Yoga and Meditation

Meditation on Water by Mario

I’ve described how important transcending was for awakening here. But let’s explore a bigger context. The Yoga Sutra describes 8 “limbs” or approaches to gain Yoga or union and discover our true nature. The first two limbs are the Yama and Niyama, approaches to daily life like non-violence, spiritual study, and honesty. The next five are practiced together to create Raja or Royal Yoga, a path that combines aspects of the other yogas or paths. The result of these 5 is the last limb, Samadhi, when we step into Yoga. Because some of these are done sequentially, the limbs are … Continue Reading…

Food and Ethics

That Way by Justin Baeder

Yoga and Buddha tell us to do no harm. Gandhi and Martin Luther King spoke of non-violence. But how do we apply this in our daily lives? It can be tricky territory in practice. For example, when we breathe, our body kills the bacteria in the air. When we walk, we step on things we can’t see. Our physical body requires the life-force of other life forms to survive. We might set a standard not to eat mammals, for example. But the line is pretty gray. One of the curious experiences that can arise in Unity stage or a bit … Continue Reading…

Breath Stopping

Being There by Cattan2011

Breath stopping came up on Transcending so I thought it worth breaking the points out into an article. In a transcending meditation practice we quickly settle within. As we settle the mind, the body also settles. Oxygen consumption and other metabolic indicators drop. In a typical session, this can be 30-60%. When we transcend the practice into samadhi (also called turiya or pure consciousness), we may notice a brief period of inner silence or no thoughts along with very deep relaxation. But when we notice, the mind starts to think about it and the metabolism rises some again. Or the … Continue Reading…

Transcending – The Means

bubble diagram

Regular readers know I frequently mention effortless meditation. This is because of the key role it plays in culturing the ground for enlightenment. Over time, I’ve come to see its value more and more deeply. Yet there’s a key point about practices to make. Enlightenment isn’t caused by anything we do. It arises from the grace of the Divine. The purpose of spiritual practices is not to get enlightened but to prepare the ground. Then when grace arises, the shift is more likely to be smooth and supported. If the ground is not ready, grace will come as a profound … Continue Reading…

Who Am I?

La Petite Concierge painting by Francis Smith

This is one of life’s big questions. Most people identify with things like their name, work, background, nationality, skin colour, tastes, and so forth. But these are stories about ourselves or roles we’ve adopted. They have little to do with who we actually are. New Age approaches usually focus on upgrading the filters and stories we tell ourselves. A better story for a better life. Eastern paths can take this further with self-inquiry: who are we behind the stories? But as I’ve mentioned before, if there isn’t a practice that takes us beyond the mind into source, what is culturing … Continue Reading…

The Bull of Dharma

road in light

I’ve spoken before about dharma in the 4 areas of life. Also that dharma means that which sustains. In other words, dharma is actions (karma) in life that sustain it and the world in which we’re unfolding. I’ve also seen dharma described as 3 levels: Universal (Rishi), Vocational (Devata), and Personal (Chhandas) where rishi, devata, and chhandas are the 3 aspects of consciousness: knower, knowing, and known. This is like the 4 areas of life but leaves out time-of-life and shifts caste more into vocation. Dharma can also be framed as that which supports the degree of consciousness being expressed. … Continue Reading…

What are the Perfections?

feather

If you read the Yoga Sutra or about the siddhis, you often see them translated as powers or abilities. I’ve used variations on that myself. But siddhi actually means perfection. Often this is taken to imply a personal perfection in the ability to know past lives or fly. But these are not personal. As Lorne Hoff has pointed out, the siddhis are perfections of experience, of the ability of consciousness to know itself in specific ways that this form is capable of. Each channel of knowing is a function we can call a law of nature, a way nature can … Continue Reading…

The Source of Grace

There is a curious paradox in spiritual practice. On the one hand, awakening and progress in consciousness happens through grace, through the hand of the Divine. Awakening isn’t an experience or something a person does or has – it’s an awakening from the person. There is nothing we can do directly to make it happen. And yet, we are not separate from the Divine. The Divine moves though us to prepare the way and organize circumstances that allow grace to happen. This shows up as the opportunity for good practices, teachers, books, and so forth. As the renowned sage Vasishtha … Continue Reading…

The Importance of Actual Yoga

In Yoga, the key is settling the mind. Then the Self “behind” the noisy mind can shine through. Yoga Sutra 1 v2-3: Yoga is the complete settling of the activity of the mind. Then the observer is established in their own nature. This state of quiet mind or yoga is known by many names like Samadhi, transcendence, or Turiya. Many techniques today try to force or control the mind to settle. But as this is not arising naturally, it is difficult to achieve. When it happens, a rare clear transcending may be seen as an awakening. But real Self Realization … Continue Reading…

Managing Anxiety

We live in a world where the dials are gradually being turned up. This brings us great opportunities for growth but also the stress of almost constant change. Globalization has made our world smaller but has exposed us to the breadth of human suffering. As a result, hypertension, PTSD, and anxiety disorders have become normal. The most common illnesses are either directly caused by stress or deeply influenced by it. If we want to enjoy life and grow in healthy ways, we need to learn how to be in the world the way it is now. Aversion and escapism are … Continue Reading…

Favouring the Positive

As I’ve mentioned before, it’s good to favour the positive, to give more of our attention to what brings enjoyment than pain. I don’t mean in the sense of faking it or resisting what is here. If we’re feeling anger or grief, we should feel them fully. This ensures they complete and resolve. But at a certain point in all experience, we reach a place of choice where we can continue to dwell on the past or the feeling or we can let it go and move on. That’s when it’s good to choose joy. By enjoyment here, I don’t … Continue Reading…

Using Awareness

I recommend an effortless meditation for that key experience of samadhi or pure consciousness. By taking you beyond the mind (which not all meditations do), you get tastes of your deeper nature and culture the ground for spiritual awakening. Some people have different physiologies that find pure consciousness through other processes, such as the senses or body. Yoga, for example, places meditation along with asana (posture) and pranayama (breath) as arms of the 8 limbs. I know some effective teachers emphasize different limbs. Patanjali described it as the Royal Yoga to combine them. Just be sure it brings that open … Continue Reading…