Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Obstacles in the path

There are so many paths, so many methods of getting there, so many masters for guidance, so many options... but there is failure in every path. Now, here I am talking of both temporary failures and permanent failures. Temporary failures are when one keeps trying and trying hard to evolve and grow but repeatedly faces obstacles and is pulled down everytime. Then on struggle is able to evolve but cannot stay there for long and tumbles back. This is temporary failure. Permanent failure is when there are repeated temporary failures and finally one gives up in frustration. One may wonder why one keeps sliding back to the old ways. (Read more on Falling Back To My Old Ways)

Here one imporant thing to note is that permanent failures are almost neglible because once one gets the spark of the truth of life then it is very difficult to let go off that spark completely. Inspite of the repeated downfalls, frustrations, vanity, that spark will always keep sparking after a temporary period of despair and that will motivate one to move up again.

Surprisingly, not many are aware why these obstacles occur and why one keeps falling down. Why are all not able to make a same-level progress even if the master or guru is one or if the path followed is one. Why do some people move up with least effort and without much obstacles and why do some constantly face obstacles.

One most important thing to know here is that one should never ever compare one's growth with someone else even if others are following your path, following one guru, following on instruction, following one practice, following same austerities, following same religion, following same rituals, yes, even if two individuals are of the same age, born at the same precise time, even if both started their practice at the same day. This is because of different karmic impressions that both carry. Each and every single human being born is born with a soul agenda that is based on their prior karma. The more the karmic debts, the more rigorous practice is required. Human birth means an opportunity to the soul to clear its karma. The moment a soul gets an understanding of this, the soul takes an inclination towards spirituality and begins working on the karma (irrespective of whether one even knows what karma is!)

Now, what is the struggle that we often mention? One can understand if closely observed that it need not be a struggle. Struggle happens when the negativity within refuses to leave the soul and allow positivity in. So in simple words it is actually the tussle between the positive and the negative. More negative karma means more negative energy one is holding. When one begins walking on the path, the first thing that is challenged is this negative holding and the moment it is challenged it creates a friction as it does not want to leave. One has been carrying these impurities (negative energy) since so many lives and it does not become easy for the soul to release it easily. One consciously knows that these must be released but on the other end one unconsiously holds on to them very dearly. One example is when one learns one fine day that it is not right to get angry on others. A religous person may feel this is a sin since he read it somewhere or some religious preacher told him this. A spiritual person will understand that emiting anger on others is sending out negative energy to that person which will have an impact on the person the anger is directed to and also have an impact on the self as law of karma acts and one has to reap the after effects of that action too. In both cases, both are aware that anger is not good. Both category people stop getting angry. So, whenever the occasion arises where one has to get angry, one suppresses it and does not allow it to come out. In this case, what one is doing may feel to be right to the person practising it, but in reality this is not the right way. Anger is a human emotion and if it has to be conquered one has to work on the root level.

Here in this example the stoppage of anger is only superficial. Let us know that anger has already been generated but only thing is that it has not been spilled out. Once the anger is generated it has to go somewhere, but one supresses it. This causes trouble as whatever is suppressed has not disappeared and will continue to find its way out of the physical body. This then turns into irritation, tension, nervous problems and even finds its way out in the form of physical and mental illness. What should be understood here is that some measure should be taken so that anger should not be created itself so that there is no necessity to supress or hide it. Then one notices that the moment one has stepped into spirituality there are more problems than ever. This is what gives birth to struggle. The conscious mind wants to get rid of a negativity and the subconscious mind rejects this idea. One has to deeply work deep down at the subconscious level to uproot negativities.

How is this to be done? This is where your real spiritual practices only can help. This is why only having knowledge about spirituality or only reading spiritual books can never elevate one to higher realms. Please understand that the moment you decide to purify yourself and evolve, your challenges will begin. Now, it is up to you to not let these challenges be labelled into problems. They will become problems if you do not understand the science of how these things work at deeper and subtler levels. There are people who feel very overwhelmed with the obstacles and wonder how spirituality can create problems instead of decreasing them. Remember, they are not created. These negativities that lie in different corners of your soul are brought to the front so that they can be faced, worked upon and released, one by one. The moment you begin with your spiritual practices, there is a surge of positive energy into you that will first hit the negative energy. When this sleeping negative energy gets the zap of this positive energy, it immediately raises its hood to prevent being dislodged from where it has been comfortably resting since ages. This is where the challenge is. At such times, one should be calm and understand that the purification work has begun. It may be very unpleasant, irritating, painful as these are being released. Lot of changes will start happening. Your life will start rearranging itself very rapidly and you will notice rapid changes happening in your life; this will include losses. (For more symptoms please read my previous post on Symptoms of Ascension) All these will look very alarming and frightening but if you trust in the divine process and trust in your determination to evolve, then please know that you will be also provided with the right assistance and right support at the right time. You will never be given more than you can handle. Patience and continuance of your spiritual practices will help certainly even though they may look useless at times. (Also read Waves of Transformation for help in this regard)

All the above I have spoken before in my posts here, but what I want to importantly convey this time is very important for all spiritual aspirants, whichever path you are on.

There is a myth with many spiritual aspirants that one can "get away" with just doing rituals or practising meditation and other spiritual practices. It is very important to note that before walking on any path what is very essential for your success in spirituality will be your honestly and sincerity to become "clean" both in and out first. I would highly advise you to not try any spiritual practice if your heart and mind are not convinced that you need to first make an intent that you become pure. When I say become pure, it means practising what you preach and following every spiritual discipline yourself first. For example, if you talk to others about honesty and expect the world to be honest, then you first got to be honest yourself, a must that you not lie in thoughts, words and deeds.

The father of yoga, Patanjali, a humble physician who became one of the world's greatest sages who roamed India somewhere between 200 B.C. and 200 A.D. revealed long ago the steps to enlightenment. They are:

1. Yama (nonviolence, truth and honesty, refrain from stealing, nonlust, nonpossessiveness)
2. Niyama (purity, contentment, austerity, svadhyaya, awareness)
3. Asana (posture)
4. Pranayama (control of breath)
5. Pratyahara (withdrawal of senses)
6. Dharana (concentration)
7. Dhyana (meditation)
8. Samadhi (enlightenment)

All those who seek and working towards enlightenment, have a look at the above. Enlightenment is at the 8th point. For achieving the enlightenment what most of the seekers do is meditation. Look at where meditation is - it's at the 7th point! That is why many fail to achieve results because the mind is still full of impurities and cannot go any further.

