Where would you say happiness comes from? Are you happy? If so, where does your happiness come from? Many would say money played an important role in the creation of happiness. Although we often see images of poor children in poor countries playing happily in the streets. We also see, unfortunately too many times, wealthy children from wealthy countries unhappy, distracted by trivia and sometimes even suicidal. So we can count money out as a factor causing or creating happiness.
I’m sure it’s got more to do with the poor kids playing outside in the fresh air, concerned with genuine and worthy tasks like collecting water for the family compared to the western world’s teenager stuck in their bedroom in a closed flat, in a polluted city playing violent games on their device……..etc. Extreme scenarios, I admit, but you get the picture.
Health will also be seen as a happiness generating factor for many of you and, yes, it is hard to feel happiness while in severe pain, I understand. However, pain aside, we can see from examples such as Nick Vujicic (https://www.lifewithoutlimbs.org/) with his tag line “no arms, no legs, no worries” that physical health is certainly not the overriding factor to finding true happiness.
Some would cite Love as being relevant as to where happiness comes from and to some extent I have to agree. The love of others is important as is loving others. But these are not as important as loving the self. Where does that come from? Loving the self? If you run an inner dialogue of self loathing with yourself then you clearly do not love yourself and are clearly not truly happy. Changing these negative thoughts about yourself into positive ones will help but many will say that’s easier said than done. Thoughts are, therefore, an interesting topic.
So, before we explore the subject of happiness further, I would like to discuss thoughts. After all, happiness can be subjective, right? We may think we’re happy. Or we may think we’re not happy. We may compare ourselves to others. But who can ever measure happiness anyway? How do you even know if you’re happy or not? Is there a scale of happiness? How do we know how far up the scale we are or, more importantly, how high does the scale go and how can we get to the top of it?
Thinking is important, right? We all know we have to think positively. So let’s start there. Our thoughts. Where do they come from? Where do your thoughts come from? Think about it.
Our thoughts are such a massive part of who we are (and what we create) and they are so personal to us – so where do they come from? The obvious knee jerk answer is that they come from our mind. So, where is our mind? Think about it. Where is your mind? We can lose it, we can change it, we can speak it and it can wander – but where is it? Some may say in our brains. We know where our brains are. Our brains are physical. Within our skulls. Our heads. Our craniums.
So, does a dead man (woman, human..) have a brain? Yes, of course. Does he have a mind? Does he have thoughts? I think not.
Let’s take this dead man and compare him with a live body and ask a few more questions.
How does the live body see? Through his eyes I hear you say. But the dead body also has eyes but he cannot see.
How does the live body hear? For the dead body has ears but cannot hear. He has a mouth and tongue but cannot speak.
If I asked you to raise your hand in the air and then asked you how you managed to do that, you’ll probably say with the use of your muscles and yes, you’d be partially correct but what about the dead body. He has muscles too but cannot lift his arm. He also has a heart, but cannot feel.
If I asked you where you get your energy from you’ll probably say “food” which, I guess, to a certain extent is true but the dead man has the remains of his last meal in his stomach yet he has no energy.
The dead man also has no intuition, inspiration, creativity, personality or dreams. He cannot make any decisions – negative or positive.
So what is the overriding difference between the live body and the dead body?
Physically, the only difference between the two bodies is that one is still breathing and the other one isn’t. One is inhaling and exhaling and the other one isn’t. But it’s more than that, isn’t it? Because one is still thinking, dreaming, inspiring, digesting, feeling, seeing, hearing, deciding, caring, loving……….being.
So, although the only difference between these two bodies is that one is breathing and the other one isn’t, with that breath comes all the other differences: health, ideas, thoughts, intuition, dreams, love, joy, awareness, visions, consciousness, happiness, personality and oxygen. That’s why Yoga teachers, Energy Healers, Energy Psychologists and the like call it our Life Force energy and not just breath.
If our thoughts come to us through our breath, then so do our ideas, our decisions, our intuition, our visions, our positivity and our creativity. And from these come our choices, direction and subsequent success, right? All from the breath. This is our guidance. We follow the guidance we receive with each breath. We follow the ideas and answers we get from our thoughts which come via the breath. When we want to clear our minds we go outside and breath more deeply. We go to the sea to feel healthier. We all feel better having spent time in nature and fresh air. We know all this but most of us never really acknowledge that the Native American Indians and Bob Dylan had it so sussed. “The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind!” This is how our life force energy comes to us: through the energy we breath (and the energy we take in through our chakras but that’s another story!) So our energy is ultimately coming from the Universe – consciousness itself. It creates our connection with Source Energy. The Divine. The Creator. Whatever you want to call it. This is where we get our guidance. Following our guidance in the form of ideas and intuition (and for some in the form of more direct communication from their guides) leads us to being better able to creatively fulfil our life purpose. Our gifts and life purpose are usually things we feel passionate about. Using our gifts and fulfilling our life purpose, therefore, makes us feel good. It raises our vibrations. Brings us success. And makes us happy!
The Life Force Energy is also (full of) love. It is this energy of love that heals the body. It detoxifies our cells. We have seen this with Dr Masaru Emoto’s work on Water Crystals (http://www.masaru-emoto.net/english/water-crystal.html) His work shows how the energy of love and gratitude, among other positive energies, can cleanse, purify and detoxify water molecules. Let’s not forget that we are 70% water and everything is energy, right? So we can also use the energy of love, gratitude, appreciation etc to heal ourselves. The Life Force Energy is full of love. Visualising this love entering our bodies with every inhale is so simple yet so powerful. The sub conscious mind cannot differentiate between reality and imagination so if you imagine the healing, it will become your reality. After all, images in a horror film can make us scared. Images of a sexual content can make people feel sexy. So images of your life force energy healing you with love can, quite literally, heal you with love!
We also use the breath to help us meditate. Focusing on our breath helps us clear the mind, relax the body and go within where we can find any amount of peace and joy.
The breath also brings oxygen to areas that need it. It is well documented that cancer cells thrive in deoxygenated environments and they do not multiply in well oxygenated environments. Why is this? I am not a doctor and don’t claim to be. I am not qualified in conventional medicine and don’t purport to be. I’m just making the point that our breath needs our respect. More than we give it. Our breath is so much more important than we realise. Our breath brings with it our healing.
This also explains why Pranayama (Breathing Techniques) is such a major part of Yoga and one of the 8 limbs of Yoga according to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Pranayama uses the breath to control the body – it’s relaxation, health, fitness, balance and ability to meditate. Powerful stuff!
Ultimately, it is so simple and so easy to change so much of what we perceive as wrong in our lives. Most people think their feelings and emotions affect their breathing but we can turn this around and see that our breathing can affect our feelings and emotions. That’s a better concept, don’t you think? More empowering. It gives us more control over our feelings and emotions. We can breathe ourselves to happiness!
We should point out here too, I guess, that we, as humans, can go weeks without food, we can go days without water but we can go only a few minutes without breathing. Our breath is more than just our oxygen. And it does more than just keep us alive. As we have seen, it is our whole life and the basis for everything in it. Our breath is our Soul and, as such, it is the basis of who we are and who we want to be. Who we can be. Most importantly, our breath provides us with everything we need: our health, our guidance and our happiness.
So go on and breathe yourself to Happiness!
In my attempts to encourage people to take up Yoga, I hear so many crazy excuses as to why they (think they) can’t, from “I can’t sit on the floor” to “I haven’t got time” to “My shoulder/knee/back/foot hurts” to simply and, more honestly, “I can’t be bothered.” Well, today, I’m here to tell you that you can STILL practice Yoga despite all of the above excuses!
According to the Sacred Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, there are 8 limbs to Yoga and the physical postures, known as “Asanas” are only one of the 8 limbs. So, I’ve picked (or adapted) some of the other 7 limbs for you to try. Can I point out too, please, that they can all be done anywhere and everywhere – so no excuses!
As Yoga is essentially a preparation for meditation, the “limbs” begin with preparing ourselves in some way and then our surroundings and then they focus on the physical body (asanas) and later moving into the breath (pranayama) and then the last few limbs relate to the different stages of meditation and connection. For any experienced Yogis out there, I apologise for the simplification I am about to provide but my aim here is to show those new to the practice how we can easily benefit from other aspects of Yoga practice.
Yama is the first limb and is broken down into 5 smaller sections, which basically relate to being a good person. So the first way is, in fact, 5 ways! The first being Ahimsa which is the practicing of non-violence. Sounds easy, eh? I’m sure you are not physically violent in nature but it also refers to our thoughts and not just our deeds – and beating yourself up with your inner talk is definitely not Ahimsa. So back to those positive affirmations about self love here – to help you avoid any negative thoughts about yourself or others.
