As we purify our minds and senses more deeply through this life, this practice, we naturally become more sensitive to the subtle beauty and power of this world, this Reality. The truth is, is that we are being of immeasurable light. It is important that we keep remembering this. Take the time to spend time gazing at the different kinds of light all around us and within us too.
Reflections on Sri Sankaracarya's Viveka Chudamani, Part 1
One of top five favorite books of all time is Sri Sankaracarya's Viveka Chudamani (Crest Jewel of Discrimination). I have read various translations of the book between 17-20 times over the past 10 years. In one's spiritual journey, there are just certain books that speak to you a very special and personal manner. The Viveka Chudamani is just one of those books for me. When you find one of those kinds of books for yourself, treasure it and take lots of time to digest and intimate yourself with it. When you build a continued and intimate relationship with a classic work of spiritual power, you will find yourself guided and supported by that piece of work in the most surprising kinds of ways.
Adi Sankaracarya (686-718 A.D.) is considered to be one of the most monumental spiritual figures in India. He is said to have been an academic and spiritual prodigy from a very young age and though he died at the very young age of 32, he revolutionized the way that millions of people today practice and live their spiritual lives. He was a proponent of Advaita Vedanta (non-dualistic Vedic philosophy), which is considered by many to be the heart and soul of the entire Vedic religion and culture. Sankaracarya's contribution was not only many seminal interpretations of classic spiritual texts, but he also was the main force in organizing the major monastic orders of India. This was the first time in the history of India that monasticism was organized and his system still exists very powerfully today.
Sri Sankaracarya's writings and philosophy has had a major impact and influence on countless people. Sri K. Pattabhi Jois considers Sri Sankaracarya as one of his main philosophical influences.
In this entry and in following installments, I will share my favorite parts of this classic text, which is considered by many to be an expression of the essence of the Vedas. The book is comprised of 580 verses. Much of the book is a dialogue between a realized master and his pupil. In this dialogue, there is an involved discussion on the nature of the process of spiritual liberation and realization.
The first part of the book that struck me particularly was in verses 14-33, in which Sankaracarya describes the essential qualifications of an aspirant after the Truth, one who seeks full Self realization. This description is the most concise and direct description I have ever encountered.
The following is an excerpt of those verses from the translation by Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood:
Success in attaining the goal depends chiefly up the qualifications of the seeker. Suitable time, place and other such circumstances are aids to its attainment.
Therefore, let him who would know the Atman (the individualized expression of pure consciousness, which is limited in the unrealized person by conditioned patterns of thought and emotion) which is the Reality practice discrimination (Viveka). But first he must approach a teacher who is a perfect knower of Brahman (the absolute and transcendent expression of pure consciousness), and whose compassion is as vast as the ocean itself.
A MAN should be intelligent and learned, with great powers of comprehension, and overcome doubts by the exercise of his reason. One who has these qualifications is fitted for knowledge of the Atman.
He alone may be considered qualified to seek Brahman who has discrimination (Viveka), whose mind is turned away from all enjoyments (Maya or illusion), who possesses tranquillity (Sama), and the kindred virtues and has a longing for liberation (Mumuksuta).
In this connection, the sages have spoken of four qualifications for attainment. When these are present, devotion to the Reality will become complete. When they are absent, it will fail.
First is mentioned the discrimination between the eternal and the non-eternal (the real and the unreal). Next comes the renunciation (Vairagra) of the enjoyment of the ,fruits of action here and hereafter. Then comes the six treasures of virtue, beginning with tranquillity (Sama). And last certainly, is the longing for liberation (Mumuksuta).
Brahman is real, the universe is unreal. A firm conviction that this is so is called discrimination between the eternal and the non-eternal.
Renunciation is the giving-up of all the pleasures of the eyes, the ears and the other senses, the giving-up of all the objects of transitory enjoyment, the giving-up of the desire for a physical body as well as the highest kind of spirit-body of a god.
To detach the mind from all object things by continually seeing their imperfection, and to direct it steadfastly toward Brahman, its goal-this is called tranquillity.
To detach both kinds of sense organs-those of perception (the eyes, the ears, the skin, the tongue, the nose) and those of action (the legs/feet, the arms/hands, the vocal cords, the organs of procreation, the organs of elimination)- from objective things, and to withdraw them to rest in their respective centers-this is called self-control (Dama).
True mental poise or self-withdrawal (Uparati) is in not allowing the mind be affected by external stimuli.
To endure all kinds of afflictions without rebellion, complaint or lament-this is called forbearance (Titiksa).
A firm conviction, based on an intellectual understanding that the teachings of the scriptures and of one's master are true-this is called by the sages the faith (Shraddha) which leads to the realization of the Reality.
To concentrate the intellect repeatedly on the pure Brahman and to keep it fixed there always-this is called self-surrender (Samadhana). This does not mean soothing the mind, like a baby with idle thoughts.
Longing for liberation (Mumuksuta) is the longing to be free from the fetters forged by ignorance-beginning with the ego-sense and so on, down to the physical body itself-through the realization of one's true nature.
Even though this longing for liberation may be present in a slight or moderate degree, it will grow more intense through the grace of the teacher, and through the practice of renunciation and of virtues such as tranquillity, etc: And it will bear fruit.
When renunciation and longing for liberation are present in an intense degree within a man, then the practice of tranquillity and the other virtues will bear fruit and lead to the goal.
Where renunciation and longing for liberation are weak, tranquillity and the other virtues are a mere appearance, like a mirage in the desert.
Among all means of liberation, devotion (Bhakti) is supreme. To seek earnestly to know one's true nature-this is said to be devotion.
In other words, devotion or Bhakti can be defined as the search for the reality of one's own Atman. The seeker after the reality of the Atman, who possesses the above mentioned qualifications, should approach the illumined teacher from whom he can learn the way to liberation from all bondage.
** End of excerpt **
I have reflected on this excerpt many, many times. Each time that I do, I find a new perspective to view the spiritual life. There is such depth and clarity in what Sankaracarya is saying. Many of the essential principles of Vedanta are encapsulated in the Four Qualifications. I recommend that you use them to guide your practice, as a context within which to hold what you do and how you do it within your practice.
The road to spiritual realization, as well as, the road to optimum health should not be about denying yourself joy or about torturing yourself to heal yourself. This particular kind of thinking is really a part of the old paradigm, the one in which we are filled with varying degrees of self-hatred and shame. In this older kind of thinking and being, we seek to redeem ourselves by subjecting ourselves to different forms of deprivation usually accompanied by copious amounts of self criticism. Not only does this way of thinking and being not work, but it further entrenches us in conditioned patterns of suffering.
The deepest form of spiritual expansion is one that is motivated by transcendent joy. Feed yourself with emotions, activities and food that gives you the greatest joy and the deepest and most lasting kinds of satisfaction. Breath in the sweetness of the sacred practice of yoga. Feel deeply the kind of joy that comes from giving your heart and time freely and without reservation. Let your cells and senses be nourished by the best and most nutritious foods on the planets.
Don't be in denial of the activities and emotions/thoughts in you that lead to continual suffering. Be aware and conscious of that which leads to pain and suffering on all levels, but do so with kindness and compassion and sensitivity. Don't obsess about these things and use them to justify punishing yourself both internally and externally. If you are primarily motivated by the highest kinds of joy and direct your attention towards those areas of yourself and of life itself, you will find that the negative and destructive aspects of yourself will begin to naturally fall away, without you having to torture yourself over them.
Faith and confidence in who you are and what you are truly capable of is the greatest healing elixir of all. The limitations and fears that often grip us exist no where but in our minds. Remember that it is always easier than you think to realize the ever luminescent truth of who you are.
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For those of you who are making a transition to a more wholesome, mineral rich, organic and fresh live foods diet, please remember that it is important that you make the transition as smoothly as possible.
Too much change from your previous eating habits done too quickly is generally not a good idea. There are some people can make the change with relatively little discomfort. However, with many people, there can be a rash of strong symptoms that indicate rapid levels of purification and detoxification.
These symptoms can include dizziness, headaches, blemishes and rashes on the skin, outbreaks of cold and flu symptoms and various aches and pains in the joints. If these symptoms are too strong for you, it is usually an indication that you are making the transition to living foods too quickly.
The process of moving to a more healthy diet and lifestyle should be relatively smooth, easy and fun.
The main strategy should be to add as many mineral rich and high quality organic foods as possible. Don't worry as much about removing unhealthy elements from your diet too fast. It is important for you to wean yourself off of more unhealthy items gradually, so that you do not trigger too many radical detoxification symptoms.
Most of us have been carrying around a tremendous amount of toxins in our bodies after a lifetime of bad eating habits. We should take care to remember this and remove those toxins in a way that is kind to our bodies and our psyches. If we move too quickly through the transition process, we can end up doing some unnecessary harm to the balance that is so necessary to a strong, healthy life.
So, please take care with the way that you make changes in your diet and your life. There is no rush to this process. It is important that we take time and care to include joy in everything we do.
On Monday, January 28, 2008, Jun, Hiroki, Yuki, Kazuko, Yoshie and I went to a beautiful onsen (natural hot springs) just outside of Fukuoka City in Kyushu (Southwest Japan). The beautiful surroundings, the healing waters of the earth and loving, open hearted souls all combined to create a deep feeling of joy and gratitude and affection. What can be more important in life than to share this kind of time together.... to give the best parts of our hearts and minds to each other freely and without inhibition?
One thing we can realize more and more in this life is just how fragile and sensitive our bodies are. All of us have gone through moments and periods of our lives when we have treated our bodies and ourselves as if we were indestructible, ingesting all kinds of strange substances and subjecting ourselves to some very intense experiences, all in the pursuit of varying levels of stimulation in the moment.
The truth is, is that our bodies and our nervous systems are not impervious, but are extremely delicate and sensitive systems that require a very fine balance of biochemistry in order to operate at optimum levels.
We can easily fool ourselves when we are younger that no matter what we do or what we eat that we will always recover and suffer no real ill effects. It is incredible what we can get away with eating and subjecting our bodies to and still remain in a relatively decent operating state. It really is a tribute to the miraculous system that is our biology.
However, the harsh reality of the abuse that we subject ourselves to when we are younger begins to come to light for many people as early as their late twenties and early thirties. Certainly, when most others begin to enter their forties and fifties the terrible truth of the lack of care for their health will most certainly raise its ugly head. The incidence of heart disease, cancer, arthritis and other immune system disorders are rampant and continue to climb at an alarming rate. The only way that you can avoid being confronting by this fact is to be in a continual and aggressive state of denial.
Recent research in the areas of microbiology and nutrition is showing more and more that our bodies require a very delicate balance of pH (acid/alkaline balance). We also require an ever present capacity to metabolize nutrients and remove whatever waste and toxins that may accumulate in the body.
Anything that upsets this delicate balance will inevitably lead to increasing levels of dysfunction in the entire body/mind system. When we abuse our bodies by eating foods that are either unbalanced or nutritionally deficient (such as foods which are high in refined sugar and low in minerals and enzymes), we begin to create an interior "landscape" which becomes increasingly acidic. A biology that is overly acidic becomes a breeding ground for bacteria, mold, fungus and viruses. These unhealthy elements in the blood and tissues of the body (they tend to accumulate especially in the joints and connective tissue of the body) create a build up of a very intrusive kind of calcium and phosphorus which creates inflammation and breeding grounds for a whole host of different kinds of disease.
Everything that we experience as premature aging can be directly linked to this kind of unbalance in the very fine balance of the interior "landscape". These symptoms would include things like stiffness, weakening of the bones/eyesight/hearing, graying and falling out of the hair, arthritis, all digestive disorders and all of the major immune system disorders such as cancer and heart disease.
If you are a person who is committed to living a full and aware and long life, then you must become increasingly aware of just how what you put into your mouth affects the fine and delicate balance that exists in your body and nervous system. To throw this kind of care to the wind and to only be interested in the stimulation of the senses is to live in a deep state of delusion. Not only does eating highly unbalanced and stimulating foods not make you truly happy and/or satisfied, but it actually leads to excruciating pain and deep levels of suffering and dissatisfaction.
In the next installment, I will try to identify the kinds of foods which are the most dangerous in terms of upsetting the fine balance in the body that is required for maintaining a high level of health and vitality.
Well.... since we do not use our stove for cooking, I have converted it into a place to store my organic oranges and lemons (with some apples). I have been subsisting mostly off of fresh squeezed orange juice during the day with a small evening salad in the early evening. I use the lemons in my salads and in my "master cleanse" juice, which I drink when I arise and right before I go to bed.
Now, let's begin to examine the leading edge experts and innovators are saying in what I consider to be the "Golden Age of Nutrition".
Perhaps the two most important elements to include in our diets are trace minerals and enzymes. Both these elements are vital to the primary process of the building of and regeneration of the cells of our bodies. Without a healthy environment for our cells in the interior "landscape" of our bodies, our immune systems begin to break down and all the components of our bodies become more and more compromised. The pH environment of our blood begins to turn more and more acidic (a healthy interior "landscape" is slightly alkaline) and unhealthy elements such as mold, fungus and yeast begin to develop.
Because we have resorted to environmentally unsound agricultural practices and used massive amounts of dangerous chemicals in the process, we have decimated the rich soils of the earth. As a result, a majority of the topsoil has been lost, which is where most of the trace minerals usually resided. Thus, most of the commercially grown food of the earth is bereft of most trace minerals. Food without minerals can hardly be called food at all, as it is the mineral content in food which gives us the most nutrients.
So, the first thing to do if you want to revitalize and heal your body is to begin to find ways to increase the mineral and enzyme content of the foods that you eat.
What are those foods?
Well, here is a short list to begin with:
1. Organic fruits and vegetables: organic produce is reported to have as much as 20-30 times the mineral content as commercially grown produce. Not to mention the fact that most organic farms are much smaller in scale and there is greater care taken in the cultivation of organic crops. Try to eat as much of that food with as little processing as possible (yes, cooking is considered to be processing!). Heating food with high temperatures destroys the enzyme content and evaporates the vital living water that is contained in the food.
2. Sea Vegetables: the ocean is the greatest source of trace minerals on the planet. Thus, plants grown in the sea are high in trace minerals. Again, try to eat those sea veggies with as little processing as possible. Put kelp powder and/or dulse flakes in as many different dishes as possible.
3. Celtic Sea Salt: again, salt that is from the sea and has not been heat treated (only sun dried) contains high amounts of trace minerals.
4. Organic Bee Products: again make sure that these foods are not heat treated in any way. Bee products are the highest source of enzymes of any food in the world. Since bee products are such a concentrated food, it is vital that you only eat organically produced bee products. Very important!
There are many more foodstuffs, herbs and whole food supplements that you can include in your diet that can increase your intake of trace minerals and enzymes. Begin to research on your own in just which ways can work the best for you. Remember, the vitality of your health is deeply dependent on the amount and quality of trace minerals and enzymes you are taking into your body.
In this time when heart disease and cancer rates are at all time highs, when a majority of the humans of this world either don't have enough to eat or eat diets that are mostly bereft of almost all nutrients, there is also a movement of people who are seeking to grow and to eat the highest quality of food that has ever been on this earth.
Today, we found this shop/produce stand that sells only very high quality organic produce and products. The quality of the fruits and vegetables was extraordinary. I have rarely before seen such vibrant and succulent produce. It was almost as if they were grown on some other planet, as they bore little resemblance to much of the conventionally grown produce you see in most supermarkets.
There is nothing like sharing this kind of discovery with special friends and in sharing the joy that comes from caring for ourselves and others in this way. Not to mention the fact that by growing food this way and eating this way that we are helping to heal our planet, which has been devastated by the prolific use of deadly chemicals and the resulting waste and pollution.
I have been fascinated by the whole topic of diet for nearly my entire adult life. When I was 19, I picked up a book by a man named Victoras Kulvinskas entitled, "Survival in the 21st Century". Reading this revolutionary book blew me away. It was the first time I had heard of people living off of diets of only fruit and even of only sunlight and air. The whole idea seemed miraculous to me and inspired me to see the connection between body, mind and spirit in ways that I had never thought of before.
Since that time over 30 years ago, I have been experimenting with changing the foods that I ate and how those foods affected my overall state of mind and consciousness. I am a person who likes to experiment to extremes, so I have done many things that many people would consider to be crazy and even careless. I never really cared about what other people thought of me. I was simply driven by a desire to discover the deeper meaning of life and all its experiences.
After all that experimentation, it has become very clear to me that there is no escaping the fact that what we put into our mouths profoundly affects not only our physical health, but our mental and emotional health as well.
There is a movement that is occurring all over the earth right now of those that share this sentiment. Leading edge scientific research in the area of diet and nutrition is uncovering many truths about how the body and its components work that support this sentiment as well. It is very interesting that even as much as the world's population is getting sicker than ever before, there are small groups of others who are developing the knowledge to become healthier than ever before.
When I was younger and experimenting with different kinds of diets, I did not have the resources to really know what I was doing. Much of my eating habits were done impulsively and in a not very balanced fashion. It was a wild and chaotic ride in many ways and did not generally lead to any kind of deep and sustained sense of well being and/health. Mostly what I was learning was what not to do.
What is incredible in the current period of time is that there are amazing resources available. The internet has been a major catalyst in bringing people and knowledge together in a way that has been extremely powerful. Now, the very highest level of resources and information are literally a push of a button away.
In the next installment of this piece, I will begin to explore some of the more specific things I have learned about diet/nutrition that has transformed my life and my relationship to all things.
Sole meal of the day. Ingredients: Organic spinach, gobo (burdock root), tomatoes, raw pine nuts, raw pumpkin seeds, avocado, hemp seed oil, fresh lemon juice, kelp flakes, sea salt. As a general practice, eat one of these everyday...!
All of us has the capacity to live an extraordinary and miraculous life. May we always have such magnificent role models as Shivapuri Baba.... OM!
This is a review of an amazing book by David Wolfe...
Long Pilgrimage by J.G. Bennett
The book is about the extraordinary life of the Shivapuri Baba, an Indian yogi born in 1826 who passed on in 1963. His life is well documented. And the beautiful story of his teachings is impressive. Nothing is quite as impressive though as the picture of the Shivapuri Baba at age 112. This picture is completely mind blowing. Since I have been reading the book I have been experiencing one of the most incredible highs ever and it is almost entirely due to the pure radiating power of just the picture.
The Shivapuri Baba, at the venerable age of over 110 is described in the book as: "radiating goodness and love" and "having the happiest smile I have ever seen on an adult's face" and "he still has his own teeth, and a fine head of hair and beard...his memory is phenomenal...he seems to be able to recall all the places he has visited and to see them again in his mind's eye."
At the age of 25, this yogi went off to live in the Shivapuri Jungle Forest where he remained for 25 years living entirely in the wild without communication with humans. His friends were wild animals.
Sometime around the age of 70, he decided he would walk the entire planet. It took him 40 years. He became famous all over the world as he traveled and heads of state in each country he visited requested visits from this simple yogi. Queen Victoria of England was so impressed by the Baba that she requested he stay with her for 4 years, which he did, only leaving after her death.
He even walked across America, Mexico, and South America.
The Shivapuri Baba felt it was a valuable practice for longevity to hold your breath after the inbreath and after the outbreath. He felt that excesses of any type would eventually reap their toll on the physical body. He felt that Pranayama and meditation should occur in the early morning.
The Shivapuri Baba overall is an outstanding example of the great historical Vedic spiritual teachings of the Indian race. As mentioned in the book (by a person cited by the author), it appears that India has been selected by the Divine as the home of advanced spiritual achievements.
Working with these extraordinary students here in Niigata City, Western Japan has been an incredible blessing for me. Their boundless enthusiasm, humility, generosity and love for yoga has shown me just how powerful this practice can be.
When there is this kind of intimacy and trust between teacher and student.... when there is this kind of devotion and dedication in the learning process, especially with regard to a sacred practice like yoga, then miracles become possible on a regular basis.
Not only does deep physical, mental and emotional healing take place, but divine human qualities begin to manifest themselves such as genuine compassion, charity, high level intuition and boundless joy. It is one thing to read about these kinds of things and an entirely different thing to experience it firsthand.
I am currently in Niigata City, Western Japan teaching an intensive (January 8-20). In very few other places have I been as well received as I have been in this very special place. The students here never have failed to shower me with respect, humility, generosity and great affection. It truly makes want to return here as frequently as I possibly can. When there is this kind of bond between a teacher and students, there is a dynamic in the teaching/learning process that is especially powerful and magical. Hearts open and lives are touched in extraordinary ways.
These kinds of experiences make me realize just how blessed we are in this life. Through the sacred gift of the tradition of yoga, we are all able to unlock the incredible potential that lies within all of us. Each and every one of us has the capacity to create such an extraordinary life. The only thing that obstructs our capacity to live the most special kinds of life are the limitations that we place on ourselves through our minds. What we believe about ourselves, the way that we see ourselves, what we think about all the time is what we become.
The real power in these miraculous practices that we have inherited is that they work so deeply to cleanse our minds of the thoughts that blind us to our own magnificence.
During my time here in Niigata, I have begun teaching the Yoga Sutras for the first time. Each time I share these timeless verses with others, I am completely blown away by the impact that they have people's lives. There is an energy and a wisdom that is contained in the Sutras that is totally alive. I have seen its effects on myself and others time and time again. It is incredible to realize just what kind of riches we have blessed by in the form of these ancient and timeless practices and works of wisdom.
I am filled with joy and humility and gratitude in the face of the abundance of what I am able to experience in this life. With each passing day, I am inspired more and more to share all these gems that I have been blessed with. There has never been a greater time to be alive. I have no doubt about that.
We are so completely blessed to born into this human form, especially those of us who have the capacity to practice yoga and to make choices which bring us more in tune with our higher purpose.
Let us always strive to live our lives with more urgency and presence. Let us always strive to be aware of our blessings, to cherish this blessed life and those in it that we love. There is so much light and goodness to share with one another.
The scriptures tell us that radiant, unbounded joy is the essence of who we are. Let us continually dive deep within ourselves to realize this truth.
I took this photo at the foot of the sacred mountain, Arunachala in Tiruvannamalai, state of Tamil Nadu in South India in 2005 right before Shivaratri.
This young boy's face had such a radiance and a purity to it. I could not take my eyes from his face. I love children so much for this quality. The mind and ego have not yet taken such a strong hold, so that the light of the Self still can shine through unimpeded. Such a wonderful reminder and reflection for us all.
The essence of this blessed practice of yoga is Self discovery. Nothing is more central to our practice than to look deep within and to continually seek to experience the essence of who we are.
Naturally, this kind of inquiry is not easy.
Everyone of us (except the most highly realized souls of course) is entangled in a very complex web of delusions and attachments, which we normally identify with as our true selves.
This identification with these conditioned patterns of thought and emotion is what leads us to the deepest and darkest kinds of suffering.
The whole set of practices that we commit to regularly are all designed to begin to loosen our entanglement in those deep seated beliefs about ourselves.
Over time, through discrimination and discernment, we can begin to distinguish between those parts of ourselves which masquerade as our true selves and those parts of us that are timeless and transcendent.
This is a process that takes a profound level of devotion and dedication, for the machinations of ignorance are truly powerful indeed. Never underestimate the strength of the bonds of ignorance and unconsciousness.
Each day, each moment, we must constantly look beneath the surface of our moods, thoughts and emotions to discover what is true and what is merely transitory. Most of us have identified with the transitory for so long that it truly seems that that is all there is.
However, if you sensitize yourself more and more, you will begin to notice something remarkable. Amidst the intense morass of continuous thoughts and oftentimes dark moods, there is a place in you that is timeless, a deep calm that is untouched by anything and which speaks with a transcendent joy.
One of the most powerful things you can do is to direct your attention, even just a little bit of it, towards this deep stillness within you. Ever so delicately, let is dwell there a bit. Now, naturally, it is easier to do this when you are in a good mood, but for a real dose of insight, try doing it when you are in an uncomfortable, unpleasant place. Yes, at first, it will be very difficult, but over time, you will find that it will be a movement that will become more and more effortless.
Over time, you will begin to identify less and less with the different moods and bouts of anxiety that we are all prone to. Then, it won't even matter what kinds of states of mind come and go, good or bad. You will have found a connection to an essential part of yourself.
That kind of connection is exactly why we practice. It is who you are.
I took this photo along the area of the central California coast known as Big Sur. It is one of the most beautiful areas of the earth that I have ever visited. There is an energy there that is surreal and other worldly. It is the kind of energy that fosters a feeling of deep reflection and contemplation. It is important to realize that certain places have this kind of power to touch us deeply in these ways. In order to live a more powerful spiritual life, we must arrange our lives to take advantage of these places. Learn to be sensitive to this kind of energy in places, in people and in things.
The heart of yoga practice is encapsulated in the question, "Who Am I". If you consider yourself a serious practitioner, you must dedicatedly and passionately pursue this question to its ultimate conclusion. You must discover fully and for yourself through direct experience the deepest essence of who you really are.
The common person's belief is that who we each are is contained almost entirely in this container of skin and blood and bone. The belief is that everything inside of that container is who we are, distinct and separate from everything outside of this container. It is often so ingrained as a belief that very few people even consider to question this assumption.
Again, if you are person of serious spiritual intent, you must delve into this assumption with your entire body, mind and heart. You must discover the validity or emptiness of this idea about who we think we are.
Most all of the great spiritual texts inform us that this idea of each of us being separate and distinct from each other and everything else is surely deluded, a genuine kind of madness. Even modern science is arriving more and more each day to the conclusion that there is very little in each of us that is actually separate from the basic reality that we live in. In fact, there is much more evidence pointing to the fact that the basic elements that we are composed of, both gross and subtle, are deeply and seamlessly connected.
If this is actually true, than we must completely rethink and reorganize how we see ourselves and move in the world.
If you look into your own beliefs about yourself, you will be surprised by just how much we treat ourselves as separate and distinct entities. How our whole world view is organized around this particular belief. The further this particular assumption is examined, you will find out just how much of our current state of chaos and unhappiness in the world is related to this particular world view.
Do not underestimate just how much power can be experienced by reflecting deeply on this particular question. In the light of this, make as much room as possible in your life for this kind of reflection and contemplation. The continued and regular engagement with this question will change your life in the most remarkable ways.
It is always important to remember the roots of our practice, it's history, it's original purpose. We do not practice in a separate and distinct bubble, but as part of a great lineage of courageous and amazing human beings... OM!
This photo was taken sometime around 1997. It was a time when I first began to fully experiment with eating only raw food and it was a time when I was spending many months in India deeply immersed in the practice of Ashtanga yoga. This time was very special to me. There was such a purity and a strong sense of purpose to that time. I went through such immense transformations, both internally and externally.
When I think about what kind of world we live in today, I have to laugh to myself. The sheer amount of distractions and obstacles that each of us has to deal with in trying to live a spiritual life is truly ridiculous. Every way that you turn, we are confronted by thousands of sights and sounds, whose only purpose is to pull our attention outside of ourselves.
Naturally, the very essence of living a truly spiritual life is to increasingly direct our attention, our energy, our focus internally, so all these multitudes of distractions are only pulling us away from this directive.
It is bad enough that when we are outside of our homes, there are such a crazy number of billboards and images shouting out at us from every direction. Now, with the plethora of electronic devices all around us, there is nearly no escape from these divisive messages flying at us.
If you are like me, you are a great lover and utilizer of the internet and the amazing iPod. I marvel at the advances that have occurred on the worldwide web over the past few decades. Now, there is literally no piece of information that one cannot have access to. Not only that, but there is nothing that one cannot take along with oneself. In my iPod, I have beautiful recorded versions of timeless yogic texts, countless mantras and strotras, lectures by senior teachers of yoga and other branches of theology, podcasts about Vedic ritual, as well as, my favorite movies and television shows. Given that I travel so frequently, this is truly a godsend.
In this way, the new technology is a gateway both for the deepening of one's spiritual life, as well as, a seductive temptation to distraction away from one's spiritual focus. How to cope with this particular temptation? A very good question indeed! It is a question that is not easily answered. To build strength and steadiness in this particular area of concern surely will take most people time and much practice, which inevitably will mean multiple failures in keeping one's focus. I can assure you that I am still struggling with this particular issue.
A good starting point is to realize that to navigate through and around these modern (and not so modern) distractions and obstacles, one must realize that success depends on making this process a very conscious and intentional one.
What does that mean?
It means that you must first recognize your own personal strengths and weaknesses and then use whatever method that is needed to keep those strengths and weaknesses clearly in front of you. If you do not, you are going to be ambushed by your own tendencies at every turn. These things cannot be left to chance
One of the best strategies that works for me is to write everything down. I like to sit down and take stock of myself. I ask myself, what are your strengths and weaknesses? I also regularly review what my dreams and visions are for myself and for my life. So much of yoga practice is about self examination and self reflection. To do this in the form of a writing practice is something that I am always underestimating. When I do not have a strong writing and reflecting practice, I find that I am much more easily distracted and drawn this way and that by the multitudes of obstacles that occur each and every day.
At the start of the week, it is a good idea to sit down and write down what your goals and objectives are, including very specific conditions for the completion of those objectives. At the end of each day, sit down and write a review of how the day went, including ideas on how to make superior progress the following day.
Do not underestimate the power of your own clarity about your purpose in your life. Especially since we live in a time of unprecedented distractions and obstacles to living a spiritual life, it is more important than ever to maintain a strategy for keeping and refining one's clarity about purpose and objective.
This human life we have been given is more precious, fragile and brief than most of ever realize. If there is not a fierce determination to live a truly conscious life, a life filled with clarity and passion for truth and for purity, then we are too easily pulled outside of ourself like some random piece of litter blown this way and that by the wind. Before you know it, months and years have passed by without ever knowing exactly what we did with our time.
This human life affords us the possibility for creating timeless and breathtaking beauty and meaning in all aspects of our lives. We all have the opportunity to live in such a way as to not only live a rich and full life ourselves, but to uplift and bring light into the lives of countless others. And yet so many people just pass through life in an unconscious and mediocre fashion. It is not that they were trying to live this way, it is just that they did not have the wherewithal to cultivate their deeper and more powerful creative tendencies.
The surprising thing is, is that there is not that big a difference between living with clarity and purpose and living aimlessly. Mostly, the difference lies in some relative discipline and discrimination.
So, why is it that so few bring themselves to build these simple disciplines and habits? That surely is a question for the ages. The truth is, is that only you can answer that question for yourself in a meaningful way. No one person can live the life of another. This is a fundamental truth that will never change.
This man has such a grace and a stillness to his practice. Also very inspiring for those fearing getting older. With proper nutrition and regular practice, you can maintain flexibility and youthfulness for many more years that is normally expected.