What does stress do to the human body

How many saber-toothed tigers tried to maul you to death today? Hopefully, the stressors in your life don’t involve an apex predator chasing you through the bush, as was the case for our cavemen ancestors. Still, stress affects us the same way it did them. We are wired for stress physiologically much the same way we were millennia ago, with our primordial fight or flight response well alive within us to keep us alert and safe.

Though not all stress is bad, we need a break from bad stressors, otherwise our health may begin to deteriorate.

Modern humans battle bad stressors that might not seem like a fight or flight scenario — staying in an unhealthy or challenging relationship with a partner; financial hardships; job dissatisfaction; drug and alcohol abuse; nagging in-laws — all this distress may cause the body to:

• Elevate blood pressure
• Increase heart rate
• Slow down digestion and metabolism
• Flood the bloodstream with chemicals like adrenaline and cortisol
• Tense up muscles

Have a white-knuckle commute on the freeway to work every morning? Welcome to this modern life’s version of the caveman being chased by the saber-tooth tiger. Though you might not have to flee your car and run, the same chemical cocktails are coursing through your body as the caveman’s.

Cortisol is one of those chemicals. Like adrenaline, it helps us deal with stress, but too much of it can be harmful to the body. Research has linked it to body fat storage around the abdomen. In turn, piling on the pounds around the belly can lead to heart disease.

Excessive cortisol flooding the bloodstream can lead to adrenal exhaustion. Some doctors believe that adrenal exhaustion (think: someone who is constantly tired) is the main culprit behind every chronic disease. Dr. Lawrence Wilson isn’t alone in thinking that the mainstream medical profession often fails to recognize adrenal burnout as a real health concern.

WebMD reports that 75 to 90 percent of all doctor visits are stress-related, but in its assessment of stress on the body, nowhere does it mention adrenal fatigue due to excess cortisol, which is sometimes referred to as “the stress hormone.”

Failing to cope with bad stress, and thus severely fatiguing the adrenal glands (which rest over the kidneys), has a domino effect on the body’s many symptoms and functions, including:

Hormonal (hormonal pathways can be disrupted)

Musculoskeletal (you won’t burn fat as efficiently and gain muscle)

Immune (adrenal fatigue from bad stress wreaks havoc on the immune system)

Digestive (bad stress slows digestion, chronic digestion problems may arise)

Cardiovascular (adrenal fatigue can lead to heart palpitations and other problems)

Obesity:

People who suffer long-term stress may also be more prone to obesity, according to a new study from University College London. The research, which involved examining hair samples for levels of cortisol and was published in the journal Obesity, showed that exposure to higher levels of cortisol over several months is associated with being more heavily, and more persistently, overweight.

While stress and weight long have been thought to go hand-in-hand (think stress eating and comfort foods), this study confirms the link by examining long-term cortisol levels in more than 2,500 men and women over a four-year period.

“People who had higher hair cortisol levels also tended to have larger waist measurements, which is important because carrying excess fat around the abdomen is a risk factor for heart disease, diabetes, and premature death,” Dr Sarah Jackson (UCL Epidemiology and Public Health) who led the research, said in a press release. “Hair cortisol is a relatively new measure which offers a suitable and easily obtainable method for assessing chronically high levels of cortisol concentrations in weight research and may therefore aid in further advancing understanding in this area.”

Weakened immune system:

As if mounting bills and a tenuous marriage weren’t enough stress to make your blood vessels dilate, your pupils enlarge, your breathing rapidly increase and your sweat glands kick into overdrive, perhaps reading that eating an unhealthy diet also plays a major role in contributing to adrenal fatigue.

How? Eating the wrong foods over many years can break down the mucosal barrier in your gut. Think of the mucosal barrier as the body’s second skin as well as the body’s first line of defense against pathogens, or unwanted nasty critters invading your gut.

Your immune system lies mostly in your gut, so if over the years you continue eating poorly, the integrity of the mucosal barrier system becomes severely compromised. In the long run, digestion is compromised. With most of your immune system residing in your gut, your immune system will weaken.

Concerned about what stress has done to your body? Seek a medical professional or alternative health practitioner who understands adrenal fatigue and knows how to restore hormonal pathways. A nutritional approach to battling stress should also be applied.

credit: Judd Handler

Turn cremated remains into a vinyl record

Death is a bit of a morbid topic, but let’s face it, we’re all going to die someday and it’s okay to think ahead about how we want our remains handled. Are you going the burial route or the cremation route? If you’re planning on cremation but don’t want your ashes sitting around in an urn on a mantel for decades, check out And Vinyly. The company turns ashes into vinyl records, and these vinyl records will play, if you happen to have an old turntable lying around.

From the And Vinyly homepage, “When the album that is life finally reaches the end, wouldn’t it be nice to keep that record spinning for eternity? We offer you the chance to press your ashes in a vinyl recording your loved ones will cherish for generations. Record a personal message, your last will & testament, your own soundtrack or simply press your ashes to hear your pops & crackles for the minimal approach.”

The British company offers several packages, starting with the basic package that comes with up to 30 discs with 24 minutes of total play time, 12 minutes on each side, for £3,000. At today’s exchange rate, that’s about $4,667.

If you’re looking for something a bit more over the top, then you can purchase one of the many add-ons including music written and produced specifically for you (£500 per track and up), record distribution through vinyl stores around the world (undisclosed price) and the ultimate package, the FUNerals.

For £10,000, the team at And Vinyly will dedicate a team of event organizers to your final sendoff, including speaking to your guests and of course, playing your cremated remains during the party.

Is cremation not in the cards for you? Don’t worry; And Vinyly will take cremated body parts. I’m not joking. If you prefer to be buried, you can cremate a body part and turn those remains into an album. Do you really need all 10 toes to be buried with you? Probably not. The team at And Vinyly has thought of everything!

While this sounds a bit cheeky, it’s a serious business and the website even features a disclaimer that reads, “Please note: Despite the site’s lighthearted tone, all of our services are carried out with the utmost respect & care.”

I have to admit, I love this idea. I grew up with vinyl, and my dad’s record collection was huge. My first record was “Sesame Street Fever” with a John Travolta-esque Grover on the cover.

Credit:Mellisa Ownby

5 calming quotes about meditation.

Meditation is not a way of making your mind quiet. It is a way of entering into the quiet that is already there – buried under the 50,000 thoughts the average person thinks every day” ― Deepak Chopra

“Work is not always required. There is such a thing as sacred idleness.” ― George MacDonald

“The mind can go in a thousand directions, but on this beautiful path, I walk in peace. With each step, the wind blows. With each step, a flower blooms.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh

“Meditation is not a means to an end. It is both the means and the end.” ― Jiddu Krishnamurti

“Looking at beauty in the world, is the first step of purifying the mind.” ― Amit Ray

 

Mindfulness builds grey matter in the brain

You’ve heard how good mindfulness is for you, but did you know it helps you grow new brain cells, changes how your brain functions on a day-to-day level, and even resets your perception of pain?

Various studies have drawn the above conclusions, adding to the growing pile of evidence as to why mindfulness meditation works so well for so many people in so many different ways. It starts with neuroscientists’ increasing understanding that the brain is plastic — which means that, unlike your thigh bone, which grows to a certain size and stays that way for the rest of your life, your brain can and does change as you age. That means it’s possible to literally change how you think, even in middle- or old-age. And changing how you think can meaningfully change the way you perceive stress, pain, negative emotions, and even your perspective on life.

This kind of research is now possible due to the increasing availability (and slow-but-sure cost lowering) of various types of brain scans. It’s now feasible for researchers to do brain scans before and after mindfulness meditation sessions, or long- or short-term workshops. And from those scans they can see exactly how and where the brains in a variety of subjects change. If they see similar things changing in the brains of a variety of test subjects (older, younger, male, female, et cetera) researchers then can find a link between those changes and the practice of mindfulness.

Below are a few of the most interesting studies and what they have found.

Reduce pain

In a before-and-after look at the brains of subjects who had regularly meditated for just four days, researchers behind this 2011 study found that the perception of pain was dramatically reduced: How much? Mindfulness meditation “…significantly reduced pain unpleasantness by 57% and pain intensity ratings by 40% when compared to rest.” This was, according to researchers, due to increased activity in areas of the brain involved with regulating the understanding of pain signals, the anterior cingulate cortex and anterior insula. In addition to actually feeling less pain, the pain that people felt (what researchers called “pain unpleasantness”) was less intense. That’s because the orbitofrontal cortex was activated— this part of the brain is understood to frame (and reframe) the “contextual evaluation of sensory events” — so pain may still have been present, but it didn’t actually feel so painful.

Grow more brain

A Harvard Medical School study that looked at the brains of 17 study participants before and after an 8-week mindfulness program found that you can actually grow more brain in certain places by doing mindfulness meditation, which sounds amazing: “Analyses…confirmed increases in gray matter concentration within the left hippocampus. Whole brain analyses identified increases in the posterior cingulate cortex, the temporo-parietal junction, and the cerebellum in the MBSR [mindfulness meditation] group compared to the controls.” The study authors go on in detail: “The results suggest that participation in MBSR is associated with changes in gray matter concentration in brain regions involved in learning and memory processes, emotion regulation, self-referential processing, and perspective taking.”

Build more brain connections

A 2011 study from UCLA looked specifically at female subjects, and measured the brains (via fcMRI) of two groups — those who did mindfulness meditation for 8 weeks and those who didn’t. They found that among the meditators, there were better connections between the parts of the brains linked with sight and sound, as well as greater focus in those areas. What does that mean? “These findings suggest that 8 weeks of mindfulness meditation training alters intrinsic functional connectivity in ways that may reflect a more consistent attentional focus, enhanced sensory processing, and reflective awareness of sensory experience.”

Modulate emotional response

A 2013 study via the University of Zurich involved giving a short mindfulness session to 24 people while 22 others (the controls) didn’t participate. Researchers found that those who had been given the mindfulness session were less reactive when shown negative imagery. Through fMRIs, the researchers could see that there was simply less stimulation in the parts of the brain involved in processing emotions (the amygdala, and the parahippocampal gyrus) in the meditators, compared to the controls, who got more upset. According to the study abstract, “…more mindful individuals required less regulatory resources to attenuate emotional arousal. Our findings suggest emotion regulatory effects of a short mindfulness intervention on a neurobiological level.” Being able to keep emotionally calm (or at least calmer) in difficult situations can lead to lower stress levels and is physically healthier, since stress hormones are reduced.

credit: Starre Vartan

7 steps to a longer life

Earlier this summer, I attended a conference on “life extension” at Cambridge University in the U.K. Scientists from around the world had descended on this small English city to discuss ways of making immortality a reality.

Some claimed that we could be genetically engineered to make us live forever, while others insisted that progressively replacing worn-out body parts with new ones grown in a lab was the way forward.

Although the field of human life extension is making rapid progress, it struck me that the scientists at the conference had missed one of the most obvious ways of extending human life: mindfulness meditation.

Although mindfulness extends human life by reducing anxiety, stress and depression, it also lengthens subjective life span. That is, because mindfulness helps us live “in the moment” rather than trapped inside a foggy daydream, we fully experience more of life, and therefore our life span is effectively increased.

