Stress Relief Counseling – from darkness to light

Stress Relief Counseling – from darkness to light

Satsang on line by Swami Sitaramananda April 8, 2020


Today’s topic is a very appropriate topic. It’s about stress relief counseling. The International Sivananda Yoga Centers are offering a service of stress relief counseling for all, in 12 languages. So if you see the announcement, please share with as many people as possible. Because the situation of suffering and stress due to the epidemic is a global situation. So we want people to be able to access the counselors who may be able to support them through this period of stress.

You can imagine the situation. There are all kinds of situations but you can summarize everything under the name of stress. From the person that is a frontline worker in the hospital, trying to save people’s lives; to a person caught up in their apartment living with a few people, with their children and unable to move; to a person who worries about the future, about their livelihood; to a person that is sick and struggling, that is doubting himself and in fear of death; to a person that is separated from the family member, because that family member is in isolation. So many difficult situations that the world is going through. A very very stressful situation that the world is going through.

So we’d like to have more and more people understand stress so that you can help yourself and you can help others as well. Because if you don’t understand the stress phenomenon then you might aggravate your situation through a wrong kind of stress response. The problem is also that you have adapted to stress. This means that your body and your mind may take that as the real thing and lead to chronic stress. And if you are in that stressful situation you don’t really know how to get out of it. The body, the mind will adapt to that kind of stressful situation and response that is physiological, neurological, and that also affects your immunity. At that time, it is just a matter of time that the wrong stress response will perpetuate. Because we are not just talking about now only, but we are talking about the mind. When the mind learns something, it would keep keep repeating the patterns.

The topic is so relevant because it is not just addressing the problems now, but can also help prevent  problems that could occur in the future. When the stress has become numbing, and is not something that you can balance out, it can become a mental health issues. As you know in yoga, we want people to become balanced and clear, because that is how they connect with themselves.

Most of the reason for doctor’s visits are caused by stress. Even before the health crisis was here, more and more people are suffering from stress. We can trace many of our diseases back to stress. Our immune system is weakened by stress. So we are more susceptible to diseases and viruses of different kinds, and we have less capacity to fight them.

Often we are not eating properly. Either we are eating too much or not eating at all or eating anything. We are not aware of our eating and diet. We are not sleeping properly. So many people suffer from insomnia or from nightmares or even agitated sleep. We are not breathing properly. Either we hold our breath in tension, or we are trying to gasp air. The reason is that we have become fixated on the idea that disease causes breathing difficulty. It is said that if we gasp  for air, it’s because we don’t know how to breathe or how to use our diaphragm to breathe deeply, calmly, slowly and in a relaxed way. Thus we aggravate our problems. Let’s say you feel panicky because you feel that you have some kind of disease and you start to breathe wrongly. At that time it’s very important for you to get in touch with a yoga teacher who can teach you how to breathe through the diaphragm and breathe slowly and deeply in order for you to relax. We are stressed and we want to relax. However, we breathe wrongly, so it makes us experience even more stress.

The situation of stress causes us to have difficulties in relationships with people., resulting in all the symptoms, including fear, anxiety, if we can recognize them, also irritability, grief, sadness or even depression. We have talked about this before, so please refer back to some of the teachings in the blog that talk about fear, anxiety and another one that talks about yoga of relationships, and how we can take the opportunity of this time to improve our relationships. We need this help so that we know how to deal with stress and how to help others.

The other point in this talk is about learning how to observe ourselves and the environment and have a strategy to know how to lift ourselves up and to change the environment for the better. That means how to move from darkness to light. We have to understand the theories about the three Gunas- the very fundamental theory of yoga philosophy. How to move from darkness to light then eventually to a place of transcendence or understanding. You cannot really understand anything if you are in darkness. That is the topic of today.

What is stress?

First we will talk very briefly about stress, What is stress? Our stress response is something that is built-in. It’s in our system. In our psychology, nervous system, and in our immune system. All these are all connected together. It’s a mechanism that responds to the perceived threat to our survival. So the stress response is there so that we can protect ourselves in some way. Later on we will talk about a little more how we can protect ourselves and what the cause of stress really is.

  • The mind and the body is very tightly connected. Whatever that we perceive in our mind will affect our body and the body organs and  their functions. So we can develop so-called psychosomatic disease due to stress.
  • There are three different types of stress response, fight, flight and freeze. It depends on the personality. Fight, flight or freeze, but it’s all the same. It depends on the temperament of the person. Some people may have more tendencies to fight when they feel stressed or to control. Some people might have the tendencies to escape the problems. And the other person might have the tendency to try to disappear so that nobody notice. They freeze, become paralyzed, becoming smaller and smaller.These are the three typical types of response to stressful situations depending upon your constitution and personality.
  • You can say that according to ayurveda there are three kinds of personality, the fiery personality (pita), the airy personality (vata), and the more water and earth personality (kapha). So you can say the fight response is for the pitta, the fiery nature. The flight response is more for the vata kind of nature, namely running away. The kapha people will have the tendencies to become inert. it’s just a very rough explanation.
  • If the stress response is prolonged then it will lead to chronic stress and eventually to disease and break-down. Normally we have the relaxation response built into our system. It’s alternate. You can be stressed and you relax. Stressed and relaxed. Sometimes it is impaired, because sometimes you are stressed, stressed, stressed, keep holding the stress and responding to stress and you can never relax. So very important that you learn to relax.
  • The most important thing to understand about stress is that stress is subjective. Something that might stress somebody else might not stress you, or vice versa. It’s subjective, it depends on your mind. An objective stressor, is something that causes your stress, but your personal reaction is due to the habitual thoughts and emotions in your mind depending on your perceptions. It’s your personal way and habitual way.

So the teaching of yoga will help you change your perception. People think wrongly that your ego self is always the same. That is denying the  fundamental essence of life, that we are constantly evolving and constantly changing. Every challenge is an opportunity for us to evolve a little. That means to let go the preconceived ideas about ourselves and about others and to get ourselves out to the light a little more.

  • The more we are rigid the more stressed we are. The more we are open and flexible, the less we are stressed. The general guideline is to try to be open and to be more relaxed. Most people believe it’s an external stressful situation that causes stress. But you can see now you are in quarantine, some people think it’s very stressful because they cannot do what they like. But some people will be welcoming it because they have time to do what they like and to do what they need to do. Because normally they can not. We think that everyone will be reacting in the same way as us but it’s not true. Everyone reacts differently. The outside environment is the same but the reaction is different.

How we perceive an event place a significant role in whether the stressor triggers our stress response or not.

5 causes of stress and how yoga helps:

1. Lack of prana (vital energy) from nature:

People are more stressed when they don’t have prana to deal with the challenge. To think or to understand we need prana, the vital energy. But when the lifestyle is too artificial we tend to spend prana. We are in the economy of debt, so that we all the time spend but we don’t take time to recharge. At that time we won’t be able to deal with stress or challenges because we are already in debt. At that time we might go into bankruptcy. We might feel sick when a thought comes. Like I’ve said, it’s a perceived threat. A thought just comes and suddenly you collapse, because you do not have enough prana due to your lifestyle from before. So the pressure builds up and we cannot handle it, our immune system is compromised. We can imagine that our modern world is very much so. It’s making us more in debt. It doesn’t enrich us. We live in high-rise buildings. We are all the time in the car or in the traffic. We are subject all the time to noise, to pollution and our mind is also very much full of thoughts and desires, so we call it the rajastic lifestyle. We overuse the computer, the cellphone. We don’t eat food properly, we don’t take time to eat, we eat out and we eat frozen food. Of course in the situation that we are now in, we can’t really find our proper supply and that can also add to the question of prana. We have to do the best we can in the current situation. Try to understand that we can supply our prana in certain different ways. From foods and also from our proper thinking. The idea is you need to live in alignment with nature to have more prana, so be in the sun and eat the food that is closer to the sun. We don’t go too much into this part about prana because we have a separate talk about that. Just know that when you counsel people about stress or when you feel stressful you can recognize right away that you are lacking prana. So you are not responding correctly, and you will have to build up prana. There are many different ways to build up the prana according to yoga.

