Tratak: Concentrate to Transcend

Our mind is always occupied with the incessant flow of thoughts. It is always in a state of disturbance, and has a habitual tendency for distraction. This leaves us feeling so much fragmented that we find ourselves scattered in all directions. It is no exaggeration then, to say that our mind cannot stay still for longer than a few moments, which eventually results in lack of concentration and loss of memory. We are unable to grasp and focus in the present moment.

Now, how do we enhance our power of concentration and strengthen our memory? A unique meditation technique called Tratak is an answer to this. It has many benefits.

Tratak not only brings an end to the mind’s distractions but also enhances the ability to concentrate. It increases the power of memory and brings the mind in a state of awareness, attention and focus.

Tratak is an ideal meditation technique for people of all age groups, especially for students who need to concentrate on studies. Older people who often tend to forget every now and then can greatly benefit from this technique.

As a result of its continuous practice, you will witness an immense rise in your confidence level, stability in your thoughts, and an ability to focus on whatever task you undertake.

Method
Light a candle (or diya) in your meditation room or wherever you are comfortable, three to four feet in front of you. Sit in front of it. Remember, the flame should be at the level of your eyes so that you can see straight at it without being uncomfortable.

Posture
This is the most essential part of any meditation technique. Keep your spine erect so that inner energy can flow easily through the subtle channels of the body and render tranquility to the restless mind.
Sit with your legs crossed or in Padmasana. Sit gracefully, with poise.

Determination
You can derive maximum benefit from this meditation technique only when you are determined to practice it. Keep your gaze fixed at the flame without being distracted with the outer disturbances or thoughts.
Never give up! And do not move your body while you meditate.

Stage 1
This powerful technique of meditation is based on fixing one’s gaze at the flame of a candle or diya. The flame should burn steadily and it will do so only when we calm the air around it.

Begin with slow and deep breathing. As you inhale, let the stomach expand, and breathe out with complete contraction. While you breathe in this manner, keep a steady gaze at the flame.

Keep your eyes focused. Gaze at the flame, not the wick or the candle or the diya; just the flame. Let your vision be at the flame. If thoughts arise, simply ignore them; do not struggle to remove them. It is important to be wakeful and vigilant.

Stage 2
Imagine the flame is entering your body through your eyes and illuminating your inner being. At this stage, it is good to let the eyes close with ease. Now, try to imagine the same flame with closed eyes as you were seeing it with open eyes. If you are able to practice tratak without blinking your eye, it will be easy for you to see the flame with closed eyes.

If you are not yet able to experience the spreading illumination of the flame, open your eyes again, do tratak (fix your gaze at the burning flame), and then shut them. Gradually you will find that your gaze has grown more peaceful and tranquil.

Once you are established within, watch yourself separate from this body, and be distant from your mind. This distance will eliminate the clutter from the mind and make it silent, peaceful, and tranquil.

Tratak is a guided meditation technique which can help you improve your concentration, memory and intelligence. Studies have shown that Tratak meditation can significantly benefit in the following ways:

  • Increases concentration, memory, and mental power.
  • Develops the confidence, intelligence, and patience.
  • Increases work efficiency.
  • Improves motivational power and foresight.
  • Strengthens the will power and decision making ability.
  • Helps in getting rid of many mental, emotional, and physical ailments and diseases.
  • Reduces stress and tension.
  • Leads to Healthy and Balanced living.

It is only when we learn to meditate that we learn to live life meaningfully. Meditation is an experience in itself which enhances the quality of life and helps one discover the exuberant inner bliss.

With mounting pressures and endless pursuit to achieve lofty ambitions, we go on running tirelessly. Amidst all this chaos, take a deep breath and explore the benefits of Tratak meditation, an ideal meditation technique for people of all age groups.

It is highly recommended for students and working professionals for greater efficiency.

Tratak with Sublime Music

In order to facilitate the seeker, the meditation technique, Tratak -A Divine Gaze is available in the form of Audio CD and Audio Cassette. Designed and developed by Anandmurti Gurumaa, this technique is highly apt for students, professionals, and anyone with short memory.

When to practice?

