Mariana Caplan

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Mariana Caplan, PhD, MFT, E-RTY 500, is a psychotherapist, yoga teacher, and author of eight books in the fields of psychology, spirituality, and yoga. She has been teaching workshops and trainings online, in yoga studios and universities, and at major retreat centers throughout the world since 1997. She is the founder of Yoga & Psyche International, an organization created to integrate the fields of yoga and psychology globally, and lives in Fairfax, California. More at realspirituality.com and yogaandpsyche.com.

Photo Credit- Tanya Constantine Photography

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A Living Practice: Take a Tour of the Nervous System T...

A practitioner in Tree Pose (or you can, of course, use any pose in this exploration) can experience the different layers of neural processing stacked atop each other, even if unconsciously. The structure and experience of Tree Pose itself reflect the hierarchical structure of the nervous system; the stability of the lower, sensory layers is like the trunk of a tree, whereas the higher, abstract layers are like the tree’s branches.

Whole Body

While you are positioned in Tree Pose, what information is available to you?

  • At the bottom layer are the exteroceptive senses that perceive the external world (touch, smell, sight, taste, and hearing)
  • Next are the proprioceptive senses—those that perceive the positions of neighboring body parts relative to each other
  • Also at play is the equilibrio-ceptive sense, which measures the position of the body relative to gravity

Neck

Can you sense your heartbeat and breath while in Tree Pose?

  • You cultivate the stability discovered through equilibrioception through autonomic functions controlled by the medulla and pons in the brain stem

Heart

What is your emotional experience while in Tree Pose?

Do any fears or past traumas influence your current experience, even unconsciously?

  • The limbic system—comprised of numerous brain regions above the brain stem—is associated with assigning emotional value to experience

Head

When we inhabit an asana like Tree Pose with ease and stability, we experience multisensory integration in a refined and cohesive way.

  • Mindfully paying attention to the body as we practice harnesses neuroplasticity, refining the neural pathways associated with processing signals from the body

What does it feel like to be you while in Tree Pose?

Feet

  • The self-sense is the most abstract layer of the nervous system hierarchy; it’s associated with the brain’s DMN (default mode network). It is the part of the nervous system that generates a sense of selfhood, and it is also the capacity that allows the feeling of being me to occur.

Excerpted from Yoga & Psyche: Integrating the Paths of Yoga and Psychology for Healing, Transformation, and Joy by Mariana Caplan.

Mariana Caplan, PhD, MFT, E-RTY 500, is a psychotherapist, yoga teacher, and author of eight books in the fields of psychology, spirituality, and yoga. She has been teaching workshops and trainings online, in yoga studios and universities, and at major retreat centers throughout the world since 1997. She is the founder of Yoga & Psyche International, an organization created to integrate the fields of yoga and psychology globally, and lives in Fairfax, California. Learn more at realspirituality.com and yogaandpsyche.com.

Buy your copy of Yoga & Psyche at your favorite bookseller!

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How to Keep Your Mind from Wandering in a Yoga or Medi...

Keep Your Mind from Wandering in a Yoga or Meditation Practice - Sounds True Blog Main Image

PHASE 1

Mind wandering is associated with the DMN (default mode network)—areas of the brain that are active when the mind is in its default state of rest. In this phase, the mind seems cluttered with thoughts and feelings all scrambling to be at the center of attention. The meditator may remain distracted by what seems like an endless barrage for some period of time. The brain remains in this state especially when it is not engaged in a specific task.

PHASE 2

Becoming aware of mind wandering occurs when we mobilize a conscious mind-body practice. This phase involves purposefully placing our attention in order to steer our practice, and this effort reveals itself as activation in the insula. As noted previously, the insula is characteristic of interoceptive awareness and self-awareness. In this way, cognizance of the mind’s habitual wandering is a form of metacognition—thinking about thinking—that sets the stage for neuroplasticity. Just to arrive at this stage of meditation is quite an accomplishment, as most people never cultivate any sustained awareness of how their mind meanders from one topic to the next. Practitioners should recognize the value of this second phase because it can take years to arrive here with any regularity. Without knowing this, beginners often become discouraged.

