By Leonard Perlmutter
In 1900, the average American lived to age 47. Today, in 2007, life
expectancy in the United States is 77. The statistics mean that with
the latest medical advances and wonder drugs you're likely to live
30 years longer than your grandparents.
Sound terrific? Well, maybe. Even though modern medicine has made it
possible to extend the days of our lives, our personal health care
skills lag well behind the scientific curve. We may live into our
eighties, nineties and beyond, but if we do not know how to deal
with the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual issues associated
with aging, our golden years may be a little tarnished.
If our personal karmas bring us the experience of old age, we will
surely have to deal with the diminution of our senses and the
inevitable loss of our most trusted and reliable friend: our body.
And no matter how strongly we protest, as the body becomes older and
more frail, our habitual attachments, fear, anger, depression and
unfulfilled expectations will color our retirement years and old
In the 1960s the political anthem for many in my generation was,
"Hell no, we won't go!" As I look back on those times, I see now
that much of the emotional intensity of the anti-war movement was
not only based on altruism, but perhaps even more on fear--the fear
of death and possible annihilation. As the Vietnam War ended, the
intense fear subsided--morphing into an insatiable desire for
material wealth and security. Today, as many people contemplate
passing from middle to old age, the fear of death is again spreading
throughout our culture. One obvious example is the burgeoning,
billion dollar cosmetic surgery industry. With a little nip, tuck
and Botox, the message is loud, clear and all too familiar: "Hell
no, we won't go!" But of course, the truth is that we all will
go--either kicking and screaming or with a calm trust and knowledge
that the Supreme Reality lies within us. Death, Yoga Science assures
us, is not the end, but a mere pause in an eternal journey.
If we identify exclusively with the body and mind throughout our
lives, without cultivating an awareness of and relationship with our
eternal nature, the aging process will be terribly painful. Our fear
of suffering and death comes from our attachment to the body. When
our attachment is great, our fears grow to mythic proportion with
each imagining of our eventual loss. If we cling to the past, we are
certain to experience resentment, fear and depression in the face of
the ruthless physical changes that are an inescapable part of life.
And none of our affluence and modern medical marvels will be able to
save us from the many physical, mental and emotional problems that
result from time's relentless advance.
But we need not cling to the past if we know our true nature.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Shri Krishna gives us this assurance: "There
has never been a time when you have not existed, nor will there be a
time when you will cease to exist. You were never born, nor will
you ever die. It is only the body which is born and which will die.
Your real Self is not the body. The eternal Self inhabits the body
through childhood, youth and old age. The person of wisdom is not
deluded by these changes."
The medical and scientific communities look at the same issue from a
different angle. They tell us the body we so thoroughly identify
with is constantly changing. It's not so much a thing as a process
(enabling consciousness to experience the world). In fact,
scientists claim that if you could somehow eliminate all the space
in the body, you could fit yourself into a peanut shell! If that's
the case, then who are we, really?
Yoga Science acknowledges that even though we have a body and mind,
we are neither. Our real Self is different. It is described as
Sat-Chit-Ananda: eternal (beyond birth and death), self-existent
consciousness, wisdom and bliss--not dependent on the body, the mind
or anything else for Its existence. The real Self was, is and always
shall be--beyond time; beyond space; beyond causation. The true aim
of life is to know the immortal Self while living in the material
world of change. If we are willing to experiment with our habits and
attachments we can overcome the fear of death by discovering answers
to life's most important questions: "Who am I? From where have I
come? Why am I here? What is to be done? Where shall I go?"
To help us discover the answers to these questions and to be free of
suffering, regardless of our age or circumstance, Yoga Science
provides reliable encouragement and concrete guidance. Yoga Science
teaches that human beings are not merely physical bodies, but
breathing, thinking and spiritual beings also--living with complex
thoughts, desires and emotions. In Yoga Science, the body is viewed
as a covering outside the mind, and the mind as a covering outside
the center of consciousness (the eternal soul or Atman).
All relationships, including those with the challenges of old age
and death, are means to reveal the eternal and changeless nature of
our real Self. "To every thing there is a season," the Old Testament
reminds us, "and a time to every purpose under heaven." From the
yogic perspective, the purpose of every passage--birth, youth,
middle age, old age and death--is to provide us new opportunities to
diminish the limitations of debilitating habits so the eternal
wisdom of the soul can guide us to an unimagined peace and
But in order to become the beneficiaries of such a blessed gift, we
must be willing to give up our attachment to the likes and dislikes
we've treasured. The scriptures of many traditions teach us that "It
is in giving that we receive." Recognizing that death is a natural
part of life, we must eventually give up our attachment to the body,
the mind and all the expert medical authorities who might have
previously given us temporary help in our journey.
If the karmas of our old age do ask all this of us, where are we to
turn for comfort? What is there to lean on? In what can we place our
faith? When our doctors can no longer treat our medical condition
and when the body, senses and mind are failing, the answer must lie
with the spirit. Unless we come to trust the perfect love and wisdom
of the eternal soul within us (Atman) at some point in this
life, we may know only desperation and fear in our old age.
To avoid such pain, the sages of ancient India looked at the human
life span as four distinct stages known as the Four Ashramas.
This wisely conceived framework considers every type of relationship
to be a means for spiritual unfoldment. The word ashram means
shelter, and the four ashramas acknowledge that human beings are
meant to take different shelters successively in each of the stages
of life's journey. The purpose of this system was to help the
individual soul (jivatma) merge with the universal soul or
God (paramatma), before the great transition of death. The process
of spiritual maturing culminates in total emancipation from the
pains, miseries and bondages of human existence. That state is known
as moksha, liberation or salvation.
Although the ashrama system may have simply reflected the
existing traditions of Hindu culture, the philosophy of
reprioritizing our view of what is and of what needs to be done at
different passages in our lives is essentially sound and immensely
beneficial. Here is a brief summary of the four ashramas.
(Student Life) 0-24 Years of Age
The student phase of life is guided first by parents, then by a
spiritual teacher (guru). The student learns to cultivate the
faculties of discrimination and will power, and becomes proficient
in breathing practices, Hatha Yoga and meditation. It is also a time
for learning a craft or trade in preparation for adulthood.
(Household Life) 25-49 Years of Age
This stage is marked by a dedication to seeking artha
(worldly security) and kama (pleasure and love). This
ashrama is for enjoying marriage, child-bearing, raising a
family, working and actively fulfilling one's duties to society.
(Retired Life) 50-74 Years of Age
Deepening the power of discrimination, detachment and will power,
the person begins the process of renouncing unnecessary material
desires and possessions. It is a time marked by selectively
withdrawing from those personal and business relationships that
retard spiritual inquiry. This is a stage of reconciliation, slow
change and personal spiritual development. The early years of
retirement are dedicated to deepening a
meditation and contemplation practice. The birth of one's child's
child is a clear indication that the Vanaprastha ashrama has
(Renunciation) 75-100 Years of Age
This is the stage of total surrender. The person becomes dedicated
exclusively to spiritual pursuits (moksha), and no longer
takes an active part in social, financial or political affairs. When
duties to family and society have been fulfilled the individual
withdraws to discover and explore the true meaning of life. It is a
time marked by intense devotion to meditation and contemplation.
Modern times are filled with innumerable temptations--some so subtle
we're hardly aware that we're acting on desire. Increasing numbers
of people today share the promise of a long life and more pleasures
than any previous generation could have imagined enjoying. Yet
whenever we experience the loss of a close friend or loved one, the
flood of external experiences slows to a trickle and we are reminded
that the death of our own body was assured the moment it was born.
Birth and death are the inevitable habits of the body.
Once again, Shri Krishna, speaking as the Lord of Life in the
Bhagavad Gita, is immeasurably comforting. "Make everything an
offering to me--even your suffering," Krishna says. "Thus will you
be free from karma's bondage. Give not your love to the transient
world of suffering, but give all your love to Me. Give Me your mind,
your heart and all your worship. Long for Me always, live for Me
always, and you shall be united with Me."
In the Christian scriptures, Shri Krishna's words are echoed by
Jesus the Christ in his profound pronouncement, "I have come to
bring you everlasting life." Yoga is the science and philosophy that
encourages us to experiment with the habits of a lifetime to confirm
this promise. Regardless of our age, when our meditation practice
deepens and we willingly place our trust and faith in the Divine
wisdom of the spirit, we too will make life's greatest discovery: we
are not the body; we are not the mind. We are immortal.
Every spiritual tradition is uncompromising on this point: if we
learn to face the challenging circumstances of aging with the same
confidence and discipline as the sage, we too will live our lives
free from fear and suffering and supported by an imperishable
wellspring of loving and nurturing energy.
My heart always sank at the smell of crayons, paste, and musty
textbooks that greeted me every September on the first day of
school. It meant summer vacation was over and for the next eon I
would spend my weekdays sitting at a desk, obediently doing boring
arithmetic drills, learning the capitals of countries I'd never
heard of, and dutifully practicing my penmanship. It would be ages
and ages till June swung round again and I could once more enjoy
three glorious months free from the daily grind of schoolwork.
Things have changed! Today the years slip away so fast I've barely
finished shipping Christmas gifts out to my niece and nephew before
it's time to go Christmas shopping again; in the blink of an eye
Troy and Kinney have aged a year and are expecting a new set of
presents. Time feels like a treadmill that's programmed to
continuously accelerate. I hear that at the moment of death we'll
experience our entire life-even if it lasted a hundred years-as if
it had flashed by in a split second. It's strange to remember that
when I was a child, the nine-month school year felt a century long.
Yes, I'm getting older, and so are the many Baby Boomers who took up
yoga in the 1960s and '70s. Not so long ago we rolled our eyes when
our grandparents grumbled about their arthritis or failing eyesight.
Now we complain about aching bodies that no longer easily stretch
into the Archer's Pose, and about not being able to read the tiny
fonts they use on the yoga DVD liners. It seemed natural, even just,
that our grandparents were aging. But it feels uncomfortable, even
obscene, now that it's our turn.
I was recently introduced to a man my age named Joseph who told me
his blood pressure is getting alarmingly high. His new doctor is
strongly supportive of alternative medicine, so before prescribing
medication to help reduce his blood pressure, she recommended he
start a regular exercise regime and begin doing Hatha Yoga. Joe was
too embarrassed to admit he's been jogging for decades and has been
practicing yoga since his early 20s. In fact, he's been teaching
Intermediate Yoga for nearly 15 years!
Joseph confessed to me that he feels betrayed by his yoga practice.
"I did everything right. Why is my health deteriorating now that I'm
getting older? Wasn't yoga supposed to prevent this?"
Yoga does indeed prevent or alleviate many medical problems, and
that's just one of many ways it helps to improve the quality of our
lives. But as my spiritual teacher, Swami Rama of the Himalayas,
frequently reminded us, "Death and decay are inevitable. Only a fool
thinks although disease and death come for everyone else, they will
never arrive for him."
Somehow many of us have so completely sold ourselves on yoga's
health benefits, we've forgotten what else it can do. By
conscientiously practicing meditation, contemplation, and
self-study, we can also develop the strength and equanimity to face
the declining health that the passage of time inevitably delivers to
It's a myth that yoga can confer physical immortality. Even the
remarkable sages who practice kaya kalpa, a technique that
allows them to periodically regenerate their bodies, are said to
live no more than a few centuries. Eventually, no matter how many
times you revitalize it, the body breaks down. That's why the vast
majority of yogis focus not on kaya kalpa but on their
immortal soul, which unlike the body, can stand the test of time.
Consider for a moment some of the very greatest yogis of the past
century: Ramana Maharshi, Ramakrishna Paramahansa, Swami Rama, and
Rangjung Rigpe Dorje (the 16th Karmapa from Tibet). All died of
cancer, despite the fact that they were very advanced adepts.
