Meditation and mindfulness: what you need to know

Meditation and mindfulness: what you need to know 

‘Meditation’ and ‘mindfulness’ are now accepted mainstream terms and are backed by a large body of research into the physical, mental and emotional benefits they offer. In much of the commentary, these two terms are used interchangeably. 

Confusion around the terminology and unclear context sees a lot of people swerve around the exploration of meditation and mindfulness entirely. In doing so, they are denying themselves the cultivation of powerful natural techniques to heal and live an empowered life. 

So, here’s the low-down on meditation and mindfulness for those starting-up their meditation practice.

What is meditation and what is mindfulness?

Simply put, meditation is an enabler for transformation. 

It is largely understood to be a way to find the still eye at the centre of the hurricane of modern life, moving us from a reactive to responsive engagement with life, into mindful living. This, in itself, is a worthy shift, yet the practice of meditation takes us well beyond it. 

Corporations are introducing meditation and mindfulness programs into their employee wellbeing menus. Schools are offering meditation as an extracurricular activity and home group teachers are bringing short practices into the classroom as part of their positive education initiatives. Meditation centres are popping up in neighbourhoods and yoga centres and religious centres are starting to emphasize their approaches to meditation more overtly and a myriad of wonderful, clever apps have flooded the Internet space.

On the big stage too, we are seeing celebrities, business leaders, opinion formers and politicians all coming out as avid meditators as if it’s the latest solution to emerge on the wellbeing scene. Despite many of us quietly meditating for years, and ancient spiritual frameworks offering deep, profound wisdom in the art of meditation for thousands and thousands of years, you could say that the ‘old school’ has well and truly become the ‘new cool’. 

Yet, despite the buzz and the daily posts on social media sites, there remains a lot of misconception around what meditation actually is, and why to engage. Like any popularised practice, sometimes the smarts behind the actions fall away and while many take up the practice, the deeper understanding of it is lost. Yoga would be a good case in point. Many students are surprised to learn that the original purpose of yoga asana is to prepare the body and mind for meditation and inner work. The fact that regular practice gives you long lean limbs, core strength and a tight yoga butt, is a happy side effect of aligning the energetic systems of the body.

The approach to meditation is the same. Many come to it to relieve stress or improve sleep, for example, which of course it does and relatively quickly with regular practice. But, settling the central nervous system is simply the first turn of the key to unlocking the gateway to empowered living. Once you are able to settle the nervous system and alter brainwave patterning at will, you can enter this inner space, consciously and really get to work. 

How do meditation and mindfulness improve our lives?

I find it fascinating that the more we meditate, the more our system changes to enable deeper and better meditation. It’s a natural virtuous cycle that evidences the fact that we are designed to meditate and live creatively through our inner aspect. With regular meditation, we change our default perspective for viewing life. We start to observe ourselves and we start to see the cause and effect of our thoughts, feelings and actions. We start to see the thought and emotional patterns we are bound to and we’re able to observe our reactions to these patterns in our bodies and sense of wellbeing. 

This observational state is mindfulness.

For new-comers to meditation, it can be quite an awakening. Very often I see people in my courses come to the shocking realisation of how stressed they have become, of how less vital and sensual they feel and how they have lost their sense of intuition, their inner knowing. The pace of our modern lives requires a mechanical approach to keep up, especially if we’re running a family, home, career, or have children or a partner to support. And when we are in this mode, we become reactive to our outside world and a slave to time. We miss the present moment and we are always shocked at how quickly life is flying past us. 

What is mindfulness meditation and how does it help?

Within the thousands of meditation approaches that exist, there are some that are called ‘Mindfulness Meditations’, where the point of focus of the meditation practice is simply to observe. However, all meditation practices lead to a mindful state. 

If we continue to nourish this ability to witness ourselves and our lives through regular meditation, we shift from reactive to responsive, and with this shift comes a marked fall in adrenaline and cortisol hormones in the bloodstream. This vastly improves cognitive function. Parts of the brain actually rebuild physically. Our cells regenerate, our body chemistry changes, we sleep better, we dream and we start to feel great. This positivity and calm improves relationships and exchanges, and we feel a connectedness with our life field, and more importantly, with ourselves.

A broader field of choice opens up for us. We have the inner space, clarity and wellness to choose the person we want to be, and how we respond to life and others. We become expansive. 

We start to read situations better. We start to feel spontaneous gratitude, kindness, generosity, and love. These beautiful higher feelings are harmonising, soothing, restorative and blissful and they gently change our behaviours. 

We give of ourselves more. We smile more. We want the best for others and we try to help them. We forgive more and jettison past hurts, regrets and resentments. We choose our friends differently. We choose to expose ourselves to life-supporting, positive content. This beautiful shift into expansiveness is where we heal and where we start to connect much more palpably with the energetic nature of the self and life. We become creative. 

What happens when we start to meditate and establish mindfulness?

At the outset, for the new meditator, the practice is essentially mind-training, to gain mastery over thought and the system’s responses to thought-patterns. It is about reclaiming ‘present awareness’.

In this context, ‘to meditate’ is to consciously draw in the dissipated mind, calm the mind/body system and dwell in a state of clear, alert awareness, at will. It combines posture, the focus on breath, and a single point of focus for the mind. Every time we catch our mind wandering and bring it back to the point of focus for the practice, we exercise the prefrontal cortex which is responsible for our ability to concentrate the mind on the present. Yes, meditation enables the ability to meditate! 

There are literally thousands of different ways to meditate and beautiful meditation practices from every culture and spiritual modality. Yet, essentially at the outset, they are all about the same thing – using various techniques and points of focus to train the mind into present awareness. 

It’s exactly like getting fit or learning a new skill. It requires dedication to familiarise yourself with the art. You can’t decide to start playing the guitar one day, and then give it up because you’re not able to unleash Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven immediately. It’s similar when we train our bodies. A little exercise every day, very quickly cultivates a new stronger level of fitness and endurance.

Meditation works exactly the same way.

Neuroscience confirms that a daily practice of at least ten minutes every day will establish the neural pathways and associations in the mind, to help master the move into present awareness. The more we dwell in present awareness, the more it establishes as our operating state. We start to live mindfully. A pause point is established between our interface with life experience and how we choose to respond. 

Mindfulness is the ability to experience day-to-day life from this viewpoint. It helps us recognize our habitual emotional and physiological reactions to day to day events. 

Just like learning a new skill or getting fit, meditation requires a dedicated choice to do it, a push to practice. And after teaching meditation to thousands of people over the years, I can absolutely confirm that within a very short time, that ‘push’ flips to a very strong ‘pull’. Your system recognises the innate benefit of the practice. Your body starts to heal from the damage of reactive stress triggers. Meditation pulls you towards it. And there are also some wonderful meditation practices that specifically circuit-break reactive stress responses as you embark on this transition to mindful living. These are explored in the current online Introduction to Meditation Course – Return, now open, with nine beautiful guided meditation tracks to support you.

If you wish to learn more about meditation and mindfulness or have any questions, do get in touch. You can also visit our website to explore courses and useful content to guide you along your journey to healing, self-discovery and mindful living. 

If you enjoyed this post and would like to share it, I request that you please credit Danielle Van de Velde as the author. I do not authorise repurposing or republishing without my written permission. You may email me for the same.

Reiki and Intiutive Healing Danielle Van de Velde

The role of Reiki in Intuitive Healing

The role of Reiki in Intuitive Healing

Singapore is a fantastic city for meditation teachers and energy healers. In some aspects, the country is strongly regulated and conservative, which we all practically benefit from every single day – like clean, modern, precision public transport, hospitals and public spaces, super low crime rates and super high safety for example. Yet at the same time, it has an innovative and very progressive vibe in education and organisational cultures. Especially when it comes to wellness initiatives and, in particular, the acceptance of meditation training and energy healing modalities.

Perhaps it is because the collective understanding of meditation, natural medicine and healing has many of its ancient roots in Eastern frameworks. This knowledge, held over time, manifests in modern culture as acceptance and ease with inner practice and spiritual approaches like Reiki, intuitive guidance, naturopathy, traditional medicine, and meditation. And it’s growing. I have seen a marked increase, over the last few years, in interest and engagements with schools, organisations and industry bodies on the topics of meditation and healing.

Amongst my private client base are established psychologists, chronic pain specialists, international coaches, nutritionists, naturopaths, therapists and other energy healers. And many more of my students are referred by practitioners such as these. There is a much easier relationship here between science-based and spiritual/energetic healing systems, which is the zone that I love and that I am constantly fascinated by.

One group that is increasingly seeking regular Reiki is the savvy city-based executive. This is becoming a serious client group for me and I can definitely say that more and more successful people are adopting energy modalities like Reiki as integral aspects of their self-care – alongside their fitness, diet and mental wellbeing activities. During the months of isolation in Singapore, the client group that grew the most for remote sessions were home-based executives. 

The increased screen time, minimised movement, uncertain business outlook and changed team, leadership, and communication dynamics, are having a marked effect on people’s mental clarity, vitality and sense of direction. 

Reiki and Intiutive Healing Danielle Van de Velde

What I teach and offer in private sessions is a combination of Usui Reiki treatment and Intuitive Guidance. The combination of the two is key to sustained healing and expansion. 

In energy healing frameworks, when we experience physical illness or dissonance/blockage in our mental, emotional or energetic fields, it is our system messaging the requirement to change perspectives and take action to allow a movement into wholeness.

Sometimes we perceive this messaging internally or in the body, and other times we perceive it within our external reality as a repeated negative pattern in relationships, situations and events. Once the messaging has been received and the inner shift created, then the illness or dissonance is no longer required and the system realigns into wellness.

A major aspect of my work involves helping individuals read this messaging and expand their perspective to allow healing to occur. 

Reiki immediately alleviates the feelings of this dissonance or ‘messaging’, whether it presents in pain, anxiety, low mood, low vitality, etc. The intuitive guidance and suggested expanded perspectives, meditations, energy practice and rituals that come with the intuitive guidance and support materials, help generate a sustained shift internally, so the healing occurs fully. 

Over the years, I am more and more infrequently asked the question ‘what is Reiki?’. However, I find that some people still don’t have a clear understanding of what Reiki is, and how it works.

So, what is Reiki? 

In an unregulated industry flooded with semantics and varying understanding of the modality, this is how I explain it to clients. Reiki is a way to channel Vital Life Force into the system. It is lifeward, harmonising and works across all aspects of the physical, mental, emotional and energetic, depending on the area of greatest need in the client.

Reiki induces an immediate feeling of calm and relaxation. It is incredibly effective in easing mental tension, anxiety, insomnia, fatigue and stress, which manifests as bodily pain and tummy upsets (to name a few common complaints). 

Studies show a slowing and lengthening of brainwaves during a Reiki session, similar to the shift in brainwave activity in deep meditative states. This shift is felt and kicks-in almost immediately or within a few minutes of the session starting. In other words, Reiki plunges awareness into ‘the deep now’. The breath deepens and lengthens and clients will often spontaneously sigh and then their bodies soften and release.

They will often report that the feeling is like slipping into an ‘in between’ skimming state; a calm stillness between being awake and aware, yet so relaxed and at ease that they can’t or don’t want to move or overthink. Clients who are under the ‘pressure pump’ or experiencing a high-stress patch at work, will rapidly fall into a very deep sleep. I always suggest not to fight this, if this is the body’s response. A Reiki-induced nap is one of the most replenishing mini-naps available. It is widely accepted in Reiki schools that a one-hour Reiki session has the equivalent regenerative effects of a three-hour sleep. While I’m uncertain how this statistic is measured, I can certainly see effects that would validate it.

Reiki creates a dissipation of skittish thinking, an increase in mental clarity, and a circuit-breaker to stress and anxiety patterns. The system becomes better oxygenated and the brain shifts into coherence which allows both the logical and creative functions to work together. Often, solutions to problems or new approaches and ideas come to mind immediately after the session or within the following day or so.

Reiki and Intiutive Healing Danielle Van de Velde

Reiki also plays into relationships and interpersonal interactions in the office or home. A raised, feel-good vibe has a knock-on effect on those around you. Communication is improved and intuition is able to play a greater role in team, leadership and relational dynamics. 

Here are some of the common questions I am asked by people new to my sessions:

How long is an ideal session?

An ideal session of pure Reiki is around 60 minutes. There are traditionally 12 centres of the body that the practitioner will ‘treat’ and more seasoned practitioners may have developed others. Ideally, the treatment should be 5-10 minutes on each centre.  However, to suit a tight timeframe, 45 minutes provides a beautiful session, deep relaxation and replenishment, especially if the Reiki practitioner has a honed sense for which centres are drawing a greater flow.

Will I feel anything?

The experience of Reiki is different every session for everyone and varies widely amongst practitioners too. However, the straight answer is yes! This is an energy healing modality that interacts with the energy system of your mind/body/energy complex. You feel it and it is equally perceivable in distance or in-person sessions.

For my clients, Reiki is a palpable energy flow that is felt physically, mentally and emotionally. It is experienced in temperature and high heat, and it can feel cold between centres, especially if inflammation is present. Often, people will feel a subtle zipping electrical current that presents in different parts of the body, especially if there is a physical injury, tension or condition. If tension or low-vibe emotion has been held in the system for some time, the client’s body will sometimes spontaneously softly quiver or jerk in limbs, hands and feet and then settle. More visually-oriented people will perceive colours, visual patterns and movement in their inner vision.

Will I be spaced-out afterwards?

As Reiki alters the state of consciousness during the session, it is important to ground yourself before stepping back into day-to-day activities or the workplace. Clients usually feel invigorated and light after the session and will always feel an immediate lifting of mood and a release of pent-up emotions and thoughts. Sometimes, a large, long-held pattern emerges as the cause of the ‘messaging’ experienced by the client, like trauma, for example. Then, the client can feel the need to fold-in and rest and nourish their system for a day or so following the session. I always provide support materials and suggestions to do this. 

A good Reiki practitioner will close the session with the appropriate practices to ground and seal the client’s energy body. I always advise my clients to drink a lot of water for the rest of the day and eat something light, like nuts or a piece of fruit to activate the digestive tract and come fully back into their day. Reiki does stay within the system for one to two days after the session and people may be extra sensitive to stimulants and alcohol during that time.

Will you be intuitively reading me as well?

In my training and approach and the courses that I teach in Intuitive Healing, which includes traditional Usui Reiki training, permission to intuitively read another person’s energy system, is paramount. The client’s permission is key in allowing the intuitive reader access to the deeper intelligence of their system and to be open to what is revealed. And certainly, in my framework, intuitive reading is a sacred privilege and breaching that privilege by operating without someone’s permission is unethical. It does the whole industry a massive disservice and can only be self-serving. It also results energetically in the intuitive reader losing their ability to intuitively read.

I do have regular clients who book-in for just the energy component of the Reiki treatment, and this is all that I provide. However, the majority of my clients use the sessions for the combined effect of the energy flow and guidance. 

There are some instances, when I am giving Reiki without the read, when a flash of information will come through regarding the client when they haven’t asked for it. If it feels very important to relay I will simply offer what I have received. If it feels like a ‘random tune-in’, I will let it go and refocus on the flow of energy alone.

How often should I have Reiki?

You can’t overdose on Reiki! I think the best approach is to take a session or two from a practitioner who has been recommended to you, and just observe how it makes you feel and how long the effects last afterwards. Did it create any permanent shifts? Are there signals you can identify when your system could do with some Reiki?

I have clients that book-in weekly or monthly, and others, whenever they feel like a boost generally or to help them deal with a certain situation or symptom.

We live in a fantastic age where we can access such a wide array of wisdom and techniques to maximise our health and inner journey. Reiki is a beautiful, proven and effective approach to healing and the only way to fully understand its lifeward benefits and power, is to actually experience it. 

If you want to know more about the healing practice of Reiki, book a private session with me. If you’re a practitioner and would like to deepen your energy healing art with Reiki and Intuitive Reads, register for my Intuitive Healing Course.

If you have any questions about Reiki and Intuitive Healing, do get in touch. You can also visit my website to explore courses and useful content to guide you along your journey to healing, self-discovery and mindful living. 

If you enjoyed this post and would like to share it, I request that you please credit Danielle Van de Velde as the author. I do not authorise repurposing or republishing without my written permission. You may email me for the same.

Meditation and Emotions - Danielle Van de Velde

5 ways meditation can help ease emotional stress

5 ways meditation can help ease emotional stress

I find shopping at the supermarket pretty unpleasant at the best of times. All that choice, over-packaging, noise and brutal lighting just doesn’t appeal. When it comes to buying groceries, I’m a stealth shopper. Shopping list. Target aisles. In. Out. Done.

Now with COVID containment measures in place, which in Singapore involves ‘Safe Entry’ protocols of temperature scanning, QR code scanning to register entry and exit in malls and supermarkets and social distancing in aisles and check-out queues, my days of being a stealth shopper have come to an excruciatingly slow and masked halt. It is absolutely impossible to execute a quick shop and you do not want to be in a rush or running late for another appointment. 

When the world was just starting to wake up to the prospect of a pandemic a few months ago, supermarkets around the world became the scenes of some pretty ugly displays of toilet paper wars, trolley raiding, and expressions of fear and aggression. 

Stress is an interesting thing. While it is a necessary response of the system to deal with heightened events, threats, and complications, our system is not designed to cope with high-stress for prolonged periods of time. We’re all familiar with the more obvious signs when our system is in a prolonged state of ‘high vigilance’. Our immune function falters. Our sleep is disturbed. Our digestive system can get knocked out of proper function. Some of us see it in skin irritations, break-outs or dandruff. Libido can take a dive along with mental clarity. Our bodies reliably signal the state and call for attention.

Prolonged stress also signals through our emotional state and this can be far more subtle and so subjective that we may not be aware of it, until, for example, we have a tense encounter during a pandemic, in a supermarket!

This is exactly what happened with me a couple of months ago, with possibly the most exquisitely dressed, emotionally stressed woman I have ever encountered. 

I had been out riding my bike to get a break from the screen and a full day of writing. On the way home, I decided to pop into the supermarket for some fruit and snacks for my constantly ravenous teenagers. Thankfully, I found what I wanted and proceeded to stand on the line of red tape on the floor to mark the safe distance from the person in front of me, in the check-out queue.

Only two check-outs were open and there were clear straight lines of places to stand. When the person in front of me stepped forward to approach the counter, from the aisle next to me, a woman emerged, infuriated with me. Her jaw was tight. A vein bulged in her neck. Her voice was very strained and through gritted teeth, she snarled at me, “It is NOT your turn…!”

