Wednesday, November 30, 2011

December Teaching: Starting Fresh

 When we meditate, we are clearing the slate of our mind, habits, and views. We can come out of each session fresh and new, and
consciously choose how to act, think, be. We do not have to act in accordance with the habitual personality that we have created or fallen into. To do so (blindly
follow the habits/personality) is to let conditioned beliefs, inherited ideas, stale views and patterns that cause discontent to rule us. Whatever habits or patterns
are conscious and leave us feeling spiritually peaceful, content, loving, and generous are likely the ones we should keep. Resentment, jealousy, inadequacy, drama,
anger, and judgement are some of the patterns we should let fall away, no matter how well we can make excuses to justify them.

Every moment is a moment that we can
start fresh in. It just takes self-control to resist the hard pull of our habits. Coming out of our old comfort zone can be frightening, but nothing can be more truly
liberating. In fact, if we do not venture into new territory, starting anew every moment, we can never be liberated or live life fully. We are responsible for our own
life's bhava, or tone. Set the tone, and all will follow.  --from

Ram Dass Holiday Interview (Spirituality & Health magazine)

“Better Souls than Roles:" An Interview with Ram Dass
By Paul H. Sutherland
from Spirituality & Health magazine * November-December 2011

Ram Dass, which means “servant of God,” was born Richard Alpert into a Jewish family in Newton, Massachusetts, in 1931. He earned a PhD in psychology at Stanford and began his spiritual awakening in the early sixties, using hallucinogens at Harvard with Timothy Leary. In 1967, he traveled to India, where he met his Hindu guru, Neem Karoli Baba, whom he calls Maharaj-ji. His most famous book is the 1971 classic on meditation and yoga, Be Here Now; his latest book is Be Love Now. Recently, Spirituality & Health columnist Paul Sutherland visited Ram Dass’s home on the island of Maui and spoke about giving and the holidays.
Paul Sutherland: What meaning does Christmastime have for you?
Ram Dass: It’s a celebration, the giving of gifts on one hand and the celebration of Christ Jesus’s birth on the other. I’m Jewish, so we celebrate Hanukkah. At Christmas, we got a tree, which was a bush (laughs). When I was a child, my peers were celebrating wildly, and I sort of didn’t know about Christmas, and so, I fell in love with Christ, fell in love with Jesus — and I am in Christ, and I didn’t know then, but I know now what Christmas is all about.
What about presents?
The giving and receiving is the tricky thing. It’s not the gift. It’s what the heart says in giving the gift, and from my point of view, one doesn’t give or receive — that’s a role we have to play. But the gift — it’s God’s gift. I think that it’s better to be souls than roles.
Roles of giving?
Right, yes. The present is two souls, come together. The giving and receiving is the way for them to come together. I think that people should give gifts by really recognizing the spiritual worth of the person and their (the givers’) own worth. You usually give a present that the other person needs or wants, and I think it just emphasizes wants and needs. Now, of course, with kids, it doesn’t matter, you know, because they want, they want, they want, they want . . .
If you think of the gifts that you’ve been given, what gift comes to mind?
At Christmas? I think I would say that the gift of the love of Jesus. That’s the best gift.
And how did you discover that?
Well, I usually go to church at Christmastime, and I’m meditating while I’m at church and usually meditating on Jesus. And it’s his love, and that’s a pretty good gift. Now I’ve gotten cigars, and desk sets, and dictionaries, and shirts — lots of shirts — and slacks, and jellies, and jams. We had a raspberry patch, and Dad likes to make raspberry jam, and that’s a big thing at Christmastime to give — to give raspberry jam.
What would be on your Christmas list today?
Spiritual books.
Which ones?
All teachers are one person. I read Rama Krishna, or I read Ramana Maharshi, and it’s just like Maharaj-ji. In fact, it’s not just Eastern, because the Christian mystics or the Jewish mystics — they’re all the same person. Well, they’re different — they have different paths up the mountain — but they’re all going to the same place. They’re all as One. When you try to differentiate — like Buddhism from Theism or something like that — it’s good for your mind, but actually, they’re all the same place. They just have different signposts. I think that it’s good for you.
When you’re climbing that mountain, what’s at the top?
Your spiritual heart, which is the One inside. It’s the little voice in the heart. The mountain isn’t external; the mountain is inside.
It’s easy to start walking up a mountain, but if it’s in here, the path is a bit obscured, perhaps?
Well, you could take many paths. You could attend to the moment. Because if you stay in the moment, the moment is not time and space. The moment is infinite. I usually like to use love, and I love everything. And that brings me to the place where I am love. You are love. And so are all the trees and the ocean and all. You get Oneness with everything — to love. Or you can, say, use energy, like Hatha yoga. Bring the Kundalini up, bringing it up gently, through the chakras. Or it can be to use the mind; read books. It’s the place at the top of the mountain, the place, and it’s not, and it’s not, and it’s not, and it’s form and it’s not form. But it’s both.
And the words make it hard to describe? Is that what you’re saying?
Yes. In fact, the top of the mountain is clouds. The clouds are in your mind.
When you talk, you talk about everything is love, and I’m wondering about your stroke and how that changed the way you see things.
I was depressed, and think that was because my faith was wavering. Before the stroke, I had a graceful life. His grace was an incredible part of my life, and then the stroke, and I said to him in my mind, “What were you doing? Where were you? Were you out to lunch or something? Because this isn’t grace.” And then he told me, “This is grace.”
So in that depression and in that state of realizing that your life had changed forever, you came through that feeling grace?
Yeah. It made suffering graceful in my life. I wouldn’t say, “You’re not suffering; it’s all grace.” No, no. I would say there was just a little change of attitude. I came around from the stroke in the hospital, and everybody said, “Oh! Isn’t that too bad — your stroke.” I sat with Maharaj-ji’s picture, and I asked, “Well, is it really that terrible?” And he says, “No.” For example, I was a long time without speech, and I was really that silence. I was just loving.
You didn’t want everybody else to be silent, just you?
No. I was giving speeches. And silence isn’t great. I realize that dependency has just a little essence thing that I had never met. It’s like when you’re on the curb in your wheelchair, and somebody comes along and asks, “Can we push you across?” and boy, it’s gratifying to get that. It’s not the push across the street, but it’s the motivation.
How do we get out of that mind that’s always sort of judging and looking at the differences and not the similarities?
The Maharaj-ji taught me that I could identify with my soul. He said, “Ram Dass, love everybody.” I said, “I can’t do that. I can’t do that” [points to his head]. He says, “Yes, you can.” Then he said, “Tell the truth.” I can do that. “Tell the truth and love everybody.” No. I can’t do that. And I kept saying no [motions to his head], and he kept saying, “Yes [motions to his heart], with your heart, and you can see the souls.” You can see the souls. —S&H

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Love is the Guide, Are You Brave Enough to Follow?

If the ultimate the purpose of yoga is Self-realization, or releasing all that not an expression of our essential nature, then our spiritual heart is the crucial compass on the journey.
If we live "normal" lives in tune with culture, we should seek happiness in material goods, and we should base our relationships to others on appearance propriety according social norms, which includes ignoring or supressing our honest experiences. No wonder cancer is at an all-time high, general morale is low, and people are fed up enough to occupy Wall Street.
Our culture gives us no model for truly following the guidance of the spiritual-heart/soul. Beyond loads of romance novels or chick-flicks that make it look so clean and easy, it can be much more complicated then that. Real life living based on the heart means lots of self-control, unselfish passion, and the guts to practice kind but incredibly, brutally raw honesty.

Following the rational or socially-accepted way of life, we see numerous examples of how we don't want to live: loveless marriages filled with passive-agressive rage, understimulated brilliance in people of all ages, and a fear of life that keeps people bored, frustrated, lonely, and generally unfulfilling their life's entire purpose. It is not worth trying to fit in, especially when normal in America means some level of dis-ease; tragic lack of self-esteem, cynicism that makes life miserable or physical maladies.

For God's sake (literally!), we need to wake up and come to our senses. Stop ignoring the cries and wisdom of the body and heart! Learn to hear the "small, still voice" within by paying attention to the sensations within the body. We feel our physical and energy bodies in the frame of our physical body. Tune in. Learn to trust your inner knowing and deepest experience.

For what we have to shell out in restraint, effort and determination, we are rewarded manifold with limitless joy and satisfaction, feeling truly fulfilled in how we use this precious life.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Veggie 'meatballs'

These are simple and delicious! They make for great vegan spaghetti and 'meatballs', or change the spices (add fennel and crushed red pepper flakes) to use these as a faux Italian sausage.

dried White beans, cooked in a slow-cooker on high 6-8 hours until well done
bread crumbs
whole wheat flour
dried oregano, thyme, parsely, and garlic granules
Combine all but the flour. Puree with a blender, and add flour slowly, a couple tablespoons at a time, mix thoroughly by hand, aiming to achieve a very stiff dough. Refrigerating the dough for at least an hour before cooking helps it to stay together.

You can bake the little veggie balls on an oiled cookie sheet, or I chose to sautee in a little less then 1/4 inch of high heat oil, like safflower. Keep moving them as they become golden/medium brown. Serve with tomato sauce.

For a gluten-free version, perhaps sticky white or brown rice would work, possibly adding GF cracker crumbs as well.
Enjoy in good health and clear conscience! Namaste!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Lentil Carrot Soup

Fall is a great time for vegan soups, stews, and chilis. This soup is simple, hearty, and delicious! We used crumbled chunks of whole grain bread to toss is, but crackers, brown rice, or barley are also great toss-ins as well.
Start this in the morning for dinner, or before bed for lunch.

dry Lentils de Puy (french green lentils)
carrots, peeled and cut crossways into coins
a head of garlic, chopped or minced
oil of choice
lots of water (3 times as much as lentils for stew, about 5 times as much or more to make this a brothier soup)
a few servings of "better then boullion" vegetable base (available on the Nature's Place ailse at Hannaford)
dried spices to taste: garlic powder, ginger, parsely, cilantro, curry powder
a decent serving of salt
Put it all together on high setting in your slow cooker and let it go for 8 hours or more! Check in when you can, about midway if possible, and adjust the water level if you need to. Enjoy!