Tag Archive: Zen


Enlightenment, Awakening, Nirvana, Satori, Samadhi, the list goes on. All these words are synonymous and refer to an event that takes place in an individual’s consciousness, an event of such magnitude that it permanently changes that person’s perception and understanding of reality. It’s the moment where the unreal falls away to reveal a direct perception of REALITY.

For some this awakening comes in an instant, without warning, while for others it happens over the course of a lifetime of meditation and arduous yogic practices. While, to the outsider, this can seem like some mysterious esoteric fantasy designed as an elaborate form of escapism, it is, in fact, a scientifically validated process that yields measurable results.

On a physical, brain, level to understand what goes on in the head of someone going through the process of awakening take a look at the video I posted above. It’s an hour and a half long lecture that’s worth watching for the insight it offers 🙂

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FREE YOGA MANUAL

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I finally got around to “kind of” finishing this (still a few bits not done, plus the entire thing needs revision and editing). Anyway, if you’re into yoga, meditation, and/or self development this might be something you’d be interested in. Email me any questions you have about the practices 😉 Enjoy

Be Still

mountain

One connection I’ve become acutely aware of from my meditation practice, and more recently from a half hour stint remaining completely still under a gamma x-ray machine,  is how the body mirrors the mind.

As the mind quietens, the body has a tendency to become less active. When the mind becomes completely still, all outer, gross muscle movements in the body seem to stop. Stillness in the mind seems to permeate both the mental a physical levels of being.

I took this understanding and applied the concept of reverse engineering to it. The idea here being that if I still my body through a process of systematic relaxation, that stillness should work its way into my mind. And guess what? It worked. Stilling my body stilled my mind. Though I have to say, it didn’t surprise me in the slightest. After all, the body and mind are intimately connected, locked in an unending dance with one another from birth until death. A dance in which the mind sometimes leads the body, and the body sometimes leads the mind.

Give it a try.

BE STILL 🙂

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I love how some of the simplest yoga practices turn out to have the most profound effects upon me.  

Most people think of yoga as sets of excruciatingly painful postures followed by hours of meditation and strange cleansing rituals. And while this is how some people like to practice “yoga,” there’s also an entirely different side to this fascinating way of life that most people never even realise exists. That way is simplicity itself. It’s such a deceptively simple path that when you’re on it you wake up one morning wondering how you’ve made so much progress with such little effort. It’s a way of practicing yoga that I like to call the path of the five kings.

The five kings are a set of simple practices. They’re what the ancient yogic texts describe as practices that can bring about liberation without the need to do anything else. Those practices are: Siddhasana (the perfect posture), Bramacharya (moderation), Ahimsa (nonviolence), Kevala (breath suspension), and Kechari (mudra of the void).

How do they work?

Siddhasana (perfect posture) is a basic sitting posture used by yogic adepts, when meditating, in which the heel of one foot is placed against the perineum (between the anus and genitals) with the second foot resting in front of the first (or, in an advanced posture, pressed against the pubic bone). 

So what’s so special about siddhasana? Apart from providing a stable sitting position for meditation, the position the feet are placed in causes the mind to drift into a naturally meditative state. This happens for two reasons. Firstly, the blood flow to the legs is lessened which leaves more blood flowing in the upper body, keeping the mind alert and focused, and secondly the pressure applied to the nerves in the perineum has an interesting effect on the breathing centres at the base of the brain that cause the breathing to become light, slow, and steady. And slowing the breath, as we know, calms the mind (I’ve discussed at length in previous posts).

Isn’t that amazing. Simply changing the way you sit can catapult you forward on the path of yoga.

The second king, as I call it, is Ahimsa (nonviolence). This, for me, is a no-brainer. It’s quite simple really, by practicing nonviolence we’re cultivating a state of mind that’s conducive to peace, and a mind that’s at peace is a mind free of turmoil, a mind that naturally gains stability and focus (traits essential for progress to be made in meditation).

Bramacharya (moderation) is the third king. By practicing moderation we’re wiring the brain in a very specific manner. We’re wiring it in a way that allows us to exercise tremendous control over our thoughts (an essential ability we need to develop if we want to meditate correctly). The other element of Bramacharya is more physical. It says that every yogi, who wants to make progress, should moderate their food intake. The reasoning for this is simple and really obvious once you think about it. When you eat , your body directs its energy into the digestive processes. The more food you eat and the more time you spend eating it, the more energy it uses. When your body is busy digesting food the mind becomes dull and tired and incapable of meditating. So simply eating in moderation has powerful effects on your state of mind.

The fourth king is Kevala. Kevala is a special type of breath suspension that happens spontaneously when the yogi reaches deep levels of concentration, meditation and absorption. This is a state I’ve experienced many times during deep meditation. it feels as if there is no need to breathe in or out, your lungs stop moving but it feels as if the air around you still permeates them. What’s interesting about this is that we can trigger deep states of meditation by consciously slowing the breath so that it becomes barely perceptible. Although this isn’t technically kevala, it does apply the same idea. Amazing results come from this simplest of practices.

The fifth and final king is Kechari mudra which I’m not going to go into details about here because I’ve spoken about it at length in a number of previous posts.

So there you have it. Simply changing the way you sit, altering your eating habits, cultivating nonviolence, and slowing your breathing, promotes a powerful effect on your mind – acting like rocket fuel on your yogic journey.

 

To be a Bhakti Yogi is to be utterly in love with life itself.

Drunken Krishna plays the drums

A few weeks ago I passed a Krishna devotee on the street. As I passed him I noticed a natural and completely subconsciously occurring smile creep onto my face. Then I looked around and noticed everyone else passing him had that same warm smile on their faces too. That was a nice experience but what was even nicer was watching what happened when a drunk guy walked over and started playing on the devotee’s drum.

Instead of walking away or getting angry and pushing the drunk guy to the side, the Krishna devotee allowed him to use his drum (which sounded awful, I might add), and as the drunk guy began to play, the Krishna devotee changed the rhythm of his singing to match the new dodgy drum beat. After a few minutes they both ended up laughing and having a great time, as did the crowd that gathered to watch 🙂

Reflection

It was only later when I reflected on what Bhakti yoga was that I understood what happend that day. The Bhakti yogi is in a constant state of meditation. His mind flows towards the object of his devotion like a river towards an ocean.

For the realised devotee, playing that drum and singing with the drunk guy was like playing and singing with Krishna himself, because the true Bhakti yogi sees his beloved in everyone and in everything.

The Yogi Science of Bhakti

In Bhakti Yoga the idea is to find a thing (an object, person, deity, guru, concept) that you feel infinite love towards, and to focus your love and devotion on that thing for every waking moment. Every thought, word, and action reminds the yogi of the object of his devotion. For example, you may be a follower of Krishna (although you don’t have to be a follower of anyone, Krishna is just an example). You focus your mind on Krishna no matter what you are doing. If you’re singing a song, you imagine you’re singing to krishna. You imagine that the song is Krishna. If you’re eating, you imagine that the food is Krishna. As you breathe, you imagine billions of particles (at the centre of each is krishna) flowing in and out of your lungs.

When the Bhakta feels intense love and devotion towards his chosen object, and he thinks of that object every moment of the day, he becomes infused with the emotions he feels towards it. His mind becomes focused and one pointed until it merges with the object of his attention. Bhakti is indeed a fast-track path to achieving yoga, if you’re so inclined.

Have a look at this previous post on meditation see just how this works.

Adding more Bhakti yogins to the world can only make everyone’s life better 🙂

To finish the title of the post. Put a little love in your heart, and the world will be a better place…. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lh1-ObRCsps 😉

canoe

Who ever came up with these lyrics was an enlightened genius, capturing some deep insights and incorporating them into a kids nursery rhyme. What a great idea. I loved this rhyme as a child. Looking at it now, it’s a bit like a mantra for a good life 😉

Row, row, row your boat (your body is your boat),
Gently down the stream (life is the stream).
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, (be cheerful)
Life is but a dream. (because it’s all just a dream)

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More concept art. This illustrates how changing our breath rhythm influences the nervous system, and subsequently the mind. In essence, fast breathing creates stress and agitation of the mind, whereas slow breathing creates a calm and content mind.

Useful to know in a modern world filled with manufactured stress and fear.

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Here’s some concept art I’m working on for my book project ‘The Smiling Masters’ to show how holding one thought in the mind generates a steady emotional state.

Here’s how it works
You receive sensory information about the object you’re focusing on (in this case it’s a rose). That information gets processed and filtered by the reticular formation in your brain (point 1). The filtered information is sent to the brain’s higher centres (point 2), where we perceive the rose. Our perception of the rose triggers an emotional reaction from the brain’s emotional centres (point 3). From here, the brain releases neuro peptides (messenger molecules) into the blood stream. Your emotional response then spreads to all areas of your body as it becomes flooded with these tiny emotional messengers. So whatever emotion we experience in response to the sensory input, let’s say in this case it’s joy, that emotion is felt throughout our entire body. Emotion is a mind-body experience.

When the body experiences an emotion, a feedback loop is created where the brain is told that the body feels that emotion (joy). When the brain gets this information, it produces more neuro peptides. This process continues until it gets interrupted by a new thought or another source of sensory input that changes our emotional state.

In the normal course of events we experience lots of emotional ups and downs because our thoughts are unfocused and tend to drift here and there, landing on whatever catches our attention for the most part. But once we learn to focus the mind and hold one thought, our emotional state becomes stable. And if we continue to bring the mind back to that one thought over and over again, eventually the emotion it produces becomes like an emotional reset point. That emotion becomes our dominant mood and state of being. So, I think it’s worth saying, be mindful of what you think about; your thoughts dictate your state of being.

samurai

Joy and combat. Trust a martial art enthusiast to make a connection between those two words. But interestingly, they go together, hand in hand. You see, when someone is engaged in combat, their attention is fully focused on their opponent’s every movement, as it happens in the moment. When in the heat of combat, there simply isn’t any time to reminisce on the past or worry about the future. There is only what’s happening now. Learning to fight, counter-intuitively, taught me how to relax and be present. Combat, for me, has become a type of meditation.

There’s an unexpected serenity to be found in the heat of battle.

Because the warrior’s mind is focused in the present, combat induces an unexpected calm, a type of joyful serenity in the mind of the warrior. This is probably why most people are pleasantly surprised when they meet someone training in the warrior arts. Instead of the aggressive, testosterone fueled monster they expect to meet, they’re greeted by a calm, and unusually present individual.

Of course, you don’t have to go out and start a fight just to experience a serene, and joyful mind. You just have to focus on what you’re doing right now. Mindfulness. That’s the key to a happy life.

If your mind is your reality, and mind is a stream of thoughts, then your state of mind (the thoughts you’re having) is reflected back to you by your reality. Smile, not just with your lips, but with your mind too 🙂

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