Thursday, December 23, 2010

dhyana-the group

The Centering Prayer & Meditation group has still been continuing, but attendance has been very sparse. I did not get to use the December 9 meditation until December 16 because my husband and I were the only ones there. On December 23 I used an Advent meditation by Henri Nouwen:

"Waiting is essential to the spiritual life. But waiting as a disciple of Jesus is not an empty waiting. It is a waiting with a promise in our hearts that makes already present what we are waiting for. We wait during Advent for the birth of Jesus. We wait after Easter for the coming of the Spirit, and after the ascension of Jesus we wait for his coming again in glory. We are always waiting, but it is a waiting that we have already seen God's footsteps.
Waiting for God is an active, alert - yes, joyful - waiting. As we wait we remember him for whom we are waiting, and as we remember him we create a community ready to welcome him when he comes."

Thursday, December 9, 2010

dhyana-the group

Centering Prayer & Meditation
December 9, 2010

Are you awake?
This meditation is excerpted from the book “Present Perfect: Finding God in the Now,” by Gregory A. Boyd.

Living in Love
Whoa! Challenging chapter. In this chapter of Boyd’s book, he gets right to the heart of learning to live in love of others.

The chapter begins with a discussion about our addiction to information. Contemporary Christians are very much into reading books, hearing sermons and attending seminars. We do this because we have the belief that acquiring more information will help us grow and become more Christ-like. This quote by Brother Lawrence says it all:

“We need neither art nor science for going to God. All we need is a heart resolutely determined to apply itself to nothing but Him, for His sake, and to love Him only.”

I know in my own life, I tend to rely on a lot of research to improve myself. I Google, I read books and I ask others about whatever it is I want to become part of my life. In fact, Boyd’s book is one of the many I have collected recently about meditation. On Friday night I plan to attend a class about meditation. I am currently participating in a global meditation challenge to practice for 11 minutes each day for 40 days.

But ultimately, what has really helped me in my practice is just DOING IT.

Boyd does not throw out information as a bad thing. But he does gently encourage us to just DO the practice of awareness of God’s presence. We are to practice loving each other as Jesus does. We need to practice seeing others as individuals that Christ died for. No matter how much they may annoy us or hurt us.  He says, “It’s not about having a nice warm feeling toward another. It’s about ascribing worth to another, at cost to ourselves when necessary.”

I John 3:16: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”

Boyd points out that loving like Jesus requires next to no information.

So back to the “Present Moment” thing: we will not be successful in our attempts to love as Christ loved unless we are aware of His presence in our lives each moment. If we can learn to see each moment as a sacred moment in God’s presence, then we can see each encounter with others as sacred, as well.
And so, Boyd gives us this challenge: “…to remain awake to the truth that each person you encounter has unsurpassable worth, not because of anything worthwhile you happen to see in them, but because their Creator thought them worth dying for.”  And this is the essence of what it means to seek first the Kingdom of God:

Matthew 6:33: “Seek first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Sunday, December 5, 2010

dharana & dhyana & pranayama-but ultimately, ahimsa

samskaras: "The samskaras are built up by continued action of the thought-waves, and they, in their turn, create new thought-waves, the process works both ways. Expose the mind to constant thoughts of anger and resentment, and you will find that these anger-waves build-up anger-sanskaras, which will predispose you to find occasions for anger throughout your daily life. A man with well developed anger-samskaras is said to have 'a bad temper.' The sum total of our samskaras is, in fact, our character at any given moment." ~yoga sutras (as read in Gates's book, "Meditations from the Mat:)
So I copied that down at 10 a.m. That was all I had time to do before reporting for church.
Where I proceeded to work myself (internally) into a lather. Our church tends to do that to me. I just want a quiet place to come and worship. I don't care about the socializing. I don't care about the big, huge project we are about to undertake. I just want to come to contemplate and be challenged and led.
The big, huge project was the subject of much of our worship time today, which upset me and left me feeling quite nauseated. I hated to sit there with the poster boards up with information about the project and how successful we are being about it. It's the second Sunday in Advent, for pete's sake! I could barely see the Advent wreath because of the thermometer on the poster board that showed how we exceeded our project goals!
And so I stewed. And I thought about leaving before communion (1st Sunday of the month, you know). But that would have been hard. We sit in the second row. And my husband would have wondered. And others. I would have had to explain. And I didn't want to talk about it. I was too mad.
And then I remembered this quote.
Then the pastor unexpectedly asked me to assist with communion. And as I repeated "the body of Christ, broken for you," 90 times...once for each anger began to subside. And compassion and calm began to wash in.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

dhyana-the group

Centering Prayer & Meditation
December 2, 2010

Are you awake?
This meditation is excerpted from the book “Present Perfect: Finding God in the Now,” by Gregory A. Boyd.

