What is Inevitable for All Living Things?

golden-ratio-cosmic-constant-617x416Lately, I’ve been chanting the Purnamadah a lot.  It is the first verse of the Isha Upanishad, and it goes like this:

Om Purnamadah Purnamidam
Purnat Purnamudachyate
Purnasya Purnamadaya
Purnameva Vashishyate

The sanskrit word Purna can be translated in many ways – Complete, Whole, Fullness, Brahman or Reality, but personally the translation I like to use is the word Perfect.  Thus, the translation would be:

Om. That is perfect, this is perfect;
from the perfect, the perfect becomes manifest;
When the perfect is taken from the perfect,
Only the perfect remains.

k8aiVTo me, this chant is a meditation on the immutable perfection of God and God’s whole entire complete full reality called the universe.

Even when you take the perfect out of the perfect, the perfect is still there.  There is nothing that can be done by anyone anywhere in any way that would take away from the perfection of God.  “When the perfect is taken from the perfect, only the perfect remains.”

And from God, the Creation was manifested – so the whole universe is also immutably perfect.  Yes, we have entropy, we have decay, we have a cycle of life and death, we have lions eating gazelles and we even have atrocities taking place on the planet – but remember, Evil is like Peeing in the Ocean, a miniscule percentile of urea in a vast ocean of good.  Underneath it all is the immutable perfection of the Divine Creation.  “From the perfect, the perfect becomes manifest.”

milkyway_800This chant helps me when I am dealing with things that would seem to be less than perfect.  Instead of focusing on “woe is me” or “why is this happening” or going down any number of rabbit holes into negativity and small self-centeredness, I chant “That is perfect, this is perfect…”  And it works.  It helps me to see that behind everything that is happening in my life is an immutable perfection of God loving me, teaching me, molding me.  Everything that I experience is part of God’s creation for my life and is somehow giving me more compassion, more understanding, more inner strength and brings me closer to God.

A few days ago, I plain and simply just had a bad day and at the end of it, I chanted Purnamadah for 45 minutes before bed.  The next morning I felt so happy I wanted to hug everyone at work.  Mind you, I work in a business office, not normally an environment conducive to group hugs, so I had to contain myself – but I only contained my hugs, not my happiness.

pandavas2This chant on the Perfection of God and all of creation reminds me of my favorite story from the Mahabharata.  The Mahabharata is an ancient sanskrit epic about the battle between the good Pandava brothers and their less-than-good cousins the Kaurava brothers.  It being the longest poem ever written, it is all very complicated and I won’t go into it here, but my favorite part takes place during the seven years that the Pandava brothers are living in exile out in the wilderness.

The brothers all come across an enchanted lake.  The nature of the lake’s enchantment is such that when you see it, you immediately get intensely thirsty and want to drink, but before you drink you must answer all of the lake’s riddles, and if you drink without doing so, you die.  So, one by one the brothers come to the shore of the lake, give in to their thirst and then die – until the eldest brother, Yudishthera, comes to the lake and is the master of his thirst.  When the lake says to him “Before you drink, you must answer my riddles,” Yudishthera says “Very well, and if I answer them all correctly, you must bring my brothers back to life.”

Yudhistira_and_YakshaSo, the lake asks a series of riddles, all of which Yudishthera answers correctly without hesitation, and thus, all his brothers are restored from death and they may all drink from the enchanted waters and carry on through the rest of the epic poem to victory.

The riddles are a long string of esoteric or philosophical questions, such as “What is the cause of the world?” with the answer “Love” and “What is the opposite of your self?” with the answer “Myself.”  But the one that really got me, the one that makes this my favorite part of the longest poem in the world is this:

“What is inevitable for all living things?”

Being as philosophical and esoteric as I thought I was when I first heard this, I thought the answer would be something like “Death” or “Change.”  However, the correct answer that Yudishthera gave to save his brothers was “Happiness.”

Happiness is inevitable for all living things!

Summer-happiness-photoContemplating this tidbit from the Mahabharata made me ecstatically happy for days.  I would walk around seeing random people in a grocery store or post office and think “you are going to be happy!”  I felt like I was going to burst with the wonderfulness of the inevitability of happiness!

It felt kind of like the other morning after chanting the Purnamadah.  And really, they are both contemplations on the same thing.  No matter what it looks like right now, no matter what is going on in my life or what things could cause me stress and unhappiness if I let them – that is perfect, this is perfect.

There is an immutable perfection of God behind everything and happiness is inevitable for all living things!


For the beautiful Shantala chant:

For the Indian epic or its excerpt, the Bhagavad Gita:

 Or if you prefer the movie version (and there is no shame in that):

5 Stitches to the Inch and Love Every One

beautiful-tropical-sailboatMy brother in-law’s mother, Nanny Annie, is over from England for Christmas. In my one sister’s kitchen she is cutting my other sister’s hair and talking about how her husband is excellent at sewing (contrary to general gender stereotypes). He used to sew sails for sailboats for a living. When he was an apprentice, the master sail-maker used to say to all the young lads, “5 stitches to the inch and love every one.”

The old master sail-maker was tuned into the same thing that Mother Teresa was when she said “It is not how much we do, but how much love we put in that action.”  This same inner wisdom has been taught by bakers, chefs, artists, carpenters, landscapers, pediatricians, veterinarians and milliners.  Masters of all trades have taught their apprentices to put love into their craft for hundreds of years.

Love is the magic ingredient that makes whatever we are doing a part of a better world.  If we put love into every stitch, that love is anchored in that sail and that love moves that sailboat and that love travels out across the world on the wind.  And, it gives the young apprentice sail-maker a meditation of love to focus on inside his own mind and heart as he sews for hours every day.  It transforms the young sail-maker into a more loving human being, a kinder husband and father, a better neighbor and a more compassionate citizen of the world.

gorgeous-good-color-small1This is how putting love into sewing sails, baking cakes, building houses, planting trees and making hats is transforming the world.

In the East this is taught as Karma Yoga.  In the Bhagavad Gita, Karma Yoga is described as the path of Action – the path of putting your love for God into everything you do.  Whether you are sewing sails or cooking dinner, typing up a report at work, mailing a package to a friend for Christmas or cleaning your bathroom – putting love into it is a way to make it a meditation, a Yoga, a method of gaining Union with the Divine.

This can be consciously done as Karma Yoga by focusing on our love for God and offering all our actions to the Divine.  Or it can be done simply by putting Love into what we do, sewing a sail as a meditation on Love, and God is Love, so it’s still a meditation on God.  See how God pulled another tricky move there.

Not only does putting love into everything we do make the world a better place, but it also makes us happier.  The love we feel in our hearts becomes the reward of our labor and the stuff of our life.  We begin to live here a little more as our souls – as the love we are focusing upon.  And if we don’t win the cake bake-off or the hat best-in-show, we don’t take it so hard because we still won the love in our hearts – and that we get to keep forever.

Amma 11On the one day I spent at Amma’s ashram in San Ramon, one of her students read a satsang he had written about karma yoga.  He talked about how doing everything with love for God transforms us and offering everything to God frees us from our ego attachments.  He said, if we offer everything to God, then our success is God’s Grace and our failure is God’s Will.  So we don’t let our successes inflate our ego identification and separate us from the love of unity, and we don’t let our failures deflate our ego self-worth and separate us from the love of unity.

I quoted that satsang once in a Christian Bible study class at a fairly conservative church, not giving credit to Amma or the Bhagavad Gita.  Everyone thought my stealth Karma Yoga reference was beautiful and inspiring and everyone agreed.  It is the universal truth that transcends not only religions but trades and crafts and professions.

So whether you’re a Christian or a Hindu, a musician or janitor, an engineer or a sail-maker – to increase your happiness, reduce your ego suffering and make the world a better place, just remember what Ammachi, Mother Teresa and the old master sail-maker said to his apprentice: “5 stitches to the inch, and love every one.”

Rainbow Regatta by Lisa Lorenz

Rainbow Regatta by Lisa Lorenz

Rogue Renunciation for Every Day Living

hinduism-ascetics-portraits-india-holy-men-joey-l-1Recently in my religion class we talked about how certain religions believe in asceticism – the act of monks, nuns or sannyasins giving up all worldly roles and connections to solely focus on God – and how other religions don’t believe in renouncing the world but that we can live with God IN the world as “householders.”  In Judeo-Christian terminology that would be “being in the world but not of it.”

To this question of either/or, as in most things where God is concerned, I say Yes!  God is in most cases all-inclusive and of course there are merits in renunciating and there are merits in living in the world as householders.  There is value in both and God is available to us on either path.  I respect both paths immensely.

The important part for me is to live a life that is focused on God, on Love and on making the world a more compassionate place.  In terms of focusing on God, sometimes renunciation can be helpful to free oneself of distractions or attachments, though it’s not necessary and it’s quite possible to focus on God while standing in line to check out at Publix.  In terms of making the world a more compassionate place, that can sometimes be more easily done by living in the world and doing such things as helping to feed the hungry, being kind and helpful to strangers or volunteering for a charity, but it can also be done through prayer, meditation and service away from the world.

DEL_4_169837gHowever, renunciation is not always practical and it isn’t for everyone, and I don’t think it should be.  The joys of “renunciating” our attachments and distractions are available to anyone who simply says YES to the Divine and who wants to identify as a SOUL and to live a life centered in God.

Back when I was an interfaith renunciate of sorts, someone once told me how they admired how I had “given up” so many things for God.  I remember feeling perplexed because I didn’t think of myself as “giving up” anything.  I was getting everything my soul ever wanted!  Love, Peace, Joy, Purpose, Contentment and closeness to God!  I was happy. What was I giving up?  As long as I was identified with my soul, the only thing I was “giving up” was suffering.

Now I am living in the world.  I am working an office job at a local college, I am paying my bills, buying my own groceries and living fully as a householder – yet I think about God every day and I talk to God every chance I get and I still identify myself as a Soul.  The Love, Peace, Joy, Contentment and closeness to God is still right here, available at all times just as soon as I focus on it.  I can be sitting at my desk and feel the presence of the Divine in my life.  No nunnery necessary.

The purpose of “giving up” our worldly desires is just so we can move away from our ego identification, which creates suffering, and learn to live here as souls, which creates happiness.  When we are happy, we can share love and compassion and help make others happy, too.   But how we identify ourselves is an internal process.  It really has very little to do with if you wear an orange robe or a business suit.  It’s quite possible that you become a angrynunnun or a monk and that you still don’t feel closer to God, that you still don’t give up your ego identification or emotional baggage and it doesn’t make you happy (insert memory of angry Catholic school nun here).  The important part to remember when it comes to renunciation is just “where is your focus?”  Who are you identified as?  It is about going from “I am a body, I have a soul” to “I am a soul, I have a body.”  And then eventually to “I love you, God, what can I do to help?” Or as those old monks and nuns would put it “Thy Will Be Done.”

So, my practice of rogue renunciation for every day living consists of this:

tumblr_mg45ovHjAc1qi8mw9o1_500Internally focusing on God as much as I can through out the day

Holding a consciousness of God/Soul/Love as the ground of my being, in the background even as I am focusing on tasks in the world

Identifying myself as a Soul – I Am a Soul, my thoughts, random desires and the noise of the world is just happening, it is not who I Am.

Internally thinking of God as near, thinking of God and Christ and Holy Beings as my best friends (they ARE near, we just need to realize it)

Remembering to choose love and kindness whenever possible (and it is always possible)

Saying yes to any large and small ways to make the world a more compassionate place

helping-others-succeedAs long as I practice these things I can still really dedicate myself to God and my soul  AND I can enjoy the beauty and the fun of this world that God has created for us.  I can dress up for Halloween and go have boo-ritos at Chipotle and even go dancing!  During it all I can internally be in prayer, contemplation, chanting, meditation, communing with or conversing with God or Christ, St Francis, Amma or other Holy Company.  I am in the world, grateful for the beauty and the wonder of the creation – enjoying the gifts of the creation WITH the Creator.  I am a soul, gratefully and fully living this incarnation.

And even though I am now a householder, my internal identification has not changed.  I am a soul.  I am in love with God.

My Favorite Shoe & Sock Combo for the Fall

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset“What on earth is a spiritual blogger doing blogging about socks and shoes?,” you might ask.

Well, one – when I signed up for NaBloPoMo they said everyone would understand if there were days I was less than brilliant.

Two – it’s NaBloPoMo and I have committed to posting something every day and if I write a deeply spiritual and insightful post every day I am in danger of taking myself too seriously.

And three – I really do enjoy this particular sock and shoe combination and it makes me happy any chance I have to wear them.  And isn’t happiness what spirituality is all about?

Furthermore, what is wrong with writing about shoes and socks?  Nothing, absolutely nothing.

I know for the most part in the world’s spiritual traditions fashion has not been a main concern.  In fact, nuns and monks the world over wear the same thing every day whether it be the black and white of the quintessential Catholic nun, the drab brown of the Franciscan friars, the vibrant scarlet of the Tibetan lamas or the Ocher orange robes of India.  But I think those outfits are just intended to help the wearers stay focused on God and not worry so much about what they are wearing or what their fellow nuns and monks are wearing.  It doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with the average householder enjoying a creative fashion choice or two.

