Reflections of Ahimsa

When we think of concepts like nonviolence we often think of historical figures like Gandhi or Mother Teresa. Ahimsa, commonly referred to as “nonviolence” but more literally translated from sanskrit as “absence of injury” is an ancient concept originating in the Vedas. Ahimsa is part of the first of the eight yoga limbs known as yama or practices if self regulation designed to free us from beign victims of our own human impulses. Great leaders such as Ghandi lived by the teaching “Ahimsa parama dharma” – Non violence is our greatest walk of life. But with our modern day responsibilities and jobs we may not live ahimsa as a sole way of life. Instead there are ways we can live day to day that allow us to see the benefits of ahimsa in practice. Like anything else, before we begin to make a huge impact in the community or the world, good practices should begin at home. Different people have varying interpretations of what Ahimsa means to them. More importantly, we must note that we should be able to practice Ahimsa at any given situation.

 

  • Ahimsa within self

I believe and try to teach myself that ahimsa is foundational in yoga but also is a foundational principle of the other 4 yamas. For example with the yama “satya”, truth is relative and embodies ahimsa.This means, be honest but not if it’s causing unecessary harm. Before we go all out of our way in trying to be in line with our authenticity and speak our truth, ask youself, ” Am i looking to speak my truth or should i stop at the moment of possibly causing harm?” Another way ahimsa is practised in the yoga community is by becoming vegan or vegetarian. While having a mostly vegetarian diet is good, going completely meat and dairy free does not work for every individual. A kinder option is to teach people to discern what is best for their bodies and their health. And not to shame people for their choices.

  • Ahimsa within collective humanity

When i was still teaching as a primary school teacher, i was inspired by a fellow colleague who seemed to practice ahimsa in her classroom management. Of course at that time, before taking up this course, i did not think to label her practices as an effort to practice ahimsa – i simply took it as kindness. Mrs Loo would practice a Ghandian model of non violent classroom management that centers on equality and mutual respect. While the rest of the teachers would resort to shouting and threatening strategies to instill fear in their students (some even throwing things in the classroom), Mrs Loo would always seem to choose the kindest and gentlest option in dealing with difficult students, no matter how difficult they might be.

When we see ahimsa in action, it keeps us in positive connection with ourselves and the world. I see ahimsa in a news story about an eight year old boy helping another eight year old boy with autism feel better on the first day of school. I see it when my neighbour helps his wife through illness or when i learn that a friend is organizing plastic clean-ups on beaches. Its there when i choose a nourishing meal to serve my body in the midst of a busy work day. Ahimsa is present and relevant to all, in each of our unique lives.

Bringing awareness to it as a practice is truly important.

Love and light from my heart to yours,

Namaste.

 

Get meditated!

We all know that meditation is good for us. But how many of us are committed to it long enough to make it a consistent practice? The thing is, until you find a meditation style that resonates with you, it can be tough to stick to a consistent practice. In my journey to find out more about meditation, i discovered four of my top favourites and after exploring each one, i am happy to discover the best one that works for me. The reality is, whether you love a simple guided session or want to explore the subtle body’s depths, here’s what you need to know about five meditation styles and how to try each, so you can establish your own daily mindfulness practice.

If one of the styles resonate deeply, dive right in and practice it for 5-20 minutes everyday for at least 48 days! Why the number 48, you ask? Well, Master Sree tells us that anything you do for 48 days non-stop will change your DNA. Similarly, this is why people in India back then fasted for 48 days. This period is known as mandala.

“Maan” = intent

“Dala” = time period / time lapse

I have detailed my top 4 favourite forms of meditation in order of preference!

  • Lovingkindness meditation

This is my favourite meditation style, since i have a very weak anahata (heart) chakra. I feel that it serves me well on the area that i need most improvement within myself. In this meditation, you silently repeat mantras to direct love and compassion toward difficult people in your life – including yourself. Lovingkindness is a practice of generosity towards yourself and others!

Select 3 or 4 phrases (examples: “May i be safe”, “May i be happy”, “May i be healthy”, “May i live with ease”). Begin offering these wishes to yourself and conclude by extending them to all beings everywhere. In between, send them to other recipients : a mentor, or someone who inspires you, a friend or a loved one, someone neutral like the aunty or uncle you met at the coffeeshop downstairs and then a challenging individual such as a toxic co-worker who triggers you or a political leader whose views you don’t respect.

