Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Step out of The Box!

Isn't it interesting how the human mind creates the idea of separation and how that physically manifests within our world as a box? Think about it... our life is full of boxes. Boxes of separation. Boxes of judgement. Physical boxes, emotional boxes, mental boxes, cultural boxes, ideological boxes. The list is long and not so distinguished.

The Box Teaching came to me in a flash of the typical day and here's what I witnessed:  We...

Wake up in a Box = your room / sleeping quarters / bed / sleeping bag / etc.
Live in a Box = house / apartment building / tent / etc.
Think in a Box = habits / judgements / ideologies / etc.
Worship in a Box = religion / religious or spiritual beliefs / etc.
Go to work in a Box = bus / car / helicopter / subway / etc.
Work / Serve in a Box = building / cubical / office / vehicle / etc.
Go home in a Box = bus / car / helicopter / subway / etc.
Come home to a Box = house / apartment / tent / etc.
Stare at a Box = microwave / tv / computer / etc.
Connect through a Box = MacBook Pro* / Skype / Facebook / etc.
Tuck yourself back into a Box = bed / sleeping back / futon / etc.

and all the while...

Addicted to a Hand-held Box - iPhone* / Blackberry / etc.
(huge fan; if it's not an apple, its DOS)

It's time to step outside of the boxes in life that separate us.  Make a human to human connection. Step outside of the box of your vehicle. Ride a bike, take a walk in your neighborhood, say hi to your fellow species passing by. Connect with the people, animals, natural landscapes, the wild nature that surrounds you.

Be present to that which you are unbreakably connected. 

Step outside of your home and welcome a new neighbor or connect with one you've lived next to for years.  Participate in community events that peak your interest. Say hello to the same person you see everyday at the local coffee shop. Challenge yourself to step outside of comfortable and simply connect.

Embrace the exciting potential that awaits you in the world. Don't be a silent witness to life, letting it pass you by while you sit and wait.  Waiting for the next big thing, the winning lottery ticket, the perfect spouse or perfect house.

Be an active and conscious participant in life.

Relinquish the boxes you wear daily.  Slowly undress yourself of this seemingly-protective armor.  Some boxes may appear to be quite heavy, nearly impossible to shed. Some may feel suffocating or restricting. Some may feel comfortable, like a broken-in shoe. You can, and must, transcend the boxes in order to live freely.

Ask yourself:
What boxes do I carry? How do they impact my life? 

Then begin to release the ones that do not serve you. Now does that mean you should get rid of your bed, house, job, car, computer, iPhone, etc? Absolutely not...unless it does not serve you. Release the boxes that cause pain and isolation. They cannot support you, they haven't supported you.

Take the risk and step into the land of Oneness, Wholeness and Unity. Bear witness to the magical mystery called life, a land where all things are possible. Trust others. Serve all. See all as a reflection of your Self. Unite with the Divine Cosmos in ceaseless, perfect action; the very Essence known as God Consciousness.  And lastly, never forget who you really are... "Thou art Divine, live up to it." ~ Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh India

