Tag Archives: meditation

a little tlc

YOWZAA. I can’t even remember the last time I blogged. Okay, it’s been almost 3 weeks. But, still, it’s been forever! And for that, I can only say that I am sorry. I knew my weeks would be crazy, but not this bad. I guess the good part though, is that I’m back. My last day of work was Monday, and it’s nice to have a little time to myself, and focus on things that need to get done in my life, like a more routine schedule where I can get back in the gym and start meditating more regularly again.

When life gets hectic and chaotic, it’s so easy for me to stop taking care of myself. I get tired and lazy. Eating out becomes more okay in my book. Not doing yoga or exercising or meditating becomes normal. The only things that end up mattering to me are making sure I have some sort of food in my stomach, and sleep. I never realized how hazardous this can become, nor did I realize the tolls it would have on my behavior. Cranky. Extra stressed. Extra emotional. Random bouts of anger.

WHAT IS GOING ON?! Folks this is no joke. This is real life. This is what happens when I stop taking care of myself. Never did I realize how important those little things like working out and doing yoga were in my life. Whenever I tried introspecting or talking it out, all I could figure out was that I just felt really imbalanced, physically, emotionally, and mentally. But I couldn’t put a finger on what was wrong.

It is so incredibly important to take care of yourself. Spend some quality time with you. Give yourself a little TLC. The external world all around is important, but it can easily act as a trigger to cause imbalances in your life. I don’t know the exact science behind it all, but a lot of the way you feel or act is attributed to the internal. It’s not easy honing in on exactly what makes you feel the way you do. But, it’s so important to keep trying.

I always did those things, journaling, meditating, etc because I enjoyed doing them. I felt at peace. But, it was never a thought to me that I actually needed it. It keeps me centered, focused, grounded, three things I can always tell is off in my life. As selfish as it seems, its important to put yourself first at times and take care of you. I think deep down, humans in general are pleasing people. We don’t want to come across as a bad person. And for some, like me, it’s hard for me to say no, even though I know that it’s going equate to less sleep or something. But, how are we going to take care of others if we are not fit to do so?

All I know, is that I am looking forward to a lot of personal time the next few days. How do you spend your personal TLC time?

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strengthen your mind

“No matter how healthy, intelligent or affluent we may be, if our minds are weak, then our happiness will also be frail and brittle. Our minds of faith, moreover, enable us to bring out the full potential in all things and situations, so it is crucial that we strive to forge our minds of faith.”  Daisaku Ikeda

The point of this blog is to let you in on my life and my thoughts and my experiences as I travel down this path of spirituality and my desire to seek Truth. Despite all of these great experiences and adventures I’ve been having, I forget my purpose and fall back in to the daily routine of life which includes home and work. 

This daily encouragement could not have come at a better time. I’ve been slacking on my meditation–a tool that I believe is one of the best ways to sharpen and strengthen your mind. I can’t say this is true or not, but to me the mind is a path to your soul, and your soul is the seat of your inner truth. Our mind is such a powerful, yet such an underused instrument in our lives. I forget this, and when I forget I begin to slack. Time to get back on a routine that involves meditation. Funny how these reminders come at exactly the time you need it the most. For me? I’m about to start a very stressful and anxiety-ridden couple months. I need my mind to be on point 24/7. Meditation time folks. Gotta get back in touch with myself. 

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.

final thoughts on Vipassana experience

By the end of the week, I was able to sit longer periods without hating the pain in my knees and back. The more I observed my physical discomfort, the quicker it went away, even if during that one moment of observation.

I can’t say that I had certain goals I wanted to accomplish coming into the 10 days, mainly because I didn’t know what to expect. But, I did learn some things that I’m deeming as important in my life journey, and will definitely play an important role in seeking the Truth.

1. I know I’m an emotional person. I react to every situation that comes at me. I now realize the extent to which this happens. How can I live a balanced life when I don’t even have a balanced mind?
2. I left Vipassana with a greater awareness of myself. I can definitely feel the sensations on my body, and I realize that they are there now. Do I still go in for that scratch on my nose. Yeah, a lot of the times, especially when I really can’t stand it. But, at least it’s not an unconscious act. I know that I am reacting. It’s not just another motion of life. Awareness-it’s a pretty amazing thing.
3. I left a huge grief in Kaufman, Texas. One that I wasn’t aware still hung tight to me. I realize that I let past situations determine my future sometimes, when it’s my current actions that determine my future. I’m learning to let go.
4. I have an attachment issue. To my friends, families, ideas, schools of thoughts. They’re in my comfort zone, and I’m scared to venture out. As much as I’d like to think that I’m open-minded, and as much as I am, I am actually very limited to what I am open-minded about. When it comes to spirituality, I like what I’m doing. Like I said, if I went to this pre-India, I don’t think I would have appreciated it as much as I do now. My world is being filled with so many new and exciting things, and it makes me so excited for my future, and the path I’ve decided to walk on. To become closer to the Divine, to have a real and fulfilling relationship with the Supreme involves so much more than I ever imagined, and I am realizing this a lot now. If I keep focusing on the one or two things that I don’t like about an idea, a person, a school of thought, I could be missing out on so much more that means a lot more. What is wrong with me!? At least this realization is coming now. Better late than never.
5. I want to live my life with so much love and compassion for all beings and creations that walk or sit this world.

At the end of the day, can I say that Vipassana Meditation is the technique I want to practice here on out? No, I can’t. It’s something I’m still learning about, and figuring out if it’s for me or not. But I can say that it has taught me a lot about myself, and a lot about what kind of life I should be living, and want to live. A balanced life. A neutral life. A positive and hard-working lifeA life filled with love.

I am so in love with life right now, and I am so in love with the path that God is sending me on. My friend describes it as scary, but I like to describe it as fun and exciting.

May all beings be happy.

Vipassana experience: part 2

I’ll have to say, that the first couple of days were actually extremely boring for me. I found no mental stimulation, and focusing on my respiration and the reality of my breath was tedious and anything but exciting. Plus to top it off, it was raining the first few days, and I had holes in my shoes, which equals wet feet. Great.

Day 4 finally came, and we were actually going to learn vipassana meditation (up to this point it was just ana pana…focusing on the breath and concentrating your mind). Maybe I won’t be so bored anymore. This is where the real stuff was kicking in. It was an adjusted schedule this day. We had a sit from 3-5pm where we weren’t allowed to leave the room so that we can fully understand Goenke’s directions. So, we’re sitting, eyes closed, focusing on our respiration, focusing on the area underneath our nose and right above our upper lip, observing any sensations we may or may not be feeling there. Then, all of a sudden, he tells us to bring our attention to the top of our head, and slowly make our way down the body to the feet. We must make sure to feel every sensation, whether it be hot, cold, tingly, itchy, prickly, sweaty, whatever, in every nook and cranny of our body. And let me just tell you, woah. Like, freaking woah. I literally felt a movement of tingly-ness run through my body again and again. It was probably the craziest and surprisingly cool things I’ve ever witnessed. It was hard not to create an excitement towards this feeling that overcame me. To just observe and be neutral was a much harder task than I originally anticipated it to be.

Over the next several days, my meditations were just a bunch of ups and downs. My mind just would not stop on some days. I couldn’t stop thinking, and the music would not stop playing. There were days where I just could not concentrate and focus. At all. In the discourses every night, he would mention the importance of working hard. But not just working hard, but working diligently, patiently, persistently. I would walk back to bed some days thinking maybe I’m just not working hard enough, despite my serious effort to concentrate my mind. What was going on? I just wanted to concentrate. I just wanted to feel those sensations like that first time of doing vipassana.

Gji-sittingBW

Hey Goenkeji!

And there it was. I was creating craving and aversion before my very eyes. The one thing that Goenke said not to do. Well played Goenke, well played. Everything began to click towards the end of the middle. The root of misery, craving and aversion, I was creating for myself. I can’t blame anyone but myself.

I decided to work even harder than I was. I wanted to work diligently, patiently, and persistently, without wanting the good sensations and without wanting the bad ones to go away. I can’t say that my concentration and focus got exponentially better and that I could sit hours upon ends focusing on the sensations without being bombarded by my thoughts. Honestly, that happened a grand total of 2 times. Just two. All the other times it was a struggle. But, I worked. I worked hard. I know that this practice is going to come with time, and that’s okay.

Vipassana experience: part 1

So, I’m back. And, I think that I’m going to have split this up into a few parts, because, well, it was a lot of experience. I mean a freaking lot. I’m not really sure what the best route is to go through all the details, so let’s just see how it goes.

Like I said before, this course was a no talking, no writing, no reading, no communicating with anyone 10-day trip. And, seriously all I can say is that it was mind-blowing. Never have I realized just how crazy I am. I mean, I know that I’m crazy, I think we all do. But, when you’re stuck with yourself for 10 days, you realize just how crazy you are.

Let’s start with the first day, or as they call it day 0. When we walk into the registration area that afternoon, I’m feeling pretty confident. Like, oh yeah I totally can handle this. I mentioned in a post from India, how I try to meditate every day. I think meditation is such a great tool to use to strengthen your relationship with the Divine. So, yeah, I went in thinking that I totally got this. Boy was I in for a little surprise. Our first meditation started that evening after dinner. And it’s safe to say that I got little to none meditation in. The whole concept behind vipassana meditation is to focus on the reality of the moment. We are so always caught up in either the past or the future, two parts of our lives that we have absolutely no control over. It is so difficult to focus on the present. Go ahead, see if you can focus on your breath without intruding thoughts about things that happened yesterday or things you have to do for like 5 minutes straight. Seriously. It’s really tough.

This was the first time I realized how unstable my mind really is. I can’t focus. At all. Maybe, I would get in about 2 minutes of real focus on my respiration at a time, but my thoughts just wouldn’t stop. What was going on? I realized I am never living in the present. My mind is on turbo speed. Always. Woah.

The early days continued. 4am wake up gongs were terrible, yet easy to wake up to, and surprisingly I felt pretty fresh waking up that early, not groggy at all. Back to meditation. Progressing a little bit as the days went on. By day 2, I was able to hold my concentration on my respiration for longer periods of time. Cool! Maybe Mr. Goenke is right after all. With practice comes success. This isn’t so bad after all. One of the harder things was to not get frustrated at yourself at a seemingly easy task. But, just accept the reality of it.

Another phenomenon happened on day 2 as well. Towards the evening, right before the night group sit, I began to feel very lonely and isolated. The real-ness of not communicating with others and living an isolated lifestyle began to really sink in. I did not like it, and it is safe to say that I could not stop crying. So, here I am, sitting in the meditation hall, trying to concentrate on my breathing, but all I can do is cry. But then, an amazing thing happened. Basically what was going on, was a lot of past situations and experiences started coming back to me, that I never wanted to feel again. So I told myself, snap out of it, and focus on your breathing. That is what is going on in the now. I did. And I stopped crying. It was so incredible. The minute I stopped dwelling in the past, and actually focused on the present, I was able to let go of some huge weight that apparently had been dragging me down, and was just waiting to resurface. It’s awesome what focusing on the present can do. I was beginning to get what Goenke was saying about the past and future, and how we should begin focussing on the present.

This is all getting pretty cool.

tick tick tick and tock.

Yesterday, I was at my cousin’s place just hanging out. All the kids here take essentially what I call extra tutoring classes for everything. And I don’t mean just the ones struggling, everyone. For every subject. It’s a little ridiculous and I wouldn’t have survived in school or college here. They call it “tuition” (pronounced tyoo-shun) and they literally go to these things for hours upon end. She was getting ready to go to her tuition for accounting. She’s taking the last step for the equivalent of our CPA in May. Anyways, I asked her how far it was from her house. And she goes, “Yeah, it’s pretty far. Like 15 minutes away.” I thought in my head, are you joking? 15 minutes in America is nothing. Even in big cities where you have crazy awesome public transit, 15 minutes is nothing. It takes me 20 minutes just to get to Wal-Mart from my house. I was really shocked at the perceptions of time here. Even when I landed at the airport, I asked my aunt and uncle how far home was, and they said it’s about 15 kilometers (which I quickly figured out in my head, based off of a 5k being 3.1 miles, is about 9ish miles away). To me, that was nothing. 9 miles is an easy 20 minute car ride. But here, 20 minutes seems like the equivalence of 3 hours. I thought back to the countless number of times I drove from college in Birmingham, AL all the way back home to Memphis. That was a long 4 hours. But 15-20 minutes…?

I started to think about the importance of time, and the utilization of it. We’re always complaining how we don’t have enough hours in the day. I wish I could count how many times I’ve said myself, or I’ve heard others say, 24 hours just isn’t enough. But, when you look at it from a bigger perspective, it really is. I’m 22 years old, that’s the equivalent to 192,720 hours. Now, tell me that’s not a lot of hours. So the question becomes, how can I stretch every minute I have as far as possible? How can I really utilize each hour that I’m awake so at the end of the day I’m not complaining that I didn’t have enough time to get X,Y,Z done.

The past few months, I’ve been living at home with my parents and just working on applications for grad school and stuff. But other than that, not doing a whole lot more. I have a routine, but I definitely have plenty of free time during the day when my parents are at work. A really good friend of mine semi-got onto me for not making the most of all this time I have. And, he’s right. Instead of watching 5 episodes of HIMYM, I could cut back to 2 and spend that extra 1.5 hours to read or perfect a skill, or learn something new. But, it’s just so much nicer to be passive than active, right? Well, we all know that quote, “an idle mind is the devil’s playground” or some variation of it. So back to my original question, how can I stretch one minute to make it last “forever”?

Every morning, I wake up and meditate. Not for super long, but I try to for at least 30 minutes. I really recommend everyone just sitting by themselves for even as little as 5-10 minutes and just clear your mind and try to just focus on being in that moment. Anyways, this morning I was you know, meditating, and without thinking, my hand moved to my face to scratch an itch I had. Now usually, when you just quickly scratch your head or arm, that sensation goes away fast. Go ahead, try it right now. Experiment time: how long after do you feel that scratch? Ok, so I went and scratched my face. And I know this may sound crazy to some of you, but I kid you not, that sensation lasted for at least 5ish minutes, and more than that, I felt it deeper than just my outer most layer of skin, seriously permeating through however many layers of skin there is, down to muscle and bone.

I think this is the answer to my question. We need to figure out a way to make these sensations and eventual perceptions that we feel last longer than a few seconds. One way to do that is the ability to control our senses. This is one of the messages found in the Bhagvad Geeta. As humans, it is easy for our senses to control our mind. We like something, we’re attracted to that, we want to taste that, all of this then controls our actions. But, really, it should be the other way around. Our mind should be strong enough to control our senses. I don’t know the science or philosophy behind this, but if we can control our senses, than I think we can control what we feel, and make that feeling last longer than it really does. In turn, we might be able to make our time last longer, because we would be able to feel the after effects for much longer. Any experts out there please feel free to comment!

I woke up from my nap today (napping is somewhat mandatory here. Ha. Everyone takes a good hour, two hour nap if you’re home in the afternoon), and found a bird trapped inside the house. There are 3 windows we have, and the middle one was open, but it was trying to escape from the window that was closed. But, the funny thing was, the solution to his problem was literally right next to him. He just couldn’t see. This is so applicable in our lives, if not for you, than definitely for me. The answer to so many of our life questions is right in front of us, but the hard part is realizing that it’s there. My life has become now, more than ever, a spiritual endeavor to seek truth. And the solution to this thing we call life is here. It’s written by our ancestors and sages and saints and thousands of people who have come before us. But, if I don’t stop watching TV all day and try to uncover what’s out there, how am I going to be able to travel down this road? It’s as easy as stretching the minutes of my life as far as they’ll go.

Mosquito Bite Count: 2 | Serious Craving: back to Taco Bell. Yum.

the little bugger trying to get out.

he’s out. and free.

last one. he’s so cute.