Tag Archives: Swami Radhananda

Doing something new

Standard

It’s so easy to get stuck in a routine, to become set in our ways, to hold our opinions too forcefully. To stagnate, allowing no room for growth. We can stifle our creativity, our potential to be other than as we are now.  At the root of this may be a deeply held belief that we are right, that there are no other, better ideas we could explore, no alternative way of doing things that could match our current methods.

But, very often, life does not let us get away with this way of thinking. It has a tendency to shake us up, to challenge us and to force us to change. This may occur through some event in our lives, such as an illness, or the loss of a job or a primary relationship. Something which jolts us out of our complacency and forces us to try something new.

Alternatively, we may become bored with our lives. With the sameness of our day to day routines. We don’t necessarily have to wait for some major disruption to come along, or to book our annual holiday to make a change. Perhaps there’s something you have always wanted to try that you have never got around to, or something you used to do which has fallen by the wayside. If we learn to listen to our inner selves, we can find those things which will wake us up, and we may become more whole in the process.  As Swami Radhananda says,

‘Through self-inquiry we can crack the shells of our narrowly held concepts and find our strength of character’

~ ‘Living the Practice'(2010)

We open ourselves up to the possibility of growth and development, perhaps of  becoming more than we thought we could be.  And as Swami Radhananda continues,

‘Even a little idea or action in a new direction has a great effect on old static concepts’

By really looking for small ways in which we can introduce change into our lives, by examining which of our beliefs still serve us and which we have outgrown, we start a whole process of change which may lead us in all kinds of interesting directions.  So what are we waiting for?  Let’s all try something new today!

I’d love to hear where making a small change in your life may have led you – leave a comment below.

The power of speech

Standard

throat chakra, communication, yoga, meditation, mantra

The words we use, the language and tone of our voices when we communicate with others is so important. We have all at some time in our lives said something we  later regret, whether saying something to hurt in a moment of anger, or being unable to resist the temptation to indulge in some juicy gossip. And the power of those words to cause harm may be so much more than we thought. They can never be taken back. Once the energy of those words is in the world, their damage is done and may continue for many years.

As Robert Browning writes so presciently in ‘A Lover’s Quarrel’, what we say may not necessarily reflect our true feelings, and yet can still cause untold damage:

Not from the heart beneath –
‘ Twas a bubble born of breath
Neither sneer nor vaunt
Nor reproach nor taunt.
See a word, how it severeth!
Oh, power of life and death
In the tongue, as the Preacher saith!

Some of our speech may be empty of true meaning, as empty as a bubble and disconnected from the truth of our hearts.  Our throat chakra, Vishuddhi, is situated between Anahata, the heart chakra, and Ajna, lying in the brain.  When we are focused and centred in our true selves, our speech will reflect the wisdom of both the head and the heart.  Yoga encourages us to adopt right speech, tasting our words before we speak them, assessing whether they are kind, whether they are true, whether they are necessary.  How much of what we say is completely unnecessary?!  The quality of truthfulness, satya, is one of the five yamas of Raja yoga.  This quality is not only about our speech, but also about living our life honestly and decently, in line with our own spiritual values.

I recently came across a prayer to the Divine Mother, in the excellent book Living the Practice: Collected Writings on the Transformative Potential of Yoga by Swami Radhananda, which begins:

May all my speech and idle talk be mantra 

A mantra is a word or phrase which is repeated in yoga and meditation practice and which connects us to our spirit.  The thought of all our speech being mantra is inspiring.  Could we really elevate our every word to the level of mantra, using our speech to connect us with our spirit, and that of those we are talking to, rather than disconnecting as we so often do in our everyday speech?  When we gossip about others, we are creating the illusion of  ‘them and us’, looking for differences between individuals, and creating separation.  When we speak unkindly, when we criticise others, we are using the power of our speech to disconnect from the person we are talking to, rather than building a connection from our heart to theirs.  By consciously improving the quality of our speech, by connecting what comes out of our mouths with our hearts, our minds and our inner spirit, we  begin to live truthfully and to honour the oneness of ourselves with everybody else.

Changing the way we speak can be so hard. Like any habit, gossip or criticism can take a  long time to weed out.  But perhaps a good way to start is to choose just one aspect you’d like to change, from raising your voice to gossiping about a neighbour  or acquaintance you don’t like.  Once we become conscious of the need for change, of how our behaviour is creating separation, both between ourselves and someone else, and between our actions and our true spirit or motivation, we can continue to take small steps in the right direction.  We will at times get it wrong, and revert back to our old ways,  but we keep on trying, until  it  becomes easier and easier.  Until, one day, you notice that you really are more conscious in your interactions with others, that your speech really is like mantra, and totally aligned with your inner values.

 

Save

Save

The symbol of the lotus

Standard

lotus-587335_1280Back in the summer, I visited Kew Gardens for the first time.  One of the -very many- fascinating things I learned there was that the lotus flower, although in appearance quite similar to the water lily (which is a much more common sight here in England!), is in fact closely related to the plane tree, which grows to up to 50 metres high!

An aquatic perennial with large showy flowers, the sacred lotus has long been considered a close relative of water lilies. However, lotus flowers differ markedly from those of water lilies, most notably through the obconical (ice-cream cone-shaped) receptacle in the centre, into which numerous free carpels are sunken. Recent molecular research has shown that the closest living relatives of the sacred lotus are the plane trees (Platanus spp., Platanaceae) and members of the protea family (Proteaceae). Their isolated phylogenetic position indicates that both Nelumboand Platanus may be living fossils (the only survivors of an ancient and formerly much more diverse group).

                  ~  http://www.kew.org/plants-fungi/Nelumbo-nucifera.htm

The lotus flower is held as a sacred symbol by yogis, as well as by  Buddhists and Hindus.  Its rhizomes grow from the mud at the bottom of a lake and rise up above the surface of the water, so that its stalks may be as much as 1 or 2 metres tall.  In yoga, each chakra is symbolized by a lotus flower, of different colours and with different numbers of petals for each chakra.  For Sahasrara, the crown chakra, the lotus is said to have thousand petals, although this may also be interpreted as meaning an infinite number (Swami Satyananda Saraswati, ‘Kundalini Tantra’ (1984), p 189). 

The symbol of the lotus flower is highly relevant to those of us working through our chakras.  Just as the seed germinates in the mud at the bottom of the lake, we begin in the dark, and in the earth of our base chakra (Mooladhara).  We then strive to ascend through the different chakras, through our energy system, developing and growing along the way, just as the stalk of the lotus ascends through the water, until we reach the air above the water, coming into the light of the sun, and into our true potential in the higher energy centres.  The element of the air is found at the heart centre, Anahata, and this is where we first start to really change as a result of our yoga and meditation practice.  Anahata is the centre of our energy system, and acts as a transitional point between the lower chakras (Mooladhara, Swadisthana and Manipura) and the higher chakras (Vishuddhi, Ajna, Bindu and Sahasrara).  At the heart we find it easier to truly commit to our yoga practice, and as Swami Radhananda says,
‘If you really set your heart on your higher goal in life, your commitment can lift you out of the merry-go-round of the first three Cakras’ 
Swami Radhananda (2010) ‘Living the Practice’
And so we reach up to the light through our yoga practice, just as the lotus flower reaches up to the surface of the water, and finally blooms in all its beauty.  If we persevere and commit to our practice, it will lift us up to our true potential.