Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Did you know that brahmacharya literally means "walk with God?" I read that today in Rolf Gates's book, "Meditations from the Mat."

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

dharana: Kriya of Liberation

The Kriya of Liberation, as explained by Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa. I'll be starting over my 40 days tomorrow.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

isvarapranidhana & dhyana

Today I hit day 7 of my 40-day kundalini meditation self-challenge, and interesting things are starting to happen. (I inadvertently skipped a day when I had a kundalini class and then ran around all day and just plain forgot about it.)

1. The practice is kind of hit or miss in terms of how hard it is to maintain the postures. Sometimes it downright hurts, and other times it doesn't bother me much at all. And it also varies by segment: Sometimes the first 3 minutes can be the easiest, sometimes the second 3 minutes is the easiest. I have noticed each of the last 3 days that the last segment, however, is not too bad.

2. I'm starting to get outside of the physical sensations and am able to focus for short periods of time on my 6th chakra. This is kind of cool and a little disorienting, as well. It sort of makes you a little dizzy to roll your eyes up like that. Did I mention my eyes are closed? They are. I imagine it would be even more dizzying to have them open!

3. Yesterday as my arms were hurting and my left bicep was spasming, I found myself thinking about my kundalini teacher saying, "It's just sensation. Take notice and then let it go." That's fairly simple to do when you are in an asana or doing a kriya that is not as long or as physically taxing. But when you are sitting in this meditation and your arms are hurting and you have your eyes closed and are not really sure how much longer there is to go (I set a timer down behind my left hand so that I can just turn it off and then back on), it's a lot harder. What bubbled into my head was Jesus on the cross. His arms were hurting much worse than mine ever will. He had his hands nailed to the cross and he was hanging there, pushing himself by his legs (his feet also nailed) to help fill his lungs with air. And yet he was able to pray and talk to his father, speak to the people on the ground and to the two people who were on crosses on either side of him. (John 19:17-37) He was suffering more than anyone ever should and could have called the whole thing off. But he didn't. Just for us. So isn't it kind of a small token of our appreciation to give Him 9 minutes of minor physical discomfort. As my kundalini teacher said the other day, "It's only 9 minutes. We all have 9 minutes."

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

asana & dhyana makes your arms fall off

or maybe you just wish they would.
Yesterday was Summer Solstice so I thought it might be fun to give a try at 108 Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskar A. Without the lunges. Plank instead.)

Uh. 108 chataurangas can really do in the shoulders. Hmph.

But I've also embarked on a 40 day journey with a kundalini meditation. Today was day 4 and my upper arms were quivering as I struggled through the 9 minutes. Here is what I'm doing:

Sit in easy pose.
Raise the right hand up in an angle to the right.
Lower the left hand down in an angle to the left.

For the first three minutes, point your index fingers.
For the second three minutes, point your index and pinky fingers.
For the third three minutes, open the hands with the palms facing down, fingers together.

Slowly breathe in 'sat,'
Slowly breathe out 'nam.'

Saturday, June 19, 2010

niymas: tapas

Self-discipline. Caring for the body. Heating it and cleansing it in preparation for meeting the divine. Monitoring the posture, paying attention to breathing, watching what we eat. All contribute to the body's health.

I love this one. I struggle periodically with eating. Not a lot. Just every once in a while my body will crave something. Last night it was meat and french fries. I ended up having fish and chips at a local restaurant. I came out of there stuffed and satisfied. This morning my fingers are a little swollen from the salt, but I can tell my body is not upset with me at all for the rest of it. I must have needed it.

My yogabuddy and I went to an asana practice last night that had a drummer. The class was crazy, with lots of imaginative things thrown into the vinyasa sequences... a random arm balance, a sudden dance. It was crazy cool and we all sweated up a storm. It was a good, cleansing practice. Much like spending time in a sauna. But I think even more satisfying because we were moving and not just sitting around.

During svasana I ran a little Reiki. I've been doing that more during svasana and meditation. As a Reiki II, it's good practice for me and it helps charge and also relax my body. As the class ended, the instructor commented about the strong energy in the room. As my yogabuddy and I talked during our supper, she told me that it turned out most of us were Reiki practitioners and all of us were running Reiki during svasana. Amazing!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

niyamas: santosa

Contentment. Should we have to work on this? I do. Right now I'm quite discontent with my body. It hurts. There are aches and pains and stiffnesses that keep me from enjoying my asana practice or other things I like to do. I am forced to do each thing I enjoy with less vigor and for shorter periods of time.

And sometimes my discontent bubbles up and boils over and I snap. The other night I was leading a short 20-minute asana sequence of stretches for my Centering Prayer group. Two of the ladies are obese and were struggling. And to cover their embarrassment, they made snarky comments about those of who were smaller and more flexible. I snapped. Told them we all bring our own "stuff" to the mat. Some of us, I said, who may be smaller are also in a lot of pain right now. "This is the equalizer," I said.

I was ashamed with  myself for saying that.

Yesterday morning I went to a gentle yoga I class. Afterwards the teacher came up to me, thanked me for coming, and then made point to mention that the class was intended to be easy and gentle. His implication (I felt) was that it may have been easier than what I bargained for. I told him I came for that purpose. That my body needed a gentler practice.

But boy did that annoy me. I know why he said what he did.  He's a very loving person. I was annoyed because I needed his class!

This morning in our kundalini class we were doing a kriya and the teacher said, "Sometimes this kriya can bring stuff up." Well, it sure did. I was angry for most of the kriya. Angry with my body. Discontent.

This episode of pain and discomfort is slowing me down. And really messing with my contentment. It's taking over my thoughts and movements and I'm not enjoying the moments as I should.

And yet, as I name this, as I see what's happening, I'm starting to feel better physically. Go figure.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


"immovable concentration of the mind."
To steady the mind by focusing on one single, stable entity.

This morning I was reading a chapter in the book, "The Wisdom Jesus," by Cynthia Bourgeault. The book says it is about "Transforming Heart and Mind -- a New Persepective on Christ and His Message." My Centering Prayer group is studying it right now.

The chapter I was on this morning was Chapter 4: The Path of Metanoia. This is the Greek word that is usually translated to be "repentance." Bourgeault turns my world on its' ear by saying it really literally means to go "beyond the mind" or "into the larger mind." She says this is really what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. Jesus is telling us to go beyond ourselves to experience the larger mind. And then in this chapter she talks about the teachings of Jesus that we've known our entire lives, but explains what they mean from a "larger mind" perspective.

The Beatitudes are the first teachings she talks about. The first Beatitude is "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."  From this new perspective she says we can understand this to mean "'poor in spirit' designates an inner attitude of receptivity and openness, and one is blessed by it because only in this state is it possible to receive anything."

She gives a Zen story about a student who wanted to study with a certain master. The student sits down with the master and proceeds to talk on and on about everything he knows. The master listens and begins to pour tea. He keeps pouring even after the cup is full. When the student tells him to stop because the cup is full, the master tells him yes, it's full. But so is the student. How could the student possibly be taught?

This emptying is what I've been trying to articulate to my husband about what meditation means to me. When I sit and try to empty my mind, to keep it from being filled with fleeting thoughts and ruminations, I am attempting to clear out the space so that God can speak to me in His still, small voice.

Monday, June 14, 2010

niyamas: sauca

There are five parts of the niyamas, or "personal observances." 

Sauca is for purity. Personal cleanliness. Not just outside (taking care of the body) but also there is an inward aspect. Purity of mind. Purity of the mind is even more important than physical cleansing of the body. It "is the cleansing of the mind of its disturbing emotions like hatred, passion, anger, lust, greed, delusion and pride."

I find that asana and dhyana both help me with sauca. My personal pride is on the line when doing asana as I encounter difficulty with certain postures. While I am more advance and more flexible than many of my fellow yogis (at least in the classes I take regularly), no one really cares if I fall out of a posture or do more accommodations for my body on some days. But I care. My pride is much too big. Inside my head I beat myself up when I struggle on the mat. 

I struggle often with hatred, anger, lust (not sexual lust, but the lust for things or relationships I don't have), and greed (not monetary greed so much, but greed for things I don't have). In dhyana I can bring those issues to my God and lay them out. In dhyana I wait for God's acknowledgement and compassion. And in dhyana I cleanse myself through confession.

Friday, June 11, 2010


When meditation is "going well" it can be the sweetest experience. When it is not, it can be so frustrating. So mind-boggling, so much like sitting in the midst of a whirlwind.

To me the sweetness of dhyana is marked by the silence I encounter. It's a silence that really is not silence. There is the beating of my own heart I hear. That gentle buzz of the slight tinnitus I've had my entire life. But nothing else. I hear no other sounds that are present. I can focus my gaze on my third eye but all I see is nothing-ness.

And yet there is everything. The hand of God is resting lightly on my shoulder, letting me know of His (yes. sorry. His) presence. Letting me know He is here. And if I I rest in His presence then I'll be able to hear His small whispers of love and care.

My experiences in that kind of dhyana are fleeting. Only seconds at a time. But they are so sweet that they bring me back to my cushion over and over so that I can experience it again and again. Hoping always that I can lengthen the experience.

How do you know you have been successful in dhyana? The yogis say "You are successful if you sat. Nothing more."

Thursday, June 10, 2010


Last night was a testy asana practice. I went to class, which is essentially a beginning class taught by my girlfriend. I went even though my body was screaming to lay down. I'm inflamed from head to toe right now, so my mobility is rather limited. Rest and gentle stretching are really what's called for.

Anyway. Asana. This is the part of the 8 Limb Path that most people think is "YOGA." They don't realize when they get into it that it is just a small part of what yoga is. Once they get started, however, they realize (if they have good teachers) that there is so much yoga beyond it.

Asana is what I struggle with the most. It's the part where I do the most inner arguing. I tend to be a "Black Knight" when it comes to asana. I want to go all the way to the end of the pose. Right away. I want my alignment to be perfect. I want to be able to pretzel up on command. I want my downward dog to be perfect and I don't want to do no stinkin' resting between poses! (I should clarify, however, that I do like svasana) But there are times, like last night, when my body says "Dispense with the Black Knight. Let's be a Panda for a while." A warm, fuzzy panda. Gentle, lumbering, slow and easy.

Last night as I stepped on my mat, I told myself. "Easy now. Panda. Use props (which I despise), rest a lot." And so I did back off. But I beat myself up internally the entire time. I know what my body is capable of and it's hard for me to back off and give it a rest.

So I ruined the practice for myself by not living in the present and just enjoying what I could. That's my asana struggle.

Monday, June 7, 2010


Stops and starts. For several weeks it was all started. A nice routine of 10 minutes of meditation in the morning and then again at night.

Now it's all stopped. When I try to go back to it out of guilt, I get nothing. No concentration whatsoever. Not even relaxation. I'm having to let go of that too...the idea that I may not meditate for a bit. I know this about myself: if I am not interested in doing something? If I am trying to make myself do it because I should? Then resentment will set in. And I run the risk of dropping it for months and months or even years.

I enjoy meditation. I suspect I'll come right back to it in a week and a day. Why then? Because my job will have ended for the summer. I'll have six weeks of free time. Right not I'm working grueling hours and working hard while I'm at it. When I get home I'm ready to veg. My asana practice has slipped, as well. I am confident I'll get back into it...into a good routine...when this last week of work is over.

And then I'll tell about my dhyana journey. Promise. There is so much to tell!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

aparigraha & vairagya

A friend unwittingly humiliated me publicly. Not completely publicly. In an email. We were doing a round robin discussion about a topic and my friend made an off-hand comment about a project I'm responsible. "It needs help," she said. 


My boss has, on a couple of occasions, spoken rudely to me or upbraided an action of mine, in front of others.


It takes a long time to get over these things. For me it does. I imagine it does for everyone. But I have to speak from my own experience. That's what this blog is about. My own experience. When this thing happened with my friend a couple of hours ago, my first reaction (and second and third) was to say to myself, "Fine. I'm done." I shared the email with my husband, who wisely replied:
"Yes, that was rather insensitive. But you know [her], so you know she did not intend to embarrass you in front of [that other person]. Please don't let this grow into bitterness. Remember the concept of giving someone credit for benevolence, and let it go."

My husband has very little to no knowledge about the 8 Limb Path. Yet he spoke so well to Vairagya. 


"Detachment is rarely something we achieve once and for all. It's a moment-by-moment, day-by-day process of accepting reality as it presents itself, doing our best to align our actions with what we think is right, and surrendering the outcome," Sally Kempton says so well in this Wisdom article in Yoga Journal.

Now, as I write this, I find myself pleased that I let this small slight go so quickly. It only took 120 minutes (give or take) to detach from the comment and the anger. To stop hoarding (Aparigraha) the feelings. Now that I'm not ruminating about this, I can go on and enjoy the rest of my evening!

Friday, June 4, 2010


Embrace nonviolence at the level of speech, thought, and action.

That sounds easy, doesn't it? The yoga sutras say that when nonviolence in speech, thought, and action is established, one's aggressive nature is relinquished and others abandon hostility in one's presence.

I am ashamed by my violent nature. No, I don't go around verbally or physically attacking people. Most people are probably completely unaware how violent I really am.

I have violent thoughts. Thoughts of disgust, even hatred, toward those who disappoint me. I ruminate about the ways I think they have hurt me, abandoned me, their lack of care for me.

It's all about me. I am ashamed