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Know that these mala beads are made by a Vet with PTSD in hopes of bringing awareness to and raising money for other Vets...with or without PTSD. Money raised through the Mala for Vets iniative supports Veterans Yoga missions like Mindful Yoga Therapy, VETOGA, Connected Warriors, Warriors Ascent, The Sparta Project and the Give Back Yoga Foundation.

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MalaforVets Blog

Follow the Pursuit of Compassion.

Filtering by Category: "Compassion"

Naughty or Nice 2015

Chris Eder

FIRST OF ALL...THANK YOU...EVERYONE OF YOU...FOR MAKING 2015 AN #AUMAZING YEAR FOR MALAFORVETS!

Mad props to Navy Pilot/Bad-Ass Yogi/Totally Naughty&Nice/ Liz Corwin for being the Naughty or Nice model two years in a row. Follow her on her blog  or on Instagram @lizcorwin

As we wrap up yet another wonderful year...I can't help but think if I have been Naughty or Nice? NO JUDGEMENT...rather maybe a little curiosity and humor! I firmly believe...I might have been a little of both. Naughty because I still can't seem to say NO to any TACOS! Nice, because in 2015, I sent out hundreds of Warrior Mala beads to Veterans around the nation and helped raise nearly $7,000...plus a couple of thousand of dollars in prizes during the #22aDayChallenge.

SO....what is your story? Have you been Naughty or Nice? Drop a little line on THIS blog...and on January 2nd I will draw a winner for the White and Red Jade mala. ($108 )

Help Us Build Our KULA!

Chris Eder

HIYA all of you AUMazing Yogis! I am working on the final pieces of an upcoming Instagram challenge where I am raising money for MYT and Save A Warrior...as well as elevating the social conversation about the unfortunate by-product of PTS...the amount of Veterans we are losing on a daily basis due to suicide. I am now reaching out to yoga studios to see if they would be interested in being part of this ‪#‎22aDayChallenge‬. Here is an infographic that I am using to seek out yoga studios. If you own a studio...please consider. If you don't own a studio, please share with the studios where you teach.

Nayi's Mala

Chris Eder

I always enjoy hearing from all of you. It is fascinating to me where my mala beads end up, and how they impact your lives. It is an honor to share a felt experience...and humbling to be on a parallel path of spiritual growth | healing | development. -Chris E.

NAYI'S MALA!

I want to thank you for the beautiful mala I received a few weeks ago. They mean a lot to me as I continue to love and support our troop members including my family members and long time boyfriend who have served or are currently serving. I understand that there are emotions and experiences so many of our troops harbor somewhere within that I will likely never know. I honor and respect these men and women and send them love wherever they may currently find themselves. Chris, thank you for creating such a beautiful piece and for sharing your light with so many. I wear this piece proudly.

BTW...I will send you a 20% off code if you send me a pic of your MalaforVets mala with a short blog!

COMING SOON!  #22aDayChallenge November 1-22.

Follow @malaforvets | @afnbroadcaster
on Instagram!

I've Got 9/10ths Issues...and Suffering Is One of Them

Chris Eder

I love the saying possession is 9/10ths the law. It basically breaks down to custody equals ownership. In a court of law the phrase is a rebuttable presumption: ownership is recognized unless disproved by someone holding a more valid claim. In other words, if I see you driving a new car, I would believe that it is yours. I mean maybe you’re renting it…but the time I saw you driving in it…it is my perception that it was yours! If my eyes see ‘it’ (perception) and you have ‘it’ which I see…then it’s yours!  Right? Maybe I see you and you look like you are carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. That must be heavy. What about when we see ourselves and we ‘feel?’ I feel like I am carrying the weight of the world…it sure is heavy! I just can’t seem to shake whatever it is that is bothering me…it is really getting the best of me. I am sad!

Chapter 2 of the Yoga Sutras is about the ‘process of practice’ and how suffering is related to perception, which is connected to karma, which is connected to cause and effect. Well, physics is also about cause and effect. So I guess if you can’t understand karma, maybe you can understand physics. If you can’t understand physics…then I suppose it’s back to the yoga mat for more reflection.

Going back to possession and how it’s 9/10ths the law. That is wholly based on perception. In other words, someone has to physically see you with something in order to proclaim you in fact have whatever it is they physically see. So if you and I can physically see someone in possession of something, we can easily assume to the degree of 9/10ths or roughly 90% accuracy that the person owns whatever it is. What if we can’t see it? What if it’s not tangible, or as described in the Yoga Sutras, undifferentiated…meaning it is invisible? Then what? How are these variables or perhaps citta-vritti related?

