Category: The Spiritual Journey

More than a few times over the years, yoga students have asked me: How do I bring compassion to myself? I’ve not heard this lately, however. Is it because the answer to the question seems too far out of reach?

Yet, bringing compassion to our own process may be more important than ever; it’s not about being overly optimistic but about realizing the effort is essential. When isn’t it relevant to protect the heart from shrinking into disappointment, frustration, anger, or worse?

There is a time to stand up, of course, to be firm against wrongdoing, and there’s also a time to be still, to seek advice from our own intuition or from respected others. When I observe how how our local deer slip from human dangers of the valley into mountain lion forest territory with a total and alert simplicity, I begin to understand the broad scope of what compassion requires of us.

Compassion comes naturally out of a commitment to something beyond our questioning concerns–by learning to listen and to be fully present. Compassion, in it’s essence, is the action of experiencing a neutral connection to all that exists within and without.

Compassion is not cynical or fearful. Compassion sometimes feels raw, because it also connects us to unknown results and consequences. The personal investigation of when to stretch, when to release, when to stop and when to embrace life beyond the constraints of ego is, surely, a worthwhile practice.

 

Gudrun Mouw (c)
Sept. 15, 2017

The Spiritual Journey

The Meditation Group

 

Eight of us sit, a small group in the heat.
We practice cooling breaths, sip ice water
before silence begins, before a rotating fan reaches
skin. That vast field of the mind stretches at warp speed
through oak after oak, and overheated birds begin
to sing, joining a chant to protect the planet
and bring the forest back to life.

 

Gudrun Mouw (c)

A Poem Journal Entry The Spiritual Journey

I have been contemplating something I heard on Free Speech TV, “love has no labels.”
I am reminded of a story about an archeologist who interviewed an indigenous Shaman from the Four Corners area. He said, “I have noticed your people chant a lot about water issues. Is it because you have a lack of water in your local environment?”

“True, true,” the Shaman answered. “And I have noticed your people are always singing about love. Is it because you don’t have enough of it?”

I don’t know what the archeologist’s response was, but my answer would have been, true, true. The culture in which I’ve been raised seems to promote (perhaps for commercial reasons) something very different from “love has no labels.”

We are used to hearing, for example, I love this product, or I love that person; I love this religion, or that point of view. There’s nothing wrong with such statements; however, experiencing the pure energy of love without connecting it to a specific object, is a very different thing and does not seem to be valued enough in our modern culture.

Love can be compartmentalized in such a way that, especially during hard times, does not give much comfort. It constrains the broadest, expanding and uplifting power of love to a narrow path which can lead to intolerance where anything we do not love is easily discounted. At the same time, I am also acutely aware that some behaviors, traits, ignorant and unhealthy patterns etc., do need to be set aside so we can focus on what helps us be the best we can be.

 

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The Spiritual Journey Uncategorized

Swami Sivananda recommended that courage is a good quality to meditate on during the month of March. For me, this has turned out to be difficult to implement.

First of all, there is the task of examining fears regarding the state of the world, regarding the experience of pain, regarding the aging process, regarding traveling loved ones, and so on. However, when fear becomes chronic, I also know that anxiety and other disorders are not far behind. And so it comes down to recognizing the power of choice.

Embracing choice means choosing to acknowledge fear, no doubt, but also transforming the contraction of fear into an expanded awareness where courage can thrive. Now, the month almost over, another storm is expected. Wind rises. Grey clouds stretch out in long lines with hints of light penetrating, and the friend to courage becomes hope.

Gudrun

The Spiritual Journey

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

YogaTreePose.epsI noticed in the very first hatha yoga class that I took, I was able to focus more easily. I also noticed a remarkable release of energy. I was lucky that, at the time, yoga was not as popular as it is now. I didn’t know what to expect, so this created a more open-minded experience for me.

I struggled, at times, to make hatha yoga practice a regular part of my life. With continued practice over a long period of time, I eventually developed an easier relationship with the positions and how they help to create a healthier connection to my body.

As a yoga teacher, I learned that the new students who benefit most from their hatha yoga classes seem to have certain similar qualities: persistence, willingness to respond to suggestions, openness to the idea that the postures/asanas are explorations of the body/mind/breath systems, not rigid structures to be imposed. Such students also seem to get the importance of the relaxation aspect of the positions.

So I recommend these tips when a student first comes to a yoga class:

  • Do not try to “keep up”
  • Stay as relaxed as possible
  • Understand that the practice takes time to master
  • Do not impose rigid expectations on yourself
  • Notice the negative impact of frustration and impatience
  • Above all, do not overwork the body or be influenced by what other people are doing
  • Do not strive beyond capacity
  • Err on the side of caution, and you will make rapid progress

Then, yoga classes will become a lovely foundation for home practice that does not feel like a struggle or a burden. A sense of ambition and competition in yoga is more of an obstacle than an aid.

 

(By the way, I studied yoga with Sri Satchidananda who founded the Integral Yoga Institute. This is a gentle, breath-focused and meditative yoga. Not all hatha classes have this orientation.)

The Spiritual Journey