• The Power of Meditation

    In the last 10+ years, both yoga and meditation have grown significantly in popularity across the globe. For most of us, however, the path of yoga begins with a focus on the physical aspects of the practice, like building strength, flexibility and coordination. It isn’t until we begin to further develop and deepen our practices that we actually discover the truth – yoga is more about the mind than anything else.

    I, like many, began my pursuit of yoga with a focus on movement, eager to flow my way into a stronger & suppler body. So, I practiced frequently, both at home and at my local studio. With time and dedication, I was indeed able to achieve the results I was looking for, but I also noticed other effects – like the fact that I felt less stressed and more at peace in my body. As someone who had always been a bit of a worrier, this was huge.

    Yoga became a place of solace for me. The more I practiced, the more I began to realize that it was the moments I spent in stillness that truly impacted me. So, naturally, I became increasingly interested in the stillness part of the practice – the meditation.

    I like to think of yoga as training for meditation. The physical postures work as a means for helping us find more comfort in our own bodies. This in turn, allows us to sit in stillness for longer periods of time without getting too distracted by our bodies. The best time to meditate is after asana.

    Unfortunately, most yoga studios don’t offer time for meditation after practice. For this reason, it’s important to get comfortable practicing yoga at home. That way you can move into meditation straight away after you’re through with asana. But, what if you don’t know how to meditate?

    Figuring out how to sit for meditation is a lot more difficult that you might think. When we’re new to meditation, most of us simply don’t know what to do. We often find ourselves wondering, am I doing this right? Then, when we notice that our minds are going a million miles a minute, we start to think we just aren’t meant for meditation.

    This could not be further from the truth. Every single person on the planet who sits down as a beginner in meditation will find a million thoughts racing through their heads. Even advanced meditation practitioners have a hard time getting their minds focused sometimes. The important thing to remember is that like yoga, meditation is a practice, and it takes some getting used to.

    If you’re curious about meditation or think you might want to give it a try, there are tons of meditation classes you can practice with on Omstars.com. I recommend moving through an asana practice with one of your favorite teachers first, then transitioning into a meditation class. Try clicking the button below to browse through some of the available meditation classes offered online, or sign up to become an Omstars member by clicking here.

    If you’re interested in giving meditation a go on your own, check out this Beginners Guide to Meditation, or just follow these steps:

    Step 1: Find a quiet place where you can sit comfortably for at least 5 minutes. You can sit in a chair, on the floor, in your bed – really, anywhere that works for you.

    Step 2: Sit up tall, let your spine be long, and find comfortable stillness.

    Step 3: As you settle into your seat, bring your awareness to your breath, observing each inhale and exhale.

    Step 4: Try deepening the breath so that the belly begins to expand as you breathe in and out. Keep your focus on your breathing.

    Step 5: If your mind starts wandering, just notice your thoughts. Then, let them go and bring your awareness back to your breath.

    Step 6: Continue focusing on your breath for at least 5 minutes. Each time your mind wanders off, notice, and come back to your breath.

    That’s all there is to it.

    It’s important to know that your mind will wander off – probably several times. You will get distracted and you will most likely feel like you can’t focus. This is part of the process. That’s why it’s a practice. We have to practice bringing our mind back to our point of focus (in this case, the breath) again and again.

    Learning to focus the mind in meditation can carry over into everyday life. In time, we can learn to let go of stress and anxiety with ease. We can learn to keep our attention on projects and work for extended periods of time. We may even find that we become better listeners, better students, better partners, and better human beings. That is the power of meditation.

    By Alex Wilson

    Practice Meditation on Omstars

     

    Alex Wilson is a writer, yoga teacher, and Ayurveda Yoga Specialist. She is passionate about empowering students to create space for healing and self-discovery in their lives. She is also the content manager for Omstars.com.

  • 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. 

     

  • 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

  • A Time To Listen

    We are living in a challenging and powerful time. A bright light is being aimed at our shadows of racism, sexism, misogyny, xenophobia, prejudice, violence, and hate. These elements of our nature have always existed, though sometimes they have changed forms, sometimes hid from view, sometimes remained visible but ignored. Systemic, institutionalized oppressions are being identified and called out. Claims of injustice are beginning to be taken seriously. Evidence via phone cameras brings horrors that have always been experienced by some to the consciousness of the many. Groups are collecting, unifying to bring about change. What certainly may be an increase in hate and violence recently is coinciding with greater illumination of what has always been there.

