The act of remembrance is a multifaceted thing. Some practice it in deep silence while others may engage it with sound and fury of music and focalization. Some may pick up a brush, dip it in colors and paint their memories into masterpieces, while others may dance their way across wooden floors in the company of new friends.
Regardless of personal preference, the practice is important because it reminds us of the frailty and fragility of our own life. Remembrance and memorialization have been with us as integral parts of our lives for as long as human memory exists. Thousands of years ago, the Egyptians built great pyramids. Why? So that they could be remembered, not forgotten.
This fear that we shall somehow be forgotten in death is perhaps what drives us to seek a purpose-filled life, a life where we ‘make a difference in the world’ and even ‘leave it a better place’. What could we perhaps do in this life that would make us immemorial? We could begin by remembering why we’re here in the first place.
One simple explanation of this ‘why’ is that we are here to remember love. Not just ordinary, human love, but to partake in the experience of divine love. In the Yoga tradition, this experience can be felt through Bhakti – a deep, constant, immersive remembrance of the beloved in the divine. And yet, this is only one way to love.
The Yoga of action, or Karma Yoga, also leads us to divine love. We simply have to remember to dedicate all our actions to the real doer, the divine. The Yogas of knowledge (Gyana) and meditation (Raja), both have pathways to lead us to the remembrance of the presence of divine love in our lives.
Our greatest spiritual challenge is that of forgetfulness. We forget that the opportunity to experience divine love is available to us in every given moment. Yes, love requires labor. But what if we were to remember to integrate deep immersion, inspired action, experiential knowledge and in-the-moment meditation into our labor of loving?
With loving remembrance, we can develop awareness of oneness, and our lives can become living memorials of truth and joy to all those whose silent sacrifices of life-force have fired our hearts with higher purpose. Let our gratitude flow towards them today.
Join us for our weekly Twitter chat, Memorial Sunday (in the USA), May 30 at 9amET / 630pm India in #SpiritChat, as we discuss remembrance and love. Namaste ~ @AjmaniK
And I’m back. After two days of missing my morning meditation, it’s good to be back. It took a concerted effort to get back, and now I know why I missed the light, the lightness, the peace of the condition of the heart that is often established, and more. There is no reason to feel shame, or even guilt for being derailed, as long as I learnt from the experience, recover, re-heart and reset.
I had to ask for all the masters for help, and then wait. I didn’t have to wait long, for the help did come, and it came quickly. The bonus was that there was additional help from my beloveds who have passed, and the loved ones who are present.
The shame receded, I worked through the guilt, I decided to abjure blame, which inspired accountability. It was only after transitioning through the shame, blame, guilt and accountability, that I felt ready to acknowledge what derailed me, and then make a renewed commitment to my practice, with a revised plan of action.
After all of that groundwork, came the invitation to healing, and moving on towards growth. I paused to introspect and ask. What if I had bypassed all the intermediate work and jumped straight from shame and to try and effect healing, even growth?
I believe it would have been a lost opportunity for engaging in deep introspection. I would have buried the guilt, taken no accountability, and forgotten that I had ignored the warning flags being waved by the station masters of the stations that my freight train of the mind filled with anger had passed through on my way to derailment.
The unprocessed anger would have led to more guilt, perhaps even rage and bitterness, and I would have left myself vulnerable to being even more easily derailed the next time around. In the words of the great Ramakrishna Parmahansa,
“The three things that we have to get rid of in spiritual life are shame, hatred and fear.”
How do we begin to get rid of them? Introspection is part of the process. According to step five Patanjali’s eightfold path of Yoga, pratyahara or withdrawal of the senses helps quieten the mind, which then opens the door to dharana (concentration) and then comes dhyana (meditation). Very often, we want to bypass the first six steps, and go straight to meditation. We run into all kinds of obstacles, we get derailed, we tell ourselves we failed, we start believing we are failures, and plant seeds of self-blame, guilt, and even shame.
We then get well-intentioned advice like, “if you don’t succeed at first, try again” or “get over it and move on.” I say that if you’ve tried enough times and are stuck in a whirlpool of shame, hatred and fear – then consider pausing your freight train at the next station and refueling for some Introspection. Ask some questions.
Who am I? Why am I here? What do I stand for? What won’t I stand for? What do I want my inner life to be like? What are the strengths and weaknesses of my plans and actions? What resources do I have to accomplish my purpose? Do I need help? If I ask for help, and I am offered it, will I receive it with good attitudes? Add your own questions.
As answers emerge, Introspection helps us polish the mirror within. We may even see some dark, ugly truths that we don’t like. Acknowledgement of those long buried truths is the invitation to excoriate shame, fear, and hatred.
Or we can simply keep driving our freight train, ignore all the warning signs, and get derailed again. To introspect or not, is our choice. There is great power in our choices. The consequences are often greater. Your move.
P. S. Join us for our weekly chat on Twitter with the #SpiritChat community. We will introspect through some questions as we pause for some tea and cookies. All are welcome. Namaste – @AjmaniK
The longer I wait to write this post on Saturday morning, the shorter the shadows get in the back of the house which faces west. The Sun, slowly ascending towards its peaking of the day, on this day when daylight reach its ascendancy over darkness in the northern hemisphere, I contemplate union and unity.
A tiny baby dragonfly in resplendent blue with translucent wings lands in the center of the rainbow colored hula hoop encrusted with silvery highlights lying on the floor of the deck. An orange winged blackbird lands on the wrought iron post holding the bird feeder, squawks loudly as it departs without partaking, as if to say that I need to fill it again. The two boys on their swings across the lake have been going back and forth for the past half hour, unassisted, as they have surely mastered their art of Joy. The lake glistens and ripples as it often does in the harmony of the slight breeze and the low angle of the Sun’s light from the East. My cup of tea is empty but I am too enamored by it all to move off of the deck, lest I miss something vital.
Where was I? Ah, yes. Union and Unity. In the 5th century BC, the Indian sage Patanjali, compiled a treatise called The Yoga Sutras. It is said to be the collation of the knowledge and practices of the lives of the practitioners of Yoga of the time. Patanjali wrote about Yoga as a thread of aphorisms explaining the relationship between the natural world, the inner spirit of humans, and the unity between them.
The practice of Yoga can be simply described as any practice which leads to union between the external and the internal. Yoga is the manifestation of the unity that we often intrinsically seek in the paradox of living in the transient external world while seeking the permanent within.
Swami Vivekananda describes this striving for union in the form of four paths of Yoga, all emerging from One as we move outward on them, and then converging into One as we return home. These four paths are the path of work and action, the path of knowledge, the path of devotion and the royal path of meditation. Why do we need four paths? Why not just one?
Perhaps because all humans, like the colors of the rainbow, have different propensities and inclinations that they bring into their physical existence. So, the offering of four distinct and yet non-exclusive and equal paths of Yoga, invites the practitioners of love to practice love in the way that they may be most attracted towards in their current state of life. Very often, a human may practice all four paths simultaneously, with different levels of intensity at different times of the day and night.
The Yoga of action may dominate during the day, knowledge path may prevail during reading or observing nature, devotion may take over during prayer, meditation may subsume one at dawn or dusk or other times. Yes, we are all practitioners of multiple paths, whether we are aware or conscious of the particular path, or even the goal, for that matter.
And the goal? One goal is to manifest the unity of the four paths into the realization that our true state is where the states of permanence, knowledge, and bliss, unite us in our union with the One.
A sense of unity often precedes Union. However, we know that unity cannot be decreed by a constitution or any number of bills of rights or legislatures or courts or executives and their orders. It is just like a rainbow cannot be decreed to appear or be perceived — the sun and the rain drops and a number of other conditions have to come together to create it with harmony. The rainbow appears when human nature recognizes that the union of colors, while maintaining their independence and their right to individually exist as equals, can only enhance the beauty of the world for all who set their eyes upon such a union.
How does union and unity manifest? We can observe union in father-children relationships, in a bride and groom’s joyfulness on their wedding day, in a decision to be aware of and celebrate all the physical light steaming upon us during summer solstice. Perhaps the greatest manifestation of unity and union is in an individual’s decision to work towards their union with the divine through the path of Yoga of their choice.
To be friendly towards those friendly towards us, to be joyous for them in their joy, to be empathetic towards those suffering, and to be indifferent without attitude towards those with evil intent – these four practices of maitri, mudita, karuna and upeksha – are considered to central to Patanjali’s definition of Yoga.
As I finish writing this, a baby sparrow has arrived on the deck and is loudly tweeting in a sliver of shade by the bird feeder. It is as if she’s asking me to get off the couch stat and do my Dad Yoga of re-filling the feeder. Such is the life of a householder- to stay unified in the heart while performing the actions related to the feeding of the world around me.
Now where did I put away that 50 pound bag of bird seed anyway?
P.S. Join me and the #SpiritChat community in our weekly twitter gathering on Sunday, June 21 at 9amET/ 630pm India. We will integrate Fathers Day (US), International Day of Yoga, Summer Solstice and the kickoff of four days of online and offline events for my niece’s wedding in India… Namaste – @AjmaniK
We are often faced with the advice of “letting go” of certain things in our lives, so that we may be able to “lighten the load” and move forward on our path, whatever that may be at the moment. I have often, repeatedly, given this self-suggestion to myself – “let go of that which is weighing you down”. However, as all of you well know through direct experience, it is much easier said than done.
Why is the process of “letting go”, even of that which does not serve us well any more, and worse yet, may be actively or passively causing us and those around us much pain, distress, and even outright harm – so difficult to act upon?
One possibility is that we cannot seem to bring ourselves to what we believe to be correct action, is that our power of discernment has been weakened. What is discernment? One simple definition is, the ability to judge well. How do we regain, strengthen this ability to discern well so that we may act well?
According to the Bhagavad Gita, our power of discernment is connected to Yoga. Yoga is deemed to be philosophy in action. Yoga comes from clarity and our power of discernment. Discernment is that which leads to a completely volitional and dynamic, action based participation in our life! There seems to be little doubt of the influence that discernment can wield in our lives. So, how do we we regain it?
The first step to regain discernment is to be willing to first acknowledge that we may have lost it in certain areas of our lives. Then, we can look at our actions and habits, and separate the ones that meet the ‘dynamic participation’ criteria from the ones that don’t. Next, we decide to give more fuel, more energy to those actions that elevate us from within. After regular practice, we may find that our dynamic, volitional, life-elevating actions, a habitable home in our heart.
With positive feedback from our heart, our discernment shall grow. We may then find ourselves becoming aware of “holding on” with discernment rather than focusing on “letting go”. We find ourselves “holding on” to actions fueled by joy, love, light, delight, lightness, lightedness, delightnedness and more.
Discernment empowers us to put philosophy in action. We beome practitioners of Yoga!
P.S. We invite you to join us to discuss ‘The Power of Spiritual Discernment’ – Sunday, January 28th 2018 at 9amET/2pmUTC on twitter. Namaste, and thank you! -Kumud.
The bee hovers, uses discernment to be a dynamic action based participant in life!
We are like turtles on the path of life… we often develop hard shells to protect our soft cores from life’s many attacks – sometimes our shells get cracked – we may even lose half a face and an eye, get a cracked lower jaw, barely able to eat or drink, left for dead, paralyzed and bleeding in the middle of the road that we were simply trying to cross – and then, along comes One who has the heart of a rescuer, compassion in action, who takes that extra moment to pause and examine, who does not judge whether we are worth saving or not but simply acts – and before we know it, a sling is fashioned from a scarf, we are placed on a pillow in the back of the car, and brought to the warmth and relative safety of a garage to spend the night, hopefully to rest and receive a bit of healing…
We all have felt the intervention of those who have literally rescued us from a path of self-destruction, or after being ‘run over’ by the world around us… for some of us, this ‘rescue’ has happened more than once, perhaps because we needed to be rescued (again and again)… we weren’t strong enough to get out of rehab just yet, we hadn’t healed enough, our shell was still cracked from that first battle, and we decided to take on the world again…
Morning came, and I was almost reluctant to step into the garage to check on the patient. At first glance, she looked awfully still in the open box. I walked away, to return a few minutes later. A little nudge of t5ht he box, and she poked her head out a bit from under her shell. Relief. At least she had made it through the night. The rescue work of my wife (trained nurse), ably assisted by my daughter (nurse in training) and her visiting friend (aspiring veterinarian), had bore fruit in the very short term.
It often takes a potential tragedy to bring out our best rescue and rehab skills, for us to discover our hidden strengths, and to perform actions that are in harmony, excellence and alignment with the greatest good of the moment… that is true spirit of Union, of Yoga… the moment(s) where all of our spiritual practice(s) meet higher, selfless action.
At 9am, as soon as the local Nature Center opened, we received a call in response to the message we had left last night. “Bring her in. We would love to try and rehab her”. Off to the nature center we went, for the next step – a chance at rehabilitation by trained specialists who would do their best at healing and perhaps a full recovery. We are keeping our fingers crossed for a full recovery, with a release back into the wild in our neighborhood. We hope to meet “Sally Ride” once again.
The entire rescue and rehab effort brought a lot of folks together – we (re)connected with the local science and nature center, received very good advice from a turtle rescue center in North Carolina, connected with a reptile expert in Southern Ohio, and tapped into many online resources online and YouTube movies about shell repair and restoration… my daughter is even considering to a summer project about the life of turtles (and maybe even Ohio wildlife)…
I am sure you have been witness or beneficiary of such Yoga in Action too – what was the situation? Who was the rescuer/the rescued? What resources and energies came together to affect the rescue and rehab? How did the experience affect you, your (long and short term) spiritual outlook on life and nature? Share your stories with us in #SpiritChat on twitter – Sunday, June 25th 2017 at 9amET/1pmUTC. Let us celebrate International Yoga Week with Excellence in Action.
A few weeks ago, on a Sunday in June, the international community held an observance called “International Yoga Day”. A first of its kind, it was an initiative that attempted to highlight the health and relaxation benefits of performing Yoga as a daily physicalpractice. Whatever the physical benefits of any Hatha Yoga practice, when performed under the tutelage of a ‘qualified’ teacher may be, we are here to go a bit beyond physicality and physics…
In his book, “Light on Life” (amazon link), one of the most widely known and respected Yoga Masters of the west, BKS Iyengar, delineates the greater benefits of Yoga. Iyengar’s thesis, arrived at through diligent practice over many decades, is that the mental and emotional benefits of Yoga follow from the physical benefits. For those of us who are considering adding a daily Yoga practice to our toolbox, this is welcome news indeed! But wait. There is more. If there are physical, mental and emotional gains to be derived, can spiritual benefits be far behind?
The aspect of Yoga that is of equal, if not greater importance to the spiritual aspirant, is delineated by the Indian sage, Patanjali. In his treatise called the “Yoga Sutras”, his definition of Yoga is simple and succint:
Yoga is the cessation of the mind stuff ~ Patanjali
Keeping this definition in mind (no pun intended!), we can immediately see the spiritual benefits of Yoga practice. So, one may view the physics and physicality of hatha Yoga as the skin, the outer layer of Yoga. The multiple layers that reside underneath the outer skin, are uncovered through an eight-step practice. Each step of the practice requires greater commitment from the practitioner, and builds on the gains of the previous step. These eight steps are:
yama ~ practice of a universal code
niyama ~ practice of a personal code
asana ~ body postures (this is the well-known hatha Yoga)
pranayama ~ breathing exercise, discovering the life force
pratyahara ~ understanding the emotions and senses, and what controls them
dharana ~ developing the power of concentration
dhyana ~ one interpretation is the practice of meditation
samadhi ~ perfect union, becoming yoked, or in Yoga with the divine
At first read, the above list may appear daunting. Some may assert that it is not exhaustive. However, it can provide a framework for those who may be looking for one, and can bring some clarity to the diverse practices that are given the tag of #Yoga. As we scan the list from step 1 to step 8, we may be able to identify the steps which need more work than others. For example may be already attempting dhyana (step 7, meditation), and wondering why it is not working for us like we thought it would. The answer(s) may lie in the preceding steps. Maybe we haven’t quite yet learnt the nature of breath, or our emotions are running wild as we try to concentrate!
Needless to say, it is way beyond my ability, and time and space does not permit, to talk about all the intricacies of Yoga in this short post. There are many, many qualified teachers and masters who can explain Yoga to those who would like to learn. My intent for this short post was to provide a spark and introduce you to the (for me) life-affirming works of Iyengar and Patanjali. The ocean of Yoga is vast and deep ~ we can sit on the shore and watch the waves, wade into the water and get a bit wet, get on our surfboard and skim the waves, or do a deep dive.
The ocean is patient. It will wait for us with her gifts…
P.S. We will make an attempt to touch on some aspects of Yoga in our weekly #SpiritChat on twitter on Sunday, July 12th at 9amET/1pmUTC. I will bring some questions, and some tea. I invite all of you to bring some cookies to share. Come join us!