The Best Way to Get Unstuck
By: Deepak Chopra, M.D.
Sticky is a useful term for experiences that leave a deep impression, because they stick around and at the same time stick like glue. If you find yourself feeling the same emotion over and over again—for example, frustration, anger, anxiety, or depression—you are not living in the present. Instead, the past is coming back for an unwanted visit.
Here are three practical ways to get unstuck, each one suited to a specific issue:
1. Be Present
The present moment is creative, because it opens the way for new thoughts, feelings, and inspiration. Your mind naturally wants to be in the now unless it gets distracted. If you find yourself feeling distracted, stressed, or disengaged, the best thing to do is to center yourself.
The practice is quite simple. Find a place where you can be alone, close your eyes, and take a few deep breaths.
Now center your attention on the heart region in the center of your chest. Breath in deeply by filling your belly region so that it pushes outward. Now breath out, pause for a count of 2, and repeat. This style of controlled breathing is one of the most useful quick ways to become centered, relaxed, and back in the moment.
2. Release Negative Old Beliefs
People very commonly get stuck on beliefs that are discouraging, self-defeating, judgmental, and generally negative. For example, you might find yourself thinking:
Life is unfair.
The world is a threatening place.
To get along, you have to go along.
No one will look out for number one but me.
I’m not really lovable.
I’ve never been all that attractive.
These beliefs get stuck in our minds without knowing where they came from or why we believe them. The way to get unstuck is to do a little investigation. Take any negative belief, and you will see that it lodged in your mind because of the following general conditions:
We believe the first person who told us something.
We believe things that are repeated often.
We believe the people we trust.
We didn’t hear a contrary belief.
When you find yourself stuck on a negative self-belief, something that makes you feel bad about yourself, pose the following questions:
Who first told me this?
Was it repeated a lot?
Why did I trust the person who told me?
Is there reason to believe the opposite?
In other words, you turn around the experiences that made your belief sticky, and by turning them around, the belief becomes less and less sticky. If your mother told you that you aren’t pretty or your father said that you are lazy, why should you automatically trust them? It doesn’t matter how often you heard their opinion. Now that you are an adult, you can separate opinion from fact. Think of experiences that indicated how attractive you are in other people’s eyes or how diligently you applied yourself to a task.
3. Discharge Bad Memories
Perhaps the most common way of being stuck occurs in memory. Old wounds and traumas return, warning us not to repeat something bad that happened in the past. The stickiest part of a memory is its emotional charge, which some psychologists have termed our emotional debt from the past. We stubbornly hold on to old resentments, grievances, fears, and wounded feelings.
This gives us a clue to getting unstuck. Instead of trying to un-remember the time nobody came to your birthday party, focus on the feeling this memory brings up. Memories are hard or impossible to erase, but emotional debt can be discharged.
How to Discharge Sticky Emotions
The following techniques for discharging sticky emotions are easy and natural. Emotions by their very nature rise and fall, and most of the time a cooling-off period suffices to return you to a settled state. But sticky emotions don’t fade away on their own. They ask you to assist by discharging them through various practices.
Technique #1: If you feel an uncomfortable emotion that persists, center yourself and take slow, deep breaths until you feel the emotional charge start to lessen.
Technique #2: If you recognize an emotion that has been around a long time, notice its return, then say: “This is how it once was. I am not in the same place now. Go away.”
Technique #3: With a particularly stubborn emotion, sit quietly with eyes closed and let yourself feel the emotion—do this lightly, not sinking deeply. Take a deep breath and exhale slowly, releasing the emotional energy from your body. It might help to see your breath as a white light carrying the toxic feeling out of you.
Technique #4: If you feel no specific emotion, but rather a general mood of being down, blue, or out of sorts, sit quietly with your attention placed in the region of your heart. Visualize a small white light there, and let it expand. Observe the white light as it expands to fill your whole chest. Now expand it up into your throat, then your head, and up out of the crown of your head.
Take a few minutes to carry this technique through until it feels complete. Now return to your heart and expand the white light again until it fills your chest. Now see it expand downward, filling your abdomen, extending down to your legs, and finally out through the soles of your feet into the earth.
These four techniques can be applied separately or one after the other. But it is important to be patient. Once you use a technique, it will take time for your whole emotional system to adapt to the discharge.
In short, everyone suffers from some kind of stuckness, but now you are in a position to be aware of what is happening and to take steps to get unstuck and live in the now, where reality is renewed and refreshed.
3 Kid-Friendly Meditations Your Children Will Love
By: Melissa Eisler
Whether you’re a parent, teacher, aunt, grandfather, babysitter or otherwise spend time with kids of any age, try out these three practices to introduce kids to meditation and mindfulness.
Meditation, yoga, and other mindfulness practices are more popular, and helpful, than ever. Studies have shown that teaching kids mindfulness practices can build students’ attentiveness, respect for fellow classmates, self control, and empathy, all while reducing stress, hyperactive behavior, ADHD symptoms, and depression.
Yet only 1.6 percent of U.S. children meditate, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
Giving kids the tools to help them fend off negative thoughts and behaviors, build self-confidence, focus, and treat others and themselves with respect and appreciation is a gift they will have for the rest of their lives.
U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan instituted the Skills for Life program in Ohio schools to teach deep breathing, meditation, and other problem-solving skills to elementary-aged kids. What they found was that these practices helped kids balance their emotions, cut down on bullying, and increased awareness, and both students and teachers are excited about the program.
Another study done in the San Francisco Unified School District with more than 3,000 students found dramatic improvement in overall academic performance, including a spike in math test scores for students who practiced mindfulness meditation and “quiet time.” In one rough middle school, where gunfire, fighting, and suspension rates were the highest in San Francisco, when “quiet time” was integrated into curriculum, suspension rates dropped by 45 percent, attendance rose, and grades improved significantly.
Whether you’re a parent, teacher, aunt, grandfather, babysitter or otherwise spend time with kids of any age, try out these three practices to introduce kids to meditation and mindfulness.
1. The Balloon
This guided meditation brings a visual component to a very simple deep breathing exercise. You can do this standing or seated.
Relax your body and begin to take deep inhales and slow exhales through the nose.
Start to take a slow, deep breath to fill your belly up with air, as if you’re trying to blow up a big balloon. Expand your belly as much as you can.
Slowly let the air out of the balloon (through the nose) as you release the breath from the belly.
Encourage your kids to feel their entire body relax each time they exhale, each time air is slowly being released from the balloon. You can even make a “hissing” noise to encourage them to slow down the exhale even more, “Like letting air out of the balloon.”
Continue for several minutes.
If the child you’re teaching is younger, you can add a little more detail and fun to the exercise to keep them engaged. Young kids, especially under the age of 6, love the extra movement when they’re learning to bring awareness to their breath. Encourage them to stand up in a relaxed way and follow these steps:
Ask them to think of their favorite color and picture a giant balloon of that color in their mind.
Then have them take a slow, deep inhale through the nose, filling up their tummies with air as if trying to blow up a giant [their favorite color] balloon. As an option, you can also have them stretch their arms open and overhead to represent expansion and the big balloon.
When their balloon is totally full, have them hold their breath at the top, and then you can “pop the balloon” for them (gesture finger to belly) and they can fall down as they exhale.
This one will likely elicit giggles and awareness of their breath.
2. Follow the Leader
This meditation works best for kids who are at least 5 years old. Ask your child to picture their best friend or a sibling—someone they do everything with or someone they look up to. Then ask them which one (your child or their best friend) usually leads. Usually one friend is the one who decides things—the one who is more of the leader; the other one is the friend who usually follows the leader. Ask them which they are.
If they are the leader, you can tell them to picture themselves as the breath. If they are the follower, you can ask them to picture themselves as the mind. For this example, I’ll pretend that they’ve chosen their big brother as their best bud, and the big brother is the leader.
Say something like, “So you and your big brother do everything together. Let’s pretend that your breath and your mind are best friends, too. And that you are just like the mind—the follower, and your big brother is just like the breath—the leader.” Then follow the steps below to guide them through the meditation.
Sit down comfortably and close your eyes.
Bring all of your attention to your breath and slow it down, taking deep inhales and slow exhales.
Let’s have the mind follow the breath—no matter what. Picture yourself as your mind, the one that’s following your big brother, your breath. Try to focus your mind on the breath and follow as the breath inhales and exhales.
Count your breaths at the end of every exhale. Don’t let your mind count before the end of the exhale. The mind always wants to jump ahead, but don’t let it. Allow it to remain focused on being the follower.
Count to 10 slowly, always at the end of each exhale, continuing to let the mind follow the breath.
3. Guided Relaxation
This practice is great for kids (and adults) of all ages, whether they’re having trouble sleeping, stressed out, sick and in bed, or acting out. It’s based on the progressive muscle relaxation technique that Dr. Edmund Jacobson developed in the 1920’s. It’s used to help alleviate tension when people are in a situation that makes it difficult for them to relax. Guide your kids with these steps:
Sit down or lie down comfortably and close your eyes. You can use pillows or blankets to make yourself as comfortable as you can be.
Take a few deep, cleansing breaths as you begin to relax.
Bring all of your attention to your right foot, noticing how it feels. Squeeze the right foot, making a fist with your entire right foot and all five toes; tense and squeeze it tightly. Hold this tension for two deep breaths.
Then release all tension in the right foot suddenly. Relax it completely and notice the tension release. You may feel a tingling sensation in the foot.
Take a deep breath, and then move on…
Move your attention to your left foot. Same instructions as for the right foot.
Move slowly up and around the body, squeezing one body part at a time to create tension, immediately followed by the contrasting sensation of release and ease. Follow each part with a deep, cleansing breath. Here’s a sample progression you can follow:
Right foot, left foot
Right ankle and calf, left ankle and calf
Right knee, left knee
Right thigh, left thigh
All feet and legs
Entire lower body, from tummy down
Chest and heart
Right arm, left arm
Right hand, left hand
Whole body at once (do this one twice)
When you’re finished guiding your child through the relaxation technique, make sure they spend at least a few minutes in quiet, encouraging them to keep their breathing slow and steady.
Ask Dr. Sheila: Is Ghee Really Beneficial?
By: Dr. Sheila Patel
What is Ghee?
Ghee, or clarified butter, is made by melting milk at low temperatures. On the Indian subcontinent, cow milk was typically used, however traditional forms of clarified butter in the Middle East and Africa included goat or sheep milk. The process is the same—as the milk is heated, the water evaporates, and slowly the liquid fats are separated out as the milk solids (proteins and sugars) condense and are then skimmed or strained out. You are then left with a clear liquid oil that solidifies at room temperature. Sometimes the butter is fermented prior to heating, which can change the properties of the ghee. Because the water is almost completely evaporated out of ghee, it is remarkably shelf-stable at room temperature.
The Benefits of Ghee
This is an important question, as there is controversy in the medical and nutritional world about ghee. As is usually the case, there is still more to learn about the scientific details of ghee, but when used in the right way, we can reap the benefits of any food, including ghee, while balancing potential harm.
In Ayurveda, ghee has many health benefits, when used in the correct amounts and with specific intentions in mind. However, when used in excess, especially for certain dosha types, it can create imbalances. Nutritional science validates many of the benefits of ghee, and also supports Ayurveda’s caution to use ghee in moderation, as too much ghee can also have negative health consequences as well, including increasing cholesterol.
The Ayurvedic Perspective
From an Ayurvedic perspective, being aware of the qualities, or properties, of foods can help us decide how much of, when, or if, to use a particular food in our diet. In addition, in Ayurveda ghee is used not only as food, but as a carrier for certain herbs known as ghritams, in addition to topically for therapeutic purposes in the eyes, ears, and nose. Using these principles, we will take a look at ghee.
Ghee carries the sweet taste and therefore is primarily composed of the qualities of Earth and Water, which are heavy, thick, oily, soft, and smooth. From an Ayurvedic perspective, therefore, when we ingest ghee, we can accumulate these qualities in our physiology. Using ghee topically, or when ingested, will lubricate, soften, and moisturize tissues. It is also said to support the reproductive tissues and immune system.
From a dosha perspective, due to its qualities, it can be balancing for Vata dosha when taken in moderation. Ghee can also be balancing for Pittas, due to the cooling effects and can be used in moderation a well. However, it should be used minimally in daily use for Kaphas, as it causes accumulation of oiliness and heaviness.
Another consideration is using ghee intentionally for short periods of time, for example, during detoxification. Because ghee has a high proportion of saturated fat, it can bind fat-soluble toxins and create more flow of bile which can aid during detox. However, once the detox period is over, intake needs to be modified for an individual’s needs.
The Nutritional Makeup of Ghee
From our modern biochemical knowledge, we know that ghee contains saturated fats, monounsaturated fats, and cholesterol. These fats include omega-3’s and omega-9’s. These biochemicals are what give ghee many of its qualities. It also contains several fat-soluble vitamins such as Vitamin A, D, E, and K, as well as other antioxidants and anti-inflammatory fatty acids.
Under certain circumstances when produced, ghee may contain certain amounts of cholesterol oxidation compounds. These molecules, which are produced when animal products are heated, have been implicated in cardiovascular disease. However, there are also studies that document a lowering of serum cholesterol from moderate consumption of ghee, and a reduction in oxidative byproducts. Theories behind these findings include an increase in bile production in the liver, which can help eliminate cholesterol through binding in the intestines. Also, in animal studies, ghee has been shown to reduce the oxidation of cholesterol in the liver, which may balance oxidative compounds created in the production of ghee. Also, there are more oxidative compounds produced when ghee is made at high temperatures, so this needs to be taken into account when analyzing the constituents in ghee, or studies on ghee.
In addition, ghee is sometimes implicated in the increased incidence of heart disease reported in India in the last two decades. However, this may be due to the modern production of ‘ghee’ made from vegetable oils, instead of milk, as opposed to being due to ghee itself. This modified ghee production produces more trans-fatty acids, which are unhealthy and can contribute to heart disease. In fact, in times past, there was a very low incidence of heart disease in India despite the use of ghee in everyday cooking, so we know there is more to the story. In short, studies are quite variable as far as ghee and risk of vascular disease, and any risk is likely multifactorial. In addition, the type of ghee studied, as well as other factors related to heart disease such as stress and modern lifestyle, need to be taken into consideration.
Although there is also a concern about weight gain when using ghee, there are no studies to confirm this is the case when used in correct amounts. It is true that excess ghee can cause weight gain, particularly for Kaphas who are prone to accumulating heaviness. Some studies suggest that the conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) in ghee can actually help reduce excess weight and body fat. Remember that “a little can go a long way”, therefore this does not mean that ghee should be consumed in excess, as it is quite calorie-dense.
From a modern perspective, there also may be people who have a strong family history of, or carry certain genes (like APOE 4), that put them at higher risk of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular conditions, such as heart attacks and strokes. For them, the benefits of ghee may not outweigh any potential risks, and ghee can be avoided or minimized significantly, such as only using it during cleansing but not daily.
So, What to Do?
In Ayurveda, anything we ingest, when done with awareness can be used as medicine, but when used incorrectly can “act as a poison”. This is true for ghee. To use ghee to support health, the typical recommended dosage of ghee is between 1-3 Tablespoons/day, depending on your dosha, family history, and genetics. Be sure to buy ghee that is made from organic dairy sources, and not ghee that is produced from vegetable oils, which can contain more trans-fatty acids.
What it comes down to is to use ghee in moderation, in accordance with your dosha balance, unless you have a specific health condition where the benefits don’t outweigh the risks. When limited to a few teaspoons a day, along with a nutritious plant-dominant diet, we can reap the benefits of this sacred food while minimizing the potential health risks.