Sunday, May 27, 2018



 BREATH MEDITATION OR PRANAYAMA



One of the most profound and easiest form of Active Meditation is using the breath. In many forms of meditation one is told to follow the breath. Thich Nhat Hanh the Vietnamese Buddhist monk teaches;
"Breathing in I am following my in breath to the end. Breathing out I am following my out breath to the end."
However, this is really a passive form of breath meditation with a mantra. One can make it active with Yoga Ujjayi pranayama by actively creating sound. This form is commonly used in Yoga asana practice to fortify the movements. In expansion one usually breaths in and with contraction one breaths out in the poses. 
It can also be used at any time to invoke a relaxation or parasympathetic response and its effects can be immediate in times of stress. The active expression of making an "ocean" sound can be profound. Having practiced Asana Yoga for many years I have found this to be the easiest form of active meditation for me, especially when performing yoga postures and in stressful situations. The ocean or "Darth Vedar" sound is created during diaphragmatic breathing by constricting the glottis as air passes in and out. In the beginning it is easily done with the exhalation but with time can with time be managed during the inhalation as well. The calming and spiritual effects occur no matter how unskilled you are at first. It can be better explained by searching You Tube. Check it out and after 5-10 minutes of practice stop, open your eyes and see how the world looks? 
Eventually length and speed are controlled - longer is better and inhalation should be more or less equal to exhalation. It should be effortless without straining. Lamaze breathing used so commonly in childbirth more than likely is based on this ancient Yoga practice. Both also work during any surgical or medical procedures.

It is useful to look at some of the abnormal ways we breath at times which create tension and a sympathetic stress rather than a parasympathetic meditative relaxation response.

Reverse or Chest Breathing occurs when the abdomen moves in on the inhale and out on the exhale. With Diaphragmatic breathing which is more meditative the reverse should occur. By relaxing, lying on a flat surface and putting one's hand on the abdomen one can feel the hand rise on the inhale if one is using the diaphragm and fall on the exhale. Reverse or chest breathing occurs with restrictive clothing and when we are trying to look good with our posture by pulling in our abdominal muscles.
Hyperventilation can be present when we are stressed and can be very subtle. If severe it can cause one to blow off too much carbon dioxide and when this occurs in the blood stream the active calcium level drops leading to muscle spams, commonly tetany in the hands. It is corrected by rebreathing into a paper bag to the normalize ones blood CO2 and calcium .
Frequently when we are unaware and stressed we have a Collapsed breathing pattern where we are hardly breathing at all. This is easily remedied by invoking Ujjai. A more extreme form occurs with Frozen breathing for instance when we jump into cold water and the breath is suppressed from the sudden change in temperature.
Which one "happens" to you when you are stressed or very focused on a project? 
Ujjai rapidly over rides and corrects all of these.

The Ancestors 

There are numerous forms of Pranayama best learned with an experienced teacher but the two I recommend for non Yogis are Ujjai (or Victorious breath) and Alternative Nostril breathing. 
It is useful, however, to realize that there are three phases of breathing;
Puraka, Inhalation
Rechaka, Exhalation.
 And when the normal brief plateau in between is turned into breath holding this is called Kumbhaka. This phase is key to the deeper forms of Pranayamic experience. 
Pranayama is said to balance the sun and moon energy channels which spiral up the spine encompassing the chakras and the central channel. When these energy channels are balanced perfectly the feminine, Shakti, Kundalini, serpent power which resides at the base of the spine is awakened and can move up the spinal column energizing the chakras and creating polarity balance. If there is perfect balance and it reaches the crown chakra where the Shiva male principle resides the 
Oneness experience or Unity Consciousness is induced where the "Knower, the Known and the process of Knowing"
fuse into one thing. 
Alternative nostril breathing especially is supposed to balance the sun and moon. Check it out on line - it is also simple to do.
Below is an example of a oneness experience or what Maslow might have called a Peak experience written by Bunnell one of the party of pioneers who first entered Yosemite valley. In this instance nature was the yoga.


 The diaphragm is key to moving energy from the lower three chakras (representing earth, water, fire) into the upper chakras of air and eventually "ether." It also opens the fourth or heart chakra.
See figures below; the first shows the Sun and Moon channels spiraling up the central channel and ending in the nostrils - the second one is schematic.


"What is God? The breath within the breath." Kabir






Click on the link to highlight then play and focus on the breath

-_MP3s/06_Cosmic_Meditation.mp3



Sunday, May 20, 2018



ACTIVE VS. PASSIVE SPIRITUAL PRACTICE 




In the West we have become accustomed to Eastern forms of meditation which are usually more passive in nature. However, many of us do not have this kind of patience.
Moreover, for most, the ultimate attainment of Samadhi is a far out of reach, no matter how diligent we are with meditation.

  Although we could all learn to have this form of staying power and we are taught to always gently return to the practice with the help of a mantra, the breath or some other technique without judgment, many may find this challenging.
 The Ancestors urge; 
 you are to find the spiritual practice meant for you! 
The Ancestors

Active meditation is another way to obtain equanimity.

 Asana yoga which can be a form of active meditation has become very popular in the West. This is only one of the eight limbs of yoga discipline. It is said that the asanas were really designed to  strengthen one for meditation, pranayama, and the deeper form of sensory withdrawal and not for an end unto itself. Nevertheless for many of us asana yoga serves to inspire and also is an excellent way of stress busting.
In the West because of our busy lives we are in sympathetic nervous system over load which is ostensibly a chronic flight or fight response. It should be balanced by some kind of relaxation response or meditation that invokes the parasympathetic nervous system to calm us down. Asana yoga performs well here but may not take the practitioner very deep.

The Ancestors agree fully that 
 and they teach that
the soul's fulfillment is through the senses. 
The soul's conversation is not of the mind, 
it is best heard with the senses.

The Sufi whirling dervishes would agree with the Ancestors that connection with the Divine and equanimity can also reside in some form of embodied practice; Tai Chi, Chi Gong, drumming, dancing, solo hiking etc ... Africans say we pray by singing and dancing. Try visiting a gospel church or one in South Africa.

Mindful? or Mind Full! 
It may be easier to empty the mind when using inner directed bodily activities. 
There are other ways to stop thinking other than passive meditation that are worth exploring
.
Use the senses for this sound driven meditation in whatever way it is enhanced for you. Focus on a candle flame, light incense, savor your favorite sweet treat, dance to the sound, imagine walking through your favorite nature scene, try different music ...

Click on the link to highlight then play and meditate





Saturday, May 12, 2018


SPIRITUAL PRACTICE SHOULD BE HIGHLY INDIVIDUAL 
 WE EACH NEED TO FIND OUR OWN WAY TO ACCESS THE FIELD OF SPIRIT

The Ancestors confirm that...
 The heart of spiritual practice is that it should be done for its own sake, for the sake of going inward and not to perform or perfect. Its about essence not form.
There are so many choices on the "menu." We need to check them out and see which fits best. If it starts to get stale we may have to "choose another dish."


The Ancestors

The Creator does not want copy cat spirituality. We need "to taste the reality of our choice" and if it doesn't inspire move on.

The Ancestors

Eventually we may end up with more than one form of going inward and maybe especially for those of us with very busy minds thats appropriate.
The Ancestors

Ultimately we are all able to hear 
"the soft, silent, still voice of the Divine." 
This voice will come to each of us in different ways but it requires silence and subordination of the ego in order to hear it.

The Ancestors

God want to be loved and wants to co-create the planet with each of  us with our own uniquely Divine given gifts. Kabbalah says that God is playing hide and seek but few want to play ...
"Search for Me and you will find me, seek me with all your heart and I will let you find me."

The Ancestors


Click on the link to highlight and then play. Listening to music that turns us inward is a form of sensory meditation. We also need to find the type of music with the right vibration for our own particular vibration. These may not work for you. But try reading the blog again with the music.

Saturday, May 5, 2018



SPIRITUAL PRACTICE

In he last blog we discussed Gratitude as a form of spiritual practice. If we are going to be able to navigate the challenges of Karma we need to know much more about some of the methods of going inward that can help us on the journey.


Spiritual practice is the main ingredient for spiritual transformation. Without a regular, enjoyable, disciplined practice we will not be able to control our survival "Monkey" or Narrow mind and ego and subordinate them to "Big" or Spacious Mind. 

Narrow Mind comprises our habits, addictions, compulsions, lusts and desires. Narrow Mind is responsible  for our primitive survival response and most of the time in our daily lives we are in the sympathetic nervous system overload of a flight or fight response. Its the same response that hunter-gatherers had when a lion was circling their cave. This response that was meant for a short term true survival response is not healthful in the long term. In our stress filled lives it also leads to release of adrenal hormones and can cause high blood pressure, depression of our immune response and a propensity for diabetes. If for no other reason than for stress busting and health we should incorporate some form of meditation to offset these effects. Narrow Mind for most of us is our default mode and can be localized to the more primitive parts of our brains on Functional M.R.I.'s.


The Ancestors


Spacious Mind embraces our higher goals, aspirations, ideals, beliefs, notions, discernments and discriminations. It can be located in the prefrontal lobe of the brain on F.M.R.I. It is the default mode for advanced spiritual practitioners who even seem to have more "neuronal density" in this area. Meditation invokes a parasympathetic nervous system, relaxation response which is not only healthful but can be transpersonal. 
There are only two feelings, love and fear. There are a range of emotions arising from love and fear. Fear based emotions such as jealousy, anger, hate, vengeance arise out of Narrow Mind bolstered by ego and our shadow side. With skillful spiritual practice we can modulate these harmful fear based emotions and focus more on a Spacious Mind, love vibration.

It is clear that we all need some form of spiritual practice in order to cope better with life. Better still if we incorporate this for spiritual transformation as well. This can be difficult for many of us to find and may require experimentation to see what best suits us. Some may need more than one type of practice especially for those not on a defined spiritual path or others who get bored with the monotony of one form.
Its ok when...

For some of us it may be a little like Goldey Locks and the Three Bears. You try the one bed and its too hard, the next is too soft and then you seem to find the "bed" that feels just right. After a while, however, even that bed gets a bit lumpy and might be ok every now and again but it may be time to renew the practice and be more creative. Meditation is all about calming the mind but in our busy lives we may need to embrace more than one practice and the one which feels right for our mood and energy level. It may be that a solo walk on a beach is the best form for that present moment.
For me the essence of spiritual practice is to calm the mind with some method of going inward that is done for its own sake and no other agenda. I prefer an active physical meditation like yoga asanas or hiking.

The Ancestors

For many of us active meditations are easier to commit to than passive ones. Practices like asana yoga, playing an instrument, painting, dancing, drumming or tai chi which have form can make one driven to perfect the form rather than be in the moment with the movement or the flow. Having no goal other than being in the present moment can be a real challenge for many of us.


Dave Cumes


Click on the link to highlight then play

_MP3s/14_Hishtavut_-_Equanimity.mp3

Next week we will compare Active and Passive spiritual practices.