Explore the different types of desires and learn what Vedanta teaches about walking towards enlightenment by freeing oneself of such desires.
I’m beginning to love the ancient eastern Vedantic teachings. And this happened because I was blessed to be a part of a year-long class, where we studied some of the foundations of Vedanta. One topic which I really resonated with was the breakdown of different types of desires and how we can overcome them.
I found this to be a powerful subject which you might enjoy as well. So I wanted to lay it out for you, by expressing my personal reflections on the topic of enlightenment versus getting entangled in the pursuit of temporary desires.
Before we begin, let’s address this question.
Are desires normal? If not, why do they exist?
For every person, our desires are just as unique as our stories. We all have something we seek or want in our experience, the pursuit of which brings life into us!
It is, in fact, a natural part of evolution to want something.
Think about it. If we were too content, would we bother building a house or going hunting for food? Of course, we needed these things to survive, and so primal desires emerged in order to keep the human race alive.
Then overtime, as we evolved, our desires shifted towards material gains and fame as a means to get respect and be accepted in society. Ever since coming into existence, we have been moving up the ladder, always longing for more.
The whole idea of being infinite like the Universe has become so bizarre to us that we have become fully consumed by our desires.
Desires are natural, but also a fuel for separation from Source in our spiritual journey. Because when we have desires, they come from a place of insufficiency and lack of contentment.
We seek outwards, believing that having something or someone will make us feel whole again. And yet, we are disappointed. Sometimes, as was my case, it can lead us into an identity crisis.
Our desires can lead us down the rabbit hole, always wanting more and never having enough. So what should we do? How do you clean your slate and become free of these desires so you can walk towards the path of enlightenment?
Let’s explore what Vedanta says about this.
Three Types of Desires
Desires are also called vasanas, in Sanskrit. And you can beautifully examine these vasanas, by the intensity with which they exist in your life.
These are the simpler and smaller desires that inspire us to take action. Kind of like bucket list things that you might enjoy doing once. And then once done, you feel content by the experience.
For some people, a light desire might mean saving up money for a great vacation in the Maldives. Or taking on a hobby class for the summer. These things may take up your time and energy, but eventually you are able to let go of them.
Reflection: These might not be the types of desires that need much effort to release from your mind. But if you do notice yourself getting sucked in by a light vasana, think of the idea of “letting it go” by experiencing it fully, once and for all.Be as present as you can be in the experience, and see if you’re able to EXHAUST your desire for it.
These become a little more enticing because even though you’ve done them once, or a couple of times, you find yourself still wanting more.
For me, I have to admit that chocolate chip cookies were a huge weakness. It might sound funny, but truly, it was what brought out my shadow self – my addiction to sugar. Once I started, I wouldn’t be able to stop.
I would want my share of cookies every.single.week! And for months, that’s all I thought about every time my husband and I were picking desserts. Initially, it looked cute and I enjoyed the title of the cookie monster.
Until eventually, I started seeing how addicted I was and that it wasn’t helping my weight or my mental health to consume that much sugar. So then, it was time to substitute this desire, because it wasn’t light enough to simply let go of.
When you substitute a desire, you want to think of how you can cater to your needs from a higher place. For instance, I substituted artificial sugars for more natural sweeteners in my diet. And my weekly chocolate chip cookie became a Cookies & Cream Protein shake.
Because you are so deeply attached to the medium vasana, it can be difficult to go cold-turkey. So be mindful of the underlying deeper desire, and focus your outer goals around that.
Reflection: When you aren’t able to let go of your need for something, think of what you can do as a SUBSTITUTION. Think along the lines of doing something of higher value to you in your journey, which would not only fulfill that desire but lead you to something better for your growth.
This is the type of desire where you begin to lose touch with yourself, because you are so driven and triggered that you are no longer able to be your true self. You might get lost in vengeance, for instance.
Or you may have anger issues, and realize that you become unrecognizable when someone upsets you.
In that moment, you are saying “I am angry”. Whereas the truth is, you are only experiencing anger. You are not the anger itself.
This tendency of ours, to be so fully consumed by a desire that we lose ourselves to it, is a lifetimes of baggage that we’ve been trying to let go of. However, this hasn’t been very successful so far, which is why, we feel disconnected from our true nature.
