October 13, 2014: Unveil the Self-Radiant Diamond of Your Essence

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:

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:

July 14, 2014, Vijnana Bhairava III, Part 1: A Crash Course in Couples’ Communication

My last post focused on the way the introductory verses of this text celebrate the dialogue between that within us that asks the question and that within us that knows the answer. Another teaching we can glean from this text comes when we pay attention to the way Devi speaks to Bhairava. I spoke about this at length in my dharma talk on June 9. And while I titled this post “A Crash Course in Couple’s Communication,” the lessons apply across the board.

So much of our interaction with other people happens in a way I will call out of time. Out of the present moment. Out of the possibility of speaking and listening with Heart. It’s understandable. We’re a wounded culture, very much under the influence of an external value system that has little to do with our humanity and gifts. Many of us have never truly been seen or valued. So no big surprise much of our communication tends to be fear-based, shame-based, advice-based, distracted, etc.  How many times have you caught yourself thinking about what you’re going to say next, rather than actually listening to what the other person is saying. How many times have you found yourself self-referencing when talking with others, rather than just listening and giving them the space for their own experience?

Here’s my June 9 Dharma Talk on this topic. We had a new person at class so there’s also introductory material here, woven into a free-wheeling talk. Enjoy.

Here’s the text I quote in my talk. Regular visitors to this blog will note this text posted a few weeks ago. I’m including it again for those who like to read along while listening to the talk:

This is from Lorin Roche, The Radiance Sutras: A New Version of the Vijnana Bhaira Tantra:

One day the Goddess sang to her lover, Bhairava:

Beloved and radiant Lord of the space before birth,
Revealer of essence,
Slayer of the ignorance that binds us,

You who in play have created this universe
And permeated all forms in it with never-ending truth –
I have been wondering. . .

I have been listening to the hymns of creation,
Enchanted by the verses,
Yet still I am curious.

What is this delight-filled universe
Into which we find ourselves born?
What is this mysterious awareness
Shimmering everywhere within it?

I have been listening to the love songs of
Form longing for formless.

What are these energies
Undulating through our bodies,
Pulsing us into action?

And this “matter” out of which our forms are made –
What are these dancing particles of condensed radiance?
The Goddess then asks,

What is this power we call Life,
Appearing as the play of flesh and breath?
How may I know this mystery and enter it more deeply?

Beloved, my attention is ensnared by a myriad of forms,
Innumerable individual entities everywhere.
Lead me into the wholeness beyond all these parts.

You who hold the mysteries in your hand –
Of will, knowledge, and action,
Reveal to me the path of illumined knowing.

Lead me into joyous union
With the life of the universe.
Teach me that I may know it fully,
Realize it deeply,
And breathe in luminous truth.

 

And here’s the wonderful parallel text from William Blake’s, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell:

The Voice of the Devil

 All Bibles or sacred codes have been the causes of the following Errors:

    1. That Man has two real existing principles: Viz: a Body & a Soul.

    2. That Energy, call’d Evil, is alone from the Body; & that Reason, call’d Good, is alone from the Soul.

    3. That God will torment Man in Eternity for following his energies.

 But the following Contraries to these are True:

   1. Man has no Body distinct from his Soul; for that call’d Body is a portion of Soul discerned by the five    Senses, the chief inlets of Soul in this age.

   2. Energy is the only life, and is from the Body; and Reason is the bound or outward circumference of Energy.

   3. Energy is Eternal Delight.

  Those who restrain desire, do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained; and the restrainer or reason usurps its place and governs the unwilling.

 And being restrain’d, it by degrees becomes passive, till it is only the shadow of desire.

  ********

This post is too long for the template so I’ve broken it into two parts. Scroll down for Part 2.

June 13, 2014, Vijnana Bhairava II: That Who Seeks; That Who Knows

I was a premature baby, born six weeks before term. My lifelong pattern of bypassing the beginning was probably set that day. Here’s how I learned to ski:

My father took me to Davos Mountain in upstate New York, rented me boots and skis and out we went. By the end of the day I was making my way down the mountain without too many falls and quite enjoying myself. Walking back to the lodge we passed the beginner’s slope. I still remember my shock. “Dad,” I said, “Why didn’t you start me here?” “Try it now,” he said. And after a day on the intermediate slopes, the beginner’s run was easy…

And so too with our immersion in Vijnana Bhairava. I initially skipped us over the introductory verses, moving right into the dharanas. While the decision made sense at the time, I began to suspect the impulse was driven by this deep unconscious leapfrog pattern.  While I’m not suggesting leapfrogging is always the wrong choice, I would rather not subject Monday Night Class to my unconscious motivation.

We’ve therefore circled back to the beginning of this text. Full disclosure: I’ve always discounted these first verses as a literary device to get the text moving. Devi asks Bhairava to explain the meaning of life and after some and back and forth, the discourse begins.

What I now come to see is that these introductory verses are much more than a literary device. They are setting up the text as a dialogue between that within us that asks the question and that within us that knows the answer.

Our culture places great value on knowing. We’re conditioned to give the “right” answer and many of us feel shame when we get it “wrong.” The answer is somehow more important than the question. I will say that this comes from our fear of the unknown, from our need to “look good,” from a deep and terrifying sense that we are not okay.

The notion that knowing will protect us is a dangerous one. We all see how on its own, knowing is a static state of being. At the individual level, it keeps us stuck in tired old narratives and belief systems. At the collective level, it hardens into oppressive political, religious, cultural, etc. institutions. And what is all of that but a thrust away from what actually is… from the unpredictable, unknowable Mystery in which we are born and live our lives and die back into again and again and again…

It’s quite possible that my father who was an expert skier thought we were on the beginner’s slope. However, I doubt that very much. I think he understood the power of not knowing. I think he took a risk that day, moved by a sense that taking me out on the intermediate slope would push me through any fear-based notion I had of what it is to be a beginning skier. Ironically, by bypassing the beginner’s slope, he broke me into “beginner’s mind.”  He allowed me the experience of moving in the wide-open space that the yoga of Vijnana Bhairava is all about.

Here’s an audio clip of the June 2 class:

 

Here are the introductory verses. These are from The Radiance Sutras: A New Version of the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra, by Lorin Roche. 

 

1.

One day the Goddess sang to her lover, Bhairava:

Beloved and radiant Lord of the space before birth,
Revealer of essence
Slayer of the ignorance that binds us,

You who in play have created this universe
And permeated all forms in it with never-ending truth —
I have been wondering…

I have been listening to hymns of creation,
Enchanted by the verses,
Yet still I am curious.

What is this delight-filled universe
Into which we find ourselves born?
What is this mysterious awareness
Shimmering everywhere within it?

2.
I have been listening to the love songs of
Form longing for formless.
 
What are these energies
Undulating through our bodies,
Pulsing us into action?
And this “matter” out of which our forms are made –
What are these dancing particles of condensed radiance?

3.
The Goddess then asks,
 
What is this power we call Life,
Appearing as the play of flesh and breath?
How may I know this mystery and enter it more deeply?
 
Beloved, my attention is ensnared by a myriad of forms,
Innumerable individual entities everywhere.
Lead me into the wholeness beyond all these parts.
 
You who hold the mysteries in your hand –
Of will, knowledge, and action,
Reveal to me the path of illumined knowing.
 
Lead me into joyous union
                With the life of the universe.
Teach me that I may know it fully,
Realize it deeply,
And breathe in luminous truth.

 

Regular visitors to this blog know I like to bring in parallel readings to whatever text we’re wandering through. This is an excerpt from, Resurrecting Jesus: Embodying the Spirit of a Revolutionary Mystic, by Adyashanti, reprinted in the Summer 2014 issue of Parabola Magazine. The article is titled, The Mystery of The Resurrection. Adyashanti is writing about the version of the story as told in the Gospel of Mark.

 

Of course, Mark always goes for the surprise; he turns corners in his storytelling you don’t expect, and that is the beauty of  Mark. Mark doesn’t always read eloquently; he’s not a poet like the writer of John’s gospel. He’s more interested in exploring the unexpected shifts and turns of the story, and I think he does this because it opens the mind and heart to the mysteriousness of life. When we keep reading things that are unexpected, and encountering scenes that sometimes end almost before they’ve begun, it leaves us in a mysterious state of being. And I think this state of openness is where the writer of the  Gospel of Mark wanted to leave us. This is the state in which we can recognize the radiance and, when we’re open and caught off guard by the winds of spirit, we can be transformed into its shining. 

 

When SUNY Press reissued Jaideva Singh’s English translation of Vijnana Bhairava, they gave it the title, The Yoga of Delight, Wonder, and Astonishment. And that’s it right there. Wonder, astonishment, and delight. It’s enough to begin with contemplating the possibility of living in this space, of living in this spaciousness.

