Archive for yoga philosophy

The Connected Feeling Part 1

The Connected Feeling
Part 1

Introduction

 

The preparation and program design for meditation is revisited here.  Favorite and popular methods can be mis-represented by both the current crop of teachers and students.

Meditation spoken of here is not just the casual quieting of our “monkey minds”.  It is not about becoming some great ego-centered teacher or accomplished practitioner of some arcane esoteric science.  Meditation starts with proper preparation that slowly and gradually leads to a laser like focused mind that moves deeper inwards to these states of absolute silence and absorption.  The beginning of meditation starts in that state.  Everything else is preparation.

Meditation seems to have it’s popular times and localities and experts.  Suddenly people in fitness are jumping on the bandwagon of “meditating” and finding wonderful success.  The East from India to Asia has the market cornered.  Buddhist teachers advise Yoga (meaning asana) practitioners to learn to meditate from them and then “do” Yoga.  In the USA, mindfulness meditation has taken the academic and general population’s fancy.

There is veracity in many of these above mentioned approaches and view points.  But what is needed to begin preparation for meditation?

Timing for Meditation

We all need many things in life.  Food/water and shelter can be a good start.  Maybe having a job or life purpose could be good.  How about a personal relationship that helps us understand ourselves beyond what we think at the moment.  Traditionally this meant getting married and raising a family.

There are all these basic needs that connect us to the world outside and the world inside.  Meeting these basic needs and stabilizing them are often a first step in the preparation for mediation.

If one’s lifestyle is too chaotic and unstable, relaxing and breath awareness is a good alternative.  Hey just eating better and exercising can be worth much more than forcing yourself to sit for long periods of meditation hoping someday to become enlightened.

Always re-evaluate your program to see if you are moving towards your goals in life.  But do not under value the power of proper lifestyle management.  Make it practical and doable first.  Then when your life allows, come into a proper practice regimen.

The Rush to Success

Is it not uncommon to want NOW what we want.  We want to be slimmer by tomorrow.  We expect our chronic problems to be better after just a few days of effort.  We wonder why have not met our “soul mate”.  We have been looking for years.  When asked what a person is doing to meet people they actually have only talked to their friends and not anyone much else out of their normal circle of relationships.

The actual methods we use are woefully insufficient to reap the benefits we are envisioning.  We do this with our 10 minute a day fitness routine for our 6-pack abs!  The proper preparation over the appropriate time is missing in many of our programs.

Often we don’t even have a progressive program.  We bite off way too much or way too little.  Our expectations exceed our efforts.  It is not for lack of trying for many of us.  It is just such poor program design and follow through that we end up not noticing much progress.

The most impactful and important things of our life that we want to achieve take time and good programming.  Mediation is no different.

Preliminary Steps for Meditation

First we have to realize that the mediation we are talking about here is that which leads to silence and absorption.  It is a very high goal.  So the first steps are basically getting ones life in order.  Check out your lifestyle and examine our thinking.  Are we over worked, over fed, under exercised and literally starving for love and affection.

Really take time to live life properly.  Establish a lifestyle that supports this interior journey of discovery.  If life is constantly taking our focus outward to deal with major stresses surrounding us, then address them first.  The power of life lived well will take us deeper than any artificial practice of meditating or whatever it might be.  This one sentence/thought needs to be considered more deeply than just a casual reading of it will give to us.

Examine not only what we are doing in life, but also what are we thinking and feeling in life.  This is not to prescribe a particular world view or provide some great psycho-therapeutic insight.  It is just important to examine where our thoughts take us.  Do we have a ton of negative thoughts that we are controlled by?

All the wisdom traditions and many religions have their commandments and guidelines for “right/good” thinking and actions.  Do not rush over the examination of what preoccupies our minds and hearts.  Do consider what is our philosophy and what guides our thinking and action.  In today’s world many have no philosophy of life that is lived—it is only thought of—and then only on Sunday or what ever rare occasion is which it is superficially and poorly addressed.  This topic is expanded greatly by others and will not be detailed here.

Realize that life is not lived in some uni-linear progression.  Even if at the moment our life seems in order, just hang on to your hat for that next moment when it totally seems to fall apart.

There of course will be times of both good and bad.  Those that remark that life is always fine and wonderful—are either very advanced beings (which there are probably a handful in history) or under a huge illusion both of themselves and life.