Reflection: The best way to overcome a heavy vasana is to address it head-on and DESTROY your identification with lower tendencies such as the ones above. There are many way you can work to heal your karmic patterns and evolve past these gripping behaviours. Considerexploring journaling, inner child healing or taking support from someone you trust as ways to help you disconnect from your heavy desires.
The different types of desires hold different degrees of control on our freedom. The more deeply persistent you are to get something, or someone, the more trapped you will feel in your own experience.
However, the most empowering thing about this journey, is realizing that we have a choice. Even for the heaviest of desires, we have the choice to step away and say no more.
So don’t treat your desires like something that is in control of you and your life. Rather, start seeing the different types of vasanas as an opportunity for you to work on your wounds, and to realize that the fulfillment we are seeking is NOT outside of us.
Rather, it is within, and it is in the NOW.
Ready to take your healing deeper? Let’s talk about it! You’re welcome to fill in thisthis form and submit an application to become eligible for a complimentary session with me.
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What is a maun vrat and how can you observe the power of silence effectively in your spiritual practices? Read this insightful post.
Coming from a Hindu family, I’ve always been in and out of food fasting rituals. And I have to admit that I first gained a sense of the power of silence doing something unrelated to my culture. While watching Julia Robert’s Love, Prey, Eat! But only recently was I influenced by my sister-in-law to actually try it out for myself. And from that, comes this post for you.
What is a Maun Vrat?
Maun is a Hindi word which means silence. And Vrat means fasting. This is the literal meaning – to keep a vow of silence.
This entails completely unplugging and retracting from the world, to go inwards. Kind of like hanging a “closed for spiritual maintenance” sign outside your door, like the one below!
It is similar to meditation, but is not limited to closing your eyes for the whole period. Based on how you choose to execute this vow, you can add many self-reflecting aspects to your practice. I’ll be talking more about that in upcoming sections.
The idea of observing silence is ancient, and continues to be practiced by different groups around the world. But what is the purpose?
Let’s first talk about the benefit of any kind of fasting or vows.
When we practice conscious self-restraint, we begin to understand how dependent we are on the external. So, for example, when you do a food fast, here are a couple of observations you might make.
You eat way more than you need to.
Sometimes, you mindlessly pick up snacks or go to the fridge to clear a can.
A lot of your time is spent in thinking about food, eating food, preparing food, etc.
When you don’t eat, it becomes easier for you to get emotionally triggered and be short-tempered.
If you fast long enough, once you do eat, you eat more mindfully and you end up eating less.
In the past couple of centuries, fasting has become about pleasing God and getting your wishes to come true. As Conversations with God shows us, that isn’t needed. God isn’t conditional in his love.
And in the new age, food fasting is often promoted as a good detox for the body. That is only a partial benefit of it. However, there’s a much deeper psychological change that unfolds when you stick to the practice. I’ll probably save that topic for another post.
And the same holds true for a maun vrat. You only experience the power of silence, once you put it into practice for hours at a stretch.
For instance, one of the benefits is experiencing a dopamine reset – being able to create more “pause” between your addictive and reactive tendencies. I love this video below that explains the physiological importance of a dopamine fast, when we’re in such an overstimulated world that has made it very difficult for us to experience stillness.
I find that observing silence is a great way to take care of the overdose of dopamine in our system, amongst other things.
Another benefit of conscious quiet time is really giving yourself permission to just BE.
A silence retreat, when done well is able to invite your feminine energy out to play. It gives us a chance to stop hustling and give rest to the overworked aspects of our masculine energy. This helps create what I call, inner union.
While it’s important to be a go-getter and make the most of your time here on Earth, the practice of conscious silence is a beautiful reminder to help us see the importance of letting go and observing the Universe unfold. It’s an invitation to be in a space of stillness, one that brews gratitude, humility and brings the ego-mind in check by helping us see that there’s so much more to life than just our agenda.
And just like that there are many, many other rewards you can reap by doing frequent silence retreats, which I’m going to invite you to discover through your own practice. I also share my observations as I walk you through the steps for a maun vrat, in the section below.
My focus now is to share more details about what happens when you do a silence retreatas a beginner, including the challenges, so that you’re set up for success. Here are the different stages and ideas for each level of silence.
The Four Stages of a Maun Vrat & the Benefits of Observing Silence
First, let’s walk through the different stages of observing silence, and the benefits you reap as you pass through each stage.
Stage 1: Getting Started
Getting started with the maun vrat is as easy as dropping everything you’re doing and just sitting still, in silence. You may or may not choose to start with meditation.
When getting started, it can help you to focus on the breath, or on just observing your environment. You’ll be surprised how little attention we pay to the places we are frequently in. This is a great time to reorient yourself in your own energy and space.
In the first couple minutes of silence, you might find yourself scrambling to sit quietly and just ‘be’. It might even drive you crazy to realize how many thoughts are coming and going. You might find yourself reaching out to grab an object around you, or scratch a phantom itch on your body.
If you’ve been a meditator for a while, it could in contrast be easier. Either way, overtime, your body will get acclimatized and want to move less.
As you notice your energy slowing down and settling in, the first benefit unveils itself. You are beginning to calm down at a physical level.And your inner ‘fidget spinner’ is beginning to slow down.
If you persevere from a few minutes of doing nothing, into around the half-hour mark, you’re likely to enter stage 2.
Stage 2: Lethargy
Eventually, as you keep observing silence, you may find the slumber phase arising. Your physical body is slowing down, and your heartbeat is as well. So, the mind may get a cue to shut down the conscious and take a nap.
One of two things can happen.
You will either fall asleep and wake up afresh, probably putting you back into stage 1.
Or, you will redirect this cue, and use it to enter a state of self-guided meditation (called self-hypnosis) and introspection. As that happens, you will enter stage 3.
Stage 3: Going Deep
This is the best part of observing silence, when you start making breakthroughs! I have a couple of tips lined up in the next section to help get you here faster. And once you do, here’s what to expect.
This is the perfect time to reflect on one’s karmic programming, to reflect on the different patterns that have led you here in life. It also becomes interesting to observe your body and the environment, purely from the angle of an observer.
Sometimes instead of feeling sleepy, your mind may become active again and start racing with a different kind of energy – like bringing new insights to you to help you clean your actions.
As you go deeper into self-introspection, it can be helpful to keep a notebook nearby and take quick notes (but not necessarily writing paragraphs) about your AHA moments.
In recent silence periods, I’ve added certain dots about my behavior that have left me humbled and brought back my focus on self-development versus finding fault in others.
Stage 4: Coming full circle.
You may waiver between the first three stages throughout the period of silence, which is pretty normal. Eventually, when you’ve reached your time capacity, bring your practice to a full circle.
Without sounding too ritualistic, it is still important to maintain a decorum as you slowly come out of your silent period.
Instead of jumping to check your phone or calling a friend to talk about how awesome the silence was, try to extend the silence into day-to-day activities.
Some tips include –
going for quiet walks, without music or a friend,
eating a mindful meal and not watching the TV,
cleaning up your space and giving thanks to the surroundings for facilitating your quietude.
Allow yourself to carry that calmness into your day for as long as you can. Of course, your environment might not always be conducive to this, but see if you can do small things that prevent you from jumping right back into the routine.
Ultimately our goal should be to maintain an inner silence and peace, regardless of how chaotic or fast-moving the world around us is.
5 Tips to Deepen Your Experience of the Power of Silence
#1 – Reduce Distractions.
When we’re initially striving to create inner silence, it helps to start with outer silence – meaning an environment that supports your intentions. So, it goes without saying that you should NOT have a phone ringing near you, nor should you be using Facebook.
However, distraction can also come from the inanimate objects around you. For example, I use my workspace to practice my quietude, and initially found myself wanting to pick up a book to read, or to write down a task that I would do for the blog once this period of silence was over. This was taking me away from the intention of unconditionally being with myself.
Of course, there’s no need to judge ourselves or feel critical towards ourselves for feeling distracted. The truth is that the mind will do everything it can to escape the present moment.
Whether it’s because the present moment was too daunting for us as a child (abuse, overwhelm, underwhelm, boredom, etc) or we grew up being taught that being head-heady is a good thing, the mind can feel an initial shock when you’re trying to do nothing.
So keep observing the ways in which it gets distracted and start eliminating those distractions.
At the end of each maun vrat, I have made it a point to write down the answer to this question – what distracted me today?
Being clutter-free, tech-free and sound-free would be a great starting point.
#2 – Have a broad plan of execution.
Initially, I had no plan of what I would be doing for my first maun vrat. I spent nearly 6 hours trying to do nothing, and found myself getting extremely bored. Of course, being aware of this boredom was a part of self-awareness, but it was tough to do for so many hours.
Answer some of these questions before you observe silence.
Where would you be practicing this so that you’re not distracted? Assign yourself a quiet space, and don’t be shy in letting people around you know that you will be unavailable. You don’t want to end up using sign-language to communicate, which too is besides the point!
How many hours can you genuinely commit to? I wouldn’t start with 6 hours, like I did. Currently, the 3 hour works best for me. Try something short at first, like 45 minutes or an hour, and slowly build momentum.
What are the rules for this period? For instance, some people keep reading spiritual books as an open option in their maun vrat, to inspire concentrated thoughts of self-awareness. However, personally, I go cold turkey and have omitted all sources of input for my period (laptop/tv, books, social media).
What are some questions you’d like to reflect on? I started by writing down some questions in advance, and at later stages found questions arising from the reflections I was doing. I’ve put together some of these questions into a digital workbook to help you with your inner reflection.
How often would you like to do this? This is a question you’d ask once you’ve done your first maun vrat. Can you take out time every week? Or just once a month? If you’re planning shorter durations, you can even scatter different activities on different days and practice 15-30 minutes of quietude everyday.
#3 – Have mindful activities planned.
Like I said in the previous tip, you can decide what the rules will be for you. I chose to isolate myself and not move around, but you can incorporate a mindful walk into your routine.
If you’d like to keep the walk mindful, you can download and listen to this guided walking meditation that I’ve recorded for you, to complement your silence.
Evaluate the activities that will keep you awake (but not taking you away from the present moment), and practice them during periods where you notice the lethargy kicking in.
#4 – Quiet the mind and body.
These are some of the tips I was talking about in stage 3, that will help you go deeper into your practice.
Try to do a physical activity like a jog or household chores before your quiet time, so that you can exhaust some of the physical energy and actually rest during the silence.
Get tasks out of the way, or manage your responsibilities beforehand too, to ease the mind.
Instead of just doing one long meditation, you can divide your maun vrat into several different meditations, journaling periods and walks.
I remember when I first used to do food fasts, I would pig out when I opened the fast. This put my body in shock and I would experience extreme lethargy after that. To the same effect, you don’t want to disrupt your stillness by doing something overly engaging right away.
Here are some ways to gracefully end the period of silence –
ending the quietude with a prayer that you sing aloud,
chanting for the last few minutes of your silence,
offer a prayer or blessing, sending out your Love & Light to the planet,
humming positive songs for the first few minutes of regular life,
reading a scripture or page from a spiritual book aloud.
The whole idea is to sustain the energy created in silence and carry it into the rest of the day.
Why is it so difficult to observe silence in the first place?
Should every spiritual seeker observe silence?
An important question that I get asked quite often, to which I want to answer with a lot of caution.
Many of the people that are on this spiritual journey have come from backgrounds of traumatic childhoods (and sometimes adulthood). In such cases, it can be overwhelming and disregulating for our nervous systems to “be in the present moment”. Something I’ve extensively addressed in this article.
The point is that not every practice will feel safe or beneficial to everyone, and a silence retreat is definitely one of those practices that asks you to drop all the aesthetics of spirituality and just be with yourself.
So my two cents on this are that start in small doses. You can even consider joining a silence retreat in your locality first, before you try this out on your own. If you find that you’re elevated from the practice, bring it home. However, no, I don’t think every seeker should or can take up observing silence as a regular spiritual practice.
Listen to your intuition and flow with it. You know yourself best!
A silent vow, or maun vrat, when done right can be just as powerful as meditation. In fact deeper. It is a blend of mindfulness and meditation, giving you the luxury to be self-aware without necessarily sitting still the whole period or keeping your eyes closed.
As you practice hours of quietude, note down the power of silence in your life. And do let me know how it goes, in the comments below!
Ready to take your healing deeper? Let’s talk about it! You’re welcome to fill in thisthis form and submit an application to become eligible for a complimentary session with me.
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What is jnana yoga? Do we need spiritual books to attain enlightenment? Here are 7 benefits of knowledge in your spiritual journey.
Of the four paths to enlightenment, jnana yoga, the path of knowledge was my first choice.
I’ve spent years reading spiritual books from around the world, reflecting on various questions that spiritual teachers propel at us. And I have seen friends that started binge reading after their spiritual awakening. But till date refuse to read anything outside the genre of spirituality or metaphysics!
But why bother? And are you missing out in your journey if you’re not walking the path of jnana yoga? Here’s my take.
The Importance of Jnana Yoga In Your Spiritual Journey
In a world where we have very little trust in anything, we seek logic.
That’s how things started for me too. I wanted fool-proof evidence for spirituality. It was important to ‘be sure’, before I invested in any more ‘practices’ and had my heart broken by God, again.
I had grown up in a Hindu family and loved our different Gods and Goddesses.
But my faith had been shaken over something as futile as bad grades in school. And ever since, I wondered about questions like if God really cared for me, or if God felt offended that I no longer trusted him.
So on, and so forth, my restlessness brewed. And I had a tough time understanding God from the ordinary religious view.
I thoroughly enjoyed watching a show about the Hindu God, Shiva. And the more I watched, the more I longed for my twin flame, my Shiva. But none of the reality which was unfolding added up to any of the mystical musings shown in mythological shows.
Eventually, I resorted to trying new hobbies or making new friends to pacify the increasing distortion I was experiencing. Because that didn’t help, my search deepened.
One day, I stumbled upon my first spiritual teacher, Caroline Myss.
This became my first experience of a practical approach to spirituality. Many years later, it now makes sense that this wonderful teacher was leveraging jnana yoga to enlighten our modern world.
The first reason we need to follow the path of knowledge is because faith doesn’t come naturally to us.
Of course, you don’t have to read a book to be on the path of jnana yoga. You could watch videos or attend spiritual satsang. But it is important, because that is the only way our ego mind can get over the doubts.
And it is also the purest way in which we can begin to understand how this Universe works.
That being said, that’s not just why you should consider reading more spiritual books or attending more spiritual workshops. Here are 7 other benefits that come from the path of knowledge.
7 Reasons the Jnana Yoga Path Is Crucial To Follow In The Modern World
I hope these reflections compel you to create more time to learn and grasp more of the spiritual truth from those that are a few steps ahead of you in the journey back to Self.
#1 – You can experience Oneness through subtle energy transmission.
The Angels and Masters of the spiritual realm work with us energetically.
This became more acceptable to my mind, when I read Dr Michael Newton’s evidence on how our spirit guides wait for us to be calm, so that they can send us guidance and healing energy.
Teachers, courses and books are all channels for us to receive much more than the conscious mind can perceive. It can feel like you’ve entered a different reality, where you become absorbed and One with all that’s being said.
Personally, some of the most profound moments for me have been while reading Osho’s Vigyan Bhairav, practicing the Heartfulness Meditation by Daaji, and listening to Sadhguru’s discourses.
#2 – You can receive unparalleled daily guidance without going to the mountains or sitting in a cave.
Back in the day, people had to leave their homes and live with gurus to receive formal, spiritual education.
Today, you no longer need to go searching for peace in the Himalayas, because we live in a world where we have easy access to some of the finest spiritual teachings through a finger tap.
When your faith wavers, other paths like bhakti yoga or dhyana yoga can become difficult. And if you are an introvert, or you simply don’t have time for/access to spiritual satsang, then how do you get inspiration?
Watching spiritual videos is one way. Even reading just a few pages a day can transform your life in tremendous ways.
Ever since my journey began, every single book that came and changed my life, had a random source. But it was accurately timed for the moment! And it helped me cross the day-to-day hurdle much quicker than I would have if I had spent the time talking to a human being, or if I prayed unceasingly for an escape from my problems.
So through the effect of jnana yoga, you not only get out of your problems, you rapidly evolve through them in a practical setting. The path no longer needs us to renounce anything. We can be modern yogis.
#3 – Jnana Yoga helps you stay in higher levels of consciousness without restricting you to a place or person.
Yes, our journey is inwards and we have all the wisdom we need within us, but at times our ability to operate from a higher consciousness diminishes if we are too close to the problem.
The universe is very kind to drop subtle messages and signs – you never know what mundane line in a book might actually be transforming for you.
For example, Dr Brian’s works are pioneers in past life regression but the one line that sat deep for me, is actually not referenced on Google yet! It’s from one of his books, where he talks about how nobody should be anyone’s guru for more than a few months.
I was at the beginning of my journey and this quickly made it clear to me that I don’t need to rest at one door. This allowed me to broaden my learning and fill my palette with spiritual guidance from all walks of life.
Today, you’ll hear me talk about the classic teachings of the Buddha in one blog post, and reference a new age teaching in the next for this very reason!
Through jnana yoga, you are able to hear the Truth, with a capital t, from whoever you resonate with at the time. You are no longer limited to a place, person or time.
#4 – You experience rapid healing.
Sure, you need to act on what you learn. But the fact is, spiritual books plant seeds and water them so rapidly, that as Paul Selig’s book Word said, these books become a passage for your transformation.
You start the book as one person, and complete it living in a different realm!
The best example for this happening to me, was the book Conversations with God. There wasn’t much physical action required – it simply did all the work for me.
It changed my perspective on what religion is – what God is NOT, why evils exist in the world, what our purpose is, and so much more. There was no going back from that point.
The messages and insights are bound to produce a kind of rapid healing in you that will only help make your Ascension faster. Instead of reinventing the wheel and trying to master the journey through endless hit and trial, why not lean on some of the profound wisdom from around the world?
Which brings me to the next point.
#5 – You get life experiences you wouldn’t have otherwise (or you’d take lifetimes to).
The key lesson I got from reading spiritual books in general, was that I don’t need to experience everything first-hand. We can learn just by looking at other people’s experiences.
I may never go to the Himalayas or sit under a banyan tree and meditate for hours, but I’ve learned a thing (or 15) from some of the wisest beings out there.
Spirituality is NOT about reinventing the wheel, it’s only about spinning your wheel at full capacity. So why not follow a couple of tried and tested things and see how it goes for you?
#6 – You find a deeper sense of satisfaction and satiation.
I have nothing against self-help books. I’ve been reading them for the longest time and I still do. But they don’t bring a lasting sense of peace.
When I read a spiritual book about the afterlife, my curiosity is piqued! And by the end of the series, my cup has been filled in a way where it only overflows. It no longer needs watering in that space.
Spirituality is diverse beyond imagination (but it shouldn’t be a surprise, given that we are INFINITE). So the point is, you can gain so much wisdom and it all brings a deeper sense of appreciation for existence.
We all seek depth and satiation in life, and not much else can deliver that to us, other than being contemplative on this spiritual journey. In moments where our contemplation falls short, a spiritual book can fill that gap for us.
#7 – Jnana Yoga gives you wings!
This is the power of investing your time in the path of knowledge. As the darkness is dispelled by light, you soar higher into the skies and break free from your own limitations.
You are no longer held back by orthodox or fear-based patterns. You learn how to operate with utmost love and infinitude.
I experienced an absolute personality makeover, a shift in who I am, largely because of the wisdom that was poured into me.
I feverishly read dozens of books in my first year of awakening. And though I am not enlightened, I find myself becoming so much more of myself everyday – more than I ever was.
I have seen an increased capacity to look at the bigger picture, to be more optimistic, to dream and be ‘unrealistic’. And yet people believe in me, because spirituality gave me the confidence I never had before.
Raising the quality of your thoughts through jnana yoga is one of the most profound things you can do for yourself. Unless, of course, you have the amazing fortune of sitting with an actual enlightened Master. Then, enlightenment is guaranteed!
Until then, read, watch and listen your way into realizing that you are the very awareness you’re seeking outward.