Kelly Yoga

Sometimes while at my desk I open a browser window and have Pandora pulled up so that I can listen to music while I play the role of worker bee. sometimes, believe it or not, I have too much going on to actually have music going (it almost detracts from my throught process and I make more mistakes at work when this is the case). However, one day earlier this week I was able to enjoy a few moments of music and Kelly Clarckson came on. She does from time to time. The song of hers that hit my ears was “Catch My Breath.” I’ve heard the song no less than three dozen times probably, but suddenly it struck me as quite yogic. Not to get too twisted here, I’ve included a video of a cover of this song. (I enjoy covers, too, from time to time.)

The first minute or so of the song – just listen to the words.

I don’t wanna be left behind
Distance was a friend of mine
Catching breath in a web of lies
I’ve spent most of my life
Riding waves, playing acrobat
Shadowboxing the other half
Learning how to react
I’ve spent most of my time

This should, at least in part, sound very familiar. At least one of these lines applies to just about anyone – just about everyone. This first verse of Kelly’s song describes a lot of any modern human’s day-to-day process. We spend all of our energy – mental, emotional, and physical – doing things that either hurt us or, at best, keep us running in place. Most humans are too engaged in this day-to-day-ness to even realize it. And often even those who realize it are too engaged to either do something about it or to do much at all about it.

Luckily, as the song progresses Kelly shares with us some wisdom we have likely overlooked. If you read (or listen) through the rest of the lyrics you’ll notice a progression. She steps back – only far enough to breath a bit. That’s all. That’s really all that’s needed at first.

She breathes a bit. And little by little (as the song moves along) Reality manifests for her. Priorities are aligned and she’s able to stick to what’s actually important. The lyrics indicate that she’s able to prioritize as she ought to. She’s able to grab onto happiness that stems from within and carries her. She’s able to experience freedom that comes from the confidence in knowing and experiencing who she really is.

All because she paused just long enough to catch her breath.

This is absolutely mudane and no less amazing. The last 8 weeks of work (surely the next 8 as well), and particularly this past week while I’ve been on-call (which I will continue through the next 2.5 days) have been enough to make me chug Pepto Bismol and skip meals (my usual response to stress). I definitely could benefit from Kelly’s example. Couldn’t you?

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

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Dance. Now.

Om-Namah-Shivaya

Have you ever noticed patterns in life? I mean, we can see patterns in every leaf of a tree, in the structure of hair, in snowflakes. Whether it looks intentional like in the buildings humans build, or something seemingly accidental or natural or whatever – we see it everywhere we look. You can find meaning in things like that, or not – either way it’s literally unavoidable. Life is entirely structured. With that in mind, I often notice (and wonder about) patterns in my own life.

They say when it rains, it pours. I really think sometimes life makes a stronger effort to say, “PLEASE look at what I’m showing you. PLEASE understand this lesson!”

All within the last two weeks a good friend’s good friend passed away, a coworker’s father received a pretty grim cancer diagnosis, and I celebrated the death anniversary of my maternal grandfather. WHOA. On a less grim note, during about the same period of time I entered a new phase of my employment (additional responsibilities), I made the choice to reconnect with a path I once thought held very little compatibility with me, and my beloved has reached another annual birth milestone. Life has been giving me a message. Are you able to decipher it?

The structure of life evident everywhere – even in things that seem like coincidence – is something I recognize as Shiva’s Tandava – the dance of creation. It makes me smile, mostly. It used to scare me, but that’s no longer true. There’s something below the surface of that dance, though – something people might not be aware of. Creation is an active process. By its very essence, it requires change: What wasn’t, now is – or is becoming. It’s that easy whether you like it or not. And because energy truly is neither created nor destroyed, we’re left with one basic truth: Everything is made from what came before it.

The implication of that truth is something most struggle with. You see, in order for something to be created from material / energy that came before, recycling of that same “stuff” must occur. You can’t have an aluminum can, make something from that aluminum can, and still retain your aluminum can. The can must necessarily cease to exist if something else, something new (something better?), is to come from it. This change, which is really just the creation process (seeing this primarily as a destructive process is indicative of things most people don’t like to admit to), is something that should be celebrated – as tough as that can be at times.

Naturally, this applies to the human life and the human body. We know our bodies are made from dead stars. It’s literally true and not just about the human body. Star bodies ceased to exist through the course of their own nature and we later were formed from their recycled “stuff.” It follows, naturally, that the same should happen to our own bodies. And we weep.

Most people aren’t a fan of change, and almost no one likes death. It’s one of the very few things in our existence that we apparently have no choice in. Either way, whatever you attribute it to – no one likes losing someone to this part of the dance of creation.

As overused as it might sound, whenever someone “leaves” we should celebrate. As tough as that invariably is for most of us it’s true. Overused or not, it’s true. The same should be said about change in general.

And how do humans often celebrate? By dancing! There’s a strange and sweet kind of parallel to be seen here. The exact same way that the dance of life and creation intermixes with what we perceive as destruction of what we hold dear, when that “destruction” occurs we should recognize this Tandava and similarly allow the Shiv-amsha within to dance, too.

For a number of years – three in a row, as a matter of fact – my family lost loved ones. School and work are shifting for me right now. Religious and spiritual adjustments are happening also. A lot of this gives me pause. Some of it, I’m not yet convinced I like. But I know one thing is true: Dancing is beautiful. And dancing right now, with The All, is about as wonderful as it gets.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

Personal Vortex

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Indiana’s 2013-2014 winter season has, thus far, sucked major ass. Hoosiers always know that our seasons are something of a gamble and can vary greatly from one year to the next – but this crap is for the birds.

My usual weather-checking routine doesn’t go much beyond looking out the window and this winter I’ve hated doing just that. Since I mostly just look out the window for the weather info of the day, I’ve not been terribly well connected to any professional forecasts. Still, I’ve heard plenty of mention of this polar vortex or that polar vortex. I know there’s been more than enough snow. More than enough truly frigid temperatures. More than enough wind.

Winds are good at displacing things, when they’re strong enough and – all winter aside – I feel internal winds doing similar work.

Recently I asked about whether God actually answers prayers (since I differentiate between the role “God” plays and the role played by any run-of-the-mill genie, I’m still not sold that God answers any actual prayer). I’ve seen Facebook friends spin out of orbit because a temple wasn’t built “properly” and people who worshipped in places like those are fools. I’ve also witnessed a number of conversations around pujas, rituals, dietary guidelines, scripture, the ins-n-outs of murtis – you name it, the list could go on for a while of the things I’ve either heard people discuss or discussions I’ve been a part of.

I’ll be honest, I’m nearly done with all that jazz. I’ve been revisiting a path I’d previously set aside because it didn’t really feel like a great fit and I’ve been realizing how good a fit it actually does seem to be. Asking a good friend about this some time ago, I was advised that this likely just means that the timing wasn’t right when I encountered the path the first go-around. I think he was right and I’m increasingly convinced that the current “now” is a time better suited for this.

An interesting thing about this path is the lack of emphasis placed on things like ritual and murtis and … whether or not a temple is truly sacred if its architecture doesn’t meet “Vedic code.” Don’t get me wrong. I think – everything – has value that only it holds in its own way. There is literally a place for everything. But so much of that can be a trap, and indeed IS trapping so many people.

I’m almost to the end of being trapped, or at least risking that particular form of entanglement. I’m looking forward to peeling away the layers of me that have been getting in the way.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

Magic Cookies

Oracle

Oracle

The best and I often have some pretty deep conversations at the most random times. Sometimes he’s starts the talk, sometimes I do. Sometimes it just happens. Last night, in the Burger King drive-thru was once such instance.

I’ve mentioned before that the best has, through his own actions mostly, twisted his life into one helluva pickle. He’ll admit as much, so the fact that I’m saying it here isn’t all that fancy. But we were in the drive-thru and he starts a deep conversation. We went back and forth, talking about compulsivity, choice, the difference between responsibility and comfort and whether the two connect more than people might think insofar as decisions are concerned. All that and more was chatted about as we surveyed the condition of local streets and interstates following Indiana’s dance with an icey vortex.

At one point, he literally said, “Tell me what to do!” And at another point, later in the talk, he said he was having trouble taking in what had been shared with him and needed it said diffrently. My response to this was along the lines of, “Even if it were okay for me to tell you what to do, it wouldn’t do any good because you’ll disregard those directions. And I can say the same thing differently but that won’t matter either because by the time we get home you will have dismissed it from your thoughts and it’ll be just like the directions you’re about to not follow.”

He didn’t seem entirely convinced that I was correct, but his smile indicated he knew as much as likely the truth. Then we joked about the scene in the first Matrix movie where Neo goes to the Oracle in Her apartment. The way that scene ended mirrors how our talk in the drive-thru ended. She shared wisdom and then sent him off with a cookie as if to say, “Just keep moving. Nothing I told you matters anyway.”

At times, some of the relationships in my life mirror that of the relationship the oracle and her visitors have. She tells Neo to not worry about the broken vase – and then he breaks it – and then she’s compassionately amused at his wonderment and jokes about whether he’d have broken it if nothing were said. She inspects him and looks him over in a way that I can recognize. I do that with people sometimes, too. Trust me, she might have been checking out his pupils or his teeth, but she was looking deeper than that. (I do similarly with hands, instead.)At the end of his visit with the oracle, and he’s thoroughly perplexed, she insists he eat a cookie and not worry – that by the time he’s out the door and done with the cookie, he’ll be “right as rain.” He leaves her while she’s wearing her smile again.

I love it.

This whole bit is priceless because it parallels dark-n-wondrous – DEEP – truth about life. Some of us are near enough to oracles here and there to be able to visit them for insight. But whether an oracle spells it out for you or not is of little imporance, the same truth applies to each person: You have to do the work. Be The One, or don’t. The work is still your own to do, that won’t change. Someone can tell you what to do. Someone can tell you in ten different ways if the first nine don’t seem to make sense. Irrelevant! You still have to do the work. Nothing changes this.

The visit with the oracle left Neo baffled in the exact same way my talks with the best sometimes end in silence, with his head spinning a little. Anyone who’s seen the Matrix can confirm that Neo’s evolution had very little to do with the wisdom imparted by the oracle. He set to work. He sacrificed for something bigger. He gave of himself when it wasn’t comfortable. And then – and only then – he awoke. He didn’t get there because someone told him what to do or how to do it. He got there because, among other reasons, being lazy meant misery.

It’s all very “Hindu,” actually. A person must come to the point where his current karmas are no longer acceptable. Then he has to take other actions, of a different nature, to offset those unacceptable karmas. In this process (during which one simply can’t become lazy or comfortable) one evolves to find all karmas unacceptable – and that’s when exponential growth happens.

Visit oracles if you’re able. They can be good for perspective and perhaps re-jigging your compass. But don’t expect much out of their magic cookies, those are just to distract you.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

Sweet As Honey

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Many of us think that our teachers and friends are never supposed to cause the surfacing of feelings that aren’t mostly sparkly and warm. All fuzzy-like. Most of the time, when we encounter someone who enables the manifestation of this frowniness, our ego causes us to judge them and usually value them less, often making us feel inclined to build distance between us.

Sometimes, the good guy (in being the good guy) has to be the bad guy – and only the most undeserving refuses to recognize this. We see it often in parental relationships. Parents who are too concerned with whether their children like them often end up neglecting many valuable aspects of raising the child. Soon enough the child is a veritable brat and eventually becomes an adult living primarily for the self. A parent who understands not only that life isn’t perfect and their child must learn this, but also that this is a lesson best learned early will be doing the child and the rest of society benefit.

In a manner not unlike the relationship of a parent and child, sometimes our friends and teachers have to act as the bringers of dark clouds – for our own betterment. I recall learning of this component in my early days as a Hindu while reading Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi and other stories that recounted times when the guru (best friend) behaved somewhat severely (by the student’s standards) to really drive home knowledge that needed to be picked up. Sometimes the student simply isn’t ready for certain bits of wisdom, and sometimes the student should be ready but seems not to be – because of a subtle refusal to do work on his own (I think laziness, lethargy, and taking the easy route are all prevalent human traits in the Kali Yuga). It’s times like this that a thump on the rump might be in order – sometimes figuratively and sometimes literally. Jesus Christ exhibited the same when he threw a holy fit in the temple yard, dumping vendor tables and becoming vocal about the state of things right then and there.

I find this whole notion of friend / guru playing the role of the bad guy to be intriguing. To be very clear: I’ll never tell anyone that I’m their guru or designated teacher or anything like that. But there are times when I recognize that I might be the only one in someone’s life to throw a damned fit and knock tables over – when it’s needed for evolution. Usually, when this happens it’s because of reasons the person the tantrum is meant for doesn’t see right away. Often, this means I become the bad guy. Part of what makes me who I am is that I’m solid enough on my own to stand independently, regardless of unfounded or ignorant criticism (which more times than not I end up successfully refuting or disproving, if it comes to that), so I’m fine with and quite used to looking like the bad guy who raises hell with temple vendors. (Note: criticism is certainly different than being critiqued.)

Along this line of thought, I wanted to share something I read recently. These words come from the current Satguru of the Sahaj Marg. He’s known as Chariji and what follows is an excerpt from a talk he gave in South Africa in 1993.

“So you see, yesterday we were talking about friendship, friendliness, friendly attitude, God reality. I must tell you one rather kaduva truth: The Guru is the only friend you will ever have. I repeat – He is the only friend you will ever have. If you understand the significance of the proverb or the old way of saying who is a friend: a friend in need is a friend indeed. When do I need a friend? When I am in trouble, when I am in difficulties. A man who is well off and enjoying his life, he doesn’t need friends. Of course, he is surrounded by so-called friends who are hypocrites who want to share in his prosperity, in his fun, and because he doesn’t like to be alone he is surrounded by these sycophants, he throws his money around and they enjoy.

“No a friend in need is a friend indeed. If you are in need, how many of those whom you call your friends will come to you? Sometimes I wish there should be a moment of disaster in every man’s life, because that is the moment when you will be helped to find out who are your true friends. In prosperity, in good health, when you are at the peak of your name, fame, and fortune, you are always wondering, “Who is my real friend?” When a man is in power in politics, he does not know who are his friends. It is at the time of fall, when we are sick, when we are miserable, when we are alone, that we can say, “Here is the friend who comes,” you see, and only one person will come to you then.

“Such a person must have the right to criticize you, to curse you, to kick you if necessary. If you do not give him that right, don’t ask for his friendship, because if he is your true friend he has to help you, he has to give his life for you. He cannot do it unless you permit him to do it. If you say, “No, no, what is this – this blighter is always… criticizing me, telling me not to smoke, telling me to get rid of six out of my seven girlfriends and marry the seventh one… I don’t want! I can find friends enough.” Yes. They will not aid you…

“This is a stern warning I must issue to all of you. A really stern warning – that if you are not fit to be kicked around, or not willing to be kicked around, don’t go for spirituality. Find one of these false gurus, spurious gurus… So you see, a friend need not be friendly. Remember this. It is only in material things that honey must be sweet.”

I’ll point out that, in the Sahaj Marg, words like Master and Friend and friend and Guru and guru are used frequently and almost interchangeably, with context making the meaning clear. I can appreciate this because I’ve long held the belief that the guru is meant to point to the Guru (within) and that our friends are often the face of our only real Friend. Friend (not friend) and Guru (not guru) certainly indicate the Supreme we all come from and return to. In the book, at the end of the quote shared above Chariji continues to discuss the benefit of a Friend / friend who isn’t all sunshine and glitter, as well as the need for us each to be open to growth through pain – which is sometimes manifested by means of our friends.

As I find myself at the beginning of a new calendar year, I hope for my sake and yours that we’re all open and humble enough to recognize the potential brought to us by The One, the Supreme, our Guru when It wears the face of a mundane friend.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

2014102 and ForeSight

third_eye_by_digi_m-d3i96vy

As NYE rolled around I began thinking of what my very first post in 2014 would be. That doesn’t show much foresight or planning on my part, does it? I mean, waiting until almost the last minute to consider something I knew was coming? Interestingly, here at the start of the year, I find this idea to be something worthy of my words. So here you have them…

It happens periodically here in Indiana and might happen more for you, depending on where you might be living when you read this: Winter storms. Often this means blizzards or blizzard-like conditions. Often, blizzards or blizzard-like conditions mean people are stuck at home until roads and such are sufficiently cleaned for safe travel. As sure as the seasons, in the 24 hours prior to the arrival of the bad weather people flood grocery stores of all varieties to get the necessities. Things like bread and milk fly off the shelves along with a bajillion other random things people decide they can’t live 24-48 hours without.

I’m amazed every time this happens, and I happen to find it pretty indicative. In the same way that I pretty much waited till the last minute to consider what my first post of this year might be about, people seem to wait until the last minute before getting the things they (seem to) need to survive. I guess absolutely no one cooks at home anymore and consequently never manages to keep so much as a day’s worth of food in their home. This baffles me even more in areas like Indiana, where we have these storms occasionally and everyone here knows that our road crews are prepared with literally tons of salt and dozens upon dozens of plow trucks.

What’s this all about? Humans are capable of fantastic cognition. Even from an early age, we’re able to put pieces together and formulate complex thought processes. Here in Indiana, we knew the storm was coming since, like, at least Thursday. And yet the night before is when everyone MUST get their necessities. It’s not entirely true, but it seems no one plans ahead and it’s insane.

As we find ourselves still at the beginning of our new year, many of us are setting out with a whole set of resolutions. In the same way we want to live as comfortably as possible when snowed into our homes, we want to achieve our resolutions – and success in either takes foresight. Dear reader, as you make your way into and through 2014 try always to place efforts into the now that will form your future. Eventually, that future will be the new now and without foresight it’s much less likely to be the now you had hoped for. Happy January to you!

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti