The United Nations & Human Rights: A Roadmap For Solving Humanity’s Challenges.

What are my rights as a human being? What should I expect my government to provide me with and what is my responsibility?

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What are my rights as a human being? What should I expect my government to provide me with and what is my responsibility?
These are challenging questions that lie at the heart of most of the seemingly complex issues that face individuals, nations and inhabitants on planet earth. Yoga can help us navigate these challenging issues.
Yoga philosophy is rooted in the concepts of truthfulness, non-harming, compassion and empathy. At the heart of these teachings is a core respect for the tremendous value of each human life.
I help to organize a yearly yoga festival that celebrates the ideals of the United Nations.
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These ideals are rooted in yoga. The United Nations honors June 21st of every year as the International Day of Yoga.
An example of yoga taking form in our modern world can be found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 December 1948. This declaration was created to complement the United Nations Charter by creating a road map to guarantee the rights of every individual on the planet.
The Commission on Human Rights, which was tasked with the creation of the UDHR, was made up of 18 members from various political, cultural and religious backgrounds. Eleanor Roosevelt, widow of American President Franklin D. Roosevelt, chaired the drafting committee.
The entire document is readily available online. The UDHR provides fundamental ideas and principles that, if valued and honored, would profoundly help individuals and leaders make decisive and clear choices regarding issues we currently face.

Health Care as a Human Right 

Let’s take the issue of health care.
Our current system is not meeting the simple and straightforward goal stated in Article 25 of the UDHR: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care…”
Let’s apply this universal human right to those living in the United States by asking a few questions about the standard of living and healthcare in the United States. Does our nation value the goal of everyone having the right to adequate health and well-being? Does our government put energy and resources towards these goals? Is our national intelligence applied towards this goal?
According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness we have over 500,000 homeless in the United States. The National Center for Children in Poverty reports that over 15 million children in the United States – 21% of all children – live in families with incomes below the federal poverty threshold. Over 45 million Americans live below the poverty level. Over 30 million Americans have no health insurance.
We spend over 600 billion dollars a year on war. We spend more on our war machine than the next 8 countries combined. Are we creating something of value for humanity or perpetuating a mentality that is doomed to failure?
Mikhail Gorbachev, who was instrumental in the ending of the Cold War and the human rights that its end brought to hundreds of millions of people wrote, “The time has come to choose a new direction of global development, to opt for a new civilization.”
That new direction means reaching towards goals that serve the well-being of humanity and the rights of each human life. What is the benefit of another nuclear warhead? What is the value of a child going to sleep feeling safe and secure?
Yoga gives us each the opportunity to expand truthfulness, non-harming, compassion and empathy within our own hearts. These emotions and feelings will then give rise to actions that can begin a wave of change.
What can one person do? What steps to take? If you ignite the fire of your determination to move towards change the universe will provide you an opportunity to help with creating a new direction. Guaranteed!
Sujantra McKeever is the founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, which serves over 1,000 yogis a week, and also helped create Pilgrimage Yoga Online. He is the author of five books on eastern philosophy, success and meditation. Sujantra studied meditation with spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy and has lectured on meditation and yoga in over 30 countries.
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What Are The Benefits of Corporate Mindfulness Programs?

In our current information economy, how well a company is able to manage stress and  overwhelm is as important to succeeding as hitting quarterly goals.

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Large companies such as Google, Aetna, and General Mills have been early adopters of wellness and mindfulness programs for their employees.

So how exactly can mindfulness, yoga, and meditation help improve operational efficiency and positively impact your bottom line?  

In our current information economy, how well a company is able to manage stress and overwhelm is as important to succeeding as hitting quarterly goals. New estimates show that up to 22% of employers are offering mindfulness training, which means the majority are being left behind.

Here are 7 areas in which mindfulness, yoga, and meditation can benefit companies:

 

  1. Healthier Employees and Increased Wellbeing

Google employees who participated in their Search Inside Yourself Mindfulness Program reported that their emotional drain was down 34%.  A study on Pubmed showed that after two weeks of mindfulness training, participants experienced significantly less emotional exhaustion and more job satisfaction than participants in the control group. According to a study in the prestigious journal, Nature, mindfulness has been shown to activate areas of the brain associated with emotional awareness and emotional management. Another study showed that yoga led to the greatest increase in feelings of well-being, while sitting meditation led to lower feelings of self-judgement.

 

  1. Increased Creativity and Higher Performance

When Intel evaluated their wellness program, they noticed a two-point (on a ten-point scale) increase in employees having new ideas and insights, mental clarity, creativity, the ability to focus, the quality of relationships at work and the level of engagement in meetings, projects and collaboration efforts. At Google, employees reported a 32% greater ability to focus and be more effective after mindfulness training.

 

  1. Financial Savings for the Company

Aetna’s mindfulness program reduced healthcare costs by 7% resulting in a $6.3 million savings per year. Search Inside Yourself has demonstrated through 13,000 participants that wellness programs can save $3000 per year on gained productivity. Studies also show that an online wellness program can be as effective and much cheaper than an in-person program.

 

  1. Stress Reduction

Stress is estimated to cost enterprises $300 billion per year according to the World Health Organization. Not only that, but highly stressed employees incur $2000 more per year in health care costs. And with 18% of women and 25% of men reporting an increase in stress levels over the last 30 years, it’s worth finding a solution for. The World Economic Forum discussed stress as being the cause of 75% of hospital visits and mindfulness as the potential antidote.  At Intel’s Awake Mindfulness Program, employees noticed a 2 point decrease in stress and overwhelm and a 3 point increase in overall happiness and wellbeing.

 

  1. Improves Business Decisions and Prevent Investment Mistakes

According to the Wharton School of Business and INSEAD Business School in Singapore, meditation helps people resist the “Sunk Cost Bias,” which is the tendency to allow unrecoverable prior costs to influence current decisions. Mindfulness has also been shown to help with identifying when a decision should be made, gathering information, coming to a conclusion, and learning from feedback in a more unbiased way.

 

  1. Leadership, Vision, and Moral Intelligence

Google’s leadership was 29% better able to maintain calm and poise in difficult situations after they completed mindfulness training.  A study on ResearchGate shows that greater emotional intelligence has been associated with higher managerial and leadership performance. Institutes for Mindful Leadership and General Mills partnered on a mindfulness program which resulted in 93% of participants reporting that the training helped them create space for innovation, and 70% saying the training made a positive difference in their ability to think strategically. A University of Westminster study published in the Academy of Management Proceedings revealed that meditation training significantly enhanced overall self-confidence, as well as individual skills like inspiring a shared vision and demonstrating moral intelligence among senior managers.

 

  1. Boosts Mental Health and Reduces Drug and Alcohol Relapse

A recent study from University of Lund in Sweden showed that mindfulness can be as effective as traditional talk therapy for anxiety and depression. Researchers in Washington and New Mexico found those who completed a mindfulness and relapse intervention combination program reported significantly lower risk of relapse to substance use and heavy drinking; and among those who used substances, they found significantly fewer days of substance use and heavy drinking at the 6-month follow-up.

 

Pilgrimage Yoga Online’s Corporate Wellness Program

 

Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga is San Diego’s largest independently owned yoga studio, and sponsor of Pilgrimage Yoga Online, an online yoga studio featuring hundreds of yoga and meditation videos and classes.  We’ve worked with thousands of individuals across the country to reach their wellness goals, which include everything from stress relief to weight loss to being able to handle conflict to staying organized at work.

Our online wellness and mindfulness program is an affordable and effective option for companies not local to our San Diego area, and features complete access to our online yoga and meditation library, our online resource center, and personalized check-ins with a PYO program representative, who will guide you through the process of establishing and tracking your wellness goals. Based on your specific needs, we schedule and host live seminars, meditations, and yoga classes via webcast, and can work directly with your employees during these sessions. Our team of highly trained meditation and yoga professionals have hundreds of years of combined experience guiding newcomers and long-time practitioners alike through mindfulness practices that ease stress and promote well-being.

New studies are coming out daily to support mindfulness, meditation, and yoga as beneficial across the board. The results are clear: happier and well-balanced employees, higher levels of productivity, and increased soft-skills that are critical in developing functional teams, projects and more.

Mindfulness programs are here to stay. The only question is: will your company innovate and stay ahead?

For further information on an effective and affordable online wellness program, please email [email protected] for discounted rates.

 

 

Zach Saltzman graduated from San Diego State University with a degree in Integrated Marketing Communications.  After working in Retail Management for 4 years and seeing the stress and overwhelm that employees have to deal with in the 21st century he began to study the intersection of business and mindfulness. He has been practicing meditation for 10 years and still finds it a challenge!  Some of his passions include all things health-related, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, travel, and much more.

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Where Is The Best Kirtan In San Diego?

If you’re looking for a Kirtan practice in San Diego, here’s the scoop on our city’s offerings.

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Kirtan is a meditational practice under the yoga umbrella, set to music.  It involves chanting: participants chant divine words and phrases together as a communal chorus. The basic idea is to clear the clutter of the mind’s attachment to the outer world, replacing that clutter with focused thoughts of creation, Creator and our place in the universe. To be sure, Kirtan is a devotional practice.

 

To me, Kirtan is the easiest form of meditating. Sitting in solitary silence with one-pointed focus, even for short periods of time is quite challenging. It can be daunting and downright discouraging, especially for those new to meditation.  The fact is, many who meditate repeat chants inwardly, silently as the source of focus. Chanting gives you something to do. It focuses the mind on the chant, on the underlying meaning, on the repetition, on the reminder of our higher nature. So for newcomers especially, Kirtan is a good place to start a meditation practice.

 

As old as the tradition is (thousands of years), Kirtan is still relatively unknown as a practice in the west, both within the yoga community and without. In fact, I only know of a few places around my home, San Diego, that offer this magical meditation experience. I feel fortunate to be a part of a weekly Kirtan gathering at Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in Normal Heights, which I have led for several years now at our weekly Thursday night gatherings. We’ve had many band members come and go throughout the years, different instrumentation, and different audiences, but what I love the most is that it always feels the same–a community experiencing joy and peace together.

 

If you’re looking for a Kirtan practice in San Diego, here’s the scoop on our city’s offerings:

 

 

Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga

 

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Time: Every Thursday night 8:30 – 9:30p

Location: Normal Heights East Room

Cost: $5 donation

Sign-Up Link

The Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga Kirtan Band has been playing weekly Kirtan events for more than 7 years. Each Thursday evening we create a set list of our favorite and seasonal chants to share with the community. Participants are encouraged to sit in chairs, on the floor (with many yoga props, of course), or stand up and dance. We know that Kirtan can be a vulnerable expression for some, as it involves public singing and dancing, and we aim to provide a welcoming and non-judgmental atmosphere. Prepare to chant, and learn about some major cornerstones of yoga philosophy that are the foundational elements of Kirtan.

For our friends who live outside the San Diego area, we live stream our Kirtans through our Facebook page. Join us every Thursday evening for musical meditation!

 

The San Diego Hare Krishna Community 

 

Time: Every Sunday 5:00-6:00p

Location: Pacific Beach, San Diego

Cost: Donation

Sign-Up Link

 

The San Diego Hare Krishna Community offers weekly festival every Sunday night, featuring a number of events, of which Kirtan is a part. Whereas Pilgrimage’s Kirtan events stand alone, the Hare Krishna Community offers Kirtan as part of a larger schedule of events, including lectures and meals together. Check out their weekly schedule to find out more information!

 

Himalyan Heritage

 

Time: First Friday of the Month (subject to change)

Location: Encinitas, CA 

Time: 7:00-9:00p

Sign-Up Link

 

Led by Sundaram and Hilary, the Hamalyan Heritage Satsang encourages devotees of all paths to attend these Kirtan events. Each Kirtan is led by a variety of local Kirtan musicians and leaders. You can even sign up for their mailing list to stay up to date with new Kirtan events!

 

San Diego County Kirtan

 

Time: 2nd Saturday of the month, 5:00-6:30p

Location: First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Diego

Cost: FREE

Sign-Up Link

 

This is a monthly Kirtan practice organized on Meetup. Led by Annette Laborte, this group emphasizes the importance of being non-denominational and non-sectarian. Events are held at a local church, and participants are encouraged to feel at ease, no matter what their religious background.

 

 

I invite you to attend a Kirtan practice. It’s very enjoyable and folks depart with a heightened awareness and state of being. I so enjoy hearing comments from attendees about how wonderful they feel and what a wonderful experience they had. I’m also a bit surprised by the number of first timers who ask how long we’ve been doing the Kirtan practice. When I tell them, eight years, they are stunned.

Kirtan is an integral part of the yoga practice. The Bhakti tradition is one of the four paths in yoga to Self-Realization. It has a chapter devoted to it in the Bhagavad Gita. If you are practicing yoga, if you meditate, expand your awareness by including Kirtan into your weekly practice.

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tom came to Pilgrimage of the Heart in 2007 and Sujantra quickly recognized that Tom was both able and willing to organize a kirtan practice. The project changed and grew and changed again until in 2009 when the practice was a viable offering on a weekly basis. Since then Tom as lead over 400 Kirtan events at pilgrimage, only missing three practices in eight years. Tom’s love of kirtan knows no bounds and he is always striving to grow and expand the practice, offering the joy of spiritual chanting to as many people as possible.

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Yoga for 12 Step Recovery: How Yoga Helps With Addiction

Below are four ways yoga can treat the physical, emotional, and spiritual disease of addiction, and help you to stay on the path of recovery.

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“For me, drugs and alcohol were a solution to an emotional and perhaps even spiritual problem, a feeling literally of disease, unhappiness, and an inability to cope with life. And I think that when people stop using drugs and alcohol, they need another system or program of behavior.”

– Russell Brand, actor, comedian, writer, and recovering heroin addict and alcoholic.

 

As elucidated in the famous 12 Steps to Recovery of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), the pathway to recovery is a spiritual one (though not necessarily religious) that includes surrendering to a higher power and admitting that some things are beyond our personal control. As explained by Russell Brand, another belief system or program of behavior is required to walk the path of abstinence-based recovery from addiction.

Brand, in addition to being a famous actor and recovering heroin addict, is also a devoted practitioner of yoga and meditation, and he often credits these practices for his ability to remain substance-free.

But how exactly does the practice of yoga help to treat the feelings of “disease, unhappiness, and an inability to cope with life” that are so often the fuel of addiction? Below are four ways yoga can treat the physical, emotional, and spiritual disease of addiction, and help you to stay on the path of recovery.

 

  1. Asana (Postures)

Asana, or the physical postures of yoga, are what we in the West commonly refer to as yoga. Flexibility, patience, balance, and concentration are qualities that are cultivated as we move through and hold different yoga postures.

Child’s pose, for example, symbolizes humility, surrender, and let go to a power that is greater than ourselves. Warrior pose represents the cultivation of strength and courage in the face of challenges. Balancing postures, such as tree pose, balance the left and right hemispheres of the brain and the opposing left and right sides of the body, bringing equilibrium to both body and mind.

The qualities of strength, endurance, balance, and humility that are developed “on the mat,” in both body and mind, are qualities that can easily be taken “off the mat” and used as armor on the often perilous path to sobriety.

 

  1. Pranayama (Breathing Techniques)

Pranayama, which is the regulation of the breath, cleanses the nervous system, increases the flow of oxygen to the brain, and improves our mental clarity. A practice such as Nadi Shodana, or alternate nostril breathing, which also reduces stress and anxiety, balances the hemispheres of the brain, and detoxifies the body, and can be done in just 15-20 minutes a day. In this way, the practice of pranayama can develop the conditions that support a clear, balanced, and sober mind.

 

  1. Mindfulness (Meditation)

Mindfulness is being in a state of awareness that allows us to be fully present in the moment so that we aren’t continuously thinking about the fiction of the past and future. Minfulness is a quality that can be cultivated through meditation, which can be as simple as setting aside a few minutes a day for silent sitting (there are also plenty of guided meditations that can assist us through the process). By engaging in meditation, we gain greater control over the reins of our own lives by observing our thoughts and feelings, rather than letting them take us over.

By carving time out of our schedules to stop and meditate, we learn to respond intentionally to problems, rather than follow through on knee-jerk reactions, and this can help us avoid relapses into drug or alcohol consumption.

 

  1. Ishvara Pranidhana (Surrender to God)

The 11th step of the 12 Steps of AA, “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out,” elucidates the connection between surrendering to a higher power (although it is up to the individual to decide what exactly that means to him or her) and successful recovery from addiction.

This practice is consistent with yoga sutra (the foundational texts of yoga) 1.23, which describes the practice of Isvara Pranidhana. Ishvara is a Sanskrit word that translates to ‘supreme,’ ‘personal,’ or ‘God.’ Pranidhana translates to ‘dedication,’ ‘devotion,’ or ‘surrender.’ As explained on jivamuktiyoga.com, “The practice of Ishvara Pranidhana… will help to cure the afflictions of the mind that cause pain and suffering, as it is designed to redirect our energy away from our selfish desires and personal dramas, and towards the ultimate pursuit of Oneness.”

As explained by Brand in the quote beginning this article, the problem of addiction is primarily an emotional and/or spiritual one. Speaking of his own experience, Brand states: “From the onset of adulthood, drugs and alcohol were just my way of coping with the world.” The reality is that the modern world can sometimes seem cold, cruel, and uncaring, and people often turn to substances to heal feelings of pain or emptiness within.

 

However, using the above four yoga practices of asana, pranayama, meditation, and surrender as an alternative system or program of behavior to heal our bodies, hearts, and minds and connect us to something greater than ourselves, we can transform the state of our lives from that of self-medicating just to exist in this modern-day world, to that of creating meaningful lives centered in well-being, happiness, and sobriety.

Pilgrimage Yoga Online is an online yoga studio featuring hundreds of yoga and meditation videos taught by expert teachers in San Diego. Our classes and programs are designed specifically for yogis and spiritual enthusiasts who are on the go, live around the world, or find it challenging to sync schedules with the local yoga studio. With thousands of hours of combined experience, our staff has seen huge success helping others create and maintain healthy habits and sustained mindfulness. Whether you’re looking for fitness, mindfulness, meditation, or even learning how to chant kirtan, we are ready to practice with you every step of the way. Sign-up today for a complimentary 7-day trial!

 

AUTHOR BIO: Hi, my name is Andy! I was born in Bogota, Colombia, but raised in Los Angeles, California. I spend my time helping others with their recovery and growing my online business.

 

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Behind The Music of Shambhu: A ‘Soothe’ Moment in a Hectic World.

“My music is ideal if you want to unwind and clear the mind. While recording my albums, I dive into my own silence so the music embodies a calm, clear, and beautiful feeling – like a vacation in sound.”

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“We are the music-makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams,”

—from Ode by Arthur O’Shaughnessy

 

“You will hear everything from jazz to instrumental folk to breezy pop to world fusion and even a hint of new age on Soothe, and it all goes down silky smooth.”

—Bill Binkelman, Zone Music Reporter

 

Music has the power to transform our lives and hence the world.

 

As I drove to work the other day my mind was spinning with all the things that were going wrong with a remodel of my new yoga studio. It was not the way I wanted to start my day. I knew just the antidote: turn on some heartfelt, relaxing music and center myself in my breathing. I chose the new album Soothe by Shambhu and it did the trick!

 

Reviewer Bill Binkelman from Zone Music Reporter describes the music: “Soulfulness runs throughout each track on Soothe like a slow, lazy brook winding its way through a forest, at times burbling over rocks, and other times flowing serenely with sunlight shimmering off the gently rippling surface.”

 

Soothe not only uplifted my own spirit but I started using Shambhu’s music as a peaceful backdrop for the yoga classes that I teach. Then I got curious about how Shambhu was able to convey a feeling of calm serenity in his music.

 

Shambhu’s adult life has been rooted in spirit. He discovered meditation in college and over time he was inspired to transform his rock style into a serene, instrumental flow that Feng Shui Mommy blogger Bailey Gaddis described as ‘mind medicine’.

 

“I was jamming with musicians in New York when I met drummer Narada Michael Walden. He had just connected with meditation guru Sri Chinmoy and his students – guitarists John McLaughlin and Carlos Santana. Narada invited me to meet his teacher and learn meditation.  Sri Chinmoy saw music as inspiration, not entertainment, and he encouraged music as a soulful  expression of meditation. 18 months later I joined and found myself jamming with Carlos who played a quiet and expressive guitar music. When he played, listeners had their eyes closed, they explored the music inside the silence, and the music expressed a calmness. When we played acoustic guitars as a duo, I could feel my soulful heart. I loved it, and I later brought that experience into my own music.”

 

 

“My music is ideal if you want to unwind and clear the mind. While recording my albums, I dive into my own silence so the music embodies a calm, clear, and beautiful feeling – like a vacation in sound.”

 

Soothe features many great instrumentalists who create a symphony of calming sound, with Shambhu at the helm on acoustic and electric guitars. Musicians include Michael Manring on bass, Jeff Haynes on percussion, Frank Martin on piano, Paul McCandless on reeds, Premik Russell Tubbs on soprano sax and wind synth, George Brooks on soprano sax, Ravichandra Kulur on bansuri flute, Kristin Hoffmann on vocals, Todd Boston on steel guitar, and Gurumurthy V on tabla.

 

Shambhu’s music invites the listener to participate in a dream for a better world, which will be created by individuals striving for their own betterment. His music is a pathway of sound into the ocean of love that each of us has within. His message is one of peace and the potential of each of us to reach into the realm of heart and soul.

 

And that brings me back to music makers and their effect on the world. I quoted from Ode by Arthur O’Shaughnessy at the beginning of this writing. Further along in his poem, written in 1888, he writes:

 

“For each age is a dream that is dying, Or one that is coming to birth.”

 

If you are local to the San Diego area, join us on Tuesday September 26th, 2017 from 7:45-8:30p, where Shambhu will be accompanying Sujantra’s meditation class. Pilgrimage Yoga offers free weekly meditations at both of its San Diego locations, suitable for practitioners of all levels. Join us for music and meditation!

 

Visit ShambhuMusic.com to listen and buy! Download the title track from ‘Soothe’ for free at soothecd.com.

 

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Health Benefits of Massage & Spa Treatments

Massage is an ancient technique and is practiced in many traditional medicine systems. One of a number of hands-on practices…

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Massage and spa treatments offer an opportunity to be pampered and soothed in pleasant surroundings. Many people enjoy these treatments as a way to “get away from it all.” While many of these treatments have cosmetic effects, some also provide health benefits.

What is Massage Therapy?

Massage is an ancient technique and is practiced in many traditional medicine systems. One of a number of hands-on practices collectively known as bodywork, massage has long been known to have benefits for the musculoskeletal system. In traditional healing, it is also a way to deliver herbal medicines through the skin or from inhaling the essential oils mixed into the massage oil. Massage may include stroking, pressing, tapping, kneading and other tissue techniques as well as the use of heated stones, joint manipulation and stretching exercises.

Different Types of Massage

There are dozens of different forms of massage.

  • Swedish massage– one of the most common forms; it uses long strokes of muscles and tissues. The masseuse adjusts the pressure from light to firm depending on the client’s preferences and needs.
  • Deep tissue massage — as the name implies, this type of massage targets tissues and muscles under the surface layer of skin. This is designed to realign tissues and loosen the fascia, or tight covering over the individual muscles, and requires very firm pressure.
  • Neuromuscular therapy– combines massage with techniques to mobilize stiff and painful joints or correct muscle imbalances.
  • Shiatsu– blends mild caresses with direct pressure on individual pressure or trigger points to help relax and relieve pain.
  • Thai massage– combines massage with yoga-like postures, which can help loosen the joints and correct skeletal alignment. The massage therapist may use hands, feet, legs and knees to position you correctly during the massage.

The Many Health Benefits of Massage Therapy

Some of the effects of massage have been well-studied, while others rely on anecdotal reports. There is no question that massage can relax you and help to relieve stress. Research has shown that massage can:

  • Reduce fatigue
  • Relieve multiple sclerosis by reducing pain and tight (spastic) muscles
  • Reduce pain and anxiety in post-surgical patients for chest or abdominal surgery or any kind of surgery that is related to muscles or ligaments. It is also an effective treatment for those with general myalgia
  • Lower blood pressure, with the effects lasting up to 72 hours in one study.
  • Relieve tense muscles and reduces spasms; it has been found
  • Relieve chronic pain conditions and migraine headaches.

Researchers have even found that Swedish massage can increase a type of white blood cells that help protect against viruses.

What are Spa Treatments?

Although massage is probably the most common and popular spa treatment, others include facials and body treatments such as waxing or salt scrubs and body wraps with seaweed or minerals. A spa might also offer more advanced services like a chemical peel or laser therapy or permanent hair removal with electrolysis. Manicures and pedicures are also common, and many spas also offer additional services such as hair cuts, styling, coloring and makeup.

Health Benefits of Spa Treatments

The health benefits of spa therapies have not been as well studied as massage. However, there is evidence that regular spa visits are correlated with fewer sick days, better sleep and fewer hospitalizations. For example, exfoliating the skin with scrubs and similar treatments helps remove dead skin cells and may improve circulation and lymphatic drainage. Hot tubs and other heated therapies can relax muscles and help relieve chronic pain. Simply being pampered in a spa can promote the release of the “feel good” chemicals called endorphins, which in turn can help reduce stress.

If nothing else, a spa is a place to get away. For many people it is the ability to disconnect from the outside world that is most important. Being pampered and coddled doesn’t hurt, either. The best way to find out if massage and spa therapy work for you is simply to try it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sarah Biel is a popular well recognized health and lifestyle expert. Sarah is well qualified in her field and is passionate about the well being, and mental state of her clients. Sarah works at Sukhavati Ayurvedic Retreat and Spa which offers life changing treatments based on ancient healing practices.

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Hamatreya Poem Meaning: Ruminations on a Ralph Waldo Emerson Poem

Hamatreya is a poem that Emerson wrote in the mid 1800’s and expresses the reality of humankind’s relationship to nature.

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Hamatreya is a poem that Emerson wrote in the mid 1800’s.

Its message is well worth contemplation in our day and age as individuals and nations reckon with the forces of nature. Well beyond ideology or opinion, the poem expresses the reality of humankind’s relationship to nature. The core theme of the poem was taken from Emerson’s reading of ancient Hindu writings.

The poem in its entirety appears at the end of this essay.

Emerson guides us to see the futility in our boasting and pride and points towards an awareness of the cycle of life. Earth is given a voice in this poem. This awareness of earth’s living relationship to each of us is essential for any meaningful discussion of humankind’s relationship to nature.

The poem has three voices: the earth, the impartial narrator and a voice that reflects, in the last stanza, on the power of the earth’s song. The poem begins with the narrator speaking for various men of the time and their pride at possessing that which they own: their properties, orchards, dogs and families and their resounding belief in their ownership: “Tis mine, my children’s and my name’s…my trees…my hill…my dog.”

The narrator then ponders: “Where are these men? Asleep beneath their grounds.” The narrator drives home his point: “Earth laughs in flowers, to see her boastful boys/Earth-proud, proud of the earth which is not theirs;/Who steer the plough, but cannot steer their feet/Clear of the grave.” Emerson’s wisdom exposes the vain and fleeting pride of human beings when it comes to their relationship to the earth.

Emerson then ratchets up the poem to another level of intensity with a sub-section that he titles Earth-Song. In it the narrator continues in the theme of exposing the futile vanity of possession and then gives voice to the earth: “They called me theirs,/Who so controlled me;/Yet every one/Wished to stay, and is gone,/How am I theirs, If they cannot hold me, /But I hold them?”

The poem ends with the narrator reflecting on all he has heard and learnt upon hearing the earth speak:

When I heard the Earth-song,

I was no longer brave;

My avarice cooled

Like lust in the chill of the grave.

The entire poem:

 

Hamatreya by Ralph Waldo Emmerson

 

Bulkeley, Hunt, Willard, Hosmer, Meriam, Flint,
Possessed the land which rendered to their toil
Hay, corn, roots, hemp, flax, apples, wool, and wood.
Each of these landlords walked amidst his farm,
Saying, “’Tis mine, my children’s and my name’s.
How sweet the west wind sounds in my own trees!
How graceful climb those shadows on my hill!
I fancy these pure waters and the flags
Know me, as does my dog: we sympathize;
And, I affirm, my actions smack of the soil.”
Where are these men? Asleep beneath their grounds:
And strangers, fond as they, their furrows plough.
Earth laughs in flowers, to see her boastful boys
Earth-proud, proud of the earth which is not theirs;
Who steer the plough, but cannot steer their feet
Clear of the grave.
They added ridge to valley, brook to pond,
And sighed for all that bounded their domain;
“This suits me for a pasture; that’s my park;
We must have clay, lime, gravel, granite-ledge,
And misty lowland, where to go for peat.
The land is well,—lies fairly to the south.
’Tis good, when you have crossed the sea and back,
To find the sitfast acres where you left them.”
Ah! the hot owner sees not Death, who adds
Him to his land, a lump of mould the more.
Hear what the Earth say:—
                EARTH-SONG
          “Mine and yours;
          Mine, not yours.
          Earth endures;
          Stars abide—
          Shine down in the old sea;
          Old are the shores;
          But where are old men?
          I who have seen much,
          Such have I never seen.
          “The lawyer’s deed
          Ran sure,
          In tail,
          To them and to their heirs
          Who shall succeed,
          Without fail,
          Forevermore.
          “Here is the land,
          Shaggy with wood,
          With its old valley,
          Mound and flood.
          But the heritors?—
          Fled like the flood’s foam.
          The lawyer and the laws,
          And the kingdom,
          Clean swept herefrom.
          “They called me theirs,
          Who so controlled me;
          Yet every one
          Wished to stay, and is gone,
          How am I theirs,
          If they cannot hold me,
          But I hold them?”
When I heard the Earth-song
I was no longer brave;
My avarice cooled
Like lust in the chill of the grave.

 

Sujantra McKeever is the founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, which serves over 1,000 yogis a week, and also helped create Pilgrimage Yoga Online. He is the author of five books on eastern philosophy, success and meditation. Sujantra studied meditation with spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy and has lectured on meditation and yoga in over 30 countries.

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How To Maximize Athletic Performance With Minerals: Magnesium Edition

Are you feeling exhausted or getting unusual muscle cramps during workouts?…

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By Brian Bishop

Are you feeling exhausted or getting unusual muscle cramps during workouts? Have you eaten enough but still find that you lack the energy to move the way you want to?

It could have something to do with magnesium.

What Is Magnesium & Why Is It Important?

Magnesium is an essential mineral that the body needs in large amounts in order to produce energy. It participates in over 300 bio-chemical reactions on a cellular level, and its primary role is to balance the body’s ability to function properly by acting as enzyme co-factors (agents that allow enzymes to do their job better). One of magnesium’s vital roles is in the chemical reactions that generate adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is the fundamental unit of energy inside our cells.

The organelle in each cell responsible for producing ATP are the mitochondria, which are small power generators that convert oxygen into ATP. A key benefit of magnesium is its ability to help produce more mitochondria during exercise, which ultimately means more ATP and more sustained energy.

There are two ways to become a high performing athlete:

1. Increase the total number of mitochondria

and

2. Increase the efficiencies of the mitochondria

More magnesium in our diets can set off a chain reaction by increasing mitochondrion in the cells, which facilitates the creation of more ATP, which we experience as stamina, endurance and strength.

maximize2

How Does Magnesium Help Improve Performance?

To increase exercise performance, cells must be able to consume more oxygen. This is known as ‘oxidative capacity’ and is the ability to breakdown oxygen in your muscle cells via the mitochondria, which we now know is crucial in the development of ATP, which is essentially our biochemical way of storing and using energy in our muscles. This means that to be an efficient athlete, we must produce more ATP than we are consuming. Otherwise we will feel muscle fatigue, tiredness and may even experience muscle cramps.

How To Maximize Both Magnesium & Mitochondria

Studies have shown that exercises like high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can increase the development of new mitochondria. This is done by cloning the cells via enzymes that require magnesium as a cofactor. Low magnesium levels reduces our ability to make new mitochondria and thus our ability to maximize exercise performance diminishes.

Here are daily optimal magnesium intakes for women and men:

  • Women – 310 mg
  • Men – 420 mg

Try out these sources for incorporating more magnesium into your diet:

  • Dark, leafy greens like kale, spinach, collard greens.
  • Fruits like avocado, banana and figs
  • Nuts like sesame seeds, almonds, walnuts, and cashews
  • Beans
  • Dark chocolate

 

About The Author:

Brian_bioBrian Bishop is a true health and nutrition enthusiast. He loves to read, watch and listen to anything about health. He is the best nootropics guide as he is always experimenting on himself for best results. Brian wants to share his knowledge so others can enjoy the benefits.

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Yoga Retreats For Seniors: 5 Reasons To Go On A Yoga Retreat In Your 60s

As we enter our 60s, we’re the wisest we’ve ever been, the boldest we’ve ever felt and probably for the first time…

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As we enter our 60s, we’re the wisest we’ve ever been, the boldest we’ve ever felt and probably for the first time in forever, we’re free from worldly shackles. Now is the time to take a breath and restart our lives the way we always wanted, re-invent ourselves by exploring new talents and embrace our cherished hobbies. Moreover, it is the perfect time to hop on an annual retreat and explore sides of our personality we never knew existed. In other words, yoga retreats for seniors is a very good thing.

By the time we’re 60, many of us have capitalized on physical activities such as yoga to maintain or reinvigorate our vivacity. Yoga goes a long way in giving us the vitality we need to follow our dreams and sets the foundation for a rediscovered self by providing us a sense of unity, mindfulness and the zeal for fulfilled living. This year, it’s time to trade in our regular vacation for an exhilarating yoga retreat where we will be guided through soulful yogic techniques amidst exotic locations. This is why a yoga retreat should be your next getaway:

  1. Get A Fresh Start In Life

Yogic methods were developed over 5,000 years ago to rejuvenate the body and attain a long life. Today, they act as one the most popular and widely used techniques to enhance physical and mental well-being. A yoga retreat is aimed at providing you a holistic yogic experience where guests attain focused yogic lessons and therapies from experts.

The ambience, food, company and activities are all designed to relieve you of the burdens of a hectic life and help you find inner peace. It is the ideal opportunity to finally let go of all the negativity that gets piled up in us over the years and embrace a new and positive approach when you finally hit your 60’s. It is probably for this reason that many people who go on yoga retreats claim it to be a life-altering experience.

Yoga retreats take you away from the daily rut into a picturesque location with yoga classes at least twice a day that use techniques like asana, meditation and pranayama to strengthen the body. As we get old, our muscles tend to stiffen, losing their range of motion, and we become susceptible to chronic problems such as arthritis, osteoporosis and heart disease.

Yoga helps slow down the ageing process by maintaining flexibility and softness, keeping the mind alert and awake. Its multi-pronged approach can encourage the body to remain strong, while reducing the effects of many age related issues.

Getting old might present many gifts – grace, maturity, experience, wisdom, to name a few. However, the process can also carry many challenges. Seniors experience higher rates of anxiety and depression, and other mental disorders, psychologically and emotionally.

In some cases, memory can decline, balance can be impaired, and with that sense of self suffers. Since yoga is focused on listening to your body, an additional benefit is the broadened awareness of self through practice. As you practice yoga, you become more mindful of not just your body but of your emotions and thoughts, connecting to the outside community on a whole.

A yoga retreat can help us take a step back and gain a fresh perspective on things.

  1. Strengthen Our Purpose In Life

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin said, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.” Our lives have become fast and full of distractions. By the time we’ve hit our sixties, we’ve been through marriages, careers, and children. We’ve had a lot of wins and a lot of losses. By retirement, we’ve probably wondered a thousand times, what is the purpose of all this, anyway?

A yoga retreat can remind us of what’s really important in life. The secluded and scenic ambience encourages us to focus less on worldly things and more on just being. Plenty of relaxation time guarantees we have the privacy to explore the hidden areas of our mind, and supportive yoga instruction teaches us the necessary meditation and breathing techniques that help us cope with life’s challenges.

  1. Make Life-Long Friends

According to a study, around 80-90 percent of people prefer going to yoga retreats alone.

Yoga retreats attract like-minded people from all corners of the world. Most senior citizens are keen to make friends in yoga communities, wanting to explore, learn and grow. This bond lays the groundwork for forging lasting friendships. Most importantly, we get to meet and talk to people who understand our perspective on life, and help us understand the root of our fears, ambitions and life situations. New friends can help us see things about us we can’t see on our own.

Better yet, they can act as a support system during old age —encouraging us to keep up the good work and implement the life hacks we learned on retreat.

  1. For The Love Of Yoga:

You are never too old to do yoga. If you want to try it out for the very first time, then a yoga retreat will give you the most memorable and impactful yoga experience there is. The efficacy of a yoga retreat lies in the fact that it takes you out of your comfort zone almost entirely. You will be at a new and majestic setting and will be guided into yogic exercises, even ones you previously thought you couldn’t perform because of the ‘oh so aching joints!’

  1. Forget about vacation management:

Having to find holiday inns, restaurants, and travel services alone can lead to fatigue and stress—sometimes to the point that a vacation is no longer enjoyable. This is where retreats come to the rescue, providing everything from travel to accommodation, to meals and sight-seeing. All are managed by the retreat coordinator, which allows us to enjoy ourselves without the burden of planning. And let’s be honest—we’ve been planning our entire life, it’s time to take a break.

For your next holiday, pick your favorite yoga retreat and let it transform you physically and emotionally. And there’s quite the variety as well! For instance, the Active Senior’s Yoga Getaway in California combines gentle, suitable-to-age yoga techniques with Mediterranean practices. Other options include vacationing with your favorite in-studio yoga teacher, or simply typing in “yoga retreats for seniors” into Google.

After all, these are the golden years. Right?  

Author Bio:

KamilKamil Riaz Kara is a travel enthusiast and writer. His favorite travel destinations include New York, Munich, & Vancouver. Visit Cosmosvacations for exploring beautiful and adventurist destinations around the world.

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Peace

We’re all searching for peace in some way but what does that mean?…

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What is peace?

We’re all searching for peace in some way but what does that mean? When we look around we don’t see peace offered up like a commodity. We can’t buy it in a store. There are no peace vendors, so to speak. So, how do we acquire this ethereal concept that we all want but can’t touch?

Most of the time peace is defined by the use of negation. In other words, what peace is not. Peace is the absence of war and violence. Peace is freedom from disturbances; from antagonism, antipathy, enmity, hatred, hostility, unfriendliness, alienation, breach, divorce, estrangement, rupture, schism, scission, severance, dissent, dissidence, anarchy, disorder, disturbance, strife, turmoil… all things that peace is not.

But peace can be defined by affirmative qualities, too. Harmony, compatibleness, unity, cohesiveness, affinity, serenity, empathy, connection, tranquility, sweetness, empathy, understanding, love… factors that are peaceful or that lend themselves to a peaceful state of being.

Peace is a state of being.

Peace remains an ethereal quality. But it is dependent on certain factors. Truth, non-harming (ahimsa), compassion, empathy, harmony, all formless qualities, yet they are absolutely necessary in the formation of being a peaceful soul. And this is where we hit the nail on the head. Peace is an inner quality. In the end, there is truly no place to find peace except within one’s self.

While peace remains formless, non-peace can take on physical qualities. Dis-harmony brings about tension, stress, loneliness, anger, hostility, disease, all qualities that mire us with outward, mental anguish. And these manifest physically; we turn to drugs, alcohol, unhealthy eating habits, excessive shopping, inappropriate sexual behavior… we are negligent of our bodies, our vehicles, all physical things we use in an attempt to substitute for our general dis-harmoniousness. When we are disharmonious there is no space to explore our inner being, so we turn to external, physical ‘remedies.’

It has well been said many times by great advocates of peace that peace can’t be bought, nor brokered. It can’t be negotiated or contracted. Peace isn’t something you vote for. Peace is ONLY an inner quality of being. And I think peace is only attainable when we learn to live in a state of AWE. I saw a bumper sticker the other day that said it all:

“If you are not in AWE you are not paying attention.”

Our souls are mired in the everyday experience. We completely loose sight of the miracle of our existence. Our separateness conditioning is the chain that binds us to our physical form. We seem to forget that life on earth is the only life we have found in the universe (to date). We look upon life as commonplace and we find no peace in that. We find peace when we pay attention!

Meditation is a door opener to peace. In the practice of pratyahara, we withdraw our physical senses from our immediate attention so that we might bring awareness to the qualities that foster inner peace. Meditation is about heightened awareness. It’s NOT naptime. We develop a state of awe. We recognize the miracle of our existence and we tap into the infinite, the timeless. We make peace with life, with the universe.

Because we are a part of this universe, by the definition of Unity, singularity, we always have been and we always will be.

Our being began as a spark in the ‘big bang.’ Everything emanated from that singular impetus. It’s comforting to know that the universe and we are one. Life is not just biological. The universe is life. We are universal beings. And we are peace.

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Loneliness

Sri Chinmoy’s essay, “Empty Moments,” is about the sensation of loneliness and those feelings of emptiness…

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By Sujantra

“The reason you suffer from empty moments is because you are not playing inside the garden of your heart with your heart’s child, the soul. “ — Sri Chinmoy

Loneliness 

Sri Chinmoy’s essay, “Empty Moments,” is about the sensation of loneliness and those feelings of emptiness we’ve all experienced at one time or another in our life. This essay asserts that such feelings have nothing to do with outer circumstance; loneliness does not arise because we lack friends or intimate relationships; the sensation of emptiness is not caused by having nothing meaningful to do. The origin of these feelings, according to Sri Chinmoy, lies in a spiritual cause, a failure to know ourselves deeply.

Vast Expanse

On first reading, I must admit I found these assertions baffling. If loneliness wasn’t a result of being alone and if emptiness wasn’t caused by a lack of meaningful activities, then what was the cause? I had always assumed the solution to any problem was to make changes in my external life – find new friends or reconnect with old ones, for instance. To me, the solution to feelings of emptiness was a ‘no-brainer’ – get busy! Take a class, get a hobby or volunteer for something, anything. It was only after taking up meditation that I gained some insight into what Sri Chinmoy was saying. Gradually, I came to understand that even in situations where outer change is necessary, ultimately all meaningful transformation comes from within. The solution is not more money, more friends or more things to do. These are all good and necessary elements of life, but to get to the root of our deficiencies, we need to look within and discover the person we really are. This is the change that matters most.

The Problem and the Solution 

Feelings of loneliness and emptiness are warning signs that we need to pay more attention to our inner life. They may very well be present because we are paying too much attention to our external life. Sri Chinmoy tells us that loneliness and emptiness arise because our thoughts and actions have drifted away from the light of our soul. The beautiful phrase he uses is, “we’re no longer playing with our soul-child.” It is by playing with our soul-child that we remain inside its love-light. In the soul’s light, we are constantly refreshed with new energies and the insights we need to remain in harmony with others. From this perspective, it’s easy to see how friends and activities, of themselves, cannot solve the deeper problem of loneliness and emptiness.

If we can meditate every day, play with our soul-child each and every day, our life will never be empty. But who prevents this soulful play? It is the ego working through the mind and the body’s vital nature. The ego is too selfish, the mind too proud and the vital too restless to want to play with the soul. They are small and limited creatures; the soul is vast and joyful, eternally content. If we can cause the ego, mind and vital nature to sit with the soul once or twice a day, they too can gradually become vast, our life will become vast, able to embrace all things and there will never be an empty moment. Whole and complete within yourself, every breath will bring the fullness of life to you. You will see that you are not empty and can never be alone; all is within you. This is the vision-light of the soul.

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To Inspire Change: Sharing Meditation with the World

It is easy to get discouraged by the bad news that echoes around us on a daily basis…

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By Sujantra McKeever

It is easy to get discouraged by the bad news that echoes around us on a daily basis. In contrast, the practice of meditation can bring us a deep feeling of peace. As practitioners, we may begin to wonder how to share this peace with others and whether it is possible to use our practice to transform the world around us. It can seem daunting to speak of meditation with people who have never experienced it. They might have preconceived notions about it, and they may have difficulty understanding a meditator’s experiences, or they may simply be resistant to learning about it. So how can we share our enthusiasm about meditation with others?

Creekside

What I’ve learned as I’ve developed my practice is the importance of embodying the peace of meditation. We must discover for ourselves what a peaceful consciousness is so we can enter that state and share it, even in silence. In fact, the majority of my teacher’s teachings were given in silent meditation or while playing music. At that time he wasn’t giving verbal instruction; he was entering into a state of meditation and inspiring us with that energy.

Vastness Sky

To inspire positive change in our world, the very best thing we can do is to enter into a deep, peaceful state of meditation. During World War II, the Indian sage, Ramana Maharshi, was criticized for focusing on spirituality while his country India, an ally of England, was being drawn into the war. People didn’t understand why he didn’t gather the disciples and encourage them to fight; but he noted that the source of all action is thought, and the source of thought is the Self. When one can consciously abide in the Self, that is the greatest offering one can make to the world. Without that awareness and intention, thought and action are pointless for they lack the soul’s power. His response has always stuck with me. Deep awareness and intention may, or may not, lead to external action but it always has a profound effect in the world.

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Ep 45 – Consciousness

Consciousness. Exploring body, vital, mind and heart consciousness…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard. We hope you find an insight that truly hits home.

Ep 45 – Consciousness. Exploring body, vital, mind and heart consciousness.

