EP 18 – Danni Pomplun

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

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

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

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Compassion

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

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

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

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

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

An Evolved State of Being

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

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

Survival of the Fittest

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

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

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

Survival of the Kindest!

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

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

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

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

Sources for further inquiry:

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

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3 Tips to Keep You Healthy Throughout the Year

We know our fitness and health should be a priority year-round, but

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We know our fitness and health should be a priority year-round, but it’s all too easy to make excuses not to work out in winter when it’s too cold or summer when it’s too hot. The truth is, when we are consistent with our eating habits and working out, the healthier we will be. If you’re looking for ways to be more consistent throughout the year with your health and fitness routines, these three tips will help you achieve your goals.

1. Work Out at Home

If the weather is a deterrent for exercise, take the weather out of the equation by working out at home more often, especially during the winter and summer. If you’ve been hesitant because you think you need to buy expensive gym equipment, you’ll be happy to know there are only a few basic items you should have and that expensive machines are not necessary for getting a good workout. For the most part, all you need is your body and a plan.

You can do pushups, crunches, squats, work your abs, and sculpt your legs and rear end. Add some weights when you want to work out your arms in different ways. Either purchase a dumbbell set or use items from around the house such as canned vegetables and water jugs. Cardio and stretching are easy to do at home, too. You can do jumping jacks, jog in place, use your steps for repetitions to tone your legs, dance, and do yoga right from home.

If you don’t think you’ll know how to develop a routine, look on YouTube for some routines you can follow along with in the comfort and privacy of your home. Many fitness videos range from beginner to advanced, and you’ll feel like you’re in a class once you start moving along with the video. Some people find that setting an alarm on their phones and sticking to a fitness routine at a certain time each day helps with accountability.

2. Work Out with a Friend

One of the reasons people don’t stick to a health and fitness routine throughout the year is that they don’t hold themselves accountable. If you have this problem, start working out with a friend. Not only will your workouts be more fun, but you’ll stick to your plan when you schedule time for it and know that you need to show up not only for yourself but also for your partner. Friends also make good spotters when you head to the gym for lifting day, and they can add a friendly face to an otherwise intimidating setting.

Sometimes, having a workout buddy is beneficial simply for the motivation factor. When you feel like eating a piece of cheesecake, ditching your workout, or giving up altogether, your friend can help you reset your intention. And you can do the same for her.

Your workout buddy can be of the four-legged variety, too. Many people find that walking their dog is a good form of exercise that also helps reduce stress. Playing with and walking your dog increases your oxytocin level, which helps you relax. If you add a vigorous walk to the mix, you also increase your endorphin levels and feel happier. Walk your dog around your neighborhood, take your dog hiking, or plan a play date at the local dog park to spend more time with your dog. If your dog is athletic, you can roller blade, skate or bike with them too.

3. Develop Healthy Eating Habits

The key to eating healthier is to make it a habit. Now that the holidays have passed and you aren’t tempted by Thanksgiving meals and Christmas cookies and treats, it’s easier to start developing healthy eating habits that will carry you through the year and next holiday season.

A helpful tip for creating new habits is to remain true to portion sizes rather than completely giving up your most loved foods. When you eliminate favorite foods from your diet, you are more likely to binge on them because you feel deprived. Another tip for staying on track includes making a plan for your weekly meals each Sunday to help yourself stay on track instead of being tempted to order a pizza at the last minute after a late night of work.

It is possible to implement health and fitness routines throughout the year to help you consistently stay on track toward your goals. Once you develop healthy routines, they will become habits, and you’ll be more likely to stick to working out at home, working out with a friend, and eating healthy all year.

by Paige Johnson

Image via Pixabay by stevepb

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The Secret Universe

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

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

Heart/Ego

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

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

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

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

Heart Qualities

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

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

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

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

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Interviews Podcast E17: David Gandelman

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

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

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

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Interviews Podcast E16: Dawn ‘Monkey’ Yang

Dawn ‘Monkey’ Yang shares her experience as a full time nurse and yogini.

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

Ep 16: Dawn ‘Monkey’ Yang shares her experience as a full time nurse and yogini. Find her on Instagram @monkeymix and on Facebook at Dawn Sora Moore. Enjoy!

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Interviews Podcast E15: Sarah Platt-Finger

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

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

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

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Interviews Podcast E14: Layla Halterman

Live your wildest dreams by making good choices…

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

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

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Who am I?

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

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

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

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

Star Bud

Self-discovery

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

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

Before time, I awaited…

Since time, I have unfolded…

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

Man and Nature

Science Breaks Down

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

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

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

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

From Starship Troopers: ~Robert Heinlein

Peace

Children of the Universe

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

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

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Interviews Podcast E13 – Leslie Kaminoff

Leslie Kaminoff discusses anatomy, yoga teaching and the future of yoga…

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

Ep 13 – Author, yoga anatomy specialist, founder of The Breathing Project, Vice President of Unity in Yoga and voted into the top 100 most influential persons in yoga, Leslie Kaminoff discusses anatomy, yoga teaching and the future of yoga.

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Removing the Cloud of Doubt

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

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Conscious Breathing

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

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

Flower Petals

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

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

Building Self-Confidence

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

Sky 2

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

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

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

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

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How to Deal with Irritability

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

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

Harmony for the Whole Being

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

Floral Still

The Body

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

The Vital

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

Abstract

The Heart

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

The Mind

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

The Soul

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

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Invocation: Call it Forth

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

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

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

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

If we want more love… practical applications:

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

“…In My Name.”

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

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

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What would Jesus do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy meditating!

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Devotion and our Existence

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

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

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

Devote yourself to your practice

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

Life is a miracle!

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

Tom

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

Uncertainty?

Consider the very nature of the universe.

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

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

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

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

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

Tom

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The Master Key

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

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

I found such a claim to The Master Key

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

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

Mistaking particulars as Principles

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

Manly P. Hall

What is the Master Key, then?

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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Stepping Out of Our Unproductive Patterns with Meditation

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

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Photo by Wonderlane, License.

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

Meditation Lifts Us Out of Mental Patterns

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

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

The Deluge of Thoughts

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

Short Songs and Mantras

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

candle

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

Challenges With My Mind Racing

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

Opening Your Heart

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

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

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

—Sujantra

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Sujantra Explores Mindfulness: A visit to MNDFL in New York

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

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

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

Meditation Spaces

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

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

MNDFL 1

 

The Staff

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

Community Space

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

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

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

Sujantra

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My Journey of the Heart to Weight Loss

Difficulty is an opportunity for a depth of growth that is not present when everything is flowing easily. Difficulties have the ability to show us our inner reserves…

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By Nagesh

Personal Growth Through Weight Loss

 Difficulty is an opportunity for a depth of growth that is not present when everything is flowing easily. Difficulties have the ability to show us our inner reserves-depths, which we have yet to tap into. Not that I go looking for difficulties, mind you, but life does have a way of giving us ‘opportunities for growth.’

In June of 2014, I was offered such an opportunity. My profession is a tennis teaching professional in San Francisco. Early in that month, I sustained 3 unrelated injuries, though all related to tennis. I tore the rotator cuff in my left shoulder, tore the meniscus in my right knee, and fractured my right hand. I needed to make it through the summer before I would have the surgeries, so I grinded my way until the end of August.

Nagesh still 3

Before

Unwanted Weight

During this time, partly because of these injuries, a general depression set in and I put on weight. This was all new territory for me as I had always prided myself on being in great shape, spending many years as a competitive tennis player. I played 3 years of college tennis followed by many years of semi-professional tournaments in California and Europe, driven to become the best tennis player I could be.

Fitness was always a huge part of ‘my game’ because I came to tennis very late in life and I was always competing against players far more experienced than me. Being super fit gave me a key advantage that helped me overcome my lack of tennis experience. When my body began to break down and my weight ballooned up to 225 lbs. (my playing weight was always around 170-175lbs), it is not difficult to understand how depression began to take hold of my psyche.

I had my first surgery in August 2014 (shoulder) and waited until December to have my knee done-Surgery was not needed for my hand. From the end of August until April I was off work. Though I was very happy to have my shoulder and knee repaired, the weight remained, as I was not able to do much but sit around.

Pilgrimage Yoga Online

Trip to San Diego

For months, I had been ‘knowing’ that it was time to “lose it” and get my body back to a more normal weight for me, however, it wasn’t until my trip to San Diego, to perform a music concert at the Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga Studio, that the vehicle to embody my ‘knowing’ formulated. While in San Diego, someone mentioned the Atkins diet to me. After some research on the philosophy behind the diet, I decided to give it a try. On April 1st 2015 I jumped head first into my new way of eating, inspired that I had found my ‘way’ to embody my ‘knowing’ to ‘lose it’.

Meet the Atkins Diet

As per the instructions of the Atkins plan, I brought my carbs down to about 20 grams per day, increased my fat intake (up to about 60-70%), along with a moderate amount of protein. This flew in the face of everything I had learned about nutrition up to this point. The conventional wisdom was that a low fat, high carb diet was the best and healthiest. The results of my low carb, high fat diet, however, countered this conventional wisdom. I started to drop pounds immediately (about 4-5 pounds per week). Not only that but I began to feel much better. Gone were the energy spikes and mood swings and, in their place, was a steady energy level all day long-with no hunger cravings!

Nagesh After

After

This fascinated me and had me studying everything I could find about this way of eating, often referred to High Fat Low Carb (also known as HFLC), because I wanted to understand how this could be happening to me and if this was also happening for others as well. What I discovered was that, ‘Yes, it IS happening for others’, but also, that Atkins was not the only one recommending this way (HFLC) of eating.

It’s so awesome to, once again, be reminded that difficulties do indeed offer us ‘opportunities for growth’, along with opportunities for incredible life changes!

In upcoming posts I’ll explore some of the other HFLC plans out there and the wonderful world of weight loss that is available to everyone willing to put in the effort.

 

Nagesh is a musician and tennis professional living in San Francisco. He writes and performs original kirtan and bhajans inspired by his spiritual studies and journeys to India. You can find his music on Google Play Music store.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Gayatri Mantra – An Ancient Mantra

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

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

Om bhur bhuvah svah

Tat Savitur varen(i)yam

Bhargo devasya dhimahi

Dhiyo yo nah prachodayat

 

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

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

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

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

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Chanted through the Ages…

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

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

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

The Great Utterance.

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

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

The meaning…

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

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

Varen(i)yam means adoration.

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

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

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

Om bhur bhuvah svah

Tat Savitur varen(i)yam

Bhargo devasya

Dhimahi dhiyo yo

Nah prachodayat

 

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

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

Our arrangement: Pilgrimage of the Heart Kirtan band

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

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

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

 

A must have…

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

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

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Yoga Home Practice Room Ideas

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

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

Go Minimalist

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

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

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Mediterranean Yoga Room

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

 

Embrace Nature

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

 

Yoga Heaven

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

 

Lighting is Key

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

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