Siddha’s – The History

While Siddha‘s have an oral tradition that dates back millennia and still exist to date within Siddha monasteries and communities which are hidden from the public eye – very little is known about them. Here is a little information about 3 of the better known Siddha communities.

The 18 Tamil Siddha’s

Siddha (Sanskrit), Siddhar or cittar (Tamil), is a perfected individual, who has attained intellectual powers called siddhi by constant practice of certain cognitive, perceptual or physical disciplines.

Historically, Siddhar also refers to ancient wise, wandering, men and women who dominated ancient Indian teaching and philosophy. They were knowledgeable in astronomy, drama, dance, fine arts, literature, music, science, technology and warfare. They assisted all, from kings to common people, by providing solutions, curing their illness and advising them for their future. Many of their written works date from 300BC to 300CE, although their oral tradition exists for centuries before that. 

In ancient South India, Siddha’s were saints, doctors, alchemists and mystics all in one. They wrote their findings in secret poems. These poems were written in Tamil script on palm leaves. These palm leaves were collected and stored in what are known as “Palm leaf manuscripts“. Although centuries old many of these palm leaf manuscripts are still owned by some families in Tamil Nadu and handed down through the generations. Some are  kept in public institutions such as universities in India, Germany, Great Britain and the United States. The British Museum has a few in its archives. 

Among other branches of a vast knowledge-system, Siddha’s developed what is now known as Siddha medicine. A rustic form Siddha medicine is still being practised by experienced elders in the villages of Tamil Nadu. It is believed that Ayurvedic Medicine – the world recognised Indian medical system, has its origins in Siddha medicine. 

Siddha’s are the founders of Varmam or Marman. This is both –  a martial art for self-defence and a medical treatment at the same time. Varmam, marman or marmani are specific points located in the human body which when pressed or pierced in different ways can give a variety of results. It can be used to disable an attacker in self-defence or to balance the body or release trigger points in order to resolve a physical ailments. It is also used as an easy first-aid medical treatment.

Tamil Siddha’s were also the first to develop pulse-reading (“naadi paarththal” in Tamil). This was used to to identify the origin of diseases using pulse to gage the bio-electric condition of the body. Some Siddha’s were so developed in this ability that they did not have to touch the patient but via simple observation they could determine the condition of the body. 

The Siddhars achieved their immense knowledge through their daily yogic practices. They lived and believed in a holistic wellbeing and were in constant pursuit of perfecting themselves and their wisdom so they may assist and share this with people around them.

In the Tamil tradition, there are 18 siddhars who are considered as the pillars of siddha medicine. There is no consensus on when these Siddha’s lived – but much is known about them. They were all historical figures. Their names, contributions, peoms and place where they attained Samadhi (eternal consciousness) are well documented in Tamil literature from the 3rdcentury BC to present. To date there are Tamil Siddha’s in villages of Tamil Nadu. They are elusive – not much is know about their lives – but their healing abilities are well known and highly regarded. 

The Tibetan Mahasiddha’s

In Tibetan tradition the Mahasiddha were great adepts who cultivated and embodied human perfection. The Mahasiddhas were known practitioners of yoga and tantra. They were also known as tantrikas. Their historical influence throughout the Indian subcontinent and the Himalaya’s was vast. Their wisdom was codified in their songs of realization and hagiographies, or namtars.  Many of these have been preserved in the Tibetan Buddhist canon

The Siddha communities of India and the Himalaya’s were like “Institutes of Advanced Studies”. The first Universities in the world were created or curated by them – Taxashilla (pre 600BC), Nalanda (500CE) and Vikramashila(700CE). These were research centres for highly cultivated, successful and graduated experts in various branches of Science and Inner Science (adhyatmavidya). Many of the teachers at these institutes were monastics and could move back and forth from university (vidyalaya) to monastery (patha).  Many had taken vows of poverty, celibacy, and so forth, and were lived in the classical Indian sannyāsin or sādhu style. Robert Thurman called the mahasiddha’s “psychonauts”. He claimed that in “parallel with our “astronauts”, the materialist scientist-adventurers whom we admire for their courageous explorations of the “outer space” which we consider the matrix of material reality. Inverse astronauts, the psychonauts voyaged deep into “inner space”, encountering and conquering angels and demons in the depths of their subconscious minds.”

And what they shared with the world was their understanding on how to develop human ability. Some of the revered Siddha’s in the Tibetan tradition are Tilopa, Naropa, Niguma and Sukhasiddhi. The 6 Yoga’s of Naropa and the completion stage yoga or Niguma are practices based on Siddha wisdom. 

The 84 Buddhist Siddha’s

The Buddhist schools that flourished from the 8-12 centuries borrowed from earlier records and developed a very systematic theory on the Siddha’s. According to Buddhist and Tibetan texts and a poem by the Sufi saint and poet Kabir – there were 84 Siddha’s. All of them were human teachers who who attained supernormal abilities through the practice of yoga. Many of these Siddha’s were women. All of these texts list the names and offer some details of the lives of these Siddha’s.

These authors of these medieval texts refer to earlier Indian texts that also detailed the lives of Siddha’s but many of these original texts are thought to be lost or hidden. The Siddha’s composed texts and mystical songs. These have been preserved mainly in their Tibetan translations. This is because when India was invaded in the 11thcentury many of the Indian Siddha’s fled into the Himalayan range with earlier works and these were shared with Tibetan students who translated the works into their language for safe keeping and posterity. Some of the original texts written by 11thcentury Siddha’s have been discovered – the Siddha’s songs are preserved in a collection known as Caryāścarya-viniścaya. The Siddha Tilopa, who was the teacher of Naropa, has part of his original writings preserved in one of his Dohākośa’s. 

Theses mystical songs and text share experiences, insight and details of special types sadhana (spiritual practices) that the 11thcentury Siddha’s found effective in their development. 

What was the special form of mysticism that the Siddha’s adhered to?

As much of Siddha literature is still unknown – details are pieced together from Tibetan translations and 11thcentury texts. 

The teaching of Siddhācārya was esoteric. Nobody except a qualified guru was allowed to initiate a disciple into the mysteries. This is why even in modern times the few known Siddha students in Nepal are known as gurubhāju – followers of the guru. They distinguish themselves from followers of the Brahmanical faith who are called devabhāju – followers of God. 

Concepts that are repeated in Siddha texts:

“The truth that is free from duality is thought by the Siddha”. 

“By following the Siddha’s instructions with patience and persistent practice, the truth will be revealed to you.” 

“The Siddha does not ask you to believe anything, the Siddha gives you the tools that enable you to experience reality for yourself.”

“The one who is open to the Siddha’s instructions becomes the Siddha”

Dr Nitasha Buldeo is an Integrated Medical Practitioner, Entrepreneur, Scientist and Yogi. She created  I-Yoga & Organic Apoteke and is Director of the Centre for Exceptional Human Performance. She researches human potential and delivers programs that encourage you to live exceptionally. Nitasha believes that every one of us is striving to be the best we can. Her passion is bringing you experiences that inspire you. Her intention is for you to unlock your genius.

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Yoga – Why Interoception Matters?

In the Western hemisphere many are familiar with only one limb of Yoga – Asana, or physical postures. However according to Patanjali (Ancient Indian Yoga Scholar and systematiser of the Yogic texts) there are eight limbs of yoga. They need not be practiced in any order – but for a real yoga practice – all eight limbs should be incorporated. 

Those deeper into yoga have also come across pranayama or breath control. I won’t explain all the limbs of yoga but jump to the fifth: pratyahara.  Many western translations will refer to pratyahara as withdrawal of the senses, but that’s not the complete picture. Pratyahara is really about changing your focus from the outside to within.Pratyahara is understood as the practice of withdrawing external sensory perception in order to increase inner awareness .  In neuroscience we have now defined and are beginning to understand this inner sense. We call it – interoception.

What is Interoception?

Interoception is the sense of our internal bodily states2. It underlies our ability to know what’s going on inside our body. Interoception which is also called “our extra sense”is unlike our other senses -hearing, sight, smell, touch and taste.  Theses well known senses develop almost spontaneously from birth in most people unless there is a physiological abnormality. And while interoception can occur spontaneously for some, for most it is an acquired skill that requires practice to master. This is because our brains default mode is externally directed3,4. Those who practice meditation acknowledge the challenge required in attending to a single object and maintaining focus without allowing the mind to wander. Meditation and meditative yoga encourage the practitioner to turn their attention towards the present moment, which traditionally includes the sensations arising in the body. Studies have found a relationship between the ability to be mindfully aware and the ability to use interoception5. This is because “being mindfully observant is connected with greater body awareness”5. Thus, mindfulness meditation and yoga can strengthen our interoceptive ability. However, because yoga engages both body and brain at the same time – it has the ability to more train interoception more effectively and more speedily.

A Brief History of Interoception

Interoception was first mentioned by Charles Sherrington, an American physiologist in 1906 in his book The Integrative Action of the Nervous System. However, even though he did not use the word interoception, Charles Darwin alluded to its significance in his lesser known book published in 1872, The Expression of Emotion in Man and Animals. Darwin theorized that the experience of an emotion is heightened when accompanied by bodily expressions (e.g., baring one’s teeth or smiling)7,8. William James, the father of American psychology expanded on this idea when he suggested that signals from the bodily inform the mind about its emotional state5. He endorsed the idea that “we do not shiver because we are scared of a lion, but we shiver, and we label this shiver as fear”9. He suggests that a bottom-up process – from the body to the brain – underlies all emotion.

However, this idea was relatively unexplored as the research community of the 1900’s – 1990’s favoured a top-down process, where the emphasis was placed on how the brain informs the body. 

Researcher’s side-lined this area of study due to the inability to find that neural pathways that enabled us to perceive internal sensations. They knew that a system was at work that processed internal signals and that this system kept us alive for it regulated the heart rate, breathing and almost all internal function. They proposed that these inner workings were controlled by the autonomic nervous system.  It was believed that these autonomic functions happened automatically and there was no way to be conscious of them, let alone control them.

It wasn’t until Antonio Damasio proposed his somatic marker hypothesis (SMH) in the 1990’s, which he describes in his book Descartes’ Error that the bottom up processes resurfaced. The somatic market hypothesis describes how sensations that arise in the body bias our decision-making10. Due to interest in this theory there was an emergence in research of how bodily sensations guide our thoughts, feelings, and behaviours11.

Interoception – The Science

Leading on from bottom-up processes, in 2002 Bud Craig, an American neuroatomist and neuroscientist brought interoception back into the research arena when he redefined interoception as the sense of the physiological status of all tissues of the body. And he proposed that interoception is what supported homeostasis – the process that enables the internal environment of the body to sustain life. From this point a small body of researchers decided to discover how information from all tissues of the body made its way back to the brain. They discovered that this information was transferred via a specific nerve pathway (the lamina-1-spinothalamic tract) found in the spinal cord. Via this area of the spinal cord, information from all body tissues pass to a very specific part of the brain called the insula where the body sensations are put together for form a sense of self. It was also discovered that poor interoception was linked to anxiety, body dysmorphia, eating disorders and depression. Hence it became important to discover how to train people to be more interoceptively aware. 

How to become more Interoceptive?

My research in this field considered how to teach one to become more interoceptively aware. I looked at top down and bottom-up techniques to discover if training mental attention or body awareness was the more efficient method for interoception training. An early research paper entitled Interoception: A Measurement of Embodiment or Attention explains the process1https://www.ibpj.org/issues/articles/Buldeo%20-%20Interoception%20A%20measure%20of%20Embodiment%20or%20Attention_.pdf

My studies in this area have enabled me to develop the Interoceptive I-Yoga technique to teach interoceptive awareness speedily and efficiently while improving posture and overall wellbeing. I-Yoga is a simple 4-Step pracitice to increased interoceptive awareness.

What was remarkable for me as a Yogi and scientist is that while it took centuries for the modern scientific research community to grasp how the body and mind work together to create our experiences, ancient Yogi’s described this process in detail. The Upanishads, written works dated from 1900BC which were based on an even older oral tradition discuss yoga and the process of inner awareness. The Yogatattwa Upanishad dated pre 150CEdescribes the practice of pratyahara in detail. It states that Pratyahara arises from the union of Prana (breath),Apana(hydration and oxygenation of body), Asana (physical alignment) and Jivatma(bio-physiological harmony or homeostasis). Pratyahara (inner awareness) leads to higher functioning and supernormal states of functioning. Modern research is suggesting that the same is true. Higher interoception (inner awareness) leads to superior human abilities.

This is why interoception matters. Interoception is the window into the body that informs the mind. And as we hone our interoceptive skills, we are able to utilise the influential power and wisdom of our body sensations.

Every cell in our body responds to the environment, our body is full of wisdom – by training interoception we discover how to utilise this wisdom. 

Dr Nitasha Buldeo is an Integrated Medical Practitioner, Entrepreneur, Scientist and Yogi. She created  I-Yoga & Organic Apoteke and is Director of the Centre for Exceptional Human Performance. She researches human potential and delivers programs that encourage you to live exceptionally. Nitasha believes that every one of us is striving to be the best we can. Her passion is bringing you

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References

  1. Buldeo, N. Interoception: A measure of embodiment or attention. International Body Psychotherapy Journal. 2015;14,1:65-79. https://www.ibpj.org/issues/articles/Buldeo%20-%20Interoception%20A%20measure%20of%20Embodiment%20or%20Attention_.pdf
  2. Garfinkel SN, Seth AK, Barrett AB, Suzuki K, Critchley HD. Knowing your own heart: Distinguishing interoceptive accuracy from interoceptive awareness. Biol Psychol. 2015;104:65-74. doi:10.1016/j.biopsycho.2014.11.004.
  3. Farb NAS, Segal Z V, Anderson AK. Mindfulness meditation training alters cortical representations of interoceptive attention. Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2013;8(1):15-26. doi:10.1093/scan/nss066.
  4. Farb NAS, Segal Z V, Mayberg H, et al. Attending to the present: mindfulness meditation reveals distinct neural modes of self-reference. Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2007;2(4):313-322. doi:10.1093/scan/nsm030.
  5. Hanley AW, Mehling WE, Garland EL. Holding the body in mind: Interoceptive awareness, dispositional mindfulness and psychological well-being. J Psychosom Res. 2017;99:13-20. doi:10.1016/j.jpsychores.2017.05.014.
  6. Hasenkamp W, Wilson-Mendenhall CD, Duncan E, Barsalou LW. Mind wandering and attention during focused meditation: A fine-grained temporal analysis of fluctuating cognitive states. Neuroimage. 2012;59(1):750-760. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2011.07.008.
  7. Darwin C. The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals. London: John Murray; 1872.
  8. Strack F, Martin LL, Stepper S. Inhibiting and facilitating conditions of the human smile: a nonobtrusive test of the facial feedback hypothesis. J Pers Soc Psychol. 1988;54(5):768-777. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3379579. Accessed October 30, 2017.
  9. Fuchs T, Koch SC. Embodied affectivity: on moving and being moved. Front Psychol. 2014;5:508. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00508.
  10. Dunn BD, Dalgleish T, Lawrence AD. The somatic marker hypothesis: A critical evaluation. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2006;30(2):239-271. doi:10.1016/j.neubiorev.2005.07.001.
  11. Werner NS, Schweitzer N, Meindl T, Duschek S, Kambeitz J, Schandry R. Interoceptive awareness moderates neural activity during decision-making. Biol Psychol. 2013;94(3):498-506. doi:10.1016/j.biopsycho.2013.09.002.

Sanatana Dharma

Sanātana dharma meaning “eternal order” is the what underlies all Indian philosophy. It was the main cosmological explanation in the Indian subcontinent. The adherence to Sanātana dharma is what evolved into modern Hinduism. Many say that Hinduism is the new new name for Sanātana dharma – this is untrue as Sanātana dharma was never a religion but a way of life. In ancient India, there was no religion. Sanātana dharma was about understanding the fundamentals of the universe and living by those principals. Hence it was more science than religion.

The word Hindu was of Persian origin, it is what the Persians called the people who lived to the east of the River Sindh.

To understand Sanātana dharma – you need to understand three underlying concepts – Rta, Maya and Karma. 

Rta is the principal which regulates and coordinates the operation of the universe and everything in it (including humans) – it is akin to the fundamental forces described by modern science. Sanatana Dharma involves honouring these fundamental forces. 

However, as most humans cannot even perceive these natural forces – living this concept has historically come with detailed instructions and the need for a spiritual guide. This concept is what inspired many enlightened teachers – like Buddha. 

It is also this concept that gave rise to the various meditation, yoga and tantric practices. These practices were used to develop your body and mind so you may perceive and live in accordance with Rta. Living in Rta means living your dharma. 

