Book Club: Meditation by Eknath Eawaran Chapter Three

Book Club, October 27, 2012, Chapter 3  Slowing Down
This was a great chapter and many of us at Book Club identified with it.  To begin the chapter Eknath tells about coming to America and being stunned at the speed with which everyone travels, whether on foot or in a vehicle, while eating, shopping, etc.  Most of what we do in North America is in a rush.  He describes life in India as going at a much slower pace, comparing it to that of an old bullock cart which goes about 3 miles an hour.  He states that he decided when he saw the rushing that he was not going to be rushed, he would go the speed of a bullock cart unless there was an emergency, then he would push his pace up to 4 miles an hour!  He states that “speed becomes a habit we do not know we have…it is mainly physical (initially)… but we become habituated to going faster and faster and speed gradually takes over the mind.” Pg 88 “Such a mind cannot take the time to perceive its own rapidity.”  In other words our bodies are rushing, our minds are racing and we are not aware that there is another way, we consider this life. It is when we rush that we make careless mistakes, have accidents and become like robots, we don’t even know why we are rushing sometimes, it becomes a habit.
When we rush, we impact others often in a negative way.  We become unaware of others feelings, we ignore others as we rush on by, and our anxious energy invades the space of all around us, making it hard for others to relax.  Fortunately, when a calm person comes into the room, the opposite effect can occur.  It is only when we become more self aware that we can choose to make a choice in our own lives how we will live.
Rushing impacts our health in negative ways, from ulcers to cardiac problems, anxiety disorders and depression.  It is our ways of thinking that create this, so we must become aware of our thoughts and make choices regarding our lifestyle.
Eknath states that there has been found to be a connection between the “hurry syndrome and the competitive drive so much encouraged today.” Pg 97 This competition can be at work or at play, either way it creates real problems for us.  “Winning and not enjoyment becomes the goal…” pg 97 “hurried work and work done under pressure yield no joy…or satisfaction” pg 105 This explains why so many people walk around looking stressed and unhappy.  We have created so many deadlines for ourselves, we have difficulty saying no, and because we are rushing along, we are not taking the time to choose what is mandatory and what can be given up.  We just continue to follow along the same old path.
An aware person (one who is not rushing) cannot only bring calm to a room, but is a deliberate individual who “acts promptly in emergencies…In every case the response will be appropriate and freely chosen, not dictated by compulsion.” Pg 108
It is also important when returning home from work, to leave work behind and be attentive to family and friends.  He says “think of your job as wearing apparel.  You walk in, slip into your occupational coat…at the end of the day, you take off this coat and hang it on a hook;  you don’t stuff a sleeve into your back pocket …and drag the rest on the ground behind you all evening long.” Pg 109 It is as important to be with family and friends in a mindfull way as it is to be mindfull at work.  He says that many people do not know how to relax.  “They have become addicted to excitement and excessive external stimulation.  Some head to the movies about demons and disasters certain to elevate their blood pressure and jolt them out of their humdrum experience.”
How can we reverse this?  He suggests getting up early.  This sets the pace for the day, you no longer have to rush, you have time for meditation, a leisurely breakfast with family, getting to work a bit early to visit with co-workers.  Then before leaving work for home, tidy up your work area, put things in order.  Choose to do in your off hours what stimulates and revitalizes you, avoid things that drain you.  When in your day you start to feel stressed, stop a moment and repeat your mantrum, this will help you slow the mind a bit.  If the phone rings and you are busy, let it ring.  As he says …”a phone call constitutes a request to talk to us, not an imperial command.” Pg 113 Be discriminating in deciding what has to be done and what can be delegated or just left off your to do list.  It is only once you become aware that you have choices that you begin to feel freedom.  “Making these changes will not be easy or painless…but the benefits are magnificent.” Pg 115  “We have embarked on a new course that will bring us abundant energy, better health, increased peace of mind, and more harmonious relations with others, rich creativity in work and play and a longer, happier lifestyle.  Pg 115

Next week we will meet on Saturday, although we had previously put on the Sunday.  So, Saturday Nov 3rd at 1  until 2:30
Place:  950 Hilltop Drive, behind the Weatherford Post Office
Take Santa Fe, turn east at the lights in front of the Post Office, (that is the only way you can turn), go about 2 blocks and it is the new stone building on your right.  Out front is a sign that says Stewart, Brooks & Bates.  Come around to the back door.
See you there!

One lady shared with me her concern about starting to Meditate even though she knows that she can’t do it every morning.  I know that Eknath says do it every morning for best results, yet I feel that  meditating when you can gets you started and then see how it works to go on a daily basis.  I encourage everyone who reads this to meditate.  Pick a time, a spot where you will be undisturbed and begin.

See you all next Saturday.  Have a great week.

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Meditation by Eknath Easwaran

Book Club, October 20th 2012.  Chapter 2 The Mantram
First, thank you to all who joined us at Book Club.  What an interesting and interactive group we had.  The energy in the room was amazing; of course it was the same room in which we had meditated an hour earlier and I know that helped us along as well.
Chapter 2 on the Mantram starts off with Eknath telling of the elephants in India, who are decorated in beautiful colors and are part of the Festival Parade that travels through the small winding streets on Festival Days.  Along the streets are the vendors selling their fruits and    vegetables.  As an elephant walks, his trunk is in perpetual motion, swaying from side to side and of course helping himself to whatever he finds.  As the street vendors are very simple peasants, they cannot afford to have their produce eaten by the elephants as they walk by, so the elephant trainer (mahout), asks the elephant to grasp a stick in his trunk.  Once the elephant has something to hang onto, and is doing this for his trainer who he loves, he holds the stick aloft and the procession goes through the streets without incident.
This Eknath says is what a mantram does for us, it gives us something positive to focus our minds upon, as we go throughout our day.  This becomes increasingly important when we start to feel stressed, or upset about something.  It is very comforting to be able to grab onto our mantram and bring ourselves back to center.
In a class I am taking right now at the School of Metaphysics in Fort Worth, in this week’s lesson we are discussing goals.  The formula we are looking at is Goal +Purpose + Activity = Success.  I think this ties in beautifully with this story and with the mantram.  It is up to each of us to determine our Goal.  For each it will be a little different, we are each unique.  The next step is to identify the Purpose behind the goal, why am I doing this and how strongly or passionately do I feel about this goal?  This will be key in the next step which is Activity, for it is only when we take action that anything happens.  In Yoga, the body doesn’t feel any different watching someone else do Yoga, you must do it yourself.  The same with the mantram, we can read about it all we want, but until we have a purpose or a reason why we choose to try it, nothing is going to change within us.
I had a perfect opportunity to try this as I was reading this very book 2 weeks ago.  I was in the doctor’s office waiting room.  I pulled out my book to read the intro, then chapter one, then chapter two.  By the end of chapter two I realized I could be like the elephant and hold onto my stick or I could get upset.  I closed the book, and I choose to try the mantram.  It was very helpful to keep my mind from going further into angst mode.  We all have these opportunities throughout the day, take them and use them wisely.
This chapter has so much great material.  He gives us many choices of words or phrases for the mantram and encourages each of us to find one that resonates with us and stick with it.  He feels that by changing your mantram, we will be like the farmer who starts drilling for water, then tries a new spot , and then another new spot, and he never does find water.  Do what works for you, but initially you may want to try his suggestion.  Eknath does say it is important to choose a spiritual word or phrase “that has been sanctified by long use-one of proven power, that has enabled many men and women before you to realize the unity of life.” Pg 69  He feels the mantram can “permeate and utterly transform our consciousness.” Pg 61  The aim is to “drive the mantram to the deepest levels of consciousness, where it operates not as words but as healing power.  So avoid anything that holds you to the surface level; otherwise, you are in the position of someone trying to dive to the bottom of a lake while wearing water wings.” … avoid counting your repetitions or using your rosary, … (as in) keeping track of numbers or remembering what your hands are doing binds you to the physical level.”  Pg 71
The mantram is different from meditation in that you can use it anywhere, with eyes open or closed.  There is no ritual, just repeat the word over and over.  “Skill at holding the mantram increases with practice. …(initially) the grip feels tentative…in time the fingers grow stronger and the mind can grasp firmly…after a long while, the mind… has a permanent hold on the mantram.” Pg 85
I encourage everyone to read the chapter, find your mantram and realize your purpose for practicing your mantram and then take action.
See you all next week at our NEW LOCATION and NEW TIME.
1  until 2:30  at 950 Hilltop Drive, behind the Weatherford Post Office
Take Santa Fe, turn east at the lights in front of the Post Office, (that is the only way you can turn), go about 2 blocks and it is the new stone building on your right.  Out front is a sign that says Stewart, Brooks & Bates.

