Seeing with Equal Vision

The other day a friend wanted to show me a nude picture of someone.

Initially, my outer reaction was something like, “Hmm…you’ve put me in an interesting spot here.  I think I’m going to have to say no.”  And my inner reaction was something like, “Hell no!  Don’t go look at other people naked.”

Externally, i reasoned with my friend.  “Next time i see that girl i don’t want to be picturing her naked or give her the vibe to let her know that i’ve seen her naked.”  And, “It’s a moral choice, and morally i think it’s best for me to not look.”

As my friend continued to assist, i decided that resistance was futile.  And ultimately, the logic that moved me to look at the pictures was logic of acceptance and equality.  Internally, i realized, “It’s just a picture of a body.  There’s nothing inherently wrong about looking at another person naked.  In fact, it’s a great ability to see people naked and accept the beauty of the body without sexualizing it.”

So i looked at the pictures, not for long, and practiced seeing the naked body as a beautiful thing, regardless of however it presented itself.

The other day, i graciously stumbled upon a quote that helps explain the point above.  John Cage, the great zen composer, once said,

“The first question I ask myself when something doesn’t seem to be beautiful is why do I think it’s not beautiful. And very shortly you discover that there is no reason.”

Looking at anything, we can see the beauty.

And, for the record, the girl my friend showed me, by many standards, including my own, was physically attractive.  So it’s not like i had to resist judging her as ugly or unattractive.  The practice was rather to view the naked body non-judgmentally, almost from a frame of curiosity and appreciation for being rather than with any sexualized intentions.

It’s really nice to appreciate whatever you’re seeing, just because you’re seeing it.

Appreciate the experience just because it’s your experience, right here, right now.

No need to judge.  Just let it be.

Thank you 🙂

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What Really Matters?

I used to think that showing love and compassion to all life was one of the most important decisions we can make as individuals.

I still think that 🙂

I used to think that one of the most fundamental ways to show compassion and love to all life was by not unnecessarily killing or harming them.

I still think that 🙂

I used to think that eating animals was the cruelest decisions a person could make.

I no longer think that.  Hooray!

…………………………………………………

The act of eating animals, particularly using hard-earned dollars to purchase slain animal flesh is participating in a structure grounded in violence towards innocent beings.  Not cool.

Yet, thanks to Guru Nayan, I’ve realized there are much less cool things to do than eat animals.

Also, as a friend relayed a message to me from Meher Baba, an individual who took a vow of silence for the last 42 years of his life, when his disciples asked him about eating animals, he communicated, with hand gestures, something along the lines of, “It matters not so much what goes into the mouth, but what comes out of it.”

More important than the decisions we make, it’s how we make those decisions.  The quality of our consciousness and experience of life matters more than simple objective decisions.  Granted, I think choosing vegetarianism or veganism will generally return a higher quality of consciousness, but that is not always the case.  More important than what goes into the body, is what comes out.   And along with coming out of the mouth, equally if not more significant are the thoughts in the mind, for they often move the body and shape our reality.

……

Life is not about condemning people.  And it’s not about condemning behavior.  We live the way we choose to live and make the decisions we make based upon our experience.  I’ve been fortunate enough to have some totally awesome experience, meet some great people, and read some fantastically inspiring words that have moved me to make the vegan choice.  Others have not been so fortunate.  Same thing applies for other habits that I’m abundantly grateful for, like meditation and yoga and juggling and mindfulness.

When you find yourself making elevated decisions compared to another being, you can take a several different approaches to the situation.  Two of the most powerful approaches, I think, are Jesus’ “Forgive them Father for they know not what they do,” a response of compassion.  The other powerful response is one of curiosity, seeking to understanding. “Judge not.”

And really, the key always is just to LOVE THE FLIP out of whatever the Present Moment offers you.  Love it no matter what.  That’s what unconditional love is all about.  Even if you use see another perhaps participating in an institution of violence, love them.  No matter what, choose love.

The choice of love manifests in prioritizing the quality of consciousness you experience in the Present Moment.  Are you aware of the presence of happiness, joy, peace, lightness, ease, connection?  If you are, good work.  Can you feel the heart?  Heart-centered power provides a strong foundation for all action.

……..

The lesson is a hard one to learn, and perhaps takes a lesson, but the key is unconditional love.  And if there’s one quality we’d most definitely ascribe to God, isn’t it unconditional loving?  So by striving towards unconditional love, we are striving towards realizing the divine potential within ourselves.

……

Story time!

When i first arrived at Guru Nayan’s a few weeks ago, he was eating meat.  And he still eats meat.  And i would kind of give him a hard time about.  Occasionally, i’d even challenge him so much about the choice that it made me feel on edge.  The words i spoke created a tension in the environment and shifted the vibration from one of peace and love to judgment, and maybe sprinkles of pride, anger, and fear too.

A few days after arriving, this body started feeling ehhhhhhhhh.  Not good.  Stuffy nose, and later a cough, intense congestion, and heat.   Not the best feeling.  So i was sick!

And what did Guru Nayan do, after me bothering him about his meat-eating preference and giving him a hard time?  And how did he do it?  He cared for my well-being, with acceptance and love and compassion.  He did whatever he could to help me recover, and even encouraged me to heal myself as quickly as possibly by eating the foods that i believed were best for recovery, aka carrot juice, bananas, and hemp seeds 🙂

Once i became sick and he started caring for me, i no longer concerned myself with his choice to eat meat.  i was more concerned with me.  The intention was clear for healing.  And i realized that even if Nayan participated in a violent institution, he still practiced compassion towards my own being and cared for me.  Whereas i previously demonstrated compassion towards animals by choosing veganism, i lacked the practice of compassion towards Nayan, and instead stirred discomfort around his food preferences.

…..

What’s more important, how we care for people or how we care for animals?  Considering humans have immense creative capacity in comparison to animals, it makes sense that perhaps human life is a bit more significant.  If I had to choose between saving the life of a human or the life of a dog, i’d probably choose the human every time…although ultimately i’d rather plead the 5th and save all lives, all the time.  I think it’s best not to participate in violence towards any species, to love all of life no matter what and care for all life.  Meanwhile, if you practice compassion towards animals but not towards people, that sounds a bit backwards.  Love unconditionally, no matter what.

And this also brings up the question of tough love, or a love that challenges individuals and spurs growth.  Still not sure where i stand on the issue of potentially ‘being a jerk’ to shake someone out of their comfort zone and inspire change for the better.  Intentionally creating a bit of tension to stir higher consciousness towards habitual decisions sounds like a reasonable thing to do, but it also sounds reasonable to strive for peacefulness and joyfulness as much as possible, all the time.  Who knows!  (Any comments on resolving this dilemma would be much appreciated :-))

………

Care for humans.  Care for animals.  Care for Life!  Love life in all it’s forms.  This certainly brings Peace.  There are few worse feelings than judging another and creating a sense of superiority.  Ultimately, who really knows anything?  We’re all just guessing and doing what we believe is best for us, based on our experience.  Different experience leads to different behavioral choices.  “Nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so,” as Shakespeare likes to say.  Or, as the hip hop artist Rocco sagaciously shared, “You just do you, Umma do me!”  And by Umma, he meant “I’m going to.”  You just do you, I’m going to do me.  Meanwhile, love it all and appreciate the positive qualities.  No use in dwelling on the negatives.

…..

Also, the time for living your ideals is now.  No need to wait to be in a particular environment or master certain knowledge or skills to start realizing your Heaven on Earth and becoming more conscious and aware and practicing what you believe to be best.  Experiment with life!  I say this because i’m strongly moved to live at an ashram or spiritual community or zen center, whatever it may be, and part of greatly looks forward to living in a community of people all practicing Present Moment Awareness, mindfulness, meditation, and yoga.  The peer effect, the way people in our environment rub off on us and positively or negatively influence us, that effect is super powerful.  Meanwhile, if you truly believe in something, you don’t have to wait to be in that environment to start practicing it.  The time to practice is NOW! 🙂

In all matters, Hallelujah!  And thank you, thank you, thank you.  p.s. Abundance! 😉

Introverted and Extroverted Meditation

In the evenings, i go on an hour long walk or so.  This walk is along a street that many cars drive on and sometimes there are fellow walkers out and about as well.  If i’m super fortunate, there will even be a rabbit or two munching away on some grass.  Ahh, precious moments observing life 🙂

Over the past week, I’ve been reading a book called The Science of Self-Realization.  It’s written by the same person who translated one of those most popular version of the Bhagavad Gita.  Anyway, his whole message is very simply, a flippin’ love the simplicity of it!  All he basically says, over and over again, in so many different ways, is “chant the name of the Lord.”  Specifically, he recommends that everyone chants, “Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare / Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”  It’s an awesome chant, and on the walk I often chant it while i’m in free open air.  Chanting any names or ideas associated with God will likely return good feelings, and isn’t that what we all want anyway?  Feel good 🙂

