Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Brief Guide to the Power of Love


: This is the third in a series of posts to inspire and support awakened living. The first post asked, “Is Your Deepest Longing a Part-Time Hobby?,” and the second post addressed the value of studying our habits.

“Put away all hindrances, let your mind full of love pervade one quarter of the world, and so too the second quarter, and so the third, and so the fourth. And thus the whole wide world, above, below, around and everywhere, altogether continue to pervade with love-filled thought, abounding, sublime beyond measure, free from hatred and ill-will.”

This is not a post about loving yourself, as that is impossible. You can’t love what you already are. But some parts of us were left out when this understanding was passed around. You know them – the hurts, fears, and defenses we cling to. When we are sucked in by them, we feel anything but love.

If you want to awaken to your brilliance, here’s what you need to know: love heals.

The Antidote to Suffering

Love is the healing balm, the medicine for all ills, the great equalizer. When we are peaceful and open, when our hearts quiver in recognition when we meet each other. The culprit? Love.

It is true: we can stop all our struggles dead in their tracks, then we are free. Flood them with love – every time. These “pretend” parts of ourselves – the ones that think we are limited and unworthy – they just can’t survive the power of love. Once they are seen and embraced, they melt back into their source, and wholeness is realized once again.

Notice Love Everywhere

The starting point for this practice is to notice your natural open-heartedness. When you look, you will find it everywhere.
  • What are you grateful for?
  • Who do you feel close to?
  • When do you give effortlessly?
  • What makes you feel tender and compassionate?
  • When does your heart sing with joy?
The commonality in all of these experiences is love. When we let the objects go – the thing we are grateful for, the situation that brings joy – we meet in the infinite oneness of love. Right now, can you sense it? It’s so real.
The more we recognize all the faces of love, the more it becomes our experience. Do you want to be peaceful and happy? Notice it, inhabit it, play in it, drown in it. Remember the ease of effortless being.

Offer Love Where It Was Once Denied

Then, in the midst of this vast, loving space, the seemingly wounded places within ourselves pop up in our everyday lives - the habitual strategies and defensive postures. They feel dense and confining. When under their spell, we try so hard to be satisfied and fulfilled, yet wonder why we end up feeling alienated and resigned.

Each rigid belief system, each grudge and tender feeling exist because there was a time in our lives when love was denied. We didn’t have the strength, understanding, or support to feel our painful emotions. They split off from the whole, hidden outside our awareness, trying to help but longing for resolution.

All it takes is love. Where the body is contracted or vacant, flood it with love. When difficult feeling states appear, let them be immersed in it. Let it flow through your brain to touch every expectation and judgment, every sad story that won’t stop repeating, every thought that doesn’t serve you or anyone else.

In the moment of suffering, then love overflowing, the edges wither and the hard nut of the pain dissolves. Really. Can a leaf stay attached to a tree in the face of a tsunami? The power of true loving awareness truly heals.

If love is the medicine, here are the risks. A glorious life beyond your wildest dreams. Happiness beyond measure. Intimacy that is closer than close.

Do you want relief from suffering? Love heals. What are you waiting for?

Everyday Meditation

By Gail Brenner

Meditation Is a Gift to Yourself
By Gail Brenner on February 4, 2010

“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”
Joseph Campbell

As I look back, I can see that meditation saved me. Before I started meditating, I had had many years of therapy, but somehow I still wasn’t happy. It was 1995 (ages ago!). I had been reading about Buddhism for a year, but was avoiding meditation like a peeping tom avoids knocking on the door. I was curious and interested, but was too scared to actually sit in silence with myself.

I finally bit the bullet, and the true healing began.

Why Meditate

The beauty of meditation is that we intentionally stop the momentum of our patterns so we can see what we are really experiencing. When we unconsciously play out our habits and addictions day after day, year after year, nothing changes. We may try to modify our thoughts or analyze our childhoods, but the root of the problem still exists.

Meditation is the dam on the rushing river that allows us to discover what the swirls and eddies are all about. It puts an end to avoidance and rationalizing, and invites us to directly investigate our actual experiences in the moment and come to peace with them.

Sitting in quiet offers the possibility of deconstructing our habits. Over time, we begin to see that we run the same boring stories through our minds or that our bodies are wrought with tension that we never noticed before. These illuminating observations are almost impossible when we are traveling through our lives at warp speed.

How It Works

Say that you have a tendency to snack mindlessly at night. Most people would agree that this kind of eating is about dodging emotions rather than assuaging hunger. In meditation, you stop acting on the momentum of this pattern. You feel the urge to snack, but make the choice to explore your inner experiences instead.

Here is where a whole new world opens up! It might be uncomfortable, but you finally see the feeling of fear or lack that has been driving you. A behavior as seemingly mundane as snacking can lead you to a deep understanding of your most basic belief systems and world views.

And when all of this is allowed space to be in meditation – specific emotions, contractions in the body, churning thoughts – you are able to make a conscious choice about what you want to do. You learn that these driving forces can be a part of your experience, and you can refrain from acting on them. This is true freedom.
The Secret Treasure

As these identities and habits begin to fall away, the ultimate secret treasure of meditation is revealed. We discover that in between the stories and emotions is space. When we explore the space, we see that it is clear, alive, shining, and expansive.

And it is steady and enduring. We see that our experiences come and go, but this aliveness is always here. This is the space of the unconditioned, prior to any learning. It is obscured by our busy minds, but completely available to be discovered. Here is sanity and peace.

Have you ever had the experience of intense well-being come over you for no reason or an insight that the objects of the world are not real or your heart so filled with love that it is impossible to contain in your physical body? This is the unconditioned, pure consciousness, always present.

And if you haven’t had these experiences, no cause to be concerned. Once you commit to self-discovery, the identities that you take to be you will eventually begin to shed, and glimpses of this essence, your true nature, will be available.

Sitting quietly is a refuge, and offers an incredible opportunity that brings us back to ourselves. The next post will offer the how-to of meditation. I welcome any questions and would love to hear about your experiences with meditating.

“If you could only keep quiet, clear of memories and expectations, you would be able to discern the beautiful pattern of events. It is your restlessness that causes chaos.”

How to Meditate
By Gail Brenner on February 9, 2010

“The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself. “Henry Miller

In the last post, we talked about the purpose of meditation. I mean the real purpose. Sure, meditation can lower blood pressure, improve sleeping, and help people cope with physical pain. These are not small benefits and are valid reasons to meditate.

The Role of Meditation

But if what we want is freedom from self-defeating habits of all kinds and the realization of enduring happiness and peace, the practice of meditation can be a huge support.

There is no law that says we must meditate or we must know ourselves. The choice is completely ours. Some people avoid it like the plague, and others simply aren’t interested. But for those lucky ones (you?) who want to be truly happy and cannot help but ask the big questions, meditation is a tool that helps to shed habits and realize freedom.

When we are under the influence of our habitual patterns, inner discovery is next to impossible. Take an alcoholic as an example. Could he possibly see what is driving his need to drink while sitting at the bar with a gin and tonic?

Substitute for “alcoholic,” procrastinator, commitment-phobe, overeater, or self-deprecator, and you will discover your version of avoidance. When we allow the momentum of our patterns to carry us, we are too involved to see how they actually operate.

Freedom Is Possible

Simply sitting in quiet on a regular basis becomes a refuge of sanity from the pressure of our habits. It provides the space for us to stop and see what we are actually experiencing. It is a step away from the endless hamster wheel.

We learn that thoughts are just thoughts, feelings just feelings, and that we don’t need to react. It is so amazing to see that we can feel angry or recognize a recurring story of woe in our minds and we don’t need to do anything. We are simply present.

This is the freedom that stopping makes possible. Our choice is this: we can stay blind to what motivates us and continue playing out habits, or we can stop, notice what we are thinking and feeling, and allow those experiences just to be present.

The How-To

Meditation is extremely simple – we sit quietly and allow everything to be as it is. Whatever we experience, we simply see it without doing anything to it. We might notice physical sensations, sounds, thoughts, or feelings that may be subtle or strong. We might notice urges to do something or tendencies to resist or avoid.

Our job in meditation is simply to be aware of these comings and goings without involving ourselves. We may feel the urge to move our attention in a given direction, but instead of acting on the urge, we stay still and allow it to unfold. That’s all there is to it.

You can think of yourself as the boundless sky. Clouds and weather pass through, but the sky is present, unmoving, unaffected.

For many of us what I am suggesting is easier said than done. The point of meditation is not to instigate a fight with what we experience. It is to be with what is. If avoidance or self-criticism appears, then that is the experience to receive in that moment. If you feel a fight brewing, then be with those feelings, thoughts, and body sensations.

When we meditate, we have a neutral, friendly attitude to everything that arises – the hard experiences as well as the mundane and blissful ones. Most of us wish to be accepted unconditionally by people. Meditation is the opportunity for us to be unconditionally accepting of ourselves, of every experience that arises in the moment. All are welcomed in the space of open awareness.

The Nuts and Bolts

Start to meditate by setting aside a few minutes for yourself. If the idea of meditating scares you, just try it for maybe five minutes, eventually working up to fifteen minutes or more. The idea is to be alert, awake, attentive, open, and receptive.

Settle your body into a comfortable sitting position, and close your eyes. Once you are settled so your body can be still, begin to pay attention to your breathing. This, alone, can be amazing. Simply track your inhale and exhale. Notice what happens around your nose, chest, back, and belly. All you are doing is noticing.

Another way to start is to open to sounds. Let your awareness be receptive to any sounds that appear, close or far. Be the still point in the center, and allow the sounds to come to you.

After a minute or so, let go of paying attention to the breathing or hearing sounds, and open your attention completely to everything that arises. You might notice thoughts, feelings, and sensations in your body. Just be a loving presence.

Thinking Is Not a Problem

At some point, you are likely to notice that you have gotten caught up in thinking about something. This is completely natural, and not a problem. When you realize you have been lost, simply shift your attention back to the space that receives everything.

This may happen thousands of times, if not more. Still not a problem. Each time, gently return to loving awareness. This is the movement to presence that stems the momentum of playing out habits unconsciously. This momentum is highly conditioned, so it takes some time to soften. Be kind with yourself.

One of the misunderstandings about meditation is that the goal is to stop thinking. You will realize that this is impossible. Thinking may stop, but it happens on its own and not because you are doing anything to make it stop. Thinking is part of experience, and all experiences are welcomed unconditionally.

No Goal

The goal is not to get anywhere or accomplish any particular state, including states of rapture or bliss. The “goal” is simply to be with what is. Be awake to the ordinary, everything as it is.

Meditation serves as long as it is needed. Some people have been meditating daily for decades and for others the practice comes and goes. There is no assignment or “should” about it. If you feel moved to meditate, then enjoy. If not, life will bring you exactly what you need in some other form. If you are aware of avoiding meditation out of fear, you may consider examining your resistance.

In the ultimate state of awakeness, meditation is the enduring way of being. Even the concept of the meditator falls away, and all that exists is pure awareness. Thoughts and emotions may come and go, but awareness, you, remains untouched. This is what Adyashanti calls true meditation.

If you haven’t meditated before, give it a try. I’d love to hear how it goes. If you are a seasoned practitioner, feel free to share your experiences. Any questions are always welcome and will help everyone.

Everyday Meditation
By Gail Brenner on February 24, 2010

“If your everyday practice is to open to all your emotions, to all the people you meet, to all the situations you encounter, without closing down, trusting that you can do that - then that will take you are far as you can go. And then you’ll understand all the teachings that anyone has ever taught.”
Pema Chodron

In a comment on the recent post, How to Meditate, reader Linda wrote about the peace and calm she experiences when meditating, then acknowledged, “I want to find the way in to that state more often.” I imagine Linda is not alone. Does anyone out there want to feel peaceful and calm more often?

Discovering a state of inner tranquility, through meditation or any other means, is revolutionary. In this busy, driven world we live in even a few moments of silent awareness can change everything. When we discover that this haven of calm is always available within us, we realize that a moment of stopping and dropping in brings sanity and perspective. This is everyday meditation.

Meditation in This Moment

As we addressed in a previous post, true meditation is simply being aware of everything without resistance. Being aware takes a movement of our attention away from outer circumstances and the stories we tell ourselves about them. We go from being involved with the contents of our restless minds to being the space that everything arises in.

Why not try it for a second right now? Close your eyes, and move your attention first to your breathing, then to the space prior to the breathing from which the breath arises. Or look at the space in which these words you are reading is appearing. You will notice that that inner space is clear, quiet, and undisturbed. It is peace itself.

As we can see, this space is available, always. When it is revealed, it is just like the clouds parting to reveal the sunlight that has been there all along. A formal meditation practice is a training ground that adds a great deal of support to this realization, but the only requirement to be aware is a willingness to shift our attention.
Becoming Aware

Obsessively engaging in thinking, most of which is unproductive, can be thought of as a habit. Moving our attention away from thinking can feel like we are trying to stop a freight train barreling down the tracks. But freight trains can slow down, and becoming aware that we have been thinking is like the moment the brakes are applied. There is a stopping – and then the opportunity for a conscious choice. These moments are overflowing with possibility. Where do you choose to place your attention?

Every time we realize that we have been caught up in thinking and shift to the space of awareness, the habit of thinking softens. Every time we make the choice to stay awake to what is actually happening, we know peace.

We cannot make ourselves become aware that we have been thinking. These moments simply happen. But, by implementing the suggestions below, we can nudge ourselves in the desired direction.

* Meditation Practice. A regular meditation practice is a great support to increase the moments of awareness. When we set aside a few minutes every day to sit quietly, we are removing ourselves from the outer stimulation of the world and inviting in moments of awareness.

* Investigate the Habit of Thinking. Become very familiar with the experience of being caught up in thinking about something. What is happening in your body? What emotions are arising? What is the energy like that is motivating the thoughts? Do you feel depressed, anxious, or conflicted. Any of these experiences can signal you to wake up and make the choice to shift your attention to the space of awareness.

* Be with Like-Minded Others. Go to a meditation group. Connect with people who are interested in exploring inner stillness. Read blogs that support truly knowing yourself – rather than fixing yourself.

* Know Your Triggers. Make conscious choices about the stimuli you expose yourself to. Be fully in the world, but be wise about how you do it. If violent movies agitate you, if you find the news disturbing, make another choice. See how you can orient your life toward stepping off the spinning hamster wheel and allowing yourself to be still.

* Give Yourself Reminders. It might sound mechanistic, but it can be helpful to get into the habit of stopping for a moment before getting out of bed in the morning or starting your car.

When we become aware, we wake up from the lives we create in our minds to experience what is actually here – this breath, these sensations. Peace is closer than we could ever imagine. Be still, and you will know reality as it is – fresh, clear, and alive.

By Gail Brenner

Love is… Kind


Part 3 of Love Is… series (see part 2 here) How do you define love? How do you know that you are actually loving your spouse? When we’ve measured love by the butterflies in the pit of our stomach what happens when the flutters subside? In this blog series we’re taking a practical approach of defining love and executing in our marriages. We’ll have a measuring stick for our love. A love that’s more than heroic, but can be found in the day to day.
What is Love, really?
“Love is patient, love is kind…” – 1 Corinthians 13:4

Are you kind in your marriage? You said that you loved your spouse so you admit that you are kind. But does being kind mean that you are sappy all the time? Does it involve you standing eternally in front of a closed door saying, “After you, no after you”. No, kindness is about noticing your spouse and what they need.  Here is a definition of what it means to be kind:

Kind means to be useful and helpful: I was shocked as I researched this word how often kindness centered around being of use to somebody else. Kindness is always about looking after the good of another person and asking, “How can I help?” Do you notice your spouse as they are doing something around the house and ask them, “How can I help?”  Lots of time when I see Thea in the kitchen cooking or folding clothes, I ask “how can I help?” This is being kind. But better than that is if you are not just helpful but also useful. Do you ever do things that are helpful to your spouse without having to be asked? If your wife pulls into the garage and you know she’s been grocery shopping, do you just sit on the couch and wait for her to come inside or do you hop up and rush to the garage to help her bring in the groceries?  What ways can you think that you can show your kindness and love by being helpful and useful

Kindness means being sympathetic: Are you showing how kind you can be by being sympathetic towards your spouse? Or are you an insensitive scumbag? Being sympathetic to have a certain level of sensitivity to the emotions of others. I love the phrase from the Bible that says to “rejoice with those that rejoice and weep with them that weep.” When your spouse comes home and is excited about something, do you stop what you are doing to be happy with them? Or if they are sad or upset about something, do you stop what you are doing to lower your shoulder to them? Or do you try to rush them through their feelings to “get over it?” How kind are you? If you can’t do this, you can’t really say that you love your spouse.

Kindness means not just doing what is convenient for yourself: Do you only do what’s convenient for you? My wife almost always asks me when she is getting herself something if I always want something. If we come home for lunch she will start to prepare my lunch without asking. If I am not feeling well, she pulls out all the stops to cater to me and make sure that I am feeling ok. I noticed that I was not giving her the same courtesy. When I was up getting ice cream or pouring something to drink I wouldn’t ask her, if we came home for lunch and I started fixing my lunch first I wouldn’t prepare hers, if she was not feeling well I would be impatient about trying to make her feel better. And if I did ask her, fix her lunch or try to take care of her, if was with a poor attitude. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to do as much good for her as she did for me, if was just that it was an inconvenience to me. But it occurred to me that it was also not convenient for her either? And on top of that it wasn’t kind. How could I say that I really loved my wife if I wasn’t being kind to her?

Love is kind.

Are you being kind in your marriage? What do you think about the above description of kindness? How can you express your love in the area of kindness to your spouse today?

Enhancing Family Unity

As moms, we have a tremendous opportunity to impact our family in significant ways if we are intentional in our actions. I am incredibly passionate about how significant our role truly is in the home and love it when I can encourage and inspire a mom I am working with to take their role up a notch.

In today’s busy, fast paced world it is easy to lose sight of what truly is important. I believe it takes a conscious effort to create a feeling of connectedness in our family and if we don’t do this everyone suffers.

You hear about all kinds of unfortunate circumstances that families find themselves and I often wonder if they could have been avoided. I feel pretty strongly that they could and I would love to share with you a few intentional steps that you could incorporate in order to create or keep connected as a family.

Slow Down - We are so use to running from one activity to the next usually going through the drive-thru to get some food and getting on to the next activity. I really wonder if this is what is wrong today? Everyone has different situations and I am not here to tell anyone how to manage their own family, but I can tell you, the families that I see make it work and I see enjoying each other are the ones who’s daily schedule is not dictating their lives. They have made a conscious choice to limited time away from home, set boundaries on their time and make family time at home together a priority.

When you take a few minutes to write out your priorities and then look at what is actually happening in your life you may have some adjusting to do. If you are living by your priorities things just seem to flow a little easier, if you are not, things tend to be more difficult and more stressful. I know for me, I need and enjoy spending evenings at home with all the kids around sitting in the kitchen and family room doing homework. This is true peace to me. Yep, I am a pretty simple gal and do enjoy the little things!

Eat together – When was the last time you ate together as a family? I mean not driving in the car or up at the breakfast bar in the kitchen, but at a real table with real conversation?

The research is there and still we wonder the value of eating meals together as a family. For example:

According to a (2005) Columbia University survey, teenagers who eat with their families at least five times a week are more likely to get better grades in school and much less likely to have substance abuse problems.

A survey of 1,000 teens by the National Center Addiction and Drug Abuse at Columbia University (2008) found that nearly half of teens thought dinnertime was the best time to talk to their parents about something important. More than 80% of the teens in the same survey said they preferred having dinner with their families to eating alone.

The Home-School Study of Language and Literacy Development, a joint project between Harvard’s Graduate School of Education and Clark University, found that the discussions that take place at the dinner table are important to children’s speech development. Lively discussions of current events or explanations make a bigger contribution to children’s vocabularies than just saying “Pass the peas.”

So, better grades and less likely to have substance abuse problems, greater opportunity to connect with your teen and better language development. WOW – I don’t know about you, but we all have to eat so why not make this a priority in order to reap these additional benefits?

If family meal time is missing from your daily or weekly schedule, start incorporating it in. Take the time to plan dinner, have it be something your family looks forward to, invite some interesting conversation topics (a great resource is Family Table Topics, our family loves this!) talk about your day, ask open ended questions, not the typical “how was your day” instead say, “tell me about your day” “what was your favorite part” “what was the worst part”, you will be amazed at what comes out of those simple questions. Talk about what is in the news depending on the age of your children, just get everyone talking.

If you need help getting a plan together for dinner, check out Emealz or Beyond Beans and Weenies – two great sites that help moms prepare and deliver dinner with less stress!

Share tasks – There is nothing more uniting than having a common goal among members working toward the same end. So, with the daily tasks involved with running a household there are many opportunities for everyone to participate in some form. Whatever age your children are – they can contribute. The sooner you involve them the better it is for everyone, most importantly them! I am a firm believer on sharing tasks and taking ownership in jobs. Where else are your children going to learn the value of cooperation, teamwork and sharing? We have a family meeting every 6 months and have a list of tasks that need accomplished and then everyone gets to start picking from the list what they would like to help with. It is the same concept as assigning chores, but when kids have a say in what they help with you would be amazed at the difference in attitude. No one likes to be told what to do, but when it comes across as ‘everyone doing their part’ it just sits a little better.

Play Together – Do you make it a habit to do fun stuff together as a family? Or do you find everyone going out on their own to do the things they enjoy? Why not build some activities in your week that will provide opportunity for you to laugh together as a family, create unique and treasured memories and knit heartstrings closer together? Remember, all work and no play is no fun for anyone!

When was the last time you sat around after school and made chocolate chip cookies with the kids while they did their homework? Or perhaps let one of your children cook a completely ridiculous dinner and you all just enjoyed it? (Backwards dinners are always fun – you know – dessert first then the main meal!) Why not start creating a list of fun things the family would like to do together and then leave it in a place everyone can see and just start crossing off some of those things by doing them! Let everyone make suggestions and then write them in the calendar, otherwise if you are like me, they won’t get done!

I cannot tell you how many times someone brings up a memory of something fun we did and we just start laughing all over again. My family just recently tie dyed t-shirts one afternoon and now when everyone wears theirs it creates an opportunity to talk about when they did that and how much fun it was to do that together. Believe me when I say, I am not a big fan of tie dye…..so sometimes you have to stretch yourself even doing some things you don’t like in order to benefit the greater cause!

I have more ideas, but do not want to overwhelm you! Stay tuned for another post on this, but in the meantime I would love to hear from you:

What ways does your family create unity and connectedness? Is it something that comes naturally or are you intentional about it? What are the benefits you have seen from making this a priority?

Friday, September 17, 2010

How to Practice Loving Kindness Meditation

by Ven. Dhammapala 

To develop the sublime abiding of...lovingkindness (mettà), you need first of all be aware that it should not be developed towards a person of the opposite sex (lingavisabhàga), or a dead person (kàlakatapuggala).

A person of the opposite sex should not be used as object, be­cause lust towards him or her will probably arise. After you have attained jhàna, however, it is possible to develop lovingkindness towards the opposite sex as a group with, for example, `May all women be happy.' A dead person should at no time be used, because you cannot attain lovingkindness jhàna with a dead person as object.

The people you should develop lovingkind­ness towards are:
  1. Yourself (atta)
  2. A person you like and respect (piya puggala).
  3. A person you are indifferent to (majjhatta puggala)
  4. A person you hate (verã puggala).

In the very beginning, though, you should develop lovingkindness towards only the first two, yourself and the person you like and respect. This means that in the very beginning, you should not develop lovingkindness towards the following types of person: a person you do not like (appiya puggala), a person very dear to you (atippiyasahàyaka puggala), a person you are indifferent to (majjhatta puggala), and a person you hate (verã puggala). A person you do not like is one who does not do what is beneficial to you, or to those you care for. A person you hate is one who does what is detrimental to you, or to those you care for. They are in the beginning both difficult to develop lovingkindness towards, because anger may arise. It is in the beginning also difficult to develop lovingkindness towards a person to whom you are indifferent. In the case of a person who is very dear to you, you may be too attached to that person, and be filled with concern and grief, and even cry if you hear something has happened to him or her. So these four should not be used in the very beginning. Later, though, once you have attained loving kindness jhàna, you will be able to develop loving kindness towards them. You cannot attain jhàna using yourself as object even if you were to develop that meditation for a hundred years.

So why begin by developing lovingkindness to yourself? It is not to attain even access concentration, but because when you have developed lovingkindness towards yourself, with the thought, `May I be happy', then are you able to identify yourself with others; to see that just as you want to be happy, do not want to suffer, want to live long, and do not want to die, so too do all other beings want to be happy, not want to suffer, want to live long, and not want to die. Thus you are able to develop a mind that desires the happiness and prosperity of other beings. In the words of The Buddha:(1)
Sabbà disà anuparigamma cetasà,
Nevajjhagà piyatara mattanà kvaci.
Evam piyo puthu attà paresam,
Tasmà na himnse paramattakàmo.
(Having searched in all directions with the mind, one cannot find anyone anywhere whom one loves more than oneself. In this same way do all beings in all directions love themselves more than anyone else, therefore, one who desires his own welfare should not harm others.)

So in order to identify yourself in this way with others and make your mind soft and kind, you should
first develop loving kindness towards yourself with the following four thoughts:
  1. May I be free from danger (aham avero homi)
  2. May I be free from mental pain (abyàpajjo homi)
  3. May I be free from physical pain (anãgho homi)
  4. May I be well and happy (sukhã attànam pariharàmi)
If one's mind is soft, kind, understanding, and has empathy for others, one should have no difficulty developing loving kindness towards another. So it is important that the loving kindness you have developed towards yourself be strong and powerful. Once your mind has become soft, kind, understanding, and has empathy for other beings, then can you begin to develop loving kindness towards them.

How You Develop Loving kindness Person by Person
If you have attained the fourth ànàpàna-, or white kasina-jhàna, you should re-establish it so the light is bright, brilliant, and radiant. With the light of particularly the fourth white-kasina jhàna, it is really very easy to develop lovingkindness meditation (mettà bhàvanà).(2)

The reason is that with the concentration of the fourth jhàna the mind is purified of greed, anger, delusion, and other defilements. After having emerged from particularly the fourth white-kasina jhàna, the mind is pliant, workable, pure, bright, brilliant and radiant, and because of this, you will in a very short time be able to develop powerful and perfect loving kindness (mettà). So, with the strong and bright light, you should direct your mind towards a person of your own sex, whom you like and respect: maybe your teacher or a fellow yogi. You will find that the light spreads out around you in all directions, and that whomever you pick as object becomes visible. You then take an image of that person, sitting or standing, and select the one you like most, and which makes you the happiest. Try to recall the time when he or she was the happiest you ever saw, and choose that image. Make it appear about one yard in front of you. When you can see the image clearly before you, develop lovingkindness towards him or her with the four thoughts:
  1. May this good person be free from danger (ayam sappuriso avero hotu)
  2. May this good person be free from mental pain (ayam sappuriso abyàpajjo hotu)
  3. May this good person be free from physical pain (ayam sappuriso anãgho hotu)
  4. May this good person be well and happy (ayam sappuriso sukhã attànam pariharatu).

Extend loving kindness towards that person with these four phrases three or four times, and then select the one you like most, for example, `May this good person be free from danger'. Then, with a new image of that person, in this case free from danger, extend loving kindness using the corresponding thought, in this case, `May this good person be free from danger may this good person be free from danger'. Do it again and again, until the mind is calm and steadily fixed on the object, and you can discern the jhàna factors. Then, keep practicing until you reach the second, and third jhànas. After that take each of the other three phrases and develop loving kindness up to the third jhàna. You should have an appropriate image for each of the four phrases, that is, when thinking `May this good person be free from danger', you should have a particular image of that person as free from danger; when thinking `May this good person be free from mental pain', you should have another image, one of that person as free from mental pain, and so on. In this way you should develop the three jhànas, and remember in each case to practice the five masteries (vasã-bhàva). When you have succeeded with one person you like and respect, do it again with another person of your own sex whom you like and respect. Try doing this with about ten people of that type, until you can reach the third jhàna using any of them.

By this stage you can safely go on to people, still of your own sex, who are very dear to you (atippiyasahàyaka). Take about ten people of that type, and develop loving kindness towards them one by one, in the same way, until the third jhàna. Then you can also take about ten people of your own sex whom you are indifferent to, and in the same way develop loving kindness towards them until the third jhàna.

You will by now have mastered the loving kindness jhàna to such an extent that you can in the same way develop it towards about ten people of your own sex whom you hate. If you are a type of Great Being like the bodhisatta when he was Mahàkapi, the monkey king, who never hated anyone who harmed him, and you really neither hate, nor despise anyone, then do not look for someone to use here. Only those who have people they hate or despise can develop loving kindness towards that type.

Practicing loving kindness in this way, that is, by developing concentration up to the third jhàna on each type of people, progressively from one to the next, from the easiest to the more difficult, you make your mind increasingly soft, kind and pliant, until you are finally able to attain jhàna on any of the four types: those you respect, those very dear to you, those you are indifferent to, and those you hate.

How You Break Down the Barriers
As you continue to thus develop loving kindness, you will find that your loving kindness towards those
you like and respect, and those very dear to you, becomes even, and you can take them as one, as just people you like. Then you will be left with only these four types of person:
  1. Yourself
  2. People you like
  3. People you are indifferent to
  4. People you hate
You will need to continue developing loving kindness towards these four, until it becomes balanced and without distinctions. Even though you cannot attain loving kindness jhàna with yourself as object, you still need to include yourself in order to balance the four types.

To do this, you need to re-establish the fourth ànàpàna-, or white kasina-jhàna. With the strong and bright light, extend loving kindness to yourself for about a minute or even a few seconds; then towards someone you like, then someone you are indifferent to, and then someone you hate, each one up to the third jhàna. Then again yourself briefly, but the other three types must now each be a different person. Remember to develop them with each of the four phrases, `May this good person be free from danger' etc. each, up to the third jhàna. Thus you should every time change the person of each of the three types: a person you like, one you are indifferent to, and one you hate. Do this again and again, with different groups of four, many times, so that your mind is continuously developing loving kindness without interruption, and without distinctions. When you are able to develop loving kindness jhàna towards any of the four without distinction, you will have achieved what is called `breaking down the barriers' (simàsambheda). With the barriers between types and individuals broken down, you will be able to further develop your lovingkindness meditation, by taking up the method taught by the Venerable Sàriputta; recorded in the Patisambhidàmagga.(3)

The Twenty-Two Categories
The method in the Patisambhidàmagga involves twenty-two categories by which to extend one's lovingkindness: five unspecified categories (anodhiso pharanà), seven specified categories (odhiso pharaõà), and ten directional categories (disà pharanà).

The five unspecified categories are:
  1. All beings (sabbe sattà)
  2. All breathing things (sabbe pànà)
  3. All creatures (sabbe bhutà)
  4. All people (sabbe puggalà)
  5. All individuals (sabbe attabhàvapariyàpannà)

The seven specified categories are:
  1. All women (sabbà itthiyo)
  2. All men (sabbe purisà)
  3. All enlightened beings (sabbe ariyà)
  4. All unenlightened beings (sabbe anariyà)
  5. All devas (sabbe devà)
  6. All human beings (sabbe manussà)
  7. All beings in the lower realms (sabbe vinipàtikà)

The ten directional categories are:
  1. To the east (puratthimàya disàya)
  2. To the west (pacchimàya disàya)
  3. To the north (uttaràya disàya)
  4. To the south (dakkhiõàya disàya)
  5. To the south-east (puratthimàya anudisàya)
  6. To the north-west (pacchimàya anudisàya)
  7. To the north-east (uttaràya anudisàya)
  8. To the south-west (dakkhiõàya anudisàya)
  9. Downwards (heññhimàya disàya)
  10. Upwards (uparimàya disàya)

How You Develop the Unspecified and Specified Categories
To develop this method of loving kindness meditation, you should as before re-establish the fourth jhàna with the white kasina, and develop loving kindness towards yourself, a person you respect or who is dear to you, one you are indifferent to, and one you hate, until there are no barriers between them and you. Then use the bright and brilliant light to see all the beings in as big an area as possible around you, around the building or monastery. Once they are clear, you can develop loving kindness towards them according to the five unspecified categories, and seven specified categories: twelve in total. You should at each category pervade loving kindness in four ways:
  1. May they be free from danger,
  2. May they be free from mental pain,
  3. May they be free from physical pain,
  4. May they be well and happy.
`They' is in each case one of your twelve categories, all beings, all devas, etc. Thus you will be pervading loving kindness in a total of forty-eight ways ((7+5) x 4 = 48).

The beings in each category should be clearly visible in the light of concentration and understanding. For example, when you extend loving kindness to all women, you should actually see, in the light, the women within the determined area.(4) You should actually see the men, devas, beings in lower realms etc., in the determined area.4 You must develop each category up to the third jhàna before moving on to the next. You should practice in this way until you become proficient in pervading loving kindness in all forty-eight ways. Once proficient, you should expand the determined area to include the whole monastery, the whole village, the whole township, the whole state, the whole country, the whole world, the whole solar system, the whole galaxy, and the whole of the infinite universe. Develop each of the expanded areas in the forty-eight ways up to the third jhàna. Once proficient you may proceed to the ten directional categories.

How You Develop the Ten Directional Categories
The ten directional categories of lovingkindness involve the previously discussed forty-eight categories in each of the ten directions. You should see all beings in the whole of the infinite universe to the east of you, and extend lovingkindness to them in the forty-eight ways. Then do the same thing to the west of you, and so on in the other directions. This gives a total of four hundred and eighty ways to extend loving kindness (10 x 48 = 480). When we add the original forty-eight categories of pervasion, we get five hundred and twenty-eight ways to extend loving kindness (480 + 48 = 528).

Once you master these five hundred and twenty-eight ways of pervading loving kindness, you will experience the eleven benefits of practicing loving kindness, which The Buddha taught in the Anguttara Nikàya:(5) Bhikkhus, when the mind-deliverance of loving kindness is cultivated, developed, much practiced, made the vehicle, made the foundation, established, consolidated, and properly undertaken, eleven benefits can be expected. What are the eleven?
  1. A man sleeps in comfort; wakes in comfort;
  2. and dreams no evil dreams;
  3. he is dear to human beings;
  4. he is dear to non-human beings;
  5. devas guard him;
  6. fire, poison and weapons do not affect him;
  7. his mind is easily concentrated;
  8. his complexion becomes bright;
  9. he dies unconfused;
  10. and if he penetrates no higher, he will be reborn in the Brahma World.
May you have all of these categories very soon !

by Ven. Dhammapala on Friday, 17 September 2010 at 17:13

Quoted ~~
(1) S.I.III.i.8 `Mallikà Sutta' (`Mallikà Sutta')
(2) In this regard, please read these Question & Answer ....

Question: Why don't we, after attaining the fourth jhàna, go straight to discern the five aggregates, their nature of impermanence, suffering, and non-self, and attain Nibbàna? Why do we before attaining Nibbàna need to practise meditation on the thirty-two parts of body, skeleton, white kasina, four-elements, materiality, mentality, dependent-origination, and Vipassanà?
Answer: The Buddha taught the five-aggregates method of practising Vipassanà to three types of person:
those who have sharp wisdom,
those whose insight-knowledge of mentality is not clear,
and those who prefer to practise Vipassanà in the brief way.

What are the five aggregates? What is the difference between the five aggregates and mentality-materiality? Do you know the answer? Before answering your second question, let us discuss mentality-materiality and the five aggregates. There are four ultimate realities (paramattha): consciousnesses (città), associated mental factors (cetasikà), materiality (rupa), and Nibbàna. To attain Nibbàna, the fourth ultimate reality, we must see the impermanent, suffering and non-self nature of the other three, that is, we must see: Eighty-nine types of consciousness Fifty-two associated mental factors
Twenty-eight types of materiality. The eighty-nine types of consciousness are called the consciousness-aggre­gate (vinnànakkhandha). Of the fifty-two associated mental factors, feeling is the feeling-aggregate (vedanàkkhandha); perception is the perception-aggregate (sanàkkhandha); and the remaining fifty associated mental factors are the formations-aggregate (sankhàrak-khandha). Sometimes the consciousnesses (città) and associated mental factors (cetasikà) together are called mentality (nàma). Sometimes they are seen as four aggregates, the feeling-aggregate, the perception-aggregate, the formations-aggregate and the consciousness-aggre­gate, which together are the mentality-aggregate (nàma khandha). The materiality-aggregate (rupakkhandha) is the twenty-eight types of materiality. The consciousnesses, associated mental factors and materiality together are called `mentality-materiality' (nàmarupa). They are sometimes also called the five aggregates: materiality, fee­ling, perception, formations, and consciousness. Their causes are also only mentality-ma­teriality. These five aggregates subject to clinging are Dukkha sacca Dhammà: the dhammas of the Noble Truth of Suffering. They need to be understood as such. In the `Mahànidàna Sutta' of the Dãgha Nikàya, The Buddha explains:

This dependent origination is profound, Ananda, and profound it appears. And, Ananda, it is through not knowing, through not penetrating this Dhamma, that this generation has become become a tangled skein, a knotted ball of thread, matted as the roots in a bed of reeds, and finds no way out of the round of rebirths with its states of loss, unhappy destinations perdition.

With regard to this statement, the commentaries explain: There is no one, even in a dream, who has got out of the fearful round of rebirths, which is ever destroying [beings] like a thunderbolt, unless he has severed with the knife of knowledge, well whetted on the stone of sublime concentration, this Wheel of Becoming [Dependent-Origination], which offers no footing owing to its great profundity and is hard to get by owing to the maze of many methods. This means that the yogi who does not know, and has not penetrated Dependent-Origination by the different stages of insight knowledge, cannot escape from the round of rebirths. And in the `Titthàyatana Sutta' of the Anguttara Nikàya, this was said by The Buddha:
And what, bhikkhu, the Noble Truth of the Origin of Suffering? With ignorance as condition, [there are] volitional formations; with volitional formations as condition, consciousness; with consciousness as condition, mentality-materiality; with mentality-materiality as condition, the six sense-bases; with the six sense-bases as condition, contact; with contact as condition, feeling; with feeling as condition, craving; with craving as condition, clinging; with clinging as condition, existence; with existence as condition, birth; with birth as condition, ageing-and-death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, displeasure and despair come to be. Such is the origin of this whole mass of suffering. This, bhikkhus, is called the Noble Truth of the Origin of Suffering.
This is also called dependent origination. And The Buddha says dependent origination is the Noble Truth of the Origin of Suffering (Samudaya Sacca). The Noble Truth of Suffering, which is the five clinging aggregates, and the Noble Truth of the Origin of Suffering, which is dependent origination, are called formations (sankhàrà). They are the object of Vipassanà, insight knowledge. At the different stages of insight knowledge you comprehend these formations as impermanence (anicca), as suffering (dukkha), and as non-self (anatta). Without knowing and penetrating them, how can you comprehend them that they are impermanent etc.? That is why we teach Vipassanà systematically. To know ultimate materiality, the materiality-aggregate of clinging, you must practise four-elements meditation till you see that materiality consists of small particles that we call rupa-kalàpas, and you need to see the four elements in those small particles. And you need to discern both the base and its object together. Without discerning materiality this way, you cannot discern mentality, the four mental aggregates of clinging. That is why we teach Vipassanà stage by stage.
Now your second question. According to the Theravàda tradition, there are two types of meditation subject (kammaññhàna): pàrihàriya kammaññhàna and sabbatthaka kammañ­ñhàna. Pàrihàriya kammaññhàna is the meditation subject by which the individual yogi develops concentration to be used for Vipassanà. The yogi must always use that meditation subject as his foundation. Sabbatthaka kammaññhàna, on the other hand, is the meditation subjects to be developed by all yogis alike. They are the four protective meditations:
  1. Lovingkindness meditation (mettà bhàvanà)
  2. Recollection-of-The-Buddha (Buddhànussati)
  3. Recollection-of-death (maraõànussati)
  4. Foulness meditation (asubha bhàvanà)
So although a yogi uses ànàpànasati (mindfulness-of-breathing) as his pàrihàriya kammaññhàna, he must practise the four protective meditations before going on to Vipassanà. This is the orthodox procedure. To develop lovingkindness meditation up to jhàna, it is better if the yogi has already developed the white-kasina meditation up to the fourth jhàna. An example of this is the five hundred bhikkhus to whom The Buddha taught the `Kara­nã­yamettà Sutta'. Those bhikkhus were expert in the ten kasiõas and eight attainments (samàpatti), had practised Vipassanà up to the Knowledge of Arising and Passing Away (udayabbaya nàna), and had gone to the forest to meditate further. But they returned to the Buddha, because the devas resident in the forest had become annoyed and had frightened the bhikkhus. The Buddha taught the bhikkhus the `Kara­nã­yamettà Sutta' both as a meditation subject and as a protective chant (paritta). As a meditation subject it is for those who have already attained lovingkindness jhàna (mettà jhàna), and have broken down the barriers between the different types of person. The `Karanãyamettà Sutta' is a more specialized practice of lovingkindness, in which one practises up to the third jhàna by extending lovingkindness to eleven categories of beings with the thought: `Sukhino và khemino hontu, sabbe sattà bhavantu sukhitattà' (May all beings be happy and secure etc.). The Texts say The Buddha knew those five hundred bhikkhus would very easily be able to do this, because they were already expert in the ten kasinas. And how is lovingkindness jhàna made easier by kasina meditation? In the Anguttara Nikàya, The Buddha taught that of the four colour kasinas, the white kasina is best. The white kasiõa makes the yogi's mind clear and bright. A clear and tranquil mind is superior and powerful. If a yogi practises lovingkindness meditation with a clear mind, free from defilements, he usually attains lovingkindness jhàna within one sitting. So if one enters the fourth white-kasina jhàna, and after emerging from it, practises lovingkindness jhàna, it is very easy to succeed. In order to attain the fourth white-kasina jhàna, a yogi should first practise skeleton meditation internally and externally, because this makes the white-kasina meditation very easy. Therefore, after the fourth ànàpàna jhàna we usually teach yogis to do the thirty-two parts of the body, skeleton meditation and white-kasina meditation. In our experience, most yogis say that the fourth white-kasina jhàna is better than the fourth ànàpàna jhàna, because it produces a clearer, brighter and more tranquil mind, which is also very helpful for practising other meditation subjects. So we usually teach white-kasina meditation before lovingkindness meditation. There is also a problem common to beginners. You may have practised lovingkindness meditation. Did you attain jhàna? In practice, if a yogi wants to extend lovingkindness to someone of the same sex, he should first take the smiling face of that person as object, and then develop lovingkindness towards him with: `May this good person be free from mental suffering, etc.' With a beginner that smiling face very soon disappears. He cannot continue his lovingkindness meditation, because there is no object, and so he cannot attain loving kindness jhàna or anything. If he uses the fourth white-kasina jhàna, it is different. He emerges from the jhàna, and when he develops lovingkindness, then because of the preceding concentration the smiling face will not fade away. He is able to concentrate deeply on that image, and able to attain up to the third lovingkindness jhàna within one sitting. If he practises systematically up to the breaking down of barriers between the different types of person, he can even prac­tise the eleven ways of the `Karaniyamettà Sutta', and five hun­dred and twenty-eight ways mentioned in the Pañisambhidà-magga Pàli Text.
For this reason too, we usually teach the white-kasina meditation before lovingkindness meditation. You may also have practised recollection-of-The-Buddha (Buddhànussati). Did you attain access concentration? When those who have succeeded in lovingkindness jhàna practise recollection-of-The-Buddha, they are able to reach access concentration within one sitting, again because of the preceding concentration. Foulness meditation (asubha) too becomes easy. If a yogi practises foulness meditation up to the first jhàna, and then recollection-of-death (maranànussati), he is able to succeed within one sitting. That is why we teach the white-kasina meditation before the four protective meditations. If, however, a yogi wants to go straight to Vipassanà, without practising the four protective meditations, he can do so: no problem.

(3) Ps.II.iv `Mettà Kathà' (`Lovingkindness Explanation')
(4)This does not mean that the yogi can actually see every single woman, man, deva etc. within the determined area: it means that the yogi should extend lovingkindness with the intention that it is for every single woman, man, deva etc., and that insofar as he can, he should see them all.
(5) A.XI.ii.5 `Metta Sutta' (`Metta Sutta')

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Bringing Yoga into Education.

How would you feel about yoga being part of the national curriculum?
If yoga could be recognised for what it is without all the mystical connotations then the schools and education authorities would realise how valuable it could be for the younger generation in todays society.
As a yoga teacher and mother who encourages the practice of yoga for children, I have come across a number of barriers within society which are based on pure ignorance. I strongly feel that it is important to educate authorities about what yoga has to offer, canceling out any fears and judgements.

Physical Education in Schools.

As part of the national curriculum here in the UK, physical education and sports are offered in the daily school program and as after school activities. The idea behind physical education is to attempt to make sport attractive to children of all levels, help to raise standards, improve behaviour and health, increase attendance and develop social skills. This was certainly not something I experienced at school. I remember clearly being taunted and teased for not being able to jump a hurdle, I don’t think I’ve attempted to run since.
Without sounding too bleak all this allows children to participate in a variety of activities including games, gymnastics, swimming, water safety and athletics. Many schools offer a chance for children to take part in outdoor pursuits which are offered as week – long residentials. Although these activities are part of the curriculum, physical exercise plays less of an important role in the education system than any other subject. Here I’m relating to sporting activities in the UK, so please feel free to leave a comment regarding your own experiences in another country, it’s great to acknowledge any differences that may occur throughout the world.
Children spend more of their time sitting at desks on poorly designed chairs instead of exploring the ability to move and to connect with their physical bodies.

Practice 1.

During lesson time in school or any other time when children are required to sit for long periods of time it’s good to encourage movement after 20 minutes. It’s usually after this amount of time that levels of concentration start to wane, causing tiredness. A simple solution would be to introduce stretches for approximately 2 -5 miuntes which would help reawaken the mind and body.
  • Stretch the arms above the head and come up onto the tiptoes, stretch up high and keep lengthening upwards, feeling the stretch along the sides of the body.
  • Place the feet a hip width apart and begin to circle the upper body 10 times anti-clockwise and 10 times clockwise. Make large circles very slowly, try to keep the eyes closed and listen to the sound of the breath. Oh and please don’t forget to smile!
This practice can be done in the work place too, so don’t just think it’s for the children.

Why Yoga?

Believe it or not children go through a lot of pressures and sometimes this can cause their lives to veer out of control. When they feel stress or anxiety how do they cope? What can they do to release their tensions? Many children resort to misbehaving only because they have no other way of dealing with the feelings that are inside of them.
Introducing yoga into daily school life automatically gives children the tools to be able to deal with their issues on all levels, physically, mentally and spiritually. Yoga asanas ( postures ) have been scientifically proven to increase circulation to all the internal organs including the brain. When oxygen is released around the body it reduces symptoms of fatigue and enhances concentration. Working regularly on yoga postures will increase flexibility and therefore enhance the practice of other sporting activities offered during school time. Flexibility of the body encourages flexibility of the mind and the importance of mind control and meditation skills for children during their school years and beyond. Relaxation and meditation incorporating breath control and awareness steer the mind towards a positive outlook. They give us the ability to sustain our feelings in a balanced way. This can be vital during the temperamental changes that children experience while growing into young adults and I’m guessing many of us will have experienced this, either personally or from watching our own children grow.

Practice 2.

This simple practice can be used during lesson times or children’s group sessions to bring harmony back to a hectic classroom environment.

  • Create a circle with the class either sitting cross legged on the floor or in chairs. Each child should connect hands with the child on their left and on their right and take 5 minutes of silent time, watching the breath moving in and out of the body while breathing through the nose. After the practice there will be a noticeable difference, the class will be calmer and more attentive.
If working with children who have short attention spans then reduce the time of the practice by 1 or 2 minutes. In time as the children recognise the practice and it’s importance timings can be increased.
When we encourage awareness of the breath then the increase in oxygen around the body is profound, it can also help counteract childhood problems such as asthma and bronchial issues. However remember this is a support not as a total cure.

Yoga and Religion.

In some schools yoga is misjudged. This is due to lack of understanding on the subject. The quote below explains what yoga truly is:
” Is yoga a religion?
It is and it is not.
In religion you have to believe something
And in yoga you have to experience what you want to believe. ” – Yogi Bhajan.
It is about experiencing for yourself and acknowledging where you are at that particular moment in time, mentally , physically and spiritually and not about following a structured religion.
As a yoga teacher offering yoga to children in schools i have often experienced negative comments regarding yoga and it’s philosophy. A number of Christian schools have refused to acknowledge what yoga really is without any solid knowledge or information. Re – education is a necessity for teachers and authorities to gain some form of understanding on yoga and it’s benefits.
Yoga means to unite, to encompass everyone, not to exclude or segregate a particular race or religion. Everyone has the ability to make yoga part of their life and reap the benefits it has to offer.

Yoga Recognised in Education.

There are schools that recognise yoga as part of the education system, but it will often come under a different name such as movement therapy or self exploration. Putting yoga under another title makes it accessible to children of all faiths. One day this should change but at present due to lack of spiritual acceptance, knowledge and unity in certain communities it sadly seems a necessity to disguise the positive aspects that yoga can teach us all.

Miri Piri Academy, India.

The MPA was founded in 1997 by Yogi Bhajan, the first to publicly teach Kundalini Yoga when he arrived in the west in 1968. The study of Kundalini Yoga is a major part of life at the MPA. Until 10th grade children are regularly involved in classes in which they learn the fundamentals of  a yogic lifestyle. In the 11th and 12th grade students participate in Kundalini Yoga teacher training courses.
When one student was asked why she was at MPA she replied: ”
” MPA is certainly not a school you find everywhere,
you learn disciplines in mind and soul and that makes it special.
You put yourself in a situation where if you go through a challenge then anything else becomes easier. “

Indra is a Yoga teacher and writer of various published articles across the globe and has over 22 years yoga experience. She loves the fact that she fell to earth and landed in the garden of a Punjabi man and an Irish women, later to be known as her parents. Indra has a multitude of life experience and has walked down many avenues to get where she is today. She teaches yoga to children of all ages in the UK or anywhere that will have her. Loves her kids, yoga, writing, traveling, reading, drinking yogi tea and the odd coffee, movies, fairy tales and tattoos. To be honest the list of loves is endless......... Love and lightness. website and become a fan on facebook


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Four ways that kindness promotes a healthy lifestyle

We may feel this instant rush of gratitude when someone does something nice for us without asking, or even a feeling of pride when we ourselves “pay it forward,” but do we truly know the effect kindness has on us? After doing some research I came to realize that many are unaware that kindness isn’t just good for the soul, its good for the body and mind too. I’ve narrowed down the top four reasons why it feels good to give.
Kindness reduces stress
After performing an act of kindness you may feel a rush of euphoria also know as a “helpers high.” This happens when your body releases endorphins followed by a period of calm, reducing depression, chest pain and the feeling of isolation.
Kindness is a pain killer
If you’re in pain you may be constantly craving Tylenol in hopes of erasing the annoyance, but with by a simple good deed, you brain increases its serotonin level (a neurotransmitter that improves mood) helping those who suffer from chronic conditions.
Kindness is free joy
According to Allan Luks, former executive director of the Institute for the Advancement of Health, volunteering on a rapid basis produces the same kind of joy as doubling your income or gaining a college degree. I guess it is true that money can’t buy you as much happiness as social interactions can.
Kindness is an immunity booster
Forget using Airborne to combat seasonal flu before it starts, creating new relationships with strangers and helping those with troubles can boost your immune system as well as the recipients. Researchers say that a steady release of endorphins strengthens the immune system. Your body will be thanking you and so will your wallet.
Today’s world can be so hectic that we often forget to take time to think about ourselves let alone others. Being kind to others takes less time than you may think and produces an even greater feeling of appreciation then you may expect.
Photo by tanakawho via Flickr.
posted by Sheasteinberg

Monday, September 6, 2010

A Lifelong Gift - Family Meditation

By following our example of a daily practice, we show children that meditation can be a normal part of daily life.

Once we have discovered all that meditation can do for us in our lives, we have the opportunity to share that knowledge with our children. Since a child’s first experiences take place in the home, what they learn there provides a foundation of knowledge and then becomes their basis for comparison as they move out into the world. Even if we may not feel that we are qualified to teach, we can plant the seeds that will give them a basic understanding of the peace and power that lie within them.

There are many ways we can instill the value of meditation. Since children tend to learn just as much, if not more, by observation and imitation, rather than by instruction, we can teach by example. By following our practice, we show them that meditation is part of daily life. Even if they appear to resist, they will come to understand meditation’s importance in maintaining their inner health if you treat it as something that is as important and as essential as eating well and keeping proper hygiene. Little children are not the only ones that can benefit by learning meditation; preteens and teenagers can also benefit from learning the skills necessary to calm their minds and spend quality family time meditating together.

We may be able to introduce them to the concept of closing their eyes and taking inner journeys by listening to visualization CDs, or you may comfortable enough to guide them through a visualization of your own. Creating a time of quiet listening in the middle of guided imagery helps them know that they can be silent and go within whenever they choose. You might want to sit together and hold hands, creating a deep bonding ritual that may become everyone’s favorite part of the day. By discussing afterward, you can discover how your child experiences his or her inner world. By teaching children how to create with their minds and how to access the stillness within them, you are giving them tools that will help them create the best lives possible. 

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Power of Service

There appears to be a whole world of people who find their meaning through service more than through personal achievement. This heartens me greatly, because the power of service seems to be losing its hold on the modern heart and imagination.

I can think of no value more needed in modern society than a belief in service to others. It is love made manifest, and virtue softly spoken.

There is nothing profound about this observation; it is simply a reminder of what we all know: car axles and medical bills are important, but they are not essential. What is essential is the human touch that we are able to share with our fellow travelers in our passage through life.

So join me today and perform some small act of service. The axle will get fixed, the heating system will get repaired, the bill will get paid, and the shelf will get replaced. In each instance there will be some measure of cursing, wailing, checking of account balances, and gnashing of teeth. But in the end, all will get resolved.
What I have to remember — what we all have to remember — is that problems end, but kindness carries forward. It spreads and grows and fills in the spaces around the hard-edged occurrences of the day.

Ultimately it is this simple: the person to whom I am kind — the person I serve — has his or her bad axle, unfair medical bill, broken heating system, or damaged shelf, too. And he or she may have a lot worse. My small act of service or kindness may be the best moment in that person’s day.

Such a possibility is good enough in our ordinary lives.

Mental Feng Shui

ONE. Give people more than they expect and do it cheerfully.
TWO. Marry a man/woman you love to talk to. As you get older, their conversational skills will be as important as any other.
THREE. Don't believe all you hear, spend all you have or sleep all you want.
FOUR. When you say, 'I love you,' mean it.
FIVE. When you say, 'I'm sorry,' look the person in the eye.
SIX. Be engaged at least six months before you get married.
SEVEN. Believe in love at first sight.
EIGHT. Never laugh at anyone's dreams . People who don't have dreams don't have much .
NINE. Love deeply and passionately. You might get hurt but it's the only way to live life completely.
TEN. In disagreements, fight fairly. No name calling.
ELEVEN. Don't judge people by their relatives.
TWELVE. Talk slowly but think quickly.
THIRTEEN. When someone asks you a question you don't want to answer, smile and ask, 'Why do you want to know?'
FOURTEEN. Remember that great love and great achievements involve great risk.
FIFTEEN. Say 'bless you' when you hear someone sneeze.
SIXTEEN. When you lose, don't lose the lesson.
SEVENTEEN. Remember the three R's: Respect for self; Respect for others; and Responsibility for all your actions.
EIGHTEEN. Don't let a little dispute injure a great friendship.
NINETEEN. When you realize you've made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.
TWENTY. Smile when picking up the phone. The caller will hear it in your voice.
TWENTY-ONE. Spend some time alone.

A true friend is someone who reaches for your hand and touches your heart

Friday, September 3, 2010

The importance of gentleness

Every impulse has its influence upon the word and upon the action. Therefore naturally every impulse exerts its full power through words and deeds unless it is checked.

There are two types of persons: those who have learnt to check their word and action when they exert their full power, and express themselves abruptly; the other kind of persons are those who mechanically allow this natural impulse to show itself in their word and deed without giving any thought to it. The former, therefore, is gentle, and the latter is man.

