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Mudras For the Heart Chakra: Opening Your Spiritual Heart With 3 Mudras.

The focus of this article, however, is on utilizing mudras to open the spiritual heart center, where the greatest sensation of harmony and oneness with yourself, God, and the rest of the world resides.

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There is a link between our physical body and our more subtle dimensions. Signals flow through our physical bodies via our nervous system and are translated by our brains into sensations, emotions, and thoughts. By controlling the input signal, we can then have an effect on the output, our experience. Yoga teaches this through a sequential development of tuning-in to our bodies, our breath, our emotions and thoughts, and, later, deeper states of awareness. Often, the result of yoga is relaxation and insightful introspection.

What Are Mudras?

Another way to control the signals flowing through our nervous system is by engaging the nerve endings in our fingers using mudras. Mudras, translating to “seal,” are hand gestures that bring consciousness into the nerve endings in our hands with varying effects of energizing our bodies as well as calming our minds. Neurons carry the input signal that each mudra creates from our hands through our nervous system that our brains translate into a stimulating or calming response.

Our hands have over 25,000 nerve endings which explains why our hands provide us with the richest and most intimate source of tactile feedback. Our sense of touch and feeling, of intimacy, resides in our hands. We help others with our hands, we write and communicate with our hands. We eat and nourish ourselves with our hands. For most, hands are our connection to the world around us. 

In eastern medicine, reflexology of the hand connects the various parts of our extremities with specific regions of the body. Thus mudras affect changes not only in our minds but also in parts of the body that correlate with the specific locations of the hand that each mudra engages. That being said, some mudras support the digestive system while others relieve back pain or respiratory issues. 

Mudras For the Heart

The focus of this article, however, is on utilizing mudras to open the spiritual heart center, where the greatest sensation of harmony and oneness with yourself, God, and the rest of the world resides. The heart chakra, Anahata, is associated with a love for life and unconditional, selfless love towards all creation. In unlocking this energetic center, one attains the wisdom of creation and a sense of their life’s purpose.

Concentration, visualization, and meditation are tools to tap into the heart center to harness the dormant powers within. To assist our growth and development, it is important to set an intention for our practice. Meditating on purity, the foundation of spiritual growth, is a transformative way of energizing our heart center and connecting with God; this is because purity embodies ideas and energies that can be associated with the divine, such as kindness, love, compassion, oneness, and gratitude. 

To begin practicing with mudras, first enter a meditative state using concentration and visualization techniques. Stay rooted in your breath, inhaling and exhaling slowly, deeply, and steadily. Release any tension in the body, then imagine a flower blossoming or a candle flame in the center of your chest. Form your mudra of choice, keeping the pressure between your fingers light and your hands relaxed. 

Anjali Mudra

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The first mudra for connecting with your spiritual heart is Anjali Mudra. Anjali means “to offer” or “salutation.” In the western world, this gesture is commonly viewed as a symbol of prayer. Anjali Mudra is a sign of offering yourself to God, acknowledging the divinity within you and in all, and sealing that through prayerful practice. By uniting our hands in front of our heart, we join the left and right hemispheres of our brain and bring calmness to our minds. To further deepen our inner awareness in meditation, we can concentrate on the beating of our heart against our hands. 

At the end of a yoga class, Anjali Mudra is accompanied by the word, “Namaste,” which translates to, “I bow to the divinity within you from the divinity within me.” Embracing this meaning, Anjali Mudra is a powerful posture to begin the journey of opening our heart center, acknowledging the creator in all beings.

Padma Mudra

Padma translates to “lotus,” and in yoga, it is no coincidence that the heart center is often viewed as a lotus flower. Moving from Anjali Mudra to Padma Mudra, we can visualize our heart center blossoming as we unite our earthly existence with our soul. Like a flower, we open our hearts when the sun, or God, gives us light. With our open hearts, we give our love to the world, fulfilling our life’s purpose the same way an open flower nourishes the insects that feed upon it. Padma Mudra fills us with loving sensations and calms our minds as we gravitate from the darkness of our desires, fears, and attachments towards the purifying light of divinity.

Garuda Mudra

Harnessing the power of the eagle, or Garuda, this mudra invigorates the body and activates blood flow and circulation. Unlike Anjali and Padma Mudras, this is an energizing gesture that should be exercised with some caution, especially by those who suffer from high blood pressure. It can be helpful, however, for relieving menstrual related pain, upset stomachs, and respiratory issues as well as stabilizing moods and negating exhaustion. Garuda Mudra symbolizes the eagle Vishnu, god of preservation, rode upon and helps cultivate discipline in our practice. 

Elevating our awareness to encapture that which is the divine is no lofty undertaking. We invoke the spirit of Garuda to carry us day in and day out to remind us of our purpose and intention – to purify ourselves and open our hearts so that we may connect with the divine that is within us and in all beings. 

A solid foundation of meditation is helpful when starting a mudra practice, but one should exercise patience regardless of their prior experience. With consistency and pure intention, you will bring peace to your body and mind, awaken your spiritual heart, and develop a greater understanding and awareness of the subtle aspects of existence. 

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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The Power Of Negative Thinking & How To Think Positive.

Like seeds, the negative ideas grow in your mind and keep you in their vice. When something triggers them, they sprout forth and ruin our sunny day. Through meditation, however, we can develop two solutions to reverse our negative thoughts and self-talk.

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Do you ever have down days? Of course – we all do. It is a part of life. But, are you aware of what’s causing this? Why are things great one day, fine the next, and gloomy the day after that? In this blog, we’ll explore the factors that drive our ups and downs so that you can recognize your own patterns and prevent another ruined day.

The answer behind our mood swings is often quite simple – negative thought patterns. Maybe you’ve recognized this when you’ve been in a bad mood and noticed feelings of jealousy, insecurity, or fear. Beneath those feelings is where we can find the patterns of self-doubt and negative self-talk that drive us, unconsciously, to bad moods.

We pick up these patterns from different sources – maybe, for example, it’s something your parents said, something that was drilled into you like, “You’ll never be a success,” or “You’ll never be good at this,” or “There’s no value in doing that. You should focus on this in life.” On the other hand we pick up negative thoughts from culture, from society, and even from those we love the most. For example, maybe a close relationship went bad, and someone said some really negative things to you. Because, you care deeply for that person, or you did, you absorb that negativity, granting their comments merit.

Using Meditation to Counteract Negative Thinking

Like seeds, the negative ideas grow in your mind and keep you in their vice. When something triggers them, they sprout forth and ruin our sunny day. Through meditation, however, we can develop two solutions to reverse our negative thoughts and self-talk.

The first is through the use of our intellect. In meditation or the yoga philosophy, the term intellect signifies your discriminating mind, your ability to discriminate between what’s true and what’s false. 

If someone had put it in your mind that you’re no good, for example, you might continue with that belief dragging you down forever. Through the practice of meditation, however, you will come to the realization that that is incorrect – “I am a good person.” Meditation enables us to embrace the power of our minds and use reason to eliminate our negative thoughts and patterns.

The other way that yoga philosophy teaches to combat negative thought patterns is to counter them with their opposites. To understand this concept we can use the imagery of waves where a positive thought wave counters the oncoming wave of a negative thought, restoring balance and evenness of mind by cancelling each other out. This process involves really identifying what’s going on in your mind and then bringing in an emotion, feeling, or thought that would cancel out the negativity.

If a negative thought pattern involves how angry you are at somebody, for example, then the way to counter that feeling would be thoughts of forgiveness. For the feeling of hatred towards someone else or even yourself, the opposite thought would be unconditional love. For self-doubt – confidence. 

You can also incorporate imagery for this exercise. If you doubt yourself, for example, and you see yourself as weak or lacking a certain capacity, you could visualize yourself as powerful, even introducing the imagery of a mighty elephant that can get through anything. 

The ability to meditate and incorporate these techniques allows you to shift your pre-conceptions and negative ideas about your emotions, yourself, and others. You will find that confidence in yourself feels so much better than doubting yourself, as forgiving others feels so much better than holding on to anger. It often takes just one or two times of realizing these patterns and shifting our response before it becomes easier to identify and eliminate our negative ways.

To practice these techniques in your meditation practice, you can use the prompt below to guide you through the process of developing your intellect to discern truth from falsehood and using positive affirmations and emotions to restore balance to your mind. You can record yourself reading the meditation, read it to yourself during your own meditation, or take turns reading it to a friend. Whichever way you choose, begin your meditation as you normally would and invite these exercises in when you feel relaxed and at ease.

How To Think Positive Meditation

Bring to your awareness a challenge that you’re currently facing or a situation or circumstance that poses a challenge. 

The source of our challenges is usually within us, so through a little bit of reflection, observe what’s making it a challenge: 

Do you have to let go of something?

Are you attached to something?

Are you afraid of something?

Ask yourself: what’s causing it to be a challenge or what qualities do you need to overcome it?

You may recognize that you are afraid or attached or insecure.

Invite this feeling’s opposite such as security, confidence, or courage.

If you’re not really sure what the challenge is but you know that there’s a quality that you need to cultivate to get through this circumstance or situation, then focus on that quality, inwardly repeating the quality as you breathe in.

Now, visualize the challenge and the quality resolving the situation. Imagine the situation as you want it to turn out. Use your imagination to feel the positive quality growing within you.

Focus on your breath, the positive quality, and the visual images of you overcoming your situation.

In the process of ending your meditation, move your mind back to your outer senses, your sense of body, sense of the room, but inwardly hold on to your sense of self and whatever inspiration or energy you got from the different visualizations and techniques.

With time and practice, you will root out your negative thoughts and develop a discriminating intellect free from falsities about yourself and others. 

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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Guided Meditation: Cultivating Gratitude.

In this meditation, you can cultivate a feeling of oneness with Earth where you recognize her as a being and even a provider. In doing so, you can offer gratitude to the source that sustains us and provides for us.

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Regardless of your experience or familiarity with meditation, sitting alone in silence can at times be challenging. Guided meditations are a great tool to focus your mind, kindle your imagination, and enliven your practice. 

Gratitude for Our Mother (Earth)

Mother Earth, as westerners often refer to our planet, is a symbolic reference to our dependence upon the place where we live. In western society, it is easy to live blind to the connection we share with our planet. We are driven by the stress of jobs, relationships, and goals. We lose sight of where our ancestors came from and the life beyond the confines of our cities. Many cultures before us, however, had a relationship with Earth and viewed her as a sentient being with human qualities. Being the provider, Mother Earth was viewed and worshipped as a deity. In this meditation, you can cultivate a feeling of oneness with Earth where you recognize her as a being and even a provider. In doing so, you can offer gratitude to the source that sustains us and provides for us. Furthermore, it is an opportunity to recall our impact on the planet and the importance of respecting and loving our her like a mother.

Below is an Iroquois prayer to Mother Earth that may give you an insightful perspective to another culture’s reverence for and relationship with our planet:

We return thanks to our mother,
the earth, which sustains us.
We return thanks to the rivers and streams,
which supply us with water.
We return thanks to all herbs,
which furnish medicines
for the cure of our diseases.

We return thanks to the corn,
and to her sisters, the beans and squash,
which give us life.
We return thanks to the bushes and trees,
which provide us with fruit.
We return thanks to the wind,
which, moving the air,
has banished diseases.

We return thanks to the moon and the stars,
which have given us their light
when the sun was gone.
We return thanks to our grandfather He-no,
who has given to us his rain.

We return thanks to the sun,
that he has looked upon the earth
with a beneficent eye.
Lastly, we return thanks to the Great Spirit.
in whom is embodied all goodness.
and who directs all things,
for the good of his children.

Whether guiding yourself or another through these meditations, allow for a comfortable pause whenever you’d like to focus on a specific exercise. Each should be repeated for several cycles of breath or until you are ready to move on. Enjoy!

Earth Meditation

Begin by finding a tall seat. Rest your hands on your thighs and gently close your eyes. Without changing anything, bring your awareness to your breath. Simply observe the sensations as your breath moves in and out of your body – perhaps the rise and fall of the belly, the movement of air at the tips of the nostrils, or the quiet oceanic noise of the air flowing in and out. Allow each breath to calm the body, your mind, and focus your awareness on the present moment. (pause to practice breath awareness)

As you breathe in, feel your body lengthen and grow from the ground beneath you. With each exhale, feel yourself relax back into the Earth supporting you. Feel the vast ocean of energy deep inside you rooting and connecting you to the earth. (pause for several breath cycles) Now breathe awareness into the muscles around your face. On your exhale, feel the muscles release. (pause) Breathe your awareness into your lower back. On your exhale, feel the muscles in your lower back relax. (pause) Now, choose another part of your body to bring conscious relaxation. Use your inhales to focus your awareness and your exhales to bring relaxation. (pause)

Moving in to visualization, imagine yourself walking through a peaceful garden. All of the plants are green and healthy. The soil is soft and rich beneath you. The sun gently peaks through the trees above. There are birds chirping, butterflies swirling. You come to a fountain where water gently trickles and splashes and rest there to enjoy the beauty of our Earth. You feel completely free and safe. (pause)

Inhale an awareness of the majesty of Mother Earth. The depths of her oceans, the heights of her mountains, the power of her winds, the richness of her soil. She gives unconditionally and exemplifies purity in her beauty. 

Recall all that Mother Earth provides for life to exist – the rivers and rains that bring fresh water, the wood for fires and shelter, the air we breathe, the vegetation that nourishes us. Let us return thanks to our mother, the earth, which sustains us. On your inhale, invite a growing sensation of gratitude in the center of your chest for Mother Earth. On your exhale, let the gratitude flow through you and back down into the Earth beneath you. Feel yourself connected to the earth. (Pause until ready to move on)

When you are ready, inhale and invite your awareness back to your body and your senses. Sense the relationship you’ve cultivated for our Earth and the gratitude you feel for all that she provides. As you move on from your meditation, be mindful of what you give and take from our planet and how you can have a positive impact in our world.

On your inhales, imagine that you are taking in energy from the soles of your feet through the back of your body. Follow the energy up through the backs of your legs, your back and neck to the crown of your head. On your exhales, watch the energy descend through your third eye and down the front of your body to the soles of your feet. (repeat 3-5 breath cycles)

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Guided Meditation for Emotional Healing.

Meditation allows us to root ourselves in the present and tune-in to our current emotional state. With practice, we can watch the rise of emotions and halt negative ones before they drive a shift in our mood.

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Regardless of your experience or familiarity with meditation, sitting alone in silence can at times be challenging. Guided meditations are a great tool to focus your mind, kindle your imagination, and enliven your practice. 

We react to our experiences with emotional responses. These emotions can be positive and joyous or depressive and anxious. Unfortunately, we spend much of our day in a stressful state rushing to work or a meeting, completing a task, responding to messages, paying bills. We easily become overwhelmed, ending each day feeling exhausted and depleted. This cycle drives a pattern of anxiety and depression, and we often don’t even realize that we are going through this until we finally crash and say, “I’m depressed” or “I have anxiety”. 

Meditation allows us to root ourselves in the present and tune-in to our current emotional state. With practice, we can watch the rise of emotions and halt negative ones before they drive a shift in our mood. For example, a good morning at work can easily turn sour when a problem arises and makes you frustrated. If you don’t recognize the rise of the emotion and intervene, you allow the emotion to drive your mood for the rest of the day. This guided meditation will lead you to a greater awareness of your emotional state so you can stay balanced through the ups and downs of each day, warding off negative emotions and moods. 

Whether guiding yourself or another through this meditation, allow for a comfortable pause of several deep breaths between techniques. You may want to return to or pause on one exercise for a longer time. Enjoy!

Emotion & Healing

The great spiritual teacher, Sri Chinmoy, said, “Emotion tells us that the ever-increasing life-energy is constantly flowing through us, renewing and revitalizing our inner being.” 

Begin by finding a tall seat. Rest your hands lightly on your thighs and gently close your eyes. Bring your awareness to your breath. Observe the sensations as your breath moves in and out of your body. Allow each breath to calm your body and mind; focus your awareness on the present moment. (pause to practice breath awareness)

Tune in to your current mood – ask yourself, “How do I feel?” Notice the subtle emotions without forcing a shift or trying to control anything. Simply observe and accept how you feel. (pause) Now, inhale and watch as your breath expands first your belly, then rises into and widens your chest. On your exhales, watch your breath as it descends, first contracting your chest then pressing your belly towards your spine. Keep this cycle going as you slow your breath, consciously making your exhales just a hair longer than your inhales. (pause)

Now visualize a blue sky. Watch as one cloud slowly passes. Then another. In between clouds, there are periods of bright blue sky. Emotions are like the clouds. They may come, but they always pass. Recall an obstacle or an issue that you are facing in your life. Visualize a cloud and inhale an awareness of the issue or obstacle in your life. The cloud may grow larger or darker. Focus on the issue and the image of the cloud. Now, exhale and release your awareness of the cloud and your trouble. Let your focus rest on a blue sky and a sense of ease. On your inhales, imagine a sensation of peace growing in the center of your chest. On your exhales, let the feeling of peace wash your troubles away.

The emotion life force is a gift, the blessing of terrestrial existence from Mother Nature. Feel that pulsation and connection to creation within you. (pause) 

Now, as you breathe in, become aware of all the forces and energies- millions of years of evolution coming together and creating your wondrous mind; the ability to create, to envision, to know ourselves. Bring your awareness to a single thought or a single word that speaks to you of your highest awareness. Examples include AUM, PEACE, LOVE, and GOD. On your inhales, repeat the word inwardly. Feel the emotion associated with the thought or word. On your exhales, visualize and feel that emotion shower down through your body. 

Continue with this technique for as long as you’d like. When you are ready to move on, release the inner repetition and return to an awareness of your breath, inhaling and exhaling slowly and deeply. 

Notice how you feel now and if your emotions have shifted since the start of the meditation. Remember that you have the power to disconnect from your emotions. Like clouds, they will always pass by and peace, blue skies, will come. Take a minute to breathe with the feeling you’ve created and try to hold on to that as you move on with your day.

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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A Guided Meditation Reflecting on Our Oneness With Nature.

This guided meditation is an opportunity to acknowledge the singularity of existence that we share with nature. It is a chance to summon the powers of nature within you for positive growth and change.

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Regardless of your experience or familiarity with meditation, sitting alone in silence can at times be challenging. Guided meditations are a great tool to focus your mind, kindle your imagination, and enliven your practice. 

Distinct From Nature

In the western world, society often lives distinct from nature, and we may associate nature with a sense of fear. We’ve seen imagery of animals fighting and hunting, we’ve heard the clash of thunder, and we may have experienced or witnessed a glimpse of the dramatic force nature can unleash between storms and natural disasters. 

This guided meditation is an opportunity to acknowledge the singularity of existence that we share with nature. It is a chance to summon the powers of nature within you for positive growth and change. By meditating on nature, we can dismantle the mental barrier that divides us from the roots of creation to bring about peace and connect with the source and sustainer of life.

Ayurveda, the ancient Indian science, divides nature into 5 essential elements: fire, air, water, earth, and ether. Fire is a transformative energy that stokes our desires and determination. It is associated with heat, the sun, as well as internal processes like digestion. Air also brings change. Its dynamic mobility gives birth to new ideas and goals, allowing us to move past obstacles and accept the newness of each moment. We can associate air with the wind as well as our breath. Water has a cleansing property as well as a connection to the depths of the inner world, our subconsciousness. Both our bodies and the planet are about 70 percent water, giving us a deep connection to the world we inhabit. Earth is a grounding and stabilizing element. It is the source of abundance that nourishes our bodies. Ether is the space that our physical reality inhabits. Whereas air is a composition of matter with specific properties, ether is the infinite space that extends beyond matter and also binds matter with its energetic force. Alone it could be perceived as emptiness, but it is infinitely expansive and allows for growth and creation. In your meditation, you can focus on these elements and their qualities to bring your awareness to the energies we share with nature.

Whether guiding yourself or another through this meditation, allow for a comfortable pause whenever you’d like to focus on a specific exercise. Each should be repeated for several cycles of breath or until you are ready to move on. Enjoy!

Nature Meditation

Begin by finding a tall seat. Rest your hands lightly on your thighs and gently close your eyes. Without changing anything, bring your awareness to your breath. Simply observe the sensations as your breath moves in and out of your body – perhaps the rise and fall of the belly, the movement of air at the tips of the nostrils, or the quiet oceanic noise of the air flowing in and out. Allow each breath to calm the body, your mind, and focus your awareness on the present moment. (pause to practice breath awareness)

With each inhale, become aware of the force of Nature within you. Feel this life energy animate your skeleton, lifting your chest and lengthening your spine. Each inhalation brings awareness and alertness to your senses- the sounds near and far, the temperature, the feeling of your weight being supported by the ground beneath you, any pleasant aromas floating in the air. With each exhale, feel your body release and relax. (pause)

Inhale and recall a peaceful scene from nature. Whether you visualize the beach, mountains, or forest, move your eyes behind your eyelids from left to right, up and down taking in the different objects around. Perhaps you imagine animals grazing or birds flying up above. Imagine the sounds that would be present – a distant caw of a hawk or the sound of waves washing ashore. Feel the sun and the wind against your skin, the earth beneath you. Perhaps you can smell or even taste the pine or salt in the fresh air. Each exhale brings you a deeper sensation of serenity.  (pause)

The elements of nature – fire, air, water, earth, and ether – are the forces that drive creation, preservation, and transformation. Together, they enable the wonderful experience of life and beauty of the world in which we live. 

For each element, you will choose a primary quality and a visual image associated with the element. As you breathe in, visualize that image and feel the energy of the quality flowing into you. As you exhale, allow your body to release and relax, feeling the powers of nature within you. Repeat this exercise for several breath cycles for each element.

Starting with fire, you can visualize any image such as a candle or the sun. Choose an associated quality such as power, transformation, determination. 

For air, you may imagine the wind sweeping across the tall grass of a prairie or prayer flags flapping outside a hut high in the mountains. Some qualities you may choose include change, lightness, new goals.

For water, the many options for imagery include ocean waves, a still lake. The qualities include protection, nourishment, purity, intuition.

For earth, you might imagine a beautiful landscape or lush vegetation and choose a quality such as stability or nourishment (physical or spiritual).

For ether, you might think of outer space, the darkness in the expanses of our universe, or the subtle space between each cell in our body. You can choose any quality such as creativity, cohesion, expansion.

On your inhales, focus on one of the elements. Feel its qualities move through you – the heat and transformation of fire, refreshing tides of change that flow with air and water, the abundance and richness of the earth that nourishes and supports us, the peace and order of ether. Inhale a growing awareness of the properties of the element within you. With each exhale, feel the quality and the powers of nature flow through you. (pause)

When you are ready, inhale and invite your awareness back to your body and your senses. Tune back in to the sounds around you, your heart beat, your breath. Feel the deep connection and harmony you’ve created with nature and keep an awareness of the forces that are within you.

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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Comparing 4 Different Styles of Yoga–Find The One That’s Best For You.

Use this list of popular yoga styles to get curious about your own needs and find a perfect fit for your unique yoga journey. You might just walk away with a new favorite style in your yoga tool belt!

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Whether you’re just beginning your yoga practice or you’re looking to try a new style, the options can feel limitless. 

The benefits of yoga are innumerable. They include improved physical health, more flexibility, lowered stress levels and actual changes in your brain. Regardless of your goal for practicing, you are bound to get something out of whichever style you choose.

Comparing different styles of yoga can help you choose a practice that aligns with your goals. There is something out there for everyone. 

In my own yoga journey, I’ve dabbled in many different styles. I was eager to test out the benefits of each style and arrive at a routine that felt right for me. Exploring new styles is always a great way to tailor your yoga practice to meet your specific needs. 

Sometimes I look for a powerful energetic shift during yoga, sometimes I want a rigorous workout, and other times I need a more loving and restorative practice. Use this list of popular yoga styles to get curious about your own needs and find a perfect fit for your unique yoga journey. You might just walk away with a new favorite style in your yoga tool belt!

Hatha Yoga

Depending on the translation, the word Hatha can mean force or effort in Sanskrit, but it can also mean sun and moon. Sun and moon highlight the balance that Hatha yoga seeks to instill in the practitioner. Force and effort need to be balanced with ease. 

A Hatha yoga practice usually involves a sequence of yoga poses that are held for periods of time–perhaps a round of five breaths, or a minute. Chances are if you’ve gone to a more general yoga class, you were practicing Hatha yoga. This style can be contrasted with more dynamic styles such as vinyasa yoga (explained below). It is not geared toward fitness but instead focuses on cultivating a balance of effort and ease in each pose. 

This style involves the typical poses, or asanas, of yoga, and can be designed differently to meet the needs of each class. Some poses are challenging in nature, some are gentle–the practice seeks to combine the sun and moon for a well-rounded experience. You will focus on breathing exercises or pranayama and syncing the breath up with the poses of your practice. A session usually lasts from 40 to 90 minutes and will end with a brief meditation that can either be silent or guided.

Since the pace of this style is slower, it is great for beginners. Often, an instructor will include more challenging poses to help you grow your practice, but you can always modify a posture if needed. Because poses are held static for short periods of time, there is space to focus on alignment and purpose of the poses.

If you’re looking for a practice to help you unwind and check in with yourself, Hatha yoga is the way to go. Choose from one of the many varieties of this style and use it as a daily method for finding your center and releasing tension.

Hatha Yoga Is Great For:

  • Beginners
  • Those looking for a slower paced practice
  • Those wanting to focus on alignment
  • Those interested in breathing and meditation

Vinyasa Flow Yoga

Vinyasa yoga is characterized by sequences of poses that are linked with breath repeated several times throughout each session. The word vinyasa means to arrange in a special way. You link your breath with these poses–up to one breath per one movement–to create a sense of flow throughout each sequence. One of the most commonly known sequences in this style is the sun salutation.

Vinyasa flows are typically a bit faster than the Hatha style, working to achieve a continuous flow of breath and movement. However, vinyasa sequences can be conducted in Hatha’s slower, more gentle rhythm. The level of difficulty will depend on the class and the specific sequence involved. If you’re familiar with sun salutations, you’ll know that you can take a slower pace or modify the poses in the sequence to meet your needs.

The goal of this style is to work to achieve balance and flow. The connection of breath and continuous movement improves physical and mental wellness by strengthening the mind-body connection. Regardless of the flow you use, repeating postures builds strength, endurance, and focus.

Variations of vinyasa flow include Ashtanga, Power Yoga, Baptiste yoga, and Jivamukti among others. Each will vary in poses, duration, and level of difficulty, so you’re sure to find one that works best with your lifestyle.

Vinyasa Yoga is Great For:

  • Those looking for a quicker paced class
  • Those who want to build up a sweat
  • Those looking for vigorous movement

Kundalini Yoga

Kundalini yoga is a style that was popularized in the 1970s. The practice is meant to cultivate awareness by activating your ‘kundalini energy.’ This energy is said to be coiled at the base of the spine and we can tap into it through certain techniques.

Kundalini practice involves awakening your energy through breathing techniques, yoga postures, chanting and meditating. The inclusion of chanting mantras adds a spiritual element to this practice that sets it apart from other styles. Awakening your kundalini energy is said to move it up through your spine through each chakra, which can help cleanse and clear any blockages.

Each session will involve different kriya, or poses, that are used to achieve a certain purpose. Since there is variability in the techniques involved, you can find a kundalini practice to work with your skill level. 

If you’re looking for a yoga style to increase your energy while building your spiritual practice, kundalini is a great method to incorporate into your routine.

Kundalini Is Great For:

  • Those looking for a spiritual dimension to their practice
  • Those wanting to try something distinctly different from other styles of yoga
  • Those looking for a body-mind-spirit experience

Restorative Yoga

Restorative yoga is a great solution if you’re looking for a gentle practice between more active yoga sessions or during a recovery period from an injury. This style can be traced back to the style of B.K.S. Iyengar. The goal is to stretch in a gentle and loving way to release tension and relax.

This style involves prolonged, passive stretching in comfortable and unstrained positions. You can add props such as blankets, bolsters, blocks, or straps to add more support and comfort. The idea is to create a healing ritual for yourself, so adding elements like soft music, low lighting, or essential oils can also contribute to the loving sensation.

The slow pace of this style makes it accessible for all levels. Even if you’re a more advanced yogi, you can always benefit from slowing down and checking in with your physical and mental wellbeing.

Restorative Yoga Is Great For:

  • Beginners
  • Those recovering between workouts or from injuries
  • Those looking for nervous system down-regulation
  • Those looking for a slow practice

As you can see, there is a style of yoga to achieve any goal you may have for your practice. This list is just the tip of the iceberg, but I hope it gives you a good place to start for exploring new yoga styles to try. Whether you are hoping for a sweaty and active practice, or a more nurturing and relaxing session, never hesitate to compare different styles to find the best way of growing your practice.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

I am a meditation instructor and expert in using brainwave entrainment and binaural beats technology to deepen the practice of meditation. I write and advocate for personal growth and spiritual development through my website, Unify Cosmos.

A friend and I developed a Free 12-Month, Progressive Binaural Beats Meditation Program, called Infinite Beats. We hope to help anyone access the benefits of brainwave entrainment.

I enjoy reading books and writings in the fields of psychology, spirituality, and awakening of consciousness. A few of my favorite writers are Alan Watts, Ram Daas, Mooji, Eckhart Tolle, Ken Wilber, Charles Eisenstein, and David Singer

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Guided Meditation for Self-Love.

From our heart center, we can come to know our life’s purpose and a boundless love for ourselves and others, inviting a harmonious joy and sense of unity with the world. Opening your heart center requires devotion and positive intention.

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Regardless of your experience or familiarity with meditation, sitting alone in silence can at times be challenging. Guided meditations are a great tool to focus your mind, kindle your imagination, and enliven your practice. 

This guided meditation brings our awareness to our Heart Center. This is the seat of our soul where we can connect with the creator and all of creation. Most individuals identify only with their physical body and limited perspective, their ego. Through spiritual practice, however, one can progress by detaching their identity from their body to identify wholly with God. 

From our heart center, we can come to know our life’s purpose and a boundless love for ourselves and others, inviting a harmonious joy and sense of unity with the world. Opening your heart center requires devotion and positive intention.

Regarding the spiritual heart center, the spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy wrote, 

You have to feel that there is something called the spiritual heart, which is inside the physical heart. Then you have to feel that inside the spiritual heart there is something called the soul. First open the heart-door. Once you are inside the heart, feel that you are trying to unlock another door.

That is the door of the soul.

You are the soul, which is unlimited. Your soul is infinitely powerful. Your soul defies all time and space.

Whether guiding yourself or another through these meditations, allow for a comfortable pause whenever you’d like to focus on a specific exercise. Each should be repeated for several cycles of breath or until you are ready to move on. Enjoy!

Guided Meditation for Self-Love

Begin by finding a tall seat. Rest your hands lightly on your thighs and gently close your eyes. Without changing anything, bring your awareness to your breath. Simply observe the sensations as your breath moves in and out of your body – the rise and fall of the belly, the chest, the movement of air at the tips of the nostrils, the quiet oceanic noise of the air flowing in and out. Allow each breath to calm the body, your mind, and focus your awareness on the present moment. (pause to practice breath awareness)

Begin to deepen and slow down your breath. Make each inhale and exhale smooth and steady. (pause) Now, inhale and imagine that you are taking in energy from the soles of your feet. Watch as the energy ascends through the back of your body to the crown of your head. Exhale and watch the energy descend down the front of your body back through the soles of the feet. Visualize the energy having a quality of light and purity, removing darkness and negativity from your body. Repeat this exercise for several breath cycles.

Now center your awareness in your spiritual heart located in the center of your chest. Connect with the rhythm of your heartbeat. To help, hold your breath at the top of an inhale for a few seconds. Simply observe your breath and heartbeat. (pause for several cycles of breath)

Keeping the awareness of your heartbeat, inhale and visualize a bright, warm, harmonious light deep, deep inside your being shining forth from the center of your chest. Exhale and feel this light carry divine love, peace, and bliss through your body. With each inhale, imagine the light intensifying and growing around you. Perhaps it has a color or movement. On your exhales, let the peaceful feelings grow within you as your body releases and relaxes.

Your heart center is the seat of your soul where harmonious union with the world resides. Unlocking that energy, you recognize the singularity of existence and foster a divine love within you for yourself and all of creation.

Return your awareness to your heartbeat. Observe how your body breathes itself free from your control. (pause) Take your awareness deeper within you. Visualize your body as a vehicle and your mind as an instrument for your soul. Try to locate your sense of self deep within your body. (pause)

Now, visualize a vast blue sky in the center of your chest. Floating in the center of the sky, in the center of your chest, is a bright blue flower. Inhale, and watch as the flower grows and blossoms. Give your flower a quality to harness: love, purity, humility, devotion, strength. On your exhale FEEL that quality growing within you, showering down through your body. Feel a radiant energy coursing through you. 

Continue with this or one of the previous exercises until you feel ready to end your meditation. 

When you are ready, gently invite your awareness back to your breath and the physical sensations of your body. Try to hold on to the feelings of peace, joy, and love that you’ve cultivated, remembering that your breath and awareness of the present are your portals back to the harmonious union with your soul and the rest of creation.

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 Stop Negative Thoughts & Emotions.

I’m sure you have had that experience of seeing the effect that your own thoughts have on your mood and state of awareness. When you start to observe your mind, one of the things you will observe is negative thinking patterns: self-doubt, jealousy, insecurity, fear, etc.

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I remember when I was in high school, I noticed that some days were good days, and some weren’t so good. I couldn’t figure out why. I just knew that some days I felt great and other days not so much. At that time in high school, I wasn’t very conscious of my mind – it was just an overall mood. 

As I started to become interested in meditation, I started to notice more of my thought patterns. I realized why some days are really up days and some not so much, and it had a lot to do with the thoughts that were going on in my mind. 

I’m sure you have had that experience of seeing the effect that your own thoughts have on your mood and state of awareness. When you start to observe your mind, one of the things you will observe is negative thinking patterns: self-doubt, jealousy, insecurity, fear, etc.

It’s one thing to realize where the negative patterns came from –maybe it’s something your parents said, something that was drilled into you – “You’ll never be a success,” or “You’ll never be good at this,” or “There’s no value in doing that kind of thing. You should focus on this in life.” 

We can pick it up from a lot of places including our culture and even from a close relationship that goes bad. When some of the things that someone says to you are really negative, but you care really deeply for that person, you absorb what they say. 

Strategies For Dealing with Negative Thoughts

In the philosophy of meditation, there are two basic ways to deal with the negative thoughts. 

The first is through the use of your intellect. Sometimes you think of intellect as, “Oh, this person’s very intellectual” as if they were just thinking of abstract things all the time. In meditation and yoga philosophy, we use the term intellect to signify your discriminating mind, your ability to discriminate between what’s true or what’s false. Say someone put it in your mind the thought that you’re no good. You would go through life with that thought in your head. Through the practice of meditation, developing your intellectual mind, your discriminative mind, you would come to the realization that that is incorrect – “I am a good person.” That clarity of thought would eliminate the negative thought through the use of the power of your mind, your ability to discriminate truth from falsehood.

The other way which is recommended in yoga is that when one thought wave comes – let’s say a negative thought – you counter it with an opposite thought-wave. We have one wave coming this way and another is going against it. When they meet, they cancel each other out, and you have evenness of mind!

So, for example, if the negative thought patterns that are going on involve how angry you are at somebody – how much you hate them or even hate yourself, etc. – then the way to counter that is with the opposite which would be love, unconditional love. If the thoughts or emotions are about anger towards someone, then the opposite wave would be forgiveness, and that would cancel out the anger. This involves identifying what’s going on in your mind, and then bringing in an emotion, usually, that would cancel it out. For anger or upset-ness, the opposite would be forgiveness. For doubting yourself, confidence. 

You can also incorporate imagery. Let’s say you doubt yourself, so you visualize yourself as weak, and feeble, without capacity. The opposite, then, would be to use imagery and see yourself as a powerful tiger or a big, powerful bear, or an elephant that can get through anything. Using your ability to meditate, you free your mind from pre-conceptions and change how you see yourself as well as your emotions; in that process, you realize how good it feels to shift your old patterns.

Confidence in yourself feels so much better than doubting yourself. Forgiving people feels so much better than holding on to anger. It just takes one or two times of realizing that and then it’s so easy to push through those things or to cancel them out.

Again, when dealing with your thought patterns, there are two meditation techniques that will help you to overcome the negative thoughts and emotions. The first is to develop your discrimination, separating truth from falsehood; and the second is the idea of bringing in the opposite thought or emotion to balance out whatever you’re being challenged by.

Try these out and see if they make a difference in your life!

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 Improve Mindfulness & Integrate Into Your Daily Routine.

A major aspect of mindfulness is noticing what you do as you’re doing it, a skill that hours of scrolling tends to negatively impact. Try to build habits that ground you in what you’re doing in each moment.

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Right now, mindfulness might seem like a buzzword.

Myriad brands have incorporated mindfulness into their messaging, and everyday there seems like a new app that caters towards helping one achieve a “mindful practice” in their day-to-day life.

 

But mindfulness isn’t a just buzzword—it’s vitally important to maintaining personal wellness. You also don’t need to buy a bunch of new products or eat a certain brand of yogurt to achieve it. Mindfulness can be incorporated into your life for free, and with a little bit of practice, you can build lasting habits that’ll make you a happier and healthier person.

Here are some of  tips on how to bring mindfulness into your day-to-day life:

 

No Screens Before & After Sleeping

A major aspect of mindfulness is noticing what you do as you’re doing it, a skill that hours of scrolling tends to negatively impact. Try to build habits that ground you in what you’re doing in each moment. A great way to start is by putting away smartphones and other electronic devices an hour before bed, and trying not to touch them again until an hour after you’re awake. 

 

 

Notice What You Spend Money On

 

If you’re anything like me, you’ve watched Marie Kondo’s new show. If you haven’t, it’s all about pairing down one’s belongings to only the things that “spark joy.” This approach isn’t only useful when you’re purging your home and in the throes of organizing, it’s also extremely useful when you’re shopping. Think carefully about each purchase, whether big or small. If something makes you happy, why? Make sure everything has a unique and productive purpose. This means thinking about the impact of your purchasing decisions.

 

By the same token, don’t be too hard on yourself when you’re determining what that purpose is. For example, if you’re shopping for home decor, and you happen upon a quilt that makes you happy because the patterns or colors delight you, that’s enough. Things don’t have to have some big, grand reason behind them… but they do have to be authentic.

 

 

Focus on Gratitude

 

Gratitude isn’t an attitude we stumble upon, it’s an attitude that requires cultivation. Take some time out of your day—maybe at lunch, or during some downtime after work—and consider the things you’re thankful for. I find that writing it down in a notebook or journal is particularly helpful, especially since you’re able to return to previous pages and see what kinds of trends emerge. But do whatever works for you. If just thinking it through alone helps, then that’s your strategy.

 

 

Eat Intentionally

 

With our increasingly busy schedules, this can be one of the most difficult steps to integrate habitually. When you’re eating a meal, notice every bite. Don’t rush through it, trying to get fuel into your body. You may also find that you’re hungrier (or less hungry!) than you thought. This is essential to getting in touch with your body, and a cornerstone of healthy eating habits more generally. You don’t have to be perfect and get it right all at once, either. Next time you grab a bag of potato chips, savor each bite. Taste the salt, enjoy the crunch. Even pay attention to the crinkle of the bag. See how it changes the experience, if it changes it at all. When you’re eating, commit to doing just that one thing.

 

 

Pay Attention To Breathing

 

This can be done anywhere. Breathing practices are commonly implemented in meditation and yoga classes, but there’s no reason you can’t keep your breathing in mind during exercise or at your desk at work. In moments of stress, or moments where the world seems to be going too fast around you, take a minute to just breathe. One deep breath in, and one deep breath out. If you’re interested in going slightly more in depth, set some time aside before bed, or first thing when you wake up to work on breathing practices. To begin, search “pranayama”—there’s a wealth of breathing practices available on our site.

 

Meditate

Meditation is the big one, isn’t it? It’s the tip that you’re going to hear no matter what, especially if you’re thinking about mindfulness. Meditation looks a million different ways, and it’s all about finding what serves you most effectively. If it seems overwhelming, try to start with guided meditations. Not only are there dozens of free apps on Android and iOS that can help if you use Bluetooth on your commute, but there are also free YouTube videos. Meditations can also have different intentions too, like meditations geared specifically towards sleep, focus, or calmness. Explore it, and try it at different times. One great time to meditate is right before you wake up—it’s a great way to get you started for your day.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sam Casteris is an avid writer and explorer of all things travel, mindfulness, and financial health. You can find more of her work in her portfolio

 

 

 

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Renee Descartes’ Contribution to Yoga.

Rene Descartes (1596-1650) is one of the foundational philosophers and mathematicians of Western Civilization. His most famous line is: “I think, therefore I am.” Think he did, and following the natural light of reason he journeyed into the depths of the human psyche. His quest therein crosses paths with yoga philosophy.

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Rene Descartes (1596-1650) is one of the foundational philosophers and mathematicians of Western Civilization. His most famous line is: I think, therefore I am.”

 

Think he did, and following the natural light of reason he journeyed into the depths of the human psyche. His quest therein crosses paths with yoga philosophy, which is rooted in Eastern philosophy, in particular he veers in the direction of Advaita Vedanta, a philosophy most notably expressed in the 20th century by Ramana Maharshi.

 

Ramana Maharshi (1879-1950) invigorated the teachings of the Indian teacher Sharkaracharya (8th Century) who reinvigorated the ancient Indian philosophy of Advaita Vedanta. These teachings find their parallel in Idealism, which asserts the primacy of the consciousness of the observer as the basis of reality. This is closely linked to Subjectivism, which says that our individual mental activity is the only thing that is absolutely certain.

 

 

How Descartes Intersects with Yoga

 

Let us imagine that Descartes travels forward in time, from his time, which he would admit to being a quite legitimate possibility, and winds up in southern India in 1936 at the ashram of Ramana Maharshi. We travel back in time to witness the meeting. The two men begin to discuss the ultimate nature of existence and quickly realize that they share an analogy and teaching, which offers insight into the nature of knowledge and the intellect of human beings.

 

The analogy they have in common is that of an individual being asleep and dreaming and yet not knowing they are asleep and dreaming.  Another way of stating the key element of this example is that we cannot distinguish between waking and dreaming because both states are created by our minds and our minds create our individual reality. Unless we discriminate carefully we tend to belief everything that our senses and thoughts convey to us.

 

Descartes uses this example to instruct us that we cannot trust our senses in our quest for ultimate knowledge because the senses do not always perceive even common truths. For example: the fact that we are actually asleep dreaming, whereas we think we are being chased by tigers through a forest. Descartes asserts that if we cannot trust our senses in one case we should never trust them in our quest for ultimate truth.

 

Ramana Maharshi uses the dream analogy to illustrate that the mind creates our reality and since this reality is always shifting: dreamscapes changing as well as waking scapes changing, we must look elsewhere to find the changeless reality. He asserts that only that which does not change is real. Some refute this saying that although the dreamscape is constantly shifting not so with the waking state. Observe carefully the world around you and you will see constant change. The sky, oceans, society, people, your thoughts and on and on. Nothing stays steady. Dream is short and waking is long but both are in flux. Add to that the fact that your and point of focus and hence personal reality is always shifting.

