November 13, 2017 Monday Night Class: Being in Reality as Opposed to Being in Whatever We Think Reality Is…

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“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there…” 
                                                                                                              –Rumi

It’s been quite a month and I am way behind posting classes here. Fortunately the wisdom teachings have no expiration date…

November 13’s Monday Night Class continued our immersion in the deity field personified as the goddess Saraswati, who in “her” most sublime possibility might be understood as that field of which Rumi sings.

This is a field we all do well to live in….

The Tao Te Ching verses for this week were 75 and 74. However, since neither struck me as being rooted in that field, I found I could not speak about them with integrity or authenticity. Two more qualities we can associate with Saraswati. Rather than go against the dharma of speech, I spoke instead about why I could not speak about them…

DHARMA TALK

SARASWATI AND OM NAMAH SHIVAYA MANTRAS

SG SOLO SARASWATI AND ONS MANTRAS BEFORE CLASS

Here are the Mary Oliver poems I read.
These are from her collection, Blue Horses.

SUCH SILENCE

As deep as I ever went into the forest
I came upon an old stone bench, very, very old,
and around it a clearing, and beyond that
trees taller and older than I had ever seen.

Such silence!
It really wasn’t so far from a town, but it seemed
all the clocks in the world had stopped counting.
So it was hard to suppose the usual rules applied.

Sometimes there’s only a hint, a possibility.
What’s magical, sometimes, has deeper roots
than reason.
I hope everyone knows that.

I sat on the bench, waiting for something.
An angel perhaps.
Or dancers with the legs of goats.

No, I didn’t see either. But only, I think, because
I didn’t stay long enough.

WATERING THE STONES

Every summer I gather a few stones from
the beach and keep them in a glass bowl.
Now and again I cover them with water,
and they drink. There’s not questions about
this; I put tinfoil over the bowl, tightly,
yet the water disappears. This doesn’t
mean we ever have a conversation, or that
they have the kind of feelings we do, yet
it might mean something. Whatever the
stones are, they don’t lie in the water
and do nothing.

Some of my friends refuse too believe it
happens, even though they’ve seen it. But
a few others—I’ve seen them walking down
the beach holding a few stones, and they
look at them rather more closely now.
Once in a while, I swear, I’ve even heard
one or two of them saying, “Hello.”
Which, I think, does not harm to anyone or
anything, does it?

FRANZ MARC’S BLUE HORSES

I step into the painting o the four blue horses.
I am not even surprised that I can do this.

One of the horses walks toward me.
His blue nose noses me lightly. I put my arm
over his blue man, not holding on, just
   commingling.
He allows me my pleasure.
Franz Marc died a young man, shrapnel in his brain.
I would rather die than try to explain to the blue horses
   what war is.
They would either faint in horror, or simply
   find it impossible to believe.
I do not know how to thank you, Franz Marc.
Maybe our world will grow kinder eventually.
Maybe the desire to make something beautiful
   is the piece of God that is inside each of us.
Now all four horses have come closer,
   are bending their faces toward me,
      as if the have secrets to tell.
I don’t expect them to speak, and they don’t.
If being so beautiful isn’t enough, what
   could possible say?

New visitors to this blog wanting to read more about Saraswati, please scroll down to the previous post. And, if you’re curious to read the verses I did not read 😉 here they are…

75.
When taxes are too high,
people go hungry.
When the government is too intrusive,
people lose their spirit.
Act for the people’s benefit.
Trust them; leave them alone.
74.
If you realize that all things change,
there is nothing you will try to hold on to.
If you aren’t afraid of dying,
there is nothing you can’t achieve.
Trying to control the future
is like trying to take the master carpenter’s place.
When you handle the master carpenter’s tools,
chances are that you’ll cut your hand.

October 9, 2017 Monday Night Class: When we realize that we are the flow, everything is possible…

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This week’s verse from the Tao Te Ching is a beautiful articulation of feminine wisdom; of the understanding that softening and yielding, of embracing rather than turning away, is a powerful stance for living.

78.
Nothing in the world
is as soft and yielding as water.
Yet for dissolving the hard and inflexible,
nothing can surpass it. 
The soft overcomes the hard;
the gentle overcomes the rigid.
Everyone knows this is true,
but few can put it into practice.
Therefore the Master remains
serene in the midst of sorrow.
Evil cannot enter his heart.
Because he has given up helping,
he is people’s great help.
 
