Ask Ananda’s Experts
Questions and Answers About Meditation, Yoga, the Spiritual Life, and More

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God Is Love
August 19, 2015

Amit Chaudhary
Nepal

Question

Hello,

I am Amit: I have a question.

  • How should I think of god while meditating.
  • What visualizations should I make?
  • What is prana, kundalini & virya?

Thank you.

Nayaswami Seva

Nayaswami Seva

Ananda Village

Answer

Dear Amit,

Thank you for asking these questions. They are very deep subjects about which much has been written. It’s not possible to answer them fully here but I can give some simple explanations to get you started. You will, of course, need to study the path of yoga, and I suggest that you study Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Swami Kriyananda has written much on this subject throughout most of his books, especially in the Art and Science of Raja Yoga and in Demystifying Patanjali.

Your first question — how to think of God while meditating? It is said that God comes in the aspects of love, light, sound, peace, calmness, power, wisdom and bliss. You can then meditate on any one of these aspects and go deep into them thinking of God while doing so to keep your focus on Him. An affirmation to use is: Thy light flows into me; I am filled with Thy peace (or whatever aspect you choose to focus on). Throughout the day keep calling to Him as He is with you always.

I'll try to give you simple definitions of Prana, Kundalini and Virya, but know that these words hold deeper meanings.

A quote here for the meaning of Prana is taken from Art and Science of Raja Yoga: "The Hindu word for "breath," "life," and "energy" is the same: prana. . . When a deliberate mental effort is made to absorb prana from the air that we breathe, then breathing can give us psycho-spiritual benefits."

Again from Art and Science of Raja Yoga on Kundalini: "Whatever energy flows in the superficial spine, even by deep yoga practice, is as nothing compared to the immense reservoir of energy waiting to be tapped at the base of the spine. This energy is spoken of in the yoga teachings as Kundalini… Kundalini represents the entrenched vitality of our mortal delusion. But Kundalini is also man’s greatest single key to enlightenment. Only by arousing this force from its ancient resistance to divine truth can the soul hope to reunite itself with the Spirit."

Virya is spiritual vigor. It is the energy needed to find God. There is a whole passage about this energy found in the book by Sri Yukteswar, The Holy Science.

Bless you dear soul,

Seva

How to Develop Confidence
August 18, 2015

Geetika
India

Question

I am a dancer, and always set a standard of perfection and the highest for myself. As a result, I am always stressed. I reject programmes and shun public performance many times as I think I am not well prepared. I am always scared of performing less than perfect, and as a result, half of my life is already wasted in waiting for a time when I will be perfect. Most of my energy is drained in fear and nervousness. I will be happy if you suggest a way to come out of it.

Nayaswami Pranaba

Nayaswami Pranaba

Ananda Village

Answer

Dear Geetika,

It’s important to be able to release the tensions that come from expectations. Try to feel that the Divine is the one moving through you rather than you have to do it all.

True confidence comes from being in tune with God and feeling that flow within us.

Here are some suggestions from Paramhansa Yogananda, from the book, How to Have Courage, Calmness and Confidence:

  1. Deep breathing: Breathe deeply a few times, concentrating at the point between the eyebrows, just before the performance. This will remove timidity and insure self-confidence.
  2. Mentally rehearse very clearly how masterfully, joyously, and eagerly you are going to perform.
  3. Remove nervousness by tensing and relaxing.
  4. Take a bath two hours before, or immediately before, the performance. If time is limited, simply wash all the openings of the body with cold water.
  5. Humbleness is magnetic and will draw kind attention and sympathy from your audience, while pride will cause sneers and apathy. An inferiority complex will cause pity, disbelief, and lack of enthusiasm in your audience. An inferiority complex will cause you to underestimate your real ability and will destroy whatever faculty you may possess. Cool confidence in your ability and the positive outcome of your performance, due to God working with you, must always keep you happy and contented just before your debut. Make up your mind to do your very utmost to make people appreciate your performance.