 

In their discussion the two men would hopefully agree that whereas Ramana says he is helping people to find the changeless and Descartes is helping them to find pure knowledge, they are both essentially talking about the same thing.

 

In the quest for truth Descartes doubts what his senses convey to him. Ramana looks at all that is generated by the mind and says, “Neti, neti, not this, not this,” as he searches for that which is unchanging. They both advocate eliminating false knowledge in the quest for true knowledge.

 

Given this shared starting point and dream reality, do Descartes and Ramana point us in the same direction from there?

 

Ramana says that the next step is to feel and realize that amidst all the change between dream and waking there is one thing that is constant: the sense of self. The awareness of the “I” that is having the experience; regardless whether it is a dream or waking reality there is always me at the heart of it. Ramana says to sink into that sense of self and therein you will connect with ultimate reality, the reality of being which transcends the mental fabric of mind. Ramana suggests that as thoughts and emotions arise we observe them and ask ourselves, “To whom has this thought arisen?”  The answer is, “To me.” One can then ask, “Who am I?” That is the inquiry that leads to the substratum of reality.

 

Descartes does not codify the process as succinctly as Ramana, who had a 200 + years of human evolution to draw upon.  Admittedly the concept of human evolution does throw some confusion into our time travel meeting as Descartes gets to go forward in time but still has his thought process from 200 years back.

Descartes does though arrive at the same understanding. He comes to the realization that the only certain thing is that he exists and is the thinker and observer of all his thoughts. Thus he says, “I think, therefore I am.” It is the essential awareness of the self at the center of all.

 

Ramana might say, “I observe, therefore I am.”

At the core of both statements is the essential awakening to the awareness that “I am.” This awareness transcends the ego identification wherein our sense of self is linked to thoughts, possessions and achievements: I am a Democrat, I am a good person, I am a rich person, I am the fastest runner, etc. The realizations of Descartes and Ramana point us to find ultimate knowledge and happiness in the profound awareness of our existence. The process requires diligence and plenty of quiet time, but is well worth the effort.

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Yoga Rules for Life: The Theory & Practice of Sexuality in the Context of Yoga.

What does yoga have to do with sex? Everything, because yoga has something to do with everything and sex has everything to do with being human. Our sexuality is a part of our identity. Yoga is the exploration of identity and ultimately leads us beyond our identity formed by thought and into our identity connected to the infinite.

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Sexuality is one of the cornerstones of our lives. It permeates our biology and hence our thoughts.

 

Our culture and media, which is a reflection of our shared interests, is constantly broadcasting sex and sexuality, oftentimes to influence our behavior.

 

Theory of Sexuality

 

What does yoga have to do with sex? Everything, because yoga has something to do with everything and sex has everything to do with being human.

 

Our sexuality is a part of our identity. Yoga is the exploration of identity and ultimately leads us beyond our identity formed by thought and into our identity connected to the infinite.

 

Our sexuality is part of our body. Our bodies are part of the continuation of our species and hence procreation and the raising of children are ingrained in our DNA.

 

Yoga is the exploration of our body. We become aware of our bodies through the practice of the physical postures of yoga: asanas. The asanas make our bodies strong and supple allowing for the natural flow of energy.  

 

Body, mind and emotions are intertwined. By opening and strengthening our bodies we allow for the natural and holistic expression of our sexuality.  

 

Sexuality affects our breathing. Yoga involves the awareness of breath and breath regulation. Through breath awareness and control we can become aware of our sexual energy and its intrinsic nature in our being.

 

Practice of Sexuality

 

The essence of yoga is to become aware of our deepest nature. The practice of yoga involves bringing stillness and hence the power of observation to all parts of our being. In the stillness of observation we are able to realize and utilize the vast storehouse of energy that is inside the biology and psyche of each of us.

 

This stillness is achieved through many means: mantras, breathing techniques, visualizations, meditation and exercise.

 

Yoga is traditionally thought of as having eight limbs. The first branch involves moral and ethical observations and one of these is brahmacharya, which is the observation and utilization of our sexual energy. Brahmacharya is often translated as celibacy.

 

In order to explore celibacy we do not need to take a lifelong vow of celibacy or live as a hermit in a cave. Amidst all our activities and various interpersonal relationships we can observe and learn about ourselves by observing the sexual energy in our lives.

 

Try maintaining calmness and observe the sexual energy without physically or mentally reacting to it. In this stillness, however long it lasts you can observe and learn about yourself.

 

There are many forms that sexual energy can take. It is in essence the force of creation. Try channeling your energy into different facets of life:  business, friendships, artistic pursuits etc.

 

All aspects of yoga will help you to do this: the postures, breathing exercises, meditation and study. Brahmacharya is not a moral judgment about sexual energy being good or bad. Rather it is an exploration, a scientific experiment, and a journey into the essence of the most powerful force in creation.

 

The sexual force is depicted in mystical art and literature as a snake that is coiled up at the base of the spine. Often called the kundalini, it is the power of nature, which for most human beings resides in the energy centers below and around the navel. The snake is awake but the energy is used in satisfying our base desires: lust and cravings for power, name, fame and wealth.

 

We also find the snake in the mythology of the Garden of Eden. It is the snake, the sexual force, experienced in the form of pleasure that leads Adam and Eve to a new relationship with the world in which they live. Sex with another changes our lives and destiny.

 

The mystical imagery of enlightenment often depicts this kundalini snake as awakening and winding up the spine until it reaches the brain: the top of the spine, the crown chakra. It is then when the yogi is awakened; when you are awakened!

 

 

 

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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Relaxation Techniques While Driving: How to Use Your Commute Time to Amplify Your Zen.

For those of us forced behind the wheel each morning, there has to be a better way to spend those minutes than stressing about the day ahead. Luckily, commute time can also be used as impactful alone time, maybe one of the only times you get to be alone all day. Turn stress into stress relief.

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Most people don’t enjoy commuting to and from work. The minutes spent idling on the highway, the last minute gas station stops before your morning meeting, spilling coffee down your shirt!

 

For those of us forced behind the wheel each morning, there has to be a better way to spend those minutes than stressing about the day ahead. Luckily, commute time can also be used as impactful alone time, maybe one of the only times you get to be alone all day. Turn stress into stress relief.

 

Be intentional about what you do during your commute to and from work with these easy tips. Here’s how:

Meditate

 

Practicing meditation on your commute is a great way to set a positive tone for the workday ahead. While this can be particularly difficult for those who have overly-anxious minds or those utilizing public transportation to get to work, there are methods to finding mindfulness and inner peace at this critical part of the day.

 

There are many different types of meditation, perfect for different types of people. Start by meditating a few minutes before you leave the house–this can be as simple as taking a couple of deep breaths or a moment of silence in bed before you get up or as you sip on your morning coffee. Not only will this bring you a sense of calm, but it’s a good way to focus and ensure you drive safer. Meditation apps such as Headspace or Calm are great resources for beginners or those who just want a little more guidance. They have diverse levels of structure, from breathing technique and guided prompts.

 

Once you get in the car (or on the bus or on the train), take a moment to establish your posture. On your commute, pop your earbuds in or sync your phone to your car speakers so you can ride along with the app. Another alternative is to listen to meditative music or use noise-canceling headphones that can create a tranquil bubble and block out the distracting world around you.

 

Listen to Positive Influence Podcasts

 

Most commuters travel at the same time, making that hour or so in the morning extra busy and stressful. Change your mindset so that instead of this chunk of time feeling like a waste, it can be a time to learn and live a healthier life. Listening to a podcast will help your brain focus on relaxing and let the surrounding traffic and people melt away.

 

Holding Space by Dr. Cassidy Freitas is a great podcast that breaks down the scary barrier to mental health and therapy by sharing stories and connections of the human experience. Selfie is another helpful podcast that explores topics like eating healthy, getting enough sleep, and balancing the body, mind, and spirit.

 

You’ll learn something new every time you tune-in during this time of the day which will help you look forward to your commute, instead of despising it. iPhones and Android phones both have built-in apps that let you download and save podcasts to listen to whenever you’d like, making them accessible both in the car or on a train that may lose service.

 

Use the time for Self-care

 

Another great use of this time is to practice self-care. Often times, our own feelings and mental state of being get pushed back behind the needs of work, family, and friends.

 

If you take a bus, train or subway, start by packing a journal that you can write in every day on your commute. The act of writing is mindful and meditative without actually meditating. Ask yourself to write out a list of everything you’re grateful for if you don’t know where to start. You’ll find that the pen takes over as soon as you start to let go and be honest with yourself.

 

Remind yourself what is truly meaningful to you in life and let your brain clear of all the clutter to come in the rest of the day. Other things to note are simply a to-do list, goals for the week, long-term goals, and even just daydreams. Physically releasing onto a piece of paper is therapeutic by having yourself let go of emotions but could also help you gain a new perspective on your life and what you want.

 

If you drive to work, take advantage of the voice-recording app found on iPhones and Androids to record your thoughts and feelings. You can also take advantage of this time to reach out to your loved ones–write them an email or text about how much they mean to you and wish them a good day. If available, call them up while commuting to check in. This is both a productive and relaxing use of commute time.

Do What Brings You Joy

 

Depending on how you commute to work, pack or download a great book for your commute that you can read as a distraction from everything going on around you. Chances are you’ve memorized your commute down to the minute, so you’ll have no trouble getting to work on time (instead of getting lost in the story).

 

Bring along a pen to highlight favorite passages that you can return to later in the day if things become overwhelming.

 

Adult coloring books are also super fun and are known to help reduce anxiety. If you can find a seat on a train, break one of these out and let your stress levels decrease as you color away.

 

And finally, there’s nothing like turning up the sound system on your favorite song. Listening to music can help boost your mood, to create a specific playlist to turn on while commuting. Add songs that are upbeat, loud, and fun for your trip to work, and more mellow, calm songs for your trip home to help you unwind. These songs can be your anthems (instead of an annoying alarm clock) and help you head into work with a positive attitude.

 

And there you have it. The next morning you hop in your car to head to work, try one of these surefire ways to get in the zone for your big day ahead. What are some ways you’ve turned your commute into quality time with yourself?

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sam Casteris is an avid writer and explorer of all things travel, mindfulness, and financial health. You can find more of her work in her portfolio

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A Guide to the Benefits of Different Types of Meditation. [Infographic]

An infographic featuring 5 different styles of meditation and their benefits, including mindfulness, visualization, focused meditation, movement meditation and spiritual meditation.

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This infographic was created by Culinary Teas

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Pilgrimage of the Heart Kirtan Band Live Podcast

Join Pilgrimage of the Heart Kirtan Band for a live kirtan podcast recorded in June 2018 with New World Kirtan and Kitzie Stern.

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Join Pilgrimage of the Heart Kirtan Band for a live kirtan podcast recorded in June 2018 with New World Kirtan and Kitzie Stern.

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Using Yoga and Meditation to Overcome Addiction.

Western medicine tends to favor the view of addiction as an inherited disease that requires external treatment in the form of medication, cognitive behavioral therapy, and rewiring the brain to think differently. The western approach focuses on the affliction and supports a person in the practice of new behaviors, whereas yoga and meditation focuses on the cause of the suffering itself and supports a person in the practice of new behaviors.

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Addiction is an insidious disease that isolates the victim; both from themselves and from others. While treatment options are available to help people reconnect and rebuild relationships with those they have hurt due to addiction, there still remains a great need for helping individuals find themselves and heal the inner pain or longing that lead them to addiction in the first place.

 

According to Ken Griffin, founder of the Buddhist Recovery Network, addiction can be, “in itself … a misguided spiritual search. Many people who don’t see themselves as spiritual find that when they get sober they have some longing in them, and that their addiction, in one form or another, has been longing for a connection.”

 

Indeed, in the 12 Steps, the foundation of Alcoholics Anonymous, multiple textual references to spirituality are made, although none point to meditation or body-mind connection as integral to the process of healing. While many have found success within the 12 Steps, some struggle accepting the spiritual underpinnings and overt references to God found within the text. This is where yoga could play an important role. Addiction is a form of “checking out” with reality, the ultimate form of escapism. Whereas yoga and guided meditation is the ultimate “checking in” with reality, requiring you to be present and focused on the moment.

The 12 Steps and Yoga

There are many parallels to be found between the 12 Steps and eastern practices such as yoga and meditation. For one, self-acceptance is the first of the 12 Steps, wherein individuals are asked to accept that they have lost control over their drinking. The 4 Noble Truths of Buddhism also ask followers to accept the nature of reality, that there is suffering, that there is an origin to suffering, that suffering will end, and that there is a reason the suffering will end. Similarly, the 12 Steps asks followers to be mindful of their drinking, stating that anyone can get sober and stay clean if they practice “rigorous honesty”. Rigorous honesty can be interpreted as honesty with yourself and with others, or in other words, an existential honesty or mindfulness of reality.

Looking Forward vs. Looking Inward

Western medicine tends to favor the view of addiction as an inherited disease that requires external treatment in the form of medication, cognitive behavioral therapy, and rewiring the brain to think differently. The western approach focuses on the affliction and supports a person in the practice of new behaviors, whereas yoga and meditation focus on the cause of the suffering itself and supports a person in the practice of new behaviors. They’re similar but different. In western medicine, addiction is treated as existing outside of the person, as an ailment of the body. In Eastern philosophy, attachment to pleasure and aversion to pain is seen as a constant, meaning addiction is just an imbalance of what is normal.

How Yoga and Meditation Support Recovery

Yoga and meditation are an effective means to help someone on the path to sobriety, but they are no substitute for the clinical assistance of a registered treatment center. The tools and methods you learn during yoga can help assist you in drug and alcohol recovery by helping you manage stress, control your thinking, and improve your overall quality of health. Whether you choose to recover through therapy, the 12 Steps, meditation, or perhaps a combination of all three, the ultimate goal is to achieve spiritual well being and happiness. The important part is to keep working and find a method that works for you. As Buddha told his students: “There is only one mistake you can make on the path to awakening, and that is to stop.”

Matthew Boyle is the Chief Operating Officer of Landmark Recovery, a drug and alcohol recovery center. He has been working in the healthcare space for 7 years with a new emphasis on recovery. Before his ventures into healthcare, Matthew graduated from Duke University in 2011 Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree. After Duke Matthew went on to work for Boston Consulting Group before he realized where his true passion lied within Recovery. His vision is to save a million lives in 100 years with a unique approach to recovery that creates a supportive environment through trust, treatment, and intervention.

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Music & Introverts: Kirtan For People Who Don’t Like Singing In Public.

Before I got into it, Kirtan was my idea of a personal nightmare. Holding hands and singing with strangers? No thanks. Off-key, offbeat, and uncomfortable were three words I would use to describe the experience.

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Before I got into it, Kirtan was my idea of a personal nightmare. Holding hands and singing with strangers? No thanks. Off-key, offbeat, and uncomfortable were three words I would use to describe the experience. After a while, though, Kirtan became one of my favorite parts of the several months I spent at a yoga teacher training center in New Zealand. I never thought I’d say it, but it’s one of the things I miss most from that experience.

 

Kirtan, as I practiced it, is a call-and-response song or chant. We would all sit in a circle with one song leader at the front playing the harmonium. Each time the leader sang a phrase in Sanskrit, the rest of the circle would repeat it back to her, building in volume and tempo each time around.

 

Members of the circle were encouraged to play shakers, drums, tambourines, and any number of other small instruments lying around. Some people got up and danced in the middle of the circle. Some clapped. Some silently swayed back and forth. Kirtan is a deeply personal experience.

 

Similar to how I learned to like yoga, my journey to appreciating Kirtan was slow and steady. It started reluctantly and tentatively, and before I knew it I was looking forward to evening Kirtan almost as much as I looked forward to breakfast the next morning. By the end of my time at the yoga center, Kirtan was one of my favorite parts of the entire program.

 

Introverts & Events

 

Events like Kirtan sessions can be stressful for anyone new to the practice — but perhaps especially for introverts, who are often uncomfortable in social situations that require participation and have the possibility of attracting attention to them. During Kirtan, it’s kind of unavoidable that you make yourself at least a little bit vulnerable. By participating in the singing and beat making, you put yourself out there and make your presence known.

 

For introverts, it can be tempting to recede into the shadows and not sing or participate at all. During my first few Kirtan sessions, which were required for my teacher training certificate, I wished to be anywhere else — “Give me goat yoga,” I thought, “Give me anything else.” I even considered faking illness to get out of it.

 

As an introvert, I had to take a critical look at how introverts experience events like Kirtan to figure out how I could come to love it. What was it that made me so averse to the idea? I found that the turning point came once I had the courage to develop a role for myself. Once I had a role, I had an extra reason to go and found the confidence to have fun with it.

 

Finding a Role

 

My role came in the form of a hand drum. I had taken a few drum lessons years before but didn’t remember much. Luckily, I have always had a pretty good sense of rhythm. So one night at Kirtan, I picked up the hand drum and started banging away. “I’m just going to go for it,” I thought.

 

Apparently it worked, because after that night I became the designated drummer of the group. People asked me to show them how to play, and I wondered why it had taken me so long to pick up the drum in the first place. I think the change was when I decided to focus on myself and my own personal fulfillment rather than what other people were doing or thinking. I never led a song myself, but I went to every session and found great enjoyment in it.

 

The Payoff

 

I ended up loving Kirtan, and even entertained the idea of starting a local group now that I’m back home. Given how yoga affects the brain, it should have been no surprise that something related like Kirtan could leave me feeling energized and invigorated. I was happier when I participated. It was a good lesson for me to learn to not just let life pass by as I sit on the sidelines, even if it means enduring a period of discomfort.

 

Giving Kirtan a chance also made me realize that stress isn’t always bad. Sometimes, a bit of stress is the catalyst you need to elevate yourself to the next level. In my case, I was able to transform myself into a Kirtan-loving hand drummer. You never know how something will impact you until you give it a try.

 

Lettie Stratton is a writer and urban farmer in Boise, ID. A Vermont native, she is a lover of travel, tea, bicycles, plants, cooperative board games, and the outdoors. She’s still waiting for a letter from Hogwarts.

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Ishvara Pranidhana Practice & Examples: Worship God In Your Own Way.

This last niyama, worship of God, is ishvara pranidhana. Genuine worship is any practice that moves our awareness more deeply into the Divine.

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Ishvara pranidhana, loosely translated as ‘devotion to God’, is one of the foundations of the yoga pracitice. It is one of the five niyamas. This ishvara pranidana practice was descibed in the Yoga Sutras over 2000 years ago. Ishvara pranidhana practice and meditations can transform your consciousness.

 

Ishvara Pranidhana as a Practice

 

Yoga is a tree with eight aspects. The first two of these branches are the yamas and niyamas, which are moral and ethical injunctions, and form the foundation of all other aspects of yoga.

 

The yamas and niyamas are: non-harming, truthfulness, non-stealing, sexual purity, non-receiving of gifts, inner and outer purification, contentment, mortification, spiritual study and worship of God. This last niyama, worship of God, is ishvara pranidhana. Genuine worship is any practice that moves our awareness more deeply into the Divine.

 

The other aspects of the tree of yoga are physical exercises, breath control, consciously turning the senses within, concentration, meditation and samadhi.

 

Through the practice of yoga we can become conscious of our eternal nature. It is from our eternal aspect that we develop our sense of God. Eventually, in the yogic journey, we each need to think and feel the Divine in a way that draws our longing to experience God. Once we have a sense of the Divine then we can worship God in a way that resonates with us. This can include karma yoga, prayer, meditation, visualizations, mantra and anything else that connects you with That from which your sense of self has emerged.

 

To elevate into the practice of ishvara pranidhana is to make a significant stride in your yoga practice because it involves conceptualizing and feeling God and igniting your heart and emotion into your practice. Finding your unique conception of God: with form, without form, masculine, feminine, young, old etc. This is called your ‘chosen ideal.’

 

Examples of Ishvara Pranidhana

 

I was raised a Roman Catholic so my first conception of God was that of an old man who sat in judgement of human souls and either cast them to hell or lifted them to heaven. This conception created fear in me but may have been very helpful for learning the feelings of right and wrong and the concept of punishment…for eternity!

 

I attended a Jesuit highschool. The Jesuits are an order within the Catholic church who are very contemplative and scholorly. Two classes that especially impacted me at Saint Ignatious in San Francisco were Contemplative Prayer and Mediation and The Bible as a Historical Work. Both of these classes helped me to move away from a world view of absolutes and towards an understanding of the subjective nature of reality.

 

In the prayer and meditation class I learned to feel a living spirituality within myself that was not dependant on the conceptions of others. The ideas of others movitated me but it was the feelings in my own heart that were moving me forward. This is the idea of ishvara pranidana: finding your own love and devotion towards your spiritual journey.

 

Every journey has a destination and the word God, is often used as the destination of the spritual journey. As much as many religious organizations and fundamentalists thinkers would like us to think otherwise; God can mean many different things to different people. This makes perfect sense as we each view our lives through the unique lens of our personal experiences and cultural upbringing. Hence Jesus, Buddha, a river, or a mandala, or anything else of our choosing can each be God. Is that not the true meaning of religious freedom?

 

Devotion to your own highest ideals will lift your yoga practice to new heights. Have the courage to conceive of God in a way that resonates with you and find ways to connect with that feeling in your own heart and life. You will soon find yourself soaring to new heights of realization.

 

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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A Breakdown of Self Inquiry and Ramana Maharshi’s I AM Meditation.

The I AM technique of self-inquiry as taught by spiritual teachers such as Ramana Maharshi is profound and accessible if learned properly. The spiritual teachings of Ramana Maharshi abound with spiritual insights for both the beginner and advanced seeker.

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The I AM technique of self-inquiry as taught by spiritual teachers such as Ramana Maharshi is profound and accessible if learned properly. The spiritual teachings of Ramana Maharshi abound with spiritual insights for both the beginner and advanced seeker. Everyone’s practice of meditation and self-inquiry will be benefited from the reading of Ramana Maharshi’s writings.

 

Exploring the I AM Technique

 

Let’s explore the I AM technique for self-inquiry and its roots in the very make up of the human mind.

The technique is rooted in the idea that the essence of each being is the Self and that this awareness of the Self is possible for all. Ramana says that this sense of self is always with us, though the feeling is vague. The I AM technique is the remembrance of the Self. We become lost in thoughts and forget our essence. In Talks with Ramana Maharshi page 164, he writes, “Thoughts rule the life. Freedom from thoughts is one’s true nature—Bliss.”

The basis of the I AM technique is explained by Ramana, on ,  page 160 of Talks,  “The sense of body is a thought; the thought is in the mind, the mind rises after the “I”-thought, the “I”-thought is the root thought, if that thought is held, the other thoughts will disappear.” Holding on to that “I”-thought leads us to the essence of our sense of being: I AM. Read my first blog on Ramana Maharshi for more details on finding that feeling.

I first came across the I AM self-inquiry technique when I moved to San Diego to attend college in 1980. I had moved from San Francisco to fulfill my dream of becoming a surfer—I was heavily influenced in my early teens by the Gidget movies of the time! The other possibility I held out, and another storyline in a movie of the time, was to move to New York and work at the United Nations. I was intrigued by the idea of the nations of the world coming together to solve problems with intelligence and dialogue rather than the caveman mentality of physical violence.  

The mind is a mystery to western sciences, but to Ramana Maharshi it is something understandable, accessible and able to be transformed. The reason the I AM meditation technique is so effective is that it is rooted in the foundational structure of the mind.

In Ramana’s first writing, Self-Inquiry, written in 1901, he notes, “This inquiry into the Self in devotional meditation evolves into the state of absorption of the mind into the Self and leads to Liberation and unqualified Bliss.” I take “devotional meditation” to mean meditation rooted in feeling, sensation and emotion. The Self is rediscovered, for it is never lost, through a profound awareness of our own existence. Self is a feeling.

I traveled to Ramana Maharshi’s spiritual community in 2006. I have read numerous books of his. With insights culled from his writings I posit three primary aspects of mind that develop organically, to a greater or lesser extent, in all human beings.

One of these aspects of mind is the foundation for the I AM technique. Another leads to meditation on images, sounds and the like. The third leads to discrimination, which is the foundation of jnana yoga. Understanding these foundational aspects of mind will help you in observing your own mind and practicing the I AM meditation.

These three aspects of mind develop their basic functioning organically, as they are rooted in the survival instinct. They are developed to their highest potential by conscious effort. Lets start with the creation of mind. Ramana says, on page 20 of The Collected Works of Ramana Maharshi, “…there exists an entity known as the ‘mind’, which is derived from the subtle essence of the food consumed…” So it matters what we eat!

 

3 Aspects Of The Mind

 

Now to the three aspects of mind. Firstly there is the I AM consciousness, by which we are aware of our own existence. This sense of our own being is always there but most cannot quite put their finger on it. Ramana says on page 156 of Talks with Ramana Maharshi, to a seeker: “You are hazily aware of the Self. Pursue it. When the effort ceases the Self shines forth.” The gateway to the Self is this core I AM aspect of mind. We always have the vague sense that we exist, but most times the pure joy of the feeling of existence is covered by the fabric of mind that creates our sense of reality.

This second ability of mind is to hold a sensation or thought. This holding gives sensations and thoughts a feeling of permanence. We create the world in which we exist through this magical power: the thought of an apple, a memory from the past, a vision of the future or even the idea that you are the physical body.

It enables us to create a sense of the world around us and allows us to create identifications of ourselves as the various roles and activities that we do in the world. This aspect of mind leads to meditation and concentration techniques where one focuses on something such as a sound, mantra, mandala, chakra, quality or other points of focus. Ramana says that through these concentration techniques the mind gains strength, but he also notes that the experience is still rooted in thought and hence impermanent.

The third ability of mind that emerges is the capacity to hold in the mind multiple sensations and thoughts, and compare and contrast them. This last ability is described by Ramana with wonderful simplicity on page 20 of The Collected Works of Ramana Maharshi, “To think whether a certain thing may be eaten is a thought-form of the mind. ‘It is good. It is not good. It can be eaten. It cannot be eaten’: discriminating notions like these constitutes the discriminative intellect.” Through personal effort this aspect of mind leads to the ability to compare ethical and moral options and ultimately to distinguish the eternal from the transitory. This is the least developed aspect of mind in most individuals.

Through the proper use of the I AM method of self-inquiry we reconnect with our core mind and from there connect into the Self. To learn this technique I advise reading at least 4 books by Ramana Maharshi. His writing will give you a basis for understanding and practicing self-inquiry. Give yourself quiet time each day to concentrate upon his writings, interspersing reading with concentration, breath awareness and mediation.

I AM awareness, which we all have, yet are not fully conscious of, can become a conscious experience. When that occurs it is the state of Samadhi and Liberation.

 

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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An Overview of Divine Feminine Goddess Archetypes.

The archetype of Mother includes other references or meanings.  There is an awe and mystery about the divine feminine that includes mother but also includes other forces that act upon us in our psychological and biological forms.  

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Everyone has a mother: all embodied beings are born, and to be born means to have a mother.  To have a human mother means to have a relationship to a person who brought us forth out of her body, who cared for us when we were at our most helpless and vulnerable. We were utterly helpless as infants: if she had not protected us, we would not be here.  For most of us, she smiled at our open gaze and spoke sweet words to us. She wrapped us up when we were cold, and comforted us when we were hurt or frightened. Above all, she fed us and kept us warm. The experiences that we had at the beginnings of our lives have created our deepest memories and associations. These are the bedrock of our conscious and unconscious lives.  Mother is the womb, the home, the beginning. She is the nest: we learn, we live with each other, we share our lives and livelihoods because we began our lives with a mother.

We all have a deep psychological imprint of mother.  Our biological makeup is designed to interact with a mother, even while still in the womb.  Much of this is instinct, built into the structure of our bodies and nervous systems. In fact, this primary relationship is the foundation of individual consciousness.  Mother is more than a biological entity, a creature that gives birth to us; she may not even be female. Males may function as mothers in certain circumstances, as may other family members or relatives. In nature, beings are born in all sorts of ways, and not necessarily through a biological female. A certain kind of male frog, for example, receives the eggs from the female frog and then incubates the eggs and tadpoles until the baby frogs are born from the male’s side pouch. For humans, Mother is an archetype: the relationship with a mother is part of our innate psychic makeup.  We find someone on whom we can “project” the image and function of the Mother, whether or not that person happens to be a biological mother.  In this sense, we create our mothers as much as our mothers create us. We smile or cry or demand care of our mothers, and they respond as best they can. When the process of mothering goes as it should, she remains at the center of our psyche.  She is the great being who has brought us physically and psychologically into this world.

Never mind for a moment that in our time and culture, the category of “mother” does not carry the universal meanings that it once may have had.  Real mothers can have problems with parenting. Many people have issues or problems with their parents, or have misgivings about the mothering role that they themselves are expected to play. When our relationship with a mother is damaged or incomplete, we may feel damaged or incomplete as human beings. We may develop trust issues or suffer emotional traumas or a stunted ability to love others. This said, shortcomings in real mothering are not necessarily relevant to a meditation on mothering itself.  Mothers give birth to each one of us. We have all been protected, nurtured, and taught by mothers. All multicellular beings have been born from mothers. This is true even for the many organisms that are born from eggs. Even so-called “bad” mothers took care of us when we were at our most vulnerable and most helpless. On some preconscious level, we all remember this.

No beings come from nothing.  Life produces life, and life nurtures life.  Life survives only by the grace and protection of mothers. This truth is timeless and sacred – and it may not be confined to just this life.  Motherhood may be an aspect of having multiple lives. If you can accept the idea that there are more lives to live than just this one, then we have all been mothers.  We have all given birth to other beings. The Buddhists like to say that there have been so many incarnations of every being in every conceivable situation and circumstance, that in the countless eons of time, every one of us has been a mother to every other one of us. And every one of us has had every other one of us as a mother.  All of us are related to everyone else through being mothers.  We are all linked in a most intimate and interdependent way. This is a sacred and beautiful concept. If it seems preposterous or silly, just accept it as a poetic conceit.  Meditate on it. Contemplate it.

 

Mother as Devi, the Goddess

 

On a cosmic or universal level, we can relate to Mother as a sacred being — as Devi.  Devi, a term from the Hindu religion and philosophy means goddess. It is one of the terms or metaphors used when discussing the divine.  Perhaps most importantly, Devi is the archetype of the Mother as a primordial symbol in all cultures and at all times. It signifies the feminine aspect of divinity, god, or consciousness. What exactly is connoted by the term “feminine” depends upon what religion, philosophy or spiritual disciple you are referring to.  It has a renewed resonance in new age circles, invoking Celtic mystery goddesses, Hindu deities like Kali or Durga, ancient Mediterranean goddesses like Astarte, Aphrodite and Hecate, earth mothers, and gentle healing feminine archetypes of all descriptions.

The archetype of Mother includes other references or meanings.  There is an awe and mystery about the divine feminine that includes mother but also includes other forces that act upon us in our psychological and biological forms.  She is Devi or Durga to the Hindus, the Universal Mother out of which all other manifestations of the goddess originate. Devi is associated with death and transformation as much as she is associated with birth and protection. In the Hindu pantheon, she is part of a trinity of divine forces that include Shiva as the destroyer, Vishnu as the preserver, and Devi, who embodies the creative or manifesting force in the universe. The Hindu concept of divinity differs from the Western notion of gods and goddesses associated with specific and limited powers and spheres of influence.

Depending upon the philosophy or religious practice or region or scripture being considered, Devi can be many goddesses. As Parvati, she is the consort of Shiva in his guise as the great Lord of the Universe.  Or she can be Kali, the process of destruction and dissolution as much as creation and preservation. The male deities Vishnu, Brahman and Shiva are metaphysical absolutes.  Their feminine counterparts are experienced as Shakti, the creative expression of the cosmic absolute.  Shiva can be thought of as the unmanifest potential of the universe, the energy substratum out of which time, space, and causality come into being: picture the image of Shiva Nataraja in His cosmic dance of creation and destruction.  Parvati can be thought of as the force of Prakriti, the manifested universe of name and form.  Think of her as she is portrayed in a Chola period bronze, infinitely full and voluptuous. She is nature: the world of the senses. Shiva and Parvati are two aspects of the same reality, in the way the West has devised the metaphor of matter and energy as two expressions of the same underlying reality.  

 

Devi as the Divine Feminine

 

Devi is beauty, as well as the creative expression of intelligence or consciousness.  The divine Mother can appear as Saraswati: it is this energy that brings poetry, music and philosophy into human life.  What would humanity be without language, sagas and songs, architecture, and mythologies?  Saraswati represents our ability to express and represent our symbolic and metaphysical universe.  As such, she makes the forms of consciousness possible: language, meaning, and the awareness of ourselves as individual ego-minds encased in the body.   As the goddess Lakshmi, she manifests as our livelihoods — as abundance, grace, beauty and charm.  She makes life possible — and bearable. The consort of Vishu the preserver, she represents material and spiritual wealth and well-being.  Finally, Devi manifests as Kali, the source, origin, duration, destruction, and negation of the world. Kali is related to Kala, or time. Ultimately, she is time, space and causation.  As such, she is the ultimate reality: another way of experiencing the Lord Shiva.

Devi is a metaphysical reality. But as a human being, I relate better to an abstract philosophical principle when it is more accessible and concrete.  In all spiritual traditions, God is made manifest in some way that is accessible to human emotion and human experience. The Divine is represented in such figures as Christ, Goddess, Buddha, Zeus, or Mother Mary.  The divine is experienced through Yahweh, Allah, Mohammed, Moses, or some other entity that possesses a name and a presence.  Personally, I like to experience the spiritual reality as a feminine presence, as Devi, especially in two forms: as Mother Kali and as Tara, the liberator and protector. Tara is the easier to approach and to understand. She is the rescuer, the savior goddess, the one who represents the boon of fearlessness.  She destroys all dangers, especially those psychic dangers of fear, doubt, and ignorance. She demands only our attention and our devotion. She is love and forgiveness personified — the ideal mother, lover and friend.

Kali is the goddess of spiritual transformation.  She is the death of the limited, ego self and the liberation beyond the illusions of time, materiality, and the human form.  She takes many forms and has many, many names. Similar forms of the goddess appear in the Buddhist pantheon as Nairatmya, or “egoless woman,” and Vajrayogini, the tantric deity of transformation and annihilation. Kali is represented as standing on top of her consort Shiva, who represents a transcendental absolute reality. She holds a sword of non-dual wisdom that cuts through illusion and falsity.  She also holds the severed head of a male demon that has had the temerity to challenge her. The head represents arrogance, ignorance and pride, as do the other 108 heads that she wears on a necklace around her head. Kali is fierce but compassionate. She is terrifying to those of us who are holding on to our illusions and resisting the realities of time, transfiguration, and our own apotheosis. She is the savior goddess to those who surrender to divine revelation.  Unlike Tara, she is not an easy goddess to accept or to love. But both are to be venerated as two aspects of the same goddess, the same divine reality.

 

Her Worship and Sadhana

 

How does one approach the Mother as divine feminine?  In one form, she is experienced in meditation as the simple presence of consciousness or awareness.  In tantric or Kundalini practice, she is experienced as internal energy or bliss. She exists in images and statues to be worshiped and meditated upon.  Finally, she exists in liturgies and prayers to the Goddess. Chanting, japa, or repeating mantras in ritualistic worship are not things that appeal to everyone.  It can be argued — and has been — that ritual worship or the worship of deities is not essential to spiritual practice. It is also argued that specific liturgies lead to idolatry and to the weaknesses and potential divisiveness of religious practice and spiritual dogmas.  It is often argued that it is better to be free of religious symbolism and ritual practice, and simply to meditate on the heart chakra or compassion or some other uplifting concept. These are all good points — and yet, the presence of the divine in one’s life is as powerful and potent an expression of our humanity as is our reason and our human love. Why would we want to deny its personification as gods and goddesses?  The meaning of Yahweh is “I AM”: ultimately, this is all that God really is.  The gods and goddesses manifest as archetypes simply because it is in our nature as human beings to manifest them.  In the words of one of my liturgies, the gods and goddesses do not exist except as a means to allow us to experience the true nature of reality.  Reality in this sense means to experience the inner and outer presence of THE PRESENCE, as my own guru once put it.

There are as many ways to experience the divine Mother as there are devotees to experience her. One way is to allow the manifestation of the divine Mother in ordinary life.  This involves a little fantasy and role playing, but don’t our jobs, marriages, trips to the supermarket and to the dentist — our ordinary life in general – call for some role playing anyway?  Our lives are devoted to fantasy and make-believe: the fact that we believe in the roles and dramas we enact is all the more reason to stop, look, and listen. All of these thoughts and opinions and make-believe are also forms of the divine manifestation. Devi is the manifestation, out of the emptiness of pure potential, of our lives and us.  As we all know, there is nothing really out there. Or, if you prefer, you can say that it is all hydrogen and specks of dust. Yet to us, our political parties, neighborhood parties, retirement parties and every other party happen day after day, throughout our lives. Where does this intense activity come from? What or who manifests it? Why not call it the Divine Mother?  She is the cosmic womb from which everything that exists, exists. In the Hindu metaphor, she is Shaki: the power or energy of the divine that appears as everyone and everything in the universe of names and forms. The Divine Mother is our lives and in many ways, she is us.

 

Shakti; Her divine manifestation

 

As devotees of Shakti, the divine Mother, we should find her sacred presence everywhere.  I remember seeing Mother Kali dancing in a shopping mall. My spouse and I were emerging from a department store in a huge shopping mall in Maryland, when I spotted Mother Kali. She was a wonderfully exotic looking black woman with waist-length hair wearing middle-eastern clothing, heavily jeweled and formidable looking. She was standing near an improvised stage by the food court, looking through a box for additional CDs. Two of her brightly dressed apprentices were slowly dancing arm in arm to entertain the crowds of holiday shoppers with a choreographed routine.  I said to my wife, “Look over there — its Ma Kali”. She thought it might be the two dancing apprentices, but they were far from the real thing, like ordinary devotees next to a master. Kali herself danced next, and the change was electrifying: a middle-aged black woman, lithe, quick, sharp, and delicate as a cat as she moved carefully and liquidly around the stage. Her dance genuinely summoned the goddess. As I watched from the upper balcony, she shot a quick glance around at the assembled shoppers. I was inwardly reciting a hymn to Kali: “It will be auspicious if she looks at me.” Her glance shot by, but I couldn’t tell if she was looking at me. Isn’t that just like all incarnations of divinity? We can never quite tell if they are really looking at us or not.

On that day, I was preoccupied with an important decision that I was soon to make — a decision that would change my life dramatically. As it usually happens, I was thinking that this was my decision to make. But, as I watched the black woman dancing, a story came into my head from a biography of Vivekananda. Vivekananda was the world-famous disciple of Ramakrishna. Ramakrishna is a great saint of modern India and a fervent devotee of Mother Kali.  Vivekananda, his greatest student, travelled extensively throughout Europe and America at the beginning of the last century, preaching brilliantly about Vedanta and Indian philosophy. His work made it possible for later teachers like my guru Gururaj to be understood in the west. Gururaj would sometimes talk about Vivekananda, and even once claimed to be an embodiment or reincarnation of Vivekananda. In the story as I remembered it, Vivekananda is concerned about restoring a ruined shrine to Kali, whom many Hindus worship as the mother of the universe. No sooner does he think this, however, then the voice of the Mother comes to him and admonishes that it is She herself that restores or destroys her own temples, not any work of the ego or the human will. God alone does everything. We can do nothing by ourselves. I myself heard a similar inward voice that day, warning me that I can decide nothing. I can do nothing. It is an illusion that I am the agent of my life. God alone acts.

 

Spiritual Surrender and Devotion to the Divine

 

This brings up the devotional attitude of surrender to the divine feminine. When we have a decision to make, some of us like to invoke Tara, Durga, Kali, Mother Mary, or whatever form of the divine Mother we are personally devoted to. If we have been doing intense spiritual practice, we can even visualize God or Devi as our guru and ask him or her what to do. The divine Mother or God or our guru may even tell us — but we are really just talking to ourselves. We may hope for some voice of higher wisdom, and we may get one, but in one way or another, it’s really just our inner selves that we are talking to.  This inner voice, or inner guru as it is sometimes called, is a tricky thing. If we are lucky, and sufficiently wise, it is our divine natures we are invoking and not just another form of the bewitching and misleading ego consciousness: this latter entity is merely the voice of our fears, doubts and illusions. It is easy to be fooled.

So, who or what is it that we invoke, when we invoke the divine Mother?  I like to think of her as everything that forms the entire fabric of our existence, both inner and outer experience.  This is the whole manifest universe of thought, word, deed, objects, and selfhood — everything. Because this world seems to exist, and furthermore, seems to exist as something that we can conceive of and even participate in, I think of it as feminine: alluring, terrible, seductive, all-pervasive, loving, powerful, merciful, forgiving, remorseless, beautiful, and empty. Empty, because ultimately, it is nothing but the ceaseless play of consciousness, without form, substance, or duration. But, this is getting too philosophical and conceptual. Mother is best experienced directly, not through concepts and ideas.  The divine Mother is not philosophy or an idea about experience, but experience itself. This is why you can see the entire manifest universe in the form of a bewitching black woman dancing in the vast shopping mall of the universe. The whole mystery of manifestation exists in each and every moment of the divine dance. Mother and I exist just for each other: God and her devotee.

While I rarely “pray” to the divine in a conventional sense, I always remember: “God’s will be done.” Like most people, I am involved in the world: I live far from some monastic ideal of renunciation and detachment. I do my spiritual practices every day, without fail, as an expression of my devotion and love.  I probably meditate and contemplate the divine reality more than most people, but I do so without expectations. The Mother is what she is — and I accept that. But it is also true that the divine Mother gives her devotees what they secretly want in their heart of hearts, with all the joys and sorrows that come with an involvement and identification with the manifest world of space and form.  Whatever we may think we want or fear, we will be all consumed by our life. It is our own nature that propels us into the world, into action and into endless activity. The divine manifests itself in the world through each one of us. That manifestation IS God, IS the Goddess. And that Goddess is no other than myself: not myself in my ego dream of separation and division, but in her true guise as the Mother itself.  Though all of my existence transpires within my own awareness, that consciousness is itself divine. It IS the Mother.

My hope — or my prayer, if you like — is that in surrendering my own illusion of individual self, I will be enacting God’s will: my submission to the Will of the embodied universe. Gururaj, after a lifetime spent actively doing all the things in the world that he was born to do — teaching, fathering, meditating, being the guru to many of his devotees — wrote a mysterious poem of resignation shortly before his death.

 

The world goes on

through its twists and turns,

I go on in its meandering ways

but I am still!

Who wants to watch

the waves of life’s ocean…. floundering

Gururaj Ananda Yogi, May 1988

 

I get shivers when I read that poem. Vivekananda too, after a very active life of teaching and traveling, came to realize a higher kind of resignation to the will of the Mother. He had done it all, and he had his fill of it.

