Poetry, Spirituality

As Above, So Below

Mother Nature speaks in green
always, then more gold and red
in autumn. Weeping willows may
be her hair and rivers
her arteries. Her many children,
birds and fish and beasts,
frolic in woods, on beaches, even
in city cemeteries. They speak
and dance and nurture their young.
Do I notice, do I listen? Or, am I
too busy trying to earn money
to pay for my own survival?

Heaven says give up all worries,
listen to the heart more
than the head to find Truth
and Beauty and unending Love.
Prayer does not require words.
Prayer is presence to the Presence
that never vanishes, that lives above
and below, inside and outside. See?
Nature and the Divine are one, like
two sides of a coin, like the clam’s
bivalve shell resting at water’s edge:
as above, so below.

Approach the Divine through the objects
of Nature. And find deep connection
and love of Nature by listening
to Heaven. Pray with the breath,
the heartbeat. Pray with holy texts
or with crayons. Pray by dancing
or singing. Or. Sit. In silence. Listen:
“Be still and know that I am God.”*
Where are you, God?
“As above, so below. Be.” Amen. OM… OM… OM…

*Psalm 46:10

Jivani at the Pagoda in Norfolk, VA
Spirituality, Yoga

True Independence

By Swami Ramananda

Independence implies a freedom from being controlled or unduly influenced by an outside source. Spiritual independence suggests the freedom to live in harmony with the spiritual truth at the heart of our being. It implies freedom from depending on any outside source for our happiness, which becomes more and more possible as we begin to experience the profound and unchanging peace within.

Most of us experience daily ups and downs as the situations and events in our lives unfold. When things go our way, we feel pleased and cheerful; when they don’t, we may be disappointed and frustrated. This tells us that we have unintentionally tied—and thus bound—our happiness to the changing world of thoughts, feelings, relationships, external objects, name and fame, and so on.

It’s not surprising that the predominant beliefs of our culture have influenced the way we understand ourselves and our relationship to the world around us. All our lives, we’ve been fed the message that happiness lies in pursuing and holding onto, as well as avoiding, certain things. The teachings of Yoga help us understand that the more we depend on our reputation, bank account, achievements, or the admiration of others as the source of our peace of mind, the more elusive it becomes.

When we find ourselves feeling anxious or angry, it can be an eye-opening exercise to question ourselves, “What is it that I am wanting but not getting that is preventing me from being at peace with this moment?” Or we could ask, “Who is upset and who is aware of it?” If I am aware that I am upset, I can center myself in that awareness or Beingness that is the real “I”, and is always peaceful, balanced, and lacking nothing.

Working with the breath can assist us in this type of inquiry. Pause and ask: “Do I have to be upset or can I take some deep breaths and reconnect to the center of balance even as I pursue my efforts?” In such moments, it can be beneficial to challenge ourselves to find at least a foothold of contentment and remember that is our birthright.

If we are in touch with who we truly are, with a felt inner sense of contentment, our relationship to anything that we might acquire or achieve is dramatically different. We can still enjoy things that we accomplish or experience, but our happiness is not contingent on those things. We can still enjoy eating something, winning a game, and pursuing a career or a relationship, but we can also enjoy the process since we are not relying on the outcome.

Yoga teaches us that we all experience this spiritual independence when we are able to quiet our minds and its movements: all the worrying, obsessing, and mindlessness that often occupies them. Beneath the surface waves of the mind lies an ocean of peace, a deep sense of contentment and connection with all of life. Imagine going about your day with that feeling in the forefront of your mind. Over time, that sense of peace will permeate all your experiences.

Stilling the mind this way is no easy task, but even a little success through some form of regular meditative practice will give us a taste of that natural joy that is ever-present at the heart of our being. Better still, a whole lifestyle based on the teachings of Integral Yoga creates a comprehensive approach that addresses all the levels of our being, and provides fertile ground for growth.

This means adopting sacred standards, such as the Yama and Niyama of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, as our guidelines for living. It means practicing asana, pranayama and meditation to calm and focus the mind. It means letting go of preferences that don’t really serve us and attuning to the inner wisdom that is always in service to the highest good of everyone, including ourselves. It includes an effort to disentangle our sense of self from the ways we have defined ourselves—witnessing the stories of the mind rather than being imprisoned by them. And, it embraces serving others with selfless love and care, without attachment to the result.

As our practice deepens, we experience moments free from past conditioning and begin to see ourselves and our relationship to the world in a fresh way. We begin to feel our connection to each other and all of nature. Over time, such a dedicated life will gradually restructure even the subconscious mind so that we are no longer compelled by old beliefs and fears, and are free to approach life with a sense of deep belonging, inner contentment, and wonder. This is true independence—the birthright that we are all meant to experience.

Spirituality

Mindfulness Community of Hampton Roads

The Mindfulness Community of Hampton Roads was founded in May 1992. Its mission is to provide a sangha, or community, to support those who practice Buddhism in Norfolk and elsewhere in Hampton Roads. Although formation of the Mindfulness Community of Hampton Roads was inspired by the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh, it became evident soon after its inception that there was a need to expand its scope to embrace the support of practitioners from all Buddhist traditions, as well as those who practice secular mindfulness and have an interest in Buddhism. 

The sangha was on hiatus due to COVID-19 protocols, but is now meeting again. All are welcome to join us in our practice, including beginners. We meet on the first and third Sunday (10:30AM-12:30PM) of each month. Although basic meditation instruction is available for beginners, many in our group have received meditation instruction in some other context.

 “A sangha is a community of resistance, resisting the speed, violence, and unwholesome ways of living that are prevalent in our society… A good sangha can lead in the direction of harmony and awareness.”  — Thich Nhat Hanh

Find more information here: Mindfulness Community of Hampton Roads

Photo by Eric Smart on Pexels.com
Poetry, Spirituality

Heron

Heron
swoops in
before me,
wings rustling
the wind.
Light footsteps
barely brush
fertile earth.
Feathers fluff,
eyes take in all.
A quiet, gentle
spirit is.
Then beak jabs
soft ground –
some small snake
captured.
Heron shakes
and shakes
his head
to effect
sure death.
A good meal
on a clear day.

Spirituality, Yoga

Why Resistance is Necessary

“Resistance is Necessary” by Sri Swami Satchidananda….

We are all searching for the happiness and peace that we once experienced. Now it seems to be missing. Certainly we want to find it the quickest way possible. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come that easily. We have to go through many kinds of resistance. Why? Because only by passing through resistance do we become stronger. Resistance is necessary.

A seed needs some sort of resistance. That’s why you dig a hole, put the seed in and cover it up. Then it says, “Oh, you think you are going to stop me here? I’m going to come up!” It pushes through and grows strong.

So don’t look for the way of least resistance. No matter how big that resistance is, face the situation. Your own strength, your own mental courage will help you a lot. Once you feel that, “Yes, I can win it!” you will win. Don’t say, “Ah, I don’t know. I’ll try.” No. With that attitude, you have already lost seventy-five percent of your strength. Be bold. Be strong. “I will achieve it. Today or tomorrow I am going to get it.” That’s very important. You need that will to achieve what you really want in life.

Photo by Joshua Woroniecki on Unsplash