Tag Archives: Yoga

Student Journal: “My Vegetarian Journey”

Occasionally I share my college students’ end-of-semester project journals. They may choose from among different project options, which all relate to the Yogic 8-Limbs in some way, and which all require “personal experience.” This one was so well done that I decided to share it for two reasons… firstly, in the hope that it may inspire others. But also, because it is personally gratifying and makes me feel as if I have done some good for this world, during my time here on earth. This is especially meaningful to me in the years leading up to retirement. ~DQ

Below is her work…

Renunciation Project—My Vegetarian Journey

Why I chose this project…

I have always wanted to become vegetarian but I never knew where to start. I chose this because I thought this would be a good trial run to see how I would handle it and if I would like it. If I can handle being vegetarian for four days maybe I could go longer. I am going to renounce meat for four days. I cherish animals and I have always felt guilty about eating meat but I never could stop eating it. Hopefully with this assignment, I can enlighten myself on what goes on behind the scenes of factory farming and understand the dangers of eating meat. 

How it relates to eastern philosophy…

Vegetarianism is connected to Dharmic traditions that originated in ancient India and Nepal such as Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism. In Hinduism and Buddhism, vegetarianism is promoted by scriptures and religious authorities however, with Jainism, vegetarianism is mandatory for everyone. The First Precept prohibits Buddhists from killing animals. The doctrine of karma teaches that people who perform cruel acts on animals will be punished in their next life. Buddhists treat humans and animals equally. Buddha described eating meat as an ignorant craving. Hinduism is the oldest of the Eastern religions and it is an early supporter of vegetarianism. To Hindus, vegetarianism leads to the path to being truly holy. The scriptures of Hinduism set out the principle of non-violence, called Ahimsa. Ahimsa is a major part of many Eastern religions. Killing any animal is seen as a violation of Ahimsa. Some countries respect animals greatly such as India. In India, the cow is sacred because it is considered to be an animal favoured by the Supreme Lord in the Vedas, Lord Krishna. 

Research prep and how it affected me…

For my first info item from the Gentle Barn I chose the article “These 6 Things Happen When You Give Up Meat” by Megan Othersen Gordon. I chose this article because I have always wondered what would happen to the body if I would give up meat. I thought giving up meat would have negative side effects but after reading this article, I learned that there are some positive sides to giving up meat. I learned that by not eating meat, you could gain some healthy bacteria in your gut. This was kinda surprising to me because I didn’t know that not eating meat could help your stomach. With this fact, you would think people wouldn’t eat meat. I also learned that you can bloat from not eating meat at first, which was weird. The second info item I chose was “7 Things That Happen to Your Body When You Give Up Dairy” by Perri O. Blumberg. I chose this article because since I already read about what would happen if you give up meat, I also wanted to read what would happen if you would give up dairy.

One thing I learned from this article is that giving up dairy will help your digestive system. It can help reduce bloating, gas, and constipation. It was crazy to think that giving up dairy can be so vitale for having a healthy digestive system. I also learned that giving up dairy will clear your skin, which is great to know because I sometimes break out. The third info item I chose was “Meat Consumption on The Decline Let’s Keep The Momentum Going!” by The Guardian. I chose this article because I wanted to learn more about how low the numbers are getting for meat consumption. I learned that the demand for meat has declined for a decade in the US. That’s really big coming from the second-largest consumer of meat per capita. I also learned that with the decline of meat production, many businesses like Beyond Meat and Beyond Eggs are getting bigger and bigger. It was surprising to me that so many people have switched over to Beyond Meat given that Beyond Meat is terrible. 

From watching the “Meet Your Meat” documentary, it talked about the real life of meat and dairy farms behind the scenes. It showed how they kill animals, how they are put in small cages, and how they actually treat animals on these farms. In most of the clips, it showed how pigs and chickens were in cages smaller than their bodies and how cows were in horrible milking cages. I couldn’t believe how people would treat animals. The documentary gave you a day in the life of what these animals go through every day. It showed the conditions the animals were kept in and how badly they were treated. This affected me by not wanting to eat meat again. If it’s hard for me to watch the whole documentary, I should tell myself that I shouldn’t eat meat. How is that fair to the animals that I find this appalling yet I still eat meat. This video has affected my work by showing me that giving up meat for four days isn’t just for an assignment, it’s for the animals that are living in terror every day. It’s informed me that millions of animals are being crucified every day and for what? So I can eat meat? There are other options to meat that I need to try to at least stop some of these animals for being hurt.

The second documentary I watched was “Vegucated”. The documentary shows people who are usually meat eaters trying converting to a vegan diet. The documentary follows three people who are not vegan who agree to adopt a vegan diet for six weeks. The three people who were being documented visited an abandoned slaughterhouse and saw the reality of animal farming. After they visited, they realized how amazing being a vegan was because they know they are doing good. The documentary talks about the struggle that some people feel towards becoming vegan, how people eat meat but love animals, and how being vegan helps your health and the world. This has informed me that even people who love meat can be vegan so maybe I should too. If they can do it even if it’s for a little time then I should be able too. This documentary gave me hope that I can become vegan or vegetarian. Normal people in New York did it so why can’t I? My work has also been affected because I have more hope that I can accomplish four days of being vegetarian. Seeing normal beings become vegan for six weeks made me realize that I can be a vegetarian for four days.

Support buddy interview

“Why did you become a vegetarian/vegan?”

