< Sierra Center for Meditation and Well-Being

Sierra Meditation Center

Manifesting Your Personal Potential And Highest Self

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Definition of Terms







Kirtan ~ In Yoga, Kirtan is the practice of singing and repeating the name of God or divine attributes in song. The word kirtan comes from the ancient language of Sanskrit root "kirt" which means "to communicate, to celebrate, to praise." Kirtan is a devotional practice and is categorized as pratyahara (methods which draw the mind inward). Kirtan can be seen as a bridge between our outer and inner selves and an expression of our desire to know and love God within.

Concentration on different names or meanings of the names sung, increases the focus of the kirtan. For some, finding out the translation and meaning of the names enhances concentration and devotion, while others prefer to dwell on the Name itself. For a list of devotional names and their meanings, click here . Concentration and focus are important aspects of singing kirtan. To this end, closing ones eyes, clapping, and listening intently both to the song and to changes in rhythm can help. Rhythm carries the energy of the kirtan; if the group is in sync, kirtan is enhanced and the atmosphere becomes charged with spiritual energy.
Kirtan, then is a method of attuning ourselves with God, whatever inner meaning that has for each of us. As in any spiritual practice, what we bring to kirtan will determine what we receive from it. If concentration, aim, feeling, rhythm, and repetition of the name of God combine, kirtan can be raised to a level that may carry the minds of all involved to a higher place, where communication becomes communion, an offering and a true prayer.

Meditation ~   The meditative process may not be the same for everyone or the same for one person all the time. The process is affected by the intention one has for meditation, as well as by the state of mind one is in.

When many people meditate, they do a particular practice through which meditation then becomes defined. They use certain mantras, visualizations, do Vipassana, count their breaths, etc. However, it is not a requirement that meditation includes such practices. The intention to meditate then becomes not "doing a meditation practice" but rather a willingness to be open to one's current state of mind.  Simply put, one sits without adding an agenda. They often have an awareness of the content of the mind without attachment or investment.  To do this is to allow a natural transition to occur from the non-meditative (or pre-meditative) state to a meditative process based on the intention to meditate. One may then emerge into a more receptive process.  This receptivity occurs without effort and may be experienced as a process of "being lead", of not choosing what will happen next or manipulating the outcome of a series of experiences. When one reaches a receptive state, one may re-define meditation as the process of letting go, surrendering, losing of one's self, etc.,

When Meditation is defined by using only one process, meditation becomes limited by that definition and the person meditating loses out on discovering the full range of meditative experience. When all of the stages and possible experiences are included in the definition of what meditation is, the practice of meditation becomes broad and inclusive, allowing for the individual processes to deepen and mature.

   -         Excerpt and paraphrased essay, originally by Jason Siff.
       To view the original essay in it’s entirety, please
click here.


Positive Psychology ~ At the subjective level, “positive psychology” relates to well-being and satisfaction, flow, joy, pleasure, and happiness; and constructive attitudes about the future such as optimism, hope and faith.  At the individual level, positive psychology is about positive personal traits such as the capacity for love and vocation, courage, interpersonal skill, aesthetic sensibility, perseverance, forgiveness, originality, future-mindedness, high talent, and wisdom. At the group level positive psychology relates to civic virtues and the organizations that move individuals toward better citizenship such as responsibility, nurturance, altruism, civility, moderation, tolerance, and work ethic (Seligman, 2005).   

In mental health, Positive Psychology is a moving away from the medical model which focuses on diagnosis and treating “illness”, to a more progressive mode of therapy which brings out and accentuates each individual’s strengths, talents, and gifts.


                        "Psychology" vs. "Positive Psychology"

Prasad ~ A gift, given free of expectations. This can be food, or material goods.

Sangha ~ In traditional terms, "Sangha" is defined as the community of ordained Buddhist monks and nuns. However, in the west it is commonly used to refer to any group that gathers with the focus of spiritual growth. 

Satsang ~ The word “Satsang” is derived from “sat” meaning Truth or Absolute Existence, and “sang” meaning association with.  Consequently the literal meaning of Satsang is to be in the company of the wise and virtuous, or a spiritual discourse by a sage or scholar.

Seva ~ Service or work given freely, with no expectation of reward.

Wholistic ~ The theory of natural laws emphasizing the importance of the whole and the interdependence of its parts.  In wholistic medicine, this term refers to the study and attentive care of all aspects of a person’s health, including those that are physical, psychological, and social. It is a system of health care based on a concept of the “whole” person as one whose body, mind, spirit, and emotions are in balance with the environment. Stressing personal responsibility for health, a wholistic approach encourages the client to establish self-regulated methods of control. And yes, though less conventional, “wholistic” is a variant spelling of the word “holistic”, both are acceptable (as sited on Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary).