“Meditation changed my life. Twice a day, it allows me to come back to my centre and who I really am, and drop all the labels – actor, father, husband, all the roles we play, and just to experience myself.” ~ Hugh Michael Jackman
Mind and Meditation
“Have you observed what is happening in your mind every moment? It vacillates between the past and the future. It is either in the past, occupied with what has happened, or in the future thinking about what you have to do.
Knowledge is being aware of this phenomenon of the mind — of what is happening right now in your mind as you are reading this article. Information can be acquired by reading books or browsing the Internet. You can open a book on any subject such as how to lose weight, how to prepare for an interview, success 101 and so on. There are innumerable volumes available on a countless number of topics, but the awareness of your own mind cannot be learnt from a book.
There is another tendency of the mind — it clings onto the negative. If 10 positive events are followed by one negative event, the mind will cling to the negative. It will simply forget the 10 positive events.
With meditation however, you can become aware of these two tendencies of the mind and bring it to the present. Happiness, joy, enthusiasm, efficiency and effectiveness are all in the present.
The human mind is very complex. It has its delicate and tough aspects. If you have had a misunderstanding with a friend or colleague at work, you can become stiff inside and this can distort your emotions, leading to negativity — and you carry this negativity wherever you go.
However, when you culture your mind with meditation, its tendency of holding on to negative emotions simply disappears. You gain the ability to start living in the present moment and are able to let go of the past.
Balancing the States of Mind
In your day-to-day life, you come across all kinds of situations that can be challenging and demanding a degree of alertness to be able to make good choices. These situations give rise to different states of mind, and neither life nor the states of mind occur with our permission. In fact, they often occur in direct defiance to our wishes.
Meditation can bring about a balance between the different states of the mind. You can learn to switch from the tough aspect to the delicate aspect within you. You can stand up when needed and let go when needed. This ability is present within everyone, and meditation enables you to switch between these states effortlessly. The whole exercise is to develop an ability — to switch back and forth between the tough and delicate aspects of the mind.
One of the biggest deterrents for people not being able to meditate is that they don’t have enough time. Yet when they start to meditate, they find they have more time, because they are able to focus and get more done. Not only that, the regular practice of meditation also leads to greater intuitiveness. It sharpens the mind through focus and expands it through relaxation.
With the integration of meditation into one’s daily life, a fifth state of consciousness, called cosmic consciousness, dawns. Cosmic consciousness means perceiving the whole cosmos as part of oneself. When we perceive the world as a part of us, love flows strongly between the world and us. This love empowers us to bear the opposing forces and the disturbances in our lives. Anger and disappointments become fleeting emotions that occur momentarily and then vanish.
Rest and activity are opposite values, but they complement each other. The deeper you are able to rest, the more dynamic you will be in activity. Planning can hold you back from diving deep into yourself. Meditation is accepting this moment and living every moment totally with depth.
Restlessness, agitation, desire and ambition stir up the mind and keep it engaged in planning for the future or being regretful about the past. Real freedom is freedom from the past and future.
The confluence of knowledge, understanding and practice makes life complete. When you grow into higher states of consciousness, you find that you are no longer thrown off balance by different situations and disturbances. Regular practice of meditation can transform the quality of your life by culturing the nervous system to maintain peace, energy and expanded awareness throughout the day. You become beautiful yet strong, capable of accommodating different challenges in life without any conditions.”
– Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
First published in Huffington Post
Yoga for the Modern World
If A is for Apple, E is for Elephant, and U for Umbrella, don’t be surprised if kids reading alphabets today spell “Y for Yoga”. Indeed, yoga is becoming more and more popular today. While there may be many reasons for this, one who has experienced the powerful benefits of simple yoga practices would hardly be surprised at how the ‘Y’ word has risen to great popularity. Since the only qualification required for yoga is the ‘ability to breathe’, people from all backgrounds, age groups and occupations could choose to take its benefits. How to do that?
To most people, the word ‘Yoga’ means a set of physical exercises or postures (called ‘asanas’ in Sanskrit). It is very interesting to know that these ‘asanas’ or physical exercises are just one of the eight “limbs of Yoga”, as explained by Maharishi Patanjali in the ancient times. Aside from the Asanas, yoga also consists of meditation, breathing techniques such as Pranayams and Kriya Yoga, hygiene and the practice of moral values. As a whole, yoga brings about not just good health to the body, but also to the mind, emotions, energy and personality. In short, it contributes to a wholesome and fulfilling life.
- Thousand modern “Yogis” from all over the world perform together at the World Culture Festival @ The Olympiastadion in Berlin: July 2011
A complete and fulfilling life is often missing today, perhaps more than ever before. Longer working hours, reduced physical exercise, greater competition at schools and workplaces, increasing use of chemicals in food and items of daily use are some of the common factors which are leading to unbalanced, unhealthy and stressful lifestyles today. Left unchecked, this can lead to psychological and health issues. Yoga offers protection from these ailments.
The old proverb ‘Prevention is better than cure’ applies perfectly well to the practice of Yoga. Apart from preventing the emotional trauma suffered by the ill and their families, one can also avoid the rising costs of medication as well as the harmful side-effects that invariably accompany allopathic medicines. But the stand-out advantage of a ‘Sadhak’ (one who practices Yoga) over others is the tremendous strength and qualities he or she gets in personality, such as the ability to focus and yet be relaxed at the same time, overcoming failure and rejection, high self-confidence and clarity of thought. His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has said: “Look at the benefits of spirituality. 1) It brings enthusiasm. 2) There is more time in your life. You can do with only 5-6 hours of sleep. It will keep you energized. 3) Will enhance your Creativity 4) Increase your Energy levels. All these lead to prosperity.”
Yoga practices have also touched the lives of the celebrated and the popular. Bollywood stars Lara Dutta and Kunal Kapoor are active supporters and teachers of Yoga. The Sri Lankan Government arranged a yoga workshop for its national cricket team following an assassination attempt on the team while on tour in Pakistan in 2009. The Sri Lankan captain was quoted as saying that “he had felt relaxed and calm” after practicing the breathing techniques. Among other famous personalities who have practiced Yoga are Arnold Schwarzenegger, Madonna, Angelina Jolie and Mahesh Bhupathi.
Modern technology has also made yoga very convenient to practice. Locating yoga classes and regular practice groups has never been easier, thanks to the internet and telephone. Even meditation can be done on the internet with the help of audio tracks which guide the user through instructions. Thanks to music players on mobile phones and other portable instruments, meditation is possible anywhere, anytime using audio tracks – during lunch breaks, while commuting, in busy offices or in serene lawns.
Indeed, it is now possible to practice yoga around hectic schedules and tight deadlines without much effort. The more relevant truth is that today’s fast-paced world makes it necessary to practice yoga to keep good health, joy and a sense of balance in life. It is easy to do. And fun! So, roll out your mat and begin!
Meditation – Yoga for the Mind
– by Charles Lockwood, Los Angeles, USA
If there is food and sleep to nourish the body, then what about the mind? Isn’t it the mind which in effect works through the body and controls it? If the body needs food, exercise and cleaning, so does the mind! And that is what meditation is.
Derived from the Indo-European root med-, meaning to measure, the English word takes root from the Latin meditation which originally indicated any type of physical or intellectual exercise and later evolved into the more specific meaning ‘contemplation’.
In fact, the ultimate purpose of Yoga is meditation. Patanjali, the founding father of Yoga, describes yoga as “Yoga Chitta Vrutti Nirodha’ meaning that Yoga leads to the state of thoughtlessness or bliss.
All of us have meditated at some point in our lives. When we behold a breathtaking landscape , for a moment we just close our eyes and enjoy our own company; when we are really grateful, our eyes automatically close in prayer; when we are enjoying good music, we close our eyes and delve within. All those precious moments are moments of meditation!
So at some points in our lives, we have meditated and will continue to do so. These moments have offered us great solace and peace. Becoming aware of that and consciously practicing it, results in the numerous benefits of meditation that are so well known.
Here it is important to clarify that meditation is not concentration. In fact, it is quite the opposite, meditation is the art of letting go or ‘deconcentration’ as H.H.Sri Sri Ravi Shankar puts it. Concentration is a result of meditation and not the cause.
That is why it is so pleasing. One has the opportunity of completely letting go and unburdening oneself, just like before sleep, one just lets sleep take over. It is like taking a massage, where one just lets the masseur massage and basks in the relaxation. The only difference is that in sleep, one is unconscious and in meditation, one is totally aware.
And that is what cleanses the mind. Just like the impurities in an agitated pool of water settle down if left untouched, the chaotic flow of thought settles down when one closes one’s eyes and does nothing. In fact, meditation is just that, doing nothing! Isn’t that what most people look forward to in a holiday? Well your best vacation is right inside yourself, just close your eyes and do nothing!
That is the exercise that keeps the mind sharp and alert, focused yet relaxed, efficient and at the same time, blissfully happy. All that one needs to do to let go of the stress, anger, sorrow, depression, any negative emotion is just to close one’s eyes and do nothing. The rest simply happens! That is the beauty of meditation.
Kriya and Creativity
– by Winnie Soh
Creativity flows from someplace deep inside that none of us can name. All those who write, paint,draw,sing, dance or do something creative know that their ideas flow from a space deep within that can be best described as nothingness. There is no thinking involved here, just reaching down into the depths of your heart and soul and there it is- the flow of the writing, song, dance or painting or the creation and once tapped into, it just continues with ease. There is no effort involved here and while engaged in the making, there are no thoughts either. If one observes oneself during such a time, one feels peaceful- in harmony with the world, there is just you and your creation.
Having said that, when one starts to do Kriya, one starts touching base with that innermost self, bit-by-bit. There is a drastic reduction in the levels of the stress hormone ‘cortisol’, therefore there is more peace with fewer thoughts. Also the grasping power of the mind, one’s focus, concentration and efficiency at the task at hand improves as one starts becoming more and more aware of oneself. This is because breath is what connects the body and mind. And if one becomes aware of the breath, one becomes aware of one’s mind. As one starts to know the intricacies of the mind, one’s true nature starts manifesting. And that is the space from where creation happens. Think about it! When one creates, one accesses the very depths of oneself without knowing, the proof is the authenticity that comes from creating doesn’t it? It feels so original.
And there is proof of this too, A.R.Rahman has said in almost every interview that his success is all due to his spiritual practices. And look at the kind of originality and richness in his work. The same is valid for Rabindranath Tagore. His creations are so simple yet so eloquent. This goes against the notions that spirituality is boring and that one must renounce life with its dynamism to lead a spiritual life. Krishna was the very embodiment of spirituality. Did he not live life? He was full of life in the endless tales that talk of his world-changing actions. And none could match the magic his flute wove.
Spirituality is dynamism. H.H.Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the founder of the Art of Living and the Sudarshan Kriya observes that this world created by the Divine is so vast, magnanimous, dynamic and diverse. There are so many types of creations. There is no one type of fruit or one plant or only one species of animal. In fact, every single human being on this planet is unique. So if spirituality is getting in touch with this divinity that is present in oneself, then imagine the kind of creativity that would flow from oneself. The Sudarshan Kriya itself, is a technique that aims to make the practitioner tap into and realize this divinity in himself.
In corollary, the numerous other benefits aforementioned begin manifesting. So there lies the relation between creativity and the Kriya. The creator-the divinity that created this world is what we are made of. Therefore, we ourselves have the very same divinity present in us, just as every poem reflects the poet and every painting reflects the painter and every wave is only the ocean.
– by Harshini
Bubbling springs of the joyful river
sunlight through the snowy mountains -a sliver
joy wells up, hope grows, ‘i’ becomes a giver
the moment fulfils itself in a life full of rigour
Faces all aglow around
one touch and sorrow-no more bound
to life-like a sinuous vine, only the sound
of the springs of joy eternal found
by none other than the very heart
finds none in this creation apart
from itself, sends forth the dart
of its love, to play its part
in this world-play , a mighty start