Archive for October, 2014

Dasha Mahavidya – Bhuvaneshwari

Written by Heal Your Heart on . Posted in Tantric Practices

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Such supreme beauty does Mother Bhuvaneshwari radiate that Her devotee stands dumbstruck and unable to ask for anything in Her auspicious presence. Bearing three eyes, She is effulgent like the rising sun. Like Tripurasundari, She bears a goad and a noose in two of her hands while the other two form boon-bestowing mudras. Ardently adored by the practitioners of Sri Vidya, Bhuvaneshwari represents the Mother of all creation (Bhuvana = world, or everything that is in creation, Ishwari = Supreme Ruler). While Kali represents time, Bhuvaneshwari represents space.

If Brahman may be conceived of as vast self-effulgent limitlessness (Prakasha), the desire for creation and for self-limitation is represented by Sundari. The resultant limiting of the limitless Being into time and space concepts arise from Kali and Bhuvaneshwari, respectively. The turning of the Divine toward manifestation, to see Himself reflected in a myriad forms is the function of Bhuvaneshwari. Creation begins from this divine vision of the Supreme as this great Mother. From Her self-imposed limitation of space arise the three gunas, the twenty-four tattvas, the seven worlds above and the seven below, all that is seen and unseen, imagined and unimagined, thought and unthought. While Sundari represents Iccha shakti or desire-force, Bhuvaneshwari represents Jnana shakti or knowledge-force. She is the perceptive power of all beings and perception results in knowledge. How vast must be the vision of the Divine? So too is space. As our vision and perceptions broaden, so does the space holding them.

Another name for this great mother is Maya (Ma =to measure). One of the primary differences between Tantra and Vedanta is how Maya is viewed. To the Mayavadin, all of creation is an illusion, to be done away with, the immutable Brahman the only goal of practice. To the Tantric, Maya is anything but an illusion. She represents the willingness of the unlimited consciousness to take on limited forms, taking on individual characteristics and yet remaining untouched by it. She conceals Her true nature and acts as Maya, seemingly entangled in Her own limitations of names and forms in space. Even as She arises as knowledge-force, this knowledge remains limited as long as it is within the space of creation. Thus, a spiritual practitioner can acquire great powers and knowledge of worlds seen and unseen, commune with divine beings and travel astrally to various planes. Yet, he/she can remain entrapped within the clutches of Maya, within the realm of names and forms. It is the Grace of Bhuvaneshwari that bestows the supreme boon to see Her true form, standing behind the finite names and forms, beyond space as the infinite awareness. In the sadhana of the Mahavidyas, Bhuvaneshwari arranges the events and circumstances in the spiritual journey and Kali determines the precise timing of each. Since space sustains the macrocosm, so too does the sadhana of Bhuvaneshwari lead to the support of all of the microcosm, the “peace that passeth all understanding” (Phillipians, 4:7).

As we arrive at the “I Am”, prior to thought, emotion and body and through the 180-degree turnaround, the source of this “I Am” can be traced back in deep meditation to rest in the region of the physical heart. Abiding as this “I Am” and drawing all senses inward like a tortoise that draws its limbs within (Bhagavad Gita, 2:58), we come to rest in the vast spaciousness of this heart space even as we go about our daily activities. Even while nothing seems different on the surface of mundane life, everything is different as we begin to unlearn all that had kept us in Maya’s hold. In this Self-abidance, Maya is transformed into Bhuvaneshwari. The seed mantra of Bhuvaneshwari, Hrim, is the very yearning of the created for its creator. In Sri Vidya Sadhana, hrim is the powerful seed sound added to the various segments, revealing knowledge in various forms as one progresses in practice. One cannot but relax deeply in this heart space; healing begins to take place in this profound relaxation that occurs at a cellular level, and what occurs is a radical transformation of the ordinary body-mind into instruments for Her will and action. In the vastness of this heart space, Kali as time stands still and Tara reveals Herself as the primordial vibration as the “I Am”. Here, Tripurasundari reveals Herself as the supreme and universal desire for liberation. In this Self-abidance, events of daily life fall into place in an effortless rhythm, anxieties and fears melt away and dreams take on the luster and radiance of this heart space. The seduction of the pull into the dead past and the imagined future finally loses its power as it is seen to arise and fall in the eternal Now. Synchronicities become commonplace and miracles no longer hold our awe. For nothing matches the splendor of abiding in the vastness of the “I Am” in the sacred heart space. While previously we were identified as the character in the movie, we now know ourselves as the ever-pure, immutable screen. Worship of Bhuvaneshwari enables us to have a complete turnaround in our worldview; in this Self-abidance we come to see that we are part of a much greater whole and that we do not live in the universe. The universe lives in us.

