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Showing posts from February, 2008

Awakening from Chaos

The river is wide this morning - and still restless...But not as much as yesterday... My eyes are magnetically drawn to the shores on the other side... I hear and remember a message given to me almost a year ago when this journey began: "Trust that this river is taking you to the ocean of the unimaginable..." Trust always came easy - but now it is more illusive...It has asked so much... I think of watching Oprah yesterday for the first time in months - publicly sharing a precious note received from Marianne Williamson on her 50th birthday. She reads it in Marianne's presence as they both hold hands - Oprah dissolving in tears... The eloquent note reminds that there are angels at the hand of God who eagerly stand ready to help each and every one of us - in any way they can. They help direct our steps and steer us onto the path of everlasting joy... I take comfort in this and think of how messages come to us from everywhere - if we only have the eyes to see

A Listening Heart

The river this morning was as restless as my own heart... I receive the same message twice - in different ways... "Listen to your heart..." And the implied message: "Listen to your heart - so that you can listen to Mine..." Yesterday I received the Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School Alumnae Magazine and I got all caught up on reading about old friends and a school I dedicated 12 years of my life to... I read with great interest an article summarizing a talk that Sr. Mary Berchmans, the former President of Visitation, gave during the Season of Advent on cultivating a listening heart. Her message was beautiful and I will highlight the six points which she elaborates on... 1. Let's begin by reflecting on Jesus' invitation: "Learn from me that I am gentle and humble of heart." ...Our challenge is to live humbly before God and with great gentleness toward our neighbor. Humility before God invites us to acknowledge the gifts with which

Listen to Your Heart

These quotes come from a recent Inner Journey newsletter... "To know how to choose a path with heart is to learn how to follow intuitive feeling. Logic can tell you superficially where a path might lead to, but it cannot judge whether your heart will be in it." - Jean Shinoda Bolen "Surrender is faith that the power of love can accomplish anything... even when you can not foresee the outcome." - Deepak Chopra "When you have compassion and surrender to your own heart, you are surrendering to the hidden power in your heart, God. You are surrendering to love, because God is Love, the cohesive force of the universe that connects us all. Surrender is not just a religious concept; it's a power tool for listening to the voice of your spirit and following its directions. When you surrender your head to your heart, you allow your heart to give you a wider, higher intelligence perspective. Remember the phrase, 'The real teacher is

To Dwell in Possibility

As I reviewed my lesson plans of a year ago - I noticed that I used this Emily Dickinson quote as a theme: "Dwell in possibility..." I have used this theme once a year for the last three years... I had this quote framed and it hangs on my wall in front of my desk where I work every day - it was a gift from a friend - and it is a constant reminder to remember to open to grace and all the possibilities it offers... Last year at this time when I last used this theme - I felt that I was between two phases in life - having completed a rigorous certification process - and not quite sure of what lay ahead for me... Little did I know... I re-visited this theme again this year - perhaps a little more cognizant of it's meaning... This morning, as I reviewed my lesson plans for my new yoga students and compared them to the suggested syllabus a friend provided from her studio - I found myself marveling at how this studio invited their students to dwell in possibility by belie

River Musings

I approach the river quietly - thankful for its support and presence in my journey - for it has truly reflected the Divine... I arrive and notice a flock of birds having a party on the bench I normally sit on... They acknowledge my presence and make room for me by gently flying away - perching themselves on tree limbs overshadowing me - looking down - they attentively sit in vigil... I sit in the beautiful stillness of the morning - birds everywhere - a woodpecker tapping away at a tree - and all of them harmoniously inhabiting the same space... I offer my prayers - mindfully and fervently - Hail Marys gently spilling forth from my heart - and I marvel at a lately acquired nascent devotion to Mary and the Sacred Feminine... I think of Rumi - truly believing for the first time - what I have repeated to my students over and over again: "The whole universe is inside of you - ask all from yourself!" I end with a variation to a classic prayer: "Glory - to t

The Dance of Yes and No

Certified Anusara Yoga teachers undergo a yearly peer review in order to maintain their certification status. It is a wonderful opportunity to study with and observe a colleague's teaching. I had the pleasure of taking and observing a class by Lucy Lomax yesterday. She and I have known each other for a decade or so - and have done many workshops and trainings together - but we have never been in each other's classroom. I was blown away by Lucy's teaching and deeply nourished by it. The theme of her class was the dance of yes and no - which she wove in an exquisite fashion in every instruction and action - and in every pose she taught. She began by illustrating how all of our actions and experiences can be distilled to either a yes or a no response. Both are equally necessary experiences in life. Lucy related this theme of saying yes and no to life - to the Anusara Yoga Universal Principles of Alignment. For example - when we open to grace - we soften and we say yes t

Humility

I awaken this morning with readings and thoughts on humility... Yogananda says - that we are never the doer - but that instead - God is... We should think that whatever acts we are performing - it is God who is doing the work through us... If we really believe this - it changes everything... I think of a friend who once reminded me to do everything with love... I think of the opportunities I had to exercise greater love this week - and how I did not...I wasn't attentive enough...But instead of focusing on limitation - I see an opportunity to grow and blossom... I remember Mother Teresa and St. Jeanne de Chantal who exhorted that we perform the little acts of our days with great love... I think of St. Teresa of Avila who wrote that our hands are not ours - but are really the hands of God - for they perform his holy work - opus dei... We must be more mindful...vigilant...humble...and this is not one of my great strengths... So many opportunities abound to love and t

A Life Lived as a Labor of Love

I recently received notice that a direct disciple of Paramahansa Yogananada transitioned on February 6th. Her name was Mukti Mata and she touched many lives... This comes from a tribute to her from the Self-Realization Fellowship web site and I was very moved by the beauty and simplicity of her words: "She had a special gift for always making problems seem manageable, and often said about the challenges we face in daily life: 'These are meant to strengthen us, and to teach us the real purpose for which we are here.' She also counseled: 'The truth is, that everything that happens to you is designed to free you from the limited consciousness of the ego and reunite you with God. With each challenge you gain knowledge, wisdom, and strength. Ultimately you become profoundly grateful for everything that happens to you, because you realize it is all for your highest good.'" I found these words not only comforting, but to be very true. If we focused

Heart Song - A Labor of Love

Last night I had the privilege to hear the performance of selections from jazz artist Al Williams III's new recording - Heart Song - which was played in public for the first time at Blues Alley - in the heart of Georgetown. Al and his talented companions played to a packed house and the evening was truly magical - filled with rich music and a wonderful audience. This is one of the most beautiful jazz compilations I have ever heard. It is truly a collection of "heart songs" and is simply exquisite. I was struck by the warm and loving energy flowing from the music the very first time I heard the CD. I remember thinking immediately - this is truly special! And I know those involved in the project with Al put their whole hearts and souls into it. Last night I thought back to when the project first began over a year ago - at the time I was fascinated by what the whole process entailed - since it was so foreign to anything I had every done. From beginning to end - it was t

Divine Love III

This is today's reading from Paramahansa Yogananda's Spiritual Directory. .. "When the Lord commanded: 'Thou shalt not have other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image' (Ex. 20: 3 - 4), He meant that we should not exalt the objects of creation above the Creator. Our love for Nature, family, friends, duties, and possessions should not occupy the supreme throne in our hearts. That is where God belongs." - Sayings of Paramahansa Yogananda

You Teach to Learn

Yesterday I gave the workshop on the Yoga Sutras that I had been diligently preparing to facilitate these last few weeks, and it was truly an enjoyable experience! During my preparation and reflections before and after its presentation - I was reminded how we often teach in order to know and learn the lessons we need to imbibe... We write for the same reasons... I realized that the opportunity to teach this workshop at the wonderful community of Golden Heart Yoga in Annapolis - enabled me to more deeply learn and understand the lessons of the last few months in my life. It gave me a greater sense of clarity and insight. The group taking the workshop could not have been any better and the time truly flew for me! This morning, as I turned the page over in my Yoga Planner for the week - I read the description on the Heart Sutra for this new week - and felt that it complemented not only my experience in teaching this workshop - but the essential message I tried to convey: "T

A River of Grace

A couple of days ago, I was inspired to change my email address. I sent an email notification to my friends saying this: "I have been internally led to create a new email account that more appropriately reflects who I am and where I am today... A river of grace... This reflects my going to the river - and river motif in many of my writings the past few months - the role grace has played in my life - and continues to play - it was the closest thing I could come to without changing my name. In many ways I feel I have stepped into a new life - and new incarnation - dying and rising without physically doing so." A friend who has known me for almost two decades and has witnessed many changes wrote: "Congratulations as you travel further on your journey. Fascinating to watch and see where this road, or river, takes you dear friend." I will maintain my previous address and business one - but this seemed like the right thing to do. Afterwards I created another -

I Am That

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These quotes come from the modern spiritual classic - I AM THAT - Talks with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, and follow along the lines of some recent posts... "That in whom reside all beings and who resides in all beings, who is the giver of grace to all, the Supreme Soul of the universe, the limitless being - I am That." - Amritbindu Upanishad "That which permeates all, which nothing transcends and which, like the universal space around us, fills everything completely from within and without, that Supreme non-dual Brahman - that thou art." - Sankaracharya "The seeker is he who is in search of himself. Give up all questions except one: Who am I? After all, the only fact you are sure of is that you are. The 'I am' is certain. The 'I am this' is not. Struggle to find out what you are in reality. To know what you are, you must first investigate and know what you are not. Discover all that you are not - body, feelings, thoughts, time, space, this or tha

Meditations by the River

The river was beautiful this morning - calm, grey, and with hints of the coming season of spring all around. White birds (geese? I am terrible identifying birds!) were gracefully gliding on the stillness of the river like ice skaters dancing in tandem. It was breathtakingly beautiful. I should learn more about birds. They have been my constant companions for many months - down by the river and on my deck in the cold mornings as I do my meditation exercises before I go sit. Earlier this week an excited bird watcher ran by me wanting to know if I had seen the huge hawk and the two bald eagles dancing together along the shoreline... As I sat on the bench this morning after doing my lovingkindness meditation and prayers - I reflected on how differently I felt - and how far I had come these last few months. I observed the thoughts that ran through my mind without feeling and with detachment - glimpsing through the eyes of God.... I also reflected on my theme in my classes this week and

Divine Love II

On this Valentine's Day - this readings comes from Paramahansa Yogananda - on Divine Love - the source of all love... "He is the nearest of the near, the dearest of the dear. Love Him as a miser loves money, as an ardent man loves his sweetheart, as a drowning person loves breath. When you yearn for God with intensity, He will come to you." - Sayings of Paramahansa Yogananda

Slow Down and Be in the Moment

These quotes invite us all to slow down - and to live in the present moment - for now is the only time there is... "The soul requires duration of time - rich, thick, deep, velvety time - and it thrives on rhythm. Soul can't be hurried or harried... We may go through many events in the day and experience nothing because the soul has not had the opportunity to feel them from many points of view." - Robert Sardello "We must not allow the clock and the calendar to blind us to the fact that each moment of life is a miracle and a mystery." - H.G. Wells "The well of Providence is deep. It's the buckets we bring to it that are small." - Mary Webb "The only time you ever have in which to learn anything or feel anything, or express any feeling or emotion, or respond to an event, or grow, or heal, is this moment, because this is the only moment any of us ever gets. You're only here now; you're only alive in this mom

The Year of St. Jane

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I received the newsletter of the Visitation Monastery in Minneapolis yesterday. It announced that 2008 was being celebrated by Visitation nuns all over the world as "the year of St. Jane." The nuns are also preparing for the 400th anniversary of the Order's beginning. Years ago - as a young 25 year old - I began teaching at Convent of the Visitation School in St. Paul, MN, before coming to Georgetown Visitation , here in Washington DC. I taught at both schools for nearly 22 years and my doctoral dissertation was the fruit and product of my years there: A Salesian High School Curriculum Using Groome's Shared Praxis, 1992. St. Jeanne-Francoise Fremyot de Chantal co-founded the Visitation Order in 1610 with St. Francis de Sales. Theirs was a spiritual friendship that was truly epic - recorded in many books. One of my favorites is Bond of Perfection by Dr. Wendy M. Wright - Professor of Theology at Creighton University. The Sisters of the Visitation note that St Jane was

Divine Romance

The perfect readings always come at the right time - some times in ways unexpected... This comes from Paramahansa Yogananda: "The greatest romance is with the Infinite. You have no idea how beautiful life can be. When you suddenly find God everywhere, when He comes and talks to you and guides you, the romance of divine love has begun." From: Man's Eternal Quest by Yogananda

The True Self - Part II

The following exercise is adapted from Nischala Joy Devi's The Secret Power of Yoga - A Woman's Guide to the Heart and Spirit of the Yoga Sutras - referred to in an earlier post. This is very reminiscent of the process Sri Ramana Maharishi practiced and taught. Place yourself in a meditative state and then reflect on the following questions: Who am I? Am I the body? No, I am not the body. Who am I? Am I the organs of motion? Am I the organs of the senses? Am I the eyes that see all sights? No, I am none of those things... Who am I? Am I the ears that hear all sounds? No, I am not the ears or the hearing. Who am I? Am I the skin, the sense of feeling? No, I am not the shin or the sense of touch. Who am I? Am I the mind? No, I am not the mind. How can I be the mind if I am observing the mind? I must be something other than the mind. Who am I? Am I the emotions? No, I am not the emotions because I can observe and change the emotions. Who am I? Even t

The True Self

I recently had a discussion with a friend on the nature of the True Self and was reminded of Sri Ramana Maharishi who diligently employed his version of the Socratic Method to unpack and get to the essence of our nature by asking questions as simple as - "Who are you?" These excerpts come from his writings: Identifying the Self with the body in order to seek happiness is like trying to cross a river on the back of a crocodile. When the ego rises, the mind is separated from its Source, the Self, and is restless, like a stone thrown up into the air, or like the waters of a river. When the stone or the river reaches its place of origin, the ground or the ocean, it comes to rest. So too the mind comes to rest and is happy when it returns to and rests in its Source. As the stone and the river are sure to return to their starting place, so too the mind will inevitably - at some time - return to its Source. Happiness is your own nature. Hence it is not wrong to desire it. Wha

Transformation

This morning I visited the river for the first time in weeks. Since I have begun teaching classes and doing a private lesson three mornings a week - my morning routine has evolved a little differently. The river was calm and beautiful - the air was crisp - and I sensed new beginnings - the seeds of spring gestating within my heart and soul - and noticeable even in the tree limbs around the banks of the river... We have been in silent waiting...But today - everything looked and felt different... Last night before I did my midnight meditation, I curled up with the new issue of Yoga Journal - March 2008. Every month I look forward to reading Sally Kempton's " Wisdom " column, and this month was no exception. I have found her insights to be the very ones I have needed for several months... This month Sally Kempton spoke of how transformation in our lives can be a radical process and experience and she offers wonderful suggestions for navigating the shift gracefully. I wi

The Gift of Change

This wonderful reading by Ralph Marston was shared by Jenny Otto, a gifted yogini and therapeutic bodyworker at a workshop she did last weekend on the pelvis and sacrum. As I reflected on this writing - I thought of how the only constant in life is change and how the Buddha taught the impermanence of things. I thought of so many of Yogananda's writings which acknowledge the Divine Spark within us that enables us to change and make anything possible. And lastly, I thought of all the changes in my life in the last half year or so - and how in so many ways - it has been a great gift - almost like stepping into a new life or incarnation - despite all the pain and sorrow and difficulty that accompanied it... Now is what you choose. There was a time when you thought you could change the world. You were right, and you still are. There was a time when you knew that life was filled with limitless possibilities. It still is, and so are you. Perhaps you're dismayed that so much

Samadhi - II

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As I prepare for this workshop I will be giving on the Yoga Sutras , Nischala Joy Devi's - The Secret Power of Yoga: A Woman's Guide to the Heart and Spirit of the Yoga Sutras has become my constant companion. I have been moved very deeply by her commentary and interpretation of the Sutras from a more feminine perspective. As someone trained as a theologian I am familiar with the frustration women feel with the scriptures, and their translations and commentaries which are the product of a male perspective. Nischala Joy Devi offers this interpretation of Sutra III.3 and gives us a clearer understanding of what is meant by the samadhi experience: When individual consciousness unites with the Divine Consciousness, the illusion of separateness dissolves; this is Samadhi... - Sutra III. 3 And this is her beautiful commentary: "The world we visit during Samadhi (Union with Divine Consciousness) has no tangible language. It is a state beyond description. It can only be experi

Samadhi

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali provides all dedicated yoga practitioners with an outline on how to focus one's awareness on the Divine through deeper states of meditation in order to ultimately experience samadhi - a merging with Divine Consciousness. There are various stages of samadhi - or union with the Divine that are described in the Yoga Sutras . Here are some verses from the first book - or Pada I of the Yoga Sutras - often referred to as Samadhi Pada - or Yogic Ecstasy. These come from Alberto Villoldo's Yoga, Power, and Spirit: Patanjali the Shaman - and his rendition and more contemporary interpretation of sutras 17 - 23: Samadhi brings four gifts the gift of reasoning, or the ability to analyze... the gift of discernment, or the ability to see what lies beneath the appearance of things... the gift of bliss... the gift of awareness of your True Self. Samadhi allows you to break free from the stories of your mind, free from the talks of pain and loss that b

Nonattachment II

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I have been diligently preparing for a workshop I am giving on the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali that runs from 9 to 6 PM - a couple of weeks from now. After making the entry yesterday - I was struck by the translation of Sutras 1.11 - 1.16 on nonattachment by Alberto Villoldo in his book - Yoga, Power, and Spirit: Patanjali the Shaman. Memory is when experience continues to live within you, haunting you like a hungry ghost. When you practice yoga and nonattachment, all the stories your mind creates through right knowledge, through wrong knowledge, through hearsay, through dreams, through memory... will dissolve like the images from a nightmare that quickly fades as you awaken. Practice yoga and your single-mindedness will increase. Bending like a bamboo reed in the wind, you will become steadfast and grow roots that extend deep into the earth. Devote yourself to yoga. Watch your practice flourish. Let go of your attachments and discover self-mastery. Let go of your

Nonattachment

I conclude a week that was filled with light, and peace, and contentment - and begin another in which my soul is inhabited by grace... I begin this Sunday morning by sitting in meditation and aligning my spirit with those members of the local SRF Community also meditating at this time... I review the recent days and marvel at the many gifts bestowed and the myriad of opportunities encountered for love and grace... I rejoice in all the experiences of God's Presence... I think of my friend and college roommate - Karen - whose birthday is today - but we won't mention how many years! And I sit and savor these two passages from Paramahansa Yogananda that describe the lessons I have been learning, experiencing, and embodying... "The saints stress nonattachment so that one strong point of material attachment may not prevent our attaining the entire kingdom of God. Renunciation does not mean giving up everything; it means giving up small pleasures for eternal bliss.&

Rumi - Part III

Here are a few more poems I wanted to share from Rumi: Bridge to the Soul - by Coleman Barks - which was recently published to commemorate Rumi's 800th birthday. I have read this small tome over and over again - and with each reading I fall in love with different poems... Earsight Do you want the sweetness of food or the sweetness of the one who puts sweetness in the food? There are amazing things in the ocean, and there is one who is the ocean. Think of a carpenter's alert comprehension when he builds a house. Now think of the one who creates consciousness. It takes skill to extract oil from a nut. Now consider how sight lives in the eye. There is a night full of the wildness of wanting. Then dawn comes. You take my hand in yours. There are those who doubt that this can happen... Enough words. Friend, you can make the ear see. Speak the rest of this poem in that language. We Cannot Decide There has never been beauty like yours. Your face, you

Writing and Journaling

The day has literally gotten away from me. Daylight is waning and it is nearly time to meditate... I will save the last two Rumi poems I wanted to share for tomorrow. Instead, I begin this new month by sharing these two quotes which affirm the importance of writing and journaling... "To write spiritually is to engage in a search for authentic language. You'll find your truth by writing your way to it." - Patrice Vecchione "The positive thing about writing is that you connect with yourself in the deepest way, and that's heaven. You get the chance to know who you are, to know what you think. You begin to have a relationship with your mind." - Natalie Goldberg And I would add - you have a relationship with your soul as well. Writing has played such an integral part in my life - indeed - in all lifetimes - that I cannot imagine life without this form of expression. In my office, I have a bookshelf of journals and poetry books going back to ag