2. Negative emotions create stress:

There are some negative emotions within you or within the person that you counsel or people that are around you that are stressful. You can tell right away there are some negative emotions.
Any unhealthy relationships and expectations will create stress. We have a lot stress due to relationships. Our relationships are not necessary healthy or loving, so we have to understand or help people to understand the emotions and the antidote of the emotions. There is some training possible we can learn and other people can learn. So don’t take the emotions as yourself. The first thing is recognizing and developing the awareness of our emotions. The awareness itself helps. The moment that you know that I’m angry, because I feel let down I don’t get what I want. The moment you know that and automatically by being aware of that, you do not become attached to that thinking or that scenario, and can be yourself. Awareness allows detachment. That awareness already helps to alleviate the problems, so when you are counseling people, you help people to be aware. You don’t have to solve their problems, but just because they become aware of it, automatically, their mind will think correctly and the problems will be solved by themselves. Negative emotions will also drain the prana. So that’s why people go down and down. The negative emotions can also be how people think they are. Because they have been building the personality for a very long time. Like I said, different stress responses vary according to different personalities. A person may be very fiery or might be all the time controlling. The person might be all the time not facing situations and not facing themselves. They distract themselves. They escape. A person might be acting as if they don’t know and not doing anything, because they are used to being fearful and stressed. Sometimes you can live in an abusive family relationship, for example, that makes you feel all the time, since your childhood, maybe unworthy, victimized and powerless. It’s not that simple to help a person to get out of stressful situations. Because the roots can be very deep in the psyche of a person. Yoga helps you to open the heart so then you can become more in touch with the love within you. Everyone has love, but the habitual negative emotions might be veiling you from the love that is true and within you. Yoga makes us open our heart and withhold our judgement of others. We are very quick to judge others and close our heart. But by practicing yoga, we can keep our heart open. Yoga also helps you deal with your emotions by reminding you of your true Self that is untouched and unhurt; that is fulfilled; that is perfect; that is independent; that is transcendent; that is free and joyous; that is non-competitive; that is one without a second. Beautifully said. One without a second. That means when you don’t feel separated from the others, at that time you can go to the essence of yourself that is one. And automatically all your negative emotions vanish. Of course it’s easy to say but it’s something we have to keep working on. We need to identify the negative emotions and use yoga techniques to take care of them.

3. Adaptation problem:

The third cause of stress, which is very relevant now is the adaptability question. We said already, the more you are open and flexible the less stress you will experience. The more you are rigid the more stress you will have. We need to adapt. We need to let go of ownership. Ownership means you identify very much with something, either objects or accomplishments. You have difficulties to adapt because you falsely identify with something that is impermanent. It’s a very big thing. Swami Sivananda says, ”Adapt, adjust, accommodate. Bear insult, bear injury, highest yoga.” That’s how Swami Sivananda talks. We need to step back. When you feel something is difficult, you need to step back. Practice detachment. Stepping back from whom? From our own selves. Our own ideas and identification about whatever we feel, whatever we identify with as the problems, or whatever we identify to be the cause of our miseries. So we need to detach. Step back. Stress happens when there’s a failure of adaptation. When we fail to adapt, it’s because we are attached. Instead of detachment, we attach to something. We attach to who and what we think we are. We attach to our problems or how things should be in relation to who you think you are. The attachment problem is the misidentification. We think or experience something and we might be attached to it. We attach to our past. We attach to our stories. We attach to our dramas. That creates stress. Or when things change we become stressed. You see nowadays things change so quickly, and we are stressed. That’s everybody. Unless you are really trained for a very long time, and you have to be really flexible. When things change we become stressed. When we cannot adapt to new situations and when we are constantly expecting things to be in conformity to our expectations, we are not able to adapt ourselves to them. So yoga says, “ A flexible spine, a flexible mind. “ All the time we are training ourselves to be more flexible in our body and also in the mind.

4. Uncertainty and existential anxiety:

How Yoga helps to alleviate stress by giving us flexibility in outlook about Self and others:
The common problem for our time that causes stress, and the reason why so many people are stressed now, is the idea of uncertainty. Uncertainty and existential anxiety resulting from the fact that you see many people dying around and the disease may come to your door at any time by any body, and in that it’s invisible. At that time you have anxiety. It comes from the fear of death and from disease. When you are there and your life depends on the government that decides if you can move or go back to work or so on, that creates stress. Then we face something we call uncertainty. That creates stress. When you study yoga you have to go deeper. It’s not only about yoga exercise, but you have to go deeper into the philosophy of yoga. Because it helps you to alleviate the stress and give you flexibility of outlook about ourselves and others. Uncertainty has always been there, it’s not a new situation. We don’t really know what can happen. We don’t know when we are going to die. We don’t know. Anything can happen. Earthquakes can happen. Tsunamis can happen. Accidents can happen. So nobody really can predict or control life. We have an illusion that we can control until something happens and we realize that we are not at all in control. So we need to learn how to live this life which is constantly changing. Changing day by day. Even the body is constantly changing. My white hair did not come overnight. It came little by little. The body is constantly changing and we are facing the transition. That creates a lot of anxiety. Because we see people dying and we see more and more which reminds us how fragile life is. We can be taken very very quickly. We turn around and somebody can be taken very quickly. You look at the statistic today, so many people are dying. It’s not like before people didn’t die but now it becomes very clear. So we have to think more about it. Existential anxiety exists all the time, and we have to resort to some kind of deep realization, deep understanding or deep thinking, in order for us to be able to be stable in ourselves.

We have to learn to see the absolute. The level of ourselves which is untouched. At the same time we have to be able to live in this world of relativity, at the same time remembering a level of ourselves is immortal and untouched. The yogi develops the capacity to be flexible and to be able to change perspective about him or herself, and to avoid obsession and stubbornness. To try to depersonalize things. Don’t think it only happened to you and dramatize it, but try to understand the reason, that can be quite involved, for any kind of stressful situation. We can very quickly deal with our existential anxiety if we have some kind of faith. You know in a correct manner it’s not blind faith but faith in a correct manner, faith in your true Self and in the supreme intelligence. The more we have faith the more we can deal with our existential anxiety and our uncertainty. Because we don’t know, and we cannot control. But everything is always happening for the best. So you can relax. We know we are supported at all time by the invisible hands of the divine. That is also something we can train ourselves into thinking. The practice of yoga helps to connect to the Divine. And if you remember there’s that level of the soul that is sat-cit-ananda, the Atman. That is free, that is not hurt, and is untouched by anybody and that whatever people think about you, you are perfect. So there’s that level of ourselves that we need to get in touch with.  Otherwise we will be very anxious and fearful. You see there’s already many reasons why we are stressed and we can’t escape it. We have to think about it. The challenging situation is that we have to think about it more. Now we say okay when we have time we will think about it, when everything comes back to normal we can think about philosophy. But that’s not correct. It’s in the challenging time that you need to take the opportunity for wisdom.

5. How Yoga helps redeeming karma:

It’s more or less the same idea that nothing happens for nothing. Something happens always for us to have the opportunity to learn something. What we are experiencing now is the results of our past actions. And what we need to do now to redeem our karma is to see it, accept it and redeem it and not repeat the same wrong thinking again. It is said that we are born to experience the results of our past karma, past thoughts, past desires and these are our lessons. So this is why to some level, our problems and our challenges are inevitable. What does that mean, inevitable for us? That means that whatever happens to us is specific for us. We need to learn our lessons and cannot escape from it. You can blame people and try to deny it. But unless you do some soul searching, and see your own weakness and your repetitive patterns, you would not be able to learn that karmic lessons. It’s said that we are born and our life is set up. It’s all set up. So that we can experience it. And sometimes we think think that somebody set that up. You look at the recent events and you can see. Some people get stuck in some countries they cannot move they cannot go, suddenly they cannot. You see all these are all karma. You step back and see why is it so. You step back and see this is why you need to accept. It’s not that you are fatalistic about it, but you need to face it and make the best out of it. Because it has in it something, a lesson about ourselves. Not the neighbor not the others not our family members but exactly something we need to learn. The same situations and a group of people will experience things differently, will react differently. Because of their patterns. And they need to learn from their patterns. That is called the deep level of karma. That’s why it’s very annoying. When something that we think should not be there is there again, right in front of us, and we think it’s very stressful. So the deeper level of stress is that situation. Everyone has to go through their karma. The karma can be collective karma as well. So we are all together on the planet of earth in this time. So whatever we do to the environment whatever we think it’s civilization and we develop dependency towards technology and our life changes quickly. It’s karma. I myself don’t want to deal with any of these. The cellphone, the internet. But now I found myself on the internet, have meetings on the internet and all these things you know. I studied it’s difficult for the eyes burn your eyes and it drains your prana. I remember the first time I talked in the meeting on the internet or something I feel very drained. Because my world was different I didn’t know the internet I didn’t want to use the internet before. I never used these things. But the whole community the whole life everything the whole world is moving towards that level. And now I have got used to it. So now it’s not so draining. Because somehow we develop a different kind of nervous system. So the whole world is evolving very quickly and who knows what the situation now is preparing us for. We go back to the question of karma and stress. We can share together the collective situation and bear together the results of our collective actions.

So to summarize, stress is an indicator and a teacher that we need to think about a given situation to rethink who we are, about our expectations and our motivation and to remember this is not the real Self. We need to try to lift our consciousness through teaching, through training so that we go to the root cause of the stress. So as a yoga teacher you have to be humble, knowing that you do not know and surrender your will to God’s will. And Yoga life teaches you the different practices that combine the four paths of yoga to destroy the root of karma that comes from wrong thinking and wrong doing, and to give us the positive and sattvic life, that’s the teaching of the Sivananda system, “ Serve, love, give, purify, meditate, realize. “ the four paths of yoga. That’s the first part of the talk today about stress and the cause of stress. So that you can counsel yourself and counsel the people around you.

The 3 Gunas ( 3 qualities of nature)

Another theory that comes from the yoga philosophy that will help you is the theory of the three gunas. Now we are talking about the theory of the three gunas as the guideline for us to move from darkness to light or to help people move from darkness to light. Regarding the  the topic of stress, there are three types of reaction, depending on the gunas. The gunas are  tamas, rajas and sattva. These are the Sanskrit terms that explain how the whole universe and nature can be seen and characterized through all these qualities. There is the  quality of darkness, tamas; the quality of action and movement is rajas; and the quality of purity and balance is sattva. If you yourself can try to recognize within yourself the qualities and try to recognize the qualities in the person that you counsel as well, if you can really master the way of seeing then you will know how to do, how to counsel a person. The guideline is that people will respond to stress depending on the gunas, so they can have a tamasic response to stress, a rajasic response to stress and a sattvic response to stress. The counselor yourself has to help the other person to move from tamas to rajas and to sattva.That is the key, the main guideline to whatever problems we find in ourselves or we find in others. You will have to break through the tamas, the darkness; calm down the rajas, the agitation and the projection. You would have to cultivate the sattva which is nourishing the quality of balance harmony nourish and balance. That is the main guideline.

But before that we can just try to see a little bit the concrete manners how a tamasic stress response can look like.

Tamasic stress response:

When a person is lazy, slothful, they don’t care. They don’t take baths and even throw the clothings all over, and the room, the house is completely disorganized. They don’t clean and they don’t organize, that is called the tamasic response. That can also come as a stress response. “I don’t see anything, I don’t find a way out, I don’t understand anything anyway, so I don’t care.” So you fall into that idea that ”I don’t care”. And then you become indulgent in food, eating anything. “Why do I care about my life and health, it can be taken away anytime anyway so I don’t care.” You indulge in too much eating, too much sleeping, and being passive. You spend too much time watching movies or watching news. You become passive and no longer participate actively or become aware in your life anymore. You give up your life and you go into watching movies and news. You cannot grasp reality anymore. When people are so much in virtual reality, then they can become depressed. That’s also an expression of tamas. You become depressed and you become fearful. Fear and anxiety is an expression of tamas which make you lose yourself.Then you can become complacent, therefore, you hide and go into denial. You feel you cannot do anything, you deny your happiness as well as your abilities and you live in darkness.

You also notice the tamas when people complain about others. They know something has to be done but they don’t do it.“Why don’t you wash the dishes?” But they themselves don’t wash the dishes.They complain that people around me are this and that. That is the tamastic attitude. The victim attitude means always somebody is doing something to me. So I’m not responsible for what is happening to me.

Living in the past is also an expression of tamas. All the time you talk about the past, you know, living in the past, so that’s is the tamasic attitude. Some people cannot stick to any routine, any schedule. For example now they have to create their own schedule and routine but they cannot do it. They cannot discipline themselves or turn inwards. It’s impossible for them to do yoga or to do meditation, because they cannot follow any kind of routine. They can be suicidal. They can be escape into drugs, these are all tamasic experiences. They think taking marijuana can solve their problems. They become relaxed and think that there is no problem. So it’s also a tamasic attitude. I also see nowadays people drinking bleach. They are afraid of the virus and so they drink bleach to prevent the virus and they kill themselves. These are the tamasic stress responses. You want something quick and you don’t work on yourself but want something external.

Rajasic stress response : 

The idea is the ego is very strong when you are rajasic. When you are the victim of the rajasic view then you separate yourself from the rest of the world. So you become angry because the way things go is not the way you want. So you can become angry. Anger is the rajasic response. If a person is depressed and they are not moving or not doing anything, ie. no eating no anything, then it’s better that you encourage them to be stronger in their opinion about things so they can become angry. But somehow it’s better and afterwards they can calm down. So the idea is to get away from the tamas and calm down the rajas. The rajas is somehow easier because you can calm them down through yoga.

The rajasic expression is they can become angry, and people can become violent. When the situation stays the same and there’s no change, people may start to become angry with the government; become angry with the neighbor and they can even become violent. So that’s the rajasic response of the stress. I learned something that is very disheartening, that many shops are closed in LA but the gun shops are open. They are allowed to open. This is quite disheartening, it means people feel insecure and uncertain. We will talk about insecurity and uncertainty. How they are going to make themselves safe and secure is by buying guns to protect themselves from the neighbors. This is the rajasic response to stress.

There is also the blaming attitude. The blaming attitude is rajasic. You never really look at yourself and always blame somebody that creates the problem to you. Accusing, pointing fingers.

The hoarding tendency is also the rajasic expression. You want more and more. The greediness, the hoarding of the material stuff. You think it gives you more security.

Also you see that there are some people that don’t hesitate to break rules. They don’t like the rules.

The me and mine attitude. Anything that is about me and mine can cause the rajasic attitude. Try to temper down the rajasic. Any selfish kind of idea, that I enjoy myself and I get what I want. The rest of the world can suffer but I don’t care. This is the rajasic attitude.

Regarding disease, some people may try different kind of medicine that is called the rajasic way. They will try this and that and they will get a cocktail of medicine. The more medicine they get the better it is for the disease. They don’t look into the holistic natural healing that comes from themselves, but for something external.

Now regarding the social distancing. Many don’t think a lot of the whole, which means they only think about themselves. Some people still go and party on the beach while people are struggling in the hospitals. Rajasic means like you cannot refrain from movement and excitement, sensual pleasures and egoism. That’s the rajasic attitude. And constantly you are just enjoying your life with the senses.

Spreading misinformation is also a rajasic way to try to solve about the problem. You blame, and you create a whole theory about the problem, or you try to control completely control. You try to make money when other people suffer. For example you try to boost the price of masks when other people are suffering. You boost the price very high so then you can sell this. You try to take advantage of others to gain name and fame and wealth. This is the rajasic attitude. So try to temper this down.

