Category Archives: Reviews

travel yoga mat-review

In the midst of traveling this summer, I didn’t want to forgo my yoga routine because I’ll be in hotel rooms and what not. Luckily, my amazing sister-in-law found a sweet deal of a yoga mat that is perfect for traveling. And, let me tell you, I just did my first routing in the hotel room using it, and I loved it! Every single minute of it.

The Manduka eko SuperLite travel mat is freaking awesome. It weighs only about 2 pounds. Just like Manduka mats overall, it has amazing grip and definitely won’t make you slip and slide all over the place. We’re in a pretty humid locale right now, and that didn’t affect my mat either. The thickness is only 1.5mm. I tend to like a cushier mat, because my knees hurt if I leave them on the ground too long, but with the padding of the carpet underneath my mat, it’s perfect. The other thing that I like about this mat, is that it doesn’t slip and slide on the carpet either. It stays put, so you’re not surfing while doing your routine when you’re on the go. The best thing about this mat, is that you can fold it up like you would a tshirt and stick it in your suitcase.

mat folded up real nice to fit in my suitcase

mat folded up real nice to fit in my suitcase

And of course, it’s part of Manduka’s green line, so it makes everyone happy.

I definitely recommending getting this mat, even if you’re not traveling, but just want a thin grippy, awesome mat for your at-home practice. Thanks Manduka for making a killer yoga mat. The traveler in me really appreciates it!

 

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focus and concentration

I was sent this article a couple of weeks ago, and found it very interesting. It’s all about how to better focus and concentrate from the viewpoint of a lion tamer. Pretty interesting. I think all of us are stuck in a world that is in hyper drive, constantly. Our focus is literally in 40 different places. Take it from the multi-tasking queen. I can be on my computer, talking on the phone, listening to my parents tell me something from downstairs, and be doing 2 other tasks at the same time. Is this useful at times? Most, if you ask me. But, I do realize that the distractions from 20 different places can hinder me in every thing I am trying to accomplish.

The main point this article tries to drive is just committing to one thing, and working at it. It gives several examples that are so easy and relatable for that matter. Want to be healthier? Eat real food. Want to be an athlete? Awesome, start playing a sport. Every problem that we encounter has a super easy solution. But, unfortunately, we just like to make things 20x more difficult. I do at least. And to be honest, if you think back to why you never started going to the gym, it was just excuse after excuse after excuse. Putting it off, that’s an excuse. Saving it for later, that’s an excuse.

One of the things my mom always used to tell me, and still does, is if it’s important to you, then you’ll make time for it, regardless of how busy you may actually be. So true. If achieving different goals, accomplishing tasks, succeeding in life is that important to you, then just do it. This is to me as well. It’s all about making the first move.

My favorite line in the article is in the author’s closing, “Life isn’t a dress rehearsal. Whether you know it or not, you’re already in the ring. We all are. Most of the time, we sit quietly, gazing at the chair in front of us, silently debating about which leg is the most important.” He couldn’t have said it better. Life isn’t a dress rehearsal. We’re playing the part right now, right here. If we keep waiting around, or “practicing”, when are we ever going to get around to actually performing?

The saying “life is short” is something I’m sure 99.9% of us have heard at some point in our lives. And it’s true. Life is short. But it’s one thing to keep repeating that in your head, over and over again. Just go and do something! At the end of the day, whether you succeed or not, at least you went and acted. If anything, I’m sure you’ll get a good story out of it.

If you want to read the article, here it is:
A Simple Guide to Better Focus and Concentration: Lessons From a Lion Tamer

Book Review: Discovering Your Hidden Spiritual Resources (part 2)

So, thus begins part 2 of my book review for Eknath Easwaran‘s Discovering Your Hidden Spiritual Resources. In the first post, I talked about what the book is based off of. In this post, I want to explain his idea of original goodness via what he calls spiritual laws. These laws are the eight Beatitudes. Like I mentioned in part 1, there are some beatitudes that I want to discuss in detail, and I’ll get around to that at some point other than now.

Purity: We have put so many filters in our life, that we don’t see things as they really are. We see them through these filters, which is essentially distorting our view of the world and ourselves. We have to clean these panes, so that we are able to our true self, our core of goodness more clearly. These filters of feelings, memories, and desires have begun to dictate what we see, what we don’t see, and how we see it. We are basically creating images for ourselves that are not a true reflection of reality. What can we do to start cleansing ourselves mentally and spiritually so that we may become more pure, and truly have a vision filled with love? Meditation. Meditation is the first step to begin looking inward, and to see things as they really are. This will eventually give us the ability to “transform our personality from self-centered to selfless, from unconcerned to caring, eventually from human to divine.”

Humility: We have become so engrossed in doing things for ourselves. I have to go to school for my degree. This is my plan. This is my education, my job, my life, my family. Everything we talk about belongs to us apparently. Have we forgotten about the other individual? Are we essentially isolating ourselves from the rest of humanity by focusing on our personal needs all the time? Easwaran says yes, we are. “Asking life to make a selfish man happy is like asking a banana tree to give you mangoes.” We need to stop dwelling on our personal needs and benefits so that we can experience what true joy is. Here’s a reality check if I’ve ever heard one, “the world will not devote itself to making you happy.” Dang. How freaking true is this? I need to make my ego zero, because when it’s zero, God can fill that void with true love. How amazing does that sound? To be filled with pure love. How can I make myself zero? By losing myself in helping others, selflessly. That is the key here. Selfless vs. Selfish. “If you live today completely in love–hating no one, hurting no one, serving all–then tomorrow has to be good, whatever comes.”

Simplicity: Easwaran defines simplicity as “singling out what is worth living for, and then shaping our lives around what matters and letting go of everything else”. Do you have a list of things you are living for? If I had to think off the top of my head, my list would entail God, spirituality, family, and close friends that are basically family. Ask me if I’m willing to let go of everything else though. The answers no. Man, I have a lot of work to do still. He talks about how simple living is the art of using minimum means to attain maximum results; live gently. One way to do this is to realize that really nothing on this earth belongs to us personally, so we can look at things in a more simpler way. What is ours? “Simplifying your life then, does not mean cutting back on anything of value. It means learning the delicate artistry of making your every action count, taking notice of the needs of the whole.”

Patience: “Life is full of ups and downs. But you don’t have to go up and down with them. You can teach your mind to be calm and kind whatever comes.” Patience is something I’ve talked about before, and is a virtue that I need a lot of work in. Impatience can create a lot of negative energy in your life. Meditation is a tool that you can use to calm your mind, and truly create an inner peace. Impatience can bring stress into our lives, not that our lives can use any more of it. But, we have to learn to roll with what life gives us, and to remain calm in these situations. Again, something that I’m not always the best at. (No one’s perfect here!). Personally, after doing the 10-day vipassana course, I am trying to approach life in a very neutral manner, so that when I do act, my actions are coming from a truly pure and compassionate place. This is really important with patience, and I definitely agree with Easwaran that meditation is the key to creating a calm and patient mind and soul.

Love: “Love is a full-time occupation, a continuous state of mind.”  What kind of love is Easwaran talking about in this chapter? It’s really normal for us to separate love into different aspects. The love you have for your friend is different than the love you have for your family which is different than the love you have for your significant other. But, if we look at the root of all those relationships…what is the commonality in them? Love; the kind of love that we would be willing to do anything for those people because we truly love them. Easwaran points out that love is being able to still be kind to someone after they’ve blatantly been mean to us. Love is going through the rough times with another individual, and being that support during that period. Love takes endurance. But, I think the most profound thing that he points out, is that we claim to love God. But, how can we love this Being who is the epitome of selfless love, when we can’t even love another individual selflessly? We want to have a selfless relationship with God, but when do we go to him? When we want to pass a test, or make it through something. That’s anything but selfless. We have to first learn to love another individual in the purest definition of love before we can even begin to love God. Woah. Anyone else beginning to think that they have a lot to work on?

Mercy: I think that I can summarize this entire chapter into these words: “As we sow, so shall we reap.” Every action that we take, every thought that we think is accounted for. There is a popular modern saying, that isn’t my favorite, but it goes something like “karma is a b-word”. Well, it’s really easy for us to think this way when it doesn’t effect us. When someone else we don’t like or don’t get along with gets a bad card dealt to them, we’re so quick to say “karma is a b-word.” But, everyone gets what they sow. Why don’t we all just realize that it’s always better  to pick the side of mercy? In the end, we’re all fighting the same battle. So, why not help the other person win? “Mercy teaches that all of us in this world are on the same side.”

Peacemaking: “We must active cultivate peace as a virtue, trying to make it a permanent state of mind.” Why should we try to make peace a permanent state of mind? Because our thoughts become our actions, oh so quickly. Not only does this happen, but our perception is influenced by what is our mind is constantly dwelling on. If we are in a permanent state of negativity, consistently say my life sucks, my day sucks, I hate the people around me, then all of those things are going to come true. It’s all about attitude people. I think we all know the old saying, two wrongs don’t make a right. And it’s so true. If there is wrong done to us, we don’t need to fight it. Accept what happened, and move on. “Our children deserve to grow up in a peaceful world, and it is our responsibility to do everything we can to see that they get the chance.” Instead of spreading hate, why don’t we start spreading a little love? We need to personally take responsibility and be the example that those around us need to see.

Desire: The Upanishads say, “You are what your deep, driving desire is. As your deep, driving desire is, so is your will. As your will is, so is your deed. As your deed is, so is your dignity.” Take a minute to think about what your desires truly are. Are they worthy to be told to the world? Are the worthy enough to live by? To eventually be your dignity? The problem is, is that we let our desires dictate our lives. We’ve let them take control of our mind and intellect, when really, it should be our mind and intellect that control our senses. We shouldn’t run after every single thing that catches our attention. Training our mind though to become in control is a really tough task. Meditation is the tool to accomplish this. It trains your mind to stay in control, and to become unwavering, so that it won’t falter when we’re put in situations that can make our senses go gaga and want everything.

Holy moly that was a lot I feel like. And I didn’t even cover a lot of the stuff that I wanted to. Like I said, this book was dense material-wise. At the end of the day, I think that it is a great book which talks about real-life examples of how we can implement a daily meditation routine into our lives, so that we can truly live out these eight Beatitudes.

Easwaran is an incredible soul and an enlightened individual. Reading his books and understanding his perspective puts these huge philosophical, sometimes daunting, theories into such simple language, that it’s impossible not to grasp. I can only hope that my 2-post review did him and his writing justice.

Please check out this book! Think about ways you can implement these qualities into your life, after all spiritual laws are a good guide for anyone. I think everyone needs a good guide on this journey, and Easwaran is a fantastic pick.

For more information on Easwaran, his meditation technique and center, programs offered by his organization, or to just sign up for Thoughts of the Days, visit http://www.easwaran.org! This is a great resource for many spiritual needs.

Book Review: Discovering Your Hidden Spiritual Resources (part 1)

I just read a phenomenal book that I wanted to share with you all.discovering-your-hidden-spiritual-resources I finished reading Discovering Your Hidden Spiritual Resources written by Eknath Easwaran just a day or two ago. I’ve mentioned a few quotes from the book here and there, but I wanted to do a complete review. There are some things from the book that I want to do entirely separate posts for, but that’s a different conversation for another day. This book covers a lot of material, so I’m just going to talk about the highlights. It’s a great book, so I recommend buying it and reading it for yourself!

So, what is this book all about? Throughout the entire book, Easwaran takes the eight Beatitudes and talks about how we can implement those qualities into our own life, and how meditation makes the process easier. He calls each of these qualities a “spiritual law” which will help us to peel off the layers upon layers we’ve created in our lives, so that we can seriously uncover the “uncreated light” within us.

What are these qualities he speaks of?
Purity: Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Humility: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.
Simplicity: Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
PatienceBlessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.
LoveBlessed are they that are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
MercyBlessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
PeacemakingBlessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.
DesireBlessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.

Easwaran starts the book off by talking about original goodness, and uses this idea as the basis for the rest of the book. What is original goodness? Original goodness is this idea that our core, as humans, is good. That we are inherently good, not bad. Because of this, we don’t have to figure out how to make ourselves good, because we are. All we have to do is get rid of the layers we’ve piled on ourselves that is covering that inner, pure layer of goodness. He says, “…before original sin was original innocence. That is our real nature.” He goes on to say that that we all have the capacity to reach God. But, it takes a lot of effort to meet that end. We are all seeds of God. However, we need to put that goal in our life. Having that goal makes us work hard to attain it. We have to realize that God is our home, and that is where we ultimately belong. Home is where the heart is, and the heart is the seat of love. He quotes Mechtild of Magdeburg, “The soul is made of love, just as the body is made of flesh–and must ever strive to return to love. Therefore, it can never find rest nor happiness in other things. It must love itself in love. By its very nature it must seek God, who is love.” I thought that this was just really beautiful.

How do we know when someone has reached this state? When he/she has “an unbroken awareness of the presence of God in all creatures.” They exemplify the qualities of “unfailing compassion, fearlessness, equanimity, and the unshakable knowledge, based on direct, personal experience, that all the treasures and pleasures of this world together are worth nothing if one has not found the uncreated light at the center of the soul.” I don’t know about you guys, but that state, the state in which you can seriously see God in every single soul and every single living thing on this planet, is really hard to get to. I mean, unfailing compassion. I still have mean thoughts going through my head when someone says something bad to me. But to still love that individual and see the God in them, despite that person being mean to you…that is such a Godly state if you ask me. I’d like to think that I know nothing I own and want and “need” has no worth, but honestly at this point in my life, I would have a hard time parting with my nail polish collection. I need some serious progress folks. But, in the end, this task isn’t easy. It’s daunting, scary, unpredictable. But, I don’t think God would have made it easy in the first place. We have to be aggressive on our spiritual path to find the Ultimate Truth, or else we’ll just do everything at slow, unfinished pace, and that’s not development to me.

Meditation: Easwaran talks about how meditation is a great and powerful tool we can use to start that introspection process, and really begin to see our true selves. (Y’all, I’m beginning to see a pattern here in my life. Meditation is the key to everything. Seriously. I’m hearing it everywhere).

Ok, what I’m going to do now, is write a synopsis of each of the Beatitudes in another post. There are a few that I want to go into in-depth detail in subsequent posts, because there was just a lot of good material in them. For now, however, I’ll try and talk about the crux of each spiritual law.

Documentary Review: “KUMARE”

I have been stuck in bed and sick, sick, sick the past 3 days. What else should I do, except lay there and watch tv show after tv show on my computer? Needless to say, I am now hooked on “Downton Abbey” and “Parenthood”. But, telling you about those two tv shows is not the purpose of this blog post. [I will say though, that they are both excellent shows, and if you’re looking for a new tv show to get hooked on, those 2 are great!].

Anyways, I I know I’ve talked about this website before, but I frequent mindbodygreen.com. You know, I’ve signed up to get daily emails and what not, so I can see what new articles they have. Well, as I was checking my daily MBG digest, they had an advertisement for gaiamtv to check out a documentary called “Kumare“. Intriguing? Absolutely. Did some googling and found that it was on Netflix. Check. Alright let’s see what this is all about.

So, what’s this all about? This dude named Vikram Gandhi from New Jersey is essentially doing this experiment on spiritual leaders. He’s found that a lot of people who willingly call themselves prophets and swamis and gurus and connections with the Divine, are just phonies. Do I agree with this? To some extent. I think a lot of people who make these claims are all a little bit yahoo, and are in it for the wrong reasons. I think this is a cause for blind faith. But, that’s a post for another day. So, Vikram takes on the identity of “Kumare”, an Indian guru from the Himalayas. He goes to Phoenix, Arizona and creates a decent-sized following.
And what exactly does he do? He creates a fake doctrine. He teaches these people yoga asanas he made up, a meditation technique called “Blue Light Meditation”, and teaches them songs and words that are completely bogus. All of this takes guts, a risk I’m not so sure I would be willing to take myself.
His teachings He is basing his whole philosophy off of what he personally believes, which I find very commendable. At least, that part’s not fake. But, he believes that we as individuals don’t necessarily need spiritual guides. That these gurus and swamis and messengers are all within us, that we have the capability to guide ourself down a righteous path. He also taught his followers that the image of an ideal self that we’ve created of ourselves is an attainable truth. We have what it takes to be the ideal self that we envision. We have all the tools and resources to achieve this, we just have to look deep within and find them.
But then what happens? These people that have become his “followers” are so incredibly connected to him. I mean, they really truly believe that he is the solution to their problems. They find so much value in his teachings and the time they spend with him.

I don’t want to spill the ending, because it definitely caught me off guard. Either way, there are some things I agree with, some things I don’t. I do think gurus are necessary to help you walk whatever path you desire to walk on. I think they’re important in guiding you to realize your full potential. Yeah, a lot of them are hokey, but when you find someone who does it for you, you can’t help but fall in love with idea that this person is going to help you attain your ideal self. However, I do agree with Mr. Kumare Gandhi that we have everything we need inside of us already. We just need to figure out how to harness all that energy and power. Enter your spiritual guide.

My recommendation: if you have Netflix, or some other way of getting to watch this documentary, watch it. It took guts for Vikram to do what he did. Someone has to take these risks, and he did, which is something commendable. You might get pulled emotionally either for Vikram or for his followers [or both!] towards the end. Definitely interesting to see how his story played out.

If you want to know the ending, I’ll be more than happy to share with you though.