Category Archives: Spiritual YOGA

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.

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The 52: Lesson 25 — Truthfulness Makes for a Lighter and Happier You

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butterflyblueskyShakespeare wrote these words:

To thine own self, be true, and it must follow, as the night the day,

thou canst not then be false to any man.

Satya, a Sanskrit word,means truthfulness. It follows ahimsa, which means nonviolence. We focused on it in Lesson Nineteen.  Satya is the second practice we learn in the Yamas,  restraints or ethical guidelines on the path of yoga.  So, if you thought yoga was merely a bunch of unusual poses with the body, with some ways of breathing thrown in, you have missed the essence of yoga.

Yoga is and has always been, a spiritual path teaching us to love ourselves, to release the illusion of duality and to reach a state of union with Divine Love and Consciousness. Yoga is rich in its age-old wisdom.  The classic text, codified by a writer named Patanjali, the Yoga Sutras, offers a clear and brilliant road map for learning to live in the world but transcend it at the same time.

In this course of 52 weeks, I promised to show how yoga and other spiritual paths lead us to the awareness of the True Self, the eternal core of our being that is ever blissful.  This week, we introduce the concept of Truthfulness (Satya) and how you will be lighter and happier as your authentic self emerges more fully.

LESSON TWENTY FIVE

THE YAMAS:  TRUTHFULNESS (SATYA)

Can we be consistently truthful in all activities of our lives?  Is it possible that we are congruent in these three aspects — thought, word, and deed? In other words, do we have the courage and fortitude to be honest under all circumstances?  This is, for most of us, a very tall order.  You see, it goes beyond avoiding little white lies, it means being ourselves on all occasions.

When I first began practicing this “limb” of yoga, I actually thought it was about not lying.  I did not recognize the depth of meaning.  Then I heard people talk about the notion that, as Shakespeare said of being true to oneself, it meant being consistent under all circumstances.  People spoke of the dilemma of acting in one way with certain people and in another with others.  Which one was going to show up, depending on the company?  And further, if one projected a certain persona, then switched to another, how was it possible to remember which character was being played and with whom?  Putting on an act can be quite exhausting and confusing.  Better to be authentic in all environments.

The same goes for telling lies. It seems that some people are very adept at fabricating stories, not just on occasion, but almost all the time.  How they can keep track of their many stories confounds me, yet some are very good at it.  The concept of Truthfulness for them is unfathomable; it seems they are addicted to lying and often actually believe their stories.

Let’s consider some ways to analyze where we fit on the truthfulness scale.  Caution!  I am asking you to avoid turning this into a way to experience guilt or self-criticism.  We are witnessing who we are in a non-judgmental way; this is merely a  beginning point for making your life easier and more fulfilling.  A way to feel comfortable in your own skin.

  • When you are alone, are you a different person than the one who engages with others?  Can you accept and love yourself in every setting?
  • Do you find it necessary to play one role in certain company and another when with other people? If you do this, how does it feel when you are different from the one you are when you are alone?
  • Do you feel the need to stretch or alter the truth in your conversation?  If so, why?  How do you feel?
  • Do you think about who you should be, playing a role to be nice, but not necessarily real.  Do you make a habit of distorting or silencing yourself to please others? (This was one of my challenges.  Many women, myself included, are people pleasers.  I learned this early in my life.)
  • Are you able to speak truth in uncomfortable situations while still remembering to engage non-violence and compassion? Do you think before you speak so that what you say does no harm to another?  (Pausing, taking a breath, and witnessing yourself are all helpful.)
  • On the subject of lying — do you find that you have difficulty being truthful about who you are and how you behave?  Can you honestly evaluate yourself without placing harsh judgments at the same time?

Give yourself time to ponder these thoughts.  It may not be easy, but I promise you that it is worthwhile.

When I began writing this blog and sharing my beliefs and my personal life as a yogi, I knew that I was making a break through into Truthfulness. Still, I sometimes felt vulnerable and worried about the response to so clearly stating these ideas.  I knew that some of my friends had little awareness of what I really believe.  So this has been an adventure into exposing my authentic self, and it has been liberating.

I hope that you too will feel this liberation.  It is, I think, a courageous act and very worthwhile. And, best of all, you will learn to love yourself even more in the process.

If you have comments or questions or have insights during this process, I am here to help!

With love and namaste, Deanne

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

The 52: Lesson Twenty Four — What Will YOU Hear in the Silence?

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butterflyblueskyYou can hear the footsteps of God when silence reigns.

Sri Sathya Sai Baba spoke these words, to share with us the depth of power and the healing grace of engaging in silence.  Imagine the notion of being so close to the Presence, Divine Consciousness, to God?  We don’t have to be literal in interpreting Sai Baba’s words.  Even without belief, miracles can still occur.

We meditate to shut off the cacophony of the world and to go within. We turn off our iPods and computers, our televisions and radios so that we can be on our own, without the trappings of the world.  For anyone familiar with the practice of silence, it is well-known that the real adventure, the heroic exploring, is within us.  But, if we are addicted to the world and its busyness, we never experience or understand what is so special about resting in stillness.  If you try it, you might meet with some surprises — like touching the essence of your own Self, your own transcendent wisdom. Anything can happen…

LESSON TWENTY FOUR

SILENCE IS YOUR TRUE FRIEND

My favorite Sufi poet/mystic, Rumi, wrote this:

Now I will be quiet and let silence separate what is true and what is illusion,

as thrashing does.

“Thrashing ” may not be a familiar term to some of you.  It means to beat or hit repeatedly.  It is also a farming term.  Farmers thrash the seed from the husk, separating it from the hay.  This I see as Rumi’s intent in using the word – to find the “kernel” of wisdom while we are quiet.

You don’t have to go anywhere special to engage in silence.  Often we think it is necessary to go to a retreat, a meditation “cave,” a weekend seminar — somewhere other than our everyday life.  You don’t have to wait for a special occasion or event.  Right where you are you can start.

A weekly class I teach is called Meditation in Movement.  We settle ourselves into meditation and then, while meditating, we begin to slowly start moving through yoga postures.  It is paramount to recognize that the depth of meditation does not leave us and does not have to fit into a box or set period of time.

Here are some ideas that might prove useful:

  • Choose an activity,  usually something quite routine like riding a train or bus or drying dishes or eating lunch, when you will stop, for a moment, and remind yourself to be quiet.  Be in the present.
  • You might become super conscious of your “routine” activity and let it become an impetus to be present and silent.  At one time, during a period of upheaval, I made driving my car the practice.  I focused on every aspect of my driving — my hands on the steering wheel, my foot on the accelerator, watching for traffic — in truth, I was witnessing myself doing these things, but from a place of silence and acceptance.
  • If it suits you, pick a specific time to be still.  Early in the morning, before the world “kicks in” too much, just before dinner or bedtime.
  • Repeat the word “silence” whenever you feel the need.

We are learning, little by little, to “be.”  To hone our skills at altering our perception of who we are and what the world represents.

It is a worthwhile endeavor and can bring riches beyond our wildest dreams.

With love and namaste, Deanne

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

The 52: Can We Believe in Perfection Even When Sadness Strikes Us?

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butterflybluesky The Buddha said:

If you knew how perfect things are…you would tilt your head back and laugh at the sky.

How wonderful that is.  Whatever is happening, we need to do nothing at all but rest in the perfection of consciousness.  It sounds like bliss, doesn’t it?  And, of course, it is.

But what about those times when the world hands us tragedy, death, loss, illness, and our lives feel like we have been hit by lightning?  What then?  Can we still hold tight to our beliefs?

I used to think that those who are spiritually evolved, enlightened, would have reached a place where they are no longer subject to the challenges the rest of us must face.  Somehow, Divine Consciousness, the Loving Light, God (call it what you wish), would shield us from all that would hurt us. While so ideal and something we would all long for, I came to recognize that this was a naive assessment.  Anyone, in the body, in the play of the world, faces tough times.

I can think of so many teachers, gurus, prophets, and saints would lead lives that were anything but “easy.”.  Recall that Jesus, in some of His last words, asked “Father, why hast thou forsaken me?”  Even HE had moments…

Some people have suggested that pain and suffering offer a doorway to more spiritual understanding.  I myself was unmistakably given this message in several mystical ways when the quote by Khalil Gibran kept appearing to me while I was in the midst of terrible suffering.  This is the quote:

Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understand.

Over the course of three days, it appeared over and over, even, if you can imagine, it appeared at a Chinese restaurant inside a fortune cookie.  Who would write such a thing in a fortune cookie, my husband and I asked ourselves?  But there it was.  I wish I could have gotten something like “Your life will be easy and you will be filled with joy.”  But, no, I was being clobbered by the “pain” message.

Believe me, I am not enthused about having pain and suffering in my life.  But these events come anyway.

The day after I posted my blog for the week, on last Sunday night, such a sadness occurred in our household.  Our much-loved and dear elderly cat, Dilly, had reached a point of suffering from many problems — a growing, inoperable tumor, serious respiratory problems, thyroid disease.  He stopped eating, even as I tried to hand feed him.  He became lethargic and his eyes expressed sadness.  The time had come to ask our veterinarian to come and help us ease him from his pain and from the world in the most humane way possible.  My husband and I were very sad to see our long time family member close his eyes and depart from our world.  Yet we knew this would be the outcome.  It always is, with every living being.

Can I still hold tight to my beliefs?  That life is eternal and that no one dies.  That there is nothing to do.  That everything is perfect as it is. 

I can. I must! I am committed to the spiritual Truth, as I understand it. Certainly, sometimes it is easier to hold to this truth than others.  And, when it is a challenge to believe, holding to it brings great strength and transformation.

What about you?  “There is nothing to do.  Everything is perfect, just as it is.”  What do you think of this statement?

With love and namaste, Deanne

For more, go to www.deannemincer.com

 

The 52: Lesson Twenty Two — Through Kindness You Are Lighter and Happier

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butterflyblueskySilent film star Charlie Chaplin was, in his era, a huge presence.  Funny, controversial, outspoken, and a film genius, he made waves wherever he went.  And he said this:

We think too much and feel too little.  More than machinery, we need humanity.

More than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness.

He had seen nothing in terms of machinery and technology as we do today.  Imagine what he would say today.

LESSON TWENTY TWO

LOVING KINDNESS

Now, perhaps more than at any time in the past, we MUST behave with kindness and gentleness. And this again brings us to using everything we have, all our senses, our minds, our bodies, our thoughts, and especially our loving hearts to acting with kindness under ALL circumstances, most importantly with ourselves.  Kindness grows from within.  It reaches out to others and reflects back on us.  It soothes us to know that we can extend love, forgiveness and kindness inwardly, not relying on others to do it for us.  Kindness can become a habit; a natural way to respond in any event or situation.  It surrounds us with a presence that merges us with the Divine Presence, that knows only Love and Grace.

Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness.  Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.

This is a quote from Scott Adams, the creator of the Dilbert comic strip. I think it is very appropriate to consider.  As many have written words about the simplicity of creating “small” acts of kindness, few speak of the ripples.  Of course, even the tiniest act brings benefit to the receiver and the giver, yet it goes beyond.  It moves into the consciousness of all of us, even as we may not have full awareness of this.  Each act, in a profound way, changes the world and the hearts and minds of all of us.

If you think about it, extending loving kindness is so easy. Think about these questions:

  • How hard is it to give a smile to someone you encounter during your day? It might be someone you pass on the street or even your own spouse or children.
  • Is it really so hard to open a door for another person or to motion a car driver waiting to enter a lane to go before you?
  • Is there someone you might call or email, just to say a few kind words?
  • How about greeting those you see on a routine basis, like the checkout person at the store or the doorman in your apartment building or the neighbor walking the dog?
  • If there is someone you know whose life has reached a place where they have few friends — perhaps because they are old, without family, and most of their friends have passed on or someone who has made decisions that led to addiction or have, without any act on their own, been “downsized” in their job — maybe you could reach out to them, with kindness and non-judgment.
  • Or, if all of this seems like too much, do you have a spare moment to send some thoughts of loving kindness to others?  Thoughts!  Just think love and send it forth.  Many of us believe that there is great power in such a small act.
  • Now do the same for yourself — in forgiveness, kindness, love.  Let the healing commence!

I am very enthusiastic about this kind of simple practice.  In fact, I so believe in it, that I promise you that you will feel lighter and happier as soon as you begin.  Give it a try.

I hope it becomes a habit!  Watch yourself soar like the blue butterfly, right into the Light of Love!

With love and namaste, Deanne

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

The 52: Lesson Twenty One — Some Touching Thoughts

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butterflyblueskyWhat does the word, touch, mean to you?

You might say, “Oh, I was so touched by your gift.”  Or “I used to watch the TV show, “Touched by An Angel.”  You could go to a practitioner for a kind of body work called Healing Touch. Or you may make a conscious effort to get in touch withsomeone who is sick and ailing or saddened with grief.  You might pet your cat or dog because that contact, that touch, is soothing and beneficial to both human and animal.

The sense of touch is one of the five senses that includes sight, sound, taste, touch and smell. In earlier lessons we explored the senses of sight and sound.  Now we give particular attention to touch and what it means to us in the world and in the spiritual sense.  In yoga, we study one of the eight limbs of classic yoga called pratyahara, the control of the senses. We learn new ways to be conscious of how the senses impact our lives, how to use them to enhance our everyday life, and, ultimately, if we wish, we learn to detach from them as much as possible.

LESSON TWENTY ONE

THE SENSE OF TOUCH

The skin is the largest sensory organ of the body.  It is our outer “coating” and provides us with valuable information.  It protects us by sensing pain so we don’t burn ourselves on a hot stove.  It registers the comfort of warmth when the sun soothes our bodies on a cool day.  It tells us that we need to put on a coat when we walk outside and feel a chill as a cold wind strikes our bodies.  It acts as a source of pleasure when we are touched by certain people in certain ways.

Research has shown that people need to be touched in order to thrive and be happy.  Years ago a study revealed that children in an orphanage did not thrive and grow if they were not held and touched.  Indeed, some even withered from the lack of touch.  Perhaps, even as we age, we are prone to a kind of emotional “withering” if we aren’t touched in some way by those around us.  Notice that we may shake hands on meeting someone new or hug and give a kiss on the cheek or an “air” kiss.  A high-five is a form of touch as is a pat on the back or an athlete awarding another team member with a body bump.

But what does all of this have to do with a spiritual life and becoming lighter and happier?  We can learn to use the sense of touch to improve and enhance our lives.  Here are some ideas:

  • Think about the clothes you wear and how the fabrics feel against your skin.  Do you wear wool sweaters even if they make you itchy? Do you choose stiff fabrics or structured clothing that is not comfortable to wear?  Do you wear skin tight jeans, even if your body is “stuffed” into them, just because they make a fashion statement?  Think about what you put on your body.  It is your decision. Why not be as comfortable as possible.  Why not?
  • Do you take into account the temperature around you so that you do your best to feel comfortable wherever you are?  So you prepare and dress in such a way, taking into account the weather, the temperatures and your activities?
  • Aside from comfort, what feels really good next to your skin?  A fluffy, soft, fleecy thing?  A cashmere sweater? A cozy bath robe?  A silky shirt?  Soft cotton shorts and tops?  Whenever you can, indulge this sense of touch.
  • Do you regularly reach out and actually touch those people you love. Do they touch you?  It is not too late to start if you feel you are lacking in this area.
  • Could you make it a habit to extend your love to others by touching them in meaningful ways, holding a hand or touching an arm, hugging and embracing?  I often think of people who may rarely be touched, such as the elderly or infirm or those with disabilities.  It takes so little effort to reach out in kindness.
  • Become a connoisseur of what pleases your sense of touch, not to be attached to it but to bring pleasure.

I will be very touched if you take this lesson to heart.  See how much lighter and happier you will feel with observing yourself and the sense of touch.  The more conscious you become about the senses, the more your world will change.

With love and namaste, Deanne

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