Monday, November 28, 2016

Limiting beliefs

What do you notice about this picture?

Do you believe the flower to be imperfect, or perfect and beautiful just as it is?

What if this flower were a person looking in the mirror. Perhaps it would be telling itself that it is not perfect, not beautiful, not good enough. Believing in this it would probably be feeling bad, suffering in other words.

We all have them, those beliefs that limit us.  This article invites you to explore those limiting ideas, what they might be and mean and give you some strategies for seeing them for what they really are. To get the most from it, sit down with a pen and notebook and do the suggested exercises while you read it.

Ready?

See if any of the following resonate with you.
  • I am too fat/skinny/unfit/stiff/weak
  • People don't love/respect/like me
  • I have too much/more/something else to do
  • I cannot do or be something as I am too ignorant/young/old/female/male
  • I need a bigger/different/better organised/ house
  • It isn't possible because I live where I live and not somewhere else
If you can add any of your own to this list. Grab your notebook and jot them down, and jot down the versions of these that most resonate for you as well.  Don't worry about reinforcing them, we are going to work on that.

Take a look at the list. See if you can arrange them under the following headings (some may seem to cross over more than one, just try to make the best fit for the moment.
  • I am not good enough
  • There is not enough time
  • I don't know enough
  • There is more I need to do
  • I am in the wrong place or lack space
Did they all fit somewhere in thse headings? These categories I have given are not a random choice but a version of the five Kanchukas, or limitations, which the wisdom teachings tell us are clouding our understanding of our true nature.
  • Raaga - limited perfection (shows up as desires which seek to fill up that which is lacking)
  • Kaala - limited time 
  • Vidya - limited knowing
  • Kalaa - limited action or doing
  • Niyati - limited space (shows up as being confined to a location, as in a body)
But they are not only the limitations themselves but when we start to notice them they become signposts that point us towards our true nature.

  • Raaga, limited perfection, points to our inherent wholeness - Perfection
  • Kaala, limited time, points to the timelessness of pure Being, which we are - Eternal
  • Vidya, limited knowing, points to the all knowing wisdom which is also here, always - Omniscient
  • Kalaa, limited action or doing points to there being no doer and the state of not doing that is the state of pure Being - Omnipotent
  • Niyati, limited space points to the spacious infinity of pure Being - Omnipresent and Infinite
Now, go back to your list of limiting beliefs. For each of them, find and record next to it, an opposite.

For example, if you have a belief "I haven't done enough" you might take the opposite to be "I always do the best I can" or "I do as much as I can to the best of my ability"

If you didn't get out a notebook and pen, while the others are completing this task, take a moment to think of what prevented you from doing that.  Perhaps it was "I am too busy right now, I just want to read this and get it over with". This would be the limitation of time, wouldn't it? Was there a different reason?  Is there a Kanchuka there?  Not in the right place just now? Limited space. Unsure of where all this is going?  Limited knowing. There is something wrong with being asked to do exercises? Limited perfection. Can't be bothered doing exercises?  Limited action.

OK, so now look at your list and pick the limiting belief that you find most poignant or resonating with you right now in this moment.  Ask your heart and don't hesitate. Take note of the opposite you have created. 

In a moment take some time to sit awhile with your eyes closed and take the limiting belief, and explore what it feels like?  What emotions does it raise? Where does this live in your body? Sit with that a moment and explore it a bit, being curious. Then take the opposite. If you take this to be true, what does it feel like? What emotions does it raise? where is this in your body. For a little while, as long as you like, go between these two opposites. Take enough time to let the belief, its attendant emotions, perhaps memories, and feelings arise and note the bodily sensations that are there, before moving back to the opposite.

What happens?  Does there come a time when they can both be here together?

Now for a critical question. Who is dong all the observing of these beliefs, these memories and emotions, these sensations in the body? Can you just be there, be that?

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Why do we chant mantras 108 times?

At the Yoga Australia teacher's retreat in South Australia recently we took the opportunity to chant the Gayatri Mantra 108 times. This is a traditional practice which is why there are 108 beads on a mala. The fingers are run over the beads to facilitate counting while chanting. There is also a tradition in yoga of doing 108 sun salutations.

The question arose later in conversation, why 108? What is it about 108 that makes it chosen as the number of times to chant a mantra or  do sun salutations?

108 is a number that is ascribed mystical significance in Indian traditions but other traditions as well. Here are some attributions:

  • The deities of Hinduism often have 108 names. 
  • There are 54 letters in the Sanskrit alphabet; with each letter being attributed with a masculine and a feminine aspect, or more accurately Shiva and Shakti, 54 x 2 = 108. 
  • There are said to be 108 Gopis or servants of lord Krishna
  • In symbolic terms 1 stands for the one Universal Consciousness from which all arises; 0 stands for completeness or perfection which is also fully spacious (empty, void) that is the goal of the spiritual path; 8 stands for Infinity (laid on its side it is a universal symbol for infinity
  •  In Islam God has 108 names
  • In numerology 9 is considered the number of completion and 12 is the cosmic number. their product 9 x 12 = 108, 108 is the Universal number
  • 1+0+8 = 9; in numerology 9 represents unconditional love
  • Some schools of Buddhism say there are 108 feelings, multiplying the six senses of taste, hearing, small, sight, touch and consciousness by the three attributes of  painful, pleasant or neutral, multiplied again by the two factors of whether they are internally or externally generated, and again by the three time divisions of past, present or future. 6 x 3 x 2 x 3 = 108
  • 18 is a revered number in Judaism. Gifts and charitable donations are given in multiples of 18 (18 x 6 = 108) and in the number 108 the fullness of zero sits inside 18.
  • Many Buddhist temples have 108 steps

But none of this really satisfactorily explains why.

The ancient Indians were keen astronomers (and astrologers) and great mathematicians, so I wondered if all the magical mystical significance comes about due to their understanding of the maths and science of it. And it turns out that there are indeed some pretty amazing things about 108 when we turn to science and mathematics. Like this:

  • The average distance of the earth from the sun is 108 times the diameter of the sun
  • The average distance of the earth from the moon is 108 times the diameter of the moon

At least it would have been as far as the ancients could observe and calculate it - with modern instruments and computers it is a bit off, but still, I am already going wow!

Now for the mathematics.  I have to admit to quite a lot of  "glazing over" when researching this for I am not noted as a mathematician. But it turns out to be a pretty cool maths idea too. See if you can get your head around these:

  • 11 x 22 x 33 = 108 (1 x 4 x 27 = 108) - that is called hyperfactorial. But wait there's more!
  • 108 is a refactorial number meaning that it is divisible by the count of its divisors, that is it has 12 divisors, 1 and 108, 2 and 54, 3 and 36, 4 and 27, 6 and 18, 9 and 12, and it is divisible by 12
  • The measure in degrees of the internal angle of a regular pentagon is 108 (Euclidean space) - this relates back to metaphysical excitement about the number as pentagons are also considered a magical shape.
  •  2 sin (108°/2) = (the Greek symbol phi which means the golden ratio )

I do not know if all of this has resulted in an answer, really, as to why we chant the mantras 108 times and do 108 sun salutes, or why the deities have 108 names, however with such an amazing number, why not?