Creating A More Compassionate World Through Yoga

As living beings, we have a natural desire both to love and be loved. This is an inseparable aspect of our true nature, our spiritual nature. This is why it feels so amazingly good and right in our hearts to be relating with others in a truly loving and compassionate way. And why it feels so horrible to be relating with others in a non-loving or hateful way. It is not that only some people are like this due to their character or upbringing. All living beings have this innate loving nature. We love to love and we love to be loved – this is what makes us happier than absolutely anything else.

However, when we come into this material world, we are immediately covered by layers of material energy and become forgetful of our true spiritual nature. Instead of knowing that we are eternal spiritual individuals only temporarily wearing the material mind and body like clothes, we believe we are the ”clothes.” Convinced we are material, we take the total reality to be only the tiny section of it that we can detect with our material mind and senses. Thus, we look for fulfillment, happiness, and love only within the limited realm of matter. We fight and compete endlessly with others over things we think we need to be happy, trying to fill our hearts with mental and physical objects of this world. But because we are spiritual beings, made of spiritual energy, none of it can fulfill us. Our hearts are left empty and cold. It is ironic that the very things we are fighting over so mercilessly with one another, can never actually make us happy. All that fighting just leads us further away from the happiness we seek, further into darkness and ignorance.

Because we are spiritual beings, we need to be consciously linked up with our spiritual source, the Supreme Person, to be fulfilled and revive our true loving nature. As parts and parcels of the Supreme, each of us (every living being) is a tiny spiritual spark of the Supreme. We have the same essence and many of the same qualities as the Supreme Person, but we have them in minute quantities. When we are intimately linked with the Supreme, our spiritual qualities are manifest – just like sparks within a fire glow with the heat and light of the fire. But when we leave the close association of the Supreme, these spiritual qualities fade – in the same way that sparks grow dark and cold when they leave the influence of the fire.

This conscious linking up with the Supreme Person is called yoga. Oftentimes people misunderstand yoga as the physical postures (asana) and breathing exercises (pranayama) that are just a small aspect of the complete yoga system. But, actually, the word yoga means “union” and specifically it refers to our natural condition of loving union with the Supreme Person. The yoga system is designed to return us to this natural condition in which we are linked up with God in such an intimate way that our heart, our mind, our entire being, are immersed in divine love – our love for the Supreme Person and His love for us. Our every thought, word, and action become expressions of pure unconditional love for all beings. A person who is established in perfect yoga is so completely and utterly full with love, that there is no room anywhere within his entire being for selfishness and greed. He literally is the embodiment of unwavering love and compassion for all.

This transcendental love is what we need in order to truly have harmonious relationships with each other. The conditional love that we have for our child, but not for the child of our enemy is not enough. Material so-called love that is here today and gone tomorrow, that comes and goes according to our current mental or physical connections with each other, is not enough. What we need is unconditional love – love that emanates from the very core of our being, from our spiritual nature, and motivates us to genuinely care about the welfare of every living being. It is this divine love – and the joy that comes of it – that can give us the determination to work and sacrifice as much as is necessary so that everyone can be benefitted in the highest way possible. Without real love for each other, it will be impossible for us to ever work together and sacrifice together in the ways are necessary for all of us to be happy. It is only love that can heal the hurt of the past and carry us into a brighter future.

The unconditional love that we so urgently need may seem very far away at the present moment, but actually the seed of this love is already there within our hearts. Due to our forgetfulness of our true spiritual nature and subsequent identification with matter, this seed is mostly dormant within the people of this world. But it can be awakened through the hearing and chanting of the transcendental Names of the Supreme Person.

The Names of the Supreme Person are no ordinary sound – they are the Supreme Person Himself in spiritual sound vibration. Out of His causeless love for all of us, the Supreme Person appears personally in this world as His Names in order to give us the opportunity to come back into full awareness of our original spiritual nature. Simply by hearing and chanting or singing God’s Names, we are putting ourselves in His direct presence. This has a profound purifying and enlivening effect on our consciousness. As our minds and hearts are purified of the influence of matter, our true spiritual nature shines forth more and more.

When we consciously link up with the Supreme Person through His Names, we again begin to manifest our true divine nature. Through hearing and chanting or singing His Names on a daily basis, we are able to revive our forgotten relationship of loving friendship with Him. And, as our hearts blossom with love for our Supreme Friend, this love naturally extends to all His children – to all living beings. God wants us to be happy. And He knows that we will only be truly happy when we are in our natural condition – when we are truly loving Him and loving all of our spiritual siblings. Motivated by this love and joy, we will naturally relate compassionately with others and use our life for the highest welfare of all.

In the yoga scriptures, it is explained that the hearing and chanting of God’s Names is the highest welfare work we can perform. Not only does it free us of material misconceptions and awaken unconditional love for the Supreme and all beings within our hearts, but it has this same effect on every living being who hears them. So by hearing and chanting the Names of the Supreme Person aloud so that others can hear – and by encouraging them to do this also – we are directly creating a more loving and compassionate world.

The happiness and harmony we long for in our heart of hearts is entirely possible. If we sincerely want a better life for ourselves and others, we will have the determination and make the effort to actively be part of the solution. We cannot just sit back and blame others for our problems or depend on others to fix them for us. The Supreme Person makes it very easy for all of us to take part in His perfect solution. All we need to do is be humble enough to take advantage of this immeasurable gift and earnestly apply ourselves. The more loving and compassionate world we desire begins with us.

In the yoga system, meditation upon the transcendental Names of the Supreme Person is called Mantra Meditation. For information on specific types of yoga Mantra Meditation, simply click on the links below:

Kirtan

Japa Yoga

Gauranga Breathing

Some nice quotes on Love and Compassion to inspire you:

“The day the power of love overrules the love of power, the world will know peace.” Mahatma Gandhi

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”   ― Martin Luther King Jr.

“We do not need guns and bombs to bring peace, we need love and compassion.”  ― Mother Teresa

When I say it’s you I like, I’m talking about that part of you that knows that life is far more than anything you can ever see or hear or touch. That deep part of you that allows you to stand for those things without which humankind cannot survive. Love that conquers hate, peace that rises triumphant over war, and justice that proves more powerful than greed.” ― Fred Rogers

“If someone thinks that peace and love are just a cliche that must have been left behind in the 60s, that’s a problem. Peace and love are eternal.” John Lennon

“The only thing we really have to work at in this life is how to manifest love.”    George Harrison

Opening Our Hearts To Love Again

heart opening love God yoga meditation natural living tree

Even if we have been hurt in relationships many times in the past, it is natural for us to want to love again. We deeply desire to love others and also to be loved by others. In fact, this is more than just a desire – it is an innate need. All living beings need both to love and be loved in order to be truly happy and fulfilled. This is why we spend our lives seeking out and trying to maintain loving friendships with others. However, when we have been hurt and disappointed over and over again throughout our lives, it can be very difficult to open our hearts to love again.

This is the situation that many of us find ourselves in today. When we are very young, it is usually quite easy to open our hearts – to form loving friendships with others in a very relaxed and natural way. When we are very young, we tend to have a certain amount of innocence about the world that allows us to open our hearts easily, to be affectionate and generous in our relationships with others. But as we grow older and experience the pain of a broken heart, a broken friendship, a broken bond of trust countless times with various people, our approach to relationships changes. We often become hesitant to open our hearts, to really trust others with our love – and very quick to put up walls, to withdraw our affection, to keep our most intimate feelings hidden. We may go through the motions externally of making friends and having all kinds of relationships, but inwardly we are not really allowing ourselves to get too close to others. Often we even become deeply fearful of love and the pain we associate with loving others. And so we find ourselves in a most awkward position – wanting and needing to love, but not at all feeling safe to love.

So, how can we love again? Not just superficially so, but truly, deeply, in the way that we have always longed to love and be loved.

They key is in reviving our awareness of our true identity and innate relationship with the Supreme Person.

Because we are eternal spiritual beings – not the material mind and body we are temporarily wearing – we need to experience love that transcends our material circumstances. Our longing for love is actually a spiritual need, arising from our eternal nature, so cannot be fulfilled in ways that are limited and impermanent. This is why we are disappointed, frustrated, and bewildered time and time again when we try to find the extraordinary love that we are seeking in relationships with ordinary living beings. Ordinary living beings simply do not have the capacity to fulfill our eternal and unlimited need for spiritual love. Only the Supreme Person has that capacity – no one else.

This is not to say that we cannot have loving relationships with other people, but we will only find the absolute fulfillment in love that we long for in our relationship with the Supreme Person. And when we do actually find this fulfillment within our relationship with God, because we are fulfilled, we will be able to love others in a truly healthful way – selflessly and without fear.

So how do we develop a loving relationship with God?

Our answer is in the bona fide scriptures of the world – and specifically the ancient yoga texts give very detailed instructions on this matter.

In the yoga scriptures, it is explained that we are eternally related with the Supreme Person by a bond of kinship. He is our closest relative, our Supreme Father-Mother and our eternal dearmost Friend. Although the love that we have for each other is ever-existing, inseparable from our very nature, our remembrance of this love becomes covered by the influence of matter when we come into this material realm. When we put on the material “clothes” of the mind and body, and become lost in the misconception that we are these coverings, we tend to forget our spiritual nature and everything related to it.

Even though the Supreme Person is our closest Friend and dearmost Beloved, we can lose awareness of everything we know about Him, even His very existence. This is how powerful the affect material nature has on us. However, because living in forgetfulness of God is so unnatural for us, we are never able to become very comfortable in this materially-induced amnesia. We experience a deep emptiness, a gnawing restlessness that simply cannot be filled through any kind of relationship of this world. And it is this deep dissatisfaction that is actually our saving grace. Because it lets us know that something is wrong, that there is a very essential something or someone that is missing from our lives. It is this dissatisfaction that leads us to continue searching until we find our way back to the loving embrace of our eternal Friend.

If we are able to recognize, or even consider the possibility, that our longing for love needs to be directed toward God in order to be fulfilled, then we are very fortunate indeed. We may feel emotionally bruised by our failed exploits in material love, but inwardly we can take heart in the knowledge that our so-called failures have now put us on the most auspicious and joyful of all paths. Love for God is no ordinary love – it is the perfection of love, the perfection of our very being. It is what our hearts have been seeking lifetime after lifetime – our highest nature, and fullest, most authentic and glorious expression of self.

Love for the Supreme Person eternally resides within our hearts, but it is currently covered, dormant, like a seed. In order to awaken this love, to encourage this seed to sprout and flourish, we need to cultivate it. This can best be done by following the instructions of scripture.

In the yoga scriptures, it is clearly explained that the most effective way to cultivate our remembrance and love of the Supreme Person is by meditating on His transcendental Names. (In yoga, this is called Mantra Meditation.) The Names of the Supreme are the Supreme Person Himself in spiritual sound vibration. God appears in this world in the form of spiritual sound in order to give us the chance to personally know and relate with Him. The Supreme is always the Supreme, regardless of how or where He is chooses to appear. Thus, His Names are never influenced or tainted in any way through contact with matter. On the contrary, God’s Names remain purely spiritual in all circumstances, so they have the ability to purify our consciousness of all material misconceptions. In this way, our true nature can be revealed.

Through hearing and chanting or singing His Names daily, our hearts and minds are gradually cleansed of all material misunderstandings and misgivings. The darkness, pain, bitterness, anxiety, and heart-break of material living dissipates as the budding warmth, comfort, and golden healing radiance of spiritual love unfolds itself within our hearts.

This loving relationship that we have with God – that we are wanting to revive – is not at all impersonal or general. It is not loving some vague idea of Him. On the contrary, it is the most personal, close and intimate of all relationships. God is a real Person, our ever well-wisher and dearmost beloved Best Friend that we have simply forgotten. As we hear, chant, and sing His Names, we begin to actually remember Him. We experience the familiar feel and warmth of His presence in our hearts and in His Names – and naturally, we rejoice. It is life itself returning to our hearts.

