Category: Personal Updates

The 2017 documentary called The Island President, is a portrayal of President Mohamed Nasheed as he works to save the people of Maldives from a rising sea. He is a democratically elected President who had been a political prisoner 12 times, suffered solitary confinement and torture by the dictator who had been in power for 30 years.

The Maldives islands are visibly disappearing. At the climate change summit of Copenhagen in 2009, President Nasheed pointed out that carbon emissions should be a concern to everyone, since Manhattan is at the same sea level as the Maldives.

He tells those major powers who are reluctant to come to any climate change agreement, bluntly, “You are not really listening, not paying attention to the right thing.” His persistence is key.

He continues to address climate deniers, “Yes, there are also people who don’t believe the world is round. Sea levels are rising whether you choose to admit it or not….We had to get democracy, because I didn’t want my children to be in solitary confinement. Now, I don’t want us to be climate change refugees.” As a result of the climate change summit in Copenhagen, we achieved the world’s first climate change agreement.

Around here, the west coast climate also seems to be shifting, dramatically, from years of drought to relentless rain, flooding, mud slides, tornadoes and other surprises. I notice a spell in the downpour and calm myself with a walk through the forest. My hope is that enough people do not get stuck in panic and paralysis but stay activated in whatever way they can for the greater good.

 

Gudrun

Personal Updates

I am reflecting on the healing process these days. I recently had a wake up call type health crisis that required difficult changes. The question I am asking today is, does healing come mainly from a mental shift, or does it come from physical adjustments and a natural progression of the body healing itself?

As I was experiencing the body’s debilitation, I noticed how my mental and emotional landscape changed. There was less less joy, more mental and physical fatigue even after the initial crisis. Though this wasn’t surprising, it wasn’t easy.

Once I fully acknowledged the situation, I made a conscious determination to focus on what I’ve learned over many years through meditation and yoga. I replaced negative thoughts with positive ones, utilized various mind calming practices, and kept an open mind about the future potential for well being and continuing productivity. This allowed the body’s natural healing ability to take hold more effectively.

Yesterday, as I began to feel my recovery happening, I made the decision not to go into my usual routine as quickly as possible mode. I promised myself to step back from all that saps my energy and concentrate on that which rejuvenates and uplifts. Today, I listened to one of my favorites, a video of Leonard Cohen singing, Hallelujah, and experienced a surge of hope and optimism.

That is my wish for the New Year to all! May we not reside in disappointments, frustrations, or anger, even as we may need to make hard choices! May 2017 carry us towards greater understanding, strength and perseverance. And may we have the courage to stand up for a greater good.

Personal Updates The Spiritual Journey

cropped_meadow_skyYears ago, I had a website with a page I called the Yoga Weather Report. The idea came from experiences I had with my teacher, Sri Swami Satchidananda Yogiraj. He would return to Santa Barbara from various national and international destinations and talk about the condition of our prevailing psychological climate. He would say things like, “the weather is stormy” at a time when our local California weather was quite sunny and warm. His students learned to look deeper into what was going on.

Some nights ago, I had difficulty sleeping. This was quite unusual. I woke up a number of times; then, I had a hard time going back to sleep. For several days, I had been watching news about the presidential debate. I had also seen replays and commentary on the Internet where someone posted that there could be a new “medical” condition called, “Election Anxiety Syndrome.”

Initially, I did not put my experience in this category; however, after talking to friends and family members, I came to think there may well be a pervading sense that “the weather is unsettling.” We’d also been having intense wind conditions, which didn’t help. Palm fronds fell all over our courtyard. A sharp acorn, during yoga class, hit my car and cracked the window. There’d also been international reports from other countries anxious about the possibility that we might elect someone who is temperamental and psychologically unstable.

Yes, perhaps, there has been a good reason to feel uneasy. As a result, I am using the practice of conscious breathing and other yogic principles to calm the mind. I slept well last night, and I feel a renewed confidence in the intelligence of our electorate.
October, 2016
(C) Gudrun Mouw

Personal Updates

This week as I prepare for going back to teaching yoga after a summer break, I am posting a review I wrote of Sharon Salzberg’s book on lovingkindness. I am having fun posting my reading list and reviews (about two a month) on Goodreads. You can friend me on Goodreads, or check out my other reviews on my Goodreads Facebook page. And I will be posting less often while I’m teaching, probably twice a month.

 

Loving-Kindness is a treasure I first read a while ago. It is one of those modern classics that invites more than one reading. Metta Practice, or Loving-Kindness Practice was a favorite during my years immersed in the Vipassana Buddhist tradition.

My current favorite section of the book is ‘Developing the Compassionate Heart.’ It took me a while on the spiritual path to get that I no longer wish to endure suffering in the name of compassion. This understanding has changed everything; for that I am grateful.

This book can be life altering. I highly recommend an open-hearted and sincere reading.

-Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness by Sharon Salzberg and Jon Kabat-Zinn

 

Gudrun

Personal Updates

After an early morning and before an active afternoon, which is scheduled to go into the evening, I seek rejuvenation and decide to go for a forest walk. On the uphill side, I am tired; on the downhill side, I pass by the hammock. Often, I have seen T.J. there, feet over the side and thought, what’s keeping me away?

hammockYesterday, I was on a mission of transporting water to potted and other vulnerable plants. I walked all around the hammock but did not stop. Today, I finished carrying water early and decided on a walk-about before it got too hot. During my wandering, I found plenty of freshly fallen deadwood to haul out from under the forest. I may not chop wood but do my part in the process, keeping my eye on the hammock in my comings and goings.

Later, the thermometer tells me it is 90 degrees outside. I venture forth under the consuming sun, past the driveway and arrive under a cooling canopy over the hammock with my water bottle and a recently finished book I said I would review.

I look up to various nests high up in the trees from inside the hammock. Owls? Other birds? A couple of nests are very large. I tug the pull rope and settle into a gentle swaying motion. Air flows all around my body. A soft wind between oak limbs shivers the leaves and brings further relief from the cumulative effects of recent oppressive temperatures. One of three woodpeckers currently active does several tap, taps; birds call, and butterflies head towards the shade as I praise the old growth under which I am privileged to recline.
(c) Gudrun Mouw
August 15, 2015

Personal Updates

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I wake up with several concerns regarding family, friends and a Raja Yoga/Meditation Workshop I have committed to teach in the city one hour south of my home. After trying several going-back-to-sleep strategies which do not work, I decide it must be time to meditate. Meditation, the 7th of eight limbs in the raja yoga tradition, in Sanskrit, is called, “dhyana.”

At my corner, I open cabinet doors, pull out the shelf with a marble slab and burn the candle on top of it inside its cut glass container, which spreads a soft, amber glow. The Krishna statue’s hands, holding his flute, gleam. Various crystals reflect bright points that penetrate even as I close my eyes. Inside, I see what looks like a shining display of northern lights.

After the usual invocations, I feel inspired to practice metta (a loving kindness meditation), during which the first of two tears slides, slowly, over my left cheek and gradually dissolves somewhere under my chin. The second tear seems to stand still for the longest time just below my lower eyelid.

Eventually, my right knee hurts, which tells me more than an hour has passed. It is time to practice yoga stretches/positions, “asanas,” the 5th limb raja yoga. I unfold my mat.

On my knees, I dip back until buttocks touch heels, bring elbows forward, arms up, palms to the sides of my head. I had recently recommended this pose for someone experiencing grief. I gently stretch my neck forward, soften shoulders, open knees, and allow myself to release and relax. Inexplicably, I feel happy and have a sharp, clear insight. After more than 40 years of study and practice, the subject of raja yoga for me is how I relate to whatever I am doing.

As absorption into the present moment encapsulates the goal of yoga, my body knows which other postures it needs to further release physical, mental and emotional contractions. Dawn begins and further brightens the dark.

It’s time to start a kettle for tea, and I trust my hands to find what I need inside a drawer’s shade, not yet wishing to disturb that natural and subtle shift from darkness to light by switching on electricity. As I sit with my warm cup, I turn on a favorite music channel which randomly plays Anugama, “Tantric Day” from The Best of Anugama: Just Being Here, 1993.

I am in heaven. When the sound of Enya’s “China Roses” from The Memory of Trees, 1995 begins, I’m not noticing time, space, or anything else. And when the next random song,Tom Colletti’s “Dhyana” from Yoga is Union, 2011, fills the room, nearly 4 hours have passed since I first woke to what now seems to be ancient history. It has been time well spent. Hills hide behind the welcome fog in a dry season. Cool air refreshes. I thank the universe for its blessings.

The raja yoga work continues in days that follow. Without knowing exactly why, I feel compelled to create a memorial on a wrought iron and glass table just outside the sliding glass door on which I arrange a container with one flower, a candle and the stone I have, apparently, been saving just for this occasion.

This stone was found by my parents, reminiscent of a heart shape, and my father etched my mother’s and his initials on it. The following morning, as part of my meditation practice, I light that candle. When I am finished with formal practice, I gaze at the outside table; my eyes moisten as I remember it has been 15 1/2 years and over 14 1/2 years since, first my father, then my mother died. Slowly, still in a state of contemplation, I realize there is no residue of bitterness, anger, or resentment and am reminded of one of my favorite raja yoga sutras:

By cultivating…friendliness towards the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and disregard toward the wicked, the mind-stuff retains its undisturbed calmness.

 

 

 

(c) Gudrun Mouw

July 23, 2015

Personal Updates The Spiritual Journey