[An interesting article. However, I take issue with calling it the “World’s Oldest Religion”. The Assyrian, Babylonian and Egyptian religions date back thousands of years BC. – TMR]
We’re willing to bet that even if you’ve heard of Zoroastrianism, you can’t name any Zoroastrian beliefs. The philosophy of the Zoroastrian religion predates Christianity by a few centuries, and even though it’s always good to be early, in the case of religion and philosophy, older beliefs tend to get buried as time moves on and stronger religions take hold. The history of Zoroastrianism is steeped in the duality of eastern philosophy and the roots of modern western belief, and despite its texts sometimes having the feel of a Dungeons and Dragons handbook, the teachings of Zoroastrianism encompass some interesting and positive beliefs.
So what do Zoroastrians believe? And what is Zoroastrianism? In this collection of information about one of the world’s oldest religions, we’ll examine their concept of death, the way their priests work, and how the religion has changed over the last few centuries. If you’ve never heard of Zoroastrianism and you’d like to know what they get up to, or if you just want to brush up on your sixth-century theology, keep reading and try to keep an open mind.
They Believe in the Dualism of Good and Evil
Most modern religions are based on the concept of good vs. evil, but Zoroastrians believe that one can’t exist without the other, both cosmically and morally.
Zoroastrians believe that the universe is locked in an ongoing battle between good (Ahura Mazda) and evil (Angra Mainyu). Ahura Mazda is the force of creation, and Angra Mainyu is the force of destruction that seeks to thwart Ahura Mazda’s creation. From this dynamic comes all that is good and bad in life.
Individual humans, too, exist as a mixture of good and evil. Humans have free will in Zoroastrianism, and they can choose either good (asha) or evil (druj). Divisions like happy or sad, pure or impure, come from the choices humans make to either support good or evil. Humans are expected to do their part in the battle between good and evil, also represented as the battle between order and chaos.
But They Also Believe in Just One God
Despite believing in a cosmic duality, Zoroasters only believe in one god named Ahura Mazda (which means “Wise Lord”), and like most gods, he is omnipresent and all-knowing. (Or, more properly, they are omnipresent, since Ahura Mazda has both male and female attributes.)
In essence, Zoroastrians believe that even though the world has a dual nature now – caught between good and evil – eventually good will win out once and for all, and the world will be one unified paradise. This combination between dualism and monotheism is considered to be unique to the Zoroastrian religion.
Aside from Ahura Mazda, Zoroasters also believe in the existence of six Amesha Spentas, or Holy Immortals, who are akin to what Christians call archangels. Each Amesha Spenta stands for a different positive attribute: good mind and good purpose, truth and righteousness, holy devotion, power and just rule, health, and long life.
Everyone Has Their Own Personal Guardian Spirit
Before humans are born, Zoroastrians believe, every individual soul (urvan) is paired with its own guardian spirit (fravashi). At birth, your soul goes off into the world, but your guardian spirit continues to act as a protector, somewhat like the notion of a guardian angel.
On the fourth day after death, your soul is reunited again with its guardian spirit. Your soul communicates all of its accumulated life experiences to the guardian spirit from the time you spent in the world, and this information is used in the ongoing battle of good vs. evil.
Death Is the Embodiment of Evil
According to the Zoroastian belief system, once the final breath has left the body, it becomes impure. Keeping with the theme of duality, while life (and everything in it) is thought to be the work of God, death is considered to be the embodiment of evil.
After death, bodies are washed in unconsecrated bull urine and laid out for viewing. Afterwards the bodies are traditionally placed in Towers of Silence to be picked clean by buzzards – although in America, bodies tend to be cremated or buried instead.
Homosexuality Is Akin to Demon Worship
In the Avesta, the most sacred scripture of Zoroastrianism, a passage reads, “The man that lies with mankind as man lies with womankind, or as woman lies with mankind, is a man that is a Daeva [demon]; this man is a worshipper of the Daevas, a male paramour of the Daevas.”
