Tag Archives: compassion

Bhakti Yoga, Heart Opening to the Beloved

carolyn and priscilla lasecki kieber

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 strength throughout 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.

Mom would have loved this video of Henri Nouwen’s sermon on THE BELOVED.


READ MORE: a lovely blog post on a bhakti workshop by one of my fav German yoginis, Lilylotuswillow: http://lilylotus.wordpress.com/2009/09/17/david-newman-workshop/#comment-312

Lovingkindness meditation

Fredonia NY Daylily (ckg photo)

This is a GREAT time to practice METTA or Lovingkindness meditation. HAITI challenges us to step up to the compassion plate. Please try to offer some lovingkindness for not only the Haitians effected by the earthquake, but also for their families,the aid workers, and the governments involved that something may be done to ease the long-term suffering of the Haitians. Teachers, please consider beginning or ending your classes by teaching your students the metta phrases and offering them for Haitians everywhere.

This post is a looooong overdue response to Svasti’s comment on LaughingYogini’s Home or Homeless? post regarding Lovingkindness meditation. In the post I said:

MEDITATION: Georg Feuerstein, in The Yoga-Sutra of Patanjali, says that there is a meditation wherein the four virtues: friendliness, compassion, gladness, and equanimity are radiated from the practitioner into the universe. This sounds very similar to metta or lovingkindness meditation that I have mentioned before. Beginning with oneself, and eventually including all sentient beings, the meditator offers the following phrases (or others that resonate more deeply):

May I be free from danger.

May I be happy.

May I be healthy.

May I live with ease and abundance.

Svasti responded to that excerpt:

What annoys me about the Feuerstein quote is the ‘I’, ‘I’, ‘I’. Generally most prayers are phrased as:

May all beings be free from danger.
May all beings be happy.
May all beings be healthy.
May all beings live with ease and abundance.

To me, this is much healthier, because its recognizing all conscious beings and offering to one and all, Self included.

I am afraid that I misrepresented Feuerstein in that piece.There should be a break in the middle of that paragraph, when I begin MY thoughts (& depart from paraphrasing GF): This sounds very similar to metta or lovingkindness meditation that I have mentioned before. Beginning with oneself, and eventually including all sentient beings, the meditator offers the following phrases (or others that resonate more deeply).

The other misunderstanding comes from an insufficient explanation of metta practice in the earlier post. For that I refer the reader to LaughingYogini’s page on Lovingkindness Meditation, which can be found here.

The Mother of All Intentions

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.

Home or Homeless? Yoga sutra 1.33

Royal Bonica rosebud
Royal Bonica Rosebud (carolyn photo)

Grieving with friends and family of someone who has passed blesses us with stories we may not have ever known otherwise.

While in Houston, E.’s father shared an inspiring account of a homeless man living beneath a highway overpass near their home. Over time, they recognized and began to speak with him. Eventually, whenever father or daughter saw him there, they began leaving plates of food and some clothing. Because of their generosity, I was moved to make a donation to a homeless shelter in Houston. It’s true that generosity inspires generosity!

Patanjali tells us that compassion is one of the tools we can use to calm the mind: Yoga sutra 1.33: maitri karuna mudita upeksanam sukha duhkha punya apunya visayanam bhavanatas citta prasadanam

The projection of friendliness, compassion, gladness, and equanimity towards objects – [be they] joyful, sorrowful, meritorious, or demeritorious-[bring about] the pacification of consciousness. (trans. Feuerstein)

Though I’m focusing on compassion today, the practices of friendliness, gladness, or equanimity would bestow similar benefits that I’d like to discuss in future posts.

This aphorism, or sutra, reminds me of Simon and Garfinkle’s ode to loneliness, “I am a Rock.” The following video is from the unofficial Paul Simon Page, located on 2dannyc89′s Channel.


This is the path I get stuck on …stuck in grief, alienation, and self-absorption….when I don’t practice the outward-looking virtues.

The ideals expressed in yoga sutra # 1.33 have been used to transform human relationships and better society since ancient times.  Barbara Stoler Miller in Yoga, Discipline of Freedom, says they echo early Buddhist monks practices even as they are relevant and useful to us in the 21st century because:

These practices work to demolish the boundaries between oneself and others, and to break through the barriers that lock people into egoism….bring about a transmutation of personal emotions into immeasurable virtues.

We are reminded in B.K.S. Iyengar’s Light on the Sutras of Patanjali to not limit our social work with these four virtues, but to include practice of the five virtues named in the yamas mentioned in sutra 2.30: nonharming, honesty, non-stealing, moderation, non-grasping.

We call these social virtues because they benefit not only ourselves, they also bring society into a state of health. Can we live in a health-ful rather than a dys-functional society? If we take these aphorisms to heart and into our lives, it certainly seems possible!

A friend on FaceBook posted a thought-provoking video that cuts to the heart of this sutra. I hope it will benefit you today just as the story E.’s father shared, inspired me.

Mankind Is No Island from B2GYouth.com on Vimeo.

MEDITATION: Georg Feuerstein, in The Yoga-Sutra of Patanjali, says that there is a meditation wherein the four virtues: friendliness, compassion, gladness, and equanimity are radiated from the practitioner into the universe. This sounds very similar to metta or lovingkindness meditation that I have mentioned before. Beginning with oneself, and eventually including all sentient beings, the meditator offers the following phrases (or others that resonate more deeply):

May I be free from danger.

May I be happy.

May I be healthy.

May I live with ease and abundance.

 



Do You Believe in Prayer?

Yoga and prayer…do they go together…do YOU bring them together? Yoga asana IS prayer for me. It’s the prayer of the body in motion. It’s opening my SELF to the grace of the universe.It is working to create a sustainable body/mind/spirit and therefore family/friendships/community/nation/world.

Sitting meditation – is it a prayer? Yes’m indeed. We sit to develop compassion; all practice is for compassion. Imagine if those in the West Wing sat everyday, hell, sat once a week and practiced Lovingkindness meditation.…Imagine (as John Lennon did but the world has not quite grasped the work involved yet…Imagination + Prayer/Practice =  a more loverly world!) ahhh, for today – as we enter upon the inauguration of a new era – just imagine….

This post is dedicated to another Jersey girl, a member of the original Mater Dei yoga club back in 1971: “White Cathy” – and the benevolent work she has done and continues to do! It’s a blessing and inspiration to know you.

Yoga and meditation teach us to open ourselves; to free ourselves from the confines of our “programming,” of what we have been inculcated by society. The practice informs us of a greater existence, a greater SELF that we can aspire to and it is a SELF that we all belong to in this great human family – some would say in this family of all sentient beings.

Do you believe in the power of prayer to change the world? Do you act on that belief? How does it affect your life? – or the lives of those around you?

Yoga Month

For those of us who still live in linear or clock time, please join the celebration of Yoga Month! On the lower bar of the video above, there is a menu of short interviews of many different people sharing what yoga means to them. Though we are late to participate in the official month’s activities, we can still jump into the cultural movement inspiring a healthy lifestyle and contemplative life.

It’s a great time to share the gift of yoga with folks who, traditionally, have not been a part of the community: elders, kids, prisoners, mentally ill, rural folks, etc. I’m sure you can name a few more groups who’d enjoy the benefits of yoga and meditation. Perhaps you have family members who would love to learn some skills for increasing their awareness and happiness while alive on this planet. Offer what you’ve learned or invite them to join you in your class. If you are a teacher, you may want to look beyond the typical studio arrangement and bring your skills “out of the box” and into……. wherever! The river is wide and the currents are many.

Here in Fredonia, the Friday HAPPY HOUR relaxation and meditation has become a wonderful way to end the work week and begin the weekend. Collecting all proceeds for an international non-profit group adds an element of opening compassionately beyond our personal needs. The seeds of yoga practice grow!

Can we, as a culture evolve into a more peaceful, caring, and aware group? We, as individuals, certainly can – that is born our again and again in the lives of yoga students everywhere.

Blessed Are They Who Thirst

It’s Victorian Dazzle Days in Fredonia and I stumbled upon these two girls raising money for Rural Ministry. What a wonderful take on the lemonade stand! It was a hot day and the juice was absolutely refreshing as M. and I walked home from the Farmer’s Market and the events (Croxton’s historical puppet show, Civil War re-enactors, antique dealers) in Barker Commons. We thoroughly enjoyed getting out and chatting with friends and neighbors. This is connection as deep as any yogic connection we might develop. Yes, we need to develop that inward connection; we need to foster self compassion and love–those are the first priorities, but then we need to allow ourselves to open wider so that we can feel one with the local and world-wide community. After all, what one feels, we all feel, if we allow ourselves that sort of sensitivity in this hard-edged world.

While M. and I were out and about, enjoying village life, I don’t need to say that there are so many in need, so many who who are unable to kick back and enjoy a summer day this way. Please take a look at the compassion-in-action links and offer what you can to these worthwhile organizations. I will be adding more as they come to my attention. In the meantime, the Fredonia Yoga Club has come to consensus that we’d like to support the Schools for Peace Program. When the Friday afternoon Happy Hour begins in September, all donations will be sent to support that program.