A Complete Meditation Path To Enlightenment When I discovered this meditation system while living at a Tibetan Buddhist centre it changed everything for me. At the time I was engaged in all sorts of spiritual Tibetan Buddhist practices including making prostrations to Buddhas, reciting daily prayers and making imaginary offerings to gurus, attending complicated philosophical
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If you want to reach your full potential, Baron Baptiste suggests starting with self-inquiry.
Want to unlock an unexpected world of possibility in your practice—and your life? Then Yoga Journal’s upcoming course The Power of Play Bootcamp is for you. Baron Baptiste—veteran yoga teacher and founder of the Baptiste Institute and Baptiste Foundation—will lead you through four weeks of meditation, asana, and self-inquiry specifically designed to spark awakening and growth. Start the new year with a powerful perspective—and discover how to put it into action.
The act of being open to discovering something you haven’t seen before is the first step in turning your life into something greater. But you have to know where to look. The best place is within. I call this “inquiry,” or svadhyaya in Sanskrit. Your willingness to discover yourself also acknowledges that you haven’t arrived and that there is more to learn. As B.K.S. Iyengar said, “The minute you think you’ve arrived, you get squashed like a bug.”
Inquiry can bring about empowering and permanent shifts in your quality of life, health, and being. That’s the work that we focus on in my new course The Power of Play Bootcamp.
I’ve learned that it’s good to remember that there is always more to learn and more to discover about who I am—my strengths, my gifts, my flaws, my fears, my pain, and my compulsions. I’ve seen that the instant I become filled up with my “knowingness” and know-how about something I tend to get stuck.
Sometimes, too, if you’re anything like me, you might get caught up in self-destructive patterns. But if we can see those patterns clearly for what they are and unlock the unresolved past, then it’s possible for that old energy to disintegrate in the light of our awareness. Then it begins to lose its grip on us and wither away. There is tremendous power in just knowing what is going on within—not so you can “work on your stuff,” but so you can begin to integrate it, shine light on it, heal it, and ultimately release it. If there is something or someone to forgive, you can open up to doing that work in yourself and creating a new way.
3 Ways to Practice Self-Inquiry
1. Be curious.
The next time you find yourself wanting to get out of a yoga pose because it seems too hard or frustrating or it’s triggering some reaction in you, simply pause, drop into your center, and check in with what’s actually happening. If it’s a physical thing that needs attention or some modification then take that action from a place of awareness. If it’s a mental or emotional issue hooking you in the pose, then don’t act on that emotion right away—be with it. Maybe it has something to teach you. When dealing with mental beliefs that come up in a pose, it can be empowering to ask yourself, What if I just got curious about what I’m experiencing? What could happen if I stayed in the pose instead of darting? By following your curiosity, you bring inquiry to the pose and a whole other dimension to the practice. Wonderment and curiosity are the tools of inquiry that give us access to discovery and new possibility.
2. Be open.
For me, I can see that if I want to continue to grow and discover, I must be malleable. And when I get fixed or rigid in my view and perceptions about life, others, and myself, I experience contraction. To be malleable is to be available for discovery. For example, sometimes when I was in Iyengar’s class and he started speaking, I would go into my default way of listening and immediately think, Oh, I know what he is going to say. Or worse, as soon as he would call a pose, I would tune him out entirely, and move into autopilot and just do the pose the way I already know how to do it. In those moments, I would have to shake myself awake and remember that I showed up on my mat to learn something new. And to learn something new meant I needed to look and listen in new ways. I mean, I was already there on my mat anyway, so why not open myself up, get curious, and perhaps discover something that could possibly change me forever?
3. Be content and unsatisfied.
If you achieve the physical skill and capacity you have been striving for in a pose or in your practice, there’s always another level of discovery available to you. That’s the beauty of yoga: It’s a mountain with no top. That’s where the invaluable process of inquiry comes in. Ask yourself, What crossroad do I find myself in at this point in my practice? What could I do, or not do, in order to open up to something that wants to emerge? This question affirms that the complexity and “never-arriving” quality of the practice is what gives it deeper meaning and bigger possibility. The fact that you can acknowledge you are at a crossroads gives you the energy to get through it. This intersection represents an unfulfilled desire to change your direction. It shows you what you want to put your attention on and what you want to take it off of.
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In part 3 of this kriya yoga series, yoga teacher Laura Riley shares how your communication with others can interfere with your relationship to self.
