Category Archives: Spiritual Awareness

Successful Habits – The Opportunity to Break Laziness

The awareness of “being” is very important to me in my teaching. It’s practice to be able to abide peacefully in yourself and know a more fundamental sort of identity. It’s what you do differently after experiencing it to live more genuinely and go even closer to the soul.

I may have mentioned in a previous post how “stilling” ourselves makes movement more significant. In other words, by practicing “being” you become more aware of “doing”, and it’s consequences. This is important because “doing”(which includes thinking) is what creates the patterns playing out in us that must be transformed and then diminished to align ourselves with peace, happiness and the wisdom. However, when it comes to changing ourselves, the light of consciousness will not do it for us. It will only reveal where the work lies. In it’s infinite love and wisdom, the universe allows all possibilities, even ones that leave it’s microcosmic human flower blossom of representations to experience disconnection and discord. Stilling yourself in being, (which incidentally can also involve movement in it’s surface levels… think ecstatic, enraptured dance) is inherently connecting so for those that feel out of touch with life and their purpose it gives them that realization that there is that immense mysterious fabric of unity right underneath their feet, and in their hands, and up in the sky, and inside that flower over there…

After picking up lunch today and on my way home, I stopped into the store to buy some fruits. I had an afternoon lethargy. I barely felt like going into the store but I knew it would be good to have some mangoes tonight. As I walked out and looked across the street to where the market was that sells bags of coconuts, 10 to a bag, the thought/feeling arose, “you’ve been too lazy to buy the coconuts lately” because I’ve been wanting to make a new batch of yogurt. Quick responses to rationalize came next; “it’s so much easier to just hop on the motorbike” and “that bag is heavy and then I have to hang on the back of the pick up truck to go home”, and even “you’re already thinking of being lazy, and you want to make coconut yogurt today!?”. Then the saving thought/feeling shone out from the background, “didn’t you already do some things you thought you were too lazy for today?”. Without further internal debate I was walking across the street instead of hopping on the motorsai taxi. Of course the coconuts were heavy but after a few steps carrying them I felt a surge of energy and worked to stabilize my spine, trying to walk without the bag pulling my posture into a compromising collapse. The lazy lethargy disappeared.

Everything we do is habit forming. This is why some time in stillness can help us to see our actions for what they really are, a break from the pattern so we can come back with fresh eyes. Accomplishing things that we thought we couldn’t or wouldn’t do is also habit forming. I thought I was too lazy to make coconut yogurt today, or even buy the coconuts, but perhaps because of small events foregoing immediate gratification (I brought home lunch today because I wanted to have a smoothie 30 minutes before lunch and not with my meal) I set up a new habit for the day to push on and do what I knew would make me satisfied when I lay down to sleep tonight, comfortably letting the day go. After the yogurt mayhem I continued with a number of other projects including writing this post.

Recap:

Willingly do something that will test your resolve or patience.  It doesn’t matter how “big” this thing is. Note the feelings of moving beyond the obstacles, accomplishing the task, and the sense of satisfaction that comes. Save that feeling. With another practice you can get on a roll with it and everything becomes do-able. Use that feeling anytime you feel the challenge of deciding between right action and laziness.

Namaste

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Filed under Karma, Meditation, Spiritual Awareness, Yoga

Really Straight Forward Diet Advice Part 1: Meat or no meat?

When making choices about your diet you need to know what it is you want. Lose weight? Build muscle? Respect the Earth and the animals? Nurture your spiritual sense of being? By any of these choices also be clear that you want to be vibrant and healthy! In this series of articles I’m going to avoid talking about those often gimmicky diet theories that try to pigeon hole everyone and just appeal to common sense and how we feel about eating, physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Question 1…Meat or no meat?

Metabolism

Let’s start with what is probably the largest issue for some people. Should humans eat meat? Well, in our theorized “known” time on planet earth, a large proportion of our ancestors depended on meat in their diet for survival. While we do have digestive tracts that resemble those of other herbivores the digestive systems of many people have seemed to evolved to be equally efficient at metabolizing nutrition and energy from meat. In one of my favorite books, The Tao of Health, Sex, and Longevity, Daniel P. Ried says about 50% of humans have a balanced digestive system that can adapt equally well to “vegetarian” or “carnivorous” diets. The other 50% is split between those who are better at one or the other.  You can check where you fall by eating a whole chicken or very large quantity of protein with a light salad and if you are energetic and mentally alert feeling afterwards, than most likely you metabolize meat/proteins well.  Carnivorous types burn sugar and carbohydrates rapidly, to the the point of agitation, overstimulation and sugar crashes, so should eat very little of these foods. Vegetarian types burn slowly and will be challenged to digest meat efficiently. The speed at which we move food through the body is also very important. Meat, compared to other foods, even for “carnivorous” types, does take longer to digest and thus has greater potential for decomposing before the body can absorb it’s nutrients. This makes it especially important to eat food in proper combinations that don’t hinder digestion. Protein foods combine best with vegetables and combine poorly with starchy carbohydrates. For some info on that you can check my previous post My Yoga Diet for Internal Hygiene and High Prana

