Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Tonglen Meditation: Buddha Nature v. Green Monster

This post is hard for me.

It's hard because I'm owning up to something that I had hoped would just go away or work itself out with time but the truth is, I am long overdue for a reality check with myself.

I have a tendency to deny others their happiness.


Now--this does not come across as an outright affront, oh I'm far too 'polite' for that sort of thing. It's more subtle (read: passive aggressive). Often it is merely the energy I embody or thoughts raging through my head..."why not me...where's mine...why can't I get that break...I want that too...I want attention on me...me, me, me!"

If I really look, honestly, back over the course of my life, I have done this A LOT and this realization bothers me...really, really, really bothers me.

I have far too much love in my heart for my family, my friends and those I share this planet with to deny them their happiness, to allow the destructive nature of my little green monster to surface.

I want to hear another's joy and express happiness for them from a well of genuine happiness. I want to do so with no attachment, no after thoughts of, "wish it were me...". Just happiness for them and peace within.

Right now, I'm reading "Awakening the Buddha Within: Tibetan Wisdom for the Western World" by Lama Surya Das in hopes that I can realize my own Buddha nature. I find glimpses of it from time to time but I'm working to cultivate it as a more permanent state of being.

Last night I read about the tonglen meditation. The tonglen meditation is a sending-and-taking meditation; a lesson in letting go of self-clinging and attachment, the states of mind that birth our little green monsters, and cultivating inner peace and compassion.

I am working with this meditation to disentangle myself from myself. The premise is this:

  • Begin with self-acceptance

You have to accept yourself before you can accept others.

You must have compassion for yourself before you can have compassion for others.

Forgive yourself for the things about which you feel guilty, inadequate or responsible.

  • Extend this love and acceptance to others

Open up the circle of beings for whom you feel love and compassion.

Begin with family, children and friends.

Gradually expand until you are able to encompass enemies as well as friends and family and, finally, into the whole world, embracing all sentient beings into the tenderness of your love.

The tonglen meditation is performed with the hope of healing one's attitude and restoring it to wholeness. Ride the movement of the breath...just notice. The inhale...the exhale.

Just notice.

Then imagine that you inhale your conflicting emotions, negative karma, difficulties. As you exhale, imagine you release all of that negativity as happiness, balance and joy...repeat.

Inhale the darkness, exhale the light. Inhale the illusion, exhale your reality.

Transformation occurs between the breath.

As we think, so we become...

Saturday, March 28, 2009

'Words' for the day...

When it seems humanly impossible to do more in a difficult situation, surrender yourself to the inner silence and thereafter wait for a sign of obvious guidance or for a renewal of inner strength--Paul Brunton

To meet everything and everyone through stillness instead of mental noise is the greatest gift you can offer to the universe--Eckhart Tolle

Gratitude is the intention to count-your-blessings every day, every minute, while avoiding, whenever possible, the belief that you need or deserve different circumstances--Timothy Miller

Thursday, March 26, 2009


those who will not slip beneath
the still surface on the well of grief
turning downward through its black water
to the place we can not breathe
will never know the source from which we drink,
the secret water, cold and clear
nor find in the darkness glimmering
the small round coins
thrown by those who wished
for something else.
- david whyte

Kira Ryder had this poem posted on her website, noting that it was shared with her by someone else in response to an earlier post.

I have slipped beneath the surface for sure. I have struggled to breathe and I have seen the distorted reflections above mirrored to me below.

I would not have it any other way.

Because I know pain, simple pleasures intoxicate me.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The journey...

My practice is beginning to be more balanced and it carries over into my life. I'm just more pleasant, kinder, more patient, more understanding, more present, more conscious. I would love to say that I don't have 'those' days anymore where I bite heads off small children, mine in particular, or days where I have no more presence of mind than an orange in a fruit bowl (though some may argue that said orange has mastered advanced stillness) but there is more space in between days like those, whereas before they defined my experience.

Now, my first reaction is most often: Breath, awareness and a mindful survey of my internal and external environment. I am less likely to shaken by stress and more likely to breathe my way through.

Yoga came into my life almost 10 years ago by way of Madonna on Oprah--I wanted those arms, hell, I wanted the whole body. So I dillied and I dallied in it. I bought videos like a good student, some props and a book or two. Eventually, I ventured into a class with a teacher whose classes, to this day, I still attend from time to time. I went when I could afford to and took what she showed me home to the mat for my own personal construction.

Time would lapse between my practices, commitment would wax and wane. I did, however, commit to a teacher training. It was going to be great! I was going to be immersed in a 3-week on-site teacher training, all meals included but then my husband left me and the children and plans changed.

Again, I piddled in yoga as if it were a hobby. Years passed before yoga surfaced for me again during a period in my life when I began to pay close attention to the food I ate, my physical health and my footprint on the earth.

I still did not have a daily practice and I was practicing asana only but the shift was happening.

Once again, I began to think about teaching yoga--a naive thought on my part really because I had yet to hand myself over to the practice. I was only aware of and practicing a tiny piece of this ancient tradition.

Upon my graduation from my teacher training, the philosophy of yoga had penetrated my being and I was going deeper. Yoga was becoming a part of me, an extension of my path, an expression of my soul.

Now, I build my life around my practice and the shift is palpable.

I have a mat in my room, my living room and my trunk. I have an alter in my room, not for show but representing elements that resonate with my practice, my sacred space.

If I go out of town, my mat and practice come with me. I just roll it out when I get to where I'm going and maybe check-out a local studio.

In everyday life, I get up between 5:00-6:00 in the morning for a practice of asana (yin or yang or some combination of both), pranayama and meditation/stillness.

I DO NOT go into work or start my day until I have practiced so that I may move forward from a place of peace and awareness and presence.

From there to here, from then to now has been a journey and not a short one, seemingly, because of the number of years that it took to get here but from the greater cosmic perspective, it was a moment.

And perhaps, because of the journey, because of the contrast of having one foot out and one foot in, I am better able to appreciate the feel of, not only both feet in, but body, mind and soul in.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Sayings of the Buddha

The thought manifests as the word;
The word manifests as the deed;
The deed develops into habit;
And habit hardens into character;
So watch the thought and its ways with care;
And let it spring from love
Born out of concern for all beings...

As the shadow follows the body,
as we think, so we become.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Peace of Heart

"We are never more than one grateful thought away from peace of heart."
~~ Brother David Steindl-Rast

This was in my inbox this morning as my 'word' of the day--that is quite a message.

Let's see...

For my health...
...my cup of coffee
...the car I drove into work
...the family I left sleeping
...the way the moon looked cast against the early morning sky
...the sound of the birds during yoga nidra this morning
...for the general peace I feel
...for my commitment to yoga
...for the unexpected changes it takes me through
...for the job I have and the people I serve
...for the love in my heart
...for the love all around me
...for money in the bank
...for knowing that it will be alright, life may not not be perfect but life is good
...for glimpses of clarity and surges of joy

When you really think about it, there is so much to be grateful for, however small--don't measure it, just go with it...add it up.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Revisiting Yin

I strayed from my yin practice for several months, quickly forgetting the supreme personal benefits of the practice.

This morning I flowed through a yin/yang practice--the first 45 minutes devoted to yin poses and the last 30 minutes was yang.

For yin, I held butterfly, 1/2 butterfly, shoelace, sphinx, seal, forward fold, saddle and snail (plow). For yang, I practiced sun salutations and flowed through Warrior I, Humble Warrior, Triangle and Reverse Triangle before coming to the mat for inversion.

During the yang practice, I was much more open in the poses and later, when I went for my morning walk, I was lighter and in those moments of realization, I was grateful for what this practice reveals to me.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Gifts of my day...

Practiced yoga this morning at a neighborhood studio that I've recently started to attend on Tuesdays and Thursdays and it was w*o*n*d*e*r*f*u*l.

The instructor introduced me to a new variation of triangle that changed my pose and how I experienced it in the body.

I offered my service to seal my practice on the mat and then stepped off for the earth bound practice of my day.

I look forward to my T/TH class days--I rise at 5:00 AM for a shower and, having already packed my things the night before, I leave my house at 5:45. The studio is just across the river from me and I have just enough time to roll out my mat and breathe into a yin pose to ground.

Class ends at 7:15 and I'm at work by 7:30 to change into my clothes and begin a day with a fresh and open mind and energized body.

Life is good.

This morning, I was able to lift into wheel/back bend for the first time since my surgery, which, as you can probably imagine, left me with tightened abdominal muscles/tissue.

While I held the pose, I couldn't breathe as deeply as I would have liked to stir and stimulate the opening of my chakras but I was breathing and witnessing the body, the sensation of opening that which has been changed. When I came out, there was slight cramping and an abdominal tingling--I rested in child's pose to relieve the sensations and offer gratitude for my recovering body.

It is amazing and humbling to me, how placing myself in the role of student to another teacher reminds me how it feels to step on that mat and move under the guidance of another AND the importance of language, whether that be language as a guide or language as permission, permission to have an authentic experience.

My teacher, this teacher, is a gift to me and I'm glad I ventured the studio practice with her--it was a step outside of my box to practice at another studio other than my comfort zone of the studio where I teach but we need to breathe into those limits that we set and press them wider every chance we get.

This is the living, this is the daring, this is the force...this is the practice.

I see that grace in you that is me, I see the life in you that is me, the light that is me, the hopes and the fears and I honor the connection that binds us to each other...Namaste'

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Call to Action

Do you know what's going on in the Congo?

Are you willing to find out?



A place to start.