Hugs and Kisses for Your Soul

20 sec kiss

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. 

Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to, and seeing clearly with nonjudgement, whatever is happening in our lives.

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.

Part 6: 30 Days of Peace (1 day late)

Small Steps Toward Inner Peace

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Part 5: 30 Days of Peace

Why is it difficult to simply sit and meditate?

The practice should not be seen as daunting–it is your right and privilege.

Yet, so many people plan on beginning to meditate for years…

First of all, I speculate, when we sit in the silence uncomfortable feelings, thoughts, memories, and emotions come forward.  It can be a stark contrast to the idealized bliss we associate with the image of a meditator on the beach.

In order to meditate successfully, you must develop a different understanding of your how your mind works (you don’t try to stop thinking or suppress the thoughts) you learn to  look at them as an experience–consider their transience. In a sense, you have thoughts; but, you are not your thoughts.

The problem is, at the beginning (and maybe for a long time afterwards), you identify with them– I think therefore I am (not)!

If you wanted to learn to speak a new language or learn calligraphy, you start with small steps. Instead of expecting to sit for 30 minutes and experience nirvana, just hang out with your mind.  But, do this with a playful attitude– be amused and amazed at your inner workings– 1,2,3 minutes in a quiet room, just watching the stream of thought is amazing.

The other reason people do not meditate is lack of discipline.

I know it sounds judgmental; but, I am speaking from experience.  There were many years when I liked the idea of meditation more than I really wanted to do it.  It was a great leap forward when I acknowledged that I really would rather do something else.  When I was honest with myself I could see there is greater value in getting up a few minutes earlier or turning of the TV and getting off my couch.  Believe me, I have to recommit regularly.

If you really want to go further, just begin to work with the breath.  Don’t over complicate it, deep breathing, awareness at the diaphragm (below the breastbone, above the navel) 1,2,3 minutes.  Just focus on the breath and let the thoughts come…  But, you have to get up and do it.

But, if you begin a sincere practice, I can promise the world unfolds to aid you in coming to the Center of Consciousness.

You are what you are looking for… You are the Inner Peace.

There you go, you’re on your way.

There Is No Spoon

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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.

Second:

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…

An Attitude of Gratitude

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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

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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.

Mind, Please be My Friend…

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When the modifications of the mind have become weakened, the mind becomes a transparent crystal…

Sutra 1.4

I originally posted this a year ago. This posting is extremely close to my heart. I’m always seeking a friendship with my heart and mind.

The last few weeks have been fairly hectic: I am planning a meditation intensive retreat, I am taking some continuing education classes, my work schedule is changing, the children have a bunch of activities, and I am a little over-extended.  So working on a blog post has been demoted on my list of obligations.

But, despite all the busyness, my mind-state has been fairly steady, or ekagra.  I attribute this to regularity in my practice.

In the Yoga Tradition, the mind is viewed as an instrument through which we receive information about the sensory world (manas), where we store memories and formulate opinions (chitta), it is where our sense of individuality arises (ahamkara), and where our conscience resides (buddhi)–but, not our consciousness.

The four aforementioned aspects of the mind are collectively called the antahkarana–or the inner instrument.  The word “instrument” is so profound.  Yoga science expounds, the mind is not who we are; but, mind is a tool, which can be sharpened to glean clearer understanding of who we are and what needs to be done to Realize our True Nature.

According to Yoga science, our minds becomes colored by our experiences— think of it as a dusty layer on a window.  Therefore, they do not allow the truth to diffuse through. We are colored by perceptions of race, social status, gender, etc.  Reflect for a moment on a baby who lacks these associations.

Through meditation we wipe off the layers of dust and eventually the clear mind allows the truth to shine through.

But, the mind is only capable of becoming crystalline… 

What is the light that shines through the crystalline mind?

Eventually, the mind, like all good tools must be set down.  Would you walk around in the house you built clutching the hammer?

Over time, with dedication, consistency, and faith, the mind is set down and total awareness of the Self will shine through.

Until then, tell your mind “thank-you” for all that it does.  Do not be angry with your mind for thinking any more than you would be angry with your hand for grasping or your ear for hearing.  Ask your mind to be your friend, so that you can dust the lens, and see the world as it truly is.

As always, click the links!

Uncoupling my consciousness

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A Starlet, who will not be named, popularized the term “conscious uncoupling”. At first, I thought it was pretentious; however, at this phase in my life, I can see validity in the statement. Moreover, it’s reciprocal is poignant.

Sitting still, in silence, affords us the opportunity to uncouple our consciousness from it’s habitual moving outward. In silence, we can peel back the layers that we have created to the substratum– the ground matrix where the Truth is.

It is so simple; yet, for many of us, it is not so easy.

We are always plugged in, we are always stimulating ourselves–even if the stimulation appears benign.

For example, a person may say “my meditation is working in the garden”. Communing with nature is a beautiful and healthy action. But, it’s still doing something. Listening to classical music is edifying; but, listening to music about engaging the senses. What is being avoided?

The senses are the vehicle through which we experience this world. Aside from sleeping (and many of us don’t do that) they are constantly being engaged. Furthermore, due to our hectic lifestyles they are exponentially more engaged then at any other time.

Being in a quiet room is disengagement from the sense of hearing. Deliberately sitting still is disengagement from our action sense of movement and the importer sense of touch. Closing the eyes is disengagement from the sense of sight. Now this energy can be directed to inner exploration.

This is the true uncoupling. The uncoupling of your temporary ego driven self which goes willy-nilly for everything wants and you open yourself, the definition of yoga , to Eternity.

The Zen of Anger

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I originally posted this in February 2015.  I am reposting with some edits–it feels so relevant to my previous post (Heartbreak Catapult).  The spiritual path (sadhana) is not a straight line it is a circuitous path.

It would be ludicrous to think as a practitioner of Yoga Meditation I don’t get angry. Candidly, my inclination toward becoming annoyed is a reason I am dutiful with my practice.

According to DISC personality typing, I am an “I”–which means “Influence”–but, it can also mean impulsive! The same energy that is the source of my strengths is also the source of my lesser strengths (not weaknesses).

This morning I got angry with my son.  Paradoxically, the people we are closest to can be the source of our greatest joy sand the catalyst of our greatest frustrations!

I have a lot invested in my son–he is after all, my son.  With an investment comes an expectation.  When the investment does not yield a return there is disappointment.  The return on investment is an attraction and the disappointment is an aversion.

According to the Yoga Sutras, both attraction (raga) and aversion (dvesha) are two sides of the same coin–attachment.  Both stem from a primal lack of knowledge regarding our True Nature (avidya) which is perennial and not ephemeral.

Conversely, the apparent nature of the physical world is transient.  Due to this, we cling to the things and experiences of the physical world that we love.  We push away the things and experiences that we abhor.  But, both the pushing and pulling cause us suffering (dukha or dukkha).

I am attracted to my son doing what I believe is best (for me), he does something other than that, my expectation is not met, I experience disappointment, my disappointment is a form of suffering.  To the unmastered mind, all worldly experiences yield suffering because they are impermanent.  However, this does not have to be the case.

When we are rooted in awareness of our True Nature from earnest practice and non-attachment (abhyasa and vairagya) we are aware of the fleeting nature of our experiences and we can be released from the suffering of attraction and aversion.  It does not mean we are apathetic or ambivalent–I am still going to parent my child–with the hope that he leads a skillful and happy life.  But, I am working on not expecting him to do what I want.  We still have rules.  If he breaks them, he is punished.  But, now it’s not a big emotional tirade–because I didn’t get what I want.

Today I got angry; I felt the blood pump and my temperature rise.  But, I was very aware that this was a bodily experience and not who I am at the core; moreover, not an emotion I have to act on.  I didn’t resist the anger–that is aversion–I just let it come.  I went for a drive and returned as the person I want to be.

Heartbreak Catapult

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It has been a powerful 10 months–although when does life cease to provide opportunities for growth?  My husband and I separated and are in the process of divorcing; due to my spiritual prowess (sarcasm oozing) I thought I was over “it“.

I know grieving is a natural process– I even wrote a post about it!  Yet, somehow I hallucinated I had earned spiritual cred and would ascend the proverbial staircase effortlessly. Well, it hasn’t been flawless.

I, a long time aspirant, rebounded, ate too much sugar, slacked on my meditation practice, called into work sick, grumped with my children, and finally acknowledged that I am unhappy to be uncoupling.  But, the heartache is also bringing me to a place that is so real and fertile.

About a year ago, when I couldn’t even imagine that we were on the verge of separation, I was hosting a meditation retreat.  My group skyped with Ma Tri  and she shared a beautiful insight about devotion.  To paraphrase, she explained that these practices are not about suppressing emotions; rather, an adept harnesses them to fuel their quest for self-knowledge.  Emotions are energy–the energy of desire.

Right now, I have to be with this pain.  It is my teacher, it is teaching me about attachment.  But, it is also teaching me about gratitude.  I have gratitude for the skill of self-inquiry, which I have developed during this spiritual journey.  I have gratitude for the ability to shift from my sadness to reflect on what is working in my life.

When I feel that I am beating myself up, I return to my favorite Rumi poem, “…even if you have broken your vows a thousand times. Come, yet again, come, come”.  Then I know that these practices, my sadhana, is working.