Practise for Integral Growth, an online workshop was conducted by James Anderson and was spread over 4 weeks, with one 90-minute practical and experiential session each week. Thirty-six people registered for this event.
In today’s day and age, most of us are flooded with information and yet we struggle to make even small changes in our lives and our beings. The focus and forte of this beautiful workshop was that it was about everyday practice, practical steps that we can take in Integral Yoga to transform our lives. It was mentioned that practice goes beyond just fixed meditation techniques so it must inspire and transform our day-to-day life and this was stressed repeatedly throughout the workshop. It is important to note that the main reasons why we need to practice is to expand our consciousness, to move closer to the Truth (psychic being), to heal ourselves, to change our inner psychology and to edge closer to a transformed state.
The whole workshop was y interactive and there was constant commenting and questioning between the participants and the speaker. James also encouraged participants to reflect on their own experiences and share that with everyone.
Session 1: To set the tone of this interactive workshop James began by asking 2 questions: What is the purpose of your practice and what do you hope to realise with this programme?
Some answers from participants that were interesting to note were:
- Purpose is unifications. Being a unified person. To learn something.
- Through personal spiritual connection to the Divine, to lift the consciousness of this realm & I hope to get a clue/technique to help me along my way.
- To try and continue to put in the effort to purify oneself. To eventually/essentially be able to recognise the divinity within and to manifest the Divine to be a true child of The Mother.
- It’s a journey in self-nurturing, to be able to align with my aspiration towards an integral wellness. That takes all aspects into consideration and to be more anchored.
- I want to learn how to integrate myself with the teachings and I want to be more harmonious with myself. When something happens, we get agitated, and we react to the situation. To bridge the gap between what we read and what we practice.
- Integral growth towards realisation and reaching the Divine.
- To connect with my deepest self, the psychic. Deepen and widen my consciousness. To make it a more living practice.
This was a good start, where the participants were able to connect within and question for themselves why they were present. James started by defining practice as the art of living consciously. It is something without boundaries.
He said it is very important for us to understand how to deploy our consciousness and the first thing, everyone has turn the orientation of our awareness to the inside. We must aim to be always poised and connected to the psychic being through our everyday life. With this connection the awareness becomes dynamic and emerges as consciousness. It’s important to note that it is in everyday life that we can truly change ourselves and that requires effort and a pursuit for self-perfection.
He mentioned the 3 branches of integral yoga, namely Jnana Yoga, Karma Yoga & Bhakti Yoga. It was shared that Mother & Sri Aurobindo have said it’s much easier to change our nature through Karma yoga — the practice of action. The essence of karma yoga is selfless work, and one important thing is to know that it’s our affinity with the tasks that we do, that makes us lose identity with the truth inside. Another thing that was discussed was the Yoga of Love and it was beautifully said that love is not a trade, physical gratification or even reciprocation, rather it is the state that exists entirely by itself.
Practices done in the first session mainly focused on concentration. It was said that concentration is a gathering of all the strands of our consciousness at a single point. It was advised that the above practice can then be followed by the practice of widening our consciousness. At the end of the session we practised identification by immersing ourselves in the image of The Divine Mother. Love through identity is the summit of the Yoga of Love.
James said that such practices address the ego by widening the consciousness and help us step out of our usual boundaries. It helps us tolerate with something bigger than ourselves. It was said that the Psychic being is the key to all self-mastery, control and inner harmony and it is our consciousness which is the vehicle of the psychic being. So, when we put our consciousness at the disposal of the Psychic being, everything is possible.
Session 2: The focus of this session was on changing our nature through consciousness by quietening our mind, converting our vital, dissolving habits, observing and offering. It was said that to have some degree of control over our consciousness and our nature, we must differentiate the different parts of our consciousness and we should always know where our consciousness is. The following practices were done on this day -
Practice: Who am I? Asking ourselves one at a time, if we are truly the body, thoughts and feelings. Finding the answer to be no each time, finally to go deep behind the heart to look for the Divine consciousness as when that is uncovered, our Psychic Being awakes. Aspiration stimulates our effort, and we need to see the fire of aspiration that is burning inside all of us and keep it alive and growing. The basis of this practice is that if watch our inner movements, we can deal with them.
