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!


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!

Share Your Inspiration: Meet Jerry Wiggins

I want to tell you about my success story.

I have a rough medical history. Brain surgery from Chiari Malformation, a kidney removed from renal cancer, and some autonomic issues such as Central sleep apnea, gastroparesis, and POTS. My ears ring so loud 24/7. Of all this, the headaches, the nerve damage, and the pain from Chiari are my biggest issues. I have had doctors give up on me, tell me it was all in my head…well Chiari is in my head…and in general with some bad experiences.

I had to medically retire from a job I enjoyed which changed my way of life. I had become very non-mobile, with high blood pressure, and was suffering from declining health. I had become so pale and had lost so much weight that I went through early cancer screening but nothing was found. I found a new neurologist that was a nerve specialist with several Chiari patients. I think I flunked every phase of my initial examination. My doctor told me pain management was now the treatment, but that I might see benefits from yoga, that I needed to keep moving. Thus I sent my first email to Indra’s Grace. I then made contact over the phone and I knew Sandra was special. Sandra had even taken the time to find information on Chiari.  I was very impressed and very excited.

I started my first session in a chair and got so dizzy I thought I was going to fall out of it during my first breathing exercise. I was staggering all over the place doing basic exercises. Although it was  slow progress, I was amazed that it was progress. I had so many failed medications, long waits for doctor appointments and just time, if that makes any sense. After several years of declining health any progress was fast. A few sessions and my color started coming back. Then my blood pressure went down and I quit blood pressure medications.

So many emotions hit. It was very hard not being able to do simple things, stumbling, falling, and easy fatigue. I was shocked seeing a shadow of my old self. Sandra started turning my sad to hope and determination. My body started getting stronger. Something happened. It was like something turned on. My autonomic nervous system I think? It was to me the impossible.

My pain has lessened. I am now getting worried I will have to diet after gaining so much weight!  Yes, I still have many Chiari symptoms but now I know there is hope. My graduation to group class was fun and interesting. I didn’t get embarrassed; no one cared if I staggered around. Somehow, I hung in there and continued to grow. I have gone from barely hanging in to holding my own.

My cardiologist is very impressed with my progress. I am off my BP medications. He expected to see something on my echocardiogram that most people with central sleep apnea show. He was surprised because nothing showed. My rheumatologist was happy that I was moving better. She is a yoga fan also. And, of course, my neurologist is thrilled. She noticed I wasn’t constantly squirming from pain. Sandra had made that comment a few days before she did. All made the comment that my progress was from nothing they had done.  I had done it on my own. I know better, my progress is due to yoga and Sandra’s help.

I truly look forward to yoga and appreciate how it has helped me and how it will continue to help. No, there is no cure to Chiari but yoga has helped fight the symptoms. Yoga and Sandra have helped my body, mind, and spirit. She is a very special lady.

Share Your Inspiration: Adrianne Berry

My name is Adrianne, and this is my story about how yoga and Sandra Vanatko, at Indra’s Grace, has helped me become healthier and more youthful.
Two years ago I was driving on Fourth Street and noticed a sign on a building that read “Yoga.” I went home and called and found out that a new yoga studio, Indra’s Grace, had just opened. I signed up to begin classes, even though I was somewhat skeptical. I had tried yoga at another studio but found that I could not do the poses. But I knew there must be something to it, so I decided to give it another try.
There were just two people in my first class: me and the instructor, Sandra.  We mostly did breathing exercises that first class, but I recognized immediately that Sandra’s message about health and fitness and positive thinking was an important one that I needed to hear. I began going to classes every week and, more importantly, developed my own daily yoga practice.
Changes to my body happened gradually. The first thing I noticed was that I wasn’t stiff and sore every morning when I woke up. Then I noticed that I had more range of motion when doing things that required me to extend my muscles and move my joints.  Eventually I could do deep knee bends and squats that seemed impossible at first.
Beyond the physical benefits that I was noticing, I began feeling more confident about my body and my ability to move and keep my balance. My husband (who had also begun taking yoga) and I bought a sailboat-something that we’d thought about but never felt confident enough about our bodies-to do. We both now had more confidence in our ability to crawl around on the boat and do all the things necessary to pilot a sailboat.
I also purchased a bicycle and began riding regularly. I began to lose some weight. This success led me to change my diet to a low carb diet. I lost more weight. I upgraded my comfort bike to a road bike and began riding in tours with other cyclists, doing 20 and 30 mile rides.
I’ve been practicing yoga a little over two years now, and that, combined with my diet and cycling and increased physical activity has resulted in my losing 50 pounds! I look and feel like a different person. I am vital and confident and athletic. I feel younger at 56 than I did at 46!
I trace my success back to the day I started my yoga class with Sandra. There are still poses that I can’t do, and I still have much to learn. But I know that yoga is a lifelong practice, not something that I will ever perfect and leave behind. I don’t claim that yoga alone is the reason for my success. But I am convinced that my yoga practice put me on the path to a healthier, more positive, vital, and confident life. I am so grateful to Sandra for her role in my transformation!

