Jan 19

The Health Benefits of Ashwagandha

By Dr. Edward Group | Guest writer for Wake Up World

Withania somnifera, better known as ashwagandha or “Indian ginseng,” has been a traditional staple of Ayurvedic medicine for over 3,000 years. The herb has a wide range of activity that promotes physical, emotional and mental health, body rejuvenation, and longevity. It is known to inhibit anxiety and improve energy. Ashwagandha may also promote healthy fertility.[1, 2]

Ashwagandha for Energy

Long distance cycling is an endurance sport that requires aerobic fitness and energy. Many products have been developed to provide energy in a quick, easy form: gel packets, energy chews, sports drinks, and more. Generally, these products just provide extra calories, which are necessary if you’re expending energy but don’t actually support physical ability.

In 2012, the Faculty of Sports Medicine and Physiotherapy at India’s Guru Nanak Dev University conducted an eight-week study in which forty elite cyclists supplemented with ashwagandha. By the study’s conclusion, significant enhancements in both cardiovascular and respiratory endurance were reported.[3]

Perhaps even more importantly, research out of Malaysia found that when ashwagandha root extract was regularly administered to persons receiving chemotherapy, it had potential to relieve fatigue and improve their quality of life.[4]

Cognitive Benefits of Ashwagandha

In Ayurvedic medicine, one of the primary uses of ashwagandha root extract is to enhance memory and improve brain function. One of the mechanisms responsible for this effect is ashwagandha’s antioxidant action. Since oxidative stress contributes to neurodegenerative disorders, lessening oxidative damage may offer neuroprotection.

Multiple studies have been performed to evaluate the neuroprotective properties of ashwagandha root extract on rats and found that it may prevent some instances of memory impairment and oxidative stress on the brain.[5, 6]

Ashwagandha to Relieve Stress

Stress affects both mind and body and can be a strain that leads to underperformance. Most people will also testify that stress affects their quality of life. Ashwagandha has been documented in Ayurvedic and Greek medicine for its stress-combating properties.

The Department of Neuropsychiatry and Geriatric Psychiatry at India’s Asha Hospital orchestrated a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study involving sixty-four subjects with a history of chronic stress. After separating the participants into control and study groups, the study group began supplementing with high-concentration, full-spectrum ashwagandha root extract. After two months, the study group reported significant improvements in all stress measurements and quality of life; all without serious side effects.[7]

Stress and Male Fertility

Additionally, stress is known to be a contributing factor for male infertility. Along with Tribulus terrestris, Ashwagandha is prized for its stimulating effects on fertility.

The Department of Biochemistry at C.S.M. Medical University conducted a study involving sixty infertile men who, however, did have normal sperm production. Participants were given five grams of ashwagandha root powder every day for three months. At the study’s conclusion, stress reductions and improvements in semen quality were observed and 14% of the participants’ partners ended up becoming pregnant.[8]

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Jan 19

Talking Science and Spiritual Practices with Dr Rupert Sheldrake

Starting 2018 off with a bang. The first guest of the year is none other than Dr Rupert Sheldrake. Dr Sheldrake joins us to talk about his latest book, Science and Spiritual Practices, which is already available to you lucky people in the UK, and will be out later in the year if you live outside the UK.

A fantastic chat, unsurprisingly.

Download the episode directly here or listen along on YouTube below.

[Source]

 

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Jan 19

Living the Way of the Samurai Warrior in Everyday Life

By Gilbert Ross

The Seven Principles of Bushido

The ancient and traditional Japanese class of warriors, known as the Samurai, have been widely immortalized in popular culture as the ultimate icon of military prowess, stealth, swordsmanship, loyalty, and honor. Known to be an elite group of military nobility, the Japanese Samurai were perhaps most revered for their codes of honor and principles, known as Bushido; which governed the Samurai’s way of life and might also be loosely related to the European concept of chivalry.

The era of the noble Samurai came and went but the principles they lived by are universal and timeless. In a world where the romantic idea of chivalry or abiding by codes of ethics has eroded to make way for inauthentic lifestyles driven by self-gratification and a faulty moral compass, the Bushido way of life can offer more than a simple insight and serve as a reminder of how we can direct our lives for the better.

I am listing the principles of Bushido and some ideas on how it can be picked up by the modern ‘spiritual warrior’ to build a robust inner life, while creating more meaningful and authentic relationships with others around us.

