Thoughts From The Heart

The heart is the true brain.

It is our vehicle to compassionate living,
an access to our inner power, integrity,
and ability to connect with others
and with our inner wisdom.

These are the thoughts from my heart,
as shared in the Bhakti House of Devotion
monthly newsletter.

To receive the newsletter please visit
the Bhakti House of Devotion website and contact us


CREATING A FUTURE WITH AN OPEN HEART

Today I was invited to my brother’s church, where a brilliant young man gave the sermon. His sermon was about the issue that is on all our minds – the results of the presidential elections. He said something that struck me and gave me pause and helped me feel empowered. He said that there will be glory beyond this, whatever this may be for anyone – any kind of barrier, or any kind or set back, or any perception of defeat. As long as we are in action and we are not sitting around waiting for a miracle to happen, when we take responsibility for better outcome of any situation, possibilities are unlimited.

The results of the elections brought up many emotions – anger, bewilderment and dismay. People are very fearful of what is to come and there are incidents of retaliation on both sides. But when we look back in our history of political and civil rights, we have achieved a great deal in the face of enormous odds. The African American community thought all was lost when Lincoln was assassinated, but we overcame it. When women were denied the right to vote – we overcame that too. Members of the LGBT community were denied common civil rights for workplace and marriage equality, and we overcame that also. We have done this with grace, courage and honor, and we have achieved great success. There were setbacks in those struggles, but we have come a long way. We need to remember that all is not lost in one election, and even if we have setbacks now, we will overcome them in the future.

It is challenging to deal with the fear and anger, but when we are coming with open hearts, full of empathy and understanding, there is always a way through any barrier. We can keep our hearts open by keeping faith in a power that is beyond us and allowing this divine light to come through us with the practice of meditation. Our busy minds are a block to this path, and do not allow us to achieve a state of open heart. We have to allow the mind to quiet and the heart to open, then we can move in a direction of divine light. The light pulls us away from darkness – from our despair, disillusionment, anger and hate. Living in the light takes work, it takes constant vigilance, but this is needed for us to create a clear vision and a direction in which to move, without any doubt, confusion or hesitation. Then we not only create a clear path for ourselves, we also create a path for all those around us to follow.

November 2016

ONE DAY AT A TIME 

 Many years ago a man called me. He wanted to take yoga classes with me, and he had a question. He wanted to know how long it will take the achieve enlightenment. I said – a lifetime. I never heard from him again.

I was reminded of this conversation today in my meditation, when it occurred to me that personal transformation is an ongoing process. I was doing my yoga practice, and the first time I did it I was tight, and some of the postures were uncomfortable. When I did it again, it was a totally new experience. I was more loose and relaxed, I was able to go deeper into the postures and the pranayama.

It is the same experience with the meditation – with practice and patience a new experience arises. I can go deeper inside myself and let the experience soak through me. In my meditation I saw myself going up steps, moving forward, and taking a journey that actually brings me full circle but on a different level. It is still me but with a sense of maturity and freedom.

When I sit down to meditate I am a little unsettled, impatient, sounds and sensations and thoughts can be irritating. After the meditation I am able to absorb all the stimulation and experiences in my environment and bring it to a focus. I am steady, grounded, I have a purposeful direction. My mind is level and sharp. And with each practice of meditation, this benefit becomes more compounded. Every day is a new experience, and a new step in the journey.

 When I began this journey 17 years ago, I had no idea what I was doing, how to approach it, and what I may get out of this experience of meditation. The first time I sat on the meditation cushion I was very uncomfortable, my thoughts were disorganized and out of control. The meditation, or the attempt to meditate, seemed to take forever. I am looking at myself now, and there is a spiritual growth that takes place inside of me. I am still the same person – I sit to meditate and the thoughts, impressions and sensations are still there, but now I am able to fall into the space of serenity much faster. I am able to create my own personal sanctuary in this meditative space. I am able to renew myself each time I sit to meditate.

My meditation experience is different today from what it was 15 years ago, or even a month ago. It will be different a month from now, or 15 years from now. Achieving enlightenment is a work in progress. It is a process of transformation that never ends. And it happens one day at a time.

November 2014

NO EXCUSES

 One year ago, when I took on doing the subagh kriya daily, I had an agenda. We were in the process of raising money to produce my latest album and I thought that doing this prosperity meditation daily will bring money into our life so we can complete the project. My goal was to do it for 40 days, which is the time frame to establish a habit. I thought 40 days will establish the habit of bringing prosperity into my life.

Even as I started I had doubts. I thought – man, this is going to be really tough, to do the same kriya every day for 40 days, but if it brings prosperity into our life it is worth while trying. But soon the excuses started coming up in my head – this is too hard, it is boring,   I do not like it, money is not coming in, nothing is happening. I was getting impatient and discouraged. I tried to keep myself up and be positive, but when the 40th day came, I was still not feeling anything. I thought Okay, what now? Maybe I should continue. It can’t hurt. I should take it on for a 100 days, maybe that will do the trick.

The longer I did the daily practice I began to notice that my life is getting more structured. It became easier to stay on task, be my word – do what I say I will do. I also noticed that it was easier to meet deadlines. I was on time for every event. I started feeling drawn to the meditation. I felt compelled to do it, even when it was not convenient. If I missed the morning I made sure I did it at night. It started to feel as natural as any of my habits, like brushing my teeth and changing my cloths. Excuses still came up, but they did not control me. The need to do the daily practice became stronger than any excuse I could come up with.

We managed to raise the funds for completing my album, but I realized that practicing the subagh kriya was not about raising money. It was about creating a lifestyle. I never held myself accountable before, I always found a way out of my commitments, and was able to justify it, but now there was no need for that. I realized that I was putting way too much importance on my excuses. It was my way of justifying not completing things I took on. Taking on doing the same practice, every day, no matter what, opened the door for me to look at other areas in my life where I can create as much commitment. What I got was my life falling into place, just as I always dreamed and wished it would. The structure that I created in my life enabled me to live powerfully, with integrity, and to experience joy. I realized that my feelings are not important. If I do not feel like doing my practice – that is not important. What is important is staying with what I took on.

The daily practice is no longer a to-do item on my list, it is a sacred commitment to myself. My agenda aside, I continue this daily practice because of the structure it provides for me, and the joy of the practice itself. And because I realized that where there are no excuses anything is possible.

October 2014

 

DRIVING LESSONS

A couple of weeks ago Ayala and I were happily driving home late one evening from an open mic that went very well. We were both tired but in high spirit. Out of the blue there were flashing lights in my rear view mirror. I was completely puzzled, I had no idea why I was being stopped.

The police officer informed me that I was driving in the left lane, and that my license plate light was out. I was not aware of either fact. I ended up getting a ticket. The officer gave me the option to pay the ticket or arrange for a court date. He said that if I bring a receipt for the new license plate light he will talk to the prosecutor who will, hopefully, waive the fine.

I was very upset. I was thinking that this was such a bogus reason to give me a ticket. This was not fair, it was unreasonable, the road was empty – I wasn’t driving fast or endangering anyone, the officer was picking on me – he could give me a warning but instead gave me this ridiculous ticket.

I continued to drive home, feeling really bummed. I was going to show that officer – I was definitely calling the court and having this stupid ticket erased. I was also thinking – I was not paying attention, I was driving in the left lane and didn’t even realize it, what’s wrong with me, how could I be so careless. I was upset with the officer, and with myself.

So I went to my meditation cushion and sat in silence. After a while I felt calm, and was able to put a distance between myself and the emotions that were driving me. I realized that my emotions were stopping me from utilizing skillful living habits. I began to look at my behavior and how I was obsessing about this ticket. I was getting stuck in this story about me being careless and about the officer being a jerk. This was not skillful at all. I was not moving forward. But now I was able to evaluate the situation without getting into the story.

I felt a sense of freedom. I felt a sense of a heavy weight being lifted. I realized that taking time from work and going to court will cost me more than the ticket. I could reflect on the uselessness of focusing on that ticket, going to court, wasting valuable time. This did not make any sense at all. I could be doing far better things with my time rather than being stuck in the past.

The meditation brought me to the simple facts – things happen in life. It does not make me an incompetent person. The officer is only doing his job. Life goes on, and I continue to breathe.

September 2014

 

OPENING THE HEART IN THE FACE OF VIOLENCE

Lately, more than ever, I am present to the violence in the world. It comes in through the radio, the internet, the great events in the world and the daily events in our immediate environment. As I am thinking about all the tragedies and wars that are ongoing on, I realize how important it is not to fall into despair and shut down my heart.

People who are being attacked or feel threatened, think they have the right to protect themselves and kill others in the act of protection. But no one really benefits from the violence. All those who come in contact with it suffer, whether they are the ones attacked or the ones doing the attacking. This kind of behavior is costly for those who are perpetrating violence as well as for the victims, even if in different ways.

When we choose violence to make our statement we are short sighted and we become self centered and righteous in our beliefs. That causes us to dig in and become more entrenched in a violent situation. We cannot see a way out, and there is no movement – nothing changes, we are stuck in a continuous nightmare. And we are marked by our own actions, our violence then interferes with our relations with our loved ones and with ourselves. It keeps us in a prison of hate.

