Day 107 – Day 111

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Day 107 – a bit of positive ju-ju

We are going on an excursion to the Swami Rama Hospital and Ayurvedic Centre in Dehradun. It is only about 45 minutes away and the road is lined with signs warning drivers about mad elephants. Apparently they charge the cars at night when they see the headlights. It is mid-morning so no elephants in sight, sane or mad. As we travel through, Radha leans forward and instructs the driver in Hindi. Even when she just speaks, her voice sounds like singing.

At the hospital we move straight into the meditation hall. It consists of two small rooms that are beside the room in which Swami Rama left the body. There is definitely a different vibration in this space so we all pull up a pillow and begin our meditation set up. Despite the incense curling into my face, I immediately go straight into one-pointed focus. Instead of it being a struggle to keep the mind chatter out, it seems as though it is a struggle for the mind chatter to get in. Regardless of what people believe, I think most would agree that some places in the world seem to have a bit of positive ju-ju. Places that resonate at a higher level, like the static energy may just be a little bit more active there. I remember once saying to someone that I don’t intend to die of sickness or old age. When the time has come and my breath quota is up, I will consciously leave the body like all the great sages. I’ll let you know when I have figured it out.

Day 108 – Japa Mala

I wake up feeling a little ordinary…  I feel nauseas, my joints feel sore and achy and I am sure someone came into my room last night and filled my head with cement. For some reason, I don’t believe that I could actually be sick and so I feel guilty about not practicing or going jogging. Instead I move from the bed to the yoga mat and practice systematic relaxation and then fall asleep on the floor. When I get to our morning class, it turns out that everyone is sick. Half of the group have vomited and the rest are just as nauseas, exhausted and sore as I am. Instead of our usual YQ morning series, we all lie down on the yoga mats, curled up in blankets and rest. Our teacher and Radha, who don’t feel sick, rush around with homeopathic pellets and organise ginger tea. My neighbour is upstairs in bed- she also feels sick. Microbiologists are called to inspect the water, the filters are fixed and filled with filtered, boiled water and the rest of the day only kichari is on the menu. After breakfast I go for a walk and find the fresh air makes me feel better for a while… Eventually though I can feel that same heaviness and I fall asleep in our morning theory lecture, even with the teacher yelling over my immobile body. By afternoon he is talking about shutting down the program and sending us off to hospital. It turns out people are sick at the hospital too, so they believe it is something that was travelling in the air there that we picked up. Either way, we spend most of the day horizontal either on yoga mats or in bed. My stomach must be fine because I end up eating like 3 bowls of kichari, this cleansing mung bean and rice dish that works like medicine.

Today is the 108th day of the year, so in our theory class, we ask Rafiki to teach us about Mala. He is reluctant for some reason, but eventually tells us some technical pointers. In this tradition of tantra yoga, which deals with moving beyond the heart chakra and into the upper doors of the esoteric body, the Mala is held in front of the heart. The beads are draped over the ring finger and locked by the middle finger of the left hand, while the thumb moves the bead along. The guru bead, the 109th bead is never crossed, but rather the whole thing is flipped when one reaches that point. The Mala works as an abacus, to aid one in mantra repetition to prepare for meditation. It is comparable to the Christian Rosary, or the Jewish prayer shawl. If one is wearing the beads, they must be removed for ablutions, excretions and fornications. Apparently wearing them can keep one calm, offer protection and should always be beneath the clothing and in contact with the skin, where other people cannot touch them. Our teacher does 14 rounds of his mala every morning.

One of the participants is a Buddhist so she practices Japa Maladaily. She explains so beautifully that the Mala chooses you, that you build a relationship with the Mala and talk to them, sing to them, feed them with prayers so that you have a connection (but not attachment) to them.

Learning from Swami Rama’s Himalayan tradition, we have been given two mantras, Hum So and Aum. It is said that when the student is ready the teacher will appear. With Swami Rama, his Guru came to see him as a baby and whispered the mantra into his right ear. Swami Rama remembered the mantra immediately and it stayed with him always. I don’t believe that this is supposed to be taken literally, but rather that the mantra is a “resounding resonance emanating from the very core of one’s being.” This sound, of the true self, of the immortal “I” echoingdeep within the cave of the heart is never forgotten by the “I” but is always there. It is only the mind breathing body that must remember in order to return home. I don’t remember the first time I hear the sound of Aum. Is it like I always knew it? Was it like a reminder of the deep sound that is within all of us? All I know is that nothing sounds more like home than the reverberation of that sound as it is carried on the breath. It is the sound of unconditional love, of pure life force and of consciousness.

Day 109 – the default world

Everyone is feeling a whole lot better today and I can feel my feet itching for a run so I get out before the sun starts melting the pavement again and even manage a second jog before breakfast. I should have quit while I was ahead, though, because the second one just wasn’t as good! That is my trouble- G.R.E.E.D. I always want more. We have learnt that people in this world are motivated in the wheel of ignorance by one of two main drives: Generally Recurring Excessive Emotional Disorder and F.E.A.R, False Expectations Appearing Real. Those motivated by FEAR have serious attachments- past associations and those motivated by GREED have expectations – future assumptions. It is funny how true this is. If we always move toward the centre, then we can let go of attachments and expectations and live in the NOW.

We have been asked to write a daily schedule of practicefor when we return to the ‘default world’ outside (this seems like a future projection). I write and re-write this timeline more than five times, trying to fit in all the practices, all the pranayamas, hatha, a jog, time to eat and of course, work and study. Since none of us are quite ready to become renunciates and leave behind the world entirely, one of the biggest challenges we all share is the social aspect. If we have to practice in the evening for over an hour and wake up before 5am to start practicing then we can’t be up late partying. Not that this is much of a concern for this group of people, but the desire to have a late night dinner and a glass of wine with friends is going to, at some point, thwart the dedication to practice.

Looking at my schedule, I have left no room for error. There isn’t even really a 10-minute window for that post-work chat I know I will always succumb to. When I show my teacher, he asks me to take out the hour and a half of reading time in the evening so that I can have quiet time and get to bed earlier. I am starting to feel frustrations rise up- if this is too strict, then there is no chance I will follow it. Meditation should be fun! He even wants me to get rid of the jog! Admittedly there will be many days where this little yogi will want to forego the early morning jog, but there is no way I am giving up curling up in bed with a good book. Sorry! I compromise and tell myself that as long as I stick to the morning schedule, then on the days off I can do yoga nidra during the day and have the evenings to do whatever the hell I want, keeping in mind that after creating new grooves and displacing the old habits, I am sure what I want is probably going to be more meditation or yoga nidra anyway. I also give myself the secret permission to sleep in on the days off and just do the morning practice a little bit later in the day. Sorry, G, but if I don’t give myself one day a week of sleep-in to look forward to, then I will loose motivation. I know exactly what Elizabeth’s ego is like and she needs a sleep-in with Jane Austen every now and then. Ok, maybe not always Jane Austen… maybe a trashy, post-apocalyptic zombie novel will turn up there somewhere.

Sorry, I may be on the path of enlightenment and Pratyahara, withdrawal of the senses, will make me stop watching the news as it is just more negative impressions I will have to swaha, and get rid of later, but the written word is my drug of choice and nobody can prise my face out of the pages of a good novel.

Day 110 – summing up the STP

In Yoga Nidra, I can feel my ethereal body rocking back and forth, as though slipping out of the physical body. At some point, I feel myself drool. Excessive saliva is a trademark sign of complete relaxation. For a few breaths I wake up and feel completely conscious, within the body. We roll to the left and feel the body expand, then onto the back and then onto the right. When we finally move into the cave of the heart, I can feel the vast space and empty darkness around me. Then it feels like I am falling through the floor, not in a scary way, but like the space between the atoms of the floor is moving out of the way slowly and I am sliding down, down… I can feel a gentle pressure on the exact point where the cave of the heart is, like that is the space I am falling into. I can’t explain it. That is how you know you have transcended the mind- there is no explanation. When we come out, I feel myself slowly come back up and into the body. The saliva has dried and when I open my eyes, it is like I have slept for eight hours.

It has come to the end and with a couple of people leaving early, we have managed to sum up everything from this Self Transformation Program. Our teacher turns to each of us and bows deeply, offering us gratitude even though it was he that gave us so much. He gives us a card. It has a picture of Swami Rama on it and a poem by the Guru:

Close your eyes and you will see clearly.

Cease to listen and you will hear truth.

Be silent and your heart will sing.

Seek no contact and you will find union.

Be still and you will move on the tide of the spirit.

Be gentle and you will need no strength.

Be patient and you will achieve all things.

Be humble and you will remain entire.

– Sri Swami Rama of the Himalayas –

In one of our final group talks we are discussing the four states of consciousness, including Turya, the highest, the place we are all working towards, the ‘beyond’, the dot at the top of the OM symbol. To get there, one must leave behind the body, the breath and especially the mind. This is terrifying because although enlightenment is home, it is also a vast and empty no man’s land between the ego/mindfield and the true self. It requires a huge leap of faith to leave behind everything that we have previously associated with our identity and individuality. IndiviDUALITY. That is the key. As long as there is duality, then we can’t experience oneness and if we don’t allow the letting go to happen, to fall like a drop of water into the ocean, then we will never know the complete bliss of immersion, self-realisation. To find the true self, to go home, to reach turya, Samadhi (bliss), become one with the divine, enlightenment, ascension… whatever you want to call it. In the Gnostic Gospels found at Nag Hammadi in Egypt, there is a line from the Gospel of Thoma, which apparently directly quotes Jesus as saying “The Kingdom of God is within you.” In India, it is a generally acknowledged truth that Jesus spent about 18 years of his undocumented life roaming around and getting to know the wisdom of the ancient sages. They say he is one and the same as St. Issa and that he is even buried in Pakistan. Regardless of religion, of belief, or differences, the one common truth throughout the world is that within each being a fire burns, a sacred light that shines from the depths of their being, something that transcends this illusion we call the body. No matter who you pray to or if you pray at all, there is something that makes us value life, something that makes us connect and something that makes us continually transform.

In the past three weeks, this transformation has happened so spontaneously it is almost undetectable. The tradition, the practice and the beautiful energy of this time and place have all brought me closer than ever to that inner fire, to feeling that oneness with the true self. One day I will go within the cave of the heart and climb that mountain and instead of seeing my higher self in the inner temple, I will enter the inner temple. No more duality. Just I.

Day 111 – river of tears

We get to the last chapter that we have not yet discussed in the book. It is actually the middle chapter of Path of Fire and Light, Vol. II, but it was left until now. It is the chapter on relationships. It is a short section, less than ten pages but like every other page of this text, has a wealth of meaning behind every line. But you can read all the relationship advice in the world and it won’t make a lick of difference until you experience it for yourself and half the time, when you do experience it, all of that “knowledge” you thought you absorbed just dissolves and once you feel lost and helpless, like you are swimming against the tide.

The question comes up whether it is better to have a partner who is spiritual or not. I end up red in the face trying to argue that the question is moot because you can’t measure spirituality and even if you could, whether a partner is spiritual or not is only a matter of perspective. Just because someone isn’t “spiritual” in the same way you are, does not mean they haven’t found that oneness. I can say from first hand experience that I was engaged to the least spiritual man on the planet and yet when he was surfing, he managed to flow straight into the divine. He may never have called it that, but the sense of ‘oneness’ was clearly visible. Besides if meditation is a state of having no content in the mind than he surely reaches that state all the time! I argue strongly and finally am dismissed with a wave of the hand and told, “Fine, Liz, you have no answer. You can stay single.” In the least spiritual response possible, I leave the room trying to hide the tears stinging my eyes and I go down to the Ganga. It is almost midday so it is hotter than a whore’s handbag and I can feel the sun burning the back of my neck. I go down to the river and add some drops to the vast expanse of moving water.

Why am I crying?

The answer, as always, comes from within. Because you are full of judgement and condemnation. Let go. Ahimsa.

