Breathe Deep

Richmond Public Library
My journey into breathing began here, at the Richmond, CA Public Library (1971).  While in  ninth grade in Richmond I began experiencing burning pain in my back between my shoulder blades.  Nothing I did seemed to work.

I love libraries because you can find just about anything there.  I rode my bike to the library after school.
card catalog 1
I headed over to the card catalog.  Back in those days, there were three ways to search the catalog; by title, author and by subject.  There were three complete physical card catalogs, one for each type of search.

 

I began my search in the subject catalog under “B” for backache.  I found an entry for Yoga for Backache.  I located this little paperback in the stacks.  It was illustrated with black and white pictures of three different models, a young man, a woman and an older Indian swami in a loincloth with a big, graying beard.  This became my introduction to hatha yoga, asanas and breathing.

 

Now-a-days you can find many books on healing back pain with yoga and other natural methods. Back then I only had one choice.

I took the book home and started practicing yoga by fooling the written instructions and the black & white photos.  Yoga wasn’t nearly as common then as it is now.  No yoga mats, blocks, videos or DVDs.  Yoga pants were just loose jeans, gym shorts or sweats.  That and my little black & white paperback.

I worked my way through standing exercises, sitting exercises and prone exercises.  Then I encountered the section on breathing.  I was skeptical.  How can breathing help my backache?  But, what the heck, the old yogi in the pictures seemed to know what he was talking about.  So I gave breathing a try.

There were a variety of different ways to practice breathing.  The main technique is deep belly breathing.  Before I started on these exercises I expanded my chest and sucked in my belly while inhaling, then pushed my belly out and compressed my ribcage when exhaling.  This was the opposite of the belly breathing taught in the book.

In yogic breathing you relax the diaphragm while inhaling.  This expands you belly, not your ribs.  To exhale you push the air out with your diaphragm, making the belly sink in.  There were so many variations, like alternate nostril breathing, closing one nostril while inhaling, and closing the other when exhaling.  I recall this as a particular challenge with my severe allergies and sinusitis.

One exercise I particularly enjoyed was the “Breath of Fire”.  Just the name was exciting.  The Breath of Fire involves taking fifty rapid breaths in as short a time as possible. (Make sure you are sitting down!)  the effort is spent on the exhale, forcing your breath out with a quick contraction of your diaphragm, then relaxing the diaphragm to draw the breath in just as quickly.   Each cycle takes only a second or so.

After fifty breaths like this, you can feel a buzzing in your bloodstream from the excess oxygen.  Then you empty your lungs one final time and just stop breathing.  I found I could hold my breath effortlessly for a minute or more, feeling the buzzing subside.  I also used to practice the breath of fire before swimming underwater in my cousin’s pool.  I challenged myself to see how long I could stay under.  As a kid, this was a really cool discovery.

I was surprised to find a similar scene in this cool movie from 1993 of a teenager meditating at the bottom of a swimming pool. I really enjoyed this movie, Ordinary Magic, that I also found in my local library’s VHS collection.  This weird kid uses his knowledge of yoga and non-violence (Satyagraha) to make changes in his local town.

Sometimes you can find real gems in your local library.

Ultimately I developed a two-hour routine of yoga postures and breathing exercises that I did every weekday before leaving for school.  I credit this yoga practice with getting me through my stressful high school years.  The breathing and meditation exercises that I learned helped me to get through a couple of really bad years of panic attacks after graduating from High School.  Thirty years later I finally was diagnosed with Celiac Disease, and understood the reason for all the health issues that plagued me then.

Recently my interest in breathing has been revived by a series of books that synchronistically appeared in my life.  The first is What Doesn’t Kill Us. . .  The author, Scott Carney, appeared on a segment of the Dr. Phil Show as I was flipping the channels.  He was demonstrating the breathing technique that I know as the Breath of Fire.

I started reading it, and will give a more detailed review once I finish the book.  Scot Carney takes his time getting around to the specifics of the breathing technique, so I took a cyber-jog to my local library’s Overdrive page to search for other books on breathing.

I found Breathe: The Simple, Revolutionary 14-Day Program to Improve Your Mental and Physical Health by Belisa Vranich.

 

This book gets quickly to the point with various exercises designed to train your diaphragm and expand your breathing capacity while strengthening your core.

 

While helping a friend clean out their garage before moving out of town, I discovered The Art of Breathing.  The author,Nancy Zi, is a singer.  She combines the Chinese art of Qigong with classical breathing techniques.  When I finish with this book I will also give a more detailed review.   Nancy Zi also has a DVD where she demonstrates her techniques.

The word of the day is Synchronicity.


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Any Nice Caves for Rent?

I was scrolling through Answers.Yahoo.com the other day when a question caught my eye: Should I withdraw from humanity and find a really nice cave? 

This question really resonated with me because I often feel this way too.  When I was a kid my dream was to live in a monastery and work in the scriptorium.  Or, if I couldn’t do that, to become a hermit and live in the mountains eating wild plants like Euell Gibbons.


I had just been daydreaming about that again last week.

Unfortunately, nice caves are hard to find.

I started thinking about the things I would need to make life as a hermit bearable.

My cave would have to be within walking distance of a really good library. Or I would need to install WiFi so I could download ebooks from Overdrive.com.

I would need a camp oven or solar powered bread machine so I can make my gluten free bread.

Water. A well. With a hand pump?  Or a solar powered pump.

Oh yeah, Electricity. Maybe a solar/wind power generator, to run the Wifi, bread machine, water pump and charge my Kindle Fire.

On and on.

Until I realized it would be better to just stay home and learn to get along with people.

I did a little research on Amazon.com (I’m an Amazon Associate BTW) and was surprised at how much of my hermit’s dream was readily available.

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Healthy and Practical Stuff

DIY Bug Spray Recipes
My wife is allergic to mosquitos.  When she gets a mosquito bite, it really swells up, turns red and itches like mad.  We try our best to be healthy so she has been looking for healthy, natural solutions.  She goes through FaceBook looking for ideas.
Here are a couple of things she found in other blog posts.

Wellness Mama has some DIY bug spray recipes on her blog.
Essential Oil Bug Spray Recipe includes the essential oils from geraniums, citronella ( a know mosquito repellant), eucalyptus oil, lavender oil and rosemary oil.

Check the Wellness Mama site for the detailed recipe.

Amazon.com has many collections and aromatherapy kits available.

 

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SoCal Drought Gardening

One of the problems that I have with my garden in southern California, is the poor soil, heat and the perpetual dry conditions.  The soil in my yard is very sandy.  We live about a mile from the beach and our soil shows it.  We may get some rain in the winter, but the water doesn’t soak into the soil.  When spring comes, the sandy soil dries out.  When I water my garden, the water beads up, rolls off and evaporates in the heat of the day.

I have been trying for years to improve the soil with compost, organic soil from the big orange store.  Last year I purchased two straw bales, to try straw bale gardening.  It was pretty much a flop.  Peas, tomatoes and kale sprouted quickly, but didn’t thrive.

No matter how much compost and organic soil I add to the garden I still have the same problem.  The water doesn’t soak in and my veggies die of thirst.

I saw a post on Pinterest (that I can’t find now) about using an inverted water bottle to get water down to the roots of the plants.  I tried that next to a zucchini plant.  I cut the bottom off of a 2 liter water bottle and buried it top down next to my zucchini plant.  When I water, I just fill the bottle.  The water soaks into the ground under the zucchini where it can reach the roots.  The results were awesome!

bottle garden
Here’s the bottle buried under the zucchini plant.  There’s a cucumber plant to the left that is also benefitting from this arrangement.

bottle garden 2
I don’t have a lot of bottles laying around, and the process to cut them up and prepare this root irrigation gadget is a hassle.  So I tried something else.

I raked up a bunch of dried leaves.
leaves

Then I dug a hole next to some thirsty squash plants.  It’s hard to see here, but the hole is about a foot deep and six inches across.
leaves 2

Then I packed the hole full of dried leaves.  And I really mean, packed!
LEves 3

The idea is to create a sponge-like core of organic material that will allow water to penetrate deeper into the soil and reach the roots of the plants.
leaves 4

I only squirt water into the hole filled with leaves. You can see that the squash plants here are pretty scraggly.  They were planted about the same time as the zucchini pictured above. I will keep you posted on the progress of this experiment.

I poked a stick into the soil next to the hole, to serve as a marker for watering.  Instead of uselessly spraying water all over, only to have it evaporate and increase my water bill, now the water will soak into the soil at the level of the roots where it is needed.  The water will be absorbed into the soil.  Some may be retained in the leaf “sponge”.

