This American Life aired an interesting piece last week about Americans on disability benefits. It seems like an important opening to the connections between health, pain, economics and opportunity. You can listen to Chana Jaffe-Wolt’s report here:
You’ve probably noticed that if you watch a scary or exciting movie, you’re a little amped up for the next few hours, ready for bad guys to jump out of the shadows. If you find a spider on your towel in the morning, every piece of fluff will startle you for the rest of the day. If you’re tense about something, little sounds that you might not even notice normally, like someone humming in the background, can become excruciatingly aggravating. These are all examples of how our nervous system adapts to our experiences, and filters new experiences based on the past. We may be aware of this phenomenon on the large scale, but it also happens on the small scale — an individual nerve can become primed to experience pain in much the same way that we become primed to laugh at a comedy show. This process is one important mechanism in the experience of chronic pain. Read more.
I regularly listen to dharma talks on the internet, and am so grateful for this incredible resource. I have a few favorite teachers who have become touchstones for me, places I know I can go to find answers, be soothed, and be brought back to what is truly important to me. So I thought I would share and celebrate them here. You’ll see if you investigate these links that they are only drops in an enormous dharma-bucket!
Audio Dharma is an archive of talks given at The Insight Meditation Center in Redwood City, CA. Gil Fronsdal is one of the lead teachers here (and at other meditation centers), and I greatly appreciate his ability to explain Buddhist philosophy in simple terms directly applicable to our modern lives. Like all of the teachers I love, he keeps bringing me back to basic kindness and simplicity. He’s also a great story-teller, and I love the sound of his voice! Here is one of my favorite short talks of his.
Dharma Seed is another site full of Vipassana talks — and they have a mobile app, too. Vipassana literally means “clear or intense seeing”, and is often translated as Insight Meditation. It is a practice focused on seeing directly, and clearing away the webs of thoughts and reactions that can entangle us. This talk by Sharon Salzburg addresses what that means and how to do it. Sharon Salzburg is the author of many wonderful books which deal with topics of self-kindness and self-acceptance as well as exploring faith and doubt. Like Gil Fronsdal, she is refreshingly down-to-earth and deeply compassionate. She lets you be safe and welcome with whatever imperfections are part of the package.
Seattle Insight Meditation is both a great online and in-person local resource. Rodney Smith leads talks and practice at St. Mark’s Cathedral every Tuesday evening, and there are several other practice groups, classes, retreats and support systems organized through the large community at SIMS. Rodney Smith continually challenges his students to break through habitual thinking and the blocks that keep us from noticing what would be obvious if it didn’t bother us so much. He spent many years in hospice care, and draws on his experiences to bring us into conversation with death and denial, just as he prods us to see clearly the ways our behaviors impact ourselves, our relationships, our environment. His brainy talks might also blow your mind pondering the organization of the cosmos or the nature of time. He regularly leads a six-week Introduction to Meditation class that is available on their website as a video.
And finally, I must bow to Pema Chodron. She is a Buddhist nun in the Tibetan tradition, and has written many books. She has clearly taken to heart the teaching that the world is ever changing, impossible to grasp or fix. And from that place she can speak powerfully about staying with fear and uncertainty, without turning to anger, self-criticism, or pulling back. I love that she directs us, not to “enlightenment”, but to “sanity”. She reminds us that the state of vulnerability and uncertainty is exactly the state of Buddha-nature or being truly in the moment — something to embrace, not to push away. Here she is on YouTube:
In January I began one of two trainings I’ll be taking this year (more about the second later) — Visceral Manipulation! I’ll be the first to admit that it is not an alluring name, but it’s an effective treatment that can get to the bottom of some chronic and confusing issues, and I’m excited to share it with you. Read more.
Yet another fascinating TED talk. The Yoga Sutras claim that yoga lets you uncover your true Self. This research about the psychological effects of body posture offers an interesting way to understand that claim, and adds to the list of potential benefits of asana practice. Read more.
Speaking of fascinating developments in medical training, did you know that Columbia University offers a Master’s degree in Narrative Medicine? The program was created by Dr. Rita Charon, a doctor who went back to school and got a PhD in literature after she realized how important story-telling was to her job. Read more.
Here’s to your health in the new year — special discounts on massage and private yoga sessions! Schedule in January to receive these discounts. And please spread the word!
First session half-price for new clients
All clients save $30 on a set of 3 sessions
Purchase a set of 6 sessions, and receive an extra session for free!
We have added one more info session for the YogaWorks 200-hour Teacher Training that begins in February. Come to The Yoga Tree this Saturday, January 5, from 1:00-3:00, to learn all about the curriculum and take a free sample class! Visit The Yoga Tree for full details about our 6-month, in-depth program.
Are you “double-jointed”? As a kid, did you amaze and gross out your friends by bending your knees, elbows and fingers backwards? Are you a yoga teacher who’s been baffled trying to adjust students who seem to have no bones — every movement creates a cascade of motion, and it seems they can be anywhere but “aligned”? Or maybe you are that student — the postures don’t quite make sense, you don’t feel stretch where they say you will, but you do feel aches and twinges that don’t seem right. Yoga in particular seems to celebrate flexibility. Touching your toes is beginner’s stuff; the real stars tuck their ankles behind their head and wrap their arms behind their back. But the truth is, healthy joints require stability. Understanding the unique challenges of extra flexibility is important for any student or teacher of yoga. Read more.