Let’s take a step back and look. What is more important than what we think and what we feel? At first glance, we may respond with: “Nothing.” What we think and what we feel determines everything about the decisions we make and the lives we live. This includes our opinions regarding God, other people, ourselves, the world, our lives, our loved ones, our enemies… everything.
Our education, our upbringing, our life experiences all determine our thoughts and feelings. That determines not only what we think/feel but also who and what we believe ourselves to be.
So what could be more important? Can anything be more important? The answer is “yes.” It is not only important but essential. What is more important than what, is how we think/feel. How determines what we think/feel. We are speaking here, not only of our individual psychological makeups, but also the sociological realities of being human. Understanding that ‘how’ enables us to understand and responsibly deal with what lies beyond the limitations of the psychological and sociological dynamics of our lives. There is much to say about how our minds and hearts are conditioned to think/feel what we do. Maharishi Patanjali had a lot to say on the subject regarding the chit (storehouse of our impressions) as well as what lies beyond the chit.
Sociologically, we do well to consider the ‘herd mentality’ of our species. Groups sway the mentality of their members. A herd mentality, or ‘group think’, reigns. It acts like wind over a wheat field, swaying everything in its path in a particular direction. The mind and heart follow, be it in a family dynamic, a community, a subculture, culture, nation, etc. We then can, and do, justify those feelings with the intellect. The thoughts justify the feelings and the feelings justify the thoughts. Facts are twisted and spun to justify the mentality. ‘Truth’ becomes more a matter of perspective than reality. Perspective is really just a matter of the way the wind blows. The reality is denied and judged in favor of the perspective, no matter how twisted. Back in the 60s, the wind blew many in the direction of being independent, ‘a man who hears a different drum a-drumming.’ But it is not hard to see that this too was just the herd mentality of the time, a mass cry for freedom of thought that was really just another wind blowing a herd mentality in still another trance-like direction. Politicians strive to capture a herd mentality and channel it in a direction. Their unspoken war cry is: “To rule a nation, capture the herd mentality.”
Now the next step in our investigation is to consider the role of a culture. Cultures culture the mentality of the people. When the culture is unhealthy, it sways the people in an unhealthy direction. An unhealthy herd mentality ultimately leads to an unhealthy or even tragic end. We can easily see examples in history as well as current events. But the alternative is not rebellion against all culture—not anarchy. A healthy culture cultures the hearts and minds of the people in a healthy direction.
So what determines the health of a culture? Be it on an individual, small group, subcultural, local, or national level, there is only one thing that brings true health. That is harmony with the underlying source of our being which is, in fact, the underlying source of all existence. Some call it Mother Nature. Some call it the unified field. Some call it God. Some do not believe in it at all. Some simply believe in what they feel, regardless of the way the wind has blown them in whatever direction it did. Then their intellect kicks in and justifies whatever it is they are feeling. As the poet, Bob Dylan, said, “Of war and peace the truth just twists.” To digress, we can add that money sways mentalities with formidable strength.
Unfortunately, most believe in what they think/feel more than anything else. This sadly includes what they think/feel about the underlying source: God or whatever word you choose. Even religious convictions are determined by the way the wind is blowing. We believe in the way the wind has blown us beyond all else.
So what is the solution? What is the way out? Short term, the solution is humility. Self-righteous adherence to thoughts and feelings are simply full blown identity with the direction the wind blows. Humility is the flip side of wisdom. The only true knowing is knowing that you know nothing. After all, thoughts are what we think we know, nothing more.
The way out then, is to more and more fully rest into that level of life that lies deeper than our conditioned thoughts/feelings—lies deeper than the chit spoken of by Maharishi Patanjali thousands of years ago. For this, proper meditation is our most powerful tool. (We use the word “proper” because many, even most, meditations simply reinforce an identity with a particular mentality, regardless of how noble it may appear to the conditioned mind.) More and more fully, we live a level of life that is free from the limitation of conditioning. If we do have an identity, a belief system, around that, the limited identity melts away as we meditate. More and more fully, we live a life free from limitation and in harmony with Nature, with the Divine, with God—or however you choose to say it.
Bottom line is, nature knows best. That is to say, your true nature is Divine. It is not the result of your thoughts/feelings. It lies beyond thoughts and emotions. It is the source of health—healthy thoughts/feelings. As the stress and strain (chit, conditioning) is released from the physiology, we awaken to our true nature. As more and more members of society awaken more and more to that depth of being, the culture becomes healthy. Then the wind blows in a healthy direction. Then peace and harmony nurtures the health, lives, mentality, and hearts of the people. Then wisdom becomes our guiding light.
When veggies get ‘stressed,’ they become toxic. Different things can stress different veggies. For example, celery as it gets older gets stressed. Potatoes kept in the light become stressed; sometimes you can even see the sprouts growing out of them. Many veggies become stressed when they are reheated leftovers or overcooked. I believe we are all quite able to tell when our veggies are stressed. If we just pay attention, we can feel it. It’s sort of like the blog I just wrote about the Microbiome (gut bacteria).
The population of bacteria within the gut is known as a microbiome. Of course, there are microbiomes throughout the entire physiology, but here we are focusing on the microbiome in the digestive system – predominantly the gut. Oftentimes when we eat, we feel like we’re eating for ourselves. However, an interesting approach is to eat for your entire population, i.e., yourself along with your microbiome. When you’re doing this, you can even feel into the entire microbiome within your gut. You may feel like that’s just your imagination, but interestingly enough, that doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you’re putting attention onto the entire population, yourself along with your microbiome. In so doing, you become attentive to the greater dynamic of your digestive process.
Ayurveda has recognized for thousands of years that the health of the digestive system is a major determining factor to the health of the entire physiology. Even body builders say that it’s all about digestion. Scientists now believe not only that this is true, but also that autoimmune diseases are rooted in a microbiome imbalance.
I don’t think it’s really all that hard once you feel into the microbiome and put your attention on it. Next time you eat, why not try it out? You may find that how well a meal sits with you is largely determined by how well it fits with your microbiome.
Someone was told by a Chinese doctor that they had arthritis. The person was confused, claiming their joints always felt fine, so the doctor explained the following:
Arthritis is poison (toxins, ama) in the body. It starts in the soft tissues… skin, muscle, etc. Over time, it goes deeper and deeper until it gets into the bone. Clearing toxins clears arthritis. Of course, when too advanced, it will not likely be reversed.
Our resident chiropractor, whom some affectionately call “Dr. Muscles,” shared the following 4-minute workout with me. It is consistent with the sort of things Maharishi said about not doing intense exercise (“Why do you want to breathe like a horse?”) and also what I have been told by a number of Chinese healing arts practitioners.
It consists of four exercises. The second set of 10 reps is quite similar to the arm swinging exercise Dr. Kuai taught us. In the video below, Zach Bush alternates which arm goes up while the other goes down. It is also fine to have both go up and down together as is shown in other videos about this routine.
I understand that organic Macha from Japan is the best. The ‘ceremonial’ version is less bitter, but more expensive. Personally, I just use the culinary version and am very happy with it. I just add it to hot water, sweetener of choice, and the chai spices that are sold in the Mount Soma gift shop.
Unfortunately, some studies show that adding milk to tea (or cocoa) cancels the health benefits.
I am sure many of you are far more familiar with Matcha than I am. Comments are welcome.
Regarding the Arm Swinging technique, it is good to note that it can be done not only when you are standing still, but also when you are walking. Most every morning, I walk down to the temple and Student Union as I swing my arms and silently chant some Mantras.
And, just a reminder that according to the ancient Qigong masters, physical health has to do with development of connective tissue rather than muscle.
Watermelon is very cooling and good for Pitta. I understand that according to Chinese Medicine, the seeds are extremely cooling. Once one gets over the programming that the seeds are to be spit out, the crunch is actually enjoyable… like popcorn!
Watermelon is also, according to Chinese Medicine, very purifying… flushing out all sorts of toxins. They say that eating a large amount can result in a great excretion of fluids at first (even loose stools) which are Pitta and toxins. But then, everything normalizes as the Pitta disperses.
The sun and moon’s rays have an effect on the earth. Of course, when we refer to “rays” here, we mean it not just on the more superficial levels, but also on the astrological and Transcendental level. Normal sun and moon shine create a normal environment for the earth. Physical earth is made up of the five elements and those five elements have a certain balance under normal conditions. The same is true with our physiology.
The eclipse affects the sun and moon rays, creating an abnormal environment for the earth. This also upsets the balance of the five elements, upsetting our environment on earth and also our physiology, including our mind and emotions. Scientists have done research and found that during an eclipse, there is an increase in bacteria and viruses.
Because there is imbalance physically, it is suggested that people not eat or drink because the body does not process food and water correctly. It is a little bit like avoiding certain foods when a person is sick. Some do not eat from sunrise to sunset that day and others just avoid eating near the time of the actual eclipse. Because there is an imbalance mentally and emotionally, it is suggested that people go inward and meditate or chant mantras.
It is advised not to look at eclipses. Even if you do not look at the eclipse, the effects of an eclipse last 3-6 months. It states in the Vedas that as a result of an eclipse, there can be changes in nature and natural disasters can occur.
For people, with the lunar eclipse, the effect is on the mind/emotions, whereas with the solar eclipse, the effect is more on the whole body and health.
During the whole solar eclipse (in Asheville, this would be from 1:00-4:05pm), it is best to stay inside and not look outside or even allow light in. During the eclipse, it is best to meditate or chant, and it is a good time to go inward. Finish solid food 3 hours prior to the start of the eclipse and wait to eat 2 hours after the eclipse ends. Shower right after the eclipse and then you can start cooking. Don’t save cooked food to eat after the eclipse, including in the refrigerator. No showering, drinking, or eating during the eclipse.
If you are visiting or staying at Mount Soma, once Sri Somesvara Temple has been purified (probably after 6:00 pm), then offer a red flower to the Sun (outside at the Navagrahas), and do Pradakshina 9 times while chanting “Shri Ram Ravaye Namaha.”
This particular eclipse especially affects those people whose Moon is in the sign of Cancer, Leo, or Virgo in their Jyotish (Vedic astrology) chart. Those people whose Moon is in Scorpio or Pisces also need to make sure to follow the guidelines suggested above.
This first simple exercise was taught to me as a Kung Fu exercise. In the West, Kung Fu is often thought of as a fighting art, but it is much more. Honestly, when I first saw the exercise, it seemed far too simple to be of much value. But according to Chinese Practitioners, it is a cure all, opening every meridian and circulating Qi throughout the body. They even claim it is a cure for serious diseases like cancer and diabetes, which I don’t know about.
I have to admit that when I first did the exercise, I was amazed. I could actually feel the energy moving up my arms, through my heart, and permeating my entire body. How could something so simple be so significant? I was told to do it for about 5 minutes, 3 times daily. If I have time, 10 minutes is even better than 5.
You can watch this short video to get a feel for the exercise. Note that as the arms swing up, the palms face up and when the arms swing down, the palms face down. There are some additional points below, but most are intuitively obvious.
Feet shoulder length apart.
Flexible knees, slightly bent, bouncing a little at each swing (just as is comfortable).
Relaxed upper body, feet firmly planted.
Tongue gently touching the roof of mouth.
If you would like, your mind can focus on any God of preference.
Arm swings frontward only to shoulder height.
Whole exercise should be in a relaxed state.
In general, 30 minutes each day—can break it apart to 2-3 sessions. Even occasional sessions of a couple of minutes are beneficial.
It has been suggested by the Chinese that if a person has cancer, they do a minimum of 2,000 times daily (but we have no way of knowing the validity of this and you should have doctor’s approval).
Always consult your doctor before beginning any exercise program. This general information is not intended to diagnose any medical condition or to replace your healthcare professional.
This is the simplest exercise of the 3 part series. I do all 3 parts essentially every day. They have transformed my perspective on exercise as well as that of others here at Mount Soma, even people who I feel are in excellent, athletic, physical condition.