Modern society is so super advanced - we can thank science & technology for so many inventions over the past 200 years! However, our personal and spiritual evolution, our ability to be content and fulfilled hasn’t growth past our ancestors from the Stone Age. We still exhibit anger, greed, jealousy, ego and insatiable desires. Our mind constantly spins with anger over past experiences, anxiety and fear over what may come to pass. We have lost sight of the beauty that exists, ever present, in the here and now.
The Wisdom Tradition of Yoga & Meditation tell us that there are 8 basic steps to achieving a life of fulfillment and peace. This goal cannot be found in the external world, we cannot consume our way to happiness regardless of the size of our paycheck or the taste of our food. True happiness is our own creation. Inner balance and harmony is possible when we master the art of joyful living.
*Step 1: Self-regulation / Self-control
In Sanskrit the word is Yama – the literal meaning is ‘that which helps us stay within our boundaries and not trespass others’ boundaries’. It can also be translated as Live & Let Live. There are 5 attributes to this state:
- Non-violence – being nice to yourself and others (note this is #1 of the #1)
- Truthfulness – being honest with yourself and others
- Non-stealing – avoid attempts to take ownership of what is not legally yours, mentally or physically
- Non-indulgence – abuse or misuse to your body, senses or mind - rethink food, drink, and other non-helpful habits. Consider how your habits of media, the company you keep and the actions you conduct affect the serenity of mind. Enjoy life’s gifts but don’t let them drain you of the vitality required to fulfill your life’s purpose.
- Non-possessiveness - avoid holding on to physical, emotional and prior experiences – this causes your home, mind and heart to look and feel like a junkyard – too full to find peace and space for stillness.
Practice these 5 guidelines and you will be at peace with yourself and others.
*Step 2: Self-discipline / Self-commitment
The Sanskrit word is Niyama, which also has 5 components:
- Cleanliness – be clean in food, body, and mind (thought & speech) – let the world around you be clean and work towards purity on the inside.
- Contentment – work as hard as you wish, but be content with the fruits of your labor. Perform your actions without suffering fear or anxiety around the outcome.
- Austerity – allow for a lifestyle where your thoughts, words and deeds shine – be a light to yourself and others.
- Self-study – be aware of your body, mind and senses. Check in with your thoughts, moods and emotions and question if and how they might be stifling your happiness . Study your habits, strengths and weaknesses in order to gain an understanding of yourself and the environment that surrounds you.
- Surrender to The Divine – recognize that everything everywhere is a creation of the Divine. Regardless of the religion you were raised in, the spiritual quest is the same; something out there that we can’t fully understand or see has created us and everything around us. We are a drop of that Divine along with every other living creature, mountain, tree and stream. Higher Intelligence abounds within and without.
*Step 3: this one is simple….Asana (yogic postures)
Classic yogic texts outline 84 classical postures, broken into 2 categories: physical and meditative. Physical postures restore health through strength, balance of the nervous system, and organs, leading to quietude of mind. Meditative postures directly impact the cultivation of a peaceful mind, with a lovely side benefit of restoring and maintaining physical health.
*Step 4: Pranayama – Breathing techniques
Prana is the vital life force. The root is broken into Pra (that which pervades everything – the smallest unit) and Ana – breath or movement. Together they mean ‘life force’. Ayama means ‘expansion’. Pranayama is more subtle and potent than asana and is the method for infusing the body and mind with energy to nurture mind, heal emotional wounds, nourish the senses and revitalize the body, systems, tissues and organs. It requires a healthy diet and clean, fresh air.
*Step 5: Pratyahara – literally to disentangle yourself wisely and skillfully
In the West we call this ‘sense withdrawal’, which sounds scary, but when the word is broken down, we see it truly means to pull your senses and mind from unhelpful / unhealthy (undesirable) objects and activities, to gather your scattered mind, turn them inward and unite with the higher dimensions of life. This is the natural evolution of your Soul’s journey. At some point in life we find ourselves tired of the external woes, strains and strife and look for more meaning and purpose to the endless race. This is when we re-evaluate who we are and why we are here.
*Step 6: Dharana / concentration
Once you have gathered your forces and faculty of mind, you can focus on a sattwic (pure) object and find one-pointedness of mind. This is the process that leads to meditation and cultivates retentive power. A cautionary note: be careful where you put your attention – the mind absorbs the quality of the object you concentrate on! The best object is breath awareness – this leads to a qualitative change in your state of being.
*Step 7: Dhyana / meditation
This is simply a state of advanced concentration, which makes the mind steady. Meditation allows the mind to expand and touch the field of Intuition, gaining a higher clarity of mind not found in ordinary situations. The more advanced you become through the practice of meditation, you can reach the 8th and final step.
*Step 8: Samadhi – fully established in supreme consciousness
This gives the practitioner an indescribable equanimity to understand bliss, which can only be found on the inside – you are the world and the world is you – there is no division, no duality. This is true transcendence of the mind into a state not limited by time, space or causation – independent of the senses, experience or self-identity. This state provides freedom from loneliness and allows you to remember that your beauty comes from the inside, and is not dependent on what others think. This is the final step to mastering the art of joyful living.
This process is available to any person of any age, race, creed, gender preference and geography. These are the steps to creating your own world, by your own choices – this is the source of happiness and peace.
This blog was inspired by Brian F. because you’re a seeker and you care!
Taken from the book, Happiness is your own Creation, and in honor of the guidance of my Guru, Sri Swama Rama, whose teachings and Teachers have led me well on my journey of the path of Fire & Light.
Gratitude to my step-daughter and granddaughter for permission to use the attached photo of pure, innocent joy & delight!