Rox Does Yoga

Yoga, Wellness, and Life

Spreading some love January 17, 2012

Filed under: reflections,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 2:01 pm
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Not long ago, I read this blog post: I’m Christian, Unless You’re Gay. It’s a little long, but the heartfelt emotion behind it makes it well worth reading. I really appreciated Dan’s honesty and boldness, and my heart goes out to his friend Jacob and some of the people who responded to Dan’s post.

For me here on the yoga blog, Dan’s post meant a lot to me, because it fits right in with what I’ve been talking about regarding yoga and Christianity. (Yes, it does, just hang on a sec.) There are a lot of people who are all too ready to judge. One of the people who responded to Dan’s post explained that mindset: that she felt called by her faith to judge others harshly for their sins as a form of tough love. I’m sure you’re unsurprised that I agree with Dan on this one. Many people are all too ready to judge, all too ready to cast the first stone, forgetting that Jesus said “love thy neighbor” and “judge not, lest ye be judged” (emphasis mine). We all make mistakes, and we all do things wrong sometimes. If we judge other people harshly, then we’re likely to be judged harshly too. Yoga philosophy teaches compassion, just like Jesus did.

So often people who call themselves Christians spend most of their time talking about how Jesus died to save them from sin, and not enough time talking about all the smart things Jesus said and told us to do. People get so caught up in the story of his death that they don’t think enough about his life! And when I think about examples to follow, I don’t know that I can think of a better example of how to live than Jesus. He was kind to everybody! He loved children, he had a lot of friends, he made sure everybody had plenty to eat and drink and he threw a good party. He was sensitive to the pain and grief of other people and tried to help them. He worked to heal sick people and befriend lonely people and feed hungry people. He didn’t care what people looked like on the outside; he cared about who you were inside and whether you were good and honest and kind. He didn’t blame other people for the things that happened to him. He put his faith in something beyond himself. There are probably many more things that can be said about what an exemplary guy Jesus was. And the people who talk about gays (or whoever) going to hell have read the books about Jesus, haven’t they? Haven’t they read these stories about his life? I don’t understand how someone can read those stories and claim to be a follower of Jesus and still fill his heart and mouth with hate. Jesus was not about hating.

My point is, Jesus was all about compassion, and so is yoga. There’s nothing in what the yoga philosophies tell you to do that contradicts anything Jesus tells you to do. Not on a practical “here’s how to live your life as a good person” kind of way. I’m a yogini and maybe a Buddhist too, and I try to be true to the things that my special books tell me to do. I think that if you’re a Christian, you should try to live according to the things Jesus said to do. And Jesus didn’t say “punish sinners” or “don’t do yoga”, and I’m pretty sure he never said anything about whom you go to bed with. Jesus said to love everybody. I think that’s a pretty fine foundation to use to build a way to live.

 

books: The Joy of Living, by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche December 20, 2011

Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche’s The Joy of Living: Unlocking the Secret & Science of Happiness is an excellent and informative book and a good practical manual for meditation. A wide variety of meditation techniques are discussed, in language that makes them accessible to even the most un-Buddhist of readers. Mingyur (Rinpoche is an honorific given to respected teachers) is a kind and encouraging teacher; his writing style is very natural and conversational, helping you feel as if he’s right there beside you to help along the way.

The book is divided into three main sections. Part One: The Ground begins by describing Mingyur’s early life and training in meditation and his journey toward overcoming anxiety. He’s an engaging storyteller, and it’s comforting to hear that even a monk who grew up meditating from childhood can still struggle with his mind. This section also discusses the connection between the ancient Buddhist practices of meditation and modern advances in neuroscience, physics, and biology. Raised in isolated monasteries, Mingyur is fascinated with Western science and has worked with many scientists to learn about the brain’s workings and the structure of the universe and compare them with the Buddhist understanding of the mind and reality. While interesting, this area was not as strong as other sections – these discussions could have benefited from a scientist coauthor to help refine and make specific Mingyur’s comparisons. However, Mingyur does make a good case for meditation as valuable and needed in the West, and his ideas here are well worth reading.