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Ep 44 – Truth in Thought, Word and Deed

Truth in thought, word and deed. Exploring truth in your life…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard. We hope you find an insight that truly hits home.

Ep 44 – Truth in thought, word and deed. Exploring truth in your life.

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Ep 43 – The Mandela

The Mandela. Creating an external form of your inner dimension…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard. We hope you find an insight that truly hits home.

Ep 43 – The Mandela. Creating an external form of your inner dimension.

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Ep 42 – Going Beyond Religion

Going beyond religion. Exploring the beauty and limits of yoga…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard. We hope you find an insight that truly hits home.

Ep 42 – Going beyond religion. Exploring the beauty and limits of yoga.

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EP 18 – Danni Pomplun

Danni Pomplun shares his roots, styles and outlook on yoga…

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Enjoy interviews with inspiring and uplifting guests who share their insights into yoga, personal improvement and world transformation. We feature yogis, writers, musicians, teachers and visionaries from many fields who are reaching for the highest in human potential. The program is hosted by Sujantra McKeever, founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, CA.

Ep 18 – Danni Pomplun shares his roots, styles and outlook on yoga. Currently residing in San Francisco, Danni will be the lead-off yoga teacher at the Festival of Yoga in San Diego on June 17th. in conjunction with the third annual United Nations International Day of Yoga.

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Ep 41 – Exploring the Soul’s Uniqueness

Exploring the soul’s uniqueness and the ego’s separativity…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard. We hope you find an insight that truly hits home.

Ep 41 – Exploring the soul’s uniqueness and the ego’s separativity.

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Outlive Relationships

The Life expectancy for females is 81.2 years; for males, it’s 76.4 years…

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The Life expectancy for females is 81.2 years; for males, it’s 76.4 years.

Modern science has progressed such that we are able to live longer and healthier lives. We are able to function with high quality of life much further into our late years. This sounds great, doesn’t it? Longer life. Better quality. Why not?

But there’s a down side.

We have this capacity to outlive our relationships!

As we live longer, we have a greater chance to outlive relationships. This includes family, friends, pets, (unless you have a tortoise), people you admire and respect but don’t associate with, public figures, spiritual teachers and more. If you have lived into your nineties you have surly experienced this. Everyone you started off with is gone.

If you have a very old person in your world, you are lucky. They are fortunate, too. Most fortunate! Many old folks will live to see their children die, some, their grandchildren. All will see their friends depart… their spouses, their teachers, their acquaintances, their neighbors… Many folks depart totally alone, from boredom, loneliness.

Even when we are young we begin outliving personal relationships. Parents depart, sometimes friends, too. Sometimes we loose a small child… and then there are marriages. The average length of a marriage that ends in divorce is eight years. People wait an average of three years after a divorce to remarry (if they remarry at all). The average age for couples going through their first divorce is 30 years old. (2012 stats)

Between 40 to 50 percent of married couples in the United States divorce. The divorce rate for subsequent marriages is even higher.

Ok, let’s not dwell…

What to do?

Stay active. Make new friends. Let go.

There are many amusing testimonials attributing to long life. Two smokes a day (for 100 years), port wine, beer, a good cigar, bacon, and a kilo of chocolate each week. But most folks seem to also include these three: Staying active, making new friends and letting go.

Notwithstanding a healthy lifestyle, staying on your feet (as opposed to a chair) and doing what you love seems to be a common theme. Finding joy in your activities rather than stress or tedium keeps you engaged and egger to live.

Making new friends is vital. The old friends are gone. And yet, we need each other. Having good social networks and regular interactions keeps the heart warm and the spirit high.

Letting go. Loss is a part of life. People and relationships come and go. Things change. We need to be able cast aside attachments without loosing ourselves. We also need to skirt drama and not get caught up in the stress of the particulars of others.

Last, but not least: Live for God. Be good. Live by the golden rule. Help others.

In the end, it’s just, ‘the universe and ourselves.’

Reference:

Five Secrets to living to be 100:

https://personalexcellence.co/blog/longevity/

More Secrets testimonials:

http://www.cnn.com/2015/09/01/health/longevity-secrets-live-to-100/

Stats:

https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/deaths.htm

(2.7 million deaths annually, U.S. (attrition) all causes.)

Fun:

105 year old woman eats bacon every day.

http://newsfeed.time.com/2013/05/09/105-year-old-woman-says-bacon-keeps-her-alive/

More Fun:

http://modernhealthmonk.com/23-secrets-of-longevity/

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Chronic Pain: How Yoga Helps.

Nobody wants to experience chronic pain or be diagnosed with a long-term illness…

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Photo courtesy of Unsplash by Marion Michele

Nobody wants to experience chronic pain or be diagnosed with a long-term illness.

But because life doesn’t always work out the way we plan, many people around the world are living with these conditions and more are diagnosed each day. A staggering 1.5 billion people worldwide are living with chronic pain, according to the American Academy of Pain Medicine. If you’re one of these people, you know intimately the torture of living each day in excruciating discomfort.

When you’re dealing with chronic pain, the simplest daily events can turn into heightened ordeals. You might wake up in the morning feeling sleep-deprived because you were tossing and turning all night long. Basic daily movements like walking or bathing can be excruciating at times. These ordeals tend to snowball, leading to more long-term pain, constant feelings of exhaustion, frustration and even depression and addiction.

Popular belief would have you thinking that chronic pain is just something you’ll have to suffer through for the rest of your life. And while every person’s pain condition is unique, there are many, many ways you can take your health into your own hands. Some of these options will require that you make lifestyle changes–for example, you may want to switch to a different diet or get some help handling daily tasks, like housecleaning or yard work. Some options require that you open your mind to treatments you may not have considered before, such as yoga.

This article will discuss just a small handful of the many techniques available for chronic pain management and pain relief.

Yoga & Pain Relief

Yoga, meditation, and breath-work go hand-in-hand, and can be essential for teaching us to breathe through our pain. As public speaker Scott Ginsburg notes, yoga can be helpful in teaching us to simply notice the pain, recognize it for what it is (without the need for an emotional connection to it), and then “send your breath where it hurts and ride it out.” This might be difficult for those who are new to yoga, but over time it becomes surprisingly relaxing.

According to Yoga International, yoga is becoming a more common treatment method for fibromyalgia, migraines and other conditions that cause chronic pain. In fact, there are now DVDs available specifically designed for using yoga to treat fibromyalgia and related illnesses. Popular yoga poses like child’s pose, savasana (corpse pose), cobra, or even simply laying flat on your back with your legs up the wall can provide pain relief for a variety of conditions.

Kundalini yoga can be especially helpful for those with chronic pain. If you experience chornic pain, you know it can be all-consuming. While the pain is obvious, it often isn’t clear where it comes from or what it’s made of. Kundalini is a practice that helps you become more self-aware, which can make it easier to identify unavoidable pain versus avoidable pain. When this becomes clear, you can mold your yoga practice around poses that bring relief.

Of course, before starting any new treatment, it is important to consult with your doctor first to make sure the treatment is right for you. Even with a gentle practice like yoga, there is always the potential to injure yourself. Together with your doctor, it can be possible to identify the source of your chronic pain. From there, a highly-trained certified yoga teacher can help make recommendations for gentle, restorative yoga poses that can specifically help your unique pain condition. Even if your doctor approves yoga for you, be sure to listen to your body – and remember to breathe!

As certified yoga teacher Liz Rosenblum of DoYouYoga says, “The goal here [with yoga] is to quiet the mind and find a bit of relief from your pain.”

If you’ve been suffering from chronic pain, yoga may certainly be worth a try. Perhaps the most important tip for pain management is this: try to stay positive. Having the right mindset will be crucial in trying new methods for healing the body.

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These Are The Best Methods of Self-Care.

In a world frequently flooded with the hustle and bustle of daily life, it’s so important to prioritize self-care…

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By Breanne Fleat

In a world frequently flooded with the hustle and bustle of daily life, it’s so important to prioritize self-care.

There are many ways to practice self-care. It can be as simple as making time for relaxation or hobbies, or we can take a more active approach by incorporating exercise into our daily routines. Personally, I enjoy using spirituality as a method of self-care. I don’t mean this in the religious sense; for me, spirituality is something that connects me with my center, or the core of my being.

If that sounds vague or farfetched, it actually has a strong basis in reality! What I’m actually doing is building a strong foundation of support, so that I’m able to replenish my energy and keep a strong baseline of happiness throughout my days. My three favorite activities for this type of self-care are yoga, meditation and mindfulness.

Yoga

Yoga doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated, especially when it comes to self-care. Whether it’s a full-length class or a few poses sprinkled here and there throughout the day, yoga has a way of awakening the body, addressing postural issues and reminding ourselves to take a deep breath when we need it.

I’m a big fan of Restorative Yoga, which focuses on healing and re-energizing the body. Some of my favorite practices incorporate downward facing dog (Adho Mukha Shvanasana), child’s pose (Balasana), standing forward fold (Uttanasana), and cobra (Bhujangasana).

Yoga teaches participants to relax and let things go, which is usually what first comes to mind about this practice. But it also does so much more. Yoga taught me to listen to my body and respect its limits, which in turn reminded me to be kind to myself. Yoga also showed me that I’m much stronger than I think I am – you’ll be amazed, too, when you pull off that handstand! Yoga works so well that it’s been proven to be of great use in the workplace to deal with stress and heal the aches and pains from sitting all day!

Yoga’s list of benefits is long. The regular practice of body postures (asana) and breathing (pranayama), coupled with meditation, has an almost too-long list of physiological, psychological, and biochemical effects, even when compared to normal exercise. You can check out the full list of the plus points of these practices here.

Meditation

Meditation is the practice of training the mind to notice its conditioned patterns and belief systems. Surely, this is a big task, but it’s really as simple as sitting down and being quiet for five minutes. There are hundreds of meditation exercises, from silent sitting to repeating mantras to counting the breath.

As an example, a simple exercise would be to sit down in a quiet spot and close your eyes. Don’t control your breath in any way – only focus on how it moves your ribs, your chest, your shoulders, and the rest of your body. Start with just trying this for a minute, then gradually increase the time you spend on it. I find that meditation is especially helpful in managing stress and helping me relax and forget my worries.

On a broader scale, studies have proven that meditation is great for treating and helping anxiety, even after years of practicing it. In the long run, meditation also has tons of physiological benefits, including improving brain function and powering the immune system. It works so well that it’s an effective method for treating chronic pain.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the act of becoming aware of our thoughts and feelings as they arise. This has a host of benefits, not the least of which is that it clears up personal confusion about our needs, beliefs and desires. Mindfulness is similar to meditation, but is meant to be practiced during the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, as opposed to being a formal scheduled practice.

We can even practice mindfulness in groups! In group settings (like a work environment), mindfulness is incredibly useful as it encourages communication, empathy, and innovation. That’s probably why it’s so good for business –mindfulness and social awareness are important for modern organizations and businesses.

Mindfulness is often considered the key to self-care, as it involves being completely present in the moment and promotes mind-body resilience. It’s great for grounding or preventing dissociation, and two separate studies have shown that it can prevent depression relapse (check them out here and here!). In addition, multiple studies have proven that mindfulness works, whether it’s by being an aid to mental health or to reduce stress and promote physical health.

It can be slow starting, but once you get the hang of it, it’s easier to keep the ball rolling and see positive effects in your life. I like to focus on maintaining a positive outlook on life and taking each day one moment at a time. It can do wonders for mental health and productivity!

There’s always time for self-care

These are three practices I do to make self-care a priority in my life.

At first it may seem like there isn’t even time in the day to fit it all in, but these practices are actually designed to increase productivity, energy level and overall health and happiness, meaning we’ll get things done faster and more efficiently. It may take a period of adjustment, but the benefits far outweigh the sacrifice.

Ultimately, I find that there’s always time for self-care.

 

BreanneBreanne Fleat is chief editor at ProteinPromo.com . Created in 2016, ProteinPromo is keen on providing readers with nutrition and wellness hints and tips to lead a happier, healthier, fitter life. Find her on:

Twitter @Protein_Promo

Instagram: @ProteinPromo

& Facebook: ProteinPromo

 

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Compassion

Compassion is an evolved state of being. Compassion is learned…

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“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.”Plato

“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.”Dalai Lama XIV, The Art of Happiness

“Our task must be to free ourselves… by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and it’s beauty.”Albert Einstein

“Compassion hurts. When you feel connected to everything, you also feel responsible for everything. And you cannot turn away. Your destiny is bound with the destinies of others. You must either learn to carry the Universe or be crushed by it. You must grow strong enough to love the world, yet empty enough to sit down at the same table with its worst horrors.”Andrew Boyd, Daily Afflictions: The Agony of Being Connected to Everything in the Universe

An Evolved State of Being

Compassion is an evolved state of being. Compassion is learned. Compassion is both a giving and a receiving. By adopting compassion as a trait, we evolve ourselves, our neighbors and communities, the world and the universe (all the same thing). Compassion is a trait that transcends all levels of enfoldment as we ascend the ladder of inclusion. Compassion is the trait that first lifts us from abject, animal barbarism. Compassion is a ‘heart quality’ and as I have written many times in the past, the heart can create more of any quality that you so desire.

Believe it or not, compassion is a trait handed down through the generations of the ‘lower’ animals, as well. Charles Darwin had some very interesting and profound thoughts on the topic. His theory of Natural Selection posits that traits beneficial to the survival of individuals get passed along to the future generations of the group, increasing the survival rate of the species. Traits not beneficial to the population get weeded out through attrition or extinction.

Survival of the Fittest

Did you know that Charles Darwin used, but did not coin the phrase, “Survival of the Fittest”? Herbert Spencer coined the phrase, principally to forward race and class distinctions. Darwin, in his volume, The Decent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, posited that:

“In however complex a manner this feeling (sympathy, compassion) may have originated, as it is one of high importance to all those animals which aid and defend one another, it will have been increased through natural selection; for those communities which include the greatest number of the most sympathetic members, would flourish best, and rear the greatest number of offspring.”

And further, that “…this virtue (human concern for one another AND for lower animals), one of the noblest with which man is endowed, seems to arise incidentally from our sympathies becoming more tender and more widely diffused, until they extend to all sentient beings.”

Survival of the Kindest!

Darwin understood it as, “Survival of the Kindest!”

Cultivate compassion. Meditation helps. Meditation clears the mind of clutter so that heart qualities can manifest. As Plato said in the above quote, practice kindness… be kindness, “…for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.”

Note: Herbert Spencer’s phrase, ‘survival of the fittest’ becomes a more valid concept when the race and class distinctions are removed. However, one must realize that the compassionate component IS included in the survival equation; the more compassionate being is more fit to pass along to its offspring this and other evolutionary qualities, ensuring the survival of the group. Compassion is a quality, which is, “…increased through natural selection.”

Further, that evolution is more concerned with populations than it is with individuals. Groups separated by distance develop under the same principle (Natural Selection), while branching traits within disparate groups are particulars related to variables (environment, etc.).

Sources for further inquiry:

Modern Synthesis: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modern_synthesis

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The Secret Universe

There is a place where our true nature resides. I’ll call it, ‘The Secret Universe.’…

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There is a place where our true nature resides. I’ll call it, ‘The Secret Universe.’ It’s a place of peace, tranquility and realization. We all have this place within us… veiled. What is this veil and how do we thin it, penetrate it?

Heart/Ego

The place where our true nature resides is our heart. The veil is our ego.

We have very clear, glaring examples all around us of egocentric behavior. And as egocentric behavior grows ideals like compassion, empathy, love, benevolence and generosity frequently fall to the ground. The ego is a very powerful part of our makeup. And it’s a necessary part of our selves; it drives us to action. But unchecked the ego can be disastrous, for ourselves and those around us, for our planet… for the universe.

‘The will is strong. The flesh is stronger.’ — Bible: Matthew 26:41 (paraphrase)

It’s so very easy to let our ego rule our life. Our outward senses are overwhelmed by so much stimulus, so much temptation. Our ego fixates on these outward things and directs us away from our heart. And so we grasp and cling and accumulate in order to placate our ego, rather than releasing these fleeting desires for a more relevant, universal understanding.

Heart Qualities

In the past I have written about the heart knowing truth. The heart knows truth, the ego ‘lies.’ The ego should motivate. The heart should guide.

Our heart is the most powerful, creative thing in the universe. Our heart can create any quality, or more of any quality that we want in our life. Think of it like this: A second child comes into your life. You don’t take love away from the first child and give it to the second… You create more love. Our heart creates more love!

In the same manner our heart can create any quality we want in our life. And cultivating heart qualities benefits not only us. As we become better, more discerning humans, our heightened awareness benefits those around us, and the universe, as well. When we become more heart-qualified so does the universe!

Live within the heart-centered space of the ‘Secret Universe.’ Meditate on the heart qualities you want in your life. Become those qualities as you create them.

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Interviews Podcast E14: Layla Halterman

Live your wildest dreams by making good choices…

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Enjoy interviews with inspiring and uplifting guests who share their insights into yoga, personal improvement and world transformation. We feature yogis, writers, musicians, teachers and visionaries from many fields who are reaching for the highest in human potential. The program is hosted by Sujantra McKeever, founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, CA.

Ep 14: Live your wildest dreams by making good choices. A fun and inspiring interview with teen-age yoga teacher Layla Halterman

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Is Yoga Broken?

The question asked: Is Yoga Broken?…

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There has been a great deal of talk and discussion about the current state and direction yoga is headed. The question asked: Is Yoga Broken?

Alanna Kaivalia, who we interviewed about a year ago for pyo.yoga and two other teachers, Tara Stiles and Anna Conversano chime in: (an interview by Jennifer Gerson Uffalussy.)

Read it here: http://yhoo.it/2ca4HFc

Leslie Kamanoff, in another interview with Pilgrimage Yoga online also weighs in on the future of yoga.

https://www.pilgrimageyogaonline.com/leslie-kaminoff/

broken_yoga1

… And here’s my take:

Yoga is a business. Whether you are an independent teacher, an employee or a studio owner, a non-profit or a for-profit, and ashram or a retail operation, it’s a business. There has to be a positive cash flow. The operation has to support itself; it has to have legs. And as we know, business practices can sometimes (or frequently) overlook, side step, disregard what might be deemed ethical, moral, virtuous standards. Yoga is no different.

The moral, ethical bar is set very high in the yoga world. The ideals and principles are clear-cut. The yamas and niyamas are solid and incorruptible. Derivation from these principles doesn’t corrupt them. It does, however, impact the overall impressions of the industry by the public. And it does impact the viability of the yoga business, in the long term.

Honor Before Profit

In the west, sadly, the capitalistic approach of business is predominately, ‘profit before honor,’ whereas, it is implied by its foundational principles that yoga should be based on, ‘honor before profit.’ This idea should be the foundation of all businesses. Sadly, it is not. We see plainly in our economy how profit is king, to the detriment of our people, the environment, the larger world, our vision of life… and the yoga industry is no different.

The yoga world has seen some big pundits go down in flames. In every case, the most fundamental tenants of yoga have been abandoned, violated. In every case, profit has been elevated above honor.

broken_yoga2

Buy Impulsively?

I recall reading an interesting article a few years ago on the marketing of yoga. The idea was that business marketing centers around the premise of getting people to buy impulsively; to buy what you don’t need, to buy things that are bad for you, to buy junk, to buy and then buy again… and the author suggested quite implicitly that “Yoga doesn’t have that problem.” I couldn’t disagree more! Just look at the yoga fashion industry. Look at the yoga merchandise industry. Look at the yoga brands. Even when a yoga ‘superstar’ goes down in scandal and disgrace, he simply re-brands himself and seeks to profit. And we throw ourselves and our resources at these personalities and products even when it is obvious there is something wrong. Make no mistake. Yoga and capitalism are like oil and water. They don’t mix very well, most especially in the absence of honor.

So what do we do?

Despite what we are led to believe, the consumer has the power. If we mindlessly buy crap we will only have crap in our lives. If we research about what we are buying we will become a more discerning consumer. And that’s what is needed, in yoga and in general. We need to be more mindful. We need to stop buying crap. When we do, the crap will disappear. A business can only survive if it has customers.

One of the biggest participants in the yoga fashion industry started in a garage. Now, most, if not all, of their product is made in china. We still pay the same high retail price while they exploit cheap labor explicitly for increased profit. They make lofty claims about, ‘giving back’ and ‘improving working conditions,’ but this pretty package of goodwill is generated by virtue of the exploitation of the foreign worker, the lack of opportunity for the domestic worker, AND the exploitation of the end consumer, you and me. And we tolerate it. The cost of producing a yoga pant in China is about 30 cents in labor. The retail price for the same pant is $70-80.00.

Yoga’s highest purpose is to build discernment in the practitioner. Yoga is so much more than just a workout. When we discern that we are being manipulated and exploited we should put ourselves in check. We should make a conscious choice ‘not to be deceived.’ We must make conscious choices of what to buy and who to follow. Yoga’s purity breaks down through the apathy of unconscious consumers.

Support the mom and pops. Steer away from the institutions. Don’t be swayed by deceptive marketing. Be a discerning consumer. Research your leaders. Choose wisely. Yoga isn’t broken. We are.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Follow Your Heart

When I was a teenager I remember someone told me, ‘not to follow my heart.’ This person was…

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When I was a teenager I remember someone told me, ‘not to follow my heart.’ This person was talking about love relationships and how our unbridled passions can perhaps lead us down the wrong path. It struck me as funny then, and now, that we blame our hearts. I have always felt that my heart is the place where love and truth reside. Maybe this person should have told me, ‘not to follow my ego.’

Our Ego is Unbridled Passion

Our ego (mind/body) reacts to stimulation from our senses and then makes suggestions… powerful suggestions; do this, do that. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Our ego drives us to action. But our ego doesn’t care much whether the action is appropriate, or not. At times, our bodies scream at us to act: to buy this, to eat that, to drink this, to have indiscriminate sex, to create recklessly… At other times our ego compels us to NOT act; to resist growth, to be fearful of change, to doubt ourselves, to be uncompassionate, to be irresponsible…

Forested Road

The heart drives the discriminatory function. If you take the time to look, you will find that your heart knows what is truth, what is good, what is honorable, what is appropriate, what is love. The heart is the center of the will and the will is what ultimately controls the ego. Or it doesn’t. How many times have you cringed after some act that you knew you should not have done, but did it anyway? How many times have you thought, “I can’t believe I just did that?” How many times have you thought, “I can’t believe I’m still in this job” or “this situation?” You’ve ignored your heart.

‘The will is strong but the flesh is stronger…’ (Paraphrase from Bible, Matthew 26-41)

Look to your heart. Don’t be afraid. Be strong. Don’t give in to the tempting ego. Let your heart be your guide, literally! When I walk into a room the first thing I want people to perceive is my heart. Not my clothes, my car, my wallet, my personality…

Project Your Heart

We recently interviewed Aubry Wilcher, a social media phenomena about her incredible life change (Aubry Marie on InstaGram). She worked for Apple for about six years and had a promising career. But then she decided to take a leap and follow her heart-bridled passion, yoga and meditation. Her family and friends thought she was crazy. But her heart got a hold of the doubting, fear inducing ego. She quit her job and embarked on a new path. She now has over 200,000 InstaGram followers and is a leading ‘influencer’ in the yoga industry.

Her message: Don’t be afraid to quit what doesn’t serve your heart in this life. Do what your heart loves. Don’t be afraid to fail… keep trying and keep growing…

The seven deadly sins are all ego-driven. The seven virtues are all heart-driven. Our heart has the only power over the ego. Our heart knows truth, compassion and love. Our ego will ‘lie’ to us. Our ego will relentlessly steer us toward maya, illusion, to keep us from living our ‘heart’s desire. Don’t let this be you. Follow your heart!

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Philosophy Podcast E40 – Nurture Oneself

How to nurture oneself. Exploring dimensions ourselves through health and wellness…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard. We hope you find an insight that truly hits home.

Ep 40 – How to nurture oneself. Exploring dimensions ourselves through health and wellness.

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Meditation Podcast E43 – Self Love

Learning to love oneself. Techniques for nurturing our deepest self…

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The Pilgrimage of the Heart Mediation Podcast is a recorded broadcast of Sujantra’s weekly Tuesday night meditation class held in San Diego California. Each week Sujantra introduces a new topic related to meditation and leads the class through various types of meditations including: visual concentration, yogic concentration, breathing techniques, chanting and much more.

Ep 43 – Learning to love oneself. Techniques for nurturing our deepest self.

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Who am I?

I have this identity. I am this person. I have this body. I have this story…

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I have this identity. I am this person. I have this body. I have this story… But deep down, when I slow down, I find that I have this other ‘me’ that I can’t really touch. I know it’s there. It’s very clear and yet, indefinable… ineffable, if you will. So I ask, “What is this?:” And, “Who am I?”

If you are currently practicing yoga, you have probably already come across this dilemma. In many respects, the recognition of this inner being is central to the practice of yoga. It’s called, “discovering your ‘true’ self.” In other words, we connect with the inner, indefinable, ineffable, untouchable part that we ‘discover’ is there, nebulously, veiled, secret, dormant. Who am I?

And then amazing and numerous Self-discoveries will be made.

Star Bud

Self-discovery

All of philosophy, spiritualism and religion have within the idea of Self-discovery. In fact, each considers Self-discovery to be primus, the principle purpose of life. Some doctrines would have you attain realization vicariously by devotion to a person, other doctrines, a concept. The grand idea, however, even if it is underlying, is that YOU must do the work. It is called ‘Self’-discovery, after all.

I like to think of my inner Self as being a spark of the universal. I consider how small my vessel is compared to the cosmos. And yet, I am a part of the vast cosmos. I am within it. I am not separate from it. And I was a part of the spark, the bang, if you will, that brought the cosmos into being. Every part of what is today was contained in that first spark.

Before time, I awaited…

Since time, I have unfolded…

When time ends, I will await again. ~the Author

Man and Nature

Science Breaks Down

It’s tough to swallow an idea that can’t be explained. Our intelligence only can take us so far… then intelligence breaks down. Science breaks down. What we have left is a miracle to be recognized, and to KNOW that the entirety is a miracle. It is a ‘knowing.’ It’s faith. It’s complete confidence. It’s something you feel and experience!

The imagery of the statue of Ganesha contains a beautiful example of our ineffable, inner being and how to reconcile with our physical knowledge. Ganesha is usually depicted with one broken tusk. Symbolically, the broken tusk represents the failure of intelligence on the physical plane to explain the ineffable nature of our origin and being; we have this inner Self that we can’t explain or touch. The unbroken tusk symbolizes that only faith can transcend the gap between the physical and the inner Self. In the end our intelligence fails to explain us… but we can ‘know.’ And that ’knowing’ is the basis for realization. It’s more than belief… It’s knowing! It can bring us peace; ‘the peace which passeth all understanding.’

The following quote points to this separateness thinking that confounds our efforts to find ourselves:

“There are hidden contradictions in the minds of people who “love Nature” while deploring the “artificialities” with which “Man has spoiled `Nature.’” The obvious contradiction lies in their choice of words, which imply that Man and his artifacts are not part of “Nature,” but beavers and their dams are.”

From Starship Troopers: ~Robert Heinlein

Peace

Children of the Universe

When we recognize that we are children of the universe, when we know that we are miracles, when we know that we are not separate, we are well on our way in the discovery of our true nature, our true Self.

Because I am a part of the universe, by the definition of Unity, I always have been and I always will be… Shanti, peace.

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Philosophy Podcast E38 – The Mind the Subtle Realm

Attuning your mind to the subtle realm.

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard. We hope you find an insight that truly hits home.

Ep 38 – Attuning your mind to the subtle realm.

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Meditation Podcast E41 – Love of Self

Sujantra discusses techniques for reconnecting with love of self…

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The Pilgrimage of the Heart Mediation Podcast is a recorded broadcast of Sujantra’s weekly Tuesday night meditation class held in San Diego California. Each week Sujantra introduces a new topic related to meditation and leads the class through various types of meditations including: visual concentration, yogic concentration, breathing techniques, chanting and much more.

Ep 41 – Sujantra discusses techniques for reconnecting with love of self.

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Philosophy Podcast E37 – What Matters Most

What is dearest to your heart? Exploring what matters most, and why. Let go of expectations…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard. We hope you find an insight that truly hits home.

Ep 37 – What is dearest to your heart? Exploring what matters most, and why. Let go of expectations.

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Philosophy Podcast E36 – Exploring Why

Exploring Why – Looking for change in our attitude and circumstances…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard. We hope you find an insight that truly hits home.

Ep 36 – Exploring Why – Looking for change in our attitude and circumstances.

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The Benefits of Singing in a Group: How Kirtan Affects the Immune System

Did you know that singing, especially in a choral setting like Kirtan, boosts the immune system?…

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Did you know that singing, especially in a choral setting like Kirtan, boosts the immune system? Numerous resent studies (also: google, singing+immune) suggest that singing in a group setting reduces the body’s production of the hormone cortisol, a hormone released during periods of stress or anxiety and which can cause systemic inflammations, effecting the optimal function of the body’s natural immune system and overall health. Further, studies show that singing promotes increases in cytokines, proteins of the immune system which enhance the body’s ability to fight serious disease.

Most of the studies revolve around cancer patients who are experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety coping with their ailments. Researchers found a number of changes in hormones, immune proteins, neuropeptides and receptors. Those with the highest levels of stress, anxiety and depression were seen to have the greatest overall benefits from singing in a group setting.

But let’s not think that only someone who is seriously infirm will benefit from choral singing (Kirtan). Taking good care of our immune systems will have long-term benefits for our overall health. In fact, biological evidence suggests that choral singing can have a whole range of social, emotional and psychological advantages to health.

The Icebreaker Effect

On a social level, studies have shown that singing in a group setting (vs. non-singing creative group activities like crafts or creative writing) produced the quickest social bonding among participants. The other non-singing groups eventually caught up in terms of bonding, but singing tended to bond the participants more quickly. The created connection through singing in a group is quick and strong. We can draw on each other’s energy in the choral setting to amplify our positive immune response more quickly.

Smilin Tom

I find this interesting because singing is considered somewhat extraordinary in our culture, whereby only those with talent, training or some ‘gift’ should participate. It seems to be socially acceptable, ‘not to sing.’ In fact, those who claim to be non-singers are the majority. So it might be said that our culture is somewhat ‘anti-singing.’ We even ridicule ‘average’ singers who express themselves (think karaoke). Not very good for our immune systems.

The emotions invoked through singing and music are as numerous as there are musicians. Exposure to a range of emotions through singing and music can enable us to seek out the pleasurable and beneficial emotions and to build on them within: compassion, joy, peace, generosity, forgiveness… immune system builders.

Psychologically, people listen to music to regulate arousal and mood, to achieve self-awareness, and as an expression of social relatedness. All of these motivations are valid immune system builders. Controlling our mind and emotions, uplifting our awareness and being connected to one another surely benefits our overall health.

A Musical Vitamin

Choral singing (Kirtan) has been demonstrated to have positive benefits on our overall psychological and physical wellbeing. But don’t think that you have to be sick to benefit. On the contrary, singing in a group is like taking a vitamin.

Give yourself an immune system boost! Come sing with us.

Pilgrimage of the Heart Kirtan. San Diego’s ONLY weekly Kirtan practice. Thursday’s at 8:30pm at Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga Studio. 3301 Adams Avenue, 92116

See the master schedule for Kirtan, Mindfulness, Meditation and Pranayama classes, and of course, over 80 yoga classes each week.

Here is one of our favorite videos from last year, the traditional Om Asatoma Sadgamaya. You can also find this and many others on our album Jai Ram Sita Ram available on iTunes and CDBaby.

Happy Holidays.

Tom

 

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Philosophy Podcast E34 – Emerson’s Brahma

Join a philosophical exploration of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s poem, Brahma…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard. We hope you find an insight that truly hits home.

Ep 34 – Join a philosophical exploration of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s poem, Brahma.

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Philosophy Podcast E32 – Spiritual Teachers

Finding the Key to your Spiritual Journey…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard. We hope you find an insight that truly hits home.

Ep 32 – Finding the Key to your Spiritual Journey.

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Philosophy Podcast E31 – Blake – Garden Of Love

William Blake’s ‘The Garden of Love.’…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard. We hope you find an insight that truly hits home.

Ep 31 – William Blake’s ‘The Garden of Love.’

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Philosophy Podcast E30 – Connecting with a Spiritual Teacher

Connecting with a Spiritual Teacher. How to connect with a teacher who is no longer living…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard. We hope you find an insight that truly hits home.

Ep 30 – Connecting with a Spiritual Teacher. How to connect with a teacher who is no longer living.

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Philosophy Podcast E29 – Karma

Karma – Exploring cause and effect in our thoughts and actions…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard. We hope you find an insight that truly hits home.

Ep 29 – Karma – Exploring cause and effect in our thoughts and actions.

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Philosophy Podcast E28 – Devotion: Plentitude

Devotion – Connect to the Inner Sun of Plentitude…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard. We hope you find an insight that truly hits home.

Ep 28 – Devotion – Connect to the Inner Sun of Plentitude.

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Philosophy Podcast E27 – Having Faith In Yourself

Having Faith In Yourself Is The Key To Spiritual Growth…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard. We hope you find an insight that truly hits home.

Ep 27 – Having Faith In Yourself Is The Key To Spiritual Growth.

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Music and Meditation

Kirtan is a meditation practice set to music. Yoga classes usually include music, either recorded or ‘live.’…

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Kirtan is a meditation practice set to music. Yoga classes usually include music, either recorded or ‘live.’ When we meditate before our shrines, we might incorporate some gentle sounds to help clear background distractions. However, we likely won’t be trying to meditate while playing raunchy hip-hop or Led Zeppelin, nor should we practice yoga while listening to hard-hitting genres, as they tend to distract our attention rather than focusing our practice. I tend to agree with author Binazir regarding music at yoga classes. In the same manner, I’m not a fan of teachers cracking glib jokes during yoga classes. When someone is in a challenging, balancing posture and a joke is made, laughter is an enormous distraction that can potentially result in injury.

We are surrounded by music. Every media source incorporates music: even print, by suggesting music through dance-like body postures. Listen to the music used in movies, TV shows, advertising, etc. It is so routinely incorporated that it almost is unnoticed, is subliminal. It’s intent is to affect us emotionally and to get us to act on those emotions. In certain examples music might be used intentionally for evil.

Music is a vital, necessary part of our being. Our very first sounds are ‘cries of joy’ at entering a new experience. Interestingly, the first sounds purported to be ‘song’ is said to have originated by man imitating the sounds of nature. In fact, the human voice was likely the first of man’s ‘instruments.’

Sunset

And there’s a concept called Motherese, whereby a gestating mother communicates sounds (vocally) and other vibrations (kinesthetically) to the fetus, who after the 20th gestational week is capable of hearing and feeling these vibration AND remembering the vibrational patterns. This helps in the development of language and higher cognitive functions.

Music gets a pretty mundane place in our modern world. We’re so used to carrying music around with us on our little devices. We have music at our fingertips. We can put a thousand songs on a device no bigger than a postage stamp. Music is relegated to mere background noise to block out the irrelevant clutter of input and stimulus, but also to camouflage our heart’s yearning for something deeper, hence the propensity for discordant lyrics.

Music, for thousands of years was solely a performance art. There was no ‘recording,’ save for the record impressed upon the heart. Only within the last hundred years has music evolved into a canned art form. Families of old would gather in the evening around the fireplace and sing together. There was no TV, no radio, no other opportunities for ‘entertainment.’ And in some cultures, music was principally relegated to spiritual, existential thought, hence Kirtan, a gift celebrating existence.

Kirtan is one of the only events where individuals can walk in the door and sing. It’s an open invitation. There is no audition, no preconceived requirements. One simply shows up. And by its design the practice intends to provide a vehicle by which one can elevate their soul to the highest of heights. Singing, dancing, coupled with pure, soulful thoughts can fundamentally change the way we see the world and our place in it. And that is its purpose. To allow our true nature to grow, upwell and become again. Your becoming benefits the world.

Our Kirtan offerings include two CDs and our regular practice every Thursday evening at 8:30pm in Normal Heights. Sing, dance and make new friends. And please note: There will be NO KIRTAN on Nov. 24th (Thanksgiving).

See the schedule to find Kirtan, meditation, pranayama and mindfulness classes offered at Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga Studio. And be sure to check out Pilgrimage Yoga Online, our huge community resource.

Happy Kirtan!

Tom

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Removing the Cloud of Doubt

Our emotional and mental states, as well as our physical condition, all affect the way we breathe…

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Conscious Breathing

Yoga teaches us that mind, body, emotion and breath are all intertwined. Our emotional and mental states, as well as our physical condition, all affect the way we breathe. The good news is that it’s a two-way street. The way we breathe affects our emotional, mental and physical condition as well, so we can positively influence all three by conscious breathing. Being conscious is the key. Without conscious self-awareness, we’re powerless and at the mercy of internal and external conditions.

Of course, there are times when we gladly limit our self-awareness. Sometimes we decide, consciously or unconsciously, to turn our self-awareness off so we can mindlessly enjoy intense sensations; but we do this at great risk. Willfully subverting or disregarding our awareness can become a dangerous habit. Surprisingly, we often deal with suffering and pleasure in the same way. We willfully limit our awareness. Many use intoxicants or drugs, not only for physical and emotional pain, but for entertainment as well. We accept very limiting states of mind for the sake of intensifying or blocking sensations.

Flower Petals

We invoke mental and emotional states in much the same way, with or without the use of drugs. Self-pity, for instance, can be seen as an attempt to minimize or ‘normalize’ pain by rejecting hope and adopting a numbing concept of ‘fate.’ As an outside observer, it is easy to see how futile this approach is. It is more difficult when the process is internalized and we are observing ourselves; but the ability to be self-observant is our best defense against a host of dangers… if we know how to employ this skill.

Breathing is an autonomic function of the body. We breathe unconsciously but by becoming conscious of our breath and consciously practicing breath techniques, we can realize the great healing power of breath. The beauty of yoga is that through regular practice we grow, by a very natural and pleasant process, into greater states of self-awareness. Becoming aware of and learning to control the breath is one of the principal teachings of yoga. If you would like to explore the yogic science of conscious breath, you can follow this link to an introductory talk and some simple breath exercises: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jrAEr8EiK64#t=18. With practice, you will be able to invoke positive mental and emotional states to replace negative ones, increase your enjoyment of life and alleviate much discomfort and suffering through conscious breathing.

Building Self-Confidence

My teacher, Sri Chinmoy once wrote this about the mind, “The function of the mind (in one’s spiritual practice) is to remove the cloud of doubt.” He went on to say “We all know that the mind plays an important role in our outer life as well as in our spiritual life. Therefore, we must not disregard the mind, rather what we should do is be always conscious of the mind.” So, we need to be conscious of our own thoughts and feelings, of our habits of thinking and a variety of other personal influences as well. This is self-awareness.

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A critical practice for the development of self-awareness is meditation. When you’re sitting quietly and breathing calmly, you become aware of your mind’s movements and the factors that influence it. But don’t try to control your thoughts or stop thinking, just put a little distance between yourself and your thought processes. Being able to look at your thoughts objectively is a big first step toward deeper self-awareness. Regular meditation and conscious breathing will enable you to remove what Sri Chinmoy calls, “the cloud of doubt” from your life.

What is doubt? If we examine the word, we see that the word ‘doubt,’ like ‘darkness,’ refers to an absence of something rather than to a thing in itself. Darkness is the absence of light. Doubt is the absence of self-confidence or faith. Sri Chinmoy used to say faith in God and faith in oneself is the same faith. You cannot have faith in God if you lack confidence in yourself. To have faith in the meaning of your life is to have faith in God, regardless of how your mind defines or denies, perceives or fails to perceive, ‘God.’

Our life problem is not to discern between systems of belief, but to establish a deep and abiding confidence in ourselves. Faith-confidence nourishes and empowers; doubt starves and debilitates. Thus, Sri Chinmoy says the true purpose of the mind (like every other organ) is to strengthen and support the life force within us. The mind does this by removing self-doubt from our life.

One of the best health practices for the mind is allow it to relax and become quiet for brief periods of time. Hours of sleep do not provide all the rest the brain needs. The brain never attains a deep state of quietude in sleep. In skilled practitioners, a few minutes of meditation can do what hours of sleep cannot – deeply relax and refresh the mind. Unlike sleep, meditation requires practice but once this discipline has been established, we will realize the many benefits that come from regular meditation. One benefit will be the growth of self-knowledge and self-confidence as the ‘cloud of doubt’ is gradually removed from our lives.

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How to Deal with Irritability

My teacher, Sri Chinmoy, often spoke of five levels of consciousness: the physical consciousness, a vital consciousness…

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“True happiness lies in the finding and maintenance of a natural harmony of spirit, mind and body.” — Sri Aurobindo

Harmony for the Whole Being

My teacher, Sri Chinmoy, often spoke of five levels of consciousness: the physical consciousness, a vital consciousness, a psyche or heart consciousness, a mind consciousness and a soul consciousness. Recognizing these components of oneself can be very useful in our spiritual journey. One such time is when we feel the need to manage our inner life. By ‘managing’ I mean moderating or controlling thoughts, emotions and habitual behavior. A good way to approach the problem of negative habits is to ask ourselves from what consciousness does it arise? We may discover more than one consciousness is involved. For instance, irritability may arise in the physical consciousness due to discomfort of the body, in the vital consciousness due to repressed or over used energies, in the heart due to emotional failings or disappointments, or in the mind because of mental confusion. In the case of irritability, one place we can be sure it does not arise is in the soul consciousness, for the soul is that clear and flawless perception that is beyond human disturbances. It is the soul that recognizes a disturbance as something that needs correcting.

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The Body

If we can identify the source of our irritability we can begin to effectively deal with it. Let us begin with the body consciousness. A common cause of irritability in the body is lethargy. The body is naturally lethargic, and when our lethargy is disturbed irritation arises. The way to control this common problem is to keep the body energized by regular exercise and a variety of different activities. That will minimize stagnation and lethargy in the body consciousness. A regular yoga practice can stabilize and bring a very peaceful and harmonious energy to the body consciousness.

The Vital

Exercise also keeps the vital consciousness fresh and flowing in a positive manner. The vital has a profound influence on both our physical and mental health. Recent research has shown that vigorous exercise may be the most effective medicine known to man, as it prevents or corrects a host of health issues. Exercise neutralizes anger, depression, and other negative energies that send the vital into a downward spiral, where frustration and irritability will be the inevitable result. It is important to understand that irritability is not always the result of outer causes. Vital stagnation and irritation can easily be caused by negative thoughts and emotions or by any unhealthy practice that has become habitual. 

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The Heart

As our vital energy goes, so goes our heart and mind, for they are closely tied to vital influences. The heart may faire a bit better than the mind under a negative influence, for the heart consciousness is more closely connected to the soul. It has an all-important counter-balance to disturbances arising in the lower nature. Still, the heart is not immune to negative influences. To be happy and in communion with others are fundamental desires of the heart. Self-giving is the essence of the heart consciousness. When we give of ourselves to others for the benefit of others, without expectation for self-gain, the heart is both gladdened and strengthened. The heart requires no elaborate medications or procedures, the simplest every day acts are what matter most to the heart.

The Mind

Sri Aurobindo referred to ‘vital-mind’ as the prevailing consciousness of our age. If we look at modern culture, we see ambition and desire gratification framed as the reward for being ‘smart.’ ‘Wisdom’ rarely enters the conversation, as the heart has been bypassed and almost forgotten in the ethic of our age. This, according to Sri Aurobindo, is a tragic mistake that could become fatal for the human race. Wisdom is a function of heart and mind in balance and working together. Ambition and desire are to the mind like sugar to a child. Unfortunately a heartless intelligence lacks both balance and wisdom. The vital-mind consciousness does not want to believe that true life satisfaction requires the mind to be in the service of the heart. To use ones intelligence in the service of selfless love and compassion is the best medicine for the mind. Another is to learn meditation. Meditation puts the vital-mind connection on hold and gives relief from the constant demands and expectations of the vital-mind consciousness. It brings a deeper and wiser perspective to our life.

The Soul

The soul consciousness is pervasive throughout the body, vital, mind and heart, but ironically it is imperceptible to physical awareness. So intangible is the soul, it is sometimes thought of as a ‘witness’ rather than a participant in our life. Spiritual masters, however, have assured us the soul can be realized and that it is the true and proper guide for our being. Even if soul awareness is for the moment beyond our ability, we can increase our awareness of the other four levels of consciousness and we can cultivate health and happiness through that awareness. Proper maintenance of body, vital, heart and mind are as essential to our happiness as happiness is to knowledge of the soul.

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Kirtan and Dance

Just as a person who is extremely happy may spontaneously sing and dance to express their special pleasure…

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Kirtan and Dance are Intertwined

The Bhakti tradition in Hinduism is very clear about dance. Dance is a part of the spiritual experience. Dance is an integral part of the overall Kirtan experience.

“Just as a person who is extremely happy may spontaneously sing and dance to express their special pleasure, in the same way the Supreme Lord performs all actions to express His consciousness, which is perpetually in a state of Supreme Bliss.” ~Brahma Vaisnava Sampradaya

When We Dance, We Embody the Supreme State

In the Dvārakā-māhātmya (Skanda-Purana) the importance of dancing before the Deity is stated by Lord Krishna as follows: “A person who is in a jubilant spirit, who feels profound devotional ecstasy while dancing before Me, and who manifests different features of bodily expression can burn away all the accumulated sinful reactions he has stocked up for many, many thousands of years.”

In the same book there is a statement by Narada wherein he asserts, “From the body of any person who claps and dances before the Deity, showing manifestations of ecstasy, all the birds of sinful activities fly away upward.”

Just as by clapping the hands one can cause many birds to fly away, similarly the birds of all sinful activities which are sitting on the body can be made to fly away simply by dancing and clapping before the Deity of Krishna. – Quotes and Commentary from Nectar of Devotion

https://www.amazon.com/Nectar-Devotion-Complete-Science-Bhakti-Yoga/dp/0912776056

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Body, Mind, Spirit Align

Embodied cognition, the theory that the body reveals the nature of the mind can be seen in the following: Consider the mosh-pit verses an intentional, spiritual expression of dance. The former involves chaos with no spatial awareness, no empathy for others and no attempt to mirror or unite with a common awareness. Conversely, dance of a spiritual nature involves complete awareness, resembling a verbal language with vocabulary (dance movements) and grammar (system for combining movements) where each moment becomes a supreme expression of mind/body/spirit Unity.

Karen Pechelis states that the word Bhakti should not be understood as uncritical emotion, but as committed engagement. She adds that, in the concept of Bhakti in Hinduism, the engagement involves a simultaneous tension between emotion and intellection, “emotion to reaffirm the social context and temporal freedom, intellection to ground the experience in a thoughtful, conscious approach”.

~Karen Pechelis (2014), The Embodiment of Bhakti, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195351903, page 3

In any form of meditation the way involves awareness. Meditation is not mindlessness; it’s not emptiness, save that we empty ourselves of the extraneous. We fill our spirit with our Creator. We express our devotion through our bodies, our minds and emotions and we realize the bliss that is the perpetual state of the Supreme. Ecstatic dance becomes a spontaneous expression with a singular platform: Complete, joyful, blissful, unifying awareness.

Consider also the output. When we dance we create vibrations. Just as with everything else, the ‘quality’ of our vibration is our own. Do we wreak havoc in the mosh-pit bringing chaos to the universe? Or do we create beauty and joy by our physical expressions, dedicating them devotionally to the whole? What do we contribute by our dance?

We are Musical Instruments!

Dance is as music is. Each is a language. Each can only be an individual expression (even in a group setting). Each is sublime. When we combine song and dance we open ourselves further to a greater unifying principle. Dance is the letting go of inhibitions so we can more fully express our gratitude, our joy and our freedom.

There’s a fun little saying and it goes like this: ‘When we are old enough to talk, we are old enough to sing. When we are old enough to walk, we are old enough to dance.’

Bring your best dance (and your voice)… and a friend to Kirtan on Thursday nights at 8:30pm. We are made to dance and sing.

Additional reference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychology_of_dance

Check the schedule here for Kirtan, Meditation, Mindfulness and Pranayama classes.

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Invocation: Call it Forth

Take invocation to a higher level. If we want something in our world…

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Take invocation to a higher level. If we want something in our world, our lives, we must become what we want.

What is an invocation? What does it mean: to invoke? All spiritual traditions have invocation in their practices. How can the act of invocation deepen our spiritual practice and bring more joy and happiness into our lives?

As a Kirtan practitioner we recite, invoke the divine names, set to music. Through this invocation practice we replace the clutter of random mind chatter with a singular thought, a divine thought. We bring our attention and concentration to that thought. Yet at this level of invocation there is still a sense of separation between us and that which we are invoking. The next step is an actual merging with that divinity. We become that. Like a drop of rain falling into the ocean of singularity, we are our invocation. This type of becoming is central to deepening our practices and also in actually manifesting what we want in our lives.

If we want more love… practical applications:

If we want more love in our lives, we must first become more loving. We must manifest that desired quality from within. We must show more love to ourselves… first. If we want more peace in our lives, we must first find more peace in ourselves. If we want more affection, we must become more affectionate… first. It really doesn’t work the other way around. It can’t be demanded. These divine ‘heart qualities’ do not come from outside of us. We can’t buy them. They are within our hearts and are longing to come forth. Invoke them.

“…In My Name.”

In the Bible, Jesus uses the expression, “…in My Name,” many times. Pray in My Name. Gather in My Name, etc. What does He mean by that expression? I believe He means for us to invoke His spirit and become as He became.

The dictionary defines invocation as a calling upon of some agent for assistance. We can expand that definition more spiritually by saying that an invocation is to seek greater connection to the divine: to become One, to merge.

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What would Jesus do?

(This phrase has been used rather commercially by Christian variants but the underlying essence of the question is sound.)

I often ask myself this contemplative, self-reflective question. It helps me to deepen my awareness.

How would Jesus pray or meditate if He were I, in my given situation? Consider this! What would be his thoughts were my immediate circumstances His? I challenge myself to pray as if I am Jesus. I try to meditate with His knowledge, His understanding, His discernment, His compassion and love, His closeness… I pray as I feel He would pray. I try to absorb His perspective. This is what I believe is meant by His expression, “…in My Name.” I invoke the spirit of Jesus to guide me in my meditation of becoming. I try to become Christ-like.

So, when we invoke, the ideal is to become that which we invoke. We can invoke the Supreme or an aspect thereof. We become a divine trait.

Wikipedia categorizes invocation with ‘Self-identification,’ “…the taking on of the qualities being invoked.” Webster’s defines it like empathy; “The feeling that you share and understand the problems or experiences of someone else,” in our case, the Divine. Self-realization might be a more familiar term.

Invocation is also described as a form of possession, where (perhaps) psychologically one’s personality is replaced with that which is invoked. I like to think of this more as a merging, a union, rather than a replacing. Nothing can be replaced, where one thing no longer exists. We transform into our invocation. We reunite with the Whole.

Invocation calls up from within ones-self that which is already there, veiled as it were, the subject of our invocation. Our meditations are designed to thin or strip away the veils of maya, forgetfulness, our delusions so that we can develop a rapport with our invocation, or perhaps ultimately an oneness, a lasting Oneness… we become One in the Name.

We can take our meditations another leap forward by becoming the nature of our invocations.

Happy meditating!

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Inspiration from a Spiritual Retreat

I always return from them feeling refreshed and inspired, and I have asked myself why this is…

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I recently returned from a 2-week spiritual retreat in New York. These retreats were originally run by my spiritual teacher, Sri Chinmoy, who moved from India to Queens in 1964 and they have continued without interruption ever since. Over the years Sri Chinmoy has attracted thousands of followers and disciples, many of them attend his retreats. I’ve been going quite regularly for the past 35 years and I always return from them feeling refreshed and inspired, and I have asked myself why this is.

Sri Chinmoy

The Teaching

For one thing, it’s always nice to get away from my daily routine. Attending spiritual retreats reinforces three needs, which are fundamental to spiritual growth. The first is to have a teaching to follow. For this, it is not necessary to have a living teacher. My teacher passed way in 2007, but I still find inspiration at our retreats and wisdom in his writings and in the life example he set for his disciples. A spiritual teaching is a code or set of higher values that guide your life. It’s good to keep focused on your higher values and spiritual retreats do just that.

Community

A second fundamental is community. We need similarly inspired companions. When Ananda, Buddha’s relative and close disciple, asked him about the role of friendship in their practice, the Buddha replied that spiritual companionship was the ‘whole of the spiritual life.’ We live in relation to others. If those others are have a like spirit and inspiration, you will run swiftly toward your goal, because spiritual friends will support you in your spiritual practice. Spiritual retreats and yoga retreats offer the experience of spiritual community and one may make lifetime friends there.

Peace Run Friends

Aspiration

The third essential element of spiritual practice is personal effort, or ‘aspiration.’ Aspiration puts our inspiration into practice. Aspiration expands our capacity and our insight in a way that inspiration without effort cannot. Aspiration transforms inspiration into life experience. There is a quote from my teacher that goes something like this, “People are willing to do anything for enlightenment, except work for it.” How sadly true!

Manifest Our Inspiration in Every Circumstance

But how do we put inspiration into practice? This becomes a difficult question if we overlook the countless opportunities every day life presents. We imagine we need special circumstance to manifest our inspiration, when all we have to do is just start loving where there is too little love, encouraging those who are discouraged, giving of ourselves without expectation of reward or return. These kinds of actions consecrate our life and open doors through which our inspirations can spontaneously manifest. We don’t have to create special conditions; we just have to make the effort within our present circumstance. The value of the ‘special circumstance’ of a spiritual retreat is that it reminds us we have what it takes to manifest our inspiration in every circumstance.

Find your Teaching

One perspective on the spiritual life is that it is just perfecting these three fundamentals: our devotion for understanding and following a dharma (teaching), of harmonizing with a community of inspired persons, and of successfully managing our energies so as to maximize our aspiration and inspiration. To jump start your spiritual journey, here are some suggestions: Look for the teaching or teacher that deeply touches your heart. It is not to agree or to like, so much as to fall in love with the teacher’s soul, his or her inner sincerity. If you have a teacher then you have a teaching. Without the teacher, seek the teaching that most inspires your heart, then do your best to understand and follow.

Find Community

Finding a community that resonates with you may be a bit more daunting. Before I discovered the Sri Chinmoy Centre, I engaged about ten different spiritual paths, some like Christianity, quite extensively. First efforts are not always successful – ‘Seek and ye shall find.’ – If you keep on seeking. Don’t give up! Continue seeking and let your deep heart decide the matter. The mind is enamored by first this and then that philosophy. It likes excitement and charisma. These ‘shiny’ things may prove to be unreliable.

Cultivating Personal Effort

As for cultivating personal effort, that follows naturally from having a goal in life. Of course, we have countless ‘goals’ that are usually just momentary desires. A goal that will increase your life energy and make every effort a joy will arise only from a truly spiritual inspiration. You will know it when you feel it, for it will strike your heart and resonate with a tone that is ‘perfect pitch.’ Until then, get to know your heart more intimately. Meditate and don’t wait for an epic inspiration, work on the everyday variety. Giving value to small inspirations will cause great inspirations to seek you out.

Giving value to small inspirations will cause great inspirations to seek you out.

Cultivate these three fundamental principles: Follow a teaching, practice within a community and everyday make an honest and sincere effort. Do these things to uphold your spiritual practice and your practice lift you to heights you did not think possible.

 

 

 

 

 

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Devotion and our Existence

When we meditate, when we chant Kirtans, one of the things we are doing is expressing our devotion…

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When we meditate, when we chant Kirtans, one of the things we are doing is expressing our devotion to our Creator. Devotion might be the supreme aspect of our meditation practice. There’s a longing. We want to experience our existence fully. We work towards a Oneness. We strive devotedly, lovingly, longingly to be nearer to our Creator.

Creator is an ineffable concept. So each of us will consider the concept in our own way. But just like a parent/child relationship, we have a child relationship to that Creator. And we want that relationship, even if we don’t realize it. We want that love. We long for it.

Devote yourself to your practice

As I have said before, I practice (meditate) first thing in the morning. In my first waking moments my thoughts are of my practice. I’m drawn to it. I want that closeness; I build and nurture that relationship out of love for my life, my experience and my place in the grander scheme. I devote my practice to my loving Parent. I give thanks. I grow love.

Life is a miracle!

Devotion to this concept is perhaps only possible when we set aside our limited physical selves and recognize our relationship in the bigger picture. We are a part of Creation. We are able to view the past and see into the future more precisely than at any time in recorded history. And yet we often feel an emptiness with this greater knowledge. It seems that the deeper we explore our physicality, the further we move away from our true source.

Tom

Consider sitting quietly with your beloved, just holding each other. No other intentions or activities; just BEING together, becoming as one. Consider wanting that closeness daily, being fully in love, without reservation, without expectation, without condition, completely absorbed in the devotion. Now, consider that relationship experience with your beloved Creator. We have to make this happen. We must sit together, wrapped in each-others arms… Our separateness conditioning continually turns our attentions away from our true oneness-self. Devotion, love takes resolve. It requires practice. It’s easy to be separate…

Uncertainty?

Consider the very nature of the universe.

There is a concept in physics called the ‘uncertainty principle.’ Simply put, it means that when you observe something in motion (everything is in motion), the more closely you observe the objects position, the less you will know about the objects speed and visa versa. But you can never know exactly both.

The science behind the concept is deep and permeates the entirety of physics. Philosophically speaking, the idea can relate to our concept of duality. Despite the advance of our instruments and our ability to closely observe, we still have no cut and dry explanation of the nature of our universe or why we are in it. There is an uncertainty. It might be said that the universe both is and isn’t. It seems to me that the more closely we observe the universe, rather than disproving Creator, Creator simply gets bigger. Love grows!

Uniting the dual qualities is a fantastic spiritual (and mental) challenge. On a physical science basis I will never understand the math. But I can relate to the concept. We are separate from AND also connected to our Creator. Devote yourself to the recognition of this miracle-Oneness. Devote yourself to your practice. Develop certainty.

Check the schedule for Meditation, Kirtan, Mindfulness and Pranayama classes offered each week at Pilgrimage of the Heart.

Join me at Kirtan on Thursday’s at 8:30pm

Tom

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Mantra, Sound and Music

Let us venture into the mysterious and beautiful world of mantra, sound and music…

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Sound Life, Sound Existence

Let us venture into the mysterious and beautiful world of mantra, sound and music. At every moment we are surrounded by sound. It fills our ears and vibrates against and within our bodies. It comes from other human beings; it comes from animals and insects, from rivers and machines. From the six directions it manifests in wind and water, fire and earth. Our ears are filled at every moment with the music of existence and the mantra of being – but do we listen? Do we truly listen?

A koan is a Zen riddle or question that has, or seems to have, no answer. There is a famous koan: “If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound?” In other words, if not heard, can sound be said to exist?” The question can be extended to all phenomena: If unperceived, can anything be said to exist?” It can even be extended to our awareness of life: “If I fail to perceive the music that surrounds me, do I really exist?”

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When the earth’s music moves us deeply, it is because we have heard in it something more than a noise. A mother hears her baby cry in the night… is it just a sound? No, to that mother it her very own life crying out voice of her child. Love, passion, joy and sorrow, consciousness and delight are all present in life and in life a constant symphony. We know this, but do we really hear it this way, when we walk down a city street or listen to a friend? Do you hear your life in the music of this world?

Music, sound and mantra can be employed in our spiritual practice to develop and expand our awareness. It has been so used for thousands of years. When our awareness is deepened we can become intimate with the inmost consciousness of our being. In that being we discover we really do exist and that there is not the thinnest membrane between ourselves and the universe! Now close your eyes and listen to the sound of these Tibetan bells. Listen with your whole awareness to the perfectly clear presence within the sound. Listen to it as it fills the room. Listen to the presence of sound as it slowly fades away. When you are listening, think of nothing else but listening, let the sound fill you as it does the room. As it fills you, it fills infinity, the earth and sky, the heavens and the cosmos beyond, but who is listening?

AUM Life, AUM Existence

We are not always fortunate enough to have Tibetan bells or a beautiful instrument to listen to… Do you believe that? You should never believe that, because you are the most beautiful instrument in the entire universe and its most celestial tone is always vibrating within you. This tone-sound is the mantra AUM. You are the manifestation of this mantra; you are nothing but the celestial sound AUM.

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Now watch and listen to the video of “AUM” chanting. Now, chant with the video or on your own. Listen to the sacred sound of your own being. When the first vibration of AUM begins to form within us, we experience our being as it originally was coming into being. As the sound of AUM rises to its full pitch, we will feel our existence as fully established in the world. When we feel the sound of AUM fade to silence, we will feel ourselves fading, fading into the unmanifest and intangible root of our eternal being – the perfect silence that abides in the core of AUM. This is the high and wide, the deep and universal, seed sound of our existence. In truth all sounds are but an echo of AUM, all beings but the physical manifestation of AUM.

We can end our chanting, but we are always vibrating with the energy of AUM at a subtle level. Never stop listening to the music of your inmost existence. If you hear AUM within yourself, you will become refreshed, you will recover your clarity of mind, peace and harmony will returned to you, and a new confidence will magically energize your life. This is the power of AUM, the beauty of AUM, the divinity of AUM, and it is your power, your beauty and your divinity as well, for you are nothing but the celestial music of AUM manifesting in this world.

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The Master Key

It’s not often that someone says, “Here is The Master Key.” In fact…

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It’s not often that someone says, “Here is The Master Key.” In fact, ninety-nine times out of a hundred it might be regarded as a fool’s statement, akin to claiming enlightenment. It seems ridiculous that someone might have the Master Key to the ineffable.

I found such a claim to The Master Key

It comes from what I consider to be a reliable and well-considered source, Manly P. Hall.

Our task as yogis, as humans, is to put effort into mindful consideration. We meditate. We slow our busy, frantic activities in our outer world and delve into our inner world. We seek our place in the universe. As we progress, we recognize the concepts of Unity and diversity of Principles and particulars, of Generals and personalities. And this is key: we begin to realize that men come and go, live and die… but Man, the Principle continue in the universe and even beyond, by evidence of Man’s presence here and now as a part of eternity. Eternity is wholeness. We always were and we always will be.

Mistaking particulars as Principles

We have great tendency to equate or elevate particulars to the status of Principles, a fallacy. Religion is an obvious example. Each claims supremacy over the others and yet each teaches the same thing. St. Paul understood it perfectly: “For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect (Unity) is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.” (I Cor. XIII: 9-10) The Christian church would have that ultimate unification of mankind under it’s own banner, unmindful that it is itself a particular, and can only be sustained until “that which is perfect is come.” Unity, Wholeness is without parts.

Manly P. Hall

What is the Master Key, then?

The key is the aligning of our consciousness, by establishing our mind in wholes, in unities, rather than particulars. This is The Master Key!

“…the establishment of the mind in wholes (unities) is essential to right thinking, and is the master key to the rational cognizance of the order and sequence of parts…” — Manly P. Hall

As long as man considers himself an individual, he is mortal. The key is the mindful consideration of Unity.

Excerpted quotations from the volume, Lectures on Ancient Philosophy, Chapter 12, by Manly P. Hall.

I highly recommend the above book and also Hall’s marvelous volume, The Secret Teachings of All Ages, published by The Philosophical Research Society, Los Angeles.

Check the schedule for times and locations of meditation, philosophy, mindfulness, pranayama and Kirtan at Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga.

 

 

 

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Taking Risks: How A Good Support System Allowed Me To Open My Own Yoga Business

I was very fortunate to do my yoga teacher training at Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga.(POTH)…

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by Brentan Schellenbach

I was very fortunate to do my yoga teacher training at Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga.(POTH)

From the moment I walked in the doors I always felt at home. I quickly fell in love with every yoga class and every teacher. I absorbed with fascination everything my teacher training mentors brought me. I started meditating with Sujantra, going to philosophy class and joined the kirtan band (aka yoga music) on Thursday nights. It was yoga studio heaven for me.

The Big Move

But alas, I was 22 and adventure was calling—it was time for me to go beyond my comfort zone and move to Chicago.

When I moved, I was eager to explore the yoga studios and find what I expected to be POTH equivalents in the Midwest.

By my third year living in the city, I was working as a yoga teacher full time—teaching 25 weekly classes at nine different locations around the city. Some studios had massive infrastructure and were well-oiled machines, others were smaller boutique studios run by a one-man-band owner-manager-lead teacher.

But there was still no Pilgrimage. Now I’m sure many students have found their yoga home in Chicago—their cherished studio that claims all their love and loyalty and affection—but it just wasn’t there for me.

But what was I to do? I had already invested three years in Chicago building relationships with students and studios, and I was finally paying my bills with money I earned teaching yoga.

Additionally, I had a wonderful musical partner named Oli, who I met as a surrogate for Sujantra’s kirtan band that I was missing in San Diego. Not only had he and I written and recorded our own kirtan album, but we had also fallen in love—a love that was founded on self-inquiry, creative expression and philosophical pondering.

Me and Oli

Me and Oli, one of our many dinner-time toasts after a long day of one of our many projects.

Shortly after Oli and I started our romantic relationship, he started coming with me to my evening classes. Sometimes we would stay after class with students deep in conversation about yoga and life and God. But there was still a sense that something was missing—a community, a home, a family. We wanted something more than the fragmented moments before and after yoga class—we wanted friends and teachers who infiltrated every aspect of our lives.

Fermata Yoga Center

This is why we opened our own yoga studio in Chicago.

As first-time business owners, we had a lot to learn. We recruited all the help we could find, including Sujantra, who helped us remotely establish our metrics for evaluation and success. We learned the simplest of things, like what it means to rent space commercially, or develop a relationship as a business entity with other businesses. We learned about balancing our creative ambitions with the needs of the market, how to advertise, how to represent the business publicly.

In a lot of ways, Fermata Yoga Center was a success. After two years we were on a steady upward sales trajectory (and en-route to make a profit in our third year), our word-of-mouth had kicked in and was yielding new students every day, and our operational processes were running smoothly.

But there were still a few problems. Neither of us had really grown to love the city—we had tried even to the point of opening our own business, but it still didn’t feel like home. We were also meeting many traveling yoga students at the studio from all over the country who confided, “If only your studio was in my town, I would come everyday.”

Saturday morning live-music class

Saturday morning live-music class at the studio. Oli played ambient guitar and his looping machine while I taught a slow flow class. Our most popular class on the schedule by far!

We felt so silly owning a business in a place we didn’t really want to live and only be able to offer our services to those who magically lived in a four-mile radius from the studio.

We had some big decisions to make.

After two years, we decided to close the studio. The heartbreak was palpable for everyone involved, but we wanted to move back to California (closer to what I still consider my home). We also wanted to move our business online so that budget, time and distance was no longer a factor in whether people could practice with us.

And that’s where we are now.

Yoga In Your Living Room

We just launched the new leg of our business, called Yoga In Your Living Room, which is an online yoga platform that brings high-quality yoga into students’ homes. The site features a Free Videos section, updated regularly, which is full of diverse content. It also features an annual membership that unlocks what we call Premium Videos, which are specialized classes filmed on location that target more specific body and mind goals. And because we know how important it is for students to feel listened to and connected to their yoga teachers and each other, we’ve incorporated multiple communication platforms in the site (blog, commenting, social media) for friendships to emerge and flourish.

Yoga In Your Living Room

We are excited to offer this to our Chicago students as an extension of the yoga studio they fell in love with and to grow our client base all over the world. We’re looking forward to offering more diverse products like teacher trainings; retreats; clinical yoga programs for depression, anxiety, PTSD; and meditational therapies.

Most of all we are excited to be home in California, to settle our roots and be present for the ever-changing Now.

I am so thankful for my unparalleled education at Pilgrimage of the Heart, which inspires me to keep practicing, learning and growing as a yoga teacher and student. And I’m also thankful for the community—for Sujantra, Nikole, Linda and all the staff and students—this is the support that makes me feel comfortable taking risks, becoming independent and walking my own sometimes terrifying path in life.

I am blessed and I am home.

Brentan

 

 

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Stepping Out of Our Unproductive Patterns with Meditation

We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them…

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merry-go-round

Photo by Wonderlane, License.

 “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”—Albert Einstein

Meditation Lifts Us Out of Mental Patterns

This quote from Albert Einstein sums up the practice of meditation. We often get trapped on a merry-go-round of emotional or mental patterns. How do we use our mind and awareness to lift us out of our patterns?

It’s a challenge that I face every morning. I usually make some tea before I meditate, stretch a little bit, then I go sit down where I practice meditation and as soon as I sit down I start to think about all the things I am going to have to do that day. My mind automatically goes to thinking, projecting ahead, looking at issues and thinking of different approaches to challenges I face. There are times when 10-15 minutes go by and, although my intention was to practice concentration and meditation, I realize I have just been lost in thoughts. I am just going around and around in the same thinking patterns.

The Deluge of Thoughts

That’s when I realize I need to do something different. I need to do something other than focus on my own mind in order to pull me out of the deluge of thoughts. That is when I pick up a book of my teacher’s writings and start to read poems that he wrote. My teacher embarked on a project to write 77,000 poems and he passed away just as he had finished 50,000 in this series. They are short aphorisms or phrases that have a lot of content to them. They are nice strong statements about life challenges, spirituality, meditation, inner growth, the mind and the heart. I start to read those and after several of the poems I start to get out of my patterns and lift up to a higher dimension. Once I’m there, then I can begin my meditation.

Short Songs and Mantras

Another technique I use is singing. I either sing out load or mentally. At musical meditation each week we teach and practice short songs and mantras that are great for meditation.

candle

Another thing I often do if I find I am just drifting around in thought is a candle meditation. I have a candle that I light when I meditate and if I realize I am just going around and around in thought I will hold my eyes on the candle. This is a really effective way to calm the mind and halt thinking. Our eyes automatically move as we think but if you hold your eyes still, it’s a way to physically hold your mind. By concentrating on one thing it forces my mind to be still. Then I chant OM out loud so I can hear myself and bring my mind fully into the practice.

Challenges With My Mind Racing

Since we all have the same basic mental structure, I believe that everyone has to deal with something akin to my own difficulties in quieting the mind. You want to be sure that wherever you are sitting and practicing your meditation that you have a nice candle or flower you can use for visual concentration. It also is beneficial to read the writings from an illumined teacher so you can concentrate on writings that are sure to inspire and uplift your awareness. I have practiced meditation for over 35 years yet still daily face challenges with my mind racing. The difference between 35 years ago and now is that I now know I can pull out of those mental patterns, whereas 35 years ago I had no idea that there was a way out of my own thought patterns.

Opening Your Heart

Rising out of your patterns can also mean opening your heart or going into deeper transformative emotions such as compassion, gratitude and unconditional love.

In the practice of meditation it is important to have enough humility to reach out for that thread or lifeline that can lift you up, whether it’s a mantra, beautiful music, a candle or a flower. It’s imperative to realize that the same state of mind you’re in is not the state of mind that can move to a higher consciousness. You have to do something or allow something to happen to your mind by focusing on the mantra or a phrase or listening to music and to that adding a level of intensity as if your life depended on it.

desert_creek

Each time you move into that higher consciousness, assimilate the experience; impress it upon your awareness so you can remember what it feels like to be in an elevated mood. This will help you return there next time.

—Sujantra

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Philosophy Podcast E26: Karma

Explore the concept of Karma and how to negate ‘Bad Karma.’…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard. We hope you find an insight that truly hits home.

Ep 26: Explore the concept of Karma and how to negate ‘Bad Karma.’

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Simple Living, Through Simple Wakefulness

Lets face it, the act of waking up in the morning is not uncommonly experienced as an uncomfortable thing…

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by Greg Steorts

Lets face it, the act of waking up in the morning is not uncommonly experienced as an uncomfortable thing. Those among us who find it to be a generally easy thing to bounce out of bed like an energized toddler on Christmas morning, might be in the minority. But the form of ‘wakefulness’ this essay is about, is not actually the sort I reference above, though the above example serves as a fitting metaphor for the brand of wakefulness I’ll address here. ‘Wakefulness’ as I intend to mean it here, is being defined as a product or result of employing one’s own capacity for calm critical thinking, mindful observation and one’s own capacity to simply feel. While these may at first sound like simple things, a great many of us have allowed these capacities to atrophy in ourselves, to one degree or another, and I propose that modern culture in the developed world has become a key factor in the facilitating of our inability these days to simply stop and take occasional conscious notice of the otherwise unbroken chain of moments of which our lives are comprised.

Little Room for Individual Interpretation

We have become, in a very real sense, products of the culture in which we live; where dominant social and environmental prompts shape our general responses to the stimuli around us. The official definitions of things and how we’re ‘supposed’ to relate to them, is so often laid out for us in bold type and prominent voice, leaving little room for individual interpretation; at least the sort that might be granted mainstream credibility. Media input offers itself as a prime example of this. It masterfully short-circuits the individual’s own inclination to draw their own conclusions, both boldly and subtly laying-out the parameters within which the subject, article or position is being slickly sold to us. Culture’s architects, (e.g. Madison Avenue, all facets of mainstream media; peddlers of information, social memes and pop entertainments, et al), are best served by a populace that unquestioningly partakes of, and assimilates its manufactured concepts and wares with little to no consideration as to both the overtly and passively inferred philosophies or positions within which they are framed. Culture’s main thrust, after all, is to encourage us to climb onboard the ‘ride du jour,’ whatever it may be, for this is what keeps the wheels of industry rolling.

Disdain of Culture’s Offered Trends

The space of wakefulness I refer to here, and the appreciation for the simplicity it can ultimately spawn, is not one that requires any disdain of culture’s offered trends, products or promoted philosophies, but rather only the presence of mind to simply allow one’s conscious awareness in relationship to them, to reside within the deepest recesses of their own moment-to-moment space of feeling, independent of culture’s peddled stimuli, medications, and all manner of distractions and ‘anesthesias’ (figurative and literal) which serve to pull us away from our own sense of self within the hive society. The ‘simplicity through wakefulness’ I’m speaking of here, is one achieved by the act of simply being willing to unplug occasionally (or better yet, regularly) from culture’s ceaseless flow of stimulus, long enough to allow oneself to truly feel whatever it is that may lie beneath the stratums of content culture so eagerly fills our minds and heart space with. For many of us, even the notion of a ‘heart space’ may ring as something too esoteric to be meaningful, so long have we been disconnected from it by our longstanding immersions into the sensory stimulations to which I refer. The ceaseless and torrential flow of input has become a boisterous child that will not be ignored, we its negligent and enabling parents. Living in the ‘information age,’ as we now do, with technology and its devices serving as the virtual hub upon which our day-to-day lives spin, it has effectively served to dislocate us from a more visceral, human-to-human connection, from our own sense of individualism, as well as a lack of connection to oneself.

Meditators

Sitting Quietly with Do Distractions

No doubt about it, it is not fun to feel uncomfortable emotions, and it is always an easy thing to bury a low-current hum of discomfort with the distraction of a movie, a phone call, a video game, or to check-in with our online social network of choice to see how many people ‘like’ us. Sitting quietly with no distractions has become an alien concept for us, and the notion of simplicity too has become a thing of virtually no relevance. The rapid-fire images of TV programming, commercials and film content, have entrained our minds to overlook, even shun, the simple and uncomplicated, in favor of that which grabs attention with authority. It has become all too easy to look right past open spaces and the relevance of calm reflection. Take notice of how every television commercial and program utilizes an almost universal presentational format; a rapid-fire-flow of incessantly-shifting images. Gone is the camera’s lingering gaze upon the talking head or scenery. Instead we are confronted with flash-fire images that linger for no more than a second or two, and then make way for the next, and the next,… this is nothing less than mental entrainment, teaching us to expect and tolerate only quick sound bytes and millisecond images, to forego focused and prolonged attention on anything or anyone.

Instant Gratification and Perpetual Stimulus Now

We seek instant gratification and perpetual stimulus now, and if we have to spend even a few moments with ourselves and our deeper undercurrent of emotions in a space of quiet, it is considered a nearly intolerable thing, though few bother to articulate this, for to do so would require the lost mindfulness I here refer to. What would we do with ourselves if we didn’t have our phone screens to gaze into while standing at a street corner waiting for the light to change, or wandering a shopping mall, or riding an elevator? We’ve allowed ourselves to become trained to loathe a calm space of mind. I can palpably feel the cashier’s frustration in the air, as he or she is forced to stall their own motion and wait for me to count out my change, preferring instead to simply add more to my already burdening collection of coinage and have me move on so that they may serve the next in line.

Mind you, I don’t speak as one completely liberated from a state of impatience, for I feel it on the road when I am driving; too frequently hostile to the notion of simply being patient with the person ahead of me who I deem ‘too slow’ in the executing of their turn. I know what it’s like to feel in a hurry for no good reason, to feel those uncomfortable feelings of an unspecified nature and want to cover them over with a moment’s distraction. But I have grown even more uncomfortable with the frenetic vibration our culture imposes upon us as a fact of life now, and I clearly recognize the dissonance this flood of sensory stimuli is causing us in our ability to simple be, without doing, to actually listen to the person who is talking to us, rather than merely prepping our next words in our minds as they speak.

Plant Light

The Regular Practice of Meditation

I’ve taken to the regular practice of meditation over the last few months, and in so doing have gained a stark awareness of the connection between an endlessly whirring mind and the emotional state of dis-ease to which it gives birth. I have come to appreciate the spaces in between the stimuli, the capacity to become present to the silence in which all noise resides; that universal context within which all of life unfolds.
Take a moment and truly listen to it, deeply. You might have to search at first, but it is there. Can you hear it? You will recognize it because it has its own sound; not dissimilar to the super ultra-high-pitched tonal frequency heard in those hearing tests we’ve taken. Now become aware of your breathing, allowing yourself as you do, to get in touch with the feeling within your own body; it’s aches and pains, its fatigue and weight, its pockets of stress or muscular constriction and where they reside in your physicality. Keep breathing as you explore it; deeply, slowly. Just observe the incessant flow of random thoughts parading through your mind as you do this, but just let them all pass by, without clinging to any of them. Now feel your emotional space. If you had to articulate where in your body its epicenter resides, where would you point to? Are you feeling relaxed, or is there a current of anxiety there? Breathe as you feel this. Allow yourself to truly feel your inner space of being. Let whatever is there move through you with your every breathe, taking conscious note of what it is like to feel. I promise, it won’t destroy you. In fact, it will relax you, and it will release you from the grip of stress if you do allow yourself to feel it. Practice this regularly, and you will notice your points of focus and priorities start to shift, in both subtle and profound ways. You will become aware of how certain stimulus informs your emotional state, and if you remain committed to exploring those inner spaces of thought, feeling and emotion, you will regain your appreciation of calm space and simplicity again, and you will learn to appreciate your own individual sense of self that’s likely been buried beneath the vibratory resonance of the ‘bee hive’ – that virtually incessant voice of modern culture. What I am inviting you to here, is a process of exploration, not a singular event. So be patient with it, and remember; none of culture’s stimulus is going with you when you depart this world, but it’s possible that your sense of self just might.

G.

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Bhakti Yoga at Pilgrimage of the Heart

Bhakti Yoga is the yoga of emotion, bliss and devotion; devotion to Creator, creation and our place in It…

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Bhakti Yoga at Pilgrimage of the Heart

Bhakti Yoga is the yoga of emotion, bliss and devotion; devotion to Creator, creation and our place in It. Bhakti is one of the four major aspects of the yoga path, the others being Jhana spiritual self-study, Karma, the yoga of (selfless) service, and Raja or Royal Yoga the mystical reunion with the Creator thru meditation practices and lifestyle. All are paths to enlightenment (see the Bhagavad Gita (I personally recommend the Arnold translation). These four traditions have each their own chapters. Any or all of these paths are available to the practitioner.

Pilgrimage Audience

Kirtan at Pilgrimage of the Heart

Kirtan is a legitimate and valid part of the Bhakti tradition. It is a chanting, devotional practice centered around the singing of the Names of the Creator. As a practice it reminds us of our origin and ‘Maker.’ The distractions of our lives often will veer us away from higher truth and firmly root us in a purely physical mindset. Kirtan elevates us to the more spiritual realm as we sing and chant devotions to our Creator. It reminds and motivates us to look more frequently at the subtleties of our existence. It’s truly an avenue to a higher mindset.

I’ve looked at the demographic of our Kirtan practice. I find it interesting that most of our participants do not practice yoga (Hatha, Asana, etc.) nor are they members of the Pilgrimage of the Heart yoga studio. We have attracted a large following from outside, some of who have been attending regularly for years, which to me is fantastic. I am inspired by the high level of awareness of our participants and I am committed to bringing relevance and meaning to our practice for them.

But I also find it interesting that we draw less that 1% of the members of our studio to our Kirtan practice on any given week. That’s a little troubling. Not that I am complaining… our Kirtan is in the top 10% of all classes attended at Pilgrimage and has been for years! I just wonder why our members don’t take greater advantage of this incredible offering.

A few years ago an anonymous, lovely soul posted this comment about her first Kirtan experience. It brings a tear of joy to my eyes that we can bring such a joyous and meaningful experience to someone from our humble practice. Truly, my hope is to have Kirtan generate this type of experience for all who attend, every week. So I repost this in hopes that I might motivate our members to join with us. We want you. We need you. We are here for you! Kirtan is a heart-opening experience… and an eye-opener, too. It’s bigger than the sum of its parts!

Join us on Thursdays at 8:30pm in the East Room.

“I will never forget my first week at Pilgrimage of the Heart. I was immersing myself in yoga – I took a week off work and had a “stay-cation”. . . practiced 2-3 times a day, meditated, hiked; basically created my own little yoga retreat on the cheap. Of course I had to try out the Thursday night yoga philosophy class and musical meditation double header. What I learned that night has been a foundation for many of the decisions I have made over the past two years.

I couldn’t even tell you exactly what ancient text we were reading from in the philosophy discussion. However, the main point being made was this . . . Life (or the universe, or God — put in your entity of choice) will ALWAYS give you what you ask for. However, many times it will be presented to you in a way you don’t recognize at first, and often in a form which is scary. So, do you run away from what you want because it scares you, or do you accept what life/the universe/God is offering?

This idea stuck with me as I shuffled my way into the east room for music meditation. I was expecting an hour of gentle music as I breathed in inner silence. Ha! Instead, I got an hour of chanting. Drums, harmoniums, a guitar? It was fantastic. And kind of weird. A whole room full of people shaking noisemakers and chanting “Hare Krishna!” This was pretty far outside my comfort zone. I mean, come on. . . what would all the non-yoga people in my life think if they saw me now? And then it hit me. I had been looking for a place to sing for a long time. I love to sing. I mean, this is a love the runs deep to the core of my being. It’s a visceral love that I’ve felt my whole life. For a while I had toyed with the idea of joining a church choir, even though I don’t follow any particular religion, just to sing with a group. And there I was. Singing with a group. I felt a joy I hadn’t experienced in years. And it was scary.

I almost cried when I realized how immediately this lesson was being presented to me. It was a big moment. I decided then and there that I would keep going to music meditation. I have to keep singing, and I also have to investigate why I was so scared of such an amazing group of people. Why was I so concerned with what others thought? Where had I picked up all of these judgments, and why the heck would I keep holding on to them?

That lesson has come back to me many times, guiding me to make decisions that have clearly changed my life. Each time I actively choose to take what life has to offer, no matter what it looks like, I find myself deeply grateful for the way things unfold. It’s funny how sometimes we think life just isn’t working out the way we want it to, but it always seems to end up exactly how it should be.”

— Author unknown

 

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Karma

“My own gratitude heart is all that matters.” — Sri Chinmoy

When we meditate we create a surface upon which we can build…

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Karma

“My own gratitude heart is all that matters.” — Sri Chinmoy

When we meditate we create a surface upon which we can build a platform of stability, where gratitude and compassion can be the grounding sources of our causalities.

I’ve been thinking about Karma and it’s meaning. In simple terms, Karma is the law of cause and effect. Our causes (thought, word, deed) have effects on others (positively or negatively). Those causes we create are ‘recorded’ on our personal ledgers, so to speak, and we are responsible for the effects.

What we do after we create a cause is important.

But Karma should not be regarded only by the effect our causes have on others. More importantly perhaps, karma should be regarded as the effect our causes have on ourselves. Common references to this concept include: ‘An eye for an eye,’ ‘Live by the sword, die by the sword,’ ‘What goes around comes around.’

Dominos

I’ve developed a personal mantra:

The only thing in the entire universe that truly matters is my own personal ledger.

Karma is what we have done to ourselves. Karma is ‘Life-Lesson’. Every day we have to deal with the effects created by others. How we deal is our own. Our response creates good or bad Karma for ourselves. But the causality belongs to someone else, in this case.

But when we create a ‘cause’ the responsibility is all on us. It goes on our ledger.
(Our response to the effects of other’s causalities goes on our ledger, too.) Our ledger contains our causes and our response to causes created by others.

Wayne Dyer Quote

50,000 years from now the only thing that will have mattered is our own life’s record. Everyone that we have ever helped or hurt will be dead. Nothing will have mattered to anyone. Only your own life’s record will matter. And it only matters to you.

What’s on your ledger?

Is your record black… or red… or is it the purity of white? I’ve found that in this life there are but a few lines, which once crossed, cannot be uncrossed. We have the capacity to fix our wrongs. We can correct the karmic influence. We can rewrite our ledger… mostly. We can take responsibility. We can do better. We can learn and grow. We can create the causality of repair. We can move forward in a positive, compassionate manner from this point forward, while we work on our past discrepancies. We can apologize. We can forgive… We can forgive ourselves!

It can be rightfully said that we are in control of our life experiences. We have the capacity to choose: to choose to create with compassion and gratitude and to respond with compassion and gratitude. No one can influence our choice. It’s up to us. We may find ourselves in less than desirable circumstances; circumstance beyond our control. But how we respond affects our karma, our ledger.

I try to consciously remember the truly miraculous nature of life. We are so distracted by the attraction to form, to stuff. We literally identify ourselves with our possessions, rather than our heart, the place where discernment lives. Our lives are true miracles. We’ve lost sight of the miracle. We are more than just the memory of our bygone possessions. We are miracles beyond the capacity of our language to define. Life is a miracle! It’s not commonplace! We are still the ONLY life that we have positively identified in the universe (conspiracy theories, not withstanding). That realization should generate a degree of gratitude. In fact,

“My own gratitude heart is ALL that matters.” —Sri Chinmoy

Coming from a place of gratitude and compassion for our miracle-life enables us to create peaceful, loving causes. Gratitude enables us to respond positively even to negative causality. And it gives us the insight to go within ourselves and correct our causal mistakes.

Open your ledger. Look carefully… and be constantly aware…

Pilgrimage of the Heart offers Pranayama with Lauren, Mindfulness with Joe, Meditation with Sujantra, Papaha and Astika and Kirtan (chanting) with Tom, Sujantra, Sita Rose and ‘Fast Heart Mart’ every week. Check the schedule for times and dates.

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The Diaphragm: A Link the Conscious and the Subconscious

Last week I discussed the link between breath and heart and I gave you an exercise to gain greater awareness…

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Last week I discussed the link between breath and heart and I gave you an exercise to gain greater awareness and control of this subtle correspondence. This exercise can be utilized during a variety of meditation practices.

Here is another link in the chain.

 Consider the diaphragm.

The diaphragm is a muscle and a membrane, which separates the lower abdominal region of our bodies (intestines, kidneys, liver, etc.) from the upper thoracic region, the area with our heart and lungs. The diaphragm is the main motor mechanism of the breath.

Inhale. Exhale.

Simply, when we inhale the diaphragm moves downward, decreasing the pressure inside the lungs compared to the outside air pressure. It creates a vacuum: air rushes in.

When we exhale the diaphragm moves upward, putting pressure on the lungs; increasing the pressure inside the lungs compared to the outside. Air rushes out.

And so, as you know, our subconscious, autonomics control the diaphragm… mostly. When we control our breathing through our practices we are consciously taking control of our subconscious diaphragm. The idea is to be able to recognize and feel the diaphragm as the mechanism you are controlling.

yoga_breath_lg

 

Everything you do with your breath centers around the diaphragm.

And to me, here’s the cool part: When we consciously recognize the diaphragm as we meditate and control it, the diaphragm becomes a bridge between the conscious and the subconscious: a very powerful meditation! It’s like having one foot in each world.

Sit and breathe. Feel your heartbeat. Then add the diaphragm link. Connect your conscious and subconscious. This creates an atmosphere of mindfulness which permeates into your overall life experience. And that’s what we want: More mindful, more of the time.

Sit down. Be still. Take a deep breath and feel your diaphragm descend!

Pilgrimage of the Heart offers Pranayama with Lauren, Mindfulness with Joe, Meditation with Sujantra, Papaha and Astika and Kirtan (chanting) with Tom, Sujantra, Sita Rose and ‘Fast Heart Mart’ every week. Check the schedule for times and dates.

Happy breath, one and all!

Tom

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The Foundation is Breath and Heart

Let’s develop breath/heart awareness!…

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With each and every breath I live on my heart’s God-altar.” — Sri Chinmoy

 

Let’s develop breath/heart awareness!

We take fore granted this thing called breath. We inhale and exhale a substance called air. The mechanics of this breath process are almost entirely autonomic: controlled by the subconscious. In fact, until we slow down, stop and direct our awareness directly at our breath, we don’t even know we are doing it.

Here is an exercise that helps focus our awareness, our consciousness, on our breath and heart. You don’t have to be a yogi for this to work for you. Very briefly:

As you sit, bring your attention to your breath. Notice yourself breathing. Let your body breath… FEEL it. Then, consciously slow your breath down a bit: Breathe a little more deeply, exhale a little more fully, don’t strain… take control of your breath process. Direct your consciousness, your awareness on your breath. Stay focused. Stay steady.

igor

Then when you are ready, inhale nicely and hold your breath… don’t strain, try and feel your heartbeat. You might have to do this a few times. Once you get a feel for your heartbeat by holding your breath, begin your controlled breathing again as you continue to feel your pulse. Feel both. Stay focused!

As you continue to breathe, feel your pulse. Notice that you can feel it radiating out from your heart to your extremities. Feel your pulse in your belly, under your arms, in your hands, your legs, your feet. Then feel your pulse down to the cellular level. Every cell, every corpuscle pulsates. Feel it!

This technique is useful in all of the above practices. I wrote about it very briefly. Take your time. Slow down. To feel this subtle process requires stillness… and repetition. Inevitably, you will be able to feel the link between heart and breath, continuously. Have patience, my friends and practice.

