Tag Archives: Dhyana

Choosing a Qualified Yoga Teacher…

Not at this time and likely not in the near future, will any type of national or international certification program for yoga teachers exist (*see note below for clarification). This is due to the traditional nature of Yoga instruction. Since antiquity, Yoga has been transmitted from teacher to student on a one-to-one basis.  Comparatively recently, and mainly in the West, Yoga has begun to be offered to groups of students in a class format. The more advanced practices of Yoga are still the best when undertaken on a one-to-one basis, and only if you are fortunate enough to find a competent teacher who is willing to instruct you.

Any serious student seeking qualified instruction should avoid any Yoga teacher who views this science as a hobby or someone who reads a few books, takes a couple introductory Yoga courses and then decides to become a Yoga teacher. This can only work if they have spent sufficient time under the constant supervision of their own personal Yoga teacher. This relationship between teacher and student needs to be taken very seriously by both parties and can never be entered into lightly.

There are competent teachers available, but you may just have to search them out. When seeking a competent, qualified Yoga teacher there are certain minimum requirements to look for that they should demand of you as their student. Seven of the most basic ones follow:

1. Daily practice of Yoga asana (postures), breathing, and meditation. To make progress in Yoga a serious commitment to daily practice is necessary. Only when a teacher has this support will they be able to build the solid foundation of experience that is required before they can show others how to achieve that experience. This daily practice is also needed in order to maintain the strength and health necessary for the extraordinary demands of both teaching and learning.

2. Regular and frequent contact with a teacher is necessary simply because it’s impossible for a teacher to work effectively in a vacuum, and no one becomes so advanced in their practice that they do not need the guidance and support of their own teacher.

3. Study of the important Yoga texts; this is one of the five observances that are part of the essential eight "limbs" of Yoga practice (see #4, below). A teacher needs to have an intensive background of study that includes Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, the Bhagavad Gita, and other world philosophies that the student must be willing to learn.

4. The practice of ethical behavior which includes the five yamas (meaning "restraints"):

  • Nonviolence
  • Truthfulness
  • Nonstealing
  • Periods of celibacy
  • Nonhoarding

…and the five niyamas (meaning "observances"):

  • Purity
  • Contentment
  • Tolerance
  • Study
  • Remembrance

The yamas and the niyamas are the first two limbs in Patanjali’s system of classical Yoga (called "Ashtanga Yoga"). The remaining six limbs are:

  • Physical exercises (asana)
  • Breathing techniques (pranayama)
  • Withdrawal of the mind from the senses (pratyahara)
  • Concentration (dharana)
  • Meditation (dhyana)
  • Absorption, or ultimate union with the self (samadhi)

*Note: These eight limbs must be developed simultaneously. The ethical guidelines of the yamas and niyamas are a part of Yoga practice not simply for moralistic reasons but because they support and protect the student during the unfolding of personal experience in meditation. A teacher needs this support and protection for the same reasons as well as to help reduce the interference of personal ego in the teaching process. An ethical Yoga teacher conducts classes in a responsible, safe, and aware manner. They will never organize classes that are too large for each student to receive individual attention. They will never push students beyond their limitations. And of grave importance, sexual involvement with students is absolutely prohibited.

5. A healthy vegetarian or vegan (plant-based) diet. Although you do not need to be a vegetarian/vegan to practice Yoga, a Yoga teacher must conform to different and stricter standards. Someone who is taking responsibility for teaching others how to use Yoga meditation techniques must have developed the steadiness and nonviolent attitude that can only be attained through a vegetarian or vegan diet. It goes without saying that a teacher should not smoke or use drugs (other than prescription medication) or misuse alcohol.

6. Training in basic anatomy and the effects of Yoga techniques is very important. A teacher must be able to vary certain techniques according to each student’s ability and know how to coach and advise students with common medical conditions such as hypertension, arthritis, back problems and other disorders. A teacher should also be able to recognize when a student needs professional psychological counseling plus be familiar with community services that are available to help the student.

7. The teacher must have the ability to separate Yoga from religion and to teach their students the same. Yoga is not a religion; it predates Hinduism, as well as all known religious practices, and its techniques have been used throughout the world since before recorded history. Yoga is a systematic science of nonreligious, transcultural techniques which can help the practitioner to develop greater self-knowledge and awareness. The texts of Yoga are not scriptures but rather handbooks (or guidelines) of how to use the techniques safely and what kinds of experiences may possibly be expected.

