Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Personal + Global Sustainability

Most of us realize that our lifestyle has to change. Be it too hectic or chaotic, too rushed and auto-piloted, many of us need to upgrade to a streamlined, more conscious lifestyle.

Along with that, we ALL need to immediately and continuously work on becoming truly light on the earth. We have to recognize that change won't and shouldn't have to come from the government first- we have to initiate and work through a peaceful revolution at the grassroots level.

We have to MAKE the time to stop, and truly notice every action we perform, from purchases to daily chores to what we choose to include in our lives, and how we do it all. Can we just use a little less of everything? Can we all eat more home cooked meals and home-packed lunches, and less take out? Can we shut off the TV and rediscover the joy of winding down with a book before bed, or reading and family cuddling?

It isn't just environmental sustainability we are talking about. The same changes required to eliminate the 80% of our carbon footprint by 2020 are the same kinds of changes that bring us back to a more deliberate and savored pace of life. Moving towards sustainability isn't about deprivation, even though using less of more things is a universal and crucial step. It enriches our lives because it is a process of looking at what we truly need to be healthy and happy. Slowly we come to see that the basic neccessities of food, water, air, clothing and shelter are followed closely by time with friends and loved ones. We can live without many things, and live a higher quality of life without them at that- cigarettes, alcohol, TV and fast food are some examples. But the unconditional love that we give and receive, we soon find, sustains us in a way that is somehow completely neccessary too.

Bringing your life home to its center, living in the light of the meaning of life in your eyes, creates a deeper peace that is less shaken by material circumstances. The zen of daily chores done joyfully can manifest a natural ring of unhurried strength throughout the day. Living connected to the present moment is an important skill used to develop personal quality of life and balance it with environmental stewardship. With this dual integrity to our actions, we find greater peace, solidity and freedom- we are free from guilt or regret.

"In our every deliberation, we should take into account the effects of our actions on the next seven generations." -from the Great Law of the Iroquois Confederacy

It is a process that begins small and day by day, and drop by drop it gathers momentum and becomes a peaceful, personal revolution. We cannot force it so quickly that we are miserable, but we need to get started immediately and try to stretch our comfort zone just a touch everyday.

May your mindfulness grow fast and may you find incredible satisfaction on your path to true sustainability!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Our legacy

Hands in the earth, one afternoon the thought occurred to me, what is our legacy? What part of us lives on, where is our "immortality" in the physical world?

Well, everything is impermanent, so we should recognize and be okay with the fact that our memory will fade someday. But our influence lives on. Our children, our friends carry the memory of us with them. In a few generations, our memory will be gone too.

What we do to the earth, our landscape and our environment has the potential to be an even longer-lived manifestation of our life's influence. How we landscape, how we treat the soil has lasting impact. Cutting down trees changes everything, we should consider that we could be taking a 100-200 year old's life with our saw's blade. What we build outlives us. How we build outlives us.

The Great Law of The Iroquois Confederacy says, "that in every deliberation, the impact of our actions on the next seven generations should be considered."

I try to uphold the integrity of that statement. I have much room for improvement, but slowly over the last 10 or so years I come leaps and bounds toward sustainability, and we do a decent job I feel. We all must begin now, not be paralyzed to never start out of fear for change. No single action has brought me closer to inner peace, happiness, family, community, honesty, mindfulness and nature itself then the personal journey for sustainability.


Lie down in the green grass...

These few lines of the Tom Waits song "Green Grass" ring in my mind, especially as I walk my son through the local park. If I interpret them correctly, they are positively Yogic, they sound to me like they could just as likely come from Rumi's mouth...

"Clear the thistles and brambles,

whisper dinty rambles.

Lie down in the green grass,

remember when you loved me.

Stand in the shade of me,

things are now made of me.

And the weather vane will say,

smells like rain today.

God took the stars and he tossed 'em,

can't tell the bird from the blossom.

Lie down in the green grass,

and remember when you loved me."

~Tom Waits

I think it's a beautiful and relavent idea. Let's lie down in the green grass, let's just breathe. Let's remember our love of life, our gratitude, by being present. Get drunk on sky, watch the clouds undulate above. Remember to let go of the thinking, let it disappear on the wind. Let yourself disappear on the wind. Let it all pass through and just be the serene witness that witnesses it all without shape, form or prejudice. Just be the Divine Breath that breathes it all.

How can we not question the meaning of life when we think it is all about material gain and appearances? Isn't it, if anything, about the quality of our experience? The depth? The ability to feel unshakable peace within? To give and receive unattached, unselfish, unconditional love? Isn't our true wealth our health? Isn't the greatest gift just being with loved ones, really being present together? This is all within our grasp right here and now- and it begins with one mindful breath.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

What exactly do you mean by spiritual?

Ask 50 people what spiritual means, and you may get 50 definitions. Yet, so many diverse people agree that yoga is spiritual. Yoga is not religious, but can combine with any religion as one wishes. Yoga is a universal, scientific tool for expanding the consciousness, and along the way realizing highest well-being of mind and body as well.

Personally, I feel directly the spiritual nature of yoga. What I mean by spiritual is 'pertaining to the deeper level of life, the profundity, sublimity, and deep appreciation of the awe-inspiring intricate interconnection of all life and actions'. To me, spirituality is about attentiveness, seeing reality as clearly as possible. In the process of seeing, we feel connectedness, we recognize ourselves in others. Separation dissolves. Spirituality is an appreciation for the inherent value of each moment and each life, part of the whole.

The Ebb + Flow of Consciousness

Some days, the mind is naturally clear and we feel very refreshed and present. Some days it seems like it is impossible to get out of the endless stream of subjective thoughts. It can be frustrating. Remember this, there was a time when you weren't even aware that your consciousness was absorbed only in your thinking. You are far ahead of that place now.

Judging ourselves for not being present is still not being present! So smile to yourself, stop over-analyzing (still thinking!!) and break it down to the basics. Come back to the breath. Feel the breath. Witness the breath in each moment.

In fact, witnessing is all we need to do to be mindful, which includes witnessing the thinking, as well as the physical, emotional, and environmental sensations/experiences in each moment.  Accept what you find. Trust in the process. Let your consciousness expand naturally. We cannot intellectually force enlightenment. There is no peace in bitter force.

Every moment in presence, we expand our consciousness. Let the ebbs and flows happen, watch them, witness yourself becoming whole, drop by drop.

You Should Know: GMO's

The Audacity of Genetically Modified Foods

"Does it bother you that we consumers are largely unaware that 70 percent to 80 percent of the [non-organic] processed foods we buy contain GM ingredients? We are 'largely unaware' because these foods are not labeled - even though 90 percent of Americans want them labeled and think that we have the right to know what is in our food. The biotech industry fights labeling viciously because they know that, if GM foods were labeled, many would refuse to buy them as is the case in Europe."

- "The Audacity of Genetically Modified Foods," Bruce Robinson, May 8, 2011


We are truly living in a precarious time in regards to food. We have never been more ignorant, more hoodwinked and more harmed by any major industry as we are by industrial agriculture. We need to know the truth about our food. Please read on and research more. Stand up and speak out if you don't think its right! Part of the yogic life is practicing deep honesty with ourselves and others, and yoga is a science of removing ignorance. As long as we remain ignorant, we are not in control and cannot make conscious choices for ourselves and our families. We cannot help support the sustainability of the earth and fellow human and animal life. Once our eyes are opened, we can never again be tricked so deviously.

Learn more... http://www.organicconsumers.org/

The industrial agriculture system has chocked out most small farmers and farms and replaced them with huge fossil-fuel and chemical-based factory type farms. They utilize extremely destructive methods environmentally, including widespread use of Genetically Modified plants and animals. This whole system of agriculture destroys the natural fertility of the soil by poisoning the soil eco-system with chemicals. The soil production comes via these chemicals that poison groundwater and degrade the soil further. Over time more and more chemicals are needed to grow because the soil is literally dead.

Most people fall for the deceptive labeling practices used, which include pictures happy looking animals, images of small family farms, and phrases like "natural" and "humane". None of these tricks or claims are truthful or regulated by law. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Natural agriculture, that which is truly sustainable, uses no chemicals. It utilizes age-old techniques for enriching the soil community and producing maximum crop yields. Techniques include composting, crop rotation, companion planting, encouraging beneficial organisms and other similar techniques. Humane animal raising means allowing them to have plenty of outdoor pasture, letting them eat what diet they naturally evolved to eat for optimal health, and tending to their health overall.

Industrial animal agriculture is like a horrific concentration camp for farm animals. They are fed unnatural diets, which may include animal waste and always include mostly GM corn with a heaping helping of antibiotics. They are kept in extremely dank and cramped spaces, denied proper medical care, bred to grow so fast their bodies become frail. They are beaten and tormented and largely their suffering is ignored. Their waste creates human and environmental health hazards.

Welcome to the food at your grocery store. Look into whole, organic and local-chemical-free plant based foods to boycott this egregious destruction. The sustainable, localized food system can be restored by supporting local chemical-free farms.

The most common GMO's are (non-organic) soy, corn and canola. Avoid these if you wish to avoid GMO's. Organic corn and soy are protected by organic standards, at least for now.Canola is highly contaminated by GM pollen blowing and should be avoided to be cautious.

 Learn about the food industry's deceptive, dangerous and destructive practices, especially the company Monsanto, which controls most of the crops grown in this country.


Learn more about BIODIVERSITY the antithesis of modern mainstream agriculture.

Grow your own HEIRLOOM produce, protect plants and nutrition.

Learn to COMPOST, ROTATE CROPS and avoid chemicals.

NEVER buy ROUNDUP or any MONSANTO products.

DON'T BELIEVE everything that you see on the label-- remember that their job is to make money, not nourish you or the earth or care about animal suffering. Corporations are committed to the bottom-line and that is it!

from http://www.bnet.com/blog/food-industry/forget-the-royal-wedding-prince-charles-crosses-the-pond-to-denounce-factory-farming/3039

by Michelle Warner

 Just days after the hullabaloo of his son William’s wedding, Prince Charles delivered a rousing speech on the evils of industrial agriculture in Washington this morning — instantly turning himself into a new icon in the battle over modern agriculture and its impact on the environment, human health and animal welfare.

Speaking at the Washington Post’s “Future of Food” conference, the Prince called the large-scale, non-local, chemical-intensive, oil-shackled system of food production “no longer as viable as it once appeared to be,” earning him hero status among the assembled sustainable food advocates. In a tweet, Grist’s Tom Philpott called him a “lucid big picture thinker.” (That’s one indication, at least, that Charles may have better luck with this endeavor than he did with his ill-fated critique of modern architecture).

His Royal Highness has been a champion for sustainable agriculture for many years, but this is his first major speech on the subject in the U.S. Citing his concern for future generations, Charles argued for food systems more in sync with nature:

    Soil is the foundation of world civilization, the health of nations….But soils are being depleted, demand for water is growing ever more voracious and the entire system is at the mercy of an increasingly fluctuating price of oil…In some cases, we are pushing nature’s life support systems so far they are struggling to cope with what we ask of them…If we do not work within nature’s system, then nature can not be the sustaining force she has been.

This sort of thinking — that industrial farming is ruining the environment and isn’t a good solution for feeding the developing world’s exploding population — is exactly the criticism large farm groups are gearing up to debunk. Trade groups representing the pork, chicken, beef and egg industries and the growers of corn, soy and sugar have formed the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance and are planning a PR campaign starting in July. Here’s their message:

    Consumers should realize and understand that U.S. farmers and rancher share their values and are committed to producing safe and nutritious food in a way that protects and enhances the environment, responsibly cares for animals and contributes to our larger community.

Some of those same industry groups, plus lots more, have teamed up to create another alliance — the Alliance to Feed the Future — though it’s not clear how these two groups will overlap since they’re both in the early stages.

Another presenter at the conference — Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation — argued that “the survival of the current food system depends on widespread ignorance of how it really operates.” The food industry professes to disagree. Both the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance and the Alliance to Feed the Future are based on the idea that once Americans learn the story behind their food, they’ll realize farmers are people too and that everything’s OK.

But as we’ve seen before, when the food industry decides to open up its barn doors, the picture the public gets isn’t always complete. Big Ag is smart to try and counter some of the negative publicity with heartwarming stories of third generation family farmers. But with half of all Americans admitting concerns about genetically engineered foods and 80% of moms saying they’re concerned about antibiotic use on farms, it’s going to take a lot more than slick PR campaigns to turn the tide of public opinion.

For that, the industry is going to have to adopt actual change — using a lot less antibiotics, fewer GE crops and raising animals with a humane amount of space in which to live.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

More on the secret practices of Yoga...

That which is considered secret in the Yoga tradition is everything that would be misconstrued by a lay person, misinterpreted and taken out of context. They are not kept secret for any other reason then that. They are not secret amongst those who practice seriously and deeply as a lifestyle.

Also, what is somehow amazing, is that 'secret' or advanced concepts can be offered out loud into the space of a yoga class, and only those with the appropriate level of undersanding will perceive the true meaning of the words (or really the experience that the words point to). To others, the same words will be meaningless or have a more gross (physical or simple) meaning. But in the garden of the beginner's mind the seed will be planted, and should the appropriate level of consciousness emerge, the seed and sprout and the words will show their true intended meaning through experience.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Secret Practices of Yoga

There are certain practices And experiences in the yoga tradition that are taught as being secret- they are not to be shared with others outside of the teacher/guru. Certainly, they were not to be shared with new yoga students, family members, friends or those outside of the yoga lifestyle.

The reason these are considered secret is that they are not beginning level practices. Those outside of yoga practice and those just begining will not have the advanced awareness to understand the purpose and method of these sorts of practices. They may judge these practices negatively because of their external appearance, and they may intimidate or disuede them from practicing yoga at all.

Part of the secret yoga practices, the 'inner work' is the process of slowly expanding one's consciousness to heal all wounds, let go of all attachments and understand the nature of being through experience.

The inner work is crucial for our growth spiritually. Although it makes us want to share, the inner work should mostly remain private. That way feelings aren't hurt, and drastic actions aren't taken prematurely. Much of the inner work reveals distractions, distortions and false-views very slowly so to share or act too impulsively can cause harm when the whole realization is reached.

The journey to enlightenment includes a learning from where we have been, learning to overcome temptations and to sympathize with all beings. On the way we learn how others are a reflection of ourselves and we see how we can be everything we had ever judged. We come face to face with the ego, with the obsessive natural of mind, with the chronic dissatisfaction that poses as our inner guide but is just egoic craving.

To share these deep, personal experiences with others would cause more trouble then its worth, because our awareness and experiences on the path are what provide us with insight into the nature of these experiences. Generally, our friends and family aren't likely to be able to give us the feedback we could use for growth. Brothers and sisters on the path may be able to, and certainly our guru or teacher can.

Dragging raw, unfinished experiences into the language of expression can betray the real depth and internal value. Being patient, non-judgemental and just watching the experience over time will eventually tie up all loose ends, provide understanding and leave a feeling of completion where the nagging questioning once was.

We can trust our experience and our intuition to tell us whether to share or let the lesson happen internally.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Resisting the moment by clinging to speed

Modern people take pride in how quickly they do things, or how many things they do at once. How fast can you eat, talk, work, read, build, how little can you sleep, how long can you work without a break? Faster, bigger, longer, rest is a sign of weakness- that is what society tell us.

Even some yoga styles emphasize constant movement and no stillness. We resist the peace within us but distracting ourselves with constant movement, constant thinking, constant tension. We are seldom actually present in the moment. Our patience and attention spans are shrinking.

What is the point of living like its a race to death? We rush our kids to grow up fast, then lament that they grew up too fast. We even get streesed on our vacations, and have to fill every moment of that time as well. We forget that the point of all that doing is to have time and space to relax and just be.

We get so used to the stress and adrenaline of rushing that we are addicted to it, habituated to fast-paced living. Isn't that a god thing? Not if it sacrifices quality of life- health, peace and quality time with loved ones! We even rush through relaxing, we stare at televisions that are jumping from one thing to the next constantly, we zone out instead of tuning in to the peace available only in the present moment. We can eat very fast, but if we don't taste our food and end up eating too much, if we don't chew well enough and it results in gastric upset, then what time did we save, what good was it?

Practicing mindfulness is a very important remedy to mediate this negative habit. Just by tuning in, bringing the mind and body to the same place at the same time, we begin the process of slowing down. We aren't weaker, dumber or lesser by slowing down- we become deeper, more awake, more fully conscious. We tune into a deeper level of awareness, and detect a whole different layer of meaning and information in each moment. Slowing down is savoring life, experiencing each moment expertly and with optimal attention to really get every bit of bliss and peace possible. Otherwise we'd be likely to ignore the value of most moments and dismiss them as less meaningful. In this way, so many people just disregard and throw away their life.

Slowing down by becoming mindful is like a boycott of disatisfaction in life. It is a way of honoring the inherent value of each moment and thus finding bliss and peace within it. When we have bliss and peace, there is not much left to seek. This is an invitation to stop rushing, stop resisting and just be fully alive.


How to Boycott Palm Oil and Save Orangutans + Rainforests!

by - Jocelyn Broyles care of care2.com

It came to my attention not that long ago (sometimes I’m very behind in these things) that Palm Oil is one of the world’s largest ongoing environmental disasters and the primary destructive force behind the rapid extinction of the orangutan. The good news is, each and every one of us can help put a stop to it.
In order to plant palm trees that produce oil-rich seeds, virgin rain forest in Indonesia, Sumatra and Borneo is clear cut. What remains is burned. This sounds bad at the outset, when you just think about the trees, but much worse when you think about the animals that live there, including orangutans. They are the world’s largest tee-living primate, spending 90% of their time in the branches and not on the ground. Their homes are cut down, and they are subsequently killed by hand or by fire. Hundreds of orangutans are slaughtered this way and dozens of babies orphaned each month, leaving us with a bleak 62,000 left in the world. It is estimated that they will be extinct in under 20 years at our current rate of palm oil consumption and planting. The orangutans are the biggest looser in this proposition, but many other animals are also dying from loss of habitat, fire and outright killing, including Sumatran Tigers, Sumatran Rhinos, Pygmy Elephants and Bornean Red Carnivores.
The palm oil industry presents other environmental problems including air pollution, and according to PalmOilAction.org, “This year Indonesia will be included in the Guinness Book of Records as the country which pursues the highest annual rate of deforestation. Currently an area of forest equal to 300 soccer fields is being destroyed every hour in the country.” Three hundred soccer fields every hour is a hard thing for me to get my head around, but it’s enough to make me read my ingredients before I buy.
That’s the sneaky thing about palm oil – we are often unaware it’s in our products, from cosmetics, to food to biofuel. We all heard about the two girl scouts, Madison Vorva and Rhiannon Tomtishen, who made news by asking Kellogg Company, the makers of Girl Scout Cookies, to stop using palm oil in its famous brand; and I found several great resources full of information on other products using palm oil:
Other Ingredient Names Used to Describe Palm Oil:
  • Sodium Laureth Sulphate (Can also be from coconut)
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulphates (can also be from ricinus oil)
  • Sodium dodecyl Sulphate (SDS or NaDS)
  • Palmate
  • Palm Oil Kernal
  • Palmitate
  • Palm Oil in Cosmetics
  • Elaeis Guineensis
  • Glyceryl Stearate
  • Stearic Acid
  • Chemicals containing palm oil
  • Steareth -2
  • Steareth -20
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulphate
  • Sodium lauryl sulfoacetate (coconut and/or palm)
  • Hydrated palm glycerides
  • Sodium isostearoyl lactylaye (derived from vegetable stearic acid)
  • Cetyl palmitate and octyl palmitate (and anything with palmitate at the end) [1]

Foods/Brands Using Palm Oil:
  • Balance Bar
  • Ben & Jerry’s
  • Check out our “Candy List”
  • Clif Bar
  • Enfamil Products
  • Food Crisps
  • GeniSoy
  • Girl Scout Cookies
  • Glenny’s
  • Harmony Premium Trail Mix
  • Harmony Yogurt Flavored Raisin Nut Mix
  • Jell-O No Bake Homestyle Cheese Cake Desert
  • Jewel Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Little Debbie
  • Luna Bar
  • McDonald’s
  • Mercer Vanilla Waves
  • Met-Rx
  • Milk (various products may contain Vitamin A palmitate)
  • Mrs. Fields
  • Nissin Noodles / Ramen
  • Odwalla Soy Milk
  • Pepperidge Farm
  • Power Bar
  • Quaker
  • Raspberry Danish Fine Baked Goods
  • Russell Stover
  • South Beach Diet foods
  • Soy Milk (various)
  • Sun Ridge Farms
  • Sweet’N Low
  • Sunshine Cheez-it
  • Walkers Snacks
  • Whole Foods brand pie
  • WorldWide Sport Nutrition
  • Zone Perfect [2]
Personal Care Products/Brands Containing Palm Oil:
  • Accem Scott
  • Aloette Cosmetics
  • Avon
  • Borghese
  • Bumble & Bumble
  • California Baby
  • Channoine
  • Clinique
  • Cornelia
  • Cover Girl
  • Day & Night Minerals
  • DebLynne Soaps
  • Dial
  • Dr. Bronner’s
  • Earth Therapeutics
  • Ecco Bella Botanical cosmetics
  • Genome Cosmetique
  • Herbal Essences
  • Hoffmans House of Treasure
  • Island Soap Company
  • Isomers Laboratories (makeup)
  • Jerome Alexander cosmetics
  • Juice Beauty
  • Kiss My Face Big Kiss Organic Palm Oil Soap
  • Lancome
  • La Serie (beauty products)
  • Mary Kay
  • MD Skincare
  • Mountain Country
  • Neutrogena
  • One With Nature
  • Palmer’s
  • Prai Beauty Products
  • Protameen
  • Pur Minerals
  • Regena Cell’s Anti-Aging Cream
  • Revlon
  • Sappo Hill Skin Care Products
  • Senna Cosmetics
  • Sensaria
  • Sephora
  • Skin Biology
  • Skin Scope
  • Soma Therapy products
  • South of France
  • Tasha and Co.
  • Urban Decay cosmetics
  • ZENMED [2]
More Reading On Palm Oil:
The Guilty Secrets of Palm Oil: Are You Unwittingly Contributing to the Devastation of the Rain Forests
Palm Oil: An Environmentalists Perspective
How You Can Help or Take Action:
Great Ape Trust
Centre For Orangutan Protection
Orangutan Conservancy

- Jocelyn Broyles

[1] All data on palm oil alternative names taken verbatim from PalmOilAction.org
[2] AngelFire.com
Headline image from PalmOilAction.org. “These companies have verified that all of the products displayed as at 3/4/07 contain palm oil or a palm oil derivative.”

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Subtractive Nature of Yoga

Sharon Gannon once said that we can't DO yoga, yoga is our natural state, but we can practice yoga exercises that reveal to us where we are resisting our natural state. The more we practice, the more clear this becomes.

As we practice mindfulness and re-align the body with asanas, as we continue the attentiveness in our daily life, as we eat whole plant-based foods, we cleanse our body and our energy. We lighten the weight of learned suffering, avoidance, stress, expectation. We lessen our karmic load as well, systematically learning to make choices that reflect our inherent oneness. We learn to empower and enrich ourselves and all others with our daily choices. We the more our consciousness expands, we begin to experience deeper and deeper states of inter-being, of oneness.

Many people come into yoga primarilly for the workout or the stretch, but the mental-emotional-energetic impact still effects them. When you cleanse, harmonize, and re-align your body, you optimize the flow of energy through the energy channels (nadis). For every practice you are removing debris and stagnation of energy is dissipated.

If you come into yoga seeking enlightenment or an attractive physique, you are still practicing on both levels. When you consciously embrace the wholeness of the practice you realize faster results. When you dedicate yourself to enlightenment, the other benefits fall into place effortlessly in their own time.

The wholeness to which yoga refers is not an additive wholeness, we are not getting more of something from the outside to make us complete. Rather, it is subtractive, we are removing everything that is not self, not our whole state of harmony. So when we find or tweak some small factor that releases an inspiring burst of joy and energy, and we feel "more ourselves", its not so much that we found a piece of ourselves in the external factor that we experienced, but that we released some form of blockage and became a little freer from non-self debris.

Letting-go, non-resistence (surrender) and open attention are powerful concepts and tools on this journey. Using our mindfulness, we will discover numerous opportunities to release tension, blockages, resistances, limiting mental concepts, opinions, judgements, views and other egoic elements. Pride is another manifestation of ego or false-self. We can learn to exist with the thinnest shred of ego, and be expansive, creative, inspired and free once again.

This is why they say that the seed of enlightenment is within us all, that we all have Buddha-nature. It is our natural state. It is all the heavy, oppressive false ideas and views that we carry that weigh us down, miring us in ignorance. They are like heaps of baggage, distracting us from our reality. To practice yoga and yogic lifestyle is to cast away that baggage, one piece at a time. Slowly, our innate lightness and exapansiveness is revealed.

On this journey the body is a mirror of the state of our energy. As we clear away the false-self, blockages and resistance, we clear away disease, excess weight and imbalance. Slowly, our body comes to reflect the perfect strength, flexibility and harmony that is our true self- expansive, balanced and light.

The more we practice, the more we hasten this process of revelation. Practicing asanas daily and mindfulness all day everyday creates a lifestyle of unfolding the expansive awareness that reveals the true self clearer and clearer every day.


Sunday, May 8, 2011

Enlightenment is so simple, but incredibly complex!

The ultimate goal of practicing Yoga is enlightenment. All the others accomplishments and goals happen on the way to that greater goal. Enlightenment is the realization of the oneness of being- anchoring the constant experience of unity with all life. That is serious stuff, even just to understand intellectually, let alone reach, and beyond that anchor in the distant harbor.

There is irony in that metaphor, because it is taught that enlightenment (a.k.a. Buddha nature), is within each of us at all times. We all have the potential to wake-up (Buddha means "one who has awakened") and stay awake, but for most it is a long, slow process. Yet, as the Buddha said, drop by drop the bucket is filled. Moment by moment we are slowly building our awareness. We are more fully awake.

Yoga teaches that all phenomena, although apparently seperate, are on the deepest level, part of one whole. Like cells in the body maintaining their individual identity, we are behooved and more whole once we recognize the oneness of all life. Just like life is simultaneously fragmented into the many and just one whole, realizing that is complex but in practice is simpler then it seems.

To realize enlightenment, we have to follow the Way, a lifestyle dedicated to conditioning enlightenment. The Way for each person is different, so each person much navigate by their heart-center. It can take years of yoga practice before polishing the mirror enough to begin to clearly hear the heart-center. Once there it becomes simpler, but just takes time. Slowly the challenges keep polishing the mirror, we are asked to let go of so much we never knew we were holding on to. All past hang-ups, guilts, judgments, insecurities, attachments and all of the ego is called up in front of us, we have to find the skillful way to naturally resolve and disolve each and every one. And slowly, day by day we are more awake, more present.

Being mindful, as fully as possible. Listen totally to the heart. Be absolute love and compassion for all in all ways. Surrender to reality. Then just keep it up, in the face of ALL challenges, in EVERY single moment. Let the ego dissolve and die. Empty out everything that is not the essential self, just allowing it to leave in its own time. Then, you are there. No control, no rushing, it has to happen in its own time. For most, its much slower then a snail crawls. Watch seeds germinate, or grass grow. It's slower still.

Are you up for the challenge? It's rewards are immense and better than any amount of money. All of the worldly goals happen along the way, but no object or power can compare with being one with All That Is.

In day-to-day practice it is so easy to other think it. Presence is much simpler then that- don't argue with the mind-chatter, just be the "silent witness" watching all vibrations (mental, physical, internal + external). But it still comes down to patience and persistence, because we can't escape our karma. Keep sowing positive seeds every moment and just witness yourself awakening into the cosmic mind.

Drop by drop, we awaken.

Practice all day, everyday, and it will happen!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Eating Disorders~ an inside-out yogic understanding

Eating disorders are more common then most people realize. What's more, there are more to them then most people think. It is a very complex web of experiences and karmic influences that create this very profound suffering that effects millions of people.

If people who eat when they are not actually hungry, but for psychological/emotional reasons instead, are counted as well as those who don't eat when they are hungry, then there are thousands more people affected by disordered eating then most counts reflect. We will take a look at the details of how disordered eating is not a "defect" or "being crazy", but more an ignorance to certain factors and unskillful reactions to various experiences.

It is undeniable that there is a powerful cultural bias toward thinness as a standard of beauty. And thinness, as long as its achieved and maintained naturally and without strain is very healthy. Yet, the the kind of thin depicted in magazines is rare (1-3% of the population) and even airbrushed to look thinner. It's art, not fact.

So why do we obsess over extreme thiness? We'll see many factors that cause a strong urge to avoid eating or a desire to be lighter. But the primary root that makes it so easy to obsess about lightness is the root desire- the urge to realize oneness of being, enlightenment. We all have an innate urge to be light, as a form of freedom, because light (energy) is our essence.

First, we cannot speak to this issue without addressing obesity in the West. It is not because we are a bunch of lazy slobs that so many people are becoming obese. It is true that we are less active then we used to be, but that is due in a large part to how stressed we are- stress fatigues us and makes us reticent to exercise. Yet, exercising reduces the effects of stress, but people are just waking up to that fact on a wider scale. Obesity is mainly due to some very unethical practices in the food industry.

Evolutionarily-speaking, our bodies have strong instincts to keep us alive in natural, wild circumstances. Although humans haven't been wild for around 10,000 years, the instincts of nearly a million years of evolution are very strong. In nature, we would need to eat whenever food is available, because there is no telling when we would eat next. When we eat high fat or high sugar foods, which are calorie-dense (pack more calories per bite) the satiety response is delayed, we literaly don't get the same signal to know we are full that we'd get with less dense foods. In nature, high fat or high sugar food sources are
few and far between.

Modern humans, who are far less active, have constant access to food and need less energy, still have the same response to high sugar and high fat foods. The food industry knows this. Many processed foods contain high fructose corn syrup- an unnatural sweetener that is more dense then regular sugar. High fat, high sugar foods are the bulk of what lines the shelves in the grocery stores. HFCS is in everything from soda to bread. To put it simply, the low nutrition, high calorie food offered to people sabotages their insticts, ruining their natural guide of when to eat-their appetite.

If eating whole, natural foods we can trust our appetite to tell us when to eat and when to stop. However, modern food, if it can be called that, throws off the mechanism for appetite by messing up the insulin response and creating extreme highs and lows. This creates two situations for average people eating a modern Western diet- trust your sabotaged appetite and get fat and sick, or distrust your appetite and stay thin, but also feel sick and stressed- eating disorders.

There are other factors that play into the obesity/eating disorder paradigm. One of which is stress. We live in a time when being under stress is a constant in many people's lives. That stress creates a constant hurried impulse, an inability to slow-down to a natural pace. Instinctively we crave balance, even if are addicted to imbalance. People who are addicted to the adrenaline of rushing or are constantly under duress may only slow down when they are about to collapse. Having a too-full belly is the only time when some people stop, or it sort of forces them to stop. Both the act of eating and the resulting lethargy bring them to a calmer, more present state. This is when eating is being used as a form of relaxation, and it is not a healthy situation.

So many people are overweight, and clearly it is not healthy. Not only physically, but mentally and energetically as well. Energetically/spiritually-speaking, overweight creates an oppresive heaviness that makes expanding the consciousness difficult. If we think of ourselves as primarily spirits/souls on a physical trip, we can think of the body as a physical manifestation of the soul. The heaviness of the body itself can sometimes be difficult and feel restricting to those who are very sensitive, so any non-essential weight can feel like heavy baggage.

To be aware of this and feel it is one thing, but to be unaware of this and feel it is very challenging. This has a lot to do with eating disorders- it is in a large part due to sensitive body awareness without the mental or spiritual experience or understanding to consciously realize the actual root of the suffering. The root of the suffering remains hidden, and mistaking body for whole self, the war on suffering becomes the war on the body and the war on the self.

For the sensitive, gastric upset causes a lot of bloating and pain, a sense of being huge and lots of discomfort. It can be debilitating, because every meal can set off hours of sharp pain, bloating or gas that makes one feel uncomfortable, socially and personally. Much of this stems from unmindful eating. If we chew very slowly and thoroughly, until our food is liquidy, we can avoid this kind of experience. We have to breathe deeply, and make sure that we are not rushing or feeling anxious when we eat. If we slow down to feel the breath, body and savor each bite we are on our way to better digestion and more comfort. We must also focus only on eating when we eat- not the phone or newspaper.

Until we have the awareness that the way we eat effects the way we digest and the way we feel, this can set up a very difficult cycle. If after every single meal one feels painful gassy bloating or other very negative sensations, one begins to dislike eating, associating it only with the pain that follows. Then we avoid eating, or feel full because of the bloating. Then we wait until we are overly hungry to finally eat- usually eating too fast, too much or not chewing nearly well enough, causing the problem to begin again.

In this situation we begin to distrust our appetite. We distrust that eating is healthy. We feel so puffy, tender, painfully distended all the time, that we distrust and dislike our body. This makes healthy eating very challenging. This makes happiness and self-confidence very challenging as well.

In addition, when we don't utilize proper posture we increase the normal feeling of pressure in our abdomen to nearly 200-250%. This too inhibits healthy digestion, exacerbates bloating and creates a feeling of being bigger than one actually is.

Our lack of trust in ourselves and our fear of becoming heavy can lead to obsessive calorie counting. If we eat truly healthy foods we should never need to count calories. Counting calories is not needed, and can become very frustrating and exhausting. It is like a modern disease as well, certainly it was never needed before, nor is it needed now. We can learn to eat right and trust our appetite and instincts again.

Being in constant mental, emotional and physical turmoil wears a person down and disconnects them from their Essence. Consistent suffering without the right support leads to a broken down self-image, deep feelings of inadequacy or unworthiness, and lots of frustration and confusion. There are often other factors that contribute to these negative self-views that will keep a person addicted to self-defeating or punishing life choices. These negative feelings keep a person mired in an eating disorder, be it eating too much or not nearly enough. The pain can feel safe because its familiar, change and the unknown can be very scary.

So what can we eat to begin trusting the appetite again? How can we heal such deep wounds within oneself to begin feeling worthy of nourishment and love again?

Whole, plant foods, such as whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans, vegetables and fruits, and some whole grain flours/noodles, are a very clean burning fuel. Animal foods leave unhealthy 'residues', cholesterol, plaque in the arteries, and the plaque of meat in the colon. The way the body utilizes the energy of plant and animal foods is different. Plant foods do not accumulate unhealthy stores of fat on the body, but as soon as animal products are added to the diet, excess calories are stored as unneeded body fat. Processed foods, such as white flour, regular pastas, commercial chips, breads, cereals and crackers also are a poor source of fuel. They are terrible for the energy, they aren't good for the teeth and they lead to bloating, constipation and the resulting energy crash can really adversely effect mood and self-image. Reading ,The China Study by T. Colin Campbell sheds a lot of light on the difference between plant and animal foods for fuel. If eating only plant foods, mostly whole ones, we can trust our appetite and actually eat more calories then the average omnivore, without gaining any fat at all. We will need these extra calories, because eating only plant foods speeds up the metabolism. Trying a whole-food vegan lifestyle for one month can show the difference. If one feels the actual impact, it is more profound then just hearing another's words. It certainly won't hurt to try!

Eating a whole-food, plant-based diet is crucial for ideal health, energy and longevity. Besides a change in diet, how one actually eats makes a huge difference, as was mentioned above. A relaxing environment; slow, mindful chewing; enjoy peace, the meal and those sharing it and NOT working or splitting the attention while eating are simple but very important tips to try seriously as well.

Regular practice of Yoga and meditation is another very profound and transformative experience that is highly recommended for those with any form of disordered eating. The Yoga asanas (poses) stimulate balance throughout the mind and body. The exertion and using of excess energies and the encouragement of relaxation greatly helps those that under-eat or have traditional eating disorders. The movement and encouragment of the flow of energy stimulates circulation, which help those with excess weight.

In conjunction with Yoga asanas, practicing mindfulness, or present-moment awareness, helps access deeper peace and equinimity, and provides lots of insight into the roots of suffering. It enables one to stop and make conscious choices and to see how choices and habits began, by watching experiences openly. Practicing 1 hour each day will have amazing impact on well-being, harmony and peace.

Off the mat, mindfulness can be practiced all-day everyday to continue the process of expanding consciousness. With the tool of mindfulness one can begin to witness the energies rise and fall, come and go, expand and contract without allowing them to govern the actions, thoughts and outlook. This loosens the grip of paralyzing fears, debilitating self-hatred, deep frustrations, guilts and helps to alleviate pain. We can begin to free ourselves from suffering as it occurs and we can cease to create suffering in the first place.

The work may take years, but with practice of these basic techniques, relief can begin instantly. As soon as we choose to end suffering, much of the misery disappears. Then it is a matter of renewing our determination to become free and to have peace by practicing each and everyday, without judgement. Drop by drop we can free ourselves from the habits that created so much suffering within ourselves and our world. We can begin to trust ourselves again!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Peace and health don't happen on accident...

We have to create a lifestyle that is condusive to health and inner harmony if we wish to feel wellness and wholeness. We cannot put off healthy choices, indulge in lazy avoidance or ignore our needs. It can be a challenge to make time for self-care, but without it our presence and well-being suffers, subtracting from what we have to offer others. When we hurt ourselves, we hurt the world around us.

Prioritize listening to your needs. If you have children, make sure to teach by example the importance of good self-care. That means not just taking care of the outside appearance, but eating whole, natural plant foods, drinking plenty of water (and no sodas or sugary juices), getting active everyday, having a full night's rest and practicing mindfulness and meditation.

Practicing Yoga regualary can help make the body and mind feel like a million bucks. Ignore slight cases of fatigue or resistance to practice. Come to the mat without expectations and pledge to feel everything openly. Let the energy come to you as you begin.

Practice mindfulness or seated meditation everyday. Mindfulness can be woven into everything you do. Get in touch with nature as much as possible everyday as well.,

Making a true commintment to practice regularly will not only transform your life, but the lives of those around you. If not for yourself, practice for the sake of all living beings.