Integrity

Living life with integrity is a good starter for the warrior’s code of ethics, before applying or adopting any other moral virtue or practice. Everything starts with your integrity. It is the moral fiber that holds all the other pieces together. Without integrity, there is quite the opposite–disintegration. Integrity is synonymous with rectitude, upstanding, righteousness and decency. The degree to which we live with integrity is reflected in anything we say and do. People around us can sense our integrity, even though it is an inner trait. Our trustworthiness pretty much hinges on how people sense our integrity or otherwise.

The principles of the Samurai warriorsSamurai are the ultimate icon of military prowess, swordsmanship, loyalty, and honor.

Yes, integrity is something you do solely for your own sake, firstly and mostly. It is for your own growth as a spiritual being. You can’t fake integrity. Yet at the same time, we need integrity in society because of how it is reflected clearly in the interactions and transactions we have with others. We are social creatures after all, and something like integrity is the glue that holds bonds of sane relationships together. This was–and still is–something so important in elite groups such as the Samurai or tribal communities. On the other hand, this is why we can observe so much insanity and distrust in today’s society. Integrity can be a scarce human resource to find nowadays.

For the noble Samurai, integrity or rectitude was principally the ability to make a wise discernment or judgment: “To die when it is right to die, to strike when it is right to strike.” Now, this might sound a bit extreme and bloody but the idea is that discernment can be applied to any circumstance and not necessarily life-threatening ones. Integrity gives us the discernment in thought, speech, and action. For example, it enables us to refrain from talking or acting in a nonsensical, hurtful or egocentric way. This generates peace both internally and between people.

Courage

Courage is obviously one of the first associations we make with warriors–both those on the battlefield and those in spirit. Many people overlook the difference between fearlessness and courage and there is a very important point to take home from this difference in our everyday life. Living without fear is most certainly an illusion. If you are completely fearless you are not alive or have a very short lifespan. Fearlessness can be equated with foolhardiness or ego-based illusions. Nobody can be completely without fear because, in its pure form, fear is an evolutionary survival tool.

Integrity comes first“To die when it is right to die, to strike when it is right to strike.”

Yet, we can recognize our fears and learn to put them in their own place without letting them run our lives. This takes courage. It is the courage that we summon in our hearts when we step out into the world and make that important move, even though we still have some fears and uncertainty about it. Courage is a beautiful energy that initiates a lot of changes and decisive movement that takes us far and forward in our life.

Compassion

Now, this is something that is not a stereotypical association with anything warrior-like but together with courage, it is one of the most important virtues of the 21st-century spiritual warrior. It centers us in the power of the heart space, which is the source of so many other beautiful qualities and feelings such as love, benevolence, sympathy, and empathy. Compassion is a very noble virtue and one that Bushido, or the way of the warrior, holds up high in importance and value.

Without nurturing compassion, you can’t sail very far in the ocean of life, for you are surrounded by so many sentient beings that are both a reflection of you and coming out from the same source as yourself. Compassion is in fact nurtured through a very simple first step–loving-kindness towards oneself. Without giving love to yourself and allowing yourself to be loved, it is very difficult to be compassionate towards others. In turn, lacking compassion is like living in a dried up river bed–disconnected from both the source and flow of life. The warrior understands the power of being connected with life and other sentient beings, and so, he understands the importance of compassion.

Respect  

Respect and/or politeness in the world of Bushido can be seen as a little bit parallel to compassion, in the sense that it stems from a sympathetic regard for the feelings of others. “In its highest form politeness approaches love”. Like compassion, to respect others you need to first respect and value yourself. Respect for others without respecting yourself is only a faint shadow of the virtue. We live in a world where politeness is often born out of conditioned responses or fear of being disapproved or disrespected in return, rather than true sentiments.

The importance of compassionWarriors understand the power of being connected with life and other sentient beings.

Real politeness and respect are authentic and very often do not require words–although a timely compliment or kind words and gestures do no harm. To be able to respect the feelings and opinions of others and use politeness to harmoniously keep social connections meaningful is both a beautiful virtue and skill to have. The real warrior is both respected and knows how to show respect. It is such a valuable implicit agreement between gentle souls.

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Jan 19

The Incredible Mind Altering Meditation of Sky Gazing and How To Do It

by Chad Foreman

Sky Gazing

There is a meditation practice within Tibetan Buddhism called Sky Gazing it comes from the Meditation tradition of Dzogchen – which strongly emphasises resting in a natural state free from conceptual elaborations. This natural state is wide open, clear and lucid; it neither rejects anything or clings to anything and is sometimes referred to as spontaneous awareness. It is spontaneous because nothing has manufactured or created it, like having to meditate or having to be calm. It always has been there and therefore is also called primordial awareness.

