September 2016

Each moment of our life is brand new. Every breath, like a snowflake, different from any other. We live in an ever flowing river of change; a constant evolution. The Wisdom Teachings from yoga and meditation remind us to wake up and notice what is happening right now. It’s often easier to close our eyes, tune out the sound, hold our breath and wait for it to be over. A hungry ghost always yearning for the next moment and rarely satisfied in this one. In the gradual process of becoming more present minded, we slowly become aware of who we are and how we are living. The unconscious is seen and what has been concealed begins to become revealed. The illumination of clear seeing (prajna) is available to all of us at any time. We access it simply by paying attention. How am I feeling right now? Where is it in the body? What is happening in the mind? Waking up more and more allows us greater choice. To remain as we are or to shift in some way. This is how we can grow through all the churning and changing tides. And so begins the magnificent evolution of enlightenment; the premiere spiritual practice.

September 2017

The fires are burning in LA. The rains are flooding in Houston. And after endless months of violence against innocent people, after witnessing our most ignorant, small minded, destructive, cruel, senseless selves… a lotus has blossomed from the mud.  There’s an epic force in nature that pushes plants up through cracks in the sidewalks. That same essence, our own life force, is on stunning display right now. We saw it unfold before us all this week. An inexplicable rush to help, to save, to rescue. They said they drove their family boats up the street to bring neighbors to safety, but as soon as they’d made the rescue and turned around, their boat could not get back out. Still, with the determination of a seed intent upon survival, they pushed through impossible odds.

As yogi’s we take vows – ethical, moral, spiritual commitments. The very first, grand vow, is to do no harm; ahimsa.  As we progress on the path – we grow that intention bigger.  The Dalai Lama dedicates himself to the Bodhi Sattva vow each morning: to liberate, to save, all sentient beings everywhere. These women and men who race towards the fires in this intense LA heat, these everyday people who summoned their own bravery and dignity and immense compassion, have brought those vows to life before our eyes.  Seemingly without hesitation or fear or resentment or greed of any kind, these heroes leap forward, not with their heads but with their hearts.

We need them now.  They’re the embodiment of a reminder: what is possible for each of us. Our innate and tremendous capacity to rise above the floods and flames of our own minds and lives, to connect to what matters most – this phenomenal life we live together, and the commitment and connection we have to one another.

September 2017

The poet, monk activist, Christian mystic, Thomas Merton wrote:
“Do not depend on the hope of results. You may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect.

As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results, but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself. You gradually struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people. In the end, it is the reality of personal relationships that saves everything.”

June 2017

You need a practice. Most of us do, anyway. Because of the speed of the world. And our thoughts. And all the everyday pleasures and pains. It can be overwhelming. You need a practice to quiet the mind, to tend to the heart  and to revitalize the spirit. Even a little bit helps.

The practice also brings us closer to freedom. Thru the turbulent waves of gain and loss, fear and desire — it anchors us deep in the center of what matters most. It gives us a glimpse of the mysterious and amazing: our capacity to love and live and rejoice right in the middle of it all. That love, is a great archer, shooting the arrow of the spirit up towards the sun. The practice can freeing us from whatever grips most tightly and allows the souls to soar. If even for a moment.

For Independence Day, I’m delighted to offer both light and depth with a restorative yoga session, co-lead with Alex Dawson.  Relax Deeply

brings contentment and freedom to the innermost and allows that energy to emanate outwards. The peace created through this practice is both independent from and inter-dependent with the world.

June 2017
Bad things are going to happen.
Your tomatoes will grow a fungus
and your cat will get run over.
Someone will leave the bag with the ice cream
melting in the car and throw
your blue cashmere sweater in the drier.
Your husband will sleep
with a girl your daughter’s age, her breasts spilling
out of her blouse. Or your wife
will remember she’s a lesbian
and leave you for the woman next door. The other cat-
the one you never really liked-will contract a disease
that requires you to pry open its feverish mouth
every four hours. Your parents will die.
No matter how many vitamins you take,
how much Pilates, you’ll lose your keys,
your hair and your memory. If your daughter
doesn’t plug her heart
into every live socket she passes,
you’ll come home to find your son has emptied
the refrigerator, dragged it to the curb,
and called the used appliance store for a pick up-drug money.
There’s a Buddhist story of a woman chased by a tiger.
When she comes to a cliff, she sees a sturdy vine
and climbs half way down. But there’s also a tiger below.
And two mice-one white, one black-scurry out
and begin to gnaw at the vine. At this point
she notices a wild strawberry growing from a crevice.
She looks up, down, at the mice.
Then she eats the strawberry.
So here’s the view, the breeze, the pulse
in your throat. Your wallet will be stolen, you’ll get fat,
slip on the bathroom tiles of a foreign hotel
and crack your hip. You’ll be lonely.
Oh taste how sweet and tart
the red juice is, how the tiny seeds
crunch between your teeth.
April 2017

My father told me that practicing Yoga and Meditation would not make me happy.  It’s the wisdom gained from the practice that will.

He’s right. We live in an intense and unpredictable world.  These teachings suggest, and my own personal experience confirms, that this practice is a path. The knowledge harvested and the realizations made through our own inquiry, patience and humor absolutely can, and will, lead to more sustainable joy.

It’s easy to forget this and to become distracted.  We think it’s about bending the knee or turning the arm or becoming better in some way. The Buddhists say, it’s the Moon we’re searching to see and experience.  Don’t just watch the finger that’s pointing towards it, they warn, like my father.
We need reminding. And for those who practice, it’s a constant effort to refocus and pay attention to the real jewel we’re seeking: clear awareness. Understanding. We begin to connect the dots – in the world, in our family, in our own mind.  It’s the process of awakening, of connecting the dots leads to contentment; not just bending the knee.

Done properly, Yoga is the science of clarifying confusion, illuminating darkness, bringing consciousness to the unconscious, knowing the unknown. And once we do see – like an Escher drawing suddenly revealed – there is no unseeing it. No way to unknow.  It is from this wisdom, that real peace naturally flows.

February 2017

I have told you time and time again, the most effective way to live is as a warrior. Worry and think before you make any decision, but once you make it, be on your way, free.  That’s the Warrior’s way. You should know by now that a man of knowledge lives by acting, not by thinking about acting.

One goes to knowledge or to war with fear, with respect, aware that one is going to war, and with absolute confidence in oneself. Put your trust in yourself, not in me. A man of knowledge chooses a path with heart and follows it.
In order to become a man of knowledge one must be a warrior, not a whimpering child. One must strive without giving up, without flinching, until one sees.

The basic difference between an ordinary man and a warrior is that a warrior takes everything as a challenge while an ordinary man takes everything as a blessing or a curse.

The art of being a warrior is to balance the wonder and the terror of being alive.
You already know how. All you need now is practice.
-Don Juan, Carlos Castoneda

January 2017

Gandhi’s favorite book, The Bhagavad-Gita, opens like this: Arjuna, the hero of the story, is set in the middle of a great battlefield. The epic war of life. He rides out on his chariot to survey the opposing army. As he looks across the divide he sees his own people on the other side, lost and confused, a war ready to rage. Though he is the ultimate warrior, an undefeated marksman, noble, strong and wise, the legendary Arjuna falls to his knees in total despair. He foresees only death and destruction, and fears the very worst will come. His advisor and dear friend, is the divine himself. Krishna stands tall above the fallen solider and delivers this message: “Arise with a brave heart and destroy the enemy. Stand up Arjuna, fight!”

How is this message a prayer for peace? How did the greatest social justice leaders of our time find guidance in these words of war? It is said that the training of yoga and mediation is aimed at clear seeing, truth, equanimity and love. The Gita defines yoga as “skill in action.” Our practices urge us to do just that – to take the realizations made in moments of calm and bring them into times of conflict. We are warriors of peace, marching for the abolition of ignorance, greed, hatred and violence.

The moment is upon us now – the people and policies and planet that we have long supported are all under siege. Our strategy shifts to defense. It is time to act, to stand up for what we believe in, to lift our voices and let them be heard.

Do not despair. We hail from a long line of heroes. Our human history is not only cruel but also courageous and kind.

If you feel disheartened know that you are not alone. There is a national movement growing of like-minded, compassionate, concerned and consciousness people. How we act now will determine the rest of our lives. Commit to some action – start small and do-able – and know that any action is the hero’s path in the process of change. “Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people can transform the world. Even when we don’t ‘win,’ there is fulfillment in being part of this effort, with other good people, in something worth while.

“If we see only the worst, it destroys our capcity to do something. If we rememver those times and places – and there are so many – where people have behaved magnicently, this gives us the energy to act , and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future… and to live now as we think human beins should live, in deviance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.” -Howard Zinn

December 2016

As the sun set on 2016, the invitation for self-reflection, review and renewal is brighter, wider and greater than ever. Considering the past, contemplating the future and noticing where we are in the present is the precise work of a spiritual practice. The changing nature of life is inherent. Creation and destruction innately part of the process. So we have the opportunity now to ask: Who we are becoming? What aspects of ourselves are we strengthening as we evolve? Syncing up and aligning our outer world with our inner experience, values and understanding is specifically what this practice prepares us to do.

In the Zen tradition, the teachings point to 3 Fruits of Practice; what we grow when we tend to our garden in this way. It’s said that the fruits we cultivate are: Concentration, Enlightenment, Actualization. The first fruit blossoms as we expand our capacity for focus/awareness/Concentration – the art of sustaining our own attention. The second fruit is realizations, clarity, understanding, Enlightenment. The most magnificent fruit is the final one. Actualization – how we behave, the steps we take, the words we speak, the ways we spend money and time, whatever offerings and energy we put out into the world – is the greatest spiritual practice we can endeavor. My hero Jack Kornfield says, “Greed, hatred and ignorance cause suffering. Let them go. Love, generosity and wisdom bring the end of suffering. Foster them.”

As you consider your path, I encourage you to recommit to the practices that nourish the qualities you most want to embody, the ones you yearn to offer to all the lives you touch.

October 2016

Sobriety by David Rutschman

Say there’s a game: You’re walking by yourself on a dirt road through a forest at sundown, and all you have to do is keep walking.
Nothing to it. One foot, then the other foot, then the other foot, forever, and the only thing you aren’t allowed to do –even when the sun slips down behind the hills, even when the darkness thickens all around you, even when the devil starts his moaning in the trees– the only think you aren’t allowed to do is run.