I so love the above quote from David Whyte. I think he says it so beautifully. There is simply no good reason for us to keep company with anything or anyone that does not bring us alive, with anything or anyone that tries to keep us small.
Choose your greatness…
Here are audio clips and readings from the first class of this new year.
Here’s opening chanting of Om Tara Tuttare Ture Swaha.
Here’s the opening dharana and my dharma talk.
Here’s chanting of Vakratunda II and the Surya Bija Mantra. These are fine for people who want to chant along, but the album tracks are way better for listening. You can find VakII on Sound Cloud and the Surya Bija mantra track is on our Sun Mantras album.
Here are this week’s readings.
TAO TE CHING
32. The Tao can’t be perceived. Smaller than an electron, it contains uncountable galaxies.
If powerful men and women could remain centered in the Tao, all things would be in harmony. The world would become a paradise. All people would be at peace, and the law would be written in their hearts.
When you have names and forms, know they are provisional. When you have institutions, know where their functions should end. Knowing when to stop, you can avoid any danger.
All things end in the Tao as rivers flow into the sea.
1.1 Atha yoganushasanan (Now, the study of Yoga.) 1.2 Yogah chitta vritti nirodhaha (Yoga is the stilling of the thought waves in the mind.) 1.3 Tada drashtu svarupe avasthanam (Then we rest in our essential nature.)
Here are the words to Vakratunda II.
vakratunda mahakāya suryakoti samaprabha nirvighnam kuru me deva sarva kāryeśu sarvada
om gang ganapataye namaha
As always, the final word goes to Mary Oliver. Particularly poignant this week…
SUNRISE Mary Oliver You can die for it — and idea, or the world. People
have done so, brilliantly, letting their small bodies be bound
to the stake, creating an unforgettable fury of light. But
this morning, climbing the familiar hills in the familiar fabric of dawn, I thought
of China, and India and Europe, and I thought how the sun
blazes for everyone just so joyfully as it rises under the lashes of my own eyes, and I thought I am so many! What is my name?
What is the name of the deep breath I would take over and over for all of us? Call it
whatever you want, it is happiness, it is another one of the ways to enter fire.
MAY 8, 2017, BHAGAVAD GITA TALK # 11: STILLNESS, THE MIRACLE CURE
“He who finds peace and joy
and radiance within himself—
that man becomes one with God
and vanishes into God’s bliss.” [5.24]
We’re now about four months into the Trump presidency which is unfolding pretty much exactly as everyone familiar with the ways of Trump predicted. Well maybe not exactly. I mean who could have envisioned the bizarre drama of just these last ten days. I knew chaos, bigotry, nepotism, and greed would reign. But the naked compulsion is dizzying. I keep going back to two lines from this week’s Gita verses: “When knowledge of the Self is obscured by ignorance, men act badly.” Yes and yes.
There’s in interesting piece about Evan Williams, a founder of Twitter, in today’s NY Times. Here’s someone who tragically believed that creating an online platform where people could speak freely and exchange ideas would make the world a better place. But Williams, like so many other utopian entrepreneurs did not understand that until we address much deeper issues of human consciousness, “progress” and power, any good idea, democracy, socialism, capitalism, the internet… will ultimately be co-opted by the patriarchal mindset otherwise known as tyranny….
A few years ago, Twitter was viewed as a tool of liberation. It enabled, some believed, the Arab Spring uprisings in the Middle East. Twitter, like the internet itself, was putting tyranny on a short leash.
Then the narrative turned darker, with the rise of trolling on the platform.
President Trump has said he believes Twitter put him in the White House. Recently, Mr. Williams heard the claim for the first time….
“It’s a very bad thing, Twitter’s role in that,” he said finally. “If it’s true that he wouldn’t be president if it weren’t for Twitter, then yeah, I’m sorry.”
I’m still behind in my posting here so what follows is audio from May 8th. That class constellated around Chapter Five of the Gita, The Yoga of Renunciation. I think the word “renunciation” has been tainted in patriarchal traditions that equate self-punishing penance with spiritual growth. In my observation, that form of renunciation breeds repression way more than enlightenment.
I am however, a great believer in renouncing the narratives of self that rule our lives. Dropping the story, as we say; getting out from under the pathology of attachment and what we call in Yoga, “wrong identification.” That’s a form of renunciation I fully support. That’s a form of renunciation that if applied worldwide would be the miracle that truly did make the world a better place. A much better place. I know, I know, dream on…
Here’s this week’s talk which I’ve divided into two parts. The first is a rather freewheeling contemplation on Chapter 5 of the Gita as it relates to identity, the finite, the infinite, compassion, and my new green chair. The second is the last five minutes of the talk and focuses exclusively on Kuan Yin and Steady Wisdom.
