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@ A practical no-nonsense approach that really works

Testimonial from Alfred (1) who had great hidden potential for meditation and spiritual growth that was just waiting for a spark to explode (sort of). His experience illustrates the quote in the spiritual filed “When the student is ready, the teacher appears”.

He found my website on-line among other local organizations for Yoga and meditation. He felt that he found what he was just looking for. He attended only 3 classes and took off unbelievably on his own, like no other client.

He has been kind enough to e-mail his insights and experiences (2) and let me publish them under the pseudonym ‘Alfred’. I am learning from his insights. I was puzzled why with all his inherent wisdom, he needed to learn the very simple breathing and stretching techniques I teach. When I queried  him and asked for his testimonial he sent this wonderful description. This is the kind of endorsement I was looking for all these years. These techniques do help people like him with hidden potential, to make a simple beginning and then keep going on their own steam.  I am grateful to  Alfred for this feedback and his periodic insights and experiences.

“I am a middle aged businessman who in most all respects enjoys a good life.  I have enough money to keep me from worrying, my relationships with wife, family and friends are good and so is my health.  Despite all of my good fortune I was aware for some time of some missing element in my life.  I had always been interested in the human mind and have read quite a lot about cognition and psychology.  The one message I received over and over again was that the practice of meditation with mindfulness as a goal is something which many very credible people advocate.

I did a quick Google search and found Suryanarayana Chennapragada’s (CS) web site.  CS has developed a simple meditation technique which combines counting breaths and simple yoga to create a calming disposition.

I met with CS and took 6 (3) private classes.  Since attending those classes, I have only missed 2 days of meditation, both because of international travel.

I like CS’s approach very much because, not only is it immediately effective, but also because it is not steeped in any religious dogma or “new age” philosophy.  It is a practical no-nonsense approach that really works well for me.

I look forward to my hourly morning meditation.  It centers me for my busy days, allows me to turn off the noise in my head and enjoy the present and it has enhanced my personal relationships. “

(1) Alfred 
(2) Alfred’s progress – Posts 
(3) Actually he attended 3 classes but felt they were six. May be because we had a great rapport!

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@ I finally had a good night’s sleep

Feedback from a young Engineer who just completed his masters and looking for a job. Seeing the great distress he was in, his friend, a patient of my daughter Padma Sripada (1) asked me to help him.  He did three classes at frequent intervals, as he was to leave Albany shortly. He learned the basic techniques – ‘Waiting for sleep’ (2) , ‘Waking up routine’ (3),  ‘Stretching for beginners’ (4) ‘Loosening exercises of Yoga’ (5). After he left Albany, I am continuing to work with him by periodic phone and e-mail contacts.

“Using ‘Focusing on breathing’ techniques helped me handle insomnia and anxiety in a better way. For a long time, I always got anxious during those situations where I had to deliver my best, to achieve success. Unknowingly, I was getting anxious, failed to control my anxiety and over stressed myself. Due to chronic high stress level, I lost my daily routine and had very poor sleep. I became restless, could not focus and concentrate on anything and failed to perform even minor tasks which were easily handled by me, during stress free times. I figured out that I had to get back to good sleep routine to help my mind and body. Even after knowing this fact, no matter what I did, I could not help myself to get sleep, for more than an hour or two at night.

I was advised by my friend, to meet Mr. Suryanarayana Chennapragada (C S). He carefully listened my problem and analyzed my situation with great patience. Later the same day, he walked me through his ‘focusing on breathing’ techniques, one by one. His breathing techniques are “very simple to learn and adapt”. That night I practiced the techniques lying on the bed. After a week of sleeplessness nights, I finally had a good night sleep. During three more sessions, Mr. C.S taught me how to use the breathing techniques in various combinations. As per his strong advice, I consulted a Doctor who  prescribed a medication to bring my anxiety under control quickly. I am continuing both medication and breathing practices. My long term goal is to completely depend on breathing practices, rather than medication.  I totally believe it is possible.  I thank Mr. C S for his “patience and dedication”.

(1) Padma Sripada M.D
(2) Waiting for sleep
(3) Waking up routine
(4) Stretching for beginners
(5) Loosening exercises from Yoga

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@ Breathing in and breathing out as a continuum …Alfred’s progress

See (1) to know about Alfred. 

“I am still keeping at it and expanding my practice every day. My core routine is 10 postures, each held for a minimum of 30 breaths. In between, I stretch in ways my body tells me to, some times rocking gently to loosen things up.

I always play soothing music or chanting; there are great chants on you tube. I was burning incense but have stopped because I find it a distraction.

Each day I discover new ways to attend to the present while meditating. Every day I feel a benefit; sometimes great, sometimes subtle.

Some ideas
  • We can be slaves to time. Being constantly aware of the clock and where you need to be an hour from now, robs you of the present. While meditating, do not fall into the trap of counting breaths, as if they are grocery list on which you are striking off items. Immerse yourself in each breath and adhere to your body’s natural relaxed breathing pattern. Time can become quite elastic when you are not measuring it in your mind. I suspect that the perfect present is infinite.
  • If you have trouble stilling noisy thoughts, try some mental exercises.
    • When you breath in, think of what it feels like to exhale and then, as you exhale think of the feeling of breathing in.
    • Think about the sound of wind on your face, of how sunshine smells and what the color green tastes like. Imagine that your body is floating or rotating slowly. Imagine you are slowly melting into the ground.
  • I realize as I try to attain complete tranquility while meditating, that the way I breathe can disrupt this goal. I have found at times a great rush of peace as I slowly exhale but, as I transition to breathing in, I am susceptible to errant thoughts. In order to avoid this undesirable distraction, I have begun to try to think of breathing in and breathing out as a continuum, rather than a transition. As I breath out and feel peace flow in, I concentrate on holding that feeling and I begin to breath in. I do not concentrate on the change of direction of my breath. This is helping me sustain and deepen the feeling of calmness over multiple breath cycles.
Benefits  I gained
  • I went to a social event where I knew nobody. I felt more relaxed than usual in this situation and felt like I was more focused on the person I was talking to at any given moment.
  • During the day when a worrisome thought clouds my mind, I am better at addressing it and filing it away where it belongs, rather than have it put me in a foul mood.
  • I am more easily amused.”
(1) Alfred

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* Calmed myself on a scary air flight

This is the first report of its kind. Emily Marynczak (1) shared with me how she used the segment mode of ‘focusing on breathing’ (2) to keep herself calm for about 2 hours, during a scary air flight.

“A year ago I was traveling back home from Ohio. The flight was scheduled to be about two hours long and the weather seemed clear. But shortly after take off, the pilot announced that there was some windy weather that we would have to contend with and he was going to keep the fasten seat belt sign on, until things calmed down. And then the bouncing begun. It felt like the plane would suddenly randomly drop down a few feet – taking everyone’s stomach with it. It felt like the plane was being tossed to and fro- and then up and down. We had non stop turbulence for the entire flight, it was terrifying. (I don’t like flying even on a good day!) It would have been truly horrific for me, had I not had the mental focus that came from ‘counting my breaths’ (2). When the plane first began to bounce, I had my book on my lap but with the first big bounce, my fear began to rise and I was unable to concentrate on my reading. I was starting to feel a bit of panic surface. It was clear that all the people around me were getting very afraid too. I could hear audible gasps with the bigger drops we felt. I couldn’t imagine how I was going to cope.

Then really from a place of desperation, I decided to try ‘counting my breaths’ (2). I needed to focus on something other than the scary thoughts about a plane crash.

I closed my book, closed my eyes and placed my hands comfortably on my lap. I started using the ‘segment mode’ of ‘counting breaths with my left hand (3).

As I finished, I was noticeably calmer. I realized that while I had given my mind the task of moving my fingers with each breath, my mind was occupied and therefore there was no time to worry about the plane falling from the sky. I was so focused on my breathing and my task of moving my fingers that I couldn’t even really take in the stress of the people around me.

I continued counting my breaths in this manner, for the duration of the flight. Every now and then, if the plane leveled off and the winds calmed, I would stop, open my eyes and take in my environment. I took great comfort from knowing that if the wind picked up, I would have a way to cope, something concrete to do that would really help. Sure enough, the winds would pick up and like my life depended on it, I would resume my breath awareness, always starting with my thumb going to my pinky at the top segment. Two hours later, we landed safely.

The passengers on the plane cheered loudly, as they released their stress. As we were getting off the plane, it was obvious that the other passengers were visibly stressed and shaken by this awful flight. But I had a unique sense of calm. I think my calm came from not only the meditative practice of concentrating on my breath and having an anchor for my thoughts with the movements of my fingers, but also from the peace that I got from just knowing that I had something to try, if I felt scared. I am forever indebted to C S (Suryanarayana Chennapragada) for sharing this powerful technique with me. I am forever empowered in my life, to cope with the inevitable stresses that will come my way.

This was the first time that I had really practiced the segment mode of counting breaths on my own.

In my work as a childbirth educator,  I practice this technique as I teach my students, once or twice a month. The version of the counting breaths technique that I had been using a lot, prior to the airplane ride, and still use several times a week, is the version of counting to three, over and over again without using the fingers at all, all in the mind (2).  I practice this technique whenever I want to go to sleep. Sometimes when I start off, I hear the voice of my inner cynic say- “this won’t help you fall asleep.” But I practice it any way and then in the morning I awake refreshed and happy. I know that counting my breaths to three really works. Incorporating the finger movements doesn’t work for me when my goal is to go to sleep. It’s too much effort to contract the muscles of my hand. But as I demonstrated in my airplane story, the extra energy of contracting my fingers in such a deliberate and focused way, was exactly what I needed to use up the extra energy created by the stress I was experiencing.

I am grateful to CS for teaching me these simple yet profound tools.

(1) Emily Marynczak, AAHCC and Bradley Method Certified Birth Instructor #(518) 478-0062. (AAHCC is for American Association for Husband Coached Childbirth)
(2) How can I focus on breathing?
(3) Segment mode’ of  counting breaths as she practiced: “I brought my thumb to the top segment of my pinky finger and with the next breath I moved my finger down to the middle segment of my pinky and with the third breath I moved my thumb to the lowest segment of my pinky finger. With the next breath, I was onto the ring finger and so on, until three segments of all ten fingers had been touched with their own breath.” Also read (2).

Related pages
Seminars and classes 

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