The clear blue sky is the closest external example of what this natural state is like. The clear sky is also a metaphor for the natural states indestructibility. Just like the sky is not affected by the passing weather neither is our natural state stained by thoughts or emotions no matter how strong they may be. This is a liberating view in the field of meditation. No longer do you have the idea that you have to purify and remove all the negative states of mind, now there is a teaching that directly points to an aspect of yourself which is your essential nature.

This nature is pure right from the beginning and accessing that awareness is what sky gazing skilfully aims to do.

Another important things to understand is that the sky like nature of your mind is always there, it is permanent. All other mental states come and go. This is the reason enlightenment is possible. If disturbing and negative states where permanent or fundamental to the mind they could not be removed, but because all negative states are impermanent and not an essential nature of the mind they can be removed. This is great news.

Sky gazing is apart of the Dzogchen tradition which is considered the highest spiritual path within Tibetan Buddhism and has been kept secret and only given to the most devout students, but as one Meditation Master has said in these times of strong materialism, chaos and disturbing emotions there needs to be an equally strong practice that can counter those negative forces and sky gazing is a practice that can do just that.

“Sky gazing is a way to feel release from the narrow confines of the personality or ego. It connects a person to the vast, expansive, clear, open, space of awareness that is their authentic nature. It brings relaxation, peace, joy, and a fresh, crisp sense of connecting to reality; the natural state of things.”

Before I explain how to do it I would like to include here the psychology of why it’s so powerful. My Buddhist teacher always emphasised how the mind is clear like water and whatever you focus on colours that clear awareness. By it’s very nature the awareness is clear and pure but gets muddied and coloured by focusing our attention on negative thoughts and disturbing emotions. In fact just like water becomes muddied our mind becomes the same as what we focus on. If we focus on anger our minds become anger, if we focus on our ego our minds become the ego. In this way what you focus on is like cordial and your mind is like water, once they are mixed together they become almost inseparable. This is where sky gazing comes in. By gazing into the clear sky you can experience the purity of awareness without it being coloured by thoughts and emotions, this is an amazing discovery, which you can realise for yourself, it does not require belief it requires practice.

Your awareness becomes clear and open too like the sky and this becomes an access point for the clear and lucid spontaneous awareness of the natural state itself.

The key to the natural state is that it is both empty, without boundaries like the sky but it is also lucid and cognizant, the realisation of these two inseparable things, emptiness and awareness, as your true nature is your enlightened nature which does not need to be created because it’s always there – it needs to be discovered.

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Jan 18

Go Forward Into The Shamanic Domain Of The Spirit – Terence McKenna

 

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Jan 18

Opening the Door of the Heart: Adyashanti and Edward Frenkel

Two passionate lovers of truth and wonder, a spiritual teacher and a mathematician, exchange stories of the path to awakening, and discuss the psychological nature of the rediscovery of the experience of being. For many of us it’s natural to start on the intellectual plane and to use the power of the scientific, rational mind to surmise the reality of those dimensions. But at some point we move beyond the mind and hear a call from the heart.

 

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Jan 18

The Powerful Mind

In my work as an anthropologist who dedicated many years to investigating the healing practices of Amazon and Andean sages, I have long been intrigued by the power of the mind in accomplishing unbelievable feats, both physical and mental. I’ve met and studied with sages who were able to achieve extraordinary brilliance, inner peace, and creativity. I’ve heard of Tibetan monks who are able to meditate overnight on an ice-covered mountain without freezing to death, dusting the snow from their naked shoulders as the sun rises. The full power of the mind is still not completely understood, but we witness examples of it on a regular basis.

Years ago, people saw support groups and stress management techniques as harmless adjuncts to the medical treatment of those with serious illnesses. Recently, however, research has shown that patients who use techniques such as mindful meditation not only are less stressed emotionally by their illness but also experience better physical health. This research is, in fact, showing how thoughts, beliefs, and emotions influence the health of the body.

In an issue of Scientific American, the neurologist Martin Portner describes the case of Gretchen, a participant in a study on the viability of a testosterone patch to treat hypoactive sexual desire disorder, a condition in which a person’s libido is so diminished that he or she feels no sexual interest or attraction. Testosterone, a hormone produced by the testes in males and the ovaries in females, is associated with sexual arousal. Gretchen had felt no sexual desire ever since undergoing an operation that removed her ovaries.

