We are all his hands and feet

Wonderful people pass through this small bit of land. I hope that what they are comes alive in this story.

Here in India, soon after I stop wearing my winter hat to bed, Passover comes.1 Though I don’t celebrate Passover in the traditional way here, it finds its place in me, and I feel at home. Along with the flush of new flowers, birds and the wild flurries of Holi colors, Passover brings alive the gratitude that comes with the end of the dark winter cold. It takes its name from the angel of death who passed over the houses of the Jewish slaves in Egypt and protected their children from the 10th plague on Pharaoh’s Egypt, the death of every firstborn. After this, the Pharaoh set the Jews free. In the spring of every year, my mother would tell me to go outside and pick a rock. She would put this rock together with our Passover dishes and utensils in a gigantic pot of water and boil it. She said that we cleaned the dishes like this to remind us that we were a part of the earth. Only then would the dishes be clean like the earth for Passover. It was as if we were not just here for ourselves. We were part of a larger flow. Lately, I have been reminded of this quite a bit.

Passover is a reenactment of how the Jews were freed from slavery in Egypt. That slavery still exists in many forms and cultures worldwide. It is good to remember the suffering of others whom we may not even know and to do what we can to reduce suffering— starting with taking responsibility for our own suffering and paying attention to how we might even unwittingly contribute to the suffering of others not yet born.

Passover comes with reminders of threads common to many traditions. It surprised me to learn that Mohammed emphasized the importance of the Jewish Passover many times in the Quran. The ultimate goal in both Yoga and Vedanta is freedom from the bondage of ignorance and pain. Traditionally, Passover celebrates the freedom of the Jews out of Pharaoh’s Egypt, perhaps in 1246 BCE, but that date is disputed. Yoga is not a religion nor is Vedanta. Yoga is a corpus of practices and Vedanta is a philosophy to be lived. Both are a training aimed at leading to a way of being and seeing, just as the best of Judaism or any religious tradition is. Many modern Jews extrapolate from the Passover story the wish for freedom from oppression to all people everywhere. Some celebrate the search for spiritual freedom.

Springtime is a time of deep cleaning. As in many households the world over, spring cleaning is a time to expunge the dust and debris from every corner of the house and a time to free oneself of things one does not need. My mother practically emptied the closets, attic and cupboards every spring and gave things to those who needed them. I seem to be moving in that direction, bringing order and simplicity where there was a profusion of confusion, both physical and otherwise.

There are some Passover practices special to this time of year which reverberate in all times. Matza, a cracker made from unleavened dough, is eaten instead of bread to remember the hasty escape of the Jews from the Pharaoh; there was no time to let the dough rise. During Passover, bread is also a symbol of being puffed up with false pride so during Passover bread is not eaten. It can be a gentle tapas, an austerity, not indulging in the simple pleasure of eating bread. It can also be a form of smrti or mindfulness of old habits and inclinations.

Before the start of the holiday, the children hide bread in the house. Before nightfall at the start of Passover, the father or grandfather does a search of the whole house, looking for any bread or other chametz (food not eaten during Passover). Once, before Passover, I hid a piece of bread in the freezer, expecting my parents to find it. Having forgotten that I hid bread there, I was chagrined to find it several days well into Passover.

Elijah is an important figure in the Jewish mind, especially during Passover. In the Bible he is said to be one of only three sages who saw God face to face and did not go mad or perish in flames. Elijah also represents the stranger. Because the Jews were strangers in a foreign land and because historically Jews have often been outsiders, we welcome the unexpected guest. There was always a place for Elijah at the seder, the special Passover dinner where the Passover story is read aloud. A full place setting and a chair were left empty at the table to remember him and to feed any wayfarer who might appear out of the night air.

Elijah always comes unannounced. In the true spirit of Elijah, Atithi,the word for guest in many Indian languages, literally means one who comes without appointment, without notice.(A= no, not + tithi=date, appointment) Elijah  might be disguised as a beggar or a king. You only know it was Elijah if he disappears in a poof once a situation is resolved or a lesson learned. We also left a glass of wine for him at the kitchen door which was left open to the fresh night air of spring. By the end of the evening the glass was always empty. Elijah had come and blessed us!

Swami Veda encourages the practice of keeping a gratitude diary, jotting down at least one thing per day. Cultivating gratitude can lead to santosha or contentment, one of the 5 niyamas (restraints) of Yoga. Here, contentment is not complacency; rather it is a kind of mental and spiritual rigor that dislodges old habits of worry and mental grumbling.

I recently awoke one morning with the Passover song Dayenu going through my head. Dayenu goes back to the 9th Century and is sung by Jews around the world during Passover. It is about contentment and gratitude. Its refrain dayenu means it would have been enough, it would have been sufficient had God given only one gift and not all the others. It goes over a whole list of things, many associated with the Passover story.

Over the years, when Dayenu goes through my head, I think more about the great blessings of my life and how it would have been enough if just one or none had been given. It is a powerful affirmation. As I sing it, I mentally go through my list of wonders, one by one. The song Dayenu can be an exuberant exercise in gratitude, contentment and detachment.

Jews in Afghanistan and Iran, while singing Dayenu, hit each other over the head with green onions. (Not being Afghani or Iranian, our family didn’t do this.) The onion-hitting commences at the part Even if you had supplied our needs in the desert for 40 years but not provided us with manna. Some say that this was a reminder to let go of cravings for foods that the Jews no longer had in the wilderness but had enjoyed while enslaved in Egypt (like onions); others say it is a reminder to examine one’s cravings for unnecessary things.

Some of the other stanzas of Dayenu are:

If He had brought us out of Egypt. (It would have been enough.)

If He had split the sea for us. (It would have been enough.)

If He had drowned our oppressors. (It would have been enough.)

But wait. It says in The Bible that after the 10 plagues2  scourged the lives of the Pharaoh and his people, the Jews went free—only to be chased into the Red Sea by the Pharaoh’s men. When all seemed lost, God sent a miracle—the parting of the Red Sea—and the Jews rushed safely across to the other side. Seeing this, the Egyptian soldiers hurried after in the dry swath of land before them, but then the sea closed in on them and they all drowned.

Then the Jews rejoiced at the death of their enemies, but God called out to them that this joy was ill placed. Do not to be glad for the suffering of your enemies. The Egyptians are My children too. 

Recently, a friend confided in me about a great loss. This prompted me to look for a passage in Martin Buber’s Tales of the Hasidim but I couldn’t find it. I came across a far more interesting remedy for the pain she was suffering. It was Love for Enemies. A well loved rebbe (rabbi of rabbis) admonished his son to pray for his enemies. If you think this is not serving God, he said, you should know that this prayer exalts God more than all the other prayers. 

I thought about this a lot. How could praying for an adversary be the highest prayer? Perhaps because it defrays the false reality (incorrect perception really) of my turf and my terrain for a higher reality— that we are all inextricably interconnected. Not only that, it reaffirms the Shema, sometimes called the highest prayer in Judaism, which is often translated as:

Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.

Swami Veda has said that in the middle of a heated argument, offer a glass of water to the person with whom you are arguing. Do a secret favor, make a silent blessing for one with whom you are at odds, he would say. And don’t tell—anyone—or it is an energy leak on that meritorious act. Once told to another, an intended selfless deed can morph into an act of ego or false pride.

All this fits nicely with giving up one’s own small square of Personal Real Estate. It is the kind of opportunity I have been looking for lately. And then another such opportunity arrived: Holi!

