Death reminds me that there is really only one way to live. From the heart of love.
Returned last night from burying Mom in North Carolina. A devoted Catholic, Priscilla Lasecki Kieber embodied the heart of bhakti yoga.
Whether she was sitting on the beach, enjoying the beauty of the rolling oceanic waves, preparing cake for a crowd of company, or volunteering in a community group, I’ve always admired the way she lived beyond the fray of “talk.” From a steady and patient center, she infused her relationships with the steady gift of herself.
Her home was was filled with Madonna icons and crucifixes ~ symbols of the objects of her love. She seemed happiest when she was in church, whether at daily Mass or evening novenas. A blessed string of rosary beads were never far away from her praying hands. If she missed a Sunday service, she was heart-broken. How soon would she return to the abode of her Beloved?
Her devotion to the Divine gave her a steady stream of wisdom and strengththroughout her 87 years.
Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church window, Amherst NY
Friends sent me poems of comfort this morning. Here is a short stanza from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran:
Only when you drink from the river of
Silence shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountain
Top, then you shall begin to climb.
And when the earth shall claim your
Limbs, then you shall truly dance.
In death, as in her long life, Mom is surely dancing with her Beloved. It is through taking small steps and opening our hearts, one kind word at a time, and refraining from one little meanness after another, that we can join her in this Blissful Tango.
During this season of intention-setting, it might be helpful to contemplate the mother-of-all-intentions: COMPASSION.
And all compassion, from the grandest benevolent foundation to the tiniest gesture of human kindness, begins with oneself.
During 2010, how can I treat myself with greater friendship, honor, and love? Can I develop kinder thoughts as well as healthier responses? What simple action can I take to implement this intention?
My first method of creating more compassion in my life and in the lives of folks I touch ~ including my online friends ~ is to work on my physical and mental health. I can develop healthier personal patterns: MORE vegetables, MORE exercise, MORE focus.
A second action is to develop a greater support system. I have taken some first steps toward gaining mentors and will continue contemplating what other sorts of support may be beneficial.
I work on these areas so that I may better serve you.
Developing a fundamental attitude of compassion, not just day-by-day, but by really paying attention, becoming mindful of moment-by-moment turns toward or away from compassion will change the world.
I know that this is a bit lame: posting a Thanksgiving post two weeks late, (if you’re experiencing any post-feast hunger,try the sweet & spicy pecans because they are very tasty AND easy to make) but hey, though I wasn’t able to post then, I really DO have a LOT to be grateful for.
For instance, during yesterday’s storm, a huge limb from the pin oak tree outside my bedroom window fell on my neighbor’s garage rather than my bedroom. Thankfully, no one was hurt.
And even though Mom is having some new health issues, at least she’s thankfully in a place where there are caregivers available 24/7.
And thankfully, even though the wind is howling and the snow piling up like crazy, it’s cozy in here where I can still communicate with folks outside via my phone, twitter, FB, this blog and others, such as newfound blogging brother, Bob W. from Yoga Demystified. I Skyped with my brother in Connecticut, my sis in Poland, and Marie in Arkansas twice already today, was able to call mom’s nurse to check on her condition even though I’m 900 miles away and 50 degrees colder, advised my daughter who is 450 miles away in another direction regarding her back condition ~ I am THANKFUL to be able to enjoy such connections in my life.
Gratitude is an essential aspect of any happy life. Do you know anyone who is happy and ungrateful? I don’t.
Here is a soothing music video featuring George Winston‘s piano from equivocaly. I invite you to watch, listen, and lean back in your chair, meditating upon what is beautiful in life right now. Afterwards, if you can, drop by George Winston’s site and support his efforts to rebuild New Orleans. I am thankful for folks who, not only create beauty in this world, but who also foster compassion with and through their art.
What is it that I am waiting for? Why do I think I am not good enough or strong enough or smart enough or beautiful enough or kind enough? Why is the ripeness, the fullness of my existence so difficult to accept?
Why do I think someone is more ~ or less ~ then my self? Why do I not see the wholeness in the world around me?
Why is union so elusive?
There is a beauty and joy as the trees in the northeastern US give up their leaves every fall. The world ripens. My prayer is that I may accept and be grateful for the ripeness that is me ~ that is you. However momentary that may be.
Here is a video produced by A Network for Grateful Living (ANG*L) of Poet Jane Hirshfield performing at the Poetry of Gratefulness event at the Herbst Theatre, San Francisco, CA, February 3, 2008. I recommend a visit to: http://www.gratefulness.org…a non-profit organization dedicated to the practice of gratitude. You may want to check out some of the other very worthwhile videos while you’re there!
I’ve never had so many hugs as I enjoyed during the past two weeks. My -very large- family gathered to support dad’s last days and then more folks arrived to honor his passing. Through it all, we hugged!
Sometimes two of us caught each other’s eye and clasped our arms around each other and held on as if clasping life itself.
Other times, someone would notice a family member “on the edge” and a spontaneous group hug would evolve. My family practices “sandwich hugs” which are group hugs that squeeze the person from all sides. The physical holding of the person mimics our holding them in our hearts.
If yoga is UNION, surely then hugs are a form of yoga. It is a discipline we need to practice. We need to move beyond the sterile: hands barely touching the other person and head tilting for a light peck on the cheek.
Just as every pose encompasses effort and surrender, hugs require both giving and receiving.
As we gather the other person in our arms, we acknowledge our contribution to their well being. We build confidence in our own power to heal. We surrender to their strength and love. Acknowledging that we are not alone in this world, we hold each other in a fundamental, primal human connection.
We give our Self to them. At the same time, we practice surrendering and receiving the gift of another Self, which is really the same Self!
Here’s a lovely video which is probably not the most inspirational video you’ll ever see, but one you’ll enjoy. Watching huggers seems to get the endorphins flowing! Thanks to a FB friend for sharing, New Age Enlightenment for creating HUG FOR THE WORLD, and for the soundtrack by Enigma.
If you have been practicing for any amount of time, you’ve probably asked yourself, what is the goal of all this mat-work? Is it to become a bit more “bendy?”
My answer is that BENDY is an offshoot of a good practice. You should begin to see real changes in your everyday life after a couple of months of yogic practice. The people around you should begin to notice that YOU HAVE CHANGED.
I remember quite vividly, Mike saying to me that I had become a “kinder, gentler” version of myself. HUH? answered. It took a while for me to recognize the SELF that was emerging. How beautiful and wonderful to evolve. Truly this is a gift.
The world is evolving as well, just as individuals are moving through samsara on journeys filled with peace and love. I share with you an amazing video of two rock stars in my world: an interview by Boulder’s green blogger yogi, Waylon Lewis on his elevision with eminent Buddhist scholar, Robert Thurman. They tackle the question, Does the Dalai Lama matter? and in the process discuss world peace, Tibet, Buddhism mixing it all up with some humor and light. I don’t know what Waylon did to Bob, but the usually staid teacher was in rare form, telling silly jokes that of course the Laughing Yogini LOVED.
Happy Fourth of July to American yogins everywhere.
Beyond the flashy fireworks and barbecue festivities, this is a day to reflect upon the meaning of freedom and to celebrate the birthday of our country. Revolutionary War soldiers certainly felt as if Colonial powers were impeding their lives and their freedom. For many of us however, the celebration is checkered by a history that was often cruel and pocked by the nether aspects of humanity. For instance, the culture and political community that existed on the continent was nearly obliterated.
How can we reconcile the shame with the pride?
Have you taken time today – even ten minutes – to ask WHO AM I while sitting in silence and listening towhateverburbles into consciousness? I feel truly free when connecting with my SELF, the Source of energy and life itself. Does the past impede your present life or can you free yourself to live truly open to this present moment? Have you ever felt truly free?
Some thoughts to pepper your practice:
Do you feel constricted in your life?
Can freedom be achieved in every single asana? What is the key?
Is there a place or a practice that helps you move and act beyond shame and pride? Do you even think that this is possible? How does this relate to freedom? Is freedom a worthwhile endeavor? What do you consider more important?
What are the chains keeping you from living the life that is YOURS?
Is personal or spiritual freedom possible without political freedom? What price are you willing to pay for each of these liberations?
How can a sense of lightness, humor, and joy infuse the challenge of becoming more free?
When I watch the fireworks tonight in Swansboro, North Carolina, I’ll think of the struggle for personal/spiritual freedom that this community is dedicated to and I’ll clap for y’all at the first appricot squiggle bursting overhead.
You don’t need to espouse Buddhism or Hinduism or any religion at all to practice yoga and meditation.
However, we can learn much from the Buddha’s life and the practices he developed and incorporate them as a means of deepening our own spiritual journey.
Here is the fascinating story of Siddhartha’s life from the BBC and Discovery channel, directed by Clive Maltby. I found it on You Tube via dharmicjourney. The story of the archeological finds which helped piece together the Buddha’s human life is interesting in its own right. Hold on for the second half of the film which explains the obstacles Buddha faced during meditation and how he dealt with them.
Before you begin the film, pour yourself a cup of tea and make yourself comfortable so you can settle in for nearly an hour. It’ll be worth your while.
Poetry can be used as a wonderful tool for your meditation. There is a layer of a good poem that is “off the page.” When I teach poetry, I ask my students to try to understand, not only the literal interpretation of a given poem, but also whatever levels they find off the page.
Often, we read this layer with our hearts and have a difficult time explaining that level of the poem to another person; we’ll say it’s hard to put into words or we’ll say “you know” a lot while nodding our heads. It’s the layer of the poem that speaks to us the loudest and with a universal message of what it means to be human. We know, and again it’s a nonverbal knowledge, that the other person understands, or maybe I should say FEELS what it is the poet is trying to convey.
When listening to or reading poetry, RELAX open your heart center, and invite your Self to become the poem. If that sounds too airy-fairy to you, just sit back and softly focus your awareness on each line of the poem.
And if they don’t speak to you, don’t worry, I’ll post something completely different next week.
After you have “experienced” each video, you may wish to sit quietly with your eyes closed for a few minutes and let them reverberate in your heart and mind. As you do so, welcome whatever bubbles into your awareness consciously. Then let that thought go as you create room for whatever else may come before your mind. Do this as long as you feel comfortable.
If you’re inspired, by all means pick up your pen and paper, or head to your keyboard and let loose. Mevlana would be pleased with your efforts, I’m sure.