The Road to Heaven is Paved with Good Intentions (Thank You, Swami J)
The Road to Heaven is Paved with Good Intentions (Thank You, Swami J)
I eliminated duality with joyous laughter
Saw the Unity of here and the hereafter
Unity is what I sing, Unity is what I speak
Unity is what I know, Unity is what I seek
Appearance plays a particularly interesting role in the Himalayan Tradition. The Master’s of these practices elucidate, from their direct experiences, that All that exists is One Power, One Presence, One Consciousness (call out what you will, I will NOT anthropomorphize). But, it appears to present as multiplicity. This appearance goes by many names: maya, avidya, shakti, illusion.
The cosmological apparent multiplicity is mirrored in the microcosm. People appear one-way outwardly. But, what is going inwardly may be entirely different.
We all have different expectations for our relationships. Most of them are made from our attraction (raga) to about particular outcome: we expect loyalty, companionship, perhaps even financial support.
Some of these expectations are stated when we commit to a relationship, some of them are implied. But, this can lead to assumptions.
Furthermore, there are societal expectations and norms for where what kind of relationships we need to be in based on constructs such as: age, sex, race, and socioeconomic status.
People can disappoint us (which leads into a whole different post about expectations and attachments). They may even harm our bodies (I write this with the assumption that readers of this post know they are not merely a body).
If we allow it, all of this creates stress.
It’s no wonder many wise sages sought refuge in monasticism! Even there, unless you’re a hermit, there are still vows, obligations, and relationships with other monks!
The irony, and purpose of this post, is that it’s all the Power of the aforementioned illusion, the Leela, the Play of Consciousness.
We started this post discussing Unity, not connection–that would denote that the One could be separated.
What’s really going on is utterly magical. Through its own will the One manifests as many. Therefore, relationships are a way the One expresses its magnificence.
This is important for a seeker to understand.
We are relationships. We are the result of relationships. We create and sever them. Our actions may create humans that, in turn, share this web of karma. It sounds really ominous; but, it’s actually beautiful… We are every apparent individual that exists. We are not separated.
When we remember this we can practice lovingkindness to everyone. So many master teachers have tried to impart this wisdom. Because, as stated in many previous posts, there are no others.
One practice from this tradition is a meditation on the Four Attitudes.
During your seated practice you can bring forth the image of a person who evokes these responses in you. You breathe and hold their image in your mind-field. Allow the attitude to fill the space and send the recipient the blessing of your positive wishes. Neutrality is the most profound of these attitudes. If you can become neutral, by remembering those who cause pain are also in pain, you may eventually progress to compassion.
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Twenty-second hugs are so healthy.
Twenty-second hugs make you strong.
Twenty-second hugs are so healthy.
They make you flourish all day long.
Clementine Hurt (age 5)
Hugs and kisses are good for us. They trigger the parasympathetic nervous system and make us feel safe and loved. So, does meditation. Think of it as kissing and hugging yourself!
OK, if you’re not already convinced that a regular meditation practice is one of the greatest gifts you can bestow upon yourself–I’ll try to bait you with a little evidentiary support.
I am writing this semi-sarcastically because the Yogis understood the profound effects their sadhana (practices) had on their body, breath, mind, conscience continuum without doing experiments on others. They were the laboratory.
But, my Master’s degree is in Public Health; so, I appreciate a good peer-reviewed journal.
Benefits of meditation include (each one is linked to a recent peer-reviewed article):
However, these (as I’ve posted previously) are the fringe benefits.
I love teaching meditation in hospital environment. I am supremely grateful for my job. But, our focus is on the aforementioned benefits and mindfulness.
But, this benefit, as valuable as it may be (and as well-promoted as it is, right now) is also a fringe benefit (that does not diminish its value!).
