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TOPIC: Physiological basis of practice

Physiological basis of practice 01 Jun 2013 17:37 #12182

I'm about to send the book I've been looking into this week off to the daughter for whom I bought it. But first I wanted to note down some of the wonderful practice-related wisdom-- in a book about herbs, of all things!

The book in question is The Wild Medicine Solution, by Guido Mase. If someone had an interest in herbs but very limited time and access, this is the "desert-island" recommendation I'd make. It begins with an explanation of the fractal nature of our existence and consciousness that is the essence of Daoism as well as Western ecological-system teachings in our times.

The chapter I've been reading explores various aspects of the studies on heart-rate variability that the Heart Math folks have been doing for decades.

"... It is not a given that emotional state and mental functioning, heart health, and the variability of the heart rate are necessarily connected. Depressed, anxious, or stressed-out individuals could have a different chemical makeup that somehow adversely affects the heart muscle independently of how variable the heartbeat is; after all, reduced HRV (heart rate variability) is not the only connection to death from heart disease. But if this link truly existed, then beyond connecting reduced HRV to our mental/emotional state, it would also provide a powerful piece of evidence that the mind and the body, and, in particular, our emotional-processing centers and our cardiovascular system, are not really separate entities. (my emphasis-- KG)

Further, this would give much greater weight to HRV as an indicator of balance between individual and environment, between the internal organs and the mind... in terms of internal balance-- or internal 'coherence', as it is now termed-- even deeper and more far-ranging implications... would come to define a state of being in which humans... experience deep appreciation and satisfaction, highly creative and adaptive thinking, and feelings of strong connection to their environment... Some have called it 'being in the flow.' Huang Di, the Yellow Emperor (legendary founder of Chinese Medicine), would have called it simply 'health.'"

www.amazon.com/gp/product/1620550849/ref...00_i01?ie=UTF8&psc=1

PS-- it doesn't hurt that his first example of a tonic herb is...CHOCOLATE!
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Physiological basis of practice 25 Jun 2013 21:30 #12921

This week's book has been Prakriti, by Robert Svoboda. Foundational teachings about Ayurvedic doshas (constitutional types); I picked it up because my herb class teacher, Matthew Wood did a great comparison to the American 19th century typologies, TCM, Ayurvedic, and Greek humoral/ elemental systems. I realized, flipping through it, that I'd never seen a very good exposition of the Ayurvedic doshas-- because Svoboda's made instant sense to me as exemplified by the variations-on-a-theme in my own family, and my very differently constituted work colleagues.

As a bonus, the author became an Ayurvedic doctor when he was the student of an accomplished Indian yogi, who put it in the context of the whole yoga system, including meditation and retreat. So there are some very good View teachings along the way:

(in a section on root causes and treatment of rheumatoid arthritis)

"If you do locate an emotional maelstrom you must examine it without prejudice. The Bitter Taste in your supplements will help you admit your dissatisfaction to yourself. There is no benefit in assigning blame for that dissatisfaction. Dealing with present reality by determining your current needs and considering how to obtain them is more important. If you are having difficulty being objective about your situation, ask for help from a trusted friend or a professional counselor. Do not make a habit of emotional purgation lest it begin to intensify your misery, just as overuse of the Pungent Taste increases Pitta and therefore anger."

(in a section on Kundalini)

"Many people follow spiritual disciplines, hoping to become enlightened through meditation and other austerities. Most of these people do so with only a hazy knowledge of physical and mental physiology; very few of them know anything at all about Ayurveda. Sometimes they experiment with powers like Kundalini of which they know little. Like all other powerful medicines, Kundalini can cure all ailments when properly approached, and can cause all ailments when improperly employed.

If you are physically and mentally unprepared for this forcible ripping away of Ahamkara* from its safe haven in your limited human body with its attendant personality, you will suffer severe, permanent physical and psychic damage. The 'Kundalini crisis,' a disease in which Kundalini's power is unleashed in an unprepared organism, is a serious disorder because... it is a direct assault on personality.

*(from the glossary-- 'Ahamkara- literally, the 'I-former.'... that force which identifies herself with an individual body, mind and spirit and permits them to exist together as a living being.')

If the personality tries to resist Kundalini's arousal a crisis occurs. A fully-awakened Kundalini in an unprepared individual forgets the body entirely... This process is much like transmitting millions of volts of electricity over a line meant to handle 110 volts...

If Kundalini is only partially awakened, however, when she begins to move through untested nervous and endocrine systems, those systems will collapse, or blow out. If you send 220 volts over a 110 volt line, the insulation will burn through and the line may melt in a few places. Though its essential integrity remains it cannot function without repair...

This is enough for most people: they realize that the danger involved in spiritual advancement is the danger of personality extinction. The fear of death of the limited identity is at the base of a Kundalini crisis. The shock of the knowledge of impending personality disintegration terrifies their unprepared personalities into retreat. Unfortunately, there is no retreat. You can't go home again once your home has been demolished by a Kundalini earthquake. Many sufferers from this Shakti blowout exist in limbo, unable to go forward or backward, immobilized by the profundity of their fear.

The Kundalini crisis feels uncontrollable to its victims because it is a disorder of Ahamkara herself, a disorder which threatens the individual's 'I-forming' capability. When your personality is undergoing dissolution, how can it properly control anything?

In no other disease is the axiom 'prevention is better than cure' more apropos. Once an individual is in the throes of a Kundalini crisis there is no quick remedy, no simple solution, because there is no physical procedure which can reverse the energy flow and re-coil the Serpent. Acupuncture can help, as can Yogic breathing techniques and Ayurvedic massage, but all these therapies are merely symptomatic. You should certainly seek professional help if Kundalini is your concern, but there is no turning back from her. You must adapt or perish."
Last Edit: 25 Jun 2013 21:33 by Kate Gowen. Reason: edit typo
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Physiological basis of practice 25 Jun 2013 22:01 #12925

I wonder if - in a less extremely stated way, and outside of a tradition-specific context - one could say that when a person has had an "accidental" spiritual opening, that inevitably (if they do not then move into a healthy practice) they suffer a similar thing, though much milder if they don't have the heavy energetic process accompanying it. I don't know why it is that some people have such mild to zero energetic components in their spiritual process, while others get clobbered with it. I know people who have deliberately done energy work practices intensively and for years, and have very mild responses. Others get nailed with really intensive kundalini/energetic effects after one yoga class or a mountain-top sunset.

(ETA: I have that Svoboda book. He's written some other good ones on Tantra and Yoga, if I recall? I bought the Prakruti one when I was in an herbal medicine interest phase in college I think. I remember finding it useful, though I'm not very fussy about following diets.)
Last Edit: 25 Jun 2013 22:03 by Ona Kiser.
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Physiological basis of practice 25 Jun 2013 22:26 #12926

One of various books I'm in the process of reading is James Swartz's How To Attain Enlightenment (nice title :) ) and he has a lengthy section on diet and lifestyle in relation to the gunas (which, now that I look it up, seems to be a Samkhya take on Prakriti as first cause of the material universe: wikipedia on samkhya/gunas/prakriti )

I'm always mixed on this stuff inasmuch as, on the one hand, it does seem to me that certain lifestyles are conducive to practice, at least the kind of practice that I want to do and the places I imagine it might take me, around things like diet, exercise, and body/energy work - considered as aspects of ethics as well as straightforward actions. I think in challenging this the original pragmatic dharma paradigm maybe went a bit too far in the other direction. At the same time, I don't want to conform to one of those paradigms that defines very specifically a universal theory of how these should be done as necessary for everyone - and at the extreme of this can be the idea that monastic practice (of a certain tradition) is necessary for significant spiritual progress.

"the danger involved in spiritual advancement is the danger of personality extinction. The fear of death of the limited identity is at the base of a Kundalini crisis. The shock of the knowledge of impending personality disintegration terrifies their unprepared personalities into retreat. Unfortunately, there is no retreat. You can't go home again"

This also sounds like Dukkha Nana stages to me - you see that seeing that things are impermanent, not-self and unsatisfactory is not cool like you thought it would be, not at all, and now you can't unsee it :)
Last Edit: 25 Jun 2013 22:27 by every3rdthought.
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The following user(s) said Thank You: Kate Gowen

Physiological basis of practice 25 Jun 2013 22:29 #12928

True, that the vocabulary is tradition-specific. I don't think the observations are tradition-specific, though. (Agreeing with you, I think, Ona.) Also true that he is emphasizing extremes-- partly because that makes the dynamic more starkly clear, I think.

I was just going to copy the general stuff at the beginning, but then I started remembering events in my own early practice that were very clearly described in the extended remarks. And the "fried insulation" description was EXACTLY the one I was using in my interior conversation as I tried to sort out what was going on with my friend. He was an extremely sensitive sort who was getting far more "juice" from living with me at a very "hot" period in my process-- than he could handle. It wasn't anything either of us could turn off, and it was truly horrifying to witness.

I was reluctant to think of it as "Kundalini" because most of the users of that word-- in my personal acquaintance-- had seemed to be sort of impressed with themselves in a way I didn't want to emulate. I didn't have a very good context. I guess it took the TCM studies to prepare my understanding.
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Physiological basis of practice 26 Jun 2013 06:38 #12931

That was perhaps my abundance-of-caution-reply based on people being so terrified to meditate because they heard this story about how it can make you go crazy, the devil will get you, etc. As with bad gurus - can happen, can be sorted out, not the most common outcome? I have seen that outcome, for sure, manifesting in ongoing physical, psychological and spiritual messes. But it seems relatively rare.
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Physiological basis of practice 26 Jun 2013 11:40 #12940

Hey, haven't read through the whole thread yet, but wanted to chime in and say that I will be visiting Guido Mase soon. My partner is an old friend of his and his sister and he is right here in town, and she (my partner) has been telling me how much I need to go see Guido. And I really liked the quote you pulled from his book! Serindipitous :)
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The following user(s) said Thank You: Kate Gowen

Physiological basis of practice 26 Jun 2013 14:33 #12950

Serendipity abounds! I was thinking of you and your location when I read that book, but hadn't seen you around here for awhile.
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