Let me explain. Without realizing it, most of us spend much of our time trapped inside the “busy-ness” of daily life. We are effectively unconscious to the world and sleepwalk through our days. Being locked inside such busyness can erode a vast chunk of our life by stealing our time. Take a moment to look at your own life:

Do you find it difficult to stay focused on what’s happening in the present?
Does it seem as if you are “running on automatic,” that is, without much awareness of what you’re doing?
Do you rush through activities without being really attentive to them?
Do you get so focused on the goal you want to achieve that you lose touch with what you are doing right now to get there?
Do you find yourself preoccupied with the future or the past?
In other words, are you driven by the daily routines that force you to live in your head rather than in your life?
Now extrapolate this to the life you have left to you. If you are 30 years old, then, with a life expectancy of around 80, you have 50 years left. But if you are only truly conscious and aware of every moment for perhaps two out of 16 hours a day (which is not unreasonable), your life expectancy is only another six years and three months. You’ll probably spend more time in meetings with your boss!

If a friend told you that she had just been diagnosed with a terminal disease that will kill her in six years, you would be filled with grief and try to comfort her. Yet, without realizing it, you may be daydreaming along such a path yourself.

If you could double the number of hours that you were truly alive each day, then, in effect, you would be doubling your life expectancy. It would be like living to 130. Now imagine tripling or quadrupling the time you are truly alive. People spend hundreds of thousands of dollars — literally — on expensive drugs and unproven vitamin cocktails to gain an extra few years of life; others are funding research in universities to try to extend the human life span. But you can achieve the same effect by learning to live mindfully — waking up to your life.

Quantity isn’t everything, of course. But those who practice mindfulness are also less anxious and stressed, as well as more relaxed, fulfilled and energized, so not only does life seem longer as it slows down and you begin to “show up for it,” but it seems happier, too.

In our book “Mindfulness,” Mark Williams and I map out a path to living a happier and more harmonious life using mindfulness meditation. The technique is based on Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, which professor Williams developed at the U.K.’s Oxford University and with his colleagues at the universities of Cambridge and Toronto.

Although the full program lasts eight weeks, here are seven steps that will help get you started:

1. Go for a walk. Walking is one of the finest exercises and a brilliant stress reliever and mood booster. A good walk can put the world in perspective and soothe your frayed nerves. If you really want to feel alive, go for a walk in the wind or rain!

2. Take time to breathe. Whenever you feel tired, angry, stressed, anxious or unhappy, take a three-minute breathing space. It acts as a bridge between the longer formal meditations in our book and the demands of daily life. See it as a breath of fresh air.

3. Change chairs. Stress tends to drive us in ever-decreasing circles. It’s easy to end up like a hamster trapped in its wheel, forever running but never getting anywhere. You can step outside such stressful cycles by consciously breaking some of your most ingrained habits. So why not see if you can notice which chairs you normally sit on at home, in a café or bar, or at work (during meetings, for example). Make a deliberate choice to try another chair, or to alter the position of the chair you use. You’ll be surprised by how different the world looks and feels.

Mindfulness and appreciating the here and now
4. Appreciate the here and now. Happiness is looking at the same things with different eyes. Life only happens here, at this very moment. Tomorrow and yesterday are no more than thoughts. So make the best of it.

Which activities, things or people in your life make you feel good? Can you give additional appreciative attention and time to these activities? Consciously write them down and gently resolve to pay them more attention. Can you pause for a moment when pleasant moments occur? Help yourself pause by noticing:

What body sensations you feel at these moments?
What thoughts are around?
What feelings are here?
5. Set up a mindfulness bell. Pick a few ordinary activities from your daily life that you can turn into “mindfulness bells,” that is, reminders to stop and pay attention to things in great detail. Consider turning these moments in your day into bells:
When preparing food. Any food preparation is a great opportunity for mindfulness — vision, hearing, taste, smell, touch. Focus on the feel of the knife as it slices through the different textures of different vegetables, or the smell released as each vegetable is chopped.
When crossing the street. Become a model citizen and use the pedestrian signals as an opportunity to stand quietly and focus on your breath, rather than an opportunity to try to beat the lights.
When listening. Notice when you are not listening, when you start to think of something else, such as what you are going to say in response. Come back to actually listening.
6. Do the Sounds and Thoughts Meditation. Sounds are as compelling as thoughts and just as immaterial and open to interpretation. For this reason, the Sounds and Thoughts Meditation is my personal favorite; it elegantly reveals how the mind conjures up thoughts that can so easily lead us astray. Once you realize this — deep in your heart — then a great many of your stresses and troubles will simply evaporate before your eyes. (You can download the meditation from franticworld.com.)
7. Visit the movies. Ask a friend or family member to go with you to the movies, but this time, with a difference. Go at a set time (say, 7 p.m.) and choose whatever film takes your fancy only once you get there. Often, what makes us happiest in life is the unexpected, the chance encounter or the unpredicted event. Movies are great for all these.

Most of us only go to see a film when there’s something specific we want to watch. If you turn up at a set time and then choose what to see, you may discover that the experience will be totally different. You might end up watching (and loving) a film you’d never normally have considered. This act alone opens your eyes and enhances awareness and choice.

And when you watch the film, forget about all this and simply enjoy yourself!

Credit: Danny Penman

What is your real age?

Your biological age could be a better indicator of your health than your true age.
Forget the candles on your birthday cake; there’s a good chance your biological age could be younger — or older — than your chronological age.

Researchers have defined a signature of 150 RNA genes that indicate healthy aging. Using a “healthy age gene score” derived from that data, they are able to calculate whether people are more at risk of age-related disease, such as Alzheimer’s and osteoporosis. These researchers say biological age can differ substantially from true age, and it’s a better indicator of a person’s health.

“We use birth year, or chronological age, to judge everything from insurance premiums to whether you get a medical procedure or not,” said lead author James Timmons from King’s College London in a statement. “Most people accept that all 60 year olds are not the same, but there has been no reliable test for underlying ‘biological age’.”

