With the dramatic emergence and rapid spread of COVID-19 currently causing global fear and widespread disruption. It seems that we all need some urgent relief and some effective solutions to re-balance our-selves and counteract the psychic waves of fear and negativity. Covid-19 counter measures taken by governments world wide have forced us all into a condition of isolation, which we feel as an onslaught upon our expression of warmth and feelings with friends and colleagues. Usual freedoms have largely been removed and our personal and collective economic structures have in many cases come under severe threat and some have completely collapsed. Mindfulness, along with the ancient traditions of yoga, meditation and others, is a profound practice in itself, and could, when embraced correctly, make a huge contribution to helping us all with the current world wide fiasco. A core component of Vipasana Buddhist practice, Mindfulness is a deceptively simple method and quite easy to explain: 'we actively engage a portion of our attention into what we are experiencing right now, without judgment and preconceived interpretation, in the present moment'. This uncommon element, added to our awareness, has some highly useful effects. Primarily, by engaging mindfulness regularly, we insert a component of detachment into our otherwise smooth, absorbed, flow of awareness. The practice of mindfulness, further, invites us to make an effort to become hyper-aware from moment to moment. All too often we are so busy rushing headlong into the next event, meeting, deadline or maybe a party, that we actually miss a lot along the way as we are so deeply absorbed by all the activity. In that very ‘space’ that is created, we experience and realize something extraordinary. We realize profoundly that ‘we’ as participants in unfolding experience, irrespective of what that experience is, can also simultaneously be the observers of that same experience. In the moment of that realization, we have the choice to either identify our-selves with what we are perceiving, or choose to become detached. In the first choice, that of identification, we feel that we 'are' whatever the subject is. Feeling that we 'are' something, means we take it on fully and completely, our very fabric and essence 'is' whatever the subject is. The second choice, detachment, leads to a measure of peace and freedom. Identification takes us into a condition of limitation and stagnation by reducing our perspective to our own personal self reflection, while the second option sets us free. We can live and love always with the door open to change and without any preconceptions since 'we' are not ultimately absorbed and attached to our creations and experiences. Nor to our thoughts, feelings, emotions, intentions, attitudes and so on, since we can regulate those same items. This of course is the first and vital step to taking charge of our-selves. This is such a relief once fully comprehended and accepted. Now of course one big issue with the whole covid-19 situation is that it is literally forcing us all to make a radical re-assessment, economically, socially, politically and spiritually. It is relatively simple to see that the major challenges facing humanity today, are the forces of division, separative behaviors and attitudes, abuse of our environment, commercialism/materialism at all costs, a general lack of caring and kindness and above all, a serious lack of wisdom. So the solution appears simple. If the collective is made up of communities and those are composed of individuals, the true work lies at our own door to transform ourselves. By improving our sense of 'space' in our perceptions and interpretations and moving forward with a sense of detachment instead of endless identification, we gain a valuable moments opportunity to begin making wiser choices and firm decisions that reflect a greater level of coherency with our thoughts, feelings, motives and physical actions. Moving forward with this tool, we can all begin taking serious stock of the components of our mind and consciousness and make an effort to become more loving, wiser people beyond our endless pursuits of personal gain and beyond our personal narratives. Once we are truly ready to ‘own’ our consciousness in this way, with all its many ramifications, and begin taking steps to understand how this very consciousness works to create the realities we all find ourselves in, then mindfulness becomes a great friend and tool that we can use in our journey of personal transformation and empowerment, as actualized beings of soul, heart and spirit. So to sum up, Mindfulness is the great tool for Pythagoras' and Socrates ancient dictum 'Know thyself, and thy shall know God and the Universe'.
Can we pierce through and gain extraordinary control and work miraculous feats?
The majority of people have at least heard of the placebo effect, even if many are not too sure of the deeper implications. A placebo is a sugar pill or saline solution, that is given to patients without their prior knowing it to be so. Usually done in a 'blind' test to try and assert the efficacy of a new drug. A placebo only works when the receiver does not know they are taking one.
Something is going on here between the conscious and subconscious layers of our mind. Our voluntary control and the layers traditionally relegated to auto-pilot. Our deep-seated belief seems to be immensely powerful. Placebos are very alarming to large pharmaceutical companies since they are sometimes extremely effective!
