My Hungry Little Ghost

Costly Buddha

Greed comes from a belief in lack.  It’s autonomic, like its precursor anger, there is some sensitivity in our nervous system to a reflexive belief in lack.  It probably came from our ancestors, they had no way of knowing if there would be enough food so we have developed an inclination to hoard and to hang onto things.  Also like anger, greed has either a story to tell or us a question to ask us.  We’re not getting what we want; or, do we do really believe that we are enough?

The more I witness my emotions, the more I am aware that the spark of anger precedes greed.  Anger may be called by numerous names;  it’s not always a hot passionate anger. Personally, I experience it as crankiness, impatience, anxiety, irritation, annoyance, frustration, and dissatisfaction.

For example, I may experience irritation that I’m not the most financially prosperous person.  Maybe I coveted another’s success.  Maybe I compared myself to another.  This lead to feeling that I am less than. This inner attack, completely from myself to myself, causes a reflexive defensiveness.  Like an autoimmune disorder, my ego’s actually attacking another part of my mind.  Paradoxically, there’s a desire to console the bruised angry part of myself with a bright shiny bauble.  One aspect is agitated, the other desires to soothe.  One time or another this, temporarily, “worked”.  The angry part was distracted.  But, the newness wears off.  The angry part resurfaced demanding gifts: a latte, a new skirt, another degree, it became voracious.

In Chinese Buddhism the Hungry Ghost is a revenant from someone who died traumatically, or has been neglected by their ancestors.  In a nutshell, they can be dangerous because they are permanently dissatisfied.  They haven’t found peace. However, I think of it as a metaphor for Now.  In this life there is often inability to find contentment, or as the yogi say santosha.

As I shared in my previous post, anger should be observed in its natural habitat. In the same spirit, it would behoove us to observe greed.  As mentioned, greed is often unaddressed anger.  There is an abrasion, an irritation, a tapping finger, a stomping foot buried at various layers.  I am not getting what I want!  I deserve this thing!  Argh!

As my dear teacher says, “witness everything!”  Pause, notice when you feel you can’t have enough.  It is that easy.  You just have to practice.  We just choose to ignore and be possessed by the feeling with trying to satisfy it.   Ask yourself, “will this bring me peace?” “Will this bring me closer to Joy?”  Use whatever term describes yourself when there’s no problem to solve.  If the answer is “yes”, I suggest you proceed. No one outside of you can answer this.  Watch the urges.  They are insidious.  They rear their ugly head in a split second.  One minute you enjoying a meal at the dinner table then the inner spoiled child wants another piece of cake.  It’s stomping its foot.  Will it bring you love? You are already the embodiment of love.  No piece of cake and add to that.

 

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.

(Post 12 of 30 Days of Peace. Better late then never. Let peace begin with me.)

​Master  Peace

Will-o'the-Wisp

Slipping Away
So fleeting this awareness
So palpable sometimes
like a thing I can possess
and others it’s a wisp
breezing through my fingers
my strong, capable hands
try to grab hold
try to keep it close

my heart needs to
understand
so it can find the strength
to take the next breath
please help me remain
convinced that it is all worth it
or that ALL is what I think IT is

Help me rend this idea
from the physical trappings
of a limited, falsely
entitled physical mind
and let the freedom
pervade every thought,
which is in and of itself
a tribute to a perfect time,
a perfect place, a perfect peace
that’s an indefinable wisp
breezing through my fingers

CBH

Part 8: 30 Days of Peace

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)

Blow Us Away


holding hands

helping each other stand

Much more than a friend

the best us strongly depends

on the goodwill we send

in intricate crafts unmanned

releasing bombs of intensity and number

that no man can outrun or withstand

perfect explosions shake us from slumber

drawing us to the front lines

divine weapon at our command

us and them surrender and combine

to a nuclear reworking that demands

peace and compassion as our mission

an art to be practiced and refined

beginning the proud tradition

of improving each other’s position

freeing our brilliant minds

from the confusion of opposition

setting the stage for our grandest designs

CBH

Love More. Then, Love More. Then, Love Even More…

Peaceful Joy.jpg

Part 2 of 30 Days of Peace

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.

“Love all, exclude none.”

Swami Rama

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.

Swami Jnaneshvara

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.

 

 

There Is No Spoon

spoon4

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…

Re-Opening My Eyes

The Eye

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!

Witnessing = Observing + Non-Attachment

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.

Wake up, or do whatever you will… Swami J