Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Sacredness of All Life

What is your definition of "living things"? Many people consider just about every creature beyond humans, cats and dogs, and a few other "cute" ones to be less valuable, somehow dispensible. Is it brain size that deems an animal worthy of being valued? If so, we'd do best to worship whales, elephants and anything bigger than us. Is it consciousness that we deem valuable? If so, most humans are not fully conscious- they live in their own minds more then their present reality, like sleepwalkers.

Many people don't think or feel much about ending the lives of insects, "food" animals, and trees everyday. More and more people are awakening to the inherent connection between all of nature and all life. People are widening their circle of compassion to encompass vaster and more diverse lifeforms.

Furthermore, most people at one point or another take "inanimate objects" for granted. Not only do we consume without gratitude or limit, especially precious resorces like water, but we treat our objects with a general lack of respect. We toss, throw, kick, drop, hit and abuse the objects we use on a daily basis. We drop our clothes mindlessly in a heap. We hit our computer, or pound on the wall. We toss a book onto the table.

Any concept of the inherent value of other living beings and the objects themselves not withstanding, what does living this way say about us? What are we, when we let feeling beings, including other humans and countless "food" animals suffer or be enslaved so that we can eat food that causes disease or so that we can get cheap shoes that we disrespect by tossing them around? Certainly not mindful. Certainly not humane, or compassionate. Ignorant, perhaps. But the moment one knows the effect of one's actions on others, the defense of ignorance fades and conscious ignoring begins if choices are not modified. We are responsible morally for all the dirty work we support with our spending- factory farmed food, sweat shop made clothing, shoes, and all manner of useful and frivolous objects. Wiping our asses with freshly-murdered trees, instead of using recycled paper.

If we are to seek wholeness, we must first understand where and what we are. We are connected to this body, which is like a crystalization or symbolic description of the intangible and subtle energy of the Spirit. If scientifically, at the finest level detected, ALL matter (that is to say all manifested form, all that is in the physical level of existence) is made of the same fundamental building blocks. So be it rock, plant, insect, human, sofa, fish, or paperclip, it still is just a variation of the same thing- energy.

So just because we don't understand what it is to be a tree, a boulder, a sneaker, or a squirrel, doesn't mean that these entities don't have some intrinsic value, perhaps a form of consciousness. What if we could expand our awareness to extend respect to everything we see and experience? What if we acted with a conscious intention to recognize the sacredness of existence?

Sufis, Hindus, Jews and Muslims believe that God is in everything, that Spirit or God is the fabric of all that is. Christians say that God is omniscient and omnipresent. That means God cannot be a physical form, like an old man, because to be omniscient and omnipresent one must dwell equally in everything, so God must not be in any one form, but in ALL forms. Where Muslims and Sufis won't allow represetational depiction of God, because it fosters a false association of God as one physical being, Buddhists don't give the concept of God any name. They simply point to the oneness of all that is, saying that the concept of individuality is empty, that all that is is one whole existence.

When we live gratefully and reverently, treating existence itself as if it has meaning, we transform our lives. You can go as deeply as you wish, but in the least using objects respectfully and recognizing the value of all lifeforms and interacting with them accordingly changes us. We become mindful and present, appreciating the miracle that is life. We live deliberately and kindly, love grows within us. We truly transform ourselves and the world around us into something holy, something sacred.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Black Holes in the Psyche- by Deepak Chopra with commentary by Laura Harrison

Unhealed Black Holes

"We are now at the level of inner need where the spiritual concept of “I am enough” is truly critical; as long as you dwell on more superficial levels of need, as long as you lean on a stronger person to carry you through, the anxiety of separation is disguised – and that may be what you need for the moment. It takes real spiritual commitment to expose the wounds of separation hidden in the unconscious.
If you look deep enough these wounds show up as black holes in your sense of self. Like black holes in space, which suck energy out of the universe, the psyche’s black holes suck out your confidence, your sense of worth, your certainty that you can survive.

When you approach just a small one of these holes, you can experience a drastic range of sensations, none of them pleasant. Mild uneasiness and disembodiedness give way to nervousness, dizziness, nausea, vertigo, anxiety, panic, terror, and dread, depending upon how close you come to the black hole.
Sometimes there seems to be a hole in your chest or abdomen, or a suffocating pressure, as if all the air was being sucked out of your lungs. Terrible as these feelings are, they have no spiritual reality; they are conditioned reactions. Stored-up fear magnifies the experience of a black hole because of the effort we all exert to avoid existential anxiety, fears about just being here on earth.

Keeping away from a black hole seems like a good tactic, but it isn’t the same as healing. If left unhealed a black hole only gets larger until it becomes a gaping wound. The largest wound you can have is the wound of separation, the trauma of losing love, spirit, God. This is the primal black hole; it breaks you off from the source of love, peace, and joy."

--Adapted from The Path to Love, by Deepak Chopra (Three Rivers Press, 1997).

This is the primary root of our grasping at distractions, objects and other people for our happiness and sense of peace. The love we seek must come from within us, but when we believe that it must come from the outside, we are crippled, we are incredibly and convincingly bound by our own false view.

This false belief leads us to look for constant distraction from new relationships, new material items, more money, more food, more entertainment, more vices, more of whatever distracts us the easiest. We say that when we have ___________ we will be happy. But where in the new car is the happiness located? It will inevitably break down and need repair and then we'll distract ourselves by complaining. If eating ice cream is a source of happiness, then eating the whole container should make us ecstatic. But instead, it makes us feel gross, bloated, restless and frustrated. If a new relationship is the way to be happy, how come when the newness fades we become dissatisfied again? Because you can't run away from yourself, no matter how hard you try.
The "inner work" so unique to each person, must be done. We can't move to a new city, have a string of short relationships or eat away that reality. And although the particulars are so unique to each of us, it all boils down to the same basic lessons: learning who the "I am" actually is, and living in harmony with that truth.
The path takes a lifetime (or longer) to walk, but it is how we finally quench that insatiable craving for love or wholeness that is manifesting itself in so many harmful ways.
Once we get going on the journey within, truly and fiercely desiring enlightenment (the realization of the oneness of being), we begin to feel as if day by day the veils of our previous mistaken views are removed, and we see more clearly. We see more clearly, we live more fully, we become vivid and aware. We slowly heal those black holes and become luminous and whole. Perhaps the wildest part of the whole trip is that it is all about the slow adjustment of our own perception- the transformation comes from within. So too, as we find, does the love, acceptance, connection and wholeness we so desperately crave and need.  ~L.H.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Exciting News: interactive community calendar and farm-stay retreats

Linked to our calendar page ( http://www.enlightenamsterdam.com/calendar.html ) is a new, open community calendar. Not only will I list the ongoing classes and other events at Enlighten on it, but other relavent community events as well. Not only will I list events, but it's open for YOU TO POST relavent community events ON IT as well!
All are welcomed and encouraged to post uplifting, eco-friendly and family friendly events on it: farmers' markets, art/music events, village wide garage sales, festivals, and family events at local farms or historic sites. If you aren't sure, email naturalmethodyoga@gmail.com to make sure that your event fits in. It probably does. I want us to be able to share important happenings in our area.

Follow the link from our calendar/schedule page. To post a one-time event, click right on that date. A box pops up- enter time, event + location and click save. For ongoing events, click on the little circle on the top right area of the square for the start date. Make sure to set if it is a monthly or weekly reoccuring event. You can set an end date, such as in the case of farmers' markets, for example.
If you wish to share information such as your favorite local park, trail, historic site, restaurant (for vegan dining), energy healers/massage therapists, museum or other local "something holistic" or "something fun to do" that doesn't really fit in on a calendar listing, please email that to the above address. I will be putting together a holistic/natural resource, both for locals and those coming to town for a visit.

We will be offering Summer retreats for locals and for those coming in for some r+r or a yoga immersion (especially those coming from Albany, Schenectady, NYC...).
We will offer one or two weekend retreats in June, July and August. They will be more for basic rest and relaxation. Then there will be one or two week long immersions offered in natural Yoga, aimed at integrating a Yogic/natural perspective in daily life.
We will be partnering with one or several local farms that will host our visitors/participants, providing rooms and delicious vegan meals with lots of local ingredients.
It is likely to be next Summer or the following which will begin this exciting experience, but we will be looking for farms to partner with right away, forming a strong relationship in the meantime. To suggest an organic/natural farm, email naturalmethodyoga@gmail.com

Monday, March 21, 2011

Hindu temple~ Albany ~ tour + storytelling

Wednesday March 23rd, 6:30 pm
Hindu Temple, Albany Shaker Road, Albany
Tour the temple, then hear Hindu storytelling, and an open interfaith storytelling + listening circle.
What a beautiful experience- I'd surely love to be there if I wasn't teaching!

Help Japan's Animals (care of Care2.com)


So many of us want to do what we can to help the victims of Japan’s catastrophe, and fortunately there are numerous ways to do so that are being widely publicized. But what about the animals? They may not be first and foremost on many people’s minds, but I can’t stop thinking about them. The Conscious Cat has collected a group of places where you can give your support to the four-legged victims, here are the recommendations:

World Vets is a non-government organization (NGO) providing veterinary aid around the globe in collaboration with animal advocacy groups, foreign governments, US and foreign military groups and veterinary professionals abroad. They are getting supplies and a first responder team ready to deploy to Japan.

• The American Humane Association’s Red Star Animal Emergency Services Team is monitoring the situation closely and is reaching out to its international partners in order to provide a joint response to this global emergency.

