Monthly Archives: November 2013

The 52: Lesson Forty Nine — The Courage to Surrender

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butterflyblueskySurrender is the faith that the power of Love can accomplish anything

even when you cannot foresee the outcome.

Deepak Chopra

The idea of surrender is not easy for many of us.  We function in the belief that we must be in control at all times.  We make the false assumption that surrender implies weakness and passivity.  We have grown so attached to this incorrect notion that our egos (which IS us to most of us) is the only hope.  So we place our trust, not in the all-powerful Divine that is the eternal us (The Self) at the core of our being, and hook our belief to the ever-changing, never reliable ego.  Such is the pity.

If only we had the courage to surrender!  And, trust in this, not only do you have the courage, it is, in fact, the place of the greatest reliability.  Letting go is the starting point where a peaceful life begins. We might call it trust in God or any other concept you hold that expresses to you Eternal Light and Love.

LESSON FORTY EIGHT

SURRENDER

“Thy will be done.”  Years ago, Dr. Larry Dossey wrote about the power of prayer in several books including Healing Words.  His findings at the time were considered ground breaking. He cited many studies that showed that some kind of “non-local” thinking or prayer could be transferred out into the energy fields where tangible results were corroborated. When people said “My thoughts and prayers are with you,” they might not have known how much power they were conveying.  Prayers do make a difference, yet some were more powerful than others.  The “God as Santa Claus” prayers, (those which gave out a list of what was wanted, like a child’s list to Santa at Christmas) could not match those that implied surrender.  The most powerful prayer of all was “thy will be done.”  Surrender and trust!

As most religions speak of surrender, so too does yoga.  With The 52, I have sought to share the brilliance of the Yoga Sutras as a powerful guideline for all of us.  The wisdom transcends religion per se, and can be effectively embraced by all, atheists and those of any belief system.

We have, throughout this course, reviewed the first two “rungs” or limbs of Eight Limbed Yoga.  Within the Niyamas (ethical guidelines and inner practices), comes the final lesson of surrender.  It is called, in Sanskrit, Ishvara Pranidhana, and shows us how surrender is a virtue and a significant sacred shift that changes our  lives.  This shift has the power to reunite us with the True Self, the eternal being that defines us.  It can effectively empty the ego of its influences and align us with Universal Consciousness.

All this power!  But this doesn’t mean it is an easy lesson for many of us to learn.  It has been one of my biggest challenges.  And I had to learn it over and over again.  It took dire circumstances to wrestle me free of the ego’s powerful force and the misery I was experiencing.

Several years ago, my elderly mother moved into our home.  She was 95 years old at the time, had an active and lucid mind, but was faced with several medical conditions that limited her mobility.  I jumped to meet the challenges but I underestimated totally what it would take.  Being a full-time caregiver and juggling work was more than I could handle, even though I still taught yoga classes and meditated everyday.  I was not about to surrender and accept how hard it was.  Instead, I fought ever more to keep her healthy and safe while I was falling apart physically, mentally, and financially.  And then we ran out of options.  She was over 98 years old, her body was worn out and she was too tired to go on.  We called on hospice.  Even then, I held out hope that she would “pull through.”  What was I thinking?  But the day came when it was clear that all of us, my mother,my husband, and I had no choice.  We could not change anything.  We could only surrender and wait.  That’s when the miracles began in earnest.  We let go, and it became a sacred sharing for all three of us.  We finally surrendered at last.

Of course I know that learning to surrender does not have to be under such sad and dramatic circumstances.  But now I can see when I am resistant and when surrender is the path to take.  My favorite Sufi poet, Rumi has written:

They are the chosen ones who have surrendered.

A few ideas that might help:

  • When you’ve programmed your day and will never finish all your tasks, think about letting some of them go.  What’s the big deal?  Who is judging anyway?
  • When you know that you are feeling fatigue, give yourself a break.  Go within for a while, take some refreshing cleansing breathes.  Have a cup of tea.  Or even take a little nap.
  • Have you ever been at the airport and your flight is delayed or cancelled?  I used to rant. Now I check out my options and try to “go with the flow.”  I feel much better this way.
  • Say to yourself, “Relax!” While there was a time when saying it was anathema to me, I can now easily say, “Thy will be done.”

