Shambhavi talks about staying connected while confined, real resilience vs soldiering on, getting good sleep, and true healing. A podcast from Satsang with Shambhavi
Live satsang is mostly free range Q&A. “Tastings” are special episodes of our Satsang with Shambhavi podcast where you’ll get to listen as students ask all kinds of questions and Shambhavi responds. Welcome to the buffet version of satsang!
Hey, everybody, this is satsang, and satsang means being in reality together. It means that we relax and we have some experience that maybe reminds us of what our lives are really about, who we really are.
So we usually start satsang with someone throwing out something for me to talk about for a little bit, and then we have open satsang. You can ask anything you want or say anything you want.
Would do you want to talk on dealing with confinement?
Dealing with confinement? Sure.
Well, are we all now with you? We're all now with you. Right? Yeah, hmm.
Well, in an ordinary sense, the most important thing is to stay [as] connected as possible.
And whether we're confined because of the pandemic, whether we're confined because of illness, whether we're confined because we're imprisoned, whether we're confined because we have some sort of psychological thing going on and we don't want to leave the house, whatever reason for the confinement—and I'm sure there's many others—maybe we're in a war zone or something, I don't know, many things can happen—but staying connected starts with our channels being opened.
So connected on a real level, not just making a gesture. So that means that we have to move, and we have to breathe. So the beginning of feeling connected is breathing—we can do pranayama—and whatever movement we can do to not be stagnant, because often when we're confined, we're being very stagnant.
So to whatever capacity we have, and everyone can breathe—because otherwise you wouldn't be here asking the question—so at the very least, we can breathe and we can find different kinds of pranayama, like where we can find very gentle ones, but that can still be very expansive.
If we're capable, we can do more vigorous pranayama. Also, some people have, like, inflammatory health conditions, so doing really vigorous pranayama is not possible, but there's ways that we can modify pranayama to make it more possible.
So this is like opening our lungs, keeping our eyes open as much as possible when we're doing these things, unless it's not possible with that practice. Staying connected with our senses, remembering to hear and touch and smell.
And then movement practices that open up our channels, whether that be yoga or we need to do if we're capable more vigorous things, too, even though we're indoors, like I bought some kettlebells recently because it's getting to be a bit much with how long this is going on.
So all of that will help to open our channels. And then we'll feel more connected no matter where we are, no matter what situation we're in.
And then when we make an effort to stay connected to people or maybe animals and nature. Going outside, if we can. At least having windows and having the air blowing on us and looking outside.
Then, if we've already opened our channels, we feel more connected when we make those more ordinary gestures to connect.
We all have the experience of “Oh, I guess I should go to the party” we don't really want to go, and maybe we're just feeling stagnant or whatever and we go. And just because we went to a party doesn't mean we're connected, right? We could be feeling even less connected at the party than we were at home.
Really, the only way to connect is to have our channels and our senses be open.
The other thing we can do is connect with the six tastes in our food. That also helps to open the gates of our perception. So eating salty, sour, sweet, bitter, astringent, and pungent every day.
[It] doesn't have to be all in the same meal, but making sure that we have all six of those tastes in something every day. And trying not to have our diet be all sweet and salty because the American diet is like 90% sweet and 10% salty and occasionally sour, but it leaves out all the other tastes. Right?
And that kind of mono diet causes our senses to shut down and impairs our digestion. So that's another thing that we could do to kind of wake up our channels and wake up our senses.
There's so much we can do. Listen to beautiful music that's not too monolithic—music that has a lot of layers. Treat yourself to things with a lot of color. Play with sensory experiences, whatever way that you can like touch and texture.
Make sure that you're engaging your hearing and your taste and you're seeing and you're smelling and your touch, even just remembering to listen to the sounds outside and get connected through hearing that way or sitting at a window and gazing at things going by keeping your senses open.
But the basic principle is to just remember that connection starts from your channels and your senses being open. And then whatever you do is going to feel more connected.
It is possible to feel connected even while confined if your senses and your perception are open. And then of course, it's always good to reach out to people and maybe have an animal around or something like that. That's all very good too, but it is possible to feel very connected even while confined, if you're open in the way that I described.
I've been thinking about the difference between soldiering on and actual resilience, and I’m wondering if you could talk about that?
Well, what resilience isn't, is following a rule because you don't want to be thought ill of, or because you're trying to project a certain image or gain cosmic brownie points, or something like that. I think a lot of us behave in certain ways because we think there's going to be a reward, but if we actually stopped and thought about it, we're not even sure what the reward is or who would be giving it to us.
We're just kind of going on thinking somehow at the end of all this strenuous effort is going to be this reward—gold stars, or God's going to swoop down out of the sky and give us a pat on the back or something like that. Or where you'll get like, a good person ID card. [laughs] So that isn't resilience, that's soldiering on.
Soldiering on, in any sense is when we're following rules that cause us to engage in sick effort because out of fear. I mean, it all boils down to fear in the end—that we're just not going to be a good person, or we're not going to get something or someone is going to think ill of us. That's the root of soldiering on.
And of course, when we're talking about the particular Puritan flavor of soldiering on when, I was in high school, I took a seminar in early American religious thought, and I can't remember what this book is called—it's very famous, it's by Jonathan Edwards, and the central image of the book is God holding you over a flaming pit, kind of like this dangling you there. And unless you behave, you're going to get dropped into this pit.
I think actually the title of the book has something to do with that, but a lot of us live like that, like our feet are just inches from the fire, and we have to make this huge effort to avoid that pain of punishment.
Resilience comes from two sources are they're related. People who have more ojas have more resilience, so people have more kapha in their constitution or who have healthy ojas, whatever their constitution is—that's basically our immune system, our energy system, our sense of cushion, our sense of largess, our sense of abundance, our sense of just being able to cope with things.
And when we have chronic illness, no matter what condition we are in, that can over time really erode our ojas. And then cause us to feel that we can't cope with things as well as we would wish.
So anything that you can do when you're chronically ill to boost your ojas is a good thing for having real resilience.
Now, we know that from the study of Ayurveda, that ojas is on an ordinary level, ojas is the final product of the process of digestion. So digestion is important in maintaining and producing ojas.
But we also know, in a more esoteric sense, that there is from that digestion of ojas there's sort of a super digestion which produces paraojas, supreme ojas, which connects us to the heart and universal love and compassion.
The ultimate source of resilience is that you are motivated by wanting the best for other people, whatever activity you are engaging in, you're engaging in it out of a sense of compassion and love for other people. That is the ultimate source of resilience.
So any kind of resilience that's self referential—I'm doing this because I think I should, or I'm doing this because I don't want to be beat by this illness or I'm doing this because I'm bored or whatever— all those things are ultimately going to be more exhausting than not.
But when we operate out of openheartedness and really wanting to give our best to others, then that effort is not as exhausting and can actually be nourishing.
Chronic illness is on a great continuum. Some illnesses we just have to stop, we can't keep going in our normal lives. Other illnesses, we can keep going at times, and not at others. Right?
And then, of course, there are many people who live highly functional lives with chronic illness. So there's a very, very big spectrum of different kinds of illnesses and how they affect people.
So even if we're magnificently openhearted and our ojas is fantastic, we're still going to have to stop, sometimes. Right? There's no such thing as we just keep going, regardless of circumstances. Everybody has to stop and rest sometimes and get care.
So any sense that we feel resistance to that, we know it's necessary, but we're not doing it, that's also sick effort. Because if we're really being openhearted, then we want to take care of ourselves so that we can continue giving to other people. We don't want to be in a position where we can't do that.
And of course, there's that beautiful story about the 16th Karmapa who died of cancer in the United States. And […] I don't know if this is an apocryphal story or not, that he never complained about the pain, even when he was riddled with cancer. But in any case, even as he was dying and he wasn't taking any drugs or anything like that, he was still trying to help people from his deathbed.
He wasn't getting up and writing books and running around the country, but he was still saying comforting words to people and trying to reassure his health care workers that he was okay. And they should just relax, and dealing with people's upsetness about the fact that he was dying, comforting other people about his death.
So even as he was dying, he was still giving. That's a really beautiful thing, I think.
So, we should learn in our lives as practitioners to be able to recognize the engine of fixation chugging. We should be able to recognize the feeling of tightness and over effort in our bodies, especially in our heart space. We can feel that sense of tightness and drive. We can feel that sense of dryness and being taken over by something.
And we should learn to recognize that and learn to relax and stop doing whatever it is that we're doing when we feel that and find a different place of motivation. It's a very good thing.
People often ask me, how do I know when I'm doing something as a natural expression versus fixation or karmic tension? It's actually incredibly easy to know, and it's not an intellectual process. It's not asking yourself the right question or analyzing anything.
All you need to do is feel your body, and especially your heart space, and you can feel that engine of addiction to whatever it is you're doing chugging right along, taking all your shakti with it. And that feeling of urgency, of anxious urgency that often accompanies this kind of fixated activity.
We should learn to relax that and try to discover a different motivation for our activities.
So, Heather asked a question before satsang started about sleeping directions. And this is something that's taught in the foundations course where people learn a complete practice and some stuff about Ayurveda and how to take care of yourself.
So, one of the practices is experimenting with what direction your crown is facing when you're asleep. And Heather was saying, “So west is bad, right?” Something like that.
One of the principles that we really need to understand—fundamental principle, fundamental, fundamental, fundamental fundamental about anything, anything—not just sleep directions is that everything has its time and place, everything is dependent on circumstance. So there's never a thing that is always bad or another thing that is always good.
It's always about feeling your circumstance and being able to feel it intelligently sometimes involves a degree of education. For instance, in ayurveda there's lots of different ways to do a self check on what condition you're in.
So just in general, and this teaching is a lot more complex than what I'm about to say, but just in general since Heather asked for a little refresher, if you have broken sleep or you have difficulty falling asleep, or you have dreams where you feel afraid as a regular pattern, then you want to sleep with your crown facing south.
South is restorative. It's more grounding, calming. It's a little heavier sleep. So if your sleep is too light, south is a good way to sleep. It’s also if you're recovering from an illness or you are ill, south is restorative. You'll get the most deep restful. Sleep with your head facing south, the crown of your head.
Then north is the busiest direction. So, you can also have interesting dreams because it is sort of the lightest sleeping direction, but you don't want to do that, if you have light sleep already and you're tired already or you're sick already. So north, you're only going to sleep with your head facing north if you are very well rested and you generally get a good night's sleep.
Or if you sleep too heavily. For instance, if you're the kind of person who says, “I never remember my dreams, I sleep like a log. I sleep like a dead person.” None of those things are actually desirable. People say, “I sleep like a dead person.” Well, you're not dead. So we want to have some sense of awareness when we're sleeping, and dreams are evidence of that.
Rebecca was asking if you mean the crown of your head facing that direction or the headboard. And I was clarifying that you mean the literal top of your head facing the direction that you’re speaking [of].
Yes. So you're not going to sleep north unless you want to sleep more lightly and have less stagnation in your sleep or unless you just sleep really well regularly, anyway.
East is sort of in between and east is generally preferred direction. If you're in good health, you're generally rested. You remember your dreams on a regular basis. East is a very nice direction to sleep in. It's not as busy as north. It's not as heavy as south. It's kind of the happy medium.
And there's a lot more esoteric teachings about this. This is just a very, very, very simplified version.
In general, unless you're doing a certain kind of spiritual practice, you're not going to sleep with your head facing west, because you can just have really weird dreams. You don't necessarily want that.
So, the idea about sleeping is when you're sick, when you're tired, when you don't sleep well, you want to try to do stuff to get rest and sleep better, because sleep is pretty much the ultimate restorative. If you are restored, you can sleep north or east.
And like anything else, you want to check in with your real condition. Don't do things just based on concept. So really see how you're feeling. Be honest about how you're feeling and choose directions based on that.
It's also good to just experiment, but you don't need to take my word for it. The directions actually are very powerful and it's pretty obvious when you start moving your head around that it feels really different to sleep with your crown in different directions. So something you can try out for yourself if you like to experiment.
This is satsang and you can give me a topic to talk about or just ask a question.
So, I'm just hanging out with the moon right now and looking at it and enjoying it and I was wondering if you could talk about it, like the qualities of the moon and the benefits of it.
So the moon is a very rich topic, but the keyword that you want to remember is saumya. The moon has a saumya quality.
Saumya means sweet, cooling, nourishing, smooth. And especially if we have a hot, intense experience, or really jittered experience—sort of jangled experience—then relating more to the moon can be really helpful to calm our nerves and also cool us off.
And it’s healing. So, when we have too much heat in our body, that's pretty much the main cause of disease or symptom of dis-ease.
And so we want to try to induce a more saumya experience and relating to the moon—noticing the cycles of the moon, going out on the nights before the full moon and the night of the full moon to do moon bathing—are all really beautiful things to do to have that saumya quality more in your life.
Or even just envisioning the moon, visualizing the moon shining on you and filling all of your channels with that sweet, cool feeling. Or visualizing the moon inside your head in the space behind your forehead and just absorbing all that nourishment and beautiful cool moonlight. Those are all really sweet things to do.
Susan, do you have any moon practices you want to share?
Moon salutation is one of my favorites.
I'm curious. There's something about this moon has felt like it's like a healing moon, like pink moon, I was thinking healing moon. Can you talk about healing?
Well, healing practices are often done on the full moon to use the light of the moon, the spreading rays of the moon, to carry the healing outward, to carry it to people. So very often that's the case.
Did you want to talk about something specific about healing? It's a big topic.
Whatever you're drawn to with healing, the moon inspired the healing, but I just wanted to know more about that, sure.
Okay. Well, I think one really useful thing is to think about the difference between patching or fixing or ameliorating and actual healing. So mostly in our culture, most of what is called medicine or healing is actually dealing with symptoms or just removing something or smashing something into submission. Those kinds of tactics.
This isn't really healing according to any Indigenous or naturopathic or more shamanic traditions, because we're not getting at the root cause of the illness. And the root cause of illness is collections of patterns of consciousness and energy.
So we could call that karma, but it's not just individual karma. So, just to give a very brute example, if someone lives in the Central Valley of California, where there's a lot of big agriculture and there's a lot of pesticides used and there's pesticides in the groundwater and their drinking water, and then they get cancer, that isn't a personal karma.
That is a larger karma, that is cultural karma or national karma or human karma of some sort that this person is being impacted by.
So I’m go through all rigamarole because there's kind of a new-agey way that people get blamed for getting sick and get told it's their karma, and it's their fault. There's absolutely no truth to that whatsoever, because most of our karmas came from somewhere else and someone else through other lifetimes.
We didn't cause them because each person is unique in each lifetime. There's nobody prior to us that was us that could have caused it. All of our patterns just came together when we were born.
So really, the root cause is a pattern that is established in time, and that is established over time.
We can also understand this in a very ordinary way—that disease happens when we repeat things. So, for instance, if I went to the Central Valley of California and stayed there for a week and drank some pesticide laden water, but then went home and continued on my filtered water organic food diet, I probably wouldn't get cancer.
But if I repeated eating foods laden with pesticides and drinking water with pesticides and bathing and water that had pesticides in it, over time, I might get sick.
Same thing. If I eat a donut, I'm not going to get diabetes from eating a donut. I'm going to get diabetes from a various ensemble of things, including predispositions, but eating sugar a lot over a long period of time.
So all dis-ease, all disease is patterns that have solidified and gained momentum over time. That implies that the real definition of healing is unwinding those patterns. That the real cause of disease is this patterning, and the real definition of healing is to de-pattern, to unwind those karmas.
Otherwise, anything else we're doing is not necessarily changing those patterns, it's just diverting them or halting them in some way. But there's still that underlying pattern is still there.
Which is why, for instance, when people get certain kinds of cancers and they get radiation and they get chemotherapy and they get surgery, and then it all comes back five years later because the actual pattern has not been dealt with.
So, there is a time and a place for just working in a mechanical way, like you break your arm, you want to get it reset. But if you have illnesses that have more karmic roots in actual disease processes, not just in accident processes, then if you want to heal, you actually have to go to someone who knows how to work with time.
And this is what a real healer does. A real healer, like someone who is deeply in touch with the processes of time and understands these patterns and can work with them, has been trained to work with them and has a natural affinity for working with them, can actually take those patterns and intervene so that they just unwind and then they're not there.
And you're basically, as you were before that illness ever happened.
Unless you get something cut out, of course, then you won't be as you are. But I mean in a deeper sense, in a deeper sense.
I've been very fortunate in my life to have encountered healers. I think it's one of the most precious encounters, something to really be valued, not very common in this culture. Mostly we have doctors just fixing things in an ordinary way, which has got its place, too. I'm not actually knocking that.
But when we can encounter a real healer, that is something very magical and special and things can happen very unexpectedly.
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