yoga philosophy

Dall-E & the E.T. - Santosha

Santosha | संतोष | Contentment | Satisfaction

Santosha, the second Niyama of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras is sometimes spelled Santosa, is a portmanteau in Sanskrit, derived from Saṃ-prefix (सं-, सम्-) and Tosha (तोष (from root √तुष्, √tuṣ)). SaM-, means “completely”, “altogether” or “entirely”,[5] and Tosha (from the root √tus), “contentment”, “satisfaction”, “acceptance”, “being comfortable”.[5]

In modern Californian yoga culture, we say, “chillin” to express this. Contentment is the name of the game. Yoga and santosha are somewhat synonymous; it is a big part of yogic philosophy.

Dall-E & the E.T. - Santosha

Sam is similar to sum, totality and entirely. Tosha or Tushti (तुष्टि) is about appreciation, mindfulness, gratitude, harmony, an active inner contentment. But like all other Sanskrit words; there is a rather distinct philosophical implication behind this compounded idea.

Samtosa, or Santosha means inner serenity; a lacking of cravings and desires; satisfaction in the present. In a way, it is less reactive and more sustainable than happiness, which would be more like the upward part of a mountain that has a valley beneath it. It is like a gentle hum in the background of life that keeps you excited for what comes next.

Minimization is important in the philosophies of santosha. Less things and obligations; more relationships, time with nature, etc. We have so much in the way of our happiness; how can we possibly enjoy ourselves if we don’t take any time to feel that way. Difficulty will always exist; especially with big challenges. Santosha exists in small moments; like taking your time to enjoy the first sip of coffee you have or to eat a decent breakfast.

Relinquishing expectations can also create a path for cultivating Santosha. This is something I’ve had to do with my own life in big ways; letting go of thinking that I would be a full-time yoga instructor; or that I was ready to start a landscaping business by myself have been big lessons for me. I am finding Santosha in the journey of creating these things in balance.

This concept, Santosha, has been a theme as I’ve started a new job at Bushnell’s landscaping service. It will be great to have steady work and will provide an excellent opportunity to learn from a successful, high quality tradesman.

Contentment is hard when you have to let go of a successful and fun yoga class. My Wednesday noon class at East Wind in Roseville always felt special, like a fun and welcoming place to come back to. However, transitioning that class to another teacher has been a long time in coming. I’ve had several projects where taking the time to teach yoga at noon has been very difficult. I still teach Tuesday evening 7pm and Sunday evening 5pm classes.

DALL·E & the E.T. - Job's loss (biblical)
DALL·E & the E.T. – Job’s loss (biblical)

I’d like to add another class or maybe two; I’d like to teach more yoga at the very beginning and the end of the day so we’ll see if that can work out this year!

EROS part 3 has also been slightly put on the back-burner; I am still finishing the music, just a lot slower than I was able to when I had all day to work on it. I have a couple more dnb tracks and a couple of house tracks to get out there. Some really cool sound designs on these! The new full- time job has been really time consuming, which is great! But I don’t get as much time for music so I’ll have to double down on sound design and melody writing after work.

Niyama #2

Santosha is the second of Patanjali’s Niyamas; it means contentment and also unison with what is; reality. Santosha is an ethical concept in Hindu philosophy. It is a tenet of yoga and corresponds to the mental state that you are trying to create with asana. With focus, you can create a state of santosha by moving through all the things that make you unhappy or dissatisfied and accepting them; or coming to terms with their conclusions.

Santosha means to be completely content with, or satisfied with, accepting and comfortable in what is. To be present to everything and happy with it. This creates a personal growth that allows you to be okay with anything that is happening around you. Similar to a tree growing ferociously on the side of a cliff.

5 Ways to Create Santosha in your life

Dall-E & the E.T. - Job's cosmic spiritual battle
Dall-E & the E.T. – Job’s cosmic spiritual battle
  1. appreciate difficulty in your journey
  2. entertain the point of view of others
  3. be nice, but don’t give away your attention
  4. create commitment and discipline
  5. learn to love your flaws and weaknesses

What does Santosha really mean

Santosha is a method for creating happiness. It is not complacency! It is a method for drawing contentment from within to make what is happening on the exterior irrelevant. So a lot of times, you have to spend time creating it; it won’t just appear after a moment on your mat. Sometimes you have to sit with it for a few hours, or do 2 yoga classes in a row. Meditating really helps too, but that is an internal relationship that has to be built up over time. You have to learn how to enjoy being in warrior 2 when you don’t want to be. You have to show up for it, then stick with it and accept your feelings as it happens. Yoga is just like a simulation or practice ground for what happens in life.

Santosha is really cultivating a space inside of yourself that is nice to come back to. Much of Indian philosophies relate nourishment and satisfaction to commitment and discipline. This commitment and focus to contentment and satisfaction is a self-fulfilling prophecy in many ways. I believe it is how there are so many people out there that are happy without excess.

