Monday, December 31, 2007
Prayer is a relationship; half the job is mine...
Destiny...is also a relationship - a play between divine grace and willful self effort. Half of it you have no control over; half of it is absolutely in your hands ,and your actions will show measurable consequences...
You need to learn how to select your thoughts just the same way you select what clothes you're gonna wear every day. This is a power you can cultivate...
[This is] admitting...the existence of negative thoughts, understanding where they came from and why they arrived and then - with great forgiveness and fortitude - dismissing them...
I will not harbor unhealthy thoughts anymore...
You may not come here anymore with your hard and abusive thoughts...all these will be turned away...This is a peaceful harbor, the entryway to a fine and proud island that is only beginning to cultivate tranquility...That is my mission, and it will never end...
INSTRUCTIONS FOR FREEDOM
(Elizabeth received these at the ashram before her final ritual of letting go of her marriage)
1. Life's metaphors are God's instructions.
2. You have just climbed up and above the roof. There is nothing between you and the Infinite. Now, let go.
3.The day is ending. It's time for something that was beautiful to turn into something else that is beautiful. Now, let go.
4. Your wish for resolution was a prayer. Your being here is God's reponse. Let go, and watch the stars come out - on the outside and the inside.
5. With all your heart, ask for grace, and let go.
6. With all your heart, forgive him, FORGIVE YOURSELF, and let him go.
7. Let your intention be freedom from useless suffering. Then, let go.
8. Watch the heat of the day pass into the cool of the night. Let go.
9. When the karma of a relationship is done, only love remains. It's safe. Let go.
10. When the past has passed from you at last, let go. Then climb down and begin the rest of your life. With great joy.
Elizabeth released this relationship with a beautiful ritual and then did a handstand on the roof at the ashram.
For all of us who've been there and done that - and for those of us still struggling to release: Yeah!
Sunday, December 30, 2007
Oprah even did a show interviewing Elizabeth Gilbert in October 2007, and I know it was widely watched by fans of the book and many of my friends.
In a yoga magazine recently, I noticed a retreat offering entitled: "Eat, Pray, Love, and Yoga." Sounds like my kind of retreat!
Several months ago, a friend sent me an email where she compared several passages in the book and the invaluable insights it contained to Byron Katie's The Work.
(See my blog entry "Letting Go: Take Two" for a reference and link to The Work)
The first passage she tackled was a discussion on the true purpose of soul mates, involving Richard and Elizabeth at the Ashram.
In the next day or so, I want to share a couple of other passages that I also found elucidating and which speak to the general human condition. Whether or not we have had the same experiences that Elizabeth had is not really relevant. There is truly no human being alive who has not suffered some kind of loss or who at times has not been held captive by limited thinking.
There is no substitute for reading this book however. So do yourself a favor and read it.
On soul mates:
(Richard speaking to Elizabeth)
Listen to me. Someday you're gonna look back on this moment of your life as such a sweet time of grieving. You'll see that you were in mourning and your heart was broken, but your life was changing and you were in the best possible place in the world for it - in a beautiful place of worship, surrounded by grace...
But that love you felt, that's just the beginning. You just got a taste of love...Wait till you see how much more deeply you can love than that...
People think a soul mate is your perfect fit...But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that's holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life...
They tear down your walls and smack you awake...
They come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then they leave. And thank God for it...
David's purpose was to shake you...tear apart your ego...break your heart open so new light could get in, make you so desperate and out of control that you had to transform your life, then introduce you to your spiritual master and beat it...
So miss him. Send him love and light every time you think about him, and then drop it...
If you clear out all that space in your mind that you're using right now to obsess about this guy, you'll have a vacuum there, an open spot - a doorway.
And guess what the universe will do with that doorway?
It will rush in - God will rush in - and fill you with more love than you ever dreamed...
So stop using David to block that door. Let it go...
I read somewhere before going to sleep last night - that all love is ultimately a search for God's love, and this passage certainly affirms that.
Saturday, December 29, 2007
There are few books I read over and over again. One of them is Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda.
And the other is - Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. It has touched me deeply and profoundly since I first read it almost two years ago.
Is there anyone out there who hasn't read this book? Give yourself a great gift and treat: read it!
I've bought the book several times because some copies were never returned to me. I presently keep at least two copies at any given time - a clean, hardbound edition - and a paperback version which I have underlined extensively - particularly the section on India.
Eat, Pray, Love addresses so much about the human condition on so very many levels. It is a veritable gold mine of insights, sage advice, and exquisite writing. There are sentences I would read and get so lost in, I could not proceed and would instead close the book and savor every word contained in it.
I would like to share some excerpts from the section on India that I have underlined...
On Practicing Yoga:
Why do we practice yoga?
Yoga in Sanskrit...can be translated as "union." [It means] to attach yourself to a task...with ox-like discipline...
But Yoga can also mean trying to find God through meditation, through scholarly study, through the practice of silence, through devotional service or through mantra...
You may use your Yoga - your disciplined practice of sacred union - to get closer to Krishna, Jesus, Muhammed, Buddha, or Yahweh...
The Yogic path is about disentangling the built in glitches of the human condition which [is] the heartbreaking inability to sustain contentment...
The Yogis...say that human discontentment is a simple case of mistaken identity...We wrongly believe that our limited egos constitute our whole entire nature...We don't realize that, somewhere within us all, there does exist a supreme Self that is eternally at peace...
Yoga is the effort to experience one's divinity personally and then to hold on to that experience forever. Yoga is about self-mastery...so you can seek instead, a place of presence from which you may regard yourself and your surroundings with poise...
Look for God like a man with his head on fire looks for water...
On the Turiya state (the elusive fourth level of consciousness):
...If you can move into that state of witness-consciousness, then you can be present with God all the time...you're in a constant state of bliss...
Your treasure - your perfection - is within you already. But to claim it, you must leave the busy commotion of the mind abandon the desires of the ego and enter into the silence of the heart...
According to the mystics, this search for divine bliss is the entire purpose of a human life. This is why we all chose to be born, and this is why all the suffering and pain of life on earth is worthwhile - just for the chance to experience this infinite love...
I haven't even begun to note all the sections that spoke to me...At least another entry on this book awaits!
Friday, December 28, 2007
The quotes that follow are also from her site:
Many Drops, One Ocean
"Imagine you and I are standing in the shallow waters of the Atlantic Ocean, here in Miami where I live. You dip your hand in the ocean and scoop up a palm full of water. Let's say that scoop of ocean water represents "you."
Now I take my hand and scoop up a palm full of water and my scoop represents "Pat." We look down the beach and notice that every single person - hundreds, let's say - are scooping up water into their palms, and those scoops represent Harry, Jane, Rebekah, Thomas, Jim, and Orville, and so on.
And while each of us may think, "This is MY water; it belongs to me and is 'different' from everyone else's water, the truth is it is the SAME water, the SAME ocean. The only 'difference' is that different hands are holding the scoops of water.
Ah, so the 'difference' is in our hands, not the water..."
This is love:
to fly towards
a secret sky,
to cause a hundred veils
to fall each moment.
First to let go of life.
Finally, to take a step
The Breeze of dawn has secrets to tell you;
Don't go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want;
Don't go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don't go back to sleep.
My love for You goes deeper than my own soul.
My way amounts to this:
I don't say I'm inside of myself. I'm not.
The I within me is deeper than myself.
Anywhere I look, it's filled with You.
Where can I put You if You're already inside.
--Yunus Emre (13th Century)
For for information on Pat Donworth, see her website:
Catch her new site - launching soon - which will offer very reasonable intuitive readings and tells her incredible life story. Plus, you'll be able to read the entire section entitled: Many Drops, One Ocean!
Thursday, December 27, 2007
I asked my friend Kelly Cleveland, who had gotten it in Liberia while visiting a mission there, to tell me about its origins.
She has graciously permitted me to share her thoughts surrounding this beautiful gift:
"The little copper cross I gave you
has amazing grace written all over it.
If you turn it upside down and look at the bottom
you will notice it is a shell casing from a bullet.
It is from Liberia. During the last civil war,
the bullets were so thick on the road
that the people were able to scoop them up
by the bucket full.
The little bullet tells it all.
Within it is contained all the pain, fear, guilt, sin, greed, hate,
and murder that the people experienced -
and then the freedom, forgiveness, love, friendship,
and amazing grace that ensued afterwards.
Such a little gift with SO much meaning.
Through the darkest of night
the stars will shine the brightest."
When I held this little cross, I felt all of the latter things that Kelly described - the love and grace - and none of the former things - for what that small bullet had been fashioned into - redeemed all of what it had originally been intended as.
I rejoiced that instead of ending someone's life - this bullet ended as a cross - shining light into darkened corners.
Let us all, during this Sacred Season, think of all of those who still live in strife. Let us pray for them, and give thanks for the many blessings we all experience in our lives.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
I received a little card from the Visitation Monastery in Minneapolis, with a caption on one side that reads: "Wage Peace."
On the other side it reads:
Place yourself in the presence of God
frequently throughout the day.
Live in the present moment
and accept all that happens
as coming from God,
as sent or allowed by God.
"Learn of me
for I am gentle
and humble of heart."
Practice the little virtues.
God loves you unconditionally
and invites you
to love everyone unconditionally
with God's love.
Live out your call to be holy
whatever your vocation.
A fitting motto for anyone!
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
"In the forty-second
year of the reign
of Octavian Augustus,
the whole world being
at peace, Jesus Christ,
the eternal God and
Son of the Eternal Father,
was born in Bethelem..."
in a torn world,
may you truly know
He is Peace
An Irish Prayer
May the peace of Christ
rest in your heart,
the joy of Christ
shine in your eyes,
and the light of Christ
brighten your path.
Monday, December 24, 2007
was the Word;
the Word was in God's Presence,
and the Word was God.
He was present to God in the beginning.
Through him all things came into being,
and apart from him nothing came to be.
Whatever came to be in him, found life,
life for the light of men.
The light shines on in darkness,
a darkness that did not overcome it.
May this Sacred Season and its Silent Softness embrace you in the arms of the Christ Child.
Sunday, December 23, 2007
Over 30 years ago, when I was in my late teens and in college, I had the opportunity to listen to a lecture given by Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. In the early to mid seventies, her research with the dying and her newly minted five stages of dying was still very novel and intriguing.
I remember her clearly. She was very petite and unassuming. She eschewed the lectern and instead perched herself at the edge of the stage with her feet dangling, and proceeded to talk to the audience in that lecture hall in a very intimate and compassionate way.
I was fascinated with Dr. Kubler-Ross and from that point on I followed her life with keen interest. In her later years, when she dabbled in areas that would be considered "New Age," some of my professors in graduate school considered that she had gone off of the deep end.
In the 90's she started a farm in rural Virginia to take care of AIDS patients, but it was torched to the ground because of prevailing biases.
While I was still at college, I also had the opportunity to listen to Dr. Raymond Moody, who wrote the book, Life After Life, and was one of the first to document the existence of NDE's (near death experiences) and to catalog similar characteristics in these experiences.
Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross died in August of 2004, but not before finishing one last book, On Grief and Grieving.
In this book, she and her co-author David Kessler, note that that there are five stages of grief and they are the same as the stages of death and dying:
And while this book primarily deals with those who have experienced the physical loss of a loved one, it is really helpful for anyone who has had any experience of loss.
Near the end of the book, Dr. Kubler-Ross writes a section on her personal experience of grief - written a few weeks before she died - after having spent nine years bed-ridden due to a series of strokes. She speaks of this time as a rich one in her life - for she was able to face her two greatest struggles - cultivating patience - and allowing herself to receive love.
The Afterword is poignant and titled "The Gift of Grief." The following passage is an except from this section:
"Grief is the intense emotional response to the pain of a loss. It is the reflection of a connection that has been broken. Most important, grief is an emotional, spiritual, and psychological journey to healing.
There is wonder in the power of grief. We don't appreciate its healing powers, yet they are extraordinary and wondrous...Grief transforms the broken, wounded soul, a soul that no longer wants to get up in the morning...a soul that has suffered an unbelievable loss.
Grief has the power to heal...
Grief always works.
Grief always. heals...
Why grieve? For two reasons. First, the one who grieves well, lives well. Second...grief is the healing process of the heart, soul, and mind; it is the path that returns us to wholeness...
The reality is you will grieve forever...
Sadness, anger, and emotional pain sit on our doorstep with a deeper range than we have ever felt...We stand alone with no precedent or emotional repertoire for this kind of loss...
With the power of grief comes much of the fruits of our grief and grieving...
That is the Grace of Grief.
That is the miracle of Grief.
That is the Gift of Grief."
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Those in tune - witnessed and experienced the Earth's Kumbhaka - the Winter Solstice - a truly Sacred and Auspicious Moment. Even the time it happened is significant - 108 is a sacred number in the East and the repetition of 108 mantras is a most holy endeavor.
I pondered that as I sat for a very long and still meditation this morning. This is the moment in our meditation practice that yogis teach and write about. Except here was Mother Earth experiencing it herself - taking an infinite moment to pause - in a year that has brought so much turmoil to many.
Last night, before retiring to read, I collected a number of quotes that came to me recently from various sources - students, teachers, and friends - given to me in support of impending new beginnings in my life.
I will share a few:
"...and the time came
when the risk it took to remain
in a tightly closed bud
became infinitely more painful
than the risk it took to blossom." (Anais Nin)
is the breaking of the shell
that encloses your understanding." (Khalil Gibran)
"Whatever you dream you can do - begin it.
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.
Begin it now." (Goethe)
"It may be when we no longer know what to do,
we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go,
we have begun our real journey." (Wendell Berry)
So much support comes from so many sources - seen and unseen. Always.
To all who have selflessly offered this support to me. Thank you. With deepest love and gratitude, the Light in me - honors and delights - in the Light in you.
Friday, December 21, 2007
This morning, as I sat by the river after finishing my morning prayers, I contemplated how irrevocably the landscape of my life has been altered from solstice to solstice, and I made the spontaneous decision to stop wearing my watch. I am no longer bound to schedules of any kind and I am free to get lost in the Present Moment.
As I sat in the Silent Stillness of this grey Winter morning, I recalled a book I read a quarter century ago, and rediscovered a couple of nights ago:
Molchanie: The Silence of God.
This book was written by Catherine De Hueck Doherty, a Russian immigrant to Canada in the early 20th century. Her vocation drew her to minister to those who lived in impoverished areas in Ontario, and she is best known for establishing Madonna House, a lay apostolate and community.
I retrieved the book before meditating at midnight. It took me a while to find it in my collection of books. And then I sat and read sections underlined a half lifetime ago...
This book discusses the many kinds of silence that we experience and it is an invitation to make a pilgrimage into the Silence of God - which is the richest, most satisfying of silences.
Catherine begins with a poem:
Is a dark night
Meets its death to self.
Not noise of word
Silence is a school
Of Love and death
That leads to
Is a dark night
Where Soul and mind
That is God's speech.
Is a school of
Love and death
Is the key
To the immense
Furnace of Love--
The heart of
Of passionate love
In the arms of God.
With the Lord!
And this quote from her book:
"When we reach the silver sands and plunge into the great sea of God's silence, we begin to understand that he alone is God - Lover, Friend, the totality of gentleness, peace, and rest. He calls us and we cannot resist that call. We have to be alone with him. It is a necessity, it is a hunger. It has been said that prayer is a hunger. But this Christ walks with loneliness and rejection, and so must we."
There is so much richness in this book...
"If we love God, we shall be able to look upon rejection as a great blessing."
"Solitude is being alone with God. But silence is an immense sea into which you enter and never leave."
There is much to plumb in this simple tome. I re-discover a book a quarter century later, and read it with new eyes, and imbibe its wisdom with a more seasoned heart.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
For a friend today...
Michael W. Smith writes some of the most beautiful Christian music. His new album is titled It's a Wonderful Christmas.
Here are the lyrics to "All Year Long:"
This Christmas Season
I wish you joy
The wonder in every girl and boy
I wish you gladness
The warmth and cheer
Of good friends and family gathered near
May children's laughter and falling snow
Rekindle sweet scenes of long ago
May every carol and candle bright
Remind you why angels sang that night
If trouble finds you, this is my prayer
May peace guard your heart and make you strong
And I wish you love, the kind to last
All year long
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Thank you for you presence
during the hard and mean days.
For then we have you to lean upon.
Thank you for your presence
during the bright and sunny days,
for then we can share that which we have
with those who have less.
And thank you for your presence
during the Holy Days, for then we are
able to celebrate you and our families
and our friends.
For those who have no voice,
we ask you to speak.
For those who feel unworthy,
we ask you to pour your love
out in waterfalls of tenderness.
For those who live in pain,
we ask you to bathe them in
the river of your healing.
For those who are lonely,
we ask you to keep them company.
For those who are depressed,
we ask you to shower upon them
the light of hope.
Dear Creator, You, the borderless
sea of substance, we ask you to give to all the
world that which we need the most - Peace.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
There is still frost on the ground and bench.
I do not see the tree at first.
The tree at the right side of the bench - is so young. I have imagined it growing up and providing ample shade in the years to come. Though it did seem like it had been planted too close to the bench.
But the tree is not there.
I look at the ground and notice it is lying there - snapped off nearly at the base. I don't know if the strong winds that prevailed for days did it - or whether if was actually broken by something or someone. It doesn't matter anyway.
I walk over to it and bend down, and start saying over and over again like a mantra, as I gently touch its trunk - "I am sorry, I am sorry!"
My own grief for so many things this year mingles with what I imagine to be the grief of the tree - for its own unfulfilled dreams and potential. My tears run freely.
I think of the fragility of life. I think of other baby trees gifted to me in the last year that did not survive. Was that an omen presaging things to come?
I think of the impermanence of life.
I think of the natural order of things. Some things die. Others are given birth to. It is in so many ways what the changing seasons are a reminder of.
There is a season for growing and one for harvesting.
And there are times for slashing and burning - for releasing and clearing. And for fertilizing.
I ask the tree if I can take a little piece of its branch. There are buds on it that will never bloom.
I bring it home for my meditation altar as a remembrance of the mystery of life.
Monday, December 17, 2007
Some months ago, I read the book, The Wisdom of Jesus and the Yoga Siddhas, in preparation for a workshop I was giving. The author, Marshall Govindan, studied at Georgetown University in the '60's, and had the good fortune to be mentored by Father Thomas King, a very open minded Jesuit.
In this book, Govindan describes his journey into the teachings of Yogananda. While practicing Kriya Yoga, he wondered about the compatibility of this practice with his Christian background. Father King told Govindan to follow his heart - that Yogananda's teachings were definitely from God.
Govindan now resides in Canada and has written a number of works published by Babaji's Kriya Yoga Publications. He has initiated thousands of people into this practice.
The book contains an interesting section where Govindan compares similarities in the teachings of Jesus and of the Siddhas.
A "siddha" is one who is accomplished and has attained supernatural powers. They are perfected masters who have transcended the ego and the limitations of the body.
I will summarize and paraphrase some of Govindan's points:
Jesus taught in parables, metaphor, paradox, and parody, conveying profound teachings in a way that illiterate listeners could easily understand. The Yoga Siddhas taught in the form of poems, in the vernacular of the people, in a way they could memorize and recall.
Jesus severely condemned the Pharisees and the merchants selling their wares in the temple. The Yoga Siddhas also condemned emphasis on temple worship. They taught the human body is the true temple of God, and only through a process of inner purification can one come to know God.
Neither Jesus nor the Siddhas intended to create a new religion. They taught how to realize God through self discipline.
Jesus taught forgiveness of sins or transgressions. The Siddhas taught how to detach from the influence of subconscious tendencies (samskaras) and karma (the consequences of actions, words, and thoughts).
Jesus repeatedly referred to himself as the "Son of Man." The Siddhas spoke of the "lower self" - held together by the ego, and the True Self - which is pure conscionsness.
In the Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus has little to say about himself. Similarly, the Siddhas have little to say about themselves in their writings.
Jesus taught that the Father exists and loves all of us. The Siddhas taught that by progressive self study, purification, and discipline, one can realize the Lord.
Jesus stated that the Kingdom of Heaven is within us. The Siddhas taught that God was to be found within us as absolute Being, Consciousness, and Bliss.
Jesus used the metaphor of Light to represent the consciousness of his true identity. The Siddhas referred to the Supreme Being as all pervasive light.
Jesus ascended bodily into heaven after 40 days. The Siddhas surrender their physical body but are also able to transform their physical bodies through intense practice.
Jesus emphasized love and the inner experience or communion with God. The Siddhas rejected the Veda's emphasis on sacrifice and ritual.
Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness in meditation and prayer. The Siddhas practice tapas - penance - and even the number 40 is significant with them.
Both the Siddhas and Jesus exhibited great social concern.
Jesus accepted Mary Magdalene as a disciple and allowed her to wash his feet. The Siddhas show their surrender to their Gurus by touching or washing their feet.
Jesus was more than just a teacher to his disciples. The Siddas were Gurus - dispellers of darkness - who showed the path to the Lord.
This book is an interesting read. So is Yogananda's The Second Coming of Christ, a two volume set which examines the New Testament in fascinating detail. Yogananda's insights came from a place of deep meditation and communion with God.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Have you tried to let go?
No-one has ever succeeded in letting go.
Letting go is not for you.
Letting go is the end of someone trying to let go;
so do not try to let go. It will strengthen the whole game.
Don't try to not think; it will strengthen the thinking.
Don't try to transcend your patterns; it will strengthen the patterns.
The biggest pattern of all patterns is trying to get rid of patterns.
What should I do then?
Simply be available for this moment to kiss you.
When your partner comes home,
you are available for him to kiss you.
Maybe he will, maybe he won't; but you are available.
Then the kiss is really sweet, because it is free of 'me'.
Let whatever is here now kiss you.
Just receive life without doing.
Just receive what is given.
We are so busy living life, we have largely forgotten
what it is to simply receive life and let life live us;
to be unconditionally available for this moment to have us
and to recognize that every moment is the beloved,
whatever it contains. This moment is it.
In this moment, the beloved kisses you.
This moment is God.
The Work consists of 4 simple questions one asks of oneself in dealing with just about any issue or belief:
Is it true?
Can you absolutely know it is true?
How do you react when you think that thought?
Who would you be without that thought?
For more information on The Work, and how to more appropriately work with these questions and process, go to:
Saturday, December 15, 2007
I awaken early, to pray for my students - and for myself - as I prepare - not only for the last class of the session - but my last class after teaching on Saturday mornings for 9 years. It is a bittersweet moment - but as a therapist friend reminded me recently - the number 9 is symbolic of completion.
I pray that I may say whatever my students need to hear - and offer in my teaching - whatever meets their needs on this day.
Traditionally, on the last class of the Fall season, I do a three part class of about 30 minutes apiece: A Yin practice, a restorative practice, and a mini - Yoga Nidra. During the first two parts I read my students spiritual poetry as they surrender their bodies and restless minds into longer holdings of forward bends and restorative poses. They let go into the embrace of the Season and all that it invites in all of us.
Yoga Nidra means "yogic sleep." It is a type of progressive relaxation that can leave one just as refreshed as if one had slept for hours. When combined with regularly setting an intention, it can be a powerful tool for transformation.
While there are many books and CD's out there, my favorite one is by the musician Steve Wolf, entitled, "Relax Deeply." It is available through Amazon, and it is the one I use in my classes.
It was the perfect day of giving and receiving. After all, the best gifts in life - (as a card I received on my birthday reminded me) - are not things - but are the intangibles in life - the love of family and of friends - and the experiences of companionship, compassion, health, joy, and eternal bliss.
I invited my students to continue deepening in their practice. There would always be a little of me in their yoga - just as there would always be a lot of them in mine. We had been teachers and students to one another at various times. We had both at times, given deeply and received what is truly beyond measure and ultimately priceless - the experience of Union in the Divine.
To all my students - past and present. I bow to you. You have honored me with your yoga.
Friday, December 14, 2007
The particular version I like and have been using has been very powerful for me:
May I be filled with lovingkindness.
May I be well.
May I be at peace and at ease.
May I be happy.
Normally, one begins the practice of lovingkindness with oneself and then proceeds to include loved ones, those with whom one has difficulty, and in the end, the whole human family.
One of my favorite mantras is "Lokah Samasta". I chanted this mantra for the first time during an incredibly powerful and transformational workshop with Seane Corn - in a beautiful setting called The Barn - in Charlottsville, VA, in the Fall of 2005.
There is a beautiful rendition of this mantra in the new CD, "Soul in Wonder," by Miten and Deva Premal.
om shanti, shanti, shanti
This mantra is basically a mantra of lovingkindness:
May all beings be happy,
and may my thoughts,
words, and deeds,
contribute in some way
to the happiness of all beings.
Peace, peace, peace!
Truly, may all beings be happy -
filled with Divine Light
and Love and Grace!
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Okay, I admit it...I am fascinated by channelings, intuitive readings, and numerology.
Yesterday was 12-12. This powerful numerical sequence is symbolic of a cosmic connection - it is a bridge to the future and signifies a level of completion or graduation.
One of my favorite intuitives - (besides my my dear friends Deborah and Sharon of course!) - is a woman named Karen who has a wonderful site called - What's Up on Planet Earth?. This is her web site:
The following is an excerpt from the newsletter she sent out yesterday. Go to the site for the complete reading of her latest piece:
"2007 was a rocky and challenging year for many…especially the latter six month period after the solstice. And now, another solstice is due to arrive, marking the final point of this deep transitional and preparatory period.
This deep period of excavation that lasted for so many months was vitally necessary to our spiritual evolutionary process, as it prepared us for the next level of spiritual hierarchy. And the best is yet to come…we have been preparing for it! Higher vibrating key concepts and ways of being were integrated within us, notably: learning and experiencing how to stay still and in our center and how to harmonize with the energy of community.
When we first arrive in a higher dimension or higher vibrating energy, it feels glorious at first, as all our needs seem to be met and we seem to be able to create much of anything instantly. As time progresses, we find ourselves aligning with these newer higher realms, and this always involves a clearing and purging of any energies or patterns within and without which no longer match our new surrounding vibration. So we first feel great and then we feel not so great."
I am always amazed at how Karen seems to catch the pulse of what is going on. Some of my more metaphysical friends and I will often trade emails on her latest postings marveling at how she seems to articulate the very states we seem to be experiencing.
This year I find myself in a different relationship to both - reviewing the motives and reasons for gift giving, and the impact it has on both giver and receiver.
This afternoon I received Todd Norian's newsletter and I love the way he addresses what this symbiotic relationship is all about. Todd is a Senior Certified Anusara Yoga Teacher, and I excerpt his remarks on the subject.
For more information on Todd, his wife Ann Greene, and their newsletters, and teaching schedules, go to:
"Lately I've been reflecting on how to become a better receiver. It's only when I can allow myself to receive fully that I can give from my heart unconditionally.
To be able to receive I consciously empty myself of doubt and fear and create an open space inside for listening...
When I allow myself to receive fully, I fill up with gratitude. Then my giving comes from an overflow of love rather than obligation. Receiving takes an ability to reflect within...
We first draw in and shine the light of awareness inside to see and appreciate who we are: the greater the appreciation, the greater the gratitude.
The more you draw in and receive who you are, the more gratitude and desire you have to give back and offer your thanks. When we give, we extend the light of awareness outward."
The newsletter ends with this wonderful piece:
"The state of grace
needs the recipient
in order to complete."
You are held in the hand of God
and totally loved
And when that love can be received
the circuit is completed.
When one moves closer to the source,
there is a moment
that is difficult to describe in any language.
The receiver becomes the giver
and the receptacle becomes the source.
...and then the dance of eternity really begins.
(an excerpt from Emmanuel's Book,
compiled by Pat Rodergast)
It is the season of expectancy - and pregnancy - luring us into our deepest core.
It is the season for Silence and journeying inward.
It is the season that invites us - as Emily Dickinson once wrote -
"To dwell in possibility."
I awaken over and over in the night with a choir singing in my soul:
"A voice cries out -
Prepare the way of the Lord,
Make straight in the desert,
A highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up
And every mountain made low.
The Glory of the Lord shall be revealed..."
The music coaxes me from a deep sleep and gently urges me to go deeper into my heart to prepare the way of the Lord.
(Words by LLoyd Larson)
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
My teacher's theme for the last yoga class of the session was the experience of wonder. She deftly wove the theme and a myriad of examples - both seasonal - and from her own life, into our practice.
It was truly a moment of synchronicity that on my way to class I was listening to the new CD by Miten and Deva Premal appropriately titled: "Soul in Wonder."
The title track is a simple piece with simple lyrics:
inarticulate speech of the heart,
I am a soul in wonder..."
As I sat for a long time at the river this morning - which was as still and as peaceful as I have seen it for a while - I thought of the lyrics of another piece on this CD:
"spirit of the river
i can hear you
i feel as if
i am deep inside your song
i see you laughing
will you carry me with you when i'm gone?"
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
The First Universal Principle of Alignment in Anusara Yoga is to: "open to grace" - or to the universal. We open to something good and we respond by softening in our bodies - so that we can receive the gifts of that opening.
I often tell my students, that the operative word - is opening. We cannot invite change and transformation in our lives if we do not open - if we are not receptive first. This opening implies a vulnerability at some level because we have to cultivate the attitude of allowing whatever must be - to be - but we must also cultivate the art of accepting whatever comes into our lives as well, and trust that the Divine in His Infinite Wisdom and the Universe know what is best for us. This is what I call Faith.
I can think of no other practice or style of yoga that begins this way. It is a practice that invites us to surrender on the mat, over and over again and to go at times to places inside and outside of ourselves where we did not dream or know we would go.
At the end of each yoga session or term, I marvel at how far my students have come. This week I told them that the whole session - indeed our whole journey together over the years has been about aligning with grace - not just physically - but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, as well. We have undertaken this journey together and supported this process of embodying greater alignment in community.
Now, at the end of another session, I am moved and honored by the beauty and the poetry of my student's yoga. It is truly a meditation in motion. They dive into their infinite internal reservoir and shine their deepest essence with grace.
I am honored and blessed to be part of such a journey. It has been a wonderful gift in my life to see my students throughout the years literally embody in heart, mind, and soul, one of my favorite verses by Rumi:
The whole Universe
is inside of you.
Ask all --
This is what I have sought to convey to my students. Nothing more - and nothing less.
Monday, December 10, 2007
The December issue of American Songwriter has the same picture of James Taylor that was on his Sweet Baby James album over thirty years ago.
James Taylor is one of the most prolific, creative, and enduring singer-songwriters of his generation. I was in love with him in high school, and “Fire and Rain” has to this day, remained one of my top five favorite songs.
The interviewer makes this poignant statement:
“Fire and Rain” is such a direct, authentic statement from your soul.
“It is sort of almost uncomfortably close. Almost confessional. The reason I could write a song like that at that point, and probably couldn’t now, is that I didn’t have any sense that anyone would hear it…[At the time I wrote this song] I was totally unknown…So I assumed [it] would never be heard….”
This song haunted me for years. It seemed so intimate. Truly, almost confessional. As if one were peering into
“To practice music at all is to give human consciousness the slip. That’s why its so associated with spirituality.”
In a few of my recent posts, I have made references to chants and sacred music and their ability and power to heal. Yet popular music also had the ability to transport us – and profoundly touch and affect us on many different levels.
I cannot imagine a world without music. I am reminded of my music theory teacher in college who introduced me to liturgical music and who once told my class the story that as a child, she had asked her mother if there was any music in heaven. Because if there wasn’t – she wasn’t sure she wanted to go.
There was no one else there. No car parked with the motor running as is often the case. Instead, it was just me - on the bench - praying - and listening to the birds.
For the first time since I have been coming here - I was enveloped in a veritable symphony of melodious singing, coming from both sides of the Potomac River.
As I drunk in the beauty of nature's improvisations - I was struck by how reminiscent the call and response on both sides of the river echoed the singing of the psalms of the Divine Office by monastics in choir.
It also reminded me of the experience of chanting Sanskrit mantras in "kirtan" - which consists of the repetition of sacred chants, simple mystical syllables, or sound vibrations - in the same call and response pattern - but at an increasingly faster pace - building up to a crescendo - until slowing back down again.
Kirtan is a form of meditation. For some individuals, it may be an easier introduction into this discipline. The chanting of mantras and indeed - the singing or proclamation of psalms and prayers - can directly connect us with Divine energies that can quiet the mind, remove obstacles, bring solace, and provide an opportunity or an opening for a process of healing to occur.
This morning I felt embraced and comforted by the sacred chanting of the birds - almost as if I had been invited to participate. One particular bird - perched high up on a naked limb - looked at me directly and intently - his cries predominated - as if he had been appointed the cantor, or soloist. I sensed he tried to urgently impart a message - received and understood by the depths of my heart and soul.
Entering into the Silence made the whispers of the Divine more audible in the quiet stillness of this winter morning.
Sunday, December 9, 2007
Beguines were lay women who dedicated themselves to living out their spirituality without entering a convent - a very radical notion for its day. They espoused to return to a pure living of the Gospel message through the expression of deep devotion.
Hadewijch conveyed her intimate and emotional - yet visionary mysticism - in her poetic musings. Her spirituality is characterized by a type of "love mysticism" - which affirmed that union with God could be lived out as a love relationship on earth.
Here is the piece I came across last night. As I read it, I was struck by its Tantric perspective:
are too small
to hold me,
I am so vast
In the Infinite
for the Uncreated
it undoes me
wider than wide
is too narrow
You know this well,
you who are also there
Around 27 years ago, I read Hadewijch for the first time and was deeply touched by her passionate love for the Divine. Reading this beautiful piece prompted me to revisit a collection of her works in my library. As I flipped through the book, I found I had marked this one piece in the book, which apparently had lots to say to me then. (The original male pronouns have been substituted):
She who wishes to conquer Love
Must not neglect
To give herself continually to Love.
And she must suffer
For what her heart has chosen,
And surrender herself in pain
Or in defamation,
In sorrow or in joy,
In Love's chains:
Thus shall she come to know
The noblest Being in the depths of Love.
The Spiritual Diary contains Yogananda's inspirational readings for each day of the year. The theme for a particular season changes and the focus is on silence during this season. Today's entry comes from his Autobiography of a Yogi, in reference to his own guru, Sri Yukteswar:
"The silence habitual to Sri Yukteswar was caused by his deep perceptions of the Infinite. No time remained for the interminable "revelations" that occupy the teachers without Self-realization.
A saying in the Hindu scriptures is:
'In shallow men
the fish of little thoughts
cause much commotion.
In oceanic minds
the whales of inspiration
make hardly a ruffle.'"
What a simple, but great reminder and lesson!
Saturday, December 8, 2007
OM - or more appropriately - AUM - is a mantra that is regularly chanted in many yoga classes, though students may often not understand its origins, and may resist joining in the chanting.
OM is a seed mantra defined as The Primal Shabda. Mantras typically begin and end with the chanting of the sacred syllable of OM.
Ancient yogis believed and understood OM to be the very sound of creation - of universal consciousness - and ultimately the very Sound and Manifestation of the Divine. All other Sanskrit mantras are generated from this Primordial Sound which exists in everything in the Universe and which the yogis taught their students to perceive and actually hear in meditation.
In the ancient Vedic texts the Divine expressed this one thought :
"I am only one - may I become the many."
This Divine desire resulted in a vibration from which all of creation sprung.
Similarly, the Gospel of John begins with these verses:
"In the beginning was the Word.
And the Word was with God.
And the Word was God."
In her book on the Yoga Sutras from a woman's perspective, The Secret Power of Yoga, Nischala Joy Devi notes that, "before we begin to formulate a word or even a thought, a feeling is experienced that stems from a vibration." Modern physics supports the notion that all matter is ultimately comprised of energy and vibration, including the very thoughts we have.
I remember the first time I was nearly knocked down by the sound of OM a few years ago, while waiting to see Ammachi, the hugging saint. One of the men in her retinue came out and began chanting OM and it sounded like it came from the very bowels of the earth. It reminded me of the sound that comes from the earth during an earthquake which is more frightening than the shaking of the earth itself. Everyone joined in, adding their individual voices to the chant - and the vibration in that room was very powerful - unlike anything I have ever experienced before or since.
A lot of research has been done on the power and ability of sound to heal. We know for a fact that music can be healing. We might disregard the powerful healing effects that chanting can have on those doing the chanting, or on those who simply listen and become one with the sacred sounds.
Devi asserts that OM is not only the sound of universal consciousness, but of Divinity itself.
OM, more appropriately approximates the following vowels and consonant - AUM - forming a trinity of letters - where each sound should be pronounced slowly and deliberately. Beyond the articulation of these three sounds, there is one more - "anahatha" - or the unstruck sound. This is the Unspoken Word. It is Silence. After chanting of this sacred syllable, a resonance remains, reverberating in the room and in our bodies and very cells. We become one with the Sacred Sound and with one another.
OM affirms the presence of the Divine, not unlike the Hebrew "Amen". When you chant this sacred sound - it initiates you as Shabda Yogi - a yogi of sacred sound - as one who pursues this path towards greater wholeness, balance, and higher states of consciousness. The yogis past and present have believed and known what the rest of us have not - that you can encounter and become one with the Divine through the chanting of this sacred syllable.
As someone who grew up listening to Gregorian Chants and who has chanted the psalms, hymns and antiphons in the Liturgy of the Hours with some of my monastic friends throughout the years, I have always been at home with sacred sound - in any tradition. I find chanting to be very soothing. If sound is truly the manifesation of the Divine, then by chanting we become enveloped in the very breath of God. Hildegard of Bingen, the medieval Abbess who composed some of the most unique chants in Christianity, often referred to herself as "a feather on the breath of God".
May you all experience the delicious union with the Divine and one another that comes through that chanting of OM or any chant or mantra that touches your heart, especially during this Blessed Season.
Friday, December 7, 2007
It is truly moving and uplifting and fitting for this Advent Season. Truly, a voice cries out in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord!
What is the goodness I long for?
My favorite song is "Ong Namo." Snatam sings with the exquisite voice of an angel. She is one of those rare beings who is truly mesmerizing and much better live than on her recordings. I was truly transported. On her recent live album she improvises on this piece with these lyrics. I listen to them every day on my way down to the river, on my way to teach, and on a number of other occasions. Her voice is haunting:
"I bow my head to God.
And God took all of me.
Every imperfection -
God took all of me.
And every day
Oh, my Beloved!
Kindness of the heart!
Breath of Life,
I bow to you.
I bow to you,
Again and again!"
I read this last night - before my late night meditation - and going to bed - and I was reminded again of this prayer and affirmation this morning as I read the inspirational words of a yoga teacher, written and sent to me while she was overlooking the Ganges River this morning.
This comes from: The Spiritual Science of Kriya Yoga, by Goswami Kriyananda and is so appropriate for this season.
The Infinite Lord of Stillness
Oh, Infinite Lord of Stillness,
May we approach Thee at the altar of stillness.
May we who gather here at this most holy altar,
Lay flowers of silence at Thy Holy Lotus Feet.
Oh, Lord of Stillness,
Teach us to meditate with fervent, silent devotion.
Oh, Lord of Stillness,
Teach us to commune with Thee;
Teach us to contact Thee.
O, Infinite Lord of Stillness,
Teach us how to gently decree Thy Holy Presence.
Remove from us, Oh, Lord of Stillness,
All mechanical meditation, all mechanical words,
And offer at Thy altar of silence, our souls to Thee.
Teach us to gently and humbly request Thy Presence.
Take from us the veil of ignorance that we might not drown,
But remain awake in Thee and Thy Service.
Fill each cell of our being with Thy luminous light.
Fill each petal of our mind with Thy luminous love.
Fill our lives with Thy luminous wisdom.
Oh, Lord of Stillness,
Strengthen us that we might see
The highway to Heaven
And thus find Thee.
Let me begin and end the day -
with this prayer.
Thursday, December 6, 2007
What makes for a good teacher?
First of all, a good teacher is a good student whose commitment to learning never ends.
It goes without saying that both good teachers - and good students - have open minds.
In Sanskrit, the word "adhikara" is used to refer to a type of studentship characterized by a deep commitment to learning and by a life-long pursuit and dedication to imbibing wisdom.
I have often told my students that in considering a teacher they should also consider the teacher's dedication to learning. Does your teacher regularly study with another teacher? Does she seek to deepen her understanding of her subject and all related areas? In Yoga this would encompass not only the teaching of "asanas" or poses, but also include an understanding of the philosophical system that undergirds this practice, in addition to anatomy, kinesiology, and other areas.
And what constitutes a Master Teacher? What defines them? We certainly all know when we have encountered one and have been in their midst, because the experience is truly transformational.
A Master Teacher has the ability to passionately inspire us and touch us deeply - and awaken within us, profound insights.
Suzie Hurley, the Director of Willow Street Yoga in MD, writes a moving essay on the qualities of a Master Teacher by sharing her personal experiences with her two Master Teachers in the Winter Brochure for her studio.
As someone who has experienced Suzie's teaching, and who shares one of her Master Teachers, and has sat in darshan with the other, I have had the honor and the privilege of imbibing from the sacred transmission she has received. She is herself, a Master Teacher, and I experience the gift and grace of her own teaching through my own teacher - Maria - a dedicated yogini who has primarily studied with Suzie herself.
I am eternally grateful for having been brought to my own teacher, who continually challenges me to drink from a deeper well and from the inexhaustible font of wisdom. I am blessed to be nourished on a weekly basis, in body, mind, and soul. She makes me want to be a better teacher, and in striving to do so, I honor her teaching.
I marvel at the web of life and its interconnections and how a sacred transmission flows freely, touching lives here and there, like the river I visit nearly every morning.
The truth is, we are all truly students and teachers to one another throughout life. Different roles predominate at different times.
For a truly inspirational read that may make you think of those teachers that were influential in your own lives, download Willow Street's Winter brochure at:
You won't be disappointed and you may take a pleasant trip down memory lane!
This entry comes from an email a dear friend and yoga student sent me yesterday and I reprint it here with her permission.
"Yoga is not about standing on your head. It is about learning to stand on your own two feet."
As I witnessed the devastating loss experienced by our friend Elena in the passing of her partner of 46 years, I was struck by her strength and calmness. Some said it was shock at the suddenness of the whole thing.
I perceived it as a woman with deep experience at letting go.
Years ago she and Billie tragically lost their son Michael, in an accident. Her grieving through that was the ultimate act of letting go. Elena knows the difficult path ahead of her once again; but she knows letting go is part of life as we shed one passage for another.
I came home from the funeral today and turned to my yoga mat for comfort. I thought of Elena's courage and how difficult it can be to let go of so many things. As I did that, in an instant, I was able to let go of my fear to stand on my head. For years now I have been practicing yoga and developing the strength to do headstand, but had not been able to let go of the fear of falling, fear of failing, even fear of just trying...Today, by opening my heart to grace and letting go, I got up comfortably in just seconds.
Granted, it was against the wall, but a letting go moment nevertheless.
Thank you Veronica, for this insight and lesson into letting go - the ultimate lesson in life!