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.

The Zen of Anger


It would be ludicrous to think that as a practitioner of yoga meditation I don’t get angry. In fact, my inclination toward getting annoyed is one of the reasons I am so dutiful with my practice. If we follow the DISC personality typing, I am an “I”–which means Influence–but, it can also mean Impulsive!  However, the same energy that is the source of my strengths is also the source of my lesser strengths.

This morning I got angry with my son–the people that we are closest to can be the source of our greatest joy.  Paradoxically, they can be the catalyst of our greatest frustration!  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 it is a disappointment.  This investment is an attraction and the disappointment is an aversion.

According to the Yoga Sutras, both attraction (raga) and aversion (dvesha) are two faces of the same coin–attachment.  Both of these stem from a lack of knowledge of our true nature (avidya)–our true nature is perennial, not ephemeral.  However, the nature of the physical world is transient.  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 attraction to 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 our true nature from earnest abhyasa and vairagya (practice and non-attachment) then 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.

Consistency in Meditation Practice

Cardiovascular fitness

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…“.  


I am NOT a Yoga Teacher…

Golden Om

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.

Brother Thay


My suffering is grateful to you and your understanding.
This profound lesson has given me purpose and unearthed the treasure around me.
I’ve held your words so closely to each conversation.
An extraordinary guide, with a lantern, and provisions for the heart of me and my everchanging companion.
The terrain although craggy is rendered passable by the surefootedness of your teachings. Thank you for each selfless, loving step that we were able to take with you.
Thank you for holding my needful hand, fiercely.
Such an inspirational, powerful, and peaceful warrior.
Go unfaltering as you have lived and expound the love waiting for us on the other side with the final unending stroke of your masterpiece.
While we do our part in your ongoing installation that strengthens the waking world in a wave of illumination.
Please light a candle and send prayers of comfort and gratitude to Brother Thay during his transition.

Nonviolent Food Protest

In one of our last postings there was a beautiful poem, from Chad, which noted the importance of nutrition– as it relates to sadhana.  The way we approach eating, furthermore our perception of food, is integral to our spiritual development.  Naturally, this creates space for a lot of debate; including: morality, the karmic energy of the food we eat, and meeting our nutritional requirements.

In this tradition we subscribe to the idea that we are not merely a body (I use the word “merely” because it is not that the body is unreal– it is simply not who you are at the deepest level). In this tradition, and many other mystical philosophies, the body is the outward, gross, and transient projection of an eternal and perfect source. The body is an instrument in which to experience this world. If one’s goal is enlightenment, like a virtuoso, one must tune, clean, and treat their instrument with respect.

I work in health and wellness as my profession, although I am not a nutritionist, and I have a strong understanding of the purpose of food.  As my teacher says, “food is for the cells“; ironically, a baby knows this– they do not come into the world wanting chocolate or candy.  However, somehow along the way– we lose sight of this and we begin to look to our food to fulfill a longing in ourselves.

In the Yoga Tradition, the desire to eat is considered to be one of the four primitive fountains: sleep, sex, self-preservation, and food– these are the primal urges from which all other desires “spring forth”.  These impulses are inherent to the souls incarnation in a human body.

The problem is that we are so deluded, so entrenched in our body identification that we let these urges, which help to keep the body functioning, run amok.  We say things like, “I want sweets, I want alcohol, and I want to lie on the couch”.  Truthfully, the urges are imbalance and unchecked– “I” never wants for anything because “I” is a manifestation of the ego.  “We” are perfect and whole; the body needs sustenance to function optimally.  But, we are looking outside and finding disastisfaction.  Then we indulge these cravings and we are sad and disappointed– they do not bring us true joy.

If we are seekers, then we begin to revere the body as a great gift and we want it to assist us in pursuing our spiritual endeavors.  In order for the body to facilitate the pursuit of transcendence, we must consider the significance of the foods we ingest.  Ann Wigmore aptly said, “The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.”

Yet, it’s more than the nutritional content of the food that must be considered.  Most of us are intelligent enough to know if our food promotes health or harm.  However, it is also the sensory experience we are trying to derive from our fuel.  We want food to be exotic and fascinating.  Since we are all one, we must consider the impact, environmentally, on the quest to have a mango in December.  Consider eating in a monastary, food is simple and often taken in silence.  When we eat slowly, mindfully, and with gratitude we may discover untapped joy in taking in the energy of God to reconnect us with that which we are.


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.


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)