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Spiritual Practices for Daily Living
By Teja Shankara
Author of the memoir The Rita Lila: A Western Yogini’s Journey to Bliss
by Teja’s pen name Rita Ann Shankara
Radiance Rising: Spiritual Practices for Daily Living
Copyright © 2010 by Teja Shankara. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the author. Cover design by Gaelyn Larrick, www.book-covers-that-sell.com Interior design by Bram Larrick, www.book-covers-that-sell.com Published by Bliss Press. Visit me on the web at www.yogini-bliss.com Printed by McNaughton & Gunn, Inc.
. Thank You for the unending. i write. thereby opening to the radiance of their hearts. and for all beings who are willing to watch their thoughts. In loving memory of and with deep gratitude for my dearest teacher Basil. And for my beloved Gurus. i practice. who showed me the pathways to Bliss. ever-increasing Love i feel for You. Amma and Neem Karoli Baba: by Your Grace i breathe..For my little sister L.
Contents Introduction By Raja Yogini Tejaswini ix Raja Yoga 15 Cultivating the Witness 16 Working Skillfully with Vasanas 20 Understanding the Spiritual Process of Expanding and Contracting 26 Meditation 29 What is Meditation and How is It Good for Us? 29 The Basics of a Sitting Meditation Practice 32 Posture 32 The Breath 33 The Mind 34 The Body and the Emotions 36 Setting Up a Place and Time to Practice 38 Meditation Techniques Beyond Basic Sitting 41 Helpful Attitudes for Meditation and for Daily Life 43 Meditation Experiences 46 Jñana Yoga 51 The Spiritual Principles: Studying and Applying 52 Discrimination 56 .
Radiance Rising Gurukulas 57 Suggested Reading List 58 Kundalini Yoga 67 Tuning in to the Chakras 68 Discerning the Energies of the Subtle Body 71 Karma Yoga 75 Ammachi 75 Gandhi-ji 78 Bhakti Yoga 83 Hindu Gods and Goddesses 84 Chanting 85 Kirtan 87 Bowing 89 Understanding and Nourishing the Heart’s Longing 91 Acceptance 92 Puriﬁcation 94 Additional Practices for Transformation 99 Fire Circles 99 Costumes 101 Afﬁrmations While Walking 103 Honoring Our Ancestors 104 Laughter 105 .
Contents Conclusion 107 Glossary 113 Acknowledgments 131 About the Author 133 .
The word ‘yoga’ means “union” – Union with God. with the essence of one’s Heart. What is a raja yogini? A ‘yogi’ is a male practitioner of yoga. So a yogini is a woman who performs spiritual practices designed to take one to that Union. The Raja Yoga Path is ix . and when I really thought about what it means. and a ‘yogini’ is a female practitioner of yoga. I embarked on the spiritual journey of a raja yogini. My dear teacher Basil ﬁrst alerted me to that sutra.Introduction A n ancient Indian sutra states: The mind becomes that which it dwells upon. with one’s deepest Self. with the Truth of our Being. in an effort to reduce the suffering caused by unhealthy thought patterns. I could see how true it has been in my life. So.
the better I handle life with ease and grace. I began to see that anyone on any spiritual path could learn the yogic practices and apply them to their lives. and I am ﬁnding that the more I immerse myself in sadhana (spiritual practice). Kundalini Yoga. When I refer to my Gurus or to the Divine. the path of knowledge.Radiance Rising the Yoga of Meditation. With that in mind. the path of working with the energies in the chakras and subtle body. and Bhakti Yoga. the path of selﬂess service. As I delved deeper into understanding the Yoga Path. I do not intend to push my path on anyone. x . Karma Yoga. I value all paths that lead people to more Love. I do spiritual practices from all of those yoga paths. In this book I describe the spiritual practices that I do in my daily life that are helping me ﬁnd more balance and harmony. and it includes aspects of four other yoga paths: Jñana Yoga. I offer this book of spiritual practices. the path of devotion. My intention is to provide an inspirational book that in plain language describes basic spiritual practices that anyone – of any religion – can incorporate into their spiritual journey.
” gave me the name Tejaswini. because I see that the more my heart softens into that Love. He advised me to be rigorous with how I held myself. ﬁrst we have to change ourselves and be the change that we want to see in the world. My teacher Basil once told me that he couldn’t cut me much slack because he could see that I had great potential. the more I share that Love with others. November 2008.Introduction When I really stop and think about why I am doing all of these spiritual practices. The whole point of spirituality is to learn how to handle life with more ease. it spontaneously shines out. xi . As Gandhi-ji said. which means “full of effulgence. I endeavor to keep my attention on merging with the highest Light. On Thanksgiving Day. who is popularly known as the “hugging saint. which then naturally makes us act more loving and kind with others. Difﬁcult though it is. I realize that my goal is to merge more and more with the Divine Love that lives deep inside all of our hearts. As we change ourselves and our own inner radiance rises. my Guru Ammachi. beneﬁting everything and everyone around us.
So. the more I experience an inner radiance rising. and bright. I fully experience the joys and sorrows of life. my goal or my intention is to become Love and Light.” With Basil’s high expectations (and my own). radiant. so that I may radiate that brightness out in service of all. and with Amma’s vision of me as full of light. I offer this book of spiritual practices with a prayer that more beings will begin to experience their own inner radiance rising. and I don’t see that as something that suddenly happens ﬁfty years from now. Raja Yogini Tejaswini April 2009 xii .Radiance Rising full of light. we incrementally experience more bliss and harmony in our lives. I see that each of us gradually becomes more loving. I continue to perform my daily spiritual practices with the intention to become Love and Light. On my journey as a raja yogini. Rather. and the more I practice witnessing all of myself. As we practice watching our thoughts and softening our hearts.
Raja Yoga The Path of Meditation .
as well as explain the basics of a sitting meditation practice. but ﬁrst I will describe three other very important practices: cultivating the Witness. Later in this section I will lay out some deﬁnitions and beneﬁts of meditation. 15 R . What is meditation? My dear friend Baron deﬁnes it as the practice of “sitting in your being. working skillfully with vasanas (patterns or tendencies).Raja Yoga aja Yoga is the yoga of meditation. and understanding the spiritual process of expanding and contracting. rather than your thinking.” Of course meditation doesn’t only occur when we are sitting – there are many ways to be in a meditative state.
we become the one who observes the problems 16 . actions. The practice is simply watching all of ourselves without judgment – just watching ourselves. What is cultivating the Witness? It is watching ourselves – watching our thoughts.Radiance Rising Cultivating the Witness For me. I practice cultivating the Witness during my morning and evening sitting meditations. It is a practice in learning to love ourselves unconditionally. the most important practice – the one that has helped me most in softening my heart – is cultivating the Witness. and bodily sensations. emotions. the more bliss we begin to feel. Rather than believing that we are our problems. The more we place our attention on the Witness and identify ourselves with the Witness. words. and I also practice it during my daily life. patterns. while allowing and accepting everything as it is in each moment. because it is such a relief to be separate from the dramas of our lives.
So what is the “Witness” Consciousness? The Witness is that part of ourselves that simply watches and observes everything we are and everything we think. Step by step we gradually disentangle ourselves from the stories happening through us. can tune in to that Witness part of themselves.Raja Yoga that are passing through us. and the more we tune in to that objective Witness. say. The Witness helps us to see all that we are not – all of our false coverings – so that then we can see who we really are… … And we are all really just pure love energy. and minerals) and to the Divine… because we are 17 . and do. but we are all so connected: to each other. as we begin to experience that there is Something underneath our stories. That “Something” is the Witness Mind or the Witness Energy or Consciousness. feel. Anyone. plants. on any path. We are all one continuous web of energy and vibration. We only think that we are separate because we are in separate bodies. the more we experience that the Witness is actually the pure love energy that we really are. to the earth (and its creatures.
which is the same joy and bliss that each of us really is. it is so difﬁcult to keep our attention on things that expand us – on things that ﬁll our hearts with love. Rather. but the rewards are well worth the efforts.Radiance Rising one unbroken web of pure love energy. So the practice of cultivating the Witness is not a practice in psychological processing or analyzing. In our busy daily lives. the more I get to know the joy and bliss of who I really am. and this is not always easy. the practice of cultivating the Witness is resting in watching all that we 18 . Cultivating the Witness is a practice that helps us keep our attention on the Love that is ﬂowing through all of our hearts in every moment. the more my heart opens. In fact. The more I go behind and underneath the story of who I thought I was. and the more I allow my patterns to unfold. it is a lot of work. The Witness Energy simply witnesses – it doesn’t judge or blame or shame. The practice of cultivating the Witness has helped me to really see myself and all my patterns more clearly.
Over time. The Witness Energy is always watching. accepting. The Witness Energy doesn’t label or judge. and allowing all that we are. the Witness Energy watches all.Raja Yoga are – watching. this practice of cultivating the Witness begins to have an equalizing effect on all of the many parts of ourselves and on our life stories. We are simply witnessing ourselves exactly as we are in each moment. but when we do place our attention on it. then our energies feed it and it grows stronger and stronger. This is the meaning of “cultivating” the Witness. whether we tune in to it or not. As the ancient Indian sutra states. 19 . Just as the sun shines equally on all. Even though our life experiences and relationships don’t feel equal – some bring much pain while others bring much joy – they are actually all equal in the eyes of the Witness Energy. So when we place our mind’s attention on our problems. the mind becomes that which it dwells upon. We are not trying to force ourselves to change and we are not trying to improve ourselves. and it doesn’t pick and choose what to watch – it watches everything.
Radiance Rising we become our problems. As our Witness Energy grows stronger. Working Skillfully with Vasanas (Patterns or Tendencies) When we practice witnessing ourselves in each moment. and life becomes more enjoyable. The practice of cultivating the Witness is a gradual journey into the heart. when we place our mind’s attention on the Witness Energy that is essentially the pure love energy ﬂowing continuously through all of us. Conversely. we face life’s ups and downs with more ease. then we gradually become that pure love energy. We begin to experience this universe as a joyful playground rather than a serious court of justice. 20 . “Gradually” is the key word here. it is very helpful if we understand what it is that we are witnessing. The great part about this practice is the Witness Energy is already inside of each of us just waiting for us to tune in to it and cultivate it.