Continued abidance in the “I Am” has the peculiar effect of seeing everyone and everything else to also be this vast spacious screen as well, albeit with mistaken identities as characters in the movie played upon the screen. Yet, the Grace of Mother Bhuvaneshwari is so complete that this critical shift in identity is also seen to be but an intermediate phase of the journey. The screen begins to reveal a secret trap door, beckoning us to take a look. For beyond this door stands the next of the Mahavidyas, Tripura Bhairavi.

Image source: krish1973.wordpress.com

Meditation Tips

Written by Heal Your Heart on . Posted in Meditation

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A cornerstone of spiritual practice, meditation is the systematic method of bringing the mind to rest from its incessant activity. While there are many effective methods, a common problem for all meditators particularly when beginning the practice is the opposite effect of the mind that seems to come alive while trying to meditate. Even experienced meditators may run into this issue time and again. The reasons for this vary and depend to some extent upon the particular stage of the spiritual journey and mostly upon the make-up of the individual body-mind with respect to the combination of gunas (sattva, rajas and tamas). For instance, someone with a predominantly rajasic make-up has an overactive mind streaming with thoughts that run in multiple directions simultaneously while one with a tamasic mind may struggle with laziness during the practice. The good news is that continued meditation practice results in the gradual evolution of gunas to become progressively more sattvic. The sattvic mind is one that is calm and most conducive to deep meditation.

At various stages of the journey, the causes for the mind’s agitation may differ. In the beginning, the mental noise may relate to obsessing about the details of the technique, worrying about not doing it right or not being relaxed enough, or thoughts of daily life (the grocery list, the dinner plan, the lunch menu, the office to-do list..). At later stages, the noise of the surface mind has been quietened enough for the churning of the subconscious mind to become evident. Repressed emotions and trauma, memories of early childhood (or further, of past lives), suppressed anger, rage and anxieties that were deeply hidden from conscious awareness begin to surface. For some, the subconscious mind is active from the get-go, and the jumble of thoughts that come up relate to contents of both, the repressed and the surface mind.

Ultimately however, over-analyzing of gunas or the mind’s tricks are counter-productive and unnecessary. For our sitting practices to be effective, what we do outside of these practice times can be highly beneficial. The following are some tips to minimize the powerful pull of the mind that can keep us from advancing in meditative practices:

1. Develop one-pointedness. In a world that is driven by fast-paced multi-tasking, unlearning the habit of doing more than one thing at once is a challenge, but the rewards become amply evident during meditation. Give complete attention to one task at a time, moving to the next only after it is done to satisfaction. Apply one-pointedness to all areas – turn off the radio and drive in silence, cook in silence, put away the phone while working or talking with someone, eat in silence and solitude. Make one-pointedness the center of every waking moment; this results in increased efficiency, higher quality of work, greater mental calm and enhanced creativity.

2. Complete tasks. Annoyingly enough, it is especially during meditation that thoughts about that incomplete project or the unanswered email surface. Clean up your life’s flow by prioritizing and completing daily tasks. Respond to emails and phone calls as soon as possible.  Flag or note communications that need to be followed up upon – this is where technology becomes an obedient servant. If it helps, write down follow-up items and timelines so these details do not clutter the mind. Make it a point to leave no loose ends.

3. Slow down. Hectic rushing from one task or appointment to another cannot be particularly conducive to meditation. Wake up earlier, organize the day with enough buffer time. At the end of each day, make time to read some inspirational material, even if only for 10-20 minutes.

4. Heal relationships. Thoughts about relationships (particularly when there is friction), along with associated emotions surface more frequently in meditation. While the inner silence cultivated in meditation heals such wounds, it is helpful to facilitate the healing consciously such that meditation is effective. Resolve conflicts if possible, or forgive, forget and move on.

