A Special Edition of
Yoga, Healing, & Peace f
Celebrating the 5th Anniversary of the International Day of Yoga al Day ion o at n
IDY Committee at the UN
Featuring The INTERNATIONAL DAY of YOGA COMMITTEE at the UNITED NATIONS And renowned contributors including Amma Sri Karunamayi, Ambassador AK Mukerji, Dhammadipa Sak, Philip Goldberg, BK Sister Jenna, Gregor Kos, Caryn Scotto d’ Luzia, Swami Shraddhananda Saraswati, Scott Tusa, Zoe Le Page
M A G A Z I N E Spiritual Practices & Inspired Lifestyle
Special Edition Celebrating the 5th Anniversary of the International Day of Yoga Special Edition Editor .................................................. Denise Scotto, Esq. Host Editor .........................................................................Karuna Contributions Editor ....................................................Kurt Johnson, PhD Managing Editor ..................................... Rev. Shannon Winters, MS Graphic Editor & Layout ............................................................ David Winters
The Interspiritual Network Serving the Emerging Global Interspiritual Paradigm
a member of the UNITY EARTH network
Welcome We at Light on Light Magazine are dedicated to illuminating the light of wisdom and compassion of spiritual practices and inspiring lifestyle features for the flourishing of health, mind, and spirit every day. Light on Light Magazine welcomes authors, spiritual teachers, and our readers, to contribute ideas and brief concepts for content in future issues. We welcome light-filled submissions of wisdom, inspiration, and transformation for feature articles, personal transformation stories, poetry, fictional short stories, music, artwork, #ShineYourLight inspirations, and more! Please send a brief description of your content or idea to firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration. Except for fair use extracts with full credit, no part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the publisher. We make every effort to obtain proper permission to reproduce images. Images and artwork that do not include a citation for use where they appear in Light on Light Magazine are from Pixabay or Shutterstock. Please contact us with any information related to the rights holder of an image source that is not credited. The opinions expressed in this issue do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher or editors of Light on Light Magazine.
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TABLE OF CONTENTS Yoga Re-aligns Us with Natural Health by Karuna................................................................................................................. 4 A Short Welcome by Dr. Kurt Johnson................................................................................................ 5 Welcome Message by Denise Scotto, Esq.........................................................................................6-7 Permanent Mission of India to the UN Message........................................... 8 2019 5th Anniversary Yoga Day Message by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar......................................................................................... 9
The Richness & Fullness of Yoga
Yoga Means to Unite by Siddha Yoga Master Keiko Aikawa........................................................ 10-11 How to Remove the Hurt from the Heart by BK Sister Jenna.................................................................................................12 Meditate on Truth by Amma Sri Karunamayi............................................................................. 13-14 Yoga: A Science Not a Religion by Sadhguru..................................................................................................... 15-16 Yoga for Joyful Living by Swami Mukundananda............................................................................ 17-18 Three Yogic Virtues by BK Mary Friedland.......................................................................................... 19 Yoga in Buddhism: Toward Mindful Awareness by Bhikkhu Dr. Dhammadipa Sak.............................................................. 20-22 YAMA-Refining Behavior: Removing Unwanted Habits by Kamlesh Patel.............................................................................................23-25 Sanskrit by Dale Colton...................................................................................................... 26 Meditation by BK Suman Kalra...............................................................................................27 Buddhism & Vegetarianism by Venerable Master Hsing Yun........................................................................ 28 Empowering Habits that Set Us Free by Kamal Sangat Kaur (Jaime Maniatis)................................................... 29-30 Yoga in a Dental Chair by Christie Chang............................................................................................31-32 How We Became a Nation of Yogis by Philip Goldberg......................................................................................... 33-34 Yoga in the American South by Swami Shraddhananda Saraswati........................................................35-37 The Traditional Yogas & the West by Mitchell Rabin MA, LAC............................................................................ 38-39 Pilgrimage by Scott Tusa...................................................................................................40-42 The Yoga of Finding & Being with a Fully Enlightened Master by Cristiano Tiozzo........................................................................................ 43-44 Tracking the Source of Wisdom: My Himalayan Pilgrimage by Dinah Wiley................................................................................................ 45-46
Yoga & the Work of the United Nations
How the UN General Assembly Declared the International Day of Yoga by Ambassador Asoke Kumar Mukerji.......................................................47-49 Yoga & Climate Change by Valeriane Bernard.....................................................................................50-51 Mata Amritanandamayi Math by Lola.................................................................................................................... 52 SDG 16—Peace, Justice & Strong Institutions: Creating a Culture of Peace & Non Violence by Denise Scotto, Esq. .................................................................................. 53-55 Achieving United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 3 through the Practice of Yoga by Padmini Murthy, MD, MPH...................................................................... 56-58 Using “Mind Yoga” to Create Sustainable Low-Cost Housing by Patrick San Francesco.............................................................................59-60 Heartfulness Meditation by Dr Petra M. Schweitzer...................................................................................61 Yoga: A Global Perspective of Well-being by Geeta Agarwala......................................................................................... 62-63
Diet for a Sustainable Future by Denis Luci (Kripadevi) ............................................................................ 64-65 Yoga & Virtual Reality by Madhusudhan Balasubramanian...............................................................66 Compassion in Action by Sylvie Sun................................................................................................... 67-68 The International Peace Trees Program: A Means to Achieve the 17 UN SDGs by Sabine Devlieger........................................................................................69-71 IDY Committee at the UN Foster Community by Vivian Pappas.................................................................................................. 72 Yogic Light on Global Economic Inequality by Dr. jLTg Holo................................................................................................ 73-74
Yoga & Health
Power of Intentionality in the Context of the Brahma Kumaris Raja Yoga Meditation by Shvetank Agarwal, MD, FASE ....................................................................... 75 Thalamic Gating: How Yoga Heals Pain by Deborah Norris, PhD. ............................................................................... 76-77 Is There Another Way to Deal with Cancer? A Phenomenological Research on Brahma Kumaris Meditation Practitioners by Dr Kanishtha Agarwal...............................................................................78-79 The Role of Yoga & Ayurveda: Summary from the International Conference on Integrative Medicine at Harvard Medical School, Boston by Dr Gregor Kos............................................................................................ 80-81 Yogic Principles at the Root of Cutting-Edge Body-Based Personal Growth Methods by Caryn Scotto d’Luzia................................................................................ 82-83 Yoga Gives Relief by Zoe LePage.................................................................................................84-85 Mudras by Rae Chandran..................................................................................................86 Yoga’s Impact within Professional Workplaces by Claudia Hagg............................................................................................. 87-88 Aligned with Divine Grace: An Interview with Kim Orr, Founder of Contemplative Practice Yoga® by Kate Sheehan Roach................................................................................89-90
Yoga & Youth
Yoga–Foundation for Life by Divya Prabha................................................................................................... 91 #The Monk and #His Pancake Story by Chipamong Chowdhury................................................................................. 92 The Importance of Yoga for Kids by Deepali Sharma........................................................................................ 93-94 Let’s Learn to Relax by Branka Arko (Prem Shakti)..................................................................... 95-96 Center for Conscious Kids Presents Children’s Meditation Program by Ashley Lee, RN, BSN, CCRN and Amanda Masters............................. 97-98
Yoga & Creative Arts
Thich Nhat Hanh Poem ...................................................................................... 99 Whispers of the Heart: An Ode To Swami Vivekananda by Molly Roopan................................................................................................100 Babaji Eternal Yogi by Molly Roopan.................................................................................................101 What in the World is Going On? by Paul Luftenegger...................................................................................102-103 Infinite Qualities by P.C. Turczyn..................................................................................................... 104 Sound, Music, & Yoga by Swami Madhuram Puri........................................................................ 105-106 Light on Light Meditation by Elspeth Kerr............................................................................................107-108
Observing the International Day of Yoga from Around the World The Parliament of the World’s Religions by Denise Scotto, Esq. ............................................................................... 109-111 Inner Peace Is a Global Opportunity by Philip Hellmich....................................................................................... 112-114
Upcoming issue Light on Light magazine by Rev. Shannon Winters .......................................................................... 115-116
Yoga Re-aligns Us with Natural Health a note and welcome from Light on Light Host Editor, Karuna
Welcome to this, our second, special issue in cooperation with the International Day of Yoga Committee at the UN. Sometimes we forget that, as human cultures have diversified into countless languages and myriad ways of life worldwide, our choices about food and lifestyle have often drastically affected the state of our overall human health! In a global community now, with all of the wisdom resources from the world’s many cultural traditions available to us, we now have an opportunity for a major “reset” with regard to food and health. Our understanding of yogic heritages is central here! Recently CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta did a global TV special on lifestyle-- and including much about food!-- where he spotlighted places in the world that have turned out to be far healthier than others (https://www.cnn.com/shows/chasing-life). These widely viewed episodes also included insights into the roles of food and stress, and are also attentive to the healthy role of spirituality—especially yoga and meditation. They even acknowledged more subtle dilemma’s-- about self image, measures of success and happiness etc., which end up drastically affecting everyone’s lives today. These TV specials resounded myriads of the advices I commonly give in teaching yoga and promoting the very theme of this magazine-- “spiritual practice and inspired lifestyle”. What we put into our bodies, how we look at our bodies, how we look at ourselves, are so critical to our general well-being. One of the consequences of our not having, or taking, the time to size up how our lifestyles handle food, stress, and self-image have left many-- young and old-- struggling with challenged health, weight issues, and problems of self-image, success and fulfillment. It’s good that dominating the media recently (with 231 Million entries at Google!) has been news about “SAD”—that “The Standard America Diet (SAD) is Even Sadder Than We Thought”. What’s good about it, however, is that if you Google “Diet and Yoga” you now also get 307 Million entries on what to do about it! Yes, time for a reset!
Karuna’s Healthy Tip for pure celery juice.
Those of us who have practiced yoga, and yogic health, even long before it was as popular as it has been thankfully becoming, have long been aware of this Truth that “what goes into us” both materially and spirituality has major consequence! Thus, it is so fulfilling to see a global magazine issue like this one on Yoga and yogic health worldwide, and I’m happy to be a part of it! The global world community today does give us a chance for a major and important “reset”— a chance for all of us to look ourselves in the mirror—and to be serious about asking the question “How am I?”. And if the answer is not the one we’d like to see, we should also feel empowered to ask “OK, what can I do about it? What is a healthy lifestyle? What is a healthy routine? and, How can I do my reset wisely-not in drastic steps but in incrementally, increasingly healthy steps? As Host Editor for Light on Light, involved from the very beginning in the vision of this magazine, this amazing issue of yoga worldwide for the 2019 International Day of Yoga offers us all a chance for this important “reset”. It’s been wonderful to see the wisdom that pours from these pages from awakened practitioners and global citizens around the world. Let’s enjoy, and act upon, this feast of wisdom about conscious living. Sat Nam Karuna
A Short Welcome
from Light on Light and the global organization community--
I want to welcome you to this exciting and important issue-- from the point of view of international organizations and networks who work together to put pivotal global issues and messages front-andcenter before for our world community. Because our major challenges today are global in scope, so must be their examination and remedies. Accordingly, nothing is more important today than joining essential global values and ideals (like those from our world’s Great Wisdom Traditions and the enterprise of Yoga) to the expansive landscape of our species’ global life-- issues like peace, health, and so many more. In testament to this, nearly all of us in this amazing issue are parts of global networks working in this regard, Light on Light Magazine and The Interspiritual Network’s participation in the wider UNITY EARTH Community being only one example. It is here that the broader leadership and prominence of the United Nations community is so important. It is our pleasure and privilege to be a part of this important global effort. Dr. Kurt Johnson The Interspiritual Network and UNITY EARTH (www.unity.earth) Community
Welcome Message by Denise Scotto, Esq.
As we mark the 5th Anniversary of the International Day of Yoga, I’m delighted to extend a warm welcome to everyone for this special issue of Light on Light. It feels like only yesterday we were cheering the passage of UN GA Resolution 69/131 proclaiming 21 June as World Yoga Day and meeting with a core group to promote the understanding of the fullness and richness of yoga within the UN system, the greater UN community and globally. Now, five years have already passed! Number five is significant. We refer to the five elements of nature-fire (agni), air (vayu), water (jal), Earth (Prithvi) and Spirit (Akash). We see a multitude of flowers having five petals--imagine the pansy or the hibiscus. The starfish has five arms which it can regenerate. We speak about our five natural senses-- sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. But, did you know that almost all amphibians, reptiles and mammals which have fingers or toes, have five of them on each extremity? In Greek Orthodox Christian mysticism, five symbolizes the Holy Spirit, as the bearer of all life. Muslims pray to Allah five times per day. The Torah contains five books as does the Book of Psalms. Confucius taught the five virtues of gravity, generosity, sincerity, earnestness and kindness while Sikhism instructs about the five virtues of truth, contentment, patience, faith and daya (compassion) as well as the five truth sacrifices. The pentagram, a five-pointed star, bears religious significance in various faith traditions including Baha’i, Christianity, Freemasonry, Taoism, Wicca. The Goddess of knowledge and intellect, Saraswati, is associated with Panchami (or the number 5). At the same time, the God Shiva has five faces and his mantra is also called Panchakshari (for fiveworded). The epic Mahabharata revolves around the battle between Duryodhana and his 99 other brothers and the five pandava princes-Dharma, Arjuna, Bhima, Nakula and Sahadeva. Our five-year anniversary provides the opportunity to review our many efforts during this window of time. We’ve been actively promoting yoga’s beneficial impacts, yogic values and underlying philosophy, yoga’s contemplative practices in addition to highlighting how yoga is experienced and practiced in the work of the UN and its affiliated organizations at UN fora and globally. A highlight was moderating conversation between acclaimed scientist Dr Bruce Lipton and famous BK Sister Shivani as we celebrated Yoga Day in 2017 and another was observing Women’s Day with Yogmata and Pilot Baba in 2018. At both events, special friend and recording artist, Paul Luftenegger, added a beautiful dimension through his music. Another high point was speaking at events during the Parliament of the World’s Religions meeting in Toronto and being with long-standing partners and friends such as Light on Light’s Karuna and Kurt! We’ve also held meetings within UN official commission sessions and observed key UN days, among them, the International Day of Peace, Women’s Day and Human Rights Day as well as World Interfaith Harmony Week. We’ve organized various events to foster
community participation, engagement and collective action. One that stands out is Unity Earth’s Lift Off NYC. Notwithstanding all these undertaking, the IDY Committee at the UN, unveiled its very own unique logo and designed a committee brochure! I’m grateful to those authors who provided submission to the 2018 Yoga Day Special Edition of Light on Light and the overwhelmingly positive response that the 2018 issue received. I’ve heard from so many people describing these contributions as invaluable assets. This 5th Anniversary issue continues to feature preeminent Yoga Masters who have participated in UN Yoga Day observances, respected spiritual leaders including venerated Buddhist teachers, esteemed colleagues associated with the UN, distinguished experts, and friends. A special focus this year is the section on Yoga & Youth. Like last year’s articles regarding Yoga Accessibility, Yoga & Youth is close to my heart having worked on strengthening children’s rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and serving as Chair of the Children’s Rights Committee for over twenty years. Preparing this 5th Anniversary issue has been an honor in the truest sense. I’m grateful for the steadfast assistance of the IDY Committee members and the Light on Light team— Dr. Kurt Johnson, Karuna, and Shannon and David Winters. Again, it’s my hope that you’ll find this collection valuable and that it supports a broader appreciation of yoga much like the 2018 edition. As we celebrate this milestone fiveyear anniversary, I encourage you to deepen your own understanding of and practice of yoga. In appreciating the truest sense of yoga or union, let us also come together to share experiences and insight as we grow together. I send my heartful wishes to everyone for a very Happy Yoga Day. All good wishes, Denise Scotto, Esq. Chair, International Day of Yoga Committee at the United Nations (IDY Committee at the UN) www.facebook.com/ yogadaycommittee email@example.com
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar 2019 5th Anniversary Yoga Day Message Nature exhibits many colors through diverse landscapes and changing seasons just as our mind exhibits many moods and feelings. Without all these colors and emotions, life would be very dull and boring. While some people think that emotions cloud one’s ability to act logically and prefer avoiding or suppressing emotions, one’s personality and growth is not complete without emotional depth and maturity. All different emotions can be appreciated when we step outside the mind and get to know its intricacies, the games it plays, it’s abilities of perception, inference and creativity. Everything we see around is a making of the mind. It builds upon notions and ideas from the real world and creates a world of its own. Most people are trapped in this world created by their minds. When one realises this, there is a spontaneous desire to be free and the path to attain the ultimate freedom is Yoga. It is a step-by-step journey to separate what IS from what appears to be. Yoga is both a science and an art. It is scientific in its clarity of principles and artistic in the way it is practised with dedication. On one hand, it involves developing a keen sense of analysis of the finer processes of the mind. On the other, it brings about a synthesis and integration of all the aspects of one’s being. There are a number of texts on Yoga and among the oldest are the Patanjali Yoga Sutras. The precision and terseness with which these set of formulas draw out the map of consciousness make the Yoga Sutras a unique work of its kind in all of the world’s literature. Apart from describing higher states of consciousness, the preparation needed to experience these, the pitfalls one might encounter and ways to overcome them, yoga also touches the realm of quantum mechanics and subtly indicates how the seer and the scenery influence each other. Yoga is not about withdrawing from the world and turning into a recluse. On the contrary, it is defined as skill in action. The more established and stable one is within, the more dynamic and skillful one is in action. Yoga not only brings clarity of mind that helps read situations better, it also enhances intuition which is invaluable in decision making. A healthy body, sharp mind and keen instincts improve one’s ability to take greater responsibility and that is why, in the ancient times, yoga was especially mandatory in the training for kings and leaders. Just as a flower’s fragrance can be smelled by anyone who comes close, a place where people meditate and practise yoga has a calming and healing effect on everybody who comes there. In fact, this is the concept behind pilgrimage places and ashrams in India that have been visited by millions of people for thousands of years. The practise of Yoga also brings a balanced and equanimous perspective in one’s outlook and attitude. This balance is much-needed today, in times of increased intolerance and polarisation, that erupts in incidents like shootings and violence, which cause further polarisation in the world. Yoga bestows a broad vision reminding us of our foremost identity, that we are all part of one big human family. When there is a sense of belongingness with the whole world, conflicts arising out of smaller identities fade away. The world will be at peace when its people are at peace within themselves. Yoga can play a great role in realising this vision. This knowledge is a wealth for the entire humanity and the International Yoga Day has made it possible for this wealth to be shared all over the world. 9
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is a world-renowned spiritual and humanitarian leader whose programs have reached an estimated 370 million people in 155 countries. He is the founder of the Art of Living Foundation and the International Association for Human Values which collaborate on humanitarian initiatives worldwide. Sri Sri’s work includes empowerment and trauma relief programs for youth, armed conflict resolution, U.S. Veteran PTSD therapy, prisoner rehabilitation, addiction treatment and human rights advocacy.
The Richness & Fullness of Yoga
Yoga Means to Unite by Siddha Yoga Master Yogmata Keiko Aikawa
When yin and yang energies are tied together, it creates harmony. When there is a connection between people, in a positive way, they are harmonized. When they repel each other, conflict will occur. Everything is bound by love. Love is a quality from the existence of infinity. In a deep place in our heart, there is a sea of great love. People develop their minds and distinguish themselves. Then they are always making choices, such as avoiding danger or approaching something that is friendly to them, using judgements based on differences or their own belief. If their judgement is correct, it will not be a problem. However, people occasionally judge with hostility for self-protection. Then they feel hatred against the subject, fear and anger arises and this causes discord. Aiming for harmony, that is yoga. Through yoga, we ease the distinction between you and others by understanding. By nurturing love, we understand others and relax the sense of distinction. Then we will develop a peaceful mind. We can realize this by practicing yoga and meditation. People have developed their minds and built wonderful civilizations. They seek out and create better things, housing, nutrition and clothing to avoid the cold or to be more beautiful. Then they are building an abundant life. On the other hand, they grow their minds and desires to want various things more and more, and also experience a number of emotions. Furthermore, as people come to consider their body and mind as themselves, they do not understand the essence of who actually makes things work and who makes them alive. As a result, we suffer. We feel happy when we are materially abundant. But such feelings are just temporary. Mind works busily for something to watch, listen, taste, smell and feel, then becomes upset, sad, irritated, disgusted, jealous, demanding and judging. Moreover, it is troublesome having a pain, here or there, wanting to move, becoming inharmonious, having a habit of the body.
The Richness & Fullness of Yoga Having analyzed those things, various methods and psychotherapy have been created, in the West, but clients are bombarded by them. As people are losing faith in existing religions and believe in these methods instead, their minds are strengthened further, and it becomes a monster. You will never find the essence unless you let it go. Realize the essence. The ultimate way for people to transform and become happy is through the guidance of the Himalayan saints. I am truly convinced of that. True yoga is a practice for enlightenment that originated in India. Yoga has a variety of schools. There are various approaches such as wisdom yoga, love yoga, physiological yoga, psychological yoga, energy yoga, etc. depending on the character of the saint who created it. You choose the different yoga, you do, according to your character. Each person has various qualities. Love is also necessary. Wisdom is also necessary. Life power is also necessary. By having a comprehensive approach, it is hoped that you will become harmonious and grow into a well-balanced human being. Then the Himalayan saints, who have achieved Supreme Samadhi, can make you happy. True yoga leads us to harmonize ourselves easily through body or mind. Also, it cleanses our body and mind, and guides us to reach to the essence inside of ourselves. Peopleâ€™s essence is love, peace and wisdom. However, as I mentioned previously, the mind develops in various ways, and desires cause obsessions for various things. Then these become memories of the mind, and the essence, deep inside of us, becomes clouded. Stress accumulates in the body and mind. Yoga and meditation of the Himalayan Secret Teaching cleanse and relax nerves, bodies and minds, and bring out calmness. Then, we can foster the mind to love ourselves, love people around us and respect. Our original pure hearts will then emerge. If you practice true yoga which lead you to realize the truth, you can love people, appreciate, and respect each other. Thus, we can bring peace to this world through practicing yoga. I achieved supreme Samadhi in the Himalayas and realized the truth. I transcended death and became oneness with the essence of the source. I have been sharing power and love and teaching you to have the same quality of great love and peace which exist inside you. Please awaken and become a person who is free from agony. Please become a person with love, a person of peace. By starting this meditation practice, you will be able to create a peaceful mind quickly, foster a mind of understanding and create yourself to be fulfilled with life force. If each of us balances inside of ourselves and becomes peaceful, this will create a world of peace. When we are fulfilled inside, a mind of compassion springs forth from within. If each of us, encounters yoga and meditation, which can transform and develop you, you can dedicate to world peace. Yoga, originated in the Himalayas and now brought to you in an understandable form, has started to be loved by people from all over the world. I deepen this process further and I am sharing this genuine yoga, yoga of enlightenment and essential yoga with you.
Yogmata, Keiko Aikawa, is the first and only woman, as well as only foreigner, ever to become a Siddha Master; attaining the ultimate stage of Meditation and Yoga (samadhi) through harsh ascetic training in the Himalayas. Between 1991 and 2007, she performed eighteen public viewings of samadhi, throughout India, to attest to the truth and promote world peace. She regularly holds lectures and meditation guidance workshops all over the world. In June 2016, she was invited, as a special guest, to the UN headquarters to celebrate the International Day of Yoga and has since given keynote speeches and guidance of meditation, at other UN events, in October 2016 and May 2017. 11
How to Remove the Hurt from the Heart by BK Sister Jenna
Love is the language of peace, the energy of freedom and the word of God. So, why in the world are so many of us globally far away from living it completely? A few months ago, I sat with staff at the Meditation Museum and we began a conversation around breakfast discussing the plight of Black and White America, and, for some reason, I found myself in the space of what White America might be enduring. I found myself remembering a time when I entered an organization with bright eyes and bushy tail ready to contribute, ready to grow, ready to learn. To my dismay, I became somewhat disappointed as I began to experience being mistreated and marginalized by the person whom I trusted and valued and for whom I felt a real sense of regard. But, even greater than that, was the appalling silence of those who knew and did nothing.
The light bulb became brighter. I realized my hurt in the heart had been traveling with me for many lifetimes, and, it’s now up to my honesty, patience, and love for God to heal and release this hurt. This hurt had found a comfortable place inside the soul-- only revealing itself intensely when certain souls would appear in my vortex. Perhaps souls, who too, were struggling with hurt they never realized were there because it was concealed by the ego. After emailing friends and guests from the America Meditating Radio Show and speaking openly on various platforms, I kept asking folks, “How do you remove the hurt from your heart?”
I could go on sharing all the scenes that would break the heart of the strongest and most resilient, however, I came in with a sense of “knowing” and a sense of privilege, due to the lifestyle I lived between the ages of 21-25. I found what I came with, was not at all accepted. So, I did what many women do, I blamed myself for being less than, and, I went on for a while wondering what was wrong with me. But my saving grace was when God’s quiet whisper said, “I have a better version of yourself waiting for you.” That was my saving grace because, despite the defamation of my character and my mere presence in the company, I was guided by God’s amazing protection of Light that saw me through. This protection made me the person I am today, and, it is what will make the soul I will be throughout time. Unknown to me for many years, hurt was sitting in my heart, and, there were a few who were instruments to keep signaling that it had long found a space to rest somewhere within the soul. This reality became amplified after the 2016 elections in America when I felt such a betrayal of my humanity. It took me almost a year to understand why my pain and hurt in the heart were so deep. Then one day in the meditation room, that we, in the Brahma Kumaris, call Baba’s Room, I was given insight into a simple question I had pondered. The question was, “How do you think the freedom fighters would feel if they witnessed what was happening in these times?”
As much as I know from my teachings in Raja Yoga Meditation taught by the Brahma Kumaris, I was seeking answers which later became all the same responses. Words like forgiveness, release and let go, were recurring phrases we have all heard, but this was the opening--the honesty of sharing without blame, the space, observing the moments of empathy that would sneak into the soul. It is God’s Light that would keep tapping me on the inside saying, “It’s just a story, one you had to live, and, the hurt is from the level of attachment you carried with it.” Even as I write these words, I can feel a healing taking place. It feels like the healing process after a surgery--a gentle and soft space that was gathering strength to resurface. So, for this fifth year of the International Day of Yoga, it’s my pure wish that each, and every one of us, do the work of removing the hurt from the heart so we can truly love fully.
Sister Jenna is a spiritual leader, author, radio and TV personality, renowned speaker and founder of the Meditation Museum I & II in metropolitan Washington, DC. Selected as one of the Empower a Billion Women 100 List of Most Influential Global Leaders Empowering Women Worldwide and served as a principal partner with the Oprah Winfrey Networkand Values Partnerships on the Oprah Winfrey Belief Team, a community of individuals from diverse spiritual, cultural and faith backgrounds, and as an influential connector, she coordinated bringing on-board organizations and thought leaders to engage in this global dialogue on Belief. 12
The Richness & Fullness of Yoga
Meditate on Truth by Amma Sri Karunamayi
My most beloved children, my heartfelt love to all of you. Human life is very short; time is fleeting like anything. To reach the gateway of Truth, have more and more purity in your heart. My children, who is the first enemy for us? Anger. There is no dangerous enemy like anger in human life. Who is your best teacher? There is no greater teacher than pain in this world. In our world-home, peopleâ€™s sufferings are like an eye-opener for all of us. Pain is a silent teacher. My beloved children, to help and serve our people in this world, sacrifice anything rather than principles. Our life without love and service is death, and it has no essence. There is no treasure like the wealth of love and service; they only are the essence of life. There is no virtue like love to support and elevate people in our world-home. Let all of us be kind and compassionate. We have to hear peopleâ€™s heart, their problems, pains and sorrows. Love this world. The world is nothing but Truth only. Self-control is the best quality among all others in this world. If people have selfcontrol in their mind, then, 95% of the problems in this world would be solved. (1) Nonviolence, (2) patience, (3) firmness, (4) goodness and speaking kind words, (5) absence of anger, (6) absence of hatred, (7) courtesy and good behavior; so many things in one word are self- control. Is it possible to attain self-control? Yes. By meditation. People with self-control become sinless, fearless, and also acquire great merits and attain Truth. My sweet children, there is no greater thing in our world than Truth; no treasure higher than Truth. Truth is our duty, our tapas, our meditation. Where Truth exists, nonviolence also exists. Where there is perfect nonviolence, there only is Truth. Beloved, beloved children, meditate on Truth. Truth is the Light of all of the lights. Truth is the only reality, fortitude, mercy, endurance, magnanimity, impartiality, justice and purity. My children, be truthful in your life and you will become an example for all to imitate. You will overcome all difficulties. Truth speaks inwardly, without the noise of words. This gives you immense peace and bliss. Then, we have to give service to our world. Realize that life is meant for service and not for self-seeking. Service expands your heart and people forget about ego or I-ness. Let your life be built on the great ideal of selfless service. Then, all other ideals will manifest in life through this ideal of egoless service. Discipline the mind and body, again, and again; this is the first stage of practical meditative life.
Service to people in need is the worship of Truth, or God. Truth is peace, bliss and Light; worship Truth through service. Dedicate all of your actions to Truth. Be pure. Be truthful and never hurt othersâ€™ feelings. In service, you have to bear so many injuries and insults. Have forgiveness and be kind. Your meditation power gives you everything. Controlling our mind and our nature is the greatest civilization. Matter should not rule your life; your life should rule matter. My Beloved Children, have peace first in your heart, next in your home. Share your peace in this world. Be a peacemaker in our word-home. With motherly love, Amma
Her Holiness Amma Sri Karunamayi is revered as an embodiment of unconditional Divine Motherly Love due to the care and compassion that she so liberally showers upon all. In 1988, she established SMVA Trust, a global non-profit affiliated with the United Nations, creating social justice initiatives to serve those in need demonstrating how the timeless wisdom of Sanathana Dharma (Vedic Culture) interweaves tradition and public service. SMVA Trust provides: free education/housing/medical care, clean drinking water and womenâ€™s empowerment programs. Amma is also the founder and spiritual head of Manidweepa Maha Samsthanam, a serene forest ashram which includes the Sri Lalita Parameshwari Devi Tri-Shakti Peetham. The ashram regularly hosts events such as: meditation retreats, students retreats, festivals, the annual Navaratri Grand Celebrations, Homas, and Pujas.
Community is a place where the connections felt in our hearts make themselves known in the bonds between people, and where the tuggings and pullings of those bonds keep opening our hearts. ~Parker J. Palmer 14
The Richness & Fullness of Yoga
Yoga: A Science Not A Religion by Sadhguru, Isha Foundation
The United Nations declaration of June 21 as International Yoga Day was a momentous one. But there has been so much misinterpretation over the years that it is more relevant now to look first at what yoga is not, so we know exactly what we are celebrating. Is yoga a system of physical exercise? Is it a religion? Is it belief in god? Is it about becoming a good or moral person? These are common questions. The answer to all of them is no. Standing on your head, twisting your body into all sorts of postures, is not yoga. Yes, there are yogic practices that involve the body. But fundamentally, ‘yoga’ means union. It means you have begun to experience the universality of who you are. Modern science proves to you beyond doubt that the whole existence is just one energy manifesting in various forms. If this scientific fact becomes a living reality for you, if you begin to experience everything as one, you are in yoga. Yoga is a science, not a religion. Just as there is a physical science for external wellbeing, yoga is a science for inner wellbeing. Because this science evolved in this civilization -- in the land between the Himalayas and the Indu Sagara (the Indian Ocean) -- it was identified over time as Hindu. But terming it Hindu is akin to saying the theory of relativity is Jewish! Yoga has nothing to do with any creed or faith. Does it entail a belief in god? No. Devotion can be a powerful and effective stepping-stone to your ultimate wellbeing. But devotion works only if you are a very childlike person. If yours is a questioning mind, don’t waste your time on devotion. If you happen to arrive at an overwhelming inner experience where your logic falls apart, that is different. Then devotion is natural, and it can be explosive. But don’t try to practice devotion. It won’t work. The question is, are you looking for solace or for a solution to your life? If you want solace, belief in anything is fine; it will settle you psychologically. If you want a solution, it’s a different game. Yoga is a solution. No belief system is involved. It’s about simply doing what works.
Ranked amongst the fifty most influential people in India, Sadhguru is a yogi, mystic, visionary and bestselling author. Sadhguru has been conferred the «Padma Vibhushan», India’s highest annual civilian award, by the Government of India in 2017, for exceptional and distinguished service. 15
Does it entail a value system? No. If you experience yourself as one with everything, you don’t need any values. That is the beauty of yoga. It is an experiential system. If you experience everyone as a part of you, I don’t have to instruct you: ‘Be good to all.’ Once inclusion happens, nobody needs to teach you any morals. When you are in yoga, the need to be good has itself disappeared! This is also the difference between morality and spirituality. Spirituality is not about trying to fix or prescribe any values or morals. Prescribing will never work in the long run. Only that which is free will live totally and inclusively. Only that which is free will last. After my own life-changing experience in 1982, I realized a state of freedom and joy is the birthright of every human being. When I saw that everyone is capable of this, I wanted to transform the world. We have touched a few million people since then. Some think that’s a huge achievement. I don’t. For the first time we have the kind of information technology that allows us to reach the whole world. In this sense, we are more empowered than Adiyogi, Gautama Buddha or Patanjali! In such times, we can inspire an entire planet of 7.2 billion to turn to this profound science of inner wellbeing. All those who have been touched and benefited by it should stand up and make this happen.
Sadhguru, Isha Foundation Ranked amongst the fifty most influential people in India, Sadhguru is a yogi, mystic, visionary and best-selling author. Sadhguru has been conferred the “Padma Vibhushan” by the Government of India in 2017, the highest annual civilian award, accorded for exceptional and distinguished service. Sadhguru has initiated Rally For Rivers, a nationwide campaign to revitalize India’s severely depleted rivers, which has found phenomenal support among India’s people and leadership. With a celebratory engagement with life on all levels, Sadhguru’s areas of active involvement encompass fields as diverse as architecture and visual design, poetry and painting, aviation and driving, ecology and horticulture, sports and music. Probing and passionate, insightful, logical and unfailingly witty, Sadhguru’s talks have earned him the reputation of a speaker and opinion-maker of international renown. With his astute and incisive grasp of current issues and world affairs, as well as his unerringly scientific approach to the question of human wellbeing, he has been a primary speaker at the United Nations World Headquarters and a regular at the World Economic Forum. He has also been invited to speak at leading educational institutions, including Oxford, Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Wharton and MIT, among others. Over three decades ago, Sadhguru founded Isha Foundation, a non-profit human-service organization, with human well-being as its core commitment, supported by over nine million volunteers in over 250 centers worldwide.
I wish I could show you, when you are lonely or in darkness, the astonishing Light of your own Being.
- Hafiz -
The Richness & Fullness of Yoga
Yoga for Joyful Living by Swami Mukundananda
For eons, human beings have been seeking joy in every activity. While we have different desires, distinctive aspirations, dissimilar inclinations; the root of it all is the desire to be happy and joyful. Each one of us has our own concept of where our joy lies. However, the aspiration for joy or happiness across the globe is the same. So that in the matters of seeking joy, we are all one and the same. Interestingly, no one instructed us to seek joy in our lives. But we have been endeavoring for it since we having taken our first breath. So, why are we in this relentless pursuit of joy and happiness? Why aren’t we truly happy, or truly satisfied? These are timeless philosophical questions, and the ancient Greek philosophers, such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, dwelled deep into the principles of human happiness which the later-day philosophers followed.
purification of the mind, the soul’s hunger for happiness or joy remains unaddressed. Furthermore, an impure mind becomes a nest of disease and illness. The Yoga Vāsiṣṭha, an ancient scripture, tells a revealing story about the mind-body connection from the pastimes of Shree Ram. Lord Ram once undertook a tour of His kingdom, to personally observe the condition of His people. Moved by their suffering from diseases, he asked his preceptor, Maharshi Vasiṣṭha, “Guruji, what is the cause of disease?” “Ram, disease begins in the mind. When we harbor poisonous thoughts, the Manomaya kośh (mental sheath) gets disturbed. This agitates the Prāṇamaya kośh (vital energy sheath). That disturbance manifests in the Annamaya kośh (physical body) as disease,’ replied Maharshi Vasiṣṭha.”
