31 May 2010

simple but not easy

"Learn a little bit, then think, then meditate and acknowledge your conclusions.

Through that you can heal yourself."

Gelek Rimpoche

Wisdom from one of my favorite teachers.

27 May 2010

today is a good day to die

Before the Battle of Little Bighorn, Lakota warrior Crazy Horse purportedly said, "today is a good day to die."

Today was a good day for Sweet Sox to die, on Buddha Day, the day that honors The Awakened One's birth, enlightenment, and death. It is a full moon and the weather could not have been any more beautiful.

It was interesting how my mind worked back to the first spirituality I began to study intensely all those years ago as a young seeker starting on my path.

After writing the last post Sox deteriorated rapidly last night. He could barely walk. I made him as comfortable as possible. He would not eat or drink. I tried to hand feed him and dribbled water into his mouth.

This morning I got up at at 5 AM and sat with him until my husband came home from his second office, a three hour drive away. I sat for four hours chanting OM MANI PADME HUM using my mala made from bodhi tree seeds and reading the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying.

I took Sweet Sox outside so he could feel the grass one last time. He hobbled around and laid down every few feet, closing his eyes. I picked him up and walked around the Buddha head three times chanting OM MANI PADME HUM. What is never born can never die.

We went to the vet and it was done. He only weighed 5 pounds. She told me his intestines felt thick and hard, filled with tumors. Just as with Jack the Yogi Cat, I stroked him and chanted OM MANI PADME HUM, asking all the Enlightened Ones to protect him on his journey. Just as with Jackie, all the strain left his face and he looked like a kitten again. The vet and the vet tech cried along with us.

I hope for his fortunate rebirth into a higher realm.

From the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying:

"...we catch glimpses of the vast implications behind the truth of impermanence....Inspired and exhilarated by this emergence into a new dimension of freedom, we come to uncover a depth of peace, joy, and confidence in ourselves that fills us with wonder, and breeds in us gradually a certainty that there is in us 'something' that nothing destroys, that nothing alters, and that cannot die. Milarepa wrote:

In horror of death, I took to the mountains -
Again and again I meditated on the uncertainty of the hour of death,
Capturing the fortress of the deathless unending nature of mind.
Now all fear of death is over and done.

Gradually then we become aware in ourselves of the calm and sky-like presence of what Milarepa calls the deathless and unending nature of mind. And as this new awareness begins to become vivid and almost unbroken, there occurs what the Upanishads call 'a turning about in the seat of consciousness,' a personal, utterly non-conceptual revelation of that we are, why we are here, and how we should act, which amounts in the end to nothing less than a new life, a new birth, almost, you could say, a resurrection."

Today was a good day to die.

26 May 2010

dharma teaching from my cat on Buddha's birthday

Life and Death are but an illusion.
Happy and Sad are just a state of mind.
Love and Compassion alleviates the suffering
Of All sentient Beings – those who have been
our Mothers and our Fathers.
To recognize the interconnectedness of all beings

Is to know peace! ~ a Buddhist Homage.

One of the most significant celebrations in the Buddhist tradition happens every May on the night of the first full moon in May when people celebrate the birth, enlightenment and death of the Buddha. It is known as Buddha Day or Buddha's Birthday and this year it is May 27th.

Buddha Day celebrates the days that Siddhartha Gautama sat under the bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya, India over 2500 years ago and attained enlightenment, when he became The Awakened One. On the third day of sitting, Gautama awoke and saw the world for what it was, realized the process to end our suffering (which is so simple but not easy), and began sharing it with others. Well, not immediately because he believed that what he realized was so simple no one would believe him. But he eventually started turning the Wheel of Dharma to teach us how to free ourselves and awaken just like he did.

My cat is dying. He was diagnosed with lymphoma, intestinal cancer, and he is 18 years old. A cat who decided to adopt us when he followed my husband and Sam Dog (who also passed over the Rainbow Bridge) home on a bright Texas morning. A compassionate woman socialized him when he was a kitten living in a pile of bricks with his mother and siblings. We saw her feeding them and petting them the first 6 months of his life. On that sunny Texas morning he followed Sam Dog into the house and never looked back.

But now he is dying. Buddha said there is no escaping old age, sickness, and death...death is certain, the time of it is not.

All these years his karma was never to be sick, unlike Jack the Yogi Cat. His illness came on suddenly, within the last month, teaching me once again that life can change in an instant. Our lives can change for better or worse in the next moment. How can we sit with the suffering of others if we do not know how to sit with our own?

He had his first chemo treatment last week. Some of you might wonder why I would put an 18 year old cat through chemo but I have an excellent vet and discussed all the options with her. Sox is a fighter, he is still strong, and I will not put an animal down merely because their treatment is an inconvenience. Last year my Jack the Yogi Cat died from complications of diabetes at the age of 17 and I gave him insulin shots every day for 10 years; towards the end it was twice a day. Sox is not very active now and his life is spent in the kitchen on a bath mat and towels as Jack did at his end.

His reaction to the first chemo treatment was not good, but he is better now and I will make him as comfortable as I can. I give him prednisone every day and that is how I know he is having a good day, if he fights me. Just like any other cancer patient he will have good days and bad days. If he begins to suffer or no longer has quality of life, then we will make our decision. But for now, he is comfortable and eating.

I shed many tears last week and also examined my own spirituality. I read an elephant journal post on how a Buddhist deals with the death of a animal companion. I am "officially" Buddhist because I took the Five Precepts, one of them being "no killing." I read about a rimpoche who fed his cat by hand (which I have done) and took his cat to the litter box (which I have done), but I will not allow an animal to suffer. Everything is about intention. My karma is my karma.

There are no absolutes even though religions try to make us believe there are. Buddha told us to question everything including his teachings. Every situation is different. I asked myself about Sox's I want to end his suffering or mine? My suffering is watching him deteriorate as I watched my Jackie. My suffering is my attachment to wanting his life not to change even though I know it must. I will always do what I think is best for my animal companions.

Sox is once again teaching me about impermanence and of course, compassion every day. But also about joy. I am grateful for the joy and laughter he brought to our lives. I am grateful that we are in position to afford chemo therapy for a cat. These remembrances of joy and gratitude have eased my suffering about my dying animal friend. If I should be in the situation that my cat is in now, depending on the circumstances, I would probably forego chemo for myself. I want to end my days in India, just burn my body on Ma Ganga, light the candles for me and send me on my way. Hari Om, Jai Ma.

I will know when it is time. And when that time comes I will take his ashes along with those of Sam Dog and Jack the Yogi Cat and bury them together under our statue of St. Francis of Assisi (or St. Frankie as we like to call him, the patron saint of animals) who wears a Hindu mala around his neck. They will be in view of a large Buddha head that the eastern sun shines on and also near a verdigris sculpture representing Native American spirituality. Many roads lead to the top of the mountain.

There is still that 1% Lutheran in me who believes that Sam Dog and Jack the Yogi Cat will run to greet Sox when he crosses the Rainbow Bridge. It is a beautiful picture in my mind anyway, and it is a reincarnation story.

A cat in this life, a buddha in the next.

"Do no harm.
Work toward the benefit of all.
Maintain a pure outlook on all things.

All beings are potential Buddhas, all sounds are sacred as Mantra, all thoughts as clear as wisdom, and all phenomena as whole and full as the Buddha field…


All of the Buddha’s teachings are contained within this mantra."

(Jack the Yogi Cat, left; Sox, right)

20 May 2010

the yogini cult -- JAI MA!

The other day I read a misinformed comment on another blog about ancient yoga in India. The commenter said, in essence, that classical yoga would not have been taught to women because of India's patriarchal society, that yoga in ancient times was for men only. I shook my head.

For one thing, I don't think it's a good thing to make such sweeping statements about Indian culture unless you've been there, more than once. Even then it would be hard to generalize. For another thing, it's simply not true.

Krishnamacharyga taught Indra Devi. He was a strict Brahmin, but he taught vedic chanting to women believing that it was women who would carry on the vedic chant tradition, not men.

A difficult book to find, the Yogayajnavalyka Samhita written by the sage Yajnavalkya, is one of the oldest texts on yoga. It is a dialogue between the sage Yajnavalkya and his wife Gargi, who was considered one of the most learned women of those times. Gargi poses questions to her husband on how to reach the highest truth. The manuscript, translated by Krishnamacharya and then later translated into English by his son, Desikachar, is dedicated to "all great women."

Yajnavalkya is considered one of the most important teachers in the Vedic tradition. His works are so vast that it can only be compared to those of the Veda Vyasa. He contributed to the Vedas through the Sukla Yajur Veda and the Brhadaranyaka Upanisad. His wife Gargi is mentioned in the Brhadaranyaka Upanisad as "a scholar in all the sastra-s", as one of the women seekers of truth, and one who was very proficient in logic.

The only asanas mentioned in the book are: svastiknasana; gomukhasana; padmasana; virasana; simhasana; bhadrasana; muktasana; and mayurasana -- because that one "removes all internal diseases and even the effect of poison." You will note that all poses except peacock pose are seated poses.

So as for the statement about how yoga was only for men in the ancient times...uh, no. I think it behooves any yoga scholar or historian to move beyond what is traditionally taught and to investigate the rich yogini tradition of ancient India. Remember that there is both shiva-shakti, the lingam and the yoni.

I had read about the Temple of the 64 Yoginis (also called the Temple of the 64 Dakinis) in Hirapur, a village outside Bhubaneswar in the state of Orissa, and I knew I had to see it. These small temples were for tantric practices, for the acquisition of siddhis or "supernatural powers." Yogini worship was seen predominately between 800 and 1300 AD.

From The Hindu:

"The cult of 64 yoginis as well as its occult and secret practices and philosophy are methodised by Matsyendranath (8th to 10th century AD) in his magnum opus, Kaulajnananimaya. He is associated with religious movements of medieval India and is revered in neighbouring countries like Nepal and Tibet.

The number of yoginis differ from one source to another but 64 appears to have been generally accepted. The principal yoginis, also known as Mother-Goddesses, are Brahmani, Mahesvari, Vaishnavi, Kaumari, Varahi, Indrani and Chamunda who according to the myths were created to the drink blood of demons....

A circular wall, hardly 2 metres in height, containing 64 niches within its inner circumference encompass this hypaethral yogini shrine. All except one of these contain an image of a yogini goddess. Some of them are delineated with voluptuous bodies, some with horrific shrunken features, still others with animal heads."

I did not take any photos as sometimes I don't feel right about doing that, depending on the temple. I wanted to experience things without being behind a lens. When we arrived we were told the significance of each yogini and then a puja was done for us. We were the only visitors and it was very special for me -- I felt the energy of the little Kali behind me. Unlike the huge Tamil Nadu temples I am so familiar with, there are no soaring spires here. Thousands of years ago this was the beating heart of a primeval society, open to the elements but hidden from outsiders. Dedicated to worship of the Mother Goddess in all her forms, I felt safe. In one niche there was a female Ganesha, the yogini Ganesani. There were many others such a yogini with the face of a bear, and others wearing garlands of human heads or holding different weapons. There were also the familiar goddesses such as Lakshmi and Chamundi. The yoginis were regarded with both fear and awe.

An image of Shiva is also found here and there is a square slab that the priest told me is believed to have been used by wandering tantriks as a sacrificial altar. I climbed on top and immediately felt the urge to dance, the same way I wanted to dance when I felt the energy in the Park Street Cemetery in Kolkata. Something about those charnal grounds....

I've recently learned about the above book and I will definitely buy it to learn more about these powerful yoginis. "It appears that the worship of the Yoginis... was one of the significant, though less familiar, cults practiced by the Saktas who believed in the supremacy of Sakti or Power concentrated in the person of the Great Goddess."

19 May 2010

shi*t a crazy old yogini says 2

"All the google searches for "chakra underwear" fascinate me...and then they end up here. I never knew so many people were so interested in wearing underwear with chakra images. Must be a new social dynamic, like people who tweet.

Hey, is that a chakra in your pants or are you just happy to see me?"

Show Biz Gurus and Chakra Underwear

17 May 2010

sh*t a crazy old yogini says

You've heard about the twitter and Facebook phenom "Sh*t My Dad Says" (which I love by the way)?

Then welcome to the newest feature of this blog: Sh*t a Crazy Old Yogini Says.

"Practice itself is the vehicle of enlightenment. There are those rare among us who instantly become self-realized, but for the rest, it takes work.

I've heard the Dalai Lama say that westerners think too much, we are always lost in thought. A daily diet of words stirs up the mind, which in and of itself is not necessarily bad. But there is the risk that students will practice with their brains instead of their guts and thereby become enmeshed in the dharma instead of liberated by it."

I like Susie Essman playing me in the TV pilot.

16 May 2010

oldie but a goodie

Decided to republish this when a reader told me that she felt "liberated" after reading it.

14 May 2010

here comes the surya

(original upload by omtapas)

Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.

Truth is like the sun. You can shut it out for a time, but it ain't goin' away.
--Elvis Presley

The wisdom of the Buddha and Elvis....what more could you want in a yoga blog?

13 May 2010

show up and shut up

The yoga/Hindu wars started in the articles by Deepak Chopra and Aseem Shuklah that YogaDork posted here and here. I think the comments are longer than the articles themselves.

Now the fracas has spilled over to here and here over at elephantjournal even getting into the Aryan Invasion of India theory which is a whole 'nother kettle of fish. Yawn.

I'm here to bring it back.

I'm here to keep it real.

Like Brenda told me on my birthday, "keep kickin' it and staying real..." So this one's for you, Brenda.

This is the only yoga I care about: paz yoga. And I've been keeping it real for these women for a long time.

I can assure you that these women don't care about the Gita, the Vedas, the Upanishads, whether a yogi is a Hindu or vice versa.

They could not care less about how Lululemon pants help your camel toe (some show up to my class wearing jeans) and they've never heard of any of your favorite show biz yoga rock stars. Ana who? John who? Shiva who?

And they certainly don't care about any celeb-yogis. But they love it when I tell them to move their hips like Shakira.

Show up on your mat, shut up, and do your practice.

You do your yoga and I'll do mine.

11 May 2010

metta to you all

10 May 2010

life is a vinyasa

1. I am of the nature to grow old. There is no way to escape growing old.

The forever changing images that I see in the mirror each morning remind me of the first of Buddha’s Five Remembrances. Today this soul’s present incarnation has been on this planet for over 55 years.

My photographs are also constant reminders of my mortality. Every birthday reminds me that I now have less time ahead of me than I have behind me. That knowledge makes each day more precious than the last. I will not die an unlived life.

"eat mangoes naked
lick the juice off your arms
discover your own goodness
smile when you feel like it
be delicious
be rare eccentric original
smile when you feel like it
paint your soul"

What happened to the 16 year old? What happened to the 20 year old? They are still here but the package has changed, the ribbons are torn and frayed and the wrapping paper yellowed and weakened in spots.

I see these old photos and am reminded that I almost died at my own hand when I was 16. I never thought I would live to be at the party where my friend grabbed me with gusto around the waist. I could have left this earth a long time ago in more ways than one. I tried my damnedest for years to do just that. But I am still here, those girls are still around somewhere inside my head.

Those photos are also a reminder of the me I lost but found again once I got back on the yoga path. Life is a circle.

"The Ouroboros often represents self-reflexivity or cyclicality, especially in the sense of something constantly re-creating itself, the eternal return, and other things perceived as cycles that begin anew as soon as they end. It can also represent the idea of primordial unity related to something existing in or persisting from the beginning with such force or qualities it cannot be extinguished."

The photos bring home the truth of the Five Remembrances and the truth of impermanence and they remind me to THINK. Birthdays are contemplations on what I would like to plant in this final season of my life.

What will it be?

What do I plan to do with this one wild and precious life?

2. I am of the nature to have ill health. There is no way to escape ill health.

Every day I wake up with pain. My freaky femurs that Paul Grilley uses as examples of extreme internal hip rotation are beginning to ache. My hair is thinning and I can see my scalp. My eyes have the beginnings of cataracts. But I thank the Universe for my physical yoga practice because without it I probably could barely move.

I thank the Universe for my yoga and meditation practice that allows me to know the truth of Buddha’s Fourth Foundation of Mindfulness: mindfulness of the dharma, of the true nature of reality that nothing is permanent, that each moment is constantly changing. Asana practice offers a great window into impermanence because our practice changes every time we step on the mat, from day to day, moment to moment. Is your practice changing as you change? And if not, why not? Get real.

3. I am of the nature to die. There is no way to escape death.

4. All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them.

These remembrances are the hardest lessons to learn. Thoughts of death of those near and dear to us and of our own death strike the most fear in our hearts. It is said that our only fear is the fear of death, all our other fears arise from that primal one.

We know things change but we put so much effort and energy into trying to live life as if that were not so. This is what Patanjali wrote about in chapter 2 of the Yoga Sutra-s: he described the qualities necessary to change the mind effectively and gradually from a state of distraction to one of attention, one of the qualities being avidya which is literally “not seeing.” This willful denial of reality, this willful not seeing the truth of impermanence perpetuates our suffering and misery. We so want things to never change – our hair, our skin, our supple spines, the people in our lives – that clinging to things that are by their very nature impermanent causes our suffering.

The suffering of change is what gives us the most gut wrenching pain in our lives. It is not our physical pain, but the pain of pain.

But when this truth of reality sunk deep into my bones it was liberation. I am not responsible for anyone’s happiness, I am only responsible for my own. No one is responsible for my happiness, I am only responsible for my own.

It’s a law of physics that energy can neither be created nor destroyed. We are energy bodies, filled with chi, prana, Life Force, whatever you want to call it. This body is merely the vessel that will eventually crack open and fall apart like an old terracotta pot. But the essence of me will live on. What is born dies but what is never born can never die. We truly are billion year old carbon.

We shall not cease from exploration.
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
-T.S. Eliot

5. My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground upon which I stand.

Like everyone else, my life is composed of losses and gains. My losses have been due to neglect, poor judgment, ego, recklessness, selfishness. My gains have been through hard work, grit, determination, and intuition. Other gains have simply come through the blessings of the Universe. Karma. I’ve been graced with a fortunate birth despite going through things back in the day that would have killed a weaker person. I should never have become this old. The cards were stacked against me. Or were they? I truly am a survivor.

The Five Remembrances keep me awake to the human condition. My spirituality has brought me closer to Spirit, have helped open a heart that was closed for so long, and has taught me to have gratitude for whatever comes my way. My dharma wheel is turning and it tells me to embrace the inevitability of life’s changes.

Life is a constant series of movements that change from one form to another -- just like asanas. I have reached a deep sentient awareness that nothing is truly lost in the end. We meet who we are meant to meet in this life and people come and go and return again in a constant dance and flow -- like a vinyasa. We meet ourselves and each other over and over again in this spanda until we find our way home.

What will you do with your one wild and precious life?

04 May 2010

"Yoga For A World Out Of Balance"

Many thanks to Michael Stone for sending me this passage from his book Yoga For A World Out Of Balance: Teachings on Ethics and Social Action and allowing me to use it for a blog post. This excerpt resonated with me on such a deep level that it gave me pause, especially the sentence: "Yoga teaches us that everything is connected to everything else in the ongoing flux and flow of reality, beginning in the microcosm of the mind and extending all the way through the myriad forms of life."

Sometimes the seemingly most simple insights are the most profound. Over the course of my yoga life I have had more than few epiphanies where the realization of the above sentence sent shock waves through my cells. Once at the Monterey Bay Aquarium where I sat transfixed before the tank containing the kelp forest and having such a deep visceral knowledge of interconnectedness that I felt it in my bones. And in my heart.

Again at the bottom of Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania in March as I watched the wildebeast migration.

Yesterday as I was gardening when I pulled up an oak tree seedling and found the acorn still attached to the root. As I studied the oak in my hand I remembered the words from William Blake's poem: "To see the world in a grain of sand, and to see heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in the palm of your hands, and eternity in an hour."

There is knowing...and then knowing that you know.

In joy.....


"The human world is continually speeding up while the non-human world of plants, insects and animals, with its once vast range of ecological diversity, is rapidly declining, causing irreversible symptoms throughout the web of life. A spiritual practice exclusively concerned with my enlightenment, my transcendence, or my emancipation from this life, this body or this earth is not a spiritual practice tuned into these times of ecological, social, physical and psychological imbalance. The declining health of our ecosystems and the call for action in our cities, economies, communities and families remind us that we don’t have time to wait for enlightenment in isolated caves or interior sanctums; instead, it’s time to consider action-in the world and inner practice as synchronistic and parallel. Action in the world is not an externally imposed duty or simply a preliminary stage on the path to greater awareness but is in itself a valid spiritual path and an expression of interdependence, freedom and awakening.

By seeing the inseparability of psychological change, ethical action and spirituality, we can avoid the common fragmented and problematic view that spiritual practice takes us away from the world, excluding the body, householder life and pressing contemporary issues like poverty, injustice, environmental degradation or other forms of inequality and suffering. Yoga teaches us that everything is connected to everything else in the ongoing flux and flow of reality, beginning in the microcosm of the mind and extending all the way through the myriad forms of life. Yoga also claims freedom from suffering as its primary objective. It is from these realizations that our spiritual, ethical and contemplative practices originate and mature. Wherever there is imbalance and suffering, yoga shows up.

Because of the sweeping changes of the modern era - including genetic research, the telephone, internet, high rates of literacy, swift air travel, two column accounting systems and faster and faster lifestyles - the iron-age world view out of which yoga teachings began to be described and refined can only offer us a partial platform, path and set of truths. We begin in this culture at this time, so we must begin now to articulate and re-envision a yoga that is responsive to present circumstances – rooted in tradition yet adaptable and alive in contemporary times. Yoga has always represented a radical path that leaves behind stiff metaphysics and doctrine and instead turns the practitioners’ attention inward to the immediate experience of mind and body. The yogin studies the nature of reality as it presents itself here and now. As we turn toward the mind-body process we begin to open to the temporary nature of our lives as well as the fact that we are inextricably woven into the very elements that constitute everything else – we are the natural world. For too long, yoga has been mischaracterized as an inner practice without understanding the teleology of practice. Yoga practices tune us into reality by waking us up to the inherent transience of earthly life, the freedom that arises when wanting is relinquished, the truth that no thing is “me” or “mine,” and the basic intelligence of the mind, body and the life that supports us. The term “yoga” connotes the basic unity and interconnectedness of all of life including the elements, the breath, the body and the mind. The techniques of yoga – including body practices, working with the breath and discovering the natural ease of the mind – reorient the practitioner to the very deep continuity that runs through every aspect of life until we realize that mind, body and breath are situated in the world and not apart from worldly life in any way.


When I began practicing yoga my primary focus was the physical practice of yoga postures and every morning for the first six years, I woke up to practice at five o’clock , six days a week. I sat in meditation for an hour, followed by standing postures, twists, forward bends, an hour of back bending and inversions and finally breakfast. When I had any free time, I attended academic lectures on Indian philosophy, completed two degrees in psychology and religion and studied Sanskrit; but the formality of my practice began to feel separate from the world I moved through and I felt that formal practice and daily life had little in common. The connection between meditation, the physical practice of yoga, and the spiritual discipline to which it belonged became ambiguous and vague and though I could intellectually grasp the connection between waking up the body and stilling the mind, I didn’t understand how to put these practices into action in everyday life. While I was having significant insights in meditative practices, I felt formal practice and daily life were not seamlessly woven.

This is true for many contemporary yoga practitioners, and as I now teach extensively, the most common question I hear is how to integrate philosophy, body practices, meditation and daily life together with one’s role in relationships, concerns about the world around us, and the desire to take action in a world out of balance. Even when students begin having genuine experiences of insight or meditative quietude, I always ask them how they are going to incorporate these experiences into their daily activities. How does spiritual practice support and motivate our choices and ambitions? How can my personal enlightenment be the goal of practice if there is so much suffering around me? If the domain of any spiritual tradition is the relief and transformation of suffering, what does yoga, one of the great spiritual traditions, have to say about contemporary forms of suffering and existential disorientation ?

For the practitioner of hatha yoga - the meditative practice of waking up to present experience in mind and body - the link between yoga as a “practice” and a “spirituality,” is often realized through an intuition rather than through intellectual articulation. However, intuition is not enough; nor is it enough to imagine that yoga offers a complete set of codes or truths that can, like mathematical equations, tell us what to do in every given situation. The world is too complex, too nuanced, and is always shifting, therefore we need to investigate the practical ways that yoga practice matures both in formal study and in everyday life. Today, our personal, ecological and social situations present unique and direct challenges to each and every one of us to respond to the great existential questions of life and death, to look deeply into interdependence, and to fully actualize our awakening in a world distressed and in need. How is our awakening going to contribute to the world-at-large? Why is our spiritual path important for the great rivers, the butterflies and the architecture of our cities?"