Sunday, September 24, 2017

LuJong for Training the Subtle Body

Lu means body and Jong means training or transformation. Through the practice of Lu Jong we begin to train our subtle body channels and cultivate awareness. This is the way to care for the body and mind. This is Tibetan healing yoga.
Lu Jong works simultaneously with body, mind and energy. We balance the elements and humors—the foundation of the physical body. We transform our negative emotions, and we invigorate the subtle body system of channels and wind-energy. The result is a beautiful, efficient and systematic practice that improves our wellbeing in all dimensions.

When we do Lu Jong we combine form, movement and breath. This combination, along with mindfulness, brings body and mind fully together. We use form and movement to repeatedly apply pressure to particular points on the channels, massaging blockages open. We gently work with the spine, creating space around the vertebrae and touching secret points to release emotional blocks. We nurture the joints, releasing the blockages that otherwise would manifest disease. And using breath and awareness develops an inner calm, a true meditation in movement.

Are you Bored or Distracted? by Lyse Mai Lauren

“As it is, we are merely bolting our lives—gulping down undigested experiences as fast as we can stuff them in—because awareness of our own existence is so superficial and so narrow that nothing seems to us more boring than simple being.  If I ask you what you did, saw, heard, smelled, touched and tasted yesterday, I am likely to get nothing more than the thin, sketchy outline of the few things that you noticed, and of those only what you thought worth remembering. Is it surprising that an existence so experienced seems so empty and bare that its hunger for an infinite future is insatiable? But suppose you could answer, ‘It would take me forever to tell you, and I am much too interested in what’s happening now.’ How is it possible that a being with such sensitive jewels as the eyes, such enchanted musical instruments as the ears, and such a fabulous arabesque of nerves as the brain can experience itself as anything less than a god? And, when you consider that this incalculably subtle organism is inseparable from the still more marvelous patterns of its environment—from the minutest electrical designs to the whole company of the galaxies—how is it conceivable that this incarnation of all eternity can be bored with being?”
~ Alan Watts, The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are.

It’s quite likely that few who read these words really understand what they mean. It’s not that this is hard to understand; it’s incredibly easy, but the mind has a way of circumventing simplicity. It has a way of by passing the present moment to seek out and constantly engage in either a projected future or a remembered past.

It is amazing just how much of our lives is held to ransom by passing emotional infatuations. Life slips by, unnoticed, because we are so continuously mentally and emotionally busy with the things that appear to be happening to us and around us; to say nothing of our private mental preoccupations. Eventually though, a moment is bound to come in our day or night, when we look up and become aware, with a sudden jolt, that much time passed. What were we doing? Where did the time go?

My master Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche had a graphic way of describing this moment and I love to recount it whenever there is a chance. He would liken people to children who are caught up in the playing of a game. They are so swept along by what is happening in their game that they fail to notice anything else, until suddenly they feel hungry or tired and then they look up and see that it is already getting dark, that the sun is about to disappear behind the horizon, that hours have passed by unnoticed and that they are far from home.

Being engrossed in the outer movements of life may not seem in any way connected to the intransigent mood of boredom and yet on closer scrutiny these two states are intimately intertwined. Boredom and distraction, are part of the vicious cycle of samsara, endlessly repeating itself. A cycle of almost constant superficial engagement or dullness which eats up all our time and energy by engrossing our attention in outer things which are neither essential nor important.

Our entire life can pass us by in this half conscious manner until we come to face the moment of our death, or some other life-shaking crisis which makes us suddenly realize that we do not know who and what we really are. Throughout our lives and even more particularly at the end of our life, this and this alone is the crucial question; the one and only question. Investigating the state of who and what we really are is the quickest and most direct path to truth.

Boredom, like distraction, is a symptom of disconnection with our inner sense of beingness. Modern society does little to turn us inward and much to contribute to the rampant dis-ease of inner alienation. Many of the psychoses of modern societies arise from this very imbalance. However, we can turn this around without even changing the situation in which we find ourselves placed.

Self-inquiry is an inner attention. It requires nothing but alertness and determination. Moments amid nature; moments of silence and inner quietude can help us in the beginning. In the midst of nature we can easily gain a sense of the aware presence which is fundamental to our existence. However, as we become more sensitive and alert we will begin realise that we are never separated from this.
Learning how to notice this presence is the key to fulfilling our purpose in life; it is also the sure and ultimate antidote to the modern diseases of boredom and distraction.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Thoughts like Dreams by Ajahn Amara

The best way to deal with excessive thinking is to just listen to it, to listen to the mind. Listening is much more effective than trying to stop thought or cut it off. When we listen there is a different mode employed in the heart. Instead of trying to cut it off, we receive thought without making anything out of it.

Most of our thoughts are like dreams. Occasionally, perhaps once or twice a year, we may have a dream that is significant and we know it. We may not know exactly what it is about, but it is pretty clear that there’s a message in it. But the other 364 days a year it’s just the leftovers of the day. There is nothing particularly significant or important about any of our dream content at all. It’s just the residue, the echoes of the day’s events and activities, the things that we have rehashed a couple of times already.

When we look at thought in this way, we aren’t being pulled into it. We can just look at it. We don’t reject it or suppress it, but we don’t buy into it either. We don’t make more out of it than is there. That attitude of listening, of opening to and receiving thought, has a liberating quality in and of itself.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Questioning Everything by Madisyn Taylor

Being open-minded means that we are willing to question everything, including those things we take for granted.

A willingness to question everything, even things we are sure we are right about, can shake us out of complacency and reinvigorate our minds, opening us up to understanding people and perspectives that were alien to us before. This alone is good reason to remain inquisitive, no matter how much experience we have or how old we get. In the Zen tradition, this willingness to question is known as beginner's mind, and it has a way of generating possibilities we couldn't have seen from the point of view of knowing something with certainty. The willingness to question everything doesn't necessarily mean we don't believe in anything at all, and it doesn't mean we have to question every single thing in the world every minute of the day. It just means that we are humble enough to acknowledge how little we actually know about the mysterious universe we call home.

Nearly every revolutionary change in the history of human progress came about because someone questioned some time-honored belief or tradition and in doing so revealed a new truth, a new way of doing things, or a new standard for ethical and moral behavior. Just so, a commitment to staying open and inquisitive in our own individual lives can lead us to new personal revolutions and truths, truths that we will hopefully, for the sake of our growth, remain open to questioning.
A lot of people feel threatened if they feel they are being asked to question their cherished beliefs or their perception of reality. Yet questioning is what keeps our minds supple and strong. Simply settling on one way of seeing things and refusing to be open to other possibilities makes the mind rigid and generally creates a restrictive and uncomfortable atmosphere. We all know someone who refuses to budge on one or more issues, and we may have our own sacred cows that could use a little prodding. Being open-minded means that we are willing to question everything, including those things we take for granted.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Lojong: How to Awaken Your Heart by Pema Chodron

Pema Chödrön’s commentary on Atisha’s famed mind-training slogans that utilize our difficulties and problems to awaken the heart.

When I first read the lojong (“mind training”) teachings in The Great Path of Awakening by the nineteenth-century Tibetan teacher Jamgön Kongtrül the Great, I was struck by their unusual message that we can use our difficulties and problems to awaken our hearts. Rather than seeing the unwanted aspects of life as obstacles, Jamgön Kongtrül presented them as the raw material necessary for awakening genuine uncontrived compassion. Whereas in Kongtrül’s commentary the emphasis is primarily on taking on the suffering of others, it is apparent that in this present age it is necessary to also emphasize that the first step is to develop compassion for our own wounds.

Atisha.It is unconditional compassion for ourselves that leads naturally to unconditional compassion for others. If we are willing to stand fully in our own shoes and never give up on ourselves, then we will be able to put ourselves in the shoes of others and never give up on them. True compassion does not come from wanting to help out those less fortunate than ourselves but from realizing our kinship with all beings.

The lojong teachings are organized around seven points that contain fifty-nine pithy slogans that remind us how to awaken our hearts. Presented here are nineteen of those slogans:

First, train in the preliminaries.

The preliminaries are also known as the four reminders. In your daily life, try to:
    1. Maintain an awareness of the preciousness of human life.
    2. Be aware of the reality that life ends; death comes for everyone.
    3. Recall that whatever you do, whether virtuous or not, has a result; what goes around comes around.
    4. Contemplate that as long as you are too focused on self-importance and too caught up in thinking about how you are good or bad, you will suffer. Obsessing about getting what you want and avoiding what you don’t want does not result in happiness.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Six Kinds of Loneliness by Pema Chodron

To be without a reference point is the ultimate loneliness. It is also called enlightenment.

In the middle way, there is no reference point. The mind with no reference point does not resolve itself, does not fixate or grasp. How could we possibly have no reference point? To have no reference point would be to change a deep-seated habitual response to the world: wanting to make it work out one way or the other. If I can’t go left or right, I will die! When we don’t go left or right, we feel like we are in a detox center. We’re alone, cold turkey with all the edginess that we’ve been trying to avoid by going left or right. That edginess can feel pretty heavy.

However, years and years of going to the left or right, going to yes or no, going to right or wrong has never really changed anything. Scrambling for security has never brought anything but momentary joy. It’s like changing the position of our legs in meditation. Our legs hurt from sitting cross-legged, so we move them. And then we feel, “Phew! What a relief!” But two and a half minutes later, we want to move them again. We keep moving around seeking pleasure, seeking comfort, and the satisfaction that we get is very short-lived.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Tree House by Madisyn Taylor

A new view of a situation is just what we need to answer a difficult question or see something we've been missing.

We may choose to be alone or we may invite a special friend to join us. Either way, this is our private world in which we get to decide who comes and goes. It is our haven where we can fully be who we are, shed the masks required by the world below, and reveal our most hidden secrets, dreams, and desires. It is also an ideal vantage point on the life that continues below the branches. Often, a new view of a situation is just what we need to answer a difficult question, solve a challenging problem, or see something we've been missing. It is as if we have ascended into the heavens and are able to tap into a higher awareness. We can draw on this airy energy to revitalize us, relax us, and feed us new ideas. When we descend, we are ready to enter the world again, cleaner, clearer, and often more inspired.

If you haven't been in a tree house for a while, now may be the time to make one for yourself or find one you can borrow. If you can't find or create an actual tree house, think of other venues that could provide the same experience--a rooftop perch, a quiet spot in a grove of trees on a hilltop, a light-filled attic. Or just close your eyes and visualize yourself ensconced in your perfect home in the branches of your favorite tree.

There is no greater way to escape the troubles of daily life than to ascend into the welcoming embrace of a tree house. Like a bird in its nest, we feel held and safe in the branches, cloaked within a curtain of green leaves. Here we can breathe more freely and think more clearly, our hearts and brains fed by the oxygen released by the leaves. We float above the everyday world of the ground, enjoying a bird's-eye view of all that remains below.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Why Silence Is So Good For Your Brain by Carolyn Gregoire

In a loud and distracting world, finding pockets of stillness can benefit your brain and body. Here are four science-backed reasons why.

We live in a loud and distracting world, where silence is increasingly difficult to come by ― and that may be negatively affecting our health. In fact, a 2011 World Health Organization report called noise pollution a “modern plague,” concluding that “there is overwhelming evidence that exposure to environmental noise has adverse effects on the health of the population.”

We’re constantly filling our ears with music, TV and radio news, podcasts and, of course, the multitude of sounds that we create nonstop in our own heads. Think about it: How many moments each day do you spend in total silence? The answer is probably very few.