Pilgrimage of the Heart offers Pranayama with Lauren, Mindfulness with Joe, Meditation with Sujantra, Papaha and Astika and Kirtan (chanting) with Tom, Sujantra, Sita Rose and ‘Fast Heart Mart’ every week. Check the schedule for times and dates.

Happiness, one and all!

Tom

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A Dreamer’s Dream

I came to earth as thirsting soul, to pitch my wishing-coin into this matrix pool…

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‘A Dreamer’s Dream’

by Greg Steorts

Big Tree Big

 I came to earth as thirsting soul, to pitch my wishing-coin into this matrix pool, offering my cellular contribution to those myriad interference-patterns and high-pitched frequencies which frustrate the crazy metronome of tick-tock constancy.  I carry this mad torch for truth, drawing the occasional prickly glance beneath knitted brow, kindly offending those ‘fine sensibilities’ so dear to the pillars of dust-laden culture.  I still secretly dare to nurture those long-held fantasies too often denied, those smooth warm daydreams conjured by the classroom window, as the teachers talk their humdrum spells.  I feel that luscious and lovingly furious force of Nature, holding Herself patiently at bay in the wings, looking upon us all with such a dazzling gaze.  I feel that exotic species of metaphysical intervention, teasing to descend from above and ascend from within, threatening to explode as Divinity’s orgasm into the torrid fields of matter, as a fierce meteor of white hot Light, promising to displace all fluid time from this infinitesimal pond of quantum particles we all call ‘home.’  Then I stop and catch myself, remembering again, as I have before, that I’ve merely fallen asleep beneath this friendly ancient tree, and dreamt a dreamer’s dream of otherness; a world that never really was. 

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Philosophy Podcast E25: Evolution And Transformation

Exploring imagery and circumstances for personal growth…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard. We hope you find an insight that truly hits home.

Ep 25: Exploring imagery and circumstances for personal growth.

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Meditation Podcast E26: Evolution And Transformation

Meditation techniques for change and personal growth…

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The Pilgrimage of the Heart Mediation Podcast is a recorded broadcast of Sujantra’s weekly Tuesday night meditation class held in San Diego California. Each week Sujantra introduces a new topic related to meditation and leads the class through various types of meditations including: visual concentration, yogic concentration, breathing techniques, chanting and much more.

Ep 26: Meditation techniques for change and personal growth.

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Philosophy Podcast E24: Yoga Sutras I : 12 – 16

Exploring the deeper reality of self and mind…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard. We hope you find an insight that truly hits home.

Ep 24: The Yoga Sutras I : 12- 16: Exploring the deeper reality of self and mind.

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Philosophy Podcast E23: The Power of Surrender

Sujantra explores Sri Chinmoy’s 1974 poem about the power of surrender…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard. We hope you find an insight that truly hits home.

Ep 23: Sujantra explores Sri Chinmoy’s 1974 poem about the power of surrender.

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Meditation Podcast E25: Surrender

Enjoy these techniques to open your heart and awareness to the vast Universe. Includes music from Jhallika…

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The Pilgrimage of the Heart Mediation Podcast is a recorded broadcast of Sujantra’s weekly Tuesday night meditation class held in San Diego California. Each week Sujantra introduces a new topic related to meditation and leads the class through various types of meditations including: visual concentration, yogic concentration, breathing techniques, chanting and much more.

Ep 25: Enjoy these techniques to open your heart and awareness to the vast Universe. Includes music from Jhallika.

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Philosophy Podcast E22: Yoga Sutras I 12 – 15

Practice and non-attachment are the keys to progress…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard. We hope you find an insight that truly hits home.

Ep 22: Practice and non-attachment are the keys to progress.

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Interviews Podcast: Richard Rosen Transcript Part 3

Wow. It’s so great to speak with someone who can elucidate these subtle spaces so well…

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The Yoga Dana Foundation

Sujantra: Wow. It’s so great to speak with someone who can elucidate these subtle spaces so well.

Let’s talk about your foundation. We’ve graduated about 150 yoga teachers from our studio here in San Diego and for me, it’s so inspiring to see people excited and inspired to teach in studios or to take their teaching out into the world. We have a recent graduate who has MS and she teaches yoga to MS patients. You have the Dana Foundation. Can you tell us about that?

Yoga Dana

Richard: We started out as the California Yoga Teachers Association, a non-profit organization that owned Yoga Journal. The Board of Directors had a hand in running the magazine. Eventually Yoga Journal got into a little bit of financial trouble so we sold it to a man named John Abbott, who was the white knight in shining armor that came in and saved Yoga Journal. He’s done quite a nice job over the years to build it up while keeping it true to the yoga tradition. Then he sold it. The California Yoga Teachers Association had kept a percentage of Yoga Journal so when John sold it we would get some money as well. We invested that money and we now have money to give away every year. The IRS tells us we have to give this money away. We have an application on our website for towns in the Bay Area. We’ve given money to cerebral palsy center and the Piedmont yoga community, the organization that supports teaching to disabled students and cancer survivors, we’re giving money to a gentleman that works at San Quentin prison to teach yoga there, and a Parkinson’s yoga class that I used to teach but have since turned it over to a friend. We’re supporting teachers who teach in prisons, jails, low-income, homeless, disabled, abused teenagers, you name it and we’ve given money to these organizations.

PYO

Sujantra: Wow, that sounds like fantastic work and you’re touching thousands of people a year.

Richard: I don’t know about thousands, but certainly hundreds! The teachers go out and work with a number of community health centers, elementary schools. We have a program that is teaching yoga in San Francisco high schools.

Sujantra: Congratulations, that’s amazing.

Richard: We’ve been doing this for over ten years and we’ve given away over $1 million.

Sujantra: That’s what the world needs more of.

Richard: We were talking in our last meeting about trying to find ways to promote this movement and make it more nationwide. Modern yoga, which is very different than old yoga, is very inclusive. Old yoga was very exclusive. Our goal is to bring in as many people as we can no matter their physical state or financial situation.

Happy Yogis

They All Go Home a Little Happier

Sujantra: You mention the whole range of underserved populations, yet they are all benefitting from the practice of yoga. How can yoga help someone who is homeless, imprisoned?

Richard: It’s different benefits for different groups, I’d say. For instance, people with Parkinson’s, yoga helps alleviate the symptoms. It’s not a cure-all for Parkinson’s but they all go home a little happier than when they came in. People in prisons or juvenile hall they learn to deal with their emotions a little bit better. Some of the people in health centers do benefit from some of the health benefits of yoga so it really depends on what the population is.

Sujantra: One of the things I notice here at our studio is watching the students who have been coming for a month or two and you can observe their breathing is calmer, their posture is better and that just flows into any problems they’re dealing with. It sounds like you were right there at the ground floor when Yoga Journal was happening.

The Potential of Yoga

Richard: Yoga Journal was started in 1975 by my friend, Judith Lasater. I came on the board of California Yoga Teachers Association in 1990 so I wasn’t exactly on the ground floor.

Sujantra: Okay. But you’ve seen the growth of yoga and I’m wondering what you see happening in yoga over the next ten or fifteen or twenty years. What do you think the potential is?

Richard: The potential is enormous but it depends on how the people of this country direct it. I think there are two streams. There’s an exercise stream which is perfectly fine, I have no objection to that. It just makes people healthier physically which has a precedent in traditional yoga. There’s a text saying that if you do this practice your hair will be black again, your belly will be flat, you’ll…

Sujantra: Be as strong as an elephant.

Elephant

By Mister-E (Angry elephant ears) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Richard: Right. I don’t remember which book it’s in but it states that if you look like Kama and you’ll be irresistible to the opposite sex. (Laughs.) That didn’t work with me, but…(laughs). Hopefully there’s another stream that I see with people becoming more. The yoga in this country is in its early stages. We usually credit Vivekananda for bringing yoga to this country in 1893 but that’s just not really true. He brought a form of meditation. Hatha Yoga didn’t really come and get established until the late 1940s when Indra Devi came and opened a studio in Hollywood. So basically, we’ve had yoga in this country for 60-70 years which in relation to the 2500 years in India, it’s a blink of an eye.   We are the yoga babies right now lying in our crib wiggling our fingers and toes. The people who are teachers now, and the students who are coming through these yoga trainings, have a huge responsibility and will to a large extent help determine the course of yoga in this country and in the West. We will have to see what they do. Hatha Yoga is incomplete right now. It had to be altered in certain ways to make it more accessible to a mass audience and I think there are some things that are missing in the practice that need to be added to it to make it a more transformative practice. What those things are, I’m not exactly sure, but it’s something that everybody that’s becoming a teacher right now needs to think about.

Sujantra: One thing I see in our teachers is how they incorporate meditation, pranayama, the yamas and the niyamas in their own classes. Even when people are just coming for the purely physical. The student body is becoming more aware of the other dimensions.

Richard: I hope to say one thing that the yoga sutras is such a widely read book that there is a misconception that there are only five yamas. There are actually thirty or forty yamas, including compassion and bravery and things like that. I think there should be a greater awareness of those other yamas more than just truthfulness and non-harming.

Yoga FAQs

Sujantra: You’re working on a new book, “Yoga FAQs.” Is that something you’re going to touch on?

Richard: I’m really feeling bad about taking so long to complete this book. (Chuckles.) I’ve given Shambhala every opportunity to dump me. (Laughs.)

Sujantra: How long have you been at it?

Richard: I’m not quite sure, but more than a year that’s for sure. It feels like a long time. They’ve given me several extensions. They’ve been very generous. They really want this book written. I’m plugging away. I’m sitting here at the computer right now and was working on it this morning before you called. This is a book of questions about yoga. There’s a chapter in there about the sutras, hatha yoga, Sanskrit, modern yoga and more. I’m plugging away, let’s just say that.

Sujantra: On behalf of all the other yogis out there, I want to say thank you for everything you do to spread yoga, share it with others and help to keep yoga on track in America.

Richard: Thank you. It’s been very nice to talk with you.

Sujantra: Thank you so much for joining us. To all our listeners out there, I encourage you to read Richard’s books and if you want more information on the Yoga Dana Foundation you can find it at www.yogadanafoundation.com and also on our website www.pyo.yoga in the resources section. Thank you again, Richard, I really appreciate your time.

Richard: Thank you very much.

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Philosophy Podcast E21: A Delight Beyond Pleasure

Exploring the philosophy of Sat-Chit-Ananda…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard. We hope you find an insight that truly hits home.

Ep 21: Exploring the philosophy of Sat-Chit-Ananda.

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Interviews Podcast E11: Jodi Komitor

Sujantra and Jodi talk about teaching yoga to children, the importance of a daily practice, and owning a yoga studio…

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Enjoy interviews with inspiring and uplifting guests who share their insights into yoga, personal improvement and world transformation. We feature yogis, writers, musicians, teachers and visionaries from many fields who are reaching for the highest in human potential. The program is hosted by Sujantra McKeever, founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, CA.

Ep 11: Sujantra and Jodi talk about teaching yoga to children, the importance of a daily practice, and owning a yoga studio.

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Interviews Podcast: Richard Rosen Transcript Part 2

In looking at your books, you have so many different exercises and types of pranayama…

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The Authentic Breath

Sujantra: In looking at your books, you have so many different exercises and types of pranayama and yet at this time in your own practice you now mostly observe your breath.

Richard: Yes. That’s exactly right. I’ve come all around, full circle. I’m back to the beginning again. I think it’s important to establish what I call the authentic breath. Parkinson’s has an effect on breathing too. I don’t know what the word is, but it shortens you in the front of the torso so it makes full deep breathing difficult. So I use my breath as a way to pry open the front of my chest. I am trying to pry things open a bit more by using the breath.

Sujantra: You use the term “authentic” which makes me think of rather than using an outer state, you use an inner state.

Richard: Well, it’s breathing that has a minimum of resistance and effort. A lot of my students have restricted breathing in one way or another whether it’s because of posture, tension and other things too. Before you start a pranayama practice you have to let go of a lot of those obstacles to breathing.

PYO

Sujantra: In my meditation classes here in San Diego, I teach that breath, body, mind and emotions are all intertwined.

Richard: Yes, of course.

Sujantra: When you say  the restricted breath it makes me think that maybe these restrictions could be mental or emotional.

Richard: Yes, there are all kinds of restrictions nowadays.

Sujantra: In your students, you see the restrictions in their breath and by helping them clear their breath you are helping them clear other things that you probably can’t even see.

Richard: Right. Sometimes they don’t want to be cleared (laughs). There is resistance and sometimes it gets pretty difficult for some students. The body holds emotions. When the breath triggers some of those emotions to the surface there can be some very unpleasant experiences. You have to be very careful how you teach breathing. I don’t think a lot of people understand the transformational power of the breath.

Deepen Their Pranayama Practice

Sujantra: If someone is going to asana classes and they’re enjoying some of the simpler pranayama practices, how do you recommend they deepen their pranayama practice without crossing that line?

Pranayama

Richard: Well, you have to watch yourself very carefully when you breathe. You have to make sure your emotional state is not being disrupted. In the old books, they say your mind should be sattvic before you even begin a pranayama practice.

Sujantra: For our listeners, sattvic means…

Richard: Clear, calm, quiet. You have to be very careful when doing pranayama practice. You don’t push yourself beyond reasonable limits. You can push yourself in an asana class if you want to touch your toes or whatever you want to do. Pushing yourself in pranayama is certainly a bad idea because it can bring up some very unpleasant experiences. You have to watch yourself. Over time if you have a bad day, you can just turn the page after that. But if you continue to have bad days over and over and over, then that’s something deeper and you should talk to a teacher about that.

Sujantra: I see. In terms of your pranayama practice, if you have one bad day then that’s okay, but if it occurs time and time again, then that could indicate something and you should speak to your teacher about that.

Richard: Right. Over time if your practice isn’t feeding you, making you happy, then there’s something wrong and you need to figure out what that is rather quickly.

Yoga Class

 

Complete Yoga

Sujantra: At one of the studios where you teach, your class is called Complete Yoga. Could you describe that class?

Richard: At this studio they don’t put levels up so they want the teachers to describe their classes and that’s what I came up with. The idea behind it is that I don’t just do an asana class.  All of my classes have pranayama involved. Intermediate classes have meditation too. Complete Yoga means there will be some breathing at the end of class.

Sujantra: And you put in some meditation for some of them and a little philosophy.

Richard: Mostly I do that with the intermediate classes and some of the advanced beginners too.

Sujantra: For those students who are familiar with pranayama but not meditation, how would you describe the difference between the two?

Richard: Pranayama is working with your breath. It’s kind of a false practice because you can’t really stand back from your breath entirely. The breath and consciousness are the two sides of the same coin. In your breathing practice you’re watching your breath and looking to see what your reaction is where you’re holding or resisting. You’re standing back from your breath. I take meditations from the hold hatha texts which include some sort of a visualization.

Sujantra: In “Autobiography of a Yogi” one thing that always stuck in my mind is when Yogananda talked about that in the state of Samadhi breathing stops because mind has stopped. Does it always have to be that way or is that one approach to highest consciousness?

Richard: That sounds like classical pranayama in which the breathing is slowed down so much that it stops altogether. There’s nothing else going on, the breathing movement is a fluctuation and you’re trying to calm those superficial fluctuations so you can look inward and find out what’s going on inside. So I would say that it’s a formula in yoga that says to stop this and that thing stops too. If you stop your breath the fluctuations of consciousness will cease as well.

Pranayama

You Can’t Stop Breathing

Sujantra: My common sense mind says, “you can’t stop breathing.”

Richard: No, we can’t.

Sujantra: So it slows down so much that the mind slows down and you reach deep peace.

Richard. Really slow. I’m sure you’ve had the experience where you have a project in front of you and you’re very intent on it, you stop moving, your breath slows down and you become inwardly focused. There are things going on around you but you may not even hear them until they become a little bit more intrusive. That’s a form of Samadhi right there.

Sujantra: That’s a super form of concentration right there.

Richard: Yes, well, Samadhi is really is a state where you enter into whatever you’re meditating on, you see it from the inside. Samadhi means, “put together.” You understand it in its essence.

Sujantra: Wow. It’s so great to speak with someone who can elucidate these subtle spaces so well.

 

Interviews Podcast: Richard Rosen Transcript Part 1

Interviews Podcast: Richard Rosen Transcript Part 3

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Philosophy Podcast E20: Exploring Individuality

Exploring our human individuality and our divine individuality: ego and soul…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard. We hope you find an insight that truly hits home.

Ep 20: Exploring our human individuality and our divine individuality: ego and soul.

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Meditation Podcast E23: Open Your Heart & Third Eye

Opening your heart and third eye through visualization and chanting…

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The Pilgrimage of the Heart Mediation Podcast is a recorded broadcast of Sujantra’s weekly Tuesday night meditation class held in San Diego California. Each week Sujantra introduces a new topic related to meditation and leads the class through various types of meditations including: visual concentration, yogic concentration, breathing techniques, chanting and much more.

Ep 23: Opening your heart and third eye through visualization and chanting.

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Interviews Podcast E10: Alexa Hatt

Sujantra interviews a 17 year old yoga teacher named Alexa Hatt. They discuss Youtube Yoga, finding your life purpose, opening your heart and the role of social media…

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Enjoy interviews with inspiring and uplifting guests who share their insights into yoga, personal improvement and world transformation. We feature yogis, writers, musicians, teachers and visionaries from many fields who are reaching for the highest in human potential. The program is hosted by Sujantra McKeever, founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, CA.

Ep 10: Sujantra interviews a 17 year old yoga teacher named Alexa Hatt. They discuss Youtube Yoga, finding your life purpose, opening your heart and the role of social media.

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Interviews Podcast: Richard Rosen Transcript Part 1

Today’s podcast interview is with Richard Rosen and he began his study of yoga in 1980…

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Today’s podcast interview is with Richard Rosen and he began his study of yoga in 1980, trained for several years in the early 1980s at the B.K.S. Iyengar Institute in San Francisco, CA. In 1987 Richard co-founded the Piedmont Yoga Studio in Oakland, CA which existed for nearly 28 years. It recently closed its doors in 2015. Richard still teaches seven weekly classes in Oakland and in the Berkeley areas. He’s a contributing editor for Yoga Journal Magazine and President of the Board of a non-profit organization that we are going to talk about, which is a wonderful organization. Richard has written three books published by Shambhala, The Yoga of Breath, Pranayama, and Original Yoga and he’s also working on a fourth book which we are also going to touch base on today. Richard lives in a cottage built in 1906 in Berkeley, California, and Richard, I assume you’re talking to us from your cottage.

Richard: I’m talking to you from the office that is outside my cottage.

Sujantra: Oh the office outside your cottage, wonderful! Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us.

Richard: I’m really happy to be here. Thanks.

PYO

Coming to the Practice of Yoga

Sujantra: My first question, Richard, is what brought you to the practice of yoga?

Richard: Well, I moved down to the Bay Area in 1979 to finish up a Master’s Degree at Cal and things weren’t going too well and I was sitting around this little apartment I lived in at the time, trying to figure out what to do with my life, and I thought of a book I’d read a few years earlier and had no idea what the guy was talking about. Then all of a sudden, a little bell went off in the back of my mind and I got up, got the book and it was like a 180 degree turnaround and I could all of a sudden understand what the man was talking about. The man’s name was Krishnamurti. It started me off looking around for other sources that might help me figure out what to do with myself. Eventually I found a book that said yoga was the best exercise there was or had ever been invented, so I just happened to also find a local newspaper at the time that directed me to the Yoga Room in Berkeley. I started yoga to help myself try and figure out what to do.

Jiddu Krishnamurti

Sujantra: What was it about Krishnamurti or his writings that woke up something inside of you?

Richard: I don’t remember exactly which book it was but it was very inspiring and it gave me insight into how and why I was feeling the way I was feeling. It moved me that there were other sources and books like that because before that I had never had this feeling whatsoever. It just really woke me up to the possibilities. I was recently teaching in Ojai and a place called the Yoga Crib and I actually stayed in the room where Krishnamurti had written so many years ago.

Sujantra: Wow, the big circle of life keeps going. That’s beautiful. You turned to yoga in 1979 for your own growth and years later you’re writing books for Shambhala and people around the world are learning yoga from you. Is there a specific moment when you felt that transition from a student of yoga to not just a student but also a teacher of yoga?

Richard: (Chuckles.) Sometimes I find it hard to believe I am a teacher. I still consider myself very much a student. I’ve been very fortunate being allowed to write those books and I really appreciate everything Shambhala has done for me. I still consider myself a beginner and a student, so thank you for calling me a teacher but I will pass on that for a while.

Inspiration to Teach

Nikole YTT

Sujantra: Well, here at our studio in San Diego we train a lot of people who want to be yoga teachers. What do you say to someone who’s inspired to teach to give them confidence and courage to take that big step?

Richard: Well, it is a big step and it’s a big responsibility. You have to think about it really hard before you decide to become a teacher and of course it requires a lot of training and you want to get the best training possible. It’s important to, in the old days, the yogis dedicated their life to the practice and we can’t quite do that nowadays, but we have to still make a huge effort if we want to become a teacher. We have to read the old books and the new books that are available to give us insight into the old books. We have to practice and it’s important to get out there and find some people you can teach, make your mistakes, learn from them and keep plugging away. It’s not a straight-line progress to become a teacher. Just how your practice waxes and wanes like the moon I think that’s the way your teaching career progresses as well.

The Yoga of Breath

Sujantra: One of the things I liked right away about the book of yours that I read, “The Yoga of Breath,” is that right away you come across quotes from the Upanishads and great teachers so you obviously revere and give a lot of importance to those source teachings.

Richard: I think tradition is important. Nowadays, the younger yogis and teachers I don’t know how much they know about tradition and that’s fine. I’m not sure how important it is in certain contexts but I do think that it’s important to have a little bit of knowledge about the old yoga texts. There were generations and generations of old yogis who were out there doing their practice and the wisdom they came up with is very important to know about.

Sujantra: Right, and the great teachers that have come to the West, they go right to those source teachings. I’m thinking of Vivekenanda, Aurobindo, and yogis like that. They are honoring the past and I think it’s important for contemporary teachers to do the same.

Richard: Exactly. I think it’s important. I don’t know how much you want to do that, depending on what school you’re teaching from, but you should know at least a little bit about the background.

Diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease

Sujantra: And you mention the importance of teachers practicing and I am wondering after 35 years of your own yoga journey, what does your daily practice look like?

Richard: Well, I might let you know that I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease about thirteen or fourteen years ago. I don’t know if you know much about Parkinson’s but it’s a neuromuscular condition that makes you stiffer, weaker and less balanced which is pretty much the reverse of everything I had been working on for the first twenty years. My practice has changed because of that. First of all, I’ve been very fortunate with this condition. People that I know can progress very rapidly to the point where after just two or three years they are in pretty bad condition. I’m very fortunate. It’s very difficult to tell sometimes that I have anything like Parkinson’s. My practice still has changed to accommodate some of the shortcomings. My balance is a little bit off and I’m not as strong as I used to be. I use a lot of props. I go a lot slower than I used to do.

Pranayama and Meditation

Sujantra: Is your practice mostly an asana practice or do you incorporate pranayama and meditation?

Richard: Breathing over the years has become a lot more interesting to me than the asana. The asana is supported, using chairs and blocks and straps, but I spend a lot more time than I used to on breathing. I’m not doing anything special. For the most part, I am simply watching my breath. It’s very important to have a breathing practice as part of your yoga practice. Most classes nowadays are solely asana classes.

Sujantra: I read an article recently about Rodney Yee and he said if he only had ten minutes to practice he would do pranayama.

Richard: My good friend, Rodney Yee.

Sujantra: Oh good, he’s right up there, right? In that area?

Richard: He was but he’s living in New York now. He’s the co-founder of Piedmont Yoga.

Sujantra: Oh the two of you founded it together.

Richard: I’ve known Rodney forever. The two of us went to the B.K.S. Iyengar school together. We’ve known each other for about 35-36 years.

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Interviews Podcast E09: Nina Camille

Nina and Sujantra talk about starting a yoga community, living in the Virgin Islands, social media and becoming a yoga teacher…

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Enjoy interviews with inspiring and uplifting guests who share their insights into yoga, personal improvement and world transformation. We feature yogis, writers, musicians, teachers and visionaries from many fields who are reaching for the highest in human potential. The program is hosted by Sujantra McKeever, founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, CA.

Ep 09: Nina and Sujantra talk about starting a yoga community, living in the Virgin Islands, social media and becoming a yoga teacher…

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THE ABCs OF ENLIGHTENMENT: Part 8 Hope

My maternal grandfather spent his last days in a nursing home…

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HOPE

 

My maternal grandfather spent his last days in a nursing home. It was a very nice place, comparatively. (Years ago I went to one run by the Social Services of the City of New York where you had to be buzzed in through a metal gate and on my way out a desperate old crone grabbed me around the leg and started pleading, “Get me out of here!”) Still, unless you have totally lost it, you know that when you do finally get to leave one of those types of establishments, it will be feet-first. And when I said good-bye to my grandfather, on what would turn out to be our final visit, I said, “Just take it one day at a time, Pop-Pop,” and his eyes suddenly lit up and with a wry smile he replied, “Yes, two days at a time in a place like this could kill you.” Then we had a good laugh; a nice way to end.

If there is such a thing as a last bastion of hope, it can often be found in institutions like these where I have also sometimes seen some old geezer, with a fierce look of determination on his face but no particular place to go, furiously lurching his walker down the hall. It’s inspiring but at the same time heartbreaking. (I’m sure that if you tried something like that in that New York City nursing home they’d make you watch as they smashed it to bits. Or better yet, would make you destroy it yourself, while they stood around and laughed.)
 

The Persistence of Hope

 
Even survivors of the death camps during the Nazi’s Holocaust, the closest thing to Dante’s “Abandon all hope all ye who enter here” Inferno that mankind has ever deliberately devised, report on the persistence of hope. I once read the recollections of a prisoner who said that the guards used to wrap their overstuffed sandwiches in pages of the Torah and as they ate their lunch in front of the starving inmates, tear them up and throw the fragments of parchment to the ground. But the Jews would sneak out of their confinements at night and collect and reassemble the pieces as best they could and by reading out what they could, kept their hope alive.

The great American poet Emily Dickinson had some truly insightful things to say—as she often does on a variety of subjects—about hope, especially its tenacious nature:

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune—without the words,
And never stops at all, . . .
I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest Sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

While we can only pretend to know another’s impetuses, can for the most part only project our own, I’ve always imagined the “nun of Amherst”—who had more or less abandoned the idea of ever being published (she pursued it only once or twice during her entire life and without success) along with its attendant enterprise, self-promotion (“how public like a frog”)—wondering why it was that she could not overcome the hope that she, or her work anyway, might be more widely known; that though she did not feed it “a crumb,” this hunger for some morsel of recognition lived on in her with such vigor. (Along with, I imagine, other longings as well: for love, for God’s Grace, even for the return of the bees.)

Out of this World

 
Emily seems to have had a very active inner life. In its advanced stage this is a mystical condition where one is in a constant state of contemplation to the degree that they are often very content to be by themselves, not only because they do not need anyone else, but even if they occasionally do, they know that others will misjudge and misunderstand them and they really can’t (or don’t want to have to) explain themselves (they could write immortal poetry, I suppose). There is an expression, “out of this world,” which describes this condition or “in the world but not of it,” which describes it more accurately. And it is the “in the world” part that seems to vex even those who are quite happy, even overjoyed, to be left alone. For it seems that as long as you live here on Earth you will hope for something more, yearn for some greater influence or even affluence. It’s in the atmosphere; you breathe it in.

Along these lines, we could even ask ourselves why God, assuming He is infinite, immortal, and eternal, would need a universe? Why would He, too, not be content with what He has but still need more? And by extension, why would a human being who was living in a state of perfect bliss, even one who was God-conscious, not be satisfied? And I believe it comes down to this: There is always another possibility not only for us but especially for the Infinite.
 

Lamborghini

By No machine-readable author provided. Own work assumed (based on copyright claims)., Public Domain.

We could think of this in terms of our own lives—of the way we’re not satisfied with a modest, comfortable home or a functional car but still want a mansion and/or a Maserati, except that these are material needs and we are now wondering what would happen if we were free from all worldly wants. Would we still yearn for something more?

The Creator has now authored a nearly infinite number of galaxies, each of which has hundreds of millions of stars and planets and other celestial bodies (and presumably, trillions upon trillions of life-forms) scattered about. This is quite an accomplishment. Yet, He seems interested that His creation might also become conscious; not only self-aware but God-aware. Indeed, He seems to have this as a further, perhaps even ultimate aim.
 

God is Peace, Love, and Joy

 
Therefore, we might imagine that even if we had managed to transcend our present, limited consciousness, to have drilled down to our blissful essence and wanted for nothing, the universe might ask us to share our discoveries with the rest of humanity. That spreading the news that God is peace, love, and joy might be in keeping with the Creator’s own goals, making so-called self-promotion for someone who has attained this state, cosmically condoned; divinely hoped for.

In other words, Emily, if you have something good, uplifting and inspiring to tell the world, there is no reason to beat yourself up about it; no reason to consider it egotistical if you want to share something wonderful with the rest of us for it may not be your personal ambition that is urging you on, but divine unrest: God’s own hope within you.

 

 

Look for the next topic, INTUITION, next time! Can’t wait to until then to read more? Order The ABCs ofThe ABCs of Enlightenment cover Enlightenment: A Mystical Primer today.

 

Jeffrey BakerJeffrey Baker was a student for more than forty years of Sri Chinmoy, who named him Kalatit (Kal, time; atit, beyond). Called “our preeminent humorist” by his teacher, he was a frequent contributor to publications and events in his spiritual community and elsewhere. A card-carrying Baby Boomer, he attended the Woodstock Festival, performed in various rock-and-roll ensembles, and has a degree in ecology from The University of Connecticut. He’s been a gardener for the Rockefellers in Pocantico Hills, New York, and “the piano tuner to the stars” working with artists such as Billy Joel, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Richard Goode and Andre Previn. He has composed more than one hundred works in the classical as well as the theatrical genres. (https://www.reverbnation.com/jeffreybaker) His The Music of the Zodiac, has had more than 40,000 downloads. His corpus of philosophical treatises, Eat My Dust, Martin Luther, as well as a collection of epigrams, 1000 Pearls of Wisdom, and a group of essays on contemporary subjects, Blah, Blah, Blah, are available as e-books (Amazon) and in paperback (Createspace).

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Philosophy Podcast E18: Dasaratha Promises Kaikeyi [Ramayana]

Sujantra shares the story of how the great king made a promise that ended up being his demise…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard.

Ep 18: Sujantra shares the story of how the great king made a promise that ended up being his demise.

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Meditation Podcast E21: Finding Your Purpose in Life

In this episode Sujantra addresses finding your life purpose and how meditation can aid this pursuit…

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The Pilgrimage of the Heart Mediation Podcast is a recorded broadcast of Sujantra’s weekly Tuesday night meditation class held in San Diego California. Each week Sujantra introduces a new topic related to meditation and leads the class through various types of meditations including: visual concentration, yogic concentration, breathing techniques, chanting and much more.

Ep 21: In this episode Sujantra addresses finding your life purpose and how meditation can aid this pursuit…

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THE ABCs OF ENLIGHTENMENT Part 7: Gratitude

GRATITUDE   Expressions of gratitude, things like thank-you notes, are considered signs of good breeding. I think I may have written one, maybe two, during my entire life. They also seem to be more of an activity for the leisure class and a girl thing, too. (I’m sure that if I were married my wife […]

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GRATITUDE

 
Expressions of gratitude, things like thank-you notes, are considered signs of good breeding. I think I may have written one, maybe two, during my entire life. They also seem to be more of an activity for the leisure class and a girl thing, too. (I’m sure that if I were married my wife would make me write them. Or would write them and make me sign them.) And in this regard we can imagine a Grand Duchess in some costume drama seated at her secrétaire in her silk and gold embroidered housecoat, penning proper little perfumed notes in her exquisite cursive and handing them off to her lady’s maid while the Grand Duke is off being rugged, chasing around a helpless little fox with a pack of wild dogs and an arsenal of WMD, while a crew of hundreds of dirty little men, red faced and on the verge of collapse, runs along behind trying to keep up. But who, these days, has the time or especially the resources for any of this?
 

A Hilarious Southern Comedian

 
I saw an interview the other day with Larry the Cable Guy, a hilarious Southern comedian whom I must confess I really enjoy—though being a Northerner (and his jokes being about things like fat people and farts) supposedly I should not—during which he was asked how he now likes playing big arenas and making $100,000 per night as opposed to the few hundred dollars a week he used to make working dives. A ridiculous question of course, and at first Larry was like, “A-duh, what do you think?” but then, “I feel really thankful, of course,” and I felt a sense of relief. He was not just a lowlife, I thought, and I could feel less guilty about watching his performances. Though I can’t promise you I could have stopped myself, regardless.

That we consider thankfulness (gratitude) an elevated condition is interesting; that an ungrateful person would be considered boorish, from the Dutch word for peasant, while a grateful one would be thought to be gracious (according to Oxford, “to exhibit high social status”) would seem to suggest a commonly held belief that to experience, and especially express, gratitude is something noble.

There is a popular quote, “There but for the grace of God go I,” attributed to one John Bradford, a Protestant, imprisoned in 1554 by Queen Mary Tudor of England—also known as “Bloody Mary” (a Roman Catholic who, though she would only reign for five years, thank God, still managed to burn close to three hundred “nonbelievers” at the stake). And reportedly uttered through the bars of his jail cell while watching one of his fellow heretics being led off to their own custom-designed rotisserie. Then, just a few months later, in January 1555, he was also barbecued.

Thanksgiving Ingredients

via Pixabay.com


 

Thank God I Wasn’t On That Plane

 
And this is the kind of gratitude we can all relate to: the “thank God I wasn’t on that plane” type. (I felt that way after 9/11 as I used to service the pianos at Windows on the World, the restaurant at the top of the World Trade Center, where all perished that day.) It is also similar, though perhaps to a less graphic degree, to the sentiment that we express each year at Thanksgiving (or are supposed to since that’s what the occasion is about—not, believe it or not, stampedes at shopping malls): “Thank God that, unlike most of the rest of the world, those of us gathered here today are not starving to death.”

Many so-called primitive cultures not only offer gratitude to God before their meals in this same way but also to the spirits of the creatures or even the plants that they are about to consume. I’m sure that if you asked for permission to say a prayer along those lines at your next family Thanksgiving you’d be quite the topic of conversation, especially as everyone traveled back home: “What the hell was that?! ‘The soul of the unwitting turkey.’ Well, there was more than one turkey in the room this year! It was so embarrassing! We can’t let that happen again! No more prayers, ever!”

Gratitude Otter

 

A Higher State of Awareness

 
Gratitude is essentially a higher state of awareness. At its most basic level it takes the form of a Thanksgiving-style recognition of what the world has given us in order that we might live; understands that other living things have sacrificed, suffered, or even died on our behalf. Then beyond this there is a level of thankfulness called unconditional gratitude to God, whether material blessings have come our way or not, or in the extreme, despite the fact that we have suffered or are suffering unbearably.

This work is subtitled, “A mystical primer” (which means an introduction) so we will leave that category alone for now. For it would require an entire other volume to explain in a convincing way how a saint, especially, could endure unremitting torment and yet be overflowing, almost to the point of bursting, with gratitude to God.

“You fool,” others (like Queen Mary, for example) might say, “how can you be grateful to a God who would do this to you?”(Of course, she is the one actually doing this to you!).
 
 
Look for the next topic, Hope, next week! Can’t wait to until then to read more? Order The ABCs ofThe ABCs of Enlightenment cover Enlightenment: A Mystical Primer today.

 

Jeffrey BakerJeffrey Baker was a student for more than forty years of Sri Chinmoy, who named him Kalatit (Kal, time; atit, beyond). Called “our preeminent humorist” by his teacher, he was a frequent contributor to publications and events in his spiritual community and elsewhere. A card-carrying Baby Boomer, he attended the Woodstock Festival, performed in various rock-and-roll ensembles, and has a degree in ecology from The University of Connecticut. He’s been a gardener for the Rockefellers in Pocantico Hills, New York, and “the piano tuner to the stars” working with artists such as Billy Joel, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Richard Goode and Andre Previn. He has composed more than one hundred works in the classical as well as the theatrical genres. (https://www.reverbnation.com/jeffreybaker) His The Music of the Zodiac, has had more than 40,000 downloads. His corpus of philosophical treatises, Eat My Dust, Martin Luther, as well as a collection of epigrams, 1000 Pearls of Wisdom, and a group of essays on contemporary subjects, Blah, Blah, Blah, are available as e-books (Amazon) and in paperback (Createspace).

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Interviews Podcast E08: Cat Walker

Cat Walker and Sujantra explore the spiritual heart, deepening your practice, the role of Instagram and reincarnation. Join us…

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Enjoy interviews with inspiring and uplifting guests who share their insights into yoga, personal improvement and world transformation. We feature yogis, writers, musicians, teachers and visionaries from many fields who are reaching for the highest in human potential. The program is hosted by Sujantra McKeever, founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, CA.

Ep 08: Cat Walker and Sujantra explore the spiritual heart, deepening your practice, the role of Instagram and reincarnation.  Join us!

Read about Cat’s interview experience on her blog. You can also connect with her on IG, FB and/or Twitter.

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Philosophy Podcast E17: Yoga Sutras I: 8 – 10

Sujantra shares more of his insights into the Yoga Sutras; exploring the fluctuations of mind…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard.

Ep 17: Sujantra shares more of his insights into the Yoga Sutras; exploring the fluctuations of mind…

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Meditation Podcast E20: From Desire To Aspiration

Sujantra teaches about reaching for our highest potential in life and how sometimes it’s as harmonious as just surrendering…

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The Pilgrimage of the Heart Mediation Podcast is a recorded broadcast of Sujantra’s weekly Tuesday night meditation class held in San Diego California. Each week Sujantra introduces a new topic related to meditation and leads the class through various types of meditations including: visual concentration, yogic concentration, breathing techniques, chanting and much more.

Ep 20: Sujantra teaches about reaching for our highest potential in life and how sometimes it’s as harmonious as just surrendering.

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Interviews Podcast E07: Yoga Instructor Emily Taylor

Sujantra interviews 32 year old yoga teacher Emily Taylor. They discuss yoga, turning inward, the role of social media in yoga, and much more…

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Enjoy interviews with inspiring and uplifting guests who share their insights into yoga, personal improvement and world transformation. We feature yogis, writers, musicians, teachers and visionaries from many fields who are reaching for the highest in human potential. The program is hosted by Sujantra McKeever, founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, CA.

Ep 07: Sujantra interviews 32 year old yoga teacher Emily Taylor. They discuss yoga, turning inward, the role of social media in yoga, and much more…

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Philosophy Podcast E16: Yoga Sutras I 4 – 9

Sujantra expounds on the The Yoga Sutras 4-9. Explore the ways our minds meander…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard.

Ep 16: Sujantra expounds on the The Yoga Sutras 4-9. Explore the ways our minds meander…

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Meditation Podcast E19: Peace and Practice

Enjoy guitar and flute during this meditation on peace…

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The Pilgrimage of the Heart Mediation Podcast is a recorded broadcast of Sujantra’s weekly Tuesday night meditation class held in San Diego California. Each week Sujantra introduces a new topic related to meditation and leads the class through various types of meditations including: visual concentration, yogic concentration, breathing techniques, chanting and much more.

Ep 19: Enjoy guitar and flute during this meditation on peace.

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Interview with Brain Leaf (Part 3): The Perfect Parent

One of our managers here at the studio has two young children and she really enjoyed chapter 17 called ‘The Perfect Parent’…

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The Perfect Parent

 

Sujantra: One of our managers here at the studio has two young children and she really enjoyed chapter 17 called ‘The Perfect Parent.’ I was wondering if you could read to us a little bit from that and then I just want to talk a little bit about that last paragraph you’re going to read.

Brian: Sure. It’s chapter 17, ‘The Perfect Parent.’ The twentieth century philosopher Fred Rogers said, ‘My hunch is that if we allow ourselves to give who we really are to our children and our care, we will in someway inspire cartwheels in their hearts.’ Then he put on his sweater and changed into sneakers. Maybe I can come clean to Noah and the world and tell him that this parenting thing is pretty darn challenging. I have no idea what to do quite a bit of the time. Another modern philosopher, Louis C.K., albeit from a different school of philosophy from Mr. Rogers [so the Fred Rogers quote before was really from Mr. Rogers], has his own take on this. ‘It’s hard having kids because it’s boring. They read Clifford the Big Red Dog to you at the rate of fifty minutes a page and you have to sit there and be horribly proud and bored at the same time.’ Louis C.K. certainly speaks his mind; he’s a funny comedian. We are not superhuman or infallible and our kids will wear us down and find us out and when we’ve got nothing left, they’ll ask us for one more story. When we are having sex for the first time in seven weeks, they’ll wake up and call for a glass of water and they will call us on our hypocrisies. So I’d like to stop trying to be perfect. I’d like to try to be a model being human, to learn from our mistakes, to apologize when I mess up. My plan, to forgive myself and move on. Kids are so incredibly dynamic; today I start being the parent I want to be and if today doesn’t go quite right, I can forgive myself again and start fresh tomorrow.

PYO

Sujantra: That’s a really beautiful statement about self-acceptance and accepting the journey. I am wondering did this come to you early on in the parenting or is this a long-term lesson that you’ve come to realize?

Bubble Children

By Ernst Moeksis, license.

The Long Twenty-year Meditation of Parenting

Brian: I would say it’s like exactly both. It’s something I’ve always been aware of and something I have to continually remind myself of. I have to say, just hearing myself read this right now, I don’t know if I’ve read this page out loud in a reading before, I can’t remember. Just reading it now for you, no, for us and for you, it made me realize truly it’s the same as a meditation practice, right? It’s like we try to focus on our mantra or our breath or whatever we’re focusing on and constantly go off and think about things and get lost in ego or whatever, and then try as much as we can to gently notice and bring ourselves back without beating ourselves up. It’s sort of the same process, like the long twenty-year meditation of parenting I guess. Also, to see the effects of it are manifold even just logistically. Beating ourselves up and not being present with something that’s gone wrong isn’t going to serve anybody. Dropping it, moving on, is going to allow us to learn from it – to be present in the next moment which is really all our kids want. They don’t need us to be perfect; they just want us to be present. That’s what we all want from anybody but certainly our kids want it probably the most. They want our presence.

Sujantra: Well Brian I think your book is incredibly insightful and honest and I really encourage everyone either who is having kids or in the midst of children or thinking about it to read it and enjoy your book because it’s full of sincere and deep insights.

Brian: Thank you!

Sujantra: We’ve really enjoyed having you on our show. I am looking forward to your next book. I think that’s going to touch a lot of hearts in the world.

Brian: Thank you.

Thank_You!

Art via Wikipedia.

Sujantra: I want to really thank you for being with us today.

Brian: Thanks for having me on the show. It’s been a pleasure being here.

Sujantra: Thank you for joining us today. This is Sujantra and we’ve been speaking with Brian Leaf, author, parent and educator and discussing specifically his newest book, “Misadventures of a Parenting Yogi.” It’s highly recommended reading. The subtitle “Cloth Diapers, Co-Sleeping, and My Sometimes Successful Quest for Conscious Parenting.”

 

ABOUT BRIAN LEAF

Brian LeafBrian Leaf, MA, is director of The New Leaf Learning Center, a holistic tutoring center in Massachusetts. In his work helping students manage ADD and overcome Misadventures of a Parenting Yogistandardized-test and math phobias, Brian draws upon twenty-one years of intensive study, practice, and teaching of yoga, meditation, and holistic health. He is certified by The New England Institute of Ayurvedic Medicine and holds licenses or certifications as a Yoga Teacher, Massage Therapist, Energyworker, and Holistic Educator. He also incorporates Bach Flower Essences, Cranio-Sacral Therapy, Reiki, Shiatsu, and Tai Chi into his work.

Brian is the author of eleven books, including Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi, Name That Movie!, and McGraw-Hill’s Top 50 Skills for a Top Score. His books have been featured on The CW, MTV.com, Fox News, and Kripalu.org.

Brian lives in western Massachusetts with his wife and two sons.

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THE ABCs OF ENLIGHTENMENT Week 06: FAITH

As long as the good times stay that way, we don’t even think about asking God for help…

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FAITH

 
As long as the good times stay that way, we don’t even think about asking God for help, since we are doing fine on our own. Then, when we hit the inevitable rough patch, the best prayer we can muster is: “Lord, I don’t know if You are real or not and even if You are real, I don’t know if You can hear me or not. And even if You can hear me, I know that You probably have a lot of other, more important things to do than to listen to me, especially since I haven’t talked to You, even thought of You, since Granny went overboard in that shuffleboard accident. And, being upset, I may have taken your name in vain, as they say, and more than just once or twice and naturally I still feel really, really bad about it. But if You are real and can hear me and can spare a couple of minutes and be a man about what happened there in the heat of the moment (Did you have to send the freakin’ sharks?!!) I need to tell you that I’m in a horrible mess. Okay, it’s my own fault, which I already know so I don’t need a big lecture, but what I really do need and pronto is some major help . . .”

Not exactly a Psalm of David.

David-Icon

By 18 century icon painter – Iconostasis of Kizhi monastery, Karelia, Russia, Public Domain. (Via Wikipedia)

When our problems miraculously solve themselves and practically overnight, at least we do the right thing and give credit where credit is due, offering thanks to our own awesome cleverness.
 

Life Here on Earth

 
Because life here on Earth almost seems to favor godlessness, with multitudes of nonbelievers doing fabulously well; there seems to be no urgency to decide whether or not to have spiritual faith, to believe in God. Then when life’s seemingly insurmountable problems like death, the Big One, start knocking on our door, we are forced to reconsider the issue. But it doesn’t have to be so worrisome, as Pascal’s Wager, the famous philosophical argument, illustrates: “Better to believe in God,” it postulates, “for if you are wrong and there is no God, then no harm, whereas if you do not believe, and there is a God, then you could be cruisin’ for a bruisin’.”

PYO

(I paraphrase, of course.)

Much of life is unknown. In fact, you could say that practically all of life is unknown. We sometimes say of someone, “They don’t know where their next meal is coming from,” which is certainly the case for 99.9 percent of the natural world and billions of our fellow human beings as well. And even when we do know, even when there’s food in the fridge and money in the bank, many dangers still lurk about menacingly. So understandably, we would like to believe that we are not alone in our struggles, that someone else or something else is as concerned about our wellbeing as we are. And this is where faith, as it is most commonly practiced, enters the picture.
 

Faith Enters the Picture

 
Yes, faith in this form is the belief that someone watches over us, loves us and cares that we do well; that something in the universe is on our side, assisting us in our struggle.
 
Screenshot from IMAX® 3D movie Hidden Universe showing the Helix Nebula in infrared
 
Animals know that they must be proactive, even ruthlessly so, in order to survive. That they must not only fight and kill to eat but even fight and kill preemptively, simply to avoid being eaten. They are not, like us, thinking that if they behave virtuously, if they are good and kind, then some higher power will be pleased enough with them to see that they are well taken care of. An exception, perhaps, being the family dog who—though he should by now trust that his bowl will be filled every night; should have some faith that his master still cares enough about him to take care of him—can never be absolutely sure and so remains fearful that his next meal may be his last; that the caring may stop. And should his master show any displeasure, he becomes very anxious that he will be put out; be made to suffer and perhaps perish.

Because our fundamental problem is also survival and survival always tries to avoid suffering—not only because it is uncomfortable but also is often a prelude to our demise—we, too, look to a higher power to save us, especially in times when our wellbeing is threatened. And much like the character at the beginning of this essay, we make impulsive appeals to a higher power when we find that our own resources, even those potentially available to us (the rich brother-in-law, for example) have become exhausted or are now simply sick and tired of us.
 

Struggling to Survive

 
I’m not saying that all believers, all those who have faith that there is a higher, benevolent power lovingly watching over them, are dogs, but rather that because life is in an epic struggle against death, it naturally seeks every survival advantage and will pray to a higher power if it believes (has faith) it is in a position to help. And in our human case, will further believe that the higher power it appeals to is the Ultimate One, is the immortal Creator of life itself, and therefore if pleased with us (okay, like the dog’s master) will grant us an eternally blissful life. (Or if displeased, will condemn us to suffer, also eternally, it is believed.)
 
jetski-655554_1280
 
Every cell in us, indeed, every atom, is struggling to survive and notwithstanding the fact that everything in the physical universe is mortal (even the photon, the building block of light itself, born at the beginning and as old as the universe itself, will ultimately perish in creation’s final act), all kinds of notions are entertained and to the degree that they appeal to our survival instincts, are more likely to be believed. Even to the extent that if someone is certain that his God has given him, and him exclusively, eternal life, and someone else comes along who is certain that his God has given him, and him exclusively, eternal life, both will feel they have the divine right to fight, even to slay their adversary. That’s how powerful and potentially aggressive this survival instinct is!
 

One Immortal Life

 
So while religious faith, the way it’s most commonly practiced, is often nothing more than the belief that our beliefs and only our beliefs will give us a more fortunate life as well as bestow upon us a unique immortality, there is another type of faith: the simple belief that life, or the Life, is conscious, loving, and aspires in and through us to goals which are good. And further, that It will assist us in our struggle because we are in a position to assist It in Its Struggle.

That there is only one immortal Life in the universe and all are part and parcel of this one Life and our struggle is therefore Its Struggle, is the tenet at the heart of this type of faith.

 

Look for the next topic, Gratitude, next week! Can’t wait to until then to read more? Order The ABCs ofThe ABCs of Enlightenment cover Enlightenment: A Mystical Primer today.

 

Jeffrey BakerJeffrey Baker was a student for more than forty years of Sri Chinmoy, who named him Kalatit (Kal, time; atit, beyond). Called “our preeminent humorist” by his teacher, he was a frequent contributor to publications and events in his spiritual community and elsewhere. A card-carrying Baby Boomer, he attended the Woodstock Festival, performed in various rock-and-roll ensembles, and has a degree in ecology from The University of Connecticut. He’s been a gardener for the Rockefellers in Pocantico Hills, New York, and “the piano tuner to the stars” working with artists such as Billy Joel, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Richard Goode and Andre Previn. He has composed more than one hundred works in the classical as well as the theatrical genres. (https://www.reverbnation.com/jeffreybaker) His The Music of the Zodiac, has had more than 40,000 downloads. His corpus of philosophical treatises, Eat My Dust, Martin Luther, as well as a collection of epigrams, 1000 Pearls of Wisdom, and a group of essays on contemporary subjects, Blah, Blah, Blah, are available as e-books (Amazon) and in paperback (Createspace).

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Philosophy Podcast E15: Yoga Sutras 1- 4

Learn the essence of yoga philosophy by studying the ancient Patanjali text, The Yoga Sutras…

2

Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard.

Ep 15: Learn the essence of yoga philosophy by studying the ancient Patanjali text, The Yoga Sutras.

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Meditation Podcast Ep 18: The Joy of Surrender

Explore the bliss of releasing into that which upholds us…

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The Pilgrimage of the Heart Mediation Podcast is a recorded broadcast of Sujantra’s weekly Tuesday night meditation class held in San Diego California. Each week Sujantra introduces a new topic related to meditation and leads the class through various types of meditations including: visual concentration, yogic concentration, breathing techniques, chanting and much more.

Ep 18: Explore the bliss of releasing into that which upholds us.

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Interview with Brian Leaf (Part 2): Being a Yogi in this Age

I think we all find the element of yoga that most quickly and convincingly takes us into that deeper space…

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Being a Yogi in this Age

 

Sujantra: I read in an interview with Rodney Yee, the famous teacher and he said if he only had ten minutes a day for his practice he would do his pranayama. I think we all find the element of yoga that most quickly and convincingly takes us into that deeper space.

Brian: Yeah, absolutely.

PYO

Sujantra: You’ve written two books from the perspective of a yogi. One of them is the misadventures book (Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi) and then the parenting book (Misadventures of a Parenting Yogi), both from the perspective of a yogi and in today’s world, becoming a yogi has become, in my mind, a really positive lifestyle choice and so not only in choosing that but also expressing that into the culture, I am wondering if you could talk a little bit about how it feels to be playing that role.

Brian: It feels great. You mean, do I value and do I feel good about writing the books? About being a yogi in the culture?

Sujantra: Yes, and being a yogi and offering that into society. Your children are going to grow up with the possibility of being a yogi and really focus their life in that, whereas fifty years ago, people didn’t have the option of that type of reality.

Brian: True. My son knows that intuition is really important to me. Guidance, following prana and energy flowing guidance is really a big part of me. Another big part of Kripalu, to go back to your earlier question about what I love about it, it’s funny because he knows that I really value that and I think he does too. Sometimes he will say to me, “Didi,” (that’s what my son calls me), “my intuition tells me that we really should…” you know, whatever it is he really wants or wants to do.

Double Rainbow

By Eric Rolph at English Wikipedia – English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 2.5, $3

A Rebirth or Re-invigoration

Sujantra: (Laughs.) That’s great. How old is he?

Brian: I have two kids; one is nine and the younger, Benji, is six. To go back to your question, I love it and feel it’s a real process for me to find my passion so to speak or to find my bliss. It’s great because it’s something that we all really need to do, I think, the happiness is really implicit on right livelihood and finding work that inspires us and allows us to express our ideals in the world so the process for me was that the other work I have, as you mentioned, is running a tutoring center. I do a holistic tutoring with kids working on math and other things and over the years I was doing test prep with kids. A bunch of kids said to me, “You should write a book because this is really cool stuff.” So I wrote a book and it got published and then I wrote a bunch of books and one thing led to another and suddenly I was writing books based on pop culture and there’s nothing wrong with that, you know, it’s okay, but it’s not exactly aligned with my values. I felt like a bit of a fraud. For example, I didn’t even want to meet my editor because I just felt like I didn’t know who to be. I don’t really value pop culture that much. I was almost ashamed in a way and that kind of thing takes its toll on me. I didn’t see it coming but one day I suddenly realized I was depressed and I was not being authentic and it took a real toll. It got worse and worse and worse and I kind of just bottomed out and was really depressed and I was meditating one day asking, “What’s happening here?” and I realized that my work was not in alignment with what I believe. I wasn’t living a right livelihood and I just scrapped it and just prayed and asked “what do I need to do?” and little by little my energy started building and little by little this new book started coming to me which was to write the truest book to who I am. The pop culture books were pretty far from who I am. The truest expression of that and myself was Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi, my first yoga book. It was really a rebirth or reinvigoration and I was experiencing loving my work and felt like rainbows were popping out of my head as I wrote. (Laughs.) I just enjoyed it and was in a state of bliss and grace so that’s my aim now in every interaction in my life and in my work as well, to have that be an expression of my truer self, of my dharma.

Mother's_Love

By Mark Colomb – Flickr, CC BY 2.0, $3

Detached Parenting

Sujantra: I think that’s a great inspiration to really find out what is authentic within ourselves and then have the courage to make the change. I believe meditation and yoga gives us that inner space where we have the courage to let go of something even though we aren’t sure of what’s coming our way.

Brian: Exactly. That’s my new book that I am working on right now. That is, that right now, that it truly, I don’t know if it’s a story I want to tell, you know I think it’s something people need to hear and that people can benefit from to free them up to really pursue that more and more.

Sujantra: One of our teachers here at the studio, she’s Kripalu trained and she led a workshop for us on finding your dharma. Now, in your book (Misdaventures of the Parenting Yogi) two themes I found throughout were the term ‘conscious parenting’ and as you’ve illustrated in the Benjamin Spock part, developing your intuition. I am really curious how you talk about your child crying and trying to figure out what exactly is going on and needing to learn to trust your intuition. I was wondering if you could just talk about that ability and how your intuition can help you distinguish to what that little child might need or is looking for?

Brian: I think in parenting and all parts of life it’s the same thing. There’s a wisdom and an inner knowing that we all have that we can all tap into. Perhaps it’s in no place stronger than it is in parenting, right, because it’s obviously so innate. I think it could be relative to all parts though. Instead of watching the news and seeing the latest study on whether pomegranate seeds are or are not good for us, I think we’d be a lot better served by doing something like yoga, tai chi, playing basketball, or whatever clears our mind or calms our mind. Then we can hear and see more clearly whether pomegranate or spinach or meat or whatever is good for us. Similarly in parenting I think we can certainly get some advice on logistics from our parents and other folks, but deep in our heart I think we already know what we need to know. So I would say the way to intuition is knocking on the door. I don’t think we need to cultivate the intuition. What we really need to do is quiet the noise, quiet the busy mind, quiet the cultural messages that may be overriding. Quiet the fear that causes us to not follow our intuition and of course, the way to do that is meditation, yoga or whatever practices a person is drawn to. I think that the innate knowledge of how to care for our loved ones is there already.

 

ABOUT BRIAN LEAF

Brian LeafBrian Leaf, MA, is director of The New Leaf Learning Center, a holistic tutoring center in Massachusetts. In his work helping students manage ADD and overcome Misadventures of a Parenting Yogistandardized-test and math phobias, Brian draws upon twenty-one years of intensive study, practice, and teaching of yoga, meditation, and holistic health. He is certified by The New England Institute of Ayurvedic Medicine and holds licenses or certifications as a Yoga Teacher, Massage Therapist, Energyworker, and Holistic Educator. He also incorporates Bach Flower Essences, Cranio-Sacral Therapy, Reiki, Shiatsu, and Tai Chi into his work.

Brian is the author of eleven books, including Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi, Name That Movie!, and McGraw-Hill’s Top 50 Skills for a Top Score. His books have been featured on The CW, MTV.com, Fox News, and Kripalu.org.

Brian lives in western Massachusetts with his wife and two sons.

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Philosophy Podcast E14: Valmiki Acts [Ramayana]

One way to deal with the world is to renounce and become a hermit. Another way is to accept your current surroundings as Divine and act upon those…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard.

Ep 14: Valmiki Acts – One way to deal with the world is to renounce and become a hermit. Another way is to accept your current surroundings as Divine and act upon those.

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Meditation Podcast E17: Removing The Cloud Of Doubt

Open your heart and bring sincerity to your mind…

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The Pilgrimage of the Heart Mediation Podcast is a recorded broadcast of Sujantra’s weekly Tuesday night meditation class held in San Diego California. Each week Sujantra introduces a new topic related to meditation and leads the class through various types of meditations including: visual concentration, yogic concentration, breathing techniques, chanting and much more.

Ep 17: Removing The Cloud Of Doubt – Open your heart and bring sincerity to your mind.

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THE ABCs OF ENLIGHTENMENT Week 05: ENLIGHTENMENT

If you have been reading these essays from the beginning then you already know that in the East they believe that God…

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ENLIGHTENMENT

 

God and His Heavenly Kingdom Are Within You

If you have been reading these essays from the beginning then you already know that in the East they believe that God and His Heavenly Kingdom are within you and discoverable. If, however, you started reading here, believing that, being the title chapter, it would be, like, the best part ever, then I wish to tell you that in the East they believe that God and His Heavenly Kingdom are within you and discoverable and in order for you to find out whether the “best part ever” thing is true, you will have to read a little more. Sorry.

When we think of enlightenment, we immediately think of the Buddha, or maybe Keanu Reeves, who portrayed him in 1993’s Little Buddha, and that would be unfortunate. For while both the movie and he, of course, looked good; steeped in the cadence of surf speak, of “Dude, that’s totally gnarly,” Keanu’s performance was sort of bogus. So much so that on the night I went, when he delivered the line “Come my disciples, eat my rice,” it reached critical mass and the entire theater just cracked up, for suddenly we were watching Ted ‘Theodore’ Logan (his signature role in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure) Under the Bodhi Tree. But if you thought that his portrayal was, like, okay, the most amped ever, then I apologize and all right, the crowd that night was, like, okay, a bunch of squid-lips and stuff.

Eternally Self-Transcending

Anyway, one commonality in the movie and the Buddha’s legend, if you are at all familiar with it, is the presence of numerous sadhus (“ascetics”) sometimes naked (try not to look down), who, when they aren’t being total dweebs, are meditating.

In Essay #3, Consciousness, we learned that 5000 years ago the Rishis in the Indus Valley discovered meditation and employed it for self-discovery. It’s important to note, however, that they did not just sit down, go deep within, and immediately arrive at their own highest height. (Or, in truth, ever absolutely arrive, this ultimate goal being eternally self-transcending. Whoa! Epic, Dude!)

Still, there are landmarks along the way and enlightenment is one such signpost and depending upon whom you talk to, perhaps even the most advanced. Though some will say that enlightenment is a misnomer; that when Prince Siddhartha became the Buddha it was God-realization that he attained because enlightenment is more like a higher state of illumination and, as such, actually lower than complete God-consciousness. And those persons are probably those same naked sadhus who, unable to meditate twenty-four hours a day, argue about things like this mostly, I suppose, just to pass the time or maybe to try and take their minds off the fact that they are so freakin’, tired, hungry, and cold.

Higher States of Consciousness

But for our purposes and those of newbies everywhere, we will simply construct two categories: higher states of consciousness that you can descend from and those from which you cannot descend. When Siddhartha, seated at the foot of the Bodhi tree in Sri Chinmoy’s play, Siddhartha Becomes the Buddha, declares, “Here I shall realize the Truth. Until I put an end to sorrow, I shall not move from this spot,” it is this latter condition that he seeks.

In our popular song “Amazing Grace,” we find the line, “I once was lost, but now am found. Was blind but now I see,” and also “to save a wretch like me,” and as a song about redemption and the beautiful and rarefied experience of God’s grace, it reverberates to our very core. But we also know that even if we are lucky enough to have this experience, it’s still also pretty easy to fall from grace; to “wretch” once more, so to speak. Which is why this experience of becoming aware of God’s compassionate presence within one’s self is considered, in mystical circles, an “awakening” and thought of as a first step. Not in any disparaging or condescending way (sadhus take note), for mysticism, like the religions, also recognizes that the inspiration to set forth on our quest, the source of this grace, is God Himself.

We are lost. We are blind. We are deaf and dumb, too.

We are lost. We are blind. We are deaf and dumb, too. Then God touches our hearts with His Grace and suddenly we wake up and begin seeking Him—an absolutely profound and totally essential experience, for if God does not call us to Him we would remain lost; wandering in the desert. But because mysticism believes that He is calling us in order that we might begin the process of reuniting ourselves with Him, finally and absolutely, it feels that this awakening is not the end; not the fruit at the top of the tree, but the seed that inspires the seeker to begin their journey back to a permanent state of God-consciousness. (Did you know that the giant Sequoia, 300 feet tall and 100 feet in circumference and therefore the largest by volume of any tree on Earth, begins as a seed smaller than a flake of oatmeal? Also, that its germ can only be released by fire? I shudder!)

So knowing that awakening is an exceptional condition, not only to receive but especially to maintain, that “what comes up has to come down,” and believing that a permanent state of God-consciousness is possible, mystics employ meditation to “limit their downside potential,” to borrow a phrase from the business world. Still, meditation is not the actual experience but the tool; not the signal, let us say, which comes from God, but more like the tuner on a radio that must be carefully adjusted until it hones in on the proper frequency.

You Will Need Complete Self-Mastery

Science estimates the number of human beings who have ever lived to be roughly 100 billion, give or take 25 billion or so. (The number depends upon when you consider modern man to have first appeared.) And I’m about to take an even greater statistical leap and guess that the number of humans who have ever found themselves in Prince Siddhartha’s exact psychic condition, to be truly crying for reunification with the Highest, to be only a few hundred or so. Then really jump off the numerical cliff and say that even among those, the number able to complete their journey and become enlightened, permanently God-realized, is perhaps a few dozen at best.

This is because, as illustrated in the film, the play and the legend, you will need complete self-mastery as you are drawn up through the higher realms in order to remain one-pointedly focused on your goal. For the energies that occupy the various realities within you and around you will create every imaginable disruption, just as you might encounter in one of your weirdest and most disturbing dreams. Therefore, it is difficult beyond compare. And many sadhus and others who have practiced spiritual disciplines for decades, when at last they have begun their true ascent, for want of this indomitable inner will, have failed to attain a permanent higher consciousness and have had to descend again. But I’ll never say, “Serves them right” (maybe the other sadhus will), for what they have undertaken is, by far and away, the most difficult thing imaginable.

Mount_Everest

Pic via Wikipedia

The Highest Mountain

The highest mountain in the world at 29,035 feet is Mt. Everest, “discovered” in 1853 and named in 1865 in honor of the British surveyor general of India, even though for centuries it had been known in Nepal as Sagarmatha and in Tibet as Chomolungma, “Goddess Mother of the World”—much in the same way that Columbus “discovered” America in 1492, to the surprise, and later, chagrin of the Native Americans who must have been hard-pressed to try and figure out exactly where they had been living for tens of thousands of years. (In North America we liked most of their place names enough to keep them, anyway. More than half our states and thousands of our cities, counties, and other divisions in America have such ancient names. Connecticut is Mohegan from Quinnehtukqut meaning “beside the long tidal river.” Manhattan is Algonquian, and means “isolated by water.” There are thousands of other examples.)

Many people have been inspired to climb Everest, while the rest of humanity will ask, “What on Earth would make anyone want to do that?” To which George Mallory, who lost his life in 1924 on his third attempt to be the first to summit, famously answered, “Because it is there.” And this is perhaps the closest parallel to the pursuit of enlightenment that we have. Except that if you are successful in your inner climb, if you become enlightened, then you can stay at the peak, can remain eternally God-conscious and never have to descend.

Look for the next topic, Faith, next week! Can’t wait to until then to read more? Order The ABCs ofThe ABCs of Enlightenment cover Enlightenment: A Mystical Primer today.

 

Jeffrey BakerJeffrey Baker was a student for more than forty years of Sri Chinmoy, who named him Kalatit (Kal, time; atit, beyond). Called “our preeminent humorist” by his teacher, he was a frequent contributor to publications and events in his spiritual community and elsewhere. A card-carrying Baby Boomer, he attended the Woodstock Festival, performed in various rock-and-roll ensembles, and has a degree in ecology from The University of Connecticut. He’s been a gardener for the Rockefellers in Pocantico Hills, New York, and “the piano tuner to the stars” working with artists such as Billy Joel, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Richard Goode and Andre Previn. He has composed more than one hundred works in the classical as well as the theatrical genres. (https://www.reverbnation.com/jeffreybaker) His The Music of the Zodiac, has had more than 40,000 downloads. His corpus of philosophical treatises, Eat My Dust, Martin Luther, as well as a collection of epigrams, 1000 Pearls of Wisdom, and a group of essays on contemporary subjects, Blah, Blah, Blah, are available as e-books (Amazon) and in paperback (Createspace).

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The Pilgrimage of the Heart Philosophy Podcast E13

After being banished from the kingdom, Rama is now wandering through the forest when he meets up with a lovely character named Guha…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard.

Ep 13: After being banished from the kingdom, Rama is now wandering through the forest when he meets up with a lovely character named Guha…

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Pilgrimage of the Heart Meditation Podcast E16

Be the change you wish to see.

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The Pilgrimage of the Heart Mediation Podcast is a recorded broadcast of Sujantra’s weekly Tuesday night meditation class held in San Diego California. Each week Sujantra introduces a new topic related to meditation and leads the class through various types of meditations including: visual concentration, yogic concentration, breathing techniques, chanting and much more.

Ep 16: Be the change you wish to see…

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The Pilgrimage of the Heart Interviews Podcast E05

Desi Bartlett M.S., CPT E-RYT, has been teaching health and wellness for over 20 years…

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Enjoy interviews with inspiring and uplifting guests who share their insights into yoga, personal improvement and world transformation. We feature yogis, writers, musicians, teachers and visionaries from many fields who are reaching for the highest in human potential. The program is hosted by Sujantra McKeever, founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, CA.

Ep 05: Desi Bartlett M.S., CPT E-RYT, has been teaching health and wellness for over 20 years. She is a dynamic motivator and widely sought after international presenter and spokesperson. Her innovative approach to teaching yoga is to tap into one’s inner joy and let movement be an outer expression of that state. Enjoy her insights on meditation, yoga and the modern world.

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THE ABCs OF ENLIGHTENMENT Week 4: Death

As the years went by, great-grandpas and great-grandmas and then regular old grandpas and grandmas, would grow feeble and go on…

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DEATH

Unless you grew up in Rwanda, Afghanistan, or Iraq, the things that were dying all around you when you were young—the parakeets, hamsters, little green turtles, or especially goldfish—all shared the characteristic of being easily replaced at the Five and Dime (now, due to inflation, the 99 Cents Store). Until your first dog died, that is.

I remember mine, Tippy—who I wasn’t even aware was sick, although my mom later insisted that she was very sick, and really old as well—lying motionless at the bottom of the stairs, while I watched from above, still in my pajamas, as her lifeless body was carried away by my irritated dad (this was making him late for work).

The Natural Course of Things

As the years went by, great-grandpas and great-grandmas and then regular old grandpas and grandmas, would grow feeble and go on to their rewards but with the exception of the crazy kid in high school who drove his car into a tree at ninety miles an hour, the natural course of things prevailed. (Recently, near where I live, in the very wealthy community of Greenwich, Connecticut, some rich-guy dad who wanted to make his son the envy of the high school parking lot gave the lad a new Corvette for his sixteenth birthday, with the predictable result that he, and even more tragically, his young girlfriend, careened off the road and were killed.)

Then in your 60s, where I now find myself, the Grim Reaper visits more frequently as some of your contemporaries, who otherwise seemed perfectly healthy, even fit, are struck down by a heart attack or an aneurism or cancer or something and it sure starts to seem like death, while maybe not having your number on its speed dial just yet, does seem more and more just a phone call away.
 
Flowered Field
 
I began writing this essay, arbitrarily I thought, on December 6, 2006, only to remember that it was three years before, to the day, that I lost one of my dearest friends to breast cancer. She had been diagnosed at the age of forty and did miraculously well for sixteen years, during which time, believe it or not, not only her sole sister but her mother, too, succumbed to the very same disease. (Her father had passed away many years before, of a heart attack, in her arms, on stage. She was a concert pianist and he, a concert violinist.) I was with all these women until just a few hours, even a few minutes, before the end. Meaning that for roughly five years of my recent life I was in the position of seeing three people whom I was very fond of “shuffle off this mortal coil.”

A Veritable Symphony of Death

My friend’s mother had grown up in Ukraine in the 1930s at a time when

Stalin had collectivized their farms and exported all their crops back to Russia, which by 1935 had led to death by starvation of over one-quarter of the population, including an estimated three million children. She had also been an operative in the Ukrainian underground during both the German and Russian occupations of World War II where, in a veritable symphony of death, the Germans had first come and killed all the Russians and their alleged sympathizers, then the Russians had come back and killed all the Germans and their alleged sympathizers, along with untold numbers of Ukrainians and their alleged sympathizers. (Not a good time to be sympathetic.) Consequently, she had the most cavalier approach to the whole business of dying of anyone I have ever met; so much so that on the first day that it became necessary for me to carry her to the bathroom she proclaimed, in her wonderfully thick Slavic accent, “That’s enough of this shit,” and left “This Bitter Earth” (the great name of a bar in Harlem) later that night.
 
Angel
 
My friend’s younger sister’s passing (thankfully, after her mom’s, who, no matter how tough, would not have been able to endure it), being premature, was more tragic. A wonderful and very successful singer, with one of the loveliest voices I had ever heard, and with a four-year-old son as well, she valiantly struggled to keep going, even to keep performing, but due to a brain metastasis finally collapsed and could not leave her bed. On the day before she passed she told me that three angels had come to her and told her that it was time and she had told them that she was ready. She departed with the next sunrise on a bright and beautiful April morning just days before her forty-fifth birthday. (Aptly, her Ukrainian name was Kvitka, which means flower.)

In the same way that the setting for her sister’s passing was in keeping with her nature, so was my friend’s, but unlike her sister’s spring, she enjoyed the winter, and so her last day brought a freak and furious blizzard that made it just about impossible for her two daughters and me to get to the hospital. Later, when leaving, though she was already comatose, I told her that I would be back to see her the next day and she managed a very sweet smile that told the whole story. The hospital called a few minutes later, while we were in the car “sledding” back home, to say that she had expired.
 
Cornflower Ladybug
 

A Few General Observations About Death

Therefore, while no expert, I do feel qualified, based on these recent experiences, to make a few general observations about death.

Job one for each of us is to fight for life until the very end, out of respect and especially gratitude to the One who has given us life. Then when any further participation in the goings-on here is impossible, our souls begin a process that they are very familiar with and prepare to return to their own abode. This is something absolutely sacred.

One more thing, on a practical level, that I feel I must share. As the energy available to our bodies diminishes, functions that are less essential for sustaining our physical existence begin to shut down. But hearing, for some reason, even after mobility, speaking, seeing and just about every other thing is lost, seems to remain active. Therefore, one should not stand around the “unconscious” loved one chatting and gossiping as if there was no one there, something I have seen many times, especially in hospices. For while it is understandable that you might be nervous about the thing in your midst, the eight-hundred-pound gorilla in the room, loud and boisterous gatherings as if getting together for a Super Bowl party are really uncalled for. Even the apes show their dying more respect. So please, take your chitchat and especially your bluster down the hall.

To Make Life More Precious

Life after death, even if you believe those who say they have been and come back, remains a matter of faith; like when someone goes to a great vacation spot and while we have no reason to doubt their glowing report, we cannot be absolutely certain it lives up to all the hype until we go there ourselves.

A character on Six Feet Under, a popular TV comedy set in a mortuary (talk about a contradiction), when asked, “Why death?” simply answered, “to make life more precious”—probably the least speculative, most insightful thing that anyone has ever had to say about the whole mysterious business.
 

Featured Pic  by Vladimir Menkov – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, License

 
Look for the next topic, Enlightenment, next week! Can’t wait to until then to read more? Order The ABCs ofThe ABCs of Enlightenment cover Enlightenment: A Mystical Primer today.

 

Jeffrey BakerJeffrey Baker was a student for more than forty years of Sri Chinmoy, who named him Kalatit (Kal, time; atit, beyond). Called “our preeminent humorist” by his teacher, he was a frequent contributor to publications and events in his spiritual community and elsewhere. A card-carrying Baby Boomer, he attended the Woodstock Festival, performed in various rock-and-roll ensembles, and has a degree in ecology from The University of Connecticut. He’s been a gardener for the Rockefellers in Pocantico Hills, New York, and “the piano tuner to the stars” working with artists such as Billy Joel, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Richard Goode and Andre Previn. He has composed more than one hundred works in the classical as well as the theatrical genres. (https://www.reverbnation.com/jeffreybaker) His The Music of the Zodiac, has had more than 40,000 downloads. His corpus of philosophical treatises, Eat My Dust, Martin Luther, as well as a collection of epigrams, 1000 Pearls of Wisdom, and a group of essays on contemporary subjects, Blah, Blah, Blah, are available as e-books (Amazon) and in paperback (Createspace).

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The Pilgrimage of the Heart Philosophy Podcast E12

Rama meets up with up with Father Time in this episode of Sujantra’s readings from the Ramayana…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard.

Ep 12: Rama meets up with up with Father Time in this episode of Sujantra’s readings from the Ramayana.

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Pilgrimage of the Heart Meditation Podcast E15

Sujantra speaks about irritability, staying awake & reincarnation and how meditation can help. A guest named Salil leads the class through the meditation…

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The Pilgrimage of the Heart Mediation Podcast is a recorded broadcast of Sujantra’s weekly Tuesday night meditation class held in San Diego California. Each week Sujantra introduces a new topic related to meditation and leads the class through various types of meditations including: visual concentration, yogic concentration, breathing techniques, chanting and much more.

Ep 15: Sujantra speaks about irritability, staying awake & reincarnation and how meditation can help. A guest named Salil leads the class through the meditation.

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Interview with Brian Leaf: Self-Medicating with Yoga

Brian Leaf is the author of 11 books including Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi and his most recent book, Misadventures of a Parenting Yogi…

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Sujantra: This is Sujantra and today I have the pleasure of interviewing author, parent and yogi, Brian Leaf, who is joining us from Massachusetts. Hi Brian, how are you?

Brian: Good!

Sujantra: It’s so great to have you on the program. Brian Leaf is the author of 11 books including Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi and his most recent book, Misadventures of a Parenting Yogi. Some of his other books include: Name That Movie!, Defining Twilight and he also writes educational books on improving your SAT score, math skills and multiple tests, so a wide variety of topics.

Brian: A strange mix.

PYO

Sujantra: A strange mix, indeed. (Laughs.) Our show goes out to yogis all over the world, we have listeners in 38 countries, so I first wanted to touch base with you as a yogi, Brian, because I notice in your most recent book that I was fortunate enough to read, the Misadventures of a Parenting Yogi you dedicate the book to Swami Kripalu. Could you tell us a little bit about how your yogic journey began?

In the Beginning

Brian: In 1989, I started going to college at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. and I was a super high achieving New Jersey kid. I was actually a first place debater in New Jersey. I don’t know if you know New Jersey out there, but if you’re the first place debater in New Jersey, it’s pretty intense I think. People argue a little bit. I was really intense and I developed ulcerative colitis which is an ulcer of the colon and it’s kind of rare at that age, I think, and it was pretty awful and debilitating. The first round I had it in high school and my mom took me to a bunch of doctors and it eventually got better. When I was at Georgetown I started taking yoga as sort of a goof, and from the first class it really captured me. It was like I found my place. I think a lot of yogis have this experience. You know it was like day one and class one and it was the first time I felt like I found my church or somewhere I belonged and I felt relaxed for pretty much the first time in my life. From there I got really into it and when the colitis came back, I made the link that when I did yoga it felt better. So I wondered if I did a ton of yoga if I’d feel a ton better. I started doing yoga 5 times a day, a sun salutation and a guided meditation, five times a day.

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A Healing Practice

Sujantra: A quick question for you, Brian. You’re saying a ton of yoga five times a day. Would you say 5-10 minutes five times a day? How long were you actually practicing?

Brian: Yes, of course, it wasn’t hours at a time. I called it self-medicating because it felt like taking a dose of medicine. I had this epiphany that maybe it would help and I was in college so I had the ability and the time to do it, so five times a day I would do about fifteen minutes of sun salutations and ten to fifteen minutes of relaxation. The style I was studying in college, the lineage the teacher who came to the gym every day to teach, I came to realize it was sort of an integral or Sivananda style so the sun salutations were a big part of it. Not as big a part as Ashtanga yoga, but just as a warm up and it really spoke to me. So I did that five times a day and after three days, it’s like a miracle, the symptoms went away in a way that the meds weren’t helping. It’s like I avoided my doctor after that because I was afraid he was going to tell me I was crazy, you know it was going to make it come back. So on the purely physical level that got me really zealous about it and then over a period of about 25 years it changed my life. I could handle stress better and I learned how to show my emotions, and I opened up my heart and I just sort of was more exposed and open to the spiritual aspect seeking union and freedom and love. Initially the classes I took at Georgetown were Sivananda or Integral inspired, and like anybody in the early 1990s, I did a bunch of Iyengar Yoga and then I found Kripalu. Kripalu for me, and everybody has their own style, it’s like dating there’s no right person to love it’s just who you love, and I dated a bunch of different styles and they all spoke to me in different ways but when I found Kripalu yoga, which is a style based upon something developed at the Kripalu Yoga Ashram in Pennsylvania and then in the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts by the folks surrounding Yogi Amrit Desai and his guru Swami Kripalu, and when I found that style it just really woke me up in a whole other way. For me it was the style that brought me past simply the physical, the physical postures and discipline and into something deeper into spirit and heart. That’s the part that really captured me and I’ve been a student of that style ever since.

Feeling at Home

Sujantra: And is there something specific about that style that brought that depth to you or that made it so different?

Brian: Yeah, I think I can answer that question in two ways. It’s the same way any of us could answer the question, “Why do you love your wife” or “Why did you marry your partner or husband? Or why do you love your kids?” There’s, you know, I could say certain reasons , but Kripalu spoke to me. It’s like it mirrored who I am and who I want to be. The values that it has. I think Kripalu really values tuning in and looking inside and finding truth and meaning deep inside not just from academic study and not seeking perfection in the physical postures but going inside and looking for your own inner wisdom or inner guru and living and practicing yoga from that place. I also think Kripalu spoke to me, especially in those days, because I was a perfectionist, a New Jersey debater and was overworked and overstressed. I felt like some styles said to me “You don’t have it quite right. Rotate your hips thirty degrees,” whereas Kripalu whispered in my ear, “You’re good enough. Relax.” (Laughs.) That’s what I needed. That’s a simplification and could be said for any style, both things I said, but that’s what got me in. The deeper answer goes along with “Why do you love your partner?” it just spoke to me and I fell in love. It matched me and made sense to me. It completed me to quote Jerry McGuire.

Twisted_Dog_in_studio

Sujantra: The ancient scriptures say that when the student is ready the teacher appears. For each of us, there is no right or wrong path, but there is definitely a path that each of us is going to accelerate on the most.

Brian: Yeah, and like in the Ayurvedic and Yogic texts we learn that there are different parts to one’s evolution. We need different things at different times in our evolution, no hierarchy just different things at different times. Just like a different posture might be one’s edge at different times in one’s practice. Maybe for a year, forward bend is the most challenging. You know it brings up tension and emotions and who knows what, and then for five years it’s shoulderstand, and then suddenly it’s a forward bend again. I think it’s like that; there are different things we need to be pushed physically, to be pushed emotionally or spiritually or to do more breath work at different times in our practice.

Sujantra: Has your practice moved to a home practice where you do primarily a lot of asana or do you do meditation and pranayama? What does your personal practice look like?

Brian: It’s true that it mostly did go to a home practice. For years and years I would go to classes many times a week, I even lived at Kripalu for a while. At some point, I guess when I found what I particularly wanted, and maybe a lot of yogis have this experience, it did turn to a home practice because I could do exactly what I wanted and what felt right to me. For a while, when I first had kids, it was hard to do yoga and at that point meditation had become more the priority. At first, yoga was a pure pleasure for me. I never had to try to do it and never had to work to fit it in, I just loved it. I looked forward to it all the time and at some point it did shift a little bit where meditation was my joy and what I loved and looked forward to. The postures were more like getting my homework done. Then after I had kids and there was less time and my boys were little, that was something that actually did kind of go a little bit which was a shame because now I was older and sitting all the time writing and more stressed and I needed it more than ever and then my back started hurting which got me back into it. It had gone to the wayside a little bit. Meditation had always been a priority at that phase and now I am back into doing postures at home and having a pretty strong home practice.

 

ABOUT BRIAN LEAF

Brian LeafBrian Leaf, MA, is director of The New Leaf Learning Center, a holistic tutoring center in Massachusetts. In his work helping students manage ADD and overcome Misadventures of a Parenting Yogistandardized-test and math phobias, Brian draws upon twenty-one years of intensive study, practice, and teaching of yoga, meditation, and holistic health. He is certified by The New England Institute of Ayurvedic Medicine and holds licenses or certifications as a Yoga Teacher, Massage Therapist, Energyworker, and Holistic Educator. He also incorporates Bach Flower Essences, Cranio-Sacral Therapy, Reiki, Shiatsu, and Tai Chi into his work.

Brian is the author of eleven books, including Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi, Name That Movie!, and McGraw-Hill’s Top 50 Skills for a Top Score. His books have been featured on The CW, MTV.com, Fox News, and Kripalu.org.

Brian lives in western Massachusetts with his wife and two sons.

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Pilgrimage of the Heart Meditation Podcast E14

Meditation can help a person focus on many things and make them a reality…

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The Pilgrimage of the Heart Mediation Podcast is a recorded broadcast of Sujantra’s weekly Tuesday night meditation class held in San Diego California. Each week Sujantra introduces a new topic related to meditation and leads the class through various types of meditations including: visual concentration, yogic concentration, breathing techniques, chanting and much more.

Ep 14: Meditation can help a person focus on many things and make them a reality. In this episode Sujantra points out that opening the spiritual heart can be one of the most beneficial things to focus on.

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The Pilgrimage of the Heart Philosophy Podcast E11

King Dasaratha keeps his promise to Kaikaya, but must banish Rama…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard.

Ep 11: King Dasaratha keeps his promise to Kaikaya, but must banish Rama.

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The Pilgrimage of the Heart Philosophy Podcast E10

Exploring dimensions of love through this ancient story…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard.

Ep 10: Exploring dimensions of love through this ancient story.

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Pilgrimage of the Heart Meditation Podcast E12

Explore the cause of loneliness and how to use meditation to transform…

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The Pilgrimage of the Heart Mediation Podcast is a recorded broadcast of Sujantra’s weekly Tuesday night meditation class held in San Diego California. Each week Sujantra introduces a new topic related to meditation and leads the class through various types of meditations including: visual concentration, yogic concentration, breathing techniques, chanting and much more.

Ep 12: Explore the cause of loneliness and how to use meditation to transform.

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The Pilgrimage of the Heart Philosophy Podcast E09

Sujantra reads from the Ramayana about when Lakshmana leaves the body and its spiritual implications…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard.

Ep 09: Sujantra reads from the Ramayana about when Lakshmana leaves the body and its spiritual implications.

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The Pilgrimage of the Heart Interviews Podcast E04

Beryl and Sujantra discuss reincarnation, giving back, meditation, Sri Chinmoy and more!…

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Enjoy interviews with inspiring and uplifting guests who share their insights into yoga, personal improvement and world transformation. We feature yogis, writers, musicians,teachers and visionaries from many fields who are reaching for the highest in human potential. The program is hosted by Sujantra McKeever, founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, CA.

Ep 04: Beryl Bender Birch is the director and founder of The Hard & The Soft Yoga Institute. She is also a founder of the Give Back Yoga Foundation, which provides yoga to underserved communities and offers developmental grants to yoga teachers for community service projects.

A spiritual teacher and yoga therapist, Beryl is the best-selling author of Power Yoga, the classic training manual for asana practice for Ashtanga Yoga; Beyond Power Yoga, which theorizes a relationship between the eight limbs of yoga and the chakras; Boomer Yoga,which illustrates how to create a yoga plan that works for maturing adults; and Yoga for Warriors, which provides yoga practices for veterans.

Beryl and Sujantra discuss reincarnation, giving back, meditation, Sri Chinmoy and more!

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THE ABCs OF ENLIGHTENMENT Week 3: CONSCIOUSNESS

Just about everything humans use today had to be invented or at the very least, as in the case of something that was already there…

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CONSCIOUSNESS

Just about everything humans use today had to be invented or at the very least, as in the case of something that was already there, like fire, “discovered,” or that’s the term we use anyway. Which is still a stretch, especially in the case of said fire, as it is not only ubiquitous but dangerous, burning your ass if you don’t move quickly enough to get out of its way!

The Wheel

Though it took 143,500 years (accepting the notion that modern man first appeared 150,000 years ago) to come up with the somewhat obvious innovation called the wheel, it would seem to qualify as an invention that, according to the archeologists, was originally cobbled together around 4500 BC by the Sumerians in Mesopotamia, modern-day Iraq.

A log had been used as a roller for millennia, and when the load came off, was simply picked up and replaced at the front in order to proceed (I guess before that you just dragged things around on your sled). Later two logs were used and the load merely balanced during this reconfiguring procedure. Sometime later that process, too, was refined by three, four, or even many, many more logs; in that way the pyramids were built. Then one day some proto-insurgent decided to forget the whole get-a-thousand-slaves-and-whip-them-to-within-an-inch-of-their-lives- until-they-carried-these-humongous-rollers-back-up-a-very-steep-incline thing and made an axle. The rest, as they say, is history.

Meditation

Meditation, too, had to be invented, or more correctly (since it could also be argued that the idea of sitting quietly in self-observation was already sort of there), discovered. Amazingly, this occurred around 3000 BC, only fifteen hundred years or so after the invention of the wheel and by a group that today we call the Vedic seers or Rishis (Sanskrit for “saints”) who lived in the Indus Valley, in what is modern-day northwest India.

These Rishis also had a problem to solve and not just how to keep their captives alive long enough to finish the tomb for the glorious Pharaoh, but to find out, “Who am I?” and meditation was their solution. Yes, they reasoned that if they could take all the unnecessary noise out of themselves; if they could make their minds really calm and quiet, even thoughtless, they might be better able to observe their inner nature. (“Duh,” but we still don’t get it!)

The World’s Very First Book

For hundreds of years their discoveries formed an oral tradition or Shruti (“that which is heard”) that was passed down by the gurus (“teachers”) to their wannabe guru disciples until eventually they were collected into books called Vedas (“knowledge”). The very first of these, the Rig Veda, because it was written in the Indus script, can be fairly accurately dated to around 1700 BC, making it the world’s very first book. Earlier writings on papyrus (invented 2500 BC) or even earlier glyphs on animal skins have been found, but so far nothing before this time meets The United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture’s (UNESCO) definition of the book as “a non-periodical printed publication of at least 49 pages excluding covers,” which at 1028 mantras (“hymns”) in ten chapters called mandalas (“cycles”), the Rig Veda easily does.

The first Rig Veda (there are four Vedas) also contains the most sacred of mantras, the Gayatri Mantra, which is still widely recited throughout the world, especially by Hindus. The following translation is by Sri Chinmoy:

We meditate on the transcendental glory of the Deity Supreme,
who is inside the heart of the earth, inside the life of the sky, and
inside the soul of the heavens. May He stimulate and illumine our minds.

One “Deity Supreme”

Back in elementary school we were taught that the Hindus were polytheists (bad) and that the Christians and Jews were monotheists (awesome, and second best, respectively). And that around 1500 BC Abraham first discovered that there was only one God and this really freaked out everybody since they were all idolaters and pagans. The Gayatri Mantra, composed at least 200 years earlier, with its reference to the one “Deity Supreme,” would seem to dispute this. (And doesn’t Christianity also have angels and saints and prophets and a mother and a son and an entire heavenly pantheon that it claims surrounds its one highest God?)

Anyway, one unarguable thing—if there will ever be an unarguable thing— that we learn from the Vedas is that a formalized system of self-inquiry was methodized in the East at least 5000 years ago. And since we already know that psychoanalysis, the most familiar form of this here in the West, was established by Sigmund Freud about 100 years ago, this implies that we might have some catching up to do. Oh, and one more thing. While Freud said that our inner world was comprised of the repressed impulses of our subconscious minds that could be best understood through our dreams, the Rishis said that by practicing meditation we could come face to face with the One Supreme Being who dwells within all. Which, at long last, brings us to our essay topic: Consciousness.

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Oregon Sunset by Malcom Carlaw

Consciousness

Here in the West, consciousness is generally understood to mean “the state of not being unconscious.” In the East, it describes what an individual is conscious of at a particular moment and since they believe that someone can potentially be conscious of everything, including this One Supreme Being, it covers a very wide range of things.

They also say that someone can be in a high state of consciousness or a low state of consciousness or even, I suppose, a so-so state of consciousness. And what they mean is that a person can be aware of his higher nature—his infinite peace, light and bliss—or can merely be, almost by default, aware only of his lower nature—his aggressive impulses and animalistic appetites—or can simply be staring vacantly ahead with flies buzzing in and out of his gaping maw.

How does anyone make that kind of judgment? (Excepting the fly thing, which is pretty obvious.) How do they know what is going on inside someone else? Are they presumptuous, even bumptious? (A great word; look it up.) The answers are probably they don’t and they are, unless they are a genuine Guru or Master, that is, for whom states of consciousness are their stock and trade. Zen Buddhism with its koans is a great way to illustrate this.

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via Wikipedia

Koans

Koans are questions given by Zen Masters to their students that can only be solved by intuition, such as the famous, “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” In this practice the student contemplates his problem during his meditation and then after some time reappears before the Master with his solution. If the Master is satisfied, then he will give the student another more difficult koan and the procedure will be repeated. If not satisfied, the Master will send the student back to try again. This is done in private and to discuss of one’s assignment, especially with other students, is strictly forbidden.

Still, humans being humans, the rest of the monks, according to a friend of mine anyway, take great pleasure—of the malicious variety, of course—in finding out where everyone else is at: “Have you heard? Toyo is still on MU, and for more than one year! Shhh, here he comes.” Mu, by the way is “Has a dog the Buddha nature?”

While books like The Sound of the One Hand: 281 Zen Koans with Answers (CliffsNotesTM for Monks?!) do exist, to think that the Master, if he is a legitimate one, would ever fall for such a ploy is absurd (unless for his own clever reasons he wanted to pretend that he was taken in by this trickery, that is). This is because there is not actually one true answer to any koan and the sensei is not examining the factual correctness of his student’s response but rather his student’s inner condition, his consciousness. He is judging if his student’s meditation has been fruitful; if he has increased his intuitive capacity and is becoming more conscious of the deeper and higher realities within himself or has merely spent the last few weeks, or months, or even years daydreaming or, as is more often the case, catnapping.

A Genuine God-Man

Jesus said, “The Kingdom of Heaven (or ‘God’) is within you,” and, as you know, he was a spiritual master with a dozen or so direct disciples. And this pronouncement is perfectly in keeping with the entire message and direction of Eastern spiritual thought for millennia. Now without getting into the rancor of who was a real prophet and who was false, of who was God’s only son and who was just some distant, even estranged relation, I believe that we can state, hopefully without injury to our person, that Jesus was not just bringing this up as an interesting fact but was hoping that his disciples would also seek this same Kingdom within themselves; that he was sharing this wisdom in order to inspire them to expand their consciousness. And further, as a genuine God-man, he was already conscious of this inner Kingdom within himself and had the capacity to look within his disciples to see how close they were to realizing this reality for themselves and then, out of his love and concern for them, would try and guide them toward this ultimate knowledge in the same way a Zen Master might do. But a million, gazillion times more legitimately, of course. Phew!
Look for the next topic, Death, next week! Can’t wait to until then to read more? Order The ABCs ofThe ABCs of Enlightenment cover Enlightenment: A Mystical Primer today.

 

Jeffrey BakerJeffrey Baker was a student for more than forty years of Sri Chinmoy, who named him Kalatit (Kal, time; atit, beyond). Called “our preeminent humorist” by his teacher, he was a frequent contributor to publications and events in his spiritual community and elsewhere. A card-carrying Baby Boomer, he attended the Woodstock Festival, performed in various rock-and-roll ensembles, and has a degree in ecology from The University of Connecticut. He’s been a gardener for the Rockefellers in Pocantico Hills, New York, and “the piano tuner to the stars” working with artists such as Billy Joel, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Richard Goode and Andre Previn. He has composed more than one hundred works in the classical as well as the theatrical genres. (https://www.reverbnation.com/jeffreybaker) His The Music of the Zodiac, has had more than 40,000 downloads. His corpus of philosophical treatises, Eat My Dust, Martin Luther, as well as a collection of epigrams, 1000 Pearls of Wisdom, and a group of essays on contemporary subjects, Blah, Blah, Blah, are available as e-books (Amazon) and in paperback (Createspace).

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Pilgrimage of the Heart Meditation Podcast E10

In this episode Sujantra talks about the importance of finding a teacher to help a person on their spiritual path…

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The Pilgrimage of the Heart Mediation Podcast is a recorded broadcast of Sujantra’s weekly Tuesday night meditation class held in San Diego California. Each week Sujantra introduces a new topic related to meditation and leads the class through various types of meditations including: visual concentration, yogic concentration, breathing techniques, chanting and much more.

Ep 10: In this episode Sujantra talks about the importance of finding a teacher to help a person on their spiritual path. Sujantra explains how his path of finding a teacher was different than the vision he had in mind. Sujantra then leads the class through a meditation with mantras and aums.

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The Pilgrimage of the Heart Philosophy Podcast E08

In this episode Sujantra reads from the Ramayana about fear of loss and the hope of gain…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard.

Ep 08: In this episode Sujantra reads from the Ramayana about fear of loss and the hope of gain.

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The Pilgrimage of the Heart Interviews Podcast E03

Sujantra interviews meditation teacher and author Sally Kempton. Listen as they discuss mystical awareness meditation, the spiritual heart and brahmacharya: celibacy…

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Enjoy interviews with inspiring and uplifting guests who share their insights into yoga, personal improvement and world transformation. We feature yogis, writers, musicians,teachers and visionaries from many fields who are reaching for the highest in human potential. The program is hosted by Sujantra McKeever, founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, CA.

Ep 03: Sujantra interviews meditation teacher and author Sally Kempton. Listen as they discuss mystical awareness meditation, the spiritual heart and brahmacharya: celibacy.

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THE ABCs OF ENLIGHTENMENT Week 2: BEAUTY

When you are born the doctors give you a spank of welcome, count your fingers and toes, and proclaim to your mother…

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BEAUTY

When you are born the doctors give you a spank of welcome, count your fingers and toes, and proclaim to your mother, “You have a beautiful baby boy/girl!” or so I’m told—I don’t remember too much about it. Or know, for that matter, what they say if your count comes up short. A decade or so later you want to kill yourself because your ears stick out. That I do remember! So what happened? Did I have bad work done?

No, socialization happened. The elite at my school were forming and I wasn’t yet a member; wasn’t invited to any of their exclusive get-togethers and would never be, I was certain, because of my curse: my big jug ears.

PYO

Appearance the First Criterion for Being Culled

People sometimes wistfully say, “Oh, to be young again.” Well they must have amnesia or at the very least, early dementia. For the world of youth, especially the preteen years, makes the Serengeti look civilized; and down at my own savanna in suburban Connecticut, the Central Grammar School, the taunting, branding, mental and even physical abuse, the fight to determine the alpha males and alpha females was full-on; and appearance, an obvious, perhaps the most obvious attribute, was the first criterion for being culled.

This is why the happiest day of my early life came about six months into my twelfth year—while riding bikes in the parking lot of the local shopping center and doing some harebrained things to impress the members of the A-team—when the leader of the pack decided that I was crazy enough to be invited to a party. Ears and all!

Boys are lucky. They can attain higher social status simply by acting insane. Girls are not so lucky. Beauty often outweighs all other methods whereby they are earmarked.

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Face to Face with the One in a Million

I used to have an office in Manhattan one floor below the Click Modeling Agency, one of New York City’s most prestigious. So, very often, I would have to share an elevator with these creatures from another planet and if you had any illusions about how beautiful you were, you could throw them right down the shaft, for you were now face to face with the one in a million or even one in a hundred million that met all the world’s criteria for being beautiful. And it didn’t even seem to matter whether these Venuses paid any attention to what they wore or to their hair or makeup or whatever. In fact, an imperfection like Cindy Crawford’s mole or Lauren Hutton’s gap tooth or even Gia’s “heroin-chic/just woke up from a weeklong drug binge” appearance only seemed to help differentiate them from the few hundred or so others who inhabited their world.

On Thursday afternoons this same agency would hold an open house where any member of the public who felt they were an undiscovered supermodel could drop by for a free appraisal; get put up on the lift, so to speak. And the saddest thing on those days were the mothers with their darling daughters in tow who, believing that their little girl was the most beautiful on Earth, as by all rights they should, had gone to a lot of expense and trouble to make them up and dress them up to look like the queen of the prom. And while certainly attractive by most reckoning, with all their parts accounted for and affixed in all the proper places— good enough to play out of town, let us say—these girls were not six-plus feet tall, bone thin, with doe eyes, porcelain skin, and legs up to their chins.

Artistic Beauty

Later, when you saw these supplicants on their way back down, silent and crestfallen, you could easily think—if you didn’t know where they had been—that they had just received news of a terminal illness. It’s so crazy! All right, they were never going to be statuesque enough to walk the catwalk for the House of Dior or marry Donald Trump. But this begs the question: Who in their right mind would want to? (Marry The Donald, anyway.)

Where We Fit In

I once saw a photo of the Hunt brothers, a family of Texan oilmen, with their wives. All the women looked like mannequins and the latest models, too. (I’m sure the old ones had been traded in or warehoused.) While the brothers, to the man, looked like the kind of trolls one would find locking up fair maidens in impregnable towers or lurking around under bridges in children’s stories.
Now if we were alone in the world, all this wouldn’t matter; we wouldn’t care how comparatively beautiful we were (whom would we compare ourselves to?). But as soon as we form any kind of group we seem to immediately need to establish hierarchies, and especially to try to ascertain where we might fit in.

I ride a lot of subways in New York City on an almost daily basis. As soon as the door closes I look around at the little collective now being formed and try to determine if I’m in any kind of danger; if I’m going to have to fight for my life (flight being now temporarily off the table, at least until the next stop). Once I feel that I’m relatively safe I begin to attempt to establish my place in this new, albeit very temporary world-order. Who’s older, younger (sadly, fewer of the former these days), shorter, taller, richer, poorer. Even who’s fatter, skinnier (also sadly fewer of the former these days). And after I have sorted these things out, the oddest part of my survey now begins: who is the most beautiful? Being male (though I recognize that this “opposites attract” paradigm is no longer the hard-and-fast rule) I concern myself mostly with the females.

Framed in Hair

The Oddest Part of My Survey

I say “oddest” because the motivation for this does not seem to be to establish an emergency plan; a who-gets-to-eat-first pecking order should we suddenly find ourselves in a struggle to survive. And I’m not even sure if it is entirely based upon our next level of instincts, our reproductive urges, either, although this certainly does seem to try and worm itself in there. Just yesterday, in fact, a fellow seated some distance away from me was staring at someone standing near me and making what he believed was a most compelling advertisement of himself. Yes, he was attempting to force a kind of electronic crawl to march across his forehead that read: “I have the capacity to make such beautiful love to you, my darling” (à la Pepé Le Pew, the cartoon character/rapist). I then traced his sight line back to a very attractive, even model-caliber young girl standing near me who, while keeping her eyes fixed squarely ahead and purposefully at no one, still seemed aware that she was being singled out in this manner and was exhibiting both a kind of pleasure that she might garner such attention and a certain trepidation, as she could not really be sure whether this fellow might follow her out as she exited; might try and bother, even molest her.

Both myself and this very attractive one (but not the libidinous Don Juan, thank God) got off at the same stop and went in the same direction (not by design, mind you! I’m not a perv!), so I was able to observe from a few paces behind the attention-getting nature of beauty as it went about its normal business. The men (or most of them, anyway) were systematically rendered helpless, stunned, while the women—intuitively sensing a disturbance in the force—quickly averted their gaze. Why remind yourself of your inadequacies?

I am a mystical man by trade (though admittedly a normal man by default), so I am able to dispassionately observe things as they ebb and flow within myself and to some extent even marshal some semblance of self-control over certain of my impulses, and when I do this in a case like this, and drill down to the level where I might objectively observe the thing called “beauty,” what I note is something miraculous: earthly beings who have evolved heavenly attributes.

There is a famous poem by William Blake, “The Tyger,” in which he writes: “What immortal hand or eye could frame thy fearful symmetry?” If we edit out the word fearful (forgive me, Bill), I think we can begin our contemplation of beauty in earnest.

Beautiful Smile

Something Beautiful Hidden Deep Within

For while the beautiful woman, or even man (although again, I’m not an expert in that field), did not create themselves, there is something beautiful hidden deep within the universe that is expressing more and more of its superlative qualities through its creations and especially its latest effort, the human being. Just consider hair. Why does it frame the human face so? (It certainly does not do this in any of our animal cohabitants, from whom we only recently parted ways.) In the Asian woman, for example, why is it often so extraordinarily silken, so amazingly black and flowing?

Yes, if we can manage to remove ourselves from our instinctual responses and especially our default mode of relentless competition, beauty then becomes a door to another world. But when we approach beauty in our everyday way, rather than simply accepting it or even marveling at it, we covet its ability to provide higher social status and/or pursue it as emblematic thereof, the way the wealthy man (okay, like “The Donald” or even the regular guy, I suppose), is convinced that to possess something that others want is proof of his superiority (think: trophy wife). This is why—given humanity’s current stage of development—beauty is on a strange and sometimes even precarious path, especially for its possessor.

As I read somewhere years ago but never forgot: “Only beautiful birds are imprisoned, crows are never caged.”

Featured pic Spiral Love Rose by Nicolas Raymond, License

Look for the next topic, Consciousness, next week! Can’t wait to until then to read more? Order The ABCs ofThe ABCs of Enlightenment cover Enlightenment: A Mystical Primer today.

 

Jeffrey BakerJeffrey Baker was a student for more than forty years of Sri Chinmoy, who named him Kalatit (Kal, time; atit, beyond). Called “our preeminent humorist” by his teacher, he was a frequent contributor to publications and events in his spiritual community and elsewhere. A card-carrying Baby Boomer, he attended the Woodstock Festival, performed in various rock-and-roll ensembles, and has a degree in ecology from The University of Connecticut. He’s been a gardener for the Rockefellers in Pocantico Hills, New York, and “the piano tuner to the stars” working with artists such as Billy Joel, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Richard Goode and Andre Previn. He has composed more than one hundred works in the classical as well as the theatrical genres. (https://www.reverbnation.com/jeffreybaker) His The Music of the Zodiac, has had more than 40,000 downloads. His corpus of philosophical treatises, Eat My Dust, Martin Luther, as well as a collection of epigrams, 1000 Pearls of Wisdom, and a group of essays on contemporary subjects, Blah, Blah, Blah, are available as e-books (Amazon) and in paperback (Createspace).

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The Pilgrimage of the Heart Philosophy Podcast E07

In this episode Sujantra reads from the Ramayana about Brahma creating the world with his mind, including Ravana’s birth…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard.

Ep 07: In this episode Sujantra reads from the Ramayana about Brahma creating the world with his mind, including Ravana’s birth.

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THE ABCs OF ENLIGHTENMENT Week 1: ART

Please enjoy this first weekly installment from The ABCs of Enlightment by Jeffery Baker….

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ART

Human beings have been creating art for 50,000 to 75,000 years, if various regional claims can be settled; the Europeans with their beautiful cave drawings at Lascaux, France, being especially dismissive of the rough petroglyphs of the Africans and Australian Aboriginals, as you might expect. They have a good shot at the record for music, however, with a bear thighbone flute recently discovered in a Slovenian cave and dated to 50,000 BC.

Anthropologists call primitive art “the dawn of superfluous beauty” and so by extension we could certainly call this earliest music “the dawn of superfluous noise,” as we have concrete proof that this is what it has become today. Bothersome Muzak now plays everywhere, even in parking lots.

Not An Exclusively Human Endeavor

Until the 1960s when an English chimp (or one living in England, anyway) named Congo (1954–1964) created more than four hundred paintings, art was considered an exclusively human endeavor. Recently, one of Congo’s untitled canvases set an auction record for nonhuman art at $25,000 (posthumously, of course). And while there are elephants throughout Asia that paint and even one named Nellie in Los Angeles whose works include “Serengeti Passion” and “Kenyan Skies”—yes, not just some loud trumpeting sound—what set Congo apart was his passion.

For while the pachyderms don’t seem to care if they pick up a paintbrush or a mahogany log, Congo, if not allowed to paint, would go berserk; and if his canvas was removed before he felt it was finished, would go completely bananas. Yes, he seemed an artist in every sense—his hygiene was already quite characteristically poor.

The idea that a chimp’s creative output could be considered art upset many religious scholars; for they held that true art was a function of the soul expressing a divine urge and since only humans, in their opinion, had souls, Congo the chimp could not be expressing a divine urge and thereby creating art.

Paintball Art

by Lori Ho – license

According to Mysticism

Mysticism has no such problem with Congo or with the divinity of any of our other simian brothers and sisters. In fact, if mysticism has a problem, it’s trying to figure out what doesn’t have a soul: A dog? A bee? A house? A tree? And what doesn’t embody a divine urge, since according to mysticism the entire creation is the direct result of The Divine Urge which is nothing more than the Creator’s own inspiration to self-expression, the Universe and all its inhabitants being, in essence, God’s art.

So for mysticism the degree to which an organism can create art, can express a divine urge, is not a function of whether or not it has a soul, since most everything has one, but the degree to which that particular soul can express itself through that organism. The higher, more evolved organisms, such as ourselves, having the capacity to be more conscious of their inner realities, therefore becoming better candidates for soulful, artistic, self-expression. This is also why we are not completely surprised when a chimpanzee, our species’ closest relation (we share 99 percent of the same DNA), albeit an exceptionally “gifted” one named Congo, not only wants to paint but is as obsessed as was van Gogh.

Art From the Soul

Recently I was invited to a friend’s art exhibit, the final part of his master of fine arts degree from a famous New York City art college. He specializes in “installations”—not paintings or sculpture, per se, although it could include those—but created environments. The show was held in a loft in Greenwich Village that had been hastily cleaned out and included many other installations as well. My biggest problem that day was trying to figure out what were the works of art and what was intended for the dumpster, the only clue being the little signs with titles and attributions next to each exhibit, making those placards found near the piles of leftover construction materials, the janitor’s closets, or especially the restrooms, particularly daunting.

I bring this up not to be smug but to say that even if we side with the religious scholars and say that only humans have souls and thereby can create art, it is still a stretch to say that whatever is expressed by us comes directly from our souls. Though recognizing what does is no simple matter.

Michelangelo

via Michelangelo via Wikipedia

Openness; That Artistic Genius

Michelangelo, arguably the finest sculptor ever, said that creating art for him was simply a matter of chipping away all that wasn’t part of his statues; Mozart, considered by many the greatest composer, just a matter of transcribing the music that he already heard fully formed inside his head. The power, beauty, and fecundity of their output (Mozart lived only thirty-five years and had nearly seven hundred symphonic, choral, chamber, and operatic masterworks) tells us that creativity and especially creative abundance is not cunning but openness; that artistic genius, in the artists’ own words, is not contrivance but revelation; is, what is called in New Age parlance, “channeling.” And this is exactly what we would expect if we became aware of the infinite in us; if we became conscious of our soul. There is no better example of this than my own mentor, Sri Chinmoy, who created more than two hundred thousand paintings, fifteen million drawings, and composed more than twenty thousand songs.

Art of Sri Chinmoy

Sri Chinmoy with one of his Jharna-Kalas.

When Mozart was twelve and visiting the Sistine Chapel in Rome he heard Gregorio Allegri’s famous Miserere—a complicated work for nine-part choir, which distribution or publication of was punishable by excommunication. That night, back in his hotel room, the young prodigy wrote the entire thing down from memory, perfectly, note for note. (At that age I was sitting with a record player and a guitar trying to figure out the chords for Beatles songs and getting them mostly wrong.) When Michelangelo was fourteen he was already hard at work on commissions from Italy’s greatest patrons, the Medicis.

Soulful, Profound and Prolific Self-Expression

So, is soulful, profound and prolific self-expression only for these few and a handful of other super-gifted persons throughout human history? The answer is no. (Does life distribute talent fairly? I’d rather not say.) Could any of the rest of us ever sculpt the Pieta or pen Eine Kleine Nachtmusik? The answer is also probably no, since it was these individuals’ unique combination of extraordinary abilities that could have done that. Could a person of “normal” abilities, such as the one who created a sculpture at my friend’s exhibit with a screw gun and a bunch of leftover pieces of two-by-fours—which looked for all the world like late the night before she had cobbled together whatever hadn’t yet been thrown out—be expressing her soul and creating art in this mystical sense? The answer, believe it or not, is possibly. How could one tell? It is a matter of “consciousness,” a spiritual term that has its own essay below (coming week 3!) but can be presently defined as “what one is conscious of.”

Fractal

Look at Art Inwardly Not Outwardly

If I were fully aware of my soul, whatever I touched would be imbued with soulfulness and therefore I would be creating art in this mystical sense. Let’s look at it another way.

Jesus was the son of Joseph, a carpenter. And while we don’t actually know if he ever took up the trade, I think we can safely assume, given that occupations in those days remained almost exclusively with their respective families, that he might have tried his hand at it once or twice, especially during his “Lost Years.” Now for the sake of argument, let’s suppose that he was the worst carpenter ever, producing things that did not even remotely qualify as furniture or whatever else it was that the family normally made (let’s hope they didn’t make crosses!). Would it matter? Wouldn’t anything from his hand, because of the inner reality, the consciousness, of its creator, be considered by millions the most precious thing ever created and thereby more treasured than any art by anyone else, including Michelangelo or even Mozart?

Of course, you could make the argument that we are no longer talking about art at all but about relics (someone once said that you could build an arc with all the “authentic” pieces of the cross found in Christian churches), but I think a strong case can be made that this is what modern art is already asking us to do: to look at art inwardly not outwardly; at its energy, its resonance. At the inner state of the artist himself as opposed to the outer appearance of the work itself; at its consciousness.

Humans are “Clever Monkeys”

Humans are “clever monkeys”—as a friend of mine is fond of saying—and can create things for any reason they want: to soothe or to shock; to comfort or to confront; to be as beautiful as possible or as horrific; to defy convention in an attempt to prove that art has no meaning at all, is merely superfluous, as was previously stated, though this last task is not so easily accomplished.

For I think you will find that most people are eager to hear or see or even read something that will speak to them on some deeper level; will reconnect them with their souls, the living portion of God within. And even if we beat them over the head, telling them not to expect anything beautiful, powerful, illumining, epiphanic, revelatory, or in any way meaningful, dilettantes and philistines that they are, they just can’t help themselves; can’t stop from hoping.

 

Look for the next topic, Beauty, next week! Can’t wait to until then to read more? Order The ABCs ofThe ABCs of Enlightenment cover Enlightenment: A Mystical Primer today.

 

Jeffrey BakerJeffrey Baker was a student for more than forty years of Sri Chinmoy, who named him Kalatit (Kal, time; atit, beyond). Called “our preeminent humorist” by his teacher, he was a frequent contributor to publications and events in his spiritual community and elsewhere. A card-carrying Baby Boomer, he attended the Woodstock Festival, performed in various rock-and-roll ensembles, and has a degree in ecology from The University of Connecticut. He’s been a gardener for the Rockefellers in Pocantico Hills, New York, and “the piano tuner to the stars” working with artists such as Billy Joel, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Richard Goode and Andre Previn. He has composed more than one hundred works in the classical as well as the theatrical genres. (https://www.reverbnation.com/jeffreybaker) His The Music of the Zodiac, has had more than 40,000 downloads. His corpus of philosophical treatises, Eat My Dust, Martin Luther, as well as a collection of epigrams, 1000 Pearls of Wisdom, and a group of essays on contemporary subjects, Blah, Blah, Blah, are available as e-books (Amazon) and in paperback (Createspace).

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An Interview with Vamadeva David Frawley

We must change our value systems from an outer view of life as enjoyment to an inner view of life as an adventure in consciousness…

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Vamadeva David Frawley Interview

With Sujantra, founder Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga

 

Sujantra: We are honored to have Vamadeva David Frawley here with us today. He is the author of over thirty books on Indian philosophy and Vedic studies. He is the founder and director of the American Institute of Vedic Studies in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He has been instrumental in bringing Eastern teachings to the West though his life and writings. His books have helped me innumerable times to unravel many of the mysteries of Indian thought. We caught up with him while he was journeying through India.

VamadevaThank you for joining us!

Vamadeva: It is my honor to be with you and to have a sharing of the teachings with your important audience. There is much we can learn from the dharmic traditions of the East, if we take them as our own and discover them as part of our own deeper awareness.

 

Eastern Teachings Impact on the West

Sujantra: You have authored and lectured on Indian philosophy around the world and written over 30 books. Are you optimistic about Eastern teachings having a significant impact here in the West?

Vamadeva: Eastern teachings have had a significant impact in the West for many decades now, though sometimes from behind the scenes. Many of the most important new insights in healing and spirituality have been rooted in eastern dharmic traditions. Insights in ecology, physics and biology have occurred as well. Millions have adopted eastern practices such as asana, pranayama, mantra and meditation.

“We must change our value systems from an outer view of life
as enjoyment to an inner view of life as an adventure in consciousness.”

Yet we in the West are still overall too caught up in the outer world, personal fulfillment and the pursuit of desire. Our culture as a whole remains alienated from statuesuch dharmic approaches to life. This needs to be rectified. We must change our value systems from an outer view of life as enjoyment to an inner view of life as an adventure in consciousness. Then such teachings will become even more relevant and transformative for us. This is bound to happen over time.

Sujantra: You have written on all aspects of Indian philosophy. What do you think is the most accessible aspect to people in America?

Vamadeva: Most important for us is to understand the world of nature as a manifestation of universal consciousness, and our own individual minds as reflections of the cosmic mind. It is not an issue of a foreign philosophy, culture or ideology, but of Self-knowledge and understanding the nature of existence. For this we should forget about being Americans, Westerners or anything else, and learn to experience our own lives and minds more directly. We can begin with honoring ecology. We must recognize that there are powers of consciousness in all of nature that can guide us to a higher truth. Our country has wonderful landscapes that can help us in this process and Native American traditions that are aware of these.

Yoga

The Explosion of Yoga Asana in the West

Sujantra: Based on your knowledge of the various aspects of the individual’s spiritual journey, how do you explain the explosion of Yoga asana in the West?

Vamadeva: Yoga has many dimensions and is essentially a tradition designed to draw us into deep meditation as our way of life. The physical side of Yoga is clearly the most accessible for those of us in the western world, as we are very physically minded. But it can lead the student to the deeper dimensions of Yoga if the student is receptive and uses the asana as part of introspection, as originally intended in classical Yoga.

We need to approach all the other limbs of Yoga with the same energy and interest as we are doing with asana today. I believe that will happen in the decades to come, but such cultural changes take time. Let us remember that asana is part of a sacred and spiritual practice for developing higher awareness; then our asana practice can lead us to the transcendent, but not otherwise. Deeper yoga practice is a way of meditation on an individual level, not an en masse class. We should not forget this either.

goddess

Sri Aurobindo’s Offering and the Flowering of Eastern Philosophy in the West

Sujantra: You discovered the Vedas through the writings of Sri Aurobindo. My teacher, Sri Chinmoy, studied at the Sri Aurobindo ashram from 1944-1964. How would you describe the relationship between Sri Aurobindo’s offering and the flowering of Eastern philosophy in the West?

Vamadeva: Sri Aurobindo was a spiritual and intellectual giant of the highest order. It will take decades for the world to properly appreciate his work. He could understand the most ancient Vedic teachings and at the same time had an unparalleled vision of the future evolution of humanity at the level of consciousness, which modern science still has only the most vague intimation of. If you try to read his books, his sentences are longer than most paragraphs, his paragraphs go on for pages, and he discusses all sides of a topic before coming to a comprehensive understanding and way forward. You need a strong dharana or power of concentration to connect with him, which is rare today in the era of quick information bites.

Aurobindo pioneered the whole concept of Integral Yoga, brought out the importance of life as Yoga, and created a Yoga for the modern world that we can incorporate into our work and daily lives. Simultaneously his Yoga has deep dimensions linking us beyond time and space to the very fountains of creation. It is hard to put this many-side vision into words.

Aurobindo also wrote directly in the English language, explaining the higher teachings in concepts we can grasp today, so no translation is required. In addition he wrote on philosophy, psychology, poetry, art, politics and all aspects of life and culture, so each one of us can find some angle of access to his work.

One Book for World Leaders

Sujantra: If there was one book you could get the leaders of the world to read what would it be?

Vamadeva: Reading is not enough: the mind can filter anything according to its conditioning, biases and opinions. It would be better if world leaders could go out into nature and enter into a state of deep silence and peace and surrender to the unknown powers of existence and the cosmic mind. For this they would have to give up their concepts of being leaders or even being in the world, and embrace infinite space as their true identity. We need to empty our minds first and go back to our core consciousness in the heart. Then we can truly benefit from great books, for which I would recommend the Upanishads, particularly the shorter texts like Katha, Kena, Mundaka, Mandukya, Svetasvatara, Isha or Taittiriya.

Ramana Maharshi

Ramana Maharshi

Sujantra: Ramana Maharshi had a profound influence on my life. His writings cleared up many of my misconceptions and his photographs touched something deep in my heart. How is that possible? I never personally knew him yet he changed my life?

Vamadeva: The great gurus exist beyond time and space. They have transcended the human mind to the deeper dimension of consciousness that is behind our own state of deep sleep and forms our core awareness. We can always contact them within, if we know how to look within. Our true identity is in consciousness. Mind and body are but shadows. Ramana Maharshi reflects our own true Self-nature that is one with all. You can see that in his eyes, if you meditate upon his pictures. Through his picture you can contact the immortal self in all.

A Last Bit of Advice

Sujantra: Finally, what one bit of advice would you like to offer our readers?

Vamadeva: Develop patience, introspection and turn within. The world in any case will not disappear if you forget about it for a while and contact your timeless Self. Do not be a slave to your body, mind or senses. Stand up for the eternal within you and stop running after fleeting desires. Before sleep shut off the media, let go of the world and dive deep into the ocean of the heart. The outer world is but the shadow of an unlimited divine light and delight.

Sujantra: Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and inspiration with us!

 

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Finding Peace

So much of our time is spent being distracted from peace. We are constantly bombarded by input. We have ‘busy’ lives, or so we say, and our minds are constantly…

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We need to find peace!

So much of our time is spent being distracted from peace. We are constantly bombarded by input. We have ‘busy’ lives, or so we say, and our minds are constantly in flux. Sometimes our minds are so in flux that we mistake busy for simple, mental chaos. And let’s not forget our relationships. Our relations demand our attention. Our relations demand our time. We really find little time for ourselves. Then there’s sleep. We fall into bed dog tired without even a simple moment of prayer. The link above lists ten ways to discover inner peace. Good words.

There’s no time for peace?

 

Make the time!

I’ve written several essays about creating a meditation space. Meditation requires your presence. It requires you to be somewhere. Unless you have been meditating for years and have established a ‘perpetual,’ meditation mindset, then it’s best to have a personal space where you can peacefully seclude yourself and remain undistracted. It’s so important to be able to disconnect from the outer, ever changing mind/world. Your meditation space will become a desired place of peace, stillness and refuge (as your practice deepens). You will want to be there.

Finding Peace

 

I Need Motivation!

Make setting up your meditation space a mini-project. Enjoy it. Anticipate it. Go on a quest. Find meaningful artifacts to populate your meditation space. Consider the work you will be doing in your space while you are setting it up. Begin to think of the sacredness of this endeavor. Start the growth process. Make creating your space personal and meaningful.

 

New to Meditation?

Make meditation an adventure. Forget about the mystic behind meditation. It’s just a tool. What’s important is that you slowly build a simple, evolving, poignant practice. Think about peace. Think about calm. Think about centeredness. Think about your internal qualities. These are desired results. Consider them and their impact on your future (we still haven’t started meditation yet).

 

Make your meditation practice simple.

Your practice should be an easy event. It should not be tedious or inconvenient. It need not take too much time. Ten minutes every day is much more effective that one hour a week. In fact, a one-hour per week practice likely won’t work. You’ll quit, because it’s too long and is not routine. I’ve found (through years of personal experience) that ten minutes, first thing in the morning works very well. You are there. You are ready to begin the blessings of a new day. And the rigors of sensory input hasn’t reared its head yet.

Finding Peace

 

Time to practice:

Sit down. Get comfortable. Take some comfortable, deep breaths. Focus your awareness on your breath. Breath awareness is initially challenging because we are not used to it. Our bodies breathe themselves. So, focus your awareness. Controlled, slow breathing is the center of your practice. As your focus shifts from external input to internal breath awareness your mind becomes calm and tranquil, peace starts to manifest. Slow the breath. Notice how the breath slows in response.

 

More breathe work. Feel your Heart:

Try this. Take a fairly deep inhale and hold your breath. Feel your heart beating. It may take two or three attempts. Once you feel your heart beating, gently return to your slow, steady breathing while keeping the awareness of your heart beating. Then, expand your heart awareness so you can feel your heart pulse radiating outwards to your arms and hands, your tummy, your legs and feet… even to every cell and corpuscle. Make heart awareness your priority. Become inspired by your heart.

These two techniques are the start of something magnificent!

These two simple awarenesses are the beginning of a meditation practice centered around peace. Peace is already there within you. Your practice is about rediscovery! It’s about awakening. Turn your attention from external mental noise to the calm, internal peace of breath/heart awareness. It’s that simple. If your mind wanders, take a peaceful breath and return to your heart. This is the beginning.

A few minutes each day is all it takes. In a short amount of time you will find ease in your growing practice and a new peace that has been trapped within by a chaotic mind/world.

Peace is not an external object that we can possess. It is already within us, waiting to be rediscovered.

“Begin where you are.” —B.K.S. Iyengar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Embracing Surrender

I remember being in my early 20’s, just at the embarkation point of my spiritual journey, and cringing each time I saw the word “surrender.”…

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The Surrender Experiment by Michael A. Singer

“Our surrender to God’s Will
Is our mightiest power.”

Sri Chinmoy

 

I remember being in my early 20’s, just at the embarkation point of my spiritual journey, and cringing each time I saw the word “surrender.” To me it meant weakness and giving up; not being courageous and letting go of free will. I wanted nothing to do with surrender. Divine Love made sense, albeit it felt, a bit abstract; even devotion had sweetness to it. But surrender: pass.

The Surrender Experiment

Singer on Oprah

Michael Singer lives his life, or so his book The Surrender Experiment tells us, on the principle of surrender. His story is one that shows the incredible journey life has in store for us if we can just let go of what we want and let Life take the lead. You can see Singer on YouTube: Oprah likes his writings and interviews him.

When I was 20 and contemplating surrender I was looking at only half of the picture. I was thinking only of the act of not asserting my will. What I forgot to contemplate was: if I let go of my small ego desires then who is going to be driving the ship? Singer’s answer is simple yet profound: Life. And Life, according to Singer has some incredible plans for us.

PYO

He goes from living in his Van to operating a 300 million dollar a year business all the while letting go of his wants, wearing his pony tail and meditating an hour each morning and evening. In between there are “coincidences” that are mind blowing and inspiring at the same time.

Sri Chinmoy

My own spiritual journey eventually led me to a teacher, Sri Chinmoy; who described his path as that of love, devotion and surrender. Surrender, it turns out, is one of the keys to spiritual growth. Surrender to the greater force of Life and hang on for the ride. The Surrender Experiment will inspire you to let go that much quicker!

 

–Sujantra

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Pilgrimage of the Heart Philosophy Podcast E02

Sujantra reads from the Ramayana about when Valmiki decides to embark on his journey. Sujantra emphasizes the importance of starting the journey…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of five books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard.

Ep 2: Sujantra reads from the Ramayana about when Valmiki decides to embark on his journey. Sujantra emphasizes the importance of starting the journey. Meditation can help a person explore their options, gain clarity and focus.

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Daily Acts of Kindness – An Interview with author Suzie Abels

The message is any act of kindness done daily (mindfully/consciously) creates a benefit to both giver & receiver alike…

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What inspired you to write this book?

My inspiration to write “Kindness on a Budget,” came from my twin brother, Jamie, who said “Sue, you need to write this all down because its important and will help other people SEE what is possible in daily acts of kindness.”

Secondly, from the “Secret Garden” I started long ago, off a service road, that united so many people from every background imaginable in search of , perhaps, “connection.” I wrote the book for ALL of them too. 🙂

Pilgrimage Yoga Online

What is the theme of your book?

The theme of my book is daily acts of kindness, which can be a word, a note, a gesture, and/or a gift. The message is any act of kindness done daily (mindfully/consciously) creates a benefit to both giver & receiver alike and therefore, I humbly believe, energetically raises our precious planet’s frequency & vibration.

Kindness on a Budget

Who did you have in mind as you wrote your book?

In writing this inspiring & uplifting little book, I had in mind all the people on our precious planet & how important sharing the gift of spreading kindness daily is.

I was deeply blessed & honored to spend time with my greatest influence & spiritual teacher Yogi Bhajan who always said, “Unless you see God in all, you can’t see God at all.” He was right on!

How has your study with Yogi Bhajan influenced your life and teachings?

My close connection with my Dear Dear spiritual teacher Yogi Bhajan influenced my life & teachings profoundly. Yogiji would tell me as a young woman in her late 20’s thatYogi Bhajan I was a “fully conscious being,” Of course, then I did not fully understand the implications of his sharing & yet I felt his words to be true even then. He would often have me in his living room as a guest with 10-12 people and ask me what I thought of someone. I would answer what I saw and then after would be told by many I should not have answered!

Yogi Bhajan was training me to be confident enough to withstand the push/pull of the Ego wanting to hide into the background.

I believe he gifted me with strength, courage and an unbridled heart that he recognized was kind, even if I wasn’t sure at times.

Yogi Bhajan was an Aquarian teacher. He was strong, fierce, commanding, gentle, loving and for me the kindest person I had ever known all the days of my life then and now.

I could write volumes & volumes of the impact Yogi Bhajan had on me as a student, mother, wife and community leader.

What mostly pierced the finer lining of my heart’s soul was his steadfast commitment to me, Peter—my husband, my 3 children— Zach, Haley & Riley and that I just be steady or in my grace which took me 2 decades to embody!

In my early 30’s I was Yogiji’s informal gardener for his Los Angeles properties, Yoga West and The Guru Ram Das Ashram. He would say” Suzie, when you garden, it connects the heavens on Earth.”

I never missed one moment with Yogiji to say thank you, to sit near him, hug him, learn from this vastly DIVINE & RADIANT soul…as shy as I was in some ways, I just knew in my heart our time was super special.

My husband, Peter, and I never really knew the details of the titles of who Yogi Bhajan was until many, many years after his passing. I suppose its because it didn’t matter because he was just this exceptional and magnificent being who mattered to me, my husband, Zach, Haley & Riley.

He was kind to the core with a heart of solid platinum infused with the rarest gem stones undiscovered on our planet. That is who he was for me. I felt at home just hearing his voice and no I didn’t fully understand why, yet trusted my heart that would have traveled by donkey for endless miles to be near this deeply kind-hearted soul, my spiritual teacher.

I was honored to address the Los Angeles Guru Ram Das Ashram/Sangat during Gudwara on Sunday, October 4, 2015 on the very Dharmic message of kindness as it pertains to both my book’s contents and our world. As tremendously nervous as I was at this somewhat daunting task as a non-turban Westerner, I KNEW Yogi Bhajan would expect me to do it from my heart.

Suzie Abels

At first, I was visibly shaking scanning the room and seeing so many of the people I treasured and saw frequently when Yogi Bhajan was alive. I drew strength and comfort seeing Guru Singh, Guru Johda, Kirtan Singh, Manjit Kaur, Dr. Allan, Siri Simran, Mahani…so many people I shared the journey with which by no means was the easiest route I could have chosen to trek down!

I finished sharing about the value daily acts of kindness has on all of us and after the close of gudwara  we all sat in the langar hall next door. People shared with me that “we really needed this message that you delivered from the heart.” I just said thank you and for a few brief moments felt as if Yogi Bhajan was right next to me, the whole time, just as he was all those years and I wept in gratitude.

I asked the Sangat (community) to please join me in a prayer Yogiji gave in 1998

“My soul, bless me, be with me. Energize me so I can face the world with the strength of the Spirit. Save me from duality, give me the reality and royalty, so I can face my world in peace and tranquility. May this journey of life be completed with love and affection, kindness and compassion for all living things.” ~ Yogi Bhajan 1-23-1998

Sat Nam.

What do you say to people who become discouraged with all of the war and anger in the world?

Healing is possible with one person doing their own inner work and mindfully & consciously committing to daily acts of kindness.

I am more & more sure that this may be the answer to so many of our world problems because when one is serving another through kindness, all things become neutralized and therefore peace is possible.

What is your own daily spiritual practice?

As soon as I am awake before getting out of my bed I say thank you, thank you, thank you as “an attitude of gratitude is the highest yoga,” (Yogi Bhajan) and therefore sets the energetic stage for the day.

I next take a fairly cold shower and do sadhana which consists of prayers, chanting and meditation in front of my very large Tratakum picture of Yogi Bhajan.

What last thoughts would you like to leave our readers with?

Try doing just one act of kindness daily. See, feel and become consciously/mindfully in tune or aware of how much better you feel despite whatever challenges or hardships you are facing. Notice the softening or dropping deeper into your heart. Your soul, I believe, will say thank you.

In gratitude for this opportunity to share with all of you today.

May your days be blessed with the sweet ambrosial nectar that is delivered to the hearts core when one is kind on a daily basis Dear Ones (S.E.A)

 

Suzie (Harijot) Abels

Suzie Abels is a beacon of love and giving for her family, friends and community. She lives life to its fullest, opens her heart to strangers and loved ones alike and has left a lasting footprint of inspiration on her path to spread kindness. Residing in Orange County, Suzie is the devoted mother of Zach, Haley and Riley and the proud wife of Peter.

http://suzieabelsauthor.com/

Twitter: @IntuitiveSuzie

Facebook: Kindness on a Budget
Suzie’s book Kindness on a Budget is available on Amazon.

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Meditation – Building Your Home Practice

The importance of a home meditation practice and how to successfully establish one for yourSelf. Practicing meditation might just be…

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The importance of a home meditation practice and how to successfully establish one for yourSelf.

Practicing meditation might just be the best thing you can do for yourself! We’re so busy every moment of every day that we spend no time on Self-realization. Meditation is a practice where we consider the nature of our existence. Through this exercise we take stock of our life. It’s a practice of Self-awareness and Self-growth. We discover that there is more to life that just existing. We discover how to live. We discover Truth… inner Truth, outer Truth. We improve ourSelves.

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Let’s face it. When we’re by ourselves it’s easy to be lazy. We can rationalize any excuse to avoid and procrastinate (substituting low-priority endeavors for high-priority endeavors.)…  no ‘task’ is too big or small that it can’t wait until tomorrow.  And that’s part of the problem; we tend to look at meditation as a TASK. And avoiding tasks can easily become habitual.

It’s important that we reassess our perception of meditation early on. How we establish our practice initially is vital to its longevity. We want to create an anticipation about our practice so we are drawn to it. It’s important to look forward to your meditation practice! It can’t be tedious. If it becomes tedious you’ll skip it. So it’s important to establish a TIME during the day that works within your schedule. That time is set aside for your meditation practice every day.

Buddha

I recommend that you keep your regular, daily meditation short. Ten minutes is a good DAILY practice. If you want to go on a marathon meditation adventure once in a while, go for it. But your regular, daily practice should be short and sweet, an easy routine.

I practice in the morning, first thing. I get out of bed, take care of my body, make a cup and go sit down for ten minutes. It’s entirely routine. I look forward to it. It’s easy. It’s a good way for me to start my day, centering, aligning, grounding, sharpening my focus, building greater awareness. And from a practical point of view, I’m not so busy and engaged in my day yet that I can willfully avoid my practice.

Make sure your family or roommates understand that for your 10 minutes or so you are UNAVAILABLE! If you want to meditate as a family, that’s fine. But otherwise, this is your private time. Do not disturb! No kids, no spouse, no phone, no doorbell…

meditation patio

Create a Mediation Space

Create a meditation space. Establish a comfortable seat. Set up a little altar or shrine. Populate it with meaningful reminders that resonate with you. Pictures, plants, candles, statuary… it doesn’t matter what it is, necessarily. What matters is that they remind you of what you are doing there. Meditation. Devotion. Outpouring. Contemplation… And then keep your space pure. Keep it tidy. Don’t leave your coffee cup on your shrine. Straighten it up once in a while. Add new things. Let it grow with your practice. Keep it sacred.

Lastly, understand that change is inevitable. Our shrines are just tools, like meditation itself. Avoid becoming too attached to the tool. We may move, so a new shrine is in order. A while back I moved six times in three years. I reestablished a new shrine at each new location. Every shrine was different depending on space and environment. What was enduring was that I immediately created a space where I could continue my practice. It might be all too easy to have just let it slide. The first thing I do is establish a meditation space.

It doesn’t take long to establish a routine. You just have to DO IT. Once you are established you will look forward to it. SELF discovery is exciting! Practice Self-discovery daily.

Monk

You’ll be amazed what you will find!

One last thing: If you are brand new to mediation, find a guided meditation class offered at a local yoga studio or spiritual center. Participating in a few of these offerings will help you develop a meditation routine for yourself. You’ll learn the philosophy of meditation and gain some insights about basic meditation techniques that might work for you. Then, ‘cut and paste’ to create a routine for yourself. And remember, your practice will change and evolve as you grow.

Be open to change. It’s inevitable.

 

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Find Your Female Warrior Goddess

HeatherAsh Amara coaches women to reclaim the Warrior Goddess energy that they have lost by undergoing physical, spiritual and emotional training…

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Women often put their partners, friends, family, and children before themselves. While they can move mountains to accomplish things for their loved ones, there can be an emotional emptiness left where they once held their own Warrior Goddess power.Warrior-Goddess-Cover-Final-662x1024

Warrior Goddess Energy

In her book, HeatherAsh Amara coaches women to find and reclaim the Warrior Goddess energy that they have lost by undergoing physical, spiritual and emotional training to unchain the inner strength inherent in every woman.

 

  • Transcend the set traditions and agendas to find what inspires you within
  • Overcome fear and doubt with resilience and mindfulness
  • Reclaim your power and energy focusing within and letting go of the idea that that you need things outside of yourself to feel complete (partner, children, career etc.)
  • Show personal strength with compassion and love.

 

Buddhist and Toltec Wisdom

HeatherAsh’s approach draws on Buddhism and Toltec wisdom, as well as ancient earth-based goddess spirituality.  As a long-time student of don Miguel Ruiz and a world-traveler, HeatherAsh trained in many different philosophies, which allows her to weave intricate threads of each of these spiritual traditions into a beautiful, cohesive tapestry.

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Begin Your Journey

Her teachings, interlaced with personal stories, rituals and exercises for Warrior-Goddesses-In-Training, encourage women to begin their own journey towards unleashing the power of their inner Warrior Goddess.

How are you finding your Goddess within?

Image courtesy of Witthaya Phonsawat at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Review: Michael Stribling: A Better Place

A Better Place is the first album from keyboardist/composer Michael Stribling in several years. It was worth the wait for A Better Place, an album sure to…

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by Kathy Parsons

A Better Place is the first album from keyboardist/composer Michael Stribling in several years. I was introduced to Stribling’s music back in 2007 with Out of the Darkness, Into the Light and have reviewed (and enjoyed!) six more of his albums since then. After becoming a licensed marriage and family therapist, Stribling worked in the mental health field for many years, returning to music in 2005 during a transitional period in his own life.

Inspires and Uplifts the Human Spirit

The mission statement of Leela Music sums up Stribling’s goals with his music: “to help others in their journey toward wholeness through the gift of music, by creating works that inspire and uplift the human spirit. (Leela means ‘divine play’).” Stribling’s albums have always been visual and spiritual, but A Better Place seems to come from the heart of someone very much at peace with himself and his life. Using keyboards and synths, Stribling creates music that tells a story using a broad range of instrumental sounds and rhythms. The fourteen tracks on this album are diverse and range from ambient and floating to more uptempo rhythms that invite toe-tapping and moving your body to the beat. It is a pleasure to have Stribling’s music as a backdrop to other activities, but I think it is even more effective when listening with eyes closed, letting the beautiful waves of sound envelop you.

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Happiness and Carefree Spirit

A Better Place opens with “First Light,” a piece that begins with the sound of birds chirping contentedly and then goes into a peaceful and colorful depiction of early morning light. Fully orchestrated as the birds continue to sing in the background, the music gently coaxes us to a place of warmth and tranquility. “Looking Up” begins with a quietly ambient introduction/prelude that picks up the tempo considerably about a minute in. This wonderful piece overflows with happiness and a carefree spirit – my favorite track! “Winter Encounter” moves in quite a different direction, but is still very soothing and peaceful. The music paints a picture of icy stillness in all of its splendor – another beauty! “Dream Waves” is hypnotic with its smooth, ambient flow – a mind massage!

Ambient and Dreamy

The next several tracks continue in an ambient and dreamy mode with a varied palette of musical instruments. The title track is a bit more dramatic and symphonic, although still very peaceful and warm. “Quiet Certainty” takes us back (or moves us forward) to more melody and an infectious rhythm. I love the titles for “Dust Yourself Off” and “Time for Bed, Sweetheart,” both very soulful and heartfelt pieces. “Ever Onward” is light and breezy, and seems to reflect on the power of love  and positive thinking/living – a great way to end the album!

It was worth the wait for A Better Place, an album sure to take you to a better place, if only for an hour or so! Recommended!

Michael’s Website     Amazon     iTunes     CD Baby

Kathy Parsons writes music reviews and interviews artists for MainlyPiano.com.  She is a regular contributor to the Pilgrimage Yoga Online blog.

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Pilgrimage of the Heart Meditation Podcast E03

On this episode, Sujantra teaches how meditation can help a person communicate more effectively…

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The Pilgrimage of the Heart Mediation Podcast is a recorded broadcast of Sujantra’s weekly Tuesday night meditation class held in San Diego California. Each week Sujantra introduces a new topic related to meditation and leads the class through various types of meditations including: visual concentration, yogic concentration, breathing techniques, chanting and much more.

Communication and Meditation

On this episode, Sujantra teaches how meditation can help a person communicate more effectively.

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Ajeet Kaur…on Love and Forgiveness

Art and music have served as the greatest healers, teachers, and therapists in my life. Whether it is journaling, writing music, playing music or visual art,…

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by Ajeet Kaur

Art and music have served as the greatest healers, teachers, and therapists in my life. Whether it is journaling, writing music, playing music or visual art, my art brings me closer and closer to the core of my being, to the real essence of who I am. As I see it, the only parts of ourselves that keep us from truly loving and forgiving are the places of fear within us. Art allows us to explore those more vulnerable parts of ourselves, to really go deep into the vast world within, and then to express from a place of real truth when we touch it. Art that doesn’t come from that place of truth doesn’t hold much power. For me, art comes from a place where love and forgiveness are natural and come with ease, and that’s why I like to visit that space as much as possible.

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Art and music represent unity

Art and music represent unity. They are languages that communicate through feeling, emotion, and devotion. As a world with so many different traditions, languages, and ways of living, we need art to remind us to live openly. By sharing our messages of hope and love through art and music we put them into a universal language. Art is a reminder of how beautiful it is to do things differently, to be individual. If every song or every painting was the same they would lose their magic. If every person or every culture was the same, the world would lose its beauty as well.

Let My Heart Be My Compass

My creative life changes me every day. BEING CREATIVE REQUIRES US TO BE REAL WITH OURSELVES FIRST. IF I AM LIVING IN A WAY THAT ISN’T TRUE FOR ME, THAT ISN’T ALIGNED, THEN THE
music I create carries that vibration. My CREATIVE LIFE INSPIRES ME TO KEEP OPENING MYSELF, KEEP EXPLORING MY DEPTHS, AND AS I CHANGE SO DOES WHAT I CREATE. AS I EMBRACE A MORE CREATIVE LIFE WITH ART AT THE CENTER OF IT, I HAVE JUST WATCHED THOSE PRESSURES FALL AWAY. NOW THE MOST IMPORTANT GOAL IN MY LIFE IS TO LIVE IN A WAY THAT FEELS TOTALLY TRUE AND TO LET MY HEART BE MY COMPASS. MY PRAYER IS THAT BY BEING TRUE TO MYSELF IT WILL HELP OTHERS DO THE SAME. UPLIFTING EACH OTHER IS THE BEST GIFT.

“Art and music serve as the greatest healers, teachers, and therapists in my life.”
– Ajeet Kaur, Sacred Chant Artist, Flutist & Spiritual Teacher

AJEET KAUR is a sacred chant artist, flutist, and spiritual teacher based in Peterborough, New Hampshire. She released her debut album of meditation music, “Sacred Waters” in the Spring of 2013 and is now working on her second album, “At the Temple Door”. She is now traveling the world to offer music and yoga with Snatam Kaur and on her own. Inspired by the musical and spiritual atmosphere of her upbringing Ajeet began singing at a young age. Her love of music has lead her around the world to study traditional Indian and Irish music, along with folk traditions and western musical styles. Ajeet Kaur’s music is available from Spirit Voyage Records.

Website: www.ajeetkaurmusic.com
Photo: Spirit Voyage Recordsebook_cover_3D-fixed

Love Live Forgive features interviews with a diverse range of artists who reveal and explore the transformative power oflove, forgiveness, and the creative spirit. While featuring a wide-ranging demographic, the contributors to this project represent a dynamic spectrum of artistic, cultural, and faith-based backgrounds. Individually they offer their unique perspective on the human experience. Collectively they embrace a shared passion for art and its ability to transform our lives and the world around us.  Get a free book download.

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Pilgrimage of the Heart Meditation Podcast E02

On this episode of the Pilgrimage of the Heart podcast Sujantra explains the importance of spiritual teachers…

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The Pilgrimage of the Heart Meditation Podcast is a recorded broadcast of Sujantra’s weekly Tuesday night meditation class held in San Diego California. Each week Sujantra introduces a new topic related to meditation and leads the class through various types of meditations including: visual concentration, yogic concentration, breathing techniques, chanting and much more.

Spiritual Teachers

On this episode of the Pilgrimage of the Heart podcast Sujantra explains the importance of spiritual teachers from various walks of life including Carlos Castaneda, Ram Das, Sri Chinmoy and more.

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Pilgrimage of the Heart Meditation Podcast E01

On this episode of the Pilgrimage of the Heart Meditation Podcast Sujantra explains how meditation can help a person…

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The Pilgrimage of the Heart podcast is a recorded broadcast of Sujantra’s weekly Tuesday night meditation class held in San Diego California. Each week Sujantra introduces a new topic related to meditation and leads the class through various types of meditations including: visual concentration, yogic concentration, breathing techniques, chanting and much more.

Thoughts and Emotions

On this episode of the Pilgrimage of the Heart Meditation Podcast Sujantra explains how meditation can help a person untangle the connection between thoughts and emotions.

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Review: Doug Hammer: Haiku

Haiku is the eighth solo release by pianist/composer Doug Hammer (not counting his 2014 duet with Amethyste, Secret World, or his inclusion in several …

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by Kathy Parsons

Haiku is the eighth solo release by pianist/composer Doug Hammer (not counting his 2014 duet with Amethyste, Secret World,  or his inclusion in several compilations). In the crowded field of contemporary pianists, Hammer stands out as one of the best, whether he is playing a gentle, ethereal piece or letting loose in a honky-tonk or gospel  style – Doug Hammer can do it all! As its title suggests, Haiku is mostly gently understated solo piano plus one piano and cello duet.

Perfect In Simplicity

Most of the fifteen original pieces are relatively short (2-4 minutes), perfect in their simplicity, expressing a wide variety of emotions and experiences. The piano sound is gorgeous, crystal clear and ringing in the upper registers with deep, rich bass in the lower end. This is wonderful music for relaxation, inspiration, and exceptional musical enjoyment! Pianists will be happy to know that there is a companion sheet music book for Haiku in both printed and PDF formats, available from Doug’s site.

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Haiku begins with “Possibility,” a lovely piece that expresses optimism and anticipation – and then trails off at the dreamy end. “Flight” is fascinating. It starts out very simply with slowly repeated intervals, very gradually picking up speed as it continues to repeat the intervals. The simple melody weaves in and out as the intervals suggest the flapping of birds’ wings (there must be several birds flying together!). Near the end, the piece returns to the slower rhythm, ending with a gentle broken chord. “Wind” expresses a different kind of movement, swirling and dancing as it goes. “Glorious” has a quiet majesty that is punctuated by notes in the deep bass of the piano – a favorite.

Expressing Inner Peace

I also really like the poignant grace of “Dancing.” “Sway” is a bit of a surprise (a welcome one!) with its rhythmic funkiness. This isn’t a fast piece, but the joyful energy is infectious – love those deep bass notes! The title track has a Japanese flavor in its harmonies and simplicity. Very quiet and peaceful, it’s a beauty! “Heartstring” is an elegant and stirring duet for piano and cello (Velleda Miragias). Expressing inner peace as well as passionate emotion, piano and cello is one of my very favorite combinations! “Rise” is the longest track on the album, and also the most ambient. Very open and spacious, the easy flow gives the piece plenty of room to breathe. “Neverending” brings this excellent album to a quiet and tranquil close, leaving the listener feeling refreshed and uplifted.

Doug Hammer has created another truly exceptional piano album with Haiku! It is available from www.DougHammer.net, Amazon, and iTunes. Very highly recommended!

Doug’s Website     Amazon     iTunes

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Yoga at Home Is Key to Healthier Lifestyle

A research report titled “Frequency of Yoga Practice Predicts Health: Results of a National Survey of Yoga Practitioners” suggests that home yoga practice is key to a healthier diet…

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A research report titled “Frequency of Yoga Practice Predicts Health: Results of a National Survey of Yoga Practitioners” suggests that home yoga practice is key to a healthier diet, exercise and improved mental health. Home practice of yoga is also a better predictor of health than years of class practice or class frequency.

Tosca Braun, a 200-hour Kripalu Yoga instructor and 500-hour Integrative Yoga Therapist notes, “In my own experience, home practice is sweetly satisfying. It can also become stale and rigid without continued inspiration from teachers or attendance at classes or retreats. Hitting the mat can sometimes become another box to check off, with my mind racing through the day’s events as I lose the anchors of body and breath. At other times, the strength or motivation to practice may desert me, due to life’s emotional upheavals. It is then that I am most likely to attend class or seek community, where I find the support, inspiration and belonging I have longed for in my home practice. When I return to my home yoga mat, it is that much sweeter for having been touched by sangha and a skillful teacher’s reminder to inhabit my body and breath with compassionate presence.”

Yoga Promises Healthier Life

According to the report, Yoga shows promise as an intervention targeting a number of outcomes associated with lifestyle-related health conditions including cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and cancer. While aerobic exercise long has been a valuable tool in combating these health conditions, a review of clinical trials comparing exercise to yoga found yoga to be equal or superior to aerobic exercise in improving a number of outcomes associated with chronic health conditions.

Pilgrimage Yoga Online

Home Practice is Key

The frequency of home practice appears to be very important— more important than how long an individual has been practicing or how many classes one takes. It’s not enough simply to learn how to do healthy behaviors. Rather, healthy behaviors must be incorporated into one’s daily life. While these findings suggest that individuals will only glean benefits from yoga practice that are proportional to the energy they are willing to invest in making it a part of their lives, the findings also suggest that they do not have to practice for years in order to reap the rewards.

What one practices, be it the different types of physical poses, breath work, or meditation, is important because the different aspects of yoga practice may well have different health benefits.

From: Alyson Ross, Erika Friedmann, Margaret Bevans, and Sue Thomas, “Frequency of Yoga Practice Predicts Health: Results of a National Survey of Yoga Practitioners,” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 2012, Article ID 983258, 10 pages, 2012. doi:10.1155/2012/983258

 

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OM – A Mantra for Every Moment

A mantra is a sound or vibration that you can use to journey into the realm of meditation or find calm inside any moment. A mantra represents…

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A mantra is a sound or vibration that you can use to journey into the realm of meditation or find calm inside any moment. A mantra represents an aspect of the Highest, and each mantra has a special significance and inner power.

Vibrational Harmony

OM (AUM)  is said to be the soundless sound of the universe. Chanting OM helps us get into a vibrational harmony with the universe so it’s the ideal way to start and finish one’s yoga practice or meditation session. Om is also the perfect antidote to finding calm inside any stressful situation at home or work.

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Repeat A Mantra Every Day

“If you want quick results in your inner spiritual life, you should repeat a mantra every day without fail, for a least half an hour: fifteen minutes in the morning and fifteen minutes in the evening,” says spiritual yogi Sri Chinmoy.  “There can be no mantra more powerful than the mother of all mantras, AUM.”

If you want to get the best results, repeat OM every day. To learn more about the power of mantras, watch our De-Stress with Mantra video.

Chant: “Ommmmmmmmmm”.

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Why I Practice Yoga

Stepping on my mat is coming home. And as we grow up, the idea and definition of “home” becomes amorphous. It doesn’t have clean edges anymore…

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Finding Home

Stepping on my mat is coming home. And as we grow up, the idea and definition of “home” becomes amorphous. It doesn’t have clean edges anymore. Maybe it never did. Is it in San Diego, where I’ve lived for the past decade? Is it where I go for the holidays? Is it wherever my mom is? Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore. Life gets topsy turvy sometimes and anxiety :: worry :: doubt :: fear :: loneliness often become my regular, unwanted companions. Sigh. But when I practice yoga asana I feel “home” wherever I may be: an airport waiting area, a beach somewhere, the yoga studio down the street. Lately I’ve been intentionally cultivating that home feeling within myself as I move through the world; making it a goal to find that feeling of wholeness :: safety :: okay-ness.

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Being Grounded

And each time I get on my mat, I remember: Oh, right, this is what it feels like to be grounded :: to have my feet on the earth :: to be supported :: to take risks and fall :: to try again :: to get back up :: to breath deeply :: to take flight :: to exhibit courage :: to have my own back :: to challenge myself :: to be enough as I am today :: to rest.

 

Here’s what I’ve found helps me most:

Start with Sun Salutations.

*  The moving, repetitive flow of the sun salutations is a mindless meditation that gets me out of my head, into my body, and connected with my breath.

Sun Salutations

 

Move with breath:

*  As I take deeper breaths my body relaxes, my thoughts quiet, and I find myself more connected with what’s actually happening in the present moment.

Yoga Pose on the Beach

Photo by Mario Covic

Practice outside:

*  When I get on my mat (or on the grass :: sand :: dirt) out in nature I breathe in fresh air and remember that I’m part of this universe :: earth :: world :: community. (Try it. It’s magical. And maybe you’ll inspire someone else to take a breath :: slow down :: and remember their own wholeness.)

 

Set an intention:

* Sometimes I dedicate each sun salute to a friend or choose an affirming word for each breath. It helps me feel purposeful :: connected :: home.

 

 

Lena Schmidt

 

by Lena Schmidt

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Yoga at Home – Music Playlist 1

What music are you listening to at home when you practice yoga?  The Yoga Music Playlists you hear at the…

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What music are you listening to at home when you practice yoga?  The Yoga Music Playlists you hear at the Pilgrimage Yoga studios in San Diego are created by our yoga teachers to reflect their moods, and to inspire your practice with uplifting music.  Here’s a playlist from Yoga Tribe of songs, both sublime and energizing, that will enhance your yoga practice at home.  Use the Spotify player below to hear the tracks.

What’s on your yoga music playlist?

Ommmmm…… 35 songs – 2 hours and 25 minutes

Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Falling Into Practice

I fell into the practice of yoga several years ago when a coupe of friends of mine had invited me to attend a Moksha Hot yoga class…

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by Keith Macpherson

I fell into the practice of yoga several years ago when a coupe of friends of mine had invited me to attend a Moksha Hot yoga class. I remember walking into the studio and feeling like I stepped into another planet. The culture was so different compared to what I had known outside the walls of that building. A calm came over me as I placed my mat down in the sweaty hot room and waited for class to begin. I remember feeling very self conscious as the instructor entered the room and started referencing words I had never heard of. “Savassana this and Udyana that”. My mind raced into overdrive as I didn’t want anyone to look over and see me in the corner trying to keep up with the next to impossible stretches the people around me seemed to be so easily doing and yet somehow after the experience, I couldn’t stop thinking about how good I felt. I left the studio that day feeling so light, open and completely present. Everything seemed clearer and made more sense.

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Words Can’t Explain It

To this day, I can’t completely explain it in words. I continued to make my way back to the studio every week and the practice became a regular routine for me. It was then that my life began to change. I started absorbing more of the information being instructed to me in class; from physical cues to specific intentions and inspirations spoken to relate to the postures I was doing in my body. The yoga world became a magical place for me. It made me feel alive and free. I graduated my practice into teaching yoga and have been for several years. Although I am now in the role of a yoga instructor, I have come to see that we never stop growing. Everytime I step foot in the studio as a student or instructor, there are so many opportunities to learn and grow on so many levels. Such is life. Yoga is a remembrance of what life is really all about. It reminds us to take things one moment at a time, to breath, to stay present, to surrender our tension and holding patterns, to love and be grateful. At first, at least in my experience, it all appears to be kind of impossible. How can something so basic like stretching lead to such deep insights? I have come to see that yoga is so much more then just people stretching their bodies. It is a reflection of life. I am a big believer that we are all on a journey back to oneness. In sanskrit, (the language associated with the yoga practice), the word “yoga” means “union”. Underneath all that appears to separate us on the surface, whether it be our body size or shape, the way we look, the way we think, the choices we make, there is a deep connection that we all share. Think about it. We are all sharing this planet, we are all breathing the same air, we are all able to be present in this body because we all have beating hearts.

#Fallintopractice

30 Day Yoga Challenge Ahead!

This practice of Union deepens us and will eventually lead to a realization that we truly are all connected in a way much deeper then the physical reality that we think we are. I am passionate about making yoga accessible to everyone. It is a game changer worth trying. Over time it will improve the quality of your life. For that reason, I am launching a 30-Day yoga challenge on Instagram with my good friend Rachelle Taylor (Editor of Prairie Yogi Magazine). Together for 30 days we will be posting a picture of a yoga posture once a day for you to try and then post up a photo version of you doing the pose at the hashtag #fallintopractice. We purposely decided to put postures in this challenge that could be accessible to as many people as possible. So this is your chance! If you haven’t attempted this practice before but have been curious- try out a few postures and take that extra step to share your journey with us. Even if you have been practicing yoga for a long time- even better to encourage others to fall into their practice. There are some great incentives attached to this challenge that you can win simply by posting your photos to the hashtag including spa certificates from Thermea, NHL Jets Gear, Yoga Studio Passes at Moksha Yoga Winnipeg Lianne Gail Jewelry and some great swag from Prairie Yogi not to mention a few copies of my new yoga dvd that just got released. I hope you will take the risk and dive into to meet our invitation for you to try yoga. After all- this is the perfect time to try something new. Life is here waiting for you to expand and grow! I look forward to seeing what you come up with and hearing what you think of the practice!

Join the Instagram Challenge at http://www.instagram.com/keithmmac .

Subscribe to Keith’s daily email intentions and updates here.

 

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4 Summer Drinks That Will Keep You Slim

Oscar Wilde stated “Everything in moderation, even moderation.” and this couldn’t ring truer in our current balance-obsessed culture…

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by Sara

Is maintaining balance stressing you out?

 

Here’s 4 summer drinks that will keep you slim without going to extremes.

Oscar Wilde stated “Everything in moderation, even moderation.” and this couldn’t ring truer in our current balance-obsessed culture. I’ve always tried to approach health without going to extremes but like most twenty-something females living in Southern California I’ve definitely done my fair share of experimenting with juice cleanses and strict vegan or gluten free diets. In the end I’ve found that the best way to maintain a healthy weight is to value mindful balance and let go of perfection.

As a personal chef and food-documentary junkie, I have my fair share of opinions when it comes to eating. There are some things I won’t touch like soda or artificial fruit juices. Other times, I throw out the rulebook and enjoy some delicious French cheese on baguette with a glass of rosé for dinner! Quality over quantity and moderation over deprivation.

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Learning to approach health without going to extremes will be incredibly helpful in the long run. If maintaining balance is stressing you out, you’ll likely never receive the benefits of a moderate lifestyle!

Most people associate the holidays with packing on the pounds, but summertime, with its weekly BBQs and sugary drinks, can put a serious damper on your weight loss plan. Instead of reaching for that soda, try these delicious drinks that will increase metabolism, detoxify your body and curb your appetite. You’ll find yourself shedding a few pounds easily, in a completely healthy way!

Metabolism Tea

Metabolism Boosting Iced Tea

A simple cinnamon, ginseng or green tea can stabilize your blood sugar, boost your metabolism and detoxify your system. Keep a pitcher in your fridge and enjoy unsweetened or add a small amount of raw honey when the tea is still warm.

Breakfast Smoothies That Fill You Up

A morning smoothie can be a great way to get a serving or two of fruit in before you start your day. Adding a tablespoon each of flax seeds, chia seeds and hemp seeds will provide enough fiber and protein to suppress your appetite and fill you up until lunchtime. Try this simple and delicious green smoothie.

Green Smoothie

De-stress with Adaptogenic Herbs

Did you know that chronic stress can lead to increased cortisol levels which trigger hunger and keep you from losing weight? Adaptogens are ancient herbs that can help improve your body’s hormonal responses and balance the adrenal system. Ashwagandha, Ashitaba and Rhodiola can help stabilize hormones and keep your body in balance. Try this simple recipe to reduce stress and lose weight.

Fat Burning Apple Cider Vinegar

When insulin levels spike, fat is more easily stored in the body. Apple cider vinegar can help to stabilize your blood sugar and suppress your appetite. While some choose to take a shot of the vinegar straight, I prefer a smoother approach by adding a tablespoon of ACV to a glass of half water, half freshly squeezed grapefruit juice. Drink a glass an hour before each meal to curb the appetite and improve digestion.

A long-term healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables will almost always lead to successful weight loss and it never hurts to go for a few walks or do a bit of yoga or strength training, too. The secret is to find joy on the path to your goal weight and always focus on lifestyles changes rather than quick fixes. Incorporating healthy ways to hydrate into your day-to-day life is a great place to start!

 

SaraSara is a health food enthusiast and has been practicing yoga for over ten years. She currently works as a personal chef and as Natural Lifestyle Specialist for Purtylife.com.

Photo by Vince Marcial.
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When’s the Best Time to Meditate?

Anytime we are able to meditate is the best time for meditation. In our hectic society…

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by Sujantra McKeever

Anytime we are able to meditate is the best time for meditation. In our hectic society with busy schedules, work and a myriad of responsibilities, just finding five to ten minutes a day for meditation is an accomplishment. What is most important is that you do practice, every day.

Morning is a Splendid Time

If you are able to accommodate your schedule or make changes, there are certain times in the day that are more conducive to meditation. These times coincide with the cycles of nature. Morning is a splendid time for meditation. When we wake, the sun is rising, the new day is dawning. Nature is once again beginning her growth process, the sun is beginning to shine; this is an excellent time for meditation. The dawning of the day reminds us—inspires us—of the dawning of our aspiration for the soulful and spiritual experiences life can offer us.

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Noon has Power

Noon is a powerful time to meditate. With the sun at its apex we find the world fully active and dynamic. Meditation is not just the experience of peace and calm; meditation also embodies the dynamic and powerful. Noon—the middle of the day—is a time of power for nature and we can feel that power within our own consciousness.

Evening Calm

In the evening, as the sun is setting, the world is again in transition; we leave behind our multifarious activities, the hustle and bustle, and we enter into the calm of the evening. This aspect of day allows us the opportunity to let go of problems, worries, and anxieties and enter into the quiet, soulful peace of evening.

Right Before Sleep

Before going to sleep at night is another excellent time for a few moments of meditation. This is the time to calm and quiet our mind and body before going to sleep. Sleep is a significant part of our lives; in face, it is a sort of biological meditation, and by preparing ourselves and infusing ourselves with a peaceful consciousness, we create a deeper, more fulfilling and effective sleep.

Midnight Soulfulness

Midnight is a soulful time for meditation on the quality of love. Love begins with self-acceptance. Concentrate and meditate upon a photograph of yourself which you feel embodies your best qualities. While concentrating on your photograph allow your body and mind to relax. Becoming comfortable with your image n the photograph helps you to accept and love yourself. Once we feel love within ourselves we have access to the greatest thing we can offer to others: love.

3 am Hour of Brahma

Finally, 3 a.m. is called the hour of Brahma, or the hour of God. If you have ever awakened at 3 a.m., you will find the earth consciousness silent and asleep, deep within the peace of rest. By meditating at 3 a.m., we are able to enter into that peacefulness, that calmness.

Morning and Evening Are Best

Of all the times mentioned, the most practical are in the morning and in the evening. When meditating in the morning we gather peacefulness and calmness into ourselves and are then able to access these qualities during our day. It is as if we are putting money in the bank and during the day we draw from our account. When we face stressful situations we can use the peace and quiet and power from our morning meditation to deal with these challenging moments. During the evening meditation we can invoke peace and then reflect on our day, resolving events that we have pushed away from our consciousness. As our day’s activities and memories melt into peace we are renewed and ready to experience the evening hours.

Reprinted with permission from Learn to Meditate by S.G. McKeever.

Author Sujantra McKeever founded Pilgrimage of the Heart studio in 2006. He began exploring yoga and pranayama at the age of 12. Sujantra has authored five books on eastern philosophy, success motivation and meditation. Since 1987 he has delivered over 1000 lectures on meditation and yoga in over 30 countries. Sujantra studied meditation with spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy.

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Exclusive Interview with Unity Director Shaun Monson

Pilgrimage Yoga founder Sujantra McKeever recently sat down with Shaun Monson, the writer, creator and director of Unity, an enlightening new film…

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Pilgrimage Yoga founder Sujantra McKeever recently sat down with Shaun Monson, the writer, creator and director of “Unity”, an enlightening new film set for release in August.

Sujantra: I watched your entire film and was very motivated by it. At the same time, to watch a film such as Unity, it’s not pleasant in terms of what we usually think of as entertainment. It really takes attention and determination. I’m wondering what you would say to people to energize them, to take the time to watch a film such as yours.

Shaun: It’s interesting that you have all these different mediums such as literature, music, film and that each medium sort of has these unwritten rules that they have to follow. And perhaps the content of Unity would be better suited for books where we are more prepared to read statistics or philosophy or whatever the case may be. Movies have been hijacked by entertainment and not much else. But there is this genre called documentary film, which is nonfiction film, and there’s no revelation there, but I’m glad it exists because you can be a little more honest. Sometimes it’s a little harder to take, so what happens when you’re editing these films, like Unity you start debating how much truth to put into it and how much truth to take out of it because you have to think of the audience. That’s a long answer to your question, but I think it’s important to see that stuff. Like the saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Why turn away from it? Why label it positive or negative? If we really want to be honest with ourselves then we should be willing to have one genre in the canon of filmmaking that allows us to look at stuff like this, and that is the documentary.

Solutions For Humanity’s Problems

Sujantra: I’ve been a vegetarian for thirty-five years and I’ve watched a lot of films that present stark imagery but from many of them I’ve walked away with a feeling of hopelessness. There are these huge corporate power structures that we can’t do anything about, but from your film I came away with a feeling of hope because you kept juxtaposing the problems but you also presented a lot of solutions.

Shaun: Mankind, humankind is coming up with solutions. There’s a great quote in the film from Martin Luther King, Jr., “The arc of human history is long but it then does a tour of justice.” So we are seeing that we are evolving and we are less and less brutal and savage as we evolve. At one point in time we used to crucify people in Rome on the way to the gates of the city, we don’t do that anymore as you walk into a city. And slavery is abolished, women have the right to vote, and now this topic of equal rights and gay marriage are on the forefront. All these issues are coming to a head. We are getting more and more accepting of everything. That’s very hopeful to me. And the treatment of animals and the environment. And yes, you can look at a series of only negative images but if presented in a proper context you will see the great strides we are taking as human beings so it gives me hope.

Underwater ocean scene

Sujantra: Speaking of the growth of humanity, I like the section of the film where you take us from the Roman Emperor who created some human rights to the Magna Carta to the Declaration of Independence. One thing you don’t often see in films is that you put energy into and highlighted the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Could you talk to that a little bit?

Shaun: It was part of a longer piece but I thought the animation was a great embodiment to encapsulate the human struggle to respect one another, which was the original formation of the UN right after WWII or right around that time. People get into political arguments about this or that on the surface, but at its base you can see we are trying to find a way of diplomacy with one another of getting along, of working together. This comes back to the main focus of the film that we are not the same but equal. This is the main take-home message of the film, not the same but equal. I think if that alone somehow got through to the world, that one simple phrase, ‘not the same but equal.’ Just imagine the world we live in if people understood that. We are not the same but equal. Just think of the effect that would have on the planet. Think of it in just the smallest terms like road rage, the food we eat, construction, rainforest, wars, I mean, not the same but equal. That simple principle could come through to people and create an entirely different world.

Sujantra: As the creator, writer and director of this film, where does your creative process start in a gigantic undertaking such as this? Is it one simple idea you want to get across and it grows from there? How do you do it?

Shaun: I guess every filmmaker is different. They say a movie is born three times, once in writing, once in shooting and once in editing and it’s true. Documentaries are a little different because I wrote all the text and was comfortable with the text going into the project. In a documentary we are interviewing people and going out shooting footage but it’s not like scenes from a script that you’re specifically shooting. It’s happening live, or your licensing footage or getting newsreel footage and creating a collage. It kind of evolves as you’re making it. The text was there from the beginning. What inspired me to make this film was a question as to why we can’t seem to get along or what we come up with seems to better our lives but it doesn’t seem to stop us from wanting to kill each other. And that nagged at me a lot. I started looking at history and all the inventions throughout the ages whether it was literature, science, technology, yoga, veganism or any number of things humanity’s come up with and still there’s this collision we have with one another. It occurred to me that I don’t think anything we invent will stop us from killing each other. I don’t think the new Hubble telescope will do it, I don’t think a new quantum physic equation will do it. I think something has to awaken within us. I was interested in that and I wanted to shine a light on this inner shifting and that was sort of the genesis of it. Then of course I felt a bit overwhelmed and thought maybe it should be a book instead of a film but I felt the visual would be more effective so I started assembling it together, step by step.

The Evolution into Homo-spiritus

Sujantra: I remember well part of the film when you’re talking about how all of these things we’ve created have not provided a solution and yet you talk about the emergence of homo-spiritus, the being with conscious spiritual awareness and I was really thrilled to see Ramana Maharshi in the film because I’ve read him quite a bit. So those teachers do point us to forms of practice to help us achieve the transcendence you’re talking about.

Shaun: Right. I didn’t come up with the term “homo-spiritus.” I interviewed a man named David Hawkins. He’s since passed away. I had the opportunity to interview him twice. He’s written several wonderful books. Probably the best known is Power vs. Force, where he talked about how Hitler used force, which is a very brief encounter of force, but Gandhi used power. The interesting thing about power is that power will endure long after the person has passed away. We still speak about Gandhi or hear about Gandhi or teach others about him, and this shows how his power endures and that force is like a rocket. It has propulsion but it can only take you so far before it runs out. I had the chance to interview him twice and he also talked about how the spirit is the highest evolution of physical consciousness of mortality. I thought it was good to show human rights evolution over the ages and also the physical evolution from Cro-Magnon and the Neanderthal all the way up to this capacity of homo-spiritus. We know it exists because if you look at Gandhi who was a contemporary of Hitler, there is two beings right there living at the same time in the world that personified opposite ends of the conscious spectrum. So that capacity exists. It doesn’t mean we have to be bad or we have to always be primitive or always use force, it also shows that we can be like homo-spiritus. That capacity in the human being exists. That potentiality is very interesting to me. We have to cultivate that in one another.

Moral Consideration for All Beings

Sujantra: I think that came across really strongly in the film, which is great. You talk about the key idea of the moral consideration for all beings, that we are all one. A big part of your film was when you got into the body section about we are what we eat. It seems to me that that’s something that’s starting to catch on in our society. My nephew who’s going into high school this year is required to read a book about healthy eating, getting away from chemicals and getting back to natural food.

Shaun: There was talk early on about the body section when I was cutting and we were testing the film in focus groups. Some of my colleagues, who are backers of the film, the body section would always say this was a tough one because that’s where some of the animal footage was. Some of them felt it was out of place, it’s almost like this “come on kids, let’s eat our fruits and vegetables ” section of the film suddenly. I fought to keep it in because this is an entire kingdom of beings that are drastically, absolutely affected by humankind. It seems if we are going to talk about the expressions of life, the expressions of being, then we couldn’t just remove an entire kingdom of beings. Even so, the movie is ninety-eight minutes long and I think there are only fourteen minutes of animals, and really no blood. I couldn’t leave this out because we do affect other life forms. I think it’s healthy for people even if they feel a bit squeamish sometimes. It’s odd actually because we have way more war footage and human destruction footage than animal footage. Rarely, if ever, am I asked about the human violence in the film because we are so accustomed to it. It’s the animal footage that people go “Oh I don’t know if you should show this stuff,” meanwhile we have executions and horrible stuff. I find that very interesting. This always comes up, this concern. Even with exhibitors this concern came up. I find that to be a strange contradiction. We fictionalize or romanticize violence or romanticize pain, which we see a lot of times in TV shows or even on the news. So that’s okay, but actual pain shown in a documentary may not be politically correct. I think this kind of dialogue is actually very healthy.

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Photo by Alastair Rae(https://www.flickr.com/photos/merula/) License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode)

Sujantra: I also like the contrast between showing people in suffering and pain and then showing people in meditation, you showed some yoga postures and I think that’s something else we are seeing in our society, the awareness of yoga.

Shaun: Yes, definitely. It’s great and encouraging. It’s hopeful.

Spiritual Practices

Sujantra: Hopeful. Yes. Do you have any specific practice you do in your own life that refreshes you or gives you a fresh surge of energy?

Shaun: A couple different kinds, not just one. I have dogs; I’ve rescued a lot of dogs, so just living with animals I get to see their personalities or expressions, or their little nuances that I find to be a marvel. I think it helps ground me in nature. I also love to surf and I enjoy just going out, sitting on a board in the ocean and connecting with nature that way.

New Style of Release for the Film

Sujantra: The way you’re releasing the film is very unique in my experience. Can you explain how you’re doing it and why you’re doing it that way?

Shaun: Movies are released so many different ways nowadays; they are released in theatres or as a digital download. It’s just so different from how it’s been before. This idea of a very limited release is sort of an event release on a wide scale is different from independent films from even last year, just one year ago. Getting that traditional limited release, let’s say, five theatres only maybe in big cities for one week for a full run or what they call a split-run, which would be maybe a couple times a day for a week. It’s just a week to see if it attracts attention and then maybe it goes away if it doesn’t or it expands to twenty or thirty theatres. We are trying something new and quite different with a one day release but in twelve hundred theatres in the U.S. and another five hundred theatres overseas. That is not a decision I made, that’s something the distributors and exhibitors are thinking of experimenting with. They call it “event cinema.” We add extra content that you can’t see online. For instance, someone will introduce himself only in theatres, he will do it in-show and out-show on camera which is part of the screening you saw. There will be a panel discussion at the end from our premiere up in Los Angeles. It’s just something new that we are doing and I am curious to see how it does as well.

Sujantra: That’s great. It’s a great film and I hope lots of people go out and watch it.

Shaun: Thank you so much.

Sujantra: All the best of luck to you. Thank you so much, Shaun. If you’re ever in San Diego, stop by our yoga studio, Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga and the vegetarian restaurant, Jyoti-Bihanga

Shaun: I’ll keep it in mind when I’m in that part of the world.

Sujantra: Okay, thanks a bunch, Shaun.

Shaun: Thanks so much, have a great day.

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Ramayana Series – Turning Within

In these explorations of the Ramayana I hope to help you deepen your spiritual growth and understanding…

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In these explorations of the Ramayana I hope to help you deepen your spiritual growth and understanding.

Ramayana—“Rama” is the name of the hero and the heroine, his wife, is Sita. . “Yana” means the tale of, or the journey of. The Ramayana is the story, tale or journey of Rama.

“Listen my friend, I love this Ramayana. We now live in the third age of time and Rama lived in the second age of the world. Ramayana has long been standing above all other stories. You must look up to find it. Valmiki put the deeds of Rama into musical verse. He clothed them in the sound of singing. Before Ramayana there was no poetry on earth.”1

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Valmiki is our first character. He is the one who writes the Ramayana. “As a young man, Valmiki searched through the world seeking open friendship and happiness and hope. And finding none of these, he went alone into the empty forest where no man lived to a spot where the Tamsa River flows into the river Ganga. There he sat for years without moving. So still that white ants built an anthill over him. There Valmiki sat inside that anthill for thousands of years with only his eyes showing out trying to find the true, his hands folded and his mind lost in contemplation.”

Valmiki, our first character and author of the Ramayana, is a young man searching throughout the world for happiness and true friendship. He holds these ideals in his heart and searches the world and can’t find them. I think that is something we can all relate to, in that we look at life and it’s filled with a lot of painful experiences, even though in your heart you hold this feeling or hope that there can be true friendship or true love. What we meet in the experience of life is often so painful.

Valmiki can’t find any of these so he decides to retreat in, deep contemplation and meditation. In a sense you can say that’s what you do in the daily practice of meditation. The world is full of challenges and your daily meditation is your ability to pull away from the world and free your mind. You turn your mind inward and allow it to sink back into perfection or into itself. Indian philosophy asserts that our consciousness has perfection in it. Our minds spread out into the world and take everything in and create our multifaceted experiences that can be really challenging. With meditation you’re able to turn your mind inward and trace back to that pure essence.

Mountain Lake

The Ripple Effect

“His mind lost in contemplation, then one cloudy winter’s day at noon the heavenly sage Narada, the inventor of music, born from Brahma’s mind flew from heaven down to earth. He knelt in front of Valmiki and said, ‘Come out. Help me.’ ‘ It’s too cold’, replied Valmiki. ‘Away with the worlds where a little pleasure costs a lot of pain. Don’t make trouble for me.’ ‘ Would I ever?’ said Narada? ‘See how life goes by with every creature doing what follow his nature’. Narada knelt and looked deep into Valmiki’s eyes. ‘Master, what can I say to inspire you to action’? Valmiki said, ‘Just name me one honest man and then I will move’. Rama said, ‘Narada. Now, come out of there.’”1

The Ramayana is multidimensional. Valmiki is on earth and Narada, who comes down from the heavens and seeks Valmiki’s help. We are told he’s the inventor of music and born of Brahma’s mind. In Indian philosophy, there are three main aspects of existence: Creation, Preservation and Transformation. Those are personified in Brahma, the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver and Shiva the Transformer. Brahma is the creator and Narada is born from his mind. Normally when we think about birth, we think birth from a body. Here’s a more subtle birth, born from Brahma’s mind. We bear things from our minds. We create a poem from our mind or we conceive of plans and then we act them out.

“Who is Rama?” said Valmiki. Narada answered, ‘Rama rules as king in Ayodhya. He is born of the solar race and is a descendent of the sun. He is brave and gentle and firm in fight. By Rama’s command his adorable queen Sita is being brought here in the forest in a chariot and though she suspects nothing yet, here she will be abandoned. Unless you comfort her, she will drown herself in the river Ganga. And kill as well her two unborn sons by Rama’. ‘What did she do wrong?’ asked Valmiki. ‘Nothing’, answered Narada, ‘Sita is innocent and blameless. She has lived as Rama’s queen for nearly 10,000 years. Before that, Rama saved her from great danger by wondrous and incredible deeds. And now behold one of the terrors of kingship that Rama must let her go and banish her because his people talk against her. Get up and save her life and let her live here with you and your companions and make and measure words the song of Rama and teach it to her two sons.1

Rama is born of the solar race, a descendent of the sun. This is also seen in Greek mythology a lot. Mortals mate with great energies, with the sun or the wind and give rise to some of the great heroes, like Hercules. We are interconnected with these great energies. We are human but we also have that great spirit inside of us.

Sita’s been banished by Rama and she’s going to be abandoned and starts to hear the Ganga, the river, murmuring to her, “jump in, jump in, take rest, find peace.” In the order of the universe, this can’t happen. Narada has come down to convince Valmiki to do something, to take action. Valmiki listens to this, and Narada implores Valmiki to let Sita live with him and his companions and to make and measure words the song of Rama (which is the Ramayana) and teach it to her two sons.

“’I have no companions here’, said Valmiki. ‘You have now. Coming here I sang a friend gathering song. Valmiki I’ve seen other skies than these, other worlds and other friends. People are counting on you and I can hear the chariot from Ayodhya with Sita approaching the Ganga.’ Valmiki said,’ I have no skill in any craft, even in words.’ Narada was silent then he spoke. ‘There, listen. I hear the chariot stopping. Right now, here they come across Ganga in a boat. Or will you also forsake Sita from fear of other people? Look she has discovered she is lost and the boat is launched back without her. Hurry, there the sunlight comes behind the dark clouds. There, the river goddess begins to whisper unseen bells over Sita and makes her swift flowing waters seem a warm, safe home. Act now, Valmiki. Call out and the rest will follow.’”1

It’s a beautiful idea: the friend gathering song. A beautiful hermitage pops up around him because of Narada’s song. Narada says, “I’ve seen other skies, and I’ve seen other worlds. People are depending on you.” In our own lives, our actions, our thoughts, our meditations effect a lot more than what we perceive in that moment. Every decision we make, every action we take, creates a whole interconnected chain of events. The more consciously we can take our actions and make our decisions, then that affect rolls out further and further down the road. The ability to see that our actions affect more than ourselves in that moment creates an expansion of awareness. Valmiki can’t see it, even though he’s the hero and has to take these actions and perform heroic deeds. He’s the one being called to action but the one calling him can see the bigger picture. 

Mountain Trail

We Are Our Own Hero

We are the hero of our own lives, we are the ones who have to step forward and take the heroic action. If you look at your own life, what do you have inspiring, guiding or motivating your actions and decisions? If it is television, the newspaper or things that aren’t that expansive of consciousness, then your decisions are going to be influenced by those things. You can energize or inspire yourself by the books you read, by meditating, and focusing on your spiritual journey. You can inspire yourself and bring into your own life the characters that help you see the bigger picture and inspire you towards action.

A good way to look at it is through the laws of attraction and manifestation. What you keep clearest in your heart, for example in meditation you’re bringing in a certain quality, holding that quality in your heart, that intention, that energy you hold in your heart is going to bring into your life the things that are connected to that. Again, spending time in meditation or good spiritual reading will keep your mind in that space and draw that to you. One of the teachings from the Indian philosophy is when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. In the same way, when you bring yourself to a certain level, when you get yourself ready, then the teacher you need in that moment is going to come into your life. The more refined you can make your energetic output; the more you accelerate your growth because you’re clear and focused.

  1. Buck, William. Ramayana. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976. Print.
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Mario Covic – Yoga Photographer

Have you ever tried to take a photo that captures you at the height of your asana? We recently sat down with photographer Mario Covic to talk about photography and yoga.

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Have you ever tried to take a photo that captures you at the height of your asana?  We recently sat down with photographer Mario Covic to explore photography and yoga.  Mario has captured the exquisite beauty of yoga and nature as the official photographer for Bhakti Fest, Wanderlust, and Lightning in a Bottle.

PYO: What are you looking for inside the viewfinder when you’re composing a yoga image?

Mario: My aesthetic is one that I like to call ‘clean’. When I’m working with people I compose an image that’s clean and focuses on the individual where the background isn’t going to distract from what the individual is doing.

Often I shoot in Nature and I use Nature to compliment the human and what they’re doing. The whole point is to capture the brilliance of a moment where someone is expanding in their asana and the beauty of Nature is a reflection of the expansion at that peak moment. Nature is brilliant but you can clearly see what humans are doing. The beauty of Nature adds to the brilliance of what’s being captured — it does not distract from it.

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PYO: Why do you mix nature and yoga?

Mario: When I’m shooting yoga photography outside, the whole point of it is to capture the brilliance of a moment where someone is expanding in their asana. The beauty of nature is a reflection of the expansion that’s happening in the peak moment of that asana. That’s what the whole point of asana is – centering ourselves, rooting ourselves, grounding ourselves so we can expand out. A beautiful tree is rooted and grounded equally and can expand out into its brilliance above ground.


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PYO: Why do you love yoga?

Mario: Yoga is about a balance between body, spirit and our minds. When we go into nature we’re usually being active which brings us into our bodies. When we’re in the body we’re not so in the mind. Nature brings us into the present moment. That’s the goal of yoga and asana. Spending time in Nature that is Yoga. Doing Asana reminds us of our own brilliant nature which is easier to do outside in Nature.


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Arriving late to a career in photography, Mario Covic earned a degree in biology and environmental sciences and grew to love the outdoors, adventure and yoga – all of which influence his startlingly beautiful imagery. His clients have included major athletic brands REI, Prana, and Lululemon.  Mario Covic is based in Oceanside, CA.  Connect with him on Facebook.

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Interspecies Relationships at Leilani Farm Sanctuary

Donkeys, goats, pigs, and deer graze in the fruit orchard, intermingling with chickens and cats. It is delightful to see animals of different species co-existing harmoniously…

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Danny the goat rides around the farm on the back of Lehua the donkey

by Lauralee Blanchard

Leilani Farm Sanctuary on Maui, home to nearly two hundred rescued animals, is unique among farm sanctuaries in that the animals co-exist in the same environment, rather than being separated by species.

Donkeys, goats, pigs, and deer graze in the fruit orchard, intermingling with chickens and cats. It is delightful to see animals of different species co-existing harmoniously and forming special bonds.

As a young goat, Danny discovered the fun of jumping on the back of Lehua the donkey. Several times a day, he went for rides around the farm on her back. Lehua seemed to enjoy the experience just as much as Danny did.

Susan, a rescued rabbit, has become best friends with a pair of dessert tortoises. After Susan’s mate died of old age, we tired to introduce her to new rabbit friends, but she fought with each one. Now she seems most content in the company of her tortoise and chicken friends.

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Our pig, Kea, who was brought to the Sanctuary after escaping from a pig factory, became especially fond of one of our donkeys and soon began standing on her hind legs in order to reach up to the donkey and give affection. This ritual continued until Kea became too heavy for the donkey to support her weight.

Our goal at Leilani Farm Sanctuary is to give visitors the opportunity to witness the animals’ endearing antics, and to see them as individuals with personalities. It is our hope that people will open their hearts and minds to regarding farm animals not as food, but as beings worthy of love and protection. At the end of each Sanctuary tour, we provide our guests with vegan starter kits to help them embark upon on the path of compassionate vegan living.

Founder Lauralee Blanchard

Lauralee Blanchard is the founder of Leilani Farm Sanctuary of Maui, an all volunteer, non-
profit organization dedicated to providing care for rescued animals and humane education to the community.  Please lend your support!

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Review: Eric Tingstad: Mississippi

I LOVE THIS ALBUM! Mississippi is primarily Eric Tingstad with some bass and percussion support from the very capable hands of Chris Leighton, Garey Shelton,…

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by Kathy Parsons

Okay, before I go any farther, let me just say I LOVE THIS ALBUM! There isn’t a piano to be found on any of the eleven tracks, but there is some very tasty organ.

Mississippi is primarily Eric Tingstad with some bass and percussion support from the very capable hands of Chris Leighton, Garey Shelton, James Clark, Ben Smith and TJ Morris – and Eric Robert on “organ and whirly.” Tingstad performs on a variety of electric and acoustic guitars, banjo, pedal steel guitar, and resophonic.

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Inspired by the American Landscape

He wrote in a recent blog post, “Mississippi is my musical expression of how we are inspired by, and relate to, our American landscape. This is my take on the region that has come to be known as the Cradle of American Music – centered in the delta, and expanding to include the Americana Music Triangle.” Tingstad composed all of the music except for his stunning arrangement of “Danny Boy,” and there isn’t a weak track on the whole album. As a reviewer, I have to admit that sometimes it feels like my ears are getting kind of jaded, but then something like Mississippi comes along that is so fresh, beautifully recorded, and full of life that I want to go back through the artist’s entire catalog to hear what else I’ve missed.

A Grammy Winner

To backtrack a bit, Eric Tingstad has been recording since 1982 and released fourteen albums with Nancy Rumbel (as Tingstad and Rumbel) on the Narada label from 1987-2004. After that, he chose to move on as an indie artist and producer and has been honored with many awards and nominations, including a Grammy win and a second Grammy nomination. Mississippi should increase those numbers!

Leaves My Soul Happy and Refreshed

The album begins with “Long Boats,” an upbeat and very rhythmic piece that sets the tone of the album. Banjo, pedal steel, electric and acoustic guitars plus organ and percussion give this blues-tinged piece an American flavor that no one could mistake as anything else. “Shakin’ in the Cradle” has some down-home finger-pickin’ with organ and electric guitar added for additional color. The title track is slow and sultry, and is a perfect musical description of the southern US. With hints of B.B. King and slow dances from decades ago, “Trail of Tears” gets me every time – a heartbreaker. “Skamania” picks up the tempo a bit and is full of fun – love the organ on this one! “Durango” takes on an air of mystery in a somewhat more southwestern musical style and has a completely infectious rhythm. The lively and sunny “Chester” brings this fantastic album to a close, leaving my ears as well as my soul refreshed and happy.

Sure to be one of my Top Favorites for 2015, Mississippi is available from www.erictingstad.com, Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. I give it my highest recommendation.

Eric’s Website     Amazon     iTunes     CD Baby

Kathy Parsons writes music reviews and interviews artists for MainlyPiano.com.  She is a regular contributor to the Pilgrimage Yoga Online blog.

 

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Moby …on Love and Forgiveness

This post launches a new series of essays by artists on love and forgiveness. Our first post is by world-renowned DJ, musician, photographer, producer, and singer-songwriter Moby…

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by Moby

One of the reasons why music in particular is so ubiquitous and so universal with love is that it reaches people on a very profound emotional level. Often times, I feel like music can reach people on an almost softer, deeper, and more vulnerable level than people might normally experience on a day to day basis. I think to understand music’s ability to foster love and forgiveness, it sometimes helps to look at their opposites. To me, the opposite of love isn’t necessarily hate. The opposite of love is judgment, and the opposite of forgiveness is bitterness and resentment.

Music Can Open People Up

I feel like music in particular can open people up to a more honest, vulnerable, softer side, which is
really where love and forgiveness arise. A theory I have about human emotion, is that in a very broad sense, there are two emotional states that human beings have—there’s a state of defensiveness and a state of openness. You could use other adjectives—you could say there’s hard and there’s soft and there’s defensive and there’s vulnerable. I think that love and forgiveness, they come from that place of openness, softness, and vulnerability. The harder emotional states; anger, bitterness, defensiveness, and cynicism are usually masks for the softer states. My experience is that for the majority of people, myself included, it’s really easy to succumb to the harder emotional states—the anger, defence, bitterness, without looking at what’s underneath.

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True Forgiveness

I think that forgiveness—really true forgiveness—needs to come from the softer emotions that lie under the hard emotions, but most of us don’t have much training in looking behind the harder emotions. A lot of our culture reinforces these harder emotions. We have a culture that glorifies anger, bitterness, and retribution. One thing that art and music can do is enable people to access these softer emotional states from where true love and forgiveness arise.

Self Awareness

Forgiveness can really only be truly meaningful with self-awareness. Forgiveness should not involve judgement or retribution or bitterness. When I’m forgiving of someone, it’s because I’m looking at them and I’m hopefully filled with a true sense of compassion. I don’t see them as a completely separate other being, I see them as being a human similar to me and whatever that person has done, I see that I have probably done similar things as well. I can see that when I’ve done bad things it’s usually because I’ve been insecure or afraid. I can look at that other person and say, “Oh, they’re insecure and afraid as well,” and create a much deeper sense of forgiveness.

MOBY is a world-renowned DJ, musician, photographer, producer, and singer-songwriter based in Los Angeles, California. He has sold over twenty million albums worldwide, and is famous for his electronic music, vegan lifestyle, and support of animal rights. His best-selling albums “Play” (1999), “18” (2002), “Hotel” (2005), “Last Night” (2008), “Destroyed” (2011), and “Innocents” (2013) are all available from www.moby.com. Moby has also co-written, produced, and remixed music for Michael Jackson, David Bowie, Daft Punk, Brian Eno, Pet Shop Boys, Britney Spears, New Order, Public Enemy, Guns N’ Roses, Metallica, among many others.

Websites: www.moby.com and www.mobygratis.com
Photos: DEF Ltd & Little Idiot Records

From Love Live Forgive, featuring interviews with a diverse range of artists who reveal and explore the transformative power ofebook_cover_3D-fixedlove, forgiveness, and the creative spirit. While featuring a wide-ranging demographic, the contributors to this project represent a dynamic spectrum of artistic, cultural, and faith-based backgrounds. Individually they offer their unique perspective on the human experience. Collectively they embrace a shared passion for art and its ability to transform our lives and the world around us.  Get a free book download.

Thanks to Justin St. Vincent, the Director and Founder of Xtreme Music. He has self-published four books including a worldwide trilogy exploring The Spiritual Significance of Music (2009-2012), and free eBook Love Live Forgive: Insights from Artists (2014), all available from Xtreme Music:  www.XtremeMusic.org 

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Family: The 1st Step to Union

Family is everything…? We’ve heard this before. The most important thing is family. We have probably said it ourselves…

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Family is everything…?

We’ve heard this before. The most important thing is family. We have probably said it ourselves. And don’t get me wrong. I agree. But let’s take a look at this idea from a philosophical perspective.

In his book, Lectures on Ancient Philosophy, (Philosophical Research Society) chapter 5, Manly P. Hall (March 18, 1901 – August 29, 1990), an extraordinary researcher, sage, mystic, philosopher and commentator of comparative religion writes that the inclusion of the family in a person’s life and circle is ‘the first step’ upward in realization from a state of abject barbarism. In other words, as a soul begins to perceive something other that its self, something bigger than self, the first thing to be included and considered is family.

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A Widening Perspective

Let’s be clear. It’s the first step upward. And it’s an important first step! It signifies a new, widening perspective, a deepening of consciousness, an unfolding of awareness and at least a tiny cognition of the annihilation of separateness.

As awareness grows other people get included within our sphere… friends, nation, race, world, planet, universe, beyond… more and greater inclusion until the sense of ‘Oneness’ becomes the all encompassing. It becomes clear that the only real reality is Unity, Yoga. Instead of being controlled by diversity, we become masters of diversity. We transcend individual concerns.

A False Sense of Separation

Our false sense of separation is why we continue to violate our families. We lie, cheat, brutalize, abuse, neglect, abandon… why we cheat the world and lavish our ill gotten gains on our families, with the expectation that we will be praised for being a good provider… not all of us… but a good many… It’s because the inclusion of family is pretty low on the scale of ascending realization. Over half of all families break up, after all.

Pretty grim truth. But don’t fret! Awareness of the reality of truth is important. Each step of inclusion into our worlds decreases the differences we perceive in others. And it also strengthens the lower rungs, too, building compassion and acceptance, making better families, better friends, better communities, better world, better universe… better you!

Thinking Like a Neanderthal

So when we think to our selves, “I’m going to do this for my family and screw everyone else…”, we’re thinking like a Neanderthal. Good families make sacrifices and reach out all the time to help friends, strangers, communities, the world… Transcend separateness. We are One.

Manly P. HallI am a big fan of Manly P. Hall. I highly recommend his books, The Secret Teaching of All Ages and the companion book, Lectures on Ancient Philosophy. Both of these are fantastic primers for anyone looking for timeless interpretations of the history of thought. They are comprehensive and thorough, leaving no stone unturned, and can stand alone as texts or are great food for further research. Both are available in paperback. I would highly recommend the coffee table sized hardbound of The Secret Teachings of All Ages, a masterpiece in and of itself and a source you will pass on to your grandchildren. You may have to visit an old fashioned bookstore to find a copy. Pay the money! It’s worth every penny.

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Review: Todd Boston: “Touched by the Sun”

Touched By the Sun is the second release from multi-instrumentalist/composer Todd Boston, following his 2010 debut, Alive. Produced by Will Ackerman and co-produced…

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by Kathy Parsons

Touched By the Sun is the second release from multi-instrumentalist/composer Todd Boston, TB Face Smile CRfollowing his 2010 debut, Alive. Produced by Will Ackerman and co-produced by Tom Eaton and Boston, the album features an impressive list of contributing musicians that include Charlie Bisharat on violin, Eugene Friesen on cello, Snatam Kaur‘s vocals, Ramesh Kannan on tabla and cajon, and Michael Manring and Tony Levin on basses. Boston performs on guitars, dotar, flutes and bass and composed all twelve pieces, some of which were arranged by Ackerman.

A Very Positive, Uplifting Energy

With such a stellar group of collaborating artists, it is no wonder that both the music and the sound quality are truly exceptional. Boston has studied with the masters of a dizzying range of musical genres, and his compositions reflect an assimilation of many cultural styles. All of the music has a very positive, uplifting energy, and it’s fascinating how Boston shifts from Eastern stylings to Americana without missing a beat.

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Songs of Joy that Lift the Spirit

Touched By the Sun begins with a short prelude for dotar and cello that establishes the eclectic tone of the album. Hypnotic with a hint of mystery, it’s a great start! “Twilight,” features guitar, dotar (a simple Indian lute), flute, cello, tabla, cajon, and bass. The gentle finger-picking style on guitar gives the piece a very relaxed and contented feeling that is enhanced by Friesen’s soulful cello. “Celtic Heart” is a favorite. Guitar, cello, bass and percussion combine to create a folk feeling that overflows with emotion and passion. Darker than most of the other tracks, it really sings! “Sol Rising” goes in the other direction with a song of joy and new beginnings that lifts the spirit and lets it soar. “The Brightest Night” begins as a peaceful guitar solo and gradually evolves into a guitar/cello/violin trio with supporting percussion. I really like this one, too! “Under the Orion Sky” would be perfect in a film showing open fields or meadows or any kind of peaceful, serene setting. Love it! “Full Moon” picks up the tempo and energy level tempered with a haunting, mystical quality. Guitars, flutes, violin, tabla, cajon, and fretless bass cast a hypnotic spell. “Cascading” is just Boston and his guitar, with dotar adding occasional embellishments (also Boston). Peaceful serenity at its best! “Waves” was recorded on the day of the Japanese tsunami (3/11/11) after watching videos of the massive destruction. Intense yet very beautiful, this piece is dedicated to the memory of guitarist Michael Hedges. The last track on this exceptional album is the title track. Guitars, bass, Snatam Kaur’s elegant voice, violin, and light percussion soothe and uplift, leaving the listener refreshed and with a sense of well-being.

A Wonderful Musical Journey

Todd Boston has created a wonderful musical journey for everyone who loves soulful guitar and world music styles with substance and beauty. Touched By the Sun is available from www.toddboston.com, Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Highly recommended!

Todd’s Website     Amazon     iTunes     CD Baby

Kathy Parsons writes music reviews and interviews artists for MainlyPiano.com.  She is a regular contributor to the Pilgrimage Yoga Online blog.

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Success Starts with an Idea

Every great achievement starts with an idea. Ideas come to us with a possibility of successfully bringing them to life…

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Every great achievement starts with an idea. Ideas come to us with a possibility of successfully bringing them to life in ways that others can share in them.  The late comic genius Robin Williams said, “No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.”

Often an idea stimulates a more complete vision about something on your mind: a new yoga posture, a song, a book, a poem, dance, a life shift, whatever. Sometimes an idea feels like a perfect solution. The right idea can bring one’s dreams closer to reality.

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Ideas are Gifts

They pop into our minds from nothingness. When I pick up my guitar at any given moment and start playing extemporaneously, like magic – music flows.  Music is coursing through my consciousness like a stream all the time.  A guitar in my hands is a soundboard for the flow of ideas, an aural reflection of my inner consciousness and what I am feeling inside a given moment.

Value and savor your ideas for they are far from trivial. Write them down in a creative journal or record them so you can return to them.  Even if they suck at the outset, they are instructive and evolutionary; they are build-able and often morph to power the successes to which one aspires.

Ideas are essence

Ideas are essence. They take time to grow into physical reality. “I begin with an idea and then it becomes something else,” noted artist Pablo Picasso.  Give yourself time, patience and perseverance and allow unformed ideas to grow into their full potential.

Meditation and Contemplation

 I find that meditation really helps open my creative channels. Quietude helps me hear and see the flow of ideas.

Practice

Practice and perfecting your craft enables the flow of ideas. The time you devote to practice generates an inner momentum for your ideas to come through and your dreams to come true. So work hard.

Trusting Your Ideas

Contemplate an idea in a quiet place. Imagine life with the idea fully manifest. How does it feel to you?  Treat ideas as gifts and may they transform your life for the better.

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20 Affirmations for Achieving Happiness

Visualize Health and Success – Feeling happy is more than a state of mind. Like yoga, it requires practice and seeing the brighter…

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Are you using the power of positive thinking in your life?

Visualize Health and Success

Feeling happy is more than a state of mind. Like yoga, it requires practice and seeing the brighter side of life at every moment.  Always visualize health and success in your life and positive outcomes from your actions. And believe that you will eventually rise above any obstacles and difficulties on your life path.

Embrace the Brighter Side of Life

We like these affirmations by author Marc Chernoff that you can use to focus on the bright side of life and achieve positive results from all your actions.

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Exercise the Mind

“Just like every muscle in the body, the mind needs to be exercised to gain strength.  It needs to be worked consistently to grow and develop over time.  If you haven’t pushed your mind in thousands of little ways over time, of course it’ll crumble on the one day that things get really challenging,” suggests Chernoff.

Repeat these affirmations aloud or silently until they are imprinted inside your subconscious mind.

  1. “I cannot control everything that happens to me; I can only control the way I respond to what happens.  In my response is my power.”
  2. “I will not get caught up in what could’ve been or should’ve been.  I will look instead at the power and possibility of what is, right now.”
  3. “I have to accept whatever comes my way, and the only important thing is that I meet it with the best I have to give.”
  4. “Making mistakes is always better than faking perfections.”
  5. “I will never be as good as everyone tells me when I win, and I will never be as bad as I think when I lose.”
  6. “I will think less about managing my problems and more about managing my mindset.  I will keep it positive.”
  7. “A challenge only becomes an obstacle if I bow to it.”
  8. “I will get back up.  Again, and again.  The faster I recover from setbacks, the faster I’ll get where I’m going in life.”
  9. “I will not try to hide from my fears, because I know they are not there to scare me.  They are there to let me know that something is worth it.”
  10. “There is a big difference between empty fatigue and gratifying exhaustion.  Life is too short.  I will invest in the activities that deeply move me.”
  11. “If I don’t have time for what matters, I will stop doing things that don’t.”
  12. “I cannot build a reputation and legacy for myself based on what I am going to (maybe) do someday.”
  13. “The future can be different than the present, and I have the power to make it so, right now.”
  14. “Happiness will come to me when it comes from me.”
  15. “Getting ahead is essential, and I will never get ahead of anyone (including my past self) as long as I try to get even with them.”
  16. “I will focus on making myself better, not on thinking that I am better.”
  17. “I will be too busy working on my own grass to notice if yours is greener.”
  18. “I will eat like I love myself.  Move like I love myself.  Speak like I love myself.  Live like I love myself.  Today.:
  19. “My next step in the right direction doesn’t have to be a big one.”
  20. “All the small victories are worth celebrating, every step of the way.  It’s the small things done well that make a big, exciting life in the end.”

How are you using the positive thinking and affirmations in your life?

Thanks to Marc and Angel Chernoff, authors of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.

 

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Review: Winds of Samsara: Ricky Kej & Wouter Kellerman

Winds of Samsara is a glorious collaboration by keyboardist/composer Ricky Kej, flutist Wouter Kellerman and a crew of about 120 musicians …

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by Kathy Parsons

Winds of Samsara is a glorious collaboration by keyboardist/composer Ricky Kej, flutist Wouter Kellerman and a crew of about 120 musicians from five continents. With musical instruments and stylings from all over the world, this is clearly a world music album. Several of the tracks have a very strong Indian influence, reflecting Kej’s cultural background, but there is also a gorgeous arrangement of “Greensleeves,” a track by Australia’s wonderful Fiona Joy, and a Nocturne by Chopin. Impossibly diverse? In less capable hands, perhaps, but this album works seamlessly and beautifully from the first note to the last. With themes of peace and global harmony as well as musical tributes to Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Ghandi, Winds of Samsara is a richly rewarding experience from an emotional and spiritual as well as a musical perspective. I predict that this one will shoot up the charts very quickly!

An Incredible Album

Winds of Samsara begins with “Mahatma,” a piece with diverse musical elements that come together as one to symbolize the late visionary’s message of world peace, non-violence and love. Guests artists on this track include guitarist Ciro Hurtado and vocalist Prakash Sontakke, but it is Kellerman’s flute that makes it soar. “New Earth Calling” scales back the production a bit, but not the beauty or effectiveness of the music. “Crystal Moon” is the first piece Kellerman ever composed. Haunting and graceful, it features Kellerman on flute and fife, accompanied by guitars, keyboards, and percussion. “Madiba” is the family name of Nelson Mandela, and this piece expresses the feelings of gratitude the two composers have for the great leader. Both powerful and very gentle, it’s a favorite. “Heaven Is Here” is a new arrangement of “Pieces of Heaven” from Kej’s 2013 release,Shanti Orchestra. It is also the first piece Kej and Kellerman worked on together. With ethereal vocals and the universal spirit of love, it’s a deeply emotional stand-out.

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“River of Time” remembers a lost loved one and was composed by Phresh Makhene and Kellerman in a distinctive African style. “Remembrance” is set to the old English folk song, “Greensleeves.” Inspired by the universal and timeless quality the song, it is sung here by Indian and African voices. “Journey to Higher Grounds” is another favorite. An ode to positivity, progress, and resilience, Kellerman’s flute goes heavenward as strings, piano, and keyboards give it wings. “Grace” brings in one of my favorite artists, Fiona Joy, with her original composition and playing her new Stuart and Sons grand piano. Backed by Kellerman’s flute, Kej’s keyboards and bass, santoor and vocals, the song elegantly  enchants as it touches the heart. “Nocturne” was a real surprise! (This is Chopin’s C# minor Nocturne, not the better-known Nocturne in Eb.) I don’t generally like my classics messed with much, but this arrangement is stellar with Michael Lewin on piano, Kellerman on flute, an Indian choir, and the Seattle Pro Musica choir. What a stunning ending for an incredible album!

2014 Grammy Winner – Best New Age Album

Winds of Samsara won the Grammy for Best New Age Album! It is available from www.WindsOfSamsara.com. Very highly recommended!

Ricky’s Website     Wouter’s Website     Amazon     iTunes

Kathy Parsons writes music reviews and interviews artists for MainlyPiano.com.  She is a regular contributor to the Pilgrimage Yoga Online blog.

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A Beat You Can Breathe To: Yoga and Music

Music Affects Our Emotions – We know intuitively that music affects our emotions. It hits us deeply, unconsciously…

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by JC Peters

Have you ever noticed the music yoga teachers play in class?

Music Affects Our Emotions

We know intuitively that music affects our emotions. It hits us deeply, unconsciously,  elevating us, calling forth an old memory, or even causing us to squeeze on the gas pedal a little harder. Neurologist Oliver Sacks, in his book Musicophilia, explains that the parts of our brains that understand music are intertwined with our limbic (emotional) and motor (movement) systems. Sacks writes, “Rhythm in this sense, the integration of sound and movement, can play a great role in coordinating and invigorating basic locomotor movement.” No wonder we can’t help tapping our toes when a certain song comes on the radio.

Your Breath

In Vinyasa or Flow yoga, we intend very clearly to connect with the rhythm of the breath. We breathe Ujjayi, a slowed down, smoothed out breath that sounds a bit like a whisper, and link every transitional movement to either an inhale or an exhale. Your breath becomes a dance partner, and when you are really in the zone, your breath leads the dance.

Classically, Ujjayi breath is a four count inhale and exhale. Some teachers count the breath out loud, but a good song in 4/4 time with a steady tempo can get everyone in the room breathing together effortlessly. The yoga playlist is an unsung art: if we listen with our bodies, a good groove can help, while an irregular beat can throw us off. What we need is a beat we can breathe to.

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Yoga Playlist

The yoga playlist can also set musical moods, from calm and contemplative to fiery and intense. Since we hear music both physically and emotionally, we must be mindful about using it in a practice with such physical and emotional resonances. Whether it’s Tibetan monks chanting or Avril Lavigne, we must acknowledge that the music we choose creates an emotional flavor for our slow dance with the breath.

Many of my students love my yoga playlists, but I’m also aware that some of them must really, deeply hate them. Everyone has their preferences, and some people like their yoga in silence, with the steady beat of the heart as their only metronome. It’s good to acknowledge that you can’t please all the people all the time, but in the end, the music isn’t for my students. It’s for me.

Entrainment

If you put a few pendulums in a room together, swinging at different phases, they somehow hear or feel each other and sync up. This is called entrainment, and it also happens in a yoga class. As the teacher, I need to be the pendulum whose rhythm everyone else matches up with. No matter what’s going on in my life, and even if no one else notices the actual tunes, I know my playlist will get me in sync with the tempo and mood I am trying to share.

In your teaching or home practice, explore how music affects your movement. Some songs even make me want to do backbends or inversions, while others make me crave deep, seated forward folds. There’s a secret language in the music that can accompany our dance with breath. As the poet Mary Oliver has said, “Rhythm is one of the most powerful of pleasures, and when we feel a pleasurable rhythm we hope it will continue. When it does, it grows sweeter.”

This post was originally published on Spirituality & Health. To view the original post, click here.

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Helping People Fall in Love While Saving the World

I’m a socially conscious tech entrepreneur with an immense passion for giving back and a love for living a healthy lifestyle. I founded Neqtr…

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by Sonya Davis

I’m a socially conscious tech entrepreneur with an immense passion for giving back and a love for living a healthy lifestyle.

I founded Neqtr, an invite-only relationship app that helps conscious people find love while giving back and doing something positive for themselves or the community. We match up people through the causes and lifestyles they have in common. We help them meet at planned dates, like yoga, volunteering, meditation, surfing, etc.

Shared Passions Bring People Together

Neqtr was created because many people like myself are incredibly unfulfilled by the available dating options. We want to find a partner who we can share passions with — it’s the foundation for a healthy, happy relationship. We don’t want to have to drag our partners to yoga, we want them to want to go. And if we do see someone intriguing in our class, we’re generally too shy to say hello. That’s where Neqtr’s matching algorithm and planned dates come in.

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Find Love Doing What You Love

We believe that if you give love, you’ll get love and find love by doing what you love. We’ve also partnered up with 35+ non-profits to aid in our planned date options and spread the love further. Plus, it makes a guy 10 times sexier to see him helping underprivileged children, cleaning a beach, busting out some awesome yoga poses, or getting centered in a meditation practice. Just sayin’.

A Love Movement

I’ve made a point to do gutsy humanitarian projects in countries like Nepal, where I filmed a documentary about child slave labor, and raised enough money through a punk rock benefit show to rebuild a Buddhist nunnery in the Himalayas, thus starting a women’s movement in the neighboring towns. I also write a couple of blogs and help people up their style and confidence. My goal is to create a love movement and help give people the sense that finding a partner is possible while doing good.

Sonya Davis is CEO/Founder of Neqtr. She also practices yoga with Pilgrimage Yoga Online.

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Kirtan and Health

The numbers are astounding! – Singing, especially choral singing is one of the easiest and best things you can do for your health…

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The numbers are astounding!

Singing, especially choral singing is one of the easiest and best things you can do for your health and well-being.

“Group singing is cheaper than therapy, healthier than drinking, and certainly more fun than working out. It is the one thing in life where feeling better is pretty much guaranteed.”

I know this from experience. I’ve lead a weekly kirtan, a chanting and meditation practice, for over five years. At the end of the evening I am exhilarated. I feel good. I’m happy and at peace.

“Group singing, for those who have done it, is the most exhilarating and transformative of all.

“It takes something incredibly intimate, a sound that begins inside you, shares it with a roomful of people and it comes back as something even more thrilling: harmony.”

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Our Breaths and Hearts

When we sing our breaths and hearts come together, a process called entrainment. Vibrations sync up. And studies further suggest that group singing can be extremely beneficial for older folks who don’t exercise regularly.

“Deep breathing is a key to meditation and other relaxation techniques…”

A  Form of Pranayama

I’ve often described singing as a form of pranayama. Think about it. Precisely controlled breathing. Inhale a measured volume of air, pause, regulate and pressurize, exhale in a very conscious manner to produce a specific sound, continuing to refine the exhale to control and improve the sound or change notes… Repeat. All together, now…

Great for Everyone

A kirtan is great for anyone to find a safe, welcoming and easy place to find your voice. No auditions are required. No one cares what you sound like. And in fact, the benefits of singing are available even to the most average singers (of which I am one). Find a kirtan. Find your voice. Enliven your heart.

We’re here for you!

Join Us Live or Live Stream

The reality is, when you join in choral singing you become an integral component of something you can’t create by yourself. You recognize and appreciate both the necessity and the offerings of those around you. You become part of a larger whole, a community of ONE.

The Pilgrimage of the Heart Kirtan Band plays every Thursday evening at 8:15pm (Pacific) for FREE and streams the event LIVE. Join us in person if you are in San Diego. Download Stre.am (free app) on your mobile device and search for pilgrimagekirtan to connect with us worldwide.

 

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Kirtan for Weight Loss?

Kirtan for Weight loss! Wait, what… Really? If we’re talking about the ‘Weight of the World.’ Kirtan can help with that! Kirtan is a place…

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Kirtan for Weight loss! Wait, what… Really?

If we’re talking about the ‘Weight of the World.’

Kirtan can help with that! Kirtan is a place where the weight of the world is gone. It’s a place where we can shed our chains, where we can lift eyes to our maker. It’s a place of communal outpouring, chant upon chant about love and gratitude – for our miracle-lives! It’s a place to find our courage. Heavy can be life. We can all change the way we look at things in our worlds. Kirtan can be a good vehicle in helping us find the inner determination to take meaningful steps in our lives. Jai, jai Ganesha!

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Fear of Singing… 

Sometimes the way to propel yourself forward involves sticking your neck out a bit. Folks often have an aversion to singing. So, their initial response is, “I’m not good enough.” Don’t let this happen to you! You don’t have to audition. Just show up. When you are ready, join in. Singing is not heavy… It’s pure light, pure vibration. It feels good. We loosen up as we vibrate. We loosen the chains we’re holding onto so tightly. We can let go…

When we sing and vibrate together as a group, we are a Unity. It’s a concrete reminder of an abstract concept; that everything in the universe vibrates as a perfect Unity.

Kirtan. Shed the ‘Weigh of the World.’  Move lightly.

Want to know more?

Our San Diego community, Pilgrimage of the Heart members and participants are fortunate to have FREE Kirtan every Thursday evening at 8:15pm (Pacific). This event is now streamed LIVE! Download the FREE app for your mobile device and follow us at stre.am/pilgrimagekirtan.

Lose the ‘Weight of the World!’

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Discover Kirtan… Find your voice

If you have listened to recorded Kirtan music, you might have a degree of appreciation for the genre…

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If you have listened to recorded Kirtan music, you might have a degree of appreciation for the genre and perhaps Kirtan’s serene soulfulness. But I tell you; Kirtan is meant to be experienced live! Kirtan is a participation practice. The whole scope of the practice will change for you when you are there participating.

Where can I go to sing?

Folks often say to me, “Where can I go to sing?” Or, more frequently, “Singing at Kirtan has freed my voice! Thank you.”

You could join a church choir. You might find a choral group if you are lucky… that’s about it. You have to audition. You need skills. What about the rest of us?

Kirtan is for everyone! All you have to do is show up. The ‘quality’ of your voice is not what matters. The creation and sharing of your heart-voice is the practice. Find your heart-voice!

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What really happens when I sing?

When we sing, we vibrate! Everything vibrates. From the smallest corpuscles to the songs of the celestial spheres, the entire universe vibrates. Vibration FEELS good. We are made to vibrate. And our voice is our mechanism, our gift. Couple your voice with a single, sacred thought. Take a deep inhalation, sing ‘Om’ (Aum) for a full breath. Feel your heart as your vibrational energy is transmitted through you, into the room, into the universe…

Find a Kirtan practice in your community.

Kirtans are popping up all over! Find a Kirtan practice in your community. Walk in. Be a part of it. Find your voice.

WATCH our Kirtan LIVE every Thursday at 8:15pm (Pacific) using the FREE Stre.am app for iOS and Android. Download the app, sign in and search for pilgrimagekirtan to connect with us. Become part of our world-wide community.

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Kirtan Roots – Start here!

Not in a million years would I have imagined being so deeply involved in Kirtan as I am today. When I was introduced to Kirtan…

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Not in a million years would I have imagined being so deeply involved in Kirtan as I am today. When I was introduced to Kirtan around 2007, I had no idea of the impact it would have on my life. Playing music as a teenager in the mid-‘70s and finding the yoga world in 1990, I had a regular meditation practice. I had even listened to Krishna Das recordings but I was, as yet, unmoved by Kirtan. Only after becoming friends with Sujantra, founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart yoga studio in San Diego, did I find this genre and become enthralled.

Sujantra and I struck up a relationship around yoga and Kirtan. We started jamming together. Sujantra played the harmonium and I was on bass guitar… I started learning some chants. The whole process was subtly compelling.  We started practicing regularly. We recruited players. We started a band. Now we have one of Southern California’s best Kirtan offerings, playing weekly for five years now.

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Plant your Kirtan roots with us!

We offer Kirtan tutorials at Pilgrimage Yoga online so you can learn and start a Kirtan practice in your community.  Our lessons demonstrate harmonium, guitar, bass guitar, tabla and other percussion instruments broken down into the basics so you can quickly and easily learn. We demonstrate traditional and contemporary chants, original chants written by us, and feature ancient and modern chants by spiritual leader Sri Chinmoy. Anyone with a true desire and the most basic music background on any instrument can master this genre.

Grow your Kirtan roots deeply

Do you want to know more about what Kirtan is and how to sow your Kirtan roots? Follow my blog.

Pilgrimage of the Heart Kirtan. Every Thursday night at 8:15pm. Always FREE!

WATCH our Kirtan streamed LIVE on Thursday nights. Download the FREE app for your iphone, ipad or android devise at Stre.am and search for pilgrimagekirtan to connect.

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Peace Run Children’s Art Exhibit

Paintings for World Harmony – San Diego City Hall – On Thursday March 26, two friends and I set up an art display at San Diego…

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Paintings for World Harmony

San Diego City Hall – On Thursday March 26, two friends and I set up an art display at San Diego City Hall. The display featured ‘Paintings for World Harmony’ by prolific artist Sri Chinmoy, founder of the Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run, and drawings that we collected from children around the world where the Peace Run visited this year.

Peace Run Jharna Kala Exhibit SD photo 1 Peace Run Jharna Kala Exhibit SD photo 7 Peace Run Jharna Kala Exhibit SD photo 6

Sri Chinmoy

Sri Chinmoy was an artist, poet, musician and athlete who dreamed about a oneness–world through inner peace. His art work such as ‘Peace Feeds the Children’, ‘Serve Humanity’ and ‘Imagine Peace Here and Now’ makes us reflect on the inner peace that exists within us. His art work has been displayed in prominent locations throughout the world such as; The Victoria and Albert Museum in London, The Louvre in Paris and The United Nations in New York City.

Peace Run Jharna Kala Exhibit SD photo 5 Peace Run Jharna Kala Exhibit

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The Children’s Art

The children’s art work are beautiful masterpieces with the theme of ‘Peace’, ‘Happiness’, ‘Nonviolence’ and ‘Recycling’. The children – ages 5-15 – remind us of their hopes and dreams for a more harmonious and peaceful world.

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City of San Diego

We would like to thank the City of San Diego for their support and I would like to personally thank the founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga Studio, Sujantra McKeever, and the Peace Run for making this exhibit possible.

Santiva

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Is Brahmacharya a Life without Sex?

Brahmacharya is one of the key elements of yoga. Some think of Brahmacharya as a life without sex. Others see it as…

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Brahmacharya is one of the key elements of yoga.

Some think of Brahmacharya as a life without sex. Others see it as a general attitude towards life. Lets begin by exploring Brahmacharya as an aspect of yoga.

The path of yoga was codified over 2000 years ago by the yogi and scholar Patanjali. He expressed yoga as having eight yoga, aspects or limbs, like the branches of a tree. I think it is helpful to conceptualize organically, where different aspects are integrated simultaneously. Neither yoga nor life moves in a purely linear fashion.

The first two limbs of the tree of yoga are known as the yamas and niyamas. I would define the yamas as “moral & ethicalethical principles,” and the niyamas as disciplines and conduct.

Brahmacharya is one of the 5 yamas. Literally speaking Brahmacharya means ‘the conduct ‘ (charya) that leads to Brahma, which is, in yoga philosophy, the experience of the Ultimate Reality. Buddhism would call this highest reality Nirvana; Christianity uses the term: the ‘Kingdom of Heaven within.’ Different names for the same river.

The question we each must ask is “what actions and experiences of mine will move me closer to this ultimate reality and what actions and experiences will move me further away.” It is deep in our spiritual hearts and conscience that we each find the answers for ourselves.

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Brahmacharya and sexual relations

Historically speaking, in the ancient indian texts brahmacharya refers to one of the four stages of life. This first stage—brahmacharya–is the ‘student’ life. This is the period just before puberty and up until marriage. It is characterized by spiritual and secular study and strict adherence to the yamas: non-violence, truthfulness, not-stealing; not-receiving gifts and strict celibacy. In the yamas this celibacy is also referred to as brahmacharya. So the word brahmacharya refers to both a stage of life and sexual abstinence.

Monasticism

In monastic traditions, both Eastern and Western, celibacy, or abstinence from sexual relations is considered one of the foundations of the spiritual life. While this is often a life-long practice limited periods of abstinence are also an integral part of many spiritual traditions.

The basic idea of sexual-abstinence is that the same energy that fuels our sexuality, including our sexual thoughts, also fuels our spiritual quest. This energy is the creative force of the universe. Each of us needs to decide how and when we will utilize abstinence in our own lives and how and when to express our sexuality.

–Sujantra

Sujantra speaks more on brahmacharya in his video Brahmacharya.

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Bharadvajasana – Finding the source of your joy

Bharadvaja was a dedicated student of the Vedas, the most ancient spiritual and philosophical texts of Hinduism…

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Bharadvaja was a dedicated student of the Vedas, the most ancient spiritual and philosophical texts of Hinduism. He devoted three entire lifetimes to intense study of these writings. He read them, wrote them down, memorized them and then did it all over again, hoping it would bring him closer to a higher power and liberate him from the cycle of death and rebirth.

Shiva Appears to Bharadvaja

At the end of his third lifetime, Shiva appeared to Bharadvaja upon his deathbed and gave him some rather disappointing news. Shiva informed Bharadvaja that despite his unparalleled knowledge of the Vedas, he would not be accompanying Shiva to heaven because he had not learned the true meaning of the Vedas. He hadn’t shared the beauty and grace of them with others.

Bharadvaja’s Fourth Life

In his fourth life, Bharadvaja taught the philosophy of the Vedas, to those near and far and in every caste, with wisdom and compassion. During this life, he realized that wisdom is not contained in the knowing of a subject, but the living and sharing of that wisdom.

Find the Source of Your Joy

Bharadvaja’s story inspires each of us to find the source of our own personal joy and to then live it and share it with others. When we dance in the light of our heart’s fire, we inspire others to find their own joy. When we find our life’s true passion, it is fully expressed when we begin to share it with others.

What is your heart and soul’s passion? How do you share it with others?

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The Source of Happiness

Where Does Happiness Come From? – I imagine everyone reading this has realized that they do not put ‘happiness’ into new cars…

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Where Does Happiness Come From?

I imagine everyone reading this has realized that they do not put ‘happiness’ into new cars, stereo systems and new clothes at the factories where they are made, yet we are clearly happy when we acquire these things. Where does the happiness come from? From ‘things’ or the act of possession or possibly somewhere else?

The quest to answer this question has vexed philosophers since the dawn of human thought. There are three major schools of thought: hedonism, eudemonism and theological.

All three have good points. The responsibility to answer the question of where happiness comes from falls upon you alone, as many of your most important decisions in life will be based upon your quest for happiness.

 

Pleasure, Hedonism and Eudemonism

Hedonism says that pleasure is satisfaction; that happiness comes from pleasure. There are different types and degrees of pleasure that can be derived on the physical, emotional and intellectual planes of life. Pleasure can range from indulging in a slice of decadent chocolate cake to listening to music. This philosophy was codified by the Greek Epicurus.

 

Eudemonism represents the philosophy of Aristotle and Ayn Rand and is exemplified in their writings. Here the idea is that happiness comes from fulfilling one’s innate capacities. Happiness comes from reaching our highest potential, from developing our talents to our fullest capacity.

 

Feels Good to Be Humble

Finally there is the theological approach to happiness. This philosophy says that happiness comes from embracing and living our lives guided by higher virtues such as humility, compassion, unconditional love, self-giving and all the others that various religions and spritual paths extol.

 

A good friend of mine read my rough draft to this and responded “…to me it all boils down to ‘giving…’’ Now its your turn, what does happiness mean to you?

 

Sujantra

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10 Ways to Practice Self-Love

Start with these 10 ways to practice self-love. Ten. Forgive yourself as easily as you forgive others. Nine. Go to bed at the same time…

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Start with these 10 ways to practice self-love.

Ten.

Forgive yourself as easily as you forgive others.

Nine.

Go to bed at the same time as often as you can and allow 7-8 hours of rest nightly.

Eight.

Eat real food. Eliminate anything that comes out of a package or box from your diet.

Seven.

Get 10 minutes of exercise daily: take a walk at lunch or after dinner.

Six.

Drink water throughout your day.

Five.

Spend 10 minutes of your day in silence. Close your eyes and rest your senses.

Four.

Consider letting go of the past, contemplate what a life free of resentment and regret would provide.

Three.

Once a week do an activity just for you, take yourself out on an adventure, it doesn’t have to cost a thing or take up much time. Schedule it and keep the appointment with yourself.

Two.

Journal. Journal your thoughts, experiences, and ideas. Look back periodically at what you wrote and get to know yourself through the words on the pages.

One.

Share some of your time or fortune with someone who needs assistance.


How do you practice self-love? Let us know in the comments below!

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Yoga for Weight Loss – Does it work?

How does the body lose weight? – The body gains and loses weight based on the amount of food (a.k.a. calories) it uses to metabolize…

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How does the body lose weight?

The body gains and loses weight based on the amount of food (a.k.a. calories) it uses to metabolize to keep the body thriving. If a person consumes more food and drink than needed, the body eliminates the fiber and excess nutrients in the feces and urine, respectively, and stores the excess fats. In order for the body to lose weight, it must be under one of the two circumstances. One, the body loses weight when the food it intakes equates to less calories than the energy it needs to thrive. The second circumstance is that the body loses weight when the amount of energy it uses is higher than the amount of calories that it intakes.

Can Yoga Assist in Weight Loss?

Considering how the body loses weight we can look at the question of whether or not yoga can assist in