We tend to ascribe the so-called positive emotions — feelings of love, joy, contentment — to words like “delight” and “wonder.” Alas, this leaves out the other half of the experience of being human. I think it’s crucial to understand that as we practice living, breathing, perceiving, from the mysterious space between, what we might call the Heart Space, whatever is arising from our feeling-body, so-called positive or negative emotion, is held.  That’s the paradox. We are so huge we can hold it all and in that holding, as Adyashanti writes, we are transformed.

I had a glimpse of this at my very first yogic meditation retreat. In those days my musical life was focused on improvisational piano.  Much of the music that came through me was melodic and lyrical, beautiful, pleasing, acceptable. There was this whole other music that was wild and dissonant, dark, loud, crashing. There was nothing beautiful or acceptable about it. Yet when I was in this music, I felt a deep sense of power and aliveness. These were the early years of my journey. I had no way of holding what was happening to me. Mostly I kept it secret, shrouded in confusion and shame.

So here I am. It’s the third day of a euphoric experience. I’ve found my path, my practice, my guru. All is right with the world until the afternoon meditation session when I find myself lost in a maelstrom of doubt and self-loathing. Then comes the question, “What is wrong with me? I just want to make beautiful music. What is this terrible music I can’t stop playing?” And then I hear the voice.  “Your music is my music. It is the music of the Earth. It is the music of crashing waves and thunderstorms, of sun and moon, of dark and light. Let it all sing through you. Let it all be one.”

 

June 8, 2014, Vijnana Bhairava I

Although my blogging has come to a standstill over the last six months, Monday Night Class continues in its brick and mortar form. This Spring we began working through the Shaivite text Vijnana Bhairava (Divine Consciousness.) I first encountered this text during my years in Siddha Yoga. In those days the only available English translations were Paul Reps’ minimalist add-on at the end of  Zen Flesh, Zen Bones and Jaideva Singh’s scholarly version, Divine Consciousness, reissued by SUNY Press as The Yoga of Delight, Wonder, and Astonishment. A perfect title for this amazing work now available in a new translation, The Radiance Sutras, by Lorin Roche.

Where Singh explores the philosophical labyrinth of the text, Roche is steeped in the experiential. While  hard core scholars may be less than enthusiastic about his approach, I have to say that overall I find it inspired, respectful, and pulsating with luminosity.

Roche’s version has therefore become our main reference, fleshed out with commentary from Singh and whatever parallel readings come my way…

A few points about Vijnana Bhairava:

This is a work of Tantric Shaivism.
In this system, Bhairava is the metaphor for Divine or Supreme or Ultimate Consciousness. The text unfolds as a dialogue between Bhairava and “his” beloved, Paradevi or Bhairavi. This is a literary device. The commentaries make it clear that Bhairava and Bhairavi are one unified field.

Bhairavi is the shakti of Bhairava. Just as there is no difference between fire and its power of burning, even so there is no difference between Bhairava and Paradevi. [Singh, introduction, p. xxviii]

The entire text spans only 163 verses or sutras. Verses 1-23 prepare the ground for the experiential teachings that begin with sutra 24. These are exquisite practices [aka dharanas] designed to break the mind wide open so it rests in its true nature which is Bhairava/Bhairavi, aka the Great Heart, aka Supreme Consciousness, aka the inner Self, aka wonder, astonishment, and delight…

Around the time I decided to bring Vijnana Bhairava to class, I came across this poem. It struck me as a perfect blessing for embarking on a journey through this (or any) sacred text…

Every day, priests minutely examine the Law
And endlessly chant complicated sutras.
Before doing that, though, they should learn
How to read the love letters sent by the wind
and rain, the snow and moon.

-Ikkyu (Ikkyu Sojun), English version by Sonya Arutze

In the circular spirit that pervades Monday Night Class, i.e. no clear beginning, middle or end, I will end this post with the 24th verse in Roche’s translation. Fyi, this is actually the 47th sutra; Roche’s numbering begins with the actual dharanas.

 

This body is made of earth and gold,
Sky and stars, river and oceans,
Masquerading as muscle and bone,
Every substance is here:
Diamonds and silver, magical elixirs,
Ambrosia that gives visions.
Herbs that nourish and heal.
The foundation of the planet,
Immortal magnetic iron,
Circulating in the blood.
Every element in you loves the others:
Earth loves rain, sky loves sun,
Sun loves the space it shines through.
Space loves everyone equally.
In meditation, be drenched in knowing
This deep and simple truth.
Every cell is an organ of sense
Saturated with freedom.

 

* Regular visitors to this site may wonder why my blogging seemed to stop. This was mostly due to the all-consuming demands of my new music release, Daughter of the Mountain. Along with that however, editing class audio is extremely time-consuming. So, in order to get back to regular blogging, I’ll no longer include audio clips with each post.

 

Monday, January 27, 2014: Warming the Stone Child

Stone child

I woke up Monday morning hearing the words “warming the stone child…” I remembered this is a title from Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ canon although did not recall the story. The image however is so evocative, I sat with it awhile, reflecting on winter and the stone cold darkness, on the longing for warmth and nurture, on how nothing warms the stone child like the blazing fire of the heart…

The other phrase I kept hearing was “sonic hydration.” Which struck me as the other medicine the stone child sorely needs.  Heart fire and heart hydration. And we all know the quickest route to these is chanting the Name…

I found a transcription of CPE’s telling of Warming the Stone Child online so was able to read it at class and will also post it here. It’s a beautiful version of this Inuit tale and as I said at class, who knows better how to thrive in the long dark cold of winter but people of the Artic.

Like all great wisdom tales, it transcends time and place and can be felt through myriad lenses of perception. For people on a yogic path, it has a lot to say about clinging to form, about surrender, about the awesome power of tears shed from the depths of suffering—about how everything we search for is within….

It reminds me of the Mirabai poem, The Heat of Midnight Tears which I also read at class. All this in the dharma talk audio clip below.

Here’s the story and the poem:

The Stone Child:
An Inuit Story told by Clarissa Pinkola Estes

 There was an orphan that was so lonely and so hungry that no one wanted to be near him.  His mouth was open all the time and his teeth were always showing and tears were always running down from his eyes, and he was so wild with hunger that they had to tie him in the entrance to one of the skin houses so he’d not try to eat the hunters on their way to the seal hunt; that’s how hungry he was.

They would, on occasion, leave him some rancid reindeer meat or maybe some spoiled intestines to eat, but, as we know, it was more than hunger that was gnawing at him.  Those deep needs that not even the person themselves understands.  So everyday he stretched his chain a little bit and a little bit more, until he could get near a stone that was more or less the same size as himself.  You see, his mother and father had died one night, and their bodies had been dragged off by bears, and all that had been left behind by them was this one particular stone.  So he wrapped both his arms and his legs around that rock and he wouldn’t let go of it.  And, of course, his people thought he was crazier than ever, and on their way home from the hunt, with animal carcasses slung over their shoulders, they would jeer at him, and they would say, “Analuk has taken a stone for a wife, ha ha.  It’s good for you to have a wife who is a stone, for then you cannot use your hunger and eat her.”  And they went on their way.  

But the boy was so lonely and so hungry that he really had reached the end of his feeling for life.  And even though he had that terrible loneliness and that gnawing hunger, he kept his body wrapped around that stone, and because the stone began to take the heat from his flesh, the boy began to die.  The stone took the heat from his hands, and then it took the heat from his thighs, and it even took the heat from his chin where he rested it on top of the stone.  

And just as the boy was living his last breath, the hunters of his village came by again on their way home from the hunt, and again they called him down, and they said, “You crazy boy!  You are nesting with that stone like it is an egg.  We should call you Bird Boy, you good-for-nothing creature.”  And because the boy was near death, his feelings were hurt more than he could ever say, and great icy tears began to roll down his face and across his parka, and his cold, cold tears hit the hot, hot stone with a sizzle and a hiss and a crack, and it broke the stone right in two.

And inside was the most perfect little female the boy could ever want.  “Come,” she said, “I am here now, and you are an orphan no more.”  And she gave him a bow and arrows and a harpoon she had brought with her, and the boy and the girl made their house and had babies.  And, if they are not yet dead, they are in that land where the snow is violet and the night sky is black.  They are there, living still.

The Heat of Midnight Tears
Mirabai,  English version by Robert Bly

Listen, my friend, this road is the heart opening,
Kissing his feet, resistance broken, tears all night.

If we could reach the Lord through immersion in water,
I would have asked to be born a fish in this life.
If we could reach Him through nothing but berries and wild nuts,
Then surely the saints would have been monkeys when they came from the womb!
If we could reach him by munching lettuce and dry leaves,
Then the goats would surely go to the Holy One before us!

If the worship of stone statues could bring us all the way,
I would have adored a granite mountain years ago.

Mirabai says: The heat of midnight tears will bring you to God.

One point I did not get to in this week’s dharma talk is the perfect ending of the Stone Child story: ” They are there, living still…”   Living still.   Such a beautiful evocation of the eternal stillness of the present moment. Reminds me of the opening sutras of Patanjali:

1.1 Atha  yogānushāsanam

1.2 Yogah  chitta  vritti  nirodhaha

1.3 Tadā  drashtu svarupe  avasthānam

Now, in this moment, the study of Yoga, which is the stilling of the thought waves of the mind; and in that stillness we rest in our essential nature.

I’ve walked this path now for nearly forty years and for me, chanting Om Namah Shivaya feels as fresh and alive as that very first time…Every repetition bathing me in sonic hydration, warming me from the inside, breaking open the stone child barriers in heart and mind so I merge, over and over, with the tender magnificence of the Self.

January 3, 2014

Sno

Here in central NJ I’m watching the snow come down. Looks like we have a good ten inches or more. Startling to gaze at this east coast winter wonderland and realize it’s sunny and warm on the west coast and there’s a heat wave in Australia. To those readers in places with more serious blizzard conditions than we’re having here, I wish you warmth, safety, and the good fortune to be able to stay indoors until you choose to venture out…. To those facing the opposite weather extremes, I wish you cooling breezes and gentle rain. Weather extremes notwithstanding, I wish everyone a good beginning to 2014.

01a08a75fb7d3dbe22537bd9e713d19cdd31b1757e

suzingreen.com   It’s been an auspicious start for me. January 1, my new album and website both went live. These have been major projects and what a joy to see them launch. Please visit the website — http://www.suzingreen.com — we’re still fine tuning but the basics are there.

Album Cover - CopyThe Mantra Project, Vol. I: Daughter of the Mountain     Please click the tab at the top of this blog for details about this new release. Of course we’d love you to buy copies and/or download tracks, but you can also listen for free through the wonders of Sound Cloud and Spotify. Please help us get this music out to the world. Reviews on iTunes and CD Baby along with shout-outs on FB and Twitter are most appreciated.

Finally, to regular [and new] visitors to this blog, let me say I’m keenly aware that posting has been erratic bordering on remiss. It’s been impossible to stay current here while working on the new album and writing content for the website. Plus, we started a major house-painting project in October so I’ve been living and working in a semi-construction zone since then. I do record class every week so there’s quite a lot of material to post here. I’m truly looking forward to things settling down and being able to get back to some semblance of regular blogging. For now, I thank you for your enduring patience and ongoing support of my work.

With love and fond wishes to you all.

Suzin

 

Monday, November 4, 2013: We can change the world by changing our mind…

Sacred September Scene

Monday Night Class took an unexpected break the last few weeks of October. And now, while my studio is undergoing renovation, we’re been rendered homeless. Fortunately, we have Claude and her pristine yoga studio. So we do have a temporary resting place. Needless to say, I’m most grateful for this sanctuary…

As a Taurean being, I’ve never much liked change. Ironically, my life as a yogini has forced me to uproot over and over again. I’ve often suspected this outer movement was required to change my sedentary nature. Left to my own devices I’d probably have never left home…

And now, with my home in the chaos of renovation, I’m thinking a lot about perception, about how we change the world by changing our mind. Baba Muktananda often spoke of this telling us, “the world is as you see it.” People would complain to him about this or that and he’d sit back laughing and say, “change the prescription of your glasses…” I understood what he was saying, but understanding was just the first step. Living this awareness is the ongoing work…

I was out in my yard on Saturday raking leaves. This is a task I’ve never much enjoyed. I tire easily. My lower back aches. The minutes seem like hours. So I began asking myself why and remembered how as a child, I loved playing in the leaves. Same person. Same autumn season. Same leaves. The only difference really is perception. So I thought okay, let this raking be play. And I found myself — or perhaps I should say — lost myself in the leaves. And everything shifted. Fatigue vanished. No back pain. And dare I say it, bliss bubbling up from within…

There’s an interesting piece in this weeks’ NY Times about this phenomenon. Researchers at the University of Kent in England are documenting what yogis have practiced for centuries… we can change the world by changing our mind…

Here’s the lead with a link to the article:

Tell yourself during exercise that you’re not as tired as you think you are and you could make that statement true, a new study shows, reminding us that the body intertwines with the mind in ways that we are only starting to understand.

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/11/06/keep-repeating-this-workout-feels-good/?src=me

This week’s dharma talk uses the portal of Ganesha as a jumping off point to contemplate this notion:

Here’s a clip of class chanting Ganesha Sharanam:

Here’s the final dharana between chanting and silent meditation:

Monday, September 16: The Great River of Being

euphoria

This week’s class shook up my long-time format of dharma talk at the beginning and silent meditation at the end. This change was not intended. I was simply going with the flow of the śaktī. While the notion of going with the flow has become a cliche, still, there’s a lot of truth to it. Attending to the present moment is always more interesting than being stuck in past or future whatever. Of course we have to be willing to risk leaving the known. And everything that encompasses.  Easier said than done and why practice practice practice is essential…

Here’s the opening dharana for this class. Which runs around 7 minutes and uses the metaphor of river to inspire silent meditation.

The sound quality on this week’s recording of class chanting Om Namah Shivaya is not great. Instead of posting that, I thought I’d make a small recording of me chanting solo. This will be easier on your ears.

Were I to give this week’s dharma talk a title, I’d call it “Operating Instructions for Consciousness.” It runs around 15 minutes, explores ways of working with thought and emotion, and reaffirms why chanting is a profound vehicle for awakening. This description makes it all sound rather dry and predictable. Which, heaven forbid, it most assuredly is not! If you hear bells jingling, you’re not imagining it. That’s my cat coming into the room…

I’ve recently discovered the poetry of Lorri Neilson Glenn. I did not read this poem at class but am moved to end this post with a short excerpt:

….
Listen,
nothing lasts. Quiet can be stolen like your bag
in the street. You will soon be awake in all the wrong places,
your words snatched out of time. Oblivion is a wise
old teacher: there is no try. It’s all right. You didn’t get it
until this moment, did you? Wake every chance you can, join
the chorus, praise the wild. Carry, light…

from Wild, by Lorri Neilson Glenn, from her collection, Lost Gospels, published by Brick Books, 2010.

Monday, September 9, 2013: Twisted out of inner alignment by the tree of desire :)

Vakratunda

This week’s class fell on Ganesha Puja so we opened with chanting the Ganesha mantra Vakratunda Mahakaya. Since the sound quality on the class recording is not great, I thought I’d give visitors to this blog a special treat. As many of you know, Daniel and I have been in the recording studio working on an album of mantras and chants. This is a preview clip from our version of Vakratunda Mahakaya, which will be the first track on the CD.  Btw, please stay tuned for updates on the production of this amazing album. It’s been ten years in the making and well worth the wait. I’m hoping for a December 1 release.

Here’s transliterated Sanskrit text and translation/commentary:

vakratunda mahakāya

suryakoti samaprabha

nirvighnam kuru me deva

sarva kāryeśu sarvada

 Oh Lord with twisted trunk and massive form

whose splendor is equal to a billion suns

bless me that no obstacles impede my endeavors

 This chant is sung to the form of Ganesha called Vakratunda, who is personified as having five elephant heads with five twisted trunks. The twisted trunks can be understood as metaphors of the spiraling energy of kundalini; also Ganesha is associated with blessing new beginnings, removing obstacles, and guarding the sanctuary of the inner being. So as Vakratunda with five heads, these powers are quintupled!

The word “vakratunda” translates as “vakra” [twisted] and “tunda” [trunk], which got me thinking about the notion of being twisted in or out of alignment. How we can go either way. How great a deep spinal twist feels and conversely, how wretched we make ourselves feel when we get all twisted up in the dramas of daily life. Think greed, desire, and their numerous offspring… and factor in the ego’s tendency to identify [aka twist into] these lovely machinations of mind…

Yoga offers a profound system for transformation of body.mind.spirit. In a way though we can reduce the whole thing down to this simple notion: how to untwist from the twists that yank us out of alignment by twisting back into the spiraling luminosity of the Self.

Here’s this week’s dharma talk, playing on this idea of twisting and untwisting… It runs just over 7 minutes.

Here’s a simple dharana, chanting of Om Namah Shivaya, and a few more words before silent meditation.