If we close our eyes, nearly all of us can go to a song that either reflects our current mood or invites us to create movement toward a preferred one, and most are associated with memories related to those feelings. Music is powerful! Sound, words - vibration
One of my favourite functions of music is dancing -- a beautiful way to shift energy, and sometimes to communicate intimately with others. It is unknown if the first dancers created a musical accompaniment, or if music led to people moving rhythmically -- the latter seems more plausible to me? Some of the documented reasons for music is communication, often over large distances, using instruments such as drums or horns. Another reason for music is ritual, and virtually every spiritual practice uses music in some way.
Research has shown that music and sound have the power to change emotional states, change perceptions and physiology, and elevate spiritual awareness. Certain types of music, devotional and sacred in nature, also have the power to transform individual and collective consciousness into the heightened states of love, forgiveness, compassion, and physical healing -- a personal love is kirtan and chanting.
Such heightened states of loving awareness are what empowers human consciousness to identify with disharmonious societal and geopolitical issues, environmental imbalances, and attune more empathetically to a deeper awareness of the root causes behind physical health situations. This same heightened awareness is what inspires the ability to envision, co-create, and implement solutions for these various disharmonies.
Life is always moving, and if we resist the ever-changing flow, our energy can become stagnant, and we can fall out of rhythm with the universe -- the mysterious intelligent force which governs all of our life.
When we’re feeling a little stuck and can't get onto our mat, under our singing bowls, or into the outdoors, another truly helpful way to shift our energy, frequency or vibration is to put on some music and dance along with it -- free yourself up. When we dance unrestrained our spirit takes over, and with every sway or bop, we are moved back into harmony with the flow of life…in doing this, your body learns how to be moved by your intuition, by the Divine.
This reference point of the Divine within is what ultimately inspires the awareness to intentionally look for this same Divinity in the eyes of another person, in the eyes of the animals and in the eyes of Mother Earth. In this state of sacred awareness, we can choose to evolve and honour the spiritual, cultural, and ethnic diversity that is the watershed of the Divine's loving and creative expression towards ALL.
“Sound or vibration is the most powerful force in the universe. Music is a divine art, to be used not only for pleasure but as a path to God-realization. Vibrations resulting from devotional singing lead to attunement with the Cosmic Vibration or the Word. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1). Paramahansa Yogananda
By Pandit Rajmani Tigunait
In the calm and tranquil oceanic existence of consciousness, the first spanda (motion or movement) is called prana
The ancient scriptures tell us that prana, the life force, is derived from two words, pra and ana. Pra means “first.” Ana means “that which moves or animates”—the first unit of pulsation, animation, vibration, and movement.
There is a complex philosophy behind this statement, but Swami Rama (Swamiji) explained it in a simple way: that prana means “energy combined with consciousness”; intelligence that knows “I am moving”; that force whose motion or movement is self-regulated and not governed by anything else; that which is not blind force; and that which has purpose in vibrating, throbbing, and animating in a particular pattern or manner. That self-intelligent force is called prana.
It is because of the presence of that pranic force that the simple air that travels through our nostrils becomes a carrier or vehicle of vitality, freshness, and newness. When prana is not present in the body, none of our sophisticated medical devices are effective. They are not able to restart the lungs or heart after death, even though physiologically everything is still the same; the only difference is that the heart is no longer pumping and the lungs are not expanding and contracting.
Prana means 'energy combined with consciousness.'
It is said that the pranic force is omnipresent and omniscient: it knows all about the past, present, and future; it is spontaneously aware of everything visible and invisible. It is because of the presence of this life force that we receive vitality from food, assimilate it into our system, and supply it to all our tissues and cells. When that pranic force decreases or is not functioning well, it will make no difference how much nutritious food is eaten. Megadoses of vitamins will have no beneficial effect; they may even have an adverse effect on the kidneys and other cleansing systems in the body. So, actually, it is in the presence of this divine force, prana, that we thrive—this force sustains our life and health, and we can use it to unfold our vast potential.
That is why it is so important to understand this divine force. We need to keep asking the question “why?” like a scientist—or like a child who is constantly learning. We call the person who discovers something a genius, but inventions and discoveries take place only because of this childlike nature of continually asking, “Why? Why? Why?” When that nature vanishes—when we take an answer for granted—then immediately discovery stops. The moment we delete “why?” from our vocabulary, we get old, rigid, and stiff. Only this question can really lead us to understand what the pranic life force is.
Please continue reading this great article by Panditji here in the Himalayan Institute's Wisdom Library.