Practice: Catching our Vital Movements. In this we were asked to look inside ourselves with consciousness. If there are any vital or mental movements, we were asked to ‘catch’ them as soon as they emerge. To catch them before they could settled in our being. It was said that with the power of observation & consciousness we can entirely dissolve these movements.
Practice: Seeing ourselves on the screen & offering everything to the fire of purification. We were asked to think of a wrong movement that arises in our vital and then imagine ourselves in front of a cinema screen as the director and the main actor in this film and watch this movement unfold. We were told not to identify with what we were seeing but just to observe and look at ourselves on the screen with consciousness. In the end, we were told to offer it all to the Fire within & watch it grow. This leads to greater purification.
Silencing the mind: it, Sri Aurobindo says you can look at the mind, as if it’s in 2 parts, the active Mind that makes all the noise and the Watching Mind. Then we were asked to close our eyes and look at the ‘factory of thoughts’. We were told to disengage and withdraw our consent, detach from this active mind and align all our Will & aspiration with the quieter mind: to identify with the quiet part and as you do this, the movements of the active mind will gradually change.
At the end of the session, it was said that thoughts come from the Universal Mind although we feel they are coming from within us. A more evolved way of quietening the mind, but much more difficult, is to intercept each thought as it comes from the Universal Mind. There is nothing unique about our thoughts. We are not their maker. Such practices, if done persistently, can create significant change.
The focus of the 3rd Session was on the descending Force, The psychic influence, healing & self-immunity. The session started with the Practice of concentration.
It was said that the body is a unique instrument for transformation. The body is slow but is willing & possesses much-needed endurance. It was stressed that when we do outer activities, we must do them consciously, as when they are done that way, they are done to perfection. Through this the whole basis of physical culture becomes manifest.
This was followed by the Practice of inner work: We were asked to start from above the head, see what’s there and gradually go down the body using the power of observation. We were told not to judge, have no expectation and no anticipation. It was said that the Power of observation is dynamic if galvanised by the consciousness behind it. Then we were asked to become conscious of the Force coming down through our body and to invite it and surrender to it but not to pull it. We were told to open ourselves to it and let the Divine Force into our body after which we would feel our being more integrated & aligned. It was said that we must fuse the Psychic Being with every part of our inner nature. Finally to experience a block of dynamic Peace descend through the being..
Further on, James mentioned that there is a density, a vibration that surrounds our body, which is the nervous envelope of our subtle body, which gives protection to our gross body. This protects us from the impacts of accidents and illnesses of life. With the help of our consciousness, we must connect our Psychic influence with this nervous envelope. When we are conscious of this protection of this entity, this power is greatly magnified.
It was interesting to note that two movements initiate change in us, namely the Psychic Being, which is the consistent and safest mode of change and the true master of our nature. The second is the descending Force, which is the force of transformation. We should be wary of beguiling and misleading downpours and lights. However, James beautifully shared that when we surrender to The Mother, we actually surrender to the Force itself and only good can result.
The session ended with two small but deep practices – (1) we were told to concentrate on a single idea, object, name or image. Then we were asked to relax and widen ourselves. And identify with our innate immortality. (2) We were told to imagine a supramental sun & to see its golden light descending into our entire being to saturate our body & all our cells. This golden light can integrate our being & prepare it for transformation. James ended the session by encouraging us to keep this golden light always with us.
Session 4 was focused on working with the body, reflections & relooking at some practices that we did in the last 3 sessions. It was reiterated that the practice of concentration is very important practice in Integral yoga
Practices that were done in this session were: (1) Practice of concentration. (2) In the second practice, James asked us to become aware of the fire of aspiration that is lit inside of us and to throw everything onto the fire and see it grow. This fire grows whenever we offer something to it. As this fire grows, so does our aspiration and we become more purified & more aligned to the divine Will. (3) In the next practice, we revisited the mind were asked to look at the thoughts crossing our mind and then detach from these thoughts & immerse into the part that’s detached. The detached part is the true ‘Master of our mind’. (4) In the next practice, we were asked to place our consciousness above our head & then identify with the silence, the vastness, above the head. We were told to feel our consciousness broadening and expanding, going to new domains, in this silence. This is the short glimpse of the impersonality aspect. (5) The next practice of staying in the present can be done always. Through this, we are also present/grounded in our body. This, we were told, is the essence of karma yoga, to leave the fruits to the Divine and be present to what we are doing. In this practice we are constantly realigning to the present.
Next, James spoke about habits. It was said that habits have captured every part of our nature, namely our physical, emotional reactions, mental thoughts, conditionings & judgments.
Ways to dismantle the habits were shared (1) We were advised to maintain consciousness in our daily activities. It was said that when we can see our habits coming up in our beings, we must ‘catch’ them with our consciousness. We must place our consciousness instantaneously on that movement. (2) We can observe ourselves acting on some habitual wrong impulse on a screen & adjust our movements by adjusting our reactions and responses on the screen. After this, to offer everything to The Mother. With this one can remodel oneself. The final solution: the Mother says that whenever habits show their face from our subconscious, we have to seize them as they appear. Sri Aurobindo has said that for converting our habits, we must work on the body, to open it to the Light from above and allow that Light to percolate down to the nether regions. To invoke the presence of the Mother and feel her Consciousness going through the body from top to bottom. Feel it overcome every obstacle & obstruction. As our body changes, in time our subconscious gradually will change too. Feel our cells opening to this Light. (2)
The last practice was one of Identification: to focus on a photograph of Sri Aurobindo and give ourselves to the One that we see. In all reverence, all devotion, offer ourselves to Him.
Monica, when closing the workshop: said that this workshop can be named as reclaiming back our power because with all these practices we can reclaim all the powers that we give away, to so many things here and there. We give them to life-situations, people, thoughts feeling, etc. and when we come back home, we do feel a sense of reclaiming our power back.
“This workshop by James was truly a special one, I absolutely loved the progression from working on developing Concentration to working on the vital and to working on the body. Each session was beautifully organised and James took us through so many practical and helpful exercises, culminating in the final session which was a summary/overview of all the previous sessions and this helped reinforce some of these practices.”
“James has given me tools to work on for the rest of my lifetime, to continually progress and grow and open myself more and more and surrender at Mother's and Sri Aurobindo's feet, for this I am infinitely grateful.”
“After I listened to the recording of the first session, three words came to me - Concentration, Consecration, Consciousness and these three words have stayed with me as I was reflecting on my practice each week of the past month. There was such a synchronicity, I was finding writings and messages from The Mother everywhere on these words. The biggest shift that James through this workshop has made for me is putting these principles into practice when I am busy at work in a fast paced and stressful environment. I now keep with me a Blessing Packet with my favourite picture of The Mother (the one where she has a tray of flowers she is handing out) and when I get drawn into the stress and anxiety and impatience that is floating around, I am making a sincere effort to remember to look at Her picture to help me step back, to help me offer all the movements that I don't want to Her, to help me Concentrate if only for a few seconds. There is much work to be done, but I have faith that Her Grace and Protection are always with me and each day is a blessing, an opportunity to make a little progress.”
“I wasn’t able to be fully present last Friday, but I watched the recording and it has been so helpful. It feels like you have condensed so much of what I have learned over the last 6 months through different courses and reading. The focus on consciousness is also something that resonates.”
“Thank you for your sessions. I am now going over and over the notes and videos, redoing the practices and integrating them into the reflexes… most needed.”
“It is always a new and deeper experience. Thank you James.”