Category Archives: yoga

Today's Lessons

Get up and do something first thing in the day.

Be active.

Be motivated by love.

Don’t be silent anymore.

Simplify life — remove whatever and whoever does not inspire, inform, add personal value and friendship, or provide a needed service

Clean it up, and make it easy to keep clean.

There will always be more things to learn and do as the day progresses, but you have to start somewhere.

Meditation Garden — Inspirations

meditation garden from http://www.talesoftheearth.com/

Because of their abilities to heal, sacred landscapes provide inspiration for the design of gardens in therapeutic health-care environments. Gardens designed for contemplation and healing are likely to be most effective and responsive to the needs of its users when the elements of the sacred landscape are applied. The following design elements constitute such a landscape:


Being of favorable context –
it is sited to take advantage of positive attributes,
and mitigate negative effects
receiving auspicious life-forces
given by the earth, sun and moon;
It is contained – a distinctive form in space,
a distinct space surrounded by form;
It is coherent – clearly defined and ordered
to help things make sense;
It is composed – enabling one to pay attention;
It has clarity – made simple in format
to help develop concentration and insight.
It is an artistic expression of contemplation –
quiet and light inside,
enabling one to listen to the heart sing.

Being of favorable context, the sacred landscape is located in an auspicious setting. It mitigates potentially negative effects, and takes advantage of the environmental attributes of its location, gifts offered by the earth, waters and skies, the sun, moon and stars.


“At a true site…there is a touch of magic and light.
How so, magic?
Here the breath gathers and the essence collects.
Light shines in the middle and magic goes out on all sides.
Try to understand!
It is hard to describe!”

So, I’m thinking of turning an available space in my back yard into a meditation garden… anyone have interesting inspirations, ideas for what should go into a meditation garden space, etc? I’m thinking California natives for the plants, and looking for good ideas for seating, lighting, arranging the space, etc… all thoughts, ideas, comments, photos of nice spaces, etc welcome!

The Dance of Awareness

Awareness in life is not hoping you learn to dance — it is recognizing that you already are dancing. Life is the dancer, you are the dance.

2004:

It is true that being aware of how things happen makes one’s words more potent and one’s behavior more effective. But even without the light of consciousness, people grow and improve. Being unconscious is not a crime; it is merely a lack of a very helpful ability.

Knowing how things work gives the leader more real power and ability than all the degrees or titles the world can offer. That is why people in every era and in every culture have honored those who know how things happen.”Tao of Leadership

When I first started blogging about the Tao back in 2004, I was at the beginning of developing my full sense of awareness. But of course developing awareness isn’t something you can ever really finish; it is always a continuing process. Some moments allow us to be more present and aware than others, some people in our lives allow us to be more present with them than do others. This summer I had the amazing experience of being with a friend where we were both totally and completely aware with each other over several days, and it was a life changing experience for both of us.

I can still find it difficult to be around those who lack awareness, as I said when I posted this in 2004. I am pretty forgiving most of the time, though, and see it as a way to practice loving kindness towards those who are less aware. I often take the bodhisatva path of trying to wake others up, and walk with them for a while, but I usually revert to Tao eventually and am content to simply walk my own path.

2005:

Too many people seem to walk through their lives in a daze, not aware of what is going on around them at all, lost in their concerns over what has happened or will happen. We all need to be awake and aware to the possibilities of the Now –- and the consequences to the future of lacking that awareness.

I blogged a great deal about Tao in 2005, including most of Deng Ming Dao’s wonderful 365 Tao, which I sometimes give to friends who are in conflict. I have a good friend who is reading this right now, and I think it is beginning to help her. I credit this book with helping me the most with my own personal inner changes. If you want to see my real changes, it is in the contrast between the posts from that book and the political articles I was posting. In that year, I felt all the anger I had felt over our country’s situation shift into taking action to do something to change things. I worked a lot on political issues, but lost the anger I had felt and let it shift into movement. I began to understand that Tao is not only about acceptance of what is, but using the power of Tao to help create new or different situations. We are not helpless victims, we are the creators of our own world.

2006:

A person with true self-acceptance is “a person with full awareness of self in body, mind and spirit. This person’s center of consciousness (Hsing – “Heart Flower”) is in full bloom, ready to receive power from above, openly relating to and being reflected by others.”

