Joyful Gauranga Breathing

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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

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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.

Who Am I – Answers in the Vedic Scriptures

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If a person is seeking to purify themselves of what that is unnatural, then the question of “what is natural for me?” arises. To know what is natural for you, you must first know who you are.

To completely know a object, there are three essential aspects that must be known: What is its essence? What is its position (in relation to others and the whole)? What is its function?

The same is true for knowing yourself – you must realize the answer to these three vital questions.

If someone were to ask me these questions many years ago, I would only have been able to answer them on a superficial level. I would only have been able to answer in terms of the body and mind. I had an incomplete understanding of my self, of who I am, and so was basing my life choices on a false idea of myself. This led to me experiencing a constant underlying sense of uneasiness, anxiety, bewilderment, imbalance. I could not solve this problem until I became aware that a deeper understanding of my identity was possible, an Absolute  understanding.

I needed to understand not my temporary identity, but eternal identity. I needed to know who I am eternally, always, regardless of external circumstances.

For this level of understanding, I needed to look to a higher authority.

The Vedic scriptures are unique in many ways. They are written in the ancient Sanskrit language, which is an extremely complex and highly polished language. The Vedic verses have a particular form and meter that has them fit together so precisely that any alterations would immediately stand out. Thus, the Vedic scriptures remain in their pure and original form even to this day. Secondly, they contain very detailed information about the nature and make up of the living being, the material world, the spiritual world, and the Original Source of all. These were certainly not the only factors that led me to look for answers in the Vedic scriptures, but they are perhaps the most compelling ones for many people.

Some people become interested in the Vedic scriptures and what they have to say due to positive experiences with kirtan and other practices from the yoga system. This was more the case with me. I experienced first-hand the profound positive effects of kirtan and japa yoga and became very interested in knowing more about these practices, where they came from, and any other useful related information.

So it was in the Vedic scriptures that I began to look for the answers to my essential questions about life in general and about my life, in particular. And as my consciousness gradually became more clear through yoga meditations like kirtan. japa yoga, and Gauranga breathing, I began to really understand what I found there. The intellectual understanding came first, but it was not until I was able to reach a deeper understanding through my own personal realization that I was able to apply the answers. My actual identity – the answer to the question of who am I – began to unfold itself within me and with it came the meaning and connection I had longed for all my life.

In the future articles we will discuss both the answers available through authoritative sources such as scriptures and great saintly persons, and also practices which enable a person to realize this knowledge on a personal level. Both are important and helpful in the quest to live a life in harmony with one’s true nature, a life of actual and lasting joy and fulfillment.

Finding Kirtan

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From the very first time I encountered kirtan, it held an attraction for me that I could not explain. Before I had attended, I had heard that kirtan was spiritually beneficial and certainly that was something that attracted me. And I very much enjoy singing and dancing to beautiful music and being in the company of other spiritually-inclined people. But the attraction that I felt was on a totally different level. It was not intellectual, not something I thought about. It was just there in the way that something that has always been there suddenly reveals itself to you. And you can not help but recognize this something because it naturally belongs with you. Like breathing. You never think about your attraction to breathing because it so naturally belongs with you. Finding kirtan for me was very much like finding my breath and realizing that I had been holding myself from it for my entire life.

The more I participated in the weekly kirtans that were being held in my community, the more my attraction and appreciation for it grew. I felt my heart healing and opening to new levels and experiences of love, joy, peace, and understanding. For me, finding kirtan was the end of a very long search. I had spent my life searching for something I could not name. In the experience of kirtan, I found what I had been looking for.

So what is kirtan, you may now be asking. There are many ways to try to understand the answer to this question.

You may have heard that kirtan is the group singing or chanting of transcendental sound vibrations, or yogic mantras. That it is a spiritual activity which purifies the mind and heart, bringing with it deep states of joy and peace. That it is an eternal love song between the soul and the Supreme Soul, a form of musical meditation that has the gradual effect of reawakening one’s natural spiritual love.

Kirtan is all of these and more. And it is the most natural inclination of the soul.

(More on kirtan in the next article…What Is Kirtan?)

My Own Quest to Live Naturally

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Although living naturally has always been my true goal, it was not the focus of my life for much of my life. For most of my life, I did not even think about what is the goal of my life. I lived primarily by the directives of my mind and body, and by the ideas about life I formed through my own personal experiences and what I learned from others. It was not that it was all bad, but taken altogether, it made for a life that was fraught with misery and struggle – especially in my adult years. From deep in my heart, I felt I was being guided to something better, but I was so confused and bewildered by my experiences, that I continually felt off balance, anxious, and unclear about what I was to do and why I was doing it. It was like being lost at sea with no land in sight. I intuitively knew land was there somewhere, but had no idea how to find it.

Until around age thirty or so, mostly I was focused on changing my external environment to try to find the harmony and happiness I sought inside. Then I was introduced to introspection and the idea that it was not the external environment that was the problem, rather, it was how I was relating from the inside to my external situations that was causing so much misery and disharmony in my life. I stopped trying to change everyone and everything outside of me, and instead started paying attention to what was going on inside. When I became aware that I was experiencing some kind of mental/emotional suffering, I would apply different techniques to try to change my mind so that I would at least be at peace with whatever was going on. I had some measure of success with this, and was happy in comparison to the misery of before, but still felt generally confused and bewildered by my experiences, off balance, anxious, unclear about what I was to do and why I was doing it. I knew I was heading in a better direction than before, but was still pretty lost.

Then I had the extreme good fortune to come in contact with kirtan and bhakti yoga – and this is where I began to understand where I had gone so far off track and how to begin the trek back to recovering my natural state of being.

Purifying the Body, Mind, and Heart

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When we talk about purification, oftentimes people think first of purifying of the body. This is helpful – for we live in the body, it is our vehicle and if it is clogged up with junk, pollution, we certainly will be plagued with problems.

But there is also the mind – there is no harmony in a healthy body if there is pollution in the mind. Yes, purifying the body will support purification of the mind as they are intimately connected, but purifying the body alone will not purify the mind. So any system of purification aimed at recovering one’s natural state of being, must include purification of the mind.

And what about the heart? The peace, joy, and harmony of our true nature cannot be experienced when the heart is filled with miseries and misgivings, with selfishness, greed, and envy. In yoga philosophy these hardnesses of the heart are known as “anarthas” and are very difficult to remove. To live naturally, we must certainly address all these areas, however anarthas of the heart – which affect both our mind and body health – are the root cause of the suffering condition. Removing these anarthas must be the central focus of an effective purification process, as our heart is the center of our consciousness and we will not be free to experience the natural joy of our being without this level of purification.

Fortunately, there are methods accessible to everyone and freely available that address all these areas. In fact, one such purification system, the Vedic yoga system, has existed since time immemorial and has assisted countless hundreds of thousands of people throughout the ages to realize their natural state of harmony, joy, and peace. The yoga system is far more expansive and comprehensive than most people are aware of. Yoga is not simply a system of physical exercise (asana). Yoga is, in fact, a complete system for realizing and living one’s true natural state of being. Because the yoga system was designed to be applicable to people throughout vast spans of time, called “yugas,” different applications of it were recommended for specific ages. The current age we are living in is called “Kali Yuga.” In the next few articles, we will begin to discuss the yogic process recommended for the Age of Kali and why it is so appropriate and accessible to people of this day and age.

Why Natural Living?

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The focus of this blog is Natural Living. Seeking to live naturally is very popular these days, but why?

When we talk about living naturally, we are talking about recovering a state of being which is natural to us. When something comes natural to us, it is free and easy, harmonious, relaxing, spontaneous, and joyful from the very core of our being. We know intuitively that this is how our life should be – that, as living beings, living should come naturally to us.

But it does not. We struggle through this life, trying to find happiness, trying to find peace and harmony, but the happiness and peace we find is fleeting at best. So, what are we doing wrong and how how can we change the way we are living so that we can be living naturally. How can we purify our lives of that which is unnatural so that we can recover our natural state of being, our natural state of peace, joy, freedom, balance, and harmony?

This is the quest of those who seek to live naturally. To live naturally, we must understand what about our lives is currently unnatural and simultaneously engage in a process which frees us from this artificiality.