Let's talk now about a quite amazing human being alive and active at the current time of writing. Wim Hof a.k.a 'the iceman', has some truly astonishing accomplishments to his credit. Holder of 26 world records, many but not all to do with cold, Wim has made himself available for mainstream science to 'study' and has also developed a method to train others to do what he does, with a very high rate of success.
'Yogi's' and meditators have been living and doing their story high in the snowy Himalayas for centuries. Meditating Lama's in the snowy mountains of Tibet can 'melt the ice' around there stationary bodies. (gTummo Meditation) So what Wim is doing is not new and unique, just unusual for a western person.
What emerges from this inquiry is that there is a barrier that needs to broken. The line is drawn for average folk as to what they can and cannot do. This barrier lies at the limit of our conscious mind and is defined by our deepest seated beliefs, built by our programming and experience in life so far.
Cellular Biologist Bruce Lipton speaks about a fanatical religious sect living remotely, that spend a lot of time demonstrating their faith in extreme acts, apparently without any adverse effects. Among other things, drinking deadly poisons like strychnine. Interestingly, among the astonishing things Wim Hof has done, he drank a vial of active bacteria under laboratory test conditions that should have resulted in high fever and other symptoms, without any noticeable effect. Furthermore, he then trained 12 people who repeated the test, all with the same negative result. What is going on here?
To break through this 'barrier' and gain conscious command, of our autonomic nervous system and immune system, we have to take very deep stock of our belief system and what we believe is normal and possible. The big problem is that many of our 'operating program' beliefs, are very much in the depths of our subconscious mind and so are not normally under our voluntary control.
Wim has developed a three-tier method to train people. 1 - Mindset 2 - Cold - 3 - Breath. Needless to say, considerable effort and training are involved, probably mostly to re-train the deep-seated beliefs into more suitable ones.
Wim has what would be called a 'powerful personality'. His 'presence' is forceful and brooks no doubt. Not surprisingly, given what he does, he has brushed with actual physical death at times. This if anything, seems to have simply made his 'mindset of no doubt' even stronger.
Psyching up and Hyping up is almost a signature element people engage in when squaring up to challenges and testing their 'faith'. Wim does his fair share too. Psyching up is an integral part of achieving a 'can do' mindset, and the obvious thing is the energy of the emotion. Many 'great' evangelical preachers, orators and politicians do exactly this too. Drum up emotion and sentiment woven onto the frame of belief and attitude. This seems to imbue the recipients with extra charisma and faith.
In Wim Hof's method, he has developed, the 'cold pillar' as a resistive component. We don't have to tackle the snow and blizzards and water hovering around zero degrees, but the terms of our challenge don't change either. So if we are not keen on cold, we will have to find something else - or even more effectively, have it find us instead. This is where the wake-up calls mentioned earlier often come in. Severe illness, trauma, financial crashes, back-against-the-wall stuff can all function as a resistive element that we have to break through as we literally 'force' our conscious minds to break through barriers and penetrate deeper into previous dark layers and come under our volitional will. Wim sat in an ice cube with just his head out for slightly under 2 hours (one of his 26 world records) When measuring the temperature of his skin in contact with the ice, it was 'normal'. as mentioned earlier, certain monks in Tibet sit in meditation in temperatures hovering around zero with just their usual robes on. These are then removed and ice-encrusted blankets are placed over their shoulders. The task of the monks is not just to stay warm body-wise, but to melt and dry out the blankets. This they duly do and the process is repeated.
Within deep states of meditation, our quite flimsy, construction of reality and conditioned perception and understanding become altered, As Dr. Joe Dispenza recommends: Become No-one in No Time with No Body in No Place. Just Pure Awareness. Under these conditions, perhaps because the conscious mind can so obviously recognize that our prior construction was just a learned design, it becomes much easier to 'choose' and so 'spin' a new and different reality into material existence. So-called miraculous things happen. Healings occur, astounding feats become possible al la Wim Hof, Spiritual awareness increases.
In my book 'A Path through the Darkness' I explore further into the intricacies of awareness, our deep conditioning related to our consensually created world reality, and offer a method of my own. A toolkit for transmuting our consciousness into a new paradigm. It is my deep belief that the only way our current deep global crisis is going to ease and a new and healthier world order come into existence, is by every, individual taking up deep and serious accountability for themselves. We need to take charge of our awareness and consciousness as we never have before.
The book discusses feats of astounding nature such as in Wim Hof's work, but also, and more importantly, how to become a coherent, fully conscious being, fully aware and deliberately choosing to live and therefore reflect, the age-old values of caring and kindness, empathy and understanding, peace, harmony, wisdom and genuine love, not the sanitised and pre-packaged variety so commonly touted for purposes of selling items. Nor the sanctimonious variety of love often espoused by various pious folk.
The days of listening wide-eyed to the gifted speaker are on the way out. Being swept up in the cunning story they weave. We all have to sober up and assume responsibility for finding ourselves in a body, in these times, with a mind, with the capability of exerting intention. Change our beliefs if needed, and above all else, taking up the reins of the captaincy of our destiny, mastery of our own heart and soul.
Paul Carlos is the author of A Path through the Darkness - The book will be published shortly to Amazon and other leading outlets. Both paperback and audiobook versions will also be available.
Sacred Spiral Spiritual Coaching is offerd to selected personal and online clients via zoom and other platforms. Introductory and in-depth courses are also being developed.
Contact Paul Carlos or you can stay in touch with our online material via the buttons below. Future updates to these posts will include direct widgets to the bookstores and course service providers.
This question seems to come up quite frequently.
As much as we like to be told exactly what and when, unfortunately it's not quite so simple.
Firstly, why are we practicing in the first place?
If you want to feel stronger, fitter, more mentally alert and emotionally stable, you will have to find the right weekly input and rhythm that will work for you to achieve this. This varies person to person for many reasons.
The bottom line is, give and take a few factors, we get out what we put in. So make an effort and you will see some result.
In the final analysis, practices like Tai Ji, Yoga, Meditation and so on are more a mind state than anything else. Our core beliefs, attitudes, feelings and physical actions will operate to roll out how we gradually gain and benefit or go round in circles or just fall off completely.
These kinds of practices are currently popular, so many folk may just be in it because everyone is doing it. We may want to ask ourselves the question, how real is this for me? Is it really meaningful? and so on.
Director Sacred Spiral Yoga
Yogic relaxation practice is usually performed in a posture (Asana) called Savasana - Corpse Pose.
Basically lying down with the arms and legs splayed slightly.
Many people find this seeming natural posture on the floor actually quite difficult and uncomfortable. This is usually owing to stiffness and lack of body alignment understanding which can be greatly aided by the regular practice of Yoga Postures.
The other big hindrance to real relaxation is the activity of our mind.
Better physical tone helps, especially given that the physical body tends to ‘store’ tension and stress in our muscle groups – tense, sore, neck and shoulders, knot in your stomach etc.
So, a gentle to moderate yoga session before you practice your relaxation will help you a lot.
Many folks suffer from insomnia for a variety of reasons ranging from stress and worry to poor health to relationship and emotional issues and so on. A gentle Asana session using appropriate postures and exercises can do wonders to remedy this condition too.
Perhaps the most important factor in Yogic relaxation method is learning the ability to reduce and eventually stop the endless activity of our thoughts. Our beliefs, worries attitudes and endless thoughts all exert a considerable impact upon our nervous system and thereby directly into our physical bodies. In this arena, the Meditation practice now becomes important to assist us in having better control of our minds and therefore our ability to relax properly.
When attempting to work with our often unruly minds and emotions, having a healthy perspective on ourselves and life in general can be very helpful.
There is a wonderful and simple technique of smiling to your-self to relax the nervous system. It is more the feeling of the smile we are trying to catch. We 'take' this feeling into our tight, stiff, sore areas and enjoy the sensation of peace that comes from this technique.
Regular practice and keeping our view of the world flexible and non-dogmatic, we are able to be more encompassing within our personal belief systems and attitudes. This way we achieve a greater harmony and unity with the rest of our fellow man and with ourselves. Probably because we are no longer wasting precious energy on defending ourselves or judging others we disagree with.