Hopefully, this article will give you some idea of the qualifications that are generally accepted as important. Get a good solid base in your own practices while under the direction of a qualified teacher, read and study about Yoga practice and philosophy, and build strength, awareness, and health, including the adaption of a vegetarian or vegan diet. If you then would like to advance and become a teacher, remember, teaching is hard work, and if you try to do it without being in top condition physically and mentally, you will do a disservice both to yourself and your students.

*Note on certification: There's a difference between credentialing and certification and although certification has not yet achieved national/international recognition, Rae Indigo runs a highly credited certification school, recognized by the Yoga Alliance among others. Rae teaches 200 & 300 hour Yoga Certification. The focus of her trainings is teaching students to heal using yoga, and to create sequences that are effective for the group or individual being guided.

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500 

How Well is Your Head and Heart Aligned?

One of our greatest strengths as humans lies in our unique ability to operate from either our head or our heart. Both our brain (with the ability to think) and our heart (with the ability to feel) are powerful organs that not only sustain life, but they are tools that can help us experience the world in a most profound way. New research has conclusively shown that we can “think” both with our brains and with our hearts and if (and when) we do that, we increase our ability to make better decisions. Aligning our heads and our hearts also greatly helps us to gain clarity, feel more flexible and resilient, plus it works to guide us toward a more balanced and peaceful life.

We experience this whenever we create coherence. Coherence is the state when our heart (along with its feelings/emotions) and our mind (along with its thoughts/logic) are in dynamic alignment and in cooperation with each other. Heart and mind coherence can be defined as the synchronization of our emotional, mental and physical systems, creating a high-energy, optimal state that has the ability to encourage, stimulate and produce positive outcomes whenever its combined force is concentrated.

This heart/mind alignment results in us feeling good, and when we feel good we generally do good. We fully engage life, with less stress and more energy. We have greater power to make better decisions, and all this comes from developing the awesome potential of our heads and hearts working in synchronicity.

Three tips on accomplishing this alignment.

  1. 1. Listen your heartbeat while breathing from your heart space. Begin by just slowing down and noticing the miracle that you are. Find a comfortable spot and sit quietly, taking slow, deep breaths and experience your own heartbeat. Be aware of its pulsing. Then try breathing from the heart center. Resist the temptation to force the breath, just breathe normally, but visualize each breath coming in and out of the heart center. This draws you from the head into the heart space and now the two can be engaged and aligned.
  2. 2. Always act with compassion. Compassion is a quality that manifests on a heart level and head level, it involved both thinking and feeling and when balanced it becomes a powerful force for good. You’ll notice it’s a deep feeling, precipitated by thought and understanding, it’s also an excellent way to create coherence. When you act compassionately, mentally visualize that emotion swelling out of your heart until your head and heart find their proper alignment.
  3. 3. Go beyond listening to just your heartbeat and try to hear what the heart has to say. It’s common to hear the inner voices coming from our head. They tend to be in the form of thoughts – analytical, critical and sometimes disparaging. Well, next time these inner voices arise, listen to what the heart has to say, likely these will be kind, compassionate, supportive words. Imagine your heart speaking directly to you and you may realize that in reality it’s sending us these signals continuously.

There are many ways of aligning your head and your heart to create the coherence mentioned above…Try this, next time you feel like you are too much “in-the-head” about something, pause, take a deep breath and merge those thoughts with the feelings arising from your heart center. Visualize these two aligning, creating a cooperative force designed to help ease your stress so that you can create a better thinking/feeling experience, subsequently enriching your life and all your activities.

Of related interest, click on: Meditation on the “Feeling” of Being

And: The Importance of Meditation to Yoga Practice

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500.

The Teachings of Yoga (Part 5: Practice & Non-Attachment, cont.)

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras – Chapter 1: (Practice & Non-Attachment; Sutras 1.15 – 16)

Yoga Sutra (1.15)drista anushravika vishaya vitrishnasya vashikara sanjna vairagyam. Drista means seen or perceived. Anushravika means revealed, heard (from others). Vishaya is objects, subjects or entities. Vitrishnasya is of one who is free from desire or craving. Vashikara means supreme, mastery or total control. Sanjna means awareness, consciousness or knowing. Vairagyam is non-attachment, indifference, dispassion or neutrality.

The Teachings of Yoga (Part 5: Practice & Non-Attachment, cont.)

Translated this means…When the mind loses desire even for objects seen or described in a tradition or in scriptures, it acquires a state of utter (vashikara) desirelessness that is called non-attachment (vairagya). Or in other words: dispassion (or non-attachment) results from a balance in (or mastery of) the consciousness, and when the desire for all things that we see or have heard of is extinguished.

This non-attachment is not suppression nor detachment as these are both pretentious and a case of “doing” something. This non-attachment is instead a “non-doing” sort of thing. It means that your attention does not hold (or grab onto) any impression that appears in the mind in the first place. Non-attachment is cessation! If attachment does occur (whether appealing or aversion), and attention fixes itself on a deep mental impression, the subsequent non-attachment comes from the cessation of mental clinging, not from an act of forcefully prying attention away.

Patanjali further explains that non-attachment (vairagya) applies to progressively deepening levels of our being. While we might begin with our more shallow level attachments, such as the objects and people encountered in daily life, this practice is intended to deepen to include all of the objects or experiences even those we might have only heard about, including the many powers (siddhis) or experiences of the psychic or subtle realm. We gradually come to witness that even these are nothing more than distractions on our journey to Self-realization, and we learn to let them pass by as clouds in the sky.

Yoga Sutra (1.16)tat param purusha khyateh guna vaitrshnyam. Tat is “that.” Param is higher, superior, supreme, transcendent. Purusha means pure consciousness, Self. Khyateh means through knowledge, vision, discernment. Guna represents the elements, prime qualities, constituents or attributes (three gunas of sattvas, rajas and tamas). Vaitrshnyam is that state of freedom from desire or craving (for the gunas)

This sutra can be translated to mean…Indifference to the subtlest elements, constituent principles, or qualities themselves (gunas), achieved through a knowledge of the nature of pure consciousness (purusha), is called supreme non-attachment (paravairagya). Or put another way: The highest state of desirelessness (unsurpassed non-attachment – paravairagya) arises from the experience of the true Self and in this state even the most basic elements of nature lose their power over us.

The Teachings of Yoga (Part 5: Practice & Non-Attachment, cont.)

Supreme non-attachment (paravairagya) to the gunas (the three primal elements that the yogis refer to as the prime constituents of both manifest and unmanifest matter (prakriti) includes non-attachment in relation to not only the gross physical world, but also to the entire subtle, psychic and astral planes, as well as the causal realm out of which they arise.

Paravairagya comes after Self-realization and is described in these sutras as where non-attachment ultimately leads, that is, once you have the tool of samadhi and direct experience of the Self.

*Part 1 can be viewed by clicking on: The Teachings of Yoga (Part 1 – Yoga Defined)

*Part 2, here: The Teachings of Yoga (Part 2: Un-coloring Your Thoughts)

*Part 3, here: The Teachings of Yoga (Part 3: Un-coloring Your Thoughts – Cont.)

*Part 4, here: The Teachings of Yoga (Part 4: Practice & Non-Attachment)

*Of related interest… The Three Gunas

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500.

The Teachings of Yoga (Part 4: Practice & Non-Attachment)

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras – Chapter 1: (Practice & Non-Attachment; Sutras 1.12 thru 1.14)

The Teachings of Yoga (Part 4: Practice & Non-Attachment)Practice (abhyasa) and non-attachment (vairagya) are the two foundational principles on which the entire system of Yoga rests. Through the cultivation of these two principles, all other Yoga practices evolve and eventually mastery over the mind field (chitta) occurs, and allows the realization of the true Self (Atman).

Regular practice keeps you headed in the right direction, while non-attachment provides you with a means to continue your inner journey without getting sidetracked by the pains and pleasures encountered along the way.

Abhyasa and Vairagya go hand-in-hand as companion practices, and they are the tools for mastering (nirodhah) the many levels (fluctuations) of the mind, thus allowing the experience of the true Self.

In order to properly practice and cultivate non-attachment, it is necessary to become consistently better at discriminating between which actions, utterances, and thoughts take you toward the goal of union, and those which tend to separate and divide. Developing this increasing discrimination is both a foundation practice and a subtle tool for advancing the inner journey.

Practice means having an attitude of persistent effort to attain and maintain a state of stable tranquility. Non-attachment involves learning to let go of the many attachments, aversions, fears, and false identities that are clouding the true Self.

Yoga Sutra (1.12)abhyasa vairagyabhyam tat nirodhah. Abhyasa means practice (also cheerfulness). Vairagyabhyam is non-attachment, indifference (or dispassion). Tat means this (of those). Nirodhah in this context, means control, regulation, restraint or mastery.

Translated this sutra means these thought patterns are controlled via a balance between cheerful practice (abhyasa) and non-attachment (vairagya).

Yoga Sutra (1.13)tatra sthitau yatnah abhyasa. Tatra means “of these two” (abhyasa and vairagya). Sthitau represents stability, consistence and undisturbed calmness. Yatnah is effort, persistent exertion or sustained struggle. Abhyasa means with (repeated) practice.

This sutra can be translated as: Practice (abhyasa) involves applying the chosen effort, and doing the actions necessary to bring a stable and tranquil state (sthitau). In other words – It means resolutely and consistently adhering to one’s practice of yoga until stable and undisturbed calmness is attained.

A note on Sthitau as a stable form of tranquility: This stability is more than just a matter of regaining your peace of mind when it has been lost, it is taking the extra steps when planning your life to support meditation; no only when meditating formally (like sitting meditation) but also when in “the marketplace.”

Yoga Sutra (1.14)sah tu dirgha kala nairantaira satkara asevitah dridha bhumih. Sa means the same, that (practice). Tu is but or in any case. Dirga Kaka (Dirgha = long. Kala = time). Nairantarya is continuous; uninterrupted. Satkāra means seriousness; care. Adara is respect; consideration for others. Asevito (from asevita) means practiced, followed or continued. Drdha means sound, well founded. Bhumiḥ (from bhumi) basis, foundation or earth.

Put together all these words mean: When that practice is done for a long time, without a break, and with sincere devotion, then the practice becomes a firmly rooted, stable and solid foundation. In other words – Success can definitely be achieved through a sound and continuous practice over an extended period of time, when carried out in a serious and thoughtful manner.

Because consistency is such an important part of practice, choose a practice to which you commit yourself. Rather than be overenthusiastic when establishing your practice and taking on more than you have time (or energy) for, it is better to start by choosing a level of practice that you know you can maintain without a break. As your lifestyle changes to give you more time for meditation you can increase your time to include a session of longer duration.

Next in this series, Part 5 (Practice and non-attachment, cont.), Yoga Sutras 1.15 – 16.

*Part 1 can be viewed by clicking on: The Teachings of Yoga (Part 1 – Yoga Defined)

*Part 2, here: The Teachings of Yoga (Part 2: Un-coloring Your Thoughts)

*Part 3, here: The Teachings of Yoga (Part 3: Un-coloring Your Thoughts – Cont.)

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500.

The Teachings of Yoga (Part 3: Un-coloring Your Thoughts – Cont.)

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras – Chapter 1: (Un-coloring Your Thoughts; Sutras 1.6 thru 1.11)

Yoga Sutra (1.6)pramana viparyaya vikalpa nidra smritayah. The five types of thought patterns to witness are:

  1. 1. Correct knowing (pramana)
  2. 2. Incorrect knowing (viparyaya)
  3. 3. Fantasy or imagination (vikalpa)
  4. 4. The void-ness that is deep sleep (nidra)
  5. 5. Recollection or memory (smriti)

Of the five kinds of thought patterns, pramana, or correct knowledge is the one to cultivate. Incorrect knowledge (viparyaya) or fantasy or imagination (vikalpa) are both made up of thought patterns that may have verbal expression and knowledge, but for which there is no real object or basis in existence. Dreamless sleep (nidra) is the subtle thought pattern which has absence or non-existance as its object. Recollection or memory (smriti) is mental modification of a previous impression.

Yoga Sutra (1.7)pratyaksha anumana agamah pramanani. Pratyaksa is that which is right in front of our eyes (directly seen or perceived). Anumana means that which comes from the intellect (manas, a conclusion). Agamah (from agama), legacy or learning from reliable sources. Pramanani (from pramana), insight, accurate perception; accurate knowledge.

The Yogi learns to witness these five kinds of interfering thoughts (sutra 1.6) with non-attachment, discriminating between these five, and to cultivating the first type of thought, which is knowing correctly (pramana), and there are three ways of gaining correct knowledge:

  1. 1. Perception
  2. 2. Inference
  3. 3. Testimony or verbal communication from others who have knowledge.

According to the oral Yoga tradition, it is taught that you should not simply believe what you hear, but should seek your own direct experience. This is the meaning of the first of these three ways of knowing (Pratyaksa – perception). The second part is that of reasoning (Anumana – inference), whereby you want that experience to be understood in the light of your own inference or reasoning. The third part is that you seek the validation through some respected authority (Agamah & Pramanani – testimony). This might be an oral authority (e.g.; some respected person who has firsthand knowledge) or a written authority (such as the Yoga Sutras or Upanishads).

Yoga Sutra (1.8)viparyayah mithya jnanam atad rupa pratistham. Viparyaya means false perception or false knowledge. Mithya, also false; misleading. Jnanam (root is Jnana) is knowledge, insight. Atad (a-not, tat-that) means “not that.” Rupa is form, nature. Atadrupa means different form. Pratistham (from root pratistha) is rooted, calming, compatible.