True words seem paradoxical.

It’s a deep and important lesson, especially in a culture that venerates doing over being. Which from the perspective of feminine wisdom has it upside down. Put being first. Let doing serve being. That’s the understanding referenced in the title of this post. When we realize that we are the flow, everything is possible…

And the thing is, we really are the flow. We are not separate from it. Much as the mind and our wounding try to convince (and dissociate) us otherwise. Which is why every time we allow ourselves to breathe deeply, stretch into the moment, stop rushing, start listening, make friends with silence, and simply be with what is, we discover more space inside. And that spaciousness is the secret of possibility.

Here’s this week’s dharma talk:

 

Here are the poems I read. These three are Robert Bly’s versions of Kabir.

5.
Inside this clay jug there are canyons and pine
mountains, and the maker of canyons and pine
mountains! 

All seven oceans are inside, and hundreds of millions
of stars.
The acid that tests gold is there, and the one who
judges jewels.
And the music from the strings no one touches, and
the source of all water.

If you want the truth, I will tell you the truth:
Friend, listen: the God whom I love is inside.

24.
Let’s leave for the country where the Guest lives!
There the water jar is filling with water
even though there is no rope to lower it.
There the skies are always blue,
and yet rain falls on the earth.
Do you have a body? Don’t sit on the porch!
Go out and walk in the rain!
The fall moon rides the sky all month there,
and it would sound silly to mention only one sun —
the light there comes from a number of them.

26.
The darkness of night is coming along fast, and
the shadows of love close in the body and
the mind.
Open the window to the west, and disappear into the
air inside you.

Near your breastbone there is an open flower.
Drink the honey that is all around that flower.
Waves are coming in:
there is so much magnificence near the ocean!
Listen: Sound of bells! Sound of immense seashells!

Kabir says: Friend, listen, this is what I have to say:
The One I love is inside of me!

 

Here’s the Mary Oliver from A Thousand Mornings.

LINES WRITTEN IN THE DAYS OF GROWING DARKNESS 

Every year we have been
witness to it: how the
world descends

into a rich mash, in order that
it may resume.
And therefore
who would cry out

to the petals on the ground
to stay,
knowing as we must,
how the vivacity of what was is married

to the vitality of what will be?
I don’t say
it’s easy, but
what else will do 

if the love one claims to have for the world
be true?

So let us go on cheerfully enough,
this and every crisping day,

though the sun be swinging east,
and the ponds be cold and black,
and the sweets of the year be doomed.

 

Here’s music audio. The first clip is opening chanting of Om Namah Shivaya and Namo Kuan Shih Yin P’u-Sa.

 

This clip is the Laksmi Murti Mantra with Dhumavati Bija leading into slow Om Namah Shivaya.  There is also a bit of commentary at the beginning and a dharana at the end…

_________________________________

Finally, if you’re interested in my thinking about the relevance of the Sacred Feminine and why I believe it’s crucial to do the internal work of balancing, you might like to read this piece I wrote in 2009.  This link will take you there.

October 2, 2017 Monday Night Class: Do you want to be right? Or do you want to be liberated?

NicholasRoerich

This week’s verse from the Tao Te Ching offers an exquisite teaching on the ripple effects of blame. If you pay attention to your own blame response, you’ll discover a many-headed demon masquerading as self-righteousness and truth. Insidious really. And hiding in the unconscious.

Failure is an opportunity.
If you blame someone else,
there is no end to the blame. 

Therefore the Master
fulfills her own obligations
and corrects her own mistakes.
She does what she needs to do
and demands nothing of others.

The blame response goes deep. And its ripple effect always ends in pain. It often starts with expectation. Which then morphs into blame. Blaming gives rise to shame, hurt, and anger. This separates the blamer and the blamed, creating a sense of isolation and alienation so that connection and the possibility of empathy are destroyed. And since underneath the dramas of daily life, a sense of connection and empathy are what we most long for, one can see how the blame project takes us nowhere we really want to go.

And then of course, there is self-blame. Which is often at the bottom of the whole mess. When we really examine our blaming response, we discover it is fueled by projection. I blame you for what I refuse to see in myself. My own laziness, indulgence, self-absorption, bad habits, arrogance, bullying, forgetfulness, etc.

79.
Failure is an opportunity.
If you blame someone else,
there is no end to the blame.

Therefore the Master
fulfills her own obligations
and corrects her own mistakes.
She does what she needs to do
and demands nothing of others.

The answer of course is simple: fulfill our obligations, correct our own mistakes, do what we need to do and demand nothing of others. This doesn’t mean we roll over and play dead. This verse is telling us to wake up, to pay attention, to live in the space beyond right and wrong. Do we want to be right? Or do we want to be liberated…

Here’s my dharma talk from 10.2:

 

Here are the two poems I read.
From Mary Oliver’s, A Thousand Mornings.

POET OF THE ONE WORLD

This morning
the beautiful white heron
was floating along above the water

and then into the sky of this
the one world
we all belong to 

where everything
sooner or later
is a part of everything else

which thought made me feel
for a little while
quite beautiful myself.

GOOD-BYE FOX

He was lying under a tree, licking up the shade.
Hello again, Fox, I said. 

And hello to you too, said Fox, looking up and
not bounding away. 

You’re not running away? I said. 

Well, I’ve heard of your conversations about us. News
travels even among foxes, as you might know or not know.

What conversations do you mean? 

Some lady said to you, “The hunt is good for the fox.”
And you said, “Which fox?”

Yes, I remember. She was huffed.

So you’re okay in my book. 

Your book! That was in my book, that’s the difference
between us.

Yes, I agree. You fuss over life with your clever
words, mulling and chewing on its meaning while
we just live it.

Oh! 

Could anyone figure it out, to a finality. So
why spend so much time trying. You fuss, we live.

And he stood, slowly, for he was old now, and
ambled away.

We chanted the Gayatri Mantra to open this class. There’s no audio of the chanting, but here’s the short dharana I gave on the mantra.

 

Finally, class chanting of Om Namah Shivaya with closing dharana.

September 25, 2017 Monday Night Class: When we practice contentment, we experience that which we truly are…

Abstract shiva

While a literal reading of this week’s verse from the Tao Te Ching offers a potent packet of wisdom, I find it more interesting to read with the awareness that the “country” is our own individual self and “wise governance” comes when we live from and of the Self…

Tao Te Ching
Verse 80

If a country is governed wisely,
its inhabitants will be content.
They enjoy the labor of their hands
and don’t waste time inventing
labor-saving machines.
Since they dearly love their homes,
they aren’t interested in travel.
There may be a few wagons and boats,
but these don’t go anywhere.
There may be an arsenal of weapons,
but nobody ever uses them.
People enjoy their food,
take pleasure in being with their families,
spend weekends working in their gardens,
delight in the doings of the neighborhood.
And even though the next country is so close
that people can hear its roosters crowing and its dogs
barking,
they are content to die of old age
without ever having gone to see it.

I found this verse such a beautiful evocation of the yogic practice of contentment, aka santosha, I also brought in Edwin Bryant, Chip Hartranft and Mukunda Stiles’ versions of Patanjali-Yoga-Sutra, II:42. I didn’t have time to read EB in class but will include that here.

II, 42.

Contentment brings unsurpassed joy.   (CH)

From contentment one gains supreme happiness.   (MS)

From contentment, the highest happiness is attained.   (EB)

[santoshad anuttamaha sukha-laabhaha]

 

Here’s this week’s dharma talk which unpacks all of the above. Ordinarily I would write more but am feeling under the weather so will let my dharma talk do the talking for this post…

 

I’ll leave the final word to Mary Oliver…

 

TODAY

Today I’m flying low and I’m
not saying a word
I’m letting all the voodoos of ambition sleep. 

The world goes on as it must,
the bees in the garden rumbling a little,
the fish leaping, the gnats getting eaten.
And so forth.

But I’m taking the day off.
Quiet as a feather.
I hardly move though really I’m traveling
a terrific distance. 

Stillness. One of the doors
into the temple. 