Here are the verses we read from Chapter Five.
The resolute in yoga surrender results, and gain perfect peace; the irresolute, attached to results, are bound by everything they do.
Calmly renouncing all action, the embodied Self dwells at east as lord of the nine-gated city, not acting, not causing action.
Nor does it partake of anyone’s virtuous or evil actions. When knowledge of the Self is obscured by ignorance, man act badly.
But when ignorance is completely destroyed, then the light of wisdom shines like the midday sun and illumines what is supreme.
Contemplating That, inspired and rooted and absorbed in That, men reach the state of true freedom from which there is no rebirth.
Freed from the endless cycle of birth and death, they can act impartially toward all beings, since to them all beings are the same.
They do not rejoice in good fortune; they do not lament at bad fortune; lucid, with minds and unshaken, they remain within what is real.
A man unattached to sensations, who finds fulfillment in the Self, whose mind has become pure freedom, attains an imperishable joy.
Pleasures from eternal objects are wombs of suffering Arjuna. They have their beginnings and their ends; no wise man seeks joy among them.
He who finds peace and joy and radiance within himself— that man becomes one with God and vanishes into God’s bliss.
The wise man cleansed of his sins, who has cut off all separation, who delights in the welfare of all beings, vanishes into God’s bliss.
Knowing me as the enjoyer of all worship, the Lord of all worlds, the dearest friend of all beings, that man gains perfect peace.
Here are clips of chanting from May 8th. I just got a new microphone which will hopefully make a difference in the sound quality of class recordings from May 22 on. Please bear with the way-too-loud harmonium drone until then.
Here’s the Opening Tara chanting:
Here’s Kuan Yin:
And here’s another clip of my solo chanting before class begins….
APRIL 24, 2017, BHAGAVAD GITA TALK #9. WHEN A MAN HAS LET GO OF ATTACHMENTS, WHEN HIS MIND IS ROOTED IN WISDOM, EVERYTHING HE DOES IS WORSHIP AND HIS ACTIONS ALL MELT AWAY. GOD IS THE OFFERING, GOD IS THE OFFERED, POURED OUT BY GOD; GOD IS ATTAINED BY ALL THOSE WHO SEE GOD IN EVERY ACTION. [4.23-24]
I grew up without religious training or tradition. In our house, God was a strange word, rarely spoken, mostly disdained. So when I stumbled onto the yogic path and met Baba Muktananda, his core teaching, God dwells within you as you, struck me as the most radical thing I’d ever heard. It also struck me as absolutely true. So while the word itself is loaded and after all these many years still gives me a jolt, I do love the Gita verse I’ve quoted above: God is the offering, God is the offered, poured out by God; God is attained by all those who see God in every action. Yes!
Today we’re 99 days into the age of Trump. I keep thinking of the Upanishadic concept, neti neti, “not this, not this.” Anyone needing an example of everything that is not-God, need look no further than the Trump White House and Republican agenda, where neti neti, not-God, not-God, is on display day in day out…
Tomorrow is the People’s Climate March, happening on Trump’s hundredth day in office. If you’re on the fence about being part of this massive action, here’s a link to help you find a sister march.
I’ve lately been re-reading William Blake’s Marriage of Heaven and Hell. On the profoundly connected subjects of the climate march and God,I’ll leave you with two of my favorite quotes:
When thou seest an eagle, thou seest a portion of genius; lift up thy head!
For every thing that lives is Holy.
We’re back to Monday Night Class after a two-week break, digging into the Bhagavad Gita: Chapter Four, The Yoga of Wisdom. This is a very rich topic that lends itself to parallel readings. Here’s audio of my rather free-wheeling dharma talk. It begins with a lovely commentary connecting the Tara mantra to our readings of the Gita. I also brought in a lovely hasidic story and beautiful passage from a Mary Oliver essay on Walt Whitman. Enjoy.
Here are this week’s verses from the Gita:
Actions cannot defile me, since I am indifferent to results; all those who understand this will not be bound by their actions.
This is how actions were done by the ancient seekers of freedom; follow their example: act, surrendering the fruits of action.
What are action and inaction? This matter confuses even wise men; so I will teach you and free you from any harm.
You must realize what action is, what wrong action and inaction are as well. The true nature of action is profound, and difficult to fathom.
