Tag Archives: Christian

The 52: Lesson Forty Three — Tapas: The Flame of Change

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butterflyblueskyTapas.  Ah!  Spanish food!  But no, this is not the kind you eat at a Spanish restaurant — all those delicious “small” plates of food. But, in another way,  this kind of tapas is food too.  It is food for your soul and your eternal being.  In tapas, one might say we are “cooked” into something new.  We are “cracked open” so a greater understanding can emerge.

Tapas is a Sanskrit word that describes yet another of the niyamas, the ethical practices as set out in classic yoga philosophy.  It is a guideline to help us live in the world while still embracing the spiritual essence of our own being.  Most of us are not monks or hermits, living apart from everyday life.  We need systems of support along the way.  Thus, we have the eight limbs of yoga.  And, thus, we have tapas.

LESSON FORTY THREE

TAPAS —  THE FLAME OF CHANGE AND ENTHUSIASM

The word, tapas, has been described in a variety of ways.  Some say it is a fire that burns within and fosters wisdom, integrity, simplicity, and focus. Others laud its ability to trigger enthusiasm and excitement pushing us ever more to release all distractions and bring us through the flames to a place of deep balance and tranquility.  Others explain tapas as that which kindles the flame of the divine within us and burns away all impurities.  All of these describe the richness that is tapas.  

It is useful to think of the practice of tapas when we are in the midst of crisis, change, and pain.  When it seems that some sort of catharsis is occurring and pressing us into a sometimes dramatic change.  When something within us is being burned away so that a new version of ourselves may appear. For myself personally, a few years ago my path took me into a place of deep loss and fear, It was a falling away from what I thought I had been.  Something new was struggling to make itself known — a new “me” in effect.  It felt like being burned up until I could see the debris was melted away, and I was glad to see it go.

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

Khalil Gibran

Pain and loss are not uncommon in the physical world and while we are residing there, even in it as a dream, our feathers get ruffled.  Staying steadfast in our beliefs is a powerful means of unearthing the “pearl” within the shell.  Sometimes we become so immersed in this play of grief, self-pity, anger, and other emotions, that it is hard to catch the spiritual drift.  Swami Muktananda wrote:

The secret to success in sadhana (spiritual practices) is to use everything to our advantage.

There are legions of stories about those who have turned tragedy into enlightened experiences.  Take, for example St. John of the Cross in his writings in The Dark Night of the Soul. His suffering carried him into the arms of the Divine.  Or consider the response of Ram Dass, a contemporary teacher on the spiritual path who, much to his surprise, “suffered” a stroke some years ago, leaving him quite debilitated physically.  Yet this experience of “fierce grace,” as he called it, resulted in his naming his experience as “being stroked” by God.

Don’t be mistaken, it is my wish that none of us are so “blessed” as to reach deep levels of pain, but perhaps we can begin to see that the fire that consumes the forest makes way for new shoots to spring from the soil.  It is a form of re-birth that allows the Divine within each of us to shine in the light of day.

These ideas may help you better understand tapas:

  • When you are confronted with levels of fear, pain, or loss, what might you do to “ground” yourself?  Would it help for you to take a walk, listen to some music, do yoga poses, watch your breath, meditate, read a book that makes you laugh?  What about praying, asking for guidance and strength?  Or reading some passages that help you remember who you are?
  • Using affirmations can bring a lift.  Saying “I love myself completely NOW,” can be helpful in giving something positive for the mind to give focus, and breaking a pattern of negative thinking.
  • Can you remember times when you felt lost and afraid?  Do you remember how long this lasted?  Did something else arise to replace that experience?  Can you recall in any way that those feelings and emotions were constantly changing, yet you, the real you, was still there, unchanging.  Are you able to see that you made it through and came out stronger?
  • Try thinking of ways that sustain you and keep you steady, when you are not in the eye of the storm.  If you devote more to those habits, like eating good, healthy food, caring for your body, finding coping mechanisms for stress, taking time to go inward, laughing, giving love and forgiveness to yourself and others, they will be “set” in your everyday life.  All of these build up strength for times of duress and flame the fires of joy and happiness within us.

Remember that tapas builds enthusiasm, and “fires us up” for confronting whatever may arrive in our lives.  So let the multiple meanings of tapas enrich your life in new and surprising ways.  We are all in this together, walking hand in hand, on the path that guides us to Eternal Love.

With love and namaste, Deanne

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

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The 52: Lesson Forty — Can You Rest in Contentment?

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butterflybluesky

Once you have tasted contentment and start to live in its beauty, you actually want this river to overflow its banks.

And that gives you the courage to move forward and make the most of this gift of life.

Gurumayi Chidvilasananda

Someone, in one of my classes, visually blanched when I mentioned the idea of contentment.  “But if we are content,” she exclaimed, “then we won’t strive to improve.  We won’t make an effort.  We won’t grow and learn.  We will just be content.”  Exactly, we will just be content.  But this doesn’t mean we become a bump on a log, that we are inert and lacking in vitality.  It means something far more important.  It means this:  If you start from a place of contentment with what is in the moment, you move forward without a sense of lack.  You are conscious of your value and worth while you move in whatever direction you might go.

How content are you, right now?  Can you rest in the place where you are in this moment?  Or do you feel lacking, desiring, and inadequate without this and that?  As part of this 52 week study, we are moving through the Yoga Sutras.  They contain enormous wisdom and are guides to aid us in everyday life.  One of the Niyamas is called santosha or contentment in English.  These are guide posts for living our lives in ways that direct us toward lightness and happiness and greater self-knowledge and, ultimately, to the great Light and Love that lives in each of us, to the Divine Self.

