A young man learns to meditate (A story on the benefits of meditation)

When I was a young man I had a family – my mother and father, my wife and two sons and a little daughter.  My wife’s parents also lived nearby.  We were what you might call ‘close knit’.  Our house was not very large and it was hard to get away from other people.  Indeed if one tried to do that others might ask:

“What is wrong with you today?  You are not talking to anyone.  You are looking grim!” and so on.

I have always been a person who enjoys my own space.  Certainly I wanted my children to be happy.  Of course I wanted to please my wife, but I would find the pressures of all these conversations expected of me too great.  I needed time for myself.

One day I took myself for a walk just to get a bit of peace.  With all the hustle and bustle of the city this is somewhat hard to do.  However there is always peace to be had at the Temple.  As I was taking my shoes off before entering, I noticed a man sitting cross legged and looking very peaceful beside the line of shoes.  He was not paying any attention to all the comings and goings.  I could see that his eyes were open but that he was looking at nothing.  He looked perfectly contented.  I have occasionally had my shoes stolen from outside the temple so I wondered if I dared to disturb him to ask him to watch my shoes.  I became quite agitated trying to make the decision.  He continued to look ahead, a benign, peaceful expression on his face.  His eyes did not turn to me although it must have been clear to him that I was there and that I wanted to speak.  I decided to risk leaving my shoes without his protection.

I entered the temple.  It was calm and quiet inside, but my mind was still in turmoil.  How long could I allow myself the luxury of this quiet place?  Would my shoes be stolen?  Would my wife be cross with me when I got home?  Had I forgotten to do some little chore for her?  Would my mother chide me on my return for some act of omission on my part? And so on. After twenty minutes or so I went out into the busy street again.  The sounds of the traffic and the people assailed my ears.

The meditating gentleman was still there, looking calm and beneficent as before.  I found my shoes and left.

On my way home I hatched a plan.  I would tell my family that I was going to become a yogi.  Not in a big way.  I was not going to strip down to a loin cloth and go and live in the mountains.  I was going to become a yogi for twenty minutes a day, at home in my own bedroom.  No-one must speak to me during that time.  Whatever they wanted it would have to wait.  I was going to learn to sit still and quiet until I could feel on the inside what that old yogi at the temple showed on the outside.

My family thought it rather a strange that I would want to do this, but as it is not unheard of in our country, they accepted my desire to meditate.  It took me a while to learn how to do it.  I did take some advice on the subject.  I just thought about my breath and the ‘prana’ or energy flowing into my body every time I breathed in. Gradually I learnt to notice when I was not thinking about my breath.  I began to recognise ‘other’ or distracting thoughts, and having recognised them, I stopped thinking them.  My mind gradually became calmer.  This calmness overflowed into my daily life.  I felt less pressured by all the people and the demands of life and work.  My sense of humour returned.  My wife said I wasn’t bad tempered any more.  My boys started to have proper conversations with me instead of always whining and asking for things.  Even my mother in law smiled indulgently at me and called me ‘our guru’.

It wasn’t until much later in my life that I started thinking about the state of my body, and how yoga could address that problem as well.  But at least working on my mind through meditation had given me a sense of peace and balance, and in fact my wife decided to meditate too and our family life was immeasurably improved.

Surya the Water Carrier (a story about love and respect in the family)

Story about love for primary school children of 6-9yrs.


Children of the world all feel the need to be loved. We all hope that our parents love us and that our brothers and sisters love us. But is that enough? I am going to tell you a story about a child called Surya who was about eight years old. She lived in a small village in India and had two brothers. Surya was usually a happy child. She would often help her mother to carry water back from the well to her home. Each day this task had to be done – once at sunrise and once at sunset. It was quite a long walk to the well. She and her mother would carry the water jars on their heads.


Surya’s mother could carry a larger jar than Surya, but Surya knew the water she carried was just as important. “All the water you carry will be used. So however much you carry, it is all useful,” her mother always reassured her.

