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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 […]

You Are Here to Intervene

Greetings!

I recently taught Touch of Grace: Mastering Hands-On Adjustments in Lenox, MA and it was a wonderful experience. The students were so attentive and receptive. I experienced such a sense of connection, a flow of concentration, a vibratory resonance within the group that opened my heart and a vortex of love and wisdom began to flow through me.

I didn’t expect to offer any in-depth philosophical teachings since the focus was about the physical practice of adjusting asanas. But I was just back from being on retreat with Paul Muller-Ortega, my meditation teacher, and some of the most potent teachings spontaneously exploded forth.

The gift of our embodiment, our life here on earth, is that we have the opportunity to intervene. We can intervene with life and change our destiny. Fate is what’s given to you. Destiny is what you do with it. You have the capacity to intervene with your patterns, your habitual thinking, your relationships, your environment in ways that can shift your destiny. You can heal yourself and your relationships. It’s all possible in the here and now earth plane.

Tantra teaches that we are co-participators with life. There’s no pre-determined script or plan that God has and all we need to do is fulfill it. No. We are co-creating life with grace in each moment. Life is determined by all of the forces that interact with it, including past, present, future, nature, grace, and you. Your thoughts, words, desires, and actions cut a groove in the fabric of time/space reality. Quantum physics confirms this. Same is true in the Kashmir Shaiva Tantra philosophy. Grace requires your effort to be experienced. The winds of grace are always blowing but you have to set the […]