Newsletter March 2012
by Swami Muktidharmananda Saraswati, NZ Acharya
"Once upon a time there were two Swamis (monks) who lived in India. They were known as the laughing Swamis, because they always found a joke in everything and could be seen laughing at all hours, in all situations. One day one of the Swamis said to his friend, “I am going to die in three days, and I would like you to make everyone laugh during my funeral. Put fireworks in my funeral pyre and when they light it, there will be explosions everywhere.” Sure enough three days later, the laughing Swami died and when they lit his funeral pyre, bangs and booms and explosions went off. His friend began to laugh hysterically and then the crowds of mourners began to laugh too, until everyone was laughing so hard that they fell down in hysterics." This is the story of the laughing Swami who laughed even at the moment of death that my guru Paramahamsa Satyananda once shared with me.
I remember my guru talking about life as a very short and fleeting illusion taken all too seriously by many people. In order to be serious, you have to hold many tensions within. Some people think that in order to be productive and “get things done”, you have to be serious, but it is possible to perform all of our actions skillfully and freely. Awareness is all that is required. The universe has a natural harmony and order and continues functioning in a relaxed and accurate way. However, most humans have lost this natural harmony and spend a lot of energy hurrying and worrying. These states of mind only cause stress, accidents, and disease. Do what you have to do with consciousness and life will take care of the rest. Everyday brings its own lessons, and if we can be open and aware, we can see what gifts life is offering us. Jokes are a far better medicine than the chemicals bought in the drug store. In fact there has been research by prominent doctors who have used laughing medicine to cure cancer. Like the laughing Swamis, if we can find the funny side to life, all of the little challenges that create daily stress become a meditation, a way to grow.
Many human beings have moved away from the natural rhythm of life, embracing the artificial world complete with all its complication. This is reflected in the health of our bodies and minds. It seems that the precious word “simplicity” does not have meaning in the modern world. When we have a complicated life and cluttered mind, it is difficult to experience the laughter and joy that the world has to offer. If we observe children, we see how easy it is for them to celebrate the moments of life. They are innocent and spontaneous and have a simple, present mind. As we grow up and acquire responsibilities, we seem to become affected by the stresses and tensions. We can keep the openness to life that children have, only by diving within ourselves and connecting with our deepest reality. If we are able to do this, then we will be able to face any challenge with calmness. If we choose the route of seriousness and stiffness, often we become sad, fearful, inflexible and eventually sick with so many limitations. This is why Jesus said that if we want to experience the kingdom of God, we should be like children. Children still hold the openness and flexibility to remain present.
Many people today are searching for ways to connect with their inner beings and go beyond the seemingly constant frustrations. If we look into the ancient yogic and meditation techniques, there are practices that teach us to bring more awareness into every moment. With more awareness, we have the ability to see our actions and see that the movie of the mind is rather entertaining. If one learns to see their own mind without attachment, much money can be saved on cable and theatre expenses!! Remember that life is only a Sunday morning cartoon and that the joy is within.
by Swami Karma Karuna, director of Anahata Yoga Retreat
The difference between your “sankalpa” and your New Year’s resolutions.
Many people on the yogic path are committed to self transformation. This active focus on growth may ignite questioning of one’s own behaviour. Sometimes there is genuine desire to change a particular habit or pattern, but try as one may, the cause of the action can be elusive! Whether resisting or accepting those aspects of the self which seem outside of conscious control, in truth the reactions, perspectives and even external conditions are all a product of patterned responses deeply rooted in the subconscious and unconscious mind, which are normally inaccessible.
If they are not within conscious reach, how does one let go of these negative unconscious patterns and transform into a more positive being? Satyananda Yoga Nidra™ provides the tools to ‘weed out’ these unconscious negative patterns and in their stead plant positive seeds deep in the subconscious mind, gradually allowing expression from the highest aspects of the self.
Each and every thing experienced through the senses, from childhood, school, career, interactions with friends and family is recorded and imprinted in the mind. The subconscious and unconscious layers of the mind are beyond the reach of the average human being, but they are the storehouses where all the impressions received via the senses accumulate. The impressions in the mind are held in the form of archetypes or seeds, called samskaras. These samskaras have the power and capacity to influence behaviour and tendencies in everyday life. Put simply, humans are the result of their deeper mind and its store of countless impressions from the past. It is like looking into a big closet filled with photos, old toys and letters from lovers and friends. There are so many parts of the self stored within the closet that one brief glance over its contents renders it impossible to know exactly what is inside.
