New domain address: http://www.Hrimananda.org!
I'd like to share thoughts on meditation and its application to daily life. On Facebook I can be found as Hriman Terry McGilloway and twitter @hriman. Your comments are welcome. Use the key word search feature to find articles you might be interested in.
A new blog now exists taking selected quotes from the "Autobiography of a Yogi" and sharing inspirations from that great work. http://dailyAY.com
A favorite Sufi poem, attributed to Hazrat Inayat Khan,
I asked for strength
And God gave me difficulties to make me
I asked for wisdom
And God gave me problems to solve
I asked for prosperity
And God gave me a brain and brawn to use
I asked for courage
And God gave me dangers to overcome
I asked for love
And God gave me people to help.
I asked for favors
And God gave me opportunities
I received nothing I wanted.
I received everything I needed.
And I would add:
I asked to know God
And God taught me how to meditate!
Paramhansa Yogananda, world teacher and author of the renowned classic,
Autobiography of a Yogi, composed a
book, Whispers from Eternity, filled
with what he called “prayer-demands!” As Jesus taught, long ago, “Pray believing!”
Calm confidence in the power of prayer; the love of God; and the worthiness of
oneself and one’s need are all vital aspects of prayer.
Yet most people think of God only when a material need or crises
occurs. “T’aint no atheists in fox holes” they say. Such prayers, however
desperate, beggar the question of one’s being a beggar, an outsider, to the
loving heart and omnipresence of God. Not surprisingly, such prayers are not
very effective, though I suspect, in truth more effective than perhaps they
“ought” to be!
An Irishman was once late for a job interview—a job he desperately
needed in order to support his family. As he circled the parking lot in his
car, anxious for a parking space, he resolved upon an ancient and time-honored
solution: he prayed for help! “Dear God, I know I don’t go often to Sunday mass
and I drink too much, but if You can find me a parking place right away, I WILL
reform!” Suddenly to his happy amazement, a car backed out and a space opened
up. He cried out in joy, “Oh never mind, Lord, I found one!”
I suspect that’s how a lot of desperate prayers go: into the dustbin of
forgetfulness and ingratitude. As the poem above suggests, we get what we NEED,
not what we WANT. And by need, I refer less to our material needs and more to
the needs of our soul to grow in wisdom, compassion, and divine love.
The highest prayer, Yogananda taught, was to know God; to have devotion
and pure faith; and to serve God in all people and circumstances. After that we
can also pray for our material or emotional needs, or for healing for our self
or others, but always subject to that result which provides the most effective
route to spiritual awakening and knowledge of God (whether for us or others).
Swami Kriyananda tells the story how he had sudden kidney stone (or
gall bladder) attack on a Sunday morning when he was to give the Service. He
was in agony but he refused to pray for himself. Then as the hour came closer
to the time of Service, he prayed to Divine Mother, “I can’t give the Service
in this condition, so if you want me to give the Service you have to do
something about this pain!” Almost before the words were finished, the pain
suddenly ceased. So filled with bliss was he (and not merely from the cessation
of pain but from the instant consolation of such a divine response and
presence), that, ironically, though he conducted the Service, he couldn’t
really give much of talk!
I cannot recommend highly enough the book of prayer-demands, Whispers from Eternity. A year or two
ago, our weekly study groups at Ananda Seattle studied this book together. The
inspiration was so great that we, too, could hardly say or add anything to the
poems we read except to enter into them in inner silence.
Let us close with this excerpt from prayer demand number 19 from the edited
version published by Crystal Clarity Publishers of Whispers from Eternity:
for Expanding Love from Myself to all my Brethren
Mother, teach me to use the gift of Thy love, which I feel in my heart, to love
the members of my family more than myself. Bless me, that I may love my neighbors
more than my family. Expand my heart’s feelings, that I love my country more than
my neighbors, and my world and all my human brethren more than my country, neighbors,
family and my own self.
teach me to love Thee more than anything else, for it is only Thy love that enables
me to love everything.
