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@ “Thoughts are like dead leaves blowing in the wind” – Alfred’s progress

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Practices

I had begun to worry about some aches and pains in my neck and hips and so I met with Elisa Cotroneo, a yoga teacher and somatic movement specialist. She was great and gave me some good advice on modifying my morning routine. I have begun to implement these changes and am already feeling an improvement. I have continued to develop the asana which I made up and am finding ever deeper relaxation from its practice.

Regarding your suggestion about extending the sitting meditation
It is interesting because I have begun to do that as a sort of natural progression.  When I find an asana (yoga posture) that makes me particularly tranquil, I will stop counting and continue the pose for some time.  I think these extended time frames are usually only 10-15 minutes now because that is about how long my total meditation time has increased.

Ideas

The Tree Metaphor
When meditating try to experience all those things a tree experiences- the touch of a breeze, sunshine, bird song, roots reaching into the earth, branches to the sky, the weight of being. Avoid all those human overlays such as anger, anticipation, and regret.

Thoughts  vs Ideas
Because we cannot just turn our minds off (and it would be dangerous if we did) I have begun to differentiate between thoughts and ideas as I meditate. My definition of a thought is that it is a fragment of an idea. Thoughts come and go, some good, some bad, like dead leaves blowing in the wind. An idea is a whole thing. It can stand alone like a large smooth rock on the ground. It can be looked at from different sides. The glue that holds an idea together is intuition. Here is an example of an idea – that the tranquility experienced from meditation is a baseline. To achieve tranquility is simply opening a door to a new space. The exploration of that space is what counts. When I meditate I concentrate on that idea (as well as my breath, my body sensations and my state of mindfulness). Keeping that idea in focus allows me to ward off distracting thoughts and achieve tranquility more efficiently.

Results
  • I took a long and stressful (busy traffic and bad weather) car trip helping my son move into a new apartment in Brooklyn. The rented van had extremely uncomfortable seats and we drove for over 7 hours. I used body awareness techniques I have learned from my asanas and ended the trip with no residual body stiffness.
  • I find myself striking up conversations with strangers or people who I hardly know more often.
  • Also, I think I am listening to other people better.

(1) Alfred

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@ Improvements in patience, judging people and pains – Alfred’s progress

See (1) to know about Alfred. 

Meditation practices and experiences

When you count your breaths try not to say the numbers in your mind. You might try replacing one, two and three with red, green blue and as you mark each color in your mind try to visualize it. Or make up three syllables to replace the numbers: aaaa, raaa, hum for example.

When practicing meditation be extremely gentle and loving of yourself. Do not think badly of yourself if your mind strays, simply redirect. If you find a position or mental place that makes you feel good then allow yourself extra time there and try to go deeper into tranquility. When you are done, stretch like a cat in ways that feel good, scratch your scalp with your fingers and pat yourself quickly and firmly all over with your hands.

As a boy I had dreams that I could fly. It was not flying like superman, more like I had figured out the secret to undoing gravity. I would rise up above the sidewalk and slowly float down again; like a slow motion jump. At times I would get quite high up so that the town below me looked like scenery in a model railroad set. These dreams were always elating. I felt like the world was filled with many happy secrets and, maybe, I was able to figure them out. Sometimes I would awake, and in my half sleep, still believe in the possibility of levitating. This belief sometimes carried through the day. Meditation is beginning to create a similar feeling of elation in me. Although I am firmly planted in the “real” world, meditation gives me a glimpse of hidden possibilities and is restoring my belief in magic.

Changes I attribute to my daily meditation
  • Increased patience in traffic and with people
  • I am less likely to judge people in a bad way
  • The stretching has reduced some aches and pains I have had for a long time.

(1) Alfred

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* Shortage of sleep and heart disease

This is an article forwarded by a friend. He is not sure of  its author.

What killed Ranjan Das and Lessons for Corporate India

A month ago, many of us heard about the sad demise of Ranjan Das from Bandra, Mumbai. Ranjan, just 42 years of age, was the CEO of SAP-Indian Subcontinent, the youngest CEO of an MNC in India. He was very active in sports, was a fitness freak and a marathon runner. It was common to see him run on Bandra’s Carter Road. Just after Diwali, on 21st Oct, he returned home from his gym after a workout, collapsed with a massive heart attack and died. He is survived by his wife and two very young kids. It was certainly a wake-up call for corporate India. However, it was even more disastrous for runners amongst us. Since Ranjan was an avid marathoner (in Feb 09, he ran Chennai Marathon at the same time some of us were running Pondicherry Marathon 180 km away), the question came as to why an exceptionally active, athletic person succumb to heart attack at 42 years of age. Was it the stress? A couple of you called me asking about the reasons. While Ranjan had mentioned that he faced a lot of stress, that is a common element in most of our lives. We used to think that by being fit, one can conquer the bad effects of stress. So I doubted if the cause was stress. The real reason however is … everyone missed out a small line in the reports that Ranjan used to make do with 4-5 hours of sleep. This is an earlier interview of Ranjan on NDTV in the program ‘Boss’ Day Out’:

http://connect.in.com/ranjan-das/play-video-boss-day-out-ranjan-das-of-sap-india-229111-807ec fcf1ad966036c289b3ba6c376f2530d7484.html

Here he himself admits that he would love to get more sleep and that he was not proud of his ability to manage without sleep, contrary to what others extolled.

