Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sacred Weaving

This is the time of year when we celebrate the energies of the Divine Feminine and Divine Masculine joining together as the earth comes alive. In the ancient Celtic tradition of Beltane (also known as May Day), celebrated on May 1st, the Goddess and God are symbolically woven together in the traditional maypole dance. The weaving of the ribbons around the pole actually reflects the creative act from which life in all of its forms springs.

There are many traditions in which the the Goddess and God become merged in sacred union, ritually, symbolically, and in the poetry of scripture. In the Hebrew Bible, the Song of Songs speaks to this, as the Lover calls to the Beloved:

Oh, give me the kisses of your mouth, For your sweet loving is better than wine...

The very first words of Shir Hashirim send us on the journey of relationship. We don't ask to hold hands or turn our face for a peck on the cheek. We lift our face and wet our lips in anticipation of meeting Life and Love in its fullness.  We are commanded to pucker up, as it were, to explore the boundaries of our separate self, and to keep challenging those boundaries. Every word of Shir HaShirim can be read as both the word that I speak to God and the word that God speaks to me. As we ask for Love, we must also rise to its challenge. 

Each relationship in our lives opens the door to a whole other universe. As we step through that door we escape from the confining prison of self and get a glimpse of the world through the eyes of the "other." Entering through the Other we are drawn by the Mystery of innumerable galaxies, swirling around each other, all interconnected. As we stand in awe of this vast cosmic drama, we experience it all unfolding within a great Oneness.  That great Echad is supremely conscious and supremely loving. When in a moment of loving we can feel ourselves inside that Oneness, then the power of Yearning is unlocked. This is the power that frees us from separateness and sends us into the arms of the Beloved.
~Rabbi Shefa Gold 

The tantric yoga teachings are also overflowing with delicious imagery of the the lila (divine play) between the Divine Feminine and Masculine. The word Tantra comes from the Sanskrit Tantram, which means "loom,"  or "warp and woof." Each verse of a tantric teaching is called a sutra, which means "thread." So here we have another image of weaving together opposites, interconnectedness, and merging.

The Vijnana Bhairava Tantra, an ancient text recently re-translated by Lorin Roche, is a stunning poetic conversation between the Goddess (who is the creative power of the universe) and the God (who is the consciousness that permeates everywhere). They are lovers and inseparable partners, and they dwell in the human heart.

The text begins with the Goddess asking, "Beloved, tell me, how do I enter more deeply into the reality of the universe?" In reply, the God describes 112 techniques of enlightenment through everyday life experience. Each of these is a way of attending to the rhythms, pulsations, and sensuousness of the Divine Energy which is always flowing through us--and out of which we are made.

Below are some selections from this remarkable text, which Dr. Roche has renamed The Radiance Sutras.  I highly recommend this book for daily meditations, inspiration, or as a way to deepen your loving with your beloved. This is the yoga of delight, awe and wonder. Enjoy!

There is a current of love-energy that flows
between Earth below and the Sun above.

The central channel of the spine is the riverbed.
The streaming is as delicate and powerful
as the tingling touch of lovers.

Entering there,
radiance arches between the above and the below.

The whole attention resting in the nerve,
tingling delicately in the center of the spinal column,
tracing this current between earth and sun,
become magnetism relating all the worlds.
~Radiance Sutras, #12

The roar of joy
That set the worlds in motion
Is reverberating in your body,
And the Space between all bodies.
Beloved, listen.
The ocean of sound is inviting you
into its spacious embrace,
Calling you home.

Find that exuberant vibration
Rising new in every moment,
Humming in your secret places
resounding through the channels of delight
Know you are flooded by it always.

Float with the sound,
Melt with it into divine silence.
The sacred power of space will carry you
Into the dancing radiant emptiness
That is the source of all.
~Radiance Sutras, #16

Eating dark chocolate,
A ripe apricot,
Your favorite treat--
Savor the expanding joy in your body.
Nature is offering herself to you.
How astonishing
To realize this world can taste so good.

When sipping some ambosia,
Raise your glass,
Close your eyes,
Toast the universe--
The Sun and Moon and Earth
Danced together to bring you this delight.
Receive the nectar on your tongue
As a kiss of the divine.
~Radiance Sutras, #49

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


This Monday, April 18th, my husband, Doug, will be running in the Boston Marathon. It's his first marathon ever, and he has been training for six months for this event. It will perhaps take the most strength and focused will that he's ever had to summon. I think it's auspicious that Doug is running on Monday, because it also happens to be Hanuman Jayanti, the Hindu festival honoring the birthday of  Hanuman, the monkey god.

Hanuman is worshiped as a symbol of physical strength, perseverance and devotion. In the epic tale known as the Ramayana, Hanuman is the servant of Lord Rama, and he demonstrates his unwavering and complete devotion to his Master with amazing feats of courage and strength. At one point in the story, Rama’s beloved wife Sita is abducted by the demon king Ravana, and she is held captive on the island of Lanka. Hanuman is given the task of crossing the ocean to find Sita. By the power of unwavering intention and loving service, he makes himself grow to a colossal size, and fixing his thoughts on the Divine Goddess Sita, he leaps across the ocean in a single bound. Lighting his tail on fire, he takes to the streets of Lanka and burns down the palace where Sita’s captor dwells.

After Rama and Sita are reunited, Hanuman is given a string of pearls as a token of appreciation. He immediately breaks the necklace and begins cracking each pearl open with his teeth. When asked why he is doing this,  Hanuman replies that he wants to see if Rama's name is present in the pearls. If it isn’t, then the necklace has no value to him. Sita then asks Hanuman if Rama is inside of him as well. At this point, the monkey god rips open his chest to reveal the name of Rama inscribed on every organ, muscle and bone, and the images of Sita and Rama are found on his heart.

The story of Hanuman’s strength and devotion are also depicted in the Hanuman Chalisa, a forty verse hymn written by 16th century Hindu saint and poet Tulsi Das. Many find great inspiration in singing these verses. In fact, there are many versions with different melodies by the kirtan artist Krishna Das. On his CD and book set Flow of Grace, Krishna Das sings the chalisa and provides instruction, interpretation and proper Hindi pronunciation for those who wish to learn to sing this beautiful hymn.

The Hanuman Chalisa is chanted specifically to clean the mirror of our hearts so we can come into direct contact with the grace of Hanuman. His river of grace flows into our nearly dried-up stream and fills it with the water of life, awakening us to the awareness of Ram's (God's) presence within. This is when our hearts truly come alive. Once the waters of two rivers mingle, they can never be separated.  
~Krishna Das, in Flow of Grace

Hanuman inspires us to find strength within ourselves we might never have known we had. He is an example of discovering our forgotten potency. It wasn’t until he took that giant leap across the ocean that he became aware of his own strength. It was something he had never done before--it was a “leap of faith.” But because his whole heart and mind were directed toward loving and serving God, this hidden potency emerged and empowered him. It is said that the word impossible is not a word in a devotee’s dictionary.

So, I invite you to reflect on an area of your life where you can offer your unwavering service and devotion. What calls you forth to summon your inner strength and courage? Can you take that leap of faith?

Hanuman, bestow your grace upon us,
Divine Guru
O, Son of the Wind, reliever of suffering,
embodiment of blessings,
live always in our hearts.
                            ~Hanuman Chalisa

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


Hello Dear Yogis,

Over the past ten weeks we have been exploring the yamas and niyamas, or restraints and observances that are an essential part of the yogic life.  They are invitations to take our practice beyond our mat, allowing yoga to be something we live rather than something we do for a few hours per week.

This week brings us to the last of the niyamas, Ishvara-Pranidhana, which means “surrender to God.” Now, if the “G” word makes you uncomfortable, please feel free to insert whatever word resonates with you.  Ishvara-Pranidhana means to surrender to THAT which is larger than ourselves, and THAT can be called Spirit, Creator, Source, Divine Presence, Essence of Being, Infinite, or simply Love.

The practice of surrender involves dedicating all of our actions and will to a Higher Power. It means stepping outside of egoic mind and offering ourselves to a power greater than the small self. “Greater” doesn’t necessarily mean outside of us, as that Power can be seen as the essence of who we are.

Ishvara-Pranidhana doesn’t mean surrender in the sense of giving up anything. Rather,  it means being filled up with the consciousness and love of the Divine Source. When we surrender  to God, no one loses any part of themselves or takes anything away from anyone else. As tantric teacher David Deida describes it:

The word "surrender" is often interpreted as giving up, as weakness, as admitting defeat. Although this is one way to use the word, we will use it in a different way. Surrendering means letting go of your resistance to the total openness of who you are. It means giving up the tension of the little vortex you believe yourself to be and realizing the deep power of the ocean you truly are.

The Bhagavad Gita teaches us to surrender the fruits of our actions to the Divine. This doesn’t mean that we don’t put effort or energy into our work or other endeavors of our lives. On the contrary—we live and love and work with great commitment and intention. But there is a letting go of the attachment to the results, and a softening of the egoic sense of self, the separate “me.”  We open to the flow of grace and allow Spirit to work through us. This involves cultivating a deep faith, a sense of trust in Spirit’s will for us. This is a basic thread of spiritual wisdom that is woven through all of the world’s religious traditions. “Thy will be done” and “Let go and let God” are universal teachings.

One need not have a belief in a specific deity or personified image of God in order to live with a surrendered heart. For some, it’s more of an acceptance of what is, and a practice of embracing each moment fully. In opening deeply to life without resistance, one can move forward with greater power and intuitive knowing of the next right action.

When you surrender to what is
and so become fully present,
the past ceases to have any power.
The realm of being, which had been obscured
by the mind, then opens up.
Suddenly, a great stillness arises within you,
An unfathomable sense of peace.
And within that peace, there is great joy.
And within that joy, there is love.
And at the innermost core, there is the sacred,
The immeasurable. That which cannot be named.

~Eckhart Tolle

Here are some suggestions for inquiry around Ishvara-Pranidhana:

--On the mat, notice if you are struggling with a posture, either straining or resisting. Practice consciously using the breath to surrender, letting your body and mind melt into That which moves through you. Let prana, the life energy that permeates all things and beings, fill you with it's wondrous grace as you release into the pose. Let go of perfecting the pose--rather, give yourself to it fully and surrender the outcome.

--Reflect on an area of your life in which you are struggling with willful attachment and/or are feeling powerless.  Make a conscious decision to practice “turning it over” to a power greater than yourself. Prayer can be an effective tool in surrendering one’s will to the Divine.  The third step prayer of Alcoholics Anonymous has been transformational for countless individuals who are challenged by addiction:

God, I offer myself to Thee--to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life. May I do Thy will always!

If this is a new practice for you, it may involve “acting as if”, or suspending your disbelief and embracing it as an experiment—a spiritual adventure.

--Reflect on any areas of your life where you have completely let go and surrendered to Spirit. How has that changed your life?

--Create a “God box.” Each morning, write down on a slip of paper whatever needs to be surrendered or turned over to Spirit. Place it in the God box.  Ask that you may be a channel of God’s love and light today, a conduit through which God’s healing power and grace may flow. At the end of the week or month, take the slips of paper and burn them, allowing the transformational element of fire to send your prayers out into the Universe. 

The Blessed Lord said:
Listen, Arjuna: I will tell you how you can know me beyond doubt by practicing non-attachment and surrendering yourself to me. I will teach you the essence of this wisdom and its realization; when you come to master this, there is nothing further that needs to be known.

~Bhagavad Gita 7:1-2, translated by Stephen Mitchell

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