I became vegetarian when I was 6 because I came to a realization that I didn’t want to contribute the commodification of and cruelty to animals in our food system, and became vegan in 8th grade for environmental reasons (water consumption, deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions).

-“How do you deal with opposition?”

I deal with opposition by not getting overly defensive and explaining myself when necessary. Essentially knowing when to choose my battles and to do so without attacking the other person. Like planting a seed. 

-“How has it impacted your life?”

It has prompted a deep passion for food and made me more comfortable to step out of my comfort zone and advocate for collective progress through individual change. I am also more socially aware and compassionate as a result.

-”Do you have any advice for me?”

I would say that something as seemingly unimportant as a dietary choice is something that can actually have a big impact, so evaluating decisions you make on a daily basis can make you more self-aware

My write up…

-”Did you feel you like you were successful?”

I feel like I was successful. I did not eat meat for 4 days and I was proud of myself for it. Even though I wanted to eat meat very badly, I kept up with it for four days. I have never done anything like this before especially cutting out something that I eat everyday. I would watch my family eat meat for dinner and breakfast and I told myself I have to keep going to achieve my goal. 

-”Did you encounter support or resistance from family and friends?”

Yes I did encounter support from my family. My mom loves animals and has always wanted to not eat meat. She was very proud of me and she was the most encouraging. When I wanted to give up she would encourage me to keep going. She was probably the reason I accomplished this. Having a supportive family can get you far and I’m glad I have one.

-”Did you have cravings and how did you deal with them?”

Yes I had tons of cravings. Almost everyday I have eggs and bacon for breakfast and to me, bacon makes the whole meal. Not having bacon in the mornings was the worst. The eggs didn’t taste good without the bacon. To deal with this craving, I went to the store and bought fake bacon. However, that tasted worse than the actual bacon. I decided to have pancakes in the morning for the rest of the 3 days instead of having plain eggs. For dinner one night, my mom made pork chops. Pork chops are my favorite meal and not being able to have it was the worst since my mom hadn’t made them in a while. Instead of having meat, I had a trader joes salad for dinner. Overall, dealing with these cravings was hard. I had to deal to them by reminding myself to keep going and finish the challenge. I can’t give up because of cravings, I have to do it for the animals. After the first two days, my craving started to get a little easier and that was when I told myself that I have to keep going.

-”Did it impact your worldview and way of looking at animals?”

Yes, it did impact my worldview. I see animals as equals now since I have enlightened myself on the pros of being vegetarian. It also impacted the way I see animals. Watching the videos on how animals are actually treated was haunting. I couldn’t believe that humans could do that to animals. I always thought that animals were killed humanely for the most part but after watching the videos, I know they don’t. Animals don’t choose to be slaughtered for our meat, they want to live freely. The least I could do is not eat meat and save a couple animals a year. I am more sympathetic for the animals now that I have seen what they have to go through to give us meat.

Is Presence All There Is?

Watercolor by Donna Quesada

Nothing, Except Everything—

I’ve spoken about the power of presence many times… And those much greater than me have spoken about it plenty… Eckhart Tolle, Ram Dass, Pema Chodron, just to mention a few. I love Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn’s explanation of the wonders of presence, as expressed during my interview with him last year:

So, you say, “what’s so special about where I already am?” Nothing, except everything. Do your eyes work? What’s so special about that? Are you breathing? What’s so special about that? Can you think and feel? What’s so special about that? Only everything. So, we take everything for granted, until we lose it. Until our eyes don’t work. Or we can’t catch our breath. Or, it feels like life is falling apart. Or, the body is falling apart. ~Jon Kabat-Zinn

Except… Is that all there is? And the Peggy Lee song plays in my head, while musing that it’s just… not… quite… the whole story.

Change Your Frequency—

One of my teachers, Gurudhan Khalsa, always said, “If you want to change the way you feel, change your frequency.” Sounds a bit abstruse, but not if you accept the ancient model of the way subtle subtle energies move in the body. It is essentially the same model that Chinese, Tibetan, and Indian Ayurvedic medicine has been built upon, and which the practice of Yoga has been drawing from for thousands of years, while correlating this process with the quality of human enlightenment.

Essentially, changing your frequency has a physiological component. And in the language of Yoga, it corresponds to the seven revolving wheels of energy, called chakras, which correspond in turn, to organs and nerve centers in the body. Each of the seven chakras affect the way we feel, emotionally and spiritually.

You might say, they are an extension of our consciousness, itself. Our mind is not localized in the head… but rather, runs through our entire body. Thus, the mission of a Yogi, or one who practices Yoga, is to care for the health of these energy centers, which are situated along the spine, from its base, up to the crown of the head.

These energy vortexes are connected by way of an invisible highway, by which life force, or prana, travels in both directions. As this healing life force moves along the meridians, it influences everything we do and everything we perceive. In turn, it influences the way we feel.

Our physiology affects our psychology as our psychology affects our physiology. It goes both ways. Put very simply… one thought can affect your subtle energies, just as your subtle energies can affect what you think. And this is what my teacher meant when he said that what we are here to do is change our frequency. It’s why we go to Yoga, basically.

Put even more simply, by way of a metaphor… one thought sends out a wave of motion within the body that affects the way you feel, and by extension, affects who and what you “attract” to your world, just as one pluck of any guitar string will send out waves of vibrating sound, which will affect the other strings on that guitar, as well as anyone around who hears that sound… and by extension, will affect the whole world in myriad, unknown and uncountable ways, by the actions of those who heard the sound!

