Wednesday, November 7, 2018

What prevents us from finding peace during meditation?


“Without the help of meditation, you cannot attain knowledge of the self.  Without its aid, you cannot grow into the divine state.  Without it, you cannot liberate yourself from the trammels of the mind and attain immortality.  Meditation is the only royal road to the attainment of freedom.  It is a mysterious ladder, which reaches from earth to heaven, from error to truth, from darkness to light, from pain to bliss, from restlessness to abiding peace, from ignorance to knowledge.  From mortality to immortality.”  Sri Swami Sivananda.

Essentially we are looking for peace, maybe some of us don’t realize that we are looking but we are searching and searching for moments of uninterrupted calmness, contentment and ultimately divine peace.  We may think that if we sit and close our eyes we will just find it however it may take a lifetime or longer to understand the nature of meditation, it is a rocky road and there are many obstacles that we face along the way.  The proper preparations and practices are essential to help us with the practice of meditation, to think that it is easy is a mistake, however, it is something that we all have the power to do, it is within all of us, the peace is inherent to all of us, but we have to prepare correctly.  This is why so many people feel that they need this in their life but give up on it quickly as they lack the proper preparations to help them, they gain no results and have no patience to continue on, doubt creeps into the mind and they give up.  This is a disaster; as said by Swami Sivananda – meditation is the royal road to freedom, so what is preventing us?  Here are a few pointers that are going to help.

The body is an obstacle – Remedy; Practice Yogic asana regularly – many people find sitting for meditation is extremely difficult.  Either because of stiffness or lack of strength in the body or they feel pain after some time all these cause a disruption to our mind during trying to sit for meditation.  By practicing yoga asana or yogic exercise you will gain more strength and flexibility to be able to sit.  Start with smaller amounts of time for your meditation and as the body becomes more suitable for sitting then gradually build up your time.

Restlessness – you can’t be in one place for long – Remedy; again practice Yogic asana or yogic exercise this will increase your levels of endurance and concentration.  Chanting is also a great way to increase levels of focus and concentration – attend regular Satsang for the chanting of kirtan – divine songs, this also is going to help with negative thoughts and emotions that trouble you by uplifting the mood and generating positive vibrations and thoughts.

Sluggishness and sleep – Rememdy; stop the meditation and go for a brisk walk, or a few rounds of sun salutations or some sort of sattvic exercise to re-awaken the body and mind.  Physical activity brings the balance to meditation.  Or splash some cool water on your face, hands and feet and then continue, also chanting for a few minutes can help to re-awaken your prana – vital life force.

A troubled mind – Remedy; look at your diet, keep to a sattvic (pure) yogic diet of simple, nutritious and light meals.  What you eat also forms your thoughts as well as making your body, so eating a lot of processed, spicy, un pure foods will really be detrimental for your meditations.  If you need something sweet and comforting – go for natural sweet things such as honey, milk and dates.  Avoid things in packets, jars and tins etc!  Pranayama or breathing techniques are a beautiful way to soothe and cool down the mind, giving some space for concentration and to clear the clouds away.  Look at the company you keep – are the people that surround you beneficial to you or detrimental to you, are they supportive of you?  Have the courage to make the changes that you need even no matter how much you may want somebody in your life if they are no longer growing and preventing you from growing then have the strength to let them go and move on with calmness, things will be alright. 

Too much external stimulation – Remedy; stop talking so much! Have moments in the day dedicated to silence, talking takes a huge amount of energy, that energy would be better spent on your practice.  Useless conversation makes a person restless and gossiping creates negativities.  Try to reduce the amount of time you may spend in places full of stimulations such as shopping centers, cinemas, tv screens, certain books and restaurants or bars and social media.  Stimulations drain your energy, draw the mind outward and create negativities. 

Emotions such as anger, depression, doubt and fear – Remedy; keep company with spiritually uplifting people that will help to give you courage, like minded people can feed off of each other and keep us going providing us with inspiration.  Watch your emotions and make contemplations on them, where have they stemmed from, consider the harm they create not only for your mind but also on your nervous system.  Try to contemplate on cultivating positive emotions such as courage and cheerfulness and think about the benefits they would have on you and those that surround you.  Know that all things are impermanent so any feeling will come and go, you will move forward.  Sun salutations are also a really fabulous means of detoxing the mind as well as the body when practiced with awareness.  Also relaxation techniques are invaluable to calm down the body and in turn calm down the mind, practice savasana mentally go through each body part and consciously relax each part and practice Yoga Nidra – the art of complete relaxation, making promises to your self or affirmations to not let these emotions get the better or us for example mentally repeating I will not let anger rise today several times when you wake up and throughout the day can be a powerful thing.