Aside from that verse, there’s also a myth about an evil spirit who takes part in self-sodomy, causing an “explosion of evil power” that creates a bunch of lesser demons.
Some scholars of religion argue that Zoroastrians are so opposed to male homosexuality because the religion does not accept converts. The only way to be a Zoroastrian is to have a Zoroastrian mother and father – hence, to keep the religion alive, they have to pressure adherents into having children.
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One Famous Zoroastrian Was a Killer Queen
That’s right, Queen’s very own Freddie Mercury was born into a practicing Zoroastrian family. Even though it’s debatable whether Mercury kept up with his faith throughout his life, his funeral service was orchestrated by a Zoroastrian priest and his body was cremated shortly afterwards.
Your Spirit Has a Nervous Breakdown Before Going to Heaven
According to Zoroastrian belief, after the spirit leaves the body, it hangs around for a few days and freaks out because of the stress of the crushing separation anxiety that comes from death. Then, led by the angel Daena, the spirit is brought to the Bridge of Judgment (the Chinavat or Chinawad Bridge), where its good and bad deeds are reviewed. If things work out, the spirit ascends to Heaven; if not, it’s sent to Hell.
Zoroastrians Avoid Eating Cows (And Things That Look Like Cows)
Some of the original teachings of Zoroastrianism are all about what foods you can and can’t put into your body. The fundamentals of their philosophy involve the tender care of the earth, animals, pets and livestock, and there’s a specific list of which animals you should treat like your neighbor.
Not only does the religion shy away from animal sacrifices, but it notes that you should shy away from eating cows and cow-like animals (from yak to reindeer). There is some debate other whether or not the ancient Zoroastrians were vegetarians, but many today choose to practice vegetarianism.
It’s imperative that we wake up and understand how royally we are being SCREWED by Big Pharma, in collusion with the AMA. Learn to question everything and try to go to neutral sources before swallowing anything Big Pharma has to sell. TMR
By Dr. Mercola
It may be hard to believe, but 9 out of 10 adults breathe incorrectly, thereby impairing their health and exacerbating anxiety and depression. Fortunately, learning to breathe correctly is not a complicated affair.
In this interview, Belisa Vranich, a clinical psychologist and author of “Breathe: The Simple, Revolutionary 14-Day Program to Improve Your Mental and Physical Health,” shares a breathing program she developed that can help improve your physical and mental health in a short amount of time.
Psychologists do not typically focus on breathing. As is often the case with health pioneers, it was her personal health problems that led Vranich onto this path.
“What happened is that one year in New York, I woke up and had this dull throbbing pain in my jaw. I went to the dentist and found out I was not only grinding my teeth, I was pulverizing them because of stress …
Being someone who sort of thrived on stress, I reached a point where it wasn’t working for me anymore … [F]inding out I had to pay thousands of dollars to get teeth replaced and fixed was my [aha] moment.
Most people take a yoga class or have a stiff drink. I decided for the yoga class. I loved the breathing we did in yoga … When I left yoga, I tried to find other classes that had to do with breathing. Most of them were vague, as far as their scientific explanations of what was going on, although they were lovely …
[C]oming from a science background, I really wanted to know why things were happening … Long story short, I found all types of breathing in sports, martial arts, birthing, singing [and] free diving. I put all those practical elements together and came up with the breathing class I give now.
I went back to my own patients [who] had anxiety and depression, and it worked really well with them … They would spend chunks of the session really wanting to do breath work. That’s how the transition happened.”
Proper Breathing Is a Cornerstone of Good Health
In her book, “Breathe,” Vranich accurately points out that breathing is a cornerstone of good health, and that changing the way you breathe can have an enormous impact, improving your sleep, cognition, eating habits, resilience to stress and more.
It can even lower your inflammation level, improve gastrointestinal (GI) function, increase longevity and reduce pain. When you’re in pain, you tense up, which in turn affects your breathing, making it shallower. This actually makes the pain feel worse, and can lead to a vicious circle where the pain becomes constant.