Holi is another spring festival which at its core best, asks us to step aside, to forgive and be forgiven like children at play. It is the Indian spring festival of colors, mischief and of symbolically killing the demon and washing away old grudges. It starts the night before with a big bonfire made of the dead wood and leaves of winter. The following day, you splash all your friends and enemies with colored water. Some do it from the rooftops. Then together you might all walk down to Ma Ganga (the Ganges River) and wash it off.

Well, this year I did my share of water-vaulting—not with chemicals but with colored powders made from tulsi and beets. One little boy pelted me about 30 times and I feigned terrible defeat as many times. He didn’t get bored but I finally did so I took my bucket and walked into the center of the playing field. Under attack from every direction, I decided to just sit down on a convenient bench and take it. Many jubilant cries, handfuls of colored powder and buckets of water later, a bunch of us stood by the water spigot and helped each other get the colored powder out of our hair and faces. Then I flagged down a friend who gave me a ride on the back of his motorcycle to Ma Ganga.

That was the most fun of the whole day. It was a feat to get on the motorcycle, but once on, I barely held on. It felt like just letting everything fall away from me. Once there, I walked along the beautiful blue and hardly anyone was there, a rare opportunity on Holi. I sat straight and still near the river’s edge, my feet on the first step in the water, at one with the world. Then people arrived and splashed the step-sitters so vigorously that I didn’t even have to slide down the last slimy stair to immerse myself in Ma Ganga. She came to me.

I was given a ride back by motorcycle by another wonderful friend. I got to catch up with the extraordinary turn of events in his life, the kind of holiday sharing that reminds me of playing with my favorite cousin on Passover. When I got home I washed myself and my clothes for 2 ½ hours. Pink hair and green fingernails, it was almost time for the very best part of every day, sitting upstairs in silent meditation for an hour with the formless form of Swami Veda Bharati. Later I heard myself say to a friend who, somewhat depressed, had not come to meditation, the guru has no body. The world is in pain. We are all his hands and feet. He needs you. 

Isn’t this true in any tradition, guru or no guru, belief in God or not? Every action or refusal to act affects the whole.

In India, it is common to reflect on non-ownership and non-doership after any act with the following prayer:

Om tat sat brahma panam astu.

May all this be an offering to Brahman .3

*****

1 It begins at nightfall of the first full moon after the spring equinox and ends at sunset of the 8th day except in Israel where it ends one day earlier. This year, 2011, it begins on April 18th and ends on April 26th (April 25th in Israel).

2 The 10 Plagues of Egypt: The Nile River turned to blood, Egypt was covered with frogs, gnats, flies, cattle plague, boils, hail, locusts that devoured all the crops, total darkness for 3 days over Egypt except over its Jews, the death of all first-born Children except that the angel of death passed over the houses of all Jews, sparing their children.
3God, the One God that is All, the Absolute Reality, the Expansive One, at once vast and infinitesimally small

 

Use of Yoga Nidra for Creativity

What is creativity? It seems an obvious question. We know what it is? Do we? The word comes from Latin “Creo” to make. Who makes? Makes from what? The answer has changed over the course of history and is different in different cultures! Peter Meusberg’s research showed 100 definitions of what creativity is.

 

In what we call the western influenced sphere of the globe, creativity originally was seen as “God’s Job”; he created things out of nothing. Humans were considered creative only as per Divine Inspiration (and that only as: Artists, Jesters and Sages). In the last 300 or so years, the meaning of creativity changed; as we lost the spiritual dimension, creativity became linked to people making things. This is probably  the first association we have with that word. From this understanding, followed the notion that imagination is a quality that makes us human distinct from animals; as a result, imagination and even fantasies (i.e. projections of the human mind) were highly priced. We still “suffer” from this, especially in the commercial world.

In the Eastern traditions, including Jainism, Taoism, Buddhism and Sankhya, there always was a different understanding: creation is a process that goes hand in hand with dissolution, as one form of matter changed into another. This process is seen as rooted in “fullness” of existence without form (Brahma Nirguna). A fullness without form, can also be called NO-thing-ness, hence the Buddhist term of Shunya.

So ultimately this nothing, which includes all there can be, all there is and all there has ever been, is the root which brings forth all form, and is venerated as such.

Now let me tell you a bit of my own experience with this concept. I used to be an artist, working in a special Zen technique, originally a sacred form of art. In this, objects made by the artist undergo a simple but unusual process which exposes the objects to extremes of heat and cold. Such extreme process distorts the object, marks the object, even cracks or breaks the object. The objects are highly priced for these marks that from the expectation of technical perfection would be called faults. Cracks are even filled with gold! Why? Because Divine Nature (Shinto/ Zen) or God is the maker and left its mark. The artisan is merely the instrument of creating; from this angle: not “I make a piece of art, but Thy … ” This fosters great humility in the artist, who starts his work with meditation! In order to create, he has to go back to that space of fullness (or no-thingness) from which his creation arises, that fullness where all forms already exist.

Now let’s pull in another source of understanding.  It is no more news, to talk about the influence of quantum theory in modern day thinking. We live in a time of paradigm shift, where we start to see the universe and ourselves in a different light, then previous generations. The base theory of quantum thinking has now reached all manner of science. It’s not anymore limited to physics, but expands into biology, medicine, psychology – and the world of IT engineering etc.

What is this new understanding? Whether in the microcosm or the macrocosm (which consists of multitude of micro –moments) there is one base principal: On a much smaller scale than atoms, we have a process where out of “something” energy and material emerge. This is the origin of the famous question of our times: particle or wave?

Imagine you have a wall with two slits, and something we have no name for, something small and intangible, is fired/or pushed/or flows through these slits. When they hit the screen, through which of the two slits does that ‘indescribable something’ flow?  The majority of experiments show the same result. So somehow there is choice, there is an “intelligence” that makes decisions, that “knows”. (This is of course a gross simplification to bring a point into awareness … )  And furthermore, when this “mass” reaches the other side, it can suddenly be known, measured, seen, observed … either as particle or wave.

So out of something comes form, comes matter. The state of non-locality, before it is particle or wave, is called by many names, Non –locality is one, consciousness another. And one more interesting point: whether it is particle or wave depends what was in the person’s mind who observed the process.

Let’s go back for a minute to what creativity means. It has been defined as something new of value which before had no form. To bring this about, consciousness is needed; otherwise there is no one to determine whether something is new, or of value. Forms came into existence through mind, or in a wider sense, they exist through consciousness (existence, existere- standing out).

Consciousness thus is both the original source (as we know in Sankhya etc. as well as from what we saw in quantum theory) as well as the defining outcome (mind). They are simply different states. Matter cannot process meaning; it has to come through conscious mind of the observer. .A painting is just a canvas, paint and molecules; the meaning, the beauty comes from the mind.  To process meaning requires mind.

My hands move the clay when I make a sculpture, but what moves my hands? Mind, yes, but whose mind, what mind-field/ consciousness … etc.?  In other words, on a subtle level (mind and beyond) the object my hands create, exists already – in that space, in that consciousness which is nirguna, without form.

When I used to be an artist, in the early morning hours, when in the state between sleep and waking, I saw the pieces I were to make that day; later my hands merely executed what was already in the “ether,” in subtle form.

When writing books, or articles, in the early hours of the day, between waking and sleeping, I know the whole chapter in its fullness. Later my thinking mind and typing fingers just execute, carry out what is known already.

What else are these states between waking and sleeping other than yoga nidra!

