Natural calms for anxiety
Natural Remedies for Anxiety: 10 Ideas
Anxiety is your body’s natural response to stress. It’s a feeling of fear or worry that could be caused by a combination of factors that researchers believe range from genetics to environmental to brain chemistry.
Some common symptoms of anxiety include:
- increased heart rate
- rapid breathing
- trouble concentrating
However, it’s important to note that anxiety can present itself in different ways for different people. While one person may experience a butterfly feeling in their stomach, another might have panic attacks, nightmares, or painful thoughts.
With that being said, there’s a difference between everyday anxiety and anxiety disorders. Feeling anxious about something new or stressful is one thing, but when it gets to an uncontrollable or excessive point and starts to affect your quality of life, it could be a disorder.
Some anxiety disorders include:
- panic disorder
- post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- separation anxiety
- illness anxiety
- generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
- social anxiety disorder
Anxiety can be treated in a variety of ways. One common treatment option is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps provide people with tools to cope with anxiety when it occurs.
There are also certain medications, like antidepressants and sedatives, that work to balance brain chemistry and prevent episodes of anxiety. They may even ward off the most severe symptoms.
If you’re looking to go a more natural route, though, there are little and big ways you can help combat anxiety.
You can make adjustments to habits, like exercise, sleep, and diet. You can also try something totally new, like aromatherapy or meditation. No matter what your lifestyle demands, there’s a natural way to help reduce anxiety for everyone.
1. Stay active
Regular exercise isn’t just about physical health — it can be a huge help to your mental health, as well.
A 2013 study found that people with anxiety disorders who reported a high level of physical activity were better protected against developing anxiety symptoms.
This could be for a variety of reasons. Exercise can divert your attention away from something that’s making you anxious.
Getting your heart rate up also changes the brain chemistry to create more space for anti-anxiety neurochemicals, like:
- gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)
- brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF)
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), regular exercise leads to an enhancement of concentration and willpower, which can help certain anxiety symptoms.
When it comes to what type of exercise, this is more of a personal preference. If you’re looking to really get your heart rate up, something like a HIIT class (high-intensity interval training) or running is your best bet.
But if you’re looking to start off with something with a little lower impact, workouts, like Pilates and yoga, could also be just as beneficial for your mental health.
2. Steer clear of alcohol
Drinking alcohol may take the edge off at first, since it’s a natural sedative. However, research suggests there’s a link between anxiety and alcohol consumption, with anxiety disorders and alcohol use disorder (AUD) occurring hand-in-hand.
A 2017 review that looked at 63 different studies showed that decreasing alcohol intake can improve both anxiety and depression.
Heavy drinking can interfere with the balance of neurotransmitters, which can be responsible for positive mental health. This interference creates an imbalance that may lead to certain symptoms of anxiety.
Anxiety may temporarily increase in early sobriety but can improve in the long run.
Alcohol has also been shown to disrupt your body’s natural ability to sleep by interfering with sleep homeostasis. And as we’ll later point out, a good night’s sleep is incredibly helpful when combating anxiety.
3. Consider quitting smoking cigarettes
Smokers often reach for a cigarette during stressful times. Yet, like drinking alcohol, taking a drag on a cigarette when you’re stressed is a quick fix that may worsen anxiety over time.
Research has shown that the earlier you start smoking in life, the higher your risk of developing an anxiety disorder later. Research also suggests nicotine and other chemicals in cigarette smoke alter pathways in the brain linked to anxiety.
If you’re looking to quit, there are lots of different ways you can get started. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends finding a safe substitute for cigarettes, like toothpicks.
You can also take up habits that may distract you in order to create an environment that works for your smoke-free life. Additionally, you can make a plan with a support system who can provide everything from encouragement to distractions.
4. Limit caffeine intake
If you have chronic anxiety, caffeine is not your friend. Caffeine may cause nervousness and jitters, neither of which is good if you’re anxious.
Research has shown caffeine may cause or worsen anxiety disorders. It may also cause panic attacks in people with panic disorder. In some people, eliminating caffeine may significantly improve anxiety symptoms.
Similar to alcohol, caffeine and anxiety are often linked, due to caffeine’s ability to alter brain chemistry.
For example, a 2008 study showed that caffeine increases alertness by blocking the brain chemical adenosine, which is what makes you feel tired, while at the same time triggering the release of adrenalin.
With all this being said, a moderate intake of caffeine is safe for most people.
However, if you’re looking to cut back or completely cut out caffeine, you’ll want to start by slowly reducing the amount of caffeine you drink daily.
Start replacing these drinks with water to quench the thirst. This will not only satisfy your body’s need to drink a liquid, but it will also help flush caffeine from your body and keep you hydrated.
Gradually reducing your caffeine over the course of a few weeks can help adjust the habit without the body going through withdrawal.
