Monthly Archives: August 2012

The 52: Lesson Thirty –Rest in Equanimity, Even When Everything Else is Chaos

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“Equanimity — The quality of being calm and even-tempered, having composure, neither elated nor depressed, especially in difficult times. Other words that come to mind are unattached and undisturbed. Ancient Vedanta writings teach us that equanimity is our true, eternal nature, apart from time and space, where we rest in the peace and love within our hearts.  While equanimity is well-defined in Indian teachings, yoga, and Buddhism, it is spoken of in other spiritual belief systems as well.  St. Paul writes in Philippians 4:11-13: I have learned to be content with whatever I have.  I know what it is to have little and I know what it is to have plenty. 

Sri Sathya Sai Baba said:

Let the wave of memory, the storm of desire, the fire of emotion pass through without affecting your equanimity.

What would it be like, if the ups and downs, the constant shifting of good and bad, did not disturb your innermost  being?  What if you could see all of these changes as nothing more than fluctuations on a screen, as a kind of movie playing out before your eyes?  For most of us, this is a tall order.  Life and death, good and bad, war and peace, love and hate — all present the challenges. They threaten our inner perch of peace.  Many of us come crashing down, falling from that safe perch, and we are gripped in the drama of these life events.  Some are able to hold forth with steady wisdom most of the time, then something dramatic occurs and our resolve crumbles.  If we know to honor and respect ourselves, setting aside harsh judgment, and remembering the ways of being human, we can safely fly back to our perch and remain gentle and kind to ourselves. We fell off the perch for a while.  So what?

In the Bhagavad Gita, the Lord says to the seeker, Arjuna:

One who leaves behind all desires emerging from the mind

and is content in the Self by the Self is said to be one of steady wisdom.

Swami Gurumayi adds the warning to “Watch your own mind.  Never allow it to get carried away by either pleasure or pain.  On the path of yoga, the path of steady wisdom, the path of right action, steady wisdom is crucial.  Become a sage of steady wisdom.”  In our “steady wisdom,” we discover a safe retreat.  We can rest there with trust.  But be sure to note that equanimity does not mean losing compassion in life or letting go of helping others, but instead, all that we do comes from a place of peace and calm within.

To imagine that we can control the constant changes that occur around us is a hopeless desire.  We can only control our reaction to the “play” of the world, resolving to be the quiet space in the midst of stormy seas.  Sometimes the buffeting of the winds is too much, and we react.  The pain of grieving, the unfairness of events, the fear for out future, or the depths of depression become too much to bear.  But yet, most of us recover our equanimity even if it takes time to do so.

My yoga students have an expression.  They say, ” I fell out of the boat.”  The story goes that we are all rowing the boat across the sea of samsara, across the sea of the world of change.  At the helm of the boat is our spiritual guide, it may be a guru or Christ, Allah or God or, (how about this ?), you, as the Self.  Every once in a while, we find the turbulence has become too much and we fall, headlong, into the sea.  There we flail about, fear drowning, sharks circle us.  We doubt that we will survive.  Then, as if by some miracle, a hand reaches down.  Out savior (or maybe even our Higher Self) pulls us up without any effort at all, smiles upon us, and puts us back to our rowing position, safe and on a steady course.

Seneca, the Roman philosopher, wrote:

Happy the man who can endure the highest and the lowest fortune.  He, who has endured such vicissitudes with equanimity, has deprived misfortune of its power.

So take pause before taking an action or speaking a word.  Are you responding and acting from a place of equanimity?  This is a worthwhile practice and the benefits grow greater day by day.  And, on those occasions when you act or speak in haste, forgive yourself — then look to return to your pleasant and calm perch of peace.  It will be there for you without fail.

With love and namaste, Deanne

For more, go to www.deannemincer.com

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The World is Too Much With Us

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The world is too much with us; late and soon,

Getting and spending. we lay waste our powers;–

Little we see in Nature that is ours;

We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!

The poet, William Wordsworth, wrote these words at a time when the industrial revolution was beginning to alter our lives in significant and troubling ways.  I can only imagine what he would be writing now, were he able to see how we humans have changed in ways that distance us from nature and our inner resources.  The world can become a veritable carnival side-show, trapping us in a never-ending cycle of desires, amusements, and false values that, once one is fulfilled, another emerges.  What are we without our possessions, accomplishments, skills, and self-image? 

Instead of careening through our days and hearing some kind of drum beat that reminds us that we are never strong enough, smart enough, rich even, clever enough, attractive enough, young enough — well, you understand this “never enough stuff.”  STOP!   PUT ON THE BREAKS!  STEP OFF THE TREADMILL!  YOU, the real you, the eternal you, the one that feels joy and love and compassion, aren’t any of those transitory, illusionary things.  To know this, we have to stop and really know ourselves.  Desires can bring a long string of negative emotions.

Desire can never know contentment. Just as darkness cannot comprehend the sun, desire can never experience satisfaction and fulfillment. In the kingdom of desires, satisfaction and contentment have never taken birth. 

The Siddha Yoga guru, Swami Muktananda, gave us this sage advice.  Resting in a place of contentment does not mean a lack of ambition or that we sit in a cave all day, doing nothing but being content (not to say that is a bad thing), but that we do not suffer because of lack.  We can be quiet and take a break and enjoy the moment. 

There is a practice in yoga called pratyahara.  It is one of the eight limbs of true yoga, true ashtanga yoga.  Yoga is, of course, a spiritual and philosophical path.  The yoga postures and the breathing practices are only two of those limbs. To truely know the benefits of yoga, one must study the totality of ashtanga yoga; this is usually where transformation occurs. Pratyahara is defined as sense withdrawal — letting go of the influences of the five senses (sight, sound, taste, touch,and smell) and how they tether us to the world.  So a practitioner of yoga quiets the mind and meditates, thus lessening the influence of the senses.  It is a powerful and liberating practice to engage, and I will write more about it in the future. 

I have come to use the involvement of the senses in a different way.  It allows us to use the worldly senses to enhance our happiness, our alignment with all that is around us, and to bring a sense of contentment.  Instead of retreating from the world, we find ways to ignite everything we see, hear, taste, touch, and smell with a feeling of delight and joy.  Here’s how it works:  We say to ourselves “This too is part of Divine Consciousness, of God, even if I don’t understand it now.”  We choose to surround ourselves with something we see frequently, like a picture, a phrase, that reminds us to be content and calm.  Then we use all the sense in the same way.  We have a sound, (perhaps a mantra or music or a voice) and a smell (a soothing fragrant candle, an essential oil applied at the wrist), a taste (something that reminds us of joyous moments, to eat or drink), and, for the sense of touch, something to caress, like a smooth stone or mala like rosary beads or a soft garment to wear.  We resolve that all of this will bring a sense of peace.  We may not be able to be constantly surrounded by everything in our “sense” world, but even a few and for blocks of time, will help us to remember contentment and our connection to transcendent energy and love.  See what happens if you give it a try.  You may experience the world in a new way.

The poet, Walt Whitman, wrote these words:

I hear and behold God in every object…

I see something of God each hour of the twenty-four, and each moment then,

In the faces of men and women I see God, and in my own face in the glass.

I find letters from God dropped in the street — and every one is signed by God’s name.

And I leave them where they are, for I know that others will punctually come

forever and ever.

What if this were the way you experienced the world?  Maybe the world would begin to transform before your eyes?  Maybe a sense of contentment and love would arise within you.  It means just a little shift, bit by bit, second by second, then maybe — forever.

For more, go to www.deannemincer.com

Have You Hugged Your Self Lately?

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In the oft-times frenzy of the world, we easily lose sight of caring for ourselves.  Then we feel out of sorts, out of control.  Or maybe we sink into the doldrums. We might do some negative self talk like this: I am having a bad day.  I am no good. How can I be so dumb?  Come on. Tell the truth, you have probably said some of those words. 

We hear all kinds of expressions that, at first glance, may seem trite.  If the world gives you lemons, make lemonade!  Right!  Good advice!  But what if you don’t FEEL like making lemonade.  You’re just too DOWN to get UP.  How about this? Pull yourself up by your boot straps.  If you fall down, get back up.  There is a reason all these pieces of advice have been around for so long. Hackneyed as they may be, a lot of the time, they work. Nonetheless, we ALL face days and times when we want to pull the covers up over our heads and stay in bed and not face the world.

Most of us have faith and belief that these “down” times are short-lived, that life has its ups and downs.  If we are down today, we will be up again soon.  But why wait? What can we do right now?  What methods might give us a lift? In previous posts, we gave some suggestions, like feeling gratitude for what we DO have now or tamping down those awful stress levels.  Here’s another idea!

This is a practice called THE SILENT WITNESS.  It is very popular with my yoga students. Here’s how it works:  We think of ourselves as having two sides — the little self and the True Self. This concept is quite in alignment with much spiritual thought. One is the mortal being who is prey to the modifications of the world, in other words, subject to stress, chaos and the ego.  The other is the True Self, the one who  remains in a state of equanimity, at peace, and loving  no matter what.  So we imagine that the Higher Self is there to witness us, to be our best cheerleader, to view us with loving eyes, and to comfort us and give us every bit of compassion we want.  To hug us and nurture the little self who is in the struggle at the moment.

You have to visualize the Higher Self. There is no right or wrong way to do this.  It is your interpretation. The silent witness may have a kind face gazing at you. Or  it may be a sense of a simple presence hovering around you.  Some people think of a guardian angel, a deity, or a guru. The constant is that this is the one who loves you unconditionally, just like we ALL want to be loved.  This witness watches and stays with you all the time , though thick and thin, and tells  you to take it easy on yourself, to lighten up, and to love yourself RIGHT NOW.

The Inner Witness, the spectator who watches all the activities of your waking state while remaining apart from them; who dwells in the midst of all action, good or bad, knowing it fully and yet remaining uncontaminated by it; who is that supremely pure, perfect and ever-attained Being.  These are the wise words of Swami Muktananda.

How about it? Would you like to have such a companion? A solid partner? A warm and smiling buddy?  This being is, after all, not a stranger to you.  It IS you!  It is the you that touches the inner love within your own heart. It just might be the YOU you will want to embrace more and more.  See how you like YOU!   Being hugged by YOU!  Healing YOU!  Being the YOU you were meant to be!

For more, check out:  www.deannemincer.com

The 52: Lesson Forty Eight –I Am Grateful. I am Thankful.

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butterflyblueskyIf the only prayer you say in your life is “thank you,” that would suffice.

Meister Eckhart wrote those wise words. They, in their simplicity, provide a lesson for all of us.  We often lose sight of the many reasons we have to be grateful and thankful.  Our once a year Thanksgiving Day toast is nice but hardly enough.  Every day can be thanksgiving, even for the most simple gifts.

Being grateful and thankful increases our levels of happiness and engenders a sense of well-being.  Many writings on happiness recommend that we make a list of our blessings, write them down, and remember them right before we go to sleep at night, thus helping to pave the way for a peaceful sleep. I find that listing my reasons to be grateful helps me to remember the big and little reasons I have to be thankful. They may include having a comfortable bed for sleeping.  Having kind and loving friends. Knowing that my husband is resting next to me.   Having the means to enjoy nutritious food and have warmth in the cold winter months.  Enjoying an ice cream sundae. Take it from there.  You can see how easy it is.  And there is a surprise.  A miracle surrounds this act of gratitude.  Even on your darkest day, in the midst of sadness or grief, you experience a lifting, you can make contact with the light within you.

LESSON FORTY EIGHT

THANKFULNESS

Before I began writing The 52, I blogged on many subjects.  This is the one I wrote on gratitude.  I like it so much, I decided to include it in The 52.  

Instead of focusing on what we don’t have, on the negatives, on the injustices, on the minutia of aggravations that go on, feeling gratitude is, for many of us, another way to think.  We can easily find criticism in our everyday life — with the surly driver, the craziness of the political scene, the screaming and disconcerting headlines.  That is a slam dunk!  Wallow in it if it you must, but don’t forget what is REALLY important. You have a choice!

When I’m worried and I can’t sleep, I count my blessings instead of sleep,

and I fall asleep counting my blessings.

When my bankroll is getting small, I think of when I had none at all,

and I fall asleep counting my blessings.

Irving Berlin wrote those lyrics and the song was performed in the film, White Christmas.  It is likely that generations of young people have never heard the song, but this does not make the words any less valid.  They speak of a sleepy time practice that can bring happiness to the heart.  Couldn’t we ALL use a little of that?

Some ways to remember gratitude:

  • Make it a nightly practice to either write down or recite to yourself five reasons you have for being grateful.
  • Ask a friend to join you in remembering thankfulness.  Discuss it with someone.  Share the joy.
  • Send a note, text, email to someone and tell them you appreciate them and why.
  • Call someone on the phone and do the same thing.
  • Thank some one for their help or service.  It could be the dry cleaner or person who delivers the mail or the one checking you out of the grocery store.  Anyone.  Spread the joy and gratitude.
  • Think of someone you love who touched your life in a deep way.  Perhaps someone who has left this plane, died.  You can thank them too.  Don’t worry.  They will hear you, whether you believe this or not.
  • Include yourself.  Be grateful for the person you are who has done a kindness for another.  Applaud yourself simply for being you.
  • And there is another to thank.  Choose the name you like — God, the Divine, Supreme Consciousness, Allah, the Buddha, Jesus, Shiva.  A small thank you is a very big thing.

Many years ago, I learned an unexpected  lesson about gratitude when my husband and I traveled to East Africa.  As we wandered through a small village near Arusha, Tanzania, we had the good fortune to make the acquaintance of a young man and father who resided in one of the tiny enclaves of mud huts.  He spoke English, took us to his home, and became, in the course of a few hours, someone we would call a friend.  In this, one of our first journeys into a “third world country,” we felt determined to help him.  After returning home, we sent simple gifts to him and his children.  Practical items for school, books, medications, cash hidden in places where he would find it.  We soon learned some hard lessons. Some of the  packages were scrutinized or stolen. To our horror, he was accosted and beaten, his home ransacked in search of special items. In time, we heard no more from him.  We were deeply saddened and worried that our naive generosity had led to misfortune. Why would I tell this story now?  Because I am grateful to be in a country where this is much less likely to happen.  Because I never forget to be thankful for the freedoms we so blithely enjoy.  Because I have a long list of thank you’s and, in many places in the world, what I take for granted is not so possible.  I still wonder what happened to that bright and hopeful young man…

The playwright, Thornton Wilder, said this:

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.

What are your treasures?  What makes you thankful?  Try counting your blessings.  You may be surprised at the richness of your life, just as it is right now.

With love and namaste, Deanne

For more, go to http://www.deannemincer.com