After wearing the patch for 72 weeks, Gretchen felt the stirrings of desire again. “It can only be because of that patch,” she reported. Shortly thereafter she was able to make love with her husband again and experience an orgasm for the first time in years. But the most amazing part of the story is that Gretchen, unbeknownst to her, was part of the study’s control group and the patch given to her was a placebo with no testosterone in it whatsoever. The return of Gretchen’s sexual appetite was clearly related to a change in her neural wiring, some literal change of mind of which she was not even cognitively aware. Yet, it happened. And that change was felt throughout her body.

Most of us are more familiar with psychosomatic disease than with psychosomatic wellness. We know that we can worry ourselves sick, and we suspect that we can laugh ourselves to health. Even so, medicine gives little credence to the idea that psychosomatic health can be achieved. After all, we cannot knowingly administer a placebo to ourselves, in the same way that it is impossible to tickle yourself.

Societies that rely on traditional healers―medicine men and women―have long understood the power of the mind to either heal or kill. At times, shamans resort to great pomp and ceremony to mobilize the mind’s ability to heal the body because their complex ceremonies activate the prefrontal cortex to create health. In modern societies, we have largely declared these practices to be superstition or quackery; “placebo” is even a term of dismissal in everyday conversation. (The irony is that our modern-day “ceremony” consists of giving the patient a sugar pill, a tablet that contains no pharmaceutical ingredients.) Testing new medicines against a placebo is a common practice for determining the efficacy of all medications, which is, in effect, strong evidence that the mind alone does have the power to soothe inflammation, calm nerves, and influence organs and tissues of the body to return to a state of health.

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Jan 18

This is Water – David Foster Wallace

This is Water commencement speech from David Foster Wallace is an unbelievable reminder of how we can all feel like we are at the centre of the universe and how it likes to work against us from time to time. He delves into how we can become slaves to negative thinking by assuming everything around us is trying to challenge us. The sense of self-importance that we can feel affects our emotions and reactions to situations without rationally allowing consideration of others circumstances or past experiences leading to the present moment.

“Here is just one example of the total wrongness of something I tend to be automatically sure of: everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute centre of the universe; the realest, most vivid and important person in existence. We rarely think about this sort of natural, basic self-centredness because it’s so socially repulsive. But it’s pretty much the same for all of us. It is our default-setting, hard-wired into our boards at birth. Think about it: there is no experience you have had that you are not the absolute centre of. The world as you experience it is there in front of YOU or behind YOU, to the left or right of YOU, on YOUR TV or YOUR monitor. And so on. Other people’s thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow, but your own are so immediate, urgent, real.”

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Jan 18

The Stoned Ape Theory Offers an Unconventional View of Human Evolution

The Stoned Ape Theory was founded by none other than the American author, lecturer, ethnobotanist and psychonaut Terence Kemp McKenna.

Before we discuss the Stoned Ape Theory itself, let’s talk about its author. Terence McKenna was born on November 16, 1946, and died on April 3, 2000. He had a hobby of fossil hunting in his youth, which helped him gain a scientific appreciation of nature. He also became intrigued by psychology while he was young.

In 1965, McKenna became a student at the University of California, Berkeley, and was accepted into Tussman Experimental College where he studied shamanism.

McKenna suffered greatly from migraines. On May 22, 1999, he had unusually intense headaches and later collapsed due to a brain seizure. He began to worry that his psychedelic drug use and daily marijuana smoking were to blame for his tumor, but doctors told him otherwise. McKenna died at the age of 53 years.

McKenna’s Studies and the Stoned Ape Theory

In the book “Food of the Gods”, McKenna suggested that the evolution from humans’ early descendant Homo erectus to Homo sapiens had to do with the addition of the mushroom Psilocybe cubensis to their diet. In theory, these events took place around 100,000 BCE. McKenna’s Stoned Ape Theory revolved around his hypothesis of the effects produced by Psilocybe cubensis.

Toward the end of the ice age, North African jungles gave way to the grasslands. Some of our primate ancestors left their homes on trees and began to live in the open. They followed herds of ungulates and were eating what they could find along their path. They began to explore the new environment – a grassland one.

Primates specialize their food supply to avoid contact with mutagens in the environment. If you start experimenting with foods, you will produce more children with mutations. Some will be positive and most will be lethal.

