Posts filed under Spirituality

Grieving Gracefully (or letting your body flow with your heartbreak

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“What we have once enjoyed we can never lose.  All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.” — Helen Keller

Sometimes my brain can be quite literal like when I first heard my yoga teacher say “flow with grace,” I immediately slowed down on my mat and carefully considered how to place my arms and legs gracefully - you know, like a dancer.   Years later when I realized she was talking about Grace, you know, like the liberating energy from God, I felt a little dumb, but also grateful I’d taken it so literal before.  Every pose I slowed down to elegantly flow, I was being Grace-full.  I’ve learned that my body understands, feels and assimilates spiritual passages way before my brain does.  

Grace, as I’ve experienced it, is a river that flows towards the ocean of Divine Love. Its waters aren’t transparent and insipid, they contain life’s colors and flavors.  One of which is grief.

If you’ve experienced the loss of a loved one through death or a breakup, you know grief. If you’ve experience the loss of a career opportunity, you know grief. Heck, if you’ve experienced Trader Joe’s discontinuing your favorite product, you know grief.  Because, you see, if you’re human you’ve experienced and will continue to experience grief.

A thing I know about the river of Grace, and grief, is that it’s unstoppable. Sure you can intellectualize the situation: “he’s in a better place now,” “it wasn’t meant to be,” or “a better opportunity will come along.” However, grief is part of Grace and you need to let your whole be in it because your body will feel it, understand it and assimilate it before your mind can.

When you’re grieving, you’re gonna have to let the flow take your whole through the process.  

Sometime you get to step into the river slowly, like when a beloved is terminally ill.  You get a chance to adjust to the temperatures of the water and to prepare for the inevitable. Does it hurt? Yes.  Will your mind resist it by creating false hopes? Absolutely.  But eventually the river’s current will carry you.  

Sometimes you get thrown into the river, like suddenly losing a job or worse the sudden death of a beloved.  You get no chance to adjust. The moment you hit the water, it feels like you’re gonna drown. It’s messy. Will your mind resist it just the same? Yep. Will you fear that your body can’t handle it? For sure. But eventually you’ll adjust to the waters, you’ll begin to float and the river’s current will carry you.

This is what I know for sure, mental suffering is directly proportional to the resistance to the flow of Grace.

The only way to mitigate grief’s pain is to step into its current with the least amount of resistance. Sure you can learn techniques to cope with it, but don’t try to snap out of it. Do take care of your spirit, your mind and your body to the best of your abilities, but don’t attempt to cheer yourself up. Do hold on to your life-enhancing daily habits like floaties. But if you need to be in pain, be in pain. If you want to be moody, angry or sad, just be.  Honor the feelings flowing through your body knowing with full confidence that they will lead to the ocean of Divine Love.  

For my fellow caregivers, if you are around someone who is going through the process of grieving, as much as you want to stop their pain, don’t try to get them off the river. You can’t. You won’t.  Be a witness, and if you must throw a lifesaver,  offer your company, a hug, a prayer, a kind ear or warm meal, but let them grieve at their own rate. Know that this is you too flowing with Grace.

Caterpillar Soup or how a messy transition could be the path to a better you

Through yoga, we’re not transforming into something we aspire to, we’re transforming into the very thing that we are innately: our best Self.
— Rod Stryker

Did you know that when a caterpillar begins her transformation into a butterfly, she doesn’t just grow antennas and wings?  No, no, the caterpillar actually fully dissolves in some sort of cocoon-soup and it’s from this DNA-broth that the caterpillar’s cells will re-arrange into a butterfly.  

There is a clear message here, my friend, when things dissolve into a hot mess and it's hard to tell how things will re-arrange themselves, it's because a new, brighter, beginning is around the corner.

How many times have your life look like a hot butterfly soup?

I've had a few of those moments when everything around me had to liquefy to begin the metamorphosis of my better self.   One of those moments was when I moved to New York City.  I had to leave behind my very comfortable "young professional" lifestyle in the ever gorgeous Savannah, GA and listened to my soul call  towards a "soul-full hustler" lifestyle in NYC.  That was a rough lesson in what leisure is and  what disposable income means.  Through the few years of adjustment, when my mind was in agony and doubt, my surroundings and my heart opened in ways that I couldn't have imagined. How did I manage? Yoga helped, meditation helped, new friendships helped,  self-help books helped, it all helped!  

By the time my self-made lifestyle wings had emerged, I was a new man.  A more confident, kinder and more resourceful man emerged from that cocoon.

That's the thing with transformation, if we aren't practicing awareness, we'll miss the gorgeous colors of our new wings.  