VARANASI

Early in the morning we crossed the ghat,
where fires were still smoldering,
and gazed with our Western minds, into the Ganges.
A woman was standing in the river up to her waist;
she was lifting handfuls of water and spilling it
over her body, slowly and many times,
as if until there came some moment
of inner satisfaction between her own life and the river’s.
Then she dipped a vessel she had brought with her
and carried it filled with water back across the ghat,
no doubt to refresh some shrine near where she lives,
for this is the holy city of Shiva, maker
of the world, and this is his river.
I can’t say much more, except that it all happened
in silence and peaceful simplicity, and something that felt
like the bliss of a certainty and a life lived
in accordance with that certainty.
I must remember this, I thought, as we fly back
to America.
Pray God I remember this.

Mary Oliver, A Thousand Mornings

And close with class chanting of Om Namah Shivaya and final dharana...

September 18, 2017 Monday Night Class: Welcome to the New Fall Season of Monday Night Class

Laksmi abstract

Class resumed last week after our summer break. And for this next teachings cycle, we’re going back to Stephen Mitchell’s version of the Tao Te Ching. Those of you who’ve been around for awhile will remember I started writing this blog in 2010 when we were reading this very same text. I thought, this time round, let us begin at the end and move towards the beginning. Time and duality being so illusory, why give into their status quo…

So we begin with Verse 81:

Tao Te Ching
Verse 81

True words aren’t eloquent;
eloquent words aren’t true.
Wise men don’t need to prove their point;
men who need to prove their point aren’t wise.

The Master has no possessions.
The more he does for others,
the happier he is.
The more he gives to others,
the wealthier he is.

The Tao nourishes by not forcing.
By not dominating, the Master leads.

Needless to say, this verse encapsulates everything one ever needs to know. And makes therefore a perfect partner to one of the core mantras of Monday Night Class, Om Namah Shivaya

Here’s the opening dharana and my dharma talk, which runs around 20 minutes. I usually, edit out everything extraneous from these talks. Road noise, coughing, banter, etc. But the banter on this recording so captures the joyous spirit of Monday Night Class, I’m leaving it all there.

For visitors to this blog who’ve never attended the live class, enjoy. For everyone who does, you may find yourself LOL. And fyi, this talk is unpacking more of the above re the wisdom of the Tao Te Ching and how that wisdom and the wisdom/consciousness embedded in ONS are one and the same…

 

DanielJ and his miraculous tabla were at this class so we mostly chanted. Which was a glorious way to begin the new fall season. For that however, you had to be there 😉  No recording…..

June 23, 2017: Reading the Bhagavad Gita in the Age of Trump

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JUNE 12, 2017: BHAGAVAD GITA TALK #15

CHAPTER SIX: THE YOGA OF MEDITATION

“WHEN WE LIVE IN THE QUESTION EVERYTHING WE SAY IS MUSIC.”

Attaining this state, he knows
that there is no higher attainment,
he is rooted there unshaken
even by the deepest sorrow.

This is the true yoga; the unbinding
of the bonds of sorrow. Practice
this yoga with determination
and with a courageous heart. [6.22-23]

This is the week of the Summer Solstice. For those who don’t pay attention to these cosmic moments, it occurred in our Northern Hemisphere at 12:24 AM EDT on Wednesday, June 21. And even the next day’s Senate healthcare debacle could not undermine the wonder of sunlight stretching into the evening. The Summer Solstice is a day I’ve always loved, revered even. But this year, I was strangely out of sorts, a mental state that knocked me from the ground I tend to move from, and, as bad luck would have it, sent me tumbling down a flight of stairs. Well, it wasn’t really bad luck. It was me not paying attention. I tripped on my cat Lily who was sleeping on the top step. I’d seen her there on the way up, but forgot she was there on the way down. And down I went. All the way down. 10 steps down to be exact. It’s a miracle I didn’t sprain, break, or concuss myself. Which is not to say I’m not feeling sore, bruised, and tender. I am. Quite.

Paying attention. One cannot take the practice deep enough. Had you seen me on Wednesday as I headed towards those stairs, you’d have seen a woman who appeared totally focused on what she was doing, who appeared to be paying attention. The problem was, what looked like focus was actually compulsion. Compulsion to complete a task. Compulsion that flung my awareness into a future event that never even happened.

What did happen is I got all banged up and will need at least a week to fully recuperate. But who cares about me. The poor cat was so freaked out, she hid under my bed for hours. My daughter had to sacrifice an evening to take care of me. And I had to cancel a long-planned visit with my niece. That’s a lot of inconvenience to others for my momentary lapse of attention.

Or as our charlatan in the White House would say, “not good.”

We spend so much time in our limited and limiting head space—and I’m not even talking about on our devices—that we miss what’s actually happening. We’re often not really here. Which is such a shame. Because here is so very precious.

Walking seems to help my bruised and battered body so I ambled over to the Farmer’s Market yesterday. Early summer abundance. Heads of lettuce, bags of spinach, boxes of sweet peas, bunches of arugula, turnips, beets, green onions, garlic scapes, herbs, buckets of blueberries, fresh eggs, local cheese. And the flowers. OMG. The flowers were amazing. Walking home I felt so simply happy. It didn’t matter that everything hurt, that I was tired, thirsty, hungry, and needing to lie down. None of that mattered. My joy in the preciousness of life was so much bigger than that temporary discomfort. So much bigger.

Which is what the Bhagavad Gita is all about.  Which is why we’ve been reading the Gita as we live through this Trumpian age. Because the awareness and call to right action articulated in this elegant text is the most potent medicine we have to counter the rampant destruction that will characterize this dark and chilling moment in our history.

Here’s the opening dharana and dharma talk from June 12. I usually edit out class banter but thought I’d leave it in for a change…

 

Here are the Mary Oliver poems we read:

THE MAN WHO HAS MANY ANSWERS 

The man who has many answers
is often found
in the theaters of information
where he offers, graciously,
his deep findings.

While the man who has only questions,
to comfort himself, makes music.

POEM OF THE ONE WORLD

This morning
the beautiful white heron
was floating along above the water 

and then into the sky of this
the one world
we all belong to 

where everything
sooner or later
is a part of everything else

which thought made me feel
for a little while
quite beautiful myself.

 

Here are the Gita verses, [18-23]:

With a mind grown clear and peaceful,
freed from selfish desires,
absorbed in the Self alone
he is called a true man of yoga.

“A lamp sheltered from the wind
which does not flicker’ — to this
is compared the true man of yoga
whose mind has vanished in the Self.

When his mind has become serene
by the practice of meditation,
he sees the Self through the self
and rests in the Self, rejoicing.

He knows the infinite joy
that is reached by the understanding
beyond the senses; steadfast,
he does not fall back from the truth.

Attaining this state, he knows
that there is no higher attainment,
he is rooted there unshaken
even by the deepest sorrow.

This is the true yoga; the unbinding
of the bonds of sorrow. Practice
this yoga with determination
and with a courageous heart.

 

Here’s Om Namah Shivaya and closing words…

May 28, 2017: Reading the Bhagavad Gita in the Age of Trump

MAY 15, 2017, BHAGAVAD GITA TALK #12

CHAPTER FIVE: THE YOGA OF RENUNCIATION
IT’S NOT REALLY ABOUT THE RESULTS, WE JUST THINK IT IS….

The resolute in yoga surrender
results, and gain perfect peace;
the irresolute, attached to results,
are bound by everything they do.  [5.12]

The practice of renunciation comes up in every religion and sacred tradition. It’s also an important element in recovery and self-improvement programs. In all these systems, renunciation is a penance, a giving up of something that gives us pleasure, a choosing, in other words, to suffer. And this renouncing is done in order to achieve a certain goal.

The Yoga of Renunciation flips this notion on its head. In Yoga, we renounce not only that which causes suffering, (i.e. attachment and identification with our psycho/emotional narratives.) We also renounce the fruit of our actions, letting go of goal-oriented focus and motivation.

There’s a great deal of paradox here. When I talked about how this work of yogic renunciation may be the hardest thing we ever do, one of my long-time Monday Nighters made a great point. She said from her perspective, not doing it is even harder. Yes and yes. The final irony being that what we’re renouncing doesn’t actually exist. But that’s a topic for another time…

Another bizarre week on the political scene where the Yoga of Not-Renunciation abounds. Here we see everything the Gita warns against. It’s been fascinating to watch this karma playing out. Too soon to know how this scandalous scandal-ridden chapter in American history will end. And they will do a lot of damage before that happens. Still, nonstop leaks, gaffes, and investigations are outing the craven corruption and naked lies that drive Trump and the Republican agenda. And the truth begins to roar.

Here’s May 15’s dharma talk. If you don’t have time to listen, a few short quotes:

“The ego thinks it’s all coming from it. That small sense of “I.” It thinks it’s the doer. It’s not. And that sense of “I’m the doer” creates the sense of isolation and alienation that creates so many of the maladies that plague our culture. We’re not isolated. We’re not alienated. We’re very much part of this ginormous matrix of Creation and that’s what’s carrying us.”

“Who cares about reincarnation. It’s irrelevant. It’s enough that we keep the spaces we move through clear. So we don’t leave a mess we then need to clean up.”

Here are the Gita verses we read:

ARJUNA SAID:

You have praised both renunciation
and the yoga of action, Krishna.
Tell me now: of these two,
which is the better path?

THE BLESSED LORD SAID: 

Renunciation and yoga
both lead to the ultimate good;
but of the two paths, Arjuna,
yoga is the more direct. 

The true renunciate neither
desires things nor avoids them;
indifferent to pleasure and pain
he is easily freed from all bondage. 

Fools say that knowledge and yoga
are separate, but the wise do not.
When you practice one of them deeply,
you gain the rewards of both. 

The state reached by true knowledge
is reached by yoga as well.
Both paths lead to the Self;
both lead to selfless action. 

It is hard to renounce all action
without engaging in action;
the sage, wholehearted in the yoga
of action, soon attains freedom.

Wholehearted, purified, mastering
body and mind, his self
becomes the self all beings;
he is unstained by anything he does.

The man who has seen the truth
thinks, “I am not the doer”
at all times—when he sees, hears, touches,
when he smells, eats, walks, sleeps, breathes, 

when he defecates, talks, or takes hold,
when he opens his eyes or shuts them;
at all times he thinks, “This is merely
sense-objects acting on the senses.” 

Offering his actions to God,
he is free of all action; sin
rolls off him as drops of water
roll off a lotus leaf. 

Surrendering attachment, the sage
performs all actions—with his body,
his mind, and his understanding—
only to make himself pure. 

The resolute in yoga surrender
results, and gain perfect peace;
the irresolute, attached to results,
are bound by everything they do. 

Calmly renouncing all actions,
the embodied Self dwells at ease
as lord of the nine-gated city,
not acting, not causing action.

It does not create the means
of action, or the action itself,
or the union of result and action;
all these arise from Nature.

Nor does it partake of anyone’s
virtuous or evil actions.
When knowledge of the Self is obscured
by ignorance, men act badly.

Here are the poems from Rabi’a, the beloved 8th century Sufi mystic, followed by two more from Hadwijch II, the lesser known but quite extraordinary 13th century Christian beguine. Note how both give the same teaching as the Gita with just a few strokes of the pen. Fyi, the images at the top of this post are Hadwijch facing Rabi’a.

1.
I am fully qualified to work as a doorkeeper, and for this reason:
What is inside me, I don’t let out;
What is outside me, I don’t let in.
If someone comes in, he goes right out again—
He has nothing to do with me at all.
I am a Doorkeeper of the Heart, not a lump of wet clay.
-Rabi’a  (tr. by Charles Upton)

2.
O my Lord,
if I worship you
from fear of hell, burn me in hell.

If I worship you
from hope of Paradise, bar me from its gates.

But if I worship you
for yourself alone, grant me then the beauty of your Face.
-Rabi’a  (tr. by Jane Hirshfield)

1.
Tighten
to nothing
the circle
that is
the world’s things

Then the Naked
circle
can grow wide,
enlarging,
embracing all
-Hadewijch II  (tr. by Jane Hirshfield)

2.
You who want
knowledge,
seek the Oneness
within

There you
will find
the clear mirror
already waiting
-Hadewijch II   (tr. by Jane Hirshfield)

Finally, here’s audio of opening chanting that includes om tara tuttare ture swaha and om namah shivaya with a short dharana at the end weaving these two beautiful mantras together…

Here’s a short dharana leading into the classic version of om namah shivaya with a short dharana at the end leading into silent meditation: