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 [email protected]

 

 

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 [email protected] 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.”

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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.

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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…

2

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

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

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Meditation Podcast Ep 18: The Joy of Surrender

Explore the bliss of releasing into that which upholds us…

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

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

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

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

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Being a Yogi in this Age

 

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

Brian: Yeah, absolutely.

PYO

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

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

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

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

Double Rainbow

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

A Rebirth or Re-invigoration

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

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

Mother's_Love

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

Detached Parenting

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

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

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

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

 

ABOUT BRIAN LEAF

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

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

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

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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 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

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

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.

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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)

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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.

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10 Ways to Sleep Soundly

Having trouble getting a good night’s sleep? Mental stress from life and work often makes it hard to get a good night’s sleep. Meditation, physical exercise,…

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Having trouble getting a good night’s sleep? Mental stress from life and work often makes it hard to get a good night’s sleep. Meditation, physical exercise, nutrition and yoga practice, are ideal ways to balance stress and sleep soundly.

In Sleep the Mind Taps into Higher Consciousness

Sleep is a magical time when our mind taps into higher consciousness and the soul comes to the fore, says spiritual yogi Paramahansa Yogananda.  “In sleep, the astral life forces are withdrawn not only from the muscles but also from the sensory instruments. Every night each man accomplishes a physical withdrawal of the life force, albeit in an unconscious way; the energy and consciousness in the body retire to the region of the heart, spine, and brain, giving man the rejuvenating peace of subconscious contact with the divine dynamo of all his powers, the soul. Why does man feel joy in sleep? Because when he is in the stage of deep, dreamless sleep, unconscious of the body, physical limitations are forgotten and the mind momentarily taps a higher consciousness.”

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Here are some sleep suggestions for those suffering from sleepless nights.

1. End use of computers, TV, and handheld devices an hour prior to sleep time

The blue light from your electronic devices shuts down the production of melatonin, a major sleep hormone that we produce at night.

2. Reduce Caffeine

It takes 4-6 hours or more to metabolize caffeine, which prevents a helpful sleep-promoting chemical called adenosine from working. Several hours before sleep avoid wine, alcohol, red bull, coffee, chocolate, chicken and soda.

3. Exercise regularly

Exercise regularly and you’ll sleep easier and more soundly. Whether you’re jogging, swimming, playing tennis or working out at the gym, exercise is a great way to feel and look your best, and you’ll also promote a great night’s sleep.

4. Watch your diet

Foods helpful for sleep include cherries, which contain melatonin, a chemical that helps control our body’s internal clock, says Keri Gans, a registered dietician in New York City and author of The Small Change Diet. Bananas are helpful because they contain natural muscle-relaxers magnesium and potassium. Sweet potatoes provide sleep-promoting complex carbohydrates and contain muscle-relaxant potassium. When combined with complex carbohydrates such as whole-wheat toast or crackers, cheese and dairy products can help bring about the onset of sleep. Carbohydrates release insulin which promotes the movement of tryptophan into the brain. Tryptophan then converts to serotonin and melatonin, which are sleep-promoting neurotransmitters.

5. Cool the Room

At night our core body temperature drops and this tells the brain it’s time for sleep. Sleep with a room temperature of between 62 and 70 degrees.

6. Meditate

Right before sleep try a guided conscious relaxation tour and relax to beautiful images of nature and the comforting sound of guitar music. If you enjoy the relaxing sound of the flute combined with nature scenes, this short meditation video may help. Or listen to music like “Edge of Eternal” and find a peaceful calm.

7. Yoga

Make Halasana the last thing you do before sleep. It’s a pose done while lying on your back. Set yourself up to create a strong base in the back of your shoulders and arms, just as you would in Salamba Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand). Kick your legs overhead and press your toes into the floor behind you. Stay in the pose for up to 5 minutes and slowly draw the legs back over head and return them to the floor. This pose is therapeutic as it calms the mind. A calm mind reduces stress and anxiety.

8. Alarm clocks should be heard, but not seen

Avoid visually bright-screened alarm clocks and ticking wall clocks. Keep your wakeup devices out of mind and sight and let them do their jobs at the appointed times.

9. Pristine quiet

If it’s too noisy where you sleep, try wearing earplugs. If your spouse’s snoring is keeping you awake, there are medical solutions you can try. If snoring is an issue, you might try a “bedroom divorce”.

10. A comfy mattress

Find a mattress that is firm or soft enough for you. You’re going to be sleeping on a mattress for an average of 7 years. So find a one that is comfortable and supportive.

How are you dealing with sleepless nights?

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Pilgrimage of the Heart Meditation Podcast E02

On this episode of the Pilgrimage of the Heart podcast Sujantra explains the importance of spiritual teachers…

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

Spiritual Teachers

On this episode of the Pilgrimage of the Heart podcast Sujantra explains the importance of spiritual teachers from various walks of life including Carlos Castaneda, Ram Das, Sri Chinmoy and more.

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Pilgrimage of the Heart Meditation Podcast E01

On this episode of the Pilgrimage of the Heart Meditation Podcast Sujantra explains how meditation can help a person…

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

Thoughts and Emotions

On this episode of the Pilgrimage of the Heart Meditation Podcast Sujantra explains how meditation can help a person untangle the connection between thoughts and emotions.

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Meditation: How to Stay Inspired

Having trouble finding inspiration to meditate as part of your yoga practice at home or destress at work?…

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It’s common to momentarily lose the inspiration to continue a daily meditation practice especially in today’s non-stop, notification-driven world. Like any life activity, meditation needs to become a priority.

Say Yes to Activities that Add Value to Our Lives

Writing in Harvard Business Review, author and speaker Tony Schwartz suggests we need to say “yes” to activities that add value to our lives and learn to say “no” to the rest. ‘Saying no, thoughtfully, may be the most undervalued capacity of our times. In a world of relentless demands and infinite options, [we need] to prioritize the tasks that add the most value. That also means deciding what to do less of, or to stop doing altogether.”

One day I was feeling ‘unsatisfied’ after a very busy day and I asked myself why. It turned out I was occupied with activities that brought little true value to my life. I decided to prioritize meditation and other tasks and activities that added value: exercise, yoga, healthy eating, and music.

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If you’re ready to prioritize regular meditation practice in your life, Swami Paramahansa Yogananda shares inspiration on the importance of preparing for your meditation:

“The yogi begins with proper deep breathing, inhaling and tensing the whole body, exhaling and relaxing, several times. With each exhalation all muscular tension and motion should be cast away, until a state of bodily stillness is attained.  Then, by concentration techniques, restless motion is removed from the mind. In perfect stillness of body and mind, the yogi enjoys the ineffable peace of the presence of the soul.”

Spiritual Books Help

Your meditation practice can also benefit from reading spiritual books, says spiritual guru Sri Chinmoy.

“If you are an absolute beginner, then you can start by reading a few spiritual books or scriptures. These will give you inspiration. You should read books by spiritual Masters in whom you have implicit faith. There are Masters who have attained the highest consciousness, and if you read their books, you are bound to get inspiration. It is better not to read books written by professors or scholars or aspirants who are still on the path and have not yet attained illumination. Only those who have realised the Truth will have the capacity to offer the Truth. Otherwise, it is like the blind leading the blind.”

Power of Imagination

What happens if you’re uninspired to meditate on a particular day? Sri Chinmoy suggests: “Think of a time when you had a most sublime meditation, and consciously dive deep into that experience. Think of its essence-how you were thrilled, how you were jumping with delight. At first you will just be imagining the experience, because you are not actually having that meditation. But if you enter into the world of imagination and stay there for ten or fifteen minutes, power will automatically enter into your meditation and it will bear fruit. Then it will not be imagination at all; you will actually be deep in the world of meditation.”

How do you stay inspired to meditate?

