Saturday, December 29, 2012

Growing our compassion and life force energy for the new year

Today in yoga class, I took a risk to share the letter below.  I find it to be a beautiful letter which can bring us understanding and help to transform our suffering around the recent tragedy in Newtown, CT.  My purpose for wanting to go there today came from our focus this month on the second chakra (Svadhistana) and the coming new year.  The second chakra houses our emotional body, the place where our gut feelings originate.  It is the place where we begin to find connection to others, build relationships, and find out how we interact with / respond to / and are impacted by others.  Our yoga practice which includes asanas (postures), pranayama (breathwork), studying the dharma (teachings), meditation and mantra gives us many tools to navigate life.  We get to choose everyday how we deal with our bodies, our feelings, and our thoughts which are all triggered by our interactions with nature and other beings.  We can be so thankful to have the practice in our lives to help transform our suffering, give us a bigger perspective, and be sure to enjoy the beauty in the world since we know there is also suffering.
As we look to a new year, let's support each other in our choices toward joy, toward peace, toward self-understanding so we can find support when we need it and recognize how powerful and strong we already are.  We are so blessed to have these practices.  We need to remember that it is those people who do not have a path of practice and do not have the tools or support to deal with their emotions, mental formations, and urges who cause others great suffering.  "There but for the grace of God go I."

From "The Five Ways of Putting an End to Anger" in Thich Nhat Hanh's Plum Village Chanting and Recitation Book, we learn in the fifth way that someone whose actions are not kind, whose words are not kind, and in whose heart there is nothing that can be called kindness is suffering greatly and desperately needs a spiritual friend.  This is the place we begin to grow our understanding and compassion for someone who causes such awful suffering in the world.  Only someone in great pain could cause such pain.  This is in no way meant to excuse the act, just to help alleviate our suffering and cultivate our practice and compassion to better prevent another suffering being to make such an act.
This letter is from a monk in the Plum Village community, who is from Newtown, CT himself, to Adam Lanza.  May it bring more healing and understanding.

Saturday, 15th of December, 2012
Dharma Cloud Temple
Plum Village
Dear Adam,
Let me start by saying that I wish for you to find peace. It would be easy just to call you a monster and condemn you for evermore, but I don't think that would help either of us. Given what you have done, I realize that peace may not be easy to find. In a fit of rage, delusion and fear”yes, above all else, I think, fear,”you thought that killing was a way out. It was clearly a powerful emotion that drove you from your mother's dead body to massacre children and staff of Sandy Hook School and to turn the gun in the end on yourself. You decided that the game was over.
But the game is not over, though you are dead. You didn't find a way out of your anger and loneliness. You live on in other forms, in the torn families and their despair, in the violation of their trust, in the gaping wound in a community, and in the countless articles and news reports spilling across the country and the world yes, you live on even in me. I was also a young boy who grew up in Newtown. Now I am a Zen Buddhist monk. I see you quite clearly in me now, continued in the legacy of your actions, and I see that in death you have not become free.
You know, I used to play soccer on the school field outside the room where you died, when I was the age of the children you killed. Our team was the Eagles, and we won our division that year. My mom still keeps the trophy stashed in a box. To be honest, I was and am not much of a soccer player. I've known winning, but I've also known losing, and being picked last for a spot on the team. I think you've known this too the pain of rejection, isolation and loneliness. Loneliness too strong to bear.
You are not alone in feeling this. When loneliness comes up it is so easy to seek refuge in a virtual world of computers and films, but do these really help or only increase our isolation? In our drive to be more connected, have we lost our true connection?
I want to know what you did with your loneliness. Did you ever, like me, cope by walking in the forests that cover our town? I know well the slope that cuts from that school to the stream, shrouded by beech and white pine. It makes up the landscape of my mind. I remember well the thrill of heading out alone on a path winding its way”to Treadwell Park! At that time it felt like a magical path, one of many secrets I discovered throughout those forests, some still hidden. Did you ever lean your face on the rough furrows of an oak's bark, feeling its solid heartwood and tranquil vibrancy? Did you ever play in the course of a stream, making pools with the stones as if of this stretch you were king? Did you ever experience the healing, connection and peace that comes with such moments, like I often did?
Or did your loneliness know only screens, with dancing figures of light at the bid of your will? How many false lives have you lived, how many shots fired, bombs exploded and lives lost in video games and movies?
By killing yourself at the age of 20, you never gave yourself the chance to grow up and experience a sense of how life's wonders can bring happiness. I know at your age I hadn't yet seen how to do this.
I am 37 now, about the age my teacher, the Buddha, realized there was a way out of suffering. I am not enlightened. This morning, when I heard the news, and read the words of my shocked classmates, within minutes a wave of sorrow arose, and I wept. Then I walked a bit further, into the woods skirting our monastery, and in the wet, winter cold of France, beside the laurel, I cried again. I cried for the children, for the teachers, for their families. But I also cried for you, Adam, because I think that I know you, though I know we have never met. I think that I know the landscape of your mind, because it is the landscape of my mind.
I don't think you hated those children, or that you even hated your mother. I think you hated your loneliness.
I cried because I have failed you. I have failed to show you how to cry. I have failed to sit and listen to you without judging or reacting. Like many of my peers, I left Newtown at seventeen, brimming with confidence and purpose, with the congratulations of friends and the approbation of my elders. I was one of the many young people who left, and in leaving we left others, including you, just born, behind. In that sense I am a part of the culture that failed you. I didn't know yet what a community was, or that I was a part of one, until I no longer had it, and so desperately needed it.
I have failed to be one of the ones who could have been there to sit and listen to you. I was not there to help you to breathe and become aware of your strong emotions, to help you to see that you are more than just an emotion.
But I am also certain that others in the community cared for you, loved you. Did you know it?
In eighth grade I lived in terror of a classmate and his anger. It was the first time I knew aggression. No computer screen or television gave a way out, but my imagination and books. I dreamt myself a great wizard, blasting fireballs down the school corridor, so he would fear and respect me. Did you dream like this too?
The way out of being a victim is not to become the destroyer. No matter how great your loneliness, how heavy your despair, you, like each one of us, still have the capacity to be awake, to be free, to be happy, without being the cause of anyone's sorrow. You didn't know that, or couldn't see that, and so you chose to destroy. We were not skillful enough to help you see a way out.
With this terrible act you have let us know. Now I am listening, we are all listening, to you crying out from the hell of your misunderstanding. You are not alone, and you are not gone. And you may not be at peace until we can stop all our busyness, our quest for power, money or sex, our lives of fear and worry, and really listen to you, Adam, to be a friend, a brother, to you. With a good friend like that your loneliness might not have overwhelmed you.
But we needed your help too, Adam. You needed to let us know that you were suffering, and that is not easy to do. It means overcoming pride, and that takes courage and humility. Because you were unable to do this, you have left a heavy legacy for generations to come. If we cannot learn how to connect with you and understand the loneliness, rage and despair you felt which also lie deep and sometimes hidden within each one of us not by connecting through Facebook or Twitter or email or telephone, but by really sitting with you and opening our hearts to you, your rage will manifest again in yet unforeseen forms.
Now we know you are there. You are not random, or an aberration. Let your action move us to find a path out of the loneliness within each one of us. I have learned to use awareness of my breath to recognize and transform these overwhelming emotions, but I hope that every man, woman or child does not need to go halfway across the world to become a monk to learn how to do this. As a community we need to sit down and learn how to cherish life, not with gun-checks and security, but by being fully present for one another, by being truly there for one another. For me, this is the way to restore harmony to our communion.
Douglas Bachman (Br. Phap Luu)
who grew up at 22 Lake Rd. in Newtown, CT., is a Buddhist monk and student of the Vietnamese Zen Master and monk Thich Nhat Hanh. As part of an international community, he teaches Applied Ethics and the art of mindful living to students and school teachers. He lives in Plum Village Monastery, in Thenac, France.
Let this darkness be a bell tower,
and you the bell.
As you ring, what batters you
becomes your strength.