This made Surya feel important. She knew that without water her family would not survive. She knew that her family depended on her work so that they could wash, drink and cook their food. She was pleased to be able to help them.

They would smile at her and call her, “Our water carrier”. Surya liked this. It made her feel nice and warm inside. Even if she was tired and weary, when they smiled she felt better.

One day she asked her mother about this feeling. “Mother, what is it in my body that makes me feel warm and happy when I bring back the water and daddy smiles at me? Something inside me seems to get bigger and get warm. “It feels so nice. It doesn’t happen when people turn their heads away from me and don’t notice me. It feels like a little warm animal inside me. When someone smiles, it gets up and turns round, and fluffs out its fur and snuggles down. When no-one smiles, it just lies there and doesn’t move. It just stays there very quiet, waiting and hoping for a smile.”

“Ah, I see, my child. You have begun to notice your heart. Yes, it is just like a little animal. It likes to give love and to be loved. When it can do both, it is very happy. When it gives love and nobody notices, it does not feel so happy. It waits quietly until someone notices it and then it wags its tail and turns round and round and is happy. And so it is with everyone. We all have a little warm feeling which comes into our hearts when we know we are loved. When we lose someone we love, or maybe our pet dies, then we feel very heavy inside. Our little warm place changes to a cold stone sitting in our chest, and our little furry animal seems to have gone away. We feel all alone. But it is then that we need to remember that everybody has love somewhere in their heart. If we need love, we must give love. Give a smile and a kind word to another person and you will make them feel nice and warm inside. In turn they will smile at you and thank you for your kindness and you will not feel alone any more. Love is what we all need and in order to get it, we must be sure to give it. Children are very good at giving love. It is something they do very easily and it is something that they need to remember to do as they get older. No matter how hard life is at times, if you can love people, you will never feel lonely.”


Surya and her mother


1. What is the story about?
2. What name would you give the story?
3. What made Surya happy?
4. How did she feel when her father smiled at her?
5. How did she feel when no-one smiled at her?
6. How did you feel as you listened to the story?
7. Does the story remind you of anything in your life?
8. What does the story mean to you?

Mother’s Quiet Time (a story about the importance of meditation) for age 12 to adult

The Seventh Limb of Yoga: Dhyana,Meditation from my book Yoga Philosophy for Young People – a collection of stories and guidance.

Many people in the West think that meditation is very weird indeed; something done by religious fanatics and those who have cut themselves off from normal society.My story is to show you that meditation can be a part of normal life. The story is told in the voice of Guptananda, an old Indian Guru.

Mother’s Quiet Time

When I was a child and my father worked in the temple, my mother, my brother, my sister and I would be at home.Mother had several servants who helped with the work in the house and garden, and who looked after the animals.Every day mother would have a meeting with the servants before they started their work. We children would still be in bed, but sometimes if I got up early I would see them all sitting down outside in our courtyard.

Mother would greet them all with “namaste” and bow her head and they would also bow, then they would all sit in silence for a few minutes.They would close their eyes and no one would speak.The silent period would be ended with the ringing of a little bell, which my mother always had with her.It was the same bell she used to summon the servants when she needed help.After ringing the bell my mother would tell each person what she wanted him or her to do that day and would ask if they had anything to say.Sometimes they brought up problems they were having with some aspect of the work, but usually they would just bow and smile and thank God for being healthy and strong and for the gift of another new day. Thus it was in our house, peaceful and contented.

However, one week when my mother’s sister came to stay I remember Mother decided not to have the morning meditations.Her sister was about to give birth and had come to us for her confinement.Mother told the servants briefly what to do at the beginning of each day and listened to their problems, but had no quiet period before the start of the working day.What a terrible week that was!Everyone seemed to be arguing with everyone else.Nothing was going right.My mother forgot to buy the dahl (lentils) at the market so we all had to eat nothing but chapatis (bread) and some tired vegetables.Mother was so preoccupied with her sister that she seemed to forget about us.This was to be my Aunt’s first baby so this was a very big event for her.Meanwhile my brother fell off the horse and broke his arm and my sister nearly fell down the well!Two narrow planks of wood, which had been carelessly placed over it, saved her.She was very shocked.Mother blamed the servants for not covering the well properly, but I knew it had been me.I was to blame.I had been watering the animals, drawing the water up with a bucket when Raja had bolted.I hastily threw two pieces of wood over the brick work hole and chased after my horse.After several days everyone was extremely irritable and exhausted and my father couldn’t understand what had come over his family.