5. Prioritize getting a good night’s rest
Sleep has been proven time and time again to be an important part of good mental health.
Even though a 2012 survey found that nearly a third of adults get less than 6 hours of sleep a night, the CDC recommends that adults get 7 to 9 hours of sleep every day.
You can make sleep a priority by:
- only sleeping at night when you’re tired
- not reading or watching television in bed
- not using your phone, tablet, or computer in bed
- not tossing and turning in your bed or going to another room if you can’t sleep
- avoiding caffeine, large meals, and nicotine before bedtime
- keeping your room dark and cool
- writing down your worries before going to bed
- going to sleep at the same time each night
6. Meditate and practice mindfulness
A main goal of meditation is full awareness of the present moment, which includes noticing all thoughts in a nonjudgmental way. This can lead to a sense of calm and contentment by increasing your ability to mindfully tolerate all thoughts and feelings.
Meditation is known to relieve stress and anxiety and is a primary facet of CBT.
Research from John Hopkins suggests 30 minutes of daily meditation may alleviate some anxiety symptoms and act as an antidepressant.
How to meditate
There are 9 popular types of meditation:
- mindfulness meditation
- spiritual meditation
- focused meditation
- movement meditation
- mantra meditation
- transcendental meditation
- progressive relaxation
- loving-kindness meditation
- visualization meditation
Mindfulness meditation is generally the most popular form. To mindfully meditate, you can close your eyes, breathe deeply, and pay attention to your thoughts as they pass through your mind. You don’t judge or become involved with them. Instead, you simply observe them and take note of any patterns.
7. Eat a balanced diet
Low blood sugar levels, dehydration, or chemicals in processed foods, such as artificial flavorings, artificial coloring, and preservatives, may cause mood changes in some people. A high-sugar diet may also impact temperament.
If your anxiety worsens after eating, check your eating habits. Stay hydrated, eliminate processed foods, and eat a balanced diet rich in complex carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables, and lean proteins.
8. Practice deep breathing
Shallow, fast breathing is common with anxiety. It may lead to a fast heart rate, dizziness or lightheadedness, or even a panic attack.
Deep breathing exercises — the deliberate process of taking slow, even, deep breaths — can help restore normal breathing patterns and reduce anxiety.
9. Try aromatherapy
Aromatherapy is a holistic healing treatment that has been used by humans for thousands of years. The practice uses natural plant extracts and essential oils to promote the health and well-being of the mind, body, and spirit. Its goal is to enhance both physical and emotional health.
The essential oils created by the natural plant extracts may be inhaled directly or added to a warm bath or diffuser. Aromatherapy is suggested to:
- help you relax
- help you sleep
- boost mood
- reduce heart rate and blood pressure
Some essential oils believed to relieve anxiety are:
- clary sage
- ylang ylang
10. Drink chamomile tea
A cup of chamomile tea is a common home remedy to calm frayed nerves and promote sleep.
A 2014 study showed chamomile may also be a powerful ally against GAD. The study found people who took German chamomile capsules (220 milligrams up to five times daily) had a greater reduction in test scores that measure anxiety symptoms than those who were given a placebo.
Another 2005 study found that chamomile extract helped sleep-disturbed rats fall asleep. Researchers believe that the tea may function like benzodiazepine, binding to benzodiazepine receptors and having benzodiazepine-like hypnotic activity.
Interested in other resources for mental health?
We’re here to help. Explore our evidence-driven reviews of top providers, products, and more to support your physical and emotional well-being.
If you’re feeling anxious, the above ideas may help calm you down.
Remember, home remedies may help ease anxiety, but they don’t replace professional help. Increased anxiety may require therapy or prescription medication. Talk with your doctor about your concerns.
Read this article in Spanish.
Natural Ways to Calm Your Anxiety
Medically Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on May 16, 2021
Anxiety is part of life -- we all feel it from time to time. When you do, there are a few things you can try to help calm your emotions. If you feel anxious often and nothing seems to help, talk with your doctor about other ways to manage it.
You don’t have to train for the Olympics -- a 10-minute walk can do the trick just as well as a 45-minute workout. Either can make you feel better for a few hours, like aspirin for a headache. And if you exercise regularly -- at least 3 times a week -- you’re less likely to feel anxious in the first place.
Even a plant in the room, or pictures of nature, can make you feel less anxious, angry, or stressed. But it’s better if you get out there. You’ll give your mood a boost, and it can lower your blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and stress hormones, which all go up when you’re anxious.
Get out there and get your hands in the dirt. Gardening makes your brain release mood-boosting chemicals that can help calm your anxiety. Plus, you’ll get some exercise and spend time outdoors, both of which can be good for you, too. If you don’t have your own dirt patch, call a local community garden -- they’ll be happy for the help.
It may be the last thing on your mind when you’re anxious, but sex can lower your body’s stress response. And a healthy sex life, especially with a committed partner, can help make you happier and healthier, and that can help keep anxiety away, too.
This is one way to whittle your worries down to size so you’re aware of them but they don’t get in your way. Meditation helps you focus on your breath and keep your mind free of thoughts. When a concern sneaks in, you try to dismiss it quickly and clear your head.
This is a form of meditation: You put your body into certain positions that can strengthen and stretch your muscles and other tissues. At the same time, you try to keep your breath calm. It can lower your heart rate and blood pressure, and make you less anxious. But there are some yoga positions you shouldn’t do if you have certain conditions, so talk to your doctor before you start.
This can help you relax -- as long as you don’t get too anxious at the thought of needles. An acupuncturist puts very fine needles into specific points on your body. Sometimes electric stimulation is used as well to ease muscle and nerve tension.
Simple smells like lavender, chamomile, and rosewater may help calm you. They come from concentrated oils you can breathe in or rub on your skin. Scientists think they send chemical messages to parts of your brain that affect mood and emotion.
Therapists press, rub, squeeze, and push muscles and other soft tissues with their hands, fingers, forearms, elbows, and sometimes even their feet. It can help with sore muscles and other issues, and it may help ease anxiety and stress.
A trained therapist guides you to think of things that make you anxious, while a computer reads your brain waves and gives you feedback. With your therapist, you practice calming strategies and watch the feedback on the computer to see how they’re working. Over time, this can help you control your anxiety.
It recharges your brain and boosts your mood and focus, and you’re less likely to be anxious if you get enough of it. Block out 7 to 9 hours every day. To get better sleep, go to bed and wake up at the same time. Keep your room cool, dark, and quiet, and don’t watch TV or use the computer right before bed. Regular exercise also can help with sleep, but try to do it in the mornings and afternoons -- night workouts can mess with your slumber.
You may find a couple of drinks relaxing, but too many can rewire your brain and make you more anxious. Heavy drinking also can affect your work and home life and cause other health problems, which can add to your anxiety. No more than one drink a day for women, 2 for men, is a healthy rule of thumb.
Figure out what you have to do right away and what can wait. A to-do list can help you break up large projects into smaller tasks and keep you focused on what to do next. Ask for help when you need it, and let go of things that aren’t that important.
This can help you look for patterns and figure out what makes you anxious. Family events? Work? School? Too much caffeine? Maybe it only happens when you’re hungry. When you find yourself worked up, try to write down what you’re doing and thinking. Once you know what’s causing your anxiety, you might be able to manage it better.
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National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: “Anxiety and Complementary Health Approaches. ”
Anxiety and Depression Association of America: “Sleep Disorders,” “Tips to Manage Anxiety and Stress,” “Complementary & Alternative Treatments,” “Exercise for Stress and Anxiety.”
CDC: “Fact Sheets - Alcohol Use and Your Health.”
Harvard Health Publications: “Mindfulness meditation may ease anxiety, mental stress.”
Mayo Clinic: “What are the benefits of aromatherapy?”
National Institutes of Health: “Pleasurable behaviors reduce stress via brain reward pathways,” “The Effect of Aromatherapy on Anxiety in Patients,” “Lavender and the Nervous System,” “Biofeedback in medicine: who, when, why and how?” “Gardening promotes neuroendocrine and affective restoration from stress.”
NIH National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: “Yoga: In Depth,” “Acupuncture.”
Science Daily: “Heavy drinking rewires brain, increasing susceptibility to anxiety problems.”
Society for Personality and Social Psychology: “Couples Who Have Sex Weekly Are Happiest. ”
The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry: “Acute Swedish Massage Monotherapy Successfully Remediates Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder: A Proof-of-Concept, Randomized Controlled Study.”
The Journal of Sexual Medicine: “The Relative Health Benefits of Different Sexual Activities.”
University of Minnesota -- Taking Charge of Your Health & Wellbeing: “How Does Nature Impact Our Wellbeing?”
Quieting the Body, Speech and Mind in Their Natural State - Contemplative Research Foundation
August 22, 2014
Audio session in English (mp4 format): 01 Settling the Body, Speech and Mind in its Natural State
Quite obviously, we start relatively late in the morning, so I assume that everyone you already had some time to practice before our meeting; whatever preliminaries you do as part of your daily routine—taking refuge, generating bodhichitta, the seven-line prayer, other preliminaries—whatever you do, I encourage you to do them all before class; that's exactly what I did. Before I came here, I had a few hours of practice, so by the time we get together for our relatively brief morning meeting, we will be moving straight into the main practice.
I just wanted to say very much that the preliminary practices - all of them - are very important, but we gather every time for the main practice.
Please take a comfortable position. Each time it can be a supine position, a sitting position - as you wish.
