Upright Yourself for You are the Embodiment of the Divine

For those who may not have heard, I had a total hip replacement in January of this year. Although the healing is going well, I still have weakness and pain during certain movements like lunge pose with my right leg forward. During a recent physical therapy session, I was working on a lunge exercise while holding a ten pound weight in my hands. It was a very challenging exercise for me and I must have been making a strained face, pursing my lips, and slouching forward with my shoulders when I heard my PT say, “Lift your torso and upright yourself, Todd.” There was something about the way the phrase, “Upright yourself, Todd” sounded that struck a chord deep in my heart. When I lifted my chest and “uprighted” myself, the pain in my hip went away! With shoulders back and my abdominal core engaged, the strength in my hip returned. The pain dissolved and I felt free again.

Since my surgery, the healing process has taken place in stages. At first, everything seemed to heal quickly and within six weeks I was back to most of my normal daily activities, including biking, swimming, and teaching yoga. Then the healing process seemed to slow down and for the last several months it’s been painstakingly slow. Although I’m 90% healed, the last 10% has been an uphill battle. My surgeon told me that because of the nuanced demands of yoga that I’ve put on my hip, the healing is taking longer than some. Total healing can sometimes take one to two years.

Slowing down is not one of my strengths. I have a lot of enthusiasm for what I do. But after this PT session, I had the […]

Keep Good Company

Dr. Douglas Brooks, Tantric scholar and professor extraordinaire teaches, “You become the company you keep. So, keep good company.” This couldn’t be truer. As I look back on my life and my relationships, I’ve always been defined by those I was with. As a little boy my parents took care of me. I have memories of going clothes shopping with my Mom once I started school. For years, she bought all of my clothes for me. I never really thought much about it. I was grateful to have enough clothes. But over time, I realized that I was totally influenced by my Mom. By the time I became a teenager, I couldn’t wait to exert my independence and individuality. I have so much compassion for kids today who just can’t wait to change the color of their hair, wear their own clothes, and get a nose ring!

I remember, as a teenager, my parents gave me so many guidelines, rules, regulations, and curfews, that I felt like a prisoner in my own home. (I do understand that rules are needed for good reasons to help keep an undeveloped adolescent brain safe.) But because of feeling so controlled, I acted out and wound up hanging out with the ‘wrong crowd’. I became influenced and defined by them, their bad habits, minor pranks, and derelict behavior. I knew this wasn’t me. But I got swept into it and it was fun for a while.

In my college years, I see how I was influenced by my music friends and professors. I lived, breathed, ate, and slept music for years. I was completely influenced by that crowd. All in a good way. Moving into the yoga ashram at age 23, […]

Transforming the Ordinary Into the Extraordinary

I recently attended a meditation retreat at Joshua Tree Retreat Center in California and I had several profound experiences. I’d like to share one of those with you. It was a totally ordinary experience but, because we had been meditating for a few days prior, what was ordinary transformed into the extraordinary.

After a few long days of meditation, we gathered one afternoon in the meditation hall with the teacher as part of the daily routine. We practiced together for a while. Then at the bell, the teacher told us we were going outside to take a walk in silence. I was game!

The teacher led the walk at a moderate pace. At one point I thought, “Oh, he’s going too fast. I wish he would slow down.” But then I simply picked up my pace a bit and that thought faded away. I remembered one of the instructions was simply to watch the mind and thoughts as they arise. But don’t give the thoughts much energy. Just observe and let them go.

It was a most beautiful afternoon with the light of the late afternoon sun shining brilliantly down on the beautiful Southeastern California desert landscape of sparse vegetation, hills, valleys, distant mountains, and high clouds. The temperature was perfect – warm but not hot. We followed the teacher to a fountain area with pools of water shaded by trees. The air was fresh, filled with the faint fragrance of pine. The sound of the fountain and flowing water was soothing for the mind. We stood near the water for a few minutes until everyone arrived. A cool mist rising off the pond felt refreshing and rejuvenating on the skin. We paused here for a minute […]

Shiva Nataraja Dances for More Than Just Ecstasy!

The Tantra Immersion: Path of Radical Affirmation at Kripalu Center a couple weekends ago, was a huge success! I co-taught with three world-renowned scholars of religion, Douglas Brooks, Bill Mahony, and Constantina Rhodes. It was such an honor and life-transforming experience for me. I am grateful to all those who attended and served to make this a great event!

During the Immersion, much light was shed on the dance of Shiva Nataraja. I learned about a series of myths that portrays Shiva’s dark side. At first, I was very sad and disappointed to learn that Shiva had a shadow. I said to myself, “Who, Shiva, the great light of consciousness? He is perfect. How could he mess up?” But as Douglas Brooks taught, Shiva goes to the forest which represents the place of shadow and light and all things twisted. The forest is the place of deep reflection and integration of the nature of life in that you cannot control it. Though you can make plans and have a vision for your life, you cannot control how those plans will play out. I remember a joke from years ago, “If you want to make God laugh, just show him your plans.” This particular myth had everyone on the edge of their zafus wanting to know what comes next. The myth was better than any season TV drama you could stream on Netflix!

One of my insights is that the forest represents life’s authenticity – the place that houses our truest experience of not only the victory of the light, but also the deepest darkest places of the heart. Remember one of Shiva’s arms crosses his heart which represents that the heart (and life) is partially concealed. […]

We Live In a Call and Response Universe of Grace

Just like most kirtans (Sanskrit chanting session) that have a call and response rhythm, (the leader chants a line of the chant by him/herself followed by the group responding by chanting back the same line), we are in a constant call and response rhythm with grace. Sometimes grace calls and you respond, and other times you call, and grace responds.

What I’ve noticed lately is that grace is constantly being dispersed. But I’m almost always asleep to it. Last week was different. I began noticing how grace was absolutely working in my life. The more instances of grace I became aware of, the more I observed that grace truly is happening in every moment, not just to me, but to everyone.

The key to following your heart and having a spiritual connection to life, is having a deep-seated belief that grace is happening all of the time. If I could just tune into it all of the time, my life would probably go a lot smoother, or at least I would enjoy the cosmic joke or Lila (Lila in Sanskrit means play, sport, or game). What is great about this idea is that the Tantric tradition considers life a dance, a play, or a Lila. In fact, the universe is constantly playing a game of hide-and-seek with us every day. This is why I try not to judge myself when I sleep through a grace moment or forget that I’m divine. If I never forgot my connection to source, I wouldn’t have the joy of remembering!

Last week there were several distinct moments of grace that turned my world around. I got a new title for my car which requires a new registration and new plates. I […]