10 Transformational Practices You Don’t Need To Be “New Age” To Benefit From.

That’s a little too “new age” for me.

That’s like saying you can’t eat fries cause you’re not vegetarian.

You shouldn’t eat fries regardless.

The point is, we let labels put up walls and block ourselves off from major life benefits.  Many of these practices have been around for thousand of years, recently, there seems to be a resurgence with science becoming more friend than foe with spirituality.

Although there are certainly benefits for doing these practices in the typical settings and groups—especially those who carry on the historic traditions—there are still benefits if you choose to do them according to your own convictions.

Here are 10 transformational practices we can all benefit from:

Fasting

fasting

The practice of abstaining from food for a period of time. Some people will drink juices and liquids to maintain a minimal calorie intake. While many practice it for spiritual reasons, there are other mental and physical benefits including: resting the digestive system, cleansing and detoxification of the body, greater mental clarity.

Many studies show that the reduction of calorie consumption leads to an extended life-span. Dr. Mark Mattson’s research found that mice subjected to intermittent fasting had lower levels of insulin and glucose in their blood, in turn reducing the risk of diabetes.

While a full blown 40-day fast is beyond the desire and ability of many, it’s more than necessary to enjoy the benefits. Intermittent fasting is a popular practice where one may skip a couple of meals in one day and then return to normal eating the next. Dr. David Perlmutter is a huge advocate, recommending a fast at least once or twice a year from 24-48 hours cutting out everything except for water. He explains that engaging in fasting stimulates the growth of new brain cells through the production of the protein BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor).

To get started, try a fast for a portion of the day, or switch to liquid meals, before attempting to go completely without food.

 

Prayer

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What happens in the brain during prayer? A new field called “neurotheology” has spawned from the growing interest in the ubiquitous spiritual and religious practice. Indeed, 90% of Americans say that they pray. One neuroscientist posed the question in an interesting way, “Does our consciousness have the capacity to reach out and connect to someone else in a way that’s health-promoting?”

In a fascinating study by the Institute of Noetic Science, happily married couple J.D and Teena had electrodes attached to their thumbs to measure their blood flow and unconscious nervous system. Teena is locked behind an electromagnetically shielded chamber, and J.D is taken into an isolated room with a closed-circuit television. At random intervals, Teens’a image appears on the screen for 10 seconds. At those moments, J.D is instructed to pray for his wife, sending her loving, compassionate thoughts.

Senior Scientist Dean Radin overlooks the session and notes the sudden changes in J.D’s blood pressure and perspiration at the moments he sees Teena’s image. The question is whether Teens’s nervous system will react in the same manner?

Radin displays Teena’s graph: the flat line corresponds with the times J.D doesn’t see her image; however, within two seconds of her husband seeing her image and praying, there is a spike representing her blood flow and perspiration.

36 other couples went through the same test with the same results—changes in the nervous system happen within two seconds of one partner praying for the other. The odds of this happening by chance are 1 in 11.000.

Pretty convincing research to start praying!

 

Self-Hypnosis 

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Contrary to the idea of hypnosis being an embarrassing stage-show, here’s a textbook definition: The induction of a state of consciousness in which a person becomes highly responsive to suggestion or direction. 

We enter into subtle hypnotic states on a daily basis; completely absorbed in an activity and losing track of time. It happens when you drive, watch movies, and when you read. These are forms of passive-hypnotic inductions, a session with a hypnotherapist or practicing self-hynosis would be an active induction.

Hypnosis feeds off the psychosomatic power of words. An intriguing study in Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink highlights the mind-body relationship inherent in words. Subjects were lead into a room, asked to describe how they felt. Then, they were told to read a list of words: “worried,” “Florida,” “old,” “lonely,” “grey,” “sentimental,” “bingo,” “withdraw,” “forgetful,” “retired,” “wrinkle.”

Afterward, subjects not only described feeling slow and sluggish, but physically walked out of the room slower than when they entered. In psychology, it’s referred to as Priming, in hypnosis it’s synonymous with “Embedding a command.”

Hypnosis can be done on yourself. Using specific words and scripts will trigger off your imagination and bring you into a state of trance and extreme suggestibility. Penn State psychology professor William Ray explains through his EEG studies that connections in the brain are different during hypnosis, a disconnection between your emotional and sensory experience. “What this means is that under hypnosis the person is able to focus on what they are doing without asking why they are doing it or checking the environment for changes.”

Self-hypnosis scripts are a combination of VAK: visual, audio, and kinaesthetic. Here’s a typical induction: once you find a quiet place, reclined and relaxed in a chair, couch, or bed, picture yourself on a beach. Starting off with three deep breaths, imagine the sun warmly touching your skin, from your toes right up the top of your head. Hear the sounds of the waves and the ocean. Let the water touch your feet and the coolness spread over your body. Eventually you will bring yourself into a trance state and be open to suggestions and “change-work.”

This is when you can combine your self-hypnosis with the practice of affirmations, or begin to vividly visualise the life improvements and person you’re striving to become. Many professional athletes have used self-hypnosis and visualisation techniques with great success.

For further reading on self-hypnosis, here’s a recommended book and resource.

 

Affirmations

Elegant woman looking at herself in the mirror

The staple practice of self-help gurus has gone under the microscope and produced interesting results. Five professors from five different universities produced a report in the science and medicine journal PLOS One. They put 80 undergraduate students through 30 problem-solving exercises and found that students who were randomly assigned self-affirmation exercises were less stressed in handling problems, more attentive, and emotionally receptive to errors.

David Creswell, professor of psychology from Carnegie Mellon University comments from his research, “An emerging set of published studies suggest that self-affirmation activity at the beginning of a school term can boost academic grade-point averages in under-performing kids at the end of the semester.”

The deliberate practice of focusing and repeating a personal value statement reinforces a chemical pathway in the brain. As a result, you become better equipped and motivated to protect your perceived integrity and self-worth.

List out values, traits, and characteristics that you desire for yourself, think of some people you admire for inspiration. Turn them into positive sentences and statements and set time aside to repeat them to yourself out loud, with passion, conviction, and belief.

Here are some affirmations to get you started:

“I see obstacles as opportunities.”

“I am relentless in everything I do.”

“There are no failures, just valuable lessons.”

“Everyday I get closer and closer to my goals.”

“I believe all things are possible.”

 

Yoga

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The word yoga means “to join” or “to unite.” The combination of physical postures or “asanas,” breathing, stretching, and visualisation makes for a powerful practice with plenty of health benefits.  The postures alone improve flexibility, core strength, stamina, and blood circulation.

Stephen Cope is a therapist and director of a program called “Yoga and the Brain” in Massachusetts. Using MRI technology, he explains how yoga brings measurable changes in the body’s sympathetic nervous system—the part that controls our “fight or flight” response to stress.

“Because our lives today include business emails at 10 o’clock at night and loud cell conversations at the next table, our stress response often lingers in the “on” position at times it shouldn’t. Yoga helps dampen the body’s stress response by reducing levels of the hormone cortisol, which not only fuels our split-second stress reactions, but it can wreak havoc on the body when one is chronically stressed.”

Yoga balances out the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems through its emphasised breathwork—the optimal breathing cycle should include six breaths per minute.

Here’s a great 20-minute yoga session for beginners:

[videos file=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7AYKMP6rOE” width=”600″ height=”400″][/videos]

 

 

Meditation 

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Meditation is a powerful tool for gaining mastery over your mental self. You certainly don’t need to put on a orange robe and move to the himalayas to reap the benefits. Neuroscience has shown that practicing meditation changes your brain. It increases grey matter and cortical thickness, resulting in better focus and attention, memory, and creativity.

The mind is constantly trying to process the external world. That can create a tremendous amount of ‘noise’ internally. Meditation declutters, training your mind to become more efficient at filtering information.

A great beginners exercise for meditation is to find a quiet place, close your eyes, breathing in and exhaling ten deep breaths. As you do so, you’ll begin to notice your mind wandering about, events from your week will resurface, your to-do list will make an appearance. Your goal is to continually bring your mind back to your breathing. Nothing else. Just focus intently on the air going into your nose, right down to your stomach, and then exiting your mouth.

 

Tai Chi

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An ancient Chinese martial art, Tai Chi is a series of controlled movements and postures, comparable to shadow boxing or shadow kung fu in slow motion. Central to Tai Chi, is unlocking the energy force called Qi that flows through the meridians of the body.

Expressed in Yin and Yang, are the opposite energies that make up every person: Yin, the softer, yielding, feminine energy, and Yang, the rigid, hard, masculine energy. Illnesses are a result of the Qi energy being disrupted and blocked. Tai Chi movements work to stimulate the natural movement of Qi energy and balance Yin and Yang.

UC Irvine biophysicist Shin Lin teaches tai chi classes outside his laboratory. He uses biomedical instruments like heart rate and brain wave monitors, infrared cameras to record changes in body temperature, photon counters to gauge light emission from the body, and a laser Doppler device that calculates blood flow.

His studies have shown the combination of mental focus, breathing, shifting posture—moving the body with grace and poise—creates many physical benefits: improving flexibility, balance, and coordination, fatigue, joint stiffness, and poor posture. It lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, and enhances serotonin and endorphin release. “Our lab has found that tai chi can increase blood flow and body energy levels measured as heat, light and electricity. In the past, there’s been no scientific data to prove this.”

Dr. Paul Lam gives a great session on Tai Chi for beginners:

[videos file=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hIOHGrYCEJ4″ width=”600″ height=”400”][/videos]

 

Chanting

Laity-Chanting-copy

Commonly known through the Gregorian tradition and Tibetan monks, chanting is the rhythmic speaking or singing of words or sounds on two different pitches called reciting tones.

Dr. Alan Watkins, a senior lecturer in neuroscience at Imperial College London, carried out research monitoring the heart rate and blood pressure of five monks over a 24-hour period. Results showed that their heart heart and blood pressure dipped to its lowest point in the day while they were chanting.

Watkins attributes the effects to the combination of controlled breathing, feelings of wellbeing in communal singing, and the simplicity of melodies. Research from the National Library of Medicine noted that the different pitches and rhythms of chanting activates, and improves, parts of the brain responsible for depression and epilepsy.

Here’s a great site to get you started on reading and singing Gregorian Chant.

 

EFT 

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Emotional Freedom Techniques; the self-healing tapping technique is gaining great momentum through prominent advocates such as Jack Canfield, Dr. Bruce Lipton, and Dr. Deepak Chopra.

It is widely known that the human body produces energy like a battery—at rest, your body is producing about 100 watts of power, increasing up to 400 watts as you move and engage in activity and movement.  It’s the same philosophy of Qi energy discussed in Tai Chi; whereas Tai Chi unblocks energy through specific movements, EFT does so through tapping on the body’s meridian points. These are the same meridian points used in Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine, but rather than using needles, EFT applies pressure to these points with the tapping of your fingers.

EFT’s strength lies in it’s compounding technique, taking on emotional and psychological issues and simultaneously tying affirmations with the tapping.  There are a few different teachings of EFT, here is a simplified method known as Faster EFT:

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Let’s walk through the process:

1. Using the three middle fingers of any hand, you’ll begin with tapping the KC (Karate Chop) point of your other hand. With this initial tap you are identifying the issue that you’d like to transform. As an example, we’ll take “Anxiety about your future” as the issue.

As you tap, you’ll say out loud:

“Even though I am somewhat anxious about my future, I fully and completely love and accept myself right now.”

2. Moving now to tapping in between your eye-brows, you can say:

“I am releasing and letting go.”

3. Tap the sides of your eyes and say:

“I am excited about my future.”

4. Underneath your eyes, tap and say:

“I trust in my journey.”

5. Tapping in that area just underneath the collar-bone, say:

“I believe that good things will happen.”

6. Squeeze your wrist for about 4 seconds and say:

“Absolute peace.”

Remember that the language I’ve used is flexible—you can replace them with statements or affirmations that you have used in the past or others you feel more comfortable with. You can also make the statements longer and tap for longer if you’d like.

Go ahead and use this process as a template for other issues you’d like to address, E.g. Relationships, Finances, Confidence, Body Image. Begin with prefacing the issue at hand with the words, “Even though…” By doing this, you are making it clear what you would like to change. Then, you begin to go through the process of changing your internal dialogue.

