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.”

samadhi-Practice Enlightenment

So of course the point of the practice of yoga is to discipline the mind, body and spirit so that one can reach "samadhi," which is "Union with the Divine."

I read this story in Yoga Journal this week by Sally Kempton that really struck home with me. If you haven't read any of her stuff, you really must. Yoga Journal has regular wisdom features by her. I read every one because she's just so NORMAL!

Oh, so back to the point: the story. It's called "Seeing is Believing." You can read it here. She talks about basically pretending enlightenment in order to live it. Kempton tells about the tantric tradition called bhavana, which is "a practice in which you use your mind and imagination to create an inner experience of oneness, or to contemplate an enlightened reaction to an object of desire, say, or to an enemy." Her article reassuringly points out that enlightenment is available to everyone. Not just extra-spiritual people or monks or stuff like that. We all experience moments of connectedness with God. And with people. And she is saying essentially we can "fake it til we make it."

So what did I take away from this? I struggle with feeling like everyone is judging me, disliking me, disapproving of me. And that makes me feel like I'm surrounded by adversaries. After reading this story, I decided to just live as though that is not true. Just go on pretending everyone is a close friend of mine. I stumbled upon this quote the other day:

“Doubt yourself and doubt everything you see.  Judge yourself and you see judges everywhere.  But if you listen to the sound of your own voice, you can rise above and see forever.” –Nancy Kerrigan

And I found that is true. When I felt doubtful about myself, I felt everyone else was doubting me. So I'm practicing connectedness with everyone around me. I'm practicing believing that everyone around me wants me to succeed in whatever I'm doing. I do feel better. I do feel more connected with God and His people, and I'm not a spiritual giant!