Meditation and Neuroscience

Sugars: the Key to Cancer Immune Therapy

Oct 2 2017

There's the song from Mary Poppins about how a spoonful makes the medicine go down and yes, sugar in right quantity and right timing has a pleasant after buzz, a little perk me up. That little up doses the tiny downs that may happen in a regular day: your friend didn't call (or did) your partner is in a bad mood (or too good a mood), you still want that raise, that promotion...well, anytime we feel just a little under loved we're liable to reach for the sugar of the world to fix the blahs. 
Trouble is, we do that without thinking and that means our thinking get tangled up with the sugar. Literally. Scientists, those pesky interlopers into all human flaws and failings, have run tests that indicate sugar, on a regular basis, reacts in your brain the same way that booze does. So when you've joked in the past about being "a sugar addict" you've been hitting the truth. 
Our brains, particularly the amygdala (old brain, seat of primal passions and as it turns out, rewards) grows differently under the influence of much sugar. The difference is akin to the difference seen in the brains of those overly fond of alcohol. 
What remains to be understood is how much is too much, and what happens to old amyg if I just take one? (cookie, not the whole cake!) 
And also in today's podcast a brief summary of some really exciting news about Cancer Immune Therapy. Professor Caroline Bertozzi gives a great Ted talk about how the cells in our bodies are coated with sugar. It's not the same kind of sugar as the stuff above, but is a chemical sugar and it coats all the cells. 
Our white blood cells Bertozzi explains, approach other cells and taste them. Yes, that's right, just take a big ole bite out of the cell's coating to see if the taste is palatable. If the taste agrees, White Blood Cell carries on, looking for the next taste treat. 
If the taste is off, horrible, not good, White Blood Cell calls in the cavalry, gathers up the missiles and launches an attack: this is your healthy immune system cleansing your body of foreign invaders. 

Every cell in your body has a kind of sugar called sialic acid. Why an acid is called a sugar or a sugar an acid, defies me, but this is what the scientists call it. Sialic acid is in every cell of your body but in cancer cells, the sugar known as sialic acid lies on top of the cell in great profusion. 
Think of a forest, gently swaying with the usual amount of greenery as the normal amount of sugar on your cells. Now think of the Amazon rainforest, deeply dense and compacted with greenery. That's the sialic acid coating on the cancer cell. 
Your immune system, the White Blood Cell, approaches and tastes this sialic acid, but instead of registering this as foreign and distasteful, White Blood Cell falls asleep! 

You recall the sequence in Wizard of Oz where Dorothy and her friends begin to run through the field of poppies because they can see the Emerald City? Then they grow sleepy and lie down because the field is a field of opium and only Glinda the Good Witch can save them with snow? That's almost close to what happens here. 

The White Blood Cells fall asleep but no Glinda is around so the cancer cells just grow and grow. 

Now scientists are finding a way to mow down the extensive green growth (the poppy field in my analogy above) mow it right down so the White Blood Cell then recognizes the cancer cell as bad stuff, and sets the whole immune system to launch. 

It worked for former President Jimmy Carter. That fine man was told he had late stage malignant cancer that had metastasized to his brain. It's hard to imagine more difficult news about your health. Yet he was treated with immune therapy and now his cancer is in remission! 

Some people are calling this the Penicillin Moment for Cancer. I fervently hope so!

God Particle Dust and Housekeeping 

sept 25   2017

Well today I want to talk about the God Particle. I want to but it might be difficult for more than one reason. The first problem is that physicists, self-respecting physicists that is, do not call the Higgs Boson particle, newly discovered in 2012, anything but the Higgs Boson. They avoid the term God Particle yet that is what we know the whole shebang by: God Particle. I’ll have more to say about that in a moment but now, another problem: the Higgs Boson or so called God Particle has never actually been seen. 

This is a curious fact about physics. Most physicists devote their lives to the pursuit of something not only they can’t see, but neither they nor anyone else will ever ever see. 
Having a bit of trouble with this? Consider. When your husband comes home after a hard day’s work and he looks around, he does not see dust. You have been cleaning all day and therefore there is no visible dust. However when he comes home from a hard day’s work on the day before you do the cleaning, he still does not see dust. 

Men have a genetic ability to not see dust and dirt that defies most women’s consciousness. I mean how long does it take before he notices the floor with its geological deposits of debris from last week? How long before he sees the swill accumulating around the toilet, how get the notion. 

Well, physicists are largely men and some women who do not see the particles they devote their lives to. These are the really, really smart among us, who spend years and countless of their dollars in universities to attain PhD’s in Physics in order to spend billions of our dollars to chase something they will never see. Nope, not ever. Not once. If this boggles your mind, refer to the dust paragraphs above. It will help. 

The Higgs Boson has been explained to Steve Paikin of TVO’s Agenda program by Sean Carroll in this way: Imagine you are walking through a room with Margaret Thatcher at your side. The large room is empty and so you both wander through at about the same velocity, looking about and perhaps sharing a word or two although if you talk more than that Ms. Thatcher would want to tax you.
The room is what is known in Physics as a field of energy. Don’t let your minds wander toward dirt and dust! I said don’t and I mean it! You’ll confuse yourselves with images of dust in the room and wondering if the rooms were truly empty might your husband see the dust? Is that an idea? From there you’ll wander around to maybe if the house was completely utterly and totally empty he’d see when dirt accumulates, oh say near the door, as he wipes his shoes and before long we’ll be deconstructing your interior design instead of hanging about with Ms. Thatcher in an empty room. 

Now, you will walk with Margaret Thatcher again, in the same room but this time it is filled with people who are all interested in politics.  This room, which used to be a field when it was empty, now with all the people interested in politics in it, is called the Higgs field and here’s the reason why: as you walk through with Margaret Thatcher everyone wants to talk with her. She stops to talk and small groups gather about her at each step, parting only after they have had the chance to say something like, “The people have no jobs and still you tax them, what’s up with that?” before she makes utterances about cake and floats to the next group. 

That gathering of people is the same as the electrons that gather in the Higgs field! That’s why physicists call it a Higgs field because the electrons gather together and then they break apart! 

The Boson is a wriggle in the Higgs field, similar to the line made by Margaret Thatcher if we were to mark her passage through the room. 

Except when it comes to the Higgs Boson inside the particle tubes inside the very large, large tubes inside the Large Hadron         nobody ever ever sees the particle moving through the field. I’m not sure that anyone sees the field but neither does your husband when comes home see the dust or dirt from his shoes or his coat, flung on the floor. He just stands there when you point it out and looks dumbfounded! 

I believe we need a new breed of physicists, one comprised of housewives, women adept at locating and eliminating dirt and dust and various unwanted elements from places in their homes, women skilled at finding anything in the house, no matter who needs it or where they last lost it, we need the skills of a mother and wife who will find the damn particle and then, then we will call it the Housewives Particle. And the name will hold for everyone! 

Emotional Fluency: with Catherine Sword 
September 11th   2017

Ever have the feeling your life is like the movie Ground Hog Day? Bill Murray makes the point in this film every day may feel very much like the day before. At least from the perspective of how enriched and wondrous life can be, we may feel we're living in the "grey zone." 

That feeling, that something is off but you can't quite put a finger on what, belongs to our culture and our times. Some of it comes from the lack of emotional expression. We are taught from early on, girls as well as boys, to take our tears to our bedroom, don't let others see your nose all shiny from crying and whatever you do don't cry in front of them! 

Joy also gets tamped down and contained through parents saying things like "Don't jump around like that. Sit still" when every cell of our young bodies urges us to do just the opposite. 

These are gentle moments but added together create a mesh through which we begin to live our lives by pleasing others, by trying to be whatever it is others expect of us. And whatever that is, it is not being emotional! 

Emotions make us unique. Your emotional energies will ebb and flow in slightly different ways than mine. And if your emotional energies ebb and flow, your body will zing with good health and a vibrancy for living. 

Doctors and scientists know now that prior to many major illnesses, diabetes, auto-immune diseases such as arthritis, even cancer, many years of depression capsize life into a sea of darkness. The depression may not be something you can put your finger on, but a lingering feeling the parade of life has piped on without you. These deep emotions may be a prelude to any number of physical illnesses. 

That's because emotional energy carries the vitality of our life force. As a Chi master explained "When you have a trauma in one part of your body, say your arm, and your unconscious mind shuts out the pain, that shuts down the flow of energy. Soon oxygen, blood and lymph are also slow in the area. This may make that area ripe for disease." 

By learning to release our emotions safely and deeply, we simultaneously encourage the strong flow of vital energy throughout our whole bodies. When this happens you know this is how you are meant to live. 

Many people fear if they start with their emotions, anger, or despair, or sadness, it will never stop. But emotional energy, like any energy, ebbs and flows in a wave. By learning to ride the wave, consciously letting the energy flow through you as you let yourself express emotions, you discover how emotions like waves, simply run out of steam. 

This understanding makes it easier and easier to let emotions run through your body. As this happens, you discover an enriched and much more satisfying life experience. 

This is just a short introduction to the idea of Emotional Fluency. 
For more or to ask questions, feel free to email me at 

September 4th  2017
Sex, Gender and Rainbows
Today’s topic introduced by Catherine Sword is the multiple facets of gender. Gender as you know is the perceived identity a person has of his or her or their life.
Sex is what we are born into: we are born into a female body or a male body or in some rare cases a body with both sets of genitals. When a doctor screens a pregnant belly with the jelly and the imaging machine, what she or he or they are looking for is the sex of the baby in utero.
Gender is what happens after you are born. Whether environmental influences play much of a part, no one can say. Recently parents have tried to guide their offspring into more fluid sex roles through for instance keeping all guns and all dolls out of the house, so children play with more “gender neutral” toys. One doctor reports her experience in this way. She says she stopped by the playroom door listening as her two-year old daughter crooned away in sweet, soft tones. Since no dolls were in the house, the Dr. was intrigued and peeked inside. She saw her toddler lovingly cooing to a firetruck which she had wrapped up in a blanket. She was saying, “There, there little truck. It will be all right.”
Since gender identity comprises the largest part of how we identify in our lives, it makes sense those who have come to a different sense of themselves will struggle in our culture. This is because our culture was birthed out of the early Christians who believed God allowed, sanctioned, forgave, showed mercy for and interest in only heterosexuals. Further, He only showed those qualities and more to white heterosexual males. That’s the bottom line, you’ll forgive the pun.
Now the white male pays for all the history that has come before. It’s a bad time to be a white heterosexual male, but it’s still better than being in the fluid category or any other category. Our teens are in angst and those for whom gender is a question are more at risk for suicide than those who believe themselves clearly in the category of hetero.
One final comment: we are all confused. Heterosexuality was never the only choice, it was always just the only choice for being in public. Anyone who was different and public such as Oscar Wilde, paid deeply for what was seen as a social transgression.
It was of course simply that Oscar and his ilk made the white heterosexual males feel insecure. If you think about it nearly everything makes the white heterosexual male insecure except a case of 24 and a rifle. But I digress.
The history then of Western European development is strewn with the bodies of those who bravely tried to define themselves differently and received the blows and wallops for it.
Consider the word faggot. It is of course deeply contemptuous and therefore to be stricken from use for any person who calls him or her or themselves human. But the word does describe what happened. When the wood piles were gathered to incinerate gays and lesbians, the arm loads of wood were called faggots. Faggots of wood crisped the skin and cooked the bodies of these people, because the white heterosexual male community (there were white hetero women who believed in the same things, but they had no power) decreed them wrong.
Now we, the white heterosexual community, must make room: in our bathrooms, at our tables, in our hearts and minds for the explosion of descriptors around gender. If we are confused and maybe even a bit scared of these changes, we must take a deep breath and make room for everyone.

for a short discussion of this topic  with Catherine Sword and Charlene Jones go to

Eyes For Health
April 17th  2017

Our eyes take in our world, but we often forget to include them in our quest for health and rest. To help your eyes, try these two exercises.

1/ Palming: find a spot in a darkened room. Put the palms of your hands around the bones circling your eyes. Arranging pillows to support your arms and hands will help. Rest for at least five minutes.

This exercise may feel uncomfortable. If so, reduce the timing until your feel at ease. If you can only tolerate five second to begin, that's fine. Gradually you may build into longer periods of time. 

2/ Sun your Eyes: arrange yourself in a comfortable position in a sunspot—any place where the sun shines directly inside your home. Close your eyes and turn your face directly into the sun. Rest with the sun flooding onto the outside of your eyelids for at least five minutes.

When we use our eyes we encourage our intellect just as when we focus on hearing, we encourage emotional flows in our bodies. If you want to rest your eyes during the day, try focusing for a few minutes on hearing the sounds around you. If your world demands much hearing, try shifting the focus to your eyes for a few minutes throughout the day. You'll reap the benefits in a more relaxed view (no pun intended) of the world! 

GABA Shows Yoga Better Than Walking Exercise

Feb. 13  2017

Isn’t Yoga the same as any gentle exercise, say, walking? The answer is no and science helps us understand why.
A study by Chris C. Streeter  on the effects of GABA resulting from walking as distinct from Yoga yields a positive baseline in favour of Yoga: Yoga produces more GABA than does the same amount of time walking.

Here's what happened. Streeter found suitable subjects and randomly separated them into two groups: walkers and yoga practitioners. Each group practiced their exercise for 60 mins., 3 times weekly for 12 weeks.

Results? The brains of those who practiced yoga compared with those who walked demonstrated greater calm, greater decrease in anxiety, greater ease of sleep, in fact every aspect associated with increased GABA. 

GABA, produced in the thalamus, is a neurotransmitter. Neurotransmitters fill cells that sit between the dendrites in our brains. Dendrites? Think November trees in southern Ontario: bare branches that don't touch. Dendrites sit on the main trunks of brain nerves, called neurons. Dendrites reach out, do not touch but in the presence of a cell surrounding two dendrites, they reach out and hold hands. Their hand holding will have different effects, depending on the neurotransmitter in this case GABA.

GABA increases calm, decreases anxiety, aids sleep, balances mood disorders and its presence indicates increased attention span. This is the result of exercise and especially of practicing Yoga regularly.

Walking provides benefit and is certainly desirable over not exercising! Yoga delivers a larger punch of the feel good stuff, GABA. And isn't feeling better why we practice?