As our internal and external environments become louder and louder, more people are beginning to seek out silence, whether through a practice of sitting quietly for 10 minutes every morning or heading off to a 10-day silent retreat.

Inspired to go find some peace and quiet? Here are four science-backed ways that silence is good for your brain ― and how making time for it can make you feel less stressed, more focused and more creative.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Hypnotherapy Information Meetings in Berkeley

For many of you who are curious about hypnosis, I am offering free information meetings on the second and fourth Mondays of each month. I hope you will come by so we can meet, address your questions and so you can learn about what hypnotherapy is and if it is right for you.

Repatterning Hypnosis™ is a method of hypnotherapy that is used to create subconscious changes in the form of new responses, thoughts, attitudes, behaviors or feelings. It also draws on East/West healing methods such as: EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) and Buddhist meditation practices. In my practice, I am able to provide a safe confidential environment. For more information, please visit my hypnotherapy website.

February meetings: Mondays, February 13th and 27th, 2017, 7 to 7:45 pm
Address: Elmwood Wellness Center, 2811A College Ave., Berkeley, (near Ashby Avenue, cross street Russell Street).

Please RSVP by phone, text or email if you plan to attend as there is limited seating (open to 6 individuals each meeting)., 510 990-1711.


• I want to understand more about my relationship with others.
• I am not sure how to cope with grief and loss.
• I feel anxious and scared a lot of the time.
• I am not sure how to relax.
• I question if I can be more happy.
• Something’s not right and I can’t put my finger on it.

• I want to improve my level of confidence and self-esteem.
• I want to gain greater self awareness.
• I want to improve communication with my family, friends and co-workers.
• I feel ready to move on to something new.

• There’s something specific I want to explore.
• I am feeling really stuck and down.
• I feel unclear as if my mind is in a fog.
• I would like to have some support and someone to listen to me.
• I feel overwhelmed.

• I want to stop smoking.
• I want to lose weight.
• I want to feel less anxious.
• I want to stop sabotaging myself.
• I want to deal with my phobia.

About Dr. Yana Castle
I am a Board Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist and earned my PhD from CIIS (California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco) concentrating on Transformation and Consciousness studies. I hold an Master's degree in Women's Spirituality and B.A. in Archaeomythology. My book "Guardians of the Gate" was published in 2009. For the past two decades, I have led private pilgrimage tours to Nepal. I work with clients in my Berkeley office and by phone appointments.

Boredom by Madisyn Taylor

The sense of feeling bored in life can be an indicator that we need to be proactive in creating change.

Sometimes we feel that things aren't moving along fast enough for us and that the world is passing us by. It may be that time seems to stand still and that we are simply bystanders in our own lives. Other times it might appear that there is nothing new left for us to experience and that we are locked into a never-ending cycle of stasis.

If we take the time to listen to these feelings we will notice that there is probably more going on beneath the surface, like our apprehension to venture out into the unknown. By taking a new look at how we live our lives, however, it will be easier to break through our sense of boredom and enter into a more positive state of being.

When life seems monotonous, it is usually an indication that there is something we need to change. Boredom can easily lead us down the path to despondency. Acknowledging our feelings and then setting the intention to alter just one small thing in our life can give us a much more affirmative outlook. This act of change allows us to step outside of ourselves and discover new and exciting things that are often already present in our everyday lives. Simple things such as eating a healthier diet, taking a new class, or joining a club are all ways in which we can go beyond our comfort zone and explore the wonders that exist all around us. Keep in mind that the moment we do something different from our usual routine, the more fresh energy, hope, and blessings we will manifest in our life. What this means is that we'll no longer see things as being tedious but will instead realize the preciousness of everything.

Being able to integrate these subtle changes on a daily basis allows us to recognize the miracles that are our lives. Even though we may think of change as doing something life-altering or drastic, gentle transitions from our habitual ways of doing things and an appreciation of all life offers us will truly bring about positive and lasting transformation.