The Earth and the Farm

Let’s just look at the obvious points. Virtually all foods, seem to be more nutritious and healthier for us when they are allowed to grow in a natural way. If it’s non-GMO and organic plants on the farm those veggies aren’t going to notice a big difference. In fact, if they could, they might consider how sweet of a spot they landed out in nature and with such a good and mysterious caretaker.(Actually, if you’ve ever read the Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan you would learn of his speculation that the plants evolved with the intention for us to eat them and thus protect and propagate them.)  Now when we look at the case for animals on the farm I think the worst thing right off the bat is the over crowded conditions in which many of them are raised. This makes them prone to illness, unless they are given antibiotics. Also many of them are fed a mono diet of the wrong food! Animals that live in the wild forage and eat all kinds of things and there meat is much more nutritious. Finally, there is the very large amount of resources used for a relatively small return of real food, especially with raising the larger animals like cow. Compared to producing vegetables and fruits the livestock industry is amazingly destructive and wasteful to Earth’s environments and ecosystems. Basically I would recommend that if your going to eat meat, find a wild source or quality farm you can trust doesn’t use unnatural practices.

Lightness of Being

Ayurveda divides all experiential forms into three qualities, trigunas. They are, in my own English interpretation, stagnation, stimulation, and equanimity. Basically everything exist in one of these three qualities or combination of, and the foods we eat can have one of these affects upon us. Meat is always considered in ayurveda to be tamasic, what causes stagnation. Dead, cooked. I wonder what they think about sashimi? In subtle energy terms you are adding the vibrational residue of whatever your food “experienced”. In terms of animals, man, a lot of them don’t have a good time, at all. The negative feelings experienced by the animals may be taken on into your subtle body. Many people claim meditation to be easier or more clear minded when they are not eating meat. Sattvic, the equinimity foods,  are fresh fruits and vegetables, organic milk, ghee to name the basics. If you want to eat meat combine it with sattvic foods, for more sattvic than tamasic networth. For example, eat a large salad or steamed veggies with a small portion of meat.

So, what if you are a born proteinivore but your ethics have you vegetarian? What if you’re a man and worried about soy and estrogen?

It’s not too much harder to still get lots of high protein meals as a vegetarian. Perhaps if you are travelling and don’t do your own cooking it could be a challenge here and there. Especially if you’re not a tofu eater. Here are some key foods.

Leafy Greens

Kale    Spinach    Brocolli    Watercress    Collard Greens   etc.

Legumes

Learn to make your own Dhal, a delicious indian food made from lentils, hummus from chick peas, vegetarian chili with kidney beans, or cook any kind of beans and blend with zucchini and spices to make dips for veggies.

Nuts

Almonds    Walnuts    Cashews    Pistachios    Pecans    Macadamias

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The Five Yama of Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga

The five moral ethics of Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga are the absolute foundation of yoga practice for people from all walks of life. Why? Because when you adhere to them your mind is a guilt free, easy going place that is ready to really focus on being and creating, two main qualities of nature. The concepts are simple and familiar and the more you practice them the more clearly the connection between behavior, beliefs, and experience stands out.

The 5 Yama

1. Ahimsa – Non-Violence

We could actually call it a day right after this one. It pretty much covers everything. Violence doesn’t work for spiritual development in three ways as I see it. First, violence is traumatic for humans as animals, and as psyches. The fear generated by it causes our energy to recoil into a dense form for self preservation, which can be considered the ego. This can happen to both parties involved. Then there is the guilt which can come, trapping us in past memories which feed belief structures that negate our being through association to the event. If that doesn’t happen, we trick ourselves into becoming “normalized” to violence and essentially numbing ourselves in our hearts. Certainly not helpful for becoming more compassionate and feeling how everything is connected. By the way, many of these Sanskrit words, when starting with an “a”, denote the opposite meaning of the following word. For example… “Himsa = violence” “Ahimsa = non-violence” Practice ahimsa with others and with your self in both your actions and mind. I think most of you reading are probably pretty peaceful outwardly but may, like I, have occasional mental slip ups. A good trick to remember is when you do something that could be considered “harmful” if your being waaay to anal, I mean like, thinking you didn’t take care of yourself well enough… just forgive yourself and practice ahimsa in your mind. No sense in beating yourself up when you can be becoming more resolute in your peacefulness right now! Another method is “Do and think nice things, or don’t do and think any things at all.” Those who practice Ahimsa at a high degree carry an influence of peacefulness around them, seemingly disarming all bad energies they encounter.

