Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Finding inspiration and perspective when we need it

I have been wanting to share this excerpt from Reverend Jaganath Carerra's Inside the Yoga Sutras.  I read it in class a couple weeks ago and find it so helpful in doing the work of practicing Ahimsa (non-violence/compassion) and Satya (truth).  It is during these times of difficulty following a trauma like Tropical Storm Irene that we can find support in our inspirational readings whether they be the Yoga Sutras, the Dharma of the Buddha as written by Thich Nhat Hanh, the Bible, or others including secular authors.  Whatever speaks to you and helps give you perspective and comfort. 

"Truthfulness measured against nonviolence.  Ahimsa is the first yama Sri Patanjali lists and so is the touchstone for determining behavior.  Even truthful words, if they cause harm to another, should not be spoken.  However, before giving up our course of action, we could consider if there is a more auspicious moment for doing what is needed, or a more appropriate approach.  In any case, it is always advisable to do some soul-searching to determine if the desire to act is motivated by an interest in the welfare of others or by a need to vent our frustrations or punish someone with whom we have problems.  Motives that are tainted by selfishness obstruct the experience of the Self by maintaining or strengthening the influence of ignorance over the mind.
 How can we tell if we are doing harm or just causing temporary discomfort?  First, we need to discriminate between the two.  Discomfort indicates the struggle of the individual to adapt and adjust.  To do harm is to destroy or inhibit proper functioning.
We know that there are times (such as when teachers discipline misbehaving students) when words can cause pain but the intent ultimately brings benefit.  The opposite is also true.  There are times when people use sweet words (as in con games) in order to deceive others.  Their behavior may feel good at first but will cause harm later.
We may not experience the consequences of our actions until much later.  If we do not know the nature of the tree, we need to wait until it bears fruit.  In order to perfect truthfulness, yogis need patience to observe the ultimate outcome of acts, clarity to make the proper assessment of their outcome, and accurate recall not to forget the lessons of experience.  Fortunately, patience, clarity, and good memory are also products of the Yoga practices."  --page 132
Our practice of Ahimsa and Satya is so important as we repair any damage and do whatever clean up is needed from the recent storm.  We are faced with discerning whether discomfort, maybe extreme, or harm has been done to us and notice if we can find our resources to adapt, adjust, and grow given this opportunity.  All along honoring our truth to take care and pace ourselves as we need to, remembering compassion for self and others in our daily interactions since stress is high and we may struggle to remain skillful with our speech and actions. 

Connecting with our sangha (our supportive community) is so important in these times.  It has been an honor to share the practice in class both before the storm as we tried to settle our minds and prepare for what was to come as well as after the storm, coming together as a community for support and to check in with one another.  I felt blessed to have the opportunity to join my sangha for meditation tea ceremony on Monday evening and left with this wonderful quote of Thich Nhat Hanh shared by my dharma sister, Jan:  "We are not better than the the other, we are not less than the other, we are not even equal to the other.  We are the other."  We can gain perspective from such a sentiment and be inspired to send our thoughts and prayers to others in this time.  We may like to chant Ra Ma Da Sa Sa Say So Hung, a powerful healing mantra, to send those wishes to all beings and the earth and atmostphere that we may live in harmony with each other.

I will close with one of my favorite poems by Danna Faulds from her book Go In and In:

Let It Go

Let go of the ways you thought life
would unfold; the holding of plans
or dreams or expectations - Let it
all go.  Save your strength to swim 
with the tide.  The choice to fight
what is here before you now will
only result in struggle, fear, and
desperate attempts to flee from the
very energy you long for.  Let go.
Let it all go and flow with the grace 
that washes through your days whether
you receive it gently or with all your
quills raised to defend against invaders.
Take this on faith: the mind may never
find the explanations that it seeks, but
you will move forward nonetheless.
Let go, and the wave's crest will carry
you to unknown shores, beyond your 
wildest dreams or destinations.  Let it
all go and find the place of rest and
peace, and certain transformation.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The second Yama: Satya (Truth)

Here is an affirmation to focus on Patanjali's second yama from the eight limbs of yoga: 

"I live in truth.  I speak the truth to myself and to others (when appropriate).  When offering my truth in the form of feedback I am sensitive to the feelings of others; I speak in the spirit of love.  I also take responsibility for my actions.  I do not blame anyone for my experience; I honestly see my own part in every situation."

When practicing the second Yama, we need to remember the first:  Ahimsa (non-violence/compassion).  If we speak our truth in a way that is mean, we are not making our best efforts on the path.  So we need to find a way for Satya and Ahimsa to coexist.  Let us be reminded of the affirmation for Ahimsa:

"My thoughts and actions are focused on loving awareness.  I nurture and cherish myself and others.  I am aware that the mind sometimes entertains thoughts of fear, anger, or selfishness but I do not get caught in these thoughts or act upon them.  I accept without judgement any uncomfortable mental states.  I release them and return to gently, non-violent expression of my energy."

When we want to speak, we can consider the following sentiments before we do:

"Is it true?  Is it kind?  Is it necessary?"   -- Sufi saying

"Most people will not remember what you said or what you did.  But they will remember how you made them feel."   -- Maya Angelou

"If in doubt whether to observe Ahimsa or Satya, always go with Ahimsa."   --Swami Vivekananda

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Powerful Healing Mantra

Ra  Ma  Da  Sa  Sa  Say  So  Hung

"The sun, the moon, the earth, infinity.  Totality of experience, I am Thou."

Our chant for this month reminds us of the buddhist concept of interbeing.  Thich Nhat Hanh writes beautifully about this in his book, Peace is Every Step.  Could you exist without the sun, the moon, the earth?  What do you feel inside when you contemplate the awesomeness of the sun? the light of the moon? the support of the earth?  Do you know that you contain those qualities of the elements in nature?  Within us, we have the power and self-effulgence of the sun; we have the light and cooling quality of the moon, we have the regenerative power of the earth and the ability to transform difficulty (garbage) into wisdom and beauty (flowers).

As we contemplate the second yama, Satya - truth, we remember these universal truths to help us navigate our difficulties and to enjoy moments of delight.  We take the time to notice what is true for us in the body, with the breath, and in the mind.  We take care of our body with yoga, healthy food, water, and rest.  We take time to breathe fully, deeply, slowly, to help care for the body by oxygenating the blood and regularly releasing all the carbon dioxide in our lungs.  As we care for our body and breath, we are preparing the way for our mind to become calm and clear.  In those moments when the mind is clear and calm, we can see what is true in our "wisdom body" - our intuition - vijnamaya kosha.  This is where we tune in to find our truths, get clarity about our path in this life, and open up to the possibility for them to manifest.  When we align these layers of body, breath, mind, and wisdom, we easily feel the quality of interbeing, the sense of expansiveness and connection to all that is, the bliss body - anandamaya kosha.

Remember we are not alone.  Our sangha is all around us:  our yoga class, our family, our pets; the sun, the moon, the earth; the trees, the flowers, the birds; the rain, the snow, the wind; the streams, the lakes, the oceans.  Wow!  There is so much awesomeness around and within you!  Let us remember and take it all in.

Ra  Ma  Da  Sa  Sa  Say  So  Hung

"The sun, the moon, the earth, infinity.  Totality of experience, I am Thou."

Monday, August 1, 2011

Love Meditation*

The following is from Thich Nhat Hanh's Plum Village Chanting and Recitation Book.

May I be peaceful, happy, and light in body and spirit.
May I be safe and free from injury.
May I be free from anger, afflictions, fear, and anxiety.

May I learn to look at myself with the eyes of understanding and love.
May I be able to recognize and touch the seeds of joy and happiness in myself.
May I learn to identify and see the sources of anger, craving, and delusion in myself.

May I know how to nourish the seeds of joy in myself every day.
May I be able to live fresh, solid, and free.
May I be free from attachment and aversion, but not be indifferent.

"We begin practicing this love meditation focusing on ourselves.  Until we are able to love and take care of ourselves, we cannot be of much help to others.  Next, we can practice towards others (substituting he/she or they), first with someone we love, next with someone we like, then with someone neutral to us, and finally toward someone who has made us suffer."

 * Adapted from the Visuddhi Magga.  For other practices to nourish love, see Thich Nhat Hanh, Teachings on Love (Berkeley: Parallax Press, 1997).