In the new study, published in the journal Genome Biology, researchers analyzed genetic material from healthy 65-year-olds to discover the genes that showed signs of healthy aging.

The researchers then used this healthy age gene score to follow a group of 70-year-old subjects. Their theory tested out. Those with higher scores had better overall health, including two key indicators of longevity, cognitive function and kidney function.

Specifically, they found that people with Alzheimer’s disease had lower gene scores.

“This is the first blood test of its kind that has shown that the same set of molecules are regulated in both the blood and the brain regions associated with dementia, and it can help contribute to a dementia diagnosis,” said Timmons. “This also provides strong evidence that dementia in humans could be called a type of ‘accelerated ageing’ or ‘failure to activate the healthy ageing program’.”

Because early intervention is so critical with Alzheimer’s, researchers say this healthy age gene score can be used to help decide which patients are entered into preventive clinical trials long before clinical symptoms appear.

Assuming the study results hold up, having a diagnostic tool to determine Alzheimer’s risk would be tremendously useful, said Eric Topol, a cardiologist/geneticist at Scripps Health, in an interview with The San Diego Union-Tribune.

“They took a pretty systematic approach, but it’s going to require considerably more work,” Topol said. “It’s more in the discovery phase and they have to validate it … What they’re hunting for is a worthy hunt; whether they have it, it’s still very preliminary.”

By: Mary Jo DiLonardo

 

The universe is ringing like a large bell

Ever since the Big Bang, the universe has been ringing. And scientists are just now picking up.

At least, that’s the idea being presented by Lawrence Mead and Harry Ringermacher, two physicists at The University of Southern Mississippi. According to their calculations, the universe has been acting like a giant bell that was rung by the Big Bang, and it is still oscillating to this day, still rippling the fabric of spacetime.

The pair made their discovery while attempting to plot a graph that described the scale of the universe against its age. Their measurements made the most sense when understood in terms of an undulation or “ringing” of the universe that is gradually slowing in its rate of oscillation over time, much like the fading reverberation of a bell that has been rung.

“We found there was more than one such time – in fact multiple oscillations with a frequency of about 7 cycles over the lifetime of the universe. It is space itself that has been speeding up its expansion followed by slowing down 7 times since creation,” explained Ringermacher (who, given his role in this discovery, doesn’t have an ironic name at all).

“The ringing has been decaying and is now very small – much like striking a crystal glass and hearing it ring down,” described Mead.
The theory doesn’t challenge the notion that our universe is expanding overall — a universal expansion is still happening, say the scientists — but the pace of this expansion appears to speed up or slow down depending on where we are in the cycle of oscillation.

These oscillations are also happening on extremely large timescales, each taking over a billion years to occur. So they aren’t something that can be felt in any tangible sense from our experience. So no spacetime tidal waves or space-quakes are expected to suddenly start knocking down buildings or spinning planets out of orbit. But our understanding of how the universe has been shaped since its inception at the Big Bang could certainly be rocked by the discovery.

Ringermacher and Mead acknowledge that their finding must first be reviewed by independent analyses before it can be confirmed, but it at least goes to show that we still have a lot to learn about the behavior and origin of our universe.

credit: Bryan Nelson

 

everybody say AUM

EVERYBODY SAY A-U-M

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
The Holy Bible

In its simplified jist, the Superstring Theory states: at its’ ultimate indivisible level (all) matter is made up of wiggly energy strings that may mingle or migrate away from other strings.
And the Superstring Theory is by majority an accepted and established facticity.
Which implies that you and I and the roof under which we are right now are, essentially, at the fundamental level, made of twisted vibrating energy waves. So what is it that makes us and other things different?
It is the rate of vibration of these strings.
Everything in the universe is made up of pure pulsating energy vibrating at its’ own personal frequency, called resonant frequency. (A secret of matter which makes up one of the seven Hermetic Principles: everything is in motion; everything vibrates.)
As Pythagoras put it, everything from atoms to celestial bodies produces sound vibrations. There is an underlying harmonic principle behind everything.
Even as we sit still and silent, our cells are buzzing a frequency as our strings vibrate.
But as human species, our hearing is limited to the audibility range of 20-20,000 vibrations (20 Hz-20 kHz). Which is merely 2% of available sounds, the rest being cut off from our ears as sub or ultra sonic.
Sound effects over matter and the environment have been proven by many:
Ernst Chladni-German Scientist and father of modern acoustics provided visual proof of sound vibrations over sand, creating geometric patterns.
The Swiss Doctor, Hans Jenny, who carried out cymatic (wave phenomenon) experiments.
Dr. Masaru Emoto, Japanese scientist, who proved how different positive sounds create the most unique geometric water crystals.
The French Bio-energitician Fabian Maman, who discovered that the benign human voice was capable of detonating even rogue cancer cells, destabilizing them and energizing healthy ones.
In fact even as far back as 1665 in recent history, the Dutch scientist Christian Huygens discovered the phenomenon of Entrainment – synchronizing an object to a particular vibration- by means of one powerful object upgrading the vibration of another lesser vibrating object.
Hence, it is a proven fact that :
Different frequencies produce different sounds.
These sounds have different form correlates (as seen by oscilloscopes).
Sound energy has the power to alter molecular structure.