We begin the session - like all sessions - by calming the body, speech and mind in their natural state. It is a heartfelt, essential Dzogchen instruction that summarizes the basis, path, and fruition; it can be understood and practiced on a great many different levels. Let's start, however, by allowing awareness to descend into body space, all the way down to the ground, where your body touches a pillow, a floor, a chair.
Let your mind rest in a mode of observing awareness: thoughtless, mindful, quiet, in the present moment, simply observing the sensations that arise in the space of the body where it touches the ground, the earth element, the sensations of solidity and solidity.
Just as a fragrance fills a room, allow your awareness to fill the entire space of the body, all this body space up to the top of the head, and be consciously present in this entire field, being aware of the sensations that arise in this space. There is no need to visualize this space or think about it - just be present, quiet, clear.
In this space, you can find areas where you feel tightness, tension - gently listen to them while inhaling, and with each exhalation, give your muscles more and more to the will of attraction. Let go.
In particular, direct your awareness to the face. Soften all the muscles of the face, muscles around the mouth, jaw.
Let your forehead feel spacious, open, and let there be a feeling of spaciousness between the eyebrows.
Soften all the muscles around the eyes and soften the eyes themselves.
Eyes may be closed, half closed, or slightly open, as you wish. Relax your body into a comfortable and relaxed posture. If you are relaxed, during the brief period of this twenty-four minute session, it should be very easy for you to remain extremely still, minus the natural movement of the breath. This will help you stay calm and focused.
If you sit upright, keep your spine straight; slightly raise the sternum so that on inspiration, while the abdominal muscles remain free and relaxed, your stomach expands easily, without tension, falling off on exhalation. Sit without tension; let the sensations of the breath descend to the belly, down to the lower part of the belly, free and relaxed.
If you are in the supine position, your body can be allowed to be in a state of complete relaxation - in this savasana where you imitate the corpse posture, complete relaxation - but remain alert. Use this posture only for meditation so that, by virtue of association, whenever you are in this posture, it will remind you: “You must meditate; this posture, which is adopted for this. It's just a new habit - instead of lying down to take a nap to daydream or do other things, use this particular posture only for meditation.
In this way we calm the body in its natural state, a state of dynamic balance endowed with three qualities: relaxation, stillness and alertness.
On the basis of calming the body in its natural state, we move on to calming speech in its natural state: a state of effortless silence. I think you have already achieved this in terms of outer speech, but now we move on to the inner speech of the mind, chatter, commentary, the obsessive flow of discursive thoughts. Let this inner voice rest in its natural state of effortless silence.
This is obviously more difficult. To facilitate this, we calm the breath to its natural rhythm.
In short, we allow the breath to move freely and effortlessly, without trying to regulate it, control it, or even prefer one kind of breath to another; simply let the body breathe without any obstruction, without any interference, breathing as if in a deep sleep, yet fully awake.
The key here is to exhale: a natural period to relax, to let go – so with each exhalation, relax the body deeper and deeper, completely, all the way, letting go of the breath, and gently letting go of any discursive thoughts, memories, mental images that may come to mind; release them so that with each exhalation they simply dissolve back into mind space.
The key to exhalation is the end of each exhalation; seize the opportunity, with each exhalation, reaching the end of the exhalation, allow your mind to become extremely still and free from chatter, watching this last stage of the exhalation very closely, continuing to let go and let go with a complete sense of lightness and fearless relaxation, where you completely surrender your breath .
Without "taking" the next breath, just let it in its own time, in its own way, just flow in: just take it in like a surging wave, when the breath rushes in like a wave rushing ashore.
Just take in the breath without drawing it in, without resisting it; whether it is long or short, deep or superficial, whether there is a pause at the end of the breath cycle or not - allow it; let the body breathe.
In this way the breath settles into its own natural rhythm, and the body, breath after breath, receives exactly what it needs.
Then we turn to relaxing the mind in its natural state. The first step towards this is to allow the mind to be at ease and serenity, letting go of all hopes and fears, all worries about the future and the past.
For the duration of this session, simply allow your awareness to settle into stillness and its own clarity in the present moment.
Now develop this ability to allow your awareness to rest in its own place, to hold its own territory, which means that you do not direct your attention to anything - not to sense impressions, not to thoughts, not to images, not to any other types of mental activity and even the space of the mind. No direction, no purpose.
Just let your awareness rest in its own nature, without meditating on anything, without doing anything – just be present.
It is a flawless flow of present-focused mindfulness, a mindful presence without distraction, without being carried away when you don't let your awareness compulsively move. Keep the mindful presence flowing without distraction and without clinging, without clinging to any object subjectively or objectively. Just be present.
Whatever thoughts arise, just allow them without prolonging or clinging to them, without following them. Just let them dissolve back into mind space on their own.
Now, in this context, be explicitly aware of what you are probably already unconsciously aware of, which is the rhythm of the breath. There is no need to explicitly direct attention to the sensations of breathing in the body.