 What can we do to make the world a better place, when we feel that we come up against feeling helpless in the face of violence? Being non violent and voicing opposition against violence is the means to make a difference in the world. It is important to be aware of what is happening and confront it with as much compassion as possible for those who are being injured and killed and for those who are doing the injuring and killing.

When I feel that the world of violence is closing in on me I push back by being quiet and silent. When I am quiet my head is out of the way and my heart begins to expand. It calms me and helps me to restore my sensibilities and beliefs and gives me clarity on how to be in the world. I am able to feel compassion for both sides. I can understand where they are coming from, even though I do not condone their actions.

The only way out is to open our hearts. This is the door of liberation. You can ask- how can I have any effect on the world by having my heart open? An open heart creates a chain reaction. My presence, with an open heart, here in Trenton NJ, is just one pebble that falls into the water of universal consciousness. But this pebble ripples out, and touches the shores of places far away from where I am. I am just one person, but it only takes one person to make a difference. If all I have is just me – my body, my intention, my spirit, my love – if that is all I have to make a difference in the world with, then I intend for it to be as powerful as I can be.

August 2014

 HITTING A MILESTONE

Today, immediately as I woke up, I started looking for a way to weasel out of my commitment to meditate. I was tired, cranky, complaining. I was thinking – it is too late, I can do it when I get back from work (knowing well how hard it is for me to meditate after work). I was so tempted to use any excuse possible that will allow me to avoid meditating. I was looking for a way out.

I sat down to meditate feeling empty and uninspired. I was thinking – this is so boring, I really do not want to do this. My mind was wondering. I was looking at my garden, counting the flower stems of the hostas, and I thought – maybe I can just sit here and fake it, pretend to meditate and just let my mind wander.

But I closed my eyes anyway and as I started meditating I was feeling resistance, I was feeling like I got to this point and I want to quit. I just wanted to stop the whole process and completely disengage. But it was not long after I started that my mind gave up and settled down. Very quickly I fell into a blissful state, and in this state I got the message – that this is a very crucial time in my journey and my development. That I need to continue and to persevere because I am at the point of the journey when I experience a milestone towards achieving mastery and understanding what it means to take on a commitment.

I began to feel inspired and to become deeply rooted in the process. My meditation was deep and powerful and when I came out of it I felt calm and strong. There was a certain sense of fulfillment that I experienced because I did not allow those barriers to cause me to quit. Quitting gives a sense of instant gratification, a sigh of relief, which is part of the illusion of escape. But there is no escape, I still have to deal with my issues and face them honestly and truthfully. I have been there before many times, and gave up and stopped. Many times I wasted all the strong work I have done for this illusion of relief, and then I had to start all over again. Once I succumb to quitting it is like experiencing a separation from someone I became closely connected with, and now lost that close communication. This person is me. When letting my excuses and resistance stop me, I lose the connection with myself.

In a way I feel as though I made it through a threshold to achieve mastery. Tomorrow is another day, but I am confident that tomorrow will bring new treasures and new discoveries.

July 2014

CLEAR AS A BELL

I have been thinking about having meditated close to 250 days, every day doing this same meditation. And of course there is a point in this meditation process when my negative mind wakes up and says: what are you doing this for? Doing the same meditation every day gets boring, and my mind does not like to deal with boring. I want to experience things that are pleasurable to me, my monkey mind is looking for busyness, playing video games, watching TV, something new all the time that keeps my mind jumpy and noisy.

But I realize that boring is a necessity, because I need to deal with doing nothing. When I meditate I am just sitting, I am not really doing anything, but by doing nothing I get in to the basement of my mind and I get to deal with all the things that I have put away in the darkness, that I do not want to deal with. The meditation is clearing out all the things that I have tucked away. Everything settles down, the noise diminishes. The longer I sit the quieter it gets.

In my busy mind I am constantly ruminating about the past and speculating about the future. I have regrets about things I said and done, about not being as good a father or son as I wanted to be. I have resentment about spats with my brothers, my parents, my wife. I am angry about not being treated right at work. I feel shame about mistakes I made. But this are all in the past, I cannot do anything about it anyway. It’s foolish for me to feel guilty about something that happened eons ago or even yesterday, what’s the purpose? In my busy mind I am constantly in fear – fear of aging, fear of lack of financial security. I am attached to a successful outcome in my music or art or teaching, I am afraid of failing. But I cannot do anything about this either, so there is no purpose in dwelling on this.

The meditation frees me up and allows all those things that are in the past or the future to fall away and I can see clearly in the present. I am not focusing on the past, I am not trying to keep it hidden. I am not worried about the future.  The meditation settles me down and centers me.  There is so much power in freeing myself from guilt or shame about the past, and the expectations or having to know the outcome of my future. I become present to the moment, and I achieve clarity from being in the present.

When I meditate I experience and understand the expression: clear as a bell. When I am really clear I experience a sound – a silence that rings around me and comforts me.

June 2014

THE SKILLFUL USE OF COMPASSION

 One of my friends recently went through a terrible experience. Her house was broken into and looted by a person she knew and trusted. It was a shock to her to come home and find her sacred space horribly violated. She felt betrayed and hurt. I could relate to her experience, because I too experience violation of my trust, as most of us do at some time in life.

When this happens, we feel anger and resentment, towards the person who harmed us, but also towards ourselves. Our internal tapes start rolling: “Why did I not see this, how could I have been so blind and naive, why did I let others take advantage of me, I brought this on myself with my blind trust and poor judgment.” We feel wrong and ashamed.

It is so easy to become attached to the hurtful experience, and it is difficult to give it up. We are constantly going over the story in our heads and each time we go over the story we experience even greater suffering. And we find ourselves in a constant turmoil that becomes difficult to find a way out of. When we keep the resentment in, it is poison. It serves no purpose and it eats us up. 

 But there is a way out – giving up the resentment and the pain, and embracing compassion, for ourselves and for the others who betrayed us.

First we need to come to terms with the fact that the event that we experienced was not our fault. We cannot be responsible for someone else’s behavior because it is something that they choose. We can only be responsible for how we react, and we must choose to react skillfully. The skill is being able to see what is real and what is important, and that is – retaining our dignity and not allowing others to dictate to us how we are going to be. How we choose to be is compassionate, because compassion is what will allow us to heal.

Compassion for ourselves opens our hearts for compassion even for those who do things thoughtlessly or with malice, and cause harm and suffering for others. When we see these people as lacking the ability to live skillfully in the world, we see them for what they really are. It becomes clear to us, that we are not responsible for their behavior. It also opens our heart for compassion for them, and for forgiveness.

Allowing our compassion to open our hearts for healing, for ourselves and for others, is where we can find ourselves, and the love that keeps us up. We cannot let cynicism dim our light. It is important to trust others, it is important to have compassion for others, because that is what keeps us up and in touch with our own humanity. It is our responsibility to preserve and keep this skill intact.

May 2014

 MEDITATION AND THE ART OF WASHING CLOTHES

Having committed myself to the daily practice of meditation, I recently became aware of the effect of this practice on my life.  I think of all the stories I heard from the great teacher who would say that it is so important to have respect and care for your spiritual practice and to do it with great diligence and earnestness because it will carry over to your daily life.

At the time I was thinking that this seems so burdensome. To do it every day???!!! This is going to be a chore, and I have enough of those in my life. I put a barrier in front of my self thinking – I may be able to do this some times, but not every day, there is no way! But when I began to do the practice and made a commitment to myself to have integrity and do it every day, I found it to be a beautiful experience. Now I cannot imagine living without it, it is so much a part of me. But I was not thinking beyond the daily sitting on my meditation cushion.

But then I discovered that once I built a strong spiritual practice I began to enjoy doing the simple activities around the house – washing dishes and doing laundry, which previously felt like chores. Now I was completely immersed in the process, and it became an extension of my meditative practice. Even deeper, in that process of being completely tunes in to the vibration of meditation I was present to the activity and became one with the task. This deepened my awareness of love – loving the activity, and experiencing it as an act of love.

When I was washing clothes I would think of Ayala and how much I care about her and how washing the clothes was an expression of my love for her. Then as the clothes were ready to fold I would fold them tenderly and be present in the moment of doing it with care and with love. And I get, in that moment of feeling great love for Ayala and for myself, how much beauty is in the experience of doing a daily activity in a meditative state. I feel this great joy with the awareness of what is really important – that meditative practice brings me closer to myself, and closer to Ayala.

That consistency that is cultivated in a spiritual practice of meditation deepens my awareness of being present and clear. There is a grounding that occurs in my being out of the daily sitting in meditation. It slows me down so that I can experience the completeness of myself in a simple activity, and in all areas of my life.

April 2014

THE POSSIBILITY OF POSITIVE CHANGE

Last weekend we were in New Orleans. It was a rainy cold day. We were trying to catch the streetcar but because of the parades the streetcar was not running. So we decided catch a cab.  After waiting a while I saw a cab and flagged it down. Right away I noticed that the cab driver’s disposition was very uptight and anxious.

We took the cab with another couple and proceeded on our way to the French Quarter. Traffic came to a stand still almost immediately. The cab driver became even more anxious and uptight because of the traffic. His voice became loud, he was swearing at the traffic, and he became really upset when he discovered that the police was controlling the traffic lights. He was complaining, he was agitated and his driving became erratic and dangerous. He made a right turn so fast and abrupt I was almost pushed out of my seat.

At that point I was becoming concerned about how this gentleman was conducting himself. I was thinking – should I put my seat belt on? Maybe I should ask him to drive more carefully or maybe I shouldn’t even talk to the man. I found myself becoming anxious and uptight as well.

Then something came over me. There was a split second awareness when I realized that I was not just a passive participant in this situation and that I had a choice. I could allow myself to be drawn into a negative disposition, or I could  choose a positive perspective and allow it to take over. I started chanting, very softly under my breath Om Mani Padme Hum from my Travel The Light album. I don’t know how this particular mantra came to my mind but I did not question it, I just let it happen.

I continued to chant softly and rhythmically and then I noticed that the cab driver disposition began to change. His demeanor began to soften. I also noticed that the lights began to change in our favor. The traffic that was on a standstill started moving more swiftly which made the cab driver even more relaxed and he began to connect with his passengers in a very friendly cordial manner. The atmosphere in the cab changed. Everyone became more light- hearted, we began to laugh. The driver began to tell jokes about the cartoon character Scrooge McDuck because the other passengers were from Scotland and he even looked up video clips on his phone to share with us. It ended up becoming a very pleasant drive.

This was a very good lesson to me, to be open for the possibility of positive change. Normally, if I allowed myself to be drawn into negativity I would have had an awful unpleasant experience with this cab drive. I would have been talking about this gentleman in a negative way probably the whole day. Instead I allowed my own demeanor to soften and so the mantra came up into my space and I became compassionate towards this cab driver. The mantra softened the atmosphere, which allowed everyone to soften. It may have even softened the police officer who was directing the traffic.

Creating a positive change is a matter of choice. The powerful technology of mantra gives us the ability to project positive seeds in the world and affect change in a positive manner. Om Mani Padme Hum helped me to carry out my choice of positive change and made it available for others.

March 2014

 

CHOOSING HAPPINESS PUT TO THE TEST

 In the past I wrote about making choices, and about choosing happiness, and today I had an opportunity to examine my relationship to choice, and to happiness.

Today I discovered something not to my liking. After months of working on my new album HOBO and thinking that everything was finally perfect and just right, I found a glitch in the master copy.

My first reaction was oh s-t! I thought I corrected this! I was upset and disappointed, I felt let down, bewildered and stuck. I thought: man, this feels like a block, I just can’t move forward with this project. I want this project to be finished, done, and for some reason it looks like I am getting a lesson here – is this some kind of test?

I thought of my commitment to be happy. So now, do I have to be happy about this? Since I declared to the Universe that I am choosing happiness, regardless of what happens in my life, is this a lesson for me to experience being upset and unhappy so I can fully grasp what it means to find happiness in an unhappy experience?

And the Universe says – yes

This is my life, and it has challenging moments, but I choose happiness because it is my commitment. I will continue choosing happiness because I reject the alternative, which is being sad and unhappy.

The Universe presents me with challenges all the time, so that I continue to move forward, staying in the present moment and keeping myself from sliding into doubt. I realize that I don’t have to like what is occurring at the moment, but I choose to accept it and then make a change. I don’t have to allow an event in my life to turn me upside down, I can still remain steady and focused and understand what is really important at that time.

This is a practice, like anything else. When I first began doing it I was very clumsy with it. I felt like a person learning to play a new instrument and hitting all the wrong notes. As I continue to practice it becomes easier, because I am more familiar with it. Sitting on the meditation cushion every day helps me become stronger, more confident that I am able to right myself into happiness even in those moments when I am faced with challenges.

February 2014

A LESSON FROM A ROSE BUSH

 Recently I received an unexpected lesson from a rose bush.

 Last summer I was working in the garden. I was trimming a rose bush when a thorn got stuck in my finger. I tried to get it out but I could not get all of it. I thought – well, it will work its way out, it will heal by itself. I didn’t really want to think about it and be bothered. I just wanted to continue working in the garden and not be disturbed by anything unexpected, like a thorn in my finger.

I continued going about my business. Months passed by, and the thorn in my finger was still there, bothering me. It was painful. It turned into an ugly scab. Every time I touched something with that finger it would let me know that the thorn was still there. But I still had this state of mind – it will work its way out, or the body will absorb it, I will just be careful how I use my hand and not touch anything with that finger. It would even bother me when I played my drum, so I tried to position my hands so that I do not touch the sore spot. I was just trying to ignore it and hope that that some day it will go away on its own. 

But it wasn’t going away.

Six months passed and it was still there. The pain was still there, and it was  letting me know that it is not going away until I actually dealt with it. I decided to take matters in my own hands. I sterilized a needle and began to dig into my finger until I opened up the wound and tried to locate the thorn. I did not find anything, but when I was done the pain was gone. After a couple of days the wound was no longer a scab that I had to be careful with and I didn’t have to think about how I was going to use my hands or play my drum. It was no longer an ongoing nuisance and my finger returned to its normal look.

I realized, this was a real lesson that the rose bush taught me. I learned that even when I cannot see what’s bothering me, I can’t pretend that there is nothing to deal with. It’s not enough to wish it away. I needed to take some kind of action so that I don’t continue to walk around in constant discomfort.

I have a tendency to not deal with things immediately. This was a small thing, but it began to dominate my mind and affect my activities. This is my pattern of behavior, avoiding facing issues and dealing with them – I don’t want to deal with this, there are more important things to do, I cannot be bothered right now. I pretend to prioritize, but what I really do is procrastinate. I realize that my procrastination is brought on by my laziness. I’d rather hope that things take care of themselves than take action. And I pay the price when all these small things are gnawing at me, bothering me and distracting me. This way I disturb my own peace.

Taking action was a great relief, and I realized that acting immediately is taking much less energy than avoiding taking action. 

Disclaimer – this article is not recommending performing at-home surgery or any invasive action on your own. When dealing with physical injury or disease please consult your health care provider.

January 2014


TAKING THE UNREASONABLE ROAD TO HARMONY

Lately I have noticed is that I am completely out of harmony – with my yogic lifestyle, with my health, my work life, my personal life, my art. And all along I thought I was doing really well.

I got myself trapped in illusion – I was telling myself that I am doing well and everything is great, and I let my ego blind me. If I practiced yoga for 2 hours one day, the next day the ego would say – you did so well, you do not need to do this again today. I let my need for comfort fool me. It would say – you are tired, it is late, you need to take care of yourself, you will do yoga tomorrow, now you need to relax.

It surprises me to find myself in this quandary, because this is not what I teach. I find myself saying one thing and then doing another. I am completely out of harmony and integrity, and I don’t even know it. And since I am out of balance I lose the passion for things that matter to me, I convince myself that it is not important to be so focused – after all I have it together, right? But I didn’t have it together. All I had was excuses, which were taking me nowhere.

The voice of the ego and of comfort is so seductive. It makes so much sense. I tell myself I am doing so well, because I try to find a way out. I do not really want to sit and meditate, or do my yoga early in the morning, or even go to the studio and start a new painting. What I really want to do is watch a movie, eat sweets, laze around and do nothing. And so I lose my passion for my practice, I lose my passion for being in life and being excited about life. And the next thing I know I am announcing that I feel depressed, and there is no wonder I feel this way, because I am not nourishing my soul. And it is so difficult for me to get this nourishment, because I have got out of practice.

And I realize that what causes all this is a lack of discipline.

So I sat on the meditation cushion to find my discipline and bring it back. After 10 minutes my ego told me this was long enough. After 20 minutes I was starting to feel uncomfortable, trying to decide that I should stop now. But as I continued to sit the voice of truth inside of me made me realize that I needed to sit longer. And the longer I sat the more I was able to experience the nectar, the state of harmony.

Discipline is not easy. It requires overcoming barriers, like feeling sick, feeling sleepy, there is something else more important to do, I just plain don’t want to do it – the reasons are always there. Discipline is about showing up in the face of all these reasons. It is an unreasonable act. When I approach life in an unreasonable manner I gain a sense of freedom, because I do not listen to my ego, I do not live in illusion. I listen to the true voice inside, and with that come a true sense of balance and of harmony.

December 2013

HAPPINESS IS NOT A CONDITION

A few weeks ago I startd doing the Subagh Kriya – the kriya for prosperity. I took it on for 40 days because I wanted to bring prosperity into my life and to create the funds for the HOBO recording project.

I wanted to create abundance. I wanted to be in the state of mind of feeling and being prosperous, to create awareness in the Universe and to get the energy of prosperity flowing and moving around me. In my mind pledges to the HOBO recording would start coming in, the number of pledges on the website would start going up, we will meet our goal way before the deadline. Then I will feel happy.

I was sitting on my meditation cushion and doing my meditation diligently, every morning, and guess what – the number did not go up. There were no mysterious checks coming in the mail either. I did not even win the lottery.

But something else did happen. I began to feel more at peace. That inner kind of peace that causes me to feel completely self contained, completely satisfied. Each day I was looking forward to doing the meditation because I wanted to feel that sense of satisfaction and bliss. Even though I practiced this meditation for only 15 minutes, this sense of peace stayed with me the whole day.

