Tag Archives: Raja yoga

The 52: Lesson Forty Nine — The Courage to Surrender

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butterflyblueskySurrender is the faith that the power of Love can accomplish anything

even when you cannot foresee the outcome.

Deepak Chopra

The idea of surrender is not easy for many of us.  We function in the belief that we must be in control at all times.  We make the false assumption that surrender implies weakness and passivity.  We have grown so attached to this incorrect notion that our egos (which IS us to most of us) is the only hope.  So we place our trust, not in the all-powerful Divine that is the eternal us (The Self) at the core of our being, and hook our belief to the ever-changing, never reliable ego.  Such is the pity.

If only we had the courage to surrender!  And, trust in this, not only do you have the courage, it is, in fact, the place of the greatest reliability.  Letting go is the starting point where a peaceful life begins. We might call it trust in God or any other concept you hold that expresses to you Eternal Light and Love.

LESSON FORTY EIGHT

SURRENDER

“Thy will be done.”  Years ago, Dr. Larry Dossey wrote about the power of prayer in several books including Healing Words.  His findings at the time were considered ground breaking. He cited many studies that showed that some kind of “non-local” thinking or prayer could be transferred out into the energy fields where tangible results were corroborated. When people said “My thoughts and prayers are with you,” they might not have known how much power they were conveying.  Prayers do make a difference, yet some were more powerful than others.  The “God as Santa Claus” prayers, (those which gave out a list of what was wanted, like a child’s list to Santa at Christmas) could not match those that implied surrender.  The most powerful prayer of all was “thy will be done.”  Surrender and trust!

As most religions speak of surrender, so too does yoga.  With The 52, I have sought to share the brilliance of the Yoga Sutras as a powerful guideline for all of us.  The wisdom transcends religion per se, and can be effectively embraced by all, atheists and those of any belief system.

We have, throughout this course, reviewed the first two “rungs” or limbs of Eight Limbed Yoga.  Within the Niyamas (ethical guidelines and inner practices), comes the final lesson of surrender.  It is called, in Sanskrit, Ishvara Pranidhana, and shows us how surrender is a virtue and a significant sacred shift that changes our  lives.  This shift has the power to reunite us with the True Self, the eternal being that defines us.  It can effectively empty the ego of its influences and align us with Universal Consciousness.

All this power!  But this doesn’t mean it is an easy lesson for many of us to learn.  It has been one of my biggest challenges.  And I had to learn it over and over again.  It took dire circumstances to wrestle me free of the ego’s powerful force and the misery I was experiencing.

Several years ago, my elderly mother moved into our home.  She was 95 years old at the time, had an active and lucid mind, but was faced with several medical conditions that limited her mobility.  I jumped to meet the challenges but I underestimated totally what it would take.  Being a full-time caregiver and juggling work was more than I could handle, even though I still taught yoga classes and meditated everyday.  I was not about to surrender and accept how hard it was.  Instead, I fought ever more to keep her healthy and safe while I was falling apart physically, mentally, and financially.  And then we ran out of options.  She was over 98 years old, her body was worn out and she was too tired to go on.  We called on hospice.  Even then, I held out hope that she would “pull through.”  What was I thinking?  But the day came when it was clear that all of us, my mother,my husband, and I had no choice.  We could not change anything.  We could only surrender and wait.  That’s when the miracles began in earnest.  We let go, and it became a sacred sharing for all three of us.  We finally surrendered at last.

Of course I know that learning to surrender does not have to be under such sad and dramatic circumstances.  But now I can see when I am resistant and when surrender is the path to take.  My favorite Sufi poet, Rumi has written:

They are the chosen ones who have surrendered.

A few ideas that might help:

  • When you’ve programmed your day and will never finish all your tasks, think about letting some of them go.  What’s the big deal?  Who is judging anyway?
  • When you know that you are feeling fatigue, give yourself a break.  Go within for a while, take some refreshing cleansing breathes.  Have a cup of tea.  Or even take a little nap.
  • Have you ever been at the airport and your flight is delayed or cancelled?  I used to rant. Now I check out my options and try to “go with the flow.”  I feel much better this way.
  • Say to yourself, “Relax!” While there was a time when saying it was anathema to me, I can now easily say, “Thy will be done.”

If you surrender completely to the moments as they pass, you live more richly those moments.

Anne Morrow Lindburgh

Go ahead.  Take the leap.  Let go.  Let the winds of surrender carry you higher and higher.  Now you will soar like an eagle! Or maybe an angel!

With love and namaste, Deanne

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

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The 52: Lesson Forty Five — Finding the Gold Within Yourself

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butterflyblueskyThe final mystery is oneself.

Oscar Wilde

Isn’t it odd that we are so hard on ourselves?  That we, the ones who live in this body and have a pretty good idea of our history and likes and dislikes seem to wrestle with knowing who we really are?  We get all mixed up in thinking false ideas. We hook ourselves up to the definitions made by the ego and go on our not-so-merry way.  We define ourselves by outward notions — things like our education level, our race, our appearance, our nationality, or income, our family, our possessions, our name, even our weight  — and wonder why happiness eludes us.

We are searching in all the wrong places.  We have to peel away the layers, as one might envision the thin layers of an onion.  In the Yoga Sutras, we refer to this as self-study.  We try to honestly and actively pursue the removing of these layers so our true and Divine Self can emerge into the Light.  This practice is called , in Sanskrit, svadhyaya.  Self reflection.

LESSON FORTY FIVE

SELF STUDY

Thomas Merton, an Anglo-American Catholic monk and mystic, has written:

The first step toward finding God, who is Truth, is to discover the truth about myself.

There are many means to accomplish this task. Honestly observing our interactions with those around us is one way.  Another is by pursuing the reading of spiritual texts that enlighten us as to the traits of loving kindness.  For some, chanting a mantra, meditating, doing yoga poses, walking in nature, helping others are effective.  Showing genuine forgiveness and kindness to ourselves, perhaps for some by going to confession or following rituals that encourage self-examination.  As the external layers are removed, we are lighter and feel cleansed.

I have several times been in Bangkok, Thailand, and, each time, I have gone to The Temple of the Golden Buddha.  I never tire of the story.  I hope you will like it too.

Over 300 years ago, when then Siam was being attacked, a group of monks, wanting to protect their golden Buddha that was 10 feet tall and weighed at least 2 1/2 tons, covered it with 12 inches of clay.  They felt certain that it would be ignored and not taken.  They were right but, unfortunately, all the monks were slaughtered, and the secret was lost.  Then, in the mid 1950’s, the monastery that housed the statue had to be moved to another location.  A crane was brought in to raise the clay Buddha.  but the crane was not powerful enough as the Buddha was so heavy.  The Buddha was dropped and a small part of the clay cracked.  The head monk, taking a flashlight, saw something bright through the crack.  As he chipped away, he found what was enclosed inside — a solid gold Buddha that had been encased in clay.

This is like ourselves.  We mistake ourselves to be nothing but clay.  Common, ordinary clay.  But we too have a golden light so brilliant and a love so eternal that we fail to see what is inside of us. But when we look, with kindness and compassion, we will find the treasure and feel the elation.  We then know who we truly are and this surpasses the most rudimentary concepts of happiness.  It is bliss!

Some ideas:

  • Look honestly at yourself.  You will likely know if there are behaviors within yourself that trouble you.  Are you “short” with some people? Are you condescending?  Are you even cruel?  Begin peeling, little by little and count each change as a triumph.
  • Be grateful when you can see yourself more plainly.  There need be no fear.  They are only thoughts. Be grateful for inner wisdom.
  • Is there someone with whom to share your journey inward?  Maybe within a religious context?  Or a spiritual mentor?  Or a trusted friend?
  • Do not get lost in feeling guilt or shame.  It is easy to do this.  Forgiveness and compassion begins with YOU.
  • Watch as you become lighter and happier, more authentically you.
  • Be patient.  It could take some time.  Time does not matter.  You are on the path.
  • Keep saying “I love myself completely NOW,” throughout the process.

August Wilson, the Pulitzer Prize winning  playwright said:

Confront the dark parts of yourself and work to banish them with illumination and forgiveness.

Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing.

It might delight Wilson to think that we are all actors in a play.  The play of maya.  That gold at the core of our being remains the definition of who we are.  Perfect and the Light of Eternal Love, that’s who.  Nothing has changed. It is who we have always been!