“Surely your sister is not so important that she be allowed to upset all the family and servants with her new baby, which isn’t even born yet?”

Then my mother explained how she had stopped organizing a quiet period at the beginning of the day because of being so busy.


“Ah, I see the problem now,” said father.”Everyone thinks they are so busy that they have no time to sit and reflect on the day, on their work and on God’s gifts.Well you see what happens when we don’t spare ourselves just a few minutes of peace – we get chaos.Surely we can find five or ten minutes at the beginning of the day to be calm and thoughtful and to ask the Lord what it is that we need to know and do each day?In future let my family return to its previous ways and the baby will be born into an atmosphere of calmness and contentment rather than one of anger and chaos!”

The baby was born two days later and she was named Shanti (Peace).





My sister has an admirer (A story about relationships for young teens)

This story is told by an old Indian gentleman who lived very many years ago.
It was written to illustrate Bramacharya, or sexual self control. It is followed by some advice for the Western teenager of today.

When my sister, Usha, reached the age of thirteen my mother started to fret about finding her a husband. In India in those days, girls married very young. Life was often short; you had to get on with the business of living before you died.

My sister did not want to think about getting married. She was enjoying being a girl. She enjoyed playing in the rain, swimming in the river and climbing trees.

Mother would scold her saying, ‘How do you expect anyone to want to marry you when you always look so untidy? Look at your hair, look at the mud on your clothes. You are a young woman now. It’s time you stopped all these childish pursuits!’ But my sister did not listen. She was enjoying herself too much.

One day we had a visit from the merchant in the market and his son. They wanted to speak to my father about when our crops would be ready to take to market.

“You must ask my wife about that sort of thing,” said my father. She and my daughter and the servants take care of the crops.”

Usha who was hiding behind the door in the next room felt herself fill with pride. I saw her straighten up and look important when father mentioned that she was in charge of the crops. She peeped round the corner and her eyes met the eyes of the merchant’s son. I have never seen my sister acting as strangely as she did on that morning. She happened to be clean and tidy as it was early in the day and she had not had time to get muddy. She stepped boldly from the shadows and said:

“Father, Mother and I would be very pleased to show Mr. Mehta our fields. We can tell him exactly what we have grown and when we hope it will be ready,” and she looked across at the young man, a very handsome youth of about sixteen and smiled demurely.

“Very well, Usha, I’m sure Mother will be very glad of your help,” replied Father, and he disappeared leaving us to show the merchant and his son our crops. I say us, because I certainly did not want to miss out on watching my sister in this new role she had suddenly taken on. It was a transformation. My sister, instead of laughing, running and skipping was walking quietly behind my mother who was discussing business with Mr. Singh. His son had certainly noticed her. He couldn’t take his eyes off her.

My sister asked the young man if he worked in the market with his father.

“Indeed I do, Miss, but I do not work on Saturdays. Can I come and call on you?”

“I don’t know, I’ll have to ask my father,” said Usha, blushing. She chatted away to the young man about all sorts of things. I soon lost interest and wandered off.

That evening my sister asked my father at the dinner table if the young man could come to call on her on Saturday. My father stopped eating and looked very serious.

“Ah, my daughter, I see a change is coming to us. I see we need to talk about your future. I have nothing against the young man personally. Indeed he is a fine young man. However, he is not of the same background as you. He is not a Brahmin, he is one of the merchant classes, not a high enough caste for this family. If you were to see him and you were to do everything he wanted you to do, you would soon be very close indeed. So close that there would be no space for even a piece of hay to be squeezed between you, then you would have to marry the boy and bring up your child according to his caste.

