• Vichara: A key tool of self-study in yoga

    The systematic practice of raja yoga, the “royal” path, consists of three components: tapas (austerity, or going against the grain of our conditioning), svadyaya (self-study, or self-inquiry to understand the conditioning and overcome it), and ishvara pranidhana (the unshakeable faith in the ever-guiding and protecting power of a primordial inner guru, teacher, or guide).

    Vichara, or self-inquiry, is a Sanskrit term that is loosely translated as “discernment.” It is a systematic process that offers us a methodology for making the unconscious, conscious – a key tool offered by Vedanta which enables us to attain the ultimate goal of stilling the fluctuations of the mind and connecting with the Infinite, Pure Consciousness. As in Jungian psychology, which seeks to bring subconscious process and symbolic content to conscious awareness, a vichara process in yoga helps us to become more intimately aware of these subconscious patterns and tendencies so they can lose their power to seduce and entrap us.

    Ultimately, vichara is the ability to maintain a continuous awareness on the higher Self, the Paramatman or Ishvara, the untainted Purusha, or Supreme Soul. But in the initial stages, it helps bring us in touch with the higher aspects of our mind, the Buddhi, or wise, intuitive intellect – differentiating it from the lower functions  of the  mind, known as manas, the survival instincts, citta, the storehouse of all our memories, and ahamkara, the I-sense or ego identity. It is this Buddhi wise mind that gets us closer to that which is beyond the mind: Purusha, the Soul.

    The Yoga Vasishtha, one of the foremost Vedantic texts, is profusely illustrated with examples of vichara, recommending self-inquiry as the highest and most direct path to Self-Realization. So how do you do it? Here are some simple questions to ask yourself when you find yourself distressed or confused:

    • What situation or thought precipitated your thought or feeling?
    • What is the predominant emotion or feeling? (sadness, anger, fear…)
    • How did it manifest behaviorally? (yelling, withdrawing, judgment…)
    • What is the seed/root desire you need to uncover? We all live with these desires and they “color” our thoughts. They can be caused by samskaras, or past impressions; vasanas, the tendencies they engender; and vikalpas, the false beliefs that only live in our imagination and aren’t inherently real, separating us thus from Vidya. Through disentanglement from the thought forms, pure consciousness can begin to emerge.
    • Is the desire coming from our:
      • Higher Self, Soul, Purusha? How our Soul wants to express its purpose in this lifetime?
      • Or our lower self: manas, chitta, ahamkara, or Buddhi?
    • Can you trace it back the desire to when it took root in your life? While not necessary, this question can illuminate the origin of the unfulfilled desire to an event in early life that is still driving us.
    • Does it require adjustment (change something) or contentment (live with it) or both?

    How do you get rid of the desire that initiated the distress? Meditation uses fire of self-knowledge (jatavedas agni) to dissolve it. It increases our witness consciousness so we can dis-identify with the lower mind. Vyasa, in his commentary of the Yoga Sutras, recommends contemplating the Self/Purusha that is intransient so our awareness of it burns so brightly that it burns away avidya, the sense that the impermanent is real. We can then surrender to the divine, ishvara pranidhana, which connects us to something greater, thus allowing us to let go of outcomes (vairagya).

    Yoga Sutra 3.56 sattva purusayoh suddhi samye kaivalyam iti states that “with the attainment of equality between the purest aspect of sattvic buddhi and the pure consciousness of purusha, there comes absolute liberation, and that is the end.”

    Yoga Sutra 4.25 vishesa darshinah atma bhava bhavana vinivrittih completes the process, stating that “for one who has experienced this distinction between seer and this subtlest mind (cleared of all the colorings), the false identities and even the curiosity about the nature of one’s own self come to an end.”

    Complete liberation and the end of the search: This is the ultimate gift of vichara. May you be curious to begin the inquiry.
    [gery_box] By Inge Sengelmann[/grey_box]

    Inge Sengelmann is a somatic psychotherapist and certified ParaYoga teacher, initiated in the Himalayan Tantric lineage of Sri Vidya. ParaYoga is a living link to the ancient traditions of yoga, meditation, and tantra. 

