When You Think You’ve Got “It”…

…”It” can be so challenging to not slip into self-judgment. When, you believe you’ve crossed some magical threshold and you can let your spiritual practices take a back burner. Ironically, this may happen even though you may be striving to “improve” your life.

The endeavor of entering seminary has been amazing for me. I’ve developed a deeper understanding and appreciation for an array of the world’s spiritual traditions. But, finding time to do my studies added another layer of busyness.

Next thing I know, old behaviors creep in…

…After a long day the couch and T.V. beckon.

As a mindfulness instructor, I know it’s not the T.V. that’s inherently evil. It’s the diversion instead of relaxation that causes harm.

Diversion is when you don’t make an effort to clear the mind and set down your obligations. Diversion is pleasant; but, it is ephemeral. Relaxation takes effort; but, it is cathartic.

Intrinsic relaxation is a skill. You don’t turn on music. You don’t do more–you subtract. There are an array of exercises for autorelaxation: yoga postures, shavasana, pranayana to name a few.

Paradoxically , it’s recommended to do something more engaging when the mind is busy (or if your newer). Move your mind around and it’ll settle down and focus.

As I share this, I remember a great quote, “put down the book [turn off the T.V, computer, device] and meditate”.

That’s what I’m going to do now.

An Attitude of Gratitude



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.

My Mental Meditation Pillow


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.

A Special Visit

MaTri Flyer

Ooh Formless Divine Mother…. hear my longing, hear my prayers for strength to keep going to use every moment for increasing awareness and to allow the surrendering into formless Love. None of the sensory impressions are me, none of the thoughts are me… ooh take me in Your formless arms, take it all, as I have nothing to loose as none is my. Most deepest gratitude for the sages and the selfless offerings to show us the path… humbly I walk in these golden footprints together with my fellow sadhakas friends, which company I value tremendously. Standing ever stronger for what I know to be true: Aham Brahmasmi ♥ And so are all of you! We are all sparks in the divine ocean of bliss, splashing around but One is true essence. See the Absolute smiling, giving and sharing through the human beings… What a joy to be aware in Vaishvanara!  Have a wonderful day ahead full of play, love and giving ♥

 Swami Ma Tripurashakti BharatiWorkshop Registration

Yoga Has Many Branches


Part 3 of “How Do You Qualify Yoga?”

Sorry for the delay in posting this–full-time life happens…

Go back to the bumper sticker I mentioned in post 2 of this series, “I Love Yoga”; we have clarified, ad nauseam, Yoga is the Ecstatic State–Yoga is Union.  But, even in philosophical circles, it can also mean the practices and the path that lead to the State.  If I asked the driver what type of Yoga they practiced they may say, “I do Power Yoga”, “I do Vinyasa Yoga”, perhaps, “I do Ashtanga Yoga” (that is a whole other posting– Ashtanga classically denotes the eightfold-path of which posture is only one rung), or, “I do Bikram Yoga”.  All of these are styles, some debatably more than others, under the umbrella of Hatha Yoga.  Let’s park that for a moment and come back to Hatha…

Again, Yoga is a liberation teaching.  Unquestionably, the goal of Authentic Yoga is to end the continual cycle of birth and rebirth, to realize the True Self and attain Enlightenment.  I know that it’s heavy; but, it’s true.

No how are you going to do that…

The Yogis, in their infinite genius, have devises several avenues to this Penultimate Goal.  They are based on your inclinations and where you are in your life.  But, the goal of all is the same–YOGA.

According to Georg Feuerstein, and other scholars (there is debate of the number of paths), they are: Karma Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Tantra Yoga, Mantra Yoga, Hatha Yoga, and Raja Yoga (Authentic Ashtanga Yoga)–I am focusing on the “Hindu” Yoga Pantheon.  We can debatably add: Buddhist Yoga and Jain Yoga, too.