One may think consciously, “I want to be positive. I want to overcome my reactions, anger, stress and depression.” But the sneaky pattern, action or negative thoughts often arise before they can be stopped! So what can be done to support positive change and begin to overcome the deep patterns which may be causing emotional, physical and energetic imbalances? How can these patterns be changed when they seem to stay so well hidden?
Satyananda Yoga Nidra™ is a deep relaxation technique which enables the practitioner access to the unconscious mind in a conscious way. By holding the practitioner in the state between waking and sleeping for a significant period of time, Satyananda Yoga Nidra™ induces a state similar to that of deep sleep. However, unlike normal sleep, where the person is unaware of the external world, in Satyananda Yoga Nidra™ the awareness is active while the body and mind deeply relaxes.
In the visualization stage of Satyananda Yoga Nidra™, with the use of guided imagery, the contents of the unconscious mind can arise and be integrated into the conscious experience. Sometimes samskaras arise as painful memories, unfulfilled desires, conflicts, fears, etc. or often what arises is just a color or seemingly unrelated images. Whatever surfaces, it is important to remain the witness of the experience and to view the contents of the mind as a movie. This is easy to do when in the deeply relaxed state of Satyananda Yoga Nidra™, but in the every day waking state we cannot normally remain the witness. We react, interact, express from the force of the pattern and thereby often give the negative pattern more energy. Remaining the witness in a relaxed state will unblock previously repressed and locked up energy so it can be used in other activities. It will also clean out the garden of the mind from the difficult weeds, which cause negativity and illness, and very gradually the positive flowers can be cultivated.
In order to enhance the growth of the positive seeds, Satyananda Yoga Nidra™ uses the practice of sankalpa. The sankalpa is a short, positive statement or affirmation, mentally repeated whilst sinking into this deeply relaxed state. In the same way that large companies advertise their products by planting the seeds of desire within the subconscious mind; positive seeds can be planted in the subconscious with the sankalpa, thus affecting the actions of the practitioner and manifesting profound, positive changes in their life.
The word sankalpa is derived from two Sanskrit root words: sam-‘union’ or ‘together’ and kalpa-‘possibility’- or every possibility in existence. When the sankalpa is used, the awareness is directed to a particular possibility that exists within, presenting a goal which, with repeated use, will gradually manifest.
The difference between sankalpa and a normal New Year’s resolution is that the sankalpa is used when the practitioner is in a receptive state. At the time of sankalpa repetition in Satyananda Yoga Nidra™, alpha brain waves are dominant. These are the brain waves of relaxation, creativity and receptivity. A resolution stated to the conscious mind is like planting a seed in too little soil. There needs to be enough soil for the root to reach deeply into the ground in order to create a strong plant.
Advertising agencies work on our subconscious mind by consistently exposing us to their images, slogans and jingles. Being subjected to this constant barrage of advertising campaigns seems to have little effect on the conscious mind, yet the subconscious is recording and absorbing every detail of this bombardment. Although the planting of these constant negative impressions cannot be totally avoided, we can choose to plant positive seeds and water them with the daily practice of sankalpa during Satyananda Yoga Nidra™.
In the same way McDonalds always uses the image of the Golden Arches, the slogan ‘I’m Loving It’ and jingles like ‘There’s nothing quite like a McDonalds’, the sankalpa must be stated using the same words and the same intonation at the same stage of the practice each and every time it is repeated. The sankalpa should be chosen carefully, using positive, concise language and should be important to the individual’s purpose. A sankalpa mentally stated with conviction, faith and determination, and used daily, will grow very strong roots and will bloom willingly.
One of the sankalpa’s many benefits is its practical application in shifting and transforming mental and physical patterns. It can be used to break a deep-seated habit in cases such as drug or alcohol addiction. Its mental repetition can be used to calm the nervous system whilst under stress. For physical or terminal illnesses it can be utilised to encourage healing, increase will power and promote positive thinking.
Society trains the individual to ignore that the power of transformation lies within. There is always a tendency to blame external factors for unhappiness and difficulties. Stop to question unconscious actions and mental patterns and it can be seen that they are indeed the platform from which the external world is viewed and interacted with. Although the majority do it unconsciously, individuals create their own reality.
Satyananda Yoga Nidra™ not only teaches that the conscious mind obediently follows in the wake of the subconscious and unconscious mind, it also reveals the gate to the garden of the deeper mind. Utilising the sankalpa provides the tools needed to plant whatever is desired in the life of each individual. The only limitation is the imagination.
“Sow a thought and reap an action
Sow an action and reap a habit
Sow a habit and reap a character
Sow a character and reap a destiny”