Thursday, December 23, 2010

Will you be a winner?

There's only one week left in the Where in the World is Swami Cat contest.  There is already one winner.  You too can be a winner if you can guess correctly the location of Swami Cat in this photo.  Reply as a comment to the post with your guess.  Good Luck!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Winner!

Last month's contest to pick Yoga Girl's logo color scheme winner is Jayadevi Petty!  Congratulations!  Looking forward to creating the Yoga Girl t-shirt in purple with gold lettering!  Thank you all who participated!

This month's contest has to do with the blog's picture-- Do you know where in the world Swami Cat is?  Leave us a comment here to enter.  If you are right, you win a copy of the most recent Yoga Life Society Satsang DVD with Sri Guruji Rev. Jaganath Carrera, entitled, "This is the Heart of Yoga."

Peace to you all during the holiday season!

Standing Barefoot Before God

I'm inspired.  All it took was a magazine article to wind me up and set me spinning, or should I say, writing again.  "Standing Barefoot Before God, The agony and the ecstasy of writing as a spiritual practice" written by Rabbi Rami was published in October's Ode Magazine.  It is written by a Rabbi which first caught my attention since  I'm reading it two months later and it is Chanukah.  I'm in need of a little bit of chutzpah to combat the graying days.

But this article is not written in a Jewish perspective it is written in a Yogic perspective, what I mean is that the author quotes the new testament, Hinduism and "The Legend of Bagger Vance."  (Great movie if you haven't seen it.) Moreover he's speaking my language-- the language of creativity.  He says that writing can be a spiritual practice if 1) You don't write what you know.  2)You can't write what you don't know.  3)You must write.  It is much like damned if you do, damned if you don't-- and he says that being damned is quite liberating!  I love this idea.  Also he says not to worry about publishing, or producing -- just write for writing's sake.  This is what I used to do years ago after I read the book, The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron.  I wrote five pages a day and have dozens of journals to prove it.  I stopped writing like this because I felt that the the destination was not fruitful.  Writing plays, articles and short stories that were not published or produced felt like little deaths and all of the tombstones were collected alphabetically in my hard drive. 

Rabbi Rami has reminded me that, "write what you know and keep at it until you at last realize yo udon't know much and what you do know is terrifyingly trite and stupefyingly boring."  Most of us who reach this point quit-- but if you stay with it, like Moses standing barefoot where he meets God, then you find liberation.

This is exactly like meditation.  "...it leaves you raw and bleeding rather than smug and satisfied.  It leaves you hanging on the cross of your own hubris..." leading to your own crucifixion and therefore absolutely free.

Beautiful.

(I'm going to go write some more offline.  Maybe it'll end up here.  Maybe not.  And that's the point.)

Om Shanti. 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Carbohydrates

Ah, Carbs.
My doctor says that I most likely have hypoglycemia and it is kept in check by eating a low carb diet.  

I have heard of low-carb, of course I have, but I don't think I ever really thought about it.  I am one of the most health food conscious people I know.  At work they ask me what I'm eating all the time and when I tell them kale, they wonder why I'm eating a garnish.  


Being healthy for me means: vegetarian but a little fish once in awhile, taking six vitamins every day (and I just learned that I should spread them out throughout the day -- it's helped my energy level), no dairy for I'm lactose intolerant and don't like factory farming of cows, and trying to reduce my gluten intake for fear that it causes my frequent bouts of candida.  Oh yes and sugar, I try to do less of that as well for so many reasons.


Just an hour ago my doctor said to me try a low-carb diet and he said that gluten-free doesn't mean low-carb.  Hm, I wondered, what is a low-carb diet.  I know that some fruits and veggies are carbs, so what am I do to?  


Luckily for me, the internet has a zillion articles on the topic.  Below I have pasted a few of the lessons I learned today:


Bad carbs are carbohydrate foods that have been highly refined and processed, removing most of the nutritional value and fiber. They're generally loaded with high-calorie fats, sweeteners, preservatives and other unhealthy additives.

With all the processing and additives, bad carbs can be made to be temptingly tasty. But they create a dramatic surge in insulin, which can overwork your pancreas, cause you to store fat and lead to diabetes, heart disease,
obesity, stroke, arthritis and Alzheimer's disease. (Many of these run in my family so I want to be very careful.)



The article also went on to describe how back before the industrial revolution people always ate the whole grain.  In the name of progress, the grains were stripped of their oily fibrous shells which have B vitamins and necessary fiber because it was easier to store the grains long term.  I remember Guruji mentioning that it seems ironic to him that we buy food today that says 100% whole wheat because that is what it is supposed to be but in our modern baked goods we take it out, process it and then in have to put it back in-- instead the bread we buy in grocery stores should have a label that states partial wheat, or in the case of Wonder Bread or bagels-- 0% whole wheat.






The following list I have printed out and will put on the fridge to remind me (and my husband who loves his fruit juice) that these items should be used sparingly as a treat, not a staple in our diet.

The basic bad carbs list includes:

  • All candies, jelly and jams,
  • Sodas, fruit juices, fruit drinks,
  • Pudding, custards and other sweets,
  • Processed refined grains, like white rice,
  • Bread and pasta made with any refined flour,
  • Cakes, cookies and other sweet bakery products.

I do crave chocolate chip cookies and other sweets, but I also love my health and want to stay healthy, vibrant and clear long into my old age.   Therefore, I start today another promise to myself to be the change I want to see in the world.  (Thank you Mahatma Gandhiji for wonderful words to live by.)