Eventually the leaves will decompose into compost and provide nourishment for the plants as well.

Here is another root irrigation system that I found on Amazon.com.
Plant Partner

As an Amazon associate I earn commissions from any purchases through these links.

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Chamados Filhos de Deus

My wife and I were discussing what we could do after we both retire. She suggested visiting her family in Brazil for several months. “I better brush up on my Portuguese,” I said. I remember reading that one of the American founding fathers  learned several languages using translations of the Bible. I can’t remember who that was, but I have kept the idea in the back of my mind.

I ordered a Biblia Sacrada in Portuguese and English. The verses are arranged side by side for easy comparison. I study a couple of chapters a day. I don’t have much trouble with the Portuguese, but usually find one or two unfamiliar words in each chapter. The context and the parallel verses makes it easy to decipher. Sometimes I’ll look the word or phrase online as confirmation.

For example, Mateus 1:21 says, “Ela dará à luz um filho, . . .”  literally, “She gave a light to a son, . . . ” This is an expression found in both the Portuguese and Spanish bibles that means “She gave birth to a son”. It’s an interesting and rewarding discovery.

One of my favorite verses is Mateus 5:9 “Bem-aventurados os pacificadores, pois serão chamados filhos de Deus.”  Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. (NIV) This is kind of a cornerstone verse for me, that grounds my faith with the core value of peacemaking.

Another cornerstone is Mateus 5:43-48 O Amor aos Inimigos (Love Your Enemies)

43 “Vocês ouviram o que foi dito: ‘Ame o seu próximo[a] e odeie o seu inimigo’. 44 Mas eu lhes digo: Amem os seus inimigos[b] e orem por aqueles que os perseguem, 45 para que vocês venham a ser filhos de seu Pai que está nos céus.

In English it reads, ““You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.

By loving our enemies we are promoted from being called sons of God, to actually becoming Sons of our Father, who is in heaven. I like it.

Being peacemakers and loving our enemies may not be easy, but the rewards are great.

Mateus 5:46-48 goes on to say,

“Porque ele faz raiar o seu sol sobre maus e bons e derrama chuva sobre justos e injustos. 46 Se vocês amarem aqueles que os amam, que recompensa vocês receberão? Até os publicanos[c] fazem isso! 47 E se saudarem apenas os seus irmãos, o que estarão fazendo de mais? Até os pagãos fazem isso! 48 Portanto, sejam perfeitos como perfeito é o Pai celestial de vocês.”

In English:

Matthew 5:46-48 “For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers,[a] what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

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Fast Food

This morning I was having a nice dream. (After a three day fast and cleanse.)  Well, sorta nice.  I was waiting in a long line at a fast food place, waiting to get a refill on my Coke. I was trying to read the menu and decide what else to order.  I couldn’t decide between the double burger (Big Mac) or the Whopper.  (Where was this anyway?)  The line was moving ahead real slowly.  There was a family behind me with some rowdy kids.

I experience some kind of time slip or warp and found myself in the front of the line, still not sure what to order or if I should get the combo.  The kid in the blue hoodie pokes me in the back and says, “Hey buddy, your order is up!”

Sure enough, they are calling my name.  I don’t even know how the got my name or even my order.  I grab my food and head for a table.  Interesting that they gave me the double burger. And the Whopper. And fries.

I pull out my book and bookstand, getting ready to dig in.  . . .

Then someone wakes me up!

I didn’t even get a single bite.

AAArrrrgggg!

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Within His Grasp

A King is fleeing the through forest. Snow flurries  swirl around him limiting his vision.  Even though it is cold, he is warm, wrapped in several layers of furs. It’s his heart that is cold.

His pursuers follow close behind, obscured by the swirling snow.  The forest is silent, all sound muffled by the falling snow.  The pursuing Prince is flanked by a score of archers. He is not as warm as his father, only dressed in his uniform, black as his heart.

The Prince catches a fleeting glimpse of a bulky form through the trees.  He draws his sword and surges ahead. The King whirls to meet his attacker head on.

“So close, so close,” the Prince thinks, “the kingdom is within my grasp.”

The Prince shouts the order to his archers to loose their arrows just as a gust of wind blows a flurry of snow across the path obscuring their target.

“So close . . . ”

The archers creep forward.

To find the Prince pinned to a tree, arms outstretched, pierced by a score of arrows.

The King has disappeared.

(c) 11/19/2016 Curtis Martin

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