“What is the ground of this uneasiness of ours; of this old discontent? What is the universal sense of want and ignorance, but the fine innuendo by which the soul makes its enormous claim?” posed Ralph Waldo Emerson, the 19th century philosopher and Father of Transcendentalism, while probing into the concept of the soul. This yearning for joy or happiness stems from the fact that we are tiny parts of an ocean of bliss. This one supreme source of bliss is referred to by different names in different traditions as God, Allah, Yahweh, Bhagavān, so on and so forth. The Vedic scriptures repeatedly inform us that God is an ocean of unlimited divine bliss. The Taittirīya Upaniṣhad for example proclaims: ānando brahmeti vyajānāt (3.6) “Know God to be bliss.” The scriptures emphasize that the infinite divine bliss is the nature of God’s personality, and, the yogi, who absorbs the senses, mind, and intellect in God, begins to experience that bliss. Here is where the ancient science of yoga comes into play, uniting the individual soul with the Supreme, which results in eternal joy and bliss. Yoga has definitely become a global phenomenon, but often, in the name of ‘Yoga,’ only physical exercises are taught. The word ‘Yoga’ does not exist in the Sanskrit language or in Vedic scriptures. Actually, the word is ‘Yog,’ which means ‘to unite.’ In this context, it means to unite the individual soul with the Supreme soul. This union can be achieved by elevating, purifying, and focusing the mind lovingly upon God. Without the 17
This means that if the mind is neglected, the ancient science of yog, revealed for the nourishment and evolution of the humankind will be incomplete and only partially effective. The physical āsans certainly open the doorway to yog, but the ancient science goes deeper than just the physical postures. While the yogāsans give direct and tangible benefits by bringing the bodily parts into perfect coordination, meditation upon God cleanses the mind, bringing a feeling of peace and contentment within. The different prānāyām practices largely contribute in the expansion of prānic energy. The mudras (hand gestures) seal the body, preventing dissipation of bodily energy and enhancing the feeling of joyousness.
The yogic system addresses our personality in all its aspects – physical, mental, intellectual and spiritual. It helps manifest the divinity that lies hidden within the inner recesses of human personality. It ultimately takes us to the sublime goal of the human journey, which is the union with the Supreme consciousness. Since that Supreme is the ocean of joy, the union leads to joy. In that joyful union, by the purity of mind, we perceive everyone with equality of vision, and cognize the existence of God in this world through His glories that shine forth everywhere and in everyone. In that state of mind, every endeavor is consecrated to the divine. And when we start leading the life in divine consciousness, with the mind yoked to the divine, every aspect of our life becomes joyful. Not merely the joy from external sources, but the inner joy held in divine consciousness. Joy equipoised and uninterrupted either by success or failure, by deprivation or abundance. And it is attainable through JKYog. Jagadguru Kripaluji Yog (JKYog) incorporates both material and spiritual techniques, based upon the timeless sciences of the Vedic scriptures. It is a complete system of Yog which includes five Vedic disciplines for mind-management and exemplary physical health: 1. Radhey Shyam Yog Asans 2. Radhey Nām Prānāyām 3. Subtle Body Relaxation 4. Roop Dhyan Meditation 5. Science of Proper Diet The techniques of JKYog have been practiced by true yogis in India for centuries. JKYog is special because each of its five sciences is practiced with focus on purifying and elevating the mind through tools of spirituality. This gives a deep satisfaction and experience of bliss at the level of the soul. If practiced sincerely, JKYog leads to the harmonization of the mind-body-soul, resulting in a feeling of wellbeing from within, and the attainment of true Yog, or union of the consciousness with God.
HH Swami Mukundananda is a world-renowned spiritual teacher and founder of JKYog. He studied the Eastern and Western scriptures under the guidance of Shree Kripaluji Maharaj, established charitable institutions and is the author of several books including: Art of Mind Management, Yoga for the Body, Mind & Soul, Bhagavad Gita, The Song of God, Spiritual Dialectics.
The Richness & Fullness of Yoga
Three Yogic Virtues
by BK Mary Friedland
In ancient times life was more holistic, less compartmentalized. Multi-purpose practices that took root in ancient cultures have persevered over millennia because they offer tried and true benefits to a variety of human needs. Yoga is one of these. In addition to the obvious benefits of practicing yoga, there are many subtle gains. One of these is character development. Three important virtues that get strengthened through a yoga practice are patience, responsibility and humility. Patience A yoga practice is a long-term investment, like planting a tree. Our goals in adopting the practice are seldom met quickly – they require years of diligent study, inquisitive exploration and tireless repetition. This takes more patience then most of us possess. In order to stay on track when the practice feels boring, difficult or unrewarding, we find more patience. Patience comes from faith in fruit that is yet unseen. Patience comes from recognizing that change happens slowly. Patience knows that success cannot be faked – real, lasting gain is a product of committed practice. Responsibility Responsibility grows from connections. Yoga is all about connections – between the inner and outer worlds, the physical and the spiritual realities, the past, present and future. Daily practice breeds sensitivity to our many connections. We feel naturally responsible for that which we are connected to. First, we take more responsibilities for ourselves. We cultivate our own inner stability, happiness and independence. Then, our world gets bigger. We stop seeing other people as “different” and stop feeling separated or alienated. If there is a need in the community, we take initiative, or, we extend cooperation. We know that our contribution makes a difference. We give so that all might receive, and in giving, we experience deep contentment. Humility Ultimately, we strive for excellence in our practices not to feed our egos but to make us better people. We discover that although the ego loves what we are doing, the ego’s various entanglements waste precious energy and obscure good judgment. We intentionally distance ourselves from the ego so that the energy can flow towards the practice. The deeper we go, the more evident is the help we have received from teachers, the lineage and the practice community. Our practice becomes a connection to a higher truth. We are grateful and humbled to be part of it. A daily yoga practice brings many unexpected benefits that we never bargained for. We become more honest with ourselves, more open and accepting of others, and more in touch with Supreme Good. Any virtue that we would like in life becomes attainable – it can be modeled and refined through the yoga practice.
BK Mary Friedland is a student and teacher of Raja Yoga Meditation as taught by the Brahma Kumaris. She lives in Chicago where she coordinates activities of the Brahma Kumaris in Chicago and the Midwest.
Yoga in Buddhism: Toward Mindful Awareness
by Bhikkhu Dr. Dhammadipa Sak
natthi jhānaṃ apaññassa, paññā natthi ajhāyato.
yamhi jhānañca paññā ca, sa ve nibbānasantike. (Dhammapada verse 372) There is no meditation (jhānam) without wisdom, and there is no wisdom without meditation. When a man has both meditation and wisdom, he is indeed close to nirvana. How we Understand Yoga
The term ‘Yoga’ has been employed to denote a method, device, strategy, a charm, an incantation, an endeavor, a combination union, zeal, care, diligence, discipline and so on. The elaborate psychophysical exercise routines of Hindu Yoga might be quite familiar to Westerners, however the subtle metaphysics and refined methods of the mental development of Buddhist yoga are seemingly less familiar to them. Yet, to characterize the semantic field of ‘yoga’ too broadly is also problematic, as much as treating the discursive context of the term too narrowly. Because Sanskrit was a shared language for writing, it is beyond doubt that the restriction of analysis of yoga discourse to solely one religious or textual cannot be justified. Buddhist Meditation Buddhist meditation should not be confused with yogic meditation, which often includes physical contortions, autohypnosis, possible quests for occult powers, and an attempted union with God or gods. Not all, but mostly Buddhist meditation deals exclusively with the everyday phenomena of human consciousness for the sake of eradication of defilements and of purification. A treatise called the Yogācārabhūmi (the stages/ground of the Yoga Practitioner) has a term ‘yoga’ which refers to Buddhist practice. It covers the entire spiritual path with great emphasis on practice of meditation. An overall definition of yoga consisting of four in the Yogācārabhūmi literature: faith (śraddhā), aspiration (chandas), vigor (vīrya) and skillful means (upāya) (tatra yogaḥ katamaḥ, āha, caturvidho yogaḥ, tadyathā śraddhā chando vīryam upāyaś ca (Śrāvakabhāumi, 2 ,9 B. 7-7b)). According to the literature, one begins in having faith through the conviction from activities (abhisaṃpratyayākārā) and through the serenity from activities (prasādākārā), based on examination of the truthful teachings and based on a person’s experiences of supernatural meditative skill. The first two refer to the faith out of hearing the teachings and out of capability in recognizing the serenity. And the latter two refers to the faith in relation to cause and effect established by seeing the truth (i.e. Four Noble Truths) and in relation to witness Higher knowledge (ṛdhi; supernatural meditative experiences) established by persons’ meditation. When the practitioner gains the right meanings through practice accompanied with faith, aspiration will automatically arise. 20
The Richness & Fullness of Yoga
Aspiration: Its Four Characteristics Aspiration can be understood as having four characteristics. When one practices incessantly in any given time, on the road to practice, aspiration arises. First, Aspiration to attainment refers to one who aspires to have deeper meditative stages or deeper path achievement. Due to strong aspiration to attainment, one aspires to seeking advice, which constitutes the second. After gaining advice from masters/ teachers, one aspires to cultivate any means as being more mindful of one’s virtue and more aware of the danger of the consequences of defilement. In keeping oneself alert in relation to one’s virtue and the possibility of contamination, one thus becomes comfortable with one’s virtue and six sense faculties (i.e. eyes, ear, nose, tongue, physical body and consciousness), etc. The fourth characteristic of aspiration, then is to allow oneself to “go with the flow” -- practicing tirelessly and gaining joyous aspiration, again and again. The positive outcomes of aspiration are a result of the practitioner’s earnest vigor: vigor in learning more, vigor in pondering the teachings, vigor of being energetic in practice for the sake of consolidating the Concentration (samatha) and vigor in cleaning and avoiding the hindrances to one’s practice for the sake of improving Insight meditation (vipraśyanā). And lastly, to supplement aspiration, skillful means is necessary, i.e., means to guard one’s sense faculties for the sake of bettering one’s form of virtue. Means to mindfulness allows one to master guarding the sense faculties; wonderful mindfulness will consequently be established. Next is developing the means to cultivate energy, and the last consists of skillful means to accomplish Concentration and Insight. Practices of Buddhist Yoga Two main practices of Buddhist yoga introduced by the Buddha either in early or later Buddhist texts include: tranquility practice (samatha bhāvanā) and insight practice (vipassana bhāvanā). While the first is aimed at cultivating tranquility/concentration (samādhi) and absorption meditative state (jhāna; dhyāna); the latter, at cultivating wisdom (paññā; prajñā). The Buddha had learned some forms of absorption meditative state before His enlightenment. Due to combination of both Concentration and Insight when He sat under the Bodhi tree, He achieved nibbana/nirvāṇa which results in transcending suffering (dukkha/duḥkha) and cutting off the circle of rebirths. Hence, He is called The Buddha, the Tathāgata or Arahant. One of the salient methods of tranquility/concentration (samatha) introduced by the Buddha is the Four Enriching Divinity. It comprises, the Loving-kindness (mettā/maitrī), compassion (karuṇā), emphatic joy (muditā) and equanimity (upekkhā/upekṣā). Among all the Samatha methods, this is still my favorite and highly recommended to every one who aspires to cultivate selfless 21
emotion that gives rise to boundless peace and empathy. As once the Buddha said, “mettāvihārī yo bhikkhu, pasanno buddhasāsane. adhigacche padaṃ santaṃ, saṅkhārūpasamaṃ sukhaṃ.” (The monk who lives exercising loving-kindness and is devoted to the ministry of the Buddha will reach the state of peace, appeasement of formations (nibbana) and happiness.) (Dhammapada verse 368). Non-Distinction and Empathy Towards All Beings In addition, the cultivation of Four Enriching Divinity is not limited to only meditating upon the objects dearest to him/her, but also includes empathy for hostile objects. This method of inclusion also helps one to learn to break down the barriers between oneself and others. One is supposed to have a strong vision of equality of all beings in relation to oneself. Utilizing this way of non-distinction, one can establish the concentration of equally-right loving kindness and the rest three Enriching Divinity meditation. Certainly, a further practice of jhana/dhyana can be achieved easily with good guidance after establishing equally-right Enriching Divinities. A complete Samatha practice also includes the development of mindful awareness (sati/smṛti). This means the meditator can also maintain full conscious awareness of the immediate object of attention as well as being introspectively aware of the inner activities of the mind. Mindful awareness can rest in an open state, serving as a platform for observation, and allowing objects of consciousness to arise and pass away with full awareness. It is the state of whether the practitioner wants to pay more attention to meditative objects or not to with full understanding (yoniṣomanaskāra). The practices of meditation mentioned above are commonly shared by early Buddhism (Theravāda) and Mahāyana Buddhism respectively. A few renowned Mahāyana Buddhist sutras like the Sandhinormocaṇa sūtra have also documented the practices, as well as the treatise called ‘Stages/Ground of the Yoga Practitioner’ mentioned above. Therefore, the basis and origin of the practice of Concentration and Insight is not restricted to any Buddhist tradition, but is essential for all beings to practice, in order to sustain the thrust for the Buddha supreme enlightenment. In this way, through the meditative practices noted above, Buddha’s teachings are further disseminated, and His disciples may all have the potential to achieve different levels of sainthood (phala; fruits from attainment).
Ven. Dr. Dhammadipa Sak has been a Buddhist monk since 1987, is the Abbot of US Zen Institute in Germantown, MD. He earned his Ph.D. in Buddhist Studies from UK. While seven years serving as an abbot at Chuang Yen Monastery in Upstate New York, he taught accelerated classes in Buddhist theories and practices at the City University of New York. Besides his academic activities, he has been invited to conduct mediation retreats in United States, Mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Malaysia. Ven. Dr. Dhammadipa Sak also serves as a trustee member of Parliament of World’s Religions. 22
The Richness & Fullness of Yoga
YAMA Refining Behavior: Removing Unwanted Habits by Kamlesh Patel
Yama is the first of the eight limbs of yogic practice. Daaji expounds on this very important aspect of Ashtanga Yoga and explores its importance in self-development and enlightenment. Why does behavior matter so much in the spiritual field? And does it matter only in the spiritual field? Human beings have always valued nobility of character, kindness, generosity and humility. We have also always venerated the people throughout history who embody those values or principles.
So what sort of a lifestyle is demanded of a seeker? When Patanjali formulated his Ashtanga Yoga some thousands of years ago, he included the refinement of personality and lifestyle as the two limbs known as Yama and Niyama.
When you remember the meaning of the word ‘Yoga’ it becomes clearer. Yoga means union, integration, oneness, including the integration of our inner and outer states of being. We cannot be saintly on the inside and greedy, arrogant or angry on the outside – that is a lack of integrity. It is not natural and leads to personality disorders; it is the opposite of holistic. Ultimately, there is no inside and outside but one fluid state of being. So, if we are going to embark on a spiritual journey, our character must go with us. In today’s world, this aspect of Yoga is not well-understood by Hatha Yoga practitioners and meditators alike, who are often happy just to do their practices. Why is that so? Maybe because it means looking in the psychological mirror in order to change. Every single moment we must work on ourselves to refine our lifestyle if we wish our consciousness to evolve.
In Sanskrit, the word Yama means ‘regulation’ or ‘self-discipline’. Ram Chandra of Fatehgarh wrote, “Yama is the giving up of unwanted things from the heart.” It is the removal of everything that is unnecessary for our spiritual journey. In Hindu mythology, the God of Death is also called Yama. How to reconcile this idea of death being intertwined with the refinement of lifestyle?
While Heartfulness Meditation with Yogic Transmission transforms us swiftly from the inside, stripping away our limitations at the very root, life demands something more of us. Our inner world may be expanding and evolving, but if our personality and lifestyle lag behind then we will remain spinning like mice in their running wheels. We will not move forward on the journey.
The real secret is to ‘die’ while still alive, transcending ‘I’-ness to become universal. Meditation is also the process of consciously transcending the individual self, so that we can merge with the universal consciousness; to transcend the ‘I’-ness of the ego with love. Here death is not of the physical body, but of our self-created accumulated identity – the layers of our persona. Transcendence means such refinement of the subtle body that it becomes pure and expansive, without individual heaviness.
There are two aspects to this refinement. The first is the removal of the complexities from the subtle body – the impressions we have accumulated from our own past – so that it becomes light and consciousness can soar higher and higher. These impressions are called samskaras in Yoga. This process leads to the death of our own individual network of complexities – beliefs, emotions, fears, habits and desires. In Heartfulness, the practice of Yogic Cleaning removes the very root, the samskaras, by directly cleaning the subtle bodies. This process is so effective that the impressions from one lifetime can be removed in one meditation session with a trainer. But if we don’t also then work on removing the behaviors that are the outer manifestation of those impressions, we end up recreating the same heaviness again. Like the mice on the wheel, we go round and round, removing, re-creating, removing, recreating in a never-ending cycle. The second aspect is the further refinement of the four main functions of the subtle body – consciousness, thinking, intellect and ego: With meditation on the heart, the mind deepens from thinking to feeling, to simply being, and then finally to unbecoming or unknowing, towards nothingness. It refines towards the subtlest state possible. The intellect deepens to intelligence to intuition to wisdom and also finally to a higher state beyond wisdom, known as unknowing or higher ignorance – again it zeroes out. Guidance henceforth will descend from beyond. The ego moves from a selfish focus on ‘I’, gradually refines to selflessness and generosity of heart, then absolute humility and acceptance, and finally only the finest state of identity remains.
What is aliveness? It means to live life with the heart; a life that is now connected to the eternal and the immortal; a life where there is neither bliss nor sorrow, neither pleasure nor pain. With such a transformation comes the wisdom to conduct life with self-discipline or Yama. That is why in Heartfulness we start with the last three limbs of Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga – dharana and dhyana, culminating in samadhi – so that we develop the inner capacity and aliveness to develop self-discipline and nobility. Inner transformation is the catalyst for outer change. The other five limbs are then naturally supported by the newly cultivated balanced tendencies of the mind. This is more practical than trying to refine character by changing the persona, because behavioral change is most possible in someone with a well-developed mind. It is certainly not possible for anyone who still has a heart full of desire, worry, anger, fear or guilt. It cannot be imposed artificially from the outside and be real. This state that Yama brings of self-discipline is beautifully described in the yogic literature as being in this world but not of this world, symbolized by the lotus that lives in the mud but is not polluted by it, instead radiating purity and beauty. So, these five vows of a seeker are for living life bravely and not straying away from a noble life. These five qualities form our spiritual foundation. In fact, no spirituality is possible without them. Becoming or imbibing these qualities prepares us for better and nobler experiences.
As these three subtle bodies are refined, consciousness is untethered and is able to expand into its infinite state, merging with the universal consciousness. Does the ego easily move from selfishness to generosity of heart? Not without a fight! Do we easily trust the wisdom of our hearts, happily residing in a state of unknowing, dependent totally on something higher? That would mean ignoring the pros and cons of the rational mind that are dictated by our own principles and constructs. It takes time to let go of all this and let consciousness soar into universality. It is a process that requires Yama and Niyama side by side with practice. With this transcendence we experience real aliveness for the first time. It means to live life with the heart; a life that is now connected to the eternal and the immortal; a life where there is neither bliss nor sorrow, neither pleasure nor pain. With such a transformation comes the wisdom to conduct life with selfdiscipline or Yama.
These five qualities depend on love. A loving, cheerful and contented heart creates the environment for the blossoming of life itself, without any force or pretense. A spiritual seeker who fulfills the five attributes of Yama will not be burdened by egotism. 24
The Richness & Fullness of Yoga And when do we become so interested in these five qualities that it is a joy to pursue them? When we realize their essential role in preparing our heart for the purification of consciousness. These five qualities form our spiritual foundation. In fact, no spirituality is possible without them, and they prepare us for better and nobler experiences. Only when we want nothing from anybody, including God, do the doors open. When God finds a contented soul, He gives more. Heavenly gifts descend on those who renounce power itself. Nature is similar: powers descend automatically on one who says, â€œI do not need it.â€? To inspire you towards the call of these five vows, I leave you with the lines of the poet H.W. Longfellow, Not enjoyment, and not sorrow, Is our destined end or way; But to act, that each to-morrow Find us farther than to-day.
Kamlesh Patel is the Guide of Heartfulness, and the fourth spiritual Guide in the Sahaj Marg system of Raja Yoga. He oversees Heartfulness centers and ashrams in over 130 countries, and guides more than ten thousands certified trainers who are permitted to impart Yogic Transmission under his care. Known to many as Daaji, he is an innovator and researcher, equally at home in the inner world of spirituality and the outer world of science, blending the two into transcendental research on the evolution of consciousness, and expanding our understanding of the purpose of human existence. www.daaji.org
by Dale Colton
Sanskrit, is the classic language of the Indian subcontinent and thought to be one of the world’s oldest languages. The word Sanskrit literally means ‘perfected. Vedic Sanskrit is the oldest form of Sanskrit that offers Vedic teachings that date back to the 2nd millennium BC. and is considered a language of ancient India with a history dating back more than 3,500 years. It is the predominant language of the writings of Hindu philosophy as well as some of the foremost texts of Jainism, Sikhism and Buddhism. Students of Yoga Philosophy will find that much of the ancient scriptures and mantras used in the studies and practices of Yoga are often written in Sanskrit. It is sometimes customary for serious students of Yoga to learn Sanskrit in order to perfect their studies.
On one occasion while at our Ashram in Rishikesh, India located in the foothills of the Himalayas, I was preparing a group of Yoga students from the United States for a tour to Sacred Shrines deep in the Himalayas the following day. I found my Teacher carefully sorting scrolls written in Sanskrit on thin fragile pieces of parchment (as illustrated above). I had heard of this ancient method of preserving and passing on sacred teachings, but I had never actually seen the scripts before and marveled to find how carefully they were kept so as to be handed down to generations that followed. He then shared some of them with me. I found myself wishing I had perfected the ability to read Sanskrit so as to be able to study these scripts in depth. When I actually saw them and his respect and care in maintaining them, I understood how this process was dedicated to preserving the wisdom of the Enlightened Rishis who came before. Sanskrit words have become a common part of Western understanding. For example: the word Karma is known to many. It is interesting that such words and their meaning have impacted different cultures. I once heard a response from a strong woman with a deep Southern accent acknowledge openly that the gentleman who had just behaved rudely would “reap the Karma for his actions.” I smiled thinking how these teachings were subtlety reaching everywhere. Often while studying translations of Sanskrit into English found in books... the writings appear to be poetic in nature. I would imagine that they have been translated with the utmost gentle care and respect for the wisdom they perpetuate. How fortunate that the ancient Sages took care to document these sacred teachings this way and that many Yogis came to the West to teach this knowledge to individuals who became their students, and in turn shared the knowledge. The process of preserving these profound teachings in Sanskrit for others to learn, continues to support the awakening of consciousness and Truth worldwide…for which we remain truly grateful. Dale Colton has a Masters’ Degree in Counseling and Public Relations and has over twenty-five years’ experience working as a consultant in Public Relations, Promotion and Publishing, helping individuals, centers and organizations that make up the global grassroots spiritual and socially conscious community. She is currently a member of the Evolutionary Leaders and is on the Advisory Board of the Source of Synergy Foundation. She served as a member of the Operations Team and a Consultant to the Alliance for a New Humanity, a humanitarian organization founded by Dr. Deepak Chopra. Where she co-created with Deepak “Be the Change,” an international community outreach movement- presenting community programs internationally. For twenty years Dale Colton was a member of the Board of Directors of The Himalayan International Institute, an early leader in the consciousness movement. She was the Director of Public Relations and Promotion. She served as a member of the faculty, organized and led Himalayan Excursions to India and Directed the annual International Conference, and the Himalayan Publishers. In addition, she owned and operated wholesale and retail import businesses that created scholarships and funded charitable projects in India. Dedicated to change through personal and social transformation. Dale believes that we have the power through choice to embrace any reality we want – war, aggression and self-destruction or peace, compassion and awareness. We have windows of opportunity constantly being presented to us within which quantum leaps can be made. Mutual respect, cooperation and collaboration among individuals, communities and organizations of like-minded people world-wide can collectively create enough conscious coherence to form a “critical mass” to shift the consciousness of the planet. 26
The Richness & Fullness of Yoga
Meditation by BK Suman Kalra
This piece is more about what meditation offers and less about ‘how to’ get there. I have decided on this stance quite consciously as for me the ‘how to’ has, in fact, been a hindrance. There is part of me that believes if I am able to paint a picture through words of what meditation ‘feels’ like, and, if I do it well, you, as the reader will be able to transport yourself to that picture. You will be able to ‘see’ it, ‘touch’ it, take the ‘fragrance’ and in doing so, even without trying, you will have experienced meditation. Before beginning this journey, though, I would like to introduce one of my most favourite words: ‘Yogi’ – meaning a practitioner of meditation. So, join me to get a glimpse into the yogi’s mind. The yogi seeks nothing from the material world. For him or her, the material world is like one big room full of toys – the car, the house, the job, the relations – all colourful and interesting but really just toys. The yogi enjoys them (maybe even thoroughly) but deep down inside doesn’t form any attachment to them. The yogi knows that the yogi will outgrow them – knowing they are just toys and knowing that real joy comes from elsewhere. The yogi never takes life too seriously, which incidentally doesn’t mean that he or she isn’t reliable and responsible where need be. In fact, quite the contrary. What goes on is like one big soap opera – with the yogi being entertained by it, but not influenced. This is why if you inspect the many statues made of yogis, you will surely see a special smile on their lips. It’s gentle; it’s calm; it’s never overstated, and, it has a quality of ‘quiet knowingness’ attached to it. The yogi’s presence is unintrusive and yet profoundly felt. When a yogi walks into a room the vibration changes. Everyone at some level begins to feel safe, re-assured or just more self-aware. Hearts oftens; barriers and resistance to life come down and for a moment one feels completely at ease, you like yourself, all worries and concerns melt away. One can breathe. The yogi does not judge but simply observes. The yogi does not take sides but simply understands. The yogi understands your feelings, your frustrations, your inner conflicts - all without your even having to utter a single syllable. The yogi only offers friendship, empathy and showers all with compassion. Yogis does not comprehend ego. They do not have any grand ideas about who they are, what skills they have or what they have achieved. They feel that anything that happens is nothing to do with them. They were just in the right place at the right time and some Higher, Benign, energy simply worked through them at that moment in time. I am sure that there have been times for each one of us, in our lives, where we have slipped into being like the yogi, even if it’s just momentary. We have been in the ‘space’, in that ‘zone’ where we are loving, kind, unafraid and still inside. How did that moment come to be and can I bring such moments into my life at command? Or, are they just random gifts from the Universe giving me a glimpse of what’s possible? I believe that they are memories – distant memories of who and what we all truly are like, of what we are behind the masks, behind the amnesia, behind the busyness. All we have to do it slow down enough to be able to see. The ‘how to’ is nothing more complicated than that. It’s about slowing down enough to arrive at the present moment and not race past it. It’s about believing that at our core we are all yogis and that ‘behind’ the chattering mind and all the voices in my head, there is tiny space where it is very very quiet and where everything just stops. Call it stillness, silence or peace – it doesn’t really matter. All I have to do is for a moment forget about everything that exists in my life, turn inwards, take myself to that place and just sit there, just be – even just for a moment. It will be enough. And if I can, let me also know that somewhere out there, up there, there is very very Loveful Being who truly and deeply cares for me – and all I have to do is turn my mind in that direction to feel the light of that love fall on me. The yogi in me will then once again be restored.
Suman Kalra was born and raised in a traditional Indian family, growing up near London and introduced to Raja Yoga Meditation in her early teens. She has a Diploma in Business and Finance and has for almost 30 years been a dedicated and pivitol member of the teams operating some of the key and busy UK Brahma Kumaris Meditation centres. Suman is known for her intuitive sense of direction, strong organisational skills and keen attention to detail, which is evident not only in her day to day work but also in her poetry sketches of people.
Buddhism & Vegetarianism by Venerable Master Hsing Yun
Many people see vegetarianism as the hallmark of Buddhism, but, when Buddhism was first transmitted from India to China there was no requirement whatsoever that monastics not eat meat. In the Mahaparinirvana Sutra, the Buddha said, “Meat eaters destroy their seed of compassion.” Thus, later generations advocated vegetarianism to practice the spirit of compassion. In China, Emperor We of the Liang dynasty wrote the “Essays on Giving up Wine and Meat” out of compassion recommending that the entire monastic order take up vegetarianism. He encouraged the laity to become vegetarians as well. It was only from this moment that Buddhism and vegetarianism became so closely intertwined. The reason why vegetarianism was able to spread in China was due to the influence of Confucianism. Confucianism advocated benevolent kindness and filial piety. The great Confucian thinker Mencius said:
Having seen an animal alive, one cannot bear to see it dead; Having heard its cry, one cannot bear to eat its flesh. This is why the gentleman stays away from the kitchen.
In Confucian philosophy, children are to wear sackcloth, keep a vegetable diet, and abstain from wine and meat during the mourning period after the death of their parents. Even during major sacrificial rites, people are also supposed to keep a vegetarian diet and ritually bathe themselves, so as to show their respect for the spirits. After its transmission to China, the Buddhist practices of not killing and freeing animals from captivity combined with Confucian emphasis on benevolent kindness spread vegetarianism even further. During the Buddha’s time, the monastics survived on alms offered by the laity. There were no distinctions made about who they received alms from, and, they were taught to rely on what they received from the generosity of others. In countries of the Southern Buddhist tradition, like Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Burma along the South Asian and Indo-China peninsula, this system of going for daily alms is still observed, in which the monastics eat whatever the faithful offer. How could they choose between vegetarian and non-vegetarian fare? Tibetan Buddhists are also not obligated to be vegetarian, for Tibet is a region of severe cold, such that it is almost impossible to grow vegetables there. Tibetan lamas usually make beef and lamb the main part of their meals. It would be quite challenging for them to adopt vegetarianism, for doing so would make it very difficult to live. How would they then cultivate their religious practice? Similarly, though Buddhism is commonplace in modern Japan, the temples and monasteries do no uphold vegetarianism. The goal of learning Buddhism is not to become a vegetarian, for “eating” is not the important issue--it is the purity of the mind that is important. If one’s words are filled with compassion and loving–kindness, and, the mind is filled with greed, hatred, and wrong views, one can eat vegetarian food all day long but still go against one’s conscience! Now, all the cafeterias in India’s train stations offer vegetarian food. Meat-based foods in the USA, now also come in vegetarian versions. Now, one can find a vegetarian restaurant anywhere in the world. Whether someone eats meat or vegetarian food is a reflection of their daily habits. Buddhism encourages people not to take life and that means putting into practice the Buddha’s spirit of compassion. Life is precious. To enjoy the delicacies of the land and sea requires the sacrifice of so many living creatures; wouldn’t it be good to let them go on living? Why must we make animals suffer to satisfy the desires of our appetites? Besides, eating certainly does not require gourmet foods. It is said that:
A cup of plain tea far surpasses drinking ambrosia; And the fragrance of simple fare surpasses dining on meat and wine.
Venerable Master Hsing Yun was born in 1927 and ordained in 1941. He is a Buddhist Monk in the Linji Lineage of the Chan School of Buddhism. In 1992 he founded Buddha’s Light International Association in Los Angeles in California at Hsi Lai Temple. Master Hsing Yun has dedicated his life to promoting “ Humanistic Buddhism” and integrating the Buddha’s teachings into daily life through writing, teaching, and fostering popular Buddhist media. Today, he spends most of his time stay in Taiwan, but he still teaches the Dharma in his one-stroke calligraphy.
The Richness & Fullness of Yoga
EMPOWERING HABITS THAT SET US FREE by Kamal Sangat Kaur (Jaime Maniatis)
DISCOVERING ANCIENT TOOLS In my life for some reason, I often have been guided by surprising intuitive insights. I discovered Kundalini Yoga this way upon experiencing a lucid dream. In the dream I observed myself asleep and beginning to awaken inside the Kundalini Yoga studio near my home. The teacher/owner Nirbhe Kaur was there, tucking me in with soft fluffy white blankets and pillows.
I was intrigued to learn more about these other healing aspects of yoga. Specifically, in the case of Kundalini Yoga, I was intrigued to discover its primary focus was the healing of the nervous and glandular systems and helping clear unhealthy subconscious stressful habits and patterns. CHANGE HABITS – CHANGE THE BRAIN
I knew absolutely nothing about Kundalini Yoga at that time, and the only yoga I had experienced was from classes taken at times at the local gym, hoping to regain much needed body flexibility.
I knew some of my habits served me, but, I also knew other patterns of thinking definitely were invisibly disrupting and draining my life flow.
Because of this lucid dream, I found myself soon on my way to discovering how much more there is to yoga than simply more flexibility. I was soon to learn just how powerful these ancient yogic tools of transformation can be on the spiritual, mental and emotional levels.
So how could yoga, specifically Kundalini Yoga, help to break these cycles of unhelpful habitual thoughts, emotions, and behaviors? Could yoga help me reorganize and reprogram my subconscious?
AGE OF THE NERVOUS SYSTEM From my personal observation, it was clear that modern day technological advances, however awesome, have had an intense, challenging impact upon our way of life. I call our time now the ‘Age of the Nervous System’. No humans in human history have EVER experienced such non-stop, fast-paced change, intense stimulation and demands upon time, both day and night. What effects do these have upon our nervous systems? So many people today are experiencing real challenges to simply ‘turn off’ and relax naturally, to be able to sleep deeply enough to allow their nervous systems to heal. 29
During teacher training, a lesson on habits was presented. The lesson explained habits were simply repeated subconscious thought patterns which trigger neurological chain reactions between the mind, the nervous and glandular systems. Since Kundalini Yoga kriyas, meditations, mudras, breathwork and mantras all work to re-pattern the brain, we students were given this special challenge: Choose one Kundalini practice we felt could benefit us and do this practice at home for 40 days … not missing a single day. If one day was missed, we were to begin the practice all over again from day one. The goal: Uninterrupted 40 days of practice.
Why 40? Kundalini Yoga teaches it takes 40 days of continuous practice for new habits to take root on the subconscious level. The science of neurogenesis now backs this up, saying about this amount of time is needed for neurons to grow and sustain themselves in the brain. Imagine planting a seed that in 40 days breaks open and germinates. In 90 days, according to Kundalini yoga, new habits take root in the conscious, subconscious minds. By 120 days, habits are integrated permanently into the psyche. After 1,000 days, new habits bear fruit, and, we can rely upon them no matter what challenges we face. POWER OF CONSCIOUSNESS CHOICE This non-stop 40 day challenge I experienced, awakened within me a feeling of a new power. My work now is to continue to hone, deepen and expand this experience even more consciously into every moment of my life. So now, as an undesirable feeling like fear surfaces, here’s what I do: I instantly pause, connect and deeply inhale, then exhale out on a slow count of five, relaxing and releasing the feeling. Upon completing my exhale, I recite the mantra ‘Sat Naam’ … ‘Truth is my Name’ (its translation), and end with the words ‘I am so, so grateful’. How has my experience with this new practice been so far? This expansion into each moment is energizing and life giving. I sense more muscles growing within, helping me release painful patterns, and a ‘reset’ into remembering who I really am in truth. With this, a new sense of beautiful freedom is blossoming. No doubt, accessing the incredible ancient tools of yoga helps us initiate a remembrance within, a sacred blueprint, beyond our earthly programming. With this, we can nurture a new power and wisdom. Choosing to consciously evolve, to create new patterns in our lives, not only will help free us, but, will also free up others. Let’s join hearts to do this. May we moment-by-moment create the lives of joy we dream of, the lives our souls are calling us to embrace. Sat Naam!
Kamal Sangat Kaur (Jaime Maniatis) is a radiant, passionate certified teacher of the ancient metaphysical and healing tools of Kundalini Yoga, which can empower us to consciously change and evolve, to become all we wish to be. Her vision and commitment is to daily deepen her yoga practice and study, and to share this with as many people as possible. Jaime is certified also in Integrated Energy Therapy (IET), Reiki healing, and as a Laughter Yoga Leader. She holds a master’s degree in Education and Religious Studies, with years of experience teaching children, teens and adults. https://www.facebook. com/Jaime.Sheeran.Maniatis 30
The Richness & Fullness of Yoga
Yoga in a Dental Chair
by Christie Chang
Yoga in a dental Chair? – Don’t get me wrong. I’m not talking about having a special yoga performance in or with a dental chair at the American Idol Show. I’m not talking about practicing certain yoga postures before or after visiting a dentist in order to reduce related pains or suffering either. I am talking about the yoga practice one can consider engaging in during the time that the dentist is working on your aching tooth— and, of course, yoga, here, does not refer to any special body postures, because you probably cannot bend or stretch your body in any position but to simply behave and sit still while keeping your mouth wide open… So what type of “yoga” can you practice when you are confined to a dental chair, and, all the control you have seemingly left is to make sure your mouth is kept open and unmoved during the dentist’s work? In what sense can one do “yoga” at a dentist’s then!? Here, let me return to yoga’s original meaning in Sanskrit. One quick Google search would tell you that in Sanskrit yoga literally means “union” or “connection.” But to unite or to connect with what? With “the divine”, the Indians say. But for me, perhaps more from a Buddhist perspective, yoga means the union/connection between the mind and the body (yes, pretty much like another popular term “mindfulness” does too), and eventually the purpose of yoga is to (re-) connect with everyone and everything that is in the present moment, through which one is healed, in peace, and joy. When yoga is remembered (yes, sometimes we simply “forget”) and practiced in a dental chair, instead of being overwhelmed or completely taken away by fears or pains, one is able to gradually return to or reconnect with one’s body- yes, most of the time, our mind is separated from our body, wandering elsewhere and not really dwelling in the body. Once the mind is reunited with the body, one becomes more clam, more aware of the tension experienced in the body and thus able to relax intentionally; one becomes aware of the dentist’s work procedures, able to cooperate better, and thus not only to ease the dentist’s work, but, also, to rest one’s mouth muscles-- instead of opening the mouth so wide the entire time and getting extremely sore later on, one is able to adjust one’s own mouth width according to the pace of the dentist’s work, and even sometimes one gets to relax during intervals or could use such breaks to check the related body parts and/or posture. For example, and, perhaps especially, the tongue, the cheeks, the jaw, and the neck, which are closest to the “war zone,” and then one can intentionally relax the muscles around them and get the body prepared for the ongoing treatment. If the interval time allows, one may also check the remaining parts of the body— where am I placing my arms and hands? For example, am I holding my fists (Ha, I did find myself doing that the first time when I remembered to check!) What about my shoulders? Are my shoulders relaxed? Where am I? Who are around me in addition to the dentist? Is there just one assistant or two? How aware am I in terms of the position of the dental chair and the surroundings? How are the people doing around me? Are there also other patients around, suffering? What is the state of my mind? Any fear still? Do I still feel any pain? Where? What kind of pain is this? Or if there is no more pain, where has it gone? May I describe the pain (being) experienced (not verbally in this case, of course)? If there’s still pain, is the pain fixed? Or are there changes of the pain that can be observed? For example, is the pain getting stronger or weaker? Or perhaps there are different stages or even rhythms of the pain experienced?
And now think of this: if I can observe or even describe my pain— am I still in pain? Am I my pain??? The Tibetans say: “when you can see the river, you are no longer in the river.” When we are no longer identifying with the pain, we come to realize that we are our own “boss.” We are “liberated.” Most of the time, we do identify with our pain, and that is why we get overwhelmed and carried away by pain, or sometimes simply, fear, or fear for pain instead. By practicing yoga in the dental chair, we see very clearly that we are NOT our pain and we are NOT our fear. We are NOT our suffering. We are no longer controlled, but, we can control what we identify with instead. Once again, we return to or are reunited with our clam and peaceful nature. We no longer suffer. When we are calm and peaceful, we start to also notice everyone and everything around us with much more ease and compassion. In addition to passively cooperating with the dentist with fear, we now trust and actively pace or even “tangle” better with this healing Angel or Bodhisattva in front of us. We become more appreciative as well as friendly. After having successfully established one better relation, we start to also develop better understanding and have more compassion towards the dentist assistant, who might perhaps look or sound rather impatient or even not so friendly upon getting us ready or when booking the next appointment for us. Now being filled with peace, calm, and compassion, we find ourselves capable of smiling and speaking with soft and gentle voices towards the dentist assistant. Just observe the changes in the personal dynamics or even the entire atmosphere around. The next moment you may even find everyone else in the dentist office less indifferent or even friendly, and you find it much easier or even natural to connect with everyone around you upon stepping out of the dentist’s office. Visiting dentists can indeed be a nightmare for many, including myself, but why not turn it into an opportunity to practice yoga? It may not seem easy the first time, as it takes practice (and remembrance each time) to eventually master, just like any skill or techniques. But, do remember that yoga is not just a skill or technique, especially not just for body posture or only physical health. It is about awakening and liberation. In fact, you may turn any challenging situation in your daily lives into an opportunity to practice yoga-- by bringing your mind/attention back to your body, forming that “union” first, then watch and relax your body and mind; accept and experience the reality with calm and peace, and then allow the primordial wisdom in you to guide you to reconnect with the people and situation around you with boundless compassion. And, next, you shall find yourself working towards the benefit of all living beings with exhaustless energy. Congratulations! You have found the Yoga that brings ultimate bliss and joy. Enjoy practicing Yoga! May we be happily united. May we all be happy and free from suffering!
Dr. Christie (Yu-ling) Chang (ILBF Chair) is a prolific linguist, translator and educator, leading the CIEE (Council on International Educational Exchange/www.ciee.org) program at National Chengchi University (Taipei). Dr Chang serves as the Chair of the Steering Committee for the International Lay Buddhist Forum (ILBF). She is also one of the eight presidents of the International Buddhist Confederation (IBC, since 2017). A leading Buddhist activist, she is, among other things, prominently active in Sakyadhita: The International Association of Buddhist Women (www.sakyadhita.org) – an organisation she headed between 2009-2013.
The Richness & Fullness of Yoga
HOW WE BECAME A NATION OF YOGIS by Philip Goldberg
When I say we are a nation of yogis some people think I’m making an exaggerated statement about the millions of Americans who stretch and bend in our ubiquitous yoga studios. In fact, I’m referring to a much bigger and far more significant phenomenon: that millions who don’t own a yoga mat, who can barely touch their knees let alone their toes, and who may never set foot in a trendy yoga class are, in fact, yogis in the deepest, most profound sense of the term. Their worldviews, their spiritual orientations, and their practices are consistent with central yogic principles—and, it must be added, also consistent with the mystical sectors of every religious tradition. Those perennial insights and methods have so permeated the West that they will soon be, if they are not already, the normative approach to spirituality across traditions. As most readers of this publication know, the unity that defines Yoga is not the union of head to knee or ankle to neck, but of the individual soul and the cosmic soul, of personal consciousness and universal consciousness, of our little human selves and the infinite Reality that is the true Self of all and everything—or, for the devotionally inclined, of I and Thou. In that highest sense of Yoga, there are yogis in Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain temples; in Sikh gurdwaras, churches, synagogues, and mosques; in New Thought sanctuaries (e.g. Unity Church and Centers for Spiritual Living); in secular meditation and mindfulness centers; in stress reduction seminars in healthcare settings; at Esalen, Omega, and other workshop centers; and, of course, in Yoga studios where the tradition is presented as more than a fitness regimen and the practices stretch the mind and bend consciousness, not just muscles and connective tissue. The point is that people who are conscious of our ultimate Unity and who strive to realize that state of awareness in their lives can justifiably be called yogis, and there are millions of them. They are represented in data that reveal a shift in how Americans understand who and what they are, how they fit into the rest of the cosmos, and how they approach their personal and spiritual development. Surveys over the past few decades show a discernible shift toward a yogic perspective (with, strictly speaking, a generous helping of Vedanta, Tantra, and nondual Buddhism). In simplified terms, the direction has been: Away from belief-centered religion toward an experience-centered spirituality. Away from “dwelling” (institutional loyalty) toward independent “questing.” Away from dualistic theology toward a nondual unity where the Divine is both transcendent and immanent. Away from seeing the innermost self as fallen or depraved toward an unbound and unblemished Self (from original sin to original bliss, so to speak). Away from “my religion has the only truth” toward acceptance of all pathways – akin to the Vedic maxim “Truth is One, and the wise call it by many names.” 33
How this came to be is complex and multifactorial, but clearly a central element has been the transmission of teachings born in the mountaintops and forests of ancient India. As I chronicled in American Veda, those precepts and practices have been filtering into American culture for more than two centuries now, through a variety of streams and tributaries. The principle source has been, of course, the gurus, swamis, roshis, lamas, and other teachers who came to the West. That emigration began in 1893 with the illustrious Swami Vivekananda; continued in 1920 with Paramahansa Yogananda--who made America his home for three decades and left behind the still-influential Autobiography of a Yogi; erupted in the 60s and 70s with the Zen Masters Shunryo and D.T. Suzuki and a host of yogic luminaries such as Swamis Satchidananda and Muktananda and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (whose mentorship of The Beatles and advocacy of scientific research ushered meditation into the mainstream); and a parade of others up to the present day with popular gurus like Mata Amritanandamayi. But the transmission was not solely the work of Asian teachers. Their efforts and the growing accessibility of sacred texts and scholarly commentary influenced prominent Westerners who, in turn, furthered the dissemination in their work. They included seminal thinkers from Emerson and Thoreau, to mid-20th Century figures like Aldous Huxley, Huston Smith, Joseph Campbell and Alan Watts, to contemporaries such as Ken Wilber. Also psychologists from William James to Carl Jung to Abraham Maslow and today’s cadre of spiritually-oriented therapists; and physicists (Erwin Schrodinger, Robert Oppenheimer, Fritjof Capra), physicians (Deepak Chopra, Dean Ornish), poets (Whitman, Eliot, Yeats, Ginsberg), novelists (Somerset Maugham, Herman Hesse, J.D. Salinger), and a host of musicians, most notably the Beatles, whose 1968 journey to India was a watershed moment. Not to mention thousands of Westerner teachers who have been anointed to represent Eastern lineages in public, as exemplified for half a century now by Ram Dass. I believe that history will count the great East-to-West transmission as one of the modern era’s prime shape-shifting forces. Some of the hallmark trends in contemporary spirituality—individual choice, inclusivity, inter-spiritual and interfaith eclecticism, disaffiliation, rejection of dogma in favor of inner experience, pragmatism, the so-called “rise of the nones,” the ever-growing Spiritual But, Not Religious cohort—would be unimaginable without it. That transformative process is bound to continue, and, Eastern wisdom will deepen its penetration into the fabric of Western culture. Those of us who think this is a very good thing have a duty to ensure that traditional teachings are creatively adapted to our time and place while also preserving their integrity, accuracy, and effectiveness.
Philip Goldberg is an acclaimed author and public speaker whose numerous books include the award-winning American Veda: From Emerson and the Beatles to Yoga and Meditation, How Indian Spirituality Changed the West; Roadsigns on the Spiritual Path: Living at the Heart of Paradox; and his new book, a comprehensive biography of Paramahansa Yogananda titled The Life of Yogananda: The Story of the Yogi Who Became the First Modern Guru. A meditation teacher and ordained Interfaith Minister, he is also the cohost of the popular Spirit Matters podcast and leads American Veda Tours to India. His website is www.PhilipGoldberg.com
The Richness & Fullness of Yoga
Yoga in the American South by Swami Shraddhananda Saraswati
Rooted in India, Yoga is not typically a system we think of as having a strong base in the American South. With the notable exceptions of Swami Satchidananda who established Yogaville in Virginia, and Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati who founded Kashi Ashram in Florida, Yoga tended to follow 20th century spiritual teachers to California and New York. Today, Yoga is taking an “intersectional” route toward making its expansive presence felt in the postmodern South. There’s really no way of tracking the number of Yoga teachers working in the South, because they all do not register with Yoga Alliance, an organization which signs up thousands of new teachers each year. More Yoga studios exist in metropolitan areas such as Atlanta, Louisville, and Miami than in rural outposts, of course, but smaller towns are not without attractive studios and good teachers. Bardstown, KY, population 11,700, for example, is located not far from the abbey Fr. Thomas Merton made famous. It features a studio called Pink Elephant Yoga. Lynn Bonelli, a primary teacher at Pink Elephant, has a significant presence on social media, which may be where it matters most in the digital age. Of the Yoga instructors listed by Shira Atkins as the “100 Most Influential Yoga Teachers in America” (www.sonima.com), eight are based in the South: David Swenson in Houston, TX, Cyndi Lee in Lynchburg, VA, Kino MacGregor and Tim Feldmann in Miami, FL, Kathryn Budig in Charleston, SC, John Campbell, Ph.D. and John Bultman in Charlottesville, VA, and Anna GuestJelley in Nashville, TN. Both Campbell and Bultman teach at the University of Virginia, which has developed a robust program in Yoga in addition to an excellent men’s basketball team. Some Yoga teachers in metropolitan Southern areas have become well known by virtue of their longevity. Laura Spaulding, for instance, has been studying, practicing, and teaching Yoga for over 50 years. She began with Sivananda Yoga in 1967, moved to Louisville in 1990, and began taking classes with the venerable Maja Trigg (1927-2016), founder of Yoga East (www.yogaeast. org). Currently, Ms Spaulding serves as President of Yoga East, which offers 65 classes weekly in two different locations, and she makes “running a business part of her ashtanga—governed dynamic flow,” according to Cary Stemle in an article on Ms Spaulding headlined, “Poised Beyond Poses” for Louisville Magazine. What gives Laura Spaulding her poise? In addition to being an ardent Yogi, she practices Siddha Yoga, one of the most powerful meditation paths to emerge in the Southern United States. She is a longtime devotee of Gurumayi, the Guru who succeeded Baba Muktananda as head of Siddha Yoga. In South Florida, where “Yogis have taken over Miami,” according to Clarissa Buch, writing in Miami New Times, the Director of Synergy Yoga (www.synergyyoga.org), the oldest
Yoga studio in the city, is also certified in Swami Sivananda’s Integral Yoga. Like Ms Spaulding, Victoria Brunacci traveled extensively in India, studying Ashtanga at Sri K. Pattabhi Jois’ Yoga Research Institute. She is also certified in Reiki and Thai Massage and offers trainings and retreats worldwide. As Clarissa Buch notes, there are more Yoga studios in Miami than there are “juice bars and frozen yogurt shops combined.” Classes can cost $30 to $40 each, and memberships sometimes go for $2,000 to $3,000 per year. Yoga appeals to some South Floridians for its exercise value primarily, and designer Yoga pants suggest an emphasis on fashion rather than Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras in certain high-end studios. But, Miami is not the only geographic location to foreground money and style. In Tyson, Virginia, Yoga instructors can make up to $75 per hour as compared with $10 to $18 per hour outside Southern metro areas.
Gena Davis, based in Houston, encountered Yoga when she was in Seminary studying to become an Episcopal priest. Thereafter, she intersected Episcopalian ritual with its Eucharistic focus with Hatha Yoga into a system she calls YogaMass. Rev. Davis published a text by the same name, YogaMass, and she offered a well-attended practice session at the Parliament of the World’s Religions 2018 meeting in Toronto. YogaMass was present in New York City in March 2019 as a parallel event for the UN’s 63rd gathering of the Commission on the Status of Women. Rev. Davis is in the process of training others to offer sessions of YogaMass (go to www.YogaMass.com and on You Tube at video link below).
The American South has faced a unique challenge in allowing Yoga to call the states from Kentucky down to Florida and over to Texas “home.” As the Southern writer Flannery O’Connor observed, the “Christ-haunted” South has had a tendency, at least historically, to be unfriendly to spiritual systems outside the religion which Jesus never intended to name Christianity. The recent vandalization of a Hindu temple in Louisville seems to indicate there’s still some resistance to spiritual diversity in Dixie. In October 2010, Rev. Albert Mohler, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President, issued an edict proclaiming Yoga to be bad for the souls of Christians. He admittedly received emails in reaction to his stance at the rate of 100 per hour— consequently, yoga practitioners pushed back at his edict. Ashley Grizzle, Administrative Coordinator at Wieuca Road Baptist Church in Atlanta, said on her Facebook wall, “My yoga time IS my time with God. It’s when my body is most at peace and I am able to center my thoughts. Why is that so awful?!” Between 15 and 20 million people allegedly practice Yoga in the USA, and conservative Christians aren’t the only ones to voice concern. According to ABPnews, the Hindu American Foundation issued a position paper in 2010 critiquing a “trend of disassociating Yoga from its Hindu roots.” YogaFaith, recognized by the Yoga Alliance, has certified hundreds of teachers. Holy Yoga offers a place for Christians who are afraid that Yoga might contradict their faith. Christians Practicing Yoga is a network dedicated to allowing God to come in and through the body. Independent Christian groups meet inside individual churches. Some Christians go to the gym on weekdays, and reserve God for Sundays. Scholars of Yoga would consider this a dubious approach as the ancient system is imbued with the quest for wholeness and freedom, and the spirituality, which transcends Hinduism, tends to seep through even when people try to avoid it.
Motivations for practicing Yoga vary—and differ wildly from the Yogis of old who sought refuge in the Himalayas. Jenny Williams, Somerset, KY, began practicing Yoga when she was trying to get pregnant with her first child. She had read that mindbody connections could be helpful, so she ordered a tape of Shiva Rea teaching Yoga. As Ms Williams says, “The rest is history.” She graduated from Centre College, a select liberal arts college located in Danville, KY, in 1999 with majors in art and English. Certified by YogaFit, she has always taught in the South, particularly at different venues in the town of Somerset, which tends to attract retirees by virtue of its proximity to Lake Cumberland. Ms Williams teaches a Senior Yoga class at Rocky Hollow Park, and a popular Saturday morning class at The Shine House on N. Main St. She has taught Hatha Yoga at First Presbyterian Church, which she attends and has several Pilates clients. She writes a well-received blog on WordPress called, appropriately, “Yoga for Y’all.” At the March 1, 2019 opening of Mangala Mandir, the first Interspiritual Yoga and Meditation Temple in the world located across the street from St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church in Somerset, Ms Williams served as lead teacher along with Acharya Sandra Chamatkara Simon of Pittsburgh, PA. Acharya Chamatkara is already ordained as a Sacred Feet Yoga Dharma Heir, and Ms Williams is scheduled to be ordained at Guru Purina 2019. Sacred Feet Yoga intersects Kashmir Shaivism, Vedanta, Buddhism, and what the founder of Sacred Feet Yoga calls an “intelligent Christianity,” or what Rev. Gena Davis has called “embodying Christ consciousness.” A video of Jenny Williams offering Level 36
The Richness & Fullness of Yoga
One of the Sacred Feet Yoga Teachings and Hatha Yoga asanas is available for viewing on You Tube image link below. Contrary to stereotypical perceptions that Yoga has no place south of the Mason-Dixon Line where ladies are better off baking and playing bridge, and gentlemen would be well-advised to keep to the equestrian arts, Yoga is here to stay. It has exploded in much the same fashion that Yoga has elsewhere in the United States. Yoga studios are expanding to incorporate healing modalities such as massage, sound flow, and the meditative art of the Tea Ceremony. Sacred spaces where Yogis can go to relax and rejuvenate are springing up across the South. Take, for instance, the Wildlight Wellness Collective in WinstonSalem, NC, led by owners Jasmine and Jeremy Grace. Their website (www.wildlightwellnesscollective.com) is beautifully designed, a state-of-the-art map of sacred offerings closely allied to Ayurveda, another ancient Indian science. Wildlight sponsors journeys to South India and to Bali as well as creativity and wellness retreats in North Carolina. Wildlight appears to be moving toward becoming a full-service wellness center of which Yoga is a part rather than the focus.
Sacred Feet Yoga Teachings and Hatha Yoga asanas
The Wildlight model may well be the wave of the future in Southern yogic circles. In such a structure, Yoga is integrated into a healing culture rather than allowed to stand alone, an easy target for fundamentalists and xenophobes. It is a model made workable in the Eastern United States by the Kripalu Institute in Massachusetts after the sangha was faced with the crisis of losing their Guru. While this model offers an abundance of benefits, the danger, of course, is that Yoga—the system which sparked the energy explosion initially—could be buried by a deluge of “self-care” products. Not likely, however, as Yoga is designed to rise from the ashes with each teacher who learns to perform “Surya Namaskar,” or the “Sun Salutations,” and pass them on to her or his students.
Sw. Shraddhananda Saraswati heads Anugraha Ashram, home of Sacred Feet Yoga. The ashram maintains a retreat house at Slate Branch. A professor of literature, the classics, and comparative world religions for 35 years, she holds a doctorate from Emory University and has lectured on six continents. She is also the author of numerous texts including Jesus Was a Shaktipat Guru (2014) and A Short Book about Killing (2016). She spearheaded the first ever residential retreat of the Community of the Mystic Heart (CMH) at her ashram in Kentucky and produced an elegant collection of essays based on the retreat, entitled Mature Interspirituality: Wayne Teasdale’s Nine Elements—and Beyond. Sw. Shraddhananda, or Mataji as her students in Sacred Feet Yoga call her, serves as Preceptor for CMH Sannyasa. She is committed to the monastic tradition as a viable way of life in postmodern times. She plans to complete The Guru Sutras with a third volume entitled The White Cobra. 37
The Traditional Yogas & the West by Mitchell Rabin, M.A., L.AC.
While the upsurge of a vast range of technologies from computers to cell phones, to AI and robotics, has proliferated in the West, and across the world, one of the most exciting developments that has occurred in the West has been the proliferation of ancient Eastern wisdom traditions, chief among them Yoga. If originally introduced back in 1893 by Swami Vivekananda, sent to the West by his guru, Sri Ramakrishna, to speak at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago, and though what he had to say about the spiritual essence of Yoga was widely embraced, it still took about 100 years for the seeds planted then to ripen. I started practicing hatha yoga around 1968, in, a Catholic Convent that was no longer being used by the Church and was then donated to the town of Westport, Ct. A local woman who had studied yoga, I believe, in NYC, along with other interesting body-work systems, gathered together a small group of interested students and the asanas and meditations began. I was all of 14, and though I was that young, and yoga as a practice in the U.S. was also very young, I was drawn to it like a bee to a flower. I remember the feeling tone of the class, the serenity and peace I inwardly felt, along with a strong sense of well-being. For me, it was exotic, novel and there was something profound about studying movements and postures that had been refined over the course of thousands of years. Living in a country that wasnâ€™t even 200 years old at the time, to be practicing an ancient technique that was more than 2,000 years old, was thrilling. It felt like it was as old as DNA to me and just as precious. Ancient wisdom of the body-mind-spirit was being conferred upon me by the energy field of the weekly class. I was too young to drive so my mother kindly gave me a ride to the class every week so I could merge with the energy field of this spiritually alive class, even though I didnâ€™t even know those words or what they might have meant, nor did she! We both knew that I was benefiting and ripening. The awakening that was taking place in me was taking place in many across the country. When I was able to drive, I drove my little 1954 Volkswagen up to Weslyan University over an hour away in the winter, through all sorts of weather, to listen to Classical Ragas be performed by their Far East Indian Music Dept. Indian vocals further captivated my imagination. I was awed by the richness, the beauty, the intelligence and majesty of the Indian culture. Soon, this extended to the appreciation of the dance, the cuisine, its ancient texts and later Sanskrit, chanting, Ayurvedic Medicine and Vedic astrology. I share this because this learning that I was engaging, so were many others, and a 100th Monkey Effect was in motion.
The Richness & Fullness of Yoga The Beatles had met Maharishi Mahesh Yogi around this time and began Transcendental Meditation and following this many tens of thousands began meditating as well. Hand in hand with this, an appreciation of Yoga was steadily growing and by the time we arrived in the late 1980’s, yoga centers of different types began to spread across America. Some were Bikram Yoga, some were Sivananda Yoga, some were Iyengar, etc. Perhaps most importantly to the flourishing of yoga in the West occurred as a result of Swami Vishnudevanda, sent from Rishikesh to America by his teacher Swami Sivananda in 1959, to go educate the West about Yoga and plant the seeds. Swami Vishnudevananda, is probably responsible more than any other one person, for the education of the Westerner about Yoga. He didn’t teach just the asanas, but taught all the 8 limbs of yoga, hatha being but one. He and his students came to teach the spiritual essence of yoga and have been since. Sivananda and Swami Vishnu insisted on teaching the classical understanding of yoga which is that yoga is a way of life, an attitude, a way of being. Students of Sivananda Yoga learn the asanas, the backbone of the practice. What students learn is the wisdom-the depth of the sacred texts from the Upanishads to the Bhagavad-Gita. While there has been a proliferation of yoga in the U.S. which is a good thing, much of it has been reduced to a form of “Eastern Calisthenics” and the depth of the practice isn’t often taught or transmitted. I have attended yoga classes in studios across the country and they’re always enjoyable. But I have spent most time at the Sivananda Yoga Ranch in Woodbourne, NY where I have been teaching and giving Satsang for the past nearly 20 years. Here, under the guidance and direction of Sri Nivasan and Swami Paramananda, the students and yogis get exposed to Yoga as integrated into an entire lifestyle and so the study becomes lifechanging and transforming. I’ve observed a true spiritual ripening occur among students there over the course of these years and that is the proliferation of yoga and wisdom that really makes the difference. While bodies become more limber at Sivananda, so do the minds. Hearts open and compassion develops. Since Yoga has proliferated in the U.S., so has the study of it scientifically. To me, this is one of the great “marriages” which has taken place between our cultures. We also knew that there were numerous health benefits to the practice of Yoga that have been told to us from the yogis of old and through our own direct experience, but it is very helpful for the Western mind, so bent on science, to understand the health benefits scientifically. The studies that have been conducted at this point are substantial. Reducing stress, improving breathing, limberness and flexibility, heart health, alleviating anxiety, depression, building strength, stamina, pain management, ease of sleep, hormonal balance and overall improved quality of life are a few. It has been said that there is more yoga being practiced these days in NYC and in the U.S. than there is at this point in India. I don’t know if that’s true but whether it is or not, it does give a sense of how Yoga has taken root in the U.S., it is influencing the culture very much for the good, and it is helping to establish a greater appreciation of a global culture of peace. Mitchell J. Rabin, M.A., L.AC is an international speaker/workshop leader, holistic coach and host of A Better World Radio & TV, which has been on the air since 1993. A Better World aims to educate through media and act through social enterprise, to help evolve humanity to its next phase in development, protecting and preserving the planet and species for future generations. He is also the founder, president and CEO of A Better World Foundation, a non-profit organization. Mitchell started studying yoga in 1968 at a time when it was just beginning to take root in the U.S. He serves as VP of the Board of Directors of FIONS as well as other Advisory Boards. He has been involved in numerous activities at the U.N. since 1993. www.mitchellrabin.com www.abetterworld.tv 39
Pilgrimage by Scott Tusa
Nepal has an allure and mysticism that calls many to its valleys and mountains. Bordering Tibet, India, and Bhutan, it has been a gateway to the Himalayas for centuries. It boasts 8 of the world’s 10 highest peaks and it is the birthplace of the Buddha. With a population of more than 26 million, Nepal is made up of over 40 distinct ethnic groups who speak a range of languages and dialects. It may come as no surprise that Buddhists have flocked to Nepal for the last 2,600 years, and have added a rich complexity to it’s religious, ethnic, and cultural milieu. A majority Hindu, and similar to India, Buddhists and Hindus have lived side by side, sharing land, culture, and religious beliefs. In fact, many shrines, holy places, and pilgrimage destinations are shared by both Hindus and Buddhists. I experienced this first hand during my first trip to Nepal in 2011, as I ventured out into unfamiliar parts of the Kathmandu valley to seek out temples dedicated to the Buddhist goddess Vajrayogini. In my search I would often come upon a nondescript shrine, with no obvious markings, looking mostly like a Hindu place of worship. As I paid my respects and meditated, most of the locals just stared. It was probably pretty odd to see a Western monk meditating and praying at a pilgrimage site so off the beaten path. Like many Indian Hindu practitioners, I found Nepalis to be mostly non-sectarian, and generally open to the spiritual beliefs of others. Overall there is not such a hard line between Buddhist and Hindu religious sites, and even well-known pilgrimage destinations like Swayambunath are shared by both traditions. Over the course of my stay in Nepal I noticed this approach to land, religion, and faith, beginning to seep into my own perceptions as a Buddhist practitioner. The flexibility, lack of black and white thinking, and a plurality that was directly connected to the land helped me to come into a more embodied experience of the Buddha’s teachings. Although shocking to the system at first, over time this kind of reorientation was deeply nourishing, putting me in touch with the unspoken aspects of my spiritual tradition that are not often found when looking at Buddhism through a Western lens. During both my first and second extended trips to Nepal I would often spend my days studying, meditating, and visiting various pilgrimage sites with friends. Some pilgrimage sites spoke to me more than others, and I seemed to continually be drawn to the shrines and temples that embodied a diverse history, and where the ancient and modern converged. A short walk from where I was staying, I would often visit the cremation grounds and river at the heart of the Pashupatinath temple complex. Here mourners converge with yogis, smoke from funeral pyres with tourists, and Life with death. Out of the many places to meditate, this quickly became one of my favorites. I was first drawn here because of the meditation caves a short walk up the river, that are attributed to the famous Indian yogis Tilopa and Naropa. These two Buddhist saints are not only important lineage figures in the Sarma traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, but, they also have very colorful life stories that often act as both a teaching tool, and inspiration for fledgling practitioners. In his early life Tilopa (988–1069) lived as a mendicant, traveling throughout India to seek teachings from a variety of important Buddhist sages of the time. He is known for attaining enlightenment mainly through the Buddhist tantric path, and his life story and 40
The Richness & Fullness of Yoga teachings are filled with unconventional anecdotes expressing the nature of his realization. His main disciple was Naropa, who prior to meeting Tilopa, was a renowned Buddhist scholar at Nalanda monastic college. At a certain point he became disillusioned with his state of knowledge and realization, and upon hearing Tilopa’s name, left the monastery to seek him out. The story continues with both the twelve minor hardships Naropa endured in order to find Tilopa, and the twelve major hardships he went through while under Tilopa’s direct guidance. Naropa’s perseverance is legendary and eventually won him the ultimate siddhi of enlightenment, which culminated in Tilopa hitting him over the head with a shoe, thus pointing out the ultimate nature of mind. Visiting the caves where Tilopa and Naropa are said to have practiced was deeply inspiring, and I reflected on how they must have been, or what they may have looked like. When great yogis and yoginis practice in certain places, they also leave an energetic imprint, and as I sat there practicing, I silently supplicated these great saints, attempting to tune into their blessings and imprints. I’m not sure what I ended up tuning into, but soon after getting up to walk back down the river, a young Nepali yogi in a (I kid you not) tiger skin colored White Zombie (yes, the 90’s heavy metal band) vest, popped his head out of the cave above and invited my friend and I to visit. He was visibly drunk and kept hugging me. In good spirit, I just went with it, as he seemed harmless and was overjoyed to have two Western Buddhist monks visiting him in his cave.
Also having just reflected on the unconventional nature of both Tilopa and Naropa’s lives, I couldn’t help but keep an open mind to how appearance does not always correlate with reality. As we talked together in broken English, I admired his cave, and wondered how this yogi ended up here. What was his earlier life like? What practices did he do? Was he really a fan of the heavy metal band White Zombie? And who do you talk to in order to get such a kick ass cave!? Bidding farewell, I left with more questions than answers, and as we approached the main temple, the embers of the funeral pyres glowed, a brutal reminder of the end to every human story. A few weeks later, I found myself back at the banks of the Bagmati river, overlooking Pashupatinath. I watched the funeral pyres burn, contemplating impermanence, as I imagined my own body an occupant of that pyre. I thought of my mother dying at such a young age, and of all the families in mourning across the river from me. I watched as women wailed and fathers broke down in tears. I marveled at the open, ritualized, and large display of death that we so quickly sweep under the rug in the West. I later found out that those with a terminal illness sometimes come to reside around the temple complex, and eventually die here. I wondered how we may gain back parts of our humanity lost in the West through making death more open and public. When we ignore and suppress, we only cut ourselves off from reality further, and ignoring reality does not change it’s hard truths. Standing up from my contemplation, I wandered into what looked like animal stables. Within its walls I was surprised to find quarters for visiting pilgrims and yogis. My guess was that these were wandering Hindu yogis who had come for pilgrimage. After a few minutes one yogi caught my eye. With long matted dreadlocks he was completely naked, with only a small loin cloth covering his 41
private bits. We silently shared a moment as we stared at each other from across the room. In that moment my judgment dropped, and I had a feeling that I was looking directly at Tilopa. I thought to myself, “This is what Tilopa must have looked like!” As soon as I had the thought, the yogi was gone. I went after him, but he had wandered into a crowd, and out of sight. I stood for a while, dumbfounded by the experience. Am I just imagining all of this? What is reality, but my imagination? As I let this shift in experience settle, something in me opened. Pilgrimage is said to assist us in opening parts of our human experience that cannot be opened through the intellect alone. I guess this can be attributed to a combination of curiosity, inspiration, and faith. Though as in my case, I think a little imagination can go a long way.
Scott Tusa is a Buddhist teacher based in Brooklyn, New York. Ordained by His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, he spent nine years as a Buddhist monk, with much of that time engaged in solitary meditation retreat and study in the United States, India, and Nepal. He teaches meditation and Buddhist psychology internationally in group and one-to-one settings and supports Tsoknyi Rinpoche’s Pundarika Sangha as a practice advisor. Scott is featured regularly at MNDFL, Tibet House, Nalanda Institute, InsightLA, and many other meditation organizations and retreats through-out the world.
The Richness & Fullness of Yoga
The Yoga of Finding & Being with a FullyEnlightened Master by Cristiano Tiozzo, Professor & Academic in Advanced Integrative Healing & Music Therapy
just a few) or Enlightened masters (for example, Buddha, Hafiz, Rumi), a minority of people actually followed them while they were alive. It is not easy to follow a living master: all our excuses lose their apparent validity in their presence. Their sublime example of love is in direct contradiction with the selfish goals and tenets of our mind. Their teaching is an invitation to expand our ideals and consciousness beyond the faulty logic of the illusory safety of the temporary acquirements of knowledge, power and wealth; the temporary happiness (and consequent suffering) of sense pleasures and attachments. What they teach is somehow simple and obvious, and yet how fiercely we resist the reasonable invitation to choose and pursue the ideal of unconditional love over the illusory separations, fears and expectations of the judging mind. Hilda Charlton, a New-York-based extraordinary spiritual teacher I love very dearly, used to warn her students: be careful what you wish for, kids, because it might happen in 20-30 years from now, when you don’t want it anymore!
Some religions and spiritual paths contemplate the possibility that God can take human form for love of humanity. Others contemplate the possibility that men can reach a level of full awareness and conscious unity with the Ultimate Truth. Others consider these options a heresy filled with blasphemy and arrogance. Who is right?
It is a fact that we don’t know what the future holds, notwithstanding it though most of us keep investing in desires and expectations forgetful of the fact that we are fundamentally ignorant about the most important aspects of our life: who we are? where are we going? what is worth seeking? what is truly worth investing time and energy on?
Observing the accounts of the most widely accepted Divine incarnations (Jesus, Krishna, Rama, Mahavatar Babaji, to name
Reflecting on these questions it became clear to me that only a true spiritual master would be able to safely guide me on the path toward wisdom, toward truth and toward real lasting happiness. But how to find one? I was cautious and aware of the possibility that I might put myself in the hands of an impostor. What can guarantee that I will recognize such a master? What if we sincerely seek love and truth? What if we do our very best to detach ourselves from our selfishness, will that be enough? What if we sincerely ask God to manifest, as many saints did before their mystical visions? What if we do so without impatience and with a constant eye on our tendency to be arrogant? Will we pass the tests of discernment and humility on the way? Ultimately it seems to me that the most important aspect is our sincerity and purity. Even if we have faith in a fake master, if that faith is pure, the omnipresent Love & Truth will respond to that sincerity and purity of search, because we attract what we focus on. When I met Paramahamsa Viswhananda, a living spiritual master, which I believe to be a fully enlightened divine incarnation, I wasn’t looking for a guru. I had plenty of divine masters I had faith in, especially Jesus Christ –Christianity is my root religionand Meher Baba, an avatar who left is body in 1969, not long ago. Many times the friend, who later became my girlfriend and now wife, had invited me to go see Paramahamsa Vishwananda, but, with this frame of mind I wasn’t really interested in it. Eventually, I decide to go to a course on the Shreemad Bhagavatam held by Paramahamsa Vishwananda in his ashram
near Frankfurt in Germany. I was ready to meet a great being and I was cautious and alert to catch any possible difference with the masters I had come to love as fully divine avatars. As Paramahamsa Vishwananda entered the room, my cautious state of mind melted in an instant, bathed by a shower of love and divine light. I couldn’t stop my tears and I heard I voice from within that I never heard before. It wasn’t just intuition, it was an actual voice, and it was me, it wasn’t someone else. I never before experience such a thing. The voice said: “Is it really You?”, as if I had met a beloved that I had lost and I expected to never to meet again. Tears of gratitude flowed on my cheek, filled the suffering longing due to the long time I hadn’t seen my beloved. Never before in my life I had felt such a love, and I had been fortunate to feel so much love already, in the presence of so many saints and masters, both in person and through meditation, prayers and pilgrimages. But this intensity was unprecedented in this life. The voice within me recognized Him, knew Him, and it had missed Him so much. During the following week we spent full days listening to His commentaries, plus praying, dancing and singing for God. The range of spiritual experiences I had in a single week was unfathomably extraordinary, ranging from the greatest divine joy I had ever experienced to the most heart-breaking mystical longing when He recounted the story of the Gopis with Krishna. I came back filled with gratitude and ecstatic joy. It was contagious and people who met me after my trip were happy just seeing my extreme and sincere joy, a rare event for someone often inclined to be very serious and not so easily jolly and lighthearted. Nonetheless, soon my mind kicked in and I started fearing that I was betraying what I read that Meher Baba had said. I was more willing to follow a book than my direct experience! For months I lived a heart-breaking battle between my loving heart, who could not accept the idea of not seeing Paramahamsa Viswhananda again, and my fearing mind, afraid of making a mistake. Eventually love won. I prayed a lot to discern and get out of this state of doubt and inner division, and finally concluded it was true love. I didn’t want to go for His miracles, I didn’t seem to care much about Him being who knows which level of avatar, I just cared to be in His presence. Beneath the agitation of the mind, there was an unmistakable joy at the simple thought of seeing Him again, an unfathomable deep joy I feel each time I have gone to see Him.
My wife and I have lived sublimely joyful and intensely spiritual moments with Him and our family of devotees. Looking back at the last years, I cannot but marvel at how much I have experienced and developed in such a short time, compared to the previous 20+ years of spiritual search with many great teachers. It’s like living hundreds of lives into one, such is the depth and clarity of His teaching and of the experience He gives. It is said that there is no sadhana as purifying and simple as loving and being in the presence of a true Guru, a true fullyenlightened master, and I am fortunate enough to be a witness to the truth of this statement. After 20+ years of advanced spiritual teachings and practices, I can see with my own eyes how loving a living master is like a spiritual highway, the jewel of the jewels among spiritual practices, among true Yogas. I wish you all to sincerely seek and find your own master, who will guide you swiftly, joyfully and safely to the universal and yet uniquely individual destination that awaits us all. Jay Gurudev!
Academician Professor Cristiano Tiozzo is an internationally renowned Holistic Practitioner, Pianist, Music Director & Scientist, expert of Integrative Healing & Musical Arts. Earned the following prestigiou titles: Academician and ordinary member of the Leibniz European Academy of Natural Sciences (Hannover, Germany); Professor in Musical Arts from Moscow’s International University of Business Technologies, Institute of Medical Science, Public Health, Economics and Education. As a musician, he has performed as a classical interpreter, improviser and musical director in prestigious venues such as the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and Carnegie Hall in New York, Moscow’s Tchaikovsky Museum, the E. Brito Theater in Santo Domingo and Komitas Hall in Yerevan, among many others. Cristiano’s unique healing work has revealed to be of extraordinary help to many in situations of apparently incurable illness, of physical, emotional, mental, social or spiritual trauma and dysfunction, and in the path of individual realization. 44
The Richness & Fullness of Yoga
Tracking the Source of Wisdom: My Himalayan Pilgrimage by Dinah Wiley
Take one step after another and arrive at the destination: the mystical Himalayan valley of the ancient yogi, Sri Alakhpuriji, origin of the Yoga in Daily Life (YIDL) lineage, the OM Sri Alakhpuriji Siddha Peeth Parampara. In September, 2019, I joined this pilgrimage led by YIDL founder, yoga master, and beloved Gurudev, Paramhans Sri Swami Maheshwarananda (“Vishwaguruji”), and accompanied by several hundred yoga sisters and brothers. Our goal was to reach Sri Alakhpuriji’s gufa, or cave. This ancient abode faces the confluence of the rushing, frigid rivers Alakh and Nanda in that beautiful valley, as they join to form the Alakhnanda River, which eventually merges again to form the Ganges. Pilgrimage is a travel to the source, the source of the wisdom of yoga, the source of our spiritual development. Pilgrimage is a metaphor for the spiritual journey. It can feel deepening and purifying and connecting. As an adventure, it is by definition uncomfortable and entails hardship. I found it helpful to leave expectations behind, along with as many possessions as possible. The journey began by flying to Delhi and boarding a bus that climbed mountain roads to Rishikesh. There we enjoyed Satsang with Vishwaguruji and rest for a day, followed by another full day of travel up steeper, rougher mountain roads, where we again rested for a day. Staying in the picturesque holy hill town of Badrinath we visited its iconic temple, believed to date from Vedic times. The harsh Himalayan weather requires the temple to close for six months every winter. Different tribes live in and around Badrinath, speaking Hindi and Sanscrit to the outside world. The gradual adaptation to rising altitudes is a key to managing symptoms of altitude sickness, along with drinking plenty of water and being born with a constitution able to adjust to high altitudes (not everyone is). As seemingly the oldest participant at age 75, my doctor assured me that propensity for altitude sickness is unrelated to age. She provided a prescription for medicine, but I left it unfilled because she also said I could use an over-the-counter remedy for the altitude headache. Upon recommendation of our organizers, participants also took Gingko Biloba daily. We all experienced headache and shortness of breath, but it was heartening to observe symptoms become a little milder each day. Early the next morning we drove till the road ended at the last village in India, Mana, less than an hour from Badrinath. There we began our upward trek on foot, about 11 kilometers to our camp in that beautiful valley of the Alakhpuriji gufa and the Alakhnanda River, near the border of China, altitude 3,800 meters (12,500 feet). The terrain is rugged and steep, and there 45
were moments when I felt I couldn’t continue. A veteran Himalayan hiker friend of mine had advised going slowly but steadily and not stopping to rest, advice I took except when Vishwaguruji stopped. Then we all stopped to enjoy his darshan and take in the views around us. The scenery is breathtaking: soaring mountains and peaks dramatically vertical and Gothic in feel, an incomparable experience. We climbed past lush green pastures with a few grazing herds of cattle and goats (and a sweet sheepdog). Wearing layers of clothing, sun-protective hats and goggles, hiking boots, and laden with backpacks, we witnessed local inhabitants tending herds while nimbly climbing rocks wearing hardly a jacket or even shoes. Sherpa guides and cooks accompanied us, with their lovely mules carrying equipment and one piece of luggage for each pilgrim. A person who lacks enough physical fitness to hike can hire a mule and sherpas to carry them all or part of the way. I was grateful for being fit enough to walk, in part from having practiced most of the daily physical training that had been prescribed by Vishwaguruji. Though age makes one weaker, retirement gives one more time for yoga practice! The trekking route and the valley where we camped are situated in pristine wilderness, managed by the government of India which issues permits for travel there. The valley is surrounded by high snow-capped peaks, some having glaciers that spawn rivers or huge alluvial fans. In the mountains behind the gufa are several impossibly tall waterfalls, one which was the source of our delicious drinking water. The cave of the yogi saint is a small recess in a large boulder, and just big enough to hold a few meditating devotees. The atmosphere that permeates the cave and its surrounding valley is alive with a subtle energy that left me feeling connected and protected. Participants had few duties apart from absorbing this divine atmosphere, yet I felt a clear direction for each of my activities throughout my first full day at camp. Despite crowded and uncomfortable conditions throughout the pilgrimage, our group seemed peaceful and happy. Devotees pursued their sadhana with a dedication born from long-time immersion in yoga training. Our normally comfortable lifestyles make it necessary to bring lots of things needed to care for our physical bodies when traveling in a harsh and demanding environment. The weather was cold and damp and we endured much rain, mud, and one big storm. Three slept in tents meant for two. The second day I woke with a sore throat and cold. Virtually everyone had digestive issues and altitude sickness. Yet the stunning beauty of the mountains, sky, rivers, and waterfalls faced us in every direction that we walked and sat to meditate, and we were always under the vigilant protection of our Gurudev. We enjoyed lovely daytime walks and Satsangs every evening with Vishwaguruji and the group of his sanyassin also on the pilgrimage. Inspiration was tangible and indescribable. And in my meditation now, and when I look at photos of that beautiful place, I see the spectacular views in my mind’s eye, and I return to the memory of a divine atmosphere. How fortunate are we who study and practice yoga under the guidance of a master such as Vishwaguruji. Authentic yoga tradition is so deep and profoundly wise, so scientifically crafted, so effectively transformational, healing, and healthy for body, mind, and spirit. A thousand pranams to the ancient yogis who received, researched, and practiced the teachings through great effort accompanied by Divine Grace. A thousand pranams to the great lineages like that of Yoga in Daily Life who have protected, cared for, and transmitted this wisdom down through the ages for the benefit of the whole world.
Dinah Wiley (“Divya Puri”) is a certified Yoga in Daily Life USA (YIDL-USA) teacher leading yoga and meditation classes since 1996. She has trained teachers, conducted student workshops, and attended advanced training abroad. Dinah serves on the YIDLUSA Board of Directors (1996-present), as Secretary and President and currently as Treasurer. She has volunteered as the center manager and has led Teachers and Satsang teams. She was General Secretary of the Swami Madhavananda World Peace Council, 2010-2016, and represents YIDL-USA at United Nations meetings and conferences. She is a retired public interest civil rights attorney and non-profit manager, who also enjoys vegetarian cooking, gardening, music, camping, reading, and grandmothering. 46
YOGA & THE WORK OF THE UNITED NATIONS
How the UN General Assembly Declared the International Day of Yoga by Ambassador Asoke Kumar Mukerji
In his first official address to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York on 27 September 2014, India’s Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi proposed: “Yoga embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfillment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well- being. It is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature. By changing our lifestyle and creating consciousness, it can help us deal with climate change. Let us work towards adopting an International Yoga Day.” The proposal stood out because of its objective to unite humanity with nature, connecting the spiritual with the physical. It demonstrated India’s interest in uniting, rather than dividing, member-states in the UNGA. The idea of commemorating an International Yoga Day aroused huge interest, since there had not been any prior discussions at the UN of such an idea before the Prime Minister’s speech. The positive response to implementing the proposal was apparent in the initial round of consultations held by India with member-states in the UNGA. A critical role was played in these consultations by the participation of envoys who themselves practiced Yoga, had family members who practiced Yoga, or who represented countries where Yoga was an integral part of their national activities. The overall strategy revolved around the requirement that a resolution declaring an International Day of Yoga by the UNGA should be supported by at least a simple majority of member-states of the UN, which meant at least 97 out of the 193 UN member-states. The major procedural consideration for successfully implementing any proposal to have the UN declare an International Day was to make sure that it met the UNGA’s guidelines. In 1980, the UNGA had decided that such proposals should be “of priority concern to all or the majority of countries and should contribute to the development of international cooperation in solving global problems, in particular those affecting developing countries”. In February 1999, the UNGA had further decided that any proposal for declaring international anniversaries should be tabled directly in the UNGA “for consideration and action”.
To ensure that the proposal to designate an International Yoga Day contributed to addressing global problems, and keeping in view the prime minister’s emphasis on the contribution made by yoga to health and climate change, it was decided to table this proposal under the “global health and foreign policy” head
of the UNGA’s already adopted agenda. Doing so would directly link this proposal to two ongoing processes in multilateral negotiations – the formulation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which would become the heart of the UN’s ambitious agenda for global sustainable development (Agenda 2030 adopted in September 2015), and the UN’s climate change negotiations, which were to conclude with the meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP) in Paris in December 2015. Reaching the maximum number of countries to support Prime Minister Modi’s proposal required an assessment to be made on the ground of the receptiveness of this proposal among different countries. The link between yoga and health, within the broader framework of encouraging sustainable lifestyles and sustainable consumption, became a major yardstick for such an assessment. To create a strategic momentum in favour of adopting the proposal, I took the decision to see if China could become a co-sponsor of the UNGA resolution. Getting China, as a major developing country, to co-sponsor the proposed resolution appeared a logical and strategic proposition. Given the unusual nature of this idea, I put it before China’s envoy to the UN for consideration as a concrete outcome of his President’s recent visit to India. He consulted his government. Within four days, China became the first co-sponsor of the proposal. The news that China had joined India as co-sponsor had a major impact on drawing in other developing countries. The background to this idea came from media coverage of China’s President Xi Jinping’s historic visit to India, accompanied by his wife Peng Liyuan, a few days before Prime Minister Modi’s proposal on an International Yoga Day in New York. In the Indian and Chinese media coverage of this event, there was a report on the visit of the Chinese First Lady to the Tagore International School in New Delhi, which had a “sister-school” link with the Jinyuan Senior High School in Shanghai. What made this relevant for the strategy to co-opt China as a co-sponsor of the proposed UNGA resolution was that as part of their interlinkage, the two schools had demonstrated the practice of yoga and China’s tai-chi, both of which focus on the benefits of health and meditation, through a video-link. The holistic nature of the proposal made it important to get co-sponsors from the developed world as well. In many industrialized societies, yoga is an integral part of the daily lives of millions of individuals, and the outreach campaign identified those countries where yoga was ingrained into the popular consciousness. Foremost among these was the United States. New York’s Times Square Alliance had been conducting public mass yoga classes on 21 June every year since 2003 in the heart of the country’s most frenetic city, which was also the headquarters of the UN. The co-sponsorship of the United States, along with countries like the Russian Federation, France, the United Kingdom, Germany and Japan, gave a major boost to the proposed International Day of Yoga. From the beginning, the diplomatic outreach to implement the proposal was made either individually with country-delegations, or in informal sessions of the UNGA which were open to all delegations. The outreach revealed other reasons why countries supported the proposed resolution. For example, the envoy of Mozambique agreed to co-sponsor the resolution, saying that in his country, yoga had been a major reason for the development of tourist resorts along the Indian Ocean coastline. Countries with large Indian diasporas in Africa, Asia-Pacific and the Caribbean, as well as Latin American
YOGA & THE WORK OF THE UNITED NATIONS countries like Brazil, Mexico, Colombia and Argentina, where yoga schools had been nurtured by well-known Indian yoga gurus, became enthusiastic co-sponsors. The link between yoga and health played a major role in getting co-sponsors, eventually totaling 48, from the 56-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) group. These co-sponsors included Egypt, Nigeria, Senegal, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Indonesia, the five Central Asian states, and South Asian countries like Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Maldives. When the resolution was tabled, Qatar said that the resolution “also stresses the importance of disseminating information more widely about the benefits of yoga so that all peoples of the world can enjoy its benefits and improve their lifestyles so as to enjoy better health.” The awareness of yoga as a common civilizational heritage brought together countries of Central Asia, South Asia (except Pakistan) and South East Asia (except Malaysia and Brunei) as co-sponsors Nepal and Sri Lanka took special interest in their co-sponsorship of the resolution. In the UNGA, Nepal expressed its “most sincere appreciation to the leadership of India for their important initiative and coordination.” It pointed out that the “sacred mountains and Himalayas in Nepal have been a sanctuary for all seekers of peace and benevolence as well as great practitioners of yoga and various forms of meditation, from South and Central Asia and beyond, since ancient times. Nepal is also home to Lumbini, the birthplace of Siddhartha Gautama, the Shakyamuni Buddha, himself a great practitioner of meditation.” Sri Lanka took the floor to laud the initiative while emphasizing its shared “millenniums-old cultural, social and religious bond with India.” While the co-sponsorship list of member states grew apace, crossing the half-way mark of 97 within six weeks of the proposal being made, the open informal sessions of the UNGA raised only one issue – budgeting for celebrating the proposed International Day of Yoga. The European Union (EU) delegation was at the forefront of this discussion, although most EU states had already become co-sponsors of the proposed resolution. India’s clarification in the text of the resolution that all costs for celebrating the international day would be met from “voluntary contributions” resolved this issue, leaving the way clear for the resolution to be tabled. By this time, 129 countries had adopted the resolution as their own by becoming co-sponsors, well over the majority required for any vote. Before it was adopted in the UNGA on 11 December 2014, 48 more countries became co-sponsors of the resolution, raising the total number of co-sponsors to 177. The resolution was tabled and adopted a mere 75 days after it had been first proposed by Prime Minister Modi. Both these statistics are now UNGA records for any International Day resolution – the result of a conscious application of the methods and objectives of strategic “inclusive” diplomacy by India. As the massive global celebrations of the first International Day of Yoga on June 21, 2015 showed, this was indeed an idea whose time had come.
Ambassador Asoke Mukerji was India’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York between 20132015 when the UN adopted Agenda 2030 on Sustainable Development. He led the Indian team which implemented within 75 days and with 177 co-sponsoring countries Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s proposal to the United Nations to declare an International Day of Yoga. He has been awarded a Doctor of Civil Laws (honoris causa) degree in 2018 by the University of East Anglia (UK) for his contributions to diplomacy. He is currently a Distinguished Fellow of the Vivekananda International Foundation, New Delhi.
Our origins are of the earth. And so there is in us a deeply seated response to the natural universe, which is part of our humanity. - Rachel Carson –
CLIMATE CHANGE by Valeriane Bernard
As a global family, human beings share the same home: our planet earth... The question we should really ask ourselves is: What does that really imply? Each step and each second spent on the planet ought to be thoughtful, because caring for this amazing gift is at the core of our spiritual duty. Caring for the human family is also part of our sacred role. Would you let some of the people of your home go hungry if your pantry is full? We often hear about the economic crisis and the inequality of the world economy, but, as Jeffrey Saks put it at the United Nations in Geneva during the Forum on Sustainable Development Goals “Never was the world so rich!”... The way we live, interact and operate is related to our self-awareness, and, this is one of the meanings of the word “yoga”, which could be translated as ‘conscious connection’ or ‘union’. According to this definition, one could see life as a ‘yoga discipline’. Life would then be the opportunity to express our core values, thereby promoting greater attention to the way we use our inner resources such as thoughts, feelings, vision, attitude….Because, the use of these intimate and subtle capacities will define the quality of our lives and the quality of the impact we will have on our world. Within its centres all around the world, Brahma Kumaris teach a very spiritual ancient form of yoga called Raja Yoga allowing selfexploration, realisation and understanding. Raja Yoga offers a knowledge of meditation and the spiritual laws. Since the beginning of “yoga day” at the UN, we have included it throughout the BK organisation promoting the day worldwide. Instead of a simple exercise or an ‘India Day’, I personally see it as an ‘awareness day’ for everyone to celebrate and as an opportunity for introspection and selfexamination with the aim of setting new directions for the self. … “It (yoga) is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature. By changing our lifestyle and creating consciousness, it can help in well being”... Narendra Modi, UN General Assembly, on 27 September 2014 As a spiritual organisation which obtained its NGO ECOSOC accreditation status in the 1980s, the Brahma Kumaris has been engaged with the UN in various topics such as environment, gender and women’s equality, human rights, climate change..., as well as participating during the Conference of the Parties (COPs) since 2008. Our primary topic has been about “Consciousness and Climate Change”... which is apparently a very unusual connection in the minds of most people! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked what consciousness has to do with climate change! Human beings have the amazing gift of conscience and the capacity to develop awareness which help them create a relationship with the world around them on the basis of universal values such as respect, love and peace… The act of living is a unique opportunity of expressing creatively all these universal values and changing one’s life into a work of art! For example, if we look at how human behaviour is putting in peril the millennial balance allowing the survival of the human family at large as well as many other species – one has to ask oneself “why does each one of us and all of us act and live the way we do?” 50
YOGA & THE WORK OF THE UNITED NATIONS
“What can I do to keep this balance, understanding it’s ecological implications?”. In these circumstances, how does one apply the core value of respect? A spiritual perspective would invite the individual to contemplate and appreciate the deep wealth inside… And, experiencing one’s own deep inner beauty. One feels a kind of satisfaction that is greater than the “consuming satisfaction”, getting a kick out of purchasing a new object. So, in this frame of mind, if one was to ask oneself what I want or need to do, one would choose simplicity as a way of life. Not because it looks ecologically right, but, because it would be feeling right and would mean--I deeply respect my self as well as nature. Greed is what leads the world. It’s also what will ultimately starve it. Living with simplicity is my way to restore the balance, therefore, it is my way to give respect to the rest of humanity. I don’t do it out of charity, and, I certainly don’t do it for the show. I do it because it feels right, and, because I can suddenly appreciate the real taste of a simple fruit that I just bought at my local farm. The work of the Brahma Kumaris is based on the concept that the present situation regarding Climate Change, and most of the world crisis, is a direct consequence of how we think, understand and view the world around us, and in the way we relate to it. Within the global international political framework, we aim to bring to the table the need for a change in awareness. “The implications of the role of human thinking in creating and perpetuating the tragic degradation of the Earth cannot be overstated. Without a profound epiphany or awakening we are never able to see ourselves as separate from the kind of thinking that we do. We believe we are simply perceiving things the way they really are, when in fact our limited thinking is causing us to see a fragmented world, for example, to see the Earth as a storehouse of resources to be mined for the World’s consumers” Consciousness and Climate Change Confluence of two living systems II Statement for the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP16 November 29 – December 10, 2010, Cancun, Mexico As a spiritual organisation, the Brahma Kumaris work together with religious organisations and share our views about the importance of keeping ethics alive at the centre of our consciousness during the time of decision making. Considering that we are all part of an interdependent whole, we encourage the awareness of the duty of those who have agreed to administrate the riches of the world to take into account the existence of every one and every life form on the planet. There is a necessity for solidarity and the need for political will to tackle the issues related to climate change. The Brahma Kumaris also promote a different mindset regarding the way we live, and, we advocate for a change in lifestyle as well as an individual or community reflection and conversation regarding the choices of eating and consuming habits, of which the situation at hand is pushing us to undertake. As human beings we need to develop a real awareness of the historical situation we are in and the choices and changes we are called to make. Our individual and global response to the present situations will design the future not only of the planet but of each human being alive. Valériane Bernard Geneva, 6/02/19
BK Valériane Bernard Since 1992, Valériane has been involved in the ecological movement, raising public awareness about sustainability. Underpinning her community-based activities sits her interest in spirituality and she foresaw that only genuine personal engagement between people could create a quality of life in the human family. Valériane produced radio programs on the theme of culture of peace, spiritual development, in Costa Rica. She is currently part of the Interfaith Liaison Committee with the UNFCCC secretariat and Co-founder of The Geneva Interfaith Forum on Climate Change, Environment and Human Rights, an informal group of faith-based NGOs reaffirming the responsibility of each faith to care for the earth and address climate change and its impact. 51
Mata Amritanandamayi Math February 16, 2019 - Amritapuri, India
“Just as the ocean serves as the substratum for the waves and gold as the base for all ornaments made of gold, creation and Creator are not two. They are one.” says Amma. “For when we see Mother Nature as the embodiment of God, we will automatically serve and protect her.” It is this vision of loving and serving nature that has inspired numerous green initiatives at the Mata Amritanandamayi Math. One of them is the Amrita Organic Farm, which certainly had humble beginnings. “Over 20 years ago, Amma handed me a few dried-up seeds with the intention of growing some plants,” recalls Lola, a longtime resident in Amritapuri. “The surrounding locality was uninhabitable swamp-land, and the earth was filled with hardened red clay and sand. The villagers cautioned me that nothing would grow due to the unfavorable conditions. However, Amma insisted that we must keep trying. ‘Clean the dirt of your mind first,’ Amma said. ‘Then all else will become clear.’” It was with this conviction that Lola and her team studied and practised permaculture-mulching techniques and learned from scratch the secrets of organic farming. Bucket-by-bucket, they used organic waste to create the first bed of pure, nutrient-rich soil for a small organic garden, regardless of the fact they didn’t have a shovel or any gardening tools. “Amma personally handed me several saplings and told me to grow them, including sacred Rudraksha trees,” says Lola. “A tropical rainforest in coastal Kerala may not be an ideal place to grow Rudraksha trees, which thrive in the Himalaya regions. Neverthelss, now more than 300 are fruiting and flowering all throughout Amritapuri. Some trees produce up to 5,000 fruits per year.” Today, Amritapuri has two large-scale organic farms and the project has been named Amritaculture: Amma’s Holistic & Sustainable Techniques for the Compassionate Cultivation of Land and Resources. The farm is home to hundreds of varieties of plant species, ayurvedic herbs, fruits and flowers in an area that is more than 1.5 acres of land. The harvested produce feeds Amritapuri’s thousands of visitors and residents with farm-fresh organic fruits and vegetables. “Amma sometimes kisses the plants or seeds and sets an intention to grow them with love. It is with this love, respect and reverence that the farm is sustained,” explains Lola. “The biodiversity is so unique to this place. I don’t think such a diverse ecosystem exists anywhere else in the world.” The garden is an ongoing learning experience and a beautiful opportunity to do service. It holds a space for people to lovingly honor Mother Nature through prayer and contemplation, while at the same time study practical gardening and permaculture skills. The neighbors, local villagers and their children come to work in the garden along with the international visitors and residents. It is an inspiring example of working together, united as one family, to serve Mother Nature. “Building the love of nature is the key to any sustainable farming movement,” concludes Lola. “It is Amma who has instilled this love of nature within all of us to truly see the unity in creation and then love and serve the world by loving and serving nature.”
Tending to a young tulsi plant.
Working in the Amrita organic farm.
Lola is in the middle wearing the pink shirt. 52
YOGA & THE WORK OF THE UNITED NATIONS
SDG 16—Peace, Justice & Strong Institutions: Creating a Culture of Peace & Non Violence
by Denise Scotto, Esq.
We are determined to foster peaceful, just and inclusive societies which are free from fear and violence. There can be no sustainable development without peace and no peace without sustainable development. Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
We use the word peace very often, and, yet, it holds multiple meanings and great promise depending on one’s frame of reference. Although peace is the absence of war and armed conflict to some, or, the lack of worry to others, it is both of these, and, at the same time, so much more. Together with safeguarding human rights, justice, the rule of law, accountability, transparency and good governance, peace underpins an enabling environment for people to live together and actively engage in society freely, safely, prosperously and of course, harmoniously. Peace is specifically pinpointed as one of the five cornerstones upon which the UN 2030 Development Agenda is grounded, in recognition of the overriding obligation of governments to ensure that their citizens can live safe, secure lives. “Goal 16 of the Sustainable Development Goals is dedicated to the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, the provision of access to justice for all, and building effective, accountable institutions at all levels.” It acknowledges that we, as a globally community, have the ability to make our world more peaceful, safer and better in each way for everyone, everywhere. Although it is an important one, the UN Security Council is not the only mechanism that has the authority to influence peace and security. While SDG 16 anchors all the other sixteen SDGs, the foundation for all the global goals are institutions that respond to the needs of the public in a transparent and accountable manner. It’s an innovative goal which expressly recognizes the critical importance of governance and institution-building as the pillar where development and peace-building efforts rest. It includes a commitment to human rights, justice for all, good governance, transparent dealings, holding people and institutions responsible in a conspicuous way. How does SDG 16 do this? The UN has identified 12 Targets and 23 Indicators. The Targets specify the goals and the Indicators represent the metrics to analyze to what extent these Targets are being achieved and how far we are making progress. Some obvious indicators are significantly reduce all forms of violence and death rates everywhere; end the abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children everywhere; guarantee universal legal identity by compulsory birth registration for all; and promote and enforce non-discriminatory laws and policies. Other indicators may seem ambiguous: provide public access to information and ensure fundamental freedoms; promote the rule of law at national and international levels and ensure equal access to justice for all; eliminate organized crime, corruption, bribery, and establish effective, accountable ,transparent institutions; and design inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels. 53
Improving institutional accountability and effectiveness may seem like an onerous one. By appreciating that many of these bodies are supported with government funds but are statutorily created and operate independently makes it more achievable. Providing access to justice for all rests upon the administration of justice which includes the courts, impartial judges and the office of court administration which are intrinsic parts of national accountability systems. High courts have the specific role as constitutional arbiters and serve as protectors of human rights. Institutional targets are scattered across the justice system and comprise the police, prosecutors, lawyers, legal service providers, judges, prison or ‘corrections’ system and ministries that deal with justice and policing or law enforcement. By broadening our view to encompass a larger scope of SDG 16 in this way, we can additionally incorporate institutions working to address gender-based violence, money laundering as well as specialized policing units or taskforces focused on combatting trafficking in people or child protection.
SDG 16—Facts & Figures by Denise Scotto, Esq.
50% Is the percentage of the world’s children who experience violence every year. 246 million Children worldwide have been affected by school-related violence each year with 1 in 3 students being bullied by their peers at school in the last month, and at least 1 in 10 children have experienced cyberbullying. 68.5 million People by the end of 2017 had been forcibly displaced as a result of persecution, conflict, violence or human rights violations. 49 Countries lack laws protecting women from domestic violence. 10 million Stateless people (a minimum) have been denied nationality and its related rights.
Practical efforts to accomplish delivering access to justice for everyone is through providing legal services also known as legal aid as well as by engaging in law reform by drafting new law or changing existing law. Another means is through public interest litigation which is quite strategic as it clarifies, amends or extends the law in support of an overarching legal reform campaign where human rights advocates seek pro-rights interpretations of constitutional bills within their countries. This is a viable tool because, in some instances, courts may act on a significant societal matter before the legislature. One example where we see this in the USA is in the area of climate change. The Rwandan genocide touched my innermost core and brought me to international human rights law leading to work as a UN staff person in New York headquarters. I had been part of a group of lawyers attending the preparatory committee meetings (prep-coms) that were being held to establish an International Criminal Court. I deeply believed that the ICC could be a powerful mechanism to handle crimes against humanity, war crimes, egregious violations of human rights, torture, rape as a war crime, child soldiering, forced pregnancy.
US$1.26 trillion Corruption, bribery, theft and tax evasion cost developing countries US$1.26 trillion per year. 1 billion People are legally ‘invisible’ because they cannot prove who they are. This includes an estimated 625 million children under 14 whose births were never registered. 31% Is the percentage of all prisoners that have been held in detention without sentencing with this figure remaining almost constant in the last decade. $1.7 Trillion In 2017, the world spent more than $1.7 Trillion on arms and armies which is the highest level since the fall of the Berlin Wall. 1/8th of that amount could eliminate extreme poverty and hunger. Less than 1 % 14 UN Peacekeeping operations. 54
YOGA & THE WORK OF THE UNITED NATIONS After meeting with many genocide survivors and reading testimony of horrendous acts that seemed inhumane, I had the profound realization that it’s important to establish institutional mechanism at the local, national and international level, but, the very center of genocide prevention and the heart of human goodness lies beyond institutions, the rule of law, accountability and good governance. Instead, it is a revolutionary knowing that each and every person belongs to the one human family and deserves dignity, respect and the fulfillment, at the very least, of our basic human needs. I’m sure that this epiphany was the result of many causes and conditions, but, I credit my time spent with one of my mentors Rabbi Joseph Gelberman, reading the writings of Sri Aurobindo and Krishnamurti in addition to my visits to Pondicherry and Adyar, India as being catalyzing events making it crystal clear. By learning yoga’s philosophy and practicing yoga in its various ways, I believe that delivering justice and living peacefully with one another, both in our individual lives and in our diversity as members of the human family, requires a transformation in human consciousness. Yoga is a mighty ‘technology’ as Sadhguru remarks and this ‘inner engineering’ supplies the opportunity to know one self in new ways; to connect with something greater; to feel united with others and a sense of belonging; to develop caring and respect for others; and to join together in a common cause taking collective action, all for the general good. Yoga practitioners know and experience that yoga, essentially, fosters a culture of peace and non-violence By acting, countries pledge to implement SDG 16. This is indispensable and positive to creating a safer and prosperous world for everyone. In and of itself, it is not enough. I’m convinced it will take us as a global community only so far. We see too many countries that still are involved in devasting armed conflict and within countries there is a tremendous amount of violence. Creating a culture of peace and non-violence, inclusive societies, social and sustainable development, a world that works for everyone, everywhere requires an opening of our minds and an opening of our hearts.
Denise Scotto, Esq., is an attorney at law, policy advisor, international speaker, interfaith minister & Founding Chair of the International Day of Yoga Committee at the UN. Starting her legal career in the public sector, she was a litigator appearing in courts in all boroughs of the City of New York. Denise held leadership roles in professional bar organizations including: the NY State Bar, the NY State Women’s Bar, the International Law section of the American Bar Association, the UIA. With these associations, she organized numerous events at UN fora as well as at national and local levels on global issues of pressing concern including conducting the first legal education program in NY City and NY State on the topic of human trafficking. As a UN staff member in NY Headquarters, she worked on issues to reform the internal system of justice, then, in the Department for Economic & Social Affairs formulating policy to advance law, good governance and human rights. Denise has held leadership positions in the UN community including: the UNSRC Enlightenment Society, the Values Caucus at the UN, the NGO Committee on Spirituality, Values & Global Concerns, the NGO Committee on the Status of Women, the International Federation of Women in Legal Careers, the International Federation of Women Lawyers, the UNAUSA New York City Chapter, Bridges of Hope Project, the Source of Synergy Foundation and the Evolutionary Leaders Circle. Denise developed “mindful social justice” which additionally serves the legal profession through her 20+ years of meditation and her connection with diverse yoga masters & spiritual leaders. 55
Achieving United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 3 through the Practice of Yoga by Padmini Murthy MD, MPH
The great Indian sage Patanjali bestowed upon humanity the greatest gift of the eight limbs of the yoga, or what are also referred to as “ashtanga” yoga. They include, the aspects of which we currently identify as yoga: the physical postures or asanas, the breath exercises or pranayama, meditation or dhyana. The practice of yoga is unique in that it can be considered both an art and science. The Sustainable Development Goals were adopted by the member states of the United Nations in 2015. There are 17 SDGs but this article is limited to the role played by the practice of yoga in achieving the targets of SDG 3. SDG 3 is a health-related goal which focuses on ensuring, “healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages.” The practice of yoga is a powerful and effective method of meeting the following targets of SDG 3. Maternal Health and Well-being Studies across countries have shown that the practice of yoga by pregnant women under the guidance and supervision of a trained yoga instructor has resulted in a decrease in maternal hypertension, intrauterine growth retardation and premature births. Medical experts at the Mayo Clinic have highlighted the importance of prenatal yoga as “a multifaceted approach to exercise that encourages stretching, mental centering and focused breathing. In addition, studies have demonstrated that practicing yoga while pregnancy helps to improve sleep patterns, reduce stress and anxiety, increase the strength, flexibility and endurance of muscles needed for childbirth such as the muscles of the pelvic floor. 1 This example illustrates how SDG 3 target 3.1 which aims to “By 2030, reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100 000 live births’’, can be achieved by the regular practice of yoga during pregnancy.
YOGA & THE WORK OF THE UNITED NATIONS Mental Health and Non-communicable Diseases SDG 3 target 3.4 aims, “By 2030, reduce by one third premature mortality from non-communicable diseases through prevention and treatment and promote mental health and well-being.” Examples to illustrate the benefits of yoga to achieve this target are: In recent years there is a growing utilization of Yoga as one of the therapeutic measures in the field of psychosomatic and mental health where the benefits of yoga practice and therapy are being widely recognized. Many health professionals in recent years are aware of therapeutic values of yoga and have introduced the approach as a psycho-physiologic and spiritual technique in their treatment. 2Research conducted in recent years which chronicles the benefits of yoga in the treatment of pain, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke prevention and post stroke rehabilitation. Yoga is also beneficial in reducing the chronic pain associated with multiple sclerosis and peripheral nervous system conditions/ disorders. 3In addition practice of yoga boosts cardio vascular and respiratory health and thus is a valuable tool in prevention and reduction of cardiovascular and respiratory ailments. Yogic exercises and breathing techniques have proven beneficial in reducing stress in Australian schools; promoting well-being and employment of young people in Africa; helping to alleviate childhood trauma for girls in the US juvenile justice system. 4 It is not an exaggeration to say that the practice of yoga is an effective primary/secondary preventive strategy to improve the health and well being of global communities.