So we need to look at proper exercise, breathing techniques, relaxations and proper diet as well as looking at our whole lifestyle to prepare ourselves for meditation.  It may sound like a huge mountain is in front of you, but you can make it to the top – be brave, be patient and dedicated the seat of peace is there within you, make changes gently and slowly and you will indeed reap the benefits.  How long to get to the top of that mountain – that depends on how many times you switch paths, your speed and determination to get there and whom you will meet along the way.  The challenges are there but all the great things come to those who battle onwards on the battle field.
Be patient and enjoy every moment of the journey; an ounce of practice is worth a ton of theory, so say Swami Sivananda. 
Have beautiful peaceful days  - I took the path less travelled and that made all the difference!
OM shanti shanti shanti

Mangala / Nicky

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Celebrating Navaratri - the 9 Nights of Devi


Navaratri meaning the Nine Nights falls in October on the first new moon.  It gives us the opportunity to honour the Great Goddess, the Great Mother; that feminine energy or shakti.  The story is where the Goddess Durga whom encompasses all forms of Devi spends 9 days in battle with the Buffalo demon.  The demon is representing the ego and forces of ignorance, those negativities that lie deep down, on the 10th day she defeated that demon.  Moving from darkness to light, from ignorance to bliss divine, triumph to Devi, triumph to truth.
First 3 days - Honouring Maha Durga - the one to dissolve our ignorance and destroy our limitations.  She strengthens our courage and helps us face and overcome our fears, carrying weapons to protect her cubs and help us on our spiritual path.
Second 3 days - Honouring Maha Lakshmi - Goddess of abundance, beauty and growth.  She brings spiritual wealth, inspires generosity and helps us recognise the beauty around and within us.
Last 3 days - Honouring Maha Saraswati - the embodiment wisdom, creativity and creative expression.  She cultivates learning, noble thoughts and eloquent truthful speech.  An inspiration to creation and expression.
10th day - Victory day - triumph to Devi to the Goddess that lies within.  Let the light come, let the light come.
I love this time of year, a time of reflection and growth and of course much much light, enjoy lighting your lamps and honouring the strength, beauty and wisdom that lies within you.
Have a beautiful 9 nights.
Om Shakti Om Shakti OM Shakti Om
Om Shakti Om shakti Om Shakti OM
shanti shanti shanti
Mangala / Nicky

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Dancing with the Sun - Surya Namaskar


Surya Namaskar; The sun salutation is a vital and integral part of our postural or asana practice within the Sivananda system of yoga.   The practice of Surya Namaskar comes after our pranayama; our breathing exercises and before all other asana - yogic postures.   It is one of the first and most natural forms of inner expression, giving rise to the solar energy that lies within.
In Rig Veda, esteemed as mans first spiritual scripture, the sun is described as the remover of weakness and healer of all illness, and the one who can inspire our intelligence.
This beautiful practice is a flow of movement in line with the breath that becomes  a physical meditation on the energy of the world, the energy that lies within and around us and a way of connection to the sun, its light, each ray and each moment.   It is a means to re-balance the five elements that make our physical being, earth, water, fire, air and space.   Through this practice we can become powerful, active and acquire long life.   We can shine for the good of humanity moving from the darkness to the light.
Throughout mans history the sun has been honored and given reverence, the ancient Egyptians built the pyramids which have been symbolized by the sun.   The Aztec, Inca and Mayan peoples had elaborate temples dedicated to the solar Gods.   Stonehenge in the UK is a solar observatory to predict the coming seasons, solstices and equinoxes.   The Native American Indians lived life by the rhythmic cycle of the sun and honor the suns crossing the sky with circular patterns and mandala in their construction methods.
Today we can honor the structure of our own self, re-balance and harmonize ourselves in the world with this practice.   It is a means to find inner space, release tightness in the tendons and muscles, reduce toxin build up in the body and in turn the mind.  If practiced quickly it is a great way to reduce feelings of restlessness, frustration or anger, when practiced the way it is intended - slowly it brings feelings of contentment and peace.   It truly is a great boon to all, adults and children alike, young and old, it aids the body in rapid gain of flexibility while it focuses on the mind and increases endurance.   After practice relaxation is vital lying down in your body so you can absorb all the prana - vital life force that you have created within the practice.   Like digesting a beautiful meal, you digest the prana.  So no reason not to do - roll out your mat and practice 6-12 rounds in accordance with the 12 different positions of the sun in a year, giving 12 different spinal positions, you see everything is connected.   Shine your inner light with the practice of Surya Namaskar every day, any-where you can!  Traditionaly we practice in the early morning facing the direction of the rising sun.  
Have beautiful joyful days
Om Shanti Om

Mangala / Nicky

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Yoga an essential need of Today.

"Yoga is not an ancient myth buried in oblivion.   It is the most valuable inheritance of the present.   It is the essential need of today and the culture of tomorrow. "              Swami Satyananda Saraswati.



The demands of living in todays modern world are seemingly huge.   Whatever your job - you are busy.   The only way to heal is to put yourself on pause.   This is essential for the wellbeing of body, energy, mind, thoughts and emotions.   It is when you are on the pause that you can find the space that you need and help yourself with your inner medicine.   The practice of authentic and classical yoga will give you a set of tools to help you relax and work on vital relaxation techniques and breathing techniques to re-charge, re-balance and de-stress the complete system.   It will be a positive and uplifting direction, away from appliances, screens and beeps. 
The word yoga means 'unity' to 'yolk' or 'oneness' and is derived from the Sanskrit word 'yuj' which means to join.   When we practice we bring together the complete system of body, mind and emotions.  Balancing and harmonizing through the practice of yogic postures, breathing, meditation, positive diet and deep relaxation brings essential peace that we so need to start to thrive joyfully in todays world.   This incoporated with holding bandhas (locks) within the body and cleansing techniques can bring a higher awareness and waves of positivity.   We start at the beginning of working with the physical body, which for most of us is a familiar place to start and as we progress we can direct inward and start to approach the mind.   If we can learn to control the body then we can in turn start to learn to control the mind and direct it away from  negativity.  Yogic practices give positive, direct and tangible benefits to everyone, yoga is for all, no matter who you are, how old you are, what your body type is or what you believe in.  Yoga is for you; it is a gift from the universe, so isn't it time to roll out your mat at a beautiful class with an inspired teacher.
Wishing you all beautiful days and peace peace perfect peace.
Om Namah Sivaya

Mangala / Nicky

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Dealing with adversity and disturbing emotions by looking at the notion of impermanence.


Finding ourselves in difficult times or facing emotions that seem overwhelming can be shocking and scary.  If we can know that these times will not last; that they will pass and try to stand back and observe we can manage ourselves much better.  Here is a contemplation that will help in these times.

1.    In a comfortable seated position with the spine held straight bring the awareness to your body starting at the toes and feet and working upwards to the top of the head.  Then close your eyes.
2.    Start to feel and observe your natural flow of breath.  Then once you feel a little more settled and your mind begins to slow a little breathe deeply – longer inhalations and longer exhalations without force.  Try to breathe into the belly and draw in the belly on the out breath.
3.    Start to be aware of the outer sounds that surround you, notice how they are impermanent, they don’t last, how they come and go.  Concentrate on one sound then move to another and another etc. 
4.    Bring the attention through the senses – smell; are there any smells, do they last?  Is there any taste within the mouth; is it cool, warm or dry?  Any patterns or colours behind the closed eyes?  Then any feelings through the body any sensations?  Try to feel your energy by concentrating at the palms of your hands and hold the energy within your hands, becoming grateful for that energy.  You can also move on to the souls of your feet.  Watch any thoughts that come into your mind, do they last?  Observe them, see they are swift and come and go, they shift from one thought to another thought, just observe them like you are watching a movie of your thoughts.
5.    Contemplate on an object of desire that you can remember from time back or even your child hood, something you really wanted.  Something you may have worked hard for or saved for.  Think – where is it now?  Do you even remember?
6.    Contemplate on the impermanence of this object – does it bring you happiness now?  Contemplate on the impermanence of all things, time, experiences and feelings.  Think about trying to start to let go of the current feelings that are disturbing you or on material things that have passed, jobs, friends people that have come and gone from your life, places that you have lived.  Nothing is permanent.
7.    Observe once again your current situation or feelings and know that this too is not permanent, let go let go let go. 
8.    Once you have observed and know that this will pass lie back in savasana and relax through the whole body, the whole body, the whole body relax.
9.    Stay there for 10 minutes or even longer if you can.  When you are ready gently wake up the body by moving the toes and fingers and gently sit up.
10. Either silently or out loud start the Dhyana on OM – repeating Om for as long as you feel you need.  Tune yourself to OM.  Let Om comfort you and bring security and stability.

We all go through times of adversity at some stage – and there is nothing wrong with asking for help if you need it, in fact this shows strength and not a weakness.  Here are some valuable sites that can help.

Also please listen and join in with the chanting of OM here - https://soundcloud.com/nicola-zammit

Know that you are strong and you have courage and that you are a beautiful being.
Wishing you all shanti shanti shanti
Mangala / Nicky.