Tag Archives: Buddhist

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

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butterflyblueskyHenry David Thoreau wrote:

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

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

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

LESSON THIRTY NINE

THE PATHS TO TRUTH

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

few in pursuit of the goal.

Friedrich Nietzsche

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

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

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

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

These are some questions to consider:

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

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

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

With love and namaste, Deanne

For more writing, go to wwwdeannemincer.com

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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 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

The 52: Love the YOU Who is Present Right Now!

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butterflyblueskyThink about this: How would you feel if you absolutely and honestly loved the YOU who is present at all times?  Even when you know that you are not in the best form.  At those times when you realize that anxiety or fear has caused you to be other than the you at the core of your being? Did you know that you are loved unconditionally, regardless of how you are “performing” at the moment?

It should be easy to know this and believe it.  But, for most of us, it isn’t.

While we may strive to stay authentic and true to ourselves, we all falter at times.  I remember certain times in my life when even the most trivial action could throw me for a loop.  Things like calling someone by the wrong name.  Or missing an appointment.  Or getting angry at some little thing, like a slow driver in front of my car.  Or not finishing everything on my overloaded to-do list. (Didn’t I actually fill it so full that I could never get everything done in one day and then would feel guilt about it?)  In the scheme of life and the world, these are small glitches.  They are tiny dots on the tapestry of life.  What was not operating for me was the loving witness (me). I didn’t realize that, with just a little shift, I could engage the love that is always flowing from my heart.

So be aware and know who you are as you are functioning in the play of the world. But never forget that YOU are the Light of Love, and no one can ever, in any way, deprive you of this Truth.

I am your fellow traveler on this journey.  Love connects all of us.  I am happy that you are with me!

With love and namaste, Deanne

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

The 52: Do You “Steal” From Yourself?

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butterflyblueskyThis week we are paying attention to non-stealing – one of the ethical and moral subjects or guidelines for living and one of the yamas, in the Eight Limbed Path of Yoga.  To truly understand the depth of yoga and how one is transformed by it, one must go to a deeper place than usually expected.

Please read the previous lesson for an explanation and the questions you might ask yourself regarding the third yama, non-stealing. Many have been surprised at the various ways of perceiving non-stealing.  It is definitely “food for thought.”

In this follow-up lesson for the week, I suggest you consider whether or not you unwittingly “steal” from yourself.  Does this seem impossible?  We recognize that most of us function on two levels or planes while we are in the body.  Even when we know there is something called the Self, that which is eternally free and based in love and perfection, we all are at risk for wavering — for finding ourselves in the clutches of the small self, the ego and that which gets tripped up in believing that we are something other than what we are and that we are separate from one another.  Because of this, we are capable of “stealing” from ourselves. You will likely note that non-stealing and the previous yamas, non-violence and truthfulness will start to extend into each other.

Do you find that you “steal’ from yourself in any of these ways:

  • Do you steal from yourself the opportunity to be quiet and calm when you engage in activities or mix with others who could disturb your peace?
  • Do you find yourself eating foods and drinking beverages that could steal from an otherwise healthy, mindful  body?
  • Do you mindlessly steal from your spiritual life by letting the senses rule in ways that the culture may support but your spiritual life may not.  For example, do you spend hours watching newscasts or TV, sitting in movie theaters seeing violent or demeaning (to anyone) films, or listening to angry and jarring music or speaking negatively of others, etc.
  • Do you say certain words that you know are not your true thoughts, just to be accepted, and thus steal away your own truth?

Do not be mistaken by these questions.  We are free to make our choices and let go of judgement.  But you knowon some level, when too much is too much. Where is your “higher” self in all of this?

I thank you for considering these ideas and for taking the time to read this post.  I would never want to mindlessly “steal” away your time.

With love and namaste, Deanne

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

The 52: Lesson Twenty Nine — Stolen Anything Lately?

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butterflyblueskyWhat?  I am not a thief, you say.  I don’t steal.  But it may not be all that easy…

When was the last time you were late to a meeting?  Did you “steal” the valuable time of others?  Has it ever occurred to you that hoarding — keeping more than you actually need, be it food, money, possessions, could be a form of stealing?  Have you ever taken someone else’s idea and pretended it was yours, taking credit which belongs to another?  And how about stealing emotions from others — by pretending to be connected but actually being detached from them?  Or having “casual sex” which was only casual for YOU and not the other person.

In this lesson, we continue examining the moral and ethical “limbs” of the Eight Fold Path of Yoga.  This is one of the yamas.  We have already spent time with the first two — non-violence and truthfulness.  Now we turn to asteya, non stealing.  As you have seen, there is considerable depth to each of these concepts.  That is how it works in this spiritual study of yoga.  You can’t just say in a flippant way something like this. “Me?  I don’t steal from people.  I am not a thief.”  And maybe you are not and never have been.  Let’s see…

LESSON TWENTY NINE

ASTEYA — NON-STEALING

From the first time I heard of the yamas, my mind went straight to the Ten Commandments.  They were rules.  You could take an inventory and check off the ones where you deserved a gold star and the ones that seemed a little “iffy.”  At one point in my yoga practices, I went through each of them every single day, just before meditating.  I did this self-examination through the yamas.  At the beginning, just as with the Ten Commandments, I think I did some kind of surface evaluation.  It took a long time for me to recognize just how much depth there is to each.

Before saying more, please remember that these lessons are not meant to set up a sense of guilt or failure.  We have already ascertained who you are at the depth of your being.  That you are loved beyond measure and that IT is the core of your being. But we still live in the world, illusion or otherwise.  If we can better align our daily behavior with our spiritual Truth, we will certainly find ourselves lighter and happier.  There will be congruity.

Swami Sivananda wrote:

Desire or want  is the root cause of stealing.

This is interesting to contemplate.  If we are content with what comes to us, to fill our needs, we will not be tempted to steal.  Yet we are surrounded, from the time we are infants, with the notion that we need more, should accumulate more.  Advertising and commercials ceaselessly tell us about all the things and experiences we don’t have.  On top of all of that, the implication is often made that, unless we have those “things,” what ever they may be, we are inadequate, unworthy.  We don’t “rock.”  It is no wonder then, that we are sometimes willing to do anything to get them.

Here are a few thoughts to consider, remembering that you are “witnessing” your behaviors, not “judging” them:

  • The most basic idea in non-stealing is whether or not you have knowingly stolen something that does not belong to you.  This is not hard to evaluate, unless you steal without even knowing or thinking about it. If you robbed a bank or stole a purse, you know you have been stealing.  If you put an article of clothing in a bag and did not pay for it, you stole something.  If the cashier forgot to charge you for something and you knew it, did you steal?  Just think about what you may have taken that was not yours. whatever it was.
  • What about stealing of personal information, like passing on a confidence that was shared by a friend.
  • If you regularly play loud music or party late into the night, are you stealing quiet time from others?
  • Do you repeatedly interrupt conversations to make your own point?  Is this stealing?
  • Do you steal from the environment if you use more of something than you need?
  • How about stealing from animals or mother nature?

These questions are posed to broaden the concept of non-stealing.  Again, they are not meant to evoke guilt or shame.  The PC (politically correct) police do a good job at that already.  YOU decide what makes you comfortable and how you feel.  I might say that I could likely answer yes to many of the above questions — though I never robbed a bank or stole a purse.  At least not in this lifetime.

Let me know if you have other ideas to contribute on this subject of non-stealing.  I am always interested in what you think.

With love and namaste, Deanne

For more information, go 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.