Of Ages Past
The sound A-U-M is not a copyright of any religious denomination. It predates religion- is as old or as new as the eternal Dharma that runs the web of the wide, wide world. It is an existential sound.
But credit must be given where it is due and as regards this, full credit goes to the Pre-Vedic Rishis or sages of yore, who , while surfing in mystic ecstasy the quantum non-local hyperspace, heard this Anahat Nad or Unstruck Sound.
Unstruck- as it was not produced by two objects striking each other.
As they abided in the primal energy-pool of existence, they heard this trinity of sounds ringing out clearly; a trinity that arose from the uber-dynamic, silent-stillness of the Absolute Unity. (Or as the Hindus put it simply- the Brahman)
A-U-M.
These three sounds rose up from beyond the boundaries of existence.
And just as there are three primary colors in nature that give rise to all subsequent ones; these three are primary sounds, which in various permutations give rise to all others.
From that supra-conscious plane, the rishis brought this arch string sound to the gross planet for the benefit of all sentient creatures, so that one would anchor in it, and thereby elevate to the divine reality of which this was a living symbol. They gave us Nada Yoga, or Yoga of Sound.
Sanskrit has never been a linguistic language. It was always a phonetic, sound-driven means of communication, intended to cause the cells to beat at a higher frequency, to reach a higher level of consciousness.
And since it was known even then as it is now, that sound travels almost five times faster in water than through air, the physical human apparatus was deemed an optimum conductor of sound energy, 70% of it being constituted by water.
This triad is pregnant with the mysteries of creation and all existential truths. Since it is existential, it is unbound by time, meaning it contains the past, the present, the future in a continuum of eternity.
A-U-M can respectively mean the waking, dreaming and dreamless state. And the fourth element- the silence that follows the three, signifies the Turiya- the state of superconscience.
The ancient Indian text Kathopanishad states: Whoever knows this, obtains whatever he wishes.
It has also been said : He who knows this becomes the gratifier of desires.
Kindly note, the stress is on knows, as opposed to chants, repeats, drones…etc.
And why so?
Because this esoteric triple sound attunes us to the secrets of matter on the physical axis (knowing which one can have mastery over) and attunes us with the higher cosmic reality to which we are all connected (not just random acts of factory production after all, eh).
Where A= creator, U= preserver, M= destroyer.
It is the power behind all and everything, therefore, it liberates.
It has aptly been called the Pranava in Hinduism, as the vibrations swim discreetly throughout the vital breath, prana.
But it has been erroneously mistaken to be a word- which it is not.
It is an intonation, one literally has to fall into tune with it. In it.
And in so doing, we feel each and every cell of ours pulsating actively, for therein we are in harmony with the cosmos.

The Power and the Glory
Since the universe is infinite, each of us- I/You/He/She/It, are the centers of it actually.
And as all sounds emanate out from a point, in attuning to this primal vibration, we too become centers of creation. The very source itself. The heartbeat of existence. That’s one more secret uncovered.
By default, any mantra needs intrinsically to be without any meaning. It needs intrinsically to be just pure sound, that which invokes a feeling.
Therefore, A-U-M.
It is added as a catalytic prefix to all Buddhist and Hindu mantras, lest they render ineffectual.
Just as all sounds have a form corresponding, they have a “feeling” correlate as well. Thus, mantras do away with the thinking process and incite only feeling. A mantra will (gradually) open up a thought-free zone wherein only feelings prevail, making it hospitable for the higher consciousness to descend.
New Age Gurus like Osho suggest that A-U-M is something we strive to become, not monotonously chant x times. Mindless number-oriented repetition only induces sheer ennui, lethargy and well, instant sleep. Not worthy consequences of so omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent a mantra.
The slower we take it, the deeper we move in into innerspace, and the more alert/aware we are, we find it permeating our cellular level, entering our heart chakra. And then, the purpose has been fulfilled.
We need not make any more effort here on, we feel it! We hear it! We be it!! Ultimate!!
But we must start where we are now, here, (which is technically nowhere). So we must first intone it to get anywhere.

Benefits of A-U-M
ჱ Intoning the mantra allows a freeflow of natural pranic energy throughout the body, thereby removing energy blockages, resolving stress and tension.
ჱ Entrainment of the body at the atomic level increases resonance and wholeness. The cells heal and regenerate on their own, regaining their purity.
ჱ A realignment and rebalance of spiritual/emotional/physical bodies takes place. As it clears and empties the mind of toxicity (translate as thoughts), there is an ascension of energy to the higher chakras or planes of consciousness.
ჱ Alpha and theta brainwaves are impacted and stimulated to therapeutically decelerate the rate of respiration, heartbeat and bp. An overall peaceful calm ensues; anxiety, insomnia, indigestion, depression, trauma and pain are all holistically dealt with.
ჱ Diseases occur when there is disharmony in the body. The purifying effect of the tri-sound is a serious disease deterrent.
ჱ Human sound therapy has been seen and proven to be effective in treatment of life threatening cancer and even being used as a palliative cure.

By listening and/or sounding the holy A-U-M, one is adding to the already potent pool of cosmic vibration, an energy system that has been since space-time energized by all those whose rhythms were one with the universe. We can aggrandize that rich tradition by personal application, both for self-gain and the larger good.
For everything we say or hear has an effect on us, others, the environment.
So every time you and I get that natural urge to spit out our favorite four letter word, let’s become a tad bit aware and breathe in these three syllables instead (and tune into the famed Pythagorean music of the spheres).
Feel it now-
Everybody Say A-U-M.

Credit:KATYAYANI CHOWDHRY
KATYAYANI CHOWDHRY IS A FREELANCE/AUTHOR.
HER DEBUT TRILOGY IN SPECULATIVE FICTION, SHUNYATA- BEING FEMININE IS DIVINE, IS NOW AVAILABLE on Amazom

6 time tested way to revitalize your metabolism

We may be able to live without food for three weeks, water for three days and air for three minutes. These are our most basic needs. But to thrive, we also need love, fulfilling relationships and harmony with nature, according to Suhas Kshirsagar in his new book “The Hot Belly Diet.” The quality of those experiences — from breakfast to the bedroom to the wild blue yonder — affects the quality of our health and ultimately of our lives.

Whether we want to lose weight, gain energy, heal from a chronic disease or simply find more meaning, the Hot Belly diet gives a simple yet uncommon prescription from India’s 5,000-year-old holistic medicine of Ayurveda. As a classically trained Ayurvedic doctor, Kshirsagar sees patients with everything from autoimmune conditions and heart disease to obesity and fatigue that all share a common denominator: a weak “digestive fire,” or metabolism. To stoke that fire in the belly, Kshirsagar says it starts, not surprisingly with our gut.

The gut stops here

You’ve probably had gut instincts about something or gut feelings about someone that proved spot-on. The only evidence you had were butterflies in your stomach or a burning desire to take action. Ayurveda looks at the digestive system as a second brain, and new science backs it up.

The Hot Belly diet explains that nerves in our gut actually process information and generate responses just like our gray matter. Research shows our gut can act separately from our brain to independently control our functions! Pretty wild, huh?

Not to Ayurveda, which has long viewed digestion as the cornerstone of health. Kshirsagar says a whopping 70 percent of our immune system lies in the gastrointestinal tract. Whether you want to lose weight or improve immunity, you need to befriend your digestive system. Nutrients from that butternut squash and spinach curry you ate for dinner (see recipe in “The Hot Belly Diet”) feed all your tissues, from arteries to adrenal glands. If digestion is impaired, toxins build up in the organs and over time, cause disease.

Here’s some surprisingly simple gut-nourishing strategies:

Ditch the ice. Just say no to cold, carbonated drinks. Instead of a frosty glass of H20 with dinner, drink it room temperature or warm instead. (I ask food servers all the time and they never flinch.) Cold water extinguishes digestive enzymes just when you need them to break down that Caesar salad. (Raw vegetables require more digestive power than cooked ones.)
Better yet, drink warm water throughout the day to stoke your metabolism, increase the absorption of food (think less bloating, gas and belching), lose weight and dispel toxins. When possible, boil water for 10 minutes before drinking to purify and energize it. We are made of about 70 percent water after all, and interestingly, more than 70 percent of the earth is covered in water, NASA says.
Make a medicinal beverage by adding a slice of alkalizing lemon, warming ginger or herbal tea to hot water. The Hot Belly diet also suggests spicing it up with cinnamon, mint, thyme or turmeric.
Add digestion-enhancing spices to your meals, such as fresh ginger, cumin, black pepper, turmeric, and fenugreek.
woman at farmers market surrounded by vegetables
Try to shop at farmers markets or natural food stores.

It’s about the prana

You may have seen the Sanskrit word prana written on yoga T-shirts. It translates into energy or life force. We extract energy from food. It stands to reason that freshly harvested, whole foods carry more nutrients than processed flours, sugars and fats manufactured in a factory or pesticide-treated produce shipped thousands of miles from the seed to your spoon.

According to the Hot Belly diet, one out of two Americans eats fast food every day. One out of four people drink at least one sugary soda. Is it no wonder more than two-thirds of adults are overweight in the U.S.? Those rates have tripled since 1980, and we’re foisting unhealthy habits on our youngest citizens. One out of every three American children is overweight.

We know now that lifestyle causes up to 80 percent of all illness, according to Kshirsagar. The glass-half-full part: Diet, exercise and stress management can prevent, or even reverse, four-fifths of chronic disease. Empowering, right? Ayurveda goes beyond the typical “eat your veggies” prescription to say what goes into your mouth is only as nutritious as the prana it contains.

The Hot Belly diet fix: Eat super foods made in and by nature. If you can, shop at farmers markets or natural food stores where groceries are organic and non-GMO. Favor seasonal vegetables and fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, sprouts and lean proteins. Avoid simple starches including flour and white sugar, as well as alcohol, red meat and leftovers. “The wisdom we’re talking about lies in eating foods that are fresh, alive and vibrant,” Kshirsagar says.

Feed your genes

If you climb on a surfboard and do nothing, you’ll soon be under water. Kshirsagar likens this to the dynamism of our body. Our molecules literally respond to the quality of our environment. As we surf life, it’s up to us to ride waves of food, water, air, thoughts, livelihood, people and purposes that are nourishing. It just feels better. And, it actually changes the expression of our genes. Seriously.

Ancient Ayurveda and modern epigenetics reach the same conclusion: genes are not fixed. The Hot Belly diet says just 10 percent of diseases are genetic.

“The old rule was your genes are mechanistic,” Kshirsagar explained by phone. “Once you inherit those from your parents, you can’t change those. Now we understand you can turn your genes on and off. You can actually change your brain structure.”

Imagine the body as an energy and information field with particles integrating and disintegrating in every moment. Take exercise. New science proves that physical activity literally reverses the aging process by altering how genes act. In 2008, Canadian researchers who put seniors on a six-month strength training protocol found the sexagenarians’ strength shot up 50 percent. Not too shocking. What did surprise the scientific community: Seniors showed changes at the genetic level comparable to their 20-something counterparts.

We’re wired to move. The Hot Belly diet recommends doing something active every day. A walk after lunch or dinner works wonders for digestion. Not only does movement improve circulation, release happy-feeling endorphins and turn on good genes, you may feel better in your blue jeans.

Rise, set and dine with the sun

Since we Homo sapiens migrated indoors, we often overlook that teaming ball of fire that powers our solar system. Like all life, we’re inextricably tied to the sun, which regulates when biochemicals, acids, hormones and other substances are released in our body. Our digestive fire runs hottest at high noon, for instance. Why? The sun is literally highest in the sky and in Ayurveda we have the same element of fire within us — along with water, earth, space and air.

“I see so many patients in my practice that eat whenever they want, they sleep whenever they want, they have sex whenever they want. They are totally violating all the rhythms of nature,” Kshirsagar says. “When they are sick they would like to find a natural cure for their unnatural living. Ayurveda is a true natural medicine. It talks about respecting food, air and water that is given to us free by mother nature.”

Recent studies indeed show when people consume most of their calories midday, they lose weight compared to people who eat the same number of calories later in the day, according to the Hot Belly diet. If you want to improve your metabolism, make lunch your primary main meal and eat a light supper. I experimented with this protocol when writing about Ayurveda’s ideal daily routine and lost 12 pounds in a few months, even though that wasn’t my intention. (I feel so much better skipping a heavy dinner that I’ve continued this regimen and haven’t regained the weight.)

Here’s the Hot Belly diet meal plan to maximize your digestive fire, shed pounds and just plain feel better:

Eat breakfast between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m.
Indulge in lunch as your heartiest meal from noon to 1 p.m. If your diet includes harder-to-digest foods such as meat, dairy, nuts and raw vegetables, you can best metabolize them midday. Only eat until you’re about two-thirds full, leaving space for your stomach to digest all that food!
Dine lightly for supper before 7 p.m. on soups, cooked vegetables, grains and other vegetarian fare.
Midnight munchies sit partly undigested in your GI tract, packing on pounds instead of infusing you with prana. If you wake up feeling groggy, eat dinner earlier, skip seconds and notice if you feel better the next morning. Ayurveda calls sleep the “diet of the mind.”
In “The Hot Belly Diet,” Kshirsagar explains the body metabolizes waste and revitalizes our immune system primarily between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. If we’re awake during those hours we lose vital functions that don’t happen any other time. No wonder studies show poor sleep habits contribute to brain fog, memory loss, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and depression, according to the Hot Belly diet.

Let us eat while we eat and fast while we fast

Wolfing down a burrito at your desk, binging on leftovers and Showtime or snacking while surfing Instagram — sound familiar? What about grazing throughout the day while doing just about anything? In a food and media-saturated land, we tend to treat eating as a robotic nuisance, forgetting what we put into our mouths gives us the fuel to live and literally becomes our bodies. Staring at an electronic screen while eating may be the social norm, but there are downsides. The obvious one: We miss our body’s fullness cues and eat more. Distracted eating also compromises our digestion since we’re not taking the time to chew properly, the first step in breaking down food. And Ayurveda contends we can only digest so much at once — whether that’s food, drink or information.

Hot Belly Diet Author, Suhas KshirsagarHere’s a simple fix that may take practice for us multi-tasking moguls: Take small bites, savor the smells and flavors of your meal, notice how it feels in your mouth. Try eating with your left, or less dominant, hand to slow you down. Before eating, Kshirsagar also suggests looking down at your plate and asking, “Do I think this is good for me to eat at this time?”

Then, when you’re sated, stop eating. That’s right, don’t eat again until your next meal. “Of all the lessons I teach, one of the most important one goes against conventional dieting wisdom that says ‘you should never wait until you’re hungry to eat,’” Kshirsagar says. “This is perhaps one of the most harmful pieces of advice out there in diet circles. Hunger is a vital marker of health.”

He says appetite means digestive acids and enzymes are building. If you snack between meals, especially when you’re not hungry, you sap your metabolism, storing excess fuel as fat and toxins. Remember, our DNA is still wired from our ancestors who, by necessity, went long stretches without food while hunting and gathering. We may fly by a drive-through for a double cheeseburger, supersize French fries and 32-ounce soda, but our biology is designed to work up an appetite before feasting on something as labor-intensive as meat.

Sure enough, the New York Academy of Sciences published a study in 2002 stating that grazing all day can put one at risk for Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke, according to the Hot Belly diet. NBC News reported on a 2013 study showing diabetics who ate only a large breakfast and lunch lost more weight than those who consumed six mini meals with the same number of calories. Kshirsagar says we’re made to relish well-deserved meals when we’re truly hungry. Ayurveda’s takeaway is to find pleasure in food when you do eat, offering thanks for this bounty with your attention.

Scenery, silence and sex

Lest you think Ayurveda is about deprivation, Kshirsagar advocates cultivating a healthy sex life. “Just as we need water, food, and oxygen to live, so do we need to practice one of the greatest creative forces through which we can express and share our love,” he writes in “The Hot Belly Diet.” Not only can lovemaking be a potent source of pleasure and intimate bonding with our partner, science shows that sexual appetite and performance is indicative of overall health and longevity.

As you’re probably gathering, Ayurveda advocates that our well-being rests on the health of our relationships with ourselves, others and the greater world around us. Nature can be a portal into our place in a grander picture. With lives that are electronically connected 24/7, Kshirsagar believes it’s even more essential to disconnect from that flat stream and experience the living sensations of the natural world.

Walk, hike, swim or cycle in the fresh air. Explore local parks. Feel your feet sink into the grass, sand or dirt. Move your chair to a skyward window. Bathe in the metamorphosis of dawn and dusk. Stargaze on a clear night. Whether in nature or somewhere private, find a few minutes for quiet self-reflection every day. Ask how your body feels. And your heart.

“Slowing down aligns you with what’s happening around you in the universe,” Kshirsagar says. “I always like to say to my patients for fast acting relief, try slowing down. When you find times of quietude and silence, this is the language nature speaks. You’re able to turn into that language which is very nourishing.” Ayurveda speaks of immortality, not that the body is immortal. Rather that there is a part of our self that is never born and never dies.

Credit: Rebecca Tolin

12 Essential Rules to Live More Like a Zen Monk

I’m not a Zen monk, nor will I ever become one. However, I find great inspiration in the way they try to live their lives: the simplicity of their lives, the concentration and mindfulness of every activity, the calm and peace they find in their days.

I’m not a Zen monk, nor will I ever become one. However, I find great inspiration in the way they try to live their lives: the simplicity of their lives, the concentration and mindfulness of every activity, the calm and peace they find in their days.

You probably don’t want to become a Zen monk either, but you can live your life in a more Zen-like manner by following a few simple rules.

Why live more like a Zen monk? Because who among us can’t use a little more concentration, tranquility, and mindfulness in our lives? Because Zen monks for hundreds of years have devoted their lives to being present in everything they do, to being dedicated and to serving others. Because it serves as an example for our lives, and whether we ever really reach that ideal is not the point.

One of my favorite Zen monks, Thich Nhat Hanh, simplified the rules in just a few words: “Smile, breathe and go slowly.” It doesn’t get any better than that.

However, for those who would like a little more detail, I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve discovered to work very well in my experiments with Zen-like living. I am no Zen master … I am not even a Zen Buddhist. However, I’ve found that there are certain principles that can be applied to any life, no matter what your religious beliefs or what your standard of living.

“Zen is not some kind of excitement, but concentration on our usual everyday routine.” – Shunryu Suzuki

  1. Do one thing at a time. This rule (and some of the others that follow) will be familiar to long-time Zen Habits readers. It’s part of my philosophy, and it’s also a part of the life of a Zen monk: single-task, don’t multi-task. When you’re pouring water, just pour water. When you’re eating, just eat. When you’re bathing, just bathe. Don’t try to knock off a few tasks while eating or bathing. Zen proverb: “When walking, walk. When eating, eat.”
  2. Do it slowly and deliberately. You can do one task at a time, but also rush that task. Instead, take your time, and move slowly. Make your actions deliberate, not rushed and random. It takes practice, but it helps you focus on the task.
  3. Do it completely. Put your mind completely on the task. Don’t move on to the next task until you’re finished. If, for some reason, you have no choice but to move on to something else, try to at least put away the unfinished task and clean up after yourself. If you prepare a sandwich, don’t start eating it until you’ve put away the stuff you used to prepare it, wiped down the counter, and washed the dishes used for preparation. Then you’re done with that task, and can focus more completely on the next task.
  4. Do less. A Zen monk doesn’t lead a lazy life: he wakes early and has a day filled with work. However, he doesn’t have an unending task list either — there are certain things he’s going to do today, and no more. If you do less, you can do those things more slowly, more completely and with more concentration. If you fill your day with tasks, you will be rushing from one thing to the next without stopping to think about what you do.
  5. Put space between things. Related to the “Do less” rule, but it’s a way of managing your schedule so that you always have time to complete each task. Don’t schedule things close together — instead, leave room between things on your schedule. That gives you a more relaxed schedule, and leaves space in case one task takes longer than you planned.
  6. Develop rituals. Zen monks have rituals for many things they do, from eating to cleaning to meditation. Ritual gives something a sense of importance — if it’s important enough to have a ritual, it’s important enough to be given your entire attention, and to be done slowly and correctly. You don’t have to learn the Zen monk rituals — you can create your own, for the preparation of food, for eating, for cleaning, for what you do before you start your work, for what you do when you wake up and before you go to bed, for what you do just before exercise. Anything you want, really.
  7. Designate time for certain things. There are certain times in the day of a Zen monk designated for certain activities. A time for for bathing, a time for work, a time for cleaning, a time for eating. This ensures that those things get done regularly. You can designate time for your own activities, whether that be work or cleaning or exercise or quiet contemplation. If it’s important enough to do regularly, consider designating a time for it.
  8. Devote time to sitting. In the life of a Zen monk, sitting meditation (zazen) is one of the most important parts of his day. Each day, there is time designated just for sitting. This meditation is really practice for learning to be present. You can devote time for sitting meditation, or do what I do: I use running as a way to practice being in the moment. You could use any activity in the same way, as long as you do it regularly and practice being present.
  9. Smile and serve others. Zen monks spend part of their day in service to others, whether that be other monks in the monastery or people on the outside world. It teaches them humility, and ensures that their lives are not just selfish, but devoted to others. If you’re a parent, it’s likely you already spend at least some time in service to others in your household, and non-parents may already do this too. Similarly, smiling and being kind to others can be a great way to improve the lives of those around you. Also consider volunteering for charity work.
  10. Make cleaning and cooking become meditation. Aside from the zazen mentioned above, cooking and cleaning are two of the most exalted parts of a Zen monk’s day. They are both great ways to practice mindfulness, and can be great rituals performed each day. If cooking and cleaning seem like boring chores to you, try doing them as a form of meditation. Put your entire mind into those tasks, concentrate, and do them slowly and completely. It could change your entire day (as well as leave you with a cleaner house).
  11. Think about what is necessary. There is little in a Zen monk’s life that isn’t necessary. He doesn’t have a closet full of shoes, or the latest in trendy clothes. He doesn’t have a refrigerator and cabinets full of junk food. He doesn’t have the latest gadgets, cars, televisions, or iPod. He has basic clothing, basic shelter, basic utensils, basic tools, and the most basic food (they eat simple, vegetarian meals consisting usually of rice, miso soup, vegetables, and pickled vegetables). Now, I’m not saying you should live exactly like a Zen monk — I certainly don’t. But it does serve as a reminder that there is much in our lives that aren’t necessary, and it can be useful to give some thought about what we really need, and whether it is important to have all the stuff we have that’s not necessary.
  12. Live simply. The corollary of Rule 11 is that if something isn’t necessary, you can probably live without it. And so to live simply is to rid your life of as many of the unnecessary and unessential things as you can, to make room for the essential. Now, what is essential will be different to each person. For me, my family, my writing, my running and my reading are essential. To others, yoga and spending time with close friends might be essential. For others it will be nursing and volunteering and going to church and collecting comic books. There is no law saying what should be essential for you — but you should consider what is most important to your life, and make room for that by eliminating the other less essential things in your life.

“Before enlightenment chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.” – Wu Li

Source: Zen Habits