After having taken some classes at Harvard and too many other places to be useful, I thought I knew things. But in fact, the more time goes by and the more I study, the more I realize I know very little. Not theoretically, but by experimenting on myself.
Surprisingly, water is one of those basic elements of life for which I knew nothing.
So if you are curious like me, you may enjoy experimenting with the basics of life and questioning what you think you know — even about something as elementary as water you may enjoy this blog entry.
It is said that 72% of your body is water — so it makes sense that if you regulate this important element in your system phenomenal things could happen (by the way 72% of the planet too is water). But regulating that is a different story..
Diet is hard to change, but water in our own bodies is something all of us can do something to improve. There is no need to wait, to ponder, to question if it is a good idea. It is a no-brainer to attend to water in your system: what type of water, how much water, how cold or hot, when to drink it and anything that may change your experience of life.
The advice that I follow about water is primarily from yogis, mostly Sadhguru, but also other health sources that I have experimented and tested on myself for your convenience.
But again, never take someone else’s word for it –get curious. Have fun and begin testing the following simple tips on yourself and seeing if it is true for you. Enjoy!
Here are some ideas and tips to start experimenting :
At home I have some large glass jars where I store water that has been filtered and keep it there prior to use. I keep this area clear of other food materials and smells — except a fresh flower in a crystal glass making the area simple and beautiful.
Simple filters like Brita which I used for a few years are better than nothing, but not enough. For simple filtering, I recommend something more substantial like the system provided by Berkey (more below) that you can use for your drinking water and also cooking water. These are relatively inexpensive compared to bottled water.
You can even add a filter for the Berkey system to remove in addition to all the other substances– fluoride. Fluoride is good to remove if you have cancer or a weak immune system or you want the best water for kids as fluoride in water is known to calcify the pineal glands of our young (which has an impact on hormones and energy levels). According to some recent studies fluoride also reduces IQ tests. You can go to the Berkey site in Singapore Water for Life and see the studies done on Singapore’s water and the Berkey system as well as fluoride.
Below too is a review of this filter system by Chris Wark. Chris helps people recover from cancer and does tons of reasearch: if Berkey is good enough for him– it just may be acceptable to you. Especially, because Chris is the type of person who tests everything on himself. I do too.
And I am very happy with the Berkey system which I have had for over two years — the water tastes better, feels good and the system does not consume electricity like my distiller nor adds to plastic waste on the planet (nor is it stored in a plastic bottle).
4. Containers Matter. As mentioned earlier, if you can use a copper vessel to hold your water it has many additional benefits (especially if you leave it over night).
But you can also use stainless steel, or large glass jugs which are both acceptable. When you are on the go, my kids sometimes prefer to carry water in a plastic container (they are lighter than stainless steel) but you should be aware that storing water in plastic (even BPA free) absorbs other elements from the plastic that can impact our hormones and is not great for us.
Having said this, water in a plastic BPA bottle from home that is filtered properly is perhaps better then drinking unfiltered tap water at school!
5. No ice please. The Chinese and often people in the East know this — you do not drink water with ice (in fact the Chinese often drink warm water) as ice cools your digestive fire and drinking cold ice water can make you more prone to sickness.
Yogis have more stringent rules — you are only to drink water that is 4% difference from your body temperature. But then again yogis are aiming at enlightment. If you are just a student and not looking for transformation, but still need to learn (best to drink water within 8% of your body temperature) and if you are a householder with no need to learn anything you can drink 12%. More than that % change, not advised according the yogi Sadhguru.
6. No sipping water throughout the day. Sipping water throughout the day can confuse your system and cause swelling in the brain — so best when you are thirsty to drink a good amount at one time (your body can eliminate excess easier this way).
You can drink to your quench your thirst and then 10% more says Sadhguru. Also eating fruits which have a high percent of water content is a great way to keep hydrated. Fruits and vegetables often have a higher water content than our bodies and are welcome in our system.
5. Drink water 30 minutes before a meal (it prehydrates and helps digestion and can help lose weight). Simple timing can go a long way. When possible best not to drink too much water during a meal as it can dilute the digestive juices. One hour after the meal is fine. Thirty minutes before the meal helps digestion and just might help you lose weight.
6. Not too much water, nor too much food at meals. It is said that for healthy living you can fill your stomach 1/2 with food (two handfuls is enough to fill the stomach by 1/2), 1/4 liquid, and 1/4 empty (leave the table a little hungry rather than bloated)! Perhaps that’s why Japanese families of four often share the American size one portion meal at restaurants and seem all the better for it.
7. Once a week you may wish to do a 24 hour water fast or at least chose not to eat in between meals (5-6 hours). Since cancer cells exist in all of us and are are far hungrier than other cells, doing a once a week water fast (drinking warm or room temperature water only) will give your system a rest and help you remove toxins. Chosing not to eat between meals will also greatly help.
