Mind, Body, and Spirit Wellness with Kelsey Sunflower

A balanced mind and body is the key to living in connection with Spirit Source. This connection is what establishes a vivacious and fulfilling life with a conscious awareness of Love. Love is the ultimate gift, when we are present and balanced in life. When balancing the mind, body, and Spirit, forms of healthy energy are integrated naturally. The union of the self in man with the Self of the universe is called yoga, the yoking or joining together of the finite self with the Infinite Self and the process or method for attaining this union is also called yoga.

BodyMindSpirit

In Ayurvedic medicine, a traditional practice rooting from Ancient India, balance is the key to rejuvenation, longevity, and self-realization. Ayurveda teaches about the doshas, or subtle universal energy fields within the body. These doshas are Vatta, Pitta, and Kappa, which together comprise an individual’s constitution. Vatta controls movement. Pitta controls metabolism. And Kappa controls structure. Ayurveda shows what is natural for each of these dosha types and recommends the best food, medicine or healthy behavior to contrast a natural state, in order to bring more balance to the body, mind, and Spirit.

Physically, listen to the body. The bodies we are blessed with are temples. Exercise is vital to the health of the body and organ systems, as well as to that of the mind. The more we take care of our physical being, the more likely the mind will stay in tune with our wants and needs and differentiate more clearly between the two. Exercise decreases stress hormones and increases endorphins, which are the body’s natural feel good chemicals. When these chemicals are released during exercise, then one’s mood is naturally boosted. Yoga works with endorphins through releasing tension, thus improving mood. Pranayama, or yogic breathing exercises, help to increase the awareness of breath. Naturally, humans breathe in a shallow fashion so increasing awareness towards the depth of one’s breath benefits the organs and systems of the body (circulatory, respiratory, etc). Yoga helps to increase lung capacity for deeper breathing. It can also have benefits of opening the nasal passageways and calming the central nervous system, which has both physical and mental benefits. And according to Kundalini yoga, opening the nasal passages also has spiritual benefits. In terms of consumption, eat what feels right, but be conscious of what is consumed. Be aware of the energy that is put into the body through food choice and how that can affect one’s energy. Treat everything as sacrament. Take the sacrament not only for your body, but also for mind and Spirit and the beneficial purposes of learning and loving Self. Embrace this process.

Mentally, sit in stillness. The mind knows nothing but tapes and labels formed from past lives, present situations, and the dissecting of emotions. Stillness, especially in the form of meditation, brings awareness to these senses more easily without being controlled by them. Many brain waves are scientifically proven to light up during meditation. Theta waves are most abundant in the frontal and middle parts of the brain, which indicate deep relaxation (more experienced meditators). Alpha waves are most abundant in the posterior parts of the brain, which are a characteristic of wakeful rest or awareness. These brain waves increase when the brain relaxes from intentional or goal-oriented tasks. This is a sign of deep relaxation but does not mean the mind is empty. Delta waves are most active during sleep. Very few delta waves are produced during meditation, proving that it is different from sleeping. Beta waves are goal-oriented thoughts, which also prove to be very few during meditation. The combination of waves that occur during a meditative state cause the mind to relax in a different form than sleep. The intense physical aspect of yoga, or asana, brings so much focus to the mind that it is stilled and therefore, more calm. Focusing the mind also helps one become more aware of spontaneous mental wandering and activity. In turn, this brings a more practiced and controlled awareness of thoughts. Seek to learn. Everything is interesting if one chooses to listen with the right ears. If time is taken to listen and learn, common ground is found in every interaction, or at least a lesson is presented. Every being has a different gift to exchange in a teacher/student relationship. Culture imbeds in us that in order to be successful we must be educated by schools. This is not true if one takes on the role of a teacher. Some tend to rely solely on social interaction due to lack of confidence with mental stimuli, but if you learn to become an educational seeker; fully growing in that space of mindfulness of the intellectual Self, the natural teacher will feed all humans with knowledge of the Universe. Eventually, the mind will become more and more still as the breath becomes the main focus of living yoga. This stillness energetically overviews various experiences and emotional endeavors, putting them into perspective and letting them settle with rest.

body-mind-spirit-chakra-final1

Spiritually, have a sense of a higher Self. It is not about praising a God or Allah. We are Source Energy! Joy and sadness are one in the same when living in a state of Bliss. It is all part of the journey. Think of the emotional state of being as your indicator in every moment of your relationship with nowness. This powerful now and listening is Spirit. Access it however you please, but access it fully! That is the yummy dish that satisfies more than any external object will feed. The benefits for Spiritual development are limitless and can be achieved through yoga and meditation. Certainly, one develops an individual practice. When on a mat doing asana, a development for internal focus is practiced and the Self (individualized and universal) is reviewed and managed through exceeding the mind patterns with breath. This guides us to open the channel of Divine awareness. We receive insight without thinking, it is brought energetically simply by intentional focus. Take time to maintain this aspect of BEing and life will merge with the awareness of Source energy. Breathe, and know that you are God.

Living in balance, embracing the sun and moon, the yin and yang, even the dark and light is all about the pulsing of nature. One cannot be happy 100% of the time. We must accept the inevitable, and learning to see that challenge is the most subtle form of growth. “As individuals following a collective consciousness, if you become aware and cease the resistance in admitting imbalance, we come to balance! This is real time manifestation. Training yourself to the creation frequency of who you really are… In alignment with Self: Universal Truth.” Abraham Hicks

For more information on Ayurveda and the doshas visit: http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-1117/Ayurveda-Dosha-Types-for-Beginners.html

kelseyyoga

Kelsey Sunflower, Union Yoga Teacher, Asheville, NC

About the Author:  Kelsey Sunflower has been an active yoga practitioner since 2009 and received her RTY-250 hour training from Asheville Community Yoga Center in 2012. “Yoga has taught me to be aware of my breath in any situation, for it is my compass home. When breathing through life, I can accept and activate all the Infinite awareness that Divine Spirit channels through me.” Sharing her practice with the world to improve and motivate the health and growth of others has been her dream since she was a child. In finding yoga, she has found this shared Oneness-bliss that transcends consciousness to a realm of fruition.

The Long Road to Envision Festival, Costa Rica

[All photos copyright Clayton Gaar 2012]

The new year came and left me feeling overwhelmed and a bit lost.  The first week of 2012 had me cocooned in my basement wondering what I was going to do and how I was going to do it.  Some of my closest friends and Tribal Council chieftains were discussing a mystical trip to the Kalalau Valley in Hawaii, but I couldn’t swing it due to my commitment to AURA Music Festival in early March.  When I go to Hawaii, you better believe I’m buying a one way ticket! So I began eyeing Envision Festival in Costa Rica more and more seriously.  Once I discovered I had enough miles to fly one way to Central America for free, and I spoke to several friends who had decided to go, I booked all my tickets and decided to treat myself to a little vacation.

The awe-inspiring Semuc Champey. Guatemala.

I flew into Guatemala City three weeks early so I could visit my favorite spot in Central America, Lake Atitlan.  I learned last trip that it’s best to head straight to the town of San Marcos on the lake.  I spent a week in this beautiful, tranquil little town, which is known for its mystery schools where mystics from around the world come to study the whole spectrum of metaphysical knowledge, practice holistic medicine, attend energy healing retreat centers, and just plain bliss out!  I spent the week at the best hostel in San Marcos, Hostal del Lago, where you can rent a bed for $3/night right next to the lake.

View from my mat every morning. San Marcos, Guatemala

I set the intention for having my own personal meditation retreat. My routine each day: wake up, do a deliciously long yoga practice right next to the lake with the sound of the waves lapping at my feet, jump in the lake and swim around like a river otter, walk three minutes to buy a bounty of fresh organic fruits and vegetables from local indigenous women, breakfast, read book in hammock, lunch, practice spinning poi, wander around town examining acupuncture schools and merkaba meditation retreat centers, dinner, read in hammock, chat with other travelers around camp fire by lake, sleep.  I lived very well for about $10/day.

This hostal is a straight circus! Hostal del Lago, San Marcos, Guatemala.

The best thing about this hostal is the people that it attracts.  It’s not uncommon for visitors planning on spending a few days there to live in San Marcos for months or even years.  Some of my favorite people I’ve ever met I encountered here.  There is a unique circus vibe to this hostal and we joke that it is circus training camp. Maybe it’s because of the house aerial silks, which are certainly a symbol of the hostal.  We all teach each other hoop tricks, poi, aerial silks, slackline, and juggling techniques.

Oliver chilling like the circus kid he is.

The lake is surrounded by steep volcanoes, making it all the more dramatic of a back drop for anything you do.  The private rock outcropping into the lake affords a 180 degree view of water and volcanoes, and is the perfect spot for yoga, tai chi, or my personal favorite, sitting in sunbathing stillness.  With all the distractions far away (you have to take a boat to another town to use the internet), I was able to go deeper into my practice and my self than ever before.  I was in such an inward place that I rarely felt called to speak to others.  Through the combination of an almost raw diet (for the first time in my life), yoga, meditation, and sobriety, I felt cleaner, lighter, and at more peace than I can remember. It was truly inspirational!  And it helped to be surrounded by others who were eating raw food and doing yoga rather than eating hamburgers and drinking 6-packs, although there is a time and a place for that.  One thing is for certain, the more I experiment with breathwork and meditation, the more I realize that it has the potential to take you far far deeper, and to a more connected place, than any ingested substance.

Mayan Wayeb Ceremony Day 1, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala.

I happen to be visiting San Marcos during the five days of Wayeb, which is a special period of ceremony before the Mayan New Year.  This Wayeb was especially sacred in San Marcos as the town was blessed to have Mayan Spiritual Elders, Mamas and Tatas, come from all over to lead four ceremonies a day for whoever wanted to attend.  A sacred fire was lit the first night and kept alive for the entirety of Wayeb.  The vibrations from the prayer incantations in these ceremonies were super high, and I left feeling incredible peace.

Mashimon throwing down a warmup set at Ganesha. San Marcos, Guatemala.

Local Guatemalan Mashimon threw down a warmup set in at the headiest restaurant in San Marcos, Ganesha, and our entire hostal showed up to spin fire and get loose on the dancefloor to some sexy hip hop infused beats.  Daniel Garcia, the producer behind Mashimon, traveled with us all the way across Central America to Envision and became a dear friend.  Be sure to check his project out; it makes for a sexy dance party. He knows what he’s doing :)

Leaving the lake at sunrise, San Marcos Boat Dock.

Since there were so many of us at the hostal that were pumped for Envision, we manifested a private 15 passenger bus with our own shuttle driver to drive us from the lake in Guatemala all the way to Envision in Costa Rica.  We figured it’d be an adventure, but we had no idea.  What followed was a long five day road trip across five countries with many stops to pee and four border crossings (meaning 8 immigration offices!).

Oliver and Rei sitting atop the second broke down boat wondering what sort of omen this was.

The epicness started immediately after sunrise when our shuttle boat broke down at our dock in San Marcos.  Then, somehow, the backup boat that was sent as reinforcements shut off in the middle of the lake as well.  Finally we were rescued by a third sketchy boat, met our faithful bus driver Esteben, who we got to know quite well by the end of the trip, and loaded our shuttle bus for Costa Rica.

Mashimon producer showing he can get down organically with Megan on the violin entertaining us on day 1.

We sang and danced and beatboxed and ohmed our way through Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and finally to Costa Rica.

Lost again?

This picture wraps up our navigation troubles quite nicely, as well as our numerous run-ins with the law enforcement of several Latin American nations.  For some reason, our driver Esteban insisted on using a kid’s Disney map of Central America and refused to consult anything more detailed.

Throw your love up!

We quickly adopted the name “Love Tribe” for our crew, and I promise it wasn’t my idea ;)  After all, we were 13 happy hippies on an epic Latin American road trip to the most amazing music festival ever.

It’s not a journey without some wrong turns and bumps in the road, and we handled it surprisingly well considering most of us had just recently met. It’s always great experience learning about group dynamics, as it can be applied to all areas of your life for years to come.

Birthday shots! Gotta love $7 handles of rum...sure made for a rowdy bus ride.

One major bump in the road came when we got stuck in no man’s land between the Honduran and Nicaraguan borders because of a passport complication.  It just so happened to be the night of my 25th birthday, so we made the most out of the situation by jamming tunes, hooping, and sleeping in the parking lot of the Nicaraguan immigration office.

Envision preparty at Tucan Hostal, Uvita, Costa Rica.

After splitting with the bus to take a solo day on the beach in Montezuma, Costa Rica, I finally arrived in the small town of Uvita for Envision. Despite accommodations being packed in the only hostal in town, the universe had saved an extra hammock for the night. The vibes at Tucan Hostal were stellar as Djs, fire performers, and bands were putting the final polish on their sets for the festival. Many of the people at the hostal became my go-to festival buddies on the dance floor.

Samuel Wexler, mad violinist from Ft. Collins, tests out this crazy slide, Uvita, Costa Rica.