Santosha is Deep Satisfaction

Santosha is within your control; you simply have to actively cultivate it. It is about the story in your mind and realizing that is a fabrication and it detracts from your fun! Our true power exists in our ability to act and create in the present moment; when we are lost in our story, we lose sight of that. This also means recognizing that our words do not have power over us; when someone else uses a specific word that grabs your attention, remember that you give it power by spending time focusing on it. Redirect your attention and it loses its power and more important its meaning. We are the creators of meaning in our lives by choosing what we spend our time doing and who we spend our time with so we have to make sure that we are doing things that we are passionate about!

References:
  1. Ekhart Yoga – Santosha
  2. Yoga International – Is Santosha (Contentment) Really Possible?
  3. Hindu American – 5 Things to know about OM
  4. Yogajala – Santosha
  5. shahzadpurfarmyoga.com – Samkhya Karika 50, Satisfaction is of 9 Types, 4 Internal & 5 External
  6. Wikipedia – Santosha

Santosha | संतोष | Contentment | Satisfaction Read More »

Sikhism symbol

Sikhism: The Fifth Largest Religion in the World

Sikhism: A Tradition Striving for Unity and Truth

Sikhism guru_nanak
Guru Nanak

Sikhism is the fifth largest religion in the world(one of the fastest growing, too) and originated in Northern India in 1469. Sikhis (meaning disciple or learner) are monotheistic, believe in the unity and equality of all mankind, engage in selfless service, and strive for the prosperity of all life. There are over 25 millions Sikhis in the world.

Sikhism originated in a guru tradition in 1469; Guru Nanak was the first to establish what because a religious tradition over the course of centuries. Ten gurus followed in Guru Nanak’s footsteps and after the death of the tenth guru, Guru Gobind Singh, the Guru Granth Sahib became the literal embodiment of the eternal, impersonal guru and serves as a guide for Sikhi’s.

The Ten Sikhi Gurus (each represents a divine attribute) are:

  1. Guru Nanak – Humility
  2. Guru Angad – Obedience
  3. Guru Amar Das – Equality
  4. Guru Ram Das – Service
  5. Guru Arjan – Self-sacrifice
  6. Guru Hargobind – Justice
  7. Guru Har Rai – Mercy
  8. Guru Harkrishan – Purity
  9. Guru Tegh Bahadur – Tranquility
  10. Guru Gobind Singh – Royal Courage

A couple of the Sikhi gurus are also Bhakti saints giving Hinduism an interesting relationship with the origins of the Sikh religion. The goal of the Sikhi is unison with the divine and they believe that no one tradition has a monopoly on the divine and emphasizes the “five thieves” of god’s presence: lust, rage, greed, attachment and conceit.

The Origins of Sikhism

Sikhism was created in the Punjab region, which is between India and Pakistan. In the time of the first Guru, Guru Nanak, there were two competing religions of the Muslims and Hindus. Legend says Nanak went into a river at 28, proclaimed there is no Hindu or Muslim, only god and that he continued to bring Sikhism into the world.

The 5th Guru, Arjan was a scholar and helped to build the Sikh religion by creating the first scripture. However, he was seen as a threat by the state and executed for his faith in 1606.

The 6th Guru, Hargobind eventually moved to militarize the community and the Sikhs learned to fight to preserve their faith. They became relatively peaceful until Tegh Bahadur, the 9th guru, was executed in 1675 by Aurangzeb, the Moghal Emperor. The Moghal Empire consolidated Islam in South Asia, and spread Muslim (and particularly Persian) arts and culture as well as the faith.

The 10th Guru, Gobind Singh, created the Khalsa as a military group so that they could forever defend their faith.

The Sikhs continued to rebel against Muslim oppression and eventually became a state of their own. But then they were defeated by the British. Then they became peaceful for a while, until 1919 when there was a massacre of over 400 dead and 1,000 wounded by British soldiers who fired on a crowd of protesters. A few historians signify this event as the beginning of the decline of the British Empire in India.

The Sikhi god: Ik Onkar

Ik Onkar is the Sikhi word for god and means ‘all pervading spirit’. This spirit has no gender, is beyond time and space, is without form, beyond the comprehension of humans, but not completely unknowable. The spirit is visible sikhism_ik_onkareverywhere to the spiritually awakened through the heart or “inner eye”. The religion prescribes meditation to allow for communication between god and man.

The Opening Line of the Mool Mantar:

“There is but one all-pervading spirit, and truth is its name! It exists in all creation; it does not fear; it does not hate; it is timeless and universal and self-existent, you will come to know it through seeking knowledge and learning!”

The ultimate goal of a Sikh is to be completely united with god. They achieve this state of liberation (mukti) by focusing on god rather than themselves.

Maya: the Worldly Illusion

Maya is a spiritual concept that has evolved over time and crosses over nearly every eastern religion in one way or another. Literally, Maya means delusion, extraordinary illusions of power, the veil of perception, magic, and “unreality”.

These worldly illusions are viewed as a direct opponent of realizing god in this lifetime (the goal of the Sikh is to realize god). It is believed that the object of Maya, or object of the senses, lust, desire, attachment, ego, greed, and anger which are known as the 5 thieves and are believed to take away from the individual’s relationship with god by distracting and hurting the individual.

Once god is fully realized, the individual is considered jivanmukta and liberated in this lifetime, which is a belief also shared in Hinduism. After this liberation, the individual is ceaselessly united with Brahman (the supreme truth underlying all of reality, but hidden by it). Sikhs also believe in reincarnation and karma.

The Khalsa – the Nation of Sikhs

The Khalsa is the collective body of all Sikhs. The Khalsa was initiated on March 30 1699 by Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth and last Sikh guru. The word Khalsa means “sovereign”, “free”, or most often “pure”. Being initiated into the Khalsa is a type of baptism and males are entitled Singhs (lion) while females are titled Kaurs (princess).

The Khalsa is responsible for all executive, military, and civil authority in the Sikh society. They are considered the pinnacle of Sikhism and perform no rituals and believe in no superstitions. They only believe in god who is the master and creator of all, the only destroyer/creator.

A Sikh is defined as any human being who faithfully believes in one immortal being; ten gurus, from Guru Nanak to Guru Gobind Singh, the teachings of the ten gurus and the baptism bequeathed by the tenth guru.

Culture, Observations, and Rituals of Sikhism

Most Sikhs wake up early to meditate on the name of god. Then he/she bathes in a pool of nectar (I’m not really sure what this means, probably some type of sweet herbs and spices). Then he chants the name of the lord. All sins, misdeeds, and negativity is erased through this process. When the sun rises, the Sikh is to meditate on the name of god again. The idea of the Sikh’s existence is to worship god so that they can maintain a close relationship to god.

There are 5 K’s(panj kakaar) or articles of faith that baptized Sikhs are obligated to wear:

  1. Kesh – uncut hair, usually tied and wrapped in a Dastar (a style of turban)
  2. Kanga – a wooden comb, usually under the dastar
  3. Kachera – cotton undergarments worn by both sexes to symbolize chastity
  4. Kara – an iron bracelet, a weapon and a symbol of eternity
  5. Kirpan – an iron dagger of differing sizes. In the UK it is very small and in Punjab it can be up to three feet long.

Sikhs are also very interested in music, many instruments were supposedly created by gurus. These instruments include the Rebab, the dilruba, the taus, the jori, and the sarinda. They would often play drums or Nagaras while marching into battle.

The Modern Sikh and Sikh Statistics

There are about 27 million Sikhs worldwide and 83% live in India. 76% live in Punjab where they form Modern_Sikh2/3rds of the populace. Sikhs were some of the first to migrate to Britain from India and were used in the Indian Civil service and so were spread out over the entire British empire. Many have spread throughout Europe and Northern America.

The caste system is still very prevalent within the Sikh religion, even though their gurus denounced the system. Untouchables, or Dalits still face harsh discrimination.

The first gurdwara (place of worship) was established in the United States in Stockton, California.

Discrimination against Sikhs has risen since the 9/11 attacks. They are said to be often confused with Arabic or Muslim Middle Eastern men because of their turbans and CNN suggested an increase in hate Crimes against Sikh men after the attacks. I’ll leave it to a few clips from CNN and other news to show you what I mean by discrimination (it involves racism and persecution because of ignorance).

  • The U.S. has the highest murder rate of affluent democracies. America had an extreme homicide rate of 5.4 per 100,000 people in 2008-2009, compared with a 1.43 rate in England and Wales and a 1.3 rate in Italy. Japan has 1/10 of the murders of the US. Don’t be surprised about how often this happens.
  • [September 24th, 2013] A Columbia University professor who wrote about hate crimes against Sikhs may have become a victim of one himself when 12 to 15 people attacked him while shouting anti-Muslim slurs, police said.
    Prabhjot Singh, a Sikh and a professor of international and public affairs, said the attackers were yelling “get Osama” and “terrorist” when they swarmed him Saturday night near Central Park in New York.
    “There were about 20 of them. A few surrounded me, and started punching me,” Singh said, according to the Sikh Coalition. He suffered injuries to his face, including displaced teeth and a possible fracture in his lower jaw. CNN ARTICLE
  • [August 5th, 2012] There was a shooting of 6 people in Wisconsin in a hate crime on August 5th 2012. ‘He said members described the attacker as a bald, white man, dressed in a white T-shirt and black pants and with a 9/11 tattoo on one arm — which “implies to me that there’s some level of hate crime there”.’The gunman started shooting in the parking lot, then entered into the temple and proceeded to open fire. Most of the victims were leaders of the church, men with turbans. CNN ARTICLE
  • [September 13th, 2015] A Sikh American man says he was taunted as a “terrorist” and “bin Laden” by another driver this week, and then beaten unconscious in his car. Police in the Chicago suburb of Darien are investigating the alleged incident as a hate crime and a road rage incident that escalated into a violent attack, Chief Ernest Brown said. CNN ARTICLE
  • [January 6th, 2016] A $10,000 reward is being offered in the slaying of a 68-year-old Sikh man brutally murdered in a central Fresno convenience store on New Year’s Day. They have video of a light-skinned suspect between 16 and 18 with a red hoodie that waited outside for about 5 minutes for a man named Gill to be in the store alone. Once Gill (Sikh man without any Sikh attire on) was within about a foot, the suspect stabbed Gill repeatedly. Gill tried to push himself away, retreated and picked up a golf club. The suspect knocked Gill to the ground before returning to the cash register, which he could not open. He then took something from a shelf and walked out of the store in the same direction from which he approached. Gill died of his wounds minutes later. Sikhs were anxious about heading back out into the community because of another attack that occurred on December 26th. FRENSO BEE ARTICLE
  • [March 2nd, 2016] Balwinder Jit Singh says a passenger beat him while calling him a terrorist and a suicide bomber last year in Inglewood. YAHOO NEWS ARTICLE

So this is very real, and its happening right now. This article from THE INTERCEPT talks about how Donald Trumps campaign makes it extremely hard on Sikh’s because hatred and violence are condoned. These are Americans that are discriminated against in our own country. And in lots of cases the police turn a blind eye, refuse to investigate, or whatever nonsense racism and ignorance they can make up. But this seems to happen a lot and we, as a nation, should not allow this kind of intolerance or ignorance. This is the 5th largest religion in the world!

 

References:
  1. Institute of Sikh Studies
  2. Sikhs dot-org
  3. BBC Religion
  4. Sikh Coalition
  5. Sikh Net
  6. Maya Wikipedia
  7. Sikhism Wikipedia
  8. Religion Facts

Sikhism: The Fifth Largest Religion in the World Read More »

Free 1 Hour Flow Yoga Class

Yoga Practice: How to Start Now

You’re Starting a Yoga Practice

But first, what the heck is Yoga?

Yoga is simple. It is paying attention to your breath and posture for set periods of time.

Unfortunately, our world has over-complicated it with sexuality, superficiality, and our schedules for our selves. Yoga studios are some of the most interesting phenomenon in the past thirty years, in my opinion. The people who do yoga are not yoga. We are called yogis for a reason. We grasp for yoga with our yoga practice. Even the supposed gurus are not yoga. They too must practice yoga to understand. Yoga is too simple for anyone to claim. Practicing yoga is about your BODY right now, your BREATH, and your MIND, right now. It’s about how your life-force energy is flowing through your body. It’s about the essence of life.

You can start yoga right now. You don’t need a teacher. You don’t need me. You don’t need a yoga studio. You don’t need fancy pants or a fancy yoga mat. You only need your self.

Now, you might ask yourself; ‘well, if it is so simple, then why have I never done it before?’ The only answer that I have to that questions is that you don’t know what you know. Again, it’s simple.

Your First Breaths

Yoga is about awareness of your breath. To start, you have to put your body into a comfortable position. Understand that the idea is to allow the body to stay in positions (they call them asanas in yoga, which translates directly to posture) for certain periods of time, so keep it reasonable. If it feels like too much, it probably is too much. The real guide is your breath; if you lose your connection with your breath, lower the intensity of the posture for your body until your breath is flowing strongly through your nose again.

That’s right, you are going to breathe through your nose for an entire 1:30 minutes eventually. If you practice and put some time into it. Simplicity is beautiful, isn’t it?

See, what you probably don’t realize is that your breath flows more efficiently through your nose, at least in terms of oxygenating your blood. When you sprint and run, you are mostly trying to expel carbon dioxide which is why exhaling through your mouth feels so good. We can do this sometimes in yoga as well. But it is important to understand how powerful the force of your breath is to bring life back into your body. This is what we are doing in yoga, breathing life and energy back into worn joints so that they can regenerate. We are simultaneously lengthening and strengthening our muscles with our breath, going back and forth like steel being smelted on an anvil to strengthen ourselves for the world around us. Our bones, ligaments, and joints become powerful machinations of efficiency when a yoga practice has been well-honed. Everything flows easier, especially in your circulatory and digestive system.

Moving Beyond Breath

Now you are ready to start. Close your eyes and begin to breathe exclusively through your nose. It might be useful to take a few exaggerated exhales through your mouth to start, then shift all of the respiratory flow into the nose. If this is difficult, then spend some time during your day trying to breath through your nose; the more time you spent trying, the easier it will get.

Your body should be comfortable, so you can focus. The idea behind a yoga practice is regeneration, healing, and awareness, so bring your mind into a peaceful place where you can focus completely on your breath. Your breath is a healing force; your breath is also linked to your consciousness in ways that we do not fully understand.

By focusing on your breath, you can give your entire attention to your body. Inner space is vast, but don’t be overwhelmed; you will have as much time to explore this space as you choose to create for yourself. A yoga practice can last a lifetime if practiced responsibly.

The Ujjayi Pranayama Technique

You are already breathing through your nose, so the first and hardest part of this technique is already accomplished. Start to pay attention to the way air is flowing in the back of your throat. Can you restrict your throat muscles slightly to slow down the flow of air? It should start to sound more and more like a wave, or the raspy sound of the ocean. Once you have spent a significant amount of time with the Ujjayi breathing technique, you will be able to variate and change the intensity of the breath with your postures in the yoga practice. With more intense poses will come more intense breath, necessarily to keep your body sustained in the position.