I've learned to to recognize the signs and results of self evolution, to look with loving eyes those moments when things fall apart, and  to remember that when things fall apart is because they need a new foundation.  I’ve learned to LOVE these butterfly moments and, almost enjoy the effort it takes to unfold my new wings after each transformation. Yes, I'm saying almost because it feels like hell every time.

[ On a side note for those searching souls that want to quit it all and start anew:  Was my drastic lifestyle change useful in my Spiritual Evolution?  YES!  Was it necessary?  NO. There are less dramatic and less painful ways to grow new wings. If your caterpillar is feeling antsy, reach out for help.]  

*this content was inspired by a newsletter I sent in September 2015...a good example of how change is part of everything

Posted on May 30, 2017 and filed under inspiration, Spirituality, Ayurveda, Yoga, wellness, design.

Spring Clean Your Concept of Time or how to dismiss your time scarcity problems

Listen to this post instead - it's quick and more fun...

I don’t have five seconds to spare!

Is this what it’s come down to? I have to ask myself as I read a study suggesting that we, internet dwellers, tend to abandon downloading a file if it’s taking more than five seconds.  Five seconds! Quack, I remember having to walk 15 minutes to my aunt C’s home to consult her Encyclopedia Britannica just to finish my homework.  OK this makes me old, but it also tells me that if these days I don’t have five seconds to spare, there is something wrong with the way I’m living my life.

Why do we feel rushed? Why are we so busy? We got services and technologies to help us expedite almost anything from laundry to cooking.  Our technology is so advanced that we can almost instantly share documents, videos and pictures with anyone around the world.

So here is a truth, it isn’t about having less time, but how we perceive and use time.  

This quote from Albert Einstein illustrates the issue “an hour sitting with a pretty girl on a park bench passes like a minute, but a minute sitting on a hot stove seems like an hour.”

Perception is everything.

We’ve been taught that time is money, a fair equation considering that most of us get paid by the hour.  However in doing so we’ve also brought all our money issues and make them time issues.  How we use it, waste it, save it these are the thoughts that pollute our enjoyment of time.

Life is long if we know how to use it.  

If we’re constantly thinking about the scarcity of time, well, we’ll have a hard time finding time. So here is another truth, time isn’t money, it’s nothing more than the space between events.

This is my proposal for Spring cleaning, let’s invest time in those things that make us feel good.  Let’s dust off all those I-don’t-have-time excuses, we got time. Let’s pack away multitasking, we know that when we do one thing at a time, it gets done way faster and we have way more fun.  And let’s clean up our expectations of what we can get done in a day.

We’re going to look for abundance and we’re going to find her.  

As for the rest of the Spring Cleaning, we have a long life to get to it or as De Gracia wrote in 1965 “Lean back under a tree, put your arms behind your head,  smile and remember that the beginnings and ends of man’s every great enterprise are untidy.”

The Miracle of Committing to a Specific Action

In our noisy world we are constantly bombarded by infinite ways to be distracted.  We're are asked to stay connected all the time and to make room for introspection. We're asked to be fit and to carve time to restore and relax.  We are asked to be mindful and to multitask.  And that is just my inbox today. No wonder it's very easy to live in a constant state of confusion.  

It doesn't have to be that way.

Instagram @eduardolifegram

Instagram @eduardolifegram

As I savor my green smoothie this morning, I'm thinking of the power of committing yourself to a single actionable goal.  You see, a few years ago I was having a hard time eating breakfast consistently and now for over a year, I have eaten a nutritious breakfast every single day.  As I type I can feel the nourishing Prana (life force) of my green smoothie hitting my veins and I'm reminded of an important life lesson that is often ignored:  if you commit to an action rather than thinking about a desire, you actually get to experience your intention.

The mistake we all make.

As soon as I began my yoga journey, I learned about setting intentions.  Simplified, your intentions are the energetic starting points for your goals.  If you come to my yoga class, as I learned it from my yoga teachers, I'll ask you at the beginning to center yourself and then set an intention.  The intention usually reveals itself naturally and in a simple form: "I will breath fully," "I will be strong," or "I will feel peace."  Whether in a yoga class or not, intentions are the seeds for our desired outcomes.

For example from my intention to "feeling nourished," I arrived to my goal of "eating breakfast."   I really wanted to honor my intention so I would think about "feeling nourished" every day.  Thinking about my intention did bring me to eat breakfast, sometimes.  I figured my spirit would guide my consciousness and it would unveil how breakfast would happen.  This resulted in zero progress and lots of self-disappointment.  Finally, I changed my strategy, I committed to plan my breakfasts for a week ahead of time.  I made the commitment by braking down my goal into small actions.  I studied options that would work for me.  I started focusing on the daily tasks that would make me eat breakfast till things aligned with my intention.

My mistake was that I assumed that because I wanted to eat breakfast to honor my intention, I would end up getting a desirable result.  That wanting to do something was enough.

How often do you do this in your own life?

We often think about our intentions without committing to goals . And if we have goals, we think about them without breaking them into specific actions.  The bottom line is that without an action we won't experience our intention.  We want to "be of service" without committing our time and talents to helping others.  We want to "feel strong" without considering what part of our body we want to focus on and what exercises we'll be doing.  We wish to be "more creative," but we never work or finish a particular project.   In other words, we don't commit to a specific goal: a goal with tasks and a time frame.

Specific Actions Lead to Direction

All those intentions we set for ourselves will point us to important, but broad questions "what should I do with my life?" or "will I learn what love is?" or "how is God guiding me right now?"  Very important questions in our spiritual quest but non of these questions will clarify our next step.

When you commit to action driven goals, these are easy to break into tasks and then the steps are clearer to follow. You want to eat a nutritive breakfast tomorrow morning?  Next step:  what will constitute a nutritive breakfast?  So you found out what you want to eat? Next step:  do you have the ingredients at home or do you need to stop at the market?  OK, you got the ingredients? Next Step: how long will take you to prepare breakfast? At what time do you need to wake up? etc., etc.

Your intentions are important as a way to honor your deeper self, but if you only concentrate in your vague desires vs. specific goals, you'll end up confused and frustrated.  

Once you begin to commit to specific actions that work towards your goals, these will inform you of your next step and then the next, etc.  

So often, we avoid formulating a specific goal out of fear that we aren't sure if this goal will align with our intentions. We somehow forget that we can always change our mind later on.

This is perhaps the miracle about committing to a specific goal: if you concentrate in the actions to achieve your goals and not the goal itself, then you’ll begin to thrive and achieve something greater than you ever imagined.

Commit to something and begin it now.

Once you fully decide to start, to paraphrase Pablo Coelho, the universe will find ways to help you finish.

A Subway Ride to the Divine

Since living in NYC I find my subway rides a great space for my Spiritual work.  It started as a place to catch up with my reading and it has progress to a place where I can catch up with my contemplation.  My favorite exercise is to look around and ask my self if I can observe the Divine in the faces I see.  Yes, I can probably be the creepy guy staring at you now and then.  You would be surprise what you will find when you look for the sameness in your commuting brothers and sisters.

I found this poem from the always inspiring OnBeing website.  I just love the way Ms. Simmons captures the extraordinary presence of Grace on a mundane subway ride.  

 

Subway Prayer

BY DENA SIMMONS

From her neck, a plastic rosary dangles
like a child, swinging.
With poker-player precision,
she rations coins and cigarettes with her man
who drinks Jack Daniels
on a Bronx-bound 2 train.

Hail Mary, full of grace.
The Lord is with thee.

On-lookers drink in faded lipstick lips,
older white woman,
her younger black lover,
his hair, small,
cotton-ball knots,
crimson eyes and lipstick-stained lips.
Intoxicating lust.

Blessed art thou amongst women,

A beggar, heavy, duck-taped like his wheelchair,
stumbles into the train car,
fragrant with human waste.
He speaks of a world that hurls him
into subterranean fundraising.

and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

He makes his rounds,
wheelchair, clinking against iron poles.
Open hands,
empty,
in front of potential donors.
He wishes God blessed him
with a winning deck of cards.

Holy Mary, Mother of God.

To the lovers,
he huffs.
Despair.

Pray for us sinners.

The gambling-pair captures him
in the midst of trading nickels and Marlboros,
gives the begging man
everything,
hoping for a better hand.

Amen.

Pema Chödrön on Powering Down and Deep Connection

"The best spiritual instruction is when you wake up in the morning and say, 'I wonder what's going to happen today.' And then carry that kind of curiosity through your life." Pema Chödrön

Pema Chödrön is one of those forces of nature that will exert its force on your spirit even when you are unaware of her presence.  Last week I saw her beautiful face in many of the feeds and radio/tv shows I follow.  These are the gems I keep hearing from Miss Pema: Curiosity.  Connection.  Space.  Awakening.  Depth.  

Then I ran into the above  Bill Moyers’ interview from 2006.  This is when you know you are in the presence of wisdom, her words are as relevant now as they were then.  See what jewels she got for you.

Posted on October 20, 2014 and filed under Spirituality, wellness.

Feminist: it isn't the word that matter, but what is behind it

When at the age of 23 years I entered he workforce and finally witnessed with my own eyes and heart how women were treated by their male co-workers, my feelings towards the word Feminist totally changed.  I'm going to let Emma Watson do the talk here…


Posted on September 28, 2014 and filed under inspiration, Pop Culture, Spirituality.

Archetypes Made Easy

We all wonder why we are attracted to certain stories, certain people and certain patterns.  This human inquisitiveness - regardless of culture, race or religious - about our own behavior, tendencies and thoughts drives us to create and to study guiding methods.  Archetype analysis is one those methods.  

I think of archetypes as our energy companions.  You know these archetypes very well, they are the characters you love or despise in fiction or real life. Since studying Joseph Campbell's work, this type of pattern analysis has resonated with me, and coupled with Yoga it has made a huge impact in how I use my intuition.  Archetypes are our stories in the quest for bliss.  According to Carolyn Myss, my go-to Archetype guru, 'we are continually scanning our world for patterns, particularly in people, because we know intuitively that if we understand someone’s behavior patterns we understand how she relates to herself, to her life, and to us. We understand a person better, for instance, if we know that she is essentially an Intellectual; that explains, for example, why she loves foreign films and biographies of great historic figures.' Ms. Myss calls Archetypes "the language of our soul."

Each one of us have archetypes idiosyncratic to our patterns of behavior.  These archetypes allow us to connect intuitively and on a deeper level to ourselves and to others.  Ms. Myss suggests that 'once we engage and begin to honor the language and patterns of our archetypes, a transformation begins not overnight but over time' (patience people, patience!).  She insists that by listening to our Archetypes we can step into our purpose, into a life more balanced, and friendships and relationships that fit with more ease and less effort. 

How do you get started?  Well there are tones of classical-psychology books on this subject, but If you want a fun way to ease yourself into this study, visit  Archetypes.com and take their quiz.  You can watch the video below to see if this is for you.

Warning! (don't resist warnings please, all tools come with them) when you embrace the language of archetypes you will immediately begin to notice patterns of synchronicity and coincidence appearing on a regular basis and sometimes dramatically so. 

Share your quiz results with me, I'll share mine.  


Posted on September 8, 2014 and filed under inspiration, Spirituality, Pop Culture, wellness.

Are Vacations good for your soul?

Time off allows you to regain control of your mental and spiritual health while building relationships with family and friends.  As I am preparing for a weekend yocation with the fabulous Julie Dohrman in the Catskills region, I decided to do some research on the benefits of vacationing. 

Much has been written about the deadly effects of burnout, workplace stress, absenteeism, and even “presenteeism” or showing up for work but being so listless or sick as to be in effect present and absent at the same time. Cardiovascular disease and hypertension are aggravated by workplace stress. 

Indeed, vacations are more important than ever, as they allow you to regain control of your physical, mental and spiritual health, not to mention cement relationships with your family and friends. “Vacations have the potential to break into the stress cycle,” writes Susan Krauss Whitbourne, PhD, a professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, in Psychology Today

Not all vacations, however, are equally effective when it comes to inducing rest, relaxation, and refreshment. Here, Krauss Whitbourne provides her top very practical tips for a vacation that accomplishes all three:

1. Plan ahead. Do your online research and make sure you know what's available in your vacation destination and come up with an itinerary. Planning ahead will also minimize family stress.

2. Know your destination's rules and regulations. If abroad, know your country's safety rules and regulations. 

3. Don't feel bad because you're going on vacation. The point of a vacation is to rid yourself of as much guilt as possible. But if it really bothers you that, say, you can afford a holiday but a friend or colleague can't, you can elect to donate some of your travel budget to a charitable cause.

4. Head off email anxiety. If you are one of those people who hate coming home to hundreds or thousands of emails, allot yourself a small portion of each day to stopping at an internet café or having a peek at your laptop. 

5. Make your vacation a true adventure.  Research shows that an active vacation involving new challenges is the most beneficial. New activities will build new synapses and give you memorable, bonding experiences with your fellow vacationers. 

6. Pack smart. That means being prepared for sick, getting a sunburn, and losing your glasses. Leave enough extra room in your case for souvenirs, and buy them. 

Whether you are traveling far or planning a“stay-cation,” these tips will help you get the most rest and rejuvenation out of your holiday.

Posted on June 16, 2014 and filed under inspiration, Organization, Spirituality, wellness.

Humble on and humble up

"Humilde" is the Spanish word for humble.  Growing up in Panama in the 80's, being 'humilde' was the politically-correct way of saying you were poor.  So you can understand my confusion growing up when one was asked to be humble and to be driven and successful.  Fast forward me arriving in America to face a nation of exuberant confidence.  It literally took me four years living in the USA before I encounter the word "humble" in a book (OK I was studying engineering, but still).

After living here for twenty years, I must say confidence is one of the added traits of being an American, of which I am very proud, and Confidence is key to getting ahead in life. It helps you do better at work, in relationships, and in interviews. Overconfidence, however, can make you seem like a genuine, how can I say this humbly?  asshole . We all know that one person that thinks they are the strongest, smartest, and just all around best at everything. Truthfully, we all dislike that person to some degree.

So, while confidence is essential, it's important to stay humble as well (the two aren't as contradictory as I used to think). Remember the tale of the Emperor's New Clothes: It's okay to be wrong about something and, more importantly, it's okay to admit that to others. This shows that you not only value your opinion and decisions, but that you also value the opinions and decisions of those around you.

People respond well to humility because it shows that you place yourself at the same level as them, and not above them. Plus, it has other benefits too. Psyblog has an eye-opening list of these benefits that can occur in your personal and professional life. Here are just a few:

Soothe the Soul: Humble people are better able to cope with anxiety about their mortality. Instead of erecting self-defenses against death, humble people tend to find it provides a useful perspective on life and how it should be lived. When it's not all about you, it makes death easier to contemplate.Higher Self-Control: Having high self-control is one key to a successful life. Oddly, perhaps, studies have found that an obsession with the self can paradoxically lead to lower self-control. The humble, though, because they place less importance on the self, exhibit higher self-control in many situations. Perhaps this is partly due to the fact that humble people tend to know their limits.More Helpful: Humble people are, on average, more helpful than people who are conceited or egotistical. In a study by LaBouff et al. (2011), participants who were more humble, were more likely to offer help, and offered more of their time, to those in need. Unsurprisingly, humble people have also been found to be more generous.

The full post lists even more benefits, and is worth a look.

That last one, "More Helpful," can be especially useful to you. To experience the life we want, we often need help—and what better way to get that help than from those we've helped already?  So even if you're a little overconfident on the inside, practicing humility can actually get you ahead.


Posted on June 13, 2014 and filed under inspiration, Spirituality, wellness.

Life Assurance from E.B. White

We are all familiar with feeling uncertain, frustrated and purposeless, when all we need are words of encouragement and support to get out of the funk.  E. B. White, the beloved children's book author of Charlotte's Web, wrote this letter to his niece on the occasion of her own funk.  His words are reassurance that a life lived fruitfully and honestly needn't be difficult or very far from reach:

"I know just how you feel, Judy. Frustration is youth's middle name, and you mustn't worry too much about it. Eventually things clarify themselves and life begins to divulge a steadier destination. In a way, our lives take form through a simple process of elimination. We discard what we don't like, walk away from what seems to inspirit us. My first job was with the United Press, but I knew within half an hour that my heart was not in it and that I would never be any good at gathering straight news under great difficulties and with the clock always running out.

Your majoring in English was no mistake, even though you do not become a critic or a publisher's assistant or a playwright or a novelist. English and English literature are the rock bottom of our lives, no matter what we do, and we should all do what, in the long run, gives us joy, even if it is only picking grapes or sorting the laundry. 'To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.' I agree with Mr. Thoreau himself a victim of youthful frustration. You seem to me a girl whose head is on straight and I don't worry about you, whether you are majoring in English or in bingo. Joe, my son majored in English for two years at Cornell, then realized that what he really liked was boats. He transferred to M.I.T., took a degree in Naval Architecture and now owns and operates a boatyard in Brooklin — hauling, storing, and repairing and building boats. Keeps him busy 24 hours of the day, and keeps him outdoors, where he prefers to be.

We've just had three great gales here and are still picking up the pieces and sawing up the fallen trees. Aunt K. is not well, and there isn't much the doctors can do for her, as her trouble is in her arteries.

Thanks for your nice letter — I wish I could write you a better reply, but your question is essentially unanswerable, except by yourself, and you supplied the answer when you said you wanted to live fruitfully and honestly. If you truly want that you will assuredly bear fruit and be an adornment to the orchard whatever it turns out to be.

With love,
Uncle Andy

Posted on April 25, 2014 and filed under inspiration, Spirituality.

The perfect gift is in your intention

Looking for last-minute holiday gifts can be stressful when we add all the last-minute activities that we try to squeeze out of the end of the year. When in a stressful situation I always ask the intention, and we can all agree that the objective of a holiday gift is to offer to the people we love and like something that will enrich their lives–things they will appreciate, use and enjoy.  If you are purchasing gifts, unless you have been told what the gift receiver wants, chances are you won’t know how the gift is received and/or if the gift will fulfill its intention.

So what do we do? How do we strengthen social bonds without forking over a ton of money? How do we avoid putting our loved ones in positions where they feel like they must pretend to like something in order to maintain a relationship? Here are a few ideas:

  • Give experiences. People are far more likely to be satisfied with an experience than an object. Treat them to a play, take them out to dinner or cook dinner for them, go to a yoga class with them…whatever. Keep the focus on doing and experiencing, not having and accumulating. If you need ideas, I love a website I found this season, it's called Unstuff and it offers great ideas for stuff-free gift giving.

