Set Higher Standards by Ravi

Ramblings from a 30-something ultra-marathoning yogi with a day job.

Posts Tagged ‘Meditation

Interconnectedness

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Everything is connected. The question is can you ‘see’ the connection.

Not just with your eyes….but all five senses and then some.

Do your own thoughts impact how the world shows up for you?

Do your own actions have undeniable impact of everyone and everything around you?

Do your own emotions impact the emotions of others both near and far?

Of course this is the way of the world. You don’t have to believe me. Science shows us that we are connected not just with each other, but across space and across time.

There are certain moments when the interconnectedness becomes obvious. During a meditation, while hiking though nature, snowboarding on fresh powder, water skiing across a still lake, relaxing with people you care about, even the final moments of an Ironman!

The real trick is to bring this awareness into other aspects of life. During a challenging work meeting. While having an argument with a family member. While getting pulled over by a traffic cop. Waiting for a delayed flight to take off. While doing laundry. While staring at a sink full of dishes after a long day of work.

There’s a great saying that ‘when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” It is true. Seeing the connection between all things will fundamentally change how you relate and react everything in this world.

You stop being at the effect of the world and instead become ‘at cause’ for what happens. Everything that shows up in your world will seem to be a manifestation of who you are and how you are showing up.

The view from a remote mountain cabin at the foot of Pikes Peak in Colorado; where I spent 5 days alone in deep meditation a few years ago. No food, no TV, no internet, no reading, no writing, no talking. Just fresh water, fresh air, an amazing view and my own self.

Written by Ravi Raman

July 12, 2011 at 8:26 pm

Focus

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In a world of abundant distraction, focus has become a more valuable skill than ever.

I use the word ‘skill’ because focus is something that can be practiced and improved over time.

In yoga, we call this ‘dhristi’, one point of focus. It starts with physical focus, fixing your gaze to a single point. From the physical focus, your mind becomes more focused, with your awareness moving to a what is happening in the current moment. From this mental focus you’ll find deeper levels of meta-physical focus.

When you look at things worth appreciating in this world; be it nature, new technologies, art, books, movies, music, meaningful relationships, etc…they were all created through some degree of focus. Scattered energy and attention doesn’t accomplish much and over the long-term can actually be destructive in terms of physical, mental and societal well-being.

Yoga and meditation practice is just one way to improve focus. Any act of doing one thing at a time works. Write a blog post, knit, go on a hike, spend time with family, play an instrument. The key is to just be present to what you are doing without letting your mind wander.

Dancer pose 'Natarajasana' is great dhristi practice. Here I am at the southern tip of India, where three great seas meet (Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal).

Written by Ravi Raman

July 10, 2011 at 1:44 pm

The High Cost of Worry

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Drag your thoughts away from your troubles… by the ears, by the heels, or any other way you can manage it. 

-Mark Twain

Worrying has an incredible cost. I estimate that through the course of an average workweek about 80% of waking time is spend worrying about something.

Worry about being late for a meeting. Worry about public speaking. Worry about dealing with a co-worker. Worry about dealing with a manager. Worry about how a project will turn out. Worry about an upcoming performance review.

Worry comes at a cost.

Blood pressure issues. Stomach ulcers and digestive problems. Eating disorders. Insomnia. Worry is no joke. People die young due to stress and anxiety induced health issues.

Beyond the physical I think the biggest cost is that when you worry you miss out on what is actually happening in the world. Worry is only possible when you are dwelling on the past or projecting some situation into the future. If you catch yourself worrying a lot, you are certainly not present to what is really going on.

Your kids. Your co-workers. Your friends. All your relationships become tainted when worry has a grip on you. Mr. Carnegie has a nice tip for dealing with worry if it keeps you from sleeping:

If you can’t sleep, then get up and do something instead of lying there worrying.  It’s the worry that gets you, not the lack of sleep.  ~Dale Carnegie

I like meditation as proactive way to eliminate worry. I believe that like any other skill, freeing yourself from worry is no different that losing a few pounds, learning a language or a new sport. It can be trained. The most powerful training is mediation.

Meditation teaches awareness to what is going on in the present moment.

10 minutes a day of breathing and simple awareness will give you the capacity to let go of worry when it comes, and with continued practice you’ll notice that worry just stops taking root in your mind altogether.

I’ve been meditating daily for over 5 years and am convinced that it has re-wired my brain. I’m not worry-free but close to it.

Written by Ravi Raman

May 28, 2011 at 6:13 pm

How to Be a Genuine Fake

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Hiking to the Enchantments in the Cascade Range in Washington (July 2010).

Authenticity is a rare thing. You know it when you see. In people. In art. In music. In cuisine. In the environment. The real-deal stands out because it doesn’t try to be real. It just is. I notice this with people all the time. Authentic folks stand out without trying to stand out, they are so rare nowadays. There is a great quote that I heard many years ago that captures this notion:

Who you are speaks so loudly I can hardly hear a word you are saying.

Being authentic is incredibly simple, but not easy. It is simple because it does not require you to do anything. It is hard because it does require the non-doing of many things. We are programmed to pretend. From a young age we learn that being ourselves is not OK. It isn’t appropriate to dance around the floor of the temple or the church. It isn’t appropriate to wear flashy clothes to school. It isn’t appropriate to cut your hair like a mohawk. It is isn’t appropriate to eat dessert first. There are so many things we are told are not appropriate.

As a result we learn how to be a genuine fake and get very good at it. We learn not to rock the boat. We learn how to fit in and do what we are told. We learn how to judge ourselves as good or bad based on the expectations of others, and this in turn helps us be even better and the fakery. We become very good actors.

There are many problems with being good actors. Acting, even for the most highly skilled actor or actress, takes an enormous amount of energy. Being someone who you are not is a net energy drain. All the thoughts, words and deeds that must be done come at a cost. In fact, it’s a double-whammy. Not only does it take energy to act, it also takes energy to repress who you really are, your authentic self.

A great meditation teacher taught me that meditation is an act of non-doing. If you think meditation is tough, it isn’t because it requires you to do something tough, because there is no doing involved! In fact, the more you sit still and force your mind to focus on only one thing (or nothing), the more tiring meditation will become. Therefore, the best way to meditate is to make it effortless. Sit down, and just notice what you notice. If your mind wanders let it wander and notice it wandering. Continue the practice of noticing and you will begin unwind the Gordian knot of effort that is keeping you all wound up! Meditation must be effortless, it is the only way.

Authenticity happens, it isn’t something you do.

In the same way, trying to be authentic is a massive energetic drain. Authenticity happens, it isn’t something you do. The best way to be a genuine fake it to ignore this fact and continue doing what you are told and fitting into how you think you should be. Another great way to entrap yourself and others is to get caught up in double-binds about how to live your life. This means you come to believe that you must “try to be sincere” or “you must always love him” or “you must only tell the truth”, etc. These statements are double-binds because they require forced thinking and agreement to an impossible outcome. These beliefs make it impossible to be authentic. As ridiculous as it seems to read these statements, people live their lives according to these rules and don’t even know it. You become a first-class genuine fake when you force things to happen. When you speak what you think you should speak instead of what is true. When you act out of concern for the future or the past vs the present.

I stumbled upon these mountain goats during my hike in the Enchantments. Getting into nature and observing animals in their wild state is a great way to stay connected to the here and now.

If you are tired of being a genuine fake, the good news is that the way out is far simpler than the what got you there – but it may not be easy depending on your past conditioning and mindset  (though it may quite trivial if you believe it to be so). It comes back to aligning thoughts, words and actions based on what is really happening, not what is expected of you or what you think about the past or the future. In the truth of the now, there can only be authenticity, for fakery relies on the mind, and the mind operates in the past/future and not the present. In the present there is only awareness which lies behind the mind. This is the only truth.

Written by Ravi Raman

November 27, 2010 at 8:20 pm

The best place to meditate

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Rush hour in Manhattan, New York City

Image via Wikipedia

In the middle of busy street at rush hour.

If you can find some peace of mind in the middle of madness, finding it in everyday life will that much easier. If you keep putting off a meditation practice because you don’t have the right meditation pillows, music, incense, etc…you’re making excuses.

Just sit down and do it. It doesn’t matter if the sun is shining on your eyelids. It doesn’t matter if there is noise from the street outside. It doesn’t matter if there is a kid running around and distracting you or a baby crying in the distance.

Just start and embrace the distraction. It is all part of the practice.

Written by Ravi Raman

November 11, 2010 at 5:53 am

Posted in Meditation

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Get out of your mind

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I asked a student in yoga class today “why are you here” and she replied “to lose my mind!” It sounds funny but it’s right on.

Losing your mind is great thing. When you are thinking you aren’t noticing what is really going on, and there is always much going on that is worth noticing.

Yogis practice for years to perfect this skill. Zen monks do austere meditation and rituals to cultivate present moment awareness and lose their minds.

The cool thing is it doesn’t need to take a long time and tons of effort to do this. Every day you spontaneously lose your mind. It happens when you get out in nature. It happens during bouts of intense physical activity. It happens when you express your creative potential.

Discover the ways of being where you can lose your mind. Bring more of that into your life. See all the cool stuff that is really happening when you are not caught in a web of thought.

(Below: losing my mind on the beach in Santa Barbara, CA)

Written by Ravi Raman

September 19, 2010 at 10:00 pm

The Problem With Self Help

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Hiking is a highly effective way to forget about your ego and be in the present! This is from my hike up Mt. Talpus in summer 2009.

The problem with self-help books, tapes and programs as they are commonly presented in bookstores and seminars is that they cater to the “self.” This is an issue since the self that desperately needs help is exactly the same self that is trying to help itself! It’s like trying to pick yourself up by your own bootstraps, it’s an impossible task. This is the issue with so many personal development and self-help approaches. They rely on some sheer force of will, ridiculous effort or some crazy process of control to create a change. These approaches simply strengthen the very things we must begin to let go of to achieve any sense of true personal growth, the ego.

This is where meditation fits in. When practiced without focus on outcome or desire, it provides a shim against the force of will that we apply in most every endeavor we take up. It allows one to grow without feeding the ego. It can help to undo the egotistical build up we experience throughout other activity. Through simply witnessing breath and becoming aware of what “is,” there is an increased capacity to see things objectively throughout all of life. It is perhaps the only form of self-help that is truly effective.

Written by Ravi Raman

April 13, 2010 at 5:01 am

Posted in Meditation, Personal Development

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