Newsletter November 2011
By Swami Muktidharmananda Saraswati, New Zealand Acharya
“God sleeps in minerals, wakes in plants, walks in animals, thinks in humans, and manifests in yogis” Paramahamsa Niranjanananda
In the Western society there is a movement of awareness towards treating our planet better. Work is being done to reduce environmental pollution, end the destruction of forests, stop harmful radiation etc. All of these are positive actions that we can continue working towards. However, how much time do we spend reducing our own mental and physical pollution. Have we considered that when we have negative thoughts and uncontrolled anger, envy, and jealousy that we are creating pollution? Have we pondered over what type of pollution we create in our bodies with stress, drugs (many of them legal), alcohol, and processed junk food? There are many people protesting against radioactivity while at the same time creating a lot of internal pollution. There are many executives who support reduction in forest destruction, and yet they create a lot of internal pollution with stressful thoughts and deadlines. Can we see the contradiction? We are polluting our internal rivers (the veins and arteries of the human body) with stress hormones and toxins in the same way that we are throwing rubbish into the rivers on our earth. In yoga ecology, we begin by cleaning the rivers within so we have a basis for our external actions. We do certain types of practices to begin to know ourselves better and cleanse our own internal environment, as well as to reestablish a deeper awareness and connection with nature.
We have been given the precious gift of this human structure for a higher purpose, yet mostly we continue to abuse it. If we want to change the external situation in the environment in which we live, then we must begin with our own personal habits and patterns. The basis of society is the individual. Individuals come together to form what we call society. So it is with the individual that we need to begin in order to consider the ecological problems that we are facing in this day and age. If we change our old shoes for another pair of old shoes we will always be wearing old shoes. If we change our rotten apples for rotten oranges, we will have to keep eating rotten fruit. If we approach the world with a polluted internal environment, we will continue to create external pollution. Thus, in order to make lasting external changes, we need to begin by shifting our internal awareness.
In order to know ourselves better and cleanse our own internal pollution, we have to deepen our self-awareness. Contained within we have all the elements that are part of the external world: earth, water, fire, air, and ether. These are the basis of our beings, just as they are the basis for the rest of creation. In yoga, each of the energy centres (chakras) is related to one of these elements. The earth is the most physical, manifest element. It is the physical body that we see and touch. Water is related to emotions, while the digestive fire in our abdominal area represents fire. Air is subtle. We know it as breath and cannot live without it for more than a few minutes. Finally, ether is the subtlest element, which is pure space and experienced before going beyond the elements. As we know ourselves better, we can see how these elements are constantly interacting inside our bodies and with the external world. Our body is a miniature universe. We have to learn how to balance this micro-cosmos, so that we have the capacity to shift the macro-cosmos.
Inside our brains, we have an enormous amount of dormant energy waiting to be awakened. Scientists and yogis alike have stated that we are only using approximately 10% of our brain potential. Imagine what we could do if the other 90% was activated? The human body is the most amazing engine ever created. The maintenance and development of this engine depends very much on the awareness with which we approach it. When we apply the yogic science to ourselves under the proper guidance, it keeps the human engine in shape, similar to an old classic car that still runs well. Practices of asanas, pranayamas (breath work), and meditation practices have been proven to help develop mental balance and physical health. These yogic practices are also cleansing, so that we are able to recycle the energy that is presently tied up in mental rubbish bags and poor physical health. This recycled energy can be directed towards higher goals and spiritual awakening. When we create a clean and balanced internal environment, then we are able to radiate constructive energy. The radiation of an imbalanced mind and a sick body is more harmful than the radiation of computers and cell-phones. A yogic lifestyle helps us to be creative and positive and this is the best that we can offer for a safe planet.
The second aspect of yoga ecology is re-establishing our connection with the natural vibrations, rhythms, and needs of our earth. We have become so artificial and mechanical that we don’t even see ourselves as part of nature. Instead of being the caretakers and protectors of all other forms of existence, we have turned into irresponsible destructors of our ecological system. While we may not be destroying our earth on purpose, we have not developed enough awareness to see the effects of our actions on the earth. Since we do not know how to relate and communicate with ourselves, then we are not able to relate and communicate with all the other creatures in the universe. We have forgotten the higher ways of communication and we remain stuck in the lower ways of verbal communication. It is incredible to think that certain so called “uncivilized” cultures were able to communicate without words. Many of us have experienced knowing what another person is going to say, or sensed something from animals or trees. This is like a glimpse of telepathic communication in which we do not depend on words, but have a deeper knowing. Verbal communication is the most ordinary way of communicating.
One of the practices used to deepen our sensitivity to nature is called Tree Pooja (prayer or worship). Tree Pooja is a ritual done in India by many people. They offer daily prayers to certain plants, such as the sacred Tulsi plant, which is used to heal many sicknesses. In Tree Pooja, we choose a tree and we visit it daily for a few minutes. We can choose how we wish to connect with the tree, according to our own nature. Some people put incense and do a prayer to the tree, while others hug it, thank it, or simply sit under their tree, taking in some quiet time and remembering to breath. We find our own way to be with the tree and slowly our awareness grows with the particular tree so that we can sense a subtler, deeper energy in nature.
This type of ritual combined with the other previously mentioned yogic practices can gradually help us so we are able to stabilize the more subtle ways of communicating with ourselves and all other creatures. We have come from unity to duality. In duality, we see ourselves as separate from everything else around us. In the yoga journey, we travel back inwards, so that we can see the illusion of duality and rediscover the reality of union.