Egotism, the issue of self importance, has been called by many in the great eastern spiritual traditions, one of the biggest obstacles. When we operate in life as if we are the center of the world and exclude anything and everything that does not conform to our personal views, we miss many subtle perceptions and experiences that could potentially give us a much broader and maybe even a totally different view.
One great way to very naturally reduce self importance and alter our mind-scape to a very positive state is to regularly find things to be grateful for. The state of gratitude brings us into a valuable calm and peaceful mode. Practicing this for a while before a formal relaxation session is very helpful.
Sacred Spiral Relaxation Practice.
This should be performed a minimum of once a day and if possible two to three times over a 24 hour cycle. The early hours of the morning or late at night is a great time. An easy stretching session beforehand may be very useful.
Suggested Preparatory Asanas (20 Minutes) – Child's pose, Down Facing Dog, Seated twists, gentle chest opener, Side stretches, 9 – 16 easy cycles of Sacred Spiral Pranic Breathing. A few cycles of deep AUM/OM chanting can also works wonders to center and balance our energy systems before relaxation.
Be comfortable, warm, alone, silent, preferably in a dedicated space – Absolutely no cell phones, TV sets, radios etc. to disturb you. We have a set of appropriate MP3's, most of which are FREE in our STORE to greatly assist the process.
The body is placed with the arms and legs slightly splayed out. The shoulder blades should be drawn down slightly so they are flat on the mat and not uncomfortably on the tips. Head and neck level and comfortable. Sometimes the heels of the feet are placed poorly and should be lengthened slightly and comfortable. Yoga Savasana relaxation should be practiced on a firm mat or blanket.
We should spend a few minutes, or as long as needed, consciously expanding and relaxing the feeling of tension in our faces. The skin is often drawn tight here and this is eventually how frown lines develop – along our habitual face tension pathways. Smiling as mentioned above is invaluable and should be practiced frequently. When you feel ready, move your attention downwards into the rest of your physical body, smiling to your limbs and organs and consciously releasing tension.
Ironically, the harder we try to relax the less we will be able to, so be simple, easy and understand that we need to divert our attention as soon as possible into conducive channels in order to relax properly.
Imagination, the faculty of ‘inner imaging’ is enormously powerful and should be a standard tool for our practice. Equally important is to know when and how to 'drop' the tool of imagination. If we fall short here, we may become hooked into the imaginative mode of mind and then not being able to change, this will once again stop us accessing the deeper levels of relaxation.
Our ‘feeling’ we all have of the so-called boundaries of our physical body is a conditioned perception. It is relatively easy to relax a while and then by playing around with a sense of expanding and contracting our feeling awareness (aided by our imagination in linking our image faculty to feeling sensation), we can quickly distort the sense of where our arm or leg actually is!
Provided we can release the imaginative mode of mind at the appropriate time, as discussed above, this is a desirable state and should be sort after. It may initially be a little strange for some folks to suddenly find that the old familiar sense of exactly where and what their bodies are, has become all ‘fuzzy’ or has even completely disappeared. Do not worry, we can all return very easily back to that good old familiar body. Deep and extended versions of this practice are called in Sanskrit ‘Yoga Nidra” Epitomized by ‘body asleep, mind alert but motionless’. Advanced Sacred Spiral Relaxation coming soon.
That brings us to consider our state of the mind in a deep relaxation state. The ‘alert but motionless’ frame of awareness implies that the common or normal, hectic activity state of mind has given way to a state that is fully alert, but without thought or emotion to disturb the placidity. Scientifically speaking the brain wave activity has calmed down to an Alpha range (Savasana), or even maybe a Theta level (Yoga Nidra - body asleep, mind awake).
This all sounds relatively easy, but in practice it may be hard to achieve and could take considerable effort and practice. Continued practice and trying will eventually yield good results.
If you do fall into normal sleep when doing your relaxation, this is quite fine and will be good and beneficial, but it is not really what we are after and if it happens continually, you may need some extra pointers to work with the situation.
Coming out of a deep relaxation will need a process as well since the body will be dormant. Our first action when focusing on returning to normal wakeful consciousness, should be to come to the awareness of our breath. This will be very shallow and quiet at this stage. We should all, with relative ease, be able to very slightly deepen our breath. Be with this for a while and then deepen it a little further. Be sure to still maintain that lovely quiet rhythm a little longer. After a while, feel your way down into your body and starting at your extremities, fingertips and toe-tips, begin to look for sensation here.
Cellular & muscle memory will rally fast and most likely you will quickly be able to return sensation. After another short period do this for the rest of the body until you are ready to drag up one leg, then the other and curl over onto your right side, away from the physical heart, head supported on your arm. Be here a few moments until you naturally open the eyes and sit up.
Sit for a few moments, quietly acknowledging your inner self in a way that is meaningful to you.
You can visit our YouTube Channel for many videos on all aspects of Sacred Spiral Yoga.
The Doors of Perception
A brief exploration of attention, awareness, concentration and consciousness.
Many of us feel a bit unsure as to the differences of these terms or just tend to lump them all together with more or less the same meaning. So this post will take a quick, non academic look.
Attention is really best described as a kind of force within us that can be focused on something or used in a broad sense. Interestingly the qualities of attention can be developed by practicing concentration exercises. Concentration can be described as the marshaling of our attention and maintaining this force steady, usually on a chosen object or topic.
Our five senses, especially our eyes and gaze, both the physical eyes and our inner eye are very intimately tied up with our attention and concentration.
Awareness refers to some-thing we become aware of via our attention. Attention itself can be used at least two different ways. ‘Peripheral’ attention is diffused, casual, open and receptive. On the other hand we can access a torch beam style, narrow and highly focused type of attention.
Un-trained attention (scattered) is broken easily when we try to gather it, un-trained attention ‘jumps’ around from topic to topic etc. We experience a jumble of thoughts and words in our head.
Most folk don't have much problem using there attention well if they are interested in a subject. If they are very interested, their attention becomes easily riveted and you have difficulty even asking a casual question of someone in this state. We can say attention has become so absorbed in some-thing that general peripheral awareness has narrowed right down, for example when engrossed in reading a fascinating book.
It is common for say, one person to be aware of some-thing others are not within a small or large group. Perhaps that one person is the only one to be aware of this ‘some-thing’. Conversely, many folks within a group could be aware of some-thing, while a few or one person is not aware of this some-thing.
Consciousness is the next issue and is often defined as ‘sharing awareness with others’. So consciousness is the faculty that allows us to participate together with others within the greater field of awareness. Consciousness (sharing with) may include or exclude the contents of various individual’s awareness.
From this discussion so far we can easily see how ‘consensual perception’ arises. Dominant agreement about ‘some-thing’ will take place overtly within a group even though individually, some, or even one person may ‘see’ something else or say they ‘agree’ and yet privately disagree. This goes beyond an ‘opinion’ about matters to include elements of personal awareness.
Consensual perception can and does mushroom to encompass from small families to whole societies, whole races and literally then extend to millions of people. The thing to realize here is that consensual perception (this is frequently belief or opinion based) is not unquestionably absolute. To an indigenous folk living deep in an ‘un-explored’ jungle, a strange light moving across the sky at night could be taken unanimously as ‘gods from outer space’. To millions of ‘civilized’ folks it’s just a radio satellite doing its rounds of the globe or an airplane. This concept extends fully into the world of science with its currently ‘proven’ and later genially ‘dis-proven’ theories. Quantum physics has been telling us for quite a while now that the outcomes of an ‘experiment’ are impacted by the person or persons conducting the said experiment. (Different persons may render a different result) The fascinating revelations around the ‘placebo’ effect, especially within the realm of pharmaceutical advertising are another eye-widening, thought provoking subject.
So, perception, as much as many would love it to be (would be much safer) is not concrete, ultimately verifiable and absolute, but is unique to individuals and greatly subject to one’s innate conditioning, education and so on. Personal and group perception is a composite of socialization + attention, awareness and concentration that gives us the ability to be ‘conscious’ or share and participate with others. Attention and the resulting awareness can go beyond ‘normal’ or common interpretations and boundaries to reveal obscure and unknown ‘things’.
Paul Carlos Y.A.I 500h Sacred Spiral Yoga