--Rainer Maria Rilke, Let this darkening be a bell tower

European Institute of Applied Buddhism
Europäisches Institut für Angewandten Buddhismus,
Schaumburgweg 3, 51545 Waldbröl
+49 (0) 2291 9071373
I am so thankful that when my darkest time came at the age of 24, after losing my mother and my grandmother within the span of 6 months, I found the resources both within me and around me to deal with my lonliness, sadness, and depression.  Though it was extremely difficult, I allowed the support of those around me to seep in.  Eventually, I got to the work that I needed to do which was to find new places of belonging since the two most dear to me were taken away.  A coworker invited me to my first sangha (meditation group) and I had come home.  Learning and internalizing the teachings of the Buddha helped alleviate my suffering.  Being surrounded by a supportive community, my sangha, gave me that sense of belonging and care.  I started to recognize the other blessings in my life that I didn't allow to shine in the shadow of my losses.

I hope we can all continue to do this work with each passing new year, coming to fully know ourselves and recognize how wonderful we are.  Our work continuing up the seven chakras over the next 5 months is one way to grow this understanding and continue to clear the space for our light to shine.

I'll close with this Metta Meditation (Love Meditation) from Thich Nhat Hanh's Plum Village Chanting and Recitation Book.  Imagine what it would be like if we all recited it every day.


Love Meditation*

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).
Asatoma Sat Gamaya
Lead me from untruth to truth
Tamasoma Jyotir Gamaya
Lead me from darkness to the light
Mrityorma Amritam Gamaya
Lead me from the fear of death to the wisdom of immortality,
from attachment to what is temporary to the wisdom of what is eternal

Lokah Samastha Sukhino Bhavantu

Blessings of Peace, Love, and Ease of Living to you and your beloveds and to all beings!
 Here is the link for the complete reading 
"The Five Ways of  Putting and End to Anger"

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Come out and Chant with Us

Two upcoming kirtans.  If you haven't yet experienced this, now is the time.  And, if you have, you know how uplifting it is to be with others and raise our vibration into our oneness.
Oct 27 8pm  with Sheryl, Penni, and Daniel
 Naturally Yoga | 175 Rock Road | Glen Rock | NJ | 07452
David Newman AKA Durga Das w/ Mira

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Eighth Limb: Samadhi

Thandie Newton, actress known for her role on ER, gave this wonderful talk on Oneness which is fitting for our focus on Samadhi this month.  It is about fourteen minutes long.  Try to find the time to sit and listen.  You don't need to watch, you can if you want.  You could try centering yourself on your breath in a comfortable seat and then enjoy a gentle ujaayi breath while you allow the talk to rain down on you and soak in.  Give yourself some time in silence after the talk, perhaps a period of meditation.  Then you might like to journal / write stream of consciousness to see what insights arise for you, to see how you initially integrate the talk and then over time see how the dharma continues to feed you.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Copy of Daily OM referenced in today's class

September 20, 2012
An Exercise in Self
Seeking Advice from Yourself by Madisyn Taylor

A helpful exercise is to set up an advisory panel of your past, present, and future selves.

Since we probably know ourselves better than anyone else does, then we may very well be the best person to ask for advice when we are in a quandary. One interesting exercise is to try asking for advice from your past and future selves. There is the younger self that you used to be and the older, more mature self that you will become. You can gain a different perspective when you view present situations through your younger self’s eyes or your mature self’s more experienced point of view. Perhaps, your younger self would view a current dilemma in a more innocent, less cynical way. Likewise, your older, hopefully wiser, self may offer advice from a more compassionate, experienced perspective.

Think back to how you viewed the world when you were younger. What were your thoughts on happiness, love, and injustice? Think about how you would have reacted to a dilemma you are currently facing. The perspective may shed a different light on relationships, money matters, or life decisions. Likewise, think about the person you will become. A more mature version of you might mull a problem or conflict over carefully before taking action right away… or perhaps not. Maybe your older self would be more willing to take risks, care less about what other people think, and want to enjoy life more.

You can even set up an advisory panel of your past, present, and future selves. You might even want to try to have a written dialogue with your selves to record the thoughts, feelings, and advice that your younger and older selves might have for your present self regarding a current situation. Your different selves can give you some invaluable answers. After all, no one can know you better than your selves. You are your wisest guide.

Kirtan this Sunday in Glen Rock

We are planning to attend this event.  See you there?
kirtanSunday 4pm Kirtan with Rasa Lila at Naturally Yoga
175 Rock Road, Glen Rock NJ  201-612-7330

 suggested donation $15

Come join us for an afternoon of chant and great music.

In the offering of Yoga, the path of beauty and joy revolve around the graceful gift of Rasa. Rasa is our emotions that we lay at the foot of the Divine. We may call out in longing to unite with the source of all delight or we may lay our head at the feet of the Divine in exhaustion. Whatever the emotion, we allow our mind's wall to crumble and stand naked before the beloved whose sweetness (madhurya) knows no end. Lila is the play with the Divine. Come chant with Rasa Lila and dive head first into your sweetness.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Dharana (Concentation)

This month we have been contemplating Dharana (Concentration), the sixth of the eight limbs of yoga from Patanjali's Yoga Sutras.  We have been chanting the seed sounds of the seven chakras with awareness on those energy centers in the body as our concentration practice.  This has prepared us beautifully for seated meditation and for our asana practice.  

Having cultivated a deep awareness of the subtle body, we are prepared to proceed into asana with grace and awareness to further deepen our focus and the benefits of our practice.  When we go so deep inside, we find a space within to take refuge.  We feel our pulsation that creates a buffer or boundary and at the same time an extension of our energy and compassion to all.  With that pulsation, we can remain at peace when a challenge comes our way and choose to act skillfully rather than react from our primitive brain.  With the pulsation as a boundary, since we are so attuned to our wisdom and the universal truths, we are able to choose not to engage with people or situations that would not serve us well.

May we continue to cultivate this awareness for the benefit of ourselves and all beings.

Lokah Samastha Sukhino Bhavantu
May all beings be filled with peace and joy, love and light.

The following image is from this website.

 The following information is taken from The Daily OM - Bija Mantras.

In traditional Hatha Yoga, the seven cleansing bija mantras associated with the chakras are:

LAM for the earth chakra (1)   Root
VAM for the water chakra (2)   Sacrum
RAM for the fire chakra (3)      Solar Plexus
YAM for the heart chakra (4)
HAM for the throat chakra (5)
AUM for the third eye (6)
AH for the crown chakra (7)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Om Namah Shivaya by Krishna Das

Our chant this month to support our practice of Pratyahara is Om Namah Shivaya.  We chant it in this melody as supplied by Krishna Das.  This recording can be found on his CD Pilgrim Heart which is an awesome CD.

Below definition found from this website:
"It means  "I bow to Shiva." Shiva is the supreme reality, the inner Self. It  is the name given to consciousness that dwells in all. Shiva is the name of your true identity- your self. 
According to Hindu mythology there are three Gods who run this creation. The Brahma - who creates the universe, the Vishnu - who preserves the Universe and the Shiva- who in the end destroys the universe. Among the three deities, Shiva, though considered as destroyer, also symbolize the  - the inner self which remains intact even after everything ends. "
Come to Starseed Yoga in Verona at their new location for an awesome evening of kirtan. Daniel McBride, Sheryl Edsall, and Penni Feiner will be there performing. Three of my favorite and most inspiring yogis. Makes me wanna travel all the way down there to see them. See you there?
Special Starseed Summer Concert Event!
13 Hands & Friends: World Music/Chant & 
Community Concert
Thursday, July 26th 
Doors open at 7:30PM/Event at 8:00PM 
Pre-Reg Rate: $20
Evening of the concert: $25
Family Rate: $40

A 13 HANDS concert /Kirtan experience is blend of contemporary, 
Bhakti, spiritual, meditative and world chant music.    
With a whole array of instruments from Native Flutes to Hang Drum 
and other world percussion and guitars, he shares an uplifting, 
mesmerizing and healing community experience that is family friendly 
and allows your heart and voice to shine and illuminate!  
Come prepared to sing, celebrate and be part of the STARSEED 
Tribe and community.....
cause we've got some wonderful special guests this amazing night!!!! 



ABOUT 13 HANDS, aka DALIEN, is a two-time Grammy nominee and yogi who has been immersed in various styles of contemporary/ world music/devotional chant for over 20 years, sharing his gifts at numerous conferences, festivals, events and retreat centers like Kripalu, Omega, Yoga @ the Great Lawn event in Central Park and Wanderlust.   He's had the honor to teach, chant, speak and/or perform alongside other world-renowned artists, teachers, spiritual leaders, bhakti yogis & authors like The Dali Lama, Dr. Masaru Emoto, Seane Corn, Dharma Mitra, Elena Brower, RUN DMC, Ani DiFranco, Ours, Paula Cole, Laurie Anderson, the late Pheobe Snow, Krishna Das, WAH!, Shyamdas, Dave Stringer, John D Kadt 
and Gaura Vani.    

13 HANDS concert events are pure love, fun, devotional interaction, 
drumming, chanting and communal jam-fests that leave you feeling bright, integrated, happy and peaceful! 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Adi Shakti, performed by Rasa Lila

This is a video recorded at Naturally Yoga in Glen Rock, NJ.  At the center is my beloved and inspiring teacher Sheryl Edsall.  She is framed by two amazing vocalists and yoga teachers, Penni Feiner on the left and Lillie Kae on the right.  I love being in the room to soak up the vibrations when they perform.  

Here is a taste...

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Adi Shakti, performed by Snatam Kaur

Adi Shakti by Snatam Kaur from her CD Feeling Good Today 

Adi Shakti, Adi Shakti, Adi Shakti, Namo Namo
Sarab Shakti, Sarab Shakti, Sarab Shakti, Namo Namo
Pritham Bhagwati, Pritham Bhagwati, Pritham Bhagwati, Namo Namo
Kundalini Mata Shakti, Mata Shakti, Namo Namo

I bow to (or call on) the primal power.
I bow to (or call on) the all encompassing power and energy.
I bow to (or call on) that through which God creates.
I bow to (or call on) the creative power of the Kundalini, the Divine Mother Power.

More Information:
The Adi Shakti Mantra tunes one into the frequency of the Divine Mother, and to the primal protective, generating energy. It is said that chanting it eliminates fears and fulfills desires.

Some quotes Yogi Bhajan gave on this mantra specifically for women:
"Merge in the Maha Shakti. This is enough to take away your misfortune. This will carve out of you a woman. Woman needs her own Shakti, not anybody else will do it. When a woman chants the Kundalini Bhakti mantra, God clears the way. This is not a religion, it is a reality. Woman is not born to suffer, and woman needs her own power."

"When India and Indian women knew this mantra, it dwelt in the land of milk and honey."

Yogi Bhajan taught that after conception, the soul enters into the womb of a mother on the 120th day. This is a day of celebration and when the soul/child is entering the womb this chant is traditional.
source of above translation and site where you can purchase Snatam Kaur's CD:

This is one of my favorite CD's.  I have so much fun listening and chanting along in the car.  It is probably available on other sites as well, like Amazon and iTunes.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Third Limb - Asana

This month we contemplate the third of Patanjali's Eight Limbs of Yoga:  Asana.

Sloka II.46  Sthira Sukha Asanam

May the posture be steady and comfortable.

  Some translate this to mean only the seated posture for meditation.  Others translate it to mean all of the physical postures (asana) we practice that strengthen, stretch, and open our bodies to the highest vibration which brings us health, well-being, and peace.  Once we practice warming up the body and doing our asana practice to invite subtle body awareness - the ignition of prana, then we are ready physically and mentally to sit for deeper meditation practice.

   We included in our contemplation of asana the following alignment tool from Anusara Yoga.  Below is a picture with the link of the loops to help remind us of their placement and direction so we can continue to practice them on the mat  and off.

Here are the directions to travel the loops as you look at the picture below and some of the cues we use to bring the alignment into the body building from the ground up:

ankle loop - counterclockwise;
shin loop - clockwise - "top of the shin bone forward" ;
thigh loop-counterclockwise - "top of the thigh bone back" ;
pelvic loop- counterclockwise - "root tailbone and draw lower abs up and in" or "draw the waistline back";
kidney loop - clockwise - "puff out the kidneys, draw lower ribs into the back" or "draw the waistline back";
shoulder loop - counterclockwise - "pierce bottom tips of the shoulder blades forward to open the heart and relax shoulders down";
skull loop - clockwise - "draw the sides of the throat back."

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Weekly meditation in Franklin Lakes

Here is the information about the Sangha I often refer to in class.

Breathing in, I calm my body.
Breathing out, I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment,
I know this is a wonderful moment!
--Thich Nhat Hanh

"Buddhist group meets at church

The Practice Community at Franklin Lakes, a Buddhist practice and meditation sangha, sits from 7-9pm Mondays and 7:30-8:45am Fridays at the Presbyterian Church at Franklin Lakes (soon to be called High Mountian Presbyterian Church), 730 Franklin Lake Road.  The group is affiliated with Thich Nhat Hanh's Community of Interbeing and Blue Cliff Monastery, Pine Bush, NY.

At each zazen there is a dharma talk or reading; guided, walking and silent meditations; sharing of the practice; and dedication of the merits."

Links:    Local monastery in the Plum Village tradition.  Days of Mindfulness are held every Thursday and Sunday.  We talked about choosing a day to plan to go up as a group.   Thich Nhat Hanh's home monastery in France.  This website has links to his dharma talks, songs and chants by the brothers and sisters, and information on retreats and how to support the efforts made by the sangha at large.   This is the site for the magazine put out by the community including lovely articles by the monastic and lay practioners on how they use the practice in their daily lives, dharma talks of Thay transcribed in print, poems and book reviews by the sangha at large. This is the publisher for Thich Nhat Hanh's books.  You can peruse his titles there as well as other authors and purchase on this site.

The Fifth Niyama - Ishwara Pranidhana (Surrender to God)

For the past 10 months we have been contemplating the Yamas and Niyamas from Patanjali's Yoga Sutras.  It has been a wonderful practice.  Here are some comments and quotes we shared in our practice of the fifth and final niyama:  Ishwara Pranidhana (Surrender to God) during the month of April.

We listened to our sangha read an article found online from The Purpose Fairy on 15 things you should give up to be happy.  We could make that our next 15 month practice after we finish Patanjali's 8 limbs of yoga.  I posted the article just before this post.  So part of our practice was the idea of surrendering habit energies that keep us imprisoned in our own suffering.

"What can I give up in order to allow something new?" 
- John Woodcock

One of the simplest and most important practices of surrender seems to be surrendering to the present moment, to this breath, to checking in with the body and what is going on in the mind.  By taking a moment to pause and enjoy the stillness, we can witness what is really happening and may find our way to freedom.  It may come right away or we may need to navigate a more challenging path that ultimately will lead us there.

"Sometimes when things are falling apart, they may actually be falling into place."
- unknown

"Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue.  Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them.  And the point is, to live everything.  Live the questions now.  Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without noticing it, live your way into the answer."
- Rainer Maria Rilke

"Life must be lived forward, but it can only be understood backward."
- Soren Kierkegaard"

When we allow ourselves to be with what is so in the present moment and meet it with all of our inner resources that may help us to face a challenge or know when to retreat and rest until we're ready, we take ourselves to our edge moment by moment.  We live to our fullest potential because we take time to restore when we need to.  Taking the time to occasionally take a look at how we have grown and see the mastery we have achieved in different areas of our lives, the growth in how we respond to people and approach events, we find the confidence and empowerment we need for the present moment and beyond.

"Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world.
Today I am wise, so I am changing myself."
- Rumi

Saturday, April 14, 2012

An article to enrich our study of Surrender

This morning's reading from The Purpose Fairy from the following link:

Here is a list of 15 things which, if you give up on them, will make your life a lot easier and much, much happier. We hold on to so many things that cause us a great deal of pain, stress and suffering – and instead of letting them all go, instead of allowing ourselves to be stress free and happy – we cling on to them. Not anymore. Starting today we will give up on all those things that no longer serve us, and we will embrace change. Ready? Here we go:

1. Give up your need to always be right. There are so many of us who can’t stand the idea of being wrong – wanting to always be right – even at the risk of ending great relationships or causing a great deal of stress and pain, for us and for others. It’s just not worth it. Whenever you feel the ‘urgent’ need to jump into a fight over who is right and who is wrong, ask yourself this question: “Would I rather be right, or would I rather be kind?” Wayne Dyer. What difference will that make? Is your ego really that big?

2. Give up your need for control. 
Be willing to give up your need to always control everything that happens to you and around you – situations, events, people, etc. Whether they are loved ones, coworkers, or just strangers you meet on the street – just allow them to be. Allow everything and everyone to be just as they are and you will see how much better will that make you feel.

“By letting it go it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try. The world is beyond winning.” Lao Tzu

3. Give up on blame. Give up on your need to blame others for what you have or don’t have, for what you feel or don’t feel. Stop giving your powers away and start taking responsibility for your life.

4. Give up your self-defeating self-talk. Oh my. How many people are hurting themselves because of their negative, polluted and repetitive self-defeating mindset? Don’t believe everything that your mind is telling you – especially if it’s negative and self-defeating. You are better than that.
“The mind is a superb instrument if used rightly. Used wrongly, however, it becomes very destructive.” Eckhart Tolle

5. Give up your limiting beliefs about what you can or cannot do, about what is possible or impossible. From now on, you are no longer going to allow your limiting beliefs to keep you stuck in the wrong place. Spread your wings and fly!
“A belief is not an idea held by the mind, it is an idea that holds the mind” Elly Roselle

6. Give up complaining. Give up your constant need to complain about those many, many, maaany things – people, situations, events that make you unhappy, sad and depressed. Nobody can make you unhappy, no situation can make you sad or miserable unless you allow it to. It’s not the situation that triggers those feelings in you, but how you choose to look at it. Never underestimate the power of positive thinking.

7. Give up the luxury of criticism. Give up your need to criticize things, events or people that are different than you. We are all different, yet we are all the same. We all want to be happy, we all want to love and be loved and we all want to be understood. We all want something, and something is wished by us all.

8. Give up your need to impress others. Stop trying so hard to be something that you’re not just to make others like you. It doesn’t work this way. The moment you stop trying so hard to be something that you’re not, the moment you take of all your masks, the moment you accept and embrace the real you, you will find people will be drawn to you, effortlessly.

9. Give up your resistance to change. Change is good. Change will help you move from A to B. Change will help you make improvements in your life and also the lives of those around you. Follow your bliss, embrace change – don’t resist it.
“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls” 
Joseph Campbell

10. Give up labels. Stop labeling those things, people or events that you don’t understand as being weird or different and try opening your mind, little by little. Minds only work when open. “The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don’t know anything about.” Wayne Dyer

11. Give up on your fears. Fear is just an illusion, it doesn’t exist – you created it. It’s all in your mind. Correct the inside and the outside will fall into place.
“The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.”
 Franklin D. Roosevelt

12. Give up your excuses. Send them packing and tell them they’re fired. You no longer need them. A lot of times we limit ourselves because of the many excuses we use. Instead of growing and working on improving ourselves and our lives, we get stuck, lying to ourselves, using all kind of excuses – excuses that 99.9% of the time are not even real.

13. Give up the past. I know, I know. It’s hard. Especially when the past looks so much better than the present and the future looks so frightening, but you have to take into consideration the fact that the present moment is all you have and all you will ever have. The past you are now longing for – the past that you are now dreaming about – was ignored by you when it was present. Stop deluding yourself. Be present in everything you do and enjoy life. After all life is a journey not a destination. Have a clear vision for the future, prepare yourself, but always be present in the now.

14. Give up attachment. This is a concept that, for most of us is so hard to grasp and I have to tell you that it was for me too, (it still is) but it’s not something impossible. You get better and better at with time and practice. The moment you detach yourself from all things, (and that doesn’t mean you give up your love for them – because love and attachment have nothing to do with one another,  attachment comes from a place of fear, while love… well, real love is pure, kind, and self less, where there is love there can’t be fear, and because of that, attachment and love cannot coexist) you become so peaceful, so tolerant, so kind, and so serene. You will get to a place where you will be able to understand all things without even trying. A state beyond words.

15. Give up living your life to other people’s expectations. Way too many people are living a life that is not theirs to live. They live their lives according to what others think is best for them, they live their lives according to what their parents think is best for them, to what their friends, their enemies and their teachers, their government and the media think is best for them. They ignore their inner voice, that inner calling. They are so busy with pleasing everybody, with living up to other people’s expectations, that they lose control over their lives. They forget what makes them happy, what they want, what they need….and eventually they forget about themselves.  You have one life – this one right now – you must live it, own it, and especially don’t let other people’s opinions distract you from your path.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Fourth Niyama - Swadyaya (Self-Study)

For the month of March we were contemplating the fourth of Patanjali's niyamas: Swadyaya which can be translated as self-observation or self-study.  In simplest terms we attempt to do this consciously throughout our yoga class - observing our breath, our alignment, our self-talk, and our vibrations and energy ignited by our practice.  We go deeper when we work with different breathing practices to see how they effect the body, when we investigate our alignment for safety and stability so that our body can open up to a greater flow of energy, when we look deeper into our self-talk to see what habit energies we carry, what stories we continue to repeat that may or may not serve us well.
One of our yoga sisters shared this quote from Marianne Williamson: "Are you whining about a painful yesterday, or preparing for a joyful tomorrow?  Whatever your choice is will determine your day."  This was an especially helpful spark for self-study to look at what we reinforce in our mind.  If we keep repeating the negative stories, we don't have the space to be open to receive joy and love.  Not to say we shouldn't honor the difficult feelings when they arise.  But the key word seems to be "whining."  Though it may sound harsh.  It seems to serve a key distinction about whether we are processing our difficulties to transform them or repeating the story and the sub-text that may be an old record we play repeatedly that just keeps us stuck in suffering.
"Yesterday is already gone, tomorrow is not yet here. Today is the only day available to us.  Today is the most important day of our lives."
Thich Nhat Hanh
Our chant for the month was Om Mane Padme Hum, to honor the jewel inside the lotus.  We used the lotus as a metaphor for our own challenges and growth since we know a beautiful lotus flower grows can only grow out of the mud.  In our self-study, we notice our difficulties, where we get stuck, and when we act unskillfully so we can learn from those moments and transform our pain and suffering to shine our light ever brighter.
Thich Nhat Hanh says: 
"Life is filled with suffering, but it is also filled with many wonders, like the blue sky, the sunshine, the eyes of a baby.  To suffer is not enough.  We must also be in touch with the wonders of life.  They are within us and all around us, everywhere, any time."
"All the wonderful things that you are looking for -- happiness, peace, and joy -- can be found inside of you.  You do not need to look anywhere else."
One of our yoga sisters shared a quote from Wayne Dyer which impacted her and by her sharing it, all of us:   "Be independent of the good intentions of other people's opinions."  Sometimes we give away our power or our freedom when we allow other people's opinions to effect our peace.  This is an important part of self-study.  How are we impacted by the energy, behaviors, and words of others?  Can we strengthen our practice to maintain our equanimity even when those around us are not being kind or compassionate?  It can be as simple as coming back to your breath and body in a difficult moment.  Breathe deeply.  Become aware of your breathing.  Notice the energy or feel of your body.  Is there tension? shakiness? a volcanic eruption waiting to happen?  Can we make a space for a moment to pause and change course? change the self-talk? change the vibration in the body?
May we remember to breathe deeply, mindfully.  May we remember the impermanence of everything which helps us endure difficulties and celebrate joys because neither lasts forever.  When we get in touch with the deeper place inside that knows calm, peace, equanimity; that knows how to navigate through this life; we embody our true nature: boundless peace, love, and compassion for self and all beings because as Thich Nhat Hanh says:  "I am not superior to you.  I am not inferior to you.  I am not even equal to you.  I am you."

And, I'll close with a poem written by a dear friend.

Lotus Flower  
    by Yasmin Haut

Only from mud and moist underneath potential 
    can this proliferation of green spring.
So too for you and me.
Reconciliation requires reaching down thru
    the dark waters where the lotus sends
    her roots.
Only then (by rooting around in the bottom
    of the pond) can life flow again.
Petals sweeten and peel back.
Sun, senses and sensibilities sharpen,
    soften, merge.
Only modesty is difficult in this brillance.
Om Mane Padme Hum

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Third Niyama - Tapas (Discipline)

For the month of February, we contemplated the third niyama, tapas, which can be translated as discipline.  Often this concept is applied to a vigorous asana practice which can help burn through our obstacles of body and mind.  It seems no accident that is comes after saucha (purity) and santosha (contentment) in the niyamas so that we are mindful of our inner light, our connection to the divine and raising our awareness of our blessings and the ways in which we have enough in our life.  We also want the remember the yamas as a foundation for our tapas:  ahimsa (non-violence/compassion), satya (truth), asteya (non-stealing), brahmacharya (balanced life), aparigraha (non-possessiveness); so that we do not get caught in shame, pride, or guilt as we work on our tapas practice.

We can begin by noticing the areas in our lives that we are disciplined in our thoughts, words, and/or actions.  Recognizing we already have the ability for steadfast attention and commitment to the path we want to travel in this life.  Building our awareness of our strengths.  And, from that place, choosing another area that we may be ready to dedicate our efforts toward refining our behaviors for the betterment of ourselves and to come more in line with our inner light.  Gold is purified by fire.  We ignite our inner fire (tapas) to keep us empowered to stay on the path.  Where does that inspiration and ignition come from? 

All the aspects of our yoga practice fuel this fire.  All the elements of nature and all the planes of consciousness fuel this fire.  We come into our bodies, we come back to our breath, we quiet and focus our mind, and delve deeper into our own witness consciousness and wisdom which helps guide us on our path.  We recognize and accept the support of our many sanghas (communities of support on the path):  in our yoga classes, our meditation groups, our churches, our families, our friends, our co-workers...all those who inspire us and shine their light so we may see ourselves reflected in that light.  We are inspired by so many teachers in our lives who share the dharma and the wisdom that keeps bringing us back to perspective and the knowledge of interbeing (we are not alone).  We cultivate awareness of our subtle body during our asana, pranayama, and meditation practice so we realize how BIG we are, vibrating with life and energy, capable of enjoying such amazing delights in this world and holding a space for our own and others pain that we may more easily transform our suffering.

We chanted the long form of the Gayatri Mantra this month to tune into the elements of nature and planes of consciousness, recognizing the reflection of those elements in us, connecting them with the seven chakras of the subtle body.  We looked at using The Fourth Mindfulness Training as a tapas practice:  focusing on loving kind speech and compassionate listening.  And, we supported each other in either continuing or beginning a daily practice of meditation or asana or chanting or inspirational reading or prayer or some combination of those.  We talked about setting up a special place in your room or your home or apartment for this practice so the energy of it may grow and feed you and keep bringing you back. 

Let us continue to support each other on the path.  Sharing our insights, our practice, our challenges, and our delights.  I look forward to hearing from you and sharing the practice.

Lokah Samastha Sukhino Bhavantu

Blessings of Peace, Love, and Ease of Living to you and your beloveds and to all beings!

The Fourth Mindfulness Training
Loving Speech and Deep Listening

Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I am committed to cultivating loving speech and compassionate listening in order to relieve suffering and to promote reconciliation and peace in myself and among other people, ethnic and religious groups, and nations. Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I am committed to speaking truthfully using words that inspire confidence, joy, and hope. When anger is manifesting in me, I am determined not to speak. I will practice mindful breathing and walking in order to recognize and to look deeply into my anger. I know that the roots of anger can be found in my wrong perceptions and lack of understanding of the suffering in myself and in the other person. I will speak and listen in a way that can help myself and the other person to transform suffering and see the way out of difficult situations. I am determined not to spread news that I do not know to be certain and not to utter words that can cause division or discord. I will practice Right Diligence to nourish my capacity for understanding, love, joy, and inclusiveness, and gradually transform anger, violence, and fear that lie deep in my consciousness.

Thich Nhat Hanh, Plum Village

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Gayatri Mantra, Long Form

Om Bhur 
Om Bhuvaha  
Om Swaha
Om Maha 
Om Janaha   
Om Tapaha  
Om Satyam
Om Tat Savitur Varenyam                       
Bhargo Devasya Dhimahi                          
Dhiyo Yonaha Prochodayat

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Some quotes and readings to inspire Santosha (Contentment)

"Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go out and do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive." 
~ Howard Thurman 
"Five most common regrets of the dying: 
1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. 
2. I wish I didn't work so hard. 
3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings. 
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. 
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier. "
-Harshada David Wagner
Today, like every other day, we wake up empty
and frightened.  Don't open the door to the study 
and begin reading.  Take down a musical instrument.

Let the beauty we love be what we do.
The are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.


The breeze at 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 to two worlds touch.

The door is round and open.
Don't go back to sleep.


Saturday, January 14, 2012

Healing, a poem by Danna Faulds

As we work with our practice on Santosha, contentment, we see that there are times when it is easy to feel contentment and other times when it is a struggle.  We want to find a path to contentment in all of those times.  Not to say that it is easy.  Or, to say that you just shake your head and say "snap out of it."  It is a worthwhile and deep practice to look deeply into our moments of delight and our challenging moments.  What is present in our body in those moments?  How is your breath in those moments?  What are the stories we tell ourselves in those moments?  Can we tune into a deeper place inside that can be witness to all of it, the place that can get really big and hold all of it?  The more we do our yoga practices of body, breath, and mind, the more smoothly and easily we can move to that channel that helps us find healing of pain, transformation of suffering, and Contentment.


There is healing in the laying on of hands;
in the letting go of fear, in asking for help,
in silence, celebration, prayer. There is
healing in speaking the truth and in keeping
still, in seeking sunlight and not shunning
struggle. Laughter and the affirmation of
wholeness hold their owwn healing.  When
the soul dances, when the day begins in
delight, when love grows and cannot be
contained, when life flows from moment
to moment, healing happens in the space
between thoughts, and the breath before
the first sung note.  Healing is a birthright
and a grace.   When we dare to be open to
the unknown, when we extend ourselves
in caring, when we welcome in the vast
expanse of life, healing comes from the
heart, and blossoms from the inside out.

pg. 50, Go In and In, Poems from the Heart of Yoga, (c) 2002

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Second Niyama - Santosha (Contentment)

How timely that on our journey through the Yamas and Niyamas from Pantanjali's Yoga Sutras that we land on Santosha - Contentment for the month of January.  As we look back on the year 2011, at our challenges and delights, we can try to put them in perspective to see how we continue to grow and learn from the unique path of our lives.  We can see how our lives are intertwined with so many others including family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, and even those as far away as the other side of the globe.  Honoring our journey and realizing so many others share similar challenges, we can grow our compassion for self and other and come closer to learning the lessons we are given and seeing how we grow from each step along the way.  (See last post - poem Foundation Stones).  Below is a lovely affirmation on Santosha that comes from Kripalu Center for Yoga to help us deepen our practice and experience of contentment.

"I am content.  I am grateful for what I have and for what I don’t have.  I learn from the joys and the disappointments Life brings me.  I honor the good in myself and others.  I refrain from criticism and fault-finding.  I accept Life just the way it is.  I enjoy my Life!"