September 17, Monday Night Class: It’s Never Too Late to Become What You Might Have Been

After weeks of brutal heat and humidity, the rains and cool weather have come. Reminding me that nothing, NOTHING, is forever. And while everyone tells me I don’t look or seem my 70 years, the reality is, I’m standing on seven decades. I now know in my bones what I only knew in my mind even just a few years ago. Every moment is a blessing and a gift. Cherish it…

Class has resumed after a long summer break. And what a joy to be back in the Monday Night groove. Driving to class I was listening to an All Things Considered interview with Sally Fields who cites the quote (attributed to George Eliot) with which I’ve titled this post.  It’s never too late to become what you might have been…

Yes.
This is the truth.

Here’s this week’s dharma talk and reading from David Whyte’s book of essays, Consolations.

This passage from David Whyte perfectly articulates my feelings about the essence of what class, in fact, what all of my work is about…

…the ultimate touchstone of friendship is not improvement, neither of the other nor of the self, the ultimate touchstone is witness, the privilege of having been seen by someone and the equal privilege of being granted the sight of the essence of another, to have walked with them and to have believed in them, and sometimes just to have accompanied them for however brief a span, on a journey impossible to accomplish alone.

Here’s audio of class chanting. With apologies for recording quality. Daniel was at class so listen for his amazing tabla…

The Mangalam 

Gayatri and Om Namah Shivaya Mantras

Monday, October 6, 2014: “Beauty is Truth, Truth beauty…that is all ye need to know.”

Class has resumed after a long summer break and we’re moving into a cycle of wisdom teachings on and of the Goddess.

I’ve talked about the Goddess for so many years, images of, mythology of, paths of, mantras of, wisdom of, on and on it goes. And nothing against any of this. But at the end of the day, it is so not about personified forms. Lovely as the images can be, lovely as the stories, that is all dust. The only thing that matters is our inner experience, that inner flash of light we experience as insight, inspiration, clarity, truth — and perhaps, most of all, love…

If the goddess is anything, it is this, the inner pulsation that not only gives life, but charges that life with wisdom, meaning, purpose, possibility, and once again, love. We need to find this inside ourselves as ourselves. Only then can we really know it, nourish it, reflect it, recognize it, and once again, love it…

I don’t know if Keats was thinking of the Goddess when he wrote Ode on a Grecian Urn.  Nevertheless, his ending couplet, “Beauty is truth, truth beauty, – that is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know” could be a bumper sticker for goddess wisdom. More on this over the coming weeks.

For now, audio clips from 9.29 Monday Night Class.

Here’s the opening chant (and words to), Durga, Durga, Durga, Jai Jai Ma:

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.

Here’s my dharma talk which runs around twelve minutes:

Finally, we chanted the Hymn to Devi from Chapter 5 of Devi Mahatmyam as a prelude to chanting Om Namah Shivaya before moving into silent meditation. This audio clip contains these two chanting segments plus a dharana on ONS in the context of goddess practice:

Part II: Naked & Bowed Low

2.9.2013

For reasons  beyond my comprehension, the WordPress program is not allowing me to include my brief commentary and clip of Om Namah Shivaya with the previous post. This should come at the end of the section on Navarna mantra:

So we don’t want to contemplate Descent without paying homage to this radiant force… A force that finds grounding, stillness, and completion in the subtle vibratory universe of the mantra Om Namah Shivaya. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

We’re continuing our focus on Patanjali Book III, but adding Laksmi Work to the mix. Something about summer, the abundance of greenery, produce, heat and humidity has me contemplating the force of Laksmi in all its complexity, wonder, and power… Here are the sutras we read this evening:
III,6. Perfect discipline is mastered in stages.
III, 7. These three components – concentration, absorption, and integration – are more interiorized than the preceding five.
III, 8. Even these three are external to integration that bears no seeds.
III, 9. The transformation towards total stillness occurs as new latent impressions fostering cessation arise to prevent
the activation of distractive stored one, and moments of stillness begin to permeate consciousness.
III, 10. These latent impressions help consciousness flow from one tranquil moment to the next.
III, 11. Consciousness is transformed toward integration as distractions dwindle and focus arises.
III, 12. In other words, consciousness is transformed toward focus as continuity develops between arising and
subsiding perceptions.
Readers of this blog who attend class with some regularity, or are conversant with these teachings, will find the above sutras fairly straightforward. If, on the other hand, this language is less than familiar, it may seem undecipherable. So let me say that Patanjali is breaking the movement of mind and breath into carefully delineated categories. And in these sutras, he’s giving us a clue about how to live with an internal sense of freedom and ease. Otherwise known as mastery…
Which is how the Laksmi Work comes into my mind…

I’ll be weaving these two, Patanjali Book III and the Laksmi Work together over the next few weeks. For now I want to get this week’s dharma talk, readings, and chanting clips posted, so will keep this brief.

Here’s a clip of this week’s chanting the yoga sutras:

This is a clip of my dharma talk. It runs long, around 27 minutes.  No big surprise as we read so many sutras this evening. I was particularly focused on III, 8, where Patanjali brings in the notion of seeds of karma. But along with that, this talk, while free-wheeling as my talks often are, begins to tie together threads of Patanjali Book III and the Laksmi Work:
Here are the poems, from Rumi and Mary Oliver, that I read at the close of my talk:
Two from Rumi:

There’s a hidden sweetness
in the stomach’s emptiness.
We are lutes, no more, no less. If the soundbox
is stuffed full of anything, no music.
If the brain and belly are burning clean
with fasting, every moment a new song comes
out of the fire. The fog clears, and a new energy
makes you run up the steps in front of you.
Be emptier and cry like reed instruments cry.
Emptier, write secrets with the reed pen.
When you’re full of food and drink, Satan sits
where your spirit should, an ugly metal statue
in place of the Kaaba. When you fast,
good habits gather like friends who want to help.
Fasting is Solomon’s ring. Don’t give it
to some illusion and lose your power.
But even if you’ve lost all will and control,
they come back when you fast, like soldiers appearing
out of the ground, pennants flying above them.

*********

Submit to a daily practice.
Your loyalty to that
is a ring on the door.
 
Keep knocking, and the joy inside
will eventually open a window
and look out to see who’s there.

This is a clip of chanting the mantra Om Namah Shivaya:
This is a clip of the closing meditation:

PCYH @ Orchard Hill Center in Skillman, NJ

Beginning on Monday, 1/23/12, Monday Night Class moves to the new Princeton Center for Yoga & Health:

PCYH @ Orchard Hill Center
88 Orchard Road
Skillman, NJ 08558

 

In beauty may I walk
All day long may I walk
Through the returning seasons may I walk….
With dew about my feet may I walk
With beauty before me may I walk
With beauty behind me may I walk
With beauty above me may I walk
With beauty all around me may I walk
It is finished in beauty
It is finished in beauty
-Navaho Beauty Way

Please use this link for map & directions:

http://princetonyoga.com/directions-to-pcyh/

 

October 25, 2010

I find this week’s verse from Tao Te Ching particularly moving:

35.
She who is centered in the Tao
can go where she wishes, without danger.
She perceives the universal harmony,
even amid great pain,
because she has found peace in her heart.

Music or the smell of good cooking
may make people stop and enjoy.
But words that point to the Tao
seem monotonous and without flavor.

When you look for it, there is nothing to see.
When you listen for it, there is nothing to hear.
When you use it, it is inexhaustible.

This verse put me in mind of one of my favorite teachings from the Hindu Yogic tradition, sthitha prajna, steady wisdom. This quote comes from the medieval poet-saint Jneshwar’s commentary on Bhagavad Gita:

O Arjuna, if you want to have the vision of wisdom, pay attention to Me.  I will explain to you how to recognize wisdom.
You may recognize wisdom in a person who has patience without intolerance.

He patiently bears all things, just as a person wears his favorite ornaments.  Even if calamity should come to him, he wouldn’t be overwhelmed by it.

His attitude is one of glad acceptance, whether he obtains what he wants or what he doesn’t want.

Be bears with equanimity both honor and shame, he is the same in happiness and sorrow, and he isn’t affected differently by praise or blame.

He isn’t scorched by heat, nor does he shiver with cold.  He isn’t intimidated by anything.

Just as Mount Meru doesn’t feel the weight of its own peaks, nor does the boar feel the burden of the earth, and just as the entire creation doesn’t weigh down the earth, in the same way, he doesn’t sweat under the pressure of the pairs of opposites.

Just as the ocean swells to receive the water of all the rivers flowing into it, similarly, there is nothing that such a person cannot bear with equanimity, and he has no memory even of what he has suffered.

Whatever happens to his body he accepts as his own, and he takes no credit for what he suffers.

O Arjuna, he who practices such quiet endurance adds greatness to wisdom.

So, my dear ones, here are your readings for this week. I would love to embellish the above quotes with more commentary as I do at class, but honestly, as I copy them here, I find myself pulled into an inner place where there are no words.  Seems the best I can do is be scribe to the teachings, which I offer from my heart to yours. May we enter into that sublime stillness through the Monday Night portals of chanting, meditation and good company, again and again and again.