Category Archives: Essay

On Raising Kids – an east-west view

A Perspective On Child Care Blending Eastern Philosophy and Western Science

Emotions make the environment 

I’d like to share with you what yoga psychology has to say about child rearing. It turns out that it is aligned with much of what western psychology has to say on the subject.  The foundational idea is that the early years (0-4) are like a continued gestation period with a brain that is only ¼ developed at birth but will triple in mass by age 4. Consequently, the environment must provide the necessary emotional support to allow the child’s nervous system to develop. Everything in the environment has the potential to imprint on the child. Whatever fears, anxieties and frustrations are present in you or other members of the child’s environmental community will become part of the child’s emotional experience.

Therefore, it is not enough to just feel and display love and support to the child, you have to manage the entire emotional ecology surrounding your child.That is a very tall order and requires planning and practice. What follows is a list of issues to consider in this process.

In Utero

According to the Vedic Model the time in utero is primarily stressful. The quarters are cramped and even frightening. Increasingly Western science is proving that the experience in utero can have a lasting impact on the baby. The first order of importance is the mother’s emotions.

The more balanced her nervous system the better. Getting stuck in either a stimulated state (angry, frustrated, nervous, anxious, fearful, keyed up…) or a depressed (parasympathetic) state (sad, lonely, depressed, fatigued…) can create an in utero environment that inhibits healthy development of the foetus. The more time the mother spends in a stable, content mood the better.

Learning to manage emotions is key to this process. It is important that emotional management be honest and not based on any type of repression as that will result in a disruptive influence on the child. Repressed emotions leak or spill out in an unhealthy manner and the baby feels what the mother feels, whether she is willing acknowledge it or not. You can’t lie to an embryo.

The next most important factor is diet. The goal is to share a diet in the mode of goodness (Sanskrit – sattvic). A sattvic diet is plant-based with limited amounts of refined simple carbs (white flour, white rice, white sugar.)  The ideal is to consume whole foods, complex carbs (whole grains, legumes, vegetables certain fruits), health fats (avocado, nuts, flax..). This type of balance of complex carbs and fats will provide sufficient protein.  Eating regularly (smaller amounts more often is better as it prevents hunger or over eating related mood swings.) Additionally, it is important to pay attention to the emotional state in which food is prepared and ingested. Be sure to check with a holistic-prenatal nutritionist for additional advice specific to your needs.

The next element to control for is the mother’s voice. Reading out loud or speaking out loud to the gestating baby is very valuable. While the sounds the mother hears are important to the extent that they influence the mother’s mood they do not directly impact the baby. What the mother speaks (or sings) on the other hand is the most perceptible sound the embryo will experience. So skip the headphones attached to the belly and instead pick a book and read out loud. As for choosing Dr. Seuss versus Shakespeare or Rumi, it is not going to matter to the baby as much as the mood it puts the mother in. So choose subject matter (or songs) that provides a positive effect on your mood. (Mantra chanting is an excellent pastime for mother and womb inhabitant),

0-2 years

Attunement is the emotional dance of reciprocation. This is all about being emotionally available without bringing your own needs or expectations to the process. Your child must feel that you are always emotionally present on their terms. If they are happy, then you are present with matching joy. If they are aloof or distracted you are patient. If they are grumpy or colicky you are present without demands or frustration, simply demonstrating support. This is very challenging, as it requires you to be emotionally engaged without being drawn into the child’s moods.

1 -3 years

In the early years, it is important to not admonish them with anger. Nonetheless, correction is crucial because it is for their benefit. Consequently, it should be done with emotions ranging from aloof-detachment to loving-engagement, but not with anger, fear or frustration. This is another reason emotional management is such an important skill for parents. The trick is to understand that emotions are both spontaneous and mechanical. In other words, if the anger and frustration you feel is spontaneous you can’t always stop it before it erupts. You can, however, choose to experience the frustration internally and display a different more constructive emotion externally.

This is a little like rubbing your belly and patting your head. It is hard at first but with practice you can learn to take responsibility for your frustration and anger by feeling it and acknowledging its presence in your body and then choosing to smile inwardly into the challenge. Then you can decide to experience and express a more productive emotion for the benefit of the child. I repeat my warning from earlier, this must not be just an act of repression. You must be honest with yourself about the frustration you feel, and that is not easy. It is a practice that requires courage. But in practicing the courage needed to feel difficult emotions on the inside, you model an important virtue for your child.

1-18 years

Do not feed them dead animals. Science is clear humans do not require meat to flourish. Omnivores are not carnivores. We can eat meat if we have to but we are not meant to. Children who are never given meat will not develop physiological dependencies on it. One of the great gifts of modern culture is that we don’t need to eat meat any more. It is a healthier, environmentally sound, humane choice.  Additionally, it instills a greater degree of empathy and virtue in those who do not choose to participate in snuffing out a life for their own sense gratification. The path to finding  deep happiness is difficult when we are bringing unhappiness to other sentient beings.

2-5 years

Don’t reward them emotionally for what they produce; reward them for simply being. Let them feel important because they exist, not because they must do something to earn your love.

5-10 years

After the age of five they should learn self-discipline and pranayama. Self discipline is based on learning to do what the body and mind do not want to do. This is a great art to teach. It cannot proceed too slowly as the principle will not be learned, or too fast as the child might be harmed. Rewards have to be used lightly because the real benefit of self-discipline is in having it for its own sake rather than as a result of external rewards and outcomes. This helps teach the important principle of being focused on their actions rather than their outcomes.

Pranayama provides the ability to manage their emotional experience of life. They must learn and become experienced at controlling their own nervous system. This technique alone will improve the quality of their lives. In order to teach them pranayama you must first be experienced and proficient at it. This is not difficult but it does require practice. Your personal practice can be a simple as controlled counted breath.

Allow them to make mistakes in an environment you manage. Create opportunities for them to create and fail. Learn to apply the principle of controlled chaos in allowing them to learn the decision making process. You do this by giving them chances to make choices and allowing them to experience the consequences.

Teaching kids to be simultaneously present and detached

They are not the roles that culture and society impose upon them. The question and the goal is how do you get them from identifying too deeply with these roles? How do you teach them that all the world is a stage and we are just players? And, how do you teach this without risking that they become sociopaths? One clue is that the difference between the sociopath and the enlightened being is intention. This brings the focus to the development of character and virtuous intentions. The additional challenge here is how to develop real character without simply superimposing a superficial notion upon those kids smart enough to simply mimic it for the sake of getting rewarded?

For them to be secure in who they are they have to be ok with the insecurity of not knowing who they are because that is the human condition. Anything else is just reinforcement of the ego, which is the source of prolonged suffering. So focus on the development of virtue and character.

Father’s role

The father’s role should not be overlooked in all this. If the mother provides more nurturing and support than the father, their identity and gender awareness may be impaired. It is just as important that the father practice attunement, emotional management, and the ability to be lovingly present without expectations.

Catch-22

So here’s the catch – if you consider the full range of your responsibilities and the magnitude of what can go wrong in the raising of your kid you can reasonably expect to be overwhelmed with fear and anxiety. At the very least the weight of your responsibility will be stressful. Persistent parental stress has been shown to be a predictor of developmental disruption for children. So the more you worry about raising your child the more you put her or him at risk. What to do?

Embrace the impossibility of life…life is not a game you win; it is an event you experience, either positively or negatively.  Life becomes more positive when you emphasize experiencing life over understanding life and self-forgetting over self-love. The key to being an experiencer of life and an in the moment self-forgetter is in your willingness to embrace and appreciate the mystery, the paradox, and the impossibility of life.

Consider the paradox that children represent: for all the joy and hope associated with the birth of your child you have simultaneously condemned a human being to pain, disease, and a non-commutable death sentence. These are the inevitable realities of human life. Do you reflect on these facts? Have you enshrined these truths along with the dreams and well wishes you have for your child? Can you allow the good will you have for your child to coexist with the reality that despite your best efforts you cannot control the way your child will turn out?

You might choose to ignore the negative side of raising a child but that would be unwise. Resisting or ignoring the darker aspects requires a type of emotional repression. You would have to be unwilling to be present and to experience reality. This impoverishes you as a human and leads to unconscious stress; a stress that will impact your child’s development.  The challenging and all-important solution is to choose to live in the impossible paradoxes created by life. You can if you wish choose to feel everything. This gives you tolerance and resilience. This gives you the ability to be present. This allows life to flow around you in all its mystery and variance. It doesn’t make the unpleasant or difficult moments of life disappear but it makes you a stronger more balanced person and you will be modeling this to your child.

So you must live with the catch-22; raising a child is stressful and stress must be minimized when raising a child. The more you learn to enjoy and have a positive emotional experience of the challenges of raising a kid the better the environment you will create for them.

Have fun loving 🙂

Welcome to the new home for my personal blog

Welcome to my personal blog (as opposed to my professional blog.)

This blog will consist of writing and video work that I am doing around the idea of connecting Yoga and Vedic philosophy to everyday life in the western world. So you will see a variety of essays, media reviews, social commentary, video blogs and even some questions & answers (if you have any!). The goal is to offer you tools and encouragement for becoming a Modern Yogi and sharing the Modern Yogi lifestyle with others. You may ask what it is a Modern Yogi? Well..

A Modern Yogi is someone who:

– believes in the power of virtue (Dharma) to shift consciousness.

– thinks the happiness you seek will be found in the happiness you create for others.

– feels acts of kindness and courage triumph over self-preservation.

– knows that what we do is more important than what we think.

– is not into short cuts, but is definitely into efficiency.

– is not the body, not the mind, and not any of the roles we play.

– is a Spirit-Soul who knows everything here is play and the art of service.

Another exciting aspect of the blog is “Ask the Yogi”. These will be my answers to your questions. Some will be posted as written blogs and some as video, while some will be answered in the Akashic field (just kidding). Seriously though, I can’t guarantee I will get to every question, but I will do my best.

You can submit questions by email to atma@modernyogi.com or you can use the submission form.

While I do not make any promise to be regular, I will add things from time to time. So, please use the subscribe function. That way you won’t miss a thing:-D

Really hope you like the new site and I am looking forward to your feedback

Atma

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Final Message (for now…)

[UPDATE: This was the last post I put up on the Modern Yogi site. Since then it has been shuttered and the domain name put up for sale. It was the end of an experiment to create a social community. I will continue to blog intermittently and will be using Atma Blog as my personal home page.]

———————

“Don’t believe the hype, it’s a sequel.

As an equal, can I get this through to you?”

~Public enemy- 1988

You all mean a great deal to me. And even though this is a kind of good-bye I am excited to share that I am moving on. I will be stepping away from Modern Yogi.com and switching gears. Starting in January I will be working full-time for The Atman Group. A business management firm founded by me and dedicated to using a blend of Eastern and Western sciences to create higher-functioning more conscious organizations.

As the year and the clock winds down on the Modern Yogi project the question becomes what is the most important message to leave all of you with? After deep thought I have chosen this…

We are not all one.

That is the most important idea for your consideration. This simple and powerful idea has what you need to continue to change your life and to create deeper healthier relationship with everyone and everything you hold dear.

‘We are not all one’ is not a rejection of our connectivity. It is, rather, a joyful embrace of our mysterious nature. In many ways the essence of the Modern Yogi message is that paradoxical notion of oneness and difference.

It is a paradox because the mind cannot conceive it. How can we be one and separate at the same time? Yet it is the fact that we cannot conceive it that makes it so wonderful. Like a Zen koan the notion takes us outside of ourselves. Meditating on the possibility of simultaneous oneness and difference we are placed on the precipice of mystical unknowing. This is the unbearable beginning of bliss.

Extending this notion logically, we are also not God. Once again the rejection of dogma carries the seed of rapture. To meditate on the possibility-as inconceivable as it is for the mind-that we are simultaneously one with and different from God, is to bring us to the edge of egoic destruction. But what a wonderful place to be!

Here is the beginning of humility. Humility is the guarantor of contentment, spiritual growth, and happy healthy relations. Humility, the all important precursor to greatness, is torn asunder by thoughts of being all one. For where is the ability to bow and to serve, or even the need, if we are all one?

When you step away from the enchanting but deadly allure of certainty that comes from dogmatic assertions like ‘we are all one’, or ‘I am God’, you enter the realm of true magic and mystery. When you live in mystery you are dancing with paradox. And paradox is another name for God’s breath.

Make a decision to relish in the inconceivable, to bathe in mystery, and turn away from the soul dampening notion of ‘we’re all one’, ‘it is all mind’ and so on. Let these dogmatic notions fall away and be remembered for what they are, cheap and tawdry novelties from a new age carnival in its last days.

The goal of yoga, bhakti, and any renaissance of spirit is to celebrate. But to get the full measure of celebration we must do it as the many, swept-up in the One. The One spirit of love and eternality that runs through all of us, that connects us and yet remains beautifully separate from us. It is these wondrous distinctions that give us something to celebrate. The spiritually erotic and mind bending tension of being simultaneously one and different is the field where we all meet to dance, sing, and love. So let us meet there in this coming year. Let’s celebrate together, again and again, rejoicing in the fact that we are both one with and different from God and each other. That is the yogic concept of unity in diversity.

Your servant with love,

Atma

Yoga philosophy for the female clad: “Help as many as you can”

[Last of three essays on the theme of Goddess Yoga]

Our sense of who we are in the world,
how we relate to the world,
and the way we reflect on the world’s cornucopia of desirable objects,
colors the original clarity of the soul’s desires with the mixed colors of material energy.

This creates material desires.
These desires lead to lust and longing
Longing leads inevitably to frustration and the sad/angry emotions
Angry emotions lead to poor judgment
Poor judgment requires forgetting spiritual lessons, losing sight of spiritual leanings and longings
Thus concludes the atrophying of our free will and the capitulation to matter over spirit
This extinguishes our bliss…

In the Goddess Yoga world view
We are…
Innocent victims of the matrix, that is to say our mother Maya
Awakening observers
No way to un-attach completely
In order to inhibit Maya’s manipulation
We must choose to feel without ego (identification)
Just feel
Feeling is hard
Uncomfortable
Unmoored
It’s the seemingly scary side of paradox and mystery

One goal is to stop running away from emotions. Another goal is to stop being run by emotions.
The more interesting option is to use your ability to feel emotions
Women (generally) are in a better position to feel (than men)
But women (generally) identify more strongly with their bodies
To dis-identify with the body is NOT to stop feeling
Instead feel more as an observer rather than victim
Observation takes practice
Start with looking for (i.e. aggressively self searching) emotional attachments/expectations (aka threats
to your identity or sense of self)
From these make note of the emotions that arise (the fruits are varied but the tree is anger)
Go through this laundry list of emotion in sadhana – using just the word to trigger the emotional experience and practice choosing to feel it in your body.
Practice WITHOUT images or narrative – just physical sensation
Becoming fearless in your ability to be a true and full observer of human experiences
Know that you are simply a tourist in a time joy forgot
these material emotions are just postcards for your one true love
the origin and realm of souls
Soon it will be time to go home
Before then, help as many as you can and remember to practice engaged detachment

Yoga philosophy for the female clad: to be and not to be, that is the practice

[Second of three essays on the theme of Goddess Yoga]

Of the many obstacles in the journey of self-realization one of the most challenging is confusing the body you are riding around in as you. This challenge is often magnified for those travelling in a female body. This is partly due to the cultural pressures and biological influence that accompany identifying with the female body. These influences begin at an early age in at least three ways: 1) undue emphasis on bodily image; 2) fixation on the missing body of the future mate; 3) identification with the body that will (or could) come out of your own body.

So how do you do you? Without being you? [the body]

The solution is to come to feel the body around you as an instrument for divine intentions. Feeling like the temporary proprietor of an instrument for divine use empowers you at the soul level and brings with it a host of potential revelations. The more times throughout the day you can experience the phenomenon of sitting in a divinely inspired carrier, the more you will weaken the dark bonds of false ego that confuse you with your body.

This is the practice I talk about in the Boot Camp for the Soul, call engaged detachment. Also known as being in the world but not of the world.

In the Bhagavad Gita we find the Sanskrit instruction (ch. 5, text 11)
kayena manasa buddhya
kevalair indriyair api
yoginah karma kurvanti
sangam tyaktva atma-suddhaye

Here Krishna is instructing Arjuna:

With the body, the mind, the intelligence,
Free of materialistic intention, including even the senses
The yogis perform any and all actions
While giving up their association/identification [with the body/mind] to clarify and free the soul

Take time today to notice what it feels like to see, to taste, to smell, to touch and to hear. Deepening with each moment of ‘other-than-body-awareness’ the felt sense of being separate from your body and senses.

This is a wonderful step in unwinding the influence of the senses that in the past have imprisoned you but in the future will set you free.

Yoga Philosophy for the female clad

[One of three essays on the theme of Goddess Yoga]

The gender of the soul is a mysterious and transcendental subject. It is cloaked in the paradoxical and the inconceivable. 

The gender of the body is a fleeting and transient experience, neither real nor illusion, but temporary fact. Gender, in the realm of matter, flips back and forth over lifetimes, driven by karma and desire. This back and forth blurs the lines and the content between male and female so that over time we all have much of both.

Nonetheless, from life to life we generally find ourselves in one or another. Yet regardless of gender, we (the soul), continually find ourselves in an earthen vessel that is both temple and prison. This creates the ironic goal of having to both worship the temple and break free of the prison.

To further our sense of the paradoxical nature of being, consider that while we are in these clay coverings we are considered prakriti or mother nature (the feminine aspect)and the soul is considered purusua or consciousness (the male aspect). Yet in the realm of the soul the soul is called prakriti (or feminine) and the source of consciousness is call purusua. This gives a tiny hint as to the paradoxical nature of the soul’s gender.

Goddess Yoga, is meant to ask the question, “Are there differences in spiritual practice (sadhana) for you (the soul) when you are momentarily trapped in the female form versus the male form?”

The answer is yes and no; there are some differences and some similarities. The exposition of these essays will be the exploration of the differences.

The spiritual journey is different for the spirit-soul residing in a female body versus a male body. For example the female covered soul is generally much more in touch with the concept of body or form. This includes body in its various permutations: her own body, her lover or mate’s body, and her child’s body. This attunement is part of why the path of aestheticism has always been arduous and in some ways inappropriate for the feminine garb.

While the male body has the likelihood of being slightly less attached to the body they are not necessarily better off. In fact, it is this tendency towards bodily nonchalance that necessitates the austerity and submissiveness of the male-bodied path.

So while it is important that the male shaped aspirant grovel and serve the guru menially, that is not necessarily what is best for sister-spirit-soul.

So what is best for the female shaped ones?

The simplest answer is to use all the bodily proclivities to create connection to spirit.
+ Respect and beautify the body, not as you, but as a mystical clay temple of the supreme soul living within.
+ See and treat the lover/mate as representative of the divine.
+ Raise children as ambassadors of pure consciousness.