As long as we keep things in the right perspective, most things in life are ok to be enjoyed – in fact, I think God would like for us to enjoy all the marvelous options of garments, accessories and footwear in His creation, as long as we don’t get too imbalanced or whacky about it.  If you are so attached and identified to fashion that you won’t leave the house unless you are picture perfect or you judge others for not wearing the latest trends, I think we can all agree that is not a good thing.  But if you simply enjoy expressing your creativity and your individuality through the clothes that you wear, great.  I don’t think God created us all so different because She wants us to all be the same.Processed with VSCOcam with s3 preset

So, I don’t think there is anything inherently un-spiritual about fashion.  Shoes and socks are a perfectly good and joyful thing.  That being said, for anyone who spends over $500 on a single pair of shoes – I challenge you to donate that same amount to your favorite charity.  Just sayin’.

 


Ok – today my friend Teza (aka Lord Flea) wore this bold combination of shoes and socks to church.  I applaud her fashion choice!  Since wordpress does not allow photos in the comments, I am adding it here.  If anyone else has a shoe and sock combo you’d like to share, please email them to me and I will post!  Enjoy!

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Master Peachy – Wise Dog of God

Peachy runningMy little Peachy doesn’t just add an immeasurable amount of love and healing into my life and into the world (being the Light Warrior that she is), she also has a lot to teach me if I pay attention.

Peachy has no limited thinking.  She fully believes that she can catch that squirrel, that lizard or even that bird that is flying 20 feet up in the air.  She walks through life, and through the park, without any self-imposed limitations that encumbers her with self-doubt, second guessing or hesitation.

Peachy goes all in.  When she sees that squirrel, that lizard or that bird she holds nothing back – she commits herself fully, running with all the strength and speed her four little legs can muster.  She is focused on her singular goal – catch the squirrel.  She has no distractions, no day dreams, no worries about the future, no grumbles about the past – she is fully in the moment and fully engaged in catching that squirrel.

Peachy has no disappointment or regret.  Once the squirrel has disappeared up the tree, as it always does, she moves on.  She does not beat herself up or get angry at either herself or the squirrel or the world for the outcome – she let’s go and smells the next bush.

Peachy does not hang onto the past.  The very next squirrel she sees she runs after with every bit of fervor and belief in her abilities as all the previous squirrels that she did not catch.

Peachy does not let herself be defined by societal standards of size or strength.  Just because she weighs 7 pounds and is a little fluff ball of a lap dog does not keep her from speaking her mind and telling those two 120 pound Rottweilers a thing or two.

Peachy w stickPeachy is efficient and uses resources to their fullest.  If you have stopped petting her and your hands are just laying idly in your lap, wasting time doing nothing at all, she will place her little nose under your hand and nudge it upwards over her head, essentially petting herself.

Peachy is content with simple things.  She doesn’t focus on what she doesn’t have, she doesn’t have desire for new and shiny toys.  She plays with the same old bunny, the hand-me-down from her cousin Pixie, the one who has had it’s ears sewn back on numerous times.  I bought her many other shiny flashy toys because I still have desires for new things, but she’s happy with the one that smells really good (to her) and has dirt all over it.

Peachy finds happiness in every day things.  She does not get bored or negative.  Every single time I pick up the leash she gets so excited she jumps up and down, she runs back and forth, she runs in circles – she never says “really?  another walk?  can’t we do something else for a change?”  Going for a walk is the most exciting and glorious thing that could ever happen to her, every time it happens.

Peachy doesn’t take anything or anyone for granted.  She maintains her relationships with a steady consistent show of appreciation.  Every time I come home she is just as happy to see me.  Even though I come home at least once if not twice every day and I have come home approximately 488 times since I got her – every time she wags her tail, runs around my legs and jumps up and down to greet me.

Peachy fulfills her mission of bringing love to the world effortlessly.  She does not work hard or try hard to be a good person – she just is (and yes, she is a person, a wonderful little dog person).  She doesn’t have to effort or struggle or go through a whole process to do the right thing.  There is no decision to make – she just IS love.  She makes the world a better place just by being who she is.

Peachy is a little Buddha, a wise one, a Dog of God.

Peachy meditation

Are Meditators Cooler than Other People?

vinyasa-yogaNo.

I know when the question is asked so bluntly the answer is obvious, but judgment can be a sneaky thing and it has been known to crawl into a spiritual community or two.

When I lived in the New Age mecca of Asheville, NC I had a friend who whenever I would mention someone I met he would ask “is he a meditator?” as if that is the question that divides the worthy from the unworthy. The same friend made a pact with an equally “spiritual” friend that they were going to be enlightened in 6 months – yes, they set a date. His reasoning was that “I Am God” so I can decide and I decide to be enlightened and if I decide, then it will be so! They also felt that Christ or Angels or Masters or any “intermediaries” were an unnecessary distraction because “I Am” and therefore I can go direct to the Godhead!

At the same time I was taking classes in “energy studies” and going to group “awakening activation” circles (parts of my spiritual path that gave me a great deal and that I am very thankful for). My main teacher at the time was my massage school instructor, Craig, who also taught Merkabah meditations and beautifully shared his passion for how the physical anatomy of the brain corresponded to ancient Vedic poetry about awakening. At one Tibetan bowl ringing circle we were meditating in the midst of the sound waves and the Divine Presence was palpable. The moment I remember the clearest was when Craig walked by me and leaned in and said “There is the God that I Am and then there is the God that I ain’t!” It was his way of saying that there is a God that is more glorious, more benevolent and just more friggin AWESOME than we could ever contain!

I remember that moment often. And I feel that one moment taught me something vitally important.  I feel that humility is such an essential quality on a spiritual path, and it is very rarely talked about. Maybe that is because it’s hard to point out humility or you end up looking very Uriah Heepish calling attention to how “umble” you are. Or maybe humility is just by nature a meeker spiritual quality and doesn’t call attention to itself as much as courage, knowledge or rigorous self-discipline.

Or maybe it’s because it’s not a very popular concept in the Westernized spiritual talk of being “co-creators”, of “manifesting abundance” for ourselves and “I Am God” consciousness, or even the slightly removed “I Am One with God.” And yes, of course, in absolute truth we are all the “I Am” – but when that deep spiritual truth is co-opted by the small ego self, it’s not pretty. And sometimes “spiritual” people can behave just as judgmental and petty as high school teenagers.

It’s a strange dichotomy in our culture. On one side we have this struggle to feel worthy of our Divinity, worthy of God’s Love and Benevolent Grace and all the beauty and peace God wants to shower upon us – the “not enough” that is engrained in us. And on the other side we have this over the top spiritual arrogance of claiming we are God before we have purified our consciousness enough to have that be an actual manifested reality. Because even if something is true in absolute reality – i.e. that we are One with God – it doesn’t mean we ACT that way – and acting that way is how we ACTUALIZE it.  And actually doing that takes a lot of emptying, surrender and well, humility.

And that is the goal, isn’t it? That is why we meditate, contemplate, pray and work on ourselves – so that we can embody more of the qualities of the Divine – love, compassion, joy, light, peace and bliss – so that we can really act like we are made in God’s image. But it is very important to remember that loving kindness and compassion are what matters, and if you get there by meditating or by praying or by just being a good person with a loving heart, so what?  Who are we to judge?

sistersI look at my sisters and their families and they are beautiful people and I think they wouldn’t mind me saying they have never meditated a day in their life. I always thought of myself as the “spiritual one” – but I see how much good they create in the world and I am humbled. They have both created lives of harmony and good families – lives where their kids don’t know what yelling is. When they had their children they decided they didn’t want to re-create our upbringing of yelling and screaming and “not enough.” They applied themselves, read books, really thought about the choices they would make as parents and became conscious mothers. Their kids feel loved and respected and are being healed of the “not enough.”

My sisters do not have any pretense about being spiritual, yet they are changing humanity! The generational shift is amazing! They did not say – “I Am consciousness itself, I am going to change the world” – their only motivation was loving their children and wanting to create a better emotional life for them, and it IS changing the world.

So, I have decided to redefine what being “spiritual” means to me. It’s easy to get attached to this thought of being spiritual, almost as if spirituality has become a status symbol as much as a Mercedes or a Gucci bag. But it’s not about being the person who does yoga on the beach at 7am or who meditates for an hour every day. It is more about being compassionate. It is more about just making conscious loving choices in daily life. And I thank my sisters for not even trying to be spiritual but just being part of the evolution of the human race! It is humbling and beautiful to witness.