Meditation: Building a Relationship With You

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Honesty First:

The best-kept secret in Yoga is that no one likes meditation. I know it sounds shocking, but it’s the truth. If as you read this you are saying to your self ‘But Manorama, I love meditation’ then you are not a beginner. But if you feel uncomfortable when you sit for meditation welcome to the world of honesty.

No one likes to feel weird especially when sitting down to contemplate their spirit. The thing is its much better if you can be honest with your self and say the truth. From that place of honesty with your self you will grow.

Dating & Meditation:

For years, I have been telling the students in all of my classes, “In this class I share a little bit about Sanskrit and Luminous Soul and a little bit about dating.” That usually gets a giggle. I tell them that dating can be fun. You go out on a date with someone, you have a cup of tea or a drink together. Your date shares stories about him or her self. You share information about your self. You are getting to know each other. You watch and listen, as you sip your drink and above all else you feel. Whether you are conscious of it or not you are paying attention to how you feel when you are with that person. Your date is doing the same thing. In the process, you are, in effect, building a relationship between your self and the other person.

If you don’t spend any time with someone will you ever know him/her? No it’s not possible. In order to know someone and develop a good friendship, you will have to spend time with him/her. You’ll want to be around him/her and ask questions, observe, laugh or cry, share and feel your self in his/her presence. Through this process you will both grow in togetherness. Its important to keep dating even when you are married not in the same fashion as when you first met, but in the sense of continuing to prioritize learning about each other all the new things you are growing into. When you stop dating, or spending time together it means you don’t want to continue to build a relationship or you feel conflict around that relationship.

Our difficulty is that we feel disconnected from our Self. In fact most of us don’t even know what the Self means. But I am asking you how can you know your Self if you never spend any time with your Self? For years I have described meditation in this way: Meditation is like dating your Self. You date others, but you forget to date your Self. And no one knows what kind of flowers you like, the kind of music you like, the type of chocolates or dinner you prefer, the way you know. So instead of thinking of meditation as a kind of uncomfortable thing you should do, the next time you decide you want to engage meditation consider the idea of dating your Self, of creating real friendship with your Self by making it a point to spend time with You, listening to You, being present with You.

Manorama’s Tips for Dating Your Self:

Sit on the cushion in an easeful posture and breathe as you normally would. This time, since you are dating your Self, do as you would when dating someone onlyyou are dating you so pay attention to how observing the breath makes you feel. See how sitting still each day for a few minutes and watching the contents of your mind without identifying with them creates a kind of internal space within you. Listen to nadam and notice how listening to nadam both energizes you and offers you a sense of real tranquil grounding.

I always tell the students to plan a hot date! I Invite you to plan yours.

Be fully with you even when its both uncomfortable or comfortable and all will follow. Instead of defending against the contact with your Self, learn to slowly build a relationship with You, one that will sustain you all the days of your life and beyond.

© Sanskrit Studies, Luminous Soul & Manorama 2014

The Importance of Agni & Tejas

Ancient Light

‘Agnim Ide Purohitam’ Rg Veda

Agni literally means fire and is the first word laid down in the Rg Veda, the oldest extant of ancient Sanskrit writings.

The fire practice is said to support the practitioner by cultivating connection with spiritual light. The Rishis say that Agni is the best representation of light on earth, so to make an offering to the fire is to link oneself with the essence of spiritual light.

Years ago when I was travelling in India, I would see fires everywhere; in homes, by the side of a road, at parties, for sacred ceremonies or modern usage… It struck me how integrated Indian culture is with fire and therefore to light.

I recall something Guru ji said many years earlier: He asked the students to pay attention to the fact that the flame of the fire, no matter where you pushed it, would always move in an upward direction. In the same way, he said, our consciousness seeks an upward movement. What he meant was that we incarnate here to grow and expand. We are essentially light. By working with and understanding the fire more we can understand our own essential consciousness here in this very life. We can evolve ourselves to be jivanmuktas, liberated while alive.

The months I spent in India taught me how woven into the fabric of ordinary life the notion of fire was. I don’t recall how many fires I actually saw, but I still recall today the feeling I had each time I saw those flames rise and fall.

Mythology, Agni & Sacrifice

As a god, Agni is considered to be like a guest among humans. Hindu mythology says that no one can overcome he who sacrifices to the gods. Agni represents the channel that brings the gods down from the sky to the place of sacrifice. He is said to be “the swiftest messenger to the gods.” And as such Agni is the Lord Protector among men and he is seen in three distinct ways: sun, lightening and the fires that we perceive on earth. In this way, Agni symbolizes the number three.