Yogananda also recommended going on “worry fasts” to free us from anxiety and tension that results from worrying. Simply take a few times during the day to be free from any worries that assail you. Be disciplined in this effort and then gradually extend the times until you can go the whole day without getting caught by worries. Also, go on “joy feasts” by associating with those who have a contagious joy in their lives.

I hope this will be helpful to you.

In divine friendship,

Nayaswami Pranaba

The Meaning of Dreams
August 18, 2015

AB
Europe

Question

Hello!

Are dreams a window into parallel universes, or is it your astral body traveling in an astral plane?

Or is it just fantasy?

Tyagi Jayadev

Tyagi Jayadev

Ananda Assisi, Italy

Answer

Dear AB,

Most dreams are simply "materialized" subconscious thoughts, or projections of the subconscious mind. So in general dreams are not really fantasy, but they are not much more important than that. What happens is that in sleep our life force withdraws inside and makes subconscious impressions come alive. Yogananda says it much better: "In sleep, life energy is released from various bodily demands and retires to the brain cells, in which are stored the thought films of all past experiences. The enlivening action of the energy on the stored-up thought films in the subconscious mind results in the projection of the mental motion pictures we call dreams."

However, he also explains: "Not all dreams are meaningless. If your mind is calm and attuned, you will know someone is trying to get in touch with you through that dream. As you develop spiritually, your loved ones may appear to you in visions in meditation. And when you are very highly developed, you can behold those souls right here in front of you."

There are also superconscious dreams which are very meaningful. They are on the level of a vision, giving inspiration, guidance, blessing. However, these are rare. Swami Kriyananda once experienced kundalini awakening during such a dream.

You ask: while dreaming, are we in the astral body? Yes. In sleep our consciousness retires from the physical body and it is in the astral body. In deepest sleep, it is even in the causal (thought) body. You may read in the Autobiography of a Yogi: "If man’s sleep be deep and dreamless, for several hours he is able to transfer his consciousness, or sense of I-ness, to the causal body."

Seen in the right perspective, our nightly dreams are a cosmic teacher: they tell us that in truth ALL life is a dream, and that you are dreaming right now, reading this dream text. Self-realization means waking up from this dream, in superconsciousness, in oneness with God.

In divine friendship,

Jayadev

Geetika
India

Question

It is a law of all civilized countries, that when a prisoner is convicted or executed, he is told the reason why he is being punished. Our higher reasoning and justice call for this. This higher reasoning has been given to us by God. If that is so, then when we get divine punishment, we are very conveniently told all these are a result of past life bad karma. Isn’t it weird that God and his Law of karma punishes us for the sins we have committed in past lives which we don’t even know. Shouldn’t God punish us in the same life itself so that at least we know why we are suffering. At times,when good people suffer for sins they have committed in distant lifetimes, they may end up losing faith in God. So could you explain how the law of karma being carried forward to many lifetimes is not defective and faulty.

Nayaswami Hriman

Nayaswami Hriman

Ananda Seattle

Answer

Dear Geetika,

I find your question fascinating! (Are you a lawyer?)

Well, let’s examine an underlying assumption: that of punishment! Who, exactly, is punishing whom? If I hurt someone and I receive the same in return, is it God punishing me, or is it ME initiating my "just desserts"? If I kill someone, he doesn’t have the opportunity (at that time) to kill me in return. We both have to wait until another lifetime. Whose problem is THAT? If there is to be justice in this world, then there MUST be a law of karma. If there’s to be justice, there MUST be the opportunity to reincarnate!

Let’s look at this "law of karma"! In science we have the law of action and reaction: "For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction." Without the law of cause and effect, human life and the cosmos would be uninhabitable, chaotic, and not worth living. We, as humans, are firmly committed to the proposition that we can improve or change our circumstances by taking the right actions. When that is not part of our belief, we sink into despair and passivity.

So, you see: this isn’t about God punishing us. It is about us receiving back what we give. As the Christian Bible puts it, "Be not deceived, for God is not mocked: as you sow, so shall you reap." The law of karma and reincarnation are inextricably linked as is justice and mercy. If we could remember our past misdeeds from prior lifetimes we would be so burdened that we could barely breath and live. Mercy comes in the form of getting a fresh start, just as each night we forget our troubles in sleep. Mercy comes by the fact that the consequences are postponed to the future when we are perhaps stronger. Paramhansa Yogananda also added that the consequences are often postponed owing to the "thwarting cross-currents" of competing egos and complicated karmic patterns.

There is a way out, however: God. As we reach up to the transcendent joy of inner stillness (wherein resides the Spirit), we are refreshed and enlightened step by step. As we dissolve the hard shell of ego with the power of self-effort and redeeming grace (combined), we cut the cord that links us to our past karma. Our past karma is then at least partially mitigated because the ego principle which initiated that karma has been erased. When it does come and we have little or no ego, we don’t react as we accept all that comes as our own. In that very fact (of not reacting) we end the repeating cycle of karma, of action and reaction.

I recommend you read the book by Paramhansa Yogananda: The Essence of Self-Realization (available in India).  There are chapters in that book on karma and reincarnation. There’s another book by him, also, called, simply: Karma and Reincarnation (also available in India).

Blessings to you!

Nayaswami Hriman

Wilma
the Netherlands

Question

I’m looking forward to my initiation into Kriya Yoga this fall. Unfortunately, my spiritual practice is not as steady as it could be. Nevertheless, I experience a strong energy that can manifest itself at will. Combined with my focus on Satchitananda, it creates a sensation that is making me feel so joyful inside. As I understand it, Kriya and meditation is about a subtle process in the spine, but in my experience it can be distracting when I meditate. How to proceed?

Nayaswami Hriman

Nayaswami Hriman

Ananda Seattle

Answer

Dear Wilma,

When one is feeling inspiration and upliftment (joy, etc.) in meditation, this is the purpose of meditation techniques. In general, therefore, it is ok, when suddenly uplifted into soul-joy (etc.), to enter into that experience and cease the practice of whatever technique you were doing when the experience appeared. When the joy begins to fade or diminish, resume your technique practice. It might even bring you back to the joy.

Now, there are always "but"s… For example: it might be that if you continue the technique you'll go even deeper into the experience! So, you simply need to experiment. Be open to that possibility.

As a long-term meditator AND meditation teacher, I can say confidently that the hidden unconscious agenda of some students who state that they find techniques distracting to the peace and joy of meditation is that they don’t want to put out the energy and will power and are sometimes resisting attunement with the guru through the practices given to them at initiation!

So, BE CAREFUL. Typically, a student who goes more by "feeling" (perhaps a fledgling "bhakti") tends to resist techniques or find that they even diminish the joy they’ve gotten accustomed to in meditation. (Whenever we learn a new technique, whether in sports or meditation, it can take a while to re-gain the momentum and success one had previously. This is the "price" one pays for advancing.)

BUT… a newbie bhakti is all too often the victim of moods, ups and downs. Techniques can help her gain consistency and self-discipline in her meditation and in her life, as well as attunement with the guru. If we ONLY go by inspiration and feeling, what happens when we hit a dry spell?

The combination of techniques and inspiration is unbeatable to all types of devotees: bhaktis, gyanis (mental), and karmis (active types).

Lastly, always, daily and throughout the day, and in respect to questions like this one, ask the guru for guidance. Ask without condition and without expectation; be open to be guided no matter your likes and dislikes. God, through the guru, WILL guide you! As your attunement grows so too will your confidence and recognition of that guidance.

Blessings to you,

Nayaswami Hriman

How to Deal with Anxiety
August 17, 2015

Geeta
India

Question

Hello. I have been having anxiety concerning being left alone since many years. I have a job. My parents and I were living together but my father passed away last year. My mother and I still live together. I send good wishes to my father in the astral realm and want to meet him again very much. I do chant and pray. Daytime is busy, but at night after sleep, great anxiety comes of being alone,and being afraid of a long life. I feel current-like movement between my ankles and knees, a horrible feeling when attacks of anxiety come. I am grateful for your kindness.

Nayaswami Pranaba

Nayaswami Pranaba

Ananda Village

Answer

Dear Geeta,

Here are a few suggestions that may be helpful:

It would be good to develop more relaxation in your daily life. Here is an excellent article by Nayaswami Jyotish with instructions for gaining relaxation.

Secondly, having a regular daily practice of meditation is essential for shifting the consciousness in dealing with your challenges. When you are able to dive into a meditative state then you are much more able to open up to superconscious solutions and go beyond the stresses and anxieties of life.

Third, try to fine others who are spiritually inclined and who have an uplifting, positive approach to life. This satsang will nurture and remind you of your true purpose in life and give support in overcoming your challenges. Here is a link to Ananda India and it’s various groups.

I hope this is helpful to you.

In divine friendship,

Nayaswami Pranaba

Pain from the Past
August 3, 2015

Tom
United States of America

Question

i am as a child, 34 years old without ever knowingly meditating and with a large amount of repressed physical and psychic pain. I am trying to learn to find love in myself, overcome my pain and find my center and balance. I experienced a release of emotion and non physical pain when I tried yoga for the first time yesterday and afterwards as well. Can you give advice on how to get the most from yoga in these regards or how else to deal with this pain?

Nayaswami Gyandev

Nayaswami Gyandev

Ananda Village

Answer

Dear Tom,

I congratulate you on doing something about these difficulties. It’s not at all unusual to have such difficulties, and for yoga practice to bring about a release—sometimes pleasant, sometimes less so.

As for how to practice, in general, take it easy. Don’t use your practice to try to get things to “come up.” Rather, be gentle, and let your practice work its own magic, so energy releases as it will rather than forcing it to release, which can lead to unpleasantness.

As to how to deal with the pain, first of all, know that for it to come out doesn’t mean that you have created a new problem—it was in there anyway, And for it to come to the surface naturally can be the first step in dealing with it in a healthy way.

Another important point is to accept yourself—past and present. Pain can get much worse if you think that you should be—or should have been—someone different. The past was what it was, you’ve learned from it, now it’s the present, and you’re a different person. Do your best to move forward without guilt or self-condemnation.

As Paramhansa Yogananda’s guru put it, “Forget the past. The vanished lives of all men are dark with many shames. Human conduct is ever unreliable until man is anchored in the Divine. Everything in future will improve if you are making a spiritual effort now.”

Blessings,

Gyandev

Ruchit
India

Question

from my years of spirituals practices there has been a lot of changes into my consciousness sometimes during meditation i enter deep and higher consciousness i feel like i’m not of this world and why am i here? and the interesting part the things around me starts moving without touching them sometime electric bulbs fluctuate when i’m near them,sometimes whatever i’m thinking is becoming true.what’s all this please provide guidance according to your knowledge.

Nayaswami Gyandev

Nayaswami Gyandev

Ananda Village

Answer

Dear Ruchit,

It’s natural for anyone who is spiritually inclined to wonder why he or she is here. But there’s always a reason: we have some things to work on!

Because people have magnetic fields, some devices (especially those that use electricity, such as lights, telephones, digital watches, computers) can be affected by those magnetic fields. Some people need to wear old-style mechanical watches, because digital watches malfunction due to those their magnetic fields. In fact, some people affect mechanical watches as well.

If your thoughts are materially affecting external events, that can be a useful ability. However, it carries with it great responsibility to think only beneficial and selfless thoughts. Anyone who thinks harmful or selfish thoughts will experience corresponding bad karma—and the stronger that person’s mental power, the worse the karma.

So strive always to use your magnetism intentionally and beneficially. Try to focus your thoughts and energy, and be very conscious of how you use them. Toward this end, it will help if you practice Paramhansa Yogananda’s Energization Exercises, meditate regularly, and try to live from your center, from your spine. And if you do feel the ability to affect outward events, always ask God to guide your use of that ability.

Blessings,

Gyandev

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