Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Grace is with me. Love is my identity. It has been here all along, to sustain me, and will never leave, as it is the essence of all things, like clay to a pot or water to an ocean.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Being Human is a Guest House (Rumi)

"This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of it's furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent as a guide from beyond."


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

It came out of nowhere! Finding the way home.

"O pleasures, salutations to you; you have indeed sustained me all these years and even made me forget the self. O sorrow, salutations to you; you spurred me on my quest for self-knowledge, and it is by your grace that I have attained this self-knowledge; hence you are indeed the bestower of delight."
"When obstinately clinging to a fancy and therefore abandoning a thorough enquiry into the nature of truth, one apprehends an object with that fancy - such apprehension is described as conditioning or limitation."
-Yoga Vasistha

"What is the most common thing people say after they've been hit? He came out of nowhere!"
-Bernard F. (Owner, Defensive Driving School, NYC)

Bernard's words bring pause. Does any situation really come out of nowhere? After all, isn't it easy to focus attention on what is enjoyable (passenger, radio, phone, daydream) or on what isn't (kids arguing, bills, work)? Distractions act as tunnel vision, easily creating fantasy worlds built on individual preferences.

Sometimes it's painful to see the truth. Maybe some of us resist accepting that other cars may not observe the rules of the road. But if we can't truthfully locate ourselves on the map of life, how can we safely steer our way home?

A crash with reality, whether physical or symbolic, creates space, an opening to see truthfully. The question is, are we there yet?

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Gain in Pain

Pain provides a valuable opportunity to stop, look and listen. Let's start with the grossest level of pain, physical pain: for example, a leg cramp. Notice any resistance you may feel to the pain: feelings of dread, sadness or dislike. Now stop: let go of the resistance, and just observe. Note the changes in the physical sensations. Observe the lingering sensations, if any, and describe them to yourself:

is pain deep or shallow?
where is it exactly?
is it stable or does it move?
sharp or dull?
does it radiate?
it is hot or cold?
does it have a color?
does it remind me of an object?
do I sense constriction in the area/areas?

Listen to the answers, attempt to understand. Now breathe into the areas of pain. Can you make space with the breath for the pain to move? Does the pain move? Do you give it permission to move? Can you accept it if it does not? Can separate your awareness from your body, so you can observe it without reacting (without attachment to any one outcome)?

This practice can also be applied to emotional pain. First is stop: can you stop wanting the pain to go away? Can you let go of your resistance? If so, then look: observe any changes in the quality or intensity of the emotion merely by letting go. Then ask yourself: what emotion am I feeling exactly? Does it fall under fear, anger, or sadness? What am I afraid is going to happen? What do I want to keep from happening? What couldn't I keep from happening? Is this something within my control? Listen to the answers, and just observe them. What are your emotions trying to tell you? Are you listening openly? Can you let go of the desire to like what the pain has to say? What is your relationship to the truth? Can you accept whatever you are thinking for the purpose of simply seeing? Then breathe deeply into the part of the body that you feel the emotion the strongest. Can you make space for it to move? Can you create space between your awareness and the emotion, so you can observe it without reacting?

What this all leads to is friendship with yourself - pain as a gateway to unconditional love and support.

I offer you this tool with great respect and love, so you may use it in your inner explorations and arrive at your own conclusions. Happy travels!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

My inner teacher

Energy is the source of life.
Energy comes from a higher power than this "I".
When my mind disassociates from this higher power, my energy depletes, life dissipates, unsupported.
A higher power is my source, an endless well of wisdom and strength.
"I" am never alone.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Notes on the journey

"The way is long and difficult for everybody; and to change the physical nature is a big job - but it has to be done.
The only way to make it quicker is to keep an unshaken faith in the Divine and a great intensity in aspiration - the rest is done for you."

- The Mother [p-167, White Roses, Sixth Edition, 1999]

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

In love, there are no opposites

Opposites such as like/dislike, mine/yours, joy/sadness do not exist in love.