A knot that has taken a long time to be intricately wound up cannot instantly unwind just because we see it. Many of these patterns took a long time to wind themselves up into tight knots in our beings. we block ourselves even more from releasing our patterns. 21 . Again. this is a gradual process. but ironically. and so on. once we feel frustrated.” Vasanas are strong magnetic-like tendencies that show up as patterns that do not want to let go. We each have many kinds of patterns encoded in our beings: patterns of behavior. Once we witness these patterns objectively. This frustration is natural and understandable. of speech.Raja Yoga So many of our thoughts and emotions arise out of what the yoga path calls “vasanas. we can then allow them to unwind. So the task before us is not only seeing and understanding our patterns. with unconditional love and acceptance. So many of us get frustrated and overwhelmed when we can’t seem to break our patterns even once we see them. of personality. of thought. but learning how to work skillfully with them.
rather than being whole within myself. What that means is I have had a strong tendency to look for fulﬁllment in a being outside of myself. my teacher Basil repeatedly explained the pattern to me. we can be more gentle and patient with ourselves. but they have a magnetic quality that can be quite gripping. we will work with it differently as time passes. Next we need to continually assess what we need to do to address our patterns. At ﬁrst I couldn’t even see the pattern. changing process. since I was so wound up in it. For example. Eventually I began to see the pattern myself. Over several years. We can even forgive ourselves. I say “continually” because this is an ongoing.Radiance Rising so that we can gradually allow them to release. With that in mind. With each pattern that we witness. I did not understand how big the knot was. so then I started to try to release it. First we need to understand that many of our patterns are not only wound up in tight knots. I have worked for years to break through an addictive love pattern. so I quickly got frustrated with my inability to stop 22 .
I began to understand the pattern better. I also worked skillfully with the pattern in many other 23 . So as I witnessed the addictive love pattern and consciously directed my attention toward the Love within my heart. but it is actually quite accurate. We are each longing for that everlasting Love that is good for us. Gradually. I also practiced directing my attention to the Love within my heart. At times it felt like training a toddler to focus on vegetables rather than cookies! That analogy of vegetables and cookies may sound funny.Raja Yoga looking for love in all the wrong places. and turning my attention toward the Love inside my heart. We don’t do that because we are bad people – we do that because we are wound up in patterns that are difﬁcult to break free from. Thousands of times (literally!) I practiced turning my attention away from the man who I was fantasizing about. as I watched the addictive love pattern play through me again and again. As I practiced witnessing the pattern. but instead we run around seeking all kinds of temporary pleasures that aren’t good for us.
soaking my feet in hot salt water. Many times I sobbed my way through deep. I gradually began to see that it actually was beginning to unravel. weeping. loud cries. gardening. playing. I also inspired myself creatively through healing activities such as: chanting (singing). good nutrition. laughing. I found it helpful to nourish myself on all levels. Sometimes I wrote my observations in a journal. and adequate sleep were essential. and connecting with friends and family. Other times I talked with friends and counselors. Thus. cooking. Often I prayed to be released of the pattern. Other times I wisely took breaks from the pattern to gain fresh perspectives and healing energies. to 24 . stretching. I shifted from “working” with the pattern. long. dancing. Over time. As with any deep inner healing work.Radiance Rising ways. At times I needed to go fully into the pattern and witness its devastating effects. when working with the addictive love pattern. baking. taking hot baths. regular exercise. Once I grasped the Grace at work in unwinding the knots. as I worked skillfully with this pattern.
While I was caught up in it. The difference now is that rather than still being a long magnetic rope that has me all tied up in knots. with the intention to allow them to completely dissolve at the right time. In total amazement. knowing that this too shall shift. As our patterns shift. one of the most joy-ﬁlled results is the disappearance of our blockages. Those little moments don’t cause any suffering. Thus I am able to continue the unwinding process with joy. I didn’t even realize how much that pattern blocked 25 . They have lost the magnetic charge. I watched those frayed ends for quite some time. like the full-on pattern did. Even now I watch those frayed ends. even as I watch my mind still engage in moments of looking outward for fulﬁllment. I stand ﬁrmly in the Bliss of feeling whole and fulﬁlled in my own being. the pattern has unraveled to such an extent that its little frayed ends don’t affect me that much. Eventually I understood that the magnetic knotted rope had unwound and I was holding the last frayed ends out in front of my heart.Raja Yoga enjoying the “play” of the pattern.
and my ability to be present in the moment with myself and with others. their associated blockages are spontaneously removed. but once our patterns unravel. Many people think that once they 26 . So that is the journey of working skillfully with our vasanas. which literally feels like heavy weights lifted off of our hearts. the patterns and tendencies that wind us up and cause all those thoughts and emotions which make us suffer. our hearts begin to soften. and we get to enjoy the splendid play of life. my creative expression.Radiance Rising in me. Understanding the Spiritual Process of Expanding and Contracting One of the greatest misconceptions about spirituality has to do with expansions and contractions. It is difﬁcult to fully enjoy our lives when we are blocked by our destructive patterns. Later I could see that it had blocked my sense of intuition. The great part about this practice is that as our patterns begin to unwind.
open. close. gradually expanding our capacity to be in the bliss state. then they will open. 27 . most of our systems are just not ready to open to the Full Bliss of the Universe all at once. open. close. but it takes a lot of internal practice to get there! As we practice opening and closing. That would be really wonderful. which. (This system seems simultaneously absurdly hilarious and insanely sorrowful. open. the Universe requires us to open. open. open. Gradually. quite honestly. Rather than open. it is helpful for us to understand why we have to keep closing. open. and eventually we will all reach the open. open stage. we open our hearts again and again. Going into the blissful expanded state is actually the easy part – landing again in yet another contracted state is the hard part. are not easy to accept. open.Raja Yoga begin doing spiritual practices. and life will become blissful all the time. open. open. open. close. Simply put. close several billion times before we can begin to practice open. but unfortunately the Universe designed things according to Its own plans. open. open.) So.
One thing that helps us to 28 . we came up with this analogy of ﬂying an airplane: it is easy to take off and ﬂy.Radiance Rising Recently I was dancing at a ﬁre circle (I will cover ﬁre circles as tools for spiritual transformation in a later section). our task is to learn how to land more smoothly. which applies to the spiritual process as well. and we all sat around the ﬁre talking about expansions and contractions. but landing is another matter entirely. Rather than judging me as ‘crazy. resisting the landing! So.’ everyone there became happy too. and I suddenly found myself feeling extremely blissful. It is easy to expand and go into bliss – and it is enjoyable – but it is hard to land again: we go bumping along the runway. In that conversation. There is an art to landing. After dancing for a while in a blissful trance with my eyes closed. The thought that I needed to come down from the bliss was so funny to me that I fell on the ground laughing out loud for several minutes. it occurred to me that I needed to ‘come down’ and open my eyes.
Over time. we allow ourselves to witness our thoughts. We don’t try to change or ﬁx anything. 29 . and we can accept the landing more gracefully. witness our emotions. but rather we just witness ourselves exactly as we are in each moment. When we are expanding. if we expect that next we will be contracting. then it isn’t such a surprise when it happens. We practice paying attention and accepting whatever comes. Meditation What is Meditation and How is It Good for Us? Meditation is simply paying attention to what is happening within us in the present moment. While sitting still and quiet in meditation. and witness our bodily sensations. we gain a fuller understanding of this process. as we witness the ways in which we open and close.Raja Yoga achieve softer landings is the understanding that contractions inevitably follow expansions.
meditative state while dancing or walking. we also gently direct our attention toward a point of concentration. such as our breath or a mantra. I could not sit still for twenty minutes doing nothing – that would be so totally boring. and patiently bring our attention back to our chosen point of concentration. I am not that kind of person – I need more activity. and each time we simply notice the thoughts.Radiance Rising While paying attention to whatever is arising. like dancing or walking. Quite a few people recommended it to me and each time my internal response was. Even after just a few months of practicing sitting 30 . perhaps even thousands of times. Hundreds. Meditation is simply sitting in our beings and watching our experiences from moment to moment. Meditation is an inherent physiological ability that we can learn and practice.’ While it is true that we can get into a calm. our attention will sway into thoughts. I resisted meditation for years. there is something unique to sitting meditation that provides us with amazing beneﬁts. ‘They have got to be kidding.
I ﬁnd that even when my mind labels a 31 . we are built for it. Many regular meditators also experience increased clarity of thought and more effective actions in the world. many people already begin to see positive results in their lives. Our bodies and minds respond quite positively to that natural happy state. Current research on meditation is proving that this easy-to-learn skill can provide numerous documented beneﬁts. and the ease of tension and stress. rushed modern life. help with insomnia. anxiety.Raja Yoga meditation for twenty minutes each day. Why is sitting still so beneﬁcial to us? Well. for one thing. most of us go. When we sit still in meditation regularly. we gradually begin to catch glimpses of that natural happy state. go. In our crazy. In the midst of the stress we are immersed in. including: the reduction of blood pressure. and depression. we have forgotten that our natural human state is one of happiness and joy. go from sunup to beyond sundown. Our systems are designed to be able to go into deep states of blissful peace and calm.
Radiance Rising particular meditation session as “not good” because of overwhelming monkey-mind chatter. I notice that there is an open. tingly sensation around my head. My thoughts may have been racing in over-drive. the meditation has still affected me in a positive way. The important thing is to sit straight with the spine straight. many people ﬁnd it helpful to sit cross-legged with their bottom on a cushion 32 . Regular meditation creates an inner calm that brings more joy to my daily life. or you may sit on a chair. but since the Witness Mind was watching them. The Basics of a Sitting Meditation Practice Posture You may sit on the ﬂoor on a cushion. Do not lean back on anything and do not lean forward. I was actually still sitting in meditation. when I stand up to go about my day. For ﬂoor sitting. So even after a monkeymind session. and a feeling of spaciousness around my heart.
looking down and slightly forward. In my experience. You can put pillows or blankets under your knees if necessary. sunandmoonoriginals. Many people. prefer to meditate with their eyes closed. The Breath The breath is an important focal point for meditation. you may rest your hands folded in your lap or rest them on your knees. Experiment with how you are most comfortable sitting.Raja Yoga so that their bottom is up higher than their knees. www. (My favorite meditation cushion is called Cosmic Cushion™ by Sun and Moon Originals. when I close my eyes. Let them feel relaxed. Experiment and see which way you prefer. palms up or palms down. I relax more quickly into a deeper state of calm. let your gaze be soft. Some people meditate with eyes open. especially when you are ﬁrst beginning your practice. If you keep your eyes open. The ﬁrst thing to do 33 .com) Sitting up straight with your chin tucked under slightly. including myself.
