Emotional Stability

“If our emotional stability is based on what other people do or do not do, then we have no stability. If our emotional stability is based on love that is changeless and unalterable, then we attain the stability of God.” 
― Marianne Williamson

Is it within our reach?

Where do our emotions come from? They are mysterious to us, arriving out of nowhere, like a tsunami. They overwhelm us and capsize our normal behavioral functions. We become unable to predict our actions, and we feel lost.

Then we open ourselves to a new meditative practice. Almost instantly we become aware that the mysterious emotions we possess are not so mysterious after all. They are the result ofSamscara, sanskrit for "the ruts of the mind." We have an associative experience with some aspect of an emotional scar from long ago. The entire trauma replays in our mind and body uncontrollably. If we are able to observe this experience dispassionately and not become overwhelmed, we can see that nothing in the present is really happening. We are treating ourselves to an emotional bummer over something long past, nothing appropriate for the present moment.

After we have been meditating awhile, the samscara softens gradually, and we are able to heal old scars. Not only that, but new experiences tend not to wound us in the same way. Our ego has lost some of its control over our inner narrative, and we see things in a different light.

We have demonstrated to ourselves and to our ego that we don't have to succumb to overreaction and drama. We can step around the puddles in our path because we see them clearly. Although we will occasionally slip, and have old habitual negative reactions to life's ups and downs, these incidents are less intense and frequent than before.

We can have emotional stability and even happiness. We will discover that these are our birthright.

Where does our food come from? Part three

Seed Saving

We as free citizens can play a huge part in preserving what is left of the world's biodiversity by engaging in the practice of seed-saving. The war being waged against conservation and self determination of the small farmer is real, and it's being advanced every day by companies like Monsanto with deep legal pockets and immense lobbying power on both sides of the aisle in Congress.

Seed savers and seed banks do their parts to save biodiversity, but we can, too. Seed Savers is a non-profit organization that promotes the preservation of heirloom varieties. http://www.seedsavers.org/ 
We can support and donate to them. We can buy organic, raise crops ourselves, and save the seeds or exchange them with others. Food can be grown in pots or buckets, in backyards, or on city terraces and windowsills. Seeds can be scattered in vacant lots. http://webecoist.momtastic.com/2010/01/30/urban-seed-bombs-next-generation-green-ballistic-missiles/ Anywhere that sunlight meets soil, we can raise healthy food.

Our children and grandchildren deserve to eat real food just as we do. We as meditators can execute our dharma to the earth and others, and to consciousness itself by aiding nature when we can.

There is an excellent film on seed saving: Seed: The Untold Story .http://www.seedthemovie.com/

If you think in terms of a year, plant a seed; if in terms of ten years, plant trees; if in terms of 100 years, teach the people. Confucius

Into the Unknown

This is where all growth occurs

Evolution happens. We are going to grow. Our level of willingness to embrace this fact can create an atmosphere of resistance and fear, or of ease. The choice is always ours.

A life changing event, such as a move, can generate stress and anxiety in some individuals. It can create an overwhelming reaction of panic when one sees the coming logistics and required number of tasks as a monolithic block, impossible to tackle. This is obviously not the most effective approach to take.

An easier and more accurate view of the event is to a series of smaller, more manageable tasks that are performed in the now, without struggling with the overview. One can use knowledge of the "bigger picture" to keep oneself on track, but each sub-task is much more enjoyable when full attention and presence is devoted to it. The work gets done more completely, more easily, without fretting over speculation and self-recrimination.

How is this presence possible? We meditate regularly. We spend our time in positive action rather than getting mired in speculative fantasy. It is possible to enjoy even the most seemingly mundane task when we perform it with full commitment and deliberation.

The joy of work well done is nature's gift to us, and our gift to the world and ourselves.

When you are present without the conditioning of your past you become the presence of God.
-Eckhart Tolle

The Gentle art of Consistency

Try again, and again, and again

When we learned meditation, our teacher said something like: "There is only one thing about this practice that is non-negotiable. Twenty minutes, twice a day, get to the chair. Whatever happens, happens for good." 

In that moment, our teachers were stressing that we are not encouraged to judge the quality of our meditations. The emphasis was to be taken off of achievement. We were to simply sit with the intention to effortlessly repeat the mantra.

Inevitably though, a student will forget these simple instructions and try to complicate things. This is when repeated interaction with one's teacher is of most use. This can be in a group setting, at a Vedic knowledge meeting, or one-on-one meeting with the teacher, even by telephone or skype. It is recommended to check in with others that meditate and compare notes.

As a teacher of Vedic meditation, I have made a commitment to each of my students to be available for life. They can call at any time, and I will address their questions or concerns. It is my pleasure and my dharma to do so.

If you have learned to meditate and feel that you need a restart, don't feel ashamed. Just call, and your teacher will give you some gentle but insistent instruction on how to get going again. We all fall short at times; we would hardly be human if we didn't. When this happens we simply try again.

We refer to meditation as a practice, not a perfect.

“It's not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives. It's what we do consistently.” 
― Anthony Robbins

Self Forgiveness

Southwest view of the Siskiyou Mountains, Rogue Valley, Southern Oregon.

Southwest view of the Siskiyou Mountains, Rogue Valley, Southern Oregon.

Why I took four months off

I recently made the non-decision to abandon my duties as a blogger and newsletter writer. This can happen to us humans. I wanted to offer my readers real and tangible help and inspiration in the wake of a divisive and polarizing political election. I chose to let my ego hijack a worthy endeavor instead of reaching out to my friends and students. The reasons are these: perfectionism and procrastination.

Perfectionism
The illusion of perfection is seductive and pervasive. This is the slippery slope upon which the perfect becomes the enemy of the good. This is the reason some of us abandon our creative goals and duties and engage in unhealthy wallowing and self-recrimination.

Procrastination
If I don't acknowledge fully that a situation exists, I get the dubious benefit of stasis. I enter into the ever-repeating known, putting off even the slightest progress toward a desired outcome. If I try, I might fail. What does this say about me? Why do I waste time justifying my own behavior?

The Apology
Here it is. I really do appreciate anyone who takes the time to read these newsletters. It is my commitment going forward to knock them out on a regular basis. I fell off the horse. Now I am riding again. I extend my most sincere apologies and pledge to make amends by taking corrective action.

When we fall short, as humans do, we try again. The only sins we are guilty of are lack of forgiveness and the punishment of inertia.

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won't have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren't even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they're doing it.” 
― Anne LamottBird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

The Mosaic House, Venice, California

The Mosaic House, Venice, California

Martin Luther King's Tactics

Civil Rights, Non-violence

King is the only home-grown native son in our illustrious list of heroes, and the most famous in the West, but nonetheless offers us useful lessons.
 
He was a black American leader in an era that saw immense hatred, vitriol, and enmity against his people. In the “Jim Crow South,” prejudice was abetted by the racial scapegoating that bubbled beneath the surface of America’s growing prosperity. Blacks in America fought in the integrated armed forces defending our freedom, only to return as veterans to a lower class status and segregation in their homeland. Post-slavery America was, and continues to be to this day, a white male dominated social structure. In the late fifties and early sixties, this racial tension came to a head.
 
King was inspired by leaders like Gandhi and increasingly employed his tactics in a surprisingly effective fashion. We will focus on the 1955 incident in Montgomery Alabama, the “Montgomery Bus Boycott.”
 
On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger on a city bus. Leaflets were distributed to black citizens calling for a one day citywide boycott of the bus system. This went so well that the leaders extended the boycott. The Dexter Avenue Baptist Church Reverend King was elected president of a newly formed organization, MIA (the Montgomery Improvement Association). He committed to further organize the boycott.
 
Montgomery’s response to MIA demands was to cut service to “most negro districts.” King responded by organizing carpools. Black cab drivers started charging ten cents for rides in defiance of a city enforced minimum of a forty-five cent fare. Throughout this protracted battle, King was arrested picking up riders in his car, received daily death threats by phone, and saw his home bombed. Angry crowds gathered outside his home, but King pled for his followers to adhere to his stated principles of non-violence.

After an intense back and forth debate with city officials over many meetings, the MIA did not concede any of its demands. They lost many battles but ultimately won the war. In the end, Montgomery realized that integration would be good for business. One by one, city officials conceded. Legally, Jim Crow would recede on both a national and a local level. 
 
On December 21, 1956, over one year after Rosa Parks’ arrest, Montgomery City Lines resumed full service on all routes. King was among the first passengers to seat himself in the former white section.
 
King traveled to India in 1959. He met with the Gandhi family, as well as Prime Minister Nehru. Later King preached on the significance of Gandhi’s 1928 salt march and his fast to end discrimination against India’s untouchables. King ultimately believed that the Gandhian approach of nonviolent resistance would ‘‘bring about a solution to the race problem in America’’ (Papers 4:355).*
 
King observed that only by steadfastly adhering to nonviolent principles was real progress toward liberation possible.
 
Be like Martin.

The Journey of Leymah Gbowee

Trauma healing, peace-building

We have abundant potential within us, and all of nature to guide us as we navigate through the world.

Leymah Gbowee was seventeen when the First Liberian Civil War broke out in 1989. As a native of Liberia, she suffered major privations and hardships at the hand of brutal soldiers from Samuel Doe's ruling government, only to face worse conditions at the hand of former government minister Charles Taylor, who ousted him. She survived as a refugee, fleeing to Ghana when rebel forces took the city of Monrovia. Her family scattered, and her home looted and destroyed, she was witness to countless atrocities at a very young age. She married a serial abuser and bore four children. The abuse she suffered at his hand informed her later activism and led directly to honing her skills as a social worker and Women's Rights advocate.

Trauma healing
Leymah volunteered at a program at St. Peter's Lutheran Church called the Trauma Healing and Reconciliation Program (THRP). They were tasked with repairing the country's considerable collective psyche of damage caused by the war. One of Gbowee's first assignments was working with children who had been employed as soldiers in Charles Taylor's army. These boys, some as young as five, had been forced to carry and use weapons. They were taught to murder, to take alcohol and drugs, and to recruit others. It was in the process of helping these seemingly hopeless boys learn to heal that Gbowee formulated what she later used as the basis for political change. She realized if change were to come to Liberia, it would be at the hands of its women.

Peace-building
Gbowee later joined WIPNET, an acronym for Women in Peacebuilding Network. She led a contingent of Liberians from all classes to fragile peace talks in Ghana, which had bogged down in the egotistical torpor of the exclusively male leaders. She staged a sit in blocking the glass doors of the exclusive hotel's meeting room. The protestors held signs declaring "Butchers and murderers of the Liberian people - STOP!" Leymah passed a note in to the head mediator General Akubar, former president of Nigeria. She stated her intention to link arms with her compatriots, holding the delegates hostage until an agreement had been reached. Gbowee and her partners stayed on site for days. Weeks later, the war ended.

Leymah Gbowee pioneered the modern-day version of the ancient custom of openly sharing with a group the traumas one has suffered in war. She discovered that the deep sense of shame these women all carried kept them isolated, impotent, and demoralized. When she was first tasked with building a coalition of women across religious, tribal, and class differences, she had to appeal to their commonality, to their unity. She succeeded, and it was the women of Liberia that turned the tide and won the peace. I recommend her excellent memoir Mighty Be Our Powers.

Be like Gbowee.

Gandhi's Tactics

Nonviolence, civil disobedience

Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated in 1948 by a fanatic Hindu, who believed he was too accommodating to India's minority Muslims.

Gandhi's ideas were not new. He synthesized thoughts from sources as diverse as The Holy Bible, The Bhagavad Gita, and Thoroau'sWalden. Gandhi's brilliance was in applying his ethics stringently, without straying from the core ideals, but expanding the application of these tactics to a national level.

Ahimsa (nonviolence)
Ahimsa stems from the belief that all living beings have divine spirit; therefore, to hurt another being is to hurt oneself.

Satyagraha (peaceful civil disobedience)
Satyagraha is a compound of the Sanskrit term satya (truth) andagraha (polite insistence). Satygraha seeks to eliminate antagonisms without harming the antagonists themselves.

Gandhi strove to differentiate between the western concept of passive resistance and these two bedrocks of his strategy which eventually brought down the mightiest militarized colonial force on the planet. He won independence for India. No one was betting on the humble man in the loincloth, yet he prevailed.

Take the Salt March. On March 12, 1930, Gandhi and a handful of followers from his Ashram walked 200 miles over the course of three weeks. They arrived at the ocean outside the town of Dandi. Gandhi walked out to the water and scooped up some salt with his hands. This symbolic act was a gesture in defiance of British law forbidding Indians from gathering their own salt, requiring that they purchase it from the government. 

Gandhi did not act aggressively toward his opponents in this confrontation.

Masses of Indians followed his lead, gathering and processing salt. History sees this small victory as one of the turning points that ultimately culminated in the English defeat and the liberation of Maa India.

Gandhi absolutely adhered to the Vedic principle that we are all one people, yet his unwavering strength in the face of injustice brought down a violent occupying imperialist empire and freed his native land.

Be like Gandhi.

HeroesVertical.jpg

Trump presidency

The most effective protest

So, it happened. We took the shot we thought would work at the time. We were wrong. We took the polls seriously, and we got slammed. I'll not expend effort to soft pedal or sugarcoat this reality. There is only moving forward. Evolution is not optional.

One option we have is to study the lives and tactics of those who successfully employed effective techniques to protest injustice. Here are three:
Mohandas Gandhi, Leymah Gbowee, Martin Luther King.

Don't feed the trolls

Sunset rendering

Sunset rendering

Living and dying by social media

I like Facebook. I check in with friends from all the periods of my life, sending mazletov to my old bandmate who just got married in Brooklyn, sending happy Diwali messages to my friends in India. Birthdays are great now, both giving and receiving. I can learn facts about dear friends that I may not otherwise know, like their losing a parent or recovering from cancer.

What I don't find so charming about Facebook are political posts. They can be divisive and insular. I may gravitate to those whose views I already agree with. This is counterproductive to a loving, inclusive Vedic worldview.

And then there are the trolls.

I let my guard down and posted a response to a news story. The tone of my post was less than friendly. It generated an almost instant response of astonishing vitriol and anger from those who apparently disagreed. The tone of these responses was so toxic and insulting that I laughed. It seemed like an atom bomb explosion in retaliation to a peashooter. I posted a single response: "Whee!"

I did a little research and discovered that trolls lie in wait, using key words in search engines. This includes publicly shared content on social media. The key words or phrases they are searching for identify the user as being from a target demographic. That demographic identifies the target as liberal, feminist, animal rights defender, or environmentalist, or any combination thereof. When the troll gets a hit, they go to work, unleashing a torrent of abuse on comments pages. This serves to discourage free expression by people they disagree with, and gives them a chance to vent anger and get attention (albeit negative) from an audience.

Sometimes these trolls are paid by partisan idealogues and corporations with a "culture war" axe to grind. In my instance, I was lucky. Facebook has excellent blocking options. Also my one word response dampened the enthusiasm of the trolls. The torrent stopped immediately. I didn't engage them the way they wanted, which was to offer a counter-argument. I went about my day, suffering very little from the negative energies on display, and I learned a valuable lesson.

A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, And it is his glory to overlook a transgression.
Proverbs, New American Standard Bible

“Arguing with anonymous strangers on the Internet is a sucker's game because they almost always turn out to be—or to be indistinguishable from—self-righteous sixteen-year-olds possessing infinite amounts of free time.” 
― Neal Stephenson, 
Cryptonomicon

The demonized ego

Rendering of Mt. Shasta, Northern California

Rendering of Mt. Shasta, Northern California

Misunderstanding ourselves

We make an all-too-human mistake when we believe our egos to be ourselves. This belief sells us short on the vastness of our true nature. The ego sees threats everywhere and insists on the "otherness" of everything in the world around us. This makes the universe seem a hostile and treacherous place.

"Stick with me," the ego tells us. "I am the only one who knows how to keep you safe." 

The ego is bluffing. It has no idea whether its actions are effective or not; it just needs to have us accept it as the alpha and the omega. It demands to exclusively rule the whole of our existence. It wants to be boss. If we accede to these demands, we are engulfed in misery and alienation. Ease and a sense of belonging leave us, and we become more and more alone, cut off from others.

Where, then, do we find relief from this trap? It is in the moment, in the now, in the presence of the unchanging Self (note large S). The creator places us in a position of neutrality from our fears. We finally get a rest!

This rest is deep and profound, and comes as a result of meditation, diligently pursued and actively engaged in.

“There is, I believe, in every disposition a tendency to some particular evil, a natural defect, which not even the best education can overcome."
"And your defect is a propensity to hate everybody."
"And yours," he replied with a smile, "is wilfully to misunderstand them.” 
― Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Cali

Cali

Comfort

Cedar Breaks, Southern Utah

Cedar Breaks, Southern Utah

The ever-repeating known

We often opt for what we know. To our ego, it seems the most easy, safe way to proceed toward any given goal. Instead of choosing a new path, we take the one we are most familiar with.

The problem with this approach is that, if we look at the record, it does not work. If we stay where we are, we are embodying the consciousness of the static, the stable, that which does not evolve. The ego takes comfort in the familiar and comes up with a myriad of reasons why we must not risk forward movement.

We heat our houses, we dress warmly, we refrain from challenging ourselves physically. We tend to choose familiar foods, activities, pleasures. We re-read the same books. Why does this not bring us happiness?

Because we are not built to behave this way. Advances in knowledge in neuroplasticity indicate that stroke victims who have suffered brain damage are able to recover more quickly and completely when they are challenged to learn new activities, to go outside their "comfort zones," and to engage the world without a safety net. This new brain activity actually forms new neural pathways. Slight activity variations are more effective than rote repetition in achieving this result. Taking bold action towards unknown activity is even better.

When we make it a habit to avoid the habitual, we are rewarded with a refreshed and renewed experience of existence. Let's challenge ourselves, even by starting small. Take the long way home. Turn this corner instead of that. Pay attention to nature whenever we feel the urge to go on autopilot.

Nature will reward our bravery every time.

“Great people do things before they're ready. ”
-Amy Poehler

Bristlecone Pine, Southern Utah

Bristlecone Pine, Southern Utah

Balance is elusive

Sunset, Rogue Valley, Oregon

Sunset, Rogue Valley, Oregon

Until it's not

Do you remember the first time you successfully rode a bicycle? One moment it seemed impossible, and you thought you could do nothing but fail. Suddenly there was a shift, and you were up and riding. Everything clicked, and it seemed as though you would never return to that state of "failure" again. What actually happened at that moment? Was the "you" that was failing really you, or was it only a part of the whole you, mistakenly trying to run the whole show? 

Our ego tries to convince us that it is all that we are. It claims ownership. It assigns blame. It sees any expansion of our resources as a threat to its own dominance. It parsed the bike riding experience as too hard, as impossible to achieve. Better give up and retreat, licking our wounds. Then our instinct kicks in, and we find an effortless, frictionless balance. We fearlessly move forward with confidence.

The ego is a busy little bee. There is seemingly no end to the machinations it will use to distract us from any task that threatens change or growth. Yet it will fold in any fight if we stand firm in our resolve.

When we learned to meditate, the ego had a little bit to say about it. Luckily we did not listen.

“Your hand opens and closes, opens and closes. If it were always a fist or always stretched open, you would be paralyzed. Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding, the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as birds' wings.” 
― Rumi, The Essential Rumi

Moonrise, Guru Purnima, Studio City, California

Moonrise, Guru Purnima, Studio City, California

Between the trigger and the shot

Ruin, Brentwood, California

Ruin, Brentwood, California

Freedom from reactivity

It happens to the best of us.

We have an automatic angry response to a loved one or a co-worker. Someone "pushes our button," and we fire in retaliation. The other person had no idea that this huge reaction was coming. The response is so outsized, so inappropriate to the circumstance in the present, that our friend recoils in confusion. They may develop the opinion, not unfounded, that we are untrustworthy. They will be loath to relax and let down their guard with us again.

When we have an overwhelming life experience at any age, we store the emotional stress and the corresponding triggers (associated sense memories) within our bodies. Any similar sense experience can suddenly release the emotional energy we have been storing.

Vedic Meditation gives us a chance to safely release this stress over time and be rid of it forever. We can experience a lightness, a feeling of being "right-sized" again and experiencing stress in a much more balanced and manageable way. We experience the trigger, but before we react, we find it possible to mind our manners towards others. We have been placed in a position of neutrality in relation to our reactions.

Of course we are still human and can become overwhelmed by circumstances again, acting out towards the world and others. We are not perfect. We can, however, improve over time, and these events become fewer and farther between. This is my own experience as a meditator, and my students report similar feedback to me as a teacher.

Anger and intolerance are the enemies of correct understanding.
Mahatma Gandhi

You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger.
The Buddha

Suffering in isolation

San Fernando Valley

San Fernando Valley

The permeable membrane that separates us

We are connected. This is not a fanciful notion; this is a fact. When we behave in a way that ignores the needs of others, they are affected negatively. In the West, we are in the habit of acting as if we are separate and alone in the world, pursuing our self-centered agenda and profiting from short-term gain. This is why it is difficult to defend our position in the court of world opinion.

Our justification of "manifest destiny" does not play in other countries, and there is no mystery as to why this is the case. Candidate Trump says he will build a wall on our border with Mexico, and that he will force the Mexican government to pay for it. This plays to those in his base who revel in fantasy. We could build the tallest wall imaginable and not keep ourselves safe from the world's suffering, or the backlash of anger that would inevitably follow.

We cannot operate with impunity when it comes to our neighbors. The ego tells us that it is desirable to keep ourselves safe against an "other." But if there is only one thing, and if we are part of that one thing, it follows that we are all a part of each other.

In India, people seem to recognize this kinship and honor it. There are horrific exceptions of course, but for the most part gentility and friendliness are the rule. There is a tacit agreement that I will not harm you to advance me, as that would be harming myself.

We that follow teachings of the Vedic worldview also know this intuitively, but we still occasionally act out of willful ignorance. Willful ignorance, by definition, means that we know better but act as though we don't. It is time that we uncover the undimmed light within us and behave accordingly.

"Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets."

Jesus Christ in the King James Bible • Matthew 7:12

Salt Lamp

Salt Lamp

The Seed

Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Pier

Nature's infinite organizing power


Potential.

It's a loaded word, and an even more loaded concept. It implies that the slice of time we are living in is somehow unsatisfactory. That in some future time, we will become real, more real than now. Nature has no such concept. From the point of view of our creator, all things exist in a continuum. The seed has all the information locked inside it to become a tree and bear apples. It only has to be in the correct environment for an infinitely complex exchange of energy and transformation to occur.

When we learn to meditate in this tradition, we are given a mantra, a sound. It is referred to as a bija mantra. Bija means seed in Sanskrit. Like the apple seed, the bija mantra unfolds in the correct environment, and transforms miraculously. The only incorrect environment for this seed is one in which it is not used.

Nature only knows how to evolve. When we stop bullying nature to do our childish bidding, it reveals its deepest beautiful secrets to us. When we encounter nature on its own terms, we have no conception of how wondrous a world we are about to experience.

For this reason, we do not "corral" our experience in meditation to be this, that, or any other thing that the ego might expect. We innocently repeat the mantra and observe. The openness that is required for this process is something we may have rarely experienced.

Meditation is one case in which the rewards surpass the investment.

“Seeds have the power to preserve species, to enhance cultural as well as genetic diversity, to counter economic monopoly and to check the advance of conformity on all its many fronts.” 
Second Nature: A Gardener's Education by Michael Pollan 

Having enemies

Looking North from Topanga thru the fog

Looking North from Topanga thru the fog

Losing touch with our connectedness

Americans have been taken hostage.

In this election year, more than any period in recent memory, we are expected to do ideological battle against those with whom we disagree. Divisive public figures demand that we pick a side. It is perceived as almost noble to engage in lobbing rhetorical missiles via social media, to bully others, to belittle anyone who holds a differing opinion.

When we engage in these activities, we allow ourselves to be distracted from the truth of our natures. The real tyrants who benefit from confusion and distraction are allowed to take away all our real strength, our unity. If I can be distracted by who is winning the media horse race, I may not be paying attention when bad legislation is passed, shady trade deals are constructed and pushed through, or our planet is decimated for some hidden corporation's short term gain.

Yes, we are citizens. Yes, we have a duty to stay informed and to vote. But do we need to consume every bit of media "bummer porn" that is thrown our way? Do we need to have our emotional chains yanked by candidates and corporations who have raised enough cash to buy access to our eyes and ears? No, we are under no such obligation.

When we are driving our cars, we do not need to tune in to opinionated talk radio. When we have time to ourselves after work, we do not need to share that time with television. When we are on the internet, we can make a choice not to read every angry meme that competes for our attention. 

A true crime would be to lose precious time that could be spent renewing ourselves with adaptation energy through meditation. To free ourselves, all we need to do is unplug and engage with our fellow beings in the true spirit of brotherhood and unity.

Wave and ocean 

If I am ocean (consciousness) through and through, as I learn in my happiest and most aligned state, I find it counterproductive to have enemies, an adversarial position, express divisive opinions, indulge in sarcasm, or be attached to outcomes.

Image of Durga, Hindu temple, Vrindavan

Image of Durga, Hindu temple, Vrindavan

Religion or spirituality

Transcending shame

Organized religion has a product to sell us. The product is "Spirituality" with a capital S. Religion demands unquestioning belief. If we are obedient, we may earn a place for ourselves in some future heaven. If we are curious and question a religious authority, we may be rewarded with the threat of eternal banishment and torture. As in all selling, fear is a very effective motivator. Our choice is simple: obey or die.

This less-than-gentle paradigm is not the way of the Veda. We have no doctrine to sell you. Do your own research, follow your own heart, we say. We don't require that you believe in a God or Gods. You needn't tithe to a church or bend to an authority. 

There is a technique that we teach that has simple instructions. For this knowledge, we ask a traditional payment. Because an exchange of energy and information takes place, the student keeps his newfound knowledge close to his heart and has a chance to observe the results of diligent application over time. There is no shame in choosing a different path or in not following a path at all.

We meditators tend to express a loving reverence toward our teachers. This is not an enforced requirement. It is a simple and sincere expression of gratitude. In any spiritual community, there are instances when a charismatic leader might have sycophantic followers, and ego worship can develop, but this circumstance has no bearing on the value of the practice itself. Once learned, our simple technique can be repeated for a lifetime of satisfying meditations.

Paradoxically, we are not anti-faith. if you follow an established religion that enriches your life, regular meditation serves to deepen that bond, and to clear away stresses that conflict with a stronger connection to a higher power. We have many practitioners in all faiths.

We do not recruit. We do not punish. There is no eternal torment in our worldview. One is always free to practice or not to practice. My teacher said one thing consistently. "Follow your heart, and observe the results."

Being ignorant is not so much a shame, as being unwilling to learn.
Benjamin Franklin

If you would like to learn yourself, or if you are already a student and would like to pass on this knowledge, it starts with a free intro talk. click here to attend.

Wildflowers, Siskiyou mountains, Southern Oregon

Wildflowers, Siskiyou mountains, Southern Oregon

Letting go of stresses

Value added benefits

We all carry a load of accumulated stresses in the tissues of our bodies. Along with these stored stresses, we have imbedded "stress triggers" that correspond to the environmental circumstances that were present during the overwhelming life experiences that caused the stresses in the first place.

If I am attacked on the street, I will not only store the stress of the attack, but also the blue car that passed just before, the scent of street food, the glint of light from a passing windshield. If in the future I have similar experiences that resemble the stress triggers, the original stress plays over again like a record. I re-experience the trauma, although there may actually be no danger present. This phenomenon has a lot in common with symptoms experienced by combat veterans suffering from PTSD.

Consistent meditation serves to safely and gradually release the stored stresses we have accumulated. Over time, we become better able to handle overwhelming life experiences that might come our way. Without these automatic stresses replaying constantly, we start to have an easier, gentler experience of life in general.

Vedic "Rounding" (meditation in combination with yoga positions, breathing exercises, and intervals of deep rest) can facilitate a much more rapid release of these stresses. A Rounding retreat is a great way to experience this accelerated method of "emptying out" the reservoir of unwanted energy we have been carrying around with us. It is good to be with others on the same path at such a time.

Students who have been through this procedure attest to its effectiveness, and seem to have more happiness and a more carefree experience in their day-to-day lives.

The truth is that there is no actual stress or anxiety in the world; it's your thoughts that create these false beliefs. You can't package stress, touch it, or see it. There are only people engaged in stressful thinking. 
Wayne Dyer

Yankee Meadows, Southern Utah

Yankee Meadows, Southern Utah

The Illusion of Separation

Maples, Ashland, Oregon

Maples, Ashland, Oregon

Our Deadliest Mistake

We are conditioned by a myriad of forces in the world to believe a lie about ourselves. The lie is simply that we are alone. Because all we know is bounded by the five senses, and by the recall and re-experience of our memories, we believe that this is all that comprises us. We see beings around us, and because we don't live in their skins, we see them as other. Others are to be hated, feared, mistrusted, competed against, conquered, vanquished. We look for the differences, not the similarities.

Our world is an unhappy place of fear, of danger, of lack. The best we can seem to do is provide for our own safety and the safety of those most similar to us, and hang the rest. We work hard to distinguish ourselves, to stand out, to prevail against others, to survive at their expense.

By seeing our surroundings in this light, we ensure our own unhappiness. We may gain brief respite from our problems, but never a lasting peace, never a sense of oneness with nature or a loving Creator.

Identifying with this negative world view becomes a virtue, a "realistic" survival strategy that rewards us with a short, empty life, stress-filled days, and sleepless nights. We might, however, become lucky enough to be introduced to a meditative technique.

We sit quietly, as we are instructed, about twenty minutes twice a day, and a miraculous thing starts happening. We begin to have a direct and subtle experience of the Vedic worldview, which is that there is only one thing. If this is true, it becomes impossible to have enemies.

We discover that there are no others. There is just us.

"If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy."

James Madison

Shiva temple detail, Vrindavan, India

Shiva temple detail, Vrindavan, India