Sunday, July 13, 2008


"We can make our minds so like still water
that beings gather about us, that they may
see their own images, and so live for a
moment with a clearer, perhaps even with
a fiercer, life because of our quiet."
-William Butler Yeats

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

To see

"Nobody sees a flower, really - it is so small - we haven't time, and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time."
-Georgia O'Keefe

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Simply seeing

"How much virtue there is in simply seeing" - H.D. Thoreau

At the Kalahari Desert in South Africa last year, I found myself the witness of a blanket-ceiling of blue crowning above a flat line of concrete with no obvious end, surrounded by hills of barren red sand.

It was all I could see at first. I glanced on occasion at my husband, looking for signs of disappointment in the elusive eyes that scanned the landscape outside the car window. After all, it was I who had insisted on the Kalahari over Capetown. It was I who was looking for a different experience. "A work in progress", Pieter, our guide, said - of me, I thought, or the landscape, but no - of the road, it turns out, which, sure enough, ended in a pit of gravel, but not before Pieter let some air out of the tires. Well before that though, when the road still seemed as infinite as worries and possibilities, Pieter abruptly stopped the car in the middle of the road. "I want to show you something," Pieter said. I put down my notebook as I opened the car door. Pieter glanced back at the notebook and remarked: "everyone does something: video, photography, speak on recorder. You write." I wondered what would happen if I didn't do anything.

The silence was screaming outside the car; the space around the car was slowly closing in. "Look up," he said. Up where? "There." Above us, power lines. On the power lines, a cotton candy-shaped bird condo at least 3 feet wide. And sure enough, a white blur quickly tucked its wings before gliding into a small round hole, one of dozens of black dots that if connected would form crooked and somewhat parallel lines. As we held up the gaze, Pieter directed it to notice other critters by their movement instead of their color, to detect which and how many birds were allowed inside the bird suites. The storyboard puzzle of the sociable weaver slowly became visible piece by piece. All that was required on our part was patience and, well, simply seeing.

Yoga teachings also provide tools for simply seeing. Because we live inside our heads so much, planning, rehearsing, conceptualizing, we can easily miss it - what we are looking for. Is it beauty? Is it laughter? Is it intrigue? Focus your vision, inner and outer, and see what happens.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Opening to the way of life, without expectations

Have you ever felt disappointed when things do not go your way? Have you ever resisted trying something new out of fear it will not go your way? Maybe there is a better way - the way of adventure. The "just do it" way, to one open to "whatever" happens. What? Allowing life to unfold without following your script? Allow me to share a few incidents that remind me of the value to let go of wanting to control (as if I could!) the fruit of my actions:

1. I dropped off some books at my sister's friend's house with the purpose of getting my sister off my back quickly enough to join some friends. I met my husband there.

2. After years of not driving (living in Manhattan), I forced myself to practice with no destination, even though here in Miami Beach many necessities are walking distance away. As I was starting to get comfortable again, I received an invitation to attend (at no cost) a yoga intensive 2 1/2 hours driving distance from home.
I was ready!

3. One day I overslept, I was feeling stressed out about falling behind schedule. My dog sorely needed exercise though, so I took her to the park. I met my first yoga therapy client there.

Friday, May 9, 2008

The opportunity in now

"The nature of the wise person is not to desire for those experiences which one does not effortlessly obtain, and to experience those which have already arrived."

-Yoga Vasistha

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Mother in all

The Divine Mother represents to me diversity in manifestation of love. The same way the body sometimes needs mint when it's hot and ginger when it's cool, the Divine Mother has a bottomless basket of goodies she presents on a daily basis according to the needs of the moment. Everything is the Mother and the Mother is in everything. There is no one person, no one image, not one thing in this world that can encompass the infinite - for that we have diversity. The world is one huge altar to You, as You.

"Where there is love, there is no effort" -Amma

Cultivating silence in the mind makes space for love. Love births naturally arising actions with endless energy.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Love is the choice to be happy

Last night a few thought fragments whispered in my mind: "unconditional love is the key ... perfectionism is not love, perfectionism is ahimsa (violence, injury), perfectionism is not satya (truth)".

Every day it feels more like the source of hurt or irritation or frustration or sadness is lack of forgiveness and conditional love. Does it matter if I made the mistakes or someone else did? Isn't what is "intolerable" in others merely a mirror of what we find intolerable in our own thoughts or behavior, or what we are afraid of?
Forgetting this takes me in and out of love with myself, over and over.

I dreamed Amma gave me a hug a few nights back. The media calls Amma "the hugging saint" because that is a large part of her humanitarian work - to be everyone's ideal mother by hugging, loving and accepting others unconditionally. Don't we all crave this "unmotivated tenderness of the heart" (as Swami Muktananda said) on a primal level? The good news is we can give ourselves that love, that hug, any time. The same light that breathes life into the body of a saint is the same light inside every being. That is who we really are. We are not "lazy", or "pathetic" or "stupid". Unconditional love recognizes that. This is truth.

Today is a good day to choose to live by the truth. Choosing negative thoughts and emotions results in violence and delusion. Choosing a friendly attitude towards happiness breeds compassion for the mistakes we all make in forgetting who we really are. Today is a good day to be happy.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

An awkward teenage mind in a 38 year-old-body

OW! Only in the spiritual path can advancement be evinced by the awareness of not knowing (or infinite learning, as I prefer to call it). Just as I think I'm "getting it" POOF! the growing clarity of self-observation saves me from the glory of illusion, tempting me to give it all up to avoid the discomfort of discernment.

OW! My mind expands by getting used to feeling uncomfortable, and even though this is "natural" it hurts like a teenager's body through a sudden growth spurt. Having noticed a tendency to try to avoid situations that make me feel awkward, and having noticed the great energetic expense of this futile effort, I undertook the experiment to switch gears and face one fear per day, without prior deliberation. So guess what? The world didn't come to an end. New scenarios are starting to play out. Encouragement grows. However, because of a tendency to be competitive (or a desire to make up for lost time), some days I may take n 3 challenges instead of one, resulting in biting more I can chew, resulting in mental indigestion = OW.

I say I want to know how my mind works but when it shows me I don't want to look unless I like what I see. For example, let's say I am learning to do something new. I don't avoid being an awkward beginner - I put myself out there. I do relatively "well" until I notice a mistake. Then my mind recognizes it's not just a mistake, but a habit engrained from decades of diligent repetition. Then I notice frustration and anxiety from the analysis - it's usually either the "how do I get rid of this?" - or the "I need to get over this right away!" The bottom line is, my mind wants to cross the bridge before reaching the river. It doesn't want to be in the journey, to observe the moment. It wants to jump across the hole uncertainty, not fall down the rabbit hole. Judgment suppresses feeling.

Maybe the issue is the "fix it" attitude. Maybe the journey serves its own purpose, irrespective of the destination. A writer once said, "we all know how every book ends, so better make story an interesting one". Is it possible to get fascinated with our own lives instead of wanting them to be easy? Can one approach life like a New York Times puzzle or a Rubik's cube - with curiosity, without expectations?

When the head gets too heavy, maybe the real challenge is not to "fix it" but to put it down. Like a lake with ripples, an over-stimulated mind lacks clarity.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Excerpt from Vasistha's Yoga

"[T]he conditioned mind alone is bondage; and liberation is when the mind is unconditioned. The conditioning of the mind drops away when the truth is clearly seen and realized; and when the conditioning has ceased one's consciousness is made supremely peaceful, as when the flame of a lamp is put out. To realize that 'The Self alone is all this, whatever one may think of anywhere' is clear perception. 'Conditioning' and 'mind' are but words without corresponding truth: when the truth is investigated, they cease to be meaningful - this is clear perception. When this clear perception arises, there is liberation."

"Bondage is the craving for pleasure; and its abandonment is liberation".

- from Yoga Vasistha, translated by Swami Ventakesananda

Thursday, May 1, 2008

What if?

What if that annoying co-worker or that button-pushing relative are only personifications of your undigested pain? What if all one sees is as real as a dream, and no one or nothing has a separate existence? I wonder...would that encourage a commitment to a practice of forgiveness and compassion?

Bhagavan Nityananda says: "to search elsewhere for what you hold in your hand is fruitless."

A case of mistaken identity?

Yesterday, a friend's hands spun in disjointed spirals as he related his encounter with a stranger. "He just approached me and said: 'What you are now living, I am already forgetting', so calmly, with such conviction - he blew my head open!"

The stranger's riddle left me with my own thoughts to ponder. It reminded me of the story of the 2 monks who met a woman at the riverbank as they were about to cross. The senior monk picked up the woman, carried her across the river, and set her down on the other side without a word. The junior monk remained silent throughout. Twenty minutes later, the junior monk turned to his elder and asked: "I thought monks are not supposed to touch women!". The other monk responded: "I see that you are still carrying her. I put her down by the riverbank 20 minutes ago".

If the unmet stranger is still letting go of what happened in his life 20 years or so ago (based upon my friend's calculations of the stranger's age), I wondered, what could I still be carrying around from my past, and - is it weighing me down? Could I still be reacting to a memory of a life/circumstance that no longer exists?

In the Yoga Sutras Patanjali says that "yoga is experienced in that mind which has ceased to identify itself with is vacillating waves of perception." He defines memory as "a vacillation of knowledge created by not allowing the objects of sensory experience to escape." If the world we experience is in constant flux- money is gained and spent, food is obtained then eaten, night gives way to day, a breeze turns into a hurricane - no wonder suffering ensues when we try to interrupt the flow of nature. Maybe the reason is a case of mistaken identity. Instead of a fleeting role, label or occupation, maybe we are more like a screen that always reverts to blank after the end of each movie. What movie do you choose to play today?

Monday, April 28, 2008

Resisting living

Have you ever found yourself turning down an opportunity that you have been preparing for a long time because you were not "ready"? Or suppressed a desire for change out of fear? How can you commit to a different path if you don't even know where the path begins?

Aaah, perfectionism. For me, perfectionism is another name for judgment. The real question is - how can I get anything done when I can't stop judging myself? What if despite my best efforts I am still not (gasp) perfect? Welcome to the human condition, the clearer side of my mind jests. If I believe mistakes are inevitable, where is all this intolerance coming from? What am I resisting?

Maybe the resistance is to accepting things as they are. For example, I could say (to myself) - "I don't want to be inexperienced in something new. I want to feel safe and confident in my decisions, and to be viewed with authority. I don't want to be wrong - or - I don't want to be embarrassed." Whatever happened to compassion (giving myself a break)? How can anyone learn anything without making mistakes? And what is worse - the pain of resisting the inevitable or pushing past the fear of potential ridicule?

Nityananda says: "If you are afraid of water, you cannot cross the river even by boat. If you are afraid of fire, you cannot even cook a meal. For anything to be done, first you must have courage." The thing is, courage is not the absence of fear. It's always scary because life isn't safe or predictable. But when one acts in the face of fear, and pushes a boundary, a shift happens. A self-defeating habit is challenged. Confidence is gained.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Expressing gratitude by receiving

When I was a little girl my mother forbade me from accepting any food or drink from the hosts at the home we were visiting. Even if I had been emanciated I would have still refused that icy cold Coke or fresh baked toll house cookie. "No, thanks," I would say slowly, glancing sideways at my Mom hoping she had changed her mind. "Don't look at your Mom, I'm asking you," the hosts would invariably say, "do you want a Coke or a cookie?"

After I grew up, my Mom and I would joke about my disappointment over not having the freedom to accept what I wanted. However, I don't think I ever gave a thought to the potential disappointment of the hosts who presumably only wanted to treat me out of love. It never occurred to me that a visitor is a gift that might inspire, even if not require, reciprocation - at least not when I was the visitor.

Today, a new acquaintance read the following excerpt from Cheri Huber's book Transform Your Life: "Today, allow yourself to receive your giving". Could rejecting our giving stop nature's assembly line somehow? I look forward to a time when all beings find intrinsic value in actions performed naturally, with inspiration, with unmotivated tenderness of heart - in "just" being Your Self.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Disattaching to the fruit of one's effort

You bring the thirsty horse to water, and it shakes its head no. You work hard to find your contribution to the world, to help someone in need, to improve a negative situation, or to enjoy your life. What is the point?

Sometimes the point is just to try, to keep trying. We are all but bite size pieces in a cosmic puzzle. We have our part to do and we do it, even when it seems to yield no fruit. What do we know? Is everything that happens perceived by our individual senses? Everything we do has an effect on others so responsibility over our actions is never pointless. Have you noticed how you could easily get stressed out if your boss or client is stressed out, and, conversely, how relaxed you may get when your boss or client acts like he/she trusts you and is pleased with your work? Each individual has an energetic effect over others, positive or negative. Have you ever encountered a time when someone remarks over something you said or did that you don't even remember? Just because you don't remember doesn't mean someone else doesn't remember. We all hang on to different things, a different kaleidoscope of memories we choose, which we call our past, which help form our image of ourselves in the present. This collage of memories could very easily tell an untrue story. I encourage you to take a piece of paper out right now, and write down a list of positive things that happened to you in the past two weeks. If stuck, start the list by writing: "I'm breathing". Then take out another piece of paper and write down a list of all the different things you can think of to try out that interest you. After the 2 lists are done, you can re-create the map of your past and gain perspective about your present and future.

The Bhagavad Gita reminds us that we are all foot soldiers in this field. We are not fighting on behalf of our individual identities, but on behalf of the one Self that permeates the collective - the same energy that ignites the stars and makes planets orbit around the sun. We are all part of something so much bigger than we can see, but we get lost by our own expectations, which are shaped by our limited vision. There are so many exciting possibilities we cannot even imagine yet!

Trusting that we are cared for, we march on.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Meaning of Love by Rumi

"Both light and shadow
are the dance of Love.

Love has no cause;
it is the astrolabe of God’s secrets.

Lover and Loving are inseparable
and timeless.

Although I may try to describe Love
when I experience it I am speechless.

Although I may try to write about Love
I am rendered helpless;
my pen breaks and the paper slips away
at the ineffable place
where Lover, Loving and Loved are one.

Every moment is made glorious
by the light of Love."

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Friendliness toward happiness

Have you noticed how the same activities feel different day to day? One day you wake up early to go to work, another day you are dragging your body. One day you exercise with ease and enthusiasm, the next day lifting your head feels like lifting weights. Same activity, completely different experience. What changes?

For me, I've noticed it sometimes has to do with my body (not enough sleep, wrong foods) but always with my thoughts. For example: "I am so tired" or "I don't want to do this", or "what if I can't do this?", or "what if this doesn't work?", or "you always do this," or"I can't believe I have to deal with this", or "how dare so-and-so do this?" You get the idea. It's about resisting whatever I don't like. Tough for me, because it is what it is. It's not about me.

Patanjali defines aversion in the Yoga Sutras as "the dwelling upon pain", one of the primal causes of suffering. At the other end of the spectrum is attachment, "the dwelling upon pleasure". It's enough to give anyone whiplash. It seems to me that the suffering happens because I am too quick to make my happiness contingent upon experiencing pleasure. So does that mean I am doomed to give up my happiness every time I don't like what happens? The actions of others are not within my control! I don't want to give away control over my happiness. It occurs to be that if I identify as a calm observer, a peaceful soul having adventures, experiences, that don't have to go one way or another, then what happens doesn't matter as much. Patanjali suggests cultivating an attitude of friendliness toward happiness. Inviting it in when I don't feel it. Also, compassion toward suffering. Does that mean I can allow myself to be happy anytime AND forgive myself and others for forgetting? Hmmm...

What do you think?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Practicing rescue 911, again and again and again

We all permeate the same field of consciousness. Our being is the universal mind-stage that holds every actor and every prop manifested within it. Yet the on occasion the mind thinks - I am alone, or I don't belong here, or, there are no options, or I am too young/old etc.

One can always count on self deception. In reality, is any character separate from the novelist? Is any one wave independent of the ocean?

Our essence is a pure mind, free of the delusions created by guilt, fear, anger, greed or selfishness - the delusions that dirty the windshield of perception. Our true Self is peaceful, blissful, quiet mind. A mind that has the ability to manifest whatever it wants - to materialize, sustain, edit or delete any storyline at any point.

But how to clean out the dirty filters from the mind? The same way one replaces a dirty Brita filter - by throwing it out and putting a clean one. Patanjali tells us in the Yoga Sutras that "when you consistently cultivate the opposite (positive) thoughts and emotions, the unwholesome (negative) tendencies are gradually destroyed."

Of course, who learns these things in theory? It takes an angry call from the boss, or the news that one of the kids crashed the car, or that someone borrowed your credit card number, etc. Like everything, it's all about practice. Consistent practice.

In the Hindu tradition, Hanuman is a monkey warrior that rescues Sita, a goddess who was kidnapped by a demon who shape shifted as a monk to trick her. The demon symbolizes the "hooks" that trick us into forgetting our true nature. Hanuman, in turn, represents our breath, which is the tool for a "time out". When the breath slows, thoughts slow. When thoughts slow, it becomes easier to observe our feelings and needs before reacting (or not). Sita in reality is getting kidnapped over and over again, but the warrior Hanuman, steadfast in his service, is never too far off.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Toby, the 7 year old yogi (click here to see his Mom's web site)

"Today I opened the shades on the window window to my heart. I found out that love looks like a lovely wind that sings in a voice so beautiful I just can't listen to it. It is like the sun, you can't look at it or touch it but yet the voice is so nice and there are musical notes in the air. Love is like a nice summer day and you are doing nothing but laying and relaxing in the sand, in the hot tub, and looking at the water. Love is what you want it to be; whatever you think love is, that is what it is."

Toby, 7
New York City

Self taught - Katherine Arnoldi (click here to access her site)

"I started to do yoga in 1972. I was living in Arizona under very
difficult circumstances (see The Amazing True Story of a Teenage
Single Mom (Hyperion, 1998)). I was a battered woman, trapped and
unable to leave until I could get the money for a bus ticket out. In
the meantime, I went to the local library and discovered some very old
books about yoga. I followed the drawings and photographs and taught
myself a yoga routine and read everything on the philosophy. I
especially remember a book called Beyond Yoga. Finally I was able to
escape, I felt in part because of the strength I gained both
physically and mentally. It was then, as I was on the road, that I had
a spiritual experience that has sustained me ever since. Later I took
a yoga class in college and I still have my own practice and take
class from many different disciplines."

Katherine Arnoldi, New York City
author, The Amazing True Story of a Teenage Single Mom, a graphic
novel (Hyperion, 1998) and All Things Are Labor, stories (University
of Massachusetts Press, 2007)

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The individual merges into the universal

"Until the brain develops,
A baby sees no differences in the world
Around him.
A rock and a diamond are the same to him-
Something to grasp and toss away.

A true yogi is like this.
A lump of dirt and money are the same
To one who has realized the Self.
Such a person is not attached to either one,
Seeing all as the Self-
The Self in all and all in the Self.

This is inner vision, subtle thought;
This is Shiva-Shakti,
The creative power of the indivisible One.
And God's creative power is the Self,
The One reality."

-B. Nityananda

Friday, April 18, 2008

Practicing trust and opening to humility

Patanjali emphasizes in the Yoga Sutras the importance of consistent earnest practice. My teenage rebellious mind often responds by saying: "why do I have to make the bed if it's only going to get messed up again?" When that mind set is prevalent, I forget to be grateful for all that I have, and instead focus on everything I think I can to control, such as the exact date I will find a "permanent" apartment in my price range.

I once told a friend that just because I can't think of an answer, that doesn't mean there isn't one, or that there is even a problem. I know I said it because it's in writing but at times can't believe I wrote that, can't believe I felt that with every fiber of my being, because I forget. Forget to trust. That's when the stress comes.

Doesn't the sun rise every day, without my interference? Doesn't digestion take place without any guidance from me? There is so much that I don't know, perceive, explain or control, yet is there anyway. There is a larger perspective. Bhagavan Nityananda says that "while the ocean has plenty of water, it is the size of the container you bring to it that determines how much you collect." I take this to mean that if we can keep ourselves empty enough, open enough, humble enough, we will have space to grow, learn. I obviously have a long way to go, as the obstacles keep coming. Nityananda says: "when a person overcomes one obstacle, another presents itself. This process continues until one's experience is complete and the mind is able to face any situation with the right perspective."

In the meantime, I find strength in the increased self-confidence gained by curbing a debilitating habitual response to a situation. Confidence in the Self that makes the sun rise and our tears fall. The well of infinite possibilities. Our True Self.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Online satsang?

The hardest thing about leaving my beloved New York City was leaving behind a community of inspired, hard working, and courageous individuals. That was my perception when I left, anyway, which did not take into consideration the amazing people I have managed to meet in every city I have lived in and visited thus far. We are all sparked by the same flame, after all. So who's to say a community has to be physically present in the same room, especially when in reality we live in each other's hearts? I call for you to join me in this newborn baby blog by creating a post with your thoughts on how an everyday challenge affects your world view. Or, how the philosophy you presently adhere to shapes the way you tackle a challenge.

If interested, please e-mail me or write a comment to this post and I will add your name to the "authors" list so you can post. I love you all!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Climbing back into the driver's seat

Three mornings ago, I was half awake when I realized I was dreaming. In my dream, I was attempting to convince a police officer that I hadn't hurt anyone. I parked my car at a red light behind another car while I went out for a few moments (?!) As soon as I re-entered the car, the light changed. I struggled with the gear shifts and the car jolted forward, bumping the car ahead of me. It was a light bump. The first cop at the scene saw it, and said as much. But the woman in the car ahead of me, she wanted to "think over" whether she was hurt or not. "I'll get back to you later," she told the second officer. He nodded. I was so caught up in the drama that I didn't want to stop arguing with the cop, even after I realized the entire drama only existed in my head - it wasn't real. I felt so angry, and I wasn't even up yet!

After I left the bed, I checked in with of my breath. It was shallow and rapid. I checked in with my thoughts. They ran into each other in a long run on sentence: "I'm just trying to do the best I can, and this happens to me/I'm so hungry/I wonder what time it is/I hate driving/I need to get milk/how long have I been here already?/who gets to "think about" whether they are hurt?/I'm so thirsty/I haven't even meditated, how much time do I have left?/this is so ridiculous."

Slower breath led to deeper breath. The thoughts slowed down. Whenever the image of the cop came back, I gave it permission to go. It's not real, I'm safe, I repeated over and over. After a few minutes, I calmed down, even started chuckling. A few stretches later, I faced the new day with a smile and a fresh outlook - until the next drama.

The mind is like an teenager with a new license - it always wants to drive. If you you snooze, you lose! The good news is, the choice to get back into the driver's seat is always there, even if it at times it feels like it's an ejection seat. Patanjali tells us in the Yoga Sutras that self-study, self-discipline and devotion are the practical means for attaining higher consciousness. Listening to what's up is self-study. Listening to what's up every morning is self-discipline. Listening to what's up with a compassionate ear is devotion.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Checking in with one's intention

Have you ever stood in line at your local FedEx for 20 minutes and realized, just as you are nearing the front of the line, that you should have gone to the post office instead? You remember that FedEx doesn't ship to PO Boxes, but you decide to try to convince the clerk anyway, just so you don't feel like you wasted those 20 minutes. So instead you waste an extra 10 minutes, at the end of which you run to the post office to find the clerk locking the door under your nose. "Please," you beg, "It's only two minutes past 5 o'clock, I wasted 40 minutes on the FedEx line, can't you just cut me a break?" The clerk shakes her head and turns away. The patrons inside point and stare. There's no avoiding it now: your package will be late.

Attachment works like this. Wanting something to be the way I want so much that I won't pay attention to any alternatives, like a child covering her ears singing lalalalalalalalalala.

Remembering the FedEx policies in time to get to the post office before closing was the gift that made up for the 20 minute wait. Since I was not receptive to change, I missed it. By doing so, I forgot the intention behind the entire process: to get the package out that day.

It is so easy to get caught in habitual responses. By checking in with our intention, however, we give ourselves the freedom to explore different approaches when our plans fail to bring us closer to our goals. Recognizing that the goal is not perfection may be the first step.