The amount of anger emanating from her was palpable. I could almost feel the electricity cracking and whipping in the air between us….and I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about.

“Excuse me, I don’t understand,” I said, stepping back because, by the look on her face, I thought she might throw a jar of something at me. 

“I was waiting here first. I was waiting here. I saw you walk past and into this queue. How dare you….”

Again I was very confused. I looked at the red tape marks on the ground and the straight line to the check-out from where I stood. Then I stepped around the aisle and looked at where she must have been standing. It was clear she had been queuing in a line to a closed check-out. 

Her breath was very shallow. She had beads of perspiration on her forehead and she was seething. I dropped my voice and slowed my speech. I could see she wasn’t in a good place, and told her that it looked like she was queuing towards a closed check-out. She turned and looked at where she’d been standing, blushed slightly, and then turned to me and very deliberately looked me up and down from my head to toes and back. She seemed to feel highly insulted by this observation and clearly felt that I had deliberately taken her spot. She felt personally attacked by my actions. 

I wasn’t in a rush and told her that she was very welcome to go next in line to the open check-out. Again she felt she needed to defend her position and be right. She again very angrily made the point that it was rightfully her turn, but with a flourish of her hand and slightly high-pitched voice she declined the offer and rolled her eyes. I insisted. She threw back her head, dismissed me and walked briskly to the check-out. 

Meditation and Emotions - Danielle Van de Velde

And in a beautiful twist, the check-out that this lady was queuing for then opened and a sweet teenage girl who had been standing behind the lady and had observed the whole exchange, popped her head out from the aisle and said with a smile, ‘You go. We can alternate!’ Both the teenager and I were out of the shop before the stressed lady…which I’m guessing would not have helped how she felt either.

It’s a small example of prolonged emotional stress that we are seeing play out on the world-stage currently. This interaction held all of the telltale signs of heightened emotional stress:

  • Irritability
  • Feeling anxious 
  • Inability to hold a different view
  • Highly reactive response patterns 
  • Inappropriate anger and projected blame and criticism 
  • Defensive mindset/victim mentality 
  • Feelings of isolation or tendency to draw away through condescension or passive-aggressive responses
  • Inability to lift one’s mood
  • Physical tension and heat

Here are five key ways an established meditation practice helps with emotional stress:

1. The pause-point

The very nature of meditation is a practice of ‘paying attention’. With regular practice, we train the mind back from the reactive interface with life, into present awareness. This creates a pause-point between what we experience and how we choose to respond. 

2. Regulated anger-arousal

Regular meditators are shown to have less stress hormones in their bloodstreams. One of the main reasons for this is the effect meditation has on the brain. Of the five main physical brain re-structuring that regular meditation causes, a notable one is the shrinking of the Amygdala, which is responsible for anger arousal. The plasticity of the brain is fascinating as it constantly reforms to support our operating mode. With pause-points established and the ability to see situations for what they actually are rather than through an emotionally-stressed filter, that ‘shoot from the hip and think later’ function of the brain becomes regulated, and the part of the brain that facilitates it actually physically shrinks. The resultant release of stress hormones into the bloodstream becomes regulated.

3. Holding different perspectives

Another fascinating brain change with regular meditation is the rebuilding of the Left Hippocampus. This is a part of our brain that literally gets eroded by high levels of stress hormones. It is responsible for memory and recall, and I’m sure all of us have experienced an inability to remember the shopping list or recall a name when we are under the pump. Another function of the Left Hippocampus is our ability to shift perspectives and change our mind. During high emotional stress, this ability is essential, whether you are feeling attached to your own viewpoint, or need to summon empathy for someone else’s. 

4. Utilising the breath

The conscious use of breath is key in all meditation. Mindful breathing connects us with the effects of the breath on the system, especially in the immediate calming of high emotional reactivity. Once this awareness of the breath is established, our breathing becomes both a useful marker when we are over-wrought, by flagging as short, shallow and more rapid, and also a useful tool to calm the system and pause, listen and choose a response.

5. Cultivating empathy

Another wonderful effect of regular meditation is a rise in the sense of connectivity with others and life. This is facilitated by another amazing brain-change through regular practice. The frontal-parietal junctures of the brain are where conscious empathy is enabled, which is coupled with a felt emotion in the heart. This part of the brain also strengthens and physically ‘beefs up’ with regular meditation. There are also some beautiful meditations that utilise visualisation and mantra to deliberately cultivate the vibration of compassion in the system. By engaging in meditation in regular sits, these beautiful aspects are cultivated within us and inform how we respond in situations – such as mine described above. 

With the softer, more expanded states that regular meditation brings, we tend to slip more into the felt flow of life too. There’s a right timing and field of opportunities that always surround us. However, it’s something we can miss when we’re bound in the tightness and separation of emotional stress. Just like the extra check-out opening and a sweet teenager appearing, in perfect timing!

If you wish to start mindful breathing and meditation for emotional stress, do get in touch and take our online introduction to meditation course, Return. You can also visit our website to explore courses and useful content to guide you along your journey to healing, self-discovery and mindful living.

If you enjoyed this post and would like to share it, I request that you please credit Danielle Van de Velde as the author. I do not authorise repurposing or republishing without my written permission. You may email me for the same.

The Search for Self Awareness During the Pandemic - Danielle Van de Velde

The search for self-awareness during the pandemic

How the pandemic has fueled the search for the missing piece of self

A new meaning beyond the mind/body awareness

It is a fascinating time in the human story to be alive. It’s also increasingly disconcerting. There’s a quickening afoot, and unless you have been living under a rock in recent years, you can’t deny it. As the world seems to be wobbling with increasing uncertainty, at the same time, there appears to be a mass awakening taking place.

More and more of us are starting to really question this state of modern living. The continued focus and relentless mass content around material gain and accumulation, fame and celebrity, body image, time and ageing, just to name a few, are soul-numbing. And in 2020, the overlay of a global pandemic which has forced us back into our homes, ceased the relentless pace of work and life, and engendered a serious distrust of our governing systems and media content, has increased this desire for meaning even further.  

The Search for Self Awareness During the Pandemic - Danielle Van de Velde

The state of our ‘modern’ world is triggering a deep, unavoidable desire to regain central balance within the hearts of many. Every single day we are being challenged with the questions: Who am I within this current world? What is it that I stand for? What is my purpose within it all? More and more of us are seeking to understand our true nature, our purpose, and to embody that truth. Perhaps most importantly, there’s a growing sense that something is missing, and the search for answers is taking us within.

I am one of these people and I teach and mentor thousands of others like me. The people I work with are strong, clever, successful, and very able. Some have a natural leaning towards the spiritual side of things, others don’t. All of them have a deep instinct that there’s more to themselves and life itself. Many have chosen to reject the structured religion of their childhood yet yearn for spiritual knowledge and expression; many have returned to the religious structures that they know and are engaging with them in new ways. Nearly all the people in my community, more than anything, yearn for spiritual empowerment.

The purpose of my offerings is not necessarily to fix something that’s broken, nor to heal something that’s injured, although the energy sessions, talks, and courses here will sort these requirements out if that’s what is needed. My offerings are for anyone who has the instinct and the desire to make some sense of it all; to find that missing piece in their quest for self-awareness. They are for those who are ready to claim their own natural spirituality.

Inner practice is enjoying an unprecedented resurgence, in particular, practices that keep the centre of command firmly in the hands of the practitioner and not a third party or agent. We are living in a time when we have open access to wisdom, techniques, knowledge, and experience from other teachers, guides, and traditions from all over the planet and from our ancient past. The learning, revelation, and practices are available, all the time, now.

Our ability to observe and measure the invisible processes in the body when we engage in inner practice, and the explorations into quantum mechanics are getting sharper and deeper. In the mind/body arena, science and inner practice are starting to tango in delicious ways and the mind/body connection is now measurable and largely understood.

What is the Spirit?

The Search for Self Awareness During the Pandemic - Danielle Van de Velde

There is, however, a third aspect to the human being and life that cannot be measured or formulated. Because of this, it remains by and large on the fringes of mainstream scientific exploration. It is our core sovereign state, our nucleus. It is our Spirit.

When we access and embody Spirit, we tap the causal aspect that determines what we are experiencing on the outside, out there, in our bodies, our lives, our relationships, our families, our jobs, our experienced reality. Being Spirited takes us to the place where we can find the revelation and energy patterns to consciously operate within our full energetic form, within that causal aspect. When we operate in this way, we connect our awareness to the field of intelligence and energy within existence, the motherboard of life, and beautifully come to the realisation, and sheer awe, that we are in fact, powerful creators. We are naturally designed for it. It’s how we are supposed to be operating, and it can only be mainlined directly, through awareness.

Until we reclaim this part of us we remain in a state of separation, and in the paradigm that our life experience is somehow ‘outside of us’ or ‘being done to us’.

How do you enter the gates of Spirit?

To do this, we need a new perspective on who and what we really are as human beings and on the nature of life. Also, we need to put our inner practice into an expanded context, beyond simply the wellbeing of mind and body.

Meditation is largely understood to be a way to find the still eye at the centre of the hurricane of modern life, moving us from a reactive to responsive engagement with life, into mindful living. This, in itself, is a wonderful shift but it’s not the end game.

