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I choose happy

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One of the great sages of modern times, Satguru Siva Yogaswami of Jaffna, Sri Lanka declared “It takes great courage to always be happy”. The other day I was talking with a Tibetan Buddhist friend and told him this. I added, “and perhaps a little foolishness”. That is certainly the case for me. So I try to be happy and most of the time I succeed.

 

Mindlessness Meditation; the great reset

 

The human system is organized for well being! Let that sink in for a moment. You are programmed for well being! Do you want to be happier? Meditate. Do you want more health? Meditate. Do you want better relationships? Meditate. Do you want more abundance? Meditate.  

What do you do when your phone, your computer or your modem isn’t working properly? You turn it off, then on, right? You are restarting or resetting the system and most of the time, this gets it working properly again. Meditation does exactly the same thing, it resets your system. Deep inside of you there is a wellspring of well being. You might even say that your are that wellspring. In meditation, you are able to touch that place which is most profoundly you. Touching that most authentic part of you restores your system for optimal functioning.

Unfortunately, too many meditation ideas have been clothed in mystery, in religion or in secret handshakes. It’s really none of this. It’s simply quieting the mind. Some of you may have heard of mindfulness meditation. The idea of mindfulness has always seemed silly to me. How can one empty the mind and practice mind full ness at the same time? I know that there is an explanation for this but why should something as simple as meditation be defined by confusing terms? So I call this Mindlessness Meditation. Perhaps I should ™ this. To be clear meditation is simple but it is not easy as it takes practice.  The very nature of mind is thoughts. Just like the nature of the heart is beating. Try to keep you heart from beating for even just a moment. Not possible. Stopping the mind from thinking is equally difficult. The difference is we do not pay attention to the beating of the heart. We do however pay excessive attention to thoughts. We think so much of thoughts that we believe we are the thoughts. And of course we are not our thoughts. If you watch your thoughts for a while, you’ll discover they are random, repetitive and seem to come out of nowhere. Meditating is simply to avoid paying attention to the thoughts and instead focus attention elsewhere.

Meditating is the practice of focusing your attention. The thoughts will continue but you will exercise your power of concentration to avoid paying attention to them. You will fail often but don’t worry and don’t give up. You CAN do it. When you find your mind wandering just refocus. And don’t beat yourself up about it. PLEASE don’t beat yourself up!

Here are a couple of ideas on where to focus. With eyes closed focus on a rhythmic sound such a the drip of a faucet. I like to listen to heartbeat sounds which I find on YouTube. With eyes open, watch the flame of a candle. The key is to pay attention to only the sound or the sight. If you can work your way up to 10 minutes of doing this, your life will begin to change.

There are basics that almost any teaching of meditation will include. 1. Do it every day. The benefits of meditation are cumulative. 2. Do it at the same time each day, first thing in the morning is best. 3. Sit in a comfortable position with your back straight. 4. Wear comfortable loose fitting clothes. 5. Choose a time and place where you won’t be disturbed. 6. Using your breath to calm your body can be equal counts in, then out. I like to use 10 counts in, hold for 4 then 20 counts out. A good visual is to simply observe your breath as it enters your nose, fills your lungs then exits the nose. Another good one is to visualize the breath entering your nose then expelling it out through your heart. 7. With eyes closed focus attention on the forehead between the eyes.

There are many ideas of how long you should meditate but I think if you can work your way up to 15-20 minutes daily, you can decide for yourself if you want to go longer.

I recently heard a great story on the importance of meditation. You are preparing for a road trip. It’s a long trip of over 100 miles and it’s time to go but you can’t find your car keys. You decide that it’s a waste of time to keep looking for your car keys and decide to start walking instead. Silly right? Well not making time to meditate is equally silly.

By sitting quietly for a few minutes each day, you are resetting your system. Your system is programmed for well being. But constant disturbance creates ill balance and your system cannot do its job efficiently. Resetting your system by meditating restores balance.

You cannot fail. You can only fail by not trying.

Americans are cool

I am a first generation immigrant. I was born in Indonesia and immigrated to Holland when I was two. It was in Holland where I had first contact with Americans. We would go to one of the military bases on fourth of July for the festivities. The Americans were cool. They drove big cool cars. They had a swagger. They were friendly. They were welcoming. They had big fireworks. They were just cool.

In 1960 at the age of 9 my family immigrated to the US. I loved everything about the US. Everyone had a lot of stuff. And the people who welcomed us here gave us stuff. It was overwhelming. Potlucks at the Lake Grove Presbyterian church were fabulous. Jello salads with every imaginable and unimaginable addition. Casseroles of all sorts. And hide and seek after. My first trip to the local Piggely Wiggely was over the top. So much stuff. I had a quarter to spend and I recognized Chicklets. They were 25 cents back in Holland. I gave the cashier my quarter and happily headed for the exit. But she beckoned me to come back. It was a bit scary since I didn’t speak English. She put some coins in my hand. It turns out the Chicklets were only a nickel. I was dumb founded. Clearly I had the good fortune of landing in the land of milk and honey.

I had lots of friends and a great life. There were some things that happened that in our modern PC world would be considered offensive. In junior high some of my friends named me Chocolate. Sometimes they even called me dirty Puerto Rican. I really didn’t care. They were my friends. I loved them and they loved me. I don’t think they even knew what a Puerto Rican was. I certainly didn’t.

Recently my sweetheart Margaret and I went to New York. We wandered all over Manhattan. We got around by subway. Every time we asked for help New Yorkers, including cops would go out of their way to be helpful. A woman who led us to our transfer subway line remarked that we were so nice and friendly. I thought she was nice and friendly. I’m told that New Yorkers can be rude. I didn’t see this.

Americans are still cool. Since the presidential election, some people on both sides of the divide are behaving like idiots. Americans being cool has nothing to do with politicians. Politicians in the final analysis have to bend to the will of the people. They often don’t want to but they always have to. They don’t lead, people lead. They follow. They’re irrelevant. I think we get what we expect. I expect people to be loving and kind. I expect people to be helpful. I expect Americans to do the right thing. And usually this is my experience. This doesn’t mean that America is the greatest country. I think most people think where ever they live is pretty great. What makes America great is the people. And I still believe Americans are cool.

Yoga and Donald Trump

My Guru Sri M of Madanapalle India was recently in the US. He gave a talk to the mindfulness group at Yahoo corporate headquarters. M loves to tell stories and the story he delivered was from the Bhagavad Gita, one of the holiest books of Hinduism. The Gita story takes place on a battlefield with Lord Krishna talking with the warrior Arjuna. Krishna asks Arjuna  who is the greatest yogi? Now we here in the west think mostly of yoga as the pretzel variety or asanas (postures). While asanas are a part of yoga, it is a very very small part.

The answer may surprise you.

  1. A yogi is one who has his senses under control. Life is pleasure, life is pain. One feels a whole range of emotions, happiness, anger, fear, lust but we do not have to let these feelings get the better of us. In the bigger picture, they are all part of earthly existence. We can choose to control these feelings.
  2. A yogi remains tranquil under all circumstances. OK so there are few Hillary Clinton supporters who are yogis. But is it possible? It’s not easy is it? Someone cuts us off in traffic and we get angry. Someone calls you an idiot and you’re angry. Someone says you’re very intelligent and beautiful and you might feel full of yourself. We ascribe so much meaning to words. We are so conditioned to believe the actions of others affect us. Our state of well being or lack thereof is under constant attack. You can control your reactions, but do you want to try? You can control your reactions, but you don’t want to try. You can control your reactions!
  3. A yogi has the welfare of all beings in his heart. Not just human beings but all of life.

So a great yogi is one who possesses these 3 qualities. One can also say that such a person is also a great bhaktar. Bhakti yoga is the yoga of devotion. So a great yogi is also a great devotee of the Lord.

M spent several years of his young adult life with his Master in the Himalayas. One day when M was meditating, his master asked him on what was he meditating? Clearly his master was able to see deeper than outward appearance. M explained that there was a person in his youth who tormented him. His hatred for him was still present. One who has hatred can not be a meditator. It’s just not possible. So M was told to conjure up an image of his tormentor.  He was to bow down before this imaginary image each day for 30 days. Those who torment us can be our greatest teachers and M was instructed to thank his tormentor for coming into his life to teach him. Finally an imaginary flower was to be placed at his feet each day. The first few days were very difficult. M was so angry. But after a week, the hatred and torment vanished.

I first learned of this great yoga from another great master, Satuguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami of Kaua’i. He says to place a picture of your tormentor on your altar or another special place and place a real flower in front of it for 30 days.

You too can be a great yogi. Or as M adds you can become more Christ like. Can you do this with Donald Trump?

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