Just keep resting your awareness in its own state; within that – just being present, that awareness rests in its own place – notice the duration of each inhalation, each exhalation; whether they are long or short.
Now let's continue the practice in silence.
[End of Meditation]
Reflections on the Practice
I am sure that many of you – perhaps all of you – are very familiar with the practice we just did, the practice of calming the body, speech and mind in its natural state, so this time I used a lot of words just as a brief reminder. If this is something new for you, I invite you to come back and listen to this morning's podcast - there you will always find a reminder. In the future, however, I will not be so verbose - I will make the explanation more concise, because I believe that you are already quite familiar with it.
The only new aspect - at least for many of you - should be the last four or five minutes of the session, when, after calming the body, speech and mind in their natural state, we sort of jumped into the mindfulness of the breath.
Now you know - based on the many times I have taught this in the past - that I emphasize three approaches. One comes from Asanga; in it you maintain awareness of the body as a whole, the sensations of the breath - actually the movement of prana in the body, throughout the body. This is one of the classic descriptions.
Further, I often taught the practice of observing the rise and fall of the abdomen, which is called the "Burmese method"; I have no idea how old it is, but it can be very useful for grounding attention, stabilizing, calming the discursive mind.
Further, I very often - countless times - taught the classical Theravada method, which goes back to the Buddhagosa; he, in turn, relies on the generations of yogis who preceded him. In this method, you observe the sensations of the breath—the actual passage of the breath through your nostrils.
You will notice, however, that what we did during the last few minutes of the session did not apply to any of the above methods. You didn't really put your attention on the body, on the tactile sensations in the body, or on the rising and falling of the abdomen, or on the sensations of the actual movement of the breath in general; instead, the call, the direction, was simply to let your awareness remain still. Just remain still, rest in your own place; but resting there - if you haven't already gone into a very, very deep samadhi - just resting there, you must inevitably be aware (subtly, on the periphery of your awareness) - must inevitably be aware of the flow of your breath. It is quite obvious; without the need to deliberately focus on it, the breath rises, almost like someone rubbing against you: you don't need to pay much attention to them - you just feel them, because they are in your space.
Well, I would like to keep working with it, working with this approach – a very Dzogchen approach because you keep resting your awareness in its own place – without intentionally expanding your attention, without directing your attention to an object; rather, it simply rests in the realm of your awareness.
So this was an intuitive glimpse that came when I was on retreat - a very short but rather joyful week-long retreat on Holy Island off the west coast of Scotland. There I had an intuitive glimpse that one could be very aware of one's breath, the rhythm of one's breath, just the rhythm - that is, whether the breath is long, whether it is short: that one can be aware of it (as it seemed to me in this powerful intuitive glimpse), even if you are not directly and explicitly aware of your body.
I checked it; tested, among other things, in his own practice, as well as with his friend Stephen LaBerge, an international expert on lucid dreaming. I am very lucky with my friends and he is one of them. I had this glimpse in relation to dreams in general and lucid dreams to a much more pronounced degree: when you are in a dream, and then, very clearly, in the middle of a lucid dream, you know what is happening, then on the one hand you have no explicit awareness of anything happening in your body - you don't know if you're lying on your back, on your side, or curled up. I had lucid dreams and had no explicit awareness of what my body was doing—what position it was in; I knew (by inference) that the body was present, but there was no direct perception of what was going on in the body. This is the standard option.
However, the question I asked Stephen just a few days ago - and to which I received an answer - was this: When you are in a dream, can your breath in a dream (because you can be aware of your breath in a dream, why not ?) - can your breath in dream, the breath of your dream body, which is purely mental, directly correspond to the breath of your physical body that lies in bed?
Those of you who have received teachings from me before or are familiar with the work of Stephen LaBerge know one very intriguing thing: that if you move your eyes left and right, as if watching a match of ping-pong, table tennis - to the left -right, left-right - in a dream, your physical eyes in your body (in a dream!) will also move left-right, left-right; your dream eyes and your physical eyes. Interconnected.
So my question to Steven was, “What about breathing? Does your breathing in dreaming match the breathing of your body in bed - for example, so that if you hold your breath in dreaming, will your body in bed also hold your breath? I had a pretty strong guess as to what the answers would be, and - here you go - I was right! This is another correspondence, another kind of relationship, and it has been established scientifically.
There are also differences - in dreaming, if you teach yourself this, it is quite easy to breathe underwater, because after all, there is no air at all in a dream, because it is not something material. Therefore, you can breathe under water, and in a dream there is no less air under water than above water (because there is no oxygen either above water or under water). In a dream there is no oxygen, no molecules, nothing physical. You see, you can breathe just as well underwater as you can breathe above water. In the waking state you are unable to do this, and yet the rhythm of the breath is the same; so the logic can be understood - you may not have obvious awareness of your physical body, but you can follow the mindfulness of the breath. You only need to follow the breath of your dreaming body, which is purely mental. It's great, right?
This actually solves the problem; solves a problem that I have been considering for a long time, which is this: when you reach shamatha, then you cross the line between the realm of desires and the realm of forms. The realm of desire is what we consider to be reality; something that scientists have been studying for hundreds of years; it is the physical world interacting with mental states, processes, and the like.
When you achieve shamatha, you transcend it; you cross the threshold, gain access to the realm of forms, which is another dimension of reality, transcends this dimension - in fact, is more basic, is the ontological basis from which this world appears like a holographic appearance; it emerges from a more subtle appearance of reality called the "realm of forms."
In modern physics, by the way, there are parallels; it is not a foolish idea – not foolish in Buddhism, not foolish in physics either. When your mind is immersed in the realm of form, moving into the realm of form, as it happens in shamatha, then you no longer have a clear awareness of the realm of desire - you have moved from one room to another, left the house of the realm of desire and entered another house of the realm of form.
In the Theravada tradition, you are aware of the sensations of the breath in the area of the nostrils, and these sensations clearly belong to the realm of desire. This, as you may remember, is only a preliminary step - remember, a preliminary step, just to begin your progress. Sooner or later, however, when your breathing stabilizes, the mind settles down and you become very focused, and then in this space of your mental awareness - as if right in front of you - the "acquired sign" will appear. Remember? The acquired sign, which is a purely mental sign - and it is on this that you will focus as you progress through the stages of shamatha, until you eventually cross the threshold between the realm of desires and the realm of forms; and it is precisely at that moment, precisely when you cross this threshold, that the "complementary sign" will arise - about a hundred thousand times more subtle than the sign acquired, which still belongs to the realm of desires. The complementary sign arises from the realm of forms, belongs to the realm of forms.
Next, if you want to move on this trajectory, following this methodology of the Buddhagosa, the classical Theravada tradition, you need to regain stability, fix the complementary sign, which is very subtle - but that is exactly what your new object of meditation is. You start with the sensations of the breath, move on to the acquired sign, and then the complementary sign - and the complementary sign is located in the realm of forms; you fix it, and that is how you reach the first full jana, and then you continue to practice with this very sign, this complementary sign, which in the case of mindfulness of the breath is called the "conceptual quintessence of the element of air." That is what you are focusing on; almost like an archetype, the archetype of air, the element of air – that is your goal, your object of meditation. If you want to fully achieve first jana, second jana, third jana, fourth jana, that's what you focus on. This is classical Theravada.
Asanga's approach, however, does not mention, firstly, observation of sensations at the nostrils; the acquired mark is not mentioned, the complementary mark is not mentioned. He simply says, "Be aware of the gross and subtle movement of prana," these fluctuations in this field of energy, in the body. You just watch them as they get thinner and thinner and thinner; and Asanga says that is enough: that is how you can achieve shamatha.
Then, however, the question arises: if you are still concentrating on the sensations in the desire realm, even if they are very subtle, how do you detach yourself from them, detach yourself from the desire realm and pass into the world of form? And so! If you don't need to watch the tactile sensations at all, if you're just resting in the mental space, you can still be aware of the rhythm - short inhale, long inhale, long inhale, short exhale - without even paying attention to the desire realm. This is remarkable.
The really vital point here - so Dzogchen, to form an adjective - is that you continue to rest (which is the heart of everything we do here - shamatha, vipashyana, dream yoga, breakthrough trekcho) - holding your own territory . This is truly the quintessence of Dzogchen. To hold onto one's own territory without getting bogged down in reification, in clinging, in holding on, in coarsening - holding on to one's own territory. Very simple; essential dzogchen, because that is the basis of rigpa.
A little more (I said that in the morning session I would often be late after nine-thirty!). We know that on the path of “taking the mind as the path”, our progress towards the dissolution of our mind, our psyche, the gross mind in the substratum consciousness, is the very end of the shamatha trajectory, the path to achieving shamatha (access to the first dhyana). This is explained very clearly; Dudjom Lingpa makes this point amazingly clear: that the substratum consciousness illuminates all kinds of appearances in samsara, all kinds of manifestations. By samsara is meant the realm of desire, the realm of form, the realm without form, all of them.
There is nothing surprising here; it is the substratum consciousness that causes the manifestation of appearance; however, illuminating appearances, the substratum consciousness does not enter into them, it does not merge with them: it belongs to this world, but does not abide in it. "Relates to this world" - that is, it very carefully illuminates and cognizes, comprehends all kinds of appearances - but does not get lost in them, does not get stuck in them, does not merge with them - illuminates, but rests in its own place. And this is simply substratum consciousness; that's what it does; that is his nature.
The dualistic mind, the mundane mind, gets caught up and carried away by everything. We focus on something - "Ah!" - and then completely bogged down in it; awareness rises and clings – with craving, with hostility, with indifference – and then similarly listens to emotions, desires, thoughts, memories, images – the whole spectrum! The ordinary mind, the dualistic mind, gets caught up in everything. It is like paper for flies: we stick to everything that arises.
That is why this first bardo, the bardo that forms the context for shamatha and vipashyana - the bardo that we are starting today - is called "gi shi jinpei bardo" - "grasping transition": in relation to birth and becoming, because it is completely saturated with grasping.
Well, when we rest in the substratum consciousness, we are not completely free from clinging, but certainly free from clinging to – at any rate, free from clinging to the desire realm. Relatively free, relatively non-conceptual, relatively unreified.
Then, however, the same theme of insight without entry, knowledge without entry -- the same thing comes up in the teachings on rigpa, primordial awareness. Primordial awareness illuminates all phenomena of samsara and nirvana. He has a visa for the whole universe; it illuminates everything, but it does not really enter into anything. Substratum consciousness illuminates samsara; it does not illuminate nirvana, it does not illuminate primordial awareness, it does not illuminate voidness. It is closed in its own space, which is called "samsara". It illuminates him, but rigpa – oh! - unlimited. It illuminates tomatoes and substratum consciousness and emptiness and rigpa and dharmadhata; illumines everything, but enters absolutely nothing, embodies absolutely nothing, fixes nothing.
What we are trying to do here is very much infused with the spirit of taking the fruit as the path, the essential Vajrayana. Taking the fruit, the end result, as the path from the first day of our retreat is present in the practice. We strive to let awareness rest in its own nature, its own natural luminosity, its own stillness, its own cognition – , and illuminate the rhythm of the breath, knowing: “when the breath is long, you know it is long; when the exhalation is long, you know it is long” - and then when the whole system calms down, when the whole body and mind system calms down, when it calms down in a greater balance - its “ samahita" (" samahita" - balance), "nyam-shak" ; when it settles down into a greater sense of serenity, calmness, peace, balance, equanimity, then of course the body needs less air - we burn fewer calories, we don't need as much oxygen. What happens to the breath? It's common sense that you don't need that much, which means that over time your breathing will inevitably become more shallow, but you don't try to make it so - this is really the key point! In other words, don't try to be too smart, don't try to outsmart your body; your body knows better than you how to circulate blood. If I say, “Please do it better,” what will you do? Digest food - make it better! Come on, take it yourself, you smart girl, digest your food!” - What are you going to do? There are certain things that the body - metaphorically, anthropomorphically - can do better than we can.
We can solve math problems - your liver can't do it, your lungs can't; however, your body can breathe - let it do its job! Delegate: “Body, mind your own business; mind, mind your own business; and I won't do anything at all." Get out of business - that's Dzogchen!
So let go of all control, all control, all preference, and let the body do its thing. This is "calming the breath to its natural rhythm. "
It's not that you have some kind of idea: "It would be like this if my breathing calmed down in its natural rhythm." Forget: you don't know what the natural rhythm is, you are not that smart. The body determines it from breath to breath; with each breath, with each exhalation, it is a new answer - a new answer, as in the case of one of the codes in the era of war - the code continues to change. It's pretty good, but if the encoding - whatever it's called - if the encryption keeps changing, it's really hard to crack.
That's what your body does: with every breath it changes the code; each breath cycle has a new code. What is the natural rhythm this time, this time, this time? May it be fresh and unprecedented every time; which means that you will never be too smart with him, because he has the code, and you are slow-witted.
So let the breath settle down in its own mode, at its own pace, as it goes from long inhalation to long exhalation – let it settle down: short inhale, short exhale – and just watch while your awareness remains like an unwavering flame. candles.
You don't even need to consciously listen to it; you don't need to ask, "Oh, breath, breath, what's going on?" It just arises, rises to meet you; it is as if the air you breathe is like water to the fish – the fish don't have to ask, “Oh, what is water like?”. The water embraces them; so it is with the rhythm of breathing - even without explicit observation of tactile sensations in bodily space, tactile space. You can stay in the mental space; out of the six realms of experience—mental and five sensory—your awareness can remain, hold territory, show clear interest, rest only in realm mental - and yet the rhythm of your breath rises to meet you, as it does in a dream where your awareness is completely immersed in the mental. You don't have a clear awareness of anything other than the dream space, and the dream space belongs entirely to the realm of mental experience, dharmadhatu - remember? Of the eighteen dhatus, this is the realm of "dharmas", mental events, phenomena that are directly observed, perceived by mental awareness. So, if you are able to be aware of the rhythm of your breathing when you breathe in dreams without any clear awareness of your body lying in bed, then you can also be in deep samadhi, one-pointedly resting (when awareness is resting in the space of awareness) - and still be aware of the rhythm.