When it comes to breathing style, there are two basic types: vertical and horizontal breathing. Most people breathe vertically. This type of breathing makes you feel a bit taller on the in-breath, as it raises your chest and shoulders.
“Unfortunately, it’s anatomically incongruous,” Vranich says. “Your neck and shoulders were never meant to be breathing muscles. You’re not using the best part of your lungs. You’re actually telling your nervous system that you are in a stressed-out state.
If you’re not already in a stressed-out state, it’s going to make you more stressed … Horizontally is the way you see all animals on the planet breathe. They breathe and widen where the biggest part of their lungs are …
If you ask a 5-year old to take a breath, they just widen like a little puffing fish … It’s their deep breath. It’s perfect. You take a 10-year-old and ask them to take a deep breath and all of a sudden, it’s completely changed.
The 10-year-old will raise their shoulders, puff up their little chests and take this vertical, apical breath. If it doesn’t happen by age 10, definitely by age 15 … What they’re doing is mimicking their parents and what they see around them …”
How to Address Dysfunctional Breathing
The origins of dysfunctional breathing can also be traced back to excessive sitting. The average American sits 13 to 16 hours a day, which puts your body into an unnatural posture. According to Vranich, your posture affects as much as 30 percent of your breathing.
You may also have learned improper breathing through sports. Constrictive clothing such as tight waist bands, compression garments and bra straps add to the problem. Sucking in your gut also worsens the situation.
“Even if you’re not pulling in your gut because you think it makes you look thinner, you’re bracing because of anxiety. Think about it. That’s actually a posture that most of us have very often,” Vranich says. “It’s this braced middle … because it makes us feel better.
We feel like we’re ready to run or to strike. The problem with all of those things is that it takes the breath and it pushes it up, [turning it into] a vertical breath …
Luckily, dismantling it is fairly easy because somewhere in your body, you remember having breathed horizontally … [and since] it does make you feel better [when breathing horizontally], you start doing it.”
The book, “Breathe,” is a useful resource that provides a variety of different exercises and strategies to address this dysfunctional breathing. One such strategy Vranich calls “rock and roll.” You can do it either standing or sitting.
Begin by relaxing and unbracing your midsection. Take a deep breath in and actually feel the middle of your body get wider. Let your belly go. On the exhale, roll backward, tipping your hips underneath you while pressing your fingers gently into your belly, giving it a little squeeze.
These movements are exaggerated because learning a new mechanical movement is easier if you start by exaggerating it. Eventually, this will teach your body to use the diaphragm to breathe. So, on the inhale, let your belly go. On the exhale, roll back and squeeze.
“This is the most important breath,” Vranich says. “If you do anything at all, this is the most wonderful one … You want to get yourself trained to breathe that way all the time.”
Remember to Engage Your Diaphragm When Breathing
One of the key things to remember is to work with and engage your diaphragm when breathing, as this will allow you to change your breathing more easily, and make the change permanent. This is what the “rock and roll” breathing exercise teaches you.
“[While] the Buteyko [Breathing technique] focuses on your carbon dioxide levels, breathing through your nose, and posits that most people over-breathe … I focus on style of breathing.
I really look to see where you’re breathing from, because in my experience that has been what really resonates with people and what creates the most change,” Vranich says. “Although I touch on Buteyko Breathing in my book, I try to bring in breathing exercises from as many different places as possible, because I want there to be information that resonates with a really diverse group of people.
I talk about breathing that happens in singing … in martial arts … In “Breathe,” I bring in everything I possibly can, as far as breathing, to really give you a choice to see which of these different exercises works for you. But my main gift, I’d like to think, is that I look at where you’re breathing from.”
You might know that muscles will atrophy from lack of use. If you’ve been breathing improperly for several decades, it may take some time to retrain your breathing muscles before you can breathe optimally. Even athletes can have weak breathing muscles, because in order to be strong, they have to be worked out separately. It doesn’t happen automatically simply because you’re breathing heavily, and it has nothing to do with lung capacity. Your breathing muscles include your:
- Intercostals: Muscles that run between your ribs, allowing your chest wall to move
- Diaphragm: That thin sheet of muscle that extends across your thoracic cavity below your heart and lungs, above your digestive system
- Obliques: The largest, outermost muscles of the lateral, anterior abdomen that give you that six-pack look
- Pelvic floor
How to Strengthen Your Breathing Muscles
Working those muscles and really engaging them when breathing will have a dramatic effect on your ability to breathe well. Your inhale is governed by your diaphragm, while the exhale is primarily governed by your intercostals and obliques. Oftentimes, feeling short of breath is due to insufficient exhalation leaving excess residual air in your lungs. With age, your intercostals and obliques can weaken, thereby weakening your ability to exhale fully.
“When I teach, I teach the extremes so that you understand the mechanics. I make that exhale a squeeze. When you think about exhaling, most people think, ‘Inhale, exhale, let go,’ and that really messes us up. That idea of ‘exhale, let go’ makes you relax and flop down when you actually want to be narrowing your body on the exhale …
If you can think about your belly button getting closer to your spine and even your ribs coming together, that’s a really good exhale, which will obviously make your next inhale much better,” Vranich explains.
While about 50 percent of people can change their breathing for the better simply by reading the book or taking a single-session breathing class, to really change your breathing for life, most people need to commit to doing the exercises several times a day for one to three weeks.
The Importance of Stretching
Stretching helps improve your range of motion and flexibility, and proper breathing is an important aspect of effective stretching as well. Conversely, stretching can also improve your breathing. Vranich explains:
“Since your intercostals are two layers of muscle on the inside of your ribs, the best way you can stretch them is by inhaling and then stretching … [This opens] up the spaces between your ribs … Add air to the ribcage, on the inside, and then stretch. Add a little bit more. It’s called air packing — air packing comes from free diving — then stretch a little bit deeper. You can actually focus on the side that’s collapsing and give that a little crunch …
Now, I love spinal twists. If you don’t have any injuries, if you’ve been OK’d for doing spinal twists, doing spinal twists on the exhale will definitely get you deeper into the twist using the breath … Whatever chair you’re on, taking the back of your seat … and pulling yourself around on the exhale will get you deeper into the twist.”
The thyroid gland is small, but mighty because it controls and plays important roles in so many different functions of the body. There are many ways to keep the thyroid healthy. Herbs are actually a rather popular option. Here are 8 different herbs that will help your thyroid function efficiently.
Ashwagandha is a superstar when it comes to improving the health of your thyroid. They can be extremely effective, especially at balancing hormones. Ashwagandha can help people with both hypo and hyper thyroid issues.
2. Black Walnut
Black walnut contains a high dose of iodine which is helpful for underactive thyroid. It helps to improve the overall health of the thyroid. You can include this herb in your daily diet by making tea each day to nourish the thyroid and increase iodine intake.
This herb is popular for promoting immunity. It is ideal for better thyroid health. Echinacea is best for those who have an overactive thyroid.
4. Evening Primrose Oil
This herb is popular for women’s health, but it is also highly beneficial for the thyroid. Evening primrose oil can also help with hair loss and heavy menstrual periods.
You often hear about flaxseed when it comes to digestive health. Flaxseeds are important for your health because it is high in fiber and it also aids your thyroid. Those with underactive thyroid can boost their thyroid hormone ratio by consuming this herb on a daily basis. You only need about one tablespoon every day to reap the full benefits of this herb.
You probably already use ginger to calm nausea and upset stomach, but it is also ideal for thyroid. This herb is rich in zinc, magnesium and potassium, all of which are nutrients that the thyroid requires for optimal health. You must use the fresh ginger herb to reap the full benefits.
If you have an underactive thyroid and are experiencing fatigue, this herb can help. Licorice also gives you a gentle boost in energy.
Nettle can be beneficial for people with both an underactive and overactive thyroid. It is often referred to as a thyroid tonic because of its high iodine content. Consuming this in tea form is usually the easiest and most beneficial.