Wednesday, June 29, 2011

108 Days of Meditation. Day 2

Already I noticed my sleep is deeper, fewer dreams, and when I do dream it seems more lucid and spiritually oriented. It is too soon to say but my waking consciousness seems a little clearer as well.

I have heard many times that meditating at night (versus during dawn, daylight or dusk) challenges the fears one has stored in the ego. I am bold, comfortable and at ease any other time, but have always felt uneasy at night. The fears are usually directed at nothing in particular and are usually active only when I am completely alone. Fear comes from the ego, it is a form of ignorance.

I originally didn't think of this possibility, but I am excited and solidly going to witness and become free of this aspect of egoic fears. I am embracing this practice with determination. I am feeling safer and safer just in making this determination.

I try to continue the practice of mindfulness throughout my days, but I feel a deep strength and joy arising in this experiment and I positively anticipate my meditation session when it comes into my awareness.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

108 Days of Meditation~ Are You In?

I'm challenging myself to 108 days in a row of meditating before bed for at least 20 minutes. Would you like to join me for this transformative challenge?

I have kept my sadhana active since 2005 when I undertook my yoga teacher training at a Sivananada Ashram in the Bahamas. My sadhana has taken many forms- asanas regularly, mindfulness meditations, lots of reading and study in classic texts and books by others on the path, but I haven't had much of a sitting practice for quite a while. I have the "best" or most naturally focused meditation experiences after thorough asana practice or in nature, but my life situation doesn't allow me to practice like that outside of practicing with my student-friends. So I decided to commit to a sitting meditation practice for 108 days. Please commit with me!

You can use mantra, breath-awareness or any techniques you enjoy. I'm beginning with open awareness, just witnessing all as it is without judgement. I may switch techniques, but will do 20 minutes or more of meditation each evening for this next 108 days. I am starting tonight, June 28th, but you can start anytime. My 108 days will end after October 14th, just after the 5th anniversary of our yoga studio (Oct. 2nd). I am meditating in bed, but you can maybe meditate on your porch or in a special space in your bedroom or other quiet space.

I will share how it is coming along. Feel free to post here or on our Enlighten Facebook fanpage, letting us know how your practice is coming along.

I cannot take a retreat at this time in my life because of family commitments, but I feel that deepening my practice will give the needed catalyst to come to the next level of awareness. This is the way. I started practicing two days ago, but yesterday I barely meditated, because I just witnessed my ego throwing all the tricks at me. I just witnessed it, let it have a little run and said, last time! So don't let boredom, fatigue, feeling antsy or other tricks of the ego fool you. Ram Dass often says that the ego pulls those tricks out because it doesn't like to let itself be ordered by meditation, it creates resistance because it wants to be in control. I'm not letting my accumulated subconscious conditioning and habits rule my mind anymore! This is a peaceful coup! Join me! 108 days, we can do it! It will be glorious, every night unique, vacation, camping, home, work night, party night, lets witness it all!

Enough! Time to start! Namaste!

Overcoming Obstacles On the Path

Whatever you see the path as, a way to a healthier lifestyle, a way to more peace and happiness or a spiritual path, the ego gets in the way. This isn't the same entirely as what we normally think of as ego, it's much more subtle then that. It is getting caught in our emotions and the impulses of our mind and body as being all there is to us, forgetting that there is a deeper part to us that witnesses all of those constantly changing factors.

The ego is the part of us that is so resistant to change, so determined to not do what we know we truly want and need to do to be our best possible Self.

As I am restarting a home meditation practice, after years of mindfulness, yoga asana and other meditation practices, I am witnessing my ego throwing every trick at me. Anxious antsy boredom, fatigue, constant roving and distracted eyes... Ram Dass says that the ego pulls out those tricks right when we are about to come to a deeper state of meditation or awareness. So I smile to my silly ego, as it worries and tries to resist transformation. Its afraid of non-existence being revealed in the unknown beyond. I'm not concerned with any of that, I trust in the deeper state of my own consciousness that I'm ready to know.

