“Love is not far away; it is as close as your heart.” —Swami Kripalu
It’s not the thoughts that are the problem. It’s what we do with them.
A recent New York Times op-ed took issue with positive thinking. “What if we’re trying too hard to think positive?” asks Oliver Burkeman. According to research, he writes, visualizing a successful outcome, under certain conditions, can make people less likely to achieve it. “Or take affirmations,” he writes, “those cheery slogans intended to lift the user’s mood by repeating them: I am a lovable person! My life is filled with joy! Psychologists at the University of Waterloo concluded that such statements make people with low self-esteem feel worse—not least because telling yourself you’re lovable is liable to provoke the grouchy internal counterargument that, really, you’re not.”
But is this really true? According to the principles of Positive Psychology, focusing on growing happiness, love, success, and strengths through positive thinking is far more effective than trying to overcome anxiety, neuroses, and weakness alone. At the same time, overcoming anxiety and finding happiness needn’t mean denying less desirable emotions, such as fear, anxiety, or sadness. “Negative emotions are fact of life,” says Susan B. Lord, MD, who leads many Kripalu Healthy Living programs. “Instead of thinking about how we can live without them, we should be thinking about how to deal with them.” That is, it’s not negative thinking that‘s the problem—it’s how we choose to react to it. “Sadness is part of life, grief is a part of life, but depression means your sadness has gotten stuck,” she says. “The idea is to be mindful of the kinds of thoughts we have. Some are positive and some are negative. Our lives involve both.”
Western medicine teaches us that good food is the basis for good health. Food has the power to prevent much of the chronic illnesses we experience today and can play a critical part in treating these illnesses in a safe and more balancing way than pharmaceuticals alone. Eating a fresh, whole-foods diet is a very different experience from eating things that have no nutritional value, many of which have properties that can hurt us. Plant-based foods are particularly nourishing and healing as they supply us with nutrients and energy on many levels.
Food nourishes more than our bodies, it nourishes our souls and provides us with cultural meaning. Throughout history, meals have been a natural setting for people to come together. Our religious ceremonies often involve food. It is through food that we love and nourish our babies. Food brings prana, or life force, into our bodies, where it is transformed into energy to sustain us as people living authentic, meaningful lives who serve our communities as much as ourselves. Food touches the deepest levels of who we are as human beings, inviting health and wholeness.
Do you have any traditions or rituals around food that bring meaning to your meals?
Frank Jude Boccio, whose Zen dharma name is Poep Sa, is a yoga teacher and a teacher of Zen Buddhism ordained by Korean Zen Master Samu Sunim. He is also an interfaith minister and long-time student of Thich Nhat Hanh. Here he shares a few simple yet powerful ways to integrate mindfulness practices into your daily life—when driving, working, or even drinking your morning coffee.
A cancer survivor explores bold new directions
When I plopped into the Radiance program’s opening night welcome circle, I was exhausted. That morning, I had attended the memorial service for my dear friend, Dara, who had passed a week before. A couple hundred people gathered to share stories, laughter, tears, and outrage that this beautiful, lively, loving soul had left at age 40, from cancer.
And now, a train ride and time warp later, here I was in the branch-filled Berkshires, sitting in a back jack, meeting eight cancer survivors and our co-leader Maria Sirois. In that moment, “life after cancer” looked to me like throwing a rose on my friend’s coffin and hearing it thud. It looked like crying myself to sleep every night for the last two weeks.
But as I settled in and heard tales of diagnosis and survival, I remembered: Oh. We’re all still here. In my fellow workshoppers—eight people from their 30s through 50s—I saw stress and fear and bravery and resilience and resistance. I saw myself. Diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma seven years ago at age 31, I had almost been forgetting that I was a survivor, too.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) one-quarter of Americans report having occasional sleeplessness, and 10 percent of us struggles with chronic insomnia. In late July, SleepBetter.org released an analysis of the CDC data to help us determine if we are well rested or sleep deprived.
By any measure, challenges to a restful night’s sleep are on the rise, and it’s of concern since sleeping well supports our positive energy, cognitive health, and better moods, as well as our physical health. And most of us have had the experience of how poor sleep can lead to less-than-stellar eating habits. Several recent studies, covered in depth by Michal Breus PhD in the Huffington Post, illustrate the mechanisms by which we are more likely to reach for sweeter, saltier foods when we’re overtired.
Terri Young, guest blogger
One morning each month, from October through May, about 10 students arrive at Poland Spring Yoga, the small yoga studio in Poland Spring, Maine, that I own with my husband, Steve. Their ages range from 65 to 85 years old. During the next hour, we sit in chairs in a circle and explore cultivating awareness through stillness, poetry reading, breathing techniques, and a range of gentle movements and stretches. After class, we move to the living room for chatting, laughter, and fellowship.
This is my favorite class to teach. The openness, joy, and deep sense of community that we all receive from this experience are nothing short of miraculous.
“I never realized yoga was for me—I always thought it was for the younger generation,” one student told me after the first class. Another student confided, with complete amazement, “I never knew I could feel this way!”
“The highest religious principle is Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam: the whole world is one family. No matter what religion we are following, if we cannot love others then we are not following religion but the illusion of religion. Where there is no unity, no love, no harmony among each other, how can there be religion?”
Ashley Winseck, guest blogger For Kripalu Yoga teacher Gregg Day, community involvement is a big deal. “It makes sense to me to be well connected to where you are,” he says. “I’m always looking for the opportunity to do something local—wherever that may be.” And for Gregg, “local” is in the heart of the Berkshires. [...]
I’m sure it goes without saying, but I love having dinner with friends. One of my favorite parts of going to a friend’s home to share a meal is that I get to experience flavors and flavor combinations that I may not include in my own cooking. I also get infusedwith a new energy that serves to wake me up in a way. I love experiencing how each person’s own energy becomes steepedin the food, from what they choose to make to how they make it and how they serve it. Each element becomes part of the meal’s flavor profile, creating an energythat I get to incorporateinto my own being.
I’ve always said that you can’t be truly healthy unless you cook for yourself. Cooking for ourselves is akin to all the other self-care practices we do, from brushing our teeth to getting a good night’s sleep. When we cook for ourselves, we are saying at the deepest levels, “I want to be alive.” When we cook and serve ourselves food filled with prana (life energy) we are declaring, “I really want to be alive and vital!”