Monthly Archives: September 2013

The 52: Lesson Forty — Can You Rest in Contentment?

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butterflybluesky

Once you have tasted contentment and start to live in its beauty, you actually want this river to overflow its banks.

And that gives you the courage to move forward and make the most of this gift of life.

Gurumayi Chidvilasananda

Someone, in one of my classes, visually blanched when I mentioned the idea of contentment.  “But if we are content,” she exclaimed, “then we won’t strive to improve.  We won’t make an effort.  We won’t grow and learn.  We will just be content.”  Exactly, we will just be content.  But this doesn’t mean we become a bump on a log, that we are inert and lacking in vitality.  It means something far more important.  It means this:  If you start from a place of contentment with what is in the moment, you move forward without a sense of lack.  You are conscious of your value and worth while you move in whatever direction you might go.

How content are you, right now?  Can you rest in the place where you are in this moment?  Or do you feel lacking, desiring, and inadequate without this and that?  As part of this 52 week study, we are moving through the Yoga Sutras.  They contain enormous wisdom and are guides to aid us in everyday life.  One of the Niyamas is called santosha or contentment in English.  These are guide posts for living our lives in ways that direct us toward lightness and happiness and greater self-knowledge and, ultimately, to the great Light and Love that lives in each of us, to the Divine Self.

LESSON FORTY

CONTENTMENT — SANTOSHA

There was a time in my life when the idea of contentment would have been anathema to me.  I had so many lists of goals and plans and desires — from books I wanted to read, to destinations around the world where I wanted to travel, to languages I hoped I might learn to speak, and, well, blah, blah, blah, and on and on ad infinitum.  My tape deck in my car was full of ways to change my life, wasting no time while I drove from one location to another  — listening to lessons on how to improve myself, repeating French phrases or German or Chinese, learning something or other.  I set up the perfect arrangement to never, ever feel content and  finished in this lifetime and, probably, for many to come.  And worst of all, I felt pride in my list making and goal setting, like people who were content were lazy and lacked vision.  In the meantime, I was dancing as fast as I could, and never happy or fulfilled.  There was always more to add to the list.  Now I know better.

The Yoga Vasishtha is an ancient document which contains many of my favorite writings.  It says:

What is contentment?  To renounce all cravings for what is not obtained unsought

and to be satisfied with what comes unsought.

Without being elated or depressed even by them — this is contentment.

Think about it.  Are you always looking outside yourself for something to bring you peace and contentment?  To something you want?  To another person to accept and provide a sense of worth?  Seeking and avoiding — that is no way to feel fulfilled and content.  Ask me!  I have been an expert at this.  And I know what it brought me.  Nothing but pain, sadness, arrogance, and helplessness.

Here are some ideas that might be helpful:

  • Stop.  Right now.  In this moment.  Stop reading.  Are you content just sitting and reading?  Is this possible?  Maybe, in this moment, even if only for a fraction of “time,” you are content.  Don’t ask for more right now. How does this feel to you?
  • Do you really think that once you have that new BMW or that trip to Honolulu or that book published or that retirement fund built up, that this will ensure contentment?  Are you looking outside yourself?
  • Can you begin to imagine that there is already a treasure of wisdom that out ranks everything “out there” residing right there, in you?  Just knowing that you are worthy and loved without all the accoutrements, the add ons from the world is quite a gift.
  • Could you let go of desire and know that everything will unfold perfectly anyway, without your own effort?

Leading from a place of contentment opens up a whole new world.  But first you have to try it and then stay with it.

Through contentment, there is a world within my heart.

Rumi

With love and namaste, Deanne

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

The 52: Lesson Thirty Nine — Many Paths to Truth, What is Yours?

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butterflyblueskyHenry David Thoreau wrote:

Pursue some path, however narrow and crooked, in which you can walk with love and reverence.