• The National Disaster Search Dog Foundation has deployed search and rescue teams to Japan.

• The Animal Refuge Kansai is an organization in Kansai, Japan, that is preparing for a huge influx of animals from the disaster areas.

Japan Cat Network, together with Heart Tokushima and Animal Friends Niigata has formed Japan Animal Rescue and Support.

• The Animal Miracle Network Foundation is collecting cell phones to send to volunteers helping animals in Japan.

Many thanks to The Conscious Cat, and you can check back at their site for regular updates.

Help Japan’s Animals

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The power of Community

Community, the gathering of like-minded individuals, is important on the path. We infuse each other with strength, confidence and encouragement. We teach and learn from each other. When we practice together, our energy magnifies.

In Yoga, the term "satsang" is used, meaning "in the company of saints or high-minded people". In Buddhism, the Sangha or community of monks, nun and lay-practitioners is a fundamental component of practice in which we "take refuge" or find strength.

The Irish say, "it is in the shelter of each other that the people live" and when we open ourselves to the real give and take that is community, we find we are truly fortified. We grow stronger spiritually both in learning to give or sacrifice of ourselves and in surrendering and taking help when we need it. We see the inter-being of all things in action. We are one with the universe and each other. We are more whole then ever.
English is not always the most poetic language, but the word "community" is beautiful. Co- as in together, and unity- we come together to experience unity. It is also lovely the Om is in the center!

We are just Love in the service of Love, some say. When we become community, we see love and peace in action! Namaste!

The real power of Yoga- why daily practice is key!

Coming together as a community to practice is powerful. Practicing once or twice at the studio each week is important to learn under the guidance of a professional, and to ensure that a practice center can remain open. But what about the weekend, the days in between, and the snow days? Natural Yoga is intended to be practiced everyday, it is intended to empower you to integrate practice into your lifestyle.
The word used for practice is sadhana, indicating spiritual practice, which in the Indian context is inseperable from life. Life is spiritually-infused, a journey of the soul in the body through the manifest world.
Don't depend on being at the studio to practice Yogic ways, anymore than one should only practice piety in church. Coming to the studio is to learn techniques, create community and to become inspired More deeply. Practice everyday- mindfulness of the breath and posture all day and aanas and/or meditation for at least a few minutes, and you WILL feel a great difference.
When we practice, we go deep within to the fountainhead of life energy, we touch the ground of Being or Source as it connects within us. To touch this is powerful, deeply healing and inspiring. Touch it once a week, and you will feel a difference. Touch it once a day, and you will transform. Touch it multiple times each day, and you will feel nothing short of miracles unfolding around you and through you.
We are having a workshop that will help you to establish daily practice of Natural Yoga on April 21st. Please inquire if you are interested or stay tuned for more info. You may request information by emailng naturalmethodyoga@gmail.com or by calling/texting 518 866 3621.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

End of the world as we know it- beginning of a new level of consciouness

Their is undeniably unrest occuring all over the world- in Libya, Egypt, and all of the nations with extremely unequal distributions of wealth particularly. The suffering, violence and death that often accompanies this kind of struggle is very tragic. Yet, the fact that people are rising up, recognizing their worth and inherent equality is encouraging.

Some say that there is a quickening of consciounesss, an evolution of awareness that has been in crawlingly slow progress since the time of the first humans, that is now building up momentum, speeding us to a new level of existence. It is as if the collective awareness is reaching a critical mass, and that the level of awakened people is tipping the scale, so that to carry on into the future, people must open their minds and hearts to a whole new worldview.

Unrest in the face of egregious oppresion, and the crumbling of the world of materialism reflects both collective awakening and the insubstanciality of a materialistic worldview. If owning clever objects and mountains of stuff was the way to fulfilment and inner peace, then we wouldn't have so many depressed people in the West that water supplies can become contaminated with Wellbutrin (it happened in England). If the way we are living is working, then why do so many people feel confused, unsatisfied and an insatiable emptiness or neediness? If the way we are eating is so good, then why are diabetes, heart disease and cancer so rampant? While in the richest countries where we have everything we need and then a ton of things we don't, in some of the poorest countries people live simply, with few possesions, and often have to go without basic needs, yet there is a deeply spiritual peace that they exude. If true happiness could be bought, if inner peace could be boxed, it'd be sold at Target, and we'd all make sure to pick some up.

So after almost three quarters of a century of hardcore capitalism and rampant material hoarding, we see the results- a deterioration of the social fabric and less genuine connection in families and communities, a deep feeling of loss of morale or disbelief in the innate inner goodness of others or value of life, a degeneration of the abused environment evoking megalithic catastrophies as Earth seeks equilibrium and a whole bunch of useless plastic shit nobody needs like hotdog toasters and disposable everything. All the dispoable objects in the modern world are evocative of the transience and inherent inevitable dissatisfaction you will feel when you place the faith of your salvation in owning objects. We have so much plastic that there is a big island made of junk and plastic bags floating in the ocean off the coast of California, and its so big that it has an official name- the Pacific Garbage Patch. We want to be saved from our inner dissatisfaction, aching, and confusion, we
want to feel whole again. And I think the world is finally coming to its senses, ever so slowly.

