“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.”
Lisa Pletzer, guest blogger
It was the first day of my junior year of high school, and my English teacher had just handed each of us a blank notebook.
“You’re all going to keep journals this year,” she said. “I’ll periodically collect them to count pages—not to read—so I want you to feel like you can be totally open and honest.” She told us that our final exam would be writing a paper about our observations of how we’d grown through our journal writings from the entire school year.
I’d always loved to write and had kept a diary in the past. But after a bad experience a couple of years before involving my mother reading my diary (“I thought you were writing a book!”) and discovering my growing interest in having sex with my boyfriend, I’d basically sworn off putting anything in writing. But this, I thought, might be different. It was a school notebook, after all. No reason for anyone to go snooping there!
We’re a nation obsessed with youth. Even if you’re not actively trying to look like you did 10 years ago (or even one year ago), chances are you want to at least feel, and possibly think, younger. Who doesn’t?
“There seems to be a point where people realize that their previously youthful bodies—and minds—are changing, and they want to get back to where they were,” says Hilary Garivaltis, Dean of the Kripalu School of Ayurveda. That’s normal. What isn’t normal—or needn’t be—is the notion that aging has to be filled with inevitable aches and pains. “We shouldn’t expect that we’ll get old and decrepit and that our bodies should hurt,” says Hilary. “We don’t need to suffer inordinately. That’s not necessarily the reality of aging.” Not according to Ayurveda, anyway.
The truth is that our bodies do break down as we get older—that’s fact. As the synovial fluid in the joints starts to wear thin, our bodies become more brittle, causing friction and pain. Bones, joints, and organs are more delicate. In Ayurveda, this also means an excess of vata, the dosha that governs movement in the body. Too much vata can mean dry
How do we bring what we do on the yoga mat into the world? How do we quiet the mind? In this video, Aruni Nan Futuronsky shares her thoughts on how to neutralize suffering and simply be with what is.
Melanie Roche, MA, is a healer in private practice who works with clients worldwide. She served on the faculty of the Barbara Brennan School of Healing at both the Miami and Tokyo campuses, and is now developing her own method, integrating healing with mind-body practices.
Q Describe what you do in 15 words or less.
A Work to heal clients via phone or Skype and in person, and lead workshops internationally.
Q Tell us about a turning point in your life.
A I found a lump in my breast when I was in my early thirties. I had surgery, but also went to an energy healer. That healing was a profound experience—it changed my life, and I switched careers. Now I give healings and teach others how to do the same.
Q What do you love about teaching?
The inherent balance of body, mind, and spirit is our birthright, our natural default, and is always available to us. And what a blessing that is!
Consider the strangely discordant nature of our being. There’s the spirit, already connected to all—deeply quiet, the essence of peace. There’s the mind, eager to rush out of that seat of peace into the illusion of control, into yesterday, while wildly scanning tomorrow. And, finally, there’s the body, which holds the contradictions between the mind and the spirit.
Our minds become the primary operating filter through which we exist. As the mind takes over our experience, our access to the body’s signals weakens and our connection to the spirit diminishes. In order to find the balance between body, mind, and spirit, the mind needs to be trained. Without its training, we deprive ourselves of the depth of information available to us through the body and the spirit. Try these tips to train the mind and re-balance your life:
• At a red light, take three deep breaths. This brief break can help reestablish homeostasis, the body’s relaxation response.
• At work, set an alarm on your phone for a specific time mid-morning. At that point, walk to the restroom, allowing every step to be one of mindful presence. Splash water on your face. Be there, feel it. Enjoy this refreshing, balancing break.
• Take a few minutes at the end of your workday for a mindful transition: Do some simple stretches; go for a short walk. As you release the stress of the workday, you’ll be more relaxed and more available when you return home.
The road from the unattainable to the beauty of the reasonable
Cheryl Kain, guest blogger
“Perfection is the enemy of excellence.”
I spent my teens through my early forties chasing perfectionism, in everything I wore, wrote, performed, thought, ate, and spoke. My deeply insecure core instinctively poured my “flawed” self into countless self-help books, groups, and ways of creating a “perfect” persona. I’ll break it down for you: In search of the perfect body, I starved myself or, at least, politely deprived it. Leaving the house sans perfectly-nonchalant-but-fiercely-hip outfit was not an option. I needed the perfect vibe or I didn’t deserve Los Angeles to see me.
If I wasn’t a full-time, seven-days-a-week yogini, I was a failure. If my singing career didn’t land me a record deal with a major label and a European tour, then what was the use? If I wasn’t an international celebrity already, then why bother? Life felt frustrating, sad, and heartbreakingly unsatisfying.
What’s insidious about perfectionism—or, more accurately, the pursuit of perfection—is that it leads nowhere. Wait, I take that back. For me, it led to frustration, chronic low self-esteem, heart palpitations, extra weight (funny how dieting can do that), and the soul-crushing feeling that nothing in my life would ever be good enough. I could never seem to do or have or be what was perfect.
In the age of over-busy, what does it mean to make every minute count?
A recent op-ed in the New York Times entitled “The ‘Busy’ Trap”—in which writer Tim Kreider describes a 21st-century America dominated by people whose favorite catchphrase is some version of “I’m sooo busy”— drew virtual nods of acknowledgment from across the web. This busyness, Kreider argues, is most often self-imposed: work and activities we’ve taken on, or encouraged our kids to take on, voluntarily. We’re busy because we’re ambitious, and we’re busy because we’re scared of what not being busy says about us. And it’s costing us our physical and mental health, our relationships, and, ironically, our productivity.
“We live with a lot of demands,” says Kripalu Senior Life Coach Aruni Nan Futuronsky. Aruni says that the amount—and the intensity—of stress she’s seeing among her clients has grown stronger and more pervasive over the last few years. She points to the “sandwich generation,” the set of adults tasked with taking care of both their children and their aging parents. At the same time, she says, life’s job is to take us away from the moment. “We’re so infrequently unplugged from work or news that our bodies are literally flooded with cortisol and adrenaline 24 hours a day,” says Aruni. “Our culture does an extraordinary job of making us wacky. Our responsibility is to find ways to reclaim some stillness, no matter what’s going on.”
But haven’t we heard for ages—from everyone from our grandmothers to our gurus, contained in songs on the radio and sermons at church—that we have but one life; we need to ‘make it count’? How do we tell the difference between making the most of every moment and busying ourselves into destruction? It’s actually pretty simple, says Aruni. “Yogically speaking, the way you make every minute count is to literally stop,” she says. “Yoga, and its principles, don’t deny us the external world but help us appreciate it by slowing down, by stopping the constant doing.”