Tag Archives: religion

Then 52: Lesson Forty Six – What Happens if You REALLY Concentrate?

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butterflyblueskyFor him who has no concentration, there is no tranquility.

The Bhagavad Gita

How scattered we are. Most of our lives, we seem to skitter from one task to another, from one plan to another, and from one thought to another.  And then, before we know it, another year has passed,  and we are still marking our lives by time and place, by goals met or not met, and by exterior measurements.  But what is happening inside, at the core of our being?  Have we spent even a small amount of time in considering what is transcendent and eternal?  Have we made any progress at all in feeling rested, calm, peaceful, tranquil?  Has the idea of finding true happiness and contentedness occurred to us?  What, I wonder, are we waiting for?

Dharana, the sixth of the eight limbs of the Yoga Sutras, offers us guidance and inspiration.  It helps us to develop concentration that can change our lives.

LESSON FORTY SIX

CONCENTRATION – DHARANA

I am not sure how it happened to me.  Many years ago, I had an experience some call shaktipat, a spontaneous opening into Truth and a spark of enlightenment.  I didn’t expect it and had little idea what it meant.  Of course, I had been studying yoga and teaching for some time, but this was way beyond anything I could have anticipated.  My life changed in seconds.  Somehow I was spontaneously drawn to certain behavioral changes.  One of them could have been identified as dharana, I began to focus on the mantra Om Namah Shivaya.  It was not just present during meditation.  I chanted it either out loud or quietly almost every waking moment.  And I continued to do this for months.  If I was in a place where I could not chant it out loud, I had my mala (like rosary) beads I could inconspicuously move through my fingers, knowing that the mantra flowed with each touch.  I was steeped in concentration, and miracles began to unfold around me.  Things like time and space could alter. Wow, I would think to myself with wonder.

Certainly, you don’t have to choose something in sanskrit or anything else that is not familiar to you.  Not at all.  You could choose to focus on an image, like a rose or a statue, or you could give concentration to a word, like peace or love or God.  Whatever you choose, you must try to block out everything else.  This is, in fact, a kind of precursor to a good meditation practice, but you don’t have to see it that way.  Just let it be, preferably in the morning before too much is happening, a delineated time, say ten minutes or more, when you give attention to nothing, nothing! else.  This shows you how to discipline your mind, to ward off extraneous thoughts, and creates a sense of great power.  If you can “hold steady” during this time, you can also do it at other times.  It is a reserve for when you might really need this strength.

Some say the mind is like a ‘drunken monkey,” reeling us around, flitting from limb to limb, and crazy making.  but once you know how to concentrate, you are merely the observer of the monkey.  The monkey might still be there, it just does not define you.  I can observe myself sometimes caught in the monkey trap.  But I have learned to be kind and forgiving and compassionate when this happens.  I also know it is temporary and what really matters is planted deeply and unshakably within me. Om Namah Shivaya.

One of my students, years ago, told me that her children got used to her saying or chanting Om Namah Shivaya.  At some point, she recounted, she hit a bad patch and got very upset about something going on around her.  She was visibly upset, at which point her daughter ran up to her, and with insistence, said, “Oh, Mama, Om Namah Shivaya.  Om Namah Shivaya.”  It was the band-aid to bring everything back to normal,.

Some ideas:

  • Think of something that will soothe you, that you can spend time focusing on for periods of time everyday. Some word or words, an object, a painting, anything will do. At first, you can experiment until you find your concentration object.  Try it out.
  • Once you have chosen it, choose a time, block it out, when you will do your practice of dharana. Then stay with it.  Be patient.  Trust in it.
  • Don’t expect an overnight miracle (though it could happen).  It will likely require weeks or even months to notice pattern changes in your life.
  • Return to your concentration object throughout the day.  Let it be your natural tendency to go back to it, perhaps cued by something you have chosen — on every hour, whenever the phone rings, when you see something around you.

One of the most highly respected thinkers and spiritual teachers of our time is the late Ramana Maharshi.  He said:

The degree of freedom from unwanted thoughts and the degree of concentration

on a single thought are the measures to gauge spiritual success.

With concentration, you will meet your True Self and abide in Love and Light.

With love and namaste, Deanne

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

The52: Lesson Forty Two — Do You Include Yourself in Compassionate Thinking?

