Praani

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In this post, I wrote about how Sahaj Marg has aided my personal evolution to the point of somewhat regular experiences of  The More. Part of that development and those experiences (maybe a huge part of it), I think, relates to what I know to be called “praan” or “prana.” ( प्राण, prāṇa ) Depending on the source you reference, this term translates variously as: Life force, vitality principle, universal principle of energy or force, cosmic energy, and shakti. The Wikipedia entry (which I don’t usually count as a valid reference for anything) on the term tells us that it comes to the earth from the sun, connects all the elements, is responsible for the body’s life / heat / maintenance, and is the sum total of all the manifest energy everywhere. (I find this to be just one, very simple example of Hinduism’s ability to completely marry science / sorcery, mundane / magical, sacred / secular.) Obviously, with a definition as broad as the one above, there are a billion ways in which praana manifests and can be experienced. Another great aspect of Hinduism is that it not only allows for but also insists on the recognition of everyone’s ability to experience this, first-hand, in their own way. For me, this most often happens (or, at least, happens in a way that I have come to recognize with the most ease … ) while gardening. I’ll now annoy you with photos of some of my recent gardening efforts. 11050102_10155600723615235_4087172207148536321_n 11209590_10155600754980235_5902798348459611331_n 11210491_10155582210965235_3805607327618700350_n 11212769_10155582210095235_3930039768400469059_n 11141204_10155582209930235_2020331096100944633_n   It’s tough to describe. In fact, when describing It, all words will invariably fail. But I can try to describe my sensory experience. For anyone inexperienced in the dark art of gardening, allow me to say a bit: I don’t wear gloves. Ever. Give me lilies or a cactus, I’m touching it with my skin. This means getting my hands in the dirt and getting the dirt in me – at a minimum dirt will get under my nails, but it’s not uncommon that I’ve also accidentally cut or poked myself and broken some skin. When repotting a plant or placing it into the ground, there’s a lot of physical contact: I usually inspect the plant (above the roots) first to make sure it’s healthy. Then there’s minor prep work before and during the removal from its planter. After that, focus falls to the root ball – to loosen the roots a bit and break up some of the dirt being held onto. Occasionally, trimming or pruning is also beneficial or necessary before planting or repotting. Beyond that scenario, whether indoors or outside, gardening offers lots of opportunity to care for these living things: Watering, rotating, pruning, separating new sprouts or “pups,” … the list can go on, assuming the plant survives. All of this contact and attention and focus and care can, for the right person, contribute to the development of a rather meditative state. It’s not unlike a state I’ve experienced while doing dishes or mowing the yard – and others have experienced this, too, during mundane activities.The difference between gardening and washing dishes, though, is the contact with actually living things. And that’s where praana comes into this picture and is also where it becomes challenging to describe. There’s a sound that electricity carries. It sometimes can be sensed (heard?) after a lightening flash and right before a thunderclap. It’s not that “zap” sound. It can be heard again in silence – like immediately after the thunder or in between heart beats. (We reproduce this, somewhat, when during pranayam-ic exercises we pause between inhaling and exhaling.) From where I currently sit, I’m not sure if this “silence” is really a kind of noise or not. And truly, it must be felt to be experienced. I don’t think it can actually be heard with human ears. But there’s that electrically-charged silence-but-not-silence “sound.” This is what growth sounds like. A kind of electric, non-auditory, thunder. And because I can’t actually hear it, I feel it. There’s no ego in a plant. Consciousness (different from awareness), but no ego. And as already mentioned, the act of gardening can induce a deep meditative state. So, when I engage in this activity and enter that state my ego is brushed aside (quite involuntarily!) and magic happens. This is when people say they’re doing something from the heart or “in the zone” (it’s the heart zone!). Whether it’s basketball, gardening, archery, or whatever – you can enter that space within and operate from there. A huge, massive, invaluable benefit I’ve gained from Sahaj Marg – being able to tap into my core. So before I know it, I’m in my heart experiencing this magic kind of non-effort and that’s when I come into conscious and aware contact with praana. Please believe me when I tell you that I experience (feel) that universal sound – the very life residing in the plant (and in you, and me, and everything else, everywhere). I feel the sound of the movement of Life. I don’t feel the movement itself. I don’t hear anything. It keeps reminding me of the kind of sensitivity that guy in the movie “Powder” exhibited, but without all the melancholy. But I feel the “sound” made by that indwelling… And then I go to a greenhouse and buy more plants, pots, and dirt! When you find a way for you to tap into It so easily, it can be maddening. It becomes all you really want to do. Bliss. It’s probably a good thing I’m not yet able to experience this consistently in other areas of my life – I’d give away everything and run to the jungles or a mountain cave and would live my days in seclusion. I’m curious how many others have this experience, or their equivalent of it. What activities can induce this in your human being? Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti

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Heartfulness

In 2014, when the last Master in the Sahaj Marg lineage left his body, a successor stepped into his shoes. This was arranged well beforehand, as our last Master’s health began to wane and a new Master would soon be needed. Despite the preparation, it was naturally a very emotional time for our community. For me personally, it came at just about the worst time to lose someone to whom you have a spiritual relationship. I had so very much going on with work. Just about as much going on with school. I had just purchased a lovely new home and also had just lost my birth mother.

It was shortly after brother Kamlesh became the new leader of our community that I wrote here about wondering what the future would hold for us as a community and spiritual path. I think in that post I detailed briefly the changes that were implemented with each successive guru and how the mission of our Mission would need to evolve with times and the new needs that arise with them. So far, Shri Kamlesh has already laced up his boots and is fulfilling his duties – and doing well!

One very different change that is new to the Marg is our opening up (for lack of better words). Prior to now, we’ve been accessible and free to anyone who sought us – but generally only those who did the seeking on their own. In Sahaj Marg, as with many Hindu traditions, proselytizing is forbidden. And in Sahaj Marg, there have been times when remaining obscure even seemed to be encouraged so that purely and surely only those who really are seekers found our method of Raja Yoga. My local (nondenominational) Hindu Temple is very similar. Example: The mother of a friend of mine who lives in Georgia even called up here, on my behalf, and asked about “conversion” pujas for those actually wanting to convert – the answer she was given was something like, “absolutely not.” There was such emphasis against the idea of conversion, that even those actively seeking it have been denied – all for the sake of avoiding looking like any of those religions that seek converts. But for Sahaj Marg that might be changing in some way currently. There’s a new “initiative” called Heartfulness that has me very excited about what the future of Sahaj Marg might look like.

I was recently at the home of my local preceptors, Jan and Bob, for a sitting – and long overdue! After the sitting, which was fantastic in its own unspeakable way, we were able to linger a bit in the sitting’s afterglow and lightly discuss these recent developments. Most of what we chatted about I’ll not share here, but we did talk about the current shape of the community and what the future shape might resemble. The pics I’ve attached to this post are pics I took with my phone’s camera – the home of these preceptors basically serves as an ashram for our local community (the nearest “official” ashram is in Ohio). I think because of the continued and dedicated practice of these two souls (my preceptors), as well as the consistent use of this home for spiritual endeavors, despite your personal worldly worries or baggage and despite whatever householder troubles these two might be handling at any given moment, you walk in, remove your shoes in the entry, and are nearly instantly elevated to a condition that is sometimes hard to achieve and maintain outside of their home’s walls. Vibes! Such permeation in the very structure of the place that it’s impossible to be there very long at all without being affected.

 

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So during our post-sitting talk, we discussed how challenging it can be for Westerners to take to foreign concepts – in this case, Indian / Hindu concepts and vocabulary. It was mentioned that it’s actually exceedingly rare for someone to be like myself (no jokes!) and that most people in the West have no idea really what words like dharma, karma, meditation, and yoga ( to name only a few ) actually mean. And because of that, a lot of goodness, evolution, and integration – on a personal level – is missed out on, unless that soul is already on a path and engaging that path in a manner that actually takes them deeper than usual.

Devotional Setting at the Connors'

Devotional Setting at the Connors’

 

So now we have this “Heartfulness” stuff. And, for lack of knowing the best way to say it, Heartfulness is Sahaj Marg without all the foreign words. It’s the very basis and basics of our practice, spelled out in Western language. When the emails and newsletters were released to abhyasis telling us about this, I read over the new resources in detail. There’s practically no mention of our lineage or the heart chakra or raja yoga – in fact, I think in all that I read, there was only a single mention of our method of yogic transmission.

 

Josh at the local "ashram," with Chariji memorial setting in the background

Josh at the local “ashram,” with Chariji memorial setting in the background

 

I’ll admit that my initial response was one of disappointment. How can you share Sahaj Marg without sharing Sahaj Marg?!?! And then, with the help of a fantastic preceptor, it hit me: We’re not sharing Sahaj Marg. Not really. We’re essentially performing one of Sahaj Marg’s highest values which is to find the end of religion and thereby experience the beginning of spirituality. Our specific lineage, our method – all the juicy stuff associated with us is all just “religion” and the fantastic thing about Sahaj Marg – from the very start – is that we’re being helped to leave religion behind. In fact, our masters teach consistently and repeated teach that this is not only what will happen naturally as one evolves, but that we should be motivated to exercise this evolution as quickly as is healthy for us to do. Surely, our entire community will be collectively motivated and encouraged in this way by recent developments.

To that end, below I’ll be sharing various links and videos. This kind of information wasn’t really available before now and wherever it was, like I said, it was for the seeker to find through their own exerted effort.

The general / main link for the new initiative can be found by clicking here: Heartfulness . A page on experiencing heartfulness can be access by clicking here. And anyone who would like to speak to someone directly about the, assuming you don’t want to speak to me about it, can click here and complete the form on the web page. A preceptor nearest to you will reach out to you

Practice Heartfulness YouTube Channel

 

 

 

 

 

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti

Coded Universal

I work in a office park called Parkwood. There are five or so buildings to Parkwood and my building seems kind of in the middle of all of them. A parking garage connects my building to another building in the office park. This is the first employer I’ve had – ever – to offer a free parking garage to employees. It’s rather nice – especially where Indiana weather is concerned. There are three entrances into my building and the one from the parking garage actually has you walk around a massive indoor waterfall before you’re actually in the building. Once a month or three the waterfall is shut off, emptied, refilled, and started again. This feature sits in the middle of the first floor and is impossible not to notice. All around the waterfall is what amounts really to an atrium of sorts. There are many full-sized trees, ferns, rows and rows of mother-in-law’s tongue, and a few varieties of vining plants.

In some ways, it’s almost a parody of the “corporate jungle” and could even be interpreted as a warning sign for those coming in. From the beginning of my employment, though, this area has always been so welcome. The space is filled with natural lighting year-round. I get to watch grounds keepers prune the plants and tend to them. And the sound of the waterfall is hypnotic.

Lately (as in, the last few months) I’ve felt more keenly aware of the behind-the-scenes energetic movement of Life. It’s natural for me, for this time of the year. As the year ages and Indiana summer swings into place the feeling of this movement will change and will become something more outwardly apparent, but will take more effort for me to feel in the subtle way I’m currently experiencing. (And then in the Fall, I’ll be able to perceive this subtle movement again with more ease.)

I sit sometimes in the atrium at work and meditate. I find this to be one of the best places for me to meditate, outside of my temple room at home. And the Sahaj Marg practice, as unique as it is, I really feel helps me to connect to the deeper subtle energy in Life. One of the proofs of this practice, for me, is the increased ability to tap into this energetic foundation of all. I’m not talking about manipulation or altering of this energy, just connecting to it, feeling it, and loving the love I feel from it.

There have been times though when I feel limited. Almost certainly the fact that I’m in a physical body currently is a limiting factor. From where I am currently, there’s only so much of the bigger picture – of this energetic foundation – that I’m permitted to see or sense. during times when this limiting aspect of life is more apparent, I sit and notice the sound of the waterfall.

By current definitions of what it means to be a conscious entity, waterfalls are not conscious. I’m not really disputing that, but I do think there is an element of consciousness that still touches the waterfall. With that in mind, I can’t help but wonder what (if anything?) the effect of that might be. Is this “touch” of consciousness what is responsible for things in nature like the Golden Ratio / Fibonacci sequence? Is it possible that the noise created by the waterfall is a form on language or code?

When I watch the waterfall, and notice the minute disturbances in the field of water as it falls and reaches the pool below, it all strikes me as being very Matrix-like. Instead of mere water drops falling, could it be translated as some form of binary code communicating information we’re not able to interpret right now?

I’m sure most would think that idea is ridiculous. And maybe it is. The universe, as a collection of things and non-things, couldn’t contain consciousness – and certainly something like a waterfall couldn’t. Right? This is almost certainly just some New Age bologna. Right?

I don’t know. So much of this is difficult to put into words. Do you ever sense something more, but find that the very instance you try to describe, label, or try to explain or communicate it – it’s practically lost?

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti

June 28, 1960

On November 22, 2014 at 11:47 ( Note: not 23:47 ) my birth mother passed away.

We knew it was coming. She’d really been mean to her body throughout her life and now in her early 50’s she was suffering from advanced cardiac failure, renal issues, and Stage IV pulmonary cancer.

I could be mistaken, but I think she’d had kidney issues for a really long time. One kidney was significantly smaller than the other. Then the heart problems started – not quite a decade before her passing. Depending on who you ask and when you ask them, she’d had a heart attack or a number of them. She swore up and down that she did, but I heard with mine own ears a very prominent local cardiologist tell her to her face that she simply did not have a heart attack. That was kind of how it went with my birth mother’s health history – between her own skewed perceptions of reality, lack of intelligence / education, and not understanding a lot of the medical lingo, she told you whatever she thought to be true, and often refused to change her understanding even when the truth was factly presented to her face. I recall around Mother’s Day of this year that my sister and I were in the hospital with this woman and we spoke to each and every specialist who came into her room – she had in her head what she had in her head and nothing was going to change that. (Side Note: As a Hindu, I find immense and authoritative value behind one’s personal experience. After all, my religion is founded on direct and personal experience. But the questioning Western mind within my head also remains humble enough to understand that perception often flavors and skews what we think is our experience and sometimes greatly so. One must remain open and submissive to truth beyond what we think.)

So not quite a decade ago a pace maker was installed into within her cardiac organ. Apparently, those things typically have a life of just under a decade ( I think I recall hearing something like 7 or 8 years, on average). If I’m keeping the story straight, as the battery (or whatever) in her pace maker began to go kaput it began firing more often. It was at this time (around Mother’s Day) that discussions included the idea of replacing her pace maker. However, the cardiologist who’d been watching her for 8 years said that would be “unethical” on grounds that it was doing at least as much damage as it was good. Like a smoker smoking to “manage” their stress and then getting stressed out because of the stigma associated with such an unhealthy habit or because they’ve developed COPD or emphysema. Definitely a double-edged sword with this gadget – the solution itself creates the problem. Frankly, it reminded me of Voldemort in the Harry Potter movies: Prior to being strong enough to sustain a physical body on his own he fed off of the blood of unicorns, which kept him going alive but only at a “half life.” I guess that’s what a pace maker does – it’ll set you right for the moment but does damage in the process so is really a mixed blessing.

Because of the dying pace maker and the increasingly compromised condition of her heart, she needed to have installed some other sort of pump that basically facilitates the pumping the heart should be doing but isn’t. She was also on the list of patients needing a transplant – which seemed really selfish of her. These options were issues though because she’d continued taking medicines she shouldn’t have (read: was told to no longer take), wasn’t taking the prescribed ones as she was supposed to, had been delinquent with her various appointments, and she hadn’t yet jumped through a few other necessary hoops that would make her a candidate for this pump.

Around Mother’s Day she was given 6 weeks to live. At that time, I began making efforts to help her get her affairs in order. She had no Last Will, no Living Will, no POA, …. nothing. She made a few steps in the right (preparatory) direction, but the man she was living with had other plans. Any chance he had to be alone with her usually meant that plans would change. It crossed my mind just today that all of that started right around a year ago now. The pic below is one I took that day in May of 2014 while I was in her hospital room – probably during one of the few moments she and I had together with just us two in the room.

 

My birth mother

My birth mother

 

She surpassed those 6 weeks by a lot, actually. I’m told that she eventually followed orders well enough in regard to all the stipulations that the pump was finally installed. I’m also told that sometime in September of this year, she had a biopsy of a “spot” found on her lung earlier in the year. No one knew it at the time, but it was a kind of cancer that reacts severely to just about anything that might stimulate it. So when they took the biopsy a cancerous wildfire was unknowingly set off. From that point on, her condition deteriorated quickly.

Throughout all of this my sister and I received so many “cry wolfs” we lost count. My grandmother and aunt also were dragged through much of it. Eventually, we stopped rushing to every scene with the same fear as we had earlier in this game. We would sometimes hear things from the source, but often hear things second- or third-hand. You never quite knew what to believe or the degree to which it should be believed. Often, the things we were told (not by the MDs) weren’t supported by any of her actual symptoms. This was something her mother struggled with a lot. So much talk about heart failure, and yet so many of the tell-tale symptoms were not present in my mother. This, understandably, made my grandmother skeptical at times. We all were, truly.

I only found out about her Stage Four lung cancer a few weeks prior to her physical death – and that news was brought to me by people who’d grown really skeptical by that point. It’s hard to trust the person who was just about the worst you’ve ever known or her “true love” who was known to be a druggie and abusive.

The afternoon / evening before she died I received news that she’d been having trouble breathing and was taken to a hospital about 45 min from her home (about 70 min from my own). A brother of mine was in town and drove by her residence sometime thereafter and noted that they were yet at home and that things looked as normal as they could. Yet another false alarm, it seemed. Something really was up, though, as we later found out. I’m told she went to the first hospital and was shortly thereafter flown to a bigger hospital closer to where I live. One of her sisters and boyfriend were with her.

I don’t know (remember?) at which point during all of this that she was placed on life support, but I know after arriving at the second hospital she definitely was. The last time I’d spoken with her about such matters, she expressly stated that she wanted nothing like that. No machines to keep her going. That was back when I was her POA.

All that changed though, around mid-summer, when she was once again in the hospital and had by then replaced myself and my sister as her contacts and POA with her boyfriend – something I don’t think we were aware of. She’d gone in for surgery (pace maker replacement, I believe – which was another surprise considering earlier talks with specialists where this was called “unethical” by those doctors), and when the surgery was finished a medical professional came and took her boyfriend to see her while my sister and I were brought to a table in the waiting room where it was explained to us that we were essentially being kicked out by our mother. She wished not to see us at all after her surgery and made very clear to the medical staff that we were to “know nothing” beyond telling us that she’d made it through the surgery. My sister openly wept right then and there. I maintained as much composure as a child rejected by his mother could, thanked the staff, and then left with my sister. Lots could be said about my mother, but if my mother was consistent in only one thing in her life, it would be that she consistently placed men above family, including her children.

The day she was brought to the second hospital it made for a lot of scrambling because of the minimal information we were given, but a handful of us (myself, my sister, a brother, my birth mother’s brother and his wife, and my maternal grandmother) were able to arrive at the second hospital about 10 hours after she did. By the time we arrived, her body was fully supported by gadgetry and she was in an induced coma.

The decision had been made to take her off of the support and we were being allowed one more chance to say what we wanted to her before she fully expired. The boyfriend did the same without us in the room. Then the tubes were removed from her and we watched her body die. Even before then, her feet were already showing signs that, despite the fact that her body was alive, she was beginning to leave.

We all stood around the room – some closer to her at her bedside and some of us a few more feet away. I stood on her right side by her head, quietly and softly chanting the Maha Mrtunjaya Mantra in her right ear through my sobbing and occasionally gently touching her forehead in the ear of her “third eye” ( ajna chakra ). I recall her overall color ( in her face, arms, etc… ) not changing in the same way as the others I’ve watched leave their bodies. I also recall her body (her head specifically) remaining quite warm even a while after she’d passed and the life support had been turned off /  removed.

Almost immediately, I called the funeral home my grandmother has used for her husband and began the arrangements for my birth mother’s body to be transported to our hometown. A local funeral home was needed to come get her to prevent her from going to the hospital’s morgue – which my family doesn’t usually allow. My sister and I remained in the hospital room with her corpse, allowing for the rest of the family to begin traveling back home. As morbid and maybe even as sick as it’s going to sound, it was during this time that I took a picture or two of my dead mother. I don’t really know why I did. I remember that, after the tubes were removed from her mouth and she had expired my grandmother, right before everyone but my sister and I left, came up to my mother, gently kissed her forehead and used her finger to apply some lip balm to my mother’s lips which had dried out a bit. In the pic I took, the lip balm container is still on my mother’s shoulder where my grandmother left it. But I wanted to take that pic, and so I did. A short while later, a representative from the second funeral home arrived and we watched them ( literally )bag our birth mother up and remove her body from the hospital.

My Beloved is convinced that my family has a tradition of dying in winter months because in the last decade, anyone who’s died (I’ve lost both grandfathers, an aunt, and now my birth mother) has passed during winter.

In the week after her passing my family really went through some crap. It’s a terribly selfish thing for someone to remain entirely unprepared for their own death. Sure, no one wants to dwell on such things, but the truth is when you leave your loved ones will likely need to grieve. If these same people are forced into a scenario of making all manner of final decisions for you, half of the time guessing about what you would want, then you are necessarily hindering a time of healthy grieving for them. All that is true, even before the financial burden of it all come into play, which is an entirely separate drama to deal with. My mother had ZERO preparations. No living will. No last will. Neither money set aside nor prior arrangements purchased. In May of 2014 while I was with her, I even had her almost convinced to make a video wherein she would express her last wishes – and she agreed to! That weekend, after spending the entire weekend in the hospital with her, the day she was finally released as stable enough to go home, I was behind them on the interstate following them back to where they lived (90 minutes away) when she called me on my cell and was like, “Joshua, honey, we need to run some errands and stuff. We have to stop at CVS and a few other places to grocery shop. Today’s not a good day for the video.”

Things get so messy so fast when this basic responsibility is avoided while you’re alive. In Indiana, when an unwed person dies children are considered the nextest of kin. Then parents and siblings. As her oldest, things technically fell the most to me but luckily my siblings were willing to help as much as they were able and they really were helpful, each of them, in their own ways.

It still wasn’t easy for us – all emotion aside. Depending on who you talked to, you would encounter varying degrees of emotional stability ( or lack thereof ), varying degrees of concern ( or lack thereof ), varying degrees of financial commitment to funerary expenses ( or lack thereof ), etc… She’d told most of us that she wanted cremation. But there were some others to whom she’d apparently expressed the desire to be buried. To a number of people she was known to be a practicing witch ( I didn’t know much about this side of her life until after her death), but generally speaking that side of my family is Catholic. Obviously, we had lots of conflict between what was thought to be her desires and what were the desires of those she left behind. The living are the absolute worst part of having a funeral or dealing with death.

In the end, she was embalmed because a viewing was determined to be necessary for my grandmother’s peace of mind. The Friday after her death was the date of the viewing. This was right after Thanksgiving 2014. It was simple. She was placed in a “ceremonial” ( read: rented ) casket. She was holding a flower or two and a black rosary. And there was a crucifix in the casket with her. I ended up with some of those things – you’ll see in a picture below. We purchased only a few bouquets of flowers because they’re pretty expensive. I remember, the one I bought wasn’t even very fancy or big and was $200. A number of others contributed to this as well, which helped. The handsomest priest from my hometown’s Catholic church came and offered a very abbreviated service. My siblings and I had to spread some kind of cloth over her closed casket when the viewing wa

s coming to an end – the priest said some sort of thing (not quite a prayer) and then we were removing the cloth almost as soon as we had spread it over her. She was later cremated and aside for a few keepsake urns and vials being filled, she remained on a shelf at the funeral home from the end of November 2014 until the end of April 2015. On the 25th of April the family came together one last time on her behalf.

 

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On what was an absolutely cold, windy, and rainy day we came together along with a priest and a representative of the funeral home. She was placed on a table next to the priest while we stood before them. The priest recited some prayers that required us to respond in ways like “Amen,” and “Hear our prayer.” Once all that was over, the man from the funeral home went to the car and returned with a dozen balloons – one was given to each family member present. We all kind of circled around my mother on the table and looked at each other not knowing what should be done next. My grandmother spoke up suddenly and asked, “Would anyone like to say something?” One of her sisters present (the other local sister decided not to come) took a step or two toward the table, extended her arm straight out while holding her balloon with the same hand (she looked like she was presenting the balloon to the box of ashes) and gently said, “We love you and we’ll miss you, sis….. Until we see you again…” and then she released her balloon. Immediately after her, we all followed with the same. We then stood for a second watching the balloons make their way into the sky. Her cremains were then buried in that cemetery where my family has purchased a dozen or so burial plots. Her ashes are now resting next to the grave of her father.

 

Graveside, from a distance

Graveside, from a distance

 

Graveside, from a distance

Graveside, from a distance

 

Her father's gravestone. She's being placed to the right.

Her father’s gravestone. She’s being placed to the right.

 

Her cremains in a box, inside a green velvet bag

Her cremains in a box, inside a green velvet bag

 

Father Stanley and my mother - final prayers

Father Stanley and my mother – final prayers

 

Background: My maternal grandmother, Foreground: My sister and some flower offerings

Background: My maternal grandmother, Foreground: My sister and some flower offerings

 

My uncle (Brennen) distributing our balloon offerings (to my grandmother)

My uncle (Brennen) distributing our balloon offerings (to my grandmother)

 

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I thought for a while that I would write a post about the kind of person my mother was and my experience of being her first-born. In the months passing since her death, I’ve decided against that. My experiences with this woman are no more or less worthy or biased than anyone else’s who ever knew her. Certainly, the woman I and my siblings knew was different than the woman many others knew. I’m not sure I could write about all that and produce something easy to follow, and besides, what’s that we’re taught as children? “If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all.” I don’t know that there’s NOTHING nice I could say, but anything nice I could find to say would almost certainly be buried by everything else said.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti

The Yamas and Niyamas of Śāṇḍilya Upanishad

Home Yoga Practice

upanishad

If you give any depth of study to Patanjali, you will find he is often quoted as a “codifier” of Yoga. He was a journalist of the highest order writing down all the practices at his time and also referencing practices of the past. He was quite diplomatic in the Yoga Sutra-s giving a nod to all the different practices. And he put all the practices in terse format, so it would be easier to memorize for generations through the millennia.

One of the references that Patanjali may have drawn from come from the Śāṇḍilya Upanishad, an Atharvavedaic text dating back between 1000-1500 BCE (Patanjali existed around the second century BCE). This is a short treatise that mentions eight limbs of Yoga. It begins with a teaching between Arthavan and Śāṇḍilya:

Śāṇḍilya: “Please tell me about the eight angas of Yoga which is the means of attaining Atman.”

Artharvan: “The eight Agnas are…

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Carma

A time or two I’ve heard my dad say how he wishes he’d have spent more time doing things with us to teach us life skills. As children, we had lots of responsibilities and expectations placed on us, but were still very much allowed to be children and we enjoyed our youth probably more than many of our peers. I think one of the things my dad would probably agree he wishes he’d taught us more about is auto stuff.

To be clear, I know very little about cars and what I do know I’m not confident in. For example, I technically can change a tire. I know how to do it. But I’ve done it so seldom in life that I don’t trust myself to complete the task safely. Plus I hate it. I’ve been fortunate enough that in my adult life there have been very few times indeed when I’ve not been able to pay a professional to handle things like this for me. When I worked as a cosmetologist, my argument was that I didn’t want people to be cutting their own hairs, so I’ll not do my own car repair, etc… Obviously there are exceptions, when I would handle something minor like changing wiper blades or something. But beyond that, if it doesn’t move when I stick in the key and press the accelerator, I’m taking it somewhere.

Luckily, for my sanity and my pocket book, I’ve not needed mechanics much in my adult life. Overall, I entered this life with excellent carma (car + karma). However, the key to karma isn’t getting all good karma. Right? The key is to balance your store of good karma with your store of bad karma, and thereby step off of the wheel of death and rebirth, samsara. To that effect, I suppose I should be very glad for the happenings of the last 7 days insofar as my carma is concerned.

My last car, a PT Cruiser, was about as good a car as I’ve ever had. I bought it having had only one prior owner and about 10K miles on it. For the almost the entire duration of the loan, the most I ever had to worry about with that car was oil changes, a battery or two, and I think maybe two sets of tires. Nothing major. Just prior to our trip to Minnesota, a few things came on the radar that were a bit pricey – but not mandatory at the time and so they were put off. It was paid off last November when I purchased my home and almost immediately there were concerns that needed attention. We began to calculate the cost of repairs against the resale value of the car and found ourselves at just the tipping point between the two – it was time to get rid of it.

So that’s what happened. About 5K miles ago, I bought a brand brand brand new new new car. A big nicer than the one I drove before it. A bit more expensive, too. It came with a number of things I would categorize as “bells and whistles” – but they were standard. There was an upgrade or two, too. Since making that purchase, I’ve loved the new car (a Dodge Dart). Sadly, right as I’m coming up on my first oil change, things have gone crazy downhill.

About 3 weeks ago a semi kicked up a rock and chipped my windshield. It was the smallest chip ever and something I probably would have been able to ignore for a while until my finances could easily accommodate the expense of a replacement. However, the same night, while parked in my garage, that tiny chip in the glass expanded and branched out – almost all across the entire windshield. Obviously even more unsightly and increasingly a safety risk – especially considering that in the days following the crack managed to spread on its own, getting bigger on a daily basis.

I called around to price compare with different companies for a replacement windshield. After settling on a company, I scheduled an appointment for them to come to me and do the replacement. The first issue was that, because my car is crazy new, no one has parts in stock and everything has to be ordered. (This will prove to haunt me more than once!) The first date they were supposed to come out was last Saturday – a couple days after I called them to schedule. That, however, was moved to Monday. But on Monday the tech called and explained that he was miserably behind schedule and would need to see me Tuesday instead. Fine. Tuesday a different tech showed up, but not with the proper glass. So he left, carried about his day helping others, and promised to return by the end of the same day – which he did. But when he returned with the correct glass, it was scratched quite noticeably. It would be Friday (tomorrow) before they would be able to have another shipped in. Fine.

The next day, I was on the interstate on my way to work and squarely hit a massive and deep pothole which I’d never before noticed. I was able to continue driving fine, but after parking in the garage at work, examined my car and found a cracked rim and a tire with a massive bulge. Not safe. Of course, my first thought is to get the spare / donut tire on. No such luck, however, because my car came with none. Then I spent all morning calling around to various tire places – only to be frustrated in every instance. My car has what’s called “OE” (original equipment) which apparently means a very limited number of places to buy from and invariably expensive.

I’m already shelling out $500 for a new windshield and how it’s going to be even more than that to get a new tire and a new wheel – all of which are coming to me from Chicago. Definitely not what I wanted to squeeze into my already too-tight-for-comfort budget, especially after having just paid thousands out of pocket for dental work and at a time when i’m trying to focus on whittling down debt and prepping for a summer of enjoyment with pals.

In the grand scheme of things, though, I shouldn’t complain. I know of people who have a son battling substance abuse and addiction. I know other people whose parents are likely divorcing. And of course there are starving children in Asia and Africa … so what right do I have to lament my first world problems? Probably not much right, at all.

So I’ll shut up.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti

Self-Inflicted

A little over two weeks ago I found myself at the start of an adventure in oral care that I think I wasn’t quite prepared for. Invisalign. Earlier this year, at a routine cleaning, my very very handsome dentist casually remarked, “Y’know, Josh, you’d actually be a really good candidate for Invisalign. If you’re interested, then my front office girl can have some info on it ready for you on your way out.” I responded that I would consider it. The girl didn’t have the info ready. I gave them a few weeks, during which time I looked into it myself. When I called them back to inquire about the info she was supposed to have given me (but had yet not), she pretty much was like, “Oh, well… I called your insurance and they told me you have no Adult Ortho coverage and we don’t finance in-house.”

Fast forward through a few calls to my dental insurance payer and a few calls to my dentist’s office, and I’m sitting in the same chair I’d had my cleaning in, having my mouth filled with some plastic-y substance so that trays could be made for me, that my teeth may exhibit better alignment. That plastic was actually a little painful, and besides it tastes like crap. About two weeks later I received a call from my dentist that the trays were in and I could come in whenever to get started. I went that same afternoon, two Tuesdays ago.

Invisalign looks like whitening trays. It’s mostly clear plastic, and a significantly tougher than whitening trays, but otherwise very similar. They had to glue these “buttons” onto a number of my teeth. They’re tooth-colored but kind of pointed and to the inside of my lips they feel like rocks have been glued in. The trays have “bubbles” in them to allow for these buttons, and there’s something about this button-bubble relationship that uses torque to gently and slowly pull my teeth into the direction they will eventually rest in. The trays are changed every two weeks.

So…. all that is the easy part of this. The really challenging part is trying to find a successful marriage between the suggested “22hrs of wear for optimal use” and the fact that during those supposed 22hrs, I’m only allowed to let clear, plain water pass through my lips. I really think something about that should be enough to qualify this to be covered by medical insurance as a weight loss plan, but whatever.

I also can’t chew gum or eat things like candied apples – or regular apples even, at least not without doing some slicing and dicing first. I obviously want to be careful about drinking anything that could add staining to my teeth because once this is all done and my buttons are removed, I’ll have spots. And then there’s the pain. I imagine this is similar to the pain experienced by people wearing traditional braces, but it sucks. It’s enough to make you avoid any food that is more than a little solid. Consequently, I’ve had many lunches that were coconut water, spoonfuls of peanut butter, and yogurt. And, just so you know, I can totally have normal foods. But I have to remove the trays – which is painful and tricky. And every time they’re removed I have to clean them. And then, of course, before putting them back in I have to brush my own teeth (or at least use mouthwash, depending). That process alone is enough to deter natural / normal eating.

It’s true, though, that I’m looking forward to a day when I’ll be able to smile and not feel my teeth being out of line and a day when I can eat and be practically worry-free about immediately rinsing or brushing.

That is all.

Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti