Archives for posts with tag: gratitude as a practice

As the last days are passing here at Sivananda Ashram the satsang lectures continue. There have been some interesting points of view for me to evaluate and to see what comes up. And what comes up are the still unresolved feelings and beliefs around the car crash. Not surprising! There  is quite a bit of work to be done to clean up the mess, and I find myself more than slightly annoyed and distracted. Though I decided not to pursue any legal recourse over the harm done to my property for reasons I explained earlier, my mind, heart and pocketbook still feel the pain. (See honest truth is that I have been feeling a large resentment toward a whole community of people who I feel have let me down.

Along comes Kathy White, long time student of Byron Katie. Katie is a non-dual (Advaita), consciousness guru. Her story in becoming who she is now is extreme. The result of her “awakening” is her ability to accept what is happening exactly as it is and remain completely peaceful. Her students attest to this fact. Now doesn’t that sound nice?

At the end of last night’s satsang Kathy gave us a page titled: Judge-Your-Neighbor Workshop. She had already explained that in The Work (as it is called by Byron Katie) there are four essential, starting questions related to each and every belief around any stressful situation in life. For example, in regards to feelings around the car crash I write:

I am angry at (name of person) for breaking his agreement to take care of my car.

Next I ask myself these questions:

1. Is it true? Yes. He did not take care of the car. He crashed the car due to his own negligence and then he refused to make any reparations. Only a yes or no answer is allowed here which keeps you from falling back into the details and complexities of the story in your mind–but of course more beliefs arise as you can see in what I just wrote. Each of these beliefs may need to be dealt with separately, eg, I am angry at _______ for being negligent. Or: I am angry at _____ for refusing to take responsibility for his actions, etc.

2. Is it absolutely true? Only to be answered if you answered Yes in No. 1. Doubt about having absolute knowledge and wisdom may start in No. 1 or it may not.

3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought? You list all your feelings and attitudes, eg I blame, get angry, feel disgusted and judgmental, am deaf to any excuses or explanations, only want reparations paid NOW!

4. How would I be if I did not have this belief? Eg. I would be open, supportive, able to hear and to listen to his story, generous about finding a solution together.

Doing The Work with the worksheet has helped me get clear about my feelings and beliefs. I actually emailed the person asking him if he would speak with me to share his thoughts and feelings and to hear mine. Whether or not he responds is not the point–and I really doubt that he will respond. Writing the email asking only for dialogue without any agenda, allowed an opening of the tight space in my heart. With this opening I began to look at promises I have made to myself or need to make. And how I may be being negligent in life by taking obvious risks and not taking care of myself responsibly. And how I might take better care with myself.

I may not be taking good care by putting trust where it does not belong. Or by having unfounded expectations. Or by not asking directly for clarification. This is hard stuff. Most people –myself included–do not like to be held perfectly accountable or to think things through. Most people do not care to strive for such clarity. It takes time and effort between people. It is rare in life to find people who are willing to take the time and spend the effort for such honest, clean and clear communication.

As I grow in my ability to care for myself by keeping promises to myself, by being responsible to myself for my well-being and by paying the dues I owe to myself when I make a mistake, I will be more able to see in others the level and quality of care a person is able to enact in a relationship with me. Those who have learned that self care is an essential part of loving others begin to offer freely, and more selflessly, yet with boundaries that are appropriate for themselves. I know as I grow in my own self care I will be able make better choices about with whom and in what way I entrust my life (and my “stuff” such as a car) to others.

Life is a process we are all learning.

Om shanti

When I left Brooklyn last January 11th I knew I was taking an incredible journey just by the act of committing to being at Sivananda Yoga Retreat Center for over three months. It turned out to be over four months and now the journey is winding back toward life in Brooklyn.

I say “winding” because the path as I have experienced it in these past months has not exactly followed the original, outward intention I set, to do Karma Yoga for three months. It has followed the intention I held within myself to “re-group and see what appears”. There have been some remarkable appearances.

The Sivananda Yoga Teacher Training Course was and continues to be life altering on a daily basis for me. Just the aspect of 28 days of such a rigorous discipline of schedule and activity opened the mind to let go of much of the unnecessary. To further connect through the lineage of Swami Sivananda by mantra initiation has brought wisdom and knowledge of the master into my work in Sound Yoga. The openness to the receipt of a new name for myself has given me a support and inner strength through the Hindu Mother Goddess Durga beyond what I could imagine possible.

The Path took me to these places. The Path or Self does that, I am beginning to understand, when the mind  begins to let go of all of the thoughts, beliefs and patterns that we believe to be our life and our self.

The greatest teaching I have received is that I am and my life is, so much more than I imagined. We all are so much more than we imagine. And by surrendering to and embracing a lineage and tradition of gurus and teachers, there is the possibility to be supported and to discover our True Nature within the form of our limited self.