     

  • Why Yoga

    Why do you practice yoga? A yogi is a seeker of the truth. Intention sets the tone for what kind of journey you‘ll have along the path of yoga. Align yourself with the deeper dimension of yoga, practice with a sincere heart, and cultivate an attitude of devotion. Set your intention to know the deepest, most subtle, truth about yourself and about the universe because this is the goal of yoga from time immemorial.

    The yogis of ancient times in India were human beings like you and me. They were on a quest to directly experience the truth about who we are and why we are here and how this crazy thing called life works. The answers they found are the methodology of yoga that we continue to practice today. We cannot divorce yoga from its spiritual roots. In fact, I think the whole reason so many people are drawn to yoga is that in an age of spiritual vacuousness, rampant materialism and cut-throat capitalism, we have reached a kind of inner boiling point.

    So many people are hurting and wounded in their bodies and in their hearts and mind. So many people desperately want to scream, but instead, stand silently in shock. So many people show up to the safe and sacred space of yoga to discover the unfelt parts of their own bodies, to finally heal, to learn how to listen and ultimately to directly and personally experience the highest and ultimate truth, the truth that sets you free.

    If you haven’t asked yourself why you practice, ask. Dig below the surface for the hidden answers and you will find your true self.

    I practice because practice is prayer, a holy space of worship where I lay down all my heart and all my soul to the temple of the Eternal. I practice because in the quiet space between breath and body, I am free, immersed in the Infinite, replenished, restored. I practice because the simple purity of the seeker’s path keeps me real, humble and raw, it breaks my heart open so that love shines through just that little bit more and makes my world a more peaceful place, one breath at a time.

    Why do you practice?

    By Kino MacGregor

    Kino MacGregor is a world renowned yoga teacher, the youngest ever teacher to be certified in Ashtanga Yoga by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, author of several yoga books, and the founder of OMstars.com

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  • What Do You Really Want? Empowering Yourself to Manifest Your Desires

    The Vedas tell us that the Soul is born with four desires – Dharma (purpose), Artha (the means to fulfill our purpose), Kama (the desire for pleasure and enjoyment) and Moksha (liberation). It was desire, in fact, that initiated the creation of the universe itself. In his book, The Four Desires: Creating a Life of Purpose, Happiness, Prosperity and Freedom, Yogarupa Rod Stryker writes that desire is the source of everything. The Yajur Veda, he writes, “tells us that divine desire, or kama, created the world. Without this desire, the world would not exist.”

    Tantra, defined as that which allows us to expand beyond our limitations, sees the world and everything in it as a manifestation of divinity, and therefore the material, when skillfully utilized, can be a means to spiritual fulfillment and liberation. And because desire is here to stay, we need to discern our Soul’s true desires from instinctual drives in order to be fulfilled and live in alignment with our greatest purpose and fulfillment. Otherwise, we are pulled by our drive for sensory pleasures, often in destructive or non-constructive ways.

    Through meditation and self-inquiry, you can learn to identify a sankalpa, a resolve or intention, that can move you closer to your overall purpose, or dharma. At any point in your life, one of the four desires will feature more prominently as a focus of resolve. For example, you may wish to have more freedom to enjoy your life (kama), but first you must regain your health after a chronic illness (artha). Lifestyle changes that will give you the stamina to engage in pleasurable activities would be the first step to achieving the desire of kama. Or you may need financial stability, and a secure home, which are also expressions of artha.

    In my video, Creating the Perfect Intention, you can engage in the process of identifying a desire from which your intention will emerge. Using stream of consciousness, you will identify the words that will give shape to your sankalpa, a desire or intention you wish to manifest within 6-18 months. This intention should be measurable and include steps that you will take to achieve it. It should also be written as if it has already been accomplished. As an example, I had a fear of videotaping a class for my yoga certification, so my intention to read: “My video is done, and I am a ParaYoga certified teacher!”

    But change is difficult, and resistance is to be expected. Even when we dare to dream of what we most desire to manifest, the force of our habits and patterns will conspire to hold us back. In today’s world, social media addiction is a perfect example. When we have a free moment, we often click on our devices rather than interact with others or engage in a productive activity to move us towards greater achievement. In my second video, Overcoming the Obstacles to Manifestation, you will learn about the “Creation Equation” and learn to maximize the power behind your intentions, so they can materialize, by agreeing to release an unhealthy habit.

    Finally, I offer you a tantric meditation to increase empowerment. Through this meditation practice, you can connect to the creative forces of will, power, and determination residing in your manipura or third chakra. Using breathing techniques, visualization, concentration, and mantra, you can create fertile internal conditions to give power to the seed of your intention.

    If you enjoy this process, and would like to engage in a formal Four Desires process, you can search for a certified Four Desires mentor/facilitator at https://www.parayoga.com/certified-teachers/

    By Inge Sengelmann

    Inge Sengelmann is a somatic psychotherapist and certified ParaYoga teacher, initiated in the Himalayan Tantric lineage of Sri Vidya. ParaYoga is a living link to the ancient traditions of yoga, meditation, and tantra. 

    Inge Sengelmann, parayoga certified teacher, intention setting, parayoga, the Four Desires

  • 3 Types of Procrastination: Which Do You Favor?

    Ever wonder why you spend so much time procrastinating, even when whatever you’re avoiding is something you actually want to do? Frances Cole Jones, author of How to Wow: Proven Strategies for Selling Your (Brilliant) Self in any Situation, has a few ideas about procrastination, and today, we’re sharing her thoughts here on the OmStars blog! Read on to see what Frances has to say about our procrastination habits.

    Hello, hello,

    I don’t know how you’ve been spending your day, but here, I’ve been procrastinating.

    That said, I can tell you that I’ve spent my procrastination time thinking about the different levels of procrastination (I’ve identified this behavior as “morally unimpeachable procrastination”—more on this below) 

    Yes, I spent this time making a list of the various ways a person can procrastinate. Below, my top three choices:

    The Eyelash Procrastination: Like an eyelash in your eye, this one is that very small thing that you’ve decided MUST be coped with before you can move on with your day. For example, you simply must brush the dog, pluck that weird hair out of your eyebrow, water the garden, empty the dishwasher….and then you will be able to move briskly along to the work you don’t happen to be doing… 

    The Broken Window Procrastination: This one is an extension of an idea put forward by Gretchen Rubin in her excellent blog piece entitled “What are Your Broken Windows?” Based on the police theory that broken windows in a community lead to more serious crimes, she maintains that broken windows are anything in your life that make you feel out of control. My Broken Window Procrastination Theory, takes this one step further: these are activities you engage in that you tell yourself are morally unimpeachable—they are keeping you from feeling out of control! — but they are really various ways of procrastinating. What kinds of things am I talking about? Well, balancing a checkbook, redesigning a website, or cleaning all the bathrooms come to mind…. 

    The Elephant-in-the Room Procrastination: These are the big ones we come up with so that we don’t have to do whatever it is that we feel we “should” be doing. The classic? “I can’t go to the gym until I lose 10 pounds.” (In my world this sounds like, “I can’t go to yoga until I get more flexible…” Um…no….) Other options? “I can’t break up with her until after her friend’s wedding.” “I can’t write my book proposal until I’ve finished doing all the research….in the world….” “I can’t start looking for a job until the fall– no one hires in the summer….” Like that…

    The trouble with procrastination is that it’s a confidence — and a joy — killer; because no matter how delightful the procrastination activity is that you’ve chosen, you won’t enjoy it as much knowing that you’ve told yourself a fairy story. 

    So, buckle up, dig deep, get it done. I promise you’ll feel better. 

    Now that I’ve written this, I do. 

    By Frances C. Jones

    Frances Cole Jones, Author

    Frances Cole Jones is the author of How to Wow: Proven Strategies for Selling Your (Brilliant) Self in any Situation and Wow Your Way into the Job of Your Dreams.

     

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