The ultimate goal of yoga is kaivalya, total liberation and freedom
We use the methods and practices of yoga to deliberately and gradually release into our true Self, which allows us to feel free from the shackles of emotion and the layers of human life that bind us to our earthly experience. This involution requires us to still the fluctuations in the mind, to discern between emotion and Truth, to listen to our intuition and inner wisdom.
Layer after layer, detail after detail, we reduce our habit of relating to the identity of the ego and rid ourselves of the myriad of things that keep us from seeing the ultimate Truth. To do this, we must learn to let go -- trustful surrender. It has been said that until you can 'burn your own house down, you will never truly be free'. In other words, as long as we feel our survival depends on factors of the external world, we deny our connection to the Infinite and thus, deny ourselves liberation.
Like Arjuna in The Bhagavad Gita, we need to cultivate Inaction In Action: to find a passionate and meaningful way of moving through our experience on earth with dispassion, detached from the outcome of our choices. We must consistently invite and create peace -- moment to moment: in order to be free, we must practice Vairagya.
Vairagya (non-attachment) literally means 'colourless.' Every desire brings its own colour to the mind. The moment you colour the mind, a ripple is formed, just as when a stone is thrown into a calm lake it creates waves in the water: Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 1:15.
Ripples of thought and emotion are distractions to the peaceful, calm waters of our mind and spirit beneath them. In yoga, we learn we are not our thoughts or emotions, we are not our desires or our bodies. We want to remember what we really are so that all the ways we colour our mind begin to dissipate. Vairagya teaches us how to practice letting the colours go.
Vairagya goes hand in hand with Abhyasa, discipline. Becoming more at peace, surrendering, letting go -- it actually takes work. We must have the discipline to monitor our thoughts, actions, and choices.
Abhyasa is defined as consistent practice and is more than getting up at the same time every day and practicing asana and meditation; that could be part of it, but it is also the discipline of moment to moment. It takes discipline to remember our raw beauty, to remain vulnerable and untouched by our hurts, to repeatedly see the transient everness of the Universe. Time and again, we have to choose to tap into the sameness, the Divine essence of everything.
The effort, the practice, is in the choosing. Peace.
Note: We often hear these words used in yoga classes where neither the time or space is afforded to explore the philosophy and application of these two words, nor the acknowledgement given to the source of the scriptures themselves -- yet this is where our yoga sadhana originates. The hyperlinks provided above will lead you to some articles in the Himalayan Institute's Wisdom Library on Vairagya and Abhyasa, and to the source texts, whose beautiful translation by Pandit Rajmani Tigunait are awaiting your eyes and heart.
The beautiful Sanskrit word 'Kshama' is usually used as the equivalent to 'forgiveness'
As is with most translations, this too limits the depth of the meaning. Kshama is much more than just saying 'I am sorry'.
Kshama comes from the Sanskrit root verb 'ksham' and has several meanings; patience, forbearance, pardon. Root meanings of the word kshama also includes 'to release the grip, to let go, and to lift up' -- letting go of our attachment to a grievance with another. It also means to have capacity to be 'large hearted', to have the ability to absorb and dissolve all assaults, the ability to accept the validity of diverse points of view.
Kshama has a quality of spacious equanimity and the promise of compassion. It is restraining intolerance with people and impatience with circumstances and implies remaining serene, patient and observing self-restraint, doing good to all, even to those who may want to harm you.
Another interpretation offered by the wise is -- Kshama consists of ksa meaning to destroy and ma meaning to protect i.e. ksama means to protect from destroying the nature or virtues of soul. And this bears the closest semblance to the Jain meaning of forgiveness...
It's important however, to remember that forgiveness doesn’t excuse the behavior that caused your hurt. Forgiveness prevents the behavior from destroying your heart. When you forgive someone who has wronged you, you take away the power of the hurt. Only then can you begin to heal. Only then is your heart free enough to take on the healing process. If you continue to be hurt, healing cannot begin.
If you are the one seeking forgiveness, it is often hard to muster up the courage to say you’re sorry. And then it can be even harder when someone doesn’t accept your apology. But that’s ok. People are allowed to not accept your apology or need some time and space to think on it. You cannot control what they say or do, but you can control what you say and do. So stay steady and calm, manage your emotions of rejection and hurt, and show your apology through consistent actions -- demonstration.
I know as a child I was taught that once you realised you had hurt or upset someone (intentional or otherwise), you should move quickly to correct that, apologise -- set things right. In my grandmother explaining this, it also involved a discussion about sincerity, which is often part of the challenge of an 'I'm sorry' being genuinely heard or received -- incongruence in the energy between saying and meaning. Each of us has our own challenges on either end of the process, and taking responsibility for our thoughts, speech and actions is a foundational aspect of living our yoga off the mat. I'm a big fan of the 'pause', though sadly being human at times I fail, falling into reactionary mode when triggered, particularly if emotionally invested or tired. Mmm, Viveka, Vairagya -- more on these other important Sanskrit terms later.
Some other things to consider...
'..forgiveness is really not for the other person’s benefit at all -- it’s for our own. Regardless of how illogical it may seem at times, it is through unconditional forgiveness that we surrender the past to the past and enter the present, freeing ourselves to stand in the infinite Light that knows how to heal our deepest and most painful wounds.' Dennis Merritt Jones
The ho’oponopono prayer goes like this: 'I’m sorry, Please forgive me, Thank you, I love you.'
At any time we can ask ourselves, 'what would love do?' it's a beautiful space from which to consider any actions.
Every thought we think and every action we take has an impact on the world around us
To be aware of this is to be conscious of our impact on the people in our lives. Sometimes we just want to do what we want to do, but considering the full ramifications of our actions can be an important part of our spiritual growth and awareness. At first, being more conscious requires effort, but once we have made it a habit, it becomes second nature. The more we practice this awareness of others, the more we find ourselves in easy alignment with our integrity.
Our thoughts are an important place to begin this practice because our thoughts are the seeds of our actions. It is not necessary or beneficial to obsessively monitor all our thoughts, but we can perhaps choose one thought or action per day and simply notice if we are in alignment with this experience of integrity.
For example, we may find ourselves replaying a negative encounter with someone in our minds. We may think that this doesn't affect the person about whom we are thinking, but the laws of energy tell us that it does. When we hold someone negatively in our minds, we risk trapping them in negativity. If we were this person, we might wish for forgiveness and release. We can offer this by simply letting go of the negative thought and replacing it with a wish for healing on that person's behalf.
With regard to our actions, we may have something difficult to express to someone. Taking the time to consider how we would feel if we were in his or her shoes will enable us to communicate more sensitively than we would if we just expressed ourselves from our own perspective. When we modify our approach by taking someone else's feelings into account, we bring benefit to that person and ourselves equally. The more we do this, the more we reaffirm our integrity and the integrity of our relationship to the world.
In the quest to create a gentler, more loving world, kindness is the easiest tool we can use. Though it is easy to overlook opportunities to be kind, our lives are replete with situations in which we can be helpful, considerate, thoughtful, and friendly to loved ones and associates, and even strangers.
A beautiful mantra to consider:
Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu लोकाः समस्ताः सुखिनो भवन्तु
May all beings be happy and free, and may my thoughts, words, and actions contribute to the happiness and freedom for all.
In the morning, send yourself and others love for the entire day and be sure to collect that love along the way.
Just being here, being ourselves, is enough
Most of us have the feeling that we are here to accomplish something big in our lives, and if we haven't done something that fits the bill we may feel as if we are waiting. We may feel incomplete, or empty, as if our lives don't yet make sense to us, because they don't line up with our idea of major accomplishment. In some cases, this may be because we really are meant to do something that we haven't yet done. But in most cases, we can let ourselves off the hook with the realisation that just being here, being ourselves, is enough.
As we live our lives in this world, we share our energy and our spirit with the people around us in numerous ways. Our influence touches their lives and, through them, touches the lives of many more people. When we strive to live our lives to the fullest and to become our true selves, we are doing something big on an inner level, and that is more than enough to make sense of our being here on this planet at this time.
There is no need to hold ourselves to an old idea in the back of our minds that we need to make headlines or single-handedly save the world in order to validate our existence. We are designed to work collaboratively and to pass on, share our experience and wisdom as we move through this life. Legacy is an easy hook, however if we change our mindset to one of 'redundancy', we can more easily approach our roles as teachers, parents, scientists or other with the intention to create strength and autonomy, or at least healthy inter-dependency in our relationships, affiliations or projects. Soon we will see the blossoming of inspiration, freedom and creativity that radiates out from these touchpoints of our influence. This is an inherent joy of kavi.
If we can each look within our hearts to discover what is true for us, what gives our lives meaning, and what excites us, we can release ourselves from any pressure to perform that comes from outside of our inner sense of purpose. Staying in tune with our own values and living our lives in tune with our own vision is all we need in order to fulfill our time here. Our lives are a process of being and becoming so that we cannot help but co-create; being who we are, responding to each moment as it comes, we can trust that this is enough to become just what the Divine intended for us this lifetime.
Be well. Be happy. Be free. Nurture in nature. Bhakti.