Can anyone count how many random thoughts go through our minds each day? Must be a few thousand, don't you think? How many of them can you recall? How many of them are so important you need to capture them? How many are simply responses to sense impressions? Or, are so trivial as to be almost embarrassing? Oh, and how many would BE embarrassing if you posted them? OK, nature more or less made our brains and nervous systems reactive, restless, and endlessly imaginative. But 99.98% of them are "Much Ado About Nothing!" Aren't they? By contrast, when we really focus our minds, whether by necessity or by keen interest, we feel refreshed and, depending on the circumstances, even relaxed. Let me give you some examples: you get wholly absorbed in a movie; in a book, in meditation, in enjoying nature, in a stimulating conversation or lecture............the mind finds such experiences to be on the razor's edge of both stimulating and relaxing. "Calm absorption," if you will, brings satisfaction to the mind. But, yes, there are some people who mistake mutli-tasking, daily dramas ("he said, she said"), periodic life crises, "being busy," or riding a roller coaster of emotional intensity for being either productive or for living life to the fullest. Some even get anxious if their life is too calm and there's nothing to do! However, I think close examination of such people and such habits readily proves that restlessness is an addiction. Its long-term consequences are nervousness, fatigue, moodiness, and depression. For those who meditate, we have to admit that easing out of the monkey mind into the watchful state is not easy! We quickly discover that watching our thoughts reveals, often to our dismay, "where our head's at." In the famous "Autobiography of a Yogi," the author, Paramhansa Yogananda, relates how his guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar, once challenged a skeptical scientist by suggesting that the scientist consider this experiment: "Watch your thoughts for a full day and wonder no more at God's absence!" Swami Kriyananda, my teacher and the founder of Ananda's worldwide network of intentional, spiritual communities, shared this technique that he learned during the early years of Ananda's first community when the demands upon his time and his mind were especially intense with planning and managing the fledgling community. He placed a notebook at his side in his meditation room with the promise to his subconscious mind that if any important idea or thought arose, he would be sure to write it down if only the subconscious would then agree to let him meditate in peace! The trick worked. I have used this mind-trick myself with very good results. You might try it, too. When through meditation and introspection we discover that our mental chatter and self-talk are mostly useless white noise, if not worse, then we find ourselves open to real solutions. Mindfulness techniques, whether mental, devotional or energetic, really work! And, not just while meditating! It's like the axiom from the east: "Use a thorn to remove a thorn." Focusing the mind during daily activity on a prayer, mantra, affirmation or chant steadies the mind and allows it to be more self-aware. It might seem counter to logic but then logic is part of the issue, isn't it? Logic assumes that will power and intention alone should shut the chatter up. But it doesn't. Here are some of the things I find uplifting, calming, inspiring, and useful in my daily life:
As soon as I awaken, I begin mental chanting. It varies but if I sense any resistance to getting out of bed, it might be the series of 6 affirmations that go with the "superconscious living exercises" Most readers know what these are but here's one of them: "I am awake and ready!" (Said with vigor and said repeatedly!) If you want to learn these, write to me.
As I go about my morning ablutions I chant the Gayatri mantra. (I can send the words to you or just Google it.)
When I shower I recite Yogananda's poem, "Samadhi." (Ditto)
As I walk to the meditation room (in the Ananda Community, Lynnwood) I chant or pray.
Ditto for when I am driving to work to the Ananda Temple in Bothell.
Otherwise I follow Swami Kriyananda's counsel of mentally chanting such things as "Om guru"; "Om Babaji" or "I love you!"
My car has an IPOD which is almost always playing chants or talks by Swami Kriyananda or Paramhansa Yogananda.
So, am I, as a result of all of this chanting, mantra, and japa, forgetful and uncreative? Well, maybe a little forgetful, but heck, no one has ever accused me of not having new ideas on a consistent basis. (As my friend, Prem Shanti, would say to her husband, "Dear, some of your ideas are better than others!' Fair enough!) But, I am WAY happier!
The truth is--a truth that anyone can verify for himself--such a mental focus being in no small measure a devotional or uplifting one, produces far greater calmness, satisfaction, mindfulness, and creativity than all the mental worries and fussing that pass for normality (aka "monkey mind") in these times of "smart" phones, Facebook, Instagram, email, tests, and YouTube.
I suggest a trial period of one week. Plot out your attack with a variety of affirmations, chants and/or mantras. Write them down or print them out and have them always with or around you.
As you chant (etc.) focus your awareness in the forehead (not so much with your eyes for if driving a car, you might crash, but with "feeling" that area between the eyebrows) and you'll find it easier to remember, and enjoy, your mantra (etc). Should I repeat that? (ha, ha!)
Yogananda stated this profound truth: a truth you could spend a lifetime exploring intuitively: "Thoughts are universally, not individually, rooted." As you attune your mind to what he called the superconscious sphere, you become super-conscious. Yes, it's as simple as that. The only caveat I would add is not to forget the purpose of all this: to go beyond mental activity and into the stillness; into the divine presence. So my last suggestion is to follow the bio-rhythm of nature and of our own metabolism: apply your will, then relax and feel. See if your mantra (etc) can guide you into total and complete presence of mind. Whether minutes, hours or seconds, the technique you employ to focus your mind (and heart) will vanish into the "land beyond my dreams" (the inner silence).
Today is America's July 4th holiday, celebrating the birth of a nation dedicated to freedom: government by the people, for the people and of the people! Despite America's present political crises, confusion, and seeming apostasy, this nation has been a beacon of hope for generations of people throughout the world who have been enslaved by a rigid status quo of one sort or another. Despite America's many failures to live up to its ideals (too countless to list), those who can vote with their feet "vote" for living here. Nonetheless, I, like so many, are not at all "proud" this July 4th, nor many other July 4ths. But we do uphold and honor those truths that are "self-evident!" Freedom is one of the soul's deepest yearnings. Spiritually, freedom means to break the bondage, the delusion, and the hypnosis that I am even this human body and personality! As it has been well said, Self-realization is to know that I am a child of God having a human body and experience. Admittedly, few people on earth seek this realization, eager as most are to deepen their attachment to their bodies, personalities, success, pleasure, health and human love. Krishna states bluntly in the Bhagavad Gita that "out of a thousand, one seeks me." For those of us who do sincerely seek to "know the truth that shall make me free" we know how difficult that seems most days but we mustn't be discouraged for as Paramhansa Yogananda stated to a disciple who was discouraged, "You don't know how much good karma you have to even want to know God." He meant we cannot know at too early a stage how many countless incarnations we have experienced even just in human form to get to the place of wanting to know the transcendent truth behind "all seeming." The soul's bondage therefore is not social or political prejudice. There is an Ananda member who is in prison for life for a murder he did not commit. He has no freedoms, relative to political life, yet he is advancing rapidly toward soul freedom, using his freedom from the daily preoccupations of life to meditate and serve. The concept of "original sin" is a contrived one to be sure but that doesn't mean it isn't true. It is obviously true in a karmic and reincarnational sense. We are born with a full agenda of traits and inclinations. We have returned to continue learning lessons but we have returned owing principally because of our past actions that kept us bound to the wheel of "samsara" (rebirth with its attendant and inevitable suffering). The teaching of karma and reincarnation state clearly that once all physical, earth-bound desires are gone we need not return to this world to continue our path to soul freedom. America was born in a powerful affirmation of high ideals. That we haven't lived up to them should be no surprise as with each generation and each reincarnation, souls continue toward perfection of these ideals. But fair warning: Perfection will never be achieved in a social or political way because the warp and woof of what makes incarnation in human form so attractive is that perfection constantly slips from our grip. Good and evil, success and failure vie constantly for our attention. There is no absolute perfection in a world of unending fluctuation between the opposites. Our impulse, a deeper-than-conscious knowing, towards perfection can only be realized in the perfect bliss of the soul. But, we have forgotten and we continue mistakenly to seek it outside of ourselves. Bit by bit, slowly, slowly, we learn. This process is not a rejection of this world, nor a rejection of the impulse to improve it, whether politically, personally, or socially. It is right and just to work towards expressing high ideals in this world but only as we work toward inner perfection: the one reflects the other. We have to work out our personal and often our family, race, gender or national karma as well. For the reality of our separateness is our most profound delusion. We achieve neither success nor Self-realization ALONE for the simple fact that "we are One." This doesn't mean we have to wait for every soul to achieve freedom for we have been given the choice to seek it or not. But we, at least, cannot achieve that freedom under the delusion that we are separate! We must help others. So, let us celebrate the high ideal of freedom: on all levels of consciousness and let us pray that Americans affirm on this day our personal commitment to truth, honor, justice, equality, and compassion. In this way we "be the change we seek" and in the process contribute to a society based on mutual respect, recognition, and freedom. Blessings and joy to you this July 4th! Swami Hrimananda