31 July 2007

"pretty sky"

I agree with my gal pal in India, Sirensongs, that Arabic is one of the most visually beautiful written languages in the world. It was her latest post that turned me on to Reem's blog, My Name in Arabic.

Reem was kind enough to translate both my names into Arabic. The first image is Sama which is my Buddhist name. Sama is the same in Sanskrit or Pali, meaning "harmony" or "equanimity". The second image is Linda which is a Spanish word for "pretty".

Reem wrote me that Sama sounds like the Arabic word for "sky". I like that -- very much. It reminds me of the title of a Buddhism book, Losing the Clouds, Gaining the Sky....which is what happens when we meditate and still the fluctuations of the mind. We lose the clouds (thoughts) and gain the expansiveness of the open and aware mind (the sky.)

Another fine example of the beauty of Arabic script is Scott's tattoo pictured in his blog post The Writing on My Arm. Scott is an another American ex-pat living in Chennai. You can check out his excellent blog, Trailing Technology, in the side bar listed under Cyberpals. He might have a little trouble going through security now at U.S. airports, but what the hell, it's a cool tattoo.

If you would like your name translated into beautiful Arabic script, email Reem.

Salaam aleikum



26 July 2007

"the illusion of when"

The Illusion of When
by Sarah Militz-Frielink

“The people in the West are always getting ready to live.” This Chinese proverb describes our dependence on the illusion of when. We often think about when as a soothing comfort out of the present moment. We ruminate in when thoughts to deal with our vulnerability to the changes in life. We might think that when we take a vacation, then will we will relax, or when we retire, then we can travel around the world. We also might dwell on whens about our government (my personal favorite): when we elect a new president, then our country’s problems will disappear. We focus on getting ready for some future moment and lose the present one. The illusion of when has stumped the human race for centuries, particularly those who live in the West.

This illusion is one I have wrestled with my entire life. Although I know the truth about this illusion, I still struggle with it. My childhood was full of when thoughts. These thoughts consumed me as I allowed them to rule my life. When I finish college... When I publish this...When I get married...When I have children...The truth is after I accomplished all the whens I never felt satisfied. The same empty feeling engulfed me because I just focused on the next when.

The illusion of when manifests from the most simplistic everyday thoughts such as "when I get out of this traffic jam," to the more superficial thoughts such as "when I buy a new pair of shoes." All these whens just take us out of the present moment and into the land of avoidance. Do we notice the songs the birds sing or experience the beauty of nature when we hide in this illusion? Do we listen to our family while we brood in our thoughts of when? No! We are not really living. We must live in the now and dissolve the illusion of when.

How can we dissolve the illusion of when? We must stop living in our thoughts and connect with our body and our spirit within. Yoga is one way to help us connect deeply to our body, our spirit and the present. My yin yoga teacher Linda often shares these wise words after a pose, “Just feel what you feel without judgment or attachment.”

We must also learn the act of surrender. Instead of dwelling on when an uncomfortable situation will end, such as a traffic jam, we must let go of our deliberations. We must try to live as the observer without an opinion about our situation. We must also let go of our attachment to the desired outcome—such as a new president or a dream vacation. Then we are free to go within, in the stillness of our divine self.

Even in the midst of a chaos, we have our five senses. If we focus on each breath in and out, we can stay in the present. If we focus on the gentle caress of the wind, the feelings and sensations of our everyday routines, we can center ourselves. Most importantly, we must remember to stay conscious of our breath. Each conscious breath ends our mind chatter and our constant thoughts about when. Each conscious moment allows us to take in the beauty of the present. In these moments, we are awake.

I have made an intentional effort to live in the present for the past four years—-ever since I found Eckhart Tolle’s inspirational book, The Power of Now. Living in the present is a challenge at times. Most moments I wrestle with when. I still trick myself into believing the illusion of when. However, there are beautiful moments I stay present and experience joyous laughter with my children or the splendor of a sunset. There are times I stay present and feel every sensation while I wash the dishes. There are traffic jams I surrender to and stay in the present. These are the precious moments of the now; the only thing I am. The only thing we are. We are the now. Our mind is not us. It is merely a tool. Our true self transcends all thoughts and welcomes every moment without judgment. Let us live in the now and embrace our true self within—-free from the illusion of when. Let us begin this, now.