Vivekananda (in a letter to a disciple):

“The whole world is a mere child’s play — preaching, teaching, and all included. ‘Know him to be the sannyasin who neither hates nor desires.’ And what is there to be desired in this little mud-puddle of a world with its ever-recurring misery, disease, and death?… This rest — eternal, peaceful rest — I am catching a glimpse of now in this beautiful spot. ‘Having once known that the Atman alone, and nothing else, exists, desiring what, or for whose desire, shall you suffer misery about the body?’ I feel as if I had my share of experience in what they call ‘work’. I am finished. I am longing now to get out…May Mother gather me soon to Herself never to come back any more. These works and doing good etc. are just a little exercise to cleanse the mind, I have enough of it. This world will be world ever and always. What we are, so we see it. Who works? Whose work? There is no world. It is God Himself. In delusion we call world–neither I nor Thou nor you, it is all He the Lord, all one.”

(Quoted in The Life of Swami Vivekananda, Vol II, pg. 119)

This might sound a little extreme, or even faintly negative. It doesn’t sound especially positive or “life-affirming.” But who are we to affirm life — or anything else, for that matter? Life affirms itself. The manifest universe is doing a very good job of manifestation, whether we like it or not, and we get to be included in it. After all, we ARE it. That last line of Gururaj deserves some careful meditation. Is he saying that he does or does not enjoy watching those waves of the world? Is he floundering, or is it the world that flounders? Who knows? Who cares? It’s all Mother’s doing. She’ll tell us when to come in from play.

 

The Divine Mother as Ananda; Bliss

 

Who, finally, is Mother?  Beyond divinities and symbolism, Mother consists of this mysterious union of existence, consciousness, and ineffable joy that the Advaita philosophy calls Sat Chit Ananda.  The Tibetan Buddhists call it the Dharmakaya in its formless aspect, the Sambhogakaya in its power to be aware, and the Nirmanakaya in its manifest or expressed form.  The Catholics have their Trinity, and the Jews simply state, “I AM.” This is Consciousness as Being. Awareness arises co-dependent with Shiva, the primordial Being. Without awareness, there is no activity of Consciousness.  This is symbolized by the Sleep of Brahman. The activity of awareness is experience-in-the-world, which is another way of saying that it is Mother’s manifestation as Shaki, the primordial activity and expression of consciousness.

The divine union of Shiva and Shakti is the union of manifestation and the un-manifest source.  Out of this divine union arise the self and the object of awareness.  This is embodiment, or what the tantric practitioners call mandala.  This I what I experience as Kali or the divine Mother: the universal expression of wisdom, energy, ecstasy, and knowledge.  Kali is the timeless awareness out of which Time arises. She is Formless and Un-manifest: out of her arise both the inner world of thought and perception and the outer world of objects and attributes.  She is always still and is always in motion. She is causality and Karma. She is without personality, and She is the supreme personality — the only personality, the universal “I.” Not surprisingly, she enjoys herself.  She is the enjoyer: the knowing aspect of consciousness and the experience that experiences itself. She is never without action. She is Existence, Consciousness, Bliss. She is the Supreme Self, the only self, and my true self — the “me” which manifests as personality in the world.  

Her great devotee is the 19th century Indian saint Ramakrishna,

“My Mother is the principle of consciousness. She is akhanda satchidananda; indivisible Reality, Awareness, and Bliss. The night sky between the stars is perfectly black. The waters of the ocean depths are the same. The infinite is always mysteriously dark. This inebriating darkness is my beloved Kali….”

Reality with attributes, saguna brahman, has been unanimously declared by the Vedas, Puranas, and Tantras to be Mahakali, the primordial energy of awareness. Her Energy is like the rays of the sun. The original sun is attributeless Reality, nirguna brahman, boundless awareness alone. Proceed to the Original through its Radiance. Awaken to non-dual Reality through Mother Kali. She holds the key. —

Sri Ramakrishna in “Great Swan”, by Lex Hixon, p.184

So, who is Kali?  Who can say what the Mother truly is?  We can only lose ourselves in astonishment at the beauty and majesty of this world, which she creates.  Beyond thought, beyond the mind, she is the being that looks into our eyes when we look up into hers. She is also that which looks out of our own eyes. With hope, fear and expectations, we love her, and she, through her divine grace, returns this love.  

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR, JEFFRY CARR: Jeffrey Carr has been active with meditation and spiritual practice for over forty years.  He is a Full Teacher in the American Meditation Society (americanmeditationsociety.org), a Senior Teacher in the Tibetan Buddhist Center of Philadelphia (www.tibetanbuddhist.org), and has completed a two year program in the Clearlight Meditation Teacher Training program of the Clearlight Meditation Institute (www.clearlightmeditation.org).  Carr grew up in San Diego and has recently returned after a career as an art professor at a number of colleges and universities and then as the Dean of an artschool in Philadelphia.  Some of his artwork can be seen here: www.jeffreycarr.work.  He has been a disciple of Gururaj Ananda Yogi for over 35 years, and is a long-term student and practitioner of Tibetan Buddhist and Dzogchen traditions. Carr’s interests and experience include Zen meditation, the teachings of his root guru, Gururaj Ananda Yogi, Non-dual Advaita Vedanta, Tibetan Buddhism, Dzogchen, Non-dual Saiva Tantra and emerging contemporary traditions of non-dual spirituality.

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Sujantra McKeever: An Interview with Pilgrimage Yoga Online Founder.

Sujantra now owns two Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga studios, in the heart of North Park and Normal Heights, California.  He instructs 5 classes a week at both locations, teaching all 8 aspects of yoga and exploring the relevance of this ancient art in our modern society.

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This piece is written by Molly Flores, a student at Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego. 

In a dimly lit foyer, sunlight cascades over potted olive trees and illuminates trails of incense, seemingly swaying to its own Asana.  In the background, gentle flute music resonates in my ears and fills me with a sense of elation. The walls surrounding me are adorned with vivid paintings and inspirational sayings such as “Yoga is union” and the tables display crystals and sweet smelling herbs.  In this space, I am grounded and filled with euphoria. I close my eyes to embody the feeling entirely. I am drawn back earthside as a gentle hand rests on my shoulder but a voice does not disrupt the silence.

I have come to Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga Studio and have already succumb to it’s grace.   Sujantra McKeever, the founder and owner, stands before me with the presence of a redwood tree that has seen many seasons pass before it;  insightful and strong. His salt and pepper hair flows around his face freely and his infectious smile seems to suggest that he holds dear the secrets of the universe.  He wears loose earth-toned clothing and worn oxford loafers; the combination suggests he is a spiritual man with business to conduct. He gestures me to follow him and I am surprised to discover a den tucked away, hidden behind folding French walls in the back of the studio.  

Unlike the foyer, the den is cramped, filled with books on meditation and pictures of a small Indian man with the same infectious smile: Sri Chinmoy, a world famous inspirational leader who mentored Sujantra for 27 years.  The desk across from me is used as an altar; miniature figurines of Buddha and Hindu goddesses are carefully displayed. The desk also showcases many mementos such a group pictures and event flyers, representing a sense of family: a community of people that Sujantra’s passion has united.

As I prepare myself, Sujantra is already seated ready to explain his juourney.  His aura alludes inner-peace and this the very reason I chose to interview this man regarding his journey to self-enlightenment. As I shuffle through my notes, a look of overwhelment is obviously splayed across my face.  “Where do I begin?”, I giggle nervously. This man before me has seen so much…Without a cue, the silence is interrupted by the soft tone of a gong and just like that, his story unfolds before us.

“I was raised a Roman-Catholic, even as a boy, I had a good feeling for going to church…and I really liked that feeling of that shift between the day to day world and the sacred world.”  

Sujantra McKeever, was born in San Francisco in 1962.  As a boy, he attended cataclysm classes which evolved to a Prayer and Contemplative Meditation course while attending Jesuit High School.  During these classes, Sujantra and his peers, were guided by the priest into spiritual visualizations. “On one of those days, I had a very profound experience about my sense of self and sunk to a really deep place within myself- this was very eye opening. I had never felt that dimension before…”

Now awakened to his passion, Sujantra began to nourish his mind, body and spirit; combining physical exercise with the spiritual practice of yoga and meditation.  Running and basketball were essential to his physical routine as they allowed him to practice breath control, referred to as Pranayama. The peaceful postures (Asanas) of yoga nourished his longing for reflection and a higher sense of self.  

“What I was really motivated to deepen was my ability to meditate.”  Sujantra felt a longing to expand his knowledge and practice of meditation.  Unfortunately, the priest who had ignited the passion within Sujantra originally, was limited in his expertise and was unable to satiate Sujantra’s need for more knowledge on the practice.  

After about a year and a half of searching for a teacher, Sujantra met Sri Chinmoy here in San Diego in 1980. He was teaching a class and the feeling Sujantra left with was similar to the bliss he had experienced as a boy.  He then attended a free concert held by Sri Chinmoy in Phoenix, Arizona. A connection was made and a lifetime of mentor ship was established. Sri  Chinmoy became Sujantra’s spiritual teacher and remained so for the duration of his life, until his passing in 2007.

“I shared with Sri Chinmoy that I wanted to create a space that would be a real vehicle to convey love and inspiration for the practice of meditation and yoga and he created the name The Pilgrimage of the Heart.”  This safe space eluding love and spiritual practice started as a new age bookstore in 2006, providing literate on the practices of yoga.  From there a few yoga classes were hosted throughout the week, word then spread and many more yoga classes were being taught, with this the need for more instructors emerged.

Sujantra now owns two Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga studios, in the heart of North Park and Normal Heights, California.  He instructs 5 classes a week at both locations, teaching all 8 aspects of yoga and exploring the relevance of this ancient art in our modern society. His classes include, Beginning/Gentle Yoga, Yoga for children and Hatha levels I and II, as well as guided meditation as well as a musical meditation course. Continently, for those who can’t make it out to the studio, instructional meditation videos are now provided on www.pilgrimageyogaonline.com.

Not only had Sujantra created a platform to bridge the gap of ancient aspects of yoga to a modern group of people through his studios and website; but he has written 5 books and has lectured in more than 25 countries on the practices as well.  “ I find that the hardest job a teacher faces, is connecting with his audience, so what I’ve tried to accomplish with my lectures and writings is making meditation very accessible to people and to demystify yoga in that sense.” His writings include: Learn to Meditate, Paths Are Many Truth Is One: A Journey to the Essence of Spirituality and Religion, Ancient Wisdom for Modern Lives: The Mandukya Upanished, 7 Secrets to Super-Health, and Strategy for Success.  

As I glance down at my notes, realizing I haven’t prepared anymore questions, I am ready to improvise.  I look up, about to impose a question about his own personal practice and finding the time amidst his busy schedule; only to find that Sujantra has taken it upon himself to find the time right then.  Very clearly deep within his practice, I smile, realizing this was the most appropriate cue for the conclusion of our interview. I head for the door, feeling extremely inspired as I turn to exit I hear “I hope our practices emerge one day, Molly.  Be well.”

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Molly Flores is originally from New York and has been living in San Diego for the past 10 years. She has a busy life as a mom of two, and is deeply interested in expanding her practice and understanding of yoga and meditation. This piece originated as an interview with Pilgrimage Yoga Online studio founder, Sujantra McKeever. Molly is a student is Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in Normal Heights and North Park in San Diego. 

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A Breakdown of the Teachings of Ramana Maharshi.

Ramana is, in my estimation, the fountainhead of the teachings of self-inquiry that have become quite prevalent today. His basic teaching is interpreted and used by many teachers in our time.

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Ramana Maharshi taught the technique of self-inquiry as a method to reach liberation. His teachings are rooted in an ancient Indian philosophy called Advaita Vedanta. Ramana Maharshi synthesized these voluminous, obscure and often inaccessible teachings into a simple, profound and accessible technique centered on the “I AM” experience.

Ramana, who passed away in 1950 at the age of 71, advised seekers to observe the flow of thoughts cascading endlessly through the mind and to pose to oneself the simple question: “To whom are these thought occurring?” The answer is obviously: To me. The next question the seeker ask is: “Who am I?” This is the essence of how to practice self inquiry.

 

An Introduction to Ramana’s Teachings

I first encountered the teachings of Ramana Maharshi in 1980, at age 18, while attending the University of California at San Diego. I had been practicing various types of mediation for about two years. His writings inspired me and gave me clarity in my spiritual search, yet I found the technique rather difficult. It was not till 30 years later that I would uncover within his teachings a few keys that have made the practice very accessible.

Ramana is, in my estimation, the fountainhead of the teachings of self-inquiry that have become quite prevalent today. His basic teaching is interpreted and used by many teachers in our time. Not all do the same justice to his teachings and some have created questionable hybrids. Best to drink from the source if you want the purest water.

When exploring his teachings it is it is important to remember that his original words and writings were not in English. Others later translated them into English. English does not have a sufficient lexicon of spiritual vocabulary to translate word for word from Sanskrit or other Indian languages. Understanding the intricacies of a practice such as self-inquiry requires an exact understanding of the teachings.

To remedy this I suggest either studying Sanskrit or Tamil or reading at least 4 of Ramana’s books in English (different translators worked on his books) to great the feel for the spirit of his teachings.

Coming back to my college attempts at self-inquiry. After having read just a few passages from Ramana I tried the technique of observing my thoughts, then asking, “To whom have these thoughts arisen?” I would then have the thought, “They have arisen to me.” I would then ask: “Who am I.” The problem was–I felt like I was in a hall of mirrors. Whatever thought or idea would arise in response to “Who am I?” would just lead me to ask again “Who am I?” and I just kept going around and around in the carousel of my mind. It became frustrating and seemed senseless.

As “fate” would have it—I can explore Ramana’s philosophy on free will and destiny at another time!—I moved onto other meditation techniques, disheartened by the hall of mirrors effect.

Many years later I returned to the writings of Ramana in more depth, read 5 different books by Ramana, each translated by a different translator—hence my above suggestion to you—and discovered the solution to my challenge.

 

Talks with Ramana Maharshi

Talks with Ramana Maharshi is the book that unraveled my confusion. The book is a translation of talks that Ramana had with visitors to his ashram and covers a period of four years, 1935-1939. All were recorded and translated by Sri Munagala S. Venkataramiah who spoke both Tamil and English fluently.

In a discussion the visitor says that in the process of enquiry thoughts suddenly cease and then the deeper sense of I—to whom all these thoughts occur—arises as a FEELING! They ask if it is this feeling they are to focus on.

On page 17 of the book Ramana says, “It is certainly right. Thoughts must cease and reason disappear for the “I-I” to rise up and be FELT. FEELING is the prime factor and not reason.” (Emphasis is mine.)

What had happened to me in college was that in the process of asking the question “Who am I?” I was expecting or awaiting an answer in the form of a certain thought. I was posing the question through thought and sought a thought in return. But what becomes clear from the above passage is that although the question is asked with thought, what one is seeking in answer is a feeling. A feeling of Self.

Once I began to FEEL my sense of “I,” of individuality, I knew, both intuitively, and through the writings of Ramana that I was now following the thread of awareness in the direction his teaching were pointing: toward liberation.

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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The Benefits of Yoga & The Power of Sharing With Others.

There are currently over 20 million Americans practicing yoga. If each one of us who practices could inspire one new person to do yoga then that would double the number of Americans bringing strength, balance and flexibility to their bodies and minds.

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I first started learning yoga in the mid-1970s when I was in high school in the San Francisco Bay Area.

There was a television program that was on each week. I would go to my dad’s office on the third floor of our family home, close the door for privacy—I was a bit embarrassed by my interest in yoga–and follow along trying to put my body into these strange positions.

Unfortunately, I’ve never been very limber and most of the asanas were inaccessible to me, I could barely touch my toes, but I was able to do the breathing exercises that were part of every session.


I noticed almost immediately the positive effects the pranayama had on my state of mind. After just a few minutes of breath control, I felt empowered and calm. I was also a runner and found that going on long runs and focusing on my breathing was also a powerful way to relieve the social anxiety I was going through during high school. Yoga and running were a lot better and healthier than smoking pot and drinking beer. I was hooked on yoga and have been ever since.

Once I began feeling the positive effects of yoga I immediately wanted to share the techniques with others. It is like going on a hike and discovering a beautiful alpine lake. After enjoying the lake for myself I immediately want to share the experience with others I care about.

I found over the years at one of the best ways to explain to others the benefits of meditation is through scientific and well-documented research.

I recently came across an excellent blog that very clearly explores 18 amazing benefits of yoga. The article explains everything from the power of yoga to relieve stress and anxiety to increasing fertility through various postures and breathing techniques.

When I was first practicing meditation it was the research initiated by Transcendental Mediation under the guidance of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi—the Beatles guru—that made clear to me the power of meditation on the mind and body.

There are currently over 20 million Americans practicing yoga. If each one of us who practices could inspire one new person to do yoga then that would double the number of Americans bringing strength, balance and flexibility to their bodies and minds.

The yoga philosophy says that the state of the world is a direct result of the state of each individual in the world. It is our collective consciousness that creates the consciousness of our country and the world.

Our yoga site PYO.yoga was created to share yoga with everyone regardless of their financial status. We created our Pay As You Wish structure so that everyone can access high-quality yoga instruction in the comfort of their own home.

If you want to share Yoga with others, be a living example of the power of yoga and educate yourself on the many benefits of yoga. You will be a convincing representation of the practice. Sharing the inspiration of yoga feels great and helps to create a better world now and for future generations.

 

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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Mental Health in the Workplace: How to Use Meditation to Ease Depression.

Brain scans done on meditators learning mindfulness have shown that they have decreased activity in the amygdala (a part of the brain associated with stress and anxiety) when exposed to negative thoughts.

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I first began studying and reading about meditation in the late 1970’s. At that time everything I read focused on meditation as a practice rooted in spiritual philosophy and the practice was centered on the attainment of mystical experience. I began practicing and found that it worked.

That was nearly 40 years ago. These days meditation and mindfulness have both been found useful not only for the attainment of enlightenment but also for performance enhancement, stress reduction and managing depression.

Mystical teachings lay out a simple and straightforward plan for using meditation as a pathway to enlightenment. Meditation is also a fast, easy way to clear the clutter of your mind, still your thoughts and reduce stress.  It works.

Enlightenment can take a lifetime. Stress reduction can happen in minutes. And even a few sessions of meditation can work wonders.

 

How Meditation Works

Brain scans done on meditators learning mindfulness have shown that they have decreased activity in the amygdala (a part of the brain associated with stress and anxiety) when exposed to negative thoughts.  Meditators were better able to notice negative thoughts without responding to them by getting upset or anxious.

Research has shown that adding mindfulness practice to treatment plans can help reduce the recurrence of chronic depression.  Mindfulness has also been successfully used to augment treatment of a variety of mental health issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, addiction, and others.

Depression is the leading cause of disability affecting some 7% of the population. The challenge of calming our minds can be daunting especially when dealing with depression. One of the first steps is acknowledging that we need to start.

 

Depression in the Workplace

Researchers also have measured far higher incidences of depression among entrepreneurs. In the San Francisco Bay Area, home to Silicon Valley and a highly successful talent pool of entrepreneurs, the 2-Minute Mind Check now encourages employees to take a short, mental health survey that measures where you stand on the depression scale. This initiative, organized by the ADAANAMI-SFWeWork, and Meru Health, also offers free resources to help employees manage those symptoms. 

 

 

Websites like PYO.yoga offer dozens of meditation exercises with guided visualizations and imagery (on a pay as you wish basis). Meditation apps like InsightTimer and Calm are available which allow you to learn and practice meditation in the comfort of your own home. You can also check online in your local area for meditation classes.

My journey of learning meditation was helped immensely by meeting and practicing with those who knew how to meditate. Seek out local teachers.  There are also many books available on the subject. The writings of Jon Kabat Zinn are highly recommended as he was a pioneer in identifying many of the health benefits of meditation.

 

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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Benefits of Yoga In the Classroom (Spoiler Alert: It Helps Everyone).

Whether you’re a student, teacher, parent or administrator—the benefits of yoga in the classroom extend to an entire network of individuals.

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There are many stereotypes and clichés that surround the practice of yoga. Many people have not been able to explore the benefits of yoga because of these stereotypes, but lately, it has grown into a mainstream activity and the stereotypes that have existed for years are slowly fading. However, not many have ever thought about yoga in schools and how this could impact the performance of both teachers and students.

Here are some of the ways yoga in the classroom can leave a positive impact on the lives of students, teachers and families.

 

Enhances mind-body awareness

When students are trained to pay attention, they are able to grow the relationship between their bodies and minds. Therefore, school-based yoga is one of the ways students can benefit from the development of mind-body awareness. Also referred to as mindfulness, this awareness can impact the behavior of students in many ways. For example, when you encourage your students to undertake a 5 minutes breathing exercise that help to relax their tight stomachs instead of going for some chips, it helps them develop a behavior that largely improves their choices in life.

 

According to preliminary studies, it was noted that of children between the ages of 8 and 15 who completed a yoga program at school, four children’s low self-esteem improved, and there was an average weight loss of 2kg among all students. This led to the conclusion that classroom yoga is beneficial to students not only for improvement to mental functioning (like attention), but it also has an impact on their overall physical well-being.

 

Cultivates physical fitness

There is also a difference between yoga and mindfulness meditation, and this is the fact that yoga is also about doing physical postures. Essentially, yoga includes both mindfulness and motion. Ogden CL, Flegal KM, Kit BK, and Caroll MD (2012) conducted a study to measure the prevalence of obesity among adolescents in the U.S.. From their findings, they drew the conclusion that American children tend to get more obese over time (a period of 12 years to be exact).

Satya Prakash Purohit conducted research to establish how yoga impacts physical fitness among adolescents and the findings were that one of the benefits of yoga is it improves the respiratory function and reduces obesity risk factors. Therefore, embracing classroom yoga only serves to make the lives of the students better and this also ensures teachers have easy time while dealing with their students because they are healthier and more attentive.