In this relationship, we will find all the happiness, peace, meaning, safety, sense of belonging, purpose, and so on that we have been longing for. The Supreme Person loves us unconditionally. He loves us even when when we are not loving Him, even when we forget His existence. So, when we finally turn to Him with a sincere desire to know and love Him again, He will not refuse us because we are imperfect, afraid, or even very low and fallen. He will help us. He will hold our hand and kindly encourage us in the right direction. We may be hesitant, at first, to trust our heart even to the Supreme Person. But as our consciousness is purified through Mantra Meditation – as we are able to directly see Him for our self with a clear mind and heart – we will be able to know for sure that there is no place in the entirety of existence that is a more safe and natural place for our heart than with our Supreme Friend. When we are, at last, able to truly give our heart to Him, without the tiniest amount of fear, doubt, or reservation, we will be Home.

This is the solution to all of our problems of the heart. When our heart finds its real Home, its natural resting place, in the loving embrace of our dearmost Beloved Friend, we will understand completely why love has been such a difficult road for us up until now and why it never will be again. We will know love in a whole new way. We will know love – real love, spiritual love – as our natural condition.

For information on specific types of yoga Mantra Meditation, simply click on the links below:

Kirtan

Japa Yoga

Gauranga Breathing

 

Naturally In Harmony – Music for Spiritual Realization

natural living in harmony music spiritual realization2

Naturally, we are attracted to music. For many of us, it plays such a central role in our lives that we listen to it every day, throughout our day, and even while we sleep. Music has a powerful influence on our consciousness and can affect us in very beneficial ways. Many hospitals and healthcare centers nowadays are regularly using music to assist in the health and wellness of their patients. Certainly, our mind can be affected by music in a variety of desirable ways. However, the most beneficial way that we can use music is for spiritual realization.

The music that most of us listen to is made up entirely of material sound. Even nature sounds, like the sound of ocean waves or rain or songbirds chirping, are all material sounds. Although material sound vibrations can be used to create pleasant mental, emotional, and physical states, all these benefits are only temporary. They may help our mind and body to feel calm or happy or energized for a short period of time, but then the effect diminishes. We may listen again, but the desired effect still fades away. If we listen to a material sound or song all day every day, what tends to happen is that we grow tired of listening it.

The reason material sound only brings us temporary pleasure is because it just feeds the mind and body, which are also made of material energy. But we are not the mind and body. In fact, we are made of a completely different energy – spiritual energy.

According to the ancient yoga scriptures and other bona fide scriptures of the world, we are eternal spiritual beings only temporarily wearing the material mind and body. The gross physical body can be compared to outer clothes and the mind or subtle energy body can be compared to under clothes. Just as we are not the clothes we are wearing, we are not the material bodies we are wearing either.

Because we are spiritual beings existing within material coverings, and within a world made up almost entirely of material energy, we tend to lose awareness of our spiritual nature. Our consciousness becomes covered by the misconception that we are material and that everything in existence is material also. In this condition, we fall asleep to our true spiritual nature and operate as if we actually are the material mind and body we are wearing. Our life becomes centered on taking care of these “clothes” and we become lost in this endeavor, like a dreamer becomes lost in a dream.

The mind and senses are always agitating for stimulation of some kind and so we are endlessly engaged in running here and there, trying to obtain this thing or that situation in a vain attempt to satisfy them. We do this under the misperception that by satisfying our mind and bodily senses, we will be satisfying our self. But, in fact, it has just the opposite effect. The more we focus our life on trying to appease the mind and senses, the more agitated they become. And, the more we buy into the misunderstanding that the clothes are us, the more empty, bewildered, frustrated, unhappy, and desperate we become. We will find ourselves doing all kinds of unhealthy things in an urgent attempt to pacify the increasing agitation, and in doing so, we drift further and further away from our true spiritual nature.

We become so caught up in chasing things outside of ourselves – in trying to obtain recognition and approval from others, external power and control, wealth, fame, sensual gratification, and whatever else it is that our mind and body agitate for – that we forget who we are and what is actually essential for us to live a rich, meaningful, and fully satisfying life. Without realizing who we truly are, it is impossible for us to know how to be actually happy and fulfilled.

So how can we realize our true nature?

When we look to the yoga scriptures, we find an answer that can easily be incorporated into some of our favorite activities – hearing, singing, and playing music.

The yoga scriptures recommend mantra meditation – meditation on sacred sounds – as the primary means for self-realization in this day and age. A mantra is not something anyone makes up. It is the Absolute Truth in sound vibration. This spiritual sound vibration descends from the spiritual platform to the material world without losing any of its potency. In mantra meditation, a person hears and chants or sings this spiritual sound and thus is directly relating with the Supreme. This has a profound purifying effect on our consciousness.

These sacred yoga mantras can very easily be combined with music of all genres to create a musical meditation that is an incredibly potent and delightful way to practice meditation – alone or with others. Already we have a natural tendency to want to hear and play music, sing, dance, and engage in joyful activities with other people. By making mantra meditation the basis for these activities, they transcend the mundane and become a means by which participants can taste the sweetness of their true spiritual nature.

The more we practice mantra meditation, the more our consciousness becomes purified of material misunderstandings and misgivings. Practicing daily – with or without music – enables us to gradually awaken from the dream of the material self and into remembrance of our actual self. We all have innate spiritual inclinations and activities which become covered when we erroneously take ourselves to be the material mind and body. Through regular practice of mantra meditation, this mirage can eventually be seen for what it is and we are able to resume our natural way of life, in full awareness of our spiritual nature.

In this awakened state of consciousness, we revive our original loving relationship with the Supreme and it becomes very clear to us how to live our lives both happily and in harmony with all of life. In our natural state of consciousness, there is no confusion about what is to be done and what is not to be done. There is no struggle to find happiness or interact peaceably and honestly with others. There is no longer anything subverting our hearts, so we spontaneously relate with others in genuinely kind and caring ways.

