Posts Tagged With: ego

Namaste

Most yoga practitioners and/or India-lovers have come across the greeting or prayer: Namaste. I love to end my yoga sessions with ‘Namaste’ while bringing my hands together in front of my heart and bowing my head. In India it is used as an everyday greeting such as ‘Hello, How’re you?’ So what does it mean precisely? It is a Sanskrit word with Nama meaning ‘bow’, as meaning ‘I’ and te meaning ‘you’. Therefore the literal translation is ‘I bow to you’. The deeper spiritual significance refers to the belief that the life force or the divinity in me and in you is the same in all. If you use the Namaste to greet another person, you acknowledge this oneness or union with the meeting of the palms for the chest and you indirectly express:

  • The best and highest part in me greets the best and highest parts in you.
  • Your spirit and my spirit are ONE.
  • The light within me honors the light within you.

The bowing down of your head can be considered as a gracious form of extending friendship in love, respect and humility.

 Ram Dass states it beautifully: “I honor the place in you where the entire Universe resides. I honor the place of love, of light, of truth, of peace. I honor the place within you where if you are in that place in you, and I am in that place in me, there is only one of us.”

For me, this one word brings together the true meaning and purpose of yoga. It implies letting go of all our identification layers or ego patterns, instead we connect with each other on a more authentic level. We see and meet the very best in ourselves and in others. We acknowledge that we all look different and act differently, but we are the same deep inside or on a spiritual level. This realization brings me to a peaceful state; we are all humans and all connected and all having the same love inside us. We all would like to love and to be loved.

As a human, I make mistake and I not always act like I would like to act afterwards. I judge people from the outside and forget about our oneness. It can be challenging to see the good in everyone, especially if others are confronting and challenging you. Yoga can bring you back to that place of peace and bliss, time after time. You receive a second chance to start fresh, again and again. At the same time remember to acknowledge your own light and divinity.

 

Namaste

 

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From comparing to self-reflection and love

There are four main paths of Yoga: Jnana, Bhakti, Karma and Raja Yoga all leading to the same: Samadhi. Most yogis combine different styles of yoga on their journey. I have spoken briefly about Bhakti and Karma yoga in earlier blogs. Jnana Yoga is the path of knowledge and wisdom. It includes introspection and contemplation and is the yoga path of the sage or scholar. A Jnana yogi uses the mind to inquire into his/her own nature by systematically exploring and setting aside false identities or the Ego. It looks into the absolute truth about who we are and the main question you ask yourself will be: ‘Who am I?’ It focuses on that in life what is never changing as opposed to the illusions in life which is ever changing. Jnana yoga starts from direct experiences, but also requires development of the intellect through the study of the scriptures and texts of the yogic tradition.

Travel your road

Travel your road

You can relate Jnana yoga to the fourth niyama; Svadhyaya or self-study/self-reflection. Besides the reading of sacred texts and meditation, Svadhyaya can also include our reflections in normal daily life. Since we share our life’s and the earth with so many other people, we receive plenty of opportunities for self-reflection through social interactions. More often than I would like to, I catch myself playing out different ego patterns. One of my really annoying habits is to compare myself with others in terms of intelligence, finance, family, career, beauty, flexibility and so on. I always end up judging myself and/or others and never feel good after I’ve had my ‘compare time’. My partner is most of the time the victim in the sense of having to listen to all my crap and mind chatter. He made it clear for me once again: “Don’t compare yourself with others, just follow your own journey.” I realized and felt; he is right! Each of us has their own individual very special journey in life. Our task is to be true to our own journey in life and give it a 150%! And love your life exactly how it is at this moment.

Fully

And your Life

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Karma yoga and fame?!

Karma yoga is the yoga of selfless (altruistic) service or the ‘discipline of action’. It is based on the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita, a sacred Sanskrit scripture of Hinduism. Karma is derived from the Sanskrit word kri, meaning ‘to do’ and refers to the universal principle of cause and effect. It is the path of doing the right thing and following ones’ personal dharma or life purpose and accepting destiny as it comes. This includes acting without being attached to the fruits of one’s deeds. If you do your work without selfish expectations it purifies your mind.

Karma yoga is performed by right means and does not harm anybody or anything. The so-called ‘doer’ is dropped from the action, since you are a mere tool of the divine. If you practise karma yoga, you’re expressing the unity and the divine, ego plays no part. A karma yoga teacher is aware that the result of the teaching is out of his/her hands. You are an instrument, a servant of truth or love. Unique about karma yoga is the focus on the spiritual and the philosophy behind the process you experience on your mat. Karma yoga can assist you with living your role or dharma in life without actively seeking any remuneration in the shape of wealth, satisfaction or fame.

