Healing the Mind and Body - the Redbendad Routine

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I have physical issues that seriously affect how I feel. My friend Chandra wrote to me, “Please do explore meditation, maybe Kriya yoga? I think Tai Chi is also a form of meditation but may not be
fully focused as in mind taking over the body.” This document is a response to Chandra’s request and statement. It includes descriptions of my daily physical and mental habits, which I call "The
Redbendad Routine". The document includes descriptions to and references for exercise, relaxation,pilates, yoga, meditation, tai chi, Kriya, biofeedback, binaural beats, endorphins, and bodymind.

Submitted: June 21, 2018

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Submitted: May 25, 2018

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Healing the Mind and Body: the Redbendad Routine

Introduction

I have physical issues that seriously affect how I feel. My friend Chandra wrote to me, “Please do explore meditation, maybe Kriya yoga? I think Tai Chi is also a form of meditation but may not be fully focused as in mind taking over the body.”

This document is a response to Chandra’s request and statement.

It includes the following topics:

  • Introduction
  • My Introduction to Yoga and Meditation
  • What Motivated Me to Expand my Routine
  • My Introduction to Tai Chi
  • Learning Tai Chi
  • Practicing Isometric exercises
  • Learning Pilates
  • My Approach to Mental Health
  • My Approach to Physical Health
  • Postlude

Note: Although I write about the mind and body because we often see them as conceptually separate; in reality, they are part of one thing-event called bodymind, which, in the field of alternative medicine, implies that:

  • The body, mind, emotions, and spirit are dynamically interrelated.
  • Experience, including physical stress, emotional injury, and pleasure are stored in the body's cells which in turn affects one's reactions to stimuli.[i]

My Introduction to Yoga and Meditation

When I was 24, I worked with a woman named Bobbie at the Deaf/Blind Annex of the Texas State School for the Blind in Austin, Texas. She was teaching me sign language late one Friday night as we walked around west Austin, near the University of Texas. Using sign language, she was teaching me things about life that I had never heard before.

After a while, I exclaimed in amazement, “How do you know so much?”

To which she replied, “If you’d shut up for a while, you might figure some of this out on your own.”

Bobbie then suggested that I read a book named Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda. I did and it changed my life. It talked about yoga and meditation, among other topics. I found and studied a book about Hatha yoga, which is the form of yoga most Westerners have some awareness of, in which you take different positions to stretch and allow your energy to flow. I started practicing Hatha yoga and meditating every morning

What is Yoga?

Wikipedia defines yoga as a group of physicalmental, and spiritual practices or disciplines which originated in ancient India[ii]. That concise definition is somewhat like defining reality as, that which is. 

The Yoga Sutras say that

Yoga is the suppression of the activities of the mind (1.2).

I read long ago that yoga is the union of mind and body. I would say that yoga can diminish the chattering part of the mind and open your awareness to the deeper parts of your mind, where you can better understand yourself and your relationships with aspects of reality.

There many types of yoga; each provides the opportunity for understanding and well-being. Some involve physical methods, some involve mental activities, and others involve gaining wisdom; each involves integrating the mind and the body to create a state of union or resonance that reduces tension or dissonance and increases well-being.

Someone who practices yoga is called a yogi.

What is Kriya Yoga?

Autobiography of a Yogi referred to a form of yoga called Kriya yoga. The book didn’t really teach Kriya yoga. That was 43 years ago but, as I recall, the author suggested that it was important to learn Kriya yoga from a teacher to prevent developing bad and potentially dangerous habits.

According to Wikipedia:

As Yogananda describes Kriya Yoga, "The Kriya Yogi mentally directs his life energy to revolve, upward and downward, around the six spinal centers (medullary, cervical, dorsal, lumbar, sacral, and coccygeal plexuses (see the following figure[iii].)) which correspond to the twelve astral signs of the zodiac, the symbolic Cosmic Man. One half-minute of revolution of energy around the sensitive spinal cord of man effects subtle progress in his evolution; that half-minute of Kriya equals one year of natural spiritual unfoldment."[iv]Of course, I did not have access to Wikipedia in 1975 and, as I recall, the book didn’t go into such detail. The idea that I imagined after reading the book was to focus on each of seven chakras, in turn, and build and release energy in each.

Figure 1. The Seven Chakras

 

What Motivated Me to Expand my Routine

This section describes what motivated me to learn Tai Chi, Isometric exercises, and Pilates.

My first back injury

When I was 33, I was playing tennis with a friend from upstate New York. At first, it was a friendly match. I explained to him that I had never actually played a real game of tennis but that I had hit the ball back and forth with my son many times. He told me that he had won some tennis awards in high school. For some reason, I won the first set. My friend became agitated and began playing more aggressively. He kept hitting drop shots – dumping the ball just over the net, to make it hard for me. At the time, I was 6’4 3/4” tall (1.95 meters) and weighed about 165 pounds (74.84 kilos)– basically skin over bones with little muscle.  On one attempt to lean down and to the left, I heard a deep thump or click within my body and felt it around my pelvis or lower back. My body was warm and I didn’t feel any pain.

That night, I lay on the floor on my back  until about 2 am, talking with a friend. When I got up rather quickly, I felt a major pain and found that I was unable to walk without supporting my weight with my hands on my thighs. I learned from my doctor that I had ruptured a disc in my lower back. I used a walking cane in each hand for about a week, which my co-workers found highly amusing.

My second back injury

When I was 39, I married a wonderful woman. A couple of years later, we were visiting her mother, who lived on three acres of land in rural Texas. Her mom said that a lot of trees on her property needed trimming. She was probably 70 years old at the time, so I trimmed them for her. Afterwards, my wife and I picked up all the tree limbs and put them in plastic bags.

That night, we slept on a spare bed with a very old mattress that curved down in the middle. The next morning, I was unable to stand up without severe pain. My wife’s mom was from a rural, hard-working family; she tied a rope around my waist and I was able to stand up and walk, although driving was painful. The next Monday, I went to my chiropractor. He let me lay on my back on a table until I was unable to stand up. He tried to bribe me to walk or crawl to another office by putting a cookie on the floor in the hall but I was unable to walk or crawl without unbearable pain. He told me I had ruptured two more discs in my lower back. He gave me an adjustment; afterwards, I could not walk without severe pain until I rested for a while.

My neck injury

When I was 47, my wife and son and I took a vacation in the Cayman Islands, which are south of U.S. and Cuba and east of the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico. One morning, my son went to the beach to explore and my wife and I stayed in the room while I did my morning exercises. I guess I was trying to hurry so we could go out because I did a yoga position that puts a lot of strain on the neck before I warmed up properly and I hurt my neck. Later, I found out that I had herniated two discs in my neck.

My Introduction to Tai Chi

During the period when I was practicing yoga and meditation, I had a roommate from Taiwan named Shu Ming Goi, who practiced Tai Chi every morning. I was living at The New Guild student housing co-op on 23rd Street[v], a few blocks west of campus (see the following image).

The New Guild Co-op in Austin, Texas

Figure 2. The New Guild student housing co-op on 23rd Street in Austin, Texas

Shu was the most relaxed person I had ever met. He showed me some of the Tai Chi forms and he taught me a basic meditation that involved focusing on qi or Chi[vi], located about an inch below the navel and about an inch inside. Shu called it the sea of energy, although Wikipedia says there are 23 definitions for qi.

Chandra wrote: “I think Tai Chi is also a form of meditation but may not be fully focused as in mind taking over the body.” Generally, I agree with Chandra’s statements. Tai Chi is a series of movements that require focus and balance. It is challenging and you are unlikely to do the Tai Chi forms with the same depth that you can achieve by meditating while sitting. In this document, I differentiate between the Tai Chi forms or movements, calling them, simply, Tai Chi, and a meditation that my roommate Shu taught me, which I call Tai Chi meditation. I did not learn the Tai Chi forms until much later.

I used a blend of what I learned from Shu about Tai Chi meditation and what I imagined from reading about Kriya yoga in Autobiography of a Yogi. Those practices had a profound impact on how I perceived myself, the people around me, and our relationships. 

I remember doing a meditation in which my whole body began tingling with a high level of energy for quite a while. I was fully conscious of an extremely happy or blissful feeling that permeated my mind and body, or bodymind, as some people refer to it. (The word bodymind is consistent with the idea of yoga being an integration of the mind and the body.)

Learning Tai Chi

Until the second back injury, I was only doing yoga. After the last ruptures, I could no longer do yoga due to the pain. I remembered my roommate Shu Ming Goi doing Tai Chi and thought that might be feasible and useful.

There are five major forms of Tai Chi[vii]. I bought a Tai Chi video of the Yang – short form. The short form is the just the first part of the Yang form. Over time, as my body became more flexible, I re-introduced yoga into the routine and continued to do Tai Chi.

  • The easiest way to understand Tai Chi to you is to watch someone do it. Here’s one video to show you the movements: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SBIZciSHPgA. There are hundreds on the internet. Find one that you like to learn from.

Notes:

  • They say that Tai Chi is a martial art. For me, it is more of a moving meditation. When I include deep breathing while doing Tai Chi, it feels like a meditation. It is a great way to relax your muscles and improve your balance. It also helps relieve me of physical discomfort by warming and loosening my muscles.
  • Slowness is another key to relaxing into a meditative state while doing Tai Chi. Generally, slowing down both moving and breathing seems to lower the dominant frequency range  of the brain; in other words, you get more calm.
  • Being calm helps you see and understand more clearly, widely, and deeply.
  • Repeating the Tai Chi form multiple times also seems to have a calming effect.

Practicing Isometric exercises

When I was around 19 years old, I read an article in Parade magazine, which used to be an insert into the Sunday newspaper, about how astronauts would do Isometric exercises n space to try to counteract the effect of not having gravity. The astronaut program was fairly new then and it was a big deal. I remembered that article 28 years later when I injured my neck. That’s what motivated me to start doing Isometric exercises to strengthen my neck, shoulders, and arms.

An isometric exercise is a form of exercise involving the static contraction of a muscle without any visible movement in the angle of the joint[viii]. I press my right hand to my forehead and exert arm pressure for about ten seconds. This strengthens my arm and my neck. I repeat this process with my left hand. I then press against the right side of my head and then the left. I then press against the back of my head with my right hand and then with the left (see the following figure.)

Note: The idea is to apply reasonable pressure, not to injure yourself.

Figure 3. The author doing an Isometric exercise

Learning Pilates

When I was 53, I worked with and became friends with a software developer named Brent. We would occasionally get together and play pool or play guitar together. He was better than me at both. Brent told me that his wife wanted to start teaching Pilates. I had read an article about Pilates in a Yoga magazine and it sounded like a good addition to my routine. I took basic Pilates from her and eventually incorporated a few Pilates movements into my routine.

Pilates are a set of low-impact, non-aerobic exercises that boost your strength, flexibility, and joint mobility, using your body weight instead of weights.[ix] It’s a good way to start exercising for beginners and the elderly.  You can start with basic exercises then try advanced moves as you get better. Pilates will make your muscles stronger, particularly your arms and legs.

Pilates was developed by a German physical trainer named Joseph Pilates. He said that the inspiration for his method came to him during World War One, while he was being held in an internment camp. He developed his method there for four years, working on his fellow internees. He believed that mental and physical health were interrelated[x].

My Approach to Mental Health

In this section, let’s look at two aspects of mental health:

  • What Dr. John D. Lilly called self-meta-programming
  • Meditation

Self-Meta-Programming

When I was young, I had a few sales jobs. To learn about self-improvement and motivation, I read and listened to Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill[xi]. One of his main points was that we are creatures of habit, so form good habits. Habits are formed by repetition, whether they are physical or mental.

When I was 23, a friend loaned me a copy of Programming and Meta-programming in the Human Biocomputer[xii], by Dr. John C. Lilly. I may be off a bit on this quote, but I remember it as this:

In the province of the mind, whatever you believe to be true either is true or becomes true, within limits that you determine through your experience and experimentation. These limits are further beliefs to be transcended[xiii].

So, putting the two lessons together, we can determine that we want to develop good habits of thought by repeating them until we believe them. This helps create our reality.  According to Max Planck, the theoretical physicist who originated quantum theory and won him the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1918:

I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.”  

This concept of creating reality is now accepted by most physicists, at least in the form of observation changes the experiment[xiv]. I would extend that to say that, focus creates value.

So, putting the ideas together, we can create a better reality by forming good habits of thought and create value by repeating words that reflect what we choose to create.

Dr. Lilly writes about programs, meta-programs, and self-meta-programs, described below.

  • Your programming is what you do.
  • Some of your programming is genetic; some of it is affected by your meta-programs, which are beliefs that form your paradigm about the universe and your relationships to the universe. A meta-program is like a super-class or container that defines what programs are allowable. For example, if you believe that the world is a fearful place, what you experience will be limited by that belief. We tend to see what we already believe.
  • Your meta-programs, your beliefs,  are a function of what you believe about yourself, which are called self-meta-programs.
  • Dr. Lilly calls the input you get from the your senses supra-self-meta-programs.

So, this means that we can affect what happens to us by what we tell ourselves, what we focus on, and the input we get from the world around us.  All of this leads me to discuss my own self-meta-programming.

Doing Self-Meta-Programming

When I was 36, I was miserable. I was living in a town I was unfamiliar with because a friend had helped me get a job working for a guy I really couldn’t stand. One night I woke up and decided to start changing things. I got up and made a list of qualities I wanted to develop. Then I memorized the list. Then I wrote a song using the list. I sang that song multiple times a day for years. And my life slowly started improving. These are the words:

I am happy and healthy, attractive and wealthy, disciplined and kind, peaceful and secure. I’m relaxed and confident, ambitious and successful, active and resourceful, gentle and strong, curious and humble, patient, understanding, resolved, and loving.

By the time I was 51, I had created a new career as a business analyst but the market collapsed and I was out of work for several months. During that time, I started going to a chiropractor who introduced me to a man named Robert Tennyson Stevens who taught a program called Conscious Language[xv]. He talked about how the words that you use come from beliefs that are re-enforced with your words; that is, your words re-enforce how you think about yourself and others.  He talked about the importance of using words that help you build who you chose to become.

From that course, I borrowed some of Robert’s key words and built a new self-meta-program containing the following words:

I am, I can, I choose, I will, I create, I have, I love, I enjoy, and I thrive; I feel fantastic. I’m in perfect health. I’m fully rested and completely relaxed.

I repeat this self-meta-program many times during my exercise routine. These are powerful concepts that help you build a powerful version of yourself. Notice that “I am” is very much like the mantra “aum”, which is a very powerful centering mantra from India.

In the last several years, I have been thinking about re-enforcing concepts, meta-programs, that I think are important to focus on. So, in addition to the above self-meta-program, I’m also using the following:

Health, love, truth, beauty, grace, gratitude, quality, integrity, and joy

Repeating these words, either aloud or mentally, is a powerful way of cleansing the mind and focusing on what is important. It’s also a useful tool when you can’t stop thinking about something or can’t get a song out of your head. You can train yourself to automatically start repeating those words whenever you want to improve the quality of your mind. It helps tremendously if you visualize and think about what each word means to you and see what images come to mind with each word. If these words, or words that you select, are your framework or paradigm for seeing and acting in the world, you have the best chance of enjoying your life.

