Here I Am

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studio BiNDU interior by Yuri Ueno [www.uenoyuri.net]

 

I had four classes scheduled to teach today.
Not one person reserved for any of them.
I cancelled all four classes.
Am I only as valuable as the number of people I teach?
Do I count if there is no one to count?

I recall a story about a young man in search of a place to teach Yoga. He wanted a place that to him symbolized the practice of Yoga, a place that was suffused with the spacious stillness he so loved in nature. One day he was walking through his favorite natural place, a sacred forest. He sat down during his hike to rest. Another man, a bit older, happened along and sat down nearby. The two men got to talking. The young man at one point expressed his dream to the older man. The older man attentively listened. After the young man finished, there was a pause in their conversation. The older man seemed to be deep in thought. Finally, he spoke: “I came to this forest many decades ago. It was here I met a mystic, a swami who had come here to teach spiritual practices. I became his only student. He passed away, but I continued to seek to live in the way he taught, to pursue my aspirations with steady focus and quiet determination, to be conscious of how I act and interact with others. I applied all my teacher had taught me in the pursuit of my dream to buy this forest where I met my teacher. I amassed a great deal of resources and bought this entire forest so it can remain a natural place where the spacious stillness you speak of can always be found. However, I am growing old and have no heir to leave this to. I would like to give this forest to you so you may pursue your dream.”

The young man was astounded. He gratefully accepted this gift and created a place where he could share the practice of Yoga in the way it inspired him, to teach others how to pursue a path of spacious stillness and make it a part of their everyday life. He is still there, nestled into the heart of the forest, teaching and disseminating his vision to many seekers, like he himself once was, every year.

One swami, a teacher. With one student.
Unaware of the impact he would have on so many who have never met him or even know he existed.

Am I saying I want only one student?
No.

I would like to teach about the spacious stillness I have experienced to many to assist as many as possible in locating this experience within themselves. So a person may find that, even as they still at times feel that life even more each year becomes a swirling mass of commitments, obligations, appointments, updates, and communications at increasingly dizzying speeds, within all of that movement and sound and color is a core of silence in which serenity and bliss intertwine in an intimate dance that infuses life with technicolor soundlessness. A soundlessness in which everything speaks a language that is the silence taking audible form.

May what I offer be assimilated by even one student.

And may I welcome and enjoy the spacious stillness, even if it is an empty class.

Stop Where You Are

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What do you do when you have been made to feel bad about yourself?
You sleep. You wake up.
You meditate and do some japa, and you feel the weight on your heart lighten.
Then on your bike ride to and from your Japanese lesson you listen to Corinne Bailey Rae`s new CD.
And the weight rises and grows wings, and you are carried away on the rhythm of your pedals as the faces that flow by become radiant markers in space and time that encourage your return home to You.

Tender is the light that shines on you
Gentle is the morning made anew
Delicate, the Grace we`ve come into
~ C.B. Rae

Sea Changes

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I began my day relaxed. Over the next few hours crept in feelings of turmoil and sadness, a heavy heart and tears. Next came effortless service guided by focus and clarity punctuated by laughter. Followed by deep calm and steeping in powerful connectivity via gossamer threads of non-intentionality woven into the very fabric of life. From there, ease and settling then study and preparation. Delight and reverence. A job well done. Celebration and contentment. A ride under the open sky. Tea and omedetai. A moment of reflection. The image cast from mind through fingers to express itself as content. Finis.

When the day is done
Down to earth then sinks the sun
Along with everything that was lost and won
When the day is done
~ Nick Drake

Waxing & Waning

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The jougen no tsuki, “upper bowstring moon”, hangs in the sky.

The pulling back of the arrow. A gathering of potential energy in the drawing back of the string propels the arrow to its target. The stronger and more precise the pull, the farther and truer the arrow flies and the deeper it pierces its target.

How to gather my own potential energy is a constant contemplation. How to aim it in the most responsible way so that when I release the string of preparation my arrow of intention flies straight and true. To launch my creative power in the most efficient way. No hesitation in my actions.

In the Bhagavad Gita, chapter 2, verse 50, the second half of the second line translates as, “Yoga is skillfulness in action.”

Maharishiji Mahesh Yogi was known to say, “Meditation is preparation for action.”

In meditation there is samadhi. The steeping of awareness into samadhic states is the merging with one`s own higher truth, the Perfect Self, the purusha, or contentless consciousness. An eye blink or a lifetime, that truth is the same.

