LEARN TO LIVE FROM YOUR HEART

BY SWAMI CHETANANANDA

When I was in elementary school, we were taught things that made the world seem straightforward: that Communism was was evil, and that capitalism was good. We were taught that competition was important, the way of healthy societies, and we were taught America was all about freedom and equality. For most people, life was simple, and it wasn’t overly complicated even as we grew up to realize that most of what we were taught about the world wasn’t true. From that realization, we could find our way  to something that was at least closer to truth.

Today it’s really different. There are millions of points of view, and none of them are trustworthy. I read the news, and I don’t know who to believe. It’s amazing to me that I have to look at every single news piece I see and wonder, “Who’s got what to gain from this particular story?” If we are living in our heads, trying to figure things out for ourselves, and dealing with all of this profound complexity, we’re never going to get anywhere. I think what happens is that we end up completely shutting down, and just burying our heads in the sand and trying to hide from life. We just can’t deal with it.

Between the time I was a sophomore in high school and the end of my college years, there were three assassinations—the two Kennedys and Martin Luther King—and I realized that something was really not right with the story that was told about the world. During that time period, however, I discovered my heart again. I discovered that I could open my heart pretty much anytime I wanted if I tried. I’m not saying it was easy, but I found I could do it if I made the effort. So I did that; I worked at it every day. I focused on opening my heart to myself and to my day, forgiving myself for my own limitations that day, and forgiving my day for whatever limitations it presented me.  I went on with the experience of trying to grow my heart and grow the creative flow in my life, not really trying to figure too much out, just letting it teach me instead of me trying to have to impose my will on it. Well, guess what? Really amazing things started to happen.

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So I think the best advice to give anyone is this: train yourself to live from your heart. The magnetic field in the middle of your chest is thousands of times stronger than the magnetic field between your ears. Magnetic fields are what absorb information; they absorb and organize energy. If you’re going to have a life that is meaningful to you, a life that has any joy in it, that has any upside to it, a life you can invest in, a life you can harvest in, you have to learn to live from our heart. Because you’re never going to figure this shit out.

There’s a wonderful story I was taught in Catholic school about Saint Paul walking on the beach, thinking about the Trinity. He came up to a kid who had a bucket and a shovel. The kid had dug a hole in the beach, and he was going to the ocean and scooping up water and pouring it in the hole. Saint Paul walks up and asks the kid what he thinks he’s doing. The kid looks up at him and says, “I’m putting the ocean in the hole.” Saint Paul’s taken aback, and says, “You can’t do that!” The kid says, “I’ll put the ocean in the hole before you’ll figure out in your head the meaning of the Trinity.” For me, the message in that story was, don’t rely on my head—rely on my heart.

We all have reasons why we close our hearts to ourselves, and none of those reasons matter…at all! They’re just bullshit excuses to run away from pain. That’s what they are. We don’t want to admit to ourselves that we’re shitheads sometimes, and we don’t want to make the effort to deal with it. So we just close our hearts. We make it somebody else’s problem. After a few years of that, our heart gets pretty hard, and there’s not much sweetness in our lives. The whole point of this experience that we’re sharing, and the work that we do here, every single day, is to begin to melt the tensions around our heart and begin to engage a deeper place within ourselves, so that, whatever our circumstance, we live from a greater experience of connectedness with one another and a deeper of sense of our own creative energy and extraordinary potential.

Living from our hearts, we learn that flow is the most important thing. Flow heals. Flow inside ourselves and among ourselves heals. Healing slowly unwraps us from all of the excuses that we have embraced, or been trained to embrace by our parents or our ancestors, so that we begin to see ourselves and this world in a completely new way. However crazy the world might be, we have enormous strength and beauty within ourselves if we can only connect to it and train ourselves to hold that space constantly. Without that, we’re constantly carpet-bombed from the first grade till we die. If it’s not one thing, it’s something else. It will always be something else. There will be another excuse for our life to be miserable if that’s what we want.

Our presence here is informing us that our life has something else: a choice that we can make. That choice is to begin to invest attention and energy in our own hearts, to make the effort to dissolve the tensions within ourselves and find a deeper experience of flow and sweetness. It will change our entire chemistry, will awaken our brains and allow us to experience ourselves as the fine creative energy that we are, and experience this world as the beauty that underlies its expression.

 Print version of ad with Smokin' Joe Louis.

Print version of ad with Smokin' Joe Louis.

In the early days of television, which I happen to be old enough to remember, there was a commercial with the heavyweight champion of the world, Rocky Marciano. They put him in a big paper bag, a shipping bag that’s about 10 feet tall and he’s punching at it. The message is that this bag is tougher than Rocky Marciano, who cannot punch his way out of it. Well, each of our lives is like that paper bag, and our mind is like Rocky Marciano—pretty tough, not too bright, constantly trying to punch its way through this world. That’s just not going to happen. You can’t punch your way out of this paper bag. The amazing thing is that what you can do is open your heart and float out of it. It’s that simple. Floating out of that paper bag, we see that all the boxes and boundaries that we have built up in our head are nothing, and we see with complete clarity the total temporariness of all of the drama that is this world, and the unbelievable vastness of the intelligence and the creative energy and, ultimately, the love that has created this place in the beginning. Seeing that with clarity, our hearts and minds and our souls are nourished, and we become at peace, and have the capacity, wherever we turn our attention, to bring blessings. And how cool is that?

Get to know your heart, this energy field in the center of your chest. Since you may have been pushing it down for a while, it may take you a little work. I promise you one thing: It is the only work you will ever do that you will pay you more than what you put into it.

ALL YOU REALLY NEED TO KNOW

BY SWAMI CHETANANANDA

We realize our best self, our finest self, and our most extraordinary life through the practice of yoga, which I describe as “Contact, Alignment and Flow.” To make Contact is to quiet our mind and bring our attention, first to ourself: to our heart, to the chakras, to the essence of what this body is, which is creative energy, and to begin to feel the structures, the energetic structures within us—the chakras and channels, and to create a Flow within ourselves. Contact is giving the structures of our own creative energy our full attention, so that our mind is not dragging us all around the block, and experiencing the circulation of the energy inside us.  We experience it first in its grossest form, as the breath, and then as Prana, Citta, and Para Kundalini. 

Yoga also means “Contact, Alignment and Flow” in the field of our life, with our families, with our loved ones, and whatever work it is that we have been called to do in this world. With an attitude of service, we establish Contact among ourselves, and an Alignment and Flow that establishes, sustains and grows our connections, the energy that extends from us through the whole field of our life. So there is Contact, Alignment and Flow inside, and Contact, Alignment and Flow outside.

The esoteric or Kashmirian Shaiva traditions are the bigger context in which Kundalini yoga is the main practice. They teach that the entire world is Consciousness, which is autonomous and beautiful and vibrant, expressing itself as respiratory process in the three dimensions through 36 layers called the tattvas. In recent times, paradoxes that are well-documented in the domain of experimental physics have led scientists to think that space and time don’t really exist--that they are actually projections of the mind. There’s no space and no time. This is basically the same as the teaching of the esoteric or Shakta Shaiva traditions.

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So, everything is Consciousness, and even the appearance of space and time are structures that have no reality on their own. They are in fact just a way in which Consciousness demonstrates its vibrancy. Think of the whole world as the aurora borealis—an explosion of photons, curtains of light. That means that, instead of trying to figure out what’s going on around us, we need to look ever more deeply within ourselves. Then the whole process of Contact, Alignment and Flow is the dissolution of each of the layers of tattvas, so that we can be established in the experience of beauty within ourselves.  Transforming the whole structure of our brain and our awareness, we discover endless joyfulness, endless love, and endless possibility present inside us always. After a while, through our practice, we become established in an experience, an understanding of our life that is wholly positive. 

This experience doesn’t come about because we have been reading Facebook a lot and are established in all the euphemisms and all the kind of affirmations that we find in our Newsfeed. It isn’t like this at all. Contact, Alignment and Flow bring us to an experience that is wholly positive, that facilitates evermore increasing Contact, Alignment and Flow, and reveals to us, from within ourself, the ultimate reality of our own Consciousness. The Consciousness that is us is also the entirety of the universe and, residing in that experience, we have the possibility of discovering our own autonomy and imagining for ourselves whatever experience it is that we want to have—whatever experience it is that is appropriate to our accomplishing our final aim.  

When we have accomplished the siddhi, then we can accomplish liberation. At that point we have dissolved all the disappointments of our ancestors, melted every tension with the Flow, and become so completely filled with love and joy that all this insanity in the world can’t reach us anymore and, when we leave this body, we are free. We never come back here.

I used to just focus on the fact that the visualization practices taught among the Tantric traditions were a good way to get people who had nothing to do to spend a whole lot of time doing practice. Recently, I’ve come to understand visualization practice in completely different way. I’ve discovered that visualization practice is a way of reaching the deep structures of our brain and changing them to begin to see our own Consciousness at work, transforming our life. Experiencing that power happening in us constantly transforming our life, we can shift our attention from all of the external circumstances, and we can begin to appreciate that everything external is actually internal. Holding the space of beauty that is the second quality of pure awareness (freedom is the first), we can begin to observe the power of the autonomy of Consciousness Itself, doing its work and transforming this field. We can experience it to the degree that we dissolve ourselves in happiness and that’s the end of the story. We ride off into the cosmic sunset…hallelujah! So, here you have encapsulated, in one blog post, 2,000 years of Tantric tradition and practice. It’s just about all you really, really need to know.

 

THE UPSIDE OF CRAZINESS

BY SWAMI CHETANANANDA

I started practicing meditation in Manhattan,  on 10th Street between 3rd Avenue and 4th Avenue. This was In 1971, when Lower Manhattan was a war zone. It was crazy. You could get mugged taking out the garbage. In fact, one of the guys who lived there did get mugged taking out the garbage. Unfortunately for the mugger, he was a retired goalie for the LA Kings. It just didn’t work out well for him. He ended up wearing the garbage can home, his head punched through the bottom of it. That was the kind of place it was. There were fire engines all day and all night, and very rowdy noise in the street.

Rudi always told us this is wonderful, because it really gives you an opportunity to practice meditation. It gives you the opportunity to practice staying focused no matter what. So we did, and that was our life in those days. I bring that up because this week, with Justice Kennedy resigning, and the circumstances of his resignation, it seems to me that not only is the America we knew over, the America we hoped for is completely wasted, and the America that is coming is really impossible for me to comprehend. Things are changing very fast and very intensely. The world is changing. Personally, our lives are changing. All of this change usually makes us totally insane—that’s what it’s done to the rest of the world.

All of this craziness gives us the opportunity to practice. It makes more urgent for us the opportunity that we have to find our heart, and to find our soul, if you want to use that word, which is our energetic core. We have to hold our connection to that Unimaginable Possibility in the face of every kind of crazy, upsetting and frightening stuff. Then we can release the things about this life that we’re so attached to. We can release our ideas about what our wants and needs and desires and goals are, and allow a much deeper alignment to happen between our soul and our heart and our mind that will express our life in unimaginable ways.

A few years ago I was in India, visiting a particular place that I go there that I am connected to, and the reason I go there is to do some special practice, sitting every night in the same temple all night. On this trip I had a room at some distance from the temple, and I was sitting on this little veranda, in guest house. I was looking out and doing my practice, and it dawned on me, so clearly, that everything is actually one thing  and that thing is aliveness, living-ness. I could say it was the Goddess; the Goddess is living-ness, aliveness. Everything is aliveness, and everything is completely interconnected.

In our understanding, surrender means dissolving the barriers between our heart and mind and soul and that aliveness which is the essence of this entire world. That is our practice: to dissolve those barriers that we put up, those tensions that we sustain and to discover the aliveness. In that aliveness, we will also find our own continual reinvention. Rudi, my teacher, would use the word “rebirth.” Through our practice, we become more simple, more loving and more light. It may not change the world, but it will certainly change the lives of all the people that we care about, and that’s enough. That’s amazing.

So as we go through all this craziness—and, trust me, it’s barely started—let ’s remember that the forces that are underneath all of this destruction can become extremely positive for those people who can connect to and flow in that energy.  It’s our fears and our desires and our opinions and our judgments that block us from that experience of alignment that can lift us, within ourselves and within our circumstance, to an ever more refined experience. So let’s practice letting it go, whatever it is, whatever it was.

Sri Yantra

My experience is that there’s only one life on the planet.  We are all each expressions of that life. We don’t have separate and singular lives. Like the leaves on a tree, we are expressions of the tree of life, manifesting on this planet. So, when people ask me, “Where do we go when we die?” I say we don’t go anywhere, because there’s no place to go. Our life mingles again with the life of the whole and becomes renewed before it is re-expressed again.

In the meditation hall at the Movement Center there are various statues and images. All of these statues and paintings are my life story. Each thing has a powerful meaning and a powerful place in my life. All of those images, as well as all the art that was ever created in all the different traditions of Asia, really speaks to one thing. It speaks to the one life, and it’s trying to shout out to us that whatever was that was profound and deep and rich and extraordinarily beautiful, and wise and powerful, from the  ancient saints and all the ancient teachings…whatever it was, it still is. These objects are here to remind us that, if we find our hearts and find our soul, we’ll stop fretting and crunching our brains and find the depth within ourselves. It’s not easy, it takes work, and we’ve conditioned ourselves to something so completely opposite that. But if we find it, then all of the abundance that is represented in the art is available still in the atmosphere and will flow into us and flow into our lives. It will flow into the people whom we share our lives with and extraordinary things are possible. So, going forward, getting tangled up in all this insanity is completely useless and there’s no need to worry about dying, because we’re all going to do it. What we need to worry about is living joyfully, celebrating life in the ways that we can, the ways appropriate to our circumstance as we move through our day.

One of the really nice things about going down into our kitchen here in the ashram is that I go down in the kitchen and see our lives being celebrated every day. It’s fantastic! Celebrate your lives. This insanity that we are being exposed to, which could go on for another 15 years before it settles down, gives us a wonderful opportunity to practice. It will make us very much stronger.

WHAT DOES GROWING LOOK LIKE?

BY SWAMI CHETANANANDA

People often ask me, what is growing? What does it look like? How do I do it?

There’s no easy answer. While growing is a universal activity, it is individually expressed within each microenvironment, and there are trillions of microenvironments on the face of the earth.  That means that, rather than having me explain in detail what growing means to you, you have to do the work of figuring that out for yourself.  I will help in any way I can, but I can’t give you any rules. First of all, there really aren’t any.  But even more important, I feel that as an expression of respect for the potential that is in each person on this earth and the extraordinary range of resonance that is present in people, for the extraordinary variety of songs people sing, I should create and hold the space for each person in my life to find within themselves their own music and express it as they can.

Looking at sky through tree branches

Everything in this world grows. Just look around you—you can see every living thing around you taking in energy, creating structure from it, and expanding within the sphere of its own field of operation into an ever-increasing flow. As a tree grows, it has increasing structure that supports increasing internal flow and external expression, which generates more flow coming in and more flow going out.

The same process is in play in everything that grows.  Every living thing is basically taking in energy and transforming that energy into structure. It takes it in through the biochemical process and expires it through respiratory process.

There are multiple dimensions of respiratory process. We are breathing in and sending out, and as we’re breathing in and sending out, we are participating in an extraordinary range of diverse activities.  For instance, trees take in carbon dioxide as part of the process of photosynthesis, through which they make complex sugars from light. They use them to create structure and, in the process, they are releasing oxygen and other chemicals.

All day, every day, each of us is taking in energy in three dimensions whether we are aware of it or not.  We are breathing air through our lungs; we are taking in food and digesting it; and we are taking in information from our total environment through our senses and also through our skin.  We are taking in information that we never consciously deal with because we don’t need to. We are taking this information and structuring it within ourselves for the sake of continuing to fulfill our fundamental biological imperative, which is eating and reproducing.

If you begin to pay attention to this three-phase respiratory process, you would start to understand that there is constantly a circulation of energy of various forms being taken in and breathed out all day every day, and that those respiratory processes are the mechanism by which you grow. Tuning in to the movement of energy that is happening constantly—and which actually is what you are—begins to inform you about yourself in ways that will certainly reorganize everything you think you know about you and the world you live in. 

It all begins with paying attention to your breath, the most basic respiratory process. If you pay attention to your breath and the quality of interaction between yourself and others, you begin to recognize that there is a living process inside of you that encompasses a wide range of experience. Some of that experience is really extraordinarily fine, and it’s accessible over and over and over again should you choose to access it.

If you understand that simple thing, if you understand that, like a tree, you are in this world to grow, whenever you come to a place of strain or trauma or difficulty, you can refer back to that understanding.  Then you’ll have a basis for beginning to sort out what you are doing and what you need to do within the experience that is expressing itself as your life.  It makes things simple.

ON EMERGENT LEARNING

BY SWAMI CHETANANANDA

As we engage in self-cultivation and express that engagement as service, we will get feedback. Because everything is a dynamic system, and the energy is constantly feeding back to us, every flow cycles back, it’s possible that the feedback that we experience will shift our awareness. If we are able to hold a place of equanimity through the experiences of negative feedback, eventually we can come to a place where a new skill set can emerge within us. I’d call it emergent learning.

The work of biochemist Stuart Kauffman focuses on biocomplexity. He asserts that consciousness is an emergent quality of complex dynamic systems: that increasing complexity requires what some would call an “evolution of consciousness.”  When a dynamic system is not very complicated, it’s intrinsically limited to one range of frequencies. When there is increasing complexity, there are more frequencies that are encompassed in the same field, which becomes an evolution of consciousness. We can say there is a kind of learning that happens, but this learning is something that is really a function of the dynamics within the field. So we don’t exactly “learn lessons.”  The way I see it, we do seva, we participate in flow, and, as we dissolve our tensions and our boundaries, and the dynamics of our own system are expanded, then the system itself reorganizes itself to express an appropriate balance in a new dynamic environment. That balance becomes manifest in a person as new skill sets.

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When most of us talk about learning things, we don’t express what we think we’ve learned in the positive. We mostly express what we think we’ve learned in the negative. For example, one common lesson is “I’ve learned that most people are assholes and I’m going to protect myself from them from now on.” Well, that pretty much undermines the whole impulse that people have toward connection and bonding. So that’s not a positive. It only builds boundary; it doesn’t dissolve it.

Learning is not, in my view, an intellectual activity. We can read books, we can accumulate information, but that’s not learning. Whatever information we accumulate will be eventually replaced by new and different information, and that all depends on what activities we engage in.  We really have no control over that kind of accumulation.

Through service, we increase the rate of flow and the dynamic range of our own energetic mechanism. As we release tensions and allow our Creative Energy to flow from within our own essence, transformation takes place, and it is expressed as learning. If we look at it from a dualistic point of view, we’re learning, because we took on something from outside ourselves. If we look at it from a non-dualistic point of view, what we have really experienced is the flowering of wisdom that automatically happens as the life expression that we are unfolds. A rose, after all, doesn’t learn to be fragrant; it’s just the natural expression of the rose.

 

WHEN WILL GETS IN THE WAY

BY SWAMI CHETANANANDA

Will is one of the most basic expressions of our own personal power. Our individual will has a role to play in the initial stages of our development when we are finding our center and coalescing as a human being. It is, however, a total obstruction as we move into the higher levels of our work.

 Creative Commons "Arms Crossed" by ForestRunner is licensed under CC by 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Creative Commons "Arms Crossed" by ForestRunner is licensed under CC by 2.0
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Our will tends to keep us stupid in relationship to other people and our activity in the world. We get willful and stubborn, and that completely disturbs the flow of feedback in our environment. If we can be centered and use our will to hold our center and flow in every environment, nobody can push us off balance, and nothing is going to happen that undermines our basic strength.  Because we are able to flow within ourselves and move within our environment, we become more powerful. We are able to hear the feedback, make the changes within ourselves, and then respond appropriately to the needs of the environment and what the people in it are trying to express. Then we're not perceived as an obstruction to the flow, but as a facilitator of all flow. Too often, though, our ego hijacks our will, and suddenly we've created a situation where all the information and feedback is flowing around us, rather than through us.

We need to have self-respect, not expecting that anyone else will respect us. We make the effort, every single day, to be where we need to be to do our work the best way that it can be done. That's where will comes in. We respect ourselves. When we are centered and flowing, that power compels respect. When we’re busy telling people they have to respect us, we’re just setting ourselves up for more disappointment.

When we understand that life is a loving process, what we are trying to do is connect to that love within ourselves and connect to our life as it is. We listen to what the love within us and the love we share with others is telling us about what it needs in order to grow. If we communicate all of that clearly to the people we share our life with, and if we're patient and listen to them, too, then slowly the love that is within us and the love we share with others is going to transform our life completely. We will understand that our life is an expression of the loving process of life itself and not our own ego.

We can make ourselves sick by demanding things that have nothing to do with our connection to ourselves or our connectedness with others. It's just some misunderstanding that got planted in our brains about what we think it is to be a real person. A real person is flowing in every circumstance and is an endless expression of loving kindness, compassion, forgiveness, service. 

 

END OF STORY

BY SWAMI CHETANANANDA

An important belief in Indian religion is that we reincarnate over and over again, but there is some misunderstanding about what reincarnation actually is.

If you look at a tree, year after year, you will notice that, each year, leaves come out and, over the course of the season, the leaves fall away. The next year, the leaves come again. This happens over and over and over again. Those leaves are not separate living creatures; those leaves are connected to the tree and are expressions of the life of the tree. The leaves are participating in, having a role in the conversion of the total biosphere into this expression manifesting as the tree.

The trunk of the tree isn’t the life of the tree. It’s also part of the structure. It is an expression of the life of the tree that is subtly flowing to the center of the tree and year after year after year, creating, transforming, the earth that its roots are in, and the sun into this dynamic display…a tree!

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So each year, the leaves fall down. What happens to the leaves? Well, if the tree is in the forest, the leaves become the soil. The minerals in the leaves go back into the soil and are absorbed again by the tree, year after year, as the soil builds and builds and builds, and the same minerals become the tree and the leaves all over again. The biosphere itself is expressing its aliveness in the form of tree and leaf, and the leaf and the tree and the earth and the sky are all completely interconnected in this dynamic process. At some point in time the tree is going to fall down, and the trunk is going to dissolve and become the dirt again, and all the minerals that gave the trunk mass will then become a part of the soil which gives a new tree mass and vibrancy.

The story of the leaf is finished the moment the leaf detaches from the tree. The story is over. In the same way, the moment a human being dies in Nepal, particularly if they’re a Brahman, the first thing that happens at the cremation, before the body is burned, is that the person’s the astrology chart is torn up and thrown in the river—because that story is over. So when thinking about your past lives, you have to understand: your story is not what transmigrates. That story that you hold so closely now is a story that was a fiction in the first place, a fiction in the second place, a fiction in the third place, and then completely forgotten. Why do you hold it so closely? Why do you let it torture you?

What transmigrates are the minerals in your bones and the resonance that you held in your heart. The feeling that is the life of your life lives on. None of the rest of it does. Only the connection to the beauty that is your essence lives on. All of your tumult will live on, too, but the story will not. So you have to just go forward in life, instead of reinventing the same tortures all over again in some new fashion.  You to have remember to purify your mind and open your heart to all of the variety of forms of light that populate the wondrous field of your experience. You are able, in that case, to receive the blessing that is this life on Earth.

There’s only one life and that life is not yours or mine; it is its own. It is a self-organizing, self-sustaining, self-expressing dynamic system that is the self-awareness, the livingness of the Universe Itself. Having an experience of this reality puts an end to 99.9% of the misery of being a human being. In time, it heals everything—all of the traumas and all of the disappointments of your ancestors—and brings wellness, not just to you, but to everybody with whom you share your life and many generations of your ancestors, backwards and forwards.

LIFE IS A LOVING PROCESS

Commitment to a deeply open heart and a deeply loving place within ourself will reveal to us, in time, a very simple and very profound insight. That insight is a realization that is one of the goals of tantric practice. In my own words, rather than in the language of esoteric Saivism or tantric Buddhism, the understanding is this: Life is a loving process. We have to realize, from the efforts we make inside ourselves, the loving process that is life attempting to express possibilities that are far greater than our ordinary human experience.

Life is a loving process that is self-existent. Our life isn't really ours; each of our lives is totally interconnected in the loving process that is life, that has a logic all its own and a direction of its own. If we are able, through our practice, to come to a profound state of harmony with it, we will understand its possibilities, which are mind-boggling, brain-breaking, unbelievable. 

swami_chetanananda_with_saroj

Part of what this understanding means is that we stop taking it personally and we stop trying to do stuff with it. Rather, we allow life to inform us because we are living in love within ourself and allowing that love to lead us through all of the various transformations we will have to undergo in order to to arrive at a place where the understanding and the palpable experience of life as a loving process begins to permeate every part of us. It releases within us and all around us a sweetness that is just...heaven.

Everything that happens for us, all of the various changes that we have to go through, is life trying to free us from our egotism, from our fear and anxiety, to begin to live in a place within ourselves where we can appreciate that life is a loving process. Then we no longer have to have an agenda. We don't have to be this thing or that thing. We are free within ourselves to allow that love to shape us and inform us of who we are and what pathways are available to us for expression to allow us to participate in the vastness of the loving process that life is.

So, the first thing is to be committed to a finer place within yourself. Every single day, no matter what change happens, let the change go. Don't make the ordinary response that human beings have which is to cop an attitude, close your heart, make some kind of stupid reaction and then bury yourself forever, basically.  Instead, stay open and allow the love within yourself to lead you toward a new balance and a new alignment in the ever-shifting dynamic circumstance that is life as a loving process.  

 

SUSTAINING MEANINGFUL RELATIONSHIPS

BY SWAMI CHETANANANDA

To develop the possibility of a finer and richer and more meaningful existence requires commitment. If we are sincere about looking for more in life, we will meet people who will be mentors to us, who will open doors for us, and who will in some way or another share insights with us that are meaningful and sometimes very, very powerful.  It is important for us, for the sake of our own integrity, and for the sake of honoring our own life process, to sustain those connections and to deepen them, if possible in the context of our life, forever. 

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Going from person to person, teacher to teacher, relationship to relationship, never allows for us to develop any depth whatsoever in any system of practice or depth whatsoever within ourselves as a human being. In our current culture, loyalty is almost non-existent. People are friends one day and not friends the next--and not just on Facebook. In this kind of cultural environment, rather than allowing meaningful relationships to break, we need to look within ourselves. We need to see what it is about every circumstance that we struggle with, and what it is about us in every circumstance that we struggle in, that creates tension and disturbance and brings us to the point of disconnection, and we have to try to change that.

It’s not a question of changing from one thing to another thing, “Oh, I will no longer do this,” or “I’ll no longer do that,” or “I’ll be better over here” or “I’ll work harder at that.” In the context of all of the challenges that we face in the world with one another, the appropriate way to express our commitment to the relationships we have is to reach more deeply within ourselves first and to connect to what is really essential and basic in our connections to everybody.  The simplest way to put it is that we open our hearts and we connect to the love within ourselves.  Then we find from that love our connection to every single person that we relate to, and we allow that love to inform us of the ways in which we need to express ourselves to continually deepen and grow every aspect of our life.

WRINKLES IN THE SHEET METAL

BY SWAMI CHETANANANDA

Someone recently asked me whether deeply ingrained tensions, or fundamental hurts that keep resurfacing over and over can ever be resolved.

My own personal experience is that most of it is never fully resolved. It’s as if when we are born, we’re put in a Corvette Stingray with a 425 supercharger in it and pointed at a brick wall, at a very high speed. BAM! We hit the world. There’s lots of damage to the sheet metal. It’s just what happens in the course of our lives. I’m using this metaphor because you can patch the body of a damaged car back together again, but it’s never going to be the same. You can never really get all the wrinkles out. You can’t, and that’s okay. That doesn’t mean it won’t drive, and it may not be as pretty as we wanted it to be, and some people will stress about it forever, but it really just doesn’t matter. Slowly, through our practice, through our self-cultivation and our self-study, we are able to come to a place where we can access some love and joy within ourselves that is an appropriate antidote to all of the wrinkles that have established themselves as our personal experience.

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Pain, moreover, is fundamentally energy. What all the wrinkles in the sheet metal represent is energy that has been transferred from the motion of your vehicle in contact with the wall to the body of the car. It has been transferred and endures in the sheet metal. That’s what the wrinkles are. When you attend to the pain without any attitude about it, that energy is released. You just feel it, you hold the awareness of it, you don’t avoid it, you don’t get entangled by it in your mind, you simply relate to the pain. Doing this, the pain becomes released and that energy is absorbed into your system.

Don’t even bother to think about life lessons. Personally, I think life lessons are bullshit. When I hear people asking, “Oh, what’s the lesson in this”, I cringe. There is no lesson in this. The lesson is in the absorption of the energy and the inherent transformation of our energetic mechanism that will come from that absorption. There is no mental, intellectual, emotional information that we can ever wrap our mind around and call a permanent lesson because, in every case, the lessons that we refer to are not lessons that are positive, they are lessons that are life negating. Right? Think about it!

Instead of talking about life lessons, we need to take the pain and transform it into joy. It doesn’t matter what level the pain is happening in—physical, mental or emotional—it is simply energy locked in wrinkled sheet metal that needs to be released so that we can absorb and digest it. Absorbing that energy brings about an automatic change in the structure of our energetic mechanism, and that’s what takes us to a higher, life-affirming state.

WE ARE CURTAINS OF LIGHT

BY SWAMI CHETANANANDA

Most of the world’s major religious traditions suggest that the world and the physical body are places of temptation and evil. That is not the view of the tantric tradition. The tantric tradition views the body as curtains of light. The body is curtains of light that, due to a suppression of the activity of the breath of life, are condensed into what appears as our form.

There is, in fact, a total integration between physical, mental/emotional and spiritual. There’s no such thing as body being over here, mind being over there, and God being someplace up above. The body is the mind, the mind is the body, and there is no separation. All we need to do is take a few small steps in practice to begin to understand that. The body and the mind are expressions of the divine creative force and there is no separation. Then we loop back to the understanding that the body is not the source of sin and degradation and the pathway to hell. On the contrary, the body is divine. The body is the condensation of the ultimate creative energy.

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When the breath of life within us is released and can flow, then the condensation of the curtains of light that we are is released as well. When the layers of respiration within us can move freely, the circulation allows the layers of curtain that is our body to become expanded, allows the breath moving in our body to become full, and in the fullness of the expansion of the breath, our awareness expands to the degree that we begin to appreciate that this body is an energetic event.  We can literally feel the energy moving in our muscles. 

The body is curtains of light. The mind is the sparkle and the shimmer in those curtains of light. The curtains themselves are the breath of God. You have within yourself a creative capacity that your mind will never be able to wrap itself around. It’s not what the mind exists for. But when you know that creative capacity and you can establish yourself in connection with it and hold that space of the breath, that creative capacity will completely reorganize you and express that reorganization in the total field of your experience. That’s when the recognition emerges: I Am That. I am that divine creative energy.

Whether you are sitting in your favorite coffee shop having your coffee in the morning, or going to work, doing whatever you do, working in your day, you are nothing but the breath of God. Whatever you are doing, you are an expression of the fundamental respiratory process that underlies the entire universe.

SERVICE AND SUSTAINABILITY

BY SWAMI CHETANANANDA

An attitude of service is one of the essential elements in the emergence of any inner life that you hope to cultivate. When we have an attitude of service, we will find that we no longer need to defend our ego, to defend ourselves and our actions. Instead we live a life of caring and consciousness, awareness and thoughtfulness.

Whenever you find that you become aware, in any area of your life, that you are defending yourself in some circumstance, I would like you to consider that perhaps the only thing that is ever possible for you to defend is your stupidity. You don’t need to defend your intelligence or your brilliance or your talent or your capability. If you have a little bit of strength, you can stand in that. In fact it will exist, it will shine out in the end after every challenge. It is only in our weaknesses and in our stupidity that we get ourselves locked in struggles and become defensive. That is when in fact we accumulate trauma. It’s only when we are locked and stiff that we can absorb and maintain any kind of shock and trauma to the system. When we are relaxed and flowing, any force that enters into this field we can move with. We can adapt to anything.

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So a life of service brings us an attitude of openness and connectedness and participation in the lives of everybody whose life we touch. Now, I am not saying that having an attitude of service means that you should go out and start doing charitable work. That doesn’t really matter. What I am saying is that when you meet your parents or your brothers and sisters, it is very important that you have an attitude of service. That attitude of service denies you the opportunity to take anybody for granted and not make contact. It requires of you that you are constantly aware of that creative energy happening within you and connecting from that deeper place in you to everybody that you interact with. You are not trying to impose your will or even your limited idea of what is right on anyone, but embracing and appreciating all the diversity in life.  For each person that you connect to, you can be a source of energy that they can use to make a change within themselves.

Service is appropriate in your family and personal life. An attitude of service is also equally important in your office and in whatever professional work that you do. This attitude allows you to come into line with the people that you work with, so that there is a sharing going on in that environment. That kind of sharing allows for it to be a much more rewarding experience. It is going to reduce conflict and facilitate flow. In that case, everybody is going to feel better about everybody else, and you will all be able to focus more on the goals of the organization that you are working with. You will be encouraging that organization to be more true to its mission, and therefore more efficiently and more capably supporting that organization in making a contribution to whatever area of society it is intending to affect. Only those of us who actually work in corporations with an attitude of service will be able to create a sense of alignment among all of the people who work there to begin to influence their function in a way that will genuinely serve our societies, that will genuinely cause those people to function in a way that is responsible to the environment and responsible to the communities in which they exist.

Our only hope for sustaining life on this planet is that all of us have an attitude of service and that we bring that attitude of service to every aspect of our lives.  As we bring that aspect of service to our life, we are bringing our understanding of the unity of the whole. We are bringing a mystical, profound spiritual awareness into the differentiated world in which all of us move around in everyday, and we are demonstrating the power of that awareness to awaken and transform human beings, restoring health and vitality to their bodies, clarity to their minds, expansiveness to their emotions. We are allowing the world to become healthy again.

 

FINDING FLOW

BY SWAMI CHETANANANDA

Breath is flow. That’s the simplest form of it. Just to speak to another person can also create flow. If you could, in any conversation you’re having, bring a deeper awareness of flow to that moment, you have changed that person’s life forever. Everyone has had experiences of flow, where suddenly there’s a connection and something starts happening between you and the person you’re with.  

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Flow can happen anywhere. I used to be a cashier in my father’s drugstore. I learned that smiling at people and saying something, anything nice, to them started creating a flow between us. Over the years that I worked in my dad’s drugstore those connections deepened, and I saw people’s lives change. Having that job opened opportunities for me to share with people whom I would never have met anywhere else.

So, flow can be breathing. Flow can be touching. Flow can be speaking. Flow in the finest sense is just to feel yourself, feel the other person, feel the space between you and to hold that awareness. Do that, and magic can happen.

ON SELF-CULTIVATION AND LETTING GO

BY SWAMI CHETANANANDA

Surrender is the first thing we need to do every day. By that I mean letting go, letting go, letting go. Usually we wake up in the morning, we think about what we have to do, we think about what we haven’t done, we think about all this stuff, and it immediately makes us crazy: “I’ve gotta do this, I can’t do that, I’ll...” Blah blah blah blah. Upon awakening to our day, we enter into that state of what has to be done, what shouldn’t be done, what wasn’t done, and we become all inflamed around our entanglement in the world, when the first thing we need to do every day is think about the complete lack of control that we actually have in our lives.

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One of the reasons why I recommend that people read the book Incognito by David Eagleman is that he argues from a neurophysiological standpoint that we have no free will. This discussion doesn’t come up much in the media or in popular science because it’s a complicated subject. But Eagleman makes a convincing case that we have no free will. So, getting up in the morning, the first thing we do is let go, and think about the lack of control that we have, which clears our hearts and minds of all the struggle, so that we can become attuned to our own inner strength and our inner vitality. Remember that the most important thing that we are doing, all day every day, is self-cultivation. We are cultivating the awareness of ourselves, cultivating a connection with our hearts, cultivating kindness and compassion and caring, and, ultimately, love for our fellow human beings. We are cultivating devotion to Life Itself. That’s our first job every day.

We do asana practice to cultivate body awareness and flow. The movement of the energy in our body, through the intentional movement of our body, gives us a deeper connection with and awareness of ourselves. Then we go, layer by layer, from the body to the energy, through the mind to the energy, to our heart and to the abundance that resides in our Essence. From that abundance we serve each other. Slowly dissolving the boundaries of our awareness, the boundaries that are expressed as want and need and desire and also opinion and attitude and judgment, all of which are lumped together in most spiritual texts under the word “ignorance.”

We let go of the idea that we have control in the outcome of our day, and we engage in the activity of self-cultivation. After first establishing our awareness within ourselves, we move out into our day, following the flow of the energy and doing our best to serve the flow that is expressing itself in that day—which sometimes means that the day ends up going some place we never thought it would. A lot of the time that’s a very happy and fruitful occasion.

 

BHAGAVAN NITYANANDA AND THE BIG PICTURE

BY SWAMI CHETANANANDA

The way Bhagavan Nityananda lived was completely different from the way we do. He was completely removed from people, and he probably didn’t even need them at all. He had a rich relationship with the spirits around him that sustained him on every level. For the most part, he simply had no reason to deal with people and all their tensions, their worries, their jealousies, and their judgments. He was out of touch with all of that. I don’t think that any western person can grasp the intensity of his asceticism and his solitude.

His asceticism was not something that was contrived. It wasn’t like saying, “Oh, I’m going to go out and stop eating all glutinous material,” and it wasn’t like he was trying to live a healthy life. You can’t do what he did and be healthy, exactly. But he didn’t care. He had no interest in the issue of health. It just never dawned on him. He was completely, totally above it all.

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We might look at Nityananda and see his asceticism, and we might think we can imitate it and become like him. We’ll just give up something: it might be alcohol, sex, meat. Nityananda wasn’t like that. He just was what he was. He wasn’t trying to be anything other than what he was. In a very real sense, he was doing everything that was natural to him. He was established in a profound spiritual state that completely released him from everything that had anything to do with what ordinary people need. He just didn’t need it.

For years I used to think about what I would have to do to be like Nityananda. I finally came to the place where I decided that to be like him I had to be like me. The only thing I could do was be like me. I would be whoever I am, and that would be enough. I don’t think most people are even remotely capable of living the kind of asceticism Nityananda demonstrated. But I also don’t think we should try. He was completely extraordinary, yet maybe not the only person in India who had that kind of capacity around that time.

Nityananda was an immensely powerful person who, without going anywhere, saw and could see what was going on everywhere. One of the wonderful stories about him happened on the day that Sputnik was launched. The Russians had launched the first satellite to orbit the earth. In Ganeshpuri, there was no radio or newspaper, and no way for anyone to know, but Nityananda came out and sat down in front of his small group of devotees who were there. He started telling them, “Oh, the Russians have just launched a satellite and it’s going to go around the earth, and then the Americans are going to do something in response. Before too long, people are going to be walking around on the moon.” Of course, all of his devotees were incredulous because even the idea of a satellite, a rocket taking off the face of the earth, was beyond them.

This story is just one example of Nityananda’s ability to know anything that was going on anywhere and to express it. He was amazing. Nityananda’s presence removed diseases, removed obstacles, removed affliction and suffering from the lives of those people who kept his company, and he asked nothing for it. He had but one thought in his mind, and that was the total unity of everything. He saw connectedness where most people see diversity and difference. He saw God in everyone, without any kind of judgment or any attempt to make any distinction. He had the big picture firmly in mind at all times. This quality, rather than any practice of asceticism, is what we need to remember about Nityanananda. 

TURBULENCE AND TRANSFORMATION

By Swami Chetanananda

One of the things that the ancient Shaivas observed, which is really simple and easy to grasp, is that if something is breathing, it’s alive, and if it’s not, it’s dead. They came to realize that the entire universe is alive with respiratory process. Everything, on every scale, is breathing. This universal respiratory process is what they call kundalini.

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Kundalini exists in three levels: the physical level, the mental and emotional level, and the level of infinite spaciousness. The Shaivas understood that the universe was a self-organizing, dynamic system, and that its fundamental quality is “freedom,” often translated as “autonomy.”

What’s a dynamic system? It is a pattern of energy. It is patterned, there is movement within the pattern, and this pattern exists as a self-organizing expression that is constantly adapting to its ever-changing circumstance. If I were going to define consciousness, I would say it is the capacity to adapt. Because there is constant feedback, there is constant adaptation, and within that adaptation, the potential is infinite. The world itself, the whole universe, is one dynamic system that is fueled by respiratory process. That respiratory process is constantly manifesting itself as turbulence.

The universe, because of its “livingness”, its “aliveness,” through respiratory process is generating turbulence on an infinite number of scales. Turbulence on an infinite number of scales gives expression to all living forms of life that we are aware of and experience and also forms of life that completely exceed our own limited sensory capacity. There are forms of life that are tiny beyond our ability to see, and forms of life that are large beyond our ability to recognize. All of this is expressed and sustained by respiratory process, which is turbulence.

This fundamental dynamism of the Shaiva Shakta universe, this respiratory process, manifests in a human being as the Breath of Life. It is a subtle pulse, within the cerebral spinal fluid, that powers our physical breathing and our three-phase circulatory system. In other words, the highest and finest, most refined cosmic principle is available to us in the simplest expression of our individual lives: our breath. Turning our attention to our breath, cultivating our awareness of our breath, we can find, within ourselves, an abundance that dissolves the tensions and the traumas of our past experience, internalizes that experience as nourishment and as benefit, and makes available to us the resource, the energy, the inspiration if you will, to engage in transformation.

Turbulence becomes available to us as a positive force as we become familiar with ourselves as energetic beings instead of things. We have to be able, first, to feel the energy moving in us, and to facilitate the organization of that energy into a flow. Learning that internally, then, allows us to start to become aware of the energy, the turbulence in our environment and bring our attention to that turbulence so that it becomes a self-organizing pathway to some kind of accomplishment.

I think the brilliance of the Shakta Shaiva model is that it’s based on the simplest demonstration of life within us. That demonstration of life is an experience that powers us, an experience that transcends our mind and our emotions, and all of the limitations of our body. It is an experience that has endless healing capacity on every level. It has Unimaginable Possibility and ultimately a joy that makes our lives integral and meaningful.

The Fruits of Living From Love

BY SWAMI CHETANANANDA

You may hear that there is a bhakti path and a jnana path and various other paths, but all paths boil down to the same thing. Every path is about you connecting to your heart and opening yourself deeply to drink in your life, be nourished by it and grow up and give back to life whatever it is you are called upon to give.

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Each of us has unique gifts to give back to the world once we have grown and flowered and matured, and each of those gifts that we are blessed with requires a different soil or climate or something unique. There are peach trees and mango trees and blackberry bushes and apple trees and apricot trees and grape vines, as well as tomatoes and habaneros. It’s still fruit, and it all arises from the same process. The leaves of the trees and the vines reach out to the sun and take in the light and draw it to their core as they draw up from the earth the minerals that are present in the place where they’re planted. They bring it all together in this extraordinarily complex chemical reaction. That reaction is the same for all of us, and through it, our fruits are expressed.

Opening our own hearts to our core, appreciating and accepting our life and ourselves just as we are, we take in from the soil all the nutrients that are there.  Reaching to heaven, we take from each other the light and love that radiates from all of our hearts, and we grow. In growing, plants reach to the light; humans reach to the love. Loving God, loving our lives, loving ourselves, we discover the unity of it all and all the rest of it is just the chemical reaction that happens around us. All the relationships, all the careers, all the money issues, all the sex, all the this thing and the that thing and all the arguments we have with each other, it’s all just part of the soup that is our life.

If your path doesn’t support you in lifting your spirit every day to the light and love in your life and taking that deeply within yourself, then it’s useless and you need to change the recipe. Refine it a little bit. Doing that, you will become a complete human being, find total peace and happiness, and discover the unimaginable abundance that is available to you in your core. That’s what we’re all doing here, and we need to get on with it.

LOVING GOD

BY SWAMI CHETANANANDA

I’m not very comfortable using the term “God.” I suppose the reason is that I grew up a Catholic, and I was quite certain at an early age that whatever the Catholics meant by God was not what God was. Despite that, it was in church that I first had the experience of God. My first memory from being in Catholic grade school was getting a copy of the Baltimore Catechism. The first lesson in it included the question “Why did God make me?” and the answer given was “God made me to know, love and serve Him in this world.” I believed that when I heard it, and I really tried to live it.

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I was going to church every day (I was an altar boy), and each time I found I could go to a different place, one that had nothing to do with what was going on around me, by feeling into my heart and feeling something wonderful there. I learned to breathe into my heart and to feel there, with my breath, something wonderful. I did that every day as a kid, and I had some pretty far out experiences doing that.

Life went on and I grew up, went through puberty, and became completely disillusioned with Catholicism as I knew it. When I got to college, I lost myself in that whole experience, in the struggle to find my place in the world and to create for myself a career and think about how I would manage family and career and so forth. The whole time was a very big tumble for me. Then one day I was experimenting with mind-altering substances, and I remembered something that I had forgotten in the whole process of growing up: that there is something really wonderful in my heart. As I began to understand that I needed to find myself again, I relied upon that wonderful feeling that I found in my heart and what I learned from everything I had experienced as a child. I realized that I absolutely could not allow myself to be distracted by all the crazy shit going on around me. In fact, I couldn’t allow myself ever to be distracted by anything, ever. Instead, I should always establish my awareness in the wonderful feeling that was available to me in my heart, and go through my days in touch with, thinking from, speaking from, acting from, doing what facilitated the expansion of that wonderful feeling and its expression in the field of my life.

During my college days, there was a lot of countercultural discussion going on about God. Throughout that time, I sincerely wanted to understand what God meant, and I really wanted to find God. I heard a lot of talk about different paths to God and that everybody had their own path. There seemed to be thousands of paths, and I was glad I finally remembered that, for me, there’s only one path. There was always only one path, and there will forever be only one path. That one path is loving God. That’s it.

To find that wonderful feeling in your heart, and go to the depth of that wonderful feeling in your heart, you will discover that you, your life, and God are exactly the same thing. Every single day, connecting to that feeling will open you deeper and allow you to extend your awareness through the field of experience itself in a finer and finer way.

 

Dispelling Self-Doubt

BY SWAMI CHETANANANDA

The simplest, most brilliant method for dealing with self-doubt is a tool that Rudi created, that we call “The Wish to Grow.” Now, in all the Indian spiritual traditions, whether it’s Buddhism, or Shaivism, or Vaishnavism, devotion is essential. Devotion is essential because devotion continually brings us back to our heart. Devotion is the tool by which we can break down all of the accumulated tensions of our lack of self-esteem, all of the accumulated weight of our own self-doubt, and lift ourselves and our spirits to a place where our energy is activated and flowing. What we are devoted to is growing spiritually, which means growing ever closer to the truth of our own existence. We are growing ever more aware of and rooted in the awareness that we are nothing but energy, and that this total environment is curtains of light, permeated at its most refined dimension literally by only one awareness, one mind. That mind has one thought: I wish to grow. I wish to grow is the only thing on the mind of Shiva.

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The brilliance of this simple tool is, on the one hand, that it is a recognition of our limitations. It’s an acknowledgement of the tensions that we carry. It is an admission of our faults and our mistakes. The Wish to Grow acknowledges the reality of our physical existence,  and our mental, emotional and physical tensions, and the struggles that we have in our daily life, even as it is also recognizing the possibility of transcending all of that and arriving at an understanding of our ultimate reality.  That possibility is extraordinary—a recognition of the beauty that is forever present inside us, and the Unimaginable Possibility that is present as this life.

So in those moments when we encounter any self-doubt, rather than collapse into a puddle or a ball of tensions, if we could release that tension and turn our awareness to the Wish to Grow, and begin to feel within ourselves, in our energy centers, and, take it deeper and deeper and deeper in connection to our energy centers, then we have a natural, innate experience of the devotion that resides within us as beauty, as joy. Slowly, but surely, we are transformed. This doesn’t have to take a long time, although we do need to practice for a while to develop the skill. If you sit and practice every day until you have an experience of the flow, eventually you have the awareness that you can lift yourself within the flow any time you choose. Then, moving through your day, in your ordinary day, that becomes the context of your practice. You are aligning yourself, connecting, flowing, from within yourself in all the activities and with all the people that you share your life with, and that becomes a context for your practice.

Finally, you settle, every day, within yourself, in the place where you are aware, even as you move about in your day, that the reality of you has nothing to do with this physical body or all of the movement that it’s going through. The reality of us is a profoundly refined, sweet and beautiful possibility that presents itself as health and well-being and understanding, that heals and transforms our environment. You become established in a place within yourself, in which it doesn’t matter what you do anymore.  Nothing matters, because your heart radiates joy and gratitude.

So use this brilliant tool that you can sit with and, asking in your heart, connected to your breath, more and more deeply, say to yourself, again and again, “I really, deeply wish to grow.” Relaxing your body, and feeling it again and again, cultivate an intense feeling within yourself that that’s really what your life’s about. Because it is. Every living thing that exists on this planet exists for one reason, and that is to grow. All the diversity and all the environments exist for one reason and that is to support growth.

Remember that the wish to grow doesn’t deny your tensions and isn’t a suppression of anybody’s shortcomings.  It’s in fact an admission of it all. At the same time, it is a recognition that there is an Unimaginable Possibility and profound abundance within us that is available to us, if we can connect to it and hold the space long enough for it to begin to express itself. To hold the space long enough, we have to be able to dispel our self-doubt. The only reason I’m still practicing is because I have experienced again and again, that when we do that, miracles happen. And I wish miracles for all of you.

GROUND HOG DAY--AND THE ALTERNATIVE

By Swami Chetanananda

Most of our attitudes and opinions become formed in a family system, which for, many of us, was dysfunctional. We can also say our attitudes and our opinions have been formed in the past, as they are part of the disappointments of our ancestors from long ago. That deep past goes back long before this body even existed. Our attitudes and opinions were formed ages ago, and they were just sitting there waiting for a body to emerge around them so that they could fully flower. If we are living in our attitudes and opinions, where are we constantly going to go with them? That’s easy -- around and around and around again in our past.

So it becomes important for us to understand that nothing that we see today and will see tomorrow is anything at all like yesterday. While we understand the concept that every day is a new day, most people every new day bring the same attitudes and opinions they had yesterday. You know what that’s called, don’t you? I call it Ground Hog Day. To make the effort to reach inside ourselves, beneath those tensions, and find some fundamental goodness that is ever present in ourselves that we so strangely, rarely access, and begin to engage that part of ourselves and bring it to the forefront and open ourselves and allow ourselves to be open and reeducated every day, is to begin to completely transform ourselves.

The one ingredient in our chemistry that allows for all the lessons that we experience to be absorbed into the deepest place inside us, instead of endlessly reinforcing our attitudes and our opinions, is gratitude. When you find that fundamental goodness in yourself and you start to be able to access it in your daily life, instead of being totally controlled by your past, you will find many reasons to be grateful. Feeling that gratitude, absorbing it into yourself, and becoming that gratitude does not take a lot of effort.

Having desires is almost always a problem. That’s because desires take us out of ourselves. We start reaching for things that we think we need instead of reaching inside to connect to that fundamental goodness inside us to grow the love and the joy and the gratitude in us to the degree that that love and joy and gratitude attracts into our life everything that we need.

The only desire we should cultivate is the desire to grow. In desiring to grow, all of our desires will be transformed into the experience of an abundance that is already inside us just waiting for the chance to spring out and show itself. We get so caught up in our opinions and attitudes and our habitual ways of doing things that we’re constantly allowing our creative energy to be consumed by an inner struggle that gives no benefit whatsoever. The struggle just eats you alive, and it does nothing.

The yogis, saints, the accomplished masters of all spiritual traditions, came to a place within themselves where they were able to enjoy every moment and every breath, fully. Pain or sorrow or struggle or whatever, these are the moments of our life. What other moments have you got? You’ve got a different moment? These are the moments of our life, and instead of getting all tangled up in what we want and we don’t want, and where we’re going or we’re not going, or whatever, the great spiritual people understood, these are the moments of our life. We don’t have different moments. Be ambivalent about pain or joy. Be above it all. Don’t be attached to what comes and what goes, because there‘s always coming and going.

The ascended masters understood whatever it is that presents itself is presented by the goddess, the breath of life itself. The way we see what is presented is due to our own karma. Karma is the accumulated tensions of our family system, our attitudes, our opinions, everything. If we stay connected to our body, aware of our breath, quietly enjoying the moments of our life, pretty soon we will start to feel our breath dissolve our body and dissolve this worldly experiential context, and we’ll be some place completely different. That place is completely quiet, completely peaceful, completely beautiful.

My advice is: rather than wasting your time on desires, enjoy each and every moment of your life. Don’t waste your time fighting with your friends. Don’t waste your time wanting something different from your kids. Don’t waste your time with any of that struggle. The more you cultivate the experience of enjoyment in these moments the more healthy and fit you will be physically, the happier you will be, the more love you will experience in your life, and the more all the things you think you want will naturally appear in your life as an effect of the abundance which is overflowing in you. Don’t struggle with desire. Let it go; let it all go.

The only thing that endures is the breath of life. That breath of life, of which you are an expression, of which you are an effect of, that breath of life endures. Enjoying the moments of your life, all of your struggles are dissolved into the breath of life. In that process of dissolution, we come to understand that we’re nothing but the breath of God. The beauty of that experience is absolutely intense and indescribable. It shatters every tiny small attitude and opinion and desire that we could possibly have.