Karma and Death


We lost a family member last week. Her funeral was Monday, and over 85 people showed up. I lost count. So fantastic how many lives she touched. Every single one of them could have stood up and said something unique about her. She was one of those rare people who always knew what to say and do, and when to say it. She brought everyone into her family, no questions asked. She will for sure be missed, but it was really nice to see how much of an impact she left. This is karma, in a sense, where her actions are still with us and will always cause ripples. When we went to visit her in the hospital I gave her a hug and my scarf snagged on her glasses, so she exists still as part of my scarf. She was listening to music and now every time I hear that kind of music I think of her; she exists still in my thoughts. She had made spanikopita and sent a huge Tupperware of the leftovers home with us in August, we never did give the Tupperware back to her; she exists still in objects and our associations to them, our regrets and wishes and happiness. She influenced so many people to do so many things, and always knew just what to do. But, she’s not gone. I don’t know if I believe in a soul or heaven or whatever else, but I do believe that by touching so many (and even if she had only touched a few) her essence will always be with us – in every song, scarf, and Tupperware. Our bodies are made of physical material – form, but the impact we leave on the world around us is really what defines who and what we are. I still feel her, just as I feel all of you. I take solace in this realization, and I hope some of you will too. 

A Bit On Buddhism and Karma and Rebirth.


I posted this on a Google+ community today, and I thought it was worth sharing here. Original post can be found here.

In no way am I learned in Buddhism, but I happen to have a community about karma and creativity. Here is a bit of my beliefs: Many people think of karma as fate, or determinism. But, really, karma is creative. It is unbounded. The common interpretation is when someone has something bad happen to them, we call it “bad karma.” But this common interpretation of karma is misunderstood. We typically see karma as an uncontrollable factor in our lives, based on past lives. But, the literal translation of karma is “action” – human action. It does not control us. In fact, we control it. When we utilize action (even non-action is a form of action), we are influencing karma. The reason to be compassionate should not be in anticipation of receiving it in return, or being reborn in a better life, but because it’s the right thing to do. Invite into your life what you want to share with others; we are all connected. If any one of us suffers, all the rest of us suffer. Everything you create in your life, every intention, thought, and action, will shape the rest of your creations. In every moment there is rebirth, in every moment there is death. We are always changing. But we are in control of that change. We can be whatever it is we want to be. Be creative with the way you live your life. Be aware of every moment, every thought. Be the witness, but also be the creator.

Rebirth, to me, does not only mean rebirth into a new life after death of this body. Rebirth happens in every moment, every breath, every blink of your eye, and every passing thought. I think on this scale, the Buddha was referring to karma as intention and consequences of action in this lifetime, in this moment and the next. Why put off to the next lifetime what you can do in this one? Karma is creative action/intent/thoughts. Karma is effective now, tomorrow, next week, and next lifetime. Perhaps there is no scientific proof for an afterlife, but there is very logical proof that there is death and birth within yourself and all around you in every moment.

Whether or not you believe in an afterlife, or rebirth, the teaching of karma can be utilized here and now. Why would you not want to give and take good things in your life? The consequences of these actions/intentions/thoughts start now, and will continue forever, whether forever is until this body dies or until the soul reaches nirvana, or whatever else may be out there.

Be the witness to your thoughts, and you will see this cycle of birth/death/rebirth. Be the witness to your breath and feel it all arise, and fall away. A great friend and mentor often says, “Give what you don’t need to the Earth, and let her recycle it for you.” Maybe all the answers aren’t clear now, maybe they never will be, but your intentions and thoughts and actions undoubtedly influence your future, so be conscious of them.

A close friend once told me, “Your thoughts are not your own.” and, “The truth is in mirrors.” We are all reflections of the world around us, and every thought has been thought before. Our thoughts, emotions, sensations, are not our own. We are the witness to the events and phenomena that go on in this world, in this body. There is no “I”, simply because nothing is the same. “I” am not the same person “I” was this morning, yesterday, or last year. Physically, your entire body replaces itself every ~7 years. Your cells are constantly dying and regrowing, your liver cells live for around 150 days, your skin replaces itself every 2-4 weeks, hair replaces itself every 2-6 years, etc. All the organs in your body, all the bones and muscles, are constantly replacing the dead cells with new ones. And with that, your personality, your thoughts, all change in moments, not even considering days or years. There is no “I”, no “self”, because nothing is permanent. (For more neat statistics, refer here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1219995/Believe-lungs-weeks-old–taste-buds-just-days-So-old-rest-body.html)

To me, rebirth doesn’t resonate as a new body and a new life necessarily, but a cycle in this body, in this life. Perhaps the same way that karma sticks with all this change in this body (which is only really this body for a few more minutes), works the same with another body, in another lifetime.

Safe journey to you, my friend, and enjoy the path that you’re on, as it is forever changing!

Pranayama Intro Notes


These notes were shared on Tuesday Jan. 29. I’m a bit late, but I didn’t get a chance to post them before, so here they are! Enjoy 🙂 Comments are always appreciated.

First of all I’d like to thank you all so much for joining us tonight! Please grab a copy of the intro notes from the candle on the table, join the group, grab a schedule, or leave a donation. Al donations support the sim and more events like his so if you like what you see and want to see more please leave a donation.

Thank you for visiting Peaceful Dragon Oriental Medicine Centre! And a special thank you out to Xandria who made this whole place possible. If you have a suggestion for an activity or an event here, or wish to host here please contact either Xandria Winterwolf or myself.

I just want to remind everyone that none of the information presented here is advice and therefore should not be put into practice without first consulting a professional.

Pranayama is known in yoga and Ayurveda as “breath practices.” Prana means energy, ayam means to extend or draw out. The other common translation is from yama, meaning to control or restrain. The other translation is prawns + ayaama. Ayaama is defined as stretching, restraining, extending and expansion (of dimensions in time and space). Thus, pranayama can mean to e tend and over one one’s normal limitations.

Qi is known in traditional Chinese medicine as energy, and is also controlled and maintained by breathing.

These practices include ways to increase vitality, relaxation, and balancing of energies. Relaxation includes body, mind, and emotions. Last month we talked about our nadi’s, which are influenced by our breath. Today let’s focus just on breathing.

Please keep in mind that not everyone is on the same level of practice. If something we talk about tonight isn’t comfortable for you, DO NOT DO IT!

Philosophy

Notice your breathing. Don’t change it, just notice it. If you are not a meditator, yogi or tai chi practitioner you may not have noticed how shallowly your breath goes into your body. In most people the air only travels halfway into their lungs. This means that our lungs aren’t even filling up all the way, let alone distributing the necessary oxygen to all the parts of our body.

Pranayama is more than just a way of getting more breath into your body. It deals with the whole area of vitality and the pranayama kosha (an energy body, similar to an aura). Though oxygen us a form of prana, pranayama is interested in more subtle corms of energy. pranayama utilizes the process of breathing as a means to manipulate all forms of energy within the body.The air brings with it subtle energies that are necessary for your body to function. The body requires both oxygen and energy to survive. Hence the term, qi, or “vital life force.” Awareness of the breath is a instant feature of both moving (active, asanas) and tranquil (passive, meditation) practices.

It is important here to understand that efficient and healthy breathing is not the same as deep breathing. The speed with which we breathe is also very important, for if we breathe too fast our oxygen is bound too tightly to the hemoglobin molecules so that less is released to the cells.

Practices

First off, let’s do a kind of “check-in” to our breath. Please make sure your clothes aren’t constricting for these practices. You may want to undo your belt, take off your shoes, and undo your pants.

How does the breath feel? Smooth or choppy? Deep or shallow? Clear or turbid? Light or heavy? Quiet or noisy? Easy or difficult?