We need to live in universal respect and equality. We all need our basic needs met. We need to dispense with pretense, prejudice and persecution of difference, because its not working. We need to live a little simpler and recognize the sacredness inherent in all things and beings, in life itself.

Those who want to cling blindly to their money, possesions, and popular culture like false idols are deep down just afraid to really live. Those who think that their way is the only way, their religion is the only one and that all others must be wrong and somehow not as good or worthy need to wake up. We are all trying to reach the same goal, become our highest potential, describe the Indescribable, feel wholeness, be happy, healthy and free from suffering.

The images of seperation are what are failing. The mirage of caste, of exclusivity, is faltering. People are beginning to see through it now. We cannot be tricked into accepting the lies that proliferate ignorance or attempt to mask greed. The world is waking up. We are all one or none, as Dr. Bronner says. When people talk about "the end of the world in 2012", perhaps its the end of the veil, the ignorance, the end of the shallow and superficial world. That is how I view it- the end of the dog eat dog, fend for yourself, fakey-fake, take all you can, greedy, bigoted, hateful, hurtful, empty and miserable world. The birth of a world of cooperation, community, authenticity, simplicity, universal respect and unity in diversity is imminent.

If you'd like to prepare for this Coming of Consciouness, all you have to do is love your neighbors (all those around you), lighten up, live from your heart and breathe yourself into the moment. Help others at every opportunity, see the inner beauty of all and respect all life, including the earth that provides for our needs. Live honestly and honor your unique spark. Live by a vow of non-harm.

For every one of us that does their best to practice peace, its one more out of 7 billion that is awake and living Love. One by one we shift the tide, drop by drop the bucket is filled and we create the world we wished for. Each of us have the responsibility to make the effort, everyday we must do our best. And in this way, we transform the world. By our example, we lead the next generation. Let love and peace prevail inside and the outside will follow...

Friday, March 18, 2011

We are all one... Reach out in Love

The tragedy in Japan is so sad. If we hear about destruction and suffering like this, and take a moment to be mindful, we can't help but feel it viscerally. There's an ache. A hurt. A deep longing. A desire to remove the suffering, heal the sick restore peace. I've never felt this way though... There's more connection then ever before. There may or may not be anyone I know personally there in Japan, and at the same time those are my loved ones, my friends, my family. The children are my children, the elders my grandparents. I'm not being idealistic, I feel connected.

Tragedy and disaster have a way of bringing out the best in people. We reach out a hand for someone in obvious need. We forget about the illusion of "us" and "them" if only for a moment. Sometimes, when something is broken down, its as if it breaks down our inhibitions too. We are more genuinely human.
With a deep urge to help, and discussion with some of my student-friends, I decided to reach out to a yoga studio in Tokyo. I thought that the best way to help would be to give, yogi to yogi, believing that they would be able to reach someone in need for us.

What has transpired has meant so much to me, it is hard to do it justice by relaying it in its simplicity, but I'll try. It shows that we are all connected. It also shows that while material assistance helps materially, heart-felt expression helps the heart. Without heart, material assistance cannot end suffering.

When I contacted the studio, OhanaSmile in Tokyo with my words of heart-felt feelings of oneness, longing to alleviate their suffering and offer to help, I received a beautiful response. I received the energy of real gratitude, and the message said the recipient was "deeply touched" by my message. While a link to donate to the Japanese Red Cross was given, what was asked for first, almost preferably, was for me to simply share my feelings on a yoga community forum, even taking the time to translate each part of the form so that I could really understand it. The message was ended with, "hontou ni domo arigatou gozaimasu"- I truly thank you very much, words which resonated with a lot of deep feeling.

The owner of OhanaSmile yoga studio, with whom I am conversing, also runs a yoga community website, a place for Yogis and Yoginis to post thoughts, conversations and discussions. It was on this site that it was requested I post, and I did. I posted A very raw, honest message to the people in Japan.

I posted from my heart, my feelings of oneness, my sincere desire to serve, to help, to relieve their suffering and bring peace again. I shared that I felt priveleged to share my feelings with them, and I truly do still feel it. I can feel passionately about this tragedy, but keeping it to myself or even among Americans feels one way. But sharing my heart with someone there, experiencing this as a reality, has transformed the energy of the feelings. I really felt that greater connection, interconnection, and oneness come alive.

There was another option, to upload a picture, but I didn't think much of it. The most important thing for me was to share those feelings. To say I'm deeply sorry you are hurting and I love you.
Within a couple hours, I was written back, asking for my picture, to place with the post. I feel connected. Its amazing that my words meant something, enough that I'm not simply forgotten. It's not me, per se or "my" words- its just the power of love, Love in service of Itself.

Some people say the world is going to end soon. I think that just the world as we know it will end. The charade of separation is getting too old and painful to continue. Let the veils lift, and may we all see the truth of our ultimate oneness, and live in the harmony of kindness and true love.

I am thinking that I will try reaching out like this more often, whenever the inspiration is present. I have been living a practice of deep honesty for a little while now, which includes sensitive expression of my true thoughts & feelings when appropriate. It's like this wonderful song, the title & artist I do not know, but the refrain is "...and the moment slipped away..." The singer recognizes these outstanding qualities or true bravery in various people throughout the song, but instead of sharing her loving appreciation right then when she is touched by it, see lets it go, and loses the opportunity to express that respect and kindness. Hearing that song for the first time in 2006, the year I first started the studio, moved me to tears. I started then to practice my hardest to not let a moment slip away, to express my loving appreciation, gratitude, admiration and respect right away. Until embracing this practice, I never overtly recognized the power of a smile, thank you, or a truly honest compliment to positively affect someone, to actually brighten their day. A kind word from the heart is so powerful!

Yet, until now this practice has been more focused on people I know face-to-face, although it has transformed the way I interact at all times to some extent.

Now, I will practice this deep honesty in a new way, reaching out beyond "here", inspired by Yoga's wisdom and this very beautiful experience..

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Special Workshop Event: Simple Ways to Transform Your Life- protect your health + the earth at the same time, this April at ~ Enlighten ~

On April 21st, from 4-8 pm we are conducting a special workshop to raise funds for Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary (www.woodstocksanctuary.org).

We will explore our topic- Simple Ways to Transform Your Life: ways to protect your health and the earth at the same time.
We will begin with a gentle yoga practice and meditation for 90 minutes, then talk about the vast and amazing benefits of regular meditation + yoga practice. We will talk about simple changes you can make in your everyday choices to help the earth and protect your health at the same time. We will talk about the most profound way to protect yourself and the earth- through dietary habits. Learn what foods harm and what foods heal, learn how to maintain a healthy weight or lose weight without having to ever count calories or starve again. This workshop will give you powerful tools and information to protect your health and help the earth at the same time- and for the most part saving money too.
Our suggested donation is $50, which includes tea during the last half of the workshop. As with any of Enlighten's offerings, pay only as you can afford, so no matter what, if any, donation you make you will be treated equally.
Wear comfortable exercise clothing. Bring a notebook and pen to take notes, and those who would like a booklet e-mailed to them with the workshop info can request it at the end.
We are using this workshop as a way to serve the well-being of our community and at the same time raise funds for Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary and their good work. They rescue and rehabilate and provide life-long care for the animal victims of factory farming. They give enjoyable and educational tours, allowing people to see and form true connections with the sweet and sensitive farm animals which have survived the egregious cruelty of the modern food system.
Tell your friends and co-workers, clients and aquaintences about this transformative event! For more information, e-mail Laura at naturalmethodyoga@gmail.com or call/text 518 866 3621.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Pathways of Yoga

Yoga means union. It is the rejoining of our whole self in the present moment; mind and body with Spirit. Yoga is a state of wholeness or absorption, one-pointed attention in the present moment.
There are many ways to experience that absorption or wholeness. Traditionally in Yoga, it is divided into four pathways. The fifth is a relatively modern path of practice.

Raja Yoga: the scientific path, the path of systematic practices leading to Realization. This includes hatha yoga, nada yoga (absorption in inner sounds), and Patanjanli's Yoga sutras.
examples: this is the main form of Yoga taught in studios and yoga centers in the West.
ways to practice: regularly attend Yoga classes or practice yoga asanas, pranayama and meditation on your own. Start with a couple sessions each week and steadily increase to an hour each day. Regularly read and study the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. A good version is The Essential Yoga Sutra by Gesshe Michael Roach and Christie McNally.

Bhakti Yoga: the ecstatic path of Love and devotion. You love until the difference between you and the Beloved dissolves.
examples: Rumi was the ultimate lover of the Beloved. Loving devotion and communion with nature as the creation of the Creator is a form of Bhakti. Seeing the sacredness in all life and everywhere in every moment is a way of Bhakti.
The way very devoted Christians practice, with absolute love and adoration for the Divine in the form of Jesus Christ, could be described as Bhakti Yoga. Sufism is also very much a Bhakti way of life. Islam and Judaism, with the vow of remembrance have a strong level of Bhakti-like devotion, especially zikr and the practice of prayers throughout the day in Islam.
ways to practice: practice remembrance of God, also called mindfulness, in each moment.
Commune with nature, protect and respect the environment. Remember that nature is a pure manifestation from the Source of life. Through loving, respecting and connecting deeply with the creation, we show our love and reverence to the Creator. We celebrate the art and Artist at once.
Writing poems, singing devotional songs or chanting mantras help to build and express your love.
Be kind, compassionate, loving and helpful to all beings. Love is the way of life.
Serve and see others as emmanations of the Emmanence. See all of life and how it unfolds as purposeful, and as being placed perfectly for our spiritual evolution. Surrender to the truths that are revealed, accept everything as part of the path, especially the challenges that arise. Follow the heart-compass at all times, never bow to popular culture or peer pressure.
Become Divine Love in everyway possible.
Karma Yoga: selflessly serving all beings like you are serving the Divine, because you understand that that is what you are in fact doing.
examples: Mahatma Gandhi-ji was a karma Yogi. So was Mother Teresa.
way to practice: volunteering regularly, at home or abroad, serving others with no sense of loftiness or attachment to receiving thanks from others. Serve because it fulfils your inner being. Serve with all your heart, never feeling "better than" those you serve.
Help others in more unglorious ways, by holding doors, smiling to neighbors, listening when someone, even a stranger, needs to talk. Do things without recognition, do them anonymously whenever possible. Other ideas for service are doing yardwork or shopping for an elderly homebound neighbor, drop gifts of second-hand clothes off where they can be used, knit scarves for the homeless, donate food to the soup kitchen or animal food to the animal shelter. Rise to every occaision to alleviate the suffering of others, big or small, human or animal or even plant. Respect all life as a manifestation of the Divine.
Treat all as guests, and treat all guests as if they are the embodiment of the Divine Consciousness. Help others in any way possible, not looking for thanks or rewards. Do everything you can to free others of their suffering, with whole-hearted devotion.

Jnana Yoga: the path of study and deep meditation to transcend the egoic mind and reach enlightenment.
exampes: the Buddha, the Buddhist path is a way of Jnana. The teachings of Eckhart Tolle are in line with the Jnana Yoga path.
ways to practice: regularly study the scriptures and words of wise, accomplished beings. Spend time with a sangha, at a church, monastery or ashram. Meditate an hour each morning and each night. Seek out the company of others on the path or spend much of your time alone in practice as possible.

Integral Yoga: is a path blending all of these ways of Realization.
Examples: the Engaged Buddhism of Thich Nhat Hahn really integrates service, loving appreciation and devotion to practice. Swami Sivananda and his disciples taught Integral Yoga as the surest path to Realization.
Ways to practice: find a natural balance of practices that can be integrated into your way of life. Live your Yoga. Don't compromise your most basic values of non-harm, kindness, service and compassion.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Tapas for those who celebrate Lent

Just a thought to inspire your choice of sacrifice or observance for the Lenten season...

If you really want to commemorate Lent, do it in a way that really excites your love for God. Choose to let go of something that is harmful to yourself and others. Choose to sacrifice more time to prayer or meditation to commune with God more. In this way, you are not just giving up an unhealthy habit for a couple months- you are reborn, free from that harmful habit. Your love of God and gratitude for life will give you wings to transcend wasteful ways and show reverence by taking care of this precious life-opportunity!

Go vegan to spare the lives of many animals and to protect the earth. Sacrifice time by volunteering, joyfully serving others, people, animals or nature. Sacrifice time to meditate everyday. Sacrifice energy to walk every single day, for your health and to appreciate all of creation. Do something very special for your children or other loved ones, like committing to home-cooked meals and packed lunches, baking all of your own whole wheat bread or eating meals together around the table. Write a love poem to God or a loved one each day. Do a different random act of kindness each day. Humble yourself in no uncertain terms. Be boundless in your creativity.

Live your love, be your gratitude, worship like an art from your soul. Be your own unique self. Choose a sacrifice that brings wholesome happiness into the manifest world, and reduces suffering for all as well.
Use every opportunity to express your honest gratitude for the miracle that is life.

Become the Truth (Rumi)

There's courage involved if you want
to become truth.  There is a broken-

open place in a lover.  Where are
those qualities of bravery and sharp

compassion in this group?  What's the
use of old and frozen thought?  I want

a howling hurt.  This is not a treasury
where gold is stored; this is for copper.

We alchemists look for talent that
can heat up and change.  Lukewarm

won't do. Halfhearted holding back,
well-enough getting by?  Not here.

From Soul of Rumi
by Coleman Barks
It takes courage to walk the path, to be your own being. It takes bravery to let-go, to stumble openly and get up and continue. It takes determination and confidence to identify and dissolve your attachments. It takes courage to learn what spiritual, unselfish love is. Freedom is absolute steering by the spiritual heart-compass. Surrendering to the Truth, not your rationalization, wish or expectation thereof is the only way to live in alignment with reality. The ultimate bravery is facing the unknown openness of each present moment clear-eyed, liberated from the baggage of desire or expectation.
We cannot transform without walking our path, we cannot walk the path without transforming. The evolution of consciousness is a process of clarifying or refinement. Only the fire of zeal and consistent practice through all experience can show us what lies beyond the world of form. It doesn't take any worldly strength, power or beauty to do this. It is by being in the world but not of it,  that we transcend the mundane veneer and live in the raw and wildly beautiful effervescence of each simple moment.
Keep up gently but firmly striving,
and step by step we progress.
The only failure is to give up 
and go back to sleep...

Vow never to go back to sleep.

Top 10 Household Toxins for Pets ( c/o care2.com)


Lots of information to help you protect the precious companion animals, including natural alternatives to keep them safer and lists of foods and plants that are poisonous as well, in addition to the overall top ten dangers.

Read more: http://www.care2.com/greenliving/top-10-common-pet-toxins.html#ixzz1G1uaZHzV

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Need to Walk Your Own Path: forget how you are supposed to be and just be

One downfall of traditional Yoga teaching, especially hatha yoga and lineage-based teachings, is that they emphasize regimented procedures for progressing on the spiritual path. The purpose of these strict rules is to try and make sadhana accessible to all, but these same people become trapped in the form of "how to do it" or "this way is the only right way because Swami did it this way".
Getting caught in attachment to formal rituals and methods stunts our spiritual progress. Learning from qualified teachers is important. Following their lessons and respecting their teachings is important. Then there comes a point where you lose the training wheels and go beyond. Through the gift of awareness, you receive creative inspiration, and you follow that. That is how the tradition has evolved over the centuries. It is a living tradition of evolving the consciousness, of seeing beyond the common view of reality.
What is the point of the teachings, of any spiritual teachings? To describe the Indescribable, to help you to touch the ground of being, the Source; to lead you to experience what many people call God. To evolve the consciousness enough to be able to percieve the true depth of reality, we need a lot of guidance, and to do a lot of inner-work. We need teachings, we need a path to follow. Yet, we can be crippled by clinging to the teachings for the answers. The teachings want us to walk our own path, to experience the Unseen for ourselves.
It is a form of fear that has us clinging onto to techniques and procedures rigidly. It is a form of learned helplessness to discount the credibility of our own deepest intuitions and experiences. We all are equally connected to the same Source, and we all can reach our Buddha nature or Christ consciousness (one in the same) someday.
Listen well to your teacher, follow well the true teachings, but don't ignore the spiritual-heart, the direct line of communication from the Source, the living creative impulse of Universal Consciousness. The teachings of your life situation and the following of that feeling of lightness and deep peace that comes from spiritually uplifting actions is YOUR path.

Life is sadhana, the spiritual journey. Spiritual practice is not something you do for an hour a day or five times a day, because every moment is equally sacred. Your entire life is your path, your sadhana. Your challenges are for your strengthening and purification, your happiness grows your love and connection to peace. Nothing goes unseen, there is no exception to that, everything counts.
We have to walk our own path, and no amount of clinging or fear can change that! So let all forms go, surrender to the ocean current and just become awareness and kindness in every moment. We must each witness the Indescribable, the sublimity and elegant intricacy of the fabric of life, with our own heart.

Great Family Storytelling Event- fun for St. Patrick's day!

Told by professional storyteller Marni Gillard...

THIS Saturday, March 12, 2 p.m.
Troy Public Library
2nd Street (one way) and Congress St. (by Russell Sage)

We’ll travel with a young Finn McCool into his destiny.

We’ll tip our hats to Molly Malone in Dublin and see what her song/tale has to tell us today.

For sure we’ll meet up with Brigit who had a thing or two to teach her rich landlord.

We may help the Dagda retrieve his magic harp or watch the Children of Lir turn into swans
(with grand appreciation to my friend Bairbre McCarthy for help on these wonderful old tales).

All ages welcome. 

Sunday, March 6, 2011

'If' Nothing, Reality Is Here and Now-stop dragging around that heavy hypothetical reality and just live in the fullness of your life

The human experience is a funny thing. We hail ourselves as the pinacle of nature's achievements because of our minds and our ability to create (and destroy). Yet, our mind is the very thing that causes our suffering in life.
Suffering is a mental state. Pain, discomfort, illness and death are part of the life cycle. However, suffering is optional. To suffer is to resist reality, to insist that reality should be somehow different then it is. Should it? We cannot understand the full intricacy of each moment in the universe. Each moment, infinite beings and environments are interacting. Birth, death, sleep, work, light, dark, joy, misery.. all manner of movement and flow, all energy dancing in each moment throughout the entire universe. So who are we to decide how things are "supposed to be" in any given moment?
Most of us are not in touch with the present moment reality very much as it is. We spend so much time in our minds reviewing the past, playing future scenarios or lost in an inner dialogue that is not at all beneficial or useful. Most of our thinking is not functional or beneficial and only serves to distract us from the fullness of the present moment. We live in our minds, tainting reality with our subjective spinning almost constantly. The reality we percieve "out there" is highly molded by the subjective "reality" in our minds. What we think we see is not neccessarily the actual reality. Living with this constant distorted perception of reality is what leads to human suffering on all levels.
We can change this. By practicing mindfullness and meditation we can slowly achieve a high of clarity, of objectivity in our perception. The more regularly we practice, the more we develop our ability to shine the light of bare, nonsubjectively attention into each moment.
Once we achieve some presence we begin to find our heart-guru, the "voice" that guides us to find greater and greater freedom, peace and wholeness in life. Once we gain insights and develop more attunement to the flow of life, we recognize how far we've come in our awareness. We may become aware of how certain situations came to be- choices, ending of relationships, sickness, negativity, unused opportunities.
At this level of awareness it is easy to get stuck, to get dragged once again into the darkness of subjectivity, chained around the neck to one heavy word- "if". We start to waste our precious present moments lost in our minds again, thinking "what if I knew then what I know now", "what if I took advantage of that opportunity I had then" or similar past-oriented hypotheticals.
It is really easy to get sucked into alternative pasts. They draw you into curiosity-driven cyclic thoughts, and usually drain your energy. They take you out of reality, which is unfolding here and now. Like any other non-essential thinking, ruminating "what ifs" put you into a trance, a zombie-like state.
What we need to learn from the past will come to us in the moment when we need it. We can cut that heavy chain that shackles us to replaying past experiences, especially the chain to our "what ifs". What if nothing! It didn't happen that way, so drop it! Let it go! Die to the past, as Rumi says. Get on with accepting this moment fully. Be aware and present here and now and you won't miss opportunities that create future regrets. Be fully honest, navigating by the heart, not your head, because that is the best way to avoid missing opportunities. Don't rationalize yourself out of living.
Whenever you have non-useful thoughts, you can take a deep breath and return to mindfulness. Some use mantra repetition to block unneccesary thinking. Steer your focus out of your head and into feeling the sensations in your body, and into really seeing the world around you. Whenever you think the past, or the present, should be any different then it is in this very moment, let that trigger you to practice mindfulness.
To get past that point on the path, the practice of surrender and acceptance are the cure. Practice letting go of your resistance or opposition to your present experience. Accept it as it is. Then you can follow your heart. Most frustrating situations dissolve when we release our resistance. Other situations become nothing more then a change in plans or some extra chores. Some situations become a call to peaceful advocacy, boycotting or peaceful resistence. Rise to each opportunity you experience fully, navigating by the heart. In this way you come into alignment with your deeper self. You free yourself from future regrets, and living fully in the moment, you transcend the past. You can live here and now fully believing that everything unfolds for your spiritual growth and highest good, and fully accept reality as it is. Living fully in the moment liberates us to reach our greatest potential and to find unshakable joy and peace within.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Natural Yoga creative projects

Guided practice CD's, a Natural Yoga book, a complete Natural Yoga DVD, and children's books...

All of these ideas may or may not come to fruition, depending on the flow of life, but your feedback is appreciated and influences the creative process.

GUIDED PRACTICE CD'S: these are in progress as we speak, and I'd like to have these completed by mid-Summer. There will be three- gentle, vigorous, and a CD of both gentle and vigorous short practices for mornings and evenings.

NATURAL YOGA LIVING PRACTICE BOOK: this is something I've thought about for years, and I think I am pretty likely to start working on it over the next couple years. I want create a book that offers ways to live your sadhana (spiritual practice) and still be in the everyday world. I want this to be a field guide to living mind, body, spirit health.

THE COMPLETE NATURAL YOGA DVD: I have already touched-base with a local company that will do this project with us. However, this is a longer-term project that will be embraced a few years down the road. I envision it as a very high-end set, including information, special features, multiple meditations and every level of practice from gentle to vigorous. I'd like to include or do as a seperate DVD family practices, from newborn to toddler, and up to age ten. I want the natural yoga DVD to be the only DVD you'd need, lots of information, variety and depth...

CHILDREN'S BOOKS: this is another longer-term project, to be completed in the next five to eight years. I'd like to write and illustrate children's books about yogic topics for those, like myself, who are raising their kids "yoga". Topics would be things like ahimsa (vow of non-harm), oneness and respect for all life, Spirit in all, the way our food connects us to the universe, mindfulness, serving others and so on. They would be universal and open, designed for families that want to raise open minded children, world citizens concerned about honoring all life, spiritual people not forced into any one religion.