2.16.2009

Don't worry, get dirty.

Feeling down? It's February and a few lovely days sprinkle in here and there, but we've reached the time of year that many people get the winter blahs, looking forward to the spring days ahead. In keeping with yoga's philosophy of staying in the present moment, how can we enjoy this time of year? One truly excellent way would be to get outside and start digging around! Maybe trimming some of the dead plants from last year, or raking a few errant leaves that have swirled back into the yard. Possibly turning the compost pile, or gathering any fallen bark or twigs. If you don't have a yard of your own, ask any family or friends if they need a hand, yard work is tough to get to for many people these days, they'll be so grateful to you for your energy!

It turns out this won't just make your friends and neighbors happy, it will make you happy!! According to a recent study at the University of Bristol, the bacteria in dirt have the ability to boost seretonin levels in the brain! A girl I knew in high school once shared with me a phrase that for some reason has stuck in my head: "God make dirt, dirt don't hurt", funny what science often matches to old sayings and phrases. Many farmers and other planters will also tell you they feel good after a solid day working with the earth. In one study lung cancer patients anecdotally reported quality of life improvements after being treated with these soil bacteria. In another study, mice exposed to these bacteria were very interesting, choosing to swim instead of sink when placed in water. Yet another set of researchers have found seretonin to play a role in the immune system response but further research is of course needed to better understand this role. Read more detail about these thoughts here on the BBC's article about dirt boosting happiness.

I came across a very interesting few stories from a seasoned teacher, related to the power of positive thinking as well. This stemmed from my examining the research on how thought directed at water molecules could possibly affect the beauty of the crystals that they form, a bit of controversial research conducted by Masaru Emoto, a Japanese author. Teacher Xiua Shu shares these amazing stories about the power of optimistic thought on the web page PureInsight.org. Included are how trees grew strong, a fish tank stayed clean, and the story of two young girls fighting cancer.

Let us all pledge to remain as positive as we can. Sending this happiness to others (plant, animal, or person) may help them as well. Funny how the earth could make us happy, and maybe we can return the favor!

Namaste,
Kat

2.08.2009

Without violence

The world is full of violence, unfortunately. Some say it may just be a part of human nature but this is definitely not the only way we can respond. The "news" reaches us daily, from drug lord atrocities, to military casualties, to crimes right in our own city or neighborhood. It assaults us but even as we are forced to absorb it we must continue with our day and so in order to cope, we develop a shield. We find justification for the violence, or think that it will not extend to us, or accept it as a requirement of living. Some maybe even turn the news off, trying to block it out. Some philosophies find additional ways to deal with this toxic presence and one concept in yoga may help us not only simply cope, but rather return a different way of being back to the world.

Ahimsa is the sanskrit word that literally means "without violence". In other words, the goal that we do no harm, that we do not kill or harm others. In some versions, this can extend even to a bug on the sidewalk, or plants in the garden. Entwined in this overall idea is that violence of every kind can entail negative karmic consequences, but I honestly feel that even if we do not follow the ideas of karma, violence or acceptance of it in any form can be damaging to us.

What can we do to practice ahimsa? We might first try to expose ourselves to less violence, in order to increase our sensitivity to it. Seeking out comedies over horrors, or dramas over weapon flicks could be one step. We might chose to read the news online rather that hear conflict after murder on the nightly news. Next we can work on this in our interactions with others. Violence can exist in tone or thought even when subtle, so trying to find kindness towards everyone that we interact with can reduce any even mildly violent tendencies. Thinking of someone each person helps or loves, or thinking of their best traits may help, if it someone that is not necessarily our best friend. This might allow them to find ahimsa as well, and become more peaceful and positive.

In yoga, we can be careful with our own limits, not pushing ourselves to pain or if we experience any, finding a very safe place to recover and rest. Conversely as we find a peaceful place, enjoying and reveling in the delight! This can even include internal comments to ourselves. Do we speak lovingly to ourselves or even about ourselves to others?

The bottom line here is, love yourself, do not be violent to yourself in any way. Take the time to care for yourself, listen to your needs, and work to meet them as best you can. This will begin to emanate kindness and peace to all aspects of your life. Perhaps someday this will be the world.

Namaste,
Kat

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