Whatever You Believe In, Practice It Every Day.

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So, you may have heard me tell this story before but several years ago, I was leading myself through a deep Yoga Nidra meditation. My aim for this meditation was to channel the wise person that resides within my own heart to see what kind of message my own inner wise person would give me. I got very relaxed and went deep. Really deep.

30-day Meditation Challenge

I tried to think of the wisest person I knew immediately an image of one of my favorite professors from college jumped into my mind. In this vision, completely of my own imagination, I was sitting in his office and asking him for some guidance. In my mind, I could see the tawny grain of the wood of his desk. I could hear the soft buzz of the fluorescent lights above muted slightly by the plaintive squeak of his office chair as leaned back to think to survey the ceiling. He stroked his beard as he thought about what to say to me. Then, he looked at me slyly with a sideways glance and said something I’ll never forget. He said, “Whatever you believe in, practice it every day,” and then simply nodded.

“Whatever you believe in, practice it every day!” That revelation hit me like a ton of Norton Anthology of Poetry books. It was my own inner-wisdom reminding me of the importance of a daily practice

30-Day Meditation Challenge

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If the wise person inside of you also values a daily practice, if meditation is something you believe in or are at least curious about, and if you want to explore what happens when you make meditation a daily practice, I invite you to register for my 30-Day Meditation challenge. It begins September 1st and runs for 30 days. It’s going to be fun and easy. All you do is meditate for 15 minutes a day, every day for 30 days. You’ll start to notice right away how you become more mindful, more calm, less provoked, and less reactive. Everyone you live with and work with will wonder what has happened to you.

Once you register for the challenge, you’ll start to receive emails that will support you with information, guidance, and encouragement about making meditation a regular practice for the month of September. You can do this challenge wherever you live in the world. You can meditate at any time of day that works best for you, and choose any style of meditation that suits you. I’ll give you several options that you can choose from if you’re newer to meditation

This costs $30 and if you complete all 30 days you can even have the option to receive your tuition back.

Tell your friends that you’ll be doing this to help keep you accountable and even invite them to join you because there’s nothing like mindfulness to bind a friendship together.

This thing starts Sunday, September 1st so sign up now and start your meditation practice now.

If you’re in NYC, I’ll be coming to town the first week of September and offering two amazing workshops. The first will be a Yoga Nidra for Happiness workshop at Pure Yoga West on Wednesday, September 4th from 6:30–9 pm. We will explore through poses, discussion, and Yoga Nidra the happiness that exists always within you despite events and circumstances. I’m really excited to offering a workshop at my old studio and hope you join me if you live in NYC. Also, I’ll be co-hosting a Yoga Nidra and Freeing breathwork workshop with an amazing teacher Tiffany Curren at Nirvana Yoga and Wellness in Wayne, New Jersey the next day on Thursday, September 5th from 6:30–9 pm. I’m really excited to work with Tiffany and this will be an incredible offering. If you live in the area, I’d love to see you at one or both of these events. I’m not sure when I’ll be back to this area.

Thanks for considering all of these offerings. Please forward this email by pressing the share link either below in the email or the Facebook share and like button near the top of the page if you’re listening to this email via my blog.

Hey, thanks again for being you and everything you do

And most of all, thanks for pickin’ up what I’m puttin’ down.


The Benefits of Starting Your Day with Meditation

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Written by guest writer Stephanie James

Meditation

How you spend your morning sets the tone for the rest of your day. If you hit the snooze button one too many times, rush through your morning tasks, and grab your cup of coffee to go, you will most likely feel like you are in a race against time for most of the day. Starting your day feeling relaxed and centered, on the other hand, will also carry into the rest of your day. You have the choice as to how your day unfolds based on your morning rituals, or lack thereof, in other words. A solid morning routine is a primary key to success.

One activity that you can incorporate into your morning routine is meditation, whether guided or self-lead. Here are just a few of the many benefits starting your day with meditation has to offer

No Need for Caffeine

Even if you wake up feeling tired, 15 to 20 minutes of meditation upon awakening will supply you with endorphins that will boost your energy without the need for caffeine. Although meditation provides deep relaxation by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, it also offers the benefit of longer-lasting, natural energy with no risk of a subsequent crash.

Mindful Mountain Retreat

Bozeman, Montana Sept. 12–15 2019

Activates the Spam Filter

Part of what can contribute to a really good day is being able to sort through mental clutter as you work to be productive. Especially in our fast-paced world, there are numerous distractions that can interfere with our productivity, both internally and externally. Setting a positive mindset through meditation allows you to filter out the clamor and negative self-talk that can make accomplishing daily goals difficult and stressful. 

Increases Ability to Multitask

A recent NSF-funded study at the University of Washington revealed that people who practice meditation regularly are better able to multitask. Participants who practiced mindfulness two hours a week for eight weeks performed better in multitasking tests than those who did not meditate. And if multitasking doesn’t seem like an important skill, keep in mind that one by-product of poor multitasking ability is distracted driving. Improving this ability, then, can help you be safer while on the road.

Enhances Your Sense of Well-Being

Another amazing effect that meditation has is that it changes the way you look at things rather than changing circumstances directly. It provides a calm and accepting mindset that you can carry with you, regardless of difficult situations. Many times, we can’t change daily events in our lives that are causing us stress, but we can choose to approach them with more serenity and acceptance, making each day flow more smoothly.

Fosters a Cleaner Diet

Research has shown that when you’re sleep-deprived or stressed, you crave unhealthy foods. Incorporating meditation into your morning routine allows you to begin your day with a calm and rested mind that is conducive to craving healthier food choices. As you evolve in your meditation practice, you will notice that urges to reach for sugary, fatty foods will dissipate, and choosing healthier foods will increase your energy level and restore emotional balance.

Meditation is for Everyone

Scott Moore Yoga

Many times, people are intimidated by meditation because they mistakenly believe that it takes a certain know-how or special ability. However, meditating takes no special talent or predisposition to be effective. In addition, meditation is not about perfecting serenity or reaching a certain level of enlightenment. Instead, it is about continuing to evolve in your practice, with no focus on perfection. You also don’t have to rush headlong into one-hour sessions to benefit from meditation. You can start with five-minute sessions and build up as you begin to see how practicing meditation is an ongoing process.

You’re More in the Now

Your head is much clearer when you first wake up than after you have met distractions later in the day. This leaves a clean mental slate that can become even clearer after 15 to 20 minutes of meditation. You add to your calmness of mind exponentially by practicing meditation first thing in the morning. In short, you want to maximize on your mental inventory by filling “empty” brain space with positive thoughts and energy.


There are countless overall health benefits of meditation and starting your day with the practice is a great idea. It’s a way to set the mood, focus, and momentum for the rest of your day, as well as keep you in the moment and not concentrating on the past and the future.


Guided Meditations for Sleep

Living On The Edge

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Yoga Nidra Training

I’ve been practicing all my life. Since childhood I’ve practiced everything from music to magic, baseball to baking. So when I started practicing yoga and meditation it just felt natural to begin a new practice. One day when I was a kid, I was practicing the saxophone and I realized something essential about the notion of practice: practice is the end, not the means to the end. Sure, I get better at playing the sax by practicing it, but the point is to be playing. Practice is being at the edge, at the frontier of experience. Also, sometime in the last 20 years of practicing and teaching yoga, it dawned on me that there’s never a yoga performance, no yoga recital. It’s always only a practice.

Today I want to talk about the practice of living at the frontier. I’d like to invite you to reconsider the purpose of practice. Consider that maybe the goal of any practice isn’t to improve, it’s simply to be present at the frontier. I know, I know, I know, why do we practice if it’s not to grow? The thing is that you do grow when you practice but maybe growth is just the byproduct, not the purpose. Being at the frontier means regularly leaving the comfort of what we know, abandoning what’s automatic and easy, and stepping onto unsure ground to truly learn to know ourselves. Therefore, it’s our life’s practice to simply be at the frontier.

Frontier=Presence=Self-Knowledge

To my mind, the word “frontier” conjures images of gritty people working with the land and wrestling with the unknown as they learn and grow. Our frontier could be our edge in a yoga posture, our edge in our awareness in meditation, or perhaps simply the edge of entering a new stage in life. Being at the frontier isn't always easy but isn’t that the point? While it’s not always easy, it is always real. Our frontier is a place we’ve never been before and being there helps us to truly come alive because it quickens our minds, makes our senses come alive, and forces us into radical presence. There is no coasting or autopilot at the frontier.

For me, traveling has been a practice of being at the frontier. More than geographical frontiers, traveling regularly takes me to cultural, philosophical, and humanitarian frontiers I would have never known had I lived out my days in Smalltown, Utah where I was born. But more important than learning about another place, traveling always involves a healthy dose of getting knowing myself—there’s usually a steep learning curve to making your way somewhere else, one that unavoidably makes you look inside. More than learning about someone else, traveling puts you at the rugged frontier of knowing whoever the hell YOU are, a frontier that is invariably west of wild.

While our goal in practice may not necessarily be to grow, it happens regardless and you can’t grow without challenges. I once heard someone say, “If you ever find yourself coasting in life it probably means you’re going downhill.” In yoga philosophy, this heat necessary for growth is called Tapas and is the driver toward self-knowledge. Experiencing Tapas, being a little on edge or confronted with challenges, is an essential part of our awakening because in a very real way it wakes us up from the anesthesia of easy, and puts us into a place of fierce presence, and presence is the secret that whispers to us our true, universal identity. Presence teaches you who you are.

Flowing At Your Edge

Sometimes breaking out of the stupor of easy to be present means doing something big, something drastic. I can tell you from experience that nothing wakes you up like a psychedelic trip with a shaman in the jungle or jogging around the conservative state capital wearing nothing but your best set of briefs, running shoes, and your hands-free device. But a regular practice of being at your frontier doesn’t mean regularly stepping to the edge of stupidity. For example, it’s hard to be present to the full grandeur of the Grand Canyon when your toes are dangling over its edge. Instead, you’ll grow far more from your every-day practice if you allow it to be a comfortable step away from both boredom and your absolute edge.

Steven Kotler is a NYT Bestselling author who studies and writes about how uber-performers thrive at their edge by achieving a state of flow, an optimal state of consciousness where people can both feel their best and perform their best. One of the ways he’s discovered that people can get into flow is by regularly stepping up to their comfortable edge. Steven Kotler has learned how to write while in a state of flow and through his words how to put his readers into the same state. In December of 2018, right on the frontier of embarking on my journey to live and work in France, I attended Steven Kotler’s Flow for Writers Workshop in San Francisco. For three days, our intimate group of writers holed up in a chic San Francisco loft as Steven revealed to us some of the secrets of good writing where he taught quite succinctly: write from your edge and readers will read from theirs.

And while performance maybe isn’t the point of practice, being at your comfortable edge is the secret sauce to great performance. Whether it’s writing or rock climbing, being at your edge and in flow stimulates your brain into a deeper awareness that illuminates the microscopic but essential details that would otherwise fly under the radar. Being at your edge and in flow releases all the feel-good chemicals in your brain. Chemicals that catalyzes your performance around the subject by focusing your mind on its subtleties and nuances, by illuminating long-chain connections to otherwise disparate ideas, and by unlocking your boundless creativity. In yoga class, I encourage my students to negotiate their edge of each pose by finding the version that is just north of comfortable, what I call the “comfortably-intense” version of every pose. Also, I often ask if they could become just 10% more relaxed.Flow simply can’t happen when you’re either bored or panicked to tears.

The Only Way To Get There Is To Be Here

After developing a regular practice of being present at our edge and bravely taking those essential, small steps forward, one day we’ll look back to see that we’ve covered a lot of ground. When you look back, it will feel like you’ve spanned a damn-near impossible distance. But here’s the deal with forward movement, whatever your next horizon—be it it be becoming more flexible, more focused, or more financially sound—the only way to get there is to be here. Be exactly here at the frontier that presents itself to you at this moment. But the thing about here is that it’s always changing. No sooner do you get comfortable with the grass at your feet than do you naturally grow toward your next horizon.

When you take ambition out of the practice, you give yourself the perspective of working with your actual edge rather than the edge you hope to be at one day. It’s being present at your actual frontier that gives you the firm ground to step forward into that next step, and the next, and the next… For example, I can’t learn to play Coltrane until I first experience the frontier of learning to play the sax, how to read music and the rudiments of jazz, etc. It’s not until I’m present at those frontiers that new frontiers will open up until one day I’ll find Coltrane’s masterpiece, Giant Steps, dancing out of the bell of my horn while wondering, “How the hell did I ever do that?”

It’s presence that promotes growth because it’s the only thing that’s real. Sure, find your star that guides you forward in your endeavors but the practice itself keeps you grounded in the frontier of the moment. Isn’t that what life is, being present at our frontier of experience while watching our own inevitable evolution? Growth will naturally happen as you’re present with your frontier and making the essential trek of 1 inch, the spot directly in front of your toes.

Finally, the paradox of the frontier is that you’ve already arrived and arrival means never stopping. We must find home by being comfortable in our discomfort. This home is our birthright and the eternal and joyful journey toward our highest self. We have arrived the moment we put ourselves at the frontier and open our vision to simply witness ourselves grow.

Conclusion

Several years ago, I experienced a great revelation about the importance of regularly visiting my frontier through practice. I was leading myself through a Yoga Nidra practice and wanted to hear the wisdom of my own heart to hear whatever it might tell me. I visualized the wisest person I could think of in order to tap into my own inner wisdom. A vision of my favorite prof from college popped into my mind with stark clarity. All my senses were popping: I was sitting in his office and could smell the oiled wood of his desk, see it’s tight-knit, tawny grain, and could hear the buzz of the lights and the squeak of his chair as he leaned back, pondering at the ceiling. There was a moment of generous silence between us as he stroked his beard. Then he looked at me out the corner of his eye. And with a sly, paternal, and loving air said something I’ll never forget. He said, “Whatever you believe in . . . practice it every day.” This event never happened except for in my mind but the truth of it became more real that if it actually had. This was my wise inner-self reminding me to always be at my frontier through practice.


If you’re interested, click here to listen to that same Yoga Nidra practice where I lead you hear the wise person inside of you.

I invite you to consider reevaluating your relationship to practice from being something you do in order to improve to something you do in order to regularly be at your frontier. I invite you to forget about the ambition of practice and simply be present at that frontier and watch how growth naturally happens. And I invite you celebrate the many frontiers you find yourself at in this moment of your life.

Whatever you practice, do it regularly. I hope to practice with you soon

PS

Yoga Nidra

I used to drive around town with a sticker on the back of my truck that read 1,” a nod to a poem that speaks to the greatest frontier I ever hope to arrive at.

“A Spiritual Journey” by Wendell Berry

And the world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles,

no matter how long,

but only by a spiritual journey,

a journey of one inch,

very arduous and humbling and joyful,

by which we arrive at the ground at our feet,

and learn to be at home.





Mantras and Visualizations: Meditations that Sting Like A Bee

“Float like a butterfly. Sting like a bee.”

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muhammad ali.jpg

This was Muhammad Ali’s mantra. Perhaps yoga and mindfulness isn’t often associated with Muhammad Ali, yoga's first principle of non-harming and all that, but he was someone who was particularly adroit in his use of the yogic principle of mantra and visualization. His iconic mantra has become synonymous with a champion. What is the power of mantra and visualization and how can they be used to mold reality like they did for Muhammad Ali, and how can we use these tools to achieve our dreams?




Writing the Script on Reality

Although his mantra practically became his sonic name tag, it wasn’t just a pithy phrase he liked to throw around because it was catchy; it wasn’t his slogan or his attempt at branding himself. Maybe few understood that Ali’s mantra was his access point into his deep inner-source that believed he would be the boxing heavyweight champion of the world. Saying it over and over again was his craft, the practice of helping the logical part of his mind both believe and expect this belief to become reality.

In addition to using his mantra, Muhammad Ali visualized over and over his fight with Sonny Liston where he would win the heavyweight championship. He saw himself win the title thousands of times in his head before ever stepping into the ring. By the time he stepped into the ring, all that was left to do was the final step, the physical practice of what he already knew was true. And Muhammad Ali isn't alone. It was like he theatre of life—he knew the script and on opening night he simply needed to go on stage and perform the play.

It reminds me of a story in the Hindu scripture, The Bhagavad Gita, where the God-turned-mortal Krishna is instructing the warrior prince Arjuna about his duty to fight in an epic battle. At Arjuna’s reluctance, Krishna pulls him aside and informs him that truth and time is not so linear and that the battle has already been fought and won. Knowing this, Krishna told Arujuna that the important thing is that he must go out there and fulfill his dharma, his destiny. Similar to what Ali told himself through visualization and mantra, Krishna told Arjuna to tap into the source of belief of what was already true.

Thought Precedes Form

Many psychologists and neuroscientists will affirm that despite our trust in it, our mind isn’t necessarily the best preceptor of reality; it’s readily subject to prejudice, interpretations, and misapprehension. In yoga philosophy the name for this misapprehension is Avidya, the opposite of clear seeing. Like modern brain science suggests, two people might see the same facts and both have wildly different beliefs about translating those facts. They might even debate what is real. Thus our mind is subject to our own personal beliefs and prejudices. Our mind creates a "reality" from a dizzying array of options suggested by our perceptions, interpretations, and desires. This subjectivity tugs at the very fabric the notion of reality.

Yoga suggests that since our beliefs are so powerful in contributing to our reality, we can use things like mantras and visualization to help us create our reality, perhaps like Muhammad Ali and Arjuna, a reality that somehow in our hearts what we know is already true. We have a bigger part to play in creating our reality than we think. Mantra and visualizations can help.

Beliefs change all the time. One minute you believe in the Tooth Fairy and the next you don’t. In Vedanta, a school of yogic philosophy, the sheath or layer of our being that negotiates beliefs, both conscious and subconscious, is called the Vignana Mayakosha. Yeah, it’s a crazy name this part of our being is perhaps more powerful than we sometimes give it credit.

Dr. Bruce Lipton, an internationally recognized biologist and author who works to bridge science and spirit, says that 95% of our decision making comes from our subconscious. If we can learn to source and even manipulate our subconscious, there's no telling what power we might have over our own world. Visualizations and mantra are two very effective and powerful ways of shaping our world. Muhammad Ali powerfully demonstrated his ability mold his reality of being the heavyweight champion of the world using mantra and visualization.

The Power of Words

Words are powerful. Religious texts like The Bible even says that “In the beginning was the Word . . . and the Word was God.” In the Hindu scripture, The Yoga Sutras, the principle of Satya or truth is the second highest principle behind non-harming because of the power of words. For longer than recorded history, magic, mythic, and religious traditions have regarded certain words, whether vocalized or thought, as both sacred and powerful. I heard one of my yoga teachers, Judeth Lasater, say, “What is worrying but praying for what you don’t want.” Thus is the power of thoughts and words.

So put words to the test. I invite you to choose those words that, like Muhammad Ali, like Arjuna, will manifest your sacred destiny. And I invite you to find a way of reciting them to manifest their power in your life. Maybe you know already your mantra, what words you need to evoke for you to live into your true destiny. Perhaps words like: Power, Clarity, Forgiveness, Strength, etc. Maybe you need to discover what your mantra is.

I invite you to do a meditation in order to distill your clarity on which words are right for you. This meditation doesn’t have to come by spending months in the desert in deep contemplation. Rather, maybe 10 minutes concentrating on clearly answering a few questions for yourself. You’ll know it when it comes. Maybe it will take a few days of meditating for a few minutes each day.

Here’s the mantra-finding process: First, ask yourself what has been reoccurring in your life recently as a theme that you need to pay attention to. Another way to answer this question is to think about what ways the Universe is asking you to grow right now—what challenges are presenting themselves to you now, asking you to grow? Next, don’t allow your thinking mind to take over, here, but rather let the answer to this next question be instinct, the first thing that comes to mind: What does your heart know is your purpose for this world? Distill the answer to these questions down to a phrase or maybe even one word (don’t worry, you can change it if you need to, you don’t have to marry that word for life) but allow yourself to use that word or phrase as your powerful catalyst forward to what you already believe about yourself.

mala beads.jpg

Then, if you’re inclined, grab a mala (you can get these at any crystal and incese, dragon and rainbows shop). They are beaded necklaces with 108 beads on them. The Mala’s will usually have a tassel on them representing the beginning and the end. Hold the mala on the first bead between your right thumb and middle finger, just beyond the tassel. In your mind or aloud, repeat your word or phrase then move to the next bead. Do this over and over again until you come to the end of the mala. If it’s short and you’d like a longer meditation, turn the mala around and repeat the mantra going the other way on the mala until you come back to the tassel. After your meditation watch to see how you see the world differently and how you live into the beliefs that you bring to your mind through mantra.

In addition to discovering your mantra, create a visualization where you see yourself perform what you'd like to arrive for yourself over and over. Remember to use all of your senses and think about it happening in the moment, instead of dreaming for a future. The part of our brain and the part of our consciousness that we are accessing only understand now. Spend a few minutes in visualization to see yourself succeed and just like Muhammad Ali, become the champion of your world.

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Meditations on Happiness

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Meditations on Happiness

We all just want to be happy. We all search to be happier. We are all scouring for clues to solve that mystery as to why we aren’t fully satisfied in life? So we turn to things like yoga and meditation to help solve the happiness mystery. Surely yoga and meditation will help us to be happy, right? Yes they will but maybe not how we think they will. Much of the immediate “happiness” we get from yoga and meditation is fleeting and finite: a nice yoga butt, the ninja-like ability to do a handstand, 5 minutes not worrying about your finances while sitting in meditation. And as soon as we’ve finished class, we often find ourselves disappointed to be in the exact same place we were before class.

The problem occurs when we use yoga and meditation as self-improvement instruments. We say to ourselves, “If I could just improve my flexibility, forget my aching heart, and calm my busy mind, then I’d be happy.” But what if yoga and meditation aren’t for self-improvement at all? What if they are merely tools that help bring us to Awareness? And that’s it. These practices aren’t for self-improvement because the Self doesn’t need to be fixed.

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But beyond that, in a very practical way this Awareness also helps us to find happiness by clarifying to our conscious mind both what we really want in life as well as helping us recognize it when we’ve received it. In truth, Yoga and meditation simply help us to practice Awareness which in turn reveals the true mystery of happiness: that happiness is presence.


Secret No. 1: Don’t Wait for Happiness, You’re Already Perfect


First, and this is one of life’s biggest lessons, yoga and meditation make you happy by giving you the Awareness that everything simply exists and is perfect in that existence. Including you. You’re already perfect. This Awareness also reveals that happiness just exists, the same way everything else does.

One of the secrets to happiness is to realize that we can’t wait for the events in our lives to align perfectly for us to be happy. You gotta stop waiting for the world to make you happy cuz the world just doesn’t care. You gotta start making the decision to be happy despite the events and circumstances in your life because there will always be something other than yourself to blame for the fact that you’re unhappy. You’re in charge of your emotions. Nobody else is responsible for that job, not your partner or spouse, your kids, your job, your teachers, God—nobody but you.

The stone-cold truth is that the events in our lives are neither good nor bad. They just are. It’s the meaning we assign to those events that triggers the emotions we associate as good or bad. And guess who gets to choose the meaning of each event that happens. You do.

Awareness shows you that this moment is all there is. Stop waiting for happiness. There’s never a more perfect time to be happy as the eternal now. Awareness shows you that you gotta stop looking for happiness outside of yourself. You’ll never find it. It doesn’t exist. If you can’t find happiness inside, you’ll sure as shit never find it outside. That’s just Truth with a capital “T.”

One of the oldest vedic mantras, the Gayatri Mantra, thousands of years old, says that if I truly understood the fact that everything comes from Source, I’d see that I’m no different than the happiness I seek, I’d see that happiness is my essence. (Click below to listen to me chanting this mantra.)

I know what you’re thinking, “That’s shit! life’s hard.”

Sure, life’s hard. Yet through Awareness there’s a happiness that can’t be touched by life’s difficulty. Life is beautiful even in our hardest moments because our struggles represent our growth-evolution of learning to see ourselves as the perfect beings we already are. Our life’s struggles are just like those of a new butterfly struggling to break out of its chrysalis, to unfold into its own magnificence. A butterfly won’t survive without those struggles. And like the joy of the butterfly bouncing triumphantly on the wind, one day we too will celebrate every stitch of pain that birthed our unknown wings.

The late, great Leonard Cohen said it perfectly in his lyrics to the song Anthem:

Ring the bells that still can ring,

Forget your perfect offering.

There is a crack in everything,

And that’s how the light gets in.



Even the rhyme is broken yet these are perhaps some of the most succinct and poignant lyrics ever to remind us that we aren’t perfect despite our brokenness, but because of it.

In order to see our perfection through our brokenness, we must learn to be present when painful emotions arise, enough to feel them fully but without letting them define us. The practice is to realize that while we may experience emotions, what we are is fundamentally larger than emotions. And as much as you can be present with emotions, no matter which one, that presence actually serves to reveal the perfect, luminous thing inside of you which is larger than emotions, call it Awareness, Source, God, Spirit, your True Self— whatever. What you are is Awareness experiencing itself as an emotion, like an otherwise unknown being trying on a costume to understand itself. It’s by being present to your emotions through Awareness that reveals the happiness inside of you, a happiness that can’t be touched by events and circumstances

Being present with your emotions is opposite of pretending that emotions don’t exist, especially difficult emotions.They do exist. They just don’t define you. Plus, remember that every emotion is in flux, here one moment and gone the next. Just like everything else in this loving Universe, it’s part of an orbit. Emotions are part of the game of life, a part of the dream. Awareness is the part of you that’s having the dream, the part that never changes, despite any emotion that may visit. In fact, it’s things like emotions that help to reveal yourself as Awareness.

Yoga and meditation cultivate the Awareness that what we are is a spiritual being having a physical experience. We are coming to know ourselves as the Divine, a force that is fundamentally reduced to love. Divine love is in you and in everybody and everything else in the Universe. When you know that, when you feel that, come what may, nothing can touch you. You’ll even be able to experience things like heartache with love.

So while on the surface, yoga and meditation don’t make you happy, they do cultivate an Awareness which reveals some key secrets to happiness. Namely, it reveals that you are a perfect, Divine being, that you can only find happiness within, and that you’re in charge of defining the events that happen in your life. It’s the challenges in our life that help to illuminate our perfection. Awareness teaches you that what you are fundamentally is happiness (Gayatri Mantra) and that you can’t wait for life to align perfectly to “find” happiness. It also teaches us to be present to our emotions because they don’t define you but are valuable tools that help to illuminate the happiness that exists despite the events and subsequent emotions of life.



Secret No. 2: The Cosmic Taco—Place Your Order, Please.

Another way that Awareness leads us toward happiness is by giving us the clarity to know what we really want in life. Despite the fact that we are perfect just as we are, we are nonetheless hardwired to grow and to evolve. This means that it takes Awareness to realize when we’ve outgrown our current situation. Sometimes our growth is cued by a feeling of being disconnected or unsatisfied with what is. Often this is the Universe saying that we’ve outgrown our current condition and that we need to find something else, like a hermit crab whose outgrown their shell.

The dark side of being hardwired for growth means that for some of us, we are always looking for greener grasses. But with presence, we can hold the paradox that this moment is both perfect as it is and that the Universe is calling on us to grow and move away from it. With presence we also recognize that our current situation is the best and only platform for us to step into our next stage of evolution. In fact, failure to do so—both failure to acknowledge our current situation as well as our failure to grow into what’s calling us forward—ironically traps us in what fundamentally isn’t working for us, just like a prison cell. Failure to evolve from a place of grounded presence traps us in a vicious cycle of reliving our old lessons until we are ready to move on. It’ll be just like Groundhog Day but instead of Bill Murray, it’ll be us living out that drama.

Many of us mistake our itch for growth as unhappiness when it’s really just our own call for evolution knocking on our door. It’s like looking down and seeing that the pants that used to fit you just fine are now riding up around your shins. What’s worse is that most of us might feel the need to grow and look for something new but don’t even know what we are looking for. Here’s a perfect example…

Several years ago I needed to find an apartment. I had exactly one week to find a place and move out and I was really feeling the pressure. Despite the fact that I had looked at literally dozens of apartments I felt like my search was going nowhere. I realized that I was looking at apartments and not really knowing what I was looking for. After examining yet one more apartment that left me massively underwhelmed, I realized that I didn’t even know what I was looking for. So, I went home and wrote down precisely what I wanted, about 15 different criteria, everything down to which neighborhood, the price, what kind of amenities—even the architectural style and age of the building. The very next day, I looked at yet another apartment. It didn’t meet the majority of those criteria. That’s because it met ALL of them— Every. Damn. Detail. I went on to spend some very happy years in that apartment.

Many different yoga and meditation traditions say that consciousness precedes form. It was like the Universe was just waiting for me to put in my order, like the invisible person that lives in the speaker box at the drive-thru, happy to serve me as soon as I made up my mind and tell it what I want.

I believe that the Universe is constantly waiting to give us what we want and like any good teacher, if we’re not asking, it’s not giving. Asking for what we want, visualizing it in a way that is current, possible, and positive, is a way that alerts the Universe that we are ready to receive what the Universe has been waiting to offer all along.

I told this story to a good friend and she told me, “You could probably ask the Cosmos for a taco and open up your hand and, boom, a taco would drop into your hands.” Thus a new term was born, “The Cosmic Taco.” I now use this term to refer to telling the Universe exactly what you want. “Um, yeah, could I please get a beautiful place to live, in France, along with my adorable family, a great job that I love that makes me feel loved, fulfilled, and useful? Oh, and could I get that with avocado and hot sauce? Thanks!”

What do you want on your Cosmic Taco? Make a list. Be specific.

Yoga Nidra

Telling the Universe what you want on your Cosmic Taco is useful for so many reasons, but specifically it clarifies to both your thinking mind and simultaneously to Universal Consciousness what you want so it can begin to dish it out. Like I said, most of us are walking around looking for something other than what we have and we don’t even know what it is we are looking for.

For many of us it’s a matter of what we feel we are worthy of. Remember, you’re the Divine having a human experience. It’s your birthright to have EVERYTHING. Don’t be afraid to ask for exactly what you want. You more than deserve it.

As you get clear with what you want, I promise that you’ll start to notice those thing coming to you from many directions. Don’t be surprised if you start to be bombarded by clues, synergies, and opportunities. Even the songs on the radio will start to get on board to somehow sing to what’s coming through for you. Recently I had a powerful experience where I was feeling overwhelmed by the simple perfection of the lyric, “All you need is love,” and a fucking beetle came and literally landed on my hand. “Yeah, Universe, I know it’s the Beatles.”

Has something like that ever happened to you? Probably. Why is that? It think it’s because the Universe operates in an order and once you get onboard with a trajectory, you’ll see how that ordered thing begins to play out. Chances are, these clues for what you wanted were passing you all along but since you had such a dizzying array of options in front of you, each one just as viable as the next, you were simply blinded by all the myriad options to notice them.

One of the things I’ve learned from Yoga Nidra, the fascinating and transformative type of meditation I’m so passionate about, is that the past and future are abstract concepts and the eternal part of us, the one that’s connected to Universal Consciousness, only exists in the now and exists in a universe of YES—always has, always will—so you have to talk to it in ways that is current and positive. It helps to put yourself on your pathway of growth by creating mantras, aphorisms, or prayers that make a positive statement of truth that will help you grow in that direction, like a pole lashed to a tree to help it grow straight. Don’t speak to your perceived lack or the incompleteness, speak to your inevitable wholeness, to what is real and true in the moment and what is leading you to the next thing layer of wholeness. I heard Judith Lasater once say, “What is worrying but praying for what you don’t want.” Pray for what you do want.

Here’s are two examples for a positive mantras that speak to the power of the moment:

“I’m currently on my road to _____________,”

“Inside, I already have everything I need for____________.”

Both of these examples are realistic, positive, and happening in the moment. Both reflect what my therapist has been telling me for years, “Reach for the stars and keep your feet planted on the ground.” Both are mantras that communicate to the Universe what we want and positions it to help us manifest those things.

Awareness therefore brings us happiness by helping us realize that despite being perfect beings living in a perfect moment, we are nonetheless hardwired to grow. It helps us to know when we need to move on, it gives us the clarity to know what we are looking for, and it does so grounded in the positive reality of what is.

David Whyte is a rockstar in my world. Check out what he says about growing into what we feel we are worthy of in this world.

The True Love

The True Love

There is a faith in loving fiercely
the one who is rightfully yours,
especially if you have
waited years and especially
if part of you never believed
you could deserve this
loved and beckoning hand
held out to you this way.

I am thinking of faith now
and the testaments of loneliness
and what we feel we are
worthy of in this world.

Years ago in the Hebrides,
I remember an old man
who walked every morning
on the grey stones
to the shore of baying seals,
who would press his hat
to his chest in the blustering
salt wind and say his prayer
to the turbulent Jesus
hidden in the water,

and I think of the story
of the storm and everyone
waking and seeing
the distant
yet familiar figure
far across the water
calling to them

and how we are all
preparing for that
abrupt waking,
and that calling,
and that moment
we have to say yes,
except it will
not come so grandly
so Biblically
but more subtly
and intimately in the face
of the one you know
you have to love

so that when
we finally step out of the boat
toward them, we find
everything holds
us, and everything confirms
our courage, and if you wanted
to drown you could,
but you don't
because finally
after all this struggle
and all these years
you simply don't want to
any more
you've simply had enough
of drowning
and you want to live and you
want to love and you will
walk across any territory
and any darkness
however fluid and however
dangerous to take the
one hand you know
belongs in yours.

~David Whyte


I love this because your True Love could be your partner/spouse, kids, job, beliefs, or anything.

What is YOUR True Love?

Secret No. 3: What We Need is Here

Not only must we be clear with what we want, but we gotta learn to recognize it when it comes. I think that between knowing what you want and recognizing it when it’s come, the later is the more difficult and will lead us more quickly to enduring happiness. We cant get so driven to see over the next horizon that we fail to recognize that what we wanted all along is actually lying at our feet. It’s the story of the hero’s journey.

Yoga Nidra

Presence opens our eyes to see what is here and what is real. It teaches us that now is a perfect moment, despite whatever’s happening, and that there will never be a better moment than now. Presence shows you that what you want is here. What you want is not the thing over the next horizon, what you want is being here. Being here is being home. Check out what

I love poets because they have to be so present in order to articulate the moment that’s happening right before them. Check out this showstopper by Wendell Berry:

What We Need Is Here

Geese appear high over us,

pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,

as in love or sleep, holds

them to their way, clear

in the ancient faith: what we need

is here. And we pray, not

for new earth or heaven, but to be

quiet in heart, and in eye,

clear. What we need is here.


~Wendell Berry

Yoga Nidra


I invented a magic mantra for happiness that helps me to see that what I need is here. It helps me to realize that this moment is as perfect as any other can be. That mantra is, “This is EXACTLY what I want to be doing in this moment.” I repeat this phrase even and especially if it feels like what I’m doing in this moment is pretty mundane or average because each time I do, it opens my eyes to the perfection of the moment. The perfect moment is defined by what’s happening but rather how I’m choosing to pay attention. Repeating this mantra instantly locks me into presence and takes me out of perpetual search mode. It helps me to lift my head, open my eyes and all the rest of my senses. As I’m writing this, a nice glass of Bordeaux next to me—fruity and bold—and some dark chocolate with sea salt, I feel myself swinging in the flow of this writing, the keys popping rhythmically under my fingers, and I acknowledge that, THIS is EXACTLY what I want to be doing IN. THIS. MOMENT. This is what I want. I can’t tell you how immensely satisfying it is to acknowledge that. This phrase helps to realize that I’m not waiting for the perfect moment, I’m watching it unfold before me.

And as I clarify what I want with presence, I realize that if I’m on my road to higher growth and I’m actively doing what it takes to move me along my path, then this is the only place I can be and therefore exactly where I want to be. So, yeah here is where I need to be and is the essential ground leading me to my next step forward on my path for growth and discovery. This is the harder lesson.

The last poem I want to share, a poem that has become a beloved friend to me, one which express this vital truth of presence, written by one of my heros—the woman, the wonder, the legend, drum roll please — Mary Oliver!

Mindful


Everyday

I see or hear

something

that more or less

kills me

with delight,

that leaves me

like a needle

in the haystack

Yoga Nidra

of light.

It was what I was born for —

to look, to listen,

to lose myself

inside this soft world —

to instruct myself

over and over

in joy,

and acclamation.

Nor am I talking

about the exceptional,

the fearful, the dreadful,

the very extravagant —

but of the ordinary,

the common, the very drab,

the daily presentations.

Oh, good scholar,

I say to myself,

how can you help

but grow wise

with such teachings

as these —

the untrimmable light

of the world,

the ocean’s shine,

the prayers that are made

out of grass?

~Mary Oliver


I love this poem because it points to presence as the key to happiness, to satisfaction. And that without presence, we will never realize it when what we are searching for has arrived at our feet.

It’s my prayer that you find yourself in the Awareness that you are perfect just the way you are. May you have astounding clarity about what you want in life. And may you find yourself reading this and repeating the magic mantra for happiness, “This is exactly what I want to be doing in this moment.”

Thank you for sharing this moment with me.

Going deeper:

  • Remember that you’re perfect the way you are

  • Put in your order for your cosmic taco, make a detailed list of what you want your life to be

  • Regularly practice the magic mantra for happiness, “This is exactly what I want to be doing in this moment,” no matter what you’re doing in that moment.

Please share this with someone. Comment below about what you feel are YOUR secrets to happiness.


Guided Meditations for Sleep

Tuition for Life Lessons: A Mediation on Resentment

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Several years ago, while I was still in college and before I started on my yoga career, I worked in a little loan company processing loans. The man who owned this company (we'll call him "Jeff," mostly because that was his name) taught me several valuable things, many about people and others about myself. While some of the lessons he taught me were very costly both in money and in hurt, it was all great tuition for some essential life lessons.

One of the valuable things Jeff taught me, something I'll remember for the rest of my life, was that even more important than processing people's loans, my real job was connecting to the people I served through the loan business. He taught me that It doesn't matter if you're a doctor, teacher, or loan processor, you're real job is to connect to people. Your 9–5 is just the particular lens through which you're called to connect to others.

He also taught me how to focus under pressure and how to organize my tasks around priority. He taught me things about working with people that I've used everyday since I worked there. He showed me parts of myself waiting to come out.

But this article is about what he taught me about forgiveness. 

Everybody has their Kryptonite. Despite Jeff's shining attributes, he wasn't a very good business person. I grew very concerned the day that my paycheck bounced. When I approached him with this dilemma, he asserted that even though the company was in a little slump, everything would soon be ironed out.

It never was.

I liked Jeff and wanted to hang in there for him until he got things figured out. But eventually, I could see the writing on the wall and after a few months of not getting paid, I finally left. When I walked away, he owed me these few months of back pay. What he owed me was a lot of money for a starving student, not to mention that all this happened coincided with Christmas and the tuition deadline for next semester. 

Even though I was the one who offered to stay, I really thought that Jeff would come through and was really hurt when he didn't. I felt really betrayed. Jeff stopped returning my calls. My feeling of hurt turned into betrayal, turned into a bitterness, turned into obsession. I just couldn't let it go. For a while it was all I could think about.

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I wanted some recourse so I called the Labor Commission and filed a complaint, adding to the other employees at the failed loan office.The process was fraught with bureaucracy and dead ends—unfruitful and painfully slow. Eventually, the courts began to subpoena Jeff to arrive in court. I soon realized that I could easily gain my money back if I were only paid five cents every time I heard the Labor Commission say the phrase, "Your file is under review and we'll notify you once we know anything different."

This empty search continued for over two . . . (I pause for effect) YEARS. Each new attempt to resurrect my file brought me more pain and frustration.

Then one night I had a dream. I dreamed that I met Jeff. I saw him not as the evil person I'd made him out to be but as just a simple dude with a five-o'clock shadow (that's the way he always looked, even at 8 am). In my dream, as soon as I saw him, I suddenly got tired of holding this grudge. I forgave him of the whole thing. Completely. In my dream, Jeff didn't seemed very thankful or changed by that fact, nor did he seem really to even notice, but that didn't matter because I had changed. Instead of angry and dark, I was light and free. So, I woke up that next morning let it go. I let it all go. I was astounded how easily it was to forget about after that moment.

It took me several years to understand that even though Jeff had done me wrong, he still taught me some very valuable things. I began to think that my lost wages as a tuition paid for some very valuable lessons. Unbeknownst to me, my lessons weren't over yet.

One day, more than a decade later, I heard something on the radio that reminded me of Jeff. I hadn't even thought about Jeff since I'd had that dream about a decade previous. By this time in my life, I lived in a completely different town more than 50 miles away and had given up the world of mortgage lending for yoga teaching. I don't even remember what it was on the radio but whatever it was reminded me about all the great things that Jeff had taught me. I felt not only healed from all the resentment and pain but like I'd even grown from the experience I'd had at the failing mortgage office. Proud, I said to myself, "If I ever meet Jeff again, I promise that I will vocally forgive him and thank him for what he has taught me."

Something else I've learned is that when you call out to Destiny, prepare for an all-out a bare-knuckle brawl. She'll come and she'll test you just like you asked her to. She'll give you what you wanted but expect a little more blood—your blood.

Beehive Tea Rom, the cafe where I saw Jeff

Beehive Tea Rom, the cafe where I saw Jeff

So, almost exactly an hour later after calling out to the Universe that I'd forgive Jeff if I ever saw him, I was nursing a cup of Raspberry Mint tea in a cafe when over my shoulder I heard a disturbingly familiar voice. I didn't have to turn my head to know that it was Jeff and despite the warm tea, my insides turned to ice. 

I sat there listening to his voice as I burst into a cold sweat. And despite the fact that I'd just told Destiny that I'd forgive Jeff if I ever ran into him, now that it came to it, I wasn't so sure. I hadn't seen him in a decade. There was bad blood between us. I'd even subpoenaed him in court. Would he even remember me? Would he want to hit me?