The evidence last week:
I was working with a well-known cardiologist on the subject of ‘Heart Disease caused by Lack of Sleep’. While I cannot share the video nor the slides because of confidentiality reasons, I have distilled the key points below in the hope it will save some of our lives.

Some excerpts …..

  • Short sleep duration (<5 or 5-6 hours) increased risk for high BP by 350% to 500% compared to those who slept longer than 6 hours per night. Paper published in 2009.
  • As you know, high BP kills. .. Young people (25-49 years of age) are twice as likely to get high BP if they sleep less. Paper published in 2006. ..
  • Individuals who slept less than 5 hours a night had a 3-fold increased risk of heart attacks. Paper published in 1999. ..
  • Complete and partial lack of sleep increased the blood concentrations of High sensitivity C-Reactive Protein (hs-cRP), the strongest predictor of heart attacks. Even after getting adequate sleep later, the levels stayed high!! .. Just one night of sleep loss increases very toxic substances in body such as Interleukin-6 (IL-6), Tumour Necrosis Factor-Alpha (TNF-alpha) and C-reactive protein (cRP). They increase risks of many medical conditions, including cancer, arthritis and heart disease. Paper published in 2004. ..
  • Sleeping for <=5 hours per night leads to 39% increase in heart disease. Sleeping for <=6 hours per night leads to 18% increase in heart disease. Paper published in 2006.

Ideal sleep for lack of space, I cannot explain here the ideal sleep architecture. But in brief, sleep is composed of two stages: REM (Rapid Eye Movement) and non-REM. The former helps in mental consolidation while the latter helps in physical repair and rebuilding. During the night, you alternate between REM and non-REM stages 4-5 times. The earlier part of sleep is mostly non-REM. During that period, your pituitary gland releases growth hormones that repair your body. The latter part of sleep is more and more REM type. For you to be mentally alert during the day, the latter part of sleep is more important. No wonder when you wake up with an alarm clock after 5-6 hours of sleep, you are mentally irritable throughout the day (lack of REM sleep). And if you have slept for less than 5 hours, your body is in a complete physical mess (lack of non-REM sleep), you are tired throughout the day, moving like a zombie and your immunity is way down (I’ve been there, down that lane)

Finally, as long-distance runners, you need an hour of extra sleep to repair the running related damage. If you want to know if you are getting adequate sleep, take the Epworth Sleepiness Test below. Use this form from Stanford University.

=================================================================

How likely are you to doze off or fall asleep in the following situations, in contrast to feeling  just tired? This refers to your usual way of life in recent times. Even if you have not done some of these things recently, try to work out how they would have affected you. Use the following scale to choose the most appropriate number for each situation:

0 = no chance of dozing

1 = slight chance of dozing

2 = moderate chance of dozing

3 = high chance of dozing

SITUATION                      CHANCE OF DOZING

Sitting and reading____________

Watching TV ____________

Sitting inactive in a public place (e.g a theater or a meeting) ____________

As a passenger in a car for an hour without a break ____________

Lying down to rest in the afternoon when circumstances permit ____________

Sitting and talking to someone ____________

Sitting quietly after a lunch without alcohol ____________

In a car, while stopped for a few minutes in traffic ____________

Interpretation: Score of 0-9 is considered normal while 10 and above abnormal.

================================================================

In conclusion Barring stress control, Ranjan Das did everything right: eating proper food, exercising (marathoning!), maintaining proper weight. But he missed getting proper and adequate sleep, minimum 7 hours. In my opinion, that killed him.

If you are not getting enough sleep (7 hours), you are playing with fire, even if you have low stress. I always took pride in my ability to work 50 hours at a stretch whenever the situation warranted. But I was so spooked after seeing the scientific evidence last week that since Saturday night, I ensure I do not even set the alarm clock under 7 hours. Now, that is a nice excuse to get some more sleep.

Unfortunately, Ranjan Das is not alone when it comes to missing sleep. Many of us are doing exactly the same, perhaps out of ignorance. Please share this article with as many of your colleagues as possible, especially those who might be short-changing their sleep. If we can save even one young life because of this email, I would be the happiest person on earth.

PS: Incidentally, just as human beings need 7 hours of sleep, you should know that cats need 15 hours of sleep and horses need 3 hours of it. So are you planning to be a cool cat or a dumb horse?

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Related pages
How can I Enjoy Quality Sleep?
Secrets of a “Great Night’s Sleep”
Relief from insomnia – Success stories