‘Responsive living’ continues to ‘respond’ to ourselves and life as separate, rather than consciously creating it within one unified field of information, intelligence and energy.  Meditation can take us much further than the mind/body arena. It can take us directly into our spiritual centre if we know the way. With expanded perspectives, a certain inner metamorphosis is enabled – from reactive to responsive, continuing into expansive and then creative. As we move through these stages we become physically healthier, mentally sharper and emotionally happier. The experience of life itself becomes synchronistic, fluid and magical. It’s like this anyway, it’s just that we change the way we connect with it and start to work with it, consciously, intuitively and creatively.

The Search for Self Awareness During the Pandemic - Danielle Van de Velde

Inner work is a living art, that is, the magic is realized in the experience. The goal is to embody it, to live it. The invitation to you now is to take these ideas and practices and make them your own. Our design, our minds, bodies, hearts, and the living universe around us is Spirit. Be playful. Be creative. Be Spirited. And why? Because it’s time.

If you wish to learn more about achieving self-awareness, especially during this ongoing pandemic, or have any questions, do get in touch. You can also visit my website to explore useful content to guide you along your journey to healing, self-discovery and mindful living. I offer courses, private sessions, mentoring, retreats, talks and writings that enable Spirited Living and more.

If you enjoyed this post and would like to share it, I request that you please credit Danielle Van de Velde as the author. I do not authorise repurposing or republishing without my written permission. You may email me for the same.

A return to True Sight and True Breath

A return to True Sight and True Breath

The unexpected blessings of COVID-19 masks

The mythic proportions of COVID-19 across the world and yet, the highly personal changes it has mandated for each and every one of us, is yielding what I believe are some very specific pointers to where we can focus our spiritual enquiry. I talk about this in my blog ‘Ostara’s Crowning’, written when the full scale of the pandemic was yet to be realised. 

With all inner enquiry, the key is to observe what’s happening around us with ‘symbolic sight’, that is, to rise up from the literal and obvious, and observe the thematic and the patterns. In this article I explore an interesting emerging pattern. The requirement to wear masks is pointing us towards two key spiritual and energetic functions of our system that we so easily take for granted – which, however, link us to the wider, more dazzling aspects of our systems.

True Breath

The current happenings in the world have put a real emphasis on the spiritual importance of the breath. COVID-19 attacks the lungs. The entire world is currently masked, reminding us of how much we take free, clear open breaths for granted. And while the world is suspended in the throes of recalibration, and the activities in main industries that contribute to atmospheric pollution have been suspended or slowed, our planet is measurably cleaning her atmosphere. 

In Singapore, we are in the steamiest part of the year. Humidity is very high, which makes wearing masks when out and about a very uncomfortable experience. The awareness is drawn to each and every breath and the ache for a free, deep fresh breath is palpable. Coming home and peeling off the mask, my body is taking in deeper, more nourishing breaths as if they were the first breaths it has ever taken. 

This renewed relishing of free breath for all of us is generally, highly significant. Why? Because the breath, when worked with consciously, is one of our key spiritual superpowers. 

The activity of the breath is directly linked to the activity of the nervous system. When we are not in the present, and our minds are either projecting forward into possible future scenarios, or cycling back over past events, we tend to take thoracic breaths. Thoracic breathing only utilizes 20% of our lung capacity and when under high stress or threat, many of us tend to hold our breath. This shortening and suspension of breath deprives the body and brain of vital oxygen and life force, and interrupts the connection between the nerve impulses generated by the breath to balance the brain and nervous system activity. The ancient Vedic practices of Pranayama (Prana meaning vital life force; Yama meaning breath), and the current trendy versions like Wim Hof’s breathing method for example, all work with these connections that are inherent in our design.

Covid 19 Masks and Mindful Breathing - Danielle Van de Velde

The breath is the only function of the autonomic nervous system that we can control. Placing our full concentrated awareness on the act of breathing is called ‘mindful breathing’. Mindful breathing naturally produces deeper inhalations and longer exhalations. Breathing is one of the physical body’s most important detoxification systems and mindful breathing is our subtle body’s most important clearing and energy raising systems.

When we breathe mindfully and with various breath-techniques (Pranayama) we are able to balance the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches of the autonomic nervous system. Autonomic activities such as heart rate, blood pressure, digestive activity and the flight or fight response are calmed and soothed. The body’s systems start to synchronize and work in flow. MRI scans during mindful breathing show calming of the amygdala which is responsible for anger/stress arousal.

With regular meditation, the amygdala is shown to actually shrink as a calm state becomes the default. With regular mindful breathing, the brainwaves shift from Beta waves, to Alpha and eventually Theta waves. This means that the brain calms frenetic thought activity and enters a state similar to a deep dreamless sleep, although the meditator is awake and acutely aware. Alpha coherence is more predominant in the right hemisphere of the brain allowing the experience of timelessness, visioning and interconnectedness. 