How do you inspire?

How do you inspire?

Then I start to wonder, what is my dharma or life purpose? I can easily think of aspects of my dream job; freelance writing, teaching yoga, counselling, inspire people. Not sure how, when and where yet. I find it challenging to disconnect this with remuneration. Once I made a vision board about my future wishes and without thinking I wrote down the word famous. Why? Maybe it is a wish to be seen and heard, hidden behind my introverted character. Or a deep desire to accomplish something extraordinary in life. I guess – as long as you are not obsessed with your goals and enjoying ‘the ride’- it is okay to strive for them.

For me karma yoga and the associated dharma means; go with the flow in life. You certainly can have specific life goals and at the same time you’re flexible or willing to change your path, while listening to the dedicated signs the universe provides you with. I am the owner of a strong will and I am ‘blessed’ with an abundance of self-discipline and perseverance. Though, at times these characteristics are not very helpful. I tend to ignore my intuition and I don’t listen to the small signals life throws on my path. Whilst the average person already has decided to take another direction, I am still trying hard to go where my rigid mind thinks I have to go to. Yoga is a perfect way to reconnect with my inner world. Practicing yoga allows me to start fresh – like a beginner – with learning to listen and follow my breath. This rhythmic flow of the inhalation and exhalation teaches me to flow more with life and brings me to undiscovered places. I realize once again how wonderful and subtle life is.

Life flow chart

Life flow chart

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The Ajna Chakra

The sixth chakra is the Ajna chakra, but is also known as the ‘brow chakra’ or the ‘third eye’ and is located between the eyebrows. The Sanskrit meaning of Ajna is ‘command, knowledge or monitoring center’. It is the center of insight and also called ‘the eye of intuition’ and it is the place where you integrate all the information and intuition in your life. The qualities of the brow chakra are inspiration, intuition and inner vision. In the Indian philosophy the third eye is the symbol for enlightenment and also referred to as the ‘eye of wisdom’ or the ‘eye of knowledge’. The Ajna chakra has control over seeing, not only in the physical sense, but also in terms of intuitive seeing, clairvoyance and other paranormal forms of knowing. The symbolic representation and the mantra of the Ajna chakra is the syllable Ohm which represents the beginning and end of all things. The associated colour is the indigo which represents self-mastery, spiritual realization and the attainment of wisdom. Light is the element most associated with the sixth chakra, but some say it is time. The gland associated with this chakra is the pituitary and pineal gland. The pituitary gland is often referred to as the ‘master gland’, because it secretes a hormone that controls the activities of the other glands of the body. For example the pituitary gland controls your growth, skin coloring and the contraction of a woman’s uterus during childbirth.

Ajna Chakra

Ajna Chakra

Balance

When it’s open and clear, you feel deeply connected to your inner wisdom, trust and intuition and it guides you in your choices. You’re able to see yourself and others as energetic and spiritual beings and you can create your own reality by using your imagination, freedom of choice and enhanced insight. You can rely on your self-reflection, perception, interpretation, telepathy and past life experiences. An open Ajna chakra results in compassion and forgiveness. This energy center is directly related to mind. If you awaken this chakra, your mind is able to gain information by subtle means, rather than by the experiences felt by the sense organs. In general, you gain knowledge through the information that senses conducts to the brain. Though, the Ajna chakra has the power to gain knowledge directly without the help of sense organs and thereby the mind becomes purified and evolved. This requires discipline, firm belief and persistent effort. It is about understanding how training can change your behaviour to always be open and loving to everyone, not just close friends and family. There is no ego involved, instead our conditioning, habits, false ideas and misidentifications are dissolved as a result of a healthy active Ajna chakra. Notice really extraordinary people and become aware of their humble character. A great way to open and balance the third chakra is through meditation and visualisation. The sixth chakra is all about reconnecting to the wisdom that is available to all of us from within.

