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.

Lemons into…

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Having a 4-year-old daughter is a blessing; it’s also a science experiment. Saturday morning began with a sore throat, it progressed to a fever, then I was in urgent care being diagnosed with strep throat. After a shot of antibiotics that looked like they should have been used in equine medicine, I was in bed for the weekend.

Since I consider myself to be spiritual, as all the self-righteous do, I googled “Best Spiritual Movies”. Naturally, I couldn’t just lay in bed and peruse sacred texts. It was an opportunity to watch some old favorites…

I started out nobly enough with Cloud Atlas, into Fight Club (which is profound and eye candy), then (under the guise of watching a movie with my aforementioned 4-year-old) there was Stardust, and (when they had all gone to dinner at my mother’s house) I snuck and watched Bridget Jones’s Diary.

I tend to overwork myself. I tend to believe that if I push harder I’m doing better.  Even with my spiritual practices–although I always tell my students, “you cannot fail or do this incorrectly”.  I am not excusing laziness; discipline is essential for deepening our practice.  But, the universe in his infinite wisdom sometimes makes you just chill out.  I definitely felt immense gratitude for my clean and soft bed.  Sometimes 24 hours in jammies is extremely cathartic.

Consistency in Meditation Practice

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I was listening to an audiobook that is a staple in my library now, “Practicing Mindfulness: An Introduction to Meditation” by Professor Mark W. Muesse Ph.D.  The lecturer eloquently describes our exhibitionist media’s stereotypical image of a meditator: young, scantily dressed woman, on a beach or in a lush garden.  He artfully explains this image makes meditation seem relaxing, easy, and fun.  However, Muesse goes further to explain how polarizing this is–if you can’t sit criss-cross applesauce, if you’re not young and lithe, and if you’re not a sexy woman you may feel excluded from the club.

I’ve got news for you: meditation is not necessarily easy (in fact, at times it may be difficult).  Furthermore, with an untrained body and mind there will be discomfort.  But, like an athlete systematically trains for a marathon by consistently increasing their running on a weekly basis, a consistent practice will unfold in the ability to sit, reasonably comfortably, in meditation.

The Himalayan Tradition prescribes sitting in meditation four times a day!  Yes, that may be daunting.  Furthermore it may not be your reality.  I have to maintain flexibility in my practice schedule.  But, I sit every day!

The Yoga Sutras explain, if one wants Realization (if that is what you want), this requires committment.  Realization is the greatest undertaking of a Human Life– it is not to be taken lightly.  If you want to lower your blood pressure and zone out, then you should meditate sporadically.

All the Masters prescribe a relationship with The Silence, from Jesus to The Buddha.  So I guess the real question, before we determine why so many people don’t meditate regularly–is, what do you really want?

Classically, in Raja-Yoga (the path described in the Yoga Sutras), one does not start with meditation.  One begins with getting their house in order.

Perhaps you attracted to the idea of meditation, as stated it is recommended by The Best.  But, you don’t know what you want for your life.  Perhaps, you don’t have a goal.  The aforementioned runner does not only hit the road to prepare for a marathon (meditation), they also use weights, they stretch, and they modify their nutrition.  The Himalayan Tradition affords adjunctive practices to prepare and enhance meditation.  One such practice is internal dialogue (atma vichara).

Internal dialogue is just that: having a two-way conversation with the mind.  Don’t let that seem schizy to you– we do it all the time.  Sometimes it is more that a two-way conversation– Muesse describes it as a committee meeting!  Internal dialogue is a practice which allows you get to know your own mind, to befriend it, to learn your true deepest desires, and to have a goal for your life.

If you’re already meditating, but not using atma vichara consider adding it to bolster your practice.  If you’re meditating inconsistently, understand your level of effort will yield fruit accordingly.  If you haven’t begun a meditation practice, and you feel an aversion or hesitation, start with atma vichara (internal dialogue) to learn why.

Then meditate, meditate, meditate.  As my beloved Swami J says, “May your meditation today bring you peace, happiness and bliss…“.  

P.S. USE THE LINKS IN THE ARTICLE TO DEEPEN YOUR UNDERSTANDING!!! LOOK AT THE GUIDED PRACTICES CATEGORY FOR MORE ASSISTANCE.

I am NOT a Yoga Teacher…

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I am not a Yoga Teacher… It sounds so ominous, as if I am rejecting my “career” path of the past 20 years! But, it’s quite the opposite; I am affirming my sadhana (spiritual path)–and that’s what matters.

All speech has an intention underneath it– allowing the propagation of a misnomer, for the sake of simplification, is egregious to a seeker.

I am not a Yoga Teacher–really there is no such thing.  Among many definitions: Yoga is the transcendental state of consciousness; Yoga is the union of the microcosm and the macrocosm– how can one embodied being teach that???

Yes, there are Realized Masters who benevolently impart their wisdom. They have Realized their True Nature and they are guides– but, the aspirant must still walk the path.

In fact, the Yoga Sutras explain that there are three ways to obtain knowledge. Intuition, Experience, and a Qualified Teacher. But, the highest knowledge, truth, is the convergence of all three.

The aforementioned Masters are desireless– but, they share these teachings with the understanding that we are all one and it is the right and privilege of all to Self-Realize.

There is no “Teacher’s Training” that can offer this– because it requires direct experience.  That is the part that seems to be ignored by the conventional.

At this junction I am a Sadhaka, not a Yogi (they have attained Yoga), I hope to Realize this state. But, until then I am a coach, a guide, and an aspirant.

I’m too busy to meditate…

“I’m too busy to meditate”, does that sound like you?  There are times that I have perceived myself as being too busy too.  However, whether or not we are aware of it, we are meditating– we are often meditating on our inability to go inside.  We may be meditating on our stress, on our busyness, on our distractions.

The “New Thought Philosophy“– which is heavily inspired by the Himalayan Tradition– subscribes to the principle, “We create our life experiences through our way of thinking”.  If we are operating from a perspective of lack, then lack is what we manifest.

Meditation, prayer, and contemplation are a rights, they are privileges, and legacy.  We are the pure consciousness, the silence, the unnameable transcendental state that appears to project outward and condense into everything we see.  In order to maintain an awareness of our true nature, we must go inside.

All day long, like the transcendental consciousness, we are doing, making, creating.  It is very easy to forget who we really are and fully identify with our actions and creations.

Then we feel separation.  We feel like our plight is something “others” cannot understand; this is avidya.

The perceived duality of existence originates in this separation.

Yet, if we allot time, during meditation, to steep in our core– we can reduce the effects of this delusion.  We still operate in the world; but, we are not so attached to it that we feel it defines us.

So, as the sages of old and new say, “Meditate, Meditate, Meditate”.

Death is a transition…

Death has not been as proximal to me as it has been to others.  I have never lived in a war zone, I did not have friends succumb to violence in youth, my grandparents, parents, sibling, and spouse are either alive or have transitioned at a ripe old age.  However, this year two friends, both in their middle thirties and who I had been very close to several years ago, passed away.  Whenever death makes a showy appearance it causes me to reflect on impermanace and transition.

My husband, one of my greatest teachers, refers to death as the great equalizer–it is the one experience we are all guaranteed to partake in. However, it is also the one we have no concrete information on… we will only know when we arrive.

Here arises the question, how do we best prepare for this unavoidable journey? One place is with an understanding of the concept of avidya— the primal ignorance of identification with what is not who we are.

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The Himalayan Tradition holds to the belief that, to the uniformed individual, what we appear to be and what we truly are is often misunderstood. What we are, according to this nondual tradition, is eternal, perfect, pure consciousness. What we appear to be is temporary, greatly flawed, and governed by the laws of the physical world–avidya is this misidentification.

How do we begin to dissolve the grip of avidya, the first step is knowing of it’s existence. The second is through our meditation and adjunct practices.

In meditation, we, initially, set down the false identities that are closer to the surface: teacher, student, asana instructor. Gradually progressing to the deeper ones: wife, mother, woman. Eventually to the deepest ones: human, fearful, temporary.

Many traditions discuss practicing for death– I particularly resonate with the sibling tradtion of Tibetan Buddhism and their “Death Meditations“.  The Himalayan Tradition explains we must be a scientist “an interior researcher“– we musn’t subscribe to a belief because of blind faith– we must develop experiential knowledge.  We can lightly knock on the entrance to deaths door by moving into the causal plane of consciousness with Yoga Nidra in savasana (the one asana that no one seems to translate into English “corpse pose”); or, we can move into superconsciousness with meditation and experience the Silence of the Center.  Although these are temproary states, little by little one develops a knowing that these states are closer to our intrinsic one.

I have no intention of belittling the grief that we experince with the “passing” of a loved one through the veil.  However, as this transition is inevitable for all of us it would behoove us to be as comfortable and unafraid of this journey as possible.

 

The Pinnacle of the Three Streams

The Three Streams

Sometimes you learn a technique, teaching, or explanation that cannot be trumped.  I was on Facebook reading a fellow teachers notes and they reminded me of Swami Jnaneshvara’s succinct cumulative definition of Yoga.  Since it is not something that can be intellectualized, this definition is comprised of a few ways to gain a mote of “comprehension” of something that is purely experiential.  I have added links to every one of the Sanskrit terms.  Learning these relationships is a great asset in the development of a Yoga Meditation practice.  Thank you, Swami J, for your compilation.  (The full text from which this definition is drawn can be found here)

Traditionally, Yoga (Sanskrit: union) has referred to the realization through direct experience of the preexisting union between the microcosm of individuality and the macrocosm of universality, Atman and Brahman, Jivatman and Paramatman, and Shiva and Shakti, or the realization of Purusha standing alone as separate from Prakriti.

Yoga is the union of the

– Microcosm of individuality and the

– Macrocosm of universality

Yoga is the union of

Prana vayu (the upward flowing prana) and

– Apana vayu (the downward flowing prana)

Yoga is the union of

Atman (Center of consciousness, Self; Vedanta) and

– Brahman (Absolute reality; Vedanta)

Yoga is the union of

Jivatman (Soul as consciousness plus traits; Vedanta) and

– Paramatman: (Self/soul as only consciousness; Vedanta)

Yoga is the union of

Shiva (Static, latent, unchanging, masculine; Tantra) and

– Shakti (Active, manifesting, changing, feminine; Tantra)

Yoga is the dis-union of

Purusha (Untainted consciousness; Sankyha-Yoga) and

– Prakriti (Primordial, unmanifest matter; Sankyha-Yoga)