2. Satya – Upholding Truth

I once read that young children telling lies indicated a high level of intelligence. It does in a sense. There is much mental power in being able to creatively construe non-facts to manipulate others. However it falls far shy of a greater intelligence in observing the phenomenal truth of reality and tailoring yourself to sit peacefully with it and still exercise being a creative agent of the universe. That is the greatest kind of intelligence in my book; generating pure creativity out of your experience of the truth. When you practice upholding the truth in what you say, the things you do, keeping the commitments you make, or being honest about your own sensations you feel much more connected with your reality. You also don’t have some web of mess to keep hidden. Those who practice asteya to a high degree become creative agents, generating truth to be witnessed in new forms and helping those around us see ourselves.

3. Asteya – No Stealing

Stealing sets us up for a few nasty possible self identifications. The first is that we don’t have something we need and that the best way to get it is at someone else’ loss. Like violence it also sets us up for a forked road with neither choice leading to a good outcome. We can either become consumed with guilt over what we did or desensitize ourselves to the suffering of others, closing off again. We have to recognize that sympathy is an innate human skill, and when we don’t allow ourselves to feel that we are actually creating a subtle tendency to diminish ourselves. What makes stealing, stealing? Someone else’s loss. If you are using their available material without actually taking it from them(our digital age) and making something genuinely new, then this is inspired creativity and the universe smiles upon it.

4. Aparigraha – No Acquisitiveness

Most of us don’t need so much. Not really. Keeping a small and humble lot of possessions helps us to remain free of being overly attached to something that will not last. Aparigraha is also about overcoming the belief that you need “x” to be happy or more fulfilled. This one is to be practiced with attitude more than anything. Focus on the belief that you have everything you need, and that everything you acquire is for giving to others. 🙂

5. Brahmacharya – Taming Energies

So my translation on this one is a little atypical.(hey, the “a” made the opposite in an English word too!) The literal translation is something like “walking with God” or “the path of unity consciousness”. To be on such a plane of awareness to walk in that space requires a great deal of energy and devotion. So, brahmacharya is all about controlling and conducting your energies so you are always moving towards the divine. Some traditionalists insist this means abstaining from sex, indulgent behaviors and emotions, and so on, so that we may reserve energy for our spiritual practices and avoid the attachments and roller coaster ride of it all. Personally, I view the appropriate practice of brahmacharya to be highly, HIGHLY individualized in nature. Regarding sex for instance, I believe in a more Taoist philosophy, that practicing sexual prowess for most of our lives in an honest and supporting relationship aids spiritual development as well. Of course there may be a time or “attainment” in which you need no other relationship than the one you have with the divine…you’ll know what feels right. 🙂


Namaste.

George Anthony

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Practice – Streaming awareness in our modern physical Yoga culture

That Present Feeling…

What makes yoga practice, yoga practice?It is the consistency of streaming your awareness to a simple aspect of your existence.  It doesn’t matter what it is, just that it is simple. What is streaming awareness? Take a deep breath in and just experience it, let all else fade away. Feel the space you change in your lungs, the movements through your body, and the immediate changes in your physiology. That’s it. Now, breath out slowly and feel the relaxation and release, the quiet mind. It’s a continuous flowing experience,  and most importantly, your perspective becomes centered and calm. This is why people practice Yoga, to touch in with the spiritual home. But it doesn’t have to be breathing. That just happens to be a really easy way. It’s just about streaming awareness.

The breath is this simple and profound magic door to understand this kind of awareness. You can enter this state without any particular technique but most people find they need time with the techniques first to tune in with it. The breath works so well.  However, if your mind is agitated the stream might slip and skip around into different experiences. So what do we do? Well…I think I know what you first thought was Yoga, and indeed it is.

Making an Exercise a Yoga Practice

It’s such a genius idea really. If you move consciously your awareness gets “anchored” in the body and keeping that stream becomes easy. You’re breath and you’re body are so close, intertwined, so do it while breathing consciously to feel their relationship and get tuned in spiritually.This is how you let your mind rest and drop off the unnecessary clutter.

Those that bash on teachers that make yoga classes like a fitness regime or ego show, and all the other problems that cropped up with the globalization and subsequent modernization of Yoga should really start being pro-active entities that make sure everyone who attends yoga classes  like ones in the picture above or teaches yoga remember the following ideas!

Tips for classes in the Physical Yoga culture

1.     The practice is streaming awareness. The most simple way to do this is continuously observe the sensations of your breath and body. If you’re having thoughts or internal chatter and judgements you’re not practicing!

2.     If you’re a teacher, don’t over complicate things! You can lead people into lots of interesting experiences beyond breath and body but remember…it’s streaming awareness, contiguous. Link from the breath to where you want to take them or even use metaphors that describe the body in different ways for a fresh experience, like a new rivulet entering the growing stream. Keep everything connected.

3.     Once you get familiar with the feeling of streaming awareness you’ll be able to notice and sustain it easily. Again, conscious breathing is always an easy way back to it but even more simply, find yourself being the observer of your life, not the actor. Then you are always just watching the show. 🙂

Namaste

~George Anthony

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Filed under Breathing, Philosophy, Practice, Practice Advise, Spiritual Awareness, Teaching Advice, Yoga