Cherish the humble things in life

Cherish the humble things in life

Blocked Ajna chakra

However in most of us, this ‘inner eye’ remains closed. You have a sense of self-doubt and you don’t trust your inner voice. You are convinced that there is not something like a non-material world, since this is beyond your capacity to reach. A blocked Ajna chakra can result in the following physical symptoms; migraine headaches, eye strain, blindness, brain tumors, strokes, learning disabilities, spinal dysfunctions, nightmares, panic attacks, deafness, insomnia, high blood pressure and seizures. Difficulty concentrating, memory problems, fear of truth, confusion, judgment issues, lack of concentration or discipline are also connected to a sixth chakra imbalance. If the energy in your sixth chakra is not flowing freely, you can become quite superstitious and afraid of your own thoughts and everything you can’t explain with logic. You have difficulties making decisions, procrastinate a lot about any plans made and you don’t know what you want. You strive for routine and are vulnerable to developing depression. If you third eye chakra is overactive, you may be unable to be practical in your daily life and irresponsible. You’re not connected or aware of the world and yourself, everything seems to be external and not part of you. There can be a victim mentality; you will blame everything that happens of a negative nature on someone or something outside yourself. Just as the pituitary gland is the ‘master gland’, the Ajna chakra governs all other energy centres. If the sixth chakra is out of balance, all others chakra won’t be perfectly aligned either.

The power of intuition

The power of intuition

Yoga

Postures that support the opening and balancing of the sixth chakra are Balasana (Child’s Pose) or any other posture in which the forehead touches the ground. Other helpful postures are those in which the gazing point or drishti calls for movement of the eyes such as Marichyasana (Sage Twist). Alternate nostril breathing is a supporting pranayama exercise to activate the Ajna chakra. If you are practicing your asana, pranayama or meditation, notice when your mind becomes quiet. This quiet, clear and peaceful space will allow you to experience a glimpse of the possibilities of the Ajna chakra. This chakra can shine an insightful light on your life that you were previously not aware of. You can concentrate and focus and imagine something and bring that idea into reality.

Turn inwards for stillness, peace and clarity

Turn inwards for stillness, peace and clarity

Categories: Chakra, Freedom, Inspiration, Yoga | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Isvara pranidhana

An English translation of isvara pranidhana would be ‘surrender to the Divine’. The Divine can be described as pure awareness or pure knowing. The last niyama is about letting go of control and surrender to, and love for, the divinity within you. Patanjali defines ‘isvara’ as ‘lord’ and the word ‘pranidhana’ refers to ‘giving up’. Thus, isvara pranidhana can be literally translated into ‘giving up or surrendering the fruits of all your actions to God’. So how do you do that?

The simple advice can be to let go and to stop clinging to the ego, instead trust in the Universe. The ego is the source of frustration, dissatisfaction and tension. This means in practice that you aim to think and act in ways that undermine your ego and bring you closer to pure awareness. It requires that you get out of your head and into your heart. In fact, you can use any activity – from cleaning the toilet to cooking dinner – as a prayer or offering. For each action, it is the intention that is most important. You let go of the outcome and you surrender to the actual action while offering all your work and devotion to the Universe or God.

Another way to practice isvara pranidhana is to completely surrender to the reality of life exactly as it is. This means embracing your life with all its aspects and details with gratefulness. It includes seeing the good in all people, things, conditions and circumstances, even those challenging moments that are associated with pain and loss. Your aim is to act with kindness, compassion and love in all aspects of your life.

Surrendering to your spiritual truth is another approach of interpreting isvara pranidhana. Through intimate listening to your inner voice, you begin to establish a relationship with your inner guidance, your truth. And by means of releasing your fears and hopes for the future, you can be genuinely present in the moment. This requires that you give up your illusion that you know best, instead accept and trust that the way life unfolds may be part of a pattern too complex and beautiful to understand.

Practicing isvara pranidhana means that all your actions – whether body, mind or spirit – are guided by unconditional love and an open heart full of kindness and compassion. It asks you to develop a profound trust in the goodness of the Universe and of all existence within and beyond our limited understanding and existence. So in short: surrender, love and trust.

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Ahimsa

The first yama ahimsa, is usually translated as ‘non-violence’. It refers not only to physical violence, but also to the violence of words or thoughts. For me, the violence of words or thoughts is not as obvious and clear as physical violence. It makes me think; which of my thoughts or words are harmful? I have to be alert while interacting with others as well as explore my own thoughts. For example; is listening to a good friend with only half of my attention harmful? What about being abrupt to your partner, because of morning moodiness? Within the Yoga Philosophy you are one. It is the ego which makes me feel separated from others. Someone’s misery is mine and vice versa. I should treat others as I want to be treated.

Yoga asanas and breathing exercises brings me back to the present moment and make me aware of my thoughts and intentions. Meditation makes me realize I have negative thoughts about myself and I attract what I think of. The law of attraction is profound. Thoughts, words and intentions can have as much power as physical violence. Practising ahimsa means I take responsibility for my own behaviour, including thoughts and intentions. It is a life lived from true love for ourselves, others and the world we live in.

  

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