In Part Two: The Path and Part Three: The Fruit, Mingyur is at his best, carefully walking the reader through the basics of meditation. He provides a firm foundation for beginners, with examples from his own history as guidance. Beyond the basics, he details a variety of different meditation techniques that will appeal to new and experienced students alike. He asserts that it is the intention to meditate that is most important, not the actual time spent on it or whether your mind wanders off in the middle. Mingyur strives to make meditation available to everyone.

I began reading this book back in February 2011 and just finished it this month, but the long reading time is due to my own crazy schedule this year, not any failing of Mingyur’s. I’ve actually posted about this book on several other occasions because as I read I found his words so encouraging and insightful. I highly recommend this book to anyone hoping to begin or deepen a meditation practice.

 

Yoga and Christianity, Part 3: No, We’re Not Satanists December 6, 2011

Filed under: yoga lifestyle,yoga philosophy — R. H. Ward @ 1:19 pm
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My husband gleefully sent me the following link: Vatican Exorcist Specialist Says Yoga Is The Devil’s Exercise. The Devil? Seriously? I had to go look up more information on this one. Here’s an article in the Telegraph and another from the Vatican Insider, both of which include more information and responses from the yoga community in Italy.

Since there are only a few direct quotes from Father Amorth in this article, I’ll go ahead and refute them, on both logical grounds and on “you don’t have the first idea what yoga is about” grounds. First of all, Father Amorth says that practicing yoga leads to Hinduism, but doing one thing does not ever automatically lead to another. If I have one beer, that doesn’t automatically lead me to alcoholism; for people who have natural tendencies toward alcoholism, having one beer might lead them in that direction, but it wouldn’t do so for everyone. Practicing yoga doesn’t automatically lead anyone to Hinduism (nor can Hinduism be compared to something negative like alcoholism in any way, I was just using that as an example, since that’s the sort of mindset Father Amorth seems to be imagining). Most people who practice yoga, especially in the US, have very little connection to yoga’s Hindu roots besides learning a few Sanskrit words.

Father Amorth also states that “all eastern religions are based on a false belief in reincarnation”. First of all, way to generalize: I find it inadvisable ever to make claims about “all” of anything. Also, while it’s one thing to disagree with the concept of reincarnation, it’s something else entirely to respect the beliefs of other cultures and peoples – to say “I disagree” is a far better statement than “You’re wrong”. And finally, what on earth does Hinduism or reincarnation have to do with the Devil or Satanism? It seems that Father Amorth is really saying that people who practice faiths other than Catholic Christianity are going straight to hell. Official Vatican communications do tend to be respectful of other faiths, so I think we can assume that Father Amorth is not speaking on behalf of the Pope. It’s just troubling that there will be some people out there who read what Father Amorth has said and think that it’s official Catholic policy.

The Telegraph article does reference some of Cardinal Ratzinger’s writings on yoga from before he became Pope, and this I find interesting. Apparently, in 1999, Ratzinger warned of “the dangers of yoga, Zen, transcendental meditation and other ‘eastern’ practises” (as described by the Telegraph), and how these practices can “degenerate into a cult of the body”. I could actually see that as a valid warning as regards the sort of yoga practiced in the US today: most yoga is very focused on the body and doesn’t spend any time at all on meditation or the mind. Further, yoga trends like “power yoga”, competitive yoga, and even just practicing yoga using mirrors can reinforce that yoga is only about the physical. However, there are a lot of other fitness practices and techniques that could encourage a “cult of the body”. What does Cardinal Ratzinger have to say about bodybuilding, aerobics, and pilates? Does he frown on modern dance too, or ballet, or, heck, sports in general? Further, to imply that Zen or other meditation practices could lead to a cult of the body is completely wrong: meditation is all about the mind. I can only assume that the writer of the Telegraph article is misquoting or misunderstanding the original document, because it seems like a very weird statement to make about meditation, and I’d expect Ratzinger to be better educated than that. (And I don’t have the time today to try to look up the original document, so if anyone wants to investigate this further, feel free.)

One thing I like is the response from Giorgio Furlan, founder of the Academy of Yoga in Rome, quoted in the Vatican Insider article. He said that his yoga practice helped to bring him back to his Catholic roots. This is the sort of thing that Christians should be paying attention to, but of course, the exorcist is the one getting all the press!

 

Books: The Upanishads, translated by Eknath Easwaran December 1, 2011

Filed under: books,upanishads,yoga philosophy — R. H. Ward @ 1:30 pm
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The Upanishads, translated by Eknath EaswaranThe Upanishads are a group of ancient wisdom texts. Each individual upanishad is named for the sage who delivered its teaching, long ago; each one describes in flashes of insight how to explore your own consciousness, how to come closer to the Divine. Some of the upanishads take the form of a story: a student (or a wife, or even a king) implores a great sage (or even Death itself) to share holy secrets. Most of the upanishads rely on classic natural images – birds, trees, water – that make the metaphors timeless and appealing even thousands of years after they were written.

It’s impossible to write an unbiased book review of a cherished spiritual text  – how could I possibly critique the writing style or the structure of a book like this? So this review will be a little more personal. I loved The Upanishads. They called out to me in a way other spiritual books, including the Bible, just haven’t. I expect to keep The Upanishads by my bed, read them again and again, consult different translations, flip through seeking guidance. It can be a difficult book, and I don’t ever expect to understand it fully, but I loved it.

While the text itself is beyond critique, the translation and the version I can comment on. I really like Eknath Easwaran’s translations (I also read his version of the Bhagavad Gita). Easwaran is well-versed in Sanskrit and in Hindu spirituality, and before becoming a spiritual teacher was an English professor, so he has all the tools to create both a beautiful and accurate rendition. Easwaran also writes the introduction, which I found helpful for putting The Upanishads in their historical context and setting the stage for the sort of text I was about to read (since when I started I really had no idea what I was getting into). This volume also includes a brief 2-3 page introduction before each upanishad, written by Michael Nagler. These I also found informative, and it was helpful to look as I read for the points that Nagler had called out as being important, but I think I would have preferred to read the upanishad first and then read Nagler’s summary of it. Nagler also writes a lengthy afterword, which I did not find very useful. The end matter includes a glossary and a section of notes, which I didn’t realize were there as I was reading the upanishads, and I think I’m glad I didn’t know they were there – I’m the sort of person who will flip back and forth consulting the notes, and I’m glad I was able simply to experience the upanishads on this first read rather than analyzing them academically. There will be plenty of time to look at the notes and read other translations. The glossary might have been helpful a few times, though, and I imagine it would be very useful to someone who hasn’t spent the past ten months up to her ears in yoga philosophy.

Overall, I would say that if you’re new to Hindu spirituality, I wouldn’t recommend starting with The Upanishads – the Bhagavad Gita is a much more accessible book for most people. For me, though, The Upanishads was more inviting, more enthralling than the Gita, and more accessible too. The first time I read the Gita I walked away thinking that it was nice and all but nothing great, and I needed the lectures and discussion of my yoga teacher training course to put the Gita’s systems in context and help me understand what I was reading. With The Upanishads, I felt like I could really hear the sages speaking directly to me: faraway, murky, blurred voices, sure, but I could hear it. I look forward to listening again and again.

 

Yoga and Christianity, Part 2 November 30, 2011

Filed under: yoga lifestyle,yoga philosophy — R. H. Ward @ 1:10 pm
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Yesterday I talked about a few articles that denounce yoga as being inappropriate for Christians to practice. I don’t agree with that assessment, and I think that those who believe that way are taking a far too narrow view. Today I want to talk about just a few of the reasons why I think yoga can be used by and helpful to anyone regardless of their religious background.

One thing that has struck me in my own practice and reading was how similar the Bhagavad Gita is to the Gospels. A LOT of what Krishna tells Arjuna could have been said by Jesus to Peter and have made perfect sense. I would actually love to hear from someone who has read both the Gita and the Gospels closely, because to me the parallels seem numerous and meaningful.

To say that “attaining enlightenment through Krishna” is different from “reaching the kingdom of heaven through Jesus” is to quibble over vocabulary and culture, I think, and to argue over what face you want to put on your version of the divine. Christians put one face on the divine, Hindus another, Muslims still another, but at heart, we’re talking about the same guy here. In practical terms, the emotion and feeling that a Christian puts in to worshipping Jesus is going to be very similar to the emotion and feeling that a Hindu or a Bhakti yogi puts in to worshipping Krishna. The rituals may be different, but they’re doing the same thing.

Over the past year, yoga has helped me realize just how similar the major religions are in many ways. On a technical theological level, the core beliefs of Buddhism or Hinduism aren’t going to be compatible with the core beliefs of Christianity, but on a moral and ethical level, they’re nearly identical, and on a spiritual level, we’re all striving for the same thing: to become closer to our version of God. Whether “God” means Yahweh or Jesus or Krishna or the universal consciousness, it doesn’t matter. There are many names for God and many metaphors for God. We’re all blind men touching a different part of the elephant, but it’s all the same elephant: the trunk, ears, feet, and tail are all parts of the same thing, no matter how different they seem individually.

While yoga has a strong and beautiful background in Hindu tradition, that doesn’t necessarily define it as a Hindu practice. The tools set out in the yoga texts are, I feel, applicable to any sort of spiritual searching – and I believe that Christians and all people should take part in spiritual searching to become closer to their God. All of my reading this year has helped me to confirm for myself that I’m not a Christian, but that wasn’t due to the yoga – I pretty much knew that already. Yoga could have the complete opposite effect on a devout Christian, helping her to come into a deeper communion with her faith. For example, people in many different religious faiths practice meditation – a Buddhist practicing meditation doesn’t become a Hindu or vice versa, because the meditation simply brings the practitioner closer to her own concept of the divine. If you look at the definition of meditation, saying the rosary is actually a meditation practice – the chanting and repetition of certain words or prayers to bring one closer to God. There are many ways to meditate, many ways to seek, many ways to pray.

I welcome thoughtful discussion on this topic, as well as links to articles or further information. I may come back to this again, since I really feel like I’m only skimming the surface here.

 

Yoga and Christianity, Part 1 November 29, 2011

Filed under: yoga lifestyle,yoga philosophy — R. H. Ward @ 1:15 pm
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My friend Birdmaddgirl recently posted a link to an article by Pastor Mark Driscoll, a long and thoughtful discussion of why yoga is an inappropriate practice for Christian people. Pastor Driscoll cites yoga’s roots in Hinduism to denounce it as demonic, by which he means that yoga is a spiritual act of devotion to beings other than the God of the Bible. You can read Pastor Driscoll’s article here. My friend Birdmaddgirl responds to it here. You may not be surprised to learn that I disagree with Pastor Driscoll and agree with Birdmaddgirl. After reading Driscoll’s article carefully, I think that his research is incomplete and his logic is fundamentally flawed. To my view, it looks as though Driscoll set out with an agenda and did only the research he needed to prove his agenda right. That sort of approach is antithetical to the concepts of open-mindedness and true intellectual inquiry.

Pastor Driscoll has some fundamental misconceptions in his research on yoga; those misconceptions, combined with his strict Christian perspective, would certainly make yoga seem incompatible with Christianity, but some deeper searching would reveal those misconceptions to be false. If you look at his reference citations, he has read one article by Elliot Miller, a fellow Christian, about yoga history, and one book by a yoga historian (and looking at the page numbers cited, perhaps he read just the introduction to that book). Driscoll doesn’t claim to have read Patanjali, the Bhagavad Gita, or any other historical yoga or Hindu texts, nor does he claim to have read any material on modern yoga practice. Even his Bikram Choudhury quote is cribbed directly from Miller’s article. Now, I’m not saying that Driscoll should have done exhaustive research just to write a blog post, but I would have preferred him to have read a little more widely on the subject before making such negative conclusions. While I understand some of what informs his viewpoint, it seems to me that he’s trying to make his article seem deeply researched to better support his agenda.

I read over the article by Miller that Driscoll cites, and overall Miller presents the material in an unbiased way and he seems to have read Patanjali carefully. However, Miller (and Driscoll also) includes discussion of tantra, which seems to me to be a purposeful inclusion to raise prurient and negative feeling, since tantra is incredibly far removed from much yoga practiced in the US today, particularly the kinds of tantra that involve “black magic” or “child sacrifice”. To me, this seems akin to including mention of abortion clinic bombers in a general discussion of Christianity, when in reality the vast majority of Christians would want no connection with such violent behavior. There are crazies and zealots in every religion, and Hinduism has some too. However, Miller doesn’t denounce yoga and generally keeps a neutral tone. This article is the first in a three-part series, and this first part only covers history and definitions, with promises to examine carefully modern yoga and its implications for Christians later in the series. Pastor Driscoll draws his conclusions from reading only Part One of Miller’s explorations, without seeing how Miller goes on to look at modern yoga practice or what conclusions he draws. (Miller does eventually conclude that yoga is inappropriate for Christians to practice – see Parts Two and Three. I fail to understand why prana can’t be understood as the Holy Spirit moving in the body, or why saying Namaste, “I honor the divine in you”, is necessarily an affirmation of pantheism rather than an acknowledgment that each of us is one of God’s children. But Miller puts a lot more work and thought into it than Driscoll does, which I respect.)

This topic is important to me. I was raised Catholic and attended 13 years of Catholic school, so I do know something about Catholic Christianity; I also deeply believe that the practice of yoga, and the values that go along with it, can be beneficial to any human being regardless of religious background. And many devout Catholics think so too, as evidenced in this fantastic article about yoga as Christian spiritual practice. I am glad to see that not every Christian believes as Driscoll and Miller do.

This is getting to be a very long post, so tomorrow: some of my own thoughts on how the spirituality behind yoga can be applicable no matter what religion the yogi practices.

 

Upanishads (part 1) November 1, 2011

We’re taking a quick break from our yoga & sex series so I can tell you how much I’m in love with the Upanishads already. It’s a collection of ancient wisdom from Hindu sages who lived over 2000 years ago, and so far I’ve only read the intros and the first Upanishad, the Isha, but I’m head over heels here. Opening the book, the very first page has this inscription:

You are what your deep, driving desire is.
As your desire is, so is your will.
As your will is, so is your deed.
As you deed is, so is your destiny.
(Brihadaranyaka IV.4.5)

Those few lines touched me really deeply. I memorized them and used them in my meditation this morning. Ten minutes zipped past, and afterwards I felt incredibly peaceful. I love how these lines imply that by using your will to carry out your deepest desires, you have the power to choose your destiny, and further, that that destiny is already within you, ready to be created.

I loved the Isha Upanishad, too. It’s so short and so powerful, really intense and lovely. I read it and the accompanying commentary twice on the train this morning. I’m really loving this. I simultaneously want to read the whole book right now and also to stretch out the reading of it for as long as I can. I’m planning to stretch it out since I know I’ll get more out of it that way. I’m already plotting the purchase of multiple translations so I can reread it again and again and compare the wording. Just thinking about it makes me really happy.

 

The Bhavas September 19, 2011

Filed under: yoga,yoga lifestyle,yoga philosophy — R. H. Ward @ 1:39 pm
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The Bhavas are four spiritual attitudes to cultivate as a student of yoga, or really as a student of anything! The Bhavas are:

  • Duty (Dharma)
  • Knowledge (Jnana)
  • Detachment (Vairaigya)
  • Self-Reliance (Aiswarya)

Duty, or Dharma, is an important concept in the Yoga Sutras as well as in the Bhagavad Gita. The idea here is to know your duty, understand what you have to do, and then perform that duty with a neutral attitude, without regard to whether you like or dislike the task. Some examples are going to yoga class regularly even when you don’t feel like it, studying and doing your homework for school, making phone calls at the office, or taking out the trash. Regardless of whether you enjoy taking out the trash, pickup is on Tuesday morning, so it’s your duty to take it out on Monday night with no complaining! To cultivate your sense of duty, try doing meditative yoga asanas, like a series of sun salutations or half-salutes.

Knowledge, or Jnana, goes hand in hand with duty. We should strive to know ourselves at every level: body, thoughts, speech, and emotions. Knowing yourself will help you to better know and understand your duty as well. To cultivate self-knowledge, work on concentration exercises (like, for example, counting meditation), and yoga asanas that require concentration, like balance poses. Pranayama breathing exercises (like these) are also helpful here – pranayama helps you learn your breathing patterns and how to calm your emotions using your breath.

Detachment, or Vairaigya, means living in the world without being of the world. We work not to get caught up in the trivial details of the world around, instead keeping a sense of our true Self, which remains unchanging. This also feeds back into duty – we do the right thing because it’s right, and with detachment from the results, without thought of reward. Overall, cultivating detachment in our lives usually means cultivating an attitude of humility and surrender. Yoga asanas that can help with this include forward bends and twists. These postures encourage us to surrender and relax into the pose: if you’re tensing your muscles and pushing hard, it’s more difficult to succeed with forward bends and twists, but if you let go and surrender to the pose without trying to push, you’ll often find that you can bend just a little bit farther, twist just a little bit deeper.

Self-Reliance, or Aiswarya, can also be referred to as willpower or self-confidence. It’s that deep inner sense that you can do what you need to do. Self-reliance comes from knowing yourself well and having a attitude of humility. Maybe we could also call it integrity! Backbends are yoga asanas that will help with this bhava. Backbends can be scary because you’re dropping your head backwards, unable to see anything coming toward you, so doing backbends develops confidence and strength. Backbends also work to open up the chest, heart, and shoulders, which helps posture – if you’re standing with chest open, shoulders back, you’ll project a much more positive, confident attitude than you would by hunching over!

For me, the bhavas are interesting and helpful to keep in mind as I follow the path of karma yoga, which requires following my dharma with a sense of service and without regard for reward. But the bhavas are useful for any yogic path, or for people following a different path entirely: the characteristics described by the bhavas are useful to cultivate no matter what your faith, religion, or spiritual path!

 

Revelation # 56: Yogis are not missionaries September 8, 2011

Filed under: reflections,yoga,yoga lifestyle,yoga philosophy — R. H. Ward @ 4:46 pm
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At last month’s yoga teacher training weekend, one concept really struck me and has stuck with me. It’s the idea that yogis aren’t missionaries. Now, nobody ever said that they were, but I was raised Catholic – my childhood religion classes were filled with stories of missionaries, going out into the wild to educate and spread the good news of Jesus. Such people were held up as heroes for us to emulate. Coming from this background, the concept of spreading the word and converting others to your faith is very familiar to me.

Which is why it blew my mind when I realized that yogis aren’t missionaries. It’s a concept that just doesn’t fit in with the yoga worldview. Sure, if you seek out a yogi based on a sincere desire to learn, the yogi will teach you, but he’s not going out looking for students. That’s not his job.

Yogis don’t preach or proselytize because they believe that each person has the responsibility for his or her own spiritual development. In the Yoga Sutras and in the Bhagavad Gita, it’s made clear that your responsibility is to yourself first; you should take action primarily to preserve your own calm mind. Consider the parakarmas: this wisdom, straight from Yoga Sutra I.33, is intended to help you in your relationships with others – to help you treat others better, yes, but mostly to help you live in the world and still keep your serenity. According to the scriptures, your job is to take care of yourself and your own spiritual development. It’s not your job to worry about anyone else’s. The yogi knows that he’s on a good path, but he also knows that there are other paths that people can follow, and that’s up to them. The yogi isn’t responsible for saving the world; instead, he leads by example, practicing kindness and service, demonstrating the goodness he wants to see in the world.

Understanding this has been a big realization for me. I feel that I’ve found a good spiritual path for myself in yoga, but I don’t have to go out and shout about it. There’s no onus on me to try to convince anyone else that this is a good spiritual path. My path may not be for everyone. What’s more, as J has said all along, my spiritual practice is private; it’s my own and not anyone else’s business. This too is different from how I grew up: in Catholicism, demonstrating your faith in community is important. For me as a yogini, community is still important – the community of yoga classes that I attend and the classes I will someday teach, as well as the community I find in my local Unitarian Universalist church – but ultimately my spiritual practice is personal.

I want to be a yoga teacher, which means sharing my yoga and my spirit with my students. But being a teacher doesn’t mean being a missionary. I believe yoga has the power to heal both bodies and minds, but I don’t have to go out and advertise that or force that belief on anyone – as long as I work hard and put myself out there as a teacher, people who need yoga will find their way to me.

 

Letting the beauty we love be what we do July 11, 2011

Filed under: meditation,reflections — R. H. Ward @ 2:04 pm
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My meditation practice this morning reminded me always to act with love and kindness no matter what’s going on. I’ve been practicing the “passage meditation” technique that Eknath Easwaran describes in his book; the passage I’m working on right now is a line from a Rumi poem. The passage reads:

Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

I chose this passage because for some reason it moved me very deeply, and meditating on the passage has been both pleasant and instructive. Until this morning, I had been thinking about “the beauty we love” as external sensory beauty, like a song or a sunset, and I’d been interpreting the poem as saying that we should try to incorporate the feeling of that beauty into our daily lives. Today, repeating the line to myself, I realized that “the beauty we love” can also mean simply kindness, gentleness, and peacefulness, and that when we love these things, they can become a part of “what we do”.

F and I have been in the middle of moving for the past two weeks; it has been grueling and stressful and messy, and exhausting both physically and mentally. In the midst of all that, it’s easy for me to become grumpy, but instead I want to try to cultivate gratitude: gratitude that we were able to buy a nice house, gratitude that we had a beautiful apartment for the past two years and the means to fill it with so much cool stuff, gratitude that I’m doing this with an amazingly wonderful partner, gratitude for the good friends who carried heavy boxes when they were expressly told they wouldn’t have to carry heavy boxes, and gratitude for our parents, who take us shopping at Lowe’s for home improvement materials and freely give their time and energy to help us.

When I am tired and sweaty and filthy, and itchy from my dozen bug bites and the thick layer of bug repellent chemicals on my skin, and annoyed at the fact that the seller didn’t disclose that our yard is apparently some sort of wildlife sanctuary for virulent nasty little bastard insects, I can work on being grateful to have a big yard and strong arms to work with. (I’m working on practicing ahimsa towards the bugs, but that’s a little harder.) When I can’t stop thinking about the million things I need to do this week, at home and at the office and to prepare for my upcoming yoga weekend, I need to practice acceptance of the fact that the train broke down and there’s nothing I can do about it but sit there on the broken train and wait, and practice non-attachment to the results. It doesn’t do any good to blame myself for not getting ready in time for the early train, or for not planning better or packing better; I am where I am right now, and blaming and whining won’t do me any good, but making the best of things will make me more content with the situation. In all of this, I’ll get there when I get there. In the meantime, I can try to make my chaotic, messy life into something beautiful by my actions.