Meditation Chat 30 July 2013 * Prepping with Pranayama

Note that the most recently posted Chats are at the top. To view them in order go to the bottom. Though a few go together, it is fine to read most of them in any order. Enjoy.

Blessed day to you! May the Force be with you, and may you be open to it flowing fully. Have fun.

Some of the things I am sharing today may be of interest and helpful for those getting started, but some are for those who are already established in a practice.

I ask folks to meditating every day, with a commitment to doing it twice for at least one minute. A daily practice is important if you want to enter into the special realm available through meditation. Such a commitment is totally doable, which is important so that you feel good about yourself meditating. But the "at least" is worth noting, too. When you do have the space, please give yourself up to your meditation. It can take some time coming to that deep zone where you are free. Be open to accept what's there for you in that special moment.

It is so helpful to do some preparation. This can open you for a deeper meditation experience. Here are some of those things you can do... things that can really ripen you for your meditation practice and help bring meaningful, moving experiences.

 Have a neat clean space, and come with your body and clothing clean. Also, if you enjoy incense, light some incense and a candle. I get my body loosened up before sitting, and then, after sitting, twist and check that my posture is upright and comfortable. It is useful to shift around some and check how it feels to move the weight a bit forward or backward. This can be quite useful.  When the alignment is right you will feel energy flowing openly up through sushumna (the central energy channel that flows along the spinal pathway), from the root right up through the crown. Take a few moments right now to play with this and see if you can notice this energy flow. It is worth the little time it takes.

I then honor my Gurudev, and ask for protection and guidance for this meditation and to move forward living in my fullness. If you do not have a relationship with a divine teacher/guide, your Guru, you can simply ask the Divine that loves you, cares for you, and is all wise to be with you in this way. This is useful to put you in a state of mind ready for meditation. If we want to receive, we need to humbly place our hand below the Source and open it for what will be given to us.

Then, if I find there are issues about myself or others demanding my mind's attention and my heart's engagement, I will take a little time to pray about those things, wishing the best for them, really mean it, and expect the good for all.

Next I do some pranayama. There are two different approaches to doing pranayama. Sometimes it is  doing the pranayama to still the mind, get centered and build an energetic charge to carry you through your practice - meditation takes energy. At other times I may shape my meditation practice through the pranayama practice, using the pranayama as part of the focus for my meditation. If I am doing the former, I then ring my singing bowl after I am done with my pranayama. But if I am intending to use the pranayama steadily throughout my practice, I will ring the bowl before. Listening to the singing bowl  moves my attention inward to that inner space where the meditation work is easiest.

Hmmm... pranayama. Wow. It is very important to include this as part of your practice. And even if you are only taking one minute, still a few deep breaths at the start, deergha swasam, will help you move into that meditative state. But if you have the time, spend anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes doing pranayama at the start. Longer can be ok, too, but only if you have been doing pranayama regularly for some time, and then it is best to have a competent teacher who can guide you as you go deeper into your pranayama practice. Some of the things I am about to mention are not for everyone, but many of you will understand and be able to make use of these comments.

Do some deep breathing. You may want to use the Ujjayi breathing (squeezing the throat a bit so that you can feel and inwardly hear the breath moving through the throat) to help direct your awareness inward. My teacher directed us to do some rounds of Kapalabhati breathing (a rapid diaphragmatic breathing that highly oxygenates the body, stimulates the endocrine glands and especially brings sharpness/alertness to the mind). I usually do three full rounds. Because this practice oxygenates so well it is easy to hang out and do some extra things without the body asking for a new breath right away. In Kapalabhati, once several rapid breaths are done out & in through the nostrils, there is a rather full exhalation. Pause while the air is out. During these pauses, after each of the three rounds, I usually do three abdominal practices. After the first round of rapid breaths I do Uddiyana Bandha by drawing my diaphragm up while the air is out. I include the Moola Bandha (the Root Lock) by tightening a bit in the anus area. After a while I then inhale a full breath, without overdoing it, and pause with the air in. During this pause I do what is known as the Triple Lock - Moola Bandha (Root Lock), Uddiyana Bandha (Central Lock - which can be done with the air in rather than as we did it earlier with the air out, though it is quite a different experience) and Jalandhara Bhandha (Chin Lock). The Chin Lock can be the first lock to put in place and is useful while retaining the breath. While doing the Triple Lock, I also include a lovely work with the energy, by directing attention initially to the Central Lock area and envision the apana energy moving up to that point from the root and the prana energy moving down to that point from the chest, and those two energies coming into a union which I mentally direct and envision flowing up to the third eye. I then release the chin lock and begin the gentle, slow exhalation.

I repeat this final element with the deep breath, triple lock and moving the united prana/apana to the third eye after each of the next two rounds of Kapalabhati. During the second round, after the rapid breaths and the full exhalation, while the air is out I usually do Agnasari Dhauti (a flapping of the abdominal muscles while the air is out), and in the third round do Nauli Kriya (a rolling of the abdominal recti muscles). These are useful practices with many helpful benefits, but also in this meditation flow they work wonderfully to draw the attention inward and help you engage the mind fully and direct it. And you also fill your energy up from the pranayama.

I will need to stop for today, but may be able to continue this discussion next week.

All love and blessings to and through you always,


    Meditation Chat 23 July 2013 * Magic


    good morning.... may this be a lovely day for you.... full of delight in what blossoms forth throughout your day... beautiful thoughts and insights... and lots of quiet space (in your mind even more than the space around you)

    I would like to consider some of the "magic" of meditation and then a little more on mantra.

    By “magic” I mean those things that take place seemingly without any clear rational link or understanding of how that happened. I have found that our meditation practice is full of that magic.

    When we meditate things shift.

    Certainly our mental perspective on everything is transformed, and though that might seem sensible, this, too, is quite magical. We do not need to be considering our "issues," or attempting to deal with something. And what we are "doing" as we meditate may very well be working to still the mind or keep it from thinking about a lot of things, bringing it to a one-pointed state. We may be repeating a mantra - not thinking about our stuff. We could be focused on the breath - not considering the whys or hows of things. We might be gazing at a candle flame or picture of a wise one - not looking for solutions to any of our struggles. But...

    While we work to focus the mind on whatever we have chosen as our object of meditation, the state of our mind transforms. When we are finished with that sitting (if it is a seated mediation practice), our mental state has shifted. We view things with a more opened heart that is generous and compassionate toward others, the world and ourselves. Hope blossoms forth nurtured with faith. This changes how we move forward with our daily activities. Some of our problems actually just disappear - they may have never been there, just mental imaginings, or our world may have actually shifted to free us of those. The solutions to some of the problems become apparent and we are able to move forward to resolve that. Or, we may simply find that we now have the patience to allow things to work out without that unneeded anxiety that we too often embrace.

    Throughout the day, after some deep meditative moments, you find that things are flowing. People appear in good ways. Things shift to make you late or early and it works perfectly. You find that something you've done or said has served the good for someone else or helped with some circumstance (you may discover this at the time or at a later time - maybe some other day).

    The more steady you are with your practice, the more you find your life being shaped like this. Meditation does work magic.

    Have you noticed this yourself?

    Now, be careful. Do not approach your meditation to make these things happen. They are side-effects, good ones, but still not the main reason for you to meditate. In fact, if you approach you meditations trying to work the magic it will undermine your practice. Just like those times when you have a deep, rich mediation experience and then "try" for that again next time.

    It is certainly ok to appreciate this, and accept that this is part of what meditation is, but meditate to quiet the mind and let it reflect the fullness of your Self, the Truth. If you have different motives you run the risk of missing the main thing, undermining your practice and even mis-shaping things in your life. As long as you are aiming for full Self-realization, everything else with naturally blossom forth, and be a lot of fun, too.

    Mantra. A recent little tale...

    We just held a yoga retreat at Mount Eden, Friday through Sunday, July 12-14. It was lovely. One of the participants shared this comment after a yoga class. "When we were chanting that mantra at the end of the class to go into the meditation, my mind just stopped all of its chatter. That almost never happens for me, but it did while we were chanting the mantra."

    We told her that she had just given the exact meaning of the Sanskrit word "mantra." It means" to take away the mind," the manas, that part of our mind that is cogitating and relating and planning. So it worked for her.

    Patanjali gives us three things necessary for us to become established in our practices. He says we need to do it for (1) a long time, (2) consistently without a break in our practice and (3) with all earnestness.

    Doing something earnestly, sometimes translated as “with enthusiasm,” means that we do not let it become a shallow surface repetition, but give it our attention and care about what we are doing. Sometimes we can repeat a mantra without any feeling or attention, just have the sounds repeating. That's not the way to do it. Give it your attention. Feel the vibration of it. and do it with feeling - put your heart into it. When you do it this way, it works. The mind quiets. The inner light is uncovered and lights you in every way. Mantra has so much for us. Again... there is a lot of magic in mantra.

    Repeat your mantra... in all earnestness, without break, and keep at it. Meditate everyday.

    Love always,


      Meditation Chat 16 July 2013 * Sangha

      Last week I shared an affirmation from Master Sivananda and one from myself to be affirmed with feeling on a regular basis. Such things work a special magic that can shape our lives, mostly by shifting the state of our mind. Whatever our mind holds onto, especially if we add feeling to fuel it, will surely manifest in our lives.

      Here again are the affirmations from last week.

      From Master Sivananda: “I am the Self of all; I am the All; I am the All in all.”

      And the one I have used for years: “I am pure, eternal, light, consciousness, bliss.”

      This past weekend I was part of a lovely yoga retreat. Each morning we sat together for meditation. We started with a structured element followed by quiet time for us to focus upon whatever we do for our meditation. It was lovely and powerful, and useful to be doing this together as a group.

      This restricts you bit - you cannot chant your mantra aloud since that would break the silence and distract the others, and the time frame may be too short for some practices (such as chanting through a piece of scripture or completing the number of repetitions of your mantra that you normally do), yet the group energy is very powerful and can help to draw you into a steady, rich meditation experience.

      Another nice thing about being on retreat is that it effectively cut us off from so many of the things we tend to engage in. This, too, helped to make our meditation times easier, lighter, and brighter.

      Please note that there are some great advantages to gathering for meditations. Find some others to join with and spend time meditating together. You may find these special, rich sessions, especially if those gathering together regularly meditate on their own, too. At such group meditations you may find it quite easy to let go and simply slip into a deep meditation. Good company. Sangha is so important.

      Keep in mind just how valuable the company you keep is. This is considered one of the great elements of life. In the Buddhist teachings it is presented as one of the 3 gems. One is the Buddha, the living example and guide. Another is the Dharma, the teachings of truth and righteousness and those practices that serve you and all. And the Sangha, the company you keep, is the other.

      Take the time to look around you and be sure that you choose to gather with folks who share your vision, who are also dedicated to Spirit, and who value service. Your sangha has a huge impact on your life. It can help move you forward and keep you on track, or just the opposite if the company you keep has no interest in spiritual growth.

      There is a sort of magic that you can see working in your life. The practices you do impact your life in ways that are way beyond simple logic and understanding. Even if it's unconscious, or perhaps subconscious, there are many things that have results far beyond what seems logical. Your morning meditation practice does settle your mind and impact the body with it calmness, too. And, if you are regular, it is even understandable how holding a particular thought or energy in your mind can shape how you view things, what you are expecting and looking for, and how this might shift what is happening in your life. But that morning meditation does more. It changes how your day unfolds. It puts you into a different flow for your day than what would be happening without it. It even deals with some of the karmic debt you must go through to lighten the remainder of this life's experience.

      Be sure to take some time and make the effort to gather around those "realized" beings and sages. Being in their presence will change the way you perceive things. It will remove some of the clouds that have dulled your inner Light. It will definitely be good company, too. Again and again you will hear from others and read in the stories of the sages how being in the presence of realized beings helped to shape their own lives. We are fortunate to have some of these great beings around. We can even tune in to them and hear their teachings via the internet or DVDs. This is totally worthwhile, but for most of us, there is something special that takes place when we can be in their presence physically. This is not a requirement. If you are able to direct your attention fully in the mental plane, you can tune into them and benefit from their state of consciousness like that. But most will get the benefit when they make the journey to be with them in the physical plane. And making such efforts helps us manage our mind and how we are in this world. So, do make the effort to visit such beings when possible.

      Love always,


        Meditation Chat 25 June 2013 * Balance

        ahhhh, how nice it is to have taken a bit of time to meditate today

        I would enjoy discussing balance today

        Balance is a real key to understanding and going about our lives.

        You have heard it advised to take the middle path. Not too much. Not too little. The middle path.

        Thinking about it, you can recognize how the moderate approach works to keep your peace. And our practices, too, are designed to help us keep our peace.


        Consider time at work, time at play, time engaging in relationship, time alone, time resting, time full of activity. If any of these gets out of balance, we find ourselves moving from that zone where we are settled into our peace, our happiness.

        Interestingly, when we are "trying" to stay balanced we can move into a dullness by removing our energy from being more engaged in our lives. This can take us away from our peaceful nature, too.

        No, we want to be fully engaged. Dive into life with gusto. Have fun. Care. Love.

        We read in scriptures from most traditions that it is important for us to dedicate our lives to spiritual pursuits and that the worldly affairs don't take us anywhere. There is a truth to this, but let's balance it some.

        You may have heard of the term "Maya." This is usually spoken of as the trap of worldly delusion from which we must escape. There is truth in this that is very important to note and understand, and then follow the guidance we get to become free of that delusion.

        But, Maya is not something bad. In fact, it a one of the greatest and most valuable gifts of being. Without the Maya we would not have any sense of individuality, nor would we be able to have relationships. There would be no sense of accomplishment, no play of life. That doesn't sound like fun, does it? And life is to be fun.

        But when we are not recognizing the Maya as God's gift so that we have the entire play of life, we move out of balance. Then the Maya deludes us. We, instead of having individuality so that we can love and play, fall into separateness and lose the awareness of who we really are.

        Remember: "Right now you are divine, endless bliss - and it is always right now!"

        Those spiritual guides telling us to get free from the Maya are needed when we not aware of the Absolute of all, including ourselves. But once you are "free" of the Maya, then it becomes your wonderful vehicle for loving and playing and serving and rejoicing.


        We each have that inner Guide. When we look for the guidance it definitely will be there for us. We may need to still our minds, stop all of the inner chatter and move away from the fires of all that reasoning, so that we can actually listen to our inner Guide. Meditation and mantra japa are perfect aids to help us with this.

        Scriptures say "Ask, and it will be given you; Seek, you and you will find; Knock, and the door will be opened unto you." Totally true. We need to ask with a real hunger and enthusiasm. Then we must be open to receive what comes for us. It is sad how often we look for something, it is then offered to us, and we are not ready to accept it at that moment. We should seek expecting it to show up, not worrying about how it will be or what form it may be in, or even when – but stay ready and expecting. There are times when a door is opened before us and we don't take advantage of that.

        If it unfolds like this, rather than be discouraged or hardening your heart, start fresh, only ready this time to receive, to hear, to take the steps to get where you'd like to go.

        Be patient. Be forgiving. Never quit. Expect. Have fun. Play. Love.

        In some way each of us is here to be of service. Find out how you serve. Be that instrument in the hand of the Divine. Master Sivananda gave this terse instruction for life... "Serve. Love. Give. Purify. Meditate. Realize."


        Love always,


        Meditation Chat 18 June 2013 * give yourself credit

        beautiful day to you

        I would like to talk a bit more about some meditation techniques and tips, and share something that might broaden your perspective about your spiritual practices.

        Here is something to consider... There are things that we recognize as spiritual practices... sitting at the altar, repeating a mala of your mantra, doing selfless service at a center, worshiping at a church or temple, etc. Yet, we then seem to only count those things as spiritual practices and sometimes do not acknowledge or recognize when we are deeply into practicing to develop ourselves spiritually. And if we do not recognize it, then we don't give ourselves credit.

        What are some of the things which you might not recognize as part of your spiritual practice?

        Do you really see that repeating your mantra in situations not at all looking like spiritual settings in no way diminishes the strength of your practice. Like those times when you are repeating your mantra while driving or taking the day on a walk or doing the dishes or in the shower. In fact, it can actually make the practice more powerful and effective. Thiruvalluvar, a great south Indian sage, wrote that the married life is a higher and more powerful spiritual practice than the monk's approach. He explained that having someone close gives you the opportunity to address challenges, brings forth your issues which must be dealt with, opens you to both giving and receiving love, and keeps you ever in a situation where you can serve... a very high spiritual situation that is sometimes not recognized.

        Priti: ...reflecting on the innate quality of pure consciousness leading to a tranquil mind! Its a beautiful day for a hike and walking meditation. Enjoy:... feeling connected...

        Good morning, Priti. Yes, a lovely day for a hike It is true that being out in nature can and often is a rich spiritual experience for us. Have fun!

        I love your expression of an "innate quality of pure consciousness." That is just the thing to remember. Once we have a clear experience of that, with an understanding that it is actually our innate nature rather than something we need to build or get to, then we will find that we are either aware of it or called to remember it.

        Though we feel how useful and right it is for us, we sometimes do not see it as part of our spiritual practice when we are being considerate of other people, creatures and the sacred earth. But when consider it this way, we do understand that this is practicing spiritually. Saint Francis, Mother Theresa and so many others are great examples for us.

        When we find ourselves pausing to let someone else ahead of us in the grocery check-out who has fewer things or seems to be hurrying, we may not understand that our actions like this are some of the most effective to help us come to our fullness. There are many little opportunities that present themselves for us. And when we do act in service and love, it is good for us to feel how right this is, how much it serves us, to have such an opportunity, and be thankful for that opportunity to serve, too.

        There is an enigma or danger in recognizing this. If we are doing it as "practice" rather than loving service, it can become selfish and have little effect. Jesus said that we should not let the left hand know what the right hand is doing. He was explaining that when we are doing charitable acts they simply need to be done because it is the right thing to do. If we are inspired to do it to get something, then it is no longer a charitable act, but tainted by selfishness. The sacred texts again and again tell us that we are to do our actions without looking for selfish results.

        This is another way that the spiritual diary can be such a useful tool to help you move forward as you would like. At the end of the day take a few minutes to review your day. Have a list of things you would like to be part of your life, things you would like to see yourself doing, and check what things you have and haven't done during the day. I have found over the years that this keeps me on track. Though there are some things I do to complete my checklist, they eventually become how I am with no effort or selfish consideration. It is fine to do it initially to “get” something – doing the practices because I want to come that place of full awareness, peace, Self-realization, yoga. But if we keep at it, it eventually becomes what we are. We do what seems right to do – no longer to get something, but simply because we are like that. It is how we are. It is then that we experience fullness and freedom. So, stay with your practices, never stop. They will simply change from practices to how you are. Effort will become freedom.

        Give yourself credit for all the things you are doing that are truly useful to becoming everything that you are May you both experience life in fullness and express yourself in fullness, too - for the benefit of all.

        You are wonderful, beautiful, powerful, bountiful, generous, loving, inspired and inspiring. Have fun.

        love always


        Meditation Chat 11 June 2013 * even more on Mantra Japa

        Good morning, Divine fountains of Light!

        Last week we left our discussion of mantra with intentions to talk about repeating your mantra and other mantras, and some tips for your practice. I will start on this but welcome any questions about anything. Are there any right now?

        There are lots of reasons to repeat your mantra. We have gone through a number of these already... quiet the mind, settle the emotions, draw you into the present moment, come to more subtle states of consciousness, charge up with positive energy, open up to insights and solutions and guidance.

        And there are lots of ways to repeat your mantra. You can sit at the altar and repeat the mantra counting with mala beads. You can repeat it as you lie in bed going to sleep, and then right when you wake up. You can repeat it while you are in the bathroom. You can repeat it while you are preparing breakfast. You can repeat while you take the dog on a walk, or while you simply are walking anywhere. You can repeat it while jogging or at the health club doing your exercises. You can repeat it while doing your yoga practice. You can repeat it while making love. You can repeat it while chewing your food. You can repeat it while on hold or waiting for something to download. Get the idea?

        You can also repeat it by writing it down. This is a special practice known as Likhita Japa, written repetition. It is a wonderfully engaging and effective manner to repeat your mantra. Your eyes, hands, mental attention and body posture are all engaged in the mantra. If you have never done this, try it. Get a notebook and write your mantra out for a page (or more, if you'd like and have the time set aside for that). Hopefully, you will make a commitment to fill a page or more daily. If you do, get ready for mining some of the deep benefits of your mantra.

        Some like to write it in Sanskrit script. Of course, that makes sense if you are proficient in Sanskrit. And, if not, it is a lovely exercise to simply have someone show you how to write the mantra in Sanskrit, learn how to write it (draw it - it will be lovely), and then fill a page by writing it again and again on the page as you mentally repeat it. Yes, it is important to mentally repeat it, too. And it is ok to do it aloud or while moving the lips. Engage in it as fully as possible. It is truly a wonderful practice that will reveal its benefits to you quickly.

        Consider this... repeating your mantra does these two things, at least: it resonates all the aspects of your being (physical, mental, energetic, etc.) & it creates a mental groove that becomes deeper and clearer as you continue your repetition day after day.

        The groove taking form is very important and helpful, which is one of the reasons you want to remember to repeat your mantra everyday, and in a lot of settings and circumstances. Our mind-stuff takes on patterns. If you continue to repeat this sacred sound formula, the mind stuff will begin to have a groove take shape, and that will make it easier for you to settle into your mantra and have fewer and fewer disruptions to your steadiness. The groove will make it much easy to repeat your mantra and then come into a true meditative state. The groove takes shape over time with steady repetition, getting deeper and deeper, clearer and clearer, as you continue to repeat your mantra.

        Once you have a deep mental groove with your mantra flowing almost constantly (and that is what will happen for you), you will begin to remain in a meditative state more and more. This doesn't mean that you will be trance like. No, just the opposite actually. You will be at ease, more alert, more aware and have a clearer perspective on things, along with an intuitive sense of understanding. Faith will increase. You will be able to trust the present moment enough to live in it, and then the present will expand to include past and future, too. [I know this might sound a little tricky at first, but just make note so that when you are in that place of awareness you can say "Aha, I see," so that you can simply relax and hang out like that.] So, repeat you mantra everyday - a lot. This is not work, but delightful fun. It is one of the easiest of all spiritual practices.

        As I have mentioned before, though you want to choose a mantra and repeat your chosen mantra everyday - a lot, you can still use other mantras, too. Just don't stop repeating your chosen mantra, even when you are giving attention and time to another mantra. It is fine, healthy, useful, informative, fun to explore and use lots of different mantras. Please do. They are so much fun, have some useful effects and benefits, and will help you to blossom into fullness. Mantras will come into your life and you will be drawn to explore or use different mantras at different times. That is wonderful. Accept that. Go with the flow. Give it your time and loving attention. But continue to repeat your chosen mantra everyday, too.

        Here are a few tips that you might find helpful as you get into you mantra japa:

        • Play around with the pitch and tempo. Try chanting it higher or lower pitched, and changing pitches as you are going through a mala (108 repetitions). You may also find that as you raise the pitch you might like increasing the speed of the repetition, and then slow it down as you lower the pitch. No rules here, just play. See how it works for you, how you like it, what you like. Note that you will be in a different space on different days or different times of the same day. Be open to chanting your mantra in different ways that are fitting for you at the moment. Again, though you do want to do this with commitment and conviction, remember that it is all play. Have fun with it.

        • Also, do it very loudly, and very softly, and gradually shifting from one to the other making note how each impacts your state of consciousness.

        • Try contemplating on each element of the mantra's sound as you very distinctly and rather slowly repeat it, maybe even just a single repetition.

        • As you cook, repeat your mantra, consciously willing the energy to saturate and bless the food that is being prepared. Then serve it and eat it with that awareness. This will actually keep you with the flow of the mantra as your food is being digested and nurturing your body for the next several hours.

        • Know that mantra vibrations can serve to support healing. Willfully direct the mantra energy with that intent when you feel it practical and needed.

        • As you repeat your mantra you will find that it creates an armor that protects you physically, mentally and energetically. Repeating your mantra with this intention is a common practice with very powerful results.

        Repeat you mantra.

        Live and love fully.

        Have fun.

        Love always,


        Meditation Chat 4 June 2013 * more on Mantra japa

        Good morning! Ahhh, ready to focus upon meditation? any questions?

        Last week we spoke about mantra, how it is perfectly fitting for most of us, how we can use it in so many circumstances and activities.

        Today I would like to go through how you might select a mantra, how to go about repeating it, and some extra techniques you might use to get more out of it more quickly.

        There are so many mantras. Please note that if you are choosing a mantra to aid you in coming to an enlightened state and be the fullness of your Self, you really can ignore the "meaning" of the mantra (we talked about this last week some). Truly any mantra can and will take you all the way. Still, you need to select one.

        For most of us it makes sense to try out several until we find one that feels good. We like chanting it. It is comfortable, and perhaps a bit fun to chant it. You can try chanting a mantra in a monotone with a steady rhythm, either slow or faster. You might also try to sing it a little - be free, just have fun. Try it at different pitches, and even change pitches while chanting it. Though these little games are helpful when you are exploring to discover which mantra you might choose to use, they are also fine once you get settled and working wit that mantra, too.

        And, yes, it is ok to enjoy what the mantra means or does. Some mantras are about abundance; some about protection; some about healing; some about insight; etc. Since you will be repeating it everyday for years and years, you should like what it is. You want to look forward to hanging out with it. Let it become a friend you like to hang out with.

        So try some out for awhile. You can use a number of them to see which one you are inclined to hang out with, which one you enjoy. But then, consciously and clearly select that one. Make a commitment, like a real marriage. Stick with it. Of course,there may be some times when the mantra repetition is dryer than others, even some periods, but even then repeat it with feeling and attention everyday. Play with it, too.

        My Gurudev would regularly tell us of the man drilling for water. He would put a well down 50 feet, not hit water and move to another location and drill again. He'd go down 50 feet and again not reach anything, and so relocate and try again. He said that this is how many of us go about working with our mantra. We try one for a while, and then when it hasn't gotten us what we wanted, we blame the mantra and try another one - it might be better. However, the story goes that the driller got tired of putting down new wells and just stayed with the same one and went deeper. At a 100 feet he reached the water. If he had stayed with the first well and just gone deeper he would have reached the water so much sooner. The message here is that we should choose a mantra and use it steadily, not change to another because we see someone else using it and seemingly reaching higher states of consciousness (and people will tell you that it is their mantra which is the best one). No. Just keep using the one you have chosen. It will get you there.

        As I said, choose a mantra and stick with it, repeating it everyday. This will work. After all of that, please note that it is ok to change to a new mantra. It may be that your inner guide is directing you. But be cautious about this. Be very reluctant to change to a new mantra. If it is right for you to do that, demand that the Universe make it really evident. Insist that you get the message through a number of sources. Or, if you enter into a special relationship with a teacher, your Guru, of course, take on whatever mantra he or she gives you to use.

        Though you have chosen a mantra and are faithfully repeating it daily, this does not keep you from repeating other mantras, too. But do that in addition to your chosen mantra. This way you are free to explore, experience and participate using lots of mantras. But never fail to repeat your chosen mantra each day.

        If you are still wondering how to find the mantra for you, why not put that out to the Divine as a prayerful request? If you are sincere and open to receive, guidance will come your way. It is fine to ask for suggestions from people, too - just remember to discount any talk that one particular mantra is the best. Go ahead and try it. See how it feels and works for you.

        Now that you have chosen a mantra, how might you go about the repetition? Classically, mantra japa has a few stages. First do it aloud. This will allow you to feel it, let you note how the mouth, lips, tongue are moving with it, where and how it vibrates through the body, and how it impacts your state of consciousness. Repeating it aloud will also keep you repeating it. Next you soften up. This will draw your attention more inward, and heighten your awareness, bringing you to more subtle states of consciousness. Then stop making sound but continue to move the lips and tongue. This will move you even deeper within and to more subtle states of awareness, while making it easy to continue the repetition and notice what the the mantra feels like as it is repeated inwardly. Then, after some time in this fashion, stop moving anything and simply repeat mentally. Again, this will move you deeper within - Rumi says: "...moving down and down into ever widening rings of being." If you have done the earlier steps just described, it will make it so that you are ready and able to note the feeling of the mantra repeating as an inward experience. Though the most subtle levels are the most powerful, it is important to have moved through these steps that help you develop a subtle state of awareness. Otherwise, it may be hard to stay focused on the mantra. This is one of the benefits of using mala beads. As you move to the next bead it calls you to again repeat the mantra, and it holds your focus to what you are doing.

        There are plenty of distractions, of course. You might hear or smell something which will catch you attention and draw you down a different path than the one were were on - focused on repeating and feeling the vibration of the mantra and letting it take you where it will.

        Thoughts, too, can draw you down a different path. So using mala beads is a useful tool that can keep you on track. There is a traditional approach that uses the fingers like a mala to count and keep steady with your mantra japa. If you have moved into silent repetition but lose your focus, then simply begin to repeat aloud again. This will put you back on track.

        Lots more to share about repeating mantras, and then some special techniques and tips... next week.

        All love. Repeat your mantra. Have fun.

        Love always,


          Meditation Chat 30 May 2013 * Mantra Japa

          Good morning. May this a be a day of service, delightful surprises and awesome insights for each of us.

          Over the past few weeks we have been talking about some of what Patanjali shared in the Yoga Sutras. There is more I want to share from that, but at the moment I would like to talk some more about mantra.

          In this country most people think of "yoga" as the yoga classes at studios, at health clubs, and gyms. They see pictures of people in yoga poses, they hear of it referred to in movies, books, radio, TV, etc. What people have come to consider yoga is only a very small part of yoga actually. Yoga came to us from India. The yoga that includes postures is Hatha Yoga. This is the yoga that uses the body as the channel to come into that state known as yoga. Yoga means union - union of body, mind and spirit, and union of our individualized sense of self with that all encompassing Self.

          There are several branches of yoga to accomplish this objective of yoga. There is Karma Yoga, which uses selfless actions as the means to that. Jnana Yoga uses the intellect by ceaselessly inquiring "Who am I?" and "What is all of this?". I know we all have those questions, but the Jnana Yogi stays focused on that, and it, too, takes one into the state of Self-realization. There is Bhakti Yoga, the approach of the heart, that uses worship and chanting and all sorts of devotional things. Patnajali's approach, which includes Hatha Yoga, too, is known as Raja Yoga, the Royal Path.

          In India, and, in fact, throughout the world, the most used yoga approach is Mantra Japa. There is probably 900 times more Mantra Japa done than work with asanas (the yoga postures). So let's talk some about this widespread practice - what it is, how to do it, some of it's effects and benefits, why it is so popular, etc.

          Mantra Japa is repeating a sound formula. It can be very brief, such as OM, or OM NAMAH SIVAYA, or OM HRIM NAMAH, or OM SHANTI, etc. Or considerably longer. There are a lot of mantras. I am most familiar with the Sanskrit mantras, but there are mantras in Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Chinese, Hawaiian, Native American tongues, and English, too. In almost every faith their is a practice of repeating of some sound formula, such as use of the Catholic Rosary. This really happens throughout the world and all faiths. But why? What is it? How does it work? Why do faiths include it to help seekers connect with the Divine?

          The mystics have told us that in this time when we have taken birth, the human condition (the state of our minds, our world and the collective consciousness) finds this practice of repeating a sound formula especially fitting. It is one of the easiest things for us to do. It readily catches our mental attention. It can be done in myriad situations and while doing lots of other activities.

          For a moment accept that there is no more effective and pure form of spiritual practice (which happens to be true - but even if you are not yet aware of that, just accept it for the moment). Now look at how easy it is to do this most useful spiritual practice... You can repeat mantra while lying in bed, while brushing your teeth, while fixing breakfast, while driving in the car, while waiting for something to upload or download on the computer, while the phone is ringing before someone answers, when you are put on hold, while swimming, while showering, while making love, while jogging or biking, while taking a walk, while mountain climbing, and, oh yes, while sitting at your altar. Is there any other spiritual practice so accessible?

          Like other spiritual practices, to really have it work for you, you need to do it every day - not sometimes. Also, there are two basic ways to use mantras. One is to use it to come into the fullness of your Self, become enlightened and free. The other is to use the mantra to serve some other specific intent... healing, wealth, overcoming fear, developing psychic insights and powers. Mantras can do all of this for you.

          It is totally safe to use Mantra Japa to come into Self-realization. There is actually no way to say it wrong or do it wrong when you have that highest, purest of intents.

          However, if you are using it to manipulate circumstances in time and space, then there is some risk. You might be mispronouncing it and have a different vibration bringing some effect other than your intention. You might be creating karmic ties that will manipulate your life in the future. The effect you are working to accomplish may not actually be what is best for you or others in the bigger picture. This does not mean that you cannot use mantra in such a way, but that you should certainly check your motives, do it with prayer, and try to learn a proper pronunciation. [By the way, even though you will hear people telling you THE way to pronounce a mantra, there are a number of ways that are right. But there are also some that are wrong when you are trying to manipulate world circumstances. With that warning, let's move on to the safe way of using mantra - to come into the fullness of your Self.

          The word mantra is Sanskrit. It means take away the mind (that aspect of the mind yogis call "manas"). Manas is the mental activity that is relating and planning and associating. It includes instinct and rationalizing. When you are supposedly quiet, but your mind is wondering about why something happened or trying to figure out how to go about something or wondering what people are thinking about you, etc. etc., this is manas. And when you repeat a sound formula with intention you will see that all of that simply quiets down and fades away while you are focused on your mantra repetition. You come into the now. Hence the yoga sages called this practice "mantra" - take away the manas.

          We are almost ready to talk about how to pick a mantra, how to to create an effective Mantra Japa practice, some useful techniques, but we are also almost out of time for today. So we will continue with this next week.

          Choose a mantra. Use it all the time. Never go through a day without repeating your mantra. Have fun. Love always.



          Meditation Chat 16 May 2013 * A U M

          Good morning, Meditators!... of course, you are keeping your mediating attitude right here on the computer, right?

          Last time we spoke of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras and focused some on the final three limbs, Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation) and Samadhi (absorption).

          Patanjali, when speaking of meditating, gives a notable place to "OM" (also spelled "AUM"). He explains that OM is a perfect object of meditation. He also gives several other good options to choose amongst, and then says we can choose anything at all to focus upon as long as we find it uplifting. His listed suggestions are quite inspiring and worthy of consideration.

          You can find this in the first "book" of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, Samadhi Pada (The Portion on Contemplation), verses 27 through 41. Of course, reading the verses before and after is the best. What an amazing text!

          He starts by explaining that OM is the word that actually expresses God. "Ishvara" is the term he uses for God. Before mentioning OM and then saying that focusing on it and repeating it is an aid, Patanjali spends some time explaining that Samadhi takes us to a state where we are one with God, and he tries to give us a sense of what that is like encourages us toward that, and be able to recognize it when we get there.

          Patanjali says that repeating OM while reflecting upon it will make all of the obstacles disappear and at the same time knowledge of the Inner Self will dawn in us.  ...seems like a good thing to do. Yes, OM is quite wonderful to consider, and focus upon, and be repeating often. Let's consider what that is.

          You may be aware that physicists have come to agree with the mystics and yogis that everything is made up of waves. They tell us we can either view things from a particle perspective or a wave perspective. Once we look at things as waves, then everything is made up of waves... the ground, the air, our bodies, even our thoughts - everything. Sound is waves. So, everything is made up of sound. This is what the sages have explained, too.

          There is a primal sound, one that is ever present, unchanging, eternal. One of the names for that is "Anahata," which means "unstruck." The primal sound is ever resonating. Other sounds are generated. They take form for a while. This is how our world and beings are viewed from a mystic perspective.

          Once you consider that there is a primal sound, OM, and that everything is a formulation of that OM, you start to view things differently. Instead of everything being separate from yourself, you begin to consider that your body and your thoughts are part of that OM, as is everyone and everything else. Instead of viewing things from a seat of separation you shift into recognizing the yoga, or union, of all. This is a good experience, and a healthy way to be.

          It is a good idea to repeat OM. Master Sivananda and other sages have told us that gazing upon the written OM is also a perfect object for our meditation - still, as Patanjali says, with consideration for what OM is. Scriptures that speak of OM explain that the letters of OM each have a significance, but those scriptures spell it like this: A U M. There can be broad meaning to each of the three letters. Briefly, the "A" is the start, the creative element, the coming into being, the opening, etc.; the "U" is the continuation, the blossoming, the full expression, the steadiness, etc.; the "M" is the completion, the closing, the dissolution, the ending, the resolution, etc. Brahma, Vishnu, Siva - if you'd like. But then the scriptures say that it is the forth letter of AUM that is the most important. What do you think that is?

          It is written and actually sounded with 3 letters, A U M. So what is meant by saying that the fourth letter is the most important. Here is one way to view this. When we recognize that OM is the divine essence of all, the eternal truth of being, God, then it seems a little silly to think that we could express That with a word, a sound. Still we are encouraged to do exactly that, and told that it will take us to that experience where we are free of the obstacles and aware of the Truth. The A U M clearly show how the Om is formulated as we express it, but the fourth letter is where we settle after expressing it - that state of consciousness where we are living in awareness of the unity, free from separation. So, when you repeat OM, at the end simply sit for a bit in that awareness, the fourth letter, and let that become your perspective. Live like that.

          Next week we will explore the other objects of mediation that Patanjali suggests.

          Feel free to share this with anyone, and, if you find it useful, please use it.

          Blessings and love,


          Meditation Chat 18 April 2013 * the Three Great Blessings

          Good morning! hope your morning meditation was a delight today. Are there any questions we can address, and thing you would like to share now?

          I would love to hear about how some of you do your meditation practice, and how you became interested in meditation, what is drawing you to meditate?

          It is said in the yoga tradition that there are three great blessings...

          One is to be born in a human form, which allows you to consciously progress on the path of Self-realization.

          One is to have a hunger for righteousness, which drives you to do the work which will get you to that state of fullness and freedom.

          And the third one is to have a living example of that state of fullness to guide you.

          We are in this human form. What a blessing! We can be aware of so much, relate and be conscious of so much. Create, and take up intentions, and play and love, apply ourselves and do service, explore and build. Hope you are having fun!

          The next one, a hunger for righteousness, is something worthy of our awareness, too. You may know some folks who seemingly have not yet awakened to a spiritual drive which would move them to seek out truth and means to become established in peace and love.

          Let me come back to this hunger thing in a moment.

          The third blessing is to have a guide, a shining example of what you are seeking, one who both helps you see and believe that what you are aspiring to is attainable, and who can give you guidance since you are still limited in what you are able to perceive and understand.

          Now let's look at what a blessing it is to have this hunger. When you are really hungry for food you have built up a good digestive fire which makes it easy to be attentive to what you are eating and the eating process itself. You actually taste the food, appreciate it.

          If you are really hungry, food becomes your focus, draws your attention. You let go of other things and focus on getting some food to nurture you. And when you get the food it has your full attention. You are attentive to chewing and swallowing it. You are aware of what it tastes like. In fact, when you are eating while really hungry, rather than unconsciously scarfing it down, you actually slow down, chew it well, taste it and appreciate it. You spend more time eating it with awareness and appreciation.

          Similarly, with the blessing of a hunger for righteousness. It gets you focused on seeking those things that will nurture your soul. It helps you let go of those things that are distractions from your spiritual development.

          The word "righteousness" can be confusing sometimes. We can think of it as being someone who does what others think highly of. It can seem that it means doing what society labels as "right." It can be a turn off if we associate the word with those who want us to think of them as the ones who are doing what is right, the self-righteous.

          But true righteousness is actually fueled by love and compassion. It does not mean following the law - not that I am encouraging you to break the law, but just to look beyond that to something deeper. It isn't being right. No. Righteousness is acting and thinking with love and compassion, without selfishness. It can really be the simplest acts, and how you are viewing things.

          Love that you are hungry to grow into fullness, to know and understand, to be in loving relationship with all, to come into the fullness of your potential, to be established in peace and bliss. This will get you there. What a blessing!

          Then there is the example, the guide, the guru. Again what a blessing when you have come to a place so that this, too, is an active part of you. The guru is able to take you beyond your personal limits, to remove your doubt and hesitation, to awaken and inspire you, to share that state of awareness with you. Sometimes people think that if this is so, why doesn't the guru simply make you whole right now. That is not how a guide works. The trip, the journey, is yours, and it is fun. It has meaning and you have a role to play. You get to live your life and shape it yourself, accomplish things, overcome challenges and add your own creative flavor to our stew. The guru is a vital part of your very self. When this becomes an active part of your story, you will find the Guru has always been guiding you and always will.

          So what about meditation here... what was all of this today? Just some blessings. It is good to make note of why we are meditating, and to know we are not alone.

          Have fun. Love always,



          Meditation Chat 15 October 2013 * combining techniques 2


          This is a recent Chat that follows the one posted just before. I will continue to post the earlier Chats, too. Enjoy.

          Good morning. Talking about the weather, I know... but, wow! I just love all of the seasons, and right now Autumn is such a delight. Funny... while each season is happening I find it my favorite. I am fickle like that, I guess. Now, let's take some time to focus on meditation. Are there any questions or comments to share?

          Last week we started to discuss how combining meditation techniques might work to find just the thing that works best for you. We talked about using the breath combined with mantra, and two different ways to combine those.

          One was to actually coordinate the mantra with the inhalation, pause, and exhalation. The other was just to keep focused on the flow of the breath while mentally repeating your mantra, without any effort to shape the breath to the flow of the segments of the mantra. Both work very well. Let's look at a few others combining today.

          As we talk some about this, it is useful to remember why we are considering it. Our meditation is to bring us into a state of mind where there is a clarity and peace, and an awareness of our eternal Self. One main principal of a meditation practice is to to get the mind one-pointed, bringing it to a stillness that allows it to reflect our natural essence without any distortion.

          We use a variety of techniques to engage and focus and quiet the mind. We do what we can to get the body set so that it is not distracting the mind, and then take on an object for the mind to focus upon. We hold to that focus by bringing the mind back to it until it settles into that one-pointed way.

          It is useful to take on one particular technique and use it again and again so that the mind gets used to it, and can easily work with it to quiet the mind. Since the various techniques are usually described on their own, it seems that we ought to use one technique. And we are also warned against letting the mind shift from one thing to another - a useful awareness and precaution. But we might take that counsel to mean that we cannot use more than one technique at a time. This is the issue we are discussing here today. We can, and often should, make use of a combination of meditation techniques. They actually can beautifully complement one another. You just need to see what fits best for you.

          As I mentioned last week, we went over using the breath and mantra together. They very easily complement one another and neither interrupts the attention you are giving to the other. Using them together actually makes it easier to keep your awareness clear and attentive. You easily do both - watch/feel the breath and hear/feel the mantra. The key is: it is not "both". You are not doing two things. You will find your mind relaxing as it focuses and observes the breath and mantra flowing. It becomes one technique, and even more easily holds your attention.

          Last week I mentioned that I usually combine Tradak (gazing) along with breath awareness and repetition of the mantra I regularly repeat throughout each day. Here is how that usually takes shape and impacts me.

          I get seated and find that taking time to note my posture and make some shifts until the body is soft and light helps to get the body so that it is a delight rather than a distraction, while at the same time drawing my awareness inward and aware of the present moment. I see that I am sitting to meditate.

          I also often add a number of other things to remind we of what I am doing and to help me settle into it - light a candle and some incense, ring a bell and strike the singing bowl (helping to draw my attention inward and to focus the mind), and acknowledge my Guru and the Divine with some prayers and slokas. I do all of this before I start to focus on what I have chosen to focus upon.

          I gaze at either the candle flame or the Integral Yoga Yantra which my Gurudev, Sri Swami Satchidananda, shared with us from his meditations. [You can see the Yantra below and CLICK HERE for an explanation of its meaning]. Until the candle burns down some, the flame is in front of the Yantra and, so, holds my attention when I gaze. Once it is lower I gaze at the Yantra. (Admittedly, I recommend placing the Yantra a little higher so that you can gaze at it regularly - which was my habit for many years. But I moved and now my alter does not have the wall space for me to raise the Yantra. But I find this arrangement, too, is working very nicely.) I begin gazing. Once again this helps focus my attention nicely. Once I have my attention settled upon the Yantra (or flame), I make the breathing a bit deeper to quiet the mind some more. I breath a little deeper for a few breaths, still gazing at the Yantra, which I find focuses my attention even more and keeps me at an inner awareness even though my eyes are open and gazing at the Yantra. Then I let the breath become more gentle and subtle. This draws my attention still deeper, while the gazing keeps my mind really one-pointed. Then I let my mantra flow mentally. This brings an experience of completeness and fullness. There is a sense of satisfaction and contentment that lets me just be with everything - no more sense of doing. They all blend into one practice, each of the elements complementing each other to serve the overall intention.

          So, find what works for you. Be open to letting things take shape in ways you might not initially have in mind. Trust your inner Self to guide and assist you with this meditation effort you are making. The Divine supports you.

          Love always,