He who can see inaction in the midst of action, and action in the midst of inaction, is wise and can act in the spirit of yoga.
With no desire for success, no anxiety about failure, indifferent to results, he burns up his actions in the fire of wisdom.
Surrendering all thoughts of outcome, unperturbed, self-reliant, he does nothing at all, even when fully engaged in actions.
There is nothing that he expects, nothing that he fears. Serene, free from possessions, untainted, acting with the body alone,
content with whatever happens, unattached to pleasure or pain, success or failure, he acts and is never bound by his action.
When a man has let go of attachments, when his mind is rooted in wisdom, everything he does is worship and his actions all melt away.
God is the offering, God is the offered, poured out by God; God is attained by all those who see God in every action. [4.14-24]
Here are the parallel readings:
As the power of deliverance Tara is related to the goddess Durga, who similarly takes us across all difficulties. Hence she is also called Durga-Tara. Whereas Durga represents the power that overcomes or destroys obstacles and difficulties, Tara is the power which takes us beyond them. While Durga is more appropriate to call on in extreme danger wherein we need help against negative forces assailing us, Tara has the additional power to lift us up in life generally. Tara is the power to transcend all things. She not only lifts us beyond dangers but allows us to rise beyond our achievements and accomplishments to higher levels of realization. As the ultimate obstacle we have to cross over is our own mind, Tara provides the power to take us beyond the turbulent waves of our thought currents….
[David Frawley, Tantric Yoga and the Wisdom Goddesses]
I celebrate myself, And what I assume you shall assume, For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you. I loaf and invite my soul, I lean and loaf at my ease…observing a spear of summer grass.
In these lines the great work has begun, and the secret of success has been given. And what is that great labor? Out-circling interest, sympathy, empathy, transference of focus from the self to all else; the merging of the lonely single self with the wondrous, never-lonely entirety. This is all.
[Mary Oliver, Upstream]
A man who lived in the same town as Rabbi Zusya saw that he was very poor. So each day he went to the house of prayer and left twenty pennies so that Zusya and his family might eat. From that time on, the man grew richer and richer. The more he had, the more he gave Zusya, and the more he gave Zusya, the more he had.
One day he recalled that Zusya was the disciple of the great master, Rabbi Baer of Mezritch—and it occurred to him that if what he gave the disciple was so lavishly rewarded, he might become even more prosperous if he made presents to the master himself. So he travelled to Mezritch and made a substantial gift to Baer. From this time on, his means shrank until he lost all the profits he had made during the more fortunate period.
Taking his troubles to Rabbi Zusya, he told him the whole story and asked what his present predicament was due to. For had not the rabbi himself told him that his master was immeasurably greater than he?
Zusya replied: “Look! As long as you gave and did not bother to whom, whether to Zusya or another, God gave to you and did not bother to whom. But when you began to seek out especially noble and distinguished recipients, God did exactly the same.”
[Jack Kornfield, Stories of the Spirit, Stories of the Heart]
Finally, here’s audio of class chanting. This is the Tara mantra resolving into Om Namah Shivaya. This clip has a long slow fade-in so you may hear silence for the first 20 seconds.At around 3.40 minutes, I add a dharana on how these two mantras so beautifully complement and hold one another…
I cannot believe it is already November. And thank goddess the presidential campaign is over tomorrow.Or let us hope it ends tomorrow with no re-count challenges…
At class last week, we were contemplating the five koshas as described in the Taittiriya Upanishad. A fancy way to articulate the various levels (aka bodies) that weave through the ultimate oneness of our human being-ness. The more I think about it, the more I think that while this way of breaking it down into categories has its place in the work of developing mastery, I do believe Mary Oliver says it all way more beautifully….
WHAT CAN I SAY -Mary Oliver
What can I say that I have not said before? So I’ll say it again. The leaf has a song in it. Stone is the face of patience. Inside the river there is an unfinishable story and you are somewhere in it and it will never end until all ends.
Take your busy heart to the art museum and the chamber of commerce but take it also to the forest. The song you heard singing in the leaf when you were a child is singing still. I am of years lived, so far, seventy-four, and the leaf is singing still.
When I was meditating this morning, I found my mind contemplating the question, “Why?” Why do I meditate? Why have I been doing this practice now for nearly forty years? What have I received? Have I done it to receive anything? What’s the bloody point of it all? Why do I teach it to others?
And I remembered, being in high school, maybe my junior year. 1964 or 1965. I was reading Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha. I can still feel myself lying on the living room couch in my family’s home absorbed in that narrow paperback. And I came to the end of the story, where he has attained something wonderful. He has attained stillness. And every cell in my being started to pulsate. I didn’t know how to find what he found, but in that moment, my quest began…
So why do I meditate? All those years in Siddha Yoga formed a habit. What began as a quest and became a rigid following of ashram discipline — (really rather fear-based if I speak the truth to you now) — just became something I do.
Like breathing. Or sleeping. Or drinking chai.
And at this point in my life, to borrow a phrase from Mary Oliver, I am of years lived, so far, sixty-eight… And find I don’t need a reason. In fact, I question if having a reason is actually counter to the practice.
Meditating may contribute to my health and vitality —
may help to anchor my insight and intuition —
may foster an inner glow —
but I realized this morning that I don’t do it for any of those reasons.
I just meditate to meditate.
If I have a reason, it’s something like for the sheer joy of being alive and experiencing the sometimes beautiful, sometimes terrible, sometimes wonder-filled, sometimes terrifying life/death dance of life.
Which is more than enough reason for me.
* * * *
Tomorrow is Election Day in the USA. If you’re a US citizen, please vote!!! Because even though it seems like it barely makes a difference. That the status quo remains the status quo. That our so-called leaders remain in the pockets of corporate lobbyists. Still, somehow, in the big picture, it does matter. If only to elect someone who understands the climate crisis is here and it is real. And that is Hillary Clinton. Whether she’ll be able to do anything about it, probably only those incremental steps she’s famous for. And whether incremental steps are enough… I don’t think so. Nevertheless, I’m voting for Hillary. Not because she’s inspired me as a candidate. (She has not.) Not because she’s a woman. (To me it’s less about gender and more about consciousness.) Not because I particularly want to see Bill Clinton back in the White House. (It actually kind of creeps me out.) I’m voting for Hillary Clinton because I think she is far and away the best choice we have. And while I don’t agree with all her policies. And have concerns about how enmeshed she is in politics as usual. Still, I have real respect for her intelligence, wonkiness, and discipline. And suspect that although she doesn’t often show it in her public persona, I think she actually cares. And while I don’t think that’s enough. I do think it’s a starting point. We just need to ensure she is elected. And then keep pushing her to govern from that sense of care. Not from fear. Not from greed. Not from a need to dominate. To govern with care for everything that lives and breathes and is of this Earth we all call home…
The literal translation of the fourth Sun mantra, ॐ भानवे नमः om bhānave namaḥ is “Salutations to Bhānu, the bright splendor of light.” I’ve also seen it translated as “the diffuser of light.” Thinking about this week’s class, I was intrigued by the notion of diffusing, less as an aspect of the Sun — more in the way the mind diffuses light. Specifically that innate light otherwise knows as the inner Self. Which is the light that actually illuminates the mind so we’re even aware we’re thinking, let alone having peak experience enlightening flashes of insight.
When the mind is crystal clear, this inner light diffuses in its bright splendor aspect. When it’s not, the light diffusing through the mind’s lens (or lenses), will be distorted. Sometimes just a bit. Sometimes so much that it’s obliterated in the opacity.
Which brings me to the kleshas, those lovely lenses so brilliantly articulated in the great text of yogic psychology, Patanjali’s Yoga-Sutra. If you’re new to this blog and/or unfamiliar with this text, do visit May 15, 2011 in the Archive. For a quick reference, here you go:
Avidya is the lens that clouds our ability to know our true nature, which according to Yoga is light.
Asmita is the lens that tricks us into buying into that small sense of self that is prone to suffering.
Raga is pleasure, which, when tangled up with avidya and asmita, gets us all caught up in clinging to what makes us feel good.
Dvesha is aversion, which when tangled up with avidya and asmita, creates a profound separation from everything and anything we label as “bad.”
Abinivesha is clinging to life (or any situation) because we fear death (or change).
Needless to say, the mind is a complex instrument, managing any number of receiving, perceiving, discerning, projecting, remembering, associating, etc. functions at the same time. And the kleshas are right in there, wreaking havoc in the process. So this week’s talk explores the relationship between the kleshas and this fourth Sun mantra.
Here’s the opening dharana:
Here’s my dharma talk:
There were new people in the room this week so I spoke a bit about mantra. Here is that clip:
Finally, here are this week’s readings. First two poem from Coleman Bark’s translation of the poetry of Lalleshwari, Naked Song. Although Lalla would not have known the Yoga-Sutra, you can see how in both these poems, she is teaching about the kleshas.
Two From Lalleshwari
1. Wear just enough clothes to keep warm. Eat only enough to stop the hunger-pang.
And as for your mind, let it work to recognize who you are, and the Absolute, and that this body will become food for the forest crows.
2. Enlighten your desires. Meditate on who you are. Quit imagining.
What you want is profoundly expensive, and difficult to find, yet closeby.
Don’t search for it. It is nothing, and a nothing within nothing.
And a Sheikh Nasrudin story and commentary from Swami Muktananda’s, Where Are You Going? A Guide to the Spiritual Journey:
Once Sheikh Nasrudin woke up early in the morning, before it was light. He called his disciplele, Mahmud, and said, “Go outside and see if the sun has risen.” Mahmud went out and came back inside.
“It’s pitch black,” he said. “I cannot see the sun at all.”
At this, Nasrudin became very angry. “You fool,” he shouted. “Haven’t you got the sense to use a flashlight?”
That is exactly what we do. To expect a spiritual technique to reveal the indwelling God is like expecting a flashlight to illumine the Sun. A flashlight cannot shine beside the Sun. Like the Sun, the Self is always shining with its own effulgence. What sadhana can illumine the Self. Only through a subtle and sublime intellect can we know it. We meditate and perform spiritual practices only in order to make the intellect pure enough to reflect the effulgence of the Self.
Baba did teach a great deal from Patanjali and in this quote, although he’s not using technical language, he is very much speaking about spiritual practice as a way to clean and polish the mind (here referred to as intellect) so that nothing hinders, obstructs, distorts, or extinguishes the shining bright splendor of the Self.
The last time I checked in here, it was November and I was settling into my new home. What I’d not yet begun to write about was my discovery and subsequent love affair with the Surya Namaskar mantras. These mantras came to me in April 2015 and after a few weeks of singing them, it was clear they were the centerpiece of our next album in The Mantra Project collection. That album, Mantras of the Sun, released April 22, 2016 and debuted at #2 on iTunes World Music Chart. I’m developing a new blog devoted solely to these mantras and my own contemplations of the Sun. More on that when it goes live. In the meantime, if you’d like to listen or buy it, it’s available wherever music is streamed and/or sold. And if you have any problems finding it online, please visit my website, suzingreen.com.
The Sun mantras are elemental mantras, embodying twelve aspects of the Sun. For me personally, working with them has been an ongoing revelation. Early on in the process, I realized how much I’ve taken this extraordinary star that just happens to be our Sun, for granted. It is after all the source and sustainer of life on Earth, always there even when we don’t see it. The absolute center of our solar system, it’s way more than a metaphor or archetype. It’s a fully embodied form and rather amazing mirror of our own inner light.
For those who visit this blog who don’t attend class or have not been to Mantras of the Sun concerts, I’ll include the mantras at the end of this post.
We’ve now had many classes constellated around these mantras. Over the coming months, as I’m able to blog here, I’ll post more content from this last year of Monday Night Class. Rather than go back to the beginning however, I’m posting material from this week, Monday, May 16, 2016. The contemplation for this class was “Generosity” and the mantra we focused on was:
om sūryāya namaḥ |
Salutations to Sūrya, the self-luminous light
Here’s the opening dharana:
As I wrote above, the topic for class this week was “Generosity.” And if you think about the Sun, I think you’ll agree, among its many aspects, generosity is a key one. The Sun shines down on this entire planet, offering its life giving energy in the forms of light and heat and asking nothing, NOTHING, in return. You want a role model for right living, perhaps I should call it “light living,” make friends with the Sun.
Here’s my dharma talk from May 16:
Here are the poems and the story:
Making the House Ready for the Lord
Dear Lord, I have swept and I have washed but still nothing is as shining as it should be for you. Under the sink, for example, is an uproar of mice – it is the season of their many children. What shall I do? And under the eaves and through the walls the squirrels have gnawed their ragged entrances – but it is the season when they need shelter, so what shall I do? And the raccoon limps into the kitchen and opens the cupboard while the dog snores, the cat hugs the pillow; what shall I do? Beautiful is the new snow falling in the yard and the fox who is staring boldly up the path, to the door. And still I believe you will come, Lord: you will, when I speak to the fox, the sparrow, the lost dog, the shivering sea-goose, know that really I am speaking to you whenever I say, as I do all morning and afternoon: Come in, Come in.
The Place I Want to Get Back To
is where in the pinewoods in the moments between the darkness and first light two deer came walking down the hill and when they saw me they said to each other, okay, this one is okay, let’s see who she is and why she is sitting on the ground, like that, so quiet, as if asleep, or in a dream, but, anyway, harmless; and so they came on their slender legs and gazed upon me not unlike the way I go out to the dunes and look and look and look into the faces of the flowers; and then one of them leaned forward and nuzzled my hand, and what can my life bring to me that could exceed that brief moment? For twenty years I have gone every day to the same woods, not waiting, exactly, just lingering. Such gifts, bestowed, can’t be repeated. If you want to talk about this come to visit. I live in the house near the corner, which I have named Gratitude.
This post is already so long I’lll end with the mantras and include the Jataka Tale I told on my next post. Here are the mantras.
THE TWELVE SŪRYA NAMASKAR MANTRAS
ॐ मित्राय नमः
om mitrāya namaḥ |
Salutations to Mitra, the friend of all
ॐ रवये नमः
om ravaye namaḥ |
Salutations to Ravi, whose radiance hums
ॐ सूर्याय नमः
om sūryāya namaḥ |
Salutations to Sūrya, the self-luminous light
ॐ भानवे नमः
om bhānave namaḥ |
Salutations to Bhānu, the bright splendor of light
ॐ खगाय नमः
om khagāya namaḥ |
Salutations to Khaga, who moves through the sky like a bird
ॐ पूष्णे नमः
om pūṣṇe namaḥ |
Salutations to Puṣan, whose cleansing light gives strength
ॐ हिरण्यगर्भाय नमः
om hiraṇyagarbhāya namaḥ |
Salutations to Hiraṇyagarbha, the golden egg resplendent as the sun
ॐ मरीचये नमः
om marīcaye namaḥ |
Salutations to Marīci, the shining particle of light
ॐ आदित्याय नमः
om ādityāya namaḥ
Salutations to Āditya, the son of Aditi, the mother of the gods
ॐ सवित्रे नमः
om savitre namaḥ |
Salutations to Savitṛ, the vivifying power of the sun
ॐ अर्काय नमः
om arkāya namaḥ |
Salutations to Arka, whose flash of light is a song upon the earth
ॐ भास्कराय नमः
om bhāskarāya namaḥ |
Salutations to Bhāskara, the beautiful splendor of light
Had someone had told me in early June, that by September I’d have sold my house and moved to an in-town apartment, I would have said, “No way.” Yet here I sit, marveling at the change that brought me here and reveling in the perfection of the timing and lightening of my load.
One of the many wonders of this stunningly unanticipated shift has been watching my cat Lily adjust to her new home. Lily is ten years old and a creature of profound and sedentary habit. In the language of Yoga we would say she is kapha on steroids, tamasic to the nth degree. I knew the change would be traumatic for her, but was unprepared for the extent. She spent her first three weeks here hiding under my bed. By the end of the first month, she was slowly emerging. By week six, she’d finally found her groove.
That’s when I noticed the transformation. And transformation is not a word I associate with cats. Nevertheless, as Lily embraced her new surroundings, she regained that marvelous feline curiosity and a new bounce in her gait. Her eyes looked brighter. Her coat had more shine. Her sedentary habits had slipped away.
Watching Lily’s transformation was such a confirmation of the yogic impulse to push through limitation. All those narratives, conscious and hidden, that diminish our sense of Self. Physical pain, fears, belief systems, psycho/emotional wounding, habitual patterns, the list of stifling possibilities goes on and on. And as we’ve all experienced so many times, every time we push through these holding patterns, we get bigger. We taste our infinite possibility. We become more of who we actually are. I’ve always known this is true of humans. I had no idea it is also true of cats…
While these individual acts of reclamation may not be enough to transform the toxic narratives that threaten our 21st century world, I think each one adds a drop to the ocean of wisdom, the ocean of light. And one of these days or years or eons from now, that ocean will devour the terrible darkness that knows only how to cause harm.
For now, we can only do what we can do. Some are called to the front lines. Others work in the unseen corners. But wherever we may be, we can always shift out of stuck patterns. Any small act will do. It can be as simple as saying “yes” if our default is “no,” or “no,” if our default is “yes.” The key is in pushing through our comfort zones. Be they physical, intellectual, emotional, or spiritual. We’ve all had the experience ten thousand times. Every time we move past those self-imposed fences, something wonderful opens up inside.
I recently fell in love with a new poem from Mary Oliver. She sings this truth so beautifully. If you receive my eNewsletters, you have it in the Thanksgiving blast. If you do not, enjoy…..