In physics cause and effect relationships are categorized by how the variables (citta-vritti) relate to each other. There are two main relationships: direct and inverse. When you turn the heater on, it gets warm. That is a direct relationship. Magnets are great examples of an inverse relationship because as you increase the distance between two charged magnets, you decrease the force of attraction or repulsion. In physics…you can well physically see these things happen. If you’re really smart you might even be able to come up with a regression formula that mathematically proves the direct and inverse relationships.

In life…we often can’t physically see things. When someone says that you look like you’re carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders, they don’t physically see the entire world on your shoulders. At least I hope they don’t. When you are sad, depressed, anxious etc…you don’t physically see what is causing you to feel this way. Rather you perceive yourself to be….fill in the blank. These feelings are however related karma, which is related to cause and effect…and we know that physics is also related to cause and effect. Public math…if possession is 9/10ths of the law…that is to say that I physically see you with something (direct relationship) then if I can’t see something (vitta-vritti), but I perceive there must be something causing this current level of discomfort, might it be safe to say that if I can’t see it, then it must be inversely proportional to that what I can see? For the sake of easy math…and not subject to debate, let’s say it’s 1/10th. If we accept this genius mathematical assumption, then I can then break down chapter 2 of the Yoga Sutras by saying that the cause of all suffering is based on 1/10th of reality.

Pantanjali suggests not seeing things as they are as the cause of ALL suffering. Call it false perception, or misperception, on a scientific level, if you can’t see it, then how accurate can your perceptions really be? Sadly, it doesn’t matter. Back to physics again…Newton's first law of motion - sometimes referred to as the law of inertia states, “An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.” Suffering seeks to remain in the state of suffering, much like an object in motion stays in motion. In physics it takes an unbalanced force (action) to change the direction of motion. In life, it takes skillful action to change the suffering.

Have you ever noticed that when you’re with a bunch of positive happy people, you’re happy and positive…but when you’re surrounded by sullen and sad people you tend to (eventually unless you leave) to get soar and depressed? Yeah…kind of like Newton’s Law, or Pantanjali’s ‘process of practice.’ The core of Pantanjali’s ‘process of practice,’ is the yogic skill of discrimination, or as he calls it, viveka. Much like Newton’s Law of motion, in order to change the direction of suffering, you will need to put in some continual effort (action/unbalanced force) and practice.

Here’s where it gets tricky. This continual effort you’ll be applying is really no effort at all! Let me explain. My yoga teacher Rolf Gates often says, “Going after something usually results in crisis. Things don’t come up when you want fix them…they come up when you’re ready to fix them! When you have enough bandwidth to focus.” Confused? Well, remember nothing worth doing is every easy, however, I might be able to make all of this karma-slash-physics-slash-Newton-random Sanskrit word all make sense.

The art of discrimination, this yogic skill, or viveka needs to start somewhere. Much like a seed you plant, you must water, nurture, refine, and then harvest…repeat. In order to create an environment where your viveka seeds will grow (gain momentum/create an unbalanced force) we will need some tools. Theories and calculators are very popular tools in physics. Together they provide a framework of accepted results and a manner in which to calculate the result. Pantanali offers something very similar. He has 10 theories broken down into five things you should not do and five things you should do. Instead of a calculator, Pantanjali offers compassion.

You may of heard of Pantanjali’s 10 theories, more commonly known as the Yamas (the do not’s) and Niyamas (the do’s.)  They represent the first two arms of a bigger formula for success called the 8 Limbs of Yoga. Here is a quick breakdown of them:

Yamas - the five restraints or the "don'ts"

  1. Ahimsa - Non-violence

  2. Satya - Truthfulness

  3. Brahmacharya - Control of the senses and celibacy

  4. Asteya - Non-stealing

  5. Aparigraha - Non-covetousness and non-acceptance of gifts

Niyamas - the five observances or the "do's"

  1. Saucha - Purity, cleanliness

  2. Santosha - Contentment

  3. Tapas - Austerity

  4. Swadhyaya - Self-study, study of scriptures

  5. Ishwara Pranidhana - Surrender to God's will

These are tools of the trade. When applied on a consistent basis (viveka) they will begin to work in concert with your power of reason. Sort of like some kind of Jedi-mind trick. In short, collectively the Yamas and Niyamas begin to create momentum where as you will begin to move from judging to noticing…from unskillful means of living to skillful means…from reacting from a place of false perception to integrating compassion in a non-reactive gentle way.

