The Power of Breath
  by HariNam

I had the opportunity, while visiting a hospital a while back, to experiment with some of the heart monitoring equipment. There's a monitor they put on your finger to read the heart that shows the oxygen level that's in your system. I put one of these on my finger and watched the numbers. While I was doing this, I decided to experiment with the breath. With deep full breathing, the meter went up to one hundred. This is the highest it could have gone. When I switched to shallow breathing like most people in this country breathe, using only the upper part of my chest, the meter started to drop off to lower numbers. When I switched again to the deeper breaths, the meter went up again, and so on. I think this is an interesting way of measuring the importance of the breath.

I also took the little patches they use to measure the heartbeat and put them on. What I found was when I breathed deeper, my heartbeat would slow down to about 65. When I breathed in a shallow fashion, the heart rate increased to around the high 80's. My reason for telling you this is that I think it's easy to forget the importance of the breath and the physiological effect our breathing has on us, not just on our minds, but on our hearts and bodies, too. It was very exciting for me to actually see this on a machine. I've always believed that, and known that, but to actually see it, I guess, satisfies a portion of that western mind that we all have.

Always remember that if stress is getting a hold of you or not, or life is tough or easy, that the breath is still important to you. It's important to work the deep, full breathing into all facets of your life and not just at yoga class each week for one hour. In the old texts, they said that your heart would beat about a billion times. The machinery is designed to go up to that point, and scientists will put that number up there also. So the idea in yoga is to slow that heart down and save up some of your beats for a rainy day.

Transcribed from a lecture on 7/30/97 by DayaMata


- by HariNam

*note this can be a powerful meditation for some people, it is suggested that you practice each portion for only 30 seconds, and slowly build. Times listed are maximum times and not suitable for beginners or some intermediates.

1. Sit with the legs crossed.

2. Cover the last two fingers on each hand with the thumb, and have the arms point out to the side, with the other two fingers pointing out to your side. (If you were sitting in the center of a room, the arms would be straight and pointing toward the walls on each side of you.)

3. Inhale, bringing the left fingers to touch the heart center.

4. Exhale, straightening the left arm out and bringing the right fingers to touch the heart center.

5. Alternate back and forth with each breath.

6. Each time you touch the heart center, chant aloud I AM.

Time: 2 minutes

7. Keeping the same movements with the arms, now touch the fingers to the Ajna chakra (third eye point).

Time: 2 minutes

8. Continuing, now bring the fingers back down to the heart center.

Time: 2 minutes

9. Inhale\Exhale.

10. Rest now sitting crossed legged, Mentally repeat SAT as you inhale and NAM as you exhale.

Time: 3 minutes maximum. 30 seconds for beginners

11. Inhale\Exhale 2 times.

12. Relax for 4-5 minutes.

This meditation is a subconscious reminder of who you really are. It starts the process of embracing your own divinity. I AM is of the ego. I AM I AM moves beyond the ego. SAT NAM is the true reality of existence identified.

Transcribed from class by HariNam in October, 1997 by DayaMata

Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

Siddhartha, by Hermann Hessse, is one of the few books I've read at least a dozen times over the last twenty-five years. Each time I sit down with this gem, a new layer of meaning unfolds to me, so I never tire of it. Since its title is a name often given to the Buddha, the reader might mistakenly believe that this is a book primarily about the Buddha, yet this is not the case. Siddhartha is a novel about a young Brahmin boy's search for self-knowledge and truth, a journey we all take --sometimes intermittently, sometimes continually--during our lives.

This book can be enjoyed by teenagers, who will relate to Siddhartha's rebellion against his father and his desire to determine his own beliefs and destiny; by householders, who will understand Siddhartha's struggle with materialism, sensuality, and illusion; and by spiritual seekers, who will comprehend his desire for self-knowledge, enlightenment, and recognition of his own divinity.

Simple and beautiful, Siddhartha's story is loosely based upon the life of Gotama Buddha, yet it is fiction. The novel begins with Siddhartha disgusted with life at home because of the contradiction between the Hindu teachings and the actual life of the Brahmins; he sees a deep chasm between dogma and reality. He and his friend Govinda are typical adolescents, questioning and rebelling, yet the reader can see from the start that Siddhartha is different, special --he has the makings of a holy man. The two young men leave their fathers, setting off for the woods where they meet and join a group of ascetics, the Samanas.

Attracted to this life, for three years they try to grasp the essence of spirit by rejecting and repressing the sensual, materialistic side of life. However, Siddhartha is hungry for truth, which he still has not found, so he leaves the ascetic life, with Govinda in tow. By chance, the two meet up with the Buddha, whom Govinda decides to follow. Siddhartha, however, knows that the Buddha's Eightfold Path (inspiring as it is to him) will not bring him closer to self-realization. In a touching scene, Siddhartha makes clear that he must reject the Buddha's doctrine, as he did the Samanas', because enlightenment defies mere doctrine and transcends the teaching process of the Buddha (or anyone).

The two friends part, and it is clear that Siddhartha has matured from youth to manhood. Siddhartha crosses the river (which is a symbol of the boundary between the two worlds of sense and spirit) to enter a world of sensual desire with Kamala, a courtesan, and Kamaswami, a business man who employs him. After twenty long years and the learning of many lessons, Siddhartha leaves them, too, disgusted with his worldly life, and full of despair. Suicidal, he finds the river where he plans to end his life. Instead, "from a remote part of his soul, ...he heard a sound...the holy Om." Siddhartha becomes aware of "the indestruc- tibleness of life...[of] all that was divine." And so Siddhartha moves on to the last segment of his journey, back to the river and the ferryman, Vasudeva (he in whom all things abide and who abides in all), who becomes Siddhartha's spiritual teacher. It is here that Siddhartha finally finds peace and enlightenment, but not without heartbreak and suffering. Ultimately, it is the river, which embodies all creation and all layers of consciousness, that is the agent of Siddhartha's fulfillment and offers him serenity and wholeness.

The spiritual explorer, especially the serious yoga student, will feel this book deeply. It is rich in imagery and symbolism that is both lyrical and thought-provoking, showing that the process of enlightenment is unteachable, that knowledge can be communicated, but wisdom cannot. Siddhartha examines the notion of free will, the transitory nature of human life (and the indestructibility of every life). This novel shows how detachment, surrender, and loving devotion to the universe (God) enables people to find salvation. Finally, Siddhartha affirms the unity, totality, and divinity of all life, which becomes real through experience and can be attained only through uncon- ditional love. Whether the reader embraces Siddhartha's wisdom or not, Hesse's classic is a jewel to be read, reread, and treasured for a lifetime.

Copyright by HariNam/Universal Yoga, All rights reserved.


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