Yoga ecology is a small light in this current time where a lack of sensitivity and awareness towards our poor planet earth pervades. A better earth is possible when we are able to experience love and compassion. Love and compassion are the results of self-knowledge. They are not the outcome of a relationship with the world that is based on imbalanced and unchanneled emotions. Every atom of this creation is pervaded by our real divine nature and as we develop our awareness, we will be able to experience our presence in minerals, animals, and humans alike.
The work of yoga consists of balancing our energies by cleansing our energy conductors. This creates a proper distribution of energy throughout our systems so that the awakening of the unused 90% of the brain can take place. With this awakening the quality of our lives improves considerably, and then it is possible to bring creativity, love, and compassion to its highest peak. These qualities are the foundation for transforming this earth into a heaven.
A gift from the past for the people of today
By Swami Muktidharmananda Saraswati, New Zealand Acharya
I feel inspired to share with you the topic of Satyananda Yoga Nidra™ or Yogic Sleep, as this practice has given me profound benefits, such as living with greater positivity and awareness, and improved health. I was very fortunate to have lived with Paramahansa Satyananda for 16 years, the creator of this amazing science. He is one of the greatest contemporary yogis and he has contributed enormously to the propagation and acceptance of the ancient Yogic Science in the modern world.
Satyananda Yoga Nidra™ is a Tantric meditation based on an ancient Tantric practice, called ‘Nyasa’, in which mantras are chanted on different parts of the body. Swami Satyananda created the present technique after studying the ancient Tantras and also using information derived from his own experiences he had with his unconscious mind while he was living in Rishikesh, India with his yogic master Swami Sivananda. Nidra is a word that means sleep and Yoga Nidra can be translated as the yogic way of sleeping. Usually in normal sleep, we become unconscious. In Yogic sleep, we bring our body into a relaxed state and begin exploring the unconscious mind in a conscious way. We are able to develop an awareness, which enables the individual to go beyond the hypnotizing influence of the vast deeper mind.
This deeper mind is the storehouse where we accumulate all the impressions that we receive via the senses. These impressions are registered in the mind in the form of archetypes, which have the power and capacity to influence our behaviour and tendencies. Related to the qualities of these impressions are specific drives and tendencies. These do not allow us to realize our real identity and keep us far away from the true fulfilment of our existence. This is also the cause of many diseases, affecting the contemporary human being.
Satyananda Yoga Nidra™ is a technique that enables us to reach the unconscious mind in a conscious way so that we will be able to see our hidden roots and eradicate them. At this stage, Satyananda Yoga Nidra™ is a great practical way for cleansing our mind. But Yoga Nidra has many other benefits in the field of physical health, education and spiritual development. According to scientific research at the Bihar Yoga Bharati, Satyananda Yoga Nidra™ has been proven to enhance deep relaxation as well as aiding in curing many diseases such as high blood pressure, asthma, insomnia, and more.
There are four fundamental stages, which each serve an interesting purpose related to our external lives. Firstly, there is the resolution which is a short positive statement repeated to the deeper mind. It is like planting a seed in the mind that will grow. In this day and age of fast technology and so many stimuli entering our minds all the time, we need to also add in positive seeds. The resolution is a positive seed and if it is repeated over and over it does manifest. Certain experiences from our life that are not resolved hide in our unconscious mind and provide glasses with which we see the world and shape how we interact in the world. In the same way, if we plant positive seeds, they begin to affect our actions and manifest positive changes in our lives.
The second stage of Satyananda Yoga Nidra™ is called the rotation of awareness through the body parts. Different parts of the body are mentioned in a certain order and the practitioner acts as an observer, moving through the body parts. This serves to firstly relax the body more deeply. There is also a motor sensory connection between the body and mind and as one becomes aware of the body part mentioned, a corresponding area in the mind is awakened.
Next there is a creation of opposite feelings, such as experiencing hot and then cold or heavy and then light. This serves the purpose of increasing creativity and also helping us to deal with opposites in the world, which develops a more flexible mind. Usually when something good happens we are happy, and when something disturbing to the mind happens, we become upset. With Satyananda Yoga Nidra™ we practice consciously creating and controlling opposite situations so that we can gradually gain this ability in daily life. In our present state the opposites that are often unavoidable in life tend to rule us. As we develop a deeper awareness, we still feel the opposites but we become like an observer. As an observer, we are no longer ruled by these feelings and situations, but we are rather the ruler of our own mind.
Lastly, we work directly with the storehouse of experiences in our unconscious mind. These experiences or archetypes are responsible for the way we act and interact in our environment. The mind records everything from the smallest detail in a room to traumatic events as a child, and these get stored in our unconscious mind. These unconscious memories create our reality, as they are the foundation of our belief system. For example, if I experienced a traumatic event as a young age, it may have broken my trust in life. Then I would interact in the world from a place of protecting myself, so my trust would not get broken again. In Satyananda Yoga Nidra™, archetypical images are visualized when the person is in a deeply relaxed state and these images can trigger the release of the unconscious memories, allowing them to gradually come to the surface and go, so they no longer affect us. The visualization of these images also helps our creative energies to function more fully, bringing us out of the stagnant pool of unconsciousness to the dynamic river of creativity.
All of the stages of Satyananda Yoga Nidra™ are designed in a way that will train our consciousness to grow and expand gradually. In order to stay sane in this world of challenges, we need to develop the capacity to delve into the Depths of our mind and understand the deeper realities of life. Satyananda Yoga Nidra™ had offered immense benefits in my life on all levels, and for this reason I enjoy sharing this technique that was passed down from my spiritual master so that these positive seeds will affect the lives of many more people.