Gentleness is the principal thing in the art of personality; one can see how gentleness works as the principal thing in every art. In painting, in drawing, in line and color it is gentleness which appeals most to the soul. The same we see in music. A musician may be qualified enough to play rapidly and may know all the technique, but what produces beauty is his gentle touch.

It is mainly gentleness which is the basis of all refinement. But where does it come from? It comes from consideration, and it is practiced by self-control. There is a saying in Hindustani: ‘The weaker the person, the more ready to be angry.’ The reason is that he has no control over his nerves; it is often lack of control over oneself which is the cause of lack of gentleness.

No doubt one learns gentleness by consideration. One must learn to think before saying or doing. Besides one must not forget the idea of beauty. One must know that it is not enough simply to say or do, but that it is necessary to say or do everything beautifully. It is the development of the nations and races which is expressed in gentleness. Also it is the advancement of the soul’s evolution which expresses itself in gentleness. Nations and races, as well as individuals, will show backwardness in their evolution if they show lack of gentleness.

 … The delicacy of the human heart is not comprehended by everyone. Human feeling is too fine for common perception. A soul who develops his personality, what is he like? He is not like the root or the stem of the plant, nor like the branches or leaves, he is like the flower, the flower with its fragrance, color, and delicacy.

The Sufi Message of Hazrat Inayat Khan

7 Deadly Sins of Relationships

“Remember, we all stumble, every one of us. That’s why it’s a comfort to go hand in hand.” – Emily Kimbrough
While I not going to claim to be the world’s foremost expert on relationships, I do have some training in what makes relationships work, and I know that my wife and I have worked hard (and continue to work) to make our relationship great.

Every marriage has its difficulties, and every marriage has its joys. But when you learn the deadly sins of relationships, you are more likely going to recognize them and then avoid them.

There are many people interested in tips and ideas on how to make marriage work. I wish I had a magic formula (if I did, I’d already be retired living as a gazillionare on my own island in the tropics – and of course you could come visit).

While there is no magic formula, it helps to keep in mind that marriage is designed to help you grow up into a better person. Here are a couple of other things to do as well:
  • spend time alone together
  • be kind and respectful to each other
  • be intimate often
  • love, give, and share with one another.
Just as important as what you should do is what you shouldn’t do — and I’m sure many of you have stepped into these pitfalls yourselves. I have. But I’ve worked to learn from my mistakes, and have learned to recognize when I’m making a fatal error, and then how to correct it.

If you can avoid these seven things, and focus instead on doing the four things above, you should have a strong relationship. I’m not going to guarantee anything, but I’d give you good odds. :)

  1. Resentment. This is a poison that starts as something small (“He didn’t get a new roll of toilet paper” or “She doesn’t wash her dishes after she eats”) and builds up into something big. Resentment is dangerous because it often flies under our radar, so that you don’t even notice you have the resentment, and your partner doesn’t realize that there’s anything wrong. If you ever notice yourself having resentment, you need to address this immediately, before it gets worse, because resentment turns into contempt. Marriage researcher John Gottman considers contempt as one of the deadliest things in a marriage. In order to have a great marriage you must have contempt for contempt within the relationship. Cut it off while it’s small. There are two good ways to deal with resentment before it evolves into contempt: 1) breathe, and just let it go — accept your partner for who she/he is, faults and all; none of us is perfect; or 2) talk to your partner about it if you cannot accept it, and try to come up with a solution that works for both of you (not just for you); try to talk to them in a non-confrontational way, but in a way that expresses how you feel without being accusatory.
  2. Jealousy. It’s hard to control jealousy if you feel it. It seems to happen by itself, out of our control, unbidden and unwanted. However, jealousy, like resentment, is relationship poison. A little jealousy is fine, but when it gets to a certain level it turns into a need to control your partner, leads to unnecessary fights, and makes both parties unhappy. If you have problems with jealousy, instead of trying to control them it’s important that you examine and deal with the root issue, which is usually insecurity. That insecurity might be tied to your childhood (abandonment by a parent, for example), in a past relationship where you got hurt, or in something else that happened before your current relationship.
  3. Unrealistic expectations. Often you have an idea of what your partner should be like. You might expect them to clean up after themselves, to be considerate, to always think of you first, to surprise you, to support you, to always have a smile, to work hard and not be lazy. Not necessarily these expectations, but almost always you have expectations of your partner. Sometimes, without realizing it, you have expectations that are too high to meet. Your partner isn’t perfect — neither are you. You can’t expect them to be cheerful and loving every minute of the day — everyone is entitled to their moods. You can’t expect them to always think of you, as they will obviously think of themselves or others sometimes too. You can’t expect them to be exactly as you are, as everyone is different. Plus, you wouldn’t want to be married to a clone of yourself. Expectations lead to disappointment and frustration, especially when not communicated. How can you expect your partner to meet your expectations if they don’t know about them? The remedy is to lower your expectations, if not eliminate them entirely (expectations are really just planned disappointments) — allow your partner to be himself/herself, and accept and love them for that.
  4. Not making time. This is a problem with couples who have kids, but also with other couples who get caught up in work or hobbies or friends and family or other passions. Couples who don’t spend time alone together will drift apart. And while spending time together when you’re with the kids or other friends and family is a good thing, it’s important that you have time alone together. Can’t find time with all the things you have going on — work and kids and all the other stuff? Make time. Seriously — make the time. It can be done. I do it — I just make sure that this time with my wife is a priority, and I’ll drop just about anything else to make the time. Get a babysitter, drop a couple commitments, put off work for a day, and go on a date. It doesn’t have to be an expensive date — some time in nature, or exercising together, or watching a DVD and having a home-cooked dinner, are all good options. And when you’re together, make an effort to connect, not just be together.
  5. Lack of communication. This sin affects all the others on this list — it’s been said many times before, but it’s true: good communication is the cornerstone of a good relationship (and in a relationship, you cannot not communicate, so handle what goes on between you). If you have resentment, talk it out rather than letting it grow. If you are jealous, communicate in an open and honest manner to address your insecurities.  Speak up about your wants and desires. If there are any problems whatsoever, communicate them and work them out. Communication doesn’t just mean talking or arguing — good communication is honest without being attacking or blaming. Communicate your feelings — being hurt, frustrated, sorry, scared, sad, happy — rather than criticizing. Communicate a desire to work out a solution that works for you both, rather than a need for the other person to change. And communicate more than just problems — communicate the good things too (see below).
  6. Not showing gratitude. Sometimes there are no real problems in a relationship, such as resentment or jealousy or unrealistic expectations — but there is also little to no expression of the good things about your partner either. This lack of gratitude and appreciation is just as bad as the problems, because without it your partner will feel like he or she is being taken for granted. Every person wants to be appreciated for all they do. And while you might have some problems with what your partner does (see above), you should also realize that your partner does good things as well. Does she wash your dishes or cook you something you like? Does he clean up after you or support you in your job? Take the time to say thank you – give a hug and kiss. This little expression can go a long way.
  7. Lack of affection. Similarly, everything else can be going right, including the expression of gratitude, but if there is no affection among partners then there is serious trouble. In effect, the relationship is drifting towards roommate status. That might be better than many relationships that have serious problems, but it’s not a good thing. Affection is important –everyone desires it, especially from the ones we love. Take the time, every single day, to give affection to your partner. Greet her when she comes home from work with a tight hug. Wake him up with a passionate kiss (who cares about morning breath!). Sneak up behind her and kiss her on the neck. Make out in the movie theater like teen-agers. Caress his back and neck while watching TV. Smile at her often. Make eye contact throughout the day.
  8. Bonus sin: Stubbornness. This wasn’t on my original list but deserves to be added. Every relationship will have problems and arguments — in fact these conflicts are part of the growing up process. Unfortunately, many of us are too stubborn to even talk about things. Perhaps we always want to be right. Perhaps we never want to admit that we made a mistake. Perhaps we don’t like to say we’re sorry. I’ve done all of these things — but I’ve learned over the years that this is just childish. When I find myself being stubborn these days, I try to get over this childishness and suck it up, put away my ego and say I’m sorry. Talk about the problem and work it out. Don’t be afraid to be the first one to apologize. Then move past it to better things.
*Taken and adapted from Zen Habits
(photo source)