Without realizing it, you may cover up your feelings by using communication filters, which can come in the forms of words, body language, and actions. When a close friend asks, “What’s wrong?” and you unreflectively smile and say, “Nothing,” you might be closing yourself off from your real feelings. Shutting the door to your inner world in this way prevents you from fully experiencing life, connecting with your personal values and making choices that help you live in alignment with them—all part of what I call “internal activism.”
Don’t beat yourself up if you use filters as an emotional technique, though. You might be practicing a form of self-care. Filters can serve an important protective purpose in the case of trauma or a difficult-to-cope-with reaction to a situation. You might require a temporary filter on your feelings. Turning on or activating the fullest expression of your emotions when you are not ready can re-trigger unpleasant or even traumatic experiences. This can be counterproductive to a healing process, which is necessary in order to have an internally active life.
That is not to say that you have to be 100% healed, at peace in all moments, or cheery every day before having an internally active life. Filters can often garble your true sentiments and interfere with the relationships you have with yourself and others. Conscious or subconscious filters adulterate how you communicate your feelings. You pick up these filters for a variety of understandable reasons including fear of not being good enough or fear of being hurt. But filters end up dampening the message you’re trying to get across and affect communication in both directions. Here are two commonly used filters to become more aware of.
If you find yourself asking a question in which you are not interested in the answer, you are probably initiating surface speak. “How was your commute this morning?” or “Is it cold over there?” Questions like these are habitual placeholders. If you’re about to enter into a meeting or business discussion, they might not be that harmful. Then again, consider asking a more insightful or personal question; it can still remain in the professional realm. People are able to connect more when asked, for example, how their daughter is doing, by name. Far from being manipulative, it demonstrates a genuine interest in other aspects of who they are, revealing talents, identities, and parts of their lives that they don’t always share in that context.
While weather is sometimes a noteworthy topic, unless you’re talking about climate change it does not need to be a centerpiece of a conversation. Certainly, in personal and intimate relationships surface speak can be harmful. They signal that there is a resistance to either receive or give on a deep and connected level. Sometimes they can serve as a warm up in conversation, but I ask you to question why that is necessary. What is behind that hesitancy?
2. Stepping back
Another filter or unconscious practice many people implement is stepping back. You can step back in many contexts—from your own dreams, from emotional connection or deeper communications, from potential conflict. The filter here creates a shield from something imagined, whether it’s an imagined good or difficult scenario. The truth is you don’t know what an experience will be until you step into it. When you step back, you distance yourself from vitality, from life forces that will bring you to the next place you can go, the next person you may meet and learn from, and most importantly it takes you further away from your internal life.
Stepping back—shutting people out of your safe space—can feel cozy. But you can create safe spaces through boundaries while still stepping into a full life. By stepping back you shrink yourself by ignoring or attempting to shut out experiences and emotions that will inevitably chase you down. Then you will have to face them, maybe tenfold.
The internal action and kriya yoga counterpoints to these filters are to speak deeply and step into experiences that will serve you. As with all yoga practices, they take repetition and practice to maximize how you experience them and your internal life. Go ahead and get started with the following partner exercise.
Practice Deepening Your Communication
Choose someone you trust to practice deepening your communication with. Set aside at least 15 minutes. Try telling your partner a topic or activity that you would like to dedicate more time and energy to in your life. Have your partner silently count to 10 then acknowledge the topic or activity that you just shared with them. Then, switch roles.
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In part two of this six-part kriya yoga series, yoga teacher Laura Riley explains how to elevate your self-communication to activate the feelings beneath the noise.
As a human, you likely miscommunicate with yourself on a regular basis. You send yourself unhelpful messages in the form of negative self-talk or downward spirals of doubt. Or, you hear messages from others, internalize them, and repeat them to yourself. To activate your inner life and hone your awareness of your own feelings and values, you need to detach yourself from these kinds of messages, the kind that can end up dictating the patterns of your days.
These communication patterns can be difficult to deal with, though, as they swirl around internally but are not feelings in and of themselves. They may have become habit and like other other habits you have likely inherited or adopted, it takes a series of actions to break them: first, being aware of the thing you’re doing repeatedly; second, noticing how it makes you feel; and third, choosing a new pattern that could produce a different emotional effect. Limiting your inner noise by unfriending the following two voices from your self-talk is an essential step toward accessing your feelings.
Many people hear a voice that says, “I’m Not Good Enough.” You receive a new assignment at work that will push you beyond your past experience. Your partner tells you he is anxious about finances, and you haven’t paid much attention to your budget recently. You personalize the circumstances and start a particular(ly harmful) form of miscommunication: a voice I call “INGE.”