This is when I realized the true meaning of Subagh, which is – Fortunate. And with that realization I began to feel happy. Not only was I feeling happy, I was being happy. Feeling happy is an emotion or mood, but being happy is a state of being, which has nothing to do with circumstances. My happiness has nothing to do with the number of pledges coming up, with what happens during my day, with events in my world going my way or not.

I started doing the meditation with a condition in mind. I was in a space of not having enough, and I thought that doing with meditation will change that, that was the condition. But when I started meditating unconditionally I found true happiness.  

Learn more about the subagh kriya at http://www.yogibhajan.org/ybkriyas/index.php?id=27

November 2013

MAKING CHOICES

A couple of weeks ago we watched Woody Allen’s latest movie Blue Jasmine. It is a story about choices that people make and how they live with those choices. It got me thinking about my life, and the choices I make.

Looking back at my life, I made many good choices, but also some that were not working so well for me. I was not always good at admitting that they were not such good choices, and that caused me quite a bit of difficulty and pain.   

At some point I began to identify the “inner guide” that assisted me in making the right choices for me and in facing the truth when I was making a bad choice. I call this voice my personal angel, because it speaks truth to me when I am fully engaged and totally in tune with it. It would say – you need to stick with this choice, because it is the right thing for you. Or it would say – hey, SiriOm, this is not working man, are you going to hold on to this choice or are you going to face it and give it up, back away from it and regroup? 

It is difficult to always identify with this inner self and there are times when I do not want to listen, and try to convince myself that a choice is good even when my inner voice said no. But I find that the harder I try to pretend that a choice is good when it is not, the deeper I find myself in a hole that I dug and it is more difficult to get out of it. 

But once I am able to settle down and listen to my personal angel, I find myself in fewer experiences of making choices that do not work for me, and it becomes easier to admit that they are bad choices and to change them.

 I know I am not going to always make the right choice. I am going to make mistakes, this is the human experience. But as I continue to learn and hone the skill of listening I experience fewer moments of sadness, angst, insecurity and low self esteem. It makes me a stronger, more mature person, fully engaged and enjoying life completely.

October 2013

HOW ARE YOU DOING – REALLY

A couple of weeks ago I was at a low point in my life, I was sick and in pain, feeling stuck and old, angry and afraid of being a failure. I was pretending that nothing is wrong, but it caught up with me. I was experiencing a great deal of unhappiness, and I was also causing unhappiness to others. And that unhappiness was directly linked to me being out of touch with who I am and what I am about. In other words, my attitude did not allow me to gain altitude. I was crashing and burning.  

I was running this show, this pretense, that everything is fine with me, and when Ayala pointed out to me that I am not, I became upset and blamed her for rocking my world and messing everything up. This was causing a great deal of harm on our relationship, and I knew I needed to make a change. I needed to come to terms with how I was being, and take responsibility for it,

and turn it around. So I decided to look at myself and ask myself – how are you doing? And if the answer was – not so good, I needed to ask myself – why? Why are you not doing good, what’s going on?  

 I discovered that when I ask myself these direct questions and answer honestly, whatever is bothering me distances itself rapidly. And if I pretend that nothing is wrong, whatever bothers me becomes larger, seems closer, and I have a greater difficulty removing myself from it. I also find myself wasting time, because I am so busy pretending that nothing is wrong that I get nothing done. But when I am honest with myself, everything runs smoothly.

Pretending that nothing is wrong is the crux of my unhappiness, and it keeps me down. I learned from my teacher Yogi Bhajan, that when you have the right attitude you gain altitude, and I forgot about that. Now I reminded myself that the issue is that of truth, and awareness, and being centered. By being honest with myself I was able to feel a sense of freedom. I was able to feel a sense of power, and of bravery. Because I was

speaking the truth, I was gaining altitude.  

So I took on a week long fast and meditation and yoga to clear myself, and I started wearing the kirpan – the ceremonial knife all Sikhs wear to center ourselves in purity, honor and kindness to others. Wearing the kirpan makes it part of me, it has my energy, and I feel like a whole new person wearing it, because it reminds me of who I am – striving to be truthful, aware and centered.  

 Remembering who I am makes it easy to ask myself – how are you doing, and to answer honestly. And when I am able to do that, everything else in life falls into place, and I can soar, and enjoy the nectar of living.

September 2013  

 DO NOTHING

Before I sit down to write these thoughts I like to meditate, and see what thought will come up. And this is what I did today. But the only thought I had was – I don’t know what to say. I felt frustrated, I felt strained and pressured to come up with something to say, but my heart felt shut down.  

When I sat on the meditation cushion I felt urgency and I had difficulty calming down and shutting off my internal dialog. I found myself coaching myself – come on, come on, you can do this, you can find something to say. But nothing came. 

I opened my eyes, looked around, listened to the birds singing, watched a butterfly, took a deep breath, and closed my eyes again. And sat. My left knee started hurting, and I was thinking – damn knee won’t let me sit quietly! So I repositioned myself to see if that will settle me down, quiet my internal chatter, and help me find something to say. Still nothing. 

I took some more deep breaths, and tried to focus on the Adi Mantra that was playing through the speaker, maybe it will help me go deeper. I sat. And I sat. Took more deep breaths, and thought – arrrrgggh! Ten more minutes of this! I felt like stomping my feet and saying – forget about it! I don’t want to do this! But I kept sitting. 

And then I heard the voice of my heart saying – chill out man, relax, don’t get tied up in knots. Just be yourself, love yourself, and be patient. Sat Nam. 

Sometimes we are so taken up with our importance, and the importance of our actions. We push ourselves and try to force a meaningful activity, or comment, or action, when the right action is to do nothing, and just be ourselves.

August 2013

FORGIVENESS

 I find that household chores are great opportunities to meditate and listen to interesting and uplifting stories. The other day, as I was carrying out my house cleaning duties, I was listening to my favorite radio station. The commentator was talking about Nelson Mandela and how he adopted forgiveness as a tool to move South Africa forward from a nation of apartheid to a nation of freedom for all.

 

The commentator was speaking about all of us in the world, and about what would be possible if we took on forgiveness not only towards others but towards ourselves as well. Listening to this story of forgiveness as a way to set a nation free, this struck a deep chord inside of me. This was about one man’s desire to create a transformation for millions of people, away from resentment and towards forgiveness. It was also about the transformation that is possible for all of us, as individuals, as a nation, and as citizens of the world. 

 

These comments caused me to think about my own unwillingness to give up resentment, fear, hate and hurt. Many of my emotional triggers were set off by those closest to me, my own family, and I have allowed these emotions to hold me hostage in a self- imposed prison cell, stunting my emotional growth  and leaving me without joy and happiness, that I could have enjoyed myself and shared with them.

 

I was thinking about my brother, who I had a confrontation with some years ago. At the time I felt like I received a barrage of accusations, anger and hatred from him, and I kind of sat there and let him steam roll over me. I was very angry with him, I felt that his aggression towards me was unjustified, and I felt disdain towards myself, because I felt that I did not do anything to protect myself from this verbal abuse. I felt helpless, I had no way of articulating my feelings and expressing myself as an adult, and I was very resentful of that experience for a long time. 

 

But sitting on the meditation cushion I have the opportunity to breath, be quiet and listen to what is true. I can see how this experience was controlling me and not allowing me to move forward, and how it was holding both me and my brother hostage. I realize that I need to release myself and I need to release him. I can experience freedom from my emotional limitations, when I acknowledge that I am creating these emotions, and that I can choose not to pull their trigger, and to give them up. I can see how healing to the spirit forgiving and receiving forgiveness can be. It feels like putting on a freshly washed and folded set of clothes and I ask myself – what took me so long to come to this epiphany.

 

Meditation allows us to uplift ourselves and heal within. We cannot change the past and the events that have transpired, but we can transcend the emotional triggers that we developed by forgiving those who we feel

have hurt us, and forgive ourselves for what we feel are our inadequacies.

July 2013

THE JOY OF SERVING OTHERS

 This morning, as I was practicing my morning Sadhana, I experienced a moment of pure joy and happiness. It was very powerful, and it felt like infinite freedom. I felt so light and happy that I wanted to express myself with a delightful cheer. I could pinpoint the origin of this happiness right at the heart center, and all I could see was the joy of being selfless and helping others.

Lately I have been working mainly in environments that are less then optimal, and have the potential to pull you down. I work with patients who are very sick, many of them at the end of their life, and this is the last stop for them. The physical environment is challenging – structures are in disrepair, equipment is lacking, and people are unhappy, afraid and in misery.

When I started working there, my first instinct was to express my negative feelings, or to turn around and leave. But I realized that I have a purpose in that place, and that is to serve these people. That is how I see myself – not so much as a therapist or as someone doing a job, I first and foremost see myself as someone who is there for those people. I became able to leave myself, my ego, at the door and only see people who I can focus on and give them all of my love.

As I was meditating this morning, it was like I was experiencing my own personal big bang. I realized that through my service to others I am able to obliterate any personal anguish, and any emotional pain that I might otherwise experience. All I wanted was to be selfless. Whatever anyone needs, if they need my listening, undivided attention, I have it to give to them. I thought about all the people I work with who are in pain and suffering and the happiness and joy I experience in just being with them and being of service to them.