I believe that each of us is a shaman.
Shamanism is the oldest healing modality in the world, and shamans have been found in every indigenous culture. Shamans travel to and work with the spirit world to help bring about healing. Traditionally, shamans-to-be often had a major life changing event or near-death experiences that marked them as a shaman. They then began intensive training to be a shaman.

However, you don’t need to go through intensive training to incorporate shamanic practices into your everyday life. Many of the day-to-day components of shamanism can help you better understand and ground yourself, tap into the wisdom you have within you, and connect you with a higher power.
Here are eight easy ways you can do so:
1.    Spend time in nature: In addition to its beauty and ability to help calm the mind, nature can be a source of inspiration and insight. Pay attention to what catches your eye. Are you seeing the same animal over and over again? Are you drawn to a particular plant or stone? It may have a message for you that can help you with your current life situation. Reflect on the messenger to get the insight.
2.    Work with your power animal: Power animals are here to help us through life. However, like every relationship, your relationship with your power animal needs attention and cultivating to be strong. Spend time getting to know your power animal. Have fun with this! If you can, see a physical version of your power animal in nature, at a zoo, or at an aquarium. Put a photo or likeness of your power animal somewhere where you can see it every day. Have a feast in honor of your power animal and serve food that your power animal eats…even if you have to substitute gummy worms for real worms. Look at what sets your power animal apart from other animals. What characteristics does he have in physical form that you can apply to your life? Has your power animal been referenced in stories or folklore for having certain attributes that have meaning to you?
3.    Meditate: Shamans often use meditation to connect with the wisdom of the spirit world. Begin by finding a comfortable sitting position. State the situation you’d like guidance on, close your eyes, and clear your mind. Focus on your breathing and stay alert. “Watch” for words to come to you – these often are the answers or wisdom you need about a situation.
4.    Record your dreams: When I was training to be a shaman, my dreams increased in frequency and intensity. Dreams are one way that the spirit world speaks to us. Keep a pen and paper near your bed and write down the details of your dreams as soon as you wake up. Spend some time with your dream and the message that it might contain.
5.    Connect with your spirit guides: Much like power animals, each of us has specific spirit guides that work with us throughout our lives. Even if you don’t know your spirit guides by name, you can call on them to help you daily. Our spirit guides are here to help us, but will only do so if asked. Make it a daily practice.
6.    Learn to journey: Journeying is the cornerstone of the shaman’s practice, and it is through journeying that the shaman does his or her healing work. There are many resources that can help you learn to journey, including shamans, in person groups, books and online videos. Find one that you are comfortable with and begin exploring other worlds. Regardless of the resource you choose, I highly recommend you focus your journeys on the Upper and Lower Worlds, since these are filled with loving helping spirits.
7.    Join a Meetup or other group focusing on shamanism: There are many groups out there today – both in person and virtual – that help bring together people interested in shamanism and teach various techniques, such as shamanic journeying and how to find your power animal.
8.    Express gratitude: Underlying all aspects of shamanism is a sense of great gratitude for the love and support we humans receive from the spirit world. Feel and express your gratitude daily for them and each aspect of your life.
Depending on where you are on your personal life journey, some of these practices may appeal to you more than others. Whether you start with one or jump in and try all of these ideas, with regular practice and usage you should find access to greater insights and peace.

Wellness Wednesday    November 23rd 2016 

If you want to advance, retreat! So goes the best advice. 

We gathered this past weekend for a few precious hours of silence and gained buckets of calm, increased clarity and increased joy in living. Safe to say, everyone benefited. Join us next time as Stouffville Yoga Life retreats! 
Retreat creates advance: in physical health, mental clarity and joy of living. 

Benefits of Silent Retreat 

Some of you may have read about experiments by Imke Kirste of Duke University. Mice in her laboratory showed neurogenesis, or new nerve growth in the hippocampus area of their brains following exposure to two hours of silence per day. 
The hippocampus is an area deeply associated with forming and properly storing memories. It takes only a moment of reflection to understand that memory and identity are profoundly connected. Therefore neurons in the  hippocampus conduct energy that informs our sense of self. 

The World Health Organization also studied the effects of Noise Pollution here 

This study concluded 3,000 deaths from heart attacks had been caused primarily by Noise Pollution! 

Silence is indeed golden and increasingly difficult to come by in our daily lives. Stay tuned here and at Stouffville Yoga Life for the next silent retreat opportunity. 

Wellness Wednesdays November 9th 2016
Emotional Yoga 

If you google yoga and depression, or yoga and emotion, you’ll find many articles defining which poses may help for which emotions. 

Typically we try therapy for answers to our emotional life, but Yoga and Meditation both provide prompts toward our Emotional Life. The practice of Yoga and that of Meditation often raise emotions to the surface, emotions that need a deeper look.  