The negative experiences you’ve gone through have been imprinted into your psyche—it has created a memory in your brain. With the use of linguistic repetition, combined with the tapping, you’re weakening and erasing these negative imprints and laying down a new script.

Here’s a great video that explains how EFT rewires the brain:

[videos file=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZfZBHWSbrsg” width=”600″ height=”400″][/videos]

 

 

Pineal Gland De-Calcification  gland

René Descarte referred to the Pineal Gland as the “principle seat of the soul.” The small endocrine gland, which resembles a tiny pine cone, is located between the two hemispheres of the brain.  The pineal gland is at the centre of much debate between science and spirituality; Its biological makeup, resembling that of an eye continues to mystify doctors and scientist. Often referred to as the Third Eye, ancient depictions are found in Sumerian, Greek, Roman, Hindu, and Egyptian cultures. Perhaps most notably on the Pope’s staff and in the Vatican’s “Court of the Pine Cone.”

Dr. David Klein from Science Daily explains, “What’s fascinating is that the interior of the pineal gland actually has retinal tissue composed of rods and cones (photoreceptors) just like the eye, and is even wired into the visual cortex in the brain. The photoreceptors of the retina strongly resemble the cells of the pineal gland.” It even has vitreous fluid in it like an eye does.”

While researchers know a major function is the synthesis and release of melatonin, it’s the production and secretion of the psychedelic compound DMT that has everyone buzzing (pun intended). DMT has been documented as naturally occurring in human blood, but only recently has evidence arose of it produced by the pineal gland. Cottonwood Research Foundation presented their fascinating findings of DMT being produced in the pineal glands of living rats, the genes responsible also found in humans.

In a press release, the researchers stated,  “The pineal gland has been an object of great interest regarding consciousness for thousands of years. A pineal source of DMT would help support a role for this enigmatic gland in unusual states of consciousness. Our new data now establish that the enzyme actively produces DMT in the pineal.”

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While calcification of the pineal gland is typical in adults—40% of Americans by the age of 17— many argue that it’s unnatural. Calcification obstructs what Descarte described as, “The part of the body in which the soul directly exercises its functions.” Poor diet and excessive amounts of fluoride in water are the major culprits stifling that natural mental acuity.

Common advice for decalcification includes: drinking filtered and natural spring water, making sure to check the brand’s level of fluoride, substituting your toothpaste for fluoride free toothpaste, eating boron rich foods—known as an effective fluoride remover, boron is found naturally in raisins, dates, chick peas, red kidney beans, hazel nuts, walnuts, lentils and peanut butter.

Here is more info on the dangers of fluoride and how to decalcify your pineal gland.

 

Image Credits:

Fasting: karmajello.com 

Yoga: 123inspiration.com 

Tai Chi: doravillega.us

Chanting: buddhistteachings.org

EFT: shannondunn.com.au

Pineal Gland: ufo-taboe.com | 3rdeyevision.org

 

6 Responses to “10 Transformational Practices You Don’t Need To Be “New Age” To Benefit From.”

  1. August 31, 2014

    Robin Reply

    Hi. I notice that you have used my photo for your section on chanting (http://www.buddhistteachings.org/life-in-the-saffron-forest-chapter-13#more-1062). I think it would be polite for you to attribute this photo to my website, by including a link. In the future, I would also appreciate if you simply ask permission before using any photos. Thanks.

    • August 31, 2014

      [email protected] Reply

      Hi Robin,

      I did include image credits and links at the bottom of the article. Apologies for not connecting with you beforehand. Let me know if you’d like the image removed or not.

      Thai.

      • August 31, 2014

        Robin Reply

        Hi Thai. Thanks so much for the reply. I hadn’t noticed the credits before – my apologies. You are welcome to keep using the photo as is.

        Be well,

        Robin

  2. September 12, 2014

    toby Reply

    I’ve only just started looking at blogs and I can’t believe how much great FREE content you find on them – AMAZING

    Thanks

    Toby

  3. September 19, 2014

    Phạm Hữu Dư Reply

    I love Yoga 🙂

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