In addition, the mind should be disciplined in the dialectics of spirit… to learn to resist polar views of black or white and instead to entertain the paradox of synthesis…

+ surrender the need for certainty in exchange for pursuit of clarity
+ stop seeking control and instead celebrate beauty in nature and spirit
+ do not be moved by illustration which is only ABOUT something, but champion art which IS something
+ do not over value knowledge, instead learn to worship mystery
+ and above all do not mistake matter for spirit

In future essays I will explore and bring together easter science and western philosophy, with the hope of expanding our understanding of hatha, pranayama, mantra, and some of the esoteric meanings of the ancient Sanskrit text. The goal of this is series is to learn about the nature of the spiritual journey for souls who are in a female body. I look forward to your feedback.

Quick Intro to Face Reading [Video Blog]

The happiness of the modern yogi [Essay]

Happiness is the birthright of every spirit-soul, at least according to the Sanskrit saying, Ananda-mayo bhyasat. That is good news we can all use. After all, many of us have experienced moments of happiness; yet an enduring, persistent kind of happiness has been largely elusive.

So where is this birthright of bliss of which the Vedas speak? An important clue lies hidden in a word we hear on almost a daily basis, “Yoga.” Not the yoga of stretchy-pretzel-limbed fame; but rather Yoga as the timeless knowledge of the Self. The word is a cryptic passage to a realm beyond the impermanence of material life. Yoga invites us to experience that which lies outside the boundaries of body and mind. Yoga is not a belief, or a fact. It is an impulse, a drive, a longing to connect with something real. Yoga is the exquisite pursuit of a life more real than the transient glamour and fleeting joys that punctuate the otherwise drab and anxious tone of material life.

The modern yogi’s journey of self-discovery begins when the appeal of material objects and objectives begins to pale. This can begin as disillusionment with our preconceived notions of life, or the creeping realization that even if we got everything on our wish list, we wouldn’t necessarily be happy. This idea emerges in most of the wisdom traditions. As our spirituality matures, it begins to emerge in our consciousness.

It can be a bittersweet realization that true happiness or what I prefer to call anxiety-free happiness (ananda in Sanskrit) is not to be found in material artifacts or accomplishments. It can be hard to let go of the deep-seeded belief that the right partner, the right bank account, the right environment will make us whole (even if we know intellectually that is not the case.) As André Gide once said, “One doesn’t discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.” So, it is normal to have pangs of remorse as we slowly turn our backs on the sea of material longings that beckon and promise to fulfill us. In many ways it is a revolutionary thing to turn away from hopes we have harbored our whole lives.

Yoga, as I am describing it for the modern person, is the spirit of this revolution. This is a revolution against anxiety, dread, and fear. This is a revolution in pursuit of absolute truth, absolute happiness, and absolute freedoms. Yoga is a next-generation paradigm that portends the end of relative happiness. Yoga psychology champions a happiness that is not dependent on external factors. This type of happiness is a completely internal state that arises or disappears in spite of external factors and not because of them. A happiness based in the bliss-from-beyond is the result of turning toward the ephemeral and its loss is the result of turning away. When the modern yogi understands this it slowly becomes easier and easier to participate fully in life; while at the same time maintain an internal distance from it.

Consequently, the modern yogi becomes a citizen of two worlds – on the inside you identify with the journey of discovery, with the mystery of God, with your dharma which is described in certain Vedic texts as das-anu-das-anu-das… meaning, the servant of the servant of the servant of Spirit. On the outside you play the roles you are presented with, and you play them with feeling, and with commitment, but you don’t accept them as who you are because you are increasingly aware that you are the servant of the servant of Spirit. The modern yogi is one with and yet separate from the world at the same time.

This oneness and simultaneous difference is the beauty, the mystery and the philosophical underpinning of Yoga: the more you become free from the influence of matter, ego, dualism (distinguishing between pain and pleasure); the more you see the inherent spirit in all, the easier it will become to participate in the rituals and roles of daily life. The need for personal gratification will no longer be the driving force in your life, because you will have rediscovered your bliss. Instead you will participate in life for the sake of serving others. And even more you will want to help those around you rediscover their bliss. The modern yogi is filled with longing to help fellow yogis restart or continue on their individual journey of self-discovery.

Of course this may sound like so much lovely philosophy. What if we are not yet firmly on the path of the modern yogi? What if we feel a longing in our hearts for other things, alongside our desire to serve others? What if we want a loving wife, a compassionate husband, a house of our own, a good future for our kids? The beauty of the modern yogi path is that whether you are changing diapers, holding hands at sunset, paying bills online, or going it alone, living like a monk, it doesn’t matter. The modern yogi simply stands (or sits) in the place that they are, and uses that moment to connect to spirit. The modern yogi does this by paying attention; paying attention to breath, to sensation, to sound, and above all to the burgeoning sense that she or he is an observer.

