January 2016

 

Yoga Research

 

 

The Emerging Neuroscience of the Wandering Mind and Meditation
By Hsin-ya Chow, M.F.A. and Sat Bir Singh Khalsa, Ph.D.


Like an imaginary friend, mind wandering might keep us company when we're waiting for a bus or waiting in the doctor's office. However, it also pays us less welcome visits when we're trying to concentrate on reading or completing a time-sensitive task. This ubiquitous characteristic of the human mind has been well-known for centuries and was described in the ancient Upanishad scriptures: "…this mind of mine is extremely restless" and "It wanders from a cloth to a pot and thence to a big cart. The mind wanders among objects as a monkey does from tree to tree." (Annapurna Upanishad III-5 and Annapurna Upanishad III-6).

Human beings have a natural propensity for mind wandering. Mind wandering is what occurs when we are contemplating scenarios of our past or future such as last week's argument with the spouse or the outcome of an upcoming business meeting. There are some recent and ongoing studies that show the evolutionary advantages of mind wandering. Creative problem solving, future planning, and as a refresher or relief from tedium are some of the possible benefits. However, it is when we dwell, as we most often do, on more challenging or stressful topics, such as the past argument with the spouse or the upcoming business meeting, that a less friendly form of mind wandering occurs. This may progress further into a more pernicious activity known as rumination, in which there is a persisting continual loop, the chewing of thoughts over and over, and this comes with a price. Emotionally, it comes at the cost of one's happiness and sense of well-being. The study of mind wandering has now actually become a focus of scientific research to understand its consequences and underlying mechanisms. Most notably, a Harvard study on mind wandering in everyday activities, published in the prestigious journal Science, showed that people were less happy when their minds were wandering than when they were not and that, “The ability to think about what is not happening is a cognitive achievement that comes at an emotional cost.”

In the brain, mind wandering is primarily associated with a network of interacting brain regions called the default mode network (DMN), although recent research is suggesting that other brain regions are also involved. Some forms of activity in the DMN have been shown to have a direct link to mood disturbance and psychiatric conditions. The more one ruminates, the more the default mode network is strengthened. This phenomenon is known as brain plasticity and works very much like the way building a muscle might happen. The more time spent exercising the muscle, the more it grows, and the stronger it becomes. The more time spent in mind wandering and rumination, the more the brain is dominated by performing that activity, and the unhappier you become. Over time, too much DMN activation in rumination is associated with risk factors for mental health conditions such as depression, addictive behaviors, attention deficit disorders, and anxiety disorders.

On the flip side, there is a brain activity that is very different than mind wandering or rumination which is associated with task-oriented functions that require focus and control of attention. One of these activities is meditation, the relaxed focus of attention. Instead of the past or future thinking in mind wandering, this activity involves focus on the here-and-now and involves activation of the attention networks in the brain in the frontal lobe. Meditation is a proven mechanism for training the mind and there are two primary meditation forms. One is closed focus or concentrative meditation, in which one focuses attention on a single point or target such as the breath, an image, or a mantra. The other form is referred to as open focus, open monitoring, or mindfulness meditation in which one observes the flow of thought or sensation in consciousness. What is common to both forms of meditation is that mind wandering inevitably intervenes repeatedly, and the task is to redirect the mind to the object of attention in a relaxed manner.
 

This alternation between focus of attention and mind wandering is a hallmark of the practice of meditation. An elegant neuroimaging research study of meditation in the fMRI brain scanner (functional magnetic resonance imaging) distinguished this pattern of activity during meditation, revealing four distinct phases in a repetitive sequence: mind wandering, awareness of mind wandering, shifting of attention back to the intended focus, and sustained attention or focus. It was the DMN that was observed to become active during the mind-wandering phase, whereas the prefrontal cortex was activated during the focus phase. In longer term meditators, it was noted that these individuals were able to more quickly return to the focus phase of meditation, suggesting that there are lasting changes in brain regions associated with long-term practice of the task-focused attention in meditation. Other research is indicating that activation of the attention networks in the prefrontal cortex has inhibitory effects on the limbic system where emotions are regulated. This is significant, because it means that the minds of meditators, on the whole, are benefiting in a sustainable way.

Research is suggesting that individuals more prone to mind wandering and rumination are potentially more at risk for the development of mood disturbance and even psychiatric conditions. In long-term meditators, regions of the limbic system are actually structurally reduced in size compared with non-meditators and the risk for mood disorders is reduced. There is lowered emotional reactivity and an increased ease in decision-making. Increases in relaxation, improvements in focusing, and higher performance emerges. The more one meditates, the more one spends time activating the attention networks, and the less time one spends in DMN activity, and it is likely that structural changes follow the degree of activity in each network. Ultimately, with long-term meditation, the first known published description of the active control of attention in the act of meditation in the Upanishad scriptures is realized: "… the man who has a discriminating intellect as his driver, and a controlled-mind as the reins, reaches the end of the path--that supreme state of Vishnu." (Katha Upanishad 1-III-9).

 

Sat Bir Singh Khalsa, Ph.D. , the KRI Director of Research, received his doctorate in human physiology and neuroscience at the University of Toronto and has conducted research in neuroscience, biological rhythms, sleep and sleep disorders for more than 25 years. He has been involved in the practice of yoga for more than 35 years and is a KRI certified Kundalini Yoga. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School in the Division of Sleep Medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston Hsin-ya Chow has lived in Manhattan, Amsterdam, a commune, and a basement. She has worked for householder magazines such as Harper's Bazaar, Money, and TimeOut New York, as well as written for newsletters serving the developmentally disabled and eco-engineering communities. She holds her MFA in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College, a BA in Journalism from New York University, and an undying devotion to learning and loving. At Hsin-ya's monthly Kundalini Yoga party, SundaySessions, everyone is encouraged to be at home exactly where they are.

40-day Global Sadhana

MEDITATION OF THE SOUL - AN EXPERIENCE OF JAP JI
 


This 40-day Global Sadhana is a truly incredible offering - and the first of its kind! Spirit Voyage is partnering with 3HO International, Kundalini Research Institute, Sikh Dharma International and SikhNet to offer a beautiful experience of Jap Ji to people all around the world.

If you have been longing to learn more about Jap Ji, but didn't know where to begin, this is the perfect place! This Global Sadhana is being translated into four different languages: Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese and German so that as many people as possible can experience it. Jap Ji is the song of the soul and you will fall in love with this beautiful and sacred practice.

Join the Global Sadhana at:

http://www.spiritvoyage.com/globalsadhana/experiencejapji_english
http://www.spiritvoyage.com/globalsadhana/experiencejapji_spanish

 

We Are KRI

Dharamsaal
Center of Kundalini Yoga and Humanology in Tallinn, Estonia

Sukhdev Kaur Khalsa

An adventurous and wild spirit brought me to Estonia in 2004, alone and away from my home country of Mexico. The first year was hell! It was impossible for me to understand this new culture and why people behaved in the way they did. How would I ever fit in here? Having no friends and living in a society that was so different from my own was difficult, yet by Guru’s Grace it was not impossible. There were moments of pure grace that helped me keep-up, such as the first time I joined group Sadhana; it was 6 km away from my home and I rode there by bicycle in the freezing dark morning, totally excited to meet another Kundalini Yoga teacher in Estonia!

The Tratakum picture was what got me through that first dark year. I kept0-up, kept going, and then everything started to flow. I met a few other Kundalini Yoga teachers, I made friends, and I met my future husband. Pretty soon I started teaching Kundalini Yoga regularly.

Now fast-forward eleven years and we have hundreds of Kundalini Yoga teachers in Estonia! We have a national yoga festival, international concerts, workshops of all kinds, a vibrant Teacher Training program, and hundreds of Kundalini Yoga classes taught all over the country.

My part in this process was just a tiny little seed that, together with many other seeds and by Guru’s Grace, would grow into a lush and prosperous garden of consciousness. As of today, there are so many fantastic teachers in Estonia sharing their inspiration on a daily basis, it is hard to name them all. In total, Kundalini Yoga teachers are about 0.01% of the population of Estonia!

Looking back at the beginning steps of creating this vibrant community of consciousness in Estonia, I still find it hard to point to how this was done. At the moment, it seems to me that the process was easy, when in reality it was definitely not! It all evolved by small, sometimes tiny, steps. But the Guru never gives us a task that is too big for us to handle. At first it may seem impossible, but from the moment we commit to our path, the Guru gives us as the tools to succeed: the people, the places, the capital, the settings, and all the surroundings are brought to us. We must keep in mind that Guru gives these in due time. Not when our mind wants it, but when it is ripe for us, and that is what we have experienced here in Estonia. There is a beautiful story of Yogi Bhajan meeting a Catholic priest, who after meditating for 65 years was distressed that he still had not realize God. Yogi Bhajan then guided him through a meditation into an awakening experience of God. He told the priest: "To cleanse yourself out it took you sixty-five years. But the best thing you do, and you have done, is that you have kept-up." So we Keep-Up!

