I have been away from this site for a while. My girlfriend and I recently traveled for three months, and we blogged about it HERE. It was great fun and an amazing experience.
Now it is time to get back to some weekly goals. The weekly goals are for the most part meant as a means or exercise in which I can create a habit for something specific that I would like to add to my daily life that perhaps I currently don’t already do. Sometimes it is just for fun, for a challenge, to help create an awareness or perspective in me, or any other reason, which I usually state.
I recently stayed at a vedanta/yoga ashram for a week and really allowed me to do some self-study. The ashram, under Swami Sivananda, follows four paths and five points.
The four paths are:
1. Karma yoga. Karma yoga is self-less service (action). This means to act for someone else’s benefit with absolutely no attachment to the fruits of that action. That translates to doing something for someone without meaning to get anything in return, not even their good grace.
2. Raja yoga. Raja yoga is comprised of the main thing people think about when they think of ‘yoga’, which is the asanas (postures). It also involves meditation.
3. Bhakti yoga. Bhakti yoga means spiritual devotion. Devotion to a personal diety, to Brahman (cosmic consciousness), to Atman (the Self/soul/personal consciousness).The essence of it is to recognize, observe and to remain aware of and devoted to the spiritual nature of Self, which is pure consciousness.
4. Jnana yoga. Jnana yoga is involved with philosophy and logic.
The five points are:
1. Proper exercise. This involves the asanas (postures of yoga).
2. Proper eating. This involves eating healthy, fresh, organic foods. This involves eating a vegetarian diet and staying away from foods that are unhealthy for body, mind and spiritual practice (ie. meditation/concentration), foods such as sugar, heavy fatty foods, stimulants, etc.
3. Proper breathing. The breath carries life and energy. Just ask any athlete about the importance of breath. It regulates our body and mind. A calm mind and healthy body means calm and purposeful breathing.
4. Proper relaxation. Sitting in front of a tv isn’t the best way to relax, and isn’t true relation in the sense of the word, despite the fact that tv watching is one of the most common forms of ‘relaxation’ in the west. Proper relaxation involves calming the mind, removing oneself from the busy world of external phenomena.
5. Positive thinking and meditation.
There are some aspects mentioned above that speak to me more than others, but I find that they all have their place. These, plus the eight limbs of yoga from the yoga sutras, as well as other supplementary concepts, I will try to add or continue to maintain in my daily life. This area will be the main focus of my goals for the week for the foreseeable future.
Goals for the week (March 3, 2014):
1. Meditation. This week I am going to do a taste test of the different modes of meditation that I have experimented with in the past. My goal is that I would like to make a commitment to a, possibly a few, meditation styles. Like a workout plan for the body that involves specific routines, I would like to have one for my meditation practice. I have found that, at times, with no concrete habit I find myself skipping days without practicing, or go to meditate and without a routine just “go with the flow”. I know from experience that having structure in the gym leads to more success than just going with the flow. I have a dedicated room in the house for my meditation and yoga practice, which I have fixed up and have begun painting. The goal is to have a defined practice and routine that will only serve myself via the practice of meditation.
2. Proper breathing. While at the ashram we did pranayama breathing exercises every morning at the beginning of our yoga classes. This involved deep breathing in a seated, upright posture; it involved quick, sharp, powerful exhales in rapid succession with perhaps 80-120 repetitions; holding the breathe for 45 and 60 seconds; as well as alternate nostril inhalation, breath holding, then exhalation. By the end of the week I was able to hold my breath for 90 seconds, something that is amazing for me as up until last year, I had a deviated septum for 10 years, and always had difficulty getting oxygen into my lungs. I could only ever hold my breath for about 30 seconds. Outside of having odd goals of holding your breath, the pranayama exercises are extremely relaxing and meditative. They calm the mind and for those suffering from stress or anxiety, would be a great mode for relieving such problems.
So those are my goals. Quantitatively they are few, but the benefits they reap would be hard to number. Qualitatively, both involve the exercise and development of crucial attributes such as dedication, commitment, concentration, open mindedness and the ability to tune into a state of pure awareness, which involves the ability calm the mind and herd your awareness away from the never ending onslaught of thoughts, judgments and habitual preoccupations that are mind subjects ourselves to all day everyday.
On that note, time to go do some pranayama exercises and meditate!