These days most everyone has heard of yoga, but we tend to think of it as a kind of exercise class. We may be generally aware that there are many different forms of yoga, but the majority of us do not know very much about them. Today I’d like to talk a little about one of the oldest forms of yoga: Kriya Yoga. There are no records to tell us when the ancient tradition of Kriya Yoga began, because it is a technique that has been practiced by saints, seers, sages, and masters since long before recorded history.
“The Kriya technique will bring you to the source of inspiration and will give you answers, clear the brain and stimulate it, strengthen the medulla, and open the spiritual eye, as well as greatly magnetize the body.”
– Paramhansa Yogananda –
This ancient form of Yoga is a powerful tool that can be used by seekers of all religions in order to quicken spiritual development. The non-sectarian nature of Kriya Yoga and its simple technique is not difficult or demanding, and suits people from all walks of life just as well as monks.
From the principles of Karma Yoga, Kriya Yoga teaches that all action, (kri), is done by the indwelling soul, (ya). Thus, the word Kriya basically means internal action. This kind of inner action is neither a physical nor a mental action, because both the body and the mind are actually exteriors to your true self. So, Kriya yoga is the pursuit of an energetic mastery and a higher state of being.
While the pursuit of higher states of being through external action can be loosely grouped under the banner of Karma Yoga, the pursuit of higher states through inner action can be called Kriya Yoga. There is a certain yin-yang to these two ideas because you will find them within each other in certain ways, but generally Karma is that which binds you while Kriya is that which releases you.
Kriya Yoga encompasses all eight limbs of the classical yoga system, as presented by Patanjali in The Yoga Sutras – a text that codified what was already an oral tradition for thousands of years before it was committed to writing over 2500 years ago.
Kriya is a system which deals directly with the mind, its structure and dynamics. Embodied within it is a mystical psychology which offers a profound recognition of how we create, sustain and dissolve the circumstances of our life.
It’s unique approach is rooted in its focus on karma, the laws of causation, and how karma is generated, activated and can be softened and modified. Kriya is a way of self-study and meditative attunement which induces a direct perception or insight into the nature of consciousness, the pattern of your mind and of life itself.
This is just a short primer that barely scratches the surface of What Kriya Yoga is all about. Learn more in our Gentle and Peaceful Yoga classes – see our calendar of events for dates and times.
Wishing you the deepest joy and love,
Sound healing is found in various forms throughout most of human history. It was practiced by the ancient Greeks and the Egyptians, among others. These techniques can be found in the Vedic scriptures of India and the shamanic lineage of the Navajo and other indigenous peoples, and they are enjoying a resurgence in the modern world.
“The process of moving into higher states of being begins with dissonance. During dissonance, our life becomes challenged. The more we deny our challenge, the greater the dissonance becomes. We must seek change and seek resolutions from a higher perspective!”
– John Beaulieu, N.D., Ph.D.
The benefits of sound as a form of therapy are myriad. It is simple and cost effective, it’s completely non invasive, and it can relax the mind, body and spirit into a state of balance and harmony. Through the use of vocal toning, tuning forks, tibetan or crystal bowls, gongs, drums, rattles and many other instruments, sound healing can deliver a nuanced experience of revitalizing states of being.
All things at the atomic and sub atomic level are pulsing and vibrating with their own specific frequency, and that includes every cell and molecule in the human body.
When parts of the body are unwell it sets the entire instrument off key like a violin with a badly tuned string. We can retune these energies using sympathetic vibrations and resonance.
A well established principle that underpins much of the research in sound healing is called entrainment. Entrainment was discovered in 1665 by the Dutch scientist who invented the pendulum clock, Christian Huygens. He discovered that pendulums hanging together on the same wall for several hours will eventually synchronize and begin swinging at the same speed. Because it takes less energy for the two objects to pulse in cooperation, the less powerful vibration eventually locks itself into the more powerful vibration and they begin swinging at the same speed. This is called entrainment.
Sound healing utilizes entrainment and resonance to balance the body, mind and soul. Weakened or chaotic vibrations are entrained with steady and powerful sounds that are tone targeted for specific parts of the anatomy, psychology or spirit.
We are intuitively aware of the structure of sound and harmonics when we are in a good, resonant, acoustic space, such as a church or amphitheater. In these spaces, harmonics are accentuated and a richer sound is produced. When we hear music rich in harmonics, like Gregorian or Tibetan chanting, classical Indian sitar and vocals or classical Baroque, they induce an altered state of consciousness; the harmonic entrainment of high quality sound can actually shift our brainwaves into a more relaxed psychological and physiological state.
Modern sound healers often also employ specific tones called solfeggio frequencies and their harmonics. Solfeggio frequencies make up the 6-tone scale thought to have been used in sacred music, including the beautiful and well known Gregorian Chants. The chants and their special tones were believed to impart spiritual blessings when sung in harmony. Each Solfeggio tone is comprised of a frequency required to balance your energy and keep your body, mind and spirit in perfect harmony.
Another powerful technique is the skillful application of Intervals. We feel and work with the energies of dissonance and consonance constantly throughout our lives. Our feelings thoughts and perceptions about the world we live in are either consonant with truth or in a state of dissonance. Sound healers playing two or more frequencies simultaneously create what are called intervals. The tone of the interval depends on the distance between frequencies and when different harmonics are created they can be either dissonant or consonant to our senses and our being.
Sound healing uses different scales and intervals to move energy and unblock imbalances that we may have in the mind or body. Dissonant intervals may be used to stir up emotions or break through blocks, and consonant intervals restructure the energy, salving the wounds of the soul.
By using the different states created by different intervals, we can help integrate mind, body and emotion to connect with our true being. The infinite range of intervals is what makes up the tapestry of life. It is from our dissonant experiences that we learn and grow as human beings and we need them to develop our fullest potential. It is from our consonant experience that we find the meaning and depth of goodness in existence and we need that stability to continue playing the game.
OM. That is the western spelling of the sanskrit symbol you see to the left. The proper phonetic pronunciation is actually more like AUM than OM and while it still seems fairly exotic, it is becoming widely recognized in western culture. But what does it mean?
Generally people have some awareness that it has some spiritual meaning that is used in the east the way we use ‘amen’ in the west. We might have heard that it is the “sound of the universe” or “it represents the timeless oneness” or something equally vague, but if you are like me, those kinds of answers just don’t cut it. I want the juicy stuff!
The truth is that, Om is a cultural symbol so rich and full of meaning, a syllable that carries so much weight, that it is hard to sum up it’s meaning in a convenient sound bite. Nonetheless there are real answers, and I will attempt to offer you a real and more complete answer here.
Our answers begin in the Mandukya Upanishad, an ancient yoga text written 800-500 years before Christ. Within it we find explanations of both the concepts behind the sound and the shape of the symbol itself.
The first paragraph of the Mandukya tells us:
“The syllable OM, which is the imperishable Brahman, is the universe. Whatsoever has existed, whatsoever exists, and whatsoever shall exist hereafter, is OM. And whatsoever transcends past, present, and future, that also is OM.”
Brahman is the name for the Hindu concept of ultimate divinity – the essence of reality existing in and as all things. If you are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with the label “Brahman” it can be replaced with whatever label you associate with the highest reality. It can be God, Jesus, Buddha, Mother Nature or any other label that you can comfortably refer to as the divine.
The Om sound represents this higher power and its connection to each of us.
Further reading in the Mandukya helps to clarify:
“All this that we see without is Brahman. This Self that is within is Brahman. This Self, which is one with OM, has three aspects, and beyond these three, different from them and indefinable – The Fourth.”
Did I say “clarify”?
Ok, lets take that piece by piece. “All this that we see without is Brahman” means that everything that surrounds us in the physical world is an expression of the divine.
“This Self that it within is Brahman” tells us that we are not the exception to the rule, we are also an expression of the divine.
So far that is straightforward enough but then we get hit with, “This Self, which is one with OM, has three aspects, and beyond these three, different from them and indefinable – The Fourth.”
OM: A Symbol of Divinity
The Om sound represents and affirms our connection to the highest form of divinity by whatever name, because it serves to remind us that this very same divinity resides all around us, within us and even as us, though we may not know or understand it.
The first state of consciousness is known as Vaishvanara. Despite the name which sounds quite exotic to western ears, this is a state of consciousness that we are all very familiar with. Vaishvanara is simply your normal waking state which is focused outward and intent upon the world around you. In the symbol, the waking state is represented by the lower curve of the “3”. This state is also represented in the sound (remember the phonetic A-U-M). Vaishvanara is the state is represented by the A sound, “Ah”.
The second state of consciousness is called Taijasa. This is another common state that we are generally familiar with. Taijasa is the state which is focused inward and in which we dream. This state witnesses the endless stream of thoughts, mental images and emotions. Taijasa, the dreaming state is represented by the curl that loops out from the back of the “3.” and the sound that represents Taijasa is the U sound.
The third state of consciousness, called Prajna, is the state of deep dreamless sleep or deep formless meditation. As stated in the Mandukya, “…the veil of unconsciousness envelopes his thought and knowledge, and the subtle impressions of his mind apparently vanish.” The dreamless state, Prajna, is represented by the top curve of the “3” and by the M sound.
The indescribable Fourth state is called Turiya, and as implied it is not easy to describe. Some would say this is the non-dual state and there are many attempts at labeling this but it must be noted that no label or description is really accurate. With that in mind I shall use the words of the great Non-Dual Sage Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi:
The Fourth state is represented by the crescent and dot in the upper right, but the sound of Turiya is actually the silence after the AUM. These four states of consciousness are the composite of human nature. They exist in all of us at all times.
So as you can see the Om symbol and sound are packed with meaning that simply can’t be reduced to a concise description. Saying that it is the sound of the universe may be a little easier, but understanding the powerful philosophy and culture that the symbol comes from is more helpful to growth and development.
When understood properly, Om becomes a reminder of the omnipotence and omnipresence of Divinity as well as a reminder of our own place within and connection to that Divinity.
Crystals and meditation seem to be like peas in a pod here in the west. It’s not like that in the wisdom traditions that bring us meditation, but a newer intuition with its roots in the American cultural revolution of the 1960’s has put crystals into the same space that earlier traditions put crucifixes, singing bowls, malas, rosaries and sacred clothing.
Crystals seem to fit right in with the idea that we are all manifestations of the same consciousness. Something about crystalline formations speaks to our souls about the structure of the natural world. We can see and feel the truth of order and wisdom in the geometric faces of our mineral friends.
Meditation is a practice dedicated to understanding truth. When we look within we find a prismatic kaleidoscope of emotions, intentions, thoughts and ideas in which the same thing can take on different hues and angles from our broadening perspective. Sometimes in meditation we see a reflection of ourselves, other times we see right through ourselves and into the fractal of consciousness beyond.
Because of this seemingly obvious fit, people often ask what crystals are best for meditation and how to use them, so I thought I would take a few minutes to write up a general reply that can serve as the single and universal, authoritative answer to all questions relating to the interplay of meditation and crystals, forever and ever amen.
Well, maybe that’s a bit over the top, but I can at least give you my honest opinion.
Using Crystals for Meditation
The first thing to mention is that crystals are objects within awareness like any other. In a certain sense, it may seem that they have no special powers or properties at all.
However, they do have certain colors, and a color is a special property isn’t it? You won’t find any green citrine because citrine is orange to yellow by definition. Crystals also have certain structures that reflect the unique arrangement of the molecules they are made of. It is common knowledge that Quartz has been used in radios to transmit frequencies for quite some time now. That is another special property.
Optical Calcite refracts light in such a way as to present you with a double image. Crystals are used in laser technology to amplify the intensity of light energy that passes through them.
So in another very real sense, crystals have many special properties and while certain types of crystals, like Amethyst, Quartz and Citrine, share common properties among them, naturally occurring crystals are as varied and individually unique as people.
For this reason it is important to choose crystals for meditation based on a number of factors.
First and foremost, it is important that you are somehow drawn to the stone and comfortable with it, or perhaps even excited by it. Sometimes you may find a type of stone is exciting for you, like moldavite in general, while other times a specific stone is deeply intriguing in and of itself.
In any event meditating with a stone is, in some ways, like meditating with a person. It’s presence is known to you and it affects the comings and goings of forms in your awareness. Pick a stone that you have some kind of feeling about, rather than just picking a stone at random. If you were going to invite someone over for dinner, it wouldn’t be the first person you see on the street, it would be someone who seemed suitable for some reason.
