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Archive for the ‘Spirituality’ Category

This year, 2013, has been a year of change. Circumstances, people, jobs, ideas, all have been transforming in my life. It is the nature of the world we live in, as we (don’t) understand. One important aspect of change is my age, others say experience. This has affected and is constantly affecting my perspective of life.

As many of you may know, there have been many things that have changed around my life and the yoga center. There have been many new and wonderful people coming through our doors, touching our lives. I have seen many people affected, process, and grow, many times in unexplainable ways during their yoga practice. The magic of yoga, this center, and the intentions you put in them is what makes it all possible. The chanting and the satsang going on every week have been, I believe, a powerful way to recharge and be able to offer the best we have of ourselves, Jerry and I. This is truly a gift of grace from beloved teacher.

We have had beautiful additions to our center. Balaka and Eileen are very special souls that understand and offer the most humble loving teachings in yoga. We have had so many more wonderful instructors subbing and offering their heart through their practice, as much as experiencing, what our yoga center also has to offer from the special ones that attend our center. I have seen people healing their bodies with patience and constancy. I have noticed people growing emotionally and spiritually with us, as we all experience the softening of our heart.

Our center feels, because it does not matter what it looks like, or whatever happens right outside our doors; it feels more and more a true place of grace. Knowingly or unknowingly, we all receive the grace, that something special, by being there. We might fight it intellectually many times. We might fight it with fear, many times. We might be shocked by the unexpected je nais sais quoi, and ignore. But, it is the seed of change, the change in our hearts. I feel it, and I want to share that with as many people as I can!

I really love what we do. I really hope all of us, a deeper experience, through this body. I know that all of us, in our yoga center, are fulfilling the original intent of this place not being a center for exercise of the body, but an exercise of the heart; the loving heart.

As much as we understand love, with that, we offer all we have every time. I know I speak for Yogesh, Jerry, Balaka, and Eileen, with all our faults, we offer our love in every class. And we are so grateful to feel your love back. May we have more moments together.

On the edge of my bed, in the midst of serenity. How can I even start to explain what life in an ashram may mean or is doing to my life… especially, my spiritual life, how can I begin… My intention is reach you and share with you the hopeful possibilities of life.

I have, like many of us, gone through some difficult times in my life, and I know they will happen again. It is not the things that happen to us, bow we perceive them. Like in our yoga practice, it is the intention and the action, not the reaction from the actions where we concentrate our efforts. So, it is not without effort that I take the body to a spiritual retreat. It is then the mind that reacts. Although I may physically be here, in the midst of an ashram with mantras and chanting embracing me, if my mind is is not here then, there is no intention. We all have the experience of sitting in a math class where our body is there, but our mind is everywhere else. The mind’s purpose, I have learned, is to bring happiness to the atman (soul). Unfortunately, we confuse the source of permanent happiness – and we look everywhere, only finding bits and droplets.

I only understand what happens in my heart…as I sit, listen, meditate in God, in all those beautiful qualities that we truly know inside,  then tears of joy come to me eyes. It is joy that I have felt before but different. This is beyond my intellect and beyond my simple understanding.

I have know enough times despair and sadness. I know I might feel them again. Now, however, I know, that this sensation I can always reach for, if I sit and practice devotion to Divine Love, true yog (connection).

I could not think of a different place I would rather be receiving the New Year. I wish you, the same…

We are always immersed in thought when the end of the year comes. For some it is the end of the world as we know it (but, isn’t every minute the end…a new beginning?). It is always a great time to be grateful.

We are so grateful to have been part of your life and you of ours. As we always remind ourselves, this Yoga Center, in its uniqueness would not be here if it were not for you, specifically you! We never claim to be perfect or the best. We never aspire to be competitive with others, or even think of ourselves in comparison with others. We humbly want to be the center that is truest to our mission. Our mission is to bring the most honest practice of yoga, in what it means to us, and share it with you.

Our commitment is to be there, as humbly and honestly as we can every time you come. Because in that vulnerability and that “real” experience is where we all get to experience life, together.

It is, as you know, never about the money, or the fame, or the flashiness. It is always our intention to be about the intent, to be an experience of Peacefulness, Harmony, Truthfulness, and most importantly our intention of Divine Love. Some may argue, it is a little about sweat too… 🙂

We are grateful that you are coming. We are grateful that you have come. We are grateful that you thought in coming more often…

In all ways, we are grateful, because every time we, you and us, are there, we are “more” alive and hopeful that we are practicing remembering who we truly are, part of that Divine Love.

We humbly and sincerely wish you wonderful truly Holy Days!

It is like walking in a fog of uncertainty and doubt. It is like jumping in a river with murky water. It is like being suffocated with the smell of a cheap perfume. We have an incredible capacity to adapt and get used to new conditions. We live in this world bombarded with circumstances, conditions, distractions – and we go through them. We all make it. We all survive. But survival many times is not enough. We want more – I know I do.

When do we stop to take a step back and look at the reasons why we are where we are. Why are we walking, swimming, breathing? Where are going? What are we looking for? Did we forget?

It seems I am waiting for that next goal, to reach that number, to obtain that title, to have an epiphany. I am waiting for that magical heavenly event, parting of the clouds. I am waiting for happiness to find me. Indeed I believe happiness is a gift, and is gracefully given to us. I believe it is not because I deserve it. It is not because I do not deserve it. But I realize it is simply not found in all those places I keep looking. It cannot be found in the most delicious food, or in the most beautiful car. I know I cannot find happiness in that expensive pair of shoes! Happiness is ever increasing, permanent, everlasting – food is not; my car lasts for a few years; my shoes go out of style! Happiness cannot be there…

The more I discover love for permanent, unchanging, Divine matters, then happiness starts sneaking into my heart. All of the sudden a smile, a flower, a sunset, a meditation reminds me of all that is beyond. My eyes fill with tears. The sound of a chant makes my heart skip a beat. And I want the entire world to sign with me, to fill it with me.

I believe we all do. I believe we all have that deep core memory and wisdom of what is peaceful, harmonious, true. I believe we all are craving and searching for that. I believe that we all hanker for Love, Divine. We know what it is. We simply forget.

Let’s purify, rub our eyes, take a deep breath, and reinvigorate our desire to keep looking in the right place – to turn our attention to the permanence of Divine Love. Let’s remember. Let’s not forget.

Over two centuries ago, the great English poet William Wordsworth cautioned the world on the cusp of the Industrial Revolution that “Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers; / Little we see in Nature that is ours….” What Wordsworth observed was the beginnings of a mass exodus of people from a simple agricultural, world where they lived in harmony with Nature, to an imbalanced materialistic world, divorced from the earth they once honored as the source of life and livelihood. This spiritual divide has widened with time, and many now see our earth only as an exploitable resource. Many have lost touch with nature and no longer understand the importance of our intimate connection with the earth and with each other. In a hurried world of obligations and deadlines, it is easy to see how people have disconnected, but yoga helps us to bridge this disconnect and restore unity.

The early rishis realized the importance of this connection and provided rich teachings for future generations to ensure a means to maintain this harmony. Yoga, as commonly understood in the West, is the unity of mind, body, and spirit; yet it is more than this. Once this unity is understood, we may then unite with the Devine, which—as the Lord Krishna teaches in the Bhagavad Gita—exists within all things; although, all things do not exist within the Devine. We must consider carefully the impact our actions have upon life in all its forms and the earth that sustains it. When we lack this understanding, we fail to be fully human—to be fully complete—and find ourselves in discord with the Universe and each other.

Thousands of years before the coming of the iPad, people were very much aware to the world around them and their connection to it. Technology is a wonderful thing, but it does not change us into something non-human. Society is out of synch with the Universe as it moves gracefully on—cycle within cycle, marked by the changing constellations of the night skies, the seasons of the year, and the migration of animal life. Each of these offers us a chance to not only reflect upon the certainty of change and impermanence but also to pause and celebrate the delicate and intricate balance of Nature and our place within it. People have honored Nature in many ways, such as celebrating spring as it begins the renewal of life. As the Vernal Equinox nears on March 20, many yoga practitioners will gather together for Surya Namaskars (Sun Salutations), while others will sit mindfully in meditation.

I have always enjoyed the joining with others in Surya Namaskar, but meditation offers an opportunity for a more intimate exploration of ourselves as part of the Universe.  Before I begin my meditation, I gather together fresh water, seeds, sugar cubes, and incense. When I locate an appropriate outdoor location for meditation, I offer these gifts to the Devine presence manifest in all things: the water to the plants, the seeds to birds and animals, the sugar cubes to insects, and the incense to the Universe itself. This is in no way a formal ritual taken from any ancient text, but it is deeply personal and important to me. Ritual for the sake of ritual offers only empty actions. Whatever you do, be creative and have fun—make it personal and relevant to your intentions of meditation.

The rituals for the Vernal Equinox change from year to year as I do, but my meditation has been consistent. This is a very simple meditation that can easily be adapted to suit anyone. Begin by grounding yourself and making a deep connection with the earth; sit comfortably on the ground, allowing the pelvic floor and the Muladhara Chakra to connect with the earth—not just feeling the earth but imagining yourself growing out of it, being a real part of it. Explore the earth with the fingertips at the sides of the hips, and begin to inhale, letting the breath slowly guide the arms upward, bringing the hands together over the Sahasrara Chakra and exhaling to lower them in Anjali Mudra to rest at the Anahata Chakra. Repeat this three times, imagining your hands gathering the Universe’s energy as they sweep upward and guide it into your heart.

After the third inhalation, exhale the hands to rest palms upward, bringing the thumbs and index fingers together in Gyan mudra. Rest the tongue between the upper palate and the ridge of your upper teeth. Slow the breath, and allow your awareness to expand, inviting and welcoming all sensory experiences: the breeze upon your skin; the coolness or warmth of the earth; the smells in the air; the sounds of birds, insects, wind, and so on. The important thing to remember now is to not allow yourself to attach to the source of the experience. For example, when you hear the sound of a bird, try not to think “that’s a bird…. I wonder what kind of bird that is….” Simply experience the sensation, without identifying it. In this way, allow your awareness to dissolve into the Universe and the Universe to dissolve into you, fully embracing God consciousness….

Namasté ~

Chris Lane

As I wake up this morning, there are all these emotions and thoughts and ideas… where do I start to be able to even

Prem Mandir, Vrindavan, India

convey these feelings. In only a few days, we are, once again, on our way to the mystical spiritual lands of India. It just hit me last night, after our satsang (group mediation)that we are visiting the inauguration of Prem Mandir(The Temple of Love) in Vrindavan, India.

I remember at the age of 6 or so, I ran downstairs, with the curiosity and determination a child can have, I walked into my loving father’s study, where he was buried in books and the reading of philosophy and positive thinking. With the deepest of desperations, I asked, “Dad, what is Love?”. I do not remember his answer; I do remember and do know, however, my search since. There has been plenty of moments of pain and deceit, many moments of crying myself to sleep. There have been deep moments of suffering. I have looked in many places for love and happiness, even in the most unlikely places. I did find moments, sparks, glimpses of what that means; none lasting or really satisfactory – I always knew there had to be more. The disappointments led to deeper discouragement and frustration, maybe anger. I gave up many times.

I was hearing of a student’s reflection on how difficult the practice of hatha yoga has become. At the beginning yoga was (arguably) an easy, fun, enjoyable “light” work out. But to many of us the more we become present and stay in asana, the deeper we connect. Is that something I am prepared to do? Yoga is indeed simple, though not an easy task. The more we pay attention, we find loads of thoughts and emotions. For many of us it is easier to stop, avoid, and/or look away. It is a very common reaction. I do it all the time, I do know! Through my many years of practice, I realize now it has nothing to do with that movement, that physical pain and discomfort, or frustration. It has little to do with my hips or my shoulder, or my knee. The physical body, as we have heard many times, is more than a structure of movement. The hands are to hold things, but also to let them go. The chest is to protect, but also to open up the heart and emotions. The legs and hips are the means of motion, movement in our lives, or to simply stand in place, grounded.

So, our physical yoga practice is exactly that, a practice of rediscovery, re-membering of who we are. The process of discovery is never easy. The path is full of ups and downs. We have given up uncountable times, as the yoga philosophy teaches, for uncountable (truly uncountable!) lifetimes. How are we to change in one class, or one posture, or in one month, or one year, or a lifetime? We do change, but maybe in ways we do not realize or expect now. Every breath done in consciousness changes something inside of us, every time. The questions is, are we able to sustain it? Are we able to persevere and find encouragement? Are we able to maintain focus? The is not a right or wrong answer, simple our sadhana (practice) is what matters. Some days are better than others. Some (many) days not so good. That is the nature of our imperfection, though we may choose to place blame outwardly.

So, what is the loving thing to do? What is Love? Where am I today in my trying to understand the incomprehensible? I do not understand intellectually anything more than when I was 6 in my dad’s study. Although, I know my heart has experience the incomprehensible through practice and perseverance. My heart has been graced with experiences of Love, as I know we all have. To keep those loving feelings present it takes perseverance, patience, discipline, remembrance, and know there is not an only way or only one time. It took me 40 years of experiences to view Love as a daily action, rather than the misconceived romantic ideal.

Yoga means connection, is the path of search for the purpose of our physical experience, our body as a temple of our spirit, the temple or instrument to find Love, Divine Love.

How many times we have heard that “it” has nothing to do with us. Well, I think as I get older (or wiser) I realize how these saying are even more true and real. As I sit through satsang on Friday, and I hear the words of a devotee of Radhey and Krishna explaining this, the words become just so real. Of course, I immediately think of passing these just wonderful concept to “my” yoga students.

As I understand these ideas and listen to them in my head, I can see how it all connects. We try so hard all the time to do our best. We have so many hopes and expectations and desires about the outcomes of our actions. Yes, I do this all the time. I am always hopeful that this idea or thought or action might provoke change in this or the other person or situation. I guess there is nothing wrong is wishing the best to the people we love. However, these expectations do not have to turn into attachment. Let them be. The consequences of a deep breath we hope are to trigger that deep energy inside of us, and to open the alveoli, to remove impurities from the metabolites of our cellular respiration, etc. The subtle difference is if we sit and expect, desire, attach our thoughts to that result, and we wait. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it does not. Either way, it is ok. The result is not ours to control. There are many forces that will act and affect on the result of our actions. In the Bhagavat Gita Krishna tells Arjuna (and to us all through him) that we should always do our duty, and offer our results to the Divine.

Trust and surrender

Trust and Surrender

As I reflect on this, I can think of so many times that I am not even focused on the now, but on the reactions, the effect of my actions. It is so much simpler (not always easier) to be present, to do and live this moment the best I can. The fruit of my actions will happen. I will learn as I evaluate the reactions, and do this better next time. There are plenty examples where my actions have brought undesired reactions to others. Many times it is very hurtful and difficult to see this. All I can do is try to stay humble, and try my best again. I guess, it is another lesson learned from surrendering in yoga.

It is simpler to concentrate in the now, to do our best in the moment. Just listen, be attentive, do your best in this asana. The fruit of our actions is not up to us. The intent of our action is.

Organic is Better!

 Although eating conventionally grown fruits and vegetables is better than skipping fruits and vegetables altogether, it is important to minimize your exposure to the pesticides contained in conventionally grown foods as much as possible for good health. Pesticides pose various health dangers and have been linked to nervous system toxicity, cancer, hormone system effects, and skin, eye and lung irritation. Conventional farming methods are also damaging to our environment and local economies. By consuming organic fruits and vegetables, you improve your health and support more sustainable farming practices.

 How to Obtain Organic Produce

 There are several ways to obtain organic produce. You can of course continue shopping at your  grocery store or go

“When we support organic farming, our dollar supports a cause that is sustainable, healthy, and loving.”

 to Whole Foods and purchase organic foods there, but perhaps the price tags scare you away. The Environmental Working Group has created a guide that currently lists 49 items ranked from least contaminated to most contaminated. Simply by eating the least contaminated conventional produce and avoiding the twelve most contaminated fruits and vegetables or replacing them with the organic option, you can lower your pesticide consumption by nearly 80% and hopefully keep your grocery bill in check.  The twelve most contaminated conventionally grown items to be avoided from most to least contaminated are: 

  • Celery
  • Peaches
  • Strawberries
  • Apples
  • Blueberries (Domestic)
  • Nectarines
  • Sweet bell peppers
  • Spinach
  • Cherries
  • Kale/collard greens
  • Potatoes
  • Grapes (Imported)

 You can access the full list here: http://www.foodnews.org/fulllist.php.

 Another option is to grow some of your own produce. If you’ve got the space and enjoy gardening, this could be a good way to go. However, it will require some research and materials and an upfront cost to get started. Of course, you’d be saving quite a bit over the long run as a packet of seeds costs about two dollars and will yield more than the one pound you’ll get at the store for the same price.

 A co-operative, on the other hand, leaves the farming to others while you sit back and enjoy abundant amounts of organic produce. A co-operative is a community effort that supplies local and organic produce at wholesale prices. Rawfully Organic Co-op, a non-profit, is one such example. Rawfully Organic Co-op “[supports] a raw food lifestyle, our local farmers, and our local economy!” By purchasing either a half-share ($47) or a full-share ($87) on their website, you receive a huge enough amount to last you and your household at least a week, depending on your consumption and size of household.

 Another co-op in Houston is Central City Co-op. This co-op offers a variety in sizes of produce shares  that are less expensive than Rawfully Organic; however, membership is required (there are different levels of membership, some costing more than others, and you can also volunteer in exchange for membership). I recommend asking around and doing some research on the co-ops in your area.

Conclusion

 Yes, please skip the chocolate sprinkle donut and extra-butter microwave popcorn (I don’t care if it’s whole grain) for the conventional apple if you need to, but hopefully you can start introducing more and more organic foods into your diet using the methods discussed above.

As stated by Rawfully Organic Co-op, “When we support organic farming, our dollar supports a cause that is sustainable, healthy, and loving.” Go organic and achieve good health while being kind to the environment.

– Roma Singh

Sources:

http://www.foodnews.org/

http://rawfullyorganic.com/index.php

http://www.centralcityco-op.com/

From murky waters, not of murky waters

The Lotus flower is the national flower of India, as mystical as it is beautiful. Many consider this flower to be sacred, however, beyond sacred it is a powerful metaphor. The lotus can be a symbol of beauty and purity, and Divine Energy, with mesmerizing presence, anyone gets absorbed by it.

It is impossible not to evoke emotions of softness and peacefulness when looking at a lotus flower. The flower grows usually in murky ponds. One of the unique characteristics of this flower making it different from the water lilies, is that the lotus leaves grows above the water surface. The leaves of the lotus are called emergent leaves. Truly a lesson in itself.

We constantly talk in yoga about the invasion of the world around us into the world inside of us. Many times, I know I struggle with the pull and the “distractions” of the senses. It is not easy for me to maintain that constant focus in my internal remembrance of the Divine Love. Yoga also teaches us that we have seven centers of energy called chakras. These start from the tailbone area, go through the heart, the middle chakra, and finish with the crown chakra at the top of our head. The crown chakra is symbolized a lotus flower of one thousand petals.

It is comforting to think of the lotus flower to help find and maintain that balance in our lives. The flower grows, emerges, feeds, and lives of the murky water. Eventually, a beautiful delicate water emerges, with such splendor, and from an unsuspected origin. In the same way, our energy rises up, through our spine, from the lower chakras to the higher chakras, ending in the crown chakra, with the desire of the ultimate realization, God Realization.

The lesson seems simple, though no easy. We have a body, the senses, the external world, to help us. it is our job to emerge, and rise above. Our intent might be to live like the lotus flower, coming from the world, but not of the world. Our meditations may be guided by the image of a lotus flower. The soft colors, the beautiful petals, the impressive flower that opens searching, looking upwards, for that Divine Love. Its beauty does not come from the flower itself, but from its intent – reach above, humbly.

 “The belief about or picture of the future”, that is the dictionary definition of an expectation. I hate my birthdays. As my birthday approaches, every year, unfailingly, I feel the child in me wanting to celebrate the birthday I feel I never had. I want lots of friends and lots of candy! I want loads of (eggless) chocolate cake, and (eggless) ice cream! I want all

Lady and sanyasi

Street action in Sangli

my friends getting along and having incredible much fun together… I really do not mind getting old, really! Through the years that expectation of a perfect birthday has not been fulfilled, maybe close in many years, but never to my expectation. And so it happens with so many things in my life, daily and long term… I experience, discover, and provoke disappointment in others from unmet expectations.

If we apply the Vedic concept of the innumerable lives we have lived, then the chances of us experiencing this frustration is uncountable. Of those uncountable times, how many I have been the cause? In my case, probably, more than your average soul. Therefore, it is easy to lose faith and find blame on self or others, because the pain caused and the pain felt is real. However, how many times we can go through the same process of expectations and disappointments? Well, as many times as we need to – truly. There is a lesson to be learned. I know for me, the lesson relies on love, what is it to really love?

Every time I rely on the transitory world, the result will be transitory. If I am expecting this job will make me happy, or the new relationship, or my newest car, then, most likely it will eventually result in disappointment. My job will end, and so will my car, so how can I be truly happy? Happiness and love are absolutes.

As I focus my eyes on a particular experience or circumstance, or even an individual, most likely it will result in transitory happiness and eventual disappointment. Love and eternal happiness are only found in permanent things. Happiness and love are absolutes. The only permanent aspect of our lives is the spirit. Thus relying on spiritual experiences and cultivating them, will be the best source (and only true source), in my experience of love and happiness.

As I step on my mat, all I ask is that I be present to the experience of opening my heart to the Divine Love around me. I ask that I can quiet down my expectations of the world, and learn to accept love without judgment. I hope I awaken bhakti or Awareness of Divine Love.

Today’s Classes
  • 6:30 pm - Mantra Chanting
  • 7:00 pm - Hatha Yoga
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