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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5 Tools to Create More Space in Your Mind

Busyness, distraction, and stress have all led to the shrinking of the modern mind.

I realize that’s a strange thing to say. Most of us don’t think of our mind as something with space in it, as a thing that can either be big or small, expensive or claustrophobic.

But just think about the last time you felt overwhelmed, stressed, or out of control. Chances are, you might not even have to think that hard. You might be experiencing that state right now as you read these words.

What happens in these moments? 

First, our mind wanders. It spins through all sorts of random thoughts about the past and the future. As a result, we lose touch with the direct experience of present time.

Second, we lose perspective. We can’t see the big picture anymore. Instead, it’s like we’re viewing life through a long and narrow tunnel. We become blind to possibility, fixated on problems.

Put these two together and you’ve got the perfect recipe for eradicating space in the mind. The landscape of the mind begins to feel like a calendar jammed with so many meetings, events, and obligations that these neon colored boxes cover-up even the smallest slivers of white space. 

So it could be nice for our partner, for our kids, and, mostly, for our ourselves to consider: how can we create more space in the mind?

Here are five tools for creating mental space. If you want to go deeper, check out my new book with Sounds True on the topic called OPEN: Living With an Expansive Mind in a Distracted World.

1. Meditation.

You’ve no doubt heard about all of the scientifically validated benefits of this practice. It reduces stress. It boosts productivity. It enhances focus.

That is all true. But here is the real benefit of meditation: it creates more space in the mind. To get started, try it out for just a few minutes a day. Use an app or guided practice to help you.

2. Movement.

So, maybe you’re not the meditating type. That’s fine. You can still create space in the mind by setting aside time for undistracted movement.

The key word here is “undistracted.” For many of us, exercise and movement have become yet another time where our headspace gets covered over by texts, podcasts, or our favorite Netflix series. 

There’s nothing wrong with this. But it can be powerful to leave the earbuds behind every once in a while and allow the mind to rest while you walk, stretch, run, bike, swim, or practice yoga.

3. Relax.

When it comes to creating headspace, we moderns, with our smartphone-flooded, overly-stimulated, minds seem to inevitably encounter a problem: we’re often too stressed, amped, and agitated to open.

Relaxation – calming the nervous system – is perhaps the best way to counter this effect and create more fertile ground for opening. When we relax – the real kind, not the Netflix or TikTok kind –  the grip of difficult emotions loosens, the speed of our whirling thoughts slows, and, most important, the sense of space in our mind begins to expand.

How can you relax? Try yoga. Try extended exhale breathing, where you inhale four counts, exhale eight counts. Try yoga nidra. Or, just treat yourself to a nap.

4. See bigger.

When life gets crazy, the mind isn’t the only thing that shrinks. The size of our visual field also gets smaller. Our eyes strain. Our peripheral vision falls out of awareness.

What’s the antidote to this tunnel vision view? See bigger.

Try it right now. With a soft gaze, allow the edges of your visual field to slowly expand. Imagine you’re seeing whatever happens to be in front of you from the top of a vast mountain peak. Now bring this more expansive, panoramic, way of seeing with you for the rest of the day.

5. Do nothing.

Now for the most advanced practice. It’s advanced because it cuts against everything our culture believes in. In a world where everyone is trying desperately to get more done, one of the most radical acts is to not do — to do nothing.

Even just a few minutes of this paradoxical practice can help you experience an expansion of space in the mind.

Lie on the floor or outside on the grass. Close your eyes. Put on your favorite music if you want. Set an alarm for a few minutes so you don’t freak out too much. 

Then, stop. Drop the technique. Drop the effort. Just allow yourself to savor this rare experience of doing absolutely nothing.

Nate Klemp, PhD, is a philosopher, writer, and mindfulness entrepreneur. He is the coauthor of the New York Times bestseller Start Here and the New York Times critics’ pick The 80/80 Marriage. His work has been featured in the LA Times, Psychology Today, the Times of London, and more, and his appearances include Good Morning America and Talks at Google. He’s a cofounder of LifeXT and founding partner at Mindful. For more, visit nateklemp.com or @Nate_Klemp on Instagram.

Thomas Hübl: Alchemizing Individual, Ancestral, and C...

Visionary teacher Thomas Hübl is leading the way toward a new era of trauma healing on the individual, ancestral, and collective levels. In this podcast, Tami Simon speaks with Hübl about his new book, Attuned: Practicing Interdependence to Heal Our Trauma—and Our World, and his unique synthesis of mysticism, science, and the world’s wisdom traditions. 

Give a listen to this deeply inspiring, deep-end conversation exploring: Presence and the alchemy of the past in the now; the concept of relational coherence; post-traumatic learning; avoiding presence as a way to protect oneself; attunement versus numbness; our interconnected nervous systems; ethical development; privilege and responsibility; increasing our ability to remain grounded; the power of feeling met; global witnessing groups; bringing love to the edge of a conscious universe; the three-sync process for becoming more aware of your body, emotions, and mind; and more.

Note: This episode originally aired on Sounds True One, where these special episodes of Insights at the Edge are available to watch live on video and with exclusive access to Q&As with our guests. Learn more at join.soundstrue.com.

Matt Gutman: Conquering a Lifetime of Panic Attacks

28% of Americans will experience a panic attack in their lifetime. Some researchers say that number is closer to 50%. Renowned ABC News correspondent, Matt Gutman, never felt afraid when assigned to active and dangerous war zones. Yet when he had to speak on live television in front of a viewership of 9 million people, the seemingly unflappable reporter suffered intense panic attacks that nearly cost him his job. To help anyone whose life has been impacted by this often misunderstood mental health challenge, Gutman shares his personal journey in No Time to Panic

In this podcast, Tami Simon speaks with Gutman about the book and the hard-won insights he brings his readers, exploring: The importance of destigmatizing panic attack disorder; conventional and alternative healing modalities; “retiring the drill sergeant” (aka managing the inner critic); excavating unresolved grief; how panic disorder can metastasize into other psychological issues; physical threats vs. social threats (and how we tolerate them); the evolutionary purpose of anxiety; how vulnerability is often the first step toward healing; the paradox of welcoming your panic; psychedelics and ego transcendence; the power of mindfulness and meditation; and more.

Note: This episode originally aired on Sounds True One, where these special episodes of Insights at the Edge are available to watch live on video and with exclusive access to Q&As with our guests. Learn more at join.soundstrue.com.

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