PHASE 3

Shifting out of wandering is like flexing a muscle or changing gears in a car. This phase involves the executive function of the brain, recruiting regions like the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC) and the posterior parietal cortex. The practitioner arrives at this phase through consciously and consistently bringing their attention out of unfocused wandering. Much like training a muscle, we go through high and low points of practice, and—as in the previous stage—it is easy to feel discouraged. Unfortunately, meditators can judge themselves harshly at this stage, lose interest, or give up entirely if they do not recognize just how important this phase is in training the neural muscles of concentration.

PHASE 4

Focusing means that the practitioner has gained some meditative stability and can remain for some time in a concentrative state. This achievement shows up as sustained activation in the dlPFC. At this phase, progressive layers of our mind reveal themselves—both within a practice session and “off the cushion” over time. When the mind eventually starts to wander again, the cycle begins anew, and the practitioner passes through the phases once more to regain focus. With practice, the amount of effort, time, and repetition it takes to go through the cycles decreases, with less time occupied in the earlier phases and more time spent in a focused state.

Excerpted from Yoga & Psyche: Integrating the Paths of Yoga and Psychology for Healing, Transformation, and Joy by Mariana Caplan.

 

Keep Your Mind from Wandering in a Yoga or Meditation Practice - Yoga and Psyche

Keep Your Mind from Wandering in a Yoga or Meditation Practice - Mariana Caplan Image

 

Mariana Caplan, PhD, MFT, E-RTY 500, is a psychotherapist, yoga teacher, and author of eight books in the fields of psychology, spirituality, and yoga. She has been teaching workshops and trainings online, in yoga studios and universities, and at major retreat centers throughout the world since 1997. She is the founder of Yoga & Psyche International, an organization created to integrate the fields of yoga and psychology globally, and lives in Fairfax, California. Learn more at realspirituality.com and yogaandpsyche.com.

 

Buy your copy of Yoga & Psyche at your favorite bookseller!

Sounds True | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pinterest Keep Your Mind from Wandering Sounds True blog

 

Discernment on the Spiritual Path

Tami Simon speaks with Mariana Caplan, PhD, a psychotherapist, cultural anthropologist, and professor of yogic and transpersonal psychologies at the California Institute of Integral Studies. She is also the author of the new Sounds True book Eyes Wide Open: Cultivating Discernment on the Spiritual Path. Mariana discusses enlightenment, the teacher-student relationship, and what makes someone “spiritually mature.” (54 minutes)

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Be What You Want to Receive: Three Ways to Experiment ...

At a time when we’re marinating in trauma and dealing with the test of a lifetime, we all wish things were different. When what we want from life is a million mile march from what it actually is, it can seem like we need a massive intervention to keep facing what’s at hand. 

But research shows that small things can make a big difference. Just like stress is cumulative, so are the daily steps we take to grow and give.

Microdoses of bravery add up. To start, consider moving from asking what will the world offer me, to what will I offer the world? Tiny bits of strategic courage are sources of nourishment that can help you become what you want to receive. 

Getting comfortable with the uncomfortable is a tall order, but worth doing. Microdosing bravery can help us build the strength and stamina that helps us heal, create, and liberate from fear, despair, and isolation. 

Here are three ways you can experiment with microdosing bravery including journal prompts for reflection.

Worth the Risk - Be What You Want to Receive

 

BE LOVE. 

Loneliness is being called “the new smoking,” a modern health risk. For some, the global pandemic has strengthened relationships, allowing for bonding and teamwork like never before. For others, it’s wreaked havoc: leading to feeling smothered and stuck. For those living alone, distancing has been brutal, making love feel far from reach. Loss, whether through death, divorce, breakups, or other factors, singes our hearts. We can become avoidant and skeptical of our future potential to love and be loved. 

When we strive to embody love, it’s essential to keep an open mind and heart. Loving connections are protective factors to our well-being. Consider these microdoses of bravery to strengthen your relationships, your sense of belonging, and the co-creation of new love paradigms in your life:

  • Get real. Go through your friends on social media and make a list of all the real people in your life with whom you can be yourself. Make a conscious effort to spend time outside of social media. Thank them for being so real to you and vow you’ll do the same.
  • Spark connection. Initiate a conversation with a partner or friend to see if you can build greater intimacy or camaraderie. To improve your connection, ask them what would mean a lot to them, and offer your own thoughts too.
  • Seek affinity relationships. Write a short poem or essay about yourself to clarify your various identities and then seek an affinity connection. Invite that person for coffee. Don’t shy away from sharing yourself and nudging them to do the same.
  • Be innovative. Create your own bravery microdose to help you be love.