This technique is best done during the early hours of the morning, or in the night when it is natural dark. The idea is to let the flame of candle/diya eliminate the darkness of ignorance which is rooted deep in the mind. If you are doing it during daytime then practice it in a dark room.

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Vulnerability is Good : Accepting Vulnerability is Better

Recently, I see a lot of posts about vulnerability, mostly accepting it as a positive human construct. It is encouraging to feel this wave of perception that has risen and is relentlessly touching thousands of kindred souls.

Of course, my friends and fellow travelers! Vulnerability is an honest human construct. Fear, doubt, frustration, hurt, failure, depression, angst, anxiety, insecurity all are sensory responses to varied external stimuli.

I find movies a good place to quote or to draw parallels from. The iconic martial artists, actor and stunt man, Jackie Chan brought something fresh and new to the erstwhile martial art movies. His movies introduce vulnerability with impeccable comic timing. He made the  people, the viewers relate to the troubles of the protagonist.  The heroes also get hurt and why not, they are human beings, made up of flesh and bones. They are susceptible to emotions, circumstances, to the people in their lives. Of course a hero wins at last, but it is usually after he learns from his mistakes and learns to adapt.

We are conditioned, programmed to believe that vulnerability is a sign of weakness. A valid point, apparently. But what is weakness? Have we analyzed weakness enough to understand it. Or have we made a rapid connection to the word, and formed a thesaurus of words like bad, lack of strength, inability, inadequacy, imperfection and so on? What if we look closer, spend a little time with vulnerability? We begin to realize, hey, it is more a tendency, just like our tendency to laugh at jokes, or the tendency to feel bad. We are sentient beings, we are meant too feel. If we were not vulnerable, why would we feel hurt?

Vulnerability is the nature of the garb, this human body. Human beings are susceptible to change, vulnerable to the world around them. What is vulnerability, if not heightened sensitivity and awareness. It is this awareness that makes us such a wonderful species. Vulnerability to thought, emotions, stimuli, environment and practically everything perceivable and tangible. Accepting vulnerability brings us closer to our awareness. What do we find when we are past vulnerability, a rewarding revelation, that we are still here! We continue to be, so can this be a weakness then? How can anything be a weakness, isn’t it just strength in disguise.

Accepting vulnerability takes us to  something indomitable, invulnerable and imperishable viz. the human spirit.

Here are some choice posts that I enjoyed for their honesty

http://victorianeuronotes.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/vulnerability-the-birthplace-of-creativity-connection-and-authenticity/

http://tonningsen.wordpress.com/2013/10/22/reflections-on-self-belief/

http://atruthseekerspeaks.wordpress.com/2013/09/06/a-case-of-the-tomorrows-learning-to-live-in-the-now/

5 Reasons why Running is as good as Meditation

I consider, running to be as powerful as meditation, I would say it is the best form of active Zen meditation.

1. All Running needs is our body and some determination

 All that we need for running, is a completely operational body (all limbs intact) and some initial determination to counter any inertia or laziness. A treadmill is not necessary, nor is a professional running track.

Although running outdoors has its own advantages, we can even run on one spot, inside our house, without having to wear any running shoes or gear.

2. Running improves circulation, improves health and improves mental health

Running utilizes 16 different muscles of the body, classified under 3 types of muscles (primary, supporting and auxiliary). It is a powerful exercise to boost blood circulation to the body and to the brain. The Cerebral Blood Flow constitutes 15% of the blood flow to the entire body.

Our blood carries all the nutrition in an assimilable to each cell of our body. Our skin, organs, muscles, cartilages, bones, tissues, membranes, nerves, and tendons, are made up of cells. When these cells are nourished, our body is nourished. Toxins and free-radicals are duly flushed out. The body is healthy. A healthy body is free from distractions. The mind within the healthy body is less distracted and more focused. A mind focused on a singular objective is a mind in meditation.

3. When Running the focus automatically shifts on breathing

It is noticed that when we run regularly, our breathing becomes regulated and deeper, our concentration shifts towards breathing and fills the lungs to their designated capacity. In spiritual practices, regulation of breath is a precondition to further advancement. Is it not meditation then, to have the mind and body together watching the inflow and outflow of breath? Inhaling through the nose twice and exhaling through the mouth twice in the same like letting out steam, helps establish a rhythmic pattern while running. This pattern helps build repetition and establish a mantra like effect on the mind.

4. Running exercises both the left and right brain

The human brain is divided into two distinct cerebral hemispheres. Due to contralateral (criss-cross) wiring of nerves, the right hemisphere of the brain, controls the muscles in the left side of our body and the left hemisphere of the brain controls the muscles in the right side of our body. Running is among a few other exercises which coordinate both the right and left major limbs and muscles of the body, thus employing both hemispheres equally, for a prolonged duration. This is just the physiological advantage. The esoteric advantage is that, the Ida and Pingala naadis (energy meridians), start clearing and get equal attention, thus facilitating a faster spiritual growth.

5. Running elevates Serotonin and Dopamine activities in the brain

Serotonin, also known as 5-hydroxytryptamine is a hormone in the pineal gland, the digestive tract, the central nervous system, and blood platelets. A hormone is a substance our body produces that regulates and controls the activity of certain cells or organs.

Dopamine in the brain,  functions as a neurotransmitter—a chemical released by nerve cells to send signals to other nerve cells. The brain includes several distinct dopamine systems, one of which plays a major role in reward-motivated behavior.

Some sources say that prince Gautama, after he renounced all worldly possessions, he went on to meditate beneath a tree. For his daily meal he had a bowl of freshly condensed milk and rice for seven consecutive days. On the seventh day the consumption of pure milk induced high levels of serotonin and dopamine in his brain. This catapulted him instantly in a very deep state of trance, following which he attained enlightenment, becoming the Buddha!

Unfortunately, we live in a world where we can neither vouch for the purity of the milk nor the rice. We do not often practice strict penances, limiting our meals to rice and milk only.

Irrespective of whether we want our lives to model the Buddha’s or not, when we run, we elevate the serotonin and dopamine levels in our brain, promoting healthier brain and body activity. In the esoteric sense, the brain of a person in a meditative trance is shown to have maintained optimal levels of serotonin and dopamine.

There are other exercises that are equally good, but they require additional accessories (skipping), or need a certain space and facility (swimming), or place a heavy premium on body nutrients and hormones (sex).

How much should we run?

It is always safe to exercise within our physical capacities. Studies reveal that running for 30-40 minutes at a pace of 4-5 kmph, 3-4 times a day promotes optimal health.

Why run and not walk?

A walk if brisk or fast is permissive, however, running is a more engaging for the mind and body, because of the kines-thesis and dynamism involved.

The Sound of One Hand Clapping

The Zen koan of the sound of one hand clap, by Hakuin Ekaku is very simple to understand. In fact it is so integral to our existence that it has been there all along, but we have never bothered to really listen.

Ofcourse it is something to be experienced, and one cannot be articulate enough to describe it in its entirety, and all that. Let us assume that we all know how to clap and we all more or less can relate to the sound of two hands clapping.

Let us come back to it later. Now, haven’t we all been deeply involved in listening to a song that we like.So deeply involved that we could not possibly think of the world, not even ourselves?

Now what if I got as deeply engrossed as that, say, when I am listening to the sound of my teeth chewing food, or water falling on my head during a bath, or my fingers touching the keyboard while I type this post, or the listening to the sound of my breath leave my nostrils. What if I was deeply engrossed every time I sense using my eyes, hands, ears, mouth and nose, so much so that I suddenly realize, that these are not really five different senses, its just one sense. A deeper faculty of observation that employs the bodies organs to feel or sense.

What if I suddenly realize, that it is my nature to observe. Further, when I am deeply engrossed in the observation there is nothing else but the observation. When I am listening to the music, there is only the music. There is no me. I am also the music. The listener and the listened are one. The observer and the observed are one. There are no two hands, there is just one hand.

In effect, when the hands are folded and palms touch each other, without making a sound, it is also a prayer. The highest form of prayer is absolute silence. Silence of thoughts.

 

Early winter tropical nights …

To concieve, to nurture till it blossoms and then shed it off”
The road carved a long path amidst the thick enclave of trees. The trees on either side of the road, formed an almost impenetrable canopy over it. This natural tunnel so formed arched around a lake and cuddled the foot of a hill and disappeared behind it.
It was a tropical full moon winter night. My favorite time of the year. The moon had bathed the town with radiant silver. I had decided to take a stroll down the road that night. I was greeted by a soothing cool breeze and very soon my senses had lost themselves in natures gospel.
I was breathing long and deep as though to sip on nature’s treat. I walked for a while and then sat down on a cemented bench. SPLASH!! something splashed into the erstwhile placid lake. I turned around to see Incognito standing behind me. “Shattered your dream did I?” he questioned rhetorically. “Ok… why was that so necessary O wise one” I mocked, still a bit shaken from the sudden awakening. He looked at me and smiled, “How’s it going?” It took me a while to switch context. “It’s like throwing a stone into the lake, except that this lake does not have any water” I complained, pointing into my head.
“Let it go” said he.
“Let it go!!?” I exclaimed.
“Yes, let it go” he added calmly. I looked at him frustrated and clueless. “You are not saying that I put an end to it, just like that … are you ??” I was anxious.
“Let go of the afterthoughts. Take a moment to look at yourself. Why are you thinking so much? I can almost hear you think”
“That is what I am trying to do but I can’t !! I can’t stop thinking of ways I could be appreciated, make everyone feel that I am there to help!!” i cried. “All I wish is someone could just tell me for once that …I mean … you know what I mean!” . Incognito had crossed his hands behind his back and walked towards the lake. His gaze as I had invariably observed, seemed to look through things and fix at infinity.
“Be like trees in autumn. They shed the very leaves that they have grown after painstaking nourishment and nurturing by the rains. For is it really the tree that nurtures the leaves, or does it just bear them?” 

Of First Awes and Second Dismays …

“To look at stray thoughts that arise as I for one, walk the walk of life. The immense span of infinite things happening as a part of the process. I call it ‘the’ process with a certain familiarity, the familiarity which arises from my very existence within it. Interesting enough to be a part of it and yet cherish a sense of identity, to marvel at this beauty, as if away from it.
At some point in life, we do try and ask ‘what is life?’. A simple question singularly responsible for having created some great thinkers in the history of mankind. Greater still, were their ideologies… ideologies which spawned innumerous schools of thought. Captured with time in enormous volumes of literary works.Seems like a humongous effort spanning over years. Well, it actually is not that a big deal. Life is to be lived, to live is to do whatever you have done or can and will do. Trust yourself to be doing it, just for the heck of doing it.Not to profess anything enigmatic, neither to preach in oracular obscurities, nor to challenge the ideas that have manifested themselves into beliefs. The Incognito talks when questioned and talks simple.Here are some excerpts from discussions with I (Incognito)Q: How can life be just about doing? There are so many other things like thought, speech and so on , which precede ‘doing’ or follow it?
I: Well… your mind (for thought), your mouth (for speech) are just for pure sensory pleasures.
Doing has to be understood in a wider sense than that. Doing encompasses the above. It is simple like the answer to the question “Hey what are you doing ?” you say “Reading”

Q: The mind is more than a pleasure generating device …
I: Mm, yes, the mind does more than that. It can be used for:

  1. mental rumination: -> chew the cud (past, present or future happenings) over and over again
  2. mental escapism:-> run from thoughts of things labeled (social taboos, bad, indecent) if they still buzz around, try and swat them.
Q: You seem to use certain words which are strong (aggressive?)
I: I don’t seem to use, I use those words. One should be articulate, saves time and text. :-)Q: The mind can be used for thinking about doing something good
I: Yes, just don’t waste too much time thinking about it -> To do it… just do it. With utmost comfort.Q: Then it is just fine to commit a murder … provided I be very comfortable doing it?
I: Comfort I know of and you speak of, are two very different things. Would you be really comfortable murdering someone ? If you were comfortable, would you really want to murder someone? smilesQ: So what is it, what is the comfort?
I: I have used a label comfort. Comfort actually doesnt mean anything. Comfort does not mean pleasure, gratification or something that suits you. This is a native more basic comfort. Comfort to be what you really are. There is no analysis at that point.Q: Is there no analysis, or no scope or no need for analysis?
I: It is more a thing to be, I am the knowledge, does knowledge question itself? It is always busy being itself. So you can say, that there is no scope for analysis.