I will briefly summarize each path and provide links for further reading.  Notice each definition refers to the Ultimate Reality as the Goal.  I would at least need to do a full posting to do each one any justice–let’s see what the future holds…

Karma Yoga: A major branch of Yoga, expounded in the first third of the Bhagavad-Gita, is the liberating path of self-transcending action. All actions are given selflessly (seva) with the understanding that all actions come from the Ultimate Reality.

Jnana Yoga: A major branch of Yoga, expounded in the second third of the Bhagavad-Gita, (and numerous other texts, such as the Upanishads) which is based on the cultivation of wisdom as the path to liberation.  This wisdom is derived through direct experience of the Ultimate Reality as the Transcendental Self (atman) and  through constant discernment of what is real and what is unreal.

Bhakti Yoga: A major branch of Yoga, expounded in the final third of the Bhagavad-Gita, (and numerous other texts, such as the Bhagavata Purana ) is the path of liberation through devotion.   Through cultivation of this deep devotion, Bhakti, the seeker connects with the Ultimate Reality as a Supreme Being or Supreme Person.

Karma Yoga: A major branch of Yoga, expounded in the first third of the Bhagavad-Gita, is the liberating path of self-transcending action. All actions are given selflessly (seva) with the understanding that all actions come from the Ultimate Reality.

Tantra Yoga: By far the most complicated branch of traditional Yoga.  Tantra focuses on the feminine energy (shakti) as the source of the Ultimate Reality.  Broadly speaking Tantra can be broken down into two categories: Left-hand, which uses ritual and deities, and right-hand which is practices internally without ritual and iconography.  However, as with many other traditional teachings, Tantra has often been reduced to a mere mockery of itself with focus on increasing sexual prowess.

Mantra Yoga: A major branch of Yoga, which is sometimes grouped as part of Tantra Yoga.  This path uses mantras as a path to Ultimate Reality.

Hatha Yoga: A major branch of Yoga, the most renowned in the West, which is sometimes considered to be a part of Tantra. Hatha Yoga was developed by Goraksha and expounded in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika.  In the HYP, one-quarter of the text is dedicated to postures (of which only four asana are described), one-quarter to cleansing and breath lengthening (shatkarma and pranayama), one-quarter to seals and locks (mudras and bandhas), and one-quarter to samadhi (the direct experience of Ultimate Reality).  

Raja Yoga: A major branch of Yoga, considered to be the most complete methodology of practice.  Raja Yoga is also known as Classical Yoga or Ashtanga Yoga (the eightfold path).  This classic treatise of this tradition is the timeless Yoga Sutras, codified by Patanjali.  The text describes the entire practice and potential experiences of meditation practice.  As well as outlines the eightfold path of sadhana: yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, and samadhi–which lead to direct experience of Ultimate Reality.

Despite the many branches the goal is the same.  If Ultimate Reality is not the goal, it’s not Yoga.  Now what is Ultimate Reality?  That’s for the sadhaka to decide… See the chart at the beginning, it’s a question mark…

Yoga Is A Liberation Teaching


Part 2 of “How Do You Qualify Yoga?”

In my previous post, I noted ten points expounded by, the prolific scholar and mystic, Georg Feuerstein on determing “authentic yoga”. I acknowledged these may be controversial; however, they are an interesting platform from which to discuss various aspects of Yoga Philosophy.

Starting out with even the concept of, “Yoga Philosophy”, I often feel fractured. On one hand, I’m thankful to drive around and read all of the bumper stickers which read, ” I Love Yoga”. However, it breaks my heart that most of them are probably unaware that asana and Yoga are not synonymous.

I must backtrack a bit; I have had the great karma to only know Yoga and spirituality to be synonymous. My first encounter with Yoga was as my previous incarnation (in this lifetime) as a devotee of Gurumay Chidvilasananda.

The friends that introduced me to the Siddha Yoga Tradition were sadhakas. Furthermore, in Siddha Yoga asana was presented in the context of being an adjunctive practice.

Ironically, it was my disillusion with Siddha Yoga that brought me into the world of asana as a focus. I left Siddha Yoga because I wanted a personal relationship with my guru– it could not give me that.  I explore Sivananda who presented beautiful asana sequences and techniques in the context of Raja Yoga–enlightenment was still the goal. Then, a desire began to arise to know my body more deeply. Asana opened something up that had been blocked. But, my focus moved from knowing the center of consciousness to knowing the center of anna-maya-kosha.  I began to study with Iyengar teachers and learn about alignment.

It is important for me to emphasize– this is my experience.  It in NOT my critique on the merit or validity of other traditions!  Do not read into this what is not there…

This is where my personal Great Schism happened. I went from being a seeker to a posture technician. Although, I have no regrets. I must admit I was distracted. I was allured by the mystique of alignment, angles, and biomechanics. I was fascinated by the improvements my clients experience in their health. All of these are wonderful fringe benefits to a sincere Yoga practice.

Again, I must restate, these are amazing occurrences. But, the goal of Yoga is, as I’ve mentioned in numerous previous posts, is Yoga. Union.

Flexible hamstrings do not bring you Union. Lower blood pressure does not bring you Union. Standing on your head does not bring you Union. It does not mean that they aren’t wonderful.

If you still identify with your body, if you still identify with your career path, if you still identify with worldliness, then you have not attained Yoga.

It is not a judgement.  It’s not an assessment of worth or value. Its not saying that we are good or bad if we have not attained the state. Most of us haven’t. In fact, many would argue that the reason we’re in a body is because we haven’t attained this state. Or, at least not permanently.

If the goal of your asana practice is to help you meditate so that you can attain Yoga, then the asana is part of sadhana. If its not, then its something else. That’s fine, too.  Even the goal of Hatha Yoga is Yoga!

The fact is, Yoga practices are about completely deconstructing our false identities so we are no longer confused about what we are and what we are not. Once we know this, then we can decide what that is. Once we know this, we are no longer chained to the constructs of conventionality. Once we know this, which I stress as being experiential not conceptual, then we are free.

How Do You Qualify Yoga?


It’s been awhile since I last posted.  I am so grateful to Chad for holding down the fort with his amazing poetry.  If you didn’t get a chance to read his evocative piece, “Aghori” you should definitely do so!  If you are not familiar with that name, the Aghori are an obscure Tantric sect from India who engage in unconventional practices to bring them union with The Center of Consciousness.  I have to admit, even finding a great link to share on them was nearly impossible.  Most pages are super-sensationalized and prejudiced.

I first learned about the Aghori from, the late German-Canadian Yoga Historian and Philosopher, Georg Feuerstein.  His in depth, and provocative, work, “Tantra“, demystifies the various aspects of the, often misunderstood, aforementioned philosophy.

This morning, on my way to work, I was listening to another Feuerstein pearl, “The Lost Teachings of Yoga“–even his voice is mesmerizing.  Georg elucidates ten points that demark “Authentic Yoga”.  Now, whether or not you agree with this list, he provides poignant arguments.  Additionally, we (myself, obviously, included) can find our feathers ruffled by the Truth.  Perhaps, if these points cause disequilibrium, like Piaget, you can consider them opportunities for growth.

1. Yoga is a Liberation Teaching.

2. Yoga has many branches.

3. All Yoga paths subscribe to Dharma.

4. Yoga is a continuum of theory and practice.

5. All Yogic approaches require a commitment to radical self-transformation.

6. All Yogic approaches require the implementation of discipline and detachment.

7. The closer we come to Enlightenment the more ordinary we become.

8. All Yogic approaches account for surprise and/or grace.

9. All Yogic approaches are initiatory.

10. All Yogic approaches involve the replacement of old habit patterns with new benign patterns.

I will begin a series of 10 posts based on each of Georg’s posits.  I hope you enjoy them.

Om Shanti Namasté
ओम शांति नमस

Mindfulness Meditation Video

Mindfulness and Guided Meditation

It has been a little while since my last post.  I was very busy with my retreat last week–it went swimmingly!  Here is a video that I just made with my colleague and friend Robin which has has simple meditation sequence.  You can skip to 3:07 if you would like to start with the practice. I will leave this in the guided practices tab for easy access in the future.