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Are You the Director or the Actor in the Play that is Your Life? – Richard’s Commentary

October 16, 2014 Leave a comment

This is such a wonderful question Rosemary asks. It’s one of those questions that makes you go “hmmm”! It stops me and makes me think. And, it’s another one of those questions that take me inside, to examine, to evaluate, and maybe, just maybe to shift!

Here’s the key to Rosemary’s Exploration:

What did you used to believe about yourself, life, the world around you that might be holding you back today? Is it your unconscious mind that is the Director while you and your conscious mind are merely the Actors on the stage?

It’s those old beliefs, those old programs that run on automatic when our attention strays, when “unforeseen situations arise,” or when we simply get caught off guard in a moment of weakness.

Here’s a simple example that is trite but true, a cliché of our times: driving in traffic I still find myself getting upset by unconscious drivers who are in some way impeding my progress! Then I realize I am being unconscious myself in my angry reactions. I take a breath, go briefly inside to remember my impatience is getting in my own way, release frustration and then move along more smoothly – until the next inattentive driver annoys me!

This is a life-long habit. I probably learned it from my father, even though in rural Wisconsin he did not face the driving difficulties we have here in the East! I know I am being the Actor in my little stage play about driving in traffic and my unconscious mind is the Director in this play. It is a hard habit to break and I get plenty of opportunities to practice!

I find my breath work, as part of my Qigong and Yoga practices help me overcome, or at least recover from habits of a lifetime. As long as I remember to breathe intentionally I can short-circuit the old programming and my conscious mind can recover control and direct my life.

Here’s how that works: one of my practices is to employ the Hamsa mantra as taught by Swami Muktananda (ref: I Am That The Science of HAMSA from the Vignana Bhairava). This is probably the simplest yet most profound mantra in the Yogic tradition. “Ham” means “I am” and Sa means “that.” It may also be seen and pronounced or read as So’ham “that I am” depending on personal preference and breath flow.

Ham is the sound of the breath as you inhale. Sa or So is the sound of the breath as you exhale. My natural breath includes a more lengthy pause after exhaling so I use Hamsa as my breath mantra; in other words it seems more natural for me to inhale before I exhale. Practice both ways; if it seems more natural for you to exhale first then So’ham may be the better way for you to use this key mantra.

For that matter you can even use English here inhaling on the “I Am” and exhaling on the “That.” The real key is to become aware of the breath and then become intentional about breathing through the recovery from habitual action and reaction you are working to reprogram. As Rosemary writes:

You can’t just decide to do things differently and have your unconscious mind let go of those old beliefs. They are programs that are running all the time. They are beliefs that trump conscious decisions many times. 

The work is to go inside and uncover the programs and reprogram your mind.

Breath work is an excellent tool to aid you in the reprogramming effort.

MONDAY’S POEM: Hamsa

October 28, 2013 Leave a comment

A while ago I offered a poem on the breath. It was inline with my approach to Qigong breathing. I got good feedback on that poem and even published a bookmark for use in my Qigong classes. That poem is here.

Last week I wrote about the happy discovery of Hamsa as both a way to breathe and a mantra meditation rolled together. My practice of Hamsa and my Qigong breath poem inspired today’s offering:

Hamsa

Inhale
Expand
Belly out
Ribs out
Spine straight
Head up
Ham…
Sa
Exhale
Neck free
Shoulders down
Chest in
Belly in
Contract
Pause
Be…

Ham
Sa
I Am
That!

©2013 Richard W. Bredeson. All rights reserved.

More on Hamsa – and Less

October 25, 2013 Leave a comment

Formal meditation is not always easy for me. I like to sit, maybe with a candle and some incense burning, offering my hopes and prayers to the Goddess. I have all the rituals well in place; I have the accoutrements: zafu and zabuton from my Zen meditation days, a collection of incense that could open a store, altar objects large and small to create sacred space in every corner of our house.

And while I enjoy sitting and all the ceremony I surround it with I am not always able to easily and quickly move to that still center where merger with the Divine is attained.

I don’t think it’s about practice, more practice. I was initiated into traditional TM by some German folks just returning from India and their own initiation and study with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in 1969. I’ve had some time to practice! And yes, I do return to TM reasonably often but it is not a daily practice now. When I return to TM I don’t often find that still point within.

I also sit zazen from time to time. I enjoy watching my breath and seeking stillness. I enjoy the formalism of Zen and slip easily back to my times at Zen Mountain Monastery with Roshi Loori. But even with my formal training, practice and approach I don’t often achieve that quiet mind and find that still center.

With this backdrop my excitement in finding and reading I am That by Swami Muktananda has its context. As I wrote in yesterday’s post, Hamsa as a meditation practice is already changing my life.

HamsaI am That is a mantra meditation approach I immediately understand. And my first breath with this mantra showed me a way inward that is straightforward and effective.  Ham – I am – is the sound we make when we inhale. Sa – That – is the sound we make when we exhale. Each breath repeats this mantra Hamsa, I am That.

And it only takes one breath! On one repetition of Hamsa it all comes rushing toward me and plants itself deeply within. My years breathing on a cushion, my yoga time on a mat with my TM bija-mantra, my qigong breath and movement, even my time in my writing chair seem to merge into this single still point in the middle of my chest, my heart chakra, and quietly abide.

What more could I ask for than to receive and embrace a “new” meditation practice that in some alchemical way combines all of my practices and takes me immediately to that quiet-mind, still center?

And there is almost nothing to it! It is a breath. We all breathe. We repeat this mantra, this Hamsa 12,600 times a day! And all we have to do is remember the deeper meaning.

I don’t need a cushion, I don’t need a candle and incense, I don’t need images and objects, I don’t even need to still my body, or prepare it through exertion. I only need my breath. Ham Sa!

Everybody’s Talking at Me – Richard’s Commentary

October 24, 2013 Leave a comment

My first reaction to this statement about the voices in my head is, yeah, everybody’s talking at me, especially me! I don’t know about you but my voice is constantly chattering at me, like that “Monkey Mind” spoken of by meditators. And often that voice seems so critical. As Rosemary states:

We all have those ‘old tapes’ playing in our mind and sometimes it is difficult to figure out that we don’t have to listen to them anymore. The first step in personal growth is to decide on YOUR TRUTH in this present moment.

Those old tapes may be from another time and other people’s words are spoken, but the sound is of my own voice. And it is not always easy to shut me up!

I have been a seeker all my life. Maybe the “truth” I have sought after is the means to quiet my mind-talk, to shut down the litany so I can listen for a deeper Truth.

What does your inner voice tell you? Mine is often reminding me of all the things I have to do; it runs through lists and sorts through them endlessly for priorities, shifting items, ordering them. At other times the voice is reviewing reactions to events; examining my actions, reactions, judging, analyzing, finding the fault.

I’m working on this constantly, taming the voice, searching for the lessons. I do follow Rosemary’s prescription:

Ask yourself, ‘Is this thought, belief, rule true for me?’

And often it no longer holds true, if it ever did. I remain vigilant to detect the old voice, to listen instead for what is true for me now. I practice many methods of doing this from physical yoga and qigong, to emotional and mental writing and creating poetry, to spiritual meditation, ritual work and touching Higher Mind. These practices work well; the Monkey Mind subsides, the critical voice quiets, the list builder recedes to his corner.

—–

The best part of moving (and the worst) is handling all the books! Both Rosemary and I are book collectors (and we even read a lot of them!). Moving them is an incredible chore and we have committed to slimming our collection down to lessen the load. But during our recent move books have jumped out at me insisting that I read them. I accumulated quite a stack as I opened boxes and stuffed shelves.

One book rose to number 2 on the list and I just finished it: I am That by Swami Muktananda. The subtitle is: The Science of HAMSA from the VIJNANA BHAIRAVA.And this book, this time, just might change my life!

I don’t remember if I read this book before. We’ve had it for years; one of Rosemary’s earliest business cards as a newly ordained reverend was in it as a bookmark. Reading it now struck a significant chord in me and I may have stumbled on that Truth I’ve been seeking all these years.

And it is so simple! Hamsa is a mantra of the breath. As we inhale we make the sound of Ham and as we exhale we make the sound of Sa. The Sanskrit meaning ofHamsa is I am That. As I read this little book I was immediately drawn into the practice. Every breath I take is repeating this mantra. This mantra is reminding me of who I am. And as Rosemary points out in her post yesterday:

Let’s set the record straight right here, right now. You ARE good enough, smart enough, pretty enough. You ARE enough!

Now when my inner voice grows loud with lists and shoulds and judgments, I remember to breathe; remembering to breathe I hear Hamsa, hearing Hamsa I am called back to who I truly am. I am That!

Do you have good practices to quiet that voice in your head, that Monkey Mind?