When I moved from one house to another there were many things I had no room for. What does one do? I rented a storage space. And filled it. Years passed. Occasionally I went there and looked in, but nothing happened, not a single twinge of the heart. As I grew older the things I cared about grew fewer, but were more important. So one day I undid the lock and called the trash man. He took everything. I felt like the little donkey when his burden is finally lifted. Things! Burn them, burn them! Make a beautiful fire! More room in your heart for love, for the trees! For the birds who own nothing–the reason they can fly.
from Felicity, Penguin Books, 2015. Click here to order a copy.
Spring arrives Friday, March 20th at 6:45 PM EDT. And while the light has been returning since the solstice turn, there is something about the equinox, not to mention daylight savings time, that makes it all seem more, how can I say, official. Not that the cosmic movements need any official validation from us mere mortals….
Nevertheless, to honor the light and it’s lengthening return, we’ve been chanting myriad rounds of gayatri-mantra each week. For those visitors to this blog who do not actually attend class — and also for those who do not own the version of gayatri we recorded on our 2014 music release, Daughter of the Mountain, I’m including that as a small gift…
I’m posting poems I read at the last two classes. These carry the essence of my talks. Sit with them and let them take you where they do. Audio clips of my dharma talks and class chanting will follow soon. For now, please enjoy what’s here.
Here’s the version of gayatri-mantra we created for Daughter of the Mountain. If you’re looking for a more traditional vedic style, scroll around this blog where you’ll find any number of clips from class chanting.
Here are poems from March 3 Monday Night Class. The theme for the evening was patience. This first poem is from Mary Oliver’s new collection, Blue Horses.
Such Silence Mary Oliver As deep as I ever went into the forest I came upon an old stone bench, very, very old, And around it a clearing, and beyond that Trees taller and older than I had ever seen. Such silence! It really wasn’t so far from a town, but it seemed all the clocks in the world had stopped counting. So it was hard to suppose the usual rules applied. Sometimes there’s only a hint, a possibility. What’s magical, sometimes, has deeper roots Than reason. I hope everyone knows that. I saw on the bench, waiting for something. An angel, perhaps. Or dancers with the legs of goats. No, I didn’t see either. But only, I think, because I didn’t stay long enough.
The second poem is from Mother of the Universe, Lex Hixon’s ecstatic versions of Ramprasad.
Beat the Great Drum of Fearlessness Ramprasad/Lex Hixon O longing mind, focus all your longing on Mother Kali. You will receive pure love and liberating knowledge tangibly as fruits placed on the palm of the hand. Release any lingering pride of personal power and merge your entire being with her. This is the worship that disappoints Death. Please heed the call of Mother Reality! Inwardly repeat Kali’s transforming name and discover the fountain of illumination where the thirst of her lovers is quenched, their very being immersed in her being. Infused by Goddess Wisdom, this poet proclaims with adamantine conviction: “Sisters and brothers, release your root obsession, your greed, anger, pride, jealousy. There are only forms of fear. beat the great drum of fearlessness and reach the final goal, awakening as pure consciousness.”
The theme of March 9 Monday Night Class was something like: “get over yourself, drop the stories, drop the ego’s identification, and simply embrace what is…” And who better to express that then the great Hafiz. These three poems are from Daniel Landinsky’s The Gift.
Stop Being So Religious Hafiz What Do sad people have in Common? It seems They have all built a shrine To the past And often go there And do a strange wail and Worship. What is the beginning of Happiness? It is to stop being So religious Like That.
Crooked Deals Hafiz There is A madman inside of you Who is always running for office— Why vote him in, For he never keeps the accounts straight. He gets all kinds of crooked deals Happening all over town That will just give you a big headache And glue to your kisser A gigantic Confused Frown.
The Idiot’s Warehouse Hafiz I know the idiot’s warehouse Is always full. I know each of us Could run back and forth from there All day long And show everyone our vast collection. Though tonight, Hafiz, Retire from the madness for an hour, Gather with some loyal friends Or sit alone And Sing beautiful songs To God.
Class resumes tonight after a long break. Back in December however, we were working with the deity field personified so beautifully in the Indian tradition as the goddess Laksmi.
One of the most beloved faces of the Sacred Feminine, it is said that when we remember Laksmi, great sins are overcome, good fortune ensues, and the great enemy ego is destroyed. On the inner plane, we experience Laksmi as a radiance that sweetens every aspect of life. This is an inner power that draws us into our full potential, enhances our innate beauty and gifts, and nurtures the possibility of our own magnificence. On the outer plane, we experience Laksmi as good fortune and grace.
What I find most interesting however, in the myths and teachings surrounding Laksmi, is often left out or glossed over. She is born from an alliance between the gods (think of the gods as your noble and/or divine possibility) and demons (the inner obstacles that cloud your way.) And it is through this alliance of opposing tendencies, and the great churning that ensues, that Laksmi comes into being. So for me, the creation myth of Laksmi has a lot to say about the process of inner transformation. It is not about discarding that which does not please us, or for that matter, that which seems to get in our way. It is about making an alliance with all the myriad aspects of ourselves and churning together, until something new and fine is created. Churning is an essential action of this mystery. If we want to realize the expansive possibility of Lasksmi within ourselves, we have to be willing to churn…
Here are audio clips from the Dec. 1 Class on Laksmi.
This is the opening dharana:
This is my dharma talk:
This is chanting of the laksmi-bija-mantra (om srim mahalaksmiyei namaha):
And the final dharana:
In closing, a beautiful poem from Gabriel Rosenstock’s Year of the Goddess:
From each and every pore look how the sun beams
On your eternal dance
The dark side of the moon is bright
If you open Your mouth
Stars will escape and chant their hymns for You
You are they
Swiftly swans fly backwards
How can I imagine Your embrace
Without exploding in Your galaxy?
And note from the poet on a literary device he uses which strikes me as extraordinarily mantric in the way sound and meaning are embedded deeper and deeper within the words… So that each word becomes like those Russian dolls, within and within and within…
Some words in this poem sequence are ‘shaded’ to allow for another reading of a line, or a faint echo, a game much cherished by Celtic poets of yore. Thus the reader sees the word as the world when written as world and encounters bhakti invocations such as ma (mother) hidden in the word mad!
We’re moving into a cycle of wisdom teachings of the Devi tradition, expressed so beautifully in Lex Hixon’s version of this poem from Ramprasad:
Unveil the self-radiant diamond of your essence Ramprasad/Hixon
O distracted mind,
why are you indulging in anxiety? Be still for just the space of Kali, Kali, Kali and concentrate your gaze on her reality. Those who worship the Goddess with splendid ceremony become imbued with pride. Much better is the inward path of secret devotion, invisible to the curious state of the world.
Why construct static images of Mother Reality from metal, stone, straw, clay? Allow pure mind to compose her form from consciousness alone. Place this living image on the heart lotys and wait for her to come.
Why bother to gather ripe plantains to present with ritual gestures at her feet? She delights only in the nectar of selfless love, offered directly and abundantly, breath by breath.
Why worship with such profusion of jewels and lamps? Unveil the self-radiant diamond of your essence, O mind, and allow it alone to illuminate the heart’s secret shrine day and night.
What sense is there to sacrifice animals as worship of Goddess Kali, when she desires only the death of egocentricity? Cut through these childish dreams of separation with her sword of nondual wisdom, crying: “Victory to Kali! Jai Ma Kali! May your truth of oneness triumph endlessly!”
The singer of this hymn has no need for flute or drum but calls ecstatically to everyone: “Clap your hands and proclaim melodiously Ma Kali’s universal victory, until the mind dissolves completely into her inconceivable reality.”
The poem says it so exquisitely:
“Until the mind dissolves completely into her inconceivable reality” — i.e., the self-radiant diamond of our essential nature…
And that my friends is the path and the goal. Experiencing that, knowing that, moving into that…. That’s the practice. That’s why we practice. That, quite simply, is it. Or as Keats put it, “that is all we need to know…”
* * * * * * *
Here’s the opening chant from last week’s class. I’ve been personally obsessing with this version of Durga, Durga, Durga. I posted words and free translation on last week’s post. Here they are again:
Durga Durga Durga, Jai Jai Ma Karuna Sagari Ma Kali Kapalini Ma Jagododharini Ma Jai Jagadambe Jai Jai Ma
Glory to the Ocean of Knowledge, Compassion, and Truth that carries me across the ocean of the world.
Think of the ocean of the world as the sense of limitation and separateness that wreaks havoc in the ways we conduct ourselves in our inner and outer lives… (aka “O distracted mind, why are you indulging in anxiety…’)
Here’s my 10.6 Dharma Talk. This clip also contains class chanting of Hymn to Devi and my reading of the Ramprasad poem:
Finally, here’s class chanting of Navarna mantra and closing dharana: