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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 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

The 52: Lesson Five — More on the Breath and How it Can Change Your Life

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Here is a life-changing story!

One of my yoga students told me this story years ago.  She had taken classes from me for a long time.  She was aware of the power of the breath and how to effectively use the breath in life situations.  What she told me illustrates just how valuable it is to know how to breathe properly.

She received a telephone call and was told that her husband was in the hospital.  He was in serious condition, perhaps having suffered a stroke.  She rushed to the hospital emergency center.  As she entered the building, where there were two sets of doors, she walked through the first automatic door and was about to go through the next door.  She stopped herself.  She knew she was panicking.  She remembered our lessons about the fight/flight response and how you can control this through your breathing.  She knew that, if she didn’t do something right away, she would next be seeing her husband.  He would know that she was frightened.  Her mind would not be able to function in a methodical, calm way in order to make the right decisions for him.

Here’s what she did:  She consciously checked her breathing.  It was high in her chest (fight/flight breathing).  She made it deeper and moved it into her belly.  Then she slowed and smoothed out the breath.  In moments, she brought her breath and herself under control.  By the time she entered through the second set of doors, she was calm enough to handle whatever she would encounter.

Now that’s a skill worth knowing.  See how powerful the breath can be!

How are you breathing right now?

With love and namaste, Deanne

For more, go to www.deannemincer.com

The 52: Are You Lighter and Happier Because of Eternal Love?

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Eternal life and love!  Who are you kidding?  Do you really think this is true?

Well, yes.  My answer is, ” I do.”  Because I have direct, personal evidence.

Did you take some time to contemplate what eternal love and life actually means?  Or is the thought of such a thing just over the top for you?  Fora long time, it was for me! 

There were times in my life when I would have thought it such so much “poppy cock” and fantasy.  Come on, we die, life ends, that’s it.  Deal with it!  (Oh, I can even hear my old myself saying things like that.) 

Or, try this, when we die, we go into the void.  There is nothing there.  Just darkness.  But we do continue, in a way, because our bodies deteriorate and nourish the plants and soil.  Here;s another one:  Our lives don’t really end. We continue to exist in the minds and memories of our families and friends and to those whose lives we touched.  We aren’t actually there, but they remember us and maybe we changed their lives in some way in the remembering.

Those sound pretty good to a lot of us.  But what if the truth goes way beyond this.  What if our spirits continue to exist right along with everyone else?  There is a lot of evidence to suggest this is true.  Take a look at near death experiences.  Here’s one: Proof of Heaven, by Dr Eben Alexander, a book by a neurosurgeon who experienced a near death experience himself.  A number one best seller on The New York Times list. Or here’s another, a book that compiled reports of after death communications called Hello From Heaven by Bill Guggenheim and Judy Guggenheim.  Or look at the websites that keep track of these reports.

Okay, you are free to discount all of this.  But wait just a minute.  Did you actually contemplate what your life now would be like if you knew you would not die , but, instead, just transition into another state.  What happens then to all the fear and anxiety we attach to death? And what if that other state was full of love and bliss and you would be totally happy and healed.  Then what?  Just asking…

And in the asking, I really would like to know what you think.

So, for now, remember this — It ain’t over even you think it will be over.  Wow!

With love and namaste, Deanne

For more thughts, go to www.deannemincer.com

The 52: Lesson Thirteen — Do You Hear What I Hear?

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butterflyblueskyAnd silence, like a poultice, comes

To heal the blows of sound.

In the 1800’s, Oliver Wendell Holmes penned those words in his poem, The Music Grinders.  Can you imagine what he would think today?  Everywhere we go, there is noise and sound.  How do we respond to all of this sensory input?  That is the subject of this lesson, a continuation of the exploration of pratyahara, one of the essential eight rungs of True Yoga.  It is all about the senses.

We have already spoken about the sense of sight.  Think back.  In Lesson Seven, we delved into how we see and how we are, often unwittingly, influenced by all that we take in through the sense of sight.  Now we will spend some time on another sense, the sense of sound.

Most of us go about our days, giving scant attention to what we are hearing.  Sure, if a siren blares down the street nearby, we will likely take notice.  Yet while we are generally unaware of the constant cacophony of noises and sounds around us,  they influence our wellbeing nonetheless.  Before you can alter this situation and eventually, we hope, be uninfluenced by whatever sounds are around you, you must recognize what is “out there.”

