How Meditation helped Save the Lives of the 12 Thai Boys.

Ekapol Chanthawong, the 25-year-old Thai coach of the Wild Boars soccer team, was a Buddhist monk before turning his career to soccer.

When Chanthawong and his team of 12 boys found themselves stranded in a cave, the coach turned to his meditation practice for help. During the two weeks that they spent in the cave before being rescued (including 10 days with no access to food or water), Chanthawong led the boys through meditation practice to calm them down...

Read the full article on Elephant Journal.

How Yin Yoga Helps Us to "Love What Is"

Before you read:

This post is a follow-up to the previous post from May 9th. If you have not read it and are unfamiliar with Byron Katie, click the link below to get an introduction to “loving what is.”

Loving What Is: A Remarkable Method for Cultivating a Yogic Mind

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If Byron Katie’s philosophies teach us anything, it is that it does us no good to feel angry or sad about the way things are. Whether we are reacting to an unfortunate circumstance or to how someone is treating us, negative emotions do not change our reality. If anything, all they bring us is stress and pain. Embracing reality rather than resisting it has the potential to bring us much closer to happiness. This is not to say that we should not aim to improve the quality of our lives, but instead that we should begin from a place of acceptance. Things may change in a minute or day or year, but wishing that things were different in the present moment (or even in the past) only causes emotional distress.

One of the essential components of Yin Yoga is the process of surrendering to whatever experience arises over the course of a session. This process is unique in Yin because of the length of time each pose is held; advanced practitioners typically stay in a pose for a minimum of five minutes. Poses that feel easy or comfortable when held for a few seconds can rapidly become challenging and uncomfortable when we linger for several minutes. As this discomfort increases, our natural instinct is to resist. We may come up with reasons why we should shift position or come out of the pose entirely. In a Yin class we have nothing to distract us from the discomfort, so we become restless. The beauty of Yin is that surrendering to this discomfort has tremendous physical and psychological benefits.

It is in this way that Yin becomes a regular practice of acceptance. We can train our minds to stop resisting and allow us to relax into reality, no matter how uncomfortable. Over time the restlessness decreases and the mind’s new instinct is to let go. Breathing through this discomfort also permits the tissues of the body to stretch more fully, cultivating supple joints and ligaments.

Byron Katie’s philosophy of “loving what is” easily fits hand in hand with the philosophies of Yin Yoga. The two practices offer us a space to discover an alternate method of dealing with challenging situations. Both emphasize the value of surrendering to reality, both encourage the practice of acceptance, and both provide us with the tools to let go of negative mental habits.

"Loving What Is": A Remarkable Method for Cultivating a Yogic Mind

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When I was a senior in college I found myself in a personal crisis that was the culmination of a loss in the family and an abusive relationship. I was having trouble focusing, difficulty sleeping, and was struggling with depression and persistent pessimism. While skyping with my parents one day, my mom said, “I’m sending you a book that I think will help.” A week later Loving What Is arrived on my doorstep, and I had my first introduction to Byron Katie.

At forty three, Byron Katie found herself with three children and a successful career, but was crippled by severe depression and rage. Her despair was interfering with all aspects of her personal life as well as her own well-being, until it finally reached a peak and she checked into a mental health facility. It was there that she began to examine the inner workings of her mind and emotions, and it was from this self-study that “The Work” gradually emerged.

The Work is a process of uncovering the truth behind our thoughts and learning how to recognize when thought patterns are destructive. As Katie says, “A thought is harmless unless we believe it. It’s not our thoughts, but the attachment to our thoughts, that causes suffering.” For anyone who has studied Yoga, this concept echoes one of the most central components of Yogic philosophy. We are unable to completely stop the flow of the hundreds of thoughts that inhabit our mind each day. However, we can cultivate an ability to separate ourselves from these thoughts and to analyze them without letting them dictate our emotions or our understanding of the world.

One of the most important parts of The Work is the practice of Inquiry, which consists of a series of questions that we can use to examine our thoughts. The best method for practicing inquiry is to write down all the thoughts or beliefs you have that bring you stress, sadness, or anger. These may be criticisms or frustrations with others, unhappiness with situations or life challenges, or self-deprecating thoughts. Each statement is then taken and held up to Katie’s four questions:

1)    Is it true?

2)    Can you absolutely know that it’s true?

3)    How do you react when you think that thought?

4)    Who would you be without that thought?

These questions allow us to the see that our thoughts are not facts, but instead statements that we have repeated to ourselves over and over again. Perhaps most importantly, we can see the impact that negative thoughts have on our emotions and to imagine a version of ourselves without this negativity. Quite often it is a revelation to consider an alternate reality in which we do not harbor criticism for ourselves or others, and in which we can come to accept the people and situations around us.

Though it may not be a traditional method of practicing Yoga, The Work is an incredible tool that we can incorporate into the cultivation of mindfulness. It allows us take a step back from our thoughts in order to see them more clearly and question whether they are bringing us peace or anxiety. By doing so we come to the realization that there is no good reason to hold on to these negative thoughts, providing space to move a few steps closer to accepting – or even loving – what is.