Take note:

Write down what you chose to do and reflect on how it cultivated love in your life. Consider sharing this with someone you trust to help you maximize your efforts.

BE HEALING. 

The level of trauma at hand has ravaged our lives, making healing feel elusive on a good day, impossible on a bad. Given the magnitude of suffering at hand, healing should not be trivialized as a three-step process. Healing requires enormous courage. Microdosing bravery can help us reach out and tap in to the many forms of restoration available to us.  

Understanding how resilience works is a helpful way to begin healing. Gone are the days when it was viewed as a character trait—something you’re born with or not. There’s a lot of hype about being gritty and never letting anyone see you sweat that gets in the way of us finding the right support. Here are some ways to microdose bravery to foster healing and build resilience:

  • Recognize you’re not alone. The biggest lie our difficulties tell us is that we’re the only ones dealing with such intense suffering. All of us are living in a global mental health crisis, with exorbitant pressures and crushing circumstances. Suffering is part of our shared humanity. Finding solidarity and safe community can serve as a catalyst to healing. As we get traction in our own healing process, our acts of courage can be nourishing and healing to those around us.
  • Self-advocate. Healing requires intentional change in our communication. Many of us are comfortable and willing to give help, but few are asking for it. Identify one trusted person in your life that you know has the emotional maturity and skills to listen and support you. Tell them what you’re going through and work with them to identify potential roads toward healing, such as therapy, strategic behavioral change, and targeted self-care.
  • Set boundaries. Untreated trauma and unresolved issues can haunt us and impair the quality of our lives. By paying attention to what we say yes and no to, we can ensure we are leaving space for growth after we’ve gone through significant stressors. Find language to courageously share what you can commit to, and what you cannot. Enlist support to help you firmly protect your time so that you can devote attention to healing and restoration.
  • Identify resources. Take some time to scan your direct environment for things that nurture and sustain you. Select one or two things that can be microdosed to build your bravery.

Take note:

Write down things that help you experience healing. How can you continue to build off this?

BE A LIBERATOR. 

Society can project a lot onto us, caging us into patterns of conformity that can become harmful. Freedom to live as our truest selves isn’t something that comes with safety or ease. The work of unhooking from social prescriptions and ills can be fraught and exhausting. Still, when we find the courage to call out injustice and fight for a more humane world, we can experience exuberance and help change paradigms.

When we strive to liberate, we realize that we must dismantle oppression. That we must advocate for inclusivity and human reverence, particularly for social identities that are marginalized and harmed. Constrained living hinders human progress, individually and collectively. Consider these microdoses of bravery to liberate from social constructs that are harmful:

  • Let go. Take inventory of so-called social “norms” and become less apt to cower in the face of social impositions that are dismissive and destructive toward “difference.” Embrace your own multidimensionality, and that of humanity.
  • Speak up. We all have opportunities to be active contributors rather than passive bystanders in the world. Practicing accountability means that we call out injustice and work to eradicate forms of human suffering and imprisonment—whether based on race, gender, orientation, age, place of origin, or other social identity categories.
  • Practice human reverence. Move from me to we. See the glory and wonder across the human spectrum. Honor varied identities and perspectives. Work to find and engage in diverse relationships, rather than staying insular or spending time with those that look like, love like, and think like you. Become a liberator by standing fervently with those who’ve been marginalized, oppressed, or discriminated against. Seek ways to forge change, bit by bit.
  • Break Free. Create your own bravery microdose to help you liberate.

Take note:

What do you need to be liberated from? Do you know someone who is struggling in a similar way? How might you join forces and work together to become freer?

Author Kristen LeeKristen Lee, EdD, LICSW, is an award-winning Behavioral Science and Leadership professor, clinician, researcher, activist, comedian, author of Worth the Risk: How to Microdose Bravery to Grow Resilience, Connect More, and Offer Yourself to the World, and host of Crackin’ Up. She has over two decades of clinical experience in mental health, and twelve years of teaching and leadership roles in higher education, focusing on underserved populations. She leads the Behavior Science program at Northeastern University. For more, visit kristenlee.com.

 

 

 

 

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