“When I first began to study yoga I thought that samadhi was a trancelike state which would take the practitioner away from everyday consciousness to a better state of being. Over the years, my understanding has changed. Now I think of samadhi as exactly the opposite of a trance. Samadhi is a state of being intensely present without a point of view. In other words, in samadhi you perceive all points of view of reality at once, without focusing on any particular one.” – Judith Lasater
Samadhi is often defined as enlightenment or the highest state of consciousness. In its illusiveness, it is the 8th and final limb of the yogic system. There are many variations and explanations of its meaning – a state of bliss, communion with God, union with the ultimate reality… In the end, I have concluded that it is a most personal experience. You receive your samadhi based on what it is that you most seek…
For the month of June, which is traditionally the month of love, we will get to the “heart” of what matters, our Self.
But first we need to open the door to receptivity.
To be receptive is to accept a signal, an idea or even another person into your life. For receptivity to occur, it is imperative that your heart and mind be open. This ability to see things differently requires flexibility. Not everyone is amenable or disposed to receiving what others have to share. Therefore, in order to fully receive, you may have to give up something that you already possess.
This is especially fitting for yogis who want to prepare and purify themselves to receive the teachings of yoga. Releasing your subjectivity, blockages and negativity will give you space for a lifestyle that is happier, healthier and compassionate or love-filled.
At this point in our Year of Living Yogically, we know that there is more to the system of yoga than the postures themselves. Time and again, the posts refer back to the Eight Limb System of yoga which includes:
Pratyahara (sense withdrawal)
Maybe you have already incorporated some of these techniques into your own practice.
This week your challenge will be to review the eight steps and find the area(s) that you feel need enriching. Simply use the Topic bar on the right to click on the category you would like to read more about. Understanding each step in the eight-fold system will help you become more conscious of your true nature.
We have two weeks left in this journey. The next challenges will be the icing on the cake that will, hopefully, feed you for many years to come.
If you would like to start at the beginning of this year-long challenge please click here.
When I began exploring a meditation practice some years ago, I found it difficult to remain present at first. Who hasn’t? Luckily there are a myriad of techniques available for generating awareness. And, through trial and error, it’s possible to discover a method that speaks to you. In the end, a meditation practice should give you energy, enthusiasm, peace and joy.
That’s what the Hong Sau Kriya technique has given me. Hopefully you will attune to it as well. Here is the process and some tips:
What is it?
Hong Sau Kriya is a form of meditative breathing. The practice is simple – you mentally chant Hong as you inhale and Sau as you exhale. When the breath is still, the chanting stops. As your breath elongates, so does the word.
The word Hong is pronounced like “hong kong” & Sau like the word “saw”. Its meaning is simple and profound: Hong= I am Sau=spirit.
Kriya means action or movement.
How Should I Practice?
Although Hong Sau Kriya can be practiced anywhere and at anytime, it may be best to set up a regular schedule to get the most of its regenerative benefits. So, a quiet place in an upright seated position with no distractions is ideal. If you already have a meditation practice, then place this technique at the end of your session so that once the mantra fades, you can sit quietly and enjoy the stillness.
Your Challenge this Week:
Try to practice the Hong-Sau Kriya technique for a few minutes daily. Keep it a passive process by allowing the breath to breathe you. The less effort you put into it, the more you will enjoy it. The more you enjoy it, the more it will become a habit you look forward to doing.
The most important quality of a practice such as Hong-Sau is its effectiveness. Not the technique itself but the outcome. When you approach it with positiveness and joy, it will bring you serenity.
For your reference, here is a lovely story written by Goswami Kriyananda that explains the essence of Hong-Sau in greater detail:
“In Sanskrit, the word Hamsa (Hong-Sau) means wild gander, and has great symbolic significance. No matter how far the wild gander flies, at some point it remembers, and migrates back to its home, always at the proper season. In the same way, we as spiritual beings following a spiritual principle must, like the wild gander, remember, and migrate back to our spiritual home. The spiritual home is the inward state of Samadhi. The Hong-Sau Kriya meditation is a key technique whereby you return to the spiritual home.”
It took me quite unawares. I was nearly finished with my yoga teacher training and had three intensive workshops under my belt. Looking back, that particular weekend was unique. It was when I came into contact with Goswami Kriyananda – the bright eyed guru who exuded compassion and emanated wisdom. He gave a wonderful discourse on karma and his gentle spirit was contagious. All in all, it was an inspiring time and I was open to soaking up the comprehensive training with my mind, body and soul.
The workshop started on Thursday evening and concluded on Sunday afternoon when our shuttle took us back to the Chicago airport. That is when it hit me. I remember looking out of the large motor coach window and feeling as though I was in another world. I am a near-sighted person for whom distant details are not always the clearest. Yet, I was seeing the landscape in HD. The colors were rich and it was as though the vistas were alive – pulsing with energy. I don’t recall interacting with the other students on the drive. This initial phase had me feeling as if I were in a bubble.
After about an hour, we arrived at the O’Hare Airport in Chicago. Now let me set this up for you. It was November 2001, just two months after 9-11 (in fact it was November 11, exactly two months after the tragedy). So, as you can imagine, the lines were long – I mean long. And the people were impatient and hostile. The sympathy and the camaraderie connected with our nation’s trauma had definitely dissipated.
For me it was another story. The admiration that I had for the rural landscape had somehow transferred to the environment inside the airport. I felt connected, dedicated and full of love for everyone I encountered. The thing that I most remember was the eye contact I sought. I was not intimidated by anyone. For my effort, I was usually rewarded with a small smile or a surprised glance as I intertwined with the lines and lines of people walking in an endless queue.
Finally on the plane, there was a collective sigh. Yet, the waiting was not finished as the captain began to issue reports that we were 30th in line, 20th in line…this continued until we were detained on the runway for an hour or more. When the reality hit that connections would be missed, people starting getting nervous and tensions grew. Many wanted to reach out to their families but due to dead or non-existent cell phones (this was 15 years ago), they were unable to communicate. My phone was fully charged and I felt compelled to pass it around to everyone who needed it. It was my pleasure. I never experienced one iota of selfishness or worry. What was mine was theirs. This giving spirit tranquilized some of the inflamed passengers and a new more uplifting vibe began to circulate.
I was returning back to Texas to see my two young daughters and husband. I was excited to reunite. But I never expected what I encountered. As I came out of security, a bit tired but still floating on my cloud of illumination, I saw my family. Now remember, all throughout that 8-10 hour day, I had experienced an unusual tenderness for complete strangers. So, it is tough to describe how I felt seeing the faces of my loved ones. But one word still comes to mind as I reflect on that event. Beauty. I saw genuine beauty. And love. A profound love that filled me with extreme happiness. I wasn’t just glad to see them again, it was as though I was perceiving them for the first time and they were resplendent.
Of course, this feeling of elation and bliss eventually receded. The joys of parenting took over and my enlightenment or period of samadhi dissolved to pave the way for a householder’s reality. I tried to get it back. But I guess the conditions were perfect for that one true experience.
During that time, and for a significant period, my crown was open and I was truly a part of the whole. I was acting in pure compassion and encountering the authentic nature of things – the way we were meant to see.
I’d like to share this mantra that harkens back to that amazing experience.
Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu
May all beings everywhere be happy and free and may the thoughts, works and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.