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Regularity and Yoga – Yogananda

We all want to look, feel and perform at our our best and yoga can help. That’s why we’re here…

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I’m have a friend who has run 2 miles a day for almost 40 years without missing a day.  He has shown up every day to run 2 miles because completing that task is high on his personal priority list.

Many of us are living lives interrupted by constant incoming messages and notifications that can intrude and capture our schedule. We all want to look, feel and perform at our our best and yoga can help. That’s why we’re here.  So how do we become regular in our personal yoga practice at home and work?

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Whatever we want to achieve from yoga practice – health, wellness, fitness, mindfulness, calmness and more – requires focus, practice and patience.  Spiritual guide Swami Paramahansa Yogananda offers empowering wisdom and inspiration on mindfulness, enthusiasm, a strong will and calmness.

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 He suggests that that “the habitual inclination of our thoughts determines our talents and abilities, and our personality.” In other words, if we envision a lifestyle where we’re practicing regularly and prioritizing health, we’re likely to see our lives transformed with an expanded horizon of opportunity. If we approach life with an attitude towards failure, prospects for success may be diminished. Here are some inspirations from Yogananda:

Be Mindful

Live each present moment completely, and the future will take care of itself. Fully enjoy the wonder and beauty of each instant. Do everything with full attention, never in a haphazard way.

Be Enthusiastic

Without unquenchable enthusiasm nothing can be gained.

Be Strong

Learn to keep your will strong—a calm will, not a nervous will—and your body will then be full of energy. It is by the power of will that you bring energy into the body and utilize it. The greater the will, the greater the flow of energy.

Be Calm

Be calmly active and actively calm.

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When’s the Best Time to Meditate?

Anytime we are able to meditate is the best time for meditation. In our hectic society…

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by Sujantra McKeever

Anytime we are able to meditate is the best time for meditation. In our hectic society with busy schedules, work and a myriad of responsibilities, just finding five to ten minutes a day for meditation is an accomplishment. What is most important is that you do practice, every day.

Morning is a Splendid Time

If you are able to accommodate your schedule or make changes, there are certain times in the day that are more conducive to meditation. These times coincide with the cycles of nature. Morning is a splendid time for meditation. When we wake, the sun is rising, the new day is dawning. Nature is once again beginning her growth process, the sun is beginning to shine; this is an excellent time for meditation. The dawning of the day reminds us—inspires us—of the dawning of our aspiration for the soulful and spiritual experiences life can offer us.

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Noon has Power

Noon is a powerful time to meditate. With the sun at its apex we find the world fully active and dynamic. Meditation is not just the experience of peace and calm; meditation also embodies the dynamic and powerful. Noon—the middle of the day—is a time of power for nature and we can feel that power within our own consciousness.

Evening Calm

In the evening, as the sun is setting, the world is again in transition; we leave behind our multifarious activities, the hustle and bustle, and we enter into the calm of the evening. This aspect of day allows us the opportunity to let go of problems, worries, and anxieties and enter into the quiet, soulful peace of evening.

Right Before Sleep

Before going to sleep at night is another excellent time for a few moments of meditation. This is the time to calm and quiet our mind and body before going to sleep. Sleep is a significant part of our lives; in face, it is a sort of biological meditation, and by preparing ourselves and infusing ourselves with a peaceful consciousness, we create a deeper, more fulfilling and effective sleep.

Midnight Soulfulness

Midnight is a soulful time for meditation on the quality of love. Love begins with self-acceptance. Concentrate and meditate upon a photograph of yourself which you feel embodies your best qualities. While concentrating on your photograph allow your body and mind to relax. Becoming comfortable with your image n the photograph helps you to accept and love yourself. Once we feel love within ourselves we have access to the greatest thing we can offer to others: love.

3 am Hour of Brahma

Finally, 3 a.m. is called the hour of Brahma, or the hour of God. If you have ever awakened at 3 a.m., you will find the earth consciousness silent and asleep, deep within the peace of rest. By meditating at 3 a.m., we are able to enter into that peacefulness, that calmness.

Morning and Evening Are Best

Of all the times mentioned, the most practical are in the morning and in the evening. When meditating in the morning we gather peacefulness and calmness into ourselves and are then able to access these qualities during our day. It is as if we are putting money in the bank and during the day we draw from our account. When we face stressful situations we can use the peace and quiet and power from our morning meditation to deal with these challenging moments. During the evening meditation we can invoke peace and then reflect on our day, resolving events that we have pushed away from our consciousness. As our day’s activities and memories melt into peace we are renewed and ready to experience the evening hours.

Reprinted with permission from Learn to Meditate by S.G. McKeever.

Author Sujantra McKeever founded Pilgrimage of the Heart studio in 2006. He began exploring yoga and pranayama at the age of 12. Sujantra has authored five books on eastern philosophy, success motivation and meditation. Since 1987 he has delivered over 1000 lectures on meditation and yoga in over 30 countries. Sujantra studied meditation with spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy.

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Setting up a Regular Place for Meditation

Ideally we should have a regular place for our individual meditation, whether it is a corner of our room, an entire room in our home, a park bench…

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by Sujantra McKeever

 

Ideally we should have a regular place for our individual meditation, whether it is a corner of our room, an entire room in our home, a park bench, or any place where we can go and be free of distractions.

Be Free of Distractions

The reason for this is twofold: by consistently meditating there, having this sacred spot for our practice, we create a meditative vibration in that area. Every time we sit down to meditate that energy becomes stronger. Secondly, just as we have various rooms in our house—when we go into the breakfast room, we know we ill eat breakfast; when we go into our bedroom, we will sleep—so, too, when we go into our meditation area we know exactly what will take place in that room: meditation. We want to make that place free from distractions: ringing telephone, other people, television, and other common distractions.

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Create an Altar or Shrine

In the place where you practice your daily meditation it is essential to create an altar or shrine towards which you can focus your attention when practicing your meditation. On your shrine you can place objects which will inspire you, remind you of your own spiritual journey and be practical aids in your practice. I suggest: candles, flowers, incense, photographs (either of people or places that offer you spiritual inspiration), uplifting music and books. In essence you are creating your own church or sacred, holy ground where you can commune with the spirit and potential within and around you. Freed from the pull of the mundane, your consciousness can dance with the limitless aspect of existence. You can then infuse this new energy and feeling into your daily activities. I know a number of individuals who use the daily practice of meditation as an oasis amidst the intensity of their business careers. They enjoy the focus and concentration needed in their careers. They also find it essential to meditate and infuse the intensity with joy and gratitude which they derive from their meditation.

By creating this sacred spot you are also saying to yourself and those you know you: “The spiritual quest is a reality for me and this is the sacred area where I sit to seek and know the vastness of all that is.”

Author Sujantra McKeever founded Pilgrimage of the Heart studio in 2006. He began exploring yoga and pranayama at the age of 12. Sujantra has authored five books on eastern philosophy, success motivation and meditation. Since 1987 he has delivered over 1000 lectures on meditation and yoga in over 30 countries. Sujantra studied meditation with spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy.

(Candle photo credit Shawn Carpenter)
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Ramayana Series – Turning Within

In these explorations of the Ramayana I hope to help you deepen your spiritual growth and understanding…

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In these explorations of the Ramayana I hope to help you deepen your spiritual growth and understanding.

Ramayana—“Rama” is the name of the hero and the heroine, his wife, is Sita. . “Yana” means the tale of, or the journey of. The Ramayana is the story, tale or journey of Rama.

“Listen my friend, I love this Ramayana. We now live in the third age of time and Rama lived in the second age of the world. Ramayana has long been standing above all other stories. You must look up to find it. Valmiki put the deeds of Rama into musical verse. He clothed them in the sound of singing. Before Ramayana there was no poetry on earth.”1

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Valmiki is our first character. He is the one who writes the Ramayana. “As a young man, Valmiki searched through the world seeking open friendship and happiness and hope. And finding none of these, he went alone into the empty forest where no man lived to a spot where the Tamsa River flows into the river Ganga. There he sat for years without moving. So still that white ants built an anthill over him. There Valmiki sat inside that anthill for thousands of years with only his eyes showing out trying to find the true, his hands folded and his mind lost in contemplation.”

Valmiki, our first character and author of the Ramayana, is a young man searching throughout the world for happiness and true friendship. He holds these ideals in his heart and searches the world and can’t find them. I think that is something we can all relate to, in that we look at life and it’s filled with a lot of painful experiences, even though in your heart you hold this feeling or hope that there can be true friendship or true love. What we meet in the experience of life is often so painful.

Valmiki can’t find any of these so he decides to retreat in, deep contemplation and meditation. In a sense you can say that’s what you do in the daily practice of meditation. The world is full of challenges and your daily meditation is your ability to pull away from the world and free your mind. You turn your mind inward and allow it to sink back into perfection or into itself. Indian philosophy asserts that our consciousness has perfection in it. Our minds spread out into the world and take everything in and create our multifaceted experiences that can be really challenging. With meditation you’re able to turn your mind inward and trace back to that pure essence.

Mountain Lake

The Ripple Effect

“His mind lost in contemplation, then one cloudy winter’s day at noon the heavenly sage Narada, the inventor of music, born from Brahma’s mind flew from heaven down to earth. He knelt in front of Valmiki and said, ‘Come out. Help me.’ ‘ It’s too cold’, replied Valmiki. ‘Away with the worlds where a little pleasure costs a lot of pain. Don’t make trouble for me.’ ‘ Would I ever?’ said Narada? ‘See how life goes by with every creature doing what follow his nature’. Narada knelt and looked deep into Valmiki’s eyes. ‘Master, what can I say to inspire you to action’? Valmiki said, ‘Just name me one honest man and then I will move’. Rama said, ‘Narada. Now, come out of there.’”1

The Ramayana is multidimensional. Valmiki is on earth and Narada, who comes down from the heavens and seeks Valmiki’s help. We are told he’s the inventor of music and born of Brahma’s mind. In Indian philosophy, there are three main aspects of existence: Creation, Preservation and Transformation. Those are personified in Brahma, the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver and Shiva the Transformer. Brahma is the creator and Narada is born from his mind. Normally when we think about birth, we think birth from a body. Here’s a more subtle birth, born from Brahma’s mind. We bear things from our minds. We create a poem from our mind or we conceive of plans and then we act them out.

“Who is Rama?” said Valmiki. Narada answered, ‘Rama rules as king in Ayodhya. He is born of the solar race and is a descendent of the sun. He is brave and gentle and firm in fight. By Rama’s command his adorable queen Sita is being brought here in the forest in a chariot and though she suspects nothing yet, here she will be abandoned. Unless you comfort her, she will drown herself in the river Ganga. And kill as well her two unborn sons by Rama’. ‘What did she do wrong?’ asked Valmiki. ‘Nothing’, answered Narada, ‘Sita is innocent and blameless. She has lived as Rama’s queen for nearly 10,000 years. Before that, Rama saved her from great danger by wondrous and incredible deeds. And now behold one of the terrors of kingship that Rama must let her go and banish her because his people talk against her. Get up and save her life and let her live here with you and your companions and make and measure words the song of Rama and teach it to her two sons.1

Rama is born of the solar race, a descendent of the sun. This is also seen in Greek mythology a lot. Mortals mate with great energies, with the sun or the wind and give rise to some of the great heroes, like Hercules. We are interconnected with these great energies. We are human but we also have that great spirit inside of us.

Sita’s been banished by Rama and she’s going to be abandoned and starts to hear the Ganga, the river, murmuring to her, “jump in, jump in, take rest, find peace.” In the order of the universe, this can’t happen. Narada has come down to convince Valmiki to do something, to take action. Valmiki listens to this, and Narada implores Valmiki to let Sita live with him and his companions and to make and measure words the song of Rama (which is the Ramayana) and teach it to her two sons.

“’I have no companions here’, said Valmiki. ‘You have now. Coming here I sang a friend gathering song. Valmiki I’ve seen other skies than these, other worlds and other friends. People are counting on you and I can hear the chariot from Ayodhya with Sita approaching the Ganga.’ Valmiki said,’ I have no skill in any craft, even in words.’ Narada was silent then he spoke. ‘There, listen. I hear the chariot stopping. Right now, here they come across Ganga in a boat. Or will you also forsake Sita from fear of other people? Look she has discovered she is lost and the boat is launched back without her. Hurry, there the sunlight comes behind the dark clouds. There, the river goddess begins to whisper unseen bells over Sita and makes her swift flowing waters seem a warm, safe home. Act now, Valmiki. Call out and the rest will follow.’”1

It’s a beautiful idea: the friend gathering song. A beautiful hermitage pops up around him because of Narada’s song. Narada says, “I’ve seen other skies, and I’ve seen other worlds. People are depending on you.” In our own lives, our actions, our thoughts, our meditations effect a lot more than what we perceive in that moment. Every decision we make, every action we take, creates a whole interconnected chain of events. The more consciously we can take our actions and make our decisions, then that affect rolls out further and further down the road. The ability to see that our actions affect more than ourselves in that moment creates an expansion of awareness. Valmiki can’t see it, even though he’s the hero and has to take these actions and perform heroic deeds. He’s the one being called to action but the one calling him can see the bigger picture. 

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We Are Our Own Hero

We are the hero of our own lives, we are the ones who have to step forward and take the heroic action. If you look at your own life, what do you have inspiring, guiding or motivating your actions and decisions? If it is television, the newspaper or things that aren’t that expansive of consciousness, then your decisions are going to be influenced by those things. You can energize or inspire yourself by the books you read, by meditating, and focusing on your spiritual journey. You can inspire yourself and bring into your own life the characters that help you see the bigger picture and inspire you towards action.

A good way to look at it is through the laws of attraction and manifestation. What you keep clearest in your heart, for example in meditation you’re bringing in a certain quality, holding that quality in your heart, that intention, that energy you hold in your heart is going to bring into your life the things that are connected to that. Again, spending time in meditation or good spiritual reading will keep your mind in that space and draw that to you. One of the teachings from the Indian philosophy is when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. In the same way, when you bring yourself to a certain level, when you get yourself ready, then the teacher you need in that moment is going to come into your life. The more refined you can make your energetic output; the more you accelerate your growth because you’re clear and focused.

  1. Buck, William. Ramayana. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976. Print.
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The Power of Daily Meditation

Through meditation we explore a depth of awareness concerning ourselves, our lives and the world that would otherwise be rarely…

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by Sujantra McKeever

Through meditation we explore a depth of awareness concerning ourselves, our lives and the world that would otherwise be rarely accessed. The daily practice of meditation allows us time for self-reflection and contemplation. We are able to ask ourselves deep questions about who we are, what we are and why we are here. Meditation gives us the opportunity and space to inquire into ourselves, into our lives, into our existence.

A Spiritual Awakening

Meditation is a profound experience. It is not a method of building up our ego, but rather a time of spiritual awakening, of letting go of our deep-rooted sense of separativity and experiencing our intrinsic oneness with all of existence. Eventually, with persistence and determination we are able to touch the source of all creation. We consciously enter into the core of humanity’s quest from the beginning of time: Who am I? Where have I come from? What is my purpose? Who is my creator? The daily practice of meditation gives us an opportunity to pursue these questions.

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Create the World of Tomorrow

Our own daily meditation also has effect upon the world. The world is intricately woven. In a vibrant web of energy everything is interconnected. If you are able to achieve a calm and quiet mind, you will be bringing peacefulness, calmness, tolerance, and beauty into the world and this will affect everyone else in this intricately woven webs of existence. By reading the newspaper and watching the news, you can see that peace, harmony and oneness are seldom experienced in our modern world. Our world is full of hatred, jealousy, anger, resentment, war and conflict; these powers also have an effect upon each one of us. What type of energy do you want to be responsible for bringing into the earth consciousness? Each though, feeling and action of ours is a creation. Each one of us, everyday, is creating the world of tomorrow.

Reprinted with permission from Learn to Meditate by S.G. McKeever.

Author Sujantra McKeever founded Pilgrimage of the Heart studio in 2006. He began exploring yoga and pranayama at the age of 12. Sujantra has authored five books on eastern philosophy, success motivation and meditation. Since 1987 he has delivered over 1000 lectures on meditation and yoga in over 30 countries. Sujantra studied meditation with spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy.

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80 Years: Happy Birthday Dalai Lama!

On July 6th we celebrated the 80th birthday of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. He describes himself as a simple Buddhist monk…

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On July 6th we celebrated the 80th birthday of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. He describes himself as a simple Buddhist monk. He is the spiritual leader of Tibet.  The teachings of the Buddha as practiced and taught in Tibet we call Tibetan Buddhism.  We celebrate his inspiration in his own words:

“Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them. Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.”

“Old friends pass away, new friends appear. It is just like the days. An old day passes, a new day arrives. The important thing is to make it meaningful: a meaningful friend – or a meaningful day.”

“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”

“In the practice of tolerance, one’s enemy is the best teacher.”

“The purpose of our lives is to be happy.”

“Calm mind brings inner strength and self-confidence, so that’s very important for good health.”

“In order to carry a positive action we must develop here a positive vision.”

“This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.”

“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.”

“When we meet real tragedy in life, we can react in two ways – either by losing hope and falling into self-destructive habits, or by using the challenge to find our inner strength. Thanks to the teachings of Buddha, I have been able to take this second way.”

“I find hope in the darkest of days, and focus in the brightest. I do not judge the universe.”

“There is no need for temples, no need for complicated philosophies. My brain and my heart are my temples; my philosophy is kindness.”

“It is very important to generate a good attitude, a good heart, as much as possible. From this, happiness in both the short term and the long term for both yourself and others will come.”

“With realization of one’s own potential and self-confidence in one’s ability, one can build a better world.”

Photo credit: Tenzin Choejor/OHHDL

 

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5 Yoga Tips for Healthy Skin

Admiring those glowing faces in beauty cream advertisements, we often wonder if we too could have a skin so young…

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by Pritika Nair

Admiring those glowing faces in beauty cream advertisements, we often wonder if we too could have a skin so young and beautiful. Well, it’s not a far-fetched dream anymore! Now you too can flaunt healthy, radiant skin that draws attention. And the good news is: no chemicals and no pricey beauty packages. Just a simple four-letter word –yoga – and a glow on the face that lasts for long is yours to keep.

5 yoga tips

  1. Practice asanas (yoga postures) which help increase blood circulation to the head and face area. These postures also increase oxygenation to the system; as such are called chest openers. All inverted postures and forward bends, which increase blood supply to the head, can help achieve clean, glowing skin.

  2. Cooling pranayamas (breathing exercises) can help provide a cooling effect to the skin and retain its glow.

  3. To improve the digestive process, try doing Alternate Nostril Breathing on empty stomach.

  4. Meditate twice a day, every day. The more you do, the more you will radiate from within and without. Meditation will be your natural make-up that lasts long and makes you look beautiful!

  5. Practice at least 20 minutes of facial yoga exercises everyday at home. These will help tighten the face muscles. Massage your jaws to reduce stress, massage your eyebrows for a dose of instant relaxation, try the ‘kiss and smile technique’ (push out your lips as though to kiss a baby and then smile as broadly as you can) to exercise your face muscles.

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Other tips to keep your skin glowing

  • Drink lots of water: Lukewarm water with lemon and honey helps detoxify your system while keeping your skin clean and healthy.

  • Eat fresh: Make sure you include lots of fresh fruits and vegetables rich in Vitamin C in your diet. Papaya can work wonders for your skin. You can either eat it or apply it on your face for a massage. Potato is also effective in reducing dark spots and scars, tan and sunburn. Also, try and avoid too much of fried or junk food and excessive spice or sweets. Substitute chips or fried rolls with dry fruits or some other healthy snacks. It’s also a good idea to check your body type – Vata, Pitta, or Kapha (an Ayurveda doctor can help you find this) – and know the kind of diet that is suitable to your unique body constitution.

  • Rest well: When your body is deeply rested, it automatically shows on the face. A minimum of eight hours of good sleep is ideal.

  • Apply natural stuff on your skin: Go for Ayurveda facial packages. These treatments are chemical-free, made from natural herbs and leave your skin fresh, rejuvenated and glowing. Use Ayurvedic face scrubs once a week and massage your face with an oil that is particularly suitable for your skin type. Vitamin E oil is recommended. Moisturize your face twice a day and make sure you wash your face after returning home from a long day. Also, splash water on your eyes at least 2-3 times a day. Give yourself a weekly body massage with an oil suitable to your body type. It cleanses the toxins away.

  • Smile: This is the best and the easiest make-up you can apply on your face. The more you smile, the more your face would naturally glow! Also, keep a positive attitude. How you look at yourself reflects on your face. Yoga practice can help you become positive about yourself and others around, and this positivity will make you glow!

Thanks to Art of Living for this contribution to Pilgrimage Yoga Online.

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You only use 10% of your brain?

First of all, as stated above, it’s a bit misleading. The brain is a continuously active, living organ that is always functioning, always on…

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First of all, as stated above, it’s a bit misleading. The brain is a continuously active, living organ that is always functioning, always on and no area of the brain is ever off or unchanging. There may be heightened or lessened periods of regional activity, but the brain, in any event is always 100% on and in use.

In my opinion, the critical point that is being missed in this concept is that we only use about 10% of our brain’s functioning capacity for maintaining a state of consciousness.

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And that begs consideration, don’t you think?

The brain and its extensions controls everything about the body. Most functions are autonomic, operating in the background, constantly maintaining peak bodily operation. Other parts are used for our sub-conscious dealings, sensory inputs and sorting, habits, emotions, memory, plans; again, mostly automatic. These two make up over 90% of all brain activity.

The roughly 10% is the part that we use for our awareness, our perceptions, our mindfulness, our discernment. It’s the part that recognizes Itself. It’s the part that senses a bigger picture. It’s the part that remembers the spark within. And I am of the belief that we can, in fact, use more than 10% of our brain functioning for our consciousness.

This is what yoga teaches. This is what meditation teaches.

To become more aware!

We accomplish this by concentrating our will to direct more brain activity to our state of consciousness.

At some point, the barbarian recognizes that they are part of something bigger than themselves.

1%

Then they include someone else in their sphere, as a, ‘Second self’ (spouse, children).

2%

Then they bring the ’stranger at the gate’ into their inclusiveness. (friends)

3%…

The percentage of our brain activity used for Self-awareness grows and builds. Our brain wrangles functional capacity for consciousness and awareness. Our perception sphere expands. More and more brain activity is applied toward questioning, contemplation, introspection. And as consciousness enfolds, eventually, inevitably everything becomes our inclusion sphere. We expand our perception beyond everything… beyond the universe… to perhaps repose with the ‘Supreme.’

Yoga and meditation are tools that build awareness. Yoga and meditation help develop our ability to use more of our brain activity for consciousness more often and for longer periods of time. And when we exercise our consciousness, our awareness, we are building New Neural Pathways by which we are better able to perceive this new, heightened consciousness.

What does all this mean?

You have the ability to use your will to concentrate your consciousness, your Self-awareness. With practice you can move beyond 10% and use more of your brain functioning for continuous mindfulness. Slowly, steadily, with practice, your universe opens.

Let’s try for 20%.

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3 Ways to Motivate Your Yoga Practice at Home

On a recent post-nap early evening I struggled to consciousness wondering how in the world I was going to coerce myself…

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On a recent post-nap early evening I struggled to consciousness wondering how in the world I was going to coerce myself into

doing some yoga. I had plans for later that evening and I wanted to be as conscious as possible to enjoy the evening’s activities.

I had already gotten in a cardio workout earlier in the day and knew that 20-30 minutes of yoga would get me feeling great but as I struggled to consciousness I knew the challenge ahead of me. My body only wanted more sleep and my mind was not interested in any discipline.

5 minutes of yoga works wonders!

The first thing I decided upon was that I would remove all pressure from myself by setting the goal at five minutes of yoga. Deep down I know that once I get going yoga feels to good to stop but in this case the challenge is getting going and so I set the five-minute goal. That worked.

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The next thing I did as I lay on the couch was think of something that I really enjoy that I could link to my minutes of yoga… music. I decided to put on one of my favorite groups for my five minute practice: Monk Party. It’s upbeat and dynamic yet soulful sound would make five minutes seem like nothing.

At this point I had turned the corner. This yoga practice was going to manifest. The trump card was fresh air. I realized that my sleeping had made the room a bit stale and the thought of fresh air motivated me to activity. I got up, opened the front door, air played from my iphone to my stereo system and started my very doable five-minute session.

Savasana

I know the way I am and my plan worked. Sure enough twenty-five minutes later was winding down a great yoga practice with a deep relaxation savasana that would carry me into a great evening!

Know thyself…and it’s easy to motivate!

Namaste!

Sujantra founded Pilgrimage Yoga Online designed to make yoga accessible to everyone in the comfort of their home. He is the author of 5 books and has taught meditation to over 25,000 people. He guides the Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga Studio in San Diego, CA and studied meditation for 27 years with Sri Chinmoy.

 

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Yoga Home Practice Room Ideas

Embrace Nature – Love doing your morning asanas surrounded by nature? Chant Om in an airy room that’s flooded with light…

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If you’re learning yoga and meditation online, then consider setting up a special place in your home or apartment where you can practice in a clutter free, calm atmosphere.

Go Minimalist

If you’re recreating a room for yoga, aim at a minimalist design free of distractions. A hardwood floor is ideal. You might need several yoga mats if you’re practicing on a concrete floor. If your room is carpeted, you might be able to practice without a mat.

Meg DePriest, a mother and yoga instructor in Denver, suggests you find a special place, “You don’t have to spend a ton of money or have a huge space. Just find a space in your house that makes you happy, chase the kids out every once in a while, and enjoy your practice.”

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Mediterranean Yoga Room

A peaceful, clutter-free atmosphere is ideal.  Most yoga spaces have bare floors, but adding a large rug can provide some extra cushioning.

 

Embrace Nature

Love doing your morning asanas surrounded by nature?  Chant Om in an airy room that’s flooded with light.

 

Yoga Heaven

Unsure what to do with the attic or basement in your home? Transform it into yoga gym. Add a yoga mat, some free weights, a stationary bike, and you’re ready.

 

Lighting is Key

Whether you’re transforming the corner of a room or an entire room, lighting is also important. Use dimmable lighting and shades so you can adjust the room for mood, style of practice and time of day.  “Traditionally, the lights are dimmed throughout the practice, and savasana, or the final pose, occurs in the dark,” added DePriest.

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Jerry Seinfeld goes Transcendental

Transcendental Meditation – Watching the recent interview of Jerry Seinfeld talking about the power and significance of meditation…

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Transcendental Meditation

Watching the recent interview of Jerry Seinfeld talking about the power and significance of meditation, specifically a technique called Transcendental Meditation was very inspiring for me. The ability to stay calm amidst the storms of life lies behind the success and creativity of many acclaimed men and women. It was great to hear him talk about the importance of meditation in his life.

David Lynch

I first found out about Transcendental Meditation, started by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, in 1978 when I was 17 years old. I went to an introductory seminar with my mother who was a neurologist and my cousin who was an airline pilot. The seminar’s validation of meditation was rooted in in medical studies and was very convincing. Meditation works! These days, 35 years later, they are using MRI machines to show the power of meditation. David Lynch, the famous movie director, is a strong and vocal proponent of the technique.

I ended up connecting with spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy and found in his teachings and meditation techniques a path that resonated with me, although I have drawn inspiration from the Maharishi’s efforts to spread meditation globally. I once gave Sri Chinmoy an article about all that their organization was doing.

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Japa and Mantra

Transcendental Meditation is rooted in a meditation technique called japa, which is the repetition of a mantra. A mantra can be anything from a seed sound such as “AUM” to a phrase such as: “Let Thy will be done.” The mantra can be repeated in one of three ways: out loud, silently (inside one’s mind and heart) with the lips moving; and silently with the lips and tongue motionless.

Aum” also spelled “Om” is the universal seed sound and is recommended in the ancient books of meditation as the mantra which can bring about the highest level of spiritual experiences. Mantras can also be created by various other seed sounds such as Lam, Vam, Ram, Yam and Ham . Sounds can also be combined. The benefits and science behind the repetition of seed sounds, and also the word “one,” has been methodically explained and explored in the book: The Relaxation Response by Dr. Herbert Benson is a must read if you are interested in this type of meditation.

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At PYO.yoga we have videos that explain more about meditation and videos that lead you through the experience of chanting Aum.

–Sujantra

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Kirtan and Health

The numbers are astounding! – Singing, especially choral singing is one of the easiest and best things you can do for your health…

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The numbers are astounding!

Singing, especially choral singing is one of the easiest and best things you can do for your health and well-being.

“Group singing is cheaper than therapy, healthier than drinking, and certainly more fun than working out. It is the one thing in life where feeling better is pretty much guaranteed.”

I know this from experience. I’ve lead a weekly kirtan, a chanting and meditation practice, for over five years. At the end of the evening I am exhilarated. I feel good. I’m happy and at peace.

“Group singing, for those who have done it, is the most exhilarating and transformative of all.

“It takes something incredibly intimate, a sound that begins inside you, shares it with a roomful of people and it comes back as something even more thrilling: harmony.”

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Our Breaths and Hearts

When we sing our breaths and hearts come together, a process called entrainment. Vibrations sync up. And studies further suggest that group singing can be extremely beneficial for older folks who don’t exercise regularly.

“Deep breathing is a key to meditation and other relaxation techniques…”

A  Form of Pranayama

I’ve often described singing as a form of pranayama. Think about it. Precisely controlled breathing. Inhale a measured volume of air, pause, regulate and pressurize, exhale in a very conscious manner to produce a specific sound, continuing to refine the exhale to control and improve the sound or change notes… Repeat. All together, now…

Great for Everyone

A kirtan is great for anyone to find a safe, welcoming and easy place to find your voice. No auditions are required. No one cares what you sound like. And in fact, the benefits of singing are available even to the most average singers (of which I am one). Find a kirtan. Find your voice. Enliven your heart.

We’re here for you!

Join Us Live or Live Stream

The reality is, when you join in choral singing you become an integral component of something you can’t create by yourself. You recognize and appreciate both the necessity and the offerings of those around you. You become part of a larger whole, a community of ONE.

The Pilgrimage of the Heart Kirtan Band plays every Thursday evening at 8:15pm (Pacific) for FREE and streams the event LIVE. Join us in person if you are in San Diego. Download Stre.am (free app) on your mobile device and search for pilgrimagekirtan to connect with us worldwide.

 

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The Wandering Yogis’ Article

Thank you The Wandering Yogis for posting this great article! “I recently watched a news clip about Pilgrimage Of The Heart yoga located…

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Thank you The Wandering Yogis for posting this great article!

“I recently watched a news clip about Pilgrimage Of The Heart yoga located in San Diego.  What captured my attention was the way these 2 studios have removed all barriers to accessing yoga classes.  No longer can we say ‘I can’t afford it, I don’t have transportation, I can’t make time during my day or I feel uncomfortable in a yoga class.’  Pilgrimage Of The Heart offers pay as you wish online yoga classes accessible to anyone with a computer….read more

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Kirtan for Weight Loss?

Kirtan for Weight loss! Wait, what… Really? If we’re talking about the ‘Weight of the World.’ Kirtan can help with that! Kirtan is a place…

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Kirtan for Weight loss! Wait, what… Really?

If we’re talking about the ‘Weight of the World.’

Kirtan can help with that! Kirtan is a place where the weight of the world is gone. It’s a place where we can shed our chains, where we can lift eyes to our maker. It’s a place of communal outpouring, chant upon chant about love and gratitude – for our miracle-lives! It’s a place to find our courage. Heavy can be life. We can all change the way we look at things in our worlds. Kirtan can be a good vehicle in helping us find the inner determination to take meaningful steps in our lives. Jai, jai Ganesha!

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Fear of Singing… 

Sometimes the way to propel yourself forward involves sticking your neck out a bit. Folks often have an aversion to singing. So, their initial response is, “I’m not good enough.” Don’t let this happen to you! You don’t have to audition. Just show up. When you are ready, join in. Singing is not heavy… It’s pure light, pure vibration. It feels good. We loosen up as we vibrate. We loosen the chains we’re holding onto so tightly. We can let go…

When we sing and vibrate together as a group, we are a Unity. It’s a concrete reminder of an abstract concept; that everything in the universe vibrates as a perfect Unity.

Kirtan. Shed the ‘Weigh of the World.’  Move lightly.

Want to know more?

Our San Diego community, Pilgrimage of the Heart members and participants are fortunate to have FREE Kirtan every Thursday evening at 8:15pm (Pacific). This event is now streamed LIVE! Download the FREE app for your mobile device and follow us at stre.am/pilgrimagekirtan.

Lose the ‘Weight of the World!’

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Discover Kirtan… Find your voice

If you have listened to recorded Kirtan music, you might have a degree of appreciation for the genre…

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If you have listened to recorded Kirtan music, you might have a degree of appreciation for the genre and perhaps Kirtan’s serene soulfulness. But I tell you; Kirtan is meant to be experienced live! Kirtan is a participation practice. The whole scope of the practice will change for you when you are there participating.

Where can I go to sing?

Folks often say to me, “Where can I go to sing?” Or, more frequently, “Singing at Kirtan has freed my voice! Thank you.”

You could join a church choir. You might find a choral group if you are lucky… that’s about it. You have to audition. You need skills. What about the rest of us?

Kirtan is for everyone! All you have to do is show up. The ‘quality’ of your voice is not what matters. The creation and sharing of your heart-voice is the practice. Find your heart-voice!

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What really happens when I sing?

When we sing, we vibrate! Everything vibrates. From the smallest corpuscles to the songs of the celestial spheres, the entire universe vibrates. Vibration FEELS good. We are made to vibrate. And our voice is our mechanism, our gift. Couple your voice with a single, sacred thought. Take a deep inhalation, sing ‘Om’ (Aum) for a full breath. Feel your heart as your vibrational energy is transmitted through you, into the room, into the universe…

Find a Kirtan practice in your community.

Kirtans are popping up all over! Find a Kirtan practice in your community. Walk in. Be a part of it. Find your voice.

WATCH our Kirtan LIVE every Thursday at 8:15pm (Pacific) using the FREE Stre.am app for iOS and Android. Download the app, sign in and search for pilgrimagekirtan to connect with us. Become part of our world-wide community.

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Kirtan Roots – Start here!

Not in a million years would I have imagined being so deeply involved in Kirtan as I am today. When I was introduced to Kirtan…

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Not in a million years would I have imagined being so deeply involved in Kirtan as I am today. When I was introduced to Kirtan around 2007, I had no idea of the impact it would have on my life. Playing music as a teenager in the mid-‘70s and finding the yoga world in 1990, I had a regular meditation practice. I had even listened to Krishna Das recordings but I was, as yet, unmoved by Kirtan. Only after becoming friends with Sujantra, founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart yoga studio in San Diego, did I find this genre and become enthralled.

Sujantra and I struck up a relationship around yoga and Kirtan. We started jamming together. Sujantra played the harmonium and I was on bass guitar… I started learning some chants. The whole process was subtly compelling.  We started practicing regularly. We recruited players. We started a band. Now we have one of Southern California’s best Kirtan offerings, playing weekly for five years now.

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Plant your Kirtan roots with us!

We offer Kirtan tutorials at Pilgrimage Yoga online so you can learn and start a Kirtan practice in your community.  Our lessons demonstrate harmonium, guitar, bass guitar, tabla and other percussion instruments broken down into the basics so you can quickly and easily learn. We demonstrate traditional and contemporary chants, original chants written by us, and feature ancient and modern chants by spiritual leader Sri Chinmoy. Anyone with a true desire and the most basic music background on any instrument can master this genre.

Grow your Kirtan roots deeply

Do you want to know more about what Kirtan is and how to sow your Kirtan roots? Follow my blog.

Pilgrimage of the Heart Kirtan. Every Thursday night at 8:15pm. Always FREE!

WATCH our Kirtan streamed LIVE on Thursday nights. Download the FREE app for your iphone, ipad or android devise at Stre.am and search for pilgrimagekirtan to connect.

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Peace Run Children’s Art Exhibit

Paintings for World Harmony – San Diego City Hall – On Thursday March 26, two friends and I set up an art display at San Diego…

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Paintings for World Harmony

San Diego City Hall – On Thursday March 26, two friends and I set up an art display at San Diego City Hall. The display featured ‘Paintings for World Harmony’ by prolific artist Sri Chinmoy, founder of the Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run, and drawings that we collected from children around the world where the Peace Run visited this year.

Peace Run Jharna Kala Exhibit SD photo 1 Peace Run Jharna Kala Exhibit SD photo 7 Peace Run Jharna Kala Exhibit SD photo 6

Sri Chinmoy

Sri Chinmoy was an artist, poet, musician and athlete who dreamed about a oneness–world through inner peace. His art work such as ‘Peace Feeds the Children’, ‘Serve Humanity’ and ‘Imagine Peace Here and Now’ makes us reflect on the inner peace that exists within us. His art work has been displayed in prominent locations throughout the world such as; The Victoria and Albert Museum in London, The Louvre in Paris and The United Nations in New York City.

Peace Run Jharna Kala Exhibit SD photo 5 Peace Run Jharna Kala Exhibit

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The Children’s Art

The children’s art work are beautiful masterpieces with the theme of ‘Peace’, ‘Happiness’, ‘Nonviolence’ and ‘Recycling’. The children – ages 5-15 – remind us of their hopes and dreams for a more harmonious and peaceful world.

SD Administration Bldg

City of San Diego

We would like to thank the City of San Diego for their support and I would like to personally thank the founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga Studio, Sujantra McKeever, and the Peace Run for making this exhibit possible.

Santiva

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Anandamayi Ma

Anandamayi Ma – There is no easier way to feel God than through another human being.
A genuine spiritual Master resonates…

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Anandamayi Ma

There is no easier way to feel God than through another human being.
A genuine spiritual Master resonates the energy of the Infinite through their very glance. For some seekers, the picture of Anandamayi Ma will offer an inner thrill, a feeling that the bliss that spiritual awakening is real and attainable.

Sri Chinmoy

My teacher, Sri Chinmoy, wrote: “…Anandamayi Ma happens to be one of the absolutely sincere spiritual Masters who has really realized God…and who can speak on God with authority.” *

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Yogic Concentration

The power of a spiritual Masters consciousness is such that it can be transmitted through a glance and by applying your yogic concentration to the picture of a spiritual Master you can make an inner connection with that teacher. You can feel if that teacher can guide you to your spiritual awakening. That inner connection, once established, then serves as the pole-star, the inner guidance, as you navigate your inner dimensions.

The consciousness of a spiritual Master is not diminished when they leave the body. Anandamayi Ma passed away on August 27, 1982. Of God she wrote: “He is without beginning and without end. He is the whole and also the part.
The whole and part together make up real Perfection.”

*The Journey of Silver Dreams by Sri Chinmoy, 1974, p38

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The Science of Meditation

Based on Why God Won’t Go Away by Dr. Andrew Newberg – Millions of people are learning to meditate. Stress-reduction, more…

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Based on Why God Won’t Go Away by Dr. Andrew Newberg

Millions of people are learning to meditate. Stress-reduction, more happiness, and a deep sense of calm: all of these benefits are well documented by the scientific community. * Meditation is being taught everywhere: from schools to the military and everywhere in between. But how does it work?

The Science

New medical technology allows scientists to view the workings of the brain in real time. We can now look at a brain in the state of deep meditation and a brain writhing in anxiety and see many differences. These differences in blood flow to specific areas of the brain, coupled with what we know about different functions of specific areas of the brain, coupled with the subjective experiences of those participating has allowed for a very accurate and scientific understanding of meditation and mystical experience.

Letting Go

An area of the brain called the ‘posterior superior parietal lobe’ creates our sense of the physical space around us and draws the distinction between the individual and the environment. Essential, it creates our sense of ‘I.’

This part of the brain relies on a steady stream of nerve impulses from the body’s senses. When practicing meditation we calm and relax our senses lessening the data stream to this part of the brain; the boundaries of self begin to shift and widen, we feel expansive, and less confined, more a part of a bigger picture.

And, possibly most significantly, when coming out of the meditative experience we carry a memory of these feelings that can influence our actions in our day-to-day lives.

Evolution into Oneness

We, in our evolution, learn to use parts of our bodies forever more expansive and consciousness expanding abilities. Our eyes, which once were used exclusively for survival, are now the vehicles through which we can read and enjoy art. The holds true for our brains. The part of our brain which gives rise to seperativity and egocentricity is also the part, which can allow us, to experience universal oneness.

Evolution is luminous process when form and function evolve together!

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Savasana – A pose for everyone!

Today was one of those days when nothing seemed to go right (Savasana save me!). My new puppy chewed the leg of an antique…

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Today was one of those days when nothing seemed to go right (Savasana save me!). My new puppy chewed the leg of an antique chair I got from my grandmother, the apartment I was looking to rent got taken and then my car wouldn’t start. Late for work again!

I decided after work to make a healthy choice instead of going to the local pub, so I checked out another Pilgrimage online yoga class since it was so helpful before. To tell you the truth, I didn’t really feel like “working out”. Then I saw Heather Fenwick 10 minute Savasana pose and thought – now there’s something I can handle!

What is Savasana?

Savasana, or corpse pose, is a conscious letting go and allowing the body to melt into the ground. It is the final pose in most yoga classes and is a restorative pose, which means you just lay there and your body restores itself – That’s for me! I sometimes see people leaving a yoga class when it’s time for Savasana, but from what I’ve heard, it’s really important to finish your practice with Savasana so your body has a chance to restore itself.

Benefits

Heather’s video was like a guided relaxation. She “talked” to all her body parts and told them, (in a nice way), to relax. I found this very helpful because you can find out if there are any leftover tension spots and let them know to “chill out.”

After a while, I just listened to Heather’s voice as I released the tension from the day and let my mind and body rest. I thought, now this is a yoga pose I could get good at – then I didn’t have any more thoughts –just peace.

Savasana in everyday life

A lot of yoga poses can be done in a variety of settings, like the workplace. Savasana is a bit more tricky, since you should be lying down. I don’t know about your workplace, but there’s nowhere to lie down where I work. However, it’s a great pose to do at home or outside in a park or at the beach.

As I continue to do yoga, I realize the benefits of Savasana. For me, it is especially soothing after a class or after having done other poses. However, after watching this video I learned Savasana can be an important, relaxing pose unto itself.

Namaste.

(To watch Heather’s Savasana video, CLICK HERE).

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The Benefits of Meditation

Why Meditate? – The benefits of meditation are undeniable. Meditation calms the mind. From the moment we awake and open our eyes…

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Why Meditate?

The benefits of meditation are undeniable. Meditation calms the mind. From the moment we awake and open our eyes until we put ourselves to bed, it’s typical to have a stream of thoughts flowing through our minds. This is why we practice yoga and part of yoga, as a whole, is meditation. When the mind is calmed by meditating we can balance our emotions, quiet our thoughts and create a higher level of self-awareness.

How to Meditate

There is no secret mystery to meditation. Just like learning to ride a bike or drive a car, meditation takes some basic, initial instruction and then it takes practice to enjoy the benefits. Anyone can meditate. Meditation is free. Meditation can be done anywhere. Meditation can be done anytime. You can take a class at a meditation center or a yoga studio if you’d like to have a personal guide. Pilgrimage Online offers great, free resources for meditating you can find HERE.

Avoid the Pitfalls of a Newbie Meditating

Try meditation and then try it again and again. Don’t be concerned that you aren’t doing it right. At first, it may seem odd to to take no other actions outside of sitting and breathing. The stillness may be uncomfortable, initially, as most of us have zero experience with quiet time in our day. You may find that sitting quietly highlights just how active your mind is and that might be uncomfortable. The odd discomfort of being new to meditation is only temporary. It’s normal. Remember: you’re trying something new so give yourself some space to learn and grow.

Getting to Know the Real You

When you meditate, you take time to just be you. Not the you that has a name that was given at birth. Not the you that wears clothes in the style that is acceptable to society. Not the you that has emails to read and to-do lists to complete. In meditation, you see you for who you really are: the being, or soul, some might say, that is behind the thoughts. Your thoughts and who you are, are two separate things.

Letting Go

When you see yourself, sitting quietly and letting go of the racing mind, you will feel a sense of contentment and calm. You will see that all there ever is, is right now. Yesterday and what will happen in the next hour don’t exist when you are in the right now, being you. In fact, meditation prepares you for the future. People who meditate regularly are more innovative on average. Meditation also helps you heal from the past. Taking that time to sit quietly helps you release what you’re holding onto: thoughts and emotions about the past.

A New Practice

If you are new to meditation or renewing your interest in meditation, I invite you to meditate for at least 3-5 minutes this week, then again next week and so on. I invite you to start a regular practice of meditation and, in turn, gain the most valuable of benefits: a higher level of self-awareness.

If you found this information helpful or have any questions, let me know in the comments below.

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Pranayama – Energize your Life Force through Breathing

Prana what? – My boyfriend thought I was talking about some new motorcycle when I tried explaining what Pranayama is and what…

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Prana what?

My boyfriend thought I was talking about some new motorcycle when I tried explaining what Pranayama is and what it can do for you – or more precisely what your breath can do for you. I had just watched one of Pilgrimage of the Heart’s Yoga videos on their online studio called “Pranayama energizing flow – 10 minutes with Lauren McLaren” and I couldn’t believe the different ways someone could breathe and even more importantly the enormous benefits that could be attained in just a few minutes. According to my boyfriend, “a breath is a breath” and he couldn’t understand how I could be so excited about something you don’t have to do anything about. But that’s the whole point. You CAN do something about your breath and it will improve your health!

Pranayama is a Sanskrit word meaning “extension of the life force”. The word is comprised of two Sanskrit words, Prana or life force (breath) and ayama meaning to extend or draw out. In the video the instructor focuses on two breathing techniques designed to expand the life forces we already possess. It also highlights the importance of doing these exercises properly and with a split screen gives the viewer a great means of how to do just that. The first technique is called Kapalabhati breath – Kapal means skull and bhati means polishing or shining. Kapalabhati, as the name suggests, is a method to make the head “sparkling clean” and devoid of toxins. On first glance, it sort of looks like you’re panting like a dog on a hot day, but you quickly build up an energy that moves through your limbs and your whole system. The other technique is called Nadi Shodan Pranayama or alternate nostril breathing. This is where you block one nostril at a time while breathing in and out. The video lays out very clearly how to hold your fingers and how to properly breathe using this technique.

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Benefits of Pranayama

While the ultimate goal of Pranayama is to enter higher states of consciousness, there are many immediate benefits. When we can control our breath we can keep our physical body healthy through the intake of oxygen and we can help affect our emotional and spiritual state through the meditative practice of breathing. These breathing exercises also help in calming and centering the mind, which brings the mind back to the present moment. Through this practice we can also release accumulated stress toxins and that in turn brings clarity to our mind and energy into our body. And all of these benefits come with just a few minutes of practice! The other underlying benefit of Pranayama (and this video) is that it brings attention to your breath, which a lot of us (including my boyfriend) don’t even think about. As an athlete, I’ve always sort of noticed that there are times in intense situations when I stop breathing and now I will not only be more aware of my breath, but also have options for improving my breath and my health.

Application: Pranayama in everyday life

Pranayama can easily be applied in everyday life because you don’t need a yoga mat or props to do it. Everything you need you already carry with you – your nose, your lungs and your fingers. Once you learn the techniques you can practice anywhere, anytime – waiting in a long line, on a break from work or even riding on the back of a motorcycle where the driver can’t see you 😉 My boyfriend is cool, but I disagree with his assessment that “a breath is a breath”. I mean really, are all motorcycles the same? Pranayama shows us that not only can you breathe in different ways, but there are enormous benefits in doing so.

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Namaste and its Meaning

You’ve undoubtedly heard your yoga instructor greet you with, “Namaste.” As you’re guided through the practice you’ll hear Sanskrit…

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You’ve undoubtedly heard your yoga instructor greet you with, “Namaste.” As you’re guided through the practice you’ll hear Sanskrit words mixed in amongst our shared English language. Years of practice may go by before you begin to pay attention to the Sanskrit words and wonder about their meaning. Naturally, new yogis are more focused on the getting into and out of the poses with proper alignment and less interested in the foreign terms being used in class. Then, one day when you’ve gotten in and out of Warrior II with ease and grace, a word you’ve heard tens of times before, like Namaste, suddenly becomes your focus and you wonder, for the first time about it’s meaning.

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Two Parts to Namaste

Namaste is broken down into two parts. Nama means ‘to bow’ and te means ‘to you.’ Usually Namaste is said while hands are in Anjali Mudra, otherwise known as Prayer Pose or Salutation Seal. The palms are pressed lightly together at heart center, thumbs resting on or above the chest near the heart, head bows. It’s a respectful way to salute another person.

When I say Namaste to students I use the gesture to silently communicate, “I see you and the light within you. I see me in you and I see that we are one.” It’s a way to connect with another person, bow with respect to all that they are and all that they have been though in this life. It’s a way to unite with each other, at the same level and recognize we are all one.

What sanskrit words are you hearing in class? Let me know in a comment below.

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Finding my Toes

Before today I couldn’t touch my toes. As a seventeen-year-old girl about to be a senior in high school this always seems…

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Before today I couldn’t touch my toes. As a seventeen-year-old girl about to be a senior in high school this always seems to strike people as odd, though it has been a reality for most of my life. The story starts a bit earlier though…

Investing in Fitness

About a month ago my Dad and I decided it was about time to start investing further in fitness, during the ever so lazy summer season, so we joined a gym close to our house. We try to work out 5 days a week incorporating cardio and weights in order to burn calories while building muscle as well as trying to eat as clean as possible as often as we can, and it’s been great so far.

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Reaching my Splits

I was a dancer for 9 years so stretching has always been a big part of my warm up and down from a workout but I didn’t always enjoy doing it as it was usually used as a starting block to reach my splits (which I was never able to do)! It was a constant frustration that though I may be only three inches from my splits I still was unable to touch my toes.

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The Importance of Yoga

Yoga and stretching has become more important to me since I joined my high school swim team my freshman year and sustained a shoulder injury from overuse. Doctors were unable to give any advice besides to take Aleve, to not work as hard in practices and to do proper stretching. As summer progressed without competitive swimming, this new, more consistent workout schedule has forced me to put more value into my time stretching and use it not just as a time to make sure my body is happy but that I am as well. After a hard day of cardio coupled with weights that seem to make my muscles scream, a long stretch often does the trick to calm down.

I can now proudly say that after many years of simply not being able to touch my toes, I can!

-Teenyogi

 

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How you can set an intention for your yoga practice

What does setting an intention mean? – You may have heard your yoga instructor invite you to “set an intention” at the beginning of class…

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What does setting an intention mean?

You may have heard your yoga instructor invite you to “set an intention” at the beginning of class. Setting an intention isn’t an ancient practice. It’s not one of the 8 limbs of yoga. You won’t find it in the Bhagavad Gita. So why does your teacher mention this in class? What does it mean to set an intention?

Set Out Into Life with an Intention

Setting an intention is a reminder that what you do for an hour on the mat is preparing you for the 23 other hours of the day when you’re off the mat. Most of the day you are dealing with life – work, school, relationships, money, traffic, parking, the list is endless. When you head out into your life without an intention, things can get fraught with difficulties.

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If you set out into life with an intention, such as: peace, love, acceptance, or patience, the incidences of your day are seen through a sort of intention filter. Like a pair of sunglasses that you put on and it changes the way you see things. If you can’t find parking and you’re running 5 minutes late for an appointment, the whole situation looks and feels differently if you have the intention of acceptance and patience.

Other People’s Experience

 Other people’s experience of you will be colored by your intention as well. Rather than being stressed and angry after arriving 5 minutes late, your intention has you focused and calm. Nothing has changed, life didn’t suddenly get easier, but your intention allows you to cruise through the big and small battlefields of life with less resistance and more ease.

Begin Your Day with an Intention

Try setting an intention at the beginning of your next yoga practice. Something that you would like to cultivate more of in your life off the mat. As you breath in, image that you can draw into your lungs and body the essential qualities needed to create that intention in your life. As you exhale, breath those qualities out into the room, the people around you, into your city and ultimately into the world.

What intention are you setting for your life while on the mat? How is it changing your life off the mat? Let me know in a comment below. 

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Asana & Pranayama – Feel the benefits of your yoga practice!

In the ancient books of yoga is says that the postures, asanas, should be firm but pleasant. We can think of our posture not only…

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In the ancient books of yoga is says that the postures, asanas, should be firm but pleasant. We can think of our posture not only in terms of our yoga practice but also our posture in life and our daily activities. There is our physical posture, how we stand and support ourselves, and also our inner posture: the condition of our minds, hearts and sense of self.

Asana & Pranayama

Through the practice of asana we bring awareness, strength, balance and flexibility to our physical body. Through the practice of breath control, pranayama, we bring awareness to our breath. Breath is the great passageway into our inner dimension. Once we have learned to concentrate on our breath we can begin to refine our inner posture. We can learn to channel our mental and psychic energy in various ways.

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Our Meditation Classes

In our meditation classes we suggest that you use the concentration power of your yoga to reveal the qualities of your spiritual heart: love, compassion, acceptance, forgiveness, gratitude and oneness. Feel and manifest these qualities in your life. It will benefit not only you but everyone whose path you cross. We create the world by our thoughts, feelings and actions. Create consciously and remember the significance of your role in creating this world of ours. Happy Spring.

Yoga Tips

Linking breath and movement is one of the keys to yoga. Try this exercise: stand in Tandasana, mountain pose, with your arms by your side. Do a few shoulder shrugs to loosen up your shoulders and a few head rolls to relax your neck and head, then focus in on your breath, if possible breathing in and out through your nose. As you breath in open our hands as wide as possible: spreading your finger as if they were your lungs filling with air. At the same time lift your toes off the ground. Now as you exhale clench your hands into a fist and grab the floor with your toes. Repeat this cycle, linking breath with precise movements for 3-30 breaths. Feel the results.

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