As I debated within myself, he started to get up to leave. If I was going to act, it had to be now. I took a deep breath, stood up, and stepped toward him. "Hey, Jeff. I don't know if you remember me but I used to work for you at the mortgage company." He paused for a moment with a stunned look in his eyes. He took a step back probably wondering if I wanted to hit him. I explained to him quite frankly how he had hurt me then just as mater-of-factly said, "But you know what? I forgive you." I then explained to him all the things that I learned from him and that if I ever ran into him, I'd thank him for those valuable life lessons.

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He just stood there stunned. He made no apologies, no explanation. He simply told me that I made his day. I made mine, too.

And no, he didn't write me out a check for the back pay.

That day, I realized that the money I'd lost was a relatively inexpensive tuition for the life lessons I'd learned. Some of the biggest lessons I learned through that experience were that holding a grudge only hurts me and forgiveness heals that hurt. That and to watch out when you call out to Density.

Our yoga and meditation practice is one way of creating intention and therefore dancing with Destiny. It's a way of producing an Awareness to see that even the muddy waters of our bitterness and pain can lead us to see the lotus of our own love, the nature of our True Being. Ultimately, we'll find that our blossoming love rests in our ability to be flexible and teachable to the lessons that beset us each day.

 

Would you mind sharing this?


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Yoga Nidra: Yoga for Anxiety

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Online Yoga Nidra Meditation

Yoga Nidra is a relaxing form of guided meditation that helps you feel amazing. Better than amazing, Yoga Nidra helps you feel like your True Self, the qualities of which can only be described as invincible, expansive, and limitless-calm. Yoga Nidra helps us to see correctly again, in part by using things like emotions, even anxiety, as catalysts to experience our True Selves. We’re hardwired to feel this way all the time, except somehow we all allow things like thoughts, sensations, and emotions to cloud our vision of our True Self. For anyone who is interested in learning to become a certified Yoga Nidra teacher, please read to the end.

To catch the mind and keep it still,

Is no small problem for my porous will;

As many times as I shut it down,
Unceasing thoughts on me rebound

In youth I tried through alcohol,
To ease my stress and cool my gall;
In later years I turned to grass
The effects were good – but did not last.

At last with fading hopes I turned,
To Eastern paths, and my soul yearned
To scale the mystic heights of bliss.
Alas, no easy method this.

And now with age and turmoil weary,
All that’s left me is this query;
Will heart break or mind implode,
Before my vrittis do nirode.
— Swami Shankarananda

Yoga is defined in the Yoga Sutras as the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind, or to come into complete stillness and unperturbed by disruptions of thoughts, sensations, and emotions. Nidra is a state of mind. It’s that interesting liminal, hypnagogic state between waking and dreaming consciousness. Yoga Nidra, therefore is the practice of coming into the Awareness of our True Self through achieving this Nidra state in deep relaxation.

What is Yoga Nidra?

Yoga Nidra is a deep form of self-discovery, like meditation, where you experience your utmost nature of being. It's a very relaxing way of attuning your awareness to all things. Indeed it is the practice of experiencing yourself as Awareness itself.

Yoga Nidra does this by training us to relax and practice deep awareness. In fact, it helps us actually experience ourselves as Awareness itself. According to Yoga Nidra philosophy, our True Nature is Awareness. We feel into our True Nature by learning to relax and simply observe whatever presents itself to us at the moment, be that a thought, a sound, or an emotion or anything else. When you learn to merely observe something rather than react to it, you gain a universal perspective about it and it doesn’t have the power to control you because you’re not identified as it. This is particularly useful for emotions.


Yoga Nidra For Anxiety

Modern psychology helps us to understand how this works, particularly vis-à-vis our emotions. In the late 1950's, Joseph Wolpe, a leading behavior therapist at Stanford University, added to Pavlov's previous ground-breaking work on conditioning by helping those with anxiety using counter-conditioning. Wolpe demonstrated that the symptoms of anxiety were greatly reduced or eradicated when things that would otherwise stress people were presented systematically, bit by bit and paired with a relaxation response.* He showed that anxiety and relaxation cannot be present simultaneously. Therefore, if you can achieve deep relaxation and practice Awareness, then slowly and gradually present to your Awareness what triggers your emotions, you you experience yourself and identify as Awareness that is momentarily experiencing emotion, not emotion itself.

Ego vs. True Self

In our quest to understand ourselves, we tend to identify with anything that seems real. To our rational consciousness, what we can feel, see, smell, etc. seems real. However, all these things are inevitably locked in the realm of the changeable, the Ego. A misapprehension of what I think I am, a definition I learned from Eckhart Tolle in his book A New Earth


Anything you identify with tends to perpetuate. After all, we are hardwired to stay alive and if in someway we misunderstand our being as an emotion, even though it may not be our favorite emotion, we keep wrapping it around ourselves metaphorically, subconsciously afraid to let it go for fear that we will no longer exist without it.

But Yoga Nidra helps you experience and identify as Awareness that is momentarily experiencing emotion, not emotion itself. Then when emotion arises, it doesn’t have the power to overtake you. You see it as just one of the other things in the Universe that has an orbit.

It’s just like everything else in this Universe, making a drive-by along its own orbit.

I invite you to experience your own True Being with Yoga Nidra. I created a free learning module that uses Yoga Nidra to help you with stress. I loved putting it together and I hope it helps if you are working with anxiety.

Online Yoga Nidra Teacher Training

If you are interested in learning how to lead yourself and others through this transformational practice, please consider registering for my Online Yoga Nidra Teacher Training program. By the end of this training you’ll be prepared to teach Yoga Nidra to help countless students discover their True Selves and see beyond momentary emotions like stress and anxiety.

If you know someone who is working with stress or anxiety or who is interested in Yoga Nidra, please forward this. Thank you!


* Wolpe, J. (1958). Psychotherapy by reciprocal inhibition. Stanford. Stanford University Press.

Guided meditation for relaxation

Kissing Cops and Gilets Jaunes

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So, one afternoon as I was walking back to our apartment, I ran into a protest led by the Gilet Jaunes. I’m not sure if you’re up on French politics but the Gilet Jaunes are a group of protesters, a movement that’s been happening in France since November, 2018. These are yellow-vest-wearing protestors who oppose mostly the financial direction of the French government, namely the raising of taxes on certain things like gas.

Now you gotta remember that since the French Revolution, protesting for the French people has been a national pastime—they truly identify the ability to call bullshit on the government.

Well, unlike most protests in France, this one’s gotten violent at times and thousands of people have been arrested and several people have even died. Before coming to France, I was boning up on my language skills, listening to the French news, and hearing about these protests and I really hoped that I didn’t encounter any of them while I was in France.

Like I said, one day, I’m walking back to my apartment and I’m pushing my son in the stroller through one of the main squares in Nice, Place Garibaldi, when I see a Gilet Jaunes protest happening. But this is Nice, where everything is more tranquil and more laissez-faire and so instead of protesters lobbing bricks and molotov cocktail bombs, these protestors (most of whom couldn’t even be bothered to wear the damn yellow vest) looked like they were gossiping, dancing, or otherwise enjoying an afternoon together in the square. People were sharing cheese.

Now whenever a protest happens in France, the French riot police automatically show up. So on the other side of the square, a safe distance from the half-hearted Nice faction of the Gilet Jaunes, was a full arsenal of riot cops: big dudes who look like they were recently pulled from a rugby field somewhere but instead of rugby jerseys, they were wearing Kevlar armor.

I don’t care how tough you are, in France you greet your friends, both men and women, with a kiss on both cheeks. So I witnessed these riot cops filing out of their battle vans and arriving on the “riot scene,” each big and burly cop, dressed to the teeth for battle, greeting EVERY other cop with a gentle kiss on both cheeks. This created something akin to a wedding line of kissing cops.

Sure, there may be civil unrest but it’s no reason to be uncivilized. I wished I could have pulled out my phone to capture that priceless moment of lackadaisical protestors and kissing cops but I feared that doing so would violate some unspoken code of propriety so I merely pushed my stroller along my way.

A few days later, while I was holed up, writing in the apartment, Sen and Elio were down at the beach enjoying themselves until a really, really, obnoxiously drunk guy came up and started to harass everyone in the vicinity. Another guy, not far from Sen and Elio who was trying to enjoy the beach was really getting bothered by Drunk Guy

France has really increased its military presence in public places in the last few years due to terrorist attacks and so it’s not uncommon to see the camo-and-beret-clad, machine-gun-and-flack-jacket sporting army dudes patrolling in little platoons around town.

Well, the guy on the beach (heretofore known as Angry Guy) had finally reached his boiling point with Drunk Guy (who really was being an ass) and Angry Guy made a big to-do toward the nearest beret with a machine gun to do something about Drunk Guy.

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Army Dude then very calmly walked down the stairs from the Pramenade to the beach, loaded machine gun strapped to his chest, and spoke gently to Drunk Guy and Angry Guy. He then gently helped Drunk Guy by the arm up the stairs, away from the beach toward the Pramenade. Drunk Guy proceeded to sit on the 20’ wall overlooking the beach, fall off said wall (only 20’) get back up without anything broken, including his bottle of wine.

At this point, Army Guy gently walked down the stairs again and helped Drunk Guy up the stairs and sent him walking along his way with an encouragement to stop bothering people.

As Sen told the story, it was clear that Army Guy had 100% of the power. Drunk Guy was of African decent, by the way. But despite Army Guy’s power, he was still the most civilized, gentle, and rational one of the bunch and the entire event passed such that the perfect afternoon in Nice wasn’t disturbed by any unnecessary violence or drama. The worst thing that happened was probably the headache for Drunk Guy the next day who vaguely remembered falling off a wall . . . and something about camouflage.

A few days later, I was sitting in a cafe with Elio—I was writing in my journal and sipping an espresso while he was munching on a croissant—when a small platoon of these Army Guys came in, grabbed a few tables and proceeded to munch on their own croissants and espressos before heading off to make their patrols. Apparently this happens every day at this cafe.

What all of these snapshots show me is that even in times of unrest there can be civility, culture, and even gentleness

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Meditations on Snow

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This is a picture of the Buddha.

 

He's in there somewhere, hibernating, meditating.

The Buddha is sitting where he likes it best, summer or winter: on the deck above the carport.

Meditations on Snow

He doesn’t need to be on display, doesn’t need to brag to his massive Instagram following (and you should see it) that he’s been meditating under this blanket of snow for the last 42 hours.

He’s doing it now. Simply being. Watch him go. Or not go.

It’s quiet, standing in the snow just watching him.

Don’t we all have a Buddha in there somewhere? Maybe he’s hibernating, maybe he’s sleeping, but he’s there. It's the ability to simply be with what is, even if that's buried under several inches of snow.

This is a beautiful time of year sit by the fire, close your eyes, and go inside.
Winter snows brings life water all year long.

 

Here’s my favorite winter poem by Billy Collins which is perfect for this time of year.

Shoveling Snow With Buddha



In the usual iconography of the temple or the local Wok

you would never see him doing such a thing,

tossing the dry snow over a mountain

of his bare, round shoulder,

his hair tied in a knot,

a model of concentration.

Sitting is more his speed, if that is the word

for what he does, or does not do.

Even the season is wrong for him.

In all his manifestations, is it not warm or slightly humid?

Is this not implied by his serene expression,

that smile so wide it wraps itself around the waist of the universe?

But here we are, working our way down the driveway,

one shovelful at a time.

We toss the light powder into the clear air.

We feel the cold mist on our faces.

And with every heave we disappear

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and become lost to each other

in these sudden clouds of our own making,

these fountain-bursts of snow.

This is so much better than a sermon in church,

I say out loud, but Buddha keeps on shoveling.

This is the true religion, the religion of snow,

and sunlight and winter geese barking in the sky,

I say, but he is too busy to hear me.

He has thrown himself into shoveling snow

as if it were the purpose of existence,

as if the sign of a perfect life were a clear driveway

you could back the car down easily

and drive off into the vanities of the world

with a broken heater fan and a song on the radio.

All morning long we work side by side,

me with my commentary

and he inside his generous pocket of silence,

until the hour is nearly noon

and the snow is piled high all around us;

then, I hear him speak.

After this, he asks,

can we go inside and play cards?

Certainly, I reply, and I will heat some milk

and bring cups of hot chocolate to the table

while you shuffle the deck.

and our boots stand dripping by the door.

Aaah, says the Buddha, lifting his eyes

and leaning for a moment on his shovel

before he drives the thin blade again

deep into the glittering white snow.

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Tantraic Meditation: A Simple but Powerful Practice

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Tantra Meditation


Tantra is a school of yogic thought. It’s a Sanskrit word which comes from the root words Tan meaning to expand and Tra meaning liberation. So, Tantra is the practice of expanding into liberation. The essence of practicing Tantra is to get the energy to flow into all areas of your life: your job, family life, sexuality, and spirituality or devotion.

Tantra Meditation

Prana, or life-force energy, is the driver that makes everything flow with ease in your life. Learning to activate and manipulate your prana is essential to practicing Tantra. Prana is a part of your being that is more subtle than your breath and more gross than your thought. Therefore, thinking about your breath or visualizing your breath is an excellent way to get your prana to flow.

This Tantra meditation is great for getting prana to flow through your entire system of body, mind and spirit. It's an excellent regular practice to help you create a generative, embracing, and passionate flow for the energy of all areas in your life. This meditation will also help if you have stuck energy in particular chakras or if there are areas in your body that need some attention or seem to be calling all the attention. This meditation will help to generate and cultivate sacred sexual energy, not only for the act of making love, but for all the generative, passionate, and loving areas in your life. Don't be surprised if by doing this meditation regularly you begin to find yourself diving passionately into your work, family life, love life, healing endeavors, devotion to the Divine, etc.

I might suggest doing this meditation for at least 5 minutes a day, for a few weeks.

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How To Do This Meditation:

  • Set a time for 5 minutes or more.

  • Sit down, close your eyes, and begin long, slow breaths using ujjaiyi breath (breathing deeply in and out of the nostrils using a gentle whisper in the back of the throat to help elongate the breath).

  • Touch the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth while keeping your lips closed. This is a special type of mudra or gesture that closes an energy circuit in your body and also helps to not tense your jaw while doing this technique.

  • As you inhale, contract mula bandha, the deep muscles in the pelvic floor, and visualize a bright white light traveling from the floor of your pelvis up the back of your spine to the crown of your head.

  • As you exhale, relax mula bandha and allow the white light to travel down the front of your spine to rest again in the floor of your pelvis.

  • Continue to contract mula bandha every time you breathe in and visualize the light traveling upward along the back of your spine, and relaxing mula bandha every time you breathe out and visualize the bright light descending back down the front of your spine into the floor of your pelvis.

  • When the timer rings, relax and feel your seat on your cushion for a few seconds as you ground before you finish your meditation.

I’d suggest doing this meditation for 5 minutes or more a day for at least 5 days in a row or more. Give it a shot and send me an email or leave a comment about how it worked for you.

Please share this post!

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Pratyahara: Meditation and Breathwork for a Deep Inner-Journey

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I want to talk about Pratyahara and offer a helpful breathing practice to accompany it. First I feel I need to give it a little context.

Yoga 101

Yoga is old. One of the earliest mentions of yoga comes from the Rig Veda, one of the oldest vedic texts dating somewhere around 1700–1100 BC. So, OLD.

Patanjali was a yoga scholar (some say a school of thought—doesn’t matter) around 200–500 CE who wrote a generalized guide to yoga called The Yoga Sutras. Sutra is a Saskrit word meaning suture or stitch. The Yoga Sutras are therefore 196 verses “stitched” together in order to create a larger patchwork of what yoga’s main goal is and how to practice it.

In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali starts by defining yoga as the ability to calm the mind into stillness to arrive at a state of Oneness with all things. He outlines 8 limbs of yoga or ways to practice arriving at this Oneness. These 8 limbs are presented from gross to subtle ways to practice yoga.

The 8 Limbs of Yoga

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The first limb is the Yamas or outward observances, the way we treat the world. If we’re assholes to everyone around us, we’re missing the essential point that somehow I’m everything and only hurting myself.

Second is Niyamas, or inner observances, the way I treat my inner comportment, my cleanliness, contentment, and ability for self-discovery through work and submission.

Third comes yoga Asanas, or the poses, how literally applying this knowledge to the body, mind, and spirit of my personal being and attempting to discover the unification of all of these. This is what most of us refer to when we think of yoga. That’s fine—you don’t have to start practicing at the beginning—whatever gets you onto the path.

Fourth, Pranayama refers to how this work affects one’s energy through breathwork and other energy manipulation through the chakras, or primary energy stations located along our spine.

Fifth, and this is what I want to talk about most today, come Pratyahara or gaining control over external influences and learning to withdraw from our senses as the entrance into the inner-being.

Photo by  Alex Adams

Photo by Alex Adams

Sixth is Dharana, or fixed concentration on one thing.

Seventh, Dhyana, deeper concentration where you begin to lose your sense of individuality and the object you’re observing start to merge.

Lastly the eights limb is Samadhi, or the state of Oneness.

So now you’ve got probably more information than you need about yoga philosophy and ancient texts, what does this Pratyahara business have to do with me?

If you’ve ever tried meditating, you’ve likely tried at least a few ways of meditating and discovered one or two ways that really help you to go deep into your meditation, where something begins to happen and we start to get that meditation hit that everyone is talking about. In part, this ability to go deeper into ourselves starts with Pratyahara.

The senses are a wonderful tools of cultivating presence. Paying attention to our senses help us wrangle in our wild and wandering mind to a state that is here and now. We’ve used our senses perhaps with the “There Is” Practice or similar practices. However, getting stuck into this mode of paying attention to what is outside maintains external attention and might prevent a deeper inner-journey. So, learning to move beyond our senses inward to a state of raw here-and-now-ness may deepen your meditation practice.

Your senses are always firing and constantly giving the brain information. In fact, there’s so much information happening all the time, that our brains have to learn to filter and select what is essential and what it can turn off. Pratyahara experiments with learning to turn ALL the senses off to find a state of deeper inner-awareness on our pathway to discover that the answers are within instead of outside of us.

To to practice Pratyahara start by listening to your senses and then go inward beyond them.


Breathing Practice to Complement Pratyahara

Here’s a breathing practice followed by a meditation that can help you with just this

Brahmari: Bumble Bee Breath

Brahmari breath is kinda weird so bear with me. What you do is sit, close your eyes, and place your hands on your face with your index fingers over your eyebrows, your middle fingers covering your eyes, fourth fingers just below your nostrils, and little fingers under your lips. Your fourth and fifth fingers therefore create a cradle around your mouth. Your thumbs gently plug your ears. This closes all the exits, except your nostrils. Now, you release your pinkies to take in a big breath through your mouth, replace your pinkies and close your mouth and let out a long hum until you have no more breath. When you’re empty, breathe in again and do another round. Continue for several rounds. Have fun with this: try high pitches, low pitches, make up little tunes— whatever. Ideally, you’ll drown out all other senses except the sound of your own humming in your head.

You may also choose to omit the crazy hands-to-face business and use earplugs and an eye mask—less adventurous but probably just as effective.

This practice will confirm to your neighbors peeping through the windows that yes, you finally have gone nuts and that they should probably look for another neighborhood. Better just to have some private space to do this.

After several minutes of this, keep your eyes closed and choose a meditation that cultivates a strong internal focus, something like mantra meditation or mindfulness meditation.

I might suggest using the Insight Timer and setting your timer for 20 minutes using an interval bell to ding after 5 minutes. Do the Brahmari breath for 5 minutes and after the interval bell dings, try a mantra or mindfulness meditation for the remaining 15 minutes.

This will be a great 20 minute practice to really cultivate inner-focus.

If you’re curious, give this a shot and let me know how it goes.

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Seeing the Finger of God: New Directions in Jazz

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In 2003, I attended a life-changing concert—Herbie Hancock teamed up with other jazz greats such as Michael Brecker and Roy Hargrove in a quintet to celebrate the music of Miles Davis and John Coltrane, both of whom would have turned a heavenly 77 that year. The two horn players chosen to honor those dead gods of Jazz have themselves now passed on, Brecker in 2007 and Hargrove in 2018, and can count themselves in the numbers of saints who come marching in.

https://www.montreuxjazz.com/herbie-hancock

https://www.montreuxjazz.com/herbie-hancock

Whether yoga asana or jazz, both modes point to that Oneness of being we all share. Both point to and celebrate spirit. The following is a story about this pointing.


Holy


It was Spiritual. There was a moment in the concert when the horns were off stage allowing the rhythm section to solo. The concert hall was dark except for three dim spotlights, each illuminating a musician on stage. Herbie Hancock was hunched over his keys popping dissonant chords like ice on a red-hot stove. John Patitucci's fingers blurred and tangled as they whirred around the fretboard of his double bass. The drummer was nimbly tap-dancing around his set. Popping, clinking, banging, like someone rummaging through a junk drawer. Then, each musician began to play as if oblivious to the other musicians. All three seemed to abandon the song's underlying structure, the musical map that makes playing together possible. They were alone, lost and consumed in the rite of making their own art. Time began to slip away and it became more of an abstract idea than a perceptible pulse. Impossible to find a down-beat.

The music floated like this for eternally long minutes. I could see the music personified on the furrowed brows and grimaces of the musicians. Their notes were together turbulent, raging, furious, and at times lackadaisical. I drifted with the music. Despite the musical trip, however, something was gnawing at me. It was my rational mind wondering how the music could possibly come back together from this entropy, this chaos. I could see no signs that the musicians were following any sort of map in the song's structure. How would the horns know when to come in and start the melody again, the head? How would the rhythm section come back together? And with these questions, my eyes fixed upon the musicians, hypnotized to the scene before me. Afraid to miss a single note, I stared wide-eyed, wondering what would happen next. Minutes and seconds had ceased.

And after an age, suddenly the horns were back on stage. Without a word, and without a cue, without a gesture, not even a glance, the rhythm section simultaneously aligned to a slow, swung 4/4 meter at the precise fraction of a second that both sax and trumpet blew a soft, low, singular, note. The timbre of this note could not be discerned by the nature of the instruments; it was both sax and trumpet. A third horn. A new name. Invisible but right in front of me. And with this new horn they began the head.

All five were playing as individuals, carving out their own signature and personalities with their instrument. Yet despite the apparent autonomy, chaos, and dissonance, every sound by each musician originated from the same steady beat of one shared heart. It is this heart that makes the maps and this heart that sews the musicians together with an invisible thread. My soul was witnessing a miracle. As I watched and heard them play, I was sensing this shared, invisible heart. I was seeing the finger of God.

So What


Like the music, the concert itself had underlying form and context. It was like a séance, summoning Miles Davis and John Coltrane from the grave back to the terrestrial stage, luring them with their own music. In the spirit of Miles Davis and John Coltrane, Herbie's quintet played the music like Miles and Trane would have played it—decidedly different than Miles and Trane would have played it. Different was the context.

Miles Davis and John Coltrane have always been mysteries to me. Mysteries because the beautiful yet complex music they created during their spin on this globe were only facsimiles of what was written on their souls and in their minds. Each time I listen to a Miles or Coltrane record, I search for clues about what was in their souls. Where was their genius. Their records are only blueprints, but by studying these blueprints, someday I hope to hear what their souls were calling out to the world—to me. For now, though, I am a young student to the world of jazz and only have ideas of what these geniuses were singing. Most of it remains a mystery to me.

I WILL BE YOUR LIGHT IN THE WILDERNESS

Directions_in_Music.jpg

To miss the Herbie Hancock Quintet, billed as Utah's hottest jazz event of the year, was almost reason enough to pass up the invitation to go and teach English in Korea for a year. I went to Korea. I arrived as winter was setting in and after a few long, cold months in this new and foreign world of Korea, I finally got a weekend off. While on a bumpy train headed south to sunnier Busan, I happened to notice an ad hidden in the corner of an English newspaper. It announced that in two weeks, the Herbie Hancock quintet would be in Seoul performing the same concert I had missed in Utah. I almost jumped out of my seat with surprise and joy. The Universe likes to spoil me from time to time.

Providence may have brought Herbie Hancock to Korea but I still had my work cut out for me if I wanted to go to the concert. First I had to get a ticket. This was before buying your ticket on the internet was really a thing. My Korean pair-teacher, Eun-hee, my tag-team partner in the MMA ring of teaching children, made several necessary phone calls to Seoul and spent a lot of time helping me secure a ticket. She even paid for my ticket using her own bank account to wire the money. I paid her back in cash. Without a Korean speaker, getting a ticket would have been nearly impossible.

Even after the arduous task of procuring a ticket, it took several days and much drama, to cover my classes. The decision to allow me to go and ask other teachers to take my classes went all the way to the director of our school. Despite the fact that I already had my ticket, ultimately going to see Herbie Hancock was in his hands. He was concerned about the school's constant shortage of native English-speaking teachers. After several days of deliberation he finally he acquiesced and allowed me to go.



PILGRAMAGE


With a ticket waiting for me in Seoul, I taxied to Yousong, a part of town in Daejeon where I was living, and bought my bus ticket to Seoul. While waiting for the bus to leave, I found a bakery. There was nothing good, so instead I went outside and sat on the edge of a shadow in the hopes of catching the last rays of a tepid sun. I faced the sun, closed my eyes and let it penetrate my closed eyelids. I drank it.

During my two and a half hour ride to Seoul I read Dostoevsky's words of devils and angels, saints and sinners, of children. I read of Devils becoming angles. It reminded me that the Universe is mostly good with some interesting variations of good that some call “bad” thrown into the mix.

With only a small day pack stuffed with Karamazov, a subway guide, and my toothbrush, I arrived in Seoul and then hopped onto the subway to make my way to the stop nearest Kung Hee University, the concert venue. As I stepped from the subway station, the winter afternoon met me with a bitter chill. It was cold and sunny, bright and sharp. The oblique rays of the afternoon sun did little to chase away the goose bumps on my skin.

I walked around busy Seoul streets for a while following signs to Kung-hee University. After asking several times for directions I finally arrived at the university. After several more requests for directions to the concert hall, I finally found my the long awaited destination of my pilgrimage. As I walked up a hill I saw the concert hall standing before me like a giant. It was designed after a renaissance cathedral. It looked like Westminster Abbey to me.

Kyunghee University Grand Peace Hall

It had stained glass windows and large, ornate doors, arched ceilings, etc. Its two towers reached high into the deep blue sky like arms to heaven.
Considering all my trouble of getting the ticket, I couldn't shake the pessimistic feeling that somehow, something would prevent me from going to the concert. I had to get my ticket in my hand before I'd believe I was going to see Herbie Hancock in concert. Entering the giant front doors, my lone footsteps echoed off the marble floors as I walked in search of someone who could give me my ticket. A nice woman told me in broken English that they would not being to issue tickets until six. It was only four thirty. Okay, maybe I was a little paranoid. But before leaving to look for a motel room for the night, I decided to look inside the enormous hall to see what it looked like.

Inside I saw a man on the stage warming up on a stand-up bass. Someone in a sound booth above my head shouted to the bassist to plink and on the piano a bit to get a reading. To my complete amazement, Herbie Hancock, having been summoned by his own instrument, walks onto the stage carrying a folder with his music. He was impossible to mistake; impeccably dressed: hip, thick rimmed glasses, a dark suit over a deep purple shirt, and a monotone tie —stylish, modern, but not loud. Herbie replaced the bassist on the piano. I was sitting in the front row of the hall, only fifteen feet from Herbie Hancock! Then it dawned on me that I was about to get a personal, pre-concert concert.

The bass player/part-time piano plinker turned out to be John Patitucci, a highly acclaimed bass player and bandleader billed for this tour. I was surprised at the obsequious deference he gave Herbie. After all, he's no rookie. Moreover, he'd been touring with Herbie for more than a year, and after a year of playing with someone, I assumed that they'd be chummy. Perhaps the marking of a true student is one who recognizes the master.

https://www.celebrity-direct.com/hire-jazz-musicians-classic-broadway-singers/hire-herbie-hancock/

https://www.celebrity-direct.com/hire-jazz-musicians-classic-broadway-singers/hire-herbie-hancock/

Then the sound check began. Herbie and John pulled out the sheet music that Herbie toted onto the stage and together they penciled in some changes, analyzing the music meticulously, note by note, measure by measure. Later in the performance, when they came to that reworked spot, I'd never have guessed that they hadn't been born playing it perfectly.

Soon, Michael Brecker—rigid, tall, quiet— walked onto the stage, saxophone in hand. He stood listening to the rhythm section and would often play a head or a solo to give context to the rhythm sections chords. A few minutes later on swaggered the trumpet player Roy Hargrove. He was as laid back and cool as they come. He sat, so lazily that he almost lay, on a stool a couple paces away from the band. This acted as sort of his ring corner when the rhythm section or Brecker was going at it. He sat listening, lost in his own thoughts, and raised his trumpet to play when the music called for it.

Once during the sound check, the rhythm section was plowing through some chords and Roy Hargrove pulled up his horn and played a line. To me it sounded like any regular jazz line but Michael Brecker broke his frozen stance and burst out with a guffaw, looked over to Roy Hargrove, and shouted, "Good one!" Roy was telling jokes on his trumpet. I wished I understood the punch line—musically esoteric. A few minutes later, still in a joking mood, Roy Hargrove began a solo, this time using the melody to Kenny Rogers's country hit, The Gambler.

During the sound check, I had the rare chance to witness not only these musicians' music, but more importantly I got to see their personalities, raw and exposed in a way that is impossible in front of a crowded concert hall. Herbie was funky, funky, funky, like an old southern woman cooking fried chicken on the porch. Herbie had wonderful blues face: a painfully blissful grimace evoked by the music.

Michael Brecker was stiff, reserved, tall, foreboding, and looming. I could sense that he has secrets going on behind his quiet eyes. By this time, he was experiencing the deleterious effects of Leukemia.

Roy Hargrove was there to play. He's got secrets, too but he's so hip, he knows that even he doesn't even understand them.

John Patitucci has a happy, kind face. He's defining characteristic is his virtuosity on his bass. Still, he isn't trying to prove anything. He just does it and does it damn well.

https://www.express.co.uk/entertainment/films/802783/Willy-Wonka-Gene-Wilder-Charlie-Golden-Ticket-Chocolate-Factory

https://www.express.co.uk/entertainment/films/802783/Willy-Wonka-Gene-Wilder-Charlie-Golden-Ticket-Chocolate-Factory

The drummer (I forget his name) was a great drummer—a furry but never over bearing. He knew his place. He was actually a replacement for Brian Blade, the regular drummer who couldn't finish the tour.

I also had the chance to see them carve into and analyze the music, measure-by-measure, analyzing chords, rhythms and harmonics. They talked about the music as if they were seeing it for the first time. Everyone offered suggestions and they penciled them in.


After two hours of this pre-concert concert, the ushers shoed me out. By now it was late enough that I was able to get my ticket from the ticket office, which I stashed safely away in my wallet. I felt like I was Charlie Bucket finding a golden ticket.

The concert still didn't start for an hour and I hadn't found a motel room for the night. It was dark outside as I left the concert hall. The cold blew through my canvas coat unmercifully. Walking down the busy streets near the university, it didn't take long to see that the neighborhood of Seoul I was in was more suited to a nightclub a nice, clean motel. As I began to walk, I realized that I hadn't eaten since breakfast and instead of worrying about a motel, I concentrated on getting something to eat. I decided on pizza. Unfortunately, it was only a take out restaurant, so I took my pizza next door to Baskin Robins and ate it sitting at a one-person table. I wasn't in the mood for ice cream but I needed to rent a table so I bought a jr. cup of Chocolate Brownie and watched it melt as I ate my small pizza.

I finished dinner and headed back through the crowded streets to the concert hall. I walked back into the lobby of the concert hall, which was teaming by now with hundreds of people. I saw Herbie Hancock CDs for sale (recorded at an earlier concert) and without hearing a note, I had to have one. I couldn't help myself.

The concert was only minutes away. I entered the hall and easily found my seat in the back of the hall on the ground level. As I sat there, an island in the sea of this great hall, I relaxed and mused on fact that everything had fallen into place. Eventually, the lights dimmed and the band came out onto the stage. The crowd roared with applause. As soon as the lights began to dim, I followed about 50 other cheap ticket buyers, and bolted for an empty seat closer to the stage.


HYMN

The concert was flawless. The musicians' communication must have been very subtle because throughout the entire concert, no one spoke a word, no one nodded or gave any sort of cues, but all five were in sync the entire time, playing exactly at the right time when someone's solo finished, or when there was a segue into another song, or when the timing suddenly changed to something very abstract.


Herbie played elegantly and assertively dissonant. He was Herbie Hancock: funkiness embellishing polished musical prose. Over the almost 6 decades that he's been playing music, Herbie, like Miles and Coltrane, has invented many of the contemporary rules of jazz. Much of the joy of this evening was the rare pleasure of seeing a master of masters at work and watching him have so much fun doing it.

The entire concert had a Herbie flavor. Herbie was the roux in the gumbo, holding it all together.

https://www.rockol.it/testi-di/roy-hargrove

https://www.rockol.it/testi-di/roy-hargrove

I loved Roy Hargrove's playing. It was heartfelt, cool, and at times manic. He wasn't trying to be a diva. He wasn't trying to be another Miles Davis. Roy was an interpreter, expressing in his own language what he read from blueprints to the soul THE master of jazz. He was Roy Hargrove putting a spin on Miles tunes. The spin was the point. Miles spun.

One my favorite songs of the night was a song that Roy Hargrove wrote, called The Poet. It honors Miles and tells an emotional musical story about Miles' character. When Roy took his solo, I was particularly honed to what Roy was saying with his trumpet. As he played, he told me: if you look in your heart, look deep inside, look way down, keep going deeper, and listen really carefully, amid the discord of life you will find the answer to what you are looking for. You'll find the peaceful and beautiful melody of your deepest inner soul. But be patient and diligent because it will be fleeting; nonetheless, be privy to it. It's there and it's the peace and joy that always resides in you.

https://fanpix.famousfix.com/gallery/michael-brecker

https://fanpix.famousfix.com/gallery/michael-brecker

Michael Brecker was the greatest surprise. I had never seen him play and from what I judged of his personality during the sound check, he seemed more like an emotionally repressed corporate lawyer or stockbroker than an expressive sax player. But when he sprang for a solo during the concert, he really sang from his soul; he didn't just play notes. Somehow both his contemplative stage presence and his wildly expressive solos portends his death 4 years later. Michael Brecker died January 13, 2007. The fact that I was able to see this modern sax genius is now invaluable to me.

He really showed his soul and mastery of his instrument during his solo piece, Naima, the infamous and signature Coltrane ballad. At one point during Naima, it sounded like Michael Brecker wasn't even blowing into his horn but rather screaming into it, his eyes squinted shut, his fingers ripping up and down the keys. I was amazed that someone so apparently closed could express so earnestly and honestly.

https://news.jazzline.com/news/airport-tsa-instrument-damage-john-patitucci-bass/

https://news.jazzline.com/news/airport-tsa-instrument-damage-john-patitucci-bass/

John Patitucci was a storyteller with his music. At the beginning of So What/Impressions, the rest of the band left the stage and gave John 10 minutes alone to tell his story. He sounded and looked like he was praying—pouring his heart out to God as he plucked deep, warm, notes from his strings.

John showed me that music is like a novel or a play—full of wit, rhetoric, surprises, and plot twists. As he was hunched over his bass, his fingers were plucking out his story, and it felt like he was leading us through a gothic castle by the light of a candle, showing the tapestries, the candelabras, the great halls. During his tour, suddenly and without any notice, he jumped hard on a low and inharmonic note. It startled me, like he was throwing open closet door with a skeleton inside. Surprises.

CODA


The band played for two and a half hours and finished with two encores. As the house lights came on people began to shuffle to the doors. I was in awe of what I'd just seen. I was glad I was alone because I didn't want to talk to anyone. I was speechless. I eventually left my seat and entered the already packed lobby. But before going out the door and leaving to find a motel, something inside me said, "Stop. Just be in this moment. Something is going to happen . . . " And there I stood, looking at ornate architecture of the concert hall, my mind poring over the concert and I wondered how I could put it all into words.

I hadn't paused for more than two minutes when my attention focused on a nearby crowd of about 10 people. They were gathering around the stage manager who had just came from back stage. I remembered him from the sound check. I heard the stage manager say to them in English, "I'll ask Herbie if he has time to see you," after which there was brief silence, a quick Korean translation by one better English speakers followed by an outburst of undefiled giddiness. I didn’t know who these giggling girls were but I decided that under no circumstances was I going to not somehow accompany them to see Herbie Hancock. A few minutes later, the stage manager came back and announced to them that they could come back inside the concert hall and after Herbie finished talking to a reporter, they could go backstage and meet them. I simply melted into their numbers as they slipped back through the auditorium doors to wait for the chance to go backstage. They were quite an intimate crowd and it wasn't long before they noticed the stray white guy hanging around. Instead of pushing me away, though, they warmly befriended me.

Apparently, they were part of an organization that is based loosely around Buddhism and celebrates world peace through music. They said that Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter (sax player and musical brother of Herbie for many decades) are among the organization's principle and most prestigious members. My new friends admitted that none of them knew Herbie Hancock's music very well. In fact, they admitted that they were only recently trying to learn to appreciate jazz so as to support Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter. It was the first jazz concert that any of them had ever been to.

During the 15 minutes that we were waiting for the stage manager to come back, I swapped email addresses with at least five people as others flashed photos of me. I was the exotic stray white guy.

Eventually, the stage manager came back and said that we could go back stage. We rushed down back hallways to a posh and dimly-lighted waiting room. Herbie was standing, talking to a reporter as a photographer busily flashed photos. Roy Hargrove, in his usual stance, half sat, half lay on a low plush chair near the wall. He looked like he'd just hopped out of a hot tub after a hard day's work—spent. His long dreads were covered by an enormous bini and he was wrapped in a gray, wool, New-York-style coat that came to his knees.

My rule against pestering celebrities for autographs was overridden by the magnitude of this moment. Having unwrapped my CD and removed the insert, I timidly approached Roy Hargrove. I couldn't help but sound like an obsequious snail as I peeped out, "Mr. Hargrove, your music was very spiritual to me." He looked at me for a moment and paused, a little surprised by my words. "Thank you," another pause. "Thank you." I could sense that this was the end of our meaningful conversation and so I asked, "Would you please?" as I handed him a pen and the cd insert. He said nothing, only flashed his autograph across my insert. I thanked him and he nodded back in a tired response, only the way a jazz cat can.

I saw the drummer (damn, I wish I remembered his name) lingering about and he politely signed my cd sleeve.


Now Herbie was done talking to the reporter and my newly adopted family, the family of the jazz challenged, was showering him with flowers and gifts and snapping photos. He smiled and happily spoke to us as a group. Even after his long performance, Herbie was amicable and appreciative of our praise. He gladly signed autographs and smiled as he smelled each bouquet that was thrust into his arms. All I could do was stand there as part of the crowd. I wanted to blurt out, like a puberty stricken high school kid, "Herbie! even if these people don't know Hancock from Handel, I know you to be a musical legend and I understand this concert in context of the last 50 years of jazz and modern music. Thank you for this concert. It is a dream come true!" My thoughts must have been printed on my forehead because just as he said he couldn't sign any more autographs, he took my cd sleeve, signed it, and graciously bowed out.

HA! Triumph! I couldn't believe this was happening to me.

Michael Brecker was standing talking to some other stage managers, and understandably loathing us for keeping Herbie, and therefore him, from heading back to the hotel and getting some sleep. His was the only autograph I was missing. I had to do it. So I approached him and told him that I loved his music and that I was a saxophonist as well. I told him he was an inspiration. Without a word, he signed my cd sleeve. Cold. The way he looks. I don't blame him. I'd be annoyed too.

THE LONE AND DREARY WORLD


We watched the band leave and then we followed out the same doors. It had begun to snow. The wind had picked up and it was colder than before. My new friends began to ask me what my plan was for spending the night. I told them about where I planned to search for a motel. They informed me that I probably wouldn't find anything there and that they would take me to a stop on the subway where I could find good, inexpensive lodging.

jimjillbang.jpg

We hopped on the subway and chatted for the 25 minutes it took us to get to our stop. They walked me to a bright, clean jim jill bong (a 24-hr spa. . . kind of) where for six bucks you can bathe, exercise, watch TV, use the internet, eat, sing karaoke, get electronic chair massages (that was fun) or just lounge and talk to your friends and family. The jim jill bong also had communal sleeping rooms, separated for men and women.

I changed into the issued t-shirt and shorts and then sat on a mat in the corner with my journal and tried to write down as many of my feelings as possible. By now it was about 1 am and the desire for sleep soon clouded my thoughts. I grabbed a foam pillow and took a corner of the sleeping room. Other men's snoring made real sleep impossible, but I was able to take a series of short naps, which helped.

The next day, I caught a train back to Daejeon. During the two-hour train ride home, I stared out the window and thought about my entire miracle of hearing the music, meeting the band, and meeting these new friends.


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Yoga Nidra Meditation: Does Your Inner 3-Year-Old Need to Go Nighty Night?

Who else can relate to the this . . .

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My 3-year-old has two settings— turbo and asleep.

One evening last summer, he was spraying the driveway with the hose. When we told him that he had to stop spraying because it was his bedtime, he became absolutely undone with emotion. He erupted into screams of anger, morphed into an inconsolable sadness, then began desperate pleading, which then cycled back to anger, more sadness, (this time accompanied with a slumped-over super-sad walk) and more pleading . . . This went on for several minutes making a performance that could have earned him a Tony Award.

I remember standing there unphased, merely watching this drama play out. As the adult with a grander perspective, not only did I not have to get pulled into his emotion, but my heart opened up to him. I could see this situation for what it was: he’s a 3-year-old ball of raw emotion. I understood that because it was his bedtime, he was very tired and crankiness gets amplified when you’re tired. I also had the perspective that his whole world at that moment was spraying the driveway and now his world had ended because of something as arbitrary as bedtime. But thanks to my adult perspective, I could simply observe his tantrum without having an opinion about it.

Minutes later, my son was sleeping peacefully in his bed.

Photo https://o-meditation.com/2017/02/24/awareness-j-krishnamurti/

Photo https://o-meditation.com/2017/02/24/awareness-j-krishnamurti/

Krishnamurti, one of the preeminent yoga minds of the last century, said it best when he proffered that “The highest form of intelligence is observation without assessment.” He’s saying that our highest Self is one that can merely witness something and not react to it.

“Yeah, that’s great when you’re observing your kid throw a fit, but how to you learn to not have an opinion about your own serious adult emotions like stress, worry, or anxiety?” The answer is perhaps easier than you think: observation through relaxation.

I know what you’re thinking and I’m not minimizing these serious emotions. It’s like when you’re worked up into a lather over something and someone rather gratuitously says, “Hey, just relax.” And how often do you then pause, drink in that sage advice, and emerge smiling from immediate relief? Never, because it’s stupid, completely unhelpful, advice.

Like Einstein said, “No problem can ever be solved by the same level of consciousness that created it.” You’ve got to change your state to make any kind of progress forward on a problem.

If you’ve read my blog or emails for long you know how much I love the relaxing from of guided meditation called Yoga Nidra. I Love Yoga Nidra because it brilliantly changes your state of consciousness by using relaxation and observation to arrive at your highest intelligence, or True Self. Your True self is like the adult part of you with the grand perspective that can simply observe without yielding to the 3-year-old part of you with all it’s of its emotions, reactions, and drama.

In fact, relaxation isn’t just merely the byproduct of Yoga Nidra. It’s the special sauce that performs the impossible. Not only can you learn to witness emotions rather than getting sucked in by them, but with Yoga Nidra you also learn that it’s the emotions themselves which are the catalyst that bring you to experience your True Self, that place of boundless equanimity, empowerment, and perspective. Through relaxation, Yoga Nidra changes your consciousness and illuminates your adult perspective which sees everything in your life for what it is: information.

Modern psychology supports this idea of relaxation being the game-changer for state change and stress reduction. Important discoveries during the last century have shown that a person cannot feel both stress and relaxation simultaneously. Therefore, in a state of deep relaxation like in Yoga Nidra, one might skillfully and gradually begin to introduce stressors like emotions into your awareness, but because you’re deeply relaxed, you’ll find that you can merely observe the emotions or stressors and see them as information. You counter-condition against stress and soon begin to identify as the all-seeing calm adult rather than the myopic tantrumy 3-year-old.

This is huge!

What’s more, simply observing an emotion without reacting to it can often break the insidious, downward-spiral that emotions can sometimes inflict on our psyche. In just a few minutes of a skillfully-guided Yoga Nidra practice, you may begin to experience your own “highest intelligence” and begin a new relationship with your emotions.

Simply put, when you practice Yoga Nidra, you put your inner 3-year-old to bed. Maybe that’s why everyone falls asleep during Yoga Nidra. Don’t worry, it still works even when you sleep, cuz the part of you that I’m speaking to is something beyond your rational mind and is always paying attention.

Click the button below to listen to this free Yoga Nidra practice I created called Awakening Through Body and Emotions. It’s designed to help you become very relaxed in your body before leading you through some fairly benign emotions to help you see past emotions and experience your True Self. It’s about 30 minutes long and I’d love to hear back from you about your experience. I also set this to some original chill music: me playing the clarinet with a drone in the background. I hope you like it.

Also, if this topic of using relaxation and observation to rejigger your relationship to emotions resonates with you, this is what my entire 6-week Yoga Nidra series will be about starting THIS Sunday at 9 am MST. This is a virtual Yoga Nidra series (live and online) where we will be exploring the theme, The Magic of Maya: Working Through Illusion, to learn to access the inner adult inside of you for your own change of consciousness and to experience your own boundless equanimity and learn to witness things like emotions. Please join me!

Each session will be recorded and transcribed so if the time doesn’t work for you, you can always catch the session at a time that works for you. Check out the details below

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6-Week Virtual Yoga Nidra Series

January 20–February 24

Meditation/Mindfulness with Eating

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Meditation vs. Mindfulness

Photo by Alex Adams

Photo by Alex Adams

There's a distinction between meditation and mindfulness.

I'd qualify mindfulness as the act of being present with whatever task is at hand. Indeed meditation is an acute form of mindfulness but usually constitutes a more rigorous form of concentration or awareness. Regular meditation practice causes us to live in a very mindful way, doing regular kinds of things with more presence. Things like eating.


Presence Through Senses

Many meditation traditions and philosophies argue that our identity relies solely upon our ability to be present. If we are not present, we really don't exist. Surely there's a lot to chew on there, but the essence of that idea is that our True Nature relies upon being here and now, no matter what you're doing.

Our senses are an excellent way of practicing presence because they are constantly giving us real time information about what is happening right in the moment. One of the particularly delightful ways of practicing mindfulness is through what we do hopefully at least a few times a day: eating


Not only does eating involve all of our sense, it is perhaps the most intimate thing we do on a regular basis besides making love. Why not make love to your food? And like any good lover will tell you, it's no good unless you're present.

I think food is fascinating. In fact, one of my favorite classes in college was called A Feast of Food Ways and was an entire semester exploring the folklore around food. We explored what food means culturally, spiritually, and globally. Not only was that semester a feast of information, but we literally treated ourselves to tantalizing delights in every class. That class made food such a sensual subject that I don't think I'll ever look at the ritual of eating food ever again

Food Ritual

So, why not make eating a ritual? A ritual is a physical action that evokes a spiritual significance. If eating is the sustaining of our very being, how can eating NOT be a ritual? How could we ever absentmindedly shove Cheerios into the largest hole in our face while not tasting a thing and checking our Facebook profile? With presence, even a bowl of Cheerios could be a feast.

One of my friends said that the best meal he ever ate was a granola bar on mile 20 of an ultra- marathon. It's all about presence and context, right?

So why not make your next meal and every meal, a seance of seduction, a ritual of resplendence? All it takes is a little bit of mindfulness.


How To Eat Mindfully


  • Unplug. Put away your phone and turn it on silent. No reading, computer work, or television during meals.

  • Sit. Put with your feet on the floor. This grounds you and helps to put you into the moment.

  • Pause. Take a big breath and give yourself a moment of gratitude before plunging into your meal. Notice the smells, textures, and colors. Perhaps even contemplate the hands and energy it took to arrive at your table, including the miracle of Mother Earth growing it for you.

  • Taste. As you put it into your mouth, close your eyes for a moment and taste it the way a sommelier would taste it: notice its signature of the earth, the subtleties and varieties of favors. Can you name all the different ingredients? Feel the textures and temperatures.

  • Slow down. Chew your food and wait until you've swallowed before putting another small bite into your mouth.

  • Notice when you begin to feel sated and stop eating before you start to regret shoving that last bite into your pie whole.

  • If you have a moment after your meal, take a slow stroll. My Ayruvedic teacher taught me to take a 1000-step stroll after each meal. She also told me to eat until only 2/3 full and to eat what my body feels like it wants and craves rather that what I "should" eat (look up Ayruvedic diet information for eating tips for your constitution. My friend Sunny is an Ayruvedic practitioner and expert at such stuff. Contact her for a consult). Notice your level of satisfaction after each meal. A meal of candy bars feels terrible.

    I'd love to hear about your food rituals and what your experience is with mindful eating. Please leave a comment below.

Mantra Meditation Made Simple

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Photo by Scott Moore Copyright © 2019 Scott Moore Yoga LLC

Photo by Scott Moore Copyright © 2019 Scott Moore Yoga LLC

Today, I want to talk briefly about Mantra meditation. Mantra is a Sanskrit word which comes from the words Manis, meaning mind, and Tra, which is the beginning of the word to transcend. So, literally through your mind, you may transcend into deeper layers of knowing.

A mantra is simply repeating a word or phrase over and over again.

The idea is to loose yourself in the repetition of the words. I've done a lot of mantra practice and have found it very powerful. There is something magical that happens when you engage your soul in this way. Meditation is about focus. It's powerful to focusing on one word or phrase.

We all know words have power:

"In the beginning was the word."
The Bible John 1:1

"The pen is mightier than the sword."
Edward Bulwer-Lytton

"Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup."
The Beatles

There are thousands of mantras. Some mantras are chanted in Sanskrit, other Tibetan, others Latin, or whatever language you normally speak.

I want to share two of my favorite mantras.

The first evokes the Hindu god Ganesh. He's the remover of obstacles, the Lord of auspicious beginnings, and is the love-child of consciousness and form.

Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha.
This loosely translates into, "“Yo! Ganesh. I honor you and invite your power into my life."

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The next mantra I want to share with you is the Gayatri Mantra. It's one of the most popular and oldest mantras in the world.

oṃ bhūr bhuvaḥ svaḥ
tatsaviturvareṇyaṃ
bhargo devasyadhīmahi
dhiyo yo naḥ prachodayāt

My favorite translation of this mantra is:
Everything on the earth and the sky and in between 
is arising from one effulgent source.
If my thoughts, words, and deeds reflected a complete understanding of this unity,
I would be the peace I'm seeking in this moment.

meditation mala beads

Give it a try!

Choose one of these mantras, or one of your own. It could be a simple phrase or even one word. Set your timer on Insight for 15 minutes and repeat these words over and over again, out loud, for the entire time. 

If you are familiar with mala beads or prayer beads, you can hold your beads and every time you complete the chant, move your fingers to the next bead. Give it a try.

PS

Here’s a great article about using mala beads

Online Yoga Nidra Meditation Training: The Magic of Maya Working Through Illusion

Photo by David Newkirk

Photo by David Newkirk

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We're well into the new year and I hope the sun is smiling on you, even if you live in a place where the sun doesn't raise the temp above freezing.

This year has been already so rich for me and every day I practice staying present to everything that arises, in part thanks to my 31-Day Meditation Challenge.

One thing I've learned is that meditation doesn't prevent things like emotions such as fear or anxiety from arising in me, but trains me to be cool with what does arise. It teaches me to welcome whatever comes my way, recognize it for what it is—no more no less. Ultimately it trains me to be merely the witness of that thing. Then, from that place of observation, I may choose to respond to the information rather than react. Strange how emotions like fear and anxiety seem to come around less and less when I stop resisting them and let them be what they are, mere bits of information.

I'm still human, though, and once in a while I might still lose my $#1€, but the more I meditate, the less it happens.

So today, I want to share two things with you that are related to this idea of learning to observe emotions. I think you'll love them: My Yoga Nidra series coming up, and a fun story I wrote called Lessons in Fear…

First, I want to tell you how excited I am about my 6-week virtual Yoga Nidra series starting Jan. 20th called, The Magic of Maya: Working Through Illusion.

Yoga Nidra is a relaxing and profound guided meditation aimed to help you experience your True Nature. The most essential premise of Yoga Nidra is that your True Nature is whole and perfect, a being of limitless power, boundless equanimity, with a cosmic perspective that has no need for worry. Anything in contrast to that is an illusion. But rather than trying to transcend illusion, what if you could actually use it to discover and experience your True Self?

One of the questions we'll explore in this course is, "What if emotions aren't 'real,' but just an illusion of reality and how do we actually use these illusions to uncover what is true and experience our True Self?"

This understanding is one of the things that Yoga Nidra has taught me and countless other people and what I want to offer to you through this this Yoga Nidra series.

This series will be 6 sessions, each around 75 min. During each session, I'll lead you through a verrrry relaxing Yoga Nidra practice (guided meditation), offer an engaging and thought-provoking teaching, and open the conversation to all for comments and questions.

I'll be recording each session and will be offering the recording and a transcript of it for review, or in case you have to miss a session you can watch or read it later.

One of the best features of this series is that you'll be in the comfort of your own home but joined virtually with me and other students all over the world.

In addition to access to the live classes you’ll also receive a Yoga Nidra digital library which includes:

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  • Audio/Video recording of each of the sessions

  • A transcript of each of the sessions

  • Access to dozens of other Yoga Nidra recordings

  • Helpful tips and links to videos, recordings, books, and articles to expand your Yoga Nidra education

  • Clarinet Lullaby, a high-quality audio recording of me playing the clarinet set to ocean waves and a background drone for the purpose of deep relaxation and meditation.

You'll end the each session and the entire series with a deeper experience and understanding of the profound nature of your Self. Plus you'll have lifetime access to all the practices and materials.

In addition, Yoga Nidra also helps with:

  • Reduction or elimination of stress

  • Profound relaxation

  • A deeper, richer, and more present life

  • Spiritual growth and understanding

  • Greater presence in relationships, work, and the community

  • Greater mental clarity

  • Clear sense of purpose

  • Better sleep


It's like napping your way to enlightenment!

One of the things I love about Yoga Nidra is that ANYONE can do it.

Registration is now open! I can't wait for this to start. I'd love for you to join me. This really is a must-attend series that you can do from the comfort of your own home.

A Ticket Home: Meditations on Homelessness

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What is a mindful approach to homelessness? Perhaps this story can be a meditation on the subject.

Once when I was 21, I saw a guy on the side of the freeway off-ramp with a cardboard sign that said he was stranded and hungry. My heart broke. He looked like a nice guy who just needed a break.


Discovering Darrin

Meditation

I turned the car around and picked him up. I bought him lunch. As we ate together, he told me that his name was Darren. He told me bits about his life, that he said he lived in San Diego, worked construction, and had recently traveled to Nebraska to attend his mother's funeral. He said that he had a wife and two kids at home but had become stranded in Utah and couldn't get back home to keep working. Without work he couldn't get home and all he needed was money for a bus ticket.


Just a week before, I had executed a brilliant plan to quit my lame desk job, take out a loan from, and travel to Europe to for 5 weeks to be my girlfriend. I didn't have much money, most of what I did have was borrowed, but my heart ached that I had the means to travel to be with the one I loved and he didn't.


So, with my travel plans imminent, pressing preparations looming, and two thousand dollars of borrowed money in my pocket, I did what any naïve 21 year-old, eager to solve the problems of the universe would do: I bought Darren a bus ticket home. I even bought him a ticket to the movies next door to the Greyhound station so he could kill some time while he was waiting the three hours for his bus to leave. I drove away from the bus station feeling great, like I'd really done something to make the world a better place and that I’d really helped someone.


Will Work for Food: Darren Double Take


I went to Europe, had an enchanting five weeks in Austria and Germany, and came back jobless and in debt but in love and happy to be alive.

I immediately began an all-out assault on the job market, desperate to join the ranks of that elite class of society known as “The Employed.” While driving around looking for anyone reckless enough to hire such an unfledged bohemian, I came off the same freeway off-ramp and to my great surprise, saw Darren standing there—same dude, different sign. And though I felt I might regret it, I did it anyway.


I turned around, picked him up (again) and took him to lunch (again). Darren didn't seem to remember me. I told him that I was the kid who bought him the ticket to San Diego about six weeks earlier and I didn't mind telling him that I was a little pissed off that he was still stranded in Utah when I had paid his way home. I asked him why he didn't go to San Diego. He said he'd lost his bus ticket while at the movies. I told him that I felt that he'd taken advantage of me. He just sort of shrugged and went about eating his Big Mac. We went our separate ways.


Lessons Learned

In the years that followed, I'd see Darren now and again. His hair would be longer and he'd grown a beard. Every time that I saw him, he looked older. Time on the street was certainly not being kind to him.

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Still, I couldn't judge Darren too harshly. Despite the fact that he took advantage of me, I couldn't help but worry about him, this guy I didn't know. The more I thought about it, Darren didn't seem all the way right in his mind, you know? How could someone who probably needed institutional help be out there at the mercy of the streets?


For me, Darren put a real face on the entire blight homelessness. He made something huge and abstract very small and personal to me. And I guess that was the deeper realization for this naïve kid who thought he could somehow fix the world's problems with a little pocket money: that homelessness is bigger than buying someone a Big Mac and or even springing for a Greyhound ticket for somebody.


Looking back, I have also learned that it's not bad to try. Even if the results are different than what you'd hoped for. I learned that the answer isn't to stop trying, but to try in better ways. How could I not try when Darren in out there somewhere?


More than 20 years later, even though I think it's wisest to donate time or money to the shelter, I still can't resist giving a few coins to someone down on their luck. And though I wouldn't do it again, I don't regret buying Darren a Greyhound ticket to San Diego.


Yes, I hope Darren gets what he deserves: happiness, a warm meal, and the chance to be with the people he loves.


I'm not the less for trying. Nor am I a saint. Who knows, someday if I'm down and out, maybe some guy named Darren will buy be a Big Mac and a ticket back home.


Compassion for The World Starts Within

I believe the entrance into compassion for the outside world is to first develop a ready and familiar compassion for Self. Yoga is the best way I know to honor and nurture all aspects of Self. It may seem oblique, but in this light, coming to yoga practice or practicing yoga on your own is a powerful preliminary to helping solve the world's problems. It doesn't preclude us from lifting a finger in other ways, it just helps us lift said finger from the place of a clear mind, strong body, and a pure heart.


Scott


Yoga Nidra Meditation Training

6-Week Virtual Yoga Nidra Series

January 20–February 24, 2019



Meditation Is Good for Your Health!

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Meditation

I know, I know. “Who has time for meditation? It takes time, and when I’m busy all I think about when I try to meditate is all the stuff I have to do, making me stress out even worse. What’s the point?”

But when we look at the data, who has time NOT to meditate? Studies show that regular meditators are more calm, less stressed, and when groups meditate the crime rates go down. Meditators are more productive, more creative, learn faster, and are generally more content with their life than those who don’t. People who meditate in a group are more likely to stick with it and have a higher sense of purpose and satisfaction than those who meditate alone.

Regular meditation has even been shown to dramatically improve physical health. Scientific studies have shown that coronary disease, congestive heart failure, diabetes, and high blood pressure have lessened or otherwise depleted with the help of meditation. Get this: health insurance stats show that people who meditate regularly have a reduced likelihood of being hospitalized for coronary disease by 87 percent, and the possibility of getting cancer by 55 percent. And people who meditate are psychologically 12–15 years younger. That’s nuts! (read the full article here)

If prayer is a form of meditation, Martin Luther, the historic religious reformer, certainly went against the grain when he asserted, “I have so much I need to do today, I need to pray for an extra hour.”

photo: https://www.danspapers.com/2018/12/paul-mccartney-ends-2018-tour-dates-video/

photo: https://www.danspapers.com/2018/12/paul-mccartney-ends-2018-tour-dates-video/

meditation

Paul McCartney has crooned some immutable truths but never has he said it better than when he shared, “In moments of madness, meditation has helped me find moments of serenity—and I would like to think that it would help provide young people a quiet haven in a not-so-quiet world.” Drop the mic.

So maybe you’re saying, “Ok, ok, I know regular meditation would help me but I need some basic instruction on what to do . . . and a little encouragement to get going.”

That’s where I come in.

There’s no time like the beginning of the year to start something new. That’s why I’m hosting my 31-Day Meditation Challenge starting TOMORROW. I’ll lead you through how to transform your life with a regular meditation practice. The challenge is to meditate every day for 31 days using whatever style of meditation you like for 15 minutes a day. That’s it!

One of the thrilling things about this challenge is that you’ll be doing this with a large group of people from all over the world. This will help increase your accountability and fun. You’ll be able to connect to each other for support and encouragement on our forum. We want you to be a part of our meditation community!

Not only will I and our community be helping you every step of the way, but if you call your mom and your best friends and let them know that you’re going to do the 31-Day Meditation Challenge and ask to be accountable to them, you’ll stick with it. Hell, invite them along and build a meditation posse, your sit crew. I know that whenever I want to make some positive changes in my life—I want to eat more healthy, get more fit, save money—if I am accountable to other people I stick with the program. If I’ve promised my wife that I’m not eating sugar, I’ll walk by that incredible bakery that sells the best pain au chocolat and not even give it a second look. So tell your nearest and dearest that you’re doing this and invite them along.

I’ll also be helping you by providing regular instruction, support, encouragement. I’ll give you some transformational and relaxing guided meditations to use if you want. Plus, I’ll lead you through a powerful visualization of 2019 that you can revisit regularly to blast yourself into an unstoppable year through the power of your own awesomeness.

The 31-Day Meditation challenge only costs $31 and as an incentive, if you complete all 31 days of meditating for 15 minutes a day, you can opt to get your tuition back. This is easy and fun and you’ll see some beautiful and transformational changes occur in your life.

Do this with me. Invite your friends to join us and together let’s have an incredible 2019!

 
Source: meditationisgoodforyourhealth

We Three Yogis of Orient Are: How Does the Story of Jesus' Birth Reflect Hindu Ideas?

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Photo: https://medium.com/@WhiteFeather9/the-real-story-of-the-3-wise-men-2db6988859f8

Photo: https://medium.com/@WhiteFeather9/the-real-story-of-the-3-wise-men-2db6988859f8

Around Christmas time, there are many ways to consider the story of Jesus’ birth. I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of the Three Kinds, Wisemen, or Magi coming to bring Jesus gifts from afar, maybe because Christmas has always been about receiving gifts. Are there any connections between Hinduism and the story of Christs birth?

There are many ways to interpret the bible regarding the teachings of and about Jesus and I to some degree or other, I subscribe to all of them. I believe that there is truth at the heart of all beliefs. It’s impossible to verify the exact history most of what is written in the bible but I believe that regardless of its historicity, a mythical interpretation of the bible allows readers to understand the truths that the authors of the bible intended to teach, truths which I believe are larger than facts. Some of these truths are mirrored in the ancient vedic traditions of India.

Were the Three Kings Yogis? 3 Gifts

The story of Jesus’ birth speaks of the Magi, or Wise Men who came from the Orient and came bearing three gifts, gold, frankincense, and Myrrh. Could it have been that what the authors of the bible are referring to as “the Orient” were wise men from India? The gifts that were offered to Jesus by the Magi were not random and represent Jesus’ noble birthright, his god-nature, and portend his death and what that means for the spiritual evolution of humanity.

The first gift that Jesus received from the Magi was gold. Gold is a symbol of Jesus’ royalty and spiritual lineage, despite his humble beginnings of being born in a manger. It was important that in Jesus’ history he be born of the spiritual line of King David as was foretold by ancient prophets. Receiving gold is a symbol of that royalty.

Photo: https://www.exoticindiaart.com/product/paintings/shiva-parvati-bless-ganesha-worshipping-shiva-linga-OR70/

Photo: https://www.exoticindiaart.com/product/paintings/shiva-parvati-bless-ganesha-worshipping-shiva-linga-OR70/

The second gift that Jesus received was Frankincense which is a symbol representing his divine nature. Frankincense is burned in holy ceremonies both in both Jerusalem and India and suggests the presence of god. Presenting Jesus with frankincense was a declaration to all that Jesus was god on earth. In Hindu terms, this god-on-earth quality would be known as an avatar and similar offerings of frankincense would be burned to honor deities known as avatars. One such avatar is Krishna, a god whose name sound remarkable similar to Christos.

Lastly, Jesus was presented with myrrh which is another incense used at funerals as well as sometimes as medicine. This symbol portended Jesus’ death. The fact that myrrh is also used as medicine suggest that in Jesus’ death there would be healing for the rest of humanity.

These three gifts that Jesus received were a part of a trinity of gifts that represent Jesus’ destiny. The notion of the trinity is very important not only to Christians but also to religious and spiritual traditions all over the world, including India or “the Orient.”

Trinity in Christianity and Hinduism

One important trinity in Christianity is the trinity of a human and earthly mother, Mary, being coupled with a faceless god, and creates Jesus, a third entity that is both human and god. This trinity is not unique to christianity.

A similar trinity that mirrors that of the Christos myth is that of Shiva, Shakti, and Ganesh. In this trinity, Shakti is represented by the woman who is earth, changeability, and humanity. She’s coupled with Shiva who is known perfect beingness, something that supersedes earth as indicated by gesture of feet in full lotus, not touching the ground. They create a child, Ganesh who is half human and half elephant, and represents the spirit and body coming together to create a divine third. Ganesh only becomes a god after he dies and is resurrected, something that mirrors the Christos myth perfectly.

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One interpretation of these ideas presented in both Christianity and Hinduism is that we are all noble born, that we are children of the one great everything, whatever you call that, and that we are naturally divine because of that birth. Also that through our life as human beings, we evolve along a spiritual path that will ultimately end in death— literal, or perhaps interpreted only as the death of our old and simple way of seeing the Universe—and that we can be reborn into a truer knowledge of things as they truly are.

Whether or not you interpret the Christian or Hindu stories as literal or mythical, I hope that in this time of celebrating Jesus’ birth, we’ll appreciate the direction that these stories offer beautiful models which inform our own personal journey toward spiritual evolution.


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31-Day Meditation Challenge: Your Most Most Incredible 2019 Starts With This!

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Christmas is Over, Now What?

Meditation

You’ve indulged. You overate, you overdrank . . . and might just be feeling in sum: over it. Hopefully these next few days before the new year can be quiet and simple. Consider my up coming 31-Day Meditation Challenge.



The week between Christmas and New Years is actually a very special time. It’s that dead-of-winter time where you get to hibernate, meditate, and plant the seeds for what will live for you in the new year. What are you visualizing for 2019?



Power of Visualization

I have a faith in visualization that borders on religious—religious, because it work miracles, both in my life as well as the lives of millions of other people. My belief is simple: If you can see it, you can live into it.



Modern neuroscience agrees with me. Scientists say that the brain does not differentiate well between the images it translates through the eyes versus what it translates via thoughts, images, or ideas. Think about watching a thrilling movie— your heart pounds and your hands sweat, though your rational mind knows they are merely images on a screen.



This proposes a provocative idea: if your brain can’t differentiate well between reality and other images, why not visualize your ideal life and enjoy the feeling of success now? Speaking of seeing is believing, my wife has brilliantly constructed images set to music that reflect her ideal life using “mind movie” software, which she watches on a nearly daily basis to see where she’s directing her life.



Just like countless world-class athletes have shown, visualizing yourself succeed floods your system with all those feel-good and excitement chemicals like Dopamine, Serotonin, and Oxytocin, just like if you had recently accomplished your dreams. It makes you perform at your peak. Plus, since seeing is believing, visualizing yourself succeed shuts off the amygdala, the part of your brain that puts the brakes on doing scary things like jumping out of airplanes, risking talking to your boss about a raise, or hell, quitting that soul-sucking job once and for all and stretching yourself to do that thing you’ve always dreamed of doing. In short, when you see yourself succeed, you live into your vision of it.


This is because you are truly more powerful than you can imagine. Most likely, the biggest thing holding you back from experiencing your own innate magnificence is your lack of vision for it. Do you ever get comfortable with “good enough,” lose your sense of purpose, or busy yourself so much as to distract your mind from what it truly makes you feel alive?



Well if so, starting today, that’s going to change. I invite you to join me for a revolutionary, 31-day meditative journey that gives you the tools and the support to visualize and live into your own magnificent life.


31-Day Meditation Challenge

We’ll start together on New Years Day with a guided and vivid visualization of what your incredible life looks and feels like. This meditation will relax your body and put your mind into a flow state that boosts your creativity, optimizes your learning, and inspires your productivity to work toward the fulfillment of your dreams. Then, for the the entire month of January, you’ll meditate every day for 15 minutes a day. You’ll regularly revisit your visualization for the year as well as use any other form of meditation you like.



Once you register, you’ll get all the details for how the challenge works as well as information about several styles of meditation you can choose to do in addition to our New Year Visualization.


If you’re new to meditation, no problem. You’ll love this. If you’re an experienced meditator, great. We can use your meditation muscles to bolster the spirit of our group. Either way, this will be a fantastic opportunity to join a group of people all over the world benefitting the world with greater mindfulness. All month I’ll be sending you regular emails that offer instruction, support, and encouragement.



This will be fun, easy, and the perfect way to start 2019.


This 31-Day Meditation Challenge will also bless the lives of the people around you. In addition to visualizing an incredible life in 2019, regular meditation will also:

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  • Lower your stress levels

  • Decrease your reactivity

  • Increase your mindful responsiveness

  • Improve your sleep

  • Reaffirm your sense of purpose

  • Give you personal and spiritual insight

  • Improve your overall happiness


Do this for yourself. Do this for those privileged (or not so privileged on those off days) to live around you.


This costs only $31. And guess what, if you complete the challenge, you may opt to GET. YOUR. MONEY. BACK. (drop the mic).


Please join today and share bless the world with a more-mindful YOU. Please share this with anyone who would benefit.


Happy New Year!


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