Over the years, I followed many paths, though I am not sure I always knew what I was seeking.  There was the path of my childhood faith, then the path of rebellion when I disavowed all that was religious or spiritual.  Even so, I was pulled toward discussions about God, either positive or negative.  Then something “happened,” and I was walking another path.  My journey has seen me forge ahead on different paths, but they were now all leading to one place — to Truth, Realization, Eternal Life and Love, the Divine, amd to God.  While yoga and the ancient texts, so resonant with wisdom, opened the first doors and still is the mainstay of my understandings, Buddhism, Christianity, Sufism, and just about any system that is heart-led, is now my passion.

What about you?  Have you seen “take-aways” and “aha” moments in writings that emerge from a source different from some spiritual path you have followed?

LESSON THIRTY NINE

THE PATHS TO TRUTH

Many are stubborn in the pursuit of the path they have chosen,

few in pursuit of the goal.

Friedrich Nietzsche

You’ve met them.  We all have.  People who embrace a belief system, then fight (sometimes to the death) in serving that path, even when they seem clueless about reaching the goal of Truth and what it is.  We might call this blind faith.  And it is, in many ways, a dangerous thing.  It is a sort of fundamentalism that stretches across the spectrum of religions but also may be  planted deeply in non-theistic thought, like atheism, or political correctness.  It hinges on the belief that we (the believer) is superior to others who disagree.  It loses touch with the common and more important themes of forgiveness, love, compassion, and non-duality.

I have had quite a learning curve in understanding what it means to know Truth.  I will never forget being with my friend who introduced me to the Siddha Path of Yoga and the guru system.  I was too naive then to understand that she was there as a teacher and guide for me.  One day, after she had visited me in my home, I drove her to a car rental.  As she got into the car to continue her journey,  she waved to me with a broad smile and said, “I intend to become fully realized in this lifetime.”  I raised my hand to bid her adieu, as her words engulfed me, and a kind of astonishment  began to sink in.  In my child’s mind (spiritually speaking), it never occurred to me that someone would actually become enlightened NOW, in this life.  Didn’t that take lifetimes?  Weren’t we far from the mark?  Weren’t we too imperfect? How could this be?

This was before I understood that we are already “realized” and we just don’t know it a lot of the time, if ever.  That we are already the Light of Love and God.  That we have always been that and always will be that.  That, when we understand and trust that we are in the loving arms of Grace or the guru or Christ or Buddha or God, that we can relax and be guided.  That most of us think this “world,” this material place, with all it sensory input, IS the whole deal.  But that is NOT what we, as eternal beings, believe.  That we are, in fact, already perfect.  Yes, I said PERFECT.

Then I came to see that all the subsequent “paths” I walked, in tandem with my early Christian and yoga studies, pointing to the same thing.  It might have been the writings of Rumi or years of study in A Course in Miracles or The Sedona Method and many others.  The veil was parting, the Truth was emerging, the wonder was abundant, and mystical events were unfolding all around me.  Nothing would ever be the same again!

These are some questions to consider:

  • Does the path you follow lead to forgiveness, love, acceptance, and kindness for ALL beings?
  • Do you believe that, whatever your belief system, that you are unconditionally loved at all times?
  • Do you feel empowered by your path or diminished, not quite good enough, because of it?
  • Are you happy and fulfilled on your journey?
  • Does fear play any part in the belief system you follow?  If so, does this feel comfortable for you?
  • Do you love and accept yourself completely on this path?

It is not my role or my goal to try to persuade you to join a certain path. Everyone has free choice and can make this decision on their own.  I only hope that you will consider the possibility that this world is not all there is in life.  You could find that going within is be far superior to projecting outward.  You might be “looking for love in all the wrong places” when it is already right there, within you!

There are so many paths leading to Love.  I hope you will choose one, open your heart, and experience ecstatic joy.

With love and namaste, Deanne

For more writing, go to wwwdeannemincer.com

The 52: Lesson Thirty-Eight — Well, Just How Pure Are You?

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butterflyblueskyWhat a challenge!  Can we be “pure” in body, mind, spirit, thoughts, and words?  What if you think you have accomplished one of them and then you have a little “slip?”  Say, you eat only raw foods, but you go to a banquet and have something else?  Or you promise yourself you will only have pure thoughts, then anger arises?  What then?  Is it time to go back to the last lesson — on forgiveness?

