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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Census Sense

We received our government census the other day, and as I sat and filled it out, a very odd feeling came over me. Our government; why do they want, and pretend to need, this information? Is it really any of their business who lives in our home? Why do they need to know the precise, full names of me, my husband -- my children -- our exact ages, and birth dates?

Answers required by law? That seems a bit creepy, all by itself.

But then, the only other piece of information they want is the color of our skin. What does that have to do with anything?

Oh, I know they divide it up into nationalities – for some – but is that better? Does it matter what country our great-great grandparents came from? Does that rationalize the question somehow?

With this information -- that five “white” people live in our home – what are they going to do? Is it going to determine whether our area gets money, or services? If our parents were Hispanic, would that make a difference? Seriously, people are people – do we count more or less because of this information?

And – hear me out, I’m ranting now -- can I complain about calling a skin color “white” – nobody really has “white” skin, just like nobody really has “black” skin.

As I pondered this aloud, my youngest daughter said “Why do they care what color your skin is? What does it matter? -- they should ask you what color your eyes are – or what is your favorite color.”

That made me smile; and gives me hope. Maybe – someday soon, just maybe – forms like these, they’ll include in their “race” selection a box simply marked “HUMAN” -- for those of us trying to erase those illusions of separateness.



Tuesday, March 9, 2010

What Do You Believe?

One of the many great things about teaching yoga and yogic philosophy is that it forces me to figure out what it is I actually believe.

So many of us have been taught certain things about life (or Life!); about God; about ourselves. Growing up, we took this information in as fact, and never looked back. Never explored or pondered. As my mother says, most of us are whatever religion our parents are, mostly because of where and when we were born. Most of us are raised thinking in a certain way; observing certain rituals and holidays; and we stick with that system our entire lives.

Truly: Have you chosen the way you worship and attune to the Divine power of the Universe? Do you even really believe in a single, omniscient being? Or have your beliefs, your rituals, your methods of worship been chosen for you?

I think about this often, because I’m still figuring out my relationship with God. It is continually evolving; and it’s quite different than it used to be.

>I’m also trying to figure out what I believe, and what I don’t. Which is what I love about yoga. Yoga doesn’t say “believe this” -- it says “read and study; then go inside, be quiet; and figure it out.”

Using the “G” word often brings up the image of a big, white guy with a flowing white beard and robe. The old image in my own mind must have come from a painting I saw as a child, because I also see Him with one arm outstretched toward me.

Depending on how my self-image was on that day, He could appear to be offering help; or about to give me a slap upside the head.

In that old mode of thinking, I felt that anything difficult or uncomfortable that happened to me was a punishment. It felt safe to wallow in that misery, to wear the mantle of a “sinner.” Just trying to bear my junk with enough dignity to somehow be washed clean by that suffering.

I’m so over that.

In Kriya Yoga we would say that when things go wrong; when horrible things occur; it’s karma. It’s not a punishment; God is not the purveyor of evil; it’s the law of cause and effect. A way to learn.

What do you believe?

In our school of yogic philosophy, we believe in reincarnation. I have memories of past lives, have met people and had too much of a deep connection for there not to have been some type of past relationship. That’s my personal experience.

What do you believe?

In Kriya Yoga, there is one God and we recognize that we are also divine beings; with a spark of spirit within us that is actually a part of that Mother/Father God. Have you felt the spark of divinity, that brief feeling of complete oneness?

What do you believe?

We believe that as humans, we have just enough free will to dig ourselves a really big hole during these incarnations; or possibly live, learn and move on.

What do you believe?

Do the prayers you speak, the rituals you conduct and participate in – are they feeding you soul? Are you tuned in, connected – feeling it? Figuring it out? Recognizing your body as a temple; your mind as your servant and not your master; your spirit as eternal, unchanging?

Do you feel that you are a spiritual being having a human experience, instead of the other way round?

If not – then it’s time to figure it out; as Kriyananda says “you must graduate from this kindergarten” and by that he means life on Earth.

Figure out what it is you have come here to learn; what you need to evolve; how can you become a gift to the world. Figure out what you believe; what symbols are meaningful to you; what prayers, what songs. What is your spiritual ideal? The highest of high for you?

How are you going to conduct yourself in this life? What connects you to your highest and best self?

I will close with one of my favorite quotes, from Robert Wilkinson of the astrology website A very eloquent creed for us all.

“Love God, love each other, tell the truth, love your past, love your present, love your future, love your friends, love your enemies, love the plants, love the animals, love the angels, love the children, and above all else, love yourself for the spark of Divine Love that you are, always have been, and always will be. You are Love without measure or limit. You are the mystery, the truth, and the light. You are God’s love made manifest.

Live that, and be free.”

All credit to Robert, for that beautiful creed for living. To that, I say, “Amen” or maybe, “Aum.”



Thursday, March 4, 2010

Star Wars/Clone Wars Quotations

As promised in the previous blog . . .

Clone Wars Episode Quotations: Season 1:

Great leaders inspire greatness in others.