Boyd begins this chapter by discussing how we’ve been programmed to view the world as though God were not present moment-by-moment. We are caught up in the human experience and not aware that God is here, with us, every second. He refers to this as the “flesh-mindset.”

Romans 8:6-7 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.  The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.” And Romans 12:2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

How does this flesh mindset happen? Through our lives we have experiences, see things, hear things, that we use to develop our worldview. Our minds are “programmed,” so to speak, with beliefs that run in the background of our lives.

So then we accept Christ, or even become aware of God, we learn all about Him and that he is omnipresent, but that knowledge doesn’t actually CHANGE the way we view the world moment-by-moment. Sure, we are aware of God’s presence, but we seem to dance in and out of awareness. Boyd says “we are living as semi-conscious slaves to our past programmers, and God’s presence will be habitually censored out of our awareness.” He says this is what James meant in chapter 1 verse 8 when he said we are “double-minded.” In verse 6 he compares us to a wave in the ocean, tossed and blown by the wind. Boyd recaps this by saying “We live in contradiction between what we believe is true and what we experience as real.”

So, we need to become single-minded. There you go. Easy! (maybe not so much)
The main way to do this is invite God to be your companion in everything you do. Try to remain conscious of the fact that, no matter what you doing…washing dishes…reading the paper…working at your desk…doing things, that there is another thing going on at the same time all the time. God is there. Next to you. Within you. Share with Him what you doing. Keep up a running dialogue with Him. Turn everything you do into an act of service and worship.

As we begin to wake up to God’s presence we’ll start to notice how much garbage there is in our brains. We’ll start to notice how caught up we have been with the past and the future, and how focused we’ve been on ourselves. The key is to just take note of it, and redirect. Don’t get caught up in self-judgment. Just take notice and redirect. Eventually you’ll start to notice less and less garbage and more and more God.


Friday, November 26, 2010

asana-Lotus/Bound Lotus

Here is a cool diary written by someone else that is participating in the 40-day Bound Lotus Global Sadhana Circle. She writes about how each day has gone for her. Only the first few days are up, but there is promise of more. Here's the link.

My own experience is coming along nicely. I do full lotus (with a towel under my bottom ankle to keep it from bending painfully) a couple of times a week, depending upon how warmed up I am. I have not done the binding at all with my arms. I'm okay with that. I have some weirdness going on with my shoulders and have no desire to even try to do something like that. Instead I grasp my opposite elbows. The 11 minutes is quite doable, as well. About the time it starts getting hard the timer goes off. Wednesday I was in an hour-long meditation class, so did my lotus during part of that. Yesterday I had Centering Prayer & Meditation so I set an interval bell for that and started in lotus. So it's been easy enough to incorporate it into my daily life.

I still do not do the chant or even listen to it. It seems distracting. It's been more meaningful for me to just think of myself as bowing before the God's feet.

I am aware that I have not posted the last meditation from the dhyana group. I wrote it at work and have technical difficulties getting it emailed to my laptop so I can post it. There is only one from last week. I did not do a meditation last night.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


I've had trouble with a little muscle above the back of my left hip. It's been going on and on for months and I keep trying to stretch it out and strengthen it.

My massage therapist observed that my body sometimes is twisted. Not up one side but more twisted on its' axis. The right side seems to want to be further forward than the left. She suggested I see my chiropractor. He confirmed. He said that the left hip is hurting because the right side is weaker and it puts more work on the left. "Strengthen that right side more," was his advice.

If I lay off asana for a bit, the hip hurts less. The more asana I do, the more it hurts and ends up not just hurting for a while and fading, but it will then start just hurting all the time. And so I keep doing poses and stretches designed to bring more right/left balance to my body.

Then suddenly last night, as we lay in svasana, I had an SBI (scathingly brilliant idea)! I realized that, in asana, I tend to allow the left-ward stretching to go further because that side is stronger! I need to push more on the right but also to back off a little more on the left.

I can be so slow sometimes.
Centering Prayer & Meditation
November 18, 2010

Are you awake?

This meditation is excerpted from the book “Present Perfect: Finding God in the Now,” by Gregory A. Boyd.

Chasing the Sun

We are all dying. Each day, each moment, our bodies decay a little more. When we are young, we think we have all the time in the world. We can be whatever we want to be. We can cook up grand schemes for what we’ll do sometime during our lifetime. But as we get older and older, some of those things are not possible for us anymore. We have responsibilities, maybe even infirmities, which prevent us from doing some of the things we want to do.  And we fear that we’ll never really live our lives to the fullest before we pass from this earth.

But in 2 Corinthians 5: 17 we are told of God’s promise that we will not be defeated by death:
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”
Boyd says “…we experience fear and dread over the decay of our body and our impending death only because we are in fact viewing our present preciously short life as though it were our total life…When God’s love becomes our sole source of Life moment-by-moment, we will have no regrets about the past and no fears about the future, for we are fulfilled and are trusting God in the present.”

If we live each moment aware of God’s presence, then we are released from all that anxiety! 

Furthermore, we’ll find we have different motivations for what we do. We no longer are working to stave off death. Instead we are working to express the fullness of the Life we already have. We’ll tend to be more successful this way, too.

Boyd suggests the “palms down, palms up” method of prayer to help us cultivate a habit of letting go of things that keep us mired in the past or anxious for the future.

Now we are going to try an exercise to help us to realize that we are situated in the middle of a vast universe…infinitely larger than we are, and infinitely smaller than we are.

Sit in a comfortable place and just try to be aware of how vast the universe is…how you are just a speck in the cosmos. And then at the same time, think about how large you are in comparison to the other things. Think about how God is present as far out as we can think, and as far IN as we can think. Out to the largest possible scenario and in to the smallest possible particle…God is present.

Boyd ends the chapter with this: “Though we are microscopic in size next to the vastness of the universe, the Creator loves each of us as if we were the only being he created. For a God of unlimited love, size does not matter.”

Thursday, November 11, 2010

dhyana-the group

Centering Prayer & Meditation
November 11, 2010

Are you awake?
This meditation is excerpted from the book “Present Perfect: Finding God in the Now,” by Gregory A. Boyd.

Finding Home

This is the title of Boyd’s second chapter. God created us with a hunger for LIFE. A hunger for feeling like we matter. Animals really only care about biological needs: shelter and food. After that, they are satisfied. But humans are not satisfied with just those things. We feel empty unless we sense that our lives serve an “ultimate purpose.”

God wants to share Himself with us. He wants us to participate in his divine nature. Boyd says it’s like we have a sort of “homing-device” built into our being that keeps dragging us toward communion with our creator. But He also has given us a choice. And often we push God away.

When we push Him away, it does not turn off the homing device. It just gets redirected and we end up trying to satisfy our longing for meaning by looking in other directions: affluence, fame, maybe earthly relationships.

Boyd get a little controversial, I think, when he talks about our beliefs. He says we tend to place great importance on beliefs but don’t really seem to internalize those beliefs. He stops just short of calling us idolaters. Believing Jesus is Lord doesn’t make Him so. It’s what we do with that belief. It’s the conscious act of submitting our lives to Him and making him Lord of our lives. By chasing after things other than our relationship with God, we fail to become full and complete citizens of heaven.

“Money, praise, poverty, opposition, these make no difference, for they will all alike be forgotten in a thousand years, but this spirit which comes to a mind set upon continuous surrender, this spirit is timeless life.” ~Frank Laubach

Live in the Present Moment

Chasing our worth outside of God’s kingdom takes us out of the present moment:
“If you doubt this, investigate your own soul. How much of your thought-life is spent in the past or future, and what is the purpose for this nonpresent thinking? You may be so accustomed to living in the past and the future that you find it difficult to notice how much of your thought-life is spent there, let alone why you spend so much of your thought-life there. But if you are completely honest with yourself, you’ll probably find that most of your past and future-orientated thoughts revolve around you and are centered on your attempts to feel worthwhile and significant.
When we feel perpetually hungry in the flesh, we spend a great deal of our thought-life savoring past experiences or possible future experiences that make us feel more worthwhile and significant. We also spend a great deal of time ruminating over past experiences or worrying about possible future experiences that will make us feel less worthwhile and significant. All the while we are strategizing over how to position ourselves to have more of the worth-giving  experiences and how to better avoid the worth-detracting experiences.”
“The very process of trying to acquire Life on our own forces us to miss most of life, for real life is always in the present moment.

Boyd talks about finding “home,” or “reorienting the homing device,” by practicing the presence of God. So tonight I’m going to read an exercise from his book that he says helped him to experience God’s closeness and helped him feel “at home.”

“Think for a moment about the way God designed the world and the laws of nature to support you. Unless you’re living in a zero-gravity environment, your body is always in contact with something and is always being supported in multiple ways. At this moment, your feet are probably being supported by the floor and your body is probably resting on a chair or sofa. When you lie down tonight, your body will be supported by your bed. Your skin is always touching some other part of the physical world, and that touch can be transformed into a little signal from the Father that he is watching over you and caring for you.
In this moment, turn your attention to the points of contact between your body and the things that are supporting your weight. Become aware of the weight of your body against the chair, your feet against the floor, and so on… Allow yourself to rest in that support and realize that every point of contact reflects the truth that you are held in existence each and every moment by the perfect love of God.
God is personally holding you securely in the world. He cares that you have places to rest. Throughout your day, turn your attention over and over again to these physical points of contact and transform these physical sensations into a deeper awareness of the great love of God.”

Peter 1: 3 – 4: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you,

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Great Svasana

A couple of weeks ago, a yoga friend's mother passed away. She was 101 and my friend was her caregiver for something like 15 years. My friend said she'd gone on a "great svasana."

Then this past Tuesday my Mother-in-Law passed. She was found around 9 or 9:30 p.m, so she must have stopped breathing pretty quickly after falling asleep.

My Mother-in-Law never liked being old. She started saying 25 years ago that she was ready to die. She didn't like being tired. Being achy, having all the gastro-intestinal issues that she did. She was tired of people, food, and going places. She used to say regularly that she just wanted to die. Not in a whiny sort of way. Just that it was time to check out. We actually had to ask her to stop saying it in front of the children. When they were little they would hear her say it and wonder about it. No little kid wants to hear their beloved grandparent say she doesn't want to live anymore.

So I think passing away was truly a great svasana for her. She is finally at complete rest.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

dhyana-the group

Are you awake?

This meditation is excerpted from the book “Present Perfect: Finding God in the Now,” by Gregory A. Boyd.

Last week we looked at Frank Laubach’s book, “Letters by a Modern Mystic.” For a few moments we considered Laubach’s method of thinking of God at least once every minute of the day. At the end of the book is his pamphlet “The Game of Minutes,” in which he gives strategies for helping us to achieve that goal.

And so I guess what I’m doing now is trying to take the practice of meditation and contemplation outside of this little, 40-minute period of time one a week, and offering to you that we can do this every day, virtually all day to a small degree.

Boyd’s book is about his own journey into awareness. He shows how easy it is for us Christians to think that a life of unending prayer is only for the “Super Holy.” Boyd says that our perception of this has allowed us to develop what he calls a “secular worldview.” Out of habit, we tend to exclude God from our awareness. We still believe, he says, but God is not real to us most of the time. He says this makes us essentially “functional atheists.”  We box God into certain periods of the day or the week, isolating God’s existence from our day-to-day lives.

In doing so, we are not allowing ourselves to experience the full, transforming power of God.

Throughout Boyd’s book, he has little gray boxes scattered in the margins. Made to look like post-it notes, these boxes simply say “Are you awake?”

Matthew 6:33 “But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” To seek first the Kingdom means we need to seek the Kingdom in each of the present moments that comprise our actual life. I have to admit I'd never looked at this verse so immediately. I always have thought of the long view. That we seek God, accept His presence in our life, and then move on to living. I hadn't thought of seeking over and over with each moment.

Take Every Thought Captive I think this is my favorite phrase in the first chapter of Boyd’s book. And even better…it’s a phrase from the New International Version of the Bible:

2 Corinthians 10:5:  “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

The brain never shuts up. In order to submit every thought to God, we’re going to need to have God on our mind all the time. Don’t go overboard, though, and start trying to analyze every thought to be sure it’s turned over to God! If you do that, you’ll just end up focusing completely on yourself and ultimately drive yourself crazy! Just try to remain aware that God is ever-present and surrender your life and work to Him.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

asana-Lotus/Bound Lotus

Spirit Voyage announced on their Facebook Page that they are going to do a 40-day Bound Lotus Kriya starting November 9. That seemed fun, so I thought I'd do some checking into what it all entails.

First, be able to do Lotus (Padmasana). Oops! The last few times I've tried it I haven't made it anywhere near close! That could be a big problem. (And actually, I have to say I was perplexed because I'm generally pretty flexible) So I started googling around and found this kind of cool video:

aha! See that bit near the beginning about how he talks about HIP ROTATION? I never knew that! What do you know? When I pay attention to rotating my hips, making use of that good ball & socket joint, I'm able to get to a reasonably good beginning lotus. Here are shots of my attempts this afternoon:

Not bad. At first I was doing it sitting flat on the floor. But this made one knee hover a bit off the ground. I don't have a zafu, so I just grabbed what was handy...a United Methodist Hymnal! It actually was just the right size and height to make the lotus look fairly good. I see from these two shots that left over right seems a little bit better, but right over left isn't terrible.

So I've decided to start working consistently on the lotus for a while. I'd like it to be smaller and tighter and eventually maybe I'll be able to go into it without picking up my feet and hauling them around. My plan for working on it will be to do more yin. I've been a big fan of yin since I was introduced to it more than a year ago. I really like Paul Grilley's DVD "Yin Yoga: The Foundations of a Quiet Practice." On this disc you can listen to him lecture as you go through the postures, or you can play the same sequences again without all the extra commentary. I've ripped the audio from this and put it on my ipod so that I can work in peace and not be tethered to a television. Yesterday I did the hips series and this afternoon I did part of the spine series (before the number of interruptions I experienced from the household got to be just too much). I feel if I do a few yin postures each day and then do lotus, I should see some improvement quite steadily.

Erich Schiffmann's book "Moving into Stillness," also has a nice prep for Lotus. I can't recommend "Light on Yoga" for prep because Iyengar essentially says, "By perseverance and continued practice the pain will gradually subside and [people] can then stay in the pose comfortably for a long time." Yiiiikes!

So there you have it. Oh! The Bound Lotus Kriya. So essentially what you do is cross your arms behind you while you are in lotus and grab the toes of your feet. Then you lean forward until your forehead touches the floor. It looks likes this:

From (read the cool story on this page)
Stay there for 31 minutes. If you skip a day, you have to start all over. mmm...hmmm....You actually can just build up to 31 minutes. And since I can in no way come even remotely close to grabbing my toes, I'll just cross my hands behind my back. If I can't lean all the way forward (though I should, I do it in easy pose all the time), then I'll prop up on a block.

Oh, and there's a chant, too:
Ray Man Shabad
Ray man eh bidh jog kamaa-o
Oh my mind, practice Yoga in this way:
Singee saach akapat kanthalaa
Let Truth be your horn, sincerity your necklace,
Dhi-aan Bibhoot charaa-o
and meditation the ashes you apply on your body.
Taatee geho aatam bas kar kee
Catch your burning soul (self) and stop the flames.
Bhicchhaa naam adhaarang
Let the soul (self) be the alms bowl in which you collect the sweet Naam and this will be the only support you will ever need.
Baajay param taar tat har ko
The Universe plays its divine music. The sound of reality is shrill, but this is where God is.
Upajai raag rasaarang
When you listen to the reality from this place of awareness the sweet essence of Raag arises.
Ughatai taan tarang rang
Waves of melodies, emotions, and passions arise and flow through you.
Gi-aan geet bandhaanang
Bind yourself with the song of God.
Chak chak rehay dayv daanav mun
The Universe spins like a potter’s wheel and from it fly demons and angels.
Chhak chhak bayom bivaanang
The sage listens to this and instead of getting caught in either one, the sage drinks the nectar of the heavens and is carried to the heavens in a divine chariot.
Aatam upadays bhays sanjam ko
Instruct and clothe yourself with self control. Meditate unto infinity
Jaap so ajapaa jaapai
until you are meditating without meditating.
Sadaa rehai kanchan see kaayaa
In this way, your body shall remain forever golden,
Kaal na kabahoo bayaapai
and death shall never approach you.

I pretty much suck at chants, so I'm going to do some accommodating on that, too. I'll listen to Snatam Kaur sing it.

That's my plan.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

dhyana-the group

(Note: I'm sorry I didn't post this on time. There is no excuse. I just forgot! I'm backdating it so that it will show up in the right spot on the blog)

Are you awake?

This meditation is excerpted from the book “Letters by a Modern Mystic,” by Frank C. Laubach

Laubach recalls this hymn, Moment by Moment
Lyrics: Daniel W. Whittle
Music: May W. Moody
First published in 1896

“Moment by moment, I’m kept in His love;
Moment by moment, I’ve Life from above;
Looking to Jesus til glory doth shine;
Moment by moment, O Lord, I am thine.”

Frank Laubach was a missionary in a remote location of the Philippines and in 1935 founded of the “Each One, Teach One” literacy program, designed to teach about 60 million people how to read their own language. In 1955 he founded “Laubach Literacy,” which is a worldwide literacy program. He is the author of a devotional pamphlet called “The Game with Minutes,” which challenges Christians to keep God in their mind for at least one second of every minute of the day. “Letters by a Modern Mystic” is a compilation of excerpts from letters he wrote to his father about his experiences with the game of minutes.

I Thessalonians 5:17 “Pray without ceasing”
Laubach writes: “My teacher…told me this week that a good Muslim ought to utter the sacred word for God every time he begins to do anything, to sleep, to walk, or work, or even turn around. A good Muslim would fill his life with God. I fear there are few good Muslims. Bus would a real Christlike Christian speak to God every time he did anything—and I fear there are few good Christians.”

The Game with Minutes
1.    Select a favorable hour. Try to choose one where you think you might be most likely to succeed. See if you can keep track of how many times you thought of God…at least once each minute for how many different minutes. The easiest hour to start might be the Worship hour in church. Don’t use a scorecard for more than an hour. Start with a fresh one each hour.
2.    Try thinking of God each time you encounter a person, or see a person.
3.    Try leaving something in front of you that will remind you of God.
4.    Wear something on your wrist, or finger, or around your neck that will remind you as it moves. I wear a Sikh Kara on my left wrist. The purpose of the kara in the Sikh tradition is to remind the wearer of the "soul's highest purpose." As it moves around on my wrist and clanks on things, it reminds me of my purpose to serve God and His people.
5.    While reading, read as though you are reading to God—sharing the material with Him.
6.    Keep a running commentary in your head of your activities—sharing with Him what you are doing.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


8 days ago my yogabuddy and I went to a 2-hour vinyasa class taught by renowned teacher and author Rolf Gates.

I was scared. First of all because it was a vinyasa class, a type of yoga I've only done once or twice. Secondly because it was Rolf Gates. Would the dude work us to exhaustion? Would I be able to keep up?

Sweet. That's what it was. Exhausting, yes. Dripping, yes. I was very glad I'd bought a hot yoga towel the day before.

I was touched by Gates's down-to-earth style. His encouragement. The way he thanked us for being yogis. For being part of a yogic revolution of sorts...a far cry from when he had to drive 3 hours each way to take a class back in the 70s.

Gates encouraged us to not fret about the mechanics of the poses, but to just find them and settle in. To let our minds just float out into enjoyment with each move. And, while I hear my yogabuddy say that same thing in our classes, I truly can say that I experienced that in Gates's class.

It was also special to have my yogabuddy next to me on the floor. Moving in concert as fellow students. Each of us experiencing our own asana. Each of us dripping sweat and smiling.

Friday, October 22, 2010

dhyana-the group

Centering Prayer & Meditation
October 21, 2010

Tonight we’ll talk more about the MECHANICS of meditation. Posture is really 95% of the issue, in my book. For most it may not be. But I have persistent issues with body pain and stiffness. So being at ease in meditation is the biggest hurdle. Once my body is taken out of the equation, then my mind can go to other places.
Here’s an interesting checklist I found on a Buddhist meditation site called
“…it is a good idea to become accustomed to sitting in the posture of Buddha Vairochana. If we cannot hold this posture we should sit in one which is as close to this as possible while remaining comfortable.
The seven features of Vairochana’s posture are:
(1) The legs are crossed in the vajra posture. This helps to reduce thoughts and feelings of desirous attachment.
(2) The right hand is placed in the left hand, palms upwards, with the tips of the thumbs slightly raised and gently touching. The hands are held about four fingers’ width below the navel. This helps us to develop good concentration. The right hand symbolizes method and the left hand symbolizes wisdom – the two together symbolize the union of method and wisdom. The two thumbs at the level of the navel symbolize the blazing of inner fire.
(3) The back is straight but not tense. This helps us to develop and maintain a clear mind, and it allows the subtle energy winds to flow freely.
(4) The lips and teeth are held as usual, but the tongue touches against the back of the upper teeth. This prevents excessive salivation while also preventing our mouth from becoming too dry.
(5) The head is tipped a little forward with the chin slightly tucked in so that the eyes are cast down. This helps prevent mental excitement.
(6) The eyes are neither wide open nor completely closed, but remain half open and gaze down along the line of the nose. If the eyes are wide open we are likely to develop mental excitement and if they are closed we are likely to develop mental sinking.
(7) The shoulders are level and the elbows are held slightly away from the sides to let air circulate.”
To be honest, the best advice I can give about posture is to find what works for you each time. And I say “each time,” because it’s just going to vary depending upon how you are feeling each day. Here are some of the postures I’ve used:
1.    Legs up the wall. This is a great way to bring relaxation and support for a tired body. But it can also be dangerous because you can fall asleep! (yep, I’ve found myself an hour later slumped over on the floor)
2.    Lying down with legs on a chair or other piece of furniture
3.    Seated on the floor, cross-legged. Maybe on a cushion
4.    Seated in a chair
5.    Meditation seat
6.    Facedown, either in child’s pose or just spread-eagled. The later can be a problem because you have your head turned one way. The former can be an issue if your lower legs tend to fall asleep. You can prop up in the pose, though.
I used nothing but legs up the wall when I got started. But I also started during a time when my body was very upset. Now I sit most of the time. Sometimes on a meditation seat, sometimes on a cushion.
What it really boils down to is that you need to find that comfortable spot that eliminates physical discomfort from your practice, so that you can take your attention elsewhere.
Yogi Erich Schiffmann has a podcast on his website where he describes getting into a position. Listen especially to minutes 3 to 7.

During meditation we listened to Ashana's "The Aramaic Lord's Prayer" and then had 10 minutes of silence.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Vata-That's me...

I started getting interested in Ayurveda because I keep running across references to it in Yoga Journal, Elephant Journal, and many passing comments I hear about it as I go about my routine.

I asked my yogabuddy for some reading material about it and she loaned me Deepak Chopra's book, "Perfect Health: A Complete Guide to Ayurvedic Living." I loved this book! I found myself in it! I took quizzes, read about likes and dislikes, found out I'm not lazy...just tire easily with strenuous activity. I felt liberated and empowered.

Usually about this time of year, as it starts to get dark earlier and stay dark later in the morning, I start to spiral down emotionally and struggle more with depression and sleep issues. But I've discovered some self-care thing in this book and other materials that I really believe are helping me to stay healthy and happy.

I've been doing self massage with almond oil, paying attention to my feet and massaging them twice each day. I am eating warming foods and making sure I don't get overly cold. I rest when I want to and I find I do more when I'm not. My energy level is up and so is my emotional level. I feel much more balanced.

dhyana-the group

Presence and Waiting…the essence of waiting on God.
This meditation is excerpted from the book “Sacred Waiting,” by David Timms

Psalm 62:1-“My soul waits in silence for God only.”
Think of a waiter in a restaurant. He comes to your table, introduces himself, he might tell you what the specials are. He is being present for you, establishing a connection with you, putting you at ease. Then he proceeds to serve you. He brings you what you request.
Unfortunately we often seem to treat God as our waiter, instead of us being His! We come to Him in prayer, telling him everything we need and then we expect him to take care of our requests.
But the Bible clearly places the responsibility of waiting on us. Throughout Biblical history we see great examples of God’s people waiting and serving Him.

Noah: Genesis 8:13-“And it came to pass in the six hundredth and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried up from the earth: and Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and, behold, the face of the ground was dry. So he waited more than 600 years for God’s rainbow covenant!

Abraham: Genesis 12:2-4- “And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee; and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. So Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran.”
Genesis 21:5-“And Abraham was an hundred years old, when his son Isaac was born unto him.” Imagine getting older and older…watching your wife get older and older…and still be waiting for God to fulfill this promise.

Moses: So he kills the Egyptian supervisor and flees into the desert to Midian, where he lived with the family of Jethro, the priest of Midian. He married Zipporah tended the his father-in-law’s flock. In Exodus 3:10, God said “Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharoah, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt.” It’s been something like 40 years since Moses left Egypt and went into exile.

David: He waited for more than a decade before he eventually became king of Israel.
Henri Nouwen says this about waiting: “For many people, waiting is an awful desert between where they are and where they want to go.”

Timms says, “Each (hero of faith) learned unique life-altering lessons as they waited on God…Noah learned endurance. Abraham grew in his trust of God. Moses emptied himself. David discovered new depths of worship.”

We will each have our own journey in waiting, too. And we’ll each experience different lessons as we wait. 

Thursday, October 7, 2010

dhyana-the group

October 7, 2010

Tonight we’ll try a technique called Lectio Divina, or “holy reading.” This is an ancient art that was practiced at one time by all Christians, and now is kept alive by Benedictine monastics. It is a slow, contemplative way of praying the scriptures. And, by the way, completely different from what we’ve done in the previous weeks. This time we’ll INVITE thoughts instead of chasing them away!

The first step is Lectio-reading & listening. In this step we listen deeply to the passage we have selected. In The Rule (his guide for monastics), St. Benedict urges us to listen “with the ear of our hearts.” He suggests we try to imitate the prophet Elijah who, in I Kings 19:12, listened to the still, small voice of God within…the “faint, murmuring sound” which is God’s word for us. In this manner we atune ourselves to the presence of God. Is there one word or phrase that particularly jumps out at you?

The second step is Meditatio-meditation. Once we’ve found a word or passage that speaks to us, we take it in and ruminate on it. This is reminiscent of cattle chewing their cud. In Luke 2:19 we hear of the Virgin Mary “pondering in her heart” what she saw and heard from the angels when they visited the manger after Jesus was born. Through meditation we allow God’s word to become His word for us. DO NOT BE AFRAID OF DISTRACTIONS. Instead of dismissing them, allow them to happen and give them God. They are a part of yourself that is asking for recognition and to be given over. Is there a particular problem or struggle that is bothering you? A longing?

Oratio is the third step-prayer. This is the dialogue part. We’ve heard what God is telling us in the scripture and we talk to Him about it. We allow this scripture to touch us and change us. In oratio, we allow ourselves to be touched and changed by the scripture. Is God inviting you to do something?

The final step is Contemplatio-contemplation. Rest. Rest in the embrace of our God.  Allow ourselves to be His Beloved. Words are unnecessary. It’s like being in the presence of a dear friend or spouse and knowing that words are not necessary.

As a group, we’ll read the scripture passage 3 times, pausing between each reading.
Tonight we’ll consider Psalm 91:

My Refuge and My Fortress

91:1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
You will not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
You will only look with your eyes
and see the recompense of the wicked.
Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place—
the Most High, who is my refuge—
10 no evil shall be allowed to befall you,
no plague come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.
12 On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the adder;
the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.
14 “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him;
I will protect him, because he knows my name.
15 When he calls to me, I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”