If you surrender completely to the moments as they pass, you live more richly those moments.

Anne Morrow Lindburgh

Go ahead.  Take the leap.  Let go.  Let the winds of surrender carry you higher and higher.  Now you will soar like an eagle! Or maybe an angel!

With love and namaste, Deanne

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

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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…

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The 52: Lesson Forty Seven: Lighten Up! Laugh! It’s Good for You!

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butterflyblueskyGo ahead.  Lighten up! Indulge yourself. Have a good laugh.  You will be doing more to benefit yourself than you might imagine!  Your body and mind will indeed feel lighter because you will be releasing “happy” hormones into your system.  You will be increasing the strength of your immune system.  The oxygen levels will be greater  in both your body and your brain. You will cast out anxiety and stress, all while having a good time doing it.  And you will increase the energy of light and joy and love all around you.  It sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

One of my favorite yoga classes has been on this very subject, of being light.  We focus on feeling our bodies growing lighter and more free.  We laugh freely throughout the class and sometimes sharing our favorite jokes.  One of mine is this:  What did the yogi say to the hot dog vendor?  “Make me one with everything.” Haha.  Then the yogi gave the hot dog vendor a $20 bill.  When no change was offered, the yogi said, “Hey, where’s the change?” The vendor said, “Change comes from within.” Hahahaha!

This class is not a trivial thing.  It offers important lessons about being the Light itself, about not taking ourselves or the world too seriously (an epidemic of seriousness and spiritual conceit has run rampant in the yoga community), and serves as a reminder that everything, including the goofy and wacky, is there for us as a gift of Divine Consciousness.

LESSON FORTY SEVEN

LIGHTEN UP!

What a perfect moment to lighten up!  As daylight hours diminish here in the Northeast United States, some of us feel starved for light.  Holidays arrive with the traditions of lighted candles and sparkling glitter.  But it is nice to know that we, you and I, carry the Light within us all the time, and we experience it in many ways.

Swami Muktananda, a Siddha Yoga guru who has inspired many of my teachings and who seemed to take me under his wing (though he had already left his body or, as we say, died) said this:

See the world as a divine play, as the light of your own soul, and enjoy it while still laughing happily.

I have fond memories of a video containing many clips of him laughing.  It was shown at a special ceremony at an ashram celebrating Muktananda’s life.  The laughter on the screen was contagious.  After that, and much to my surprise, it seemed that he took to manifesting some very funny objects into my yoga room, all with a lesson contained within.  He taught me the value of being light and of laughing.

I needed that lesson! It helped me to remember that Dr. Bernie Seigel, the author of many books about those facing life threatening diseases, always lauds the miraculous ability of laughter in the process of healing.  In recent years, a new kind of yoga has emerged.  It is called Laughter Yoga.  It encourages childlike playfulness (who wouldn’t like a return to this?) that results in bursts of natural laughter. It was begun in India by a medical doctor, Madan Kataria, seeking to learn if cancer patients who laughed (in this special class he invented) would be more likely to heal.  Proof was shown and, today, Laughter Yoga is circling the globe.

What about you?  Are you weighted down with so many serious responsibilities that there is no time to laugh?  Give yourself permission!  Let’s call it a prescription for good health and happiness.  The doctor orders that you prioritize laughter!  Here are some ideas:

  • Watch a funny movie.  Maybe something you have seen before or a new one.  Pick one that makes you laugh out loud.
  • Hang out with a friend with whom you can share some funny times, someone who makes you laugh and encourages this lightness within you. If you can’t see someone in person, call them on the telephone.  I have some friends who share my ludicrous and silly sense of humor and I always feel so much happier after talking with them. No one else understands our merriment, but we do.
  • Choose a book of cartoons or humorous writing.  I have favorites around the house.  The Far Side still makes me laugh and a big coffee table book of cartoons of The New Yorker is guaranteed to evoke humor, though not the same as the sillier books I have.
  • Remember moments in the past when you laughed uncontrollably.  You know the kind of laughter that can’t be suppressed but bubbles over. I have many to draw from.
  • Check out TV series, even old ones. We have the complete set of the Monty Python series.  One look at the “silly walks” and I will be laughing.
  • Seek out original and novel ways to laugh.  Put it on your schedule as a priority.

Remember that it is up to you to choose your form of humor.  Let it spring directly from your heart and soul.  Let it sustain you.  See how much lighter and happier your life will become — and how much healthier you will be, as a special side benefit.  I’m not kidding!

With love and namaste, Deanne

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

Then 52: Lesson Forty Six – What Happens if You REALLY Concentrate?

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butterflyblueskyFor him who has no concentration, there is no tranquility.

The Bhagavad Gita

How scattered we are. Most of our lives, we seem to skitter from one task to another, from one plan to another, and from one thought to another.  And then, before we know it, another year has passed,  and we are still marking our lives by time and place, by goals met or not met, and by exterior measurements.  But what is happening inside, at the core of our being?  Have we spent even a small amount of time in considering what is transcendent and eternal?  Have we made any progress at all in feeling rested, calm, peaceful, tranquil?  Has the idea of finding true happiness and contentedness occurred to us?  What, I wonder, are we waiting for?

Dharana, the sixth of the eight limbs of the Yoga Sutras, offers us guidance and inspiration.  It helps us to develop concentration that can change our lives.

LESSON FORTY SIX

CONCENTRATION – DHARANA

I am not sure how it happened to me.  Many years ago, I had an experience some call shaktipat, a spontaneous opening into Truth and a spark of enlightenment.  I didn’t expect it and had little idea what it meant.  Of course, I had been studying yoga and teaching for some time, but this was way beyond anything I could have anticipated.  My life changed in seconds.  Somehow I was spontaneously drawn to certain behavioral changes.  One of them could have been identified as dharana, I began to focus on the mantra Om Namah Shivaya.  It was not just present during meditation.  I chanted it either out loud or quietly almost every waking moment.  And I continued to do this for months.  If I was in a place where I could not chant it out loud, I had my mala (like rosary) beads I could inconspicuously move through my fingers, knowing that the mantra flowed with each touch.  I was steeped in concentration, and miracles began to unfold around me.  Things like time and space could alter. Wow, I would think to myself with wonder.

Certainly, you don’t have to choose something in sanskrit or anything else that is not familiar to you.  Not at all.  You could choose to focus on an image, like a rose or a statue, or you could give concentration to a word, like peace or love or God.  Whatever you choose, you must try to block out everything else.  This is, in fact, a kind of precursor to a good meditation practice, but you don’t have to see it that way.  Just let it be, preferably in the morning before too much is happening, a delineated time, say ten minutes or more, when you give attention to nothing, nothing! else.  This shows you how to discipline your mind, to ward off extraneous thoughts, and creates a sense of great power.  If you can “hold steady” during this time, you can also do it at other times.  It is a reserve for when you might really need this strength.

Some say the mind is like a ‘drunken monkey,” reeling us around, flitting from limb to limb, and crazy making.  but once you know how to concentrate, you are merely the observer of the monkey.  The monkey might still be there, it just does not define you.  I can observe myself sometimes caught in the monkey trap.  But I have learned to be kind and forgiving and compassionate when this happens.  I also know it is temporary and what really matters is planted deeply and unshakably within me. Om Namah Shivaya.

One of my students, years ago, told me that her children got used to her saying or chanting Om Namah Shivaya.  At some point, she recounted, she hit a bad patch and got very upset about something going on around her.  She was visibly upset, at which point her daughter ran up to her, and with insistence, said, “Oh, Mama, Om Namah Shivaya.  Om Namah Shivaya.”  It was the band-aid to bring everything back to normal,.

Some ideas:

  • Think of something that will soothe you, that you can spend time focusing on for periods of time everyday. Some word or words, an object, a painting, anything will do. At first, you can experiment until you find your concentration object.  Try it out.
  • Once you have chosen it, choose a time, block it out, when you will do your practice of dharana. Then stay with it.  Be patient.  Trust in it.
  • Don’t expect an overnight miracle (though it could happen).  It will likely require weeks or even months to notice pattern changes in your life.
  • Return to your concentration object throughout the day.  Let it be your natural tendency to go back to it, perhaps cued by something you have chosen — on every hour, whenever the phone rings, when you see something around you.

One of the most highly respected thinkers and spiritual teachers of our time is the late Ramana Maharshi.  He said:

The degree of freedom from unwanted thoughts and the degree of concentration

on a single thought are the measures to gauge spiritual success.

With concentration, you will meet your True Self and abide in Love and Light.

With love and namaste, Deanne

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

The 52: Lesson Forty Five — Finding the Gold Within Yourself

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butterflyblueskyThe final mystery is oneself.

Oscar Wilde

Isn’t it odd that we are so hard on ourselves?  That we, the ones who live in this body and have a pretty good idea of our history and likes and dislikes seem to wrestle with knowing who we really are?  We get all mixed up in thinking false ideas. We hook ourselves up to the definitions made by the ego and go on our not-so-merry way.  We define ourselves by outward notions — things like our education level, our race, our appearance, our nationality, or income, our family, our possessions, our name, even our weight  — and wonder why happiness eludes us.

We are searching in all the wrong places.  We have to peel away the layers, as one might envision the thin layers of an onion.  In the Yoga Sutras, we refer to this as self-study.  We try to honestly and actively pursue the removing of these layers so our true and Divine Self can emerge into the Light.  This practice is called , in Sanskrit, svadhyaya.  Self reflection.

LESSON FORTY FIVE

SELF STUDY

Thomas Merton, an Anglo-American Catholic monk and mystic, has written:

The first step toward finding God, who is Truth, is to discover the truth about myself.

There are many means to accomplish this task. Honestly observing our interactions with those around us is one way.  Another is by pursuing the reading of spiritual texts that enlighten us as to the traits of loving kindness.  For some, chanting a mantra, meditating, doing yoga poses, walking in nature, helping others are effective.  Showing genuine forgiveness and kindness to ourselves, perhaps for some by going to confession or following rituals that encourage self-examination.  As the external layers are removed, we are lighter and feel cleansed.

I have several times been in Bangkok, Thailand, and, each time, I have gone to The Temple of the Golden Buddha.  I never tire of the story.  I hope you will like it too.

Over 300 years ago, when then Siam was being attacked, a group of monks, wanting to protect their golden Buddha that was 10 feet tall and weighed at least 2 1/2 tons, covered it with 12 inches of clay.  They felt certain that it would be ignored and not taken.  They were right but, unfortunately, all the monks were slaughtered, and the secret was lost.  Then, in the mid 1950’s, the monastery that housed the statue had to be moved to another location.  A crane was brought in to raise the clay Buddha.  but the crane was not powerful enough as the Buddha was so heavy.  The Buddha was dropped and a small part of the clay cracked.  The head monk, taking a flashlight, saw something bright through the crack.  As he chipped away, he found what was enclosed inside — a solid gold Buddha that had been encased in clay.

This is like ourselves.  We mistake ourselves to be nothing but clay.  Common, ordinary clay.  But we too have a golden light so brilliant and a love so eternal that we fail to see what is inside of us. But when we look, with kindness and compassion, we will find the treasure and feel the elation.  We then know who we truly are and this surpasses the most rudimentary concepts of happiness.  It is bliss!

Some ideas:

  • Look honestly at yourself.  You will likely know if there are behaviors within yourself that trouble you.  Are you “short” with some people? Are you condescending?  Are you even cruel?  Begin peeling, little by little and count each change as a triumph.
  • Be grateful when you can see yourself more plainly.  There need be no fear.  They are only thoughts. Be grateful for inner wisdom.
  • Is there someone with whom to share your journey inward?  Maybe within a religious context?  Or a spiritual mentor?  Or a trusted friend?
  • Do not get lost in feeling guilt or shame.  It is easy to do this.  Forgiveness and compassion begins with YOU.
  • Watch as you become lighter and happier, more authentically you.
  • Be patient.  It could take some time.  Time does not matter.  You are on the path.
  • Keep saying “I love myself completely NOW,” throughout the process.

August Wilson, the Pulitzer Prize winning  playwright said:

Confront the dark parts of yourself and work to banish them with illumination and forgiveness.

Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing.

It might delight Wilson to think that we are all actors in a play.  The play of maya.  That gold at the core of our being remains the definition of who we are.  Perfect and the Light of Eternal Love, that’s who.  Nothing has changed. It is who we have always been!

With love and namaste, Deanne

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