Thursday, 14 April 2016

Music is Medicine!


I read a quote the other day from composer Gao Yuan saying that the ancient Chinese believed music was so powerful it could heal and harmonise all aspects of a person, including the spirit. He went on to say that they rated it more highly than their traditional medicine. This is seen even now in the fact that the Chinese character for medicine is based on the character for music. In her books on Esoteric subjects, Alice Bailey said that the future of medicine and healing would be with the use of sound. 

I've had many amazing and healing experiences with sound but one interesting situation verified by another person was when I took my healing tuning forks to show my acupuncturist. At the end of the session when I had already had my acupuncture treatment, my lovely therapist decided to try them on me. She noted that my pulses were still quite weak (the pulses are one of the ways an acupuncturist checks a person's chi and general health) - I was very run down at the time. She then started trying out the tuning forks on various trigger points and noted an immediate strengthening of my pulse. Finally she used a Solfeggio tuning fork around the body at the end and my pulse was so much stronger and more balanced. 

Recent scientific studies have shown that singing in choirs increases immunity and wellbeing, which may also be due to the sense of community and our need to be part of a tribe from our ancestral memories in our DNA. I've had 'out of body' experiences just listening to certain music and certain instruments such as the gong and the ancient Peruvian whistling vessels are known to produce so many overtones/harmonics that the regular mind can find no defence and collapses allowing the experience of complete stillness and the higher mind to take over. The whole Cosmos vibrates and people in meditation and near-death experiences report hearing the music of the spheres, the celestial realm. 

Our earth even has her own divine frequency, known as the Schumann resonance. When we are in nature or meditating we more naturally attune to this frequency ourselves. So everything can be seen (or heard) as divine sound & we can use sound to heal and restore us back to divine harmony. It is a shame when people believe that they are not musical. Little do they know that they vibrate and emit sound, just like the rest of the universe. When shown how to fully let go, relax and just play with sound, people who think they are not musical suddenly find themselves playing and singing from their souls. You yourself are music! 

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Flowing with the Energy of Life


Only love is the solution! I'm discovering so much about love ~ the energy of life. Things that I've known, but not been able to put fully into practice before. On a very physical level, I've found that when I've had period cramps, my sacral chakra has closed. Each time I visualise opening the chakra up the cramps go away. Literally the pain signifies the energy is not flowing. On a mental or emotional level, when I have experienced tension (which I also feel as physical pain within me) with others recently, again it is because at least one of us has 'closed' a part of ourselves down to the other. In these instances as soon as we open ourselves up to communicating with each other and letting the flow of energy express itself in a loving way, then the pain disperses and solutions become possible. All of life is energy. Eastern principles of yoga, martial arts and traditional medicine practices such as acupuncture work with the flow of life force energy, instead of blocking it. In the West our main form of allopathic medicine and our military thought tend to work on blocking the flow of energy in different situations rather than flowing with it, which can feel violent and which does not provide sustainable longer-term solutions. More and more I am learning to use my body as a guidance system and learning to open my energy to the flow of life. We close our energy through fear (conditioned responses) but what would happen if we learned to open up our energy in all situations? True energy masters can literally turn around dangerous and seemingly life-threatening circumstances, through flowing with the energy and taking it in different directions to those expected. To master energy in this way make take much time and practice, but we can maybe all start with opening up in little subtle ways in situations in which we may have closed down or reacted negatively  previously. As the saying goes, "if you do what you've always done, you'll get what you always got". This statement reflects perfectly the downside of reacting to what life brings us in old, predictable and stagnant ways. Reacting in new, more positive ways can bring us beautiful new experiences. Let's make 2016 a beautiful year by opening up our energy. There is great meaning to the statement 'go with the flow'. This does not necessarily mean taking whatever life throws at us, but instead opening up our energies to flow positively with events and find unexpected outcomes through remaining open and curious, rather than shutting down through fear. Wishing everyone a fantastic year! 

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Sivananda on Experiences and Obstacles During Meditation


I want to use this post to paste the amazing and helpful information about experiences and progress in meditation that is found on The Divine Life Society/Sivananda website (www.sivanandaonline.org), partly so that I can easily come back and find this information in the future and partly because it may be of assistance to others on their spiritual paths! So all the information below is copied directly from this website - enjoy! 

Experiences and Obstacles During Meditation

by Swami Sivananda

WHAT HAPPENS DURING MEDITATION

In meditation, new grooves are formed in the brain and the mind moves upwards in the new spiritual grooves. When the mind becomes steady in meditation, the eyeballs also become steady. A Yogi whose mind is calm will have a steady eye. There will be no winking at all. The eyes will be lustrous, red or pure white. When you enter into very deep, silent meditation, the breath will not come out of the nostrils. There may be occasional slow movement of the lungs and the abdomen. During normal exhalation the air comes out 16 digits. When the mind gets concentrated, it will become less and less. It will come to 15 then 14, 13, 12, 10, 8 and so on. From the nature of the breathing, you can infer the degree of concentration of an aspirant. Watch the breath very carefully.

Man tries to grasp the abstract through forms. After the mind has been purified, an abstract image is formed in the purified mind by Sravana (listening to spiritual discourses and holy scriptures) and Brahma-Chintana. This abstract image melts later on into deep Nididhyasana. What is left behind is Chinmatra or Kevala Asti (pure Existence alone).

In Nididhyasana or profound and continued meditation, thinking ceases. There is only one idea of "Aham Brahmasmi." When this idea also is given up, Nirvikalpa Samadhi or Sahaja Advaita-Nishtha ensues. Just as salt melts in water, the Sattvic mind melts in silence in Brahman-its Adhishthana (substratum).

EXPERIENCES IN MEDITATION

Various persons get various spiritual experiences. There cannot be a common experience for all. It depends upon the temperament, mode of Sadhana, place of concentration and various other factors. Some hear melodious sounds in the ears. Some see lights. Some get Ananda (spiritual bliss). Some get both Prakasa and Ananda. During meditation, you may experience that you are rising from your seat. Some experience that they fly in the air.

LIGHTS

The Divine light comes not through open doors, but only through narrow slits. The aspirant sees the Divine Ray as a sunbeam passing through a chick into a dark room. It is like a 'flash of lightning.' This sudden illumination chokes all sounds of words. The aspirant is spell-bound in ecstasy and awe. He trembles with love and awe, just as Arjuna did when he had the Virat-Visvarupa-Darsana of Lord Krishna. So bright and glorious is the Light environing the Divine that the initiate is dazzled and bewildered.

During meditation, the colour of lights that you see varies according to the Tattva that flows through the nostrils. If there is Agni-Tattva, you will see red-coloured lights. If Akasa-Tattva flows, you will have blue-coloured lights. If Apas-Tattva (water) prevails, you will see white-coloured lights. If there is Prithvi-Tattva, you will have yellow lights. If there is Vayu-Tattva, you will see black colour. You can change the Tattva by various ways. But the best way is by thought. "As you think, so you also become." When the Agni-Tattva flows, think intently of Apas-Tattva. Apas-Tattva will begin to flow soon.

RAPTURE

During meditation, you get rapture or ecstasy. It is of five kinds viz., the lesser thrill, momentary rapture, flooding rapture, transporting rapture and all-pervading rapture. The lesser thrill is only able to raise the hairs of the body (like the goose skin). The momentary rapture is like the productions of lightning, moment by moment. Like waves breaking on the seashore, the flooding rapture descends rapidly on the body and breaks. Transporting rapture is strong and lifts the body up to the extent of launching it into the air. When the all-pervading rapture arises, the whole body is completely surcharged, blown like a full-bladder.

CROSSING THE BODY-CONSCIOUSNESS

Aspirants are eager to get spiritual experiences soon. As soon as they get them, they are afraid. They are awfully alarmed when they go above the body-consciousness. They entertain a passing wonder whether they will come back again or not. Why should they be afraid at all? It does not matter much whether they return to body-consciousness or not. All our attempts are mainly directed towards getting over this body-consciousness. We are used to certain limitations. When these limitations suddenly drop away, we feel that there is no definite base left to stand upon. That is the reason why we are afraid when we go above the body-consciousness. That is a novel experience. Courage is needed. Bravery is an indispensable requisite. Sruti says, "Nayam-atma balahinena labhyah-This Atman can hardly be attained by weak (timid) persons." All sorts of forces have to be encountered on the way. A dacoit or an anarchist can easily realise God, because he is fearless. A push in the right direction is only necessary for him. How Jagai and Madhai, rogues of the first water, became very good saints! They pelted stones at Nityananda, the disciple of Lord Gouranga. Nityananda won them by pure divine love. Dacoit Ratnakara became Sage Valmiki.

VISIONS OF SPIRITS

Sometimes, bad spirits will trouble you. They may have ugly, fierce faces with long teeth. Drive them with your strong will. Give the word of command: "Get out." They will go away. They are vampires. They are elementals. They will not do any harm to the Sadhakas. Your courage will be tested here. If you are timid, you cannot march further. Draw power and courage from the Atman within, the inexhaustible Source (Avyaya). You will come across very good spirits also. They will help you a lot in your onward march.

There is a kind of vision one occasionally gets during meditation. You may behold a dazzling light with abrupt motion. You may behold a head of marvellous form, of the colour of a flame, red as fire and very awful to look at. It has three wings of marvellous length and breadth, white as a dazzling cloud. At times they would beat terribly and again would be still. The head never utters a word, but remains altogether still. Now and again, there is beating with its extended wings.

During meditation, some of the visions that you see are your own materialised thoughts, while some others are real, objective visions.

BREAK VEIL AFTER VEIL

If you get experiences of the glimpses of Self during intense meditation, if you see a blazing light during meditation and if you get spiritual visions of angels, archangels, Rishis, Munis, Devatas and any other extraordinary spiritual experiences, do not fall back in terror. Do not mistake them for phantoms. Do not give up the Sadhana. Plod on. Persevere diligently. Break veil after veil.

If there is any error in Sadhana (meditation), at once consult the senior Sannyasins or realised souls and remove the mistake. If your general health is sound, if you are cheerful, happy and strong, physically and mentally, if the mind is peaceful and unruffled, if you get Ananda in meditation and if your will is growing strong, pure and irresistible, think that you are improving in meditation and everything is going all right.

March on boldly. Do not look back. Cross the intense void and darkness. Pierce the layer of Moha. Melt the subtle Ahankara now. Svarupa will shine by itself. You will experience the Turiya (Arudha state).

OBSTACLES TO MEDITATION

Obstacles to meditation are really from within. Environments are from within; you create your own environments. Try to be happy in whatever situation you are placed. Do not complain. Bear sufferings. You can conquer Nature. Maya is Tuchha (nothing) or Alpa (small or non-entity) for a Brahma-Jnani.

The obstacles to meditation are only from within. Sleepiness, passions, confused state of the mind, Manorajya (building castles in the air) are the chief obstacles that stand in the way of fixing the mind on God or Brahman. The five hindrances to meditation, viz., sense-desire, ill-will, sloth-torpor, flurry-worry and perplexity should be removed. For, when these are not removed, meditation cannot arise. The mind that lusts after many things through sense-desire is not concentrated on one object; or being overcome by sense-desire, it does not enter upon the progress of meditation in order to put away the sensuous element. The mind that is harassed by ill-will concerning an object does not proceed at once. The mind that is overcome by sloth and torpor is unwieldy. Obsessed by worry and flurry, it does not repose, but flirts about. Struck by perplexity, it does not go on the path that leads to the attainment of meditation and Samadhi. Obstacles to meditation are thus really from within. They are not from without. Train the mind properly.

Laya (sleep), Vikshepa (tossing of mind from one object to another), Kashaya (memory of sensual pleasures) and hidden Vasanas and Rasasvada (the happiness derived from Savikalpa Samadhi) are four stumbling blocks in meditation.

TANDRI AND MANORAJYA

When the mind has been withdrawn from objects through Vairagya and Uparati, do not allow it to go into sleep or Manorajya (fancies and wild imagination). When you constantly contemplate on the meaning of the Mahavakya 'Aham Brahmasmi' or 'Tat Tvam Asi' through the process of Mahavakyanusandhana, all the Vishayas (seeing, hearing, touching, tasting and smelling) will stop. But, owing to the force of Samskaras, Manorajya (building castles in the air) will continue. Mind builds castles in the air. This is termed Manoratha in Sanskrit. This is a serious obstacle to meditation. It should be stopped by Vichara. Sometimes, during the course of meditation, the mind suddenly slips into its old grooves for sleeping. People think that they are meditating, while they are actually sleeping. A mixture of drowsiness (Tandri) and Manorajya (building castles in the air, reverie) is mistaken by aspirants for deep meditation and Samadhi. The mind appears to be established in concentration and free from Vikshepa (distraction). This is a mistake. Alasya and Stabdhata (stupefaction arising from fear or wonder, mental restlessness and mental depression) are other disturbing factors in meditation.

Closely watch the mind. Make it Ekagra (one-pointed) and allow it to rest on the Svarupa Brahman). Be thoughtful, careful and vigilant. Stand up for ten minutes and dash cold water on the face and head, if drowsiness comes in. Remove the two serious obstacles of Tandri and Manorajya by Vichara, Pranayama and light, Sattvic diet. Tandri and Alasya are removed by Pranayama, Sirshasana, Sarvangasana and Mayurasana and light, Sattvic diet. Find out the disturbing causes and remove them. Avoid the company of those whom your mind dislikes. Do not argue. Do not contradict. Do not try to convince persons who are unreasonable and undeveloped. Talk little. Observe Mouna. Live alone. In this way, you can avoid all sorts of excitements. Have constant Satsanga. Study elevating books such as the Yogavasishtha, the Upanishads, etc. Have Brahma-Bhavana. Repeat OM with meaning and feeling. All depressing thoughts will melt away.

If you are alert and if by protracted efforts and incessant, vigilant Svarupa-Chintana (meditation on Brahman), you get over the obstacles of sleep, Manorajya, etc., the steady Brahmakara Vritti and Brahma-Jnana will dawn in no time. Ajnana will vanish. You will be established in Sahaja Paramananda state. All Sanchita (accumulated) Karmas will be burnt up in the fire of wisdom.

DREAMS IN MEDITATION

Various sorts of fantastic dreams trouble some aspirants very much. Sometimes, there is a mixture of meditation and dreams. The presence of dreams denotes that you are not yet well-established in deep meditation, that you have not removed Vikshepa (tossing of the mind) and that you have not done constant, intense Sadhana. As the phenomenon of dreams is very peculiar and inexplicable, it is very difficult to control dreams unless you wipe out all the Samskaras in the Karana Sarira (causal body) and control all thoughts. As you grow in purity, Viveka and concentration, dreams will decrease.

DEPRESSION

Very often, depression comes in meditation in neophytes owing to previous Samskaras, influence of astral entities, evil spirits, bad company, cloudy days, bad stomach owing to indigestion and loaded bowels in constipation. It must be removed quickly by cheerful thoughts, a brisk walk, singing, laughing, prayer, Pranayama, etc.

VIKSHEPA

Scents, soft beds, novel-reading, dramas, theatres, cinemas, vulgar music, dancing, flowers, company of women, Rajasic diet-all these excite passions and cause disturbance of the mind. Too much salt, too much chillies, too much sweets cause intense thirst and disturb meditation. Too much talking, too much walking and too much mixing disturb the mind in meditation.

Impulses disturb meditation. All obscure subconscious impulses should be controlled by the intellect and will. Sex-impulse and ambition are two real disturbing factors in meditation. They carry on guerilla warfare. They attack the Sadhakas again and again. They appear to be thinned out for some time. They get revived often. They should be extirpated by great efforts, Vichara, Viveka (power of discrimination between Atman and Anatman, Self and non-Self) and Sivoham-Bhavana.

It is the sound that sets the mind in motion. It is the sound that makes the mind to think. Sound disturbs the mind a great deal in meditation. A sound with meaning disturbs more than a sound without meaning. A continuous sound as the silent murmur of a river is not so disturbing as an abrupt, sudden, sharp, broken sound. The mind does not feel a sound when it is used to it. You feel only when the clock stops.