For any spiritual seeker, these above eight points are a must and they must be practiced in the same sequence. Before jumping straight into meditation - know, acknowledge, and practice the 6 points that come before meditation. Purify yourself and your will know how easier it then becomes to sit in meditation and move towards your goal. If not in sequence, at least practice all the 7 of them simultaneously but do not skip any of them; it won't work!
(Read more in the article on Eight Limbs of Pantanjali)

There are bigger challenges that you need to first acknowledge within yourself and then think about self-realization or liberation or salvation. Liberation or self-realization will never come to you if you are not vibrating at the purest level, though it may give you a false feeling that you are doing great on the spiritual path. Yes, there are these challenges that must be acknowledged first in yourself - ego, lust, fear, anger, attachment, pride. I mentioned the word "acknowledge" many times here because unless you acknowledge that these are there within you, there is no chance that you can work over it. Liberation is to first liberate yourself from these major aspects in you. Again, these should not be practised incorrectly (superficially) as the example of anger mentioned above. The same applies to ego, lust, fear, anger, attachment and pride. For many aspirants it becomes a feeling that these have been mastered these but what one will really not know is that they have actually been suppressed and not destroyed. Now, when one begins working on these aspects and simultaneously practising their path, then they are on the right track, for the real work of purification has begun. Acknowledge, accept and then release. Acknowledge not to the world but to yourself. Acknowledge only to yourself when you possess the negativities and acknowledge only to yourself when you conquer these! Let not a soul know about it.

Some tips that can help one be aware of these challenges and work on them simultaneously.
  • ~ Be aware at all times of your thoughts, words and actions.
  • ~ Keep reminding yourself whenever the challenges come up that you are going to overcome them.
  • ~ Follow your path with all your heart.
  • ~ Meditate regularly.
  • ~ If you are ritualistic, do it with your heart and devotion with the intention of being purified in the process.
  • ~ Respect every path, every method, every practice, every guru, every soul.
  • ~ Accept yourself as you are and what you are. In the process, you will start accepting everyone as they are without wanting to change them. (You do not know their soul agenda and what they have come to experience and learn and thus you have no right to interfere into their soul agenda. Allow them to experience and learn, but guide and assist if they allow to.)
  • ~ Forgive yourself and in this process you will forgive others.
  • ~ Love yourself unconditionally and in the process your will start loving everyone and everything unconditionally (this is one of the biggest challenge for every aspirant but this is ultimately the golden quality that every great liberated master who walked on earth possessed!) When one learns to love unconditionally, forgiveness and accepting all as they are will automatically happen and even vice versa!
  • ~ Turn away from negativity and anything that vibrates and promotes negativity (visual stuff, reading stuff, audible stuff, tasting stuff and touching stuff) In brief I am mentioning about withdrawal from the gratification of five senses of sight, touch, taste, hear, smell)
  • ~ Refuse and say NO with confidence to anything that your conscience does not approve of.
  • ~ Practice one small act of kindness anywhere you can at every given opportunity.
  • ~ Share with others what you are fortunate of - wealth, knowledge, food, clothing, etc.
  • ~ Respect everything in nature and bless it.
  • ~ Turn to sattvic (pure) food, thoughts, actions.
  • ~ Avoid debates on spirituality right and wrongs.
  • ~ Never find fault or criticize any person, religion, faith, guru, or path. If you are doing so, know that you are doing this beyond your right and there is a great price to be paid for this.
  • ~ Treat little children and bigger children (old) with respect and love.
  • ~ Be patient and kind with the ignorant.
  • ~ Never preach or force these morals on other people, how much ever right you may feel you are or how much ever wrong you may feel they are.
  • ~ Bless everything and everyone. Blessings and prayers are nothing but your positive energy that you direct to them that does do a great help though you may not see it with your physical eyes. It comes back manifold in the same form that you give. Once you know this, you will know how important it is not to curse others or send any form of negative energy towards others.
  • ~ Seek inward not outward.
  • ~ Simplify your life. Spirituality is not about complicating but simplifying.
  • ~ Do not keep discussing about your spiritual experiences and growth to all. Do not discuss until you are blessed with the ability of making them experience what you have experienced.
Your spiritual growth is not to be measured by the amount of knowledge you have about every single thing in spirituality and so let not your aim be to read more, learn more, search more, ask
more, understand more, see more, but to simply practice more. When you begin practicing the path with all sincerity and faith, all that you need shall come to you. There were great saints and masters who never knew to even read and write but they possessed priceless knowledge, techniques and secrets of living and enlightenment. They never had internet or libraries but they all relied on their inner powers to access the valuable knowledge. Seek inward not outward. Let each and every cell in your body vibrate with the intention of purifying the self and every challenge shall turn to be milestones in your journey.

Forget the destination, enjoy the journey :) Stay blessed!

Moving with the guidance of Patanjali

Article Courtesy: The Eight Limbs , The Core of Yoga, by William J.D. Doran

The practice of yoga is an art and science dedicated to creating union between body, mind and spirit. Its objective is to assist the practitioner in using the breath and body to foster an awareness of ourselves as individualized beings intimately connected to the unified whole of creation. In short it is about making balance and creating equanimity so as to live in peace, good health and harmony with the greater whole. This art of right living was perfected and practiced in India thousands of years ago and the foundations of yoga philosophy were written down in The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, approximately 200 AD. This sacred text describes the inner workings of the mind and provides an eight-step blueprint for controlling its restlessness so as to enjoying lasting peace.

The core of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra is an eight-limbed path that forms the structural framework for yoga practice. Upon practicing all eight limbs of the path it becomes self-evident that no one element is elevated over another in a hierarchical order. Each is part of a holistic focus which eventually brings completeness to the individual as they find their connectivity to the divine. Because we are all uniquely individual a person can emphasize one branch and then move on to another as they round out their understanding.

In brief the eight limbs, or steps to yoga, are as follows:

1. Yama : Universal morality
2. Niyama : Personal observances
3. Asanas : Body postures
4. Pranayama : Breathing exercises, and control of prana
5. Pratyahara : Control of the senses
6. Dharana : Concentration and cultivating inner perceptual awareness
7. Dhyana : Devotion, Meditation on the Divine
8. Samadhi : Union with the Divine

The first two limbs that Patanjali describes are the fundamental ethical precepts called yamas, and the niyamas. These can also be looked at as universal morality and personal observances. Yamas and niyamas are the suggestions given on how we should deal with people around us and our attitude toward ourselves. The attitude we have toward things and people outside ourselves is yama, how we relate to ourselves inwardly is niyama. Both are mostly concerned with how we use our energy in relationship to others and to ourselves.

The yamas are broken down into five "wise characteristics." Rather than a list of dos and don’ts, "they tell us that our fundamental nature is compassionate, generous, honest and peaceful." i They are as follows:

I. Yamas (Universal Morality)

1. Ahimsa – Compassion for all living things
The word ahimsa literally mean not to injure or show cruelty to any creature or any person in any way whatsoever. Ahimsa is, however, more than just lack of violence as adapted in yoga. It means kindness, friendliness, and thoughtful consideration of other people and things. It also has to do with our duties and responsibilities too. Ahimsa implies that in every situation we should adopt a considerate attitude and do no harm.

2. Satya – Commitment to Truthfulness
Satya means "to speak the truth," yet it is not always desirable to speak the truth on all occasions, for it could harm someone unnecessarily. We have to consider what we say, how we say it, and in what way it could affect others. If speaking the truth has negative consequences for another, then it is better to say nothing. Satya should never come into conflict with our efforts to behave with ahimsa. This precept is based on the understanding that honest communication and action form the bedrock of any healthy relationship, community, or government, and that deliberate deception, exaggerations, and mistruths harm others.

3. Asteya - Non-stealing
Steya means "to steal"; asteya is the opposite-to take nothing that does not belong to us. This also means that if we are in a situation where someone entrusts something to us or confides in us, we do not take advantage of him or her. Non-stealing includes not only taking what belongs to another without permission, but also using something for a different purpose to that intended, or beyond the time permitted by its owner.iii The practice of asteya implies not taking anything that has not been freely given. This includes fostering a consciousness of how we ask for others’ time for inconsiderate behavior demanding another’s attention when not freely given is, in effect, stealing.

4. Brahmacharya - Sense control
Brahmacharya is used mostly in the sense of abstinence, particularly in relationship to sexual activity. Brahmacharya suggests that we should form relationships that foster our understanding of the highest truths. Brahmacharya does not necessarily imply celibacy. Rather, it means responsible behavior with respect to our goal of moving toward the truth. Practicing brahmacharya means that we use our sexual energy to regenerate our connection to our spiritual self. It also means that we don’t use this energy in any way that might harm others.

5. Aparigraha - Neutralizing the desire to acquire and hoard wealth
Aparigraha means to take only what is necessary, and not to take advantage of a situation or act greedy. We should only take what we have earned; if we take more, we are exploiting someone else. The yogi feels that the collection or hoarding of things implies a lack of faith in God and in himself to provide for his future.v Aparigraha also implies letting go of our attachments to things and an understanding that impermanence and change are the only constants.

The Yoga Sutra describes what happens when these five behaviors outlined above become part of a person's daily life. Thus, the yamas are the moral virtues which, if attended to, purify human nature and contribute to health and happiness of society.

II. Niyama (Personal Observances)

Niyama means "rules" or "laws." These are the rules prescribed for personal observance. Like the yamas, the five niyamas are not exercises or actions to be simply studied. They represent far more than an attitude. Compared with the yamas, the niyamas are more intimate and personal. They refer to the attitude we adopt toward ourselves as we create a code for living soulfully

1. Sauca - Purity
The first niyama is sauca, meaning purity and cleanliness. Sauca has both an inner and an outer aspect. Outer cleanliness simply means keeping ourselves clean. Inner cleanliness has as much to do with the healthy, free functioning of our bodily organs as with the clarity of our mind. Practicing asanas or pranayama are essential means for attending to this inner sauca. Asanas tones the entire body and removes toxins while pranayama cleanses our lungs, oxygenates our blood and purifies our nerves. "But more important than the physical cleansing of the body is the cleansing of the mind of its disturbing emotions like hatred, passion, anger, lust, greed, delusion and pride."

2. Santosa - Contentment
Another niyama is santosa, modesty and the feeling of being content with what we have. To be at peace within and content with one's lifestyle finding contentment even while experiencing life’s difficulties for life becomes a process of growth through all kinds of circumstances. We should accept that there is a purpose for everything - yoga calls it karma – and we cultivate contentment 'to accept what happens'. It means being happy with what we have rather than being unhappy about what we don't have.

3. Tapas – Disciplined use of our energy
Tapas refers to the activity of keeping the body fit or to confront and handle the inner urges without outer show. Literally it means to heat the body and, by so doing, to cleanse it. Behind the notion of tapas lies the idea we can direct our energy to enthusiastically engage life and achieve our ultimate goal of creating union with the Divine. Tapas helps us burn up all the desires that stand in our way of this goal. Another form of tapas is paying attention to what we eat. Attention to body posture, attention to eating habits, attention to breathing patterns - these are all tapas.

4. Svadhyaya – Self study
The fourth niyama is svadhyaya. Sva means "self' adhyaya means "inquiry" or "examination". Any activity that cultivates self-reflective consciousness can be considered svadhyaya. It means to intentionally find self-awareness in all our activities and efforts, even to the point of welcoming and accepting our limitations. It teaches us to be centered and non-reactive to the dualities, to burn out unwanted and self-destructive tendencies.

5. Isvarapranidhana - Surrender to God
Isvarapranidhana means "to lay all your actions at the feet of God." It is the contemplation on God (Isvara) in order to become attuned to god and god's will. It is the recognition that the spiritual suffuses everything and through our attention and care we can attune ourselves with our role as part of the Creator. The practice requires that we set aside some time each day to recognize that there is some omnipresent force larger than ourselves that is guiding and directing the course of our lives.

III. Asanas (Body postures)

Asana is the practice of physical postures. It is the most commonly known aspect of yoga for those unfamiliar with the other seven limbs of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra. The practice of moving the body into postures has widespread benefits; of these the most underlying are improved health, strength, balance and flexibility. On a deeper level the practice of asana, which means "staying" or "abiding" in Sanskrit, is used as a tool to calm the mind and move into the inner essence of being. The challenge of poses offers the practitioner the opportunity to explore and control all aspects of their emotions, concentration, intent, faith, and unity between the physical and the ethereal body. Indeed, using asanas to challenge and open the physical body acts as a binding agent to bring one in harmony with all the unseen elements of their being, the forces that shape our lives through our responses to the physical world. Asana then becomes a way of exploring our mental attitudes and strengthening our will as we learn to release and move into the state of grace that comes from creating balance between our material world and spiritual experience.

As one practices asana it fosters a quieting of the mind, thus it becomes both a preparation for meditation and a meditation sufficient in and of itself. Releasing to the flow and inner strength that one develops brings about a profound grounding spirituality in the body. The physicality of the yoga postures becomes a vehicle to expand the consciousness that pervades our every aspect of our body. The key to fostering this expansion of awareness and consciousness begins with the control of breath, the fourth limb – Pranayama. Patanjali suggests that the asana and the pranayama practices will bring about the desired state of health; the control of breath and bodily posture will harmonize the flow of energy in the organism, thus creating a fertile field for the evolution of the spirit. "This down-to-earth, flesh-and-bones practice is simply one of the most direct and expedient ways to meet yourself. … This limb of yoga practice reattaches us to our body. In reattaching ourselves to our bodies we reattach ourselves to the responsibility of living a life guided by the undeniable wisdom of our body."viii To this B.K.S. Iyengar adds: "The needs of the body are the needs of the divine spirit which lives through the body. The yogi does not look heaven-ward to find God for he know that He is within."

IV. Pranayama (Breath Control)

Pranayama is the measuring, control, and directing of the breath. Pranayama controls the energy (prana) within the organism, in order to restore and maintain health and to promote evolution. When the in-flowing breath is neutralized or joined with the out-flowing breath, then perfect relaxation and balance of body activities are realized. In yoga, we are concerned with balancing the flows of vital forces, then directing them inward to the chakra system and upward to the crown chakra.

Pranayama, or breathing technique, is very important in yoga. It goes hand in hand with the asana or pose. In the Yoga Sutra, the practices of pranayama and asana are considered to be the highest form of purification and self discipline for the mind and the body, respectively. The practices produce the actual physical sensation of heat, called tapas, or the inner fire of purification. It is taught that this heat is part of the process of purifying the nadis, or subtle nerve channels of the body. This allows a more healthful state to be experienced and allows the mind to become more calm.x As the yogi follows the proper rhythmic patterns of slow deep breathing "the patterns strengthen the respiratory system, soothe the nervous system and reduce craving. As desires and cravings diminish, the mind is set free and becomes a fit vehicle for concentration."

V. Pratyahara (Control of the Senses)

Pratyahara means drawing back or retreat. The word ahara means "nourishment"; pratyahara translates as "to withdraw oneself from that which nourishes the senses." In yoga, the term pratyahara implies withdrawal of the senses from attachment to external objects. It can then be seen as the practice of non-attachment to sensorial distractions as we constantly return to the path of self realization and achievement of internal peace. It means our senses stop living off the things that stimulate; the senses no longer depend on these stimulants and are not fed by them any more.

In pratyahara we sever this link between mind and senses, and the senses withdraw. When the senses are no longer tied to external sources, the result is restraint or pratyahara. Now that the vital forces are flowing back to the Source within, one can concentrate without being distracted by externals or the temptation to cognize externals.

Pratyahara occurs almost automatically when we meditate because we are so absorbed in the object of meditation. Precisely because the mind is so focused, the senses follow it; it is not happening the other way around.

No longer functioning in their usual manner, the senses become extraordinarily sharp. Under normal circumstances the senses become our masters rather than being our servants. The senses entice us to develop cravings for all sorts of things. In pratyahara the opposite occurs: when we have to eat we eat, but not because we have a craving for food. In pratyahara we try to put the senses in their proper place, but not cut them out of our actions entirely.

Much of our emotional imbalance are our own creation. A person who is influenced by outside events and sensations can never achieve the inner peace and tranquility. This is because he or she will waste much mental and physical energy in trying to suppress unwanted sensations and to heighten other sensations. This will eventually result in a physical or mental imbalance, and will, in most instances, result in illness.

Patanjali says that the above process is at the root of human unhappiness and uneasiness. When people seek out yoga, hoping to find that inner peace which is so evasive, they find that it was theirs all along. In a sense, yoga is nothing more than a process which enables us to stop and look at the processes of our own minds; only in this way can we understand the nature of happiness and unhappiness, and thus transcend them both.

VI. Dharana (Concentration and cultivating inner perceptual awareness)

Dharana means "immovable concentration of the mind". The essential idea is to hold the concentration or focus of attention in one direction. "When the body has been tempered by asanas, when the mind has been refined by the fire of pranayama and when the senses have been brought under control by pratyahara, the sadhaka (seeker) reaches the sixth stage, dharana. Here he is concentrated wholly on a single point or on a task in which he is completely engrossed. The mind has to be stilled in order to achieve this state of complete absorption."xiii

In dharana we create the conditions for the mind to focus its attention in one direction instead of going out in many different directions. Deep contemplation and reflection can create the right conditions, and the focus on this one point that we have chosen becomes more intense. We encourage one particular activity of the mind and, the more intense it becomes, the more the other activities of the mind fall away.

The objective in dharana is to steady the mind by focusing its attention upon some stable entity. The particular object selected has nothing to do with the general purpose, which is to stop the mind from wandering -through memories, dreams, or reflective thought-by deliberately holding it single-mindedly upon some apparently static object. B.K.S. Iyengar states that the objective is to achieve the mental state where the mind, intellect, and ego are "all restrained and all these faculties are offered to the Lord for His use and in His service. Here there is no feeling of 'I' and 'mine'."

When the mind has become purified by yoga practices, it becomes able to focus efficiently on one subject or point of experience. Now we can unleash the great potential for inner healing.

VII. Dhyana (Devotion , Meditation on the Divine)

Dhyana means worship, or profound and abstract religious meditation. It is perfect contemplation. It involves concentration upon a point of focus with the intention of knowing the truth about it. The concept holds that when one focuses their mind in concentration on an object the mind is transformed into the shape of the object. Hence, when one focuses on the divine they become more reflective of it and they know their true nature. "His body, breath, senses, mind, reason and ego are all integrated in the object of his contemplation – the Universal Spirit."

During dhyana, the consciousness is further unified by combining clear insights into distinctions between objects and between the subtle layers of perception. "We learn to differentiate between the mind of the perceiver, the means of perception, and the objects perceived, between words, their meanings, and ideas, and between all the levels of evolution of nature."

As we fine-tune our concentration and become more aware of the nature of reality we perceive that the world is unreal. "The only reality is the universal self, or God, which is veiled by Maya (the illusory power). As the veils are lifted, the mind becomes clearer. Unhappiness and fear – even the fear of death – vanishes. This state of freedom, or Moksha, is the goal of Yoga. It can be reached by constant enquiry into the nature of things."xvii Meditation becomes our tool to see things clearly and perceive reality beyond the illusions that cloud our mind.

VIII. Samadhi (Union with the Divine)

The final step in the eight-fold path of Yoga is the attainment of Samadhi. Samadhi means "to bring together, to merge." In the state of samadhi the body and senses are at rest, as if asleep, yet the faculty of mind and reason are alert, as if awake; one goes beyond consciousness. During samadhi, we realize what it is to be an identity without differences, and how a liberated soul can enjoy pure awareness of this pure identity. The conscious mind drops back into that unconscious oblivion from which it first emerged.

Thus, samadhi refers to union or true Yoga. There is an ending to the separation that is created by the "I" and "mine" of our illusory perceptions of reality. The mind does not distinguish between self and non-self, or between the object contemplated and the process of contemplation. The mind and the intellect have stopped and there is only the experience of consciousness, truth and unutterable joy.

The achievement of samadhi is a difficult task. For this reason the Yoga Sutra suggests the practice of asanas and pranayama as preparation for dharana, because these influence mental activities and create space in the crowded schedule of the mind. Once dharana has occurred, dhyana and samadhi can follow.

These eight steps of yoga indicate a logical pathway that leads to the attainment of physical, ethical, emotional, and psycho-spiritual health. Yoga does not seek to change the individual; rather, it allows the natural state of total health and integration in each of us to become a reality.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

The time is come - stop resisting and start assisting!

Nature has begun its cleaning process as a child regurgitates out what sometimes it's ignorant parents may have fed it with. It is but a very natural process that this cleansing has begun at all levels. So much of negativity and wrong doings have been marked on planet earth that now mother nature has begun restoring the balance. How pitiful it is when all blame natural calamities and diseases when in actuality they are nothing but the wrongdoings of mankind itself that is causing this unnecessary discomfort to its inhabitants. Mother nature never harms anyone and treats everyone unconditionally but as per the laws of nature it will always keep its balance as it has in the past. Mankind did a lot of injustice to it and shook its balance. There always existed good and bad and there will always exist duality and everything is fine till things there is balance and moderation. The moment there is imbalance, there is turbulence and mother nature brings it back to normalcy. Right now the imbalance of evil over good is being restored.

Man's new so-called inventions and advancement with "brains" has led to pollution of the skies and earth and have actually invented new problems and diseases, for which the intelligent man went further ahead and made more inventions to soothe the after-effects of his invention hoping to counter, for example, the side effects of the inventions created for diseases. This further led to more complications with side effects and no long-term relief or guaranteed remedies. Then, today man inspite of all the advancement, still struggles to find cure to new viruses emerging consistently and increase in depression and other psychological problems. Man still continues to pat his own back with new methodologies at the expense of so many things in nature.

Man is a small representation of all that happens in the Universe. If you look closely, man represents on what is happening on the whole. Countires are trying to conquer and expand and that is exactly what the man is trying to do. He wants to accumulate more for himself and his family not bothering of what harm others may be facing due to his greed. He is ready to fight, battle, kill so that he wins - his selfishness wins! That is what countries do to each other countries. The greed of man has never been enough as he craves to amass more weath and in this process is on a mad spree conquering land, people, material, wealth, and even other creatures. Still not being satisfied now he dreams of conquering and acquiring things beyond this planet and his curiosity increases to find and exploit other places beyond this earth. He celebrates his step-by-step progress in expansion of his intellect and capabilites. Forests are occupied by the ever expanding needs and requirements of the ever increasing population. There has never been a need for man to think where the creatures of the forests will go or how important forests are for his own survival. If you notice, on a microscopic view, an individual feels that he alone has the right to move on the road, he only has the right to speak and do what he feels is right, he alone has the right to live in his surroundings, he do whatever he likes with other living beings like animals and birds; why other beings, he can even kill his own being if needed, if he feels the other can be a threat to his comfort and dominance. On a macroscopic view, this is what is happening on the broader aspect - groups and communities feel that only they have the right to live in this world. Other communities or groups are thus attacked or killed. Forests and other living being's spaces are invaded because mankind feels they have the right to live and rest all are no worth and their lives depend on the mercy of mankind. He explores further into the Universe to see where he can extend his rule further. Man breeds more greed and in the output produce children who further make sure they learn and carry on these foolish motives.

All these have been happening for a long long time and today when we look at the world, we find that everything is a mess. Inspite of all the so called advancement in science and technology the new mordern world witnesses wars, crimes, terrorism, weapons and artillery, natural calamities, injustice, diseases with no cure, newer viruses, unrest, havoc, suicides, financial meltdown, breakdown of the best of systems, scarcity of water and food, etc, etc. If you look decades back, you will amusingly smile when you realize that these things never existed then even without the so-called modern developments of today! What then was the use of all the intellect and inventions and discoveries?
Now, when the earth remains totally unbalanced Mother nature has begun its role of restoring its balance. Foolish is it to ever think that man's advancement is significant and permanent. It just needs a little effort for nature to put man back to where he was, just like the child who with lot of concentration and effort builds his castle of playing cards with the ignorance of a false sense of achievement. One whisper of the wind is enough to put the child back to where he was before building that castle. It's surprising to notice that man does not realize this. All the systems created by man in the name of development and ignorance are such castle of cards.
What man does not realize is that the real exploration and achievement lies in the inner world which can never be destroyed by any force. Turning outwards, searching or creating in the outer world at any given time will only bring in despair and suffering for they are never permanent. But when one turns within one's own self, there is an infinite space that does not require physical presence to conquer but just one's soul to expand into that infinity. Once man gets to know and expand in this conciousness, he surprisingly realizes that is he in all the conciousness - inner and outer. Now, this is what nature is going to make mankind realize.

The time is come when mankind is being forced to turn within than outside. The time is come when man will questions all his "achievements" and ponder over how "successful" he has been spending the few temporary years here on earth. Whether one wants to realize this or not was an option in the yester-years, not any more. Now there is no option left for man to decide about this. The forces of creation and nature are now restoring balance like a mother cleans her house after her ignorant child broke and knocked out things out of their right places while being engrossed in "play". The mother had always gently reminded the child that it was not right, but the child always continued the habit of playing "his" way. Finally, when enough damage was done, the mother gently put the things back in place, kept the "bad" things out of reach of the child, dusted and cleaned all dirt out of the house and restored things back in place. The mother also made sure that this time the child cannot reach the valuable things of the house until the child "grows up" and understands the value of things that were actually supposed to be privileges for everyone at "home". She knows that once the child sees the "higher purposes" these temporary acts of fun and play will fail to entertain the child anymore.

This is exactly what our Mother nature is doing right now. Gently snatching things that were very valuable to us and placing it away from us, mending all the things that we broke, blowing away all the temporary creations that we made during our "play" and dusting out the dirt and cleaning out the excessive baggages that we created around us. Please know that while a house is being cleaned there will be more dust and debris flying all around. It will be more messy than the mess the child created since the mother has pulled up her sleeves and decided to clean the entire house and re-locate everything into its "natural" place.

During these cleansing periods, the child frets, fumes, cries, wails, makes fuss, becomes adamant and refuses to let go. But the mother knows what is right and will not heed to any fuss or "distress" because she knows that what is distress to the child is not actually any distress at all. She will continue cleaning and setting things right. Mother would also gently ask the child to assist her if she can. Some cute children do get up and do their best in the cleaning process. So, it is up to you whether you want to fret, fume and cry over the mess that is taking place in your life and around you or stop resisting and start assisting!

Patience and faith in the mother will help ease all pain and suffering. Mother knows what is right. You also have to know that you are growing and you will no longer need these temporary acts of play to amuse you and comfort you for there are better things awaiting you as you grow. As mother does its job, you should now take responsibility for the mess you have created and like a good child assist mother in picking things up. If you cannot assist then let go and be patient with trust. The cleaning process is not very easy and can be very distressing. We have contributed in some or the other way to the mess that has happened in the world and it becomes our responsibility to do out bit. If the cleaning of the world is overwhelming, start with cleaning the self. Since the Universe is a representation of each and every one of us, even the smallest change down within our own self will automatically contribute to the world's cleansing. So, there is actually no need to even think of changing the world or blaming the darkness. Let us light a candle if we can. It might look impossible to change the world and it is but what is not impossible is the possibility of changing our own selves and cleaning our own selves. Just know that when you do this, you have already started cleaning the world. However, it does not matter if others realize this fact or not for the changes in nature and changes on planet earth are going to happen, irrespective of what everyone thinks. All those who resist and refuse to change with nature shall perish for it is foolish to even think that one can beat nature in this, however, farther the technology goes. The time is come. The time is come to change or be changed by nature's force in the form of unbearable pain and sufferings. Once the change happens then this transition shall become very smooth and one would just float on the river without any resistance to wherever the flow of new changes takes one to, and of course, that shall be nothing less than a paradise, far better than the mess we have created and are living with. Stay blessed!

Sunday, August 02, 2009

How to meditate?

"huh.. can't believe I put almost 6 hours to write and design this article.. you better put it to use in your life and make good use of it... lol..."
Hoping that you have read my previous write-up on “Why to meditate?” you will now understand better on how to meditate.

The internet is full of information about the various forms of meditation and the various techniques that one can perform. Though many are useful, many are also more glamorous which lures one to try those techniques. Remember one thing always. There is nothing glamorous about meditation because meditation is not what you show others and neither is it something that should be potrayed as something that is impressive.

Currently, many people are attracted towards spirituality and thus want to get into meditation but very few actually succeed. When they hear about it or see someone meditating and talking about the good effects of meditation, they get geared up to “try” it. But little do they give attention to few things due to which they fail. I would like to give you very straight practical tips on not how to meditate, but how to meditate successfully.

You need some mental preparation first. Spend a few minutes pondering and contemplating on a few things mentioned here.
  • DO NOT UNDER/OVER-ESTIMATE: First, do not overestimate or underestimate the powers of meditation. You are overestimating its powers when you take the act for granted. It looks very simple and to many it is sitting in one place with eyes closed. Those who have never meditated can try sitting with eyes closed without a single thought for only 60 seconds and you will understand why people fail. This is overestimating. Underestimation is when you do not believe in the powers of meditation which automatically means that you do not believe in yourself because meditation does not work on its own like magic but it needs your soul to be on the driver seat on the diiferent vehicles (techniques. So, first trust and believe that you have the power to successfully meditate and achieve whatever you want.
  • WHY MEDITATE? Every single thing you want to do should have a purpose, then only will you move ahead. Think about why do you want to meditate? Find out your motive. Is it to achieve mental peace, achieve success, stay happy and calm, grow as a better human being, improve health and relationships, or spiritual growth towards enlightenment? Make it very clear before you even attempt. If you are directionless and don’t really know why you want to meditate (which many people really don’t know) then you may read my previous post “Why to meditate?” If you already are a spiritual person then you might feel guilty of having a motive to meditation. Not all people who attained liberation (moksha) began with the sole motive of nirvana. There are so many other good motives in life that can get you strongly to concentrate and focus on. Don’t worry about the spiritual benefits, they will surely follow (whether you want it or not!). So, when you know why is it that you want to meditate, you now have a clear focus and more importantly a motivation. Motivation is very important for you to develop interest.
  • DESIRE: Where does the motivation come from? Desire! So if anyone has told you that it is wrong to have a desire it is false. People are generally told to develop no desire. There is a wide difference between good desires and bad desires. Undoubtedly, the desireless quality does exist but in highly evolved spiritualists, and if you were highly evolved then you wouldn’t have been reading this. So, there is still time to reach there at which stage the desire will vanish on its own. But right now you have to have desire. If someone still insists you should not have desire, then let them know that the eagerness to not have desire is also a desire! So, get guilt-free and get that burning desire to achieve whatever it is that you aspire through meditation. The results of your meditation is directly proportional to your desire to meditate. And as told earlier, to have that desire, you need motivation and for motivation you should know WHY you want to meditate. If things are clear till here, proceed reading, if not, read again from the top.
  • EXCUSES: Once the above three steps are clear and you have decide that you have to meditate, make up your mind on what are you going to do about the excuses that your mind is going to make here onwards. Maybe you are highly charged with idea of meditating right now but trust my words, excuses will come once you begin. I mention a few here so that you are well prepared to handle them the moment excuses start raising their hood within you. Time is the biggest excuse. When I question my students many say they don’t have time. Then, I start asking them carefully what they do from the time they wake up in the morning to the time they go to sleep at night and they go tiringly explain all the daily common chores and responsibilities they have to go through. But, surprisingly when I calculate meticulously all the spare periods during the waking hours, they themselves are amazed to know that they have more than two hours everyday that is absolutely nonproductive and wasted in the myth of being actually busy. So, even the time that you are going to spend daily on meditation should be decided upon earlier and planned for. What use is life if you have only time for somebody else or something else and don’t have 15 minutes to spend for the most important person in the world– You! Plan out your time. At least 15 minutes in the morning after you wake up and 15 minutes before going to bed to start with. For absolute beginners even 5-10 minutes is excellent. Now, when you have decided the timings that you will spend with ONLY yourself, make sure it is the time when there is nothing else that you would be needed to do. Also make sure that nothing disturbs you – phones, television, people. Shut these gadgets off and let your people know that you would not want to be disturbed for that little time. If meditation is taboo to them, then no need to mention this to them because then you will only add up something to your obstacle list. Choose an appropriate time that only you on earth can decide; not me, not anyone can. Other excuses that you may notice within you are excuses for oversleeping and laziness. The excuses for laziness will come in hundreds of very convincing forms. Be alert to catch and destroy these immediately before they grow into a deadly habit of procrastination.
  • PATIENCE: Meditation, as you know, is basically zeroing down on thoughts to a stage where at a given point of time there are zero thoughts in the mind. Once you begin witnessing such zero-thought states in flashes between intervals of a huge traffic of thoughts, then focus on increasing the time of the no-thought stage. For this patience is something that is very important. Patience is required even to sort out the biggest obstacle that I just mentioned about – excuses. Don’t sit down there and expect to see light or your guardian angel or a vision or some exciting sounds or colors, and not enlightenment please. You first got to understand that this is a training process, where first you will have to train your mind to get used to this habit. Once you begin, you will begin to know how the mind wanders and how difficult it is to tame the mind. I said difficult not impossible. Any new habit (especially a good one) is difficult but know that the fruits are sweet. Remind yourself again and again about your goal or motive that you would like to achieve with meditation. Have the picture crystal clear. Make a mental video of what you want to achieve. Play this video everytime you are distracted. It could be a movie where you see yourself perfectly healthy and enjoying the activities that you would just freak on. It could be a movie of you sitting in your dream office cabin and enjoying that job that you always wanted to do. It could be that BIG thing that you always wanted to do in life. Watch this movie repeatedly and enjoy every bit of it. For spiritual aspirants create your own video of how you would see yourself after achieving higher spiritual levels. It is more sensible to watch this mental movie directed and produced by you rather than getting disappointed with the obstacles and losing hope. Do what you must, but spend that 15 minutes entirely with yourself (yes, even if it does not actually turn out to be meditation in the beginning). But all the time keep playing your mental movie whenver it is required. Now, the movie is not your meditation but this is just something that you keep handy to play just in case you are not able to meditate on a given day or time. Instead of calling it off in 5 minutes, spend the entire 15 minutes that you so meticulously planned. Spend it with yourself – for yourself. Eventually you will be spending more quality time in quality meditation.
After you are mentally prepared there are few things that you need to prepare yourself for:
  • ~ A secluded place in one part of your house or garden where you wont be disturbed and preferably the same place where you can sit everyday.
  • ~ Be comfortable in whichever position you sit, either on the floor or chair.
  • ~ Keep your spine erect.
  • ~ If you are sitting on the ground sit on a woolen blanket and if you are sitting on the chair keep your feet firm on the ground.
  • ~ Make sure you are not hungry or have just had meals.
  • ~ Preferable and recommended time to meditate is anytime between 4 a.m. and 7 a.m. or just before you go to bed.
Now, once you are mentally and physically prepared, you need to know how to meditate. There are various methods of meditation and you may want to experiment with a few. The methods I mention here are only the ones that I have tried and successfully used, the ones which I can speak with authenticity. Follow whichever suits you but know that the ultimatum of any meditation technique is to connect to your inner self or connect to divinity. This connection happens when all your distracting thoughts slowly start reducing and comes to point where there is no thought at all. This is where you would need patience till the mind is trained. Currently, you are dominated by your thoughts and they take you wherever they want and whenever they want and you helplessly follow wherever your mind takes you. But with patience in meditation practices, you will soon learn to control your mind and command your thoughts to obey you so that you can channel your thought energy towards the healthy and positive aspects of life.
Here are few that I feel are practical and effective ones:
  • Watch your thoughts: The simplest process is simply sitting with your eyes closed and watching your thoughts. Here there is no judgment made on any thought. Avoid thinking, judging or classifying any thought. Know that you are now sitting and putting all your attention into observing thoughts. You would not want all your energy to be focussed on what you are trying to avoid – thoughts. So give them no attention. Instead sit back and observe them come and go. When you stop feeding thoughts with any energy (attention) you will see that they are starved and slowly fade away. Just watch every thought being completely detached as though they have nothing to do with you. Soon, you will see the intensity and quantity of thoughts start reducing until you are totally empty of any thoughts. Thus you will experience what is nothingness, which you may have only read in books.
  • Simply stare: Another method is to look/stare at something so that all your attention is totally focussed on that something. That something can be a small dot on the wall, a small point of glow or light, a candle flame, an image of a deity or God or even a picture of your dreams. Look at this object and get engrossed. This is similar to what you feel when you are deeply thinking about something with your eyes open. You must have noticed that even though your eyes are open you get so engrossed that you don’t even hear anyone calling out to you. This happens to all very naturally. While reading a book, watching your favorite program, day dreaming, etc. Try it right now. Reading these letters try to think about something you love. As you do that you will see these words getting blur and as your eyes remain fixed, you are lost in thought. Apply the same technique for meditation and be astounded by great results. Again, it will take patience and practice before you can go into this mode whenever and wherever you wish to.
  • Chant: Chanting or recitation is another effective method of applying your concentration on a set of words or mantra. The words can be those magic words that you want to achieve in life, like success, love, health, happiness, peace, etc. Sanksrit mantras are very effective because they contain those vibrations that make a great impact on you when they are recited with concentration. These syllables contain those vibrations that were initially discovered by great saints during higher levels of meditation. So, if you want mantras to be effective make sure you use the correct pronunciation and feelings. Understanding the meaning and being aware of the meaning while you recite is equally important. With a few “quality” recitations the vibrations in your physical body starts changing and you go into deeper states of meditation with every recitation. If you mind is distracted visualize that distracting thought convert into a flower and offer the flower to the divine and continue reciting. Using a japa mala (rosary or beads) helps. Many think that mala is used to keep a count like 54 recitation or 108 recitation. Its not the number of recitation that is important but the quality of each recitation. This helps when mind gets distracted. When the mind wanders, the movement of the finger from one bead to the other gently reminds you of what you are doing and brings you back to meditation. You can chose a mantra depending on what changes you would like to bring into your life. The most effective mantra is the mantra that a guru decides for you and initiates you into (mantra deeksha) and this mantra helps you drastically in your spiritual progress.
  • Devotion: This approach is highly suitable for emotional people. If you are one who get emotional easily or whose heart flows out with love very easily then this is an easy approach. You can either yourself sing songs of devotion and love or listen to devotional music and get engrossed in it. Again, the feelings and emotions play an important role here. You can think about the divine, whichever religion you belong to and pour out your love. What happens when you do this is that your vibrations raise and when your vibrations are higher no lower vibrational thoughts will ever enter your mind. Ecstasy and bliss can be obtained with high energies running in your physical and emotional body. The logic mind users will find this technique difficult because their conscious mind will always dominate their subconscious thus not allowing to feel emotions freely. For such people other approaches are better. But those who can cry at the drop of a hat and are sensitive to the emotions of life, can easily get into this mode. You need not be religious to do this. You can also just close your eyes and witness yourself in situations that give you immense happiness. It may be just entering into imaginative moments with nature, animals, babies, old people, etc; anything that triggers that sense of happiness and peace in your. Your favorite soft and melodious music can enhance your experience.
  • Yoga: Now-a-days yoga is not a taboo anymore and you find people of all races practicing this for better health and vitality. I would not want to get into minute details of yoga as the information is freely available on different asanas and pranayamas. If done rightly, this process can be meditative. If this method interests you, then I would highly recommend Baba Ramdev’s 7 asanas and 7 pranayamas. Asanas involve 7 different postures of the body. If you become aware of each and every part of your body while doing each asana then it becomes a meditational process. Pranayama involves 7 different breath work like anulom vilom, kapal bhathi, bhastrika, bahya, agnisar, bramhari and udgeet. Being aware of your breath totally while doing these pranayams will get you into the meditative state. While you do these pranayamas with breath awareness, the cosmic energy starts flowing into your body thus also activating your chakras and nadis. This is how yoga bring health and vitality along with spiritual growth to people who practice it consistently and correctly.
  • Awareness: This method is very simple but requires consistent practice to master. Here you simply sit in a steady posture and bring your awareness at one point or body part at one given time. Close your eyes and start with bringing all your attention and awareness to the toes, then after a while move your awareness to your soles and then to the ankles, calves, thighs, etc and move upwards part by part to every part of the body. While you do this don’t react to any thought or sensations in the body. You will be surprised to know that there will be different bodily sensations that surface up during this technique, right from small tingling to a sensation of itching to sometimes aches and pain. The aim here should be not to react to any sensation or feeling but just observe it without being attached to it. Surprisingly, the sensation or feeling will emerge and subside on its own if not given attention to. This can be experimented to relieve yourself from aches and pains. Bring your attention to that body part or area which is disturbing you and be totally aware of how that sensation is without reacting to it. Feel the sensation however odd it might feel. Slowly you will see it fade away. This method is very effective in gaining mastery over the mind.
So, these are some practical methods of meditating. Though you may find hundreds of other methods on the internet, it is more important as to which one appeals to you. Each and every method works but what works on one person need not necessarily work on the other person. The amount of intensity you get in one method may not be achieved in another method. So experiment a little with any of these or all of these and settle down with the one that gives you the best result and you find easy to do.

Do not discuss your practices with others as you will only waste energy and can get open to critisism that can demotivate you from your path. Also, discussing your practices with others gives rise to your ego and once the ego comes in, the best of progress can tumble down. You might feel the urge to share with others all the mystical experiences that you witness, but do not share it with everyone for you risk being mocked and being discouraged, but if you still feel like sharing, share it with like-minded people who are well aware of the way the mystical things work . But again, share it with the only intention of learning and growing but never out of pride.

Ultimately, remember this. It will certainly take time to master meditation and all great meditators began with this small step that you intend to take. Initially, it may sound, look and feel awkward but once you start gaining momentum you will begin to notice the changes that it brings to your personality and all the wonderful metaphysical results it brings to you, which will become your motivation to achieve better tranquility and state of mind – unaffected by anything. This will start paving the way towards the manifestation of whatever dreams you have held within you, however impossible they would have seemed to you. Don’t believe me? I can’t be your proof, you yourself will be. Stay blessed!

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