The teeter-totter of day and night has tipped toward light.
Saturday, December 31, 2011
Copyright Lance Kinseth, Wisdom Shine / Chisho, 2011
Birds of many Earthen colors peck at the iced bath
And come in close for seeds.
The teeter-totter of day and night has tipped toward light.
Daylight lengthens almost imperceptibly
But for the perceptive ones in every era
In this ice-cold landscape of death
Light becomes an opening, promising gate
And life slow-spirals forward from ice into fire.
With this change
We are wont to set resolutions to fit such a glorious new start.
All of a sudden,
We aspire to live differently, more richly, more purposively.
We look a little deeper both into the dark and into the growing light.
We see a pathway forward that twists our everyday life into something eloquent.
Still, even finding our life to be inside a vast miracle,
We try to decide if a change is worth our effort
And stand to fall back inside the dream-sleep of the everyday.
Will wind that has suddenly become a prayer cease being a prayer
And the venerable oak cease being a temple
And return to being an irrelevant background?
In this short yet rich miracle that is the life of each of us
Why do we tend to cast the very best aside?
IT IS A NEW YEAR, and a new day. Perhaps in waking, still lying in bed, we might experience a moment of gratitude for having awakened, and the subtle “joy” that is opened by simply awakening to a new day. As a “body-mind practice,” we might silently say, “gratitude.” This word implies much more than one word. It can become a “culled-down” way of saying so much more, like the Buddhist response to the Anapanasati Sutra wherein Breathing in, I know that I am breathing in gradually might slo-cook down to become simply “In.”
Perhaps this new day is the dramatic first day of the new year or less dramatically a day lost anywhere in the year, just a day after a weekend—a Monday—or perhaps a mid-week “hump day.” But perhaps on this day, a restorative-yin yoga session is offered nearby.
We come to a restorative-yin practice session. We take off your shoes outside the practice space. We step through a doorway. The floor is perhaps wooden and solid. The walls are likely hard surfaces, but painted in a soft, Earthen color, unadorned, and the light subdued.
Crossing over the threshold of the doorway into the practice room, there is an opportunity for a step—hopefully—through a gateway to a calmer terrain.
In restorative practice, the harshness of putting the brakes on and slowing down begins, first, by the ritual of gathering supports for practice—blocks and blankets and balls, perhaps accompanied by a facilitator’s addition of the fragrance of incense and the music of soft sacred chants or flute and piano.
We begin, agreeably, to step out of the fast pace of the everyday. We are not trying to step out of our life, as much as we are aspiring to “swell” our aliveness, to open our experience, to open the “moreness” of our living. And so we come to the matt, to the First Excellence of yoga: to become fully present in our lives as-they-are in this moment: perhaps stillness first, aspiring to reach an interior stillpoint, but always stilled to some degree wherein breath emerges in our awareness, and we come to pranayama, “breath work.”
RESTORATIVE-YIN YOGA is not really a set of poses as it is typically presented—a set of poses especially for those “who cannot do regular yoga” due to physical limits. Restorative-yin yoga endures because it offers great depth, and great penetration into life. Being in restorative-yin poses provokes a deep listening and quietness that opens dimensions of body—mind-spirit that are not readily accessible in the faster pace of modern yoga.
Still, for all of its benefits, restorative-yin practice is a dimension of yoga for which there is not enough time for nearly everyone to fit into daily life. Modern life is jammed, perhaps, with children and work and things-to-get-done and what we did yesterday and how that went for us, all of which that make it so very important to get a good workout, to get physical. So if it going to be “yoga” in the West, that likely will mean “fitness”—‘sweat and heat”—if possible.
Oh, yes, it would be nice to add some slow-paced relaxation and eased stretch, but life seems to be about survival, and there is so little time. In fact, as our lives march forward, the clock appears to be ticking faster, and there is likely to be less time than there was before, even less time than there was last week. And weeks seem to disappear as fast as days and, in no time at all, months seem to disappear as fast as weeks and, eventually, even years seem to do the same. Has it been two years, five, ten?
When we really begin to “get it,” to “get what life is really about,” the task is one of “thriving” rather than “surviving.” Health swells from being fitness, at first to “wellness,” that is more holistic [involving nutrition and something called “relaxation,” for which there is little time], to become something that is inherent and yet, somehow, vast, and even “spiritual”—something that we begin to sense that has never, really, been lost—something that is NOT wrong, rather than the excision or catharsis of that which appears to be wrong (“disease” or “disorder”).
Quieting and calming, “problems” transform from limits to be overcome to events that may offer information and opportunity. Quieting, there is the discovery that there are no limits, rather than a sense of having limits. We may be “limited” by the fact that we are different from someone else, but we can discover that “differences” offer a nuance of grace than someone else doesn’t possess. Paradoxically, the pathway forward for each person is “different” and an unending story/journey of self/life/cosmos, if we have the senses for it.
Sunday, December 11, 2011
from enocrinesystematlas.gif / ama-assn.org
A VARIETY OF GLANDS produce and secrete hormones needed for normal functioning of the body: energy/lethargy, metabolism, sexual response, water regulation, sleep, mood, reproduction, and basic tissue functioning.
“Hormones” are complex chemicals, such as melatonin, progesterone, lutropin, dopamine, estrogen, thyroxine, thyrotopin, corticotropin, epinephrine, and testosterone. There are complex feedback loops between the various glands, and also with the nervous system and other organs that also secrete hormones. The endocrine glands themselves are complex and have fascinating aspects such as retinal cells and neurons or gastric-like cells so that they “relate” [as an aspect of their evolutionary origins] with other body structures.
Yoga literature praises the benefits of yoga for optimizing the endocrine system, with no references to clinical research on the effect of yoga on the endocrine system. When statements involving healthful outcomes of many body-mind practices are traced back, they often occur originally as statements by founders and previous practitioners and are essentially beliefs. Interesting, endocrine glands occur throughout the body and are located almost at the center point of the seven popular chakra psycho-energetic centers (e.g., pineal/6th chakra/middle of forehead). For some yoga practitioners, the endocrines are described as the physical manifestation of a subtler, spiritual body. But here, it might be acknowledged that the popular sense of seven chakra is abstruse rather than an explicit fact, with other models of yoga ranging from 5 to 20+ chakra and, for some practitioners, even a sense of sub-chakras within each major center.
The endocrine system might function somewhat autonomously, for example, with the pituitary gland regulating the amount of thyroxine (controlling cell metabolism) or another gland regulating salt and water balance, etc. However, the endocrine system might be more accurately termed the neuroendocrine system, wherein central nervous system (CNS) affects the hypothalamus that, in turn, affects the pituitary gland (or “master gland”) to create a system of balances, with one gland capable of stimulating a response and another gland capable of inhibiting this response. Either an external stimuli that produces fear or an internal disorder such as physiological depression in turn provokes CNS the endocrine system. Along with the pituitary gland, the pineal, adrenal, thyroid, parathyroid, thymus and reproductive glands form the heart of the endocrine system.
Claims of effects of a spcific pose on a specific gland have not been established. The key point is to begin to recognize that yoga is affecting the endocrine system, just as it also affecting the respiratory, vascular, lymphatic systems as well as systems less in our awareness such as the digestive system.
Yoga impacts the neuroendocrine system, just simply as a form of external stimuli. Intentional or mental stimulating the nervous system to relax by stilling and reducing the breath cycle, the flowing movement of yoga sequences, and the adjunct effect of pressure on the glands through poses such as inversions and neck bends clearly affects the neuroendocrine system. In the quiet and calmness of restorative-yin yoga, a significant relaxation response is provoked. This will involve the inhibition of endocrine secretions that stimulate the sympathetic nervous system.
Without any physiological measures of the endocrine system [such as blood levels of endocrine hormones during yoga practice or post-practice], it is logical to assume that either very active poses/active breathing [e.g. Kundalini “Breath Of Fire,” 2-3 breaths per second] or stillness “exercise” the endocrine system. The healthful outcomes that yoga might provide for the neuroendocrine system [such as “normalized,” “regulated” or “balanced” or “optimized,” as well as the specific degree of change] make sense but remain subjective.
Inversions, such as downward dog and happy baby and shoulder stands/headstands, are strongly associated in yoga practice with stimulation of the endocrine system. Poses that bend neck back to affect the thyroid and thymus [e.g., throat Lotus Kriya and Breath Of Fire] or that bend the spine back or forward [e.g., Camel or Forward Folds] to affect most endocrine glands. And the variety of the sequence of poses of a yoga practice session “massage” all of the endocrine glands.
- inversions and
- physiological relaxation and
- a sense of poses massaging the endocrine glands (as well as “pumping” the lymphatic system)
are three components that will likely affect the endocrine system in healthful, balancing way that has not been adequately measured [e.g., in terms of immediate or post-practice blood chemistry measures or studies with populations with specific endocrine disorders].
A cautionary sense of healthy” self-criticism in evaluating the benefits of any body-mind practice is recommended. It is facile and perhaps misleading to assume that a specific pose will optimize specific endocrine functions. Neuroendrocrinology is an extremely complex field of inquiry that involves all of the tissues of the body in elaborate feedback systems with complex secretions stimulating other secretions and fitting exquisitely to target receptor cells.
Thursday, December 1, 2011
Copyright Lance Kinseth, Round Full / Enman, 48"x48, 2011
When water becomes stone
And the atmosphere bell-crisp,
Coming in from the cold
Opens the landscapes of memory and deep imagination.
Yule approaches (Winter Solstice):
The dark yields to the light
And yet the deepest part of winter yet to begin.
The bleakness hides a fire:
The vast sweep of serenity in the physical stillness
And in the embers of sleepy seeds and mammals
And in subtle details:
In the wonder of bare, matchstick legs of birds in such cold
And in the tiny leather caps of spring buds on every bush.
IN WINTER, in the Northern Hemisphere, some might perceive a dead, skeletal landscape. And yet, the barren might be positively equated with an “original ground,” a landscape in which we are dazzled less by the fleeting biotic evanescence of summer. In this original ground, we might be carried a little deeper. In a landscape that appears reduced to the skeletal, everything is still deeply present. There is an opportunity in not being distracted by diverse expressions. Zen adept Ikkyu lived in Japan at a time of famine, disease, riots and wars, seeing, quite regularly, a landscape of corpses. In experiencing the desolation and a sense of “life as fleeting,” Ikkyu admonishes us that appearances are delusive. In Giakotsu (“Skeletons,” 1457 AD),he writes in the voice of a skeleton in a temple graveyard,
A cherry tree
And there are no flowers,
But the spring breeze
Brings forth myriad blossoms!
In John Stevens, Three Zen Masters: Ikkyu, Hakuin, Ryokan. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1993, p.45
In December in the Northern Hemisphere, the physical Earth has it time of glory. Snow and ice trigger, in counterpoint, humane fire and shelter. We might go into a landscape of crows that go easily into the stubble and find gems free for the taking. Perhaps this canny ability to find resources in desolation is a strong part of the reason that arctic cultures praise the highly evolved family of Corvidae, while in the West, crows and ravens and magpies are disprized. The crow is mythologized by indigenous Northwest Pacific coastal societies as the “Crow Father”—the creator-spirit that produced dry land by beating its wings—or as “The One Who Brings Light.” Similarly, the raven might be referenced as the “Great Inventor” or as “The One Whose Voice Is To Be Obeyed” or as the “Real Chief.”
In the cold, there is time for rich fire of contemplation, for the mind, for the art of Raja yoga—“royal yoga”—at least at a preparatory level of meditation/mind-spirit work: “tranquil abiding.”
In “tranquil abiding,” there is the natural tendency to try to go inside an interiority to “strengthen self” against “superficial” / “false” everyday “distractions,” as if we really could subsume life and rise above it. However, the real task of Raja yoga and initial tranquil abiding is one of emptying the center so that the miracle that is life in all of its expressions [that we might discriminate into “good” and “bad”] can enter and optimize us. In Opening The Moral Eye, M. C. Richards wrote, “Centering is the discipline of bringing in rather than leaving out.”
In body-mind practices and art and life in general, the “center” is neither a physical point nor an interior place in oneself. More than a place, Centering is gerund—a noun/verb—a process of balancing real events in life as it is, instead of being swayed this way and then that way, rather than making an “inside” and an “outside.” Centering is an act of bringing elements that might seem to be at opposite ends of a continuum into balance and harmony: Speech and silence, the everyday and the cosmos, the natural and the artificial.
Centering is a process of developing an interior silence or calmness for clarity and for peace. It is a process of letting go, with the possibility that by deeply calming and letting go, an interior luminescence might shine outward.