The root of the creative action, or what appears to us as creativity, is the phase of deep sleep/rest/point Zero/ uncluttered mind – that we call deep sleep, where  we are connected (albeit unknowingly) to the state of tureeya, consciousness as “all knowing”. We become aware of that which pre-existed – in the shallower state, when we are close to waking up.

Here too, we see that original/fundamental creativity, creating something, giving form to existence comes from a “state of Zero … ”, no form, simply fullness, simply consciousness, without gunas, nirguna!

It is here that science and ancient wisdom meet!

So creativity in its fullest, deepest meaning ultimately comes from the “state of Zero”, of non-localized, no-form … consciousness. Similarly, intuition comes from that unlimited mind-field that we call Divine (Latin: beyond human) consciousness that we experience fully in the state of Tureeya.

Now you can see the link to yoga nidra. When our mind is in a state of non- form … no conditioning, no limitations … simply pure awareness, then there is total potential from where creativity and/or intuition arise. Mind rests in god (re:  the image of Vishnu sleeping etc.)

With this we join the ancient wisdom and how (pre 300 years ago) creativity was understood. Equally we join most contemporary understanding: creativity is a quantum jump, from the world of pure consciousness, of Divine unlimited, unformed potential into form; this in the human takes place in the mind as intuition or insight.

Now let’s look at it from yet another angle: The creative process is said to have 4 phases: preparation, incubation, insight and manifestation. Applying this, we can say: preparation in the practice of yoga nidra is relaxation, which is active (doing the 61 points), then in the relaxed state – there is passive resting, incubation. This is like saying: we alternate between doing and being. We do that on the physical level and the subtler level (with breath/mantra/ blue star). Once we totally are at rest, with an empty mind, insight arises, which later is taken into manifestation.

In contrast, creativity through step by step thinking (or imagining) is not really what is meant here by creativity. In “creative thinking” the mind is still, bound by old concepts/patterns of processing that are active in the mind. It’s not bringing forth something entirely new, or even dis-covering new meaning, but giving new value to something that is there already.

Fundamental or true creativity needs us to “jump” out of old known patterns into a new context, new meaning which hopefully is still relevant in the old context. This is the quantum jump. The interesting thing is, just as I mentioned earlier, the new meaning comes as a new Gestalt.

A new Gestalt (a new frame, context, whole image) has gone through an unconscious process, where consciousness has not yet collapsed into a new form (term borrowed from quantum theory.) Thus in this processing all possibilities of unfolding are still open – without collapsing (contracting, shrinking, fixing) into a definite form; this then allows new creation.

Thus, yoga nidra gives the opportunity to bring the mind into a state, of unlimited potential, where the process of collapsing into one certain form (different from others) has not yet happened. Once the unknown is limited to a form, it is understood to have been collapsed, limited/made distinct …

So we can say creativity is the quantum leap of the mind.

Or we can say in more familiar terms:

Creativity arises from the stillness of the potential, full but unformed mind

Such step of discovering new meaning in a new context is called fundamental creativity. It’s that original creative leap, which some refer to as: ex nihilo; others talk about as appearing out of its own volition/intention.

There is another kind of creativity, which is called situational creativity.

It is giving new meaning to/in an old context or combination. This kind of creativity is what we use for problem solving.

Research on scientists has shown that new thoughts and discoveries have come about in word-less times, like sleep or deep rest, i.e. when the mind relaxes, un–called for, from these states entirely new systems  have arisen ; it seems that for creativity  it is necessary to  de-focus  or to get out of the normal mind patterns.

So from all this we can see, that yoga nidra is the practice of getting consciously into a state where the mind is at point Zero, free from normal patterns, still – yet extremely conscious, aware; consciousness per se … .

From there arises something new, a new gestalt, a new insight, which then can be expressed and molded  through that creativity which is called situational creativity.

Fundamental creativity is that happening, when from Brahman, from the Absolute,  an expression arises. In Sankhya Philosophy we could say it is the appearance of Purusha and Prakriti, or maybe the meeting of Purusha and Prakrit if we take later dualistic Sankhya Philosophy.

Situational Creativity is what happens within Prakriti.

So “fundamental creativity” we understand as a base occurrence, even a base pattern. You might know that the universe is organized in fractals.

The ancients say: as above so below, as inside so outside. The pattern of a rim of a leaf is just like the pattern we see looking at mountain peaks. So in this context, it means: The same truth … that out of some indefinable, unknowable (whether we call it God or some quantum term) comes something concrete/manifest repeats throughout the universe, microcosm and macrocosm, in every minute repetitive patterns.

This “pattern” is also repeated in our minds. From the point Zero, from the state of Delta Waves (or even Flat Waves), i.e.  from deep consciousness  all that we know , all that is new, arises. Such “fundamental creativity” we could call revelation, and to illustrate that we can take the teachings of the arising of the universal sound OHM, or even the Sanskrit language, or any original insights and wisdom, and all “revealed scriptures”

Once these are “seen in the mind of the Sage (Artist or Jester), the Gestalt is expressed through the media of conditioning, i.e. through words (that limit), through gestures that are learned, through a medium of artistic skills etc. (such as in artists, musicians etc … ) Thus the fundamental creativity becomes situational creativity.

How does such creativity (either form) vary from reverie and visualization? Both these are using the patterns the mind has already to express something the mind has created; the mind creates out of something it has stored in its memory files. I.e. If I have never seen a tree, how can the mind picture ‘tree’ or how can the hand draw a painting of a tree??? So creativity here falls in the category of situational creativity, that which makes things from things that are known, creating into some new combination.

In that way, we as individuals are creative depending on our conditioning, i.e. we have different ways of creativity for different people. Creativity expresses on this level in five different ways, according to the dominating energy.

In people with the conditioning energy of stability, of holding in place – ( tamas; or what one could call earth energy) creativity is that gravitational power that makes manifest. Gives form on the gross level.In people who are under the influence of a more adaptable, flexible energy one could call the energy-field of water, for such people creativity expresses in ever changing forms. Such a person can be an artist who makes thousands of unique pieces, and then again, goes to become a musician, writing countless pieces of music … etc. , forever “reshuffling” that which is stored in the mind. (tamas and rajas combined)

Fire energy transcends form into subtler states; hence a person with this energy, might use a certain pattern, i.e. a language and use it to paint pictures with words, i.e. poetry and story-telling in order to transcend meaning. Thus they use factual knowledge to create new ways, new expressions of ideas and concepts (rajas).

A person conditioned  by the subtler energy-field of  moving into transparency, of letting go of that which clouds –  finds his creativity  in taking concepts and ideas  into abstraction, not merely using knowledge or language in different ways , but reinterpreting, creating new meaning, taking it into new visions and insight. (rajas and sattva combined)

Space, the most sattvic, most subtle energy, expresses creatively by disconnecting from past forms altogether; reaching a state of no-forms, from which something entirely new and of value can arise. This constitution is closest to experiencing within the human context the fundamental creativity.

This is where situation creativity changes to fundamental creativity; this is where something “new and valuable” is emerging, seemingly “ex nihilo”.  Such revelations, such newness comes from the widening of perception we observe in truly creative people. It is this most sattvic energy, that helps to move from individuality to universality.

Hence yoga nidra in its most profound state allows that level of fundamental creativity  to rise, which ultimately re-creates  the being itself, as it helps to let go of the individual conditioned patterns, and reach that “point Zero” where we lose the limiting being that we are and expand into universality … Yoga nidra helps to let go of all restrictions of the ego/world As we know from Sages and spiritual leaders, they expand their consciousness towards the subtler levels coming to the subtlest level of all, that “Zone Zero”, the subtle center of consciousness we spoke of in the beginning, which expresses in the human mind as ‘delta waves’ or ultimately ‘flat waves’, pure consciousness within the human organism.

