Sunday, December 25, 2011

January 2012 teaching: The Bravery to Bloom

 "And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."   ~Anais

Yoga practices help us to clear away the debris that gets in the way of expressing our innermost and highest nature. It helps us to clear away all that is false to be
our true selves. Many of us, I daresay in the Western world especially, all of us, at one time or another struggle with our confidence or our self-image. For some of
us, that negative view is debilitating and robs us of all real joy in life. For some, our harsh self-view is the ultimate obstacle to freedom in life. There comes a
point when, as Rumi calls it, we reach, "self-hating fatigue", the point at which we cannot stand to be so filled with hate, anger, guilt, and sadness. This is the
point from which we give up clinging to our fear, and we are ready to blossom. We can give up the habits of negative self-talk, self-depreciating, passive-agressive
self destruction and finally begin to have compassion for our self as a living being.

Anyone can sit in self-pity and misery if it is their habit, but it takes true bravery to begin to care for ourselves. And once we do, we see that to care for oneself
is not selfish, but is the only way to care for others. When the cup of our heart is empty, we have nothing to give to others, we are not kind or compassionate. But
when the cup of our heart is full, that which overflows can be given to all around us, we are automatically kinder, more joyful, more helpful and patient. Being deeply
honest makes the world a better place by our mere presence. Following our heart conscience is the way to blossom and brighten the world. Our happiness lights the way
for those around us.

Building trust in your own heart-conscience by experience, you learn that you can withstand anything that life brings and that there is beauty to be found everywhere.


On the night when you cross the street
From your shop and your house
To the cemetery

You'll hear me hailing you from inside
The open grave, and you'll realize
How we've always been together.

I am the clear consciousness-core
Of your being, the same in
Ecstasy as in self-hating fatigue.

That night, when you escape your fear of snakebite
And all irritations with the ants, you'll hear
My familiar voice, see the candle being lit,
Smell the incense, the surprise meal fixed
By the lover inside all your other lovers.
This heart tumult is my signal
to you igniting in the tomb.
So don't fuss with the shroud
And the graveyard dust.
Those get ripped open and washed away
In the music of our final meeting.

And don't look for me in human shape,
I am inside your looking. No room
For form with love this strong.

Beat the drum and let the poets speak.
This is the day of purification for those who
Are already mature and initiated into what love is.

No need to wait until we die!
There's more to want here than money
And being famous and bites of roasted meat.

Now, what shall we call this new sort of gazing house
That has opened in our town where people sit
Quietly and pour out their glancing
Like light, like answering?

'No room for form' by Jelaluddin Rumi page 138 'The 'Essential Rumi' translations by Coleman Barks. Harper Collins 1995

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Attitude of 'no gain' in Relationships- from Tricycle

?MY TEACHER Charlotte Joko Beck pretty much sums up her attitude toward relationships when she says, “Relationships don’t work.” Rather than talk about everything we normally think that we gain from relationships, like love, companionship, security, and family life, she looks at relationships from the perspective of no gain. She focuses on all the ways relationships go awry when people enter into them with particular sorts of gaining ideas and expect relationships to function as an antidote to their problems. Antidotes are all versions of “If only...” If only she were more understanding; if only he were more interested in sex; if only she would stop drinking. For Joko, that kind of thinking about relationships means always externalizing the problem, always assuming that the one thing that’s going to change your life is outside yourself and in the other person. If only the other person would get his or her act together, then my life would go the way I want it to.

Joko tries to bring people back to their own fears and insecurities. These problems are ours to practice with, and we can’t ask anyone else, including a teacher, to do that work for us. To be in a real relationship, a loving relationship, is simply to be willing to respond and be there for the other person without always calculating what we are going to get out of it.

Many people come to me and say, “I’ve been in lots of relationships where I give and give and give.” But for them it wasn’t enlightenment; it was masochism! What they are missing from Joko’s original account is a description of what relationships are actually for—what the good part is. In addition to being aware of the pitfalls that Joko warns us about, we should also look at all the ways in which relationships provide the enabling conditions for our growth and development. That’s particularly obvious with children. We would all agree that children need a certain kind of care and love in order to grow and develop. Nobody would say to a five-year-old, “What do you need Mommy for? Deal with your fear on your own!” The thing is that most of us are still struggling with remnants of that child’s neediness and fear in the midst of a seemingly adult life. Relationships aren’t just crutches that allow us to avoid those fears; they also provide conditions that enable us to develop our capacities so we can handle them in a more mature way.

