When I was younger, before starting to learn and practice the science of Yoga, rhythm was not part of my life. I'm not referring to music. Rather, I mean that there wasn't a rhythm of basic activities in my life: When I awoke, when I retired for the day, when I ate – none of these things were rhythmic.
It was not until I traveled to India in the early 1990's and stayed for more than a month at Swami Rama's Ashram—Sadhana Mandir—that I experienced the benefits of a rhythmic life. At the ashram, I woke at a particular time, meditated at a set time, ate at a definite time, had tea and took an afternoon walk at a certain time, and went to bed at the same time every night. After living such a rhythmic schedule for just a few weeks, I began to appreciate it. My body came to know when to arise, when to eat, etc., and this led to a sense of wellbeing, calmness and relaxation.
One of the greatest adepts, teachers, writers, and humanitarians of the 20th century, Swami Rama (1925-1996) is the founder of the Himalayan Institute. Born in Northern India, he was raised from early childhood by the Himalayan sage, Bengali Baba. Under the guidance of his master, he traveled from monastery to monastery and studied with a variety of Himalayan saints and sages, including his grandmaster who was living in a remote region of Tibet. In addition to this intense spiritual training, Swami Rama received higher education in both India and Europe. From 1949 to 1952, he held the prestigious position of Shankaracharya of Karvirpitham in South India. Thereafter, he returned to his master to receive further training at his cave monastery, and finally in 1969, came to the United States where he founded the Himalayan Institute. His best known work, Living With the Himalayan Masters, reveals the many facets of this singular adept and demonstrates his embodiment of the living tradition of the East.
"From childhood onwards, we are taught to concentrate on given tasks, but the other aspect of concentration-the withdrawal of the senses and remaining in a thought-free state is not taught. It is as though we know how to make a motor vehicle go forward but not how to pause or stop.
Many explicit and implicit qualities, characteristics, acquired tendencies and appetites inhabit our mind. The mind is a storehouse of all these attributes. If only we could empty the mind of these, we would enjoy great peace. When the mind is completely free of thoughts and appetites, the mind dissolves itself in bliss. And then no sadhaka can keep himself away from sadhana. The mind draws a thousand times greater joy from a brief concentration than it could ever derive from the pleasures of the senses. The task of the sadhaka is to empty the mind of all thoughts. The mind free of thoughts becomes a mirror which reflects the blissful inner Self of man. A free mind is the seat of power and a channel of intuitive knowledge.
How is it that the flute sends forth such sweet melody? It is because the flute is all vacant inside. Why should we not make our mind ready to receive the songs of Lord Krishna?"
- Swami Rama in Book of Wisdom: Ishopanishad pages 30-31