Tell me this, Usha? Do you enjoy the way of life that we have? Do you like to have a big house and land and servants to help you? How would you feel if you lived in a tiny shack and spent most of your time out in the sun working very hard in between rearing your babies with no help at all?”

Usha looked very serious. “I don’t think I would like that very much, Father,” she said.

“Then why not wait and give yourself properly in marriage to a suitable young man who will provide you with a lifestyle that you are accustomed to. There is plenty of time in spite of what your mother says. She was eighteen when I married her. She refused many suitors before her perfect man came along…”

My Father looked meaningfully at mother before he turned and left the room.

Usha looked down cast. “What do you think, Mother?” she asked.

“Well, I don’t think there’s any hurry really, dear. I do agree with Father that it is best to keep your love and your body to yourself until someone suitable in every way comes along. You can be sure that he will. How many unmarried women do you know?”

My sister could not think of any at all.

“Well, my dear, best keep yourself to yourself, stay chaste rather than be chased, that’s what my mother used to say to me! And when a really good suitable hunter comes along, you will be able to enjoy the chase!” My Mother patted Usha. A silence followed. My sister stood up looking wistful.

“Well, I’m off out to climb a tree. You coming Ramu?” she sighed.

“I’m glad you’re not going to get married yet,” said I. “It’s good to have someone to climb trees with. Father says I’m too old to be climbing trees, but I love it!”

N.B. This story raises several issues which require some explanation. The caste system is a part of the Indian tradition, where society is divided into different classes or castes. Within each caste people have their own system of values and behaviour. At the top are the Brahmins, a class of priests, to which Ramesh and his family belonged. The class below would be the Kshatriyas who in the past were barons and warriors. The Vaisyas are the next class, being merchants, or commoners. Lastly the Sudras are the craftsmen and labourers. Below them are those who do very menial work, such as road sweepers. The Hindi name for them is Harijan which means people loved by God, the implication being that nobody else loves them. (Hari means Lord, Jana means people). In English they are referred to as ‘the Untouchables’.In the West we have royalty and aristocracy at the top of the social tree followed by the upper classes (landed gentry) then the middle classes, followed by the working class. People resist the mixing of the classes in general and certainly in the past it would be frowned upon if for example a servant married her master (or his mistress, as the case may be). In India one is expected to follow one’s dharma or path in life according to spiritual law. It is a taboo* or forbidden to act against dharma. You are expected to marry into your own caste. The word for caste in Sanskrit is vara and it means ‘colour’, but has nothing to do with the colour of one’s skin. It means a leaning towards, a tendency, an inclination of the mind. Hindus believe that we come into this world into an appropriate caste for our required life experience at that time, bearing in mind they believe we each have many lives on this earth. This is the reason it is taboo to marry outside one’s caste. However, a woman may marry into one caste above hers, but not into a lower caste. This is because it is thought that a woman will not respect her husband if he is of a lower caste. Some modern spiritual leaders now say there is only one caste, the caste of the human race.

Society is gradually becoming more mixed up these days, as education allows those with ability from the lower classes to have good jobs and earn good incomes. In modern times we say that everyone is equal, all human beings are due the same respect.

Usha’s father was worried that she might fall in love with a young man who could not provide her with the sort of life that she was used to. This is a practical consideration and a matter of real concern for parents, then as now. In those days, (and indeed even now in some areas of countries such as India and Pakistan) girls got married as soon as their periods started. This was to make sure that if a girl became pregnant, she and the child would belong to a family that would be able to support them both emotionally and financially. Although the girls were very immature, the extended family system would look after the young parents and help them to bring up their children. The girl’s mother-in-law would always be available.



This is a tricky subject for many people in today’s world because we live in a liberal society, in the western world at least, where unlimited sex can appear to be OK. It is particularly difficult for young people who somehow have to find a sensible way for themselves through all this freedom.

