🧘 Reflections On Monastic Training & The Benefits of Sadhana: Is the Mind Ever Really Mindful? 🧘

in #meditationlast year

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When I left university and a beautiful girlfriend at the age of nineteen to join a full time monastic training ashram in order to learn mindfulness, I took to it like there was nothing more important to me in this lifetime. And now over 30 years later, I still feel the same. One thing ten years as a full time monk in a Bhakti Yoga ashram taught me is that we are so full of mind but seldom ever mindful.

The training was rigorous, where not only did I renounce all worldly possessions, clothes and hair on my head, but I also donned the saffron robes and joined the other monks in the “Bhahmachari Ashram” or celibate student training college. In other words I underwent the traditional brahminical training of a priest in India under the Gaudiya Vaishnava Sampradaya (lineage). This is Vishnu Bhakti as opposed to Shiva or Kali or any of the other manifestations of the demigods or devas. It’s not Buddhism although is related since Buddhism and its various offshoots all originate in the Vedic Sanskrit culture of ancient India. The practice may be similar though there may be some subtle differences of philosophical interpretation of reality. Altogether I spent the ten years solidly practicing and training among others in the ashram, some of the time in India and some back in my home town at the local ashram under senior teachers in the order.

And so it is very hard to impress me with esoteric insights because I have heard and trained under the real thing for a decade. I need to hear that you are repeating some information from an authoritative source, and not your mind because, as we know, the speculative mind is ironically often the obstacle to mindfulness.

Fortunately the ancient techniques for attaining mindfulness are still practised by temple and ashram students and monks today, and in order to rise above the mind, the ashram training was based on one secret technique to really maintain heightened mindfulness, and that was ROUTINE. Of course the details of the routine are also crucial, but the technique which worked for me and which is the most recommended for yogis, is to perform what is called in Sanskrit “sadhana” or a daily practice of a fixed routine.

It is, after all, the body/mind that will occasionally be overwhelmed by the lower modes of nature and fall into bad habits, like sloth or lethargy, just for example. But if one surrenders to a daily routine, then it allows for far less leeway in which the mind can make excuses to avoid the really important priority of life, namely one’s state of mindfulness or lack thereof.
The next ten years of daily “sadhana” were like military training but for the yogi. The primary part of the daily practice was the two hour “japa” meditation, which is the technique of using “mala” or chanting beads upon which to count while reciting the mantra softly to oneself. The string of 108 wooden beads on a string is a popular and common one among various traditional spiritual cultures, like Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim or Catholic. This is because it is an ancient technique from a previous time and because it works.

This is where speculation is thrown out of the window and tried and tested techniques are applied to directly train the mind and intelligence, in this case by capturing two of the five senses, namely the ear and the tongue as one recites and listens to your recitation of the mantra as it is repeated for the two hour meditation session. When so many diverse cultures all practice the same technique, despite hundreds of years, thousands of miles or volumes of books worth of difference in their details, it acts like confirmation that the technique is legitimate.

Besides that, timing is also everything in the subtle art of training to be a yogi and for using one’s life to raise consciousness via mindfulness. Nothing is random because life is a science as well as an art. The body/mind is a machine and functions at its best when steered according to the natural flow of life’s cycles. We all know how healthy it is to rise with the sun and retire to bed relatively early for best Circadian rhythm and good health. Well, the yoga tradition teaches that the best time for meditation is called the “Brahma muhurta”. A muhurta is a time slot in the 24 hour cycle of the day. Each muhurta is about 45mins long and they are all especially favored for various different practices in the daily routine.

The digestion, for example, is at its best when the sun is highest up in the sky, or between midday and 2pm. Therefore this is the best time according to Ayurveda, to take one’s main meal of the day. Well, for meditation the best time is 90 mins before sunrise onward. So as a result all monks would be obliged to wake up at 4am to begin the daily practice, seven days a week, all year long. That is the real standard practised by serious “sadhus”. And these are the kinds of techniques required to really rise above the pitfalls of the mind and evolve in the art and science of mindfulness.

