Showing posts from January, 2009

The Believer

The Book, The Survivors Club , by Ben Sherwood, details incredible stories and experiences of survival on all fronts. It also describes five survivor types, and a number of survivor tools. Your report, if you take the comprehensive test online, will indicate your top three strengths that you call upon most commonly in survival experiences. I have still not taken the time to take the online test, but wish to share a description of The Believer ... Sherwood, in the interview I heard on NPR , asked a top military expert trained in survival skills what he deemed the most important trait to survive. The person, whose name escapes me at the moment, stated without hesitation, that it was faith. Faith also happens to be one of the survival tools. "When you are a Believer, you put your faith in God to protect and sustain you through your trials. Your beliefs and convictions are like life preservers keeping you above water in difficult times. You trust deeply that God has a plan for your

Being a Connector

I began the morning by trekking over to McDonald's for my "senior" coffee and breakfast burrito, and a nice chat with the wonderful woman who serves me, and whose presence touches my soul very deeply...The experience reminds me that I am a "connector..." This will make more sense shortly... Then I went to the river for a quick visit. I was alone there, and I made my way carefully to the little cliff where I descend to the rocks, but could not make it down. The sleet we had on top of the snow this week made everything very slippery, and I was not very bright in going out in my crocks. I noticed someone had walked on the ice because there were tracks everywhere. I wanted to go down to the rocks because a couple of beer bottles had been abandoned there, but I knew it would be precarious to do so. As I contemplated what to do, a squirrel approached me, stood on its hind legs, and held out it paws like it wanted me to give it something. An acorn perhaps? Then he le

Endings and Beginnings II

On January 18th, my entry was titled, "Endings and Beginnings," and I wrote about a seed of some sort that I had received, with a beautiful inscription: "Every ending, holds a new beginning." Yesterday, as I was clearing out a mound of paperwork, I found in the envelop in which the seed had arrived, this wonderful explanation, which I had somehow not seen or noticed, and I wish to share it here. This message - of endings and beginnings - is one that I have received again and again of late - and was most recently given to me by a Vedic astrologer, who affirmed that I was exactly where I needed to be - and should focus on deepening my spirituality and paying attention to my health...Humm.... It turns out this beautiful seed that now sits on my desk where I can see and touch it ever day - is a Sea-bean... "Sea-beans come from trees and vines that grow along tropical shores and rain forests all over the world. The seeds or fruits fall from their parent plant i

Snow Day Inspirations

I received both of these inspirational pieces in the last couple of days from two different friends. The first one was embedded in the sermon given at the National Cathedral, at the Prayer Service for President Obama, the day after the Inauguration. Both of them warmed my heart and conveyed the exact message I needed to hear in each moment that it was received... The Wolf Story There is a story attributed to Cherokee wisdom: One evening a grandfather was teaching his young grandson about the internal battle that each person faces. "There are two wolves struggling inside each of us," the old man said. "One wolf is vengefulness, anger, resentment, self-pity, fear... The other wolf is compassion, faithfulness, hope, truth, love..." The grandson sat, thinking, then asked: "Which wolf wins, Grandfather?" His grandfather replied, "The one you feed." I Wish You Enough by Bob Perks I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude brigh

The River, Falling Snow, and Musings

I awaken to a gently falling snow for the first time in over a year... I sit in meditation for an hour and hear the words over and over whispered in my heart: "For God alone suffices..." I repeat it like a sacred mantra and I know it is true, even if sometimes I cannot see clearly through the myriad of sometimes conflicting quotidian experiences that life continually offers and presents... I drive out to the river to visit it, in this, the first true snow fall, and it is quiet and still... I come upon a squirrel joyously scampering across the slippery road and I nearly slide off it, as I try to avoid hitting the squirrel, and I realize that it is the first one I have seen in a long time... The boat launch area has been blocked off with orange cones. The river itself is halfway frozen - an imaginary line longitudinally bisecting the river. Half of it consists of frozen ice, cracked here and there, slabs of ice precariously perched on other slabs, as a result of heat exp

I Will Just Say This

I re-visited the theme of joy in my classes this morning, inviting my students to create a bigger container to receive and express joy - and to embody an explosion of joy in their practice... I recall my therapist friend affirming that we need to experience joy in our lives and must elicit its memory and experience as much as we can - even when it seems absent... I review the poems of St. Teresa of Avila and find this one, and wish to share it, because it reminds me of hope, which somehow lays the groundwork for joy... I Will Just Say This We bloomed in Spring. Our bodies are the leaves of God. The apparent seasons of life and death our eyes can suffer; but our souls, dear, I will just say this forthright: they are God Himself, we will never perish unless He does... There is always room for hope...for of that hope, is born the experience of joy, because we are never far from the Divine and cannot truly be - any less than God is... How can it be any other way?

Let Nothing Disturb You

After yesterday's posting, I decided to look up some of the prayers and sayings of St. Teresa of Avila , a prolific writer, and the only woman accorded the recognition of being a Doctor of the Church . She is also sometimes referred to as the Doctor of Prayer, since she wrote so much on the subject. Teresa is a complex figure, who lived in the 16th century in Spain, and her writings are not always accessible. She is perhaps best known for her work, the Interior Castle, in which she describes the various stages of the spiritual life by comparing them to various rooms in a manor one must go through in other to enter the most interior realm... "Let nothing disturb you, let nothing frighten you, all things pass away: God never changes. Patience obtains all things. He who has God finds he lacks nothing; God alone suffices." "Christ has no body now but yours No hands, no feet on earth but yours Yours are the eyes through which he looks with compassion on th

How Can I Serve?

For the past few days, I have been editing a manuscript of guided meditations I wrote somewhere between 15 and 18 years ago. I have re-titled the collection In the Shadow of the Divine: Meditating with Masters and Mystics . The meditations are my impressions and interpretations of the writings and teachings of Meister Eckhart, Julian of Norwich, Hildegard of Bingen, Francis of Assisi, Francis de Sales, and others. I am finding that this manuscript is speaking to me in a much deeper way, and it seems the messages imparted and received are precisely the ones I need to hear at this moment. All of these mystics lived their lives in service in one way or another. I thought of that, as I reflected on the following quotes from the Inner Journey Newsletter, which spoke to me, as they often seem to do. They address this very notion of service and its role... "God has no other hands but ours." - Dorothee Solle (Note: While this is attributed to Solle, St. Teresa of Avila wrote

Finding Joy

Yesterday I had the opportunity to spend time with a gifted therapist and healer and long time meditator, and he spoke to me of the need to feel joy in our lives, even when it is hard to do so. Paramahansa Yogananda in his writings, often described experiencing the presence of God as ever new bliss and joy. On a couple of occasions, I have written about how the ancient Egyptians believed that one's capacity for experiencing joy determined one's suitability for the afterlife. Those hoping to cross over were simply asked: "Did you find joy? And, did you bring joy?" But how can we call forth joy if it is absent or eludes us? These are certainly trying times for many... This gifted therapist suggested that we meditate, and recall a moment or instance when we experienced deep joy and love in our lives - perhaps in a meaningful relationship - or some other occasion - and then suggested transferring this feeling directly to the Divine in meditation. Over time, our deepeni

Reflections and Quotations

Today is looking like a very long and busy day, so I will leave you on this early morning with a few quotes I came across recently, to reflect on. The first part of these was sent to me by a friend... "When we're through with this earth and all these problems, we don't have to come back. But as long as we're here we have a job to do and a purpose to fulfill and that means dealing with the circumstances around us." - Rolling Thunder, Cherokee "We are put on the earth to participate in life. We have a beautiful mind, we have the ability to pray, we have the ability to change, we have the ability to accept, and we have choices. All things God created are constantly changing. This constant change causes our circumstances to change. Sometimes we say life is difficult. During these time we need to use our tools: the tools of prayer, and the tools of meditation. We are designed to change and live joyfully on this earth. The only requirement for living joyfully

Contemplating Unity at the River

I go down to the river very briefly, because it is just too cold to stay there very long...I am amazed that the river is totally frozen over - it is a wide sheet of white - and even the rocks are under the ice! I tread carefully around the edge of the riverbanks listening to the ice crack here and there underneath the pressure of my steps. I survey the broad expanse before me and it seems to me that the very waves of the river were frozen in the flash of one moment - so that it looks both active and still at the same time - almost like a meditation in motion... I wonder about the fish and the turtles - and where they might be and what they do in this kind of weather... I contemplate unity and recall how I told my students today, that we are truly all one, and that our practice and chanting serve as reminders of this reality. And yet at times, I really feel so far away from being able to embody this unity personally - there seem to be so many moments when experiences of distance and

On This Historic Day

On this historic day, I think of the parameters of my life span - beginning in November 1955 - to this present moment... I was born two weeks before Rosa sat down on that bus, so that Martin could march, so that Barack could run - so that our children could fly on the wings of their dreams... I still vividly remember my son in kindergarten, visibly irate after hearing the story of Rosa Parks, demanding to know what I had done to correct the injustice of that situation. I had to remind him that I was only a two week old infant, living in London, England at the time, and totally incapable of taking any action... On this historic day, I witness a sea of humanity who have come from far and wide - and from every background and ethnic and racial origin - to see the swearing in of a new President, who clearly ushers in a new era.... On this historic day, which is also my 28th wedding anniversary, I watch events unfold before me I only dared to dream, as I contemplate drinking an '

Blooming Where You are Planted

I concluded a wonderful weekend workshop yesterday, with Betsey Downing, an Anusara Yoga senior certified teacher. The theme of her second class was "bloom where you are planted," and we did this by calling forth and embodying our best, and most authentic self. Throughout the course of the weekend, Betsey shared many gems and insights, not only in terms of our practice of asana , but in regards to how to live our lives as well. It was a weekend that brought together many certified, and inspired Anusara instructors, and even many more students. The sessions were filled to capacity, and the kula , or community there present - helped each another into poses and assists. Betsey acknowledged the reality of something that I have felt for a long time - that is - the incredible gift that Willow Street Yoga provides in the quality of its instruction and the community that exists there. It is something that every visiting Anusara yoga teacher notes. I am fortunate to study there m

Endings and Beginnings

I awaken very early, in anticipation of the conclusion of a wonderful weekend workshop. I sit in meditation for a while, and would love to have more time to share insights from yesterday, but it will have to wait...Maybe I'll find some time later, or maybe I'll write tomorrow... I come home late last night after a full day of practice - buoyed by sharing and conversation - and dinner with some some wonderful yoginis and master teachers - some of the best of the Anusara kula - and waiting for me was an incredible gift I almost didn't see before going up to bed... I open an envelope and find a beautiful seed of some sort that has been painted and decorated in purple. In the center is a beautiful angel - or goddess with arms crossed and flowing hair, surrounded by this inscription: "Every ending, holds a new beginning." It resonates so deeply within...At a pivotal point in my life - on the threshold of so many changes and during the weekend of a major decisi

Saying Yes to Life Without Complaints

When I attend a workshop, I normally take copious notes. But last night, I simply enjoyed the sequencing and pacing of the Anusara Yoga workshop with Betsey Downing, who is often referred to as the "Grand Dame" of yoga. Betsey was one of my first teachers when I started taking yoga way back in the summer of '95. I completed the first of many teacher trainings under her - and she was the first one to "hire" me as a yoga teacher back in '97. I have thoroughly enjoyed witnessing her exquisite evolution as a teacher. It has been a joy to behold how much more deeply she communicates her personal spiritual journey and the reality of universal spiritual truths. Like a fine wine, she gets better with age! Last night, she began her weekend workshop, entitled, "Living with Virtuosity," by exhorting us to say yes more fully to life by adhering to a complaint-free existence. I swore the theme had been especially chosen for me! Betsey shared insights from

The River is Frozen and Yoga Ruminations

I am not sure when I visited the river last. This morning the temperature registered 12 degrees F - which for this area - is pretty darn cold! I decided to pay it a brief visit. I began the morning as I do often on Fridays, by going to McDonald's. Yes - I know some of you will be appalled. But I love their breakfast burrito for a buck, and their coffee. But mostly, I go - because there is a beautiful, middle aged woman who always waits on me. I cannot quite place her accent - I think she might be from the Middle East - but she has the most wonderful smile, disposition, and generosity of spirit. She always gives me my coffee at the "senior citizen" rate, which makes it extra special. This morning we bantered about the weather, and how cold it was. The next moment, she had taken my hands in hers, and lovingly rubbed them to make them warm again! We just never know where we will meet an angel! I wonder how many people she has touched, by just being present and smiling to t

Contentment - Santosha

The word for contentment in Sanskrit is " santosha ," and it is a quality all yogis and yoginis are supposed to cultivate. It is one of the " niyamas " - that the sage Patanjali speaks of in the Yoga Sutras. Nischala Joy Devi, in her book, The Secret Power of Yoga , deviates from the common understanding of the yamas and niyamas as the "do's" and "don'ts" of yoga. Instead, she describes the expression of the yamas , as the reflection of our true nature, and the cultivation of the niyamas , as our evolution towards harmony. For example, one of the yamas , " ahimsa ," is often translated as non-violence. Devi, takes a more positive approach, born of the expression of consciousness in the heart instead of the head, and describes the more positive attributes implied in ahimsa - namely - the cultivation of reverence, love, and compassion for all. Similarly, "asteya ", is interpreted as generosity, and honesty, rather

The Art of Self-Care

Recently I came across a review of the book, The Art of Extreme Self-Care , by Cheryl Richardson. One of my favorite books by her, is The Unmistakable Touch of Grace . Here are some suggestions she makes for taking care of ourselves: "When hit with an unexpected life challenge, most of us revert back to the old coping strategies that kept us safe as kids. For example, you may have taken refuge in your bedroom when you parents fought. Then, as an adult, when faced with a chaotic situation, you find yourself isolating from others to escape the stress. You don't ask for help. You don't reach out for emotional suffer in silence... These are challenging times and we all need Extreme Self-Care more than ever. So, that being said, I'd like to leave you with a few thoughts for the New Year: You can't live an authentic, soul-directed life without disappointing people, hurting their feelings, or making them angry. That's the truth. You deserve to ask f

Self-Reflection and the Heart

The New Year and the season always seem to invite deep reflection. Certainly, the state of the economy, and world affairs are also inviting more introspection on our parts. Many of us are re-evaluating our priorities and values and making changes in our lives as as a result of our reflection, and/or economic factors and realities... We are invited to consider what is truly important, and what is the purpose of our lives during these trying times in the deep of winter... I received Jamie Allison's newsletter recently. Jamie is a senior Certified Anusara Yoga teacher, and she recently established a beautiful retreat center in Colorado. I'd like to share some of her insights here: "The natural world, in all its magnificence, does not have the capacity for self-reflection or self-knowing. We, as humans, do. A human birth is a rare and blessed gift. Unlike the deer walking the same path in the snow, we can deviate from our chosen path and branch out into something new at a

For God Alone - Suffering

This is my last entry on the book, For God Alone: The Life and Letters of a Saint, about the life and writings of Sri Gyanamata. I have shared so many passages because they spoke to me - and hopefully have spoken to some of you. An English teacher once said to me: " We write, in order to know. " So I transcribe these excerpts and passages to deepen my understanding of what is meant by them. I would also add that, " we teach, in order to learn... " By sharing the wisdom of this remarkable woman, I hope to embody the insights that were fruit of her practice, in a way that brings greater clarity into my life. And so, for one last time, I share these insights and paragraphs from Chapter 12, "Suffering Can Be a Pathway to Greatness:" "It is said that one never knows his or her spiritual strength until faced with adversity. Through her trials - physical, mental, and spiritual - Gyanamata developed heroic perseverance, endurance, and unconquerable atti

For God Alone - More and Better

Sri Gyananmata on quietly practicing the presence of God within: "It can always be deeper." "There is a mistake that we all need to guard against. A few days of happiness, of bliss, do not mean that the fight is over; it has to be waged again and again and again against our only real enemy, the self." "The years pass in review before me, and leave me with two thoughts: The work performed by me - it could have been so much better done. My devotion to God and Guruji - it could have been so much deeper. The flame burning in my heart could have burned so much higher, have been so much brighter, so much more intense, if my only constant prayer had been: 'Change me.'" To Paramahansa Yogananda: "I have found a beautiful way to direct the mind to God. It is your poem, 'God! God! God!' Just the repetition of the Holy Name. How simple, and just suited to my present state." Tomorrow, one last entry...

For God Alone - Renunciation

From Chapter 7, "Renunciation," from For God Alone ... "Having actively sought God for years before entering the ashram, Gyanamata was well aware that the essential aspect of renunciation - for the householder as well as for the monastic - is inner surrender of earthly attachments, and the cultivation of the one desire to seek God and follow His will. To all who sought her counsel, regardless of their outer role in life, she recommended the inner renunciation of lesser desires and the practice of the yoga meditation techniques taught in the Self-Realization Fellowship Lessons. This, she declared, is the highest path to true freedom." "I could understand why I must give up the wrong things, but I did not know that the seeker for God must lay all at His feet, must hold nothing back... What I could not understand was why everything must go; why things that were right, that were mine, that harmed no one, why all the dear little rights and privileges must be

For God Alone III

Here are some more excerpts from For God Alone: The Life and Letters of a Saint, and the writings of Sri Gyanamata... "To improve the circumstances of your life, to raise yourself physically, mentally, and spiritually, change your attitude. Meet trials with courage, determination, and fortitude. When you need help, meditate deeply and try to contact God, but look to no lower source than to Him...Pray and affirm: 'I will reason, I will will, I will act, but guide Thou my reason, will, and activity to the right thing that I should do.'" "Late one afternoon...I was filled with apprehension. I knew that it was not the will of God that I should be saved from the experience. Even at that moment it was moving towards me. Suddenly God told me the prayer He would listen to, and I said quickly: 'Change no circumstance of my life. Change me.'" "The thing about the life of Brother Lawrence that has stood out in my memory ever since I read the bo

More on - For God Alone

There is actually some sunshine today, after several days of rain and drizzle, encouraging the heart to rejoice in this, the dead of winter! This morning, I reflect on several messages received that deeply warm my heart. We never quite know how we will touch another's soul - or how our own may be touched as well...I am often amazed at the resultant web of connections that can be made in most unexpected ways. I go down to the river briefly this morning, after not having visited for about a week. It is breezy, and the river seems wider than usual because of the rains. I stand at the top of the cliff and look down at the rocks and launch area, watching wave upon wave coursing downstream, thinking of how we are all like those waves - a legion of blessed souls interacting with one another - sometimes randomly bumping into each other and unexpectedly touching each others' lives. We never know whose touch will extend to us God's hand... I ponder sacred insights that come to me

For God Alone

Last night I allowed myself to finish the book, God Alone: The Life and Letters of a Saint, about Sri Gyanamata, a disciple of Paramahansa Yogananda. I had been savoring each page I read, my senses filled with the sacredness of the writings. I want to share some passages from her letters, meditations, and diary entries, over the next couple of days. Her words are full of insight, wisdom, and unfailing devotion, and are sure to bring comfort and solace to all... From a letter written to Daya Mata, now the head of the Self-Realization Fellowship , when she was a young nun in the community: " 1. See nothing, look at nothing, but your goal, ever shining before you. 2. The things that happen to us do not matter; what we become through them does. 3. Each day, accept everything as coming to you from God. 4. At night, give everything back into His Hands." "But God says, 'No. Come, lay all the dear innocent pleasures at My feet. Everything.

Broken Malas - Karma Released

I spend the day of a Guru's birthday in meditation and sacred practices, all throughout the day... I have heard it said, that special energies surround one on the day of one's birthday. Emboldened by this thought and knowledge, I approach my meditation with an important request, sensing that God and Guru will not deny me... I end the day by reading beautiful letters this Guru wrote to a Beloved disciple and glean so many sacred messages that bring solace to a wounded heart... I do one last meditation in the evening before retiring for sleep, which takes me deep and it seems I lose myself in the heart of the cosmos and take leave of waking consciousness... In the morning I awaken to find pieces of my garnet mala bracelet in my bed. I am heartbroken, but remember being told, that a broken mala signifies release of karma...It is also a reminder to detach once more and relinquish one more layer of being... Is this the answer to my request? I feel it is - though I am not qui

In Waking, Eating, and Sleeping...

This day is the birthday of Paramahansa Yogananda, so I will honor the day with two quotes from his writings. The first one comes from the I nner Reflections 2009 calendar for this week, and the other is the last verse of my favorite poem by him, titled, God! God! God!: "Simplicity means to be free of desires and attachments and supremely happy within... It entails neither hardship nor deprivation, but the wisdom to work for and be content with what you truly need ." "In waking, eating, working, dreaming, sleeping, Serving, meditating, chanting, divinely loving, My soul constantly hums, unheard by any: God! God! God!" (For the entire poem, see my entry for January 20, 2008)


The river has taught me the art of silence... Well, maybe not the art - but it has certainly deepened my appreciation for silence, and most of all, the river has taught me to listen deeply to the sounds of nature, the sounds that silence reveals - and to listen for the very sound of the Divine in my soul and in indeed, all of creation. This is not an easy thing to do - for we are bombarded by noise. Since I live as a "semi-contemplative," I often feel assaulted when I have to go out and run the most simplest and basic of errands. There is not a store or restaurant it seems that doesn't pipe in something rather obnoxious or toxic into its environment, and into the ears of hurried souls who are already subject to an inordinate amount of stress and to a myriad of personal issues and afflictions. I recently became acquainted with the music of Arvo Part, through the talented son of a cousin of mine. Arvo Part's music is haunting - it speaks to the soul without adornme

Be Still and Know

As I returned home after a busy and fruitful afternoon co-hosting an open house at the studio where I teach, I relished the immediate quiet and stillness of my home and meditation alcove. I sat on my purple meditation blankets as the sun went down, and one of my favorite verses from scripture spontaneously arose in my heart: "Be still and know that I am God." - Psalm 46:10 This verse also made me think of Psalm 62 which begins: "For God alone, my soul waits in silence; from Him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation..." I have always felt at home with the Psalms, finding them to be very nurturing and evocative of many of my heart's feelings and experiences. I am equally at home with the sacred scriptures of the Hindus and the Buddhists. This morning, my yoga student noted, that many yoga teachers are naturally led to become teachers because of their background as bodyworkers and/or other related interests, but that I had come to yog