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Creating a Sacred Space

In Western culture we are rarely taught or encouraged to create a sacred space for our own spiritual well-being.  Most of the time we think of a "sacred space" as a church, synagogue or temple and rarely in terms of our own home.  In the East, a home altar is very common.  It is sacred space that gives you the right conditions for your spiritual life to thrive and a sense of inner balance to be achieved.
A dedicated home altar reminds you daily of life's "bigger picture", focuses your energy towards your spiritual goals and through association helps the mind move inward more quickly and deeply.  After you have established a home altar you are far more likely to meditate and connect with your Authentic Self than before.  It's like anything that we associate with, it impacts our life on a physical, mental and spiritual plane.  For example, if I have an empty room and put a coach and chair in the middle, my tendency is to want to lounge around.  If I put a big screen TV in the room, my tendency is to watch movies and television shows.  The same is true for a home altar, it inevitably conjures thoughts of inner peace and wellness while evoking the inspiration to do your practice.
First you must choose a place that can easily become your very own sanctuary - a quiet, private space protected from distractions.  You may even be fortunate enough to have a whole room dedicated to your spiritual practices, but if not, then a simple space in the corner of your bedroom works just great.  I had a student, single mom of two girls, transform half of her closet into a sanctuary.  It was gorgeous, private and the perfect sacred space for her to relax and rejuvenate... child-free.  Even using a oriental screen to block off a portion of your room is a wonderful "protector" of your space.  Be creative but be sure that it is a space that becomes your very own.
Secondly, you'll need to design your focal point.  Try using a small bench or bedside table, something that is eye level or slightly lower.  It can even come from a second hand store, just cover with a beautiful cloth and already the energy begins building. Traditionally, a candle is used to represent the Divine Light of Pure Consciousness (fire) as well as flowers (ether/space), fruit (earth), incense (air) and water to represent the five elements.
Choose a simple altar as an uncluttered space encourages a clear mind.  You may even choose to put items from nature walks to create a more "grounded" altar.  Each altar looks completely different and can be changed as you feel called.  It is not suggested to put photos of loved ones but photos of great saints to uplift the mind, open your heart and remind you of our own Divinity.
Lastly, you will need a proper meditation seat.  Make sure you have a blanket, pillows or meditation chair to encourage you to "sit."  The important tip is to be comfortable.  If you are uncomfortable, the mind remains agitated and meditation is impossible.  If you are comfortable, relaxed, and can maintain a straight spine (to remain alert) meditation is a natural result.
However you decide to design your home altar is up to you.  Just be sure to set an intention, have fun and follow your inner voice to create the perfect place that encourages you to cultivate and nurture a devoted Self practice.  Once you have your sacred space, establish a time daily that you can dedicate to your Authentic Self with gentle, loving kindness... even if only for five minutes.  You are worth it!

7 Tips to Healthy Holiday Eating

1.  Prepare simple organic vegetarian dishes - Not only will you reduce your carbon footprint by avoiding cooked meats but you will amaze family and friends with the delicious tastes of organic food.  Although slightly more expensive, organic food is much healthier for you, and the planet, tastes better, and is easier to digest so you won't feel so tired after eating.  The internet provides an infinite amount of vegetarian holiday recipes so just surf away and you'll find just what your are looking for...guaranteed.

2.  Use fresh herbs - Fresh herbs are a way to spice up your favorite recipes...especially if you can purchase them from a local Farmer's Market or natural grocery store.  Try substituting fresh herbs for dried herbs and taste a world of difference even in the most classic recipes.  Just remember, one teaspoon of dried herbs equals one tablespoon of fresh herbs.

3.  Sacred Cooking & Preparation - Often in our modern society we are so busy that when a holiday party potluck comes up we either buy it at the store on our way there or quickly throw something together at the house beforehand.  Remember, everything has and absorbs energy.  This year why not honor the process and the people at the party by taking your time making the dish with love, remembrance and gratitude.  Isn't that why mom's cooking always tastes the best, even when she may not be an award-winning chef?

4.  Lighten the Load - For whatever reason during the holidays, we tend to load our plate with heaps of food or even go back for seconds and thirds.  Remember, your stomach is the size of your two hands held together in a cupped position. Some say that your stomach is the size around one of your fists.  Although there are slight variance in the exact size of your stomach, be sure to stop eating before you feel full...and take much smaller portions.  A taste of everything is better by "heaps" and bounds.  smile

5.  Chew Your Food - Digestion begins in the mouth, not only with saliva excretion but also with chewing your food.  According to Macrobiotic eating principles you should chew your food until it is liquid-like in its texture.  This aids the digestion process, causes you to slow down and helps you remain aware when you are feeling full.  Food also tastes better when there is more focus and concentration on the process and act of eating.  After all, it is a sacred act and "we are what we eat."

6.  Take Fork Breaks - Throughout your meal, take time to place your fork on your plate and take a few deep breaths.  Engage in conversation or take a sip of room temperature water and when you feel ready pick the fork back up to resume eating. This allows time for the stomach to begin digestion and for you to enjoy the meal, and the people, you are sharing it with.

7.  Walk it Off - After you have delighted in a beautiful holiday meal and taken time to rest, it is a good idea to put your body into action.  Encourage others to join you and go for a nice, slow stroll outside.  The walk, and proper breathing, are great to aid digestion, just in case you over did it.  

Enjoy your holidays and remember to be present, positive and guilt-free.  May Grace bless you and yours during this sacred time of year.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Gift of Challenge

Article written for SIGNews publication March 2011.

The Gift of Challenge

An astute and dear friend of mine recently brought it to my attention that my articles often reflect teachings or lessons that are present in my life.  I must admit, there is certainly truth in that observation and considering the challenging month I have had, then this article will have to contain my recent reflections and study about the "Gift of Challenges."  smile

As we live life, we inevitably will experience challenges and situations that present us with an opportunity to heal or simply shut down and tune out.  Maybe you have a demanding boss that you cannot tolerate or a co-worker that gets on your nerves.  Perhaps your spouse frustrates you, your children don't listen to you or family members constantly irritate you.  Or what about life situations where parts of your not-so-nice-personality surface... and at the most inopportune times and in unpleasant ways?  

Let's face it... life is tough.  That is, if you are not clear about the purpose of life and the reason for the challenges.  Yoga philosophy teaches us that challenges are present in our life because of past karma and act as a catalyst for you to move closer to Wholeness, or your True Nature.  The ancient yogis tell us that every challenge is really a door opening to a deeper understanding of the Divine.  

Challenges are like flashlights that illumine the very part of you that is still living in separation, feeling disconnected from the Whole, from Divinity.  But as we have discussed in many of these articles, even the thought or idea that we are separate from the Divine is an illusion.  You are never separate from the Whole.  It is the ego that creates the wrong thinking of such an existence.  It is in this wrong thinking that you become lost in the body, senses, mind and ego.  You begin to identify with these more than the radiant, ever-present, united Divine Self.

Challenges are the essence of Grace.  They are the hand of God moving you towards lasting peace and happiness.  Challenges are the voice of those dark places within your being that are begging for the Light... begging for forgiveness, healing, acceptance, compassion and love.  Challenges are like children crying out to their mother, seeking solace and comfort from past pains and miseries.  They are spiritual gifts along the road of evolution.

The more that you can embrace your challenges, the more intimate of a relationship you establish with your Self and Divinity.  You begin to be more optimistic in your life.  Daily stresses seem to wash over you with little to no impact.  Your life becomes more united, more whole and more loving.  You can embrace the One Spirit that resides in all who "press your buttons."  You can let go much more easily.

The focus this month is to learn to gently embrace your challenges, like a mother embraces her child.  Hold them gently close to you, with a compassionate heart.  See their teachings and begin to investigate their presence in your life.  Give gratitude for them and to the people who bring them to you, for they are your teachers.

You are so much stronger than your mind tells you.  Do not listen to the woes of the mind.  Remember who you are, the Immortal Atman!  Stand strong in the face of challenges.  Grab them by the horns and bravely stare them down like a matador confidently holding a red cape in front of a raging bull.  There is Grace in that fearlessness... and teachings that will heal your heart and unite you with the ever-present joy that is the very essence of life.

Thrive in your challenges beloved and remember to embrace them with love, understanding and patience.  Om Tat Sat.

The Beauty of Divine Love

Article written for SIGNews publication February 2011.

The Beauty of Divine Love

I thought this would be a good month to discuss love, especially with it being Hallmark's declared holiday.  So I began researching love from the perspective of the ancient yogis and was deeply impacted by the contradiction between the Eastern and Western definitions of the very same thing.  So what is love, true authentic love?  

According to Swami Sivananda, a modern day saint, sage and yogi, "Love is the law of life.  To love is to fulfill the law.  And to fulfill the law means eternal peace and everlasting happiness."

However in today's western perspective, a simple google search defines love as "a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person."  Hollywood defines love with star-sparkled eyes, romantic dinners and love at first sight meetings.  But are these truly sustainable?  And do these ideas of love create "eternal peace and everlasting happiness" like the sages suggest?  

Personally, I have had my heart broken far too many times to say that I find google's definition everlasting or even eternal.  It simply isn't sustainable to experience love from only the physical realm or even as something "for another person."  That is called passion and like all things experienced by the senses, it too will change... and as we learned last month, desire is ever-changing and eventually leads to suffering.

True, authentic love is the very Essence of the soul.  To live is to love and to love is to live.  Love is our birth-right.  Love is the very nature of our Being.  It is who we are, not an emotion projected onto an object of affection.  Love is what makes our light shine.  It is what illuminates our eyes and fills our hearts.  Love heals.  Love unites.  Love forgives.

Swami Sivananda continues, "There is no virtue higher than love; there is no treasure higher than love; there is no knowledge higher than love, there is no Dharma higher than love; there is no religion higher than love; because love is Truth; love is God.  God is an embodiment of love."

Swami Sivananda explains it perfectly.  His words pierce our Western understanding of love with the sword of compassionate wisdom.  If we begin to apply the ancient understanding of love to our current relationships, how would this impact our life, and inevitably the world?  

Love resonates in the heart of everyone and every living thing.  It vibrates in the form of service, charity, generosity and benevolence.  When we love from a pure, non-attached place, we are experiencing the Atman, True Nature.  It is only here we can experience love in its purest form.  

Now how do we cultivate this kind of pure, cosmic love in our life?

Simple, sit with your Self everyday and take a moment or two or three to remember your very Essence.  Swami Sivananda advises, "Live in love.  Breathe in love.  Sing in love.  Eat in love.  Drink in love.  Talk in love.  Pray in love.  Meditate in love.  Think in love.  Move in love.  Take the honey of love and become an embodiment of love."

You are a moving temple of God.  Connect to that very nature that lies within you.  Remember that within every moment, every situation, every relationship and every breath lies the very essence of Love.  Thrive beloved, for you alone are a natural embodiment of love.  Now go and share it with the world!  smile

- Swami Sivananda exerts from his book Bliss Divine.

Renouncing the Monkey Mind

Article written for SIGNews monthly publication January 2011.

Renouncing the Monkey Mind

This new year is the perfect time for you to rededicate yourself to the discovery of your True Nature which is pure consciousness, absolute bliss, all knowing, ever-lasting peace.  In yoga philosophy your True Nature is called the Atman, or the radiant soul of Divinity.  The Atman is one with Brahman, loose translation "God."  For example, if the sun was God, you are a ray of light. There is absolutely no separation.  In Yoga, Divinity is the Essence within everything that exists.  It is your True Nature.

Often in our lives we allow the ego, or mind, to rule our life.  If the mind thinks of something, whether food, an object, a goal, etc. we will fulfill its request.  For example if I'm grocery shopping and I have a strong like for dark chocolate, when I see dark chocolate on the shelf, the subconscious mind pops up and says "Oh I want that, I know I like that." Then immediately my hand reaches for the chocolate bar and it goes in the cart.  Or maybe you have a thought "I need a new TV."  A desire is created then you go shopping and purchase one.

However, this cycle of thought/desire, run after it, feel satisfaction, new thought/desire, run after it, feel satisfaction, new desire, etc. is the endless cycle of the monkey mind.  It jumps from one desire to another, never providing sustainable, lasting inner peace and happiness.  This is called the psychology of restlessness.  If desire did lead to the ever-lasting peace and happiness that we all seek, then we would simply need to fulfill just one desire.  

The nature of the mind/ego is to pull our attention to the external world, the land of sensory objects, and away from our True Nature.  This is the very reason that yogis dedicate themselves to unveiling the Atman... to constantly live in the ever-lasting peace, infinite bliss and pure consciousness that is within each of us all the time.  It is difficult to identify and relate to the Atman since the veil of desire and attachment is so strong.

Yoga helps to calm the monkey mind.  Your will is strengthened to stop looking for happiness in the external world of desires and start looking for peace of mind.  By practicing yoga asana classes (exercise) and pranayama (proper breathing) thoughts of desire become less strong, less frequent and the practitioner receives glimpses of the Atman.  So start looking for peace of mind, rather than "looking for happiness."  It is only then that you will be guided to the ever-lasting happiness that we each seek.

Yoga is a philosophical tool that will light the way for you to realize your True Nature.  This year, dedicate yourself to the discovery of your Radiant Self.  Try something new.  Challenge yourself to step outside your comfort zone.  Take a yoga class.  Go to a Deaf Yoga retreat.  Begin to take the necessary risks in your life to reclaim your Divinity.  It is only by doing this that you will feel the eternal peace, truths and bliss of the great Saints and Sages of yore.

Blessings on your journey towards your illumined Self.  Thrive in your Life!  It is possible at all moments and the peace and happiness will last and sustain you for eternity.  Thrive beloved... for this is your very nature, and you are worth it!  May 2011 shower infinite blessings to you and your loved ones!

The Mind's Nature

Watch and observe the nature of the mind.
Do not allow the ego to take your will and
aimlessly run your life.
Stand strong and proud in the face of God,
knowing you will be guided and led by the 
ever-present Atman, Divine Self.
Trust Life.
Trust your Self.
Trust God.
All will be revealed in due time.

“Patience is a Virtue.”

~ written June 17, 2010

Wisdoms from God

Rainbows of love
pour from my heart.
My eyes alone
will melt your sorrow.
In my Presence
time knows no existence.
At my feet
are universal wisdoms.
I am your Beloved,
and you are mine.
Dance and sing
in my glory
and eternity shall be yours.

~ written August 15, 2010

Waves of the Beloved

Walking the beach and
bathing in the chilly ocean,
i find myself drawn to the power of the Mother.
Strong, firm and vast
Her waves wash to shore as 
consistent as my breath.
Tell me Your secrets Oh Mother.
Whisper to me my path.
Take me to the shore of the Beloved...
and let the Force that animates You
become as strong within me.
I offer my body as Your vehicle
only to serve You.
Fill me with the wave of your very Essence.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Whispered Wisdoms

My Sweet child,
look within, for it is I,
your Divine Mother & Beloved
that rests within your heart.
In your Silence i whisper to you
my secrets.
Listen attentively
to what I have to say.
What you seek in another 
you can only find
through cultivating me in your heart.
What you think
evolves you through service,
is only my Source animating you.
What you long of renunciation
can be done with or without 
saffron-colored robes.
The practices that you think healed you
is only the Grace of my very breath.
The intellect you have come to trust
is only my whispered wisdoms.
The path that you think leads to me
only leads to my feet, not my totality.
To Realize me
you must be 
completely naked, completely free, completely pure.
Just Be Beloved,
for I am already there
patiently awaiting your awareness.

Silence Is...

Silence is the golden rule.
Silence keeps a snake-like tongue in check.
Silence is forgiving, compassionate, wise & free.
Silence is the language of the Guru.
Silence is the heart’s desire and
the mind’s nemesis.
Silence is golden and offers the entire cosmos.
Silence is Truth.
Silence permeates all.
Silence knows no boundary.
Silence heals.
Silence is our birthright.
Silence is our True Nature.
Silence is the vibration of the Atman.
Silence is, quite simple... God.