Creativity then does not anymore happen on the outside, externally, but happens internally, recreating the self … by merging into the SELF. The purpose of such expanded fundamental creativity within the human being is, as Swami Rama said: “to find the underlying unity in the apparent diversity!”

One time Swami Veda wrote about mastering standing with one leg in the small self (functioning in the world), in one kind of reality – and with the other leg in the Big Self (sunya, the fullness of existence). Yet don’t forget, that both “legs” belong to one existence, and that for now and probably thousands of incarnations to come.

Hari Om …

AHYMSIN Annual Report – 2010

Due to Guru’s grace, the collective strength, spirituality and mindshare of each pearl of our Sangha, our universal family our mission experienced yet another successful year. We have progressed and we have learnt. Each experience has contributed towards our endeavor to continuously improve and evolve without losing the sight of our goal i.e. dedicated to making available and teaching the Himalayan Yoga Tradition as taught by Swami Rama of the Himalayas.

 

Recently in a BoD meeting,  Swami Veda Bharati, our Spiritual Guide,  requested his following views to be distributed widely:-

1. The only fundraising activity needed is LOVE. That is how SVB has managed this far.

2. The only administrative improvement needed is LOVE.

3. Teaching LOVE can stop wastage and also save money.

The Spiritual Guide’s views and knowing that everything is knitted well at a Divine level makes this document irrelevant. However, we are obligated to fulfill constitutional requirements. The  AHYMSIN Office pleased to share the Annual Report 2010 with you. The Annual Report may not be all conclusive.

To download the complete AHYMSIN 2010 Annual Report as a PDF please click here:

http://www.ahymsin.org/docs2/News/1104Apr/AHYMSIN_Annual_Report_2010.pdf

***

Editor’s Note:

Sadhana Mishra serves as AHYMSIN General Secretary, having been elected to that position in 2010.

For more information about AHYMSIN, please follow this link: http://www.ahymsin.org/main/index.php/AHYMSIN/ahymsin-introduction.html

What Sannyasa Means to Me

Salutations at the lotus feet of beloved Gurudeva,

naked and unadorned, free from tainted awareness;

through His compassionate love –

taming the perverse and faithless,

guiding them to spiritual freedom through all seasons.

 

In the booklet titled SWAMI – A LIFE BEYOND KNOWLEDGE, A Garland of Memories by Shri Swamiji, the second chapter starts with the words – “Renunciation is the final forgetting of ‘I’ and ‘mine’.”

Merely looking at these words stirred the natural urge within, compelling the mind to dive deeper and long more intensely for “sannyasa-diksha”.

What does renunciation mean to me? Giving one’s self up to the Guru, without regret is renunciation. In true renunciation, the shishya “dies” so that only the Guru remains. This is called “diksha”.  Unwavering faith in the Guru is the first pre-requisite.

When you remember to serve selflessly because you are in love, then it is an act of renunciation. Whatever actions you perform, when you do them with the bhava (sentiment) of guru-prityartham nishkamam (surrendering the fruits of those actions for the love of the guru, to appease the guru), then it is renunciation.

When the family of the individual gives their consent and willingness for the aspirant to receive initiation into sannyasa, then it is an act of renunciation on their part. Because theirs is the greater renunciation for they are offering their family member to serve the Universal Family.

Non-attachment and giving up of the fruits of one’s actions delightfully is renunciation. Renunciation is expansion of the mind in such a manner that there remains no space for you and i; just as when you mix sugar and water the water and sugar cease to exist individually, yet they exist together as sugar-water.

In the words of the great child-saint Ashthavakra, “for the wise-one, there is nothing to renounce, accept or destroy.”   Learn only to avoid seeking for and attach to nothing. Where nothing is sought, this implies mind unborn; where no attachment exists, this implies mind not destroyed; and that which is neither born nor destroyed is the Self, is Truth, atman, brahman, God.  The child-saint goes further and asserts “your bondage is that you practice Samadhi”.

In truth, nobody has ever renounced anything. Nobody has anything to really renounce. That which is yours today was somebody else’s yesterday and will again be someone else’s tomorrow.

The term renunciation has been frequently used in various contexts in the scriptures. A renunciate is a-bhayam, not a threat to anybody. In this context a-himsa can be renunciation.  A-himsa is renunciation in the sense that because you see the Self in all and all in the Self, you are incapable to cause harm, hurt to another. Here again, you are renouncing your individual limited “i-ness” and merging with the “Universal consciousness”.

Renunciation means that one’s love has expanded to encompass all beings as one’s own. Though the term renunciation has a negative connotation, it has a profound positive philosophy as its basis. When one takes the vows of sannyasa, it is for the benefit of the many (bahu-jana-hitaya); for the happiness of the many (bahu-jana-sukhaya).

Non-duality is renunciation, non-discrimination is renunciation, and not seeking for anything is renunciation. Not to seek is to rest tranquil. That is the state of yoga, samadhi. In several discourses of Swamiji, he says that we must perform actions skilfully and without attachment for the fruits of actions, in a state of union, in the state of yoga. This is renunciation.

First Results of Three Years in the Practice of Yoga Nidra

 

I PRIMI RISULTATI DELLA PRATICA DI YOGA NIDRA NEL TRIENNIO 2007-2010—inizio 15/16 febbraio 2010
di Riccardo Valdettaro

My psycho-physical condition:

When I was born my head got stuck in my mother’s cervix and for a while I could not breathe. I had a high fever after the birth. The doctors called this status Cerebral Palsy.

 

Cerebral refers to the affected area of the brain, the cerebrum (however the centres had not been perfectly localized and the disorder most likely involves connections between the cortex and other parts of the brainsuch as the cerebellum).  Palsy refers to disorder of movement.

CP is caused by damage to the motor control centers of the young developing brain . It is a non-progressive disorder, which means that the brain damage does not worsen, but secondary orthopaedic difficulties can appear with time.

There is no known cure for CP. Medical intervention is limited to the treatment and prevention of complications arising from the effectsof this sickness.

Before telling you my practice and what I have obtained from it, I want to write down the theory upon which my sadhana is based on and which I am practicing 24 fours a day, which is the sadhana that I have started in the beginning of the year, 2007, joining the Himalayan Institute of Italy here in Florence.

THE THEORY OF MY SADHANA

First of all I shall describe the important points of my program and then I shall go into what I have gotten from them.

1) Sit in meditation every day, at the same hour, to create new models, new grooves or habits in the mind. This is done by substituting one thought and one samskara at a time(aggiunto 07.02.2010)

 

2) Practice self-inquiry with oneself inside one’s mind, daily. It should be a Self-dialog.

 

3) Develop a steady posture for meditation, still, firm and comfortable.

 

4) Learn to breathe serenely, with no jerk and, in due time, without a break.

 

5) Develop a way of cultivating a sankalpa or determination. In doing yoga, the first aspect to realize is full discipline to your practice, which brings you inevitably to the consolidation of your will. Before doing anything, you should form a conviction that you shall do it, that you have to do it, that you are going to do it, and that you can do it. This creates determination, and this point is very important in my, and I think in everybody’s, daily life, and not only when one practices.

 

6) Learn to let go of every thought that gets into your mind and distracts you: it should not stay there. You should not think over and over on the same thought in particular, either if it is good or bad. You see, if you prick yourself with a needle, it hurts. But if you don’t keep on thinking ithurts, the feeling will not be there. And this method you can use with bigger body injuries, mental woes etc.