What is a sensible way? Pressure from friends, from TV ‘soaps’, from magazines and from advertising all seem to spell out a message that anything goes. People need to bear in mind many things before they start a sexual relationship. When puberty arrives and our bodies change and sex hormones start to make us feel attracted to the opposite sex, it can be very tempting to start to experiment with sex. But at that stage in our lives it is a dangerous game to play. Maturity helps us to make better decisions.

When people are more mature sex adds to the joys of a loving relationship, but it is important that the love comes first, not the sex. It is true that love sometimes follows sex and this is because sex can be such a powerful experience, but this creates great difficulties between people. Relationships built on sexual attraction alone soon become weak because all the other things that make a strong relationship may be missing. Things such as shared values, interests, family backgrounds and education are the true basis of relationship. Sexual appreciation should come after these aspects are considered. Sex is a promise of loving attention to the other person, but many people have forgotten this. They have short-term meaningless relationships, often of the sort where one of the partners ends up feeling ‘used’.

Sexuality is a beautiful gift to be enjoyed in sexual intercourse or we can choose to express it’s energy and excitement in other ways, through our creativity, dancing or singing or other exciting experiences. Casual sex is an empty, meaningless and dangerous activity. On the other hand sex in a loving and committed partnership strengthens the bonds between partners and brings them closer in understanding. That is not to say that the sex act is an essential activity in all loving partnerships. Some people find that it becomes unnecessary in their relationship at a certain age. Others continue their sexual activities into their sixties and seventies and consider it to be a very important part of life.

All creatures have an instinct to reproduce. Human beings are drawn to reproduce and form lasting relationships in order to look after their young. For us sex is a means of creating children and also a means of giving and receiving deep and loving pleasure. Sex is fun and is there to be enjoyed. It is a very strong desire in humankind but if it is treated with disrespect, it can lead to many problems.

When people have careless sexual relationships, the result is that fatherless babies are born to girls and women who are ill equipped to look after them. This is happening all over the world. In the UK figures in the year 2007 showed that we have more teenage pregnancies than any other country in Europe. Many children are brought up by only one parent. For the children this creates a huge gap in their lives, either having no father or sometimes no mother. The young parents miss out on having a supportive and loving partner to share the joys and also the many difficulties of bringing up a family. It can be a very hard and lonely job for the single parent.

Girls may decide to have an abortion, a very difficult decision to make. Occasionally, if old-fashioned methods are used, they may have difficulties in becoming pregnant later on when they do have a loving partner and they both want a family. Although there are many modern solutions to unwanted pregnancy, they do not come without a price: Pressure might be put on a girl to have casual sex because of the easy availability of contraception and ‘morning after’ pills and she could pick up one of the many sexually transmitted diseases. Some of these diseases cause sterility (being unable to have babies), some are difficult to treat medically and may affect people for the whole of their lives; some such as AIDS are often fatal. Although these diseases are relatively uncommon, more and more people are affected by them, especially people who are promiscuous (those who have casual sexual intercourse with many partners)

So when dealing with sex the first consideration is respect for oneself and for the other person who is involved. It is best to let sex develop in committed relationships. Perhaps the relationship will not turn out as you hoped, but at least you will have loved and respected the other person, and were also loved and respected yourself.

We need to understand how our bodies work. It is dangerous to hide behind ignorance and the excitement of being swept away by the moment. If we do decide we are mature enough to cope with the possible results of pregnancy, then the safest way we can do this is to use contraception properly. It does not come with a hundred percent guarantee of safety, either from pregnancy or from picking up a disease, but it does reduce the likelihood of either or both, depending on the method used.*2

In the West it is now considered quite normal for children to learn about their own bodies by touching them and getting used to the sensations produced. It is not something to feel guilty about and for some people it releases tensions and removes the distraction of sexual thoughts. In the West girls and boys do go out with each other before marriage. Young people have to decide what is responsible behaviour, and ‘how far they can go’ without risk to their health, happiness, or to their future. Sober, clear-headed decisions are required to keep you out of trouble.

The average age of first sexual experience with another person in the UK in the 1990s was 17 for girls and 15 for boys, but most of those who had had early sexual experiences said they wished they had waited longer*. They had been pushed into experimenting with people they had no real feelings for, or had acted out of curiosity. Some had been under the influence of drink or drugs which dull the mind and make bad decisions more likely. Once a young person starts this kind of activity it can become harder to refuse the next time or the next person. Are young teenagers really ready for serious relationships, which could result in pregnancy and the responsibility of bringing up children, or for making agonising decisions about abortion? The world trumpets sex in nearly every advertisement, in most TV programmes, in magazines and in newspapers. It is easy to be taken in by all this publicity and to want to join in with what appears to be going on. Thoughtful people do not act in careless and irresponsible ways. The subject clearly needs some very careful thought and discussion before decisions are made.

Questions to ask yourself, or to discuss with friends, parents and teachers

· What to look for in a relationship?

· What makes a good relationship?

· What sort of peer pressure is there in relationships? (Peers are people of our own age)

· What sort of pressure may we get from a partner?

· Where can I get information about sex education? *2

* National Children’s Bureau, leaflet 158, Highlight 1998.

· Ref.4. Wellings, K and others (1994) Sexual Behaviour in Britain: The National Survey of Sexual attitudes and Life styles. Penguin

· Ref. 16. Thompson, R and Scott, (1991) Learning about Sex: Young women and the social construction of sexual identity

Tufnell Press

*2 Materials and information are available from Sex Education Forum < National Children’s Bureau, 8, Wakley Street, London ECIV 7QE Tel 020 7843 6056

A short yoga story on Contentment or Santosa. ‘Ramesh and the Parrot Feathers’

This story is told by an elderly Indian gentleman, about his childhood, many many years ago:


Contentment (Santosa)

When I was a child of about eight my father said to me, ”Ramesh, why do you have such a long face?’

He was always aware of my feelings, always observing and commenting on these things.

“Ramesh, why on this beautiful day, with the birds singing and the river running do you look sad? What could you have to feel sad about? The world is a beautiful place. Be happy.”

“I cannot be happy today, Father,” said I.

“And why is that, my son?”

“Because my brother has more friends than I have. I only have the two boys next door, and he has at least four friends.”

“But why should that trouble you, Ramesh? Do you not like your two friends? Are you not completely happy with them when you lose yourselves in the forest, when you climb the trees and wear parrots feathers in your hair?”

“Yes I am happy, but maybe I would be even happier with four good friends.”

“Happiness is happiness, my son. You cannot measure it. You cannot count it. You must learn to know it when you have it and be content with it, and if you are not lucky enough to be happy one day, then still be content to wait until it comes to you again, for surely it will. God is great. God is watching and providing for all of his children, but it makes Him unhappy to see you with a long face. So go and find your friends, my son. You do not want to make God, your father, unhappy do you?”


Some questions to ask yourself:

How do you feel when you always compare yourself to people who have more friends or more possessions than you have?

How do you feel when you appreciate what you do have and compare yourself to those who are less fortunate?

Think of the most contented person you know. What can you learn about happiness from him or her?

A yoga story about compassion and sympathy

Aunt Ushma Becomes Very Ill

Compassion and Sympathy

When I was a small child I had an aunt; she was my mother’s sister. She used to live with us and help my mother look after us children. She would wash us and rock us to sleep if we were unsettled. She was always available to help in any way and never asked for anything in return. She was one of the family, so she was treated as such and not as a servant. My mother used to say to us, “You must look after your Auntie Ushma as well as she looks after you!”

A time came when we did indeed have to carry out our mother’s wishes. Aunt Ushma became very ill. All she could do was to lie in bed and drink water and sometimes a little fruit juice. Every one was very worried about her. I used to like to go and visit her and stroke her hair as it lay on the pillow beside her. She would turn her head and smile a wan smile.

“Ah, Ramu,” she would say, “How nice it is to feel your cool hands on my forehead. No one has hands like yours. I am sure you will be a great healer one day.”

Well, I didn’t know what she was talking about. I just knew I wanted her to get well again quickly, so that we could enjoy our usual pursuits, our walks along the riverbank and playing hide-and-seek in the woods. She was ill for a long time it seemed to me. She grew so thin that her skin looked like paper drawn across the bones of her face. No one could help her. The priest visited her and so did the wise woman who sold the herbs in the market. The Guru who lived in the nearby mountain was summoned, but he refused to come. Instead he promised to pray for her each day until he had news of a change for the better. Aunt Ushma finally died after several months of illness. On her last day she asked to see the family all together. She addressed them saying:

“I am going home soon, do not weep for me. I will return as indeed we all do. I hope my next life will shine with a few more jewels than this one. However, in this life I have been blessed with a good number of jewels until recently. I would like to thank you, all of you, for your kindness to me during this tiresome illness. You could not have looked after me with more care or consideration than if I had been the goddess Shakti herself.” And with that she closed her eyes and fell asleep. She never uttered another word. She died during the night.

I always remembered what she said about my hands and if members of the family were ill, I made sure I was there to stroke their brows and hold their hands. They always appreciated it and in later years I indeed found that my healing gift was called upon by many.

Some questions to ask yourself:

  • What kind of effect does an understanding smile have on you?
  • Think of a time when you felt compassionate towards someone. How did you show it?
  • When someone is unsympathetic towards you, how do you feel about him?
  • A friend is looking for sympathy, but you think she is just being pathetic. How can you deal with it and show you are still a good friend?

Pranayama, a story to explain Breath Control to children and young people

A story from Guptananda. In my book which is on line as from April 18th 2008 you will find both guidance and stories about the subjects of 42 aspects of yoga. The 8 Limbs, the Chakras and the Gunas etc. Yogi’s will know!

The story is set many years ago. It is told by an old man, about when he was a boy, the son of a senior scribe in a temple in India.

Father explains the importance of deep breathing

My family was always kept busy doing all sorts of things to keep the household going. There would be all the cooking, the preparing and even the growing of food. There was the cleaning both inside and outside the house, the laundering of all our clothes and the repairing and building of the house and outhouses. The horses needed to be cared for and the other animals needed to be fed, cleaned and watered. We children had our studies to do and our mother was the main supervisor of all this work.
Father worked at the temple and we would only see him early in the morning and in the evening. Sometimes he had a day off and every so often he would decide that it was time the family went on a picnic. We would always choose to walk down by the river and we would find one of many pretty spots to stop at. We children would run off and play at the water’s edge while Mother and Father looked on. Then my father would take off his robe and sit in his loincloth in the shade and start doing his breathing exercises. Sometimes we would ask him what he was doing and he would motion us to go away and leave him in peace.
When we asked Mother why he was breathing like that she just said, “Your father is drawing in good things from the air. He always feels better after he has done his breathing practice. He does it every day, you know, but here by the river he likes to spend longer at his breathing exercises. Off you go and play now, we will call you when it’s time to eat.”

On one occasion my curiosity could not be restrained. We had all gathered round to eat our picnic. Mother was handing out large leaves filled with a delicious mix of peas, beans and tasty herbs. I asked father
“What is it in the air you like so much, Father? Can we get some too? Do we need it, or are you different from us?”

“Ah, my son,” said father. “You are right to want not to be deprived of the benefits of breathing air deeply. Yes, you certainly can do it too, but not while you are eating, my child!” he added as I began to hold my breath with a mouthful of beans half chewed, sitting on my tongue.

“There is a wonderful thing called prana or life force energy, which is in the air. The slower and deeper we breathe the more prana we get into our bodies. This prana keeps us calm, it keeps us healthy. Children get lots of prana into them when they run around and play, when they laugh and when they shout and cry. Children do all these things much more than adults do. When you get older you need to practice breathing exercises to make sure you get enough prana. If you do not you may become weak and ill.”

“But Mother doesn’t do breathing exercises, does she?” I asked.

“Many people chose not to and say that if they do, they do not feel any benefit. That is up to them. I have always felt the benefit, so I will always practise pranayama until I become too old and weak to sit up in the sunshine”

“You’ll never be that old, Father,” said my sister, laughing.
“Mother says that you’ll live ’til you’re a hundred and fifty, and then you’ll fly to heaven. You’ll probably puff yourself there with your prana thing, I know!”

Every one laughed and when we had finished eating, father showed us how to make a reed pipe and blow a long string of bubbles into the water. “This is how I learnt to breath slowly,” he said, as he showed us his bubbles rising one after another quite slowly in a fine stream, unlike ours which came out all of a rush, bursting the water’s surface all in one go.

The Pebble (A story about the meaning of life) for age10 to adult


.The context of this story is of a young boy who lived many years ago in India. His family were Brahmins and they lived and worked in and around the temple.

In the old days when my father seemed like a god to me and I was perhaps seven years of age, a young man came to stay with us. He was a distant relative and father had told his parents that he would be welcome to live with us for a while to discover whether he liked the work in the temple. He would go in with father every day and be introduced to all the other temple workers. Father would instruct him in calligraphy, the careful writing of the scriptures, and would explain the meaning of the verses to him. He would be with us for six months.

Now I had two ‘gods’ in my household. This young man was so clever it seemed to me; so beautiful and so funny. I followed him everywhere hoping to learn a trick or two perhaps. When he smiled I felt that I would melt. His face became radiant like the sun. Everyone loved him. Father had great hopes for him. Not only could he write beautifully, he could also draw. When he had finished his writing he would often draw a beautiful design at the bottom of his work. On his days off he would take pen and paper and sit in some corner of our grounds and draw the flowers and the trees; sometimes he drew us, the children in my family. He gave me a beautiful picture of myself and my sister sitting by the well. How I treasured it. I asked one of the workmen to make a frame for it and I displayed it in our house for all to behold.

Late one evening a messenger came to call the young man away. His father had died and he had to return home to look after his family. We were all distraught. Our lovely visitor was leaving. How we would miss him! My little sister didn’t really understand that he would be leaving forever. Maybe nobody told her, but they told me. I wanted to cry. Perhaps I did cry. There would be a large gap in my life. Who would teach me all the games and jokes now? Father was too busy, Mother didn’t know many games or jokes and the servants’ jokes never seemed very funny to me.

Father had told us that our friend would be leaving early the following morning. I ran away to hide my sorrow and wondered what I could do to show him how I loved him and to make him come back. I couldn’t think of anything at all. I couldn’t think of the words or any present that I could give him. Then I remembered a story he had told us. It was about a stone in the stream that ran past our stables. It was a lovely smooth stone and he told us that when it started life it had been rough and ugly. Through its life it had learnt many things and its rough edges had been worn away by all the other stones it had met. Gradually it became more beautiful. The smoother it became the more its lovely colours shone through and when it lay at the bottom of the stream with the sun shining on it, it glowed like a jewel.

I picked up a very smooth stone out of the stream; it had amber and red stripes running through it. It was very pretty. I decided to give it to our friend. I wanted to tell him the truth about what I felt for him, but I couldn’t find the words. The stone would have to do it for me.

I shyly gave it to him before he left. His eyes lit up. Thinking of his story he said, “I shall keep this to remember you by, Ramu. To me you are already like this pretty stone. Many lifetimes have already rubbed the rough edges off you, but there is still much to learn. Unlike this little stone you will grow bigger. It would be dishonest of me to say that you will have no rough edges to be rubbed off. Every boy of seven has a whole lifetime of experience ahead to polish him up, but I think you will not find the polishing process too painful as you are quite well rounded already.

I didn’t really understand the truth behind my friend’s words, but I always remembered them. Now looking back I see that my struggles were not as difficult as those of many I encountered and for that I was grateful.

When troubles came to me I would think of that stone and think of the troubles as another step in the process of being polished up to a beautiful finish!