If there is a sense of “center” in the body-mind-spirit, it is perhaps somewhat effusive rather than specific. It is likely that which is referenced in the Chinese term, xin [心], which might be translated as “heart-mind.” “Heart-mind” is a balancing of sorts. And it is a holistic essence that even extends beyond the body, as might be captured in the metaphor of the seventh chakra, Sahasrara, where there is a sense of unity with the cosmos. A person expressing the attribute xin is felt to be a “good person,” which is to say, simply, that the person is considerate of others, but more than this, that his or her actions are likely to be deeply balanced and luminescent.
In winter, in the Northern Hemisphere, when nothingness seems to prevail over abundance, we are offered this metaphor of emptying, opening, and receiving that which the crows know well—an overlooked abundance that is always present in every season.
In the quiet of restorative practice, we are offered a stillness that might bring us to a center that is not an interior island, but rather, is a process of magical arrival and of the flow of energy. Each incoming breath is the flow of the Earth, like an incoming wave in the ocean that is, ultimately, the expression of the ocean itself. Such a perception can seem esoteric or even intellectual at first, and then, by returns, might be understood to be the real, unthinking work of the world, like a snowflake that expressed a whole season, nothing exotic or special, really—just the wondrous way that the world, self, star, cold, and dark simply is.
Saturday, November 19, 2011
MODERN PRACTICE of yoga can come to resemble calisthenics—warming up the body, and then increasing the pace. But rather than being simply physical conditioning, the dynamics of any yoga session may carry over into daily life in skills such as deep relaxation, as inspiration for actions, by promoting balance in encounters with the vicissitudes of life and, finally, by encourage the expression of attributes such as harmony and peace and compassion. There are at least five key elements that are not new, that practitioners often incorporate to some degree into various phases of a general yoga session. Their grace lies in their simplicity and freedom from dogma. In restorative-yin practice, these five elements may become intentional, ritualized components that are likely to be enhanced or deepened by the slow, calm process of restorative-yin practice.
The First Excellence:
“Coming To The Mat”
[Stillpoint and Pranayama]
“Coming to the Mat” implies a number of processes:
Practically, in all yoga practice, “coming to the mat” aspires to trigger a physiology of rest to aid in increasing flexibility and strength in poses and the capacity to sustain relaxation throughout the session and to also contribute to a practical outcome: stress reduction. In restorative-yin practice, the rational for “coming to the mat” goes much deeper.
Overall, in the process of “coming to the mat,” the sequence of events that occur in your mind guiding body physiology triggers a physiology of rest:
- Crossing a threshold,
- Gathering supports,
- Setting up matt,
- “Settling in:” and “centering,”
- Coming to a “stillpoint” on the mat, and
- “Breath work” [awareness, softening/lengthening, focus on exhalation, cessation of exhalation].
This mind-directed physiological shift, in turn, opens mental shift: When we taste such an elemental force as our breath as freshness and freedom, everything becomes a place of grace. Everything offers. Everything offers an “opportunity” for gratitude, wherein life does not simply continue, but rather, has the opportunity to be transformed.
Specific Sequence of “Coming To The Mat:”
In restorative-yin practice, we cross over a threshold from the fast pace of the everyday into a place and a process that aspires to calm. Crossing over a “threshold” of sorts at the doorway, we are not cut off from our children or from our family or from myriad obligations. We are not giving up anything or leaving anything behind. However, “Restorative-Yin Yoga” is not a continuation of the fast pace of everyday modern life. There is a sense of taking refuge (sharanam) in a larger landscape of support that extends both deep into the tradition of yoga and into the vast universe. Given this larger context, the details that seem overwhelming and the struggles that seem to make you smaller can be swallowed up by the vastness and released. And when stresses intrude, you can place them on the other side of the threshold and look at them rather than either be the stressors [e.g., becoming an emotion such as anger] or let them go. Crossing a threshold of sorts, we enter an inner terrain, where, if we go far enough in our relaxation, the "inner" is found to weave seamlessly into the, heretofore, "outer," forming an overall tapestry of landscape, of self, of identity, that is without boundaries.
Crossing over this threshold, we might aspire to stop our everyday “high-speed cruise control.” We simply begin to slow, and to quiet, and to still as much as is possible, side-stepping out of the fast pace of everyday life. But more than either letting go or “calming down,” we begin to make a “space for grace.” It is a quality that is likely missing from our everyday, from our weekend, from the day after Monday, or from any day that we might choose.
The mat is rolled out and a place of practice is established. In Restorative practice, the process of gathering supports such as blocks and blankets and settling on the matt creates a small ritual of preparation and entry. For restorative practice, you might gather blocks and blankets and perhaps a ball or bolsters—all of which build to a “ritual of transition,” not unlike an artist gathering materials before a blank canvas.
“Coming to the mat” offers a center point. We might sit or lie down, and even wrap the body on a blanket. Coming to the mat provides a place to “settle in” and “center” oneself—a “centering process” that aspires to go deeply inward into the heart-mind to the point where, when deeply relaxed, identity might, paradoxically, expand into the larger landscape rather than lead to isolation and self-absorption. There may be a sense of focusing on the specific actions of the body, as one might focus on an incoming wave in the ocean, and yet with a sense that the wave is expressing the ocean rather than something exclusive to the wave form itself; something inclusive, opening and expansive.
“Settling in,” Stilling the body turns off the everyday “cruise control,” and we apply the brakes, and we are offered a place to stop. We bring our awareness to the body, to our thoughts and to the sensory stimuli of the practice space: the quality of light, sound, touch, and perhaps fragrance. Unlike most exercise, we bring mind strongly to the body. Stilling—non-action—is deep, intentional action that is, paradoxically, doing a lot. We quiet further—no sound—and the practice seems to take on a sacred quality, and to become something akin to living non-sectarian prayer. Taking some moments for stilling and quieting and kindness to oneself is not selfish. Returns to restorative practice radiate outward into the world in the form of reduced reactivity, increased listening and awareness, and kindness and compassion for others. Stillness reveals non-stillness, breath, perhaps heartbeat, and even activity that is not typically in consciousness—a “rivering” of breath, digestion, a streaming of mental imagery, and perhaps overall energy of the body.
“Pranayama”—breath work and body energy activation—becomes a crucial action. After stilling the body, intentional focus is brought to the breath, at first, just as it is—enduring, steady, and “present.” Perhaps still in our everyday mode and given to analysis, we might assess whether or not breathing seems stressed or whether we have sense of breathing for the body rather than following the breath. However, the intention is to follow the breath—just as it is—no ritual, just breath coming and going. Just cool air across the lips or nose and warm air exiting.
Presence: With attention to the continual process of breathing, we come concretely into the present moment. It is not really an acute “mindfulness” of one sensation after another as much as it is a sense of flow where the “arrow never really strikes a target.”
Then, perhaps, we may be admonished to “soften” the breath. Softening the breath, inhalations and exhalations become longer. Aspirations to lengthen the breath or to equalize inhalation and exhalation may be sensed to be akin to “work.” “Softening” is better, as it is intuitive and relaxing. The naval may rise, followed by the solar plexus, and then by the lower lungs and finally the inhale may ascend up under the clavicles. There may a gentle, overall sense of the soft breath being akin to a slow wave and the mind, a “rider.”
Having softened the breath, attention may be directed to exhalation—perhaps first to the sense of relaxation of the muscles of the chest. Along with each exhalation, participants may be directed to release any sense of tension.
Then, we might aspire to cease the breath as the final part of exhalation. You let the ceased breath—stillness—continue: “Perfectly Peaceful Pause.” The heartbeat might come into awareness. In the cessation of each exhale, heartbeats pulse perhaps two times or four times and gradually build to more. Inhalation of breath is encouraged to occur on its own. This first incoming, spontaneous breath is remarkable. It is not unlike that first, refreshing—exalting—breath upon coming up from underwater. And perhaps you awaken to sense that each and every breath is like this—freshness and freedom, in its most basic form. In this cessation of the breath on exhales, following the breath rather than breathing for the body becomes apparent.
As your breath softens, as the breath cycle slows significantly, body physiology that reduces reactivity strengthens. Brain chemistry, parasympathetic components of heart rate and blood pressure and endocrine regulation shift toward stress reduction and away from the sympathetic “fight-flight.” Brain waves change because neuro-chemicals change—beta waves into alpha waves. Practically, slowing the breath cycle triggers parasympathetic nervous system responses: neuro-cardio-endocrine that set in motion the process of increasingly deep relaxation throughout the restorative-yin practice session.
The Second Excellence:
“Setting An Intention For this Practice Session”
[Inspiration / Invitation]
“Setting an intention for practice” is not really that goal-driven. It is more a process of inspiration than a practice outcome. “Setting an intention” often occurs early in the session, but it can be initiated after a period of relaxation. When more deeply relaxed, our language may change from everyday chatter to a more heart-felt and intuitive response.
We might “invite” or offer an invitation to some quality to be in our lives to be in our awareness that is beyond the physical process of the sequence of asanas. We might offer the practice in behalf of others.
If new to the practice, an intention may simply involve an exploration of the practice and a sense of receptivity and openness to see what it is about.
- A sense calmness, quietness,
- A sense of respite, taking refuge and release,
- A sense of positive energy,
- A sense of healing or restoration, or revitalization or renewed energy to apply to the everyday,
- Impacting a particular physical issue or emotional issue, especially toward an outcome of release rather than resolution,
- Optimizing creativity by opening, expanding: In yoga, each pose can speak to us—child, dog, bridge, and supine goddess. Each pose is an invitation to open, expand and create/transform
By returns to practice, perhaps the inspiration from, or an invitation for the emergence of spiritual attributes [characteristics of “spiritual persons”]: sacredness, humility, freshness, peace, surrender, grace, and eloquence
The Third Excellence:
“Honoring Oneself: Allowing Practice To Be Just As It Is”
[Santosha: contentment with life as it is, on the mat and in everyday life]
Inspiration, yes, invitation, yes, but release from goals, expectations, striving, performance, anticipation, achievement, comparison with others, competition [as everyone can “win”]
“Abandoning the fruits of our actions:” Full involvement now, without thought of a goal; unending entry vs. either goal attainment or achievement
Intuitive practice: Following the body—breath, tensions, and doing what is needed today in this session. What is frustration with our ability level offering us in this moment?
Opening rather than answering: If we strive for a goal or an answer, we may miss very interesting “turns along the pathway” or new questions that may spontaneously emerge, especially in the deep listening of restorative-yin practice where poses are held longer.
Be that which is: body, breath, and mind
Moderating highs and lows: A sense of give and take, as a powerful, de-stressing and opening process
Balance—equanimity across all vicissitudes of life—especially with regard to immanent emotions and thoughts; harmony between Yin and Yang
Finally, “contentment” may open the door to allow getting in touch with the richness of life as it is—deeply inspiring, and miraculous in all of its vicissitudes (highs and lows)]
The Fourth Excellence:
Gratitude Flowers Into Joy / Cultivating Humility and Joy: Just saying the word “gratitude” toward some sensation [fresh breath or stillness in yoga practice, or seeing a leaf fall at home] immediately offers an unexpected gift: joy.
Peace is every step, every moment: Acknowledging the peace that is offered by the practice space, the support of other participants, the quietness and calmness.
Finding gratitude finds joy, and joy is much deeper as much less elusive than happiness. Happiness comes and goes, but by finding gratitude in any moment—regardless of the nature of that moment, be it suffering or calmness or celebration—finds joy.
Beginning with a moment that might seem to be the greatest challenge: It is difficult to find happiness in suffering, but it is not difficult to find joy in suffering. Being alive in that moment, being able to experience suffering viscerally and emotionally, offers simply the richness of being alive in that moment, or joy. There is a deep ground have in both suffering and non-suffering that is beyond belief, in which, as Toni Packer has suggested, is like the sun or the wind. We don’t have to “believe” in the wind or the sun. They are there in the moment, and we offer gratitude, and we experience joy. This is why suffering, adversity, and all of the things that we don't like about ourselves or others, offer us something that transcends our beliefs and habits, and has the capacity to transform us in a way that concepts, values, distinctions, achievements fail us. Just sun and wind and drinking tea and coffee or clean water, going to the bathroom, evoking a smile in another offer us containers of joy when we simply are grateful.
In the gentleness of restorative-yin yoga, we have a “laboratory” skewed toward experiences that generate gratitude and that reward us with a sense of joy. We may call this joy but other names such as “calmness” or “grace” or, even though the poses seem simple, “eloquence.” Restorative-yin practice is so stripped down, so elemental, that we might, at times, melt away the chatter of the everyday, gazing—not quickly glancing--deeply into myriad sensations, memories, and directives for our lives.
