Healing approaches

Kundalini yoga: Helping you evolve towards love

love

By Sarah Stollery, kundalini yoga and meditation teacher

Although I have forgotten many of the things I learned in primary school, one that has always stuck with me are the mechanisms that drive evolution. For the most part, species evolve very slowly – until, that is, some cataclysmic change in the environment triggers a rapid shift

Right now, we are on the cusp of one of those cataclysmic movements – and I am not only referring to our physical world as a result of climate change. Our cultural environment is also undergoing a major overhaul.

Human beings have become hyperpolarised. Some of us are angry – we feel cheated, unfairly treated and as though we have no agency to affect our lived experience. For people who feel this way, tolerance and compassion are at an all-time low.

Some of us feel heartsick – we see the earth drowning in plastic and pollution, and fear that the planet’s sixth mass extinction event is well underway. As part of this situation, we feel the exhaustion and sorrow of collective suffering.

Our tolerance is also low as our energy to affect change is zapped by the need to care for ourselves in these tumultuous times. Some of us may not be aware of the collective mood (although we are still affected by it) because we are dealing with the same challenging themes in our personal lives. This situation likewise leaves us with few resources for action and empathy.

But what is at the root of this deep discomfort? Fear. Fear of change as old systems die and new ones arise. Fear of the unknown. Fear of being displaced and, ultimately, annihilated. And it is this deep fear, sometimes masquerading as anger, despair or stress that will provide the necessary trigger for humans to rapidly evolve. 

Within the broad spectrum of yogic philosophy, there are several theories regarding the anatomy of fear and anxiety. Some schools of thought believe these emotions are connected to the psoas muscle, sometimes also known as ‘the muscle of the soul’. Others believe that fear and anxiety can be affected by strengthening the vagus nerve, which plays an important part in the gut-brain connection.

Within the technology of kundalini yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan, the role of the physical body, particularly the nervous and glandular system, is fully acknowledged. But the fear and anxiety within the systems of the subtle, energetic and mental bodies are also recognised as well.

mindfulness

Moving beyond fear

According to kundalini yoga technology, each individual has 10 bodies, only one of which is the physical body. The most important ones for the sake of this discussion are bodies two and three, that is, the negative and positive mind respectively, which roughly correspond to the ‘gut’ part of the brain-gut connection mentioned above.

The role of the negative mind is simple: its objective is to keep you safe. The negative mind says “no” and is risk averse.

The role of the positive mind is to say “yes.” When strong, it sees all of the possibilities available – it is the mental force that drives you forward in life. But when the positive mind is weak, it is fuelled by fears buried in the subconscious.

Together, negative and positive mind send the message to the conscious ego mind that all is not well. A feedback loop is established between the brain and the gut reinforcing a perpetual sense of dread and foreboding.

Of course, some anxiety comes from our own real-time lived experience or from past trauma. But many of us are also affected by the collective mood, which is further exacerbated by the overabundance of terrifying information we are exposed to daily via social media and the news. So how do we break the cycle?

The way forward is to move beyond our fear-based nature and grow beyond the feedback loop between gut and brain by bringing our heart into the mix.

The fourth body is the neutral mind and the fourth chakra is our heart centre. The neutral mind is the objective witness of thought and action. It is entirely free of emotion and can always see fear for the illusion it is.

The heart is another form of mind, or brain, but one that most of us have forgotten how to use. When we begin to drop into our heart space, the feedback loop is interrupted. So we touch into universal love by shining a light into our dark place of fear. 

By developing a neutral mind, we cultivate the awareness required to notice when the fear-based loop is active, which enables us to make an active choice to break the cycle with our practice. There are many established ways to drop into the heart space but this is my current favourite:

Woman meditating on a mountain

Sighing

Posture: Sit comfortably with your spine straight. Place your left hand over your heart and your right hand over your left hand.

Eyes: Closed or partially open staring at the tip of the nose.

Breath: Inhale through the nose. Exhale through the mouth, making a deep sighing sound as you drop your awareness down into your heart. As you continue with this practice, sigh the sound ahhhhhhhhhh. Hold the breath out for as long as is comfortable before taking the next in-breath.

Simply witness and feel any emotions or thoughts that arise.

In her best-selling book, A Return to Love (page 43), Marianne Williamson said: “Our fear-ridden ways are threatening our survival. A thoroughly loving person is like an evolutionary mutation, manifesting a being that puts love first and thus creates the context in which miracles occur. Ultimately, that is the only smart thing to do. It is the only orientation in life which will support our survival.”

By making it a regular practice to enter the heart space – in other words, connecting to the love within us – we have the capacity to heal the separation, or polarisation, that is at the root of our individual and collective fear. And being sufficiently motivated to heal our own fear and anxiety could just be the thing to trigger the mass evolution that would see us morph into a more loving, compassionate, empathetic and peaceful species.