Other Yamas include Satya which is about being honest with yourself and others and Asteya which translates as non-stealing. When we think of stealing we easily relate the word to possessions and money but it can mean so much more than that. Bullies steal the confidence and self esteem of their victims, chronic complainers steal energy from their listeners, manipulators take what is not readily given to them.
If you take something which is not willingly given to you, then you are not practicing Asteya.
Brahmacharya is usually translated as continence meaning to “hold in” and relates to conserving your energy (in all its forms) and only directing it where it is needed to go. It includes self-control and also not wasting time and effort. The last Yama is Aparigraha which translates as non-covetness and relates to not being greedy and taking only what you need at that time.
On reflection, to fully live by these Yamas is not as easy as it initially sounds but just making progress in these 5 areas of life can make a huge difference to our health and happiness. After all, it’s all about the energy – and everything is energy, right?
This is the second limb of Yoga and also breaks down into 5 sections but, don’t worry, we’re not going to go through all of them. I am only focusing on the areas of Yoga you can practice when it’s too hot to do anything else or you are feeling too lazy to do anything else! So I am just picking the fourth Niyama today which is Svadhyaya. Svadhyaya refers to studying scriptures and self study but can be related to everyday life as reading/listening to inspiring words and writing some sort of journal or gratitude list. There’s plenty on the internet these days to inspire us so just set the intention to be inspired and start surfing! Writing freely is also a great way to release “stuff” and gratitude lists are an excellent way to help us see what we have and what we desire and basically where we’re at (self-study). Reading back over these journals is a great way to acknowledge your progress especially on those days when you need a little extra encouragement.
This is the breathing limb! Prana is often translated simply as “breath” but it is SO much more than that so I prefer to use the term “life force energy”. The word yama translates as control or technique so together pranayama relates to the control and techniques used in breathing in the life force energy. There are so many different techniques to help us focus on inhaling prana (breathing) but, don’t worry, I’ll just include my favourites here.
This is the deep breath, often accompanied by a raspy sound from the back of the throat, which concentrates on taking the breath all the way down to the belly and allowing the belly to comfortably expand with the inhale and relax with the exhale. Most people when taking a deep breath sub consciously hold their bellies in and extend their chests. Try it and see if you do the same. This subconscious act deprives the lower abdomen of receiving its full quota of vital life force energy. By allowing the breath to come all the way down and by not worrying about the belly expanding as far as it naturally wants to you can really nourish this lower abdominal area (sacral chakra). This is particularly healing for any digestive or gynaecological problems. Try it and see – let me know how you get on with it.
This is one of my favourites and works with balancing the right and left sides of the body by balancing the prana flow through the right and then left nostrils in turn. Block one nostril and inhale slowly (allowing the belly to expand), hold for a second or two, and then block that nostril, unblock the other nostril and exhale slowly. Inhale again through the same nostril that you just exhaled from and hold for a second or two before exhaling out of the other nostril. Repeat for as long as is comfortable for you.
This balances our feminine and masculine energies, our ida and pingala, our yin and yang – whatever language you prefer! By the way, this practice is excellent for easing menstrual and menopausal symptoms!
This techniques takes some practice but is so worth it. We focus on our exhale and almost force the breath out using our abdominal muscles to ensure we have exhaled completely. Allow the inhalation to happen naturally before focusing on the next exhale. With practice you can get faster with this breathing pattern and it’s super energising!
As stated earlier, the last 4 “limbs” of Yoga all relate to Meditation or the preparation of meditation. Pratyahara refers to the withdrawal of our senses as we begin to focus within. This is the aspect of Yoga that allows monks to meditate for days on end without moving, eating or drinking. It focuses on detaching from the physical body and therefore the physical senses. Needless to say it would take a life time or two to master this one. On our Yoga teacher training course, we practiced Yoga a few times in the park with an army of flies that were determined to distract us – they gave us the perfect opportunity to practice our pratyahara. The deeper into meditation we went the less these flies could bother us!
Dharana refers to the concentraion stage of the process and Dhyana is the actual meditation before you get to Samadhi which Google translates as “a state of intense concentration achieved through meditation. In yoga this is regarded as the final stage, at which union with the divine is reached (before or at death).” This is where most of us struggle with our Yoga practice so let’s bring it back to a level we can all relate to.
For those of you who read my first book Heal yourself to Happiness, you will know I dedicated a whole section to the topic of meditation. Meditation simplified, in my opinion, just means putting your conscious mind to one side for a while and letting the subconscious come to the fore. We do this naturally without thinking so many times during the day yet we don’t realise this is the beginning of meditating. Do you ever “drift off” in thought while driving a familiar route alone? Or while doing the dishes? It’s like day dreaming. That moment just before you fall asleep or that moment you awaken. We often experience this relaxation of the conscious mind during exercise, painting, doing crafts, puzzles, gardening, cooking……….in fact, usually when we’re doing something we love that we find relaxing. That is the feeling we want to create which is why it’s so important to spend time relaxing and doing the things you love. If you can nurture this feeling and deepen it then you’re well on your way to meditating. This is when you get all your bright ideas, creativity, inspiration, intuition and guidance for this is when your spirit guides can communicate with you more clearly. This is why meditating is so healing because it gives you the answers you need through your own intuition. Your own inner guidance system. Perfect!
So there you have it. Four ways you can practice Yoga without even getting up! Let me know how you get on.
Love and Blessings
“..the answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind, the answer is blowin’ in the wind.”
I had never really understood the meaning of these famous lyrics until recently. I was watching a film the other day about Native American Indians and they mentioned how it is important to listen to the wind. They said that the answers they seek are found by listening to the wind. It is easy to gloss over these comments, phrases and lyrics but the truth behind them has now dawned on me.
As I see it, it all relates to breathing. Our answers come to us through our breath which comes from the air (and wind). And not just our answers………….for we may not know what the questions are! But our inspiration, our health, our ideas, our dreams, our energy, our intuition, our visions, our oxygen – in short, our life force energy!
I told someone the other day about my ideas to write a piece called “The Importance of Breathing” and they just laughed. Of course breathing is important – we’d die if we didn’t breathe. Yes. Good point. But have you ever really thought about that? I mean, really thought about it? After all, we can go weeks without food, days without water but very few minutes without breath. And our breath does so much more than just keep us alive. It feeds and nourishes our bodies, minds and souls – it brings us, or it IS, our Life Force Energy which in turn brings us our ideas, intuition, creativity, thoughts, feelings and ……..everything! Shouldn’t we, therefore, give it some respect and spend a little more time focussing on it and nurturing it?
We know that breathing affects our physical bodies. We associate someone panicking with taking short, shallow breaths and we encourage them to breathe slowly and more deeply. We associate a shock with a sudden gasp followed by the breath being held in an unnatural way. When we are fearful our hearts beat faster and our bodies want to breathe faster – in fact, there are many negative emotions associated with short, shallow breaths.
We also know that when we go to the seaside, it’s instinctive to take a large purposeful breath in and fill the lungs to enjoy the commonly recognised benefits of the sea air. We know that when we are relaxed and flop into our sofas at the end of a busy day we give an almost exaggerated sigh – in other words a deep, slow, meaningful breath out. We also know that Meditation and Yoga both practice slow, deep, purposeful breathing.
So we can see that slow, deep, deliberate breathing is healthy and good for our bodies (and minds and emotions) and short and shallow breaths are not good for our health or bodies or minds or emotions. If this evidence is all around us and we experience the positives and negatives of our breathing patterns on a daily basis, then why? oh why? do we not concentrate more on correcting and changing our breathing patterns to enjoy better health and happiness?
If breathing slowly and deeply can relieve a panic attack, calm a fearful person and relax the mind so easily then why, in this world of so much stress, do we not practice it more often. Breathing slowly, deeply and mindfully. I love it! It feels so good and makes me healthier and even happier!
Doesn’t everyone want to improve their health, reduce their stress and feel happier? Well, learning to breath properly – more mindfully – can do that for you. After all, many sportspeople learn new and different breathing patterns to enhance their physical performance – whether it be to stay underwater longer, build up confidence or to generate energy – they are in fact, empowering their physical bodies with their breath. Therefore, so can you. You can heal, relax and energise your body with something as simple as your breath.
I say “simple” but to be honest, I don’t think the breath is that simple. I think it’s actually an incredibly complex concept and full of so many things it is actually far from simple. In Yoga we are taught about Pranayama which is usually translated from the Sanskrit as Breathing Techniques – the word “prana” being translated as “breath” but I think this is a gross mis interpretation. Some translate “prana” as Life Force Energy which, in my opinion, is far more accurate. Have you ever thought about just how much we get from our breath? And I don’t just mean “life”!
If I asked you what you see with, you would probably say your eyes. What do you speak with? You’re now wanting to say “the mouth”, aren’t you? What do you think with? your brain? or your mind? Your brain is in your head but where is your mind? Where do your thoughts come from?
If I asked you to raise your hand in the air and then asked you how you managed to do that, you’ll probably say with the use of your muscles and again, you’d be partially correct but think about this…………….
Imagine two bodies lying side by side. One alive and full of life and the other one dead. Think about it for a moment. The dead body has a brain but cannot think. It has a heart but cannot feel. It has eyes but cannot see. It has muscles but cannot life its arm. Where is the dead body’s mind?
If I asked you where you get your energy from you’ll probably say “food” which, I guess, to a certain extent is true but the dead man has the remains of his last meal in his stomach yet he has no energy.
Physically, the only difference between the two bodies is one is still breathing and the other one isn’t. But it’s more than that. One is still thinking, dreaming, inspiring, digesting, feeling, seeing, hearing, caring, loving……….being.
In fact, the only difference between the two bodies is one is breathing and the other one isn’t. Yet with that breath comes all our health, ideas, thoughts, intuition, dreams, love, joy, awareness, visions, consciousness, happiness and connection and for the scientists among you, our oxygen!!
The increased oxygen intake from slow, deep mindful breathing will help you detoxify your body’s cells. We know that cancer cells, for example, cannot survive in oxygenated environments so that’s just another bonus of breathing in such a way as to maximise your oxygen intake.
So ALL these things come to us in our breath. That’s why we call it the Life Force Energy. So if you want more health in your life, greater ideas, thoughts and intuition, more love and joy, heightened awareness, consciousness and connection as well as more happiness then breathe slowly, deeply and mindfully more often in any way you can making a point to improve the quality of the air you breathe as well. Through exercise, country walks, yoga, meditation or even just for 5 mins on waking and sleeping. It’s easy and you’ll notice the difference.
And while on the subject of our Life Force Energy, the scientists among you will know that Energy never dies, it never dissipates. It can only transform from one state or form to another but it can never vanish. So where does our Life Force Energy go when our physical bodies stop breathing?
I guess that’s another topic 🙂
One last point I’d like to make that I also learned through Yoga. As I already mentioned, Pranayama means Breathing/Life Force Energy Techniques and there are a number of different techniques to be studied but I just want to mention the most common one – Ujjayi breathing. To adopt the technique correctly you should inhale and exhale more deeply than usual through your nose. On the exhale you should constrict the muscles in the back of your throat which will make a slightly raspy sound.
In my opinion, it is not the sound that is important here but how deep down in the belly you take your breath. In today’s world when we take in a full lung breath, and I am guilty of this too, we tend to subconsciously restrict the flow of the life force energy coming in so we can push our chests out and hold our stomachs in. Take a full lung breath now as you read this and see what you subconsciously do. If your chest has risen and your abdomen has contracted then you, too are guilty of restricting the life force energy coming into your body. In effect, we are depriving ourselves of all the benefits of our healing, enlightening life force energy just so we can look slimmer or bigger chested!! How bad is that????
Now relax your body, drop your shoulders, relax your tummy and take in a slow, deep, mindful breath without restricting it so your belly expands with the breath and then slowly feel it retract as you exhale. Visualise the breath going all the way down your chest, past your diaphragm and into your belly and lower belly.
In my line of work as an Energy Healer I come across numerous clients with 2nd Chakra issues* and it’s dawned on me that it is no surprise as we deprive our lower belly area of more life force energy.
So your challenge now is to incorporate some slow, meaningful breathing into your daily routine, preferably in fresh air, making sure to relax your belly and let it expand with each inhale. You will soon find that, the answer my friend, is blowing in the wind! Let me know how you get on.
Love and Blessings
*2nd Chakra issues include creativity blockages, sexuality, sex related issues, relationship issues – partner and family, fruitfulness and guilt
Deborah Jane Sutton
Energy Healer, Self Healing Coach, Yoga teacher and Author of Heal yourself to Happiness