Author Archives: Editor

Taking the Witness Stand: Cultivating Neutral Observer Mind

Taking the Witness Stand: Cultivating Neutral Observer Mind

By Swami Ramananda

Witnessing can be a spiritual practice that involves taking the position of a neutral observer to the whole range of our experience: physical sensations, perceptions, thoughts and emotions. It can be practiced as a meditation technique in which one systematically observes and dis-identifies with all that arises into awareness. Practiced with sustained and focused attention, stepping back from sensations and thinking again and again, thoughts gradually diminish and a healing silence is revealed.

Practicing regularly in meditation makes it easier to apply this same effort to daily life by having one part of the mind observing even as we engage in activities. The non-reactive awareness we cultivate gives rise to a tremendous benefit, changing our relationship to any activity, conversation or emotion. Where we might normally react compulsively lost in an emotion or a habitual pattern of thinking, we now are empowered to pause, reflect and respond mindfully.

For example, I may be able to stop myself from spinning the truth to protect my self-image if I feel compelled to hide a mistake I made. I might be able to catch myself obsessively thinking negative thoughts about someone and choose to focus instead on my part in a difficult interaction. No doubt, becoming this conscious of our thoughts is not easy, especially when we are stressed or emotionally triggered.

A practice of Hatha Yoga can be an effective way to develop this attentiveness by tuning into the raw sensations of the body. We can train ourselves to see and act with a non-judgmental response to the body’s capacity in a given moment. A mind that becomes focused on sincerely listening to what is can respond to events as they are, without looking through a colored lens or projecting onto things our hopes or fears.

In this way, we train ourselves to pause and discriminate between the anxious reactions that may be triggered by stressful situations, and the deeper, neutral voice of our Spiritual Self. This skill develops over time with steady effort, patience and without expectation for how and when results will come.

When we repeat such a practice and experience moments free of habitual thought patterns, we begin to see ourselves and our relationship to the world in a fresh way. We begin to feel our connection to each other and all of nature. A natural compassion and wisdom arise in our hearts. Over time, a regular practice of this kind will gradually restructure even the subconscious mind so that we are no longer compelled by old beliefs, and approach life with a sense of deep belonging, inner contentment and wonder.

Swami Ramananda is the president of the Integral Yoga Institute of San Francisco and a greatly respected master teacher in the Integral Yoga tradition, who has been practicing Yoga for more than 35 years. He offers practical methods for integrating the timeless teachings and practices of Yoga into daily life. He leads beginner, intermediate, and advanced-level Yoga Teacher Training programs in San Francisco and a variety of programs in many locations in the United States, Europe, and South America. Swami Ramananda trains Yoga teachers to carry Yoga into corporate, hospital, and medical settings and has taught mind/body wellness programs in many places. He is a founding board member of the Yoga Alliance, a national registry that supports and promotes Yoga teachers as professionals. 

Spiritual Hints for Daily Life — Karma Yoga

Spiritual Hints for Daily Life — Karma Yoga


By Swami Karunananda

Depending on our temperament, we can pursue the journey of awakening in various ways: Karma Yoga, Raja Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Hatha Yoga, Jnana Yoga, or Japa Yoga. Whatever approach we choose, we can transform our daily lives into spiritual practice, preparing us for the highest realization.

Karma Yoga is the path of action. It is suitable for people of an active temperament. The Karma Yogi leads a dedicated life as an instrument of the Divine. All actions are done as selfless service with no expectation of personal reward. Such a life purifies the heart and makes one fit to realize the Supreme Truth.

Hints for Daily Practice:

  1. The Bhagavad Gita states: Tyagat Shantir Anantaram, which Sri Swami Satchidananda translated as: “The dedicated every enjoy Supreme Peace. Therefore, live only to serve.”
  2. In all that you do, feel that you are an instrument in God’s hands, carrying out the Higher Will.
  3. Try to have every action be of benefit to someone and harm to no one; this is the yogic description of a perfect act.
  4. As you go about your daily activities, keep your mind focused on what you are doing. Do not daydream, dwell on the past, or plan for the future.
  5. Do your best and leave the rest. Apply yourself as best you can, and don’t get excited or anxious over the results.
  6. Observe the types of activities you enjoy doing and those you dislike; the types of activities you usually do well and those where you tend to make mistakes or get disturbed. Determine your strengths and weaknesses and see how you can do better.

 

Swami Karunananda is a senior disciple of Sri Swami Satchidananda. In 1975, she was ordained as a monk into the Holy Order of Sannyas. She has had over 40 years experience teaching all aspects of Yoga and specializes now in workshops, retreats, and teacher training programs that focus on the science of meditation, the philosophy of Yoga, personal transformation, and Yoga breathing techniques for better health and wellbeing. She developed, and for 25 years has taught, the Integral Yoga Teacher Training programs in Raja Yoga and in Meditation.

Swami Karunananda served as president of Satchidananda Ashram–Yogaville in Virginia and in California, as well as director of the Integral Yoga Institutes in San Francisco and in Santa Barbara. She currently serves on the Board of Trustees, and as the chairperson of the Spiritual Life Board at Satchidananda Ashram–Yogaville, Virginia.

Interested in fostering interfaith understanding and harmony, she is featured in the interfaith documentary entitled, With One Voice. She also compiled and edited the Lotus Prayer Book, a collection of prayers from various faith traditions, and Enlightening Tales as told by Sri Swami Satchidananda. She served as contributing editor for The Breath of Life: Integral Yoga Pranayama, as well as a senior writer for the Integral Yoga Magazine. In her book, Awakening: Aspiration to Realization Through Integral Yoga, she describes the spiritual path and provides guidance for the journey.

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Practice, Study or Devotion: Which Path to Take?

Practice, Study or Devotion: Which Path to Take?

By Beth Hinnen

In an another article, (Inside the Yoga Sutras: What Do You Believe) we explored the five different types of thought whirlwinds, vritti, that were categorized as either painful or painless. This examination of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras (sutras 5-11) in the first Pada (section) gave us a detailed picture of those whirlwinds so we can recognize which are helpful and which are not. The end of the article suggested dropping any story, or thought whirlwind, that was painful and instead, to focus on painless ones—those that bring capital “K” Knowledge, i.e., direct experience, clear inference, and authoritative testimony. Easier said than done, huh?

Just how do we let go of painful story whirlwinds? Well, if it doesn’t work to drop them like a hot potato, then the option exists to build that ability. And how do we do that? While any single sutra could be used for guidance, it appears there are groups of sutras, or paths, we could follow to help us. Indeed, it may be that Patanjali intended that when he put the sutras into Padas: 1 – On Contemplation, for the naturally thoughtful; 2 – On Practice, for the particularly active; 3 – On Accomplishments for an advanced student grounded in contemplation and practice; and 4 – On Liberation for the gifted student who needs just a quick reminder.

And what if one of those types doesn’t speak to you? For me, certain sutras from each Pada have been immensely instructional and as I linked several together, three paths (there may be others) emerged which I loosely label as Practice (not original and yet, highly versatile), Study, and Devotion. Once again, each of these paths can be appealing to certain students. For someone drawn to concrete action, following guidelines with an eye on specific landmarks of moving in the correct direction, the path of Practice might be attractive. For a student with an affinity for researching, reading what has helped others before, experimenting, watching and observing, the path of Study may be intriguing. And for a seeker with a deep sense of connection, heart-felt wonder at the workings of the world, who accepts that life is a magical mystery, painful stories may be dropped more easily on a path of Devotion. Of course, one path does not stand out above any other. Indeed, each Pada includes practice, study and devotion. In fact, all three are addressed in a single sutra! For now though, let’s explore each path separately.

While the second Pada is entitled “On Practice,” Patanjali actually introduces and defines practice in the first Pada with sutras 12 and 13, which immediately follow the types of mental modifications and state: “These mental modifications (right knowledge, misperception, conceptualization, memory and sleep) are restrained by practice and non-attachment,” and “Of these two, effort toward steadiness of mind is practice.” Patanjali wastes no time in offering the methodology of how to restrain the whirlwinds, and hence experience Yoga. He suggests practice—we will address non-attachment in a separate article—which is defined as the effort toward steadiness of mind.

What comes to mind with the word “effort?” Consciously doing something? Perhaps moving, taking a step in one direction, any direction? In the dictionary, effort is defined as the “exertion of physical or mental power” and derives from the French word for force. Effort then, implies action, taking action, making a movement, not trying to, or thinking about, taking action. Effort, for me then, means a change in position, movement from one place to another, whether it is physical OR mental. Think of Yoda from the original Star Wars trilogy, “No! Try not! Do or do not! There is no try!” And consider the infamous “puzzle” of asking someone to try and close their eyes. There is a moment of confusion when the person doesn’t quite understand the question. They close their eyes, and we say, “no, you closed your eyes! Just try instead.” We quickly see that indeed, as Yoda professes, there is no try. Either the eyes stay open or they close. So effort produces a movement, from one place to another, or from one experience to another.

Next, we encounter the word steadiness in the definition of practice. Steadiness implies free from change, firmly placed, stable, centered, equanimous. So steadiness of mind starts to sound a lot like restraining the modifications of the mind-stuff! Practice then, is the effort, the movement, the exertion toward experiencing Yoga. Which brings us back around to the word practice itself. Patanjali aside, what does the word practice imply? Repetition? Training? Learning through doing? Making mistakes and starting again? Perhaps having beginner’s mind? Yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes! Practice encompasses repeated performance, with the idea that there is no specific endpoint, for even if we do experience Yoga in one moment—it will be gone in the next if we don’t continue steadying the mind.

Which brings us to sutra 14 where Patanjali states: “Practice becomes firmly grounded when well-attended to for a long-time, without break, and in all earnestness.” Here are some clear signposts of a well established practice. First, a long-time. Is that a month, a year, a decade? How long does it take to play an instrument? Learn a sport? Become a doctor? While it can differ from person to person, practice is not established after an hour, a day or even a week. It will take time, a long time. And, according to the second signpost, without break. So practice requires regularity, some each day, according to a committed schedule. Taking breaks can diminish momentum and lead to lapses. A mantra here might be, to borrow from the old Nike commercial, “Just do it.” Yet Patanjali is not without compassion. He adds a third signpost, in all earnestness. This last is a loop that can initiate and support practice. In the beginning, we are excited about the prospect of what will happen. Then, we unexpectedly experience Yoga and the joy and delight in that keeps us practicing to have that experience again. Practice becomes both the action and the goal, the effort and the reward. We practice Yoga to experience Yoga, and in experiencing Yoga we are practicing it.

Now let’s turn to the path of Study. Perhaps the mere thought brings flashbacks of school tests and stomach aches. And yet, I project there are at least one or two things everyone has learned in a lifetime, either through classes or alone, that became fun and enjoyable from studying—even if it was learning to play an instrument, to paint, build or craft something, or to do any sport at all. Most likely, we began with a kind of instruction manual, whether verbal, from teachers or friends, or written. For the spiritual study path then, a quintessential student, might typically begin by exploring written scripture (aka authoritative testimony), like Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, the Bhagavad Gita, the Bible, or the Koran. Or perhaps even mystical poets like Rumi, Hafiz, the Christian saints, or the myriad of Zen stories of masters and students. Reading about what to focus on, or researching, discovering and familiarizing oneself with the findings of those who have come before, can be inspirational, and help prepare a student for possible encounters or pitfalls. Indeed, even studying the biographies of spiritual heroes can be inspiring, and lend support for a student to continue on the path when it feels boring, confusing, or like treading water.