As your capacity for paying attention expands it is likely you will experience more spiritual or ephemeral emotions: lightness, giddiness, buoyancy, etc… All this opens you up to a grander scheme. The trick is to avoid the pitfall of assuming too quickly that someone or something is orchestrating these experiences which you are beginning to observe. The caveat is on the “assuming too quickly.” For jumping too quickly to metaphysical conclusions runs the risk of becoming mired in sentimentality. It is worth it in the spiritual process to pace yourself, question everything, and don’t accept every experience as necessarily spiritual. It is of little value to become religiously sentimental. Sentimentality, like any superficial redressing, is the touchy-feely remapping of the false ego.

It is also easy, but equally disadvantageous, to try to just feel better by believing in you, or some newly conceived version of you. Many of the new age and recent self help movements simply push out the boundaries of self-esteem, resulting in an expansion of the false ego (the source of our misery and material misidentification.) The more authentic process is to have respect for the body and mind that surround you, while you work on discovering your true Self and whether or not someone is orchestrating all this.

The fact is something, or someone, probably is orchestrating the experience we call life on Earth. And Yoga is about exploring the mystery, the beauty, and the romance of making a connection with whomever it is that lies beyond the resoundingly transient realm of our senses. The modern yogi path is about doing that without dogma and ill-conceived ritual. Leaving behind the man-made means of escapism; the yogi instead looks for an internal way to touch the wings of hope, to trace out the path of spirit. The modern yogi may regulate and follow certain rules, but not for rule’s sake. Rather the rising spirit-star relies on mantra and practice. Mantras provide the fuel and the landscape. Yoga practice is the repetition of new spirit-affirming skills, replacing old, ego-entrenching acts.

All this requires a very new and real bravery; a courage born of compassion and kindness. Without this fearless determination to discover what lies on the unseen shore of one’s consciousness, the journey of self-discovery stalls in the ports of self-pity and complacency.

Perhaps the most difficult part of initiating this journey is being willing to surrender hope of finding fulfillment for our many material desires; desires that surround us and pervade every aspect of our experience. Desires overwhelm us because they spring from the soul. The soul’s desires are for spiritual romance and adventure. Fortunately the desires of the soul can be fulfilled. Unfortunately, while we are trapped in this material body, our desires turn from spiritual objectives to material objectives; and we find ourselves chasing mirage-like fantasies that never fully materialize (and if they do we live in anxiety knowing they won’t last). It won’t be easy to overcome the influence of the body, mind, and the material universe; but you can be confident that it is possible, and it is possible in this life time.

This world is real because it feels real. And it will go on feeling real for most of us for a very long time. But if we can wake up in the morning and make a decision: that no matter how real it feels, whatever happiness or distress we experience, we will perceive it with equal amusement and observation. We will observe ourselves the way a parent watches a child at the beach, sharing the triumph of the sand castle and the dismay of its erosion by the tide, but all the while knowing it is just a play date with the sea.

The modern yogi’s path to conscious finance

The old-school-mystic yoga path requires, among other things, total renunciation (vairagya in Sanskrit.) The modern yogi is encouraged to renounce by using everything in service of the Divine. This dovetailing or engaging everything you have (time, talent, money, etc…) is called yukta in Sanskrit. So the modern yogi’s rallying cry is yukta vairagya: use everything in service of spirit.

If, powerful material desires exist in the heart, they can be used to fuel the spiritual journey. The great danger for the modern yogi, is getting lost in personal sense gratification. The solution is to simplify one’s lifestyle to the furthest extent possible.

The fully surrendered yogi gives up everything in pursuit of his spiritual mission. That might be a bit extreme for most people. Four-hundred-and-fifty years ago, the Bhakti yoga scholar Jiva Goswami gave the formula for the ideal modern yogi: 50/25/25. The idea was, “Simplify your life so that you can use fifty percent of your income for charity and good works; live on twenty-five percent, and the rest should be invested for retirement and future care of family.” While this would be a challenge for most, it is not unheard of here in America. In December 2007, People Magazine highlighted a number of people living the fifty percent rule.

Here is a list of ideas for practicing yukta vairagya – modern detachment:

1. Keep a journal for one month of what you spend and what resources you use
2. Have a family meeting and brainstorm on how much less you can live on
3. Make a dream list of what charities or spiritual programs you would support if you freed up 50% of your income
4. Plan a volunteer vacation
5. Choose a number (1-30) for the day each month you will do a major life style simplification overhaul
6. Push the boundaries of sustainability: each quarter set a new and higher green standard for yourself and/or your business
7. Make a 10 year plan to grow your income and shrink your living standard
8. Have family and community contests to discover new ways to simplify and reduce
9. Create a web page or blog journaling your down-sizing
10. Create a facebook/myspace community to promote simple living-evolved thinking
11. When you make or receive food mentally offer it to the divine with the love of a lost lover, as if they were finally joining you for dinner.
12. Whatever new purchases you make, bring them home and offer them to the divine as you understand him/her
13. Create a sacred space or alter in your home, bring in flowers and incense daily
14. Play mantras, kirtan, gospel, or any spiritual music throughout your home (even when you are not there)
15. Find spiritual sounds you can play quietly while you sleep
16. Start a book club, reading classic literature but exploring the spiritual meaning
17. Create a community meeting online or live to discuss the Sanskrit texts (Bhagavad Gita, etc)
18. Encourage your employer to bring in a onsite yoga and wellness program
19. Read from a spiritually inspirational book at least once a day
20. Associate with people who have advanced spiritual knowledge
21. Smile, chant & serve

Six mantras and the secret yogi lifestyle of abundance… [Article]

Any failure to live in abundance is a result of mental conditioning. Unfortunately, thinking or wishing will rarely remove these mental roadblocks. Dislodging the conditioning that has created our current sense of scarcity demands a new behavior. Actually, if abundance is to be attained, a new lifestyle is required: The secret lifestyle of the modern yogi.

The secret of the modern yogi’s lifestyle is in having a conscious approach to finance. The essence of this approach is to make as much money as you can; live on as little as you can, and use the rest to serve spirit and humanity. The consequence of this leaves one feeling deeply satisfied.

It sounds simple, and it is. So what is keeping people from setting out on a lifestyle of simple living and evolved thinking? The problem, whether we like to admit it or not, is that we are deeply invested in the fantasy of financial freedom. We place a great deal of stock in the idea that somewhere, somehow, enough money is going to set us free. We have dumped our assets into consumption, catching up, and keeping up. We are deeply dug in, with debt-based lifestyles. Unwinding these long-standing cultural and emotional investments won’t be easy. Fortunately, help is available in the age-old teachings of Yoga.

Yoga is a Sanskrit word. Sanskrit is an ancient language, and the wellspring of yoga philosophy. Sanskrit words, and the sounds they are made of, are far richer and more magical than the words in our modern languages. Each Sanskrit sound is a both a story and an adventure. Each Sanskrit sound is a mantra. A mantra is a sound vibration powerful enough to push back the boundaries of the mind. (In Sanskrit mantra literally means, that which can liberate the mind.) Sanskrit mantras are doorways to another universe: the universe of self-discovery.

Yoga’s process of self-discovery can show us a way out of the conundrum of wanting more for humanity without wanting less for ourselves. To understand how yoga psychology can accomplish this feat, and bring us to a state of abundance, we must understand six Sanskrit words or mantras. They are: karma, dharma, kama, kripa, yajna, and yoga. Taken together these six mantras form the basis of the modern yogi’s lifestyle.

Karma

Karma is physics. It is the consequence of past actions. Karma is responsible for your genetics, your culture, and your lot in life. Genetics is the kind of body you have (tall, short, athletic, hobbled, etc.) Culture is the circumstances of your birth and/or upbringing (race, class etc,) and your lot is what you have coming in life (money, difficulties, good times, etc…) This can be a bit of a difficult pill to for some to swallow. It makes some feel as though they are hopelessly trapped by destiny. This, however, is not the case. There is plenty of hope.

Karma is inextricably intertwined with past lives. When we view life through the lens of past lives, life makes more sense. It is easier to understand why good things happen to bad people and vice-versa. The karma described in yoga philosophy is somewhat different than the popular notion of instant karma. According to the yogic theory of karma the results of your activities in this life have more to do with what you did in previous births. This can be very confusing to contemplate and might even suggest a course of inaction, “why put out the effort if outcomes are predetermined?” This is not recommended, because failure to play the game to your fullest dooms you to another round with increased difficulties. Karma is the hard-wired consequences of your actions, going back farther than you can ever remember. It is not a reason to give up or feel defeat.

The most discomforting aspect of karma is that, although you know what your genetics and culture are, you can never know what lot awaits you. Even Vedic sciences like astrology, Brighu readings, or face reading, give only cursory and vague indications of what lies ahead. So, what do you do if you have no way of knowing if prosperity or tragedy awaits you? You do what any spiritual warrior would do. You assume the best, and prepare for the worst.

Dharma

If karma is what you are stuck with, dharma is what you do with your karma. Dharma is an exciting and multifaceted story. It has to do with what is right. In that sense dharma means virtue. Dharma also holds the key to discovering who you really are. Dharma is your essence, your true nature. Dharma is inherently reciprocal. When you protect dharma, dharma protects you. Dharma is the opportunity to redefine who you are by choosing to be defined by your actions (dharma) rather than your assets (karma.) So, if life hands you obstacles, or even a tragedy, you either go dharmic on it, and turn the fire of adversity into fuel for growth or you capitulate and let the fire burn down all hope.

The essence of dharma is the drive to connect with spirit. This same impulse is part of the creative impulse. This is why art, music, science, and literature, is, at its best, about gaining access to the indescribable, the mysterious, and the exquisite-absolute truth. The negation of dharma is the laborious effort to try and control the unconquerable realm of matter. Because matter is transient it offers only the illusion of stability and can never be fully controlled. Consequently, no amount of material success will ever bring a sense of abundance. Dharma is the courage-instilling-adventure of stepping into the unknown and discovering who we really are, and what we are capable of.

Kama

In your heart is a city overpopulated with longings, lust, and desires of every possible size and shape. If this city had a name it would be Kama. Kama includes every material desire you have, or will ever have. Kama also represents one of the greatest opportunities for spiritual growth that awaits you: the chance to harness a force greater than all the material obstacles put together. Kama is the secret weapon of all great yogis and spiritual warriors. Because they know that kama does not originate in the realm of matter. Kama is originally a part of spirit, intrinsic to the soul. Only as a consequence of our having forgotten our spiritual nature did kama become colored by material desires. The secret to redirecting the power of kama is to replace our material goals with spiritual goals. You do this by analyzing your material wishes and figuring out a way to make them spiritual. [See box inset for examples]

Basically the modern yogi only has three options for dealing with the endless desires of the heart: 1) ignore or repress them and eventually suffer the consequences, 2) submit to them and attempt to fulfill them and eventually suffer the consequences, or 3) engage them in the pursuit of spirit and make them work for you.

Kripa

If the mysterious, the exquisite, or the absolute have an emblem, it is the inconceivable quality of kripa, or mercy. Kripa means grace. It is the only force capable of making an end run on karma. Outrageous quantities of it are all around us, yet it cannot be mined or extracted at will. Those who attain it know its intrinsic properties: uncontrollable and undeserved. Though we can never command it, we can dispense it freely. It is the one thing you can never purchase, yet you have an unlimited supply to give away.

For those who are interested in obtaining it, yoga philosophy does offer one clue; it is all about who you know. Similar to knowing the doorman at a club and getting an undeserved break, resulting in quicker entry, association with spiritually advanced persons results in being moved to the head of the line. Consequently, the modern yogi is always anxious to serve the saintly.

Yajna (pronounced yug-yuh)

Yajna is Sanskrit for sacrifice. In the ancient practice of mystic yoga, sacrifice involved elaborate rituals or extreme acts of self-denial. For the modern yogi sacrifice is about engaging everything you have in service of spirit and humanity. In other words, “What is the least you can need, so you can do the most for others?”

Some people are apprehensive about the word sacrifice. Interestingly, the word sacrifice is synonymous with the word yoga. In this context of modern yoga, sacrifice does not mean performing painful austerities. It means making everything sacred. This is the  origin of the word (Latin=sacrificium; from sacer or holy + fic, from facere to make.)

Making life sacred is based on the practice of engagement (versus renunciation.) Yogic engagement means you give more than you use. The modern yogi should be able to support spiritual programs, give in charity, and provide for the welfare of those who work exclusively for the benefit of humanity.

All of this takes money. From this perspective the modern yogi is expected to make money, but not for personal indulgence. The guiding principle is, “What is the minimum needed to serve the server?”

Yoga

The word Yoga is a powerful mantra. It is a universe of stories, histories and adventures. Yoga opens the door to a waking world where each day brings new awareness and experience.
Literally it means, “To yoke”. This yoking, or connecting, refers to restoring the relationship between the self and its original source, the source of all abundance. Another Sanskrit synonym for yoga is atma-jnana: which means journey of self-discovery. Yoga has always been about self-discernment; i.e. knowing yourself. Through self-knowledge yogis discover what they can they can and cannot control. A yogi then derives power from knowing they have no control over life’s outcomes. Yoga is about living what you can control and not being controlled by what you cannot live.

Abundance exists in the now

It is interesting to note that abundance seems to elude the poor and rich alike. Too little money will almost always lead to unhappiness. Too much money also leads to unhappiness (although not the same unhappiness of being too poor.) After meeting one’s basic needs, increasing income tends to lead to increased consumption. This leads to what researchers call, the hedonic-treadmill-hypothesis, where nothing is ever quite enough. Fortunately, spiritual happiness depends neither on abject poverty, nor material success. It does, however, depend on being able to live in a state of abundance.

Abundance is not measured by what you have, but by what you can give away. Those who have little but give a lot are often happy. Those who have a lot, but give little, often are not. If you start today and figure out what is the least you can need, so you can do the most for others, then abundance manifests immediately. Why wait for something that exists in the now.

Also: Practical tips for conscious finance

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