“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.” –A.A. Milne

“Be mindful. Be grateful. Be positive. Be true. Be kind.” –Roy T. Bennett

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” –John F. Kennedy

Count your blessings…….no matter which way they may appear, sorrowful or joyous, boring or stimulating, hateful or kind, indifferent or filled with loved.

When Henry Thoreau retreated to Walden Pond, he wrote, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”  Thoreau had come to understand that a conscious life was a gift, and the highest form of gratitude was to know it in all its depths.

‘This grace of conscious life, of having a mind that can know “this moment is like this,” is the root of all wonder, from which gratitude flows.’ [Phillip Moffitt]

This month we will contemplate what place gratitude holds in our daily life.  How often do you pause and reflect on the many things in your life for which you are grateful?  Does the list include a safe place to sleep, clean air and fresh water, food to eat, blue skies, laughter, birdsong?   Do you experience the good things in life to the same degree as the not so good things in life?  Or, do you feel the weight of bad things more?

The antidote is to actively, on a daily basis, reflect on what you are grateful for.  A great example I recently came across, was being stuck in traffic.  This quite often leads to feelings of irritation and frustration.  But, what if instead I felt grateful to simply have a car to drive, that I am able to put gas in it; or that all the drivers around me were following the agreed upon driving rules, keeping everyone safe.  In this way there is a certain universal level of “well-being and community cooperation” that is supporting me even in the middle of rush hour traffic.  These moments stuck in traffic simply are, but how I am experiencing it gradually begins to shift the more I practice gratitude in the moment.

The words ‘gratitude’ and ‘grace’ originate from the same Latin word–gratus.  Gratus means ‘pleasing’ or ‘thankful.’   It has been said that when one is in a deep state of gratitude, you will often feel the spontaneous presence of grace.   As a state of selfless gratitude is developed and then embodied, our happiness is no longer contingent upon outer circumstances.  That moment is when we can truly relax into life.

See you on the mat!

How does your garden grow?

Sunrise prayers and blessings to be offered on the Ganges.  Varanasi, India.

 

Namaste my fellow yogi/yoginis!

It has been a little over a week since I returned from India.   And, what a week it has been!  Jet lag, a head full of thoughts at 3:00am in the morning, and deep and tender silences that linger in my heart.  India has a very certain way of challenging body, mind, and soul.

The number one question I have received since returning home–“So, how was your trip?”  My responses each time I have been asked have all been some succinct variation of “good.”   “Good” does not even begin to cover it!  If forced to sum it up in one word, intense is what comes to mind.   There exists within me, at the moment, a certain amount of cradling as if I am in a state of processing before ripening.  And so, I look forward to slowly sharing some of my experiences with you–as they unfold–during the coming weeks and months.

In just the short time I have been home, I have begun considering retiring from something that I have been doing for 30+ years!  Almost a scary thought, but it also carries a sense of relief.  Change is inevitable, and my interests have been evolving and shifting.  By letting something old and tired go, I make space for possibility!

The seeds of change have been sown.  Now is the time to water them, and watch them ripen.  This month we will touch on and contemplate our relationship with money, being in service to others, and our purpose in life. How would we describe right-livelihood?  Who are we giving our time, money, or love to; and are we doing it appropriately? Why do we make the choices we do?

One way to do such contemplating on your own is with daily meditation, taking walks in nature, journaling, prayer, or simply resting quietly, even if only for five minutes.  This precious and dedicated time, unplugged from distractions, helps settle the mind and is extremely helpful when considering the important questions in our lives.  How much time, daily or weekly, can you commit to watering the seeds of change?

See you on the mat!

Metta For These Times

I close each of my yoga classes with an offering to all beings everywhere, that they may have happiness and be free from suffering.   These two wishes are part of The Four Immeasurables, as described by Lord Buddha, which consist of loving-kindness, compassion, appreciative joy, and equanimity.  We work with these four qualities so that we may cultivate wholesome attitudes towards all sentient beings.

Loving-kindness, the first immeasurable, is the wish that everyone, without exception, have happiness.   Loving-kindness feels much the same as the sincere good wishes a mother feels toward her new-born infant–that he or she will enjoy good health, be intelligent and successful, and make good friends.  This immeasurable counters ill-will.

Compassion, the second of the immeasurables, is the wish that everyone be free from suffering.  When we witness suffering by those close to us, family, friends, even a pet, we experience the ordinary quality of compassion.  To reach the sublime level of compassion, is to extend it out to all sentient beings in all realms of existence.  This immeasurable counters cruelty.

My wish, as we navigate our post-election world, is that we remind ourselves on a daily basis to connect with loving-kindness and compassion.

See you on the mat!


THE FOUR IMMEASURABLES

May all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness.
May all beings be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.
May all beings never be separated from the happiness that knows no suffering.
May all beings live in equanimity, free from attachment and aversion.


 

Buddhism & Paradigm Shifts

I am deeply immersed in Buddhism at the moment, working on a writing project.  I find the concepts and philosophy of Buddhism to be both very calming, and frustrating, at times.  One moment I am gratified with some understanding, and at another moment completely frustrated by my seeming inability to understand.  At times, it feels as if there is an ebb and a flow to “getting it” or not.  This will then amuse me as I ponder it all.

Enlightenment, in any form whether tiny or mind-blowing, is either as close as flipping a switch, or as far away as trying to fill a sieve with water.   It is said you cannot think your way to enlightenment, you have to experience it.  One moment it will simply happen.  But, only after you have let go of every concept you have ever had of your self, or your perception of the way things are.

What I am thinking or feeling about most things is always changing in some way or another, particularly as I learn more.  What I know about anything is simply a pattern, a paradigm.  And, patterns can always be shifted.  The Four Noble Truths are considered the central concepts of Buddhism, and teach us that shifting from suffering to peace is possible.  Every day, every experience, every moment is an opportunity for us to “flip the switch” and experience peace.

I have found the following description of the Four Noble Truths by Sylvia Boorstein to be useful:

  1. Life is continually challenging because circumstances keep changing.
  2. Suffering is the inability of the mind to accommodate these changing circumstances.
  3. Peace is possible.
  4. It is possible to systematically cultivate, through lifestyle practices and mental training exercises, a mind that accommodates changing circumstances wisely, avoids confusion, and does not suffer.