You could follow that thought, to theoretically find the root of this belief that you misplaced on yourself. You could try to understand INGE to make her go away. Another method is to replace the ‘negative’ thought with one you imagine to be more ‘positive.’ Instead of these tried-but-not-necessarily-true methods, sit and watch INGE as you would watch any other thought in mindfulness meditation. By choosing this internal action, you will deprioritize INGE. Instead of reinforcing the voice telling you that you are not good enough by virtue of its playing on repeat, INGE will lose her power when you simply notice she’s on autopilot and not speaking the truth. When you take notice of INGE, it is possible to let her go. You get to put INGE in her place through simple observation.
2. Turning Against Myself (aka TAM)
Adults experience pulls toward what they want and need, but sometimes, even when these senses are strong and clear, judge those desires harshly or disregard them entirely. “I want more responsibility at work, but maybe this would be too stressful or I might not be ready for it.” “I need a partner who can emotionally engage with me, but this person I’ve been dating is nice and nothing is terribly wrong.” This is what I call “Turning Against Myself,” or “TAM.”
TAM can manifest through seemingly small choices, like agreeing to go out for drinks with an acquaintance who usually bails when you’ve worked a long day and know you need to get up in the morning. It can also show up through breathtakingly impactful choices, like marrying someone because you’re afraid of what the alternative looks like. Just as with INGE, sit down with TAM and see what happens. Maybe TAM will stop turning against you, settle down, and chill out.
How to Unfriend INGE and TAM
Internal action doesn’t have to involve physical action and can be very simple. In fact, the act of stillness can often be the missing link between you and your feelings—which often hide under the distracting voices of INGE and TAM. Try any activity you know helps you be gentler with yourself. Take 10 minutes to sit by yourself and breathe, one hand on your heart, the other on your belly; soften both areas as you inhale and exhale. Or try taking a walk without your phone. Notice whether INGE or TAM join you, how they behave once you acknowledge them, how long they stick around for, and when they come back. No matter your method, practice patience with yourself as you unfriend INGE and TAM. Observe whether they are disempowered by your internal actions, even the simple act of stillness.
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Los Angeles-based teacher Sesa O’Connor talks to YJ about her spiritual upbringing, raising a little yogi solo, and the booming yoga industry.
Brought Up on Bhakti Yoga
I grew up around the spiritual philosophy of yoga. My parents got into bhakti yoga back in the ’60s, and my godparents made their house like an ashram, so that anyone who was searching could come and live for free as long as they partook in chores. I can probably count on two hands the number of times I did asana growing up, because they’re not required to progress one’s spiritual life—they’re there to keep the temple of the body healthy as a means to continue to live out service.
I got pregnant unexpectedly at 21, and I started practicing asana to keep my body fit and ready for the labor process. That’s when I realized that even though asana have nothing to do with the grand scheme of yoga, they can still be used as stepping stones, and a lot of people who come to yoga are searching, or at least open-minded. So after I had my son, I decided to go through teacher training, and now I end every class by planting a philosophical seed. Even if only one or two people hear me out of a class of 50, I’ve done my job.
How Yoga Informs Her Single Parenting
My son’s biological father wasn’t ready to be a father. So I said that’s fine, I’ll do it on my own—this child was given to me for a reason. Nakula was born and raised vegetarian, and we practice ahimsa (nonviolence), mindfulness, asana, and being present to whatever shows up. As a result, he’s a very kind and sweet boy, and I feel his practice helps him deal with frustration and other feelings that come up.
O’Connor’s Take on Yoga’s Popularity
Watching the popularity of yoga grow has been very bittersweet. The more popular it becomes, the more diluted it gets. I find some teacher trainings can be more of a moneymaking scheme; there are a few programs I know of where teachers who come out on the other end shouldn’t be certified to teach because they could be hurting people. They don’t know, for instance, what proper breathing is. Breath is the key to the physical practice.
The driving force behind my practice is the idea of yolking with God at the end of life. Within our material form, that’s not something we can do. But if we can really identify as being a spirit, then we understand the body is just temporary, a shell, a tool we’re given to reach yoga’s end goal of uniting with God.
Thanksgiving is all about gratitude, but there are big benefits celebrating it daily. Learn why you might want to kickstart a regular gratitude practice this week.
Maybe you’ve experienced this at a Thanksgiving dinner: At some point, someone suggests going around the table to say what you’re thankful for. You feel butterflies in your stomach as you try to come up with a meaningful nugget on the spot. You always come up with something—friends, family, cranberry sauce. Once you’re finished, you remember all the things you wish you’d said. Now, even though it hadn’t been top of mind before, you’re actually feeling that flood of gratitude for many things—and it feels good.
Everyday we’re barraged with the many challenges we all face in this world, but we have very few external stimuli pointing out what’s positive. It’s up to us to do this for ourselves. The good news is, just like around that Thanksgiving table, once you sit down and try, your gratitude list grows (and grows). Once it does, there’s a lot of scientific evidence suggesting that practicing gratitude regularly improves your well-being in more ways than one.
Meditation Studio teacher Ashley Turner suggests being grateful for the basics…starting with simply being able to sit. From there, you might expand to the fact that you have food to eat, a roof over your head, and so on.
2. Write it down.
Gratitude experts, from psychologists to Oprah, believe that keeping a journal, a place to list just a handful of things each week or day, has a tremendous cumulative effect on your outlook.
3. Be detailed.
The catchy tune of a new pop song, the sound of a friend’s laughter, the color of your partner’s eyes—these little things count! And they add up in your mind and heart.
4. Visualize each thing.
Mindfulness expert and Meditation Studio teacher Elisha Goldstein recommends not just making a gratitude list but also experiencing each item in your mind’s eye. Spending more time to think about each thing helps strengthen the neural connections between positive memories and the rest of your brain
5. Use a meditation to guide you.
If you’re not in the habit of practicing gratitude, guided meditations, such as this one can walk you through the process step by step, in just a few minutes.
Want to try another? Meditation Studio has a number of Gratitude Meditations. We’re ready when you are! Practice with us: meditationstudioapp.com
1. “Over the Rainbow / What a Wonderful World,” Israel Kamakawiwo’ole 2. “Thank You,” Dido 3. “Home,” Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros 4. “Shelter from the Storm,” Bob Dylan 5. “Dancing In The Moonlight,” King Harvest 6. “Thank You,” Led Zeppelin 7. “Give Thanks & Praises,” Bob Marley & The Wailers 8. “I’m a Believer,” The Monkees 9. “Beautiful Day,” U2 10. “Heaven Is A Place On Earth,” Belinda Carlisle 11. “How Sweet It Is [To Be Loved By You],” James Taylor 12. “Your Song,” Ellie Goulding 13. “Wind Beneath My Wings,” Bette Midler 14. “Come On Get Higher,” Matt Nathanson 15. “Lovesong,” Adele 16. “Time After Time,” Iron & Wine
Download the free Spotify software to listen to our playlists—and check back weekly for more of our fave yoga tunes.
YJ Influencer Hemalayaa Behl shares how you can harness the most intense mental and emotional energy to raise your vibration.
Life happens! It always will. You get fired, betrayed, heartbroken. A loved one dies. When your system is overwhelmed with agony, you can rise above the mud. Whatever your breaking point, your deepest point of depression, let it take you where it really wants you to go—UP! Rise up and reach up for the hand of the unseen, unknown support that is right there, waiting for you.
My experiences with deep grief and loss have brought me closer to my spiritual connection. These mental and emotional breakdowns were blessings in disguise. Of course, seeing that in the moment is the hard part. But maybe we’re not meant to see it. It’s meant to be felt, expressed, and released. During those times, I surrender again and again to the spiritual connection that is available to us all.
Have you had a taste of that nectar? When life flows and you are feeling soft, yet strong, and connected to all? When you feel you’ve arrived home? That’s how I experience it. If your put your “opportunity glasses” on to see through the plethora of emotions, you will see that we are each gifted with a great amount of divine energy. How you choose to move this energy will aid in your healing process.
Tap into the wisdom and magic of your inner child, the 6-year-old who hasn’t let go of magic and wisdom. That child knows how to get through a breakdown and return to joy and connection again. Channeling your inner child is soul work that reconnects you to your capacity for wonder, joy, innocence, sensitivity, and playfulness.
Your inner child has no filter and knows you need to release emotions instead of hold onto them. Knowing this and putting it into practice brings your closer to your spiritual connection. Trust your inner child’s wisdom, in fact, let her be in charge. Let yourself have that breakdown, knowing there is a breakthrough around the corner. Here are five ways to engage and use the energy of your breakdown to arrive closer to that divine connection that is waiting for you on the other side.
5 Ways to Turn a Breakdown Into a Spiritual Breakthrough
Embrace the life-changing magic of purging! Mentally and physically let go of what does not serve you. Purge the feelings, the bad habits, self-limiting beliefs, even the clutter of your home and the people in your life who are not supportive. Create a safe and sacred space to cry—let it out and let it go. I am an encourager of tantrums and screaming out the pain (in a safe environment, of course). Open up the physical and mental space and watch new gifts and supportive people magically appear. Don’t worry about how long you’ve been friends with Becky with the good hair and bad attitude. Another friend is coming along who will lift you up, as you her.
Get physical! Reconnect with your physical body. Walking, hiking, yoga asana, martial arts, jumping on a trampoline, or dance! Choreograph your life away from isolation, let movement in to be your saving grace. Depression is stagnation, and the counterpose is movement.
Find a guide. Seek the guidance you may have been avoiding or putting off. A life coach, a mentor, a teacher could be what helps you reconnect. Women, let’s face it, we are talkers, and we can release by communicating and talking it out. Utilize this new energy to focus of your spiritual center.
Tap into your creativity. Painting, writing, dancing, playing…embrace your innovative side. Not your thing? Try creating a group online or joining a community group and helping create the program and events. Seek ways to be inspired, to be creative, and to broaden your innate talents. When you tap into inspiration, you tap into your own divinity.
Be gentle with yourself and practice self-care. Self-care is a pathway to raising your vibration. Nurture and soothe yourself with baths, walks, tickles, and, of course, lovemaking—with or without a partner. Play with pleasure. Sensual dance, self-massage, touching your erogenous zones for a quick tickle, smelling and anointing yourself with essential oils, feather on the face will—these are all ways to invigorate your senses and perk you up.
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Meditation Teacher A friend recently told me about a woman who went to her first weekend-long meditation retreat and, upon her return, began setting up shop as a Meditation Teacher (capital “M,” capital “T”). I was surprised to hear about this, as an introductory weekend retreat is not a lot of time to learn the
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“At the heart of yoga, there is awakening through direct realization, transformation, and regeneration from within. The more we wake up, the greater our power as a whole. We genuinely practice for the benefit of all beings.”
I’m truly in awe of yoga’s expanse throughout the world in the last 30 years. Yoga is celebrated by so many walks of life and this has generated an interconnected web of communication and empowerment. Yoga means “to yoke,” which draws us together and connects us more as a collective force. As we stand at the precipice of a world facing increasing amounts of crisis, the global yoga connection is rising in ways that we could not see 30 years ago.
At the heart of yoga, there is awakening through direct realization, transformation, and regeneration from within. The more we wake up, the greater our power as a whole. We genuinely practice for the benefit of all beings.
My wish for the future of yoga is a deepening commitment to the practices that truly serve to integrate us, including: traditional yoga practices along with shadow work, conscious communication, emotional intimacy, leadership skills, and earth ceremony.
It is time to become more aware of spiritual bypassing and acknowledge our vulnerability and even the pitfalls of our practices. For me, the “advanced yogi” is the one who can keep their heart open in the midst of conflict, turn toward their pain with genuine compassion, step into collaboration versus competition, and cultivate real intimacy with self and others.
Sometimes, the surface glamour of the practice can elude us from our deeper work and we unconsciously use the practice to escape our pain. By turning toward our personal shadow, we can attend to the collective shadow in a more conscious way without so much blame, shame, and guilt. We release the name-calling and take greater responsibility for true transformation individually and collectively.
Can we ask ourselves the toughest questions and allow our hearts to crack open in the most vulnerable ways? Where are we avoiding our pain? What unresolved wounds can we lovingly and compassionately attend to? With transparency, realness, and dedication, we become much more grounded in the real inner work and rise together in our transformation.
The future of yoga is calling us to leadership and the cultivation of the true human warrior for sustaining humanity. Collaboration and Community are essential in this waking up. This means we must be willing to release the sense of competition through social media and business paradigms, and really anchor the power of the collective whole.
Sianna Sherman’s Vision for Yoga’s Future
This is what I see for the future of yoga: honesty, vulnerability, intimacy, collaboration, and deep compassion for the hero/heroine’s journey we are all walking. We remember that we’re all in this together and we really are family.
The heart of the indigenous soul is waking up again in each of us. I see the future of yoga as a returning home to the Earth and the remembrance that we are all Earth Guardians for our beautiful planet.
With the rising tide of yoga all around the world, I have immense hope for humanity as a whole. Now is our time to yoke together, regardless of the style of yoga we practice. Yoga has been exalted in our lifetime so we can join together as a collective heart tribe in a grounded, conscious way that truly makes a difference.