.

What is this telling me? Not sure yet.

We watch the documentary Cutie and the Boxer, about a married Japanese artist couple. I immediately don’t like the Boxer, he’s out of control, refuses to be limited. Cutie is held in check, keeping balance as best she can in their lives.

Time for the moon to shine a little brighter... - Photo by Jan Ketchel
Time for the moon to shine a little brighter…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

I pull the 5 of Wands card from the Tarot deck, Strife, as well as the Moon card. Strife results from the energetic clash when Leo, the fiery energetic creative lion, is inhabited by Saturn, the planet of limitation, discipline and boundary. The lion held in check creates strife.

The Moon is the universal principle of choice-making, particularly around karmic issues, that is, work that needs to be done. The moon is also the universal feminine symbol, yin.

Back to the I Ching. I’m being shown that the yin line in the 4th place—the Moon of the Tarot—must take the ascendancy. The strife lodged in the spine is the clash between the fiery creative energy that, like the Boxer, abhors limitation. This leads to structural defeat that throws the body out of the Tao.

The Moon, the yin, the internal feminine, must come to the ascendancy. Cutie is not to be subordinated to a subservient role but must take charge of internal affairs, asserting balance and limitation, making choices in accordance with the restoration of order, allowing for return to the Tao. If this is achieved, the future of The Family is Fellowship with Men, hexagram #13, depicting the restoration of order—balance and inner harmony—strife resolved.

This series of synchronistic phenomena all mirror each other. Yang energy must be properly complemented and balanced by yin energy. Dominance of the creative over the receptive might lead to a broken back!

Acquiescing to the Moon,
Chuck