With this, the problem of how you can continue to be aware of your breath when your mind passes from the realm of desires to the realm of forms is completely solved. There is no need for you to attend to the realm of desires: the rhythm remains; it seems to be a rather deep rhythm. Quite a deep rhythm: inhale, exhale - it is present, that's all.
That was a good retreat!
So, if you haven't signed up for your weekly meeting yet, please do so very, very quickly; I'll meet one of you in about ten minutes. The periods, of course, are: ten hours, ten twenty, ten forty; two, two twenty, two forty. I'll see someone in ten minutes. So, enjoy your morning, keep practicing. Let's dive deeper and deeper into this very practice.
Calming PracticesCalming Practices
"Here and now" is a state of consciousness in which you focus your attention on what is happening in this place and this second. You are not distracted by thoughts about the past and the future, and you feel harmony with the world.
To learn how to enter this state, do any two of the practices below. Be sure to write about your feelings before and after class.
The author of the exercises is Eckhart Tolle, a German writer and spiritual director. Creating these exercises, he relied on the experience of humanistic psychology of the 20th century.
Feel the "inner body"
Most people identify with their own body. “The body is me,” they think. But it's not. A conscious person knows that he is more than his body, that he is rather a soul living in a body. But it is very difficult for him to remember this all the time.
Because of this skewed perception, people are often dissatisfied with their bodies. They are not satisfied with the weight, the shape of the nose, the color of the eyes and skin. Some even reject their whole body and even avoid looking at themselves in the mirror.
This practice will help you to accept and love your body, to establish contact with it. And you, with the help of your body, will be able to immerse yourself in the present moment of life.
Take three deep breaths in and out.
Try to detect the subtle sensation of life flowing and spreading throughout the body. Feel your body from within.
Feel the individual parts of the body. Pay attention to the hands, then to the whole hands, then to the feet and legs.
Include all parts of the body in this process: belly, chest, neck, head. Do this until you begin to realize the body as a single and living whole.
Do this practice with your eyes closed.
Return yourself to a state of abundance
Many complain that others do not treat them well enough: “I am not respected, they do not pay attention to me, they do not praise me, they do not thank me, they do not recognize me. I am not considered." And if such people meet a kind attitude towards themselves, they see a catch in it: “The people around me want to manipulate me, they want to use me. Nobody loves me."
If you think that the world is denying you everything, it means that YOU yourself are denying the world. Deep inside you is a "needy little me" that has nothing to offer other people. This feeling is what keeps you from enjoying life. When it seems to you that people refuse you praise, appreciation, help or love, give it to them yourself.Praise a colleague, support a stranger, help someone in need.
If you feel that you do not have the strength or desire to do this, act as if you have. Sooner or later, real strength and desire will come to you.
When you start giving, you will start receiving. The state of abundance and fullness will become natural for you. You will get rid of the constant inner “What will I get from this?” and you can just be here and now.
Awareness "I am"
Neither old age nor poverty, neither good nor bad have anything to do with the fact that you ARE here and now. Realize the most important thing: you simply exist. And remind yourself of this. So you will understand that everything else in the world, including problems, is secondary.
Say or think: "I am." And don't add anything to it.
Be aware of the calm that fills you with the phrase "I am."
Feel your presence in the world, naked, naked existence in the present moment.
Repeat this exercise regularly. For example, it can fit perfectly into the morning awakening ritual.
Quiet the mind
This practice will help those who suffer from obsessive thoughts and constant anxiety.
Regularly using it, you will learn to slow down and calm your mind, gradually give up value judgments about the world and expand your consciousness.
You can practice at any time, even while standing in line to the doctor or in transport.
Choose an object nearby - a pen, a chair, a cup - and examine it with your eyes.
Let go of all tension. Give all your attention to the object, to every detail of it.
Try to separate thinking from perception. Can you look at an object without using the voice in your head? Can you refuse to comment on this voice, its judgments and attempts to understand something?
Now listen to the sounds. Listen to them the same way you looked at objects. Don't classify them as good or bad. Let each sound be as it is, don't interpret it in any way.
If you regularly look at the world or listen to it in this way, you can feel a subtle and at first barely perceptible peace. They permeate everything around.
Many people breathe shallowly, weakly and do not notice it themselves. But the more you become aware of your own breathing, the more natural depth it acquires.
If you now try to be aware of your breath, you will most likely notice that you cannot think and be aware of your breath at the same time. This is how it should be: conscious breathing stops the work of the mind. In this state, the only thing you can do is watch the lungs fill and empty. There should not be any tension or effort.
Be aware of your breath. Notice the sensations that come with it. Notice how air flows in and out of your body.
Shift your attention to the chest and abdomen as you inhale and exhale, watch them expand slightly and then subside.