Tejas and Yogic Practice

OM
Namah Shivaya Gurave Sacchidananda-Murtaye
Nisprapancaya Santaya Niralambaya Tejase

We respect Lord Shiva who is the supreme guide and who is the embodiment of truth, tranquility and bliss. He is independent, full of peace and is full of spiritual light known as tejas.

Tejas means filled with fire and light. In the verse above, we see the word tejase used to describe Lord Shiva. In other words, Shiva is one who is full of light, heat and power. Tejas derives from the Sanskrit roots TIJ/TEJ. TIJ means to sharpen, to heat, to shine, to endure, to bear and to suffer patiently with courage. TEJ means to guard, heat, defend or protect.

Agni is the blazing fire, while tejas, represents the transformation that happens when you go through the heat of practice and become the light of the fire. Yogis engage yogic practices, daily, as a way to burn their karmas and their misunderstanding and their misidentification with their body and mind alone. The traditional period for making the offering to the fire is at the dawn and the dusk. Additionally an aspirant will offer Sanskrit mantras and oblations of ghee into the flames. Yogic seekers practice austerities to purify themselves and make themselves ready to receive the light.

By means of these sincere offerings to fire, seekers receive the blessing of Agni, they connect with the luminous spirit that resides within. When you obtain access to the light that you are you are called a tejasvi (masculine) /tejasvini (feminine) one possessed of light.

Luminous Soul ’21 day Fire Blessing Exercise’:
By Manorama

For 21 days …

  1. Start each day by offering your practice in honor of a specific person both morning & evening.
  2. Work with the Awaken Fire – Mantras for Agni Hotra with Manorama CD/MP3
  3. Each morning and evening, with the sunrise and sunset, practice chanting each fire mantra one time.
  4. After chanting, sit silently and practice Luminous Soul Meditation on the fire for 15 minutes.
  5. After silent meditation, remain seated and watch the natural flow of your breathing for 4 minutes.
  6. Finish with a sacred prayer to the person you are dedicating these mantras to.

Luminous Soul Notes from Manorama regarding the prayer section:

Each day, dedicate your fire practice to someone in your life that you want to receive the healing light of this energy. At the beginning and end of your practice hold the person’s name and image in your mind for one minute while directing your love and prayers towards them. Afterwards, feel for two minutes the peace and healing that this practice gives you and the person you offer the mantras to.

* All references to Guru ji in this article, refer to Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati

©2014 Luminous Soul/Sanskrit Studies & Manorama

Learn to Value Your Best Qualities

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“You’re getting very good with those movements, your lines are fluid, you should start performing soon,” she said.” “Nah…I just like the way dancing makes me feel,” I replied, “I have no plans to perform.” “Oh, I know you…” She said emphatically that rainy afternoon. “Whatever you focus your attention on, you do completely.” I was surprised to hear her words. I hardly felt that I was like that. Or even if I knew what like that meant. Its funny how someone can enlighten you to a quality in your self that you never noticed before. “I do? “ I said feeling more surprised than complimented. “Yes, definitely.” She returned. Her words carried assurance. I never thought of my self this way. In fact, I think of my self as pretty average and a little slow at times. I read slowly, and comprehend what I read even more slowly. I don’t walk briskly like most of my friends. This year, I noticed that I often dawdle. It usually takes me two days after the moment to reply with a witty retort to a funny line. As I reflect, I realize I often feel like the slow poke at family gatherings… I have the habit to lag a bit. For years, I attributed this fact to my being the youngest, but in retrospect, I think maybe I just move more slowly than people think. I considered what my friend said… and then realized that had I found a way to make up for my inherent slow poke with focus and repetition.

One of the things that I think makes me a good teacher is this need I’ve had since childhood to repeat things in order to understand them thoroughly. I bring this skill of repetition to teaching. I don’t mind repeating things over and over. I find that new layers open up for me in terms of understanding and I know the same to be true for all people. I access the exhalted through the mundane.

“Wow.” I said to my friend, “Well, I actually don’t want to perform, I just want to dance… (then I added) for my self and for …. God.” My face was open. She smiled. We didn’t speak more about it that day, or ever again, yet her comment stayed with me for years. And in my interior dialog I visited her words, our words, sifting through them again and again probably looking for something vital.

Here is the commandment I’ve arrived at for my self around it:

Focus and repetition are more important than speed and talent. I’m not suggesting that we all don’t have talent, but I am saying that I find talent to be less important than I used to. And when I say that I’m not negating talent either. I’m saying that slow and steady focus lead to follow through. And slow and steady focus, with follow through, leads to fruition in your practice.

Oh and I didn’t go on to become a professional classical Indian dancer, as my friend imagined. But I did learn something about my self that day that I am a person who when I decide to I go whole-heartedly into something, I do. I learned that knowing my strengths has value and that slow, steady continuity helped me to realize what I aimed my arrow on long ago the interest to know my self/Self. I also learned that these qualities are a part of who I am on an individual level.

Luminous Soul ‘September’s here, Sanskrit Assignment’:

This week, pull out your Sanskrit notes and notebook or buy a new one. Dust them off and breathe new life into them. This week, commit to review your notes 3 times for 20 minutes. Practice your pronunciation; chant the alphabet 1 time all the way through, 3 times this week using the Sanskrit Alphabet Pronunciation Course, available to download.

Make this practice less about your talent and more about your ability to exercise a slow and steady follow through. This week your study is about your ability to stay focused.

Deepen your understanding of Yoga
Work with a proven method of learning
Grow your confidence
Feel Joyful in your practice

© 2014 Luminous Soul/Sanskrit Studies & Manorama

Gayatri Mantra: The Sacred Rhythm

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I recently taught a very special 1-day teleclass on the Gayatri Mantra. The Gayatri mantra is a powerful tool for helping us come into greater contact with our Soul, with the essence that we are. My work with mantra and specifically the Gayatri mantra over the last 28 years has really been a dialog of the Soul, and I often talk about how in Luminous Soul we learn how to come into connection with our Soul, and then live from that perspective on a daily basis.

The Gayatri mantra is considered the most sacred mantra in all of India, second only to the healing sound OM. OM is the primordial sound of your own Soul.

The actual name of the Gayatri is Savitri Gayatri Mantra and derives from the Rg Veda, verse 3.62.10. The Rg Veda is the oldest form of Sanskrit that we have access to today and the Savitri Gayatri is found in this ancient text. Veda comes from the root Vid-to know and means science. Rk means pulsation. When the ‘K’ in Rk meets with the ‘V’ in Veda it changes to a ‘G,’ therefore Rk Veda becomes Rg Veda. The Rg Veda reveals the science of pulsation and vibration, which is what we do in Sanskrit, we study vibration through mantras.

What’s the big deal about vibration? The big deal about vibration is that it is always new. Your essence is in vibration and pulsation. When you get your self into what we call a ‘vibrational experience’ you start to feel your self in a whole different way than you normally do. We all tend to move about in the world as if we are the body and the mind and nothing more. The various yogic systems each offer tools to support the student in gaining access to the rishi vision, which leads to clarity and understanding. Feeling your self as vibration is one of the tools of the sound yogis.

In ancient times, rishis found that when we direct energy inward vibrating the vocal chords in particular ways it has an effect both inside and outside. One of the pillars of the Luminous Soul Method is to study prana, energy. By chanting and meditating you begin to direct energy up. When you direct energy up your attention also moves upward and that upward movement of your focus is the beginning of awareness.

The Savitri Gayatri Mantra was realized within the context of the Rg Veda, which is the science of pulsation, knowledge and light. Therefore the Savitri Gayatri is a reflection of that light essence. After chanting the Savitri Gayatri, we feel lighter and start to entrain with the vibration of light.

Savitri Gayatri Mantra

OM
bhur bhuvah svah
tat savitur varenyam
bhargo devasya dhimahi
dhiyo yo nah pracodayat

***
Earth Atmosphere Heaven
We meditate on the sacred light of the luminous source.
May that guide our intentions.

 

Savitri Gayatri starts in the second line. The first line; bhur bhuvah svah means earth atmosphere, heaven, and these are called Vyahriti. Vyahriti means a sacred utterance. By saying bhur bhuvah svah you are preparing the way for this mantra to be received, this sacred configuration to enter your life.

The earth which is the physical plane, the atmosphere which is the inter-space, and the heavens which is a higher aspect of your self; may all layers of you pay attention. May this verse be received on all these different levels.

