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To Bhagawan, Tathagata, Arhat, Perfectly Completed Buddha, I prostrate

I often feel that I have not appropriately thanked my teachers and my ancestors in my haphazard writings. So I am beginning this post with a prayer to the Buddha(s) in their honor. If you’re interested, here is the Prayer of Confessions and Prostrations to the 35 Buddhas and a “shorter version”, the Sutra Illuminating the Darkness of the 10 Directions.

The lessons are coming hard-and-fast now. Things are speeding up. I know this experience isn’t unique to me. Maybe, as we crest our mid-40’s and start seeing our 60’s as nearer than our 20’s, we all start having this experience? Or is it that there is some sort of evolutionary imperative at work - subtle yet powerful forces churning and dancing just below the surface of our collective consciousness? Hmmmmmmmmm.

As I get older, the things that are most important to me – the things I hold most dear – are also the things that I am becoming more-and-more acutely aware of losing. I look at examples of the incomprehensible, complete lack of compassion or reverence for the lives of fellow human beings, animals, our Mother Earth – and I feel overwhelming sadness and pain. I feel inadequate to stop such things – to make any sort of difference – to contribute any sort of pure, authentic good to situations that seem completely devoid of it. This is darkness.

Carl Gustav Jung famously said, “Enlightenment is not imagining figures of light but making the darkness conscious.”

That’s what it feels like. That somehow, the things that I find so disheartening in the world are in fact reflections of an inner turmoil. And by my doing the hard work in trying to resolve this agitated state of being – this darkness - things may “change for the better” (I will develop the clarity of authentic perception), because I will have dismantled a very elaborate projector system – myself. Maybe it is because we are witnessing or experiencing such horrendous and appalling tragedy – on a magnitude like never before - on almost a daily basis – that it is further sign that the darkness is being brought to the surface to be somehow integrated? I feel this to be the case.

If I can completely honor and accept these feelings of utter helplessness, I will be able to move beyond them – and not be stuck in them (bless you Abdi Assadi). Only then will I be able to be fully present in the world in such a way that I am able to meaningfully contribute to this world and honorably, respectfully, and compassionately serve my fellow beings. It is only because of my teachers and ancestors, that I am able to begin to grasp this fundamental lesson.

I am reminded of spending time in Italy with one of my beloved teachers, Tim Miller of the Ashtanga Yoga Center in Carlsbad, CA. When he was speaking of his time with the late, great Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (Guruji) – particularly when he first took Darshan and Pranaam (bowed to touch his feet), it certainly wasn’t a common thing to do as a Westerner (particularly in the U.S. in 1978!). As Tim was reminiscing, tears of immeasurable love and gratitude freely flowed from this great man. In the witnessing of such devotion (Bhakti) and love for his teacher (Guruji), it puts into proper perspective the feelings I have for him (Tim Miller) and all my other teachers.

I will close this posting with a quote I’ve used before, but it conveys the greatest lessons of all – honoring the love of those that mean the most to us – and remembering with reverence those that have gone before us:

"These teachings have been brought to you from Padmasambhava's enlightened heart, across centuries, over a thousand years, by an unbroken lineage of masters, each one of whom only became masters because they had learned humbly to be disciples, and remained, in the deepest sense, disciples of their masters all their lives. Even at the age of eighty-two, when Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche spoke of his master Janyang Khyentse, tears of gratitude and devotion came into his eyes. In his last letter to me before he died, he signed himself "the worst disciple." That showed me how endless true devotion is, how with the greatest possible realization comes the greatest devotion and the most complete, because the most humble, gratitude."

"The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying"
by Sogyal Rinpoche

May all beings, including ourselves have happiness and the causes of happiness.
May all beings, including ourselves be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.
May all beings, including ourselves rejoice in the well-being of others.
May all beings, including ourselves live in peace, free from greed and hatred.

OM Shanthi,

I don’t know anything. Nothing at all. Thank you.

I heard these words (title) from Manuel Rufino, an Ayahuasquero and Healer from Native American traditions during his talk given as part of the 2nd Annual Ayahuasca Monologues on April 17th.

April/May shaped-up to be pretty big for me and I had a sort of prescience for it (as described in past posts) – an anticipation that seemed to be building since the beginning of the year. The change of seasons has indeed brought with it many shifts – and many blessings.

Dana and I traveled to Encinitas/Carlsbad, CA to spend some time with our West Coast and senior yoga teacher, Tim Miller, during the first two weeks of April. My 42nd birthday was on April 21st. April 29th the great Dr. Albert Hofmann, ‘the father of LSD’, passed away at the age of 102. On May 2nd I installed a photography exhibit at The Shala. I lost a full time, on-site freelance contract on April 11th, but started another one on a work-from-home basis on May 9th. At some point during the last month, my yoga teacher, Barbara Verrochi, gave me the final pose (setu bandhasana) in the primary series of Ashtanga (the Mysore-style practice). Completing the primary series was something I thought I’d never do – at least in this lifetime. And lastly, I received some interest in my doing a bit of journalism – something I’ve always dreamed of pursuing.

I wonder if the shifts I seem to be undergoing are being experienced on a more universal level. No, I know they are. It’s hard NOT to see the synchronicities – and the drastic changes. Eckhart Tolle and Oprah completed their 10-week online series. Barack Obama appears poised to take the democratic nomination for the Presidential run in November. The housing/foreclosure crisis is further traumatizing the middle class – and calling into serious question the societal 'programming' (and lending practices) surrounding the so-called ‘American Dream’. Gasoline prices are so alarmingly high that the senate hearings with the oil tycoon CEOs regarding the astronomical oil company profits harkens-back to the ‘Big Tobacco’ hearings of the late 90’s. Everywhere and at every level of our culture, the sheer greed of Wall Street and the continuing corporatization of every aspect of our lives are beginning to send catastrophic shock-waves throughout the entire planetary existence. One need only look at the environmental collapse, the rapid rise of religious fundamentalism and related violence, the micro-and-macro impact of these out-of-control, robber-baron conglomerates, the increasing insensitivity of the population when it comes to blatant acts of violence and depravity in our media or otherwise, the perverse fascination with ‘celebrity culture’ and voyeurism for those in our society that seek only to further expose their own vanity, the disturbing level of government complacency and duplicity for the lobbyists and special interests, etc.

I want to believe that we are in the midst of a paradigm shift in consciousness - the old ways giving way to the new. It has to be this way – we cannot evolve as a species without something BIG taking place - even if that something big brings with it significant suffering in the course of the grander scheme. The ripple in the still pond is always greater near the epicenter.

On a more personal level, I often wonder EXACTLY how to be in this world – how to conduct myself in my day-to-day existence. My struggle the last several years appears to be around holding my personal power and manifesting (and holding) abundance. How do I do this? And I don’t need any more metaphors or mystical analogies. One of my issues is that I am such the anti-establishment kind of person, so non-mainstream that I’ve basically alienated myself from a lot of our culturally-sanctioned paths to success. By being the ‘outsider’ but all the while secretly wanting the trappings of success that define the ‘insider’, is a hypocritical stance to say the least. I don’t know how to reconcile the two worlds. All I know is that my mind is my hindrance and my worst enemy. What I’m left with as a practice is to try – no, to risk losing everything all the time just to make damn sure that I’ve tried to do my absolute best in this life to ‘carve-out’ an existence that is inline with my ideals and my dreams. I would rather risk everything day-in-and-day-out and suffer the constant unease due to that seemingly never-ending struggle – than to remain ‘asleep’ in some cookie-cutter, societal idea of ‘a decent life’. As a friend of mine once said about a corporate gig in the typical sea of cubicles: “Man, that’s a slow death.” I couldn’t agree more.

If I have any advice for the reader it’s this: Follow your dreams no matter the cost, because if you don’t the price you’ll pay will be your very soul. This life is yours and HIS/HERS. What you do with it is between the two of you. In the end it won’t matter because you’ll return to HIM/HER. And all this will have been his folly. But if you waste this precious gift, HE/SHE may have you come back and do it all over again, and again, and again – until you get it right. So, carpe diem my dear friends and face your lives in the only skillful way that I know at this point: “I don’t know anything. Nothing at all. Thank you.

OM Shantih,


Pranams at Thy Lotus Feet

I have recently returned to NYC after a week-long trip to the North County area of San Diego, California. The main reason Dana and I went was to study/practice with Tim Miller of the Ashtanga Yoga Center in Carlsbad. Tim is the first American certified by Sri Krishna Pattabhi Jois to teach Ashtanga Yoga and began studying with him in 1978. Guruji (Jois) teaches according to the methods taught to him by the legendary Sri Tirumali Krishnamacharya. Ashtanga Yoga is an ancient system of Yoga that was taught by Vamana Rishi in the Yoga Korunta. This text was imparted to Sri T. Krishnamacharya in the early 1900's by his Guru Rama Mohan Brahmachari, and was later passed down to Pattabhi Jois during the duration of his studies with Krishnamacharya, beginning in 1927 - courtesy of the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute. Guruji also calls Ashtanga yoga Patanjali Yoga because the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are the spiritual and philosophical foundation of Ashtanga Yoga.

Tim is a sweet, funny, humble and supremely generous and gracious teacher and his studio has a light-hearted and yet profoundly dedicated vibe to it. A very different energy than that of NYC yoga studios in general. Almost the polar opposite – very nurturing and light (sweet? playful? feminine?) as opposed to the frenetic and dense (driven? competitive? masculine?) energy of NYC. It was a magical vacation and I have a very special place in my heart for Tim and the Encinitas/Carlsbad area. The surfing, the fish tacos, the yoga, the California beach-town vibe, etc. Not only is this area the birthplace of Ashtanga Yoga in the U.S. - I should also mention that there is a long spiritual tradition in that area, specifically that of the Self-Realization Fellowship founded in Encinitas in 1937 by Paramahansa Yogananda. It is at the Hermitage where he wrote the spiritual classic, Autobiography of a Yogi, one of my transformative influences. Because of this trip and the experiences, I feel as though I’ve had a breakthrough of sorts. I had been feeling rather stuck for a very long time prior to this vacation and I feel that I’ve finally taken another important step in my own progress along the path (I wrote about feeling stuck in a previous posting). I don’t know if was Tim, surfing, the big fight I had with Dana, walking in the footsteps of Paramahansa Yogananda or what - but I felt a lot lighter coming back into NYC and I’ve been able to hold (somewhat) that feeling since. I spoke to a friend about this feeling and I think it’s about recognizing the fact that no matter what transpires, that we always have possibilities in our lives. I forget who, but I remember a great teacher speaking of the fact that because we’re alive, that anything is possible. I couldn’t see a life for myself in any place other than New York prior to the trip, and now I see that there are other places that would (could) sustain me. Not that I’m through with New York by any stretch, but it’s nice (crucial?) to have another possible home - even the fantasy of it. It’s the associated feelings of expansiveness that I’m trying (with great difficulty) to describe. It’s as if due to this trip, that I’ve expanded the boundaries of my perceptions in inumerable ways – ways that I hadn’t anticipated. Travel (experience) really is the greatest teacher one can have. The famous cook book author Anne Willan taught me that - but that's another story...

Sri Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi (Ammachi) was just here in NYC for her Summer 2007 tour. I again tried to receive her darshan only to fail due to my own impatience (cynical ego?) and scheduling conflicts. You really need to set aside an entire day (or night) to see her. You can get a token for the darshan line and then time/estimate how long it takes for a few of the letters of the alphabet (represented on the tokens) to cycle – each alphanumeric combination representing a large group of people waiting to receive her darshan. You can then leave and then go back to the center at the appropriate ETH (estimated time of hug). I tried this methodology, but came back too late and missed my opportunity. This is my second attempt. The first time on her previous tour, I went at night and was looking at a very, very long wait – into the early morning hours at the very least. When you’re looking an early start and a long one at work the next day, it becomes an issue of resolve and dedication. I bailed that time too. A dear, sweet friend was able to go and I’m happy to say was successful in her quest. She attributed my advice and tips to her successful experience, but we both know that there was another guide at work. She related to Dana and I a story that sent shivers down my spine – that a complete stranger commented on her tatoos (symbols for enlightenment) and said that she “needed to do more work on that”. Prior to this point my friend was on the fence about going to see Ammachi – knowing very well the possibilities of a formidable undertaking. Upon hearing the admonishment of this complete stranger, she made a bee-line to the Manhattan Center and in under an hour was able to embrace the living saint who has embraced somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 million people (talk about LinkedIn!). According to my friend this was no ordinary embrace and her story (and glowing aura) was testament to the blessing she received by the divine mother. It was an amazing recounting and one that filled me with joy not only for her, but also that I had a small part in such a profound experience. There are no coincidences. Thank you Blessed Mother and all my teachers, pranams at your lotus feet.

OM Shantih,