However, if your perception or consciousness is unclear then you are prone to being led astray by misguided goals. These misguided goals may have short term benefits but are detrimental in the long term. Misguided goals are due to Maya. Maya means fraud, deception, illusion – it refers to anything that misleads and creates disorder. 

The world as most of us perceive it, is often referred to as Maya. We know that if we looked through a giant microscope – we will see a very different picture. Yet, we decide to make the material world our reality. 

Maya is contrary to Rta. And Maya conditions us to behave in a self-limiting manner. This self limiting behaviour results in karma.

The only way to overcome karma is to train your mind and body to live your Dharma. Live your truth!

Dharma is to do whatever you do practically, skilfully for the benefit of all beings. Dharma is purity of heart. 

Response from a Nun to Bethany Hughes question “What is Dharma?”

Dr Nitasha Buldeo is an Integrated Medical Practitioner, Entrepreneur, Scientist and Yogi. She created  I-Yoga & Organic Apoteke and is Director of the Centre for Exceptional Human Performance. She researches human potential and delivers programs that encourage you to live exceptionally. Nitasha believes that every one of us is striving to be the best we can. Her passion is bringing you experiences that inspire you. Her intention is for you to unlock your genius. 

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Siddha – The Accomplished Ones

The idea of a siddhi – psychic or supernormal power – is universal in Indian philosophy. Almost all schools of belief in India and other Asian cultures – that were influenced by Buddhism and Sanatana Dharma – attach great importance to yoga. It is understood that the practice of yoga yields these siddhi’s or powers. And a Siddha is one who has attained these supernormal powers. Siddha – which means “accomplished one” – refers to those who via practice or grace have accomplished a supernormal ability. While these abilities make the Siddha appear superhuman – Siddha’s are always human. Siddha’s are just fully functioning humans or superconscious humans. All they have done is overcome limitations to use abilities that all humans possess to a greater level.

Although we all have the potential to do it, the attainment of a siddhi is a challenging task that requires patience, perseverance and skilful practice. Hence there were just a few special schools which specialised in these practices. These mystery schools were never large organisations, nor commercial or publicised ventures. They were small organisations developed by Siddha’s and designed to attract only a special kind of student. This special student is one who is committed to developing his or her human potential to the fullest. In order to only attract the correct student – these schools were shrouded in mystery and secrecy.

However if we look at any of the great esoteric, spiritual or yogic schools, even those in existence today – we can trace back the original teaching to a Siddha. The schools founder or the founders teacher, will have been inspired by a solitary being. A person they may have met only a few times, or spent many years with. But this being would have initiated a transformative change or enlightening experience. For this is the only goal of a Siddha – to enable others to achieve their full human potential.

Hence while the Siddha lineage has been in existence for millennia – and references to Siddha’s are made in most classical Buddhist, Brahmanical and Daoist texts – very little is known about them.

Why are Siddha’s so secretive?

It is often said in classical texts that the Siddha’s used a secret language called “sandhya bhasya”. They practiced in isolation. They shied away from publicity. They had special healing abilities which they used to help people from all walks of life – yet they never sought to use this healing ability for commercial gain. WHY?

Regarding the secret language – there is not really one. It’s just then when Siddha’s talk about experiences, states of consciousness or perception that individuals cannot yet understand or relate to, it seems like they are talking in code. Yet as one develops their practice, perceptive ability and alters their state of awareness… this once secret code makes absolute sense.

They practiced in isolation and shy away from attention because vital to the Siddha practice is Ego-lessness. The only way to lose your limitations and achieve unlimited human potential is to lose the limitations of your ego. And in an ego-less state – there is no need to call attention to the self. There is no need to create a persona or to aspire to celebrity status. This is a real challenge in our modern social media driven culture. Yet the Siddha will value their ego-less state more than anything else – even to detriment of their own social standing – for it is in this ego-less state that real potential emerges.

They refused to gain from their healing abilities because these abilities arise as features of the higher states of awareness. And this higher awareness infuses them with overwhelming bliss. This blissful state is all they desire. If their focus shifted to the healing ability – their blissful state my be diluted. Hence the Siddha would use their abilities to benefit others but never for personal gain – as the blissful state is worth more than anything else.

How do I find a Siddha school or teacher?

It is often said that when the student is ready, the teacher appears. This is true. If your desire to achieve your highest potential is strong, your teacher will appear. All you need to do is commit to your current practice and live your life authentically.

Why is Siddha and Siddhi’s of importance in this modern world?

Never before has the human race been as aware of our ability to shape our own evolution as we are now. With the advent of AI, robotics, transhumanism, gene modification therapies – we have already begun altering our evolutionary process. Yet this practice is not new – Siddha’s have transformed themselves over the ages – however they did it in keeping with nature. Many of the technologies we are now developing could have detrimental effects as we try to overpower nature and natural evolution. The reality is that the planet will go on – it is humanity who will disappear if these new technologies go wrong. It has therefore, become ever more important for a larger group of humans to embrace the wisdom of the Siddha’s.

To discover more about Siddha’s or their practice please comment, ask questions or make suggestions for future articles.

Dr Nitasha Buldeo is an Integrated Medical Practitioner, Entrepreneur, Scientist and Yogi. She created  I-Yoga & Organic Apoteke and is Director of the Centre for Exceptional Human Performance. She researches human potential and delivers programs that encourage you to live exceptionally. Nitasha believes that every one of us is striving to be the best we can. Her passion is bringing you experiences that inspire you. Her intention is for you to unlock your genius.

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What does The Nightingale Say to You?

Once upon a time there was a Chinese emperor. This emperor lived in the most magnificent palace in the world. But more magnificent than his palace were his palace gardens. The palace gardens were magical. And in this magical garden, there was a nightingale.

This was no ordinary nightingale. The nightingale’s song was so beautiful and magical, that everyone who heard it, had to stop and listen.

When the emperor heard about this nightingale, he was furious. “Who does this nightingale think she is? She lives in my garden. obviously eats off my trees, but I have never heard her sing. Bring her to me at once”, he ordered.

A golden tree was placed in front of the emperor and the little grey nightingale was brought before him. The little nightingale sang so beautifully that tears flowed from the emperors eyes. As the tears continued to roll down the old mans cheeks, the nightingales song grew sweeter and sweeter. Her voice touched every persons heart. She became a star.

Then one day, the emperor received a gift from his chief engineer. It was a mechanical nightingale. It was designed to mimic the real nightingales song but it was also beautiful. Encrusted with diamonds, rubies and sapphires, it glittered as it sang. It sang so much like the original nightingale that everyone in the kingdom wanted to hear the two nightingales sing together. And they did.

But the duet sounded wrong. The real nightingale sang from natural inspiration and the other followed mechanically. When compared with the original, the mechanical bird looked flawed. So the artificial bird was made to sing alone. It became as popular as the real nightingale and was pleasing to the eye because as it sang, its gems sparkled.

The mechanical bird could sing the same song thirty-three times repeatedly without becoming tired at all. This so pleased the people that they chased the real nightingale away. The real nightingale was banished from the palace and the city and the mechanical bird took seat of honour on a little lacquered table besides the emperors bed.

Then one evening when the mechanical bird was singing and the emperor was listening, there was a sudden “crack” from inside the birds body and the song stopped. All the gear levers became jammed. The inners of the mechanical bird had rusted. The mechanical bird would never sing again.

Five years later the country was plunged into deep gloom. The people loved their emperor and he had fallen ill. It was said that the emperor was about to die. The old emperor lay cold and pale in his bed, struggling to breath, he felt the weight of people tramping on his chest. And as he opened his eyes, he saw Death. Death had come to fetch him. This scared him.

Then suddenly from the window a delightful sound was heard. It was the real nightingale, who sat perched outside the emperors window. She had learned of the emperors illness and had come to cheer him up, to bring him hope. The real nightingale sang so beautifully, divinely, that the emperors vision of death disappeared. As if by magic, the old man was healed and regained his strength.

“Thank you, thank you, heavenly little nightingale,” he shouted with joy. “I chased you away and yet you came back. Your song has chased away the dark and evil gloom. How can I reward you?”

“You have already rewarded me,” sang the nightingale. “Tears came to your eyes the first time I sang. For me, those were diamonds that I shall never forget. Let me come and visit you whenever I can. I shall sing to you of the joyful and sad, I shall sing of the good and the bad, I shall sing about all the things you doubt. Because a little nightingale flies everywhere and sees everything. All I need is for you to make me one promise. Do not tell anyone that you have a little nightingale who tells you everything. Believe me it is for the best.”

And the real nightingale flew away. A moment later the courtesans arrived to see the dying emperor. They were astonished when the emperor sat up and said, “Good Day!”.

Based on Hans Christian Andersons story entitled “The Nightingale”, this story speaks of so many issues that we currently face. Authenticity versus mimicry, artificial intelligence versus human ability, real versus fake. For me it encourages, singing from my soul, expressing my truth, sharing my genius.

What does it mean to you?

Dr Nitasha Buldeo is an Integrated Medical Practitioner, Entrepreneur, Scientist and Yogi. She created  I-Yoga & Organic Apoteke and is Director of the Centre for Exceptional Human Performance. She researches human potential and delivers programs that encourage you to live exceptionally. Nitasha believes that every one of us is striving to be the best we can. Her passion is bringing you experiences that inspire you. Her intention is for you to unlock your genius.

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Are You a Leader?

Leadership can be defined as the power to take responsibility, the understanding to chart a course and the ability to cooperatively use the skills of others to get a job done

What makes a Leader?

Leadership fundamentally comes from within. The ability to lead comes from the inner workings of an individual – the leaders’ moral and philosophical framework and their capacity to understand their followers. Leadership is a product of character – It is not an accident of birth, prerogative of position or completion of a training program. 

However, the character that enables one to become a strong leader can be developed.  The process involves an intentional, reflective and regular practice. As Donald G Krause put it “the substance of leadership can be glimpsed, but not learned by attending a two-day workshop. For it to take hold, it must be ingested, digested, encouraged and utilised over a long period of time.”

Donald G Krause uses Sun Tzu’s The Art of War and The Analects of Confucius as a basis for his factors that form the essence of leadership – SPARKLE.

S – Self Discipline

P – Purpose

A – Accomplishment

R – Responsibility

K – Knowledge

L –Laddership

E – Example

The Traits of a Great Leader

I agree with 6 of his characteristics but differ on the L – instead of Laddership, I propose that L stands for Liberal. I will explain these factors of leadership and explain why I think Laddership needs to become Liberal. 

Self-discipline means that a leader needs to live by a set of principals’ that he determines are appropriate for him and acceptable to his followers. A leader does not need extrinsic or outside motivation. Leaders are intrinsically driven – they have their own set of values which they live by. 

Purpose means that a leader develops intense determination to achieve his vision and objectives. Real purpose and intense determination are contagious and filters down to followers. Leaders use the magnetism of personal determination to accomplish goals. 

Accomplishment – It is irresponsible to ask others to aspire to something that you are not able to achieve. A leader defines results and guides his followers with the most effective actions to achieve those results. A leader infuses the journey with simplicity, balance and understanding.

Responsibility means that leaders accept the duty and obligation that arise from the trust and power that others give them. The most critical leadership obligations are clear perception, determined action and absolute concern for ones followers. 

When you take the responsibility to lead – you forfeit the right to say – “but I am only human.” Because to be a great leader – more is expected of you.  You need to know when to ask for help and when to step down.  A strong leader owns up to his decisions and actions and takes full responsibility for their consequences. He or she does not back down when the going gets tough – they act appropriately.

Knowledge – is the foundation for leadership. It is irresponsible to lead others in a direction that you are not clear in. Knowledge has three aspects. 

Fundamental knowledge – deals with understanding the science, history and human nature pertaining to your field. 

Strategic knowledge – concerns understanding the needs and goals of followers and competitors and having the ability to create effective tactics to reach objectives.

Tactical knowledge – with experience the leader develops the foresight to uncover evolving threats and opportunities and is able to respond swiftly and appropriately.

Laddership versus Liberal – Laddership means that a leader understands the social and moral contract between leader and follower. The leader is dependent on the follower for power and the follower is dependent on the leader for guidance. Hence, they have to co-operate, for each to obtain their need. 

Liberal is an English word that comes from the Latin word liberalis – which means ‘free (man)’. The original sense of liberal was that it pertained to all that was ‘suitable for a free man’. Hence from a liberal sense – the leader and follower both understand the social and moral relationship between their roles – and freely enter into it. This relationship is no longer based on contract, dependency or need – but on understanding, common goals and mutual respect.

Example – means that the leaders actions become a model for his followers. Hence leaders have to practice what they preach. This also suggests that the leaders character needs to be favourable to the followers. The leader’s standards become the benchmark and the followers become flag-bearers. And by imitating and achieving this bench mark – each of the followers gains the ability to lead. Hence genuine leadership is a cyclical process – that creates new leaders. Any person that wants to hold on to power indefinitely – does not have the genuine ability to lead. 

Find Your SPARKLE – Develop into the Leader You were Meant To Be.

S – Self Discipline

P – Purpose

A – Accomplishment

R – Responsibility

K – Knowledge

L – Liberal

E – Example

Dr Nitasha Buldeo is an Integrated Medical Practitioner, Entrepreneur, Scientist and Yogi. She created  I-Yoga & Organic Apoteke and is Director of the Centre for Exceptional Human Performance. She researches human potential and delivers programs that encourage you to live exceptionally. Nitasha believes that every one of us is striving to be the best we can. Her passion is bringing you experiences that inspire you. Her intention is for you to unlock your genius.

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Yoga & Meditation – Is there a difference?

Many international yoga journals have claimed that you don’t need to meditate in order to practice Hatha Yoga. Nor is the practice of Hatha Yoga mandatory in order to meditate. They claim that the two practices support each other but are mutually exclusive. Yet this idea goes fundamentally against what Yoga is.

What is Yoga?

Yoga comes from the root word Yug which means “to join”. The philosophy of yoga is simple: mind, body and bio-energy are all one and cannot be separated. The purpose of yoga is to strengthen your awareness of this unity.

The gift of Yoga is that awareness of this unity of mind, body and energy, enables you to act effectively, purposefully yet effortlessly.

The practice of yoga enables mind and body to work as one unit that is continuously aware of and responding to the surrounding environment. Yoga is a combination of asana (posture), pranayama (breath and energy flow) and dhyana (concentration or meditation). Yoga is therefore meditation.

What Is Meditation?

Meditation is mind training. To reiterate, the yoga tradition is designed to reveal the interconnectedness of every living thing. This fundamental unity is referred to as advaita or oneness. Meditation is the actual experience of this union.

What do Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras’ tell us about Yoga & Meditation?

Patanjali in his second verse of the first chapter states that yoga (or union) happens when the mind becomes quiet. He goes on to say that this mental stillness is created by bringing the body, mind, and senses into balance. Note here – Patanjali claims that yoga only happens when the mind is still. Yoga only happens when the meditation is present. In fact this idea is inherent in the entire corpus of Yoga literature.

You are NOT practicing Yoga if there is No Meditation.

Yoga only happens when the awareness of body and breath leads to mindful stillness.

I-Yoga and I-MediTate classes use the scientific study off interoceptive awareness to enable you to experience the meditative state of yoga quickly and effectively. The classes also introduce you to a variety of different meditation techniques so you may discover the one that works best for you. 

View Our Upcoming Classes and Workshops.

Dr Nitasha Buldeo is an Integrated Medical Practitioner, Entrepreneur, Scientist and Yogi. She created  I-Yoga & Organic Apoteke and is Director of the Centre for Exceptional Human Performance. She researches human potential and delivers programs that encourage you to live exceptionally. Nitasha believes that every one of us is striving to be the best we can. Her passion is bringing you experiences that inspire you. Her intention is for you to unlock your genius.

What is Meditation?

Meditation is mind training. Just as physical exercise is used to train the body – Meditation is used to train the mind.

Why do we Need to Train the Mind?

Our sense organs – ears, eyes, nose, mouth and skin enable us to take in environmental signals. Basically these organs take in everything that is happening around us. Their main purpose is to enable survival – that is – if we see something that looks like a snake, or sniff a hint of a toxic substance – we are able to almost automatically remove ourselves from danger. This happens because that information taken in by our sense organs very quickly passes to spinal cord – resulting in reflex actions – or the higher centres in the brain – resulting in unconscious memory formation or conscious thought. However in our current modern environments we are bombarded with so much sensory information – that still causes reflex actions, unconscious memory formation or conscious thoughts – but not all this stimuli is relevant. And our bodies waste a lot of valuable bio-energy processing and responding to irrelevant stimuli. Hence we have to train our minds to discern what’s relevant and what’s not.

What is a Discerning Mind?

A discerning mind is able to choose what to focus on. It is able to decide which is the most relevant information to act on. And as a mind becomes more discerning – one is able to act with intention and purpose. Hence goals are easier to achieve because the distracting background noise can be shut off. And that’s the heart of meditation – the ability to shut off the distractions.

How the Mind Works?

To enable survival, all the incoming information from the sense organs are reviewed by the mind to enable response – we call this vigilance. You may think of it as environmental scanning for threatening signals. And when a potential threat is found – it initiates one of two responses – flight or fight. Do we run away and save ourselves from the danger or do we stay and defend our territory? From a physiological point of view – the body readies itself to enable either process. Heart rate goes up, respiratory rate goes up – both to ensure the supply of oxygenated blood to enable skeletal muscles to respond. Also, blood is diverted from internal organs to the extremities – muscles of legs, arms or face – this makes thinking difficult. Now – this was a very useful biological function in the Sahara or if you need to escape a few thugs – however in the modern world our bodies respond to unvalidated triggers in a similar manner. We can feel threatened when we see friends pictures on social media – “they are having fun without us”, “they are having more fun than us”, “they are getting ahead in life and I am not”. These are the thoughts that arise when we feel the symptoms of threat – increased heart rate, rapid breath and inability to think clearly. Now if we could stop ourselves before over-reacting to the above situation – we can free up a lot of emotion and mental space to do the things we want. And this is where mind training or meditation helps.

How Meditation Works?

To understand how meditation works we need to understand the concept of attention. Attention means to attend to or become aware of something. Attention may be divided into two aspects – expanded or focused. Expanded attention is similar to vigilance described above – the only difference is that with expanded attention one is never overwhelmed by the information coming in – but able to use it to stimulate creativity. Many scientists use this technique to gather information that is yet unknown. Focused attention is the ability to focus the mind on a single object. The ability to do this enables you to steady your flow of thoughts. This ability can break a repetitive and destructive thought patterns.

As you develop your ability to focus on an object for longer periods of time – you improve your ability to concentrate. And improved concentration enables you to really understand the world around you and improve decision making processes that leads to more successful, intentional or purposeful actions.

Meditation helps train the mind to become aware, to focus or expand attention at will and to concentrate on an object or thought until it enlightens you. Enlightenment here means complete understanding.

Meditation and Yoga

There are 8 Limbs or steps to Yoga according to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra’s – a classical text on Yoga. The first 4 steps pertain to social and physical training while the second 4 focus on inner or mind training.

  • Limb 1 & 2- Yama and Niyama are about maintaining social structures conducive to human development.
  • Limb 3 , Asana turns to the individual – namely improving physically body, so he may maintain good health.
  • Limb 4, Pranayama develops on Asana and teaches the individual how to use his body, which is a bio-chemical energy system, to achieve optimal performance. Use prana correctly one is able to maintain and sustain their physical and mental output. From the fifth limb onwards – Yoga is about Meditation or Mind training.
  • Limb 5 – Pratyahara teaches you how to direct your attention from outside to within. The ability to pay attention to your inner body state is called interoception. While Yoga uses movement and breath to enable you to unconsciously improve interoceptive ability, Mindfulness Mediation uses instructions to direct awareness to body parts.
  • Limb 6 – Dharana teaches you how to focus your mind on a single object – be it breath, a flame or an object of interest. Once you can focus your mind, you are able to shut off distractions.
  • Limb 7 – Dhyana is concentration. Once you are able to focus for longer periods of time, you develop concentration. With the ability to concentrate – you are able to engage fully in any task with greater accuracy.
  • Limb 8 – Samadhi – is seen as the gift of Yoga practice. For once you are able to fully concentrate, you are able to experience the full joy of every moment. You gain the ability to make every moment blissful, to overcome pain and to act appropriately in all circumstances.

Types of Meditation

Vigyan Bhairava Tantra a chapter from an ancient Indian text describes 112 different methods of meditation. These methods include breath awareness, body awareness, mindful awareness, non-dual awarenessmantra chanting, concentration on body parts, visualisation and contemplation. Many different meditation techniques have existed for millennia.

Which is the Best Meditation Technique?

The Vigyan Bhairava Tantra states – no technique is necessarily better than the other. Successfully practicing any one of the 112 techniques will train the mind. However the prerequisite to success is a clear understanding of which method is most suitable to each practitioner.

How do I find a Meditation Technique that Works for Me?

Try a meditation or yoga class – if it does not feel right, try something else. When you find the correct meditation technique – you will know. It just feels right. Traditional Meditation Teachers are trained to assess students personality types to determine the technique most suitable to them. Ensure that your teacher is appropriately trained. Meditation works deep and has to ability to heal – that may mean releasing painful emotions physically and mentally – Ensure that your teacher has the experience and training to assist you through the various stages of mediation.

I-Yoga and I-MediTate classes introduce you to a variety of different meditation techniques so you may discover the one that works best for you.

View Our Upcoming Classes and Workshops.

Dr Nitasha Buldeo is an Integrated Medical Practitioner, Research Scientist and Yogi. She founded  I-Yoga & Organic Apoteke and is Director of the Centre for Exceptional Human Performance. She researches human potential and delivers programs that encourage you to live exceptionally. Nitasha believes that every one of us is striving to do the best we can. Her passion is creating educational and experiential programs. Her intention is to enable you to unlock your personal genius.

