In yoga, we often talk about non-attachment, particularly when it comes to our thoughts. But, sometimes it’s great to do some investigative reporting.
As is customary, I am reading several books at once. One of them is Buddhist Bootcamp, by Timber Hawkeye. As is also customary, I often highlight or capture in a journal those statements or quotes that I find compelling and transformative.
I find it refreshing that he suggests we f0llow our thoughts out of curiosity.
“Habitually contemplate whether your thoughts stem from love or from fear. If your thoughts originate in love, then follow them. If they originate from a place of fear, then dig deep to find the root of your fear. Only then will you be able to finally let go, so fear no longer limits your possibilities.”
It’s quite fascinating when you follow your thoughts, judgements and emotional responses like a curious cat. You may find that what you think may be a root cause for a preconception or fear, isn’t at all.
I’ve been trying to take Timber’s challenge a step further, and I pass that onto you. Rather than stopping at finding out the source of your fear, continue your journey and see if you can find the source below the source. See if you can illuminate the darkness with compassion.
For example, if you find yourself glowering at someone who’s annoying you, dig deep to find out what that feeling is really about. Have the courage to look into how you may possess those qualities, accept them and find a wellspring of compassion.
It may seem naive, but I really believe that if we all began to act from a place of love that all suffering would stop including our own. The concept of ‘paying it forward’ is not knew. You know the idea that if you do something nice for someone you don’t even know, that the niceness will catch on. But I think this concept of karma works in an even more cyclical way than we might think.
If you’ve ever made a gesture such as buying lunch for the person behind you in line, or paying for the next car’s toll, you know that it feels good and you probably made someone’s day (or at least lightened it for a moment). I also believe that the act of gratitude we feel toward our own hearts for having done such an act, opens us up further. It’s as if kindness toward someone else has a boomerang effect as well as a forward propulsion — it bounces back and our own act of love makes way for more kindness and acts of love. We feel lighter, and more equipped to face the day to come.
Plus, we begin to break through the hard shell that sometimes builds up around our own heart. Simply kicking in a door and taking that first step toward acting from a place of love, and we soften.
So, don’t just think of good karma as something that only moves in a forward direction, but more like a tide that flows in and flows out. Open yourself up to letting a little kindness flow, and feel what flows back in.
Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream — a life of freedom and equality for every citizen born of love, not violence. He believed that only light could drive out the darkness, and only love could banish hate. His faith guided him throughout his life, and asked others to have faith to take the first step even if they couldn’t see the staircase.
At the age of 35, Martin Luther King, Jr. was the youngest man to win the Nobel Peace Prize and donated his $54K prize money to the civil rights movement, a dream he believed in, a passion and compassion for which he paid the ultimate price.
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Do you have a dream? What would you give up for your dream?
In yoga, ahimsa or non-judgement, refers to the state of living in loving kindness toward all beings including ourselves. And yet, sometimes it’s the hardest thing to do. Let’s face it extending compassion in every situation — particularly conflict — can be hard. Why dispense love to the guy who cut you off in line when you don’t owe him anything? Because you owe it to yourself to find the love and beauty everywhere.
As A.A. Milne — Winnie the Pooh author — once said, weeds are flowers too once you get to know them. You never know who’s going to come into your life and present you the opportunity to find love. In fact, sometimes the universe sends us challenging people and situations for just that reason.
The next time someone really gets under your skin, rather than building up toxic emotion asking “why me”, ask yourself, “How can I extend compassion here? What am I supposed to offer? What am I supposed to learn?”
At times like this, it’s hard for me to make sense out of the violence and suffering that occur in the world. I talk often about acceptance and awareness, and yet here I sit, a hypocrite, finding it near impossible to reconcile or make peace with what has happened this past week. But, I think what helps me avoid getting stuck in a glut of anger is realizing that acceptance doesn’t necessarily mean endorsement.
In 2012 there have been more than 50 mass shootings in the U.S., the most recent at a Connecticut school that left 27 people are dead, including 18 children. As I type the words, it’s hard for me to digest. I truly have no words.
Although I’ve never met him, one of my most beloved teachers is Eckhart Tolle. His words tranformed me when I was in a not-so-awesome place. I thought this video on dissolving suffering was poignant. It’s not about mass violence, but the message on transmuting suffering into peace is worth watching.
“I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.”
I haven’t had much chance to embrace some of the winter weather traditions my mother passed onto us when my brother and I were kids, since it’s been in the mid-seventies here in Atlanta. But, this time of year makes me nostalgic nonetheless, and for me simple memories are often what bring me serenity. It may not be a Rumi poem, but my heart fills with love and joy and that’s the ultimate sankalpa or ‘purpose’, isn’t it? When you hear some of the most spiritual leaders and teachers speak, they’ll often tell you that spirituality isn’t always a surreal, out-of-body experience. Spirituality is often being at home with your human-ness and embracing the simplest experiences with love.
When we were little, my mom would prepare us for sled riding as if we were headed to base camp at Mt. Everest. Among the 30 minute long ritual that had us feeling restricted and sweaty were wrapping our feet in Wonderbread bags before putting on our boots to keep our tootsies warm and dry. At the time it seemed silly and unnecessary, but we were suited in enough winter armor that we could play for hours without getting frostbite or even chilled.
We would come home kick of our sopping boots and snow suits in the mudroom, and march upstairs with static cling hair and red cheeks where my mother would greet us with hot cocoa or soup. I actually get teary-eyed and my heart swells when I think about those days. So, for me, I catch glimpses of the divine through these memories. Pure, joyful bliss.
There are tons of unique family traditions we still practice today around the holidays like fondue on Christmas Eve, spending time together on boxing day, and playing board games like Scrabble and Scattergories after dessert on Christmas day. And even though we can all get on each other’s nerves (let’s face it, family time can be trying), we do love being together and celebrating the holidays in our ‘old-fashioned’ way. And, to me, THAT is spirituality incarnate.
As Pierre Teilhard de Chardin said, We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.”
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