Why Feelings are Smarter than Thoughts & 3 Tips to Translate Them

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Have you ever had a feeling about something but couldn’t explain why you knew it was right? A gut instinct? A hunch?

And have you ever chosen not to listen to that gut instinct simply because you couldn’t give a logical explanation for it, but then regretted ignoring it later?

I know I have! Too many times have I looked back on a situation and thought, “Man, I knew I shouldn’t have done that.” But in the moment mentally convinced myself otherwise.

Why do we ignore our intuition?

I believe it’s because we’ve lost sight of recognising our feelings and sensations as highly intelligent rapid messages coming from our body and greater awareness, and instead emphasised thoughts and mind as the ultimate intelligence.

But really, what’s faster our thoughts or our feelings?

Imagine someone you’re very attracted to has just walked into the room and flashed a big smile and sexy wink at you. What happens first:
a) Your heart rate goes up, you blush, you feel little butterflies etc.
b) You think, ‘He/She is so hot/awesome/amazing/sexy, wow, what does that smile and wink mean? That made me feel good.’

I don’t need a scientific study to tell me that most of us will pick a) . We FEEL the stimulus from our environment first and then our thoughts catch up to categorise, analyse and compartmentalise the experience.

To be fair, the mind does this generally quite rapidly, but the truth is that our sensations are always the first responders to our experience, sending us information about how that environmental stimulus does and will effect us.

How about with our health?

If you’ve ever had any kind of illness what was the first thing that led you to know something wasn’t right? I’d wager quite a big bet that is was a feeling. Maybe simply a physical feeling like pain or fatigue, or sometimes a feeling that’s harder to pin point.

If you think about any of your health issues, how long did you feel that feeling before checking it out further? How often have you ignored it or written it off until it was unbearable to ignore?

And have you ever wished you’d explored that pain or feeling earlier because then it would have been easier to heal, or at least you would have healed sooner and not suffered as long?

I hear people tell me stories like this all the time. And I know that I have regretted ignoring the signs of my body calling out for help far too often. And when I’ve done that they never go quiet they just start yelling louder.

Our feelings are messages from the body.

Sensations and feelings are not arbitrary or mystical, they are simply the way our body communicates to us how environmental influences are impacting us.

The environmental influences could be something we eat or drink, breath, touch, listen to or even see. And bazaar enough, biologically our own thoughts are considered environmental influences.

The science of epigenetic research shows that even our genes respond to environmental stimuli, and the type of thoughts we continually think create a physiological response that actually impacts how genes express.

Not to mentions our state of mind also influence our nervous system, how we digest, breath, our heart rate and so much more.

Feelings are a language and we need to learn how to read them.

Our physical sensations or feelings are the language of the body giving us feedback about how the environment is influencing us as well as how our thoughts our influencing us, and we’d be wise to pay attention and start learning this language.

Doing breath body mindfulness practices like yoga and meditation are one of the greatest ways to become more fluent in the language of feelings and sensations.

Emotions are defined as “strong feelings deriving from one’s circumstances, mood, or relationships with others.” So our emotions too are messages conveying the intelligence of the body that we can listen to and be guided by.

[infobox]3 Tips to Translate Your Feelings

1. Moving and scan your body every morning.

Approach each morning with movement and use it as a question to the self, checking in and seeing how you feel. Once you’ve noticed the dominant sensations arising simply ask, “What is this telling me about my health, life or mind set? What do I need today, right now to feel balanced?”

2. Use Feelings as a GPS Sat Nav System.

I like to think of my sensations in this way, as if they are constantly giving me directions. When I get a bad feeling I take it as a little warning sign saying, “Wrong direction! Wrong direction! Please proceed in the in the other direction.”

Then I simply ask myself, “What is the right direction?” I know it’s the right direction because when I imagine it or start going in that direction is feels good. That simple.

3. Voice Dialogue with Parts of Your Body. 

Voice dialogue is a technique that came from Dr. Hal and Dr. Sidra Stone, psychologists who developed a method of speaking to the different aspects of yourself. Traditionally it is used to speak to the different aspect of your psyche by giving each a voice, but you can also give a voice to various parts of your body.

I’ve work with people who’ve given a voice to their eyes, injured knee that wouldn’t heal, colon and immune system that was having an autoimmune response.

The basic idea is simple to have a conversation with this part of your self. You can do this in your head, while meditating or through journaling.

Begin by asking questions to it. For example, if you’re having digestive issues you could ask your stomach and intestines, “How are you feeling today? What makes you feel that way? What makes you feel good? What makes you feel bad? What would you like to tell me?

Simply allow the response to be natural and as if the stomach were speaking. For example, “I’m feeling a bit bloated today. I couldn’t really process all those almonds. I’d like to tell you just to relax, no need to rush around so much.” Just have a conversations as if it were a friend…after all, we want to befriend our bodies, care for them and love, not put demands on them as if they were lifeless machines. Every single cell in your body carries your soul and inner light, we are far from machine like![/infobox]

Trust your feelings and yourself!

Sadly, most of us weren’t taught these basic skills so we have a lot of doubt or numbness around our feelings and sensations.

Remember this is how we are designed to be and there is so much evolutionary and biological intelligence and validity to our feelings — even if we can’t logically explain them.

Just like learning any language it can be quite overwhelming at first and hard to understand, but the more you practice the easier it becomes until one day you realise you’re fluent and having a fantastic conversation without second guessing.

What are you’re favourite ways to understand the language of feelings and sensations?

Resources:

http://www.sci-news.com/othersciences/psychology/science-positive-psychology-gene-expression-humans-01305.html

http://www.nature.com/scitable/topicpage/epigenetic-influences-and-disease-895

http://www.voicedialogueinternational.com/index-intro.htm

Curiosity, an Act of Self Love?

 

“Curiosity is an act of self love.” Whoa! 10625000_10205131255750845_3181629407312370686_n

I was listening to an interview by Geneen Roth, author of “Women, Food and God” and this statement just rolled off her tongue like it was the most apparent thing ever. 

But for me, in that moment, those words hit me light a lightening bolt. I felt like a cartoon character with bulging eyes and almost jumped up and said, “Eureka!” 

Along my journey of figuring out how to live a content, joyous and healthy life, I’ve again and again come back to two big things. 

No matter if the topic is food and diet, relationships and communication, fitness and yoga practice or business and purpose in life — there seems to be a re-occurring theme. It’s almost like the universe is singing her answers to me in a little mantra. 

I ask, “What should I do with my life?”

She answers, “Self reflect, self love.” 

I cry, “My relationship is falling apart, what should I do?”

She answers, “Self reflect, self love.” 

I tell her, “I totally F*#^ed this one up! I’m lost, desperate, shamed.”

She answers, “Self reflect, self love.” 

I say to her, “My body is sick and I don’t understand why.” 

She answers, “Self reflect, self love.” 

OK, ok, I get it. Self reflect, self love.  

Self reflect. 

And so I do my practice. Sometimes is hard. It’s hard to self reflect, to look inward and see what’s there, when what’s there feels dark and uncomfortable. My throat tightens and the fear of facing a thousand writhing monsters that live in the dark places grips me. 

But I do my practice. I breath. I move. I close my eyes, and simply FEEL it all. It’s harder and takes more courage than any epic warrior sequence or crazy upside down balancing posture. This is the yoga that requires my true warrior energy. 

The Yoga Sutras calls this Svadyaya, self study, and lists it as one of five (meaning it’s pretty important) of the personal practices we need to cultivate for health and enlightenment.  

It’s harder still to stick to it. 

To keep looking, keep being curious and keep breathing when the practice of self reflection starts to get uncomfortable. 

A part of me desperately wants to wait and see what’s there and what will happen if I just relax into the sensations and feelings of observing.  

But, another part of me screams, “Save yourself, run away!” convinced that looking at the dark side will break me. Or worse, become me. 