Fortunately, mama tierra built a perfect water park for us to baptize in before the festival.  Many people took the ten minute cab ride to the waterfalls during the hot festival afternoons to cool off, too.

Pura Vida!

I couldn’t resist getting some inverted hang time.  Too purrrrfect!

You know it’s a high vibrational hostal vibe when the coffee tables are full of flutes, Hafiz poetry, and Eckhart Tolle books!

Be sure to check my next post to get the scoop on Envision Festival 2012!

Blessit!

Cultivating Daily Meditation Practice

In this stage of our development, spiritual adventure calls out to us like the Soma light of the full moon. Across Earth conscious beings bent upon awakening to the essence of reality are coming together for gatherings of all types. From Burning Man of Nevada to Boom of Portugal, from Electric Forest to Coachella, from Symbiosis to Transformus, the great energetic surge brought about by group awareness and the unifying experience of music and art speaks out to us and calls us forth. So do the many holy places of the world, Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Stone Hendge and the Pyramids at Giza, they beckon to us to move ourselves into communal and holy places. The beauty of this planet, the tributaries of the Yellow River in China, the awesome majesty of the Grand Canyon, the ethereal perfection of Kauai all speak to us as well. This whole world is calling, and we as ones on the Path, the many paths, are drawn to experience all that the natural world, the religious world, the social world and the gathering of intentions have to offer.

Yet we could go around the entire planet over and over again and potentially never find what we need. We could travel to the corners of the earth, go to every gathering, and still we may find that the ego is in control.

We might get what we need here and there spurred by the thought-neutralizing state of travel and group communion, but we could possibly never find it. What is it that we need? What will bring us into the next level of being? Inner sanctuary. It is the temple of the heart that when occupied brings forth the sweet bliss to last us our entire lives. It is the house of God seated deep in the self: pure, non-qualified, eternally shining, absolute nothingness.  It is the eternal Oneness that is going to breathe into this life the flavor of immortality which underscores the universe. Once we get a taste of it, it consumes us, and we see the possibility of being truly extinguished of desire and cumbersome unwanted mental activity. Once we glimpse the reality of the universe, it is all that will fill our soul properly. And how are we going to get there?

We are going to have to begin to do that which calls to us more strongly than the world entire, we are going to have to take time every day to neutralize thought forms, and then commune with the All.

This is meditation practice.


Naiya in meditation

The cultivation of meditation practice will allow the entire spectrum of the day to become a constant communion. The cultivation of meditation practice will slowly allow us to contact the essence of our experience, the unified Love field that subsists the universe. As Chogyam Trungpa said, “It is the only way out, and the only way in.”

Meditation is the gradual neutralization of thought forms brought on by loosening attachment to thought forms while sitting still. Once this stillness becomes emptiness (at any level), Prayer becomes possible. Pranayama (energy breath work) is Prayer, speaking to the Source is Prayer, visualizing energy unity is Prayer; Prayer and meditation are one. And beyond all our trances, evermore as we increase our meditation practice, we will constantly find that the world of unity nestled deep in the heart is the only constant in our lives.  We will see that if it were possible to enter directly into it, we would be free.

There are plenty of guides to meditation, there are ten-thousand styles, there are infinite things to focus on, eternal varieties of methods, but I am not speaking of method. Method of meditation should be whatever you need it to be, and if you need to adopt a style, then do so.

I am speaking of Work. I am singing of daily practice.

The truth is that whether we are standing in front of the Bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya, the very tree where the Gautama Buddha attained enlightenment, or if we are at a weekend long festival with a little too much dubstep and not enough IDM, or if we are entering into a day of completely mundane activities, our inner self should be in a similar state of openness and clarity. The only way that this is going to happen is if we cultivate a routine, and go beyond that routine as much as possible as well, of communing with the deeper self in hopes (in great longing hopes!) of getting to the Eternal Self. This kind of routine will bring the sort of unshakable stability of spiritual insight that will allow us to Be Here Now, to be present and clear, a conduit for the experiential structure of reality. This is the kind of routine that isn’t very different on the Appalachian Trail, at Rainbow Serpent festival in Australia, or when accidently passing out on a friends couch and waking up confused the next morning. In all these places, we are still practicing meditation at the two pivotal points:

Before sleeping and upon waking.

Councilors communing in morning meditation. AURA Music and Arts Festival, St. Cloud, FL. Photo: Caroline Rose

The key to cultivating meditation practice is of course to enter into meditation, but as we all know we may wake up in the morning with the intent of sitting and getting to know our truth, and then somehow by three or four in the afternoon it is completely impossible to do so. This is because if we do not take the reins of our thought forms then they create a world of illusion that is too strong, telling us of our profane separateness by quantifying and classifying this life. An excellent step to ending this cycle is to steal ourselves just before bedtime, as it is the only thing which will allow us to steal ourselves upon waking as well.

Yes the day might have been terrible and our minds may be full of monetary worries; yes we may have just gotten into a fight with our significant other; yes we may have eaten badly, spoken badly, been the very thing we wish with all our hearts to not be; yes we may have sinned deeply, but we are giving those failures too much grace if we do not let the deep want for peace urge us to meditation before bedtime.

Yes we may have had an amazing hatha yoga session in the afternoon, with a blissful Shivasana to cap it; yes we may have had a conversation with another seeker that opened our hearts, untied karmic knots, and awakened our reality; yes we may have created a beautiful work of art; yes we may have had absolutely mind-blowing, soul inspiring sex, but we are not giving those accomplishments their true grace if we do not use the energetic boost of such activities to spur us to meditation before sleep at night.

We might even have a partner that wants to dreamily look into our eyes until they fall asleep, one who gives no care to communion. Well, we might just have to let them fall asleep soundly, then get out of bed and hold space before getting back in bed and cuddling the night away.

It is ruthlessly stealing the self before bed, just when the ego is weakest and thought forms are losing hold on us, that is going to open up the potential for daily meditation practice. It is only meditation before sleep which reveals a key to the land of bliss: meditation upon waking.

When we arise, thought forms begin to weave an objectified reflection of being that is illusory and cut off from the world, and once that train gets rollin’, it just don’t stop. An hour after waking up we might find ourselves completely consumed with the world, rocking out to music in the car while talking nonsense in our head, sexualizing the people around us, looking at the car brands in a city instead of the architecture, fantasizing about worldly glory or worldly failure. We might not even notice that the moon has risen perfectly during the day, and is smiling upon us. This is the root of suffering; slavery to the inner monologue is the essence of samsara, the master of illusion. A practical and accessible way to begin to break the cycle is to hold space and commune with the Source directly upon waking up.

We may have work at eight in the morning, and need a full hour of time to get ready and get there, but the entire day will become a thing of beauty if we roll back that rising time another half hour, and without fail enter into meditation that prepares us to have primary spiritual experience at many points throughout the day.

By establishing non-identification with thought forms directly upon waking up, after dealing with essential bodily functions if they are pressing, (of course no eating before meditation though) we establish experience of the true self, which is not thought, but is the pure generator of thought. Reaching such emptiness will allow us to go about our day focusing our eyes and minds on what we want to focus on, on what is directly in front of us right here right now. It will unencumber our minds of needless rambling for the entire day.

Chanting and breath work class in the sanctuary. AURA Music and Arts Festival 2012. St. Cloud, FL. Photo: Clayton Gaar

By then developing that emptiness by establishing experience (Prayer) with energy bodies and the unified matrix of reality that is the Eternal Self, we will allow ourselves to train our thought forms on the infinite throughout the day when we see another person, a mountain, the sun, the meal we are about to consume for lunch. It is through training our inner eye on the infinite after reaching emptiness in the morning that we carry sacred space with us throughout the day.

Thus it is good to begin a regimented practice of meditation at night, when there is always time to do so, and keep it up for awhile. If you must stay up late then so be it, in a talk from 1938, Paramahansa Yogananda divulged that he often stayed up till three or four in the morning, as it was the only time in the day he could commune with the One Infinite Creator. Then, after evening practice is easy, integrate morning practice. With the gradual culmination of regimented nightly and morning Prayer and practice, eventually we will be taking anywhere from ten minutes to an hour for communion every day, without fail. We will begin to see that our average day on the job is really amazingly beautiful, and our incredible day at the festy is really pretty normal.

All things will start to reach the middle, just as we have been practicing. We will know the heart more and more, and Love will shine infinitely within and without.

Work is the only refuge, nothing is as comforting. We know that if we don’t start to have primary religious experiences and great swooning spiritual realizations as often as possible then we will die. Surely there will be off days, days of low energetic import, frustrating trance plateaus, but we will still train our eyes on Reality in the morning and in the evening, and soon we will move forward. The battlefront is right now, it is the thoughts we are thinking.

Maybe its time to let go of the fruit, and hold on to the branch.