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Practice To Purify Your Reflective Surface

I just returned home from a wonderful meditation retreat with Paul Muller-Ortega in Joshua Tree, CA. Talk about hot! It was an average of 105º in the high desert each day and about 79º at night! I loved settling into our daily routine of practice. I was able to completely drop into the present moment and let go of everything else. I believe that retreats such as this are absolutely necessary to get at the deeper levels of purification that need to happen along the spiritual path.

The practice of yoga and all of the practices that go along with yoga, i.e. pranayama, kriyas, mantra, mudra, contemplation, meditation, and devotion, serve to clean the dust (malas) off the surface of the heart. If you don’t practice on a regular basis, it’s hard to keep up with the accumulating dust. Just like in the attic of your house, by no fault of your own, just from neglect, dust accumulates. This is the nature of all material reality. Ultimately, material reality (or Prakriti which includes both gross and subtle material, body mind) breaks down and returns to its essential components in the “universal compost bucket” of life.

What is the dust? Metaphorically, it’s whatever keeps you separate from the light of consciousness and from delighting in the miracle of life. The dust is what makes you forget who you are. The dust makes everything in life a burden. Your vision for a bright future gets blurry and dull. You sink into the abyss of hopelessness which emanates as lack of motivation. You stop believing in yourself and in life. You forget that everything in life is for your awakening. Essentially you become the victim of life rather than […]

Shiva Nataraja: Invisible Thread of Grace

Greetings! I hope you’re having a wonderful summer. Although I’m super busy teaching and traveling, I’m having an excellent summer. I just finished teaching the Teacher Renewal and Radiance Gathering at Angel’s Rest Retreat in Leyden, MA. It was incredible! The students were among the most receptive, open-hearted, and compassionate yogis I’ve ever had the honor of being with. We had wonderful asana sessions, deep philosophy, early morning practices, meditation, contemplation, journal writing, kirtan chanting, and therapeutics. In addition, we performed puja (a sacred ritual to honor the five elements), and had some sacred circles of sharing that opened everybody’s heart. The theme of the week was based on the transformative teachings of the Saptah Tandavas (the seven dances of Shiva Nataraja).

Upon returning home I had numerous insights about the Nataraja including the idea that grace is constantly being dispensed. But we are usually asleep to it. Grace is difficult to experience because it’s beyond our senses: can’t see it, smell it, hear it, taste it, or touch it. It’s easy to miss and easy to ignore. Grace is invisible and moves behind the scenes.

What is grace really? Grace is the power of the universe that reveals your true nature which is joy. Grace is responsible for everything that happens. It’s what makes you breathe. It makes the universe function, planets spin, and the sun rise and set. It’s what makes things come into existence, stay a while, and then dissolve back into the cosmos. Grace creates and sustains the entire universe, including all of us.

Within the statue of Shiva Nataraja, it is said that all the secrets of the universe are revealed. After many years of study and contemplation on the Nataraja, I […]

Enlightenment: Recognizing the Extraordinary in the Ordinary

Greetings!

Enlightenment is your capacity to recognize the extraordinary in the ordinary. I like this definition of enlightenment because it “demystifies” it and suggests that everyone has a shot at it. In fact, enlightenment is your natural state and doesn’t mean you have to renounce the world and meditate in a cave to achieve it. Enlightenment is a process not a goal. If there is a goal, it would be the goal of becoming more – more joyous, more conscious, more expanded, and less contracted, fearful, or worried. But enlightenment is not free, and in general, doesn’t just happen. I believe it takes work, intense self-inquiry, honesty, dedication, and a practice that cultivates healthy habits on all levels, body, mind, and heart.

I love the title of one of Jack Kornfield’s books, After Ecstasy, the Laundry. After enlightenment or a high experience during a meditation or during a retreat, you get to return to your daily life. Enlightenment is the process of becoming more and being able to live in the ordinary world from the perspective of the extraordinary. In the Tantra, it’s the process of living in the Relative world from the place of the Absolute.

When I was younger, I had a spiritual dream. This led me to pull away from the world, away from a “normal” path in search of the esoteric. I visited a yoga ashram for ten days and stayed for 13 years! I still believe living in the ashram was a valuable experience for me. But in a way I made my spirituality dependent on the externals, including separating myself from my family and the world, living in a “spiritual” environment, and doing renunciate practices. Maybe a life of seclusion can […]

Graces is What Heals Us

Greetings! I just finished a spectacular Healing Power of Yoga, Level 2, Advanced Ashaya Yoga Therapeutics Training Intensive here in Lenox, MA. It was an awesome experience and the teachers were extraordinarily receptive, dedicated, and creative! One highlight was the session where the local community was invited to volunteer to receive semi private therapeutic sessions from the trainees. We had 18 volunteers and each person came in with pain and left pain-free or close to it. In addition, they were given 4-6 yoga therapy exercises to practice at home. I supervised the whole event and was blown away with the skillfulness, love, and compassion of the teachers!

Throughout the course, we had many deep contemplations about what makes healing happen. Here are some of the learnings and teachings we explored:
Grace Is What Heals Us
We don’t heal ourselves or anyone else. The best we can do is put ourselves “in the way of grace” and align such that we allow the healing energy of grace to flow unobstructed. What obstructs grace? Misalignment, especially with attitude. Attitude is power. If your attitude is negative, pessimistic, and riddled with self-doubt, fear, or unworthiness, then grace gets diverted into these downward spiraling beliefs. For healing to happen you need to shift from the negative to the positive, from hopelessness to hopefulness, from life is happening TO me, to life is happening FOR me.

The attitude of the yogi is that everything in life is for my awakening. Within this attitude, nothing can arise in life that doesn’t have some higher purpose. Instead of blaming something or someone else for my discomfort, this attitude gives me the power to look within myself and reflect more about who I’m being. Only when […]

Meditate for Spontaneity

Greetings of Springtime! Or is it? We just received about a foot of snow here in the Berkshires. The day after it snowed the sun was out, not a cloud in the sky. It was crisp and cool but so beautiful. I shoveled out my grill and bird feeder and thoroughly enjoyed doing it. Then I gathered up more fire wood and stoked our wood stove perhaps for the last time of the season.

Anyway, the weather is a great excuse for being spontaneous. But are you prepared for spontaneity? That’s kind of an oxymoron, isn’t it? How do you prepare for spontaneity? The answer is meditation.

There are many benefits of a meditation practice. Being able to change on a dime and shift your plan spontaneously is a result of being in the present moment. This takes practice. Years ago before I started to meditate, I was challenged by my changing reality. I just wanted everything to stay the same. You can ask my wife, Ann. Changing me was like trying to turn the Titanic – attached to my plan, anchored in the notion that there’s only one way to do something – my way! Meditation has helped me let go of “me” and “mine” to see beyond my own limited perceptions. Meditation broadened my perspective on life which has allowed me more space to be happy. If I don’t get what I want, I don’t freak out about it. I just let go. When I was studying to become a monk at Kripalu Center back in the ashram days, I started to consider that I might want to be in a relationship. My relationship coach (who was also my triathlon/marathon buddy) used to council […]