Where do you breathe? Where does it enter? Where does it go? Can you feel the movement within your nostrils, down the trachea, and in your lungs? Do you breath with your nose or mouth or both? Do you feel the movements in your best, back, and abdomen? Can you feel it in your hands and feet?

What part of your body moves with your inhalations and exhalations? Place your hand on your abdomen or chest if you can’t feel any movements sometimes your hands are able to feel more subtle movements.

What is your rate of breathing? How long does it take for you to inhale? Does your exhale match the inhale? How many breathes do you take per minute?

Now that we’ve checked in we can start some breathing exercises. If at any time during these exercises you feel light headed, dizzy, or uncomfortable in any way please stop doing the exercise and return to your natural breathing.

Qigong breathing exercises

Natural breathing is where on inhalation, abdomen expands out wards, and on exhalation, abdomen contracts inwards. Breathing abdominally creates more room for the lungs to expands than breathing with the chest. Of course, when doing physical activity both the chest and abdomen will expand and contract.

In qigong, we practice reversed breathing. We do this in order to gain more control over the breathing muscles and to stimulate qi. This practice is not dangerous if practiced for brief periods of time, but it should not become normal. To practice reversed breathing the abdomen contracts during inhalation, while the chest expands slightly. During exhalation the abdomen expands slightly and the chest contracts. The breath should be deep, soft, and silent. If is is too difficult for you, try only for a few cycles and stop, as this can be dangerous if you can’t get enough oxygen.

Differentiated breathing is common in qigong as the idea is to try practicing as many different ways of breathing as you can imagine. Deep and shallow, high and low, fast and slow. Some practitioners try breathing just into their throats, through their skin, or down into their hands and feet. Any practice such as these should only be practiced for short periods of time until you are more comfortable with me and can then lengthen your practice.

Dan tians breathing is intended to strengthen and cultivate Dan tian qi, health, and inner peace. The Dan tian is the energy centre in the abdominal region, about three inches below the navel and midway to the centre of the body. The exact location varies from person to person, so with your practice you will become more aware of where it is. Usually, the Dan tian will be the region or point where your abdomen expands from. Both the abdomen and lower back will expand with inhalation, and both will contract with exhalation. If you we’re to place your hands on the front and back of an individual it should feel as though a balloon is expanding inside and expanding both sides away from each other with inhalation. This type of breathing will relax the mind and body, decrease unhealthy reactions to stress, lessen anxiety, and massage internal organs. It will also increase the flow of energy, causing the whole body to be more functional.

The last type of qigong breathing we will talk about today is called embryonic breathing. This is considered the most advanced stage of qigong breath. In this practice the breathing will become so slight that it seem to have stopped. An alchemist from the fourth century A.D. Says that the sage can hold a feather in front of the nostrils and it does not move. In some qigong texts it will say to hold the breath for 20 minutes or two hours…of course no one can do that, so what they are referring to is this embryonic breath.

Ayurveda/yoga breathing exercises

All practices of pranayama breathing include four basic techniques.
1. Pooraka (inhalation)
2. Rechaka (exhalation)
3. Antarctic or antaranga kumbhaka (retention of breathe after inhalation, i.e. with full lungs
4. Bahir or bahiranga kumbhaka (retention of breath after exhalation, i.e. with lungs emptied)

Pranayama also has an advanced state of breathing called Kerala kumbhaka, where the pressure in the lungs becomes the same as the pressure in the atmosphere, and respiration ceases.

During yoga practice there is a type of breathing called ujjayi breath, where you make noise in the back of your throat. My yoga teacher likes to call it, baby Darth Vader breath. Basically, it sounds like you’re trying to fog up a mirror, but your mouth is closed. To accomplish this you must open the back of your throat, near the top where your sinuses and nostrils meet your throat opening. This takes much practice, but the idea is to do ujai breath throughout the whole yoga practice.

Another common breathing practice is called Kapalabhati pranayam. It’s type of breathing consists of alternating short, explosive exhales and slightly longer, passive inhales. Exhales are generated by powerful contractions of the lower belly (between the pubis and navel), which push air out of the lungs. Inhales are responses to the release of this contraction, which sucks air back into the lungs. This can be quite exhilarating, but if you are new to it it can make you quite dizzy.

Nadi shodhana pranayama, or alternate nostril breathing, is where you take you left hand and fold it into a fist. Then extend your pinky and ring finger, as well as your thumb, and hold one nostril closed while taking a full inhale and exhale out of the opposite nostril before switching. You always want to start breathing through the left nostril, slowing the right.

Sitali pranayama, or cooling breath, is where you curl your tongue and stick it out of your lips as though using it as a straw and breath through that. You want to I hale through the tongue/mouth and exhale through the nose.

The last type of yogic breathing we’ll talk about today is most commonly called lions breath. Take a deep inhale, open your mouth wide, stuck out your tongue and roar like a lion on your exhale. It is loud, yes, but it will a,ways make you feel better and will release any and all stress you may have bottled up.

Let us reflect on the importance of naturalness and spontaneity when breathing. The exercises described above are learned in order to unlearn bad habits and release your body into the naturalness and freedom that should be breathing. These are not to be practised for long periods of time and should not be practiced too often.

I want to thank you all for coming tonight! This is the end of the formal discussion. I now open the floor to any and all comments and questions, whether related or not. Take good care all, on shanti, sat nam, namaste.

Karma as Creativity and Jan 2013 Events!


Happy new year to all! I do hope this year starts out bright and beautiful for all of you! The way the year starts is a sign about how the rest of it will go. Just like waking up every morning with a positive thought makes the day to come more positive.

Speaking of positive and negative, I’d like to introduce a new event to all of you! I call it “Creativity.” Why creativity? Many people think of karma as fate, or determinism. But, really, karma is creative. It is unbounded. The common interpretation is when someone has something bad happen to them, we call it “bad karma.” But this common interpretation of karma is misunderstood. We typically see karma as an uncontrollable factor in our lives. But, the literal translation of karma is “action” – human action. It does not control us. In fact, we control it. When we utilize action (even non-action is a form of action), we are influence karma. When we are compassionate and friendly to others it’s because we want the same treatment in return. The reason to be compassionate should not be in anticipation of receiving it in return, but because it’s the right thing to do. Invite into your life what you want to share with others; we are all connected. If any one of us suffers, all the rest of us suffer. Everything you create in your life, every intention, though, and action, will shape the rest of your creations. In every moment there is rebirth, in every moment there is death. We are always changing. But we are in control of that change. We can be whatever it is we want to be. Be creative with the way you live your life. Be aware of every moment, every thought. Be the witness, but also be the creator. So, the event is called “Creativity” because I want us to have a forum where we can explore ourselves, our ideas and our beliefs freely and openly, so we can expand our idea of what we want to bring into our lives, and share with others our thoughts without being put down. Since I believe that there is no such thing as teaching, we will experience mutual learning. I learn just as much from each of you as I may share with you. Let’s share some creative karma!

☯Creativity, every Tuesday at 7pmSLT
Jan 8 – Happiness @ http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Silver%20Serpent/104/65/25
Jan 15 – The Psychology and Physiology of ‘the instant’ @ http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Silver%20Serpent/104/65/25
Jan 22 – The Ideas of Shintoism @ http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Ocarina%20Beach/197/190/51
Jan 29 – Eastern Medicine @ http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Tolkien/71/114/57

*Venues and topics subject to change

And, a new double-feature with Lyle! We’ll be bringing together Lyle’s storytelling and my poetry for some open-mic sharing.

☯The Magic of Storytelling cohosted with Lyle Lindman, 7pmSLT
Jan 4 & 19- http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife//29/188/22

If you would like to collaborate on an event or have a topic or venue suggestion, please IM me or send me a notecard. I look forward to seeing you all there!

Hugs, Chrae ♥