Intro to Raja Yoga – BK Meditation Center – Luzon, Philippines

I found the Brahma Kumaris Meditation Center in early December of last year. I was in the middle of a solo trip around Luzon, the biggest island in the Philippines, and after a week or so of hiking volcanos and wandering museums, I felt the need to stay put in the city of Baguio for a couple days, dig a little deeper, and figure out my next steps.

The Baguio center had a five-star review on TripAdvisor, but with only three reviewers, I wasn’t totally sure what to expect on my visit, other than the peaceful experience and beautiful views that had been written about. I liked going into it this way, without knowing too much.

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The grounds of Baguio’s Brahma Kumaris Meditation Center

Before my visit, I wasn’t sure what kind of vibe the center would have or even what kind of meditation classes were offered, but I was crossing my fingers that I’d at least meet people there who could point me in the direction of some Baguio yoga classes.

Up until then, I’d assumed anything called “yoga” had to do with the joining of movement and breath. The Brahma Kumaris Center was my first encounter with a different kind of practice – the practice of raja yoga.

I showed up on a Sunday afternoon, at the end of a weekend gathering of Filipino Brahma Kumaris practitioners. The Baguio center is a gorgeous, small green space with one of the best views of the city, near the top of a hill overlooking valleys, homes, and farms.

I was warmly welcomed there by everyone I met. When it became clear that I wasn’t going to find the kind of yoga I was looking for, I scheduled a Brahma Kumaris introductory class with Sister Salud, a self-described “content spirit,” for early the following Wednesday morning.

Lesson 1

The first lesson offered a detailed background of Brahma Kumaris, or BK, a worldwide learning community that practices raja yoga meditation. Literally translated, raja means king, ruler, or highest. Yoga is a union, link, or connection. Raja yoga was described to me as making a connection to a higher power.

Some takeaways from the first class:

  • Practice self-love. We should try to achieve self-love through understanding and appreciation of the self and by doing the best we can to make ourselves happy.
  • Create a link to our inner selves, and work to maintain the following:
    • self-respect – knowing that we are intrinsically good
    • self-esteem – valuing our own uniqueness
    • self-confidence – contributing to the betterment of the world by bringing benefit to ourselves and others
    • self-sovereignty – ruling our kingdoms by being independent and making our lives and ourselves worthy.
  • Meditation is a tool. Use it to discover the self – to contemplate, reflect, and focus on one thing. Still the mind, and actively create a thought to focus on.
  • Take what we want. Relegate old knowledge to the side, and go into new knowledge. There’s a lot to discover. Come to our own realizations and find our own truth. Once we find the truth, experience it and take what’s beneficial.
  • Feed the mind with goodness. Focus on positivity and healing during meditation. Take the dirty, muddy water of our negative selves and run clear, pure water over it until it’s clean.

We ended with a guided meditation, which was the raja yoga practice, and set a time to meet for the next session.

Lesson 2

The second class focused on the soul-body connection and discovering who we are spiritually. Sister Salud said the commonality of every human being is the soul – a living energy of light – within the body. We discussed the location of the soul, what some might call the third eye.

Some takeaways from the second class:

  • The soul gives life to the whole body. The soul is like the driver of the body, which is the vehicle. The body is for expression and experience.
  • Be soul-conscious. We should find a direction and a purpose for what we’re doing. Put the energy of our soul there and focus on the qualities of the soul. This is our energy. It’s intrinsic.
  • Seek peace from within. If we’re aware of our soul energy, we can get support from within. Choose peace, and direct our minds to be peaceful.
  • Drive energy into positive qualities. Remain aware of the type of soul we want to be, and manifest it.

So, how do we manifest a positive living energy of light? According to Sister Salud, that’s the question to be answered through raja yoga.

Again, we ended the class with a guided meditation. My time in Baguio was coming to a close, so she pointed me in the direction of other BK centers along my travel route. While I haven’t taken the time to attend a third session, I’m so thankful for my experience learning about the practice of raja yoga, and I’ve started to incorporate some of the ideas into my meditation practice.

Directions by cab:

Tell the driver to go to Dominican Hill. Once you get a bit out of the city and start heading up the hill, you’ll pass Lourdes Grotto. Keep going up the hill but not quite to the top. You’ll see the sign for the Brahma Kumaris Meditation Center on the right, as you approach the top.

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It may be difficult to catch a cab back, but start walking down the hill, and you’ll probably get lucky with a cab, tricycle, or jeepney around the bottom of the stairs at Lourdes Grotto.

Brahma Kumaris has over 8,000 centers across 130 countries, and it’s been around for 78 years. Its brochure explains: “Through meditation, we seek to help people rediscover their goodness and develop their spiritual awareness, attitude, and behavior.” For more information, visit BK on the web at www.brahmakumaris.org.

Hosting a Beach Clean Up Event

Hosting a beach clean up event has been spinning in my mind as an idea for a while, but I was never really sure how to materialize it. It’s easy enough though to gather a few friends or a group of people and have them collect as much litter as they can, so that is exactly what I am doing.

Last month contained the American holiday of Earth Day, on April 22nd, unfortunately my event wasn’t planned in advance enough to be around Earth Day, but that really doesn’t matter. Each and every day should be a day in which we consider our constant impact on our fragile planet, and we should change our habits so that we cause less and less harm.

Together with a yoga friend, Jessica Rykert Holt, who has been leading mindful meditation gatherings in Busan, a straightforward beach clean up/yoga event has been organized at Gwangali, one of our local beaches. After a date was set for May 16th, Jessica was told of another beach clean up happening at another coastal location in our city, so we joined up to host coinciding events. The other event is through a local scuba diving group, Busan Scuba. Divers will meet and clean up Taejongdae, an island in the southern part of Busan.

Here’s what our beach clean up event will consist of at Gwangali:

  • Meet Up and Introduction – After learning some new names, I will start the event off by explaining my motivation, which is to create awareness about the harming of the oceans and lands, but more specifically, the oceans, by single use plastics such as to-go cups, straws, packaging and wrappers. Next, Jessica will speak about mindfulness and meditation and teach everyone about what they will be doing as they comb the beach cleaning up.
  • Time to Hit the Sand – After the tools are passed out (gloves and city purchased garbage bags in our case) participants will get to the cleanin’. Busan suffers from a lot of littering, both internally in the city and along the coasts and beaches. Daily I see candy wrappers, cigarette cellophane, straws and the like strewn about the beach when I walk my dog and on the streets. Not knowing the language well enough, it seems to me from observation, that people are simply ignorant of the lasting negative impact of their fluttering plastics that land on the beach and quickly find their way into the water via tides or winds.
  • A Yoga Practice, Of Course! – After all of the hard work and concentration on being mindful, everyone will reconvene at a large area on the boardwalk to lay out their mats and flow. The class will continue with the theme of mindfulness and individual impact, and will last an hour. The class will be designed for a range of students, from beginner to advanced.

It can be intimidating to put yourself out in the community and plan an event, but that should never hold you back from striking the match which lights the fire that is action. Let your little light shine! Planning a beach clean up is a great way to get some friends together and make an impact, or to make it bigger and involve locals.

This event is 5,000 won minimum donation with money going towards garbage collecting gear and the remainder being donated to http://www.projectaware.org/ an organization of divers who work towards cleaning and saving the oceans in their Marine Debris project as well as saving endangered sharks in their Sharks in Peril movement. Below is an infograph produced by Project Aware with facts about the impact of our trash.

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Information about meditation events led by Jessica can be found the Busan Yoga & Meditation Group on Facebook.


Update on Beach Clean Up Event

Despite the fact that Saturday, May 16th started out as a dreary, cloudy, and quite frankly sort of miserable day, with temperatures much lower than they had been for a few weeks, a group of dedicated participants met me on the boardwalk for the clean up. After everyone had made their way to our meet up location, Jessica and I got things started. The event went exactly as planned and everyone did a fantastic job of filling up their garbage bags. It was unbelievable how much litter they were capable of collecting in just 40 minutes. Below is a gallery of photos.

Unfortunately, a lot more was left behind that we weren’t able to collect. The problem has to be corrected with people disposing of their waste correctly. An even better solution, in my opinion, is to drastically decrease individual waste production, by changing habits and cutting out all single use items from day to day life.