The Mind While you are watching the breath. It is the mind’s nature to think thoughts. When thoughts come. watch the breath going out. The goal is to watch yourself. It is the mind’s job to think thoughts. Let the breath be natural. You don’t need to try to control the breath or force it to be relaxed. and then return to watching the breath. not to change yourself. watch them come and watch them go. as if it is our master. So you just watch your breathing. How many of us are driven crazy by the constancy of our busy thinking 34 . Watch the breath going in. The thing about the mind is that it tends to control us.Radiance Rising once you sit down is to just pay attention to your breath. and thank goodness for that or else we would not be able to function well in the world. so that you are allowing yourself to be exactly as you are in each moment. your mind will naturally start thinking thoughts. The meditation practice should be soft and gentle.
that decision sets into motion a whole range of changes within us. However. Over time. then we can begin to ﬁnd some mental peace. or a gap. When we consciously decide that we are the masters and our minds are our servants. between our thoughts. the thoughts will eventually settle down.Raja Yoga minds? We wish that our minds would just stop thinking and give us a little peace sometimes! So with meditation practice. we gradually learn how to become the masters of our minds. Gradually we begin to notice that there is a pause. This mental peace comes through effort and discipline. Initially we witness many. with regular meditation. keep in mind that even people who have meditated for thirty years still experience meditation sessions ruled by monkey-mind 35 . If we stick to the regular daily practice. many thoughts go through our minds while we are sitting in meditation. that gap widens. We need our minds to think for us so that we can function well in the world. Once we make a commitment to a daily sitting meditation practice. but we don’t need them to think for us 24/7.
When we practice gently witnessing ourselves. we come to know ourselves intimately. When we allow ourselves to be just as we are and we accept ourselves just as we are. Likewise. we don’t try to change the sensations and emotions. So the funny thing about the meditation practice is that by purposefully not trying to relax. The Body and the Emotions During sitting meditation practice.Radiance Rising chatter. and little by little happiness begins to radiate out from our hearts. happiness is also a skill we develop. but it can be learned and practiced. but rather it is something we allow. but rather we just 36 . This resting is not something we can force. As with the thoughts. It is helpful to think of relaxation as a skill we develop. we also watch our bodily sensations and our emotions. in addition to watching our thoughts. we then relax. So the sitting meditation practice is a journey in gradually allowing ourselves to rest in the gaps between thoughts. we relax. Relaxation cannot be forced.
singing. we just allow it and watch it. we try to hold still anyway. we allow them to ﬂow. tensions. With emotional pains. Emotional pains can be worked through in many ways. dancing. tensions. If anger comes. we also notice them and try to breathe into them. doing yoga stretches (“asanas” or body postures). taking hot baths. we may notice how that small movement feels. so that we can be free of them. With bodily pains. and so forth. unless we really need to shift our position to be more comfortable. we simply breathe into them as best we can.Raja Yoga simply watch them and allow them to be as they are in the moment. Whatever we feel is okay. spending time in nature. such as: talking with a friend or a counselor. and discomforts. swimming. praying. Then. 37 . If tears come. and discomforts. journaling. crying. then those emotions are asking us to work through them and heal them. while holding still and noticing the bodily sensations. As we move to a more comfortable position. If we feel overwhelmed by the emotions that come up during meditation.
or by creating an altar with special pictures. or other meaningful objects. We cultivate a lot of patience. The evening time could be just before dinner or 38 . We do need to deal with these patterns. Setting Up a Place and Time to Practice It is helpful to meditate in a particular spot each day. because if we try to ignore them or to pretend that they don’t exist. in their own time. they begin to unravel. How do we deal with these patterns? We witness them and get to know them. stones. You can make your meditation area special by lighting a candle or incense. it is generally recommended to meditate early in the morning and/or in the evening. We allow them to be just as they are in each moment. and gradually. Meditation practice allows us to clearly see our patterns.Radiance Rising Many of us long to be free of our emotional and behavioral patterns. As far as the time of day goes. they will just keep coming out anyway at various times in our lives.
If possible. we ﬁnd our own rhythms with the practice. 39 . So. we will sit for at least twenty minutes in the morning and again in the evening.Raja Yoga a few hours after dinner. It is not recommended to meditate in the middle of the day because the world around us is so active then. Once we establish ourselves in the habit of a regular meditation practice. it is best to meditate at about the same time every day. we may ﬁnd our appetite for meditation increasing. we gradually ﬁnd ourselves settling down more quickly. Ideally. gradually working their way up to twenty minutes or longer. but in the beginning stages many people ﬁnd it easiest to sit for shorter periods. Our bodies and minds get into a rhythm with meditation if we practice it regularly. depending on your schedule. we follow our appetite. My own appetite for meditation grew incrementally as I stuck with the daily practice. Over time. and after meditating daily for a while. Regularly means that we sit every day at about the same time. but you can try meditating at any time of day and see how it feels to you.
Now I actually look forward to sitting in meditation. Far from doing nothing. This is the most important thing you will do all day.” I have found that sitting still is incredibly interesting. Over time.Radiance Rising For the ﬁrst few years. because of my tendency to start doing things right away. it was difﬁcult to begin the morning sitting practice. Contrary to my earlier assumption that sitting still would be “so totally boring. so I had to re-train my mind. For me. I sat for about twenty minutes each evening. Gradually I noticed that my sitting sessions were expanding to thirty or forty minutes. Whenever I wanted to jump up and get busy. and I would immediately relax and keep sitting. I would say to myself. in sitting meditation I ﬁnd myself experiencing a 40 .” Since I really believe in the importance of meditation. that thought worked for me. I began to enjoy the quality of stillness that comes with morning sitting. at which time I also began sitting in the mornings. so I lost the urge to get up and immediately get busy. “No. sit right here – don’t move.
richness of depth that I have longed for all my life.
Meditation Techniques Beyond Basic Sitting
After we become familiar with sitting and simply watching our breathing (and everything else that is going on inside of us), we can try other meditation techniques. Here I will outline just a few: Sound. Some people go into deep states of calm just by paying attention to the sounds they hear, internally and externally. Energies. I ﬁnd it calming to focus on the energies that I feel within myself, within my chakras, and in the environment surrounding me. (I will deﬁne “chakras” in a later section.) Pure Being. Sometimes you can just simply focus on your heart and feel yourself resting in that pure space that is you, underneath the storylines of who you are in the world – underneath your name, family, personality, temperament, etc. 41
Mantra. Some people receive a mantra from a spiritual teacher or guru. Other people just choose a mantra for themselves. A mantra is a syllable, word, or phrase, that when repeated with concentration, can help you to calm your mind and open your heart. An example would be, each time you breathe in, you think, “I am Peace,” and each time you breathe out, you think, “I am Joy.” After several minutes, you might simply think “Peace” on the in-breath, and “Joy” on the outbreath. In India, one of the most potent, popular mantras is “Om Namah Shivaya” (pronounced Oh-mmm, Nah-mah Shee-vyeuh), which means “I bow to Shiva who is Pure Consciousness and Bliss. I bow to my innermost Self, which is Pure Consciousness and Bliss.” Visualization. Some people become very calm when they visualize a river ﬂowing into the ocean or a snow-covered mountain or a lake in the moonlight. Others visualize a candle ﬂame or a ﬁre burning. Some just focus on a tiny dot or a speck of light. 42
Regular activities. Anytime we become fully aware in the present moment, we can realize a meditative state. This could be while we are doing dishes, walking in nature, playing ball with a child, having tea with a friend, or singing in the shower.
Helpful Attitudes for Meditation and for Daily Life
Acceptance of what IS. In meditation we practice accepting our breath, our thoughts, our emotions, and our bodily sensations, in each moment. Then, in our daily lives, we practice acceptance of ourselves, of others, and of the life circumstances we are immersed in. Curiosity about what IS. The more we cultivate curiosity, the more openhearted we become. Approaching the meditation practice with a tremendous sense of curiosity makes the meditation practice much more enjoyable and fulﬁlling. When we sit down to meditate, our attitude should be, ‘Hmmm… I wonder what I will ﬁnd inside my being today?’ Since 43
Patience with what IS. When we also apply this sense of curiosity to our daily lives. and physical states are always changing.Radiance Rising our emotional. but most of the time our judgments harm ourselves and others. we ﬁnd that our lives are much more interesting than we previously thought. we then can begin to question them and to see where we might be able to loosen them up a bit. which contributes signiﬁcantly to our health and well-being. mental. what we ﬁnd inside ourselves in meditation is always fresh and new. we ﬁnd ourselves in a more relaxed. Non-judgment of what IS. In meditation we come to see our judgments more clearly. especially when we don’t get the immediate results that we want from meditation! Some beginning meditators think that they are doing it “wrong” if they don’t immediately feel blissful and calm. and this is helpful to us sometimes. 44 . We ﬁrst cultivate patience with ourselves. Once we begin to witness our judgments in meditation and in daily life. In meditation we practice cultivating patience. Our minds naturally judge. When we loosen our judgments. open-minded state.
then they will naturally settle down. This takes time. When we take ourselves – or our meditation practice – too seriously. and so we cultivate patience. when we ﬁrst begin to look inside ourselves. all of our emotional knots and crazy thought patterns will present themselves for us to see! If we are patient and simply watch them with acceptance and nonjudgment. the more we begin to unwind the places in us that are wound up too tightly. which brings us into a state of increased peace and happiness. The more patient we become.Raja Yoga Actually. This unwinding helps reduce our stress levels. A Sense of Humor with what IS. Laughing at ourselves is quite helpful. chances are good that you are doing it right! Remembering that the primary goal is to witness ourselves. if you feel agitated in your early meditations. It is really important to cultivate a sense of humor with ourselves and with our meditation practice. Many people can laugh later about things that they took too seriously when the 45 . This patience then begins to spread into our daily lives. we dampen down the joy.
and we are all doing the best that we can. Practice laughing at situations as they occur. We pause and remember that we all have these thinking minds. Laughter yoga has recently become popular: people join together in the yoga studio and laugh together for 45 minutes! Laughing heartily is good for our health. Compassion for what IS. when we feel frustrated with our thinking minds and we just want the thoughts to stop. Meditation Experiences Sometimes our minds will judge our meditation sessions as “good” or “bad. In meditation practice. and see what happens. we cultivate a feeling of compassion for ourselves and then we extend that compassion out to others. we take a moment to feel compassion for ourselves and for others.Radiance Rising things were happening.” This arises out of the mind’s natural tendency 46 . In meditation. Current research studies are showing the healing beneﬁts of laughter.
unbroken web of pure love energy. which is to humbly see all of ourselves. we naturally begin to shed all of our false coverings. and we incrementally open to the true essence of the Love that we all really are. there are no bad meditations. as we witness all of ourselves. In truth. Some people see colored lights. then we will still reap the beneﬁts of a healthy meditation practice. but those judgments are incorrect. Each of our hearts is part of that great. There is a vast range of possible meditation experiences. Even if our minds will not settle down. Any time that we spend sitting in meditation is valuable. if we sit with the sincere intention to watch ourselves and we try to focus on the breath. then we can lose sight of the true goal of meditation. and so on. if we are sitting still observing ourselves. Over time. Any and all experiences during meditation are simply to be observed. so we are 47 . Whether or not we have these experiences. then we are meditating.Raja Yoga to judge and label. others hear voices. If we begin to think that our experiences are somehow special.