All together these words may be translated as “Error arises from knowledge that is based on a false mental construct” or “Incorrect knowledge (viparyaya) is false knowledge formed by perceiving a thing to be other than what it really is.”

Yoga Sutra (1.9)shabda jnana anupati vastu shunyah vikalpah. Sabda means word. Jnana is knowledge. Anupati means consequent upon (real). Vastu can be reality, object, thing or entity. Sunya means devoid or empty. Vikalpah is imagining, illusion or semantic confusion (the illusion that a semantic construct actually exists).

Translated – “Imaginings are engendered by word/knowledge without regard for what actually exists in the real world.” Or in other words; “Fantasy or imagination (vikalpa) is a thought pattern that has verbal expression and knowledge, but for which there is no such object or reality in existence.”

Yoga Sutra (1.10)abhava pratyaya alambana tamo-vritti nidra. Abhava means absence or non-presence. Pratyaya is cognition, impressions (i.e.; impressions in chitta via vrittis). Alambana is support, basis, foundation. Tamo means inertia (Tamas is one of the three gunas or basic properties of matter). Vrtti means lack of clarity (thought waves or patterns). Nidra is deep sleep.

Translated – “Dreamless sleep (nidra) is the subtle thought pattern which has as its object an inertia, blankness, absence, or negation of the other thought patterns (vrittis).”

Yoga Sutra (1.11)anubhuta vishaya asampramoshah smritih. Anu (from), Bhuta (that which has been experienced in the past). Visshaya is experience (or objects of experience). Samasampramosash means neither being stolen or lost. Smrtih is  memory or recollection.

This Sutra is translated to mean: “Recollection or memory (smriti) is mental modification caused by the inner reproducing of a previous impression of an object, but without adding any other characteristics from other sources.” Or more simply stated…”Memory is the recollection (in the current moment) of (past) experienced objects.”

Next in this series, Part 4 (Practice and non-attachment), Yoga Sutras 1.12 thru 16

*Part 1 can be viewed by clicking on: The Teachings of Yoga (Part 1 – Yoga Defined)

*Part 2, here: The Teachings of Yoga (Part 2: Un-coloring Your Thoughts)

Of related interest, click on: The Problem of Thoughts & Yoga’s Solution

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500.

Yoga and a Grateful Heart

The most natural state of the human heart is that of gratitude. And a grateful, open heart receives everything that impacts it in life, moment by moment, just like the ocean receives raindrops. There’s never any rejection or coveting of any individual drop; just each drop, each part dissolving into the whole.

Similarly, our heart has the innate capacity to open to both suffering and joy with equal acceptance. In fact, this is how it functions best. The heart’s secret is that it wants to feel everything. In order to thrive, it wants to be fully alive in order to learn all that it can from the trials and celebrations of life, but our ego/self has other plans. It encourages and supports all that is agreeable to it and discourages (or tries to block) everything that is not.

As sentient beings, it is nothing short of a miracle that we can experience everything from pain and suffering to happiness and bliss. It’s utterly amazing that we have a consciousness that can experience any feelings at all. Of course, it’s not quite so surprising when the ego/self steps in and grabs hold of the suffering and keeps us there, tormenting us with its blame and insensibility.  

The practices of yoga and meditation ask us to confront our suffering directly and stay the course with it, experientially, until it reveals the seed of liberation that it contains.  When we move closer to suffering, experiencing it fully, it transforms us and leaves us with an air of expansion and a greater understanding. When we allow this to happen in our lives, we are left humbled, and grateful.

Now, of course this is not easy work because we find it is painful to really, truly feel. It is terrifying to take that leap of faith, assured that on the other side of the abyss of suffering is the promise of a greater wholeness. Our ego tends to wonder if it’s worth the risk, or even possible. But when we soften the heart into non-judgment, then we are as we are. By releasing expectation, life is allowed to arise as it is.  Whatever life is moving in you today is a miracle. Receive it with an open heart and you’ll feel gratitude radiate from those parts of you that just want to be?

Gratefulness can also arise by realizing how many things we take for granted. Consider this – the poorest people in America now live with more luxuries than royalty had 100 years ago. We have running water for a shower, it’s even heated! How about indoor plumbing, we no longer need to go out in freezing weather and sit in a stinky outhouse. It hasn’t been very long ago that indoor plumbing was a luxury available only to the very wealthy. We have electricity, which means that we can stay up all night reading and never have to worry about running out of candles. Not even Kings and Queens could do that throughout history.

