Mantra Yoga

I know it’s been awhile since I’ve posted. My apologies. Like every writer, I sometimes question the value of writing. I’d love to hear from you and hear your feedback about what subjects you’d like to see me tackle.

Anyway, Mantra!

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As I may have mentioned before, Sanskrit is the language of Yoga and Mantra. First and foremost, Sanskrit was designed as a vibrational language with an emphasis on how the sound quality of the syllables affect and influence human physiology and psychology. According the the Rishis (intuitive seers who received Sanskrit) the vibration of the syllables have frequencies that help us begin to resonate and align ourselves with Universal goodness and purpose.

Nikola Tesla, the man who single-handedly invented the modern age of electricity , said, “If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.” This is right in line with what the Vedas (ancient Sanskrit texts) and the Rishis have been saying for thousands of years.

I can personally testify that in the last six months, since I’ve been practicing a Lakshmi Mantra, my life has been changing in the most abundant ways. Not only have I received more material abundance, but my whole attitude about prosperity has changed significantly. I no longer look at prosperity as a struggle, but as a river into which I can immerse myself as I speak the powerful frequency-charged words of Sanskrit Mantra. What’s more, I can feel a stronger conviction about the person that I want to be.

While I do not relate to the ancient Hindu deities as gods, per se, I practice mantra to align myself with the frequency contained in their Sanskrit names. For me, it is about aligning my self with the goodness of Universal energy. Sanskrit Mantra helps us attune ourselves with that Universal goodness as we use those sounds to build our resonance with it.

Whatever your religious tradition, Sanskrit is available to help you super-charge your own path with the power of Universal Prana (Life Force).

So, if you’ve never used Sanskrit Mantra, I recommend its profound transformative power.

Two good books on the subject are : Mantra Yoga and Primal Sound by David Frawley and Shakti Mantras by the late Thomas Ashley Farrand. Frawley’s book delves into the roots of sound itself and Farrand’s work is full of illustrative stories and mantras to help you achieve your goals.

Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti. Peace,Peace, Peace.

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Disease, Resistance, Surrender, Healing

As I prepare to serve Y.O.G.A. for Youth (Your Own Greatness Affirmed) by teaching yoga to middle school boys this semester I try to put myself in their shoes. I know most of these boys will enter class knowing little to nothing about yoga and many of them may even think it’s a little weird. Some may not even want to participate at all. That prompts a memory of my initial resistance to yoga way back in 1981.

After surviving my first debilitating attack of Crohn’s Disease and subsequent hospitalization, someone recommended yoga to me. There was class nearby so I thought, “What the heck. I’ll give it a try.” So, skinny from Crohn’s weight loss and jacked up on doctor-prescribed steroids I trotted of to my first yoga class.

During my first bout of the disease my left big toe was completely paralyzed. I would often stub it when I walked barefoot. During my first yoga class, the teacher, an elderly be-turbaned Indian man named Baram, mentioned that paralysis of the big toe related to digestive disease. Being kind enough not to single me out, his point made a strong impression on me. At the end of class, his pretty young assistant, Lakshmi, commented,  “Oh, you’ll have to do yoga for the rest of your life to stay well.”

Being the reactive rebel I so stubbornly played in my late 20s, I thought to myself, “Like hell I will.” I never returned to that class and completely ruled out any role for yoga in my recovery from Crohn’s Disease. Of course, I got sick again and again. My next disease episode forced me to withdraw from the University of California at San Diego just as the fall semester began. Not only did I lose any confidence that I’d be able to pursue an education, I settled into a depressive funk of hopelessness that I’d ever be able to pursue developing my full human potential.

Fourteen years later, complaining of chronic back pain, a friend lent me a yoga book he thought might help. I began using the book by myself daily. After two weeks the back pains had vanished. I knew I’d found something important so I kept practicing.

I took teacher training ten years later and began to teach. Even though I’d made progress in my practice, I still hadn’t realized the profound power of yoga to transform my life. After two more bouts of Crohn’s in the early 2000s and several episodes of depression later on in the decade that required medication, I knew that I had to put up or shut up about my yoga practice. Either this practice could help me cope with my dis-eases or not.

I quit the antidepressant medication cold turkey (not something I advise) and devoted myself to daily asana, pranayama and meditation. The combination of these three limbs of yoga relieved the chronic stress and subsequent depression. Consistent practice bathed my brain with a balanced flow of neurotransmitters that I learned to summon at will. It’s been nearly ten years since my last Crohn’s episode. I can say with confidence that I have developed the proper yogic self-care skills not just adequate to keeping myself well, but also to fully enable me to continue my quest towards a life of complete fulfillment and service.

Though I stubbornly spent years wandering in the wilderness of poor health, I have fulfilled Lakshmi’s prophecy that I would have to practice yoga for the rest of my life. Rather than a sentence, yoga has served to liberate me from physical as well as mental illness.

A yoga teacher of mine, Krishna Kaur Khalsa, relayed a quote to our Yoga for Youth training class recently.  It went something like this: “One who seeks the greatest freedom must develop the greatest discipline.” This statement is also a constant thread in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. We get out of something what we put into it. It’s the universal law of cause and effect. We reap what we sow.

With gratitude I bow to all the saints and yogis who have come before us to show us the way of yoga (union). This practice will not only heal, but will catapult its practitioners into the lives they long to live.

Blessing to all of you as you blaze your own trail to freedom with the boundless practice of yoga.

Namaste and Sat Nam!

 

 

 

Unleashing The Power of Unlimited Creativity

Yoga is the uniting of our being—body, mind and soul—with the Creative Force of the universe. Achieving this union earns us access to the unlimited potential of the human being. The human being is a microcosm, or simply a smaller version of the infinite universe which gave birth to creation. We are quite literally made of the stars that once populated the cosmos. As such we contain the latent potential to create just as we have been created. This is heady stuff to be sure, but how do we bring the unitive force to bear and release the unlimited energy that resides dormant within us?

The process begins with focus, the focus of vibration to be more exact. Focus becomes concentration (dharana), concentration becomes pure essence (dhyana) and pure essence opens the door to boundless creativity (samadhi)—perhaps as the Big Bang did at the beginning of creation.

We can demonstrate concentration in the process of distillation. As heat, the focus of a vibratory force is applied to a fermented liquid, the water is driven off and we produce a concentrated “proof” of alcohol. This is one way concentration organizes matter into a purer form.

Perhaps a better illustration is the science of cymatics and cymatic music. Cymatics is the application of sound frequency to organize matter. Follow this URL to see this illustrative video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GtiSCBXbHAg  The logical extension of this phenomenon is cymatic music—that is music that is composed in certain frequencies to influence the molecules of the human body into more harmonic operation. See John Tefler’s video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sThS9OfnM1s

After physically seeing how sound organizes matter, we can begin to understand the science behind chanting mantra and prayer. Chanting is the intentional use of frequency to concentrate vibration to elevate the human experience into unlimited creativity. (Chanting is native to all spiritual traditions. St. Augustine said, “When we sing, we pray twice.”) The vibration we emit during chanting directly effects the brain and the production of the “feel good” neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine and the enkephalins. Endorphins are one type of enkaphalin.

Chanting directly effects the hypothalamus gland that helps control mood. Apparently, the meridians connected to the hard palate in the mouth are stimulated like a key board which is connected to the hypothalamus. These lines of transmission relay vibration to the brain in order to reduce stress, decrease cortisol production and induce a healing relaxation response.[1]

The icing on the cake of unifying the human being to the unlimited creative force of the universe is meditation. But where’s the vibration in that you might ask? Thought has vibration as well, albeit more subtle than music or vocalization. Masaru Emoto’s book “The Hidden Messages of Water” reveals how prayer can influence water molecules. Emoto froze water in various states and photographed the crystal formations that existed in the samples. Water that had been labeled with negative writing produced asymmetrical, disorganized shapes. Conversely, water that had positive affirmations written on the containers developed the beautiful architecture of snowflakes. Polluted water which produced distressed-looking shapes was subjected to the healing vibrations of prayer transformed into the beautiful uniform, snowflake designs.

The human body is over 70% water. The healing vibrations of chanting, prayer, mantra, and affirmation can help transform us, too. We can become healthier, more connected to our creative ability and more cohesive as communities.

Focusing our intention in meditation creates powerful, subtle mental vibrations that reach deeply into our brains to help us harmonize with the frequencies of the unlimited creative force of the universe.

I’ve often been puzzled by the Apostle Paul’s admonition (Romans 12:21) to “Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” How is that possible? Violent, destructive ego-possessed people will stop at nothing to get their way. Now, with the tools of yoga, chanting and meditation we can raise our children to harmonize with goodness. We can transform illness into health; we can change our brains; we can lift our depression with the harmonics of the unlimited creative power unleashed by chanting, prayer and meditation.

A new world awaits our application of concentration. This why we’re here, to heal each other and the universe. Could there be any greater challenge or adventure?