God knows how many times I have expressed my desire to retire from the work I do. I’ve had so many moments of burnout with both the physical and emotional aspect. How many times have I expressed that this is the end of the road for me as a health care professional and that there is nothing that I can do to make things better. Those have been the times when the negative feelings I have expressed seemed so real and valid for me and I had no doubt they were true.

But this morning was like one of these rare moments when I can see clearly and understand what it is to experience the joy and happiness of serving others. This is the opposite flip from feeling dark and condensed and heavy and depressed to feeling powerful, nor physically but in and emotional way, when I was feeling that there is no limit to my ability to serve others. It freed me from any fear that I might experience – fear of death, of physical harm, of financial loss, it was all obliterated. All that was left was the joy of giving of myself, the ultimate reward.

June 2013

 LOVE IS THE ANSWER

The violent events of the last few months, culminating in the Boston bombing, have put me into a tail spin of sadness and anger that welled up inside of me. I felt myself spiraling down into a depressed state of mind, feeling helpless, vulnerable and powerless. All I wanted was to shut down and avoid all the pain that I have seen and heard. Yet I know that being that way is futile, unproductive and useless. 

So what can I do to make things better for me and the world I live in, which seems to want to go into self destruction mode?

When I sit in silence and meditate, what I am present to is love and compassion. Compassion for the victims of violence, and for the perpetrators of violence as well. I see that letting myself get sucked into a vortex of hurt, fear and mistrust of others brings only hate and misery. It is not uplifting for me or for others. It is what is causing the violence to spread.

It is hard to talk about love and compassion towards creators of violence. It is human to want revenge when we feel hurt, vulnerable, disenfranchised and betrayed. But justice is not obtained through more violence. We want to heal the wounds and protect ourselves and our loved ones from further harm. We want to prevent others from harboring hate and venting their anger upon innocent people, with no consideration and no concern. 

Striking out with violence comes out of fear, helplessness and hopelessness. We all experience these emotions at some time, and we need to recognize them and see them in ourselves. We must look at the violence and ugliness in ourselves, and clean it up, in ourselves first. And then we must invite love and compassion into our hearts.

Love and compassion are the only answers to pain and fear. Complaining about the violence of others is not what will create a better world. Only love can create a foot print that is long lasting and long standing for others to experience and the world to see.

May 2013

DETACHMENT – CHOOSING THE PATH
OF LEAST RESISTANCE

As I think about my own aging process I am becoming increasingly insecure about aging, and I want to hold on to my physical youth as long as I can. The aches and pains, who wants them? Reading glasses, thinning hair, decreased vigor? And I don’t even want to mention the inevitability of death. I’d rather put it off and deal with it later.

Lately I’ve become more of a complainer in a geezer kind of way. Like, how life and times are sometimes hard, how unhelpful people are to others, how recklessly they drive, and how badly they park their cars when there is enough room to do it right. All these complaints render me powerless. I’ve even become so insecure that I sometimes convince myself to stay in my comfort zone, stay home and watch a video or play my music to myself.

I become so attached to my own outcomes that I am afraid to take a chance on life. The past and future are ruling me. It does not matter if it is success or failure, I am attached to it. Both of which have caused me to become afraid of taking a risk.

When I first began on this yoga and meditation path, I read somewhere that the practice of detachment can create fearlessness, freeing up a person from attachment to the tangible and intangible. When I read this I did not know what to make of it. All I wanted to know then was – what is, where it is, and when is it going to come to me. I sought out knowledge and material things with eagerness, hoping to improve my own image of myself, so I can feel competent and successful. I functioned on the material level, attaining things through hard work and effort. This was what I was taught – work hard and get ahead. I thought I had control of my life and that I could do it all, from outside of myself, rather than from within.

Sometimes I become lost in the fury of my doing and do not experience being in the moment. I become exasperated and frustrated when things do not go my way. At times, in that state of doing, I feel like I am spinning my wheels and going nowhere, having only frustration, insecurity, anger and fear to show for my efforts.

The great sages called that taking the path of great resistance. Realizing this leads me to a better understanding of what taking on detachment means – to take the path of least resistance by becoming and, finally, being in the moment.

Now is the time for me to experience a powerful breakthrough, by taking on detachment as a possibility for being rather than doing. Taking on detachment frees me up and allows me to create with full intention. I sit on the meditation cushion, close my eyes and begin to breathe in and out. I am not worried about achievement, aging, loss, failure, or how people park their cars. I merge with the vibration of the Universe. There is no doing to factor in. Everything becomes so simple, so easy, and peaceful. Just breathing in and out. My small world that seemed so urgent and important becomes inconsequential. There are no fears, insecurities, anger to be confronted with. There is simply no meaning, just being. This is bliss.

April 2013

 

THE SWEETNESS OF THE NECTAR

 As I was meditating today a thought came to my mind about the sweetness of the nectar, and what joy I experience when I am able to taste it. The sweetness of the nectar is the taste of happiness, which is selfless and comes from an open heart. When I sit to meditate it is rare that I experience that mindset, but when I achieve it I feel light, happiness and joy throughout my whole being. I am not complaining or having negative thoughts about anyone or anything, even the pains and aches that I feel throughout the day become inconsequential when I taste the nectar.

I realize that happiness and joy, although it is my birthright is not something that comes with a guarantee. I have to be committed to cultivating it. This is the only way it will stay in my life. Like everything else it will have its ups and downs and that’s only the reality of being human, but it is up to me to make is happen.

When I am in a state of mind where I am negative, all I do is complain. I become self centered and I actually rob the joy out of my life and the life of others around me. I am completely oblivious of other people and their need to feel recognized, loved, secured and supported. When I am in this state of mind my insecurity becomes magnified and it is overwhelming to me and to the people around me. This is really the epitome of selfishness. It only lends me to becoming an emotionally blind person who is unable to see beyond myself. When it becomes all about me, that way of being does not serve me or anyone else.

When I open my heart I can taste the nectar. There is a softness that I experience as great love, compassion and passion for life. I become more acutely aware of those around me and their need to feel happy and alive. Tasting this nectar is like waking up and seeing what really is – being able to see joy in everything, and share it and cultivate it. It really epitomizes what it is to be a gentle man, which is making sure that all those around you feel comfortable, secure, happy and safe.

I feel it is my responsibility as a citizen of the world to add something to this thing we call life and living that serves other people. Being happy and cultivating happiness can become contagious. I know that being this way I benefit when I am experiencing tough times and struggles.

I feel very committed today to keep my mind set in a place where I am not focused on myself, and to refrain from complaining or speaking negatively of anything or anyone. That mindset is what prevents me from experiencing the sweetness of the nectar. That sweetness is real, it is not something that is unobtainable or a product of the imagination of a fleeting mind. It is a reality, because this sweetness is what we recognize as joy and happiness that is genuine and authentic. To taste it and to experience it is truly uplifting, like having a great enthusiasm for life and for living.

That is my quest, to continue sharing the nectar which I have tasted, the sweetness of living with happiness and joy.

March 2013

 

BEING UNSTOPPABLE

 Today I saw a patient, a young man who was admitted to the hospital. I started interviewing him about his life. He told me he is homeless. He worked in all kinds of odd jobs that did not last long. He was an alcoholic, and was expelled from a shelter because of inappropriate behavior. He said that everyone around him is incompetent and do not know what they are doing, and they do not let him do what he wants to do.

This man is young. He has all his limbs, he does not look disabled in any way, he can walk, he can take care of his basic needs, but he lives in a world full of what he sees as barriers that stop him on every step. He does not accept his situation and blames others, his health is deteriorating, he has very poor insight and judgment for his own safety. He is spiraling down in his life.

What struck me was – I saw myself in him. I saw how easy it is to get caught up in a self contained trap. How many times have I said to myself – I am being stopped, by people, by circumstances, by events that keep me from doing what I want to do. Talking to this patient, I realized that nobody, and no thing, is stopping me. It is my state of mind that is stopping me.

I started thinking – what am I creating that causes me to be trapped in a box, where I am limiting myself and not taking full responsibility for my life. I have created a state of mind of being fearful and doubtful. I always fashion myself as someone who likes challenges and can face new things fearlessly but as I take a closer look at what really is, I see that I like to create a world of comfort. In truth, I really don’t approach challenges head on and fearlessly, I’d rather think about it than do it. I bargain with myself, I say – I will do this another day, or I will choose something less challenging. Instead of choosing to climb over a 10 foot wall I settle for a 5 foot one, and say- Hey, I did it! I pat myself on the back and congratulate myself, knowing well that I did not achieve anything significant. And I make excuses – I want to be a successful visual artist and musician, but I do not have the time, the money, musicians to play with me, an agent, a gallery. I know these are all excuses. Those are my barriers, the barriers that I put to myself.

Deep down I do desire to be brave and disciplined, but I have not been willing to put in the work that is needed and push beyond the limitations where I get stopped. I realize that the most important thing that is missing is being truthful in facing those shortcomings in myself, with honesty and compassion, but also with commitment and discipline. The limitations I see around me are a lie. It is so easy for me to limit myself with this lie, because I tell it to myself and I tell it to everyone else. And as I do that my heart shrinks, and my spirit, that light inside me, becomes dim.

I have come to a point in my life where I intend to keep a commitment to myself to be truthful about myself and my self imposed limitations. To face the challenge, and to approach it with discipline, courage and fearlessness. I intend to take on being unstoppable, no matter what I perceive as a barrier. And I intend to take on the discipline to do what I need to do in spite of my fear, doubt, and love of comfort. I know that the light in my spirit and the love in my heart can help me to move through anything. All I need to do is get my fears and doubts out of the way and trust my spirit to guide me in the right direction.

February 2013

CHECKING OUT

 Coming back from Israel was very tough for me this time. I had an unusually hard time with the jet lag, I was not sleeping well, and when I started working, all kinds of aches and pains that I was free of, came back. Then last week, Ayala and I were preparing for a fun- filled day off on Christmas, when I had an emotional crash. I was experiencing physical pain, exhaustion and depression at the prospect of another cold winter. My way of dealing with it was to shut myself down. I stopped communicating with Ayala, as I spiraled down into feeling sad, alone and fearful, with no ability to share or be comforted. I checked out.

Checking out is something I have done all my life and I guess it is some kind of a defense mechanism I developed as a child and hang on to. I go deep into myself and shut down all communication with others. It is like I am not there, a way to avoid feeling the sadness, fear and pain. But just like all things you develop as a child, it does not work so well when you are an adult.

When I feel overwhelmed with any stressful moment I become anxious. I resort to the easiest thing for me – checking out. It is an extreme form of avoidance. I completely contract, I am out of touch with my heart and have no compassion for myself or others. I lose control of my ability to deal with reality. I stop breathing, and I lose awareness of who I am. I am wallowing in my own despair and negative emotions, and I feel unable to transcend the stressful moment. I don’t allow myself to reach for the skills that I have to help me deal with the situation.

When I am checked out I am in a state of denial. I don’t want to be seen as weak. Admitting to feeling tired, in pain and out of sorts is an admission of being weak. I lie to myself, I lie to others, which put me in a place where I have no freedom. I am locking myself in a prison of pretence.

The only way to get myself out of this prison is to stop for a moment and be quiet and breathe. I breathe, and I allow my heart to soften, to feel gentleness, to be supportive of the moment and to engage in compassion. This allows me to unwind, and to surrender to that peaceful vibration. I am overtaken by the softness and the quiet and I become fully embraced by the comfort of silence.

The deeper I let myself unwind the faster I can distance myself from that checking out state of mind. The deeper I breathe the easier it becomes.

Breathing helps me to free myself from the grips of denial, and to face the truth of what is happening at that very moment. I am able to acknowledge feeling weak and inadequate, and acknowledging it brings me to the present. I realize that everything that is painful and uncomfortable and fearful passes, and that facing it makes the transition quicker and easier. And I gain great strength from facing those painful moments. It becomes easier when I realize it is of my own making, and I have the power to dismantle it just as easily as I have created it. There is profound healing that takes place for me when I can see this, and I am able to open myself to the world again, with love.

January 2013

NO REGRETS

 Recently I received a message from my daughter who I am currently estranged from and have been for quite some time. She stated, as she often does, that I was not a good father, and this statement released in me old regrets, fears and doubts.

At times like this I find myself trapped in my own past of regrets and I often feel weighted down and sorrowful. My mind becomes cluttered and discombobulated, I become angry, miserable, depressed and cut off from the outside word. I want to bring myself out of this state of mind but the overwhelming darkness that I impose on myself keeps me inside of my own prison.

But then I realize that the inner anger and obsessing about my regrets is preventing me from being a whole person. And I realize that in order for me to experience wholeness I have to learn to forgive myself. It is difficult for me at the beginning to do this, because I can be my most harsh critic. I have to be kind and patient with myself and take baby steps with this forgiveness.

As I hear myself say those words, compassion and forgiveness seem like almost an impossible task to achieve, because I have allowed my inner prison walls to become so thick it is difficult for me to hear anyone trying to comfort me and it is difficult for me to listen. I have isolated myself from people around me and from my present.               

But as I sit on the meditation mat to meditate, breath and let go of the past, the breathing begins to thin my inner prison walls and allow my heart to grow and I begin to soften inside and forgive myself and let go of all my regrets.

When I was younger I was taught that being ashamed is to have a badge of honor, and being an authentic person means that you confess your sins and show regret. But taking on and cultivating shame is like trying to walk evenly on one leg, it is a hindrance, it is truly the most handicapped way of being. It prevents you from becoming a grown, responsible adult. It ties you to the past and keeps you prisoner there.

The madness about living in the past is that when I do that, I feel that I deserve this pain as punishment for all the wrong things that I may have done. But this is an illusion – the past is gone, the time is for me to live in the present so I can be with the people I love and live with. This is impossible to do when I am living in the past. This does not mean that I should not correct things that happened in the past and clean up whatever I may have messed up, but this needs to be done from the present, not the past. Living with regrets does not solve any unfinished business, and it hinders having breakthrough for self healing and living an authentic life. My aim is to clean up my act and then let go of it.

 Living authentic life means seeing things as they are, not as I fear them or would like them to be. Living in authenticity allows me to be truthful, honest and courageous which in itself becomes a powerful healing experience.

Our responsibility to ourselves and others who love and know us is to let go of our regrets and move forward to fully embrace life with happiness, excitement and celebration.

December 2012

MOMENTS OF BLISS

When I was young growing up I was always taught to be thankful for the things that I have, like house, food, clothing – all tangible things. But as I grow older I realize that this is not that important. What is important are the intangible things in life, things that make life feel so short when we miss them and let them slip by us.

 Many years ago I was in the Davis Mountains in South Texas. I was standing on top of the mountain. It was covered with blue sky and green hills as far as the eye could see. The air was fresh and red tail hawks soared about us. At that moment I felt that nature was flowing through me and giving me all of its love. I felt one with the mountain and the sky and the hawks, and at that moment all I wanted to do was sing with blissful joy.

 That moment is an intangible, but moments like this are the things that make the big picture. Life is all of small moments of bliss that make us rich with experience, but could slip away so easily without awareness. I am thankful for having been aware at that fleeting moment of bliss and having experienced it fully.

I came to understand that being aware of these moments of bliss is an act of love. When I focus on this experience in that moment it allows me to soften my entire demeanor and feel deeply from my heart. And this allows me to deepen the feeling of joy and of being connected.

Last weekend I was winterizing the porch. I have been putting this task off – it is a lot of work. I have to unfold the rolls of plastic sheet, I have to measure and cut them, take the stapler out, make sure I have enough duct tape, all this even before I start stapling the plastic to the porch. I do this every fall, and it takes a good half of the day, when I could be doing fun things, like painting or making music.

 But this time it was different. It felt like an act of nurturing and caring, an act of love. The porch has given me many moments of supported solitude, it is a sanctuary and a place where I focus my energy. I consider it a sacred space that needs love, care and attention. I felt so thankful to have this space. And as I went about carrying out the fall ritual of winterizing the porch I realized that it morphed into a meditative experience for me. I did not even realize it was happening until the task was done – the task I became one. It took me 4 hours to complete, but it was 4 hours of bliss.

 Now I am more aware of the intangible things in my life. These are the moments that really count – walking through a park in the rich colorful leaves of fall, or the freshness of early spring bloom, feeling one with your surroundings. A quiet moment with someone you love when there is communication without words, feeling one with that person. A smell that triggers a blissful memory, feeling one with that remembered experience.

Grab on to these moments of bliss and say -YES! to life, to living, to being alive.

November 2012


LISTENING TO THE SOUL

Recently I have been experiencing great obstacles, and not feeling like I have the ability to break through them. I envision touring and teaching, and it does not happen. We put the house on the market and nobody comes to see it. We plan to move to Israel, and it is not happening. I feel stopped in every direction. There are days when I just want to give up. I feel myself becoming tense and rigid, and obsessing about what am I doing wrong

Then I am reminded of the words of my teacher, Yogi Bhajan. He said: we have two voices, the voice of the ego and the voice of the soul. When you are constantly tuned in to the voice of the ego, life becomes difficult, it is difficult to break through obstacles. But the voice of the soul is the true voice, it is the voice that uplifts us and we are able to easily choose the path of least effort.

When I was immersed in my disappointments and feeling stuck the light bulb came on, and I realized that I am listening to the voice of the ego. I may as well try to dig a tunnel with a gardening spade – lots of sweat and effort and no results. So I decided to follow the wisdom of my teacher and listen to the voice of my soul.

The voice of the soul tells me to keep up the practice of meditation, become completely immersed and not worry about what is going on in the outside, like the schedule I set for myself and how I am progressing on it. It tells me not set myself up for disappointment and suffering, but to tune in to the Universe and follow it’s directions without resistance.

When I tune in to the Universe I realize that I am not in this alone. I stop doubting and worrying, and trust that all things will work out just the way they should. I then know that I am in the right direction.

When I follow the voice of the soul I am actually following the plan of my own destiny, which, I have to realize, does not always match my expectations. My expectations are really me listening to the voice of my ego. When I shut the voice of the ego off I become dispassionate.  I remind myself that being all worked up and attached to the future that I envision, only causes me to lose focus on what is really important – being happy in the moment.