Vyasa tells us Yoga Sutra I.2 indicates Yoga = samadhi.
Skillfulness in action arises from immersion into the ocean of samadhi. This is what I feel Maharishi meant. Consistent daily meditation is my preparation for more and more skillful action.

Targets are hit with a resounding thwack! that jar me awake to the truth of my own circumstances. At times that truth can be quite difficult to face.

I am nocking arrows and aiming high. Shooting the moon of my own consciousness in attempts to pierce myself with the truth that is so readily apparent beneath the veneer of the Who are you? that I can be so firmly attached to.

Welcome Home

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Today my beloved returned after a week away.

I am very comfortable with being by myself. I like the emptiness, the non-pressure that comes from not having to sync with someone else`s rhythm. Though Eri and I usually do sort of move in our own individual rhythms, like two planets tracing ellipses in the universe of our home that often converge. We enter into each other`s gravitational pull and then there we are, two satellites that lovingly touch with a gentle bump or collide with an impact that knocks things loose to go scattering about.

With her around there are shapes and colors that I do not have in my palette. Images and words that would never be born otherwise. A mirror in which I get to see my reflection in a variety of ways.

We clash and crash, hug and dance, listen to music, work in silent concentration, eat and argue with enthusiasm, consider and discuss, laugh, irritate and meet each other`s gaze at times with nothing more than a smile that says, “I see you.”

I was happy to welcome her home.

Gratitude

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Without students a teacher is an unlit candle. It is the student who becomes a catalyst for a very unique illuminative fire to blossom forth from the heart of the teacher.

I wrote those lines years ago. They are a constant companion but I am very much feeling them today.

Blessings to all students who ignite the fire in the teacher. And blessings to all teachers who reflect the light and heat of their students back at them a thousandfold.

Weathering Emotions

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This morning the wind was fierce. It howled and made quite a racket. It brought to mind Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day. In particular the image of Pooh holding tight to Piglet`s scarf as he was being carried into the sky like a kite.

That blustery day wind is a good analogy for strong emotions that suddenly surge. I think weather patterns of all types are fantastic metaphors for our emotions. Emotions change like the weather, with sudden temperature drops or spikes. We get a little frigid or we become very irritated. Rains come and we feel sadness or loneliness. Snow falls and there is quiet but maybe a sense of distance from others. The sun shines bright and we become joy and laughter and happiness.

These emotional weather changes often cause us to feel off balance. We are not at a comfortable temperature so to speak. Instead, we are complaining about the weather. To quote Piglet, “Oh Dear, I`m unraveling.”

We have to have a part of ourself that is holding steady. Like the image of Pooh holding steady to Piglet even as his scarf is coming undone. As my own emotional strings unravel, can I hold steady? Can I remain calm, like Pooh, and simply Do What Needs To Be Done?

Karmatose

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Turtle Love by Sam Dobson

So I am feeling pressed for time this evening, therefore I share with you a piece of my past that reflects my present with an eye toward my future.

karmatose

(ka-thoom-thoom-bap!)

clarity of mind
insight is found
in the spaces in between
the breath of sound knowledge
and the rise and fall of ego
drop the rat race system
from the cliffs of consciousness
the white light sea, of tranquility
roiling and boiling
churning up – the I
to expel – the me
and become – the we
of all I see
the third eye, why?
you ask how high
you couldn’t build the towers that could reach these heights
this room I occupy
is one of the mind
a space
a place
where neither religion nor race
displace, or matter
the Great Spirit chatters
and the words are silent affirmations
of blank pages
so stop looking for a story
a myth
to counter with
drop the satya
and check your karma
cause in effect
you want to know what’s next?
then lose the forward motion
and ride the wave
of today
and stop placing the blame
on yourself, someone else, your chosen god, the universe
take responsibility, suffer humility
and earn the ability
to flow with the knowledge
that life is a privilege
a kingdom of wonder
not to plunder
but explore, be alive
the survival of the fittest?
time to bring in the witness, so look in the mirror
am I making it clearer?
all that is divine
is right there
in you.

© 2003-2016

Bound to the Ground

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Was listening to a recording of my teacher Paul talk about the idea of bondage in the Hindu Tantric tradition. He said bondage is, “…the experience in life where you are saying something like, `I shouldn`t be doing this` even as you are performing the action which your mind is telling you you shouldn`t be doing.”

I am familiar with bondage as viewed through the lens of Shaiva Tantra, in which bondage is usually equated with ignorance. Ignorance is considered the root of suffering in much of Indian philosophical and cosmological discourse. In the Classical Yoga view, ignorance is an assumed starting point for human beings, however there is no reason or origin given for it. It simply is. In Tantra the origin of ignorance is clearly articulated in great detail. As soon as a being manifests a physical presence he or she is immediately covered over in a veil of this ignorance. A being knows nothing when born. There is no intellectual knowledge in an infant`s head about the world and the universe and there have been, at that point, no experiences received in the present physical incarnation, besides the one of birth. To make the great return to one`s essential nature it is necessary to have both of these aspects of knowledge: intellectual and experiential. Which means that there is book study and memorization, but there is also the application of one`s sequences of practices. These work together to synergistically begin to remove the veil of ignorance.

This is a step-by-step process with no estimated time of arrival, so to speak.
Because ignorance is tenacious.

As Paul`s quote reveals, we often give ourselves over to the ignorance. We let ignorance be our normal default.

I see this in my own patterns of habituation and in fact have been seeing it even clearer lately, so it was quite a delight to receive this sharing by Paul at a very appropriate moment.

How often do I go against my higher intelligence? The part of me that may have a rather small voice but speaks with a certainty that what is being conveyed is the truth?
Paul indicates this is because of a disconnect at the very center of our being.
I find it truly fascinating that we can inhabit our body-mind consciousness and yet so completely disconnect from what it is doing.

Paul gave the example of a person lighting a cigarette even as they chastise themselves for doing so. How often in my own life do I set things afire in a conscious manner?

The Velocity of Gratitude

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Bergen Church by Conor MacNeill of The Fella Photography (thefella.com)

 

Sunday morning class is my kind of special class of the week to teach.
I have had a Sunday morning class to teach ever since San Francisco and it is always my favorite class to teach each week.

When I was a kid, I used to go to church every Sunday morning with my family. I feel that for my family it was mostly an outer ritual to kind of show up and “punch the clock.” IN at 10:00am, OUT at 11:30am. Mission accomplished.

My favorite part of those Sunday morning pilgrimages were the post-church activities that often took place. Sometimes we would go out to breakfast. Most every time though we would go to the supermarket for the weekly shopping. During this time I was allowed to wander freely, which usually meant I would go to the paperback rack near the far side of the market. I would pick a book and stand there and read until my Mom came to get me. If I found a book that interested me, I would read it every week we went until I finished it. Some days I would also have time to head over to the drugstore next door to read comic books, which was a supreme delight for me then.

I feel my fondness for teaching Sunday mornings has a connection to those going-to-church-breakfast-supermarket-drugstore-reading days.

I don`t think I am the only one with this kind of connection. I feel sure many kids my age then were having a similar Sunday of church and family. As for me, by repeating that pattern every weekend for years there was a certain rasa created in my consciousness. Rasa is Sanskrit for “essence, flavor, taste”, and often refers to any strong mental or emotional state in which one becomes absorbed in and even imprinted by. In my consciousness there is this imprint of those Sundays as a time of freedom and joy, of immersing myself in other worlds and stories full of people in various extraordinary circumstances. It is the last two words of this statement that indicate to me why those Sundays still linger inside me 35 years later.

At that young age, for me extraordinary was anything out of the ordinary, even if that thing were still a “normal” part of everyone`s day to day existence. Like eating breakfast at a restaurant, or reading books in front of a bookcase or comic book stand.

It is interesting for me to note that my Sunday morning classes were and are still the class in which I often do take time to tell a story. It may be a story about my life, or a myth, or simply a use of metaphors to illustrate how our practice can connect us to a greater part of ourselves than what we usually perceive, something extraordinary in us.

When I was in SF, several of my regular Sunday morning students remarked that for them my class was their version of going to church every Sunday. I only taught those classes for three or four years, but I would be delighted if any of those students who gave of their precious time to attend each week had experienced an inspirational rasa that still yet lingers in their consciousness in a way that allows them to connect to their present Sunday morning with great zeal and enthusiasm.

On this Mother`s Day I offer a deep bow and showers of gratitude to my Mom, the architect of those Sunday mornings, for giving me the chance to experience the extraordinary. That experience of extraordinary has been one of the main forces that has impelled and continues to impel me to actively seek out the extraordinary and welcome it in every moment of my life.