The “Sound”

The wind is my baseline.
Every sound appears from the gentle carol of the breeze. Coming from a perspective where silence is literally impossible, the sound of the wind around me responses to all pleas for mental stillness and peace. It isn’t necessarily a language to learn, but one to listen to. What is accomplished with receptivity? This same opportunity lacks with artifacts and things and stuff. Sitting with nature is simple. My senses are given space to interpret smoothly and calmly, naturally.

Baseline

The sound of a building, a room, a wall
screams an eerie silence.
Still and not still,
confused in existence.

The sound of the breeze, a bird, the trees
creates symphonies from peace.
A natural flow takes over
pushing things back into place when with nature

Simplicity is acknowledged firsthand
when it is seen with a simple mindset.

Nature doesn’t speak English,
But English is definitely not the only language to communicate in.

Sorrowful Ignominy 

Young lad, are you ready to go there?
To come here?

You are Venus in the night sky–
a sparkling jewel.
Yes, quite the sight to see!
But Sir,
I am the Moon.

I dance circles. I grow. I shrink.
All observe this, but I…
For I am a cold, cold rock
on the outskirts of Earth.
Violently banished in an earlier chapter.

My tears get lost into the solar system.
Your dazzling show mesmerizes,
especially me.

Still, some courageous souls have visited me.
Explored me.
Inhabited me?

You are lifeless, the closer we get.
Elusive in form…
Unfit for life, damnit!

And here I am:
frigid, hard, and lonely
…yet possibly worthwhile.

The Shadows of a Story

A lot of times, I only share the “positive” pieces of a trip or experience:

  • I finished a Vedic Meditation course in Boulder.
  • I overcome a lot of emotional and mental challenges.
  • I am privileged to take a road trip across the  Southwest from Northern California to Colorado…oh, the sights!
  • Pictures of beautiful people, places, and things

OMG my life is soooooooo wonderful.

But I rarely publicly share the challenging times to an adventure…

Just to name a few:

  • Driving 30 + hours just to get to my destination HURTS me a lot.
    • Physically, my spine is out of alignment, my eyes and face hurt from constantly focusing on the road, my shoulders and neck hurt from grabbing the steering wheel, my abdominal muscles are getting tight and knotted (that’s a thing?), and my hip flexors are outta whack from unevenly pumping on the gas, brake, and clutch.
    • Mentally, I feel utterly exhausted yet addicted to the driving. I have a hard time stopping when “…I’m just 2 hours away from the next city.”
  • It’s extremely cold to camp in Sierras in October. Especially without another human, a fluffy dog, and the legal ability to have a fire.
  • Airbnb is great in theory, but you never know what kind of person is going to become your temporary roommate. Even then, some places are next door to a nightclub, and others might be more smokey than a college campus on 420.
  • …and it’s expensive to spend $50+ a night for a hotel for a 1-2 week long road trip.
  • Needing to get four new tires. Two of them could have blown out under me at any time. Then learning that I might need to get my car an alignment service.
  • People can be mean and make me feel unsafe and gross.

This is a simple reminder that when I (or anyone) talks about an epic life and awesome adventures, it goes in both directions.

There are stories that I share with my journal and there are stories that I share with other people.

Though some things I will always keep within myself, I don’t want to portray a completely false representation of my life.

Where the Mind Goes, Energy Flows

Netflix. Food. Instagram. Book. Food. Netflix. Netflix. Tumblr…

Agh! The stimuli.

RajWhat ever happened to those hours I spent alone growing up, hanging out with myself?

Maybe I’d watch the neighbors drive past or planes migrate across the sky or find patterns in the wall texture.

My life was centered around imagination and wonder rather than mindless entertainment.

“The most important thing you own and can give away is your attention.”
—San Pedro / Aguacoya Shaman

You know, those ideas that you can’t quite put into words until you hear someone else says it? This was one of them. It resonated with me HARD…to the point of goosebumps truthbumps, a jawdrop, and staring off into the ethers for a little bit.

Being alive used to be an entire meditation, now I have to “make time” for it.

“You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes each day
—unless you are too busy.
Then you should sit for an hour”
—Zen Proverb

Even sillier, is thinking that it’s something that I have to “make time” to do.

Why am I thinking that meditation is a doable activity and not the seamless state of consciousness that it is?

6830603155_a0cfa4c38b_o

Use Stress to Your Benefit

I recently watched a Ted Talk by Kelly McGonigal, a health psychologist, called “How to Make Stress Your Friend.” I always assumed that stress could only be a negative experience, an enemy. Since modern day living is full of stressful events and people, I thought I was doomed to a mostly negative life. Yet, McGonigal’s talk brings up something entirely new for me. Something that will change my view on life and its struggles, for the the better.

In her talk, she brings up the fascinating implications of a study conducted on 30,000 adults in the United Stated over the course of eight years. The researchers asked two simple questions:

How much stress have you experienced in the last year? 
Do you believe that stress is harmful for your health?

After the study concluded, the investigators found out that those who encountered a lot of stress had a 43% higher risk of dying (Keller, Litzelman, Wisk, Maddox, Chen, Creswell, & Witt, 2011). However, this finding was only accurate for people who think stress is bad for you.

People who did not think stress was bad for their health, but still experienced a lot of it, had the lowest risk of dying for all people in the study. These folks had a lower chance of dying than people who only had little stress in their lives (McGonigal, 2013).

“People died not from stress, but from the belief that stress is bad for you,” said McGonigal. “Can changing how you think about stress make you healthier? The science says ‘Yes.’ When you change your mind about stress, you can change your body’s response to stress.”

However, the relationship between stress levels and health might not be based on sheer positive thinking. Keller et al. (2011) gave a possible interpretation of their results. People who think stress is bad for you will automatically assume later that they actually do have negative health effects just based on their perceived notions, even if their health hasn’t declined based on the amount of stress in their lives.

The physical changes experienced during stress include increased heart and breathing rates. Breathing is how the body gets oxygen, so wouldn’t it be a “good” thing to be getting more oxygen before a class presentation or other “stressful” event? People can even get increased heart and breathing rates during sex, which generally is seen as an exciting, joyous experience.

This is my body helping me rise to the challengewhen you view stress in that way, your body believes you, and your stress responses becomes healthier,” McGonigal claims.

Not only can people change how their view physical responses, optimism may help our health as well. I came across another study that followed students during their first semester of law school. Students that had a positive outlook gravitated towards having higher lymphocyte (cells that play a strong role in the immune system) counts in the body (Segerstrom, Taylor, Kemeny, & Fahey, 1998).

Research shows that people are not automatically doomed by stress. Your personal relationship to stress is what may dictate whether or not your experience the negative effects from it. Furthermore, there are steps that can be taken to change the response to stress in the moment.

First, acknowledge when stress is present in your life. Don’t force it away, yet. “I am feeling stressed right now because I have to submit this paper” or “Dealing with [insert situation here] is making me feel stressed out.”

Next, observe how your body is reacting. Are you hunched over? Are your shoulders tensing up towards your ears? Is your jaw tightening? What happens when you slowly try to bring your physical body back to neutral? I find that when I force something too quickly, it doesn’t always provide the long-term change I’m looking for. The attitude of “Relax! Relax now!” is stressful and fast-paced in itself. Think about it: if you are already stressed out, would being stressed and angry about your stress make it go away?

People deal with stress in numerous ways. Providing a “fix-all” for every individual is not a solution. I drink herbal tea to help me relax. Yet, there are a good amount of people that can’t stand the taste of earthy leaf water! Wouldn’t really help with relaxation, would it? Here is an excellent website about discovering what solutions work for you in the moment, based on personality, situation, and senses.

Do you see stress as a bad thing?
Do you think stress can be used as a tool?
How do you respond to stress?

~~~~~~~~~~~

Interested in watching the TED talk mentioned?

Sources:

Keller, A., Litzelman, K., Wisk, L., Maddox, T., Cheng, E., Creswell, P., & Witt, W. (2011). Does the perception that stress affects health matter? The association with health and mortality. Health Psychology, 31(5), 677-684. Retrieved August 15, 2015, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3374921/

McGonigal, K. (TED). (2013, September 4). How to Make Stress Your Friend (Video File). Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RcGyVTAoXEU

Segerstrom, S., Taylor, S., Kemeny, M., & Fahey, J. (1998). Optimism is associated with mood, coping and immune change in response to stress. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74(6), 1646-1655.

 

Take a Chance, Veer off the Paved Path in Coastal Alaska

I just got back from Alaska this weekend. One of my favorite parts of the trip was visiting Mendenhall Glacier. Pictures cannot do glaciers justice. Their grandness is truly incredible. They fill valleys between mountains like rainfall fills cracks in sidewalks.

When I arrived at the glacier park, there was a paved trail that went from the visitors center closer to the glacier and a waterfall. Normally I avoid these types of trails if possible; I like to feel the ruggedness of Earth beneath my feet and avoid the crowds. However, it was rainy season up in the North and parts of the cement path were flooded almost six inches deep, so I’m glad I didn’t have to walk completely in mud on this small hike.

There was never a point on this two mile trail that I could look in front or behind where I was walking and not see tourists. This was frustrating, I definitely saw more people than wildlife.

But as I was meandering along the paved path, something caught the corner of my eye. I saw a makeshift rock bench on a nearly-hidden trail, perpendicular to the one I was on. Oh what a nice rock, I wish it wasn’t raining so I could sit and relax for a little bit,” I thought to myself as I walked by… *Pullllll* says the inner sensation. I stutter step before I change directions and commit to walking off the comfortable path.

It’s funny how life rewards you for stepping out of your comfort zone.

This wasn’t just a rest stop, this was a new trail all on its own. I got exactly what I needed. I did not take ten steps before I felt like I was in a completely different habitat. And in truth, I kind of was in a different ecosystem. In ecology, there is something called the edge effect. Basically, certain plants and living organisms are more abundant at the intersection between foliage and meadows, or in my case, forest and sidewalk. I’ll explain the relevance of this soon.

The scenery I saw as I was walking down the paved path was not an honest representation of the majority of the forest that was just a couple of meters behind it. What an illusion!

It went from small shrub-lined concrete to pure rainforest. A place where there is so much rain, the plants, lichen, mosses, and fungi don’t even know what to do with themselves after completely colonizing the trunks and branches of everything in sight.

From this short detour, I gained some HUGE insights…

You truly cannot perceive what lays beyond your personal edge until you take those initial steps. This isn’t only applicable in national parks. What happens when you walk a new way to class, drive a new way to work, try a new type of sandwich or smile at the stranger behind you in the grocery store check out line?

You expand your horizons,
you gain experiential knowledge,
you gain wisdom.

Just because you cannot see the path ahead, it does not mean that it does not exist! All we can do at any moment is to take baby steps. Sometimes this steps aren’t glamorous like how we idealize the future to be. For example, when I was still at school I would spend hours per week looking for international jobs in my field. Yet, this was almost a waste of time. Why? I had to actually finish school, my classes, and my assignments before moving away ever could become a reality. Now that I have taken the initiative (and patience…lots of patience) to finish the forefront tasks, I can move on to bigger projects. Not only this, but more opportunities have presented themselves to me.
~~~~~~~~~~~~

Our journey through life is like sailing a boat. We keep our destination in mind and point our vessel in that direction. It takes time to make progress. A storm may come along and knock us around off course, but we always have the choice to return back to where we originally wanted to go or maybe a change in direction is what we needed all along. Keep on sailin’!

 

Breathing: How the body and mind communicate to each other

**Article originally written for Psych2Go**
“Don’t forget to breathe!” my dad used to tell me during track races. How could I forget to breathe? For whatever reason, it was something that I just forgot to do…and I’m not alone. (Sort of. I’ll get to that soon.) As children, we are encouraged to talk, walk, eat, drink and do other cute things, but what about breathing? Without breathing, we would cease to live in a matter of minutes! Yet, proper breathing is never really taught to us.

Yes, inhalation provides vital oxygen, but the style of breathing determines how that essential nutrient is utilized in our body. Furthermore, patterns of breath are closely intertwined with states of the mind. This happens whether or not people are mindful of each breath. Please take four seconds out of reading right now and give undivided attention to how your breath is…

How was it? Did it feel effortless, deep in the abdomen, and relaxed? What about feeling forced, weak, shallow, and predominantly in the upper chest?

Humans breathe in two different ways: automatically or voluntarily. Automatic breathing is the physiological response of the body to high levels of carbon dioxide in the blood. The body naturally increases the breathing rate to get rid of excess carbon dioxide and take in more oxygen (Novotny & Kravitz). We can also voluntarily choose to breathe with different lengths of inhalation or exhalation. This is actual a remarkable ability of the human body for a couple reasons. First, how many other bodily processes can work automatically or voluntarily? I can think of blinking and peeing (if you laugh too hard. Hehe.) Second, we now have a tangible link between body and mind.

The relationship between our breathing pattern and mental state is interchangeable. Meaning, each of them affect the other. This is a benefit to us because we can have more control and intention over our overall psycho-emotional experience. Yay!

Back to the quality of your breath… So just how does this all work? Short and shallow breaths stimulate our sympathetic nervous system response of “flight or fight.” This type of breathing is dominant during anxiety. Long, slow, and deep breaths activate the parasympathetic nervous which helps us to “rest and digest” (Wilson, 2014). Breathing in this manner correlates with peace, relaxation, and calm states of consciousness.

Breathe is the physiological connection between body and mind. It can be used negatively (usually without people noticing) or as a helpful tool when you kindly focus on it.

It may have taken years to develop bad breathing habits, but fret not! The wonderful breath is an infinite mechanism and you can come back to at ANY moment. (Including now.) It’s okay to forget about this natural instrument. It happens. What actually matters is that you remembered again…and again…and again! Be patient with yourself 🙂

Interested in more?

  1. Three surprising ways a deep breath can reduce your anxiety
  2. Breath, body, and mind: The physiology of pranayama
  3. The science of breathing

Sources in article:

Novotny, S., & Kravitz, L. (n.d.). The Science of Breathing. Retrieved July 11, 2015.

Wilson, A. (2014, January 2). Breath, Body, and Mind: The Physiology of Pranayama – Thrive: The Kripalu Blog. Retrieved July 11, 2015.

Finishing Unfinished Business

Decluttering. Simplifying. Downsizing.  Whatever resonates most with you.

It can be tough to let go of attachments, especially when they don’t just come in a physical form.

I once had a friend tell me that he gave away EVERYTHING he owned (besides what fit in his backpack) before he traveled the world.

Since I was a child, the only thing I have been 100% sure on is that I wanted traveling to make up the majority of my life.

His story got me thinking about what I actually needed ( in regards to physical possessions) in my life. Around the time I heard this, I was sleeping in a sports bra just so I could hold ChapStick close to me for literally 24 hours a day. It was time for a change.


Before I left for college, I lived in the same house for 12 years. I had lots of time (and space..I didn’t realize that walk-in closets were not a common thing in every bedroom) to accumulate crap.

Throughout the five years I spent at university, I moved at least once a year, totaling eight different residences.

I had a love/hate relationship with moving on a regular basis. I loathed packing up things (some that I didn’t even use once since arriving at that house) just to load them up again. Once I caught onto this pattern, I began to see it as a blessing. It made me realize how much CRAP I gave more meaning than it gave me.

I have a relationship with every single item that I own. Some relationships are healthier and more fulling than others. I have a plant sitting near my bed that brings me peace whenever I see it. Yet, I have books that haven’t been touched since I bought them. I’ll read that soon. I just need to finish this book I started first… 2 years later and I haven’t finished the first book.

I’m tired of having pointless stuff. I’m worn down from racing thoughts and emotional attachments to people and memories.

Are these connected?

I’ve experimented with a diverse amount of psycho-active plants and substances. The states of consciousness I’ve experienced spread out like wings.

However, a recent high I’ve bathed in is from taking a small carload of old crap to Goodwill.

The cycle goes something like this: I feel stressed/antsy about clutter. Then I get a surge of energy and work hard to organize the clutter into four different bags (more like sections of a room): recycle, donate, sell, or trash. I am incredibly focused during this time and will usually work for 3-4 hours straight before I realize how hungry/thirsty I am. After a small break, I relax down a bit then load the stuff into my car. On the way to the donation center, I feel a release. It’s similar to the feeling of “Yes! My paper/assignment is turned in!” On the way home, oh do I feel accomplished!

I am in a lucky situation right now. I just finished school and moved back to my parents’ house to dog-sit for them for 3 weeks. Everything that I own is finally in one spot, rather than spread between two towns in different parts of the state. I came back to everything in my room as well. Meaning, my parents were sick of me spreading my junk around the house.  Mmmm, what a lesson when we can see ourselves clearly in others!

What matters though, is that love/hate relationships for me tend to be a blessing in disguise waiting patiently to be appreciated.

Eliminating the majority of my things is the first step to my life. I won’t be traveling for long if I still have a room at home that needs to be cleaned and emptied out. It is necessary for me to have the feeling of “Ahh…I’m all finished with that mess. Time to move on!”

I’ve been at home now for 3 days. On each of those days, I have been working full-time as a cleaner,  self-cleansing that is. I’ve made daily trips to Goodwill in each of the days so far to drop off a carload of crap. I’ve been speaking more honestly with those I used to be more indirect with. I am also clearing out what’s no longer needed from my body, starting with not putting unnecessary crap in (Farewell chocolate covered pretzels, howdy gourmet taco salads! Okay, this one might take a few tries.)

Sometimes we can’t see the destination right away, or sometimes (if you’re like me) we cannot even see our paths clearly. Even taking a single step might be tough, but it’s the only thing that do in this moment.

I don’t know where I’ll be by 2016 (hopefully somewhere, my frequent flier miles expire in January haha), but for the next 3 weeks I will be eliminating my unfinished business.

Do you have any similar stories or tips?

A Reflection

Nye and Ham sure know how to argue proud.
The points they made could barely cross the bridge;
This duality made them look like clowns.
However, I see how to link this ridge.

Science says that life evolves more complexly
But…Second law says things go towards disorderly.
Nye only sees the physical effects
Their views are limited; oh so borderly!

Once again, science is narrow-minded.
They only look at the direct manifested.
Keep this up, and you’ll be forever blinded!
There’s more to the world than can just be tested.

The physical realm does indeed fall apart.
We are all made of the same elements.
Why can a tree grow, but a rock doesn’t take part?
Let me tell you, these bodies were just lent!

The true increase in this complexity,
Is not life as science sees it to be.
Not opening your mind, also leads to perplexity.
I will inform you how we can all break free!

“Complexity” is from an outside force.
This is quite simple; it is called prana.
It’s beyond the physical realm; it is true Source.
It’s the hidden dimension behind flora and fauna.

What happens RIGHT after someone dies?
Why…their body goes right back to the skies.
Are you aware of what this implies?
Imagine what else we can see when we all open our eyes.

You see, Nye and Ham are both right and both wrong.
Physicality itself goes towards destruction,
But prana is actually what guides “life” up, up along.
Prana is the background to what gives life its production.

You can grasp this easily when you look around,
A rock is a rock, just sitting on the ground.
Rocks and trees are made of the same materials,
But the life force behind the growth of a tree is a separate ideal.

Totality, Creativity, Destruction and Regeneration.
This is the bridge, the circle that frees all this frustration!

Insights about life and all the layers within

%d bloggers like this: