To Lose One's Self #17
Bruce Springsteen, when asked why individuals went to his performances time and time again, said that he thought the desire to lose one’s self was great, that music, the experience, somehow brought them closer to godhead, to their life force. Indeed. Individuals are drawn to music, dance, theater, to performance, to lose themselves in the vision of the artist that speaks on subtle and powerful levels to each one individually in the collective moment.
The artist too is moved to lose him/herself in the music, the art, searching for source. There is a sort of fatigue with the individual persona and it’s limited concerns that we all experience. We yearn to break free, seeking a kind of purification in the desire to burn the remnants of the day after day after day existence that can become the almost white noise background of life, dulling our senses. There is an inkling that somehow there is more and diving into the force, that profound artful experience can bring about, somehow proves this. We long to be shaken, woken up!
Oh to experience that incredible light filled feeling of being in an altered state! A state that is momentarily timeless, free and utterly transporting. A state that somehow makes you feel more your true self, giving context to the individual in the universal. It is attributed to the artist though, they are the ones with the magic, the talent that can cause this sensation to come about. And while listening at home, or viewing a painting in a book can leave one with a beautiful feeling, it is not quite the same thing as the immediacy of being in the same space, the same room.
I do not have direct access to Bruce no matter how much I may feel connected as the girl of the Jersey Shore that I am. All the countless times I saw him play, all the many iterations before and after fame set in remind me in wondrous ways, of my precious early years and of the richness of life as I move through it. He is an artist and like all great artists, his work touches me because it puts me in the story, it tells my story. I grew up there, I know those places. We were young together. But of course, it’s not my story, it’s his. And as incredible as I feel hearing the songs, the immediate transportation they provide me to this altered state, the feeling, sensation always leaves as I go back to my ordinary life.
As incredible as these moments are, they are fleeting. Even the artist must leave the stage. How then to have access, immediacy to that same source whenever desired? To stabilize this condition and live from this place is the agenda of Neelakantha Meditation. It is the trajectory of growth in consciousness, providing a pathway in to source and in that, to our life force, to godhead, to what is felt in our best experiences.
Releasing the individual self momentarily, just as in sublime art, we are driven straight to the heart, but in doing so, we find something too, our higher iteration. There is a recognition in the feeling of eternality and fullness as awareness comes to rest and something is profoundly altered. You are changed and not just for the time the experience occurs, but for all time. It is subtle at first, but as practice continues the change becomes more and more apparent. Over time, as stabilization takes hold, transformation occurs . Not as other, but as a better, fuller version of you, as your more whole perfect self, flaws and all.
Just as in the profound experience of art, you are touched and powerfully changed. There is no mistake or mystery as to why the Tantrikas put such a high premium on the arts, not only our ability to take in, but our capacity to express out fully. Consciousness is the source of creativity.
Meditation hones and increases our sensitivity and our capacity for expression. Expression of every sort and, in that, the expression of who we most profoundly are, no matter the offering.
There are many ways to lose oneself, in the absorption of art, meaningful work, an engaging task, intense activity, volunteering and precious moments of intimacy.
Knowing one’s truest self is the most absorbing, meaningful, engagement of intimacy one can experience. Totally self reliant, it is the relationship upon which all others flourish, requiring no special talent or skill, only the innocent commitment of simple daily practice.
Creative expression is a necessary and joyful component of the human condition. We crave its reward, both as maker and receiver. Adding this one thing brings color, vividness and profundity to the life of our choosing. We are able to give more fully of ourself and, in that, gain more out of life. There is nothing to lose but our limited identification and constructs.
Through meditation we are truly more. When art touches the soul we are brought even more profoundly to the heart, to the deepest core of being and are more able to bring the taste of that out into life, experiencing the truth; there is nothing ordinary about life at all.
I’m nobody special. I have no jaw dropping talents or ability.
And I am a miracle of incredible proportion, daily sharing the gift of who I am.
How can both be simultaneously true?
I am completely alone.
And I am totally supported by the force of nature that contains the poet’s multitudes.
How can both be simultaneously true?
Paradox merged. To know, to authentically experience this is to be held in the very embrace of life’s force. An altered state of the most natural and beneficial sort. One that is not temporary in nature, but a foundation that life is built upon and lived from.
What then is the method? How do I wish to move through this life?
Yoga is skill in action, whatever the action, by whomever performed, on whatever stage.
This I know to be true. Direct immediacy to expanded perfection is ours to be known. Meditate.
Giving Thanks #16
On the fourth Thursday in November, we Americans, as a collective, consciously set time, precious time, to gather with loved ones and share a meal. There are some traditional items had at this meal but because we are a nation of many peoples from many diverse backgrounds there is a feast of many colors, textures and tastes to be had.
We can agree we have much to be thankful for. How do we define it, nurture it, express it? Through the continual refinement of knowing and showing our appreciation.
Thanksgiving day is a wonderful reminder, a demarkation during the cycle of the year to stop and take stock of all that we have; to give thanks for it through our ever increasing capacity to express our appreciation.
We do so as a culture of Americans collectively, on the fourth Thursday in November. As yogis, we are invited to do so every day as we sit, close our eyes and commune in the great heart of consciousness.
We have arrived at another Thanksgiving Day, an important reminder in the cycle of the year. Many Americans call this their favorite holiday- no presents to buy, no pressure on how to celebrate. It is a very intrinsic holiday, one that flows ease-fully from the heart. We come together, in community of one sort or another with the express intention of sharing a meal, one that is often prepared by many hands; a walk, a game, a class and time spent together. How we spend our time and money is a direct expression of our power as an individual.
Holiday, “holy day” this week marks a “holy time” that we come together to feast, on the bounty of food yes, but also on the bounty of community and the things that bring us together make us whole, full. The rituals that bind us: turkey, football, 5K, yoga, meditation.
As a holiday it is also an exemption from work, from the so called ordinary and as such, we treat it with honor and respect. It is special! This is a great reminder for us, nature and custom has built these days into our year so we don’t forget. They are pauses, if you will.
As yogis we are keenly aware of the power of these times, these markers when the veil of forgetfulness is thinnest. For it is at these times, that we may more easily, quickly, spontaneously penetrate to the heart of the matter, to the heart of consciousness that beats in us all. For a brief moment we are all, more or less, on the same wave length and that is powerful indeed. Let us look to harness and direct this collective power to the highest, for the highest.
We celebrate our connection, our wholeness no matter who we are or what our circumstances in life. At this time, we stop and look intently for that which we are most grateful. High on our list is the gift of life itself and our capacity to have moved through the year hopefully with skill and love and to look forward to increasing that capacity in the coming one.
The practice of yoga asks for more. It compels us to go deeper, to note and name what it is we are grateful for, to find ever more beautiful ways to express that gratitude in the form of appreciation and to see more fully the hand of the divine in all.
This is our Personal Vow of Gratitude. What we do, say and make manifest is coated and enlivened with our intention and this spills out into the world. It is a very powerful time and for me, an invitation to renew my vow, in Sanskrit, ‘vrata’.
To renew and refine, ’to refine is the impulse of the divine.’ Our practice asks us to remember, to recognize, to honor every day, every single breath, in as many ways as we can. There is as much diversity in showing appreciation as there is diversity in the gifts we have been given.
To do this is to honor our sensitivity, to become ‘a virtuoso of life.’
In doing so we increase our technical skill, fluency and personal style.
Virtuosity: artistry, degree of rhythm and harmony that is displayed while a movement is executed. In general, the more flowing and seamless a series of skills appears to be, the greater the virtuosity and the higher the offering.
Virtuoso, total mastery of one’s instrument. In yoga that instrument is the very body/mind itself that is enlivened by the intellect and deeply supported by the breath. The Sanskrit word ‘virya’ meaning strength, courage, heroic, is perhaps the root of this beautiful word virtuoso. At once so ordinary and so extraordinary.
What am I grateful for?
Authenticity is specific. How much brighter appreciation shines when it is named!
How much sweeter the taste of gratitude on the tongue when it is shared.
Today I give thanks for:
My capacity to know more deeply, more fully. I am delighted and astonished more and more by my growing ability to see light in seemingly ordinary things and circumstances; how the sun shines at a particular time of day; how clean water tastes; to revisit previous knowledge and circumstances and watch them unfold more deeply in my heart and mind in the present experience.
The remembrance that not all beings have the basic gifts of a modern society at their disposal, clean water, food and housing, compels me to acknowledge my gratitude and directly influences my capacity to search out more concrete ways of effecting this in some positive manner.
My husband and his unwavering support, love and belief in me is remembrance of those same qualities that exist intrinsically, abundantly in nature and are freely mine when I align with the highest. This is support that is never ending.
My precious family who remain a touch stone, a potent reminder of my individual origin, accepting every part of my quirky self even as I strive to figure out my place in an ever morphing world. Family, blood and otherwise, is the one place you can fall, mess up and shine all at the same time, while the light of unconditional love tracks and holds you safe. This too is a recognition of the deepest love that is the birthright of all humans. May all know it!
My dear, friends, students, teachers. When I remember them, I am pulled up to the full measure of my height and power and courageously challenge myself to do more, to hone my skills, to increase my knowledge in service of my highest intention.
Just as success breeds success, so too does gratitude, as a practice, breed appreciation. And this is what supports our efforts to go more deeply into everything, absolutely everything.
Now, right now, renew your Personal Vow. What does gratitude compel you to do?
Today, I am Giving Thanks For This Life. I am renewing my commitment to deepening the knowing and experiencing of my fullest Self so that I may find ever more creative ways of expressing my gratitude in concrete forms of appreciation that ripple out and serve the world.
Bring The Light! Meditate.
Dance As If No One Is Watching.
What would it look like to not be concerned with what people thought? How would that feel?
I am not asking to be given carte blanc for my actions regardless of their effect. This is not an invitation to abhorrent behavior. I care deeply and wish to present myself in the best possible manner.
What I’m asking is what would it look like, how would it feel to not waste my precious energy on how others receive my offerings or interpret what they believe to be me? Perhaps I fear that if I did not care what others thought I might give up and then what would justify my existence? In this case, using opinions, positive or negative, as reward and whip to goad me into action, looking outside myself for proof that I am worthy of taking up space. This is a hole that can never be filled.
Of course I do need to be concerned with my appearance and behavior in relationship to others, to those groupings, family and community that I treasure. I do wish to act with dignity and love. And on the practical side, if I wish to keep my job and be paid, then I best care how my effort is received. But where is the line drawn?
What would it look like, how would it feel to not be concerned with the approval of others? Of course we have norms ands laws for a reason, without them dignity and respect is lost and chaos ensues. But to act from some cultural or moral standpoint that is legislated from the outside alone is a recipe for unhappiness.
What I am wondering is how would it feel to stand firmly in my own light? To hear the inner command of my deepest self, know the profundity of my heart, of life altogether and then to move in the world from this place, honoring this voice. How would that look?
Karma Phala Tyaga says the Bhagavad Gita. Karma, action; Phala, fruit; Tyaga, renunciation. You have the right to your purpose, your dharma, your life, but not its fruit. Every human longs for purpose and meaning, to be of service in some way, to some degree; to feel that life is for some purpose other than mere survival and the occasional markings of growth and celebration society applauds. We need to answer this call, it is our birth right as humans. We are entitled to our life, our work, but not its fruit. Tough one this. Do well. Give your all and be not concerned with outcome. No, that’s not quite it.
We can and should be concerned with outcome just not taken hostage by it. Seduced if it is positive and well received, becoming a sort of addict; or crushed, annihilated, destroyed if negatively taken. In either case, we are in a prison of our own making.
We humans crave to feel of purpose no matter the degree or impact on the larger stage of life. How would that feel? Free. Totally completely free. All the energy would be freed to apply elsewhere like living my best life.
It’s tricky though. Care about your work, your dhama, your presence, do your best and release attachment to outcome. Wow, that’s flying without a net. How would that look? How does one move in the world doing their absolute best and not seek approval? This does not mean we don’t need feedback. Refinement is crucial on every possible level. If we are to increase perspective and correct course, feedback is necessary. To hear that feedback and apply it efficaciously is what polishes refinement. To do so without supplying ammunition to a lesser sense of self identity is a skill. And yoga, as the Gita tells us, IS skill in action. Discernment without judgment is a skill of perspective and nuance.
So a practice of yoga is not something done just on a mat. Asana means seat. The body needs to be healthy, supple and strong so that it can do its work. To be embodied is truly a gift. To know it as such takes practice. In a word yoga.
And at its heart, yoga is meditation. The practice of yoga is so intelligent! Asana for the body, pranayama to nourish the subtle body, dharna, to increase focus, the mind’s capacity for laser like sharpness, all to prepare the ground for the supreme practice of meditation.
Meditation then is the foundation, the source from which we live a full, and fully engaged, life. In deep meditation we melt our limited individual sense of self and surrender, open, expand to the fullness that is the deepest core of reality. In doing so, we experience something indescribable which is why it must be known not simply talked about. We steep awareness in this wholeness, that is our very self, and are refreshed. In that refreshment we bring something up to the surface and life is enhanced.
Innocently, naturally we increase our perspective, open our hearts and clarify our minds.
Meditation shifts awareness for the better, for good. I care and deeply, but standing in my own light more firmly permits that caring to focus like a laser beam on what it is I wish to offer instead of wasting precious energy on what others might think. In meditation we draw awareness like an arrow back deeply into wholeness, such that when it is is released outward in life, it hits the target of my attention with full potent accuracy every single time.
Dance. Nataraja dances the ‘ananda tandava’, the wild dance of existence on both the cosmic and individual level, creating, maintaining, dissolving, concealing and revealing simultaneously as the music of time plays on.
Dance skillfully. Dance freely. Dance with your whole heart. Stand firmly in your light and just dance. Meditate.
What Makes You Happy? #14
There are as many answers to this question as there are breaths in a lifetime, moments in a day. So many things play on our experience of happiness. It is indeed circumstantial in nature and as we know, circumstances are always changing. As Rilke said, Every happiness is the child of a separation it did not think it could survive. Which implies a willingness to let go, to release, to dissolve in order to create anew. Even if what we wish to create is the continuation of the present circumstance, maintenance requires pulses of releasing and creating over and over again.
More and more happiness is framed as a journey of self discovery and I believe this to be true and we are human. Humans are social beings living in a tumultuous and beautiful world with many others. For happiness to bloom fully again and again, self discovery requires engagement with the world.
Just as consciousness is both immanent and transcendent so too is the happiness of the individual determined by what is contained within and beyond individual consideration.
Happiness is not an either or proposition. It is the skillful, joyful and often challenging blend, marriage if you will, of both inner self discovery and the natural byproduct of meaningful engagement with the world. In this we use our happiness everyday as a powerful tool and not merely a possession.
This is the very definition of householder life: to journey inward and steep in the vast dynamic silence that is the source of every creative impulse and then to come out and share that knowing in ever more potent and surprising ways. Life demands our attention. Taking time each day to sit quietly and permit the dissolving, the releasing of our limited identity, of who we solely believe ourselves to be, in that vastness we transcend that limited sense of self. When we emerge we are who we have always been but refreshed, renewed and in that, changed.
To focus solely on inner happiness is not a bad thing but it does remove one from the world. It may bring self sufficiency but to what use if engagement with the world is not heightened?
No judgment here just practicality. What are you after? How do you wish to move, BE in the world? What makes you happy, truly happy?
Recently I read a critique of the focus on inner happiness in which the author stated that “spirituality and religious practice is slowly shifting from a community based endeavor to a private one with silent meditation retreats, mindfulness apps and yoga classes replacing church socials and collective worship.” [Ruth Whippman, NYT] Suggesting that all this “inner navel gazing” is moving humans away from much need social interaction and birthing a nation of walled off individuals focused solely on a kind of solipsistic happiness to the exclusion of all else.
Fowl cry I! This is a gross misunderstanding of the nuance and focus of a deep authentic meditation practice. Happiness is not an either/or proposition. In moving individual attention deep inside one comes to know, to rest and be deeply nourished from within and thus supported in sharing the depths of self without. The profundity of who we fully are is found deep inside. It is the natural expression of fullness to spill out. Just as the full moon cannot help but bath her gossamer light everywhere, so too as we know the fullness of our light it naturally shines wherever we place our attention.
It is not either/or. We live in the relative world ripe with duality and so it is an easy mark to state this is right, this is wrong, coloring all the world in black and white. But the light that is one and whole in nature contains every conceivable color. Let’s use our full box of crayons folks. It takes refinement sensitivity and courage to blend any two things and in so doing, create a new thing, a third, more fully realized offering resulting in a contribution more impactful than either on its own.
Know your Self and engage with the world from this higher deeper perspective. Higher and deeper because it is naturally infused with the happiness of knowing more fully who we are and in that, permitting a more authentic efficacious engagement with the world.
Which makes us social humans happy indeed.
Meditate. Happiness Is Found Within. - Muktananda
Then moving in the world, of the world, happiness is shared and multiplied.
~ Ode To Rilke
“Every happiness is the child of a separation it did not think it could survive”
Want the change pour myself into its new shape, yes!
Melt limited identity and circumstance.
But what of the solid ground I yearn to feel underfoot?
To fly in the sky of consciousness with eyes opened is a leap that dares reality.
Operate dear one with no apparent net as tectonic plates shift and Rudra’s winds howl.
Turning your face to the light follow its brilliant path.
Move in the knowledge of support eternal as gravity holds you close.
Then, now, always you are in the wild embrace of iteration and iteration and iteration.
We cannot hold time. Cooperate with sustenance and claim your rightful part in authorship.
Creativity is born of innocence married to vision.
And I want to look away.
Be more than what is carried by the wind.
Be the wind and move the world with your heart.
Hope rides on this wind even as it searches the ground for some permanent landing.
Happiness embraces both with an open hand.