  • Mantra meditation

Mantra, derived from 2 sanskrit words – man (intent) and tra (repetition) – is a practice of chanting, whispering or reciting (aloud or silently) a sound, word, or phrase. Mantra actually changes the rhythm of your brain and takes you from the plane of the 5 senses into what Master Sree calls, “the super-consciousness” in which you are tuned into unbound intelligence. You can use this deep awareness to remove obstacles in your life or even connect to the divine. Vocalizing a mantra quiets your thinking and stabilizes the beta brain wave bringing it to an alpha state.

According to Master Sree, the primordial sound “Aum” takes you to an even higher state where you may experience samadhi. Many scriptures have many different meanings / explanations of “Aum”. Some say that the “A” represents the past, the “U” represents the present and the “M” represents the future and that by chanting AUM, you go past these 3 time states and attain higher consciousness.  Your choice of mantra is up to you. Master Sree taught us that there are 3 types of mantra.

  1. Baiheri” – Verbal chanting
  2. Pascheri” – Mind chanting
  3. Para“- A type of higher level chanting where the mantra is inside your body. You just simply have to close your eyes and “hear” it.

In one of our classes, Master Sree taught us to chant “Ma – Aum” during pranayama.

  • Ma = Represents the universe
  • Aum = Primordial sound

Mantra meditation also calms the nervous system and induce sleep relaxation. Lie or sit comfortably, repeat a mantra silently or loudly and sense the accompanying vibration. When your mind wanders, simply notice and bring your attention back to the mantra.

  • Guided mindfulness meditation

Nothing derails your ability to be present – during your your practice than what Buddhists call the “monkey mind”, an untamed capricious mind that swings from thought to thought. That’s why guided mindfulness meditations are an effective entry point for beginners: They teach you to focus, center, and find peace in our always on-the-go culture. Think of guided meditation as if you have a coach supporting you step by step through the session. No matter where you are, seated on your cushion, on a crowded mrt train, or drifting off to sleep – a teacher verbally directs your attention to physical sensations (such as temperature, sound , breath and body) and what is happening in your mind. When distractions arise, take note – and refocus on the guided cues.

  • Moving meditation

Western mindfulness practices come from a foundational Buddhist practice called “samatha”, which means “calm abiding”. it strengthens, stabilizes and clears the mind, so that you stay present moment to moment. You do this by consciously placing your attention on an object or physical feeling. In a sitting meditation , that may be your breath; in a walking meditation, it is the sensation of your foot touching the ground with each step. What you’re actually doing is cultivating your ability to recognize that your mind will stray, so when it does, your bring it very gently back to your feeling of your foot on earth.

You can practice this at home – start a little bit slower than your ordinary walk, so you can feel your feet arrive in every step. Try it around your dining table or down a hallway.

That wraps up my take on meditation styles!

I hope you will discover what works best for you so that you will make meditation a consistent daily practice.

Love and light from my heart to yours,

Namaste!

Reconnect with nature

 

People tend to spend most of their life indoors and almost 11 hours a day on screens – we are suffering from “Nature Deficit Disorder”. But mindful time outdoors can reconnect us with the natural world in which we live. As a nature lover, i wonder why some of my friends and family are not able to appreciate the beauty that the outdoors could bring. And so after Master Sree’s lesson about Samyama, i realized the importance of experiencing things with not only the physical body (sarira samyama) but also the mind (mano samyama) and sense organs (indriyana samyama). If only we could integrate more of these into our activities, i believe it will heighten our experiences to another level. Here are six practices that help counteract the nature deprivation that has become prevalent to our urbanized culture.

  • Do a nature meditation

Sitting at the foot of a tree, take slow, full breaths as you bring your attention to what’s happening on the earth and sky.

  • Hike with your hands

Take a mindful walk incorporating the sense of touch – run your fingers over the bark of trees, the moss on a rock, the pebbles underfoot or the soft surface of a stone.

  • Walk barefoot outside

Walking with awareness and without shoes can be a profound experience.

  • Meditate on the sound of water

Close your eyes or maintain a soft gaze, connect with your breath and let your attention rest on the sound, whether its water from a canal babbling or the sound of ocean waves. Listen and surrender.

  • Visit a sit spot

Choose a place in your community garden or a nearby natural space that you can return to every few weeks, observing the changes in the flora and fauna over time. Even five or 10 minutes a day spent in your spot will result in a growing bond with the landscape.

  • Offer gratitude and care

We often speak of nature in terms of what it can give us – health benefits, recreation, fuel for our fires or vegetables for our meals. We can reframe our relationship with the natural world by consciously offering gratitude for what we receive, and by acknowledging the lives of the living things around us.

With that, i hope you are inspired to get your daily / weekly dose of nature fix. Who knows this time, with more integrations of samyama in place, you could experience nature on an even higher level of perception. So take a walk in nature, do pranayama under your favourite tree and soak all that beautiful prana (life force) in.

Remember what Master Sree said, you CAN hear the plants and animals speak, if only you LISTEN 🙂

Ayurveda and me

Ayurvedic Awakening

Ayurveda is known as yoga’s “sister science”. It’s a 5000 year old system of wellness that can help you understand your body’s seasonal needs, complement your regular yoga practice and achieve true union (yoga) of mind and body.

Before discovering Ayurveda,  i used to think salads and smoothies were the healthiest foods you could eat. But overdoing them eventually left my body cold, dry and depleted. My digestion suffered and my mind was always scattered. Later, it did not come as a surprise for me that my body reacted in such a manner as i learned from Master Sree that that i am a “Vatta”.

Vata, one of the three doshas or mind body types (the others being pitta and Kapha) is related to air in the body. An excess can manifest as bloating, gas, constipation, low hormone levels, compromised digestion, anxiety and insomnia. The moment i learned about this type of doshic imbalance, i felt like i was reading my own autobiography. For the first time, i realized all of my health issues were interconnected – something no doctor has ever suggested. Thus began my inquisition and thirst for knowledge on this topic. I dove in deep and started reading about all things Ayurveda. Being somewhat of an aspiring chef i’ve always experimented on my cooking and it is not until recently that i thought to question about what are the best food items for my body type. I mean, yes, I have always been eating healthy but surely i feel there isn’t a cookie cutter healthy recipe that fits all body constitutions. After reading about the benefits that it could bring, i experimented with it for a week. Not only did some of my physical problems dissipate once i embraced a mini-Ayurvedic lifestyle, but i experienced a slight shift in my mental clarity. I thought to myself, if this is what it could do for me after just one week, imagine the amazing positive changes it could do for me if i kept on with a full ayurvedic lifestyle!

I now get my veggies mostly from warm soothing soups which nourish my body on a cellular level. In Ayurveda, it’s not what you eat, but rather, you are what you digest. Warm, blended soups require very little energy for digestion, allowing your body to focus on healing.

It is important to bring your chakras into balance with ingredients and hues that relate to each of the seven major energy centres. When our chakras are imbalanced we may experience disease in that area of the body, plus related psychosomatic symptoms such as hormonal imbalances, digestive issues, heart conditions, headaches or brain fog. 

Having done some self reflection, i realized that my Anahata chakra (heart chakra) is blocked. And so i went on to whip up some ingredients together that would hopefully satiate the nutritional and vibrational thirst of this energy centre. It amazed me how Master Sree was able to detect that my heart chakra was imbalanced when he had only just met me. I feel this was true as i had been carrying a lot of grievances and anger from all the bad experiences, betrayals and abuse throughout my life. The heart chakra is located at the centre of the spine, at the heart level. It acts as the individual’s centre for compassion, empathy, love and forgiveness. It corresponds to the colour green and its element is air.

We can use foods along with lifestyle practices to bring our chakras back into balance. As such, i have whipped up a recipe that is inspired by these qualities.

I certainly hope you would benefit from this as much as i did. 

 

Raw Green Mint Soup
-Anahata Heart Chakra

Ingredients:

2 cups baby spinach

1 avocado, pitted and peeled

1/2 english cucumber, roughly chopped

1 small zucchini chopped

1/2 cup mint leaves

2 tbsp fresh lime juice 

1/4 cup raw almonds, soaked overnight (optional)

1/4 tsp sea salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 garlic clove

 

Method:

In a blender, combine all ingredients with 2 1/2 cups water, and blend on high until smooth and creamy, 30-60 seconds. 

Heat up a saucespan with a teaspoon of olive oil. Add in the blended items and keep stirring as it bubbles.

Add more mint, lime juice, salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately. garnished with cucumber zest.

Chakra meditation

Don’t forget to finish off your meal with gratitude. Connect to your inner divinity by doing a chakra meditation so that you can integrate some mindfulness and infuse the vibrational energies of the meal with the corresponding chakra in mind – in this case, the Anahata.

 

Sit in a comfortable seated pose. Bring your attention to the base of your spine, and imagine the colour red. Move your attention to the base of your spine, and imagine the colour red. Move your attention to your lower belly and envision the colour orange. Bring your attention to your stomach and picture the colour yellow. Bring your attention to your heart and visualize the colour green. Bring your attention to your throat and envision the colour blue. Bring your attention to the space between your eyebrows and think of the colour indigo. Lastly, bring your attention to the top of your head and surround yourself with the colour violet. Linger on any areas that feel blocked to reconnect with that chakra.