Purification is spoken about in many spiritual disciplines.  In yoga, it is called, in Sanskrit, saucha, and refers to purification on many levels — in body, mind and heart, in thought and action.  Saucha is the first of the niyamas or observances that make up a part of the Yoga Sutras, the comprehensive and reliable path as laid out by the yoga sage, Patanjali.  This eight fold or eight limbed guide is thoughtful and as relevent today as it was at the time it was written.  I like to think of sutras as guidelines.  If we are too rigid, we (and the ego) might use them as a means to beat ourselves up , to judge ourselves and others.  That would, from my viewpoint, defeat the whole idea that we are loved unconditionally, right now, just as we are.

LESSON THIRTY-EIGHT

SAUCHA — PURITY

When I was fairly new to yoga and its teachings, I took very seriously the idea of purification of the body.  I was learning to be a teacher of hatha yoga and understood very well how two of the “limbs” of classic yoga  were effective for the body — asana (the postures or poses of yoga), and pranayama (breath work).  Simply expressed, the poses are effective in purifying the physical body as well as the energy system, the nadis and the chakras.  The breathing practices help cleanse and purify by moving oxygen and prana through the body.  Of course, the mind and spirit benefit as well.

In addition to these forms of purification, there were others that I embraced.  They were things like weekly fasting on water and juices, cleansing through daily use (which I still do every morning) by using the neti pot and sending water through both nostrils and out, eye asanas to cleanse the eyes, and various and sundry other cleansings.  I can still hear the gasps from my yoga students when I describe the “string” neti, pulling sterile string through the nose and out the mouth, and, even more loud gasps, fasting then inducing vomiting (we called it purging) to empty the stomach of mucus and old contents.  Well, let’s just say, without going into some even more shocking methods, ,you could spend a lot of time on cleansing the body.  I sure felt clean but I’m not sure I was doing the big time, real purifications I needed — like purifying the mind and thought and heart.

Of course, I tended to want pure and fresh foods, eaten with intention and reverence.  My diet styles shifted and changed.  I had jars of sprouts growing and ground my flax seeds and balanced non animal proteins and felt quite virtuous and a little smug too.  Wasn’t I just being so pure?  In point of fact, wasn’t I just deceiving myself?  Every morning, before I began my formal meditation, my mind wandered through all the yamas and niyamas, giving myself a kind of check list of how I was faring on the spiritual path of yoga. Did I notice that, while I thought I scored high on some measures,  I still lacked forgiveness.  I was harsh in my  judgment of others and myself.  I only understood the baby steps of these concepts.  I had a long way to go…

Only when the purification REALLY began to happen, in my mind and heart, in actions and thoughts, did I know for sure I was actually doing something transformational.

Here are a few ideas to consider.  For some they are baby steps.  For others, they may be old hat.  It never hurts to be a beginner again.

  • Look at your body.  Is there something you can do today to help to purify and nurture your body?  Maybe you will drink some glasses of pure clean water or have a cup of green tea.  Perhaps you will do some yoga stretches or take a walk outside.  How about not eating that hot dog loaded with additives?  You may wish to speak to your body about how much you appreciate it.  Whatever you choose, let it be filled with love and pleasure.
  • Try changing your attitude towards something that is routine, like vacuuming the rug or taking out the trash. Think of it as purifying and cleansing.  Imbue it with positive energy.  Cleaning out a closet could be like this.  Or taking away clothing you no longer wear and giving it to others who would appreciate those garments.
  • Take a moment to see how you are thinking.  Clean up the “closet” of your thoughts? Like getting rid of complaining and negativity, judging and arguing.  You might even consider a little silence, giving your mind a chance to rest and be quiet.  Or you could meditate for a bit of time or extend you meditation.

Ultimately, the following  are the words I like best.  I could not find the attribution, so I am not sure who made this point, but, nonetheless:

The only “dirt” is Avidya, ignorance of the True Self.

When you know who you are and that you are Divine Light and Love, your heart sings, and everything else is window dressing.

With love and namaste, Deanne

For more writings and on the Yoga Sutras, go to http://www.deannemincer.com

The 52: Lesson Thirty Seven — Forgiveness is Divine

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butterflyblueskyDo you hold grudges?  Do you let resentment and hatred surge through your being?  Do you think that forgiveness implies weakness and steals from you the “right” to be indignant, furious, and angry?  Are you “proud” of your capacity to punish someone by banishing them from your midst or by spreading terrible words about them?  Did it ever occur to you that the one most hurt by all of this is YOU?  That you are “drinking the poison and expecting someone else to die?” Is it possible that lack of forgiveness is really a sign of fear?

It was Alexander Pope who wrote :

To err is human, to forgive divine.

Aren’t we all human?  Don’t we all make mistakes?  Haven’t we all stumbled and failed at some time in our lives?  Isn’t there some dark shadow of guilt or shame lurking in the recesses of our lives?  Is it too radical to consider these possibilities:  From the depth of love that resounds in our hearts, we can — and must — forgive others.  And coupled with that, we can  — and must –forgive ourselves.  What will be the outcome?  Freedom!  True freedom.

Can we be forgiving about our own times of lack of forgiveness?  Are we big enough, strong enough, powerful and loving enough to choose forgiveness? That is the focus of this lesson.

LESSON THIRTY SEVEN

FORGIVING SETS US FREE

 A Course in Miracles is the awe-inspiring book that has the capacity to transform anyone who follows the course.  (Studying it has been one of the most pivotal experiences and best decisions of my life.)  Forgiveness is a key theme.

Fear binds the world.  Forgiveness sets it free.

Lesson 332  A Course in Miracles

Imagine what your life and world would be like if you shed the burdens you have carried by refusing to forgive.  We, as humans, have carried so many foolish notions on this subject.  Not long ago, someone was telling me about a woman who was generally kind and loving, but “if you crossed her once, she never forgave you.”  This was told to me with a hint of admiration for the woman who never forgave, as if she had some stupendous power, like a Mafia Don,  as if it was a sign of merit and strong character.  One mistake with her and — BOOM — banished forever.  I wonder if she would have ever considered these words from George Herbert:

He who cannot forgive breaks the bridge over which he himself must pass.

Forgiveness must go in all directions, passing through all relationships, into what we perceive as the past and the future, from one generation to another and globally as well.  I think of the damage done to families that have held onto angers, like the Hatfields and the McCoys.  This brings to mind political stances (like Democrats never forgiving the Republican politicians for something or other (you can reverse the party title for the same effect) or citizens of one country bearing the blame for “sins” committed long before they were born, such as longstanding anger with anyone from the Mideast or Europe or the United States  or fill in the blank.

If we are to wipe the slate clean, it has to start somewhere.  How about starting it yourself, with you?

Now take a calming few breaths, quiet your mind and try some or all of these ideas:

  • Are you aware of a long-standing anger you have harbored for someone? Or maybe it is a surge of anger that started just yesterday?  Can you actually see that person through a lens of forgiveness, trying to fathom who they are and what it may feel like in their shoes for a minute or so.
  • Can you entertain the possibility that you are harming, not them, but yourself by holding onto these emotions? That actual physical symptoms, like high blood pressure or depression may be a result of lack of forgiveness.
  • If it helps, you can always write a letter, which you will not send, to the person who has “wronged” you.  Get it off your chest (notice what this phrase means with regard to your heart,) whatever has to be said.  Then let it go!
  • Can you dig into your past and find the place where you began to believe your were unworthy, unloveable and unforgivable?  Can you look at it now, see that the past is over, and let light merge into that spot?  You might visualize the “you” from the past and send love, saying “I love myself completely NOW,” to that person that your were then.
  • Try seeing your long perceived “enemy” in the same light.  Aren’t we all just doing the best we can to get through life?  Aren’t we all capable of mistakes?  What if you chose to spread Love instead?  Do you think this is all silly and a waste of time?  Have you ever tried it? How about setting the ego aside for a little while and making a new choice?  You can do it, you know.
  • Be patient and kind with yourself.  This way of forgiveness may not become a habit overnight.  It may take a little practice.  Give it some time and see how you feel.  Remember to keep loving yourself all the time.

Here is a quote attributed to Mark Twain, the legendary American author and humorist.  I think it expresses a profundity beyond measure.

Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.

With love and namaste, Deanne

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

The 52: Lesson Thirty Six — Be Still and Remember Who You Are!

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butterflyblueskyAre you afraid to be quiet?  Is it too daunting to think of being alone with yourself?  What will happen if you turn off the sounds around you — the iPod, the radio, the TV, the chatting on the phone, the texting — all that surrounds you?  Or maybe, wise you, you don’t live in this kind of noise any more.

Are we so addicted to all this noisy input that we cannot fathom what it is like to see how it feels to be quiet.? Maybe we have become what James Thurber, the great humorist, suggested:

Nowadays most men live lives of noisy desperation.

LESSON THIRTY SIX

BE STILL

Several years ago, when we were living in a quiet, leafy suburb of Chicago, we invited a successful playwright to stay with us as one of his plays was being produced in Chicago.  He lived in the heart of New York City in an apartment surrounded by bustling activity and noise.  After a few hours, sitting on the veranda at our home, with birds chirping, leaves gently rustling in the breeze, and squirrels making their way from one branch to another, he could not stand it any longer.  He blurted out:  “How can you stand it here? It is too quiet!”  My husband and I were so stunned at this statement  that we laughed in response.

The Arctic expresses the sum of all wisdom: silence.

Walter Bauer

Well, most of us will not be going to the Arctic anytime soon.  So what about you?  Can you stand a little silence?  I don’t mean meditating, though that would be even better.  I only suggest being still and turning off the outside chatter.  You might even choose to go somewhere that is relatively quiet — somewhere like a path in the woods or a park or to a museum or library.  In these places you will still have nature and artworks and books to keep you company, but, at least, the noise will be less.  You might, at some point, realize that you (yes, YOU) are pretty good company to keep.  And then your chattering mind might find it pleasant to drop back and relax.

Here are some ideas:

  • Actively notice when you are bombarded with auditory influences and sound, then take note of times when you let these go.  How does it feel?
  • Make a conscious effort to take a little time each day to shut out exterior sound.  Don’t try to find another distraction, like reading or texting.
  • Make those time longer.  Perhaps set a time aside to be still and, each day, make it a priority.
  • You might make it even more positive by adding a statement:  At the beginning of your quiet time say  — I love myself completely now. — or — I enjoy this time to myself. — or any phrase that makes you feel good.
  • You may notice, as time goes on, that YOU can be silent, calm and peaceful, even when surrounded by blaring sounds  and cacophony.

This idea of stillness did not always come easy to me, so I can sympathize if this seems hard.  Recently I went to a spiritual retreat center, a kind of summer camp for seekers.  At dinner, i looked for a table marked with a sign that read “silence.” Most ashrams and places of this sort have them so I was disappointed that there was no table to just sit and feel the pleasure of nourishing good food.  On the reverse,  long ago, I was at a social gathering with a group of loquacious, high energy TV producers and others.  Someone had heard of experiments on being silent.  We agreed to try it and see how long we could be together without talking.  It lasted for a while, with none of us used to such a thing.  And guess who was the first to break the silence, to feel compelled to make some joke?  That’s right.  I could not just relax with the quiet. I was the first one to break the silence. But that was long before I had any idea I would begin meditating and go in the direction I took. I was “chatty Cathy” in those days.

Now there is little I relish more than stillness, my mantra and meditation.  Just being, that’s all.

Mother Teresa made this statement:

We need to find God and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness.  God is the friend of silence.  

See how nature — trees, flowers, grass — grows in silence. 

See the stars, the moon, the sun, how they move in silence…

We need silence in order to touch souls.

Who knows?  In silence you may touch your own soul — and God.

With love and namaste,  Deanne

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