TUSHNIMBHUTA AVASTHA

Tushnimbhuta Avastha is a quiet state of the mind wherein there is neither attraction nor repulsion for objects for a short time. It occurs in the Jagrat state. It is a neutral state of the mind. It is an obstacle to meditation. It should be avoided. It is mistaken by ignorant Sadhakas for Samadhi.

KASHAYA

Kashaya means colouring. Raga, Dvesha and Moha are the Kashaya or colouring of the mind. Kashaya is the subtle influence in the mind produced by enjoyment and left there to fructify in time to come and distract the mind from Samadhi. This is a serious obstacle to meditation. It does not allow the Sadhaka to enter into Samadhi-Nishtha. It induces the subtle memory of pleasures enjoyed. It is hidden Vasana. From the Samskara, Vasana originates. Samskara is the cause and Vasana is the effect. It is a kind of Mala (impurity of mind). Constant Vichara coupled with Brahma-Bhavana is the only potent remedy to eradicate this dire malady Kashaya.

SATTVIC VRITTIS

During meditation, when your mind is more Sattvic, you will be inspired. The mind will be composing fine poems and solving some problems of life. Stamp out these Sattvic Vrittis also. This is all dissipation of mental energy. Soar higher and higher to Atman only.

SAVIKALPA SAMADHI

Even the happiness of Savikalpa Samadhi is an obstacle, because it prevents you from entering into the Nirvikalpa state. It produces false Tushti (contentment) and you stop your further Sadhana.

The mind should be freed from all these obstacles. Then only will you enter into pure Advaita Nirvikalpa state. Vichara and Brahma-Bhavana are the only helps to attain this highest state.

MEDITATION AND WORK

He who meditates is not able to work. He who works is not able to meditate. This is not balance. This is not equanimity. The two principles, meditation and action, must be well-balanced. You must be able, if you are ready to follow the divine injunction, to take up whatever work you are given-even a stupendous work-and leave it the next day, with the same quietness with which you took it up and without feeling that the responsibility is yours. You must be able to work hard in the world with tremendous force and, when the work is over, you must be able to shut yourself up in a cave as an absolute recluse for a long time with great peace of mind. That is balance, that is real strength. Then only you have gone beyond the qualities (Gunatita). "He, O Pandava, who hateth not radiance (Sattva) nor outgoing energy (work), nor even sloth and slumber (Moha) when present, nor longeth after them when absent-he is said to have crossed over the qualities" (Gita, XIV-22).

When you advance in the spiritual practice, it will be very difficult for you to do meditation and office work at the same time, because the mind will undergo double strain. Those who practise meditation will find that they are more sensitive than the people who do not meditate and, because of that, the strain on the physical body is enormous. The mind works in different grooves and channels with different Samskaras during meditation. It finds it very difficult to adjust to different kinds of uncongenial activities. As soon as it comes down from the meditation, it gropes in darkness. It gets bewildered and puzzled. The Prana (energy) which moves inward in different grooves and channels and which is subtle during the meditation has to move in new, different channels during worldly activities. It becomes very gross during work. It has to work in different grooves and channels. When you again sit for meditation in the evening, you will have to struggle hard to wipe out the newly acquired Samskaras you have gathered during the course of the day and get calm and one-pointedness of mind. This struggle sometimes brings in headache.

It behoves, therefore, that advanced Grihastha Yogic students (householders) will have to stop all the worldly activities when they advance in meditation, if they desire to progress further. They themselves will be forced to give up all work, if they are really sincere. Work is a hindrance in meditation for advanced students. That is the reason why Lord Krishna says in the Gita, "For a sage who is seeking Yoga, action is called the means; for the same sage who is enthroned in Yoga (state of Yogarudha), serenity (Sama) is called the means." Then, work and meditation become incompatible like acid and alkali or fire and water or light and darkness.

REASONS FOR FAILURES IN MEDITATION

Some practise meditation for a period of 15 years and yet they have not made any real progress at all. Why? This is due to lack of earnestness, Vairagya, keen longing for liberation and intense, constant Sadhana. There is always a complaint amongst the aspirants, "I am meditating for the last 12 years. I have not made any improvement. I have no realisation." Why is it so? What is the reason? They have not plunged themselves in deep meditation into the innermost recesses of their hearts. They have not properly assimilated and saturated the mind with the thoughts of God. They have not done regular, systematic Sadhana. They have not disciplined the Indriyas perfectly. They have not collected all the outgoing rays of the mind. They have not made the self-determination, "I will realise this very second." They have not given the full 100% of the mind or 16 annas of the mind-their full mind-to God. They have not kept an increasing flow of Divine Consciousness like the flow of oil (Tailadharavat).

You will have to note very carefully whether you remain stationary in the spiritual path even after many years of spiritual practice or whether you are progressing. Sometimes, you may go downwards also, if you are not very vigilant and careful, if your Vairagya wanes and if you are slack in meditation. Reaction may set in.

Just as the man who foolishly run after two rabbits will not catch hold of any one of them, so also a meditator who runs after two conflicting thoughts will not get success in any one of the two thoughts. If he has divine thoughts for ten minutes and then worldly conflicting thoughts for the next ten minutes, he will not succeed in anything, in getting at the Divine Consciousness. You must run after one rabbit only with vigour, strength and one-pointedness. You are sure to catch it. You must have only divine thoughts at all times. Then you are sure to realise God soon.

You must not be too hasty in longing for the fruits at once, when you take to meditation. Haste makes waste. A young lady perambulated an Asvattha tree (Filicus religiosa) 108 times for getting an offspring and immediately touched her abdomen to see whether there was a child or not. It is simply foolishness. She will have to wait for some months. Even so, if those who read works dealing with Atma-Jnana and who do take delight therein will not be hasty in longing for the fruits at once, but will meditate regularly and gradually upon them, then the mind will, by degrees, be ripened and, in the end, the endless Atman will be reached; and they will get Atmasakshatkara (Self-realisation).

You will have to exert in the beginning to get an equilibrium of mind. Later on, you will have a habitual balanced state of mind. So is the case with meditation. After some years of practice, meditation becomes habitual.

CONDITIONS FOR SELF-REALISATION

Just as you saturate water with salt or sugar, you will have to saturate the mind with thoughts of God and Brahman, with divine glory, Divine Presence with sublime soul-awakening spiritual thoughts. Then only you will always be established in the Divine Consciousness. Before saturating the mind with thoughts of Brahman, you will have to assimilate the divine ideas first. Assimilation first and then saturation. Then comes realisation, at once, without a moment's delay. Remember the triplet always: "Assimilation-Saturation-Realisation."

Free yourself from the base thoughts of the mind, the various useless Sankalpas (imaginations). Just as you render the turbid water pure by the addition of clearing nut (strychnos potatorum), so also you will have to make the turbid mind, filled with Vasanas and false Sankalpas, pure by Brahma-Chintana (thinking and reflecting on the Absolute). If the mind constantly dwells on sensual objects, the conception of the reality of the universe will surely increase. If the mind ceaselessly thinks of Atman (Absolute), the world appears like a dream. Mark the word "ceaseless." This is important. Then only there will be true illumination. Then only there will be dawn of spiritual knowledge. The Jnana-Surya (the Sun of Knowledge) will rise in the firmament of Chidakasa (knowledge-space).

You will find very often these terms in the Gita: "Ananyachetah" "Matchittah" "Nityayuktah" "Manmanah" "Ekagramanah" "Sarvabhavah." These terms connote that you will have to give your full mind, entire 100% mind to God. Then only you will have Self-realisation. Even if one ray of mind runs outside, it is impossible to attain God-consciousness.

It is the actions of the mind that are truly termed Karmas. True liberation results from the disenthralment of the mind. Those who have freed themselves from the fluctuation of their minds come into possession of the supreme Nishtha (meditation). Should the mind be purged of all its impurities, then it will become very calm and all the worldly delusion, with its births and deaths, will be soon destroyed.

Mind exists on account of "I." "I" exists on account of mind. "I" is only an idea in the mind. "Mind" and "I" are identical. If "I" vanishes, mind will also vanish; and if mind vanishes, "I" will vanish. Destroy the mind through Tattva-Jnana. Destroy the "I" through "Aham Brahmasmi Bhavana," through constant and intense Nididhyasana. When mind vanishes or thoughts cease, Nama-Rupa will cease to exist and the Goal is reached. 


Lights in Meditation

Various kinds of lights manifest during meditation owing to concentration. In the beginning, a bright white light, the size of a pin's point will appear in the forehead in the Trikuti, the space between the two eyebrows, which corresponds tentatively to the Ajna-Chakra of the astral body. You will notice, when the eyes are closed, different coloured lights, white, yellow, red, smoky, blue, green, mixed lights, flashes like lightning, like fire, burning char-coal, fire-flies, moon, sun, stars. These lights appear in the mental space, Chidakasa. These are all Tanmatric lights. Each Tanmatra has its own specific colour. Prithvi (earth) Tanmatra has a yellow-coloured light; Apas (water) Tanmatra has a white-coloured light; Agni (fire) Tanmatra has a red-coloured light; Vayu (wind) Tanmatra has a smoky light; Akasa (sky) Tanmatra has a blue light. Yellow and white lights are very commonly seen. Red and blue lights are rarely noticeable. Frequently there is a combination of white and yellow lights. In the beginning, small balls of white light float about before the mind's eye. When you first observe this, be assured that the mind is becoming more steady and that you are progressing in concentration. After some months, the size of the light will increase and you will see a full blaze of white light, bigger than the sun. In the beginning, these lights are not steady. They come and disappear immediately. They flash out from above the forehead and from the sides. They cause peculiar sensations of extreme joy and happiness and there is an intense desire for a vision of these lights. When you have steady and systematic practice of two or three hours in the morning, and two to three hours at night, these lights appear more frequently and remain steadily for a long time. The vision of the lights is a great encouragement in Sadhana. It impels you to stick steadily to meditation. It gives you strong faith also in superphysical matters. The appearance of the light denotes that you are transcending the physical consciousness. You are in a semi-conscious state when the light appears. You are between two planes. You must not shake the body when these lights manifest. You must be perfectly steady in the Asana. You must breathe very, very slowly. 

TRIANGLE (LIGHT) IN THE FACE

One whose food is moderate, whose anger has been controlled, who has given up all love for society, who has subdued his passions, who has overcome all pairs (heat and cold, etc.), who has given up his egoism, who does not bless anyone nor take anything from others-such a man during meditation obtains it (the triangle) in the face.

LIGHT FROM SUSHUMNA

"Vishoka Va Jyotismati." (Chap. I, Sutra 36. Patanjali- Yoga-Sutras). "You can attain Samadhi by meditation on the Effulgent One Who is beyond all sorrow."

Sometimes, during meditation you will see a brilliant dazzling light. You will find it difficult to gaze on this light. You will be compelled to withdraw your mental vision from this light. This dazzling light is the light emanating from the Sushumna in the heart.

FORMS IN THE LIGHTS

You will see two kinds of forms (1) lustrous forms of Devatas, (2) physical forms. You will see your Ishta Devata or tutelary deity (guiding Devata) in handsome dress and with various, valuable ornaments, flowers, garlands, with four hands and weapons. Siddhas, Rishis, etc., appear to encourage you. You will find a huge collection of Devatas and celestial ladies with various musical instruments in their hands. You will see beautiful flower-gardens, fine palatial buildings, rivers, mountains, golden temples, sceneries so lovely and picturesque as cannot be adequately described.

DAZZLING LIGHTS

Sometimes, during meditation, you will get very powerful, dazzling lights, bigger than the sun. They are white. In the beginning, they come and fade away quickly. Later on, they are steady, they become fixed for 10 or 15 minutes or half an hour according to the strength and degree of concentration. For those who concentrate on the Trikuti, the space between the two eyebrows, the light appears in the forehead in the Trikuti, while for others who concentrate on the top of the head, Sahasrara Chakra, the light manifests on the top of the head. The light is so powerful and dazzling sometimes, that you have to withdraw yourself from looking at it and break the meditation. Some people are afraid and do not know what to do and how to proceed further. They come to me for instructions. I tell them that this is a new sensation which they have not hitherto experienced. By constant practice, the mind engaged in concentration will be used to it, and the fear will vanish. I ask them to go on with the practice. Some people concentrate on the heart, some on Trikuti, and some on the top of the head. It is a question of personal taste. It is easy to control mind by concentrating on the Trikuti. If you are used to fix on the Trikuti, stick to it always. Do not make frequent changes. Steadiness is very necessary. The beings and objects with whom you are in touch during the early period of meditation belong to the astral world. They are similar to human beings minus a physical overcoat. They have desires, cravings, love, hatred, etc., just as human beings have. They have fine bodies. They can move about freely. They have powers of materialisation, dematerialisation, multiplying, clairvoyant vision of an inferior order. The lustrous forms are higher Devatas of mental or higher planes who come down to give you Darshan, and encourage you. Various Saktis manifest in lustrous forms. Adore them. Worship them. Do mental Puja as soon as they give you Darshan. Angels are beings of mental or higher planes. They also appear before your mind's eye.

Sometimes, you will feel an invisible help, possibly from your Ishta Devata when you are actually pushed from the physical body into the new plane. That invisible power assists in your separating from the body and going above body-consciousness. You will have to mark carefully all these operations.

Do not waste your time in looking at these visions. This is only a curiosity. These are all encouragements to convince you of the existence of superphysical, metaphysical realities and the solid existence of Brahman. Drive these pictures. Fix yourself on the goal-Lakshya. Advance. Proceed seriously and energetically.

As soon as you retire for sleep, these lights manifest themselves without any exertion on your part. Just when you are going to transcend the physical consciousness, just when you are drowsy, these lights appear without your effort. Also in the morning, before you get up, in the transitional stage, half-asleep, half-awake, you will get again these lights by themselves without attempt.

Sometimes, during meditation, you will see an infinite blue sky, ethereal space. You will see yourself in the blue space as a black dot. Your form will appear in the centre of the light sometimes. Sometimes, you will notice highly vibratory, rotating particles in the light. You will see physical forms, human forms, children, women, adult males, Rishis with beards, Siddhas and lustrous Tejomaya forms. Visions are either subjective or objective, your own mental reactions or of realities on finer planes of matter. Universe consists of planes of matter of various grades of density. Rhythmical vibrations of Tanmatras in various degrees, give rise to the formation of various planes. Each plane has its things and beings. Visions may be of these things or beings. They may be purely imaginary. They may be crystalisation of your own intense thinking. You must discriminate in Yogic practices. Reason and common-sense must be used throughout.

Monday, 30 November 2015

The Deeper Story of Ageing - Can We Regenerate Our Bodies?



Ageing is a controversial topic that we both love and hate. The concepts of mortality versus immortality have fascinated cultures for millennia, with stories of quests to find the elixir of youth and the key to eternal life in a physical body. The media paints a picture of a standard of eternal youth we should strive towards whilst spiritually oriented philosophies may tell us that we need to be at peace with our bodies however they appear. Yes peace and acceptance are necessary and good. They are the first steps to our lives becoming more fulfilled and to moving forward in unprecedented ways we've never dreamed of, yet when it comes to ageing many of us have a hard time accepting it. Yes there are many beautiful lessons in the ageing process, such as surrender, looking for deeper meaning in life, developing soul qualities such as empathy and understanding and letting go of ego and vanity. 

But perhaps there are other reasons why we struggle so much with the reality of ageing? Perhaps many of us, including those not drawn to spirituality in any form, know instinctively we are eternal, spiritual beings and may have unconscious  memories of what our minds may be truly capable of, such as regenerating our cells at will? Perhaps we also realise at a deeper level that if we are showing signs of ageing quickly, then there are elements of our bodies that are out of balance and that if left longer term, this lack of energetic harmony within may have health implications further down the line. We may also retain ancient memories of other existences in more pristine places where the ageing process did not happen so rapidly, if at all. I have often felt that we should be able to heal anything and regenerate our bodies at will. After all, if we are the Creator's children, we should have that same power of creation inside of us. On the other hand we may also understand that this world has been created with cycles of both creation and dissolution or destruction as part of a higher plan, providing a place to experience all aspects of physicality, growth and learning lessons for us all. 

I understand that the concept of regeneration may not resonate for everyone. Some of us may want to pass through this life and move on as soon as we feel we've done what we came here to do or experience. Whilst others of us may want to pioneer consciousness in new ways on this earth and look for innovative ways to use our minds and co-create better lives. The way I see it is all paths and purposes may be valid. But what I think may be the issue is that we most likely have been taught that we do not have a choice when it comes to ageing, regarding either how we view ageing or to how quickly we age, and I think that is why many of us may feel disempowered and perhaps undergo midlife crises. 

Once we realise we have a choice, we can feel empowered and unlock new potential within ourselves. Teal Swan has said that if we have a desire, then it is possible to fulfil that desire. And even with something which on the surface may seem trivial to some, such as looking more youthful naturally, then there is most likely a higher reason why we desire it. Perhaps it may be about learning more healthful ways to live, which can be passed on to others as well, thus helping others to feel more uplifted. With this choice there is no right or wrong. Taking the examples of great saints and masters as inspiration, there may be some like Mother Theresa whose whole emphasis and life purpose was concerned with other things rather than preserving her physical form, whilst there may be others such as Babaji and higher masters who choose to remain ever youthful, at least within this current epoch in the many eons of the cosmos.

Recently I read something written by Kaitlyn Keyt, owner of VibesUp, an American company that produces high energy products to improve health and wellbeing. She said something along the lines that essentially a wrinkle or blemish is where we have lower vibration energy stored in us, which causes the cells to deteriorate more rapidly. Lower vibrations may be caused by toxicity on any level - physical, mental, emotional or spiritual. This idea immediately made sense to me and because I am an energy healing practitioner, I was fascinated to see whether I could actually heal things like my wrinkles and cellulite through clearing the lower vibration energy stored in those cells and that area of the body and lifting it back up to a higher vibration. I knew that this was unlikely to be a quick process, because from my experience doing healing work on myself and others, there are often many accumulated layers of emotional pain and entities (thought forms), that are stuck in an area of the being which is out of balance energetically - this is how I experience the healing process personally, others may experience it differently. Strangely enough, although I have done much energy healing work I have never thought to concentrate on something more 'cosmetic' such as a wrinkle, or cellulite. I usually work more deeply with the body, working on organs, glands, and sometimes things such as the nerves and lymph system. I also do a lot of work on the chakras and the energy field in general as well as higher levels of being - mental emotional and spiritual levels.  

I mentioned this idea of healing things such as wrinkles by altering the vibration of that part of the body, to a friend and he said that often it is remarked that meditation retreats are considered to create a 'spiritual facelift' because the participants have raised their vibration and often released a lot of pain and lower vibration energies. I have noticed this myself with how yoga and meditation create a more radiant youthful look to a person. Shortly after that I came across a blog post that Doreen Virtue had just written about why she's stopped dying her hair and using most make-up and cosmetics as well as giving up surgical procedures. She mentioned how most products, including the supposedly natural products in the US contain toxic and harmful ingredients. Hair colourants in particular are detrimental to health, so much so that she discovered her blood was laced with heavy metal contaminants, which can have serious health implications. 

She removed these contaminants through a process known as EDTA chelation. I do not know a great deal about that process, but I've heard that it is not without risk. There are other ways to detox from such contamination as well though. My former husband who was a pilot also had heavy metal and organophosphate poisoning through breathing in toxic air in one of the aircraft that he flew and he managed to heal himself and get rid of much of the toxicity in his cells through fasting, enemas, a raw food diet and through sweating in far infrared saunas, as well as some oxygen therapy sessions. The doctors at the time said there was no way to reduce the contaminants stored in his fat cells, but through this natural healing approach he disproved what they said. So detoxing from contamination is possible, but it can be an expensive and time and energy-consuming process. 

I'm sure most of us would agree it is far better to avoid contamination in the first place.  However, this is easier said than done. Beauty products and procedures make up a massive profit-generating industry and many people spend a fortune on products. Even if we choose products labelled as 'natural', can we really be sure they are good for us or worth the expense? Additionally, we are surrounded by unnatural toxic products in our homes and places where we work and most food contains unnatural additives. Plastics and synthetic materials in buildings off-gas harmful emissions. It is said that all new born children in 'Westernised' societies are born with a whole cocktail of chemicals inside them. Stress, as well, can have major adverse affects on our health and appearance, due to stress hormones making the body more acidic and out of balance. So what do we do to clean up ourselves physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally?  What if there is a more natural simple way to regain health, radiance and youthful looks? 

I'm still experimenting on myself at the moment, but I was surprised to find that even for seemingly innocuous things such as some blocked pores on my nose, there were layer after layer of entities emerging and pain in my hands as the disturbed energy came up. Other healers and spiritual teachers have had similar experiences. Doreen Virtue has spoken before of the clearing session she needed at one point to release lots of spiritual entities. In my case, taking the blocked pores on my nose as an example, there is likely to be stored emotional pain from teenage years when I had acne and felt ashamed of my skin, but in my experience most trauma originally goes back to early childhood experiences. So getting to the bottom of a long-term energetic imbalance may take time. On the other hand if we are aware of our original emotional traumas we can start to work with the root cause(s) immediately. 

I have a theory that when we develop an original mental or emotional wound about a part of ourselves not being whole or not being 'good enough', this then attracts negative thought forms (what I see as living entities and energies), that latch on to the lower vibrational energy we have stored in a certain part of ourselves, rather like flies being attracted to an open wound, which then triggers more emotional  trauma and 'negative' thoughts which then attract more of the same in a vicious circle or spiral. This matches what I find as layer after layer of old emotional pain and entities emerge. Yet interestingly, sometimes with new clients their energy feels fairly balanced  and 'normal' to begin with even though they have obvious things that are not 'right' and which they want addressed. It is as if they have put an energetic veneer over the original wounds in order to cope or that their energy body is not used to deeper work and resists at first. Sometimes I notice this in people I meet in daily life as well, being quite sensitive energetically myself. 

Sometimes people will outwardly appear bouncy and positive, yet I'll get a strong feeling of pain in my heart when I talk to them. It is like a feeling of denial or ambivalence. With clients whose energy at first does not show the deeper issues, I find that after one or two sessions, their energy opens up and deeper trauma starts to  emerge for clearing. Often the client will experience old emotions coming up as I clear the energy and it can sometimes be a challenging but nevertheless important process for them an in order for release and real healing and to occur.  I have currently been working on various different areas of my body and, as I had thought, it is not a quick process. So far I have not got to the bottom of any one issue or area that I've been working on, but I have cleared a lot and I do feel and look a lot lighter and brighter, and I shall continue to experiment with this work. Some of the layers may also be ancestral and collective inherited conditioning and patterns. There is literally a lot more to a few wrinkles than meets the eye! 

In the books about Anastasia by Vladimir Megre, Anastasia says that true health and advancement spiritually come from connecting to the land you live on, communicating with nature and the plants that grow on your plot of land and growing your own food. One of the things she recommends is putting seeds in your mouth before planting so that the seeds gather information about your state of health from your saliva and then know which micro-nutrients and cosmic energies to take in whilst they are growing, especially with ongoing contact with their owner, in order to provide the best nutritional medicine for that individual's health needs. She says that the ancient Vedic people who instinctively practised the methods she outlines in the Ringing Cedars series had amazing physical health and beauty, were spiritually connected to the cosmos and highly accomplished in all areas of life. Furthermore, their plots of land were such high vibration, that they energetically protected the people from any negative energies or intruding thought forms. 

There is evidence in certain ethnic societies where similar, natural vegan and vegetarian ways of living are followed that matches some of the claims made by Anastasia. For example the Hunza people who live in a remote valley of Northern Pakistan are famous for their longevity, vitality, stamina and strength. Their diet is rich in vegetables and fruit, particularly apricots, which they dry and eat throughout the winter months. Also there is a famous village in Japan, Yuzurihara, known as the 'village of long life', where the villagers have smooth skin, good eyesight and good health even in very old age. They have a diet rich in vegetables and soya with some fish now and then. One researcher has linked their youthful looks to the amount of hyaluronic acid their bodies can produce due to their diets being rich in things like sweet potatoes, vegetables and soy products. Hyaluronic acid is a water-gelling molecule important for cushioning joints, nerves and filling space in between cells, including in skin tissue. It is also present in high amounts in the eyes, which would most likely explain the villagers' good eyesight. For those of us not yet living this lifestyle, it is available as a supplement including in a vegan form from health food shops and websites. 

Leonid Sharashkin, who has edited some of the English translations of the books about Anastasia has put into practice much of what she has advised, along with many other Russian families who have created their own homesteads and eco-villages in Russia and Eastern Europe. He has found that his consciousness, way of life and health has improved dramatically. He notes that many of us have no connection with the place we live because our bodies are made up of food from many different places, such as a banana from the Caribbean, figs from Turkey, rice from the Far East, chocolate from South America and so on. We are not made up physically of the particles and energy of the land upon which we live. Based on this information ultimately, in order to return to a way of life that is truly sustaining and nourishing in which we may experience better health, spiritual connection and harmony, which are the prerequisites for natural radiance and youthful looks, rather than unnatural youthful looks created by surgery or substances such as toxic Botox, we need to return to a much more natural way of living. 

In the meantime for anyone wanting to rejuvenate themselves and follow a similar process to what I have been practising on myself, then if you are not already an energy healing practitioner, I recommend that you do an energy healing training program of some sort by a reputed training provider, so that you can learn to work on your own energy. There is also the necessity to work with old stored emotions, process the feelings and find new empowered ways of looking at the past and healing the inner child. I've found the work of Brandon Bays and Teal Swan very helpful for providing processes to do this. Then there is the mental good habit we can create of changing our thoughts patterns so that they become higher vibration. There are also the recommended healthy lifestyle choices, such as daily exercise, healthy natural food choices, eating in moderation, meditation and spirituality, connecting with nature in whatever way we can and doing things that uplift us and create purpose and meaning to our lives and the lives of others. With all these things in combination and with a return to a more natural way of living, we might just have the perfect recipe for slowing down the ageing process, if not reversing it, as well as for truly living and enjoying life in a way that does not deplete our energy systems. 

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Authenticity, Initiation & Truth on The Spiritual Path


[This is an expanded version of a previous post I wrote]

Whilst spiritual experiences are important, feel wonderful and are necessary for our growth and healing, it is essential that we stay grounded and do not let our spiritual life separate us from truly relating to others at a human level; that we do not let our spiritual connection breed narcissism. Some of the things which may separate us from others are aloofness, secrecy, claiming it's necessary to have initiations via certain teachers or to belong to a specific spiritual group or mystery school. In my experience spirit provides the real initiations, if we are truly ready to embark on the journey of deep inner work that such transformation requires, necessitating healing and authenticity: an embrace of all aspects of ourselves; emotional, mental, physical and spiritual. We have to integrate all parts to feel whole, and this may involve a period of putting ourselves, metaphorically speaking, through the alchemist's fire to reach the pure gold of our true spiritual nature. 

If we are meant to have a specific teacher or teachers on the physical level, then we will be guided to the right person at the right time. This may well involve not one fixed teacher, as spiritual initiations can come in many different forms through every day experiences as well as through activities that shift our consciousness whilst we receive energy, such as through healing sessions. Many times healers channel higher energy similar to what one might experience in a Shaktipat initiation or shamanic ceremony and those doing this sort of healing work should keep themselves clear and aligned so that the highest energy can come through.

Diana Cooper has spoken in her writings of the varied initiations that she and others have gone through. For instance, a type of higher initiation she calls 'the crucifix' meant that one lady had all parts of her life suddenly fall apart, including her husband leaving and receiving a diagnosis of terminal illness. It was a real death of her life and identity as she had known it. Similarly, Rudolf Steiner in his classic book 'How to Know Higher Worlds' talks of an initiation from the soul, in which an individual is suddenly alienated from all forms of support that have previously been available to them. The individual has to take action to get his or herself out of a difficult situation on their own. 

In the novel Siddhartha by Herman Hesse, the protagonist Siddhartha after having displayed amazing spiritual abilities earlier in his life, then had to go through many earthly challenges and experiences before he could truly embody genuine compassion and humanity, which finally enabled him to find the deep inner peace of enlightenment.  This provides us with a metaphor for the spiritual journey as represented by the symbolism of the the Merkaba or 'Star of David' - a merging of earthly and spiritual experiences. It seems that for many of us, this manifests in the form of; first we go up, towards the light, and then we come down, bringing the light down into daily life. The sorts of tests and forms of higher learning manifesting in our lives that facilitate this great spiritual journey are as good a reason as any why we should never judge another if they are going through difficult times. 

Often the real reason behind life's events is obscure to us and sometimes even if we ask, we are not meant to know at that time. A person seen to be suffering is most likely doing very important soul work on themselves or possibly sacrificing themselves to help another, as has been described in various near-death accounts. That is not to say we do not step forward to help them, as helping might be part of our lesson, but rather that we do not judge. We can never fully know another person's path and in the Tibetan teachings there have been many times when everyday folk leading simple lives have surprised their families by becoming enlightened as they die.

In the beautiful hope-filled books 'The Ringing Cedars' series by Vladimir Megre, about the spiritual Siberian recluse, Anastasia, we see that despite her advanced abilities and otherworldly life, Anastasia constantly tries to explain the mechanisms behind everything she does and to show that these abilities are intrinsic to everyone. She tells us we just need to purify our thoughts, which I equate to aligning with our higher selves or souls, so that we can remember the knowledge of our forebears who were our wise ancient selves. Vladimir Megre states that unlike many spiritual teachers he has known, Anastasia does not veil herself in an air of mystery. She wants to prove the true capabilities of what she calls 'Man' (a human standing in their divine power), which are inherent to us all. 

In the famous spiritual Classic 'Autobiography of a Yogi', Paramhansa Yogananda recounts that the first kriya yoga master to teach to the public, Lahiri Mahasaya, pleaded with his guru Babaji that the secret knowledge of kriya yoga be made available to all who came to see him and not just a select few 'evolved' souls. 
Babaji saw the purity of Lahiri Mahasaya's intentions and granted this request and we are told that many were greatly helped through receiving these teachings. 
Furthermore, despite his amazing spiritual prowess, Lahiri Mahasaya never liked anyone bowing down to him because he recognised the oneness of all souls. Many times if a new student offered pranams to him he would then return the gesture, demonstrating that we are all the same and that it is important to be 'down-to-earth'.

For spiritual teachers and any of us wanting to represent a spiritual way of life, there are the everyday practicalities to think of too! My healing teacher used to say to us, "do not put me on a pedestal because I'll fall off". I have seen this play out in real life on various occasions. One girl I know of who was working publically and quite prominently as a healer and spiritual teacher stated that she did not want children because it would interfere with her important life mission. As often happens in life when we think we are certain about something yet have no experience of that thing, the very thing that had been denounced then occurred; this young woman then fell pregnant and had a beautiful baby. She later acknowledged how what she had said before was deluded, using her own growth and example to guide others towards a more balanced view of spiritual life. 

The great Hindu teacher Vivekananda has stated that the purest souls have no desire for self promotion or teaching and being in the limelight. They have lost the bonds of attachment and their Sattvic (pure) nature shrinks from the very thought of pushing themselves forward, as their whole self is dissolved within the Absolute. They are so at-one with God and so satiated by communion with the Divine that they have lost the sense of their own identity and no 'worldly' task or reward has any meaning or appeal to them. 
So, along that note, any of us wanting to promote ourselves still have some ego to deal with - and this is good! Because without the ego we would not have motivation to take action and do the spiritual work of dharma. Souls working for the highest good are needed in all areas of life and to not follow our inner prompting and true heart-based desires in this way is likely to lead to a lack of inner fulfilment. The ego part of ourselves is only a problem when we do not have an awareness of our inner motivations. Then there is the risk that our unconscious mind may become our master. 

It is necessary to be down-to-earth and stay humble and to be able to acknowledge and even laugh at our own weaknesses and faults - we all have shadows! Otherwise we are presenting a false 'airbrushed' image much like those of models in the media. This can be very disheartening to anyone wanting help and not seeing the full picture as they wonder what they have done wrong and why their lives are not perfect like the images they are seeing. Our acceptance and acknowledgement of all parts of ourselves helps others to also accept and love those parts of themselves they find less desirable, and therefore find their way back to wholeness. 

True spiritual teachers do not resent being questioned. They know how a good question is valuable to prompt new trains of thought and provide new insights; such has been the tradition of debating and questioning in Eastern cultures for centuries, aimed at penetrating deep truth. One practice in the ancient Russian Vedic culture presented in the books about Anastasia, was that the elders would ask questions of the children to test whether their own thinking was pure enough compared to young minds considered to be closer to divine thought. 
In 'Autobiography of a Yogi' we are told that Yogananda's guru Swami Sri Yukteswar would sometimes get criticised by members of the community. His response was always to listen to any criticism with respect and humility and then thoroughly examine himself to see whether there were any grains of truth in what was being said, and whether he therefore needed to amend anything in his behaviour. 

We all know the potential dangers when leaders 'possess' a lack of self-awareness and go unquestioned: from the many stories of cult members committing suicide to the horrors perpetrated in World War II. Although a true spiritual teacher would never contemplate directing anyone along those lines and most likely not direct anyone to do anything anyway - recognising the importance of an individual's free will - a genuine teacher knows that questioning is still necessary, regardless of their pure motives. Yogananda apparently had a fierce critic who was a journalist. One day the critic died and a disciple brought the news to Yogananda assuming he would be relieved. However, Yogananda was apparently sad, saying that his best friend the critic had died and lamenting that this man was the only one who would ever question him and point out his faults! He saw the immense value in this critic's contribution to his life in keeping him balanced in his personality. 

Obviously criticism can be hurtful and waste time and energy too, but when voiced rationally with balanced and valid view points, such alternative views can aid our growth and we should not be afraid to explore the real messages behind any such challenges. Others' feedback can be important to our self-development. In the poem 'Becoming Human', the  C14th Sufi poet and mystic, Hafiz  advises a man that his visions of God are likely true if they make him "more human" and "more kind to every creature and plant" that he knows. Whilst Hafiz's guidance implies that genuine experience of God brings depth of compassion and humanity, the bible declares "By their fruits you will know them", again, pointing to a grounded and practical application of spirituality. 

All these statements and examples by spiritual teachers who have gone before us can help us see where the truth lies in ourselves and in what we perceive in the world. In the absence of specific teachers or the wise men and women of yore, we have to rely on our inner teacher. Embodying that wise man or woman archetype for ourselves, we enquire within again and again, checking in with our internal compass so that we can navigate the illusions and the, at times, rocky terrain presented to us by life. 

Having grounded examples from genuine spiritual teachers helps us remember both what's true and what's truly important in life: a surrendering to the soul and its teachings, however they may present. It is therefore good during the calm moments to practise enquiry with our souls so that we may more easily recognise our inner promptings during less peaceful times. However, the challenge may be how to discern what is our souls' guidance. 

Many years back I had a vision of an other-worldly being who called himself 'Ishtar' or 'Ashtar'. I had not heard of the being called Commander Ashtar at that time, so I had no reference point as to who this being might be. Whilst the vision might have been genuine, I soon realised I was hearing what I wanted to hear, words from my own mind that satisfied the ego. Since then I have learned that my true guidance comes from my feelings and my heart and not from my head or my mind. 

The only risk with listening to our feelings though, is that some feelings can be conditioned responses, such as fear preventing us from moving forward, based on what's happened to us in the past. In such cases we have to feel into the fear and ask where it comes from in order to gain more insight. I have been blessed with many other spiritual experiences, but overall the greatest blessings are the hard won lessons where life itself has taught me through challenges, as these are the things which actually enable me to live as truthfully and compassionately as possible. The ethereal experiences give me the vision, but the worldly experiences give me the practical knowledge of how to apply the higher spiritual teachings. 

As in my experience years ago, our personalities when not aligned to soul often speak in extremes: either inflated, self-aggrandising ways, or punitive, self-denigrating terms as the ego part of us struggles to keep us bound to what it knows from earlier experiences in life. Our souls, however, speak in practical, grounded terms, guiding us to practise authenticity. We can see that the ego veers to one end or the other of the spectrum, similar to the parent/child exchanges found in transactional analysis "I'm ok, you're not ok" or "I'm not ok, you're ok" whereas the soul takes the middle (adult) path of balance and inclusion of both self and others "I'm ok, you're ok". 

Our souls at the highest level know only oneness and therefore offer guidance that may ultimately restore us to that true state of unity consciousness, where each person has a place and can shine as a radiant individual star, yet at the same time plays a part harmonising in the beautiful divine orchestra of the larger cosmos; the material embodiment of the divine plan. This is the truth which we are all heading towards on our spiritual paths. Simple in and of itself, yet often we need the life lessons to know how to fully put this truth into practise in our lives and no longer continue to react from our mis-aligned personalities as we have done in the past.








Monday, 28 September 2015

Sacred Practices: Part 3 - Kriya Yoga Breathing Techniques to balance the body's energies and help still the mind for a deeper experience of meditation

Kriya Yoga is the famous mystical system of yoga described by Paramhansa Yogananda in his classic and beloved book 'Autobiography of a Yogi' and, similarly to with kundalini yoga, it is claimed that kriya yoga advances the practitioner faster on their path of spiritual evolution than is the case with other systems of yoga.  If you wish to learn the exact system set out by Yogananda to his Western students in the mid C20th, then you will need to register for the lengthy course offered by the Self Realization Fellowship and kept a closely guarded secret by that organisation (although there are resources which have been made available online by past students, which can be found with a little research). 

There are many other schools which also claim to teach kriya yoga. The techniques all differ and many are not the same as those that Paramhansa Yogananda taught when he came to the West. However, the steps and initiations that Yogananda taught had been adapted anyway for a Western audience who at the time (in the 1920s) had no concept of yoga and whose anatomies and physical condition lacked the flexibility and training of Easterners. So the initiations and techniques that Yogananda himself taught were different from what Lahiri Mahasaya, his guru's guru and the first teacher to instruct kriya yoga to the public in Northern India, had recorded originally in his diaries and personal journals. This means that basically, the whole idea of what is true kriya yoga is up for debate and no doubt will be argued differently by various individuals depending on their affiliations and personal experience. This gets me to the main point, that being that there is most likely no perfect system that suits everyone and that each person must go by their own experience as to what resonates with their soul and spiritual path. Furthermore some of the techniques cross over with other traditions of yoga, such as kundalini yoga, Tibetan traditions and Hatha yoga. It can be assumed that many of these techniques have been known about by the yogis of yore from all different traditions, no doubt obtained from universal knowledge. With this in mind, claiming ownership of a yoga technique might seem preposterous! 

If you wish to delve deeper into the full set of original teachings of Kriya Yoga as instructed by Lahiri Mahasaya then there is a great book you can get called 'Kriya Secrets Revealed' by J. C. Stevens. It contains all the initiations taught by Lahiri Mahasaya as well as appendices detailing the systems of other kriya yoga schools. The techniques are very physical and you cannot get ahead of yourself as you have to be able to master certain techniques physically before you can move on to the next level. Lahiri Mahasaya claimed that the first kriya initiation in itself is enough to liberate the seeker when practised regularly with devotion to the Divine.What I present below is a useful introduction to some of the kriya yoga techniques. 

These are exercises that I practise often and I find them sufficient in themselves to take me very deeply into altered states of meditation. It is a series of 'kriya yoga' breathing techniques taught to me by a lady, Aliyananda, who had studied with a guru in the Himalayas. I've adapted the fourth breath to match the original kriya yoga pranayam technique as taught by Lahiri Mahasaya and Paramhansa Yogananda as I find this breath very balancing and pacifying to the mind. This basic series of breaths takes around 20 minutes. It does not require any rigorous activity or advanced physical ability. It is therefore feasible for most people and the profound effect these simple breaths can have, calming the mind and body, makes them perfect for preceding an extended period of sitting meditation. Ideally I recommend to practise some physical yoga or other form of body/energy work or exercise before meditating or earlier in the day - our minds have a greater chance of settling when the body has been tended to and is relaxed.


Kriya Yoga Breathing Techniques to Prepare the Mind for Meditation :

With all the breathing techniques below, sit in a comfortable position that allows your spine to remain relatively straight. Close the eyes when you can and focus your inner awareness on the third eye point. We use our fingers for counting 12 breaths each time, by moving the thumb along each three sections of our four fingers. You might want to have your eyes open to practise this bit first! Pranayam means control of prana, or the life force energy, which may be achieved through breathing techniques. It has come to be known as the breathing techniques themselves but this is not what the word originally meant. So when we use pranayama we are looking to control the currents of energy within our body, balancing out the prana, incoming life-giving and cleansing energy with the current of apana, the eliminative outgoing energy. We are also balancing out the two hemispheres of the brain and the two sides of the body - very important as this has an immediate calming effect on our minds! I've written about this before, but to recap, with regular breathing the incoming life force energy gets wasted and lost by the demands for energy needed at certain places in our body, due to daily bodily functions such as digestion and elimination and the action of the heart pumping blood. These actions cause blockages, or 'knots' ('granthis') in our energy, which along with unresolved emotional/psychological factors that get stored in our chakras, have the adverse effect of the life-giving prana flowing outwards and not getting utilised for its main purpose to fill our bodies with light and connect us to spirit. 

With pranayama practice, as well as the bandhas (yogic locks) and other yogic exercises, we can start to reverse this trend and get the energy flowing through these knots and up our bodies to our crown chakras and beyond, connecting us with our soul energy and opening us to an experience of the Divine; our true Self, home and true identity - a place where we can be recharged, get fresh insight and inspiration and have our daily concerns melt away in the experience of the Amrit or the deathless state, blissful nectar of the Divine. Once we start working on our energy body in this way, we have to be aware too, that we will have to face and grow through old suppressed emotions and issues as we are literally shining the light of prana on all parts of ourselves, including the less desirable aspects of self which we might have previously kept hidden in the shadows. This can feel like a step backwards at times, but it is in fact positive growth in the direction of becoming fully integrated spirit beings. The important thing is to develop self compassion and awareness during the process and seek out therapists and supportive people when needed. 


Basic Pranayam Breath

In your comfortable seated position, inhale deeply and slowly, filling the lower abdomen as much as you can with air. Hold the in-breath and mentally say a mantra, such as 'Wahe Guru' (the mantra of ecstasy which is calling in the experience of the pure self in the here and now) or just a simple 'Om'. Then exhale slowly pulling the stomach and lower abdomen right in like a bellow. Repeat this breath a total of 12 times. Try and make the inhale and exhale of equal duration so that it becomes rhythmic and flowing. This breath helps cleanse the lower chakras. It is good in all the different breathing techniques mentioned here (except obviously for Sitali Pranayam where it is physically an impossibility!) if you can hold the tongue up and back as far possible against the roof of the mouth, in what is known as partial kechari mudra. This tongue position activates many reflex points on the roof of the mouth which help still the activity of certain parts of the brain. Many advanced yogis have learnt to stretch their tongues so that they can practise full kechari mudra, where the tongue is inserted up the nasal canal bringing on heightened states of bliss, but we are not expecting you to do that here! 


Sitali Pranayam or Snake Breath

Either with a curled and protruding tongue or with puckered lips, suck the air in and out forcefully in short breaths of even duration. Imagine the air coming in and out your throat chakra and clearing it each time you breathe. Keep the eyes closed and focussed on the brow chakra. Repeat this breath 12 times. This breath is good for cleansing the heart, throat and thymus.


Alternate Nostril Breathing (Also known as Anuloma Viloma or Nadi Shodhana)

Still in your comfortable sitting position, use either the little and ring fingers (keep the middle and index fingers curled into your palm if using this hand position) or simply use the index finger to close off the left nostril and inhale slowly and peacefully through the right nostril. Then close the right nostril with the thumb and exhale in the same way through the left nostril, keep the thumb closing the right nostril and inhale through the left nostril, Finally close the left nostril with the finger(s) you used before and exhale out through the left nostril. This cycle is considered as one breath. Repeat this cycle for a total of 12 times, using your finger counting system to keep track. You can look at your fingers if you need to! Try and keep each inhale and exhale of similar duration and flowing rhythmically. Imagine this breathing pattern clearing your head and balancing both sides of your body (each nostril relates to a side of the body and hemisphere of the brain). This breath helps clear the head chakras.


Basic Kriya Yoga Breath

Using an 'ujayi' sound produced through very slightly restricting the throat, a bit like heavy breathing when someone is sleeping (Yogananda used to say a 'Shaaaaw' sound – but experiment with what feels natural for you) inhale slowly and deeply whilst imagining a cool energy ascending through a central energetic column (the shushumna) in the spine, passing and clearing the way through each chakra until it reaches the third eye (brow chakra) in head. Pausing briefly, holding the in-breath and mentally chant Om at the third eye (if you want you can visualise putting an 'Om' symbol in the third eye). Then exhale deeply with a similar throaty sound (Yogananda used to say like a 'Sheee' sound) and imagine a warm energy descending back down the back of the sushumna and spinal column. Repeat this breath for a total of 12 times. The sound in the breathing helps to more effectively clear the chakras and raise the energy.


Final Breath: Mul Bandh Breath

This is one breath only. Simply fill your lower abdomen as much as you can with air as you inhale. Then hold and pull in the lower abdomen and pull up all the muscles of the lower pelvic floor and sex organs. Literally putting as much pressure as you can on the air you've inhaled. Hold this for as long as is comfortable. Imagine energy coming up the inside of the shushumna again right up to the brow chakra with your eyes closed, chin lowered slightly (in Jalandhar Bandh) and attention focused on the brow area. Then when you wish to hold it no longer gently exhale and allow yourself to go into silent meditation. It can be a good idea at this point to use a mantra mentally (not out loud) that you feel drawn to, to still the mind and focus your attention on higher thoughts. Examples of a mantra might be: 'Wahe Guru', 'Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo', 'Om Namah Shivaya', 'So Ham', 'Om Mani Padme Hum' or even something that is personal and meaningful to you such as the word 'Love' or 'Peace'. One of my teachers used to use the Lord's Prayer - because it was quite long, it occupied her mind and quietened her thoughts. It is recommended to repeat the mantra 12 times or more, but some times this might not be necessary if you have already got to a deep peaceful state.


It's a good idea to finish your meditation practice by giving thanks and sending out prayers for peace and healing for yourself, loved ones and the world. And close with some energy visualisation to protect your being, such as casting a sphere of white light around yourself. (I will write further on energy protection practices in another post very soon.)


Additionally, before sleep or after the above set of breathing exercises, Yoni Mudra can be a good brief exercise to practise with the aim of merging individual consciousness with Source consciousness via the 'Star of Brahman' - the star or point of light which emerges in the third eye. To practise this, no more than three times in one go, you prepare to close off all the sensory organs in the head by doing the following: Place the thumbs of each hand over the tragus of each ear, the index finger of each hand over the outer corner of each eye socket (with eye lid closed), the middle fingers over the sides of the nostrils and the ring and little fingers over the corners of the mouth (ring finger above and little finger below) on each side. Taking one deep inhale as before with the kriya pranayama, imagining the cool energy coming up the spine, inhale to about 95% full and then press down with all the fingers except the middle fingers to close off the sense organs (eyes should be closed). Then take in a little more air via the nostrils and press down with the middle fingers to close the nostrils as well. As you hold the breath focus the inner attention at the third eye point between the brows and briefly scrunch up the temples as if furrowing the brows or frowning to send extra energy to this area. Imagine the energy of the held breath (and the sound/symbol of OM 'pinging' at the third eye point). When it is no longer comfortable to hold the breath, gently release it and imagine the warm energy descending the back of the spine as in the Kriya pranayama. With practice you should start to see lights emerging in this brow point (known as the Ajna kutastha). Ultimately a star or point of light will emerge in a blue circle, surrounded by a halo of golden light. When this happens you want to imagine the light of your consciousness piercing the star (the Star of Brahman), allowing you access to Divine states, other worlds and dimensions. The longer you can hold your breath comfortably, the more possible this becomes. Therefore practising long deep breathing and pranayama in general helps this exercise. It is advised to do this exercise once before sleep, even if just on its own, in order to have more profoundly spiritual sleep experiences