Then the Savitri Gayatri begins…

 

© 2014 Luminous Soul/Sanskrit Studies & Manorama

11 Simple Steps to Manage Your Stress and Anxiety

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In our modern times, everyone feels demanded upon. The truth is, what is being asked of us is to give a multitude of things our attention, all at the same moment. This and much more can create stress for us on an internal level.

The good news, as I have discovered in my own life, is that there are very real simple steps that one can take to minimize the stress in your life to bring about greater ease on a daily basis.

1. Pause and see the space around you and take a few deep breaths.

Conscious breathing affects your mental state significantly. Conscious breathing connects you with your body and spirit.

Action Step: Once a day: Feel the floor supporting you. Inhale slowly and mindfully to a count of four, start by filling your belly and then expanding your chest, then inhale to the top of your head. Hold gently for a count of four. Then exhale slowly releasing from your head, to your chest to your belly for a count of four. Pause and hold for a count of 4. Repeat this 3 times. Notice the tranquil effect this practice has on you.

2. Move your body.

One of the things I took away from a class once was: “Move your body. Don’t remain stationary all day.” I took that to heart. Though I have a spine injury and can’t do every movement I want. I can move my body and get some exercise each day.

The instructor said, “The body was designed to move.” So, make sure your form gets the message that you understand it was meant to move and that you value it and will give it the nourishment it needs and wants.

Action Steps:

a. Create a list of 5 physical activities that you enjoy, add them to your schedule 2 x’s this week.

b. Start today by taking a walk in a park or taking a yoga class. (Yoga teachers note: Taking a yoga class is not giving a yoga class).


3. Pay Attention to Your Sleep.

I know for me when I don’t get enough sleep I feel tired and stressed. Not getting enough sleep can be a trigger. If you’re having trouble sleeping, start winding down much earlier than normal. Internally you can say, now I am winding down. It could be at 6 or 7 pm which may be well before your bed-time. Being aware of your eventual rest puts the notion of ease on the cosmic clip board, so to speak, and sets your system up for relaxed connected closure of your day. Work to consciously not rev up your system. Another way to put it, work to be at ease well before bed.

Action step: Take a warm bath, listen to relaxing music or write in your journal. Avoid late phone calls. Remind your self that tomorrow you can work to resolve more, but now is the time for letting things take rest and nourishing your body, relaxing your mind and feeling your spirit. 

 

4. Challenge the What if Piñata.

As you move into a more consciousness life, you want to notice the general movement of your thoughts. It will be important to learn the skill of identifying an unhelpful or meh thought. Ask yourself how specific thoughts affect your feelings, energy and ultimately your behaviors. Notice: Is it helpful or is it a meh thought? Meh thoughts usually arise in the form of “what ifs,” “all-or-nothing thinking,” or “catastrophizing.”

When I was stressed or anxious, a friend of mine and I used to call it the ‘What if piñata.’ We’d say “uh ho don’t go near the What if piñata.” Things like: “What if I fail this exam?” or “What if this airplane crashes?” or “What if I don’t make the flight.”

Action Steps: 

Challenge your self and these types of what if piñata thoughts.

First ask your self: “Is this anxiety realistic?” “Is what I am imagining in my what if piñata likely to happen?” “If the worst possible outcome does happen, what would be so bad about that?” “Could I handle that?” “What can I do?” “If something bad happens, what do I think that means about me?” “Is this really true or does it just seem that way?” “What might I do to prepare for whatever may happen?”

Reframe

Then, reframe the meh thought or what if piñata, work to soften it and make it more accurate. Here’s an example: “I would feel awful if I failed this exam. Reframe: I recognize that that’s a feeling; and it won’t last forever, and I would get through it if it happened. If I fail the exam, I will learn new things and will practice again to take it over. Recognize that you would grow in the process. Soften the what if piñata.

 

5. Say something kind to your self each day.

Saying daily kind and positive statements to your self helps to give you support and grounding. Remember all feelings are temporary they are not permanent.

Action Step: Today I value my efforts at _________. I have accomplished ________ this year. I have grown myself in _______ this month. (Fill in the blanks) 

 

6. Engage your support system.

Social time can be very nourishing for your spirit and your sense of stress. Call a friend. Make a date to spend time with a trusted individual in your life. Laugh and share stories of your experiences. Laughter can be very nourishing to your spirit.

Action Step: Plan an outing and invite a few friends. Invite friends for a dinner party. Chat about fun and interesting topics. Ask a friend to go to a new movie.

 

7. Watch your intake of caffeine or sugar.

Stay in awareness of what research has shown us for a long time that certain substances deplete us or rob us of our natural sense of inner health and ease. In effect, certain substances exacerbate stress or anxiety. Caffeine and sugar taken in moderation don’t cause too much stress, but in excess can truly deplete your system.

Action Steps: Be mindful of your intake of caffeine and sugar on a daily basis. Once a month, plan a day or two without caffeine or sugar.

 

8. Take small breaks.

It’s helpful to take breaks throughout your day. Our world with its growing technology places intense demands on our attention all day. Be aware of this and take small breaks throughout your day.

Action Step: Go for a short walk. Listen to a lovely song and deliberately let all else fade from your mind. Contemplate something, which you are grateful for in your life. Really allow that feeling of gratitude to fill your heart.

 

9. Make a list of your stresses and suggest solutions.

Life has genuine stresses, which exist for everyone. One way to minimize your stress and anxiety is to write a list of your current stresses and then actively look at possible solutions.

Action Step: For 20 mins make a list of your general stressors then jot down one or two solutions next to each.

 

10. Contact a therapist.

When my mother passed, I missed her physical presence significantly. So after about a month I decided to enlist the support of grief counseling. I knew that grief was a specific emotional journey and that with the proper navigation I could become even stronger by it if I worked to understand, stay open and listen deeply. It is wise to enlist the support that you need when you need it.

Action Step: If you feel a continuous sense of stress or anxiety about something, contact a trained therapist for added support. 

 

11. Recognize and accept the anxiety you have.

Travis Bradberry, a leader in stress management, says, “While I’ve run across numerous effective strategies that successful people employ when faced with stress, the real challenge lies in recognizing when you need to use them and having the wherewithal to actually do so in spite of your stress.”

One of the key elements in minimizing stress and anxiety is to actually acknowledge that you have it. That alone brings awareness to the fact and allows more wisdom to activate around it. It might sound counterintuitive, but stress and anxiety are not our real problem. Instead, it’s our repeated attempts to control or deny it, to kick it from our awareness that bring about a greater disconnect from self.

Action Step: Take small steps. Watch and accept that you have an anxiety. The acceptance will bring awareness and awareness is the biggest energetic catalyst for change and healing. 

 

© 2014 Luminous Soul/Sanskrit Studies & Manorama

 

Working with Fear in Meditation

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Hi Everyone,

This month in the Luminous Soul teleclasses we’ve been speaking a lot about fear in meditation, what this means, how to practice with this and much more.

Last week a great question came up in class that I wanted to share with everyone, as this topic is so important for growing your practice.

The question was “You speak about needing to recognize what comes up in meditation. If I feel fear, why do I need to recognize that fear in meditation?” It’s a good question, why would it be valuable to recognize your fear in meditation? Because when you recognize you have fear, it helps you to become conscious of it. What you are not conscious of, will act upon you unconsciously.

In meditation if you experience fear think of it as a veil. When you are not aware of your fear it will eventually demand to be recognized and will seemingly step in between you and the experience of oneness and light. Fear keeps us blocked; it has an energy to it.

What I liked about the question was it highlighted that there is value in recognizing where you need to work. Instead of internally saying, “I like this. I don’t like this”, you want to get to a place where it is more “where’s the next place I need to work?”

Sometimes fear is a useful tool. But meditation is the process of opening. When we experience fear it is giving us information about where we need to work. It is not the next place to judge our self. Fear is not to be tromped on, or treated like it is ridiculous. In the Luminous Soul meditation practice, you respect fear and take a look at it. But you don’t just stay there, you work with it.

When we become aware of the fear that rises in meditation, we can actually come into greater resonance with it. We can create receptivity, by listening, ask questions and then its purpose in our practice will open up. How to work with fear in Luminous Soul practice: Instead of rejecting your fear, move to a place of curiosity in your practice and work to release the fears, but only when it’s ready will the fear will be released. Little by little it will naturally soften and readiness will arise.

If you feel fear, stay with it, connect and listen. Listen to what it’s telling you and when you listen well it will give you the next clue for the next place that you want to work to evolve your practice. Eventually, with your presence, it will fold it into the center, but it requires that you be with it.

Grow your practice * Expand your happiness

Love,
Manorama

© 2014 Luminous Soul/Sanskrit Studies & Manorama

Vidya is the Process and the Goal

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How does regular mantrik practice quiet your mind and how does working with mantras connect you with the principle of vidya?

