Sunday, November 30, 2008
Have you ever seen a sand mandala being made/experienced by a group of Buddhist monks as a ceremonial practice? The mandala is so intricate, beautiful and impermanent. They carefully feed the colored sand to its specific design location, lift their robe sleeves to prevent brushing the sand, and they cover their mouths with cloth to impede their breath-wind from disturbing the mandala until the spiritually significant concept is finished. Upon completion, it's all swept into a vessel and poured into the sea; a final meditation on the impermanence of life. I think anyone who writes on computers has an opportunity to practice the impermanence of life. Just now, I wrote an extensive comment that disappeared. Actually, I wrote it, checked the preview, then the computer made a rather loud rude noise, like a belch, and seemed to gobble up the comment! In reaction to the hungry ghost, I will write here in response to Hector's questions about journals, deity yoga and meditation but I will address the answers to anyone (experienced or not) who wants to start a regular meditation practice.
I do keep journals; one for health where I write my yoga, mantra, and reading practices, sleep and stress (hormones!) patterns, and my weight. I usually update this weekly/monthly unless I am under stress or am trying to institute a new pattern/routine. I keep another first-thoughts journal inspired by Natalie Goldberg (Writing Down the Bones) where I write (stream of consciousness) for ten minutes, five times a week during ordinary work weeks. My meditation routine is based on various yoga practices, which can be connected to Pantajali's Eight Limbs of Yoga, serious practitioners might say loosely connected but I see the connections/intersections. No deity has directly presented her/himself to me; but I do practice mantra connection with energies that are associated with deities; the force of nature (Kali), the heart-centered/ fun-loving compassion (Krishna), and especially the energy of transformation (Shiva). I think the deity yoga practice, where you dissolve your ordinary self into emptiness and follow specific techniques to immerse yourself into the qualities of a particular deity is useful but I have not learned this method from my meditation teachers or another guru. The whole system of deities in Tibetan Buddhism is complex and highly nuanced; I have studied the Tibetan Book of the Dead with great attention but failed to connect to the complex visualization/deities as presented in this important work. I think that this is not my path.
The Dalai Lama details his practice in the Spalding Gray interview and here is a brief summary: first, he re-establishes his connection to be reborn until all beings are free, recites mantras to commit to non-violent speech, does prostrations and other Buddha remembrance practices to earn merits, conducts a meditation on the impermanence of life focusing on birth, death, and rebirth; finally, a meditation on emptiness and non-conceptuality completes his practice. No matter where he is, he does a four hour practice from four in the morning until eight -regardless of the time zone change. I think that the most important factor to a meditation practice is to develop and establish a routine-a place in your life for meditation. It is also important to acknowledge your practice and commit yourself to the feeling that it is happening through you but is not about you. I think that is why the Dalai Lama says he is a "simple monk" -so that he is not fooled into mind-game thinking that he is above the temptation of breaking his monk's vows. I have noticed that the ego/mind attracts attention down side-roads even in meditation -when this happens I just return to my practice. When I awaken, I fall into a mindfulness routine that reminds me that I will sit for an hour. I remain silent until my practices are over; first, I give the animals food and water, wash the dishes, clean the floor where I will meditate and set up the cushions. I mention these details because they have become my karma/service yoga. I light candles and/or incense in offering and do several sun salutations. Then I sit for one hour; I recite devotional chants until my awareness of energy begins to flow; I keep my attention on two points- the center of my forehead and the crown of my head. If I experience a flatness of energy during the meditation, I usually visualize energy rising from the base of my spine to the top of my head or I practice a pranayama breathing exercise (breath of fire). I accept disruptions to my practice easily; sometimes the half-asleep kids wake up and trip over me/or hit my knee. Junie, the cat, rubs my mudra (hand gesture) and tests out the softness of my lap while she decides if she will sleep. Sometimes, I begin too late and the regular morning routine of I-can't-find-my-keys starts. Usually, I continue to practice without difficulty-even if I have to get up for a moment. A warning though, emotions may be unleashed when you first start to seriously practice (in the early months/years) so it's better to be alone and out of the way-or else you may become unduly angry about normal interruptions and at an unsuspecting house-mate! At the end of my practice, I cultivate goodwill and send thought energy to anyone who appears in my mind while recognizing that we are all connected.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Monday, November 24, 2008
the Yoga for Stress Relief group, I facilitate. I so enjoy her chatty participation. Here is her comment:
I love all the photos like yogini said. It even looks like you can publish them in a book with all your experiences especially as an ex-patriate in the Caribbean Island of chaos, Puerto Rico. I have to be honest, I want to read all of your entries again, I just glanced over them and didn't read them all. The one that caught my attention was the one on your mom's murder. I think of it and I hurt. You must still be hurting. I still hurt at my mom's death, I cannot imagine what it would be like if she would have been murdered. How hard it must be for you to forgive that man. You must think, why her? Maybe it comes from a previous life and she was liberated through that. I can't find an explanation... maybe your mom and that man were enemies in another life ... I don't know- it' s better not to rationalize and try to understand things- let's get back to our routine- cheers- Daphne.
Thank you for you heartfelt compassion, Daphne.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
I love the atmosphere of this May Sarton poem,
A Glass of Water
Here is a glass of water from my well.
It taste of rock and root and earth and rain;
It is the best I have, my only spell,
And it is cold, and better than champagne.
Perhaps someone will pass this house one day
To drink, and be restored, and go his way,
Someone in dark confusion as I was
When I drank down cold water in a glass,
Drank a transparent health to keep me sane,
After the bitter mood had gone again.
Note: Thank you, Mark, for your blog posting, "The Stone" in The Red Beech Tree which inspired me to reflect about Lady Blue.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
If we could live up to our highest potential as human beings perhaps these ordinary hate crimes would come to a halt. Eleanor Roosevelt's Universal Declaration on Human Rights speaks to this topic:
Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home-so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.
Thank you, Eleanor, for your pioneering vision that we are still struggling to uphold. Thank you Brian Alexander for your efforts to bring visibility to this issue through your upcoming documentary. And thank you mom for your courage to live an authentic life, empowered by your belief that all human beings have a right to seek happiness, and for being an example of a person worthy of emulation. In our karma yoga of peaceful action, let us hold the thought that all people are united in their efforts of attaining equality for all.
The photo above is of Mom's graduation from Wayne State University; she was awarded a BA in Social Work when she was 50 years old! Notice how Christine looks on with pleasure while Mom's overcome with the pride of accomplishing her life-long dream; yes, she attained her pig-skin as she called it-Mom was not a vegetarian!
And Brian I hope you don't mind that I imported this picture from your blog.
Here is a link to an article in Penn State's paper that highlights the problem of hate crimes:
Saturday, November 15, 2008
This emotional pain-body idea makes me think of all the evil spirit warnings I have heard about while growing up. I sometimes attended tent revivals with Tyanne Poindexter, my somewhat lost neighbor friend, and we would fearfully listen to the preacher warn us about hell and eternal fire, all the while feeling as if we were in big trouble. But getting back to Tolle , he was not saying that the negative had more power than the positive, he just wrote that you had to be careful to be present and nonreactive to the emotional pain. Just allow it to be there until you notice space around it. Sound familiar? I have read about this idea, particularly in Buddhist writings but the Buddhist nun Pema Chodron's work on emotional pain comes to mind the most. Other New Age writings report that it is important to protect your energy so that you are not too open to another's negativity, but be careful not to focus on fighting the energy because resistance acts as a magnet. Yogananda writes that you should never look directly into the eyes of someone who is profoundly under a powerful negative influence or else your individual will could be dominated. Being the kind of person who reads, and then looks to life to verify or disprove, I have noticed some strange occurrences.
Your walking down the street, it's raining, and you have to pass in front of a man who is venting angry words and pulling out the empty white lining of his pockets while rocking back and forth on his legs. You feel both sorry for his confused state and afraid because he might vehemently turn in your direction. You empty your thoughts and focus on gently moving by him. (Okay, so that's what I do- and it happened yesterday!) Or you're in your car removing laundry and a tall large shouldered man stops at the window and stares at you. You quickly lock the doors, and sit in the air-less car waiting for him to leave until you can't take it anymore. After all, you have rights. You live in the tourist zone and its suppose to be safe. So you get out of the car and confront the imposing man. Only the tension you release by telling him to go away, lights a match to his pent up anger and he raises his fist and screams incoherently back at you. You forget about the laundry, run into the house, lock the doors and call the police...who calmly tell you that maybe its a mental patient who was recently released, "Could you describe him for us, please?" (Yes, it has happened.) Those are the moments I think of emotional parasites! What was Tolle thinking? He gave me another boogie man to fear: the Pain-Body.
Oprah Winfrey recommended this particular book and supported Barack Obama's candidacy, so I'm willing to be open-minded...Oprah stand by me, "Walk into the light! Go into the light!" The Poltergeist memory begins to compete with The Exorcist movie scene where the girl is tied to the bedpost and fervent prayer abounds in an attempt to beat the spirit-rapist into submission-ineffectually! What do I do when my own light is covered by inexplicable mood-clouds? I write. I write until its funny, or rather, until I have gained a sense of perspective. What about you? Take my survey and communicate with me!
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Sunday, November 9, 2008
I am love
I am love
from in to out ...from out to in...
I am Love
I am Now ...the ever present moment
I am love
There is no there, there is only here
I am love
I am infinity, eternity expressed
I am love
In me white is black, black is white
I am love
I am rainbow's arrow
shooting kindness into the hearts of All
I am love
I am compassion
I am love
I am yearning realized
I am love
I am gratitude expressed
I am love
I am All in love, by love, with love...
I am restored beauty, never lost
I am love
I am gold thread in conflict,
offering a way out
I am love
I am tenderness, care,
the first green leaf of spring,
the resting hope of winter...I am love
Look, only notice...see
I am love
You are love
We are love's perfection expressed
by our choice of love
You are love
You are Thy precious moment
You are love
We are thought ideas, unveiled as love
We are harmony's chimes caressed
by gentled wind, we are love
We are angelic visions, fragrantly blooming
We are love
We are love
I am love
You are love
All is love,
the safety-pin, fear dispersed, hope understood,
[Please click on the sidebar, OWL Playlist, and listen to Enya's Watermark while reading this poem.]
Thursday, November 6, 2008
When my family and I were moving from California to Tennessee, we decided to take a goodbye trip to Northern California. We worked our way up to San Francisco, crossed the Golden Gate bridge, and ended up on a small road leading to Muir Woods. Muir Woods is a magical fir-filled oasis with quiet walks and huge Redwood trees. After the fun and crowds of the city, the fresh contrast of this hobbit-like environment seemed to welcome our presence. Do you ever wonder if trees can feel human beings the way we feel them? I do. As we walked on the nature trail, a rich green fragrance surrounded us and almost seemed to carry the past, present and future through us in a manner that woke up my travel-worn brain to the possibility of some unknown experience. Nature creates a state of comfort and expectation in me that I have come to rely upon whenever I need rejuvenation.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
I found it endearing and humorous how Suzie handled the normal problems of life. She was frugal but as professionals neither she nor her husband had time (or skill) to manage car repair, yard work and other tasks. Sometimes, I drove her and Sara to the Volvo mechanics in National City to do the most rudimentary work, such as an oil change, air filter replacement, threading a special buckle through the safety belt for the baby seat. The mechanics saw her coming- a rich, short Jewish white lady, and it seemed to me that their hourly rate would increase with every minor request, "Could you tighten the screw on the door handle and fill the tires to the correct amount of air pressure?"
When they were finished, Suzie would look at the man and discuss the bill in the most level headed manner. She did not lose her temper when the bill reflected that she had just paid the full labor rate for those minor tasks. She would go over all of the charges and see if there was any way the bill could be adjusted. I would try to keep my face blank so as to not reveal my surprise when they charged her for those simple tasks; innocently, I asked why her husband didn't do that work himself and I mentioned that I knew how to do some of those tasks-I could help her. But she explained that safety was important and it was better to be sure that the work was done by a specialist. She said her husband was busy with his patients and she was responsible for the household management, which included the car maintenance. Suzie had a master's degree in interdisciplinary studies but she embraced her role as a mother. She ask me,"Is there a greater honor than to be a mother?" I loved Suzie but I was sure that we didn't swim in the same stream. Appreciatively, I would learn everything I could from her and some things I just had to let slide off me.
As a wedding gift, she gave me The Science of Being and Art of Living by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in which he explains how the subtle levels influence the body, mind and community and which lays out how meditation influences this layer of energetic manifestation. I routinely practiced the technique while incorporating hatha yoga, walking and running to my weekly routine. By being in close proximity with a regular meditator, I learned to let go of my judgment of others and accept difference in perspective. I saw how Suzie's husband maintained his Jewish faith, meditated and worked long hours. He doggedly struggled with Mexican patients who would not follow his directions (particularly with antibiotic prescriptions) and they would return again and again with further complications. I noticed the families frugal daily lifestyle that focused on quality, longevity, and health by their little decisions such as buying pure un-embellished cotton clothing for baby Sara. Suzie, too, dressed comfortably and simply. Unconcerned with impression making, they covered their couches with mismatched but frequently changed sheets. Through an arrangement with the Coronado Hospital they were able to live rent free. They would accommodate Suzie's typical Jewish mother who often came to visit for a month at a time. She provided occasional and unwelcome but expected commentary on their lifestyle, though she, too, was a practicing meditator. I would hear Suzie tell her Mom, "Go outside, rest on a chair and meditate until you feel better." Her mother would look at me and say, "Do you think this TM works?" I appreciate Suzie for her insight, quirkiness and introduction to a more peaceful lifestyle. Thank you for setting me on the yogic path and introducing me to meditation.