Nature is another area of study, indeed, where many Yoga asanas come from. Animals, plants, trees, lakes, rivers, and oceans, the sky, the sun, the moon—they all convey information to us about how to live life. A tree can teach us to breath, dance with the wind, shed “dead” matter in the fall, and push in new directions in the spring. Waves show us how effortless it is to emerge from the ocean, be lifted up, crashed into the sand and be accepted, without hesitation, back into the ocean with nary a comment. From animals, we can learn how to live in harmony, each playing a role of hunter or prey, without (we can only guess) a sense of regret and dismay, wishing it could be the other way around. We observe and can learn to imitate the discipline of the stars and planets, the dedication of the Earth’s rotation around the Sun, the continual beginning and end of each season, each according to its time, showing up with enthusiasm and peacefully giving way to the next one.

And perhaps the largest, most rewarding area of study is ourselves. We study our patterns of behavior, our thought processes, our successes and our failures. And we learn what behaviors lead us toward experiencing Yoga, and which lead away. We learn to listen to our bodies, and to the quiet inner voice—intuition or Divine inspiration—and we learn to trust it (some might call this clear, unclouded, inference). We learn, as all scriptures point out in one way or another that we are not the ego, small “s” self nor its main characteristics of fear, hate and delusion. Rather, we learn and begin to experience that we are Divine, a beautiful swirl of joy, gratitude, kindness and unconditional love.

It is on this studious path we may experience digging many wells. At first we are introduced to, or maybe read about, several different spiritual philosophies. We attend presentations and dharma talks until we find one that resonates with us. For some, they will stay with the intellectual, studying path, called Jnana Yoga, where the mind is trained to use discrimination, a methodology to determine what is real (authentic, Divine, capital “S” Self) and what is not (everything else!). On this path, the student becomes a scientist, constantly observing, staying in a watchful state with no judgments or conclusions. A mantra here may be, “Is this so, true?” or “How do I know that?”

Which leads us to the last path, that of Devotion, perhaps the complete opposite of study. Here is the way of faith, unquestioned giving over of all actions, thoughts, feelings, intentions and reactions to a notion bigger than little “s” self, to the Universe, Divine Consciousness, That Which Animates, or God. Devotion is defined as “to promise solemnly, to vow, having a profound dedication or attachment to.” Profound dedication to, or faith in, any one of the above, is what underpins this path for me. A dedication to the Universe or God that overcomes all obstacles, all distractions. No matter what happens, it is either done in the name of what is good and holy, or done by what is good and holy and we are simply there to witness it. In Christianity, the mantra would be “Thy will, not my will,” or “Let go and let God” and another, one of my favorites, might be “Let go or be dragged.”

In Section 1, Patanjali offers sutras 27, 28, and 29 to experience devotion: “The expression of Ishvara is the mystic sound OM,” “To repeat it in a meditative way reveals its meaning,” and “From this practice the awareness turns inward and the distracting obstacles vanish.” We chant OM, doing japa or repetition, to focus attention on Ishvara, the Supreme Being, and the vritti drop away. The concept of devotion is also in the story of Sri Ramakrishna dunking in the water the devotee who wants to experience God. As the devotee comes up gasping for air, Sri Ramakrishna asks what he was thinking of while under water and the devotee looks at his teacher with wild eyes and shouts, “Breathing again!” Sri Ramakrishna replies, “when you want God with that same single-minded devotion, you will find God.”

And so it is, from the Bhagavad Gita to the New Testament, that the way of faith, a wholehearted devotion is reputedly the quickest, most direct road to enlightenment or God. No action or study is required, only a constant focus on devotion. Perhaps the most accessible experience for us to relate to is that of falling in love. Our whole life is subsumed in that love, and nothing deters us from being with that love. We trust and believe in it whole-heartedly, we have faith that it will “all work out.” That kind of super-focus is what devotion asks of us. Quickest yes, but not easiest. The vritti are constantly swirling to distract us, to pull us off this path, as with all paths.

Which brings us full circle, that is, to the first sutra in the second Pada that pulls all three paths together: “Accepting pain as help for purification, study, and surrender to the Supreme Being constitute Yoga in practice.” Patanjali offers that Yoga in practice includes study, surrender or what I also term devotion, and something we haven’t explored yet, accepting pain as help for purification. As it turns out, the more we study, the more we practice, the more devoted to our spiritual path we are, the more we find out how we stumble, act inelegantly, are distracted or lost in a myriad of whirlwind stories of misperception, conceptualization, or memory. Pain is that sharp realization of those stumbles, where we get to see a shortcoming we are ready to see. It acts as a wake up call that gives us a spiritual conundrum to examine and explore, to confront a limitation that with study and devotion can turn into an opportunity on the spiritual path. It is not suffering, or resignation, a place where we are stuck in the stories that keep a painful vritti alive. Rather, pain can help us build courage, strength, resilience and faith. We stumble, we hurt, we learn, and we keep practicing.

Patanjali continues in the second Pada with the Eight Limbs of Yoga, the jewel of the Yoga Sutras, which go into great details of different practices and areas of study, including the Yamas and Niyamas, the first two limbs (often referred to as the Yogic “ten commandments”), followed by the next six: Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi. Indeed, I would be hard pressed to sort out which limb is more about practice, study or devotion, especially since the last three are the first sutras of the third Pada—On Accomplishments, indicating, that perhaps there is grace involved, a bestowal of experience from all the study and practice that has come before, where meditation deepens, not because we intellectually understand it, but because we do it, day after day, year after year, no matter what our experience.

In the end, Practice, Study and Devotion interact and support each other: we can practice devotion, devote to studying, and study practice. Again, no one path is better than another, in fact, no one path exists without the other. So are there three paths? Or just one with three aspects? Perhaps we simply see, and work with, the aspect that is most relevant to us at that moment when, in truth, we are always practicing, studying, and surrendering in loving devotion to any path we are on.

 

Beth Hinnen began her Yoga teaching path with the Integral Yoga Teacher Training Program in 2001. Afterward, she took the Intermediate, Advanced, Raja, and Prenatal trainings. With over 1,000 hours in Yoga certifications (including Structural Yoga Therapy), Beth taught in the New York City area for over 10 years, both privately and in classes. In 2013 she moved back to her native state, Colorado, to open a common-denominational spiritual center named Samaya (“right timing” in Sanskrit) following Sri Swami Satchidananda’s teaching, “Truth is one, paths are many.” She currently also studies Buddhism.

 

The Koshas as Yoga Therapy

The Koshas as Yoga Therapy

Swami Vidyananda, senior Integral Yoga monasticBy Swami Vidyananda

In the world today, most people approach the study of Yoga through the asanas (physical postures). And for many schools, that’s where the study of Yoga ends. People want to be healthy and have a trim physique. One may ask, why do you want a trim physique?  In some way, you think it will make you happy. But the body is changing every moment, and even trim bodies pass away one day. So many people are looking for permanent happiness in the changing body (in the name of Yoga).

If we take a closer look at our day-to-day life, we can observe that our happiness is often disturbed by conditioned patterns of negative emotions. If I have a negative pattern of anxiety, my mind will find a hundred excuses a day to feel anxious about situations that may arise. If I have a pattern of depression, my mind will find a hundred excuses to feel that something or someone isn’t quite good enough. Having a trim body can simply mean you have an attractive vehicle in which to be miserable.

Yoga is really the study of happiness: what is it, where is it, and how can we be happy all the time, despite the changes in the world? The koshas are a way that the Yoga teachings understand the different layers of our being: the physical form, energy, emotions, intellect and inner peace. Each of these layers has Yoga practices that help us change our patterns to experience peace.

For me, study of the koshas has been a highly practical roadmap for how to use Yoga to find happiness. If I’m feeling anxious, it’s not that that easy to simply say, “I’m not going to be anxious!” and have those feelings go away like turning off a light switch. But the Yoga tradition teaches us to use a “back door approach” through the koshas to change stubborn patterns.

So when I feel anxious, Yoga can teach me to find that emotion where it lives in the body, because every negative emotion will be felt as tension somewhere in the physical form. When I find that tension, I can use an asana to help un-knot the tension where it lives in the body. That helps to release the negative emotion, and over time it can help release the pattern of emotion that causes anxiety to be my default attitude toward the world.

Another back-door approach is to see my anxiety and analyze it using the intellect. “How often have I felt anxious? How much has it helped? How many times have I wasted the day feeling anxious about an upcoming event only to have it turn out wonderful?” The intellect is subtler and more powerful than the emotions. So, Yoga teaches us to ask our emotions questions from a loving, supportive part of the intellect to un-knot the patterns of negative emotions that keep us from happiness.

The study of Yoga through the koshas is a wonderful way to do Yoga therapy for ourselves and others. If we understand how every layer can provide a doorway to help resolve negative patterns on the other layers, we can design a Yoga program that is uniquely tailored to our needs and our strengths. Over time, this can provide the building blocks to a happier life.

 

Swami Vidyananda began practicing Yoga in 1969. She has been teaching Integral Yoga and training Yoga Teachers since 1973. She became a Swami (monastic) in 1983. She has taught and trained Yoga teachers throughout the US and Canada, as well as Australia, Europe, and India. She presently lives at Satchidananda Ashram–Yogaville, Virginia, where she teaches all branches of Integral Yoga, including Hatha, Raja, and Jnana Yoga, meditation, and yogic lifestyle. She continues to travel widely, training Yoga teachers and specializing in workshops on Yoga and the emotions, stress management, and mid-life meaning.

Over the years, Swami Vidyananda has taught Yoga for many different populations, from college students to corporate managers, prisoners to pregnant women. She has taught Yoga in therapeutic programs such as the Smith Center Cancer Retreats and Yoga for persons with eating disorders. She trained as a hospital chaplain at the University of Virginia Hospital in Charlottesville. Swami Vidyananda founded the Integral Yoga Teachers Association, directed it for seven years, and served as Chairperson for the Integral Yoga Teacher’s Council.

Spiritual Hints for Daily Life —Bhakti Yoga

Spiritual Hints for Daily Life —Bhakti Yoga

By Swami Karunananda

Depending on our temperament, we can pursue the journey of awakening in various ways.

Bhakti Yoga is the path of love and devotion. Bhakti Yogis look upon everyone and everything as a manifestation of the divine and feel that in serving them, they are serving God. They accept all that happens in life as coming directly from God for their highest good. Ultimately, they experience oneness with the divine.

Hints for Daily Practice:

  1. Cultivate the consciousness that all of creation is God’s temple and do everything as if you were worshiping the divine. You can begin by selecting specific individuals to see in this light, (e.g., your partner, child, or colleague). Or you can set aside certain times of the day when you will try to maintain this attitude toward everyone.
  2. Have this attitude toward yourself, too. For example, when you shower, feel that you are washing a sacred temple. When you eat, feel that you are feeding God who is seated within you. That way, even caring for your body becomes an offering to the divine.
  3. Develop a specific relationship with the divine, such as child, parent, friend, servant, or beloved. Or just try to feel the Supreme Peace within you.
  4. Feel that God is with you always. Develop the awareness that God is present, watching all that you do. You can speak to God interiorly as you go about your daily activities.
  5. Cultivate faith, acceptance and surrender to the higher will. When challenges come, turn to prayer, trusting in divine mercy and grace.
  6. With a grateful heart, receive all the loving-kindness, guidance, and support that come to you, giving thanks for all the blessings in your life.

 

Swami Karunananda is a senior disciple of Sri Swami Satchidananda. In 1975, she was ordained as a monk into the Holy Order of Sannyas. She has had over 40 years experience teaching all aspects of Yoga and specializes now in workshops, retreats, and teacher training programs that focus on the science of meditation, the philosophy of Yoga, personal transformation, and Yoga breathing techniques for better health and wellbeing. She developed, and for 25 years has taught, the Integral Yoga Teacher Training programs in Raja Yoga and in Meditation.

Swami Karunananda served as president of Satchidananda Ashram–Yogaville in Virginia and in California, as well as director of the Integral Yoga Institutes in San Francisco and in Santa Barbara. She currently serves on the Board of Trustees, and as the chairperson of the Spiritual Life Board at Satchidananda Ashram–Yogaville, Virginia.

Interested in fostering interfaith understanding and harmony, she is featured in the interfaith documentary entitled, With One Voice. She also compiled and edited the Lotus Prayer Book, a collection of prayers from various faith traditions, and Enlightening Tales as told by Sri Swami Satchidananda. She served as contributing editor for The Breath of Life: Integral Yoga Pranayama, as well as a senior writer for the Integral Yoga Magazine. In her book, Awakening: Aspiration to Realization Through Integral Yoga, she describes the spiritual path and provides guidance for the journey.

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Spiritual Awakening: Hints for Daily Life — Jnana Yoga

Spiritual Awakening: Hints for Daily Life — Jnana Yoga

By Swami Karunananda
Depending on our temperament, we can pursue the journey of awakening in various ways. If we wish to develop the will and gain mastery over the mind, we can take a Raja Yoga approach. If we tend to be analytical and intellectual, there is the path of Jnana Yoga. If we are more devotional by nature, we can take a Bhakti Yoga approach. If we have an active temperament, there is Karma Yoga. Whatever approach we choose, we can transform our daily lives into spiritual practice, preparing us for the highest realization.
Jnana Yoga is the path of wisdom. It is suitable for people of an intellectual nature. Jnana Yogis see all of creation as the play of Maya, or illusion. They seek to experience that which is permanent or unchanging midst all the changes in life. They develop keen discrimination and ultimately experience the Supreme Witness within.
Hints for Daily Practice:
  1. Cultivate the attitude of the witness at all times. Identify with the level of the mind that is aware of all that is happening, rather than the part that is undergoing all the changes. This will help you to maintain your peace in all situations.
  2. Try designating certain times of the day, (e.g., before meals or answering a phone call), when you pause for a moment and just observe the mind.
  3. As a meditation practice, witness thoughts as they come and go.
  4. If the mind gets disturbed, question the thoughts. Ask, “Where did these thoughts come from? How did they come? Who is disturbed? How do I know this? Who am I then?” A little analysis will reveal that anything you can observe 
is not you. This technique is called Self-inquiry. It helps you to transcend the changing mind and attunes you to the eternal Witness within.
  5. Remind yourself that everything you see has a beginning, middle and end, and therefore, is not eternal or “real.” This is the “neti, neti” approach, meaning “not this, not this.” By negating what is not real, you ultimately arrive at what is real, or always existent and true.
  6. To help cultivate greater awareness, practice introspection before retiring at night. Replay the tape of the day’s events, noting the actions and reactions of the body and min
     

     

     

    Swami Karunananda is a senior disciple of Sri Swami Satchidananda. In 1975, she was ordained as a monk into the Holy Order of Sannyas. She has had over 40 years experience teaching all aspects of Yoga and specializes now in workshops, retreats, and teacher training programs that focus on the science of meditation, the philosophy of Yoga, personal transformation, and Yoga breathing techniques for better health and wellbeing. She developed, and for 25 years has taught, the Integral Yoga Teacher Training programs in Raja Yoga and in Meditation.

    Swami Karunananda served as president of Satchidananda Ashram–Yogaville in Virginia and in California, as well as director of the Integral Yoga Institutes in San Francisco and in Santa Barbara. She currently serves on the Board of Trustees, and as the chairperson of the Spiritual Life Board at Satchidananda Ashram–Yogaville, VA.

    Interested in fostering interfaith understanding and harmony, she is featured in the interfaith documentary entitled, With One Voice. She also compiled and edited the Lotus Prayer Book, a collection of prayers from various faith traditions, and Enlightening Tales as told by Sri Swami Satchidananda. She served as contributing editor for The Breath of Life: Integral Yoga Pranayama, as well as a senior writer for the Integral Yoga Magazine. In her book, Awakening: Aspiration to Realization Through Integral Yoga, she describes the spiritual path and provides guidance for the journey.

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