And there in lies the basis of all of my fears — the belief that I am or can become defined by the uncomfortable mistake, terrible experience, sickness, broken heart, confusion, ect. 

The ironic thing is that when we fear looking at the hard stuff because we don’t want it to consume us, the running away from it ends up controlling us. 

We become like bouncy balls ping ponging around a room. Each time we hit a wall we don’t want to look at we go flying in the opposite direction ad infinitum. Our path becomes determined and controlled by our desire to run away.

I’m fiercely independent, and seeing how running away controls me, motivates me to stop and face those walls. 

So I’ll self reflect, but I’m not going to like what I see or love myself for it. 

I tell myself, “Ok Morgan, I’ll look at that ugly wall. Maybe I just need to admit that this is part of me and I’m ugly, just give in to it.” 

At this point a fascinating thing always happens. I look. I see the ugliness — the pain, the shame, the fear, the anger. I stop the ball bouncing and flying, in other words, I stop my mind spinning me out into stories around this thing. I just see it. 

So many sensations come up in my body, in my throat and heart and belly, and in a way it does break me — breaks me out of the cage of stories I had trapped myself in. 

The minute I really stop and simply observe, the self criticism, worry, judgements and projecting also stop — in it’s places comes a sigh (or sob) of self acceptance. And it is the biggest and most wonderful relief ever! 

Self love. 

This is what Roth meant when she said curiosity is an act of self love. When we truly approach ourselves and our lives with curiosity we step into the observer mind, like a child, not judging and criticising, just wondering and watching. 

All of the wisdom traditions of the world teach us the importance of observing objectively and gazing inward, either through meditation, prayer, chanting, ritual or service. And all of them teach this as a path to liberation, or God, which to me are one in the same. 

Every time I stop the stories I’m reminded of who I was before the story. The innocent child born into this world full of light, peace and purity. And every time I remember that self it feels like coming home. It feels like safety and happiness. And I cry out of relief and joy, just like I always have the feeling of crying when I see my mom after being gone for too long. 

I’m reminded that this is not a game of changing who I am, but of coming back to who I’ve always been, and that it never was and never will be those monsters I make up in my head. And then I feel strong. 

To What Drum Beat Do You Dance? 

 

 

Dancing-Trees

Many of you know that I’ve been jet setting like there’s no tomorrow over the past two months between my Bali yoga retreats and going back to America. And man, only now being back in my regular daily routines am I seeing what a huge positive effect they have on my energy levels and overall health.

Since diving head first into a 9 month Ayurvedic course over a year ago I’ve learned so much more about health and wellness — but the number one thing I’ve gained from these studies is a grasp on the importance of daily routines and the profound impact these simple daily practices have on our health, energy and happiness.

Dinacharya, the Daily Rhythms

The Ayurvedic system calls these daily health practices dinacharya, or “daily rhythms.” As a dancer I like the idea of rhythm and going through the daily routines like moving to a beat that’s both logical and expressive.

All people naturally follow a daily rhythm of one kind or another, repeating the patterns of the day or week. But, what Ayurveda teaches us (and what has changed my life) is learning how to dance our daily routines to the rhythms of nature, both around and within us.

Sadly, much of our culture dances to the modern rhythm of a frantic, consumeristic, media crazed and often erratic beat that is discordant with our own internal rhythms and those of the natural world around us.

We often wake up each morning already feeling behind. We then drink coffee to catch up, race around to get the kids to school, go to work and push ourselves to make deadlines. We consume more sugar and coffee to keep up, with no time to rest or exercise and often struggle with going to bed at night to get the sleep we so desperately need because we’re reciting the todo list of the next day.

Rather than feeling like we’re moving through life with grace and expression, we feel like we’re one step behind and always tripping up or bumping up against issues. It’s hard to be happy when we’re tripping and bumping into things, and not only that, after a while we end up with bruises or worse.