We become the friend and well-wisher of all, endeavoring with unwavering compassion to give others the same opportunity that we were given –  to discover the Divine love song that will lead us back to our real self and our highest, happiest, most fulfilling life.

For more information on specific types of yoga Mantra Meditation, simply click on the links below:

Kirtan

Japa Yoga

Gauranga Breathing

Applying Yoga Wisdom – Freedom From Worry

yoga meditation natural living freedom from worry wisdom

Worry is really not helpful in any situation. When we worry, we allow our fearful state of mind to take over our attention, our energy, our time, and lead us into further subjugation. Sometimes we become convinced that some amount of worry can be helpful in protecting us or inspiring us to act – but we need our actions to arise from intelligence and wisdom, not from worry. Worry is a state in which our hearts, minds, intelligence are covered. Actions that come from this state will only lead ultimately to increased suffering.

Most of us accept that worrying is a waste of time – that it adds nothing good to our lives and actually uses our valuable time and energy in ways that are mentally and physically detrimental to our health and happiness. Still it can be difficult to stop our minds from engaging in this unwanted behavior.

Although worrying is so prevalent that almost every one of us is unwillingly drawn into it from time to time – and many are frequently immersed in worry –  it is essential to understand that it is not natural to us. Worry is not our natural state. Being controlled by our mind is not natural. So then why do we so easily find ourselves doing it and why is it so difficult to stop doing it?

If we understand the root cause of worry, we will have the answers we seek – including a solution that we can apply to free ourselves from worry.

Almost all of us, to one degree or another, are living under the misconception that we are the material mind and body that we are currently wearing – but this is not who we really are. The root cause of worry is mistaking ourselves for the mind and body.

According to the yoga scriptures and other bona fide scriptures of the world, we are not the material body or the mind – we are eternal spiritual beings temporarily wearing the material mind and body. The gross physical body can be compared to outer clothes and the mind or subtle energy body can be compared to under clothes. Just as we are not the clothes we are wearing, we are not the material bodies we are wearing either.

If we are convinced we are the mind and body, then we equate happiness and success with material gratification. We will think that by satisfying the demands of our mind and physical senses, we will be satisfying us. But in actuality, material gratification only brings temporary and superficial pleasure to the mind and senses. It does not actually touch us – the spiritual self wearing the clothes.

If we only engage in activities that serve our mind and body, we are spiritually starving ourselves. No matter how much, how pleasurable, or how often we feed our mind and body with material stimulation, we will remain empty and unfulfilled within the core of our hearts. Material experiences can partially cover the emptiness, agitation, and pain we feel deep within. They can temporarily distract us – but when our distraction ends, we again experience the discomfort of our lack of spiritual fulfillment. We can worry endlessly about how to find, capture, and hold on to the material objects, circumstances, and relationships that we think will bring us happiness and satisfaction, but nothing material can ever provide us with the perfect and permanent state of joyful and loving connection that we long for. All things material are impermanent by nature – our nature, however, is eternal.

Because we are spiritual beings, only that which is of our same nature can actually satisfy us. To be permanently and perfectly happy and fulfilled, we need to be linked up with our spiritual Source.

The method recommended by the yoga scriptures in this day and age for consciously connecting with our spiritual Source is mantra meditation. A true mantra is not something anyone makes up. It is the Absolute Truth in sound vibration. This spiritual sound vibration descends from the spiritual platform to the material world without losing any of its potency. In mantra meditation, a person hears and chants or sings this spiritual sound and thus puts themselves in the direct presence of the Supreme. This has a profound purifying effect on our consciousness.

Through mantra meditation, we are able to begin tasting a peace and joy that is transcendental to material circumstances. It fills the painful emptiness deep within us and quiets the agitation in the core of our hearts. When we meditate with a mantra that has real spiritual potency, it nourishes us on the most vital level – the spiritual level. The more that we sincerely, humbly, and regularly engage in this spiritually potent activity, the more we experience a growing fullness within, a growing joy and satisfaction. Naturally, the more we are satisfied through mantra meditation, the less we are dependent on material circumstances for relief or comfort. When the source of our greatest discomfort – spiritual starvation – is alleviated, the relatively small discomforts of the mind and body can be tolerated.

Mantra meditation not only nourishes us, but regular practice gradually purifies our consciousness – freeing our hearts, minds, and intelligence from misunderstandings and misgivings that cover us and keep us stuck in the material concept of life. Thus, we can progressively see things as they are, rather than from the smoggy perspective of ignorance and anxiety. If worried thoughts arise, we are able to dismiss them and use our increasingly purified intelligence to guide us in the best course of action.

The more fully we are established in our spiritual identity and the loving relationship with the Supreme that is inseparable from it, the less worrisome our material troubles are to us. In spiritual realization, we are offered what we long for in our heart of hearts – deep and abiding happiness, permanent and perfect shelter, comfort, and love. Thus, we no longer feel the need to worry over material circumstances, to anguish over the demands of our mind and senses. They are stripped of their power to send us into fits of worry and we are at peace on the solid ground of our true nature.

Freedom from worry is possible for anyone. We need only apply ourselves to the process of mantra meditation with humility and sincerity. The yoga scriptures are a matchless gift, a transcendental treasure, that contain timeless wisdom to assist us in finding our way out of the confusion and anxiety of our misguided identification with matter and into the natural peace and joy of our true spiritual nature.

For more information on specific types of yoga Mantra Meditation, simply click on the links below:

Kirtan

Japa Yoga

Gauranga Breathing

 

“Worry is a cycle of inefficient thoughts whirling around a center of fear.”
Corrie ten Boom

“Worry is like a rocking-chair. It gives you something to do but gets you nowhere.”
Wayne Bennett

“A day of worry is more exhausting than a week of work.”
John Lubbock

“That the birds of worry fly over your head, this you cannot change. But that they build nests in your hair, this you can prevent.”
Chinese Proverb

“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”
Corrie ten Boom

 

Resolving Problems Through Yoga Wisdom – Healing Conflict

couple holding hands heart resolving conflict relationships naturally living yoga resize

When our relationship with someone we care about is in distress, it is important to take responsibility for our part in the matter. Even if the other person has also done or said hurtful things, it is still very important that we allow ourselves to see our own contributions to the problem. This way, we can feel sincerely sorry for our mistakes or faults and apologize accordingly. When we are willing to take these essential first steps, the way is opened for healing to take place.

However, sometimes, even if in our hearts we feel very sad about the state of our relationship, we still cannot seem to bring ourselves to see our part, feel remorse for our actions, and apologize. Instead we feel anger and frustration. Our mind cannot help but focus on how the other person, or some other person, or something else is responsible. Deep in our hearts, we fear that we are at fault, too, in some way – yet seeing this fault clearly feels like it is beyond our abilities. When we feel stuck in defense mode, conflicted, unable to act in a way that will remedy the situation, what can we do?

There are many different ways we can approach this kind of a problem, but if we are seeking a permanent solution to any problem in life, looking at the situation from the yoga, or Vedic, perspective will always be helpful. The ancient yoga texts offer us a transcendental understanding of our situation, which we can apply to any problem we encounter and thus have access to transcendental solutions.

According to the ancient yoga scriptures and other bona fide scriptures of the world, we are not the material body or the mind – we are eternal spiritual beings temporarily wearing the material mind and body. The gross physical body can be compared to outer clothes and the mind or subtle energy body can be compared to under clothes. Just as we are not the clothes we are wearing, we are not the material bodies we are wearing either.

Even though we are eternal spirit souls, when we take on a material form, we simultaneously take on the pervasive misconception that we are that material form. Our true identity as a purely spiritual being is covered by the misunderstanding that we are made of matter – that we are the mind and body that our consciousness is clothed in. We experience ourselves through the lens of that form, completely convinced that it is us. Our sense of self comes from the characteristics of the material “clothes” we are wearing. If we are born in a female body, we think I am a woman or girl. I am a particular age, ethnicity, nationality, economic and social status, religion, mentality. We think I am this or that – all referring to the material mind and body that we are wearing.

Through living in this way, with our true identity covered, we come to form ideas in our mind about who we are – again, all related to the mind and body. We think I am a good person, an intelligent person, competent, kind, honest, caring, hard-working, respectable, independent. We invest our sense of self-worth in this image of ourselves and derive whatever happiness and feeling of safety that we can from it. We essentially base our life upon this false image of ourselves.

When this image is threatened by something we have done or by someone accusing us in a way that seems contrary to this image, we feel compelled to defend it. We feel as though we are being attacked because we think the image is us. We are reluctant to see the situation in any way that will jeopardize this image of ourselves and will often cause so much unnecessary suffering for ourselves and others to protect this false identity. We will twist our words and minds in so many ways to try to avoid seeing things as they are. But in our hearts we will feel something is very wrong and will not find any real peace and until we are able to see clearly.

It is a difficult situation, but not without a solution. All we need to do is purify our consciousness of the false conceptions of self that we have taken on – then everything will become clear to us. It is only our holding on to the false ideas that keeps us from the wisdom and love that resides eternally in our hearts.

In the yoga scriptures, the recommended method of purification for this day and age is mantra meditation. A true mantra is not something anyone makes up. It is the Absolute Truth in sound vibration. This spiritual sound vibration descends from the spiritual platform to the material world without losing any of its potency. In mantra meditation, a person hears and chants or sings this spiritual sound and thus puts themselves in the direct presence of the Supreme. This has a profound purifying effect on our consciousness.

Through sincere, daily practice of any of the yoga mantra meditations we discussed in earlier articles (Kirtan, Japa Yoga, and Gauranga Breathing), the false ideas about ourselves are able to naturally fall away and our true nature as individual spirit souls, part and parcel of the Supreme Soul, is revealed. In this, our true identity, there is a natural harmony, joy, and peace. All the needs that we were trying so desperately to fulfill through false ideas about our self are able to easily be fulfilled through realizing who we really are and engaging in our natural function in loving relationship with the Supreme.

Through a transcendental perspective of the situation, we can see things as they are. When we are faced with the choice between holding on to something that has no real value (false ideas of self) or to give it up for something that does – for actual love, peace, integrity, happiness – the choice will be clear.

In this consciousness, we will be able to recognize our imperfections and apologize for whatever ways we have caused harm to another, even inadvertently. Feelings of genuine concern and care for others that arise naturally from the growing love in our hearts will inspire us to try to ease the suffering of others and rectify our actions accordingly.

When we make the conscious choice to use all of our life situations in service of our quest to realize our true nature – to live in integrity – then all life situations can become this for us. Distress in life is inevitable, but when we approach this distress with a willingness to learn and grow from it, we will. Utilizing the transcendental wisdom of bona fide scripture in the quest for self realization is essential. The first step is hearing – then we must apply what we learn.

The purification of our consciousness is a gradual process, but well within the reach of absolutely any person who sincerely applies themselves. As we continue to practice these very simple, yet potent methods of yoga mantra meditation, everything becomes increasingly clear. The rewards of living a life of integrity and wisdom – of a life in harmony with the Supreme and all living beings – makes every effort more than worthwhile.

 

Here are some nice quotes on Apologizing to inspire you:

Apology is a lovely perfume; it can transform the clumsiest moment into a gracious gift.
Margaret Lee Runbeck

It takes a great deal of character strength to apologize quickly out of one’s heart rather than out of pity. A person must possess himself and have a deep sense of security in fundamental principles and values in order to genuinely apologize.
Stephan Covey

In some families, please is described as the magic word.  In our house, however, it was sorry.
Margaret Laurence

Apologizing does not always mean that you are wrong and the other person is right. It just means that you value your relationship more than your (false) ego.
– Anonymous

 

The Joy of Forgiveness

joy of forgiveness happy woman natural living

It is inevitable that we will have the experience of being wronged, hurt, or offended in some way by another human being. Moreover, it is likely an experience we will have over and over again throughout our lives. It is not that we and others are generally trying to offend and hurt as many people as possible – it is simply that we are often so focused on ourselves, that we are completely unaware of the effects that our actions are having on others. Or perhaps we are somewhat aware, but see the path we are taking as necessary to our survival or happiness. In any case, we are offending others, others are offending us, and together we can be caught in an endless cycle of hurt and revenge – or we can choose to free ourselves (and others to some degree) through forgiveness.

When we hold on to the hurt we feel over something that someone has done or said that we see as offensive (whether or not it actually is), we are essentially keeping ourselves in the pain of that experience. The actual offense may have only happened once – but when we hold on to it, we experience the pain of it over and over again. It is like we are holding on to a piece of hot coal that someone has placed in our hand. We can choose to drop it, but instead we hold on to it and continue to suffer.

Now why in the world would we do such a thing?

Because as we are holding on to that hot coal that is burning our flesh – that is burning our hearts – we are under the impression that it is burning our offender, as well. It is our desire to hurt this other person who we believe has hurt us that keeps us unnecessarily holding on to the painful thoughts and emotions.

Wanting others to suffer is not our true nature. When we are in this state of desiring to see others suffer, we need to be able to recognize that this desire does not come from us, the spirit soul within the body. It comes from somewhere foreign to us – from the world of materiality – and must be rejected if we sincerely desire to experience our true loving nature.

We cannot grow weeds in our hearts and think that we will have room for love to grow there, too. We cannot cultivate a selfish desire to hurt others and think that selfless love will blossom. It is not possible.

There is absolutely nothing worthwhile to be gained in the suffering of others and absolutely everything worthwhile to be gained for all of life in freeing ourselves – and others whenever possible – from the suffering condition caused by lack of mercy, lack of compassion, lack of love.

In order to be spiritually healthy, we must allow forgiveness to travel unhindered through its natural pathways in our heart. Forgiveness – which is inseparable from love – is life to our heart, to our very being. If we stifle our innate tendency toward forgiveness, toward mercy, we invite disease into our heart. If we withhold it completely, we invite death. Not that we can die in a sense that we no longer exist, but by keeping ourselves from forgiveness, from love, we cover our true nature so completely that it is almost like we are dead inside.

As there is yogic practice to support the healthy flow of vital physical forces throughout the body, there is also yogic practice to support the natural healthy flow of spiritual love in the heart. Bhakti yoga is yoga of the heart. Through bhakti yoga, a person cultivates selfless love, spiritual love, and the merciful nature that is inseparable from it.

Through sincere, daily practice of any of the bhakti yoga meditations we discussed in earlier articles (Kirtan, Japa Yoga, and Gauranga Breathing), you will find that forgiveness comes more easily, spontaneously, and naturally to you. You will find that you really like forgiving others – that it brings incredible deep joy to your heart and lightness to your being. This is often a gradual process, but well worth the effort.

Forgiveness in its purest form is selfless service. When, out of actual concern for the well-being of another, you sincerely choose to forgive or overlook their offenses toward you, you naturally benefit because love grows in your heart. And with it, naturally, there is joy, there is peace, there is the freedom of being true to our self – of being our true self.

 

Here are some quotes on Forgiveness to inspire you:

We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Forgiveness is the giving, and so the receiving, of life.
George MacDonald

To err is human; to forgive, divine.
Alexander Pope

One forgives to the degree that one loves.
Francois de La Rochefoucauld

You can’t forgive without loving. And I don’t mean sentimentality. I don’t mean mush. I mean having enough courage to stand up and say, ‘I forgive. I’m finished with it.’
Maya Angelou

When you forgive, you in no way change the past – but you sure do change the future.
Bernard Meltzer

 

Finding Real Shelter in Hard Times – Part 2

woman tree roots natural living

As discussed in earlier articles, we are spiritual beings currently living in a material body. Because of this, we have grown accustomed to operating on the superficial, material level. We look for safety in material ideas and objects, trying to take shelter, trying to find a sense of happiness, peace, and solace in so many things. Some people turn to intoxicants or other forms of escapism in times of trouble. Others take some comfort in having accumulated monetary wealth, social prestige or power. Some try to take shelter in having a great amount of creative talent, a sharp intellect, or physical beauty. Some people feel a certain measure of safety in being very pious or austere. There are even those who try to find peace in steering their mind toward positive thoughts. There are so many material things – mental and physical – that people try to take shelter in and although they may experience some measure of comfort, they never actually reach a level of feeling completely safe, completely happy. Instead they experience persistent anxiety, restlessness, discontent, and an insatiable desire for something they do not have.

If a person is taking shelter in something material, they are putting themselves in a very precarious position. The nature of material things is that they are temporary and can be easily lost or destroyed through unexpected circumstances. The fear of loss associated with things considered essential to a person’s happiness causes constant anxiety. So by taking shelter in material things, a person will not only be in constant anxiety about losing his false shelter, but he will be making himself vulnerable to intense misery and suffering in the event of its actual loss. Many times people take shelter in having a happy marriage, a loving family, lots of money, a prestigious position in society, or good physical or mental health, then lose it suddenly,  and they are completely devastated. And you will see others who experience devastating material loss and yet they are not devastated. Why?

Because these people, while they may be appreciating the material gifts that come to them, they do not base their happiness upon them. They may be experiencing some superficial happiness or distress from them, but much deeper than this superficial happiness or distress that comes and goes with the waves of material fortune, is a connection to a spiritual source of happiness. The happiness they are experiencing is through a permanent, soul-level connection which they have cultivated through spiritual activities. Even when the person, the soul, leaves the body at the time of death, this connection remains and the person can continue to grow this spiritual connection lifetime after lifetime. This is real shelter. It is transcendental to material circumstances and one who cultivates this deep connection and takes complete shelter in it, will not experience anxiety in life or devastation at death – because their happiness does not depend on material circumstances.

This state of deep spiritual connection cannot be achieved through material means. It cannot be attained through positive thinking or creative visualization. It cannot be developed simply by joining an organization or taking on a new label or belief system. It is not a material thing to be bought and sold, awarded, earned, or inherited.  And it cannot be faked. The only means to attain this connection is through an individual person’s sincere cultivation of it in conjunction with the Supreme. This is because this connection is a relationship. More specifically, it is a unique, personal relationship that an individual soul develops with the Supreme Soul.

In the Vedic yoga texts, a method for cultivating this connection is prescribed for each age, or yuga. In this particular age, the method is very simple and accessible to all. A person can cultivate a loving relationship with the Supreme by regularly hearing and repeating the transcendental names of the Supreme. These names are purely spiritual and inseparable from the Supreme, so by hearing and chanting them, one is actually placing oneself in direct contact with the Supreme. This direct contact has been compared to the sun. As the sun purifies physical objects of impurities, direct contact with the Supreme purifies a person’s consciousness of impurities. As a person continues to chant these names, his consciousness becomes more and more clear and his love for Supreme naturally flourishes.

The soul who sincerely and humbly strives to cultivate this relationship will feel a deep and constant spiritual happiness growing in his heart as a natural result of the growing relationship and actual love that he is feeling. It is this relationship –  and the happiness, fulfillment, safety, peace, love that inherently belongs with it – that allows a person to be strengthened, comforted, nourished, revitalized, inspired even in the midst of material difficulty and tragedy. Even a small measure of growth, of sincere trust and love in this relationship, can help a person remain steady and comforted throughout unwanted material difficulty. And, as a person continues to cultivate this relationship, continues to take shelter in the Supreme – all the while regularly hearing and repeating the names of Supreme – he will find that inevitable difficulties can actually serve to deepen and strengthen this very special connection. When a person has the opportunity to realize this for himself, through his own personal experience, he will know that he has found real shelter.

Kirtan, Japa Yoga, and Gauranga Breathing are three excellent yoga meditations that incorporate the hearing and repeating of the transcendental names of the Supreme. For detailed instructions on these simple meditations that anyone can do, please follow the links below:

Kirtan

Japa Yoga

Gauranga Breathing

 

Finding Real Shelter in Hard Times – Part 1

It is inevitable that a person will encounter difficulties in their life. It does not matter how much material wealth, power, fame, beauty, knowledge, etc. that a person accumulates, they will face many challenges throughout a lifetime and some of these challenges will be so very difficult that a person will feel overwhelmed, terrified, bewildered, devastated, lost, vulnerable, powerless.

I remember going through a period of my life where I thought I could actually somehow avoid difficulties. I first tried manipulating my external environment and later my mind and emotions to get rid of the difficulties in my life. And what I found was that trying to avoid all difficulties was far worse than just dealing with them as the arose. It did not stop the difficulties – it just made every little thing into a difficulty.

When you look at the big picture, you can realize that there is relatively little that we can control. We cannot control the weather, other people, animals, the environment, physical laws of nature – we even have trouble controlling our own bodies, minds, and emotions.

When you realize how little control you actually have and how many opportunities there are for difficulties to arise, you will likely feel the need for something solid to move you through the difficulties you will encounter- something that will help you stay strong, focused, grounded throughout the trials and tribulations of life. It is like trees being blown by the wind. If you take a look at trees that grow in a very windy area – by the beach, for example – you will see that they are often growing diagonally instead of straight up, bent over by the force of almost constant coastal winds.  But although the trees are blasted by the winds so frequently that they growing this way, they are not blown over. This is because they have very deep and strong roots that keep them solidly in place.

Many people’s lives are this way, too – so filled with challenging situations and circumstances that they feel like they are constantly being blown by heavy winds. Others may have mostly peaceful life situations, but are occasionally hit with hurricane force winds. In either situation, what is needed is the same. We need deep roots. We need a strong connection to the foundation of our existence. When we have this deep connection, we are able to not only move through difficulties in life, we are able to grow through them.

So where is this deep connection to be found and how can we develop it?

To be continued in Part 2 of Finding Real Shelter in Hard Times

 

 

Joyful Gauranga Breathing

gauranga breathing2

Gauranga Breathing is another type of yoga mantra meditation. Like kirtan and japa yoga, this meditation uses transcendental mantras to gradually purify your consciousness, allowing you to more and more experience the peace and joy of your natural condition, of your natural loving nature.

Gauranga Breathing can be done either alone or with others, as part of a daily practice and also whenever you are feeling anxious or disconnected and want to be more in a calm and connected state of mind and heart. The benefits of Gauranga Breathing increase and deepen with regular practice, but any amount of time you dedicate to practicing this beautiful meditation is invaluable in helping you to realize your true nature.

Sit comfortably in a chair or on a cushion, with your back supported if possible. If you can comfortably sit cross-legged, this is a good position for meditation – just make sure you are comfortable and your back is supported if you need the support. Close your eyes. Touch your thumb and index finger together and place the backs of your hands on your knees, palms facing upward. This is called chin mudra and it helps to relax the body.

Become aware of your breath. Breathe naturally, deeply, in a relaxed way without forcing the breath Draw your mind away from all other thoughts and focus on the feeling of the breath as it enters and leaves your body. When you find that your mind becomes distracted onto sounds or thoughts, don’t fight with the mind, just be aware that it has wandered and very gently bring it back to what you are doing.

On each outward breath, allow your body to relax. Feel relaxation spreading throughout your entire body as you breathe. You may, if you like, focus in your mind on relaxing each of your body parts, or just allow your body to relax as a whole.

The inward breath draws prana or chi into the body and rejuvenates you. Feel your entire body being rejuvenated, refreshed by the inward breath. Focus on the effect of the breath on your body, feeling it expanding with each inward breath, relaxing with each outward breath.

When you feel relaxed and your breathing is coming naturally and deeply, you are ready to begin the Gauranga meditation. (It is not totally necessary to do the pre-meditation breathing relaxation before you begin the Gauranga Meditation, but most people find it helpful.)

Now you will begin to meditate on the Gaur-ra-ang-ga mantra. Inhale deeply – and as you exhale,  chant/sing aloud “Gaur-ra-ang-ga” – drawing the mantra out over a long exhalation. Allow your mind to become fully immersed in the sound of the mantra, feeling the vibration throughout your body as you chant. Continue to feel this vibration as you inhale slowly, deeply. On the next exhale, again chant/sing aloud “Gaur-ra-ang-ga” – drawing the mantra out over a long exhalation. Repeat 10 – 20 times.

After you have stopped chanting the mantra, keep your eyes closed and be fully aware of your relaxed body, your calm and focused mind and the mantra resonating thoughout your entire being. The Gaur-ra-ang-ga mantra is the focus of your awareness and meditation.

To come out of the meditation, slowly open your eyes and bring your awareness to the feeling of peace and rejuvenation throughout your body, the feeling of calm and warm happiness in your heart. Continue breathing naturally, deeply. If you like, you can bring the palms of your hands together in prayer mudra (anjali) over your heart, allowing yourself to feel thankful for wonderful gifts of this meditation and the opportunity to recover your natural, joyful state of being.

I highly recommend watching this very short demonstration before you begin practicing: Gauranga Breathing Meditation video

Gauranga Breathing can be practiced anytime. It is very nice to practice first thing in the morning, helping to bring you into a relaxed, rejuvenated and connected state of being, which you can then reconnect to throughout the day. It is great to do after work and will help relax, rejuvenate, and center you after a stressful work day. It is calming to do before bedtime and will help you to de-stress, relax and have a more restful sleep. It is also an excellent way to end a physical/asana yoga session and many yoga practitioners do Gauranga Breathing meditation during or just after savasana pose.

Gauranga Breathing is a wonderful gift, freely available to any person with the willingness to accept and use it. May it help you to realize a more fulfilling and harmonious life – the life of freedom, love, meaning, harmony and joy that you long for in your heart of hearts.

P.S. You can also sing the Gauranga mantra to music or use it as a mantra for kirtan and japa yoga.

Deepening with Japa Yoga

Japa yoga natural living

Kirtan was my first introduction to mantra meditation and I was immediately attracted to it. Japa yoga was a practice I started about five or six months after I came to kirtan because it was so highly recommended. At first, it was pretty difficult for me to do. I had a hard time sitting and focusing my mind for any significant length of time. And often, I would start feeling very sleepy as I practiced the meditation.

Then a friend introduced me to walking while chanting japa (japa walks) and that was much easier for me. I would chant in rhythm to my arms and legs moving as I walked and that would keep my mind more focused on the mantra. It also helped motivate me to do it every day because walking every day was also something I wanted to do. I would wake up just before dawn and would walk into the golden light of the rising sun – feeling a golden light rising in my heart and mind as I walked. Regardless of the mood I started out in, I would almost always return refreshed and revitalized, happy and ready to face whatever tasks or challenges presented themselves for the day.

There were occasionally times when I could not go out walking, either because of rainy weather or injury or some other reason. On those days, I practiced japa while sitting and found it to be much easier than it had been when I first started. I had developed more control over my mind and also a taste for japa meditation through the japa walks and so it did not matter so much whether I was walking or sitting. In fact, I began to prefer sitting while chanting japa because it allowed me to go much deeper into the meditation. While I was walking, I would have to pay attention more to my surroundings in order to keep my body safe or would be distracted by people or things that I encountered. But when I practiced japa yoga at my house, sitting in solitude, I could completely relax into the sound and feel of the mantra as I chanted it. This opened up a whole new world for me. I began to have (and still do) the most amazing and joyfully sweet experiences while engaged in japa yoga and it keeps getting better and better. It is funny because it is the most simple meditation, yet over time, it has become one of the most profound  practices of my life. I practice every day – sick, well, busy, super busy, vacation, work, happy, sad, any condition and every condition.

I almost always wake up and chant japa first thing in the morning because I know if I wait until later, it is easier for other things to get in the way. I have never before been one of those people who gets up before the sun rises in order to meditate, but now I am one of those people. Not because it is easy, but because it is worth it. If you stick with it long enough, you will know this, too.

Here’s how to practice japa yoga meditation:

Using the mantra: Haribol Nitai-Gaur, Nitai-Gaur Haribol 

This meditation can best be practiced sitting in a comfortable position with your eyes closed, although some people prefer to walk along the beach or in a park.

Using a set of japa beads, the method is to repeat the mantra while holding or touching one bead at a time. Japa beads are a set of 108 small beads, plus one large bead (called the head bead). They can be purchased or you can make your own.

Take your set of japa beads and start with the first small bead on either side of the head bead. Hold it between the thumb and middle finger of your right hand. As you hold this bead, softly say the mantra and then move your fingers onto the next bead and repeat the mantra again. Remember to chant loud enough for your own ears to hear the mantra, and try to pronounce each syllable clearly. Continue chanting the mantra on each bead until you come back to the head bead. You have just completed one round of japa.

As you softly repeat each mantra try to keep your mind focused on the sound and gradually you will experience more control of your mind, as well as a welcoming sense of inner peacefulness and joy.

It is  recommended that you allocate a certain number of rounds to complete each day. Each round will take approximately four to five minutes to complete. Start with two to three rounds, then gradually increase the number of rounds to six or more as your ability to focus improves.

I chant japa for at least one hour every day. I find this is a good amount of time for me as I can steadily maintain it on a daily basis and have been able to do it for years now. Not struggling, but not super easy either with my very full schedule. Sometimes I chant more, but never less. It is good to start with a smaller amount of time – maybe 15 minutes and maintain it daily for at least a month. Chant longer if you like, but never less. Then gradually increase the time, but not for more than you can maintain realistically on a daily basis. Most important is that you be able to practice steadily and daily. After many months, you will likely find your sweet spot and will be able to maintain your daily time or number of rounds for years and hopefully for the rest of your life.

Whatever you do with your senses affects your consciousness. Therefore, the senses should be engaged in ways to help a person remember their real identity. Through japa yoga, the senses can be redirected and utilized to purify your mind and heart, thus helping you to realize  your natural, joyful state of being.