Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Mutation of mind

~~Mutation of mind

Instead of trying to discipline the mind, 
bring it back forcibly and try to focus it on a point, 
why not be more friendly with the mind, 
and find out what it wants, why it wants, 
and where are the roots of the conflicting urges? 

You know, concentration and discipline have been
the age old ways trodden by thousands and thousands. 

I am not questioning their integrity, the seekers, 
who were born through those centuries—
I am not trying to criticize them.

But, being a religious person, 
I would like to question the validity of everything, 
and discover the meaning of everything for myself. 

That is the essence of religion, which is humility. 
Not to accept anything unless you understand 
the meaning there of, personally in your life. 

If you accept without understanding, 
you will be imposing upon the mind.

And then you are neither true to the mind, 
nor true to the meaning. 

The essence of religion, which is humility, 
lies in uncovering the meaning of life, 
uncovering the meaning of every moment, 
learning the meaning of life for ourselves.

Therefore I say: 
why should discipline be necessary if we are friendly with our mind? 

Perhaps if we are friendly with the mind, 
if we watch the mind, if we understand the mind, 
if we let it wander, let it roam about wherever it wants, 
let it exhaust its momentum by wandering, 
without scolding, without praising, without condemning, 
it might exhaust its momentum 
and arrive at the simple, innocent silence. 

I would prefer understanding the mind, 
rather than disciplining the mind.

That understanding might create its own discipline, 
that is quite different. 

Understanding of mind awakens a new quality of attention, 
all inclusive attention, in which 
I am aware of the stimulus in the objective world; 
I am aware of the sensation it carries to the brain; 
I am aware of the brain cells getting tickled and stimulated, 
trying to interpret and translate the sensation according to its conditioning; 
I am aware of the nature of my reactions, 
how I am responding to that.

This awareness of the so called 
outward and the inward movement of life is meditation. 

The simultaneous awareness of the total movement is meditation. 

If I am aware of the nature of my reactions, 
and movement of my reactions, 
naturally that awareness will result in freedom from the reaction. 

I cannot stop the reaction, 
because the reactions have been rooted 
in the subconscious, in the unconscious. 

I cannot prevent, 
I cannot renounce, 
I cannot check them. 
But if I am aware, simultaneously of the objective challenge, 
the subjective reactions and the causes of these reactions, 
then it results in freedom. 

Then the momentum of reaction will not carry me over with it, 
but I will be ahead of the reactions. 

I will not be a victim of my reactions, 
but I will see them as I see the objective challenge. 

That for me is meditation. 
All inclusive attention while moving in life. 

~~Vimala Thakar,

Whatever quality arises –
Light, activity, delusion –
He neither dislikes its presence
Nor desires it when it is not there.

He who is unattached,
who is not disturbed by the gunas,
who is firmly rooted and knows
that only the gunas are acting

who is equally self-contained
in pain or pleasure, in happiness
or sorrow, who is content
with whatever happens, who sees

dirt, rocks, and gold as equal,
who is unperturbed amid praise
or blame of himself, indifferent,
to honor and to disgrace,

serene in success and failure,
impartial to friend and foe,
unattached to action – that man
has gone beyond the three gunas.

He who faithfully serves me
with the yoga of devotion, going
beyond the three gunas, is ready
to attain the ultimate freedom.
〜〜Bhagavad Gita

Friday, May 24, 2013

The 3 Bandhas

When the Yogi has perfected his Asanas he should practice Pranayama according to the instructions of his master. With controlled senses he should nourish himself with moderation. (Chapter 5, verse1, Hatha Yoga Pradipika).
Bandha means catching hold of, control. It can mean a posture where certain organs or parts of the body are contracted and controlled. There are three main Bandhas which are important to Pranayama; Mula Bandha, Uddiyana Bandha and Jalandhara Bandha.
Breath can be retained with the lungs full or empty. When breath is restrained it is call Kumbhaka (breath retention). The Bandhas are used with Kumbhaka to channel Kundalini in the Sushumna Nadi and to further the process of becoming one with the absolute. The breath can be held to different stages of practice. 1, till you feel like you want to breathe. 2, until the need for breath is strong. 3, till there is a primal fear that you must breathe or die. 4, till you perspire and tremble. The breath should always be under your control and you should be able to exhale or inhale smoothly after Kumbhaka. Some benefits of Kumbhaka include the stimulating of "internal cellular" breathing which happens in the cells when there is no new oxygen coming into the lungs. It creates a state of emergency in the body which forces the cells to speed up their metabolic activity in order to maintain equilibrium. They become more efficient in their use of oxygen and more efficient in the release of carbon dioxide as well as other toxins. Reserves of prana and oxygen are drawn out from regions of the body otherwise not accessed. During Kumbhaka one experienced a deep sense of introversion. Contraindications for Kumbhaka can include high blood pressure and other heart conditions, heavy menstruation and recent surgery.

The Bandhas:

Mula Bandha- mula means root, source, origin or cause, base or foundation. Its location is at the base of the spine (perineum). This Banda is used to lock the energy, to keep it from going downward. It seals the foundation so that the energy can rise upward. When mastered this Bandha should be used in asana practice whenever possible (standing, backbends and first chakra poses). This Bandha can be practiced with Puraka (internal) or Rechaka (external) Kumbhaka. Especially good for the organs of reproduction.
Technique- from a standing or sitting position, contract the anal sphincter or use the Kegel exercise to feel the core being drawn upward from within. With continued practice work toward using less muscle for the same lifted feeling. Practice until you can feel the area being drawn upward energetically without (or minimally) using the muscles. It is easier to first practice this by inhaling and holding the breath, and then contract the area. Practice contracting and releasing several times on one Puraka (held inhalation) then release and breath normally. You can try this Bandha in the table position, exhale into cat (chin and tailbone curling down and back arching). This draws the Mula in naturally.

Uddiyana Bandha- Uddiyana means flying up. This Bandha is used to continue the upward flow of energy (Kundalini) through the Sushumna Nadi. The abdomen is drawn in and up; to lift the diaphragm and internal organs up into or toward the chest (thorax). Tones and strengthens the abdominal muscles and improve the function of the organs of digestion and elimination. This Bandha is only practiced on Rechaka (external) Kumbhaka.
Technique- after exhaling completely and holding the breath out, the abdomen is drawn in as far as possible and then drawn upward. Uddiyana is never practiced holding the breath in (Antara Kumbhaka). Hint: try exhaling completely and closing the mouth and nose attempt to breathe in abruptly. This suction will allow you to feel the contraction required to perform the Uddiyana Bandha. Or use your hand on your belly and help lift the inners as you contract and lift eventually being able to do this naturally.

Jalandhara Bandha- means a net, a web, a lattice or a mesh. In Jalandhara Bandha the neck and throat are contracted, the back of the neck lengthened and the chin is lowered toward the chest. This position contains prana within the container (prana body) If performed incorrectly one feels pressure on the heart, eyes, ears and brain and even cause headaches. This Bandha can be practiced with Puraka (internal) or Rechaka (external) Kumbhaka.  
Technique- This is the position of the neck in Sarvangasana (shoulder stand). From a sitting position, lengthen the back of the neck, lower the chin toward the chest and attempt to swallow to complete the seal in the throat.
© Copyright Tony Riposo 2008

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Tantra Yoga


According to the philosophy of Tantra, the entire universe is a manifestation of pure consciousness. 
In manifesting the universe, this pure consciousness seems to become divided into two poles or aspects, neither of which can exist without the other.

Each requires the other in order to manifest its total nature.

These poles are talked about in all the major spiritual traditions in the world.

One aspect, Shiva (or in Taoism Yang) , is masculine, retains a static quality and remains identified with unmanifested consciousness.

Shiva has the power to be but not the power to become or change.

The other aspect, Shakti (or in Taoism Yin), is feminine, dynamic, energetic and creative.

Shakti is the Great Mother of the universe, for it is from her that all form is born.

According to Tantra, the human being is a miniature universe.

All that is found in the cosmos can be found within each individual,

and the same principles that apply to the universe apply in the case of the individual being.

In human beings, Shakti, the feminine aspect is called Kundalini.

This potential energy is said to rest at the base of the spinal cord.

The object of the Tantric practice of Kundalini-yoga is to awaken this cosmic energy and make it ascend through the psychic centers (chakras) that lie along the axis of the spine as consciousness potentials.

The goal of Tantra being to unite our feminine (sexual) energy with the masculine (intellectual) energy in our brains.

This union is the aim of Kundalini-yoga: a resolution of duality into unity again, a fusion with the Absolute.

By this union the adept attains liberation while living which is considered in Indian life to be the highest experience:

a union of the individual with the universe.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Ashtanga Invocation:  opening sanskrit Opening Prayer 

gurunam charanaravinde
sandarsita svatmasukhava bodhe
nihsreyase jangalikayamane
samsara halahala mohasantyai
abahu purusakaram
sankhacakrasi dharinam
sahasra sirasam svetam
pranamami patanjalim

I bow to the two lotus feet of the (plurality of) gurus, 
which awaken insight into the happiness of pure being, 
which are the refuge, the jungle physician, 
which eliminate the delusion caused by the poisonous herb of Samsara (conditioned existence).

I prostrate before the sage Patañjali who has thousands of radiant, white heads (as the divine serpent, Ananta) and who has, as far as his arms, assumed the form of a man holding a conch shell (divine sound), a wheel (discus of light or infinite time) and a sword (discrimination). 

a treatise written by the great Indian philosopher Shankaracharya on the non-dual nature of mind, body and world.

The chant begins with our two palms united in front of the heart, a gentle bow and a deep inhale.

Vande gurunam charanavinde
- I bow to the two lotus feet of the (plurality of) gurus

Bowing is not a common act in our culture. Bowing, literally taking the posture of humility, acknowledgement and gratefulness is not a superficial act of religious endeavour but the very heart of our spiritual attitude. In the context of this verse, we are bowing down to something simultaneously universal and particular, not an idol or imagined deity of worship, but the guru in its unlimited manifestations. There is no element in life that is not, in its depth, a teacher.
The word guru comes over into English as gravity. Bowing down to gravity in human forms means bowing to someone who understands the law of gravity, one who is unmoved by circumstance. Yet guru, which we usually translate as teacher, is pluralized – a rare form of the term. Its pluralization hints at two things: firstly, the fact there are many, many teachers that have come before us on this path which in essence is what makes the path recognizable. Second, there are many teachings, for many different kinds of people, and we are bowing down to the spirit of pluralism.
But then the sentence twists into a surprising conclusion. Charanaravinde are two lotus feet, which are your own lotus feet. If you can visualize this, we can imagine that all of the teachers of the past, all of the possible teachings, and every form of potential wisdom that we may derive from this practice, all come down to two lotus feet, which already exists in the centre of your own heart. Why look elsewhere?

Sandarasita svaatmasukhava bodhe – Which awaken insight into the happiness of pure being

The term sukkha, the opposite of duhkha, refers to the sweetness of steady being.
No longer caught up in fixation and aversion, we find our selves awakened (bodhe) to the reality of being free in each and every moment of experience. Imagine doing your chores, your practice, your relationships, with the ease of someone taking a stroll. Bodhe is an important term here because enlightenment in the yoga tradition is described as a process of awakening. Awakening from what? The more we catch ourselves acting out unconscious habits and
falling asleep at the wheel of life, the further along we move on the path of awakening because we shed our habits through an ongoing process of inner renunciation.

Nihsreyase jangalikayamane - 
Complete absorption in joy is found through the jungle physician

At the centre of our karmic conflicts and tendency toward the known and conservative, is a jungle physician whose skill lies in transmuting repetition into freedom. The jungle here is symbolic of a mind and body entangled in self and its related discontent; the physician is the healer. So again, we find an image of the physician, like guru, as being located inside our own mind and body. A good teacher knows this – he or she will always hand what the students brings right back to them. The teacher is not a friend or a saint but simply one who clarifies, grounds, and assists the students in seeing his or her entanglements as the very path itself.

Samsara halahala mohasantyai

The entrapments we find ourselves in, the entanglements that put knots in relationship and contractions throughout the body, are all based on having swallowed samsara. In this verse it’s said that we have swallowed a poisonous herb (halahala) of conditioned existence (samsara), which creates delusion (moha) rather than peace (shanti). The jungle physician assists in the elimination of delusion through the disentanglement of our conditioned existence. In other words, if we are caught in conditioned habits of existence, the jungle physician reminds us that those very habits are the path of yoga itself and it is through our conditioning that we can wake up to unconditioned, unmodified, reality.
Ivan Illich describes the role of the physician clearly:

"The medical enterprise saps the will of people to suffer their own reality. It destroys our ability to cope with our own bodies and heal ourselves… Our hygienic hubris is rooted in our attempt to engineer an escape from suffering. We medicalize the entirety of life."
Instead of compartmentalizing suffering we give it a central place in our practice space. The jungle physician uses the raw suffering of being alive as the path out of suffering so that we find wisdom and freedom in the giving up of our escape strategies. Yoga returns us to present experience and is not in any way an escape from the unfolding life of mind, body and relational existence.

Abahu purusakaram - Down to the shoulders he Patañjali assumes the form of a man

The second part of the chant, beginning with the term abahu is a visualization of the sage Patañjali, the attributed author of the Yoga Sutra. From the shoulders up, he assumes the form of a man and from the shoulders down, he has a stainless white serpent’s tail. These two images – human form above the arms and perfectly stainless below the shoulders – describe, in essence, the nature of the spiritual life. We have in us the ability to be perfect and stainless, which in figurative terms refers to our innate capacity as humans to wake up, become ever more compassionate, and live a life free from the turning wheels of habit. Yet we also have the tendency to shut down, cling, overcompensate, and compulsively identify with thoughts of "I," "me," and "mine."
As thinking and speaking humans we use language to communicate and interact, to make meaningful sense of our experience, and also to educate. Yet language and the capacity to conceptualize also get us into trouble. When we categorize people, abstract our experience, speak harmfully, or isolate "things," we separate our experience from the complex web out of which it lives. We are not neatly defined or segregated from the relational reality of life.

Sankhacarasi dharinam - Holding a conch shell, a wheel and a sword

With his human hands, Patañjali is holding a conch shell, a wheel and a sword. These three objects symbolize the nature of enlightenment – the reality of a person free from lack.
The conch shell represents pure listening and the nature of pure sound.
What that means in terms of practical existence is the ability to listen without preference or what we might call "free listening." Imagine the ability to have such patience that we can listen to others without distraction or aversion even if what they are saying does not correspond to our viewpoint. Listening not only improves relationship immeasurably but also challenges us to be present with and be affected by perspectives that are not necessarily the one we cherish.
Relationship is the key to yoga because listening to others always interrupts our favorite projection and indelible beliefs. The wheel, as a mandala or chakra, represents infinite time.
Like listening, time refers to patience. When we are impatient we are not aware of the time and when we are patient time dissolves into itself. When we are out of step with time there is suffering.
Dukkha is the gap between time and the mind.
When we are one with our actions we are unaware of the time and suddenly the stream of time and the source of time become one. When we are fully present in every moment, we become time.
Asi is the sword that in some images Patañjali is holding with two hands. It is a sword sharp on two sides and represents a mind so sharp and agile that it cuts through what is real and what is not, what is changing, what causes suffering, and what creates wisdom and compassion.
In some traditions both wisdom and compassion are symbolized by a sword or a vajra, a human held thunderbolt. When the mind becomes sharp and flexible it is clearly present.
This counters the popular myth that yoga stops the thinking process. Rather, the practice of yoga clarifies our thinking processes because when we are no longer fixated and averse to what arises in awareness, we free up space and mental energy to take swift and appropriate action.

Sahasra sirasam svetam - He has thousands of radiant white heads

Blooming from the base of his skull, Patañjali has thousands of white heads, each one radiant and more spectacular than the next.
Patañjali is known to be an incarnation of Adi S'esha who is the first expansion of Vishnu.
We prostrate in front of the full expression of reality in symbolic form as a complete reorientation of mind, body and speech.

Pranamami Patañjalim - I prostrate to the sage Patañjali

The chant begins with a bow and ends with a bow. We are prostrating not to a belief system or an idol but rather we are recognizing the qualities of listening, patience, discriminative awareness and the back and forth movement between waking up from habit and being pulled down by habit, as the elements that comprise our spiritual path. Patañjali, both in his Yoga Sutra and in image, points us back toward our own self and through that self into the many interconnections in the web of existence that confirm our sense of being authentic selves.
No matter how many times we finish a meal and wash all the dishes, another meal brings more dishes. The practice is never complete. When we give up the notion that practice leads to something, we find a stack of dishes right in front of us. That stack of dishes is our practice. Whether those dishes consist of parenting or back bending, providing for aging parents or breastfeeding, chopping wood or fixing a tire, that is our practice in that moment. To be fully in each moment both stillness and action arise side by side. Practice moves back and forth between the two because yoga is nothing other than what is happening right here and right now.

Tradition Ashtanga Invocation: New Translation & Commentary
By Michael Stone, Copenhagen 2007