Those bruises are showing up in our culture today as the many lifestyle diseases that come from too much stress such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, obesity, autoimmune disorders, chronic fatigue, depression, anxiety and many other issues that are becoming more and more common.

We get bruised and bumped because even if we want to dance to the modern erratic rhythm, our body biologically functions best in rhythm with nature.

I get it. The beat of modern culture is really loud. 

It’s hard to hear our own inner rhythm or that of nature’s amidst car horns, blaring advertising, mourgages, deadlines, children and bills.

What’s more, non of us live in caves, or plan to for that matter. So, what’s to be done? How do we hear our own natural rhythms and those of nature amongst the cacophony of stressful noise?

What I’ve found, and been taught through the Yogic and Ayurvedic traditions, is that it’s all about creating small, daily routines that keep us in synch with a pace of life that make us thrive. We can take small steps that slowly integrate our modern lives with our ancient biological heritage.

We don’t have to run away from modern culture to feel healthy, but we do have to engage with it more consciously. Part of that conscious engagement is learning some of the basic rhythms of nature that man has been living by for thousands of years and observing how we’ve strayed from tham in the past 100 or so years.

The Ayurvedic tradition breaks the day into six time periods that are each dominated by different elements. All of nature responds to the elemental quality of that time of day, and so do we.

As such, we can either do things that are appropriately suited to that time of day (like letting ourselves get sleepy as the sky darkens and wind down) or not so appropriately suited (like drinking/eating something stimulating to stay up later and not letting our body rest).

The fact is, the more we do things that are out of synch with nature’s rhythms, the more stress we put on our body and various health issues start to arise.

Remember, life is a work in progress, we don’t have to change over night or run away to that cave. 

We can make small continuos tweaks ever moving our life into more alignment with what makes us feel good.

I was first exposed to Ayurveda 10 years ago when I started working at an Ayurvedic Clinic and Spa and I’ve been tweaking and implementing these ideas since.

In the past few years I’ve really put my heart into my dedication to yoga, being healthy (mind body and soul) and finding out what it really means to thrive. I’ve found that I’ve made leaps and bounds with a sense of exploration, humour and community support in making these changes. And truly, it has changed my life.

Because I want others to feel that support and thrive from the benefits of simple daily practices I’ll be writing throughout this month about the daily rhythms.

I’m also offering a free workshop this Saturday called “Nature’s Rhythms Revealed.” It will be at Qi Yoga in Freshwater from 2-3. I’m really looking forward to exploring this with a community of like minded people, and sharing the love! 

Five Senses Sensibility

Five_Senses_by_Pantoja

by Morgan Webert

My Ayurveda teacher this week asked us how we take care of our five senses, after all, these are the channels through which we interact with the world, so it only makes sense (no pun intended) that we ensure they function optimally.

But, when I came to answer the question it sounded something like, “Ummmm, I don’t do anything for me ears, or eyes.” And, while I do have self care routines set in place for my mouth, nose and skin, I now have a greater appreciation and understanding of these routines as a representation of caring for not only my personal health but also my interaction with the world around me.

Below you’ll find a few Ayurvedic tips for keeping your sense organs vibrant and in tune, as well as some of the common ways we tend to neglect or abuse our senses. Try these out at home and let me know how you go, or please share with us some of your favorite five senses self care practices!

Ears & Hearing

We may neglect or abuse our ears by exposing ourselves to loud noises and music, negative self talk or verbal abuse, as well as repeated exposure to cold air and water (surfers, swimmers and ski/snowboarders be warned).

Karna Purna: Ear Oiling A simple practice for the ears is to put about half an eye-dropper’s worth of warm (not too hot) coconut or sesame oil in the ear. Put an old towel over a pillow, lay on your side, drop the oil in one ear and hang out for five minutes. While you’re laying there massage your ear. Both in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine the whole body is mapped out on the ear (just like reflexology on the foot and hand). So massaging the ear not only does feels divine, but it nourishes the whole body including the digestive organs. Turn your head the other direction, let the oil drain out and repeat on the other ear.

Mahavakya: Great Truth Practice To purify the inner ear, especially when damaged by negative self talk or verbal abuse, practice repeating over and over again a great universal truth. Maha means “great” and vakya means “truth” in Sanskrit. Examples of Mahavakya’s: All I need is within me; All is one; I am the whole; There is perfection in everything no matter how it seems; I am love itself; I love myself.

Skin & Touch

Our sense of touch and skin can be dulled or aggravated by unnatural fibers, toxic skin care products, too much sun, lack of nourishing touch and physical abuse or neglect.

Oil Self Massage Our skin is the largest organ of our body constantly interacting with the external world, and it is not a barrier but rather a permeable, dynamic, receptive surface. Anything we place on our skin penetrates into our deeper tissue (and consciousness). To keep this amazing organ nourished and healthy lather up your whole body with oil (coconut, sweet almond or sesame) and let it soak in. This is food for the skin and will keep it supple and strong as well as energetically ground you. Do this daily if you can or at least once a week.

Eyes & Sight

In our modern culture we experience so much visual stimulation and spend a ton of time looking at screens, often leading to strain and over use of the eyes. We also tend to hold back our tears, which is considered abuse of the eyes in Ayurveda.

Trataka: Candle Gazing A traditional yogic practice for purification of the eyes and concentration is gazing at a candle flame. Simply light a candle and stare at the flame as long as you can without blinking. The effort will likely cause your eyes to water as well as focus and calm the mind.

Last Monday morning we had a beautiful impromptu Trataka practice in class when the electricity went out, the energy in the room felt magically calm. I was reminded of an article I read recently about a couple who lived a month by candle light only and reported improved sleep, digestion, connectivity with each other and mindfulness. Simply reducing electric light and screens can give our eyes a needed rest and calm the entire nervous system.

Mouth & Taste

The tongue is a tricky temptress often craving or avoiding particular tastes. But, according to Ayurveda we need to eat all six tastes on a daily basis for optimal health, and avoid or over indulging of particular tastes creates distortion in our tastebuds. Many food chemicals (MSG, artificial flavors, coloring) also create distortion of the tastebuds. And when we lack proper oral care this tremendously powerful sense organ becomes even more dull.

Tongue Scrapping It’s so easy there’s no reason not to do this on a daily basis. Tongue  scrapping first thing in the morning (before drinking anything) is one of the basic daily habits recommend by Ayurveda and can be done with a spoon or tongue scrapper (found at any health food store). This practice will clear the build up of bacteria as well as toxicity the body pushes out through the tongue overnight. Done regularly it will improve sense of taste, bad breath and oral health.

Oil Pulling Another Ayurveda tradition, oil pulling further clears the mouth of bacteria and residual particles simply by swishing a tea spoon full of oil around the mouth for 10-20 minutes. That’s right, those zeros are no mistake, it may seem like a long time but after the first or second attempt it flies by. Try oil pulling while showering or making breakfast. The oil will penetrate the cylindrical pores of the teeth pulling out deep seated bacteria as well as nourish and moisturize the gums. I recommend using organic virgin coconut oil because it tastes the best. Spit the oil out in the trash when finished and brush teeth.

Nose & Smell 

Neglecting the hygiene of our breath channels and sinus pathways leads to serious impairment of oxygenating our brain and body not to mention limiting our receptivity of Prana. We also commonly neglect this sense organ by eating without smelling. Notice how much more you salivate when you really smell the food your eating. Saliva contains  digestive enzymes and is the first process in digestion.

Neti Pot This practice is one of the traditional Yoga Shatkarmas or purification practices. Neti Pots look like small tea pots with long spouts designed for pouring warm salt water up your nose. I know, it sounds terrible, but like the oil pulling after the first attempt it’s really not so bad.

I struggled with sinus infections since childhood and when I first started practicing Neti Pot sinus cleansing I’ll admit it was a bit intense, I think I had a lot of built up mucus that needed to be removed. But after doing it regularly I noticed the darkness under my eyes clearing, a greater ease of breath and fewer and few sinus headaches. I can happily say I haven’t had a sinus infection in well over 5 years now and I attribute it to this practice.

Nostril Oiling Overly dry nostrils can also reduce our sensitivity to smell and create discomfort while breathing. To keep the nostril soft and supple simply dip your little finger in sesame or vitamin E oil and lube up the nostrils. That’s right, I’m giving you permission to stick your finger up your nose. Enjoy!

 

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How body language can change the brain

bodylanguage

by Morgan Webert

We all know the way we think and feel effects our body language, and our body language effects how the world sees and judges us. But, does our body language in turn effect how we think and feel? Or even how we see and judge ourselves?

Harvard professor and sociologist Amy Cuddy has asked just this question and come to some impressive conclusions. Cuddy’s research shows that changing our posture for only two minutes can significantly change our hormone levels, brain chemistry, and as a result our behavior and the outcome of our lives.

Sound familiar? The two thousand year old Yoga Sutras suggest that in all postures we should strive for steadiness (sthira) as well as comfort or ease (sukham) and when we attain this perfect equilibrium in our postures there arises an unimpeded freedom from suffering (2.46-8).

Cuddy focused her question on the body language and physiology of power, analyzing levels of testosterone, statistically higher for confident people or in moments of power, as well as levels of cortisol, statistically lower for confident or low-stress people.

The study essentially asked half the sample group to hold “high power poses” with open chest and arms, tall spine, raised chin and taking up space, while the others held “low power poses” with crossed arms and legs, slouching shoulders and making the body small.

After holding the poses for only two minutes the group underwent a series of stressful tests. In each test she found that all the “high power posers” maintained increased levels of testosterone and decreased levels of cortisol, meaning they were more confident (sthira – steadiness) and less stressed (sukham – at ease), whereas the “low power posers” showed the exact opposite result.

So our postures do indeed change how we think, feel and act! This not doubt is one reason why asanas (Sanskrit for postures) play such a powerful role in our yoga practice. The ancient yogis may not have had access to saliva testing hormones as a means to understand the effects of postures, but what they did have was patients and dedication to observing how these various postures change our thoughts and feelings.

imagesInterestingly, the wisdom passed down to us from these sages does not categorize how each and every asana should or can make us feel. Rather we’ve been given a practice to learn patients and dedication to observation, and discover the effects of the postures for our selves.

Renowned yogi Donna Farhi refers to this aspect of the practice as “embodied awareness” and says that when we practice asanas we try to rediscover the origin of each movement and thus the original meaning of each gesture. She says we cannot do this by simply mimicking or mechanically reproducing the postures, but for the asanas to transform us we must enter the total feeling state of that form.

Cuddy also talked about transformation, saying there’s a lot more to the old adage “fake it ‘till you make it.” Relating her own story of brain injury, told she’d never finish college and then persisting through and acting the part until she became a leading professor at Harvard, she says with conviction that we cannot only fake it until we make it, more importantly we can fake it until we become it.

She emphasized that its not about pretending you’re something you’re not, but rather its about having the confidence to be who you are. In her study she also recorded the group undergoing job interviews and then showed these videos to a panel of judges blind to the hypothesis and even the premiss of the study.

Across the board each of the judges chose to higher individuals from the group who’d done the two minutes of high power poses and non of the ones who’d done the low power poses. The individuals were rated on qualifications, speech and other factors, but Cuddy says the high power posers were bringing their true selves, their presence, and that’s what the judges responded to.

This true self, referred to as our purusa in Sanskrit, is exactly what the Yoga Sutras lead us to Unknownuncover. The purusa is the part of us that is unchanging, in other words, steady and that sees clearly.

Each time we roll out our mat or sit on our meditation cushion and find steadiness and ease in these postures, we literally create a chemical and physiological change in our body, until over time we simple become steady and at ease, our purusa, true self shinning through.