Radiance Rising all special. 48 . Inside of each of our hearts lies a great warm Light which is just waiting for us to discover it and radiate it out to the world.
Jñana Yoga The Path of Knowledge .
As I begin to write this section. He 51 J . and even though there is not a full smile in his soft gaze.Jñana Yoga ñana Yoga is the path of knowledge. “What do I really know? What can I really say about the path of knowledge?” I have pulled The Spiritual Teaching of Ramana Maharshi (by Sri Ramanasramam and Shambhala Classics) off the shelf. I think I can see him laughing at me! Sri Ramana Maharshi (1879-1950) was one of India’s greatest spiritual teachers. I am asking myself. and I am staring at Sri Ramana Maharshi’s photo on the front cover. I am laughing so hard that tears are streaming down my cheeks! After only six years of studying spiritual books on the Yoga Path.
Radiance Rising instructed people to seek their true Self through the discipline of self-inquiry. It is with deep humility – and a great sense of humor – that I will attempt to express something about the path of knowledge. Thus. Each person can only truly realize the bliss of their Heart through direct experience. when we practice witnessing ourselves. one practice recommended by Sri Ramana Maharshi is to repeatedly ask the question ‘Who am I?’ This process of self-inquiry leads one to True Knowledge of our Oneness with the Absolute Formless Reality. Likewise. The Spiritual Principles: Studying and Applying As I mentioned in an earlier section. when we are earnestly 52 . While meditating and singing devotional songs are my primary spiritual practices. it is very helpful to understand what it is that we are witnessing. studying spiritual teachings has also helped me tremendously.
If we truly understand the changing nature of the world and its objects. this is a gradual process. We can read many times about how the only constant is change. Gradually we learn how to apply the principles in our lives. however. then we can more gracefully accept whatever arises in life.Jñana Yoga devoted to our daily spiritual practices. Thus. we begin to not only understand the spiritual principles. One spiritual principle is that change is the nature of the world. The whole goal of spirituality is to learn how to face life with more ease. Through reading spiritual teachings. but until we really understand that principle of impermanence. we are open to the changing nature of things. Like all spiritual practices. it is very helpful to develop an understanding of the spiritual principles. we will continue 53 . then we can be happy no matter what happens. then we suffer many disappointments due to the changing nature of the world. but to also apply them in our daily lives. expectation causes suffering. If. If we hold on tightly to what we want to happen in life.
last winter my sons and I were scheduled to ﬂy to my parents’ house for Christmas. Oregon that day. After a few hours on the phone and computer.Radiance Rising to allow life’s circumstances to unnecessarily upset us. 54 . I remained calm that whole day. I felt much gratitude for that Grace in my life. I was ﬁnally starting to grasp what they were saying. no ﬂights were leaving Portland. which included driving ﬁve hours that very afternoon! Amazingly. and we enjoyed our alternative travel plans. I arranged for a completely new plan. I immediately thought that change is the nature of things. Rather than falling apart in tears. As I witnessed myself actually applying the spiritual principles. On the morning of our ﬂight. For example. and so we needed to shift our plans. the airline called to tell me that due to a heavy snowfall. After reading so many spiritual books. I say “amazingly” because I was so astonished at my new ability to face the changing nature of things with such ease. as I likely would have in the past.
Jñana Yoga During the long drive that day. the Mother. However. the Divine – the spiritual principle is that God is unchanging. 55 . They listened to my talk about impermanence somewhat patiently. we naturally begin to seek That which is unchanging. At that time. I began to see impermanence as a blissful path to God. I saw it as a cruel joke that the Universe was playing on us humans. sorrow can lead us to joy. and witnessing how much my expectations created my suffering. In this way. as I continued contemplating impermanence. I seized the opportunity for a teaching moment with my two bright pre-teen sons. I felt rather bitter about things not going the way I wanted them to go. the Great Spirit. the Universe. However we conceive of God – as the Unchanging Reality. the Source. When I ﬁrst started studying the concept of impermanence. Pure Consciousness and Bliss. the Eternal Light. the Father. When we get tired enough of the suffering caused by the changing nature of the manifest realm. although they were getting a bit anxious to listen to music on their iPods.
So as we practice witnessing ourselves. feelings. Thus. We swing back and forth between endless joys and sorrows. Conversely. and states of consciousness are changing. an important spiritual tool is the practice of discrimination. if we merely watch those things 56 . However. When we become attached to the people and things of this world. the alternative spiritual principle is that directing our attachment to That which is unchanging brings contentment. The practice of discriminating between that which is changing and that which is unchanging leads to inner peace. we realize that all of our thoughts. behavioral patterns. or “viveka” as it is called in yogic philosophy.Radiance Rising Discrimination Another spiritual principle is that attachment to that which is changing leads to suffering. we inevitably suffer for it. Therefore. if we take those things too seriously and we become attached to them and identify with them. body sensations. if we also practice discriminating between the changing and the unchanging. then we suffer.
Gurukulas The ancient educational system of India consisted of schools called gurukulas. Rather than renouncing the people and things in our lives. It is our attachment that causes our suffering. Music. At the age of eight. Yoga. a student would go to live in a gurukula to study with a spiritual teacher for several years. as long as we do so with detachment. This doesn’t mean that we need to renounce everything and go to live in a secluded cave in the Himalayas. 57 . then we can rest more in our connection with That which is unchanging. So we can still love and enjoy and serve people and things.Jñana Yoga come and go and allow them to pass through us with detachment. the student would be instructed in Vedic Knowledge. the task is to renounce our attachment to them. Very few of us are destined to become renunciates clothed in orange robes. During that time. Art. Modern Science. The word “Gurukula” means the house of the guru or teacher. and so on.
marriage. Thus. we will make better choices for ourselves and for future generations. including a career.Radiance Rising The entire curriculum of those boarding schools was centered on the principle of Self-Realization. but we can begin now to re-train ourselves so that we correctly perceive the events of our lives. Once we begin to see life more clearly. the students received intense training in the practices and principles necessary for leading a spiritual life. I pause to reﬂect that if I had gone to a gurukula from age eight until age twenty and I had really learned the spiritual principles before entering the worldly life. they could then go on to pursue a worldly life. I would have made very different choices in my life! Of course we cannot change what has already happened. at age twenty or so. When they completed that phase of their education. and children. Suggested Reading List Here is a list of spiritual books that have particularly inspired me: 58 .
By His Grace: A Devotee’s Story. 2001. Shambhala Publications. Boston.. M. by Swami Amritaswarupananda. Center. translated by Eknath Easwaran. by Rampuri. Mata Amritanandamayi Mission Trust. MA. CA. Comfortable with Uncertainty: 108 Teachings on Cultivating Fearlessness and Compassion. Bhagavad Gita. 1999. CA. by Pema Chödrön and Emily Hilburn Sell. Book of Prayers.A. Stories About Neem Karoli Baba. 1985. Inc. Santa Fe. Inc. Mohandas K. Berkeley. by Dada Mukerjee. Gandhi. 1994. Bell Tower Publishing. 2002. Hanuman Foundation. Baba: Autobiography of a Blue-Eyed Yogi. Shambhala Publications. New York.. NM. 2005. NY. 59 . Berkeley Hills Books. San Ramon.Jñana Yoga Ammachi: A Biography of Mata Amritanandamayi.
Graceful Exits: How Great Beings Die – Death Stories of Hindu. by Shankara. 1962. 2003.. Boston.A. M. Great Swan: Meetings with Ramakrishna. Tibetan. San Ramon. 1975. CA. by Swami Nikhilananda. Burdett. translated by Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood. NY. Embracing the World: Images and Sayings of Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi. 1996. MA. 60 . Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center of New York. and Zen Masters. Larson Publications. by Lex Hixon. Inc. Holy Mother: Being the Life of Sri Sarada Devi. Buddhist. Compiled and edited by Sushila Blackman. CA.Radiance Rising Crest-Jewel of Discrimination. Shambhala Publications. Center. Mata Amritanandamayi Mission Trust. Wife of Sri Ramakrishna and Helpmate in His Mission. Vedanta Press. 1997. Hollywood.
The Himalayan Institute Press. Compiled by Swami Jnanamritananda. edited and with an introduction by Richard Hooper. English translation by Dr. 61 . Mata Amritanandamayi Center. 1992. Athens. Lead Us to Purity: A Selection of Sri Mata Amritanandamayi’s Speeches 1990-1999.N. by Swami Rama.Jñana Yoga Jesus. 1999. Maypop Books. CA. 2007. Namboodiri. Lead Us to the Light: A Collection of the Teachings of Mata Amritanandamayi. Mata Amritanandamayi Center. translations by Coleman Barks. 1978. English translation by Dr. Sanctuary Publications. M. GA. Krishna and Lao Tzu: The Parallel Sayings. Living with the Himalayan Masters. Honesdale. Lalla: Naked Song. 2002. CA. San Ramon. AZ. Sedona. M. Buddha. Namboodiri. 2007.N. San Ramon. PA. Compiled by Swami Jnanamritananda.
State University of New York Press. by David La Chapelle. Navigating the Tides of Change: Stories from Science. Kerala. India. 1980. Dutton. NY. Miracle of Love: Stories about Neem Karoli Baba.com to view the late David La Chapelle’s inspirational artistic works. E.Radiance Rising Meditate. 2001. 1976. by Ranchor Prime. 62 . BC. New Society Publishers. by Swami Muktananda. by Ram Dass. University of California Press. Canada. San Rafael. Mandala Publishing. 2005. CA. Albany.) Ramayana. CA. Mata Amritanandamayi Mission Trust. by William Buck. Ramayana: A Tale of Gods and Demons. the Sacred. 2004. by Swamini Krishnamrita Prana. A Dutton Paperback. Sacred Journey. and a Wise Planet. NY.umya. (Go to www.P. 1979.
“The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success” Video. Carlsbad. edited by Matthew Greenblatt. InnerDirections Publishing. Sri Kainchi Hanuman Mandir & Ashram.Jñana Yoga The Divine Reality of Sri Baba Neeb Karori Ji Maharaj. by Dada Mukerjee. North Point Press. The Ramayana: A Modern Retelling of the Great Indian Epic. 2005. The Near and The Dear: Stories of Neem Karoli Baba and His Devotees. and 63 . New York. Dolphin Press. NM. Revised 2007 Edition. by Ravi Prakash Pande “Rajida”. by Ramesh Menon. The Essential Teachings of Ramana Maharshi: A Visual Journey. CA. 2003. The Intenders Handbook. based on the book by Deepak Chopra. Hilo. by Tony Burroughs. Hawaii. 1996. NY. 2003. Hanuman Foundation. Santa Fe. India.
1998. New York. The Spiritual Teaching of Ramana Maharshi by Sri Ramanasramam and Shambhala Publications. Mata Amritanandamayi Center. New York. the Wake Up Press.. by Timothy Conway. by Deepak Chopra. MA. Inc. San Ramon. directed by Ron Frank. Chopra Media and Frank Productions. by Danielle and Olivier Föllmi. 2007. CA. Inc. NY. Random House. 2007. Inc. Abrams.. 2004. 1995.D. The Third Jesus: The Christ We Cannot Ignore. by Swamini Krishnamrita Prana. Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. Torrential Love. 2008. Women of Power and Grace: Nine Astonishing.. CA. Ph. Inspiring Luminaries of Our Time.. 64 . Santa Barbara. Harry N. 2006. Three Rivers Press.Radiance Rising featuring singer Olivia Newton-John. Wisdom: 365 Thoughts from Indian Masters. Boston.
Kundalini Yoga The Path of Working with Energies .
67 . Although I have not studied Kundalini Yoga in-depth. I engage lightly with the practices in this section. Kundalini is the serpent-like ﬁre energy that lies coiled at the base of the spine until it rises up through the chakras in a process that awakens us to our connection with the Divine. Since I am not working with a Kundalini Yoga master. my understanding is that it is best to work with the kundalini energy with a qualiﬁed teacher on that path. I don’t try to force anything to happen – I simply witness the energies inside of me.Kundalini Yoga K undalini Yoga is the path of working with the energies in the chakras and subtle body.
to simply share a few highlights.Radiance Rising Tuning in to the Chakras The chakras. here is a basic description of the chakras. The Second Chakra. From my understanding. home. 68 . are really not so shocking – they are not as weird as one might think. they are simply energy centers that vibrate within our bodies. and the colors and qualities associated with each: The First Chakra. Of the vast body of information available on the chakras. It is located between the pubic bone and the navel and is associated with the color orange and with sensuality and creativity. Really. for the purposes of this pocket book. is the sex chakra. Different traditions offer varying aspects for each chakra. including their Sanskrit name. It is located at the base of the spine and is associated with the color red and with the earth. location in the subtle body. the Muladhara. I have chosen. is the root chakra. the Svadhisthana. and a sense of belonging. pronounced SHOCK-ruz.
slightly above the eyebrows. It is located just above the top of the head and is associated with the color white and with connection with the Divine. is the heart chakra. The Seventh Chakra. is the crown chakra. and is associated with the color yellow and with the will. is the third eye chakra.Kundalini Yoga The Third Chakra. the Vishuddha. love. the Anahata. is the solar plexus chakra. The Fifth Chakra. 69 . the Manipura. the Ajna. is the throat chakra. above the navel. love. It is located at the stomach. It is located in the center of the forehead. The Fourth Chakra. It is located at the heart and is associated with the color green and with love. It is located at the throat and is associated with the color blue and with truth and expression of one’s truth. the Sahasrara. The Sixth Chakra. and is associated with the color purple and with intuition.
buzzing. Occasionally I have had the sense that a particular chakra felt like a thick. we may ﬁnd that some chakras are in balance while others feel imbalanced. There are many factors inﬂuencing the energies within us. grey mass.) Many experiences and sensations are possible. On any given day. and warmth. and that it might be different the next day. and those factors are changing all the time. It is important to keep in mind that what we ﬁnd when we tune in to our chakras is unique to that moment.Radiance Rising Sometimes during my sitting meditations. or even the next hour. including bliss. I have been amazed by the results of doing this simple tuning practice. we simply practice noticing how the energies feel. so this practice is an ongoing exploration. Through the simple 70 . I visualize healing golden light going into that chakra. When tuning in to the chakras. tingling. I notice a wide variety of sensations. (When I sense that a chakra is blocked in some way. I practice tuning in to the chakras to see how each of those energy centers feels in that moment.
If we don’t want to become our thought patterns and habitual reactions. the mind becomes that which it dwells upon. as with all of the practices in this book. The important thing about this practice. Even if our minds don’t really understand the pulsing. and deliberately putting our attention on the love in our hearts and the energies coursing through our beings.” I contemplated that 71 . openness. and a sense of humor. As the ancient Indian sutra states. we invite each of them to be more awake and to vibrate with more harmonious energy.Kundalini Yoga act of placing our attention on our chakras. spinning energies within our ancient chakra systems. this practice can still bring us into more harmony. then we have to practice turning our attention away from our problems. Discerning the Energies of the Subtle Body My dear teacher Basil once instructed me to “fall back into my Self. is to approach it with curiosity.
the subtle body is that energetic ﬁeld that my physical body is resting in. organs. This practice helps quiet the monkey-mind chatter. ‘What does it really mean to fall back into my Self? How can I really practice falling back into my Self?’ As I sat with those questions. 72 . and skin. Again. The more we practice sitting still and tuning in to the energies inside of us. What is the subtle body? To me. the more we experience a vast spaciousness within us that is somehow separate from the physical mass of our blood. I began to understand that falling back into my Self meant tuning in and discerning the energies of the subtle body. asking myself. we begin to discern the energies of our subtle bodies. Over time. so that we can rest more fully in the love of our hearts. this is a gradual process.Radiance Rising for a good while.
Karma Yoga The Path of Selﬂess Service .
or “Amma” which means mother. It also means the results of our actions. The word “karma” means action. When we take action to selﬂessly serve others. 2006. I met my Guru. I have been greatly inspired by two beings who have devoted their lives to serving others: Ammachi and Gandhi-ji.Karma Yoga K arma Yoga is the path of selﬂess service. who is an embodiment of pure love and selﬂess service. we experience an inner satisfaction. Ammachi In June. Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi. Many people call her Ammachi. 75 .
popularly known as the “hugging saint. weddings for the poor. an orphanage. in Kerala. Amma oversees many charitable projects in India and abroad. Amma has given her life to serving others. Amma gave one million dollars to help after Hurricane Katrina hit. and she has given millions of dollars to relief efforts after the tsunami and other natural disasters occurred in India. universities.Radiance Rising Amma. she has become a world leader in humanitarian aid. While inspiring others to selﬂessly serve. schools. These residents dedicate their lives to “Seva Bhav.000 people. hospitals that offer free medical care for the poor. It 76 . and some community members even tried to kill her. India. Over the past few decades she has hugged more than 26 million people worldwide.” rose above outrageous injustices to become a Social Worker Extraordinaire: from her birth in a poor South Indian ﬁshing village where her family beat her.” the Spirit of Selﬂess Service. and dozens of other efforts. Amritapuri. Her international ashram. is home to more than 3. including: disaster relief. care homes for the elderly.
So many different types of people – of all different religions – are drawn to meet her. (“Dharma” has many meanings. and for all beings to know God.) 77 . while teaching through her own example that we are “all beads strung together on the same thread of love. then it is our dharma to help them. Here it means right action or responsibility. since twice each year she tours the United States. Amma teaches that if it is someone else’s karma to suffer. Often she hugs people for ﬁfteen hours or more without even taking a single pee break! I have been blessed to see this myself. Amma’s goals are for the poor to have food. The spirit of service that surrounds Amma is amazing to witness.” She says that her religion is Love. She accepts everyone equally. for violence to end.Karma Yoga is truly awe-inspiring to watch her embrace people. where her main ashram is located just outside of San Ramon. She encourages people to buy only what they need and give the rest of their earnings to help those who are suffering. California.
Mahatma Gandhi is another example of a Karma Yogi, a selﬂess servant who worked for the welfare of others. Several years ago my teacher Basil advised me to watch the movie Gandhi, paying close attention to how Gandhiji held his energy and commanded leadership through quiet strength. Recently I did ﬁnally watch the movie, and I was particularly inspired when Gandhi returned to India and someone advised him to go and ﬁnd the real India, so that he would know what needed to be said. Isn’t that the task desperately needed now? Each of us, wherever we live, can go out and discover what is really needed in our communities. What needs to be said? What needs to be done? How can we selﬂessly serve others more? If we can physically get out and serve others with our time and energy, that will bring us much inner harmony. However, if we cannot physically serve others more (due to work and/ or family demands on our time and energy, or 78
due to health issues), we can still give of our hearts through prayer. We can dedicate our spiritual practices to those who are suffering and we can send love from our hearts to those who need it. There are many ways to cultivate seva bhav, the spirit of selﬂess service. The practice of intentionally putting others’ needs before our own brings us more mental peace.
The Path of Devotion
” or their primary personal deity. I bow to Lord Shiva.Bhakti Yoga hakti Yoga is the path of devotion. What are we devoted to? A Jñana Yogi is devoted to ﬁnding the inner Self through direct experience of True Knowledge. and Lord Ganesha. both paths eventually lead to Union with the Formless Absolute. According to the sages and scriptures. which is Pure Consciousness and Bliss. because I am equally in love with several Hindu gods and goddesses. along with the 83 B . Lord Rama. while a Bhakti Yogi is devoted to merging the personal self with the Supreme Being. On the bhakti path. Baba Hanuman. I can’t claim to have an Ishtadev. Lord Krishna. many people bow and chant to what is called their “Ishtadev.
so It exists within and without each being. Hindu Gods and Goddesses There are thousands of gods and goddesses in the Hindu Pantheon. Hanuman. and is still One Absolute Truth. Sita. In Hinduism there is One Absolute Truth. We can read the wonderful history and mythology of Hanuman in the great epic story. So the One God takes many faces or forms and is known by thousands of Names. and wisdom. When we chant 84 . and they are also energy states that exist within and without all beings. the Ramayana. and we can also chant or pray to Hanuman. That One Absolute Truth includes ALL of Existence. The many Hindu gods and goddesses are historical. Parvati. which in the West would be considered One God. and Saraswati. mythological beings. Kali. Durga. and that God has many aspects. strength. represents devotion. courage. the monkey god. So for example.Radiance Rising Goddesses Radha.
