Meditations from the Mat: Daily Reflections on the Path of Yoga

by Rolf Gates, Katrina Kenison

I have tried yoga. My mom does it for over 20 years. Plenty of friends do it, and lots of them recommend it. For whatever reason, I just don’t like it enough to say, when is the next class? So I suppose it’s somewhat weird that I would pick this up at the library book sale.

This is a day by day meditation. 365 quotes from a variety of religions, authors and celebrities: from yoga sutras, Rumi, the bible, Buddhist monks, rabbis, Confucius, new age gurus, to Homer, Shakespeare, JFK, Florence Nightingale, Nelson Mandela… Following the quote, the author expands on the sayings in relation to yoga, anyone can find something of value just by flipping through a few pages. It doesn’t just help with yoga practice, but in living a happier life in general. Most of the ideas are about letting go, breathing, accepting.

As a non practitioner, I decide to just save the gems I gathered from the book and let it go. As the quote of Day 133 says, “Try to do everything in the world with a mind that lets go… If you let go completely, you will know complete peace an freedom.” ~ Achaan Chah

A few more words of wisdom:

The ego asks a thousand questions for which there are no answers. ~ A Course in Miracle

For those who have come to grow, the whole world is a garden. For those who have come to learn, the wole world is a university. For those who have come to know GOd, the whole world is a prayer mat. ~ M.R. Bawa Muhaiyaddeen

I recently ran across a story about a Native American tribal leader descibing his own inner struggles. He said, “There are two dogs inside me. One of the dogs is mean and evil. The otherdog is good. Th mean dog fights the good dog all the time.” Someone aske him which dog usually wins, and after a moemnt’s reflection, he answered. “The one I feed the most.” ~ Rabbi Harold S. Kushner

Meditation practive is regarded as a good and in fact excellent way to overcome warfare in the world: our own warfare as well as greater warfare. ~ Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

Published in: on November 28, 2009 at 12:17 am  Leave a Comment  

True Love: A Practice for Awakening the Heart

by Thich Nhat Hanh

I like Thich Nhat Hanh’s books, because its so beautiful in its simplicity, and so universal and trans-religion in its teaching. This is a short book, so it’s great for re-reading.

The book begins with a short Buddhist explanation on the four components of love: loving kindness, compassion, joy and freedom, and he offers examples for us to self examine our love to see how true it is. There are also practices such as meditation, mantras and breathing exercise.

One interesting exercise is telephone meditation. Whenever the phone rings, take it as the bell in a meditation. Draw a few breathes to center and calm the mind before answering. Very simple to do and it most certainly helps one reach a calmer and more focused state.

Another concept that really stays with me is “I think, therefore I am not here.” A lot of time we worry about the future, about the past, about things far away, and ignore what is here and present with us. We may hear but not listen to the person we are talking with face to face. We do not notice things on the path we walk, we are not aware of what we are eating, because our mind is somewhere else. This little twist on Descartes’ famous words is a wonderful way to remind ourselves to be more present and mindful, to be more fully immersed in our lives, so that we can respect the people we interact with, appreciate the food we intake, and experience our life. Whenever we find ourselves thinking too much, our mind too scattered, it’s worth repeating these words, to bring ourselves back to where we belong.

Published in: on May 30, 2009 at 4:12 am  Leave a Comment  

Creating a Charmed Life

by Victoria Moran 

In Creating a Charmed Life, Victoria Moran unveils practical, spiritual secrets for expanding your capacity to love, know, and experience a fuller, richer life. Her insight, humor, and unassailable wisdom shine through each page to illuminate the magic in all our lives.

Invite adventure *Create miracles * Nurture your dreams* Savor simplicity * Nourish your spirit

This book contains 75 small chapters of tips for living a charmed life, each chapter a easy three pages or so read that you can fit in a moment’s spare time. It’s best enjoyed like tidbits of chocolates, rather than in one seating.  Many of them are  simple suggestions that requires minimal effort – a small investment in time or money but improve your life in baby steps that can add up. 

My favorite is “Live Your Life in Chapters”. That mentality really helps me put a close to things and people that I should have said goodbye to long ago, from old clothes to gadgets for an old hobby.  I imagine it would help me get over an old boyfriend if I had the need to.  My other favorites include “Drink Good Coffee”, for someone who tends to deny herself simple indulgence, and “Make the Bed”.

Truth be told, if you have read a few spiritual self help or woman-feel-good book, you would definitely have heard many of the same things before, but it’s an endearing, charming little book nonetheless.

Published in: on January 21, 2008 at 3:34 am  Comments (1)  

Eat, Pray, Love

by Elizabeth Gilbert

 I am infatuated with this book the moment I laid eyes on its lovely cover.  When I read the introduction, I know I fell totally in love.  It’s one of the most beautiful introduction I’ve ever read. 

I love the book for its beautiful prose, and for the candid, unflinching presentation of one woman’s journey.  It takes a lot of courage: to travel the way she did, and to bear her soul to millions of readers. Her unpretentious voice makes her spiritual experience sounds personable, even when some may find it outlandish.  And as someone in my bookclub suggested, she has to be well off enough to spend the year the way she did, but the book never feels like a rich lady’s travelog.

My favorite part is about signing the petition.  It’s so moving. 

I am also curious about the fate of Yudhi.  It’s terrible how the paranoid of the government damages so many innocent lives.  I hope it will end well soon…

Published in: on January 20, 2008 at 2:38 am  Leave a Comment  

Sacred Choices

by Christel Nani

The basic idea of this book is that we grow up with a lot of tribal beliefs: instilled by your family, your teachers, your religion and other groups you belong to.  While these beliefs are intended to protect you, they may not be appropriate for our time, and they may keep you from doing what your soul desires, causing a conflcit that can manifest as unhappiness, tension and even physical illness.  Some examples of such beliefs: “Marriage is forever and till death do us part,” “You should never leave a good job,” “You have to work long hours to succeed,” “Life is full of difficulties,” “Easy money is evil.”

The author sets out to help us identify our hidden tribal beliefs and rewrite it.  For unless you change these deeply rooted beliefs, all your positive affirmations and mantras on the mind level would not help. 

An example: a mother, stressed financially and psychologically by her son who stays dependent on her and unwilling to find a job, holds the belief: “A good mother always care for her children.”  Now she rewrites her belief as: “It is reasonable to believe that a good mother cares for her children by setting up boundaries and teaching them to be responsible and independent.”  She no longer feels guilty and shamed if she doesn’t provide for his unceased demands.

The message and the methodology is simple enough.  The bulk of this book is made up of examples, of before-and-after pictures of people with dysfunctioning beliefs about love, family, work, life, religion and money.  The examples are somewhat excessive, but increases the chance that you will find one close enough to your situation.  Each session has some examples of erroneous tribal beliefs and questions to help you undig any you may have. 

One of the exercises is word association.  It was quite an interesting exercise and useful as a basis to find out what area you need to work on.  I tried it out with friends and families, and indeed some will associated “work” with “hard” or “family” with “burden”.  It does get you thinking.

The list of words for association is:
Love, Friendship, Work, Money, Prosperity, Families, Grieving, Being a Good Mother, Being a Good Father, Marriage, Divorce, God and Spirituality, Religion,  Feeling Safe, Suffering, Worrying, Selfishness, Asking for Help, Forgiveness, Mistakes, Life, Happiness, Hopes, Dreams, The nature of Women, The Nature of Men, Sexuality, Childhood, and Childhood Wounding.

The author has a website with her name.  She has workshops and does readings for people.  I would be interested in the three day retreat workshop, though price-wise it seems a bit expensive, though I am sure it would be well worth the cost. 

Published in: on August 30, 2007 at 2:37 pm  Leave a Comment  

Spiritual Literacy

Reading the Sacred in Everyday Life

by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

I received this via a bookring on Bookcrossing.  This 600-page hardcover book looks rather intimidating, and I almost considered just giving up and sending it on…  However, as there are a lot of short quotes from writers of all religious background, it is not as hard and slow to go through as I feared. 

If I start writing down all the gems I find in this book, I may be in trouble for copyright infringement.  This is a good book to keep as a PC, to ocassionally leaf through, whenever you feel frizzled.  I don’t know how the authors collected all the wisdom, but I am glad they did and gather them in one volume.

(ETA: Yicks! I did copy down a lot… but hey it’s a 600-page tome!)

And here are some of the lines I like:

“If the desert is holy, it is because it is a forgotten place that allows us to remember the sacred… There is no place to hide, and so we are found.”  – Terry Tempest Williams   

“Not only persons call for service; their things do, too… Objects have thier own personalities that ask for attention… Treating things as if thjey had souls, carefully, with good manners – that’s quality service…” – James Hillman

“I am not a good shopper… I get my purchase home and immediately have second thoughts… Once when I was in the grip of such a litany of doubts, Fred said, ‘Stop, you are hurting its feelings.  Nothing is perfect.’ ” – Mary Ann Brussat

“Boredom is lack of attention.  Take yourself off automatic pilot and you enter a whole new world of wonders.” – Frederic Brussat

“The Hopis say that we all began together; that each race went on a journey to learn its own road to power, and changed; that now is the time for us to return, to put the pieces of the puzzle back together, to make the circle whole.” – Starhawk

“When we plant a tree, we are planting ourselves.  Releasing dilphins back to the wild we are ourselves returning home.  Composting leftovers, we are being reborn as irises and apples…we can know the acitivity of the world as not separate from who we are but rather of what we are.” – Joan Halifax

“I saw that if I belonged here, it was not because anything here belonged to me.  A man might own a whole country and be a stranger in it.  If I belonged in this place it was because I belonged to it.  ANd I began to understand that so long as I did not know the place fully, or even adequately, I belonged to it only paritally.” – Wendell Berry

“Home is somewhere you can close a door and open your heart.” – Theo Pelletier

“I wonder if a tree knows when someone’s hand is on its body.  Does it feel a little warm, like an exchange of electricity?  This act of reaching out is a small gesture, but it is filled with great intention.  I am simply trying to say hello across the barriers of form and language.  I beleive the hands communicate this intention most honestly.” – Stephanie Kaza

“Since nothing we intend is ever faultless, and nothing we attempt ever without error, and nothing we achieve without some measure of finitude and fallibility we call humanness, we are saved by forgiveness.” – David Augsburger

“A weed is a plant whose virtues have never been discovered.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“What is loved reveals its loveliness.” – Bonnie Friedman

“Like the spider, we must return again and again to rebuild our webs by bringing together the threads of our lives and uniting them to the divine center within.  Without such work, our lives become disconnected, unpeaceful and broken.” – Edward Hays

“When we clean up after ourselves, whether it’s a spilled jar, a broken chair, a disorganized study, or a death, we can see and reflect upon our own life and perhaps envision a new way that won’t be so broken, so violent, so unconscious.  By cleaning up our own homes we take responsibility for ourselves and for preserving what we love.” – Brenda Peterson

“Consider a jigsaw puzzle.  each piece has its place and no other piece can fit that place.  Yet no one piece makes sense on its own.  Each piece needs the whole for its integrity and coherence.  And the whole needs each piece to fulfill its purpose and bring meaning and order to the puzzle.  Once a piece is in its proper place, its separateness is surrendered.  We know a piece is in its place when it blends with the whole and disappears.” – Rabbi Rami Shapiro

“It’s easy to criticize others and make them feel unwanted.  What takes effort and skill is picking them up and making them feel good.” – Rabbi Nachman of Breslov

“He was not feeling great or rotten; he was just not feeling.  He realized he had to really concentrate to figure out what day of the week it was.  And then he woke up: ‘You have got to own your own days and name them, each one of them, every one of them, or else the years go right by and none of them belong to you.'” – – Mary Ann Brussat

“A friend’s son was in the first grade of school, and his teacher asked the calss, ‘What is the color of apples?’ Most of the children answered red. A few said green. Kvein, my friend’s son, raised his hand and said white.  The teacher tried to explain that apples could be red, green, or sometimes golden, but never white.  Kevin was quite insistent and finally said, ‘Look inside.'” – Joseph Goldstein

“The love we give away is the only love we keep.” – Elbert Hubbard

“Growth means evolving and waking up, not remaining asleep in the illusion of the learned self.” – Brenda Schaffer

“The Church says: The body is a sin.
Science says: The body is a machine.
Advertising says: The body is a business.
The body says: I am a fiesta.” – Eduardo Galeano

“There is only one valid way to partake of the universe – whether the partaking is of food and water, the love of another, or indeed, a pill.  That way is characterized by reverence – a reverence born of a felt sense of participation in the universe, of a kinship with all others and with matter.” – Larry Dossey

“Husband: I’m going to work hard, and someday we are going to be rich.
Wife: We are already rich, dear, for we have each other. Someday maybe we’ll have money.” – Anthony de Mello

“A boy an dhis father were walking along a road when they came across a large stone.  The boy said to his father, ‘Do you think if I use all my strength, I can move this rock?’ HIs father answered, ‘If you use all your strength, I am sure you can do it.’  THe boy began to push the rock, he pushed and pushed. The rock did not move. Discouraged, he said to his father, ‘You were wrong, I can’t do it.’ ‘No son, You didnt use all your strength – you didn’t ask me to help.” – David Wolpe

“Give us clear vision that we may know where to stand and what to stand for, because unless we stand for something, we shall fall for anything.” – Peter Marshall

“The fragrant rose and the stinking garbage are two sides of the same existence.  WIthout one, the other cannot be.  When we speak of impermanence, we understand that everything is in transformation. ” – Thich Nhat Hanh

Published in: on July 9, 2007 at 3:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

The True Power of Water

by Masaru Emoto

I was excited when I found this book at the library book sale.  I have read briefly about Dr Emoto’s work on the newspaper a few years back, saying how beautiful water crystals can be formed when playing classical music.  I didn’t know that a book has been written about it.  In fact, there turns out to be several books, CDs, and paraphelia such as stickers, water bottles and what not available for sale.

I thought other people would be as excited as I was, and found out I couldn’t be more wrong when I showed the book around.  Most people dismissed it as baloney, even people I classified as new-agey.  My husband said that as water doesn’t have ears, how could it listen to a piece of music?

Is the idea really so outlandish?

I find the idea of hado in line with Bach’s flower essence.  Dr Emoto uses a equipment to sense the hado of a person, and detects negative emotions such as fear and anxiety, which negative energy affects the body on a cellular level and manifests as physical ailments.  A speical water is prepared to cancel the waves, which is to be drunk diluted.  Doesn’t this sound very much like Bach’s flower essence?  The flower essence carries certain energy vibration that can cancel out the negative vibes of such emotions as fear, anger and worry.  It would be interesting to use the hado measuring device on the flower essence to see what comes of it.

I also do not feel it a big leap of faith to think that lovingly prepared food gives out more positive energy than a microwave dinner.   Or that classical music is more soothing to the mind and body thanheavy metal.  I have also heard from several qigong masters and energy workers saying that pork has a negative vibe and should be avoided.

If one can, however, suspend one’s incredulity for a moment and consider this: if our positive or negative words or thoughts can indeed affect water molecules, and if the known fact is that human being is 70% water and the earth is mostly covered with water, what implications would that be?

If nothing else, at least we can mutter a sincere word of thanks before we partake each meal, drink each sip of water.  As Dr. Emoto said, begin each day with an attitude of gratefulness and a positive affirmation “It was a good day.”   

I sincerely hope that more people can read this interesting work.

Meanwhile, here is a list of music title and what physical hado it corresponds to:

Pachelbel Canon – uterus, ovaries
Bach Toccata and Fugue in D Minor – Right cerebrum
Elgar March No. 1 – Spine, spinal cord
Time to Say Goodbye – Colon, rectum (not a very good association for such beautiful piece of music…)
Bizet Carmen Prelude – Circulatory system
Smetana The Moldau – lymph
Johann Strauss The Blue Danube – Central nervous system
Tchaikovsky Swan Lake Act 2 – joints

Published in: on May 30, 2007 at 7:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success

by Deepak Chopra

I have read this book many years ago and am glad to find a copy again to re-read.  This is a really excellent book in that it is simple yet poignant.   The message is so universal.  This is a summary so I won’t forget it for a while:

 1. The Law of Pure Poetntiality
We are, in our essence state, pure consciousness.  Pure consciousness is pure potentiality; it is the field of all possibilities and infinite creativity.  Your tue Slef, whichis your spirit, your soul, is immune to criticism, is unferaful of any challenge, and it feels beneath no one.  It recognizes that everyone else is the same Self, the same spirit in different disguises.   One way to acces the field is through the daily practice of silence, meditation, and non-judgment.  Commune with nature to silently witness the intelligence within every living thing.  As you gain more and more access to your true nature, you will also spontaneously receive creative thoughts.

2.  The Law of Giving – Your body and your mind and the universe are in constant and dynamic exchange.  The word afflance means “to flow in abundance.”  In every seed is the promise of thousands of forests.  But the seed must not be hoarded; it must give its intelligence to the fertile ground.  Through its giving, its unseen energy flows into material manifestation.  The more you give, the more you will receive, because you will keep the abundance of the universecirculating in your life.  The intention should alwasy be to create happiness for the giver and receiver.  Make a decision that any time you come into contact with anyone, you will give them something. I will gratefully receive all the figts that life has to offer me.  Each time I meet someone, I will silently wish them happiness, joy and laughter.

3.  The Law of Karma  Karma implies the action of conscious choice-making.  The more your birng your cjoices into the level of your conscious awareness, the more you will make these cjoices which are spontanesouly correct.  There are three things you can do about pat karma: 1. Pay your karmic debts.  2. Transmute or transform your karma to a more desirable experience.  3. To transcend it through practice of meditation.

 4. The Law of Least Effort
Nature’s intelligence functions with effortles ease and abandoned carefreeness. Least effort is expended whe your actions are motivated by love.  Accept people, situaions, circumstances and events as they occur.  I will take responsibility for my situation.  Tkaing responsiblity means not blaming anyone or anything for my situation.  I will relinquish the need to defend my point of view, I will remain open to all points of view and not be rigidly attached to any one of them.

5. The law of Intention and Desire
Intent is desire without attachment to outcome.  Intention combined with detachment leads to life-centered, present-moment awareness.  Accept the present and intent the future.  a. Slip into the gap – center yourself to go into silence, b. release your intentions and desires. c. remain in the state of self-referrak, d. relinquish your attachment to the outcome e. let the universe handle the details.

6. The Law of Detachment
In order to acquire anything in the physical universe, you have to relinquish your attachment to it.   Detachment is based on the unquestioning belief in the power of your true  Self.  Attachment is based on fear and insecurity.

7. The Law of Dharma
Expressing your talents to fulfill needs creates unlimited wealth and abundance. Discover your divinity, find your unique talent, serve humanity with it.

Published in: on May 21, 2007 at 9:59 pm  Leave a Comment  

How to Expand Love ~ Widening the Circle of Loving Relationships

by HH the Dalai Lama

While some of his works are of a more esoteric nature, this book targets a wider audience. It doesn’t reference heavily on Buddhism idea, but a familarity will make the concept easier to understand (and swallow), such as the concept that every being has been one’s mother some time along the countless cycles of lives.

One important element of Mahayana Buddhism is the cultivation of loving kindness to all sentinent beings, to the extent that one will vow to stay in this world, instead of entering nirvana, to help deliver everybody from suffering. This book is a step by step guide to achieving such profound love for mankind.

The seven steps start with the understanding that all living beings, man or animal, long for happiness and avoid pain and suffering. With the help of meditation, we realize that friends all not always friends, and thus foes are never forever evil. Every person have been both our friend and our enemy somewhere along the long stream of lives and deaths. Our enemies are here to help us develop patience, love and inner strength. The real failure will be the failure to recognize the chance for development. When someone wishes us harm, recognize that the trouble is not the person, but his or her afflictive emotion. Just as when a cloud covers a sun, we do not hate the sun. Similarly, for ourselves, we can learn to separate a corner of our mind from strong emotions such as hatred, and become an observer. Thus, we know that the mind and hatred are not one; the person and hatred are not one.

We continue to expand our love, from people we are close to, to neutral persons, to enemies. We wish on them all things good and wish them untouched by pain and suffering. With heightened compassion, we long to help others be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.

When sickness and unfortunate events befall us, our thoughts wil be “May this illness or misfortune serve as a substitute for the suffering of all sentinent beings.” “May the suffering that I am undergoing now function as the ripening, manifestation, and conclusion of the many bad karmas I have accumulated.”

Finally, our compassion moves us to altruistic acts. The impermanence of this present life will mean that all wealth we accumulate will be left behind. If we use our wealth for beneficial purposes, the resultant good karma is carried the the next lifetime, but if we hold on to it with attachment, that itself will keep wealth away from us in future lives.

Published in: on April 4, 2006 at 5:47 pm  Comments (1)  

Religious Vegetarianism

by Walters and Portmess

What interested me in the book is the section on Pythagorean vegetarianism. I know Pythagoras from my math class in school, but it’s news to me that he’s vegetarian, and that part of his philosophy is so close to Buddhism.

“For I have already been once a boy and a gril, a bush and a bird and a leaping journeying fish.”

“We should permit bodies which may possibly have sheltered the souls of our parents or brothers, or those joined to us by some other bond, or of men at least, to be uninjured and respected, and not load our stomaches as with a Thyestean banquet!”

Published in: on November 15, 2005 at 5:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

Awakening The Buddhist Heart

by Lama Surya Das

I really like this book. A wise book. Here are just some of the things I enjoyed and would like to remember.

The Practice of Tonglen: Breathe in the pain, anxiety, pollution, imagine yourself as a karmic clearner, breathe out the light, the clean air, joy, blessings, peace and love. Send out light, radiating out all your blessings and well-being.
The story of Saraha: The Indian yogi one day asked his wife to bring him radish curry. However, when she brought the dish to him, he was in deep meditation, and was in that stage for 12 years. Then, he suddenly stood up and asked for his curry. The wife replied, “You call this meditation? You spent twelve years sitting, mentally holding an illusory radish!” And thus he is enlightened.

The Scholar Monk: The renowned monk travelled around in ancient
China, going from monastery to monastery with his weighty tomes of written sutras, Dharma teachings and his own lectures. One day, he came to rest at a little tea shack. The old woman there asked if he could teach some dharma. The rather arrogant monk replied, pointing to the manuscripts, “all my Dharma is over there, can you read, old lady?” And she replied, “what a burden that much be to carry your Dharma outside of yourself. What good does it do?” The monk, enlightened, then bowed and said, “Thank you. I will leave them here for you to use as firewood.”

Published in: on November 10, 2005 at 4:26 pm  Leave a Comment