The teachings of the Himalayan Master’s (the convergence of the three streams of Yoga, Vedanta, and Tantra) reveal, through repeatedly corroborated direct experiences, that there are many stages of unfolding during meditation. The physiological responses (although pleasant) are merely a threshold to cross. Mindfulness (although extremely beneficial) is a result of another doorway. But, the final stage is absorption (samadhi) with the Center of Consciousness… Which is True Inner Peace.
The cosmic syllable “Om” can be understood to be one and the same with the Center of Consciousness. Although “Om” is not a mere human construct, it can be used as a way to conceptualize the indescribable. According to the Mandukya Upanishad, it symbolizes the states of Consciousness receding into their Silent Source. According to the Yoga Sutras, contemplation on its vibration brings stabilization in meditation.
Previously, I have discussed the Center of Consciousness being pervasive with everyone and everything. Granted, insentient objects do not have mind to illuminate their True Nature; but, they are manifestations of the same Divine Perfection.
Om shanti, shanti, shanti
That is perfect,
This is perfect.
When perfection is taken from the perfect,
Perfect alone remains.
Om, peace, peace, peace
Therefore, EVERYTHING IN CREATION IS PERFECT.
This may be challenging to affirm for numerous reasons. However, the chief issue is the clouding of our minds. They are colored by perception of separation (egoism), mistaking the unreal for the unreal (or ignorance of our True Nature), fear of death, attraction, and aversion. These colorings are removed by a regular practice of going inside–away from the ephemeral to the Eternal.
When we are firmly established in this Supreme Awareness we realize no one is broken. They are asleep. How can anyone want to harm another–there are no others! We are One; We are Om.
Love is a name, also an attribute, of the Divine; therefore, its nature is infinite. If you have one child you love them. If you have two, you don’t love the first one less. If you have twenty, you still love more. It’s no different with all our humanity.
We don’t have to stretch, this is our True Nature. No newborn is prejudiced. No infant holds judgements. No child is racist.
How do we return to this intrinsic state?
In previous post I mention the pervasive nature of the Center of Consciousness.
“Yoga Meditation is the art and science of systematically observing, accepting, understanding, and training each of the levels of Our Being, such that we may coordinate and integrate those aspects of Ourselves and dwell in the direct experience of the Center of Consciousness.“
Another of the infinite attributes of the Center of Consciousness is peace. When we reconnect with the substratum of peace, which manifests as everyone and everything, we become a beacon of peace for the “outside” world.
A beautiful illustration of this is the hymn “Let there be Peace on Earth” by Jill and Sy Miller:
Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me;
Let there be peace on earth, the peace that was meant to be.
Peace is reclaimed from going inside. Then, this peace is established “outside”.
To honor the need for World Peace, I’m personally increasing my meditation sittings to four times a day for 30 days. During this time I am also committing to a daily post. I calling it an ashram fast. At my teacher’s monastery there are four sittings per day. Meditations don’t require an hour of quiet contemplation; 3 minutes is extremely beneficial–think about drinking more water or getting more exercise. For many years I’ve been reluctant; but, now I realize that I have a responsibility to steep in the peace and carry it all the time. The experts say it takes 28 days to create a new habit. I am ready to be a Peace Maker. This small action isn’t meant to be self-serving, it’s meant to be Self-awakening.
If you’re interested below I have links to the basic meditation process and how to time your practices daily. Lastly, there is a link to an in-depth online course on the art and science of Yoga Meditation.
Every moment is the only moment. In the midst of tragedy you can choose to go into the Self and find the Eternal Truth. This is untainted by the transient, and often troubled, world. Despite what appears to be chaos, there is a substratum where we all are One. Through meditation on silence and affirmative prayer we connect with this Divine Matrix. Then you realize, like in the movie, that you don’t have to try to bend spoons.
There are always atrocities on the news. Anyone of average intelligence knows that sensationalism sells. But, for me, it feels so close to home right now. This body I have incarnated in is Black and I am raising children how have incarnated as mixed-race people. Yes, I deeply believe (and in moments of samadhi I have known) that and we are all One. Yet, when I open my eyes and engage in the world I, temporarily, forget.
I become angry and I fear for my son–who is the sweetest young man I know. He is 6′ 2″ at age fourteen. I plead with him to not wear his hood, to be polite, and not to cut through the neighbor’s yard–because he may be murdered. Yes, I am deeply committed to my spiritual practices and I know that no one dies. But, our karmic bond is deeper than philosophical conjecture.
I’m playing multiple roles on the stage we call “life”. Some of the roles seem to contradict each other. As a mother, I am a wildcat backed into a corner who is desperately trying to care for her cubs. As a an aspirant, I uphold the tenet that all life is equal and valuable. I also strive to remember that those who inciting violence are in pain. But, sometimes it easier said than done.
Two wise teachers told me, there are two things we always must remember. First:
Everything is the opposite of what it appears to be and nothing is the opposite of what it appears to be.
Anything you do everything you experience will either bring you closer to or farther from the Truth (Center of Consciousness, perception of God, Yoga, Unity, Christ Consciousness, and numerous names for Supreme Oneness).
The first principle is that we really never know what is going on beneath the surface level of appearances. I mentioned, perpetrators of violence are victims, as well. Karma is intertwined at every level. What we are seeing is a ripple on the surface of the ocean of cause and effect. It’s not judgement by an anthropomorphic paternal deity– we are seeing the ripples from infinite stones being thrown into the lake of eternity.
The second principle is to cease throwing stones which cloud the lake and obscure the Truth. The second principle is supreme compassion for ourselves–at any given moment we can choose to love everyone. At any moment we can look at someone and choose to remember there is no
other. These are choices made in a nanosecond.
Then we bend, we grow, we advance and we can be a beacon to bring those who are still perceiving separation toward Our Collective Center of Consciousness.
Part 1 of 30 Days of Peace…
Many students ask me, what is the point of meditation. Well, it is subjective. Yoga (Unity, Mindfulness–the goal of Yoga Meditation or The Himalayan Tradition) is a state of being that I, as an exercise physiologist, compare to fitness. How do you attain fitness? There are many different ways, walking, weight lifting, pilates, etc. But, when done regularly, for some time, this elusive state manifests for us. Also like fitness, Yoga is multi-faceted. One can run daily; but, they are not really fit unless they eat well, too. Similarly, one can meditate regularly and enjoy many states of bliss; but, the Yogi wants life to be the meditation. Witnessing, being fully present, is an exercise which can be done adjunctively and during meditation. Any action, sensation, or thought can be a portal to presence-–simply pausing during a meal. As I am typing I am just pausing to really be aware of my fingers on the keyboard, then contemplating the intricacy of the movement, and the moment it sparks in my brain. There is so much going on; but, we are too busy doing everything else. When you are present to your life it opens up portals for gratitude, savoring, and joy. I originally posted this in Spring of 2015. It resonates with me as much today and then…
One day while walking along the Ganges, my teacher was told, specifically, by his Guru , “Witness Everything“. He knew that Swami Rama did not incline towards repeating himself; so, he grunted to acknowledge that he heard the instruction. But, the sound also signified he needed to digest this morsel a bit longer.
“Witness Everything”, what a specific, yet, elusive instruction. As my teacher paradoxically says, “it is simple; but, not easy.”
Often, during the opening of an asana (yoga posture) class, when we begin to focus on the breath, I remind my students we take about 20,000 breaths a day–but, most of them come and go unconsciously. Yet, it is the most essential of all our bodily functions. If we were forcibly made to stop breathing, for even a few seconds, we would suddenly become very grateful for our lifeline!
Why on earth would we want to cultivate this state of detached observation? Witnessing is the essence of mindfulness–the practice of paying attention to and seeing clearly what is happening in our lives.
If we always act from the perspective of the self, life happens to us–it is very personal and selfish. The person that cuts us off is doing that to us personally. The traffic is affecting us personally. When we begin to witness we are able to “see” the person cutting us off is actually thinking about themselves. Maybe they were rushing to an emergency! We begin to see all of the people stuck in traffic–we may even develop compassion for so many frustrated individuals.
But, on a deeper level, when, in our meditation practice, we bear witness to our thoughts (remember, this is done with non-attachment or non-judgment), we begin to notice the patterns, trends, and colors of our thoughts. We begin, without necessarily having to analyze the source of our tendencies, to have more space from the fluctuations in our mind-field. We begin to see the mind as it is, an infinitely creative tool that is a blessing and a necessity to navigate this earth-plane–instead of seeing the mind as a source of our frustration.
Can you ever have too much gratitude? I doubt it?
This is a repost from 2014; however, I was reminded, through a cascade of`teachable moments, to be eternally gratefully–for every moment. There is no need to anticipate, and this does take effort, the next moment will get here!
Prayer is an interesting activity. Like meditation, it is an opportunity to go inside and merge with stillness. However, so many people pray their power away–they ask for assistance, intervention, and blessings; but, they do not, simply, offer gratitude for what is going well.
Recently, I was challenged by a dear friend to post 3 statements of gratitude, for a week, on my Facebook page. Over, the years I have done several exercises in gratitude– which is something I continue to work on cultivating. Whenever, I make a conscious attempt to find something to be grateful for, the gratitude flows in abundance. One positive thought, attending to one gift, becoming aware of an inkling of Prasad becomes a river of plenty.
Many people mistakenly believe that prayer is not part of the Yoga tradition. Conversely, this tradition has consists of four pillars: meditation, contemplation, mantra, and prayer. However, it is taught, prayer begins as a dialogue and converges into a unification.
Prayer instills us with bhava, the strong emotion of devotion–but, we don’t have to pray our power away. Offer gratitude for what is working. You and the Divine Source are one and the same– therefore, nothing can be against you. Sit with the blessings before asking for intervention. You may discover that you are all the resources you need.
I’ve been recycling a bit lately because being a good teacher isn’t about finding new things to say all of the time. Sometimes, it is about restating and reframing. The path of Yoga isn’t about complicated techniques. It is about depth; it is not about breadth. You don’t need to know a million techniques to know the Center of Consciousness. Whichever path you choose, you have to commit to going to the threshold again and again.
Originally posted August 27, 2014
A few months ago I was being coached by a wonderful teacher, Radhika Shah-Grouven, about how to keep doing “this” when I am so busy. I know we all feel very busy– and, with regards to scheduling, I am: the family, full-time job, additional clients, commuting, this blog… this list could be endless. However, I find that I am only as overwhelmed as I believe that I am– of course, this falls within certain physical parameters: I must get sleep (although I get 5.5-6 hours), I must eat well, I must drink water, I must exercise, and I must meditate.
Meditation doesn’t cause me to suddenly have a “stress”-free life. However, it does cause me to be very aware of my reaction to stress. It has afforded me enough self-awareness to realize how much I can take on or how much I must put down. I definitely experience times of ambivalence and apathy– times where I would rather sit on the couch and veg-out. However, I would rather allocate predetermined amounts of “free-time” to meditation.
My lineage recommends four times a day– that may seem daunting to a newcomer. I would recommend a newcomers dedicate time for one to two sittings. As I have stated previously, five to seven minutes; but, commit and do it. In the same way you wouldn’t consider leaving the house without brushing your teeth, commit to going inside.
My teacher, Swami J, says to make it an appointment, like lunch with a friend. If you are late, you postpone and make it up, as soon as possible– like your lunch date. Life happens! But, as Radhika taught me, you have a “mental mat”– it goes with you every where. She explained that there were times when she just touched the mental mat while riding the train! The more you return to center, the more it stays with you. Many times my meditation pillow is in the cockpit of my car and my meditation room is a parking lot.