A tardy Day 11 of 30 Days of Peace (but, I forgive myself)!
One of my spiritual teachers, Rev. Richard Burdick, is a musician. He recently shared that new piano students would focus on the mistakes they made while playing. He explained that he would try to shift their focus to celebrating the dozens of right notes they played instead.
We’ve all been the aforementioned novice musician. We gave a presentation and focused on the one slide we flubbed. We made a beautiful meal and focused on the salty side dish. We were snappy with a loved one and forgot all of the hugs, kisses, and wiped tears. Or, we got distracted from our spiritual practices and labelled ourselves a failure.
An essential component of inner peace is forgiveness. I know it sounds cliché; but, forgiveness begins with ourselves. In several previous posts I note the importance of maintaining regularity in practice, the benefits of small sessions, and not judging yourself harshly if (and when) you slip. The reason these tips are repeated so often is I speak from experience. There are so many opportunities to become distracted from the path of fire and light.
…But, each slippery rock is a stepping stone. One deep breath and you’re back on the tightrope. The important idea to hold is the only reality is this moment. That is what all of the new-agey whoey phooey means by “The Now“!
Whatever you did before is over; whatever you think you may do is not guaranteed. This moment–which appears to move linearly through this imagined construct called time– is really not moving. This moment is Eternity–in experiences of flow, deep connection, and the blissful states of meditation we chip away at its veil.
When you have full awareness in the moment it is the zenith, the ambrosia, heaven on earth. Isn’t attainment worth the effort?
But, even if you find you’re distracted from The Now by the illusory pull of the ephemeral world, it’s right there just waiting for you to wake up enough and let it pull you back in.
I was just there. Were you?
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.
- Friendliness : an attitude to cultivate with the general public
- Compassion : an attitude to cultivate with those who are suffering
- Gladness : an attitude to cultivate with those you are envious of
- Neutrality : an attitude to cultivate with those you have strong negative feelings towards
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.
Click the links!!
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):
- Increased gray matter in the brain.
- Decreased age-related cognitive decline.
- Decreased resting blood pressure.
- Lowered blood glucose levels (as well as appetite control).
- Improved digestive function.
- Better sleep.
- Improved sex drive.
- Decreased symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- Increased feelings of well-being and compassion.
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…
Greetings seeker! While you are on the quest for enlightenment (whatever that means to you), there’s no denying our mundane lives are hectic. In fact, an aspect of mindfulness development is acknowledging busyness–as opposed to denying it. With heightened mindfulness (the practice of paying attention to and seeing clearly whatever is happening in our lives) we develop discernment to determine if our busyness is serving us. We also develop presence; we are able to handle what is put in front of us with grace and intelligence.
Recently, I had to make a choice to cleave one of my activities. My time is short and precious. There was attachment, and as a result disharmony; but, I’m feeling lightened. I made the choice from a place of deeper knowing–an awareness cultivated through meditation.
In the Yoga tradition this intelligence, the decider, is called the Buddhi. Yes, it shares an etymological root with Buddha (also bud); the Buddhi is higher wisdom. Yoga meditation is to wipe the dust of the world off of the decider mirror do it can reflect the truth… So you can see clearly (remember what I defined mindfulness as)!
Meditation bestows numerous other treasures; I call them the fringe benefits. Those are the ones you’ll hear on Good Morning America: lower blood pressure, a healthier brain, and (this is the one they’re really pushing these days) a better sex life.
It’s totally fine if that’s all you want; but, I want the jackpot. The clear lens is just the beginning. It allows the false identities to be set aside so we can experience Union with the Truth–not merely conceptual knowledge. True absorption.
So where does mini-meditation come in? Well, first of all, none of the aforementioned bounty requires retirement to a Himalayan cave. The most important factor is the desire–the desire to attain more awareness, the desire to attain this Union. Once you find that this becomes very important to you portals will open up and draw you in. But, you have to extend your hand. The Center of Consciousness transcends time and space. But, it does require that you routinely regularly endeavor to visit. Five minutes, even less–if you don’t even have one minute then maybe this isn’t the path for you. Believe me I’ve had to ask myself this question repeatedly.
Get up in the morning, and before you begin your tasks, splash a little cold water on your face. Next, sit for three minutes. Move your attention around your physical body. Then, take some deep diaphragmatic breaths. Shift to holding your attention in one space–the bridge between the nostrils is effective for steadying attention. You can repeat this process again at work, in a bathroom stall. Repeat it again before retiring. Nine minutes may change your life.
This is how my practice is at this time. I have two children, I’m a single mother, and I have a full-time job. I sit for three to five minutes in the morning, then I sit for, at least, 10 minutes in the evening. When opportunities arise for longer sittings I take them. I don’t judge myself for my life, I embrace it.