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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Impermanent Mandala

Here are two photos representing the ceremony mentioned below, the finished mandala is swept into a vessel and dumped into the water. No regrets!

Laughing at Impermanence

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

Yoga Moves

Check out this newspaper article: Health minister pushes that all school age children learn yoga (in India) to prevent future diseases: diabetes and obesity.


Life Road; Destination Unknown?

When you first look at the photograph below, you probably see the dry tan colored road. As your eyes travel into the shot, you see a line of color in the sky, then a hint of color above...a double rainbow! For most people, the dry road holds our attention, maybe we remember the taste of dust in our mouths and the gritty feel of sand on our skin. If we'd look to the road-side, we'd see a variety of green plants-or up ahead, we'd see there's light and it's getting brighter. Not only is there light but also color up ahead! The impact of the scene is related to where we place our attention. In the Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga, Drs. Deepak Chopra and David Simon write that whatever you want to increase in your life, you should place your attention there. Keep returning your attention to what you want to increase in your life. Like this road, you could look down, to the side, or up ahead. Whatever you focus on will impact you the most-it will seem to be the most significant. I try to remember that when I am in the midst of some sort of crisis-like feeling; I will myself to see a broader perspective and through that effort I find relief. Sometimes it may seem as if I am out of touch with the situation but I am cultivating the ability to shift my focus when it gets over-attentive to what's wrong-after all, usually something is going well in all circumstances. And the Buddhists have an often remembered phrase-at least in my memory,"Good luck, bad luck, who knows?" It's kind of leveling phrase that reminds me that your perspective shifts depending on where (in time) you're focusing. So when a loved one tells me in sympathy, "Your having a lot of bad luck, lately," rather than feeling sorry for myself, I think of transition/change, and how I don't know if what has happened is indeed bad in the whole scheme of things. Today, I was reading an interview with the Dalai Lama by Spalding Gray (in A Simple Monk; Writings on his Holiness The Dali Lama, New World Library 2001). Spalding confessed that he would have an alcoholic drink to calm his nerves when he was traveling to a new place, then he asked the Dalai Lama if he ever felt fear and what was his calming technique. The Dalai Lama admitted that he used to be afraid of flying, and that he would recite a mantra or prayer to relax his anxiety. Ultimately, however, he accepts karma, "If I created some karma to have a certain kind of death, I cannot avoid that. Although I try my best, if something happens, I have to accept it. It is possible that I have no such karmic force, then even if the plane crashes, I may survive...that belief is very helpful. Very effective." I also remember reading Pema Chodron's, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times (Shambhala Classics). She writes that often it's the reaction to bad news that triggers more consequences and consequently, more pain. I remind myself it's best not to run around crazy in fear or anger; it makes things worse. How can I help myself or anyone else if I give in to panic? Many years ago, I was walking with my hatha yoga teacher, Helen Curly Brown, when she dropped her camera down the stairs, "Bless you" she said as she reached down to retrieve it and continue walking. In her quirky way, I noticed how she cultivated patience. Pressure to act in reaction to emotion is strong; I'm grateful that most of the time I do find my center. I come back to my practice and know that all is well. By meditation, I have learned that ultimately, all is well...as a mantra when anxiety visits...I mentally repeat all is well, all is well...all is well until I remember and accept...all is well. May we all have patience and the mental strength to continue to consciously act- but also to know and accept that all is well. May we attend to the double rainbows in our lives and not keep our attention on the dusty road any longer than necessary. Om Namaha Shivaya

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Appreciation and Intervention

Today is Thanksgiving: I still cultivate the spirit if not the myth of the Pilgrims sitting down to eat with the Native Americans. I honor the idea of the Native Americans receiving appreciation for helping the Pilgrims to cultivate corn, squash and such -so that everyone could survive through the cold New England winter. As it turned out, the Native Americans were swept down the river and landed in the desert to receive a thorough drying out. And I'm sorry about that from both sides of the genetic fence; genetically being part of the "victor and vanquished" blood-line (-as Jamaica Kincaid's Lucy would say about Mariah). The holiday's irony is heavy on my mind today and I woke up thinking about the Dalai Lama.
Have you ever wondered how the Dalai Lama can continue to fight for his country's culture-it's continued existence in Tibet- while the Chinese continue to destroy any remnants of Tibetan autonomy? (He is pictured here at a World Peace ceremony.) If you listen to him speak on his feeling/thought toward the Chinese, it takes great attention to comprehend his practical philosophy. I hold onto his words with intense focus and just miss the action part. I want to know what he means because I think that I have lost my mother to the same community apathy that caused Tibet to fall; or that allowed the genocide of the Jewish during WWII. How do we as a human community resist violence without triggering more violence? I have had this question on my mind since I was in the US Navy many years ago, and it continues to return again and again to my thoughts. When my mother was murdered in Flatrock, Michigan no one intervened; and I have pondered about the silent and spoken support James Brooks, the murderer, received as he contemplated killing the lesbian couple down the street. When my husband was attacked in Condado, Puerto Rico no one came outside in answer to my screams until all danger had passed. But there was one police officer who doggedly searched the streets until the criminal was apprehended and finally convicted. When my car was knocked off the highway by a young, intoxicated, undocumented Mexican in the desert near Needles, California; it was a truck driver, who said he was Richard, who came to my rescue. Richard reported the accident (which happened on purpose) on his CB radio, waited with me while I was trapped in the car for the jaws of life/death to arrive -that's the machine used to remove people from smashed-up cars. He put aside worry that he might be caught in the possible fuel triggered flames and he stayed with me, a total stranger, in the abandoned sandy darkness. I was rescued, flown out in a helicopter to a Las Vegas, Nevada hospital and I recovered. Richard was my human angel who surpassed the ordinary and became the archangel Michael or Gabriel in response to a stranger's need. How many of us would have done the same?
So much has happened lately; there's upheaval in the world because of the bombings in Mumbai, India, yesterday. Deepak Chopra said on Larry King Live that we must take action to 'remove the cancer from our family'-he was refering to the Muslem family. (Yes, he used a medical metaphor that pointed to his doctor-MD- ethos-even though most people think of him as a contemporary spiritual healer/leader) I was impressed by his position of strength that validates necessary action while at the same time, I wondered how would this work out? What kind of action is necessary? Some of you may not know that Deepak Chopra was a student of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of the Transcendental Meditation (TM) movement. I mention this fact because mediators are often thought of as passive people who take no action as they sit in their "Rocky mountain high" caves and meditate. Chopra meditates. Chopra acts. I often think of the Bhagavad Gita and it's reported conversation between Krishna and Arjuna, where a reluctant Arjuna is encouraged to fight against his cousins because they are taking what is not rightfully theirs. It's in chapter eighteen, verse 59-60: If, clinging to the ego, thou sayest:, "I will not battle," fruitless is thy resolution:...thine inborn nature, will force thee to fight. ...shackled by thine own karma, inborn in thy nature, what through delusion thou wouldst not do, thou wilt helplessly be compelled to do. He decides-is compelled-to take action. As a people, we, too, are honor bound to take action to protect each other.
Yesterday, I had a personal disturbance to my own harmony with humanity; my son was robbed at a Bayamon bus stop in the daylight-in the sunlight- in front of all the other awaiting passengers, and no one intervened to help, comment, or stop the strolling bulk of Puerto Rican youth from going on his comfortable way. Though my son was threatened with death, I am thankful that he is safe. What I want to talk about is reaction/action. When my son went to the police station to file a report, during the course of collecting information about the crime, the receiving officer recommended that he lift weights to build muscle. Let me clarify, he suggested that my son put on weight-that he change his physical form- so that he is not victimized again in the future. I ask myself, would he say that to a girl? What about my petite daughter, would the police officer say, "Well, you have to start lifting weights, gain about five or six inches in height-then you won't be victimized by strangers on the streets." Would he tell someone confined to a wheel chair, :"Just get up and walk-then things like this would not happen anymore." My son is not usually a victim of crime but lately he wants to be independent and move around without his parents-as he should be able to as a member of the human and Puerto Rican community. There is no need to explain to the police officer or anyone else the medical reasons for his small stature because all human beings of every shape and size are part of humanity. I thank the universe for keeping my son safe, but I call upon people to react. We must protect each other from the takers/killers who exist in our human families. We must assert together that it is not okay to harm others on whim or to fulfill a covetous desire. We must be sure in our hearts of our love for humanity and take action to protect the innocent. Not crazy action, just necessary action. Show compassion. Offer assistance. Confine those who cannot live without violating/killing others. Assert every one's right to stand outside in the sun and be a part of the human community. And when someone is violated within your space, do something! Help them! I send blessings to all the Richard's of the world who intervene in times of crisis; who find Arjunda's courage to stop, interrupt their day, and offer solace and strength to those who are innocently victimized. Let us use our Solomon's seal of collective resistance against gratuitous bully violence as a protective amulet we wear in society. Together our consciousness must change so that we extend our heart-love to those in need; so that we learn to have compassion while we discover a cure for the violence-cancer that propagates within our inert human societies. Let us take a solemn vow to protect and love each other, always. Namaste

Monday, November 24, 2008

Daphne's Comment on Goodbye Sun

Daphne wrote a comment that got left behind in the older post. I wanted to share it with you and thank her for her participation. I selected the photo below because it seems to be Daphne's favorite balance pose and she holds it to full extension for a long time! Daphne is a member of
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

Amazing Garden

This morning I went down to the garden to see what was growing there. No... the sunflowers did not come up. No ...the herb recao volunteers have not returned. Hum...I ponder...I look...I pull lots of weeds. I think one day my garden will really be that-a garden, that is- but lately, I approach it sporadically and with acceptance. The beef-eater tomatoes are in trouble- one plant down and one to go...maybe I shouldn't have overlooked the name? I move the remaining one to another place hoping that it will get more sun and more reason to fight-because fight it must. The rosemary bush is thriving; recently, I cut off the top 10 inches and made an arrangement in the kitchen-all week I wanted to eat Italian food! The gardenia bush is green and gaining girth; the ginger stalks are pushing through its gaps racing for sun. The avocado tree has broken through its pot and asserts itself in the temporary location. There is a light green waxy succulent plant that I found discarded and I took it home; it has revived in the base of a hollowed out ceiba tree trunk. There are some malanga root plants at the foot of the garden, I didn't plant them and they remind me of intruders. I tell myself that it's not their fault that Sr. Casto, the property owner, used them as a tool to prevent further encroachment into his land. I guess he wanted to tell me/show me that this land was his land...and not my land. I hear, "This land is your land, this land is my land, from California to the New York island...from the redwood forest to the gulf stream waters...this land was made for you and me." I don't think the inclusive spirit of this song expresses quite the right tone. Recently, I started all of the seeds I had left over from the last couple of years. Of the seedlings, only the tomatoes and peppers have survived. Why? Here is my confession: A beautiful butter yellow pregnant cat was terrified to death by my nine dogs. I ran out at 2am to scoop her up in my arms and place her in the makeshift greenhouse-formerly known as the pig house-where she laid down for her final rest. Okay, I did not have the nerve to go back there again once I discovered her death so for two weeks my plant seedlings went without water...as I waited for the cat to decompose. After my courage returned, I went to the aversive scene and did my best to revive the plants with poor result. Now, my friend Mark has given me his extra seeds and I warily read the packages: red noodle beans (hand written), Armenian Yard Long cucumber, Evergreen Bunching Onion, Stringless Blue Lake Pole Beans, Chocolate Cherry Tomatoes, asparagus (ASO12 UC 157 F2) Hybrid, and a summer squash, Tromboncino, a novelty zucchini. They come from these seed companies: Ferry-Morse, Livingston Seed Co., Lilly Miller, Johnny's Selected Seeds and the Territorial Seed Company. I'm communicating these details so that you might be able to feel what I do when he asks me, "Did you plant the seeds, yet?" I will. It's just that I have to make peace with the ones that didn't make it. I have to accept the responsibility of a new attempt, buy more dirt, and communicate with the garden memory ghost! I know I will get the hang of gardening in the tropics; just as I once learned to garden in southern California... and Michigan. It's true that every place has its temperament which has little to do with weather; I imagine it takes a while for the land to welcome a stranger's hand. The traditional Cherokee have a ritual of asking the land to welcome the seeds while minimally disturbing the soil...I think I'll try that. I know that one day the earth will respond to me-via the plants- the day I finally give la tierra what it needs. Meanwhile, I ruminate, I ponder and now, I pontificate on my seemingly futile gardening efforts.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Hector's Garden Peacock

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.

Lady Blue

I remember Lady Blue, my loyal wild desert dog-friend. She was with me in my first house in Coronado, California; in the evening, she went with me to college and waited in the old gold car; we went to Tennessee on the last goodbye trip before Dad left, forever. She nibbled at his heels in the RV we stayed in during the visit because he was just too close to me. (Cotton-picken, dog!) She protected me from those who would approach the car I was driving, or the sidewalk as I walked in the "village" -as the Coronado locals liked to call the small tourist town. It was difficult to get an apartment or house with her; once I had to take her to an interview so that the house manager could determine her suitability to alley-house residence. I gave her a bath, brushed her shinny black fur and dressed her neck with a dark red bandanna. "I guess she's alright," the retired administrator commented. I held my choked but insufficient retort in check- “alright? Alright?!!” My Lady Blue was the most important friend to me when I was alone in a new state. She continued to stand by me while adapting to my new friends and marriage. She protected me from those who would harm a free-spirited young woman who liked to walk outside at night and breathe in the moonlit pine, and gaze through lamp-lit windows into the lives of those affluent locals whose well tended homes lined the golf course. One night, we were walking and, uncharacteristically, a hail storm struck. She entertained me with her antics, diving into the grass and rubbing her face, while small hard balls of ice struck us both. I laughed and ran with her, trying to find shelter from the pelting hail. Lady Blue, her life was so much more important than her death. And even though she was a dog, she gave me the heart to love difficult people as I dealt with her flees, her skin condition and the carpet smell (!) ...and too, the complaining neighbors, landlords requesting her removal, and new laws forbidding her freedom such as running in the cool early morning on the empty expansive Coronado beach without a leash. She was with me as I grieved my father and mother's death, never tired of my need for quiet comfort. Lady Blue sat with me when I practiced my first asana on the desert sand in Twenty-nine Palms, California where I first discovered her; a stray they thought was half coyote. Lady Blue, whose yoga was to teach me about power and its judicious use; a bridge to my own independence, I honor you.

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

Affirmation of Rights

Have you seen the San Diego mayor's press conference on YouTube? (Click on Brian Alexander's blog, http://pittmannpuckettdocumentary.blogspot.com/ to view the November 14 posting.) The mayor's commenting on his decision to support a resolution that allows gay marriage; and in the process, he shares that his daughter and members of his close professional staff are gay and deserve equal rights. As he struggles through emotion-choking sentiment, you realize how it is possible for people to change strongly held, but prejudicial, beliefs once they are given the opportunity for intense reflection. That point was brought home to me, literally, when my mom, Susan Pittmann and her partner, Christine Puckett, were murdered in the front yard of our farm house in Michigan. The murders occurred during the day on a paved and frequently used street- Middlebelt Road in Romulus, Michigan. How could the crime occur without someone seeing the incident and calling the police? It was done in the open within full view of the neighbors and passing cars. (I've written in more detail about the murders in the Goodbye Sun October 31, 2008 posting.)

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

I Write

I write. I wait. I write and I hope.

I write. I tell. I wait. I compose. I let go.

I reveal. I shame. I fight. I bore. I write.

I detail. I write. I read. I fix.

I throw up for gold. I strike nothing.

I write. I bore. I explain. I dig.

I empty. I cry. I cry. I swim.

I connect. I find. I write.

I write. I see. I write.

I draw faces on my eyes. I write.

I hurt. I hurt. I write. I anger. I write.

I pull. I grab. I force. I turn. I write.

I write until I stop. I toss away. I drop...

And still again, I write.

I write, bore, breathe, and write,

Every day.

Sometimes I can't bear myself.

My boring details, my insecurities.

But I don't hide anymore. I write.

I write to myself. I write to a face I see...

To someone who cares...who won't mind

My honesty or my mistakes.

I turn away from the judger, the criticizer

And write to someone else

Anyone else.

Unless I'm mad. In anger,

I'll take her on...that mean bit of

Me-she gets in the way.

I release. I write.

I routine. I write.

Copyright 2009 Cynthia S. Pittmann

Cloud Cover

Did you ever have one of those days where you have a general sense of anxiety that seems to be blocking your ability to connect? Sometimes I forget to notice energy flowing upward and I don't feel connected. My attention is pulled to unfocused feelings and I seek to explain the anxiety. Maybe I'm forgetting to do something...I search my memory for a reason...it could be a date blocked...it might be a significant grief trigger date...a death? Is something going to happen? Am I amplifying the feelings around me? Eckhart Tolle, in A New Earth, writes about going into a restaurant when a parasitic emotion is released and is seeking a welcoming emotionally open victim-it invades a man in a wheel chair who explodes in temper. Tolle writes that this man's energy fed on the collective pain-body; you see, Tolle had just been counseling a woman with a dense pain-body and even though he helped her, some of this woman's pain-body negative residue had attached itself to his energy. So when Tolle walked into the restaurant, the energy around him found a victim at a nearby table, entered this unsuspecting man and made him lose his composure-he pinned the waitress up against the wall with his metal chair and the police had to be called.

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

Seekers at the Portal

When I was finishing my master's degree,Wendell and I took a trip across the United States from California to Michigan to pick up a new-to-us, pre-owned car. On the way there, we took a detour to explore the Arches National Park. As they say, it was hot but it was a dry heat-which only means that it was extremely hot! The hiking and the landscape seemed to burn through my my mind and melt my limiting but comfortable perceptual boundaries. I ran over the boulders with my long time friend and canine, Lady Blue, arms flailing about and brushing up against- wait this is the desert! There is no brushing up against anything here-my left arm flew over the top of a sharp-tipped succulent, which acted as a needle, and pierced right through my vain. As I looked at the tiny hole, it started to spurt out in a wide arc over the rocks and grace the land; a sacrament? First-aid scripts ran through my mind, apply pressure until it stops the bleeding. I held my arm, while watching the circular antics of Lady Blue's hunt and chase, and soon I became unconcerned. Effortlessly, I released preconceived ideas about life and ambition. This created a spaciousness that felt familiar and welcome; I set up a red portable grill on a smooth flat rock and made my one standard girl scout I-can-cook-outside meal, i.e. I combined a slice of potato, onion, and carrot on top of a lentil burger, seasoned with salt and pepper, and wrapped it up in a small aluminum tent which was then roasted over hot coals for an hour. Somehow cooking outside there in the heat with the coals radiating on my face, connected the familiar with the unfamiliar. Later, I inadequately relayed to Wendell, "I got hurt but I'm okay, see?" Though inside, I was different, life-affirmed. I felt secure, patient and welcoming of any change that we were headed toward. The land became my guru, a portal to view another way of living. I was small compared to this spaciousness but as an indefinite part of this space, I was unlimited.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Cynthia's Bhakti Yoga Devotion (1996)


I am love
a thought-idea
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
Ever-present 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.]

Note: Posting a Comment and Password Confusion

I am so sorry that some of you are having trouble posting a comment. I think you need to sign in at the dashboard before you can leave a comment. If that does not work, sometimes I have had to go back and recreate the same account in order to post a comment. It is actually faster than trying to get the computer to accept a password. If you try this strategy make sure that you click on edit, then copy your comment before you leave the comment page. Once you have recreated the gmail account with exactly the same information as the first account creation, you will be able to post a comment without providing a password. Also, remember that your user name on the comment page is your email address and not your display name.
Thank you for your efforts to share with the Oasis Writing Link readers and with me. I send you a million rays of positive vibrations for the stress and frustration that you have undergone in the effort to connect with us.
Om namaha Shivaya ...Om

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Nature's Company

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.

Sometimes the feeling of inspiration is hard won, for example, when my husband, Wendell, and I hiked up to the top of Half Dome in Yosemite, California. It took an entire day to arrive to the cables where we would pull ourselves up and over the smooth rounded rock to make our way to the breathless panoramic view overlooking Yosemite Valley. I thought of Ansel Adams and his climbing trips; he must have been loaded down with photography equipment. How did he manage to take those beautiful black and white photographs? Adams said, "I knew my destiny when I first experienced Yosemite." When I gazed over to the wide expanse below, I knew that I did not know my destiny-at all. I knew that my future would continue to open to an ever-expanding reach that I could not shrink down to an understandable and manageable thought. No life formula came to me, just the idea of unlimited possibility. My choice then was to accept the unknown; manage my fear, and fight for the next trail to blaze. How free I felt!

While we remain actively engaged in the known, we have to learn to live peacefully with the unknown. Nature gives me strength to care about all those who are in pain while not being overwhelmed with empathy. In daily life, I imagine the trees surrounding me are friendly Ents who will rally to my corner under the most stressful situations- if only sincerely called upon. It is good to remember that we are not separate, not from nature nor from each other. Namaste

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Transcendental Meditation

Do you know about the Transcendental Meditation technique? When I was a 20 year old college student, living in the Stars Hollow town of Coronado, I started working for Dr. and Suzie Averbach as a vegetarian cook and caregiver for their baby girl, Sara. I found out about the job in the classified section of the Coronado Journal and the idea of cooking for a family seemed like a break from my usual stressful I-need-to- be-validated career-path work. In the interview, I said that I was soon to be married and I wanted a job where I could learn how to live a wholesome vegetarian lifestyle. Suzie was pleased to find me; she was sure that her meditation practice (vibration) had sent me to her, and I was excited to be in a home where I could be an apprentice to these family life skills. After working there for some months, watching the baby when Suzy would go to her room to meditate, cooking vegetarian recipes with a cookbook in hand, and learning how to make Friday celebration Jewish food, Suzy invited me to undertake Transcendental Meditation classes at the center. I would work off the hours to cover the expense of two tuitions, one for myself and one for my new husband, Wendell. Suzi and her husband were in the TM-Sidhi program, i.e. advanced yogis within this scientifically based spiritual path. Usually, when she was meditating, I would hear a plopping sound on the floor where she had a thick foam mat that she meditated on. I later realized that she was practicing a technique that was ridiculed by the skeptical, and was sometimes referred to as the flying yogi practice. I could hear Suzie's body fall after it levitated up and bounced down repeatedly while she was meditating.
The primary TM method involves a sound meditation mantra that you repeat two times a day for about twenty minutes. I had heard that the Beatles met the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, though Suzie indicated that this encounter harmed the TM organization, still I was curious about what they experienced. What was appealing to me about the technique was that it was results oriented, scientifically validated and proven to create an increased ability to concentrate, lower overall stress levels and create harmony between people. They showed the beginning meditators various charts which focused on medical data that demonstrated improved health in meditators and statistics that proved a decrease in crime in areas surrounding a community of meditators. These lessons were given to convince the students about the efficacy of the TM method. However, I already understood that this method helped to control emotional reactions in my family life apprenticeship.

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.