Substance Abuse Unfortunately, there is a global public health challenge with the increasing use of narcotics and alcohol, especially among adolescents. In 2014, an estimated 21.4 million people in the United States who were 12 years old or older battled a substance use disorder, which equates to about 1 in every 12 American adults, according to a survey released by the National Survey on Drug use and Health. (NSUDH) reported. Yoga is being used along with other traditional substance abuse methods in addressing the problem of addiction with good outcomes 5 Including practice of yoga as an extracurricular activity or in the curriculum in schools for adolescents has helped to build positive, mind and body image and reduce the risk of substance abuse among them. Thus, the practice of yoga is a useful strategy to achieve SDG 3 target 3.5 which aims to “Strengthen the prevention and treatment of substance abuse, including narcotic drug abuse and harmful use of alcohol.” 57
The other health benefits of practicing yoga are: increased productivity in work place, due to increased concentration and wellbeing; decrease in musculoskeletal ailments; improved digestion; and increase in immune status of the practitioner and weight reduction. The various forms contribute to improved physical health and boosting self-esteem and happiness through their positive benefits on the autonomous nervous system. On a personal note my yoga teacher Ms. Ila Gupta has incorporated the practice of yoga into her practice of energy healing where she balances the chakras and works to help people suffering from chronic pain. Yoga is a powerful instrument in the creation of sustainable global peace in the world, especially in the present times of increased conflicts and unrest. It is no exaggeration to say that the practice of yoga is not just for self-transformation but is truly an instrument for global peace as it helps to bring about emotional and spiritual reconciliation and healing among individuals and communities. The practice of yoga has stood the test of time having helped to improve the overall health and wellbeing of people and has crossed borders and united people of diverse ethnicities and faiths. References 1.Lynch A, 5 Benefits of Yoga.(nd) Accessed from https://www.mindbodygreen. com/0-4695/5-Benefits-of-Prenatal-Yoga.html 2.Das S (2003) Holistic counseling for health and well-being. In: H.L. Kaila and K. B. Kushal (Eds.). Towards development with young people. Himalayan Publishing House, Mumbai, India. p 160-177. Accessed from https://www. omicsonline.org/open-access/global-mental-health-peace-and-sustainabilitydoes-yoga-show-the-way-2167-1044-1000294.php?aid=93468 3.Burton A (2014) Should your patient be doing yoga? The Lancet Neurology 13: 241-242. Accessed from https://www.omicsonline.org/open-access/ global-mental-health-peace-and-sustainability-does-yoga-show-theway-2167-1044-1000294.php?aid=93468 4.Bhagwat S, ( 2018). Can yoga help us achieve sustainable development goals? Accessed from https://www.open.edu/openlearn/health-sports-psychology/ health/can-yoga-help-us-achieve-sustainable-development-goals 5.America Addiction centers (nd) Yoga in recovery. Accessed from https:// americanaddictioncenters.org/therapy-treatment/yoga
Dr. Padmini (Mini) Murthy, MD, MPH, MS, FAMWA, FRSPH, is Professor & Global Health Director at NY Medical College. She is an obstetrician and gynecologist practicing medicine and public health for the past 28 years in various countries. She has an MPH and a MS in Management from New York University and is a Fellow at the NY Academy of Medicine. She serves as the Medical Women’s International Association NGO representative the UN and promotes safe motherhood and other health initiatives focused on women in India, Malawi, Grenada and Nepal. She is widely published and is the author and editor of Women’s Global Health and Human Rights (Jones and Bartlett publisher) which is used as a text book worldwide. Dr Murthy is the recipient of numerous awards such as: the Jhirad Oration Award; the Soujouner Truth Pin; Millennium Milestone Maker Award, the Blackwell Medal and the Dr Lata Pawar Oration award. 58
YOGA & THE WORK OF THE UNITED NATIONS
Using “Mind Yoga” to Create Sustainable Low-Cost Housing
by Patrick San Francesco
Yoga, as most people know it, is all about health through ‘asanas’. This aspect of yoga is marketed as it is popular. Unfortunately, scant attention is paid to the enhancement of the Spirit through ‘mind yoga’. The Spirit, if enhanced, controls the mind, which in turn controls the body. My motive for writing this article was not to showcase the PET bottle structure, but to demonstrate that even a mind untutored in the sciences, can put forth solutions that have not occurred to those who are expressively schooled for the purpose.
linking the bottle necks, the nylon fishing net was then stretched across to the opposite facing wall and linked to the bottle necks of that wall. The stretched fishing net between the two opposite walls served to replace the tor steel bars in the concrete roofing. The linking of the walls to the roofing with fishing net, served to create a homogeneous structure of incredible strength and stability.
I am NOT an architect, nor am I a civil engineer, scientist or technician of any kind. I am just an ordinary person with the implicit faith that every problem has a solution. Thus ‘equipped’, I proceeded to address the problem of PET bottle waste disposal. When Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) products were introduced, PET was heralded as the ‘miracle material’. PET was lightweight, yet incredibly strong and durable. What wasn’t taken into account, was that the durability and longevity of PET would pose a problem when it came to the disposal of the used PET products. Shredding and melting were some of the solutions offered. Melting PET exposed one to carcinogenic toxins unless safety measures were followed. These precautions were difficult to implement in third world countries. It was then that I thought of turning the bane (longevity and durability) into a boon. By tightly packing the PET bottle with common earth (mud) and recapping it, I created a ‘brick’ that was extremely durable and eliminated both the carbon footprint caused by conventional baked clay bricks and the carcinogenic toxins caused by shredding and melting. The next question I had to address was stability. The glass-like, smooth surface and cylindrical shape was in direct contrast to the rough surface and block-like shape of the traditional baked clay brick which offers considerable traction when cemented together. Faced with this dilemma, I tried various configurations of interlocking the bottles to gain maximum stability. Once the bottles were cemented together to make a wall, the protruding bottle necks were linked together with nylon 6 fishing net. After 59
These PET bottle structures, besides being low cost and of incredible strength, are also a means to empower the unemployed, aged and infirm. We involve the local communities to collect the bottles, which are most often found on the streets, taking care of the waste management aspect and providing employment to the bottle collectors. The bottles, once collected are handed to the aged and infirm in the area and given the task of filling each bottle with earth for a fee, commiserate with the local wage structure. This concept, besides empowerment, helps restore their dignity and sense of self-worth. The first ‘bottle brick’ school room was constructed in 2010 in Kishangarh, New Delhi. (www.samarpanfoundation.org) I had not yet conceived the idea of using nylon fishing net. Thus, only light roofing was used in the construction. Spurred on by the success of the Kishangarh school room, I began to experiment
with different configurations of bottle placement to achieve increased stability. It was then that I thought about nylon fishing net as a stabilizing medium.
In September 2015, I was invited to present my unique bottle house construction technique to the UN Academic Impact Symposium. (click here to view on youtube.com)
The fishing net is approximately 1% of the cost of the steel that would normally be used. This has a great impact on the overall cost, making the structure extremely affordable. But what was left to be seen, was the ground reality. Would it pass the battery of structural tests required to make this concept available to the public? So, I built a prototype using the fishing net and asked a professional wrecking company how long it would take to demolish the structure. Assuming it to be a conventional structure, they estimated 30 minutes as the maximum limit. You can imagine their consternation, when at the end of 4 hours there was still one wall standing!
Having the PET bottle /fishing net house fully certified, I have gone on to build schools, homes and hospitals throughout India, South Africa, Malawi and Nepal.
Emboldened by this result, I built a similar structure in the CSIR laboratory in Chennai, India, and subjected it to seismic testing. To my utter amazement, the structure was still standing even after 18 simulated earthquakes ranging from 1.6 to 9.8 Richter. (click here to view on youtube.com) Further structural tests were carried out by CSIR in Pretoria, South Africa, and I am happy to say that all the requisite tests were passed ‘with flying colors’, including the daunting fire test. A normal fire test requirement for a conventional single floor structure is typically 800 degrees centigrade for 30 mins, after which the wall usually collapses. My PET bottle/fishing net house structure (as it was commonly called) was subjected to 1,020 degrees centigrade for a period of 2 hours and was found to be un-compromised in structural strength.
5ft water tower constructed entirely out of PET bottles and fishing net.
Recently completed two-story maternity hospital in Chinsapo, Malawi, to be commissioned in July 2019.
To further demonstrate that the PET bottle structure was not a ‘flash in the pan’, but a true use of mind yoga, I will shortly be announcing a solution to world hunger—a complete and wholesome food that is available and free for all!
Patrick San Francesco is an internationally recognized humanitarian and world-renowned energy healer from Goa, India. He is the chairperson of the Samarpan Foundation, established in India and also operating in South Africa and Malawi. He is the pioneer of a unique earthquake resistant and affordable green building technique. This new construction concept has been internationally certified and is being implemented globally. The unique new building method was presented to the UN Academic Impact Symposium in September of 2015. Patrick is also the recipient of the prestigious Mandala Award, presented by the Rubin Museum in New York City in 2011. His mantra is Love, Peace, Happiness, Kindness, Simplicity and Clarity.
Website: www.thefirstprinciple.org Blog: www.whispersofwisdom.thefirstprinciple.org Samarpan: www.samarpanfoundation.org Healing App: www.facebook.com/apphealing/
Facebook: www.facebook.com/PatrickSanFrancesco/ Youtube: www.twitter.com/patricksanfran Instagram: www.instagram.com/patricksanfrancesco/ 60
YOGA & THE WORK OF THE UNITED NATIONS
In a letter to the United Nations dated 8 July 1957, the founder and first President of the Sri Ram Chandra Mission wrote: “We must learn how to create within the heart a feeling of universal love, which is the surest remedy of all evils and can help to free us from the horrors of war. … To come up to the level of real happiness we must necessarily rise above ourselves, which is essential for the creation of an atmosphere of universal love.” In his letter, Shri Ram Chandra, also called ‘Babuji,’ calls upon the central mission of the United Nations: to “Maintain Peace and Security” in order to prevent conflicts in danger of escalating into war, and to create peaceful conditions among countries. He proposes a new beginning for all people by bringing about a change in the human condition after the “horrors of war.” Babuji’s words also state that real happiness can be achieved, but not without efforts to grow beyond one’s self-consciousness. In line with the UN’s mission to “maintain international peace and security,” Ram Chandra brings awareness to the possibility of creating an egregore of love and peace by aiming to rise beyond ourselves for the good of humanity. For him, all human thought and action emerges from within, and the practice of meditation can bring about peaceful interactions among people by developing the universal higher qualities of the heart. In 2014, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi played a central role in keeping the UN’s purpose of maintaining international peace and the protection of all human rights. Facing a world of war and human rights violations, he introduced the idea of establishing an International Day of Yoga at the opening of the 69th General session, with the words, “Yoga is an invaluable gift from our ancient tradition. Yoga embodies unity of mind and body, thought and action ... a holistic approach [that] is valuable to our health and our well-being. Yoga is not just about exercise; it is a way to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature.” His draft resolution was accepted by 175 member states, and the first International Day of Yoga was observed all over the world on 21 June 2015. These important contributions from spiritual, international and political guides and leaders unfold in the twentieth and twenty-first century as propositions and suggest a transformative future for all of humanity.
Adapted for modern life, Heartfulness Meditation integrates body, mind and soul in the true spirit of Ashtanga Yoga. This heart-based meditation with yogic transmission is practiced in over 130 countries. Through the practice of Heartfulness Mediation, one’s personal transformation can become particularly beneficial in relation with others. While experiencing the continuous change in my own consciousness and the ways I adapt to the demands of the world, it has been only natural to bring my improved inner balance, joy and purpose into my professional life.
As an undergraduate teacher, I integrate the benefits of Heartfulness into the classroom. For example, it is my aim to create a positive atmosphere and to encourage students to be conscious of thought and emotions. In other words, we structure the classroom in such a way that recognizes Human Rights, non-judgmental awareness, inclusiveness of all people, empathy, nonviolent communication, joy and purpose prevail. By not engaging in internal friction, students develop a sense of togetherness as a community. It is the goal to make students aware that positive energy is the connecting link to one’s personal development as a human being and increase the demands of modern education such as critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity in our global world. At the end of the semester, these young people leave with a vibrant energy, knowing that their unique capabilities and voices can multiply for humanity into the future. Petra M. Schweitzer is a Professor of Comparative Literature with a specialization in Holocaust Studies in the Department of Languages and Cultural Studies and the Director of the Gender and Women’ Studies Program at Shenandoah University. Her work focuses on 20th Century Literature, French and German, with a specialization in Holocaust Studies, literary theory and languages of trauma, memory and testimony. She is also a Heartfulness practitioner and trainer. As an educator, she integrates the heart-centered practice in her teachings advocating a scientific approach that is based on personal experiences with the focus to build vital life skills. 61
Yoga: A Global Perspective of Well-being by Geeta Agarwala, SMVA Trust UN Representative
The ultimate goal of human life has been the same for centuries: to be present in a state of peace, contentment, and mental and physical wellbeing. Yoga means union whichÂ brings about that unity and state of well-being. This, in turn, leads to understanding within a community and beyond to the greater world. Her Holiness Amma Sri Karunamayi has worked tirelessly at the global level for over two decades to bring about a physical, mental, and spiritual transformation around the world from the remote villages of Andhra Pradesh (AP), India to the bustling cities and towns in India and across North America. She founded SMVA Trust, a charitable, volunteer-run organization, which has been recognized by the United Nations as an accredited NGO to collaborate with others in civil society to better the lives of the disadvantaged and underprivileged in the world. The mission of SMVA Trust is very much aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN. SMVA Trust first focused on the people living in rural Nellore District, AP, who have experienced great poverty for millennia. They lacked basic amenities such as permanent housing that could withstand the elements, toilets and drinking water, and medical care. The literacy rate was very low or nonexistent. SMVA Trust undertook many projects, to address these gaps: free education for girls and boys, free medical care, clean water, and permanent housing. Her Holiness felt strongly that education had to be the foundation on which to build a sustainable life for the people of the region. She envisioned and implemented an education system where the children would learn meditation, pranayama and yoga to develop memory power, willpower, focus and concentration. The villagers were skeptical -- their children were needed to earn money for the family. Through persistence and persuasion, she gathered a group of children, who initially were taught sitting under the trees. Today, there are two modern schools built by SMVA Trust with classrooms, science and computer labs, restrooms for girls and boys and a playground. The two schools have over 600 students, with more villagers now eager to enroll their children. Many graduates have earned college degrees. They have excellent jobs and some have returned to help their families and community. Several teachers are alumni. The schools have had a positive effect in the community at large with child labor being reduced. The holistic approach has shaped children into well-rounded human beings who participate in planting trees, recycling plastic, and cleaning-up the environment. They communicate their knowledge to adults around them. 62
YOGA & THE WORK OF THE UNITED NATIONS Over the years, SMVA Trust has built a charitable hospital and mobile unit which serves 250 villages with approximately half a million people. The Sri Karunamayi Free Hospital, provides medical care, treatments and medications to all patients free of charge. Patients are introduced to the prevention of diseases, hygiene, prenatal care, etc. Wheelchairs, adult tricycles, eyeglasses and much more are freely handed out to those in need. Medical camps are set up periodically and several medical specialists from outside India visit the area to serve the rural population and collaborate with local health professionals to help diagnose and treat a wide range of ailments and diseases. Cataract surgeries are successfully performed. Surgeries which cannot be performed locally are referred to tertiary hospitals and paid for by SMVA Trust. With the installation of several water purification plants over the last few years, over 100,000 residents now enjoy easily accessible clean drinking water. Cases of fluorosis have been greatly reduced. SMVA Trust constructed free permanent homes for 500 families which include toilets that are safe for women and girls. In times of crisis and natural disasters, SMVA Trust volunteers, from around the world, collaborate to provide basic necessities such as food, clothes, and temporary housing. They organize blood donation drives and mobilize the people in local communities. Mental stress and loneliness are pervasive in society both in India and North America. Â Her Holiness reaches out to people of all faiths and paths by touring yearly to over 30 cities in North America. She offers solace and speaks about universal moral values which are the basis of all religions. People of all faiths and walks of life attend these free talks arranged by SMVA Trust benefiting thousands of people. They are encouraged to participate in service activities in their communities and around the world and to give to others as a means of becoming part of a more inclusive society. In addition, there are retreats where participants can learn and practice the techniques of hatha yoga, pranayama and meditation to achieve mental and emotional balance. Her Holiness Amma Sri Karunamayi and SMVA Trust are committed to the goal of achieving universal peace through individual peace. By applying the principles of yoga, we strive to bring better understanding between communities. In collaboration with the UN and other NGOs, we seek to improve the living conditions of all communities so that there can be peace and security for all.
Geeta Agerwala is a representative for the nongovernmental organization Sri Mathrudevi Viswashanti Ashram (SMVA) Trust which is associated with the United Nations. She was inspired over two decades ago by Her Holiness Amma Sri Karunamayi to expand her personal life to include service for others in her community and beyond. She subscribes to the philosophy expressed in the ancient Sanskrit saying, â€œVasudaika Kutumbam,â€? all peoples are part of one world family. For more information or to collaborate with SMVA Trust to bring universal peace through material, mental and spiritual wellbeing, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org
A Diet for a Sustainable Future by Denis Licul (Kripadevi), Yoga in Daily Life - New York
This speech was originally presented at the International Day of Yoga Committee at the UN - CSW63 side event: “Women’s Empowerment through Yogic Values: Advancing Sustainable Development” on March 13, 2019, New York City, NY
Growing up in a suburb of a small town in my home country, Croatia, we had a garden with a henhouse in it. I still remember the day when I first saw a chicken being slaughtered…I was shocked. And, when I became aware that the piece of meat on my plate was the chicken that was running in the garden the day before, I refused to eat. It took my mother quite an effort to convince me that it was OK to eat the meat, that everybody else eats meat and that it was good for me. Gradually, I desensitized myself to the fact that the meat I eat comes from an animal that had been slaughtered. It took me thirty years to reconnect again with that child in myself, and it happened with the help of yoga. Practicing yoga and meditation, I become more aware of my deeper feelings. I could also notice how the quality of my energy, my thoughts, and my feelings reflect what I eat, what I drink, or with whom I spend my time. When I could no longer ignore that, I became a vegetarian. Ahimsha, Non-Violence, is the main principle of yoga. Leo Tolstoy said: “As long as there are slaughterhouses there will always be battlefields.” Yoga practice provides “Harmony for body, mind and soul,” and the balance between nature and consciousness. Sustainability, on the other hand, implies a non-harmful behavior toward natural resources, and supports long-lasting ecological balance. Yoga values are fully compatible with the values of sustainability. In December of 2018, at the UN Climate Summit in Katowice, Poland, known as COP 24, the World Resource Institute presented a study with this topic: “Creating a Sustainable Food Future.” The study focuses on current food resources and sustainable options for the future, posing a single question: How do we feed 10 billion people, without using more land, while also lowering emissions? There are three co-dependent parts to this question: the first part addresses the number of people in need of food, the second part acknowledges limitations on land use, and the third part posits the necessity of lowering carbon and greenhouse gas emissions.
YOGA & THE WORK OF THE UNITED NATIONS (1) How do we feed 10 billion people? In 2010 there were seven billion people on the Earth. By 2050 there will be 10 billion people. To feed three billion more people, we need to produce 56 percent more food than we produce today. (2)…without using more land? Currently, we are using 50 percent of vegetated land for agriculture. To increase food production by 56 percent, with our current diet, we would need to deforest an area twice as large as India. This would be an environmental disaster. And when we look at how agricultural land is used today; we see that 70 percent is used by “animal agriculture.” This means that 70 percent of the fertile land is being used to produce food to feed animals for meat production. (3)…while lowering emissions? This part of the challenge addresses the need to reduce current greenhouse gases and carbon emissions by 67 percent by 2050, in order to slow down global warming! Agriculture in the USA, structured as it is today, produces 26.9 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases, more than any other single source. In addition, to produce one kilogram of beef, we use 100 times more water than is required to produce one kilogram of wheat. The conclusion is obvious: “animal agriculture” and the meat industry are leading causes of air pollution, deforestation, species extinction and habitat loss. So far, we mentioned two equally important arguments for committing to a plant-based diet: nonviolence and environmental protection. The third, equally important argument, is that of human health. There are numerous studies finding beneficial effects of a plant-based diet (such as Portofolio Diet recommended by scientists at the University of Toronto) on human health: reducing stress, lowering bad cholesterol and blood pressure, and ameliorating other risk factors for cardiovascular diseases and inflammation. In 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) added red meat and processed meat to the list of cancer-causing substances. In addition, the American Institute for Cancer Research recommends a plant-based diet for cancer prevention and for cancer survivors. How do we feed 10 billion people, without using more land, while lowering emissions? The answer is clear. For the sake of survival on this Earth, we need more people to lower their meat consumption and become vegetarians and vegans. We have the facts and the knowledge, and based on that, we are responsible for making a conscious, compassionate and sustainable decision. The yoga community is the leading global community force promoting a sustainable lifestyle and vegetarian diet. Women represent more than 70 percent of the global yoga community. We women also have a dominant role in making choices about the diet of our families. The choice of what we eat can shift this downhill course where human civilization is heading. We have to choose on which side of history we will stand. We can be, and we already are the change we want to see!
Denis Licul (“Kripadevi”) is practicing yoga since 1994. Inspired by yoga and Advaita Vedanta non-dualistic philosophy, she became a disciple of Vishwaguru Swami Maheshwarananda. She first started teaching yoga in her home town Labin, Croatia, and continued when she moved to New York in 1999. She is a president and co-founder of Yoga in Daily Life (YIDL) New York. Being a teaching artist - ceramicist, Denis implements the elements of mindfulness and meditation in her art work and teaching methods. Denis serves as a Secretary General of Sri Swami Madhavananda World Peace Council (SSMWPC) and representative of YIDL-US and SSMWPC at the United Nations. 65
Yoga and Virtual Reality by Madhusudhan Balasubramanian, Film maker / VR Content Creator/ Yogi from India.
It was an honour to be a part of the eminent panel members at the UN in New York on International Yoga Day June 2018, and, I am humbled to provide a submission to the Light on Light 5th Anniversary Special Edition. A couple of years back, when I was first introduced to VR (virtual reality) I thought it was a great piece of technology to disconnect from one reality and to be in a different place virtually, to experience something which is not in the wearer’s reality. We always consume content in 2 dimensions (2D) and in rectangles, but VR is 360 degrees, and, so is the Reality. As a Bramha Nyani and Arul Nidhi in Kundalini Yoga, I know that VR is and will become a great tool to help beginners to better understand the connection between Mind, Body and Soul and to learn meditation techniques. VR is already being widely used with computer games, of which most have a lot of violence in their content. Given that VR is an immersive medium, kids and adults are thus exposed to too much of this violent content in VR gaming which is not recommended.
VR SKY is my first experience in VR. It begins with selfintrospection as a narrating technique to understand the concept of “I” and, then it takes the viewer on a meditative journey where viewers experience how we are all connected with the Absolute Reality. I was deeply humbled and privileged to showcase the experience by offering people the opportunity to try our VR process at the UN last summer during the World Yoga Day Celebrations which included presenting our VR process in Central Park as part of a greater UN community event. At that time, I also shared with everyone how VR SKY was recognised internationally in popular VR Film Festivals. After the World Yoga Day UN events, our team tested the VR SKY EXPERIENCE with subjects at the ANVESANA research laboratories at Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana (S-VYASA), a non-profit research organisation involved in the exploration of the ancient wisdom of Yoga ‘scientifically’. In this study, the researchers investigated hemodynamic responses in the prefrontal cortex while a person was meditating using VR SKY. We have observed how there was an increased oxygenation (activation) in the right side of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) during the use of our VR SKY tool for meditation. The DLPFC is associated with higher states of mental functions. At MYSTICS, we believe in using technology to create a positive impact in society and our series of other experiences like “PRANA” - how to breathe right, “AGNA” (between your eyebrows) - will be about mindfulness. Our experiences are focused on increasing awareness towards the efficacy of the benefits of yoga and meditation on both physical and mental health. Our vision is to install VR and mindfulness as a subject at schools globally and also at International Airports.
Madhusudhan better known as Mad is a Kayakalpa & Kundalini yogi since 15 years trained under his Guru Vethathiri Maharishi and attained the Brahm Gyan. Mad has directed more than Fifty Ad Commercials, Fashion Films and Theatrical dance across Asia, US & Europe for regional, national and international brands. He is the pioneer in creating a room-scale VR experience on Spirituality called V R SKY. He takes you on a journey into a different realm blurring the lines between the physical and the virtual world making you question the nature of reality. His ultimate purpose is to create the connection to discover the relation of Man with the Universe.
YOGA & THE WORK OF THE UNITED NATIONS
Compassion in Action by Sylvie Sun, with special contribution of Buddhism texts from Ven. Dr. Dhammadipa Sak (Fa Yao)
I recently received a message from Tom Spies, Executive Director of Buddhist Global Relief (BGR), an organization I have served as Board Member and Fundraising Chair since 2009, that “BGR had committed to expending $1,600,000 over five years from 2016 through 2020 towards programs to advance the ‘Every Woman Every Child’ (EWEC) Initiative Goals, benefiting an estimated 16,000 individuals. A few days ago, we measured our progress and found that after three years we have already exceeded our five-year commitment, expending $1,844,317 towards the EWEC goals, and benefiting an estimated 30,000 individuals.” To read the whole message, click the link here. In 2009, when I was invited to take the position of Board Member and Fundraising Chair, I had the opportunity to learn metta (lovingkindness) meditation from its founder Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi. Since then, I have been practicing it, and, gradually, it became an essential part of my life. Here is the link to Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi’s teaching of metta meditation (click the link here). I took refuge from my teacher, Chan Master Sheng Yen, in 1989 at Chan Meditation Center in Elmhurst, New York. It was from that point that I began my studies of Mahayana Buddhism in the Chinese tradition and practiced Chan meditation under his teachings and profound guidance. In Chinese Chan school, meditation is an essential practice. As the teaching says, “Chan is a practice in daily life, one shall practice Chan while one is walking, standing, sitting and lying down.” It is a 24/7 practice. To cultivate meditation, one begins with precepts/virtues (sila) then concentration, in Buddhist textual term as Mind (citta), and wisdom (prajna), although one can cultivate these three aspects simultaneously. The Chinese Ksudraka Agama say, “cultivating virtues is beneficial, living with wisdom is the highest served as firm foundation of liberation, assisted by the mindfulness. Having done so, the three in training will be fulfilled. They are the Training of Higher Virtue, the Training of Higher Mind and the Training of Higher Wisdom. (Ksudraka-Agama no. 825: It is further elaborated in the Ksudraka-Agama no. 824, “While the trainee who trains himself with virtue is practicing along the straight path. With one’s own skillful diligence, having protected oneself well and safe, the knowledge of first destruction arises first immediately followed by final knowledge without not knowing…. When one fully accomplishes [marvelous] faculties, all [sense] faculties become peaceful and joyous. One fully accomplished [marvelous] roots, all faculties become peace and joy. One then carrying the final body (similar to Pali: antimadehadhāriṃ) that has destroyed all despairs like Mara (demonic god)” The emphasis of cultivation is to purify one’s mind – only when one’s mind is calm and in peace—then, shall the environment be peaceful. Practicing meditation helps to reach the goal of a peaceful and joyful mind which has been proven by many masters and practitioners, now and then. Buddhist moral and ethical values are based on upholding five precepts: no killing, no stealing, no sexual misconducts, no lying and no intoxication that are conducive to heedlessness. By maintaining moral living, one’s mind will be ready to develop deeper concentration. When the concentration is stronger and stable, the understanding of the true nature of universe (i.e. Buddha’s teaching of Four Noble Truths, interdependent origination, wisdom with regards to liberation) arises through continuous cultivation of these three aspects as mentioned above. (Ksudraka-Agama no. 817: “What is the Training of Higher Wisdom? It is when a monk knows Noble Truth of Suffering as the way it is… Noble Truth of the Path as the way it is. 67
Mahayana Buddhists also cultivate Bodhisattva precepts which are based on ten wholesome deeds, with due focus on practicing altruism as Great Compassion, loving kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity (as Four Immeasurable Minds). When practicing the Bodhisattva path, one cultivates to benefit all living beings including oneself in every possibility. As Master Sheng Yen used to encourage us, we are practicing the Bodhisattva way like a baby Bodhisattva in this world. He often reminded us to rise from our meditation cushions and go out and serve people in need, this is the way to practice a Chan-Bodhisattva path. We can strengthen our mind by applying love, compassion, sympathy, joy, equanimity and tolerance (ksanti) to our values, with the help of wholesome meditative methods, against all odds, while we are dealing with a hectic world with horrendous violence and war, ethical and political conflicts, global poverty, climate change and social injustice. With Buddha’s wisdom, we follow a path to seek positive responses and solutions. In 2008, BGR was founded by Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi, along with a group of his friends and students who were inspired by his article published in Buddhadharma Magazine in Fall 2007. He writes, “The special challenge facing Buddhism in our age is to stand up as an advocate for justice in this world, a voice of conscience for those victims of social, economic, and political injustice who cannot stand up and speak for themselves. This, in my view, is a deeply moral challenge marking a watershed in the modern expression of Buddhism.” To tackle the challenge of global hunger, BGR’s projects aim to relieve chronic hunger and malnutrition by providing direct food aids, promoting the education of girls and women, giving women an opportunity to start livelihoods to support their families by and developing farming and food security. It is an inspiring journey. The first year, BGR funded $34,390 for five selected projects in Cambodia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Vietnam. Presently, BGR has funded a total $3,241,032 for 74 projects in 22 countries around the world, plus 28 emergency projects totaling $321,000 for responding to man-made and natural disasters. Persistently practicing meditation is helping me to be a practitioner of the Bodhisattva path and I strongly believe in the power of love and compassion. When your heart is filled with love and compassion, there is no place for hatred, sadness, fears or resentment and you are no longer different from others--you wish everyone to be happy, safe, healthy and in peace. Consequently, we feel other’s sufferings as our own and we want to relieve them from their sufferings. This is my way of practicing meditation.
Sylvie Sun has been practicing Chinese Chan Buddhism since 1989, as a student and disciple of the late Master Sheng Yen. She has been a volunteer with Dharma Drum Mountain (Taiwan), Dharma Drum Retreat Center (Pine Bush, NY) & Chan Meditation Center (Elmhurst, NY) for more than twenty years, eventually serving as Deputy Director and Active Director of Dharma Drum Buddhist Association USA from 1998-2004. Since 2009, she is a board member of Buddhist Global Relief, founded by Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi that provides hunger relief to the poorest communities throughout the world. She is also a board member of the Interfaith Center of New York, which works to overcome prejudice, violence, and misunderstanding by activating the power of the city’s grassroots religious and civic leaders and their communities. 68
YOGA & THE WORK OF THE UNITED NATIONS
The International Peace Trees Program: A Means to Achieve the 17 UN SDGs by Sabine Devlieger
Today, our Humanity is at a crucial turning point, facing severe planetary emergencies and collective life survival challenges. Working together for making the worldwide vision of the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs a reality for everyone, is now indispensable. To facilitate this process and to involve youth and communities toward taking necessary innovative actions, our NGO developed “The International Peace Trees Program for the SDGs” after more than 25 years of research and professional practice. Through 5 universal reconnection practices, this creative program helps to activate one’s natural abilities to experience inner peace, balance, loving heart connections, kindness, cooperation, the joy of collective successes, and the joy of collective intelligence, revealing everyone’s talents beauty and the soul’s greatness. Supported by their inaugurated Peace Trees, children and communities worldwide are helped to reconnect with essential forces to reveal the highest human creative potentials and genuine innovative abilities leading to collective actions solving local and global problems related to SDGs.
Significantly, the Peace Trees Program starts with SDG 16: Peace and SDG 4: education, which are genuine entrances to achieve all 17 of the SDGs. All the “Active Schools for Peace and SDGs” receive the tools, trainings and professional support to learn the art of slowing down and creating daily “Micro-Breaks for Peace” in order to come into one self, to sink into one’s consciousness from head to heart, and to breathe softly, directly into one’s hearts. From the peaceful, loving space in the heart, all have natural access to a new level of consciousness--inner balance, heart coherence, opening to far greater universal intelligence and to higher wisdom and knowledge. Heart breathing is a real door to which allows one to rise naturally from a stress and fear level to a new level of heart-based caring and supportive collective solutions. 69
The inaugurated Peace Trees beautifully operate as children’s best friends and coaches, helping to remind them of their greatness, abundant talents and inner peaceful nature. The “Active Schools for Peace and SDGs” create new partnerships on local and international levels through the worldwide Peace Trees network. Daily, they make the same concrete experience of the 5 pillars of the 17 SDGs: Planet - Peace – Partnerships – Populations – Prosperity, to make new possibilities of living and working together come alive on earth. Today, thousands of youth worldwide reconnect with their Peace Trees, with trees and nature, breathing in consciousness and creating new breathing exercises/games, reconnecting with the love energy in their hearts and share loving peace doves in support. They create artwork, research and undertake innovative class actions for the well-being of others and our planet, for achieving the SDGs, for celebrating life, progress and our collective success. Special trained local Peace Tree Coaches support them to integrate these new habits and valorize their actions within entire communities.
Our experience is that the practices of the Peace Trees Program are very helpful for children and all communities who are experiencing stress, in Northern countries as well as those experiencing post-war and post trauma situations, in refugees camps, in conflict zones or in areas experiencing severe deprivations, illnesses, extreme poverty and precarious predestination. The Peace Trees Program helps them to again feel solidly rooted and secure, to raise self-love and confidence and to become active and creative in their difficult situation. We have observed how they help the other children and adults around them recover inner balance, comfort, health and well-being. It is very touching how some of them celebrated Peace or Christmas with the local UN Blue Helmets around their Peace Trees. Her Majesty, Queen Mathilde of Belgium, who was nominated by the UN as official defender of the SDGs, expressed her support of this program and follows the children in Belgium relating to their Peace Trees Project. We thank Denise Scotto, Committee Chair in addition to the entire International Day of Yoga Committee at the UN for their important work and for including our video of “Love Time” –showing a little Peace Trees practice, covered by Paul Luftenegger’s song “My Heart” --on the Committee’s International Day of Peace September 2018 celebratory event. That day, more than 10,000 Active Children from around the world connected in their hearts to celebrate Peace and the SDGs around their Peace Trees together, as the Secretary General of the UN rang the “International Peace Bell”.
YOGA & THE WORK OF THE UNITED NATIONS
This International Program is in service of the UN, Governments, Mayors, NGOs, civil societies and educational teams willing to implement efficient solutions to foster, maintain and educate sustainable peace and the achievement of the SDGs. We are delighted to invite them to a creative Peace Tree inauguration with local communities or to live with the children the fascinating “Story of the Peace Trees with Magic Powers”. Collective funds are needed to support the development of the local International Peace Trees Program for SDGs in various countries. Women have an important role to play in this and we wish to involve the First Ladies of the UN countries to together become ‘God Mothers’ of the International Peace Trees Program for SDGs. It is a beautiful way to support all the “Active Children for Peace and SDGs” and their communities in their countries in the achievement of sustainable solutions for the youngest and future generations. VIDEOS :
Children invite to celebrate international day of Peace
9000 children celebrated International Day of Peace -21th of September
Sabine DEVLIEGER Contact: email@example.com - Coach, trainer, educational and clinical psychologist - Founder and international coordinator of the International Research and Training Center of NGO Peace and Kindness in Action - Author of “The International Peace Trees Program for SDGs”
NOTE: The International Peace Trees Program for SDGs is actually implemented in schools in France, Belgium, Switzerland, DR of Congo, Burundi, Togo, Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey, Canada, Reunion Island. Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Cameroon, Nigeria, Madagascar, Vietnam, Tahiti, Luxembourg, Israel, Palestine, USA, Argentina, Brazil are joining. Hundreds of teachers in Algeria and Arabian countries will be trained in March 2019 and supported by the local Peace Trees Coaches, who are specially trained and supported by our international team. All these local educational teams are willing to improve school climate, offer quality education for all children in their countries, and involve them in the achievement of the SDGs.
IDY Committee at the UN Fosters Community by Vivian Pappas
I was contacted about contributing to Light on Light E-Magazine 2019 Special Edition on Martin Luther King Jr’s holiday. The first and most appropriate word that came to mind on such an important day was LOVE. Because the International Day of Yoga Committee at the United Nations IS all about a community of love. Participating in the many events for me is a reminder that there is a lot of caring, compassion and altruism out there in the world, even if it is not always visible. We just need to find the right “channels” to be able to see it. These committee events are a way to connect with people that not only care about making the world better but they also are a way for people to share their wisdom and talents; where tears are shed through one’s music or uplifting words; where we find a gateway to many different worlds that at the same time are one; and where we feel a safe place with beautiful souls coming together. The reason why yoga is so popular and, it’s becoming more and more so, is because it is effective. People are faced with a lot of heaviness with what is happening globally these days and need a way to counter pessimism. Practicing yoga brings people into a ‘clear’ space, like when you execute a perfect dive headfirst--where the waters seem to split to make space for you to effortlessly “fly”. You just want to go ahead and do it again to experience that feeling over and over. Practicing yoga brings you to that space where ideas flow; where your hand can’t go as fast as your mind; where solutions to problems are revealed making you feel you were worried too much. It is that special space where you are you, and, where you realize there is more to you than the physical self. And, the international Day of Yoga Committee at the UN is promoting exactly this--spreading the knowledge and the hope and creating a place where, amongst this nice community of people, faith in humanity is restored. And, the beauty of it all is that one needs not be a VIP to participate. One only needs to feel it in one’s heart. It is that connection to oneself through yoga that leads to connecting with the true self, humanity, all creatures, the totality of life.
Vivian Pappas is a globetrotter who from an early age decided to get to know the world through learning languages and eventually living, working or studying in over 15 cities in 7 countries in 3 continents. Even though she is fluent in five languages and manages in another two, she has come to learn through practicing yoga that silence -and a heartfelt smile- is another great way of communication. Privileged to have been introduced to yoga by BK Anthony Strano, she is doing her best to make the world a better place through simple acts of kindness and volunteering with immigrants. 72
YOGA & THE WORK OF THE UNITED NATIONS
Yogic Light on Global Economic Inequality by Dr. jLTg Holo
On January 21, 2019, I read an unsettling report by Oxfam published in Time Magazine which announced that the top 26 billionaires in the world have wealth equal to the world’s poorest 3.8 billion people or approximately 50% of humanity! While global economic inequality is mind-boggling and difficult to truly comprehend, its effects are real as countless people are unable to get basic healthcare or primary education. The report stated that, “Governments are exacerbating inequality by underfunding public services, such as healthcare and education, on the one hand, while under taxing corporations and the wealthy.” How many of us learned from CBSnews.com, 1/21/19 that, “a 0.5 percent increase in taxes on the richest individuals would raise enough money to educate the 262 million children, who currently don’t receive an education, and provide health care that would save 3.3 million people from preventable deaths.”? Global economic inequality is an extremely complex, pervasive phenomenon, comparable to a cosmic black hole against which even the light of ethics and reason seems powerless. Questions that come to my mind are: Can even the light of yoga defeat this black hole of cosmic greed among humanity? Will humanity destroy itself under the weight of its ever expanding avarice and ignorance? In the end, I believe that the light of yoga and the wisdom of the world’s spiritual traditions guiding humanity beyond materialism may be humankind’s best chance at survival and true prosperity for all. The pressure of our global economic inequality may become unbearable, as automation creates greater and greater disparities of wealth and tremendous global suffering. We, as a species, may be finally forced to open our eyes to this modern form of slavery with its invisible but real chains that bind and punish. Is this global economic inequality really equal to slavery? Most of us are lulled into a sense of complacency regarding this devastating economic scourge on humanity because we cannot readily and easily see its effects in our daily lives. The elaborate web of financial transactions happens invisibly, with production of cheap products occurring in one third of the world’s factories where the daily exploitation of millions of uneducated poor do not seem to offend a sense of justice. Further complicating the issue is widespread applause of the uber-rich and a deepest wish for gigantic financial success. 99% of the population give power and praise to those who create vast inequalities of wealth, and, it is us, who are just as responsible for this economic slavery as the masters of this slavery themselves. Before we criticize the 1% for their wealth, let us first look to ourselves for our unabashed support and glorification of wealth which resulted in a billionaire becoming elected as the President in the USA. Yoga and other spiritual traditions point to a deeper reality--a deeper joy beyond materialism. As humanity begins to become more and more crushed by its greed on every level of our being, both personally and ecologically, we will be forced to reevaluate our present glorification of wealth, the golden calf of our age, in this Kali Yuga. The power of yoga and other mystical traditions reveal how true happiness is not to be found in gold, or, for that matter, in any material or mental reality. We must transcend both body and mind in order to reach true human happiness firmly rooted in the Divine. This is why reason is unable to enter the gates of heaven. In the story of the Divine Comedy, Virgil can only lead Dante to the gates of heaven, and, at the same time, it is only divine love, which transcends both body and mind, which can lead Dante to enter through the gates of heaven. To paraphrase Pascal, the heart has reasons which reason doesn’t know, for reason is limited and cannot transcend its subject/object duality of ignorance. 73
When I was a young man, many moons ago in the 1980’s, I still recall reading from the UN report on world poverty that the root cause of poverty wasn’t a scarcity of resources, but a scarcity of caring! This simple fact, free of academic jargon pierced my heart in its clarity and honesty. The problem of global economic slavery will not be solved by any revolution, political government, economic theory, or even the UN, unless the hearts of people are radically changed via a spiritual transformation as envisioned by yoga and other mystical traditions. As suggested by Einstein, a problem cannot be solved at the level of the problem. We cannot change our global economic slavery until we are free of greed by realizing there is a deeper happiness in wisdom and in union with the Divine, the Source of all life. When we recognize the true gold of life, when we embrace the wisdom of all spiritual paths, which lead to the same center as experienced by Ramakrishna, then we will have a chance to heal the world fundamentally and to realize the essence of Indian spirituality which is Thou Are THAT.
Dr. jLTg Holo is an integrative, holistic mystic and doctor of Chinese medicine. jLTg’s (pronounced Jay-Light-Gee) was adopted from South Korea when his American mother had an inspired vision of his face on the cross during a religious service, which is documented in his spiritual video with his mother. At the age of 14, jLTg had a spontaneous mystical experience of the void and by 19 years old, he was graced with the experience of the Divine as a column of a thousand suns. Dr. jLTg is a new member of the International Day of Yoga Committee. https://www.holopeace.com
YOGA & HEALTH
Power of Intentionality in the Context of the Brahma Kumaris Raja Yoga Meditation by by Shvetank Shvetank Agarwal, Agarwal, MD, MD, FASE FASE
More than two decades ago in Italy, Giacomo Rizzolatti and his team, during their experiments on monkeys discovered special cells in the prefrontal cortex of the monkey’s brains, called mirror neurons. These cells seemed to respond similarly when a certain action was performed or was simply observed by the monkey. Although very controversial, these cells are now being implicated in the ability to understand other people’s minds and intentions! It is well-known that the pre-frontal cortex is probably the most evolved part of the human brain is involved in numerous higher executive functions. It has also recently been demonstrated that long-term meditators have increased prefrontal cortical thickness. (Lazar SW. et al. Neuroreport. 2005 Nov 28; 16(17): 1893–1897) This could imply that meditators would have a more enhanced functionality of mirror neurons and therefore more accurate ability to “experience” other’s intentions. We decided to test this hypothesis on a group of Brahma Kumaris Raja Yoga Meditation practitioners at Peace Village. Nestled quietly in the Catskill mountains lies this beautiful spiritual retreat center run by the Brahma Kumaris, a spiritual organization with headquarters in Mt Abu, Rajasthan, India. During the Thanksgiving Holiday weekend, a group of meditation practitioners and teachers came together to learn from each other and to explore different dimensions of the meditation practice. Due to the short notice, only 6 meditation practitioners could be recruited. The age ranged from 15 to 70 years and the duration of meditation practice was 5 years to 20 plus years. They were taken to a quiet meditation room free from any noise or distractions. They were divided into two groups of 3. Group A would be the “experience-generating” group and Group B would be the “experience-perceiving” group. One of the components of Raja Yoga meditation practice is to stabilize oneself in one of the five states of consciousness, allowing the practitioner to switch between those states at will. These states are, the “bodiless, soul state”, the “perfect, vice-less state,” the “bestower of blessings state,” the “ego-less effort-maker state,” and, finally, the “world-server state.”
Stabilizing the mind for long periods of time in one or more of these states becomes possible when combined with the practice of connecting with God; not in a traditional religious manner but in a novel spiritual way by forging a living relationship with the Divine Energy. This is one of the most important tenets of Raja Yoga meditation. The members of the Group A were asked to pull out one the five cards on which these 5 states have been written and then sit in meditation for 10 minutes creating the experience of that state. The members of Group B were asked to also sit in meditation and try to tune in to the experience that the members of group A were creating. After 10 minutes, the Group B members were given a small piece of paper and asked to write on it which state the Group A members were creating and to make sure that they write in a way that others in their group could not see. Interestingly, all members of Group B had written “ego-less effort-maker state”, the same as what the group A was asked to experience! These implications of this tiny experiment are profound. Thoughts and intentions can be compared to drops of energy which like light and sound can be transmitted locally and over great distances. In a universe where energy is the basis of all existence, our intentions in the form of vibrational energy can affect and influence everything around us and therefore can be picked up and recognized by others. By being mindful of our own thoughts, while connecting to The Highest Source of Energy, God and intentionally directing our thoughts towards a more elevated state of vibrational frequency, we change the flow of energy through and around us. Our world currently is dominated by chaos, negativity and peace-lessness, but if we can create positive feelings of peace, love and kindness within us, we can help others around us and across the world experience the same feelings, thereby serving them. We intend to repeat this experiment in a larger and more scientifically controlled setting in the near future, so stay tuned...!
Shvetank Agarwal, MD, FASE is an Associate Professor and the chief of the division of cardiovascular anesthesia at the Augusta University Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine, Augusta, GA. He developed profound interest in exploring spirituality during his medical school days in India and avidly started practicing Raja Yoga meditation with the Brahma Kumaris. His vision for a paradigm shift in health care towards a more holistic approach has brought him closer to spirituality and he is actively involved in conducting mediation courses and self-realization workshops locally in Georgia/S. Carolina area and at Peace Village, the beautiful retreat center of the Brahma Kumaris, nestled in the Catskill mountains in Upstate New York. 75
Thalamic Gating: How Yoga Heals Pain
by Deborah Norris, Ph.D., C-IAYT, E-RYT 500
The gateway to consciousness is believed to be a small central region of the brain called the thalamus, just below the cerebral cortex. The thalamus receives information from the vagus nerve which extends through most of the body. It then serves as a filter for the cortex, blocking irrelevant information and admitting information it deems important. The cortex is where sensory information becomes a conscious sensate experience. There are cortical regions for sensations of noise, light,aromas, tastes, touch, and for sensations arising from the heart, the gut, and elsewhere. It seems that the vagus nerve, thalamus and cortex interpret information from all our organs as sensory information, even processing information about our circulatory system, inflammation and pain. Though the thalamus can block most of these sensations from entering our consciousness, practiced awareness, as in mindfulness exercise, allows us to strengthen these neural connections, enhance our sensate experience, become more aware, and to regulate these processes. Sensory information gathered from the body by the vagus nerve is channeled through the brainstem to the thalamus. As the gateway to consciousness, the thalamus then chooses which information is relevant to process, and which information to block from our conscious awareness. For example, the thalamus blocks white noise, constant irrelevant background noise. We can tune out background noise, like the sound of an air conditioner, or we can tune in to it, and the sound enters our conscious awareness. I define mindfulness as being in a state of curious awareness of the sensate experience of being. When we practice yoga, and related mindfulness exercises, and adopt a state of curious awareness, we invite the opening of the Thalamic Gates to our consciousness. Attending to the body in yoga affects the processing of information into our conscious awareness. Activating pathways through the vagus nerve causes these neural fibers to grow, thus making us more attuned to the sensations of the body â€“ we feel more alive. We become more mindful. In addition to the conscious awareness that occurs when sensory information is passed through the Thalamic Gates, the cortex also serves other functions. The cerebral cortex is responsible for coordinating the many reflexive functions of the body. Reflexes, by definition, occur without input from the cortex, like breathing, a heartbeat, or the patellar knee-jerk reflex. The brainâ€™s role is to mute certain reflexes and allow others, thus coordinating function and behavior. For example, when you regulate your breathing in pranayama, the cortex overrides reflexive breathing and you choose how to coordinate your breath. The cortical potential to coordinate reflexive actions involves all our muscles. Breathing, and for those who practice, even cardiovascular and digestive functions may receive functional direction from the cortex of the brain. 76
YOGA & HEALTH The thalamic pathways are a two-way highway. When the Thalamic Gates are open, and the cortex has access to the rest of the body, coordination of our behavior and the many functions of our body may be regulated by the cortex. When the Thalamic Gates are closed, the cortex does not have access to send coordinating instructions back to the body. We lose our ability to maintain function, balance and homeostasis. Studies have shown that severing the vagus pathways that regulate inflammation results in uncontrolled inflammation throughout the body. When sensory information about inflammatory pain is blocked from our consciousness, uncontrolled inflammation occurs. The body is left to function on reflexes, and the reflex is to turn on inflammation. Many studies have shown that practiced curious awareness of sensations of pain and inflammation enhances our ability to regulate pain and reduce inflammation. Yoga heals us by inviting us to attend to the sensations of the body. Whether balancing on one foot or resting in Savasana, curious awareness invites the Thalamic Gates to open. Consciousness expands, and the brain has access to restore function and coordinate healing of the body. Judgement is the process of selecting what information to allow in, and what information to block from the consciousness. Non-judgmental, curious awareness is the practice of allowing all information through the Thalamic Gates, non-selectively. Though we typically block pain as a “bad” sensation, even pain can remind us that we are alive. Permitting sensations of pain to pass through the thalamus, and exploring pain in curious awareness, allows the cortex to coordinate the healing response in the specific region of the pain. Understanding Thalamic Gating allows us to understand the adaptive function of pain. Pain serves to bring our attention to an area of the body that needs a coordinated response. When we ignore pain, it speaks louder. When we attend to it, pain resolves. Practicing mindfulness means being in a curious state of awareness, thus inviting the Thalamic Gateways of the brain to open. Non-judgmental curious awareness means opening our consciousness to any and all sensations that we may be prepared to receive. Yoga heals us of pain and other ailments by inviting sensory experiences into the brain, through the Thalamic Gates and into our cortical consciousness. Once the Thalamic Gates are opened, the conscious brain has access to coordinate the healing functions of the body.
Deborah Norris, PhD, C-IAYT, E-RYT500 is Founder of The Mindfulness Center™, based in Washington, D.C., author of In the Flow: Bridging the Science and Practice of Mindfulness, and numerous published chapters and articles. She is Editor-in-Chief of MindBodyJournal.com. A neuroscientist by training, Dr. Norris is Psychologist-in-Residence and Founder/Director of the Psychobiology of Healing Program at American University, and past professor at Georgetown University Medical School. Internationally renowned for her online meditation teacher-training program, SOMA, The Science of Mindful Awareness, Dr. Norris is an acclaimed speaker and educator on mindfulness, yoga therapy, and integrative mind-body medicine. 77
Is There Another Way to Deal with Cancer? A Phenomenological Research on Brahma Kumaris Meditation Practitioners
by Dr. Kanishtha Agarwal
Recent statistics have shown a prominent increase in the incidence of cancer across the entire world. For many years, cancer diagnosis was considered to be equivalent to a death sentence, but with the recent scientific advances, longevity of cancer patients has improved, resulting in an exponential increase in the number of cancer survivors. According to the cancer treatment and survivorship report of 2016-17 presented by the American Cancer Society (2016), the number of U.S. cancer survivors will rise from the current 15.5 million to nearly 20.3 million by January of 2026, with almost 10 million males and 10.3 million females. The most common responses to cancer diagnosis are denial, anger, fear, anxiety and/or depression due to overall uncertainty and the perceived complications of the disease and its treatment. Since this illness is gaining momentum at such a fast speed, a question arises - is there a better way to deal with it that can change the response of the patient towards the disease in a positive way rather than drowning the self in a sea of negative emotions? Existing research on cancer survivors suggests the dire need for spiritual care and the benefit of spiritual well-being in coping with cancer-related health issues. The spiritual roots of medicine have resurfaced in the medical fields leading to incorporation of spirituality and health into the curricula of more than 75% of U.S. medical schools. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) defined spirituality as: “An individual’s search for ultimate meaning through participation in religion and/or belief in God, family, naturalism, rationalism, humanism, and the arts. All of these factors can influence how patients and healthcare professionals perceive health and illness and how they interact with one another”. As per the International Consensus Conference of Palliative Care: “spirituality is a dynamic and intrinsic aspect of humanity through which persons seek ultimate meaning, purpose, and transcendence, and experience relationship to self, family, others, community, society, nature, and the significant or sacred. Spirituality is expressed through beliefs, values, traditions, and practices”. Studies have demonstrated that spirituality brings one close to his or her true inner self and strengthens the relationship with a Higher Power along with increasing hope and resilience. This has greatly helped cancer survivors deal with the life-threatening illness. Spiritual models have also been developed to facilitate a better understanding of the spiritual experiences of cancer survivors. 78
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In order to gain a deeper understanding of the role of soulfulness meditation in the life of cancer survivors, I recently conducted a qualitative research study on cancer survivors. In this study, I chose a qualitative inquiry with interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) approach. The aim in IPA research focuses upon understanding people’s experience of an event or a state of being, how the individual makes sense of his or her experience, as well as the researcher’s own experience of the individual who makes an attempt to make sense of his or her experience. The purpose of IPA is to explore an individual’s lived experiences and perceptions by focusing on their cognitive, linguistic, affective, and physical being. All the participants in my study were long-term (more than 10 years) Brahma Kumaris Raja Yoga meditation practitioners at the time of their cancer diagnosis. Brahma Kumaris Raja Yoga Meditation is a form of spiritually focused meditation with the aim of achieving self-mastery over the mind by connecting with the true, positive, nurturing, and loving part of the self. A total of six participants with history of cancer diagnosis were recruited from the Brahma Kumaris centers across the North America, South America and Australia. I personally interviewed all the participants in an in-depth, and open-ended manner. The interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed and analyzed using Smith and Osborn’s (2008) approach to IPA. After thorough analysis of the data, I was able to identify several themes. My earlier pilot study on cancer survivors in Brahma Kumaris Raja Yogis had allowed me to extract the following novel themes: (a) soul consciousness, (b) awareness of eternity, (c) lack of fear, (d) being happy no matter what, and (e) becoming an inspirational model. In the present study, the major themes identified were (a) mental stability and clarity, (b) spiritual connection and self-empowerment, (c) personal relationships with God, (d) healing practices, e) empowering support system, (f) positive health outcomes, and (g) post-cancer spiritual growth. These themes demonstrated a profound positive response of the Raja Yogis towards cancer, which enabled them to face their cancer with ease and stability, free from any negativity. I was also able to categorize some new themes not previously mentioned in any previous studies on cancer survivors which included, (i) daily spiritual education (Murli), (ii) healing environment, (iii) maintaining the same spiritual routine amidst cancer therapy, (iv) soul consciousness (in the context of cancer), (v) detachment, and (vi) spiritual silence. I observed that the long-term practice of Raja Yoga meditation as taught by the Brahma Kumaris enabled these cancer survivors to stay mentally stable and clear and therefore, positive, and face their health challenges with fortitude. In conjunction with their spiritual connectedness, they were able to maintain inner stability and calmness, which allowed them to make clear decisions about their further treatment. Their close and personal relationship with God infused them with hope, courage, and protection from the adverse effects of cancer disease as well as therapy. They used the healing practices like “harnessing the healing power of spiritual thoughts”, “soul consciousness”, “detachment”, “healing visualization to connect with God” as well as “spiritual silence” to empower themselves as well as to stay positive and calm as they received their cancer treatment. The empowering support system which included spiritual family, health professionals, daily spiritual education (Murli), support from God as well as a healing environment also enabled them to move forward in their cancer journey with ease. Due to their positive outlook towards life, they were able to bring about many positive health outcomes like fast recovery and maintaining the same spiritual routine amidst cancer therapy. Besides health benefits, cancer brought about remarkable spiritual growth in various dimensions of their lives and contributed to post-cancer spiritual growth in the form of self-realization, a more virtuous way of living, altruism as well as becoming an inspirational model. The results of this study might help to create awareness among cancer patients that cancer can be more peacefully and effectively navigated with increased self-awareness, self-empowerment and self-transformation, by a spiritually focused meditation technique like Brahma Kumaris Raja Yoga. If started early on at the time of cancer diagnosis, it can improve the quality of life and well-being in cancer survivors as well as reduce healthcare cost by decreasing cancer related complications.
Kanishtha Agarwal is a former pediatrician from India and currently based in South Carolina. She completed her Master’s in Public Health from Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan and then went on to pursue her PhD in Mind-Body-Medicine from Saybrook University, Oakland, California. Her deep interest in spirituality has paved her way towards learning Brahma Kumaris Raja Yoga meditation, which she has been practicing for the past nineteen years.
The Role of Yoga & Ayurveda: Summary from the International Conference on Integrative Medicine at Harvard Medical School, Boston
by Dr Gregor Kos
On 22 June 2018, a delegation of Yoga in Daily Life representatives from several countries, many of them yoga instructors and health professionals, attended the 3rd International Conference on Integrative Medicine: the Role of Yoga and Ayurveda, at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. The event was organized by the Boston Center of Excellence for Health and Human Development, in conjunction with the Consulate General of India, New York; Massachusetts General Hospital; S-VYASA Deemed University; Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at UCSF; and other respected research institutes. The Conference was a great platform for exchanging knowledge and experience. More importantly, it emphasized the important topic of Integrative Medicine at this high-level symposium. It showed noticeable differences regarding the official recognition of Integrative Medicine in various parts of the World concluding that recognition is best in the US. Other parts of the World, mainly the EU, are not keen to implement the 2014 Guidelines by the World Health Organization (WHO) to adopt Traditional Medicine within National Health Systems. Particularly in Europe, with exemption of Germany, Austria and some other countries, the pharmaceutical industry is strongly pushing against complementary and integrative medicine so that it is not recognized or practiced officially. One can only pity this kind of behavior since it is not in the best interest of patients. Rather, it is only in the best (short-term) interest of the company in increasing their capital. Yoga in Daily Life founder & author Vishwaguru Mahamandaleshwar Paramhans Sri Swami MaheshwaranadaJi was among the opening speakers. He emphasized the importance of yoga and ayurveda for the well-
being of all humanity and the importance of traditional wisdom and medicine for today’s world. He spoke on yoga as a path to health and inner peace pointing out the benefits of healthy food, clean water and a healthy environment, for a high quality of life. He explained that the crucial human energy center for obtaining good health is the manipura chakra, which can be purified through the regular practice of yogic exercises. Dr. H. R. Nagendra, president of S-VYASA Deemed University, also addressed the audience and spoke about the importance of yoga and ayurveda, being not limited only to the physical world, as is allopathic medicine of the West, but also focusing on prana (life force), the mind and the soul. The conference continued with symposiums: ‘Application of Ayurveda in Oncology and Palliative Care’; ‘Genomics of Integrative Oncology’; ‘Ayurveda and Yoga’; and ‘Yoga Therapy in Cancer and Palliative Care’. Scientists of various backgrounds and research centers, spoke about the enormous benefits of integrating yoga and ayurveda in treatment of patients with cancer and those in palliative care. The second day started with an inspiring ‘Mind-SoundResonance Technique’ meditation led by long-time friend of Yoga in Daily Life, Dr. H.R. Nagendra, who guided the audience through inner and outer aspects of OM chanting. In the afternoon session, Yoga in Daily Life addressed the subject, ‘Scientific Effects of Yoga in Daily Life – Evidence-based Approach and Policy Impact’. Extensive scientific research by a Slovenian research team Dr. Dejan Dinevski and Dr. Tine Kovačič was presented. Two scientific research projects are underway by Dr. Dinevski: ‘Yoga and pregnancy outcomes’ and ‘Effects of yoga and meditation in primary school’, whereas Dr. Kovačič’s projects focus on: ‘Impact of Yoga in Daily Life yoga nidra relaxation on the mental health of breast cancer patients’, 80
YOGA & HEALTH ‘Impact of the Yoga in Daily Life system on quality of life in postmenopausal women’, and ‘Impact of sport activity training with the use of Yoga in Daily Life techniques on physical fitness in adolescents with intellectual disabilities’.
Link on the conference: https://oshercenter.org/oc-event/3rd-international-conference-onintegrative-medicine-presents-the-role-of-ayurveda-and-yoga-incancer-and-palliative-care/
Scientific research projects (more than 42, all proving positive effects of Yoga practice) made by a Czech Republic and Slovak Republic scientific team (Martin Repko, Vít Čaika, Alena Filková, Alena Filková, Zuzana Kornatovská, Peter Růžička, Anna Galovičová, Roman Bednár) were also presented at the conference, as well as the research of Viera Diešková, Jana Dudinska, Martin Frolo and Milan Šišmiš. These were demonstrated in content-related blocks: “Yoga in Daily Life and mental health”; “Yoga and physical fitness”; “Yoga and cardiopulmonary condition”; “Yoga and metabolic/endocrine condition”; “Yoga and musculoskeletal condition” and “Yoga and specific diseases”.
Conference speakers: http://indoushealth.com/invited-speakers.html
Another subject was policy impact. We explained the significance of the Swiss model, in which European complementary and integrative medicine is part of the Public Health System. ‘2013 WHO traditional medicine strategy: 2014-2023’ aims to support member states in developing proactive policies and implementing action plans to strengthen the role traditional medicine plays in keeping populations healthy. While it should have been implemented in the EU, regrettably, it seems that there is no relevant data on implementation. The Harvard conference was also a perfect podium for introducing AYUSH Europe– an organization established for the quality assurance and standardization (of education and techniques) in the fields of yoga and ayurveda in Europe. Currently, AYUSH Europe is focusing on scientific cooperation where initial international research projects are to be implemented in 2019. The International Conference on Integrative Medicine was concluded with a public event on conference topics at MIT. It is, I believe, a common wish of participants that Integrative Medicine continues to be a topic of high-profile international scientific conferences. And, even more importantly, to become part of national health-care systems around the World. Scientific findings undoubtedly provide the evidence which substantiates this. As Ms Gemma Burford (2009) stated: “The right of citizens to access the medical system of their choice should be formally acknowledged. That choice should be regarded as a fundamental human right, which should, by no circumstances, be denied them – not for reasons of scientific prejudice, nor commercial ambition.”
Dr. Gregor Kos, is Former Secretary-General, Ministry of Education, Science and Sport, Republic of Slovenia, European Union. He is the Secretary, Yoga in Daily Life, Secretary-General, World Yoga Union and Executive Director, Sri Swami Madhavananda World Peace Council. He is also the co-president of the political party “For Healthy Society”, the only political party with its program point on the need to implement Integrative and Comparative Medicine in the national healthcare system in the Republic of Slovenia, European Union.
Yogic Principles at the Root of Cutting Edge Body-based Personal Growth Methods by Caryn Scotto d’ Luzia, Developer of Empowered Self Relating
Now more than ever, we crave the proverbial breadcrumb trails that lead us back to ourselves, our embodied nature, and our true connection to oneness consciousness that lie at the basis of yoga.
panacea in a constantly changing world that bombards with input or calls to action for “doing more” while beingness, the very core of who we are, drains away.
After all, we encounter the regenerative aspects of life less the more alienated we live from the bio-rhythms of our own nature, and the more enthralled we become in our efforts to keep up with the incredible pace and needs that are often not our own, rather the makings of a logic-centric, tech-mimicked, always-on, 24/7 world.
There is no way to find our feet, feel our alignment, experience inner peace or a sense of internal integrity if we are drawn so entirely out of our natural orbits.
It’s no wonder in these ever-accelerating times our personal growth forests are a profusion of yogic principles in crosspollination with western holistic wisdom often forming the basis of our latest and most cutting-edge approaches to greater mental, psychological and spiritual wholeness and well-being. The personal growth world has woken up to the reality—yoga is one of the most profoundly effective human technologies for self and societal advancement in existence. Having myself been a student of Hatha, Iyengar and Ashtanga Yoga in the 1980’s, and Yogi Bhajan’s Kundalini Yoga teachings in New Mexico, I caught the yoga bug and brought Hatha as a yoga of self-relating to folks in the 1990’s. Not unlike the larger personal growth field, I found myself incorporating fundamental yoga principles I had internalized into my own body-based, neurobiological-informed trauma recovery and shame resolving models: Empowered Self Relating and AST Model of Holistic Shame Resolution. Yoga’s good ole call for proper alignment (physical and nonphysical), internal integrity, or even ‘finding your feet’ is a
One of the Godsend’s of yoga in the West has been an aspect that inadvertently stumbled out of the ashram one night and into the lap of neuroscience spawning a love child of the personal growth world so relevant to tempering our experiences of our ‘always on’ lifestyles-- it has become indispensable to anyone’s personal growth work. I am referring to the notion of regulation as it implies having a smoothly functioning nervous system, one that is balanced in its sympathetic and parasympathetic tones. This allows us humans a kind of cache in the processing of our body and mind so our flexible, fresh-in-the-moment, and nonpatterned or less traumatic responses can engage with the world and people around us. In the yoga I have learned and taught, we might arrive at this ‘tabula rasa’, beginner’s mind or fresh slate, a variety of ways: by practicing fire breathe, a head stand pose, engaging a hand mudra, or focusing our mind’s attention on a point in the distance or a drishti. The fact that yoga asks, demands and inspires us to seek and arrive at a brand-new moment each moment, a NOW of presence, or renewed possibility with each breath, has created an anchor from which neuroscience has docked his vessels of self-help. 82
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In my own models of inner harmony and re-embodied life, I developed a practice called Rainstick™ that pays homage to the walking, waking, smiling, tabula rasa moment by offering people a way to ‘reset’ or rebalance their sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems and bring themselves quickly and pleasantly back into a regulated experience of themselves. But it is the higher vision of yoga that makes this kind of self-regulation truly inspiring and life-affirming, as much a part of nature a branch or petal. It is the understanding that we seek the beginner mind, balance, proper inner alignment, the now presence, or as I offer it “reset’ not as a means to do more, but to be fully. Under the tutelage of something other than yoga, this vital practice and principle would be used as a fuel to perpetuate more doing rather than a means to harness greater human potential and self-realization. Whether we realize it or not, the mainstreaming of yoga in the West, has greatly informed our approach to ourselves, how we interpret the science we discover and how we are developing solutions to our oldest and most recent challenges to our human condition. Yogi Bhajan once said that it is not the physical poses that make a person a yogi though they provide important training, rather it is the approach the person takes to things. After a century of being introduced to Yoga in the West, we are approaching ourselves with a greater understanding of what we as whole and self-realizing beings deeply need. More people every day turn to yoga to balance the current impulse for material needs with those, of what is for them, of greater essence and oneness. We have yoga to thank for that.
Caryn Scotto d’ Luzia is one of a handful of definitive developers of life-changing techniques for personal growth. For over two decades, she has helped both the general public and therapists, counselors and coaches all over the world transform their relationships with inner disharmony, inhibition, shame, trauma, sexuality, spirituality, and embodiment. Her embodied techniques are used widely in schools, at disaster sites, and in post-terrorist attacks. As a former yoga teacher, Caryn bridges timeless yogic principles and practices with cutting-edge findings in neuroscience and somatic psychology, having taught widely on the West Coast, Europe and now in the NYC area. She is teaching a weekend workshop Embrace Your Humanness at the Omega Institute, Rhinebeck, NY, June 21st-23rd and is back at the NY Open Center teaching Getting on Your Good Side, a 6 week experiential course this Fall Sept 25th to Oct 30th! For one-on-one work, she offers breakthrough skype sessions, and 3 day in person intensives on both coasts and in NYC from mid-Nov to end of Dec. To learn more about Caryn’s work see: www.empoweredselfrelating.com
Copyright © 2019, SOAR GLOBAL INSTITUTE, all rights reserved
Yoga Gives Relief by Zoe LePage
I found yoga as a senior in high school. I was in search of relief from my own mind, which was plagued by fear, anxiety, and depression. Nothing had worked, and, then, yoga did. On my mat, I felt strong and safe in my body. So, during college when I was given the assignment of creating a social impact project to change the world, I knew I wanted it to involve yoga. I had access to yoga when I needed it most and was aware that not everyone has this privilege. Given the experience of several of my loved ones, I knew that domestic and sexual violence are more common than many people realize - â€œ1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men will experience severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime. (CDC, 2017).â€? I set out in the spring of 2013 with a simple yet bold aim - to bring the healing power of yoga to survivors of domestic and sexual violence, especially to those who would benefit from the practice, yet, those might not otherwise have access to it. Five and a half years later, Exhale to Inhale (ETI) is a bicoastal 501(c)3 organization that empowers those affected by domestic violence and sexual violence to transform their lives. ETI uses the healing practice of trauma-informed yoga to empower survivors, while helping communities to develop skills and knowledge to support them. We provide weekly trauma-informed yoga classes in Domestic Violence Shelters and Rape Crisis Centers and conduct teacher trainings across the United States in our trauma informed methodology. As of December 2018, we have hosted 1,663 yoga classes, served 2,343 unique individuals, and had 5,968 yoga visits (new and returning). At Exhale to Inhale, we believe that yoga is both a practice and a resource. Itâ€™s a practice that allows individuals to reconnect with physical body, to practice mindfulness, and to re-establish the connection to their inherent strength.
YOGA & HEALTH It is also a resource - something to draw on in moments of overwhelm - ‘can you feel your feet on the floor, can you notice your breath, you are here.’ Our classes are unique in that they are trauma-informed, designed to meet our students where they are. We have developed a methodology based on simplicity, safety, and choice making. Lights remain on, we demonstrate all the forms, we orient our students to face the doorway so they can see who enters the space, and we do not offer physical adjustments. Since the experience of trauma is often the experience of having choice taking from you, we invite our students to practice making choices on the mat - option A, option B, or you can do none of the above. We also normalize our students experience - because of the trauma they have experienced, they may be disconnected from physical sensation or the yoga practice may not “feel good,” - we reassure them that that is ok, they are not “doing it wrong”. Exhale to Inhale classes empower our students with more than just flexibility and strength. The ETI methodology has a significant impact on decreasing somatic symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder such as stomach aches, back pain, headaches, and difficulty sleeping. Outside of the yoga room in their day-to-day lives, our students are using breathing techniques, stretching, self-affirmations and poses, that they have learned in class to regulate their nervous systems. Our data shows that our students experience statistically significant improvements in stress levels, body discomfort, and agency from the beginning to the end of each class they attend - our students leave yoga less stressed, in less physical pain, and with a greater sense of their own ability to handle life. A clinician at one of our partner facilities shared with us, “Exhale to Inhale yoga classes have profound short-term and long-term impacts on the participants and on their physical and emotional well-being. One resident recently told her counselor that since beginning yoga classes, she feels calmer, has been able to make space for reflection, and her anxiety has significantly decreased. There is something deeply healing and grounding about Exhale to Inhale trauma-informed yoga that individual and group counseling alone cannot achieve.” It is because of our belief in the inherent resilience of survivors and our experience of the power of yoga that we are doing this work.
Zoë LePage is proud to be the Founder and Executive Director of Exhale to Inhale. Zoë found personal strength and comfort in yoga before completing her yoga teacher training in 2009. As a senior at Barnard College in 2013, she founded Exhale to Inhale. She spent three years as a consultant at a boutique consulting firm in New York City, before gratefully returning full time to Exhale to Inhale. She is committed to curiosity, and to choosing joy and gratitude. Zoë is thankful to all of her teachers both on and off the mat.
by Rae Chandran
From earliest time, and, in all cultures and religions, hand gestures to depict certain characteristics and certain qualities have been practiced and used. If you look at the statues of the many Gods and Goddess of India, you will find almost all of them holding their hands and fingers in â€˜Mudraâ€™ positions. The same is true in Egyptian culture and also in many of the mystery schools where the student is initiated into a certain order using mudras and sound. Many of the pictures and statues of Master Buddha depict the same- his hands holding a certain mudra position. Mudras are simply hand gestures. If held in a certain way, they can produce a different experience in the body, mind and soul; for mudras can create energy which can shift the consciousness held in the body and mind. Many a time, healing does not occur even after repeated visits to a healer or a doctor, or, healing happens for a short time only and then the sickness comes back. For healing to occur permanently, the healing must occur on the physical level as well as on the energetic level. Mudras have the capacity to shift the blocked energy, and, when this happens, physical healing occurs immediately. In many meditation practices, there are rules and norms to be followed- you must sit in a certain posture, keep your spine erect, cannot cross legs, etc. In many cases, people cannot simply sit and quiet their mind no matter how hard they try. Mudras can produce the same result as in meditation in much less time. For example, certain mudras can produce the state of EMPTY mind in less than 10 minutes. Other mudras, which when practiced consistently, can release certain habits and patterns while different mudras enable a person to understand their life purpose, find inner beauty and acceptance. So, simply put, mudras are an alternate form to achieve an altered state of consciousness in the fastest way. I would like to offer a few mudras which I encourage you to try. For best results, practice them for a minimum of 8 minutes. Pick one you feel drawn to, and, then, practice it for a few days for 8 minutes daily before moving on to the next one.
Unity of the mind and soul
Heaven and Earth
Collection of soul fragments and soul integration
I am one with Universal Law
I give and receive easily
Appreciation to Gaia
I am the goddess
Rae Chandran is a teacher, channeler and energy healer who has been on the path of Self Discovery for over three decades. He is the author of four books (DNA of the Spirit - Volume 1 and Volume 2, Partnering with Angels and Dance of Hands) of which all the contents are completely channeled. His messages regularly appear in the Channeled Magazine from US called Sedona Journal and also has been on many of the internet platforms in US, Europe and Asia. He has also been on the radio show in many countries. Rae also channels Symbols for healing and transformation and has channeled over 400 symbols. To know more about his work, please visit his website at: www.raechandran.com
YOGA & HEALTH
Yoga’s Impact within Professional Workplaces by Claudia Hagg
The most popular reasons for starting Yoga, is to relieve stress and increase flexibility. Popular data supports that the practice of Yoga has many health benefits, particularly for those who suffer back pain. More importantly, Yoga prompts introspection and mindfulness. Many of my colleagues ask themselves: “Would Yoga be something for me? A method to get rid of the back pain? A method to control my mind and thoughts? A method for reducing pain or anxiety? A method to reduce my everyday stress? Could it be something for me? …” Simultaneously, there may be doubts and hesitations, which could be deterrents to start with Yoga, such as: “I am not interested in ‘Om-ing’, chimes or other esoteric things! I am a down to earth professional!” Over the past decade, I have taught Yoga in New York and most of my students are professionals. I have been on this same journey. This is my personal story as a yogi practitioner turned Hatha-Yoga instructor. In 2005, following a long period of surgeries, and, in a moment of utter despair, I had decided to give Ayurveda a chance. I traveled to Kerala which is located in the most southern part of India. There, at an Ayurvedic hospital, I was introduced to Yoga. At this clinic, Yoga was “prescribed” to me by the senior doctor of the Ayurvedic hospital, as a means to teach me a path of ongoing physical and mental introspection leading to a healthier and more peaceful life. On staff, the hospital had a Hatha Yoga teacher licensed from the Sivananda Vedanta Center who began practicing Yoga with me on a daily basis for the next 6 months. The founder of all Sivananda Vedanta Yoga centers in the Americas, Swami Vishnudevananda, who was the senior disciple of Swami Sivananda, stated once that a habit is formed in 21 days, hence after I practiced Yoga in the hospital daily for 6 months, my new routine and habit was clearly established. In September 2005, I returned to New York with this new habit and other health lessons in mind. I resolved to incorporate these learned practices into my new chapter in life. Thankfully, I found 87
a Sivananda Vedanta Center in New York. Next to practicing Yoga myself, I began to volunteer in the center, which is known as Karma Yoga. This, loosely, translates to selfless service. Three years into this practice of Yoga, I attended a teacher training course to gain a Yoga Teacher’s certificate and began to teach at the New York center. And, there my journey of student and teacher melted together. How appropriate for me that the term Yoga from Sanskrit means to ‘join or yoke together,’ meaning Yoga as a form is bringing together the body and mind into one harmonious experience. And, I was bringing my worlds together! Yoga brings together these 5 core components: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.
Proper Exercise, Proper Breathing, Proper Relaxation, Proper Diet and Proper Positive Thinking/Mediation Breathing
I have observed in my students that the lack of proper breathing is a significant contributing factor to the individualistic experience of stress. When under stress, breathing becomes shallow and with that, the oxygen supply diminishes in the body. Shallow breathing negatively impacts the capability of thinking and reacting appropriately in such stress-filled/critical situations. Though an article cannot go into the depth needed to retrain a habit, focusing on breathing, alone, and observing one’s own diaphragm can be a great stress reducer, and can assist anyone at work, or anywhere, to “keep their cool” or regain it. Exercise Yoga is a form of exercise. Unique to Hatha Yoga, each practitioner is guided to observe a balance between motion (action) and rest (inaction). Physically, this helps to avoid that
muscles become so overextended or tired that afterwards the student would suffer from muscle aches or worse. Mentally, the switch between so-called asanas (positions) and resting poses help that the student maintains during the class a feeling of being grounded within himself/herself. This reduces risks of injury. As a teacher, I hope for students that the benefits of experiencing a sense of being grounded during the class along with its incumbent sensation of being completely alert, becomes, over time, a transferable lesson to other areas in their lives. Relaxation In terms of relaxation, and following my observations of students, I would like to note the obvious: human beings need sufficient sleep each day/night; otherwise, health and well-being is impacted negatively. Yoga is particularly helpful in learning to focus away from the stressors of our respective lives. A lack of sleep slows the metabolism and reduces the proper functioning of the immune system. Also, emotions are negatively impacted as well as the nervous system. Under such circumstances, the body alters its appetite and cravings. For example, the body asks for more sweets and carbohydrates when it has not rested. Diet As mentioned, diet is a big factor of well-being and often we are overwhelmed by the amount of advice publicly available. I remind my students of these timeless diet factors: eat with the seasons, eat fresh produce, avoid additives and, when you must eat at your desk, create a space and experience which resembles an aspect of mindfulness and kindness. Proper Positive Thinking/Meditation Practicing Yoga, and, when learning more difficult asanas can, in itself, be a great self ‘teaching moment’ of positive thinking. Why? Particularly, when an asana seems to take months to learn, I encourage students at times to employ the technique of visualization prior to attempting the given asana. This methodology helped many to bridge the waiting period (often months) between starting to learn an asana and achieving the moment when they can perform it. I noticed that students begin applying visualization to other parts of their lives creating positive results caused by positive thinking. With this type of transfer of lesson the student seemingly has discovered on his/her own that ‘Like attracts Like”.
Meditation Many students know that mediation is a practice to “still the mind” and to become single-minded and focused. Breath is an integral part of meditation. Deep and steady breathing ensures the proper oxygen supply for the brain which in turn helps to promote a state of concentrated relaxation, a pre-condition for meditation. In the Yoga classes that I teach, I do not explicitly focus on meditation; however, I encourage the experience of focusing on the proper execution of a particular asana in a relaxed and perfect manner which is similar to the experience to meditation. Some of my students tell me that they feel more relaxed after Yoga classes and, I believe, a part of that has to do with training oneself to focus on the task at hand: performing an asana, breathing properly, staying grounded in the asana, and, being for that moment: single-minded. As teachers, we have our own lives. For example, I am a Compliance officer in a European Investment Bank in New York by day and an avid (Karma) Yoga teacher in the evening. Teaching Yoga has been my life saver. Personally, the practice and teaching of Yoga has helped me stay a true student of observation of change towards a greater inner quietness and higher quality of my life. In this service, I have had the pleasure of being, on occasion, an agent of change to their lives. So, what I was once seeking has now become a fulfilling path.
Claudia Hagg is a seasoned financial professional working for more than 20 years in the Investment Banking Industry. She also headed for 10 years her own management consulting firm in Europe where the core of her expertise resided in teambuilding, corporate strategy and management coaching. To date, she balances her work life by practicing Yoga daily and teaching Hatha-Yoga in a non-profit institute in New York for more than a decade twice a week after work.
YOGA & HEALTH
Aligned with Divine Grace: An Interview with Kim Orr, founder of Contemplative Practice Yoga®
bout with insomnia a few years ago. It’s very difficult to describe your method, but let’s begin at the beginning. KO: There are two great obstacles to contemplative practice: one is pain and the other is tension—first on the physical level—but also mental/emotional pain. So, how can we alleviate pain and tension in our bodies? This is the part that‘s hard to understand if you haven’t yet experienced Contemplative Practice Yoga. It doesn’t happen when stretching a muscle. It happens when muscle tension is actually released—not stretched—in a specific sequence, based on anatomical principles. KSR: Did you build this practice from scratch? KO: No, I had other training that I refined and revised to reinvent practices that are specifically designed to release pain and tension in the body. I discovered a wealth of neurological research that shows how this actually affects our brains, thalamus, and hypothalamus—which simply verifies what we know yoga practices have been doing for centuries. KSR: Well, even without knowing the research, when I practiced yoga with you the healing effect was simply magical. Postures that were completely effortless were somehow transformational. From my experience, the word I would use to best describe Contemplative Practice is “subtle.” Can you explain that subtlety to us? KO: Sure, yes, that’s a great word! But I would say there are two words to describe the practice: subtle and gentle. Everything we do in Contemplative Yoga Practice is gentle. KSR: Why is that so important?
by Kate Sheehan Roach
KSR: Why did you name your practice “Contemplative Practice Yoga?” KO: Very few people actually ask me that! I’m glad you did. I was looking for a way of providing an embodied practice for people who seek contemplative practice primarily, but who want to approach it somatically. I had a sense that this reverses what has been more common in the US—where most people are looking for something physical that will bring them health, rather than a practice for which the primary focus is contemplation. KSR: So is that why you say “not gym yoga” in your description of the practice? KO: Well, I was trying to show people that this practice isn’t like anything they might experience in a gym or standard yoga studio. If they’re looking for exercise physiology types of yoga with a lot of stretching and calisthenics, they won’t find that here. Trying to describe the practices and therapies I offer is kind of like trying to describe the taste of a strawberry to someone who has never tasted a strawberry, so I thought I’d start by telling people what it’s not. KSR: I understand what you mean—perhaps because I “tasted the strawberry”, so to speak, when you helped me overcome a 89
KO: We are created, deep in our anatomy—the way our bones and joints fit together and the way our muscles work together with our bones—to be filled with Grace. We are created for the knowledge of Divine Being in our very bodies. We incarnate with this knowing, but inevitably, we end up with a lot of tension in our bodies; it’s just part of life. When it comes to Grace, our bodies don’t need to be forced. They need to be whispered to. If we’re not gentle and subtle, our bodies resist the flow of Grace. KSR: So the subtle postures you taught me in Contemplative Practice Yoga, and the precise angles you showed me (via Skype) opened my body to the flow of Grace? KO: Yes. Those angles you learned to recognize are built in to the architecture of our bodies. It’s all about the angles! We talk about alignment in yoga. When you are in alignment, when you get the angles right, you’re aligning yourself with Grace. I have a number of clients who are engineers—electrical, mechanical, and civil engineers—who really ‘get it’ that bones and muscles are just like building materials: they will do miraculous things if they are placed properly. KSR: You’ve also worked with a lot of military veterans, many of whom suffer from PTSD. Why did you begin working with vets? KO: It’s very clear to me that warriors hold a very sacred and special position in society. They’ve been on the threshold of peaceful society and war. They know both the benefits of peace and
the horrors of the battlefield. Most of us can’t even imagine what people who have been in combat have experienced. A magnificent psychiatrist named Bessel van der Kolk wrote a book called The Body Keeps the Score after many years of working with Vietnam War veterans. One of his main points is that healing techniques for people with PTSD will not be as successful if there’s not a somatic practice. His basic thesis is this: every experience we have leaves an impression in our body—in Sanskrit called samskaras, which are very real presences. We know this is biochemically true, for example, when fear causes the body to produce adrenalin and cortisol that cause the body to actually grip around these impressions so the blood and oxygen can’t flow as freely. Releasing physical tension helps our bodies release their grip on these impressions so the muscles become more vascular, and with increased flow of blood and oxygen, the samskaras are released from the tissue. As they are carried out of the body, they dissolve. KSR: So when you teach Contemplative Practice Yoga, you help release the tension and then create a new muscle memory with these very precise positions you teach. KO: Yes, exactly. The muscle memory of alignment then becomes your natural muscle memory, and when your bones become aligned (not twisted or pulled out of alignment), they support you, so you don’t need to use your muscles to try to hold up a misaligned structure. KSR: So by getting the angles right, we get our bones in alignment, and then we can begin to heal the trauma that threw us out of whack in the first place. KO: Yes. And this is why Contemplative Practice Yoga works so well with soldiers. They have an amazing ability to stay focused and concentrate intensely—so they are very receptive to yoga teaching. KSR: I had imagined that yoga culture and military culture would be an unlikely fit.
KO: Not really, in my experience. But even before I worked with veterans, I had a sense that this was a significant group of people because the protagonists of so many of the great literary epics (like the Iliad, Odyssey, Bhagavad Gita, Epic of Gilgamesh, etc.) are warriors. These powerful myths recognize the sacred position soldiers hold in society. But because the extremes of peace and war are very difficult to reconcile, soldiers bear the scars of war. KSR: So you intentionally reached out to soldiers? KO: I haven’t really needed to. They come to me on their own, usually because they’re dealing with some intense physical pain. Some are amputees; others have physical wounds; and others have different bodily manifestations of PTSD. By treating their physical ailments we can begin to address their emotional wounds. KSR: With so many soldiers coming back from war zones, you must see a lot of PTSD. KO: Yes. One veteran I worked with told me that without Contemplative Practice Yoga, he probably would have killed himself. KSR: Wow. And with the huge numbers of military and veteran suicides, we really need to offer these practices to soldiers. KO: Yes. When they come to me for yoga therapy, where I help them address crisis and/or chronic pain, I teach them how to do the practices for themselves so they can sustain their own contemplative practice. Then they can decide what approach works for them. They don’t need to believe in Divine Grace to experience its healing properties. KSR: Well, now I know what makes the magic of Contemplative Practice Yoga work: it’s Grace. KO: Yes. Contemplative practice is about opening yourself to Grace. That’s why I called my method Contemplative Practice Yoga—so people would know that this form of yoga is closely tied to the flow of Divine Grace.
Kim Orr holds a B.A. in Classics, and an M.A. in History of Art. After passing her Ph.D. exams, she took the foreign service exam on a whim and passed. Returning from working overseas, she trained to teach the embodied philosophy and contemplative practices which had sustained her throughout. She became a Yoga Therapist. For over 15 years Kim has provided yoga therapy services, and taught meditation and yoga, emphasizing their underlying philosophy. Through her school, Kim trains yoga teachers and therapists. Her online course is a joyous introduction to a life enlivened by simple, subtle, sustainable contemplative practices. For more of Kim’s offerings, please visit https://www.yourmindbodybreath.com/yoga.
Kate Sheehan Roach After earning a BA from Mount Holyoke College and an MA from the University of Connecticut, Kate Sheehan Roach served as founding editor of Contemplative Journal, and later as managing editor of the Spirituality Channel at Patheos.com. She now serves as Director of Content for ContemplativeLife.org- a digital media hub that connects people and communities with transformative practices. She is honored to work alongside some of today’s spiritual and religious teachers as editor/agent, podcast host, moderator, and education director. She is a certified Centering Prayer facilitator with Contemplative Outreach, and she serves on the national service team of 12 Step Outreach and the North America Leadership Council for the United Religions Initiative. 90
YOGA & YOUTH
Yoga – Foundation for Life
by Divya Prabha
Yoga is both the means and the aim. We have to remember that life is like stream flowing between the two banks of birth and death. Every breath in that life is precious and no amount of money can buy a single breath. We have to use every breath consciously because every moment and every breath in our present becomes our past and the future becomes our present. Everyone in the world wants peace and happiness but so many seek it outside not realizing that the secret lies within themselves. The real journey is within themselves to themselves. Yoga is a divine gift indeed at every stage whether a beginner or a lifetime practitioner of 50+ years. So, to bring yoga into a project as the foundation for life is common sense. In fact, the word education actually comes from the Latin educate and means to bring out, so from ancient times in India the education system was founded on knowing yourself and the ancients used the means of yoga and schools were called “gurukuls”. It makes perfect sense to bring yoga into the lives of young children in this modern world where increasingly due to the modern education systems and environmental issues huge numbers of children are suffering from stress and anxiety amongst other fundamental issues. We decided that if we could help children to find the peace within themselves no matter what was happening outside through yoga at the same time as getting an education it could bring positive change to these individuals as well as communities. These children growing up with yoga as a way of life will have a very real impact on society. Bringing peace from inside out is simply the beginning. We take in children from orphaned or underprivileged backgrounds. 40 live onsite studying the ancient gurukul way and a further 250 study in our morning and evening schools being provided with food, education, clothing, all learning materials and of course yoga including meditation. Even our teachers and staff are a project within themselves with 90% of them being women. Additionally, we have a Women’s Empowerment project in the form of a sewing Centre. They get up two hours before sunrise and welcome the sun with ancient mantras, meditate, practice asanas, pranayama and chant all by 6 am. It is a magical experience watching the children who are learning the Vedas in the same way as ancient times. Our Vedic teachers come from a lineage of at least 800 years old. They study Panini’s Grammar the ancient way, the oldest dictionary in the world Amarkosh as well as more esoteric subjects like astrology and philosophy. Academically they do their exams with the state Sanskrit board after which they will go to University. The University itself is entirely founded on Sanskrit with 20 different departments like astrology, Vedas, grammar, Puranas and history as well as Economics and Politics. The philosophy department alone has more than 11 different 3-year courses. We have seen articles in the last couple of years from Trento and Harvard talking about the positive “Sanskrit effect” on the brain. Combining these things all together has led to a group we like to call the “children of light” who are radiant, free, spontaneous and full of love and light. We encourage you to drop by our very simple and small space in Varanasi and see for yourselves what a difference the ancient practices of yoga whether you call it ashtanga, hatha, maha, etc. are making to children’s lives today and creating our future filled with light, truth and knowledge. Divya Prabha. Born in the UK, Divya Prabha received her B.A. and M.A. from Oxford University and worked for top American Investment Banks until 1999 when she was divinely inspired to live in Brahmrishi Vishvatma Bawraji’s ashram. She studied Maha Yoga the traditional way for the last 19 years as well as Sanskrit since 2006 in Sampurnanand Sanskrit University, Varanasi. She taught Yoga in India, Europe and North America for the last 17 years and lectures at various conferences, workshops and retreats as well as teaches Sanskrit. She co-founded a free school and gurukul in Varanasi called International Chandramauli Charitable Trust & Yoga Mission in the UK. 91
#The Monk and #His Pancake Story by Chipamong Chowdhury
Recently, someone on the Subway in NYC asked me whether I cook or not! I said, “I am a monk, I don’t know how to cook.” But, now, I know how to make pancakes! This was a surprise-surprise story or breaking news for my social media friends when I posted with a photo and video of how I was making a pancake on Facebook few weeks ago. Benny –my cutest nephew and the most adorable boy –said “I will meditate only if you make pancakes.” Oh no, I am in trouble I murmured. But, without a second thought, I promised “yes I will make it.” I said yes, not because of his strong demand, but his desire for pancakes. We sat and meditated for 15 minutes. I was fully awake and fully aware of my thoughts, but I was not meditating at all. Instead, I was thinking about how to make the damn pancakes; my mind was on Google, youtube and recipes. At one point, it became so nostalgic, remembering vividly how and where I first had pancakes. Of course, Benny is Benny – a smart, clever, sensible and intelligent 7-year-old boy. As soon as we got off meditation, he said “I will help you.” And, he did. We didn’t exactly follow the instructions as appeared. However, we made amazing, huge, and delicious gluten-free pancakes. Little secret; It is true that I didn’t know what a pancake looked like until 2012 when I first saw pancakes in Tallinn, Estonia. Since then, I have a very special, an intimate relationship with pancakes. Let’s not go there now! By now, you know that I love pancakes, so you can offer me pancakes. By now, you also know that I can make pancakes. I will make pancakes for you although I do not know how to cook! But I believe I know how to make food.
Bhante Revata/Chipamong Chowdhury is a cyber monk/global citizen. He teaches and promotes active care, relational dignity and mindfulness.
YOGA & YOUTH
The Importance of Yoga for Kids by Deepali Sharma
There was a big earthquake in India when I was in my twelfth grade. We were collecting money & food to be sent to families in need. A nine-year-old girl, who I knew, came to me and handed me some coins. “Are you sure you want to give all this money. How did you collect it?” I asked. “This is my lunch money saved in the past few days”, she said. I had tears in my eyes. She came from a very poor family, and, still, she skipped meals, saved & wanted to contribute. “Why do you want to give?”, I asked. “It makes me happy. Besides who will take care of all these people?” I still remember the happiness in her eyes. I was touched & amazed that a nine-year-old, living in a slum, had the understanding of social responsibility. “Giving” made her happy. Fast forward a few years. I was taking a session of 12-16-year olds. I asked them what would make them really happy? And the answers were: “if I had this phone,” “if I had this videogame,” “lots of money,” etc. What was the difference? All of us are running behind something that is so elusive that many times we even forget what the goal of life is and we keep running. If you ask someone what is that elusive thing? Ironically, after some reflection, the answer is “happiness.” How do we define happiness? Is it the happiness that was experienced by that girl or is it the happiness defined by the latter kids’ group? We all try to define happiness based on our own value system. In another session with 5-16-year olds, I wanted to know how they feel about life in general. After every question, a few hands would go up, but, when I asked how many of them feel stressed, instantly all hands went up. I was shocked--how can the youngsters, who should not even know the meaning of stress, be feeling stressed. After this experience, I make it a point in different sessions with youngsters to ask this question, and, to my dismay, more hands kept going up. I wonder what kind of a future we are looking toward. What kind of personality or life will these kids have when they grow up? This stress will definitely have an impact on the kind of people they grow up into; on their career path; in their family life; and, in turn, it will have an immense impact on society as a whole. In today’s world, where is the time, even to contemplate on questions like these? What is it that we are running after? What is creating so much havoc & stress in our lives and lives of our children? Is it not time to take a step back, pause & give it some thought? Is it our lifestyle? Is it our “definition” of Happiness? How do we ensure that our kids develop the right kind of values and try to live a stressfree life? I believe the answer lies in Yoga. 93
A few days back, in a school in New York, one of the teachers came to the Principal and asked “what did the kids do today before they came to my class? I have never had these eighth graders so calm & peaceful and in such a positive state of mind.” This was just one of many positive feedbacks we received from the Principal of that school. Every year, in January, Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS), the organization that I am part of, conducts “Yoga for health; Health for Humanity Yogathon” aka “Surya Namaskar Yajna.” It aims to create awareness about yoga and its advantages in achieving a healthy body, mind and Spirit. Under this initiative, along with other activities, HSS conducted sun salutation sessions in different schools all over the US. The above-mentioned feedback was from one of the teachers to the Principal, after the eighth grade did a yoga session, where they engaged in sun salutations, Pranayama & Shavasana. After every session, for 1st to 8th graders, we would ask how they felt. Consistent replies would be “calm,” “relaxed,” “energized,” “stretched.” Imagine if one session can have this kind of impact, what would happen if it becomes part of their daily life. That is the need of today. Today, we have yoga, because thousands of years ago, Hindu sages developed a system for the benefit of humanity; for individuals to grow into better human beings. Shri Aurobindo defines yoga as “an effort towards self-perfection, through developing your latent potential on the physical, vital, mental, intellectual and spiritual level.” But, this effort by Hindu sages was not just for individuals to evolve themselves, rather, to make the whole of society more evolved. When the whole society has to evolve, naturally, the effort needs to be focused on everyone, youngsters & adults, with a special focus on kids, as they are the future. HSS is trying to do that through its various activities. Imparting values that will create people with good character & virtuous qualities that are also part of Yamas & Niyamas; living truthfully while not having feelings like hatred or jealousy; being virtuous in body, mind & soul; keeping away from greed & avarice; expanding our mind so that we feel that the whole world is one family; surrendering oneself for service of the society, etc. If our children grow up with these yogic values, our tomorrow will definitely be beautiful. All of us who are involved in the field of yoga, should impart this gift to children around us. It helps to impart these values to the children of today so that our societies will have a bright future. And, if that happens, our journey of finding happiness in the outside world will slowly turn into finding happiness within. Our world will become a divine place, and, our journey towards real “sat-chit-anand” will begin.
Deepali Sharma. Born in India, she was introduced to yoga when she was little, by her parents. She had a unique privilege of being associated with some great Yogis, Saints & social reformers in her childhood. Hence after completing her MBA she took to her calling and became a Yoga practitioner & a teacher. She believes Yoga is a journey and one always remains a student. She is also an active member of HSS, which believes in ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ i.e. Whole World is a family. Her mantra: changing your own self is the first step towards changing the whole world. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
YOGA & YOUTH
Let ’s Learn to Relax
Implementation of self- inquiry meditation of Yoga in Daily Life in primary school Maintaining physical, mental and spiritual health is certainly one of the greatest challenges of modern times, which is faced not only by adults, but increasingly by children and adolescents. The experts in the fields of child psychology and science of education in the past decade have talked more and more about the stress to which children are subjected, the escape of adolescents into the world of social networks and the Internet, and the search for ways to encourage children to calm down for at least a few minutes without the help of a smartphone, video games or television. As one of the biggest elementary schools in Slovenia, we are constantly confronted with a large and diverse population of pupils. In May 2017, we explored the idea that children should be taught relaxation and meditation techniques to reduce the impact of stress and develop self-control. This is how the project “Let’s Learn to Relax” was born.
by Branka Arko (Prem Shakti)
In August 2017, teachers began preparing for the implementation of the project. We conducted workshops about meditation and yoga for children and youth, in which teachers were given concrete guidance on how to carry out relaxation and meditation techniques in class hours. We invited Dejan Dinevski, Ph. D., professor at the Faculty of Education and Faculty of Medicine, University of Maribor, a teacher of meditation and yoga and the president of Yoga in Daily Life Center Maribor, who presented a scientific view of the importance of meditation on stress reduction. In October 2017, we started the project. Since then, all students from 5th to 9th grades (10-15 years old) have practiced self-inquiry meditation once a week. We used the self-inquiry meditation techniques of Yoga in Daily Life (YIDL), as taught by Paramhans Swami Mahshwarananda, the author of the system. The Maribor Center is currently the biggest yoga school in Slovenia, with almost 1000 students practicing yoga and meditation in more than 20 different locations in the northeast part of Slovenia. How We Meditate We have chosen a basic type of self-inquiry mediation, suitable for children, which does not include visualization and imagination lasting for a maximum of 10 minutes. The teacher leads the meditation with the following steps:
Pupils choose a relaxed sitting position. When they are ready, they close their eyes. They deeply breathe in and out, which helps to relax the body. Following the teacher’s instructions, they feel and relax their body from the top of the head to the feet. In this way, they raise their body awareness and calm down their thoughts. We continue with observation of inhalation and exhalation, which leads to deeper awareness of the breath and calms down
the mind even more. We conclude the exercise by gradually leading students from observing the breath to feeling the body, and then to awareness of the outer world. The Response of Students and Teachers The response of pupils was highly positive saying that meditation is enjoyable, that they can quickly calm down and really relax. Some children initially had problems releasing their inner tensions. They said that during meditation, they continued to feel tense and couldn’t observe their breath, but they did become more aware of the high speed of their thoughts. After a few weeks of regular practice, approximately half of them became accustomed to relaxing, and they felt pleasant.
is not strictly necessary. With our Friday morning meditation, I start the day with a very pleasant and relaxed feeling, and I can more easily carry out other lessons. “ mag. Damjan Počkaj Horvat (7th grade teacher) “For me as a teacher of the 9th class, the introduction of meditation into the classroom was a special challenge, since for students in these years the changes are more profound; also they have a very clear opinion of what they want and what they do not want. However, students received the morning meditation very well. When we finish with the practice they are very relaxed and more kind and open to each other. For me, this is the best way to start the school day. We should do it every day, not only once a week. “ Nataša Želježič, prof. (9th grade teacher) Scientific Research of the Impact of Meditation on Students
The experience of most teachers who are leading the meditation was also very good. Many have said that only during the meditation do they see their pupils really relaxed, and that the atmosphere after meditation in the classroom is very peaceful and harmonious. “The relaxation exercises were initially performed for 5 minutes. Students didn’t have any difficulties with performing meditation. There are three pupils in the classroom who need to be away from each other and generally do not participate, but they also do not interfere. They quietly wait for the rest of the class to finish with their practice. I did not employ them with any other activity, because I’m still waiting for them to join us. Recently, I have noticed that they try to follow the meditation for a few minutes. Girls are more responsive to the exercises and they always say how pleasant it was for them. I can see the progress from week to week and now we are able to meditate for 10 minutes. We always do our relaxation, even at the expense of any other content that
The experience with the Let’s Learn to Relax project led to the proposal to conduct a scientific study on the influence of meditation and relaxation exercises on students, under the auspices of the Faculty of Education, Faculty of Medicine and Faculty of Arts of the University of Maribor. Based on existing research on the impact of meditation, we anticipate that the consequences of regular implementation of relaxation and meditation techniques will be higher learning achievements, higher self-esteem, less stress and aggression, better well-being, higher developed social and emotional competences. Currently we are waiting for the final results. We hope that this project has a great impact on implementation of meditation in Slovenia primary schools generally. If a child in elementary school can learn how to calm down, develop selfcontrol, and establish better relationships with others, this is definitely a very valuable skill for being a healthier, happier and more conscious adult and lets us create a better society for all.
Branka Arko (Prem Shakti), born in 1975 in Maribor, Slovenia, is a certified Yoga in Daily Life teacher and Professor of Sociology and Slovene language. She started practicing YIDY as a teenager and became a disciple of Paramhans Swami Maheshwarananda in 1993. For the past 20 years she has been teaching yoga at the YIDL Center Maribor. She is the initiator and coordinator of the Let’s Learn to relax Project at the Primary school Franceta Prešerna in Maribor, where she is currently teaching Slovene language and literature.
YOGA & YOUTH
Center for Conscious Kids Presents Children’s Meditation Program by Ashley Lee, RN, BSN, CCRN and Amanda Masters
Kids Discover, Experience & Become Self-Empowered with our Online Webinar Series! We strive to live in a world where children are connected to their Inner Guidance, capable of making choices about themselves and others from a perspective of Love and Compassion. At The Center for Conscious Kids (CCK) we created the Children’s Meditation Program that supports each youngster’s connection to their own inner wisdom and guidance rooted in Universal Love that is free from judgments and projections. We welcome people of all faiths and spiritual paths as well as all ages, backgrounds and lifestyles. Our purpose is to bring meditation to every child globally. We are committed to supporting children on their journey to experience meditation, create a sense of inner self-awareness, discover limitless potential inside the vastness of the Universe, and develop a sense of connection to all of Humanity. Our Children’s Mediation Program supports United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 3 which focuses on Good Health & Well Being by: 1. Connecting children to their Inner Guidance to discover confidence and trust within themselves; 2. Fostering compassion and empathy within youngsters and the world; and 3. Assisting children in obtaining inner peace inside which then reflects outward into their environment. The Children’s Meditation Program is webinar-based and open to children of all ages and their caregivers. It introduces and supports youth in the practice of meditation and is designed to establish deep inner guidance and facilitate inter-relational concepts in their conscious awareness, which we call conscious relating. We offer a multidisciplinary approach to the many forms of meditation available. 97
As children discover unconditional love, they can then explore opportunities for learning how to connect with their true nature while being present in each meditation. Youngsters connected to their Inner Guidance have better access to their empowerments, which are the tools they use to express their soul purpose or journey. When children and their caregivers discover the connection to their infinite selves, they begin to experience and understand their limitless potential. Meditation facilitates self-confidence, self-love and greater compassion for oneself, which, in turn, is expressed outwardly in the world in relationships. When a parent or caregiver shares the practice of meditation with a child, the caregiver also begins to shift spiritually from “seeking to manage your child’s experience” to “trusting your child in creating his or her own experience.” Ongoing meditation assists youngsters to grow and develop an interdependent relationship with their caregivers. In return, caregivers can cultivate this interdependence and facilitate the growing and shaping of their child into interdependent individuals, which serves all. While resourcing and providing stewardship to your child, the meditation process organically leads participants into balanced energetic relationships called Service to Us™. Service to Us™ means it’s beneficial for me, it’s beneficial for you and it’s magnificent for everyone! Who We Are At CenterforConsciousKids.com, with 35+ years experience, we have assisted children of all ages (prenatal through young adult) and their families to develop self-awareness skills. Discover more about our practitioners, service providers and opportunities on our website or sign up for our next Children’s Meditation Webinar today.
Ashley Lee, RN, BSN, CCRN - Founder Ashley is a highly attuned intuitive visionary supporting compassionate leadership development in all children from in-utero to young adulthood worldwide. She creates an atmosphere for her child and children worldwide to connect with their inner guidance to express their soul purpose. From this mission and vision, Center for Conscious Kids was born.
Amanda Masters, Meditation MC Amanda is a master intuitive who introduces and supports the connection between children and their parents with the practitioner facilitating the meditations. As the mother of three children, she incorporates meditative-holistic practices into her family life and is happy to be sharing new ways of connecting with children as the Master of Ceremonies for the Children’s Meditation Program.
YOGA & CREATIVE ARTS
Take my hand. We will walk. We will enjoy our walk without thinking of arriving anywhere. Walk peacefully. Walk happily. Our walk is a peace walk. Our walk is a happiness walk.
Thich Nhat Hanh
Whispers of the Heart: An Ode to Swami Vivekananda by Molly Roopan
What is it that you say, Oh Sannyasin Bold? Are those Krishna’s eyes peering through your soul? Eyes like lotus petals, have captured many a heart in yesteryear, and through the pages of time have remained immortal and captured mine. What is it that you say, Oh Sannyasin Bold? Is that Krishna’s flute coming in melodious sounds from your lips? My heart dances to your song, intoxicated by your beauteous form. Who are you, Oh Dearest One? “”Ah” you say to me, “it’s about time you seek.” “If you wish to know, you must go within and peek. You will discover I am truth and light, and in form I came, when the time was right.” With a special mission to be done, I was born as India’s son, carrying the message of truth from this ancient land to Liberty’s golden shore. From the Land of the Free, I opened a door, and to the world I told; “Know thou art That” “Hari Om Tat Sat” Listen to what I teach: “Arise, Awake, and stop not until the goal is reached” “Manifest that divinity within and see that thou art ever free. So my sweet child, set your heart on this truth to find and release thyself from all that bind. Fly, fly, fly ever free beyond infinity, and know that thou art forever one with me.
Shakuntala Roopan (Molly) is a graduate of Pace University with a B.A. in Psychology. While earning her degree, she worked as an assistant to the Vice Dean and Academic Advisor. Upon graduating, Molly became an Underwriter in Commercial Property Insurance at the American International Group (AIG), a multinational finance and insurance corporation, where she performed underwriting for some of the largest commercial properties in the country. She is currently a stay at home mom who enjoys taking care of her children, reading, yoga, meditation and philanthropy.
YOGA & CREATIVE ARTS
Babaji by Molly Roopan
Eternal Yogi Hair the color of sunset skies, with waves of ocean bliss, Eyes like lotus petals, soft and gentle under the moonlightâ€™s glist. Eternal youth, perfection in form, silently hidden in the Himalayan mist. A mystery you remain, unless by your grace, You choose to reveal your glorious face. Your holy feet blessing the ground, The eternal Aum, your very sound. In the sunbeams you one day appeared, Master of the universe, guardian of the earth. With the power of lightning, and radiance of the sun, Yet, the humblest of the humble, You chose loving kindness as your song. In light you appear, and in light you taught, with simplicity you revealed that which was sought. Gentle, loving, funny and kind, Your words so delightfully sublime. The flowers of my heart blossom at your mere thought, and out from my soul, eternal gratitude you brought. Infinite salutations at your holy feet, Until that blessed day, in yoga, we finally meet.
Shakuntala Roopan (Molly) is a graduate of Pace University with a B.A. in Psychology. While earning her degree, she worked as an assistant to the Vice Dean and Academic Advisor. Upon graduating, Molly became an Underwriter in Commercial Property Insurance at the American International Group (AIG), a multinational finance and insurance corporation, where she performed underwriting for some of the largest commercial properties in the country. She is currently a stay at home mom who enjoys taking care of her children, reading, yoga, meditation and philanthropy. 101
What in the World is Going On? by Paul Luftenegger
I have an extraordinary life with conscious, amazing souls all around the world that learn about my work more and more everyday. As many of you know, I’ve been invited to the United Nations in New York City three times now. My work has been shared on too many interviews to count; it’s in seven conscious albums to help the heart & soul feel its worth; and, it’s now published in two books. It’s been used in schools, hospitals, healing centres, conscious workshops, abuse workshops, therapy centres, etc. all around the world and that is increasing. For the past 8 years, I’ve been studying relentlessly and experiencing the metaphysical world with and through writing and sharing sound conscious music through soul consciousness, vibrational consciousness, through heart and soul coherence. Ultimately Divine Synchronicity – in full bloom by surrendering to my heart as the compass of my life and mission, being a human being that is a conscious musician with a distinct call from Source/God to help the world through sharing music that helps nourish the heart and soul of the listener from the inside out. The results have been astounding! FOR ME, CONSCIOUS MUSIC IS AN ASCENSION TOOL TO HELP THE SOUL INTIGRATE WITH FULL CONSCIOUSNESS OF ITSELF IN REVERNECE FOR LIFE FORCE ENERGY THAT IS ALIVE ON EARTH FROM THE INSIDE OUT OF ALL LIFE. We are literally a piece of all that is and all that will ever be, and that for me is no longer a question. Some people are aware of this fact and at the same time, right now, many are not – and that is about to change. Once you increase your rate of vibration, you can no longer decrease your rate of vibration. When you know, or, better, yet, realize, or, maybe, even, perhaps, “remember,” you begin to change, and, your whole life changes too! Conscious Music Supports and Nourishes the Heart & Soul of the Listener with Reverence for Soul Self-Sovereignty Helping the Dimensional Space within, Transcend and Lift; Shifting Paradigms through Ascension Reaching, the Highest Self. ·
Conscious Music is a Divine Sacred Technology and Tool for the Inside Space of the Human Being to Help Ascension of the Soul
Conscious Music bypasses the brain and goes straight to the heart and soul allowing the Divine Mind/Cosmic Mind to bloom from the infinite Soul of the listener
Conscious Music Supports the Sovereign Soul to be Completely Free with the Beloved – Strengthening the Connection to God/Source [From the Inside Out]
YOGA & CREATIVE ARTS ·
Conscious Music Helps the Heart & Soul within to Thrive with Being Nourished and Supported with Divine Love from Self & with God/Source – Co+Creation in Full Bloom Healing / Remembering and Releasing Limiting Beliefs / Programs / Stories and Patterns through Shifting our Thoughts into the Cosmic Understanding / Cosmic Remembering – Being an Eternal Soul having a Human Experience on Planet Earth
Conscious Music Is an Infinite Divine Love Battery- Sacred Vibrations Held in Timelessness, in Reverence for the Eternal Life of Each Soul being honoured with Sovereignty and Reincarnation [Eternal Life]
We are Never Without Our Source/God – “Divine Intelligence” once we embrace Free Will and Soul Sovereignty through the Eternal Life of the Soul. We are all able to become ONE with “Divine Intelligence” Source/God and this happens once we take responsibility for the energy, vibration, and frequency we expand and emit which I like to call “The Soul Signature.” Conscious Music and Divine Loving Vibrations/Frequencies/Energy are very helpful sacred tools to understand the “How” to Ascend and ultimately tap into this Divine Intelligence of the highest-self to help the soul feel it’s holy worth from the inside out with selflove, self- acceptance through self-validation. ASCENSION 1. The Heart & Soul is Divine Energy Intelligence
2. The Heart & Soul is Divine Vibrational Intelligence 3. The Heart & Soul is Divine Frequency Intelligence
4. The 5th Dimension is the Heart & Soul Consciousness
where there is Energy Intelligence, Vibrational Intelligence, and Frequency Intelligence combined
5. Infinite/Eternal Life Force Energy Fully Aware of Itself which is the Eternal Soul in Reverence for Each Life Force Soul Being 6. The Inside Intelligence Creates/Co+Creates the Outside Manifested World We Experience – Individually & Collectively – Many manipulators have known this that have controlled and manipulated the mind control system through sub conscious programming, and, the time has come to free oneself by directly going from the programmed mind to the free heart by opening the heart from the inside out with free will for the heart & soul connection as ONE
7. The Soul Independently Taking Responsibility for the Energy, Vibrations, Frequencies One Creates and Co+Creates Shifts the World and Paradigms that we as a World Experience individually and collectively Conscious Music Is Each of these Things Combined; the Soul Conscious of Itself in Reverence for Infinite/Eternal Space with the Heart & Soul Honoured When Will the World Know this and Live this? The Answer is Now! Emotion is our source field that surrounds each one of us. When we increase our emotional love that surrounds ourselves by loving…. more love surround us….to enjoy….. it’s that simple. If we want more love in the world, we must be willing to love more. Paul Luftenegger is an International Multi Award Winning Conscious Singer/Songwriter/Composer Inspiring Global Love & Kindness from Within On March 6th, 2011 Paul’s life changed forever by having an alchemical experience with God. God came to into his heart and soul and asked him to sing for God. Each day since, he has been devoted to his beloved by writing conscious, kind, loving music to support, nourish and refresh the heart and soul within the listener through what he calls divine inner sacred technology--Sound ConsciousnessVibrational Consciousness/Energetic Consciousness To find out more about Paul’s work please visit: www.beekindness.com 103
INFINITE QUALITIES by P.C.Turczyn
The Infinite Qualities series of nature mandalas came about in answer to two questions: “How can my work benefit the greatest number of people?” and “How can visual art support the healing process?” The circular, mandalic format represents integrity, interconnection and perfection. Each mandala expresses a quality essential to wellbeing: compassion, gratitude, unconditional love and inspiration, among others. The centerpoint, or bindu, is analogous to the “You Are Here” icon on a local map. From that centerpoint, the artwork depicts one’s energy field as it radiates in perfect resonance with an Infinite Quality. The mandalas are floral or arboreal because initial Evidence Based Design research indicates that nature motifs have the greatest benefit for hospital patients. Sacred Geometry overlays reveal the order and balance found in nature, a source of comfort and inspiration. (And there is even speculation that Sacred Geometry can provide protection from harmful electromagnetic fields, such as WiFi and cell phone signals!) How does the work actually support the healing process? One way is provide a visual aide for medical and healing professionals to be even more effective while they work. To test this, a diverse group of Reiki (vibrational healing) practitioners worked with my Reiki mandala and then answered survey questions about their experience. 92% of respondents felt simply hanging the mandala in their treatment rooms would provide a supportive atmosphere. Most felt working with the mandala enhanced their practice. For a fascinating result analysis from The Reiki Digest sponsored focus group, follow this link: http://reikidigest.blogspot.com/2011/10/results-are-in-reiki-digests-focus.html Or, artwork can instill a calm, peaceful feeling, as most of the focus group members reported having experienced. Since it has been estimated that 75 – 90% of physician office visits are for stress related problems, calm inducing artwork is an important asset to any environment. A third way artwork can support the healing process is by acting as a focal point for meditation. The mandalas in this series both contain and convey the vibrational energy signature of a specific quality in its infinite manifestation. Each of them has an accompanying guided meditation and suggested practices designed to help one integrate the desired quality. “Infinite Surrender” was presented at a sound healing retreat by Lisa Miles Jackson, RN, CHHC, CYT. A survey taken by the participants, who included physicians, healers and health counselors, revealed a unanimously positive response; all felt the mandala enhanced their meditation. In this and a subsequent survey, taken at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY, participants reported reduced pain, increased relaxation and a sense of connection. All of these formal aspects of the mandalas are greatly enhanced, or rather activated, by a rigorous spiritual studio practice. Just as I had received a vision of the series in answer to my question as to how my work could serve the greatest good, I continue to ask questions and listen for guidance while working in my studio. Before dipping my brush into paint, I will have gone through an extensive preparation that could include invocation, prayer and meditation, movement, breath, sound/music and the written word. All these expressions enable my embodiment of the Infinite Quality’s vibration which is then translated and inbedded into a visual image. By asking how one’s work can support universal evolution or benefit the greatest number of people, one sometimes receives a surprising or even enlightening response. By combining spiritual and scientifac techniques, the work takes on power through synergy. With a drishti gaze, one can see that the product of one’s creativity is fully present both here in the three-dimensional world and in the world of spirit. May we all have the blessing and the privilege to give service in this way P.C.Turczyn, artist, writer, tree empath. www.pcturczyn.com www.artthatsupportsthehealingprocess.com
YOGA & CREATIVE ARTS
SOUND, MUSIC, & YOGA by Swami Madhuram Puri
I am happy to share thoughts about the relationship between yoga and sound/music. First, let us define what yoga is. At the present time, yoga as practiced around the world is mostly understood as a set of physical exercises, postures and breathing techniques. In the wider sense, the word Yog literally means “re-union”: reunion between the individual self and the universal Self, or, between the Jivatma and the Paramatma. Yogic techniques have been developed by the great saints and seers to uncover this union within us and to bring about the realization of our true Self or in other words, the “Self-realization.” Yoga aims to “realize” the answer to the most fundamental question of human life: “who am I?” A mere theoretical answer is not enough. Rather, the answer needs to be experienced if the ignorance of “who am I?” is to be removed. Can sound and music help on this journey of self-discovery? Yes! One of the paths of yoga is “Nada Yoga,” known as the yoga of sound: sound is used to bring about union with the universal Self. My Master, Paramhans Swami Maheshwaranandaji (Vishwaguruji) often quotes this line from the Vedas: “Nada Rupa Parabrahma,” which means: “The form of the Supreme is (the Nada,) the sound.” This refers to the inner sound, which is called the Anahada, the inaudible sound that pervades the whole universe, and each and every living being, and is within our phenomenon as well. I studied at music school for 10 years, playing flute, clarinet, and later saxophone. These studies focused on jazz, but, my inclination was always towards the simpler and calmer pieces. Later on, when I started to practice yoga, I discovered the Indian bamboo flute, called bansuri, and I began to study Indian classical music. Indian classical music is based on the system of “ragas.” Raga means “mood”, and the Indian approach is quite different from that of western music, where the musical piece is written, with a start and an ending. Ragas have an ascending and descending scale, usually two very important tones, and a few typical musical phrases which are repeated and which awake a certain mood in the mind of the musician as well as of those who are listening. Playing Indian classical music seems like a combination of improvisation and the above-mentioned musical framework. This reminds me of how human life is structured. We seem to have freedom of choice and yet, underneath, there is a deep sense that when our choices are wholesome and in alignment with the common human dharma (which is to elevate our level of consciousness, ultimately leading to oneness with the universal Self), we are experiencing life as a joyful and meaningful event. Our hearts experience fulfillment and deep inner peace. Learning to play a musical instrument requires a lot of discipline. Learning to play a wind instrument like the flute also requires patience to learn how to breathe deeply using the abdominal breath and how to form a good embouchure (shaping of the lips). Purification of the sound must be practiced over many years, also teaching patience. To some extent, the progress equals the efforts made. But, there came a point for me that no matter how much I practiced, the sound just didn’t get better. It seems a little like ripening of fruits. Sitting beside the tree and getting angry that the fruits are not ripening fast enough is not going to help the process. On the contrary, it causes stress and tensions that undermine the very aim of playing music, as a result of ambition and impatience. Then comes the lesson of surrender. 105
Consideration of the goal or aim of playing music is also interesting. The purpose can be pure pleasure for one’s own sense of hearing or playing to calm one’s own mind and heal one’s own body, in addition to calming and healing others. We can compare the aims and effects of music practice to those of the yoga practices such as Asanas, Pranayama, and Meditation. For example, if we are trying forcefully to achieve flexibility while doing yoga postures, the muscles can go into a spasm and we may end up hurting them. A more effective approach is to go slowly with strong resolve, gradually getting to know the body, and in a friendly way begin working on releasing all kinds of tensions -- physical, mental, and emotional. The main principles or aims of Yoga are to bring about physical, mental, social and spiritual health. It is well known how for centuries music has been used as therapy. For example, exposure of human beings to certain sounds has a big effect on physical health. The therapeutic effect of music on our mental health is especially important in modern times. We live very fast lives filled with a lot of stress. When I was landing at the Wellington airport some months ago, I was watching from the sky the movement of the city: there were so many cars, buses, trains, and pedestrians--everyone was in motion. Where are we all going? What is the cause of all this continuous movement? Is there a time in our daily lives that we stop and consciously rest? Music can help us to slow down and even to stop to a large extent. When playing or listening to music, we need to pay our fullest attention in order to benefit this way. The resonance of the sound captures our attention, allowing the music to help free us from tensions, negative thoughts, and all the promises of the mind that the next moment will definitely be satisfying. Listening to music, we allow for the possibility that what is happening right now is the best that can be, we arrive at last. The sound takes our awareness inwards to the inner space of the body. We feel the body, and we can experience the harmony between the body, mind and soul. Maybe what we were looking for in the outer world is closer than we thought, right within our own body. Music can be also of great help to our social health. People come together for many reasons, but, it is still increasingly rare that we come together for a purpose that is beneficial to our souls. In concerts of meditation music, I have noticed that music is something which unites us. As the music is played, it seems that we are all connected with each other by something other than words, opinions, or similar interests. Music is a bridge between us regardless of our race, belief, status, or age. We forget for a while what separates us and, perhaps, remember and awaken to that which unites us, where we are one.
Swami Madhuram Puri is a long-time disciple of Paramhans Sri Swami Maheshwaranandaji (Vishwaguruji). He has been practicing and teaching the system Yoga in Daily Life for the past 17 years, first in the United Kingdom, and since 2012 in New Zealand in one of the Yoga in Daily Life ashrams in the Kapiti Coast near Wellington. His music is blessed by Bhagawan Sri Deep Mahaprabhuji, the Master of our spiritual lineage Sri Alakpuriji Sidha Peeth Parampara. To find out more about Swami Madhuram’s music and work please visit www.madhuram-music.com or contact the Yoga in Daily Life Kapiti ashram at www.yogaindailylife.org.nz
YOGA & CREATIVE ARTS Begin by placing your hands together in the Hakini Mudra, placing your left and right fingertips together, to connect all the meridians, and to bring you into balance as you read this meditation. Now, come and join with me, on a dynamic unfolding journey of awakening to higher possibilities and potentials. We begin to focus on our breath. This is a precious opportunity to open your mind, your heart and your soul, as we share sacred space together on this page. Take three really deep breaths, in through your nose, and out through your mouth, slowing everything down ….as you gently become aware of your breath. Just becoming aware of your breath, as you breathe in and out, and feel the rise and the fall of your breath.
Light on Light Meditation by Elspeth Kerr
All your attention is being brought into this space of your breath, that you are taking unconsciously as you read this. This is your time, this is your space for you to let go, to relax, to release and to unwind, and, literally, to let go. It’s a time for you to dissolve into a space of total relaxation and peace. Deep, deep peace. With your next breath, begin to fill it with your own Love, saturate your breath with self Love, and as you breathe out, fill the out breath with Joy, and observe the space around you, as the energy changes to that of Joy and Light, and you begin to feel lighter and lighter, brighter and brighter. Wave upon wave of Love energy is entering into you, soaking into you, as you take this very next breath. Now listen to the sound of this breath, and, as you focus on it with all that you are, you begin to remove any tightness or stress from your body. As you sit in this space of meditation, reading these words, know it is a moment of awakening for you—deep, deep, within your soul, as you take time for you to become still, to silence the mind and to relax the body. Now, focus on your heart, and allow it to be filled with Light. See beautiful white light filling it up, going deep inside of you. You begin to feel a wave of inspiration and possibility filling your whole being, as you now ever so gently, place your hands on your heart and say “I Love You,” followed by your name. Feel the energy of “I Love You” going into your heart. Your name resonates to a special energy, so allow both to meld together in oneness, and to fill every cell of your heart, so that it becomes One (Omnipresent Nurturing Energy) for your beautiful heart. Manifesting this Love Energy into your heart, in this moment, is one of the most important assignments on Earth that you came to do …….this is you, loving yourself. So, take a minute to think what you have just done, by filling your heart with more Love, with more Light and with Joy. If you can do this daily, when it’s your time to leave the planet, you will leave behind a beautiful tapestry of Love ……how magical and easy is this lesson !!!!
Now your heart is full of Love, Light and Joy. We will travel a little more inwards, into a beautiful and magical space, and into
the miracle of direct awakenings, for you to find your own transformational power, by being right here, right now, reading this. As you breathe and feel into this Love space, allow yourself to go into a deeper place of transformation, and for you to really let go of any baggage you are carrying with you on this journey. Focus on your passion in life, and, now, begin to live your life from a place and space of Love, from the inside to the outside. Remember that the whispers of God are found on the inside of your soul, so go deep, deep, within, and, follow your breath back to its source. Feeling calm, relaxed, light and full of Love, receive whatever you need to receive, in this beautiful and divine space. If you listen and go into the spaces between these words, you will feel and witness the song of your soul. Feel its vibrations and now, feel your heart open, and, receive a message from spirit. Within this space, you feel appreciated, adored and supported on all levels. This wisdom opens your heart, and, it expands more and more, and, you receive these beautiful vibrations of Love deep, deep within you. You are one with Love, one with this light, in this beautiful space. Love is who you are. As you love yourself more and more, you become that which you have been seeking. As you are reading this, you feel fantastic, and, you are raising your vibrations and that of the planets. Now, send your awareness out, and, pour Love into Mother Earth and up into Father Sky. As you do this, you become lighter and lighter, balanced, and so grounded, and in tune with Divine Love. As you expand Love, you attract it to you—Pure, Divine, Omnipresent, and Omnipotent Love. There is only Love in this space, so bathe in it and breathe, healing yourself and Mother Earth. You are Love, you are powerful, you are connected to everything in the collective consciousness. Namaste
Elspeth Kerr was born in Scotland and now live in Cyprus. She is a ‘soul reader of the heart,’ does sound release timeline clearings, and teaches Reiki, meditation, and self-empowerment. She uses her wisdom enabling souls to shine with joy from the inside out--helping the soul smile and beam its divine radiant light. She reminds clients to own their smile, which means: ‘Start My Internal Love Engine’. Elspeth offer services via Skype and in-person-sessions. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/elspeth.kerr.3 Soundcloud: Healing Steps of Colour Transformation Meditation 108
OBSERVING THE INTERNATIONAL DAY OF YOGA FROM AROUND THE WORLD
The Parliament of the World’s Religions by Denise Scotto, Esq.
The World’s Parliament of Religions can be traced back to 1893 when it opened in September, from the 11th through to the 27th, in what is now known as the Art Institute of Chicago. At that time, the city was hosting The World Columbian Expo, a pre-curser to the World’s Fair, with people attending from all corners of the globe to participate in conferences called Congresses and Parliaments. Mr Charles Carroll Bonney proposed the initiative, the very first organized interfaith gathering, and it’s recognized as giving birth to formal interreligious dialogue globally, with representatives of a wide variety of religions and new religious movements. Members of faith-based traditions that took part included: Christianity, Islam, Jainism, Buddhism, Hinduism as well as the Theosophical Society and Christian Science. Swami Vivekananda, a Hindu monk from India and a devotee of the Indian mystic Ramakrishna, introduced Hinduism at the Opening Session on September 11 to the roughly seven thousand people there. Well known is his greeting, “Sisters and Brothers of America!” and how he was warmly embraced by a standing ovation lasting close to two minutes. While he delivered a short speech, it was one that signified the ‘spirit’ of the Parliament which garnered widespread press coverage. In bringing Eastern philosophy to the West, he stressed the yogic values of tolerance, acceptance, harmony and cooperation. Swami Vivekananda’s legacy and enduring contribution to interfaith awareness is undisputedly well established. One hundred years later in Chicago, in 1993, the second Parliament of the World’s Religions was organized. Again, members of various faith traditions were present including Native American religious figures and Indigenous-centered religions with the Dalai Lama delivering the Keynote Address on the Closing Day. Sri Chinmoy was officially invited to hold the Opening Meditation on August 28, 1993. He frequently wrote about the underlying unity of different religious and spiritual traditions and how people from different faiths and traditions could come together in a spirit of mutual understanding and friendship, echoing the message of Swami Vivekananda. As many of our Light on Light readers already know, Sri Chinmoy was beloved within the greater UN community and his regularly held peace meditations inside the UN in NY Headquarters for many years was widely known. Subsequently, the Parliament organized meetings in 1999 in Cape Town, South Africa; in 2004 in Barcelona, Spain; in 2009 in Melbourne, Australia; in 2015 in Salt Lake City, USA; and in 2018 in Toronto, Canada. The Parliament’s vision is one of interreligious harmony. This approach respects, and is enriched by, the particularities of each tradition. Within each tradition are the resources (philosophical, theological and spiritual teachings and perspectives) that enable each to enter into respectful, appreciative and cooperative relationships with persons and communities of other traditions.
Here, the focus on common values underlies our collective action and capacity for peaceful co-existence. This has given rise to a series of Declarations which include: Towards a Global Ethic, Climate Change and the Human Rights and Dignity of Women. These and other Declarations are open for anyone to endorse and to use as a tool for dialogue, cooperation and engaging in collective action. I remember vividly my first Parliament experience. Having been invited to India to speak at an international law conference and arranging to meditate at sacred sites throughout the country, it seemed natural that from there, I would travel directly to Cape Town to attend the Parliament. It was a dream to be in South Africa with Nobel Prize Winners President Nelson Mandela and theologian and human rights advocate Archbishop Desmond Tutu in addition to many premiere spiritual teachers all in the same space! While I had hoped that one of my mentor’s Rabbi Joseph Gelberman would go, he told me that it was not his, but, my mission, and that his spiritual brother Swami Satchidananda, who founded Integral Yoga Institute in NYC and Yogaville in Virginia, would be going.
Meanwhile, colleagues from the greater UN community who I admired for their work to promote world peace and those with the World Peace Prayer Society would also be there and I would be speaking on a panel organized by the Temple of Understanding with its founder, the iconic, Juliet Hollister. An interesting aside is that in Cape Town, I met former child soldier known today as Venerable Dharma Master Hsin Toa who, back in 1999, shared his dream with the world to build a Museum of World Religions. I’m happy to write that he achieved this vision and I can describe how the Museum is an incredible space of beauty and multi-media learning located in an office building in the heart of the busy city of Taipei in Taiwan. The most recent meeting of the Parliament in November 2018, in Toronto, highlighted the theme, The Promise of Inclusion, The Power of Love: Pursuing Global Understanding, Reconciliation and Change. The International Day of Yoga Committee at the UN collaborated with friends from the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University, the United Religions Initiative (URI), the Temple of Understanding and UN partners (UNIFEM and UN Women) by organizing events grounded in yogic values highlighting human rights and human dignity, promoting a culture of peace and non-violence, multilateralism as an essential part in achieving the UN’s SDGs and creating a sustainable, inclusive and prosperous world for everyone.
OBSERVING THE INTERNATIONAL DAY OF YOGA FROM AROUND THE WORLD Some close friends that joined us in Toronto also included Light on Light’s very own Karuna and Kurt; BK Mary Friedland and Valeriane Bernard; Sadhvi Bhagawhati Saraswati (who I met in 2015 at the Salt Lake City Parliament); URIs Monica Willard, Deborah Moldow and Victor Kazanjian; the Temple of Understanding’s Grove Harris; the Sri Chinmoy Toronto Group; Unity Earth’s Ben Bowler; The United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society’s Reverend Liberato Bautista; Buddhist Relief International’s Sylvie Sun; Buddha’s Light International Association Venerable You Wang; Medical Missionary Sisters Celine Paramunda; World Yoga Community’s Guru Dileep Kumar. The Parliament draws people from all walks of life, all faith traditions and divergent philosophical beliefs. People are at varying stages in their understanding of interreligious and interfaith dialogue and cooperation, pressing global challenges, the concept of peace, and the mission and goals of the United Nations. It offers options to engage in cultural events such as listening to sacred music or viewing sacred art, to experience religious practices and spiritually based ceremony as well as to exchange views with people who one may not encounter in one’s daily life. The Parliament provides a special opportunity to promote the underlying values of yoga in all its fullness. Undoubtedly, it is a unique forum to share how yoga is an integral part of the UN’s mission and goals and describe how the richness of yoga is experienced and practiced in the work of the greater UN community. At the same time, it extends the possibility to return to one’s own interpretation of yogic values and their meaning in one’s internal daily life in addition to the greater sphere of one’s influence.
Denise Scotto, Esq., is an attorney at law, policy advisor, international speaker, interfaith minister & Founding Chair of the International Day of Yoga Committee at the UN. Starting her legal career in the public sector, she was a litigator appearing in courts in all boroughs of the City of New York. Denise held leadership roles in professional bar organizations including: the NY State Bar, the NY State Women’s Bar, the International Law section of the American Bar Association, the UIA. With these associations, she organized numerous events at UN fora as well as at national and local levels on global issues of pressing concern including conducting the first legal education program in NY City and NY State on the topic of human trafficking. As a UN staff member in NY Headquarters, she worked on issues to reform the internal system of justice, then, in the Department for Economic & Social Affairs formulating policy to advance law, good governance and human rights. Denise has held leadership positions in the UN community including: the UNSRC Enlightenment Society, the Values Caucus at the UN, the NGO Committee on Spirituality, Values & Global Concerns, the NGO Committee on the Status of Women, the International Federation of Women in Legal Careers, the International Federation of Women Lawyers, the UNA-USA New York City Chapter, Bridges of Hope Project, the Source of Synergy Foundation and the Evolutionary Leaders Circle. Denise developed “mindful social justice” which additionally serves the legal profession through her 20+ years of meditation and her connection with diverse yoga masters & spiritual leaders. 111
Inner Peace is a Global Opportunity by Philip M. Hellmich
There can never be peace between nations until there is first known that true peace which is within the souls of men. — Black Elk Note: an edited version appeared in the Contemplative Journal.
For centuries, saints and sages have taught that world peace originates from an inner source. Yet it has taken millennia for us to recognize the impact our collective lack of inner peace has had on the world. The very survival of humanity depends on understanding how inner peace tangibly and practically contributes to global harmony. In the past thirty years, technological advances have empowered humanity to speed up and amplify our lifestyles, giving rise to massive consumerism and an economic globalization that potentiates the pursuit of happiness. The resultant spiritual crisis is wreaking havoc on the environment and contributing to deadly violence around the world. At the same time, yoga has been quietly spreading around the world, transforming lives one posture, one breath at a time. The United Nations International Day of Yoga is a testament to the growing awareness of the positive impact of yoga in transforming lives, and, ideally, enabling us to create a better world. The relationship between the spread of yoga and the growing hardships facing humanity are directly linked, one that I became aware of through my love for the people of Sierra Leone, West Africa—a country consistently listed near the bottom of the United Nations Human Development Index. Sierra Leone: Love Affair and Heart Break
A.K. Sesay, with wife Tendy, three daughters and nephew
From 1985-89, I served with the Peace Corps and lived in two small remote villages in Sierra Leone—Kagbere and Masongbo. There were about 30 houses in each village, which meant there were approximately 300 people in each community. There was no running water, no electricity, and no telephones. My friends were largely subsistence farmers—like the Conteh family in Masongbo, or school teachers—like A.K. Sesay in Kagbere. They all lived on less than a dollar a day. Yet their lives were richly connected in a way I had not experienced in America. It would have been easy to romanticize village life if not for the fact that Sierra Leone was, and still is, one of the poorest countries in the world, where one in every four children dies before the age of five. It was when I returned to the United States that I realized how much the experience in Africa had changed me. I was suddenly aware of the wealth, material abundance, and incredible waste. People seemed to be in a hurry, heading some place to do something or get something; yet, many people did not seem as happy as the Contehs or A.K.’s family. To compound matters, the United States was heading to war in the Persian Gulf. And then, the unthinkable happened: war broke out in Sierra Leone. The causes for the Persian Gulf War were easy to see, the U.S. dependence on oil being a large factor. The conflict in Sierra Leone was more subtle and would take years for me to understand.
The Contehs and Hellmich ate together almost every night.
OBSERVING THE INTERNATIONAL DAY OF YOGA FROM AROUND THE WORLD This began my questioning of the “Western pursuit of happiness” through massive consumerism which led to my reading the Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda. I was surprised to learn that great Himalayan yogis intentionally planned, years in advance, to send Yogananda to the United States in 1920 to help spread yoga around the world. They knew humanity was headed into an age where technological advances, including the advent of the atomic bomb, would create potential hardships for humanity. The ancient science of yoga was needed to help people awaken to their innate divinity and to help harmonize humanity. As I dove deeper into the Kriya Yoga tradition, I began to better understand the fundamental and scientific challenges of massive consumerism: seeking happiness primarily through external material objects focuses the attention outward, robbing us of the experience of the deep inner peace and joy that exists within the soul. The temporary pleasures gained through the fulfillment of material consumption don’t last and need to be stimulated again and again by the acquisition of something else in what psychologists call the “hedonic treadmill.” This leads a person to seeking the next item, like a dog chasing its tail—needing to make more money, to buy more things, leaving a wake of waste and destruction. So, it became clear to me that the accelerated pursuit of happiness through consumerism is actually a spiritual crisis. Yogananda also advocated for a balance of spiritual and material development – it is important to help people take care of needs, such as food, water, shelter, education, health care and to ultimately have creative expression in the world, guided by intuitive wisdom…. As I worked to cultivate peace in myself, I so much wanted to help. The opportunity came when I started working with Search for Common Ground, an organization with the ambitious goal of transforming the way the world deals with conflict, away from adversarial approaches and towards cooperative solutions. The underlying principle of Search for Common Ground is that when people rediscover their common humanity, it often awakens compassion, tolerance and forgiveness which makes it easier to work together on shared interests. In this way, “Search” was similar to the teachings of the world’s great spiritual traditions and specifically the ancient science of yoga in helping people to awaken to their innate positive potential and to learn to live in harmony, acknowledging our interdependence and interconnectedness.
RUF combatants that occupied Masongbo under the command of teenage Colonel Rambo.
Even though there were many factors contributing to Sierra Leone’s war—including decades of corruption and regional politics— it was clear that the conflict was fueled in part by the global economy. For example, diamonds—the symbol of everlasting love— were sold to purchase AK47s, RPGs, and other weapons to arm rebels. Meanwhile, Charles Taylor in neighboring Liberia clear cut vast forests to pay for his war efforts. And the global economy soaked up these natural resources to feed consumer demands. I later traveled to other countries across Sub-Saharan Africa, including Angola, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Nigeria, and Rwanda. Most of these countries had experienced violent conflict or were desperately trying to avoid it and many of them had natural resources that were sought by the global economy. After these trips, I came back to the United States with a deeper appreciation for the basic necessities that could be so easily taken for granted – violence-free elections, infrastructure (roads, electricity, schools), professional police and military, economic opportunities, and other features of American life that my friends in Africa did not enjoy.
In 1998, I was assigned to return to Sierra Leone with Search on an assessment mission. During that trip, and several others during and after Sierra Leone’s war, I got to see firsthand the impact of deadly violence on my loved ones. Several friends had been killed, others raped, and many beaten. Thousands of child soldiers had been used as weapons of war in Sierra Leone. The village of Masongbo, where I had lived, had been sacked by child soldiers headed by a teenage boy named Colonel Rambo, trained in part by watching Rambo movies. The author with the Conteh family during a return visit. 113
While grateful to be home, I also was disheartened to see media obsessed with the ridiculous exploits of Britney Spears, Lindsey Lohan, or the latest “reality” TV program. Meanwhile, Wall Street had taken the individual pursuit of happiness to new extremes by manipulating markets for short-term gains, often throwing morality and the life savings of thousands of people out the window. It seemed most Americans were caught in a dream of distraction and self-indulgence that was only accelerating, yet scientific studies were showing people were less happy than they were decades earlier. There was a disconnect between the pursuit of happiness, the inner void it was creating, and the suffering it was causing around the world. In response to the mindless consumption in the United States and witnessing the hardships across Africa, I dove deeper into my Kriya Yoga meditation practice. At times it seemed a battle was raging inside as I struggled to calm my restlessness, anger, and confusion. Other times, towards the end of meditation, I would sit in stillness and experience an expansive peace. Inner peace became the “Comforter” (John 14:26), a source of healing, helping me to release the trauma of being exposed to the impact of deadly violence. In essence, inner peace became an experience of my own soul and Spirit, an anchor and reference point in the midst of a chaotic world. Inner peace became a treasure, one I guarded carefully, tending it like a garden or lover. By returning to that peace in meditation and attempting to carry it throughout the day – at times failing miserably – I felt a gradual transformation. Inner peace allowed me to feel my oneness with humanity and nature, thereby opening me more to the suffering of the world. Peace was the container for the alchemical process of shattering the heart, subjugating the ego, and discovering purpose, passion, and power based on a sense of interdependence and interconnectedness.
people; consuming only what was needed while ever mindful of the people who produced the goods; and planting an urban garden in order to have a relationship with food and the Earth, like my friends in Kagbere and Masongbo. Tapping into inner peace became the means to sustain taking action, even in the face of tremendous suffering. And at times it seemed grace would open doors to collaborations and initiatives I never dreamed possible. Over time, I began to wonder who was “pulling the strings” and was reminded of what Michael Singer, author of The Untethered Soul, once said to me: Look, there are billions of stars and planets in the Milky Way. There are billions of galaxies, all with billions of stars and planets. Science is discovering more and more galaxies all the time. All of them are guided by some intelligence and by natural laws….All you have to do is turn to that intelligence and it will guide you….That intelligence is much more creative than what you can ever come up with on your own. It will take attuning with Universal Intelligence to help humanity find solutions to our global challenges. Going inward and finding inner peace are the first steps to accessing that Intelligence and to becoming an instrument of Its peace. Note: From 2015-18, I traveled to Rishikesh, India, the birthplace of yoga to attend the International Yoga Festival hosted by Parmarth Niketan Ashram and the local Indian government. Serving as the Director of Peace for The Shift Network, I interviewed swamis, swaminis and yoga teachers on the banks of the Holy Ganges River in the foothills of the Himalayan mountains. The intention was to look at the ancient roots of yoga and its role in modern transformation. Here is an article published in 2018 with insights from those experiences. Global Celebrations of Yoga: The Yoga Day Summit and International Yoga Festival
It seemed my daily actions were increasingly guided by the silent Friend—taking time to greet neighbors; reaching out to homeless Philip M. Hellmich is a thought leader in creating a new narrative of peace, from inner peace to international peacebuilding. As the Director of Peace at The Shift Network, Philip is the chief architect of the Summer of Peace, Yoga Day Summit and World Peace Library - online global forums that seek to inspire, inform and involve people in the many ways that peace is emerging around the world. He also is the co-lead faculty of the Peace Ambassador Training. These peace programs provide skills training, inspirational stories, and powerful solutions from the world’s top peacebuilders, social change leaders, scientists, Indigenous elders and spiritual mentors. Philip and his colleagues design these peace programs in partnership with a number of organizations while advancing strategic initiatives, including the Alliance for Peacebuilding on re-wiring the brain for peace; International Cities of Peace in promoting 1,000 cities of peace; PeaceJam in promoting global peace education; and, numerous partners in celebrating the UN International Day of Peace. Philip has dedicated most of his life to global and local peacebuilding initiatives, including 14 years with Search for Common Ground. He also served for four years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Sierra Leone where he lived and worked in small remote bush villages. A published writer, Philip is author of God and Conflict: A Search for Peace in a Time of Crisis. Philip serves as a board member of the Rasur Foundation International and adviser to The Global Peace Initiative of Women, The Gaiafield Project, and The Oracle Institute. He is a member of the Rotary eClub of World Peace. Philip is a member of the Evolutionary Leaders Circle, a project of The Source of Synergy Foundation. He is also long-time meditation practitioner and enjoys studying and teaching about the parallels between inner and outer peace. 114
Preview of Upcoming Issue of Light on Light magazine - Issue 4
Celebrating Spiritual Practices and Yoga Day 2019 In this wonderful special edition celebrating the fifthyear anniversary of the International Day of Yoga, we’ve explored the many benefits of yoga practices. We extend our warmest gratitude to Denise Scotto, Chair of the International Day of Yoga Committee at the United Nations, for convening this amazing issue. As we’ve seen, yoga practices contribute to enhanced wellbeing and health, helping to restore unity between body, mind, and spirit. These practices—philosophy, meditation, breath work, lifestyle, behavior principles, mantras, mudras, and physical exercises—can also be found in other spiritual practices. The celebration of Yoga Day 2019 isn’t over yet! Light on Light magazine is delighted to share a preview our Summer 2019 issue, featuring updates from the Yoga Day celebrations including SHIFT Network’s Yoga Summit (link active on image below), the New York City UN headquarters festivities, among others.
In honor of spiritual practices within and beyond yoga, feature contributors include: Terry Patten Author, Teacher, (R)evolutionary Co-creating a New Republic of the Heart
Andrew Cohen Spiritual Teacher, Founder of Evolutionary Enlightenment
Gard Jameson Author, Professor, co-founder of The United Religions Initiative
Chris Grosso Speaker, Author, Indie Spiritualist
Rev. Diane Berke Founder and Spiritual Director of One Spirit Learning Alliance and One Spirit Interfaith Seminary
Jeff Genung President and Co-Founder of Contemplative Life
In sync with the upcoming issue, look for the launch of the new VoiceAmerica radio special, “Standing for Peace: Spotlighting Spiritual Practice and Activism,” from The Convergence radio series, available online in early August. The upcoming special includes Light on Light, the International Day of Yoga celebrations, Transformation 365, UNITY EARTH’s Standing for Peace campaign, and updates from the Evolutionary Leaders. Light on Light Host Editor, Karuna, discusses yoga and spiritual practices with Denise Scotto, Esq, Chair of the International Day of Yoga Committee at the UN at the NYC Convergence, February 2019
We look forward to warmly welcoming you to our next issue celebrating spiritual practices! Namaste with love, Rev. Shannon Winters Please send submissions for consideration to email@example.com 116
Â© 2019 Light on Light Magazine
Light on Light from the Interspiritual Network, a member of the UNITY EARTH network, is a free digital magazine dedicated to illuminating th...
Published on Jun 17, 2019
Light on Light from the Interspiritual Network, a member of the UNITY EARTH network, is a free digital magazine dedicated to illuminating th...