The personal purification through yoga and meditation, the connection and experience of the Divine through our personal practice, is only the preparation ground for the experience in the Sangat where the real purification and meditation happens. When we are teachers, we become the doorsill where our students and future teachers step through to their destiny. We cannot even define where their destiny will bring them. Many of them will take the path of Kundalini Yoga as their lifestyle and become teachers full-time. But many of them will leave the path or take only some jewels and continue on another path. We cannot control or determine this; we can only awaken the light in students and inspire them with our example, live with excellence and grace, and remain humble and real.

Dharamsaal is the beautiful home of 3HO and Sikh Dharma in Estonia, a small and cozy place where we teach classes in Kundalini Yoga and Humanology. Anyone who is traveling around the Baltics is welcome to come and visit us or stay overnight. It is your home away from home. It might even happen that we have Gurdwara or some other inspiring event and we would welcome you. You can contact Sukhdev K Khalsa at sukhdevkaur@khalsa.com or www.dharamsaal.ee

 

Happy New Year From The Yogi Bhajan Library of Teachings®

 

A big thank you to the many of you who participated in our Year End Winter Solstice Fund Drive! Your gifts are what are growing this incredible resource of Yogi Bhajan’s teachings. Thank You!

We hope you are all having a wonderful start to your new year. For many of us, this time of year brings a renewed sense of commitment to our daily practice, focus on our health and wellness, and thinking about things we want to shift in our lives. In this lecture from January of 1988 Yogi Bhajan wishes his students a Happy New Year and reminds us about the importance of speaking with grace and the integrity of our word. He says;

“I wish you Happy New Year and a happy anniversary to 3HO on the 5th of January. We call it Healthy, Happy, and Holy Day. We want all people to follow; we served people openly, freely, and gracefully. Just remember, people without grace have no place in their own life, forget about having a place in the lives of their neighbors.

So remember your grace and values when you talk or speak; you deal or you commit; you mean something or not; the other person will not forget it if you are not graceful and you let the other person down. When you let someone down, whether he deserved it or not, you shall be down in his eyes or her eyes forever. Period. You can have twenty college degrees, you could have gone to three hundred and sixty universities, you can be a great and respectable religious person, you can be the biggest, richest, and smartest person, you can be the healthiest Mr. Body, or whatever; it all won’t work. These are the first attractions, but the real attraction is when you give somebody your word; when you say what to do and you do exactly that. Let everything fall apart but don’t lose your grace. Do you understand? That is the way to be.”


Read or watch the original lecture here on The Yogi Bhajan Library of Teachings® searchable database. What a beautiful reminder at the start of the New Year to be mindful of our words and our actions. Personally, this is just what I needed to hear! No matter what life brings it’s important to remember our grace and be true to our word.

May this year be one of abundance and grace for all of you. May we continue to grow this beautiful resource together and share these teachings with the world!

 

 

 

In Service,
Shabd Simran Kaur Adeniji, Fundraising Coordinator

The Yogi Bhajan Library of Teachings™

Kundalini Research Institute

Email: donations@kriteachings.org

Find us on Facebook “The Yogi Bhajan Library of Teachings

www.libraryofteachings.org

 

A Note From Nirvair

 

Sat Nam.


Greetings from New Mexico!


I am looking forward to a great new year with all of you.

Speaking of greatness, KRI is honoring two outstanding individuals in 2016. The KRI Board has selected Shakti Parwha Kaur Khalsa, the Mother of 3HO, and Sukhdev Kaur Khalsa of Estonia for their years of service, steadiness, and dedication to Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan®. Both of these beautiful souls are pioneers in their own right. They have worked hard, organized events, founded institutions, and inspired students and teachers alike. I am very happy that we can honor them on our web site for all of 2016. Read about them and their unique contributions at http://www.kundaliniresearchinstitute.org/KRI-Honors.htm

Buy someone you love a New Years present! We have two great new products. “Enlightened Bodies: Exploring Physical and Subtle Human Anatomy” by Nirmal Kaur and Japa Kaur . Enlightened Bodies demystifies the esoteric approaches to the body and its energy systems--chakras, meridians, and nadis--by merging them in the understanding and awareness of physical anatomy.

We also have the beautiful new edition or the Siri Ved Kaur’s classic vegetarian cookbook, “From Vegetables with Love”. Great tried and true recipes that you will enjoy making and serving to your family and friends. Buy them here: http://thesource.kriteachings.org

Have you visited The Yogi Bhajan Library of Teachings accessible online database lately? It has many new additions this year including, new lectures, new kriyas, new topic lectures, and new historical notes. http://www.libraryofteaching.org

Yogi Bhajan left a New Year’s message for us on December 30, 1990 in Florida. It is a timeless message and reminder to relate to our spirit, our infinite nature, and Self. He said,

“I'll leave you the message for you to understand, but basically I have only one thought at this moment to share with you. Just remember, you will have walked up to the finite limit of the last day of your life. That is your cruise. But you have to walk onto Infinity by the will of your spirit. For that, you have to prepare, so that the life in its ecstasy, joy, in its reality, truth, and its blossoming, will give you the spirit and the overwhelming capacity to deal with the problems through which we are going.”

Thanks again for a wonderful 2015! This New Year is an “8” ( Pranic Body) year. It is a time for all of us to energetically uplift our families, our Dharma, our planet, and ourselves. It is a year of fearless prosperity.
KRI
May we share our blessings and may your New Year be filled with good cheer, keep up spirit, and deep contented happiness.

In God I dwell,


Nirvair Singh Khalsa


CEO KRI


January Recipe of the Month

PARSLEY PILAU

Excerpt from:
Foods for Health & Healing
Remedies & Recipes

 

Watch the Video Message Here!

 

This is a very good male food. (Women enjoy it also!) It is useful when you get headaches, feel heaviness in your head, or when you feel unnecessarily sleepy. It is very good for the brain and can be eaten as a mono diet. For extra energy, if you must work very hard, eat with yogurt.

1 cup basmati rice
1 cup parsley
2 cups unskinned chopped potatoes
2 onions
2 tsp. oregano seeds
1 tsp. ground red pepper (or add more to taste)
1 Tbsp. turmeric
1 tsp. black pepper
2 crushed bay leaves
1/2 cup ghee

Sauté onions in ghee. Add spices and cook until browned. Then add rice, potatoes and parsley and stir for a while. Add water (to steam the rice), cover, and cook for another 15 minutes.

Serves 4-6.




The Source

January Special

Introducing our Latest Book:
 

Enlightened Bodies

 

Enlightened Bodies
Exploring Physical and Subtle Human Anatomy
Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan®
Nirmal Lumpkin, LMT and Japa Kaur Khalsa, DOM

Enlightened Bodies inspires and elevates the study of the human body, interconnecting anatomy, physiology, and ancient yogic teachings. Enlightened Bodies presents the complexities of the body in a refreshing and approachable style, integrating multiple perspectives including:


• Human Anatomy
• Ayurveda
• Kundalini Yoga
• Traditional Chinese Medicine
• Self Care
• Other lifestyle traditions

This is an essential book for yoga enthusiasts and healthcare practitioners who are looking for a deeper understanding of the human body and ways to incorporate complementary health practices in their treatment plan.

Regular Retail: $39.95
Promo: $33.96

 

A Powerful Box Set of DVDs:

 

Physical Training With Kundalini Yoga as Taught by Yogi Bhajan

Physical Training
With Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan®
5 DVD Box Set

This 5 DVD set follows Yogi Bhajan teaching Physical Training, (commonly called “PT”) at the Ranch in Espanola on five consecutive days in the summer of ’94. Perfect for establishing a weekly workout with Kundalini Yoga. Featuring an inset video that demonstrates the posture and timing for each exercise so you can follow along with ease. Original videos have been color corrected and audio has been re-mastered to help bring the experience alive. Keep up and keep fit!

Retail: $39.95
Promo: $33.96

 

And Just in Time for New Years Resolutions…

 

TransformationTRANSFORMATION
VOLUME ONE
MASTERING THE SELF
Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan®
91 Transformational Kriyas & Meditations


These Kriyas and meditations, drawn from Transformation Level Two Teacher Training courses, are organized to facilitate your personal practice and deepen your experience of the Self. Many of these kriyas were selected specifically for the Level Two Training and have never been available before. Practice something new or master something familiar with this wonderful collection.

TRANSFORMATION
VOLUME TWO
SERVING THE INFINITE
Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan®

86 Transformational Kriyas & Meditations


This volume continues and completes the kriyas and meditations from the five Level Two Teacher Training courses. Organized not only for personal practice but also for Kundalini Yoga Teachers. Develop workshops or 6-week themed courses using each chapter individually, or combining topics, gives you limitless possibilities.

Retail: $29.95 per volume
Promo: $25.46 per volume

Special this month: Buy both volumes for a total discount of 25% off regular retail at $44.95. (Regularly discounted at $49.95 for both)

 

Thank You!

 

 


Join us in Level Three Teacher Training

Are you thinking about starting Level Three?

If so, now is the time, we are ready for you! You can read the Level Three Overview to see a full list of pre-requisites and what the program is all about.

If you are interested, please email satshabad@kriteachings.org for more information. Space is limited so inquire soon. Blessings to you in the New Year!

Watch this video and see what the first “Alpha” test group is saying about Level Three.


 

 


 

 

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