Try starting each day reflecting on what (and who) you are grateful for. Focus with intent on heart-felt gratitude. Don’t allow “woulda, coulda, shoulda” to come into play, remain a witness, without judgments and you have opportunity to see all the things you have to be grateful for; things like the simple smile of a child, the smell of a flower or the sight of a cloud against the blue sky, or even just the ability to wake up and take a deep breath.

Use yoga practice and meditation techniques to develop your inherent quality of gratitude and infuse your life with a deep sense of peace and joy. And in that place, you’ll have come full circle, finding it very easy to be grateful.

Of related interest, click on: Try These 12 Tips for a Healthier Life…

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500.

Meditation – It’s Not What You Think!

It’s also not just something you do. Meditation (Dhyāna) is a process, and may best be described as a continuous, unbroken, conscious awareness of the mind’s activities when in its raw state. Meditation, as a process, involves overcoming the distractions and dissipation of energies which then allows blissful awareness to arise.

When observing the activities of the mind we’ll see that at any point in time we are consumed with endless thoughts and assorted emotional baggage at both the conscious and subconscious level. This is perhaps the largest obstacle when it comes to preventing us from experiencing true, uninhibited bliss. Bliss naturally results from an expanded awareness of any and all happenings, but only in the absence of any attachments and/or bondages.

Meditation practice as a process will equip us with the necessary tools we need to experience this inherent bliss, showing us the path whereby we may live our everyday life using these tools.

Those who regularly meditate realize that they experience a beautiful inner space and peace as they disengage from the external world and go deep within themselves. They no longer identify with their ego-self and its accompanying emotional bondage in order to experience this feeling of peace. Sadly, as soon as they come out of it, they generally return to their so-called normal personality traits. These traits are accompanied by learned patterns of behavior and thinking in regard to who they are, and what they can or can’t achieve.

We must strive to integrate these two states; the higher meditative state and the daily conscious state. At any given point of time, we should then be able to become aware of our higher meditative state. Meditation practice is really mind management and helps us do just that.

What Meditation can do for us:

Meditation can help us overcome our assorted desires and eliminate distractions. It doesn’t directly “curb” these desires (they will always be there), but it will render them inconsequential in the face of an unbroken and expanded awareness of existence. The more we can retain the actual experience of our meditation practice, the easier it is to draw ourselves back from our seemingly endless desires and various distractions.

Meditation teaches us to how to be a “witness.” When we are meditating, we find ourselves detached and “in” the moment. But after we finish, we lose that “being in the now” experience and return to our ordinary distracted state. So, we need to develop a meditative lifestyle, where the meditative state is always available as our reference point. Adapting this meditative lifestyle will help us observe and understand why we tend to oscillate between a calm, peaceful meditative state and our daily unsettled state of mind. We then observe which lifestyle patterns disturb our calm, peaceful and potentially blissful state.

Important requirement for successful Meditation:

In order for successful meditation to occur, we must be “grounded.” Grounding is that essential “anchor” that helps us to remain stable during the meditative process. This grounding can be accomplished by anchoring to your breath or your body movement (e.g., yoga asana) during meditation practice. It’s quite common that as you proceed in meditation you reach a stage of unknown or unfamiliar territory, where you would ordinarily have no confidence to proceed further. It’s exactly these times that grounding is of great help as it establishes a reference point of where you are and of your purpose. It provides a stability to rest upon as energies start to shift and change while proceeding deeper in meditation.

Using Meditation to our best advantage:

During meditation, it is best to develop the capacity to use our energy to control and train our mind and the subsequent feelings that result. We need to be able to understand what is happening at our deeper levels. When and only when, we fully understand these issues can we confront them and eliminate them as distractions to our calm sense of being, enabling a blissful state.

In Antar Mouna (the “Inner Silence” technique) there are six stages to do this. In the 1st stage we witness the sensory information. In the 2nd stage we witness the spontaneous thoughts. In the 3rd stage, we consciously create and dispose of thoughts. The last three stages (4-6) are considered advanced and won’t be dealt with in this article.

But as you can see, meditation practice is a time to work upon ourselves, to take on issues that prevent us from being in a perpetual meditative state; one free of distractions where fear, anxiety, insecurity and desire are absent. As we progress in developing this medita

Develop a Positive Attitude with Yoga

The essence of all yoga practice is to remain positive in any situation that we find ourselves in. By remaining positive, our interactions with ourselves, others and the world at large become brighter, more productive and perpetuate a feeling of self-satisfaction, often referred to as the “feel good factor.” As a result we become healthier and more peaceful.