Belief is not a matter of choice, but of conviction.

Easy is the path to wisdom for those not blinded by themselves.

A plan is only as good as those who see it through.

The best confidence builder is experience.

Trust in your friends and they will have a reason to trust in you.

You hold onto your friends by keeping your heart a little softer than your head.

Heroes are made by the times.

Ignore your instincts at your peril.

More powerful is he who controls his own power.

The winding path to peace is always a worthy one, regardless of how many turns it takes.

Fail with honor rather than succeed by fraud.

Greed and fear of loss are the roots that lead to the tree of evil.

When surrounded by a war, one must eventually choose a side.

Arrogance diminishes wisdom.

Truth enlightens the mind, but won’t always bring happiness to your heart.

Fear is a disease; hope is its only cure.

A single chance is a galaxy of hope.

It is a rough road that leads to the heights of greatness.

The cost of war can never be truly accounted for.

Compromise is a virtue to be cultivated, not a weakness to be despised.

A secret shared is a trust formed.

The Yoda "Sutras" (credit my friend Ginny)
Great quotations from the original films . . . .

“What’s in there?” “Only what you take with you.”

“Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try.”

“Death is a natural part of life. Rejoice for those who transform into the Force. Mourn them do not. Miss them do not. Attachment leads to jealousy. The shadow of greed, that is.”

“The fear of loss is a path to the dark side.”

“Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.”

“Much anger there is in him. Too much pride in his powers.”

“A Jedi must have the deepest commitment, the most serious mind . . . . . All his life he has looked away – to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. Hmmm? What he was doing. Hmph. Adventure. Heh. Excitement. Heh. A Jedi craves not these things.”

“For my ally is the Force. And a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. The force surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you. Here, between you, me, the tree, the rock … everywhere!”

“Through the Force, things you will see. Other places. The future …. the past …. old friends long gone.”

“Control, control. You must learn control.”

“When you look at the dark side, careful you must be … for the dark side looks back.”

“Honor life by living.”

Reference: Wookieepedia

Yoga and Yoda

True story: last week I received a telephone call from a man from the SheVaCon Convention; it’s a convention for science fiction fans; it’s actually rather large, and it is held annually in our town.

The gentleman asked if I could step in and teach a yoga class during the convention; the instructor they had lined up was no longer available. Because their celebrity for this particular convention was actor Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca from the Star Wars movies), they were calling the yoga class “Yoga with Yoda.” (I know -- mental eye roll).

Actually, the most amusing part of the conversation was that he asked my rate for the two-hour class; I told him $50 an hour, which is actually less than the regular rate. He conferred with an associate, came back on the line and said “That’s a little more than we have budgeted.” “How much do you have in the budget for the class?” I inquired. “Actually” he said, “nothing -- we’d like you to volunteer.”

In the end he did find some money in the budget to offer to pay for the class; and I could not teach it because of my schedule. The more I thought about it, though, the more ideas of how to link Yoga and Yoda came into my mind.

It’s pretty easy to make a connection between the Star Wars stories and yoga. Particularly references to “the Force.” As Yoda says “The Force surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.”

The stories also speak to yogic concepts through the continual struggle between the dark and the light. To choose the easy way out -- to find pleasure in power and acquiring; or to go the way of peace and non-attachment. Look to The Bhagavad Gita, translation by Eknath Easwaran, for more on that.

These concepts are even more deeply explored in the current animated series The Clone Wars. These shows air weekly on the Cartoon Network, and though I began watching them because of my younger two children, I look forward to the episodes each week.

I do have my quarrels with some of the ½ hour shows; they can be quite violent. There is a lot of blasting, slashing, and exploding. Along with occasional torture and cruelty. And the animators must all be men, because though the male Jedi are outfitted with full-coverage, swashbuckling-type outfits, the women Jedi are almost always half-dressed.

When it comes to civilian females, it seems that bras have yet to be discovered in the Outer Rim.

The flip side of that is that they also represent women as strong and powerful; as equals to men, and sometimes superior. Storylines often have women in powerful political positions. There are concepts discussed such as honor, loyalty, forgiveness, and non-violence.

Many episodes bring up issues that are arising in our own current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They bring up the divide between the people who give the orders, and the people required to carry them out. They aren’t afraid to show the high cost of war; good guys die along with the bad guys. Sometimes the line between the good guys and bad guys is blurry, indeed.

There is an interesting thread running through the stories about how certain rights are relinquished for the leaders to keep the peace, or at least work in that direction. Not too far into the future, we may be thinking that these stories might not be from a galaxy far, far away, but from a very small planet called Earth.

My favorite part of each episode is a quotation that gives you an insight to the story line. My sweet daughter copied them down for me from one of her books; and I’ll list them on a separate post, along with some other great yogic Star Wars quotations from the movie series.

Read through them, and ponder. Each one is very relevant, and probably will always be.


Uttara Yoga Studio, LLC. Blog design by Jessica Hedrick