It may seem clever to know and accept others
Yet accepting oneself is the way to Wisdom.
It may feel powerful to overcome others
Yet disciplining oneself is true Strength.
It may be noble to honor others
Yet respecting oneself is deep self-esteem.

Tao Mentoring

It has taken me a long time to fully learn to accept myself as I am. And it is a process I’ve repeated many times over. Each time I come to believe I finally accept myself, I find something I still want to improve. Meeting this balance between accepting myself as I am and knowing that I have even more room to grow is always interesting. It means not being complacent with where I am at, but always knowing there is more to know, more to see and feel and do, and that is ok.

But I think the key is really respect. Self-respect is not simply about accepting who you are right at this moment, but also respecting yourself enough to continually challenge yourself. Not allowing yourself to become complacent, thinking you are already the best you can be, but knowing there is more you can do and always being ready to learn and grow and change, truly opening yourself to the possibilities of life that are all around you.

This was one of my favorite posts, and one I return to often. I truly believe the key to being able to help others lies in acceptance of ourselves. In 2006, I developed the ability to really create change through simply being myself. I also blogged a lot about art journaling, and using art as a means to learn about yourself and perhaps visually see the inner processes that are usually hidden within us. It was a very helpful time for me, opening me up to new experiences and ideas and a great community of art bloggers.

2007:

We already have everything we need. There is no need for self-improvement. All these trips we lay on ourselves never touch our basic wealth. They are like clouds that temporarily block the sun. But all the time our warmth and brilliance are right here. This is who we really are. We are one blink of the eye from being fully awake.” — Pema Chodron, Start From Where You Are

In 2007, I blogged about yoga, including Rolf Gates’ wonderful “Meditations from the Mat”, and Buddhism, including much of the wonderful Pema Chodron . I spent a lot of time exploring different paths, but still found Tao to be the one that I kept returning to (well, return is the way of the Tao…) I did a lot of traveling and exploring, worked a great deal on politics, and really felt that our political community was moving towards creating change.

2009:

How much of the day are you aware -– just basically aware of what life is presenting -– rather than being lost in waking sleep, in being identified with whatever you’re doing, almost as if you didn’t exist?

To what extent do you blindly drift from one form of comfort to another, from one daydream or fantasy to another, from one secure place to another, in order to avoid the anxious quiver of discomfort or insecurity? How much of your energy is used to fortify a particular self-image, or to simply please others in order to gain approval, instead of devoting your energy to living a genuine life?” — At Home in the Muddy Water: A Guide to Finding Peace within Everyday Chaos Ezra Bayda

Oh soul,
you worry too much.

You have seen your own strength.
You have seen your own beauty.
You have seen your golden wings.
Of anything less,
why do you worry?
You are in truth
the soul, of the soul, of the soul.”

Jalal ad-Din Rumi

For me, spiritual growth has come in strange ways and from strange places, and I think that is how authentic spiritual growth progresses, from within, as we turn through the limits of our own being and try to become more. We find ourselves turning again and again within the limited space of ourselves, and finally realize that there is an enormous amount of space outside of ourselves. We then create mobius strips and Klein bottles, trying to bring this outside space within ourselves, an impossible task at first. We see the beautiful poetry of Rumi as he struggles with spirituality, the magnificent stories and tales of mythology, religion, and literature, all trying to move in these same paths.

And then one day, a small hummingbird sits in front of your nose, flapping its wings, and looks at you curiously, or you gaze into a flower and finally really see it, or someone says something that catches your ear and your mind at just the right moment, or a quiet meditation brings you to the place within yourself that just knows, simply knows, and you smile. You get it. You get that Mona Lisa smile on your face and just — become yourself.

And it happens over and over. We find ourselves, we lose ourselves, we find ourselves again, at another place on the spiral. The helixes divide, and come back together. And life goes on.

2009 for me was about realizing “there is nothing to achieve” — we are already within ourselves everything we want to be or could hope to be. Everything else is just ego. It’s the point where I really became comfortable in my own skin, even as I watch that skin age.

And then — my wonderful friend came along and exploded my world again with this question:

“How open to change are you?”

My boat strikes something deep.
At first, sounds of silence, waves.
Nothing has happened;
Or perhaps everything has happened
And I am sitting in my new life.
-– Rumi

2010:

Dogen reminds us that to raise the mind of compassionate awakening is none other than the whole of daily activity with no concern for one’s self, no thought of outcome, no sense of self-gratification. It means that whatever is, is the best that there is at this moment. Just this, wholly this, only this.

Engaging in the Way, in the life of continuous practice, means that we are constantly awakening with each new moment. Awakening is not a single event in time. Rather it is a continuous event through time. Basho wrote: Let me be called a traveler. He did not mention any destination. Just a traveler.”
– Joan Halifax via Whiskey River

“Being present in the motion, moment after moment, provides that secret chamber of awareness and gives the writer the chance to notice what is passing by before it is gone.” — Richard R. Powell, Wabi Sabi for Writers

So you may have noticed a lack of posting here lately. Well, much of my work has moved elsewhere on the Internet — into Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr — but much of me is now just off living my life, living in awareness, being where I am and with who I am with and doing whatever I am doing, but always Being. I made a vision board a year or so ago with the words “Go. Do. Be” on it, and that’s what I’ve been doing. I keep growing, moving, changing, becoming, being. Others may notice, or not, it doesn’t matter. I may change the world, or those around me, or not, it doesn’t matter. What matters, for all of us, is Awareness and Being.

That’s all there is, really. The rest is ego. Life dances. You are the dance, not the dancer.

Shrutam Deva Maya Sarvam

shiva-parvati-side0r

Make a practice of meditating on the joy you feel when you think of someone you love. This is your personal gateway to ananda. Each person you love or have loved is a doorway to the divine. When you think of them, it is as if you are thinking a mantra, a name of God. When you unite with them, even by cherishing their memory in your heart, you are practicing a kind of bhakti, love yoga.

Dogs are masters of this dharana. When a dog sees someone they love, they don’t hold back. They levitate with bliss, it rises in them and they leap. Lately, part of my practice has been to meditate on the uninhibited joy dogs express. Teachers are everywhere in our environment, and in the connections we have with all other living beings. Who are your teachers?

Morning Inspirations

“If your spiritual aspirations produce socially beneficial qualities in you such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, then they can be considered something more that a mere psychological defense. In contrast, if you are overcome by qualities such as impatience, distractibility, impulsiveness, demandingness, conflict, discord, and scorn for others, then you are growing weeds, not fruit.”
– Raymond Richmond (via Mike Garafalo)

I think I’ve been a bit distractible and impatient lately.Time to get back to patience and self-control for a while…..

“If you make room for the energy you wish to bring into your life, there is a much better chance of receiving it. Make a space at your table, both literally and metaphorically. Expect the fulfillment of your heart’s desire, and let your home reflect it.” — Beth Owl’s Daughter

I like this thought — that I ought to make room in my life for what I would like to show up in it. Not so much law of attraction, but just to clear the space for what I want in my life. Plus I enjoy physically clearing space when I’m trying to create new things. We just took out our front lawn in anticipation of putting in a more drought-tolerant, native landscape. So here we are actually clearing the space for something new to come into our lives.

“The symbolism we encounter in art and in our dreams serves to bridge the individual to the universal., the microcosm of our inner life to the macrocosm of existence… Symbolism adds to the beauty and the mystery of art and life. It captures the essence of our experiences. ” — Fred White, The Daily Writer

This gets to something that I encounter a lot — how to explain the things I am thinking to other people in a way that is universally understandable. So much of our individual experience is only relevant to our own lives, or the lives of those close to us, to the touchstones we have created for ourselves. To make those experiences understandable to others, we need a language or symbology we can use to translate it for other people.

Sometimes the imagery of religion or spirituality is confused with some mundane reality, and people get frustrated that they don’t have those exotic experiences that others describe. But many times, the reality is that the metaphorical language or symbols actually describe a rather common experience that anyone might feel, and people think they are missing it only because they didn’t get that particular symbol, like missing a joke because you don’t understand it.

The trick is to elevate this experience to an artistic level, rather than just the mundane level. It may not reach as many people as describing it in mundane terms, but it becomes a more enriching and transcending experience because of the symbology. We want to understand the everyday, but we also want to be inspired by the extraordinary. When you truly see the extraordinary in the everyday, your entire life is elevated to that new spiritual level. What great artists try to do is to inspire that experience in others, so that they too can “get” that the everyday is actually the spiritual experience. Georgia O’Keefe didn’t paint flowers, she painted her experience when looking at flowers.

Conduit


Wassily Kandinsky. The Blue Mountain


Marietta Ganapin. Untitled (Blue Mountain by Vasily Kandinsky), 2004 Paper collage

Both yoga and art aim at the same thing, that is, to re-establish our personal connection with the world around us according to our own inner creativity. To render body and mind a conduit through which the creative energy can flow freely, unimpeded by outer restrictions, in the trust that this energy, being a part of the universal energy, is ultimately pure and joyful. — Dona Halleman

This is the work of sauca, “to render body and mind a conduit through which the creative energy can flow freely”. It is a noble endeavor. The asanas do much of the work for us.They cleanse the organs, the central nervous system, and the mind, while strengthening the muscular-skeletal system. Much can be accomplished through the asanas, but not all. For each of us, sauca is a journey of discovery. What works for you? Dairy, no dairy; meat, no meat; lots of sunshine, very little sun; lots of stimulation, or quiet solitude; long ambles, or power walks. We each find our own way to health and balance. Once again, we are on the path that leads to truth, and the means for determining the truth is our own individual experience. What practices render you a conduit through which the creative energy can flow freely? — Rolf Gates, Meditations from the Mat.

Marietta Ganapin is an avid museum and gallery visitor, and her relationship to specific works of art is highly personal and reverential. Her creative method is an expression of her spiritual connection to artwork that she loves. After having viewed the work of art–whether a painting, a sculpture, or decorative object–many times, she then gathers scores or even hundreds of gift-shop postcards or museum brochures which reproduce it. Using a hand-held hole punch and scissors, Ganapin creates a palette of color, pattern and form by repeatedly cutting specific areas of the reproduced image. These hole punches and cut-outs are then used as the building blocks of her designs. With great care and attention to detail, the artist transforms these elements into intricately detailed mandalas. At first, the viewer is dazzled by the obsessive and precise execution in these colorful and beautiful works. Slowly, recognizable details from the source material reveal themselves: a shank of hair in Roy Lichtenstein’s Stepping Out reads as a yellow arabesque in the concentric composition; the eyes and lips of a statuette of the Egyptian god Amun become a ring of dimensional, abstracted forms within the inner rings of the mandala structure. Yet the resultant artworks transcend mere appropriation. Ganapin’s labor-intensive execution and reverence toward her subject parallels the devotional activity of a Buddhist monk creating a sand mandala. As Ganapin has noted, “A symbol of healing, wholeness, totality and spirituality, the mandala inspires contemplation and meditation. For me, what more fitting framework than that of the mandala in reinterpreting other works of art.”

Rational

berns_rational_thinking
The Myth of rational thinking

Greg Berns doesn’t want you to make a decision by yourself. He doesn’t trust you.

People don’t make rational decisions, he contends, and you are likely to muck it up. Don’t be offended by his reasoning, though. He says that there are biological reasons why we all get it wrong….

Economists had long assumed that with proper information or instruction, people would make good financial decisions, systematically and without emotion.

“We know from studies that people don’t make rational decisions,” Berns says. “The problem with economic models is that they assume a certain level of rationality by people, that people will maximize their benefits.”

Add into the mix that most of us don’t know that we are irrational, says Emory economist Monica Capra, who is a member of the center. People believe they themselves are rational, even if everyone else isn’t she says.

“The purely rational economic man is indeed close to being a social moron” — Amartya Sen, “Rational Fools”

“Man is a rational animal who always loses his temper when he is called upon to act in accordance with the dictates of reason.” — Oscar Wilde

“Insanity — a perfectly rational adjustment to an insane world.” — R. D. Laing

“The human race is in such a dreadful state that no rational person can talk about it without resorting to seditious and obscene language” — Henry Louis Mencken

“It has been said that man is a rational animal. All my life I have been searching for evidence which could support this.” — Bertrand Russell

“Of all the ways of defining man, the worst is the one which makes him out to be a rational animal.”
— Anatole France

The intellect is inherently dualistic. It makes distinctions and creates new connections between concepts and calls that “meaning.” This type of analytical thinking is extremely limited in the face of Tao, which is not fully rational, nor fully quantitative, not fully describable. Though most followers of Tao are learned, they also realize that the intellect is but one aspect in what must be a multifaceted approach to Tao.

It is said one must give up education, not because we should be dumb, but because we mut seek a level on consciousness beyond the intellect. We must study, but not to the point that emphasis on experience and meditation is lost. If we can combine the intellect and direct experience with out meditative mid, then there will be no barrier to the wordless perception of reality.

Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao

The sage never tries to store things up.
The more he does for others, the more he has.
The more he gives to others, the greater his abundance.

– Tao Te Ching, Eighty-one

Moksa becomes relevant when one realizes that behind one’s struggle for security, artha, and pleasures, kama, is the basic human desire to be adequate, free from all incompleteness, and that no amount of security or pleasure achieves that goal. So when a mature person analyzes his experiences, he discovers that behind his pursuit of security and pleasure is a basic desire to be free from all insufficiency, to be free from incompleteness itself, a basic desire which no amount of artha and kamam fulfills. This realization brings a certain dispassion, nirveda, towards security and pleasures. The mature person gains dispassion towards his former pursuits and is ready to seek liberation, moksa, directly.

— Swami Dayananda Saraswati

Arete

The most articulated value in Greek culture is areté. Translated as “virtue,” the word actually means something closer to “being the best you can be,” or “reaching your highest human potential.” The term from Homeric times onwards is not gender specific. Homer applies the term of both the Greek and Trojan heroes as well as major female figures, such as Penelope, the wife of the Greek hero, Odysseus. In the Homeric poems, areté is frequently associated with bravery, but more often, with effectiveness. The man or woman of areté is a person of the highest effectiveness; they use all their faculties: strength, bravery, wit, and deceptiveness, to achieve real results. In the Homeric world, then, areté involves all of the abilities and potentialities available to humans.

[ since arete also means a sharp mountain ridge or peak, this also implies this is the origin of the idea of peak performance]

Nurture the darkness of your soul
until you become whole.
Can you do this and not fail?
Can you focus your life-breath until you become
supple as a newborn child?
While you cleanse your inner vision
will you be found without fault?
Can you love people and lead them
without forcing your will on them?
When Heaven gives and takes away
can you be content with the outcome?
When you understand all things
can you step back from your own understanding?

Giving birth and nourishing,
making without possessing,
expecting nothing in return.
To grow, yet not to control:
This is the mysterious virtue.

— Tao Te Ching: Chapter 10
translated by J. H. McDonald

“Always do the right thing. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.”
— Mark Twain

Embracing the Way, you become embraced;
Breathing gently, you become newborn;
Clearing your mind, you become clear;
Nurturing your children, you become impartial;
Opening your heart, you become accepted;
Accepting the world, you embrace the Way.

Bearing and nurturing,
Creating but not owning,
Giving without demanding,
This is harmony.

— Ta Te Ching 10,
translated by Peter Merel

Maude: “Vice, Virtue. It’s best not to be too moral. You cheat yourself out of too much life. Aim above morality. If you apply that to life, then you’re bound to live life fully.”
— “Harold and Maude”, Collin Higgins

Carrying body and soul and embracing the one,
Can you avoid separation?
Attending fully and becoming supple,
Can you be as a newborn baby?
Washing and cleansing the primal vision,
Can you be without stain?
Loving all men and ruling the country,
Can you be without cleverness?
Opening and closing the gates of heaven,
Can you play the role of woman?
Understanding and being open to all things,
Are you able to do nothing?
Giving birth and nourishing,
Bearing yet not possessing,
Working yet not taking credit,
Leading yet not dominating,
This is the Primal Virtue.

— Tao Te Ching 10,
translated by Gia-Fu Feng

“The Tao has no place for pettiness, and nor has Virtue. Pettiness is dangerous to Virtue; pettiness is dangerous to the Tao. It is said, rectify yourself and be done.”
— Chuang Tzu

“The Greeks invented the idea of nemesis to show how any single virtue, stubbornly maintained, gradually changes into a destructive vice. Our success, our industry, our habit of work have produced our economic nemesis. Work made modern men great, but now threatens to usurp our souls, to inundate the earth in things and trash, to destroy our capacity to love and wonder.”
— Sam Keen

“As far as I’m concerned, I prefer silent vice to ostentatious virtue.”
— Albert Einstein

“He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire.”
— Winston Churchill

“There is…an artificial aristocracy founded on wealth and birth, without either virtue or talents…. The artificial aristocracy is a mischievous ingredient in government, and provisions should be made to prevent its ascendancy.” — Thomas Jefferson

“I cannot love anyone if I hate myself. That is the reason why we feel so extremely uncomfortable in the presence of people who are noted for their special virtuousness, for they radiate an atmosphere of the torture they inflict on themselves. That is not a virtue but a vice.”
— Carl Jung

“Moral education… is not about inculcating obedience to law or cultivating self-virtue, it is rather about finding within us an ever-increasing sense of the worth of creation. It is about how we can develop and deepen our intuitive sense of beauty and creativity.
— Andrew Linzey

“Genuine honesty, assuming that this is our virtue and we cannot get rid of it, we free spirits – well then, we will want to work on it with all the love and malice at our disposal and not get tired of ‘perfecting’ ourselves in our virtue, the only one we have left: may its glory come to rest like a gilded, blue evening glow of mockery over this aging culture and its dull and dismal seriousness!” — Friedrich Nietzsche

Desire


Desire — Justin Simoni

That was no beast that stirred,
That was my heart you heard
Pacing to and fro
In the ambush of my desire.
To the music my flute let fall.

– “Neither Spirit Nor Bird” (Shoshone Love Song), trans. Mary Austin

The Tao is infinite, eternal.
Why is it eternal?
It was never born;
thus it can never die.
Why is it infinite?
It has no desires for itself;
thus it is present for all beings.

The Master stays behind;
that is why she is ahead.
She is detached from all things;
that is why she is one with them.
Because she has let go of herself,
she is perfectly fulfilled.

— Tao Te Ching: Chapter 7
translated by Stephen Mitchell

Heaven and Earth last for ever.
Why do Heaven and Earth last for ever?
They are unborn,
So ever living.
The sage stays behind, thus he is ahead.
He is detached, thus at one with all.
Through selfless action, he attains fulfillment.

— translated by Gia-fu Feng and Jane English

Transcending the ego is equivalent to transcending suffering. Your ego, which is your false self, keeps you identified with your mind. The ego keeps you tied in thinking about your past and it also makes you think about the future. The ego wants you to be anywhere other than where you are at this moment. The ego makes you believe that something is lacking in this current moment that is keeping you from being at peace. Maybe you believe that you need a new car or a dog or a shirt in order to feel better. There is nothing wrong with purchasing any of these things or wanting any of these things but if you believe that they will make you feel better then the desire is probably ego-based. Unfortunately, under the rein of the ego you will never be at peace and you will never transcend suffering.

The ego is the source of desire. When you remove desire you can remove the ego. This is definitely easier said than done; however, just being aware of the impact your ego will help to remove its grip in your life.

The next two hindrances are raga (attachment, desire) and dvesha (aversion). Within these are the more specific hindrances of attachment to pleasure, or sukha, and aversion to pain, or duhkha. Sukha and duhkha in themselves are simply natural human reactions. Sukha and duhkha become raga and dvesha when attachment is present, for it is in the attachment to pleasure and the aversion to pain that we get into trouble. — Rolf Gates, Meditations from the Mat

“The man whom desires enter as rivers flow into the sea, filled yet always unmoving — that man finds lasting peace.” — Bhagavad Gita

So much desire in the world today
So much of everything you can’t give it away
You could be happy but you’re feeling so bad
About what you never have
Because you can’t look at nothing without wanting it
And you know that’s the truth

There’s always some scene you think you got to break into
Or a new sensation to intoxicate you
Ain’t it a drag
Staring through the glass at something doesn’t touch you really
Or bring you laughter or roses or stroke your hair so tenderly

Desire
Stealing you away from me
Desire
You’re living in a dream
Desire
Is getting the best of you…

Who was it told you
You have to have everything you see
Same one who sold you that last fantasy
Roll up your sleeves and use those hands for something
That’s gonna work for you baby
To fill your arms and your heart with joy

Desire, Boz Scaggs