Alas, despite the good feelings generated by this chant, just yesterday I realized that the chant, at least for me, generates more of an introverted feeling.  It doesn’t necessarily make me want to engage in the world so much as transcend to some other level.  I think this sort of chanting / meditation is good especially when one is sitting or with a group of people all doing it.  But when you’re by yourself, walking on the street, potentially engaging fellow walkers, the space it reveals isn’t quite the most outgoing vibe.  If that makes any sense…

So, for the 2nd half of the walk yesterday, instead of chanting the Hare Krsna Chant, also known as the maha mantra, I decided to chant something along the lines of, “I love you and I’m grateful for you, thank you, thank thank you!”  I would chant this while looking all around me, directing the energy towards people in passing cars, fellow walks, trees, and blades of grass.  All forms of life received a bit of this abundant energy 🙂  I consider this type of chant more extroverted because it consists in training the mind in creating a healthy relationship with all that is in the world.  Instead of concentrating on building my own relationship with the Divinity Within, allows me to focus on building my relationship with the Divinity Beyond.  Of course, the Yin-Yang is ultimately one, so I think loving God in the world helps us love God in ourselves, and loving God in ourselves helps us love God in the world.  The point being that…when you’re in the world, you might as well focus on loving God in the world 🙂  And when you’re sitting in meditation or prayer, connect with that Divinity Within…abundantly!

Meditation seems to serve a dual purpose then, and actually it probably serves infinite purposes.  On one level, it helps us appreciate the gifts we’ve been given.  Sitting with your eyes closed, you can start to feel really good, just as a result of becoming more conscious and aware of that abundance of goodness that is within.  In the world, walking, you can also start to feel really good, just by sending out all that pure energy inside and giving it freely to the world.

Either way, it sounds like a win to me 🙂  And the best part about this type of win is that there is really no competition…so everybody wins!

 

Abundantly, thank you 🙂

Always Preparing

Imagine you’re going to be in Heaven soon.  Yet, Heaven won’t be all so heavenly until you fully adapt to the way of living there.  There’s probably going to be a ton of singing and dancing and laughing.  If you’re not used to that sort of lifestyle, adjusting to it, however heavenly it might, could be a real pain.  At least, in the short-term, you’d like experience some pain adjusting.

Even in Heaven there, you can imagine there being certain disciplines.  However much you might like playing on the computer or watching television, in Heaven it’s kind of been agreed upon that those activities aren’t the most wholesome or best for everyone.  So, those heavenly officials cut off the internet and the cable.  Even movies, gone.  What!!! No movies?  What kind of crazy Heaven is this?

A friend I’ve been staying with, who I like to call Guru Nayan, talks a lot about non-harm.  Elsewhere I’ve read Ahimsa paramo dharma, or non-violence as the supreme virtue.  Part of me thinks that non-harm or non-violence isn’t really all that supreme, because it doesn’t imply any positive action.  It’s sort of like a neutral state of “Live and let live.”  Yet, to fully live a non-harmful and non-violent lifestyle I think could be a supreme way of living.  Beyond practicing non-harm towards all forms of life by refusing to think unkind thoughts or take violent actions, you can also extend non-violence to your relationship with planet earth.  Even right now, I feel like I might be responsible for a bit of harm to the planet, using this computer and the electricity it demands puts out a bit of pollution that can harm both the planet and individual forms of life.  So then, when we use electricity are we breaking the principle of non-violence/non-harm?

Perhaps renunciation is such a high virtue in some cultures because it is letting go of concern for yourself and embracing selfless service to humanity, the universe, and to your present moment however it calls upon you.

And…back to non-harm/non-violence…what about walking on the grass?  Is that inflicting pain upon another living entity?  Perhaps grass is resilient and endures lots of pressure upon it.  And I think more than the weight we put on the grass is the intention that we carry in our step.  Firstly, are we aware of the life that is in the grass?  Do we respect the grass and appreciate it for being with us?  Secondly, do we intend peace upon the grass, or are we carrying peace in our hearts with us in the present moment?  If our minds are wandering and dwelling on the past or fearing the future, that ripples out to negatively impact our environment, including the grass we walk on.  If instead we are present, filling our consciousness with love and gratitude for the abundance of gifts and wonders before us, then that too ripples out, this time in a more positive way.  Thich Nhat Hanh talks about massaging the earth with your feet.  Imagine!  By walking on the earth, you are a masseuse, enhancing the comfort of that which is underneath you.  Nothing like filling every step with conscious care.

In many ways, it seems like completely escaping violence in our lives might be impossible.  At the very least though, we can certainly do what we can to minimize the violence that we’re responsible for.  Conscious use electricity, consciously eat healthy foods in a compassionate way, maybe even consciously walk and massage the earth with your feet.  Who knows!

And now I remember the title of this post!

I recently applied join an ashram, the abundant community of Yogaville!  And I’ve basically spent the past week just waiting to hear a response.  The waiting has stirred a bit of anxiety and an abundance of introspection and question and clarity.  In many ways, I feel like joining the community is sort of like joining a community of Heaven on Earth.   When I first went there for yoga teacher training, at least that’s what it felt like.

So to join this Heaven on Earth community, I realized I’ve got to prepare myself!  Practice, practice, practice.  Ultimately, who really cares how many books we’ve read?  But what does enhance the quality of everyone’s life is our level of consciousness and awareness and the way we live.  Our practice in the art of living is what really benefits everyone.

Prior to applying to the ashram, I’ve been placing a huge emphasis on learning, meanwhile forgetting to practice.  Since applying, however, I reconnected with the Yoga Sutras, and one of the first sentences in the book says, “Practice is the most important factor in Yoga.”  It’s not about what you know, but how you live, how you love, how you give.

Perhaps a key here is balance.  Reading a bit each day does help center the mind and maintain focus on what matters most.  We’ve got to feed the mind and spirit as well as the body.  And maybe you can tell a lot about a person by looking at which aspect of themselves they choose to ‘feed’ first.  Since applying to Yogaville, I’ve been returning to the practice of feeding the spirit first, then the mind, and then the body.

Anyway…so much for clarity 😉  Maybe I’m just wondering…what’s the point of studying and learning anything if you don’t allow it to shift your behaviors in a positive way?  Behavioral change is why we learn, right?  Study so that we can live better, more fulfilling, useful, lives.   And it seems common  that we often discount the gifts that were freely bestowed upon us at birth, including the mind, body, and that beautiful spirit, when in reality these are almost definitely the most abundant of all the gifts we’ve been given!  And that’s one thing I love about Yogaville – a community build around a Guru, a Renunciate, a Swami.  And Swamis today are in many ways the most esteemed of all the people there.  Such a beautiful thing when a person realizes fully that the best things in life are free, and so they choose to give up all the things in the world so that they may have what is truly most valuable – that special quality of consciousness which is aware of God, Goodness, Love, Peace, Joy, Bliss, Truth…all that good stuff in abundance 🙂

Regardless of the outcome of joining the ashram or not, I’m grateful to have even applied and to have been given this opportunity of waiting. It’s most definitely spurred abundant amounts of introspection, reflection, and clarity, and it has helped me re-align with what really matters.

I’ve heard a few people say Peace of Mind is the Highest Goal.  Well, a few things I know help me experience Peace.  One is thinking of Peace and/or any elevating thought.  Two is by engaging in universal acts, simple activities like walking, talking, breathing, smiling, laughing, juggling, prayer.  No need to complicate things.  The mind is complicated enough!

“The last great unexplored continent,” the human mind, so says Earl Nightingale.  The process of simplifying is super liberating and a little terrifying.  What will I do without my things?  Ah, well I guess I’ll get to know more abundantly the treasures within.

Well then, that might be enough harm to the environment today.  God willing the ripple effects of this post outweighed the cost of the pollution! 🙂  If not, and either way, I’ m grateful for unconditional forgiveness…Hallelujah!

 

 

 

Less is More

LOL. I love the expectancy and positive behavioral change awaiting the possibility of joining a spiritual community brings about.

Here I find myself deleting that might even mildly be considered illegal or pirated or stolen on the computer.

Also finding myself throwing away the iPod.   Don’t concern yourself with this though, giving it away would be more of an insult to someone than anything else, as it only works when being plugged in and also doesn’t have a functioning backlight so the screen is always dim.

Essentially, thanks to Guru Nayan who I’ve been living with recently, and to the entire universe and all Reality conspiring to help me :-), i realized that (hoping, hoping, fingers crossed ;-))  the Highest Truth and Good and the Greatest State of Being is all attainable without learning anything else.  Especially while reading this book written by a leader of the Hare Krsna movement, he makes it clear that simply chanting the mantra for a week will produce profound spiritual transformation and you will be very pleased with the progress.

So I realize, what if the answer to everything has been right in front of us the whole time?  Or better yet, what if it’s in us?  It’s not about reading any books or earning any advanced degrees…those things certainly help serve humanity…but ultimately it’s about spiritual wakefulness, self-knowledge, tuning into the truth that is you.  Know Thyself, as the Greeks like to say.

What is really inside us?  Do we ever give ourselves the opportunity to discover the truth of our being and our innermost nature?  Or do we constantly look in the world for the answer?  Why are we so afraid to go within, and just sit, and keep on sit, or maybe walk, and keep on walking?  What stops us from truly practicing self-inquiry and looking within for the answers to all of life’s problems?

In so many ways, I’m addicted to learning.  But, thanks to the encouragement of Guru Nayan and the Yoga Sutras, I realize that the most important ideas come down to a few basic truths that can easily be held in three books.  Everything else is filler, and useful, but really if you’re highly tuned in and connected with the basic truths, there’s not a need for much more.  If anyone is to fully embrace one truth all the time, all of us would know in an instant just by the sheer presence and radiance of the person.

I’ve been doing a lot of book reading recently, but every now and then I reflect back on the life experience I’ve had up to this point and realize how much more infinitely valuable that is than any book.  “Experience is the mother of all wisdom,” a proverb I learned from a brainteaser book.  Maybe that should be one of the three books I keep… 😉

The mantra of the unhappy world is “More, more, more!”  Something I first heard from Eckhart Tolle, quite possible an audio recording of a retreat he led that I might have pirated!  Alas, I think it’s worth sharing.  The answer is almost never more, but always less.  Yet, easy to say and hard to live by.

So here’s to less words and more living 🙂

Thank you!!!

 

p.s.  Books are good.  Experience in the three-dimensional world might be more useful for realizing God.

Healing

Recently this physical body (in ordinary speak, “I” ;-))  acquired a bit of a sickness consisting of initially a stuffy nose, then coughing up some mucus, and last night a super-raging headache.

The illness progressed for a few days, and apparently “I” didn’t care enough about healing to make better decisions regarding what foods went into the body.  Eating unhealthy foods is a sure way to promote disease.  And for some reason ,that’s what happened.  I’m not one to buy any unhealthy foods, but when they are offered for free it’s challenging to say no.  Then again, what would life be without such challenges? 😉  And rising above the lower self temptation and saying “no” to cookies is a pretty awesome feeling.  For better or for worse though, cookies were consumed along with an abundance of string cheese (or perhaps excess!)  and the illness grew worse.

Only once I really started feeling terrible did I decide that it was time to forget about lower self desires and align with what the Higher Self knows is best for the body, mind, heart, and spirit.  So I said hello to carrot juice, bananas, and the long lost friend hemp seeds.  Ah, so good to have hemp seeds back in life.

Within just one day of welcoming healthier foods into the body, I noticed awesome improvements in well being.

Essentially the pain amounted to such a point when I decided I could no longer continue putting garbage into the body.  The Higher Self’s desire for healing trumped the lower self craving for sugars and salts and fats.

And now that I’m feeling 1000% better (which is actually only 10x better…let’s say 10,000% better :-))  I can still hear a voice saying, “Great!  Now you can go back to cookies and cheese and all of those tasty treats.”  The voice will likely linger for a while.  And maybe the voice will be satisfied.  It always comes down to the question, “How badly do you want it?”  How badly do you want to feel abundantly healthy and happy?

After enough pain / illness / sickness / disease, I reached a point where I was finally willing to return to healthier ways and treating the mind/body with more compassion.  I decided that I wanted long-term health and short-term feeling clear and light and loving over the short-term taste sensation.  And, wonderfully, banana hemp seed smoothies also taste amazingly delicious.

When you want something badly enough, you’re willing to make changes for it, and you’re willing to deny that voice which maybe craves something in the short-term that doesn’t favor your long-term prosperity and flourishing.

Choosing Health over disease is fairly easy to understand, yet I wonder how else we can be tempted by the short-term pleasure of the long-term fulfillment.  And, as I look at the space in front of me, I see it is rather cluttered and disorganized.  Guess it’s time to invest in the long-term orderliness of this abundant apartment and get cleaning 🙂

 

p.s. Abundantly, thank you!