Be the Best “Version” of your Self

Truly, there is no “better” or “worse” version of You, or I–we are the Center of Consciousness.  How can there be a flaw?

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Be the Best Version of your “Self”

In Yoga Philosophy, a human is viewed as an expression of the Center of Consciousness.  As the Center of Consciousness “moves outward” it appears to condense (for lack of a better word) and become the individual.  But, the Center of Consciousness remains eternal, undiminished, unchanged.  

There are various sheaths (koshas) appearing to veil the Center of Consciousness; they are like layered lampshades covering a light.  At the outermost level there is the physical body; the next, more subtle, layer is the energy/breath body; the next, subtler, layer is the mental body; the mind is preceded by the wisdom body; at core is the Self–the point where Center of Consciousness initiates individuation. 

Whether or not you subscribe to this philosophy, we can intuit that we are more than we appear to be. What we hold to be as our “True Nature” is a personal belief.  However, the busyness of our lives causes us to misidentify with all of the actions we are doing instead of our illusive “True Nature”.

Furthermore, our addiction to moving outward–as opposed to focusing inward–causes many of us to fixate on our failures and challenges.  We can become mired in a victim persona, subjecting ourselves to a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Meditation is a tool which can shift us to a state of empowerment by: improving our physiological functioning, depersonalizing the thinking process, and relieving us from attachments.

When the human nervous system evolved, it bifurcated into two aspects which work like gears on a manual transmission.  The sympathetic nervous system causes humans to jump into action.  It triggers the “fight or flight” response via the release stimulating hormones, which includes: dilated pupils, accelerated heart rate, and increased rate of respiration.  Conversely, the parasympathetic nervous system is associated with feelings of safety and wellbeing–reflect on the feeling holding a calm baby.  Unfortunately, many people are primarily tapped into the sympathetic nervous system–they are reactive, anxious, and judgemental.  

Most systems of meditation are practiced in a relaxing environment and incorporate techniques, such as: body scanning, diaphragmatic breathing, and focusing attention–all of which elicit a parasympathetic response.  When this is stimulated, thoughts are inclined to be uplifting and positive.  In fact, a recent Harvard study indicates, 8-weeks of mindfulness meditation cause the brain to grow new gray matter. This asserts you can rewire your brain into new thought patterns. Despite the catharsis of improving the quality of our thoughts, it is important to understand that we are not our thoughts.

As previously mentioned, we identify with our accomplishments and roles; however, we also identify with our thoughts.  Thoughts, like the material objects of the world are “objects” we have created on the mental plane.  Many people have an antagonistic relationship with their thoughts.  They tend to believe that they are good when they are having positive and altruistic thoughts.  They tend to judge themselves when they are having negative thoughts.  All minds are creative–even Buddhist monks have thoughts of murder.  However, acting on a thought is a different scenario.

Although there are benefits to positive thinking; it’s important to get distance from your thoughts.  This is not an attempt to have cessation of the thinking process; rather, the goal is to become detached from the activity of the mind. In most meditation traditions, practitioners are taught to allow the mind to behave naturally–not to interfere with the thinking process.  Over time, one is able to become aware of the transient nature of thoughts.  Ultimately, as one becomes dispassionate about thoughts, the mind begins to relax; this is not unlike a pond settling after it is undisturbed for a while.  Then one becomes aware of spaces between the thoughts.  In meditation we attempt to move into those spaces–not to shut the mind down.  

After one develops a regular practice they may observe that thoughts are of two sorts: neutral and colored.  Neutral thoughts are benign, they do not elicit an emotional response. Colored (klishta) thoughts are shaded with attachment.  Attachment is twofold: attraction and repulsion (aversion).  We cling at what we are attracted to and we push against what we are repulsed by.  Yet, these are two sides of the same coin–in both cases one is attached.  We expend a great deal of energy trying to get more of what we want and an equal amount of energy trying to keep away what we abhor.  The rationale of this behavior is happiness; but, true happiness is not determined by what is outside of us.  

As a meditation practice develops, one is able to discern which thoughts are colored. A regular meditator is detached from their thoughts, they are able to uncolor them and decrease incessant craving for the the material world and it’s ephemeral pleasures.  Many philosophies believe attachment is our greatest downfall; whether is desire for more accomplishments and experiences or the fear of death.  Meditation does not make us apathetic; a healthy yearning for that which brings us inside and towards truth is amplified with regular practice.

Meditation is a wellspring; it allows us to set down the many false ideas and identities that burden us on a daily basis.  Then, as if we hang these on a clothesline, after meditation we pick these up and they feel lighter. With meditation we begin to perceive ideas of lack are not our true nature; they are fantasies we created along the way.  During meditation, we still the body, smooth the breath, quiet the mind, and steep in the silent Center of Consciousness.  How can we be undeserving, unworthy or unlovable if our true nature is perennial and connected with the True Nature of everyone?  

 

The New Normal

Spiral Staircase Queens House UK www bamorama com

Ah, it’s nice to return to the blog-o-sphere…

I never pegged myself as one to share extremely personal things via my blog; however, I feel sharing this experience is beneficial on multiple levels.  Firstly, I want to explain my hiatus from this commitment.  Secondly, I hope that sharing the experience will allow others to catch a glimpse into my reality and, perhaps, see our commonality.  Lastly, I believe that appropriate sharing is cathartic.

When I first set out to create this blog, I did so with my life partner, my best friend, my husband.  Some of you who have been following will remember our collaborations and his poetry–which are still hosted on this site.  Despite us both being committed to our spiritual paths, our relationship path has diverged and we are not continuing in the direction of a married couple.  We are still committed to our children and to the being the best co-parents and friends we can be.

Sharing what “happened” isn’t necessary. In fact, according to Swami Rama, “The nature of Reality is a game of hide and seek, which is really the only game there is—now you see it and now you don’t.” Furthermore, the Yoga Sutras explain: “Although the same objects [or situations] may be perceived by different minds, they are perceived in different ways, because those minds manifested differently.

So in actuality, what “happened” is based on whose perspective you garner.  In fact, the word perspective is powerful in and of itself…  According to Google, “[in] late Middle English (in the sense ‘optics’): from medieval Latin perspectiva (ars ) ‘science of optics,’ from perspect- ‘looked at closely,’ from the verb perspicere, from per- ‘through’ + specere ‘to look.’”  What calls me is not the fact that it means to look, it’s the fact that it denotes looking through.

So what is it that we are looking through?

It is the veiling Power of the Universe, Maya.  “Maya means appearance, as if something appears to be one way, but is really another… some view maya as meaning that nothing is real, and turn this into a cold-hearted intellectual practice, others view the illusion of maya as being shakti, the creative force of the universe. In this way, the maya of the koshas is experienced both as unreal and, at the same time, as the beautiful manifestations of the universal oneness” (Swami J).

The reversal of this process is the purpose of meditation in traditional Yoga. As Georg Feuerstein has explained, it is implosion.   A receding (for lack of a better word), through all the “layers” until there is an experience of “The Witness?“.

How does this tie in with Chad and I?  Well, I believe the philosophy and the practices I have been sharing have helped me to be more at peace with what is happening.  Firstly, as I have mentioned, I appreciate perspective in a way that I have never before.  I feel more empathetic towards someone who I may have considered to be an adversary in the past.  Secondly, they have given me more self-regulation.  All of the time watching my thoughts, emotions, and behaviors have helped me to be less reactive.  I am certainly not professing mastery; but, I feel less volatile.  Additionally, I attribute a general feeling of optimism because I know that what I am is not defined by my life situation–there is a constant which is unaffected and I have access to the peace of this space.

I was recently presented with the metaphor of grief being like a spiral staircase–as opposed to being like a ladder with rung-like stages.  We continually move through stages, which circle back around; but, on the next pass we’ve moved higher.  This is also a metaphor for sadhana (the spiritual path); we keep moving upwards–even if it seems we’re going around in circles.

Make sure to click the links– there is a plethora of information there.

Om Shanti Namaste

All Yogic Approaches are Initiatory

Tight-rope-Getty

Part 10 of “How Do You Qualify Yoga?

…I return to a more controversial qualification presented by Georg Feuerstein, in his perennial work, “The Lost Teachings of Yoga“.

Truly the name of this article can also be tilted “Do you need a Guru?”  According to my teacher, Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati, “[A] Guru is not considered to be any person, though the force of guru may operate through a person. Teachers may be respected, but are not objects of worship. “Gu” means “darkness” and “ru” means “light.” Guru is the light that dispels the darkness of ignorance.”

However, even my teacher has a Guru.

Georg is adamant, in the aforementioned work–and many others–self-taught, and even incorrect teachings have benefit, the subtle nuances of Yoga tradition are missed without a Guru to elucidate them.

How do I feel about this?  My answer probably will be cryptic–I avoid offering advice.

I know, the old adage, “when the student is ready, the teacher will come”, sounds patronizing–especially, to someone who considers himself  to be an earnest seeker.  The challenge is, especially if you listen to Georg’s audiobook, are we earnest seekers?

The Path, as described by Swami Rama in, The Architect and the Path, ” …Is narrower than the needle’s eye and as sharp as a razor’s edge.”  Furthermore, he explains, a half-hearted seeker will find that their efforts may not bear fruit.  He is assertive in his conclusion, “If your dearest one stands in the way of Self-realization, tread over him, forsake him, go beyond. If your beloved stands in the way of Self-realization, cast her aside. Your trusted friend is Truth and Truth alone.”  These strong words are the rationale behind the celibate, renunciate lifestyle of the Swami.

So, before instead of answering the question, “do you need a Guru?”  I offer, “are you a sincere seeker?”

A wise friend of mine said, “do you have a spiritual path or a hobby?”

I have vacillated on my committment; but, I am striving for complete adherence and surrender.  This adherence is not coming from the fear of punishment, or the hope of reward, from an external source.  It is intrinsic.  The deeper I go, the more I realize that I am looking for something inside of me.  The closer I get to it, the more I understand the need to associate with those who have tread this path.

My teacher is treading this path.  I listen to his advice because I feel the truth resonating in it; not, because I am following blindly.  I see the practices working in my life; but, only, when I am committed to them.

All Yogic approaches account for surprise and/or grace.

Part 9 of “How do you Qualify Yoga?

About a year ago, I was facilitating a workshop and met someone who is now a dear friend.  Our connection was instant; he had been raised a devout Hindu and was very complementary about my ability to simplify teachings he had previously learned.  We culminated our discussion with the idea that, assuming you subscribe to belief in Saṃsāra, how it took everything we had done up to that moment to even be in that workshop–to even be discussing teachings which were, at one time, only available to the chosen few.

According to Swami Rama, “…There is also the activity of grace. Grace is the impulse or the impetus of the energy to dispel darkness. There is the grace of the scriptures, from the wisdom that has passed down from others. There is the grace of the teacher, who imparts that wisdom and helps bring it to life in the student. There is the grace of God, or pure consciousness, that is alive and ever present in everyone’s life. Integral to these three graces is the grace of oneself, having the will to undertake a purposeful journey in life, to do the spiritual work of life, and to prepare oneself.”

What is the source of the impulse?

According to the mahavakyas:

  1. Brahma satyam jagan mithya–Brahman is real; the world is unreal
  2. Ekamevadvitiyambrahma–Brahman is one, without a second
  3. Prajnanambrahman–Brahman is the supreme knowledge
  4. Tat tvam asi–That is what you are
  5. Ayamatmabrahma–Atman and brahman are the same
  6. Aham brahmasmi–I am brahman
  7. Sarvam khalvidam brahma–All of this is brahman

If Brahman–which is an arbitrary word for the Center of Consciousness, the nameless apex, or whatever you wish to call it–and we are one and the same, the source of the impulse is from within.  We heard it said before, “You are who you are seeking.”  Ironically, the picture above says “to serve another”–there is no other.  There is only one.

There is no need to anthropomorphize the Center, I am not suggesting “someone” is pulling strings.  But, to paraphrase Ma Tri, when you done all the preparatory work, when you have gone deep enough in your meditation, eventually it is a surrender and grace that carries you the final distance.

Hence, meditation, affirmative prayer, contemplation, and gratitude–try to do some every day.

All Yogic approaches require a commitment to radical self-transformation.

Part 5 of “How do you Qualify Yoga

While I understand why Georg expounds, Yoga requires a committment to radical self-transformation, I also feel as though it can be stated differently: Yoga requires committment to self-recovery.  There is an alchemy to it; but, there is not really anything to transform, you are already who you are seeking.  However, our lives, karma, addictions, experiences–whatever you want to call them have veiled the Truth that we are seeking.

About a year ago, I cannot believe this endeavor began a year ago, I wrote a post “Setting it All Down“, in which I shared how my beloved teacher reminded me that the gift of Yoga meditation is setting aside all of the false identities to, hopefully (and with consistency and committment), gain realization of who we truly are.

Sometimes these false identities are so heavy; especially, when life isn’t doing what YOU want, when people aren’t showing up how YOU want, when you realize that in our current incarnation we don’t control– we are part of the karmic wheel– the goal of Yoga being to un-yoke ourselves from this, potentially, never-ending journey.

Yoga is about using every moment in your life to become fully present to what is really going on.  To see the only locus of control is your inner environment.  It’s not about getting limber on the outside.  It’s about limbering up inside.

And, as I mentioned in the posting, “The Practice is Perfect“, you have to do this every day, every minute, every second.  And when you slip, you say “Ah, I have something to learn here”.

This has been a time of slipping for me; my life isn’t showing up how I want it to.  But, it’s showing up how I, obviously, need it to.  Divine consciousness makes no mistakes.  So here I go again, maybe one step closer to who I truly am.

A Special Visit

MaTri Flyer

Ooh Formless Divine Mother…. hear my longing, hear my prayers for strength to keep going to use every moment for increasing awareness and to allow the surrendering into formless Love. None of the sensory impressions are me, none of the thoughts are me… ooh take me in Your formless arms, take it all, as I have nothing to loose as none is my. Most deepest gratitude for the sages and the selfless offerings to show us the path… humbly I walk in these golden footprints together with my fellow sadhakas friends, which company I value tremendously. Standing ever stronger for what I know to be true: Aham Brahmasmi ♥ And so are all of you! We are all sparks in the divine ocean of bliss, splashing around but One is true essence. See the Absolute smiling, giving and sharing through the human beings… What a joy to be aware in Vaishvanara!  Have a wonderful day ahead full of play, love and giving ♥

 Swami Ma Tripurashakti BharatiWorkshop Registration