Most likely, a full day water fast will give you a light headache as purification begins so if you are working this may not feel ideal. A substitute for a full day water fast that is less effective but better than nothing can be to eat a breakfast and a light lunch (helps you get through the day at work) and fast in the evening–skipping breakast the next day. This gives you a 24 hour fast that is do-able. If you get hungry at breakfast just add a few drops of honey to your luke warm water and it will do the trick.
Remember– it is often the mind that calls us to eat. We eat out of habit not hunger. To clean your cells at the cellular level on a regular basis the yogi Sadhguru recomends not to eat for 5-6 hours before your next meal. The French do this regularly — we are known to be slim and despite some extensive meals we don’t tend to gain much weight! We generally eat less than Americans and don’t eat between meals. But that too is changing these days.
8. Balancing water in the body is not just about drinking we absorb water and are influenced by it when we swim, bathe, shower. Floating in water can often have a wonderful relaxing feeling and remind us of when we were in the womb. Showering in water (about body temperature) in the morning or even a bit cooler, just before meditation can facilitate the creation of space in the body. It just might help meditaiton.
We absorb water (and the chemicals in it) so when our immune system is low (such as cancer) we have to be careful about chlorine in pools or swimming too often in salt water (Gerson therapy recemends avoiding chlorine pools and salt water during the phase of healing to help make our bodies more alkanine). Fortunately, filters now come for showers and baths making that water better for you. And if we can’t swim in the salty ocean due to Gerson, at least resting near large bodies of water or taking walks along the waterfront or a river or lake is very good for us.
For yogis, water — both drinking and bathing in it or floating in it– seems to balance the sacral chakra. When I did Gerson, and did not go swimming in the ocean or in a pool for over a year, nor drink much water (due to drinking many juices instead), I felt this water imbalance. Now no longer testing Gerson, I swim with great joy in the ocean (chlorine pools still feel less than great to me and sometimes gives me a headache).
9. Traveling for the summer and worried about water quality? A portable plastic bottle with filter or the Berkey Go Suite (carried in a small bag) will do while you are at your mother-in law’s or visiting people and don’t want to bother them with cooking or drinking with filtered or bottled water.
10. When the Immune system is very weak (such as cancer) or the water quality very bad you may wish to go further than filtering with a system such as Berkey and drink distilled drinking water from a machine such as Waterwise (reverse osmosis) or hydrogen (Kangen) water that reduces the alkanity of the body. Another alternative which is said to be equal to the well known Kangen machine for alkanizing water or better is the HiFlo Water system by the Japanese Dr. Kokichi Hanaoka (again you must research on your own as often one expert says one thing and another the opposite).
Distilled water is known to remove even more impurities than the best Berkey filters including fluoride and is what pharmacists use to make medecine. I drank distilled water from a Waterwise distiller for about two years when I was in Japan and was a bit worried about Fukushima and our water supply. I also had some health concerns and had tested Gerson Therapy on myself (which requires distilled water).
The one thing I would advise you (which I didn’t do but I am doing now) is that if you drink distilled water which removes many bacteria and residues in water, add back minerals to the distilled water after you distill it. A few drops such as ConcenTrace Trace Mineral Drops will make this distilled water taste even smoother and more delicious (better than Evian or Vittel) at a fraction of the cost and replenish minerals removed in the distilling process. (Note: if you use distilled water for enemas in the Gerson therapy, then you don’t add back minerals for the enemas.).
For my parents who had cancer or a tumor, I knew they wouldn’t or couldn’t do juicing regularly and properly (as in Gerson therapy) and probably not be able to change sufficiently their diet (we are from a family of great French chefs and traditions die hard!), so I went the extra mile and brought a system from Japan for Kangen water to the US. Little did I know they have these Kangen systems in the US.
Here is a little extract of why such Kangen or HiFlo systems could be better than juicing or distilled water. But then again, you have to weigh the pros and cons. Distilled water can remove fluoride, most of these water filters Kangen and HiFlo cannot. They do make other claims however — such as create water that is more easily absorbed into the body or alkanize our system.
“Before Kangen water, the only way to accomplish that (de-tox by alkanizing the system) was juicing or vast amounts of fruits and vegetables. Do not be fooled by bottled waters that claim to alkalinize the system—THEY DO NOT! These ‘bottled waters on the market, claiming to alkalinize the system, are gimmick waters that have alkalinizing agents added to them such as Sodium Bicarbonate, Potassium Bicarbonate or Potassium Citrate. These additives do give the blood and urine alkaline readings BUT they do nothing to neutralize the accumulated acidity inside the cell as they do not contain HYDROXYL ions. Again, the only thing that can do that is the Hydroxyl ion mentioned above which these alkalinizing agents clearly do not contain.”
Fortunately, there is nothing that can produce a greater concentration of hydroxyl ions than the Kangen water machine (not even a freshly pressed juice) which is why every single household in the United States must have this unit in their homes. It is the best investment, other than a juicer, that a family can make in its health— hands down! This is why 1 out of every 6 households in Japan has this technology in their homes. It is vital to human health.” — quote from a site promoting also Gerson but is not pure Gerson Therapy.
I am not sure what to make about the above statement of these Kangen machines but they made me think a bit. Naturally, changing your life style, learning to relax and let go, forgiving others, exercising or changing your diet and drinking better water when you have a low immune system makes sense. Going the extra mile and getting one of these machines is up to you. I thought it was worth it for my parents.
In Singapore if you are looking for one of these hydrogen machines, there is an alternate version of Kangen which is said to be better than the traditional Kangen machine which could make your blood too alkanine (and not be good for young babies or elderly) who may not tolerate such high PH. This system which may be better for families with babies is called HiFlo Water and in Singapore can be bought at Nature’s Glory (315 Outram Rd, Tan Boon Liat Building) and also demonstrated to you by a very kind and good team who cares and who drinks the water!
I drank about a liter of their water yesterday and went through a whole demonstration of the system with them. The main difference between this system and the known Kangen system as I understand it is that water can be absorbed better into the cells in HiFlo. The system is on sale now at Nature Glory in Singapore at $2,800 and filters replaced yearly cost $175. More info on the site and go visit in person for a demo. Again, like anything you have to use your common sense. I have drunk Kangen water at my parents when I visited NY and it was strong — and I did feel its effects in a good way, but there are also people who say such Kangen systems are not useful. I nevertheless found it could not hurt my parents given their cancers. Parents are gratefully well right now. No-re occurence of cancer. Your call.
I would suggest that if your immune system is weak and that you have cancer or did and do not have a budget for such advanced water systems or remain hesitant about the proof that they are helpful, at the very least I would get a Berkey Water Filter system or Water Distiller giving my body a good foundation for it to heal. This alone may not be enough to heal you, but it may prevent further toxins and aid healing. It is a base from which to work.
11. Shungite – a stone for radiation and then some. I went up to Fukushima in Japan when we lived in Tokyo for four years and worried at times about radiation. I sometimes had a detector with me in dangerous areas up north (best to avoid radiation as the best defense) but also read about shungite. Shungite is a stone that has the ability to clean water from almost of all organic compounds (including pesticides), metals, bacteria and harmful microorganisms, perhaps even some effects from radiation.
Water from Lake Onega in Russia where shungite is found, can be used for drinking without any prior cleaning! … Shungite removes heavy metals, chlorine, enriches drinking water in potassium. Some even say Russian subs put shungite on the submarines to be less easily detected by radar! Who knows…but when travelling I sometimes take a few of these stones…
12. The last and most useful advice: Gratitude! This is the simplest advice that everyone could or should be grateful for clean good water and will become that way in the future as it becomes more of a rarity. Since our thoughts and emotions have been said to have an impact on our food (just see how you digest when you eat in angry state of mind) and we have also been told that water may have memory (Dr. Masaru Emoto) — it could just be common sense to be grateful for the water we have to drink.
To simply look at the water with a glance of gratitude before we drink it… much like we admire the color of a red wine before savoring it could make all the difference in its taste and perhaps more. A thought of gratitude and the mystery of this incredible substance that keeps us alive, is all it takes to enjoy it fully and (some say) to also change its structure and functioning within our system… Try it and see. This one is free.
When I was a child I looked forward to bed as I did going to the cinema and there was a time when I was rarely disappointed. Where else but in a dream, could I fly? Where else could I enjoy experiences I could not see in the cinema?
And — yes– if you realize it is a dream – and you don’t like it you can always wake up or if you are feeling really bold turn around and talk to that monster chasing you asking it a direct question like, “Excuse me, I think I know you, can I help you with something?” And then suddenly laugh as the monster melts or dissolves much like the witch in Wizard of Oz or better yet becomes someone you know like the kid down the street who is less than kind.
One cinema evening, however, didn’t end well at all for me. I must have been around four years old and I had not yet fully realized that dreams were distinct from waking.
In that dream, I had been given a candy bar. I decided to hold on to the chocolate bar tight enough that it could make its way back with me upon awakening. Ready to be… devoured.
After I awoke, I remember looking everywhere for that candy bar blaming my older brother Ken for stealing it and asking my parents if they had seen the candy bar anywhere. I was in a sour mood and furious…until my mother asked me a few questions on where I had gotten that candy bar and where I had seen it last. She then told me the bad news: dreams are not real. You can’t take things from dreams and bring them back here so easily.
And then I became deeply curious. What were dreams and what were they good for?
Around the age of seven, my experiments lead me to use sleep differently. I would read something at night and then set my alarm very early around 6am and re-read the material I wished to know one more time.
