Part II – Ajayan Borys, Effortless Mind
Ajayan has been exploring and teaching a variety of meditation practices since 1970. In the early 70′s, he spent several years studying in residence under Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, founder of the Transcendental Meditation Program®. For the next ten years, Ajayan taught the TM Program®. Since then he has traveled the globe continuing an impassioned exploration of consciousness and developing human potential through various meditation and yogic practices.
From 1994 to 1998 Ajayan studied with India’s most widely revered living woman saint, Mata Amritanandamayi (Ammachi, the “hugging saint”), living at her main ashram in Kerala, India, and serving as the meditation teacher there. While in India Ajayan also spent time with holy men and yogis in the Himalayas of Uttaranchal—a haven for saints throughout the ages—and researched the spiritual practices indigenous to that area. Having made a study of meditation his life, and having instructed and guided thousands in meditation in North America, Australia, Europe, and India, Ajayan has gained wide renown as a consummate meditation teacher.
Ajayan is a registered hypnotherapist in Washington state, a Reiki Master, and a certified Enneagram teacher. Ajayan Borys (aka Henry James Borys) is author of Effortless Mind: Meditate with Ease (New World Library, 2013), The Way of Marriage: A Journal of Spiritual Growth through Conflict, Love, and Sex (Purna Press, 1991; HarperCollins, 1993), The Sacred Fire: Love as a Spiritual Path (HarperCollins, 1994), and numerous articles on meditation and relationships as a spiritual path. In 2010, Ajayan launched Mind Matters Radio on the Healthy You Radio Network.
Hello everybody. We’re back. I’m Caryn Hartglass. You’re listening to It’s All About Food here on December 3rd, 2013. OK, now I want to take some good, low, deep breaths in…out. We’re going to be doing a lot of breathing this next half hour, I think. Breathing is really good. I really enjoy it. I don’t know what I would do if I wasn’t breathing. Alright. We’re going to bring on my next guest, Ajayan Borys. He has been exploring and teaching a variety of meditation practices since 1970. In his younger life, he studied in residence under Maharishi Mahash Yogi, founder of the Transcendental Meditation Program, and spent a decade teaching the Qi ‘M program. In the mid-90s he studied with India’s most widely revered contemporary female saint, known as the Hugging Saint Ammachi, serving as the meditation teacher at her ashram in Karal, India. He also spent time with holy men and yogis in the Himalayas of the Uttaranchal, a haven for saints throughout the ages, where he researched the spiritual practices indigenous to that area. He’s a registered hypnotherapist, Reiki master, certified anagram teacher. He is the author of Effortless Mind: Meditate with Ease, which we are going to be talking about today, as well as a number of other books.
Caryn Hartglass: Welcome to It’s All About Food, Ajayan.
Ajayan Borys: Thank you so much, Caryn. It’s great to be here.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, well first I wanted to tell you I talked about earlier in the show that I was so energized and feeling really good and I want to tell you why: because I just read your book earlier today and the whole time I’m reading it, I kept saying, “I want to do my yoga practice and I want to jump into my meditation practice.” And I just had this image almost like a dog holding a leash waiting to go for a walk with great anticipation. I just wanted to finish the book so that I could get into my practice. You know, I haven’t been meditating for a few weeks because…I don’t know. The holidays came along, I had a lot to do, and these things just happen. And I was so glad to just read the book because it got me back to where I’m happiest.
Ajayan Borys: Alright. That’s a very high compliment. Thank you very much.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, it’s true.
Ajayan Borys: That’s exactly why I wrote the book. As you know, having read it, it actually gives instruction on how to meditate. It’s not a theoretical book. It covers some real basic practices. That’s its purpose: to inspire people to meditate. I think it’s good for us.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes. So, in the first part of the book you give several levels of the kind of meditation that you do and promote and you start out with the easiest version, which really is very simple. Then you add—I don’t want to say several layers of difficulty—but just a little more things to not think about.
Ajayan Borys: That’s right.
Caryn Hartglass: Because we don’t want to be thinking. We don’t want to apply effort but we can do a few more things with the meditation in terms of adding mantras and adding more things to feel and go with. And they’re easy. They really are easy. And then further on in the book there are a bunch of other things you talk about that I would like to touch on. Now, I started meditating really seriously in 2007. I had been diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer. 10-20% survival rate. I was already a vegan on a healthy diet. It just didn’t make any sense and through a year and a half, I went through all kinds of stuff. But when it was time for the third surgery, because they made a mistake in the second surgery not finding what they should have, I decided I really needed to do some extra special things. I created this meditation program for myself, which worked really well. In fact, I have the blood test results that show that my tumor was shrinking when I started this meditation.
Ajayan Borys: Wow.
Caryn Hartglass: I really enjoyed reading your method because mine was just something I just threw together and it worked but I am now going to start investigating the things that you recommend because I think it will only be good.
Ajayan Borys: Well, great. I think it’s wonderful that you explored it yourself and came up with a practice that worked for you and helped your health. That’s just fantastic. I think that’s actually fairly rare because before I ever received any instruction—this was way back when I was in high school back in the late 60s—I tried to meditate and I couldn’t get anywhere with it. It wasn’t until I was taught. I think for most people that’s really helpful so more power to you if you actually had a practice that was working for you.
Caryn Hartglass: I mean, I was very motivated.
Ajayan Borys: Sure. That’s the best kind of meditator. In all my years of teaching, I love to get students that are really motivated. When I first learned, I was really motivated because I was a mess. I needed meditation. This actually raises an interesting point, you know. People sometimes feel like they can’t meditate because they can’t have a quiet mind or they maybe need some particular talent to be able to do it and that’s not true. The more messed up, the more your mind is going wild, the more important it is to meditate. Thinking that you have to have a certain talent to meditate is like thinking you have to be in perfect health to go to the doctor. The doctor’s here for those of us who need it. We all need meditation and anyone can do it even if your mind is just filled with thoughts all the time.
Caryn Hartglass: I do this show for a number of reasons, but I have a passion about food and I really believe that food can help us reach a much better place in the quality of our lives and it can do dramatic things to our personal health, the health of the plant, and certainly based on what we choose to eat, we can be a lot more compassionate to the other species that we share this planet with. But I also believe in nourishing the mind, the body, and the spirit. From time to time I talk about subjects like this, like meditation, because it’s like food for the soul, food for the spirit. It’s the most important thing, I think, that we can do for ourselves.
Ajayan Borys: Yeah. And just by the way, I talk a little bit about food in my book. I think that’s very important too.
Caryn Hartglass: I was very happy to see that when I got there.
Ajayan Borys: Yeah, it’s incredibly important to our health. As a side note, it also has an impact on the quality of your meditation. How you eat does affect the way your mind works and it will affect the quality of your meditation. Eating really healthy, fresh, organic foods is certainly going to be helpful for your mental health and for the depth and clarity of your meditation.
Caryn Hartglass: Now, something that I was thinking about which I don’t think I thought about before…but I always like to see parallels in patterns in life, like there’s some divine plan and there are lots of different patterns that we can see on a microscopic level that repeat itself on a macroscopic level. I love that. I was thinking about when it comes to food, when we are eating a standard American diet filled with lots of saturated fat, processed food, and lots of animal products, our arteries get really blocked and clogged. Then when you were talking about the chakras and purifying ourselves, we have an energy blockage and we’re coated with all kinds of stuff that we need to clear and clean.
Ajayan Borys: Right. And that’s a beautiful point. Actually, even in the writings of the ancient texts that come out of India, they talk about the effect of poor diet that will have an effect of blocking the “nade.” The nade are the subtle channels in the body for the flow of subtle energy. The flow of subtle energy is correlated with higher consciousness, greater clarity, greater joy, improved health, and all that. So, again, it’s all interrelated. If you eat poorly, simply you’re not going to feel the same energy but also on the level of the energetic body, it can cause blockages. It’s all interrelated, all these different layers of our being.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes. Now, you and your wife both had health issues that you were able to resolve somewhat holistically through meditation and Reiki.
Ajayan Borys: Right, right. In the case of my wife, she had breast cancer and we went to work with just the means that we had available before she took the route of further allopathic care. So we did reiki on her twice a day. She actually has trained me as a Reiki master. She’s been a reiki master for many years so I was doing Reiki on her. She also did a lot of visualization of healing there and then she went into the doctor and he did the exam. I forget what kind of exam, whether it was an x-ray or some other type of exam, but what he found was that where the tumor had been was now just coal. The vascular system that had fed the tumor was withering away and he was just amazed because it hadn’t been that long; it had only been a few weeks since his first exam and detection of the tumors. This all happened very quickly. So that was an amazing approach. And then I had, what do they call it? Hashimoto’s. That’s a big concern because basically your immune system is eating away at the thyroid’s ability to function. It’s going to knock out the thyroid and then you’re on thyroid medication for the rest of your life. I didn’t want to do that so I adjusted my diet. I think most importantly I got rid of gluten. Sure enough…I forgot how long a time passed but the next time I was tested, I was free of the Hashimoto’s. That’s considered an incurable illness so that was wonderful.
Caryn Hartglass: I don’t think anything’s incurable.
Ajayan Borys: Right. It’s so related to…things that we think of as incurable diseases are often so related to stress and diet and things that we actually keep doing have power to amend in our life.
Caryn Hartglass: So in the first part of the book you go into discussing how to meditate. For those of you who have tried and think you can’t or are afraid to or think that you can’t shut down your mind, it’s now about that at all. It’s really effortless, like you write, and I really recommend reading this just for that. Then in the second part, you talk about a lot of different things. One of the things was this: childhood innocence that we should have when we’re approaching everything in life pretty much. It just made me wonder: Do you think we have skills or some knowledge when we’re born that we kind of shut down after a few years?
Ajayan Borys: You know, I think you could look at it that way. I’m not an expert on child development so I just want to say that my expertise is meditation. I’m just taking a stab at this. I think that we certainly do have a kind of wonderful innocence and awe and openness from early on that, through our development, we can become somewhat jaded and layers of dross kind of covers that over to a degree—in varying degrees with different people of course. That is one of the things that I think meditation helps restore because it takes you from those sort of crusty layers of conscious mind to much more delicate, subtle layers of thought and feeling where there is this freshness and this juiciness and vitality of just the source of your being and life springing forth and so you get connected with that and it does give you a sense of freshness and innocence and openness and awe. It kind of restores that. I think this is one of the great things about meditation.
Caryn Hartglass: What’s great in your book is you’re really very flexible. It’s like it should be done this way but if you can’t do it this way, it’s OK. The bottom line is just do as much as you can and do it and everything else will fall into place. Like you shouldn’t meditate on a full stomach but if you happen to have a full stomach and you don’t have any other time to meditate, then it’s OK to meditate on a full stomach. I like that because people really get caught up in details and use them to keep them from doing what they need to do.
Ajayan Borys: That’s a great point. Yup. We do tend to make excuses and entropy can easily take over. Like I say, it’s ideal to mediate 20 minutes or something if you can get that in but if you can’t, even five minutes is better than skipping it all together. At least you start to establish that pattern in your life where you are meditating regularly. Whatever that length of time that works for you, you’re doing it and that’s to be congratulated. The funny thing is that a lot of people think that it’s a bit of a chore to meditate but this is another misconception. It’s actually a delight to meditate. And for your listeners, I just want to say that I’m not pulling your leg here. I’m not saying something that’s wishful. If you’re meditating in an easy, effortless way, which will help it to actually do what it’s supposed to do, then you will feel a wonderful joy from the practice. It can actually be quite blissful. For instance, people will say, “Ajayan, you must have a lot of discipline to meditate every day.” No, it’s not that at all. I’m a hedonist. It’s like they are congratulating me on eating two big bowls of ice cream. Now this might be the wrong station to say this on…
Caryn Hartglass: It could be coconut ice cream.
Ajayan Borys: Two beautiful scoops of your favorite ice cream. It feels like a luscious experience so don’t think of it as a chore. If it is a chore for you, then you might explore a little and find a different practice because meditation when it’s working really is wonderful.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s funny that you mention ice cream because when I did my yoga practice followed by meditation today, I wasn’t ready to use the mantras that you recommended because I had to memorize them with my chakras so I just did the first meditation that you recommended, going through the different chakras. I didn’t have a mantra but the word “dessert” kept popping into my head. It’s like I was having dessert. I was doing my yoga and I kept saying, “This is dessert” through the meditation. It felt like I was having dessert.
Ajayan Borys: Great. Well, that is the perfect experience. Wonderful.
Caryn Hartglass: So, let’s see. Moving more towards some other things in the book…You know, thanks to the media, and I’m being sarcastic about this, and our culture in general, we pick up little things about transcendental meditation or meditation in general. We know nothing about these things and we pick up little things, like the mantra “Om” and we can have a lot of fun with it and poke fun at it but you are not recommending using Om. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Ajayan Borys: Yes, just in brief. There’s a whole science to mantras so it’s not ever recommended to just picking and choosing a mantra that you think might be nice. It’s good to be taught and instructed by somebody who’s really studied this and really understand that science of the mantras. Just to be brief about Om in particular. OK, so Om is the primordial sound. It’s that primordial vibration of just pure being in the sort of unmanifest state before creation even really comes into existence. Again that primordial state of being. It’s the vibration of the unmanifest you could say. If you’re using Om a lot, you’re basically increasing that vibration of the unmanifest in your life. Things will start to fall away from you: different interests in the world, and engaging with other people, family life, career. These kinds of things will start to appeal less and less to you because you’re swinging in that vibration of the unmanifest. Now this is great if you want to be a monk or a nun. Of course in the culture of India where renunciation has held a high place in spiritual myths. That’s why the use of Om has been so prevalent in India but in some quarters it’s even forgotten that that is the mantra that’s ideal for that lifestyle. You want to pick a mantra that is going to be supportive of a healthier lifestyle, something that supports that creative engagement in life and progression of desire towards more and more and more. So anyway, that’s the kinds of mantras that are appropriate for most people in the West and even most people in the East.
Caryn Hartglass: Something we need to learn a lot more about. There’s a lot of magic in those sounds that I think most of us have no clue about. Then on the same subject of sounds, we have noise. After reading your book, and you have a whole section on noise and meditation…I live in New York City. It is not a quiet town. I was doing my meditation. I live right next to a park and there’s this one particular noise when the kids go down the slide it sounds like the world is going to end. It’s like beating on the biggest drum you can imagine. It’s this huge noise. I just heard that and I smiled to myself because you told me that noise is OK when I’m meditating.
Ajayan Borys: Right, right. Because noticing a sound in the environment, what is that? That’s a thought. Actually, first you have to understand that thoughts are also OK. Those are also part of the meditation. There’s so much to be said of thoughts in meditation. Our attitude towards thoughts in meditation tends to be the biggest obstacle to being successful in your meditation so I devote like a whole chapter to this. Once you understand that thoughts are OK, and I really recommend if anybody’s hung up about thoughts in meditation, please get the book and read that part especially because it will help you. So anyway, once you recognize thoughts are OK, then it follows naturally that also noises are OK because being aware of a sound in the environment is just a thought and you treat it just as any other thought. It’s fine that it’s there; you’re just not concerned with it and continue on with your practice. So anyway, that’s something that’s really important.
Caryn Hartglass: It helps us learn so much about ourselves and life in general because we could so easily fly off the handle from hearing some noise that’s grating and annoying. Sometimes some noises really are but with just a simple acknowledgment of what it is and reflecting and a shift, we can still remain at peace.
Ajayan Borys: Yes, absolutely. Over the years, I’ve meditated with buzz saws, with you name it. Loud, heavy metal music, even pile drivers outside my window in Europe where they’re building a resort right next to my building. I’ve meditated under all kinds of sounds. In the early days, some sounds really grated on me, like the buzz saws particularly. Nowadays no sound makes any difference whatsoever so you can definitely…you may find that you have an attitude about certain sounds but eventually even that will dissolve and you’ll find that it just doesn’t matter at all. Most of the time you won’t even notice the sounds.
Caryn Hartglass: So we have less than a minute left and I just wanted to say that the thing that I love about meditation is that it’s free and it’s a gift that we can give to ourselves. Every day it’s like dessert, only it’s good for us and no calories. It’s just such a wonderful thing. If you’re afraid to get started, this Effortless Mind is really a wonderful book to read and learn how to do it and benefit so much from it. Thank you for writing it, Ajayan.
Ajayan Borys: Thank you for having me. I love your attitude. I love it. Meditation is like dessert. That’s the perfect thing for this show.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m very grateful to your publicist, Suzanna Gratz. She’s directed me to numerous books that I’ve really enjoyed reading. I’m grateful to her and you picked a good one there.
Ajayan Borys: Yup. Susana is a great publicist. I love her. Again, Caryn, thank you so much for having me on your show.
Caryn Hartglass: OK, thank you. You’ve been listening to It’s All About Food. I’m Caryn Hartglass. Have a delicious week.
Transcribed 12/26/2013 by Jennie Steinhagen