Just smile to those tricks. You have time for anything that you truly need and want. You have to want it. Enlightenment or transformation won't come find you if you are too busy resisting, or pampering your resistant ego. You have to show up to be marked present. Continue on! Don't give in! Fearless! You have to really want that freedom and peace to go claim it! Namaste!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Fierce Like Kali, Gentle Like a Loving Mother with Her Newborn

To reach the goal, to climb the Mt. Everest of consciouness to enlightenment, we need to be simaltaneously fierce and relentless, tempered with gentle-loving patience.
We have to accept fully what is in each moment, but always strive.

We have to be a ferrocious warrior-destroyer like Kali Ma. We have to be tender and calmly present with unconditional loving-acceptance like a mother with her only baby. We have to be consistant but know how to take care of the body and mind so that they may be pushed to the edge, but do not break.

Be like Mother Nature- raw, unconditional acceptance, always strong with such power. If you want enlightenment, you're going to have to work for it. If you want to make it, you can fight reality and you can fight yourself. Your body-mind are the vehicles through which you make the journey to pure consciousness, so treat them well, discipline them, make them strong. They'll get you there if you find the balance.

Egoic Avoidance and Time to Move On

The ego has a strong set of defense mechanisms. It is the part of us that back-paddles, self-sabotages, stalls, over-questions and throws enough excuses and doubt in the way so that we don't take the risk to try, to begin, to continue, to overcome + go beyond.

In the beginning, the ego gets in the way of our starting a program of yoga and meditation, throwing enough excuses in the way to keep us distracted. "Oh, I have too much other stuff to do. Meditation is not important enough to prioritize!" Do you really feel that way? Do you really not want to practice something that can so naturally and drastically improve not only the health of your mind and body, but also help you continuously increase your inner peace? Is it not worth what you can give, 30, 60, 90 minutes a day to become more imaginative, efficient, healthy, patient and compassionate?

Once we are on the yogic path, subtler forms of avoidance maifest as the ego feels threatened. The selfish part of us withers in the light of mindfulness, opening us to greater and greater freedom and love. Now we may have even come very far in our practice, our mindfulness and our lifestyle towards harmony with Reality. But the ego can get us stuck as long as it is still around.

Reading the words of saints, other yogis and holy books is considered important on the path to help inspire and teach us. But as many masters have said theory (which we obtain from lectures or studying books) is only a small part of the journey. An ounce of practice is like a pound of theory. The journey is 1% theory, 99% practice. There comes a point when even reading holy books is just a crutch, a form of attachment, avoidance of really going within.

Just start. No more excuses. Start living from your heart-center. Start practicing meditation and yoga postures, or other meditative practices that light your inner fire. Throw away the crutches when you are ready, you'll know when. You'll be squirming, dying to dance. Don't let your ego hold you back. Don't listen to it's excuses anymore. You can make time for whatever you really think is most important in your life. Do it, and don't let the ego's tricks convince you to stop- boredom, anxiousness, its all just crocodile tears, because your small self is afraid to dissolve into the higher Self that you really are. That's too bad, because you know that you are capable of so much more, you ARE so much more. No excuses. Accept nothing short of sat-chid-ananda for the sake of all.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Letting attachment go, letting them let you go

In the beginning of serious sadhana it often feels like one has to emulate what a yogi is "supposed" to do, and to some extent that is necessary. It is part of the initial purification process and paves the way for the journey to really begin.

But it is often the ego that gets some sort of rise out of "looking pure" or "acting austere". The real process unfolds as one is dedicated to practicing daily. As the consciousness is transformed, old habits lose their fulfillment. They just don't seem as good as they used to be.

Once you clean up your eating for a while, eating the old junk "treats" is not nearly as satisfying or exciting as it once was. The person that used to enjoy those habits is gone now. An important part of the path is dissolving any idea of who we are by definition of ego and attachments, such as things we like or dislike. As the path progresses it all changes faster then the weather near the Arctic Circle (pretty rapidly). Likes, dislikes, interests, etc, even the form of sadhana changes. All that stuff is constantly evolving like the consciousness. To define your sense of who you are by it is to get attached, get stuck.

As the consciousness unfolds, new choices begining to draw and old habits and choices fall away, effortlessly, like leaves from the trees in Autumn. Let them fall!

When the time is right, with consistent sadhana, habits will quit you naturally, like it or not. Don't fight it.
Encouraging healthy choices is important and takes self-control. It is part of the process of getting pure, the first steps of embarking on sadhana. However, we don't always need to struggle that hard. Isn't that to which we aspire to attain the truest effortless, intuitive harmony with the will of the Universe Itself?

Try letting the more subtle attachments finish with you in their own time.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

What's really stopping you from fulfilling your intentions + potential?

As humans with human minds, the ego as it's referred to in yoga, we constantly look externally for satisfaction, for excuses, for the cause of our circumstances. Because of the weather, because of work, because of time, because of money... That's why I don't do what I otherwise intend to do. That's why I don't quit smoking, or practice daily meditation or exercise, or eat healthier or whatever else I "know I should be doing".
All of these excuses are never the main reason we don't fulfill our intentions of transforming our health and awareness. It's the part of us that makes the excuses, the ego (not all the same as the English concept of "egotistical" but just the individual identity that we wrap ourselves in like a prison), that is afraid to transform. The ego feels threatened by change. It is the part of us that sabotages our plans of positive growth. It's the part of us that would rather stay the same, even if it means suffering, because it is familiar. Beyond the familiar is unknown, and to the ego, the unknown is too frightening to be risked.

Set intentions carefully, making changes one at a time and adjusting for a time befre making new changes. One month after reinforcing your positive change daily you will feel more acustomed and comfortable. After two months you will have built momentum, but still, strong intention and guarding against the habit-energy of the ego is crucial. This is especially the case for new habits like meditation that are highly transformative. This threatens the ego's view of itself, because who you are will change, but only for the better, so there is no need to fear. Do not give in to the ego when it goes against your spiritual-heart. Control your mind, don't let it control you. This is what is referred to in the Bible by "deny thy self". It could be written as maintain self-control.

Life doesn't have to be miserably austere, but if we apply the self-control to transform ugly habits that make us suffer, and introduce new habits that allow us to soar we will become activated, inspired, fulfilled on the deeper level. It will give us greater health, inner peace and bliss. What is there to be afraid of?

By using our will power to transform and create new habits that are in line with our deepest well-being and intentions, we develop integrity. This integrity is a form of honesty with ourselves. It is in place when we live up to the urges of the spiritual-heart, which always knows what is best for us. If we can get past the ego, the small or false self, we are free to live in harmony with the Self, the deepest essence of our being. If we are in harmony with the Self, we have boundless joy, fulfillment and luminous peace.

So, what is there to fear?

"And then the day came when the pain of staying the same became greater then the fear of opening up"
~Anais Nin (paraphrased)

Friday, June 10, 2011

My Guru

I am definately a bhakti-yogini. I am a lover in the Rumi sense of the word. Bhakti yoga at its core is finding wholeness, union, Yoga, by dissolving the ego (false-self) in the ocean of love that is the Cosmic Self, (the Universe, God, the Infinite, the Nature of Being- many names for one Source). This realization of the oneness of being is also called Self-realization, or enlightenment.

Glimpses of my bhakti-yogini nature foreshadowing this realization came in many forms. Of course, I believe, every child is a yogi-scientist-artist-explorer, nature and animal lover at heart. I used to extend my sphere of compassion to the many animals I tried to form a close bond with, innocently catching 'pets' that I wanted to so badly to love + care for- ants, grasshoppers, frogs, dragonflies, "leroys + beebles", (aquatic larvae and diver beetles), crayfish, and more, plus my domestic cats, gerbils, mice and hamsters. When I was young I even extended my sphere of concern to my stuffed animals, feeling worried that they would be saddened if I didn't pay equal attention to them. These things adults think are children's folly are the world of lovers, we know that sat-chid-ananda is the fabric of the universe, toys + 'real' beings alike.

I remember feeling the inauthenticity of having to decide "what to be" when I grew up, and I asked why being a good person wasn't enough to be.

I played outside as long as I was allowed. Nature was my playground. When I was inside, I most enjoyed learning about nature, the earth and the world cultures. Science and global studies were my favorites, along with art. To create was my passion.

Now, with an ever clarifying awareness, I see all these glimpses as obvious indications of my path. A yogini all along, a lover of Life Itself, but who is my guru?

In Ram Dass' description, the guru is the fully-realized or enlightened person that loves you unconditionally, whose prescence gives the instant experience of the love-bath that is sat-chid-ananda. The guru is one with Life fully, and gives the student unconditional love and exctly the right cues at the right time to facilitate awakening and the spiritual path. The guru helps burn the ego or small self to reveal the Self within. The guru is the reflection of the Self, in the mirror of one particular body.
I have no guru in this sense. Perhaps on pilgrimage to India in the future I will meet such a being. Maybe I will meet such a being here in America, but right now, I don't think so. My guru is the Guru reflected in all beings and especially in the natural world. My guru is the Guru. Life 'talks' to me when I ask it to clearly, honestly and with pure intention. If I ask for a certain sign in that way, I can't remember a time when it has not been given.
I have had and still have many influences and teachers. I began my yoga journey at the Sivananda Ashram in the Bahamas. I have done a great deal of self-study and Self study (actual practice). On the path they say that an ounce of practice is worth a pound of theory. K. Patabhi Jois said yoga is 1% theory and 99% practice. I have practiced with Shiva Rea. I resonated so well with Shiva's teachings that I consider her my primary teacher. I have been inspired by Jivamukti Yoga and will practice with its founders this August as well.

Thus far, Shiva Rea is the closest to a guru in human form that I have found. She inspires me and sparks an expansion of my awareness. She is "me in the future" in that when I touch base with her (through a dvd, a workshop, a blurb on her website) I often hear her articulate so clearly and with such knowing from experience something that I am just coming close to consciously experiencing. What is just busting out of the seed in me is fully blossomed and has given fruit and shared many seeds in Shiva. She is genuine and definately connected to what is the Source of life. I feel a great love in me for Shiva and her work. Much of what she does is so beautiful and resonates so well with me that it could be my own. I do adore her very much. However, Shiva Rea is world-renowned and is very busy. She hasn't the time to spend personally with all of her students. A guru doesn't need to spend a lot of time with the student, but I imagine a more personal connection both ways- for guru to know student too.
Will I ever find a guru in human form? I do long for a guru, at times quite passionately. Will Sharon Gannon or David Life be the guru of my dreams? Is Shiva my guru, will I get to understand that as the truth?
Will I meet a guru here in America or in the future in India? I cannot know now. But I do know that the more I practice, everyday I experience a small micrometer of expansion in my consciousness. And I feel that expansion, that warm immersion in the love-bath of being-bliss-wisdom when I am actually present in nature. Maybe I long for the guru to come in human form because that is the only way I have ever experienced loving-closeness, and because of the lack of really deep closeness I have had with much of my family. When I ask the Universe with genuine love and presence, It answers, and I do feel loved. The more aware I am, the more love I feel. And the more unconditional love I can allow to shine through me onto others, the more loved I feel.

So as far as I know, my guru is Nature. The Universe, Life Itself. That's what most people refer to as God. I kind of like the name Guru myself.

When I grow up, I aspire to be a guru. I want to be so illumined that the unconditional love that is the undercurrent of life itself flows through me into the world. I want to BECOME the love of the Guru. I want to shine that light on all beings, on all objects, to make the sacred universe aware of itself. I want to live my life as my message, as Mahatma Gandhi said and did. I want to live my life in perfect peace and perfect non-harm, living as a giving to the peace, happiness and freedom from suffering of all beings. I want to dissolve my small-self-ego in the ocean of unconditional-love-bliss-wisdom and just be That. May I become worthy of the title guru when the time is right and may I be that which the enables the Universe to unfold at Its own will (may I uphold the dharma, meaning that natural, balanced flow of all things 'as they are meant to be'). May my life enhance the peace-joy-love-freedom-nourishment of all beings, including the earth and entire Universe Itself. That is my greatest wish and desire.

When I am unified in love-consciouness, and you are unified in love-consciousness, we are one. In essence, we are all One, all is One. This is the meaning of Namaste.

What type of Yoga-path do you practice? Do you have a guru story? What teachers inspire you? Om, shanti, namaste!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

This-moment-asana (pose): a way to be mindful

A trick I have found to be more present and incorporate the some of the same benefits of asana practice when you absolutely can't practice is to think of the body position in each moment as an asana (yoga pose) and use the same motions through the body. So it may be holding-the-toddler-up-to-play-with-the-light-switch pose, or doing-the-dishes pose or just-walking-down-the-street pose, but its all asanas to me! (No, I don't label every action that way, although once in a while I may, smiling to myself- can't be too serious!)

To practice this way, as soon as you are aware of a lack of integrity or some slouching in the body, begin with the foundation, the feet. Push through the feet firmly but gently, and feel the counter-current that helps you to engage navel toward spine comfortably and open the heart up + out through the shoulders. Feet, navel, chest... Foundation first. That is mainly it.

Once you create that kind of structural integrity, notice the difference and notice the breath. Then the rest is just being alive and enjoying it... Mindfulness indeed.

Gorgeous hair, good for the earth, cheap, super simple eco-shampoo + conditioner

Eco-Friendly Shampoo and Conditioner
care of
I seem to be on a body-care roll these days. Perhaps it’s the cold weather, keeping me inside and giving me time to think about all the ways in which my daily routine is still in need of an eco fine-tuning. I tend to live pretty low on the consumer scale, but I still buy commercial (all-natural) toothpaste; I still use shampoo in plastic bottles (though I buy as local, handmade, toxin-free as possible); I still buy commercially-made soap (Dr. Bronner’s – but I could make my own, or buy more locally if I really tried). So the other day, when my friend sent me a link to a mom-blogger who posted her homemade, non-toxic, eco-friendly shampoo and conditioner routine to her site, I thought, okay, I should really try this.

I was definitely (still am) thrown off a little by the caveat, “You might have a transition period that lasts from a few weeks to a few months, where your hair reacts with excess oil to the lack of shampoo.” Now, my hair is naturally fine, naturally prone to being oily, and naturally my least favorite feature, so when someone tells me it’s going to look worse than it usually does, I take pause. But this week, I’ve washed and conditioned it with six different shampoo and conditioner combinations (due to construction at my house, I had no hot water this week, so vagabonded my way through showering at other people’s houses), all resulting in less and less happy hair. In fact, resulting in very oily hair. Which led me to realize that if I was going to suffer through oily hair, it might as well be while working towards the gorgeous results I hope to find in homemade shampooing and conditioning.

Here is her basic homemade shampoo and conditioner recipe (I would quote her by name, if I could find her bio anywhere on the blog site, but all I know of her, besides her beautiful hair, is her byline name of TSH), and I encourage you to read her whole post as it explains a bit about why commercial shampoo is damaging to both you and the environment and gives a nice personal story to go along with the recipe below:

1 TBS baking soda
1 C water

Note: “Those with curly or thicker hair might need a bit more baking soda, and those with thin or fine hair might need less. Experiment, and see what works for you. I use a simple 8-ounce squeeze bottle, pour in a tablespoon of baking soda with a funnel, then fill up the rest with water from the kitchen sink. I give it a good shake to dissolve the baking soda, and it’s ready to be used. In the shower, I soak my hair with water, then I squeeze a bit of the baking soda mixture on my scalp, starting at the crown. I massage it in as I go, squeezing a bit more here and there, concentrating mostly on the scalp. I include my hair as well, but since most of the
 oils originate from the scalp itself, the hair will naturally get cleaned once the scalp is clarified.”

1 TBS apple cider vinegar
1 C water

Note: “For this, I use an old conditioner bottle, and fill it with the vinegar and water via funnel, then finish it with a shake. My hair tends to rest a little on the oily side naturally, so I don’t use much of this. I pour a little on just the ends of my hair, let it rest for a few seconds, then rinse it out.” [1]
I am without both baking soda and apple cider vinegar, but am clearly with oily hair that needs washing so badly, even the “I-just-got-back-from-the-yoga-studio-knot-of-hair-on-top-of-my-head look isn’t fooling anyone; and therefore am off to Whole Foods to go get myself some old-fashioned hair washing ingredients.
- Jocelyn Broyles

[1] “How To Clean Your Hair Without Shampoo” by TSH on
Headline image © Jessica Mullen

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Mahatma Gandhi quotes to light your heart

If we are to teach real peace in this world, and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with the children.

"Almost anything you do seems insignificant. It is very important that you do it. You must be the change you wish to see in the world." 

Man becomes great exactly in the degree in which he works for the welfare of his fellow-men.

My life is my message. 

A man is but the product of his thoughts what he thinks, he becomes.

The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.

There is more to life than increasing its speed.
Truth is by nature self-evident. As soon as you remove the cobwebs of ignorance that surround it, it shines clear.

As human beings, our 
greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world - that is the myth of the atomic age - as in being able to remake ourselves.

Before the throne of the Almighty, man will be judged not by his acts but by his intentions. For God alone reads our hearts.

Each one has to find his peace from within. And peace to be real must be unaffected by outside circumstances.

Faith is not something to grasp, it is a state to grow into. Faith... must be enforced by reason... when faith becomes blind it dies.
Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.

God, as Truth, has been for me a treasure beyond price. May He be so to every one of us.

I am prepared to die, but there is no cause for which I am prepared to kill.

I claim to be a simple individual liable to err like any other fellow mortal. I own, however, that I have humility enough to confess my errors and to retrace my steps.

I do all the evil I can before I learn to shun it? Is it not enough to know the evil to shun it? If not, we should be sincere enough to admit that we love evil too well to give it up.
Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.

Namaste, pranams Gandhi-ji. You are such an inspiration to so many, a beautiful example of  rising to the Truth in every moment. Om shanti. ~laura H


Friday, June 3, 2011

Are you still wiping your ass with virgin forests?

Are you using toilet paper with 100% recycled paper content? Or are you still using that plush extra-soft toilet paper?

Do you realize that those 'cushiony soft' papers come from virgin trees, many taken from irreplaceable old-growth wilderness? That means every time you buy toilet paper you are supporting the cutting of precious trees, you are taking home trees. In this time when our environment is exploited and considered nothing more then a source for raw materials, this is the ultimate insult! We are wasting our precious environment and endangering ourselves and all future life on earth for temporary, instant material gain, in this case slightly softer toilet paper.

Trees are the 'lungs' of the earth. Deforestation is a crucial issue and an incredibly dangerous obsession of modern industry. All over the world forests are being slashed and burned for irresponsible agriculture. Even when trees are replanted in logging, it takes minutes to kill a tree, but hundreds of years to grow to full-size. Trees are absorb and hold carbon-dioxide, but when we cut them down, all of the carbon-dioxide absorbed is released back into the atmosphere. This wanton and ill-planned tree killing has to be checked, it needs to stop. Better, more sustainable farming techniques need to be implemented and people need to start using alternative fibers for paper products, including recycled paper.

If this is the first time you are realizing how wrong and selfish it is for humans to kill trees and destroy forest ecosystems for TP, then I implore you to make the right choice from now on and use only 100% recycled paper toilet tissue. If you are balking and defending the softer toilet paper and fully intend on continuing to buy it, you need to recheck your priorities. Does the texture of what you wipe on your ass mean more then clean air for future generations? Is that the legacy you want to be part of- selfish fools who create pain and suffering for all others and the yet unborn generations? People who thought life was about material consumption, that the only measure of what is right is what one can monetarily afford? We cannot afford to think this way as a species. We need to evolve if we want to prevent lots of suffering for ourselves and others.

Marcal's Small Steps 2-ply (they make a 1-ply, but I think 2-ply is actually more efficient and much softer) is available at the local grocery store, is 100% recycled, and is very affordable. If its not soft enough for you and you think that you "need" the plusher paper, you should eat more whole grains. If you eat a high fiber diet you'll be pleasantly surprized- you'll be more regular and you'll be neater too, less wiping required.

The well-being of the earth should come before personal taste at all times, considering that we ALL depend on her well-being for our survival.