 

7) This is examination of your thoughts, called self-inquiry. This means to observe which are one’s thoughts and determine whether to keep on them or not. The yogic manuals talk of aklishta and klishta thoughts. The first one is useful and the second one is not useful, but is harmful. You have to examine your thoughts to determinate which ones help you and which are to be eliminated.

 

8) After self-inquiry, the next practice is witnessing. When you have learned to witness worldly things, in the moment you do not identify yourself with them, you are then at an advanced stage on the path of yoga.

 

I’m putting in this excerpt to inspire myself for an eventual goal in life:

EXCERPT FROM A LIFE OF A YOGI

(I PUT THIS EXCERPT TO GIVE HOPE TO THOSE WHO LIKE ME PRACTICE YOGA NOT ONLY FOR THE ATTAINMENT OF THE SELF. IT IS FROM THE LIFE OF RAMANA MAHARSHI)

“But it was not only submission to regulations; it was submission to all the conditions of life and to pain and sickness which taught us silently that pain cannot disturb the equanimity of one who abides in the Self. Throughout the long and painful sickness that finally killed his body, he submitted loyally, one after another, to the doctors who were put in charge, never complaining, never asking for a change of treatment. If ever there was any inclination to try a different treatment, it was only sothat those who recommended it should not be disappointed: and even then it was made dependent on the consent of the Ashram authorities. If there is a tendency today to regard submission as spiritless, it is only because egoism is regarded as natural. In itself, but for the Grace of Bhagavan, it would be the most inaccessible to modern man on account of its very simplicity and directness; and yet it is the most accessible, and in many cases the only accessible path, from the contingent point of view, since, because of its very directness, it requires no ritual or forms of worship, no priesthood or congregation, no outer signs or special observances, but can be practiced in the workshop or kitchen or city office as well as in the monastery or hermitage.”

“In the same impersonal way a man can attend to all the affairs of life, knowing that he, the real Self, is unaffected by them; and every attack of greed, anger or desire can be dispelled by self-inquiry, vichara. It must be dispelled, because it is no use repeating that one is the Self andacting as though one were the ego. Real, even partial, awareness of the Self weakens egotism: egotism, whether expressed as vanity, greed or desire, is a proof that recognition of the Self is merely mental.”

THE PHILOSOPHY OF MY SADHANA

The above stages, which are the groundings of beginning Yoga Practice constitute the basis of my sadhana, which I started the beginning of 2007 at the Himalayan Institute of Florence in Italy.

I think it is useful to go into some details: I started like everybody starts trying to sit still, trying to breathe continuously, in-breath, out-breath, etc. taking care to watch the touch of the air at the larger, moist, lower nostrils to begin to focus my awareness on the gift that life gives us all,breath.

In the beginning my sickness would not let me sit still. Above all, it was my left foot and my left hand and arm which would not let me put my attention on the practice. The more I wanted to sit still, the more they designed chaotic dystonic figures in the air. The left side of the body ached, due to my silliness to force the body to sit still. And, moreover, I had a shallow breath which made my anxiety grow more than it normally was.

When I was a small boy I always was afraid of other people, even in my own family. This anxiety grew deep inside, so even now there is an unconscious fear when I try to do my daily meditation which comes out again.

The following exercise was even more difficult. Introducing in the breath awareness the universal mantra soham, the mantra that is given to beginners which mimes breath (“ham” when one exhales, “so” when one inhales), the first thing that happened was that I started gasping.

Again I made the silly mistake to force the practice, until I was too tired to go on.

In the first three months my practice lasted no more than ten to twelve minutes.

But I had one thing on my side, my sankalpa!  I DID NOT GIVE UP! And I repeated it more and more “I DON’T WANT TO GIVE UP AND I SHALL NOT GIVE UP!”
This is the philosophical basis to my still young sadhana which will bring you very, but very far in whichever your goal in Yoga is, be it kaivalya, be it samprajnata samadhi, or what else.

But I had some luck: I literally fell in love with a yoga practice, yoga-nidra. I read something about it, but the important thing was that I bought a good CD, which dictates the practice, and immediately started practicing. I found and thought “this must be my main practice” and so I did it night and day, sitting, lying on the floor or when it was cold at night in my straight bed.

 

I won’t go into the details of the practice, because every good teacher should know it. But only two words I shall say: In the beginning the practice seems like a very long shavasana, and “in some way at the very beginning” it is: it is a relaxation practice,  at a first glimpse. The impression is not exact, because one very soon finds out with the 61 point practice, the shithili karana, (or relaxation through breathing with the whole body, which is a very effective technique to relax the body from the crown of the head to the toes), are techniques which go many steps further than shavasana, in one way, and turn out to be a very different practice, in another way.

It is pratyahara.

The essential point is that it is very easy to fall asleep. In yoga nidra one should not fall asleep, but rather remain in a deep sleep while completely awake! It is a “conscious rest”, which the raw theory says is a sister to Meditation.

They say “it is one level below samadhi”. That is why it has many levels and if one has never been in samadhi, like the writer, when one has a glimpse into it, i.e. yoga nidra, it sure is a wonderful experience!

The yoga nidra practice started giving me positive results doing it.

First of all, the left side of the body slowly began to quiet down, as did the dystonic movements. Then, within the time of about one year, I started sleeping less, a gain of 4 four more waking hours. I was amazed and literally out of myself with joy!

Now, when I do svadhyaya, either studying scriptures or doing japa of my mantra, sometimes I just forget that I have a lame body!

My sankalpa, which is to ever refine the practice of yoga nidra with the help of God and Guru, has been the most important thing I ever did, because it empowers ever so much my activity in my whole life, and I’m learning to use it daily for a wide variety of actions, obviously changing it duly.

My goal is to teach this practice to pregnant women who expect a baby who is sick like me or, who is perfectly in good health, so that baby may lead a better life, either practicing yoga (that would be great, starting practice at a few months of life!) or not!

 

THIS SADHANA WENT ON UNTIL WHAT COMES NOW. THAT IS TO SAY FROM NOW ON I MAY USE THE SADHANA THAT FOLLOWS

27 January 2010

UPGRADE OF MY SADHANA BY DR. STOMA PARKER

Today STOMA came to my place and we put together the following sadhana. It is going to be followed, as this self-dialog will witness, until it will be changed.

To begin with, what is written below is my sadhana where

1. “Y N Meditation 2” is my daily meditation. It shall be soon established at what time and how many times it shall be done. It is a meditation done by Swamiji Veda Bharati which “in a way” talks about the yoga nidra practice to yourself, making the practice interiorized.

2. Y N Practice as below:Yoga Nidra Practice—before you begin, resolve in your mind not to sleep. If you do fall asleep, just stop the exercise and return to it the next day. (Don’t labor away at trying not to sleep.)-Regular relaxation exercise to begin. -61 points-shithili-karana  (point-to-point breathing).-Breath awareness at ajna-chakra (5-10 breaths), vishuddha-chakra (5-10 breaths), then sink your awareness into anahata-chakra with no object of concentration (no thought, no mantra), just feeling the breath, until the body heaves (to heave = emettere un sospiro di pieno rilassamento = to emit a breath of deep and full relaxation that happens involuntarily) a spontaneous sigh. That is your signal that you are finished.

CONTEMPLATION

So’ham, “I am That,” is almost the same as aham brahmasmi, “I am Brahman.”

 

3. Physical sadhana:
-treadmill-mental joints and glands-whatever mental postures you want to try and that feel good and helpful-where it is difficult to feel inside parts of the body (e.g. in your hands), use anatomical diagrams to create a visual map and then practice extending feeling into the visual map. With your hands, put the latex glove on, contemplate the feeling of wearing the glove and then visualize wearing your body with a similar feeling. You could even practice drawing the visual map on the surface of the glove.-japa of my mantra in which I was initiated in the Himalayan Tradition, whose Sadguru is Swami Rama, on the 22 October 2007 by Swamiji Veda Bharati.

-Two words about atma-tattva-avaloklanam:  “Do it!!” Practice trying to feel the being that you share even with inanimate objects. (Also other people.) Do this especially when your mind is still and peaceful, e.g. after a period of meditation or yoga-nidra practice. The sign that the awareness is coming is a fine, subtle sense of joyfulness that rises in your mind.

 

Journal exercises:

-Consider writing some of the dialogues with your mind. (Where criticism of self or others is an issue, look at the website of Byron Katie, (www.byronkatie.com   – just Google it.)

Make sure to note each day at least one moment of beauty, joy or wonder that struck you so that you cultivate the habit of seeing beauty in addition to problems.

Track the results of your visualization experiments with relaxation and also with japa.

 

-End of the sadhana for the coming period

 

***

 

Editor’s note: Himalayan Yoga Institute Italia in Florence is an AHYMSIN affiliated center.  This is their website: http://www.himalayaninstitute.it/

 

Now after Years of Yoga Nidra, I Am Moved from Inside

The writer of this letter to Swamiji has generously offered to share it with you.

Dear Swamiji,

My illness started in Malaysia in 2005 with sight problems including double vision.  In November I was accompanying my son to Singapore by bus when I suddenly became paralyzed from head to toe. I could neither walk nor move my arms; I could hardly swallow and barely breathe. At the same time I suffered terrible muscular cramps. We were close to Malacca, and the bus made an urgent detour to take me to Hospital for Emergency treatment.

I was diagnosed with an auto-immune illness – Myasthenia Gravis. My return to Kuala Lumpur marked the beginning of a long period of hospitalization, as I did not respond well to the standard treatment for this kind of illness. My condition deteriorated, and after several months in hospital, it was decided that I should be “medevac’d” to France for treatment. I left my family for several more months. In France, a course of intravenous immunoglobulin treatment relieved the symptoms sufficiently for me to be able to return to Malaysia. This treatment continued until the following summer when my condition deteriorated again.  I spent most of my time in bed between long hospital stays. Wheelchair-bound, I could no longer read.

In June of 2006 I was hospitalized again in Paris and treated by one of the best known French Professors who decided to perform a plasma exchange to treat my respiratory insufficiency. After several transfusions my condition improved and I could walk normally, though the muscular cramps remained. This improvement lasted for a month, during which time I regained 70% of my strength. It was necessary, however, to repeat the transfusions regularly – at first every month, then every two or three weeks. I returned to Malaysia, where I had to travel to Singapore regularly for the plasma exchange treatment. During the long hours of immobility, I fought in my mind against the disease and tried to accept this change in my condition, but I was full of rancour and rage, at conflict with everyone. I envied all those who could walk, run, swim, etc….At this time I started to listen to Tibetan chants and this calmed me. I would spend hours just listening to the chanting of the monks; I believe that I was already meditating without knowing it. I underwent regular transfusions, and had an external catheter implanted in my jugular vein. This lasted four months until I suffered septic shock during a plasma exchange. This sort of brutal septicemia is often fatal – in the few minutes of consciousness at the beginning of the path to death, images from my life passed by; I was calm and serene, without fear, in spite of terrible pain in my kidneys, and the panic all around me. I died for the first time, and then had the joy of awakening a few days later in intensive care, where I remained for three weeks. I knew that I was no longer the same person, that I no longer feared death. It was as though I was depersonalized. From here onwards I could be treated without the slightest resistance on my part; I could hardly feel pain. I had become detached. I still needed to have a catheter inserted in the femoral vein for each plasma exchange, but I could now concentrate naturally on my breathing.

After 18 months I was still fighting my illness, unprepared to yield; I hated and detested it for ruining my life. It was then that my doctors discovered that I had ovarian cysts and a huge fibroid in my uterus. On account of my immune deficiency, the doctors decided to perform a total hysterectomy to avoid possible cancerous complications. The operation was successful, but a morphine injection, to avoid too much pain, triggered respiratory problems and once more I was put on artificial respiration. Gasping for air, I could feel myself slipping away again. On awakening I found it difficult to adjust my respiration to the rhythm of the machine; so once again I focused on my breathing and let myself adapt. Once on my feet again, I practiced these breathing exercises regularly. A friend introduced me to the work of Eckhart Tolle, and after listening a few times, things started to make sense to me.

Two months after the operation and long sessions of chemotherapy, the stitches had dissolved but the scar was still weak, which led to disaster. One night I was awoken by a terrible pain in my bowels; I went to the toilet and expelled 3 meters of my intestines. The pain was indescribable and the shock unbearable. As we lived in a cul-de-sac and the ambulance could not find the house, my husband decided to drive me to hospital. I needed to go downstairs, disemboweled, covered in blood with incredible pain. I managed to find the strength to do it – survival instinct – and I lay down in the back seat of the car. Every bump in the road was agony; at the hospital the doctors could not operate until they had contacted the neurologist to know which anesthetics could be used. I remained seven hours in pain.

On awakening, I was in shock, I could hardly communicate, I saw things as if through a camera – no sound, unable to focus – I felt disconnected from the world around me. After one month of depression, and considering suicide, a friend introduced me to Shilpa [Ghatalia]. With her I could talk about what had happened in detail. She spoke to me of the explosion and total loss of the ego, and of distancing oneself from the body. I realized that I was not what I had seen that night. I started to learn yoga nidra, and together we shared three sessions a week for nearly two years. I also practiced alone using a recording of one of your guided meditations. From this point onwards, whenever I was bedbound – I spent my time in meditation. With Shilpa I learned the Buteyko respiration technique. My life was now a long sequence of meditation and breathing exercises. I had given up all combat with my illness – I have made my peace with it – I accept it. As if I took it by the hand and said “let’s see where our paths take us together…..” I accept my hours of paralysis, my treatment, the physical pain, as I still suffer from persistent cramps day and night. I had stopped comparing myself to others, and I no longer envied them. Then my second son was diagnosed with two bone tumours – new shock – after an operation the first tumour was found to be benign. I felt like I was on a swing: thoughts returned, then I found the state of consciousness again, and each time it lasted longer and longer.

In 2008 we moved to Japan; I could not find a yoga nidra teacher, but I started to learn Reiki and Mindfullness. I believe that at this time I was completely detached from my body.  I tried to take care of it; it lived with the blood of others, and I was grateful (and not bothered) about that.

Your voice, Swamiji, and yoga nidra, have not only saved me, but have allowed me to be born again.