LESSON FORTY

CONTENTMENT — SANTOSHA

There was a time in my life when the idea of contentment would have been anathema to me.  I had so many lists of goals and plans and desires — from books I wanted to read, to destinations around the world where I wanted to travel, to languages I hoped I might learn to speak, and, well, blah, blah, blah, and on and on ad infinitum.  My tape deck in my car was full of ways to change my life, wasting no time while I drove from one location to another  — listening to lessons on how to improve myself, repeating French phrases or German or Chinese, learning something or other.  I set up the perfect arrangement to never, ever feel content and  finished in this lifetime and, probably, for many to come.  And worst of all, I felt pride in my list making and goal setting, like people who were content were lazy and lacked vision.  In the meantime, I was dancing as fast as I could, and never happy or fulfilled.  There was always more to add to the list.  Now I know better.

The Yoga Vasishtha is an ancient document which contains many of my favorite writings.  It says:

What is contentment?  To renounce all cravings for what is not obtained unsought

and to be satisfied with what comes unsought.

Without being elated or depressed even by them — this is contentment.

Think about it.  Are you always looking outside yourself for something to bring you peace and contentment?  To something you want?  To another person to accept and provide a sense of worth?  Seeking and avoiding — that is no way to feel fulfilled and content.  Ask me!  I have been an expert at this.  And I know what it brought me.  Nothing but pain, sadness, arrogance, and helplessness.

Here are some ideas that might be helpful:

  • Stop.  Right now.  In this moment.  Stop reading.  Are you content just sitting and reading?  Is this possible?  Maybe, in this moment, even if only for a fraction of “time,” you are content.  Don’t ask for more right now. How does this feel to you?
  • Do you really think that once you have that new BMW or that trip to Honolulu or that book published or that retirement fund built up, that this will ensure contentment?  Are you looking outside yourself?
  • Can you begin to imagine that there is already a treasure of wisdom that out ranks everything “out there” residing right there, in you?  Just knowing that you are worthy and loved without all the accoutrements, the add ons from the world is quite a gift.
  • Could you let go of desire and know that everything will unfold perfectly anyway, without your own effort?

Leading from a place of contentment opens up a whole new world.  But first you have to try it and then stay with it.

Through contentment, there is a world within my heart.

Rumi

With love and namaste, Deanne

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

The 52: Lesson Thirty Six — Be Still and Remember Who You Are!

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butterflyblueskyAre you afraid to be quiet?  Is it too daunting to think of being alone with yourself?  What will happen if you turn off the sounds around you — the iPod, the radio, the TV, the chatting on the phone, the texting — all that surrounds you?  Or maybe, wise you, you don’t live in this kind of noise any more.

Are we so addicted to all this noisy input that we cannot fathom what it is like to see how it feels to be quiet.? Maybe we have become what James Thurber, the great humorist, suggested:

Nowadays most men live lives of noisy desperation.

LESSON THIRTY SIX

BE STILL

Several years ago, when we were living in a quiet, leafy suburb of Chicago, we invited a successful playwright to stay with us as one of his plays was being produced in Chicago.  He lived in the heart of New York City in an apartment surrounded by bustling activity and noise.  After a few hours, sitting on the veranda at our home, with birds chirping, leaves gently rustling in the breeze, and squirrels making their way from one branch to another, he could not stand it any longer.  He blurted out:  “How can you stand it here? It is too quiet!”  My husband and I were so stunned at this statement  that we laughed in response.

The Arctic expresses the sum of all wisdom: silence.

Walter Bauer

Well, most of us will not be going to the Arctic anytime soon.  So what about you?  Can you stand a little silence?  I don’t mean meditating, though that would be even better.  I only suggest being still and turning off the outside chatter.  You might even choose to go somewhere that is relatively quiet — somewhere like a path in the woods or a park or to a museum or library.  In these places you will still have nature and artworks and books to keep you company, but, at least, the noise will be less.  You might, at some point, realize that you (yes, YOU) are pretty good company to keep.  And then your chattering mind might find it pleasant to drop back and relax.

Here are some ideas:

  • Actively notice when you are bombarded with auditory influences and sound, then take note of times when you let these go.  How does it feel?
  • Make a conscious effort to take a little time each day to shut out exterior sound.  Don’t try to find another distraction, like reading or texting.
  • Make those time longer.  Perhaps set a time aside to be still and, each day, make it a priority.
  • You might make it even more positive by adding a statement:  At the beginning of your quiet time say  — I love myself completely now. — or — I enjoy this time to myself. — or any phrase that makes you feel good.
  • You may notice, as time goes on, that YOU can be silent, calm and peaceful, even when surrounded by blaring sounds  and cacophony.

This idea of stillness did not always come easy to me, so I can sympathize if this seems hard.  Recently I went to a spiritual retreat center, a kind of summer camp for seekers.  At dinner, i looked for a table marked with a sign that read “silence.” Most ashrams and places of this sort have them so I was disappointed that there was no table to just sit and feel the pleasure of nourishing good food.  On the reverse,  long ago, I was at a social gathering with a group of loquacious, high energy TV producers and others.  Someone had heard of experiments on being silent.  We agreed to try it and see how long we could be together without talking.  It lasted for a while, with none of us used to such a thing.  And guess who was the first to break the silence, to feel compelled to make some joke?  That’s right.  I could not just relax with the quiet. I was the first one to break the silence. But that was long before I had any idea I would begin meditating and go in the direction I took. I was “chatty Cathy” in those days.

Now there is little I relish more than stillness, my mantra and meditation.  Just being, that’s all.

Mother Teresa made this statement:

We need to find God and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness.  God is the friend of silence.  

See how nature — trees, flowers, grass — grows in silence. 

See the stars, the moon, the sun, how they move in silence…

We need silence in order to touch souls.

Who knows?  In silence you may touch your own soul — and God.

With love and namaste,  Deanne

For more, 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 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