Equal inhales and exhales that are unceasing and complete will rejuvenate your body over 90 minutes, even if you are lying still on the floor. The breath is your yoga practice. The Ujjayi breath is powerful; there is also no reason to limit its use to the yoga room. In stressful life situations, breathing techniques can help to keep you connected with your body and grounded in your thoughts.

The Breath will Guide your Yoga Practice

Your connection with your breath and the Ujjayi technique is the most vital aspect of the yoga practice. It is what allows the subconscious mind to integrate your thoughts and conscious feelings, soothes your bodily systems, and relaxes the central nervous system. If the pose gets too intense for the breath, lower the intensity of the posture in your body.

When you are finished practicing, you lie down to rest with your back on the floor and your head on the floor. The idea is to let your body sit completely still on the floor for about 5-15 minutes, depending on how long your practice was. This is time where you let your breathing return to its normal state in a natural and easy way.

That’s all you need to start practicing yoga, or to start an official “yoga practice”. Don’t listen to anyone that says you need anything because all of the props that exist are made to make the practice more comfortable. You are set and ready to go.

The ONLY Rule: Enjoy Yourself!

If it’s not fun, then what’s the point of a yoga practice?

You are ready to start your home yoga practice now. Remember to do what you love!

Closing your eyes always feels great. The magic starts to happen when you really start to let go of everything outside of your body and focus your attention completely inwards.

 

Here are a few more articles, in case you want to look at some additional information or more great resources:

References:

The Ultimate Reference: BKS Iyengar’s: Light on Yoga

  1. Yoga International
  2. Yoga Basics
  3. Gaiam
  4. MindBody Green
  5. Yoganonymous
  6. About Health

 

 

Yoga Practice: How to Start Now Read More »

"Konfuzius-laozi" by Shih K'ang - http://www2.kenyon.edu/Depts/Religion/Fac/Adler/Reln471/pix.htm. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Konfuzius-laozi.jpg#/media/File:Konfuzius-LaoTse.jpg

Lao Tse | 李耳 – The Founder of the Philosophy of Taoism

Lao Tse, The First Taoist

Lao Tse, Laozi, Lao-Tzu, Lao-Tze, or Laozi was a philosopher and poet in ancient China who is best known for founding Taoism by writing the Tao Te Ching. He is a deity in certain traditions and probably lived around 4-500 BCE, but is often dated to the time of Confucius  at 600 BCE. Lao Tse is one of the great teachers and influencers of early eastern philosophy and helped to give foundation to the great traditions of the East. He famously said, “Be still like the mountain and flow like a great river.” (his work is riddled with allegory and word plays)

Lao Tse is a title meaning “venerable” “master. Many scholars argue that he was many people rather than one, but most ancient texts mention him in 600 BCE. The first copy of the Tao Te Ching is from 400 BCE. In any case, Lao Tse is said to have spent his life revealing the Tao. Much of his work after his death was used by anti-authoritarian establishments throughout history.

Er Li was a scholar and Alan Watts believes that he was the man that we know as the great master, but other scholars have argued that the figure of Lao Tse must have been many people. He was mentioned by several historical texts after his death.

According to tradition, Laozi studied in the royal court of Zhou and attracted large numbers of people, legends tell of an encounter with Confucius, but Lao Tse never opened a school.

One story says that Laozi is a hermit who lived in the woods until he was 160 years old. One day he was stopped by Yinxi at a gate and Yinxi asked Laozi to record his wisdom. He wrote the Tao Te Ching in response. Many stories then tell of Laozi traveling all the way to India to teach the Buddha. Some say that he was the Buddha.

The Tao Te Ching is one of the most powerful works in Chinese history. It describes the Tao as the source and ideal of all existence and all of nature flows from it, so when humans defy their nature, they separate themselves from the flow of the Tao.

Laozi said that technology brings about a false sense of progress and taught about a method of existence called Wu-Wei, or non-action. What it really means is flowing with the moment, not forcing, acting spontaneously, not doing anything, or creating nothingness.

Zhuangzi was Laozi’s disciple and was a central authority to monastic life amongst normal populations and drifting anonymously though society. Some modern politicians think that Laozi was the first libertarian, believing that people should be allowed to govern themselves loosely and without much governmental structure.

Lao Tse | 李耳 – The Founder of the Philosophy of Taoism Read More »

"Buddha preaching Abhidhamma in Tavatimsa" by Hintha - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Buddha_preaching_Abhidhamma_in_Tavatimsa.jpg#/media/File:Buddha_preaching_Abhidhamma_in_Tavatimsa.jpg

Raja Yoga

Raja yoga is a term with different meanings depending on context; in the 1900s, Swami Vivekanada equated it with the sutras of Patanjali. Raja means best, chief, or king; when used in yoga it means the highest state of yoga practice or striving for samadhi (bliss). This is the feeling that you achieve in savasana after a well afforded practice; after you’ve pushed yourself and worked hard. Hatha yoga is described as the way to achieve raja yoga when combined with the sutras of patanjali.

Raja is a term that has undergone changes over time until it was most recently equated with the yoga sutras by Swami Vivekanada, but it has always referred to a style of yoga that attempts to make unison with the Brahman, or universal divinity. Eight different steps have been mentioned numerous times and have also evolved over time as the usage of the word has evolved since it was used in the Bhagavad Gita. It has always been considered a type of yoga.

Raja yoga is similar to a path of meditation towards the divine, assimilating the philosophy of samadhi and complete awareness into everyday life. Historically, there are three goals of Raja yoga: an altered state of higher consciousness, an uncovering of the soul, and the yogic traditions of isolation, meditation, and retrospection. It is a term used to largely define the goal of the practices of hatha yoga.

Raja Yoga Read More »

"Shiva meditating Rishikesh" by Iqbal Mohammed - http://www.flickr.com/photos/blaiq/75116239/. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Shiva_meditating_Rishikesh.jpg#/media/File:Shiva_meditating_Rishikesh.jpg

Shiva’s Freedom

Death is the ultimate freedom. This is Shiva’s gift to all of life.

Mahadeva, or the supreme deity, also known as Shiva is the destroyer and transformer of all of life. He is limitless, unchanging, eternal, formless, and the ultimate yogi; one who has joined with the death of all things.

Shiva is often displayed slaying demons with his trident. When not in battle, he is practicing yoga alone on Mount Kailash in his ascetic lifestyle of renunciation. His third eye sees all and the Ganges river itself flows from his hair.

Shiva is quite possibly the oldest god in history, dating back to the Indus Valley Civilization; however, his worship has lost none of its potency and he is worshipped across southeast Asia.

Shiva is joined with the supreme self, the Brahman.  Shiva powerfully deals destruction and death to make room for Brahma to create in the world. He smears his body with the ashes of the dead representing the impending death of all beings. He dances to his drum bringing fiery and fierce death to all whose time has come to pass from this world.

Shiva is a very fierce representation of what will eventually happen to all of us. A precedent to the grim-reaper, he represents what comes for life eventually and acceptance of this is the greatest freedom. Fear of death.

If we can see past our own ego, we can realize that we never really existed in the first place. It is an illusion to think that we matter more than the matter we are made up of. Even our idealisations of past figures in history are false representations. No one that is alive now actually knew who Jesus was. Nor Moses. Nor anyone else that has died over a hundred years ago.

It is important to remember that life is short. Make the most of each day. Gratitude for challenges, lessons, and difficulties that force us to grow. Once you let go of your ego, you can be free. Shiva, yoga, and ascetic practices will help you to let go. Freedom is in your mind, no one can give it to you or take it away from you. Everything else is just an illusion.

Shiva’s Freedom Read More »

rickshaw Dhaka

Acceptance

There is a certain point where I realized that there was nothing I could do to save anyone. There’s no saving. There’s always suffering. And thinking otherwise is simply idealizing and overgeneralizing.

Suffering is an unavoidable aspect of this world. You are not a victim, but instead an inhabitant; viewing suffering as against you or attacking you will only increase its power.

Instead we should acknowledge our state of suffering and enjoy it; if everything was easy, life would be so boring, so monotonous, so pointless. We wouldn’t have to learn, adapt, change our behaviors, or do all of the amazing things that humans do.

Accepting the state of suffering is the only freedom we have in the world. To enjoy the sun, a nice meal, the people around you, despite where you are, the ailments you have, or the desires that go unfulfilled. No one can do it for you. And the experiences of others are pretty irrelevant to you; you are a world in and of itself. A consumer of the highest order, no matter what you forego when you eat or the type of lifestyle you live. Accepting this leads is a key to realizing what you are. To know the truth is to set yourself free from the hatred of suffering, instead you are able to enjoy it.

When times get hard, appreciate them. This is the forge of character, shaping your being into what you need to be here. When times are easy, be grateful. Ultimately, gratitude is the greatest gift you can give yourself. With it, you are free to accept your suffering as an aspect of reality instead of fighting and pushing your self deeper into states of anger, frustration, greed, and jealousy.

Acceptance and gratitude together are freedom that only we can give ourselves. No one is going to save you or do it for you. Eventually, we will all be gone. Clinging never helped anyone that was too heavy. We will all fall in the end. Enjoy the climb.

Acceptance Read More »

"Rough diamond" by Unknown USGS employee - Original source: USGS "Minerals in Your World" website. Direct image link: [1]. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rough_diamond.jpg#/media/File:Rough_diamond.jpg

Diamonds in the Rough

“A diamond has the highest hardness and thermal conductivity of any bulk material; it can be contaminated by very few types of impurities. Most natural diamonds are formed at high temperature and pressure. A material with superlative physical qualities, most of it original from the strong bonds between its atoms.” -Wikipedia

Sometimes, people rise above their circumstances to greatness. They are forged, hardened by pressure and time to rise above their surroundings and to become more than anyone thought they could become. I’ve been lucky to witness this in several people from all over the world. People all over the world have the capacity to be greater than their circumstances would “normally” dictate.

There’s a popular saying going around now: “Everyone is doing the best they can with what they have.” I have come to believe that this is completely untrue and a complete idealization; all you have to do is look at the amount of corruption in much of our species to know that people often take the easy way out. Look at the US senate, can you really say they are doing the best they can with what they have?We are lazy beings, like all other mammals we want to be able to sit back, relax, and enjoy the sun and the food it grows. (in balanced quantities of course)

This isn’t to say that people will always take advantage of everything they can; instead, its acknowledging that there will always be both sides to the equation; those that take complete advantage and those that take none and in fact give willingly with no thought of receiving. I’ve witnessed a lot of both lately while I’ve been traveling.

Yesterday was a rough day for me; the traveling and budget have gotten to me and I’m exhausted (you can read yesterday’s article on my mental fatigue here. But the equation will always balance itself out. Today I met an absolute gem of a woman on my way to the Minh Mang tomb. Her name was Rei Nguyen.

Rei was a farmer and told us that she and her husband made around 5 million dong per month (about $250). She sent her kids to a school that cost about 2 million per month, in the city of Hoi.

My girlfriend and I rented a scooter for $4 and headed to the tomb this morning, pretty excited to see the most renowned tomb in what appears to be the cultural center of Vietnam. Largely affected by the Vietnam War (known locally as the American War), we were able to see a lot of the effects of the war in our travels, most particularly the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh (Saigon). There was a good amount of propaganda at the museum, especially geared towards the use of illegal chemicals such as agent orange, the US’s involvement in the war, and Vietnam’s victims. This is not to say there wasn’t massive effect from illegal chemical weapons used by the US, but there was no mention of Russia, or of the civil war in Vietnam. As usual, there was a scapegoat to take the blame and the US took full brunt force of it; it’s probably deserved. (again, I’m not saying I know the situation, but I’ve seen this before in WWI & WWII propaganda, Civil War propaganda, and pretty much every war in history is necessarily affected by propaganda where one country is blamed for the entirety of the war)

Rei’s english was incredibly good for anyone in Vietnam, let alone a farmer with an education that ended when she was 12. She works 10 hour days out in the fields with her husband and eats mostly rice and noodles, though she wasn’t malnourished as far as I could tell. She was extremely kind to us, showed us a shortcut to the tomb and then invited us to her small house by the river to talk and have some tea.

The tomb was incredibly peaceful; death has a way of making the life so powerful.  We walked around the tomb for a couple of hours in the scorching heat and humidity, then returned with her to her home.

Happy_in_Vietnam

I noticed she was lucky enough to have electricity and running water; he house was small, with wooden walls and a tin roof and she graciously offered us tea while we spoke about her life and how my life was very different from hers. She ultimately ended up asking for money for her children’s school, but it was far more of an afterthought than most of what I have experienced in Vietnam. Most will ask for money, then turn their back and mutter under their breath when you refuse their service. She offered us a kind smile and sharing of words and experiences that has been unique in my trip to Vietnam.

In this trip, I’ve met people poorer than you can imagine that still show kindness and refuse to take extra money no matter how hard you try. I’ve met people who I’ve gotten along with like I’ve known them my whole life.

One sterling example of this is one of my Muslim friends from Yemen; probably the one of the nicest and friendliest people I have ever met. He owns about six AK47’s at his home and Yemen and left to pursue a more peaceful education in Mysore. Yemen is currently in Civil war and he has been directly affected by it with the death of some of his immediate family members, yet still he pursues kindness and happiness relentlessly. I was with him while it started and there was definitely a lot of swearing and frustration, but it didn’t change his outlook. He goes against any stereotype I could have held against someone of the Muslim religion.

The owner of the Chakra house, Rajesh was like this as well; one of the nicest and most relaxed people I have ever met. He and I will be friends just like the day I left if I ever return to Mysore (which is highly probable). It’s funny how you meet people who you feel like you’ve known your whole life when you travel.

People are individuals and that’s how they should be treated. One is not representative of the whole, because there is so much variation in our species. So at the same time that there are all of these awesome people I have met, there are also some abominable ones.

Let me give you some examples, from history. I don’t like to talk about negatives in reality because people can change and who am I to judge them. With that said, world leaders are different and I feel at full liberty to judge their decisions. There are some terrible people in our world: Kim Jong Il, definitely not doing the best with what he has especially after his most recent execution; neither did Stalin, or Hitler, or Mussolini. Even American leaders smell of stank corruption that can ruin the people: George Bush, Dick Cheney, Nixon, Ulysses S Grant, Kennedy. Even the greatness of America has such powerful potential for corruption because of the essence of its power.

The truth is, humans will look out for themselves before others and in our modern world we absolutely HAVE to expect this from everyone. Think about it this way; even if you are about self-sacrifice, you would give to your children first and foremost the greatest opportunity to succeed in the world. We look out for ourselves before others and this isn’t a bad thing, it’s simply the reality of humanity. This is why the US is struggling right now, our system of checks and balances has become completely unbalanced in the wake of our economic prosperity in the 80s and 90s and leaders continue to take advantage of the people they rule just as they have since the beginning of time.

Unfortunately, this can even apply to our immediate family. You see celebrities with major mental and stability problems, likely because they can’t even trust their support systems and families anymore (this is just my observation, feel free to comment on it). It’s really sad, but that’s how money can corrupt people. Greed, it seems, is simultaneously the great human strength and weakness.

But on the other side, there are people who will give without even caring about what they receive; they give kindness freely and love as often as they can, as long as their basic needs are met. Sometimes, they even defy those. Remember to think of it as an equation, because that’s what the world we live in requires.

Writing yesterday made me feel so much better, today the same. I really hope that these comments are misunderstood, I am trying to be very objective and am applying my experiences to the greater scope of the world we live in together. I walked around today with a big smile and decided that I would kill my fatigue with kindness and it has worked. I feel a hell of a lot better.

Please let me know what you think of this article in the comments, or on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/padayoga

I always love to hear from readers.

Diamonds in the Rough Read More »

Dali_imagination

Constructs of the Imagination

The human mind is constructive. We create our world, inside of our own heads. To understand the way that we as individuals think, the way that we construct reality, we have to examine some of the moving parts of the consciousness system that are involved. Some of these parts are cognitive, some emotional; things like abstract reasoning, probability prediction, sampling,  grouping, chunking, compartmentalization, and relationship architectures are all necessary to understand how we construct the world around us.

The first and easiest places to examine when talking about the functioning of consciousness are the senses. Foremost is sight, simply because we have more built-in equipment for sight than any of the other sense. We fill in the blanks with out eyes, sometimes seeing things that aren’t there to make sense of patterns. Then sound, which is continually processed; touch, which is a pressure system that is built to feel things outside, but simultaneously internalize them as part of ourselves, such as hugs, touching which releases oxytocin, kissing, etc. The senses construct the mental world inside of our brains and allow us to interact with it.

We also construct socially. We imagine what others may think about us, or even what others may be doing in comparison to our own activities. There is also a an imagined hierarchy that normally forms due to various reasons; usually strength is a deciding factor. We have groups of people that we consider to be part of us, clicks, friend groups, religious communities, etc. This helps to give us a sense of worth by belonging to something, which is why community is such an important aspect of healthy living.

Humans also have a sometimes tragic flaw, called hubris, or pride. We believe ourselves to have accomplished something when we put forth great effort and achieve desired results, which can lead to a sense of accomplishment. This is most certainly a constructive process where we place a sense of value on ourselves for something that has been completed or finished with our participation. This also provides us with a sense of worth and accomplishment.

Humans also project our judgements onto the things around us, sometimes in terms of morals, sometimes in terms of positive or negative. This gives the object a perceived value and allows us to make judgement calls for very important things (i.e. the quality of food that you eat). This also allows us to manipulate the environment in a positive way for our own circumstances, in a similar way to a bird building a nest. It helps us to survive in a very real way.

Humans also have an ability to reason abstractly to plan. It allows us to save food and other resources during harder times and to effectively project ourselves into the future to deal with our environment. This is probably the reason for our massive success on the planet; we have the ability to forego now for later. This is tremendously valuable in social situations, especially those involving trade and bartering, because we can amass specific resources in an efficient manner to trade them for other valuables. This concept is what originally allowed humans to begin agriculture, which then provided us with free time and the ability to work less because we don’t have to always be focused on survival.

However, this amazing ability to plan also has a dark side; fear, anxiety, and idealization. We always want to hope for the best, even if it is an unreasonable outcome of our current situation. We sometimes create false realities because of our own fears and idealizations which then can cause negative effects. We get anxiety for future situations because of past situations that we have already experienced, or we think we know the outcome of a given situation simply because we have experienced a similar one. Fear is the epitome of this dark side, sometimes leading us to create false realities known as neurosis. But in judgement for survival, fear is absolutely necessary.

Fear is possibly the most constructive aspect of the human mind. It gives us the ability to avoid things we have experienced, to efficiently escape certain environments, and to react effectively when faced with danger. However, in social situations, fear has almost no value and can completely degrade relationships. Have you ever been in a relationship where the other person is overly jealous, or protective? This is a perfect example of a fear that degrades a relationship and that is completely unnecessary until some kind of evidence appears.

Humans can construct completely different realities. You can see this in cultural and religious values, where some people believe that the “right” way to live is what they have been taught; or when someone goes into neurosis because of over-stress, or simply genetic factors combined with the environment. In the modern world, stress is almost always the result of imagined or projected fears, which is why it is such a powerful force in our lives. Our ability to deal with the stress physiologically is almost always dependent upon our beliefs about the stress. Sometimes, this can force us to construct completely different realities to allow us to cope with the stress from the environment.

There are a few other things that we make up to deal with the environment; time, measurements, communities, languages, mathematics, mythologies, religion, and stories. Stories are incredibly fascinating, because they allow us to ‘tap in’ to the experiences of another consciousness through communication with our ability to reason and construct abstractly. This can allow us to learn, without really experiencing anything significant in the environment (of course you are reading a book, which is a part of the environment).

These are some of the different ways that we construct reality within our minds. This is why the concept Maya exists in eastern religions. Fear is an extremely interesting phenomenon in humans, almost certainly one to be avoided in social situations. So while you are out there, remember that YOU are constructing the subjective world that you live in and that it is specific to each individual.

Constructs of the Imagination Read More »

Scroll to Top

Subscribe

Get email updates of new articles when they are published

We promise we’ll never spam! Take a look at our Privacy Policy for more info.