Category Archives: Loving kindness

The 52: Lesson Thirty Five — Simplify Your Life with Non-Possessiveness

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butterflyblueskyAPARIGRAHA

Never heard of this word?  Unless you are a student of yoga, that is likely so. Yet, as one of the many layers or limbs we study  to bring our life into a place of peace — something classic yoga does very well — it is an extraordinary practice to know.

Aparigraha is a Sanskrit word that is defined as non-possessiveness.  Grouped with the many other yamas which we have thus far explored, it is meant to guide us as we live in the world, in our bodies, surrounded by so much that we might desire.  If you look back at the previous posts on the yamas, you will see that there is a symmetry with them.  They work hand in hand to offer points of wisdom.  With all the many objects and experiences that seem to reach out to us, from all directions, it is a relief to know how to let go of them.

Bear in mind that this does not mean that the goal is to live in a cave, without possessions, engulfed in full-time meditation (which some, in fact, do choose).  It means to live in a non-grasping, greedless, non attached state.  We can certainly enjoy all the benefits that the world offers yet remain apart from them and not needing them to define us.

LESSON THIRTY FIVE

NON-POSSESSIVENESS

The renowned yoga master and teacher, B.K.S Iyengar, wrote this:

By the observance of aparigraha, the yogi makes his life as simple as possible

and trains his mind not to feel the loss or lack of anything.

Then everything he needs is welcome to him by itself at the proper time.

I admit that this is a practice that has posed great challenges for me.  While it is easy for me to be mostly detached from items of luxury and status, I have in many times of my life been attached to experiences like traveling all around the world, sampling the foods from the most new and trendy restaurants, developing a familiarity with the arts on many levels — going to museums and symphonies and films.  It took a long time for me to recognize that I was chasing my tail.  There would always be another exotic location to see, another restaurant to try, another movie to view.  I slowly began to recognize how futile it was to keep trying to be “in the know.”  I began to that it was the game of the ego.

But that is not all!  I do not part with memorabilia easily.  I have yet to clean out all those boxes in my attic, even though I have not looked in many of them for years.  I am a perfect candidate for taking a course in simplicity of possessions.  And books are my greatest attachment!  I need to wear blinders when I walk into a bookstore.  At least I can see some humor in these traits and do not ever use this as a means for self-criticism.  All that “stuff” is there, and I tell myself, I live in simple ways on other levels.

As I believe that everything is part of Divine Consciousness, even those musty boxes, and that everything unfolds with purpose and at just the right time, I take it easy on myself.  Enjoying my life without attachment, I say.

So I write these words for myself:

  • What are you capable of releasing and letting go?  What would happen if you did not own this or did not do that?
  • Can you fully appreciate and care deeply for what you have in your life, while “packing”  lightly?
  • Is it possible to imagine how much freedom you have when you are not in the throws of desires and perceived needs?
  • Try this:  When you are on the verge of something to purchase, take a few breaths and see if the desire (which may be emanating from the ego) will begin to detach.
  • Do you know when you are clinging to something?
  • Finally, whatever your answers on all of this, it matters that you still experience kindness and unconditional love for yourself. Always!

This is really all about letting our lives become more simple and peaceful and learning how to truly enjoy what we have in a way that shines with the Light of Truth.

Now, I think I better start unpacking those boxes in the attic today.  Oh, there is time tomorrow… (That’s just a little bit of a joke.)

With love and namaste, Deanne

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

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The 52: Lesson Thirty Three — How Do You Use Your Energy?

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butterflyblueskyWe are vibrating bundles of energy!  Our bodies.  Our breath.  Our thoughts.  All that is around us.  All that ever was.  No wonder we are inter-connected, at the primary level of being!

Energy is a precious thing.  It is not just what propels us in our activities, providing the stamina needed to function in everyday life.  Energy is everything!  Literally!  It is everything!  What does this mean to you and your life?

Do we seek to soar, like the blue butterfly, toward the light? Do we want to experience the bliss of knowing Divine Light and Love? Do we want to just plain be happier in our lives?  If so, then we must become acutely aware of the energy in ourselves and in everything around us.  We will learn that we feel different — better– when that energy feels pure and clear.  Do you ever think about  your own thoughts and actions and how they are affecting your energy (positive or negative) at that moment?

One way to understand this better is to look at the yama , called, in Sanskrit, brahmacharya,.  As you may recall, we have been exploring some of the guidelines laid out as the yamas in one of the most important books on yoga called The Yoga Sutras.  Endeavoring to follow these guidelines can lead us to living a happier, lighter and healthier life.  Conserving our energy through non-excess and through viewing all of life as sacred keeps our energy pure and powerful.  Brahmacharya means “walking with God.”

LESSON THIRTY THREE

BRAHMACHARYA — PURE IN ENERGY

While this yama has often been described as indicating self-imposed celibacy and monastic living, it is far more complex than this.  It was thought that retaining sexual energy would allow for greater energy in spiritual seeking, and this is likely true.  But we live in an era different from that when it was quite usual for those on the spiritual path, (mostly males at the time and residing in India) to join monasteries for all of or portions of their adulthood.  It is not my purpose in writing to delve deeply into the subject of energy on only this level.  Suffice it to say that non-excess is of value in whatever we pursue.  Yet there are profound lessons to be learned beyond this.

Every thought and act is a movement of energy. What choices do you make, every day, to keep your own energy pure and loving and to avoid excess?

Just recently, someone suggested a new television series, praising the acting and writing.  I watched part of one episode.  The characters were cruel, insensitive, and distasteful.  The story line was dark and rife with violence, abuse, and double-dealing.  It was, in short, repugnant to me.  Why would I want to spend any time watching a program with this kind of energy?

Here are some ways to observe how you use your energy:

  • Do you deplete your energy in pursuits that are negative — like gossiping or listening to music that is caustic or viewing films that glorify ego and destructive behavior or reading stories (even the news) that are unceasingly unsettling?
  • When observing mistreatment of others, do you join in?  Do you bully just to be accepted?
  • Do you sometimes find that you over-do — in eating, exercising, drinking, fulfilling your “bucket list?”
  • If you can choose activities in your free time that feel good — like taking a walk in the woods or sitting and meditating or cooking a lovingly prepared nutritious meal or calling a sick friend — do you think about how fulfilling and boosting it will be to your own well-being?
  • Trust your own truth.  You will know, on some level, if what you are doing or thinking is depleting or diminishing your energy.   Go with what enhances love and light.

These are simple ideas, but we often are paying no attention.  We just operate by rote.  “Oh, I always watch that news show or TV series.”  Stop!  Pay attention!  What you are doing is having an affect — on you and on everything around you.

With love and namaste, Deanne

For more:  http://www.deannemincer.com

The 52: Lesson Thirty One – Are You YOU, Wherever You Go?

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butterflyblueskyOkay.  I know I am paraphrasing Jon Kabat-Zinn, who famously said “Wherever you go, there you are.”  In fact he wrote an important book with this same title.  His words are wise.

Don’t we often think that WE would be different if something around us would be different? Oh, if only I lived in Paris (or New York or India or Montana — fill in the blank).  Or, if only I had a more understanding spouse, partner, mother, child (fill in again).  Or, if only I had the time to study meditation or get my M.B.A. or take a vacation.  You get the picture!  If only . . . The grass is always greener, isn’t it?

Or what about this?  I am my most authentic, honest self only under certain circumstances.  It emerges when I am with  like-minded people.  But are you the same one with your co-workers, your “superiors,”  your in-laws, your children, your parents, with all your friends?

LESSON THIRTY ONE

ARE YOU YOU, WHEREVER YOU GO ?

Many years ago, I was teaching a yoga class at a health club.  This how it was when yoga was not on every corner.  There were step classes next door and people gazing through the glass to see what this weird thing, yoga, was.  One of my students, who I now realize was actually, (how can I put it?) really realized, as in enlightened, arrived at class early.  I casually said to her, knowing that she had spent a lot of time in an ashram in India with a very famous guru, “Oh, it must have been so much easier to have peace and quiet and practice yoga in such a place.”  I remember that she laughed a kind but hearty (filled with heart) laugh and told me that it is the same everywhere.  I did not have a clue what she was talking about. How could that be? How could it be the same, in an ashram filled with silence, incense, meditating people as in a noisy, sweaty, muscle flexing health club?

But now I know it is true!

Some time ago, I returned from a weekend program at The Omega Institute in the rolling hills of Rhinebeck, New York.  In the United States, it is considered a venerable place for learning, a kind of spiritual summer camp.  The place overflows with synchronicity, with energies of past and present teachers of Divine Love, with cross-overs on all spiritual paths.  Hundreds of us were there to bask in the place and learn something new.

It was intriguing to hear one person after another say how happy they were to be with others who were open to whatever they were seeking.  Over and over I heard the comment: “When I am at home, I almost never talk to others about this” — or that (whatever their focus on the path of growing)  “They just wouldn’t understand.”  Such is the pity.  So they were different at home.  But at Omega, it was a safe environment.  They could simply BE.

Yet even there, just like the most sacred locations in any part of the world, emerged  the ego identities we hoped had we left behind.  There were those who complained, who brought their “baggage” with them, who found fault — they struggled to BE something new or different, but it was not so easy.  I don’t say this in judgement but as a witness.  I know to the depth of my being, that EVERYONE is the Divine Light of Truth and Love, steeped in compassion, gratitude,  and forgiveness.  That is the core that we can rely on, no matter where we are.

I don’t pretend that remembering this all the time is easy.  It takes a measure of trust and courage to be congruent at all times.  I try my best but do not always succeed.  I do see improvement however…

This helps me. I hope it will help you:

  • Is it possible for you to witness yourself, as if you could stand aside and watch your own behavior in an impartial yet kind and loving way? This can lead to a better awareness of who you are being at different times.
  • When you know in advance that you may be in situations that will challenge your sense of Self, can you take a few moments to settle into your core — taking a few breaths or meditating for a while or saying an affirmation like I love myself completely NOW?
  • Do you sometimes hear yourself say or do something that you know for sure is inauthentic?  Can you simply mentally put a check next to it to revisit the moment later, to see how and why you took that action?
  • Are you able to stay “light” regarding your behavior?  In other words, not replaying over and over again those times when you felt out of sync.
  • Finally, and only if this is not too astonishing to consider, can you believe that all unfolds with Divine Consciousness and that you are not the “doer?”  Is it possible for you to venture the thought that the world is actually a “play” or maya?

These lessons are meant to help us find ways to feel lighter and happier in the world.  When you operate from your own truth, you will feel better.  Your life will be more smooth and easy.

Imagine being able to say and be who you are wherever you go!  It may take a little time to get there, but it is worth it!

With love and namaste, Deanne

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

The 52: Lesson Twenty Eight — What Do Your Senses Tell You?

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Have you any idea how profound the sense of smell and taste can bebutterflybluesky?  Consider this:  When there are bad odors in the air, people drive very aggressively and car accidents increase in number.   Did you realize that, for most of us, when we are exposed to the scent of lavender, we experience a feeling of peace and calm.  Examples are numerous!

Did you know that the sense of smell is 10,000 times more sensitive than any of the other senses and that the response is immediate.  It goes straight to the place where emotion and memory is held.

So watch what you are breathing — and tasting…

In yoga, we learn to examine the world around us so that we better understand how we are internally influenced.  This is done in many ways, but, ultimately, we come to recognize that the “play” of the world does not define us.  We come to know who we are as beings of Light and Love,  but this is usually a process and does not happen overnight, even if we have recognized glimpses of Truth in an instantaneous fashion. Most of us need some help along the way, often in the form of lessons and steps.

The Eight Fold Path of Yoga is a complete system to bring us to awareness.  In this lesson, today, we complete one part of it.  It is called pratyahara. It is about learning to control the senses so that we can better focus on our True Self.  We need to first understand the subtle influence the senses have on us, how to work with them, and use them to enhance our lightness, happiness, and joy in living. We have already spent some time with the senses of sight, sound, and touch (in Lessons 7, 14, and 21, if you care to review).   Now we give attention to the remaining and more subtle two senses — smell and taste.  They are surprisingly powerful and may influence you much more than you might expect.

LESSON TWENTY EIGHT

THE SENSES OF SMELL AND TASTE

Whenever I smell cookies baking, I am back in my mother’s kitchen at Christmastime, seeing her open the oven, removing the cookies and placing them out to cool a little so that I can taste one while it is still warm.  Anytime I smell a fresh tomato, I remember picking them from my father’s large vegetable garden, of his explaining about ripe tomatoes, taking them into the house and eating them right away.  The scent of lavender reminds me to be calm and restful.  The smell of peppermint, even in the peppermint soap I sometimes use, energizes and lifts my spirit.  Whenever I have a taste of chili con carne, it is football season in my mind. The roses I just picked from my garden always brings a feeling of love, romance, and beauty. Some say that when you smell roses, Mary, the mother of Jesus, is near.

What about you?  What scents and tastes brings memories rushing into your awareness?

If the sense of smell were not so important, we would not have access to thousands of perfumes and colognes, to deodorant and breath mints and even Odor Eaters.  We are a smelling population.

I have grouped together the sense of smell and taste because they are closely aligned.    Have you ever noticed that your enjoyment of food may decline if you have a cold and stuffy nose.  Smell and taste work together.  Smell is known to be the most powerful and primitive of the senses.  It attaches to memory and emotion in a way that the others may not.  It bypasses thought process and brings memory alive. It is the only sense that moves directly into the brain (the hippocampus and amygdala) through the limbic system and bypasses routine thought evaluation.  Imagine the power!  If one loses the sense of smell, usually appetite declines and food “taste” is different.

Because these two senses are so tied to memory, emotion, and survival, here are a few ways to become more keenly aware of their influence:

  • Make a list (in your mind if you like) of those fragrances and foods you find pleasing.
  • When you respond in  negative manner to either sense or taste, take note.  Is a memory being tripped?  Can you find a way to avoid the experience?  Can your learn something of value from it?
  • If you know your mood and sense of enjoyment in life is enhanced by certain smells and tastes, consciously make them a habit .
  • If your routine requires that you be around smells and tastes that are unpleasant, how might you adjust your reaction to remain in a state of equilibrium and at ease.
  • Can you see that none of these senses actually alter who you are, at the core of your being? Yet they can enhance your life.

I remember hearing a story many years ago about a group of followers of a certain esteemed guru who took them on a “conscious” walk.  Their mission was to see everything as part of Divine Consciousness, of God.  As they strolled along the street, a bus passed them, emitting a black cloud of noxious exhaust.  Everyone reacted, finding it repulsive, harmful to the environment, irresponsible of the driver — except the guru.  She reminded them calmly that everything is part of the Divine  — even that.

So let all of your senses bask in Divine Light, even as you bring more knowledge of the senses into your everyday life.

With love and namaste, Deanne

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

The 52: Lesson Twenty Seven — Are YOU The Divine Self?

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butterflyblueskyMarianne Williamson, the writer and popular spiritual teacher who was  inspired by one of the most life changing books ever written, A Course in Miracles, has shared these words:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.  Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us…

We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.  It’s not just in some of us; it is in everyone.

Why, oh, why, then is it so difficult for most of us to believe and acknowledge this?

In the yoga world, we talk a lot about the Self and the ego.  I used to think that I needed to work hard to recognize the Self (the divine presence) in myself.  That I might be the Light of Love and Truth and Divine in any way seemed a huge stretch. Me?  ME?  Flawed me? Unworthy me?  ME?  Who was I kidding?  It would be lifetimes, I would say to myself, before I could even approach something so wonderful and self loving as that. A few times, I thought, why even bother?

Guess who was telling me all this?  If you said , “the ego,” you would be right.  Of course, the ego is totally invested in bringing on guilt, shame, helplessness, and fear.  That shadow side was ever ready, cloaking itself in oozing sweet words, so I wouldn’t recognize it.  Hiding behind trees and jumping out in various costumes, to masquerade as a logical, reasoned voice.  When the ego wasn’t showing off in cunning words, it was shrieking words so full of fear, I just knew I was low-down and a hopeless loss.  At the time, I didn’t recognize that I didn’t have listen to that talk, entertain those notions, or spend even an iota of time analyzing whether or not they had merit.

The ego, that nasty voice of doubt and fear, relentlessly tries to convince us that we are less than The Divine Light of Love.  If we really, truly knew beyond doubt, just how wonderful and complete we are and how much we are loved, the ego would lose its job.  Imagine!  Banished forever!

LESSON TWENTY SEVEN

ARE YOU THE SELF OR THE EGO?

Many years ago, I thought it would be useful for my students (and for me) to draw up a list of what I considered some of the attributes of the Self.  This is the list:

DIVINE

ETERNAL

BLISSFUL

LOVING

NON-JUDGING

CONTENT

LIGHT

CALM

AT PEACE

TRUSTING

PERFECT

I told everyone that these words express who we are, at our core and that, for a quick glimpse of the ego, just apply the opposite of these words.  I felt as if too much attention was focused on destroying the ego attributes, that it was better to focus on the “good” in all of us.  One of my students memorized the words and repeated them as she took her daily walk, letting them sink into her consciousness.  She said it helped a lot. Another student dropped a copy of the list onto the backseat of her car as she left class.  Sometime later, her husband was in the car with her and spotted the sheet.  Reading it, he asked if these traits were something she aspired to.  She replied (and I love this), “No.  It is who I already AM.”  Would that we ALL knew that all the time.

Here is an exercise for the week:

  • Take any one or all of the words and see how they manifest within you.
  • When doubt arises, remember that it is only the ego throwing water on your parade, diminishing you.
  • The Divine Self is naturally perfect.  That is how you are seen by the Divine.  Don’t get mixed up in thinking the word “perfect” is “egocentric.”
  • Apply these characteristics to others in your life.  If you see them in this light, maybe it will be easier for them to experience this for themselves.
  • Be patient with yourself.  If your thoughts start running contrary to these attributes, try a little thought monitoring as described in an earlier lesson.
  • Whatever your success level with this exercise, always end it with repeating, I LOVE MYSELF COMPLETELY NOW!

Oh, by the way, it takes some practice to “get this.”  Be patient and kind to yourself.  You might have already spent most of your life thinking just the opposite.  It is never too late to change…

Let me know how you do with this.  See if you aren’t lighter and happier! I am here to help, seeing ALL those attributes in you all the time.

With love and namaste, Deanne

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

The 52: Lesson Twenty Six — Bhakti Shyamdas, Devoted to Divine Love

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butterflyblueskyShyamdas, a great devotee and follower of Divine Love was honored in a memorial gathering a year ago. I was privileged to share this tribute with his family and friends at the Connecticut home of his mother and my friend, Gloria.

I thought of re-writing this post, one year later.  but to me, it still resonates with an important message. I hope you will experience this too.  We all need examples of those who lived in the world, while not pretending that any of us escape the ego, some have moved us more than others. So it is in this reflection:

On this beautiful sun-filled afternoon, the time of the summer solstice, and with a full moon rising, everything felt auspicious, almost as if the space were energized by a special brightness  The sound of kirtan softly welcomed the many of us who were invited — the family and friends of various faiths, many of whom knew Stephen Schaffer as a young Jewish boy who frolicked on the lawn where we were now seated and others who knew him as Shyamdas, a bhakti yogi, who wrote and translated scores of books, who was a musician, artist, and kirtan chanter of renown, and whose unbridled love of Yoga and God made him an exceptional teacher.

He spent much of his adult life in India.  He didn’t follow the pattern of many yogis (and others named “das”) of his era, who returned to live in the United States and develop a following, (though some of this happened later in his life).  In most cases, seekers went to him, people like Sting and Trudy Styler, Madonna, David Life and Sharon Gannon (the founders of Jivamukti Yoga in New York), The Beastie Boys, and others. He was welcoming to all.

There is much to learn and appreciate when considering the life of a bhakti, one who ecstatically sings the praises of God, lives in that praise, and sees that all of us are part of Divine Consciousness. The times I met and spoke with Stephen, as I knew him because of my relationship with his parents, were not the simple ordinary settings — one was the memorial gathering for his father and the other was a wedding reception for him and his new bride.  I don’t think I quite understood who he was and what he knew.  Even as we spoke of yoga then, I was still years away from knowing myself as the bhakti I would become. So what I experienced and learned during the tributes yesterday resonated with me for many reasons.

LESSON TWENTY SIX

BEING DEVOTED TO DIVINE LOVE

How would it feel to be embraced in a feeling of love and devotion most of the time?  To witness yourself through eyes of pure love?  To see the world as lila, God’s play?  To recognize the Divine in everything around you? To know that this Love is eternal and will accompany your soul even when you depart your body?  These are some of the Truths that seemed so relevant during the memorial tribute.

How can we apply this, in our everyday life, to be lighter and happier?  Here are some ideas:

  • When you rise in the morning and before going to sleep at night, spend a few moments considering the wonder of life.  It could be in the form of gratitude or in something special that happened that day.  It might be simple like how comfortable you feel lying in bed. Anything!
  • Ponder the idea that you, yourself, carry the light of Divine Love within you all the time.  Think of it as a birthright, as a given.
  • Imagine that everyone you meet and everything you see is part of the Light and shares this Eternal Love.  You might bring to mind someone you love and see them surrounded by this Love.  Or, maybe even better, see someone who has troubled you or angered you, and see them equally that way.
  • Put yourself into the most perfect, dreamlike spot you can imagine.  Maybe at the sea or in the mountains or wherever you feel “at home.” See that place as a vista of God’s Love, of lila.
  • Try to hold on to this open-hearted Love, with complete abandon and joy.  And, if sometimes you lose that sense of joy (which can happen to all of us), be kind and forgiving and know that the feeling will return.  Just witness yourself without judging.

I don’t know that these would be words of advice from Shyamdas, they are interpretations of my own feelings of bhakti. I think he would like them.

Here is something he wrote in his last will and testament:

Jai Shri Krishna…What a lila!

To my entire family as well as to my circle of satsang friends and teachers: It was an honor to be part of it.

Know that the soul is eternal and plays onwards,

always reaching for the Beloved.

Thank you, Shyamdas.  We know your soul is very much alive, chanting even now. And as you say, Om shalom!

With love and namaste, Deanne

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

The 52: Confucius Says THIS About Silence

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butterflyblueskySilence is the true friend that never betrays.

That’s what Confucius said about silence.  Who doesn’t need a true friend that never betrays.  A friend you carry around with you.  You don’t need to text them or call and make a date or go out for coffee with them.  This friend requires nothing but your understanding that it is there, at your beck and call and will never leave you.  I’ll take that kind of friend.

This “friend” of silence, peace and stillness offers even more.  There you find a retreat from the frenzy and demands of the world.  Like giving yourself a little vacation, you can be there in a place where your are appreciated and enjoyed, where there is not guilt or criticism. Wouldn’t you like to spend a bit of time every day with this friend?

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross was a person deeply connected to eternal wisdom and love.  She said this:

There is no need to go to India or anywhere else to find peace.

You will find that deep peace of silence right in your room, your garden, and even your bath tub.

What are you waiting for?  An invitation to a retreat?  You have it!  A few extra minutes in the day?  Maybe that will never come.  A crisis that sends you into such despair that you must do something to find peace?  Better to make it a practice for all times, good or bad as you may experience your world.

Give yourself the gift or silence and peace.  No one else can give this gift to you.  You deserve it!

Look back at my previous post for more ideas about setting this pattern in your life.

With love and namaste, Deanne

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