Still confused? OK…let me try and bring it all home by using yet another adage. I always chuckle a little when someone brings up either in a direct way or indirect way about how the grass is always greener on the other side. It comes up when people are leaving a job they no longer like (or got fired from) and are headed to a new one…or many different ways…you get my jest. I have found over the years, the grass is rarely greener on the other side. However, in some cases…it has been truly greener. Want to know why? In a word…VIVEKA! In normal words…because that person has tended to his grass…watered it, nurtured it and cultivated it in order to keep it from browning. Sure does sound a lot like Newton’s Law and Pantanjali’s ‘process of practice.’

If we are able to recognize when we are suffering because of false perceptions (know when to water the grass) and instead of judging the sensations, apply yogic skill (recognizing when to cut the grass), we will eventually be able to identify some sort of cause and effect (water makes grass green…weeds kill grass). From here all we have to do is apply the Yamas and Niyams (fertilize and remove any weeds) on a consistent basis. If you plant good seeds…you’ll get good fruit. If you cultivate compassion…you’ll get profound stillness and peace. However, if you still want to cultivate false perceptions…you will forever be seeking green grass elsewhere when the most amazingly lush grass is well within your reach.


New Year...New You!

Chris Eder

 There are several Mala beads available to help support you with your new intentions!

There are several Mala beads available to help support you with your new intentions!

HAPPY FIRST WEEK of 2015!  I hope that so far, 2015 is all that you hoped it would be.  I have spent the first week getting organized for the upcoming school semester, making mala beads, and practicing Forgiveness and Love and Kindness meditation.  I am also still in search of a mala bead for me.  I currently wear several different wrist malas, but don't have a 108 mala.  I wear my Warrior Mala  as a reminder of my past and my path, but I only wear it when I teach.  I'm sure the right mala will arrive.  I am working on a Black Agate and Orbicular Jasper mala right now that seems like it could fit the bill...but...it too will be available for purchase soon.

 This sale is on until the end of the month!

This sale is on until the end of the month!

The Battle Within - The Yin and Yang of Your Brain

Chris Eder

Transient

"Cause you're a sky, 'cause you're a sky full of stars...I'm gonna give you my heart
'Cause you're a sky, 'cause you're a sky full of stars...'Cause you light up the path" - Chris Martin of Coldplay

 

 

There are about 100 billion neurons in your brain.  Each of them connects to another via a neural pathway.  On average, each neuron receives about five-thousand connections, called synapses from other neurons. (Lindon 2007)  The number of possible of connections between all of these neurons is roughly 10 to the millionth power, or a 1 followed by a million zeros.  In theory, this is the number of possible states your brain can achieve.  For perspective, scientist estimate the number of atoms in the universe to be "only" 10 to the eightieth power.  

The same brain that has evolved over time to protect us from extinction with super survival skills is also responsible for our pain and suffering.  Even though the majority of us would classify our lives as good, happy, and fulfilling, our brain is programmed to initially respond counter to those thoughts.  These thoughts are known as explicit memories, or memories which you can recall.  For example, I felt really good after yoga.  I totally remember how I felt after the class...I was sort of on cloud nine.  Here is where the problem lies...our brains have a default setting that scours our entire brain for unpleasant experiences.  These experiences are known as implicit memories.  This is an unconscious memory based on years of accumulated "lived" experiences.  It is the jest of who you are.  Scientist believe our brains are like velcro when it comes to negative experiences.  In other words, that stuff sticks with us...forever!  Conversely, our brains are like Teflon when it comes to positive experiences...that stuff just won't stick!

It is important to know and understand that this evolutionary development is very important to our survival.  It is the President and Chariman/Executive Officer (CEO) of our Central Nervous System or CNS.  There is also the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) who runs the Autonomic Nervous System. (ANS) The two major departments within the CNS are the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) and Parasympathetic Nervous System. (PNS).  The SNS is responsible for signaling all of the different parts of our mind and body to get up and get out!  The PNS does the opposite, it relaxes you and comforts you.  It signals you when it is OK to chill out.

The SNS and PNS are in fact a Yin and Yang duality.  We need them both.  It is the SNS that alerts us that even a baby shark is still a shark...that a rattlesnake is poisonous...or that a person with a knife running towards you screaming is a dangerous scenario...you too must now run!  The PNS is totally the opposite.  It is cool, calm and collective.  It allows us to rest and digest.  Both of these two systems are automatic...hence they belong to the Autonomic Nervous system.

argh.jpg

So...where is the problem?  Well, since they are automatic, we really can't control them.  Remember how our brain defaults to our implicit memories...or the negative/unpleasant?  Well, when these systems are out of whack...which by the way, they are defaulted to do for survival purposes, the rest of our body systems will follow suit and thus also be out of whack.  Oh...and it gets worse!  According to a study by Maletic et al. 2007, even a single episode of major depression can reshape circuits of your brain to make future episodes more likely.  THANKS!

We have to fight back...with COMPASSION!

  "The root of compassion is compassion for oneself."  - Pema Chodron

"The root of compassion is compassion for oneself."  - Pema Chodron

thoughts, emotions, actions

In a nutshell, we have to create more happiness, joy, love and positivity.  Esoterically, we have to pull out weeds and plant new seeds. (implicit memories) Scientifically, we have to create new neural pathways.  I like to call this, "Taking in the Good!"  There are three neural systems if you will that will help us along this Pursuit of Compassion.  Actions, Emotions, and Thoughts.  If we can change our actions, emotions, and thoughts, then we can according to Dr. Rick Hanson and his book, "Buddha's Brain," bring happiness, love and wisdom to our lives.

 Who do you chose to feed?

Who do you chose to feed?

This is where the REAL battle comes into play!  There is an old folklore story about the two wolves that live inside each of us.  The wolf of Hate and the wolf of Love.  As the story goes, which ever you feed will prevail.  But remember, it is so much easier to feed the wolf of Hate...it is our default setting.  I liken it to getting upset almost to (and sometimes over) the tipping point when someone cuts you off on the interstate.  Our first reaction more often than not is, "what a jerk!" (or some other colorful expletive!) That is is us feed the wolf of Hate.  What if...the person who just cut you off was rushing to the hospital because his wife, who is in the back seat is going into labor?  If you knew this...would you still think the person was a jerk?  Ah...the wolf of Love!  Yet another Yin/Yang battle.

Here is a very simplistic approach on "Taking in the Good."  We have to change our Actions, Emotions, and Thoughts with small positive actions every day that will add up over time and build new neural structures. 

ACTIONS:  I had a yoga student come up to me prior to a yoga class and tell me she finally figured it out!  It was her actions to others that was causing stress, not others causing her stress.  Perfect!  That is a clearheaded response.  It is virtually impossible to change the person or thing that irritates you, that makes you mad, or causes you stress.  However, you can change how YOU react to it.  Sometimes called the "Second Dart" syndrome.  It works like this.  If I were to tell you that you were a failure who really didn't meet their true potential...you have two options.  Option #1 - Strike Back!  "How dare you say that to me?" "Who are you to judge me?" "You're life isn't so great either...you big loser!"  (Feeding the wolf of Hate...super easy, instant gratification.)  OR Option #2 - You could pause, tap into your explicit memories, rather than your implicit memories and instead of sending a "Second Dart" back at me, change you ACTIONS to that of compassion.  It is nowhere near as easy.  There is also a good chance there will be no instant gratification.  However, you are now feeding the wolf of Love.

EMOTIONS:  Our brains need to have a regulated flow of Nuerochemicals.  Chief among them (for the purpose of this blog) are Serotonin, Dopamine, and Oxytocin.  Serotonin regulates our mood and a deficiency can cause major depression.  Dopamine controls our reward and pleasure systems and helps with our "emotional" responses.  Low levels in dopamine can effect your ability to think clearly, and reeks havoc on your ability to focus and concentrate.  (Think ADHD.)  Oxytocin aka the kissing hormone, promotes nurturing behaviors.  When we kiss someone, or are in a romantic/loving state of mind we produce oxytocin.  Low levels of this neurochemical is linked to autism-spectrum disorders...as well as poor social functions and depression.  We can actually think "Happy Thoughts" according to a study in the Journal of Psycharity and Neuroscience.   Additionally, breathing practices and physical exercises like yoga can alter and even regulate the levels of these neurochemicals to help regulate your emotions.

THOUGHTS:  Oh the thoughts..the self-doubt, the worries, unfounded conclusions.  The list could go on and on.  My personal opinion is that changing our thoughts is the most difficult task.  We now are working on both explicit and implicit memories.  However, the task is still very worthy of our attention.  And...with some basic building blocks we can begin to build a practice and daily routine that will over time become very powerful and rewarding.  

Start with smiling!  Yep...that easy.  The simple act of smiling excites several neurochemicals in our brains and we begin to feel...HAPPY!  Try this.  Sit in a comfortable and supportive position.  Close your eyes and listen to your breath and pay attention to your thoughts.  After a few minutes, put a smile on your face and notice how your thoughts change.