Then I started a new life: a life of complete consciousness. My illness is hardly perceptible; I hardly ever talk about it. I have two perpendicular lives – one horizontal and one active. I can walk almost normally, even with my cramps. When I have to lie down, I meditate and practice yoga nidra. When I’m up and about, I forget my cramps, and I rejoice in the moment. I feel so liberated that I almost thank my illness for having opened my eyes. I no longer think of the future, and I no longer look back at my life before. Forty-five minutes of yoga nidra with you gives me more energy than one of the three hour siestas I needed to take every afternoon. Over the years, I have heard you thousands of times, many times each day. I have found that by practicing yoga nidra before having a catheter implanted, I can hardly feel any pain. This is a wonderful preparation for plasma exchanges which can last several hours, as they become more and more difficult. I no longer dream – no more nightmares after the transfusions – I hardly think, or I choose my thoughts. I am no longer sick; only my body remains sick. I feel stronger than when I was healthy, not necessarily « happy » to be sick, but I feel so peaceful and serene. I have found the very tiny piece of gold we all have in ourselves.  I feel indestructible and my gold is permanent. Illness makes you become lonely; I was alone facing death, suffering, pain and sadness even though I had a lot of support. We are lonely when illness hits us though we learn how to dip deeply inside of us, far very far away. We dig tunnels and caves inside our soul like miners, and we get out just like them so dirty, black, lost but with a little tiny piece of gold in our mind that we would like to share, we don’t want to keep it just for us, we didn’t do so much work for only our self, we forget about our self because we discovered that our self was not the one we thought.

When I look at Mt Fuji, this is the tiny piece of gold that I was talking about that I can see, ME. Contemplation, pure contemplation, the key for peace and wisdom. I had a lot of abilities in the past to recognize a shrub or a tree or a flower, I knew all their names because I loved gardening and it was passion for me. Now, even if I still know to name them I don’t need to identify or put a name when I look at them I just see them.

Regarding the phrase: “I think, therefore I am” which no longer has meaning for me. I would say now: “I stopped thinking, therefore I am”.

I worked very hard on my cramps, try to find the way to not feel them anymore and try to use them. With the yoga nidra, discovering pain is stuck energy and it is possible to absorb and relief this energy into the all body. If I used to do meditation to not feel the pain, that is a different approach; we can be able to conduct the bad energy (pain) through your body and transform it in good energy.  If I still have the cramps, cannot sleep, etc… I enter very quickly in meditation when I wake up and I am able to see my body (like a Da Vinci drawing) from the top and now also able to locate the pain and act on it with my breath; it is like inhaling the pain. It is shorter than the duration of a cramp so the pain is going away quickly. During the surgery I can remain a witness; I watch the pain, so conscious that I understand exactly how pain works, how it takes over the mind, and the different paths it takes. Everything is clear to me now, whether it is emotions or ego or life or illness, or, of course, death. The most difficult and pernicious step is to overcome the resistance which we put up to suffering, to illness, to life and to death. It is essential to accept everything and to let go, to welcome this transformed life and to adapt to it. We must let the pain invade us to be able to respond to it, and to offer no resistance – to tame it.

During a deep yoga nidra relaxation, I can feel my body falling, the way you are falling from the balcony, sometimes I don’t breathe anymore and probably my heart stopped for a few seconds. I am like a dead body for a few seconds. After I stay in meditation and have such beautiful pictures, colors, faces appearing to me etc… I cannot move my body anymore for a long time with a kind of dead body.

Practicing so many times like that, I had plenty of time to meditate on emotion and pain. I experienced that emotions are not only the reaction of the physical body, but also the interpretation of them, and if with meditation we cannot control the reaction of the body, we certainly control the interpretation – then we can minimize the reaction of the body. It is what happens with the pain; in fact, if we think in advance that we are going to have pain we will have pain, and then if we feel the pain and let the mind be invaded by the pain, it will increase the pain; it is the same with emotions. For me, thoughts are resulting from emotions; thoughts are the sentiments, interpretations of the emotion by the mental and the ego. When we distance ourselves from our mental and our ego, there are no more interpretations/sentiments. In fact, there are, but we are not touched by them like we used to be in the past; we stay intact because we just look at them. We confuse sentiments and emotions; we think that sentiments are coming from the heart, but they are purely interpretations from the mind/mental/ego to an emotion coming from the heart. We develop these interpretations through the thoughts and then encourage, amplify and aggravate the emotions through them and increase their consequences. Then we think having sentiments is love but this is not. We THINK we have sentiments and sometimes let them take  control of the mind, the ego, and even the heart if we allow them to grow.  But maybe I am wrong.  When we no longer identify with the ego, the body and the mind, we can see emotions clearly. Why? Because they are coming up, not from the body, not from the mind, not from the ego, they are coming from the being, our self, deep-self, and I think this is our HEART. Then the emotions are pure, so pure. And they are so powerful, so big, so unbelievable, so amazing that we can only cry and smile in the same time. Because these emotions are touching OUR SELF so strongly that nothing can be so beautiful. Here is coming up the real LOVE. When we enter deeply in meditation, body is dead, mind is dead, ego is dead, only pure emotion is coming up and provokes total PEACE, opens the real LOVE, as we are in mindfulness and this is exactly the same when you experience DEATH.

At the beginning, being sick is like being in front of the Himalayas, suffering all the tempests, clouds, rain and snow, austerity, but not able to see them. Then one day they just appear and we look at them all the time in total contemplation.

Now after years of yoga nidra, I am moved from the inside not from my muscles. Now there is nothing I would like to change, not even my illness, for it brought me to the path. When I wake up in the morning, I do not ask myself where I feel pain, I just ask myself how I feel inside and every day is a beautiful day.

No more pretentions of knowledge, the further I go, the more I lose this pretention of knowledge… The more I get empty, the more I feel full. Thoughts and knowledge are keeping us away from our real self.

Treatments are approximate; we never know how long they are going to be efficient, but they give us relief. Being sick is an art and illness is driving the dance; we just need to adapt our rhythm to it. I never think that anybody gives up during an illness. I just think we realize our boundary, borders, we learn how to adapt, finally we accept. I am not trying anymore to cure my illness. I do not want to suffer anymore by trying to reach a different state. I have no more hope. I am just happy where I am and as I am.

For two years now I have been working with an association for the homeless in Yokohama. We distribute food and try to encourage them to join the association which can help them. From my contact with them, there is one thing that I have learnt. We are not separated from other people – others are us. In other people, there is necessarily a part of us, something “good” or “bad”, fragile or a suffering which cannot pass and which makes them unpleasant, aggressive or unhappy.  So they transport an open wound which infects those around them. I learnt this from watching them, through them. It is hard to imagine how similar to us they are, apart from the odor the filth and their despair. They resemble us with our weaknesses and fragilities, but inside the gold remains, intact, and if we get to glimpse this gold, these people seem to be our own reflection. It is an unbelievable observation. So we forget their appearance, their smell, as now we can only see the gold, the love they can still give and the appreciation – not for a bowl of soup, but for having been able to see through to the gold. And it is so important for them to understand through compassion that we are capable of seeing the gold. This all takes place in a glance, no need to speak the language. From this experience, I move on with even greater determination to share in my heart. This experience was important for me, and I shall continue. It is as though the more one gives, the more one receives, and I move on enhanced. Not by pride, that is behind me, but because I feel in perfect harmony with them, as if they were me without the good fortune that I have had. In perfect compassion with them.

The plan for me is to return to France next year. I think I am ready to work with very sick people in palliative centers, to help them to accept their illness and to die in peace.

Here is my testimony, Dear Swamiji, I feel sorry about my English. Sorry also because I haven’t been able to write a shortest one and it may be boring to read. Before you met me, you didn’t know that through Shilpa and through the Yoga Nidra, you saved me.  You allowed me to meet you in Narita where you gave me a big part of your precious time.  I was moved immensely when you spoke to my ear as your voice permitted me to survive during all these years.

