Santa Rosa Meditation Group

Experience the life enhancing benefits of a regular meditation practice

The Radiance of Life

fullsizeoutput_196e.jpeg

Want to feel radiantly alive? See the miracle of your life unfolding right now.
~Yogacharya Ellen Grace O'Brian

Spring is such a wonderful reminder of the radiance of life. We see it all around us as nature wakes up from its winter slumber. We see it in the flowers bursting into bloom, in the radiance of the daffodils greeting us each day. We hear it through the birds singing their sweet songs. Each day as we look around, we can offer gratitude for this life unfolding. Each day even if we think there is only gloom in our life, we can be grateful for the air that we breathe, for the sunshine that nurtures life around us and for the beauty that is nature. Our meditation practice calms our minds and allows us to slow down and see those miracles. That is the miracle of our life and it is unfolding all around us and within us.

The Joy of Meditation

fullsizeoutput_196d.jpeg

When you sit in the silence of deep meditation, joy bubbles up from within, roused by no other stimulus. The joy of meditation is overwhelming.
~Paramahansa Yogananda

Meditation brings many levels of benefits. When we begin meditating, we learn to become more aware of the the contents of our mind. We watch unhelpful thoughts or emotions arise and fall away. As we persist, we find a new kind of rest in meditation as thoughts are stilled. Beyond thought we discover that our underlying inner state is joy. We find that we can touch up on this during normal activity with just one conscious breath. Persist in your meditation practice and discover that your own nature is joy itself.

Four Stages of Meditation

Meditation is easy and natural. We can make it difficult by trying too hard, having unrealistic expectations, or approaching it haphazardly, but at its core, meditation is simply being awake and aware—mindful.
~Yogacharya Ellen Grace O'Brian (from The Jewel of Abundance: Finding Prosperity through the Ancient Wisdom of Yoga)

For those who are new to meditation or even if we have been meditating for a while, it is good to remind ourselves that meditation is a natural state of consciousness that we have all experienced. The tools and techniques that we learn help us to create the conditions for meditation to happen, just as we create the conditions for sleep to happen.  It is good to remember the four stages of meditation practice: 
Foster- Create an inner and outer environment that is conducive for meditation to occur. First, find a quiet private space. Then, with an upright posture so that we can remain awake and aware of what is happening, we become aware of the breath and we internalize our attention.
Focus- Use a technique such as focusing on the breath or a mantra to focus our attention on a single point.
Flow - We allow ourselves to let go as we move into the flow of meditation.
Finish - We end our meditation consciously taking a few moments to feel the peace we have experienced in our bodies and our minds.  We take a few moments to have appreciation for this time of renewal and to send this peaceful energy out into our day and to others.
(adapted from The Jewel of Abundance: Finding Prosperity through the Ancient Wisdom of Yoga by Ellen Grace O'Brian)
These four stages are the foundation of our meditation practice and will support us in letting go of expectations of what happens when we sit and opens us up to to the awareness of the benevolent power of the universe. 

Listen to Your Intuition

Meditate on your intuitive ability. Where does it come from?
~Yogacharya Ellen Grace O'Brian

This is one of the great gifts of meditation, our intuitive ability. We quiet our minds in our daily practice. Even after a few weeks of regular meditation practice, the quietness of the mind continues into the rest of our day. When the thought waves are calmed, our deeper knowing, our awareness of our intuition becomes more acute. As we get used to observing our minds we begin to trust our intuition more and more. That inner knowing guides us into doing the right thing, saying the right thing or maybe not saying anything when it is appropriate. Decisions that we need to make are guided in the right direction. Listen when you hear that still small voice. It is quiet and it is powerful. Listen and be guided.

Stillness of the Mind

stillness of the breath quote.jpg

Stillness of the breath is stillness of the mind.
~Yogacharya Ellen Grace O'Brian

Our primary practice as we sit to meditate is to focus on the breath. This helps us direct attention inward and provides a single point of focus. It becomes easier to overcome distractions from thoughts, sounds and sensations. As we sit the breath slows and when our attention becomes entirely focused we move from concentration to meditation. The mind grows quiet and the breath can become very still. We can reach freedom from the tyranny of mind.

Intend To Be Grateful

Fault-finding can be a habit, but so can approaching life with gratitude. We need only intend to be grateful and then train ourselves to look for the good. Soon, we notice more to be thankful for.
~Yogacharya Ellen Grace O'Brian 

The practice of gratitude supports us in leading a life that is content, peaceful and filled with joy.  It is easy to find fault with ourselves, with others or with situations. Our daily practice of meditation teaches us to observe our mind. When we notice those negative thoughts or maybe we are around people who are complaining about something, we can notice what we are feeling. When we notice negative thoughts, we can pause and decide to change our thoughts. When we notice fault finding, we can change those thoughts by looking at what we are finding fault with and either find something to be grateful for in that situation or person or turn our thoughts to something completely different and be grateful for that. As we do that more and more it becomes a habit. We begin to feel better about our life and those around us. Intend to be grateful. 

We Are Not Defined by Situations

Situations don’t define us. We define them.
~Yogacharya Ellen Grace O'Brian 

After we have been meditating regularly for a while, we acquire a good deal of control over the contents of our mind. First we become aware of the thoughts that arise and fall away, then we are able to choose those we nurture. We can look at life in a more positive way, choosing to define how we want our life to be.  This is the path to freedom.

The Flow of Meditation

Meditation is easy and natural. We can make it difficult by trying too hard, having unrealistic expectations, or approaching it haphazardly, but at its core, meditation is simply being awake and aware — mindful.
~Yogacharya Ellen Grace O'Brian from The Jewel of Abundance:Finding Prosperity Through the Ancient Wisdom of Yoga.

We often hear students say that they are frustrated with their practice because they can't seem to turn off the thoughts. Others may ask what is meditation supposed to feel like. Many think that they can't meditate because of the myriad thoughts that keep them distracted while they are sitting and they quit trying. As we sit in meditation on a regular basis and stay alert and aware, we begin to notice that we don't need to struggle to keep our attention on our point of focus. Watch for the shift from concentration into meditation. Yogacharya O'Brian tells us "When attention becomes steady, it begins to flow; no effort is required to hold it on point....Awareness flows, and expands, in a steady stream. It is peaceful and effortless." 

Our Life Becomes Our Meditation

When daily meditation and conscious activity work together in our lives, the line that separates them grows thin. Our life becomes our meditation.
~Yogacharya Ellen Grace O'Brian

The choices we make during the day influence our meditation practice and our practice is reflected in our life experience. We can harness the tools of discipline and focused intentionality to improve both and benefit from this virtuous cycle. Life becomes more fulfilling as we curb the randomness of unconscious desire with joyful choice.

Cultivate Your Inner Fire

Daily meditation builds an inner fire of spiritual energy that grows stronger as it is tended. This inner fire burns away the dross of laziness, restlessness, and confusion.
~Yogacharya Ellen Grace O'Brian

Our life energy grows stronger with our daily practice of meditation. We are guided to do, think and speak in ways that are supportive of our own lives and to the lives of those around us. We feel better about our life. Our inner peace and contentment grows and radiates out from us.  Positive people and circumstances will be attracted to us. We are more positively energized and are able to cope more easily with life's difficulties. Our laziness, restlessness and confusion fall away. Look around you and become more conscious of the positive effects of your meditation practice. Enjoy!

Cultivate Awareness of Joy

When cultivating awareness of joy becomes a regular practice, joy will arise later in the day on its own. Like rays of the sun breaking through the clouds, you’ll find joy shining through your heart and your mind, radiating through your smile.
~Yogacharya Ellen Grace O'Brian

Our essential nature is joy, and a regular meditation practice can provide access to this joy when we meditate daily for as little as eight to ten weeks. We begin with short glimpses of peaceful joy and as time goes on we can return to this with just one conscious breath. Let your consciousness expand with gratitude and joy throughout the day because like attracts like. Don't waste your energy dwelling in the negative. Live in joy and share that with others.

The Universe Responds to Our Thoughts

IMG_0673.jpg

Change your thoughts if you wish to change your circumstances. Since you alone are responsible for your thoughts, only you can change them. You will want to change them when you realize that each thought creates according to its own nature.
~Paramahansa Yogananda

After we have been meditating for a while, we become very conscious of thoughts as they arise and fall away in the mental field. We come to realize that many of those thoughts are not very useful. Since the universe responds to our thoughts, why not replace thoughts of fear and of lack with gratitude for the many gifts we enjoy. Then the universe will respond in kind with full support for our helpful endeavors. It's up to us.

Parking Lot Contentment

Like a well-tended field, a life of happiness grows from the careful work of cultivating contentment.
~Yogacharya Ellen Grace O'Brian

This past year I have been working on cultivating contentment, meaning that I am trying to be consciously aware of all that I have and all that I am grateful for, and that I don't need more. Recently I had a moment of deep peace and contentment, in of all places, a busy shopping center parking lot. I had just had a nice visit with my aging aunt and I was on my way to a bookstore where Yogacharya O'Brian was going to be speaking. I stopped in a shopping center to get a quick bite of dinner. As I was going back to my car I had a moment of feeling that everything was right with the world. I was happy that I live in such a beautiful area of the world, that I am close to family and friends and that I have opportunities to learn and grow from learned teachers. It was just a moment, but I noticed it and let it sink in. We all have these moments in our lives. In this busy holiday season, it is easy to get overwhelmed and stressed. It is easy to think about what we don't have or how we would like things to be. It is easy to focus on the negative. Our meditation practice gives us moments of peacefulness, where we let go of all desire and can just be in the moment. Notice how that feels and then notice those peaceful moments that reappear throughout the day. The more we are aware of those grateful moments, the more we will experience them and the more we will feel alright with the world. It is a peaceful, happy place to be. May you have many moments of "parking lot contentment."

True Generosity

True generosity nourishes us and those around us. When we follow the inspiration of generosity, there is always enough.
~Yogacharya Ellen Grace O'Brian

fullsizeoutput_16ca.jpeg

The key to prosperity consciousness is that abiding fullness that we reach in meditation, but our daily mental habits are also important. When we make the choice to focus our attention on what we have, rather than what is lacking, we attract more. Generosity is the sharing of our inner fullness using tangible objects or simply kindness. When we show generosity, we are the prime beneficiaries and prosperity naturally follows.

Be Persistent

The mind is restless and hard to master; but by constant practice and detachment it can be mastered in the end.
~Bhagavad Gita 6:35

This scripture from the east was written about two thousand years ago and even then the sages who wrote it understood that we all have trouble overcoming our busy mind when we try to master it through meditation. Their instruction is the same instruction we give today, because it is the guidance that works. This scripture gives us great promise. We can master the mind through our regular practice and also with detachment, detachment from the expectation that our meditation practice should go in a certain way, allowing and trusting that whatever comes or doesn't come that day is useful.  Be persistant, it works.

Experience What is Real

Meditate regularly, and you will find a joy inside that is real. You will then have something you can compare to sense pleasures.
~Paramahansa Yogananda

In our contemporary society, we are subject to advertisements that encourage us to pursue short term pleasure rather than lasting joy. Meditation lets us experience what is both real and lasting: the latent bliss that is our true nature. Our steady daily meditation practice transforms us and this practice should be judged not by what occurs during meditation, but by the radiant quality of life that comes from it.

Notice Your Contentment

We may fail to notice our own contentment if we get too busy chasing after things.
~Yogacharya Ellen Grace O'Brian

One of the basic things that we want in this life is to be happy. We want a lasting happiness, not just a fleeting moment. Lasting happiness is contentment.  It is not just those "up" times that are fun. It is a deep joy that pervades our being. We may think that "if I get that thing or that relationship then I will be happy". The things or situations we desire are nice, but they are not the source of our happiness because they always change. We have that deep joy, that contentment now, in this present moment. Our meditation practice reveals it to us. When the mind quiets, we notice what it is like to just "be".  Slow down, take the time, notice your innate happiness, notice your innate contentment.

Success

Success is hastened or delayed by one’s habits. It is not your passing inspirations or brilliant ideas so much as your everyday mental habits that control your life.
~Paramahansa Yogananda

A consistent daily meditation practice gives us the mental self awareness to judge our thoughts and speech as they arise and to make necessary adjustments. When we let less useful thoughts and speech fall away we avoid negative consequences and attract only the support that positive speech and actions naturally acquire. What we experience as success comes from the harmony of our actions with a supportive universe. Success begins with meditation.

Be Patient

fullsizeoutput_138f.jpeg

Have you imagined that meditation is stopping all thoughts? That is like trying to stop the wind. Let the wind be while you take shelter in the stillness of the Self. Thoughts may continue but they need not disturb you or interrupt your meditation. The wind doesn't blow all day. Eventually it quiets down. Give no regard to thought activity and it will subside. 
~Ellen Grace O'Brian from her book Living for the Sake of the Soul

When we first begin our meditation practice most of us think that our thoughts should be completely eliminated. We get frustrated when they aren't and that frustration may stop our practice.  What we don't realize is that our thoughts are a part of us and don't completely go away, but they subside with our regular meditation practice. We learn not to notice them and allow them to pass by. It is like clouds in the sky. The clouds are the thoughts but we are focusing on the clear stillness of the sky. The thought activity will subside. Be patient.