We can also bring change to our thoughts through meditation.  There are many different styles and approaches to meditation.  I believe meditation is like pizza.  There really is no such thing as bad pizza, nor bad meditation.  For the purpose of this article, I would highly recommend compassionate/kindness-based meditation.  Meditation that will trigger neurochemicals (limbic-system) such as oxytocin (rewards/emotions) and will begin to engage your Prefrontal Cortex. (PFC) The PFC is kind of like the quarterback in your brain.  It sets goals, makes plans and directs actions.  It also allows and sometimes inhibits us from doing things.  It works mostly on a conscious level.  One of my favorite types of compassionate/kindness based mediation is Loving Kindness Meditation. (KLM)  In KLM you will be meditating for...bringing love and kindness to, three different people.  The first is someone who you love...who brings value to your life.  The second is someone who you'd much rather slap in the face...so to speak.  In other words, someone who brings strife or conflict.  Perhaps the person who cut you off on the highway.  :)  The third person...and this might be the most difficult person...is YOU!  Self-Compassion as Pema Chodron describes it above.   I have added a sample of one that I really enjoy.  I would highly recommend keeping a journal next to where you meditate to keep track of who you are picking as your #1 and #2 just to see what happens of the course of time.  Another word of caution...if you are new to meditation, I would recommend not going for the jugular for your #2.  Start small and work your way up.  I went right for the biggest issue in my life and got very sick. 

Another real easy compassionate-based practice is the practice of Gratitude.  Mindful Yoga Therapy uses this practice with Veterans with PTSD.  The simple act of taking time to be grateful for something no matter how big or small is very powerful.  It too triggers all the same neurochemicals that simply and easily make you feel good!  Or as is the case with Vets with PTSD...simply feel...something.

There is one person in this world who holds all the power, maybe even the greatest power over you.  It is the future version of you.  You have the ability to be the best you that you can be.  It might not be the You...you're use to, nor the You...you once were.  It is however...the You...that you are...NOW! The power is in your hands...in your control.  Which wolf do you choose to feed?

You see, if we know that our brains are programmed to default to highlight negative experiences, our goal is not to suppress our negative thoughts into a deep dark place.  Instead, we need to cultivate more positive experiences.  Taking in the Good!   We do this by practicing on a conscious level.  We practice changing our Actions.  We practice by changing our Emotions.  We practice by changing our Thoughts.  In the beginning we act happy, loving, kind, grateful, and calm.  Over time, millions of new neural pathways will shape...and instead of "acting," we will simply...BE!

_()_Namaste


Pursuit of Compassion - New Year's Eve

Chris Eder

newyear2_large.jpg

Happy New Year's Eve!  I'd like to be the first to welcome you to 2014 albeit a few hours early.  As 2013 draws to a close and 2014 is right on its tail...surely most of us are looking back on 2013...and possibly more importantly (at this moment) looking forward to 2014.  Why do we do this?  What is so significant about this one day? 

Many of you have already created (some months ago even) your New Year's Resolutions. Even the news outlets are jumping in on this tradition.  Don't get me wrong...these resolutions normally are a 'good thing' IE: Lose weight, stop smoking, eat better...these just make sense.  Right?  Nothing wrong with being healthy.  A deeper look into the meaning of the word...or the possible root reason of why we make resolutions and things begin to clear up.

A resolution is about resolving something that is wrong. If we think we are less than perfect...We will fail! An intention is about creating something new, fun and good. In addition to our best qualities.  ❤️ - Suzanne Manafort (Mindful Yoga Therapy for Veterans with PTS)

So this year...I will not make a resolution, rather I will set an intention.  In my case...a year long intention...hopefully longer...no judgement!  I intend to be more compassionate!  At first glance, you might think that making an intetion like this sounds a whole lot like a resolution.

  • Do I think there is something wrong with me?  No!  However, I know that my body has been beaten up with this nasty thing called P.T.S.
  • Do I think I'm less than perfect?  No!  However, I know how often I sit in my corner doing nothing but avoiding what needs to be done.
Happy-New-Year.jpg

I am compassionate...just not as compassionate as I use to be.  Thus, I intend to be more compassionate...thus...Pursuit of Compassion.

Throughout the year, I will post about my pursuit.  Several of my friends who work in the field of Yoga, Meditation, Physchology, Social Work, and Care Providers will share with us their take on compassion too! I will blog, post pictures, write poems, make t-shirts, make

mala beads

!  Just about anything and everything. I hope you will join me!  BTW...I'm already practicing compassion...as I was planning on having a new logo and graphics pacakge for this....and as of today...I don't have it.  I'll be OK!

Another fresh new year is here . . .

Another year to live!

To banish worry, doubt, and fear,

To love and laugh and give!

This bright new year is given me

To live each day with zest . . .

To daily grow and try to be

My highest and my best!

I have the opportunity

Once more to right some wrongs,

To pray for peace, to plant a tree,

And sing more joyful songs!

- William Arthur Ward