To learn more about Indra’s Grace in Weatherford, Texas please visit

Share Your Inspiration: Barb Wise

by Barb Wise

I never would have thought I would be writing an article on Yoga! If you had asked me if practiced Yoga 10 years ago, I probably would have laughed.   Thoughts like “Why in the World?” and “What for?” would have raced through my mind.  Oh how we change and learn.

Now Yoga is such a part of my life that I actually plan my life around my Yoga Classes!! For real!!!! I show up now at Rotary, Political lunches, Chamber of Commerce lunches in my Yoga clothes.  I know people in Weatherford think that I have no other clothes to wear.  In short Yoga has changed my life…. WHY? And HOW? You may ask!

The Simple perspective I have come up with is that Yoga makes you feel good.  It’s relaxing. It’s energizing. It’s strengthening. You feel better at the end of a session than before you began, and life runs more smoothly when you maintain a consistent discipline than when you don’t.  Yoga enhances your experience of life.  It changes your perspective.  You thereby find yourself spontaneously embracing a larger, more accurate conception of who you are, how life works, and what and who God is.  You start seeing things differently, with less distortion-which results in more peace of mind, Better Health, more enthusiasm for life, and an ever-growing authentic sense of inner well-being.

Let’s go back to Better Health! This past March I went for the dreaded Well-Woman exam, long story short, my Thyroid test showed normal, I am now OFF Thyroid medication. My Bone-Density test showed NO bone loss or weak bones, I am now OFF my Osteoporosis medication.   On Friday April 20th I went to my primary care doctor because my pharmacy would not refill my Cholesterol med until I saw my doctor.   Of course after the dreaded weigh-in they took my Blood Pressure and it was 100/60!!! Like WOW!!  Pre-Yoga (just two short years ago) my BP was 150/95, my doctor was so impressed he took me OFF my BP medication.  He then did a blood draw to check my Cholesterol~ if the results are good then he will take me OFF Cholesterol medication!  Folks I contribute all to my Yoga Practice.

As I practice Yoga, a subtle sense of feeling good gradually becomes so natural and genuine, so much a part of my life that it carries over into the whole of my life.  Yoga helps clarify my deepest longings, motivations and aspirations, by renewing my optimism, hope, meaning, and purpose in life.

When I began Yoga two years ago, it was damn hard and painful.  I remember the first time I tried to put my leg on the wall for my first “Wall Class”, I could not lift my leg four inches up the wall.  For real my leg would not lift!!! I thought OMG I am so out of shape, even though I didn’t think I was, at time I was walking two-five miles a day (as I still do), I rode my bike (as I still do).  But I could NOT lift my leg.  So painful, yes only because growth hurts when you resist change  (and I have an inclination to resist change) it’s an attempt to remain comfortable by staying the same.  But hey life is change. Change happens, especially when you’re involved in a powerful transformation process such as Yoga.  You grow.  You can’t not change.

Why I love Yoga ~because I like feeling good.  I like peace of mind.  I enjoy being joyful, peaceful, energized, and relaxed.  I feel better and I’m actually happier than I was two years ago.

Sandra always says that “Yoga is like brushing your teeth, it is an acquired habit.”  When I was young I didn’t like to brush my teeth.  It required my parents’ daily reminding to get me to do it.  Now I brush my teeth not only as a prevention against tooth decay, but because I prefer the way my mouth feels when it’s clean.

The same has been true with my Yoga practice.  At first it took conscious discipline and deliberate effort to establish a daily practice.  Now I practice not only because it’s good for me, but because I prefer the way I feel when I do.  I feel clean and new; much like the way brushing my teeth makes my mouth feel.  My entire motivation has changed.   Yoga helps keep my energy-tone at a level I like.

To sum this up LOVE, but what is love: “Love is the most practical thing in the world.  It’s what is needed most.  And this is what it is:  Love is the willingness to see that which is real in each and everything.  It’s the willingness to let go of what you think of something is in order to see it clearly as it really is.  Love, therefore, is the supreme healing power because it looks beyond what appears to be true to what is true.” -Schiffmann

To me YOGA is LOVE!

For more information on Indra’s Grace please visit

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

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