Sarah is my yoga student and she wrote this for the local new-age magazine The Monthly Aspectarian. Unfortunately their website has not been updated since 2005, but you may find some articles of interest to you.

If you like Sarah's style, contact her at sarah(at) if you need a writer. Getting paid would be a good thing, too!


23 July 2007

St. Theresa's Prayer

I wanted to share a prayer that was at the end of an email a yoga student sent me. She has had a hard life and she sent me an email thanking me for being there for her. I was embarrassed because I am not used to the kind words that the student wrote, but it always does my heart good to know that yoga brings peace to someone's soul.

This prayer touched me even though I am not Christian -- I'm a very lapsed Lutheran turned Buddhist. I don't know who St. Theresa is and I barely know the names of the important angels, but that's not really important, is it?

May today there be peace within.
May you trust God (the Universe) that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.
May you use these gifts that you have received,
and pass on the love that has been given to you.
May you be content.
You are a child of God.
Let this presence settle into your bones,
and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise, and love.
It is there for each and everyone of us.

Peace and buddhahood are there for each and every one of us.

Another yoga student who has been with me for more than a few months told me today how yoga has helped her depression -- she is only 24 and she takes care of an autistic brother. She said that her brother will always be autistic, but she does not always have to be depressed. Yoga has helped her take control, and she has realized what the Wise-Ass Buddhist said: "life sucks, but suffering is optional." She told me very excitedly that "yoga and meditation are ways to self-heal! if only more people knew that!" Yes, if only!

I love it when some of my younger yoga students -- I teach at a community college and the age range is 18-25 -- totally connect to yoga and they keep coming back semester after semester. When my students tell me about how good they feel after a class, or how yoga affects their lives off the mat, I tell them that they've created all that by themselves, I am merely the yoga facilitator. They are their own gurus.

Does this old hippie chick's heart good...

wishing you all peaceful hearts.

"scared sacred"

From the YouTube website: ""If ordinary human beings can see their own suffering then perhaps they become aware of the suffering of others." Scared Sacred website.

Why is it that so many people who call themselves or their beliefs "sacred" scare so many people in the name of "sacredness"?

The film opens in Bhopal, India, the site of the Union Carbide disaster, and the filmmaker travels to places such as Bosnia, Afganistan, Cambodia, and New York City post-9/11, to explore the Ground Zeros where the sacred is still inside the scared, inside the hearts of the people. Even in the worst places, there is still hope.

It is a very powerful trailer, and I can only imagine the power of the entire movie. I am buying the DVD. If you see this movie, please leave your comments.

"breathe in suffering. breathe out compassion."


do you want enlightenment with that?

Mass Producing Meditators

In this episode of Buddhist Geeks, Vince talks with Theo Horesh and Duff McDuffee, two SN Goenka practitioners. They discuss the effects of what can be called the mass production of meditators. They also explore the differences in using a single technique or multiple techniques for realization.

You can listen to Part 1 in my post here.

Theo and Duff raise some good questions in this interview. I thought it was interesting when they compared Goenka's approach to that of a fast food franchise or Henry Ford's production line. The interviewer compared the vipassana technique to what he heard Bikram say about how he styled his yoga on the McDonald's model of fast food production.

While I'm not a vipassana junkie, I believe that a committed yoga teacher who is walking the spiritual path, regardless of tradition, should do at least one vipassana retreat. You will explore places of yourself that you have never explored before! I have only done one 10 day retreat, but I plan to do at least one retreat a year, even if it is only a three day one.

In October I am starting Spirit Rock's Mindfulness Yoga and Meditation training. I am committed to this program until 2009. I am very excited because this training is the first of its kind, a ground-breaking program that incorporates classical yoga and Buddhism. From the website: experiential grounding in an integrated yoga and vipassana practice that can nourish practitioners in their daily lives; a solid understanding of the entwined history, philosophy, and techniques of both yoga and Buddhism; and the foundational skills and understanding necessary to practice yoga--and for teachers to teach it--in a way that embodies and facilitates a deep understanding of core Buddhist principles such as mindfulness, lovingkindness, compassion, equanimity, and the interdependence of all life.

According to the website, "a good portion of the retreats will be spent in silence, following a full schedule of seated and walking meditation. The daily schedule will also include approximately 2.5 to 3 hours of yoga asana and pranayama." Can't wait!

What is so exciting about this program is the chance to study with the "biggies" of the Western Buddhist and yoga world such as Jack Kornfield, Phillip Moffit, Tias Little, Stephen Cope, Judith Lassater, Jill Satterfield, and even Dr. Dean Ornish, among others.

This is the type of program that I have been looking for as long as I've been a student/teacher, and when I read about it, I jumped on it immediately, no hesitation. I am honored and grateful to be accepted into this training.


16 July 2007

10 days with the walking wounded

Entrepregurus and the Meditation Factory

"In this episode [of Buddhist Geeks] Vince interviews Theo Horesh and Duff McDuffee, two S.N. Goenka practitioners. They discuss the techniques of the Goenka tradition and how one might see it as a meditation factory. In the next episode, they discuss the power of the Goenka approach and possible criticisms of the practice."

my post about my own vipassana meditation experience in January will follow was one of the hardest things I've ever done and also one of the most transformational...

in the meantime, enjoy the interview....and the one dude does a right-on impersonation of Goenka! Scary!

to be continued....

05 July 2007

one is too much

India has a culture that worships the Feminine Divine such as Durga, Kali, and Parvati...a country whose ancient religion celebrates the union of Shiva and Shakti, where some depictions of Shiva show him as half-man, half-woman...the yin/yang that we all are...

Shunned from society, widows flock to city to die

If any of you have seen the movie Water, the above story will be familiar to you. Deepa Mehta was forced to film her movie in Sri Lanka because of the fundamentalist protests against the depiction of this subject in her movie. However, the plot of Water takes place in 1930s India, and the CNN story takes place now.

Indian widows, dowry deaths, female infanticide....for all of its "modernization" or "westernization", whatever you want to call it, there are still aspects of India that make me shake my head. These are controversial subjects, and these practices are certainly NOT supported by the vast majority of Indians, but to burn even ONE bride, to abort even ONE fetus merely because of its gender, or to turn out even ONE widow is too much.

I know that a news story like this inflames passions, and I thought about whether I should post the CNN story. People are sensitive about how their countries or cultures are portrayed. The reporter's tone is sensationalistic and the implication is that the majority of widows are treated like this, and that is not the case. However, that does not take away from the fact that the story is grounded in reality. The topic is something that should be thought about, along with the 50 MILLION WOMEN ARE MISSING PROJECT, a project started in India by an Indian woman (see earlier posts.)

To those of you who are upset about this Western portrayal of India, I suggest you channel that anger into something positive and make a donation to The Banyan, a Chennai-based organization "that cares for and rehabilitates homeless women with mental illness found in the streets of Chennai. ...The Banyan provides the women a safe shelter, care, medical attention, and a supportive environment to enable them to recover and to take responsibility for their lives again."

Instead of leaving negative comments on blogs or the CNN website, put your money where your mouths are and donate some rupees and dollars.

India is not all yoga, spirituality, and vedic chants. It's a country and culture that has beautiful and wondrous aspects at the same time that terrible things happen -- and that makes it just like any other country, mine included.

We are all yin and yang -- the dark spot in the light, the light inside the dark.


03 July 2007

just because

Before Britney was a Pop Queen, there were singers like Cyndi Lauper -- yes, I mean Cyndi Lauper who sang "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun." I remember being blown away by Cyndi's cover of Joni Mitchell's song "Carey" in a television tribute to Joni. I found the video on YouTube and was blown away again as I watched Cyndi become one with the song...everything comes together in a perfect musical moment. Cyndi has total connection to the music, to her band, to herself, and to the moment. The look on her face when she dances is the way I feel when you hit that sweet spot in vinyasa and you feel like you're the only one in the room and it all comes together, body-mind-spirit.

I also found this video of my man Leonard Cohen singing his classic "Suzanne" in a 1979 German concert. I call Leonard Cohen "my man" because when I was a young hippie chick in high school in the early '70s, I loved Leonard Cohen and his poetry. I wanted to run away and live with him on the Greek island where he lived at the time.

One day we had a substitute English teacher and she asked us to bring in our favorite poem or book, so I read a Cohen poem where he wrote "beneath my hands your small breasts are the upturned bellies of breathing fallen sparrows." I loved the image, but the sub scowled at me and said there were some things that were too "mature" for a high school English class. Yeah, that was me, always contrary to ordinary.