  • Give a gift certificate or money. It might lack the romance, but these gifts are sure to get used. I usually add a note to the card telling the receiver anecdotes or of gifts ideas I thought they may enjoy.

  • Give thoughtfully. Gift giving is an art. It often takes time, consideration and some knowledge of the gift receiver’s life. If we don’t have those things, we might want to give something with more universal appeal. If we do have those things, choose something carefully…and feel free to throw in a gift receipt and make sure you tell them that they can return. Remember its not your gift once given.

Posted on December 23, 2013 and filed under buy, Organization, Spirituality.

Curiosity (galactic awareness in the everyday life)

As season moves us into darker days, I feel that my innate curiosity starts to move me inside.  I am sure we all feel those moments where we want to explore areas of ourselves that we don't know anything about (whether because we are afraid to know or because we never thought about it before).  Our curiosity is a springboard, a launching pad for that leap of faith into the unknown.  What would happen if you bring your awareness into new territories the experience of life?  

That is exactly what scientist did in 1996.  They pointed the Hubble Space Telescope at one of those dark patches in space.  The result: one of the most important images ever taken. Where we as humans saw nothing, there were galaxies — more than 3,000 of them. And when we looked more deeply, our field of view expanded to more than 100 billion galaxies.  Next time you are curious, you are afraid, you don't know, point the telescope of your own attention.  You'll never know what you may find.

 

 

Posted on October 24, 2013 and filed under inspiration, Meditation, Spirituality.

Zen Parable: the little monk and the Samurai

Love, love a good parable and this one is sweet and powerful.  As we read stories, what makes them powerful and transforming is when we place ourselves in the shoes of every character (yes, the wicked and demonic too); go ahead get your monk hat and Samurai hat before your start reading.  Enjoy.

A big, tough samurai once went to see a little monk.

"Monk!"

He barked, in a voice accustomed to instant obedience.

"Teach me about heaven and hell!"

The monk looked up at the mighty warrior and replied with utter disdain,

"Teach you about heaven and hell? I couldn't teach you about anything. You're dumb. You're dirty. You're a disgrace, an embarrassment to the samurai class. Get out of my sight. I can't stand you."

The samurai got furious. He shook, red in the face, speechless with rage. He pulled out his sword, and prepared to slay the monk.

Looking straight into the samurai's eyes, the monk said softly,

"That's hell."

The samurai froze, realizing the compassion of the monk who had risked his life to show him hell! He put down his sword and fell to his knees, filled with gratitude.

The monk said softly,

"And that's heaven."

Posted on June 4, 2013 and filed under inspiration, Meditation, Spirituality.

Spread Your Wings; enjoy your day

Flying birds In all my studies of anatomy, philosophy, design and yoga there is the common thread of observing nature's pulsation.  This idea of contraction and expansion permeates our surroundings, our bodies, our minds and spirits.  When we are able to tab, connect, ride, touch or pulsate with the overarching pulsation of God, then we experience an authentic life that moves us closer to the sweetest experience of life itself.  I found this poem by Rumi, which evokes beautifully what all great teachers are trying to cultivate in us.

Birdwings by Rumi (translated by Coleman Barks)

Your grief for what you’ve lost lifts a mirror up to where you’re bravely working.

Expecting the worst, you look, and instead, here’s the joyful face you’ve been wanting to see.

Your hand opens and closes and opens and closes. if it were always a fist or always stretched open, you would be paralyzed.

Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding, The two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as birdwings.

 

Posted on January 24, 2013 and filed under Anusara, Meditation, Spirituality, Yoga.

Words of Wisdom for Hope and for Moving Forward

HKG2005011836125My heart felt condolences to all the families and the victims of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.  Our hearts are broken. Not that long ago, I was listening to On Being's radio show about the mindfulness of anger, the talk was offered by  Buddhist Master, Thich Hhat Hanh and in times like this when our own thoughts can't possible offer an explanation, we must turn to the wiser ones,  the stronger ones, knowing that in our hearts those qualities abide too.

 I found light in this passage from the Buddhist master, I hope you do too.  It is particularly poignant:

"…there is a seed of anger in every one of us. There are many kinds of seeds that lie deep in our consciousness, a seed of anger, a seed of violence, a seed of fear, a seed of jealousy, a seed of full despair, a seed of miscommunication, a seed of hate. They're all there and, when they sleep, we are okay. But if someone come and water these seeds, they will manifest into energy and they will make us suffer. We also have wholesome seeds in us, namely the seeds of understanding, of awakening, of compassion, of nonviolence, of nondiscrimination, a seed of joy and forgiveness. They are also there.

What we see, what we hear, what we eat, always water the seed of violence, the seed of despair, the seed of hate in us and in our children. That is why it's very urgent to do something collectively in order to change the situation. Not only educators, but parents, legislators, artists, have to come together in order to discuss the strategy that can help bring the kind of safe environment to us and to our children where we shall be protected from the negative watering of the seeds in us. The practice of transformation and healing could not be effective without this practice of seeking or creating a sane environment. When someone is sick, you have to bring him to a place where he or she can be treated and to heal.

If the human person is affected by the poison of violence and anger and despair, if you want to help heal him or her, you have to bring him or her out of the situation where she continues to ingest the poisons of violence. This is very simple. This is very clear and this is not only the job of educators. Everyone has to participate to the work of creating safe environments for us and for our children."

Posted on December 17, 2012 and filed under Meditation, Pop Culture, Spirituality.

A Prayer of Thanks to Nature

We may tend to attribute ego-driven behaviors to Nature (i.e., wrath), but I know that Nature is Love, because God is Love.  And Love has no Ego.   As we prepare to gather for Thanksgiving,  I want to share this beautiful prayer that was written a century ago, but its connection with Grace and Gratitude is permanent and as relevant today as it will a hundred years from now.  Happy Thanksgiving.

Prayer for Nature by Walter Rauschenbusch (1861–1918)

O God, we thank you for this universe, our home; and for its vastness and richness, the exuberance of life which fills it and of which we are part. We praise you for the vault of heaven and for the winds, pregnant with blessings, for the clouds which navigate and for the constellations, there so high. We praise you for the oceans and for the fresh streams, for the endless mountains, the trees, the grass under our feet. We praise you for our senses, to be able to see the moving splendour, to hear the songs of lovers, to smell the beautiful fragrance of the spring flowers.

Give us, we pray you, a heart that is open to all this joy and all this beauty, and free our souls of the blindness that comes from preoccupation with the things of life, and of the shadows of passions, to the point that we no longer see nor hear, not even when the bush at the roadside is afire with the glory of God. Give us a broader sense of communion with all living things, our sisters, to whom you gave this world as a home along with us.

We remember with shame that in the past we took advantage of our greater power and used it with unlimited cruelty, so much so that the voice of the earth, which should have arisen to you as a song was turned into a moan of suffering.

May we learn that living things do not live just for us, that they live for themselves and for you, and that they love the sweetness of life as much as we do, and serve you, in their place, better than we do in ours. When our end arrives and we can no longer make use of this world, and when we have to give way to others, may we leave nothing destroyed by our ambition or deformed by our ignorance, but may we pass along our common heritage more beautiful and more sweet, without having removed from it any of its fertility and joy, and so may our bodies return in peace to the womb of the great mother who nourished us and our spirits enjoy perfect life in you.

Find out who you are by eliminating clutter - Office

One of my sweet students sent me an article from the Boston Globe titled Free yourself by letting go of the clutter in your home, office, and finances, the article is about balancing your finances and it points to a book written by Gail Blanke- “Throw Out Fifty Things: Clear the Clutter, Find Your Life." I am sure the book explains why "fifty" is the magic number, but I haven't read the book.  I do love the idea to start with a random number.  Engineering school taught me to analyze numbers and patterns, but it  also taught me  to trust numbers that don't quite make sense because at the end of the day you are looking for results (my Catholic upbringing just reinforced this methodology).   I've counseled hundreds of folks in how to organize a space and the most difficult part of the process is editing one's belongings.  I know it is very difficult, I struggle myself with parting from items I've attached myself out of nostalgia or out of fear.  So this is an experiment on how to free oneself of material things that aren't serving one's life anymore and I know for a fact that the process can become a metaphor to embrace the present and face one's fears.

As an unscientific experiment,I will throw out fifty items. Yes, I will become the subject of this experiment as I downsize my already pocket-size belongings in hope that the process will help you cope with the editing process of simplifying your life into a richer and healthier one.  If it doesn't do that, at least I hope it brings a smile to your day.

I am going to start with my Office Space.

So where do I  start?  I need to get rid of 50 things, so I guess as any good editor I am gonna look at every item in my office and ask  how is this item contributing to my work?

I think the key here is the active verb, contributing as supposed to contributed.  Many times I hold on to the stories in my head of how wonderful a book was, how nice a workshop was , and how one day I will use that stationary again.   Embracing who I am today means honoring those items that helped me move forward.  I need to trust that I don't need "the story" that the item evokes and let it  go from that place of confidence where I am.

- 28  Books:  this was a tough one since these books were not just books I read, these are books that moved me.   I love stories and if I find a good story like in the many novels I've collected through my adulthood I feel that parting with the book will not let me hold on to the story.  This isn't true, these stories will be with me as long as I can recall the connection I had with them.  Public libraries and electronic books are my friend, if I decided to reconnect with any of my favorite books, I know where to find them.  20 books were donated to the Dobbs Ferry Library.  I also have carried with me textbooks since graduating from college.  I sold most of them right after graduations but I kept  a handful after school thinking that I may need them, I never did, but they represented hundreds of dollars and the fear of being wasteful made me hold on to them.  Truth is that no only I never use these books and no one can use them neither.   I can't sell them or donate them, no one wants them.  So holding onto hundred of dollars that can't serve me or anyone else IS wasteful.  8 Textbooks were tossed (yes, no alternative, I even consulted with theater  prop shops).

- 1 Box of envelops,  these 81/2 " x 11" white3 envelops have been with me since college too.  I used them to send resumes to potential employees.  I don't send mass mailing anymore and PDF electronic files is the standard.  Recycled them.

- 1 Day Runner Day Planner; I have been using my iCalendar for two years now, very successfully.  The repeat/end by date function is a huge help and the fact that I can syncronize with my mobile devise is awesome.  Why do I keep this day planner? I spend a lot of time and money creating my personalized day planner, but it is not useful anymore.  Recycled.

- 2 Decks of playing cards.  Last time I used playing cards I was in Vegas, and casinos make playing cards super available.  Tossed.

- 1 Desktop lamp which has been broken for two years.  I thought I could find a small repair shop to help me with this, but I didn't find one or made any effort.  Tossed.

- 2 boxes of postcards collected in coffee shops.  I had the great idea of forwarding these post cards to friends as I thought of them in my often thinking afternoons in coffee shops.  Texting has become then new postcards.  Recycled.

- 8 pens/markers that do not work properly.  I accumulate so many pens and markers that it becomes hard to keep track of which ones are working.  60 seconds of testing, but I know I can pick up a writing devise with total confidence of success.

- 4 File Folders.  These folders contained finished projects with relevant information, which could come handy for me or my clients.   I scanned all the documents, store the electronic copy my DropBox account and shred paper files.  I  have feared that the information will be stolen or lost in the cloud network, but it could have been  stolen and lost in my house or through all the e-mails I have sent.  I surrender to technology...it is indeed a good thing.

- 5 Yoga  DVD.  These were some of my first yoga teachers.  RodneyShiva were there to help me build my yoga practice, they are still in my practice, but I haven't use these DVD's in years.  I can honor their teaching by just donating these to the library.

- 1 Mouse pad.  I haven't use it in three years...bye bye, my friend.

Who am I?  I am space.  I am efficient. I am open to new experiences.   The whole experiment was very difficult to start, but once you start the process, it is relatively simple.  A great side-effect: You will find your mind more open and more willing to let go of thoughts that are not serving you.

Drop me a line if you find this helpful.

Becoming One From Many

It is so easy to live a fragmented existence, mainly  it is taught to us by society, by our parents, by our teachers, by our friends.   Behave this way when  in school, this way when adults are present, this way when these folks are around...so it  isn't a surprise that as adults we have to embark in a long quest to make our lives whole again.  It took years to fragment  who we were  into small compartmentalized fractions of ourselves and so it takes years to bring those pieces into who we want to be again.  In the meantime, a lots of those fragments get further broken, or polished, or painted.  The longer we wait to go back to the whole, the harder the process will be.  So wait no time and be, and remember it will take time and this process is a gift.  Here is a poem that explains this concept better than I could possibly do.

Love After Love

The time will come when, with elation, you will greet yourself arriving at your own door, in your own mirror, and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat. You will love again the stranger who was your self. Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored for another, who knows you by heart. Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes, peel your own image from the mirror. Sit. Feast on your life.

“Love after Love” from COLLECTED POEMS 1948-1984 by Derek Walcott

Posted on April 27, 2012 and filed under Anusara, Pop Culture, Spirituality.

Breath here.

I am not one to ignore messages from the Universe; and this week the message was loud and clear: BREATH.    I was teaching a twists-focus class this week;  as I taught,  I swear, I saw my students twisting and  the image of a twirling cloud came to my mind.  Next thing I know I am at the wonderful Dana Covello's class and she'd decided to sweep us into a Pranayama journey for 90 minutes that culminated into the sweetest understanding of Hanumanasana (disclaimer, even though my internal body fully manifested this pose, I wasn't anywhere close to the full pose-smile).  So when I came across a podcast  from Elsie's Yoga Class: Live and Unplugged Episode 93 focus on breathing (you must subscribe to her awesome free podcast), I decided to surrender to the powerful force of just listening to my breath. A clear message has emerged from this week's breathing exercises:  I am the fruit of my breath.

Remember this as you move into your everyday.  Please take a moment to observe your breath today and always.

Now, Universe, if you can just tell me what numbers to purchase in the lottery!!!

Posted on March 30, 2012 and filed under Anusara, Spirituality, Yoga.