With love and namaste, Deanne

For more writings, 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 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 Nine — Did You Meditate Today?

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Meditation is not a means to an end

It is both the means and the end.

                              Krishnamurti

Krishnamurti was an Indian-born scholar and philosopher, a writer whose work embraced no particular religion, but one who had profound wisdom in the spiritual realm. He stressed that world change could not occur through some exterior entity — be it religious, social, or political.  Change had to emerge from within.  While he never allowed himself to be described as a guru, a spiritual teacher who engages with a following, he was nonetheless, the voice of Truth to many.

Meditation, then, is both a practice, as something we do, to reach an end, (some would say spiritual enlightenment and waking up), and yet meditation is the end itself. Not to get too complicated — we just do it.

In the lexicon of spiritual activities, meditation ranks at the top.  In classic yoga, meditation (dhyana, in Sanskrit), is the seventh of the eight limbs.  If we thought of them as rungs, only samadhi, the superconscious state, would rank above it.  As I tell my students, I can help to teach the other limbs of yoga, like breathing and posture, but this state, described in many ways as realization or oneness with the Supreme,  is not teachable, it comes to us by Grace. So you might as well just relax and meditate and see what happens.

Here’s an idea:

  • After you meditate, try writing down your experience.  How did it feel?  How did you feel before and after?  Was the mind especially active?  Are you more calm?  More anything?
  • Over time, you will see patterns forming. These will help you.  For example, you might find morning meditation more pleasant and useful than evening.  You might adjust you time to sit in meditation.  It’s your own personal preference.
  • Not meditating at all?  Maybe you will write a few words or think of why you have made this choice.  Remember, no one is judging!  No one!  Not ever! (Wasn’t that the point of the last lesson?)

Let’s stay in touch on the subject of meditation.  If you already meditate, I will be interested in what you think of these posts.  We can all learn together.

Just be lighter and happier whatever you are doing and wherever you are right now.

With love and namaste, Deanne

For more thoughts, go to www.deannemincer.com

The 52: Lesson Eight — Still Judging Yourself?

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We do not judge the people we love.

So wrote the French existential philosopher and playwright, Jean-Paul Sartre.

These words hold a great fascination for me — and maybe for you as well.  If we see a world where everyone is connected in divine spirit to everyone else and that love is the binding element, then wouldn’t we suspend the habit judging of each other?  We would still hold the capacity to witness, to stand by in a state of equanimity and observe all that is around us, but we might engage other thoughts in the process.  Perhaps we would think of compassion, forgiveness, kindness.

Now this is the best part:  If we do not judge the people we love, what about judging ourselves?  If we don’t love ourselves then how can we possibly love others?  Nothing is more important than learning to love ourselves if we are to spread love from the place within our own hearts.

Remember, we are all on the caravan of love.  All of us are welcome.  No one is left out or judged or thought to be too small.  Groucho Marx, the humorist, famously said:

I would refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.

Many of us would have to admit to this feeling, such is our measure of unworthiness.  So let’s just say that, if you want to join the Club, your invitation is waiting and ready.  There are no enrollment fees, no tests to take, no monthly minimum, no nothing.  You may not know it, but your seat is already there, waiting.  With open arms, you are greeted.  All you need is a kind and loving heart and the willingness to know who you are in the truth within you. How about it?  Can you love yourself enough to join?

Let’s continue some lessons in non-judging:

  • Whenever you encounter judging yourself, freeze the image you are holding.  In your mind, separate from the person in that image.  Imagine that you could just watch as a witness.  Walk around the one you are judging and engage compassion, forgiveness, equanimity.  Let those feelings replace whatever judgment originally resided there. Be kind.
  • Take that person, you, and let the circle of love lighten and brighten the one you see.  Let it wash away any negative feeling.
  • Now see yourself transported into the place where Love is all there is.  Into the Club, if you like.  Here, you are constantly bathed in the love of all around you.  How does that feel?

I can remember times when I said or did something so embarrassing or humiliating and, whenever I thought of that time, my body would literally shiver with anxiety.  That feeling took residence in my body and mind all over again.  Over and over.  I kept replaying it.  And for what?  To instill the negative emotion deeper and deeper?  What a mistake that was.

We will delve more deeply into this subject in the future when we begin actually monitoring our thoughts and erasing the habit of retaining those old images.

How does it feel to stop berating and judging yourself? How does it feel to shine in the light of Divine Love?  How does it feel to know that you are, and always have been, loved at the core of your being?

With love and namaste, Deanne

For more thoughts, go to www.deannemincer.com and join me on facebook

The 52: Lesson Seven – The World is as You “See” It

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How DO you see your world?  Is it a place filled with love and light and joy?  Or is it threatening, angry, frightening and full of pain?  Maybe it is a sprinkling of both, depending on the “situation.”   For most of us, it is not “black and white.”

There is a Siddha Yoga guru who has deeply influenced my life.  I never met him while he was in his body, alive in the world, but he surely made his presence known in the most surprising and creative ways.  It seemed as if he “lived” at my house, in my yoga room, for many years.  His name is Swami Muktananda and he said this:

People become what they are according to the attitude they hold in their mind, and that attitude is what they project into the world.  Whatever worth you yourself have, you project that around you, and that is what you see.

In one of his lighter writings he said that you have your own set of glasses and that is how you see the world, so be sure you have the right prescription.  I think of this as a bit of yogi humor.

Do you realize that the way you see the world is different from the way everyone else on the planet sees it?  Your “world” is colored and influenced by every experience you have ever had.  And what you “see” can be altered and changed. You have the capacity to change how you relate to what you see.  You can see the world anew and bring forth that which nurtures and comforts you, that calls forth the depth of your spiritual being.

We are speaking now about the sense of sight — what your eyes “see” — as well as your emotional reactions. Most of us take all of this for granted.  All of this happens “to” us.  But STOP NOW!  There is more to this than “meets the eye.” Later this week, I will write about pratyahara, an important limb of true yoga which deals with the control of the senses.  But, for now, we have something to try.

LESSON SEVEN

“SEEING” YOUR WORLD

Think of all that you see around you, the objects that take up space and flow around you.  Much of this may seem out of your control — what you see as you drive your car, the people walking around you on the street, those who surround you at work or school or in your own home.  In time, we will learn to practice the “art” of equanimity, staying in balance no matter what surrounds you.  You can, for now, choose to surround yourself , as much as possible, with a circle of that which is positive and uplifting..

  • Right now, do some inventory,  We are learning about sensory input.  What your eyes see, in this case.  Think about it. What do you see around you when you wake up?  In your kitchen?  In your office? Are there visual items that are agitating  to you?  That make you uncomfortable?  Do you turn on the news and see (usually, over and over again) images that upset you and make you angry or uncomfortable?  Do you do the same on your computer?  Become aware of what you voluntarily bring into your field of vision.
  • Now think of what you can change or improve in your surroundings. What can you actually put there?  Perhaps you will choose a photo of someone you love.  Each time you see it, it brightens your mood.  Maybe a soothing piece of artwork, of nature, of something with spiritual presence.  How about an object that makes you smile that sits on your desk or kitchen counter. Be aware!  Begin putting into your presence those “things” that can make you lighter and happier. That is, after all, the purpose of this course.
  • Now begin to delete and replace.  Let your sense of sight serve you in a spiritual way.  You need not be some “victim” of circumstance in these matters.  Turn off the TV if is unsettles you.  Shake things up.  See what happens.

I used this method to good effect in helping my elderly mother.  Whenever she went to the hospital or was ill in bed, I  made a special effort to put family photos near her bed, to add flowers, and objects she could see whenever she opened her eyes. It was a little gift, so, if I wasn’t there, all of these reminders of love were there, all the time.  I even found a stuffed toy, a Siamese cat to lie with her on the bed, in lieu of the much beloved real, live Siamese cat she had to leave at home.  Did all of this help?  I like to think so.

Use your own personal history.  Be creative.  What could you be seeing right now that will bolster your happiness and joy?  It may seem like a small thing, but, believe me, it is not!

I would be eager to know what you choose and how you are using the sense of sight.  We can all learn from one another!  Let’s share!

With love and namaste, Deanne

For more writings, check out www.deannemincer.com  and friend me on FaceBook