 

 

[1] http://blogs.psychcentral.com/adhd-zoe/2010/06/mantra-meditation-an-adhd-panacea/

Pratyahara: Key to Deep, Life-Changing Meditation

One of the eight limbs of yoga that doesn’t get a lot of attention is Pratyahara. TKV Desikachar in The Heart of Yoga defines Pratyahara: “to withdraw oneself from that which nourishes the senses.”

Our world is designed in complete opposition to Pratyahara. We are constantly bidden to indulge all of our senses. Media, books, food, sex, music, exercise constantly vie for our attention. To be sure they can all be useful in their proper proportion and place.

As we seek to progress along the yogic path, the path to super consciousness and the development our full human potential, it is essential to cease nourishing the senses in order to still the fluctuations of the mind that keep us captive to the illusion that our senses are all that there is to life. It is not a matter of trying to avoid the other interesting parts of life that can be so wonderful, rather the practice of Pratyahara takes place during meditation. We become absorbed in concentration on the breath and mantra so that mental distraction is eliminated.

We close our eyes. We sit still. We listen inwardly. These are simple, profound and not altogether easy acts to accomplish. The mind whirls with activity; the body may fidget or feel uncomfortable causing us to move which breaks our concentration.

Consistent asana practice will allow us to sit motionless. Motionless sitting helps to calm the “ripples” of mental fluctuation. Absolute command of the body in stillness is key to developing one-pointed concentration. We are able to lose our constant sense of the body. It feels sort of like levitation or suspension of physical being.

Ambient noise can be a challenge to withdrawing our sense of hearing. A technique I’ve used recently is the use of ear plugs. Household noise, barking dogs, traffic and other common sounds are easily muted with a pair of simple foam earplugs. If you want to get fancy you can use some noise cancelling headphones.

When I began using ear plugs I became aware of the pace and quality of my breath. With the ears closed I could hear the noise of my breathing. I realized how loud and unrefined my breath normally is. I could hear the friction of air against my nostrils and the vacuum of my expanding lungs. I began to soften and lengthen my breath so that I could no longer hear my breath. I started to watch the wave of the breath created by the filling of my belly and rising through my torso into my heart. I felt the lovely massage of each breath. I followed each measure of breath with acute awareness. I gently paused at the top of my inhale and bottom of my exhale to reestablish my awareness of being here now. This absorption in the breath without sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch helps the aspirant to develop a reliable, consistent, deep meditation.

I commend you to your practice of Pratyahara. It will yield great results. Your meditation will become deeper. You will develop an awareness of your very soul. As you do you will experience the growing strength and stability of your character. The fluctuations that so often carry us away will begin to lose some of their pull. You will learn how to cultivate peace at will.

With such a practice many wonders await to be explored. The fulfillment of who we can be is calling us. Our destiny lies in the mastery that Pratyahara can give us.

 

 

 

Recovery 2.0

http://recovery2point0.com/

Greetings All,

For those of you struggling with addiction or those you know who may know who are fighting this battle. The link above is the address for Recovery 2.0, a major online conference for tapping into a wealth of knowledge, help, counseling and mentorship to help you lay your burden of addiction down. My friend, teacher, and colleague Durga Leela, will be one of many participants and speakers sharing a holistic approach to dealing effectively with addiction.

Namaste,

Tim

A Doorway to Realizing Full Human Potential

Human kind has been living under the illusion that chronology is the best way to measure time. Of course, dividing time into years, months, hours, seconds and beyond does serve myriad purposes. Precise measurements and split second accuracy benefit us in many ways. But they tell us little to nothing about the quality of time in human experience.

I’ve heard it said that yogis measure the moments of their lives by each conscious breath. Since we are only rarely aware of the breath that keeps us alive, it may boggle our minds that the human breath would even be considered as an increment for evaluating time. How could computing time by each inhalation and exhalation be of any use to us at all? Such an idea might even seem silly and unworthy of further deliberation. But anytime you think something is just plain hooey is exactly the time to stop and ponder that idea from another angle.

Raising “consciousness” has long been a hallmark of what some would call the New Age movement. For that very reason one might dismiss it out-of-hand as a crackpot concept to be flushed away as so much refuse. Though New Age thought may have its share of sloppy or wishful thinking, becoming more aware is not something that came along with the Age of Aquarius. To the contrary—since the first human being sat still with eyes closed following the rhythmic breath, acute awareness and expanding consciousness ensued. Jane Hirshfield in her poem “The Door” puts it aptly: The rest note, unwritten, hinged between worlds, that precedes change and allows it.” As a compliment, T.K.V. Desikachar wrote in his book, “The Heart of Yoga”,: “Yoga attempts to create a state in which we are always present—really present—in every action, in every moment.”

“Yeah, so,” you might ask?

I would answer, “When we are truly present within the ebb and flow of each breath, we open the connection to the full potential that human experience has to offer.”

Poet, Danna Faulds, in her poem, “Breath” nails it down succinctly. “In the breath, the soul finds an opportunity to speak.”

As I sat in meditation this morning, I swam my way through the usual distractions. (Note: The intensity of distractions often correlates directly to the amount of visual media I’ve consumed). But I’ve found a method to help wash distractions away— attention on the breath. Before the beginning of each inhalation and exhalation, I pause and recompose my attention to the pinpoint of that moment with my focus on the third eye or ajna chakra. (Ajna chakra corresponds to the pineal and pituitary glands in the brain. Both are powerful hormone producers that regulate essential body functions). Combined with the simple mantra, So Ham (Hum), I can practice one-pointed attention on my breath. To reinforce this technique, I further merge my attention to the action of my body as it breathes. Feeing the ebb and flow of the breath into the belly and chest supports the mental aspect of breath attention. By using this technique we can learn to displace the distractions that so often limit the depth of my meditation. By no means am I an accomplished adept at this technique, but this practice offers tantalizing evidence of its value.

Developing one-pointed concentration is the difference between attempting to do something and the mastery of that thing. Peak performance, as anyone who has achieved it will tell you, is a matter of being “in the zone.” The door way to the zone is samadhi or absorption into the object of your concentration as Patanjali said in the Yoga Sutras. Jesus of Nazareth confirms this in Mathew 6:22 when he says “…when your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light.”

Regardless of your religious beliefs, a mind trained to one-pointed focus can achieve bliss, excellence, joy, ethical groundedness and accomplishment beyond normal everyday existence. We see this in champion athletes, business tycoons, great religious figures and intellectual giants. These seemingly super-normal human beings have simply mastered some aspect of absolute concentration.

This ability to be full of light is the doorway to our dreams as individuals and as a species. The only limits are those we impose upon ourselves.

So, is it a watch with a second hand you want or the conscious quality of your breath?

Breath as Mantra

     Few Americans yogis and spiritual seekers are lucky enough to enjoy the grace of a genuine guru. In some quarters of Western culture this Indian tradition is even viewed with suspicion because of the many reports of teachers who have abused their positions and misbehaved in various ways. Often in the West spirituality is viewed as a do-it-yourself path where teachers and gurus are peripheral at best.

As a zealous Christian evangelical in my teens and twenties, I also experienced the deep disappointment of seeing egotistical personality cults destroy fellowships and injure the souls of sincere believers.

So, as I discovered the path of yoga, (which is by no means in conflict with any spiritual tradition) I avidly read books for guidance, attended classes and took my teacher training with the desire to be connected to like-minded aspirants.

As it does with many yoga practitioners, asana practice led me to meditation. One method of meditation is to use a mantra to facilitate a calm, focused mind. A mantra is a syllable or set of syllables made up of “bija” or seed sounds of the Sanskrit tongue, the language of yoga. Each tradition has its own ways of using mantra.

As I attempted to associate myself with various traditions I was initiated into their mantras and practiced them faithfully. What I have found missing in these initiations and my mantra practice was the personal relationship with an attentive teacher or guru. Each tradition with whom I tried to build a relationship was managed by the descendants of a guru who had long since passed away. I also lived some distance from the respective spiritual centers of these groups, so gathering with them was difficult. Maybe I just didn’t try hard enough. The groups, their dead gurus and their mantras left me feeling as alone as I had been before. Maybe I just didn’t try hard enough.

So, in the wake of my confusion over competing mantras and traditions I have settled on a mantra that is common to us all: my own breath. Is there anything holier than the mysterious energy (prana) that pervades our beings and expresses itself as our breath? Is there any human function that connects us more intimately to the Divine? For me it is the simplest way to direct my whole being into fellowship with the Mystery of All That Is. Prana expressed as the breath is pure divine energy.

Though we take each breath for granted, our attention on the mysterious breath and its origins is an effective way to enter ever greater states of consciousness and a path to living more powerful, effective lives.

As a young believer I spent many years studying the Bible. For me The Sermon on the Mount contains the essential Christian message. Mathew 5:6 states “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” In this universal statement we see a simple way to approach the great Mystery and to serve humanity.

So it is as we approach our daily meditation, prayer or devotion. When we focus on the breath with a righteous intention to merge with the Divine, we turn the key in the lock that opens the door to eternity, to boundless love and to union with the creative powers of the universe.