Next Meditation Session is Saturday, November 3rd from 11:00 to 1:00 PM!  See you then!

Meditation By Eknath Easwaran: Chapter One Book Club Notes

Book Club October 13, 2012
Meditation:   A Simple 8-point program for translating spiritual ideals into daily life.
by     Eknath Easwaran
Thank you to all who joined us today to discuss this interesting and informative book.  It was fun to get together and discuss some of the ideas Eknath Easwaran addressed in the Intro and Chapter 1.
Eknath Easwaran is from a small village in India and came to live in New York City in the 1970’s.  Coming from such a small village where people moved slowly, he was shocked to see how rapidly Americans moved from place to place.  He states that the first time he rode in a car on the Freeway, he thought there was a race going on and he was in it!  We take as normal our everyday rushing about, driving fast, eating fast, multi-tasking, meanwhile as a nation we are getting sicker, more stressed, more depressed and generally going about feeling unfulfilled.  This book is about slowing down, living mindfully and finding inner peace.
Eknath states that Meditation is a systematic technique for taking hold of and concentrating to the utmost degree our latent mental power.  Pg9   It consists in training the mind, especially attention and the will, so that we can set forth from the surface level of consciousness and journey into the very depths.  Pg 10 As we become more and more adept at this our “fits of emotion begin to lose their power to dictate our behavior.”  We begin to see choices, we live more in the moment and we feel freedom.    Pg 11 He goes on to state “all that we are is the result of what we have thought”.  By changing the very mode of our thinking, we can remake ourselves completely.  Pg 11.
This Eight Point Program consists of:
Meditation
Repetition of the mantram
Slowing down
Giving one-pointed attention
Training the senses
Putting the welfare of others first
Spiritual companionship
Reading from the scriptures and mystics of all religions

Discoveries of meditation are that we are not the body (stage one), we are not the mind (stage two) and in the third stage of meditation we find out who we really are and in doing so we develop a skill in living that brings out the beauty to your relationships, you discover that you and others are one. Pg 27

Chapter 1 Meditation
Eknath suggests it is virtually impossible to have a blank mind, so he suggests that we use a prayer with which to meditate, it needs to be spiritual, positive and with the idea of putting others first.  The prayer that he uses and suggests that we start with is the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi.  “This beautiful prayer has an almost universal appeal, holding so much spiritual wisdom he (St. Francis of Assis) drew upon as he undertook the almost total transformation of character, conduct, and consciousness. “ Pg 29 The prayer itself is also on page 29.
He recommends that we be seated with eyes gently closed, then having memorized the prayer, we recite it silently at a slow and steady pace.  It is important that the pace is slow, as if the pace is quick, the mind does not slow down.  “Concentrate on one word at a time, and as you concentrate on the sound you will automatically be concentrating on the meaning as sound and sense are one. “ Pg 33
The mind will try to distract us with jumbling the words, replacing the actual words with silly words, thinking of what needs to be done today, but do not be distracted, go back to concentrating on the prayer and the rate at which you are repeating it.
The reason for an inspirational passage is to focus the mind first and foremost and getting it focused on something that will help us when in real life we are in a difficult situation.  It helps us determine the essentials from the non-essentials.  The second reason for an inspirational passage is so that we begin to resemble and actually become whatever we give our attention to.  Pg 38 “all that we are is the result of what we have thought.” Pg 39
The best time for meditation is first thing in the morning.  “The dawn brings freshness, renewal.  Birds and other creature know this; we the “crown of creation’” do not seem to.”  Pg 41” Strike a bargain with yourself, no meditation-no breakfast.”  Pg 42 “Half an hour every day at the same time until it becomes a reflex, this is the best way to meditate. “ pg 44  The place should be calm and clear and should be the same every day.
“The correct posture for meditation is to sit erect with the spinal column, the nape of the neck and the head in a straight line.” You may place your hands wherever they are comfortable.  You can sit in a straight back chair or cross legged on the floor, sitting on a cushion or rug.  Pg 46
When you feel yourself getting drowsy, as so often happens as you start to relax,” move away from your back support and give your full attention to the prayer.“  Pg 48 “If from the earliest days you can remain awake throughout meditation, you will be able to descend from the surface level right into the unconscious and walk about completely aware.” Pg 48
It is important that we get enough exercise, eat a well balanced diet and get enough sleep if we want to meditate without so many distractions.  The mind will still try, so it is important to once again go back to the words of the prayer.  Pg 51
It is important to meditate for 30 minutes at a time and no more or less.  Staying in meditation longer than 30 minutes may trigger deeper emotional responses, so stick with the set time.  If in that period of time you feel fear about what is happening, open your eyes for a moment, go back to the prayer and then when you are comfortable close your eyes again.  If you see bright lights, hear sounds, just keep focused on the prayer, do not be distracted by these images.
To make progress in meditation you must be regular.  Put your meditation first and everything else second.  “…learning to control your mind is difficult…(yet)what you are seeking is glorious beyond compare.” Pg 56
Come join us next week October 20th  at 2PM for Chapter 2.  Also, next Saturday Sandra will be leading a meditation class at 11 so come join us as we share our meditation time together.  Contact Sandra if you plan to be at the Meditation Class.  Have a great week and peaceful meditating!

Fall Foods: Introducing Butternut Squash

It’s October, what color does October remind you of?   I bet many will say ORANGE!  SO, it’s time to make sure you are getting orange foods in your diet like butternut squash, acorn squash, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin!  Let’s take a closer look at butternut squash.  Below is a fabulous easy soup from kriscarr.com our last book club pick.  Other fall foods include broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, onions, pumpkins, spinach, and kale.

Butternut Squash is classified as a winter squash.  It is an absolute Vitamin A giant, weighing in at a whopping 22,868 IUs per cup.  Butternut is also high in both beta-carotene and it’s less well-known brother, alpha-carotene, which has many health benefits of it’s own.  And butternut is unique among the squashes in that it has a substantial amount of beta-cryptoxanthin, a carotenoid that may lower the risk of developing lung cancer.

Cinnamon Butternut Squash Soup
by Kristin Richardson on kriscarr.com

-1 butternut squash
-½ cup filtered water
-1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
-paprika
-cinnamon
-sea salt
-parchment paper

Peel butternut squash and remove seeds (but do not throw them away! They are delicious roasted or on salads.). Chop into cubes. Add butternut squash to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast until squash is easily speared with a fork. Add butternut squash to blender, Add ½ cup filtered water to blender. Blend until squash is smooth. Add more water to desired consistency.

Add extra virgin olive oil to blender. Follow with cinnamon and sea salt to taste. Garnish with a sprinkle of paprika. Excellent served both hot and cool.

Fall Holistic Remedies to Keep You Healthy!

 

Fall is in the air but with it comes the responsibility of taking better care of your body!  If you skipped your breath work and vitamins this summer it is time to recommit to your body to help boost your immune system through the coming months.
Remember when cooler weather hits grab your sweater.  Although you may enjoy the change, cooler weather can “shock” your body and make you sick.  Do you ever notice that the first round of colds comes right after the first round of cooler weather?  Be gentle to your body and grab a sweater so that the transition for your body to fall is more gentle.  If you feel like you are getting sick.  GET TO BED!  Sometimes the most powerful thing you can do is sleep. Sleep allows your body to recharge, rejuvenate, and refresh.  Also, manage your stress!

Below are some of my favorite fall remedies.

Triphala:  Healthy digestion and elimination is key to a healthy immune system.  Today more than ever people are suffering from digestive issues.  Processed foods often time do not have the proper amount of fiber to support proper digestion and elimination.  Triphala is an ancient ayurvedic herb that is traditionally used for maintaining a healthy digestive tract. It is commonly taken for sluggishness, constipation, bloating,  and indigestion. Acting to gently enkindle the digestive fire while removing excess toxins from the intestines, Triphala supports healthy digestion and proper elimination.    To learn more about triphala click here.  Available at the studio for $15.

Netipot:  If you’re one of the millions of Americans dealing with sinus problems, you know how miserable the headaches, facial pain, and clogged nasal passages can be. Nasal irrigation, a natural therapy that uses salt and water is a wonderful alternative to conventional medicine to help flush out the nasal passages.  Neti pots are a wonderful tool to use and are an ancient yogic tradition. For more information click here.  We offer ceramic neti pots at the studio for $20.

Nasya Oil:  Can be used to help with sinus congestion, dryness of the nasal passages, stiffness in the neck and shoulders, headaches, hoarseness, mental lethargy.  For more information read here.   Nasya, Nuturing Your Nose.  Available at the studio $11

Umcka Cold Care:  One of my absolute favorites.  The moment I feel like I might be coming down with something I always start Umcka my trusted friend!  I always try to keep a bottle on hand.  Here’s an entire blog about  Umcka.  Available at your local health food store.

Elderberry:  Elderberries have been a folk remedy for centuries in North America, Europe, Western Asia, and North Africa, hence the medicinal benefits of elderberries are being investigated and rediscovered. Elderberry is used for its antioxidant activity, to lower cholesterol, to improve vision, to boost the immune system, to improve heart health and for coughs, colds, flu, bacterial and viral infections and tonsilitis. Bioflavonoids and other proteins in the juice destroy the ability of cold and flu viruses to infect a cell. People with the flu who took elderberry juice reported less severe symptoms and felt better much faster than those who did not. Available at your local health food store.

Share Your Inspiration: Marcy Atchley

My Piece of Peace…Why I Meditate
By Marcy Atchley

I relish my time alone with God, my Divine creator…mind calms…attention is focused…body relaxes…stress does not exist… a complete feeling of inner peace abounds…I desire this… I practice this.
Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years, just look at Genesis 24:63…Issac went out to the field one evening to meditate!  Just imagine… sitting outside… full day of work accomplished… feeling grateful that it’s over, that it went well or what on earth do I do next?  Stop…give it to the One who gave me the work to begin with!  Listen and be still…still in body…still in thought.  Psalms 46:10 Be still, and know that I am God… Be grateful…be blessed…Worship.
When I meditate it is my intention to seek harmony with my mind, body, and spirit..to be aware..not to judge!  I find answers when I look inwardly.  Ephesians 1:18…I pray also that the EYES OF YOUR HEART may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you.  This is a priceless gift.  Ephesians  4:23 tells me that I can be made new in the attitude of my mind.  Romans 8:6 tells me that when my mind is controlled by the Spirit, I have life and peace.  Romans 15:13 tells me that I can overflow with hope and be filled with joy and peace.  Philippians 4:4-9 tells me I was created to be happy…rejoice in the Lord…present my petitions.not be anxious..Let Christ guard my mind…practice pure, true, noble, admirable, praiseworthy thoughts and the God of Peace will be with me.
Meditation is an avenue that I use to build my faith.  I love God.  I am loved by God.  I feel it.  I know it.  I own it.  I can only give to others out of my abundance whether that is time, money, wisdom, or energy.  I feel blessed with all when I stop and turn my thoughts inwardly.  I try to carry this love and inner peace with me through out my day.  Whatever I am doing, wherever I am going, it balances me…even when my thoughts turn negative, my joy drains….how quick can I get it back?
Like daily bible reading, prayer and meditation, I also have discovered a need for a daily practice for my body.  Yoga has led me to a stronger mind, stronger breath, stronger bones, stronger muscles, I stand taller, I feel whole which in turn makes me more holy.. for the movements are done in rhythm to my breath…My God given breath working with my God given and created body…meditation in motion!  How cool is that! By the way…did you know that yoga means union? Union of the body with the mind and the mind with the soul.
The work I am doing with Sandra at Indra’s Grace, is helping me rebound more quickly and more gracefully…thus more pleasing to my Creator. A positive thought is just a thought away, but it is up to me to look for a positive one!  Life is hard…disappointments abound…but so does Love.. Joy.. Peace… Patience… Goodness… Kindness… Gentleness… Self Control…the choice is mine to make. This application is huge when I look inside…I used to be very quick to judge myself…I should have…did I…will I… have I…wish I…scattered thoughts had a tendency to plague me. Now, when I feel unbalanced I return to my breath…my Spirit…once again I calm…I breathe…I meditate and I am at peace.