Second, I like to use the chakra system to help guide my choices when dealing with crystals for meditation. If you are willing to believe that crystals have metaphysical properties, it’s no great leap to associate those properties with the color system of the chakras.
Of course there is a certain amount of intuition involved in this as well. You may not feel every yellow colored stone affects the solar plexus and often you may feel that a stone affects more than one chakra. Also you may not feel a physical response in any particular chakra, but the subtle qualities of your state experience may offer insight as to the chakra correlate. For example, a compassionate state might indicate a subtle stimulation of the heart chakra.
Third, it is important to decide how you will use the stones or crystals in meditation, and by this I mean both physically and metaphysically.
Physically, if you plan on holding a stone for meditation you probably don’t want a 200 pound crystal cathedral. However, if you are planning to anchor positive energetic patterns to create a sacred space for your meditation, a 200 pound amethyst might be just the the kind of anchor you are looking for.
Metaphysically, if you want something to ground your experience and help root your insight in practical, day to day life, Danburite is probably not the stone you are looking for, because Danburite is definitely crown chakra stuff. In that case something related to the root chakra, like Hematite or Black Tourmaline might be more appropriate.
At the risk of sounding redundant, this returns to the earlier point and illustrates why using an established metaphysical system like the chakra system is so important. First hand experiential knowledge of the stones is wonderful, but you can waste a lot of time reinventing the wheel and following unhelpful flights of the imagination. A basic understanding of the Chakras is very helpful in guiding the metaphysical aspects of your crystal choices.
Getting started with crystal meditation
Generally speaking the best way to get started with crystal meditation is to find a crystal that interests you and sit with it exclusively. Don’t overload yourself with ten different stones. Especially when you are starting out, it’s like being at a rock concert and trying to have a conversation, everyone is yelling and no one can really hear what’s being said.
If you want to get to know a crystal, sit down and have a nice quiet cup of tea and a one on one conversation. Spend regular time alone with one stone and you will start to recognize the specific qualities of consciousness that particular stone amplifies, subdues, enhances or alters in your awareness.
Now, that is not to say you have to marry the first stone you meet. Have tea with several stones, as many as you like actually, but keep things intimate. One on one is the best way to get to really know someone.
Eventually you will start to understand the different qualities and quirks and you will begin to see whom each might get along with best. Then you can start having tea parties for three or four and you know they will be wonderful gatherings full of participants that synergize well with each other.
If you are looking for a great guide book to get you started on the meanings and metaphysical properties of crystals and stones, stop by Evolve and pick up the Book of Stones by Robert Simmons and Naisha Ahsian. Not only does it cover just about every stone you have ever heard of, it does so in a way that is easy to understand and relate to.
With these simple guidelines I hope you will find great joy and wonder as you explore the inner world via the vibrant path of crystal meditation.
“Beginners mind” is a term used to describe the flexibility of an advanced meditator’s mental state, constantly open to freshness and the newness of the truth as it appears in this moment. Perhaps Socrates is best known in the west for this because he maintained:
“As for me, all I know is that I know nothing.”
Personally, I find that this is a great way to approach meditation. I sit each day for 10-30 minutes in the morning with no real expectations about what I am supposed to be getting out of it, or what is supposed to be happening.
It’s true that I am aware of several different schools of thought regarding meditation, like various visualization methods, breathing strategies, concentration techniques, relaxation techniques and self inquiry or whatever else, but when I sit down to meditate, I don’t think about them.
What The Meditative Mind is not
We are used to our minds being engaged with something all the time. Pick up the kids, get the shopping done before the traffic picks up, make food,
do taxes, pay bills and when there is nothing pressing down on us. . . watch TV, check facebook, snap a selfie for Instagram, read an article,
read a book? maybe?
Awareness is never tired. The constant mental chatter can make you tired, but your thoughts can continue to bubble up driving you from one distraction to the next without ever tiring. This relentless mechanism can send you stumbling around the world ad infinitum, forever and ever amen. . . Unless you decide otherwise.
Meditation is one way to decide otherwise, and it has become very popular in the modern west, even sparking a resurgence of traditional forms of Christian Mysticism with contemplative practices like centering prayer and lectio divina, leading to mystical states like Unio Mystica.
Many people are meditating these days and that is a great thing, but if you ‘meditate’ at random stoplights and while you are waiting for your coffee at Starbucks, and you don’t have a more substantial daily practice, you are probably not getting the full benefit of meditation in much the same way that walking to the refrigerator and back to my computer doesn’t really grant me the full benefit of exercising.
Meditation starts as a practice
It continues as a practice as well, but if you want to develop a new habit you have to do something every day for 100 days. By the time you get to 100 days, your new habit just feels normal. This is true with our bad habits as well as our good habits which means that consistency and determination give us great power over our lives.
Sit for 10 minutes each morning for 100 days and you will absolutely change your life. Set an alarm so you don’t get distracted trying to figure out how long you’ve been sitting for and just sit. While you are cultivating this habit, don’t do anything. Don’t try new techniques or blaze new trails, don’t even think if you can help it, and certainly don’t try to get good at meditating.
If you need something to do because your gears just wont stop turning, then breathe. Breathe on purpose. If you need to be accomplishing something or getting better at something, then breathe. Become an accomplished breather.
Also, if breathing gets too boring, just stop breathing until it seems like a pretty cool thing again, and then you are ready to breathe some more.
Eventually the longest 10 minutes in all of human history will be over and the alarm will sound. As this becomes more and more of a habit, 10 minutes will fly past and you may even want to add some time to your alarm to get a deeper stretch, as they say in Yoga.
In the beginning, (and it’s always the beginning) your mind will try to figure out meditation. Every time you sit you will take a few deep breaths and then start gathering up all of the data you have about meditation and what you are supposed to do. Next you will probably start thinking about the right things to think about or how not to think at all. When you realize that you have gotten lost in a daydream you will take another deep breath and get really serious about solving this meditation thing.
That’s okay. As your practice deepens and your sense of identity slowly separates from your psychology, you will begin to watch this happening in your mind and laugh. It’s like watching a dog chase it’s own tail, and when you laugh at the silliness of the mind it generally gets quiet really quick. Suddenly the dog stops chasing it’s tail and hides behind the couch.
Now you are ready to meditate.
Consciousness crystalizes like water, suspended for the moment in the recognizable and differentiated shapes of snowflakes and icicles.
The warmth of life reminds us that we are only water, pausing on our journey to the sea, simply clouds passing through the sky, pretending to be this shape or that. read more…
The chill breeze rattles through the dead leaves on the lawn. The sweet warmth of the autumn sun denies the portents of the lengthening shadows and lingers like a departing lover.
A cup of coffee, a comfy sweater, but still barefoot on the porch, I take deep, gluttonous breaths, as if I could imbibe and somehow store these twilight days within my heart. read more…
Humility is often recognized as carrying a connotation of specifically Christian spirituality. But as we will see, it is very much in alignment with the Buddhist concept of Right View.
Just as Right View is said to be the foundation of the 8 Noble Truths, Humility is possibly the very foundation of Christian spiritual practice.
Many people who have felt trapped in a rigid Christian theology will recognize something like “knowing our place in relation to God” as the definition of Humility, and the patriarchal connotations of subjugation may easily offend.
However, while Humility may carry with it a connotation of submission, it is not the connotation, but the true meaning which we seek to understand. Humility is not a submission to an all powerful “Other” as much as it is a disidentification with the ego through the practiced recognition of its true and accurate relationship to all things. read more…
“There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
– Leonard Cohen
In this simple yet poignant line Leonard states the truth with the elegant simplicity befitting the poet he is.
Every single thing in the world of form is incomplete. There is a perfect imperfection in any object or concept. The delightful and dynamic potential of $100, for example, is collapsed into a single object or service when you spend it. You can not have the freedom of the money and the stability of that which it buys at the same time.
Our lives in the realm of duality are steeped in paradox like this. Self and Other. Objects and the space between them. Manifest reality and the potential from whence it flows. This fundamental duality gives rise to the “crack” in all things that Cohen is Talking about. read more…
How many times have we heard the immortal words of Joseph Campbell? His encouragement echoes loudly through the New Age community and it’s simple wisdom undergirds so many of our day to day conversations, goals and methods.
We use this advice to seek our life’s purpose and sometimes even give it the same exalted status as the Buddhist concept of Right Livelihood. As mistaken as that might be, the idea that following your bliss is the path to happiness is almost universal in the new age community, and it’s easy to see why.