I realized that during the night my mind was working in wonderful ways while I was resting. As I loved sleep, this pleased me immensely. I enjoyed this method so much that as a reward to myself after completing the early morning study ritual in bed, I set up my alarm clock once again – this time for an additional 20 minutes of sleep.
During those 20 minutes of time I would let my body fall asleep but remain slightly aware. Everything during those 20 minutes of “light” sleep became even clearer. Answers to my questions came. Material was effortlessly absorbed. Creative ideas abounded.
And when I awoke after those 20 minutes, I felt incredible as if I had three additional hours of rest. Rest of a different nature.
It is only years later, that I realize that position on my back was shavasana and that the sleep technique was a form of yoga nidra. Had I been more knowledgeable at the time, I would have used my sleep for far better things then just acing tests and being good at academics or coming up with creative ideas.
Had I known…
So, these next entries are for those who are a bit curious.
Perhaps you want to sleep more, perhaps you want to sleep less, perhaps you want to experiment with what is most beautiful within or a new direction in your life. To each his own: I let you choose, but do be curious, test what you think you know (as I did) and experiment with a few. Sleep — less or more of a variant of it– may just change your life.
Sleep is one of my most beloved moments in a day. A serious moment to be reckoned as my husband will surprisingly attest — for when I get sleepy, I become warm as a baby and nothing NOTHING (not even mounds of laundry nor gold scattered on my bed) could stop me from nudging everything aside and letting everything melt away. Hurricane, tsunami, earthquake, it might just not matter at that moment.
Anywhere, under any condition I can sleep–just kindly give me two minutes. As funny as this may sound, the capacity to relax instantly has saved me more than once.
It is not that I was always sleepy, but when I want to sleep, I can. And soundly.
And how about you – what are your strengths with sleep? What are your weaknesses, ambitions and needs regarding sleep?
Take 5 minutes to assess your sleep: Strengths, Weaknesses, Ambition and Needs
Strengths: Are you a good sleeper? Do you wake up well rested and full of energy and ideas? Can you fall asleep easily? Do you need many hours of sleep or just five or so (imagine all you could do if you only needed 5 hours of sleep and felt GREAT)?
Weaknesses: Is it hard to fall asleep? Do you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t fall back asleep? Do you always feel a bit tired as if on empty? Do you have bad dreams that disturb your sleeping hours?
Ambition: What do you want from your sleep? Is it a way of resting? Is it a means to explore? Do you use sleep to get new ideas or absorb information quickly? Do you feel sleep effectively solve conflicts from the day? And how about using sleep as practice for being conscious at the time of the ultimate sleep: your death?
Needs: How many hours of sleep do you need to feel rested? When you are tired can you take a quick nap and recover fully or do naps make you more tired? If you need 8 hours of sleep do you calculate at what time you need to go to bed so you can wake up naturally without an alarm clock? Do you find you need less or more sleep depending on what and when you eat?
Jot down a few ideas. After all many people spend at least 1/3 or more of their lives in bed. Might as well think for five minutes on the value of all this time and make it work towards your health, happiness and well-being.
2. Memory, Learning, Creative Problem Solving
The technique I used for memory and learning during sleep as a child and young adult that helped me do well academically (took classes at Harvard Law, Harvard Undergraduate, Fletcher School, Amherst, Berkeley, HEC business school) was simple enough:
Little did I know that this 20 minutes was the crucial technique that allowed the information to enter effortlessly and remain in my short-term memory.
3. Sleep Well at Night
Usually, I go to bed around 10.30pm and like to wake up without an alarm clock early in the morning (I nevertheless set one just in case). But most days I wake up naturally anytime from 3.30am to 5.00am. Five hours of sleep is usually sufficient for me, but when my body is healing it can be later. I enjoy this early morning time alone immensely as the air is fresh, cool and my mind and spirit are at their best.
Do things without Tension During the Day (Relaxation and Ease is Rest)
Since I do the most important things first thing in the day when everyone is sleeping I am more relaxed the rest of the day as I have done what matters most to me (meditation). During the day, I try to do either things I love or at least do them in a way I love so my body is not tense. Naturally, daily exercise also helps in letting go of physical tension.
Eating Different Foods Creates a Body at Rest & the Need for Less Sleep
I used to need eight hours of sleep. However, my sleeping time dramatically decreased ever since I began to eat differently (became vegetarian and ate a good amount of raw fresh foods & raw organic juices so digestion happens faster and easier).
At one point when I was doing many organic juices and had many vegetables, I only needed four hours of sleep. This made me realize that my body was not working optimally on a “regular French diet” even if I came from a family of great French chefs and ate good quality food. This discovery has made me deeply curious about what foods bring energy and make you feel great.
Digest Well and Cleanse Away the Worries of the Day
Other things that help me sleep well is eating an early dinner around 6.30pm, a shower before sleep and a cup of warm un-homogenized organic milk with a pinch of turmeric 30 minutes just before bed.
