Friday, January 31, 2014

The problem of the others

There was once a well-known scholar, who lived in a mountain in the Himalayas. Tired of living with men, he had chosen a simple life and spent most of his time meditating.

His fame, however, was so great that people were willing to walk narrow paths, climb steep hills, swim rivers – to meet the holy man who was believed to be able to resolve any trouble of the human heart.

The wise man, as he was full of compassion, gave some advice here and there, but kept trying to get rid of unwanted visitors. Still, they appeared in larger groups, and once a day a crowd knocked on his door, saying that great stories about him were published in their local newspaper and that everyone was sure he knew how to overcome the difficulties of their lives.
The wise man said nothing but asked them to sit and wait. Three days passed, and more people arrived. When there was no room for anyone else, he addressed the people who were outside his door.

“Today I will give the answer that everyone wants. But you must promise that, to have your problems solved, you will not tell the new pilgrims that I moved here – so that you can continue to live in the solitude you so much crave. Men and women have made a sacred oath that if the wise fulfilled their promises, they would not let any more pilgrims climb the mountain.”

“Tell me your problems,” said the sage.

Someone began to speak, but was soon interrupted by others, as everyone knew that this was the last public hearing that the holy man was giving, and they feared that he wouldn’t have the time to listen to all of them. Minutes later, confusion was created, many voices were shouting at the same time, people were crying, men and women were tearing their hair out in despair because it was impossible to hear.

The wise man let the situation be prolonged a little, until he cried, “Silence!”

The crowd fell silent immediately.

“Write your problems down and put the papers in front of me,” he said.

When everyone finished, the wise man mixed all the papers in a basket, then said, “Keep this basket moving amongst you. Each of you will take a paper, and read it. You will then choose whether to keep your problems, or take the one given to you.”

Each person took a sheet of paper, read it, and was horrified. They concluded that what they had written, however bad it was, was not as serious as what ailed his neighbor. Two hours later, they exchanged papers amongst themselves, and each one had to put their personal problems back into his or her pocket, relieved that their distress was not as hard as they once thought.

Grateful for the lesson, they went down the mountain with the certainty that they were happier than all the others, and – fulfilling the promise made – never let anyone disturb the peace of the holy man. - by Paulo Coelho 





Thursday, January 30, 2014

SuperMoon

2014 presents the first of two supermoons to occur in a single calendar month. The second supermoon will come on January 30, 2014. We won’t have a single calendar month with two supermoons again until January 2018.







Wednesday, January 29, 2014

“All we have is all we need. All we need is the awareness of how blessed we really are.”

"Real life isn’t always going to be perfect or go our way, but the recurring acknowledgment of what is working in our lives can help us not only to survive but surmount our difficulties." -- Sarah Ban Breathnach



Thursday, January 23, 2014

Wisdom



“You may believe that you are responsible for what you do, but not for what you think. The truth is that you are responsible for what you think, because it is only at this level that you can exercise choice. What you do comes from what you think. ”
― Marianne WilliamsonA Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of "A Course in Miracles"



Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Soul Mate

“People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that's what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life.

A true soul mate is probably the most important person you'll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then leave.

A soul mates purpose is to shake you up, tear apart your ego a little bit, show you your obstacles and addictions, break your heart open so new light can get in, make you so desperate and out of control that you have to transform your life, then introduce you to your spiritual master...” ― Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love 



Monday, January 20, 2014

Mala

Malas are a great tool in Mantra Yoga. They help you keep count of your repetitions. But that’s not all, there is a lot associated with malas, with their care and upkeep and their significance in your practice.
A mala is a string of 108 beads of either wood, seeds, pearls or semi-precious / precious stones. It has a 109 th bead which is called the Meru bead which sits at the head of the mala. It is said to be that bead that retains all the energy of your practice.
The history of malas or prayer beads is a long and elaborate one. Most of the main religions in our world use prayer beads – Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity.
The first mention of malas seems to be around 800 B.C.E. They first originated in India and were used as a counter as they didn’t have clocks back then. Keeping count is of utmost importance in Japa yoga, as there are certain levels you can attain by the number of repetitions you complete.
The rosary – the catholic churches version of the mala – a half mala having 54 beads – came into being sometime between the 12th and the 15th century. The name rosary came from the Sanskrit word ‘japa’ – the practice of reciting Mantras. ‘Japa’ in Sanskrit means ‘china rose’.
When using a mala, it is important to never cross the Meru bead. It’s an old custom. The Meru bead is supposed to symbolize either Buddha Nature, the Guru principle, or the Divine. To show our respect, we turn around and go the other way. In this way we never touch the Meru bead and in time a great energy builds up in the bead. This is why the best malas are all made of natural substances like wood, seed, pearl or semi-precious stones which can hold the energy.
Another important point to note, is that it is vital you don’t touch the beads with your second finger – the one you point with – as this finger is considered the ego finger. So we just hold that one away while we turn the beads with our thumb while the beads rest on our third finger.
It is also advised not to let anyone else touch your mala – as your energy is stored in the beads. It should never be left on the floor, stepped on or over and it is helpful if you keep them on your puja or somewhere special when you are not using or wearing them.
It is said that when a mala breaks that you have burnt off some of your karma by your practice. It is looked upon as something to be celebrated.
For some buddhists, the broken mala symbolizes a spiritual breakthrough, because the many 108 different possible reasons to suffer are what chain us/keep us here into constant re-incarnation…. the breaking of a Mala can be interpreted as a spiritual breakthrough because it is directly symbolic in the breaking of the cycle of the 108 different sufferings.They believe that when your mala breaks you have learned something. You've made progress and now it's time to move on to the next step. 
Tibetan monk said: if a bead of a mala breaks it means that it's protecting you...it's doing it's job! It means that it was energized/blessed enough that it has the power of deflecting you from negative energy. It's supposed to be a good sign, so don't worry about it. If you still have the broken bead, keep it! Place it on your altar. Keep using/wearing the mala. It means that it's "alive!" Give it the respect it deserves.
It should also be a sign of impermanence...never forget that.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Mirror Has Two Faces


We all want to fall in love, but why? Because that experience makes us feel completely alive. Where every sense is heightened, every emotion is magnified, our everyday reality shattered and suddenly we are flying into the heavens. It may only last a moment, an hour, or an afternoon, but that doesn't diminish it value. Because then we are left with the memories we treasure for the rest of our lives. 
One last question, why we still want to fall in love when we know it would last? Because, when it does last, it feel f**king great.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Select your thoughts

“You need to learn how to select your thoughts just the same way you select your clothes every day. This is a power you can cultivate. If you want to control things in your life so bad, work on the mind. That's the only thing you should be trying to control." ― Elizabeth Gilbert Eat Pray Love


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The lesson of Buddhism - this too will pass

This story is about one of the key concepts of Buddhism, Impermanence.

A rich old man died leaving two sons. They decided to separate dividing all the properties between themselves – fifty fifty. After all the matters related to property were settled the two brothers came across a small packet carefully hidden by the father. The packet contained two rings – one was an expensive diamond ring and the other was an ordinary silver ring costing only a few rupees.

Seeing the diamond ring the elder brother developed greed and desired the ring for himself. He explained to the younger brother – This packet is obviously a family heirloom and not part of the joint family property. Our father evidently desired the diamond ring to be passed on from generation to generation and stay within the family. Being the elder brother I will take the diamond ring. You had better take the silver one.

The younger brother smiled and agreed.

The younger brother was curious as to why the father had preserved the silver ring, which had very little value. He took out the ring and examined it. One the ring was written the words – "This too will pass". The younger brother said – "Oh this was the motto of my father – This too will pass. He replaced the ring on his finger.

Time passed. Both brothers went through the ups and downs of life. The elder brother used to get highly delighted when spring came and he was prosperous. He lost his balance and developed greed and attachment. When the good phase went away and winter approached he became highly anxious. He needed to medication and sleeping pills to be able to sleep. When that did not help he completely lost his balance. He needed visits to the psychiatrist and electric shock treatments. This was the brother with the diamond ring.

The younger brother when spring came, enjoyed it but remembered his father's motto – This too will change. He did not get attached to his circumstances but enjoyed them while they lasted. When spring passed he said to himself – It was inevitably going to pass and now it has done so. So what? Similarly when winter approached and circumstances became bad he did not become agitated but remembered - This too will pass. Thus he was able to preserve his sense of balance through all the ups and downs of life and lived his life happily.

The Buddha himself said once: -

When faced with all the ups and downs of life, still the mind remains unshaken, not lamenting, not generating defilements, always feeling secure. This is the greatest happiness.



Friday, January 10, 2014

Together

“Coming together is the beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”― Henry Ford

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Vipassana - see things as they really are

Imagine being in a prison compound with a 10 hour working days, for 10 days, 2 meals a day, no speaking, no contact, no smiling and still it was one of the best experiences of your life and you would return again voluntarily. Well that’s exactly what I did for my Christmas and new years break.
I just returned from a 10 day Vipassana meditation retreat from 26 December 2013 to 6 January 2014, ending one era and beginning another.

Vipassana means "to see things as they really are". It is a pre-Buddhist meditation technique that was revitalized and popularized by Gautama Buddha 2,500 years ago.Vipassana is not a religion. It’s not a cult. It’s a practice. 

On the Vipassana retreat you have 10 days of training in the purest form of meditation that was taught by the Buddha, maintained by a small number of monks in Burma over the past 2500 years. It’s not sectarian – Buddhists, Hindus, Catholics, Baptists, Muslims and Atheists can practice Vipassana meditation. It holds no conflicting beliefs with any religion, and it’s actually very scientific, which is interesting since it was created a few thousand years before the dawn of modern science. Vipassana teaches you to objectively observe your experience of reality, without judgment or reaction. You experience reality through your body. You THINK about reality through your mind, but you can actually only EXPERIENCE reality through the senses of your body.

During 10 days of silence – no conversations with anyone else, no eye contact, no input from books or TV or the internet, no cell phones, no nothing – you really get to know yourself. The clarity is incredible. You get to observe the insane workings of your own mind. And that’s the funny thing – we’re all insane. One definition of insane is “in a state of mind that prevents normal perception.” We don’t actually perceive reality, we perceive what our minds think about reality.

One of the things that appeals to me most about Vipassana is that it’s a practice for daily life. It is a tool which, if used, will actually change you, and make your life better. It teaches you to observe, question, experience, and come to your own conclusions. This appeals to me in a way that no religion ever has, since most religions rely on dogma, ideology, blind faith, rites and rituals; not actual work towards making yourself a better person.

One of the primary concepts that Vipassana is built on is that of impermanence. Throughout the course we are reminded to understand, to watch and see, that everything is temporary. All situations, people, pleasures, pains, and sensations rise and fall from our experience of them. Nothing is forever. We are meant to witness this universal truth within meditation in every moment, so that we may realize experientially the wisdom of the concept.

Goenka, the teacher of the technique, introduces us to the ancient sanskrit word anicca (pronounced “an-itch-ah”), which means impermanence.  We often fall back on this word during practice to remember that everything within our meditation arises and passes. This understanding liberates the mind from conditioned suffering so that we may make a new choice, from a new state of mind, a balanced state of mind.

During the meditations, with the understanding of anicca, the understanding of impermanence, I calmed the mind into an extremely peaceful and content state of awareness. From this perspective, all aversion and craving stops. The pain of the body is nullified by the pure understanding of the way things are in this moment. Additionally, all cravings for pleasurable sensations, like peace, bliss, or ecstasy (which occur naturally in this state of meditation) do not arise to cause misery producing attachment.

During the few times that I reached a deep equanimus state of mind, I lost most of the feeling of my body, and became very light. It was an unshakable peace of mind where true freedom is felt. No words can describe the feeling of peaceful contentedness that occurred.
The instructions, played out over the speakers, are straightforward: observe your breath for three days, then observe your body for seven.
Sitting still and silent on my cushion, I learn that observing my breath at the point where it exits the nostrils focuses the brain. That by observing my breath, I am learning to observe myself. Anger and peace at the subtlest level are all in my breath. For breath, I learn, is spirit itself.
As the practice deepens, my chaotic thoughts and emotions, memories fond and painful, yield all manner of sensations: pain in my joints, leaps in my chest, tingling behind my neck. I am told not to suppress them, but not to chase after them either. I am simply to observe them on their journey through me. When emotions are observed, not suppressed or amplified, they filter through quicker, leaving a smaller residue behind. Sensations rise and pass. Just observe, they say. Don't react. This is unbelievably difficult.
The journey deepens. Heavier sensations dissolve from the body and awareness sharpens. Meditating for hours is throwing myself wide open: I am part of a rush of energy far bigger than myself.
Two of the main causes of suffering are cravings and aversions. Addictions/desire and fear/hatred. But there is a greater truth than this, and that is that all things are impermanent. All cravings and aversions are impermanent. Your body is impermanent. Every experience you have, every thought you have, is impermanent. You experience the truth of impermanence through experiencing the impermanence of the sensations of your body, and during Vipassana meditation you practice not reacting to these sensations; they’re impermanent anyways. Over time, this leads to equanimity. Peace. That one thing that every single human wants, deep down. Peace.
The goal of daily Vipassana practice is to bring forth this equanimity of mind into daily life, where it can be extremely valuable in any situation.  We all face tough problems, difficult conversations, and unexpected crises, but from this state of mind, anyone can triumph.
There is a truth to this world that can be experienced by any individual. To be in alignment with that truth is to automatically live in perfect happiness, balanced harmony, and true success. No suffering. Zero. It is possible within each of us.
Vipassana resonates as being the truest path to freedom and happiness of anything I’ve found. I think it’s because it’s so simple, so personal, so direct. It’s just you. Within you is everything you need. So simple, and so true.

“Liberation can only be gained by practice, never by mere discussion.” –Goenka