5. Cultivate discipline. It is difficult to cultivate a habit for the disciplined practice of meditation if this does not extend to other areas of life. Cultivate punctuality, honesty, cleanliness of body and mind, regulated diet, sleep and exercise habits and freedom from addictions.. Make it a point to sit for meditation everyday or forgo a meal (or equivalent). Ultimately, we will have to find the balance between obsession and laxity for all activities, including the discipline and practice of meditation.

6. Cultivate moderation. Meditation is most conducive when we are neither too full nor famished, when we have had enough sleep (neither too much nor too little), when we are alert but not agitated. Eat at least 2-3 hours before sitting (which necessarily takes discipline and planning) and practice sleep hygiene.

While establishing the practice of meditation may seem like a challenge, its rewards far exceed any difficulty encountered along the way. Further along, the practices of karma yoga, bhakti yoga and jnana yoga complement and deepen the practice of meditation. At a certain point in one’s journey, all of life becomes one seamless yoga, with no differentiation between sitting practices and daily life.

Meditation on the breath

Written by Heal Your Heart on . Posted in Meditation

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The following is adapted from AYP, and presented here  (in italics) with permission from Yogani.

Meditation always involves the use of an object, and systematically refining our awareness of that object in the mind. An ancient and reliable method of meditation involves using the breath as that object. 

Below is the gentle and time-tested method of meditation on the breath:

1. Pick a time when you will not be disturbed for at least 25-30 minutes. Pick a place where you will be left alone for this duration. Set a timer to avoid the temptation to keep glancing at the clock.

2. Sit upright, either on the floor or on a chair in a posture comfortable enough to forget the body for the duration of the meditation. Prop yourself with pillows or blankets to aid this comfort.

3. Close your eyes gently.

4. Bring your attention to your breath.

Some may ask, what is the object we call breath? Is it the sensation of air moving in the nostrils, in the throat, in the lungs? Is it the rising and falling of the chest? As we begin breath meditation, and get into it, we may find it is one of these, or all of these. That is fine. Whatever we perceive the object of breath to be, that is what it is. It is not necessary to physically locate our awareness of the breath. It may start in one place, and move naturally. We can be comfortable with that, easily favor whatever it is, and we will be refining our awareness, purifying our nervous system, and cultivating abiding inner silence.

5. The mind will most certainly wander. As soon as you become aware of attention to anything else other than the breath, bring your attention back to the breath, favoring attention on the breath over attention to anything else (thoughts, sensations, etc).

There can be thoughts or no thoughts with awareness of breath. We don’t try and push thoughts out. We just easily favor the breath, no matter what else may be going on.


6. This is the procedure for the entire duration of the meditation session.


7. At the conclusion of the session,
lie down or lean back to relax for 5-10 minutes. Let go of the attention to the breath and allow the mind to do what it will. Do not skip this rest period. Resting allows the integration of the inner silence cultivated in meditation into daily life.

8. The key to success with any method of meditation is consistency and regularity. It is important to keep up a twice-daily practice of meditation. Although this takes time and effort in the beginning, the rewards of such a discipline far exceed the investment.

 

Some pointers for continued practice:

  • With continued practice, attention to the breath as well as the breath itself (our object of focus be it the sensation in the throat, lungs or abdomen or the energy impulse prior to the breath itself) will become more refined. 

In time, we will find that our attention will go to a very refined aspect of breath that we could call the “energy impulse” of the breath, without a fixed physical location.

If our attention and the breath have become refined, we come back to the breath at that refined level, if that is where we are when we notice we are off the object of our meditation. As we become advanced in our practice, we may find ourselves picking up that refined energy impulse of the breath as soon as we sit to meditate. We can’t force any of this refinement to happen. It happens by itself as our method of meditation and the object we are using become baked into our nervous system. This is why regularity of practice is so important twice daily.

  • Further, it is common for the breath to briefly suspend on occasion.

When using breath meditation and going deep, as with any effective form of meditation, the breath may naturally suspend briefly from time to time. This is a sign that metabolism is low, that we are in deep silence, and that effective purification is occurring. If, during a breath suspension, we become aware that our attention is not on the breath, we may not find much physical breath or subtle energy impulse of breath to favor. If that is the case, we can just easily be in the stillness we are experiencing in the moment. When we notice the physical breath or the faint energy impulse of breath again, then we can return to that at whatever level of refinement we find ourselves. We just relax in stillness until the impulse of breath returns.

  • Advancement in meditation requires a conscious and gradual adjustment of our lifestyle at a whole. Some lifestyle changes that favor a meditation-centered life are described here.

Several other issues arise as the practice of meditation continues. We will explore these in subsequent posts.

Dasha Mahavidya – Tripura Bhairavi

Written by Heal Your Heart on . Posted in Tantric Practices

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Seated on a throne or a red lotus, the most striking feature of Bhairavi is her radiance. Like the sun, Her effulgence is blinding. Smeared with blood and wrapped in red, She bears a weapon in one of Her four arms and a rosary in the second while the other two form mudras that allay fear and offer protection. Like Kali and Tara, She wears a garland of human heads or skulls.

In the process of creation, the first movement is that of desire, represented by Tripurasundari, or iccha shakti. Perception of this desire resulting in the space for creation to occur is symbolized by Bhuvaneshwari, or jnana shakti. The actualization of infinite divinity taking up finite forms by the process of energizing Itself in specific ways is depicted by Tripura Bhairavi, or kriya shakti. This process is one of tapas, which is immense concentration or self-awareness of the Absolute resulting in transmutation of that force into energized action. In the Vedas, this self-awareness is equated with the light of consciousness that is aflame in every being, known as the “chid-agni”. On an individual level, this agni is the seat of power, aspiration, energy and intelligence in every being, directing all outward actions and inward thoughts, the working of the mind as well as of the organs, the tissues, and the cells. The functioning of this agni determines the life course, health, prosperity and overall functioning of the body/mind. On a cosmic level, agni is the driving force of all gods and enables the workings of nature in the form of rain, lightning, seasons and calamities.. In the Vedic ritual of a fire sacrifice or “homam”, agni is the intermediary between man and deity, carrying the desires and offerings of men to the gods and carrying back the rewards/fruit of such a ritual from the gods back to men. As this supreme vehicle, agni is known as Jatavedase. Tripura Bhairavi is the shakti of Jatavedase. In Tantra, She is also known as Durga, the one who assists in “crossing” between planes. As this Shakti, Bhairavi represents the force of tapas.

What is tapas? The classic definition of tapas is austerity. However, the drive behind this austerity is focus or concentration. Tapas is common in daily life when we become absorbed in a task to the exclusion of everything else. In these instances, there is absorption into that action or thought without diffusion of attention into other areas, resulting in temporary forgetfulness or ignorance of everything else but that. This concentration or tapas of the infinite Divine is what brings forth limited forms into existence. Necessarily, this results in such self-absorption and self-identification as the various forms that there is ignorance of the whole. It is not that the light of total knowledge is not available; it is that it is forgotten in the primordial ignorance of this forgetfulness. This force of the divine representing tapas is that of Bhairavi. She is fierce in Her form for She also symbolizes fear. Fear is the by-product of separation; identification as the limited form results in a sense of separation arising from the veiling of everything else. Fear is the root cause of all wrong-doing and evil. If all of creation were to be seen as an indivisible whole, One, there would be no “other” to fear. Thus, Bhairavi is fearful to those who revel in this separateness. To those engaged in the tapas of self-knowledge, She destroys all fear and propels the sadhana.

Another name for Bhairavi is Kundalini. Lying dormant in the muladhara chakra at the root of the spine, She represents the potential for the limited to realize its unlimitedness by the undoing of tapas. When She remains self-absorbed in tapas, She is known as Tripura Bhairavi. When She releases her energy and the heat of tapas and reaches upward, She becomes Tripura Sundari. Thus, Bhairavi and Sundari represent two sides of the same coin – the terrible and the beautiful,  separated and united by the power of tapas. For, on the spiritual journey, it is the tapas of practice, the longing of bhakti and the single-pointedness of the path to the exclusion of everything else that coaxes Kundalini to wake up. While She lies at one end of the spine at the base, Sundari resides at the other end in the Sahasrara chakra at the crown. Bhairavi represents the fire and heat of self-effort and Sundari symbolizes the nectar of Grace. The heat of Bhairavi’s force is tempered by the descent of Sundari’s grace, the ascent and descent of self-effort and Grace being a dance of immense proportions in the sadhana of the Mahavidyas.

The characteristic of fire that makes it the perfect agent for purification is that it turns everything it touches into uniform ashes. And so it is with Bhairavi – every blemish and imperfection encountered in Her upward march is burnt mercilessly, progressively purifying the being for Sundari’s nectar. The bliss of the nectar cannot be borne by one not baked by the tapas of Bhairavi’s flames. This nectar, the soma of the gods, is the nourisher of the being and energizes the flames of tapas that consumes it. As Bhairavi leaps upward, She transforms the triads of gunas (tamas, rajas, sattva), body (physical, subtle, causal), states (waking, dreaming, deep sleep), and all experience (experience, experiencer and that which is experienced), the three worlds above and below, and all perceptions arising from actions and senses. This dance of Bhairavi and Sundari is directed by Bhuvaneshwari from Her seat in the heart space and facilitated by Kali’s tranformative power. And it is in this dance that results in unveiling of Maya’s limitations that a jnani becomes a karma yogi.

On the path of sadhana, the real movement of Bhairavi can be noticed with continued Self-abidance. In the shift of identity, tapas takes on a new meaning. All previous practices are seen to have been preliminary in that they were preparation for this shift. With this shift, the older practices may be continued or they may drop off on their own. The rigor of tapas becomes one-pointed and life is lived for this practice of Self-abidance alone. Bhairavi, pleased and uninhibited by the lack of any other objective, takes up the task of directing the sadhana Herself. Thus, this abidance becomes increasingly effortless, with progressive opening to the grace of Sundari. In this abidance, old and ingrained habits and patterns lose the fuel of identification and are quickly burnt to ashes. Slowly but surely, ordinary actions are transformed by the dance of the Devis as they, along with thoughts, perceptions and sensations are sacrificed into this fire of abidance (Bhagavad Gita, 4:25-33).

While Bhairavi wields the weapon of destruction of impurities in one hand, She holds a rosary in another, which is symbolic for the unmanifest Word or para-vak. While Tara represents the manifest word or pasyanti vak, the para-vak of Bhairavi is pure potentiality, prior to name and form. The sadhana of Bhairavi results in transformation of the raw potentiality of sexual energy into the ojas and tejas of divinely inspired action and the sheer power of para-vak. She thus represents the power of brahmacharya, the cornerstone of tapas in sadhana.

Propelled and graced thus by Bhairavi and Sundari, the sadhaka arrives next at the feet of Chinnamasta, arguably the most ferocious of the Mahavidyas.

Image Source: exoticindiaart.com

“Success” in Meditation – A Dialogue

Written by Heal Your Heart on . Posted in Meditation

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Question: I have previously tried a couple of different meditations, but was not successful with either. Do you think the technique you teach will be different?

Response: What do you mean by success?

Question: It means that my mind does not quiet down when I sit to meditate. It also means that I am not motivated to be committed to a practice.

Response: Thank you for your candidness. How long did you meditate before quitting?

Question: A few days..

Response: Well… Let us explore this issue for it is a common one..

Question: Ok. So, how does meditation work?

Response: The purpose of meditation is to cultivate inner silence. What is this inner silence? This is the timeless gap between thoughts, which is available to us throughout the day and frames the doorway to our inner self. Since this is always available, we do not create anything new with spiritual practices; we only become adept at recognizing what already is and has always been. By returning again and again to the object of meditation (breath, mantra, etc), we cultivate one-pointedness of the mind. The ordinary state of mind is that of diffusion – multiple and conflicting trains of thought which are often colored by specific emotional signatures. One-pointedness is the process by which the mind comes to focus on a single object. As we progress further, the object becomes increasingly “refined” whereby it is picked up at subtler and subtler levels. Additionally, the silent gap between thoughts increases, not because the gap is invented (it always is) but because the combination of one-pointedness and refinement leads to diminished thoughts.

Question: How long will it take for me to get there?

Response: The most accurate answer to this is this – as long as it will take. There is no timeline for progress in meditation, because it is dependent upon our individual make-up of tendencies consisting of our personalities, upbringing, culture, influences, desires, emotional imprints, repressed and suppressed issues, etc etc. In general however, the initial results of calmness, reduced stress, health benefits and sleep regulation occur relatively early within a few months. These benefits continue to deepen and evolve over time. Technically, there is no “there” to get to. As Yogani, my beloved teacher states, “the journey is from here to here”.

 Question: I’m not really sure what must happen while meditating. Can you elaborate?

Response: The truth is that every single practice will be unique. While one practice session may be “deep” with relatively fewer thoughts, the next one may be “mind-y” where it feels like no progress was made. It is important to remember that no sitting practice is futile – simply making the time and effort to sit still has been a worthwhile endeavor. Meditation works on the neurobiology (consisting of not only the brain and the nervous system but also the subtle body where the thoughts/impressions are stored) at various levels – at the surface level of thoughts and mind one day and the deeper level of subtle energies on another day. Thus, there is no set thing that “must” happen during any given sitting practice. The beauty of this unpredictability is that it makes us more pliant and forces us to let go of control, an all-important necessity at later stages of spiritual practice.

Questioner: So then, what is the sign of “success” in meditation?

Response: The only true sign of success in meditation is what happens in daily life. Whether one attains depth in meditation or not is irrelevant if their life is not being transformed as a result of the practice. This transformation occurs slowly but surely, often first noticed by those around us. Transformation becomes evident in the subtle ways in which we carry ourselves, behave with others and handle day-to-day matters. Success is noticed when old patterns of reactivity, judgment and ill-will begin to fall away and in an increasingly greater capacity to look beyond our narrow selves. These changes occur whether or not we are achieving perfectly still minds in meditation. Furthermore, achieving a perfectly still mind in meditation is a well-propagated myth. Yes, there are times when this does occur and the meditator disappears (such an event is called samadhi in yoga), but this is neither common nor necessary to make progress.

Questioner: Of all the nuances (posture, timing, duration, etc), what is the most important factor for progress?

Response: It is the deliberate cultivation of the habit to meditate. This is the most challenging factor for most of us in the context of already busy lives and over-committed schedules. It does take effort to make time to practice everyday and to make adjustments to our lifestyles to accommodate this. However, this great self-effort is eventually replaced by the meditation taking over the effort and directing itself. This too happens without a set timeline. Unfortunately, most people quit before this magical shift occurs. The key is to keep up the practice and have faith that it is working. This applies to any meditation technique – give it enough time (at least a few months) before deeming it a “failure”.

Stillness in Action: Introducing Heal Your Heart’s Charitable Program

Written by Matt Bartlett on . Posted in About Stillness In Action

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Heal Your Heart is pleased to announce the launch of our new charitable program we are calling “Stillness in Action”. As we progressively open ourselves to Inner Silence with daily spiritual practices, we find ourselves increasingly called to engage in some form of service to others. The perceived line between ourselves and “others” begins to fade as we come to see others as an expression of our own selves. Our compassion grows and our circle of empathy expands. As this occurs, the abiding Stillness that we are cultivating within us moves outward and is made manifest through our actions as a divine outpouring of Love. Stillness in Action.

These acts of service can take many forms beginning with our daily interactions with others. Perhaps it is in the small (and large) acts of service we undertake as we engage in our family roles, as parents, sons and daughters, or brother and sisters. It might be in meeting the anger and hostility we may encounter from others with kindness and understanding. It may be in the forgiveness that we show to ourselves and to others.

Through the Stillness in Action program, we are seeking to expand our sphere of service by recognizing, supporting and contributing to the charitable works of others. We will be using the fees collected from the Heal Your Heart program sessions, along with our own personal funds, to contribute to a different organization each month. Our emphasis will be on highlighting homegrown or smaller organizations that don’t get major media attention or large organizational support. Some may be formal non-profit organizations, while others may be less structured “pay-it-forward” efforts by individuals seeking to make a difference. Every act of kindness matters.

For those of you who resonate with a particular effort and wish to contribute along side of us, we will provide a link to the donation page of the organization. If you have suggestions for an organization that you would like for us to highlight, please message us with your ideas. Thank you all for sharing in this journey with us!

What do you really, really want? (A dialogue)

Written by Heal Your Heart on . Posted in Living the Bhagavad Gita

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Question: I have been on this spiritual quest for many years and have a working understanding of liberation. I have read all the books, listened to all the satsangs and yet feel it is all still in the mind. What is missing?

Response: Well, the real question is this – what do you really, really, really want?

Question: To go back home, to the Source. But I’m not ready to give up the phenomenal world either. Does this need to be given up?

Response: Nothing needs to be given up or run away from to see that you are already home. However, a critical element on the spiritual path is absolute self-honesty. And this has to do with unabashed examination of what one really wants out of life and this path. There are  no right or wrong answers, and all desires are perfectly valid.

Often, it may be difficult to discern what we really want, especially on the spiritual path. The mind is such an intelligent apparatus that its own true motives are often hidden well from its conscious awareness. We might consciously state and feel that liberation is what we want, when in reality there may be several other “objectives” we are desiring to accomplish. And these objectives can be highly sattvic – of wanting to serve, to be more spiritual, to become more knowledgeable about all things spiritual, to play with energy, to fit into certain (spiritual) circles, to improve our lives through spirituality, to become a better person and on and on. The human psyche is such that these other agendas, when present, overshadow the desire for liberation. Moreover, as long as there are deep desires that are unfulfilled, they will always take precedence over everything else – the desires for love (romantic, platonic, parental, etc) and acceptance, for example, are usually so strong that we can spend many lifetimes seeking those in the guise of liberation. Hence, in the ashrama system, moksha (liberation) comes last in the classification of universal desires. Moksha cannot be first on anyone’s list if their basic needs are not met and deep desires are not fulfilled.

Another predicament of modern spirituality is how liberation or enlightenment is defined. “Enlightenment” seems to mean different things to different people. Some declare enlightenment to be the ability to commune with higher beings or exhibit special powers. Some call the arising of energy to be enlightenment. Some others call all higher thinking to be “enlightened” thinking. Yet, liberation is quite simple – to see the real nature of the “I”. What prevents us from seeing this in the first place? It is merely the constant pull of the senses and the mind to external objects and how those objects relate to our identity as this person. So, what do desires have to do with this? All desires center around the “I”, even when they seem to be altruistic. Even the desire for knowledge centers around the “I” obtaining this knowledge. Thus, all attention is diverted to external objects (say, knowledge), and the subject is inadvertently and totally ignored. Eventually, desires thin out and we finally turn our attention to the subject – this is called the indirect path. On the other hand, attention to the subject, (the “I”) and inquiring into its nature is called the direct path since all external objects are ignored in favor of curiosity about this “I”. However, what the direct path demands is that we let go of all external objects, including the need for (and of any acquired) spiritual knowledge. On one path, we will acquire more and more – of knowledge, of spiritual status and of spiritual “garb”. On the other, we will lose it all. The key to the leap from the indirect to the direct path is whether or not there are other conflicting desires. Unfulfilled and/or unrelished desires lead to fear and anxiety about not having something and/or losing it once it is had. Fear leads to clinging (albeit subconsciously) to the person we think we are and to the state of “delusion” described in the Bhagavad Gita (BG 2:62-63).

The truth is that all beings long for happiness. This happiness is sought in objects until they no longer wield their power over us. Until then, we will be rewarded with whatever our soul most deeply desires. In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna declares, “in whatever way men approach Me, in that way will I appear to them” (BG 4:11). Thus, we try to find Him (in the form of happiness) in wealth, fame, spiritual seeking, knowledge and so on – in every case, He gives us Himself in that form (wealth, fame, seeking, knowledge..). The beauty of human life is that we “worship” whatever we seek with constant attention and surrender to it wholly, letting it takeover our hearts and minds (BG 4:12). When the attraction to all external objects fades from exhaustion/fulfillment or burning of the unfulfilled desires through the Grace of tapas, we will come to worship the subject and surrender to it. And in this surrender, the transition occurs from the indirect to the direct path. Here, sadhana begins in earnest.

With absolute self-honesty, we can ask and open to be shown what our deepest desires and agendas may be. As these desires are fulfilled and/or exhausted, the desire for liberation becomes more transparent and earnest, and finally stands as the sole objective. It is then ripe for recognizing that which had always been present but had merely been obscured. We discover that we have never left home.

Deep Meditation (Mantra): Cultivating Inner Silence

Written by Matt Bartlett on . Posted in Meditation

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“Yoga is the cessation of movements in consciousness”

Yoga Sutras 1.2

“Be still, and know that I AM God”

Psalms 46:10

At the heart of our spiritual practices we are cultivating Inner Silence—pure bliss consciousness—in our daily lives. The essential nature of our consciousness is blissful silence. It is what is behind the mind, what is experienced when the mind becomes still. It is an infinite storehouse of peace, bliss, creativity, health, and optimism. People who have cultivated this Inner Silence, not only experience these qualities themselves, they radiate them out and into their surroundings.

How do we bring our minds to silence? Meditation is the process of systematically allowing the mind to be still for specific periods of time each day. In doing this daily ,over weeks, months and years, blissful inner silence gradually permeates all of our daily activities, even when not on our meditation cushions.

The core practice of the Heal Your Heart program is Deep Meditation from Advanced Yoga Practices (AYP), developed by Yogani.

In AYP, the primary tool for cultivating inner silence is a simple yet powerful form of Deep Meditation. We use a specific thought—a mantra—to draw our mind to stillness. The mantra that we use in AYP Deep Meditation is:

 

…I AM…

 

We use this mantra, not for the meaning of the words, but because of the specific vibratory quality of the sound, which produces purification in our nervous system. The process of enlightenment is a process of purification and opening to the divine within ourselves. The mantra I AM has a vibratory quality that produces profound purification—a “global purification”—within our system that will provide a stable, unshakeable foundation upon which we will layer additional, more targeted purification techniques.

In the AYP system, no more than 20 minutes of Deep Meditation, 2x per day is recommended, once in the morning before your morning meal and again in the afternoon or evening before your evening meal. For tips on how to integrate meditation into a busy schedule, see the AYP Lesson “Finding the Time”.

Here is the technique of Deep Meditation:

1) How to Sit: The first priority is comfort. We want to minimize distractions to facilitate the process of bringing our minds to rest. Sitting in a comfortable chair with back support is a great way to start. As you become more established with your meditation practice, you can sit with your legs crossed (so long as this remains comfortable).

2) Meditation Procedure: As you sit comfortably, close your eyes and relax. Take a moment and notice the stream of thoughts in your mind. After a minute, gently introduce the mantra…I AM…silently in your mind. Think the mantra in a repetition very easily inside, at whatever pace feels comfortable to you. Whenever you realize that your mind has wandered off the mantra and into a stream of thoughts, return to “I AM”, gently favoring the mantra over the thought stream. Like that.

Encountering thoughts during meditation is a normal part of the process. When you find yourself in thoughts, do not try to “force” the thoughts out. Just gently favor the mantra over the thoughts. Deep meditation is a process of going toward the mantra rather than away from the thoughts. Gentle persuasion.

3) Rest Period: When we are performing the Deep Meditation procedure, purification is going on deep inside our nervous system. A lifetime (or two) of inner obstructions are being released as we deepen into inner silence. Resting at the end of meditation allows the obstructions that are in the process of being released to dissolve before we get up and resume our daily activities. A couple of minutes of rest with no mantra may be adequate, or 5-10 minutes of rest may be in order if many releases are occurring.

The benefits of Deep Meditation are profound. As we purify and open our nervous systems we are unfolding inner peace, creativity and energy in our daily lives. If we begin to experience irritability or discomfort outside of our meditation period, it can be a sign that we are not taking enough rest at the end of our meditation session. If we take 5-10 minutes after meditation and are still having symptoms of irritability or discomfort this can be a sign that we are meditating too long—ie, experiencing too much purification at once. This is a signal to “self-pace”, reducing our meditation time in 5 minute increments until we reach a comfortable balance. Self-pacing is very important to ensure maximum comfort and effectiveness as we pursue our spiritual unfoldment.