There is no greater gift than such a recognition that we are all on the Path, winding as it is, forever connecting the True Self Home.

Shiva’s Sunset

The decision to live in the Bahamas was one I began considering after my first visit there in May 2011. I was not at all sure it would work out, yet I kept dreaming of a beach front home all the while.

The story begins with making lifestyle changes through a regular yoga practice for several years. Though my quality of life had been noticably improving since beginning a regular yoga practice in the spring of 2008,  I was still not as happy as I knew I could be. So in search of something more, between 2008 and 2011, I kept leaving my beautiful Brooklyn home (and my sweet feline Bebe)


for ocean places to explore yoga more in depth in a variety of different cultures. I visited a yoga retreat center called Present Moment on the pacific coast of Mexico; took a yoga training course on one coast of Costa Rica and finished the trip with more yoga on another coast; went on a yoga and salsa women’s retreat exploring Puerto Rico’s beaches and rivers,

Rio Limon, PR

and took two trips to coastal locations in Brazil to experience the spiritual traditions and culture of the people.

From the influence of my yoga teacher in Brooklyn, I connected with the female Orixas Yemonja and Oxun, deities of the West African religion of Yoruba, and felt guided by a strong urge to reconnect with the sea and visit the lakes and rivers.

While I was on my first trip to Rio de Janeiro I continued my daily asana (the postures of yoga are called asana and are just one aspect of a yoga practice) practice every morning enticed by the breeze off the lake. I began to have a very deep, meditative experience at the end of each session. While I lay on the floor on my back, legs and arms stretched out away from my body, the breeze across my body guided me to create a yoga nidra meditation. Scanning up and down my body, I consciously tuned into the opposing sensations of light and heavy, touching the ground and not touching the ground. After being in the duality of these opposites, I would begin to let go of the distinctions allowing dark and light to merge into one and the same sensation. This left me in a deeply relaxed state of no body, no thing and no time. Pure bliss.

In August of 2009 I took a yoga teacher training in a jungle in Costa Rica. After learning more about yoga lifestyle, I became very interested in Buddhism. My google quests to learn more about the many types of Buddhism led me to my meditation teacher, Adyashanti. My Brazilian hostess, unbeknownst to me, had already made the introduction to Adya from a music tape she had made for me that I had been listening to for over a year and half. The first song was a remix of “Let the Sunshine In” and from there the music went from Hindu and Jewish songs to Brazilian popular music eventually ending with the voice of a man speaking in English whose sentences made no sense to me whatsoever. When my search on Buddhism landed me on Adya’s web site, I clicked on an audio link and there was the voice I had been hearing. In January 2010 I spent a weekend of silence  in California with my teacher, Adyashanti. After that weekend I came home to create a daily practice of sitting meditation. After six months, though it was wonderful when I was sitting in silence, I could not seem to rise above the negative thinking. I had hit a wall. It seemed time to get serious about embarking on a new lifestyle with what felt like drastic measures. In May 2010 I decided to stop drinking alcohol.

After this major decision a couple of events occurred. In July of 2010 I was laid off from my full time job as the music teaching artist for Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. A month later I had a second major surgery (the first surgery was in 2007 and had prompted my reconnection to yoga and taking care of my physical body). Here are three significant actions I took after these events occurred:

1. Being grateful and reviewing my accomplishments–

I knew that the teaching artist job was not my permanent path. I learned many things from having the opportunity to serve in this way though. I taught students ages pre-K to post graduate and trained educators from all over the world. I used to say I got paid to listen to music–not in order to critique, but in order to understand and make connections. That was the work of LCI as set forth by Maxine Greene, philosopher-in-residence and founder of LCI.

Hunter College undergraduate students working on final project for arts integration course I co-taught with Prof. Herb Perr, Manhattan, NY

Maxine Greene and me at her 90th Birthday party at Lincoln Center Institute (aka LCI)

Leading 3rd graders in a rhythm activity at PS 171 on City Island, Bronx, NY

 2. Built a large actively supportive network of people–

I found my support and reconnection to the humanity of people in 12 step groups. I highly recommend them for a safe and supportive environment for a new self to emerge.Through allowing myself to connect with the people in 12 step programs, I was then able to begin to connect with the people who were already in my life on a more authentic level.

3. Became willing to be guided by what is happening in my life–

I made lemonade out of lemons by stepping out beyond the obvious or first response. I read between the lines. When I was laid off from Lincoln Center. I saw the job loss as an opportunity to retool my approach and redirect my life. When I had a second surgery I saw it as an opportunity to slow down and just be for a while as I underwent major life changes.

Slowing down the tempo of my life was definitely a key aspect to finding my way to the Bahamas. So you could say that I got to the Bahamas by slowing down to  “island time” long before I arrived.