What that means is. Buddhism. I noticed the same effect: regardless of the 85 . so I was surprised to discover that chanting is actually beautiful singing. we ﬁnd that place inside where our own devotion. While he strummed soothing notes on his guitar. I ﬁrst chanted in groups with my teacher Basil. including Christianity. Islam. and that place inside of us wakes up a little more. courage. Chanting When I ﬁrst heard about chanting.Bhakti Yoga or pray to a Hindu god or goddess. Native Hawaiian. and Hinduism. And at the same time. Each time I sat in a group chanting. the environment around us is cleansed by the repetition of one of the many Names of God. Judaism. we all sweetly sang songs from many different traditions. and wisdom lives. we invoke that energy state within and without ourselves. I imagined a group of monks shouting out strange syllables. when we chant Hanuman’s name. strength.
is a practice that we can all easily do. Now I chant while driving. After experiencing the calming effects of group chanting. and now modern research is conﬁrming the healing power of sound vibrations. even in this time of density. which Yogic philosophy calls the Kali Yuga. This is because we are living in an age of corruption. it was prophesized that in this age the practice of 86 . so I began buying chanting CDs to sing along with. and greed. During a session of group chanting. One of the many beneﬁts of this daily chanting is that mantra-infused food tastes so delicious! It is said that during this current age. while doing housework. after the chanting I felt unusually calm. and while cooking. hypocrisy. chanting bhajans (devotional songs to God).Radiance Rising mood and state I was in before chanting. I wanted to bring that calm into my regular daily life. a healing power gets released that affects the people and their surrounding environment. it is extremely difﬁcult to do spiritual practices. People have witnessed this phenomenon since ancient times. However. Ages and ages ago.
Over the past several years. in addition to chanting with my teacher Basil and with Amma and her devotees. which is often accompanied by live musicians and fervent. transformative power of his chants. worshipful devotion to God. Kirtan Kirtan is call and response group chanting. Jai Uttal. I have deep gratitude for the healing.com) I ﬁrst listened to Jai Uttal’s music over ﬁfteen years ago. including Krishna Das. (www.Bhakti Yoga kirtan would spread to every village on earth. Recently I attended a weekend kirtan retreat that he led at 87 .krishnadas. I have listened to his chanting CDs daily for over ﬁve years. The mantras chanted during kirtan are like medicines that purify the people and their environment. I have also been blessed to attend kirtans with some very special beings. While I have only attended one live kirtan with Krishna Das. and Prema Mayi Dasi.
who is the embodiment of Pure Love. and his Divine Lover. (www.Radiance Rising Breitenbush Hot Springs (along with a very gifted tablas player named Daniel Paul). Prema performs special pujas. he facilitated an amazing retreat. I really appreciated Jai’s way of teaching. a wise bhakti yogini who radiates pure sweetness. Before beginning an evening of chanting. Through soul-stirring kirtan sessions and hilarious storytelling. Sri Radha. sometimes the chanting gets going really fast and the energy in the room becomes quite ecstatic. I returned home feeling greatly inspired. For several minutes I just sit still and enjoy the bliss in my heart.jaiuttal. I have been blessed to attend many beautiful kirtans led by Prema Mayi Dasi. and in those moments my mind stops and I can no longer even sing. During the kirtans with Prema. the All-Attractive One. Her Ishtadev is Sri Krishna. Jai’s kirtan CDs are also a source of deep inner healing for me. which are rituals for worshipping a deity. thus she bows to Krishna.com) Over several years. I am evergrateful to dear Prema for giving Krishna those 88 .
premamayi. I am ﬁnding that the practices on the bhakti yoga path are the fastest. Prema and her sons. easiest ways to Union with God.com) Some of my other favorite chant artists include: David Newman. Krishnadeva and Gaur. the deeper I fall into the radiant Love in my heart. Rasa.Bhakti Yoga opportunities to steal my mind and melt my heart. It is said that 89 . and Snatam Kaur. transformative power. In addition to chanting. I also do a lot of bowing on the ﬂoor before images of the Divine. recently produced a chanting CD called Sacred Transitions that is quite potent in its healing. The more I chant to the Beloved through the Hindu god and goddess forms. along with several other talented musicians. (www. Dave Stringer. Bhagavan Das. MC Yogi. Deva Premal & Miten. Wah!. Bowing While I really value my daily sitting meditation practice.
Ma Durga. 90 . Through humility. and ﬂowers. we become humble in a way that allows God’s Grace to come through us. and Sri Krishna.Radiance Rising merely looking at the holy images of saints raises our vibration. incense. I am bowing down before my own deepest Self. we receive all that we truly need. images of Lord Shiva. When we surrender our personal will and accept everything as God’s Will. what I am doing in that bowing is offering my ego to the Divine. and surrendering any patterns that block me from living in the Truth of my deepest Heart. When I bow down on the ﬂoor with that altar before me. In my living room I created an altar on which I placed photos of my Gurus Amma and Neem Karoli Baba. and candles. The practice of bowing helps us surrender all the false coverings that block the light of our souls from shining forth.
We are not only longing to give and receive love. Due to our habitual ego-based patterns. 91 . jobs. The heart is actually longing to become uniﬁed with the pure love energy that it already is. what we ﬁnd is that the heart’s longing is not for external things. that pure longing for love gets obscured and we begin to think that we are really longing for relationships. The more we understand what the heart is really longing for. Once we begin to witness our patterns and look beneath the stories of our lives.Bhakti Yoga Understanding and Nourishing the Heart’s Longing What do we truly need? What are we truly longing for? We are all longing for Love. the more we can nourish that longing with spiritual practices designed to unite us with that love. but we are longing to become Love. cars. and houses.
Yet. it is easier to accept everything as God’s Will.” I like this mantra because it brings me into total acceptance of whatever is arising in the present moment. when I am experiencing sorrow and telling myself that this must be exactly what I was destined to experience right now. we are meant to be happy all the time. ‘Wait a minute – our true nature is Bliss! So if we are meant to be happy all the time. When our chanting and bowing practices enable us to become more surrendered and more humble.Radiance Rising Acceptance The way to peace is through complete acceptance of everything that comes to us in life. there is a part of me that says. I say this mantra: “This must be exactly what I was destined to experience right now. And yet. then why am I feeling such miserable sadness?’ Yes. but we have forgotten that truth because we 92 . this is difﬁcult to practice when things don’t go according to our plans and expectations. When life feels hard and I feel challenged to completely accept everything.
Accepting everything as God’s Will doesn’t mean that we just lie down and blindly accept everything as fate. then we begin to develop the skill of being happy. It is very important that we take action to help ourselves become better human beings. Once we ﬁrmly decide to be happy. but if we put forth the effort to be happy. True lasting happiness cannot be found outside of ourselves. since we still have patterns that need to be unraveled. we can decide to be happy. we will gradually experience more and more happiness. We have to be determined and skillful in our quest to become happy. Fortunately. We still have to put forth effort. happiness is a decision – at any time. Of course we won’t feel happy all the time.Bhakti Yoga have tied ourselves up in knotted patterns that hide our true nature. so we can spread that joy to others. so we have to practice going into our hearts and experiencing the happiness within ourselves. 93 .
We simply witness and accept the emotions. Viewing their emotions as fuel for the puriﬁcation ﬁre. as they can destroy our minds.Radiance Rising Puriﬁcation The ultimate goal of all spiritual practices is to purify our minds and hearts. we can then radiate the Light of the pure love energy that we all already are. a bhakta (devotee) develops a personal relationship with the Beloved. they give all of their feelings to God. Once our minds and hearts become pure. and then allow them to move through us. we develop a close bond with God that gradually helps dissolve the granthis (knots) in our hearts. On the path of devotion. So our task is to witness our emotions without repressing them and without indulging in them. but we have to be careful not to get stuck in our emotions. When we offer our emotions to the Beloved. Bhaktas offer all of themselves in total surrender to the Beloved. 94 . Our emotions do make great fuel for the puriﬁcation ﬁre.
my heart felt physically heavy. In the past year. I have noticed that my heart is feeling physically lighter and softer. 95 . Literally.Bhakti Yoga About ﬁve years ago. and tight. congested. my heart felt so stuck. as I have delved more deeply into bhakti yogic practices. This lighthearted feeling occurs when the heart knots are dissolving through the path of puriﬁcation.
Additional Practices for Transformation .
Before lighting 99 . and cultivating the Witness. one of my dear spiritual brothers hosts community ﬁre circles on his land. Here I will share a few of those practices. we gather to light a ﬁre in a pit that he thoughtfully created with stones collected from special places. I am always open to learning and experiencing additional practices for transformation. On the Saturday evening closest to the full moon. meditating. W Fire Circles During the warm months. bowing.Additional Practices for Transformation hile my primary spiritual practices are chanting.
I attend the ﬁre circles in my community with the intention to transform something speciﬁc within myself. In India. I offered the ﬁre my anxiety about work and asked to be empowered with calm clarity of purpose. spiced cocoa around the ﬁre. and to transform. I pour out my heart.Radiance Rising the ﬁre. we stand in a circle holding hands and speaking our intentions for the evening’s sacred journey. Sometimes we sip hot. the drummers begin drumming and the others begin dancing around the ﬁre. people have gathered around ﬁres to visit. Once the ﬁre is burning brightly. Another time I offered the ﬁre my unresolved attachments to a man who 100 . One evening. to celebrate. to worship. Throughout the evening. Since ancient times. sadhus (holy men) lead purifying rituals called havans in which offerings are thrown into sacred ﬁres amidst the vibrations of Sanskrit chanting. Rather than pouring ghee onto the ﬂames. Others offer songs and chants. people spontaneously speak from their hearts. I often recite Lalla poems that I have memorized.
One year when my dear friend Baron and I were a couple. I asked to be shown what it was that I really longed for. Suddenly I felt the need to sit down. I have noticed incredible transformations occurring within my being. we dressed 101 . The gifts I receive from those ﬁre circles are like sun rays awakening my heart to its true. Costumes Over the past few years. radiant essence. and I went into a deep meditation state in which I saw a vision of what my true longing was about: I didn’t really want union with that man – I wanted nothing short of pure blissful Union with Lord Shiva. Each time I have given things to the ﬁre. It is such fun to take on a different persona for a while. I bow with deep gratitude to my spiritual brother who creates the space for those healing transformations. so I did. I have really enjoyed dressing up in costumes for Halloween.Additional Practices for Transformation I was in love with.
silver studded jewelry. My friends all commented. it wasn’t really me. as a bold biker. They loved the idea. and dark shades over our eyes. I also pinned yellow marigolds in my hair and decorated my body with gold glitter. I felt much more boldly in the power of being my true self. I told a few friends that someday I would like to open a costume parlor. During the evening. saying 102 . I thoroughly enjoyed acting really tough. complete with black boots. which was so totally fun – I had always wished to be a redhead! That night. but what they were seeing was an authentic part of myself. black leather pants and jackets. a part of myself that is usually hidden inside. which I learned can include the ability to act tough when needed! Another time. but I felt inspired to dress up for one of the ﬁre circle gatherings. I also wore a red wig over my brown hair. “This looks like the real you!” Well. After that night. so I pulled part of my hair up in a topknot and stuck peacock and other bird feathers through the knot. I felt transformed. it wasn’t even Halloween.Radiance Rising up as motorcycle riders.
out loud. If we tune in to a hidden part of ourselves that wants to be seen and transformed. “I am strong 103 . If there is a part of us that needs nurturing attention. we can dress in the costume of a colorful ﬂamenco dancer.Additional Practices for Transformation that they would deﬁnitely come to the parlor to be dressed in costumes. If there is a part of us that feels timid. A friend told me that saying afﬁrmations out loud while walking helps to transform the old patterns in our brains. This ‘practice’ can help us transform in many ways. Afﬁrmations While Walking The power of positive thinking cannot be underestimated. There is a hidden healing power concealed within costumes. we can really have fun expressing that part of ourselves through donning a particular costume. so on my daily walks I say positive afﬁrmations that I created for myself to build my strength. I begin by saying. we can dress in the costume of a cute little kitty cat.
Over time. and I have witnessed myself gaining strength on all levels. I have noticed a gradual transformation happening within me.” Then I say that all the organs and systems in my body are healthy and strong. and awake. He asked each of the retreat participants to bring photos of their ancestors. and spiritually. After repeatedly hearing me afﬁrm that I am strong. strong. I say that my mind is healthy. Honoring Our Ancestors Most of the world’s cultures build shrines to honor the ancestors. Throughout the week we took turns showing photos and telling stories of our 104 .Radiance Rising – physically. mentally. In the busy western world. yet it is a practice that can be very transformative and healing for us. Finally. alert. emotionally. all parts of me began to realize that truth. aware. A few years ago my teacher Basil led a spiritual retreat in Hawaii. many of us don’t think to honor our ancestors.
I think that laughter is so important that I decided to 105 . candles. laughing heartily is good for our health.Additional Practices for Transformation ancestors. However we express it. As Basil explained. and ﬂowers. we sat in meditation and energetically held that person’s ancestral line. Each time it felt powerfully transformative. Laughter As already stated in a previous section. When we see how much each person is holding in their energetic structures. incense. the value in hearing about each other’s family histories lies in building compassion for each other. we feel more compassion for them. Some people even create altars on which they place family photos. the practice of honoring our ancestors can bring us more inner peace. In our daily lives we can practice honoring the ancestors by looking at their photos or by sending them loving thoughts and prayers. After each person shared.
Laughter is healing and transformative. After several miserable hours. while traveling in Thailand.Radiance Rising mention it again. I took out a funny newspaper. That paper was so funny that I was laughing out loud for several minutes. and suddenly I did not feel nauseated anymore. Once. but I believe it has the power to unite us with the Divine Essence in our hearts. I got terribly sick from food poisoning. 106 . We might not think of it as a spiritual practice.
I felt passionate. blood-warming spirit rising within me. I was a cheerleader. Through sadhana (spiritual practice). because the spiritual practices that I outlined in this book have helped me so much. migraine headaches. insomnia.Conclusion uring my high school years. As I shouted out the cheers to guide our Tiger team to Victory. I have healed myself almost entirely of depression. Nearly every football and basketball game I yelled so much that I lost my voice for a few days. Now I feel so enthusiastic about spreading the seeds of spirituality. I hadn’t felt such passion about anything else until I found the raja yogini path and met my Guru Ammachi. anxiety. and destructive 107 D .
before I received a mantra from Amma. I was with a group of people waiting to go into the mantra line. I value all paths that lead people to more Love. The important thing about our spiritual practices is not which practices we do. but that we actually 108 .” I chose the Hindu Goddess Durga. One woman wrote “Jesus”. one man wrote “Peace. different spiritual practices are also suited for different people. When people ask Amma for a mantra. Amma doesn’t expect anyone to believe in God or to change their religion – she advises people to inquire into their own real nature and to believe in themselves. she gives them a mantra suited to their own path. When I say that I am a cheerleader for Amma. and we were each given a card on which to write our chosen aspect of Divinity. For example. Just as different religions are suited for different people. so Amma gave me a mantra to Durga.Radiance Rising thought patterns. I don’t mean that I am trying to “convert” anyone to the Yoga Path. I am a different person than I was six years ago.
“How do you know if your spiritual practices are working?” Krishna Das said that Maharaj-ji’s answer was simple: “Through the constant repetition of the Name. Sri Neem Karoli Baba. we will gradually see that the beneﬁts of the practices are well worth the efforts! When I attended an evening of kirtan with Krishna Das. he said that someone once asked his Guru. then we don’t have a choice about it. the presence of Grace becomes 109 . Once we make a commitment to doing our practices daily. they will naturally begin to cling to those practices. Our minds are easily habituated. and our practices become part of our habitual routines.Conclusion do them! It is very important to approach our spiritual practices with determination and discipline. we might be tempted to give up. and to make a commitment to doing them regularly. In the beginning. so if we give our minds spiritual practices to hold onto. before we begin to see the positive results from our efforts. and they really like to hold onto something. but if we remain steadfast in our commitment.
Radiance Rising apparent in your life. and so on). purity. and with the Divine.” Whether we practice mantra japa (the repetition of a mantra). When I bow down. In this changing world. strength. with the earth. wisdom. bright Radiance rising in my heart and in the hearts of all beings. and love and laughter. love and laughter… I pray for a playful. gardening. compassion. or we sit in meditation. love and laughter. it is so important for us to develop daily spiritual practices that ground us. or we engage in creative endeavors as spiritual practices (cooking. humility. patience. in this time of dissolution when things are falling apart everywhere. We need spiritual practices to anchor us to our hearts and to our connection with humanity. the more Grace we experience in our lives. one thing is certain: the more we practice opening our hearts to the radiant essence of pure love energy that we are. 110 . courage. harmonious. I pray to be ﬁlled with divine energy. creating collages.
111 .Conclusion I end this book of spiritual practices with the ancient peace prayer that Amma asks everyone to sing daily: Om Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu Om Shanti Shanti Shantihi May all the beings in all the worlds be happy and at peace.
Her international ashram in Kerala. Amma has hugged more than 26 million people worldwide. the Archbishop of Canterbury.” Born in a poor ﬁshing village in Southern India in 1953. Recognized as one of the world’s top ten religious/spiritual leaders. where her main ashram is located just outside 113 . she personally runs many charitable and humanitarian organizations in India and abroad. India. the Grand Ayatollah. and the Dalai Lama. Twice each year she tours the United States.Glossary Amma – also known as Ammachi and Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi – popularly known as “the hugging saint. is home to more than 3.000 people. the Grand Rabbi of Israel. alongside the Pope.
and Shiva is the destroyer. there are lineages of babas who have passed spiritual teachings down from Guru to disciple through thousands of years. On this path. Brahman – the One Absolute Existence 114 . Baba is used as a term of endearment. Brahma’s consort is Saraswati.Radiance Rising of San Ramon. Brahma – the creative aspect of Divinity. Bhakti Yoga – The path of devotion as a means to Union with the Divine. Bhaktas – devotees on the Bhakti Yoga Path. Vishnu is the sustainer. (www. Also in India.Amma. devotees cultivate a personal relationship with the Beloved Supreme Being. especially for religious ﬁgures.org) Baba – the word can mean father or teacher. Bhajans – devotional songs. California. In India. The Hindu masculine Godhead is represented by a Trinity: Brahma is the creator.
The second chakra. The third chakra. and a sense of belonging. The fourth chakra. The ﬁrst chakra. It is located at the base of the spine and is associated with the color red and with the earth. home. the Vishuddha. It is located at the stomach. is the sex chakra. It is located at the heart and is associated with the color green and with love. above the navel. is the throat chakra. The sixth 115 . (Note difference between Brahma and Brahman. love. The ﬁfth chakra. is the root chakra.Glossary or Reality that is unchanging and One with everything. is the solar plexus chakra. is the heart chakra. the Anahata. the Manipura. They are like spinning wheels of energy. the Svadhisthana. love. It is located between the pubic bone and the navel and is associated with the color orange and with sensuality and creativity.) Chakras – the seven energy points that exist in the subtle body. the Muladhara. and is associated with the color yellow and with the will. It is located at the throat and is associated with the color blue and with truth and expression of one’s truth.
natural order. Dharma – The word dharma has many meanings. slightly above the eyebrows and is associated with the color purple and with intuition. is the crown chakra. including: right action or righteous responsibility. 116 . Lord Shiva’s consort is Parvati. including Kali and Durga. It is located in the center of the forehead. one’s purpose or destiny. Devas – divine. law. the Sahasrara. She slays the demons of the mind and protects her children with tenderness. celestial beings. It is located just above the top of the head and is associated with the color white and with connection with the Divine. and Parvati takes many forms. duty. is the third eye chakra. Ma Durga rides a lion and holds weapons in her many hands. Durga – one of the Hindu forms of the Divine Mother. The seventh chakra.Radiance Rising chakra. the Ajna.
Son of Shiva and Parvati. Ganesha – the Hindu elephant-headed god. Gandhi-ji also led daily interfaith prayer meetings. Ghee – clariﬁed butter.Glossary Ego – the parts of ourselves that combine to cover up our true essence. Gandhi-ji (Mahatma Mohandas K.” Boarding schools in the ancient educational system of India. In the gurukula. used often in Indian cooking. who led the non-violent struggle that resulted in India’s independence from the British in 1947. he is a great protector and the remover of obstacles. Gurukula – “house of the guru or teacher. students learned all their subjects. 117 . Granthis – “knots” in the heart. Gandhi) – a great Karmic Yogi in India. with an emphasis on preparation for living a spiritually oriented life.
Ji – or chi – is added to the end of a respectable person’s name. the Ramayana. For example. Hanuman is the utmost devotee of Rama and Sita in the epic story.” Someone who abides continually in a Connected State – He or She has burnt through the veils of illusion and doesn’t do anything out of personal will. 118 . Jñana Yoga – the path of Knowledge as a means to Union with the Absolute Formless Reality. and Neem Karoli Baba was fondly called Maharajji. Ishtadev – a primary personal deity. He represents supreme devotion.Radiance Rising Guru – literally. Hanuman – the Hindu monkey god. and superhero strength and courage. wisdom. A Guru takes full responsibility for the spiritual awakening of his or her disciples. “that which takes one from darkness to light. Son of the wind god. Amma is often referred to as Ammachi.
She also is the power of Time. The law of cause and effect states that all of a being’s past actions will bear fruit at some point.Glossary Kali – one of the Hindu forms of the Divine Mother. often with live musicians and fervent worship and devotion to God. Kali Ma is a ﬁerce Mother who holds many weapons in her hands. Karma yogis and yoginis take action to selﬂessly serve others. Lord Shiva’s consort is Parvati. Karma Yoga – the path of selﬂess service as a means to Union with the Divine. 119 . This is symbolic of her ability to cut through the illusions of maya and free her children from the bondage of their egos. including Kali and Durga. She offers protection to those who invoke her. Karma – action and the results of actions. and Parvati takes many forms. Kirtan – call and response chanting. She wears a necklace of skulls and a belt of the human heads that she has severed.
In the great epic.” Krishna especially fell in love with a cowherdess named Radha. he had a following of young cowherd girls called “gopis. 120 .” Kundalini Energy – the serpent-like ﬁre energy that lies coiled at the base of the spine until it rises up through the chakras in a process that awakens us to our connection with the Divine. That advice is the famous scripture. Kundalini Yoga – the path of working with the energies in the chakras and subtle body as a means to Union with the Divine. Krishna represents all things attractive – he is the All-Attractive One – and Radha represents His potency.000 years ago.Radiance Rising Krishna – an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. on the battleﬁeld. Krishna was a hero and a teacher. the Mahabharata. Krishna gave advice to his warrior friend. which means “the Song of the Lord. Arjuna. He lived in India about 5. With a peacock feather in his hair and a golden ﬂute upon his lips. the Bhagavad Gita.
” The ever-changing aspect of the physical realm which deludes us into thinking that it is unchanging. mind. Mantra Japa – the repetition of a mantra. the Lord disguises himself as the many beings of the world. Mantras – sacred syllables. words.Glossary Lalla – a mystic poet and saint of North India. In the Lila. It is believed that she left her husband’s home and wandered about naked singing songs to God. and body. so each of our human interactions can be seen as God playing with God. When repeated with concentration. Maya – “illusion. Lila – the Divine Play or Theatre of God. a mantra can help us to calm our minds and open our hearts. Meditation – the practice of sitting in our beings rather than our thinking minds. 1320-1392. 121 . Sitting with awareness of breath. or phrases.
Radiance Rising but not engaging with them. Witnessing the gaps between our thoughts. Om Namah Shivaya – the most popular mantra in India – it brings both spiritual protection and material prosperity. Krishna Das. Many believed Sri Neem Karoli Baba to be an incarnation of Hanuman. No one knows when he was born. A saint in India who was loved by many Indian devotees. it means. and relaxing into those gaps. Literally. He “left his body” in 1973. I bow to my innermost Self. Neem Karoli Baba – fondly called Maharaj-ji – the Guru of Ram Dass.” When spoken as a greeting. and Jai Uttal. Witnessing thoughts (and body sensations and emotions). and allowing them to pass through without attachment. “I bow to Shiva who is Pure Consciousness and Bliss. it means essentially “Namaste” or “I honor the Divine within you that is also within me.” 122 . Several hundred Western devotees found him as well. which is Pure Consciousness and Bliss.
intelligence.Glossary Parvati – one of the Hindu forms of the Divine Mother. She was one of the thousands of girls who fell in love with Lord Krishna in Vrindavan. In order to become one with her beloved Shiva. she ﬁrst sat in meditation and did many austere spiritual practices. Once she attained high levels of consciousness and was an accomplished yogini in her own right. India.000 years ago. Raja Yoga – the path of meditation as a means to Union with the Divine. then she was able to sit before Shiva and merge in Love with Him. Civilization and culture ﬂowed out of their creative. Radha represents Krishna’s heart. She takes many forms. sexuality. She is the consort of Lord Shiva and the Mother of Ganesha. Radha – one of the Hindu forms of the Divine Mother. about 5. and creativity. the embodiment of pure love. Krishna found his potency. She is the goddess of love. Raja Yoga is a path of systemic discipline that combines aspects 123 . In Radha. including Kali and Durga. sexual union.
(Rita Ann Shankara is a raja yogini. 124 . He lived in India thousands of years before Lord Krishna. Ram and Sita symbolize the perfect union of the male and female aspects of the Divine. and then Hanuman. hands-on energy healing system. Bhakti. Most of the Hindu scriptures are written in Sanskrit. Sanskrit – the classical language of India.) Rama – an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. the Ramayana. and Jñana Yoga Paths. that place of Union with the Divine. Rama is often referred to as Ram. the monkey god. Sita. Sadhana – spiritual practices that lead one to the innermost Self. helps Rama save Sita from doom. Reiki – (pronounced “Ray-key”) – a gentle.Radiance Rising of Karma. Kundalini. Lord Rama’s noble story is recounted in the epic tale. in which the demon Ravana kidnaps Rama’s beloved wife.
The holy river Ganges. Seva Bhav – the spirit or “mood” of selﬂess service. ﬂows from his crown of long matted hair. snakes. She is the consort of Lord Brahma. 125 . or Ganga. Lord Shiva is worshipped by many lineages of yogis and babas in India. and music. learning. She is the goddess of knowledge. crafts. that you are Pure Consciousness. The Hindu masculine Godhead is represented by a Trinity: Brahma is the creator. and tiger skins. Shiva – the destructive aspect of Divinity. writing. and he is most often found meditating in the Himalayas or roaming about with hosts of ghosts and goblins. She looks over the arts. ashes. Merging in that state of Oneness within and without. Shiva’s consort is Parvati and their son is Ganesha.Glossary Saraswati – one of the Hindu forms of the Divine Mother. He wears skulls. sciences. Vishnu is the sustainer. and Shiva is the destroyer. Self-Realization – realizing that you are the Self. He represents Pure Consciousness and is the Lord of Yoga and Yogis. and skills.
she was the wife of Lord Rama. An incarnation of Lakshmi. Ravana. When we strengthen the Witness. the Ramayana. 126 . Sri – title of respect for a deity or holy person. The Witness is One with the innermost Self. emotions. The Witness is always witnessing. and actions. She represents the eternal female aspect of the Divine. The Witness – that part of ourselves that simply witnesses our thoughts. we can strengthen it and cultivate it. She exhibited supreme devotion and loyalty to her husband. she was freed by her heroic husband and Hanuman’s monkey army.Radiance Rising Sita – one of the Hindu forms of the Divine Mother. Sutra – a statement of a Hindu principle. body sensations. in the epic tale. Captured by the demon. and when we become aware of the Witness. which is the pure love energy that connects us all. Swami/Swamini – a Hindu honoriﬁc title for learned priests/nuns.
Glossary we become detached from our identiﬁcation with the body-mind. In facing our vasanas. Acceptance of What Is. Vedic – of the Vedas. and Respect for Time. therefore. If we try to ignore them or pretend that they don’t exist. Our vasanas do need to be dealt with. they do unravel – in their own time and at their own pace. and that detachment allows us to place our attention on the pure love energy that we are. Cultivating the Witness is. Vishnu – the sustaining aspect of Divinity. We then radiate bliss and we can help others to ﬁnd their bliss. we become happy. it is helpful to learn three things: Patience. joyful. they will come out anyway at some point. and content. When we put our attention on that pure love energy. Vasanas – magnetic tendencies that show up as strong personality patterns that do not want to let go. When worked with skillfully. The 127 . one of the most important spiritual practices. the ancient Hindu scriptural texts.
Vishnu is the sustainer. repetition of mantras.” The Yoga Path comprises the practices that lead one to that state of Union – that state of Oneness with one’s highest Self and with the Divine. Viveka – “discrimination. Some of the yogic practices include meditation. 128 . and asanas (body postures). chanting. When humans are in trouble and need Divine help. a valuable tool is learning how to discriminate between that which is changing and That which is unchanging. Lord Vishnu incarnates in a human body. Yoga/Yoga Path – literally means “union.” On any spiritual path. Yogi refers to a male practitioner. His two most popular incarnations in India were those of Rama and Krishna. while yogini refers to a female practitioner. Vishnu’s consort is Lakshmi.Radiance Rising Hindu masculine Godhead is represented by a Trinity: Brahma is the creator. and Shiva is the destroyer. Yogi – one who practices yoga.
Glossary Yogini – one who practices yoga. while yogini refers to a female practitioner. 129 . Yogi refers to a male practitioner.
Monica. KD. Ajna. and Baba Rampuri. Dana. Quintana. KO. Eliza. Jonathan. Helen. my soul sisters Luna. my beloved sons Benjamin and Joshua. Tavis. and my dear family – my brothers 131 . Joseph. Britt. since he left his body. Gerry. Ramas.Acknowledgments Tuning in to Gratitude and expressing it to others is an important spiritual practice. Tenabah. the souls who I have loved dearly: Baron. Jill. Julianna. my spiritual brothers Howie. who. Savar. Gaelyn. and Pete (Yogi Sinzapatos). and Constance. Randi Jan. Jai. Prema. I now call Yogi Shambho. Karl. Lorraine. their papa Bryan. LG. Hope. It is with deep gratitude and humility that I acknowledge the following beings for the beautiful support they have offered me: My dear spiritual teacher Basil. Bram.
Thank You for showering me with Your Guidance and Grace. adorable Gurus. I bow to my beloved.Radiance Rising and sisters-in-law. my parents. Amma and Neem Karoli Baba. and all my ancestors who made my life possible! And with deepest gratitude. Jai Sri Rama! 132 .
Buddhist. Then she switched to Judaism for ten years. named Tejaswini by her Guru. is awakening her inner bliss through Yogic spiritual practices. Born Catholic. and Muslim traditions. Native American. writing. Ammachi.About the Author T eja. during which time she also studied Daoist. Together with her greatest teachers – her sons. she lives in a cozy little cottage where she enjoys reading. she remained devoutly Catholic until she was twenty-three years old. and cooking mantra-infused meals. Josh-ji and Benji-ji – she is learning to slow down and ﬂow with what is arising in each moment of life. Teja has always loved religion and ritual. 133 . A mother of two bright boys.
she met Basil.yogini-bliss. including author. spiritual teacher. At that time. as a practicing raja yogini. counselor. under her pen name Rita Ann Shankara: The Rita Lila: A Western Yogini’s Journey to Bliss Love Soups: A Vegetarian Soup Cookbook Inspired by the Soup Devas 134 .com Also by Teja Shankara. she intends to serve many beings through a myriad of roles. With an ever-increasing heart openness. and the Yoga Path. Teja ﬁnds that regular chanting and meditating are leading her Home to the Bliss of her true Self. social worker.Radiance Rising At age thirty-three. Now. Reiki practitioner. caregiver. www. an American spiritual teacher who she studied with for several years. and cook. Hinduism. she was suddenly strongly drawn to India.