So how can yoga practice be used to develop this positive disposition? Simple, there’s a 3-step approach:

1 – Awareness

2 – Acceptance

3 – Attitude

Well now, let’s consider these three factors…

1.    Awareness:

We can begin by becoming aware of what we’re thinking and how our thinking process actually works. We systematically train ourselves to be aware at all times of how our mind is working; our thoughts, thinking patterns and tendencies. Practice making this a habit and if it seems difficult, there are two meditation techniques which can be of great help – Antar Mouna and Yoga Nidra. Both these techniques help in the withdrawal of our senses into introspection or silent witnessing.

*Antar Mouna (inner silence meditation) is a pratyahara technique, pratyahara being the first of the four inner limbs of Raja Yoga and deals with the activities of the conscious mind. Antar Mouna is the development of conscious awareness of all thoughts and mental activity. The technique involves creating, transforming and finally gaining control of the entire thought process.

*Yoga Nidra, generally referred to as “Yogic Sleep” is a 4000 year old guided meditation technique that leads to a deep and exquisite state of supreme stillness and insight where the body and mind can restore and rejuvenate. It can enable you to experience unshakeable peace, even during some of the most difficult times.

2.    Acceptance:

Ironically, increased awareness brings about a heightened sensitivity to the issues at hand, where we are at risk of becoming too judgmental and critical of both ourselves or of others. This can set the stage for sending us into a vicious cycle of negativity unless we learn to first accept things as they are.

Develop a stance of “it is okay” to simply observe things the way they are, without being obsessively driven to try to change or control them. Just by being a witness of all that arises establishes an attitude of acceptance that leads to genuine love and real compassion, establishing the “bedrock” of positive thinking.

3.    Attitude:

After we have fully accepted what lies within (or behind) our thoughts, we can then start working on how we “choose” to look at any particular situation, person or thing. These yoga techniques are essential in helping us to change our attitude. The Sankalpa (or resolve) that we establish through Antar Mouna and Yoga Nidra assists us in shaping our mind. This resolve in yoga is always takes the form of a positive statement e.g.; “I am becoming more positive every day”. Such positive conditioning when regularly used to fuel the mind will help greatly in shaping a positive attitude.

By regularly practicing these three (awareness, acceptance and attitude), you

Break the Stranglehold of Thought!

Can you become the master of thought?

Thought can become the master of us all, and as we all probably already assume, a good thought can be a good master and a bad thought can be a bad master. Good thoughts uplift us, making our mood brighter, and making us feel like we’re “on top of the world.” Bad thoughts on the other hand, can be compared to a backpack filled with rocks, slowing us down at every stage of our journey, often overcoming us with lethargy, disinterest or even violence and aggression. Hostile thoughts are especially destructive; even if we “hold them in” they tend to “eat us up” by draining our energy and vitality.

It seems as if every moment we’re alive we are continuously guided by our thoughts. Even when we’re sleeping; a good thought (as in a dream) can bring a smile to our lips, while a bad one can make us break into a cold sweat. So as long as our thoughts are our master, our mind is endlessly enslaved by them. This then would imply that even good thoughts are not really good as long as they are our master.

One of life’s hard realities is that a master/slave relationship will always result in the exploitation of the slave. This practical reality applies to all aspects of life and our relationship with our thoughts is no exception. As long as “thought” remains our master, it will continue to exploit our mind and through our mind we are exploited.

This can be quite humorous, but actually it is in fact humbling to realize that we are nothing more than a product of our thoughts; our actions, behaviors, and all that we are is just a consequence of the dominance that “thought” has upon us.

We become the vehicle and allow thought to be our driver. Now suppose this driver is having a bad hair day and decides to take their anger out on our vehicle (us). As the thought transforms from good to bad, our vehicle starts to get shaky, and all the jolting around causes it to experience excessive (and destructive) wear and tear.

My, oh my, if only that good thought had remained good, why did it have to turn bad? So, as you can see, what is a good thought today can become bad tomorrow, and it seems to do that totally by its own whimsical nature, without “you” even having a say in the matter. Now just imagine what our entire life would be like if it is continually dictated by our thoughts. We do what we do (action or inaction), in the hope that it will stimulate our thoughts (in other words, please our master), who in turn, will then gratify our senses. But we only hope for the best, when in fact, we have no control on how our master interprets what we do (or don’t do).

This begs the question; can we really enjoy the beauty of life, as slaves, without any control? If we look closely we’ll see that none of us even knows what this “beauty of life” really is, and honestly, these words will remain hollow as long as we continue to be slaves.

Time to Turn the Tables – “Role Reversal”

Now, consider what would happen if the role was reversed; if you could become the master and change the content and nature of your thoughts like you use the remote for your TV. What if you could be “genuinely” rejoicing from within, by simply willing it so, even in the face of the worst adversity! What if you could somehow “disconnect” your thoughts from the situation at hand and manipulate them to produce feelings of being totally free and blissful – in other words, you become the master of your thoughts, rather than the other way around?

The main point here is that can this be done? This relationship between slave and master can be altered? That is exactly what the science of yoga and the practice of meditation will achieve. And this is according to the great masters and the ancient scriptures.

As you explore the meditation process and begin to discover its secrets, you will start seeing situations with a new perspective, more as a “witness” than a victim. You will start feeling the control slowly flowing back into you when you establish your practice with a true spiritual purpose. Issues that would normally irritate you become surprisingly fewer in number; while an aura of peace starts to descend over you. You can start “switching off” disturbing situations and the thoughts that produce and/or accompany them with an ease that you never had (or realized) in the past.

This should certainly be reason enough to embark on the path of yoga and meditation without the need to “achieve” or “attain” any other goal?

The Siddhis – What Are They & How Should We View Them?

Siddhis are the development of super natural powers by a student or aspirant of yoga when they reach the initial level or stage of samadhi called samprajnata samadhi (aka savikalpa samadhi). In this state, we are not fully immersed in the Universal (or Divine) Self. We are connected to it only from the outside and are not “one” with it. So, there is a sense of duality; “I and Universal Self”. It is at this stage that siddhis develop (or arise). There is the common yogic concept of the Ashta Siddhi (eight major siddhis). These are:

1. Anima : reducing one’s body even to the size of an atom

2. Mahima : expanding one’s body to an infinitely large size

3. Garima : becoming infinitely heavy

4. Laghima : becoming almost weightless

5. Prapti : having unrestricted access to all places

6. Prakamya: realizing whatever one desires

7. Isitva: possessing absolute lordship

8. Vasitva: the power to subjugate all.

The Siddhis – What Are They & How Shoud We View Them?

Although Patañjali mentions the occurrence (and recognition) of 64 minor siddhis and 8 major siddhis (above) in the third chapter of his Yoga Sutras, he is very particular about warning the aspirant not to seek or be distracted by them. These siddhis become great obstacles to evolving spiritually. Patañjali warns that siddhis are not the aim or purpose of yoga practice. They are to be seen as signs that our sadhana is progressing toward the goal of unity (the ultimate goal of yoga). Siddhis are likely to tempt the aspirant, student or practitioner by powers and pride of one’s own achievements. But Patanjali says that the aspirant may be tempted even by the gods (who are jealous of mankind) to prevent him/her from reaching their goal. Steadfastness is the only way and no one should even develop any ego-sense that they are beyond such temptations. States similar to Samādhi can also be gained by various other means (like drugs) but they too are not to be pursued.

The attraction to these spiritual powers or siddhis is a common among spiritual seekers. It is an obstacle that causes us to divert from our path, thus stalling our progress towards Self-Realisation. It is rooted in our egotistic desire for fame and recognition. Because we do not yet have these powers, we can easily assume that those who have them are more advanced spiritually, even though they may be as much a slave to their past conditioning, negative thoughts and emotions as we are.

Even some of the most highly evolved spiritual beings like Swami Rama were not spared from this common desire.

I will close this article with the following story…

In his book, ‘Living with the Himalayan Masters’, Swami Rama told a story that he once met a swami who could shoot fire from his mouth for several feet. Swami Rama thought to himself that this man must definitely be more spiritually advanced that his master. Even the fire-thrower swami said to him, “You are wasting your time and energy staying with your master. Follow me and I will give you some real wisdom. I will show you how to produce fire”.

Swami Rama then went to his Master and told him, “I have found someone more advanced than you, I have decided to become his disciple.”

The Master replied, “I am delighted. Go ahead, I want you to be happy. What does he do?”

Swami Rama told him and his Master requested to meet this fire-thrower swami.

They walked for two days to meet this swami. When they arrived, Swami Rama was shocked to see the fire-thrower swami bowing down to his Master.

Swami Rama asked his Master, “Do you know him?”

His Master explained, “Of course. He left our monastery some time ago. Now I know where he has been hiding.

At his Master’s request, Swami Rama asked the fire-thrower swami how long it took him to develop this ability. He proudly replied that it took him twenty years of practice to master this unique ability.

Swami Rama’s Master then said to him, “A match will produce fire in a second; if you wish to spend twenty years to produce fire from your mouth, you are a fool. My child, that is not wisdom.”

As Krishnamurti once said; “all these powers are like candles in the sun; they are like candle light when the brilliant sun is shining.”

Of related interest, click on: The Wisdom of Patanjali &

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras and Advaita Vedanta

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500