Monday, September 16: The Great River of Being


This week’s class shook up my long-time format of dharma talk at the beginning and silent meditation at the end. This change was not intended. I was simply going with the flow of the śaktī. While the notion of going with the flow has become a cliche, still, there’s a lot of truth to it. Attending to the present moment is always more interesting than being stuck in past or future whatever. Of course we have to be willing to risk leaving the known. And everything that encompasses.  Easier said than done and why practice practice practice is essential…

Here’s the opening dharana for this class. Which runs around 7 minutes and uses the metaphor of river to inspire silent meditation.

The sound quality on this week’s recording of class chanting Om Namah Shivaya is not great. Instead of posting that, I thought I’d make a small recording of me chanting solo. This will be easier on your ears.

Were I to give this week’s dharma talk a title, I’d call it “Operating Instructions for Consciousness.” It runs around 15 minutes, explores ways of working with thought and emotion, and reaffirms why chanting is a profound vehicle for awakening. This description makes it all sound rather dry and predictable. Which, heaven forbid, it most assuredly is not! If you hear bells jingling, you’re not imagining it. That’s my cat coming into the room…

I’ve recently discovered the poetry of Lorri Neilson Glenn. I did not read this poem at class but am moved to end this post with a short excerpt:

nothing lasts. Quiet can be stolen like your bag
in the street. You will soon be awake in all the wrong places,
your words snatched out of time. Oblivion is a wise
old teacher: there is no try. It’s all right. You didn’t get it
until this moment, did you? Wake every chance you can, join
the chorus, praise the wild. Carry, light…

from Wild, by Lorri Neilson Glenn, from her collection, Lost Gospels, published by Brick Books, 2010.

Monday, September 9, 2013: Twisted out of inner alignment by the tree of desire :)


This week’s class fell on Ganesha Puja so we opened with chanting the Ganesha mantra Vakratunda Mahakaya. Since the sound quality on the class recording is not great, I thought I’d give visitors to this blog a special treat. As many of you know, Daniel and I have been in the recording studio working on an album of mantras and chants. This is a preview clip from our version of Vakratunda Mahakaya, which will be the first track on the CD.  Btw, please stay tuned for updates on the production of this amazing album. It’s been ten years in the making and well worth the wait. I’m hoping for a December 1 release.

Here’s transliterated Sanskrit text and translation/commentary:

vakratunda mahakāya

suryakoti samaprabha

nirvighnam kuru me deva

sarva kāryeśu sarvada

 Oh Lord with twisted trunk and massive form

whose splendor is equal to a billion suns

bless me that no obstacles impede my endeavors

 This chant is sung to the form of Ganesha called Vakratunda, who is personified as having five elephant heads with five twisted trunks. The twisted trunks can be understood as metaphors of the spiraling energy of kundalini; also Ganesha is associated with blessing new beginnings, removing obstacles, and guarding the sanctuary of the inner being. So as Vakratunda with five heads, these powers are quintupled!

The word “vakratunda” translates as “vakra” [twisted] and “tunda” [trunk], which got me thinking about the notion of being twisted in or out of alignment. How we can go either way. How great a deep spinal twist feels and conversely, how wretched we make ourselves feel when we get all twisted up in the dramas of daily life. Think greed, desire, and their numerous offspring… and factor in the ego’s tendency to identify [aka twist into] these lovely machinations of mind…

Yoga offers a profound system for transformation of body.mind.spirit. In a way though we can reduce the whole thing down to this simple notion: how to untwist from the twists that yank us out of alignment by twisting back into the spiraling luminosity of the Self.

Here’s this week’s dharma talk, playing on this idea of twisting and untwisting… It runs just over 7 minutes.

Here’s a simple dharana, chanting of Om Namah Shivaya, and a few more words before silent meditation.