I wrote poetry back then and my boyfriend's best friend gave me Cohen's book The Spice-Box of Earth. I still have this book, the pages yellowed and falling out, dated "Xmas 1970", with his inscription on the inside front cover: "'I'd like to buy you everything, a wooden bird with painted wings, a window filled with painted rings...', but then I'd be playing into the hands of the profit merchants, so I hope this book of beauty will be enough. He's one of my favorite authors. Rich." After all these years I still wonder what happened to him.

I know this post has nothing to do with yoga or India or Buddhism, but since yoga is about life, maybe it does in a way. You look back and think fondly of old lovers and friends and remember the chances you lost, the "next times" that never came -- the opportunities as Rimpoche spoke about -- and it suddenly hits you that YES!, this life IS precious and it is a sin (to use Christian terminology) to waste our present moments with judgments, negative obsessions, worrying about who says what about us, and holding onto that samsaric wheel afraid to let go.

Let go. Detach from the outcome. It's time for me to do some pruning again...


02 July 2007

support a one-woman yoga business

I want to give a shout-out to Jean of

She's a one-woman business who makes a totally awesome yoga mat bag. I can attest to how great this bag is because I took it with me on my first trip to India. What's great about it is that it converts to an ergonomically balanced back pack and it holds lots of stuff so you don't need to drag a purse along with you to the studio. The bag pictured is sold out, but there's a great sale going on right now for the camouflage color that is remaining. Jean told me that her goal is to get going with a new line using recycled soda bottle fabric.

Jean also sells yoga-inspired bandanas with new designs that are way cool -- I always take a bunch with me to India. Jean says, "my goal is to print on light weight organic cotton. In order to do that I need lots and lots of orders to meet minimum yardage requirements and ensure fair pricing...."

So check out Jean's company and support a USA-made, eco-friendly, one-woman yoga products business. You'll create lots of positive karma for yourself!


Gehlek Rimpoche

Throughout this blog I have mentioned my spiritual teacher, Gehlek Rimpoche. I've just returned from a one week retreat with him on the subject of developing compassion. I consider myself very fortunate to study with this man who was recognized as an incarnate lama and is from the last generation of lamas to be fully educated in "good old Tibet" (as Rimpoche calls it) before his escape in 1959.

While I have not studied with him for as long as many people have, Rimpoche has touched my heart. He has the same presence as the Dalai Lama, that is, when he talks to you, he makes you feel as if you are the only one in the room. And I love hugging him! I told him that hugging him is like hugging a big teddy bear!

I've posted this YouTube video just to give you a sample of him. This video is from a talk he gave in Malaysia in May, 2007 on Buddhism in the 21st century. This talk is continued in a series of videos on YouTube if you are interested.

During last week's retreat he told us how very precious this life is, how wonderful and important we are, and how we should never waste any opportunities that present themselves to us because we can accomplish anything...including total enlightenment in this lifetime. Buddhahood is available for each and every one of us, we only have to water the seeds of our own buddha-nature.

He reminded us how we should stop staying "I'll do (fill in the blank) next time..." because "next time" never comes. How true is that? How often do we continually say that we'll do such and such "next time"? Buddha taught that death is certain, but that the time of death is uncertain.

Live your lives by asking yourselves "if not now, when?" Truly LIVE your lives, don't sleep-walk through them, half-awake to the beauty and joy that surrounds you every minute of the day.

Also, here is an excerpt from "The Hidden Treasure of the Heart", an article by Aura Glaser in the July Shambhala Sun. Aura was one of the two women responsible for bringing Rimpoche to the United States way back when. Thankfully they brought him to my neck of the woods, the Heartland of America, the Midwest, instead of the East or West Coasts (they have enough yogis and Buddhists anyway!)

I bow to Rimpoche and to Buddha Shakyamuni...



peace to you all...

01 July 2007


Wow. I've been noticed.

I got back today from my retreat with Gehlek Rimpoche and was checking out my site meter and noticed that someone checked in from the Chattering Mind blog.

A reader named Sierra gave a heads up about yours truly to Amy Cunningham, a blog writer for who said this is a "good yoga blog." Thanks, Sierra, wherever and whoever you are! Please leave a comment, I'd love to hear from you! And thanks, Amy, for posting about me. I'm honored, as I've been a long-time reader of Another "wow" -- me and one of my favorite Buddhists, Lama Surya Das, on the same website...who woulda thunk it! :)

Besides that, my rants and musings won a Best Blog of the Day award! YAY!