Set up a Great Environment and Say Goodbye to the Day
I also like to light a candle in my room prior to sleeping with a little oil as it gives a beautiful glow to the room. As I watch its warm glow, I say a silent prayer (not to disturb my husband) and then usually take 10 or more minutes to write about what was most meaningful during the day; what I learned about myself and how I might do things differently if given a second chance tomorrow. If, as each day is a blessing.
Create Space for the Night for Greater Things to Happen
Just before going to sleep (if I am not already asleep as I usually fall asleep in two minutes) I try to disassociate myself from events or things during the day; creating a little space by reminding myself that I am not my body nor my mind. In other words, I try to disassociate from the many roles I play during the day: mother, wife, yoga teacher, chef, artist, Director of Beyond Our Best, writer or other.
Gratitude and Joy
In the morning, I like to wake up and see the glow from the lamp (sometimes it goes out at night) and smile that I am alive for another day. I like to smile too at my heart and thank it for beating while I was sleeping.
Do What Is Important
Another day is another chance for me to experience something worthwhile with people I love and to do what is important for me. Before I usually practice morning meditative techniques, I put a little ash on my forehead (like Catholics do on Ash Wednesday but I like to do it every day) to remind myself that today could be my last day and if it is I must use it wisely.
This may seem strange to some, but something as simple as a little ash is a reminder for me that I may not be here long. It changes the way I spend my day. And each day adds up quickly to a life. This simple morning ritual, can help me focus on important things such as calling my mother or a friend in need. When you think of your last day; it is not often the large glorious things you think about, but the really important people in your life and what matters most to you.
For more tips, here is a video by a yogi named Sadhguru who explains Good Sleep Rituals
4. Take Power Naps 20 Minutes Equal to Three Hours of Sleep
When and if I get tired during the day, I take a short 10-20 minute nap. After 10 minutes of rest, I can recover completely and seem like a different person. 20 minutes is ideal.
This 20 minutes of sleeping or resting is equivalent to 2-3 hours of sleeping time. For it to be done properly, you need to teach the body to fall asleep but keeps the mind conscious or aware. This practice is best done in the morning when one is not tired or else one tends to fall asleep…
You can use the Brainwave 35 Binaural Programs App to help Train Yourself to do this: Press on this link to download Brainwave 35 Binaural Programs.
It uses two different sounds in each ear so you need to use headphones.
Please note you can put relaxing sounds in the background such as raindrops or choose your favorite song in the background (good for teenagers who may not like elevator music). Some other apps do not allow this function and you get tired of their music.
After you download it, use the Power Nap function and set your alarm for 20 minutes. Put yourself in Shavasana pose (corpse pose) in yoga – lying on your back with your legs and arms spread slightly, palms facing upwards. During the practice try not to move and make sure you will not be disturbed.
Try doing this for at least 48 days until you get comfortable with it and can then do it upon will without falling asleep. When you are conscious or fully relaxed you can also say a “signal word” like — focused relaxation and let it be associated with the moement of intense relaxation you are currently in. Later when you repeat the same word at the beginning of a meditation relaxation should come quickly.
Use “Conscious Sleep” for Preparing the Mind for Meditation
Deep relaxation is key to many things; sleep, memory and meditation.
For those who wish to practice meditation the capacity to relax is the first thing one must learn. To completely let go or relax helps one enter states of meditation.
I practiced conscious sleep (putting the body to sleep and keeping the mind aware) in Shavasana for 6 months for about 40 minutes a day prior to learning sitting meditation.
For those who want to meditate, start with the 20 minute Nap practice in Shavasana.
Remember Conscious Sleep is best practiced when not too tired or you will fall asleep. You can practice it at bedtime if you have a hard time falling asleep and then let yourself sleep! If you are tired during the day try finding the time for a 20 minute power nap as it will deeply re-invigorate you. It is a must for people with long or intense working days or who may work night shifts. Flight attendants can use the practice during their “rest period” travelling, taxi drivers can practice it at night in their cabs when on “rest.”
Some Tools for Meditation that Give the Benefits of Restful Sleep & Far More
Brainwave 35 Binaural Programs App (Power Nap do 20 minutes)
Yoga Nida (Beginners from Bihar School excellent 30 minute)
Yoga Nidra (Intermediate from Bihar School excellent 40 minute)
Shoonya (Taught by the yogi Sadhguru)
Centering Prayer as taught by Monks such as Father Keating
Try one that seems right for you. The first three are easy to use and you can begin with the video or the app. Shoonya needs to be taught. There are books on Centering prayer.
Wishing you great sleep, good power naps, great memory and a deep centered awareness throughout your day and night.
Re-inventing Ourselves Silently
Nations do not change, only individuals. We are all called to be artists, creators of change within ourselves and around us. To create something entirely new, to go beyond our best as individuals, we need to draw on our inner capabilities.
One such path is through meditation. Meditation is not something we do, it is a state we enter when our body, mind and spirit are ready. Certain meditative techniques or practices help make meditative states be experienced sooner than others. As such it can not be taught, but only experienced by those willing and open to experiment on themselves and disciplined enough to create the right body, mind and spirit.
There are many paths that lead to “meditation,” chose one that fits you and begin today.
Nirmal was trained in Raja yoga in Nepal as of age nine, practiced Ayurveda as of eleven and is fluent in Japanese. We recommend you meditating with him (on Tuesday at noon — check schedule in case it changed), or his private Ayurvedic Counseling or Pranyama class (Thursday nights) at Nirmal Yoga. Contact Nirmal Gyawali Yoga Studio (Shirokanedai) firstname.lastname@example.org to create a new group of meditators or to practice one on one or for for individual ayurvedic counseling. Nirmal also has a teacher training course.
For those interested, we recommend Zen at Senkakuji Temple with Chudo Yamamoto (Japanese/English). Many other temples in Japan have Za-zen, you need to call and find out when it is available to the public. Most in Japanese! Zen is a full life-style that includes the way you walk, sleep, eat, so if you think by sitting one or two hours a day will be enough for a full transformation, you need to re-think your whole lifestyle.
YOGA TREE (Hiroo, Japan). We recommend for hatha yoga Michael Glenn’s studio (English/Japanese) at Yoga Tree in Hiroo, Tokyo. There is something about Michael’s intensity and focus that makes practicing there an incredible experience that harmonizes the body, mind and spirit. The Japanese teachers are excellent too.
YOGA in SYNC (Outram Park, Singapore). For those in Singapore, we recommend hatha yoga with Vikram at Yoga in Sync (hard to find a yogi who knows the body better). For advanced students, health challenges and athletes, we recommend his private sessions.
NIKAM YOGA. For cleansing techniques that prepare the body for meditation we recommend doing yoga with Nikam Yoga. Nikam Yoga includes pranyama and is free of charge, but only available in certain countries like India and Singapore where former students become teachers devoting their time and expertise freely. It is a course, with each class building on the other and regular practice, so committed members only.
We recommend Qigong with Shu Seika (Chinese/Japanese) Friday mornings at 8am in Arisugawa park (near the statue on the side of Library) Hiroo. Mr. Zhou or Shu Seika began his training at age 9 and has helped people with cancer and other illnesses in Japan for many years. He has given workshops that rejuvenate health at the cellular level and treats individuals. Speaks Japanese and Chinese fluently. Tel: 0363289606.
YOGA (From Comfort of your Home with most Effective Yogic Techniques)
For those who do not have an individual teacher, who wish to learn at their own pace or from the comfort of their own home, we recommend the effective techniques of Sadhguru, an Indian yogi. The best place to begin is his online Isha Kriya or his on-line Inner Engineering Course (download his app). Sadhguru gives more advanced trainings in countries where there are enough volunteers to assist follow up trainings. The US, India, Singapore, Malaysia, UK are amongst a few. Then perhaps to India!
For those with limited time but desiring effective techniques–this is it. Naturally as this yogi is Indian, in the West one must be open to that which we do not know (not the best trait of the French nor the Japanese according to a Franco-Japanese!).
Sadhguru is a yogi full of joy, he is profound, his technique combines all forms of yoga even if he himself is probably a kriya yogi. He has talked at the UN, taught the Kennedy brothers, spoken at MIT, Harvard, Yale, trained CEOs and does whatever is needed to bring a small element of spirituality to this world. You may not understand everything he does (nor do I), but his techniques I have tested. They work!
Download Sadhguru App (itunes Version) or search for the one adopted for your phone. For simple 5 minute practices select Yoga on the app and press “Yoga Tools” Learn Now. Apps available on isha website.
For those who wish to do a short 15 minute meditation try ishakriya meditation on the app. Do it daily for 90 days or 2x a day for 48 days for maxium benefit without missing a day. It works..
For those with health issues download the health meditation chit shakti meditation online or use the app. There is also a meditation on love, success and peace.
BRUSSELS, BELGIUM there is a Tibetain Buddhism center in Saint Gilles called Kagyu Samye Dzong, located at 33 rue Capouillet who follow the Karmapa line of Buddhism which is in line with the Dalai Lama. I walked in one weekend to do my first seated 20 and 40 minute meditation with a formidable meditator and Lama named Yeshe who has meditated in seclusion for many years in the forest and also more than once for 25 or so days in a dark enclosed box (most humans go crazy after a few days).
I later returned once again to the center to learn briefly from and meet his elder brother who was a great lama and doctor, named Akong Rinpoche. Both brothers started the first Tibetain monestery in Europe in Scotland. Lama Rinchen Palmo, a French lama at the center also kindly helped me to contact a Zen master as I was leaving for Japan to work with the Japanese. Ken Holmes and his wife Katia are a formidable team of scholars who I met there and give an 3 year on-line course on Tibetan Buddhism that is impossible to find elsewhere. I could only complete two due to my schedule, but recommend it highly.
The Kagyu line also have a monestery in the Catskills, New York which I discovered when a monk I met in the train back from NYC wished to bring me there! Although a novice myself on Tibetain Buddhism, all the people I met at this center were inspiring.
SILENCE AND THE SISTERS OF BETHLEHEM
Christianity has its own set of practices that are meditative in nature and a tradition of silence. The monastery of the sisters of Bethlehem in the Catskill Mountains (Livingston manor), two and a half hours from New York City, is home to this silence, to great love and to the joy of solitude. This is a sacred place and Sr. Amena, the head of the monastery, and the nuns who practice there have a beautiful presence which make each moment spent there sacred.
I had the good fortune of going there once a year for the last few years and staying in a wood cabin for a few days of silence in the forest. It was divine and the small chapel with the chants of the sisters early in the morning lift one’s prayers and meditation.
See if you can book a place Livingston Manor for a silent retreat, contribute for your stay a donation to the sisters (as they live on what they earn with their art) and return re-invigorated. Each sister here is special, each one wants to remain nameless. Each one feels like my sister. Each one has prayed for our family countless times.
Silence is rare these days. And yet, Jesus went into the desert to meditate. There is in Christianity a tradition handed down by mystics and later by the Carmelite tradition exemplified by Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Therese of Lisieux and Thomas Merton amongst others for silence. One of the techniques used, centering prayer, is much like the techniques I have found in the other traditions above. It is contemplative prayer and it has been renewed with Father Thomas Keating’s work at St. Benedict’s Monastery.
Learn to enter deeper states of relaxation, strengthen your meditation practice, experience the art of well-being or discover a new level of being far beyond a previous best, as you transform yourself and us with your creations and your life.
With gratitude and joy to all artists, all creators,
A blog to go Beyond our Best in body, mind and spirit
Thoughts on the movie Saving 10,000: Winning a War on Suicide in Japan
Last night I was invited to a well attended Diet screening for Rene Duignan’s much talked about film (see Asahi Shimbun 1/22/2013, Yomiuri Shimbun 125/2013 amongst others). The presentation, opened by MP Hosono, and closed by MP Renho, who is the former minister in charge of suicide prevention in Japan, had an important following.
Over 100 Diet members were invited. Murata Nobuyuki moderated the event and Professor Hidetoshi Nakamura, Deputy Director of EU Institute of Japan at Waseda University gave remarks. Saito Yukio, Nakashita Daiki and Rene Duignan were on the panel.
Rene Duignan and Saving 10,000
Rene Duignan, who works for the European Union Delegation in Tokyo, is by training an economist.
A man of great spirit and focus, he spent many late nights and countless weekends over the three last years wanting to make a difference about one issue: suicide in Japan. Interviewing countless experts he made a film which examines why so many Japanese people take their own lives in Japan. The result is tremendous.
The film is released today free on the internet in order to reach the greatest number. Saving 10,000: Winning a War on Suicide in Japan, is going to make an impact. It will make you think about what you can do to save a life.
Statistics on Japan’s Suicide Rate
The movie raises many questions about why Japan’s suicide rate is so high despite a declining population. A few figures stuck out: the suicide rate in Japan is 2x that of the United States, in the last 10 or so years 300,000 people committed suicide in Japan — a figure about equal to the population of Iceland.
Most notably, of the 30,000 who take their lives each year from suicide, 10,000 have been in a mental hospital and 1/3 are over 60. Having said this, to suggest that the thought of suicide only crosses the mind of the weak or aging in Japan would be wrong. Another study shows that 40% of University Students in Japan have considered suicide.
I will allow you to view the film or see the reviews. I will just make a comment on a possible answer to suicide.
The Best Suicide Prevention: Stronger Intimate Relationships and Existential Meaning
For me the opposite of death is life. This means that the best suicide prevention is to help people live healthier happier lives full of meaning.
It can also come on the existential level, with a sense of life purpose or meaning that has a spiritual element be it a strong morale, an appreciation of beauty or the capacity to use our life to help others.
On an existential level this can be experienced as beauty, as oneness with nature, or for some the experience of being one with the universe or with God.
Mental Health and Suicide Prevention
On the individual level, given the Japanese statistics, Japanese psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers can play a role by helping the Japanese balance their inner lives, despite outward difficulties which in our world today only seem to be growing.
For this reason, Rene will also be giving up a follow-up event of the EU’s screening of his film on March 27th 2013 at the EU Delegation to Japan with Dr. Yukio Ishizuka, a Japanese Harvard trained psychiatrist who founded the Japan International Medical Student Association (JIMSA) with the support of Dr. Taro Takemi—the long-standing President of the Japanese Medical Association and a well-respected physician and nuclear physicist.
Using Crisis to Make A Breakthrough in Life
Dr. Yukio Ishizuka will talk about how a failed suicide attempt can be an opportunity to breakthrough beyond a previous best level in one’s sense of self, intimacy and achievements.
The talk will address our threshold for individual stress, the subjective factor, suffering and happiness. Rene and other experts will be on a panel.
Suicide a Permanent Solution to a Temporary Problem
As Rene points out in his film, just one of us can do a lot. The patrol man Shige-san who along with his volunteers has sucessfully stopped 297 from jumping off Tojimbo Cliff, has had an impact. Most notably of those 297 who were determined to take their lives at that moment, only 4 later committed suicide. That means, that 293 of the 297 found it possible to overcome the terrible circumstance that once made life seem impossible.
Societal Factors that Play a Role Should be Addressed
But as Durkheim, the French sociologist, pointed out the causes of suicide can be found in social factors and not just individual personalities. When a society faces disintegration in the family structure, in politics and religion (or meaning), then suicide increases. That may be true not just of Japan, but of the world. However, there are national specificities in life insurance packages, in gambling, alcohol, mental health, bullying and how we view death and suffering through our culture, literature and history that also play a role. In this aspect, the film examines some important issues.
Japanese Artists Have a Positive Role to Play
As far as Japanese artists goes, there is also much that can be done. Henry Scott Stokes, a personal friend of Yukio Mishima — the Japanese renown author who took his life in gruesome circumstances– has much to say on the matter. The death of Mishima is a great loss to the world.
In the film Saving 10,000 lives Mr. Stokes states, “The suicide tendency among Japanese authors has been extremely high. And if you just list them going through the decades there are many who took their lives and the pattern is totally out of shape with the rest of the world. There is no where else where the suicide of novelists is so prevalent.”
Henry Scott Stokes regrets dearly Mishima’s decision and states, “Those of us who knew he had suicidal tendencies should have stepped forward, should have found a way to enable him to continue to live.”
Because artists are often sensitive to the beauty of life, they also feel deeply the pain. The challenge for Japanese artists in the future may be to help the Japanese experience the fullness of life without the fascination for death.
While life and death are inseparable, all of us can overcome. We can express the ugliness of despair and the beauty of finding one’s own way. Through art, including literature, Japanese artists can inspire the Japanese to new heights, to the experience of greater beauty and meaning– to a dignity that will move us all.
There is a spiritual value in art that touches our core and in this Japanese artists have a profound opportunity to touch far more than 10,000.
Art will always express what words cannot.
Fundamental Individual & National Change in Crisis
As difficult as crisis can be, it may be an ideal opportunity for fundamental change in the individual as stated by Dr. Yukio Ishizuka and seen in the graph above or (as Dr. Paul Briot, a Belgian philosopher and writer) has pointed out poignently — in a nation.
In a letter addressed to Japanese friends published in English and Japanese by the chief editor of Sogensha in Osaka, dealing with psychology psychotherapy and art, Dr. Paul Briot and I write:
“Nations, just like individuals, often ask crucial questions in times of crisis. It is only when things become really difficult that we have the courage to consider transformational change. After the 2011 tragedy, Japan set about recovering with a dignity and courage that moved the world. Just as in 1945, the Japanese will recover and rebuild. The question is: can a new Japan emerge?”
It is often only when we have reached our worst, that we can ask fundamental questions and create something new beyond a previous best. After March 11, 2011 the time may have come.
Japan Can Use Crisis to Breakthrough
Japan can do much to reduce the suicide rate and help create a society of meaning. We all have a role to play in this. It starts by taking time to notice how we impact others and how we can help those in difficulty. We can start by making changes first in ourselves and then in the world around us.
On a national level, it also takes bonds, but of a more profound and fundamental nature. By calming our emotion, by using our reason and focusing on knowledge and compassion, we can begin to make important changes in our country and in this world.
Please contribute to the campaign and pass on the link to those who can make a difference. That is: all of us!
Some Useful Links:
Film Trailer Saving 10,000: winning a War on Suicide in Japan http://www.saving10000.com/
Hotline in Japan on Suicide: Tell Suicide Prevention
For more on Health, Happiness and Optimal Adjustment
Crisis Both Danger and Opportunity
Crisis can move artists and individuals in a positive direction. In the future, we wish to post here interviews with key individuals in Japanese art, culture, and society who wish to discuss a positive vision for Japan and incite both the old and young to act with greater comprehension, compassion, liberation or realization.
We will also post articles for individual Japanese citizens to use the crisis as a means for greater comprehension, compassion, liberation and realization. These articles will include a psychology of health, balance and building meaning in our everyday lives despite difficulty.