Book Club: Eknath Easwaran Meditation

Book Club November 24th Chapter 7
Chapter 7, Spiritual Companionship
Thank you to all who came and took part in this great discussion on Spiritual Companionship.  We spent the time discussing the many twists and turns in our lives that have led us to this group of like-minded and like hearted people.  And as was fitting for the time of year, we gave thanks for Sandra coming to Weatherford to give us a gathering place not just for Yoga, but a safe place for learning and growing in ways we needed but had not put into words.  As Eknath says on pg 190, “…an essential part of the spiritual life is coming together with those who are spiritually minded, those who want to promote our growth and who want us to promote theirs.”  Thank you Sandra!!
Along this same line, on page 190 he goes on to compare pursuing a spiritual life as to swimming upstream.  It is challenging and “we need friends, loyal companions”.  “…We have to do the swimming… but it is easier if we swim together with those who encourage us, set a strong pace and will not stop until they reach their destination.”
Spiritual growth requires that we live and interact with others. We can read about it but it requires putting it into action for real growth to occur.  This can create challenges as when close family and friends see change it can create uneasy feelings in them, resulting in teasing, or angry outbursts, yet as he says eventually “…everyone responds deeply to the growth of goodness and wisdom in a child, a partner or a parent.” Pg 192 He goes on to say that “rich relationships with a number of people constitute one of the great blessings on this earth.” (page 193)  It is when we withdraw unto ourselves that we become depressed, it is only in turning outward and being with others that we can turn away from the negative thoughts and forget about our problems.
Having a spiritual household means being mindful towards each other.  Spending time meditating together, saying our mantras before meals, using meal time as a pleasant visiting time with family and friends, and just generally tuning in to each other throughout the day.  On page 195 he says “…every meal should be a sacrament, in which we strengthen not only the body but the spirit too.”  We can use this time to share lovingly with those we care about, taking time with food preparation, and taking time to eat, savor and enjoy the food and the company.
Take time for recreation, it is important to keep the body moving and healthy.  It is also important have fun.  Join with family and friends to engage in things you all enjoy.  Or take a solitary walk repeating your mantra.  Get in touch with nature.  Get up and get moving and give thanks for being able to do so!
Chapter 8, The Mystics
Eknath states that Mystical literature “differs from other forms of writing in that as our understanding deepens, we draw more from it.”  He goes on to say that although it is very important to read these inspiring writings, it is important to use what we receive and put it into action.  “One contemporary thinker put it very well when he remarked that if we had to choose between uniting ourselves with God and hearing a lecture about it, most of us would hunt for a good seat.” (Pg 202) The believe that we can learn all we need to know from books is mistaken. We can and need to read inspirational literature and use it to lay the foundation for how we choose to live our lives.
He lists many sources of inspirational writings;  Saint Teresa of Avila,  Saint Teresa of Lisieux, The Upanishads, the gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, the Bhagavad Gita.  All of these are inspirational and can be used to set the stage for a life lived more fully.  First though we must put the book down and live here and now in physical form, creating and maintaining meaningful relationships with others.  When the challenges occur if we can be more like Saint Teresa of Lisieux (Pg 209) She tells the story of a fellow nun in the convent around whom she felt great distress, there was not anything about this person she felt drawn toward.  Saint Teresa decided that instead of avoiding her, she would seek her out and smile at her.  One day the nun asked Saint Teresa what it was about her that she was so drawn to that in fact made her smile every time they met.  Sister Teresa wrote in her diary that night, that what she saw every time she met up with the other nun was Jesus.  She was able to look beyond and see the best in her.  Let’s all practice this with each other, now more than ever before.  When we feel encouraged to take sides, judge things as right and wrong, and focus on the physical trappings let’s pull back a bit, look beyond the obvious and find the pearls that are all around us.

We will plan to have Book Club again in the New Year. The book is yet to be determined. Enjoy your holiday season and practice grace, love and kindness to all!

Book Club: Meditation Eknath Easwaran

Book Club, Chapter 5  Training the Senses
Thank you to all who attended yesterday.  What a great discussion and wonderful insights.  It is so interesting to hear others experiences as we travel through this book together!
Living in physical form has its rewards and definitely its challenges as well.  This chapter is on the many ways we are challenged each day by our senses.
Eknath discusses on page 141 that like any other skill, training our senses takes practice and a desire to do so.  He says that once trained our senses become our “trusted servants” but untrained become our “oppressive masters”.  The challenge for many of us is first in becoming aware of what we are responding to when we automatically eat, or turn on the TV or check our e-mail.  For so many of us, we do things without much thought or awareness, it has become a habit.
He says that we begin by denying the body things that injure it.  (pg 142) When we eat foods that are not nutritious, we are impairing the body’s smooth functioning.  So many of these foods taste good, and we give in to the sense of taste.  He states that the “body’s needs should determine what we eat, not the appeal of the senses.” (pg 143)  The more aware we become the less appeal non-nutritious foods will have for us and the more it will bother us to watch as others harm their bodies.  He encourages us to start our children on healthier fare and not give in to ads for sugar filled cereals and other non-nutritious foods geared specifically to children through TV ads.
The next step is to eat only when hungry.  When we keep nuts and candies around the house, we pick as wander by, eating because it is there, not because we are hungry.  “Our attention is divided and we eat compulsively rather than from hunger.” (pg 145)  He then goes on to say that it is best if we overeat to skip the next meal, but rather than overeating try to stop eating when you are still a bit hungry.  (pg 148)  I thought this was rather timely with Thanksgiving coming up!
Our eating habits are so entrenched and there are so many temptations to distract us, he notes that it takes time as well as patience and persistence to prevail.  He discusses using your mantra, going for a brisk walk, and meditating as options to use rather than eating when we are upset, lonely or depressed. We all have to take personal responsibility.  We have choices and we alone are responsible for how we treat our bodies and our minds.
We need to be aware of the word we speak.  On page 159 he gives three gateways to check before speaking.  Are your words true, are they necessary and are they kind?  If the words do not meet all criteria they need not be spoken.  He goes on to say that not only are words misspoken destructive to the recipient…” they are terribly destructive to the consciousness of the person who uses them.”
We also need to be aware of what we watch on TV and at the movies.  Increasingly, we are watching more and more violence.  He notes that not only do we watch violence but we pay to do so.    Violence is seen by many as a possible solution to problems and more and more as a nation we are becoming insensitive to violence.  When we choose to become aware we become more selective in what we chose to watch, read and listen to.  On page 161 he states that “when we stimulate the sense unduly, vitality flows out through them like water from a leaky pail, leaving us drained physically, emotionally and spiritually.”  When we train our senses, we conserve our vital energy.  We mindfully choose what to surround ourselves with and we feel secure within ourselves.
On page 162 Eknath states that “When we learn to train our senses and master our desires, fewer and fewer of these waves (desires) rise up.  Gradually the mind becomes still so that we can discover our real identity.”
This is the goal for many of us as we continue to practice the ideas he gives us in this book.
Next week Book Club will meet on Saturday from 1-2:30.  Bring your lunch if you would like as we will meet right after meditation class.  Have a great week.

Book Club Notes: Meditation Eknath Easwaran

Book Club November 3, 2012  Chapter 4
Thanks everyone for coming and THANK YOU TOMI for the delicious vegetable soup, that we all enjoyed before we started our discussion.  As Tomi pointed out as this chapter was on One-Pointed Attention, it would likely be wise to eat first and then start our book discussion.  That worked well, and we did visit as we ate, and someone pointed out we had it down to two things at a time, which overall is a big improvement from what we usually do throughout the day.  Old habits are a challenge to identify and then to change!
What a great chapter once again.  This chapter on One-Pointed Attention or doing one thing at a time was very interesting.  Ekhart Tolle quoted a Zen master who was asked “what is the meaning of Zen?”  The Zen master said “doing one thing at a time”.  The questioner went on to ask “and then what?”  That is so often what our minds ask, if we are not busy all the time with thoughts and activities, surely we are missing something in life, what else could I be doing?
Eknath says that “If we want to live in freedom, we must have complete mastery over our thoughts.” Pg 116 This is not the case for most of us, instead as he states “our thoughts think us”. Pg 116 We are not in charge, we are “not the master here”. Pg 117 Our minds go where they choose and we follow along.  He gives examples of this as when a song lyric goes through your head and you can’t make it stop, you forget someone’s name perseverate on this the rest of the day, hoping it will come to you.  We also tend to remember and replay in our minds something that went wrong, and about which we feel badly.  As Eknath says these thoughts “haunt” us , keeping us “far from the light and joy of day.” Pg 117 We can choose to bring our minds into focus, or let them scatter wherever they may go, like light, which when focused is intense, yet when it is left to shine our through many cracks and openings become diffuse and goes in all directions.
We can train our minds by using meditation and by refraining from doing more than one thing at a time.  Here is the challenge, the more we work to fight distractions, the more attention we pay to them and they increase.  Instead we need to give mindful attention to our mantra, our prayer or our task at hand.
This takes discipline and self honesty.  The payoff is that when one’s mind is focused we have more energy, we are more efficient, more engaged and “opportunities worthy of our concentration come along”. Pg 122
Divided attention can lead to exhaustion and we feel very little satisfaction in what we do.  The choice is ours to make, but first we have to be aware of what our minds are doing.  Once we start to pay mindful attention to one thing at a time, we “grow new eyes and new ears.” Pg 125 We start to see and understand things in new and deeper ways.    We discussed how it is that some people like to have music on while they read or study, while for others this is very distracting.  Eknath feels that to do both is a disservice to each.  If you are reading, read, if you are listening to music listen to music, if you are driving the car, drive the car, this is not the time for visiting, or for music.  He summed up what Buddha said “when you are walking, walk.  When you are standing, stand.  When you are sitting, sit.  Don’t wobble.” Pg 132
“One-pointed attention averts mistakes and costly accidents.”  He also notes that “your senses are keener, your emotions more stable, your intellect more lucid, your sensitivity to the needs of others heightened.” Pg 140 When we unify our minds, we plunge deeper and deeper into that reality and move ever closer to the Lord.” Pg 140
Next week we will meet on Sunday, which is a change from what I said last week.  There is a training going on most of Saturday.  So we will meet at 4PM at our new location.  I look forward to seeing you there and hearing your thoughts on Chapter 5, Training the Senses!
Have a great week.