If you would like to read more about carbs:
http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art6628.asp

And a helpful Yogic Diet guide is on the Yoga Life Society website under learning center.


Enjoy the beautiful day.

Love and light,
Yoga Girl

Saturday, November 6, 2010

HAPPY DIWALI!


And don't forget to vote on the Yoga Girl logo in the post below.  All the voters will be put into a hat and the winner is interviewed by Swami Cat on the soon to be released Swami Cat TV show!

Om Shanti!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Voting

I did research last night on who to vote for in today's election.  It is sad that it took me so long to do any research.  I'm ashamed to admit that I didn't even know who was running.  My television stations run New York and Pennsylvania commercials and that doesn't help me in the middle of New Jersey.  The websites for the candidates aren't that helpful for they are just another expensive advertisement.  How do we chose who to vote for?  Do we vote for the person who we think will vote most like us?  Do we vote for the person who seems strong and will stand up for his/her beliefs?  Or do we vote for the personality, the one who has a more polished website and better photographer for this person knows how the game of politics is played?  Or maybe I vote like a Yogi and try to find the candidate whose values are most focused on peace and compassion.  I was impressed with the Green party candidate for this reason, although I never heard of him, his website was not as high tech and I know that he doesn't have a chance of winning.  So do I not vote for him because it is like throwing a vote away?  It reminds me of the time I almost voted for Nader.  I do wish we had a system that wasn't focused on just two parties.  I feel many of us aren't happy with either one.  But it doesn't seem to be changing anytime soon.  I read that other countries have many parties on the ballot.  Why is it that in America we have to boil everything down to smaller, quicker, easier to put on a sound bite?  Anyway, I couldn't sleep last night for my mind was going around and around these questions.  "What would Guruji do?"  That is what I came up with.  I decided to meditate on it before I went out to vote.  I take the voting process very seriously ever since I saw the mini series John Adams.  When I saw how much they sacrificed for the future generations so that we could live in a free society, and saw how they agonized over the right wording for posterity, I started to take our responsibilities more seriously.  I want the founding fathers and mothers to be proud of what we've become.  Until I find a more active role that interests me in the political arena, what I have to give back is the pressing of electronic light up buttons behind a curtain.  And I'll do it proudly for so many in other countries and even in our own find that the road just to cast a vote is a struggle.  And so I vote for them. 

Hope you remembered to vote. 

Om Shanti.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Happy Hall-ohm-ween!

Haven't had a blog post in such a long time.  Sorry my friends, life has been about teaching junior high, settling into married life and family.  Two days a week I dedicate some service to my parents and grandparents, cooking and spending time with them.  One night I teach Yoga.  Another I go to a playwriting group or work on my writing.  So doesn't leave much time to write on the blog but today I promise to get back to once a week.  This is the place I can look at what is going on in my life and see if I'm keeping the balance-- if I'm actually living the Yogic life.  Right now I'm a little out of balance and it has manifested in headaches and a tight back.  So please let me know that you read the blog, for that helps me to get to the computer to write it.

In fact I have another contest:  Which Yoga Girl Logo design do you like best?  It will be printed onto a T-Shirt as Yoga Girl's official costume.  My new mother-in-law, Bruna designed them.  Aren't they fun?  It is backwards so I can print it out on an iron-on transfer.

Pick A) Purple with gold lettering


B) Gold with purple lettering

or

C) Black and white

Everyone who replies to the blog with his/her answer is entered to win a chance to be interviewed by Swami Cat for the upcoming new show "Inside The Yoga Studio." 
 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A few suggestions from Swami Cat

Dear Loyal Readers,

Here are a few of my new favorite things…

1. CATKU: What Is The Sound of One Cat Napping?
I must give a warm thank you to Reverend Janaki and Reverend Jaganath for finding such a funny book of haikus which are an almost too truthful look at the world through the eyes of a cat.  I don’t think I could write it better, although these cats did not find the peace and joy that Yoga can bring.  Even the animal kingdom falls prey to all the trappings of a large ego, such as “feeling superior than the dog species” and obsession with a tin can of food.

2. Special thanks to KC for bringing my attention to a new wonderfully enlightening program entitled, "Speaking of Faith." She knew I listen to many of NPR’s fine podcasts as I do my nightly walk along the picket fence and she suggested I download episodes of  “Being” hosted by Krista Tippett.

There is one from this summer that has an interview with Matthew Sanford, a Yoga instructor and author who has been paraplegic since he was thirteen years old.  What insight he has into the mind-body communication.  He eloquently explains that there is a subtler level on which to feel, that is accomplished by listening deeply to the body.  One description he shared is so vivid I can not stop thinking about it.  He explained being fully alive in his body, completely sinking into it, letting go of all tension– it is like a hug from someone you love.  How beautiful.  It must be like when my mother picked me up by the scruff of the neck when I was a young kitten and I became limp and yet utterly comfortable. 

This has inspired me to purchase his new book, “WAKING Mind and Body.”  I look forward to snuggling up with this new book while sipping ginger tea on the cooling Autumn nights.

3.Well, I thought I was alone in my unique feline focus on the Yogic arts but I stand corrected.  CL sent me a link to what I just have to say are the most flexible companion pets I have ever seen.  dhttp://yogadogz.com/cats2010.html

I hope you all continue to send me new and exciting Yoga tidbits that you come across.

And remember the Yoga life is not a purrfect, it is a practice. 

Om Sweet Om,

Swami Cat


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Letter To Swami Cat


Dear Swami Cat,

I’m so sorry you couldn’t be there at our wedding because of that catastrophe with your ingrown paw nail.  Then again it was the biggest honor having Sri Rev. Jaganath Carrera officiate.  He told us to take time beforehand to meditate together so that we could be present and enjoy our wedding.  And boy was he right.  At one point while Guruji was speaking about marriage, instead of being nervous about saying my vows, I looked out at the congregation and saw all the couples all leaning into one another holding hands and remembering back to the day when they took their vows.  It was really a touching ceremony and I still have relatives calling to tell us how grateful they were that Guruji took the time to explain the puja and why it was important that everyone not only bear witness but also bless the wedding rings for they will hold within them everyone’s thoughts and prayers.  He also explained that the real moment of marriage in a Yogic ceremony was when we garland one another.  It is the moment that we see each other not only as our partners but also as God embodied within this human form.  I think the ceremony turned a lot of people onto Yoga.  Hopefully we’ll see some of these friends and family join us at Satsang.

Also thank you Swami Cat for that really thoughtful gift card to Petco.  Now all we need is a pet.  Although, I’m a little afraid to tell you that we were thinking of a dog.  Would that offend you?  I’m pretty sure dogs do Yoga too.  I saw one light cocoa colored poodle in a Hatha class once, it was being trained to be a therapy dog so it had to stay with people all day.  When we began Kapalabati breathing she joined in.  I thought it was a fluke but then she stopped when we stopped and began again for our second round.  So what do you think? 

Your faithful assistant,

Yoga Girl


If you would like to send Swami Cat a message feel free to email him through his assistant Yoga Girl at lewritestuff@yahoo.com or go onto his new Facebook page.

Remember to take time to clean your litter box now so you can nap all the rest of the day.
Om and purr.


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Swami Cat's response to Marianne

Dearest Marianne,

I empathize with your problem of constant lateness and was moved to respond to your comment on Yoga Girl's blog.  Ah yes, the lateness habit.  I too once had this particular problem.  As a kitten I was so excited by life, I wanted to do everything at once and unfortunately that meant that nothing was done well.  I was often late to dinner and missed out on the best, juiciest morsels. 

Things became easier for me when I began to practice Yoga off the mat.  All of a sudden the teachings of Yoga that I learned in my classes were spilling out into my life.  While studying Patanjali's Yoga Sutras with my master, Sri Swami Purrananda, I learned that one of the most important teachings is of Ahimsa or non-violence.   This means non-violence in action and in thought.  I began to see that my lateness was actually causing others discomfort.  They were disturbed by my lateness for they have as many pressures and things to do in life as I, yet they could show up on time and began to become angry, resentful and grumbled under their breath.  Furthermore I caused myself much suffering.  Isn't it true that when you realize you are late your body, mind and spirit begin rushing and beating yourself up.  The whole trip in the car there are a few choice angered words at yourself, at the traffic and maybe even at God for creating the traffic jam.  This is violent thought, violence that we have self-created and can easily remedy. 

So what to do?   I began to put others' needs in front of my own.  I thought about them waiting for me and the beating myself up and endless excuses I would make up on the way there.  I began to get up earlier and meditate more.  In meditation I set my intentions for the day and start the thought process of thinking of others first.  It became easier and easier.  And now I arrive early, and guess what?  I have time to look around, take in the surprise beauty of a quick passing hummingbird, smell the honeysuckle, say hello to passersby-- things I didn't have time to do before.  It is so wonderful not being late as a habit.  I highly recommend it.  I feel lighter with a great sense of accomplishment. 

It is not easy to break a habit.  In Yoga we focus on creating new positive habits.  It is said, you need to practice a long time, without break and with enthusiasm. 

I hope this helps you, my friend.

Let me know how it goes.

Remember the Yogic life is not a purrfect, it is a practice. 

Om Sweet Om.

Swami Cat

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Gift of Waiting

Today I waited.  I know you’ve done this too — U.P.S. called and said they would deliver my package today anytime from 9am until 6pm.  I really thought it was going to be around 9am.  I don't know why I thought that, I just hoped, I guess.  I had errands to run and I didn’t want to be stuck in the house all day.  Turns out I was.  It wasn’t until 5:50 tonight that my doorbell rang. 

And it struck me that I wasn’t that annoyed with U.P.S.  I had decided to stay home so I wouldn’t have to go pick up the package.  It was my decision.  Yet, normally I would have been counting the hours, and bad TV shows I watched, wondering where the UPS man was. 

Instead I used this time at home to go deeper into a long meditation this morning.  My mind wouldn’t stop forming stories of future plays I want to write.  But it did become quiet at some point and I was glad that the day was wide open and I had extra time to meditate.  Then I worked on wedding projects, answered emails for Swami Cat, (since I take care of all his correspondence) and around 5pm waited for my honey to come home for dinner.  He was stuck in traffic right near home but couldn’t get to the exit. So I had to wait some more. 

While waiting I remembered a time when I hated to wait.  I was furious with one ex-boyfriend for leaving me alone all day and then coming home just in time to eat and go to sleep, when he could have been home earlier.  He just stopped by a friend’s to help him do some gardening or some other very nice thing that left me at home re-warming dinner.

Lately people have been telling me how proud of me they are that I “waited” for the right man to come.  My Gyno actually told me this.  Friends have mentioned it.  I do feel very lucky, but I don’t know if you call what I was doing waiting.  I was praying, begging, manifesting my life partner into existence with all my heart.  So I would not call it waiting, unless maybe waiting impatiently.  The very notion of “waiting” makes me think pacing, agonizing, short shallow breaths that cause one to become angry.  I have had this type of waiting several times in my life. 

But today no.  I waited patiently.  Whoa- did I just say that?  One of my spiritual goals in life is to garner patience.  I have never been a patient child, so my mother reminds me often.

I have a book on my bookshelf that a friend loaned me.  I took it down today as I thought about this idea of waiting.  It’s called The Seven Spiritual Gifts of Waiting by Holly Whitcomb.  It’s such a great reminder that all good things come to those who wait.  The seven gifts that she writes about are: patience, loss of control, living in the present, compassion, gratitude, humility and then trust in God.  What lovely gifts.  In the book she quotes one of my favorite writers, Madeleine L’Engle:

“During the two years when A Wrinkle in Time was consistently being rejected by publisher after publisher, I often went out and shouted at God.  “Why don’t you let it get accepted?”  But when Wrinkle was finally published, it was exactly the right moment for it, and if it had been published two years earlier it might well have dropped into a black pit of oblivion.”

Madeleine also is quoted saying that what seems a “NO” is often a prelude to a greater “YES.” 

So true, so true.

Now I have to hope my friend doesn’t mind waiting a little bit longer for me to return this book.  It’s only been a year and a half.  What’s a little more waiting?

My question of the week is, how do you spend your waiting time? 

***The first three responses to this blog posting get signed photographs from the famous Swami Cat himself.***

Om Shanti!



Wednesday, August 18, 2010

What is Yoga Philosophy?

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“What is Yoga philosophy?”

Last night over dinner a friend asked me what Yoga philosophy is.  Trying to explain the Yoga Sutras to a friend who doesn’t do Yoga regularly is hard, made even harder by the fact that I had to check the rice pasta and make sure it wasn’t overcooking into an inedible mush.  I thought for a moment about what Guruji would say.  I told her that the basic teaching of Yoga is “do good, be good” (but that sounded too grade school and not exactly what I wanted to say) and then I went on to explain that Yoga is the underlying essence of all religions. 

Maybe I should have quoted Swami Satchidanda’s be “easeful, peaceful, useful” in order to stay centered and happy amidst whatever the world brings you each moment.  Or maybe I should have said that the teachings of Yoga are do a little pranayama, asana, meditation and something good on the behalf of others each day. 

Well what I did say, as I dolloped the tasty pesto onto the pasta, was that I would like to reread Guruji Rev. Jaganath Carrera’s book, Inside the Yoga Sutras and if she’d like to read it at the same time, then we could talk about it as we read.  It would be helpful to have someone reading it at the same time.  I would be a bit more motivated and it would be fun to discuss it.  Would anyone else like to join us in our reading and discussing?  Let me know.   

Also I’m interested… what do you say when someone asks, “What is Yoga philosophy?”

This week I’m happy to announce the first Yoga Girl blog contest.  All those who post a comment by Sept. 1st are entered into a raffle and one lucky winner will receive a Swami Cat photograph signed and blessed by the wise feline himself.

Om Shanti!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Swami Cat Teaches Meditation

video
Here's my first Yoga Comedy Film.  If you like it
please share with friends.  Let's smile and laugh together.  Why not?  Laughter is great Yogic healing!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Getting older

I had gotten out of the habit of plucking the gray hairs, telling myself it was a natural part of getting older and I accepted this.  Mostly because there is nothing you can do about it and everyone goes through it.  So why hide getting older? 

Never thought I would care.  If the grays grew in a stripe like Lily Munster then that would have been cool. 

But looking old"er" for my wedding.  I don't know if I want that.  It's all about getting older in my family get-togethers lately.

Been watching my grandparents hit that stage in their life where they become like children again, and need my parents to help them.  My poor mother is losing sleep now wondering if grandma will hurt herself on the new oven that is in her almost assisted living facility.  (It's more of a hotel with two meals a day.)  Grandma might need more than that for she's having trouble finding the elevator and opening up her door.  This is hard, mom and dad had to do something and there's not enough room in their house for dad's mom and mom's dad.   (Both got sick at once and live in Florida.)  My parents are finding themselves in the situation of making decisions for their parents who previously were very independent people.

Watching my family struggle with the aging process makes me long for villages where the elders are taken care of by the tribe and looked to for advice and wisdom.  Therefore while sitting with her in the lobby of her new home away from home waiting for my parents to finish setting up her linens on the bed, and hang her clothes in the closet, I asked grandma a question that was on my mind.

"Gram, what should I do about my grays for the wedding?  I could dye them."

Grandma can not see too well anymore, so I'm sure she didn't notice them.
"Why can't you just pluck 'em?"

I had almost forgot about that option.  And so first thing this morning I took my grandma's advice.

Yogic?  Not Yogic?  I don't know.  What do you think?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Swami Cat Speaks:

Hari Om to my Yoga family,

Today I found proof that relaxing music works not only on your human species but
of the feline kind as well.
Music Calms Cats

http://www.emaxhealth.com/1275/music-calms-cats-under-stress

Therefore music shall be playing today as I edit the voice overs in my first Yoga Video on how to meditate.  Hopefully Yoga Girl will place it up on this internet site very soon.

I am also starting my own Facebook page which I have heard is how all the modern Yogis are corresponding these days.  We must all keep up with the times, learn from the past, and stay in the present.  Isn't it so?

With many purrs and nuzzles,


Swami Cat

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Ananda Ashram

Going into the woods is the most connecting thing I can think of.  Nature growing all around you and it doesn’t care if you get the laundry done.  Nature doesn’t care if you organize your closet today.  It is a universe all to itself, with or without you.  And sitting among the trees, tall weeds, grasshoppers and ants, I was reminded of how I am a part of a larger story and I am not the main protagonist.  I began to breathe better and sink into my own bones, you know what I mean? 

My friend and I took a mini-vacation to the woodsy Monroe, NY Ananda Ashram, because my friend really wanted to experience an ashram.  But I wasn’t really sure why I went.  I felt guilty for going away when my fiancée just moved in.  I felt guilty for leaving my parents just when their parents were moving in with them.  And I felt that I didn’t even deserve to spend on a mini-retreat when I was not working this summer and had my days to go to Yoga classes and make my own retreat if I wished.  The thing is, I didn’t.  I was filling my days with errands and email.  It was an eye-opener witnessing how many thoughts of guilt I could have in a minute.  I knew it was self-made torture and yet it was hard to let it go.  I let it go successfully in the classes I took and the conversations I had with the new friends I met at Ananda.  I learned so much from the Yoga class.  There was a beautiful closing of looking at your hands and realizing they were Gods hands and a prayer of doing something to help others with these hands.  The wonderfully sweet instructor told me it was a poem that was in a book entitled, “Love Poems From God.”  I would love to find it and use it in my classes.  Then I was really inspired and intrigued by the Chi Gung class we took which had especially challenging breath work that left you tingling from head to toe.  I thought Chi Gung was slow – ha ha, was I mistaken.

Sitting as a guest in an ashram is such a treat.  I have been to Yogaville, but most of my experience with ashram life is in practice for the future Yoga Life Society ashram.  I have wonderful memories of singing songs to myself while washing dishes and nervously but successfully leading the 7am morning meditation.  So I felt a little odd not having to do anything but get my own food, sit and eat.  We sat next to very interesting folks who have been working with or coming to the ashram for decades.  They told me that Swami Satchidananda had lived on these very grounds for three years.  I didn’t know that!  He was pictured near the altar in one of the meditation rooms.  I don’t know why but that made me very happy.  I felt a sudden deeper connection to the place.

In the evening we listened to a brilliant Jazz band with a vocalist that was part Billie Holiday and part Krishna Das. Rev. Kim Lesley’s soulful singing was like nothing I had ever heard before.  What a fun evening.  The best part was seeing the little two year old girl, with closed shaved hair and a little pink dress on scurry up to the stage to clap and turn to the audience and say, “Daddy!”  Her father was the saxophonist.  She was so cute.

Hmmm, thinking back to sitting in the woods, I remember telling myself I have to do this more.  I have turn off the computer and go out into nature more.  This weekend I hope the guys at Ananda are all in the pool because being in nature means just dripping in sweat.  But I bet they are all enjoying themselves anyway.  A little sweat is good for you, body, mind and soul.

Now I highly recommend going away, ignoring any “guilt” thoughts and Ananda is a very affordable trip.  It’s nice to have people cook healthy vegetarian food for you and then sit in meditation with you twice a day.  There really is an energy in the room when so many are meditating at the same time.  I could really feel the earth shake when somebody sneezed.  And if someone shifted on their cushion, the energy shifted as well.  It was as tangible as a breeze. 

Ahh, taking time out for oneself.  Very important and now I have rededicated myself to a real meditation practice.  (I have been sitting but not long enough to quiet the mind.)  At Ananda I was reminded of what true Peace feels like.  It’s a softly bubbling up inner smile that helps you float in nothingness yet at the same time be a part of everything.  Mmmm. 



 

Friday, June 25, 2010

SWAMI CAT'S MEDITATION VIDEO

Transcript of Swami Cat's first Youtube teachings:

SWAMI CAT
So many people today, wonder why they cannot find a quiet of the mind.  My, oh my, so much needless suffering.  People stop me and say, “Swami Cat please tell me how to meditate.”  I’ve decided to do a video to help those who need it.  My lovely assistant Yoga Girl will demonstrate, mostly because I do not have opposable thumbs. 

You can start with the breath. 

(Yoga Girl demonstrates alternate nostril breathing.)  

                        SWAMI CAT
Analoma Viloma.  Good to focus the mind, balance the mind.

(Yoga Girl breathes deeply and mucus comes out of her nose.  She scrambles for a tissue, embarrassed.)

                        SWAMI CAT
Consciously tell the mind to relax.  Now is your time, your time to go within, listen to your higher power.  Or maybe there is only silence.  And maybe that is a lesson in itself, no?

(Yoga Girl sits quietly and we notice her falling asleep.  Her head leans forward and touches the candle on the altar.  Her hair catches on fire and quickly she wakes up and pats her head.) 

                                                            YOGA GIRL
Ow, Ow, Oh my—I’m sorry.  Please forgive me.  Continue.

(Swami Cat shakes his head disapprovingly.  He looks directly into the camera and sighs.)

                                                            SWAMI CAT
If your mind wanders, bring it back to the breath.  Try a mantra.  If you do not have a specific one, try simply Om Shanti.  Breathe in “Om,” exhale “Shanti.”  First say the mantra out loud.  Then just mouth the words and lastly when you are calmer, say it only in your mind. 

There are many other ways to come into one-pointed-ness.  You can stare at a candle, this is Trakta meditation.  You can do some kirtan chanting or singing of uplifting songs. 

(Yoga Girl gets fidgety.  She uncrosses and re-crosses her legs, scratches an itch and then sees dust on the altar.  She uses her finger and finds that it is a thick layer of dust.)

                                                            YOGA GIRL 
I should dust the altar.  I’ll get a rag.

                                                            SWAMI CAT
(to Yoga Girl)
Later.  Sit.
                        (to camera) 
Pick up one of the great spiritual texts, read a passage and meditate on that.  Maybe you need to dedicate the meditation to a certain person.  Send love, light, healing to them with your whole heart, mind and soul. 

(Yoga Girl chants and waves the candlelight in circles around the picture of Swami Cat and then around a picture of his master, Gurudev Purrananda.)

                                                            SWAMI CAT
And remember when you sit in meditation you are not alone—millions are sitting at the same time all over the world, sitting in quiet, tuning in to the love and wisdom of the universe and there is enough love and wisdom to go around.  It is true.  So enjoy, it is all for fun!  Enjoy this present you give to yourself. 

(Yoga Girl spoons a tiny bit of water into her hand from the cup on her altar.  She sips the water and it goes down the wrong way.  She begins to cough and choke.  SWAMI CAT chuckles kindheartedly.)

                                                            SWAMI CAT
Ah yes, we all have to start somewhere.  Remember it is a practice.  It is not called a “perfect.”  I hope this was a little bit helpful.  Namaste.

(SWAMI CAT bows to the camera.  YOGA GIRL bows too, as she continues to cough.)

                                                            YOGA GIRL
Namaste.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Break Through


The other day I had a breakdown.  Why Oh why is it so hard to know what the universe wants us to put our energy into?  Sometimes the teachings say that you make opportunities happen which is part of the Divine plan.  Other times the teachings say that you must let go of thinking that you “do” anything, for if you think that it is you, then God does not have to step in, for you’re already doing it. 

I had a breakdown because I didn’t schmooze the other day.  I was seeing a brilliant play and when I saw someone I knew that worked for the theatre, instead of telling her that I had just finished my masterpiece and I’m looking for a home for it to come to life, I gurgled something to the tune of “Things are good, good and you?”  I don’t know how I’m going to be successful if I can’t talk up my own work?  The play’s really good.  It has to be done more than any other play of mine because it is inspired and written for my cousin who is quadriplegic.  It’s about his love of dance.  He’s been living unable to move much for almost twenty years.  I don’t know how much longer he has left.  I want to get it done and maybe he can come see it, or a video of it at least.  Selling this play to a theatre is a priority and feels doable because I am not thinking of myself, I’m thinking of my cousin.

In the back of my mind for a year now, is another avenue that might lead me into a successful writing career:  Yoga Girl.  I have been thinking lately about the teachings of “making opportunities happen” and therefore dreaming about putting together an evening of live Yoga Girl and Swami Cat skits that I could perform at the Yoga studios I know.  That seems doable, and fun.  I don’t like acting, the pressure, the memorizing, etc. but I could do it if I focused on it as a teaching tool.  Then again it is not for me, it is for others.

And on the way home tonight, it hit me—how to tell when the universe wants you to focus on a particular path.   I was coming home from a very exciting meeting on the Yoga Life Society’s ashram.  Guruji and several others spoke about opening up a YLS home and in a few years this will hopefully become a reality.  We spoke about when, not if.  And even more than that, I could see how my love of creating art and my love of Yoga could fit into life at the ashram.   After the evening Hatha classes end the space could then be used to hold readings of uplifting plays, watch Spiritually minded movies or chant the night away. 

All the way home I thought about this and sang out loud, no radio necessary.    My body was tingling, fizzing with excitement.  Then I started speaking aloud to myself as if I was writing this blog.  I had to rush home and type it.  I figured it out!  When my whole being is engaged and fully alive that must be the universe saying – Yes this way!  Full steam ahead.  This is what it feels like when I’m in the middle of a script and I just know it is going to be good.  This was the opposite of a break down, it was a break through!

Now all I have to do is practice the art of schmoozing and maybe the bubbling excitement will come from that too.  I doubt it.  But maybe someday I can hire a publicity person to do that for me.  Now that gets me excited.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

De-Stress Your Life, The Reality Show

You know what I’m going to do?  I’m going to start up a De-Stress Your Life Reality Show.  I’ll hire a cameraman, go into people’s homes of whom have the craziest, most toxic lifestyles and I’ll do what the Nanny or Jillian does, I’ll show them how to live better.  This’ll be great.  Swami Cat is shaking his head again.  Why Swamiji I’ll do it in a loving Yogic way?  I’ll wake them up early, and show them how to meditate.  Then I’ll dramatically throw the caffeine in the garbage.  Caffeine bad!  Chamomile good!  I’ll have them practice surya namaskara instead of checking their email before work.  Do a few rounds of analoma viloma breaths instead of making the kids’ bagged lunch.  I’ll ask their spouse or the kids to do it themselves.  Remind them that the heart always pumps to itself first so it is important to take care of their mind/body/spirit in order to take care of others.  Maybe we take the cameras and follow them to work.  Remind them to stretch and breathe instead of that smoke break.  At noon, the crew and I drag them outside in nature instead of staying in florescent lighting and eating a heavy meal.  This is going to be a hit.  At home, I’ll make sure that the newspapers are thrown out and spiritual texts are brought in.  I’ll be there at night to turn off mindless television and Facebook activities and inspire a few rounds of pranayama before evening meditation.  And if they refuse, we’ll firmly remind them that stress kills.  We’ll force Yoga into the lives of Americans everywhere! 

Swami Cat where are you going?  Why are you leaving?  Oh, you can’t force Yoga onto anyone, that’s against ahimsa?  Hm.  One can not force anything in Yoga, yes I have heard that in Hatha class.  Yes, I remember, but it would benefit them so much, and they would see eventually that… Yes, Swamiji you are right. 

And so my brilliant, although misguided, moment of Saving the World has ended before it began.  I guess there won’t be a reality show like this.  I’ll just keep waking up at dawn and practicing on my own.  I think I’ll start practicing outside on the lawn, therefore if someone wants to learn they can find me.  I could put out a Yoga mat and a sign that says, this mat is reserved for you.  Hm…

Saving the World one breath at a time.

Until next time.

May you experience light, love and laughter today and everyday.
Om Shanti.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Learning to Live in Love and not Fear

It is amazing.  I thought my home was perfect the way it was.  I liked when people came over and they commented on how the colors and the decorations were very me.   I thought that there was no more room for I had every wall covered with a picture or shelf or piece of furniture.  But then I met my fiancée and I looked forward to him moving in.  I was moving up in the world—trading in my college-like uncomfortable futon couch for his cushy adult sofa.  But with every box, every large piece of furniture he dragged in, I thought to myself that this won’t work.  I was protective of my space, fearful and couldn't imagine how his stuff would fit in.  Then slowly he found a space for it, by cleaning up a cluttered closet.  Then I began to give up a shelf here, a picture there, and soon it looked even more homey than before.  A small shelf for books when taken down, turned into a nice space for a bookcase of many of our books. 

And in the midst of all these furniture growing pains, I realized that this is what it is like to live in love. 

For love isn’t finite, it is an expanding room.  It is like a child with her arms wide open saying, “I love you this much times infinity.”  Guruji has said that he loves us unconditionally.  He's also said that love is not a noun it is a verb.  Love expresses itself  through service, I've learned from Guruji.  And I think I finally understand what he means.
And so please come on down to our garage sale this Saturday because I have a lot of love to give away, as well as a few tables, picture frames and a futon.


Monday, May 17, 2010

Comic Adventure #2 Not Yet A Saint


The Adventures of
Yoga Girl and Swami Cat
(A fictional series inspired by life’s daily lessons and
the teachings of my Guru, Rev. Jaganath Carrera.) 
           
*If you’d like to read part one, or have it performed live please let me know.  Hopefully some day soon it will be a video series, but for now it’s part of my blog.  I hope you enjoy.  Please send feedback or add your own life lesson of the day!)
 

JACKLYN’s Yoga Diary
Swami Cat asked me to keep a Yoga Diary.  He wants me to notice how much Japa and Pranayama I do.  So here I am at 5 AM in meditation.  Trying not to think about anything.  Stop thinking.  Can think about my “to-do” list later.  Right now, inhale lower belly, middle, upper, exhale upper, middle, lower.  Ah, bliss.  

6 AM            Did a full hour and a half of Hatha Yoga.  Feel great and centered.  I love the world.  Today I will give back to society.  Pick up trash.  Maybe I’ll help my neighbor by walking her dog.  Maybe I’ll go volunteer at a soup kitchen.  I’m happier than I’ve ever been.

7:30 AM  I feel great.  I am ready to share this peace with the world.  I sing Kumbaya and dance over to the fridge for some fruit and almond milk.  I’ll just whip up a quick shake before I spread the peace and joy to the world and… “Ahhhh!  Ants!”  Crawling on the countertop!  Who do they think they are?  This is my kitchen!

7:35 AM   Took a deep breath, remembered Yogic Principal of non-violence—Ahimsa.

7:37 AM Looked up on the Internet for humane organic ways to get rid of ants.
Says to spray ants with apple cider vinegar and water.  Also mentions sprinkling cinnamon in cracks—they do not like the smell of cinnamon.  Hmm, I love the smell of cinnamon.  Okay—I’ll try it.

7:45 AM  Sprayed ants with vinegar.  Smells very much like a rotting orchard in here.  But threw down gobs of cinnamon in cracks and that smells great.  Watching ants walk around drunk on apple cider, and trying to get away.  Uh oh—they won’t go back through the cracks because they hate the cinnamon.  I’ve ruined their escape exits.  They didn’t tell me to pick either cider or cinnamon on the internet!  Ahhhh!

8 AM  Felt like ants were crawling on me.  Itchy.  Took shower. 

8:30 AM  Clean and I just checked-- the kitchen is now free of ants!  Hooray for the Internet!  They really don’t like cinnamon!

8:45 AM went to wash out blender from fruit shake and surprised to find an ant family reunion in my sink!  I don’t think—I act—I turn on the faucet and watch the water rise, taking down ant by ant—Die Ants Die!  My blood boils with hate as I sweep more and more into the water.  I talk to myself.  “They shouldn’t have walked into my house.  It’s not like they have a soul.  They’re vermin.  Pests.”  Where have I heard that before?  I stop cold in my heartless tracks.  The Nazis said Jews were vermin.  That they didn’t deserve to live.  I—I am an Ant Nazi.  I am committing an ant holocaust right now.  They’re all slowly taking their last ant breath and I caused hundreds, maybe thousands of deaths in one instant.  I hate myself.  

9 AM  Leave the kitchen for a moment to regroup.  What else can I do?  I can’t let the ants live there.  I won’t be able to eat.  I won’t be able to sleep, thinking they’re crawling on me.  No, I must do something. 

9:01 AM  Swami Cat enters.  “You know, Swami Sivananda walked with a broom to wipe away bugs so that he wouldn’t even accidentally step on one.”  He scared me half to death.  I didn’t know that you he was there.  Swami Cat noticed that I jumped out of my skin and said calmly as he always does, “Yes, awareness needs work.”

9:04 AM  Well, I don’t feel as enlightened as Swamiji yet.  Maybe tomorrow.  But today I head out the door for the motels that ants check in and they don’t check out.  Makes it seem almost cozy in there.  I can’t think about it too much.  Maybe its their karma to go on to their next life and I’m helping them.

9:55 AM  Swami Cat is staring at me as I put the ant traps down.  He looks disappointed. 

9: 56 AM  I apologize to Swami Cat and the ants.  I will try for absolute Peace and acceptance tomorrow.  I’ll say my mantra as I put down the ant traps, is that better?  Oh, how hard it is to be a Yogi in the real world.  Ohm, Ohm, Ohm Shanti.



Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Combating Bridezilla-ness

A few days ago I was online and unfortunately I have to go through Yahoo’s homepage to get to my emails. I say unfortunately because I sometimes waste valuable time and energy reading the quirky- made to sucker you in- “news” articles. I clicked on an article about how the way you sleep tells your personality type. If you sleep on your back you are one type of person. If you sleep on your side, it means… Okay I don't remember.  I only remember what pertained to me.  I focused in on what it means if you sleep on your stomach because even though it is not good for my neck and probably not good for my back, I inevitably turn on my stomach some time during the night as my comfort position. The article stated that you if sleep on your stomach it is tough for you to accept criticism. I balked at this notion. I pride myself on being able to accept criticism as a writer. I’ve been going to playreadings for so many years. I’ve seen writers defend their writing and deflect any suggestion as if it is a personal attack on their being. I pride myself on the ability to act more professional than that. I listen, write down the critiques and thank the person for the feedback. I feel very open and willing to accept criticism. But am I really that way all the time?  I thought I was. 

And then planning a wedding happened. Whomever coined the term Bridezilla was brilliant. I do feel a little bit like a monster who when family or my fiancée says something about one of my plans, fire roars out of my mouth, nose and ears. It’s a little scary how attached I am to material things. It’s very personal and I’m working so hard at being healthy for the environment, for the guests and for our bank accounts, but I’m not being so healthy for my emotions.

As Guruji says often, go to the teachings and so I did. In Guruji’s book, Inside the Yoga Sutras there is a very handy sutras by subject index. It didn’t have anything specifically about accepting criticism but it does have a whole page and a half on emotion. The index states that “Emotions belong to the mind, not the Self. They are reactions to external or internal stimuli that impact perceptions of our security and self-image. We fear, hate, or express anger at anything that threatens or belittles us.” That’s it! I feel so strongly that this wedding should express our unique creative, earthy qualities that when someone says something that goes against it, I feel he is going against me personally. I don’t like this about myself. I find it horribly annoying, and very much against the Yogi that I am trying to be when I create this “green” holistic wedding. Boy Oh Boy, the Yoga Life has some challenges!

The index goes on to review that the emotions should not be suppressed but analyzed. If it is rooted in ignorance then our goal is to transcend it. So how to do this? Guruji also mentions what Sri Patanjali suggests replacing negative thoughts with positive ones.
As a good friend reminded me yesterday, “This is a party and everyone who is going to be there loves you and wants to celebrate with you.” I told her I need a t-shirt or button made of this so I can remind myself this every day.

Also as I have been feeling the need to do lately, Sri Patanjali suggests returning and going deeper in the practices. “Through purity comes cheerfulness of mind.” (Sutra 2.41) and “By contentment supreme joy is gained.” (Sutra 2.42)

And now I will go do a full Yoga class for myself so that the fire that might come out of my mouth turns to smoke—I’d much rather be Puff the Magic Dragon than Godzilla. (Hey I wonder why Godzilla was named Godzilla? Did the creators mean to put God in his name and if so why? Anyone know?) And instead of Bridezilla I will just enjoy the fact that my family wants to help me, are around to help me and that I have a wedding coming up in the first place. Isn’t that the positive that I should hold in the front of my thoughts?

And so my question to you this week is, what do you to combat your bridezilla?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Carrie or Chris?

I've been thinking a lot lately about Northern Exposure.  Did you watch this show back in the 90's?  My fiancee and I have been watching old episodes on Netflix and although it does feel dated, (and Joel is often too whiney for my taste) I love listening to John Corbett's voice as the radio D.J.  He philosophized, shared his dreams, fears and observations like a Yogi.  When I thought about writing this blog, Chris from Northern Exposure popped into my mind.  I hope I can be as deep and thoughtful as Chris, but then again I also want to question the real world issues we all come up against, just as Carrie did from Sex In The City.  So hopefully this will be a good mix.

My question of the day is, "How do you keep centered when it feels like the whole outside world is depressed, falling apart and negative?"

Here's my plan.  I removed the CD of Next to Normal (great musical by the way) from my alarm clock and put in a CD from Guruji.  Now instead of emotional angst through show tunes, I wake to the soothing sound of Rev. Jaganath reminding me of why we need guidance and help in life.  He spoke to me about how it is too hard to do this alone, as I straightened my hair.  He spoke about the Guru/disciple relationship as I brushed my teeth.

This has helped.

I'm also avoiding those the traps at work where the negativity resides-- instead of eating where they are talking about lay-offs, I eat alone, in silence, actually tasting my food.

I also took Guruji's advice.  I focused on service.  Today I started a program that recycles old garbage into treasures.  It's a great company called Terracycle. It's a NJ based company that has the right idea.  Check it out:   terracycle.net  The students became very excited about recycling and the rest of the day I've been feeling positive about the future. 

So Happy Earth Day and "How do you keep centered when it feels like the whole outside world is depressed, falling apart and negative?"