 

Supports positive classroom climate and enhances teacher resilience

In addition to providing room for improvement in the cognitive ability among students, classroom yoga has also shown to help teachers. When educators are provided with yoga training focused on acquiring mindfulness skills, they gain different perspectives that positively affect moods, concentration, stress and reasoning.

What this means is that teachers are assured to have the best classroom climate. And with the good mood that comes with yoga, it becomes easy to improve the development of relationships with students. The overall effect is a better learning climate, as most of the performance in learning achieved is as a result of the resilience and ability of the teacher to deeply connect with the students and create lasting relationships.

 

Improves performance, mental state, and student behavior

The CASEL (2015) established that social-emotional learning is a function of five core competencies: Self-management, self-awareness, relationship skills, social awareness, and responsible decision-making. The conclusion of this study suggests that all schools would benefit from having programs that help students build these competencies so they are set up to succeed both personally and academically.

Part of the solution suggested that one of the ways students build these competencies is by embracing yoga and meditation, which are known to improve self-awareness, rational decision making, and emotional management. Additionally, the findings also showed classroom yoga boosts academic achievement and classroom behavior. It may lead to different positive outcomes including reduced risk of psychological disorders, enhanced cognitive performance, and improved mood.

 

Flow, integration and connection

When poses are stringed together in a yoga practice, kids are given a picture of what it feels to move seamlessly. It helps improve the awareness that movements are made up of coordinated efforts between bones, muscles, nerves, and joints. Yoga helps kids to boost that sense of feeling integrated, and to understand how their body moves in space (proprioception). Improvement in these areas has shown to improve self-esteem and confidence, which translates into more empowered social skills, both at school and at home.

 

Putting it all together

Whether you’re a student, teacher, parent or administrator—the benefits of yoga in the classroom extend to an entire network of individuals. Classroom yoga might involve bringing in a specialized yoga teacher to work with a group of students, offering yoga as a physical activity, or bringing in a yoga teacher for after school programs. If your school is in the greater San Diego area, Pilgrimage Yoga Online would be happy to work with you to develop a program and find the right yoga teacher for your needs. Contact us today to get started by sending an email to info@pilgrimageyoga.com.

 

 

SCOTT GROZA is an education expert who has been pursuing various developmental subjects that impact the performance of students and one of his latest findings reveal that yoga is an essential part of enhancing the performance of students in the classroom.

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Corporate Mindfulness Training: The Key To Happier & More Productive Employees

Corporate Mindfulness Programs are designed to help employers create a healthy work environment.

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When employees are constantly trying to keep up with the assigned tasks of the hour, a company’s bottom line can be as negatively impacted as morale.

Corporate Mindfulness Programs are designed to help employers create a healthy work environment that contributes to positive work-life balance, increased problem-solving and emotional skills, low employee turnover, and better productivity. The practice highlights how mental and physical fitness of the employees can have major financial benefits and improvement to morale.

 

How do I know a Corporate Mindfulness Training Program is right for my company? 

Here are some symptoms that indicate it’s time to start looking into Corporate Mindfulness Programs as a sustainable method of improving your company’s bottom line and ensuring your workers love coming to work every day:

  • Constant disputes and disagreements between employees
  • Increased absenteeism at work
  • Reports on ill-health and low-activity
  • An Increase in complaints and accusations
  • Persistent decrease in professional outcomes without concrete background
  • Reported periods of mood swings and anxiety

This article explores the different features and uses of Corporate Mindfulness Programs and the change you can expect to see in your employees, work environment and bottom line when you sign up for a Corporate Mindfulness Program.

 

What features does a Corporate Mindfulness Training Program have? 

Corporate Mindfulness Training programs are usually customized according to the requirement of the client. The program can be conducted in both a group setting or on a solo basis in order to help certain employees manage specific psychological issues at work. Each training is offered in a different package and format. An average session can last anywhere from 60-90 minutes and can be focused on a number of topics including, mindfulness, meditation, yoga, stress-reduction and more. Mindfulness programs can be conducted virtually through video chats and webinars, or on location in a large space like a conference room or auditorium. (For example, PYO offers a mindfulness program both remotely and locally to the San Diego area.)

While there are no two programs exactly alike, here is you’re likely to receive from a Corporate Mindfulness Training Program:

  • Mindfulness training sessions tailored for the workplace environment
  • Stress-reduction sessions aimed at providing employees the tools necessary to stay mentally clear at work, no matter what situation is going on
  • Yoga and movement classes geared toward enhancing mental and physical energy

 

How do I know my program representative is qualified?

They will be an experienced yoga teacher or meditation expert who has previously worked in a corporate environment and is aware of the flaws and rewards of corporate life. It is important that each representative has a thorough background in teaching meditation to beginners, as most employees may have had limited exposure to this activity.

 

What changes will I see in my company from participating in a Corporate Mindfulness Training program? 

  • Reduce stress levels of the employees
  • Higher levels of job satisfaction
  • Help increase cognitive capacity and emotional intelligence
  • Lower anxiety and backlash behavior
  • Decrease absenteeism
  • Improvement in interpersonal and communication skills
  • Better self-awareness and improved decision-making capacity
  • Better attention space and ability to concentrate
  • Hone creative and intuitive skills for developing innovative thought patterns at work

 

Pilgrimage Yoga Online is a virtual Corporate Mindfulness Training Program. The bulk of our program exists right here on this online platform, and includes access to hundreds of yoga and meditation videos, designed to do both at the office (check out our office yoga) and at home. Contact us today to learn more about starting your own program.

 

UTTAM GHOSH‘s fascination for yoga developed in childhood when he experienced the bhakti form of yoga with his grandfather. Through hard work, dedication and experience, he was initiated onto the Kundalini Yoga Path by Swami Vidyananda. Swami Vidyananda also honored him with a spiritual name as “Rishi Raj”. Uttam teaches a wide range of Transformational Kundalini Yoga, Hatha Yoga and Ashtanga Yoga in Rishikesh. He also conducts various workshops around the globe concerning meditation and yoga therapy.

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What Is A Kirtan Band? (And Other Things You Should Know About Kirtan.)

In truth, once you learn some chants, you don’t necessarily need a band… you can chant internally. This post explores the ins and outs of kirtan bands.

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Kirtan is a meditational and devotional chanting experience usually set to music. Traditionally, a Kirtan leader will sing through the chant, or a line in the chant, and then the participants/audience will sing the chant back to the leader. This happens back and forth, over and over again, in a form called, ‘call and response.’ The Kirtan band provides the accompanying music and melody.

 

The word Kirtan (kirtanam) comes from Sanskrit, the ancient language of India. It means praise or eulogy, and more casually means ‘to repeat or recite the Names’ of the divine. As the chant progresses, the mind becomes clear of mundane thoughts and is focused on the divine, creation, Creator and our place in the universe. Kirtan (chanting) is a very simple technique that can produce a very profound reconnection with the core of our being. I like to think of Kirtan as the easiest and most accessible form of meditation, especially for beginners. And in truth, once you learn some chants, you don’t necessarily need a band… you can chant internally.

 

Components of a Kirtan Band

 

In our current time, Kirtan bands come in all shapes and sizes, traditional and contemporary. A very traditional band might consist of tabla (two single-sided Indian drums), the harmonium (an air powered reed organ that looks like a piano in a box) and Karatalas or talas (small hand cymbals). Additional traditional instruments might include the tanpura (a droning, stringed instrument), the Bansuri (a bamboo flute) and the sitar (loosely—an Indian guitar).

 

The harmonium is often a staple and foundation of a kirtan band. While most harmoniums are made in India today, they are originally from Europe. The British brought them to India during their colonization in the mid-eighteen hundreds. They were easier to ship than grand pianos. The crafty Indians fell in love with them and the harmonium is now considered the prime instrument for devotional music in India.

To play the harmonium, the right hand plays the keys and the left hand pumps air through the instrument. Unlike a piano, the harmonium can create a drone sound that can play underneath an entire song.

 

Most harmoniums are made rather cheaply. Most folks in India can’t afford a quality, high-end instrument. The well-made harmoniums are few and are mostly shipped to the west. If you are thinking about buying a harmonium, find a reputable dealer in the U.S. (with a solid return policy) and really do your homework. The fancy bells and whistles, drones, scale shifters, key couplers, vibrato, etc. are very unnecessary and are entirely mechanical, subject to break down. What is most important are the reeds, the keys and the bellows.

For San Diegans: The Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) bookstore in Encinitas has a good selection of harmoniums for sale. You can play them and find one that meets your needs.

 

Contemporary Kirtan

 

In the last couple of decades, western contemporary Kirtan bands have incorporated every imaginable modern instrument and style of musical accompaniment. Rock, hip-hop, country, techno… with guitar, bass, drum kits, keyboards, violins and computers abound.

 

Pilgrimage of the Heart has offered Kirtan on a weekly basis for the last eight years. Our band instrumentation consists of harmonium and tabla, with guitar and bass, a blend of modern and traditional. Our chants are also a similar blend. We offer chants from the Hindu, Buddhist, Hebrew, Islam and Christian traditions and also contemporary songs in the gospel, blues and folk genres which mesh well with the underlying principle of connecting with the core of our being. We have a very diverse practice while maintaining a traditional atmosphere.

Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga’s kirtan band is composed of tablas, a harmonium, guitar and bass. And of course, any other musicians we’re collaborating with.

 

Kirtan has diverged from what might well be considered a folk music, devotional practice (Bhakti yoga), into concert-like events. While these large events might surely be inspiring and entertaining, participating in one or two events of this type annually doesn’t really build a foundation for Kirtan in your regular yoga/meditation practice. Learning the foundational chants and sharing your voice with friends and strangers alike quickly becomes a desired part of your life. At its least effective, Kirtan is an hour or two of entertainment. At its height, Kirtan is a profound meditational practice that adds vast depth to your overall yoga experience.

 

Starting a Kirtan Band

 

All this being said, if you want to start a Kirtan band the first thing you need to do is learn some chants. Most of the foundational mantras have public domain music associated with them. Or you can make up your own version. Then grab a guitar (they’re easier to come by than harmoniums). Kirtan can be played on any instrument. A keyboard can be used instead of a harmonium. A cajon or bongos or a djembe (any drum) can be used instead of tabla (tabla can be challenging to learn, although we have some videos where we go over the basics). Any instruments will do. What’s important is to fall in love with the practice and to lead with your heart!

 

Kirtan in San Diego

 

Pilgrimage of the Heart Kirtan gathers every Thursday evening at 8:30 p.m. in San Diego and we currently broadcast the events on Facebook and Instagram LIVE. We are the only weekly Kirtan practice in San Diego. Our events are open to all and are family friendly. We invite you to join us and bring a friend.

Join us every Thursday night at Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in Normal Heights for San Diego’s only weekly kirtan event.

 

Lend your voice, and enliven your heart!

 

TOM WARNER: 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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How to Reduce Stress at Work: 6 Tips for Staying Balanced In Chaotic Circumstances

There are pretty obvious signs when we’re feeling stressed at work. Irritation, anxiety, impatience…

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Image from Pixabay.

There are pretty obvious signs when we’re feeling stressed at work. Irritation, anxiety, impatience, lack of enthusiasm and interest, working on a short fuse—we all know them, and we’ve probably all felt them at one time or another.

Work-related stress is not an uncommon occurrence and, its triggers are usually pretty straightforward. For example, how familiar is the following list of stress triggers to you?

  • Sudden change of pace and environment
  • A lost promotion
  • Communication barriers
  • Sudden crisis
  • Long, continuous working hours
  • Poor salary and lack of timely appraisal
  • Role conflicts and poor job description boundaries
  • Lack of career development
  • Monotonous work profile (aka assembly-line work)
  • Unmet expectations
  • Chaotic and emotional work environment.

And stress comes with all sorts of behavioral and physiological modifiers. For instance, it’s not uncommon for us to find ourselves irritable, confused, and without interest when we are experiencing stress. Our bodies may show other adjustments, like irregular blood pressure, migraine headaches, changes in appetite and weight gain, sudden hair loss.

The good news is, once we fully understand the problem, it’s easier to find a solution to match. The following tips are tried and true for successful stress management.

1. Clean Your Workspace

 

This is wherever you do most of your work, be it at home or at the office. Give it a good cleaning. Re-instate your work station. Give yourself a fresh start and your workstation too. Stress management at work starts with ‘chaos management’ –it’s important that our immediate environment is organized to avoid confusion and burnout. By simplifying our work station, we open ourselves to being more organized and productive, and small tasks that tend to fall through the cracks are more easily caught and can be incorporated into manageable workflows. Sometimes our stress is simply due to a lack of organization and an inability to keep all our changing tasks clear in our minds.

2. Organize your Calendar

 

The next step is to gear up and organize your schedule on a calendar– set it with prior notifications so you can manage your time and tasks with much more efficiency. If we are constantly holding our to-do list in our heads, it can spiral out of control very quickly.

Our calendar is our tool to keep our tasks our of our minds until it’s time to take action on them. This frees up our mind to be action-oriented instead and allows us to shift from a reactive mental state to a proactive state.

3. Avoid Multitasking

 

Studies have proved at multi tasking is more of a quality-deteriorating activity rather than a time-saving gift. People who indulge in multi-tasking are more likely to perform poorly in assigned projects, compared to people who focus on accomplishing one project at a time. Moreover, the cumulative time consumed in accomplishing two projects simultaneously has been recorded to be much longer than the sum amount of time consumed in accomplishing two activities, one after another. Multitasking greatly contributes to the added pressure and results in additional stress. Hence, it is best to avoid it.

4. Communicate

 

Once we maximize our efficiency by clearing our workspace, organizing our calendar and focusing on one task at a time, we might still find that we’re encountering a lot of stress. For example, our workload might be altogether unreasonable, or our project teams may not be working together as well as they could be. In these situations, communication is the key.

In order to maximize the likelihood that we will get what we want from these situations, it’s important that we are clear about our feelings, needs and requests before we walk in the room or send the email.

For example, in a recent email I sent to my manager I indicated that I was feeling stressed out due to too much work. I was able to identify that my some of my basic needs were not being met: autonomy (feeling like I have control over my life and my time), safety(stress does not feel safe in my body), and rest & recreation. Once I identified my unmet needs, I made a request to have more scheduled breaks during my workday. While we may not always be granted our requests, we will at least gained clarity about unmet needs and strategies for getting those needs met

5. Practice Meditation

 

But, Meditation is a magical remedy when it comes to dealing with any kind of mental stress. All it takes is a 20-minute of non-monetary investment and you are on your way to a stress-free mind. The most important quotient is — how to ensure we practice meditation well enough to reap its benefits well? In what way can we make sure those moments spent in the practice of meditation technique are the moments well spent. Let us glance at that.

There are two major components that combine the practice of Meditation – Breath Awareness and Posture.

‘Breath’ is the bridge between the body and the mind. And, ‘posture’ is the vessel that facilitates this divine process.

6. Indulge in some Yoga practice

 

Practice yoga for instant relief from stress-related symptoms. Asanas like Setubandhasana (Bridge Pose), Marjariasana (Cat Stretch), Paschimottanasana (Two-Legged Forward Bend), Hastapadasana (Standing Forward Bend), AdhomukhaSvanasana (Downward Facing Dog), etc. are ace yoga asanas for dealing with work-related stress. Alternatively, you can also practice chair yoga poses if you are unable to find space for ground exercises.

Here at our online studio, we have hundreds of yoga and meditation videos to choose from, some of which can be practiced right at the office!

These tips help you refurbish your work-life towards its betterment.

Here’s to living a happy and stress-free life! 

Author Bio :

Predeep KumarisPradeep Kumaris a passionate Blogger, Yogi, Traveler and a Yoga Teacher. He teaches Yoga in a Yoga School in India. He loves writing and reading the books related to yoga, health, nature and the Himalayas. . His strong connection with Yoga and the Himalayas has made him to organize yoga, meditation and Ayurveda tours and Yoga retreats in Himalayas.

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Examples Of Companies Using Mindfulness: How It Affects Their Bottom Line

In today’s working environment, many of us spend more time at work…

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Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

In today’s working environment, many of us spend more time at work than we do at home. Often thrown together with a group of people that we’ve never met before, we’re expected to work, collaborate and be productive in an environment that’s largely alien to the way we have historically built communities. It’s therefore no surprise that things don’t always go smoothly, and research suggests that the hours we spend at work are the least happy of our lives.

At the worst end of the spectrum are the horrors of workplace bullying, overbearing managers and internal conflict, and at the rosier end of the corporate rainbow is indifference, a lack of caring and reduced productivity. In an increasingly knowledge based economy, the success of a business is inherently linked with the mental dexterity, motivation and collaboration within its workforce. Poor working relationships and any subsequent stress can erode these very attributes, spelling disaster for the future performance of a business.

In an attempt to address these issues, new perspectives on employee wellbeing have been emerging over recent years, with mindfulness programs the seemingly “go to” solution for many organizations.

In simple terms, mindfulness is Buddhist tradition that focuses on moment-to-moment awareness. The practice of being mindful is to be aware of yourself and your surroundings, observing your thoughts without judgment or criticism. By acknowledging that these thoughts are transient in nature, you can start to appreciate that you are not your thoughts, and you have a choice about whether to act on them or not.

Backed by an increasing wealth of scientific evidence, business owners have been implementing a variety of mindfulness wellbeing initiatives throughout the corporate landscape; but do they actually work, and does it make a tangible difference to the bottom line?

In order to answer the question, it’s important to consider that the cost of stress on a business is twofold. First, there’s the direct cost that stress has on associated medical conditions, and according to the World Health Organization, stress is estimated to cost American businesses $300 billion a year.

Secondly, there’s the cost associated with a lack of creativity, reduced performance and productivity. While the latter is often much more difficult to quantify, there are organizations who have measured the impact of mindfulness, and the various effect that it’s had on their organization.

Aetna

Aetna is an American managed health care company that sells a variety of health insurance plans to its 46 million customers. Before he became CEO, Mark Bertolini almost died on a family skiing holiday, and during his recovery he used a combination of yoga and meditation to help manage the pain. The results were so profound that he fundamentally changed the way he viewed his recovery, and it inspired him to make a variety of health and wellbeing initiatives available for Aetna’s 50,000 employees, including free yoga and meditation classes.

With two mindfulness programs launched in 2010, Aetna collaborated with Duke University, eMindful, and the American Viniyoga Institute in order to study and understand the impact the wellbeing initiatives had on the organisation.

According to the research, participants showed significant improvement in perceived stress levels and various heart rate measurements, demonstrating that their bodies were better able to manage the various stresses that naturally occur during the working day.

The research also showed that highly stressed employees incurred an additional $2,000 per year in health care costs. With health care costs that total more than $90 million a year, the mindfulness initiative not only reduced the cost by 7 percent (a saving of $6.3 million per annum), but productivity gains amounted to $3,000 per employee.

General Mills

Janice Marturano was appointed by General Mills in 1996 as part of the organizations’ legal department, heading up policy work around trade regulation. After becoming embroiled in a £10.5 billion acquisition that lasted 18 months, combined with the sad loss of both parents during this period, the pressure and strain became too much, and Janice was left emotionally and physical drained.

After being offered an opportunity to attend a meditation retreat – led by Jon-Kabat-Zinn – the 6-day experience was the start of a daily meditation practice that she has continued ever since. With improvements in focus, emotional resilience and her overall quality of life, Janice decided to bring her lessons in mindfulness to General Mills in an ongoing pursuit to remake an entire corporate culture.

Now, more than 500 General Mills employees have taken part in the organizations’ mindfulness wellbeing program, and every building in the campus contains a meditation room, complete with yoga mats for employees to grab a few minutes of relaxation throughout the day.

Since the introduction of the program, the company’s reputation improved – with Leadership Excellence Magazine ranking it the best for developing leaders in 2012 – and after taking one of their seven-week courses, 80% of senior executives reported a positive change in their ability to make better decisions, and 89% saying they became better listeners.

Overall, the wellbeing program has helped employees to become more empathetic with each other, promoting a happy, healthy and engaging environment that’s viewed as a great place to work, 

Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF)

Mindfulness has been a core theme for legal firm HSF for more than 10 years. Murray Paterson is the head of learning and development, and initially designed the mindfulness program to help support employees who frequently work in a highly pressured and stressful environment.

With many employees working long hours, and with an emphasis on detailed, accurate work, mindfulness was seen as a valuable technique that would help focus employees attention and improve the quality of work produced.

To date approximately 200 employees have gone through the 6-week mindfulness program that includes weekly mindfulness sessions for anyone who wants to drop in, a weekly hour and a half session learning how to work more effectively in the office, and a daily 10 minutes guided practice via a pre-recorded message.

Available to everyone, from senior executives to new, junior employees, some of the results from their internal research include:

  • 12% increase in employee focus
  • 10% increase in employee performance
  • 10% increase in employee efficiency
  • 17% increase in employee work/life balance
  • 11% increase in employee communication skills

According to Murray Paterson, there’s a strong correlation between their mindfulness practice and reduced feelings of stress, and employees are working in a way where they feel calm and focussed on the task at hand.

The variety of Mindfulness initiatives, from both large and small organizations, is reshaping significant corners of the corporate world. While many businesses will still value profits above all else, mindfulness initiatives are proving that supporting the wellbeing of staff and increasing quarterly profits aren’t mutually exclusive.

Does your business need a wellness program at work to ensure happy, healthy and productive employees? Pilgrimage Yoga Online specializes in workplace wellness and mindfulness, and has the skills necessary to coach beginners on the skills and practices necessary to stay balanced at work. Contact us today at sujantra@pilgrimageyoga.com to learn more about our workplace wellness specialities.

BIO: This post was written by The Minded Institute, a world leader in the development and implementation of yoga therapy and mindfulness programs for those with mental health and chronic physical health problems.

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International Day of Yoga in San Diego: Behind the Scenes of 2017’s June Event

Yoga is becoming a lifestyle choice for millions of people around the world. Yoga embodies personal health…

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By Sujantra McKeever

Yoga is becoming a lifestyle choice for millions of people around the world. Yoga embodies personal health, wellness and a worldview focused on balance, strength and flexibility.

Even the United Nations is getting onboard!

This past June 17th 2017, our yoga studio, Pilgrimage of the Heart, located in San Diego, California, hosted a free, all-day yoga festival to express and share the lofty ideals of yoga. The event was organized around the 2014 proclamation whereby the United Nations declared June 21st to be known for all time as the International Day of Yoga.

2017’s International Day of Yoga in San Diego took place in Balboa Park and was a huge success! It featured two large group classes (with over 500 people attending!) and smaller workshop-style events, where participants were able to choose from a variety of specialized yoga classes and attend at their leisure (like acro-yoga, meditations, yoga therapy and other specialty classes). This is our second year of offering this event and our attendance doubled over our first year of sponsoring the event in 2016.

Festival of Yoga

Over 40 vendors offered their products and services, and there was public speaking and music to open and close the festival. People came from as far as Mexico and Arizona to join in the celebration for a full day of yoga and to share in the feeling of community, wellness and peace. One participant called the event, “…amazing, beautiful location…love Pilgrimage for setting this up.” Another said, “I love the energy of the event!”

The United Nations and yoga have a common ideal, a shared belief and wisdom: the betterment of life will come through harmony, cooperation and inner peace. Unfortunately, this wisdom is not yet shared by everyone.

Many people prefer to fight and argue, to bully others. This applies to both people and nations. I argue with you and you with me, we fight to find out who is stronger, whose ideas are better, and whose list of priorities is greater. Not only do we fight, we even kill our fellow human beings.

But there is another way, and this festival express that opportunity. The pictures of our event show that a more enlightened approach to life is within our reach. Within each of us is the alternative to anger and hatred. Peace and fellowship are possible, practical and inevitable.

Festival of Yoga

Yoga philosophy teaches that peace will dawn on earth only when peace exists in the hearts of individuals. True peace is not a document or a treaty, true peace is the feeling of oneness and community.

The United Nations was created in 1945 at the end of the Second World War. People at the time wanted to be sure there would never be another war of that magnitude. The charter of the United Nations states its reasons for being:

“ To maintain international peace and security … to develop friendly relations among nations … [To encourage] respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion; and to be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations in the attainment of these common ends.”

Festival of Yoga

Rahis Khan on Tablas

By practicing yoga we bring balance, strength and flexibility to our body, breath, mind and emotions. From there it shines into our thoughts, words and actions. It then spreads person-to-person, nation-to-nation. This is what we aim to do and contribute daily at the San Diego yoga studio and through our online yoga studio.

Yoga is not just a personal practice; it can also be a foundation for social change. The lives and activities of many world movers and shakers such as Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela are all rooted in the principle non-violence, which is a cornerstone of the yoga philosophy.

Festival of Yoga

Albert Einstein said: “Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.” Through yoga we begin to understand ourselves; with that understanding we can then begin to understand others.

Mother Teresa said: “Peace begins with a smile.” Practicing yoga is that smile, the quest for inner and outer happiness.

My meditation teacher, Sri Chinmoy, led twice-weekly meditations at the United Nations in New York for over 37 years. He wrote: “If a large number of people accept Yoga, then the face of society would be completely changed.”

Spending the day with 700 people who are the harbingers of that change was a great honor and privilege. I could see and feel what is possible for individuals and for society if only we would trust in the power of peace that yoga awakens.

We are already making preparations for our 2018 Festival and details can be found on our website at www.festivalofyogasandiego.org.

 

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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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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 64 – Mantras

Mantras, Japa and Mala Beads. Explore your inner dimensions through the use of mantras…

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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 64 – Mantras, Japa and Mala Beads. Explore your inner dimensions through the use of mantras.

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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 63 – Experience the Yoga Journey

Experience the yoga journey. Relaxation, pranayama, and soothing music…

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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 63 – Experience the yoga journey. Relaxation, pranayama, and soothing music for meditation with Shambhu.

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Enjoying a Silence Flooded Trance

Here at our yoga studio in San Diego I hear an endless stream of music…

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By Sujantra McKeever

Here at our yoga studio in San Diego I hear an endless stream of music designed to create a calm and peaceful environment for yoga and meditation. I listen carefully because when I find the right music for leading a yoga class or meditation class it is an invaluable find. Monk Party has created just that album.

Creating music that can inspire and motivate a yogi in the midst of an asana, pranayama practice or meditation exercise is not as simple as having the right synthesizer, drum machine and knowing Sanskrit words. I listen for music that not only has the yogic sound but that also carries an inner momentum that can move from the performer to the listener.

Listening to the tracks on Silence Flooded Trance offers me that lift. This father and son duo out of New Zealand exudes a sincerity that comes through in the music. Its genetic bond also helps when it comes to blending voices; creating a magical quality.

Monk Party

Their music was composed by the late spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy whose music has been performed by John McLaughlin, Carlos Santana, Clarence Clemons, Narada Micheal Walden, Roberta Flack and a host of other musicians.

My suggestion: get your yoga going and let this music fuel your journey!

 

Sujantra McKeever owns Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego and writes for Huffington Post and Elephant Journal. He also has an online yoga studio: PYO.yoga.

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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 62 – Staying Organized

Meditation and staying organized in your life…

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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 62 – Meditation and staying organized in your life. Being truthful with yourself reduces stress and helps you free yourself from your challenges.

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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 61 – Meditation on Love

Meditation on Love: Expanding our love and opening our hearts…

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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 61 – Meditation on Love: Expanding our love and opening our hearts.

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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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Ep 60 – Practical Mindfulness

Joe shares practical mindfulness techniques to increase awareness throughout your day…

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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 60 – Joe shares practical mindfulness techniques to increase awareness throughout your day.

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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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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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Meditation Podcast E59: Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, 1:27-9

Emily delves into Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, 1:27-9 regarding the chanting of AUM: the Word, the Idea, the Release…

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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 59: Tuesday evening meditation with Emily Ruth at Pilgrimage of the Heart yoga studio, San Diego. Emily delves into Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, 1:27-9 regarding the chanting of AUM: the Word, the Idea, the Release.

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Meditation Podcast E58: Being Mindful All Day Long

Sujantra provides tips and techniques for maintaining conscious awareness throughout the day…

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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 58: Being mindful all day long. Sujantra provides tips and techniques for maintaining conscious awareness throughout the day.

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Meditation Podcast E57: Nurturing Self-Love

Nurturing Self-love. Honoring your mind’s tranquility and your life’s purpose (dharma)…

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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 57: Nurturing Self-love. Honoring your mind’s tranquility and your life’s purpose (dharma).

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Meditation Podcast E56: Techniques for Transformation

Techniques for transformation. Learn to resolve issues and cultivate unique qualities…

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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 56: Meditation:Techniques for transformation. Learn to resolve issues and cultivate unique qualities.

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Meditation Podcast E55: The Power of Dreams

Meditation: The power of dreams. Focusing your awareness on your dreams and visions for your future…

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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 55: Meditation: The power of dreams. Focusing your awareness on your dreams and visions for your future.

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6 Surprising Benefits of Yoga

Those who practice yoga regularly probably find this title a little surprising in itself. Practitioners often speak…

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By Sally Holland

Those who practice yoga regularly probably find this title a little surprising in itself. Practitioners often speak of the many benefits that yoga brings to their lives – a greater sense of calmness, new opportunities for social interaction, a boost in self-confidence or enhanced physical fitness, and many more. But beyond our personal experience with yoga, there are many documented benefits for body, mind and spirit as well. The next time you speak to someone who doubts the extent to which yoga can change their life, mention these recent scientific findings:

1. Yoga reduces stress

Studies have shown that the regular practice of yoga reduces stress hormone levels, improves mood and battles fatigue, even in life-changing challenges such as breast cancer. Yoga is currently recommended for those who experience chronic stress and is a popular supplemental therapy in a wide range of settings, including rehabilitation centers and counseling sessions for individuals with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and eating disorders.

Peace and Serenity

2. Yoga encourages compassion for others and ourselves

In Buddhism, there is no distinction between compassion for others (being kind and understanding with someone, no matter the circumstances) and self-compassion (being kind and forgiving with ourselves). The yogic frame of mind involves self-acceptance, which elevates us to a higher plane than mere self-confidence. Confidence enables us to be proud when we achieve great things, yet self-compassion is more important because it encourages acceptance even when we have failed to meet our own or others’ standards.

3. Yoga can help with back pain

A recent study published in January 2017 in the Cochrane Library found that yoga may lead to a reduction of pain and increased functional ability in people with chronic, non-specific back pain. Other studies have shown it can help with chronic neck pain, and even migraines.

4. Yoga can help battle anxiety

Anxiety is one of the most common mental conditions on a global scale, and is characterized by the constant arousal of the fight of flight reaction. During an anxiety attack, individuals can feel dizzy, think they are having a heart attack, or have a full-blown panic attack which involves hyperventilation. Hyperventilation is caused by rapid inhalation (flooding one’s system with oxygen). This is why someone having a panic attack is often given a paper bag to breathe into. Yoga can help with this because it places great importance on controlled breathing (pranayama). This type of breathing instantly lowers the heart rate, thus being of great use to stop a panic attack from arising. An interesting report published in the International Journal of Yoga Therapy, shows that yoga helps those who suffer from anxiety, who also tend to worry constantly and get locked in patterns of negative thinking. These types of thoughts are often linked to the past or the future. Yoga is very much a mindful activity, which involves ‘being in the here and now’, focusing on aspects such as breathing and the correct performance of asanas.

5. Yoga can help stave off depression

One study shows that Sudarshan Kriya yoga (which is centered around breathing) can alleviate symptoms of severe depression in individuals who do not respond well to antidepressant medication.

6. Yoga can help with arthritis

Studies have shown that yoga is safe and effective for people with arthritis, bringing significant improvement in mood and symptoms. In one study carried out by scientists at John Hopkins Medicine, it was found that eight weeks of yoga classes improved the physical and mental health of people with knee and rheumatoid arthritis. Compared to a control group which did not practice yoga, those who attended the sessions had a 20% improvement in pain, mood, physical functions and vitality! They were also able to increase their walking speed and complete more physical tasks at work and at home. Chair yoga in particular is very useful for those with limited mobility, since it provides them with the support and sense of safety.

A considerable body of scientific research has focused on the many benefits of yoga. Over the past decade, many more findings have been made. These include yoga’s ability to stimulate brain function, improve the quality of life of people with certain types of heart disease, encourage mindful eating, reduce pain associated with fibromyalgia and so much more.

If you have never tried yoga before, discover how it can change your own life after just a few sessions.

 

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Meditation Podcast E54: Finding Self and Letting Go

Meditation: Finding Self and letting go…

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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 54: Meditation: Finding Self and letting go… Sujantra explores both dimensions of being.

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Meditation Podcast E53: Visualizations at the Quantum Level

Meditation: Visualizations at the quantum level. Sujantra explores how meditation shapes 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 53: Meditation: Visualizations at the quantum level. Sujantra explores how meditation shapes reality.

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Meditation Podcast E52: Spirit & Matter

Meditation: Spirit & Matter. Sujantra delves into these twin realities of equal importance…

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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 52: Meditation: Spirit & Matter. Sujantra delves into these twin realities of equal importance.

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Meditation Podcast E51: Meditation: the sea of light.

Meditation. Dive into the sea of light…

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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 51: Meditation. Dive into the sea of light.

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Meditation Podcast E50: Consciousness

Consciousness. The thread that connects us to the universe…

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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 50: Consciousness. The thread that connects us to the universe.

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Meditation Podcast E49: Truth Alone Triumphs

Truth alone triumphs. Finding your truth in your heart…

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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 49: Truth alone triumphs. Finding your truth in your heart.

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Meditation Podcast E48: The Microcasm and Macrocasm

Discovering the similarities and differences between the microcosm and macrocosm…

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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 48: Discovering the similarities and differences between the microcosm and macrocosm.

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Interviews Podcast E17: David Gandelman

David Gandelman shares his long history with meditation and inspires all to start the practice…

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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 17: David Gandelman shares his long history with meditation and inspires all to start the practice.

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Meditation Podcast E47: Opening Your Heart Flower

Opening your heart flower. Sing and meditate for inner awareness…

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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 47: Opening your heart flower. Sing and meditate for inner awareness.

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Meditation Podcast E46: Peace in Every Human Life

Peace in every human life. Meditation on creating peace in your heart and life…

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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 46: Peace in every human life. Meditation on creating peace in your heart and life.

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Interviews Podcast E15: Sarah Platt-Finger

Sarah delves into Yoga, Tantra, Ishta, New York and Yoga to heal domestic violence…

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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 15: Sarah delves into Yoga, Tantra, Ishta, New York and Yoga to heal domestic violence.

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Meditation Podcast E45: Find True Love Within and Without

Exploring the Heart. Find true love within and without…

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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 45: Exploring the Heart. Find true love within and without.

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Meditation Podcast E44: Awaken Your Spiritual Heart

Tips and techniques to awaken your spiritual heart…

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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 44: Tips and techniques to awaken your spiritual heart.

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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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Philosophy Podcast E39 – Study with a Spiritual Teacher

Study with a spiritual teacher. Exploring this unique relationship…

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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 39 – Study with a spiritual teacher. Exploring this unique relationship.

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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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Meditation Podcast E42 – Visualization Skills

Skills for the journey. Tools and techniques for empowering your inner journey with visualizations…

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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 42 – Skills for the journey. Tools and techniques for empowering your inner journey with visualizations.

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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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Meditation Podcast E40 – The Mind

Sujantra discusses techniques on how to observe and value the 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 40 – Sujantra discusses techniques on how to observe and value the mind.

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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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Meditation Podcast E39 – Cultivating Creativity

Cultivating Creativity – Visualizations for expanding creativity…

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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 39 – Cultivating Creativity – Visualizations for expanding creativity.

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Meditation Podcast E38 – What Matters Most

What Matters Most: Tips and techniques for exploring what is closest to our hearts…

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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 38 – What Matters Most: Tips and techniques for exploring what is closest to our hearts.

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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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Meditation Podcast E37 – Exploring Why

Journey along as we explore not HOW but Why we meditate…

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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 37 – Journey along as we explore not HOW but Why we meditate.

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Meditation Podcast E36 – Breathe – Lao Tsu

Breath control and Lao Tzu. Exploring breathing techniques and the way of Tao…

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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 36 – Breath control and Lao Tzu. Exploring breathing techniques and the way of Tao.

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Meditation Podcast E35 – Creating a Meditation Space

Creating a Meditation Space – What are the key elements for your practice space, plus purity in 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 35 – Creating a Meditation Space – What are the key elements for your practice space, plus purity in meditation.

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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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Meditation Podcast E34 – Breathing Techniques

Breathing Techniques – Using your breath to find 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 34 – Breathing Techniques – Using your breath to find peace.

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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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Meditation Podcast E33 – Robert Blake Poem – Discovering your Lost Joy

Discovering your lost joy using a Robert Blake poem…

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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 33 – Discovering your lost joy using a Robert Blake poem.

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Meditation Podcast E32 – Finding Your Heart

Finding Your Heart – Sujantra explores Sri Chinmoy’s Writings on 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 32 – Finding Your Heart – Sujantra explores Sri Chinmoy’s Writings on Meditation.

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Meditation Podcast E31 – Becoming Aware

Becoming Aware: Exploring awareness and accessing subtle dimensions of being.

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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 31: Becoming Aware: Exploring awareness and accessing subtle dimensions of being.

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Meditation Podcast E30 – Building Up Your Aspiration

Meditation techniques for increasing your hearts inner cry…

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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 30 – Meditation techniques for increasing your hearts inner cry.

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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.

Sky 2

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.

Floral Still

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. 

Abstract

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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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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Meditation Podcast E29: Devotion – Chanting Mantras

Join Sujantra and Ashirvad chanting ancient devotional mantras…

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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 29: Join Sujantra and Ashirvad chanting ancient devotional mantras.

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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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Meditate on Geologic Time

When we consider the idea of time we usually think of moments. We think of short intervals. We look ahead a few minutes, an hour, a day…

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When we consider the idea of time we usually think of moments. We think of short intervals. We look ahead a few minutes, an hour, a day… Seldom do we consider the idea of eternity, infinity, geologic time.

Geologic time encompasses billions, perhaps trillions of years. Our universe began about fourteen billion years ago. It began! What was going on before it began? Theoretically, millions of universes have popped in and out of existence in what might be considered ‘moments’ in the grand scheme of eternity. So, fourteen billion years is a short period of manifestation considering the eternal nature of space. How does geologic time relate to us? What does it mean considering our brief period of ‘existence’?

Making Sense

To me, one of the greatest ideas concerning our universe stems from Einstein’s relativity theories. He discusses the idea of singularity. Everything about our manifest universe began from a point of Unity. This, to me is very significant in that it means the energy that coalesced in each of us began at that moment, the bang. Everything, that is, began together, in that moment.

I developed a mantra to meditate on about this idea: “Because I am a part of the Universe, by the definition of Unity, I always have been and always will be a part of this universe.”

IMG_2120

Food for Meditation

Geologic time is fascinating to me. Consider that human civilizations have only been around a mere few thousand years by most reckoning; maybe ten thousand years at best. That’s just a blip in the grand scheme of things. But the energy that is manifest in you and me began at the bang. We’ve all transitioned through geologic time from the beginning. An atom of hydrogen from the center of some ancient, burned out sun could be the spark that awoke the consciousness in you. Thinking even further back, consider the bang. Einstein posits that the universe started as a singularity. Do we exist within an expanding black hole? And since we are expanding, what are we expanding into? Timeless, eternal, undifferentiated space?

Finding Peace

Geologic time keeps me company when I consider the trivialities we tend to focus on. It reminds me of what is really important. It enables me to expand my focus and see the big picture (pun). I find peace in this idea of eternity. It points to both the importance and the insignificance of moments. As I have said before, the only thing that truly matters in the entire universe is what is writ on our own personal ledgers. Our ledgers are eternal. Are our entries written in black, or red, or do we write in the purity of light? Fifty thousand years from now, a million years… a billion… trillion… everything will have transitioned, nothing will have mattered… except to you, your spirit, your spark.

Ouroboros

In Kirtan, as in our yoga practices here at Pilgrimage of the Heart, we begin and end by chanting the syllable, OM. Throughout the ages OM has been regarded as the universal vibration, permeating through everything; the vibration by which all other vibrations emanate. This has been substantiated by the discovery in the 50’s of the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation. It was discovered that this radiation is found in every corner of the observable universe, with no apparent source and it began literally at the Big Bang. The universe is an eternal chant and when we participate we align ourselves with its eternal spark. We glimpse eternity and perhaps are illuminated as to our one, universal task.

Consider geologic time. It’s an avenue of becoming.

Pilgrimage of the Heart offers several meditation classes, Pranayama (breath practice) and Kirtan (chanting/meditation set to music) each week. Check the schedule for days and times.

Namaste, my friends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Meditation Podcast E28: Om Tat Sat

Om… Tat… Sat… Explore an ancient mantra and a modern breath control technique…

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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 28: Om… Tat… Sat…Explore an ancient mantra and a modern breath control technique.

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Running 3100 Miles for Inner Peace

The Self-Transcendence 3100-Mile Race is held annually on a concrete footpath around an 883-metre block…

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Running 3100 Miles for Inner Peace

An Interview with Grahak Cunningham from Australia by Sujantra

 

The Self-Transcendence 3100-Mile Race is held annually on a concrete footpath around an 883-metre block in Queens, New York. Founded by Sri Chinmoy, it is the world’s longest foot race. Runners are given 18 hours a day, from 6:00 a.m. to midnight, for 51 days, to run a minimum of 60 miles a day to complete the distance. Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga asked Australian motivational speaker, author and four time finisher of the Self Transcendence 3100 Mile Race, Grahak Cunningham, three questions.

grahak1
 

Why do you run in this event it?

I often ask myself the same question when I am having a difficult day! My running career up to the 3100 was pretty uneventful. I started running when I was 19. I progressed from shorter distances to ten-kilometre races to half-marathon and marathon events. I entered my first ultra on a whim (47 miles) in 2005 aged 28, which was the day after I had done a marathon. It wasn’t easy but after finishing I started to think about multi-day running.

“If we have self-belief we can do anything provided we put our heart and soul into it.”

I heard about the 3100 and watched a friend finish. Inspired, I knew I had to do it one day and consoled myself with the ridiculous thought ‘I did a 47 mile race and a marathon the next day. If I had to I could probably do that all over again, across a number of days.’ I basically shelved the idea of running the 3100 but then Sri Chinmoy, perhaps noticing my interest inwardly to do the race, asked me a few times if I had run the 3100. When a Master asks something like that he is doing a few things: indicating you have the capacity, suggesting you would benefit tremendously spiritually if you do it and of course helping you inwardly every step of the way if you do decide to compete. I prepared, planned, trained and entered at age 30. Finishing the race was a real turning point in my life. It showed me that it really is possible to go beyond our limits—if we just try. I think if we have self-belief we can do anything provided we put our heart and soul into it.

grahak2
 

Do you do Yoga?

I do a lot of breathing, meditation and visualization techniques in the race so that for me is yoga. Often the runners will do different Asana’s to stretch, de-stress or get rid of tightness and soreness. Inspired by them I did try it more and more. I am actually injured at the moment so I have taken it up seriously. I love it and despite being injured, yoga has made me probably the most flexible I have ever been. My favorites are the shoulder stand, head stand and cobra to dog.

You have written a book, Running Beyond the Marathon. Can you tell us about the book?

The book aims to share some of the things I have learnt along the way to completing the 3100 mile race four times. The book helps show the connection to the spiritual and the physical and meditation and running. Hopefully it illustrates to the reader that we can achieve anything in life. Here is an excerpt: “Life itself is a challenge and no achievement worth striving for, whether it is athletic, career-based or personal, is going to come easily to anyone. First we have to work hard and only then can we get the reward and the feeling of achievement that comes with it. If life were easy, if we were handed everything on a silver platter, there wouldn’t be the same sense of satisfaction.

“It is not human nature
To enjoy what we get
With no effort.”
-Sri Chinmoy

 
Completing 3100 miles on foot is tough. To cover the immense distance, to conquer negative thoughts, pain, doubts and despair, takes inner fortitude and a desire to extend yourself. You have to willingly go outside your comfort zone and do whatever it takes to keep moving forward. The Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race, for those who want it to be, is a spiritual journey of self-discovery, of reaching towards our limitless potential.

grahak3
 
Every step was taking me closer and closer towards my goal. The feeling I got from bettering and improving myself, reaching miles way beyond my previous personal best, far outweighed the physical and mental difficulties I faced. Soldiering forwards through days five and six my overall total was 342 miles. An average well below what I needed to finish. It had been a hard slog to get to the start. The hours of preparation and thousands of kilometres training maybe wasn’t enough.”

Thanks for talking to us today Grahak, your adventures are a real inspiration!
 
beyond_marathonOne of Australia’s best motivational speakers, keynote speakers and performance trainers, Perth resident Grahak Cunningham is an ordinary Australian who dared to dream. He book Running Beyond the Marathon is available on Amazon.com.

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Meditation Podcast E27: Stepping Beyond Fear And Doubt

Meditation can help you overcome many of your doubts and fear…

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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 27: Meditation can help you overcome many of your doubts and fears. Learn to employ this powerful tool to facilitate deep lasting change.

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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.

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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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Sujantra Explores Mindfulness: A visit to MNDFL in New York

I look for new trends in the realm of yoga and spirituality and see a new trend emerging…

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I recently paid a visit to MNDFL  in New York. I look for new trends in the realm of yoga and spirituality and see a new trend emerging. The studio is located in the Washington Square area of Manhattan.

In any expanding business or cultural marketplace look for offerings that specialize in what had been a broad category. In the world of yoga studios the norm is the studio that primarily focuses on asana: the physical postures. Within the realm of asana there has already been diversification: power yoga, heated yoga, Iyengar, Bikram, gentle yoga, yin yoga and more.

Meditation Spaces

Less frequent is the studio that offers the full spectrum of the yoga experience: asana, pranayama, meditation and philosophy. This is what we offer at Pilgrimage of the Heart.

Now I am seeing the emergence of studios that are solely focused on meditation and mindfulness. I think the trend will continue if we see more studios like MNDFL emerging. They have the key components for success.

MNDFL 1

 

The Staff

The manager and staff were extremely engaging. They offer a clean zen like ambiance, a small retail boutique with books based on their teacher’s suggestions, a lounge community is encouraged by comfort and free tea, and two nice meditation rooms – one that holds 22-40 and another for privates that holds 2-10.

Community Space

They have taken the basic techniques of mindfulness and made them all the more accessible by focusing on specific aspects of the practice: sound, intentions, heart center and more.

Mindfulness works and studios like this will provide a neutral ground where people can delve into a life changing practice.

MNDFL charges $150 for unlimited membership. The big question is what is the right price point in your community for such an offering.

Sujantra

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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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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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Interviews Podcast E12: Amy Rollo

Amy Rollo talks about her adventures in Southeast Asia and explores the role of social media in 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 12: Amy Rollo talks about her adventures in Southeast Asia and explores the role of social media in yoga.

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Meditation Podcast E24: Exploring Ananda with Live Music

Journey to your depths with guided visualizations and music…

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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 24: Journey to your depths with guided visualizations and music.

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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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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: 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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Philosophy Podcast E19: The Banishment Of Sita [Ramayana]

Queen Sita is banished by King Rama for a wrong she never committed…

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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 19: Queen Sita is banished by King Rama for a wrong she never committed…

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Meditation Podcast E22: The Subtle Nerves

Discover and explore the subtle body through meditation techniques…

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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 22: Discover and explore the subtle body through meditation techniques…

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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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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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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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Philosophy Podcast E15: Yoga Sutras 1- 4

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

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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 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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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 Pilgrimage of the Heart Interviews Podcast E05

Explore yoga, asana, meditation, mythology and brahmacharya with renowned instructor, Alanna Kalvalya…

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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: Explore yoga, asana, meditation, mythology and brahmacharya with renowned instructor, Alanna Kalvaiya.

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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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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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Yoga Sutras – Om

When I meditate I always begin and end my practice by chanting Om…

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When I meditate I always begin and end my practice by chanting Om. It’s like stepping through a portal. I usually chant it several times until I really feel a strong connection/punctuation… I chant it externally. Then I chant it internally. The vibration in my throat stops but the vibration in my heart-universe continues.

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, expounded upon by Swami Vivekananda (also see) in his book, Raja-Yoga, particularly addresses the use of the syllable Om in aphorism 27 (The word that manifests Him is Om.) and 28 (The repetition of this (Om) and meditating on its meaning [is the way]).

Tom on Harmonium

What is God’s name?

I find it interesting that try as we might, it is impossible to put a definitive name to ‘God.’ Every thought in the mind has a corresponding word, a symbol. Thought and word are inseparable. If the symbol (word) corresponds to the thing signified then we are assured that there is a valid relationship: the symbol can then conger the thought. However, many symbols, many words can represent the same thought.

Vivekananda posits that there might be hundreds of words for ‘God’ across the globe. But there must be some underlying generalization that can be distilled from all these names. There must be some common ground in all these names. That common name would then best represent them all.

Patanjali suggests the common ground is Om.

Notice a variety of ‘God’-names: God, Yahweh, Jehovah, Allah, Brahma, Shiva, Buddha… notice that each name contains the syllable, ‘Ah,’ closely corresponding to the first part of the pronunciation of the syllable Om (or AUM, Ahh-Ooo-Mmm). Speculating that someone from England might not recognize the Pakistani or Japanese word for ‘God,’ for example, never-the-less both might be familiar with Om and would recognize the underlying thought. It’s interesting to note that many ‘God’-names are preceded by adjectives to qualify them, like Personal God, Absolute God, Christian God, etc., limiters. Yet Om requires no qualifiers, having around it all significances.

PYO

Repetition of Om and Meditation on its Meaning

Whether vocalized or silent, repetition of Om creates vibrational energy in our bodies, minds and in the universe. As we have already determined Om to be divine, Vivekananda equates chanting Om to be, “…keeping good company with the mind.” And he suggest that, “One moment of company with the holy builds a ship to cross this ocean of life: such is the power of association.” So we repeat Om and meditate on its meaning. Om is the foundational expression for ‘God’ in this context. It is an utterance without qualification. The more it is repeated, the more it is considered, the greater the association and, “Thus light will come to you; the Self will become manifest.”

Swami Vivekananda

Swami Vivekananda (Image via Wikipedia)

Vivekananda really pushes the idea of keeping good company, specifically, good company with the purity of ‘God’ by virtue of repetition and meditation. We all have the old scars and wounds. We each have within us the potential for the greatest good or the greatest evil. Keeping evil company (thought, word, deed, associations, etc.) is like picking an open wound. It will manifest as a festering lesion. Repetition and meditation on the meaning of Om will bring to the surface those perhaps latent good impressions and qualities and build a strong foundation for introspection and the destruction of obstacles, those negative qualities which hinder our spiritual growth.

Chanting Om is as foundational as is breath. Ujjayi breathing is simply chanting Om using only the breath, foregoing vibrating the vocal chords.

When I first began my yoga life I truly thought the breath work was kind of trivial and silly; such a simple, almost inconsequential thing. I really didn’t see any real practicality about it. Most studios I frequented rarely chanted Om at the beginning and ending of a class. It was only that I was a singer that it finally dawned on me that breath control was so vital a part of the practice. My ‘home’ studio, Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga Studio in San Diego, CA (my  employer) has always chanted Om at the beginning and ending of each class, one of several practices that endeared me to the studio.

Make the practice of chanting Om a daily endeavor.

Consider it’s meaning. Om is the unqualified expression of the divine. Let it spring forth from your heart as the first, the only and the last vibration… Be Om.

 

 

Featured image by MAMJODH, license.

 

 

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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.

upward_dog_in_studio

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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Pilgrimage of the Heart Meditation Podcast E13

In a world that is bustling with energy that can be contrary to our well being, Sujantra…

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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 13: In a world that is bustling with energy that can be contrary to our well being, Sujantra talks about how to protect and maintain your inner peace.

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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 – beryl bender birch 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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Pilgrimage of the Heart Meditation Podcast E11

Exploring the mantras historically and through meditation techniques, including the exploration of the ancient Greek practice of naval gazing…

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Ep 11: Exploring the mantras historically and through meditation techniques, including the exploration of the ancient Greek practice of naval gazing.

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.

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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 – Sally Kempton & Celibacy

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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Pilgrimage of the Heart Meditation Podcast E09

In this episode Sujantra skips his usual spoken introduction and goes directly into a meditation. Then, a visiting Sri Chinmoy devotee…

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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 09: In this episode Sujantra skips his usual spoken introduction and goes directly into a meditation. Then, a visiting Sri Chinmoy devotee with a British accent, named Devashishu, leads the class through some meditative mantras.

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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 Pilgrimage of the Heart Interviews Podcast E02: Original Yoga: Rediscovering Traditional Practices of Hatha Yoga

Sujantra interviews yogi and author Richard Rosen. This 30 minute interview explores yoga, pranayama, meditation 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 02: Sujantra interviews yogi and author Richard Rosen. This 30 minute interview explores yoga, pranayama, meditation and more!

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Pilgrimage of the Heart Meditation Podcast E08

In this episode Sujantra speaks about the importance of inspiration in a meditation practice and how it is…

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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 08: In this episode Sujantra speaks about the importance of inspiration in a meditation practice and how it is important to guard and nurture your inner flower before leading the meditation.

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The Pilgrimage of the Heart Philosophy Podcast E06

In this episode Sujantra reads about Vishvakarma 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 06: In this episode Sujantra reads about Vishvakarma from the Ramayana.

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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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Pilgrimage of the Heart Meditation Podcast E07

In this episode Sujantra speaks about the subtlety of practicing meditation. Sujantra also talks about the ancient teaching that the Universe needs people as much as people need the Universe…

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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 07: In this episode Sujantra speaks about the subtlety of practicing meditation. Sujantra also talks about the ancient teaching that the Universe needs people as much as people need the Universe.

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The Pilgrimage of the Heart Philosophy Podcast E05

On this episode Sujantra reads about Vishwamitra’s visit with King Dasaratha because Vishwamitra’s spiritual endeavors are being thwarted by outside forces…

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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 05: On this episode Sujantra reads about Vishwamitra’s visit with King Dasaratha because Vishwamitra’s spiritual endeavors are being thwarted by outside forces.

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Kirtan as Meditation

Kirtan is a singing, chanting practice that is part of the Bhakti* (devotion to your creator) tradition in yoga. While it might appear on the surface…

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Kirtan is a singing, chanting practice that is part of the Bhakti* (devotion to your creator) tradition in yoga. While it might appear on the surface that it is an entertainment, the reality is that Kirtan is a profound meditation practice.

Meditation is often thought of as the elimination of thought from the consciousness. True enough, if not an oversimplification, but a difficult task. Sometimes it’s easier to replace the random, spontaneous thoughts with a single, repetitive thought that has meaning and loft, and to concentrate and focus on that, assisting stillness, resting on a single thought.

 Tablas
 

The Mantra:  Mantra means ‘Mind Tool’

Kirtan uses mantra, simple (not always), repetitive devotional phrases which the practitioner swaps with the random spontaneous thoughts streaming from the mind. The mind takes up the mantra and its meaning, or at least its implication and becomes a center of Self-awareness. We work on that divine inner place that we know is there but that we cannot touch. The mantra is repeated over and over until it becomes something like a background object, there reminding you of your particular quest. A single syllable or phrase, a long, involved invocation; to chant is enough. This is the basics, except for one thing. One should cultivate a supreme purity about this practice. It is nothing less than a celebration of life, creation, existence and a personal expression of heart-centered gratitude for your existence.

Kirtan turns what would ordinarily be a solitary, personal offering into a musical celebration among friends. People gather and chant together. Musical instruments are played. A Kirtan leader sings the chant and the participating audience sings it back in response, over and over… It creates a sort of rapture. It entrains vibrational energies. It becomes bigger than the sum of its parts. You realize that your participation was essential to that event. It couldn’t have happened the way it did without your (and everyone else’s) being there… Being present. It really can be extraordinarily profound.

 Pilgrimage of the Heart Kirtan Band
 

A solitary, personal offering:

To chant is the object. Our personal, heart offering is the object. The mantra guides, focuses your inner path, either by meaning or by melody/rhythm. It keeps us attuned, sharp, aware. It is a drishti, a center, which holds us to our path. It’s a technique that enables us to explore by choice. The moment you start to chant, your practice begins. One begets the other. It requires no one but you.

And yet, we gather for Kirtan with like-minded (and the curious) folks with the intention to participate in each other’s experience. Our personal experience both radiates and absorbs energy. It becomes a oneness of individual AND a oneness of multitude. As your practice grows it becomes a part of your makeup. You look forward to the mantra, the Kirtan. You realize that your voice has meaning and that it’s worth sharing. You become part of a community. Kirtan is a place of being. It becomes a group home.

 Kirtan Collage

A Universal offering:

Kirtan comes from the east, from India. But it was never intended to be exclusively Hindu or Buddhist. All faith-based systems have both singing and invocation in their traditions. Singing, music and devotion to creation are universal expressions. They span all traditions.

Pilgrimage of the Heart hosts Kirtan every Thursday evening at 8:30pm in the East Room. No experience necessary. Free and open to all.

 

* For further reading about Bhakti see Sir Edwin Arnold’s Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 8. This is the most beautiful translation of the Gita I know of. It is said that Ghandi carried this translation with him for the majority of his life. Read this book!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Pilgrimage of the Heart Meditation Podcast E06

In this episode Sujantra talks about prana and being connected to all things in the universe…

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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 06: In this episode Sujantra talks about prana and being connected to all things in the universe.

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The Pilgrimage of the Heart Philosophy Podcast E04

In this episode Sujantra reads from the Ramayana about Indra’s return to Earth to appease king Dasharatha’s desires. In this incarnation, Indra realizes that feelings of defeat are fleeting…

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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 04: In this episode Sujantra reads from the Ramayana about Indra’s return to Earth to appease king Dasharatha’s desires. In this incarnation, Indra realizes that feelings of defeat are fleeting.

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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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Pilgrimage of the Heart Meditation Podcast E05

In this episode Sujantra talks about the 3 ingredients for Spiritual Growth being spiritual teachings to believe in, a community…

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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 05: In this episode Sujantra talks about the 3 ingredients for Spiritual Growth: spiritual teachings to believe in, a community with the same beliefs and a person’s own actions.

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Pilgrimage of the Heart Philosophy Podcast E03

In this episode Sujantra reads how Indra is defeated by Ravana and so goes to visit Brahma. Brahma reveals much about Indra’s foe Ravana…

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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 03: In this episode Sujantra reads how Indra is defeated by Ravana and so goes to visit Brahma. Brahma reveals much about Indra’s foe Ravana.

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Pilgrimage of the Heart Meditation Podcast E04

In this episode Sujantra quotes Sri Chinmoy “if You want peace, you must meditate on peace. If you want love…

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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.

Concentration

Ep 4: In this episode Sujantra quotes Sri Chinmoy “if You want peace, you must meditate on peace. If you want love, you must meditate on love”. Part of meditation is learning to concentrate on one single thought.

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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.

PYO

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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Yoga: A Remedy for Sleepless Nights?

Having trouble getting a sound sleep? Yoga might be the perfect remedy. A Harvard study on insomnia concluded people who practiced yoga consistently…

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Having trouble getting a sound sleep? Yoga might be the perfect remedy. A Harvard study on insomnia concluded people who practiced yoga consistently for eight weeks slept better and longer compared than those who did not practice.

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Helpful to Relax the Bodypic

Legs-Up-The-Wall(Viparita Karani) can be practiced at night before getting into bed or in the middle of the night, if you’re having trouble sleeping and waking up.  Try Nikole Fortier’s 7 minute class at Pilgrimage Yoga Online.  It’s ideal for beginners and advanced yogis.

Hope Knosher, founder of Hope’s Yoga, suggests: “Sit sideways with your right side against the wall. Exhale and gently swing your legs up onto the wall and your shoulders and head lightly down onto the floor. Coming into this pose may take some practice. Your sitting bones don’t need to be right against the wall, depending on the tightness of your hamstrings. Experiment with the position until you find the placement that works for you.

This pose is not intended to stretch the backs of the legs, so if you feel pulling in the hamstrings move farther away from the wall. Keep the lower back grounded to the floor. Make a small roll with a hand towel to place under your neck if the cervical spine at the base of your neck feels too flat. Open your shoulder blades away from your spine and release your hands and arms out to your sides, palms up.

Keep your legs relatively firm, just enough to hold them vertically in place. If you struggle to keep your legs upright, take a yoga strap or something similar and place it around your legs just below the knees and gently tighten to hold the legs up right, allowing you to further relax into the pose. Gently close and soften your eyes, then scan the body. Soften into any tightness you find along the way.” *

Calm, Steady Breathing

Practice for 5-20 minutes. Focus on calm and steady breathing.

When you are ready to come out, bend your knees halfway toward your chest and roll to one side. Use your arms to help you sit up, moving slowly and mindfully.

Raising your legs vertically, higher than the heart, can also help with blood circulation.

Hope cautions, “those who are pregnant or that have been diagnosed with glaucoma, high blood pressure, or any serious problems with the neck or spine, should consult their doctor first.”

If sleepless nights are on your mind, consider adding a meditation and relaxation class at Pilgrimage Yoga Online to your morning.

How do you deal with sleepless nights?

* Thanks to MindBodyGreen.com for permission to share this excerpt.

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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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The Gayatri Mantra – An Ancient Mantra

The Gayatri Mantra is one of the most ancient and revered mantras in existence…

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The Gayatri Mantra is one of the most ancient and revered mantras in existence.

Om bhur bhuvah svah

Tat Savitur varen(i)yam

Bhargo devasya dhimahi

Dhiyo yo nah prachodayat

 

I lead a weekly Kirtan practice at Pilgrimage of the Heart yoga studio in San Diego. We’ve been practicing as a community for over five years and the Gayatri Mantra has become one of our staple chants.

As a Kirtan leader I enjoy exploring the deep meanings of the chants, which allows me to enter more deeply into the spirit and intent behind these beautiful utterances.

PYO

The Gayatri Mantra first appeared in the Rig Veda, which was written in Sanskrit about 2500 to 3500 years ago. It is said that the sage Vishwamitra was given the Gayatri Mantra by the Supreme Being for his many years of reverence and meditation, to be shared with all humanity, so there is considered no earthly author.

It has also been said that Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha himself recited this mantra. (See The Light of Asia – Arnold, Book the First, page 7, Routledge)

aum

Chanted through the Ages…

The Gayatri Mantra has been chanted by trillions of people over the course of eons. Quite literally it is likely sung by a billion people every day, even today.

There is a wealth of commentary and opinion as to good translations of the chant. Googling Gayatri Mantra will generate numerous interpretations. The basic gist follows:

The word Gayatri refers to the meter of the verse. The mantra consists of three lines of eight syllables each. But wait. There are four lines! That’s because the first line isn’t actually a part of the mantra itself. Its a prefix.

The Great Utterance.

The first line is a mantra unto itself and is known as, “The Great (spiritual) Utterance” (mahāvyāhṛti).

It precedes many other mantras, is used universally or can be recited by itself. It is a great aligning and centering phrase and can be interpreted as aligning oneself to the earth, heavens and what lies beyond… Or, aligning with the material world, the world of mind and with the supreme spirit… The important idea is the alignment of one’s Self with the purest Unity.

The meaning…

The mantra itself begins with the word, ‘Tat’ which means ‘That’ and refers to the Supreme that defies any earthly description…

Savitur means Sun, but not the physical sun. More like the divine light of knowledge and discernment, the animating impetus for everything.

Varen(i)yam means adoration.

Next line: Bhargo Devasya Dheemahi means contemplation of the Divine, Illuminated Grace.

Last Line: Dhiyo Yo Nah Prachodayat means loosely, whose divine intellect/illumination our prayers/meditations are for/about…

As a leader of a kirtan practice, I found the original meter (three lines of eight syllables) to be somewhat cumbersome to arrange musically/lyrically for western interpretation. So, I broke from the original meter and formed lines as follows:

Om bhur bhuvah svah

Tat Savitur varen(i)yam

Bhargo devasya

Dhimahi dhiyo yo

Nah prachodayat

 

This arrangement allows for a chant that musically simple and beautiful, and easy to play and sing.

Here’s our version and a link to another version with the classic meter:

Our arrangement: Pilgrimage of the Heart Kirtan band

Classic arrangement: This is a beautiful version by Deva Premal.

It actually maintains the classic meter while running each ‘measure’

as 5 – 6 – 6 – 7 beats per line. Beautiful, but challenging for most to follow and sing with.

 

A must have…

What is important is that the mantra be chanted with the utmost of pure intentions and an appreciation for the profound implications of the scope of this chant. It is an outpouring of one’s heart to the Supreme and a recognition of the Divine Grace bestowed upon all creation and beyond.

If you have a chanting practice, The Gayatri Mantra is a ‘must have’ in your repertories.