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

 

Yoga Mantra Meditation – A Daily Spiritual Practice Anyone Can Keep

natural living mantra meditaton spiritual practice bliss long
The end of one year and the beginning of the next is traditionally a time to reflect on the current course of our lives and make any adjustments needed to steer us in the direction that we want to go. Unfortunately, what often happens with New Year’s resolutions is that we start out very enthusiastically pursuing our goals, then become bored, distracted, discouraged, and eventually give up altogether.

The same is often true with daily practices. We often find a practice we resonate with and sincerely feel will be of great benefit to us, but then when we actually attempt to practice it regularly, daily, we encounter difficulty and distraction. Our regular practice becomes less and less regular and eventually becomes just another listing on our to do list that we rarely, if ever, get to.

I can honestly say that with every other practice I have endeavored to keep up, this has been the case with me. I would start out very enthusiastic, then my attraction would decrease over time and I would eventually lose interest altogether.

But yoga mantra meditation has been different. It is the one practice I have not only been able to maintain daily for several years now, but the pleasure I experience in it steadily grows the more that I practice. This principle is explained in the yoga texts.

Material activities often start out somewhat sweet, then the more they are repeated, the more tasteless they become to us. We can observe this principle at work in our personal experiences of material things and activities. Take, for example, a song we hear that we really like – we experience pleasure in listening to it the first ten, twenty, however many times we listen, but after listening to it many times daily, we don’t like it so much. When there is no longer pleasure in listening to it, we usually stop listening. The same is true for any material activity or thing that is repeatedly experienced with little or no variation. After a short initial period of pleasure, the more frequently we experience it, the more quickly our pleasure will decrease.

We may still engage in material activities that have little or no pleasure for us because we are hoping that whatever pleasure we once felt will return – or because we feel these activities are necessary or valuable for some larger goal of happiness. However, if we think we can achieve the goal in some more attractive way, we will likely take the more attractive option.

With activities that are truly spiritual in nature the effect is opposite. Some of us have an immediate attraction to mantra meditation. Others do not have much of an attraction in the beginning. But in either case, the more frequently that we engage in this spiritual practice, the more our pleasure grows, as does our attraction. Mantra meditation actually becomes sweeter and sweeter the more that we engage in it because it is purifying our consciousness, thus allowing us to increasingly experience its innate sweetness and the natural pleasure that blossoms from it.

So why do material activities become more tasteless, and spiritual activities become more sweet, the more that we experience them?

Because material things and activities only stimulate the mind and physical senses – they do not actually touch us, the spiritual self that is wearing the material body. Only that which is of our same nature – spiritual – can actually bring us real and lasting happiness.

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.

Because material pleasure is superficial, we grow tired of it fairly quickly. It never actually brings us the deep happiness that we long for, so we are disappointed and grow bored or frustrated with it. However, when we come in contact with something that is truly spiritual, we will immediately experience nourishment from it. If our consciousness is very covered, we may not be very consciously aware of its nourishing affects on us. If our consciousness is less covered, then we will be more aware.

There is a good example of this increase in pleasure and attraction for mantra meditation in the story of my friend’s father. When he first encountered kirtan meditation, he says he was not very attracted to it, but he was very attracted to the food they were serving at the meditation. He would travel many miles to the closest kirtan gathering every week just for the food. But as he continued to attend the kirtan, his pleasure and attraction increased. He grew to love it and has now been very happily practicing kirtan for over forty years.

Because the mantras used in this type of yoga meditation are completely spiritual sound vibrations, they are naturally nourishing to us and also purify our consciousness of the material misconceptions and other artificiality that covers our minds and hearts. Thus, every time we hear or speak them, we experience a very deep level of comfort and pleasure that continues to grow.

There are other yoga practices that go well with mantra meditation and may be supportive of our practice, but there is nothing as supportive to mantra meditation practice as the practice itself. If you are endeavoring to begin a daily mantra meditation practice and encounter any challenges, know that the best thing you can do is to simply keep practicing every day in whatever capacity you are able. If you find one type of mantra meditation (Kirtan, Japa Yoga, or Gauranga Breathing) to be too difficult for you, then practice one of the other meditations that day. If you find chanting the mantra aloud to be too difficult on a given day, then just listen intently to mantra meditation music that day, allowing your mind and heart to simply rest in the sound.

Everything that we need to purify our consciousness of all that is unnatural and realize our true nature is contained within the hearing and repeating of these spiritual sound vibrations. A real 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. When we hear and chant or sing this spiritual sound, we are putting ourselves in the direct presence of the Supreme – thus reawakening us to our loving relationship with the Supreme and the deeply fulfilling, divine joy that is inseparable from it.

The motivation to continue practicing mantra meditation is the pleasure that we experience in it and so when our consciousness is purified to the degree that we are intensely experiencing this pleasure, then no other motivation is needed. When an activity is greatly pleasurable, we do not need an external motivator. We do it because it actually makes us happy. When we experience pure pleasure in mantra meditation, our meditation is no longer a practice, but a spontaneously joyful and completely natural expression of our unadulterated self.

This is what a daily spiritual practice is meant to be. It is meant to seamlessly transition us from a materially-oriented life of artificiality to a spiritually-oriented life of spontaneous, natural joy. Mantra meditation uncovers, awakens, develops our innate tendencies toward spiritual life so that we can experience the deeply fulfilling happiness and love that is our true nature.

 

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

Kirtan

Japa Yoga

Gauranga Breathing

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 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

 

 

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?