It’s not just a parent-child relationship or a relationship with a partner that does that. The relationship of a student with a teacher, between members of a sangha, between friends, and among community members—all help us to develop in ways we couldn’t on our own. Some aspects of ourselves don’t develop except under the right circumstances.

Aristotle stressed the importance of community and friendship as necessary ingredients for character development and happiness. He is the real origin of the idea that “it takes a village” to raise a child. However, you don’t find much in Aristotle about the necessity of romantic love in order to develop. His emphasis was on friendship.

Aristotle said that in order for people to become virtuous, we need role models—others who have developed their capacities for courage, self-control, wisdom, and justice. We may emphasize different sets of virtues or ideas about what makes a proper role model, but Buddhism also asserts that, as we are all connected and interdependent, none of us can do it all on our own.

Acknowledging this dependency is the first step of real emotional work within relationships. Our ambivalence about our own needs and dependency gets stirred up in all kinds of relationships. We cannot escape our feelings and needs and desires if we are going to be in relationships with others. To be in relationships is to feel our vulnerability in relation to other people who are unpredictable, and in circumstances that are intrinsically uncontrollable and unreliable.

We bump up against the fact of change and impermanence as soon as we acknowledge our feelings or needs for others. Basically, we all tend to go in one of two directions as a strategy for coping with that vulnerability. We either go in the direction of control or of autonomy. If we go for control, we may be saying: “If only I can get the other person or my friends or family to treat me the way I want, then I’ll be able to feel safe and secure. If only I had a guarantee that they’ll give me what I need, then I wouldn’t have to face uncertainty.” With this strategy, we get invested in the control and manipulation of others and in trying to use people as antidotes to our own anxiety.

With the strategy (or curative fantasy) of autonomy, we go in the opposite direction and try to imagine that we don’t need anyone. But that strategy inevitably entails repression or dissociation, a denial of feeling. We may imagine that through spiritual practice we will get to a place where we won’t feel need, sexuality, anger, or dependency. Then, we imagine, we won’t be so tied into the vicissitudes of relationships. We try to squelch our feelings in order not to be vulnerable anymore, and we rationalize that dissociation under the lofty and spiritual-sounding word “detachment,” which ends up carrying a great deal of unacknowledged emotional baggage alongside its original, simpler meaning as the acceptance of impermanence.

We have to get to know and be honest about our particular strategies for dealing with vulnerability, and learn to use our practice to allow ourselves to experience more of that vulnerability rather than less of it. To open yourself up to need, longing, dependency, and reliance on others means opening yourself to the truth that none of us can do this on our own. We really do need each other, just as we need parents and teachers. We need all those people in our lives who make us feel so uncertain. Our practice is not about finally getting to a place where we are going to escape all that but about creating a container that allows us to be more and more human, to feel more and more.

If we let ourselves feel more and more, paradoxically, we get less controlling and less reactive. As long as we think we shouldn’t feel something, as long as we are afraid of feeling vulnerable, our defenses will kick in to try to get life under control, to manipulate ourselves or other people. But instead of either controlling or sequestering our feelings, we can learn to both contain and feel them fully. That containment allows us to feel vulnerable or hurt without immediately erupting into anger; it allows us to feel neediness without clinging to the other person. We acknowledge our dependency.

We learn to keep our relationships and support systems in good repair because we admit to ourselves how much we need them. We take care of others for our own sake as well as theirs. We begin to see that all our relationships are part of a broad spectrum of interconnectedness, and we respect not only the most intimate or most longed-for of our relationships but also all the relationships we have—from the most personal to the most public—which together are always defining who we are and what we need in order to become fully ourselves.

Relationships work to open us up to ourselves. But first we have to admit how much we don’t want that to happen, because that means opening ourselves to vulnerability. Only then will we begin the true practice of letting ourselves experience all those feelings of vulnerability that we first came to practice to escape."

From Ending the Pursuit of Happiness: A Zen Guide, © Barry Magid 2008. Reprinted with permission of Wisdom Publications,

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Don't Throw Away This Day

As I am about to write dates onto our 2012 calendar, I can easily get ahead of myself. Ooooh, next year's vacation, how great that'll be! But, I read a great blog article by Galen Pearl (Ten Ways to Find Your Happy Place and Stay There), that called us to remember that every moment is precious and we shouldn't throw any away, even in excited anticipation.

It is so easy to get caught in our heads, looking back, looking in, looking forward. But we have to remember to be here; just spacious, engaged and here, for as many sacred moments as possible. Every moment we are here is sacred. Every moment free of concepts is true freedom. This can be any moment of any day, regardless of where it falls on the calendar.

Throw no one and not one moment away. Each moment lived honestly and fully is a moment we are truly alive. Follow your truth with no fear, only love. There is not time but the resent, and today as beautiful as any other day.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Music as Yoga Therapy

I had nearly forgotten what music has done in my life. Ever since I was old enough to know how to play a tape or CD, I would play a certain song or two, or album, over and over until I felt finished. That song or that album hit just the right chord in my heart: expressing the love, the loss, the longing, whatever I was experiencing at the moment. It would help me to move that energy through me, to process those feelings, insteaad of letting them get stuck. I'd feel fresh and new when I was finished.

Sharon and David offer music as one of the four pillars of the Jivamukti Yoga Method, and I totally understand why all over again. Not only the mantram, or sacred sounds, but any song or sound, if it is the right one in the right moment can be a mover of prana, of life energy. It triggers that feeling in the heart, and lets it flow. Sometimes it also helps tears to flow, further washing the energy through. Very often, at least for me, it is not enough to merely listen, but to sing the song, to belt it out, is what really does it. It is a form of pranayama.

What is the right song or sound? The one that you really want to hear, the one that feels right in the moment. You'll know when you've hit it- it'll be all you want to hear. It will leave you feeling fresh, present, expansive, clear and free.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Fresh mind, Trusting Self, Flowing on the Blessed Path

When we embark on the spiritual path, that mere intention sets things into motion. With awareness comes information, feedback through the heart and body. We may receive a lot of feedback we consider positive or neutral, which is easy to honor.
We are greatly challenged when living in harmony with inner truth means doing something difficult, truly difficult. We are put to the test. And we will be slowly, quietly grinding until we walk the talk and listen to our spiritual-heart's intelligence. The karma will repeat, the groove (or pit) will get deeper, we'll get increasingly stuck until we finally take responsibility and take the appropriate measures to become in harmony with the truth.

We can learn from each instance where we ignore our truth until a crescendo of consciousness makes it impossible to turn a blind eye anymore. We can use it to increase our awareness and trust the inner knowing above the rational sense of propriety, hoping not to fall into the same mistake again. If we vow to only follow our inner truth, and live up to it, wouldn't that be 'pushti marg', the path of grace? ...following only the inner light of knowing, the Divine Self... so very often it is effortless effort, but sometimes it is agonizing, relentless, and cruel... But it always facillitates the highest good of all. Follow with trust in your inner knowing at all times, and proceed with unconditional loving tenderness for all.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Love demands us to start fresh

A man (or woman), can never step into the same river twice. Both are constantly changing. It is never the same river, and we are never the same. Always changing, we keep evolving through our experiences. We can develop unconsciously by developing habits through conditioning or we can develop consciously through our awareness and choices.

To think of each other as solid entities and sources of happiness kills love. To each be who they are moment to moment, and feel the light of love in the sharing of spcae and time is the real gift. But we cannot take this for granted. It requires honesty with ourselves, not just each other. It requires openess to be maintained through practice.

To a great extent, labelling love and trying to disect it for rational understanding does little for the world. To open oneself to feel love naturally without judgement or boundaries is pure bliss, a connection to the Divine in our own hearts. Love is such ecstacy, that it is easy to become attached to it, that is, selfish and fearful. There is a real poverty mindset towards love in our culture. So when we feel it, we can automatically become afraid to lose it. That egoic attachment and fear is exactly what destroys love. It wants to control, it is jealous, it is attached to the high.

Starting fresh in each moment by being present, we can enjoy love fully. We can worry less about "how long will it last?" and instead just delight in it. By being our Self as honestly and courageously as possible in each moment, we can continue to love and feel loved just by being alive. The gift of love becomes omnipresent. The fear can disappear. We are new and open in each moment to the love that arises from within.