I was recently considering how regular practice with mantras gives one the opportunity to become more familiar with their sounds, vibration and feeling. The fact is, the more you feel connected with these elements the more at ease you will feel as you work with the deeper layers of their significance. One of the most powerful things mantras give us access to is yogic silence. Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati says, “Silence in yoga is not just the absence of speaking, it is the absence of thinking.”

I was reading a few articles the other day on mantra, and found this lovely article by
Swami Rama on the dynamic quality of yogic silence. First he said, “Silence is not lifeless or necessarily quiet.  It is a vibrant and very alive pulsation of all that is.” Then he explainedthat the process is such that you say the mantra and then watch your thoughts dissolve. When thoughts calm, you feel the dynamic silent core that you Are.

Swami ji explained, “It is not due to the meaning of the words that the mantra has its impact. It is the effect of the collection of sounds that helps the mind to become quiet where you eventually go beyond sound, and experience silence within.”

This statement resonated strongly for me, and the work we do at Luminous Soul because it describes how deeply mantras have the possibility to transform your consciousness into an energized tranquil state. When you spend time each day working with mantra and meditating, you feel inner silence. You feel a greater sense of ease in your life overall.

Defining Vidya

When you connect with this energized silence you will simultaneously access vidya or what is called pure shakti.

Vidya is knowledge. In Sanskrit, itmeans the clear light of the Self. Vidya signifies both the goal and the experience of our fullest expansion. On a daily basis, you can connect with vidya by engaging your life with wisdom and by staying close to your Self in all things. Living vidya means to live from the place of true grounding in that Self. Vidya is the process and the goal. I repeat myself on the important principles. When its important I repeat myself. Vidya is the process of expansion as an energetic being and it is also the goal of beingness itself.

Luminous Soul Mantra Vidya Practice:

The process is this: When you repeat a mantra, the thinking aspect of the mind calms and you feel the energized silence that underlies. As you remain with the space beyond your thoughts, experience the state of unified consciousness known as yoga.

  • This month, 2 x’s per week spend time chanting your mantra.
  • Repeat the mantra 54 x’s each time that you sit to practice.
  • Work to gently stay with that quiet, don’t distract away from it.
  • Watch your thoughts slowly dissolve as you continue immersing in the repetition.
  • Work to stay connected and watch the space between the thoughts.
  • Let the quiet reveal the meaning don’t move to make meaning.

Additionally:

  • This month, contemplate each week for 5 minutes the topic of vidya in your life.

Additional suggested reading, Swami Rama’s lovely writing:
Mantra & Silence http://www.swamij.com/swami-rama-mantra-silence.htm

 

© 2014 Luminous Soul/Sanskrit Studies & Manorama

The Art of Listening

Listen

It’s hard to speak and listen at the same time. In Luminous Soul, we cultivate the art of listening. We learn to focus on pulling inward and listen to: The mind, the thoughts, the body, the heartbeat, and the inner sound known as nadam.

There is something about listening that links us with our highest wisdom. It’s as if the capacity to listen means we are not already full with thoughts and ideas. In effect, we have space to take in what we are hearing.

To truly listen let the commentator in your head take rest and feel what is being said without any preconceived idea, without judgment … listen.

In Yoga, listening is connected with feeling. Not feeling on an emotional level, but feeling on a pure experiencing level.

I recently spoke with a friend who was quite upset about something. Rather than give her an answer to her difficulty, I decided to do what I call really listen. Listening itself became a kind of answer that day. In other words, I stayed present, I didn’t move away from what she was expressing in any way, I stayed with her words and their import without preconceived ideas or ready-made responses, without judgment, and in so doing I modeled a way she could possibly find resolution.

Each of us has innate knowing, but we don’t often activate it. Listening deeply to others is a gift and listening to your self on a regular basis supports the sincere connection with self and the development of innate knowing.

Listening and Meditation:

The first step in the meditative process is to sit quietly with your mind and body and listen. Students often find this to be challenging. For many, the simple act of being still and listening can feel hard. The capacity to hear means you have internal room. In a society where distraction is prized, listening needs to be consciously cultivated.

That day that I spoke with my friend she was talking very fast, her voice was filled with anxiety about her circumstance. I noticed it, but rather than judge the pressure I perceived or push it away, I simply softened and moved closer to it. By listening to her I found that in a short time her voice became less tinny and her energy became calmer. She clicked in, so to speak, and began to listen to her self more. As she started to self-listen her reactionary self slowed down and her innate connected wisdom started to rise.