The first of the yamas, ahimsa, is non-violence or selfless love. If we love selflessly then we do not condemn or judge. This must be first applied to the self because that is the most important relationship we will ever know.

‘Expectation is the mother of all misery in relationships. If you did not expect so much, you would be happy. Having no expectations means happiness. Share, enjoy, and give freely to each other whatever you have. That should be the formula. You will enjoy love when you do not expect it from others… The problem is that you expect something great and powerful from something small and limited.’

–          Swami Rama

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Day 3 – trataka (candle flame)

My brother has two children, who I love more than anything so when I come down to stay I usually sleep over to have as much time with them as possible. Knowing they love to wake up early and stare at me until I wake up, I set my alarm for 5.30am so that I can meditate while they are still sleeping. I end up going right back to sleep afterwards and although I wouldn’t normally interrupt a full night of sleep to meditate, I know that if I don’t do it that early, it won’t get done. And rightly so. Here I am at 10pm, the first chance I have had to write about it.

Last night I was researching a meditation website I found and came across some helpful hints about beginning a meditation practise. In its section titled ‘Preparation’, it suggests creating a permanent space to practise. If a permanent place is not available, it suggests using sacred items such as incense, a candle or a crystal to create a sacred space wherever you may be. I particularly like the suggestion, ‘A piece of fruit, placed on the table and consumed with reverence afterward, makes a tasty ending to a meditation!’ The site also recommends showering or washing the hands and face before practise to feel as though you have ‘cleared’ yourself for the practise.

I light a small candle and set the two crystals beside it, along with a small bunch of four green grapes. The two crystals I have with me are Serpentine and Amethyst. Crystals can be powerful enhancements to any spiritual practice and carry specific vibrations in their mineral make up. I have chosen Serpentine as it is particularly good for meditation in its ability to still a mind that normally can not be stilled. It provides calm and stability to a person and is said to aid in the flow of prana (the life force that is carried through the body by the breath). Amethyst is a fantastic crystal for meditation as it is so calming and relaxing that it is often used for insomnia. It works with the third eye centre, Anja chakra and is often considered a spiritual stone that aids in developing psychic potential. It was also considered protective and is one of my favourite crystals due to its ability to cluster in enormous caves.

Today I have no cushion so I decide to sit on my heels in Vajrasana, hero’s pose. Vajrasana is ideal for meditation and can be practised by people with sciatica or slip disc issues instead of other seated meditation poses which may be difficult. It is the most ideal pose for digestion if you have an overly full stomach, however if you do not practise this seat often, it may be quite difficult to begin with as it is a deep stretch for the tops of the feet. It only takes a few minutes a day, however, for the body to adjust and it quickly becomes a comfortable pose, particularly for short meditations under fifteen minutes. Following the basic trataka meditation, also described on meditation.org (see Class 1), I take seven deep long breaths to centre myself and then allow my gaze to soften as it focuses on the flame of the candle. Its warmth and light seems to grow as it encompasses my whole awareness and while there is still a mild chatter occurring in the back of my mind, my attention remains alert and entirely centred on the flame. My niece’s cat, Mr Cat, a hairless Devon Rex who resembles Mr Bigglesworth, has spent the night curled up on my chest and has decided to join me once again, kneading his way onto my lap. My gaze does not move from the flame and I try not to move as his sharp claws curl into my legs. Eventually he settles down and his rhythmic purring has become another layer of background noise. I last no longer than ten minutes on this particular meditation as I feel the thoughts tumbling back to the forefront of my mind.

Although I do not feel as though I was able to perform a deep trataka, I do certainly feel the benefits as the day goes on, finding the energy and patience to play with children on minimal hours of sleep. I intend to practise trataka again this year with a variation of time and place as it is a technique I feel as though I have not yet mastered.

For parents, I understand that finding time to meditate is rarely, if ever, possible. I have no children of my own, however I am a firm believer that finding time for ourselves, to sit quietly in meditation can dramatically effect our relationships and make us more mindful in the way we interact with those around us and is therefore of utmost benefit to our loved ones as well as ourselves.