Where Science and Enlightenment Collide

Meditation Practice

An Update to Ujjayi Breath

pranayama2I originally had meant to post this weeks ago when I first recieved it from my Yogini, but life events came up and pushed posting this quite a bit.  It was when I was watching, or re watching(again), the show Chuck on Netflix when I came across an episode where Morgan defeated a laser grid using his Yogi skills and Ujjayi breath that I remembered to post!

So to you my readers I give you from my personal Yogini, Ujjayi Pranyama for beginner’s!

Ujjayi: Ud-jaya-ii
Simply put, Ud, when attached to verbs and nouns means upward or superiority in rank, it also means expanding, conveying the sense of pre-emenence and power. Jaya means conquest, victory, triumph or success. Ujjayi is the process in which the lungs are fully expanded and the chest puffed out like a proud conqueror.

Pranayama: Prana-yam
Prana means life-force or personal energy. Yama means distribution of that force or energy.
Prana is the basis of everything. It can be consciously directed to heal and strengthen the body. The breath becomes the Yogi’s key to health, strength, and vitality. Without breath there is no life. This is why, in English, we translate this Sanskrit Ujjayi Pranayama to “Victorious breath”.

We also sometimes hear this victorious breath referred to as “Ocean breath”. As the waves form the beach, so too does the breath form the Yoga practice. Your inner waves set the rhythm. The murmuring of your breath becomes the murmuring of your inner ocean while waves of inhalation flood your inner coast. The rhythmic sound of Ujjayi Pranayama might sound like waves rolling into the shore, which can be wonderful imagery during your practice!

While I joke around about Ujjayi being Darth Vader breath, in fact, it is not at all. Darth Vader wore a life support system that had a respirator and a microphone. We certainly aren’t trying to achieve that! However, the muscles we use in our throat during Ujjayi Pranayama are the same ones we use when practicing our best “Luke, I am your father”. So go ahead and practice that for a moment, and let’s get to it.

  1. 1. Sitting in a comfortable position, preferably Padmasana (lotus pose) or Siddhasana (easy seated pose), keep the back erect and rigid, spine tall and strong. Stretch the arms out in front of you, then relax the back of the wrists onto your knees. Here you can perform Jnana Mudra (seal of knowledge) by gently resting the thumb to the index finger. However, this is not necessary to practice Ujjayi.
  2. 2. Close your eyes and look inward.
  3. 3. Exhale completely.
  4. 4. Take the palm of one hand up to your mouth.  Imagine your hand is a mirror and that you are going to “fog” up with your breath with your mouth open.  When you do this it produces a clean “hollow” sound kind of like “haaaaaaaaaaa” (think Darth Vader).  It feels warm against your skin.

The tricky part is making the same sound on the inhale.  You can hold up a hand in front of your mouth and another at the back of your neck—two mirrors.  Try to fog them both up—the exhale fogs up the front mirror, the inhale the back.

Once you are adept at fogging up the “mirrors”, create the same sound and sensation—by breathing through your nose only.

Breathe in a balanced manner in through the nose and out through the nose.  The inhale and exhale are equal and the quality of sound is even.

Breathing in this way causes a slight constriction of the throat.  The glottis partially closes just like when you whisper speech.  As the air goes in and out it causes a slight “rubbing” sensation of the throat.

Now that you have the feel for the Ujjayi sound, it’s important to add diaphragmatic breathing.

Exhale completely by drawing your abdomen towards your spine.  Inhale by gently releasing the abdomen.  As it goes out it will automatically draw air in.  Start the breath (inhale) as low as you can—the pelvic floor, and fill your entire torso full.  The exhale empties the breath from the top down.

Now add chest breathing.
As you inhale, try to fill your chest.  Notice how all four sides of your torso expand in opposite directions.  You can feel this if you place your hands on the sides of your ribs.  As you exhale the air from the chest, all four sides draw in.

Put the two together.

Exhale by drawing in your abdomen towards your spine.  Inhale by releasing your abdomen.  Air comes in.  Begin the Ujjayi at this time.  Direct the air towards your sternum, as this will expand your chest.  As you continue to inhale fill the air all the way to the top of the chest and notice how it widens.

Exhale by relaxing and drawing the abdomen in.  Breathe the air out slowly and rhythmically finishing the Ujjayi breath.

It is important the abdominals are relaxed and soft above your bellybutton, yet firm (not hard) below it.  This allows your diaphragm to move freely.

The breath is never forced or done using strain.  Both are a sign that you are “pushing” too hard and are moving from a place of ego instead of taking care of yourself.

Work to reduce the amount of effort the Ujjayi takes.  It is a strong, deep breath done in a relaxed, even delicate manner.

Begin with practicing 10 victorious breaths in the morning and night. Increase as you become more comfortable with this style of breathing.

The Upanishads (sacred ancient teachings Yoga derives from) specify that the inhalation should be like drinking water through the stem of a blue water lily—unbroken as though you were drinking through a straw—as if your breath were liquid.  The exhalation is compared to the flow of oil—smooth and uniform as when you poor oil from a ladle.
The Hatha Yoga Pradipika says the breath is felt “from the throat to the heart.”

Ujjayi can be a specific practice but it happens spontaneously when concentration deepens. This is the only pranyama technique that is appropriate to use throughout all area of you yoga practice.

As you become very well rehearsed, to an advanced practitioner of Ujjayi Pranyama, you can begin adding other pranayma techniques as well. Until then, may the force be with you!

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7 Day no tech experiment log.

So I have decided to remove all tech for 7 days (minus having a land line and transportation what with the kids and all).  As to create my own 7 day retreat at home.  My focus will be embracing my true self once more, meditation, study and reflection.  I am tracking my progress on a legal pad which I will upload later.

Science Officer’s log: Stardate 69174.8

First let me say how difficult it is to count the Stardate when Star Trek has been off the air for such a long time and no computer or calculator at one’s disposal!  After dropping the kids off at school and taking a few moments to meditate and gather my thoughts for the day, I quickly realized I had no new books to read that might spur on my reflective moments.  After a quick jaunt over to the local book store, I managed to get a copy of Tesla’s Notes and Inventions in hard back and a paper back of the Essence of the Heart Sutra by the Dalai Lama.

Started reading the Sutra, best quote so far: “The Buddha recognized among his followers a diversity of mental dispositions, spiritual inclinations and interest, and saw that in order to suit this diversity he had to teach differently in different contexts.  No matter how powerful a particular teaching may be or how “correct” a philosophical view may be, if it is not suitable to the individual hearing it, it has no value.  A skillful Spiritual teacher will this judge the appropriateness of a given teaching for a given individual and teach accordingly. Buddha recognized the diversity of mental dispositions, interests, and mental capabilities of his followers and thus gave diverse teachings.  Looking at all the world’s religions in this light, I feel a deep conviction that all of the traditions are beneficial, each of them uniquely service the needs of their followers.”

Decided to write things out on this legal pad after the kids went to bed to serve as a sounding board for my thoughts, much like I do when online.  I find it therapeutic when my brain is scrambled with thoughts to give them linear form, thus making them easier to let go of.

After the kids got home and had finished their homework they had played outside till dinner then I decided it was best to give them the freedom of choice to watch Netflix or not.  Just because this is something I am doing does not mean I should force them to go through it too.  I retreated to a quite corner to read and meditate further.

One thought that I have felt a strong urge it to let a friend know that I have had a crush on her for quite some time, but I feel it is better to not mention it now that I have time to reflect instead of the instant form of communication brought via instant messaging.  I don’t want to bring her into this troubled world I live, she deserves far better than myself.

End Entry Day 1

 

Science Officer’s log: Stardate 69177.7

Still quite the feat calculating Stardates but at least its easier with the initial Stardate calculated.  Went fishing today, you may think “how cruel” when I say went fishing, I mean I went to the river and cast an empty hook and line out repeatedly knowing full well I would not catch anything but twigs and leaves lol.  I had been difficult, I have subconsciously reached for the phone a few times, only to have been stymied by the fact that wifi has been shut off lol. Have managed to maintain a vegetarian diet the past few days as well as to not disrupt the flow of energy.

Today’s quote also from Heart Sutra about theologies with a creator deity.

How might we determine whether someone loves God sincerely? Surely, we would examine that person’s behavior and attitude toward fellow human beings, toward the rest of God’s creation.  If someone has genuine love and compassion towards fellow human brothers and sisters, and towards the Earth itself, then I think we can be sure that that person truly demonstrates love for God. It is clear that when someone respects God’s message they emulate God’s love for humanity.

End Entry Day 2

Science Officer’s log: Stardate 69191.5

So the experiment comes to a close.  What can I conclude? Although technology has it’s pros and its cons it is neither inherently good or bad.  Good and bad are simple illusions, symptoms of an underlining problem, a colossal time suck for certain.  The root of the problem, however, lies not in the tech but in the heart, the mind, and the soul.  Although my self imposed isolation can hurt at times, it is neither fulled or caused by the technology, it is a crutch, and until I can learn to be ok with being alone, I will never be able to end my self inflicted suffering.

End Experimental Log….


Advice from a brother in Buddha

Something we can do for our New Year’s eve celebrations suggested by a fellow Buddhist.

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Burning Bowl Ceremony

On New Year’s Eve, get together with some close friends, and write on pieces of paper the things you do not wish to carry with us into the new year.

Then sit around a bowl of fire, and take turns visually letting it all go…. Share some of the challenges out loud with the group, and simply burn other challenges in silent support of one another.

Let go of what’s killing you, even if it’s killing you to let go.. and then you’ll have room in your life for the abundance of love that awaits


Tantra Practice

35bf4f9d744e6cee630c494d58d06165The purpose of Tantra practice is to cultivate Buddha-hood faster, so that qualified practitioners might be able to serve others more quickly.  This practice requires a special type of meditation called Deity meditation, or for the purposes of Pantheism divine meditation.  Although this practice takes time as well, it also requires checking in with yourself throughout the day through self examination of motivations.  This process is done in three parts.

 

  1. Replace your mind, which is normally filled with troubling thoughts, with inward focus on suffering, with one of pure wisdom which is motivated with compassion
  2. Visualize replacing your body as it ordinarily appears composed of one of flesh blood and bone with one that is in its true nature that exists beneath the illusion, one that is connected to the divine and thus connected to the universe itself and all that exists inside of it, filled with wisdom and compassion.
  3. Develop a sense of pure self, which depends on purely appearing in mind and body, in an ideal environment, fully engaged in helping others with wisdom and compassion, becoming the embodiment of altruism.

As this visualization process is about considering yourself possessing Buddha qualities of which you do not have, your mind is involved in understanding reality out of which you are appearing as the divine, and you are purposely imaging possessing a divine body in order to cultivate and manifest your inner potential to be Buddha.

First you must meditate of emptiness, once you have managed to reach this state then you can direct yourself to bringing the divine into focus to become the center ad to the forefront of your meditative process.

In practice it is good to meditate often throughout the day, when you first awaken take a few moments to establish a mindset that is grounded in compassion, wisdom, and altruism. Time should also be taken at the end of each day to examine the motivations you may have had in your actions throughout that day (something I too need to remind myself to do more often).

 

Namaste


Dealing with the Ego Self

ch900226.giflet’s face it, sometimes our “Ego Selves” can be like down right spoiled children, perhaps this is what they mean by letting out your inner child, I suppose it depends on your own mental perspective. But don’t people meditate to get rid of their egos? No, not quite that would be a bit like saying “If I jog, I’d be a better person” or even “If it weren’t for my wife, I would have a perfect marriage.”

The point of meditation is not to toss our egos away, that would be much like trying to live after removing your head from your shoulders, it just wouldn’t turn out all that great!  Meditation is about making friends with our true selves, to start being compassionate, gentle and goodhearted towards ourselves.

You may ask “Isn’t that serving your ego?” On the contrary, it is being open with who you are and accepting things as they are.  Through meditation we can have an inner conversation with ourselves, instead of bottling things up.  Mediation allows us to find the wisdom that is all mixed up in what is though of as our own neurosis or madness. It is exploring humanity itself, and all of creation that is manifest in our own form.  The “Ego Self” is like a child, do not abandon it, instead raise it!

Namaste!


Road to Shambhala Part Duce – Slaying The Dragon

Chinese-Dragon-Yin-Yang-T-shirt-PrintOK so maybe this part of the road isn’t so original, in fact this part is also referred quite popularly in Chinese Buddhism as “Taming The Ox” But for my purposes I like to think of it more as Slaying the Dragon, not because I think a dragon is cooler (though common, of course they are) but rather like most modern men of today’s technocracy, we all grow up with fewer and fewer of our passage rites when pertains to becoming a man.  As primitive as the thought may seem to a modern civilization, in part it has to do with establishing our identity to ourselves when it comes to how we view the world. But I digress.

Putting this thought train back on topic the “Slaying of the Dragon” is s metaphor for the progressive stages of realization that you will encounter during your quest for enlightenment and raising your ego (a topic for another day).   This metaphor is important for applying inner understanding to our daily life.

  1. Searching for the Dragon: You realize that happiness is conditional and based on your aspirations matching your life, and that when they do not coincide you are suffering, and that what you are truly seeing ins contentment – peace with the world as it is.
  2. Discovering the Footprints: You realize the journey to the center takes place within your own mind.
  3. Spotting the Dragon: through inner reflection you see how you have unconsciously labelled yourself, and how profoundly this self image as affected the quality of your life.
  4. Pursuing the Dragon: You begin to resolve your past issues (as I write this I am somewhere between this and the next) and start to face your fears head on when it comes to the future!
  5. Taming the Dragon: You learn how to maintain a mindful awareness of thoughts that arise in your mind, thoughts that are holding you back from following your path.
  6. Riding the Dragon: You learn to live in the now!
  7. The Dragon Transcends: You start to live in harmony with the natural rhythm of your life, accepting things as they are.
  8. The self and the Dragon Transcended: You start to see who you really are, beyond that of the labels you have given yourself, like the onion you peel back the layers of false identity to find your true self.
  9. Reaching the Source: You reach the center of your being, your mental and spiritual conflicts finally come to and end.
  10. In the world: You learn how to allow your newly found inner-self and true nature become manifest in the world and share in the joy of what you have come to understand with others.

That last and final stage was where I was the day before my surgery, so close was I to reaching enlightenment I could feel the calmness of it all. I had accepted my fate, if I was not going to come back, that was going to be ok. Alas coming out of the surgery was a different story. Quickly my ego stepped into high gear and pulled me back down to somewhere between 4 and 5. But that happens, and it’s ok! This may happen to you too, and it may happen a few times, and as long as we keep trying and never give up we have never truly failed in our journey!

 

Namaste!


Road to Shambhala (more than just a song)

There are many legends of a mystical place in Buddhist literature about Shambhala, although there have been several historical accounts of expeditions seeking this mythical kingdom, no one has yet to glimpse where it could be. What is Shambhala?  Shambhala is the place where special spiritual teachings are kept and where the forces that will overcome these invaders will emerge. In a sense, it’s a pure realm; but it’s a pure realm within the human realm. The people who live there are humans; they’re not something beyond the human level. But the question is: Is it actually a physical place that you could actually go to? And if we look in the Buddhist version of the history, nobody ever got there who tried to get there, and so the conclusion that most people come to is that it is some sort of spiritual realm rather than an actual physical location on this planet. Perhaps, just perhaps Shambhala is Nirvana.

How do we reach Nirvana, by becoming enlightened of course, but how do we go about doing that?

First we should define enlightenment. Let us say for the sake of this lesson there are two main characteristics of the human mind along a continuum.  On one end of the scale we have “psychotic” which are people who have lost touch with consensual reality and live in a world of their own.  At the other end of the continuum we have individuals we refer to as “enlightened”.  Fully enlightened beings have perfect mental health and experience a profound sense of well-being.  They have resolved all the issues of their past, have no fears for the future, and are living their lives in the present moment. Pretty much the majority of us, myself included, fall somewhere along the middle of this continuum trying to find ways to reach the goal of inner peace.

But how do we get there? By simply training the mind, over time, much like an athlete trains their body, there is no magical moment of awakening, it is simply a gradual process over time.

In the next blog I shall go more in depth the path one takes to train the mind towards inner peace and enlightenment.


Love and Anger

10372797_747599311967011_5468154359563707379_nEven for us Buddhists, it can be difficult not to react when we perceive that people are treating us poorly. But what can we do to avoid saying something we may regret?

Firstly you should acknowledged your anger, and you have examined yourself to understand what caused the anger to arise. It is an emotion and you are feeling it, but what is the root of the anger. Once have done so, usually doesn’t take long, you discover you are still angry. What’s next?

Pema Chodron counsels patience. Patience means waiting to act or speak until you can do so without causing harm. “Patience has a quality of enormous honesty in it,” she said. “It also has a quality of not escalating things, allowing a lot of space for the other person to speak, for the other person to express themselves, while you don’t react, even though inside you are reacting.”

If you have a meditation practice, this is the time to put it to work. Sit still with the heat and tension of anger. Quiet the internal chatter of other-blame and self-blame. Acknowledge the anger and enter into it entirely. Embrace your anger with patience and compassion for all beings, including yourself. It is good to practice this technique daily.  In your minds eye, when you can safely navigate the torrents of anger you may cause yourself to feel, place yourself in situations that will annoy or anger you and then practice the meditation technique to overcome the immediate anger with patience.

But, THE best tip I can offer, and you may want to take a pen and paper and place this on a mirror for daily reminders, is Don’t Feed Anger!

Even more intriguing to me is the karma of our health. Again, let me illustrate one or two kinds of connection. For one, the Buddha says that we are not punished for our anger, we are punished by our anger. In other words, anger is its own karma. – The Bhagavad Gita for Daily Living

Let a man overcome anger by love,
let him overcome evil by good;
let him overcome the greedy by liberality,
the liar by truth! -Buddha


Chanting the Heart Sutra in English

The Heart of Perfect Understanding (Heart Sutra)

Kuan Yin Bodhisattva, while practicing deep Prajna-Paramita, clearly saw that all five Skandhas are empty and crossed over all suffering. Shariputra, form is emptiness, emptiness is form. Form does not differ from emptiness; emptiness does not differ from form. Sensation, perception, volition, and consciousness are also like this.

Shariputra, all dharmas are marked with emptiness: Not beginning, not ending, not stained and not pure, not increasing and not decreasing. Within emptiness there is no eye, ear, nose, tongue, body or mind; no seeing, no hearing, no smelling, no tasting, no touching, and no thinking; no realms from sight to mind; no ignorance and no ending of ignorance, no old age and death and no ending of old age and death; no suffering and no beginning and no ending of suffering, no path; no wisdom and no attainment with nothing to attain.

Therefore, the Bodhisattvas rely on Prajna-Paramita, the most excellent wisdom, and with no hindrance of mind, no fears and no illusions, they enter into Nirvana. All Buddhas from the past present and future practice in this way and awake to complete and perfect enlightenment.

Therefore, know that the Prajna-Paramita is the great bright mantra, the great transcendent mantra that relieves all suffering. Know this as truth and declare:

Gone, Gone, Gone Beyond, Gone Far Beyond, Be Set Upon Awakening! x3


NAM-MYOHO-RENGE-KYO

Some Buddhist practitioners will chant NAM-MYOHO-RENGE-KYO, which means I dedicate myself to the laws of cause and effect.

Why chant NAM-MYOHO-RENGE-KYO? How will it help?
The Buddhist practice described on these pages is based on the teachings and the individual practice of the Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin. Nichiren was a 13th Japanese sage who centred his philosophy on what is traditionally thought to be one of the last recorded teaching of the first historically recorded Buddha (variously known as Gautama Siddhartha or Shakyamuni Buddha). This teaching was named the Lotus Sutra. The Lotus Sutra declares that all living beings, regardless of gender or intellectual capacity, can attain the enlightened state of life within their given lifetime.

Being “enlightened” simply means to act like a Buddha – that is, to act in the appropriate way, at the appropriate time. To be able to do this is to be wiser, and to be happier, as a person, parent, child, sibling, colleague, neighbour, citizen. When we act more wisely, when we become more happy, we help those around us.

Individual enlightenment comes through the profound realisation of the inseparability of us as individuals and our spiritual and physical environment, and the ability we have, as an inseperable part of that environment, to powerfully influence it. Through this practice, every one of us can realise our personal responsibility for, and possibility to change, our own condition, and the condition of our immediate and distant environment. This sense of responsibility and power for positive change is further enhanced by an understanding of the simultaneity of cause and effect. Our every thought, word or deed has an immediate effect on the us and our environment, even though the full ramifications may take time to become manifest.

Nichiren Daishonin summarised these teachings by saying that, in the same way that one can bring to mind any concept simply by uttering its name, all the benefits of the wisdom contained in the Lotus Sutra can be harnessed simply by chanting its title – (Nam) Myoho Renge Kyo. Chanting therefore constitutes the core of the Buddhist practice, supported by the study and communication of the teachings.

Many people who chant NAM-MYOHO-RENGE-KYO find that it helps them to become more happy and fulfilled as human beings, through acting more often in ways that are wise, and that recognise our profound connections to everything and everybody else.

How it’s pronounced:
Nam rhymes with Pam and jam! It’s pronounced just as the last part of the word Vietnam. T

Myoho comes in two parts. Myo rhymes with go, and is pronounced m’ o. Ho also rhymes with go. The whole word sounds like m’ o-ho.

Renge also is a two-part word. The first part, Ren, rhymes with hen and sounds just like the last part of the word children. Ge is pronounced exactly like the word gay, and rhymes with hay and stay. The whole word sounds like ren-gay.

Kyo also rhymes with go, and sounds just like the last part of Tokyo.

The whole phrase, NAM-MYOHO-RENGE-KYO is pronounced nam-m’ o-ho-ren-gay-kyo.