How Yoga Empowers Us To Be Happy

 

woman gazing yoga empower happiness natural living

Everyone wants to be happy. It is natural for us to want happiness, to want satisfaction, and to feel there is something vital missing from our lives if we are not completely happy and fulfilled. Thus, we are constantly making choices we believe will bring us closer to the experience of life that we long for in our heart of hearts – a life full with joy, meaning, safety, love, inner peace, and satisfaction. A life in which we no longer feel there is anything missing.

As a result of the choices we make, either we will actually experience this happiness and fulfillment, or we will experience the lack of it. It is essential, therefore, that we make conscious choices in our life – choices designed to lead us into the experience of life that we long for. We cannot just leave things up to chance or make choices haphazardly, depending upon the whims of our mood and senses. We need to make choices based upon actual knowledge of our situation. By doing so, we can solidly progress toward the joyful life we intuitively know is possible and are constantly seeking.

In order to have a clear understanding of our situation, it is essential that we have a clear understanding of who we are. All the choices we make in life are built upon our current understanding of who we are. If we are correct in our understanding, then the choices we make and the results of those choices will reflect this harmony. We will feel a growing sense of inner peace and happiness. If our understanding is clouded or misguided, then the choices we make and the results of those choices will reflect this disharmony. We will feel more and more anxious, depressed, lost, and empty inside.

Knowing who we are enables us to accurately determine what is in our best interest, and what it is not – what will bring us real happiness and fulfillment, and what will not.

In earlier articles, we discussed in detail how we are not the material mind and body we are wearing, but, rather, the eternal spiritual individual who is temporarily wearing the mind and body like clothes. If we are unaware of our actual situation as the wearer of these “clothes,” it is very easy for us to fall into the delusion that we are the “clothes.”

Under this delusion, we spend all our precious time and energy trying to find happiness and fulfillment through devoting our lives to something that is not us – and so we are sadly disappointed time and time again. There is no more happiness to be found in devoting our life to our material coverings (our mind and body) than there is in devoting our life to the shirt, pants, and other garments that we are wearing at this moment. This kind of mistaken identity leads to a life fraught with meaningless struggle, frustration, dissatisfaction, inner emptiness, anxiety, and confusion.

However, if we are aware that we are the eternal spiritual individual only temporarily clothed in the mind and body, we can then know that the happiness we seek will be found through activities that are spiritually fulfilling – activities that are based upon, and arise from, our eternal spiritual nature. The more fully we are able to understand and directly realize the truth of our spiritual identity, the better able we are to make choices in our life that will lead us to actual happiness and fulfillment.

So how can we come to directly realize our true, spiritual identity? 

The answer is simple – by following the path of yoga as it is clearly defined in the authorized yoga texts (the Vedas). Yoga is the science of understanding our true identity. It is a common misbelief in the West that yoga is simply a form of physical exercise, but, actually, yoga is a complete system of self-realization, or spiritual realization. The physical exercises (asana) are just one small aspect of the entire system and are not even necessary to practice in this day and age. The ultimate goal of all yoga practice is to lead us to a correct understanding of who we are and what the purpose is for our existence – and apply this understanding in life. 

The yoga system empowers us to make choices in our lives based on a full and complete understanding of who we are and what is our current situation. Through following the yoga process, we can come to understand the whole picture – who we are as spiritual individuals, how we are affected by our material environment, what is our inherent relationship with the Supreme and other living beings, and how to navigate through situations in our lives in a way which will result in genuine happiness and fulfillment. Yoga offers us everything we need to make intelligent, informed choices. It does this not only through supplying us with knowledge of the absolute reality, but also through guiding and supporting us in achieving the clarity of mind and heart that is needed to directly realize and apply this knowledge in our lives in a practical way. 

Through yoga, we can actually experience the life we long for in our heart of hearts. It is a time-tested system that has enabled countless thousands of individuals over the course of human history to discover real happiness, to realize their highest purpose and goal in life.

Because yoga is a process that has been designed by the Supreme Person, the Supreme Designer, it can be effectively utilized by anyone, regardless of personal characteristics or qualities. Whether we are very pious, very fallen, or somewhere in between, as long as we follow the process correctly, we will achieve the same end result, which is spiritual realization. It is a scientific process, based upon the eternal, absolute truth of our existence. This truth does not change according to material factors, so irregardless of the particular character or qualities of the person who is performing the steps of the yoga process, the result is there. 

The yoga system is so complete and perfect that built into it is the appropriate adaptation for each age, or yuga. In this modern age, the primary yoga method is Mantra Meditation – the hearing and repeating of the transcendental Names of the Supreme Person. This yogic activity is the foundation for all other recommended activities. Mantra Meditation is the nutrient-rich soil within which spiritual realization can develop. It is the sunshine, clean air and water that nourishes our being. And it is the sweet, ripe fruit of spiritual maturity. In this one yoga practice is contained the essence of all yoga practice. So, if we are interested in spiritual realization, then it is essential for us to regularly engage in Mantra Meditation.

Through the sincere, daily practice of Mantra Meditation, our consciousness becomes purified, allowing us to directly experience our spiritual identity, opening the way for true understanding and application of higher knowledge. This is generally a gradual process, but as we continue to practice, we will discover a growing enthusiasm and ability to make wise choices in all areas of our lives. It is these wise choices that will progressively lead us to the life we long for – a life that is naturally happy, naturally satisfying, and naturally in the absolute best interest for ourselves and all of life.

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

Kirtan

Japa Yoga

Gauranga Breathing

The Joy of Clarity

Finding Clarity Natural Living meditation yoga woman river
We are constantly faced with choices throughout our lives. There are smaller choices like what flavor of jam to buy and larger choices like what will be the focus for our lives. Sometimes we can become so overwhelmed by the amount of choices we face, or the possible consequences of these choices, that we become confused and don’t know what to do. We want always to be making the choices which will lead us to happiness, peace, and fulfillment, but when our minds and hearts are so conflicted and bewildered that we cannot clearly see the best path, what can we do? How can gain the clarity we need to navigate the choices in our lives for the happiest possible outcome?

The key to success is in knowing who we are. If we know very clearly who we are, and thus what our true purpose is, we will naturally be able to discern what is the best and happiest path for us.

So who are we?

When asked to describe our self, most of us will immediately look to the features of our body and mind. I am a woman or a man, with this color hair and eyes, a particular body type, age, ethnicity, social class, economic status, and occupation. I am artistic, intellectual, clever, witty, energetic, ambitious, creative, generous, easygoing, passionate. But all of these labels are not who we really are. They may be characteristics of the mind and body that we currently possess – but they are not who we are.

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.

When we erroneously take our self to be the body and mind that we are wearing, then we unknowingly put ourselves in a position of inevitable misunderstanding. We will believe that we are basing our choices upon who we are, but in actuality, we will be basing our choices on the “clothes” we are wearing. We will strive to fulfill the demands of our mind and senses, mistakenly thinking that this will bring us the deep and lasting happiness that we long for, but it never does. We may experience some superficial physical, mental or emotional pleasure, but it is fleeting, at best. It never lasts and never fills the emptiness in the core of our hearts. When the foundation which we base everything in our lives upon – our understanding of who we are –  is faulty, nothing about our lives can be rightly understood. So no matter how strenuously or diligently we strive for clarity, for happiness, for fulfillment, they will remain always just beyond our reach.

Because we are not the material mind and body, we cannot find true happiness and satisfaction in treating them as the foundation of our lives. This is not any more possible than treating the pants, shirt, underwear, etc. that we are wearing at this moment as the foundation of our lives.

In order to be permanently situated in happiness, we need to fully understand the actual foundation of our lives – our eternal identity as spiritual beings. We have innate spiritual tendencies and qualities, but they have become covered through misidentifying with the mind and body. By engaging in a genuine process of spiritual realization in direct association with our spiritual Source, our consciousness can become purified. As the material influence on our consciousness is dissipated, our true nature – our spiritual nature – becomes revealed.

In the ancient yoga system, the recommended method for spiritual realization and consciously linking up 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 is directly relating with the Supreme. This has a profound purifying effect on our consciousness.

Through mantra meditation, we begin to taste the sweetness of spiritual happiness – and with sincere, daily practice, our hearts and minds are gradually purified of material misconceptions. As it becomes increasingly clear to us who we are and thus what our true purpose is, it becomes increasingly simple for us to discern what is actually in our best interest and what is not. The clarity we gain through mantra meditation allows us to steadily navigate our life in a way which brings us into an ever greater and deeper state of happiness and fulfillment.

The confusion that comes from mistaking ourselves for the material mind and body can only be cleared completely through engaging in a bona fide method of spiritual realization. Although many different processes are employed in the whole of the ancient yoga system, mantra meditation is the most essential and recommended method for this day and age. It is the only yogic method of spiritual realization that is practical for people to follow in modern times because it is so simple and easily accessible to any person. We do not need to have any special qualifications or skills. Simply through engaging in mantra meditation daily, motivated by the sincere desire to realize our true nature, we will find ourselves steadily transitioning from the darkness of material confusion into the clear and joyful light of spiritual realization.

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

Kirtan

Japa Yoga

Gauranga Breathing

 

Here are some quotes on Clarity to inspire you:

For me the greatest beauty always lies in the greatest clarity.
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing

That inner voice has both gentleness and clarity. So to get to authenticity, you really keep going down to the bone, to the honesty, and the inevitability of something.
Meredith Monk

In the kingdom of glass everything is transparent, and there is no place to hide a dark heart.
Vera Nazarian

When people will not weed their own minds, they are apt to be overrun by nettles.
Horace Walpole

Clarity is the most important thing. I can compare clarity to pruning in gardening. You know, you need to be clear. If you are not clear, nothing is going to happen. You have to be clear.
Diane von Furstenberg

 

Finding Real Happiness

be yourself natural living yoga wisdom

We are all searching for happiness. Every step we take, every choice we make, is with the hope or expectation that it will bring us happiness. There is never a time when we choose with the hope of finding suffering. Always, we are seeking happiness. It may be instantaneous happiness that we are focused on, or future happiness, but always we are wanting the end result of our efforts to be happiness.

Moreover, we are not just wanting a little bit of happiness here and there – happiness that is tepid and superficial. We are not just seeking happiness that lasts for a few moments, a few hours, or even a few years. We want happiness that completely satisfies us to the very core of our being and never fades away. We long to be immersed in happiness that is so all-encompassing that there is no way for us to fall out of it. What we truly desire is to be perfectly and permanently situated in happiness.

But how can we expect to find such happiness when we take instruction on happiness from those who do not know where to find it either. So many people want to instruct us on happiness – parents, relatives, teachers, friends, social network acquaintances, celebrities, advertisers – even our own minds want to instruct us on happiness. But who amongst them have actually found the pure and boundless happiness that we seek?

If we are sincerely wanting to know how to be established in real and lasting happiness, we need to look to the bona fide scriptures of the world. For it is in these scriptures, written by and about saintly persons who are actually permanently situated in perfect happiness, that we will find instructions on how we, too, can realize this level of perfection.

In the Vedic scriptures it is clearly explained that the reason we are constantly frustrated in our attempts to find perfect and permanent happiness is because we are looking in the wrong place for it. We are attempting to obtain this perfect and permanent happiness in terms of material objects and situations, but everything that is made of material energy, by nature, is imperfect and impermanent. All things material must come to an end sooner or later – even the bodies that we wear – so we can never find perfection and permanence through material objects or situations.

So then where can we find the happiness we are seeking?

To understand the answer to this question, we must first realize that we are not made of material energy. Our minds and bodies are made of material energy – but we are not our mind and body. We are eternal spiritual beings that are only temporarily wearing these coverings. 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.

When we are convinced that we are the material “clothes” we are wearing, then we search for happiness and fulfillment within the material concept of life – within the realm of the material mind and physical senses. We relate to people, objects, situations, anything we encounter – even our own self – in terms of how they are perceived by our mind and physical senses. When we do this, we do not see or relate to anything as it is, rather, all that we encounter is reduced to that which is within the very limited and inherently flawed perception of the material mind and senses. In this distorted state of consciousness, we completely miss the actual purport of our existence. We do not experience the incredible richness and sublime sweetness of our true calling – and we cannot engage in life with the deep understanding, reverence, joy, and love that is possible when we are actually in full knowledge of our spiritual identity.  

If we want the life that we long for in our heart of hearts, then we must seek to understand ourselves in terms of our spiritual identity. We have innate spiritual tendencies and qualities, but they have become covered through living under the influence of material nature. By engaging in a genuine process of spiritual realization in direct association with our spiritual Source, our consciousness can become purified. As the material influence on our consciousness is dissipated, our true nature – our spiritual nature – becomes revealed.

In the ancient yoga system, the recommended method for spiritual realization and consciously linking up 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 is directly relating with the Supreme. This has a profound purifying effect on our consciousness.

Through mantra meditation, our hearts and minds are gradually purified of material misconceptions, and we are able to increasingly taste the divine sweetness of our true nature. With sincere, daily practice, materially-distorted perceptions gradually fall away and our inherent spiritual nature is revealed. The more we awaken to our spiritual identity and the loving relationship with the Supreme that is inseparable from it, the more we naturally return to an existence that is in complete harmony with all that is.

To be in complete harmony with the Absolute reality is our natural condition. When we are situated in our natural condition – perceiving, and relating to, all beings and all situations from the platform of fully realized spiritual consciousness – we not only are established in happiness, but we radiate it from our very core. It is only when our consciousness is entangled in material misconception that we are away from our true nature and so cannot experience this innate, radiant joy. However, when our consciousness becomes purified through mantra meditation, we are reunited with the Absolute truth and thus are re-situated in the boundless wonder, beauty, and pure unadulterated bliss of our being. This is real happiness – and it is our natural condition.

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

Kirtan

Japa Yoga

Gauranga Breathing

Spiritual Life is Happiness

 

spiritual life happiness natural living joyful

Everyone is looking for happiness. We base our lives – either directly or indirectly – upon what we are convinced will bring us the most happiness. The desire for happiness is an innate quality of every living being. It is inseparable from us. We simply cannot be satisfied without happiness. Our desire, our need, for real and lasting happiness is so strong that we will continue to look for it until we actually find it.

The way in which most of us have been trying to find happiness is through material means. And the reason why most of us do this is because we generally go through life believing that we are the material mind and body that we are temporarily wearing. When our mind and bodily senses are agitating for something, we try to fulfill them thinking that it will fulfill us, but it never actually does. Whatever relief or pleasure we experience is temporary, at best. Very soon, again, the mind and bodily senses are agitating for something else and we are constantly struggling to deal with these demands – hoping against hope that somehow we will find a way to fulfill them permanently. Thus, we ardently search for the profound happiness that we long for in material things, thoughts, and circumstances. When we give our entire heart, mind, and life over to the shiny hope of success in material life, we will be heart-broken over and over again, as we will not find fulfillment there, despite our arduous efforts.

Most of us live in a state of deep hunger for something vital that is missing from our lives. We search for it constantly, but finding it is impossible unless we have correct understanding of who we are.

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.

If we fully believe that we are the “clothes”, then we will mistakenly seek to satisfy our desire for happiness solely through trying to satisfy our material mind and body. We will try to fill our minds and physical senses with things and thoughts that are pleasing to us in some way, but will never actually be able to find more than temporary and superficial happiness. We cannot experience fulfillment in this way because these thoughts and things only feed our mind and body. They do not touch us – the spiritual self wearing the material coverings. We remain in a state of endless hunger. We can temporarily distract ourselves from the painful emptiness deep in the core of our being, but as soon as our distraction ends, awareness of the emptiness within us returns.

In order to be truly happy, truly satisfied, we need to look for happiness where it can actually be found – through the realization of our spiritual identity and the spiritual life that blossoms from this realization. We need  a process that will purify our consciousness of the material misconceptions we have erroneously taken on and reconnect us with our spiritual Source,  so we can experience the completely nourishing, deep joy of our true nature.

The only process that has the potency to do this is a bona fide spiritual process. If it is a material process that has simply been given a spiritual label and snazzy packaging, but it is not actually a process that comes directly from the Supreme for the purpose of spiritual realization, it will not be sufficient, nor satisfying. This is why it is wise to look to the bona fide scriptures of the world when we are seeking to realize the truth of our self. Material methods will not yield spiritual revelation. Only the method which is truly spiritual in nature will result in the uncovering and blossoming of our natural state of consciousness because our true nature is spiritual.

In the ancient yoga system, the recommended method for consciously linking up with our spiritual Source and cultivating the spiritual love and happiness that will completely fulfill us 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 is directly linking up with the Supreme. This has a profound purifying effect on our consciousness.

Through yoga mantra meditation, we begin to taste the sweetness of spiritual happiness. And with sincere, daily practice, our minds and hearts are gradually purified of material misunderstandings, so that we are able to know in our heart of hearts the deeply fulfilling joy of our true nature and the loving relationship with the Supreme that is inseparable from it.

Spiritual realization is generally a gradual process, but even in the early stages, we begin to feel an incredible joy awakening and growing deep within us. As we continue to practice mantra meditation, sincerely following the guidance of bona fide scripture and learning from the words and lives of genuinely enlightened, saintly people, we experience this joy maturing and blossoming – along with an increasingly clear understanding of our spiritual essence, position, and function. Through yoga mantra meditation, our hearts and minds are freed from living in the illusion of the material perspective, and thus we can resume our naturally happy state of spiritual consciousness.

The true spiritual process takes us on a journey that is joyful from start to finish because the very nature of spiritual life is happiness. In the beginning, the happiness we experience is a tiny seed that we water daily and carefully nurture. If our consciousness is very covered, the seed may be very, very tiny – like the seed of a banyan tree – but it is unmistakably there within our heart of hearts. As the seed sprouts and flourishes, grows strong and tall, flowers and bares fruit, we will know happiness in ever new and wondrous ways. The transcendental happiness of full spiritual realization is something that completely surpasses the very highest happiness that can be had in any material mode of consciousness. The pure, unadulterated bliss of such a state is unfathomable by material means, but as our consciousness transforms and we are able to taste it even a little, it feels sweetly familiar because what we are tasting is our true nature increasingly revealed.

This is real spiritual life. It is never something we do to get something else. It is what we are. It is our natural state of being – our natural inclinations, activities, condition that we return to when we are purified of all that is artificial. Spiritual life is not only the way to happiness – it is happiness. It is pure joy. When we truly find our way into it, we will not give it up for anything because it is exactly what we have been searching for all our lives. We will know for certain that we have found it because we will no longer be searching.

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

Kirtan

Japa Yoga

Gauranga Breathing

 

Finding Happiness in Selfless Service

natural living selfless service volunteer

When I was a child, my parents would take my brothers and I with them to volunteer in a soup kitchen on Saturday mornings. We all helped in preparing the meal and serving it to the people who came to eat there. I remember sometimes people asked us if we could make something extra for them – a cheese sandwich for later or maybe something they could take to a friend who was sick or otherwise prevented from coming in person. It seemed no one ever felt inconvenienced by these requests. Rather, we all really liked helping and felt a natural joy in being of service to others. I remember honestly liking the people who came in and really looking forward to serving them each week. I did not see a dirty person or an undesirable person – I saw a person. And I felt in my heart a natural, spontaneous, desire to do something nice for this person. To do so felt naturally wonderful. There is something about the act of striving to bring more happiness into the lives of others that naturally grows the happiness in your own heart.

In the Vedic yoga system, selfless service is considered to be essential to the health and happiness of the living being. Both Karma Yoga and Bhakti Yoga incorporate this principle. Selfless service is also a core teaching in many other scriptures of the world and the lives of saintly people throughout history attest to the value of this type of service.

A person does not have to be a great saint, however, to experience the natural joy of serving selflessly. Even if one is not able to dedicate their entire life to serving others or to be completely free of selfish desires, a person can still taste the sweetness of helping others in the same way that I did as a child. You can volunteer to help people in material distress, to give up some of the time and energy you would have spent in pursuing material pleasures and instead use it to try to bring some happiness and warmth to the hearts of others. Even dedicating just one morning or afternoon per week can be life-changing.

Moreover, volunteering with your kids is a wonderful way to teach by example and also give them the opportunity to develop this virtue early in their lives. Many parents would like their children to be less self-centered, but just telling them they should be or even explaining why they should be, does not give them the personal experience which will actually allow them to realize this for themselves. By giving them opportunities and encouraging them in activities that will awaken their natural attraction for selflessness, you will be giving them the most amazing gift.

There are many forms of selfless service and when people refer to service being selfless, they may be talking simply about unpaid work (volunteering) or they may be referring to selfless service in its purest form. The core of selfless service is that you are not working for personal gain, but are are actually sacrificing your time and energy for the benefit of someone other than you. An interesting paradox in selfless service is that when you give of yourself freely, without thought or desire for personal gain, you actually do benefit on a much higher level – in your heart. It is not a business exchange, it is a loving exchange. The deep joy that you feel in your heart when selflessly giving to another is the natural effect of sincerely caring for that person. It springs from an innate recognition of our common spiritual essence, our relatedness as one family in the truest sense.

When we consciously understand in our hearts and minds that we are spiritual beings, not the material bodies we are temporary wearing, we automatically recognize that we are all related as one family. This recognition naturally increases our desire to love and care for one another, regardless of material differences such as ethnicity, religion, nationality, social status, age, gender, appearance, etc. We feel natural joy in being loving with our spiritual siblings and our Supreme Mother/Father. Selfless service is essentially loving service. Each of us has a natural desire to love, to be loving toward others. When we are truly loving another, we are not thinking about ourselves, we are only seeking to care for this other person, to bring them happiness. And we cannot help but be happy in our hearts in the happiness of someone we love.

When our natural desire to render loving service is restricted only to those who we identify as biological extensions of our body or to those we consider desirable because they can give us some material benefit, we keep ourselves from the full true experience of it. However, when we allow this natural tendency to have its full expression in unconditional love for the Supreme Person and for all living beings, we experience selfless, loving service in its truest and purest form.

Even if you only have an intellectual understanding of our essential relatedness with one another, selfless service with a sincere desire to develop real love for others and for the Supreme Person will lead to spiritual realization – especially when combined with spiritually-nourishing activities such as the yoga meditations we discussed in earlier articles (Kirtan, Japa Yoga, and Gauranga Breathing). As you develop spiritually, you will find that selflessness comes more easily, spontaneously, and naturally to you. You will find that you really like to be kind to others and you like helping them, that it brings incredible joy to your heart. You may even discover for yourself that selflessness is your natural state of being.

 

Here are some nice quotes on selflessly serving to inspire you:

“Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
Martin Luther King Jr.

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” -Mahatma Gandhi

“Consciously or unconsciously, every one of us does render some service or other. If we cultivate the habit of doing this service deliberately, our desire for service will steadily grow stronger, and will make, not only our own happiness, but that of the world at large. ”
Mahatma Gandhi

“Love is not patronizing and charity isn’t about pity, it is about love. Charity and love are the same — with charity you give love, so don’t just give money but reach out your hand instead.”
Mother Teresa

“I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.”
Albert Schweitzer

“Love is Sacrifice. When you love, sacrifice is easy. And when you really love, sacrifice is joy.”
― Gramma Roxie Owens

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

 

 

Why Is It Important To Know My Essence?

In Parts 1 and 2 of What Is My Essence?, we discuss scriptural and practical evidence and also exercises to help us realize that we are neither the mind nor the body. Both the mind and body are made of material energy. But we are the spiritual self (atma) that inhabits the body for some time, then leaves it. The atma does not cease existing when the body is left behind. Rather, we continue on and take on a new body according to the condition of our consciousness.

Why is it important to know our essence?

Because who we know ourselves to be is the basis for all the choices we make in life.

If we mistakenly believe that we are the material body, then our entire life will be based upon this fallacy. We will look for happiness, love, meaning, and satisfaction based upon bodily identification and be continuously disappointed and unfulfilled – no matter how hard we try or how determined we may be or how many self-improvement classes we take or professional life coaches we hire. If we think that we are the body or the mind and this is our sole focus for improving our condition, we will discover time and time again that there is no lasting joy or actual satisfaction to be found there. We may find temporary or superficial happiness, but we will not find the deeply satisfying and lasting joy, purpose, peace, and love that we seek in our heart of hearts because it is simply not there on the material level. Material pleasures do not touch the soul, they only temporarily gratify the body and mind. Because we are the non-material self (spirit soul, atma) we can only be satisfied by that which is made of the same energy that we are – by that which is transcendental, or spiritual, in nature.

There are countless incidences of people throughout history with extraordinary material opulence (beauty, fame, power, wealth, etc.) that were extremely depressed and miserable – some even committed suicide. Even though they were successful on the material level, they were devoid of spiritual fulfillment, so they suffered intensely. And in today’s societies, even though many countries are far advanced in material opulence, the citizens are so empty inside that they are miserable, sick, depressed, anxious, addicted to legal and illegal intoxicants, engaging in violent behavior, destroying themselves, each other and the environment. Even people who put themselves forward as being “spiritually advanced,” if they are not actually understanding and applying the knowledge that they are not the material body, then they are still in misery trying to satisfy a thirst unquenchable through material means.

It is one’s actual condition of consciousness that determines whether a person is truly happy or truly miserable – truly full with joy or mostly anxious and fearful with intermittent, fleeting moments of pleasure. Again, who we know ourselves to be determines whether we pursue happiness through material means or through spiritual endeavor.

If we know ourselves by the mistaken belief that we are the body and mind, we will pursue happiness through the body and mind, even if we put a spiritual label on what we are doing.

If we know ourselves as eternal spirit souls only temporarily housed in the body and mind, we will automatically and naturally pursue happiness through actual spiritual endeavor, even if it appears to others that we are just ordinary persons living ordinary lives.

It is the consciousness of the person that makes the difference, not the externals, not the label.

This is why it is so very important to have a real understanding of who we are, of what our actual essence is. Even if we only have an intellectual understanding in the beginning, that is enough to start applying this knowledge to the choices we make.  And if we continue to apply this knowledge in ways which will deepen our understanding, we will then be able to go beyond an intellectual understanding to the level at which we are naturally living it, naturally and spontaneously making our choices from the solid platform of knowing ourselves as eternal spirit souls. This is obtainable by anyone for it is simply a realization of our own true nature – natural living is the truest sense of the words.

To make steady progress in this area, it is recommended to apply ourselves sincerely and humbly, following in the footsteps laid out by great self-realized, saintly persons and the instructions of bona fide scriptures.

In this day and age, the recommended path is very simple and anyone can begin simply by adding to their daily lives the practices of kirtan, japa yoga, and/or Gauranga Breathing. Because these meditations are so transcendentally potent, even a small amount of dedicated daily practice will enable a person to gradually realize their truest nature on the deepest levels and actually become happy and fulfilled.

What Is My Essence? (Part 2)

natural living sunlight meditation

In Part 1, we discussed practical, scientific, and scriptural evidence that you are not the physical body. The next question to ponder is, if you are not the physical body, then…

Are you the mind?

According to the Vedic scriptures, you are not the mind either. The mind is also a body you are wearing, but it is made out of subtle material energy so you are not able to see it under normal circumstances. The gross physical body is like outer clothes and the subtle mental body is like underclothes. In both cases, you are the person who is temporarily wearing these bodies. But unlike the physical body, the subtle body generally stays with you, continuing to cover you after you leave your physical body at death.

A simple and practical exercise to see that you are not the mind is called the Silent Witness Technique.

Begin this exercise by sitting comfortably in a chair or on a cushion on the floor, with your back supported if possible. 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 position is called chin mudra and it helps to relax the body.

Become aware of how the body is breathing automatically. Do not try to force or control the breath in any way. Simply observe the body breathing in a detached way. Say to yourself, “I am watching my body breathe, I am not the body.”

Now do the same thing with your mind. Focus your attention on the river of thoughts flowing through your mind, but don’t attempt to control the thinking process by trying to think certain thoughts and not think others. Instead, just watch the thoughts in a detached way. In the same way you might sit on the bank of a river, watching leaves, sticks, and other debris floating down the river – just sit silently on the river bank of your mind and watch thoughts, emotions, images, desires, fears, etc. just float by like debris in the mind river. Watch your mind and become aware of how you are actually aloof from the thinking process. Say to yourself, “I am the silent witness. I make no effort to think, but thoughts come automatically. I am watching thoughts flow through my mind, but I am aloof from them. I am the silent witness to my mind’s activities.” In this way, you’ll be able to experience that you are separate from the mind.

Through this exercise, you can experience that you are not the material mind or any of the thoughts and desires that flow in the mind. Rather, you are the self, the one who sits beside the constantly flowing mind-river – you are next to it, but separate from it.

You, the self, are actually made of a different type of energy than the body and the mind. According to the Vedas, there are two types of energy that make up everything in existence. One type is material energy. Material energy is dead matter. The other type of energy is life or spiritual energy. Life energy is always alive. Material energy is always dead. But when the two energies come together in a living organism, the material body inhabited by the life particle temporarily takes on characteristics of life. It appears to be alive, but that is only because the life particle or atma (self, soul) is occupying it and infusing its qualities throughout the material structure of the body. As soon as the atma leaves the material body, the body resumes its natural condition, which is that of dead matter. At this time, the physical body decomposes very fast and reverts back to the simpler elements from which it was constructed. We can observe this in all life organisms – plants, animals, humans, etc. – and so we can know that the atma inhabits all these organisms for some time, then leaves.

From the above information you can understand that your essence is life energy, or spiritual energy. Life energy is always alive and so, you, too, are always alive. You exist eternally. Your material body will at some point become useless to you and when you leave it, it will revert back to its original characteristics – that of dead matter. But you will continue on – usually in your subtle material body – and take on a new body in accordance with the condition of your consciousness.

Now that we know – intellectually, at least – that our essence is life or spiritual energy, how can this help us in our quest to experience our true nature?

To be continued in Why Is It Important To Know Our Essence?

 

What Is My Essence? (Part 1)

ladyflowr

Knowing who you truly are is essential to realizing what it is that will actually make you happy, and bring meaning and fulfillment to your life. There are volumes of books and countless self-improvement and self-help magazines and websites dedicated to the subject of making changes to the self in an attempt to affect some kind of benefit. But without correct knowledge of the self – of “who” it is that you are trying to improve or help – you will have only temporary or shallow results at best.

So who are you? If you ask a person to answer this question, to write down a paragraph describing who you are, most people will immediately begin to describe their body. They may say I am a woman, 23 years old, Italian, five and a half feet tall, with a light complexion, brown hair and green eyes. Or, I am a 30-year old Portuguese man with a muscular build, six feet tall, with black hair and brown eyes. Perhaps they will describe their occupation. I am a teacher. I am a scientist. Or family relationships. I am a mother, a father, the middle child of three. All these descriptions are descriptions of a person’s body, but is this really who they are?

Is this who you are? Are you your body? How can we tell if we are?

According to the Vedic scriptures, you are not the body, but rather the person who is temporarily wearing the body, in the same way a person temporarily wears a set of clothes. When a person is finished using a particular body and/or if the body is damaged beyond usability, the person inside leaves that body and obtains a new one. Again, very much like a person discards a worn out, damaged, or undesirable garment.

A practical way to think about the question of are you the body is to think about each of your different body parts and ask yourself, am I this body part? If I were to lose this body part, would I still be me? Am I the hand? If I was to lose my hand, would I still be me? And of course, it is obvious that without your hand, you would still be the same person, just without one of your hands. Some people have actually lost hands, legs, ears, eyes, all different body parts and if you ask them are you still the same person, they will say, yes, I am still me. I don’t have my hand anymore, but it is still me inside this body.

And, in fact, if you are to look at the question from a molecular or atomic perspective, you will see that the body you have now is completely different from the body you had just five years ago. Dr. Paul C. Aebersold of Oak Ridge Atomic Research Center discusses in the Annual Report for the Smithsonian Institution that scientific studies have revealed that about 98 percent of all the atoms in a human body are replaced every year. You get a new suit of skin every month and a new liver every six weeks. The lining of your stomach lasts only five days before it’s replaced. Even your bones are undergoing constant change. The bones you have today are different from the bones you had a year ago. Experts in this area of research have concluded that there is a complete, 100 percent turnover of atoms in the body at least every five years. In other words, not one single atom present in your body today was there five years ago.

According to these studies, the atoms in your current body are completely different from those in the body of five years ago, yet you are the same person. You are the person who was wearing the body five years ago and it is you who is wearing a completely different body now. Same person, different bodies. If you were the body, then you would also be a completely different person. You would have no memory of experiences five years ago if you were that body because you would be gone now with that body, scattered about in innumerable different places and reabsorbed by other bodies. But you are still here, wearing a body made up completely different atoms. So you can see from a scientific perspective that you are not the body.

So, if you are not the body, are you the mind?

To be continued in Part 2 of What Is My Essence?