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If your compassion doesn’t include yourself,

it is incomplete.

                                   Jack Kornfield

What about you?  Can you be sensitive, caring, and extend kindnesses to others while ignoring yourself completely?  Are you able to look with understanding on the “failings” and sad situations of others in their struggles, yet hold back the same level of compassion for yourself?  It seems that some of us “buy into” the notion that expressing compassion for our selves is egotistical and inappropriate.  How dare we make the same allowances for ourselves as we might convey to others in pain!

Compassion must begin at home, in ourselves.  If we do not consider ourselves worthy and deserving of this self-care, then how can we legitimately pass it on to others?  Compassion must grow from a sense of self-love and from our own open hearts.

LESSON FORTY TWO

COMPASSION

Compassion!  I have written on many subjects that relate to this issue of compassion — kindness, forgiveness, gratitude, and love — but not directly focusing on compassion.  Yet compassion, for others and for ourselves, offers us spiritual insights that the other topics do not.  It engages a sense of empathy that allows us to enter into a special place with another.  We “walk in their shoes.”

Can you, on a constant level, use the practice of compassion to alter how you see yourself and others in the world?  Can you bring compassion into your awareness even at times when your anger has been activated and your impatience has risen too high?  I have often found this to be a challenge.  I can easily site chapter and verse when I lacked compassion for myself and for others.  Until I learned to practice forgiveness in all ways, (which may not happen instantaneously but is a process), I allowed myself to be tortured in this unhealthy state.

Maybe some of these suggestions will be helpful to you:

  • Engage the silent witness practice, which I have written about previously.  Stand aside from yourself and look with compassion and great kindness on yourself no matter what you have done in the present or past.  See yourself through the eyes of one who is all forgiving and loving.  It could be represented by a deity, an angel, a loving parent, a spirit guide, God, but, ultimately, it is YOU.  It is always the heart connection within yourself.
  • Look all around you – in the present and into the past.  Are there other fellow human beings you have cut out of your circle of acceptance due to disagreements, political persuasion, class lines, or anything else.  You can take a try at engaging acceptance and compassion by seeing them through impartial eyes or as they may see the world.  Aren’t you doing more damage to yourself than to them by seeing yourself as superior or self-righteous in your attitude?  Maybe those assessments are covers for your own damaged self that could use some healing.
  • Now take a moment to think about other co-habitants in the world – the animals, plants, the whole of ecology.  We humans have so often wantonly destroyed our own home, decimating animal populations and forests, for example.  Everything is part of the same energy system.  Just maybe that tree you just chopped down and that deer you just shot is related to your own soul – especially if these acts were for personal gain and not necessity.
  • Remember, as is the philosophy in The 52, that you use none of these lessons in such a way that you feel less loving to yourself.  Everything unfolds with Divine Consciousness in this play of the world.  Every practice you use is meant to increase the Love you feel for yourself.

As the Dalai Lama has observed:

It is lack of love for ourselves that inhibits our compassion towards others.  

If we make friends with ourselves, then there is no obstacle to opening our hearts and minds to others.

Whenever there is a choice, choose Love, for yourself and others.  It is an easy choice and always the right one.

With love and namaste, Deanne

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

The 52: Lesson Forty One — You Travel but in Dreams while Safe at HOMe

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There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,

than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

                     William Shakespeare

Do you remember the last time you had a vivid dream and, when you awakened from it, you said this to yourself –” Oh, thank God that was just a dream.”  You were relieved that what had seemed so completely real, so true, while you were dreaming, what troubled or frightened you was not real  at all. You were dreaming it and now, no longer sleeping, you can take solace in knowing that it was all illusion.  How many times has this happened to you?  For me, it is more times than I could ever count.

But here is another thought.  What if this happens?  You are at your moment of death, perhaps on your “death-bed,” you breathe the last breath of your life, and now, according to the measurements we use to designate when someone has officially died, you are technically “dead.”  That’s how it appears to the world, but something else happens to you.  Something you might not have expected.  maybe even something outside of whatever  belief system you may have embraced in life.  Instead of dropping into nothingness, into a dark blankness, a void, you actually “wake up.”  This time you really wake up, into a reality bigger and better than anything you could have conceived.  You wake up to Eternal Life and Love.  You have never felt more alive and joyous.  You say to yourself, “Oh my, all of that stuff before this was only a dream. ”  Maybe what you took to be your life all those years was only a dream.