So, Now… Back to Presence (All Agree On One Thing)—

All wisdom schools seem to to agree on one thing: We’re anxious because we’re too preoccupied with ourselves. Eastern schools would take this even further by questioning the very notion of the self. To this end, some schools emphasize selfless service, while others emphasize prayer or meditation… all of which make us feel better by dislodging us from our self oriented concerns. By focusing on someone else’s happiness instead of our own, by letting go of our worries though the act of surrendering them to a higher power, and by training ourselves to continually stop identifying with our thoughts, these methods all work and all bring relief to our everyday anxieties. Essentially, they help us to come out of our heads and into this present moment.

And… Back to Energy Movement—

But, what if we couch the idea of anxiety in the language of chakras? We could say something like, all that self-interested, ego trouble is low chakra stuff.

Everyday worries, like getting credit, being recognized, being right, proving our point, having enough resources… friends… money… likes… anything… getting validated, being approved of… have an energetic equivalent, much like moods have a brain state equivalent.

Nothing Can Touch You When You’re Flying—

And so, the idea is that you clear the chakras and the energetic pathways, much as you’d clear a tunnel for the metro to move through it. And when the energy is able to move unobstructed, you feel better. And when you feel better, you do better, you say better, you look better, you think better. In short, you’re flying, and nothing can touch you. Not sickness, not poverty… nothing.

But wait, there’s more! When the energy has risen, and your higher chakras have opened, you can touch the angelic realm. This is where I’ve been able to ask for the deepest comfort from my angel guides during extremely challenging times. It is nothing less than the channeling of spirit. And it’s a profound comfort that can not be described.

Being a music lover as well, I now think of Jimi Hendrix’ words:

Angel came down from heaven yesterday
She stayed with me just long enough to rescue me

Presence Then, Is the First Gate—

It is certainly not that the practice of mindfulness or coming into presence is of lesser value than channeling. It is a healing place to be and a fine forever home. And if you should have the interest in traveling into deeper cosmic realms, it is a necessary dwelling place. It takes a tremendous amount of practice to be here, now. Since, at any given moment, the mind wants to swing. It wants diversion and distraction and endless entertainment. It wants satisfaction of habitual, but needless desires. Corralling the mind is a full time, tireless task.

And it’s not that everyday prayer is of any lesser value, either. It’s deeply healing to the heart, mind and spirit… the deep connection through prayer enables our self-important worries and sufferings to simply melt away.

What I’m saying is that, although presence is necessary, it’s not sufficient for “transfer flights.”

Like Reaching the Summit on Everest—

If the sherpa or mountaineering guide got you to Base Camp and then said “okay… we made it! Let’s go back down, now!” You’d protest that you really wanted to make the summit. You brought your flag to plant there and everything. You know there’s more. But base camp is the necessary pass through point. You have to acclimate yourself at base camp. It’s the portal to higher realms, for those that want to go and can manage the trek.

Was Woodstock the First Postmodern Event? (excerpt with link)

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Here is an excerpt from today’s post on my other blog. It’s a sizeable read, but a fun one. And, I broke it down into highly readable sections. I’ve been working on this one for a while. It taps back into my college interest in postmodernism—actually, I wrote my Master’s thesis on the subject—as well as my love of the late 60s. In this article, I argue that Woodstock was the first postmodern event. Yep! Here is an excerpt and a link to it. Please follow me over there, too!

The Woodstock Music and Art Fair wasn’t just a multi-name concert. It was an expression of widespread dissatisfaction. Like the Warhol Brillo boxes, it was a statement. It was social activism. In a way that had never been seen before. It was a critique of the status quo. Although the impetus was Vietnam, it was a call for the wholesale readjustment of all social and political elements that were seen as oppressive.

Finish here:
https://fiftyyearsafter.blog/2019/07/17/woodstock-the-first-postmodern-event/

Why Gratitude Works

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My goal in this post is to say, as precisely and concisely as possible, why gratitude is a good thing. Because in spiritual parlance and self-help guides of all sorts, we hear it, and it sounds intuitively correct, but I’d like to be able to understand why gratitude heals, rather than have it feel like a dogmatic commandment.

The two teaching concepts I’m putting together here are Buddha’s Four Noble Truths and the Yogic model of energetic anatomy.

Buddha has famously pinpointed our attachments as the source of our chronic, self-inflicted, emotional  angst, in the second Noble Truth. He called it Trishna, which means thirst, but refers to any number of tangible and intangible attachments that we carry, at any moment in time. While this idea is often erroneously translated so as to make desires themselves the bad guys, it is rather, our attachment to them, that causes anguish. To make this less abstract, an attachment is any rigid preference. Any mental insistence that things have to be a certain way, or take a certain form.

We all have many of these attachments running, at any time, like open apps in our iPhones. For example, that I’ll never lose my money, or my job, or my car… that I’ll get the call back, or the publishing deal, or the award… that others understand me, that my peers respect me, that my family approves of my decisions, and on and on. Now, imagine if those attachments took the form of energetic cords, reaching out in all directions, plugging into those imaginary situations, out into the surrogate world, where fantasy exists… (see my drawing, above).

From the point of view of energetic anatomy, our life force, or prana, comes into our bodies through the crown of our heads. Like money given to us, it it now up to us, to manage it. If that energy gets siphoned off into myriad attachments, through energetic tendrils, reaching out into a hundred various and sundry fixations, then we’ve invested poorly and the result will be exhaustion at best, and illness at worst.

This is where gratitude comes in. Gratitude quells the inevitable discontent that comes from the endless reaching and grasping. If trishna is thirst, then gratitude is what quenches it, at the root level—from the inside, before those insatiable energetic tendrils even have a chance to stretch out and place their suction cups on anything, on the outside.

So, closing with the analogy of having open apps in our iPhones (something I didn’t know was a problem, until my grown kid looked at me aghast, while swiping them all up and making them vanish… how was I supposed to know?) Our attachments, like those open apps, sap our energy and drain our batteries. So, harnessing and managing our energy, as martial artists and Yogis have always known, becomes the whole game.

This stands from the point of view of healing and feeling better, which are really one and the same. Because the minute we find something to be grateful for, which is how to start, we instantly feel content with what is, rather than anxious about what isn’t. At that very instant, the inner struggle recedes, as we bring our focus on what we have, which feels good, rather than on lack, which feels bad.

Yoga at Woodstock?

In my article, entitled “Woodstock: The First Postmodern Event?” I make the case that Woodstock should indeed, be considered the first truly postmodern event. In it, I explore the difference between modernism and postmodernism, and how Woodstock is different than other festivals because of the way it embraces postmodern ideals. Part of this movement included the influx of eastern ideals, many of which made their way to the festival itself. More below, along with a link to the full article on my other blog. Thanks for following me there!
~DQ

~ ~ ~

Eastern Thought—
Part of this all-encompassing desire for social change included the openness to new ideas in spirituality. The interest in Zen Buddhism, Yoga and other religions of the East, arose with postmodernist thought and what came to be known as the “Bohemian lifestyle.” Eastern spirituality was seen as less rigid than the authoritarian western counterpart. The pervasive ideals of peace, acceptance, and nonviolence were seen as welcome alternatives to the atrophied moralistic religious dogmas of the west, which seemed to consider everything a sin. Eastern thought provided the ideals that the countercultural movement espoused….oneness.

Read entire article at my other blog:
http://fiftyyearsafter.wordpress.com

Timothy Leary and Ram Dass

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Timothy Leary and Dr. Richard Alpert (Ram Dass)

LSD & the 1960s—
It is hard to chronicle the era of the late 60s without reference to drugs—or to the Woodstock festival, itself, which was complete with “acid tents.” It was Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert, who pioneered their use in therapeutic settings….although it cost them their professorships at Harvard. And, while Alpert would take a different path into Hindu spirituality, Leary continued to publicly promote the use of LSD and became a prominent player in the 60s counterculture.

Their work is chronicled in the documentary from 2014, Dying to Know. Narrated by Robert Redford, it patches together conversations between the two iconic figures throughout their friendship, which spanned five-decades. This analysis is more a close up of the most philosophically interesting part, than it is a review of the documentary, itself. It is one of their last conversations, erupting at the very end of the movie, in which, spawned by a discussion of what happens after death, they wrangle over the existence of the soul, which in Hinduism, is called the atman:

Ram Dass: I’m interested in awareness AFTER the brain gets eaten. I think about the dissolution of conceptual structures.

Timothy Leary: There are neurological and anatomical explanations for hallucinations.

RD: I’m interested in how death catapults us into non-conceptual space…my sense of continuity of awareness beyond the brain…is it just my wanting to keep something going?

TL: I don’t have that.

RD: You used the word, “soul”…what do you mean by it?

TL: “Superconsciousness.” And it…she…hangs around the brain.

RD: Well, Ramana Maharshi says, it’s right here (touches heart).

TL: (Rolls eyes)…A wonderful organ to pump blood. These Indian gurus…they’re using the heart as a metaphor? A bad metaphor.

RD: It’s in the lower, right hand corner…the size of your thumb…the atman

TL: (Aghast) Are you kidding me!?

RD: It’s in subtle form…not manifestation.

TL: (Un-camouflaged sarcasm) How do you contact it?

RD: You gotta get a better technology.

TL: Atman…better than LSD?

RD: In LSD, you saw all that, but it went by so fast, and you didn’t have a model to save it…it just went through…so much went through…but what we have conceptualized, is just a tiny edge…a trivia of the whole model.

These kinds of disputes, not unfamiliar to them, serve as a demonstration of opposites in harmony. It’s science and religion cutting the rug. It’s the Yin and the Yang in play, where Leary acts as Yang to Dass’ Yin…with his hard-edged, masculine demand for certainty, alongside Dass’ softer way, and willingness to surrender into the realm of the intangible.

As a relevant aside, what is often forgotten is that science and religion started out asking the same questions… What is reality?… What am I?… Is there a God?… Is there an afterlife? It was all housed under the umbrella term philosophy. Even the category of “scientist” didn’t exist until the 19th century…1833, to be exact, at a meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. Guys like Newton were called “Natural Philosophers.” The different arenas just embraced different methods of ascertaining Truth.

Psychedelic—
These two scientists of the mind have been inextricably bound together, since their meeting in 1961. As if hand chosen by cosmic destiny, both lived at a time, a uniquely situated precipice within the timeline of the 20th century – when it was possible to explore these age-old questions in ways that were as yet, unprecedented in the western world.

Impelled by both deep curiosity and mutual admiration, these academic big wigs journeyed through the inner landscapes of human consciousness. They went from theory and books to personal experimentation. First hand empirical investigation into uncharted territory, aided by psilocybin and eventually, LSD.

Each had just the right amount of ingredients to get the mixture right…just enough personal trauma and general suffering, together with the right amount of natural disobedience and rebelliousness. For Leary, it was profound grief after his first wife’s suicide. Ram Dass (then, Dr. Richard Alpert) was homosexual at a time when it was far from acceptable.

Coming to Different Conclusions—
Something deeper was revealed through this exchange in the documentary. Like two trees growing in different environments, in different soil and all around conditions… not knowing the long term results until they reach maturity… But eventually, one tree bears fruit that tastes like love and feels like an open heart, and the other bears fruit that tastes like sarcasm and feels like vexation.

Ram Dass had found something that Leary hadn’t, and it has the aroma of divinity….while Leary’s projection carried the unmistakeable flavor of anguish. One of Leary’s five wives offers us some insight, when she explains the disconnect Leary has always had between his mind and his heart: ”the mind was always in charge and the heart got left behind,” she explained.

Roads Diverge—
It was 1967. Ram Dass wasn’t Ram Dass yet. After traveling the Himalayas, with fellow westerner, Bhagawan Dass, he stumbled into his first meeting with a little saintly looking man, wrapped in a blanket …the man who would become his teacher…Neem Karoli Baba (Babaji). Here he describes their first encounter:

The first time I looked at him, I said to myself, “I don’t want to be hustled.” The second time I looked at him, all I wanted to do was touch his feet…I looked up and he was looking at me with unconditional love and I had never been looked at with unconditional love by anybody…I felt loved…I felt loved…and I felt something happening in my heart.

He was forever changed.

Ram Dass would subsequently explore the same philosophical questions through different means…spiritual means. Under the guidance of his Guru, he would eventually discover the biggest Truth of all: I am a soul….that which would forever separate him from Leary.

“You have to be somebody before you’re nobody.” The idea, in eastern teachings, is that the realization of our truest essence—that we are spirit—engenders a natural breakdown of the ego, with all its attachments to identity and roles. There is a kind of death that occurs through the realization of what we really are.

Ram Dass sat in wonderment at how his friend, given his taste of expanded states of consciousness, could have remained a philosophical materialist…that is, one who holds that all things, including consciousness, are merely material. For Leary, there is a neurological answer for everything…including altered states of consciousness.

Ram Dass wanted more than a taste…he wanted to discover the means of how to integrate and maintain expanded states of consciousness. It was this desire that led Roshi Joan Halifax—featured in the documentary—to dig deeper, as well, as she embarked on her journey through Zen. So, she searched for a means to train the mind to be stable…in lieu of what she referred to as merely temporary, “decorative states.”

An Interesting Paradox—
They started together… but ended up continuing their lifelong journeys, exploring the inner dimensions of who we are, but on two very different different paths. Leary, exploring the mind with psychedelics, and Dass, with Bhakti Yoga…a devotional path, aimed at union with God through love.

Leary was at once a rebel against everything, but at the same time, not willing to waver from this very milieu….one that wouldn’t support anything less than empirically tested results. It was almost as if he were saying, “here you go…by your very standards, I’ll reveal your fallacies and limitations!” …As if he wanted to stick it to the world, using its own measurement scales.

Meanwhile, Dass traipsed barefoot into a far away, exotic land, steeped in God…and smothered in divinity…showered with deities, goddesses and myriad celestial beings with their fantastic myths and folklore…unconcerned with scientific methodology and framework.

The Final Transition—
Ram Dass counseled Leary’s family, after his friend’s death from prostate cancer in 1996. He reminded them to let their minds soar with his love, as he passed into the beyond, and to regard death just as highly as life…to let the mysteries of the universe, as they unfold, be beautiful. His last words were, “why?…why not?”

Yes…Jesus Was a Yogi

Jesus is Universal—

The great Yogi, Paramahansa Yogananda, once asked, “Many are the powerful churches founded in Jesus’ name, but where is the communion that he stressed…where is the actual contact with God?”

When Jesus spoke, he was imparting deep truths, which he himself, received through direct experience and genuine communion with the divine. We may refer to this state of consciousness by many names, such as Christ Consciousness, or God Realization, in which the oneness that exists among all revelations, regardless of name, sect, or geographical location, is perceived. Truth is Truth is Truth is Truth, no matter its name and irrespective of what costume or scripture we wrap it in. This means that The New Testament is no more Christian, than The Bhagavad Gita is Hindu. They are written records of enlightened revelations available to any seeker by any name for the purpose of upliftment.

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Not Through Rituals, but through Yoga—

Thus, Christ Consciousness is beyond category, and can only be known through experience, not by dint of ritual, costume or temple. Not even by the arrival of Jesus himself. As Paramahansa-ji put it, “A thousand Christs sent to earth would not redeem its people unless they themselves become Christlike by purifying and expanding their individual consciousness.”

Through the technology of Yoga—a word meaning, Union with Divine—a seeker can expand his/her consciousness to the frequency of the divine. Or, said differently, he/she can unite his/her finite awareness with the infinite awareness, often called God. The technology of Yoga was first revealed in written form, in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, about 500 years before Jesus. In these sutras, it is said that through various daily disciplines, culminating with meditation, the omniscience of cosmic awareness may become known.

The Soul of Yoga has been Lost—

These practices, known by sages and Yogis…and by Jesus himself, have been held in secrecy and passed down with discretion, from teacher to disciple, for millennia, long before they were ever written. Unfortunately, through the commercialization of mainstream Yoga, through its importation to the west, this technology, as well as the original intent of Yoga—has been lost in the morass of poses, products and popularity.

The Hidden Truth in Jesus’ Parables—

And the disciples came, and said unto him, “Why speakest thou unto them in parables?” He answered and said unto them, “Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given….Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.” 

Like the Yogis of old, who carefully guarded this technology of enlightenment, Jesus, too, selectively revealed the higher and more advanced teachings for those that were able to receive them, which is why he taught in parables.

When asked by his disciples, why he often taught through parables, Jesus said, “Because it is so ordained that you who are my real disciples, living a spiritualized life and disciplining your actions according to my teachings, deserve, by virtue of your inner awakening in your meditations to understand the truth of the arcane mysteries of heaven and how to attain the kingdom of God, Cosmic Consciousness hidden behind the vibratory creation of cosmic delusion. But ordinary people, unprepared in their receptivity, are not able either to comprehend or to practice the deeper wisdom-truths. From parables, they glean according to their understanding, simpler truths…”

Esoteric Practices—

As is taught in all practices, the ultimate truths of heaven, that Jesus spoke of, can not be grasped by the senses, nor the rational mind, but can only be known through intuitive awareness. In other words, only through direct experience, can we ever really know the reality that lies behind the trappings of logic and beyond the illusions of the senses.

Through direct personal practice in the myriad techniques of Yoga and meditation, transcendental consciousness may be achieved. For example, through the awakening of the energy centers in the spine, we open the gateways into what Jesus called “The Kingdom of God.”

When man is settled in that inner kingdom of divine consciousness, the awakened intuitive perception of the soul pierces the veils of matter, life energy, and consciousness and uncovers the God-essence in the heart of all things…. ~Paramahansa Yogananda

Resurrection—

An example of Jesus’ mastery over the materialistic laws of earthly life are seen in the act of resurrection, something that has been understood by accomplished yogis of India for thousands of years. These Yogis consider Jesus to be a realized yogi: one who knew and had mastered the spiritual science of life and death, God-communion and God-union.


Jesus Misinterpreted—

In his book, The Yoga of Jesus, Paramahansa-ji, points out that even the most basic principles of Jesus’ teachings have been distorted, while “genocidal wars have been fought, people have been burned as witches and heretics, on the presumed authority of man-made doctrines of Christianity.”

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~Donna Quesada

 

 

To Accept Ourselves or Transform?

accept or transform

When you make some special effort to achieve something, some excessive quality, some extra element is involved in it. ~Shunryo Suzuki

You know you’re surrendered to God when you rely on God to work things out instead of trying to manipulate others, force your agenda, and control the situation. You let go and let God work. You don’t have to always be in charge. Instead of trying harder, you trust more. ~Rick Warren

The quotes above emphasize the importance of letting go of the illusion of control. It’s a teaching that comes forth in all traditions, no matter how we couch it, from the Christian maxim to Let Go, Let God, to the Zen maxims that tell us to  flow with whatever happens.

But, if we truly practice acceptance, won’t we become complacent, without really bothering to make improvements. And isn’t that what life is for…to improve?

Yes, we’re here to evolve, but it will never work when our eye is fixed on a certain outcome. The reason why is because a specific outcome is just a fantasy, concocted by our imaginations. And ironically, although it is created by our imaginations, which take us into the realm of the limitless, a specific outcome  can be very limiting, since (1) we hardly ever get to choose the exact outcome (2) there are conceivably better outcomes than the one we imagined and (3) it is by definition conceptualized and takes us out of the present moment.

So then, how do we approach the task of healthy evolution? What is the right approach, especially when there is something seriously wrong that needs to be changed, for example, addictions, or some other self-defeating, self-degrading habit?

A conscious strategy would be to set an intention to incorporate a healthy, self-promoting habit into your daily life. In Yoga, we call it a sadhana, a daily spiritual discipline and commitment to meet ourselves, as we are, and where we are, everyday. A daily practice that brings us in touch with the present moment and what it feels like to breathe and move into our bodies, enables a connection to be made—a connection to inner stillness. It also renders conscious, what was previously unconscious.

This active process of shining the light of awareness onto what was heretofore hidden, keeps us in touch with an abiding source of strength and empowerment that can only be found within. It also keeps us in touch with the unchanging essence of who we are—because those habits that we’d like to change are not who we are. These are practices from meditation or Tai Chi, to simply walking in nature.

The irony is that, when we meet ourselves with honesty, as we are, we release the chains that have kept us from who we are to be.

When we cultivate a daily practice, and infuse it with our heartfelt intention, rather than fixate on a specific goal, we discover a much more effective and elegant strategy. When we try to change habits with iron will, by focusing only on the end result, we tend to hit a wall, since willpower can only go so far. But the rub is that our uncompromising focus on the result engenders nothing but frustration and anxiety. This is the reason dieters quickly become fixated, to the point of obsession, on food…the very thing they are trying to find a copacetic relationship with quickly becomes a monster of a problem.

Lessening our grip on the end result, and instead, redirecting our focus to our daily practice quickly becomes a source of upliftment. The intention itself, along with our conscious awareness spent in real-time, keeps us grounded in the present moment, and places us in the driver’s seat—I can only control what I do in this moment. And the result is our empowerment and increasing confidence that is generated from the inside out, rather than feigned as iron will, which leads us right back to discouragement, time and time again.

Transformation starts with wholehearted acceptance of where we are right now.

As it happens, this is a compassionate approach. Each time we sit, we accept who we are in this moment, complete and whole as we are, with all our warts and bruises. Yogic wisdom has long reminded us that transformation is a lifetime process. Several lifetimes, actually! As one of our own famously said, even though you know the staircase is there, you can only take one step at a time.

You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step. ~Martin Luther King Jr.

It’s a funny thing, we humans tend to be hard on ourselves, as if it would serve the purpose of knocking us into the right direction. The opposite is true. In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali explains that a  harsh and critical approach to transformation is a scarcely camouflaged form of ignorance.

Ignorance, in Vedic teaching (as in Buddhist teachings) is not defined as deficiency of information in the conventional sense, but rather, confusion with regard to who we really are.

In other words, when we find ourselves inflicting criticism and blame on ourselves for not being able to effectively change some behavior—not to mention the guilt we seem to to enjoy sucking on so much, like an after dinner mint—we are confusing our habit with our identity. Seeing clearly means to see the habit for what it is…just a habit.

This is where self-love comes in. Loving where you are closes the gap between here and where we’d like to be. As long as that gap exists, we’re not whole. To heal is to make whole. So, letting go of the space entails letting go of the “goal,” and embracing ourselves as perfect, right here and now.

Although modern approaches to therapy are beginning to see the wisdom of the compassionate approach, the resistance comes from the deeply ingrained belief we have as western people, that we need to “be tough,” in order to properly “kick ourselves into action.”

The reality is that this “tough guy” approach, or self-bullying often backfires into “I already screwed things up, so I might as well go all the way.” And the cycle continues.

But, by bringing ourselves to the cushion everyday, or to the Dojo, or to a healing place in nature, where we can create a sacred, meditative space, we momentarily (and that’s all we ever have, anyway, is a moment) drop our defenses and welcome ourselves in, no matter the discomfort and general unease. And low and behold, the discomfort loses its charge! It was the discomfort and defensiveness that led us into the habits in the first place, and so, they too, start to lose their power over us.

This is the power of simply being, in conscious awareness. We are in constant renewal and change, anyway, whether unconscious or conscious; why not bring consciousness to it?

In conclusion, self love in real time allows our inner trauma to be digested. Remember, the habit is, after all, a symptom, rather than an intrinsic part of who we are. So we’re getting to the cause, by healing on the inside. We’re unlocking it, listening to it, letting it move through us. We’re re-inhabiting this damaged space that we were trying to fill with the wrong things, be it cigarettes , food, shopping or alcohol, etc. We were looking for comfort in all the wrong places!

But, now, we can begin the alchemy of transformation, as we re-connect with our body, mind and spirit, with love…

And the habits change of their own accord.

Tony Robbins Triad – Seen Through the Lens of Yoga

There are three forces in the world that determine what you feel. These forces are called the Triad. Together, these three patterns create any—and every—emotional state. ~Tony Robbins

In his presentations, Tony Robbins often refers to “the triad,” in which he describes the three ways we can create an immediate shift in the way we feel, emotionally. We already use them all the time! At any given moment, these forces are at work, either working for us or against us. The key is to use them consciously, so that they work for us.

The triad includes: Physiology, Focus and Language.

To be very clear about how these forces work; we have a choice at any moment, to feel—or not to feel—depressed, angry or sad, etc. By working with the three elements from the Triad, we can create the desired shift into joy and enthusiasm.

My point in this article is to show that although this triad, as Robbins uses it, is invaluable, it is also the basis of all forms of Yoga. In one Yoga session, no matter what type of Yoga it is, we effect a transformation of some degree, based on the fact that our moods have a physical basis. As I often say to my classes:

Our psychology follows our physiology just as our physiology follows our psychology. ~Dhanpal

Physiology—

In Robbins’ teachings, an example of changing our physiology would be the simple but profound act of changing our posture and body language. Like a circular transmission, when we lift our heart, lengthen our spine, and soften our expression, these changes send a boomerang-like message out to the world and then back again to our own psyches, communicating a message that was very different than the one we had when we were hunched up under our hoodies.

The most immediate way to alter our physiology is by controlling our breath. In Yoga, this practice is called pranayam. One simple change in our breathing pattern may be likened to a “code” that activates a cascade of internal reactions throughout the body. Each of the various ways that we work with our breath, sends a different code to the hypothalamus, which continuing our metaphor, we may think of as the “central processing system.” This in turn, activates the release of a different alchemy of hormones throughout our body, affecting our overall mood.

One breath is like water on a parched landscape — our body becomes alive with awareness. ~Dhanpal

Focus—

BUT, there’s a great magic that happens when we put our breathwork into synchrony with our focused attention.

In Robbins‘ teachings, an example of changing our focus would be to look at what we can do, rather than what we can’t do. Or, by simply changing our perception of a certain event. He gives the example of Bruce Springsteen, who, before a performance, experiences the same sensations as someone who has panic attacks, complete with sweaty palms and racing heart. Only…he doesn’t interpret these things as symptoms of panic! To him, it means…showtime! His interpretation of these symptoms is synonymous with excitement, rather than fear.

In our Yoga practice, the act of focusing is an exact science! Together, our conscious, rhythmic breath patterns, combined with a drishti, opens a gateway to a higher state of calm-alertness.

One of the most common examples of employing a drishti, or focused gaze, in Yoga, is by holding our concentration at the third eye—the spot right between the brows. In Zen meditation (which may be thought of as a form of Raj Yoga), that focus would be at the tip of the nose, or a few feet ahead, with eyes nearly closed. Additionally, visualizations may be used (more common in the Tibetan traditions), as well as sound.

Unwavering concentration enables us to experience the state of grace in the midst of activity. ~Dhanpal

Robbins reminds us how huge a small change can be. This also echoes the ancient teachings of Yoga. Consider the difference between breathing with awareness and breathing without awareness—from the outside, they appear to be the same activity, but without the quality of focus, they are very different. We could even say that one isn’t Yoga, at all.

Language

How we talk to ourselves is of utmost importance. We often talk to ourselves in self-defeating ways, saying things like, “this will never work…” or, “”this always happens to me…” or, “I’m such an idiot,” etc. As Robbins explains, these sorts of habitual declarations reflect the crippling stories we are telling ourselves inside our heads.

In Yoga, we use affirmations, such as “I am bountiful, I am blissful, I am beautiful.” But we also use Sanskrit-derived mantras, which work whether we understand them, or not. This is because they work on both a subconscious and an energetic level to create a powerful shift in our emotional state and overall mood.

Sound is vibration and is inherently healing. ~Dhanpal

By combining sound, breath and rhythm, mantra meditation channels the flow of energy through the mind-body circuit, adjusting the chemical composition of our internal states, while delivering our restless minds from distress. Our thoughts are silent sounds. And sounds are electromagnetic vibrations. The more refined our thoughts, the more elevated our vibration; the more elevated our vibration, the closer we get to the highest vibration of all–our own divine nature*

As the captain sets the canvas to the wind, thus pulling the boat out of trouble, it is through mantra that we steer ourselves out of our own stormy seas and into clear waters. ~Dhanpal

So we see that in one Yoga Kriya, posture or meditation, each facet of the triad is put to service!

*For more on the technology of mantra and chanting, see my article here.

On the Fallacy of Spiritual Perfection

Don Quixote“I’m only human,” the saying goes. To my perfectionistic Virgoan ears, it always sounded like a cliché, or worse, an excuse for shoddy work or behavior.

But, thank goodness, like many other quixotic notions I have had to let go of, I unshackled myself of this, too. Not only does it make life harder and more stressful than it is supposed to be, but aspiring to the impossible is a most subtle form of arrogance, worn in the guise of “high standards,” or worse, spiritual advancement.

Of the latter, one of my teachers in the healing tradition, calls it “purple-washing.”

Because purple—color of the crown ckakra—is thought of as a spiritual color, this expression refers to the tendency of spiritual people to think of themselves as “above” certain emotions, fancying themselves, for example, invulnerable to fear, or anger.

“How lofty of me!” She jokes.

The reality is, perfection is unattainable for three main reasons:

1. Life is change. It was the Buddha’s starting point and the keystone for the body of his teachings. If all of life is impermanent, then we are too. Thank goodness! This means that we are always evolving. Perfection implies that a resolution has been achieved, and is, as such, a frozen state. Thus, perfection and change are a contradiction in terms.

2. The fantasy of perfection is born of ego. What would perfection even look like? It’s unanswerable, since for every ten people asked, there would be ten different answers. It’s relative. And why would we want to be perfect, when we saw, in the above passage, that perfection (if it existed) means no more growth? But back to the point about the ego…by virtue of the fact that perfection is nonexistent in any objective sense, its pursuit easily slides into the realm of narcissism. As psychoanalyst, Karen Horney, has pointed out, it is not narcissistic for a person to value a quality in himself which he actually possesses…the problem arises when narcissists admire themselves for qualities that have no foundation in reality. It seems the pursuit of perfection is the ultimate neurosis!

3. We are supposed to go through emotional trials. It’s part of the game of being human, of being part of this play that the Yogis call Maya. As a teacher, there is thought to be a practical purpose to it all; we go through our own challenges to be able to show others the way through. Having traversed the rough terrain ourselves, we can then show others the potholes. And from the perspective of a healer, we can better recognize the energetic vibration of what we have come to recognize in ourselves. Besides, in every wisdom tradition, from the Kabbalah, to the heart of Yogic wisdom, emotions are thought to be a compass, giving us feedback about where we are on our own journey. So, even as we’re pulling someone else up the mountain with one outstretched arm, we’re simultaneously clearing debris from the path with our other arm. The overarching point is that there is a reason for emotions that are considered “imperfect.” As the teacher of my teacher famously said, “we are spiritual beings having a human experience,” meaning both, that we are limited by virtue of our human embodiment and the challenges that come from limited seeing, and that we are subject to the experiences that come from being trapped in this realm and the duties and interactions that go along with it

In the meantime, we forgive ourselves and others as we stumble our way through the wilds of human life, as we search in vein for the way home. Because after all, as the scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz discovered, and as we too will discover for ourselves…it was right here, all the time.