Now you can begin the trail to emotional answers by experiencing Emotional Yoga.
Many cyber sites dedicated to Yoga do explain how the asanas are meant to help you experience your emotions directly. Problem is our culture encourages “keeping in control” and sees any emotional expression as a sign of weakness. “Put it all behind you” rules our lives, both inside and out of the yoga studio. For more on this subject and for information about the upcoming workshop Emotional Yoga, go to  click on Meditation

Emotional Energy is a Yoga in itself. 
A good yoga session satisfies your need for dopamine, that feel good neurotransmitter we all love. A good yoga session does so much to improve quality of life and the physical exercise offered is irreplaceable. During a good Yoga session, emotions may rise, or outside the studio emotional energies may begin to tug at your awareness. 

This awareness may lead to specific questions such as "why do I always feel such rage (jealousy, envy, rejection, abandonment, etc) in that circumstance or around that person?" 

Emotional Yoga involves learning how to experience whatever emotion wants to arise, how to watch it and express it safely. As you go more deeply into Emotional Yoga you will come to know that the deepest emotions, those which will take time to come through, will not be offered to you until you are ready. In other words, you are safe. Even if you wanted to dive in deep right away, it may not happen right away! 
On the other hand, if the Depth has decided you are ready, get into Emotional Yoga to learn how to surf the waves that are about to cross over into conscious recognition. 

Emotional Yoga does not demand physical postures, but does rely upon breath in the same way Physical Yoga does. What Emotional Yoga does is prepare you directly for those emotional waves that come at you when you are in the midst of life itself. That itself is worth a Workshop! 
Saturday November 12th 
between 2 and 4 pm at 
Stouffville Yoga Life  
42 Somerville St 

Bring paper and pen 

Emotional Energy: Our Life Force

Wellness Wednesday October 19th 2016 

Most of us feel helpless in the waves of emotion that sometimes overtake us. We spend our time trying to put our emotions "behind us.” Yet the practice of Yoga is the practice of learning to release emotional energy, to free the flow of emotion. 

Too many of us practice Yoga as another way to invite our Will Power to defeat the natural flow of our emotions and energy, but the asanas are designed to help increase oxygen flow into areas that have formerly been shut down. What does shut down mean? For more go to and click on Meditation   

 Emotional energy lies inside your muscles, sinews, tendons, all parts of your body and responds to signals from the outer world. Further, your emotional signals are based in your personal history. This means you may respond differently from others when it comes to your own emotional systems. 
We are herd animals, so doing anything "differently" feels wrong. Consider our cultural obliteration of tears. No one feels comfortable crying "in public." What does this mean? 

Our culture wants us to always put a Happy Face on, whenever we are in the company of others. Yet we grieve, we feel sad, we hear world news and if we are not already fully desensitized, we feel sad about so much pain in so many places. 
We start to believe "If I once begin to feel my emotions, it'll be all over. I'll never get out of the (pain, sorrow, sadness, fill in your response)." In fact, once you get used to the flow of emotions, how sadness leads to calm leads to laughter, leads to sorrow, leads to grief, leads to...on and on, you find renewed energy in all you do in life. 
Being with emotions is the way through to a calm, steady and loving life. 
Come to my workshop, 
November 12th between 2 and 4 pm 
at the beautiful Stouffville Yoga Studio in downtown Stouffville. (Call the studio to pre-register 905-591-5433). Begin to feel comfortable with your emotions and start living with all your energy! 

Wellness Wednesday October 12  2016

In honour of Breast Cancer awareness month here is a meditation given to a room of students in the last months of his life by my teacher Namgyal Rinpoche.

Start with breathing and stretching gently, then sit comfortably.
Encourage feelings of well-being and calm within then imagine a pond of lotus flowers, fully opened at your Divine Eye or Deva Chakra.
demonstration of chakra colours in order

The Divine Eye or Deva Chakra is an energetic point in the centre of your head, behind where your eyebrows meet. When we meditate on this centre with the colour WHITE (as the thousands year old tradition of Tibetan Buddhism instructs)  we encourage one of the five main experiences of expansion of Consciousness.

In this meditation imagine a pond with lotuses floating beautifully through it, perhaps in pink, but whatever colour rises, at your Deva Chakra in the centre of your head behind where your eyebrows meet.
lotuses demonstrate the visualization to accompany breast cancer meditation

Imagine this for ten or fifteen minutes as regularly as possible to help prevent breast cancer. ALWAYS follow your doctor’s instructions, do self exams and have regular check ups.

The foundation of neuroscience data about meditation and its positive effects on our brains comes from the labs of Dr. Richard Davidson, founder of the Centre for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Dr. Davidson is a long time student of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. In some renditions, it was the suggestion of His Holiness some twenty years ago that the young Neuroscientist Dr. Davidson explore the effects on the brain of meditation. 

Through the wisdom of Namgyal Rinpoche comes the simple meditation above. Practiced regularly it will help strengthen breast tissue toward health. How does this happen? For more about how creating images in our minds affects our bodies, our health and even our sense of who we are, discover Medicine Buddha/Medicine Mind. The book is offered as a free audio in four episodes on this site. Go to Podcasts and scroll down to the bottom. There you'll find the book in audio version. 
Or go here  to order a copy for yourself. It's a short book and one that's easy to read. 

While it is true meditation has profoundly positive effects on practitioners, understand meditation is not the goal. Being able to sit for endless hours is not the goal. The outcome we desire is Awareness. Study, devotion, even exploration of a craft provide our minds with many desirable results. That's from a woman who has meditated and studied meditation for fifty years! 

Wellness Wednesday October 5, 2016

Spot Check

Take a moment right now to spot check on muscle tension within your body. Start at the top of your head and move gently, slowly go down through your body including your arms to your fingertips and your feet to your toes.Where you find tension, breathe in deeply, 
demonstrating deep breathing

scrunch those muscles even more tensely, then release breath and muscles at the same time. 

You’ll soon feel that lovely tingle of oxygen flowing through your body! Oxygen replaces the held tensions and you feel better!

The effect on your body will be about the same as having a massage, but with the advantage you can practice this technique anywhere—your chair, while walking, wherever you are. 
To deepen the experience try this autogenic training just before sleep. 
While lying in your bed, start with your feet. Scrunch them up and hold tightly as you take in a big lungful of air. Now release air and muscles at the same moment. Ahhhh!

Go to your calves, up through your thighs, and so on, scrunching and deep releasing with your breath each set of muscles in your body. If you come to your head and face and you aren't asleep already, start all over again. 

You'll soon find the benefits of blissful sleep, deep relaxation and increased oxygen flow can be yours.  

Flurry of Worry? DO Something!

Here’s a more complete list of what to do with worry. The first thing is write down what bothers you. You may not do anything more with whatever's on the list, but the act of writing helps your brain believe you are more in charge. More in charge means less worry. And that's good news.
If possible move. Yes, just get up and change posture, change positions if you can. Breathe as you do this since focusing on breathing will help reroute the number of neural pathways away from worry and into being aware of how the oxygen goes in and out of your lungs. 
If getting up is not possible, because you are in a small room with a number of people in a meeting for instance, or in a car, try tapping your fingers and toes. You may try to synchronize the movements, or let them jazz it up, but either way you are telling your brain you want less energy devoted to worry and more to physical activity. 
Try humming a little tune. Humming in a low volume decreases the number of neuronal highways hosting your worry thoughts like VW's on the Autobahn. The humming will release some of those pesky thoughts dedicated to what you'll do if and when something negative happens. This release allows you to be more present by reducing the amount of neuronal space dedicated to worrying. 
Finally one of the very best things you can do to reduce your worries and improve your state of mind is daydream. That's right. Let your imagination go and find yourself in that peaceful place of beauty and quiet calm. Your brain will respond to this flight of fancy in exactly the same way as if you were really there, on vacation. 

Next time you find yourself in a flurry of worry, try any or all of these ideas: write down a list of what bothers you, move some part or all of your body, focus on your breathing, hum a little tune and imagine yourself in your happy place. It works! 

Imagination Vacation!

Right now give yourself an Imagination Vacation. Select one of your chronic worry items and exchange it for Imagination: see, feel, hear, touch, taste the opposite. No worry but the fulfillment of what you want.
You feel better right?
That’s because our brains do not make difference between what we imagine and what is physically present. So go ahead and imagine, well, every detail of the life you want. It’s a free Imagination Vacation!

Our thoughts create the kinds of hormones, endorphins, all the tiny substances that flood through our bodies. When we imagine already having what we want, the substances we create buoy up a natural feeling of well-being and contentment. As you'll see here whatever our emotional state, our bodies respond.

What's exciting about this is how our brains do not make a difference between what is occurring in our physical world and what our imaginations bring to us! Therefore, when we imagine the life we want, having that new car, having the love of our life, experiencing that adventure, whatever it may be our bodies supply us with the feeling as though we in physical world have already achieved. 

As we experience this and as we practice this state, we share it without effort with everyone else. That's the secret of the Buddhist practice of Loving Kindness and so much more. 

So take an Imagination Vacation right now. For best results, practice regularly throughout today. 

Wellness Wednesday August 31st, 2016

Silence for Greater Brain Power  
Shshshsh…don’t make a sound! Silence, the new/old discovery, encourages growth of brain cells, especially in the hippocampus.
pic of hippocampus
This organ sits (silently we may presume) storing memories, especially those that will go in long term memory.

What’s vitally important about science discovering the power of silence? Imagine an office space where the air holds only hushed sounds of a few conversations, where phones and copy machines and typing, doors and (horror!) music are gone, in favour of that thick soothing layer of no noise.

Consider shopping in stores where the latest blast of someone’s favourite choice of music just doesn’t happen, leaving you to really focus on what you want and why. All right, so that’s not how marketers will approach this information, but maybe, eventually…

If silence affects one area of the brain positively that leads us to consider other areas may also be served by silence. And meditation, that latest path to adding years of positive living, health, well-being to your life span? Uh huh. Silence.

So consider giving yourself a short pause of complete silence. Think of silence as your best ally toward a more peaceful life.  Even ten minutes during a lunch break (look for a museum, a park, a library close by your office) or after work as the de-fusing time between work and home. Or offer a night cap to your day with a period of silence. And sleep better for it. 

Wellness Wednesday  August 24th 2016This fractal stands as the logo for
Logo for Stouffville Yoga Life Studio              Right now what you feel matters. Your feeling in this moment affects your life, yes, but according to Gregg Braden “…The acts of meditation, prayer and emotion are the key to success in changing the outcome, or altering the fabric of reality, as we know it.” So right now, change your mind! It’s that simple. Reach for a more contented place.
How to do this? Memory. Remember when you felt good. Was it on the weekend, during the night, yesterday or last year; it doesn’t matter when, just reach for that memory and that feeling.
Meditation like this begins to shape your life toward the positive. Before long you find your mind reaching for the best, the warmest, the most positive feeling in every moment. With that comes spontaneous gratitude.

For more on meditation and its power to shape your life, consider registering for Meditation Works: Here’s How  on September 10th at Stouffville Yoga Life. We’ll discover, discuss and experience more about meditation and its power to help you live the way you want to: in positive, loving energy.

For a weekly boost, come to Monday night meditation at
42 Somerville St in Stouffville, the Stouffville Yoga Life studio, where we chant for a few minutes, then rest in silence before talking again half an hour later. In just one half hour weekly you strengthen your ability to live in contentment, peace and gratitude. 

Wellness Wednesday August 17th 2016 

You’d like to meditate, but it’s the wrong time. Or you’d like to meditate but your place is the wrong place, too noisy, too much distraction. Ah, yes, you’d like a peaceful, totally quiet place where you would, for sure, sit in ease and perfect your meditation practice.

For meditation practice to help you navigate the turbulence of your daily life, it is best done right in the center of the storm. Try to meditate while your family romps in the next room. Sit quietly yourself, letting the waves of sound roll through you. That meditation garners strength for today’s busy life.

It’s a deep illusion that the perfect time or place for meditation will come to you. Our minds’ ability to create perfection, and to give up whenever perfection does not arise, holds us back from so much,
including beginning meditation practice.

Instead begin your practice within the busyness and imperfection. Arrive at your mat with all the distractions and chaos of your life and just try. With an uncompromising approach, discipline and commitment you will find the perfect quiet, the essential calm place where it has been all along—within.

Join us every Monday evening at 9 pm for half an hour of practice. With regular commitment you'll soon find yourself being the peace in the centre of the storm. 
Then, on September 10th between 2 and 4 pm join me for a full discussion of meditation, how it works according to Neuroscience, and much more. You'll practice a few different styles of meditation, different postures and have the opportunity to ask any questions you have. Tailor your meditation practice to your life. Join me September 10th at 
Stouffville Yoga Life 
42 Somerville St. 

Meditation, Neuroscience, Visualizing

Just picture the cool shade beneath a canopy of tree covering. Feel for a moment in your mind 
the hint of moisture, the cooling darkness. 
Welcome to cooling your internal temperature! It's that easy. 
Our brains do not make the difference between what we imagine and what is physically happening. Therefore on a hot summer day, when you repeat to yourself how hot it is, you actually encourage yourself to experience the heat. 
Turn down the heat by imagining the opposite. Try the shade of this lovely glen! It really is that simple. 

For more on Meditation and Depression, click this link.

Do Chakras have Their Own Colour? 

May 16 2016

Years ago, a secret sign showed how a person had committed to meditation: a thin, red, cotton string worn around the neck. The string acted as a kind of calling card. You knew who was meditating, who was connected already with some teacher from those who had not yet heard the good news about Awakening.
red string used as medicine in Tibetan Buddhism

The thread was often tied in a tiny knot in the centre and signifies the thread of life that connects the student to the teacher. It is considered medicine and is given out after the precious ceremonies central to all Tibetan meditations, the Wongs. 

That was over forty years ago. Now meditation systems, teachers, signs and symbols fill our eyes and the sounds of mantras come to us very easily especially over the internet.
How do we know what we're learning is correct? Take Chakras, for instance. Pictures of a meditating body with the chakras lit up from within abound on free images from the internet. The trouble is, people believe chakras HAVE a colour.
Not true. Chakras are energy centres that resonate within the vibrations of the Nadis, those psychic branches that may be imagined looking like the branches of trees in November here in Canada. The twigs and ends may not touch but reach toward each other. These Nadis carry the energy of Prajna, the basic energy force of everything, everywhere.
This is Tibetan teaching: Prajna, which is energy collects in Nadis, which collect Prajna until Chakras develop.
Colours for Chakras change regularly

Chakras may be thought of as wheels, or flowers. And they are horizontal. That's right. Not vertical, like buttons on your shirt, but horizontal, like when you imagine your breath entering your lungs and you remember to include the back of your lungs too! 3D and horizontal, the chakras have at their centre a hollow tube which runs through the centre of your body. That's the channels about which I'll write more later.
For now, just get this information: Chakras are not any particular colour. The colours seen frequently when Chakras are depicted are there to help us visualize the chakras.

Here's the most important point: when you meditate, if you discover say a light blue colour coming from the area of your chest where the ribs meet, or maybe a bit higher, you are likely seeing a representation of your heart chakra at that moment.

Don't struggle to get that colour another time. Just note it down in your notes at the end of your meditation.
What? You don't take notes? Stay tuned for the way to review and take notes after meditation and why this is important.

Soul Retrieval, Tibetan La Go with Lama Zazup Rinpoche 

May 2  2016

In the centre of the front of this room a Dais rises about 3 ft high, fronted by the brocade of yellow and blue, colours of Medicine Buddha, blazoned with the double Dorje so common in Tibetan iconography. This is where Lama Zazup Rinpoche will sit. 

Soul Retrieval Tibetan La Go with Lama Zazup Rinpoche

The double Dorje hanging from the front of the Dais is one of the central implements in Tibetan Buddhism and symbolizes, among other more esoteric meanings, a steadfastness of consciousness, stability that is unshakable.  

A sudden tingle of memory rings through my body as the air flows with smoke, the sweet scent of Tibetan incense filling the room. Flowers! Carnations of vivid red, pure white, splashy yellow, two large vases on the shrine full of these flowers. The shrine also supports three tiers the top one holding a statue of Medicine Buddha. To the right, food! Plates of goodies, three rounds of fruit and more flowers.

A large tangka of Medicine Buddha
Medicine Buddha helps reconnect wandering soul aspects to physical container

decorates the right side of the Dais. Tibetan prayer flags, their centre picture of a horse running depicting the Tibetan understanding of energy in the human body, hang around the audience, sheets of blue, yellow, green, red and white. The fact that we are in Owen Sound, a small, redneck community in Ontario gives this event a feeling of having arrived from another planet. 

Yet these symbols comfort me, as familiar as they have become through over forty years of attending ceremonies, listening to Teachers, receiving Wongs, and repeating meditation mantras, hours and hours of mantra repetition on my own. What is different this time is this ceremony unfolds as medicine for life force, or as the Tibetans called it, La. This time we're here to experience Soul Retrieval, strengthening and rebuilding life force after it has been weakened. Stay tuned for more. 


     Mandlebrot Set with its repetition amidst infinite potential represents very clearly the exact experience of meditation: meditate, repeat, repeat, repeat then in what seems like a spontaneous splurge of the Universe, Change!

     A new pattern emerges with all its exciting possibilities and sense of freedom from the old.

     Although we hear most frequently these days about Mindfulness Meditation (Kabot-Zinn’s Western clothing on the ancient technique of Vipassana or watching the breath meditations), Tibetan Vajrayana Tantric meditations, along with the classic 40 Meditations, open up the explorer’s experience.

     As varied and unique as some of these practices may be, each bringing its vivid color and exact textured shape to the meditator’s mind, at the center of each sits the one, same intention: release from suffering.

     Like our friend the sitting cat, or Buddha, the Mandlebrot Set in its fascinating ever changing dynamic, meditation offers a path of almost infinite variety and change, with the same centre focus.

     I began meditating when I was 14, learned how to meditate over seven years of travel with my teacher, the contentious Karma Tenzin Dorge Namgyal Rinpoche, proclaimed by His Holiness the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa to be the lineage (reincarnated) Master of the Namgyals: those who bring the teachings to the New World.

     My Teacher, being Western, also brought the New World teachings to the old as he explored travel, deep sea diving, astronomy, computers, sculpting as well as the Western Mysteries of Astrology and Tarot as methods for helping release human suffering. He held nothing back including his many flaws and angers and therefore stands as the best model: a very bad example.

If you would like to try meditating with us by Skype, let me know at:

 If you are interested in how Visualization meditations parallel the latest from Neuroscience, check out my book Medicine Buddha/ Medicine Mind

In Praise of Slow Reading by Tarchin Hearn 

"I don't just read with words. I read with feeling, intuition, physicality and intellectual astuteness. I read with eyes of inter-being." Read more here
snail's pace advises the author about reading

Affirmations: Meditation On The Go! Neuroscience says Listen In and Change Your Brain!

Breast Cancer Healing Visualization Meditation by Namgyal Rinpoche 

DUKKHA: Gateway to the Truth

Sesame Street's Best Meditation!

Connect with me!

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