You have just been introduced to maya, the Sanskrit word that denotes illusion or “that which is not.”

It is not surprising that I have waited until the last months of lessons to introduce this idea.  It is for most of us too radical, too crazy, too impossible to consider.  We are taught to believe that the only “reality” is the one we think of as the material, left brain, Newtonian universe.  We often cling to this belief, yet there is much to the contrary.  There is much that is not explainable by science and the experiences of the five senses. I believe this to the core of my being.  the world, as we experience it, is nothing more than maya, an illusion, beyond time and space.  And yet,, ironically, this allows us to love without conditions and to witness ourselves with acceptance in this play, this life on the stage of maya.

LESSON FORTY ONE

MAYA — THE ILLUSION

i am fully aware that this topic, this lesson, will feel totally implausible to many of you.  It surely did to me when i first heard of it.  Illusion?  More like  delusion, I thought.  If you already discount near death experiences, after death communications, communication with other realms, and the credible information shared by many hospice workers, then this will be a stretch.  And if you believe that all the spiritual writings of antiquity and today, as well as belief systems in many religions, are all bunk, then you have probably already stopped reading this.  I get it!  I used to share your incredulity, but I don’t anymore.

If you happen to be steeped in science, it might interest you to know that great physicists like Einstein, Niels Bohr, Steven Hawking, and David Bohm have weighed in with the findings of quantum physics.  Who would have thought that science is coming around, at last, to the ideas that were conveyed thousands of years ago in spiritual texts.  How about this?  The physical world that most people take to be real and solid is nothing more than illusion. Or this? Space and time and causality are purely mental bonds.  We created all this ourselves.

It was not, by the way,  a typo in the title of this lesson.  I meant to write hOMe.  The sound “om” from which we derive Shalom, Salaam, Amen, and home is thought to have infinite power within it.  Some say it is the sound of all creation that resonates in each of us, as a memory somewhere in our consciousness.  When my mother was near death, she, who was not overtly a particularly religious person, exclaimed out loud and to no one I could see, “home soon.”  I was stunned at her words.  she knew she was going “home.”  She looked radiant when she said it.

You dwell not here but in eternity.

You travel but in dreams, while safe at home.

A Course in Miracles

While I will write more on this subject in this future, I hope you will consider this:

  • What if you felt safe and at “home” even in the midst of world events, problems, illness? In the midst of the illusion.
  • Could you take a few moments to be quiet and consider that all is “unfolding” in your “play” in a way that you may not understand right now, but that it means something?
  • Can you entertain the notion or even consider the potential that the material world is not all there is?  That there is a place and thinking that is reachable and that transcends this often petty environment?
  • Could you stand aside, even for moments, to become a “witness” to yourself and everything around you?  Would it all still be there without any sensory acknowledgement of it?
  • Could you learn to view the “illusion” in all it grandness and beauty and awesomeness as something to be enjoyed even while knowing it is a play?
  • Maybe “consciousness” is all there is.  How about that?

I wish you bon voyage on your journey beyond the dream and into Truth.  There is nothing more exciting and it is all in your own loving heart.

With love and namaste, Deanne

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

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

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: Lesson Thirty Three — How Do You Use Your Energy?

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butterflyblueskyWe are vibrating bundles of energy!  Our bodies.  Our breath.  Our thoughts.  All that is around us.  All that ever was.  No wonder we are inter-connected, at the primary level of being!

Energy is a precious thing.  It is not just what propels us in our activities, providing the stamina needed to function in everyday life.  Energy is everything!  Literally!  It is everything!  What does this mean to you and your life?

Do we seek to soar, like the blue butterfly, toward the light? Do we want to experience the bliss of knowing Divine Light and Love? Do we want to just plain be happier in our lives?  If so, then we must become acutely aware of the energy in ourselves and in everything around us.  We will learn that we feel different — better– when that energy feels pure and clear.  Do you ever think about  your own thoughts and actions and how they are affecting your energy (positive or negative) at that moment?

One way to understand this better is to look at the yama , called, in Sanskrit, brahmacharya,.  As you may recall, we have been exploring some of the guidelines laid out as the yamas in one of the most important books on yoga called The Yoga Sutras.  Endeavoring to follow these guidelines can lead us to living a happier, lighter and healthier life.  Conserving our energy through non-excess and through viewing all of life as sacred keeps our energy pure and powerful.  Brahmacharya means “walking with God.”

LESSON THIRTY THREE

BRAHMACHARYA — PURE IN ENERGY

While this yama has often been described as indicating self-imposed celibacy and monastic living, it is far more complex than this.  It was thought that retaining sexual energy would allow for greater energy in spiritual seeking, and this is likely true.  But we live in an era different from that when it was quite usual for those on the spiritual path, (mostly males at the time and residing in India) to join monasteries for all of or portions of their adulthood.  It is not my purpose in writing to delve deeply into the subject of energy on only this level.  Suffice it to say that non-excess is of value in whatever we pursue.  Yet there are profound lessons to be learned beyond this.

Every thought and act is a movement of energy. What choices do you make, every day, to keep your own energy pure and loving and to avoid excess?

Just recently, someone suggested a new television series, praising the acting and writing.  I watched part of one episode.  The characters were cruel, insensitive, and distasteful.  The story line was dark and rife with violence, abuse, and double-dealing.  It was, in short, repugnant to me.  Why would I want to spend any time watching a program with this kind of energy?

Here are some ways to observe how you use your energy:

  • Do you deplete your energy in pursuits that are negative — like gossiping or listening to music that is caustic or viewing films that glorify ego and destructive behavior or reading stories (even the news) that are unceasingly unsettling?
  • When observing mistreatment of others, do you join in?  Do you bully just to be accepted?
  • Do you sometimes find that you over-do — in eating, exercising, drinking, fulfilling your “bucket list?”
  • If you can choose activities in your free time that feel good — like taking a walk in the woods or sitting and meditating or cooking a lovingly prepared nutritious meal or calling a sick friend — do you think about how fulfilling and boosting it will be to your own well-being?
  • Trust your own truth.  You will know, on some level, if what you are doing or thinking is depleting or diminishing your energy.   Go with what enhances love and light.

These are simple ideas, but we often are paying no attention.  We just operate by rote.  “Oh, I always watch that news show or TV series.”  Stop!  Pay attention!  What you are doing is having an affect — on you and on everything around you.

With love and namaste, Deanne

For more:  http://www.deannemincer.com

The 52: Bhakti = Love: Was This the Message of Shyamdas?

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butterflyblueskyI have been quite surprised and struck by the events of this week.

I had another blog written for this week.  It was all set to go. But I was driven to change it and instead wrote about Divine Love and Stephen/Shyamdas.    There seemed to be a dynamic energy pulsing at the Memorial/Celebration held for him last Saturday.  I felt compelled to share what I experienced as the bhakti lesson I wrote.

Anyway, I accept that I (me, Deanne) am not the “doer,” so if this is what unfolded, it was meant to be. And it came as a kind of gift.  It was not as if I knew Shyamdas very well.  Indeed, probably almost every one there knew him better than I, yet it felt like he spoke to me.  Call me goofy, if you like, but this is not an uncommon experience for me.  It has happened, always unexpectedly, on previous occasions, so I have come to recognize this sort of transmission/ mystical event when it happens.

Love is truly the message!  It is the reason we all gathered together, to share a love for Stephen/Shyamdas and/or for the family and friends who grieved for him.  Maybe that love was so great that the soul of Shyamdas could not contain himself.  After all, that is what bhaktis do, the love is so big it explodes in the heart.  Especially if you are a chanter, singer, musician, as Shyamdas was.  It becomes a living expression of that exuberant love.  I am familiar with this feeling — of tears of joy spontaneously falling, of feeling connected to everything and everyone with a purity of heart, and of feeling “home”  (as in hOMe) at last.

This then is a celebration of Love, of Divine Love.  Whatever brought that Love to a deeper and more vibrant level warrants my thankfulness and gratitude.  Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you!

Now take a moment and look at the previous post. There are ideas you might try to enhance your own experience of Love  — for yourself and for all that it!

With love and namaste, Deanne

For more on “The 52” and other writings, please go to http://www.deannemincer.com