There is nowhere to get to, you are already there.
Many of us come to know the areas of adversarial charge, pain or weakness within ourselves over the course of our lifetime.
In Ayurveda, we call these places a kaivagunya, a weakness or deficit within a system in the body that may arise from genetics, trauma, emotional stress, repressed emotions, and/or other factors.
Here a few common kaivagunyas:
- Tight jaw, Sore shoulders,
- Anxious belly, gut problems,
- Tight chest, heart palpitations,
- Sore lower back,
- Breathing difficulties,
- Immune deficiency,
- Exhaustion, depression and mental confusion
- Traumatic memories, PTSD
These weaknesses are parts of ourselves that, while challenging and easily triggered in times of stress, shock, grief, and loss, are simply a reminder to let this place within you be your teacher, a call to practice presence.
Often in our avoidance to feel such discomfort, we move away from ourselves and instead we might find comfort in over thinking, in attaching to certain relationships, by over indulging in certain foods, we might tend toward using our phones non-stop, using work to distract us, perhaps even alcohol, exercise, legal or illegal drugs may be our comforting addiction of choice. Yet, no matter what form of “drug” we use to ease our discomfort, in every addiction there is an unconscious refusal to face and move through pain – a disconnection from our Self – every addiction starts and ends in suffering from the want to disconnect from pain.
When the addiction or avoidance strategies we utilise finally fail to work, and we no longer have any choice except to face the very source of our discomfort, the spiritual transformation truly begins. With time, practice, and connection, we come into ‘being’ as we merge with the source of our suffering, often to really see the original charge is futile. It becomes a small etch on the spaciousness of our being.
This draws me to a practice which I call Spiritual Surgery, practiced in shavasana (corpse pose).
This is not an attempt to seek future freedom, liberation or enlightenment from the pain, rather to get truly comfortable with it, even get behind it. The seeking and the search for freedom from your pain will stress you out, and then it will wear you out – as seeking is future based. And the moment we start seeking or wishing for some salvation in the future, we avoid the present, which is all we truly ever have. The rest is completely unknown.
How to practice your own Spiritual Surgery in Shavasana:
- Practice no seeking, no searching.
- Be curious and moves towards and into the Kaivagunya, the energy charge or lack thereof
- Be self compassionate and understanding – it is just an energy
- Avoid overthinking it, over analysing. The mind can not solve this for you and the mind can not change the mind. Change comes from spaciousness within, from being. This will free you of the mind and the mental energy that is reinforcing the charge.
- Practice feeling and breathing into this space with complete presence
When you practice, turn towards the pain or the source of the suffering and sit within yourself fully. Bring presence to pain. It is the present moment that dissolves past pain and future pain.
Sitting and facing the reality of this moment dissolves the illusion of future salvation.
What may happen?
- All our stories dissolve;
- We lose our compulsions, our want to attach;
- We stop identifying with thoughts and behaviours;
- We stop attacking others from our own pain;
- All mind games and addictive clinging ceases;
- We accept all situations and people fully, without resistance, and with compassion;
- We lose the need to judge or change others;
- We experience true compassion, realising we are all one and the same.
As we stop identifying with psychic, emotional or physical pain in the mind body – we become the spaciousness or presence underneath the charge.
I include a meditation here to assist your practice. This “spiritual surgery” and the article below looks at ways we can use the breath to bring presence to many mental ailments …all of which are a little more science based than the concept of Spiritual Surgery above
Join Celia in a complimentary Spiritual Surgery & Liberation meditation
Breathing practices for Mental Health
Suyra Bhedhana: blocking the left nostril and breathing through the right nostril will accentuate left cerebral hemisphere dominance, which can be helpful for those with depressive symptoms.
Samana or Equal Breathing: Practice breathing in unbroken flow with no pauses (or) a focus on the in breath and inhale hold. Poor heart rate variability is linked to depression and yoga assists with improving this.The evidence supports that breathing linked to movement in yoga asana classes gives rise to the variance in heart rate, so be mindful to attend classes where breathing is a focus and practice with an equal breath ratio.
Practice your breathing or asana in the morning sun facing east to reduce symptoms of seasonal affective disorder and increase serotonin. SAD is experienced more frequently at the change of seasons.
Long term relaxation practices will reduce anxiety with meditation and daily rest in shavasana.
To reduce anxiety, practice hourly relaxed breathing during the day whenever you can and promote of parasympathetic dominance whilst inhibiting sympathetic dominance by using a longer exhale than your inhale. Try a ratio of 40 percent on the inhale and 60 per cent on the exhale. This is also helpful in reducing panic attacks. Panic attacks can be brought on by too much CO2 in blood and hyperventilation occurs with a longer inhale and a shorter exhale so to reverse and change breathing pattern through pranayama, again focus on the shorter inhale and longer exhale.
Soft nostril breathing will assist sympathetic nervous system (flight, fight or flee) to de-activate. According to Ayurveda, we can cool the fire of anger by practicing cooling breaths, such as shitali or sitkari. According to Buddhism, the antidote to anger is compassion.
The breathing technique for compassion focussed therapy that promotes healthy vagal tone and heart rate variability which may help to reduce the patterns of anger and rage, is taught by Professor Paul Gilbert. The breath count is as follows: 5 count inhale: 5 count exhale and is often employed before a one to one psychology CFT session.
The root cause is generally sympathetic nervous system dominance and it is best to focus on relaxation response and use restorative postures. Focus on consistency and regularity in daily life and in practice. Similar routines to be followed daily.
The deep breathing protocol is effective in reducing anxiety levels in patients with BD. Patients with BD tend to have increased activity of the sympathetic nervous system and decreased activity of the PNS. Knowing that deep breathing results in greater activation of the PNS, it is believed that it is a potential adjunct treatment for BD.
Serafim et al., 2018
Usually the breath ratio can either be equalised or slightly swaying towards a longer exhale depending on the state of the nervous system: hyper alert (longer exhale) or depressive episode (equal breathing).
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Nasal laterality is really important here. The deficit is often found in the left cerebral hemisphere – in one experiment gentle seated exercises were performed whilst breathing through the right nostril with left gently closed. There was a significant reduction on OCD symptoms and patients were then more able to follow program and progress more rapidly than others. Pranayama recommended is Surya Bhedana (right nostril solar breathing) and Nadi Shodhana Pranayama (Alternate Nostril breathing) with the right nostril dominance often preferred.
The technique involves exclusively breathing through the left nostril, and when perfected includes four 15 second phases: (1) a slow inspiration, (2) holding the breath in, (3) a slow expiration, and (4) a breath hold out phase, and this pattern repeated for 31 minutes. However patients start with lesser times and build up their capacity to the perfected rate.
Kelly Brogan, MD
General / Other Psychiatric Disorders
Yoga asana, Meditation and Pranayama can lead to depersonalization and disassociated states for some, and therefore possible suicide attempts. Following instructions and breathing techniques can be hard for people suffering with severe conditions, so best to work with psychiatric professional in this case. Those who have studied trauma informed yoga and meditation may feel comfortable working in this area with support from a team of mental health professionals. Stephen Porges recommends a breathing ratio of 40 percent inhale to 60 percent exhale (for example 4 in, 6 out or 8 in 12 out) to heal trauma by eliciting calm in the parasympathetic nervous system.