October 2012

CHANGING THE WORLD FROM THE INSIDE OUT

Sometimes all I see around me in the world is anger, disharmony and violence. And when I think about making a difference in the world, the first thing that comes to my mind is action: what can I do, or how can I do it, or how much can I do. But I think the most important thing that I forget is how I can be.

I realize that everything that I see that is full of pain, hate, anger, suffering and sadness, exists inside of me. My first reaction to what I see in the world is to make judgment, criticize, to be angry, fearful and sad and I realize that by thinking in this way I am not making the world any better.

When I think about changing the world I am reminded of my own inner commotion and how I often get caught up in just me and I don’t see anything outside of myself. I’m just not feeling my own heart, I am not feeling compassion – at that moment it is all about me.

Once I make the commitment of thinking about others I begin to find my own compassion. I can feel the softness taking over inside me. I know this kind of thinking goes against everything I was taught in my life – you have to be strong, you have to be hard, in order to make a difference and see results. But I have to continue to trust my deepest feelings – my heart, and that wisdom inside of me. When I allow it to, it guides me in the right direction, and that is – compassion. There is only one way to get to compassion, and that is softening – to be forgiving, to see myself in the other person, and that way I can really see the world and understand it and all of its suffering without judging, without criticism, and without ego.

I realize that I can make a difference in the world by making a difference in myself from the inside out, by changing the way that I think on the inside through meditation, and by dealing with all those things or issues that I have difficulty with through quiet contemplation. This way I can transform doing into being – being myself, being a person that thinks with my heart and can bring compassion and love into the world.

September 2012


A LESSON FROM A CHILD

The other day a colleague of mine brought her 6 months old baby to work. I love babies, so I was naturally drawn to this baby, but there was something different about him.

That child was a true bundle of joy. He immediately changed the energy in the room just by his being. He was a magnet of light. Everyone was drawn to him. His smile was so beautiful, his laugh was so light-hearted and playful, and everyone wanted to hold him and touch him. He looked at everyone as if taking in every aspect of their being. His innocence was captivating. There was no resistance to being with people, no barriers, no need to protect himself. His being just brought out the best in everyone in that room, all everyone wanted to do was just give him love, and he received it without any hesitation. As I held him in my arms I immediately felt happiness and joy and love going through me. When he left the room his presence was still there. All I could do was think of this child and his powerful being, his love and light was still in the room.

Often I am preoccupied with all the negative things that happen in life, and sometimes I become controlled and held captive by that negativity, and I feel that there is no way of removing myself from that vibration. Holding that baby I knew that he was just being an innocent child. He was just being beautiful, that’s what he did and that’s all that was needed. He was just pureness of heart, and love, no judgment, no criticism, just pure love and curiosity. Everything that I want to be, he was it.

At that moment I was reminded that we all have the capacity for this love – to light up the room we walk into. All it takes is experiencing this light that we are all born with and just being so naturally happy. It is something that I often forget – that this light is in me as well, and that I have the capacity to turn on my own light with joy and happiness and compassion, and sharing this light with everyone. And I knew that when I am faced with doubt and negativity, I can now remember this beautiful child and his joy, his laugh, his beautiful heart, and tap into that feeling and become captivated by that vibration. That was a great lesson for me, to be fully conscious and in touch with my own love, my heart and my ability to share this experience. In that moment this child became a teacher to me, and that spontaneous, precious energetic experience was just wonderful.

August 2012

KINDNESS COSTS NOTHING

The other day I was talking to an elderly patient. I walked into his room to begin the evaluation. As usual I walk in with my professional demeanor – white coat flapping around me, all ready to do my professional work. I knocked on his door and walked in the room and I was greeted by this sweet 92 years old gentleman who had the most agreeable disposition.

Most people I see in the hospital are fearful, angry, sad, in pain, complaining about their situation and discomfort. This man was none of those. As soon as I walked into the room he said – hello friend. He invited me to sit on his bed. He was very friendly, and did not appear to be uncomfortable in his new surroundings of the hospital. He did not seem to be threatened by me or by the situation. He told me all he wanted to do was to get back home to his wife and his 14 year old “baby – a black Labrador”, and continued in sharing his life with me freely without hesitation or suspicion.

When I am in my professional demeanor I expect myself to be asking questions and listening and documenting, being in control and being the one who provides. It is easy to lose my own humanity in being this way, because it is my ego that is front and center and not my heart at that time. It is easy for me to be dismissive of my patients, and judgmental towards them. Sometimes I feel that I know what’s best for that person who is in that bed, and my listening is not there for them. All I hear is my own professional jargon and I see only my professional self – the white coat, the person who is there to help the weak patient, kind of an action- figure- therapist. My relationship with my patients is that I am the one teaching, they are incapacitated, and I can see how my disposition is not allowing them to have any power.

I was caught off guard by my patient, by his infectious love and his kindness, his own strength. His authentic love was so beautiful to experience. He was very warm, with a loving personality, and it was such a pleasure to be in his company that the evaluation was more of a friendly discussion with another person, not an action- figure- therapist and an incapacitated patient.

When I got up to leave he said something to me – he said it does not cost anything to be kind to another person so why not give of yourself freely and feel happiness within yourself and with another person. This brought me back to where I want to be and need to be in my heart and being full of love and kindness and giving.

This was a real gift for me. The lesson I learned is that kindness burns and cuts through the ego and opens up the heart. When I give kindness freely, without hesitation or condition, I get the biggest gift – an open heart, a loving heart and a gracious heart.

July 2012

BEING IN THE MOMENT

Last weekend was Ayala’s birthday. I wanted it to be a special time, a perfect birthday celebration. We were going to the Brandywine Valley for the weekend, and had tickets for the Longwood Gardens wine and jazz festival, but it did not feel special to me.

I had this strong desire to show my love in a special way, but I was not sure how. First I thought about going to the store and getting balloons and a card and figuring out a way to sneak them into the house and surprise her, but then I thought – there is so much planning here, this is really not coming from a place of spontaneity and love.

Usually when I plan things ahead, I get in my own way. I start to question myself – am I going to do it right? Am I going to choose the right event or the right time? Am I going to have fun doing it? Is she going to have fun? I judge the situation, I judge myself, I stop myself in my tracks and slow myself down, and I squeeze out all the fun and joy. And I was doing it this time again! I was getting caught up in my self doubt and so anxious to do the right thing I was not enjoying myself

Then I thought – when was the last time I bought Ayala flowers? I decided to send her roses and have them delivered to work for her. I went to the florist and put an order right away. That felt very powerful and spontaneous, because it was a decision that was made in the moment.

And I thought – that is a way to start the weekend off, powerfully and being spontaneous. No inhibitions, no questions and no second guessing. That was an AHAH moment for me – what a great way to live, being freed up from halting and stopping, judging, questioning, just being in the moment and moving forward.

And that was how the whole weekend felt. It was a tremendous boost for my spirit and our love for each other, and we had a great time. This was a great lesson for me for seizing the moment and embracing it fully.

Sometimes I forget how to be playful and have fun. I get so caught up in the seriousness of life – it has to be meaningful and planned and regimented. And I realize that this is a non-starter for me. I tried to be perfect, and it was stopping me in my tracks and I realized I really have to give something up, and that something was my need to have complete control of the situation.

Giving up control allowed me to let things fall into place, allowed me to enjoy myself, and I felt like a friend and a lover. I got myself out of the way and could truly experience being with Ayala and listening to her and giving her the best birthday she could have.

When I gave myself permission not to worry about messing up, I was free to do the right thing. It was very gratifying, and turned the whole weekend from a regular, mundane experience, to magical.

June 2012

 

THE REAL BIG PICTURE

There are moments in my life that I am not always privy to. Those are small moments, the ones I miss when I am all caught up in the details of life. These moments are the foundation for happiness.

When I got to work this morning I realized that I left my phone at home. I tried to call Ayala, but was not able to connect. I was very frustrated because I could not connect with her, and I was relieved when she called me and I could talk to her.

In the evening, when we were talking about the day, I realized that the small experience of talking with Ayala on the phone was a really joyful event in my day. I realized that what makes me truly happy is not the “big picture”, but the small moments, the small experiences that, with the busyness of life, I miss and let go right by me without noticing.

It is the little things that count – hearing a bird, seeing a flower or a butterfly, feeling the wind in the trees, holding a close person’s hand or hearing their voice. These are the moments that open my heart and are the seeds of true happiness.

The joy is in the experience of connecting – I sit on the porch and watch a beautiful butterfly, and I feel completely connected. I feel as if I am the butterfly, and also the person observing the butterfly. We share a vibration that goes directly into my heart. It makes me feel one with the world around me, and this is a rich, magnificent feeling. The wind brings a fragrance that brings back a memory, and I am filled with a sense of pure joy, and I am reliving the moment. When I open myself up to these “insignificant” happenings, it allows me to fully experience tenderness, softness and innocence in that moment. It is a gift, when I allow the experience to wash over me and it is truly joyful.

Those small experiences are privileged moments, they are like the mortar between the bricks of life. They make my heart expand and open with love, and I feel happiness. Without them, all the riches of the world, all the success, beauty and achievements are meaningless. They are what makes life what it is, the real big picture.

May 2012


LOOKING FEAR IN THE EYE

Last month I celebrated my 60th birthday. Birthdays, especially big number birthdays, are not an easy time for me. I always feel that I should not be where I am. I feel that my life should be different, easier, I should have achieved more, be more secure.

This is all fear.

I am afraid of failure. I tell myself that I am not good enough, or smart enough, or have the necessary skills to get what I want, I am not adequate, I do not measure up. I think about becoming old and unable to care for myself, and having to depend on the charity of others. I am afraid of being sick and disabled.

My usual way of being is to avoid acknowledging fear and to pretend that it is not an issue for me. I allow myself to become contracted and I feel very limited. I feel very small. When I am stuck in fear I am so defensive about everything, even the things that I am not afraid of. I am negative. I am constantly thinking that I am not worthy of the finer things in life. I do not feel successful, I do not see myself as a powerful person, and I can feel myself getting caught up in a cycle of self deprecation. This is a very damaging process that I do not readily recognize because it is a familiar way of being, it is automatic and habitual. This is not a result of the fear, it is a result of my unwillingness to recognize and acknowledge it.

Once I recognize it, the absurdity of this way of being, I can stop myself. By acknowledging my fear I move the veil and I can see fear for what it really is. And it’s nothing more than just me. I can see the face of fear – it is my dark side. I am my own boogie man. There is really nothing physical standing in my way, there is no entity that is there to stop me from being all I can be, it is just me. When I realize this, it is amazing how absurd it is that I purposefully trip myself up with my own feet. I create the illusion of something I should be afraid of.

It is very empowering for me to look fear in the eye and say “I know that you are there but you are not going to stop me” Removing the veil, looking fear in the eye, I am looking at my own dark side, and I recognize it, and there is no need to stop myself, because my fear is not real. It is all made up in my head.

It is OK to feel afraid, but it is important to recognize what fear really is- it is all a story that I create. I have made it to be very meaningful experience that is completely centered in my head. When I pull myself out of my head and back into my heart, recognizing and feeling the fear, I can actually expand beyond that fear.

When I am in my heart I experience courage, which comes out of my understanding that as long as I can be compassionate towards myself and love myself for who I am, that overcomes all reservations. That is when I become brave, strong, grounded, and sense my own power.

I know that I will not wake up one morning and never experience any fear. But I do know that it is possible for me to look fear in the eye and to say – “I know you are there, and you are not going to stop me”.

April 2012

 

STRUGGLING ON THE SPIRITUAL PATH

For some time now I have been struggling with my own spiritual path and quest, and this has been emotionally painful for me. Somehow I got off the practice wagon and lost my way, and now I long for that sense of being complete and spiritually whole, but at times I feel that the spring of spiritual wealth and growth within me has dwindled.

Losing my way is like being alone in a dry desert unable to quench my thirst. I feel unsatisfied and I feel angry and sad. I am angry at myself because I feel that I allowed myself to lose the stride, the rhythm of the daily practice, and now it is difficult to get back.

I think abut all the excuses that I use to take the responsibility off myself – I was sick and that kept me down; it was too cold to keep a vigorous practice; I am getting older and not having the energy I used to have – which is all true but is still an excuse.

I beat myself up – I tell myself that I am a phony, pretender, weak, inauthentic. And then I begin to believe all those things that I say about myself, which is a totally disabling experience that just pulls me down even more.

It is hard to pull myself out of this state of resignation. I know what I need to do, there is only one way to get there, to be in that space inside me that is a grounding and complete state of bliss, and that is to sit silently and meditate. But before I can do this, I have to take full responsibility for my own spiritual health and well being. I have to forgive myself for having fallen off the wagon. I have to extend compassion to myself, to generate love form my heart and listen from my heart for the sacred voices of the rishis.

Then I can take the only action that is left to me, and that is to stay the course. I need to take care of myself spiritually, and the way to do it is to return to daily practice. It is not easy, it never is, but having started, I can already feel the cobwebs melting off my eyes, my vision clearing, my heart opening up and my sense of spiritual wholeness starting to come back.

March 2012

 

TRANSCENDING THE MOMENT

One morning, a couple of weeks ago, Ayala left to do some food shopping and I was getting ready for my morning practice. I hardly had the time to settle into my meditation, when I heard her stepping in, way too early. Even before she came in the yoga room I knew something was wrong, and her expression made it clear I was correct. She had a flat tire a couple of miles away from the house, and instead of stopping and calling for help tried to drive back, which tore the tire completely.

My first instinct when something is going wrong is to manage my fear and upset by pointing at the other person and blaming them. Why did Ayala try to drive back? It was very unsafe, she could have caused an accident! How come she left her phone at home? I was supposed to meditate, and now I have to take care of this!

But then I realized that this is an opportunity to transcend my experience and elevate the situation. This was a learning opportunity and a precious experience, the gift of the moment, for me to take an advantage of. I realized this was not a time for anger, sadness, regret or blame but an opportunity to be elevated and expand my heart and really experience love, compassion and generosity.

When I stopped thinking about my upset, I was able to shift my focus away from myself. My fear and anger completely disappeared, leaving me feeling happy, calm, relaxed and powerful, and able to open my heart. It left me feeling rich and filled with grace, and empowered me to be supportive of Ayala, who was herself upset and scared.

Our first instincts are always of protecting ourselves. It is a natural reaction. But we do not need to be attached to our instincts. We can transcend the moment and remind ourselves of who we are – beings of light, living in the light and spreading the light around us, with open hearts, love and compassion, to ourselves and to others.

February 2012

 

HOLDING THE SPACE

The other day I was expecting people to show up for yoga class. No body called, I didn’t know who will show up or if anyone will show up at all, and I became a little resigned. My first instinct was to say, OK, no class today, I am free to put on some music and read a book. But then I chose to hold the space for the class, and went into the yoga room, sat on my meditation cushion and started long deep breathing, and soon I found the happiness and compassion in my heart, and whatever was bothering me just melted away.

Early on in my career as a yoga teacher I was told that I am taking on a big responsibility. When I heard it I did not understand what was the big deal, after all I am just teaching yoga! But then I realized that this responsibility was for holding the space.

We all have responsibilities to our families, to ourselves, to the people we work with and all our communities, and when we make a commitment to show up for ourselves and for other people, we are holding the space. Then people can count on us and we can count on ourselves.

Holding the space is for the purpose of service. It means showing up for what you took on. And at times it is difficult for me to do this, because I’d rather be relaxing, watching a movie or listening to music, than doing the things and being the person I took on to do and be.

When I kept my commitment to holding the space and sitting by myself in the yoga room I realized in that moment, in the meditation, that I was able to count on myself by showing up. I needed to stay committed to my end of the bargain and not resign my responsibility just because no one showed up for the class.

Holding the space comes from a place of love and commitment. When I am committed to holding the space I do it everywhere in my life – on my yoga mat, at my home, in my relationships, at my place of work. Then I show up as the person I choose to be, I can count on myself and others can count on me.

January 2012

 

THE HEART IS THE TRUE BRAIN

We make decisions using our brain, because that is where we do our evaluations and our judgments. The brain is the seat of the mind which is always busy, and functions by our intellectual abilities.

The heart also thinks, but in a different way. Because the heart and the third eye are directly connected, the heart is intuitive. It knows the truth. When the heart is open our intuition is at its greatest, because the third eye is open.

The heart is where we diminish the ego. When I am in a place of compassion and true love, my ego does not interfere, because I am not constantly assessing and judging and having a sense of superiority over others. When my heart is fully open and engaged with myself and others I can set my judgments aside. I do not think: is this the right choice, am I making the right decision? Deep inside of me, when I am fully immersed in love and compassion I trust my intuition over my intellectual assessment.

This state of clarity is achieved by meditation. No matter how long you meditate – 10 minutes, an hour, the meditation quiets the mind. The busy mind is like a glass of dirty water, you cannot see clearly. But when you let it sit, the dirt sinks to the bottom and you can see what really is.

When I sit in meditation, I quiet the mind, disengage the ego, and let the heart do its work and guide me in the right direction. That clarity stays with me for hours, because the heart keeps generating love long after the meditation ends.

December 2011

 

EXPANDING FROM THE HEART

When I am angry and fearful I feel myself contracting. I shorten my breath, and I become rigid, physically and emotionally. I am inflexible. I become judgmental. My heart is closed. I criticize myself and others, and I project what I am feeling onto other people.

It is like walking along and all of a sudden I fall into a hole, and I fall fast and deep. It is a destructive process, because all I want at that moment is to feel that I am right. I am not open to anyone else’s opinion, I do not hear what they say, all I hear is my own internal dialogue. And it is negative. It’s all about judgment, it’s all about protecting myself, defending myself, from an attack that I perceive as coming from another person, and this perception is false.

But when I am able to stop the fall, and think about what is going on with me, and look at my judgment, I realize it for what it is. And then I allow myself to expand.

First I become aware of what’s happening. And once I’m aware of what’s going on in my emotional upheaval, I am able to start breathing deeper, I can soften my entire demeanor emotionally and physically, and that automatically opens my heart. And when my heart is fully open I can feel my own compassion to myself deepen, and then I can actually feel and convey compassion to others.

The experience of expanding is the one moment in my life in which I really experience truth. And that truth is that I am able to be free to love – to love myself and others, without condition. Then  I am able to taste the nectar, the sweetness, of being alive.

November 2011