The Question

 

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I stand at another new beginning, called a blog.
Why?
To help me understand the Caterpillar`s question.
In the last three months my life has taken a series of jumbles and tumbles.
Blindsided by a bicyclist.
Business swaying like cherry blossom branches in a monsoon.
People I thought close fading into the background.
My beloved and I having the most continual series of heated exchanges I have ever had with anyone, ever.
Having my blind spots uncomfortably pointed out. Not just once.
Feeling that all that I am is not all that worthwhile.

And now Spring.
In the last three days the entire three months of muck and mire has been transformed into a crystal clear cool oasis.
A course has been set.
A destination determined.
The You.
The Me.
Who is me?

Actually, I have been on this course for quite some time.
But it feels like there is a deeper impelling need right now to dig into the ground of my life in a different way. With a more awkward tool.
A tool that may reveal the me in a new light.
Or a new dark.
Either is okay.

Why not a journal?
Because a blog is open to the world to see and interact with.
Mutual, reciprocal action.
Or maybe just me typing out chains of conversation with myself.

Time to get digging.

 

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Adaptation

I just returned from 8 days in the desert in Joshua Tree, California.

I was attending a retreat held by my teacher, Paul Muller-Ortega, who initiated me into an exquisite meditation practice he teaches, called Neelakantha Meditation.

October 19th was the 10-year anniversary of my initiation. Every day for 10 years this practice has been my constant companion. And not only this meditation practice but also an ever-expanding array of ancillary practices taught by Paul, many of which center around mantras.

Mantra means “a technology of thought.”

For most, “technology” is defined as a physical object, something that can be grasped or held in the hands. A mantra has no physical form, of course. It is vibration, pure and simple. It is a sequence of phonemes arranged in a certain way that produces a certain effect that resonates into our cells; into our tissues; into our bones; into our consciousness. We are composed of vibration. Truly, we are like flowing forms of vibration, assembling and reassembling over and over and over again and again and again. And what we reassemble into depends upon what kind of vibrations we are consciously and unconsciously absorbing into our awareness.

This fluidity of identity is a blessing. It is one of the reasons that human beings can, at times, prove to be extraordinarily adaptable. Adaptation, defined by Oxford, is “a change by which an organism or species becomes better suited to its environment.”

In 10 years of consistent meditation practice, scriptural study, meditative insight contemplation and, most importantly, the facing into various challenging life experiences using the wisdom of these ancient teachings and practices, I have seen my own capacity for adaptation grow. I have experienced myself manifesting things in a much more efficient and effective way. I have experienced the natural way that we can release long-held negative convictions, preconceptions and misunderstandings that continually steer us into confrontations that are unnecessary and simply deplete our health and mental clarity. Every day, I experience myself growing in various ways that assist me in becoming better suited to my environment.

The photo I have paired with this contemplation is of my son, Christopher Seiji Rajata, enjoying a sleep on the daybed of our hotel room at Nirakanai Resort on Iriomote Island. It was taken the morning of October 19th, the first photo I took that day.

This little being has become the center of my world, as is the case with the relationship between most parents and their newborns and even with older children.

The parent adapts to the rhythm of the child, to meet its needs. This is just naturally understood and done by parents. Schedules shift, sleep patterns adjust and a new sequence of the day to day establishes itself. And that sequences itself then undergoes adaptation again and again.

As I gazed at my son on the daybed that morning – this new little being silently settled into sleep in the middle of the expanse of colorful patterns of the daybed blanket – I thought of Vishnu lying on the bed of the great serpent Adishesha, floating in the absolute nothingness of what is termed the mahapralaya in the Indian Hindu tradition. The mahapralaya is this idea of a great dissolution of time, which sets in motion a timeless pause in which existence has completely folded into itself to eradicate the entirety of the universe, every form and shape and atom of existence. Except Vishnu, and his fellow gods Brahma and Shiva. In the traditional view of these three gods, Vishnu is well-known for his capacity to maintain equanimity and support the continued presence of life, Brahma for his ability to set things in motion and cause life to arise, and Shiva for his power to dissolve, to eradicate things, to burn the surface of life away to reveal what is the most essential component of that life. The essentialness of all of life is the eternal stillness of the great timelessness, an apparent nothingness. Yet, the belief of the tradition is that the apparent nothingness holds the potential for everything to exist. Everything. Whether it is something you can think of or something you cannot think of, the potential for that something quietly vibrates in that timeless pause, waiting for the next cycle of creation to arise so those somethings can burst forth, and open in succession like the petals of blossoming flowers.

As I gazed at Christopher`s sleeping form I thought, “What will my son become? How will he adapt?” I am both excitedly thrilled and cautiously apprehensive about how my son will adapt to his changing world. Because the changes are coming faster and faster. Technology – that which can be held in the hand – is changing our vibrations as well, sometimes consciously but often unconsciously.

This is what makes the mantra that is received in Neelakantha Meditation such a precious technology. It is called the Heart Seed mantra, and it is apparently simple. A very short set of phonemes that form a vibratory seed in which there is a potent vibration, a vibration that can set in motion and support the bringing of every and all of our most noble heart intentions into being. This vibratory potential will also support and enhance our ability to adapt. That enhanced adaptation assists us in becoming able to weave the seeming randomness of life into a pattern that shapes and forms us into a new iteration of ourselves that is more efficient and more effective in all that we intend to do. And this re-patterning occurs over and over again.

Via this ancient technology of the Heart Seed, we open, blossom, grow in tremendously fulfilling and astonishing ways. We become attracted to and captivated by our personal path to create, maintain and dissolve our life in ways that constantly enhance and renew our potential.

And we do not simply get drawn into the various technologies that are so ubiquitous in these modern times. Instead, those various devices that we place in our backpacks and suitcases and handbags and jacket pockets and often have within our immediate proximity – so close as to be in constant contact with them, as if these devices were lovers of sorts – become useful tools and not distractions that create a kind of mini-dissolution of time. We don`t become addicted to the light of the screen. Instead, we become heart-attracted to that essential light of our own self, and that of others.

I want my son to know that light, to awaken to the beauty and majesty of his own creative talents. To know that he is like a star, a brilliant luminous presence that has the potential to compel his life to grow in astonishing and unique ways, to sustain that growth, and to actively disallow or eradicate the things that do not support that growth.

I often perceive my son in all of his shiny newness, all of his softness of form and tenderness of being, a little boy in the vast ocean of this life, and I am filled with so much love for his presence. Daily, he nudges me into a process of adaptation to his presence. I am grateful for this opportunity to adapt to him, to become better suited to his environment. And grateful to my practice of meditation that gives me the technology by which that adaptation becomes a natural and effortless process.

 

 

 

 

Found in Translation

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I have spent 8 years in Japan. Most of the time when speaking the language it feels as if my tongue is pinned down by the weight of it.

From this month, at our studio, one day a week I will teach all of my classes in English. Today was the first day of this undertaking.

I usually do teach most of the non-asana portions of courses and workshops in English, with Eri providing her impeccable translation. However, I usually teach the asana portions and all of my regular weekly classes in Japanese. The exception is when I have any non-Japanese speaker in class who understands English. I then teach in both languages.

Today I felt like my tongue was set free to express my thoughts without worry of miscommunication. The English words flowed forth without effort or the usual pauses and false starts I face in Japanese. I did use Japanese at times to help the non-English speakers out, but there was one big difference from the usual way I teach in both languages. Normally, I am assisting the English speakers by providing English translations of the Japanese, so I speak in Japanese then translate it into English. But today I was instead speaking English then translating it into Japanese. I noticed three things resulted from this.

1.) I spoke in my normal English expressions that came naturally, which meant I wasn`t thinking “Can I translate this into Japanese?” This meant I used much more natural English inflections and nuances than when I would translate from Japanese, where I would usually kind of shorthand the English in a very straightforward way.

2. ) I found that I was able to translate almost everything I was saying into Japanese without much effort! Even words and phrases I had not before attempted to translate were done with a minimum of searching for the appropriate word. I did have to pause a few times to find a word or phrase, but what was found actually worked quite well.

3.) Most interesting to me was noticing how I used the English language. My way of speaking was actually much different than when I used to regularly teach asana classes in America. I found that my sentences were more to the point, yet still nuanced but in ways that were much clearer and concise than my previous teaching in English. My flow of words was much more…fluid. I was making connections in English I had not made before, both on an instructional and a conceptual level.

In my first class I taught about knowledge, and one of the things I pointed to was the Shanti Mantra we chant in all of my classes. There is a line that says, “Let there be the obtainment of the fire of knowledge together.” I asked the students to think about what knowledge they wished to gain from their practice. I feel like this teaching was really for me. In both classes I came to see new aspects of my ability to speak in both Japanese and English. And I understand that the years of teaching almost exclusively in Japanese in all of my asana classes has been the crucible in which my own understanding of both languages was tempered and refined over and over to produce new aspects of my teaching vocabulary I was able to convey today in both languages.

After the evening class, one student expressed to me that she did not understand most of what I said in English, but that the sound of the words in English had brought her feelings of lightness and ease. She remarked that the quality of the words invoked these feelings.

The tone, color and texture of language can convey powerful vibrational qualities. I had always known this, and even taught about it several times in several different ways over the years. But what a wonderful reminder to receive at the end of this truly blessed day.

My deep heart gratitude to Mikiko, Eri, Akiko, Mayuko and Rossella who gave me the opportunities today to both rediscover my own language and find out that my Japanese is a bit better than I thought.

 

One of Those Days

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And then there are those days that are like gracefully stepping from one stone to another across a body of water. Questions are asked and answered with ease and depth. Interactions are skillful and performed in a way that invite the relationship to open to another layer of understanding.
And it finishes with a dinner at your favorite restaurant with good people and good conversation.
Even a bicycle ride home in the rain and chilly wind will not dampen the feeling of quiet joy inside of you.
Today was one of those days.

To Dentist, With Gratitude

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Dentist Day!
It has been over a year and a half. Not because I was avoiding it.
I made an appointment last year the week prior to getting married, but in the frenzy of wedding and honeymoon preparations I completely forgot to go. And did not even realize it until a week later. Planned to go after the honeymoon but…

So then in February, while in San Francisco, a crown came out. No pain or discomfort so I did not rush to get in. When I went in today with the crown in hand I did not know I was in for a few surprises.

First, I have three cavities, one of which has progressed a bit and because of the location it cannot simply be drilled out and filled. Instead it is going to require half a crown on the tooth.

Second, because of the time lag from the breaking off of the crown, the core which holds the crown on has bent a bit. This means the old crown is not able to be reattached because it cannot be placed on the bent core.

The dentist told me that to build a new crown that fits perfect will cost $400!
I instead opted for a temporary crown, which was no cost though I did have to pay for a new core to replace the bent core. No pain or discomfort, but I have to be careful about chewing hard food with that temporary crown. Flossing also has the risk of knocking the temporary crown off.

I feel that the missed appointment last year was a chance to discover the cavities prior to them getting bad. Not going in for the crown immediately after returning from California contributed to a new temporary crown having to be fashioned.

I was not paying enough attention to or placing enough priority on the cleaning of my teeth. I had grown lax in a habit that I had been enthusiastically engaged with.

In my daily Yoga practices I am usually extremely diligent. I take care to mindfully do my practices and study in an intelligent way that supports growth and nurtures wellbeing. I do my daily practices with an intention to prevent injury and diminish suffering.

But I still have blind spots. There are still things that I need to bring into clearer focus. The problem with my teeth is indicative of my selective focus and the minimizing of certain aspects of myself that should have more priority.

Where am I making preparations to do something yet get sidetracked and forget about that thing? What daily needs am I minimizing the need to maintain?

To Denmark, With Love

2 To Denmark, With Love (part 1).jpgThis evening one of my wife`s best friends sent her a request.
This friend is presently attending a 3-month program in Denmark. The program is for people who wish to become social workers. One of her assignments is to ask someone to answer a short series of questions about a specific assigned topic. The topic is “Open Heart.” Via my wife the someone she asked was me.

Three questions.

1. What is your own idea about “Open Heart”?

To me, Open Heart is the ability to receive and examine or inquire into what is being presented without preconceptions or judgements. In short, to truly listen to another being’s words. By listening in this way we create a clear and settled state in which discernment can be brought to bear with less attachment to personal preferences. Instead there is more emphasis on an interaction conducted with an eye toward a mutually beneficial outcome. It is a willingness to invite another being’s views into our awareness from the stance that their views are as valid as ours and not to be cast aside simply because they do not coincide with ours. Receive. Discern. Work with and not against. Make decisions with compassion and kindness. Even in the case of stepping away from further interaction because of the being met seeking to harm, deceive or drag one into that being`s personal dramas, that stepping away is done with care and the genuine wish for that being to find clarity of mind so as to be able to solve their challenges and become more easeful, happy and free in their own self.

 

2. How people can have open heart?

An intelligent sequence of practice and study, with an authentically effective meditation as the central axis. Because Open Heart is not something that can happen unless the mind and heart become clear. That clarity can most effectively be created through deep meditation. This clarity is not a vacant kind of emptiness of mind or the absence of all thought. Rather, it is a lively place of vibrant focus in which a person can respond to any situation with precision of skillfulness in how they answer and/or act. Answers and actions become carefully constructed for the purpose of maintaining harmony of interaction without sacrificing one`s beliefs or purpose.

 

3. Do you have any situation which is related to open heart?

On a personal level I have been able at times to maintain a stance of clarity of mind imbued with compassion and kindness in the face of difficult interactions. Once there was a tense situation that had arisen between myself and another studio owner who felt threatened that I had invited a person who had been a part of one of their courses to teach in a course at my studio. This studio owner had recently gone through a lot of personal challenge related to teachers at their own studio. So they were feeling threatened when that was not the intention at all. They acted in an aggressive manner, even threatening the person I had invited by banning them from their studio. I had a face to face talk with this studio owner with the intention to reach a peaceful resolution that was beneficial for all of us. It required several emails and then a face to face that lasted about an hour. By the end of that conversation this owner expressed relief and let go of their initial anger and fear. They then contacted the person they had initially been angry with and apologized to them and invited them back to their studio. By keeping Open Heart throughout the interactions, I was able to gently encourage this owner to see that there was no threat to their studio. It wasn`t that I had to convince the owner in some kind of argumentative way. Instead I had to listen with great care to offer words that soothed their fears and gave them a genuine feeling of support and respect for their own feelings.

I am grateful to Eri`s friend for sending such fantastic questions for me to ponder.
Hope she gets a good grade!  : )

 

Unchanging

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“To change with change is the changeless state.” ~ Bruce Lee

I read these words when I was in my early 20`s.
They come to mind often. Have even inspired one of my tattoos.
Most of us understand that everything changes. We are changing every moment of our life. Inside of our bodies cells are dying and being born over and over.
In the Shaiva Tantra teachings, one of the beliefs is that we are a completely different person in every moment. That every eye blink is the dissolution and rebirth of one`s personal reality.

How does one change with a change that is faster than the speed of thought?
It is not a question of willing ourselves into each change. Instead there is an abiding in the depths of one`s self that must be accomplished.

The core of each of us is an unchanging infinity of perfect order and harmony in which all possibilities are simultaneously existing and not existing. Because until a possibility is projected on to the screen of reality, it is only a possibility without any form but the idea itself.

When our awareness turns inward, there is a quiet and settling that happens as our senses are subsumed in the non-activity within us. Non-activity has the quality of a powerful aliveness, a great potency that can become a wellspring of inspirational creative expression.

To change with change without agitation or anxiety is done by abiding in that space of our self. When that happens there is a kind of connection to the underlying support of our entire being. We feel as if we are not running the show, so to speak. Instead we are being carried along by the temporal wave that our physical body has synchronized with. We are literally changing with the moment to moment change, which means we are in a changeless state. Through continuous adaptation by our awareness to the present life condition without struggle or resistance of any sort we create a high level of calm and settledness throughout the nervous system.

Changelessness is not a magic trick or a clever philosophical idea to impress people with or make ourselves feel good. It is the unchanging reality that lives in and as us.

To come into contact with that place gives the feeling that everything we are setting in motion is coming together in surprisingly effortless ways. There is still challenge, as there must be for growth to occur. But there is joy in the challenge as it is experienced as another natural part of the flow of our life.

As I watch the flow of my own life recently, the trials and joys that rise and dissolve, I am experiencing Bruce`s words a bit more. When I do there is a feeling of being part of a bigger flow that I am not simply being pulled by, but that I am directing as well.

We are each of us a being with the potential to change the course of our own life. We have the capacity to become the changeless one in the midst of any and all change.

A Pause

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Hair cut day!
The guy I go to is very nice, efficient and does a great job. During the wash-cut-wash process we exchange a little bit of casual conversation, but mostly I close my eyes while he works, the both of us in silence. I simply sit still while he does his work.

There is usually some music playing through his stereo, so my attention is at first drawn to the songs. But after a tune or two that usually drops away as well.

I cannot plan anything or add to my to do list. I cannot access my daily planner or computer or  iPod. Not even a book or magazine. I allow myself to not do and just be.

The only other time I have this opportunity is when I sit for meditation each day.

My time seated in the chair, listening to the hum of clippers and the snick-snick of scissors becomes a deep rest. Not sleep, though a couple times I have been ushered into momentary nods by the sounds of his work. When that has happened it has served as a wake-up call that I am propelling myself along in my life at a pace of overdoing.

All it takes is one moment of non-alertness to alter everything in life. I know. I have collided with life at times in ways that have changed everything. My own understanding from those times is that the collision is necessary.
It is only when we arise from the wreckage of almost that we recognize the value of what is.

The cut ends with a lovely head, neck and shoulder massage. Nothing fancy, only a couple of minutes, but he is skillful and it is a perfect ending to 45 minutes of no obligations.

I pay, walk outside. We exchange a brief farewell. Then I am on my bike, the warmth of the sun on my refreshed scalp, my mind settled. And alert. I face into the next moment and pedal my way back on to the road of doing.