Secret of Breathing – Deepen Your Stillness (2 minutes read)

I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.

Recently I had a secret plan to surprise a friend of mine who is an MBA grad by visiting him after a very long time. He is currently working in a well reputed corporate firm. I didn’t inform him about my visit and went to his place in South Bombay. After he came home from his work he saw me and smiled happily but he was very tired and was not as much excited to see much as he always used to be.

I asked him, “What a cold reaction you gave after seeing me, just a small smile?”

He replied, “Hey nothing like that! I’m very happy to see you. Just had a very hectic and tiring day at work. Yeah! So a lot of things are going on in my mind. Comfort and luxury is all good but the price for this is, a lot of stress and indeed, a lot of struggle to meet the deadlines!”

He asked me to teach him meditation and after practicing he told me how rejuvenated, refreshed and energised he felt. His tiredness vanished away! This was one situation which I witnessed.

Handling the Inner Demon:

The other day, as I was researching about some of the popular ailments, I was surprised to see the results. Anxiety disorders, clinical depression, mental conflicts, insomnia and stress had topped the chart and needless to say almost 97% of the population some or the other time faces these ailments.

But folks we don’t need to worry as every problem has a solution! Here the most helpful and reliable solution is Meditation. Well, wait! wait! I know some of you get scared even to hear about the word meditation but let me make it very simple for you today! You don’t need to rush to the Himalayas, seclude yourself or go to a meditation retreat to practice Meditation.

Meditation, as mystical as it may sound, is simply one of the best way to be closer to your own Self. Yes! Your True Self!
How often do we observe our body? Now you will say that when you wear your clothes, you always do glance yourself, you look into the mirror and that is how you look at your self all the time. But do you really observe yourself or just see how your clothes are beautifying your body? Yes! You do look great in that Cooper Jeans and Hilfiger Shirt no doubt! But we do this just to glorify our external self. Do you ever turn inward and observe your inner self, feelings and emotions?

The observation!

When you close your eyes and look inside, you actually feel your body in a subtler way, you also feel some minute movements and sometimes your body’s vibration. You can also feel the pain, the discomfort, the stiffness and if you are lucky enough even the bliss in certain parts of your body.

Initially by just focusing on your breath if you sit quietly for sometime simultaneously you start feeling the stillness and steadiness in the body. Breath is very directly connected to how the mental fluctuations happen. I don’t know whether science has explored this but practically speaking in our experience it is very much there!

If you sit still the breath becomes deep and slow, the more still your body becomes, the less you breath. If you bring your whole system to a certain level of stillness, not being in a hyper ventilated state, then your perception goes on increasing. You will naturally evolve into perceiving higher and better things.

Now you’ll say, “Prarthana all this sounds great! But it’s difficult, how will I achieve this?”

Many people have told me that feeling the touch of our breath is very difficult. I don’t think it’s difficult at all. This means you have not given enough importance to your breath. Observe and feel how the touch of the air you inhale is cooler and how the touch of the air you exhale is a bit warmer inside your nostrils. Once you focus on the incoming and outgoing breath you can witness a small miracle happening in yourself. You start feeling absolute calmness inside.

Inhalation and exhalation is the very Dharma of our body.

When you are absolutely still, you can feel that the conflicts in your mind are decreasing and your body becoming absolutely blissful.

Go more inward!

Your Belly expands and contracts with each incoming breath and outgoing breath. As you are aware of each in and out going breath the pace of your breath starts slowing down gradually. Here awareness is the key. Sometimes it may happen that your mind starts wondering in different directions and thoughts. But again you have to bring your awareness on the breath. Ask yourself a few times, “Am I Here?”

Then focus on each and every part of your body with every inhalation and exhalation. Relax it completely as you exhale. As your awareness is steady on breath you can experience that the mind starts getting quite peaceful and there is reduction in the intensity of your thoughts. You also start feeling lightness of limbs and you experience as if you are floating above.
When you withdraw your senses from the external, you are then tuned into the internal sound and can hear the breath. If the mind wanders, let it do so. Slowly and gradually bring it back. Treat it as if you are treating a baby.

Now does that sounds difficult? I don’t think so. We all can easily do it. We just have to become aware and become a witness of our thoughts, our feelings and our emotions. And this is how you feel calm and peaceful inside.
Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor. ~Thich Nhat Hanh

It takes minimum 20 minutes to go in this relaxed state. I think we all deserve at least this much time for ourselves and to work on our well being, don’t we? Once you start practicing this regularly, you will automatically concentrate on the breath every moment of your life, all the time and without putting any extra effort!

You can make the body so pleasurable that just sitting here and Breathing is a million time more than anything than you have known – just to sit here and Breath

Yes! You are Breathing! Click here to read another short article on Breathing by me.

With lots of love,
-Prarthana Khot
Special thanks to Kushal Pagare and Anushka Pawar for editing this article.

Picture credits: BoodhaDoodles.com

Some Misconceptions regarding Yoga

Myth 1: Yoga comes from Hinduism.

Yoga is Hindu just the way gravity is Christian. Just because the law of gravity was propounded by Isaac Newton, who lived in a Christian culture, does it make gravity Christian? Yoga is a technology. Anybody who is willing to make use of it can make use of it.
Why the yogic sciences have gotten labeled as Hindu by a few ignorant people is because this science and technology grew and prospered in this culture, so naturally it has gotten associated with the Hindu way of life. The word Hindu has come from the word Sindhu, which is a river. Because this culture grew from the banks of the river Sindhu or Indus, this culture got labeled as Hindu. Hindu is not an ism, it is not a religion. It is a geographical and cultural identity.

Myth 2: Why be a human when you can be a pretzel? Yoga is all about impossible postures.

When we utter the word yoga, most people on the planet only think of asanas. Of all the different things that the science of yoga explores just about every aspect of life todays world has chosen to represent yoga with only the physical aspect. In the yogic system, there is very little significance given to asanas. For a little over two hundred Yoga Sutras, only one sutra is dedicated to asanas. But somehow, in modern times, this one sutra has gained significance over everything else.
The practice as you see it, the mechanics of it, is simply of the body. You have to breathe life into it; otherwise it will not become alive.
The yogic system is a subtle manipulation of your system to allow it to rise to a different level. Yoga means that which allows you to attain to your higher nature. Every asana, every mudra, every way of breathing everything is focused towards this.

Myth 3: Want six-pack abs? Yoga is a great exercise regime.

If fitness is what you are seeking, if you want six-pack abs or whatever number, I would say go and play tennis or hike in the mountains. Yoga is not an exercise; it has other dimensions attached to it. A different dimension of fitness yes you get health out of it, but not six-pack abs. If you are doing yoga to burn calories or tone up your muscle, obviously you are doing improper yoga; there is no question about that. For abs, you can go to the gym. Yoga needs to be practiced in a very subtle, gentle way, not in a forceful muscle-building way, because this is not about exercise.

Myth 4: Find your groove. Yoga & music go well.

There should never be a mirror or music when you practice asanas. Hatha yoga demands a certain involvement of your body, mind, energy and the innermost core. If you want to get the involvement of that which is the source of creation within you, your body, your mind, your energy must be absolutely involved. You should approach it with a certain reverence and certain focus. Not just going, playing music and doing something. One of the biggest problems in yoga studios is, the teacher is doing asanas and speaking. This is a sure way to cause damage to you.
No talking in the asana is not just a norm, it is a rule. You never ever speak in postures. The breath, the mental focus and the stability of energy is most important when you are doing the asana. If you speak, you will destroy all that.

Myth 5: Yoga is only a Post Retirement Plan.

It is believed that yoga is for old and not the young. Don’t the young live their life? Don’t the young people have any tension; don’t they fall and get hurt, or catch cold and cough? Then how can we say it is not for the young? Yoga starts from the womb itself.

Myth 6: Yoga is the last respite for the sick and the ailing.

People come to yoga only when all other avenues are closed. When you have a heart problem and the doctors say nothing can be done, then you come to yoga. If you could have come to yoga earlier, things would have been very different. You would not fall sick and if you do, you would have been able to handle it yourself

Myth 7: Yoga is for the Recluse living in the Himalayas.

Earlier people used to think only Yogis, Sanyasis, etc. practiced yoga. But yoga is for every human. A recluse would use different techniques whereas householders would use a different technology. But yoga is definitely a science of living.

Transcendence of the Self

What are people, what is body, what are senses, what is the mind, what is nothingness, and what is desirelessness to my stainless state?

What are scriptures, what is self-knowledge, what is satisfaction or a mind without senses, what is the state of desirelessness to me in whom duality has forever disappeared?

What is knowledge, what is ignorance, what is ‘me’, and what is this ‘mine’, what is bondage and what is liberation, what is the appearance of the Self?

What is endeavour, what is liberation from life, what is perfect beatitude by detachment from the body, there is never any distinction amongst any state!

What is the doer, what is the experiencer, what is inactivity or springing up, what is beyond vision, what is reward, I am forever the one without personality!

What is this world, what is the desire for liberation, what is a yogi, what is a wise man, what is bondage, what is liberation, I am non-dual by my very nature!

What is creation, what is destruction, what is to be achieved and what is the tool, what is the achiever, and what is achievement, I am non-dual by my very nature!

What is the prover or proof, what is to be measured and what is the measure, what is something or nothing – I am always pure!

What is distraction, what is concentration, what is stupidity or ignorance, what is delight or sorrow, I am forever actionless.

What is conduct, what is the highest truth, what is joy and what is sorrow, I am forever beyond analysis.

What is maya, what is samsara, what is liking or disliking, what is a living being, what is the Absolute, I am forever stainless.

What is action or inaction, what is liberation and what is bondage, I am forever unchanging, indivisible, complete!

What is teaching, what is scripture, what is student or teacher, what is hard work, I am the formless Shiva.

What is existence or non-existence, what is non-duality or duality, what more is there to say? Nothing else arises from me!

Divine Love

The greatest fortune in human life is to be able to say, “I want nothing and I am here for you.”

Three kinds of love

There are three kinds of Love.
1. The Love that comes out of Charm
2. That which comes out of comfort, and
3. Divine Love

Do you see what I am saying?
The love that comes out of charm does not last long. It comes out of unfamiliarity or out of attraction. In this, you lose the attraction fast, and boredom sets in, like most love marriages. This love may diminish and bring along with it fear, uncertainty, insecurity, and sadness.

The Love that comes out of comfort and familiarity grows. But this Love has no thrill, no enthusiasm, joy, or fire to it.
For example, you are more comfortable with an old friend who is a familiar person, rather than with a new person.

Divine Love supersedes both the above. Divine Love has ever newness. The closer you go, there is more charm and depth.
Divine Love has comfort, enthusiasm, and familiarity. There is never boredom, and it keeps everyone on their toes.

Worldly love can be like an ocean, yet an ocean has a bottom. But Divine Love is like the sky which is limitless, infinite. From the bottom of the Ocean, soar into the vast sky.

Reference: Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

Desire set ablaze!

Buddha said that desire is the cause of all misery. If your desire does not get fulfilled, it leads to frustration and causes misery. Even if it does get fulfilled, it leaves you empty.

Vashishtha said that desire is the cause of pleasure. You get pleasure from an object or a person only when you desire them. When you do not desire an object, you do not get pleasure from it. For example, when a person is hot and thirsty, a sip of cold water gives him pleasure; but not if he is not thirsty. Whatever gives you pleasure binds you and bondage is misery.

I tried experimenting with both and here I arrive..

When you desire for truth, all other desires drop off. Very often you always desire for something that is not there. But, truth is always there! Desire for truth removes all other desires and it itself dissolves. And what remains is complete bliss.

Knowing the truth accurately, I stand exactly as I am!

While contemplating the Inconceivable, it is only thoughts that we contemplate. Therefore, abandoning that state of mind, I stand exactly as I am!

One who acts like this is truly contented. One whose nature is like this is truly contented.

Drop Your Intentions

A strong tendency to keep doing something, whether important or unimportant, becomes an impediment to meditation. Doing starts first with an intention and then translates into action. Though intention springs from the Being, when it becomes doing it doesn’t let you settle down. All intentions, good or bad, trivial or important, need to be dropped for meditation to happen.

Vijay: But isn’t dropping all intentions itself an intention?

Sri Sri: Yes, but that intention is the last and necessary intention. Dropping the intentions is not an act – just the intention to drop the intentions itself serves the purpose. Dropping all intentions even for a moment brings you in touch with your Self – that instant meditation happens.

While you sit for meditation you have to let the world be the way it is. The repetition of meditation is to habituate our system to be able to stop and start activity at will. The ability to do this consciously is a very precious skill.

By Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

Dylan Warner on Meditation

One of my biggest yoga inspiration – Dylan Werner

Do you have a meditation practice?

Dylan: Well is meditation only sitting in one spot with the eyes closed? That’s what people think meditation is. How do you define meditation?

Me: Being still in both body and mind.

Dylan: How do you create stillness?
Me: Through breath.

Dylan: Which is movement.

Me: That’s true.

Dylan: How do you calm the mind?
Me: With the breath.
Dylan: Which is movement. We use the breath to slow down. But anybody who tries to meditate realizes you can’t control the mind.

Me: But I don’t think that’s the point.

Dylan: I’ve been studying “yogás citta-vrtti-nirodhah” (the second verse of the yoga sutra) and trying to understand all the different translations of what it means. The common translations of this sutra basically read: “Yoga is the stopping of the fluctuations of the mind.” Generally something that has to do with ceasing, stopping, controlling the way that the mind vibrates and fluctuates. Vrttis – one of the translations is “modification”. What modifies the mind are emotions, thoughts, anger, happiness, these are the vrttis. Who you are… If it can be taken away from you then it’s not apart of who you are. If it can be taken away, how is that you? What is constantly making the mind move is not necessarily you, they are just things like emotions that come and go. And nirodhah, “cessation” or “removal”… Well the mind or mind stuff (citta) is something that is always thinking. That’s the purpose of the mind. To stop the purpose of the mind is impossibility. Even if you say, “I’m not thinking” you are still thinking. There is a saying: Trying to meditate is like trying to smooth water with your hands. The more that you try the worse that it gets.

Joseph Campbell talks about the mind being a body of water, like a lake. And “reality” is everything that happens above the water while our mind is the surface of the water. The vrttis would be any of the distractions, a lot of it is ego, these things that cause the ripples on the water like leaves and wind, it’s our ego, our emotions, all these things that distract us or change us. So when you look into the water, what you see is a reflection but it is a distorted reflection of reality. And this is where we live.

Meditation is finding stillness, not for the sake of just being still. If you do anything you have to understand what the point is. Why do we want to be still? Why do we want to let the thoughts come to rest? When all the things stop, the water becomes smooth, no fluctuations, it’s completely still and clear. So when you look into the water all you see is the reflection of the truth. Meditation is basically coming to this point of understanding of living in truth. One effective way to do that is to sit there, close the eyes, breath and allow you to come to rest. Another way is to challenge yourself in the most physical manner to bring yourself to the presence so the only thing you could experience is what is happening right now.

Before I started yoga I was a skydiver and I was looking to be present. I found my meditation in jumping out of planes. But once that became routine, my mind went to other places. When I found yoga I was still skydiving, but all of a sudden I had an intention behind what I was doing. To be present, to allow this laying to rest, or allowing to be or in the flow. Everything in nature moves in flow, moves in harmony. The stillness is moving. The stillness is constantly changing. Even if there is no movement at all.

Original yogis who started to meditate, I don’t think they all meditated with their eyes closed. This is what I did when I was on my vision quest: When you sit there in nature, you look out and lose the separation of what separates you from nature and you look to see how the outer nature of your surroundings reflect your inner nature. And then you understand what it means to be in that flow, what it means to settle in, to surrender to that. Meditation is a practice of surrendering to the now, that’s all it is. It can look like anything, but you are surrendering to the now. So however you do that becomes your meditation practice.

You are the tenth (Story)

By Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

Ten people were going from one village to another. On the way they had to cross a river. After crossing they wanted to be sure all were there. Each one started counting but counted only nine. They were very distraught and began to cry for the loss of the tenth.

A wise man came along and asked them “Oh my dear friends, why are you crying?”

“We were ten but now we are only nine,” they replied.

The wise man saw they were ten, so he asked them to count. Each counted nine but left out himself. Then the wise man made them stand and count, and he said to the last person, “You are the tenth!”

And they all rejoiced for having regained the tenth.

Similarly the five senses and the four inner faculties (mind, intellect, memory, ego) all lament when they lose sight of the Self. Then the Master comes and shows you that You are the tenth! Count, but never stop until you find the tenth. The joy is in finding the Ever Present.

With the knowledge of the Self inside everything is truly joyful.

Q: What did Brahma think when he made this creation?

Sri Sri: He didn’t think before doing. He didn’t take anyone’s suggestion — I would have given him a few.

Image copyright: Earth Porm

Why do we touch feet of our parents and elders?

Indians touch feet and bow down before their parents, elders, teachers and noble souls by touching their feet. The elder in turn blesses us by placing his or her hand on or over our heads. Such respectful salutations are done daily, when we meet elders and particularly on important occasions like the beginning of a new task, birthdays, festivals etc. In certain traditional circles, sashtanga namaskar is accompanied by abhivaadana, which serves to introduce one-self, announce one as family and social stature.

Man stands on his feet. Touching the feet is a sign of respect for the age, maturity, nobility and divinity that our elders personify. It symbolizes our recognition of their selfless love for us and the sacrifices they have done for our welfare. It is a way of humbly acknowledging the greatness of another. This tradition reflects the strong family ties, which has been one of India’s enduring strengths.

The good wishes (Sankalpa) and blessings (Aashirvaada) of elders are highly valued in India. We touch their feet and do namaskar to seek them. Good thoughts create positive vibrations. Good wishes springing from a heart full of love, divinity and nobility have a tremendous strength. When we touch their feet or bow down with humility and respect, we invoke the good wishes and blessings of elders, which flow in the form of positive energy to envelop us. This is why the posture assumed whether it is in the standing or prone position, enables the entire body to receive the energy thus received.

The different forms of showing respect are :

Pratuthana – rising to welcome a person.
Namaskaara – paying homage in the form of namaste
Upasangrahan – touching the feet of elders or teachers.
Shaashtaanga – prostrating fully with the feet, knees, stomach, chest, forehead and arms touching the ground in front of the elder.
Pratyabivaadana – returning a greeting.

Rules are prescribed in our scriptures as to who should prostrate to whom. Wealth, family name, age, moral strength and spiritual knowledge in ascending order of importance qualified men to receive respect. This is why a king though the ruler of the land, would prostrate before a spiritual master. Epics like the Ramayana and Mahabharata have many stories highlighting this aspect.

Reference : Central Chinmaya Mission Trust, Chinmaya Mission UK, www.chinmayauk.org (for awareness purpose only)
Images : PhotoTantra

Why do we light a lamp?

“In Indian Culture, Why Do We…” under the guidance of Swamini Vimalananda Radhika Krishna Kumar

In almost every Indian home a lamp is lit daily before the altar of the Lord. In some houses it is lit at dawn, in some, twice a day – at dawn and dusk – and in a few it is maintained continuously (Akhanda Deepa). All auspicious functions commence with the lighting of the lamp, which is often maintained right through the occasion.

Light symbolizes knowledge, and darkness, ignorance. The Lord is the “Knowledge Principle” (Chaitanya) who is the source, the enlivener and the illuminator of all knowledge. Hence light is worshiped as the Lord himself.

Knowledge removes ignorance just as light removes darkness. Also knowledge is a lasting inner wealth by which all outer achievement can be accomplished. Hence we light the lamp to bow down to knowledge as the greatest of all forms of wealth.

Why not light a bulb or tube light? That too would remove darkness. But the traditional oil lamp has a further spiritual significance. The oil or ghee in the lamp symbolizes our vaasanas or negative tendencies and the wick, the ego. When lit by spiritual knowledge, the vaasanas get slowly exhausted and the ego too finally perishes. The flame of a lamp always burns upwards. Similarly we should acquire such knowledge as to take us towards higher ideals.

Whilst lighting the lamp we thus pray:
Deepajyothi parabrahma
Deepa sarva tamopahaha
Deepena saadhyate saram
Sandhyaa deepo namostute

I prostrate to the dawn/dusk lamp; whose light is the Knowledge Principle (the Supreme Lord), which removes the darkness of ignorance and by which all can be achieved in life.

Copyright: Central Chinmaya Mission Trust, Chinmaya Mission UK, www.chinmayauk.org
Photos copyrights with Aarya Life, Prarthana Khot