Archive for the ‘Health and wellness’ Category


February 17, 2014 Leave a comment

This post is again broadly based on notes from a discourse by Swami Paramarthananda.

What is meditation?

Meditation (dhyana) is a practice (sadhana) of conditioning the mind. Many of us are conscious of our physical health. We try to imbibe

  • exercise,
  • physical sports,
  • workouts at the gym,
  • (pathanjali) yoga asanas (postures)
    into our daily routine – to keep ourselves physically fit.

Meditation likewise is one of the key practices to keep our mental faculty (mind) fit. Even though meditation is related to the mind, it also has some physical health benefits as well.

The Goal of meditation

Meditation is a means for different things to different people. We can use meditation to help us with

  • either worldly / material goals such as physical and mental health, personality development and better performance etc. (upasanam)
  • or spiritual advancement (upasana yoga)

Meditation as a spiritual practice

When meditation is used as a practice for spiritual advancement it can be

  • either preparatory (dhyanam)
  • or assimilatory (contemplation as per Swami Dayananda Saraswathi) (nidhidhyasanam)

    Types of meditation

    A spiritual seeker (sadhaka) can use Preparatory Meditation to condition his mind before studying Vedanta. Depending on what aspect of the mind

  • Tranquillity / Peace (Shama)
  • Focus / Sharpness
  • Open-minded-ness
  • Value system

is being developed the meditation can be classified into

  • Relaxation meditation
  • Concentration meditation
  • Expansion meditation
  • Value meditation

Relaxation meditation

In relaxation meditation you try to ‘relax’ your mind using a technique that works for you. It can be very simple mental self talk / imagination like

  • while breathing out imagine breathing out all negative emotions, stress, tension etc.
  • while breathing in imagine breathing in good health, wellness, peace etc.  

Concentration meditation

You can choose any task that requires you to focus. Swamiji used the example – a typist can use typing. But since we all do this, all of the time, It is better to use a practice that is spiritual.

You can choose from a spectrum of mental worship practices (manasa upasana) such as

  • Mental worship (manasa pooja – scope is large) – You can imagine yourself or a priest performing an elaborate spiritual ceremony (pooja). For example you can choose Mantra Matruka Pushpa Mala Stava or Shiva Manasa Pooja Stotram by Adi Shankara Bhagavad Pada and visualize your self doing an elaborate pooja. If you are not used doing a pooja, next time you visit a temple, observe how it is done. You can use the same visualization.
  • Mental chanting of spiritual verses (manasa stotra parayana – scope is as smaller than mental worship as there are only words now) – You can mentally chant verses from the scriptures / prayer songs etc.
  • Mental chanting of lord’s name (manasa japa – scope is smaller than mental chanting of verses as there is only one name that you are chanting) – You can mentally chant the name of the lord repeatedly. Ex. chanting
    • Om Nama Shivaya, or
    • Om Namo Narayanaya, or
    • Om Maha Devyai Nama:, or
    • Shree Rama Jaya Rama Jaya Jaya Rama or
    • Hare Rama Rama Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare, Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare or
    • What ever be the name of your lord (ishta devata).

    The smaller the scope is the harder it is for the mind to keep the focus. Thus one can start with larger scoped practice and move towards the smaller scoped practices.

Expansion meditation

This is done to identify ourselves with the bigger universe. You can slowly start identifying yourselves with a bigger entity. Self –> Family –> Neighbourhood –> Street –> Locality –> City / Town / Village –> State –> Country –> Humanity –> World –> Universe –> Creator of the Universe. As the salinity of a water reduces with dilution (by adding more and more water) the selfishness / narrow minded-ness reduces as one starts identifying himself with bigger entities. This can almost eliminate our narrow notion of self.

Value meditation

The first step here is intellectually convincing ourselves that values are required and they should not be compromised even if the situation is adverse. Example

  • Rama agreed to sacrifice the throne and to live in forest to honour his father’s word.
  • Nachiketus agreed to goto to Yama to keep his father’s word.
  • Raja Harishchandra was ready to die for truth.

Here we can imagine our self in adverse situations and imagine our response to them in accordance to desired values. Example we can imagine our self in a situation that makes us angry and imagine that our response to be patience instead of anger. Or we can imagine our self in a situation that can make us jealous of someone and instead of feeling jealous we can imagine our self congratulating the person with our whole heart.

Once we practice this enough, this becomes a habit in our real life as well.

Which one to practice

Just like we use different kinds of exercise to strengthen different parts of the physical body, different kinds of meditation, condition different aspects of the brain. So we need all of them.

An un relaxed mind, however sharp it can be, cannot study Vedic philosophy (Vedanta).

A relaxed mind, if lacks focus cannot do Shravana (listening) or Manana (memorizing, analyzing)

So every type of meditation is required.


Obstacles & tips to overcome  them


What if, I am unable to start?

  • Start small and slowly increase the time (start with 2-3 minutes & slowly increase the time)

What do do with other thoughts during meditation?

  • Just do not try to control the thoughts, in which case the thought might become more powerful. Everyone knows the story where a king is asked by the doctor to not to think of the monkey when taking the medicine and the king ends up thinking about the monkey every time he tries to take the medicine.
  • At the same time try not to entertain it further and get back to your meditation / relaxation / concentration technique at hand (ex. breathing or relaxing or manasa pooja or manasa stotra parayana)
  • Follow some sort of non co-operation movement with the thoughts, so that the thoughts do not overpower / control you.
  • Generally it does not matter if the mind wanders from one thought to another, because such is the real nature of mind. But it might be a problem if a single thought pattern repeats. It might mean that you may need to fix something in your lifestyle as a whole.

I tried to get back to the meditation technique when I realized that my mind had wandered off, but it still keeps happening often, what can I do? Well if your mind is completely racing and you are not at all able to continue –

  • Try guided meditation.

    Shawn Achor’s TEDx Video on Happiness Advantage / Positive Psychology

    February 8, 2013 1 comment

    I recently watched Shawn Achor’s TEDx Video on Happiness Advantage / Positive Psychology.

    It was funny, interesting and inspiring. Do not miss it, Highly recommended.

    Clean up your attitude

    May 27, 2012 Leave a comment

    Have you ever wondered what makes you unhappy, discontented, dissatisfied and restless?

    1. Jealousy: Resentment of others’ success and prosperity.
    2. Persecution complex: The unhealthy belief that people are deliberately placing obstacles on our path to prevent us from achieving what we desire.
    3. Obsessive desire for perfection: The inability to be content with what we are and what we do.
    4. Needless regret over past decisions: It’s futile wishing to change the past, which cannot be changed.

    To put it simply, we are unhappy because:

    • We can’t get what we want.
    • We are not satisfied with what we have.
    • We live in the past or fantasise about the future, and cannot live in the present.
    • We want to change conditions around us, or in some cases, we resist any change in our present conditions.

    It is clear that unhappiness arises out of our unwillingness to accept life as it is.

    I am sorry, I could not help but post the content from the article literally here. A great article, worth a read.

    Read the entire article here. Found via a forum post in

    What are some good short term rewards to motivate a child

    May 9, 2012 Leave a comment

    Found a great answer to this question – What are some good short term rewards to motivate a child? by Jane Chin

    Importance of exercise

    January 11, 2012 1 comment

    No posts for almost 6 months, But it is good to be back in action.

    I found this good video via a Quora answer

    23 and 1/2 hours: What is the single best thing we can do for our health?


    I wish everyone a great year ahead.

    Walls Suffocate while Boundaries Communicate

    November 3, 2008 Leave a comment

    Kelly Martens has a nice entry on a couple of Mental Models (I do not really know what to call them, hence I am calling them this way).

    Read more…

    Categories: Health and wellness

    The importance of water in a diet!

    November 14, 2006 Leave a comment
    Drink water. Lose weight!
    * Just replace some of the high calorie foods you eat with fruits, vegetables and other water dense foods that keep you just as full.
    We know it sounds too good to be true, but new research conducted at Pennsylavania State University suggests it is possible to lose weight by making small changes in your diet.
    * The rationale behind eating water dense foods is that whatever you eat can go out of the system very fast. E xample an apple which has 98 per cent liquid and very few calories. A sweet of the same size will have 20 times more calories.
    * People tend to eat the same amount of food each day, regardless of the calories. Adding vegetables to that pizza, lasagna or casserole will increase the food’s volume and result in fewer overall calories consumed since portion sizes tend to stay the same
    * Another study on obesity shows a link between lack of sleep and gaining weight — skimping on sleep may make you vulnerable to obesity.
    * The finding is based on data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted in the US. The study discovered that people who reported getting less than seven hours of sleep a night were more likely to be obese on initial evaluation.
    Why water is necessary
    1. Our bodies contain over 70 percent water.
    2. You can go longer without food than water.
    3. Our bodies need a lot of water to function efficiently.
    4. Water helps flush out harmful toxins and thus readies the body for fat loss.
    When your body is not getting enough water
    ~It tries to hold on to the water it has. Since over 70 percent of our muscle is made of water, the lack of it makes our body use the existing water for other functions, leaving you bloated.
    How do you get rid of that excess water? By drinking enough water!
    Hot or cold water?
    ~Many experts tend to advocate cold water, because the stomach absorbs it more quickly.
    They believe that cold water might enhance fat burning.
    ~Warm water is, however, easier to drink in large quantities and you might drink more of it without even realising it. Do whatever suits you, here. Just drink more!
    How much water?
    You must drink at least seven to eight glasses (1.9 litres) of water a day.
    Categories: Health and wellness