So these preliminary steps that we take over the years to properly prepare, will have periods of adjustment and interruption.  All of us will have to revisit and revise our lifestyles and re-examine where we need to be practicing in life.  Initially (probably many decades for many of us) life will take us up and down.  Much later as life continues to go up and down but we don’t rise or fall as far.

Slowly with a stronger and deeper practice we can stabilize our connection to our changing lifestyles.  We develop an equanimous capacity or even tempered ability in a difficult situation.  Again this capacity takes a lot of trial and effort over a long and arduous life.  A life lived with ease is often a very sheltered and control life at the beginning.  Many people fool themselves too early on their too easily arrived at accomplishments.  Only when life has given much and then taken away do we truly test ourselves.

Getting these preliminaries in order is not just in acquiring a good life.  It is in living that life and experiencing the losses of that life and then going on to live fully once again.

Life well lived is the preliminary preparation needed for mediation practice.

Asana & Deepening Pranic Flows Part 1

Asana and Deepening Pranic Flows

Well who wouldn’t have a smile on their face/mind when they deeply rest.  In a series of articles I wish to comment on this process of establishing and stabilizing ones asana in preparation for meditation.  These first several articles will discuss pertinent background information and perspectives.  We will not be addressing the cultural asanas at this time.

When your asana is established properly and stabilized there is a spontaneous emergence of the deeper pranic flows.  Briefly summarized as you sit straight and balanced, automatically you will feel these internal sensations of the bandhas and mudras from the foundation of the asana activating up through your posture. Of course more than just activation of these standard bandhas and mudras are integral part of the asana.

What is sitting straight and balanced?  Is it only the bodies structure.

Does asana include these pranic flows of the

  1. Bodies structure
  2. Sensations of the body
  3. Sensations of the mind, to include ideas, will power, etc
  4. Flows of the gross breath and the subtle breath

At the beginning with asana we are speaking about the physical gross body representation.  Whereas one practices more the asana must include all these pranic flows.

The asana is not something you do only.  At the beginning, it is arrived at after much hard work and preparation.  Later it just emerges spontaneously with a shift of ones attention.  It will be defined and expanded in another article in relationship to Patanjali’s treatise in the Yoga Sutras second Chapter (to include Vyasa’s and other’s commentary/bhashya)

How focused is your meditation?  Do you consistently experience a depth of your practice that takes you beyond the normal habits of the mind (waking, daydreaming, dreaming, sleeping, etc)?

The organization of the asana needs to be established and then stabilized.  It also must be linked proprioceptively/feeling-wise to the breath and mind flow.  Each step has to be stabilized and then linked.  This linking means that two things have become one thing in the mind.  This is a critical step to progressively arrive at deeper states of focus.  Otherwise when these relationships/links have not been stabilized the mind easily slips out of the current focus.  Examples of stabilizing and linking will be given later in other articles.

As your practices truly progresses your meditation more quickly arrives at these deeper states and deeper pranic flows.  Then over time the mind becomes absorbed within.  This is where the true meditation and silence starts.

Introduction

We are the gross representation of these natural and normal flows of prana.  Also you could say we are these flows and just have a gross set of clothes called a body to wear.  If this all is sounding too weird, it is because the references are from a very different perspective than most of us have experienced.

Embryological development follows a sophisticated and methodical code of instructions.  In one way, this is the same as saying that man is a field of energy currents flowing along definite channels.  (see Swami Veda’s excellent book:  Philosophy of Hatha Yoga)

Asanas follow this flow of energy.  So when we truly have a proper asana there is this natural emergence of a stable and comfortable form and the breath becomes deeper and the mind becomes very focused yet deeply calm and quiet.

Asanas are not passive–they are active–representing a summation of the energies of that system.  Subtle energies are very alive–they are just not apparent to us.  Do you see or are aware of all the workings of your internal milieu of organ and neuro-fluid functions.  OK, so maybe there is something subtler going on that the Yogis speak of as “their” normal experience.

How we organize these energies is the key to deepening these natural pranic flows that then spontaneously emerge
(While submerging the previous poorly organized postures with short shallow breaths and frenetic over active minds)

Fields of Energy

Remember when you placed a magnet underneath a sheet of heavy paper and then sprinkled iron filings on top.  The iron fillings formed themselves in an arrangement along the lines of the magnetic field.

Our gross body representation is the end result of matter following the flows of energy.  There is a wonderful YouTube video called Sand Dancing by Brusspup, an illusionist, enthusiast who posts on You Tube that depicts some of these ideas.

What you’ll be seeing in the video is a speaker with a metal plate attached on top, and a sound generator,” Brusspup writes. “A bit of sand is sprinkled on top, then you turn on the sound generator. There are certain frequencies that resonate in such a way that it creates geometric patterns with the sand. I continue to increase the pitch of the sound throughout the video. As the pitch gets higher, the patterns become more complex.”

This body, this breath, this mind are because of these flows of energies.  The science of pranyama includes this appreciation of these flows and their organization.

Awareness of Pranic Flows

Pranic flows are all sensations.  This idea that prana is something that is only Eastern or mystical is short sighted.  Pranic flows here are represented in the body, breath and mind.  Please keep in mind the parallel concept of embryological development.  The language of today’s science and the language of the science of yoga have some similarities.

As the growing fetus develops it exemplifies the unfolding of the map of coded instructions embedded in the DNA and interrelationships throughout this budding system.  The same awareness of the yogi using their language would be represented as flows of energies along the channels called nadis.

All structures and movements follow these flows of energy/coded instructions.

These gross physiological movements create the different body systems.  The major channels of communication and nutrition are established through the nervous, vascular, lymphatic and organ system.  The major system of interface with the world is further developed in the musculoskeletal and sensory based system.  Realize there are gross movements of the body and physiology.  Every tissue has it’s own subtle resonance and inherent tissue mobility/motility.

All these movements are created by these ever enlivened flows of energy/information/nutrition.

One of our jobs in preparing to meditate is the organization of these energies/flows.

The Beginning

It can be daunting to exam some of the details of ourselves.  We are so much more than just what we see and what we feel.  Our limit of awareness defines our current status.  To change and expand our perspective within the meditative model of yoga our awareness must change.

Changing our awareness is not a passive, let’s wait until we know more type of activity.  It involves a regular and rigorous practice.

Remember that Yoga as defined in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali as Samadhi.  That is a state of absorption beyond the normal sense of ones every day mind.  So if you wish to only relax and feel better and become successful, great.  It is just not the context that is offered in Yoga.

Yoga is way beyond this mundane improvement scheme of self help.

The next article will look at the classic definition of asana according to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.

Conclusion

Keep in mind that we are trying to find out how to sit better for meditation.  As in all philosophies one can expand this task of sitting better in meditation to sitting better in life (in all aspects of ones life).

One parting idea here is the following.  Many of us have been sitting for years in practicing meditation.  I think many of us have not made the progress that we thought we could.  We sometimes are told that it takes a long time–even lifetimes if one believes that perspective.

Anything of great worth and skill/accomplishment takes a long time.  My question and inquiry is:

The methods that we are practicing with, are they the best application of these meditation guidelines?

As a teacher of preparation for meditation, I would say we could use some work.  Including yours truly.

There are several levels of problems that I see here:

  1. The beginner just has not had the proper instruction.  They really don’t spend much time practicing.  What they practice is not linked into a stable tradition.  There is this over-Romantic idea of becoming enlightened with actually fairly little effort.  Sometimes their focus is only on the superficial aspect of relaxation and mental health or success or worse some sordid power accumulation.  Also they are haphazard in their organization and application of practice.  This latter point is often true for those who have been practicing a long time too.
  2. Those who have been practicing for a longer time and not noticing much depth to their practice can be frustrated and misled.  There is a lack of a strong and well practiced set of basics.  There has been no or very poor program design from one level to the next.  Often at this level one’s practice is not rigorous and systematized  sufficiently.  It is like walking for health and then expecting that this type of easy mindless exercise will ready you for climbing Mt Everest.

My focus in subsequent articles with be more oriented towards the second group of practitioners.

I would posit here that an evaluation can be made to clarify where one is at in some aspects of their practice.  Just think how would you evaluate yourself or a student like yourself.  Can you create some simple tests and retests to help guide ones practice and program design in moving step by step in the direction of absorption and silence of the mindfield.

Is practice just to be filled with faith and hope alone.  Are we to be just left to this recipe of practice, practice, practice.  What ever happened to smart and skillful practice.  What about practice that is rigorously examined, tried/evaluated, revised and practiced again.  Which populations or which people under what conditions at what time are best served by this type of practice vs another type.  Is there only one basic model for all at all times?

There are not to my mind answers readily available.

The following inquiry and subsequent articles will be only a perspective of this student, myself.  Of course I owe tremendous debt to all my teachers–having stolen/borrowed everything worthwhile that is presented.  Everything of less worth is my own mis-understandings.

 

Feeling Stuck in Our Bodies

Are We Stuck in Our Bodies

Some days and some times we all get that feeling of:  OMG I’m not going to get better.  Maybe we are overweight, out of shape, have chronic aches and pain, or are feeling caught somewhere in life.This pain or this situation is just what I have to live with from now on.  Fear starts to have a bigger say in our mind.  We not longer are in touch with that more reasonable (laughing Wisdom) character.  Now we are controlled by these emotional winds that blow from different corners of our mind moment to moment.

Pause and Breathe

What to do?  First hang out a bit.  This pausing before doing is a bit difficult.  Often we’d rather rush to make a change.  Totally reasonable for this emotional self.  Totally unreasonable for growth and change.  This hanging out literally involves dealing with a tension we just are too uncomfortable with.  So as with much of life’s stress and strains we can often refer to our breathing.

There is nothing magical in this first part.  We have heard it all before.  So what is the problem often for us.  It is the lack of implementation for a long enough time in a systematic way in order to appreciate change.  This first part is a slowing down on the outside so that we can get a view from the inside.  This interior view must include the stresses but the view is a bit broader if we let breath take us to a calmer place.  This calmer place takes some time and some work.  It is worth it.

For some of us there will be a lot of work just at this initial stage.  It can be very unfamiliar and seemingly stressful to not initially do something to alleviate the discomfort/pain.  Please note if there are acute problems one may need to take immediate action (breathing, not leaking, etc)

Talking to Ourselves

Once we have established the breath AND feel a bit more calm, we can have a brief inner dialogue.  Nothing like a complete Soap Opera–just a way to have the rational self chat with the emotional self or whoever is answering inside at the moment.  Ask ourselves:  What do we really want?  Not just pie in the sky kind of thing.  But what is it that would serve in our best interest.  Our best interest will also serve and fit well in the interest of the family/community that we reside in.

Again as you respond to this inquiry, check in with your breathing and inner perspective.  The inner perspective feels a calming sensation and you start to tap into your own interior wisdom/intuition.  It may be a very soft inner voice.  So all the noise of fear and stress makes it difficult to hear.  This is why taking the time to properly prepare is absolutely critical.

You will know it when you feel a shift from this furtive questioning that leads nowhere.  You start to feel a quieting that causes a release of held tension.  You will feel it in the body as relaxation and the breath automatically becomes deeper.  You may even start to feel more tired or periods of greater energy.  Stay with what ever you are experiencing and repeat this initial process of breathing and paying attention.

Next Steps

All these steps subsequently are predicated on one’s desire for change.  We might want change, but we need to define what that change really looks and feels like.  This means having a goal or goals.  Nothing too fancy or high-sounding.  The more practical and measurable you can make it the better you will know when you have achieved it.

Now lots of us have goals but we never reach them.  Here a goal would be that something or aspect that you could not live without.  Kind of like breathing when you are under water and run out of air.  Boy you know how much you want to breathe-NOW and you are driven literally to the surface again.  This is a burning goal that successfully drives us.  We literally stop doing all the other things that naturally sabotage our efforts or take us away from the direction we need to be moving towards.

This power of ones will in the above example is the type of fuel that take you to your goal.  This will power is critical to develop for many of us.  Often we start out on this journey of change and end up quitting too early.  As soon as it becomes inconvenient or too difficult we find we don’t really want it anymore in that way.  We would like it delivered and all ready to be consumed.  The work of changing ourselves becomes a bigger effort than the effort we are willing to make to create the change.

We lose sight of our goal.  We become again disillusioned and loathing of ourselves.  We once again settle back into this comfortable yet uncomfortable lifestyle.

Why Change

One must have a good reason to have this goal.  It must be based on a deep inner desire.  We have to make a connection from the inside.  This connection inside will show us and bring us to a clearer understanding of ourselves.  This goal will resonate deeply in a way that we begin to feel better.  This better feeling needs to be nurtured by lifestyle changes and proper practices.  This process then continues on it’s own accord and we end up following a deeper calling.  This automatically directed process can easily get side tracked at the beginning (the first several years or decades!).  So of course our exterior effort of pushing towards as we feel the pull from the interior is all part of this dynamic dialectic.

We just don’t take the time to develop this interior appreciation.  This interior life can join with our exterior life and this becomes our great goal.  The movement towards this goal becomes our practice.  First we might need to spend a good amount of time in once again, paying attention and developing this full deep diaphragmatic breath.

How to Change

Go ahead and read the classic wisdom texts for guidelines.  Develop a relationship with like minded seekers.  Nurture your inner spirit/intuition.

Also develop a basic practice.  Choose maybe one thing–two things for a busy minded person.  Remember how to climb a mountain?  One step at a time.  Running up and take leaps and bounds doesn’t really do ANYTHING in the long run.

Basic Practices to support your Philosophy of Life (Goal)

  • Diet and Nutrition
  • Lifestyle
  • Exercise
  • Environmental Considerations
  • Healthy Close Relationships

Maybe start with just avoiding some problems and poor habits.

  • Stop staying up late with your computer or videos
  • Skip a breakfast and get use to hunger and just eating a normal next meal
  • Stop talking or checking Facebook, or email or phone messages all the time
  • Take a break from an unhealthy relationship (person or thing or habit)

Come home

  • Lie down after work: Relax and Breathe for 10-20 minutes
  • Get up and do 15 minutes of exercise
  • Prepare a simple stir fry meal of veggies and a protein source
  • Read something inspiring
  • Go to bed

Don’t make it too complicated.  The complexity is there and it will evolve over time.

Get ready for your new day

Stick with your plan for 4-6 weeks before you change it.  Just get in a good month of training.  Then reassess by again going inside and listen as your relax and breathe.

Remember Dude:  We can all still change.

 

Remembering the Basics

The Basics of Practice

“I stand not on the shoulders of those before.  My steady stance comes from returning to the that same place those who have stood before.  Over time the work of this continuing practice exposes an ease and relaxation of effort that before was not available.  A bringing together of all postures and directions into an experience of holding only one which is all.  Then these differences of where one stands is no longer an effort of finding the right place or thing–it turns into a continuous flow of this stream of consciousness which is this form and love of ones life.”

This quote comes from the thoughts and experiences of working ones practice.  It follows the references made in the first and second pada of the Yoga Sutras.  These teachings come of course from the practices of those before.  It is only because of this connection that has been afforded to me in this Himalayan Tradition that these thoughts and experiences arise.  It is these teachings that are the teachers.  It is an expression of the work and love that is yoga.

Hari Om

Using Ancient Wisdom Today

Pastor Eddie D. Smith Sr.

Science and Consciousness

Swami Veda Bharati

Just a small clip of one of the current living yogis of the Himalayas.  There are literally thousands and thousands of hours of recorded lectures by this sage.  See the sidebar resources for follow up links.

East and West Cultural Exchange

My Yoga is better than your yoga.

Which yoga or which technique is best?  The way that we do it today is so much better than before.

Really, are these thoughts uncommon.  Haven’t you ever had similar thoughts or expressed words like these above?

There is a quote from the great Yogi, Swami Veda Bharati in 2005.

In Western cultures the old is replaced by the new.
In Indian culture the new comes alongside of the old.

I have seen exactly what he is talking about on the roads of India–there you see both the modern day cars as well as the old style wagons, being drawn by a water buffalo.  These paths and roads of India go from what we are all use to in the West to what we are not use to or familiar with in the West.

Inclusive vs Exclusive

Accommodation of both is facilitated.  Sure there is a bit of a battle on the roads, and the bigger the vehicle the more lesser size vehicles must do the accommodating.  So here, size does matter.  It just doesn’t exclude the other.  A very important point in today’s Western viewpoint that maybe lacking much of the time.

Deciding on the best yoga or technique or practice to focus on

First be familiar with what has been practiced and is currently being practiced.  Read More→