LESSON THIRTEEN

THE SENSE OF SOUND

Something to consider for this week:

  • Explore what you routinely hear around you every day.  What sounds do you find abrasive and unsettling?  Are these sounds within your ability to control?  In other words, you cannot stop an airplane from flying overhead.  If an ambulance screams down the highway, you can’t jump out and stop it.  Crows calling in the trees will not heed your request that they quiet down.  Accept these sounds.  Trying to alter them is a waste of time.  Just let them be. You may even grow to smile when you hear them.
  • What about noises you bring into your space?  The radio?  The television?  Your IPod?  How about choosing a noisy place to have dinner?   But you can begin to alter these sounds by taking action.  Turn off the incessant noise of the TV.  Stop listening to music that is jarring.  Go to those places where natural sounds are around you.
  • Now give thought only to the sounds that are soothing to you and bring you a sense of peace and calm.  Perhaps it is a favorite musical piece.  Maybe you like the sounds of nature — the leaves rustling in the trees, the songs of birds nearby, the gentle drops of rain as they strike the roof, the babbling of a brook or the soft waves on a beach.  Whenever possible, I prefer natural sounds or specific pieces of classical music or, my favorite, chanting the sound of my mantra.  What do you like?
  • Make it a practice this week to surround yourself with sounds that calm you and bring you joy.  See what happens when you begin to alter what you are hearing.  If natural sounds appeal to you, you can open the window or sit outside or, if they are interrupted too much by lawn mowers and leaf blowers, you can find a good CD to play inside and on your headset.  If you close your eyes, you might imagine you are in a tropical rain forest. I like to listen to a CD of such tropical sounds.  Then I am transported…
  • Remember that whatever you hear has a subtle influence on how you feel and your emotional state.  The more you are surrounded by sounds that are “music to your ears,” the more happy and light you will feel.  This does not mean you must choose only sounds that are quiet and meditative.  You may want something fun and upbeat.  For years I played a tape (yes, a tape) of folk tunes I purchased on a trip to Australia.  They made me laugh and brought a happy energy.  I also spent years chanting my mantra, out loud, whenever I could and playing that mantra constantly in my car.  Om Namah Shivaya. 

As you begin to really hear and listen, you will learn a lot about yourself and your world.  Then, in the final goal of pratyahara, you may actually withdraw completely from sound.  Then wherever you go, you will be focused within.

It is said that yogis can mediate in the midst of total noise overkill, in the heart of Calcutta, yet never respond to those noises at all.  They remain at peace.  Brain wave activity, scientifically studied, substantiates this fact.  You can do this too.  If not, for now,  take baby steps…

With love and namaste, Deanne

For more thoughts, go to www.deannemincer.com

 

 

The 52: Lesson Eleven – A Practical Method to Love Yourself More

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butterflyblueskyThe measure of love is to love without measure.

Saint Augustine

To love without measure.  Think of it.  No yardstick.  No beginning or end of love.  It is always there, and you need do nothing to be worthy of it.  It is a given in the spiritual world.  You can count on love.  You can take it to the bank.

If this is true, then why do we have so much difficulty in accepting and believing  it?  Why do we seem to be constantly on a search for love?  Why do we feel incomplete, thinking we are without it, even when it is already there, within us?  Love comes with us.  It’s part of the fact of being alive.  But. somehow we have been lead to believe that we have to earn it, that we are unworthy of it, that there is something wrong with us.

In our very first lesson, I asked you to repeat this affirmation – “I love myself completely NOW. ” It was to be stated at all times and under all conditions.  Even when we feel ashamed, angry, fearful, and in situations where we might think that love has abandoned us — especially at those times — we are to say it and let it sink in.

We MUST believe in love.  It is paramount that we know that we are forever loved.  It is crucial that we let go of all doubt in this matter.  Love is the essence of life and the spiritual world.  Love = God.

Now for a way to use your physical body to enhance that love.

LESSON ELEVEN

TO LOVE AND ACCEPT YOURSELF

Some years ago, I took a course from Henry Grayson, Ph.D.  He is an extraordinary teacher, clinical psychologist, analyst, spiritual healer, meditator, and energy worker, was an ordained minister, and the author of several books, the latest being Use Your Body to Heal Your Mind.  He taught an extended course and from him I learned to fine tune the methods of muscle testing (kinesiology) as a means of measuring levels of  trauma and ego driven unrest in the body and mind and for the discernment of truth.  While we learned about tapping and “touch and breathe” (as used in EFT, emotional freedom technique), and many other modalities for healing, one that has resonated for my students and is easily accessible to anyone is what I call the heart massage.  It is a means of massaging the chest at the heart center and where the thymus gland is located.  So it soothes and draws power in the heart center and stimulates the thymus which in turn increases immune response and healing energy.

There are those times when we feel angry, guilty, upset –a range of emotions — that seem to be steering us away from loving ourselves.  We would say that it is the voice of the ego, that which conveys negative messages thwarting our remembering the love that is ever-present.  You can pretty much count on this — anything not supportive and loving is probably emanating from the ego.  When this occurs, we engage the heart massage.  Here is how to do it:

  • Find a comfortable, preferably private space.  I recommend that you sit down though you could surely do this standing as well.
  • Open your hand so that the palm will be able to be in contact when you begin.
  • Place your hand at the collar bones, palm open.  Begin to move your hand in a clockwise direction, circling on your chest.
  • As you do this, say these words: I deeply love and accept myself even if…
  • To end this statement, you will add to it words that express the ego’s message or whatever seems to be blocking the love that is within you.  For example:  Let’s say someone has said something insulting and hurtful to you and it has disturbed you and made you angry.  You might say the phrase above and add — even if I feel like a fool for feeling bad about those words   Even if I hate that person for hurting me so deeply.  Even if I wanted to retaliate and say something hurtful back.  Even if I felt I could not control my anger.  Even if I fear that people think bad things about me.  Even if — and you run through whatever you feel that is negative, on all levels.
  • When you have exhausted all the feelings, you say I deeply love and accept myself under all circumstances (or no matter what).  Now you stop.  You should feel relief and feel comforted.  You should have released at least some of the negativity.
  • Remember that each time you do this when you are disturbed, you must speak the exact words and all of them.  Each sentence must begin with I deeply love and accept myself.  You are planting this in your mind and heart.

I hope you will try this powerful method.  It works.  So many of my students and friends use it.  If you have questions about it, I am here to help.

More than anything, I want you to value who you are and the love that is already there within you.  The more love the better. Let me know what you think.

With love and namaste, Deanne

For more thoughts, go to www.deannemincer.com

The 52: Lesson Nine – Why Meditate: Some Thoughts

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The gift of learning to meditate is the greatest

you can give yourself in this life.

Sogyal Rinpoche

These are the words of a Tibetan Buddhist Dzogchen Lama.  He describes meditation as going home and revealing our true heart.  His most prominent writing is a book I value greatly, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying.  His words resonate with a Truth that transcends any particular path, which is one of the goals of my own work — to show the commonalities between the many spiritual paths.

One of the most renowned and respected Christian writers of this or any era is C. S. Lewis, a favorite of mine.  In England, he was an Oxford don who converted from doubt to devout Christianity.  He even engaged in fantasy works of fiction.  You may know him as the author of The Chronicles of Narnia.  He said:

We live, in fact, in a world starved for solitude, silence and private:

and therefore, starved for meditation and true friendship.

And this from The Holy Bible:

Sing unto him, sing psalms upon him,

meditate upon his wondrous works.

Psalms 105:2

Some may see the last quote more as a contemplation rather than meditation but the idea of meditation is frequently mentioned in Christian writings.

Yet meditation is more associated, to many of us, as an Eastern teaching.  It is true that many of Western faith are less familiar with the concept of meditation.  In most cases, meditation is a solitary practice.  Even while I meditated in the company of thousands of others, it was still my meditation.  Its great benefit is the promise of  an authentic experience of God consciousness. one to one, if you will.

So this is the purpose — Divine Consciousness,  Yes, as other benefits, we can experience less stress, being more centered, lower blood pressure and many other healthful results, which are not a small thing.  But meditation can bring about union with a higher power, with Divine Love, with God, with Eternal Life.  Now THAT is something really big!

As we conclude this week on meditation, though we will return to it again soon, do this:

  • Follow the earlier suggestions for meditation.  Now, as you prepare to meditate, ask for guidance and Truth.  Ask for Grace.  ASK!  Let your meditation be encircled with love and kindness.  Then just meditate.  Stop thinking.  See how this feels.
  • Come to a place of acceptance.  Let the meditation just be what it is.  If your mind went off on a grocery list or a bill to be paid or the next action of the day, be accepting.  Okay, that is how it was today.
  • Don’t give yourself a grade. “Well that was a lousy meditation, I might as well give up.”  In truth, just about everyone thinks that at some point.  Let it go.  Just keep meditating in whatever way you can.
  • If you just can’t meditate, for whatever reason, be okay with that too.  Even long time meditators may hit a patch where they have trouble.  Be kind to yourself.  Everything will unfold just right.

Keep me posted!  Everything about these lessons is about reaching out with love.  If this has helped even one person, my heart will sing with joy.

With love and namaste, Deanne

For more, go to www.deannemincer.com