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!

The Power of Affirmations

Our body goes through seasons just as nature does.  Our longest cycle is obviously birth to death.  There are, however many shorter cycles of expansion and contraction in terms of our health.  Just as nature has four seasons a year our body also moves through cycles of spring (growth), summer (abundance), fall (breakdown), and winter (death).

When a “breakdown” or illness manifests inside the body we may tend to believe this is negative and that this state is “forever.”  Thoughts of defeat and depression may appear.  This is a time to put your spiritual awareness into high gear!!  Use heightened awareness to work your way through life challenges.  I love the quote below.  It always brings me peace and reminds me that there is a reason for everything even if I don’t see it.  There is a hidden blessing even in our suffering.

“Your joy is divine, and so is your suffering. There’s so much to be learned from both.” – Dr. Wayne W. Dyer

When fear lurks inside the mind my hope and prayer is that you can immediately recognize it as such and move towards shifting your thoughts towards ones that are constructive and healing.

“The things you fear do not really exist except as thoughts in your mind.”

Remember that your subconscious mind doesn’t know how to take a joke. It takes you for your word.  You alone can choose to plant seeds of healing or seeds of illness according to what you let “garden” inside your mind.

Next time there is a break down in your body try repeating some of these affirmations the moment you become aware that your thoughts are affirming your illness.

* My healing is already in progress.

* I trust the process of Life.

* I am in the process of Positive Change.

* I release all fears and doubts.

* Life supports me.

* My future is GLORIOUS!

* I am SAFE.  It is only change.

* My life works beautifully.

* Divine wisdom guides me.

Focus on these affirmations and absolutely refuse to give any power to the negative conditions or to admit for a second that healing will not come.  This attitude of mind brings about the harmonious union of the conscious and subconscious mind, which will release healing power.

See if you can plant these positive and constructive seeds inside your mind and remember that winter is ALWAYS followed by spring.

Full Moon Energy and Self-Awareness

I used to bartend and wait tables.  I did this all throughout college.   I remember nights bartending when I never took my head out of the well.  I would be making margaritas and cocktails non-stop without ever having the chance to look up!  I couldn’t keep up with how quickly drinks where being ordered and slammed.  These nights, I always knew, were full moon nights.  I could always call it.  The energy of the group as a collective was high, vibrant, chaotic, a little wild, and always unexpected and interesting.  It ALWAYS felt unstable.  As we’d wrap our nights up and walk to our cars I’d look up at the bright moon and call out “hello old friend!”

Did you know that emergency rooms more often than not are more busy on full moons?   Did you know that luna means moon and is of Latin origin?  And that the word lunatic comes from the word lunaticus which means “of the moon” or “moonstruck.”  The word lunatic means dangerously foolish or unpredictable.

I think that if the moon can affect the ocean’s tide twice a day it can certainly have an effect on us.  I don’t think it affects everyone the same.  I think certain people are more sensitive to the effects of the moon than others.  Just like some people are more sensitive to chemicals, environmental toxins, smoke, dairy, etc.  I do think that since  we are over  70% water and that the brain is made up of mostly water it can effect us in various ways. I do notice though the longer I practice Yoga the more sensitive I become.

I use the full moon energy to help me fine tune my self-awareness.  Each full moon is different.  I always try to remain more alert.  It’s the perfect opportunity to practice.  I know when a full moon is coming because I tend to have trouble falling a sleep one to two nights before because of increased energy.  I wake up bright and early.  Sometimes before 5 AM but fully ready to go!   Today, I am remaining more watchful because I feel very emotionally sensitive.  I have already teared up several times which is out of sync with my regular pattern.  As long as I remain watchful I remain balanced.   I feel a little impulsive and a little reckless, could that be the “luna” effect on me?  Could the moon’s gravitational pull be effecting rhythms in the brain?   I think the pull can effect our hormone balance temporarily.  I think it pulls on us subtly just as it effects the whole.  I try to stay watchful so that I recognize what is “me” and what is the moon’s pull on me.

I love full moons because it gives me an excellent opportunity to watch my inner-self.  I practice self-awareness and try to feel my way through what is real and what is illusion.  Why am I writing about this today?  Because today is a super moon!

It is the largest full moon of 2012.  The moon is passing by the earth even closer than usual so the gravitational pull is different.  I am staying alert, staying present, and staying the watcher of the whole experience.  This is Yoga.  We are meant to be the inner watchmen.  In watching ourselves we make clear what is real and what is maya, illusion.  In seeing clearly we see reality.  Full moons give us a perfect chance to practice self-awareness.  We can use the moon’s energy to help guide us back to Self.

Brightest Blessings,

Sandra Vanatko

www.indrasgrace.com

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