Sattvic stress response :

This is what we like to cultivate in ourselves and in others. This life in peace, in harmony, in health that would remove us from fear, from reaction so that immediately we gain peace is the sattvic response. So the sattvic response is that we are seeing the bigger picture. Not only seeing the picture that you feel yourself but seeing the bigger picture that everyone is going through. To have clarity and to have knowledge because it’s based on openness of the heart, and so you need to be able to be selfless, to be able to be helpful to the situation. Be charitable. I see that in Las Vegas people are sleeping in a small square that is painted on the ground. They are doing social distancing by staying in their square. It’s shocking to the eyes to see that. At the sametime you know in Las Vegas right now, there must be thousands and thousands of empty rooms in the hotels right now and at the same time you see people sleeping in the parking lot in their little square. So that is called rajasic, it’s not sattvic, it’s not charitable. So we also hear some news of some landlords completely forgiving people for their rent at this time. So these are charitable understanding kinds of attitude, we call it sattvic attitudes, we need to cultivate. So whatever we have we need to share. You might have to sacrifice today not to eat your favorite food, so that you can share in the suffering of so many people. And then you stay at  home instead of not caring and going out to buy your specific favourite food. If you don’t care about consequences this is called the rajasic, tamasic attitude and not a sattvic attitude. In the sattvic attitude, you are charitable and you see the bigger picture. You are prayerful because you recognize there is something that is bigger than anybody and you pray to that. This is sattvic. You are forgiving. People make mistakes and you know it’s because they don’t know or they are stressed. So you forgive them. You surrender to God’s will to see the big picture and accept it. You practice yoga. You practice deep breathing. You practice relaxation. You practice mindfulness, awareness. You practice meditation. You try to get information from authorized sources and not to seeing different kind of news that is going on that can excite your mind. These are all examples of the sattvic attitude. You keep in general a positive attitude about things. You accept that there are events that you cannot control. You exercise regularly. You eat balanced meals, these are all part of sattva. You learn to manage your time more effectively. You set limits and learn to say no to the requests that would create excessive stress. You have to learn to say yes when you can, and that is the balanced attitude. You make time for your relaxation and for your hobbies. Now you can learn to do yantra painting. You can learn how to sew some masks for other people so you can give out for free. You do something helpful and useful. You use your hobby to balance yourself. You can be assertive, it’s sattvic, but not aggressive. Aggressive is rajasic. Assertive, being yourself is sattvic. You assert your feelings, your opinions and your belief, but not becoming angry, offensive, and passive, for example, not saying anything but turning everything inside and getting angry. Everything in this universe is operating through the three gunas. We need to start to see things this way. The gunas operates in the physical and the mental and the emotional level and obscure our true nature. So beyond our true nature, beyond the gunas, beyond the things happening, there is a consciousness of the reality that is beyond denial, beyond the darkness, beyond actions and beyond even the harmony of the balance, which is completely pure, which is ideal. But right now what we want is to nurture at least the sattva. Because in that sattva, in that harmony, we‘re be able to perceive the light within. The consciousness or what we call the Atman is always there. We seeing things as if through crystal. Like the crystal, when you put it by the colors it will take all the colors. It looks like the Self is lost in what is happening, but we need to be able to distinguish that the Self is always there. It can never be lost. The mind is colored by the darkness and by passion so that we cannot see or recognize ourselves.

That is the ultimate counseling for yourself and the others how to recognize the Self. Yoga teaches that you are not the body, you are not the mind because it’s changing, you cannot depend on it. Even our body you cannot depend on. Ultimately, if you can talk to yourself or talk to others the higher level of philosophy, then it’s great. But at least you can move people from tamas to rajas to sattva. From darkness to some level of harmony. Have them have a little bit detachment towards their thoughts and feelings. Because know that thoughts and feelings are always veiling. Like today,the sun is there but the clouds are veiling, so you cannot see the sun.You get a little depressed and think that the sun is not there, The sun is the Self. The sun is always there.

Tamas is the resistance to change, Tamas is the veiling. Rajas is the forceful change. it’s external-oriented and ego-driven. It’s extreme control. It makes us attached. When we attach,  we become fearful. Then at that time you know that you need to calm down. Tamas, you need to move it, shake it up, get out of it. Rajas, you need to calm down. And sattva, you need to nurture. So that’s always the key. You need to do it. Often rajas and tamas are together. When you see fear is there, you become more attached. Fear, is tamasic you won’t be able to see that your Self is there, and you become more attached to things. You think that if I have this thing I will be secure myself. So tamas and rajas go together. From fear comes attachment and from that come defensiveness and then stress. Because the more you have that “me and mine attitude” the more stressed you are. The more relaxed you are the more you are resting in your own Self, and the more you won’t be subject to stress and will not become fearful because of the change. People are also attached to the actions thinking that this is my way. People say, “My way, or the highway. “ If you become dutiful, there’s a different story. Sometimes you know there’s a rigid action, that’s rajas. So we need to calm down. It’s not like you can become a saint or liberated or become free from any of these. But you need to calm down. If you feel that the rajas is going on in your relationship and so on, you need to calm down. Relax is the key. Relax. And if you feel like you are hiding away or getting out of this, you need to do some action, get out of it. You take a walk, you take a shower, you do something. That’s the guideline. I hope so far now you get the guideline. How to deal with tamas, how to deal with rajas, and how to constantly nurture the sattva. The sattva is the wisdom the acceptance. The acceptance in whatever you cannot change and change whatever you can change. Do whatever you can do and accept what you cannot change. That is the sattva. The sattva allows you to be peaceful. Whatever has happened, you can be peaceful in any circumstances and you can make wise choices. And then you become selfless. You carry on becoming devotional. Some people lose their faith because of rajas. Some people who don’t have faith at all, that is tamas. Then some are rajasic. They say that God is doing this doing that and then they are very happy when it happens. But when something changes they blame God. Why did you did this why did you do that. You see that is because they are rajasic, they are attached to their own view of God or what God can do. We use the word God but really, we don’t know. Our ego cannot know God. So if we surrender ourselves we would be able to see the bigger picture. So that’s why the cultivating the sattvic faith is important. Because we cannot control all that we know. There is something that is taking care of things. Keeping the devotion, keeping the discipline to control the mind. Keeping meditation and detachment. Keeping the self inquiry. If you do self inquiry you will never be bored, it will keep you busy and get you out of your habitual way of thinking.


Our journey is to transform ourselves from negative to positive; from restlessness to peace; from darkness to light. Peace of mind is happiness, but peace is difficult to attain, because our mind is always changing. We have to be steady, regular. We always go and look for the happiness outside. Remember the story of the lady looking for her needle outside when she dropped the needle inside. So the remembrance of the tendencies is sattva. We always look for happiness outside, and blame others for our problems. It’s been our tendency for a very long time. So we have to keep remembering ourselves, keep practising. (Abhyasa Yoga) Know that the truth lies within, so turn inwards.

There’s a quote from Swami Sivananda, “Fear not. Grieve not. Worry not. Your essential nature is peace. Thou art an embodiment of peace. Know this. Feel this. Realize this.”

You will know your own tendencies and know how to guide others and bring a different perspective.

We Are Moving From Darkness to Light

We Are Moving From Darkness to Light

“Your inherent nature is joy, ānanda, which is eternal.  That is the message of yoga and vedānta.” – Swami Vishnudevananda

The 3 Gunas

Yoga offers us valuable guidance on our journey towards peace of mind. The formula is simple and can be described as a way of working with the three gunas or qualities of nature: 1) break through the tamas; 2) calm down the rajas; and 3) nourish the sattva.

All the objects of this universe contain the three gunas. The gunas operate on the physical, mental, and emotional levels and obscure our true nature, veiling the Light within. We become attached to physical conditions, stuck in stressful thought patterns, and feel unable to free ourselves from repeated negative emotions.

The light of consciousness, the Atman, reflects through the physical body, the mind and its emotions, just as a brilliant and pure crystal has no color of its own. When a colored object is brought near, it reflects the same color and appears to be that color—blue, red or whatever it may be. In the same way, the Atman is colorless and without qualities yet is veiled by the physical body and mind.

Yoga teaches us that we are neither the body nor mind. We are not our thoughts. The gunas are only veils to our true Divine nature, the Light of Atman.

We must break through tamas

Tamas is resistance to change. The mind seeks stability in the face of constantly changing circumstances (karmas), finding security in addiction to food, alcohol, relationships, and other kinds of behaviors. Without the capacity to discriminate good from bad, we become dependent on external objects and ways of thinking. We may not even like the thing but will choose it anyway out of apathy and ignorance. Tamas veils the Self, providing only a dim view of our true nature. We must make a conscious choice to extract ourselves from Tamas. It takes a good strong kick to move the mind from its tendencies.

We must calm down rajas

Rajas is forceful change. Rajas is ego-driven toward the external, actively engaging the world. Its extreme is to control situations and to meet expectations. One directs their energy outward to effect change that reflects a certain prescribed vision.

Rajas is the energy of action and passion, and of external projection. It singles out an aspect of life that the ego likes and goes towards it to the exclusion of everything else. We become attached to our actions. It is said that fulfilling one desire only reinforces that desire and leads to ten new desires. When these conditions are not met, one falls into disappointment and disillusionment (tamas).

We must nourish sattva

Sattva is wisdom to accept change. We accept that change is in God’s hands and that we do not control change. Sattva is to know that we do not know. Sattva reveals, allowing us to penetrate into the true picture of reality. It is the energy of moving inward and upward, letting go of our attachment to external objects and ever-changing outcomes.

Sattva allows us to see the mind’s tendencies with clarity. With more balance and harmony in our mind, we remain peaceful in the face of difficulty, allowing ourselves to make wise choices rather than reacting to situations beyond our control.

To overcome the egoistic veils of ambition, pride, projections and opinions, desires and expectations, we must nourish sattva through selfless service, devotion, control of the senses and mind, and meditation on the Self. We must learn to detach from external conditions, to question our mind’s thought patterns, and to stop functioning out of habitual conclusions.


Our journey is to transform ourselves from negative to positive, from restlessness to peace, from darkness to light. Peace of mind is difficult to attain because our minds are always changing. Like the woman who has lost her needle inside of her house, but looks for it outside, we restlessly seek for happiness outside when all the time, the Truth lies within.

Swami Sivananda says, “Fear not. Grieve not. Worry not. Your essential nature is peace. Thou art an embodiment of peace. Know this. Feel this. Realize this.”

Questions for your Self-study

  • How do you react to change?
  • Do you try to control your environment? The situation? Others?
  • Do you find that change causes stress? If so, what aspect of change causes you stress?
  • What are your Yoga practices to nourish sattva?

You can leave answers to the questions in the comments section below.

Other articles of interest:


Swami Dharmananda is assistant director of the Yoga Farm for many years and is in charge of the karma yoga program.  He is a faculty of the Sivananda Institute of Health (SIHY) and is one of the main teachers of Yoga Philosophy and Meditation at the Ashram. He took sannyas vows in 2013 and is keenly interested in yoga psychology and philosophy, presenting the classical teaching in a practical and accessible way to people of all faiths and backgrounds.

Yoga for Awareness and Letting Go

Yoga for Awareness and Letting Go

Yoga for Awareness

and Letting Go

Swami Dharmananda

Swami Dharmananda

Assistant Director

Swami Dharmananda is a faculty of the Sivananda Institute of Health (SIHY) and is one of the main teachers of Yoga Philosophy and Meditation at the Ashram. 

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Yoga is not escaping life, but facing life’s difficulties with detachment and fortitude.

Swami Vishnudevananda said, “If you are carrying some heavy luggage on your head and you are crossing a river and the water is now up to your head but you still want to hold the valuable bundle on your head, the more you try to hold it, what will happen? The more you will go underwater. The more you throw it away, the freer you are to swim across and save yourself.”

Yoga shows us how to let go of our luggage, i.e., the useless negative thoughts and emotions that keep us from knowing the peace we truly seek. Too many times the difficulty comes to us and we don’t have the tools to “cross the river”.

We instead try to escape from the situation or deny the situation rather than living our life with open eyes and an open heart.

Swami Dharmananda talks during a Satsang at the Sivananda Yoga Farm.

Often, we act out of long-established stress patterns that find their root in fear, attachment, and desire. The fight/flight response has caught us and suddenly our choices are very limited. 

I can run from this or I can fight through this. Either way, the threat to my well-being seems real and tangible. Under the influence of this perceived threat, we are less able to connect to our own innate wisdom and are more likely to fall prey to negative emotions or extreme thoughts. 

To compensate for these uncomfortable emotional states, we fall back to tried and true habits such as smoking, drinking, eating unhealthy foods, unhealthy relationships, etc.

Yoga teaches us how to “let go” and to detach from these stress patterns and the behaviors that follow them. We learn how to keep calm even when a strong negative emotion such as anger arises. To detach means to witness the anger, understanding that we are not the emotion.

Students meditate overlooking a view of a pond.

Meditation is one Yoga practice that helps to build awareness and detachment from the mind.

We can say, “I see there is anger in my mind,” rather than succumbing to the anger itself.  We remain peaceful even when circumstances seem to go against us or don’t meet our own rigid expectations.

Swami Sivananda says, “Fortitude is a sweet mysterious mixture of courage, calmness, patience, presence of mind and endurance.” Fortitude is our capacity to endure difficult or stressful situations.

It is based in detachment and discrimination, being able to tell what is real from what is not real. It is understanding that karma is to be experienced and lessons are to be learned.

Students practice Yoga asana as the teacher demonstrates.

Daily Yoga is a powerful practice with many benefits, such as more positivity and less stress.

Through daily Yoga practice we gain awareness of negative emotions and thought patterns. Through trial and error we transform the negative to positive, freeing ourselves from expectations, desired outcomes, and disappointments.  

Swami Sivananda adds, “Every failure is a stepping-stone to success. Every difficulty or disappointment is a trial of your faith. Every unpleasant incident or temptation is a test of your inner strength. Therefore, nil desperandum. March forward hero!”

Ultimate Guide to Positive Thinking

Ultimate Guide to Positive Thinking

Ultimate Guide to Positive Thinking

Positive Thinking Webinar with Swami Sitaramananda

Swami Sitaramananda

Swami Sitaramananda

Yoga Farm Director

Swami Sitaramananda is a senior disciple of Swami Vishnudevananda and acharya of the US West Coast centers and Ashram.  Swamiji is also the acharya of the Sivananda mission in Asia, especially in Vietnam, where she hails from.
In this webinar, we will learn the basic techniques of positive thinking and be introduced to some pointers to practice positive thinking in daily life.

Thinking positively implies understanding what thought power is and how to master thought and how to practice thought transformation.

Understand Everything as Opportunity for Growth

Positive thinking is understanding that everything is an opportunity for growth.

Swami Sivananda taught that “Life is a great opportunity provided by the Lord for His children to evolve into Himself…The great central aim in life is the conscious realization of our Oneness with God.

This means that to turn a negative thought and feeling around, we need to consciously see things from the point of view of our Oneness with God, and not from our separate individual points of view.

Swami Sivananda sitting by the banks of Ganga
Swami Vishnu sitting closed eyes meditating

Source of Wisdom

Positive thinking is connection to the Source of wisdom within.

“There is a Power, an Energy, which each person can tap into if he knows it is available.  This Force inspires, encourages, reinforces and gives strength to those who seek to grow in a positive direction.”
  – Swami Vishnudevananda

Multidimensional Universe

We live in a multidimensional universe.  We experience a subtle reality of thought, and at the same time experience the gross body and the gross universe.  What we think upon, is what we become.

Thought is Subtle

Thought is a subtle force.  Thought can build and it can destroy.  We all need to learn to manipulate these subtle forces in our minds for our own progress and well being. Negative thinking can be destructive and bring about depression,  stress, illness, and friction.

Here is a blog post on transforming negative emotions.

Multidimensional Universe many stars at night
Positive Thinking by remembering Lord Vishnu

Thought Vibrates at Different Wavelengths

Thought is an energy.  Thought is prana.  Thoughts are not of equal value. Some thoughts are of higher vibration and some of lower vibration.

Our duty is to increase our vibratory wavelength to the maximum, by purifying our mind through appropriate methods of Yoga.  If our energy is high, our thought will be of a higher frequency automatically.

Thoughts are all-pervasive.  We are at all times swimming in an ocean of thoughts.  This article is on how to conserve prana.

Thought Atmosphere Influences

The energy of a place or a thought atmosphere is composed of all the thoughts generated there for a very long time.  It is composed of similar dominant thought.

For example, financial districts of big cities generate thoughts of greed, shopping centers radiate thoughts of “Buy! Buy!”, a red light district generates thoughts of lust, and some dangerous neighborhoods generate thoughts of fear.

Keep your mind in a healthy environment and choose your company. If you take a bath in dirty, filthy waters, you will come out dirty and filthy. If you swim in an ocean of unidentified negative thoughts, you will pick up the energy of the place like picking up a virus or flu.  Find out more on how to keep the mind elevated.

Swimming in Dirty Water
Radio transmitter helps us tune to positive thinking

We are like Radio Transmitters and Receivers

We tune to different thought wavelengths, transmitting thoughts and receiving thoughts of the same nature as our own.

Our bodies and minds are like radios. Through yoga, we keep them strong so we can receive and transmit powerful vibrations.

Here are some tips on dealing with stress.

Help others by Maintaining Positive Thoughts

One student of a Positive thinking course said to me: “Before, if my husband is down, and I feel okay, I have to lower my vibration and happiness in order to be at the same wavelength as him. Now, when he is not happy, I remain positive and he becomes positive like me.”

Elephants help each other
Sunset in Vietnam helps us to remember our self

Positive Thoughts have a high vibration

Positive thought wavelengths are more difficult to get because they take more prana.

Negative thought wavelengths are easier to produce because they take less effort.

That is why it is easier to be negative than positive as you can just relax and complain.

The 5 Points of Yoga bring back Positivity

1. Asanas – Yoga Postures help move the prana. The most important energetic benefit of asana practice is the circulation of the flow of prana; through moving the prana, we can unblock mental blockages and restore positivity.

To do so, the sequence of the asanas needs to be respected, and proper concentration and relaxation in between postures should be observed.  This article is and in depth explanation on how hatha yoga heals.

Fish pose matsyasana at the Yoga farm yoga hall
Pranayama is for the mind and gives us positive thinking

Recharge the Battery for Positive Thinking

2. Proper Breathing or Pranayama balances and supplies new energy. Do regular breathing exercises such as abdominal yogic breath and alternate breathing to recharge and balance the two hemispheres of the brain.

Imbalanced personality such as too much right brain thinking (emotional) or left brain thinking(rational) brings about negativity. When both flows of breath through both nostrils are balanced, you will experience well being and centeredness.  This article goes in depth on the topic of understanding our prana and what to do with it.

We should not only do pranayama, but also make wise choices that will help us increase, conserve, balance and channel our prana.

Spending time in retreat, limiting outgoing senses and too much  activity, and offering selfless service are some ways to rekindle your energy and positivity.

Conscious Relaxation removes Stress

Proper Relaxation includes physical relaxation, when there is no tension in the body, mental relaxation, when the mind is concentrated on something positive–such as the breath–and also spiritual relaxation, when one develops faith and knowledge .

The main causes of stress are  failure to adapt, lack of prana, and existential unresolved questions about life, death, and our nature and purpose.  This article explains in depth the science of relaxation.

Final Relaxation with students in savasana
Savasana on a lotus flower

Relaxation allows you to Recharge and go deep inside

  • Physical letting go brings awareness that you are not the body
  • It frees your mind from concerns and anxieties.
  • It helps you get in touch with your inner peace

This article gives relaxation techniques to release tension and stress

Proper Diet and Lifestyle Lifts you up

Proper diet includes taking wholesome and organic food at regular intervals that is easily digestible and full of life force. Avoid substances like drugs, cigarettes, and intoxicants, which clog the energy channels and create damage to your energy system.

An unwholesome diet contributes to an unsteady, distracted and weak state of mind.

Here is our blog with proper diet recipes and articles and here are upcoming courses in diet and nutrition.

Girl with vegetarian plate of food happy
Swami Sita cultivates positive thinking by meditating

Meditation Calms, Connects, and brings Positive Thinking

Meditation recharges and purifies thoughts. In the meditative, silent mind, you feel reconnected with your purpose and God.

Reserve a set time for your meditation practice. Let go of the past, present, future, and all ideas who you are and what you are doing. Practice meditation without expectation, fear or judgment.

To prepare for meditation, keep the mind concentrated and live a simple life.  Read about what is yoga meditation.

This articles gives guidance on how to meditate for beginners.

What you think is what you become

You create your destiny through your thoughts. You attract thoughts to you of a similar nature and repel other thoughts.

Think “strong”, and you will become strong. Think “weak”, and you will become weak.

Here is an article on transforming fear into faith an courage.

Swami Sivananda looking very dynamic
2 girls cooking in kitchen have positive thinking

Take Responsibility for your Thoughts

As much as you do not throw trash around and pollute the environment, do not throw negative thoughts around and pollute the thought atmosphere. You are not a victim. Know that you can create a sustainable positive life for yourself by practicing Yoga and meditation.

This practice will wake you up, calm you down and  make you realize your blessings!

Here is an article on creating positive health.

Positive Thinking is Now!

Do not wait for an ideal situation to come for you to become positive. Let go of expectations and preconceived ideas about yourself and others.

Learn to turn all situations into blessings and realize that all is perfect and no one is to blame!

Life brings you exactly what you need, not what you desire.

fireworks are to celebrate the moment
Lock and Chain will bind us to lower thoughts

You are the Prime Victim

Negative thoughts afflict you, the thinker first, as they drain your prana (energy), separate you from others, occupy your consciousness and prevent you from enjoying the peace of your soul.
They make you sick and keep you in a sort of prison of your own negativity.

This articles talks about how to progress towards Peace of Mind.

Take Care of the Problem Immediately

You can be your own doctor or paramedic.

Thought is fast, and negative thoughts can be triggered without warning.

Therefore, you need to take care of it yourself,  immediately, like an emergency.

This articles talks about the power of here and now.

Urgently take care of any negative thoughts
First Aid kit will give us tools to help our thoughts

Techniques of Positive Thinking

There are different methods to deal with any negative situation or thought. Just like in a first-aid kit of an emergency doctor or paramedic, you have different tools or medicines to respond to any emergency.

  • Try different things the best you can.
  • Allow yourself to explore alternatives and different attitudes.
  • Do not get stuck in one way of reacting.

Your habitual way of reacting has become your personality and identity.

Allow yourself to explore other ways. This is an opportunity to expand your horizons and your knowledge of yourself.

Technique Number 1 – Replace a negative thought with its opposite thought

This is a Raja Yoga technique.  Examples of how to change our thoughts are:

  • Fear change to Courage
  • Anger change to Non-attachment
  • Hatred change to Love
  • Attachment change to Detachment
  • Grief change to acceptance
  • Desire change to contentment

Here is an article on 10 ways to overcome negative emotions.

Meditation outdoors helps us become aware of thoughts
Be like the lotus flower unaffected by the world

Technique 2 – Be Indifferent to Negative Thoughts

This is a meditation technique.

The moment the thought appears, observe it with detachment and let it go.

Do not dwell on it or identify with it.

This article talks about why we need to meditate and the benefits.

Technique Number 3 – Sublimation

Sublimation means to use up the energy for something positive or higher. Turn negative thoughts into less harmful thoughts.

Channel your thoughts, or In other words, refocus and redirect the energy.

Our blog category on Karma yoga gives insights on how to do this.

Use up the energy by gardening and being in nature
Maha lakshmi is goddess of wealth and gives us what we need

Technique 4 – Positive Visualization

  • Have a mental image of yourself endowed with the positive quality you seek.
  • Keep visualizing the virtue you seek in a symbolic image.
  • Example: Siva the meditator and a detached personality, Lakshmi the Goddess of Love and prosperity, Saraswati the Goddess of Knowledge and Wisdom, Ganesha the remover of obstacles.

You can learn more in our teachings on Bhakti Yoga.

Technique Number 5 – Positive Self Affirmation

Like taking regular doses of medicine or vitamins to prevent the re-occurrence of habitual thoughts, consciously repeat the opposite thought to yourself.

I am becoming better and better everyday,
in every way
– Swami Sivananda

This article has 17 affirmations that one can use.

Woman in mirror giving positive affirmation
Swami Sita looking up concentrating

Technique 6 – Concentration Technique

Concentration brings calmness and clarity.

Focus the mind on positive thoughts only.

Keep the mind engaged at all times. A distracted mind is a source of negativity.

Swami Sivananda said that “an idle mind is the devil’s workshop.”

Technique Number 7 – Maintain a Cheerful Attitude

Do not take yourself so seriously.

If you can laugh at yourself, the worst is over. Keep having a sense of humor.

This article gives guidance on finding the guru and how to turn within.

Swami Sivananda practices laughing therapy to keep cheerful
Steps leading on a path

Technique 8 – Change one thought at a time

Be careful of your impatience and the tendency to want to change everything at once. It might lead to setbacks and disappointment.

Change one thought at a time and go on with business as usual.

This article is on concentration and commitment.

Technique Number 9 – Invite Positive thoughts and their friends

Beware that negative thoughts never come alone.

One negative thought allowed in will invite  many friends of the same nature to bring you down.

In the same way, one positive thought will bring a host of friends to uplift you.

This blog post is on the topic that your mind is your best friend or worst enemy.

many ducks in a row bring friends
Silvia nakkach sings music to lift the mood

Technique 10 – Chanting changes your mood

Mantras have the power to change negative vibrations to positive ones.

Chanting mantras is like washing your mind with soap.

Learn some kirtan which you can chant anytime.

Technique Number 11 – Yoga and Meditation Calms and Connects to your Self

Yoga asanas (postures),  pranayama (breathing exercises) and tuning to your Self through  meditation are still the best techniques for positive thinking.

Here you can see images of Swami Vishnu doing all the yoga asanas.

Teaching Headstand outdoors
Monday: Detachment

Tuesday: Courage

Wednesday: Compassion

Thursday: Faith

Friday: Charity

Saturday: Patience

Sunday: Forgiveness

Technique 12 – Cultivate Virtues

Do not wait for a negative situation to happen to learn to be positive.

Be pro-active, cultivate virtues daily.

The blog post is on how to tune to positive thoughts.

Karma Yoga Formula

  • Karma Yoga means to get out of yourself and serve someone
  • It is not about me, I am here to serve
  • I am doing my duty, I do the best I can
  • I offer the results of my actions to God. I am only the instrument.

The best way to find yourself is lose yourself in the service of others”
  – Mahatma Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi great karma yogi
Mother Theresa great karma yogi

Karma Yoga Formula continue

I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world “. Mother Theresa

This post is on how and why to be selfless.

This post explains how to find your dharma.

Bhakti Yoga Formula

In Bhakti Yoga we say –

  • “Everything happens all the time for the best.”
  • “There is always a good reason for things to happen the way they do.”
  • “It is the doing of the Divine Mother, she is perfect and beautiful.”
  • “Let go, let God.”
  • “It is not my will, it is God’s will, I surrender to God’s will.”

This article talks about how emotions works.

Darshan the cat is completely relaxed
Lotus flower blooming wisdom and light

Yoga Philosophy Formula

In Jnana Yoga we say –

  • “Why would I be so upset when in reality, I am not this?”
  • “I am not my emotions”
  • “I am the silent witness”
  • “I am the observer”
  • “This is not real”
  • “This too shall pass”
  • “Everything changes”

Learn more in our blog posts about jnana yoga.

We are One

There is no “other”. Everybody is my  own Self.

  • “I am in you and you are in me. “
  • “I see my own self in you.”
  • “I am what I think  is separated from me.”
  • “I am like the drop in the ocean that is identical with the ocean itself.”
  • “I am your own Self.”
  • “Love thy Neighbor as thyself.”
  • “Names are Many, but God is One.”
  • “Paths are many but Truth is One.”
  • “I am Sat Chit Ananda – Existence Absolute, Knowledge Absolute, Bliss Absolute. “

This article talks about how to be aware of that Self in all beings.

Planet Earth showing we are all One
Bird flies free

I am Free

Real freedom is freedom from the bonds of karma, from egoism and desires, from thoughts, likes and dislikes. Real freedom is identification with the supreme Self. “
  – Swami Sivananda

This pages explains what is true freedom.

Everything is all the time Perfect

  • May the whole world attain Peace and Harmony!
  • Asato Ma Satgamaya Tamaso Ma Jyotir Gamaya – Mrityor Ma Amritam Gamaya
  • Om Purnam Adam, Purnam Idam Purnat, Purnamudachyate
  • Purnasya Purnamadaya Purnameva Vashishyate
  • Om Shanti Shanti Shanti
Swami Sita smiles and teaches
© Swami Sitaramananda 2018 – No part of this article may be reproduced in any form without the written permission of the author.

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Transforming Fear into Faith and Courage

Transforming Fear into Faith and Courage

Transforming Fear into Faith and Courage

by Swami Sitaramananda
AUGUST, 2018
In Yoga philosophy, the teachers or wise people (the rishis) discuss about the relationship between the individual Self and the Absolute Reality.  They help us to understand the mysteries of life which gives us knowledge to understand our own minds and practice emotional intelligence in daily life.
In fact these teachers declare, out of their own experience and knowledge, that there is a state of perfect existence which is beyond changes, birth, and death. This unchanging state of consciousness is also called Truth (Sat). This state of being is fully aware, all-knowing beyond darkness and limitation. This state of all-knowing-at-all-time is termed Chits. Last but not least, they said when we can attain this state of bliss absolute (ananda), we go beyond any suffering and can live a life of perfect emotional intelligence.

Modern Stress can be overwhelming.

Sat Chit Ananda

This absolute positivity can be achieved by an individual, however, the moment that you achieve it, you no longer remain in an individual existence. At that time, all idea of separation and division would disappear, as the individual consciousness merges with the Supreme Consciousness.

How we would achieve this sublime state of consciousness without having any concept of it?

In truth, this absolute consciousness is all pervading and yet is beyond the mind’s concepts. Technically, the mind and intellect are limited and can not perceive something beyond itself, let alone have a relationship with it. This is the reason why, the sages talked about devoting oneself to the highest ideal or form of the divine that the mind can conceive.

In truth, this absolute consciousness is all pervading and yet is beyond the mind’s concepts.
This devotion needs to be personal, because we need to experience it in the core of our heart. We need to feel and experience truly the love of that Truth that is unfailing, all existing, all pervading, all knowing. This highest ideal needs to be understood and felt in the core of our being so that we can become it. This is the ultimate emotional intelligence.

Stress can come on at any time.


Our Highest Ideal

It is easier for us to love someone and become like he or she.  In fact, being a human being, we need to see the perfection alive in a human being.

This idea or ideal needs to become embodied for us to relate to and to emulate. The nature of our emotional mind is that it is easier for us to love someone and become like he or she, by the power of love and absorption.

In fact, we become what we think a lot about. We like to idealize and to be attached to someone we think is morally superior to us. We are ready to follow advice from them.

Therefore, there is the idea of a personal concept of God, Ishwara, for us to be dedicated to. Different minds need different types of teacher. Therefore, we are encouraged to seek for our own chosen ideal (ishta devata).

Truth is One

We do not need to compare ourselves with others who have different paths then ourselves. “Names and forms are many, Truth is one”. “ Paths are many, God is one”.

Ultimately, not only we have an abstract idea of the Ideal and the Truth, but we have also the live example in human form of this ideal person we can become.  This is the ultimate power of positive thinking.

Long term negative emotions can go back to before birth and display as certain personality traits.

Faith is positive thinking

Faith in the Supreme Intelligence comes from an inner feeling that there is something greater than you, a supreme being that indwells one’s essential spirit. When one is enriched with abiding faith one is able to recognize the divine grace operating in all things.  In summary, we are on a journey of self-discovery to uncover the truth of who we are, a journey guided by faith.

We can think of faith as the power of positive thinking that carries us from one experience of grace to the next.  Fear exists when we don’t know the Self (the Atman).  We must rely on faith to progress on the spiritual path until we have knowledge of the Self from our own direct experience.

The more we progress and the greater our connection with the truth within, the Atman, the more faith we will have.  Over time we will need less faith as faith is gradually replaced by knowledge of the Self.  Ultimately faith is replaced by direct experience of the Self. It is then we can say, “I know.”

Above – Learn to relax by spending time in nature and practicing yoga.

True Knowledge

Where is knowledge coming from?  In my earlier days, I experience that knowledge can be glimpsed intuitively. At that time,  I observed that people around me were unhappy and miserable.  Even when I was able to help improve their circumstances, they didn’t seem to be any happier.  But somehow, I had the thought that there must be a place that wasn’t like this where people practiced the power of positive thinking.

I went searching, thinking at first this place must be outside of the city, so I moved to the country.  I found it was not in the country either, and guessed it must be in the ashram. It soon became apparent it wasn’t even in the ashram.

Where is this Satchidananda, or knowledge?  Of course, knowledge or truth reside inside of us, but it is a long hard journey to turn within to find it, as we are always looking outside of ourselves.  This journey of turning within to find the Highest Ideal within and without must be sustained by considerable faith.

As a matter of fact, we lack experience in the beginning of our journey. However, although we do not really have a clue where we are going, faith keeps us going.  This is why we need a teacher to help show us the way to face our fears and to understand the power of positive thinking.

Consciously tensing and releasing our muscles in savasana from the toes, reaching up to the eyes, ears and head, helps to bring our body and mind to their natural efficiency.

Fear is Unreal

Fear is a very strong primitive emotion, present in all animals.  Fear serves a very basic purpose: to help us to survive.  If we were Self-realized we would know there is no danger to our survival, since we are not the individual body that we think we are. In fact, fear arises out of an external view of reality.  Fear is caused in us by things that appear unfamiliar or situations beyond our immediate understanding. Fear creates imaginations of darkness, of falling and distorts the mind.

Therefore, Fear is based in unreality, in Maya.  It comes from our attachment, our grasping on to illusory things and beliefs. We need to think a little about the effect of fear. Being fearful or anxious means we are attached. Being attached means we are stuck, bogged down, we lost our freedom; If we are afraid, we are incapable of letting go of the things that are no longer relevant or helpful to our growth.

We become paralyzed and lose our faculties when we are fearful.  We freeze, unable to do anything to solve our problem.  There was a time years ago, I stumbled on a horror movie on TV.  I was so scared!  And yet, I could not do anything, not even capable to move three feet to turn off the TV. I was paralyzed with fear. This is a small example but illustrates the point; even the simplest situations that arise can stop us in our tracks because of our illusory fearful thoughts.

Practicing Meditation and Positive Emotions we can heal ourself.

Anxiety blocks the way to knowledge

Anxiety is even worse than fear, because unlike fear we cannot identify its source.  Anxiety is fear that has no name. With anxiety, there is no creativity, no productivity, we are depressed and our minds lose the capacity to think clearly.

Now, consider the analogy in which the sun is the Atman and anxiety is a storm of clouds covering the sun. There are days when clouds fill the sky and we can’t see the sun. Yet we know it’s there behind the layer of clouds.

From time to time as the clouds pass overhead we may catch a glimpse of the sun’s brightness or feel its warmth for a moment. In the same way, the Atman is always shining within us, untouched by the clouds of fear and anxiety that we experience.


In summary, loose life and indulgent life is not relaxation, but a conscious, content and simple life is true relaxation and happiness.

The science of relaxation leads to spiritual relaxation, a state of freedom and joyfulness when there is no expectation or desire of anything. Instead of anxiety, we experience detachment, contentment  and fulfillment .

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Yoga Shows the Way to Positive Health

Yoga Shows the Way to Positive Health

Positive Health

Positive health is that state in which all the internal organs of the body function optimally under the intelligent control of the mind.  There is an interdependence between body and mind.  The Yoga scriptures tell us that the influence of the mind on the body is far more powerful than the influence of the body on the mind. Therefore, mental exercises form the bulk of the Yoga practices, although physical exercises also have a definite place. The physical exercises (asanas) form the third limb of the Yogic path of raja yoga.

Yamas (inoffensiveness or no-killing, truthfulness, non-stealing, continence and non-receiving) and Niyamas (purification, contentment, mortification, study and complete self-surrender to the Lord) form the foundation of the Yoga practice because, without these asanas will not give the desired result.

Physical Body

Hatha Yoga teaches how to keep the physical body in positive health so that the Jiva (individual soul) can reach safely the goal of life, Self-realization. It teaches a natural mode of living. A Yogi should have a thorough knowledge of the physical body and its functioning.

The Yogis believe that the real man is not his body. They know that the immortal “I”, of which each human being is conscious to a greater or lesser degree, is not the body, which it merely occupies and uses. They know well that the body is but as a suit of clothes which the spirit puts on and off from time to time.

Physical mastery

The Yogi develops the body knowing it to be but an instrument for the use of the real part of himself, and solely that he may perfect the instrument to the end that it be used in the work of soul growth. The physically motivated person contents himself with mere mechanical movements and exercises for developing the muscles.

The Yogi throws mind into the task, and develops not only the muscles, but every organ, cell and part of his body as well. Not only does he do this, but he obtains control over every part of his body and acquires mastery over the involuntary part of his organism, too.

When man runs contrary to the law of that great intelligence who has created his body, disharmony and disease result.

Body intelligence

It is the same intelligence which presides over each and every function of the body. That intelligence, the manifestation of which we call ‘nature’, ‘the life principle’, and similar names, is constantly on the alert to repair damage, heal wounds, knit together broken bones, to throw off harmful materials accumulated in the system and in thousands of ways to keep the machine in good running order. Much of what we call disease is really a beneficent action of nature designed to get rid of poisonous substances which we have allowed to enter and remain in our system.

Health of the Body

Endocrine glands are perhaps the foremost to react and cause functional reactions. It has been found that the endocrine secretions very powerfully affect the nervous system. If these secretions suffer, pathological conditions in different parts of the body are rapidly established.

When the thyroid secretion suffers, the cells of the most distant part of the body slowly begin to undergo a change. The hair begins to grow grey, the nails have a tendency to be brittle, fatty degeneration starts in the arteries, the face tends to be wrinkled, weakness creeps over the brain and many, many other symptoms begin to appear. Yoga aims are to restore the internal secretions to their normality by securing the health of the endocrine glands through Yogic practices.

Balance of Body functions

We have learned from physiology that there are two processes going on in our system: catabolism, or the process of waste, and anabolism, the process of repair. Both these processes put together is called metabolism. When the anabolism (that is, the process of repair) is more active than the catabolism (that is, process of waste), then the body grows.

In a growing child, anabolism is more active and makes up for the waste materials brought by the catabolic process. In a healthy adult, catabolic and anabolic processes balance themselves and thus keep up the body unimpaired. In old age, catabolism takes the upper hand and leads to steady degeneration of the tissues.

Yogic exercises reduce the catabolic activity to its minimum and thus the body is kept in a healthy condition.

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