(Somewhat mysteriously, Swami Rama referred to cancer as "the yogis'
disease.") In the end they couldn't-or wouldn't-simply dissolve
their malignant tumors using their yogic powers. Swami Rama and the
Karmapa both "rearranged" their tumors, shifting them from one part
of their body to another on different days-as attested by attending
physicians in both cases-but they didn't expel the cancer from their
bodies. Rather than complaining that their years of spiritual
practice should have earned them an exemption from suffering, they
accepted their failing health as a natural part of the cycle of
I doubt that dying of cancer was a picnic even for these great
sages. Ramakrishna for example was disappointed that the tumor in
his throat prevented him from singing to God. Yet with remarkable
composure, insight and humor, these adepts continued serving others
literally until their last breath. Yoga masters like these teach us
how to live; they also show us how to grow old gracefully and face
death with confidence.
Yoga is more than a series of physical postures. It's a state of
mind, or rather a state beyond mind. It's shifting the focal point
of our awareness to that transcendent center of our being that never
changes, even as everything around us-including our own body-fades
away. By plunging deep within again and again, we center ourselves
in pure consciousness that never ages or passes away. The courage,
resilience and wisdom to face declining health and ultimately our
mortality emanates from this tranquil base in eternity.
The Karma of Aging
Here's what I advised Joseph. According to the yoga tradition there
are three grades of karma:
1. Karma that can easily be changed (like deciding to sit for
meditation rather than watching TV as you had planned).
2. Karma that can only be changed with considerable effort (like
going back to school to study naturopathy if the field of business
management you'd previously trained for isn't satisfying).
3. Karma coming to you for good or ill that can't be prevented.
Inevitable karma represents the lessons we can't negotiate our way
out of. While most karma can be redirected through the conscious
application of our free will, there are some experiences in life
we're destined to go through whether we like it or not. This might
be something positive like a wonderful marriage or a financial
windfall, or it could be something negative like a divorce, an
accident, or the ailments and debility that often accompany aging.
Negative experiences can be hard to accept. In the Garden of
Gethsemane even Jesus prayed that the cup of suffering appearing
before him be removed. But when he saw that death was inevitable, he
calmly accepted his Divine Father's will. In yoga too, the last of
the ten yogic observances (the famous yamas and niyamas)
is Ishvara pranidhana, "surrender to God's will." When we
have made every sincere attempt to avert a negative outcome and it
materializes anyway, it's time for Ishvara pranidhana.
I told Joseph his commitment to Hatha Yoga may well have helped him
stave off high blood pressure for years. (In fact, his father had
developed the same condition at a much earlier age.) But the nature
of the lessons life has to offer him are beginning to change. For
years he was given the lessons that came with a youthful, vigorous
body and full engagement with life. Now he's beginning to face a new
set of challenges. Aging will gradually force him to release his
tight mental grip on his physical body, which may become a less and
less reliable vehicle for his soul. The appearance of wrinkles,
graying hair, the sagging chin represent the compassionate fingers
of Mother Time (the goddess Kali in India) prying our sense
of identity from our slowly deteriorating physical form, and
beginning to prepare us for the next leg of our spiritual journey
which will not involve a physical body at all.
In America today the signs of aging are signals that it's time to
make an appointment with a plastic surgeon. In classical Indian
culture reaching age 50 meant it was time to gradually begin
withdrawing your attention from worldly preoccupations, and increase
the amount of time you spend meditating, listening to spiritual
allegories and instructions, and chanting the names of God.
Economic, political and other material concerns were passed on to
the next generation, while the elders of the community turned their
attention to their spiritual health. In our culture physical health
is everything; spiritual health is rarely a priority, even in old
I suggested to Joseph that yoga is not just about averting bad
outcomes like poor health, but developing the equanimity to face
challenging karma we can't avoid with cheerfulness and good grace.
This is what constitutes authentic spiritual maturity. If we've
become wise enough to successfully manage our businesses and stock
portfolios, but lack the wisdom to face the inevitable changes we'll
face as we age, we're still spiritual adolescents. "What profits a
man if he gains the entire world but loses his soul?" (Mark 8:36)
Lessons in Life
Giving advice to others is always easier than following it oneself.
What I didn't tell Joseph was that I've struggled with bouts of
sorrow myself as I watched both my parents succumb to Alzheimer's,
and as both my husband and I fought cancer.
As a schoolchild surrounded by boxes of crayons and jars of paste, I
learned to add and subtract and memorized the multiplication table.
In high school I tackled geometry and trigonometry; in college I
took up calculus and statistical analysis. As I continued on to
graduate school the math got harder and there was less time to
master it. But if there's one thing I've discovered with the passage
of the years it's that life itself is the toughest university. And,
like math, our lessons can become more difficult the older we get.
The crises we face as we get older are the tests we're required to
take to see whether we've actually learned anything from our
lifetime of experiences.
I couldn't have made it through the tests placed before me without
Yoga. The Yoga tradition helps us place all our experiences,
wonderful and not-so-wonderful, in a wider spiritual context which
helps us understand why things happen the way they do. It gives us
simple, but astonishingly powerful tools like diaphragmatic
breathing and alternate nostril breathing to help us stay calm
during the turbulent cycles of our lives. Directly and efficiently,
it puts us in touch with the deeper resources freely available at
the center of our being.
I believe that as Joseph continues to mature he'll find that far
from letting him down, his Yoga practice will buoy him through
whatever rough waters may lie ahead.
As all of us pass through our 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s, we have the
option to fight with the effects of time, or to accept gratefully
the lessons the aging process was designed to teach. These years of
increasing maturity can be the most fulfilling of all, as we ripen
into the rich wisdom and enduring beauty of our true being.
Linda Johnsen, M.S., is a regular contributor to "Transformation"
and the noted author of eight books on spirituality, including "Kirtan!
Chanting as a Spiritual Path" and "Lost Masters: The Sages of
AMI Founder and Director
Member: International Association of Yoga Therapists
Yoga Self-Therapy is
based on the perennial psychology of yoga science. Each
individual counseling session will teach you how to free
yourself from habits and expectations that cause stress and
give rise to illness. By observing and training your internal
processes, you can become creative in all relationships while
establishing a state of personal contentment. By learning to
rely on your own Divine inner wisdom you become free to make
choices in life that continually improve your physical, mental
and emotional wellbeing.
AMI Home Center, 60 Garner Road, Averill Park
By appointment only.
Casting off the body voluntarily and joyfully as the yogis do (in
the practice of maha-samadhi) is within the power of
everyone, but not many people will learn to do it. While this
practice is remote and seemingly unattainable, it does serve as an
inspiration for most people that life can be viewed differently from
the ordinary, and that death need not be something a person must
wait for and endure helplessly.
If it is true that maha-samadhi is not practically attainable
for the average person, then how is death to be perceived? Must
death just be that dark mist that creeps into everyone's existence
whenever it pleases, snatching people who are unwilling and
unprepared, from their lives? How can ordinary people be prepared
for their own deaths and for the deaths of those close to them? How
does a person diminish the sting of death, and can people be truly
comforted by the fact that death is universal and certain?
The fear of death stems from attachment. People are attached to
their bodies and they identify with their bodies. The thought of the
end of the body is understandably terrifying because it means the
end to their assumed identity and existence. As long as we remain in
ignorance and think that we are one with the body and its gross and
subtle forms, we fear death and remain under the sway of death. The
greatest obstacle in the path of realization is attachment to the
body and to the objects of the world. This attachment makes us
slaves, and because of our attachments we experience fear of death
and loss. The more body-conscious and body-attached a person is, the
greater the fear of dying.
The same principle applies to people who are attached to the things
of the world: to their houses, property, clothing, jewelry, and
money. They fear losing those things because they somehow offer
meaning, identity, and worth. People also become very attached to
other people. The emotion they feel for others gives them an
identity and they fear giving up that identity in death. They fear
the deaths of those to whom they are attached for similar reasons.
If one's identity is somehow defined by attachment to others, the
death of others affects that identity.
The solution is to do away with these attachments to the body,
property, possessions and other people. This point cannot be made
often enough. Reducing and finally eliminating attachments does not
mean to escape life, to deny the enjoyment of life, or in any way to
diminish life's value. Just the opposite occurs. Life is enhanced,
enriched and expanded by reducing attachments. The person learns to
love and give and open up to others and to the events of the world.
Attachment means to grip, grasp, and hold on tightly. When death
comes all that was being clutched and grasped is wrenched away. The
tighter something is held, the greater will be the wrenching away
and the deeper will be the pain. If life has been led with open
hands--with no attachments--then death comes but there is nothing to
be wrenched away.
We cannot all of a sudden wake one moment and let go of all
attachments. It is a lifetime's work to undo the habit of forming
attachments and requires attention every day, because the
attractions and temptations of the world constantly work to
While spiritual seekers work on nonattachment, they must at the same
time develop some understanding of what death is and what it does.
Does death merely mean the end of life? Is it just this horrible
event that comes without invitation, like some evil that crawls in
From an Eastern metaphysical point of view, death cannot end life.
The body stops and a person's moment in a particular blip of time
and space ends. The individual does not end. From this perspective
death does not appear dark and horrible. Death is as natural as
birth, even as miraculous and beautiful as birth. Death, as well as
birth, leads to life and growth.
In such a perspective, an individual enters a blip of time and space
for a specific purpose and for a specific span of time. It is like
plowing and sowing a field in the spring. The time and conditions
are right to accomplish a purpose. The job must be done then. When
the job is completed, there is no reason to remain in the field.
Then it is time to wait, allow the seeds to sprout and the crops to
grow. When the growing season is done, it is time to revisit the
field--another purpose, another time.
That is the way human existence is. The world is like a field. An
individual comes and prepares the field at the right time and goes
away until it is the right time again to return and reap the
An individual's visit to worldly existence can be spoken of in terms
of energy, or time and space, or karma, or a number of other
philosophical notions. The philosophies declare that an individual
has or is energy and that energy cannot be destroyed, only
transmuted. The philosophies state that individuals enter specific
time and space continuums and then leave them, moving onto others.
They argue that an individual's karma drives his existence from one
form to another, for certain experiences and for specific lengths of
time. These philosophies can be useful and comforting. But
regardless of all their understanding of philosophies, the idea of
death looms in all people and sometimes all the readings of the
world's philosophies cease to be effective. Death remains an event
we must face alone. Only our own philosophy--that which we have
personally realized--matters at the time of death.
Death is an individual's confrontation with the most fundamental
fear. Whatever self-transforming work a person does in life, no
matter what forms her or his philosophy takes, the imagining of the
moment of death is frightening. To some degree all people experience
fear of dying. We can tell ourselves with varying degrees of
certainty that death is not so scary. We can say it is merely a
change from one state of existence or awareness to another. We can
say that at least death means an end to the pain of life, or perhaps
it is a gateway to an everlasting life. Whatever we comfort
ourselves with, there are still bubbles of fear present. We fear
death. That fear, great or small, becomes more intense and focused
at the actual moment of departure from this world. All philosophies
are set aside as this fear becomes real.
But this natural fear can also potentially be of great benefit. It
draws the dying person's attention and concentrates it. How and upon
what a dying person focuses reflects the contents of the life just
lived and sets in motion the life to be lived next.
Death is the critical moment of taking all the experiences,
thoughts, actions, memories, all that was spread and diffused over
one's life, cramming it into a single dot, a single moment, and
pushing it through a pinhole of time and space. The energy employed
in the thrust of that momentum and all that is with it, and pushing
it through is enormous. It is sufficient to shape another life.
How we come to that pinhole, what we bring to it, and how we pass
through it, are queries of tremendous importance. How life is lived,
the journey that takes a person to death, are matters of immense
The comparison is often made between sleeping and dying. How a day
is spent determines the quality of sleep that night. If a person
goes to bed full of regrets, fears, and the feeling of being
unfulfilled and discontent, sleep will be fitful and all those
negative thoughts will be carried into the next day, largely
determining the quality of that day. Unfulfilled desires of one day
will penetrate into the next day and affect that day's mental and
emotional tone. The new day is in effect a continuation of the sort
of sleep that ended the previous day.
Go into sleep free and contented so the next day can be embraced
fully and its value and purpose can best be attained and
appreciated. Do your best with the day at hand, and let go. Tomorrow
will take care of itself. Each day has its own value and its own
The same phenomenon occurs in death. The quality of life to the
moment of death largely determines the state of mind of the dying
person. In death the mind becomes very focused. It is a moment of
true meditation, of very solid one-pointedness. If a person's life
has been characterized by fear and dread, then those qualities will
be magnified at the time of death. If a person has led an
undisciplined life, then death will come in a similarly
Death is beyond the control of a person who has led his life without
purpose or discipline. If a person has not controlled the body or
the mind, nor channeled the urges for food, sleep and sex, then the
moment of death will be beyond his control. All the unfulfilled
desires, all the fears, and all the tendencies to want to satisfy
one's urges willfully abound at the time of death, as undisciplined
as they were throughout life. Whatever follows in that person's
existence will be determined by that internal commotion, just as the
restless, anxiety-ridden sleep of the night determines the quality
of the following day.
However, the person who has led a disciplined life and has learned
to let go of attachment, can pass gracefully from this life and into
the next. This person can leave like a guest who knows the visit is
over. Her purpose of life has been accomplished. With an exhalation
she departs. She simply goes--knowing that the reality is
within--eternal, unaffected by, and independent of the people and
things of the world that must be left behind.
In India, it is the tradition to remind others and oneself that when
a soul's moment has come to depart this world, let it depart. That
soul no longer belongs in this time and space. Let it go.
At the time of death in India the second chapter of the Bhagavad
Gita is read as a reminder to be both fearless in the face of death,
and to contemplate the journey of the soul. At the start of the
second chapter, Arjuna is faced with the prospect of death. He is
afraid, grieving, and depressed. His teacher, Krishna, tells him not
to be afraid, not to fall into weakness, but to arise like fire.
"Why all this emotion because of death?" Krishna asks him. Life and
death are part of the same turning wheel, each one half of the
circle, each moving and turning with and toward the other.
From "Sacred Journey," by Swami Rama. ©1996, Himalayan
International Institute, India.
The Heart and Science of Yoga:
A Blueprint for Peace, Happiness and Freedom from Fear
Review by Gregg St. Clair, Healing Springs Journal
We live in
glorious times don't we? We have information available to us
today that we never transferred to only an inner circle of top
students. This usually involved years of dedication proving
your desire to learn, followed by years of practice in the
more external realms of knowledge, and only then would a
master be willing to share the deepest levels of their art,
most highly guarded secrets. But today every esoteric subject
matter is available through books or just a quick click away
on the world wide web.
Everything has pluses and minuses and this is no exception.
Yes, it is all right there for us, but so is fast food. So how
do we discriminate what is valuable or not for our total well
being? Trial and error is, of course, an option, and something
most people have to go through on their path--be it with diet,
exercise or meditation. But when you find the right thing you
know it. This is how I felt when I read The Heart and
Science of Yoga: A Blueprint for Peace, Happiness and Freedom
from Fear by Leonard Perlmutter. I keep wanting to call it
the "Art" instead of the "Heart," probably from being
conditioned by other book titles, but "Heart" definitely works
better. Why? Because you can tell that that is where the book
comes from and that is where it is aimed.
The Heart and Science of Yoga is a manual showing how
ancient wisdom can help us with life today in an increasingly
chaotic world. No longer does one need to travel to India to
learn the deepest secrets of yoga for it is all contained in
this one book. Some might claim that there is too much
information (and at 538 pages they may be right), but not me.
It is written in a style so easy to read and so relevant to
spiritual development today that its information will be
beneficial, almost crucial, for everyone, not just yoga
Leonard Perlmutter has something rare among yoga practitioners
and meditation instructors today, not only a blessing from his
famous teacher Swami Rama, but a direct request to pass on the
knowledge he transferred to him and to become a full time
teacher. Leonard and his wife Jenness have founded and operate
the American Meditation Institute in Averill Park, New York--a
short drive from the capital city of Albany. A tranquil oasis,
the Perlmutters are dedicating their lives to creating
positive change in the world based on the teachings of yoga
with meditation as the key.
The book covers in detail the eight limbs of yoga is of course
more than different contortionist postures and includes a
blueprint for spiritual growth including, proper disciplines,
proper conduct, proper exercise, proper breathing, proper
control of the senses, proper concentration, proper meditation
and finally self realization. I particularly like how they use
quotations and references from all of the worlds religions,
including literature and even current sources (did you know
Elvis was a guru?), making the book very accessible if not
down right enjoyable to read.
With the invention of the airplane, the telephone and now the
world wide web, it has become obvious that it is one world and
we must act together if there is going to be hope for the
future. Unfortunately people become so caught up in their own
realities that they fail to see the bigger picture. But we are
spiritual beings, and as we busy ourselves with the illusions
of the world it separates us from our spirit, creating a
source of suffering that is only going to continue. I take
comfort in the fact that yoga has an 8000 year old history and
though I am a scientist, I don't need another double blind
study to know that it works. The key is, we have to practice
something to take control of our mind & lives, or they will
take control of us. If you are looking for a tried and true
system that has helped millions of people, then The Heart
and Science of Yoga is the perfect companion. I recommend
it for everybody.
All events are held at the AMI Home Center in Averill Park unless
Every Sunday Meditation & Satsang is FREE
Every Sunday 9:30-11:00 AM. Love donations accepted.
SEP 4 - OCT 9:
Tues. Nights: "The Heart and Science of Yoga,"
6:30 - 8:30 PM with AMI founder Leonard Perlmutter (6 weeks)
SEP 10 - OCT 15:
Monday Nights, Kathleen Fisk, 6:30 - 8:00 PM, (6 weeks)
GOLF AS YOGA
Saturday evening, Leonard Perlmutter & Dave Mahoney, 6:30 - 9:00 PM,
SEP 17 - OCT 29:
Monday Nights, 6:30 - 8:30 PM, Chs. 16 & 17 (6 weeks)
AMI Meditation: "The Heart and Science of Yoga"
Thurs. Night, 6:30 - 7:30 PM, Mary Holloway & Doreen Howe
OCT 10 - OCT 24:
THE ART OF JOYFUL LIVING
A Study of Patanjali's "Yamas and Niyamas"
Weds. Nights, 6:30 - 8:30 PM, (3 weeks)
AMI Meditation: "The Heart and Science of Yoga"
Thurs. Night, 6:30 - 7:30 PM, Mary Holloway & Doreen Howe
OCT 16 - NOV 20:
Tues. Nights: "The Heart and Science of Yoga,"
6:30 - 8:30 PM with AMI founder Leonard Perlmutter (6 weeks)
OCT 22 - NOV 26:
Monday Nights, Kathleen Fisk, 6:30 - 8:00 PM, (6 weeks)
NOV 5 - DEC 10:
Monday Nights, 6:30 - 8:30 PM, Ch. 18 (6 weeks)
a Friend about AMI
If you know someone who might benefit from our American Meditation class, let them know
about the AMI program or call us with their name and address and we'll send them a
brochure with our current class schedule.
Karma Yoga --- the practice of selfless and skillful action
If, as part of your practice, you have a few extra hours during the week
and are interested in helping grow the American Meditation Institute, we need your
dedicated, volunteer energy. As a student of yoga science, you are already familiar with
the kinds of practical services the Institute provides. Each month we write, edit and
publish this newsletter, teach an average of thirty new meditation students and present
stress-reduction seminars to various businesses and organizations. We also invite visiting
speakers of interest to our area, organize seminars on yoga science and do continuing
Our immediate needs include press relations, seminar management,
clerical assistance and general delivery work. Remember, whatever time or talents you
possess will be put to meaningful, productive use.
If you have the time, please call the Institute at (518) 674-8714.
©Copyright 2007 American Meditation Institute for Yoga Science & Philosophy. All