Here are three simple steps to develop your listening skills:

  1. Be Present and Notice: Three times this week practice being present and listening to a friend or loved one. You are not practicing agreeing or disagreeing just listen. Note what this gives you access to. Here are two dictionary definitions of ‘to listen:’ To give attention to a sound or to take notice of what someone says.
  2. Work with Your Fear: Work with the fear that may rise in you as you listen. You may find that a loneliness, sadness or anger becomes more visible, or you might discover a part of you that wants to problem solve, or that by listening to someone you may find that you notice judgment rising in you. Work to release these aspects and simply shift back to present listening. Think of listening as a muscle that you are developing to access greater clarity.
  3. Listen to the Sound Itself: Sometimes the sound itself has information on a feeling level. Two times this week, practice listening to the sound itself. You don’t have to disappear to the meaning of the words, just give presence to the quality of the sound. Notice how it feels, let your body and even your skin listen to the meaning.

Work with these suggestions everyone. I look forward to reading your comments in the section below. Enjoy your Luminous Soul Listening exploration month.

 

© 2014 Luminous Soul/Sanskrit Studies & Manorama

You’re Born, You Live, You Die….. Not really

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You’re born you live, you die, not really. Western society avoids the topic of death. I find this odd since we all at some point are affected by the passing of loved ones and ultimately we ourselves will pass beyond our forms.

When someone close to us passes, we become curious and through our suffering muster the courage to bring up the topic of death with our family and friends. In an attempt to soothe our pain they may tell us to put it out of our minds or they may look at us worried that we could be slipping down the rabbit hole. It’s as if there is something wrong with us for even thinking about death. We are quietly instructed that death is something no one really knows about and definitely should not dwell on let alone speak about. Others suggest that people who put attention on considering what death is may have a death wish or are overly morbid. “Live life! Enjoy!” They’ll shout, feeling as though they are championing life itself. In our lives we may be told directly that it’s not good to focus on death. Some parents try reassure their children and give them a sense of safety by saying, “I will never die” or they’ll say “if I die” as if it is not a fact of their existence … but I ask you how can you avoid the reality of death?

My first experience with death had a great impact on me. It happened when I was 11 years old. My paternal grandfather, whom we called Pop came to visit me. Everyone loved Pop, he was Italian, tall, dashing, old world, and possessed the kind of energy and charm that made people notice him whenever he entered a room. He was debonair with white hair and had a handsome stature. I remember that he had kind eyes. That night we met, I recall noticing that he was preoccupied and seemed tired in a way I’d never seen before. Pop had just retired from being a judge and an attorney after almost 40 years. He was basically in fine health. That night together we headed to books and records to buy some routine last minute Christmas presents. I recall my grandfather, and I doing ordinary things together like comparing the nearby Shop Rite for a better price on wrapping paper. We chatted as we shopped and spoke of every day matters. Pop was old world Italian meets the American dream. He was like those old houses in small towns that you see where everything is made stable by the material that made it. In retrospect, in those days, I felt like he was just like one of those homes that he could never crumble and yet the very next afternoon as I returned home from school I was told that that morning Pop never woke up.

During that time, I would ask people where Pop had gone and each one would say, “He died and if there was a heaven he surely was in it.” It signified to me the depth of their respect and love for him, but did not inspire a sense of confidence in their understanding of what death was. This and other responses of theirs indicated to me moreover that the notion of death scared them profoundly. So I stopped asking them and began my quest to understand death and its process on my own. This journey led me to my guru, Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati at a very young age. Guru ji taught me how to understand the meaning of life and to be curious about the journey of death.

I do not believe that studying or being curious about the process of death will make you, morbid, death obsessed, suicidal, or a downer. Being curious about your next stage of evolution is wise and interesting. The process of discovery is both intense and fun to work to understand. Instead of you’re born, you live, you die what if it looks like this: You incarnate into form, you grow your self on a variety of levels and when the time is ripe you shift beyond your physical form. This and much more is what Guru ji and yoga taught me…

© 2014 Luminous Soul/Sanskrit Studies & Manorama

The Cooking Lesson

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Everyday Guruji had us cook with him. This is how the lessons began. First there was silent meditation on the I-AM for an hour then he would shift to teaching Sanskrit. He taught mantras, grammar and etymology. His devotion and enthusiasm for Sanskrit excited us all. It was his love of the subject which gave us an entry point to delve deeper into the meaning of the mantras. Ah Sanskrit! No matter whether we were chanting verb endings, sutras or Devi verses, her eternally resonant sounds cascaded in the mind and harmonized the atmosphere.

Around noon Sanskrit class finished so Guruji would return to his modest cottage to begin cooking the afternoon meal. As always when you were in Guruji’s presence you found you learned so much about life. Studying under him was like engaging life as a lila (divine play). In order to understand one lesson that he taught one had to grasp many other surrounding lessons. Guruji’s teachings worked much as sutras do.

Sutra as a Metaphor

In order to comprehend a single sutra generally one will need to understand nine other sutras to grasp the one in focus at the time. Furthermore, to understand the surrounding nine sutras, the student will need to understand nine more for each of those and so on and so on into infinity…Sutra study shows us much about how Guruji’s life and teachings unfolded. In this way, each teaching was subtle and rich.

The Simple Act of Cooking

Guruji imparted his Shakti (energy) in the simple act of cooking. Just as a scientist carefully adds the needed items to his concoction, so Guruji prepared the meals in this way. As we added different items to the particular dahl or potato dish i.e., tumeric, ghee, salt, pepper, chilies and hing powder, I was always amazed to see how the ingredients came together. I had no idea what the particular dish would taste like. It was all a great mystery, but when the time came and he felt that enough fire, water, ingredients and attention had been added to the particular dish he would ask me to taste it and see how it was. With one bite a nourished feeling came over me…he stood looking at me waiting, with his eyes bright…as if asking Did I like it? I would return the glance with a kind of look that said, My lord, this is incredibly delicious. He would smile and I knew for him the lesson was passed.

It was not until after several months of helping him cook that I decided one Saturday to try to cook Indian food for my family on my own. After I returned to the ashram the following Sunday Guruji asked me excitedly, “So how did it go? How did your family like your meal?” I looked less than enthused and said somewhat hesitantly, “Oh yeah…well they thought it was OK, but I know it wasn’t that good. I added all the spices the way you taught me and I carefully cut everything placing all the ingredients in at the appropriate time, yet it didn’t turn out like yours.” I continued, “I don’t know how you do it Guruji? How you always make the most amazing meals.” He listened intently and then as was his custom he took his opportunity to share the lesson of the hour. He said, “I never talk socially when I cook. I always chant mantras and you do not. This is the difference. Food takes on the mind of the one that is cooking. Mantras quiet the mind and that tranquility is absorbed by the food.” Here it was, Guruji’s secret to creating an incredible meal.

Luminous Soul Lesson

In order to make a delicious meal one needs the skill of how and when to combine the food elements, and most importantly one needs an attentive and quiet mind to guide that cooking process. When we chant or listen to mantras while we cook, our mind becomes focused, energized and peaceful.

To understand Guruji’s teaching, think of the sutra metaphor – to grasp a single sutra one needs to see its application play out in many other sutras and vice versa. Our sutra here is a yummy dahl or potato dish and the fulfillment of its aim is found when we properly engage the simple act of cooking. Through cooking a meal Guruji was able not only to teach us how to prepare food and nourish ourselves, but also that any action we take will absorb the vibration of the mind of the one who performs it. When the mind is thoughtless and quiet then your real nature shines. This quiet is aided through chanting or listening to mantras. When the mind is quiet and attentive then all the meals of your life will bring great nourishment to you and to others.

Sanskrit Studies Mantra & Meditation Exercise

A. Close your eyes and sit quietly for a few minutes in silence. Afterwards open your eyes and note in a journal the quality of your mind.

B. Then begin again after sitting for a moment, start chanting the Mangala Mantra (see below). Chant the mantra with the conscious intent that all beings everywhere be happy and free – Repeat the mantra successively for two minutes. Then sit quietly for five minutes in thoughtless motionless contemplation.
Afterwards open your eyes and note in a journal the quality of your mind and the vibration in the space within and around you. Ask yourself does chanting a mantra affect my meditation practice. If so how? Describe.

Mangala Mantra
Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu

May all beings everywhere be happy and free.

Note: Invoke this mantra to quiet the mind and heart. Chant this mantra while cooking in order to bring a tranquil vibration into the food.

© 2014 Luminous Soul/Sanskrit Studies & Manorama