    The marginalized populations have always known. Women have always known the degree to which they experience harassment, assault, manipulations of power dynamics. People of color have always known that systems of racism were alive, well, and strong. Trans people have always been aware of the dangers they face when confronted with fear and ignorance. Oppressed people are gaining agency in spaces where they had little or none. Now, those of us that have never been affected personally are becoming aware. And now, we are faced with choices. We can continue to bury our heads in the sand, deny and fight the truth, or we can join this building wave, support the voices demanding justice and change, contribute our efforts to something important and right.

    My two children are biracial. While I think of myself as someone who always believed in equality, a feminist and anti-racist, having children that are directly affected by racist ideologies and institutions has certainly made it personal – to a degree. My first son was born six years ago, and at the time I had an idealized view of interracial relationship, and the biracial offspring born of them. My immediate community was diverse and had been for years. I had minimal negative experiences related to my relationship, my friendships, my work, etc. Of the very few I had, I was able to package them up as isolated, fringe, and atypical. Discussions in my personal life or online that became racially charged were a place that I felt comfortable standing up, speaking out. I would passionately share what I believed and then move on with my life.

    As the Black Lives Matter movement gathered strength, and my boys got older, and a new president was elected, I found myself speaking out less and listening more. I began from a place of desire to identify, to myself and others, as non-racist, or anti-racist. It took a while to recognize how self-serving that desire was, and that it literally benefited no one but myself. I decided to only offer my voice when it would benefit the conversation, when it would positively contribute to the fight. In conversations where I used to know exactly what to say, I found myself at a loss for words. I don’t want to say the wrong thing, to offend, to appear ignorant, or arrogant. I felt helpless. And I think this is appropriate. This has been a part of my process. I gradually came to recognize that I, as a white female, will never, ever know what it is like to exist in our culture as a man, as a person of color, as a non-cisgendered person. I came to acknowledge when and where my voice is not needed, not beneficial, not helpful. As I found myself in spaces, both virtual and real, where important conversations were being had, instead of speaking, I learned to listen.

    I listened to the points of view of bigoted, ignorant, racist people. I listened and heard their beliefs, I learned of their pain, fear, anger. I learned what I shared with them, how I was like them. I listened and learned from the privileged, from the saviors and light workers. I learned that people don’t feel comfortable exploring and acknowledging their darkness – that of their culture and that of their soul. I listened and learned from POC. I came to recognize how little I knew, how little I understood, and how great was my own participation in, and benefit from systems of inequality and dynamics of power and marginalization.

    I am still immersed in this process, but through listening I am coming to acknowledge when my voice should stay silent. There are organizations and forums and conversations where the voices of POC are strengthening and getting louder and finally being heard. In these spaces, my voice is not needed, or wanted, or beneficial. There is nothing I can add to the conversation from my perspective, from my life experience, that produces anything beyond a salve to my own white guilt and sense of helplessness. In these spaces, I can offer myself as a soldier at their command, an additional hand set to a task. I can offer myself as a support to their work.

    There are places I have decided I can affect change, where my voice can be heard. It is in conversations with other white people. There are spaces where POC are not invited, where their voices are silenced. Those people that would not hear a black person, might hear me. A message that would be resisted if coming from a person of color, might seep through the barriers when spoken by me. When I am in a white dominated space and racism is present, my voice needs to be heard. For too long, we have been silent as our uncles tell inappropriate jokes, when we observe our boss passing up qualified employees because of their name, when a random comment by a stranger in line at the grocery store is said a little too loudly. These are the places we should be speaking. Our silence is complicity.

    Each day that passes and my boys get older, I become more and more unsure of how to raise them in this world. I mentioned above that this issue has become a personal one only to a degree. I am limited in my understanding of what they will experience by my whiteness and my gender. I have no idea how they will experience the world as children born of such different truths as mine and their father’s. What I can do now is listen: To the world as new voices and truths rise to the forefront, and to my boys, as they begin to share their world with me. Their experiences will form their truth and will inform my reaction which will, in turn, influence their reality. I will make mistakes, I have already made so many. But if I listen, I may continue to learn something along the way.

    A spiritual practice, like yoga, asks us to be present. To face our challenges, to sit in difficulty and just breathe. We aim to find steadiness and peace in our discomfort, pain, and ugliness. As you struggle to find your place in this time of change and activism, I ask you to take this method of self-study beyond the mat. Stay in moments of discomfort, pain, and ugliness. Don’t avoid the darkness, in fact, seek it out. Join Facebook groups that you wouldn’t otherwise be a part of. Go to community meetings. Go to social venues that stray outside of your usual. Have conversations with people different than you. Stay, breathe – and listen. As you absorb the truths of another’s experience, you will learn where you fit. You will learn how to apply your unique circumstances, perspective, skills, and talents to something important.

    By Angelique Sandas

    Practice With Angelique On OMstars

  • The Sacred Space Of Yoga

    There is no direct line to growth. It’s a curvy, twisted path through the heart. You might not think you can get any stronger, you might think you’re all alone, you might feel like you’re about to collapse but then you find it, the strength that was always there. Faith and hope lift you up. New friends appear where old wounds are still healing. The winding road is the spiritual path, the way towards the deepest truth of life.

    Practicing yoga doesn’t give you all the answers. Sometimes the practice gives you all the right questions.

    We all need sanctuary sometimes, a safe space where we are held and loved, where our bodies and most importantly our hearts have the chance to breathe and eventually heal.

    For over twenty years, yoga has been my sacred space, a place of worship and reverence. Every single person that continues to practice beyond the initial phase of fascination with the poses has tasted at least a drop of the elixir of true spiritual practice. Yoga is not a hobby, it’s lifestyle built on moral and ethical principles. But more than anything else yoga is a promise of deep and lasting peace — that promise is built on the principles of practice, not the size or shape of your body or perfect abs or the right clothes. As yogis we have the power to define what this community is all about. We can make it the true sanctuary that it’s meant to be or we can cede the moral compass of yoga to corporations that are yoga as a money-maker.

    Your voice as a yogi matters. I don’t believe that we should turn off our social media accounts or never buy another piece of yoga clothing. I also don’t believe we should drink the proverbial Kool-aid that is fed to us in sponsored posts. I don’t have the answers, but I believe we need to learn how to ask the right questions, how to dig deeply to find answers. Mindfulness isn’t a catch phrase to sell products. Mindfulness is a moral and ethical responsibility to do the research and be literally mindful of all your actions, personal, professional, emotional. Before you speak, be mindful of your words. Before you purchase anything, do the research and be sure that the companies you support with your dollars are ones that you truly support through and through. Before you give your attention to anything, including the algorithmicly induced social media feed, be mindful of where you are giving your attention and see if it’s worthy of your time and energy.

    The greatest gift you can give someone is your attention. It’s a discipline of the mind to carefully craft your point of focus. Life will throw you a series of curve balls that have the potential to take you off course. You have to choose to redirect your mind to your goals. Whether it’s a hater who just wont stop leaving annoying comments, a frenemy who puts up a show of love but truly burns with jealousy or a corporation that wants to cut you up and sell you like an object, there are so many distractions on the journey of life. Your heart wants to rant and rave about them. Your mind desperately wants to understand. You may find yourself spending time thinking, reflecting and even stalking the negativity. But you won’t gain any ground that way. You can’t talk reason to someone that doesn’t share the same basis of logic, respect and morality. You can’t play fair with someone who has been stacking the cards in their favor from day one. You just have to walk away. Turn your attention to your own path and leave the past where it belongs—in the past.

    There are an infinite amount of times during my daily yoga and meditation practice that my mind wanders. Whenever I notice it’s gone, I gently bring my mind back to the focal point of the breath and the body. In life, there is an endless onslaught of petty annoyances and big traps that can strand you in destructive way-stations along your journey. It’s up to you to constantly remind yourself of who you are and why you’re here.

    I know who I am and why I’m here: I am a keeper of the sacred fire of yoga, I am a torch-bearer of wisdom, I am here to walk the path that leads to the true light and every step I take lights the path a little bit for another. I am here to change the world and my gaze is set on the brilliance of the eternal, manifesting as light and love in every breath. I am here to burn with the holy vibration of love.

    Why are you here? What do you stand for?

    By Kino MacGregor

    Practice With Kino On OMstars

  • 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.

     

    Find Teachers Like Frances On OmStars