“What’s Depression?”, asked Joy

This constant chatter about depression is destined to make us all depressed. Don’t get me wrong – I am not underplaying human emotion or how catastrophic this state can be. All I am saying is – “Have you considered how the depression memes plaguing social media are affecting your physiological state?”

What is Depression?

According to Medical and Psychological websites – depression, otherwise known as major depressive disorder or clinical depression, is a common and serious mood disorder. Those who suffer from depression experience persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness and lose interest in activities they once enjoyed. Aside from the emotional problems caused by depression, individuals can also present with a physical symptom such as chronic pain or digestive issues. To be diagnosed with depression, symptoms must be present for at least two weeks.

Depression DSM-5 Diagnostic Criteria

The DSM-5 (manual that lists criteria for Mental Health Diagnosis) outlines the following criterion to make a diagnosis of depression. The individual must be experiencing five or more symptoms during the same 2-week period and at least one of the symptoms should be either (1) depressed mood or (2) loss of interest or pleasure.

1. Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day.
2. Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day.
3. Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day.
4. A slowing down of thought and a reduction of physical movement (observable by others, not merely subjective feelings of restlessness or being slowed down).
5. Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.
6. Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day.
7. Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day.
8. Recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.

To receive a diagnosis of depression, these symptoms must cause the individual clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. The symptoms must also not be a result of substance abuse or another medical condition.

Out With “Mental Health Issues”

While acknowledging and discussing human emotions, feelings and mental states is vitally important. Do we have to label them “Mental Health Issues’?

Instead of talking about mental health issues – however serious they are – I think we need to reframe. We need to talk about states of being. We all experience different moods, and this affects our awareness and how we act in the world. But these states are not necessarily pathological.

We have all experienced different moods. Sometimes we’re up and sometimes we’re down and sometimes we’re in the middle shaking it all around.

In With “Joyful States of Being”

So I propose. Instead of focusing on depression – let us focus on ways to find joy. I am not taking about that superficial “I’m happy, You’re happy – Lets’ pretend the worlds a wonderful place” holiday images that we post on social media. I am urging those who are able to – to make an effort to find the things that make you truly joyful. And once you find that JOY – share it with those who need it. Inspire others to find their JOY.

Unfortunately DSM or medical textbooks do not define JOY. According to the online dictionary Joy is “a feeling of great pleasure and happiness”. But that’s not entirely true.

Although I am not religious – I love Jack Wellman’s description in “What is the Biblical Definition of Joy?”

Joy isn’t like happiness which is based upon happenings or whether things are going well or not. No, joy remains even amidst the suffering. Joy is not happiness. Joy is an emotion that’s acquired by the anticipation, acquisition or even the expectation of something great or wonderful. It could be described as exhilaration, delight, sheer gladness….

So I urge you…Find your JOY, and share it in Joyful memes!

Don’t ‘cut and paste’ or ‘copy and share’ – Create Your Own.

JOY

Dr Nitasha Buldeo is an Integrated Medical Practitioner, Entrepreneur, Scientist and Yogi. She created  I-Yoga & Organic Apoteke and is Director of the Centre for Exceptional Human Performance. She researches human potential and delivers programs that encourage you to live exceptionally. Nitasha believes that every one of us is striving to be the best we can. Her passion is bringing you experiences that inspire you. Her intention is for you to unlock your genius.

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Yogic Significance of the Equinox

On March 20-21, 2019 we experience an Equinox. On the days of the equinox – one in March and another in September – the sun is in perfect alignment with the equator. That means the sun’s influences upon the earth is in equilibrium. For living beings, this day is significant – for if we can align to this planetary equilibrium – it becomes easier to bring balance within our bodies.

Sun and Moon, light and dark, masculine and feminine are the dualities that pervade our thoughts – the equinox is a period most suitable for transcending this duality.

From an Indian psycho–spiritual tradition, the equinox is seen as the day when Shiva – the transformative energy of the universe – is personified as Ardhanari. Shiva is depicted as half woman and half man, because everything is in balance during an equinox.

Yoga and The Equinox

In the yogic tradition, the equinox is the period when one has the highest possibility of transcending limitations – both mental and physical.

This is the day when the two fundamental forces within each of us- the sympathetic and parasympathetic physiological functions are are able to achieve harmony – homeostasis. These forces are referred to in Yogic texts as – Ida and Pingala or Shiva and Shakti. Due to the electromagnetic currents on the earth during the equinox – our bodies are able to easily achieve harmony and strength if we are able to connect to the earth. Recent research reported by the Guardian shows that humans are able to perceive the magnetic north pole and almost intuitively navigate their way around the planet. Some are better able at using this skill than others. But it can be learned.

Yogic Practices to Achieve Balance During the Equinox

Practice 108 Sun Salutations or Surya Namaskar sequences during the Equinox sunrise. This helps strengthen one mentally and physically, while the heat generated during this practice is thought to burn away limiting thoughts and beliefs. I shall be live streaming our 108 Sun Saluations on Thursday 21 March 2019. Please do join us on our live event between 6-7am, UK time on March 21, 2019.

A Detox Program or Spring Clean is also initiated on this day. This cleanse may last 7 – 21 days depending on your bodies needs. It is ideal to consult with an Ayurvedic Practitioner or suitably trained person to develop a diet plan most suitable for you.

For more information on Ayurveda Detox – click here.

Dr Nitasha Buldeo is an Integrated Medical Practitioner, Entrepreneur, Scientist and Yogi. She created  I-Yoga & Organic Apoteke and is Director of the Centre for Exceptional Human Performance. She researches human potential and delivers programs that encourage you to live exceptionally. Nitasha believes that every one of us is striving to be the best we can. Her passion is bringing you experiences that inspire you. Her intention is for you to unlock your genius.

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