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Showing posts from August, 2008

The River on Holiday

The river on holiday is a very different place from the one I normally experience. There are people on motor boats, jet skies, and those who simply park their boats and sit - blaring music to their heart's content! The river is both crowded and noisy! I look forward to Tuesday - the day after Labor Day when the river will be so much more quiet and introspective.

I managed to get my husband into the river for the first time today. He was not as gentle and careful with Grace as I am. But then, to him she is only a boat. To me - she is so much more. She is a source of peace and of deep connection to the river. She is a contemplative at heart...

The grasses had grown to such an extent this past week that there was only one stretch I found in the water more or less devoid of them. But because of the recent rains, the river was definitely higher.

There were a number of kayakers on the water today - we passed each other or waved to each other now and then, as if there is some unwritten code…

Cantata

This week, in the midst of so many things happening, I received an unexpected gift from a beautiful woman - a DVD of a Cantata entitled "The Birth of Christ" by Arthur T. Miller, that was first aired at Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin, Ireland, in August of 2006. This airing was significant because descendants of the choirs that Handel had used to perform his own Messiah participated - and these performers were comprised of both Protestants and Catholics singing with such devotion as I have rarely seen. Watching it touched me deeply and transported me to another place.

I finally had a chance to listen to it yesterday. The music was exquisite and the performances were moving beyond words. I thought of all the separations - real and imagined - that exist in this world, and in my life, and how the power of love and God can transcend all of it. And it brought to mind how music too, has the power to heal and to bridge separations.

I was mesmerized watching the expressions of Amy …

Experiencing Stillness

It's an overcast and rainy day - not a day for the river unfortunately. I have to stay home for an inspection and a conference call so it is a good time to catch up on office work.

It is also an opportunity to find stillness even in the midst of the work that needs to be done. These quotes note the significance and importance of stillness in our lives:

"My greatest wealth is the deep stillness in which I strive and grow and win what the world cannot take from me with fire and sword."
- Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

"For peace of mind we need to resign as general manager of the universe."
- Larry Eisenberg

It is in stillness that the richness and fruits of a meditation practice flourish.

It is in stillness that God comes and speaks in the silence of the heart.

Today find and savor stillness somewhere in the busyness of your life.

Hunger for Stillness

Over the last few days, I had the opportunity to speak to a young relative, on the brink of finishing high school, about his interest in meditation. He is intensely passionate about the subject and the experience and is searching for his own path in a very determined way.

I could see the fire in his eyes and in his heart and soul and it warmed my own to see such a beautiful young man so earnestly and passionately engaging in his search. It reminded me of my own quest many decades ago.

I shared with him my own path, and to the extent that I could, my own meditation experience and method which is based on the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda - who so beautifully and exquisitely illustrated the connection between the ancient teachings of the East and those of Jesus Christ as well. While I practiced many forms of meditation over the years, I did not find and commit to this path until many years later, after skirting the initial call that I felt for nearly a decade.

I was moved yesterday, t…

River Thoughts

I had hoped to get into the water this morning, but I was tired and not feeling like I had a lot of energy.

I watched an individual kayaker and and another group of three - meticulously setting up their gear as they prepared to set off. I talked to one briefly about what a beautiful day it was to launch into the water and how I really didn't have the time to fit it in now and join a friend for lunch - something I was looking forward to.

Somehow, I vicariously experienced their strokes and could literally feel myself push off with them.

As often happens, I reflected on recent events in my life and particularly on how a sudden death in my family got me thinking about the fragility of life and how important it is to take care of oneself. Often we ignore signs in our bodies that could indicate serious conditions, thinking that somehow we are exempt from its repercussions - or that something tragic will not happen to us.

And, as often occurs, I received these quotes from the Inner Journey …

In the River is the Key

Every few days the river propels me down to its banks with a sense of urgency. I feel desperate if my schedule does not allow me to go down. For months I sat on a bench. Then for two more months I sat on the rocks with the water lapping at my toes. And now, I cannot wait to launch Grace!

My sojourn down to the banks of the river is reflective of a very interior journey.

Today I had the river to myself almost the whole time. I can literally be in the river in less than 20 minutes from the time I begin loading Grace into the car.

It was so much easier paddling today. I was more in the flow than not. I was relaxed and did not grip the paddle. I paddled upstream for about 30 minutes covering ground more quickly than I usually do.

I took in the beautiful sights and as I neared the tip of one of the first islands I pass upstream, I observed a blue heron perched on a log. What a magnificent and handsome creature he was! We looked at each other in silent respect for a while, and then he flew away…

Light in Darkness

A series of experiences recently made me very much aware how there is always light in every darkness. I received these quotes from The Inner Journey which are a testament to this...

"Each difficult moment has the potential to open my eyes and open my heart."
- Myla Kabat-Zinn

"Even the most daring and accomplished people have undergone tremendous difficulty. In fact, the more successful they became, the more they attributed their success to the lessons learned during their most difficult times. Adversity is our teacher. When we view adversity as a guide towards greater inner growth, we will then learn to accept the wisdom our soul came into this life to learn."
- Barbara Rose

"No matter what difficulty you are facing, it is coming from Divine Light to bring you to a higher place within. Write down every conceivable reason that this situation can contribute towards your growth. Write down every way this experience can possibly set the stage for serving to uplift o…

A Stroke of Insight

I have been longing to get Grace back in the water all week. Finally, I was able to do so on this Friday afternoon.

The water was choppier because of some people on jet skies, and it was windy as well. The grasses had multiplied quite a bit as well. I talked to a woman who emerged from the water at the same time I did and concurred with me that paddling was a lot of work today. She said the grasses had not been this bad in several years, but that rain and colder weather should curtail it.

I wouldn't be honest if I didn't admit that there isn't some element of fear in me at times on the river. The first strokes are always euphoric. But then, encountering the choppy waters, or the dreaded tentacles of the the grasses that get entangled in my paddle and slow me down give me pause for concern. Still, I found a path along side the island and paddled there pretty much undisturbed noticing the beauty of the wildflowers growing there.

It took a lot of work to get to where I wanted to…

The Practice of Presence

In his book, Wake Up Now, Stephan Bodian offers the following perspective on meditation:

"As an alternative to paying mindful attention to your breathing and other particulars of your sensate experience, I recommend a different approach, both in sitting meditation and in everyday life: the practice of presence. Instead of focusing the light of your awareness like a a laser on a particular object or activity, you open it like the sky, welcoming the experiences that arise just as the sky welcomes the clouds, neither ignoring nor indulging them. Instead of concentrating, you relax and let go, allowing everything to be just as it, without any attempt to control on your part. You're alert but at ease, totally present but not fixated in any way."

Elsewhere he adds these quotes on the practice of presence:
"Cultivate the mind that dwells nowhere." (Diamond Sutra)"Settle the self on the self with imperturbability." (Dainin Katagirl)"No thought, no analysis,…

Wake Up Now II

I continue to read Wake Up Now: A Guide to the Journey of Spiritual Awakening by Stephan Bodian and I'll share some of the passages I found insightful and underlined:

"Radical spirituality burns down the walls of your fantasy world and invites you to face your feelings of lack and inadequacy directly, without conceptual overlays. In the light of present awareness, you come to see that the separate self is just a construct and the feelings are just that - merely feelings - and have nothing to do with who you really are, which is the limitless space in which thoughts and feelings arise. 'Give up the tendency to define yourself,' says Nisargadatta Maharaj. 'Whatever concept you have about yourself cannot be true.' Indeed, the feeling of inner emptiness, which may seem so threatening, actually points to the radiant emptiness or void at the heart of existence...

'Cease to be a knower,' says Ramana Maharshi. 'Then there is perfection.'

The more you set…

Wake Up Now

The river was so still and quiet this morning. Even the air was still. There seemed to be no discernible movement - except for my many passing and wandering thoughts...

As I sat on the rocks, I reflected on how my relationship to the river has changed now that I have actually been in it - floating upon it in my vessel called Grace - sometimes seeming to sink into it as if I am being engulfed by the surrounding waters. The river is no longer as mysterious to me.

I was however, concerned by this green stuff growing inside the river which literally seems to be choking it. A couple of weeks ago there were some scant evidences of it particularly when I was in the water. But now I could look out and see it everywhere. Yesterday I was slowed down at times by the density of it - whatever it is - as I tried to avoid it. I hope this is something seasonal. Then it came to me, that many of my own thoughts slow down spiritual progress much like this growing underwater grass-like substance slows my o…

The River is Mine

Re-entry into the world has been slow...I have not been drawn to write or read...

This morning I went down to the river for the first time in about 10 days. I have been studiously pouring over some kayaking books I bought - trying to learn more about the sport and about essential skills. It is always interesting to try and translate book knowledge or information into practice.

For example, strength and power should come from the core. And of course, this reminded me of my own practice of Anusara Yoga and how we move from the periphery to the core - and engage the core strongly in poses.

There was no one at the river this morning. No one at the parking lot. No one "in" the river.

I paddled for a long time upstream, finally angling around one of the islands between the Virginia and the Maryland side until I was totally on the Maryland side. It was very quiet and peaceful. After all those days humbled by the vastness and the power of the ocean it felt comforting and familiar to be …

An Ocean of Secrets

There is so much to write about but there is not enough time right now. For the last couple of days my internet connection has been dicey.

Yesterday I took a boat out to see the whales and we saw three different kinds. We were followed around by about 5 humpback whales - one of them fairly young and playful. It was magnificent to see them and the day was beautiful.

We spend over 4 hours on the water. I enjoyed the wind, the blueness of the water, and was overwhelmed by the vastness of the ocean. I thought of the actress who played the old Rose in the movie version of the Titanic and who stated that: "A woman's heart is a vast ocean of secrets."

We visited Provincetown and the memorial to the pilgrims there. What is often not known is that they landed there first and spent about 5 months there before continuing on to Plymouth. In the museum I was fascinated by an Eskimo kayak made out of animal skin in the 1800's. I certainly couldn't imagine being in one of those!

To…

Pratyahara and the Turtle

The shoreline was different again today - the water was agitated and rough with countless white-capped waves...

I came across this description of pratyahara - one of the eight limbs of yoga - that is often translated as "withdrawal of the senses." This comes from Pandit Rajmani Tigunait:

"Like a turtle drawing its head and limbs into its home, you withdraw from the entangled places of your mind..."

I have felt a lot like a turtle over this last year, and a few months ago a colleague and friend gave me a blue turtle sticker that has been on my yoga mat all these months.

Was the turtle an invitation to draw deeper within - or was it instead more reflective of my current interior state? Or was it perhaps, a little of both? Certainly it was worth some contemplation on my part on this cold morning down by the ocean...

Ultimately, that is what a yoga and meditation practice seeks to enable us to do - to withdraw from the entangled places of our minds that often hold us captiv…

The Wave and the Ocean

It is an overcast and cooler day, so there was virtually no one down by the beach this morning. I literally had it all to myself. Such a contrast from yesterday morning!

I sat on a rock and marveled at how the shoreline has looked totally different these last three days - almost as if I were coming to a different beach every day. I did some meditations and prayers, offering them up for a friend on her birthday today.

As I sat in the chilly breeze, surveying the breathtaking landscape and listening to the incoming waves, I thought of how Yogananda often compares the individual soul to a wave in the ocean.

As I took in the broad expanse of the ocean, I understood why it is such a wonderful metaphor for God. It is huge - boundless - without limit - and endless. It encompasses everything and it has no peer.

Yogananda often urges his devotees to repeat this beautiful affirmation during meditation:

"I and the Father are one."

It occurred to me, that this is the equivalent to repeating &…

The River, the Ocean, and the Present Moment

I was hoping to get Grace back into the river on Friday, but I had repair estimates to get for the house and packing that needed to get done as well. I did however, get a chance to at least visit the river before leaving for vacation.

I met a wonderful couple down by the rocks on Friday. The man had just bought a kayak that week as well, and his wife, from Beijing, told me all about the trip they had just taken to Alaska. We noted the auspiciousness of that day: 8-8-08, and since they were both school teachers, we had much in common to talk about.

Yesterday morning we flew into Boston and then drove to Cape Cod. We are staying at Ocean's Edge, in Brewster, and I have a view of the bay from my balcony.

In the late afternoon I walked down by the water during high tide and found a rock where I could sit with my feet in the water while I meditated for almost an hour.

This morning the tide was so low you could literally walk forever out into the water. So for an hour and a half I walked a…

A Day of Blessings

Today is 8-8-08 - a most auspicious day in China and Asia, and I have a friend who turns 50 today. My good wishes are with her! Today is also the start of the Olympics in Beijing.

My husband and I talked about the significance of this date and we noted how he will turn 55 on 9-9-09. He actually turned 45 on 9-9-99 and 45 in numerology equals 9. He was born on 9-9-54 - and again - 54 equals 9. I keep telling him he has no idea of the significance of his numbers, but he doesn't believe me, ha, ha!

This morning, in the midst of packing for a trip to Cape Cod, I reflected on the many events of my day yesterday, and some of the insights I gained from a gifted therapist. So much of what he had to say centered around awakening. I just happen to be reading Stephan Bodian's book, Wake Up Now, which reinforces some of those insights.

Then I ran across these quotes:

"Your vision will become clear
only when you look inside your own heart.
Who looks outside, dreams,
who looks inside, awakes.…

Ho'oponopono

Recently, I went to the ordination of a friend. One of the speakers there spoke of Dr. Len, a Hawaiian who has been credited with remarkable healings by applying an ancient Hawaiian teaching.

The teaching is based on the belief that to rectify and deal with problems - whether they involve our relationships to others or pertain to global situations - we must heal and clear ourselves first if a change is to occur. This makes sense only if one considers the inherent unity of all things that so many ancient traditions address and teach about - even though this essential unity of all is so difficult for Westerners to accept. Yet, our refusal to see, understand, or accept this reality, is at the heart of all our problems - personal and global.

Dr. Len was able to have all the patients released in a mental ward, eventually clearing out the whole institution - not by meeting with them - but by practicing this ancient teaching as he held the files of all those patients. He simply said this mantr…

Silence

It is silent in the middle of the river. And very peaceful...I paddled and gave thanks for many blessings, and especially for all those who came last night to my inaugural yoga class at my new home and studio.

I wanted to go down to the river early, but I had a couple of appointments, so I went around noon. It was overcast, and for a while there wasn't anyone else around on the river...

There were moments when I seemed in the flow - with the paddling, with the water, with the breathtaking scenery...We were one... On occasion, the paddling felt effortless - there was a gentle rhythm. I likened it to working on a yoga pose - sometimes for years - a pose like handstand which can elicit so much fear and be so difficult - until one day you nail it and then over time it becomes light and exhilarating instead. Perhaps some day, paddling would become like that...

I paddled upstream for a long time then floated - closed my eyes and delighted in the silence. I thought of Thomas Merton, who wro…

One with the River

Grace and I head out to the boat launch this morning...I'd be lying if I didn't admit I had some trepidation!

I push away from the shore and don't want to venture too far or lose sight of the boat launch...But soon I plod on - more confidently - to the other side of the river...

I explore the shoreline, but find my side of the river to be more beautiful. The rocks and my bench seems so different from the water...I now look longingly on them as I had looked upon this side - knowing that I have traveled far...

I explore areas that have called me and then paddle upstream - trying to find a rhythm... Every now and then I find one - I go into a zone and paddling seems effortless, as if I had done it before... Yet this is work and the rhythm is elusive...

Grace and I float in the gentle breeze and the warm sun as I offer up prayers - here - in the center of the river - grateful that at last after 9 months of visiting this place I am now one with the river...

I give thanks for all the…

A Vessel of Grace

After early Sunday morning meditations I head down to the garage to dedicate my new kayak...

She is beautiful - all 39 pounds of her - a mosaic of light and darker blues...

I anoint her with holy water from another river - the sacred Ganges and from the grotto of Lourdes - just like the sacred space I anointed last week...

I touch her gently with fragrant holy oil and christen her with spikenard - the rare oil that the scriptures say Mary Magdalen used when she anointed the feet of Jesus.

I call upon God, a sacred lineage of gurus, Kwan Yin, and Mother Mary, and dedicate my sacred vessel and name her "Grace," the name Ann Linnea gave to her own vessel, and a word that has been central to my path and my experience...

Let her be strong... Let her take me places I have not been to yet in my spiritual journey... Let her open doors for me that I have not yet been able to access... Let her enable me to surrender more fully to the river...

I journey from having been an observant spectato…

The Ocean of the Heart II

Yesterday's blog entry prompted me to look up the passage in the Kularnava Tantra which gave Anusara Yoga it's name (14:36). I have a translation that is not the most user friendly. It reads:

"The disciple receives the Guru according to the impact of the Shakti (Shaktipata); where there is no impact of Shakti there is no fulfillment."

The preceding three sutras to sutra 14:36, speak on the various kinds of initiation without rituals that are given to a devotee, bringing to mind personal experiences of various forms of initiation received:

"Oh my Beloved! Initiation and instruction by touch is likened to the slow nourishing of its young by the bird with the warmth of its wings.

Initiation and instruction by sight is like the nourishing of its young by the fish through it seeing alone.

Initiation and instruction by thought is like the nourishing of its young by the tortoise by only thinking of them..."

I recalled that on two occasions, the Shiva scholar, Paul Mulle…

The Ocean of the Heart

Last night, as I made my long trek to the studio where I study for the third time this week to observe a master teacher's class, I listened to a lecture by John Friend, the founder of Anusara Yoga, on my ipod.

He spoke of the Kularnava Tantra, a Tantric scripture that gave Anusara Yoga it's name. Anusara received its name on the 50th anniversary of Swami Muktananda receiving Shaktipat from his guru on August 15th, 1997.

August 15th is also the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, always a very special day. I also thought of spending this feast years ago, at the Trappist Monastery at Genesee, and having the pleasure of speaking to Abbot John Eudes, who was a scholastic under Thomas Merton, one of the most gifted and prolific spiritual writers of the 20th century, whose writings I have devoured for decades. (The Abbot also wrote a very esoteric and obscure text on Evagrius Ponticus - which I happened to have read, much to the amazement of those present at the time!)

John said that the …