The Fifth Excellence:
“Taking/Activating Gratitude Into The World/Into Everyday Life”
The many moments of yoga practice that generate authentic sense of gratitude in yoga carry over into everyday life. The health benefits for everyday life of yoga practice are well documented. They are especially strong for restorative practice, creating physical and psychological benefits.
Beyond immediate medical and psychological benefits, there are qualities that can become attributes (in the sense that they become ongoing aspects of one’s life). Body-mind practices can transform temporary behaviors into persistent attributes.
Very concretely, we are likely to be less reactive to stress and possess autogenic skills to
relax. Slightly more effusive, there may be an enhanced sense of “harmony,” “balance,” and “energy” and of an enhanced capacity to “lighten up” (releasing negatives and attachments) with repeated practice.
Even more personal, there may be an optimal health or thriving orientation toward life and deeper engagement with all aspects of life, including a sense of richness and meaningfulness in the, heretofore, mundane and overlooked and ignored aspects of life.
There may be an even deeper sense of transformation; wherein identity expands to include experiences that heretofore seemed to be “beyond self.” Deep relaxation/calmness simply opens awareness that, in turn, opens experience that, in turn, offers new information that, in turn, may be transformative, lifting us out of black-and-white routine to experiences that are more subtle and interwoven and inseparable from others.
There may be a sense of one’s activities as capable of becoming “radiant:” Being capable of radiating gratitude or energy or calmness.
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Copyright Lance Kinseth, Deep Stillness / Shinshi, 2011
A killing frost has swept away so much life.
Biota have gone underground and under leaf fall.
The floral book of the year is closed.
But flora have not ended.
Leaves have become a living page in the book of the Earth
And flora have gone into their deep root-heart
And have sealed up in seeds.
And have sealed up in seeds.
IN THE EARTHEN yin-yang sway of the seasons, it is spring in the Southern Hemisphere.
In the Northern Hemisphere, it is a muted landscape of the leaf fall and frosts of autumn. The natural world is not some backdrop to human life, but rather, immerses human life, and offers rich provocations.
Globally, there is a spiritual/metaphysical sense that everyday life is an expression of the known universe and vast unknowable cosmos, and every event is a mini-universe. And in a scientific sense, this more esoteric sense is expressed in our growing ecological literacy. And so, there is an enduring recognition that there is a deep, longer reach of self, and the practical implication of this recognition is that the “little universe of self” is optimized when it is in harmony with the vast cosmos.
In the Northern Hemisphere, the environmental changes are dramatic. The entire landscape transforms it coloration and the daylight continues to appreciably shorten, and the sun lowers still further in its arc across the southern horizon. And human activity begins to make major shifts to match these changes. Jackets and thicker coats appear, especially in the mornings. Kettles begin to simmer with the slow cooking of soups and stews. Outside, ice-cold rains come now and again, sparingly. And the window may begin to frost. The more that ice appears, the more that fire seems to balance it. We counter the chill with the fireside hearth and perhaps kindle a rich ember within us, provoked by salving the elemental hunger for fire before the hands. In the increasing coolness or in the Yin reduction of rain and humidity (that might generate its Yang counterpart in monsoons in the Southern Hemisphere), there may be an increased sense of “fire” in the heart in the form of a radiant ember deep within body and soul.
Wintering birds begin to gather in rookeries in bare-boned treetops and in non-rookery out-of-the wind yews and hedges. Trees become skeletal, but there is a rich life that has gone down into the roots, deeply grounded.
There is a sense of melancholy—a tinge of sorrow—at the loss of the flora and the cold that precedes the coming winter, but also, a strong opportunity to be “mellow” and calmed.
In body-mind practices, the quality of deepening autumn in either Hemisphere may begin to be reflected in our slowing and quieting even more. The autumnal retreat of flora within and underground may encourage a deeper grounding within our experience.
Frost on the windowpane becomes a magical looking glass that may peer far deeper than the terrain outside the window. Gazing into it, we may come more inside ourselves, and mellow, and simmer and slow-cook and then savor complex melds of feelings and deep time that are lost in the fast dance of life that is “summer.”
If you amble outside the parameters of sidewalks—if you step even just slightly off the sidewalk, the heart of the forest opens, and we can amble there more easily. Each step there is rich ambrosia in our crush of the leaf fall. The all-ness or alikeness of the landscape—gone from viridian to ochre—may be soothing in its simplistic appearance. The insects are gone, and the sound is closer to silence than before, but marked occasionally by the sharp caws of a gathering of crows.
In a killing frost, in the small view, we see the demise of exquisite life, but if we stand back far enough, we see the transformation of life, wherein on a very high level, there is really no birth or death, just this ongoing creative flow. Our personal life is somehow there.
By calming and quieting, we connect with the tempered pace of the world itself. And we have an opportunity to discover that this world is flowing through us. As the physical world cools, we root deeper, kindling an ember deep inside ourselves against the ice. Everyday, we are wont to go fast, to reduce experiences to quick flashes. Deep autumn can provoke a value in slowing down, in “slow-cooking” and “stewing,” of going deeply inside, of deep grounding, of coming closer to the heart of practice.
In the autumn and winter of our year, anywhere in the biosphere of the Earth, we are offered this opportunity to “come inside,” and to listen more deeply to that which is somehow “within.” And in going there, we find that “within” stands to become a doorway to everything rather than an island that walls us off from the world.
So come now, in November in the growing darkness of both mornings and evenings in the Northern Hemisphere, and open the growing “lightness” from that powerful ember of energy that emanates from within us. This same light awaits us in every season, in every day, and in every moment.
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Copyright Lance Kinseth, Gateless Gate / Mumon, 2011
A CONSISTENT BODY-MIND practice forms a pathway that begins somewhere in the past and reaches into the future. Consistent practice might be likened to an upward trail around a mountain. If we have practiced for a while, we have likely encountered points where the pathway offers new perspectives. Looking back to where practice began, things that once were large are now small—as if on a mountain trail and gazing back at an outspreading moraine below where roadways are reduced to thin lines and details are lost. And looking ahead, there is a vast, opening terrain, where the present moment of practice is somehow a tiny facet of the vast—as if gazing into an archipelago of clouds and the tips of numerous summits of a range of mountain uplift. And ahead on the pathway, there are turns that will offer views now hidden.
While the depth of our practice will grow with consistent returns, it is also possible that we might travel a good distance and fall far short of what the pathway offers us. This occurs when the pathway becomes routine, and we hold to narrow expectations rather than calm. In yoga, for example, we may settle for a little more strength or flexibility or familiarity with the routine. And our practice may then become a walled tunnel rather than an opening gateway.
When we come to a body-mind practice session, we cross a threshold. We might believe that we are simply stepping from the face pace of everyday into a still space for some moments of respite. But when the body-mind practice optimizes calmness, we might cross over into an unwalled landscape that is almost like finding another world inside the everyday world. This newfound world is not an esoteric escape, but rather is a step inside the deep work that buoys up the everyday.
In everyday time, we might say, “It is 1PM—time for restorative yoga to begin.” However, by 2 PM, the practice room will have rotated perhaps one thousand miles to the East as the Earth rotates and, in our everyday vision, the sun appears to move West. By 2 PM, on our matts, we have journeyed well over one million miles as a dust speck aspect of the Milky Way Galaxy—flying carpets of sorts! All of this might go unperceived since we find comfort in creating distance and boundaries as a “nectar” of familiarity that offers comfort, while each moment, cosmos sweeps through our actions, and we, almost unknowingly and not wanting to know, express cosmos.
Coming for a physical workout or for relaxation or for respite, we likely will find walls where there is a gateway. When we do not calm, this gateway is likely to remain hidden. But when we calm, where there once seemed to be a wall, a pathway may open an enduring child state that offers a sense of wonder.
Copyright Paige Andreas, age 8, The Door At The End Of The Rainbow, 2011
Saturday, October 1, 2011
Copyright Lance Kinseth, Rivers Into Islands, 24”x48, 2006
THE QUIETNESS AND SUSTAINED poses of restorative yoga may not be just an adjunct to more active yoga: Restorative yoga practice may influence the direction of general yoga practice.
Restorative-Yin yoga practice suggests taking a strong look at the value of slowing down. In slowing down, there is a rich opportunity for power [strength and flexibility], subtlety, deepening, centering, and receptivity.
The longer time spent in restorative poses may begin to be reflected in spending longer time in familiar yoga sequences that focus more on muscular strength and flexibility, as well as encourage more attention to Yin Yoga that holds poses longer to focus on connective tissue.
Yoga sequences involving longer time spent in poses [and that are repeated several times weekly(i.e., regularly)] might accelerate increases in flexibility and strength. Staying in the pose for longer duration may allow for gravity to do its work, as well as further relaxation of tension that, in turn, allows for participants to release a little further into the pose to increase flexibility, as well as increase muscle strength that might be missed in shorter-held poses.
In “Soft Power Yoga,” holding a pose for a longer duration is further amplified by doing variations on that pose before proceeding to a new pose. For example, Wide Forward Bend [Prasarita Padottanasana] might involve a sequence of variations including:
- support on hands,
- followed by placing head on matt,
- followed by clasping hands behind back with head on matt and extending forward/overhead,
- followed by extending a hand to the right and then to the left for a twist,
- followed by a pose involving hands extended out from the sides of the body and then forward in “prayer hands” and, finally,
- followed by lowering down to elbows and lowering the central body to extend legs even wider.
The “heart” of Soft Power Yoga involves an extended stay in a core pose with variations. This practice may accelerate the strengthening of muscles and flexibility. Further, variations on a single pose, continue to reinforce previous and ongoing work such as opening the upper back, twisting, and so forth. Occasional counter-poses such as child [Balasana] allow enough recovery to sustain the intensity rather than compromise the continually held poses. Finally, holding poses longer may really optimize stretching and strengthening connective tissue that responds best to sustained poses as Yin Yoga capitalizes on to strengthen lumbar and hip fascia. In Soft Power Yoga, connective tissue is engaged throughout the body. One place this may become evident is in the upper back and chest.
“Soft” essentially references “slow,” and is a quite different experience than a more rapid flow. This is not to say that doing sequences of poses much slower is better that moving faster. Since each is different, each offers different qualities. And since each is different, poses such as lunges, warrior variations, and triangle variations may be done in routine sessions, while other poses might be stressed in Soft Power sessions, enriching overall yoga practice. However, doing vinyasa involving, for example, Sun Salutation variations, very slow, and holding each pose longer may produce rapid qualitative and quantitative gains in strength. Doing the same, for example with seated variations— such as Standing Forward Bend, followed by a sequence of seated variations such as Head-To-Knee [Janu Sirsasana], Marichyasana A&B&C, Tortoise [Kurmasana] and Seated “West” Intense Stretch [Paschimottanasana]—holding poses for longer durations—may produce more rapid gains in flexibility.
One optimizing advantage of slowing down sequences of poses as well as doing variations on each major pose is that it provides time to stay in the pose and “listen to the body” in that pose. Physiologically, a practitioner may experience the relaxation of tension and the ability to go a little further in the pose for increased flexibility or strength. This conclusion is rather rational and anticipated.
Likely to be less recognized but just as rational, the stillness provides a contemplative quality that might be missed in the process of frequent postural shifts in vinyasa sequences. A “Soft” [Pelava] “Power” [Zakti] orientation is quantitatively different from either a popular and dominant vinyasa sequence or a “Power Yoga” that involves rapidly shifting postures or that may quite athletic/gymnastic, involving shifts such as rollovers from plank to bridge poses. In general, all “yoga” practices tend to be described by participants as consummating in a spiritual quality that basic exercise does not provide but, often, there is a sense that the practices may too-closely mimic the fast pace of modern life, and have their strongest appeal as “physical fitness workouts” that may be more appealing than traditional fitness options, but still be essentially popular, alternative “fitness” models.
Appealing to a general exercise population, “Soft Power” sequences satisfy a need for a fitness process that is oriented toward increasing flexibility and strength [and may provide more rapid results]. However, uniquely, “Soft Power Yoga” may better incorporate a process of slowing down, releasing tension, and going further into the opportunities presented by holding the pose to optimize flexibility and strength, AND “listen to the spirit.”
Holding poses longer may also allow for more intuitive practice. In staying with a pose and listening to the body, variations in poses unique to each person may emerge, as practitioners listen more closely to the body and aspire to respond to that which is needed.
Why “Soft Power Yoga”?
Simply, by any measure, “Soft Power Yoga” is appealing its concrete efficacy in optimizing—rapidly----flexibility and strength in the physical body. And then, as a gateway to optimize our capacity to open and listen and develop, “Soft Power” offers something that is not new, something known and longstanding: a core drive toward deep calmness in yoga and other body-mind practices as well.
SELECTED SOFT POWER SEQUENCE THEMES:
Seal [Yin] /Cobra [Hatha] variations
Wide Angle Forward Fold variations [sketched above] / Frog variations / Saddle-
Reclining Hero variations
Standing Forward Fold variations [+fold in Half Lotus]
Seated Variations: e.g., Janu Sirsasana, Marichya variations, Seated Intense Stretch,
Supported Shoulder Stand variations
Sun Salutation [slow]
Squat variations: e.g., Garland, Balancing Bound Angle
OVERALL COMPONENTS OF SOFT POWER:
An intermediate practice: a balance of rest, activity and illumination
“Hang out” in poses [slow and hold] and their variations to optimize increasing flexibility [Ayama, “flexible” to “open the door”] and strength; all with a strong sense of calmness or “softness,” listening to body-mind-spirit.
HANG OUT IN POSES:
- Hold/sustain poses longer to maximize stretch and strength: notice tightness, stretch and then release;
- Do sequences that involve variations of each pose: child, wide-angle forward fold, forward fold, shoulder stands;
- Explore poses not often done in regular group practice
RELEASING TO DEEPEN AND LISTEN:
- Counters of muscle intensity and rest [warming and cooling];
- Open relaxation/ explore “release” through slow flow through poses, finishing the practice session with an overall sense of relaxation;
- Slowness and holding provides mental space to listen to body [sensations and imagery] vs. keeping pace with a cycle of vinyasa; and
- Inner quietness by slowing activity.
Copyright Lance Kinseth, A Prayer Of Birds And Trees: Going Inside Leaves, 48”x48, 2011
The floral notebook is nearly closed.
Tree tops sooth our loss of flowers to the frost: crimson, oranges and ambers
As miraculous star-catching leaves dehisce.
Cold rain, crisp winds and the rich beginning of
Soft leaf fall—precision sun mechanics thrown down,
But not away,
Becoming this year’s rich page in the book of the Earth.
Late wild flowers have found their wings
Feathered--almost, unbarbed—almost a satin texture.
The North of Earth sways away from the sun
—Extraordinarily ordinary—as the whole planet Earth, topples away from the Sun.
EXQUISITE “CRISP” COLOR bursts out of the North American mid-continent, as if “green” suddenly opens to a color sample book. Under the matt of soil, all of the tubers are swollen, readying to slow-cook and meld with everything we will bring to them—onions and bouillon and salts and peppers, to spice up the growing darkness. In the Southern Hemisphere, “Spring” and “Summer,” as we have known it, will open to something not less than “grace” through that which we are likely to name “winter.”
With the slow tilt of the Earth, perhaps we might lean back just a little more. Perhaps we might give over, just little more, “striving.” And with this seasonal shift, perhaps a corollary sense of appreciation for things that high-speed modern time seems to miss opens.
All around us, the leaves are moving from green to gold and crimson. We begin to directly see the “inside of leaves,” as leaves turn themselves inside out. The green chlorophyll dissipates as leaves shut down and dehisce from the branch. And the rainbow of colors that were hidden by green appear, sometime abruptly, as if overnight. There are many colors in that which we might superficially term “green” or “yellow” or “orange” or “red.” There are viridians and cadmiums, olive, Van Dyke red and burnt sienna, orange red, almond, Venetian rose, chocolate, sandalwood, raspberry, yellow oxide, burgundy, wisteria, bronze yellow, copper, apricot, and edges along veins glowing teal and emerald green and magenta.
This might be a rich time for body-mind practice. As the colors of fall begin to appear, so, too, our body-mind practices might begin to gradually take on a different “color” or “tone.” A “routine” of seemingly same-old, dependable practices—like summer’s dependable “green”—may begin to open to a “rainbow.”
In the Northern Hemisphere, the night begins to lengthen. Perhaps we begin to also lengthen, perhaps spending more time in a pose, and/or perhaps we give over some more time devoted to opening the rich “palate” that has remained more internal up to now in our body-mind practices.
As we go deeper inside body-mind practice in any season, we might even find that inside is so deep that there is no boundary between “inside” and “outside.”
In The Triumph Of The Sparrow: Zen Poems, Shinkichi Takahashi writes that “The sparrow stirs/ The universe has moved slightly” [p.68] and “He hops calmly, from branch to empty branch/ In an absolutely spaceless world” [p.44]. Takahashi admonishes us that there is this very real way that we are the sparrow, flowers, snow, wind, bream, the universe falling apart, a strawberry, a rat, thistles [blooming in the heart], and the sun with four legs waging its tail.
We try to imagine that we are “solid,” which may be to say that we are self-complete. We might even imagine that we are separate and above most of our experience, including the human beings that we daily encounter in traffic, shopping, walking, in houses that we amble by.
We are not transparent enough. We think that we have boundaries, especially at our skin. Just once, try holding your breath or not eating. The world swims in us, not even needing to come “inside,” as that is what is has been doing, becoming that is named “ourselves,” “we,” “us,” “you” and “I.”
In any season, our body-mind practices are offered an opportunity to NOT be limited.
In restorative-yin yoga, we come to the matt, and if we are fortunate, in the stillness and quietness of the practice, we are drawn, deeply, inside. It is a landscape that we know, that we immediately recognize, but it is a place that we may not really go as deep as we might. Inside, we are offered more than a mask of green. Inside, a rainbow may become visible.
Monday, September 19, 2011
Copyright Lance Kinseth, Buddha-Ocean / Fo-hai, 2011
REPETITION AND CYCLE do not consummate as much in circles as in spirals. No event is repeated. Amazing freshness!
Perched on a coastal shoreline, incoming waves seem the same or, at least, repeating sequels of waves of different intensity. For example, the waves photographed above express a vast process. The amber color of the waves are an expression of the vast plate underlying Lake Superior tilting down on its southern side, eroding the south coasts, turning the lucid waters there amber to reddish color that is visible in the photo.
There are turquoise waves. There are waves that seem glassine, when the waves raise up and thin so that you can see right through them, and there are waves glittering from sun-struck scales of fish lifted inside the thinning curve of the incoming wave. These waves are a metaphor for waves in our intentional movements, in our cycles of respiration and digestion, and in the flow of each moment of time.
In body-mind practices where sequences of form and pose are repeated, the practice might seem to be the same. Day-by-day, physically, it is not the same. And by returns to practice, we may come to sense that these waves are spirals rather than circles. Across time, body-mind practices might be compared to a slowing trek, slowly spiraling upward on a mountain path. Rather than going around in circles, in each new turn, there are new views ahead and a different perception when glancing back from where we have come. Flexibility and strength and mobility improve, and subtlety and depth of actions, both in body-mind practice and in everyday life, increase. Paradoxically, across time, in our “repetition,” there is a strong sense of “development” and “change” and “progress”—“spiraling.”
Our breaths and our soft movement in body-mind practices have much in common with waves of water or wind. Were we to really examine who we are and that for which we are living, we might get a hold on this sense of “spiraling”—continually changing—that comprises the very heart of our living and being-ness. We might have a sense of not only touching something eternal and enduring, but also something that is not archaic, something that is “modern” and falling into the future.
In everyday life, many of our actions can seem blunt and abrupt rather than fluid and circular. Body-mind practices offer a pathway to awaken this profound sense of participation in the ongoing creation of the world.
In modern life, when metaphors such as “wave” and “flow” arise within our practice, we may dramatically elevate our practice, especially in terms of beauty and increasing calmness. In our practice, there is likely to be something akin to the flow of wind in grass and incoming waves in water, and the nuances of each swirl, are not primitive, but rather, something beautiful, and this is eloquently expressed in the longstanding Japanese term of appreciation, furyu —the “beauty of wind and water.”
In the quiescence of many body-mind practices, each of our breaths and each gesture can generate a sense of being like the curve of wind-blown snow in deep winter or wind-in-grass or the wind-singing of trees or the fractal sweep of a covey of birds or of the river around a boulder in any season. The wind-blown curve of snow or wind-in-grass or the incoming wave on Big Sur, on coastal California, mirror something that is occurring in our body-mind practices.
By returns to body-mind practices, we stand to extend this expanded awareness more consciously into our everyday lives, rather than simply be a quality that is limited to the practice session. The relatedness of body-mind practices to everyday life is, really, that which draws us like a magnet to such practices. We hunger for something deep albeit elusive in these practices that may be missing or overwhelmed at times in our everyday. We speculate that it might be possible to “thrive” rather than just survive. And in our thriving and energizing, we might become outspreading waves of energy that, humbly rather than ostentatiously, may add some small moments of grace to the everyday, and refresh and energize others, outspreading—shanti—being peace.
Each of our movements, from the beginning of practice through becoming an adept, no matter how restricted or malleable, is beautiful, graced—a wave. In the flow from one pose to another or in the flow of tai chi from rolling back to pressing, the multiplicity of wave that is the dynamic of the physical and biotic Earth flies softly forward.
Saturday, September 10, 2011
SUMMER THROUGH SEPTEMBER Saturday Yoga In The Park in Des Moines, Iowa: Sponsored by Des Moines Parks & Recreation, Gray's Lake Park, free and open to all levels, facilitated by different yoga practitioners in Central Iowa each week, currently drawing between 100-200 participants per week
Thursday, September 1, 2011
Copyright Lance Kinseth, Middle Way / Chudo, 2011
Rolling toward Equinox
The slow-sway of Earth now away from the Sun
Toning down the burst to life,
A wash of the stars,
Overflowing and then softly waning.
SEPTEMBER: a middle way—in between plenitude and loss
In the North American mid-continent, there is the tug of a swelling tide of biomass from summer’s production and the simultaneous outflow of light in the waning of days
A time of seasonal transition from summer to the meteorological autumn
Butterflies, the silk of milkweed, fallen apples, ochre fields of golden corn, golden rod and woodland sunflowers
Tattered leaves—wind-beaten and devoured and encysted by insects
The drying garden—in this drying, a sense of ending—the coming end of flora, and in in human life as exemplified in Japan—in the coming visits to family graves near equinox
Against summer’s heat, an incoming coolness—a sense of beginning and freshness
The temperature shift now becoming literal in morning haze in midcontentent, as fogged Earth leans back from the sun—jeweled cobwebs and grass blade
Harvest moon—the full moon closest to equinox, rising within a half-hour of sunset, looking very large and brightening night, and so named for the gift of night illumination to complete the harvest.
IN THE NORTH AMERICAN mid-continent, September’s moderation of climate might inspire some symmetry between body-mind practice and the immanent season.
A middle way in body-mind practice, in between the tides of pressing to a physical edge and release, moderation is strongly expressed in third excellence of yoga: to allow the practice to be just what it is, to be what is optimal for that day, rather than to aspire to rush ahead. Moderation is also expressed in Santosha—contentment with life-as-it-is. In moderation, a release of tension appears. In the calmness of moderation, nuances lost in the depletion of energy might appear, offering more clarity. In moderation, more “space” and time is offered, allowing for deeply enriched states of being, such as charm and grace, to appear in the moments of practice.
Attention given over to moderation in body-mind practice can translate into optimal human attributes that extend into everyday life: Mental Calmness, Mediation, Diplomacy, Composure, Poise, Forbearance, Temperance, Tolerance, Peace, and Lenience
Moderation is the center wherein all philosophies, both human and divine, meet.
In restorative yoga, perhaps there might be an overall rekindling of a strong sense of moderation in all poses. And for special emphasis in this or any season, Mahamudra, an advanced seated pose for breath control that resembles Janu Sirasana, might be moderated for rich restorative practice to provide a place for deep listening to the body. Modified,
- Place either a bolster or rolled blanket under the knee of the extended leg to both bend and support knee, releasing hamstring and gastronemius muscle tension.
- Place another rolled blanket or bolster atop knee.
- Lean gently forward, bending elbows and stacking hands softly on shins just below knee on extended leg, and resting head gently on support to release neck tension. Support atop knee should also aspire to release tension in lumbar fascia. [Raising head support or adding a slight backward bend of the thoracic spine can reduce lumbar tension. Perhaps wrap the body in a blanket.
Once in the pose, inhale-exhale softly and evenly through nose. With tension released, energy is optimized for focus on developing a stillness. Then bring awareness to sensations that emerge from one’s entire body mass—a feeling of being fully inside the complete body rather than either focus on in a specific area or thoughts generated by the feelings, attending to the vitality of life force and energy that is continuously active throughout the body. Relax and listen deeply. Repeat on other side.