Thursday, 28 November 2013

SOJA - "Strength To Survive" - a review

Lately I have started listening to a lot of reggae again. It all started through an interview I saw with HR (singer of Bad Brains). He reminded my all things good about reggae, while he spoke about always being composed and rooted in yourself. These are things that I myseld try to implement, and HR and good reggae music help me find that grounded sense of being, and help me be composed and centrered.

On to SOJA. This 'new reggae' band does it just fine for me, since it is basically good old roots reggae music with a positive message which (on this album) focuses on the topic of surviving in this babylon world. Exactly what I need. Honestly, during these troubling times sometimes it helps to go back to the basics and remember that surviving is the essence of life. It helps a lot to go back to being survival-centered. It is the base for bigger things, because being all about survival helps you take the right decisions in life, take care of yourself etc. So Strength to Survive is the best title I could think of for a chilled out roots rock reggae album.

The album is filled with nice, laid back rocking grooves and positive messages, and I have to say that SOJA really knows how to make a nice reggae song with all the right components. Nice melodies, great verses, choruses that are catchy but aren't ridiculously sweet or anything. There are songs about life in babylon, love songs, personal growth songs -- it's all right here. The lyrics are uplifting a a whole, but that doesn't exclude a bit of melancholy in there, where we hear stories of reminsicing about better times past or about what could be. A great cover art ties everything together nicely and gives of a nice Peace feeling.

I am just happy to have this album to rock to while working those hectic shifts, serving customers and trying to give off a good vive to them, cleaning the shop or just kicking back and taking it easy for a while. I will definitely be looking for more albums of SOJA to discover and listen to in depth.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Circa Survive - "Blue Sky Noise" review (2010)

Circa Survive is one of the numerous indie/experimental rock bands that I have been getting into lately. Over the last year and especially in the last few months, all kinds of modern rock with a distinct indie character has been growing on me. This is a big change for me, after years upon years of only listening to the more simple, brutal and straightforward stuff in the realm of punk and hardcore. I don't know if it is a part of growing older or whatever, but I am not resisting to more mainstream/mellow music anymore, as long as it rocks my world and makes me feel good. And Circa Survive does that.

Blue Sky Noise was released in 2010 and it is a perfect example of that brainy, experimental, melancholic indie that I am talking about. There is an important dose of distortion and rocking, but mostly we have easy listening, wide choruses and verses with perfect, innovative drumming that goes all around the spectrum of experimental rock music, and nice multi varied guitars. This pop rock gem brings in elements from many genres, including modern stadium rock, some straight up pop, a good dose of heavy emo, some country-ish guitar layering, a little bit of gospel, and much much more.

It is the type of record that you have to listen many times until you really get it (something that I haven't accomplished yet, I am going for 30-40 listens at least on this one), and of course the records that grow on me slowly are my favorite kind of records. You can play this in a room with people and it could go down as some nice American indie rock, but when you sit down alone and listen to the record, you can recognise its subtle, almost dispassionate beauty that creeps in and inevitably grows on you. These apparently happy songs slowly become fence sitters on the whole happy/sad agenda, giving you a strong bittersweet feeling and ultimately leaving you wanting more to reenact the whole thing.

Extra points go out for: multi-layered and varied guitar work, unusual drum patterns, equally unusual high-pitched vocals that somehow work, nice cover artwork which displays the whole contrast the music expresses.

Links Updated

I just uploaded some new links. Mostly straightforward Krishna-related stuff, like (where you can download many of Prabhupadas lectures, kirtans etc) and Krishna Store (where you can find KC books and meditation equipment). Check it all out if that's your sort of thing. I also uploaded the link of Beyond This World Records, which is my new record label project.

I never saw myself as the devout person who would share links about Krishna, but I guess that it does help me to get all organised about Krishna. After all building one's life around Krishna so you can see, feel and hear Him as much as possible is a blissful thing.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

spiraled downwards

Sometimes you can sure be tired of being good. People like me, all our lives we tried to get away from our beast of an ego, and we are proud because we did, but then again we realize that it is always there. It won't go. Our negative side still exists within us.

I feel like the more you progress down a spiritual path, the bigger the risk of falling there is. In reality, there is nothing to fall from, no fall from grace, but our ego goes through all kinds of tribulations and walks on a razor's edge in the eternal fight between right and wrong.

I got a steady life and a relatively good karma, but what good is it to the insatiable thirst? It is so easy to fuck things up. It is so damn easy to destroy, to let go, definitely easier than creating or even maintaining. What do you do when you are fed up with putting up, with  maintaing, while the beast inside is ready to rage? So much rage, anger, and shame, nothing but soulfood for the ego.

I guess it's the fight of "another day". Much like an ex-addict, you gotta take one day at a time in order to maintain. Prioritize. See what it took to be where you are, and that there is no need to let negative energy come in your life and destroy everything you've built. At the end of the day, every insult, every bad thought, every negative connotation is not reality, we just let it in to prey on us. And that's not the way of Krishna.

So give praises and be here to fight for another day!

p.s. posting Cro-Mags (well, White Devil), because I fucking love them and it feels like this music is the only thing that relates in hard times like this. This has been playing non-stop the last few days.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Aspects of Self

We have all wondered whether there is something we can call "True Self" within. For a long time I believed that identity could just be a fabricated notion, societal experiences and beliefs stored in our conscious and subconscious minds.

After some years of self-observation and reading, I have come to the conclusion that the entity we perceive as "Self" is something comprised of various aspects of the Self. Here, I am not just talking about the conscious/subconscious level that modern science talks about. What I have in mind is much easier to understand according to Hindu thought that includes the notion of Super Self -- a portion of cosmic lifeforce that exists with us all.

We could better understand our Self as an entity comprised of 3 separate parts. This three-sided Self is evident in many different viewpoints:

- the self that I myself perceive, the self that others see, and the one that I actually am (no solid Self).
- the Self existing in the distinction between mind, body and soul.
- the karma-given self (physical self with certain characteristics and predispositions), the inner self (mind, thoughts, beliefs), & the Super Self (God within, wisdom, paramatma, inherent sense of right and wrong).
- the coscious, subcosncious and "Super" conscious minds.
- the 'inherent tendencies' Self, the'work in progress' self, the 'Wisdom' Self.

Identity is everything, nevertheless everyone struggles with it. Losing a strict sense of our identity may be for the better as it leaves up space for interpretation and wisdfom. From what we see through self-observation, there is definitely more than the eye sees. There is an intanglible aspect of the Self, which we cannot pin down or even understand.

I guess that the more important part is to remember when things are not OK (due to who we think we are, how we look, what we think, our inabilities to work in certain ways and just about a million types of guilt complexes) that there is not a specific "I" that is repsonsible for what happens. Difficulties are a part of everyone's life, since we live in the world of maya (illusion) and have this physical body. Sure enough,we are accountable for the karma comes our way and which we have to face (and process in order to grow).

However, there is also a psychological, intanglible self which is moldable and formless, with the ability to think and feel in ways that can prevent bad karma, and can take us to a much desired next level of consciousness. Most of all, we have to know that there is a deeper, greater Self, which is unchanging/all pervading and exists in everyone. This lifeforce exists in every living being, even though it has assimilated a separate identity for each and everyone (known as jiva, the individual soul) guides things, gives a sense of purpose. It is now time to search the depths of our soul and try to come to some sort of communication with the deeper Self hidden within us, so we can make do and mend, and reach higher planes of existence through contact with the Supreme.

"There is no coming to consciousness without pain.
People will do anything, no matter how absurd,
in order to avoid facing their own soul.
One does not become enlightened
by imagining figures of light,
but by making the darkness conscious."
Carl Jung

Thursday, 31 October 2013

I am planning to be back on this here blog. Lots of stuff I want to post. But for now, I will just post this. Great pop music to chill out to and to make you think.

Monday, 4 March 2013


"Not had much time for spiritual activities recently"...  perhaps a true statement, but why should we say that? Isn't spirituality embedded in our everyday life (or at least, shouldn't it be)? Actually, it is more of a natural and frequent need, not something to force or something that we take 10-20 minutes to sit down and do. On a personal level, I am trying to elevate my life and make it more spiritual as a whole; not just something that I do at home (i.e. meditation), I want to take my spirituality everywhere I go, and let it inspire my whole life!

And how do I do this? The answer is simple: m i n d f u l n e s s , or differently put: just being present and watching your thoughts. Mindfulness, a practice found in many types of Buddhism is a simple but effective way to stay grounded and centered within yourself. We all know how easy it is to forget oneself and get tangled up in all kinds of negative thoughts. It is this noise that stops us from being who we want to be - a person with positive thoughts and a caring mind.

Every day, the first thing I try to think of when I wake up is to have that "no mind" quality. Some also call it "beginner's mind". It's not always easy. More often than not, the brain wants to be dancing around, thinking useless, negative (sometimes) thoughts that have nothing to offer to me or anyone else. So I try to take it slow and de-activate that clutter with some mindfulness. Be present, watch my thoughts and try to not pay too much attention to them because they are just passing waves in the ocean of consciousness.

Destroying demons is an everyday part of training in mindfulness!
Mindfulness has a huge psychological effect on our well being, because when we actively watch our thoughts, they miraculously have a tendency to become more calm and serene, and the train of thought is easier to stop before we become agitated, angry etc. I don't know exactly why or how this happens, other that I know it does happen. I guess that inside, we have some kind of "watcher" who knows what's good for us and what's not -- we just have to let go and let it shine through. This could be our common sense or something else, more divine. At this point, each person decides for themselves.

There are millions of pages written about mindfulness and the nature of no-mind, by many scholars of all kinds of religions and sects. But for me, a person with a very busy life that is almost always outside of the house, the good thing about mindfulness is that it is a type of meditation that can be done at all times and anywhere I might find myself. All it takes is a deep breath and the choice to come back to the present.

As a hardcore kid who wants the world and wants it like, NOW, mindfulness does miracles for my psyche. It shows me how to move back a bit and reevaluate my position. It relieves stress, anger and negative feelings,  and it makes me feel and appreciate the present a lot more. I will continue with mindfulness as long as this life throws me around in a world of appearances that are definitely not always easy on me.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

In Praise of - The Mantra of Avalokiteshvara

Today I would like to talk a little about the effect of the Avalokiteshvara mantra (Om Mani Padme Hum or Om Mani Peme Hung) on my life. Before I start, I just want to state how glad I am to be able to really enjoy some good music (Tame Impala's new album just rules), together with a nice mango tea and the clarity of mind that only the straight edge mindset can provide. Sometimes I wonder, if I broke from the vegan straight edge lifestyle, would the way I feel about things change? It probably would, and I am definitely not about to change my whole life around anytime soon.

On to the main theme of this post and the benefits of the Avalokiteshvara mantra. It is true what they say: mantras are not just words; they actually embody the wisdom and the compassion of a Buddha and can really transmigrate powerful feelings of love, health, strength etc straight into the madness of our everyday lives. Same with this one -- Avalokiteshvara is not a he or a she (pictured as either according to different schools), it's not a person who lived and died in a country somewhere; it's more of a thought process and a notion of compassion that arises within our minds. Be sure though, that we can practice it and get real benefits from it because in essence, it does exist and it is available to help us.

It goes without saying that Om Mani Peme Hung is the most classic mantra in Buddhism. Each day it is recited by literally millions of people all over the globe. This in itself is something that astonishes me, to think that when I wake up in the morning and recite the mantra, someone in the Himalayas and someone in Japan and someone in Germany is doing the same. It makes me think of people who seek for something positive and we all together go for refuge at one place. I am sure that we all experience it in our own different ways, but in essence we all share the same wealth. It unites us under the umbrella of compassion, kindness and positivity -- and that's something truly great!

The way I do it is this: whenever I fell I need to deal with my negativity (because negativity and ignorance are indeed the sources of our problems), I go and inwardly recite Om Mani Peme Hung. The sound itself dwelling in my head eases my mind and transforms negativity, into good thoughts and compassion. How? I couldn't tell, but because it works, I do it. Some other times, I make a mental picture of Avalokiteshvara which on its own pacifies and soothes me (sometimes together with the mantra). Crazy as it may sound, both the mantra and the visualisation work miracles. This cannot be expressed through words. It's something you have to try it for yourself, but with TRUST. Without trust, even the greatest gift becomes unworthy and ignites second thoughts. So please try it of you're reading this!

I guess there is a lot of wisdom into religious patterns that we - as westerners - have developed a habit of ridiculing. I don't know what artistic geniuses envisioned and created the wonderful form of Avalokiteshvara, but somehow they managed to create something of value, something that has power to pacify the minds of people. Perhaps because it expresses all those good qualities. The same goes with the mantra. Perhaps (if you don't "believe") you can work with the fact that wise men carefully put together those words thousands of years ago. These were people who have thought a great deal about man's inherent tendencies, and practised a lot on what helps people on a subconscious level. So maybe these words somehow create an echo in our inner mechanisms. Or you can drop justification altogether and just embrace!

In the past, I have always tried to keep a good and positive mental state throughout the day but have failed like a champ... I always had the best of intentions, but in practice remaining positive and kind has never been easy. It's hard to stay posi when you wake up at 7am and have a long day ahead, or when things go terribly bad. Trouble comes, trouble goes -- it's how we deal with it. Avalokiteshvara, his mantra and many other Buddhist practices have helped me keep myself in check right when I need it the most: when I feel weak, alone, or out of place. These are trying times, things are changing fast for me and it is so good to have a constant and a friendly source of inspiration!

How wonderful!

Monday, 7 January 2013

Dealing With Physical Pain -- Mentally

What could be considered more of a problem than physical pain? Yes, I guess physical anguish is at the top of what we consider as a "problem". Ranging from a sprained ankle to a bad headache to the more serious and permanent stuff, we do wholeheartedly hate pain. And of course that's totally natural, we should hate it because it is against our well being. But I want to have ways to deal with the pain. Since I know that this material existence will undoubtedly involve physical pain, I want to be able to deal with it.

I guess that the two most common ways of reacting to pain are: 1. pushing it back and 2. anger/frustration. None of these two reactions do us any good, if anything they can only worsen our situation. If I have a bad headache and don't acknowledge its negative effect over my well being and equanimity, I am seriously harming myself. Letting it destroy my day by trying to not think about the pain is no way to deal with it. Yet it is a tendency that most of us humans do have (to ignore the pain). The second category (getting angry with our pain) is also self-destructive. Lashing out on others because we are in pain or getting angry with ourselves and our bad luck will add psychological distress to the physical pain.

OK, so what are we to do with pain then? Of course I am getting towards some sort of self-healing notion. Using medication is obviously number one, but hey, we want to add to it and fill that gap that medicine doesn't fill. So let's see... Meditation, visualisation, breathing exercises and everything else imaginable are all in the picture here. I would use anything in my powers to be able to cure my pain.

AWARENESS - The single most helpful thing to have (which is also always at our disposal) is our good, old fashioned mindfulness. Observing the pain and acknowledging it from a dispassionate distance is utterly important, and always the first step of self healing. We have to locate and acknowledge the pain if we are to deal with it. And oddly enough, this is something we don't do in many occasions.

Giving  physical pain the attention it requires without trying to act tough or push it back can do miracles on its own, because it makes us more ready for it and willing to adapt to it. This procedure will limit the extent to which pain will influence us. Yes -- we can decide the extent to which our pain will affect us. By being ready for it, we can build up our defence, we can understand pain's subjective nature over our bodies & mind. It's like getting a tattoo; some people hurt a lot and some people just don't. It all has to do with how we face and how we even... welcome it.

VISUALISING & MEDITATION - This takes us to the next level. Visualising pain and also visualising methods to heal it is a big thing and a great method to get relief. Be prepared to employ your mind to heal whatever it is that's causing you trouble. Be ready to bring it on against your pain.

At this stage we can first locate where exactly the pain is as well as the exact feeling of pain. Next up, we can imagine it has a certain form, any form. Then we can start to slowly go around it and ask it why it is there, and why it wants to hurt us. This will do miracles if approached with honesty and seriousness. This type of high level mindfulness will help ease the pain. Repeated sessions of the above procedure will bring better results (you can do it as many times during the day, while doing other stuff and not just during 'serious' meditation sessions).

You can also ask for the back up of a higher power if that's OK with you. This is like bringing in the heavy artillery. If you have something/someone you believe in (i.e. Medicine Buddha), well ask them over to do the work. They will be happy to oblige and come to help you, because that's what they do. They help people. Imagine that their physical presence or their positive energy going over your pain, and dissolving it, calmly making it go away. Even if they don't do the job straight away, you know that help is on the way or at least that a source of higher power has acknowledged your pain.

CONCLUSION - Don't forget pain has a subjective nature, and we have power over how much it will affect us. After treating something with medicine, there is a lot we can do to relieve ourselves from physical pain. Starting from mindfulness and awareness of pain, we can move over to various forms of visualisation and meditation in order to heal ourselves. So be brave, and I hope you'll achieve and maintain the best of health!

P.S. I'm also posting a good article that I found helpful (it's from a Buddhist meditation website). Make sure to check it out!