Sarah Stollery

Sarah Stollery is a kundalini yoga and meditation teacher and co-founder of The Cabin, a self-directed learning community for home-educated children. She is passionate about empowering people of all ages and stages of life with the tools to thrive in these challenging times by creating space to learn, explore and integrate a wide range of wellbeing practices.

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Healing approaches

A healthy heart: What’s love got to do with it?

heart-love-romance-6371.jpg

By Anita Ramsden, kinesiologist

The heart represents many things. More than just an organ that pumps oxygenated blood around our bodies to keep us alive, it is also a universal symbol of love and governs our ability to give and receive this vital emotion.

As a result, the kind of language we use in relation to the heart tends to be quite profound. We say things are ‘heartfelt’ and advise others to ‘speak from the heart’ or ‘follow your heart’. The phrase ‘you can’t decide with your head, you need to trust your heart’ is also a common one and positions this important organ as a key link between mind and body.

In physiological terms alone, the heart is an incredible machine. The size of a fist, it weighs about 10oz (283 grams) and beats around 70 times a minute. In that time, it moves five to seven litres of blood around the body, or up to 7,600 litres a day. Without its constant activity, we would die immediately.

The heart also has its own electromagnetic field, which being the largest in the body, permeates every cell and sends signals to our brain. Electrocardiograms (ECG) have indicated that the power of this field is 60 times greater than that of brain waves and can be measured several feet away from the body. The heart and brain synchronise through these energetic impulses and scientists working in the relatively new discipline of neurocardiology believe they are the basis of heart-brain communication.

These scientists have also discovered that the heart is a sensory organ, which consists of 40,000 neurons that are commonly associated with the brain. In fact, according to the HeartMath Institute: “The heart acts as a sophisticated information encoding and processing centre that enables it to learn, remember and make independent functional decisions that do not involve the cerebral cortex” of the brain.

Such information may help to explain why cardiac surgeons counsel patients and family members about the surprising after-effects of some heart transplant surgery. The patient who receives a donated organ can take on the characteristics, memories, tastes and preferences of the donor.

heart-brainlink

Heart-brain link

Recipients may also recall their donor’s personal details and in some instances, recognise and even feel love for their family and friends. In the words of Dr Daniel Keown, a practitioner of both Eastern and Western medicine and author of ‘The Spark in the Machine’, this scenario would appear to indicate that the heart has carried the donor’s memories within itself and shared them with its new recipient’s brain.

But there is also other evidence of a heart-brain link. For example, more heart attacks take place at 9am on a Monday morning than at any other time of the week, possibly due to an association with stressful situations such as work.

Stress-induced or Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, otherwise known as broken heart syndrome, likewise occurs when part of the heart is temporarily no longer able to pump well. This condition is commonly seen in patients following the death of a loved one. Metaphorically and physically, they are heart-broken.

But the heart is just as responsive to love and compassion. According to Deepak Chopra in his book ‘Training the Mind, Healing the Body’, the survival rate of patients who have had a heart attack is 80% higher if they believe their partner loves them. Research also shows that people who are in loving, kind and affectionate relationships experience less hardening of the arteries.

If someone is caught up in negative emotions such as anger, frustration or anxiety, on the other hand, their heart rhythms become more erratic and disordered as the endocrine system responds to the situation and their body goes into fight or flight mode.

Experiencing positive emotions such as appreciation, love or compassion produces the opposite effect though, creating highly ordered or coherent patterns that move the body into a state of peace. The heartbeat becomes even and synchronises with other bodily functions, such as blood pressure, digestion and breathing, which calms everything down.

boy gives flowers

Being kind

Another consideration in this context are the health benefits of being kind. The feelings generated from performing acts of kindness and compassion, or even of simply witnessing them, creates oxytocin – the ‘happiness hormone’ – in our body. Oxytocin, in turn, produces nitric oxide, which softens the walls of our arteries, improves blood flow and reduces blood pressure.

So it makes sense, both for ourselves and others, to choose a day each week to undertake kind acts. As Dr David Hamilton indicates in his books ‘Molecules of Kindness‘ and ‘Born to be Kind’: “We are genetically wired for kindness. The kindness gene, in fact, is 500 million years old – it’s one of our most ancient genes – which is WHY kindness impacts our biochemistry. It’s our deepest nature.”

Hugging someone, including your pet, is also another great way to produce oxytocin. Doing so will lead to a drop in your heart rate, reduce your stress hormones, cut your production of free radicals and lessen inflammation.

A lovely correction technique that I also use from the Creative Kinesiology school of practice is called ‘Heart Appreciation’. You can try it yourself by simply concentrating your mind on someone or something that you really appreciate and feeling how good it feels to do so.

Then breathe the feeling into your heart and let it spread throughout your entire body. Imagine your heart as a cup and watch it overflow. Your whole body will relax and your energy levels will rise significantly. Because it really is about feeling the love at every level – in body, mind and most particularly in the heart.

Anita Ramsden

Anita Ramsden is a kinesiologist. She is emphatic about affecting positive change and her work encourages wellbeing for mind, body and soul. Anita is also a member of the Kinesiology Federation.

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