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May all find the teacher within to guide oneself towards unconditional love and peace

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The practice of observing the natural breath as it is...

Sit in any comfortable sitting position or lie on the floor in Savasana. Bring the mind focus at the present moment now, on the natural breath. Be aware of the air coming in and going out from the nostrils.

Let go of any tensions – physical, mental and emotional tensions. All these tensions are inter-related. By releasing one of these tensions will also help to release the other tensions. That’s why yoga exercises or yoga practice is a great purification process for the body and the mind.

We don’t just learn how to let go of tensions, but more important, we learn how to not generate tensions at the first place by practicing non-attachment. When there is no attachment, there is no need letting go. When there is no tensions, there is no need relaxation. When there is no ignorance, there is no need wisdom. When there is no impurities, there is no need purification. When there is no suffering, there is no need liberation…

Observe the natural breath as it is. Not comparing each breath, not judging the breath as slow or fast. In fact, the breath itself, it is not slow nor fast. The breath has no quality or intention to be slow or fast. It is just being what it is. The idea of “slow” or “fast” is a condition/quality that comes from the mind, when the mind is having comparison and will judge such speed is slow and such speed is fast. But the breath itself is not slow nor fast.

For example, in the same speed of walking, it might be slow for some people, but it might be fast for some other people. Slow or fast is very subjective to the speed that we are familiar with, not because it is a certain quality. When the speed is slightly slower than what we are familiar with, we will judge it as “slow”. When the speed is slightly faster than what we are familiar with, we will judge it as “fast”. This is a common reaction of judgment coming from the mind, especially when we perform the sun salutation at different speed or when we hold the asana for different length of time.

As well as the differences of “easy” and “difficult” level in the exercises in a yoga asana class. The exercise itself is not easy nor difficult. The poses or exercises have no quality or intention to make us feel easy or difficult. It is when our body can perform the exercise easily and feels comfortable in performing the pose or the exercise, our mind will judge that pose or exercise as “easy”. But when our body cannot perform the pose or the exercise, or when it feels discomfort while performing the pose or the exercise, then our mind will judge that pose or exercise as “difficult”. But the exercise itself has no quality or intention to be “easy” or “difficult”. The same exercise can be very “easy” for certain people but it can be very “difficult” for some other people.

By observing and accepting the natural breath as it is, we are learning to observe and accept the reality as it is. When we can accept the reality as it is, the mind will be at peace, no disturbance. There is no judgment, comparison, expectation, or any craving nor aversion. Everything is just being what it is. There is no duality when we can observe everything as it is.

Not expecting what benefits that we are going to get from performing this action of observing the breath. Let the benefits or the result come naturally. We don’t expect nor crave for anything to happen. When we know how to let go of all these mind’s activities and speculations, the mind will quiet down. when the mind is quiet, the Truth will reveals itself to us, even though we didn’t expect to know the Truth…

Apply this truth onto all the other things (all the names and forms) that we perceive in the mind through the senses of what we see, hear, smell, taste, touch and think. We will stop judging about “this is good” or “that is bad”, and “this is easy” or “that is difficult”. This non-judgmental attitude will be a very effective practice for us to be able to let go of craving and aversion towards all the names and forms that are being labelled as “good” or “bad” by our own mind. All the things with different names and forms have no quality nor intention to be “good” or “bad”, to be “pleasant” or “unpleasant”. They have no quality or intention to make us happy or to make us suffer.

We will stop prejudge things as “this” and “that”, and have no expectation about things that they have to be like “this” or like “that”.

Once we let go of judgment, comparison and expectation, then everything is just being what it is, they are not something good nor bad. All these names and forms cannot affect us nor disturb us, nor to determine us for how we are or who we really are.

We are being conditioned by our own mind with the functions of the intellect (recognition and judgment of names and forms that creates duality) and the ego (the one who asserts likes and dislikes that creates craving and aversion).

When we come in contact with what the intellect recognized as “good”, “pleasant”, “happy” and “positive”, then the ego will feel good and happy. But when we come in contact with what the intellect recognized as “bad”, “unpleasant”, “unhappy” and “negative”, then the ego will feel bad and unhappy.

If we hear some words in the language that our intellect cannot recognize what does it means, then we won’t react towards what we heard. If somebody said something nasty to us in a language that we don’t recognize, we won’t get disturbed or upset about it. But when someone translates the meaning of those nasty words to us in a language that we can recognize, then we will be so disturbed and furious.