Note: If you repeat the words slowly, it gives your mind time to visualize or remember some of the concepts associated with the word. This process helps strengthen and integrate the concepts in your mind.

The Function of Language

When I was 28, I was introduced to a book named Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics by Alfred Korzybski[xvi]. He  helped me realize that language is a human programming language. He also helped me realize that words have a function as well as meaning. Sometimes the function is the opposite of the meaning. For example, if I tell you to not imagine a pink elephant, you will picture a pick elephant. The word not has no function in this example. So the meaning and the function are opposite. This has huge implications for teaching and raising children. For example, if you regularly tell your children not to be idiots, they will probably grow to believe they are idiots.

My Approach to Meditation

Basically, my approach to meditation combines the Tai Chi meditation to focus on each part of the body in turn, including the chakras. The essence of my approach is to feel a warm, tingling sensation, a gentle, soothing feeling in each part of the body, starting with your hands, while using keywords that encourage relaxation, such as warm, tingling, gentle, soothing, peaceful, and relaxing. After you relax a body part, you take a deep breath. As you exhale, you let yourself become more peaceful and calm and go deeper into a state of relaxation. As you bring the relaxing feeling into each part of your body, the tingling sensation becomes increasingly powerful. For a couple of reasons, I focus on two parts of the body at a time. First I do the hands and feet, then the wrists and ankles, then the forearms and calves, and on up the body, including the chakras, until my entire body is relaxed. This has a couple of benefits for me:

  • It takes less time to do.
  • If one part of the body is tense or painful, the relaxing feeling in the other part helps the tense part relax more than it otherwise would.

There are more subtleties to my approach to meditation but that’s the gist of it.

Biofeedback

When I was 28, I spent three weeks in Boulder, Colorado, learning about a wide-variety of topics that were centered on the mind and learning about yourself. The purpose of the course was to prepare you to work with people who were emerging from sensory-isolation tanks, which were used for stress-reduction and self-discovery.  That experience is another entire story. The reason I bring it up is that we were taught how to help people relax using a method that is also used as preparation in a wide variety of endeavors, such as acting, dancing, and hypnosis.

I incorporated that relaxation method into my approach to meditation, which I will describe later in this document. Later, I learned that method is much like biofeedback[xvii], except that you use your mind to measure your state of being instead of using instruments.

Binaural Beats

Somewhere along the way, I stumbled into binaural beats[xviii] on the internet. Binaural beats uses sound to make a specific frequency dominant in the brain, using the principal of rhythmic entrainment. Itzhak Bentov’s excellent book, Stalking the Wild Pendulum - On the Mechanics of Consciousness[xix] discusses the concept of rhythmic entrainment.

It’s been 42 years since I read it but here’s how I remember it. Basically, everything has a resonant frequency, based on its shape, size, mass, and density. For example, if a certain frequency of energy is applied to a certain atom, electrons in the outer orbital will jump to a higher orbital, emitting light. Another example: if two guitars are in a room within acoustical distance of each other and you pluck the E string on one guitar, the E string on the other guitar will vibrate.

Our brain produces and responds to five different, measurable types of brain waves; called Delta, Theta, Alpha, Beta and Gamma brain waves. Each of these of these brain waves has a normal frequency range in which they operate. The table below gives a brief overview of the primary function of these brain waves.

Name

Frequency range

Mental Attributes

Gamma waves

> 40 Hz

Higher mental activity, including perception, problem solving, and consciousness

Beta waves

13–39 Hz

Active, busy thinking, active processing , active concentration, arousal, and cognition

Alpha waves

7–13 Hz

Calm relaxed yet alert state

Theta waves

4–7 Hz

Deep meditation /relaxation, REM sleep

Delta waves

< 4 Hz

Deep dreamless sleep, loss of body awareness

 

Each type of brainwave controls a variety of states of consciousness ranging from sleep to active thinking. While all brain waves work simultaneously, one brainwave can be more predominant and active than the others. The dominant brainwave will determine your current state of mind. So if you are awake and relaxed you would be considered to be in an "alpha state of mind" because your Alpha brain waves would be the strongest with the highest amplitude[xx].

So, if you wanted to be in a calm, relaxed, yet alert state, you would make Alpha waves dominant by listening to a binaural beat sound between 7 and 13 cycles per second. The problem is that you can’t hear those frequencies. Binaural beats resolves that problem by playing two sounds, one in each ear, the difference between the two sounds is the frequency you want to dominate. For example, if you played a music file that played 200 CPS in one ear and 210 CPS in the other ear, your brain would determine the difference to be 10 CPS and re-enforce that part of your brain that resonates at 10 CPS dominant. The result would help you be more calm and relaxed.

There are frequencies to help reduce pain, remove white matter in the brain, enhance studying and learning, put your mind in balance with the Earth, take a power nap, make time go faster on long flights, sleep deeply without dreams, and many other benefits. To read about more about the effects of specific frequencies, go to http://itsusync.com/different-types-of-brain-waves-delta-theta-alpha-beta-gamma.

I use an app on my phone called Binaural Beats Therapy. I used to go to my car during lunch and listen to it and nap. I also find useful binaural beats on Youtube. I often play a binaural beat at 40 Hz while I write or browse the internet.

My Approach to Physical Health

My approach to regular exercise includes aspects of the following: standing warmup movements, Tai Chi, Hatha yoga, Pilates, core strengthening exercises, Isometric exercise, and either bicycle riding or walking. I got out of the habit of meditating in the morning when I was working, due to time constraints, although a morning meditation really makes you more valuable to yourself and others. I often include meditation at night (as described above), particularly if I have trouble sleeping. In that case, I do it while lying in bed so that I’ll fall asleep.

Since it is an integration of many methods, I call it the Redbendad routine. Some people have called me Red because my hair used to be what Americans call red. My son’s name is Ben, so I’m his dad; hence, Redbendad.

Notes:

  • There are obviously other aspects of achieving and maintaining health, including diet, selecting friends, work, and other aspects of life. They are not within the scope of this document, other than to say that each of them affects your mental health, which affects your physical health.
  • I do not claim that my approach to health is the best one; it is simply the approach I developed over time, based on my own challenges and interests. You have to decide what works best for you.
  • Whether you are doing a meditation or a more physical exercise, remember to use slow, deep breaths to help you relax.

Postlude

One important reminder: focus creates value.

References


[i] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bodymind

 

[ii] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yoga

 

[iii] https://www.color-meanings.com/chakra-colors-the-7-chakras-and-their-meanings/

 

[iv] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kriya_Yoga

 

[v] https://www.facebook.com/New-Guild-Co-op-95390489225/

 

[vi] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qi

 

[vii] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tai_chi

 

[viii] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isometric_exercise

 

[ix] https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/a-z/what-is-pilates

 

[x] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pilates

 

[xi] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Think_and_Grow_Rich

 

[xii] http://www.johnclilly.com/metaprog00.html

 

[xiii] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_C._Lilly

 

[xiv] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Observer_effect_(physics)

 

[xv] http://masterysystemslifecoaching.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/ConsciousLanguageBookFirst3Chapters.pdf

 

[xvi] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Korzybski

 

[xvii] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biofeedback

 

[xviii] http://www.thefullwiki.org/Binaural_beats

 

[xix] Bentov, Itzhak. Stalking the Wild Pendulum - On the Mechanics of Consciousness, 1977 E.P. Dutton, 1988 Destiny Books.

 

[xx] http://itsusync.com/different-types-of-brain-waves-delta-theta-alpha-beta-gamma

 


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