The Dominance of Primates

The tendency to form dominant hierarchies was put on hold for around 100,000 years by the psilocybin diet. It allowed the social organization of partnership to rise and eventually led to the emergence of moral values, music, aesthetics, language, altruism, and planning.

The New Diet

Amongst the new range of items in their diet were psilocybin mushrooms growing in the stool. According to McKenna, this drug was the beginning of the changes to primate diet. He says that synesthesia caused by psilocybin also paved the way for spoken language. This formed from the ability to visualize pictures in one’s mind and then express those things to others by using vocal sounds.

Around 12,000 years ago, climate change once again removed the mushroom from the diet of humans. This resulted in a profound set of changes amongst our species that had reverted to life before mushrooms. The social structure of primates was most likely modified or repressed by the consumption of these mushrooms.

McKenna stated that the presence of psychedelics in the diet of humans made a vast number of changes in our evolution.

When you take small amounts of psilocybin, your visual acuity improves. You can actually see better. This means that animals that allowed this within their diets increased success in hunting. This in part increased food supply, which also means more success in reproduction.

At a psychedelic dose, psilocybin might inhibit orgasms because it would act as a stimulant, states McKenna. A higher dose of psilocybin triggers the stimulation of eyesight, imagination, and sexual interest. All of these together produce the use of language in primates. Thus, the Stoned Ape Theory regards psilocybin as a kind of evolutionary catalyst or enzyme.

The Influence That Mushrooms Created an Orgiastic State

In the central nervous system of most animals, stimulants create what we call an arousal, which means the inability to rest. In highly sexed creatures such as primates, it means sexual arousal. So that means that psilocybin at one time was a stimulant to sexual actions.

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Jan 18

7 Heal-Anything Medicinal Plants You Can Grow Indoors

There is absolutely nothing like having fresh medicinal plants that you can pick and use right on the spot, when you need them.

Plus, you can dry them, and then use a mortise and pestle to grind them and encapsulate your own medicinal plants. You know they were never sprayed with pesticides. And you know all about the nutrients that were fed to them.

You can grow them in decorative planters in the kitchen if you have the lighting for it.

Many people set up a multi-tiered rack that allows planter pots to be set at a forward-facing angle. This allows you to put the back of it against a wall, and the plants grow at a forward-facing angle.

Other people like to use wire hangers and hang the pots from a wall in rows or a pattern. If you’re going to do this, then test the strength of your wall.

If you have a sunroom or a sunroom-like area, these make great growing spaces, too.

Learn How To Make Powerful Herbal Medicines, Right in Your Kitchen!

Here are seven of the best medicinal plants you can grow indoors:

1. St John’s Wort. This plant will grow year-round with a grow light in the morning or evening to extend the growing hours of the day. If you find that it’s not flowering, then it may need longer hours of light.

St. John’s Wort. Image source: Pixabay.com

It’s a great-looking plant with attractive yellow flowers and can really brighten up a home.

Benefits:

  • May be as effective as some prescription medication for treating depression1.
  • Helps alleviate the symptoms of PMS and menopause2.
  • May help with the symptoms of ADD (attention deficit disorder)2.

2. Thyme. This is a hearty plant that can be used in cooking, as it’s one of the most popular herbs around. It’s hearty, grows pretty easily and doesn’t require much care at all.

Benefits:

  • Thyme has been shown to aid in the relief of chest and respiratory problems, including coughs, bronchitis and chest congestion3.
  • Thyme has been shown to have a strong antimicrobial activity, neutralizing such bacteria and fungi as Staphalococcus aureus, Bacillus subtilis, Escherichia coli and Shigella sonnei4.

3. Sage. Its genus name, Salvia, means “to heal.” As long as you give it light, adequate water and good soil, you almost can’t kill it. Sage is one of the herbs that makes everyone look like they’ve got a green thumb.

Sage. Image source: Pixabay.com

Benefits:

  • May lessen the symptoms of Alzheimer’s 5.
  • Has been shown to lower both blood glucose and cholesterol5.

4. Parsley. Too many people think of parsley as a garnish on their plate. But parsley is one of the best green foods around.

It grows rather easily, and you shouldn’t have a problem so long as you keep its soil damp.

Benefits:

  • Can help with bad breath6.
  • Can help detoxify the brain of ammonia, thereby reducing the feelings of a hangover.
  • May be a potent anticancer agent and has been shown to be chemo-protective7.

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