Although I’m more relaxed and spontaneous now and not as rigorous in my practice, those ten years of solid training have instilled in me a foundation that will always be there upon which to evolve and grow still further in mindfulness and in self-realization or consciousness. So if you want to make a success of this human form of life and cultivate the mindfulness required to leave the body in a good state of consciousness at the end, then there is nothing more important than a daily routine of meditation practice, of whatever sort you are familiar with.

Personally though I recommend using sound vibration, even softly, to help harness the attention and the state of mind, lest it wonder. Some prefer silent meditation. It’s up to you, but meditate you must if you want to make progress. So good luck to you on the path of daily practice. Therein lies the key to endurance, and ultimately results. It’s not about being goal oriented, it’s about the daily practice in the moment because that’s all there is.

Mindful posts worth celebrating this week (Curation by @riverflows)

@julianhorack, the author of this post, writes more about sound meditation here where he writes:

Vibration or frequency is affecting us on subtle scientifically measurable levels, just like certain barometric weather patterns can also sometimes make people feel uneasy, of electromagnetic static in the atmosphere before a lightning storm can make one feel irritable. It’s the frequencies around us, the vibration and pressure of the atmosphere. Life is a science and nothing happens out of context. Even our feelings of joy or distress can be affected by external circumstances without any knowledge thereof on our part.

@nainez.tengra wrote about karma in her post here where she writes:

Through life times, we have connected with lots and lots of people and we have had all sorts of relationships with them. Relationship of love, hatred, fear, anger, give and take and may be much more. We have had partakes with these people and those are getting carried across lifetime, never ending, never getting closed. The Energy of the past experiences have deeply rooted in the Energetic body and it keeps coming back because it has not been cleared. These energetic patterns keeps us stuck and makes us experience them again and again. Unless we are able to remove and release these blocks they will be stuck within us taking us through the same experiences. Energetically we have attached chords with these people and with the same pattern we also start attaching chords to other people where the experiences are similar and getting into a never ending loop. When you start attaching chords to other people or other people attach it with you, then you are almost mimicking them. That's the reason most of the time it is said, what you see in others is a reflection of your own self, your own character.

We also liked this post by @raj808 as he reflects on his meditation journey. He writes:

The theme of my meditation experience was definitely tranquility. I didn't set out with any set goal, just to be with breath and see if I could still my thoughts. Guided by the very accomplished @bewithbreath, we flowed from body scan into breathing meditation. It is at this point that I found what I really needed, a strong escape from my busy thoughts. Throughout the 10 -15 minutes of focusing on the breath flowing in and out of my nose, my mind drifted several times to thoughts that are stress triggers for me. But each time @bewithbreath seemed to have plugged into the collective unconscious, as his prompts to return focus to breath came just as my 'monkey mind' started to take over.The final 5 minutes of the breathing section flowed by in a complete stillness for me. That quiet mind feeling is like paradise, that's the most accurate way I can describe it. Especially with my day to day mind state being quite prone to stress and fight/flight reactions. When I find these brief times of nirvana, it is just that... nirvana. It's kind of like sleeping but with bodily awareness, nothingness within and without. The sound of passing buses, police sirens and all the city life just melting away.

And in other news...

The winner of SBI for this past week is @raj808! Congratulations! Each week we award someone posting under #mindfulife with a little SBI to say thank you for your enthusiasm and wisdoms.

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Thank you @julianhorack for sharing your journey. It is very enlightening to hear from someone who has gone through the training and has lived as a monk. It shows how very different life is in different parts of the world.

At 19 I was in college and married. I had heard of yogis and such, but I had no clue as to what they were or what they did. I had no clue as to what mindfulness was. Sure I would hear or be told to be mindful of my thoughts and my tongue which would simply mean watch what you say or think.

I didn't learn anything about mindfulness until 6 years ago. I had no idea how it came to be or really what it was/is. Sure I would hear stories of someone who went on a retreat in a monastery and has a new view of life, it doesn't mean I understood it. As with so much through the years, I was told this is how I needed to be, handed a pamphlet and sent on my merry way. I have had to teach myself. I had to learn skills that no one ever taught me. I didn't know what a coping skill was, but I was told I need to use them. I was told to breathe and I didn't know there was a kind of breathing that was needed. Then to meditate. I read book after book on that. It's hard reading a book that's guiding you through a meditation to then try to implement it. Life before the internet.

Am I mindful in a world view? Nope. Do I try to be? I am learning. Will I ever be? Is anyone truly? with a few exceptions. This is why when I write, I include actual situations that occurred and then try to break it down to see how to 'we' can learn from my mistake. I do not want people to suffer more than they have or have to. If I can spare 1 person from the pit or give them hope of seeing the light of day then I am doing what I have set out to do. I wasn't given the skills or even had knowledge of existence of something different.

Hey Meditators and meditation enthusiasts - today’s SGM (Steemit Group Meditation) at 8:30pm London Time on Discord Meditation Hall https://discord.gg/g74bdV - will be starting in less than 5 hours. @amico @chesatochi @chireerocks @ConsciousAngel7 @cori(crescendoofpeace) @digitaldan @fracasgrimm
@inuke @jacobfox @Immarojas @macchiata @porters @raj808 @rebeccabe @riverflows @yangyanje @steelborne @steemflow @tryskele @vibesforlife @dazedconfused11 @senattor @yangyanje @mayb @bifilarcoil @nateonsteemit @in2itiveart @jomed @judith @n202 @rem-steem @julianhorak @anttn @vincentnijman and other meditation enthusiasts? 🙏🏼🧘🏼‍♂️🧘🏼‍♀️❤️🕉

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Feeling unfortunate to miss this. Stay blessed.

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And so it is very hard to impress me with esoteric insights because I have heard and trained under the real thing for a decade.

Even more reason we're grateful for your knowledge and your participation in #mindfullife, dear @julianhorack. It's great to get confirmation of aspects of the practice and further insights. I love reading about your sound meditations. I used to love japa but I have fallen out of the practice. It was incredibly powerful. In my yoga practice at certain studios I can drop into meditative flow a lot better if we do chanting beforehand.

Thanks so much for sharing about your experience at the ashram. How blessed you are that you were drawn so powerfully to this sadhana. The brahma muhurta is a beautiful time to sit and meditate - I loved that when I have gone on retreats (specifically vipassana) but when you get back into the demands of the 9-5 (not that I'm completely 9 - 5) it's quite hard to get myself up at this hour. Now I feel guilty for mumbling how I can't manage 5.30 am for the Wednesday meditations with @bewithbreath haha!!

Loved this post, would love you to write for us again.

No need to create guilt feeling dear @riverflows 😃, as much as we love to have you in the meditation hall, absolutely understand the timing issue. We are grateful for creating this platform 🧘🏼‍♂️🧘🏼‍♀️😊🙏🏼

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The writing by @julianhorack is so beautiful and inspirational 🙏🏽


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Amazing, beautiful and energetic - so profound yet you put it in a very simple way. Your advanced knowledge and established practice and experience is obvious. So glad to have you on @naturalmedicine and #mindfullife. Would love you to host some meditation sessions for our mindful folks if you can. 🙏🏼🧘🏼‍♂️🧘🏼‍♀️

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🎁 Hi @naturalmedicine! You have received 0.1 STEEM tip from @bewithbreath!

@bewithbreath wrote lately about: Looking To Wind Down? Could Meditation Be Cheapest Way? Feel free to follow @bewithbreath if you like it :)

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Thank you for this inspirational post @julianhorack! I was drawn to meditation earlier on in my life too and lived at the center for a couple of years but never so much that I renounced everything and took robes. What a difference that must have made to spend 10 years in an ashram, you would have a completely different mindset than those living a layman's life. Did you find it hard to adjust once you left the ashram? I know I enjoy having my meditation studio and home in the forest so I can retreat from the craziness of the world and I find it is the meditation practice that is one of the most important things in my life and as I get older I want to let those other things which are more of a distraction - fall away. So happy that you found your way into the Mindful Life Community and I look forward to reading more of your wonderful posts!

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