I feel so grateful for the time I spent with you; the retreat has been tremendous.  I promise you I will take care of my Mantra. I already memorized it totally and I will keep it as it is one of the best gift I ever  received in my life.

With all my love, I wish you all the best.

 

Take care; I hope we will meet again very soon.

 

Hélène

Holi Washes, Holi Wishes – February 2010

My Remembrances of Holi

Today is the big HOLI. If yesterday was little Holi, then what!? SVB even played! My hair is still green. Forget oil–It doesn’t work. You need vaseline as our wise predecessors warned us years back—and red stuff came out of my ears when I washed today. The birds are calling but the playful voices, pot-banging and makeshift drums won’t resume until after morning practice.

My memories of Holi are sweet. It is not just pranks and irreverence. It is a mending of all rifts. When you come to India for Holi be sure to bring some old clothes you do not mind spoiling or buy something really cheap and ugly in the bazaar beforehand. I bought a water pistol in town at Anshal Store that makes a very fine stream,  but if memory serves, some of our young scamps use buckets and really huge water torches to vault the streams of colored water at you.

Holi Washes (Among my fondest Holi memories):

Eric Ness in clashing plaids showering his blessings from on high with yellow wash. Strategic location?  The front balcony of the 2nd floor main building. Looking up, one saw a colleague creep up behind him with a bucket of blue? green? red?

Receiving word from my fortress that my son, 6 ‘ 5″ Isaac, had come running from nowhere like a bat out of hell onto the main battlefield with an eentsy teentsy water pistol squirting behind people’s ears. He ended up rolling in the mud with 2 big Punjabis.

Kai Blilie & Company all a fountain of color and cheer!Surendra, Harshanand, Tajvir and the guys all playing hard but with love—never meanTejaswini in full regalia wearing Holi splashes with love and good cheer—every color up to the inevitable gray-greenMarilou Hermens dabbing and painting your face with Holi smiles

SVB

Some big guys tried to take away my fat toy water pistol, but in the end, it went to Sunakshi, Tajvir’s and Sunita’s little girl. She handed me her little water tube as if to say “trade with you?” and I was persuaded.

Ma Radha is in her 90-day silence with Swami Nitya at Sadhana Mandir and will undoubtedly stay clean and dry –but for all that samagree and ghee.Jean Chu is holed up in silence and will not come out though she was at the bonfire last night. No one dropped a spot of color on her. Silence badged people are out of bounds. Do you think I might don a silence badge to avert disaster? Nawwww.

Holi Wishes:

I wish the Humes, the Blilies, Sonia and Koos from Holland, Shauna, Priya and Tarik, Idriss-&-Co-so-close-and-yet-so-far and oh so many other friends were here to play Holi. In particular, if I had my fairy godmother wishes, I would have all of the above friends present at Holi as well as the full contingents from Minneapolis, Taiwan and Italy. Hungary would be required to attend.

The most fun of the whole day was the generosity at the very end, riding on the back of JP’s motorcycle to Ma Ganga, washing off, and then flying back, almost no hands, with Vivek on his motorcycle. Walking from the Ganges through the Sadhana Mandir gardens was another world. No signs of Holi. Just peace.

For more on Holi, see:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holi It gives an intriguing history and includes an ancient miniature painting of Krishna playing

Holi!Holi He!

The cows are here! The cows are here! – October 2009

 

The cows are here! The cows are here!

 

The excitement continued all day Wednesday, 28 October 2009 after Bhagban Dev, Swami Sukhmit and the new ashram cows arrived here at SRSG after a grueling fifteen hour long journey from Rajasthan.

 

Sadly, the denizens of our newly built luxury Gaushala (cow shed) were not as excited to see us as we were to see them; reluctant, to say the least. It took long hours to get them to leave the truck and almost as long to convince them to walk from the truck to their new home! Eventually however it was done, and except for two rogue cows who are still at large all were properly welcomed, blessed and given prasad by our beloved Swami Veda.

 

The reverence with which the Ashramites welcomed the arrival of the cows was as if a reverence for “Mother.” The cow is a symbol of the divine mother, representing life and the sustenance of life. Lord Krishna is associated with cows, as two of his names reflect: “Govinda” (finder of cows) and “Gopala” (protector of cows). In Krishna’s aspect as a child, he is often depicted crawling on his hands and knees or dancing, often with butter in his hands. As a mischievous child he was called Makhan Chor (butter thief).

 

Of course, the cows will fulfill a very practical purpose of providing milk for Swamiji and the ashram. In India, other “products” of the cow are used extensively. Cow dung is known for its disinfectant and insect repellent qualities and is used to line the floors and walls of mud homes. It is also one of the major fuel sources for households in the villages and rural areas of India. The therapeutic use of cow urine and its use in curing diseases have been highly regarded in India since historic times.

 

Is it any wonder then, that many consider the arrival of the cows as filling a missing element at SRSG; one that was necessary to make our Ashram complete.

Meeting SVB and King Cobra

The only time I had the opportunity to meet Swami Rama was in 1996 at his Rishikesh ashram, Sadhana Mandir. He was not well but was kind to invite me and my friend, Dr. David Frawley (who was also accompanying me), for a brief “darshan.” After a few moments, he fixed his hypnotic gaze on me and said, “You should meet Swami Veda.” The meeting was over with these words. He asked someone to bring us both to Swami Veda.

Dr. David Frawley knew a lot about Swami Veda but I had no clue who this “guy” was. As usual Swami Veda was “eternally busy.” After a few moments we both realized that we needed to leave him alone, so we left. Even though the meeting was brief, I felt very drawn to him. I had “goose pumps” like some sort of electric currents were emanating from his body.

Around the same period I had purchased a piece of land in Rishikesh. Each time I would visit there, a powerful vision would come of many meditation cottages where people were doing sadhana. I had no clue about this vision. I also had no clue about the big king cobra who greeted me, standing eye to eye ten feet away, when I first went to see this land.

Due to personal finances, I sold the land a few years later and forgot about it. In 2005, when I was showing a visiting friend from Delhi around the Rishikesh area, I happened to pass in front of the same land. I decided to drive in to see who had purchased it and what was happening there.

It was a real shock. Rows of meditation cottages from my vision greeted me. Even the structure and color were the same.

To my great surprise, Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama, created by Swami Rama through Swami Veda, stood there in all peaceful, tranquil and serene grandeur.  A few months later when I again visited SRSG, Swami Veda was there.

“Swami Ji is very busy but he can see you for a few minutes,” Dr. Prakash Dixit Ji very smilingly and humbly told us after informing Swami Veda about our visit.

The “few minutes” stretched to a couple of hours, and then a couple more hours at dinner that night. The next day I was blessed to receive my initiation. The connection from the past life was re-established. I again found my Lama.

For so long I was looking for someone to fix the noise of thousands of  buzzing bees in my ears, which had taken away my sleep and peace of mind. Swami Veda said, “OK ! Now I know why you have come…!!”

The story continues in different shades on different levels since then.

Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama (SRSG)

Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama (SRSG)

Discover the Real Meaning of Yoga – Experience the Himalayan Yoga Tradition

Founded by Swami Veda Bharati

Disciple of Swami Rama of the Himalayas

 

Click here to view slides of your international headquarters in Rishikesh: http://www.ahymsin.org/docs2/News/slideshow/srsg1/ To view pictures, click on each slide in the directory on the left. You will also learn more about the various opportunities for both personal and group retreats as well as some of the variety of facilities available. We hope you visit us soon!

 

April/May 2009