For this reason, all of my meditation courses – the introductory course and fortnightly drop-in via Zoom- include instruction and guided meditations in Pranayama or meditative breathing techniques. They can be powerful meditations on their own, or fabulous pre-meditation practices to settle the awareness into presence and readiness for other practices such as mantra, mudra, contemplative or creative meditations for example.

True Sight

Having lived all over the world, I have come to see that different cultures have different approaches to smiling. When we moved to Asia six years ago, I learnt very quickly that a ‘smile first’ strategy was best employed. In my observation, people generally don’t smile first here. However when you beam a smile in acknowledgment as you pass people, you are greeted with beaming smiles back. If you’re into those moments of human connection as you pass people in the street or nature trails like I am, it’s a ‘smile first’ game in Singapore. 

Now with masks as mandatory apparel when out and about, I have realised how much I relied on reading someone’s full face to communicate and gauge the response. I have also realised that I had become somewhat lazy with my smiles, relying on my lips to convey the connection, rather than the smile reaching my eyes. With my lips concealed, my smiles also were, and instead of beautiful smiles being returned, I was seeing wary and stressed looks.  

I have made it my daily mindfulness practice to allow my smile to beam from my eyes…and I have also brought back the wink and meaningful blink. It’s incredible, the response of relief, recognition and meaningful eye gazes being returned. Through focussing on communication through my eyes, I have tapped a sense of solidarity as we all get on with flattening the curve and being in this experience together; a new, silent and powerful form of connection.  

Covid 19 Masks and Mindful Breathing - Danielle Van de Velde

So much is communicated through the eyes, when we give them full access to the soul. And just as the COVID-19 masks have raised a refocus on the true breath, they have also raised a refocus on true sight. Is it possible that we are also being invited to ‘see’ the world, our human race, ourselves, and our lives as if we are seeing them for the first time?

As well as the social responsibility of vastly reducing local spread, masks mean greater silence – a window to observe, to listen, to feel and to lean into the miracle of sight, and in particular, perception.

What are we seeing around us and how are we allowing it to affect us? Are we seeing restriction, denied freedoms, doom, and conspiracies? Yes, these elements are in the mix. But equally present are new opportunities, a pause to change habits, to return to dreams and passions, to creatively express, to deepen relationships with family, to give and love unconditionally, to forgive, to cultivate altruism, to tap new and inspiring content, to reconnect with the planet and the wild. 

We can choose what we ‘see’, buy-into, feed with our awareness, and dwell upon. It doesn’t mean denial of what’s there, it means balancing our field of ‘sight’ and therefore our emotional responses…and these emanations vastly affect our life experiences.  Are you perceiving your COVID-19-cup experience as half empty or half full?

In Yogic philosophy, the outer and inner senses are expressions along one pole of the senses. That is, our inner sight or clairvoyance, dreaming, creative visualisation, is an expression of our wholesale sense of sight, just as our mechanical ‘external’ sight is. They are aspects of one field – true sight. So when we focus on one end of the pole and engage in practices that improve and strengthen it, we raise the whole pole.

This is the deeper, lesser-known result of meditations that focus on eyesight like Trataka, Mirror-gazing, Sun-gazing, Yantra gazing, Shambhavi mudra, just to name a few. These powerful practices are all proven to improve physical eyesight, yet they are also engaged to sharpen inner sight, and inner sight is key to spiritual living. 

Seeing life through the eyes of the soul means living intuitively, seeing things as they are without the muddy lens of reactive patterns, assumed meaning and judgements. With spiritual sight we are able to identify the synchronous patterns of meaning within our life experience and to work with them directly for spiritual expansion. A well-honed inner sight opens us up to our abilities of creative visualisation, or dream weaving, and shamanic journeying as powerful tools for divination, deeper enquiry and conscious creation.

In my upcoming online course Discovery, instruction and guidance are given in several of these practices to enable deep introspection and a new perception of self and life. You may subscribe to learn more. 

Covid 19 Masks and Mindful Breathing - Danielle Van de Velde

Given, the masks are here to stay for the foreseeable future, perhaps it’s a good time to engage with them slightly differently from a higher viewpoint, and actively respond to the invitation to return to True Breath and True Sight.
If you wish to start mindful breathing and meditation and understand the benefits of meditating regularly do get in touch and take our introduction to meditation course, ‘Return’. You can also visit our website to explore courses and useful content to guide you along your journey to healing, self-discovery and mindful living.

If you enjoyed this post and would like to share it, I request that you please credit Danielle Van de Velde as the author. I do not authorise repurposing or republishing without my written permission. You may email me for the same.