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.



“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, “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.


Hamatreya Poem Meaning: Ruminations on a Ralph Waldo Emerson Poem

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When I heard the Earth-song,

I was no longer brave;

My avarice cooled

Like lust in the chill of the grave.

The entire poem:


Hamatreya by Ralph Waldo Emmerson


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


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

Who am I?

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


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


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


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.

Invocation: Call it Forth

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


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

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

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

If we want more love… practical applications:

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

“…In My Name.”

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

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


What would Jesus do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy meditating!


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




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

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

The Natural Course of Things

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

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

A Veritable Symphony of Death

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

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

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

A Few General Observations About Death

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

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

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

To Make Life More Precious

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

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

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

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


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


Please enjoy this first weekly installment from The ABCs of Enlightment by Jeffery Baker….



Human beings have been creating art for 50,000 to 75,000 years, if various regional claims can be settled; the Europeans with their beautiful cave drawings at Lascaux, France, being especially dismissive of the rough petroglyphs of the Africans and Australian Aboriginals, as you might expect. They have a good shot at the record for music, however, with a bear thighbone flute recently discovered in a Slovenian cave and dated to 50,000 BC.

Anthropologists call primitive art “the dawn of superfluous beauty” and so by extension we could certainly call this earliest music “the dawn of superfluous noise,” as we have concrete proof that this is what it has become today. Bothersome Muzak now plays everywhere, even in parking lots.

Not An Exclusively Human Endeavor

Until the 1960s when an English chimp (or one living in England, anyway) named Congo (1954–1964) created more than four hundred paintings, art was considered an exclusively human endeavor. Recently, one of Congo’s untitled canvases set an auction record for nonhuman art at $25,000 (posthumously, of course). And while there are elephants throughout Asia that paint and even one named Nellie in Los Angeles whose works include “Serengeti Passion” and “Kenyan Skies”—yes, not just some loud trumpeting sound—what set Congo apart was his passion.

For while the pachyderms don’t seem to care if they pick up a paintbrush or a mahogany log, Congo, if not allowed to paint, would go berserk; and if his canvas was removed before he felt it was finished, would go completely bananas. Yes, he seemed an artist in every sense—his hygiene was already quite characteristically poor.

The idea that a chimp’s creative output could be considered art upset many religious scholars; for they held that true art was a function of the soul expressing a divine urge and since only humans, in their opinion, had souls, Congo the chimp could not be expressing a divine urge and thereby creating art.

Paintball Art

by Lori Ho – license

According to Mysticism

Mysticism has no such problem with Congo or with the divinity of any of our other simian brothers and sisters. In fact, if mysticism has a problem, it’s trying to figure out what doesn’t have a soul: A dog? A bee? A house? A tree? And what doesn’t embody a divine urge, since according to mysticism the entire creation is the direct result of The Divine Urge which is nothing more than the Creator’s own inspiration to self-expression, the Universe and all its inhabitants being, in essence, God’s art.

So for mysticism the degree to which an organism can create art, can express a divine urge, is not a function of whether or not it has a soul, since most everything has one, but the degree to which that particular soul can express itself through that organism. The higher, more evolved organisms, such as ourselves, having the capacity to be more conscious of their inner realities, therefore becoming better candidates for soulful, artistic, self-expression. This is also why we are not completely surprised when a chimpanzee, our species’ closest relation (we share 99 percent of the same DNA), albeit an exceptionally “gifted” one named Congo, not only wants to paint but is as obsessed as was van Gogh.

Art From the Soul

Recently I was invited to a friend’s art exhibit, the final part of his master of fine arts degree from a famous New York City art college. He specializes in “installations”—not paintings or sculpture, per se, although it could include those—but created environments. The show was held in a loft in Greenwich Village that had been hastily cleaned out and included many other installations as well. My biggest problem that day was trying to figure out what were the works of art and what was intended for the dumpster, the only clue being the little signs with titles and attributions next to each exhibit, making those placards found near the piles of leftover construction materials, the janitor’s closets, or especially the restrooms, particularly daunting.

I bring this up not to be smug but to say that even if we side with the religious scholars and say that only humans have souls and thereby can create art, it is still a stretch to say that whatever is expressed by us comes directly from our souls. Though recognizing what does is no simple matter.


via Michelangelo via Wikipedia

Openness; That Artistic Genius

Michelangelo, arguably the finest sculptor ever, said that creating art for him was simply a matter of chipping away all that wasn’t part of his statues; Mozart, considered by many the greatest composer, just a matter of transcribing the music that he already heard fully formed inside his head. The power, beauty, and fecundity of their output (Mozart lived only thirty-five years and had nearly seven hundred symphonic, choral, chamber, and operatic masterworks) tells us that creativity and especially creative abundance is not cunning but openness; that artistic genius, in the artists’ own words, is not contrivance but revelation; is, what is called in New Age parlance, “channeling.” And this is exactly what we would expect if we became aware of the infinite in us; if we became conscious of our soul. There is no better example of this than my own mentor, Sri Chinmoy, who created more than two hundred thousand paintings, fifteen million drawings, and composed more than twenty thousand songs.

Art of Sri Chinmoy

Sri Chinmoy with one of his Jharna-Kalas.

When Mozart was twelve and visiting the Sistine Chapel in Rome he heard Gregorio Allegri’s famous Miserere—a complicated work for nine-part choir, which distribution or publication of was punishable by excommunication. That night, back in his hotel room, the young prodigy wrote the entire thing down from memory, perfectly, note for note. (At that age I was sitting with a record player and a guitar trying to figure out the chords for Beatles songs and getting them mostly wrong.) When Michelangelo was fourteen he was already hard at work on commissions from Italy’s greatest patrons, the Medicis.

Soulful, Profound and Prolific Self-Expression

So, is soulful, profound and prolific self-expression only for these few and a handful of other super-gifted persons throughout human history? The answer is no. (Does life distribute talent fairly? I’d rather not say.) Could any of the rest of us ever sculpt the Pieta or pen Eine Kleine Nachtmusik? The answer is also probably no, since it was these individuals’ unique combination of extraordinary abilities that could have done that. Could a person of “normal” abilities, such as the one who created a sculpture at my friend’s exhibit with a screw gun and a bunch of leftover pieces of two-by-fours—which looked for all the world like late the night before she had cobbled together whatever hadn’t yet been thrown out—be expressing her soul and creating art in this mystical sense? The answer, believe it or not, is possibly. How could one tell? It is a matter of “consciousness,” a spiritual term that has its own essay below (coming week 3!) but can be presently defined as “what one is conscious of.”


Look at Art Inwardly Not Outwardly

If I were fully aware of my soul, whatever I touched would be imbued with soulfulness and therefore I would be creating art in this mystical sense. Let’s look at it another way.

Jesus was the son of Joseph, a carpenter. And while we don’t actually know if he ever took up the trade, I think we can safely assume, given that occupations in those days remained almost exclusively with their respective families, that he might have tried his hand at it once or twice, especially during his “Lost Years.” Now for the sake of argument, let’s suppose that he was the worst carpenter ever, producing things that did not even remotely qualify as furniture or whatever else it was that the family normally made (let’s hope they didn’t make crosses!). Would it matter? Wouldn’t anything from his hand, because of the inner reality, the consciousness, of its creator, be considered by millions the most precious thing ever created and thereby more treasured than any art by anyone else, including Michelangelo or even Mozart?

Of course, you could make the argument that we are no longer talking about art at all but about relics (someone once said that you could build an arc with all the “authentic” pieces of the cross found in Christian churches), but I think a strong case can be made that this is what modern art is already asking us to do: to look at art inwardly not outwardly; at its energy, its resonance. At the inner state of the artist himself as opposed to the outer appearance of the work itself; at its consciousness.

Humans are “Clever Monkeys”

Humans are “clever monkeys”—as a friend of mine is fond of saying—and can create things for any reason they want: to soothe or to shock; to comfort or to confront; to be as beautiful as possible or as horrific; to defy convention in an attempt to prove that art has no meaning at all, is merely superfluous, as was previously stated, though this last task is not so easily accomplished.

For I think you will find that most people are eager to hear or see or even read something that will speak to them on some deeper level; will reconnect them with their souls, the living portion of God within. And even if we beat them over the head, telling them not to expect anything beautiful, powerful, illumining, epiphanic, revelatory, or in any way meaningful, dilettantes and philistines that they are, they just can’t help themselves; can’t stop from hoping.


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


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

Ajeet Kaur…on Love and Forgiveness

Art and music have served as the greatest healers, teachers, and therapists in my life. Whether it is journaling, writing music, playing music or visual art,…


by Ajeet Kaur

Art and music have served as the greatest healers, teachers, and therapists in my life. Whether it is journaling, writing music, playing music or visual art, my art brings me closer and closer to the core of my being, to the real essence of who I am. As I see it, the only parts of ourselves that keep us from truly loving and forgiving are the places of fear within us. Art allows us to explore those more vulnerable parts of ourselves, to really go deep into the vast world within, and then to express from a place of real truth when we touch it. Art that doesn’t come from that place of truth doesn’t hold much power. For me, art comes from a place where love and forgiveness are natural and come with ease, and that’s why I like to visit that space as much as possible.


Art and music represent unity

Art and music represent unity. They are languages that communicate through feeling, emotion, and devotion. As a world with so many different traditions, languages, and ways of living, we need art to remind us to live openly. By sharing our messages of hope and love through art and music we put them into a universal language. Art is a reminder of how beautiful it is to do things differently, to be individual. If every song or every painting was the same they would lose their magic. If every person or every culture was the same, the world would lose its beauty as well.

Let My Heart Be My Compass


“Art and music serve as the greatest healers, teachers, and therapists in my life.”
– Ajeet Kaur, Sacred Chant Artist, Flutist & Spiritual Teacher

AJEET KAUR is a sacred chant artist, flutist, and spiritual teacher based in Peterborough, New Hampshire. She released her debut album of meditation music, “Sacred Waters” in the Spring of 2013 and is now working on her second album, “At the Temple Door”. She is now traveling the world to offer music and yoga with Snatam Kaur and on her own. Inspired by the musical and spiritual atmosphere of her upbringing Ajeet began singing at a young age. Her love of music has lead her around the world to study traditional Indian and Irish music, along with folk traditions and western musical styles. Ajeet Kaur’s music is available from Spirit Voyage Records.

Photo: Spirit Voyage Recordsebook_cover_3D-fixed

Love Live Forgive features interviews with a diverse range of artists who reveal and explore the transformative power oflove, forgiveness, and the creative spirit. While featuring a wide-ranging demographic, the contributors to this project represent a dynamic spectrum of artistic, cultural, and faith-based backgrounds. Individually they offer their unique perspective on the human experience. Collectively they embrace a shared passion for art and its ability to transform our lives and the world around us.  Get a free book download.

Can We Affect Aging?

Can we affect aging? New age guru Deepak Chopra believes that good practices and positive intention can affect more than our health and wellness…


New age guru Deepak Chopra believes that good practices and positive intention can affect more than our health and wellness in this moment – but over our lifetime. They can affect how we age over time. He calls intentions “the triggers for transformation in the body. If you want to wiggle your toes, you do it through intention. There are two components to biological information in the body, one is intention, the other is attention.”


In an interview for People and Possibilities, Chopra stated his belief that people don’t die of simple old age, they die of the diseases that accompany old age which are often preventable. 

Deepak Chopra: “Most people think that aging is irreversible and we know that there are mechanisms even in the human machinery that allow for the reversal of aging, through correction of diet, through anti-oxidants, through removal of toxins from the body, through exercise, through yoga and breathing techniques, and through meditation. Most people believe that aging is normal but nobody defines what normal aging is. What we call normal may be the psychopathology of the average. Most people think that aging is genetic and yet if your parents lived to age 80+ that will add three years to your life.

The Way You Think Can Influence Your Life

The way you think, the way you behave, the way you eat, can influence your life by 30 to 50 years. Most people believe that aging is universal but there are biological organisms that never age. Most people believe that aging is painful and we know that pain is from diseases that are preventable, not from aging.

Reality is Nothing Other than Your Perception of It

People have to change their concepts of aging and I am not asking them to do so based on some fanciful notion, but on scientific fact. When they change that, then their perception of aging will change and it will become clear to them to grow old and to become wiser, to become more creative, to become the springboard for creativity and affluence. Once your perception of the whole phenomenon changes, your reality will change, because reality is nothing other than your perception of it.”

How are your staying healthy? If you’re looking for a practical yoga routine, try a Pilgrimage Yoga Playlist.

Deepak Chopra is the founder of the Chopra Center for Wellbeing.  The Chopra Center is founded on three pillars of timeless wisdom: meditation, Ayurveda, and yoga.  He is also the author of more than 65 books, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. 

Meditation: How to Stay Inspired

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


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.


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?

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…



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? Ad

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.


 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.

Exclusive Interview with Unity Director Shaun Monson

Pilgrimage Yoga founder Sujantra McKeever recently sat down with Shaun Monson, the writer, creator and director of Unity, an enlightening new film…


Pilgrimage Yoga founder Sujantra McKeever recently sat down with Shaun Monson, the writer, creator and director of “Unity”, an enlightening new film set for release in August.

Sujantra: I watched your entire film and was very motivated by it. At the same time, to watch a film such as Unity, it’s not pleasant in terms of what we usually think of as entertainment. It really takes attention and determination. I’m wondering what you would say to people to energize them, to take the time to watch a film such as yours.

Shaun: It’s interesting that you have all these different mediums such as literature, music, film and that each medium sort of has these unwritten rules that they have to follow. And perhaps the content of Unity would be better suited for books where we are more prepared to read statistics or philosophy or whatever the case may be. Movies have been hijacked by entertainment and not much else. But there is this genre called documentary film, which is nonfiction film, and there’s no revelation there, but I’m glad it exists because you can be a little more honest. Sometimes it’s a little harder to take, so what happens when you’re editing these films, like Unity you start debating how much truth to put into it and how much truth to take out of it because you have to think of the audience. That’s a long answer to your question, but I think it’s important to see that stuff. Like the saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Why turn away from it? Why label it positive or negative? If we really want to be honest with ourselves then we should be willing to have one genre in the canon of filmmaking that allows us to look at stuff like this, and that is the documentary.

Solutions For Humanity’s Problems

Sujantra: I’ve been a vegetarian for thirty-five years and I’ve watched a lot of films that present stark imagery but from many of them I’ve walked away with a feeling of hopelessness. There are these huge corporate power structures that we can’t do anything about, but from your film I came away with a feeling of hope because you kept juxtaposing the problems but you also presented a lot of solutions.

Shaun: Mankind, humankind is coming up with solutions. There’s a great quote in the film from Martin Luther King, Jr., “The arc of human history is long but it then does a tour of justice.” So we are seeing that we are evolving and we are less and less brutal and savage as we evolve. At one point in time we used to crucify people in Rome on the way to the gates of the city, we don’t do that anymore as you walk into a city. And slavery is abolished, women have the right to vote, and now this topic of equal rights and gay marriage are on the forefront. All these issues are coming to a head. We are getting more and more accepting of everything. That’s very hopeful to me. And the treatment of animals and the environment. And yes, you can look at a series of only negative images but if presented in a proper context you will see the great strides we are taking as human beings so it gives me hope.

Underwater ocean scene

Sujantra: Speaking of the growth of humanity, I like the section of the film where you take us from the Roman Emperor who created some human rights to the Magna Carta to the Declaration of Independence. One thing you don’t often see in films is that you put energy into and highlighted the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Could you talk to that a little bit?

Shaun: It was part of a longer piece but I thought the animation was a great embodiment to encapsulate the human struggle to respect one another, which was the original formation of the UN right after WWII or right around that time. People get into political arguments about this or that on the surface, but at its base you can see we are trying to find a way of diplomacy with one another of getting along, of working together. This comes back to the main focus of the film that we are not the same but equal. This is the main take-home message of the film, not the same but equal. I think if that alone somehow got through to the world, that one simple phrase, ‘not the same but equal.’ Just imagine the world we live in if people understood that. We are not the same but equal. Just think of the effect that would have on the planet. Think of it in just the smallest terms like road rage, the food we eat, construction, rainforest, wars, I mean, not the same but equal. That simple principle could come through to people and create an entirely different world.

Sujantra: As the creator, writer and director of this film, where does your creative process start in a gigantic undertaking such as this? Is it one simple idea you want to get across and it grows from there? How do you do it?

Shaun: I guess every filmmaker is different. They say a movie is born three times, once in writing, once in shooting and once in editing and it’s true. Documentaries are a little different because I wrote all the text and was comfortable with the text going into the project. In a documentary we are interviewing people and going out shooting footage but it’s not like scenes from a script that you’re specifically shooting. It’s happening live, or your licensing footage or getting newsreel footage and creating a collage. It kind of evolves as you’re making it. The text was there from the beginning. What inspired me to make this film was a question as to why we can’t seem to get along or what we come up with seems to better our lives but it doesn’t seem to stop us from wanting to kill each other. And that nagged at me a lot. I started looking at history and all the inventions throughout the ages whether it was literature, science, technology, yoga, veganism or any number of things humanity’s come up with and still there’s this collision we have with one another. It occurred to me that I don’t think anything we invent will stop us from killing each other. I don’t think the new Hubble telescope will do it, I don’t think a new quantum physic equation will do it. I think something has to awaken within us. I was interested in that and I wanted to shine a light on this inner shifting and that was sort of the genesis of it. Then of course I felt a bit overwhelmed and thought maybe it should be a book instead of a film but I felt the visual would be more effective so I started assembling it together, step by step.

The Evolution into Homo-spiritus

Sujantra: I remember well part of the film when you’re talking about how all of these things we’ve created have not provided a solution and yet you talk about the emergence of homo-spiritus, the being with conscious spiritual awareness and I was really thrilled to see Ramana Maharshi in the film because I’ve read him quite a bit. So those teachers do point us to forms of practice to help us achieve the transcendence you’re talking about.

Shaun: Right. I didn’t come up with the term “homo-spiritus.” I interviewed a man named David Hawkins. He’s since passed away. I had the opportunity to interview him twice. He’s written several wonderful books. Probably the best known is Power vs. Force, where he talked about how Hitler used force, which is a very brief encounter of force, but Gandhi used power. The interesting thing about power is that power will endure long after the person has passed away. We still speak about Gandhi or hear about Gandhi or teach others about him, and this shows how his power endures and that force is like a rocket. It has propulsion but it can only take you so far before it runs out. I had the chance to interview him twice and he also talked about how the spirit is the highest evolution of physical consciousness of mortality. I thought it was good to show human rights evolution over the ages and also the physical evolution from Cro-Magnon and the Neanderthal all the way up to this capacity of homo-spiritus. We know it exists because if you look at Gandhi who was a contemporary of Hitler, there is two beings right there living at the same time in the world that personified opposite ends of the conscious spectrum. So that capacity exists. It doesn’t mean we have to be bad or we have to always be primitive or always use force, it also shows that we can be like homo-spiritus. That capacity in the human being exists. That potentiality is very interesting to me. We have to cultivate that in one another.

Moral Consideration for All Beings

Sujantra: I think that came across really strongly in the film, which is great. You talk about the key idea of the moral consideration for all beings, that we are all one. A big part of your film was when you got into the body section about we are what we eat. It seems to me that that’s something that’s starting to catch on in our society. My nephew who’s going into high school this year is required to read a book about healthy eating, getting away from chemicals and getting back to natural food.

Shaun: There was talk early on about the body section when I was cutting and we were testing the film in focus groups. Some of my colleagues, who are backers of the film, the body section would always say this was a tough one because that’s where some of the animal footage was. Some of them felt it was out of place, it’s almost like this “come on kids, let’s eat our fruits and vegetables ” section of the film suddenly. I fought to keep it in because this is an entire kingdom of beings that are drastically, absolutely affected by humankind. It seems if we are going to talk about the expressions of life, the expressions of being, then we couldn’t just remove an entire kingdom of beings. Even so, the movie is ninety-eight minutes long and I think there are only fourteen minutes of animals, and really no blood. I couldn’t leave this out because we do affect other life forms. I think it’s healthy for people even if they feel a bit squeamish sometimes. It’s odd actually because we have way more war footage and human destruction footage than animal footage. Rarely, if ever, am I asked about the human violence in the film because we are so accustomed to it. It’s the animal footage that people go “Oh I don’t know if you should show this stuff,” meanwhile we have executions and horrible stuff. I find that very interesting. This always comes up, this concern. Even with exhibitors this concern came up. I find that to be a strange contradiction. We fictionalize or romanticize violence or romanticize pain, which we see a lot of times in TV shows or even on the news. So that’s okay, but actual pain shown in a documentary may not be politically correct. I think this kind of dialogue is actually very healthy.

polar bear

Photo by Alastair Rae( License (

Sujantra: I also like the contrast between showing people in suffering and pain and then showing people in meditation, you showed some yoga postures and I think that’s something else we are seeing in our society, the awareness of yoga.

Shaun: Yes, definitely. It’s great and encouraging. It’s hopeful.

Spiritual Practices

Sujantra: Hopeful. Yes. Do you have any specific practice you do in your own life that refreshes you or gives you a fresh surge of energy?

Shaun: A couple different kinds, not just one. I have dogs; I’ve rescued a lot of dogs, so just living with animals I get to see their personalities or expressions, or their little nuances that I find to be a marvel. I think it helps ground me in nature. I also love to surf and I enjoy just going out, sitting on a board in the ocean and connecting with nature that way.

New Style of Release for the Film

Sujantra: The way you’re releasing the film is very unique in my experience. Can you explain how you’re doing it and why you’re doing it that way?

Shaun: Movies are released so many different ways nowadays; they are released in theatres or as a digital download. It’s just so different from how it’s been before. This idea of a very limited release is sort of an event release on a wide scale is different from independent films from even last year, just one year ago. Getting that traditional limited release, let’s say, five theatres only maybe in big cities for one week for a full run or what they call a split-run, which would be maybe a couple times a day for a week. It’s just a week to see if it attracts attention and then maybe it goes away if it doesn’t or it expands to twenty or thirty theatres. We are trying something new and quite different with a one day release but in twelve hundred theatres in the U.S. and another five hundred theatres overseas. That is not a decision I made, that’s something the distributors and exhibitors are thinking of experimenting with. They call it “event cinema.” We add extra content that you can’t see online. For instance, someone will introduce himself only in theatres, he will do it in-show and out-show on camera which is part of the screening you saw. There will be a panel discussion at the end from our premiere up in Los Angeles. It’s just something new that we are doing and I am curious to see how it does as well.

Sujantra: That’s great. It’s a great film and I hope lots of people go out and watch it.

Shaun: Thank you so much.

Sujantra: All the best of luck to you. Thank you so much, Shaun. If you’re ever in San Diego, stop by our yoga studio, Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga and the vegetarian restaurant, Jyoti-Bihanga

Shaun: I’ll keep it in mind when I’m in that part of the world.

Sujantra: Okay, thanks a bunch, Shaun.

Shaun: Thanks so much, have a great day.

Moby …on Love and Forgiveness

This post launches a new series of essays by artists on love and forgiveness. Our first post is by world-renowned DJ, musician, photographer, producer, and singer-songwriter Moby…


by Moby

One of the reasons why music in particular is so ubiquitous and so universal with love is that it reaches people on a very profound emotional level. Often times, I feel like music can reach people on an almost softer, deeper, and more vulnerable level than people might normally experience on a day to day basis. I think to understand music’s ability to foster love and forgiveness, it sometimes helps to look at their opposites. To me, the opposite of love isn’t necessarily hate. The opposite of love is judgment, and the opposite of forgiveness is bitterness and resentment.

Music Can Open People Up

I feel like music in particular can open people up to a more honest, vulnerable, softer side, which is
really where love and forgiveness arise. A theory I have about human emotion, is that in a very broad sense, there are two emotional states that human beings have—there’s a state of defensiveness and a state of openness. You could use other adjectives—you could say there’s hard and there’s soft and there’s defensive and there’s vulnerable. I think that love and forgiveness, they come from that place of openness, softness, and vulnerability. The harder emotional states; anger, bitterness, defensiveness, and cynicism are usually masks for the softer states. My experience is that for the majority of people, myself included, it’s really easy to succumb to the harder emotional states—the anger, defence, bitterness, without looking at what’s underneath.

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True Forgiveness

I think that forgiveness—really true forgiveness—needs to come from the softer emotions that lie under the hard emotions, but most of us don’t have much training in looking behind the harder emotions. A lot of our culture reinforces these harder emotions. We have a culture that glorifies anger, bitterness, and retribution. One thing that art and music can do is enable people to access these softer emotional states from where true love and forgiveness arise.

Self Awareness

Forgiveness can really only be truly meaningful with self-awareness. Forgiveness should not involve judgement or retribution or bitterness. When I’m forgiving of someone, it’s because I’m looking at them and I’m hopefully filled with a true sense of compassion. I don’t see them as a completely separate other being, I see them as being a human similar to me and whatever that person has done, I see that I have probably done similar things as well. I can see that when I’ve done bad things it’s usually because I’ve been insecure or afraid. I can look at that other person and say, “Oh, they’re insecure and afraid as well,” and create a much deeper sense of forgiveness.

MOBY is a world-renowned DJ, musician, photographer, producer, and singer-songwriter based in Los Angeles, California. He has sold over twenty million albums worldwide, and is famous for his electronic music, vegan lifestyle, and support of animal rights. His best-selling albums “Play” (1999), “18” (2002), “Hotel” (2005), “Last Night” (2008), “Destroyed” (2011), and “Innocents” (2013) are all available from Moby has also co-written, produced, and remixed music for Michael Jackson, David Bowie, Daft Punk, Brian Eno, Pet Shop Boys, Britney Spears, New Order, Public Enemy, Guns N’ Roses, Metallica, among many others.

Websites: and
Photos: DEF Ltd & Little Idiot Records

From Love Live Forgive, featuring interviews with a diverse range of artists who reveal and explore the transformative power ofebook_cover_3D-fixedlove, forgiveness, and the creative spirit. While featuring a wide-ranging demographic, the contributors to this project represent a dynamic spectrum of artistic, cultural, and faith-based backgrounds. Individually they offer their unique perspective on the human experience. Collectively they embrace a shared passion for art and its ability to transform our lives and the world around us.  Get a free book download.

Thanks to Justin St. Vincent, the Director and Founder of Xtreme Music. He has self-published four books including a worldwide trilogy exploring The Spiritual Significance of Music (2009-2012), and free eBook Love Live Forgive: Insights from Artists (2014), all available from Xtreme Music: 

Wisdom: Prana — The Life-Force

One of the great secrets of yoga is that breath, body, mind and emotions are all intertwined. Pranayama literally means…


One of the great secrets of yoga is that breath, body, mind and emotions are all intertwined. Pranayama literally means breath-control. By controlling your breath you will strengthen your body, find peace of mind and gain clarity in your emotions. In just minutes a day you can gain incredible results.

by Sujantra McKeever

To achieve a complete understanding of the forces at work in our existence let us begin with the primary life-force of the universe—prana. Prana is the great vital energy breathing and circulating through all of existence. Breathing, the most basic and fundamental function of the living organism, involves the intake and regulation of prana. Review our Pranayama online classes.

Primary Life-Force

Prana is the life-force of the nervous system upon which we depend for existence. Once we become aware of the power of prana and the significance of each breath we take, we gain an immediate insight into the underlying principles upon which various Eastern disciplines are based. These include the martial arts, Chinese medicine, Indian medicine, Hatha Yoga (a branch of yoga which seeks to gain illumination beginning with a perfection of the body through various physical poses, or asanas), breath control—pranayama (prana = life force, yama = control). These and other practices stress an awareness of prana and control of life-force, via breathing. Without this life-force coursing through our system, we will quickly die. All that we do—move, think, feel—is dependent upon prana.

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Five Categories

The life-breath, prana, when thought of as sustaining life in the human body, is classified into five main categories according to the various functions performed by the energy. The five categories into which life-force is classified are: apana, which moves in the region of the lower abdomen and trunk and presides over the lower functions; samana, which maintains the equilibrium of the vital forces and stokes the gastric fire and digestion; vyana, which distributes the vital energies derived from food and breath throughout the entire body; prana (here the word is used to note a particular aspect) which dwells in the upper part of the body and controls the heart and respiration, in effect, bringing the universal force into the physical system; and finally udana, which moves upward from the body to the crown of the head and controls the intake of food as well as channels the communication between the physical life and the greater life of the spirit.

Three Principle Channels

There are three principle channels, or nadis, through which life energy flows throughout the human organism. These channels are ida, pingala, and sushumna. Ida carries prana from the left nostril through the left side of the body and down to the base of the spine. Pingala carries prana from the right nostril through the right side of the body and down to the base of the spine. Ida is the nadi of the mood and Mercury and is felt in mildness, calmness and coolness; pingala is the nadi of the sun and Mars and is felt in power and heat. Our “health”—both emotional and physical—is based upon the balancing of these different aspects of our being: masculine-feminine, yin-yang, power-calm, heat-cool. This essential balance can be maintained and regulated through constant awareness of our breathing patterns and their regulation when necessary. This practice is known by the Sanskrit word pranayama.

Bring Balance

The regulation of breathing which occurs naturally is an excellent way to regulate prana and bring vigor and balance to our system these include times of deep, relaxed breathing such as the regulation of our breathing during and after exercise and developing a keen awareness of our breathing. Physical exercise brings peace, calmness and a natural balance to our system. Any further regulation of prana should only be done under the careful guidance of a knowledgeable yoga teacher.

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.


Family: The 1st Step to Union

Family is everything…? We’ve heard this before. The most important thing is family. We have probably said it ourselves…


Family is everything…?

We’ve heard this before. The most important thing is family. We have probably said it ourselves. And don’t get me wrong. I agree. But let’s take a look at this idea from a philosophical perspective.

In his book, Lectures on Ancient Philosophy, (Philosophical Research Society) chapter 5, Manly P. Hall (March 18, 1901 – August 29, 1990), an extraordinary researcher, sage, mystic, philosopher and commentator of comparative religion writes that the inclusion of the family in a person’s life and circle is ‘the first step’ upward in realization from a state of abject barbarism. In other words, as a soul begins to perceive something other that its self, something bigger than self, the first thing to be included and considered is family.

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A Widening Perspective

Let’s be clear. It’s the first step upward. And it’s an important first step! It signifies a new, widening perspective, a deepening of consciousness, an unfolding of awareness and at least a tiny cognition of the annihilation of separateness.

As awareness grows other people get included within our sphere… friends, nation, race, world, planet, universe, beyond… more and greater inclusion until the sense of ‘Oneness’ becomes the all encompassing. It becomes clear that the only real reality is Unity, Yoga. Instead of being controlled by diversity, we become masters of diversity. We transcend individual concerns.

A False Sense of Separation

Our false sense of separation is why we continue to violate our families. We lie, cheat, brutalize, abuse, neglect, abandon… why we cheat the world and lavish our ill gotten gains on our families, with the expectation that we will be praised for being a good provider… not all of us… but a good many… It’s because the inclusion of family is pretty low on the scale of ascending realization. Over half of all families break up, after all.

Pretty grim truth. But don’t fret! Awareness of the reality of truth is important. Each step of inclusion into our worlds decreases the differences we perceive in others. And it also strengthens the lower rungs, too, building compassion and acceptance, making better families, better friends, better communities, better world, better universe… better you!

Thinking Like a Neanderthal

So when we think to our selves, “I’m going to do this for my family and screw everyone else…”, we’re thinking like a Neanderthal. Good families make sacrifices and reach out all the time to help friends, strangers, communities, the world… Transcend separateness. We are One.

Manly P. HallI am a big fan of Manly P. Hall. I highly recommend his books, The Secret Teaching of All Ages and the companion book, Lectures on Ancient Philosophy. Both of these are fantastic primers for anyone looking for timeless interpretations of the history of thought. They are comprehensive and thorough, leaving no stone unturned, and can stand alone as texts or are great food for further research. Both are available in paperback. I would highly recommend the coffee table sized hardbound of The Secret Teachings of All Ages, a masterpiece in and of itself and a source you will pass on to your grandchildren. You may have to visit an old fashioned bookstore to find a copy. Pay the money! It’s worth every penny.

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…


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


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…


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. Ad

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.


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


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


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%.

Jerry Seinfeld goes Transcendental

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



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. Ad

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.


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


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…


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.” Ad



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 (free app) on your mobile device and search for pilgrimagekirtan to connect with us worldwide.


Is Brahmacharya a Life without Sex?

Brahmacharya is one of the key elements of yoga. Some think of Brahmacharya as a life without sex. Others see it as…


Brahmacharya is one of the key elements of yoga.

Some think of Brahmacharya as a life without sex. Others see it as a general attitude towards life. Lets begin by exploring Brahmacharya as an aspect of yoga.

The path of yoga was codified over 2000 years ago by the yogi and scholar Patanjali. He expressed yoga as having eight yoga, aspects or limbs, like the branches of a tree. I think it is helpful to conceptualize organically, where different aspects are integrated simultaneously. Neither yoga nor life moves in a purely linear fashion.

The first two limbs of the tree of yoga are known as the yamas and niyamas. I would define the yamas as “moral & ethicalethical principles,” and the niyamas as disciplines and conduct.

Brahmacharya is one of the 5 yamas. Literally speaking Brahmacharya means ‘the conduct ‘ (charya) that leads to Brahma, which is, in yoga philosophy, the experience of the Ultimate Reality. Buddhism would call this highest reality Nirvana; Christianity uses the term: the ‘Kingdom of Heaven within.’ Different names for the same river.

The question we each must ask is “what actions and experiences of mine will move me closer to this ultimate reality and what actions and experiences will move me further away.” It is deep in our spiritual hearts and conscience that we each find the answers for ourselves. Ad

Brahmacharya and sexual relations

Historically speaking, in the ancient indian texts brahmacharya refers to one of the four stages of life. This first stage—brahmacharya–is the ‘student’ life. This is the period just before puberty and up until marriage. It is characterized by spiritual and secular study and strict adherence to the yamas: non-violence, truthfulness, not-stealing; not-receiving gifts and strict celibacy. In the yamas this celibacy is also referred to as brahmacharya. So the word brahmacharya refers to both a stage of life and sexual abstinence.


In monastic traditions, both Eastern and Western, celibacy, or abstinence from sexual relations is considered one of the foundations of the spiritual life. While this is often a life-long practice limited periods of abstinence are also an integral part of many spiritual traditions.

The basic idea of sexual-abstinence is that the same energy that fuels our sexuality, including our sexual thoughts, also fuels our spiritual quest. This energy is the creative force of the universe. Each of us needs to decide how and when we will utilize abstinence in our own lives and how and when to express our sexuality.


Sujantra speaks more on brahmacharya in his video Brahmacharya.

Anandamayi Ma

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


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.” * Ad

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

The Roots of Yoga of Patanjali

Ancient Philosophy – Yoga is a great way to make your body and nervous system strong, balanced and flexible…


Ancient Philosophy

Yoga is a great way to make your body and nervous system strong, balanced and flexible. Yoga is also an ancient Indian philosophical system through which you can experience uplifting and mystical states of awareness. Yoga mean ‘to yoke, to bring together.’ Through yoga you can experience the unity, the oneness of the individual and the universal. In the yoga philosophy this is called “Samadhi.” It is an awareness of the “heaven within” or nirvana. This spiritual ecstacy and the joy it brings to life is the goal of yoga.

Yoga is one of the six ancient philosophies of India. The other areas of study were: grammar, mathematics, ethics, astronomy and metaphysics. From these emerged sciences such as astrology, ayurveda, hatha yoga and modern mathematics.

The Yoga Sutras and Vivekananda

The codification of yoga was done over 2000 years ago by the sage Patanjal and is known as the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. The writing is composed of 196 concise statements, most no more than a sentence or two. Various commentators, both ancient and modern, have elaborated these sutras. My favorite translation was written at the beginning of the 19th century by Swami Vivekananda, one of the first yogis to bring Indian philosophy to the West at the Parliament of Religions in 1893. His book is entitled Raja Yoga.

The yoga sutras are divided into 4 chapters which describe the basic principles of yoga, the actual practices of yoga, the powers that arise through yoga and an elaboration on the higher states of consciousness attained through yoga.

It is interesting to note that only 2 or 3 actual postures—asanas—, are described in the writing and both are related to asanas for meditation and pranayama. Patanjali says the postures should be “firm but pleasant” in order to free the mind from bodily awareness.

The Yamas and More

Most relevant to modern Western yogis are the sutras in chapters 2 and 3 which describes yoga as being composed or 8 limbs or aspects. It is in these sutras that Patanjali talks about the Yamas—moral injunctions; the Niyamas—daily observances; Asana—the postures with which we are so familiar in the west, Pranayama—breath control, Pratyahara—the inward turning of the senses; Dharana—concentration; Dhayana—meditation and the ultimate Samadhi—the liberation of consciousness.

Learn more about the specifics of the yoga sutras through our videos and writings. Namaste.


Bharadvajasana – Finding the source of your joy

Bharadvaja was a dedicated student of the Vedas, the most ancient spiritual and philosophical texts of Hinduism…


Bharadvaja was a dedicated student of the Vedas, the most ancient spiritual and philosophical texts of Hinduism. He devoted three entire lifetimes to intense study of these writings. He read them, wrote them down, memorized them and then did it all over again, hoping it would bring him closer to a higher power and liberate him from the cycle of death and rebirth.

Shiva Appears to Bharadvaja

At the end of his third lifetime, Shiva appeared to Bharadvaja upon his deathbed and gave him some rather disappointing news. Shiva informed Bharadvaja that despite his unparalleled knowledge of the Vedas, he would not be accompanying Shiva to heaven because he had not learned the true meaning of the Vedas. He hadn’t shared the beauty and grace of them with others.

Bharadvaja’s Fourth Life

In his fourth life, Bharadvaja taught the philosophy of the Vedas, to those near and far and in every caste, with wisdom and compassion. During this life, he realized that wisdom is not contained in the knowing of a subject, but the living and sharing of that wisdom.

Find the Source of Your Joy

Bharadvaja’s story inspires each of us to find the source of our own personal joy and to then live it and share it with others. When we dance in the light of our heart’s fire, we inspire others to find their own joy. When we find our life’s true passion, it is fully expressed when we begin to share it with others.

What is your heart and soul’s passion? How do you share it with others?

Aparigraha: Don’t be Beholden

Freedom is the goal of yoga. This freedom is liberation from the bondage of egotism and desire. To be free is to be conscious…


Freedom is the goal of yoga. This freedom is liberation from the bondage of egotism and desire. To be free is to be conscious and grateful for being part of the unconditional joy and brilliance of existence.

Through our interactions with others we often ensnare ourselves in unnecessary and unsatisfying obligations and expectations. This does not free us – it binds us. One of the yamas: aparigraha directly speaks to this.


One of the ways that we bind ourselves is by accepting things from others knowing that in their giving there are also expectations. They might expect certain reactions from us or expect specific things in return. Think of the politician who accepts donations knowing he will be called on to do the bidding of the donor.

At times, people do things for you with the expectation that you will do something for them. They come to your party and expect you to go to theirs. They feel a certain way and expect you to feel the same. Unconditional love and giving is a wonderful thing in life. It liberates us. Conditional love and giving ensnares us.


For this reason aparigraha can be thought of as the “non-receiving of gifts.”* Isn’t the joy and beauty of life found in giving and receiving? Yes, but not when by receiving we enter the world of expectation. In those cases it is better not to take or give but to remain out of the situation. Won’t we just end up isolated and alone in life? Far from it! By identifying unhealthy situations and circumstances you also learn to identity healthy ones. Moving into realms of pure and unconditional emotion will lift you into the blissful freedom of yogic living.

*Raja Yoga by Swami Vivekananda

The Source of Happiness

Where Does Happiness Come From? – I imagine everyone reading this has realized that they do not put ‘happiness’ into new cars…


Where Does Happiness Come From?

I imagine everyone reading this has realized that they do not put ‘happiness’ into new cars, stereo systems and new clothes at the factories where they are made, yet we are clearly happy when we acquire these things. Where does the happiness come from? From ‘things’ or the act of possession or possibly somewhere else?

The quest to answer this question has vexed philosophers since the dawn of human thought. There are three major schools of thought: hedonism, eudemonism and theological.

All three have good points. The responsibility to answer the question of where happiness comes from falls upon you alone, as many of your most important decisions in life will be based upon your quest for happiness.


Pleasure, Hedonism and Eudemonism

Hedonism says that pleasure is satisfaction; that happiness comes from pleasure. There are different types and degrees of pleasure that can be derived on the physical, emotional and intellectual planes of life. Pleasure can range from indulging in a slice of decadent chocolate cake to listening to music. This philosophy was codified by the Greek Epicurus.


Eudemonism represents the philosophy of Aristotle and Ayn Rand and is exemplified in their writings. Here the idea is that happiness comes from fulfilling one’s innate capacities. Happiness comes from reaching our highest potential, from developing our talents to our fullest capacity.


Feels Good to Be Humble

Finally there is the theological approach to happiness. This philosophy says that happiness comes from embracing and living our lives guided by higher virtues such as humility, compassion, unconditional love, self-giving and all the others that various religions and spritual paths extol.


A good friend of mine read my rough draft to this and responded “…to me it all boils down to ‘giving…’’ Now its your turn, what does happiness mean to you?



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…


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!

The Ahimsa (non-violence) Dilemma, #1

The yogic journey begins with 5 moral injunctions—the yamas(Ahimsa, Satya, Asteya, Brahmacharya and Aparigraha)


The yogic journey begins with 5 moral injunctions—the yamas(Ahimsa, Satya, Asteya, Brahmacharya and Aparigraha)—, which create harmony and balance in ones actions and thoughts. By bringing these ethical principles into one’s own life we create the fertile soil for personal growth.

The Yamas

The first, and I think foundation of all the yamas is called ahimsa, which can be translated as non-violence (ultimately in thought, word and deed!) Bringing these principles into one’s life is a very personal and subjective act; hence we will be faced with challenges and dilemmas when it comes to applying these principles.

Dilemma #1: Non-violence and Yoga

If someone is about to strike me should I let him or her strike me (therefore I am not being violent) or should I strike him or her first to prevent him or her from striking me? For a visual reference, think of Martin Luther King and his non-violent marchers getting brutalized by police with fire hoses, batons and police dogs.

If I follow yogic non-violence literally I will not strike back (hence, I am not being violent) but I am allowing violence to occur (me being hit.) Is there a difference between performing the violent act and allowing it to happen? Also, if I allow another to be violent am I allowing more violence to occur in the universe than if I simply stayed home and meditated?

Well, what do you think?



Remembering our Power

The world is too much with us; late and soon, Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers; Little we see in Nature that is ours…


The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
–William Wordsworth

Returning Inward

Each yoga class is an opportunity to pull our attention away from our phones, e-mail and ceaseless thinking and planning; and return our awareness to our bodies, our breath and our spiritual hearts.

Connecting with a Deeper Sense of Self

Yoga teaches that we have the power to both turn our awareness outward and inward. Most people have lost the ability to turn within. Yoga teachers guide us back to that within! We forget that we exist in this marvelous reality called life. We get lost in the day-to-day minutia and lose touch with our deeper sense of self.

Yoga Cultivates Awareness

One or two sessions of yoga each week with our wonderful teachers will allow you the space and time to remember that you are part and parcel of Nature and that deep in your awareness dwells the heart beat of the Universe.

What helps you get in touch with your deeper sense of self? Let us know in the comments below!

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…


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. Ad

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.