It is all come from our own mind, not from the things out there. It is not the things out there that make us happy or upset. It is us, being attached to the mind, identify with the mind, associate with the mind, and react towards the mind’s activities and impurities, that create the momentary pleasant or unpleasant feelings and emotions. We think we are happy or we are not happy according to how the mind recognizes and feels. But the things have no intention or quality to make us happy or unhappy.

Truly we are being conditioned and limited by our own mind. So many things that the ego likes and dislikes, they are meaninglessly determining how we should feel. Whether we get the things that we like or the things that we don’t like, we are also not satisfied, full of tensions, fear and worry. Even before we get the things that we like or don’t like, we are also full of tensions, discontentment, fear and worry. Either we are being disturbed by the craving for the things that we like, or the aversion towards the things that we don’t like. We are constantly getting frustrated if we don’t get the things that we like, or afraid of losing the things that we like, or we are missing the things that we had lost and which we like. And we are getting frustrated when we get the things that we don’t like, or are afraid of getting the things that we don’t like, and when we couldn’t get rid of the things that we don’t like…

Go beyond this mind. Be the witness of this mind and not identify with the mind, the intellect, the ego and its activities or impurities (anger, hatred, jealousy, greed, fear, worry, frustration, irritation, agitation, excitement, depression…), the likes and dislikes, the craving and aversion, and be free…

Go beyond this body. Be the witness of this body and not identify with the body, and not being affected nor determined by the condition of this body, and be free…

This is our yoga practice. From moment to moment, we are practicing non-attachment towards the body and the mind. Not generate reaction of craving and aversion towards what the mind perceives through the senses. Remain unaffected nor disturbed by all the names and forms that we see, hear, smell, taste, touch and think. Become selfless and know who we really are, and realize our true nature (compassion and wisdom) – Selflessness.

When we practice yoga and meditation from moment to moment (not just during a yoga class of asana, pranayama, concentration, meditation, selfless service, chanting, prayers, study of the scriptures…), actually we are maintaining this awareness as the witness of all the experiences that the body and the mind is experiencing from moment to moment, whether when we are awake or asleep, whether we are in action or in actionless.

We are not affected nor disturbed by our own mind. This mind will always be disturbed by “this” and “that”. But it is not us being disturbed. It is just the mind being disturbed by what it perceives through the senses. We will not be disturbed by all these names and forms.

The body and the mind will go through impermanence or changes, and are affected and determined by elements, energy and karma. But our true Self is not affected nor disturbed nor determined by all these things. It is uncontaminated by good or bad karma that comes from the body and the mind.

This body and this mind is depending on the elements and energy to be exist. Without elements and energy, nothing can exist. But the true Self is not depending on elements and energy, nor affected or determined by them. The true Self is beyond existence and non-existence. Anything that exist is subject to impermanence and will ceased exist (form and deforming). It has a beginning and an end. But the true Self is without beginning, without ending, infinite, absolute. It is not affected by impermanence. The true Self is nameless and formless, without quality, without birth and death, without the thinking mind, the selfish ego, the limited intellect, the impermanent body and senses that are determined by elements and energy and are subject to form and deforming, “birth” and “death”, the law of impermanence…

The body and the mind will go through birth and death. But not our true Self. It is beyond birth and death, beyond existence and non-existence. In fact, there is no “birth” or “death”. Everything is just forming and deforming. Transition from one form to another form. That’s all.

Be grateful and thankful, and appreciate this life existence, this body and mind, for us to be here to experience, to learn, to share, to evolve, and to go back to our true nature of who we really are.

When there is no mind, there is no perception of names and forms. There is no perception of good and bad, happiness and unhappiness. There is no world.

What is good? What is bad? What is “auspiciousness”? What is “inauspiciousness”? What is “happy”? What is “sad”?

Know who we really are and be free…

* * * * * * * * * *

*Practice this concentration of observing the natural breath, being at the present moment now, for as long as we are comfortable at, for as many times as we want. Keep observing the breath naturally without any effort, strain or struggle. It doesn’t matter for how many times the mind might wanders away, we bring it back onto observing the breath patiently and persistently. Until we forget the environment, forget the body, forget the action of observing the breath, and the mind is calm and still. No past, no future, no judgment, no expectation, no intention, no duality, no meditator who meditate, no action of meditating, no object of meditation… Insight or wisdom will arise naturally.

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Know thyself. There is no existence of 'I'. Everything is impermanent. Be free, be peaceful, be happy.

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My husband and I run ongoing yoga retreats in Langkawi Malaysia. We teach traditional Hatha Yoga - a combination of Asanas (postures) and Pranayama (breathing techniques) and relaxation, that has given benefit to millions of practitioners over thousands of years. Our yoga studio is situated in Langkawi. We also run yoga retreats in Europe and India.

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