Everyone tries to do better in life, that is the essence of man’s struggle. And for each of us that betterment may come from satisfying various goals, material and non-material. But in-spite of achieving those goals, man remains ever wanting. Because the ultimate happiness is about that peace of mind, feeling of no more wants, which is a state of bliss, is about knowing that Supreme Power and making efforts to realize it. And in doing so your experiences in the world become always positive, things happen in accordance with your thoughts, because the Divine supports them. Now many of us experience this occasionally, but fall back into the mundane quickly. So how do sustain that blissful state, what can we do? Here are few pointers:
Breathing is the essence of life, is a way of connecting with the Supreme Power. T. Krishnamacharya, the Yoga Guru has said:
‘ Inhale and God approaches you
Hold the inhalation and God remains with you
Exhale and you approach God
Hold the exhalation and surrender to God’
Every breath transforms and energizes all the cells in the body. Human beings, in a span of 75 years (average life) breathe 6 billion times (based on average of 15 breaths per minute). This is roughly the quota we all are allocated. And quicker the breath, faster we consume this quota, as the lungs have limited life span. Pranayama helps to slow the breath, to about 10 per minute. One can extend his life by practicing this. Because breath is associated with Prana (Life Force) The Universe is supported by Prana. (Sarvam Pranam Jagat!)
When the breath enters the nostrils it is in the gross form. When it enters the cells it is in the subtle form. When it assimilates in the cell it is the final stage, the Prana.
Breathing affects thoughts and thoughts affect breathing, so they are very closely linked. All negative thoughts create toxins in the mind. Pranayama is the process to cleanse the mind.
The slow breathing helps exchange of Carbon Dioxide and Oxygen, whereas quick breathing leaves behind residual air, which is a breeding ground for germs.
We easily forget that thru breathing we connect with each other, as it is the same air that we all breath, and it is the same air, which is called Akash (Space), which is a manifestation of God. (Bhūmir āponalo vāyuḥ khaṁ mano buddhir eva ca, ahaṁkāra itīyaṁ me bhinnā prakṛtir aṣṭadhā (Gita 7.4).
One can achieve this connection by practicing various breathing exercises given below:
Daily Must for Breathing
Conscious Breathing: Our normal breathing is automatic, without our being conscious, hence subject to our thoughts and feelings, which make it erratic, quick and shallow.
So, first principle is to be aware of your breath. This naturally slows it down. While doing your daily activities, wherever you are, keep attention to breathing. This should be a habit, so it is not a task any more.
This will reduce your stress level and anxiety, thoughts are more streamlined, thinking is more clear. You become more sensitive to environment and what is going around you.
And most importantly, you become conscious of His presence.
Nadi Shodhana Pranayama: Nadi is like vein or artery for passage of energy or Prana. Sodhana means purification of nerves, so this Pranayama helps in purifying the nerves, which is pre-requisite to practice of Meditation. Here is the technique:
Empty the lungs by breathing out, completely.
Close the left nostril by ring and little finger, using the thumb to control the right nostril.
Keep the remaining two fingers in the center between two eyebrows. This is the place of maximum awareness (Adnya Chakra).
Inhale slowly, and deeply thru the right nostril till the lungs are full. The left nostril should be blocked.
Closing the right nostril by thumb, exhale thru the left nostril completely. Use ring and little finger to control pressure on left nostril
Inhale thru the left nostril slowly and deeply, keeping the right nostril closed by the thumb.
Now block the left nostril by ring and little fingers, and exhale completely thru the right nostril. This completes one cycle of this Pranayama.
Continue this for 3 to 5 minutes.
Through out this exercise, keep the remaining fingers in the middle of eyebrows.
The air should flow steadily thru nostrils, it will be felt by the fingers and will make an escape sound. This should be maintained.
This Pranayama helps in refreshing the mind, due to high intake of oxygen in the blood.
This prepares one for the meditation practice, having quietened the mind.
The Art and Science of Meditation
Meditation is a state of mind where one is devoid of all distractions and wandering and connected with the Divine. Mediation is not concentration, as it implies efforts and the thought of some object or Mantra etc., still maintaining separation. Meditation is a natural state of mind when one is at ease with himself/herself and mind is fully merged with the surrounding. In the ideal state of meditation, one is not aware of his physical presence, nor he is conscious of his acts, he simply is. And he is fully in the present, not dwelling in the past nor planning for the future.
But one needs a Mantra or some object to contemplate upon initially. This helps him to remove all other thoughts from his mind, except the one. Slowly one develops the practice of going beyond this single thought, being more in tune with the silence therein.
One can get fully engrossed in a hobby of his choice, yet he may not be able to get rid of all the anxieties about the task in his hands, and hence may not be able to achieve the state of meditation. Sitting in a quiet place, clean environment, with a relaxed posture, with the photos of your deity will help set up the ambience. Being in the nature, on the quiet shore of the sea, or on the lakeside, when there are no likely interruptions will also help.
The Divine is everywhere, the whole space and both animate and inanimate world surrounding us is full of Him, so is He inside us. In the state of meditation one is simply aware of the merged entity, of the inside and outside, that is the Divine.
Uplifting your mind
By regular practice of breathing exercises and meditation our natural mental state is of heightened awareness. We are less anxious and less concerned about our daily problems, as we learn to trust Him and leave it to Him to take care of those things. Our confidence is high.
A great Tamil saint Thiruvalluvar had said long ago, ‘Think of rising higher. Let it be your only thought. Even if your object be not attained, the thought itself will have raised you.’ Many of us are unaware of the potential of the mind, and many are ignorant of the imaginative power they have. That is all it takes, imagining good surrounding, imagining your dreams coming true, and thinking good thoughts. When you are down feeling dejected, think of this verse from Upanishad:
ॐ सह नाववतु । सह नौ भुनक्तु । सह वीर्यं करवावहै । तेजस्वि नावधीतमस्तु मा विद्विषावहै । ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥
May He protect us both;
May He nourish us both;
May we get strength;
May we never hate each other.
Peace Peace Peace
– Katha Upanishad
Once you get a glimpse of higher vision, that view from the top, you would not want to come down, but still day-to-day events may drag you down. By regular practice you can aim to achieve and sustain long lasting peace of mind, and be successful in your endeavor.
Let us together walk on this path to higher state.