June 19, 2020
During the “Mad Men” era of the 1960s and into the 70s, my husband was an attorney in San Francisco and Oakland. He specialized in civil rights law mainly representing the black community. These were the days of cocktail parties and lavish dinners where people were taking the “masks off” in an attempt to reveal their authentic selves. It was in the pre-dawn era of computers and cell phones when typewriters still reigned supreme. It was a time when socialization was face-to-face and shoulder-to-shoulder in crowded gatherings that were so noisy that one had to shout when in any meaningful conversation.
It was one of these gatherings that I found myself immersed in. It was brimming with lawyers of every political persuasion and I found myself paddling through the headwaters of the unknown. I sensed we were in a time of societal change. Even though civil rights were considered a controversial topic at the time, I found myself steeped in conversation with an anti-civil rights activist who today we might call a “white supremacist.” His missionary zeal extolled the virtues of segregation and the intellectual superiority of whites over blacks. “Well, look at it in this way,” he said as his face took on a look of smugness, “Would you want your daughter to marry one?” I replied innocently, “My daughter IS one!” He staggered backwards spilling his drink all over his white starched, ruffled shirt. From a distance, he raised his empty glass as if to toast me, signaling the end of our conversation or was it a monologue?
My husband and I had a son with white blond hair and blue eyes. We felt that even at that time, the world was over-crowded and why bring one more child into it? Instead of adopting another blond, blue-eyed baby that most parents wanted, why not apply for a hard to adopt child? We were a very physically active family, backpacking the High Sierra, sailing, and playing tennis each morning. It would be difficult to adopt a child who was physically handicapped.
The social worker happened to mention that the most difficult children to adopt were the racially mixed children. Black or white families did not want to adopt them, and they were considered “the forgotten ones.” It felt perfect for us especially since we lived in East Oakland, the most integrated of Bay Area communities. We did not realize that we were an experiment, as one of the first families to adopt a racially mixed child. There were no guidelines.
The social worker was Celtic looking with her long blond hair and ultra-white skin who was married to a black man from Africa. Typically, racially mixed children were not given to a white home, but she made an exception for us, knowing that a racially mixed child could be her own. After several visits and interviews she selected a little girl who she thought would fit into our family. We were ecstatic when we drove across the bay bridge to San Francisco to finally meet this little one who was only 18 months old. We fell in love with her instantly and soon she entered our home.
We didn’t realize how much she would change our lives and we hers. When we picked her up to give her a hug, her arms just hung by her side. She did not know how to put her little arms around our necks. She had not been touched in the foster home where she was placed. It was apparent she had not been held or shown any semblance of affection.
She was not even fed meals by the hands of her foster parents. Instead a bottle and food were stashed in various corners of the home for her to find if she was hungry. Not only did she learn how to wrap her little arms around our necks, but she grew up to become a day care provider for 20 years, giving love to so many children who found the way to her door.
When we adopted her though, we began to see the prejudice arise in those around us, even in good friends who advised us to give her back. The head of my husband’s law firm who after meeting our daughter, asked him to leave the firm. This was a blessing as my husband formed his own private practice where he could more freely practice civil rights law.
Our neighbors tried to have her taken away from us because they were afraid our daughter would grow up and marry their son who was only two years old at the time!
As a child our daughter loved all the satsang gatherings we held in our home for the early, expanding Yoga community in the Bay Area. She would sing the kirtan songs to God clapping and swaying from side to side as if in ecstasy. She was given the name “Eureka”, meaning “I have found it,” by a living saint of India. People loved her and she loved all people.
Over the years, my husband and I continued to observe how our daughter elicited prejudice in people, prejudice they did not even know they had within them. It was the prejudice ingrained in our country and culture that knowingly or unknowingly infuses into the deeper and deepest layers of our individual and collective psyche. If Eureka went into a grocery store, attendants would follow her around to make sure she didn’t steal anything. Her friends of color were fearful of the police because of what could happen to them if stopped for a minor traffic infraction such as a broken taillight or driving two miles over the speed limit. Once in the 1980s, I was meeting with my travel agent in Seattle and my daughter came to pick me up. When the agent saw her walking up the stairs, she immediately reached into her desk drawer for her gun.
In Yoga, we call the impressions we have accumulated this lifetime samskaras, meaning mental impressions that have embedded in varying layers of our psyche. The deeper impressions are known as vasanas, and they are said to be so deeply embedded it may take more than one lifetime for them to surface.
Prejudice which means “pre-judgement” is based on stereotypes that may already lie within various layers of our subconscious psyche and arise when triggered by external events. Apparently, as we found, the adoption of our daughter brought up to the surface whatever prejudices people held or didn’t know they held. We lost a few friends and gained new ones. Even my family struggled with prejudices unknown to them. Over the years, through interaction with our daughter and her growing family, they were able to overcome earlier stereotypes.
These stereotypes can be found in life and the Yoga Sutras. In the Sutras, they belong to the family of vrittis, or the mind waves. When we get further away from our own experiences and take on the belief system of others we slide from correct perception (manas) into incorrect perception (viparyaya). It is this incorrect perception that forms stereotypes and prejudices that distort accurate perception.
After we adopted our daughter, we planned to adopt a Muslim child from India when I got pregnant with my middle daughter, Andrea. She loved her older sister with all her heart and saw her as part of herself. Our adopted daughter married a man who was a mixture of several races and cultures but would still be considered black in this culture. My love for her was so great that at times I would think that I looked just like her and that she came from my womb. She too thought she looked like me and was my own biological child. Her circle of friends, mostly of racially mixed ancestry became like family as we watched them grow into adulthood.
One day, my blond, green-eyed daughter, Andrea, at age 18 asked, “Mom, what would you say if I told you that I wanted to marry a black man.” I was stunned and silent remembering my conversation with the “pro-segregationist” attorney. I mumbled a few superficial platitudes such as, “think of your future children and what they will have to go through,” but Andrea, didn’t buy it and with a loud voice of disbelief asked, “Mom, are you prejudiced?”
This question ripped through my heart. I had to dive even more deeply into my soul. How could I have prejudice after living with my daughter, loving her and all the black people and families that she brought into our lives? I had a black grandson, a black granddaughter, a black son-in-law and now a black great granddaughter, all who I loved deeply. But unbeknownst to me, I still held the inherited samskaras of prejudice. If I held this, what would it be like for those who don’t co-mingle with people of a different color or culture? How can we create change in the collective society when these deep subconscious impressions that create separation and division exist in the societal psyche? Is this something we have to come to individually, or can it be realized through the collective?
I finally asked my daughter why she wanted to marry a black man? She replied with tears in her voice, “Because of my sister. Every time I see a black person, I think of them as family.”
Now, several decades later, we are marching again in cities and towns throughout this nation. We are marching to affirm that black lives do matter but this time people of all colors, races and cultures are marching in solidarity as if to say, “this time is different, this time there will be lasting change, this time, we are with you…you are my brother and sister of the one source.” Large placards are carried through the streets of many cities that say what we say in Yoga, “We Are One.” Some of us march not with our feet, but with our hearts. We march within our souls to transcend the illusion of separation of avidya (not seeing the nature of our oneness). We march to honor differences in color, culture, religion and ideologies. We march in the remembrance that, “We are one family and, We Are One!”
April 22, 2020
The views represented here are the opinion and direct experiences of the author.
My husband and I both contracted the novel coronavirus in late fall last year. Yes, this virus was swirling around east Texas at that time with the same old boring name of “flu. After the advent of the New Year, it seemed to acquire a name, a personality mutation and growing media attention.
I first noticed unusual symptoms when I awakened in the middle of the night unable to breath. Even though I was breathing, there was little oxygen exchange. This symptom felt similar to the symptoms of the SARS virus I suffered through in 2002 after returning from India. Now, in East Texas, I noticed my breath was blocked in my left nostril. In Yoga this is known as ida, the subtle channel that is connected to the autonomic nervous system, in western science known as the parasympathetic.
I tried to open the breath in the left nostril by propping up my body to lie on my right side which usually brings balance to the breath. It did not work. In desperation, I jumped out of bed and floundered about the house opening doors and windows to bring in the cold night air in hopes I could once more receive the life force of prana into my lungs. “OMG,” I thought, this is Déjà vu of the SARS virus, which I contracted in 2002 after returning from India.
In Yoga, we would call the viruses that cause SARS and Covid-19 rajasic, which means projective as well as defensive. Being more fiery rajasic and aggressive, they can suppress the parasympathetic which then over-stimulates the sympathetic nervous system creating a heating and drying affect of the body’s mucous membranes.
Hatha Yoga is based upon balancing the polarities of Ha (sun) and Tha (moon). This correspond to the physical nerves of the autonomic nervous system divided into the sympathetic (Ha) and parasympathetic (Tha). On a subtle level ancient Yogis called these two systems Pingala and Ida. All of Yoga is based on the balance of these opposites, which includes the alternate right and left hemispheres of the brain and sides of the spine. The parasympathetic is activated by the breath through the left nostril and the sympathetic through the right. The parasympathetic dilates and cools the system. It balances high blood pressure, slows the heart rate and helps our body to rest and digest. If over-stimulated there may be excessive mucus buildup in the system.
Alternatively, when the left nostril is blocked with the breath favoring only the right nostril, there is excessive overstimulation of the sympathetic nerves, leading to constriction of blood vessels, high blood pressure, rapid or irregular heart beat, fever, inflammation and dryness. This makes breathing more difficult.
In a “normal” cold or flu there is an excessive production of mucus, which is normally expectorated through coughing up loose phlegm and blowing the nose. However, with a more rajasic virus that over-stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, it dries the mucus membranes in the respiratory tract resulting in a dry cough, inflammation and congestion that can solidify creating a blockage for oxygen to enter the system. Therefore, what is needed to counteract this virus, from the perspective of Yoga, would be more parasympathetic stimulation to dilate the bronchi and blood vessels to help expand rather than restrict the breathing passages.
Prolonging the exhalation, longer than the inhalation is a means to stimulate the parasympathetic and to relax the tissues of the lungs, dilating their passageways, so they can take in the oxygen. Simply breathing through the left nostril will also stimulate the parasympathetic and create an alkaline environment in the body. If you are not able to get out of bed or off the couch, this breathing exercise can be done with your fingers or even through the imagination. The mind is very powerful. If you imagine the breath passing through only the left nostril, it usually will.
Emotional Component of Covid-19
This experience with Covid-19 was not only a challenge physically, but emotionally as well. I have heard people who had Covid-19 describe an emergence of memories as “hallucinations.” Could we be experiencing the collective memories of humankind in the transformation of the planetary race? Could it be that we are shedding the forms of the past in our collective, evolutionary journey back to our Source? Could this novel coronavirus actually be a catalyst to help bring us together in the remembrance of our common values and humanity?
The novel coronavirus seems to carry with it a dark and dense impact upon the human emotions. It also brings up emotional patterns and memories that give a sense of rearranging one’s patterns of thinking and feeling. It seems to reach deep into our psyche bringing up memories of the past that have created mild to deep fissures in the subconscious mind. When I was sick with this virus in the fall, it was one of the few times in life that I felt truly off-center. After being sick with the virus for weeks, the darkness and despair I felt within our world began to lighten, and I felt light penetrating this shell of darkness, My joy of life began to return.
It feels as if we must now establish a new orientation of ourselves, a new way of thinking and a new way of Being. When very deep memories known in Yoga as samskaras and deeper impressions of vasanas begin to emerge from the varying layers of the psyche, past memories embedded in the subconscious mind can come up and be seen as a form of healing at the deepest level of our Being. The essence of Yoga is to bring the invisible, (that which has been buried for eons of time within the memory vaults) up to the surface for healing and releasing. In Yoga, we make the invisible visible, the involuntary voluntary. I found this virus a powerful practice for the release of personal and collective grief. Just as the emotion of anger is assigned to the liver and fear to the kidneys, grief is said to be stored in varying tissues and layers from the upper to the lowest and largest lobes of our cone-shaped lungs.
Sri Aurobindo Gosh, a great Indian Master called Yoga “compressed evolution.” This intimates that in Yoga we don’t wait lifetimes for bundles of memories to emerge. Instead, we can practice asana, pranayama and meditation to accelerate the release of these samskaras (impressions) allowing them to bubble up to the surface of the conscious mind where they can be seen, healed and released. With this release, patterns that may not have served us in the past, become light and healed. This creates a lightness in our cellular structure that paves the way for expansion of consciousness. Through breathing and stretching of the physical and subtle nerves in asana, hidden recesses are awakened, individually and collectively, as the mind of humanity.
Like Yoga, the coronavirus seems to bring up memories and remembrances of our ancestral and family DNA to the surface. This can be a deep and at times, emotionally painful, experience. When that which was buried and repressed begins to surface, it takes the second step of being fully blown or scattered but then as we continue our practices, it begins to alternate where a destructive thought pattern of the past is overcome by a new expansive thought wave that is very freeing. This may not be lasting, but with our practices, eventually this alternating pattern begins to “thin” and no longer have a hold on us. This is known as ekagrata, meaning “dwelling in oneness” or “one-pointedness.” In this concentrative state, we are overcoming the pains of the past through new insights and understandings that lift us beyond the pains of this world into a liberation of conscious.
A commentary on the Yoga Sutra says, “We cannot avoid the pains of the past because they’ve already occurred. We cannot avoid the pain of this moment because it is in the process of occurrence.” Patanjali says, “Heyam Dukham Anagatam,” the only pain that can be avoided is the pain yet to come.”
Suggestions For Staying Well
The following are practices that helped me personally to overcome viruses in late 2002, and again at the end of 2019.
1. Reduce food intake. The system does not need mucus buildup from undigested food particles. Total fasting is not advisable because the virus is drying to the mucus membranes which makes it more difficult to combat.
2. Hold off on salads and other raw foods that are more difficult to digest, and avoid cold foods that cause contraction in the lungs.
3. Take soups such as vegetable, chicken, tomato, lentil that have lots of liquid broth. Take other hot liquids. Fruit juices such as orange or grapefruit mixed with room temperature or warm water, are helpful. You do not want to dry out the mucus membranes.
4. Avoid sugar and dairy (especially when cold, like yogurt and ice cream) because these foods produce a good deal of mucus buildup in the intestines and in turn, the lungs. Also avoid caffeine, smoking and alcohol.
5. If there is a sore throat, drink hot lemon water every 20 minutes, and gargle with warm salt and turmeric water. Practice Lion’s Pose. It seems the virus can live in the throat for 3-4 days before it travels to the lungs, so I felt it could be addressed there before it goes deeper into the lung tissue.
6. If there is difficulty breathing, walk and move the body with bilateral movement to activate the lungs. Exhale longer than you inhale to relax the lung tissue and bring in more oxygen. There is a pranayama practice Anuloma/Viloma that is helpful. Its name means to go with the grain or flow of breath and then go against the grain or flow of breath.
Take the breath in in one continuous flow and then interrupt the exhalation in two second intervals meaning exhale for two counts, hold it for two…exhale 2 and hold for two. Continue this interruption for the duration of the exhalation. Then when inhaling take the breath in as slowly as possible. KEEP BREATH BELOW THE DIAPHRAGM, breathing abdominally if you can. If you can, breathe into your back on the inhalation and elongate your spine on the exhalation.
7. Rub “Wild Oregano” essential oil (from Spain or Zimbabwe) on the bottoms of your feet every night and cover with warm socks. Inhaling the strong fragrance of the oil will help open the respiratory tract.
8. Use a vaporizer or warm humidifier with essential oils such as eucalyptus, wild oregano or Thieves (blend of cinnamon, clove, eucalyptus, lemon, rosemary.
9. Cleanse the intestinal tract. You might want to use a supplement of magnesium citrate such as Calm, before bedtime to gently keep the channels of elimination open. Gently massage the abdominal area in clockwise circular movements spiraling from the navel outward. It is important to relax tense muscles including the peristaltic musculature of the large (and small) intestines.
10. Vitamin C, especially with Zinc, can very useful in the prevention and early phases of treatment of viruses. For some, Vitamin C may be too drying for the mucus membranes (especially in Vata stages of life).
11. If you can move around, try to invert the body even slightly using an inversion or slant board. The inversion table or poses also help the heart to be higher than the head which strengthens the tissue and vessels of the heart increasing circulation into the lungs as well as the cerebellum which is in lower part of the brain that has more neurons than any other part of the brain. One highly recommended inversion device can be found at this web site: https://www.inclinerx.com/
Ancient scriptures of Yoga say that the shoulderstand is the most important asana of Yoga. It impacts the back of the lungs and bronchi and activates the respiratory system. If you are weak, put the feet on the wall to help support the body in this position.
12. Lastly, one of the greatest things that helped me to overcome these viruses was not to fight it, not to resist it, but to accept it and welcome it into the physical structure. Ask, “Why are you here?” “What do you need from me?” The greatest thing I found was to keep releasing, not to resist or tighten any of my musculature and cellular structure. When we can do this, much like releasing into the emotion of fear, it doesn’t have much of a hold over us. Isn’t this the way we want to live our lives? The more we feel we have to fight something, the more hold it has over us?
Perhaps this virus is teaching us how to apply this relaxation to other phases of our life. Can we love it out of existence as we embrace all humanity beyond the borders we have created in our own consciousness?
May 10, 2020
Dawn is just breaking. The birds are not yet singing. The fierce winds of night are silent as if breathless in the suspension between dark and light, out breath and in breath, and past and future. It is the magical moment before time takes another leap into the dawn of a new day, the day we now call Mother’s Day.
As a Mother of five, Grandmother of 12 and now a Great-grandmother, I meditated through the night holding all children of all ages in the embrace of my elderly arms. These arms never seem long enough to embrace all Beings, to protect them from the ravaging impact of this virus’s whims upon our lives.
One day years ago, when my youngest daughter was only 6 years old, I rested my forehead on hers, “Oh Mira I sighed, I wish I could just download all the experiences I have had in life so you can learn from my mistakes so you don’t have to repeat them.” She then wisely said, “Mother, those are your thoughts and your memories. I must make my own and learn through my own experiences. You cannot do it for me.”
Now, it is the time of Mother’s Day again as I write this with a Mother’s love of all children of every age. It is written with the love that goes beyond boundaries of “yours and mine.” As I have found throughout the years, all Beings are the children of the Universal womb of all creation. This can manifest in the Earthly Mother in many forms from fierceness to serenity, and nurturer to warrior.
In some paths of Yoga, we honor the Mother in a variety of manifestations. This powerful ancient archetype was the only one who could conquer the forces of darkness that were taking over all worlds. In a timeless myth, this all-powerful Being was created and blessed by the Lords of Light as the all compassionate Universal Mother. She was the only one who was powerful enough to slay the demon of darkness and restore order and balance to the Universe.
Last night, I thought of what the Mother connotes in various cultures. One does not have to have a child to be a Mother. Sometimes our Dharma or purpose on this earth may be to serve our microcosmic family. Others may come to this earth not to have their own children but to serve those already here…the macrocosmic family. Then there are times when our life’s purpose on this earth may be to serve both.
Today, there are so many ways in which we can serve others through these rapidly changing times. One of the lessons of the Universal Mother is to hold, nurture and protect her children with one arm while fighting the battle of injustice with the other. Whether we are born into a male or female body, at this juncture of history (herstory), we can hold in consciousness the healing of all peoples and nations, and lift above any imbalances and divisions of our past.
May this celebration of the Mother usher in a new dawn of a new day of the ever-expanding light of universal consciousness. May we hold the space of healing for our own balance in these times of evolutionary change. May we transcend our own fears and past limitations to truly be there to serve another? How can we serve others we may ask? The Sufis would say, “Go where the way opens!” May these historic times be a gift of healing to you, your family, our nation and our world.
Now I heard the doorbell ring, and there at the entrance was a magnificent bouquet of gorgeous flowers! What a perfect reminder from my children that perhaps this day of the remembrance of the Mother is not only about giving, but receiving!
May all Beings be peaceful, May all Beings be healthy,
May all Beings be filled with the indwelling light of spirit
and the “lightness of Being.”
April 15, 2020
Words from Imagine, the John Lennon song of 1970, “Imagine all the people … Sharing all the world,” echo through the banks of memory as I gaze upon the streets of today’s world. Sidewalks and asphalt streets are empty and void of the once-bustling commerce of small and large businesses. Where are all the restaurants and coffee shops where one could map out their dreams alone, or with others? Where are those others? Where is the touching, shaking hands and hugging of one body to another? Where are the socializing, the exchange of ideas, the gatherings that help some to know they are not alone in the world? As a means to finding community at a time of social distancing, neighbors in North Seattle, fling open their front doors and sing songs together at dinnertime. The other night, they sang the Beatle’s song, “Yellow Submarine.” This is a new custom that began in Wuhan, China and migrated to Italy as they began lockdown. The neighborhood communal choirs seem to lift the collective spirit and feel the warmth of community that soars beyond all technological creations.
Yes, it is surreal, isn’t it? It feels as if we have all stepped onto the pages of a science fiction novel or a vacuous film of humanity’s future. That which was once projected into an unknown time is now here in our lifetime.
Today, I ventured out into streets that are eerie and empty of the life and people they once knew. They wait, as we all do to once again resume past activities. Playgrounds, ball parks, golf courses and tennis courts must await the pitter patter of little, and big feet upon the tarmac of their earth’s surfaces.
Where are all the people? Are we taking this time as “shut-ins,” as a self-retreat, or, are we viewing it as an imprisonment waiting to be released? Those of us in Yoga, who at times would long to retreat into a cave in the high Himalayas, may welcome this as an opportunity to temporarily withdraw from the world and retreat into ourself. Thanks to the practice of Yoga and meditation we may now have the ability to withdraw the senses from the external into the internal wonder of the worlds within. This is known in the ancient language of Sanskrit, as pratyahara, meaning sensory withdrawal that is a prelude for concentration and meditation.
It is interesting that the first symptom of Covid-19, is the absence of smell and taste. The sense of smell relates to the first cakra, the muladhara, which means base support. The sense of taste relates to the second cakra in the pelvic plexus, svadhisthana, which literally means establishing one’s own place within the eternal cosmic vibration. Perhaps at this time, we are all grounding in the base of our being in order to establish our new place and centeredness within the eternal cosmic vibration. Perhaps we are all shedding the forms of the past in our evolutionary collective journey back to our source. Could this novel coronavirus actually be a catalyst to bring us together in the remembrance of our common values and common humanity?
It is said that, when in meditation, God speaks and we listen. When we pray, we speak and God listens. This is a time for many prayers. I pray and hold in the light of consciousness those who are afraid, afraid of the unknown and all it represents. I hold in my heart all those health workers and caregivers who selflessly risk their own health and even their life to be there for others at their greatest time of need. I hold in my heart all those who are suffering with symptoms and struggling with the life force of the breath. At night in meditation, I hold in my heart, the families that could not be there to hold their loved one’s hand and whisper in their ear that they are ever with them, that they are never alone! At night, when the world is even more silent, I sit in that silence and feel the waves emanating out from my heart and mind, embracing those without food and shelter from storms, either around them or the storms within them. For some, this new virus may bring up fear, which sparks the ultimate fear of the unknown. What does the future hold?
I join the choir of those who believe that we can’t fully go back to the way things were. Even if our jobs or our life’s work may be waiting, there is a change. A change that may have survived the virus, the stock market plunge, the closure of a business, or the loss of income. As many say, we can’t go back, but we can go forward. Perhaps the growing divide we witnessed in the past through political chasms with family, neighbors and friends might now receive an opportunity for healing. This new virus, named because of its appearance, reminiscent of a crown or a solar corona, the light of which emanates from the outermost part of the sun, may be giving a glimmer of light in what appears to be our darkest hours.
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti. Peace within ourselves, peace with all those within our life, peace within our world.
Rama Jyoti Vernon
The door suddenly flung open and my youngest daughter, Mira swooped in with her aromatic aerosol sprays and antiseptic wipes and cloths. She leapt into the room like an avenging angel ready to do battle, to save my husband and me from the Novel Coronavirus. She reminded me of the Russian Logo of St. George, wielding a gleaming sword of justice against the dragon of destruction.
Without a hug, and keeping her distance of six feet, she sprayed and wiped, disinfecting surfaces, cracks, floors and ceilings with her magical potions. The fragrant vapors and sprays surrounded us like spirits descending from invisible worlds beyond our earthly vision. She then whipped up a concoction of 19 Ayurvedic herbs recommended by one of her teachers to boost the immune system. As if this wasn’t enough, she prepared a home-cooked meal of aromatic herbs, grains and fresh vegetables to sustain and protect our elderly auras.
After we ate this scrumptious meal sitting at least six feet apart, Mira leapt up like Hanuman. She seemed to glide through the air as she again sprayed and wiped all surfaces with her self-created disinfectants. She instructed Max and me in the art of washing every crack and fiber of our hands, and our Being. She soon disappeared like a fairy spirit into the desert night on her chariot, traveling to Santa Fe and leaving us feeling light, happy and so very antiseptically clean…with nowhere to go.
Is it time to sharpen your skills of discrimination when you opened a tent flap for the Camel to nuzzle its nose in? Slowly, but not gracefully, the Camel is now…Ta Dah…finally and fully…in the tent.
Out on the desert, a camel is a wondrous creature. It is graceful as it glides upon the arid dunes of time. It travels without food, water and shade for days. Few animals have its strength, stamina and endurance. But now, in the foreign environment of the tent, it tramples upon, and continues to destroy whatever appears as an obstruction in its path. It loved the power of accomplishing its goal of getting into the tent. But once in, it has now transformed into a clumsy and graceless creature, severely confused and in turn, increasingly more destructive.
The camel flounders about its newly conquered space sipping ambrosia from golden goblets and nibbling fast food left on silver trays. It crashes into whatever objects or people that appear in its path as it pompously dances and prances in incoherent circles thrusting its hind quarters to and fro, like a Parisian Can-Can dancer. Some have run for cover while others gleefully follow behind, hypnotically beating drums and shaking tambourines of encouragement. Where is the discrimination?
The camel has no respect for the opulent oval tent space it now occupies. It defies and defiles all those trying to direct or redirect it and oust it from a place where it does not belong. Before the camel appeared, the tent had been a gathering place for chiefs of many tribes, and clergy of varying spiritual beliefs. It was a place for generals of many countries and peacemakers from throughout the lands to meet. Philosophers and theologians, with or without a pulpit, could gather together without rancor, to honor their differences as well as similarities.
As the camel suddenly appeared some did nothing to stop it, and in the paralysis of their silence they acquiesced to its unruly behavior. They passively watched as the check and balance system to maintain order was flagrantly violated. At first, the appearance of the Camel’s nose with its wide bridge and flaring nostrils seemed benign and even humorous. But now that it has inched its entire body into a space where it does not belong, it has become a frightening symbol of division and separation. It has no respect for any order of what existed before, nor does it care.
In losing its way and purpose, the camel now bares its teeth and spits with rage while tearing apart delicately draped fabrics of policies and handwoven tapestries of laws and governance. The camel proudly frolics like royalty while licking and tasting the sweet nectar of power. As it struts around sniffing the air filled with scents of aromatic herbs and spices, it pushes against the central pillar that supports the constitution of a tent structure that has existed for more than 200 years.
The tent was created as a canopy of freedom and protection for its people. It is a place where leaders once met to honor differences as well as similarities. It is a place where conflict once found convergence and transformation rather than facades of mere resolution that might later erupt into future wars.
Yes, the tent structure has been flawed with the erosion of two and a half centuries of earthly time. Even though its seams are frayed by increasing corruption and greed, new generations of tailors and seamstresses work tirelessly on behalf of the people, to restore its luster. But now, its central core is challenged. Battered by ignorance, the tent is wobbling as some valiantly struggle to keep it upright against the continual thrusts of the camel’s belly.
The camel, in its misplaced ambition has become a presence of destruction to the opulent oval tent and the vast deserts and gardens beyond. It is an unwanted guest in someone else’s home but does not know how to leave gracefully without ‘losing face’ or appearing to be a failure. Even though this camel may not realize it yet, it no longer wants to be in a confining enclosure of laws and regulation…but it can’t find its way out.
Where are the ones who can fearlessly grab its reins and lead it out into the starry night? Where are those who can help it to once more fulfill its own destiny and not destroy the destiny of others? Where are the ones who can help free it to roam the vast open spaces where it can once more, find the rhythm of its own gait? Where are those who can help this camel to stride peacefully across the haunting sands of time in search of a new destiny, a new direction in the autumn and winter of its life?
Ustrasana ~ Camel Pose
In doing this Yoga Pose, we honor the strength and stamina of the camel a true ascetic who accepts only what is offered. We don’t have to be an unruly force to love the freedom that this posture gives. It is called the Camel for the way it begins and ends with the humble bending of its front knees as it come to its place of rest. The pose looks like the hump of the camel when we move towards its full expression.
Note: When inhaling, stop and do nothing. Simply focus and meditate upon the breath. Move into the pose upon the exhalation when the ego releases and unravels itself.
It has been said that “a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.” I recently completed a 2,000-mile journey that was not only in miles, but a journey back into the heart of time and the heart of oneself.
My younger sister, who has terminal cancer, reached out to me for help in moving her and her belongings from California to a large evangelical Christian community in the Ozarks. This community is where she chose to live out her final days with like-minded people. Her thinking is now molded by a growing mass of people who call themselves conservative evangelical Christians. Her particular community is founded by a pastor who raises funds based on the Biblical final days of the world, known as the great tribulation or Armageddon. My sister is deeply devoted to their concept, as well as their evangelical belief that our current President has been sent by God. When I first heard his devoted followers say that Trump was sent by God, with tongue in cheek, I couldn’t help but ask, “…Are you sure it was God?”
On our journey across country I would sometimes ride in the cab of the 27-foot diesel truck with my youngest and most petite daughter Mira as driver. At 5’2”, her size may have been enigma to other truckers on our common road of Route 66, but she rode high…right up there with the “big guys.” My sister followed the truck in her white Honda CRV. It was a dream-like experience to ride with a sister who took me back in time with her perspectives of our childhood, and her current political views.
It was a classic example of our first Mind Wave, known as pramana, in the Yoga Sutras. Pramana has three parts: 1) Direct Experience, 2) Indirect Experience where we have not had the direct experience, but we believe in the experience of another, and last but not least 3) inference of others. Inference can be the translation of sacred scriptures such as the Vedas or Bible. However, when one strays farther from their own personal experience it is easier to believe the interpretations of others whether they are accurate, or not.
My sister seemed to clamp down on her perceived version of the truth, “Jesus is the way and the only way. Trump speaks the truth and only the truth.” She believed that her beliefs were the truth…not just her own perspective, but the truth for All. “Whoa!” I thought of my teaching in Conflict Resolution based on the Yoga Sutras. Conflict is about Perception. If we share our perception with one another, it becomes a dialogue. But if only one person shares their perspective, without allowing room for others to express their views…it is a monologue. It is a monologue when one person demonstrates a missionary spirit in trying to convert others to their own way of thinking. This often occurs when we are subconsciously insecure in our own beliefs. It can also become a monologue when there is so much bottled up inside, and there is finally someone who will listen and periodically give reflections and feedback.
Could this be why my sister who was raised in a home of metaphysicians had, over the years, slipped into a fixed belief system that, “Jesus is the way and the only way.” In the field of conflict resolution when dialogue is impossible, we practice the art of “Active Listening.” This is one of the most powerful practices we can do in life. Active listening is done when one person needs to express and we allow ourselves to become the conduit for their expression.
Active listening is also called “Compassionate Listening.” It is a process of listening not just with the ears but with the heart. To do this, we ask questions that help one to dive deeper into themselves to find solutions to their own issues.
When we learn the art of Active, or Compassionate Listening we learn the rare art of truly listening. We also learn the art of not sharing our own story but just being there totally for another. Even though we don’t share “our own story” when we are only there for another…it’s the strangest thing, we usually feel heard.
For years, my sister has stored up angry thoughts that she felt would be safe to share with me on our journey together. It was an honor just to be with her after many years of our not relating to one another. Now, in the autumn and winter of our lives, she has transcended her anger towards me, but had not yet transcended her anger and rage toward our parents. Even though we were in the same family with the same father and mother, our perceptions of childhood experiences were totally opposite from one another.
As the miles passed under the wheels of both vehicles, it was the first time we had been so close physically, but juxtaposed in religious and political beliefs. We traveled through the Mohave desert to Arizona, and then through New Mexico, the Texas Panhandle, and the wide-open lands of Oklahoma with big skies stretching into infinity. What freedom I thought, taking in the beautiful vistas that did not restrict the aura…or so I thought.
In Texas and Oklahoma, we began to observe billboards and signs supporting conservative political views. A growing number of white, steepled churches began to appear as we grew closer to the Ozarks. Tall church spires reached toward the heavens as if aspiring toward the light. Wherever we traveled, conservative Christian values seemed to be in lockstep with the belief that our current President was sent by God and should be supported no matter what he does or institutes as policy. “He can do no wrong,” my sister was adamant, “I don’t care about truth or facts. I know what I feel and that’s enough!”
My sister receives her daily news from Christian broadcasting stations and conservative news outlets. Most of her views come from the minister of the community where, we eventually entered through its pearly gates. Her patterns of thinking and speaking were in lockstep with a growing sea of other Christian groups and organizations that all seemed to be speaking the same language. It was reminiscent of soldiers entering onto a bridge. They would be ordered to break step as their unified marching would be such a powerful force it could collapse the bridge. Was my sister now in lockstep with those of the same or similar views? Were they gaining strength and power by coming into a unified field of consciousness by using similar words, images, and concepts?
“Isn’t this wonderful,” my sister’s voice broke through my thoughts. “We have opposing viewpoints but we can still love one another.” Her left hand was on the steering wheel as I took her free hand, brought it to my lips to kiss it, telling her after more than 75 years that I loved her.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful, I thought, if we could all do this as the people of a country in division and fear? Wouldn’t it be great if we could agree on the love we have for those who no longer share the same values and viewpoints? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our friends and family members of opposing views could leap over canyons of divisions and separation to embrace and say “I love you” to one another? After all…great masters who have walked upon the face of this earth urged us to forgive those who have knowingly or unknowingly created injury. May we also forgive ourselves for any hurts we may have knowingly or unknowingly caused others. May we do this in the spirit of remembrance that, “Love is the greatest power in the Universe!”
As we were approaching the advent of the Thanksgiving holiday, my heart was filled with gratitude for these precious moments. My sister and I were on a journey not just across country, but a journey beyond time. As we drove through Arkansas into the Ozarks on our way to Missouri, I learned more of her journey of childhood and her life observed from a perspective that was so opposite from my own. Isn’t it interesting that this happens in most families where we are each like a blind person touching each part of an elephant feeling our part to be the whole.
My baby sister may die before I do. Does it matter what she believes or what I may believe? Who cares if one is right or wrong, right or left, conservative or liberal, red or blue, purple, or gold? All of Yoga is to transcend polarities to experience the union beyond all divisions. There is a point of convergence where all opposites and opposition meet and that is the remembrance of our eternal state of Being. This is where all points of view and all lines of demarcation dissolve into a vast sea of Infinite Being.
This was only an 8-day journey from the capital of California to Blue Eye, Missouri. But it was an amazing journey back into the timeless depth of unhealed wounds, and the soul of sisterhood.
Halloween has lost much of its spiritual and historical significance derived from Celtic and Druidic festivals and celebrations of the harvest season. Today, Halloween, originally known as “All Hallows’ Eve,” has become a candy fest of costumes and a night of mischievous deeds for those who don’t provide sweets. Handing out candy or coins, as was done in past centuries, was meant to appease the contractive dark forces that become more prevalent as the days of summer light give way to the darker days of the winter solstice.
It was believed that on October 31st the boundary between the living and the dead dissolved and the dead could revisit what we call ‘the real world’ and wreak havoc on the crops.
The light of the jack-o’-lantern, dating back 2,000 years from Ireland was meant to illuminate the path of the eternal journey of the soul in life as well as after death. The namesake of the “Jack-o’-lantern” is a historical figure named Jack, who was a miserly man, said to have tricked the devil many times and thus, was condemned to roam the earth between the worlds of the living and the dead.
Costumes and masks were worn to scare off any evil spirits. Skeletons were symbolic of the ancestral lineage and were ceremoniously put in windows as another way to discourage evil spirits from entering one’s home and one’s life. Scarecrows were even celebrated as symbolic of the holiday’s ancient agricultural roots. After all, the scarecrows were to frighten away anything that could damage and destroy the crops.
In China, it was customary to place a pair of demoniac-looking, grotesque figures known as “Fu Dogs” at the entrance of one’s home, to ward off evil spirits.
In New Zealand, the Mauri culture would try to intimidate an offending army by scaring off the “bad,” by sticking the tongue out of the mouth, and crossing and rolling the eyes up into the head to look as frightening as possible. This was meant to scare off mischievous spirits as well as approaching enemy forces.
In the Celtic and Druid cultures, October 31st is considered to be a turning point where the ancestral lineage can be honored and invoked as a protection and blessing for the coming days of darkness. The costumes and jack-o’-lanterns were meant to scare off the dark spirits as the earth plunges closer towards the shortest and darkest days of the year.
In India, throughout the year a statue of Ganesha, the elephant God of good fortune is placed at the portals of a home. Ganesha is the son of Lord Shiva and is known as the Lord of the Underworld as well as Lord of Thresholds, and is invoked when embarking upon new phases of everyday life as well as one’s spiritual life.
Jack-o’-lanterns with happy, sad or ferocious faces also stand guard at the entrance of one’s home to prevent the invisible spirits of darkness and sorrow from entering the gateway of the home where the family dwells.
Costumes of skeletons, ghosts, ghouls, devils, witches, vampires and more recently…zombies, are meant to ward off the “evil” spirits. These ghoul-like forms are also found in Hindu mythology in the form of Lord Shiva’s legions of ghosts, goblins, skeletons, etc. that are symbolic of the forces of darkness. Shiva represents equanimity, where one lives beyond polarities of darkness and light, good and evil, between the living and the ancestral spirits of the dead.
Shiva is sometimes pictured with a third eye in the middle of his forehead (sometimes vertical) showing one eye is open but the other two eyes are closed. This symbolizes turning inwards while the third eye is open and aware of the ways of the outer world. This form depicts an integrated state of ‘Oneness,’ seeing only the Divine whether it is in the internal or external world. It holds the integration of all opposites in the world of darkness and light, the heavens as well as the nether worlds.
This time of year can remind us to light the candles to our ancestors, helping to guide them on their journey. It is a time to hold the inner light regardless of any outer elements of darkness. It is symbolic of a time to re-evaluate and even transcend our concepts of good or evil, rights and wrongs, just and unjust. It is a wonderful time to lift above the downward pull of our life, like Lord Shiva who lives on the highest peaks of the Himalayas, in balanced equanimity and serene repose.
My youngest granddaughter who is now seven years old is like a little fairy spirit. Her room is bright, sparkly and beautiful, with reminders of a world of unicorns, and fairytales where life is an endless dance of joy and happiness. It is like entering another world that reflects her amazing presence of being. She was born on Christmas Eve and given the name of Isabella Rose Angel, since she entered into the family of Angels.
Halloween is her favorite holiday. We all expected her to want to wear a costume of an angel, or a fairy spirit, but for years she only wanted to be a witch. She dreamed all year of being able to wear a witch’s costume on Halloween. It surprised her family and all who knew her until we learned that the word ‘witch’ comes from the Old English ‘wicce’ meaning wise woman. She truly is wise like an old soul in a little body. Her choice of costume truly did reflect the wisdom already visible in her nature. I wonder, if we as adults were to select our costumes, what would that choice reveal about ourselves and the choices we make within our lives?
As we offer candy to those spirits who knock on our door this year, it is a timely reminder to think of those in your life who have passed. It is also a time to send them appreciation, love, gratitude and blessings. We can even light a candle to enlighten their way along their journey. May this ‘All Hallow’s Eve’ protect and bless you on your journey through this life and beyond.
Memory is a wonderful thing! It teaches us how to talk, how to walk, to eat and how to love. Without memory we would have to relearn each day how to walk, how to speak, and how to build a field of love for those closest to us. Without memory we could not hold onto our hurts and grievances of the past because each day is fresh, new and different than the day before.
However, without memory, we could not fulfill the destiny of our work on earth, or hold down a job, or even function in activities of daily life. Without memory, we forget the faces of our loved ones and create pain in those whose lives we have been so much a part of including those to whom we have given life…our children. Without memory we abandon them and others, leaving this world while still in body. We abandon ourselves as well as those still within our life.
There is another aspect of memory however that is upheld in the world of Yoga. That is the memory sometimes called supernormal. This is the memory of that which has never been forgotten. That is the memory that propels our great search for “truth” that seems beyond ourselves. It is the memory that is awakened by wise men of all cultures who speak words that heal our heart of the pains of the past and remind us of something, someplace beyond this world as we know it.
This is the memory that manifests as an elusive feeling, an experience buried in our psyche, that fuels our endless search for that which we think is outside ourselves. It is the memory of the rapture or bliss we once knew when we were one with the Source of all Creation. It is the memory of total and blissful peace and the rapture of that blessed connection where all is well…and all is. It is the memory of discovery of that which we have sought for so long in the world around us to discover we have never lost it like the glasses on our nose that we think are lost as we search far and wide for them. This is the memory that has been there all along waiting for us to discover it. It is the memory of that which we have never forgotten.
This is the supernormal memory of the unified field of consciousness of knowing, where unexcelled joy comes in the remembrance that we have never been disconnected from our Source. Yes, we search and hunger for this remembrance in all the workshops and classes we take, only to have them lead back to the source within ourselves. Oh… how long it takes for some while others are born with varying degrees of this remembrance, like the great saints, sages, prophets and wise men. They come into this world to awaken the memory that is already within and to remind those who have totally forgotten.
Just as we are all in different stages of forgetfulness we are also in different stages of remembrance. Like the petals of the lotus that open and unfold with the rising of the sun, as that light penetrates the darkness of our own being, the petals of our heart begin to open to that light.
Memory in Sanskrit is known as smriti, from the root verb sma which means to remember. It is the 5th non-painful mind wave that is the chamber where all memories go. They exist on varying layers from the preconscious to subconscious realms of mind. The impressions that come into the mind through the five senses are known as manas, the conscious mind. Man is the Sanskrit root verb that means to think. Its function is to take in knowledge and experiences of the world through the senses. This forms impressions that are deposited in varying layers of the subconscious mind according to the intensity of that impression. As the Yogis say, “Every conscious experience becomes a subconscious impression.”
Some impressions are like a feather floating on water. They are on the surface of the mind. While others go a little deeper, like a leaf or a piece of bark that lingers toward the surface until slowly absorbing more water until sinking, they sink slowly into the deeper layers of our psyche. Some impressions are like a line drawn in sand that is washed away when the tide comes in. Other impressions are described in Yoga scriptures as so intense that when experienced, they are embedded so deeply, like grooves chiseled in stone. These deeper and more entrenched impressions are known as vasanas. These deeply engraved grooves become a residue of feelings, where one or more experiences are not separate memories, but become a conglomerate that produces a sensation of feeling.
According to science, these grooves are known today as gyros. The more we repeat our stories, the grooves are impressed into deeper tissues of our brain. They are like an old-time record or disk where one groove is worn more deeply than others. It repetitively repeats over and over again. If we have had an altercation with someone and continue to repeat our version of the story, the groove can go so deep that it would be difficult to come to a place of forgiveness. The mind cannot rest until it does.
We are fortunate to have Yoga and other methodologies so available to us today to help us bring these impressions, deep or shallow up to the surface of the conscious mind where they can no longer pull us back into the old furrows. Through these techniques, it is possible to fill in the gyros and lift above experiences that have imprisoned our mind in the grooves of the past.
According to the Yoga scriptures of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, it is the vasanas that can be lodged so deeply in the tissues of our psyche that they can be held in memory for more than one lifetime. They are the reason our soul continues to return to this planet life after life and cannot move on to explore other inter-dimensional realities.
The practices of Yoga, asana, pranayama and concentration/meditation are designed to reach into our cellular structure where memories are stored in varying layers of our psyche. These practices are meant to bring the impressions (samskaras and vasanas) to the surface of mind where they can be seen, healed and transformed. As these mental obstructions are cleared, there is a release of long-held impressions that keep us from remembering. For it is in the subtler aspects of our soul where we store the greatest memory of all…that we are not nor ever have been, separated from our Divine Source.
“Every conscious experience becomes
a subconscious impression”
July 29, 2019
One beautiful spring day, I received a call from one of my granddaughters I had not seen for nearly 14 years. She was reaching out to me, her last living grandmother. She wanted to see me and get to know me more than from my website, Facebook, or my book, Yoga: Myth and Sacred Geometry.
It was a poignant conversation as Sadie caught me up on nearly 20 years of her life that led to our plan to meet. She wanted to see my other grandchildren, her cousins she remembered as a child. But when…and where? She lived near Eureka, in Northern California. And I lived in East Texas.
I called my daughter Andrea who lives near Sacramento and we arranged a date of July 20, which seemed a long way off, but with everyone’s busy schedule during the long hot summer, it was the only time that worked. When something is supposed to happen, it’s interesting how all the forces of nature seem to array to make it happen. Then the spirit of our coming together somehow caught the imagination of my five children and twelve grandchildren, and even MoMo (Kimora) my three-year-old great grandchild. Not all the older grandkids could make it, but they would be there in spirit
Finally, the day came after many texts, calls, and much planning. Our California family converged with children and grandchildren from the four directions. My daughter Erin, grandmother of MoMo, drove all night from Seattle with her half-brother from New Zealand, just to be with the family on this allotted day. Even the summer weather was cooler than normal.
Sadie was the polestar for us all to gather around, as we had not done for many years. Somehow, my two sons and three daughters just knew we were all to be together, busy or not. They answered the clarion call, and travelled from the Northwest, the California coast, and the foothills of the Sierra Nevada.
The night before the event, I could not sleep. I went into a deep meditative place to consciously hold each family in protection and prayer that they would arrive safely with as much eagerness to be together as I felt. My heart was so full of love and thanksgiving that we could at last, after many years, be together. I also held the vision that the day would be a magical kindling of new friendships and re-kindling of old familial relations.
There were 35 people that represented four generations from the elders, my husband Max, sister-in-law Vickie and my sister Susie. Our father had been an immigrant child from Lebanon and our mother was the descendent of parents from Norway. As a result, there were parents and children with dark and blond hair, blue, green, hazel, and dark brown eyes; cousins who looked nothing alike and children who looked more like their grandparents than their parent.
Erin, my daughter adopted at 18 months, now 52-years-old is a powerful mixture of an Irish, Scottish mother, and a Jamaican father. We were among the first families in the nation to adopt a racially mixed child, and even though she looked Jamaican, we named her Erin as a reminder of her Irish heritage. We rescued her from a foster home where she was not touched or held for the early months of her life. As an adult, for twenty years she owned a day-care center where she gave to children the love and caring she did not receive from the foster home in the early months of her life. Several years ago, Erin found her family of origin in New Zealand. Her biological half-brother Damian, born of a Jamaican father and a Maury mother, travelled with her to the gathering. Damian sat in one place throughout the entire day holding the space for the reunion, like a wise Maury elder. With great wisdom and compassion, he held the spiritual mantel over us all that day.
Erin’s son, Junior had grown into a tall and handsome young man who is a sports trainer for kids. He is healing them on many levels, by giving confidence and stability to their lives. Junior had won a full college scholarship through football and was now graduating into a new phase of his life. Some were entering into professions of teaching health, fitness and gymnastics, while others are in the culinary profession, or are contractors, and managers of organic farms, as well as hi-tech firms.
We toasted to the generations who went before and the new generations stepping into their place in the world, and the littlest ones, three-year-old MoMo and six-year-old fairy spirit, Isa. What a diverse group from all kinds of jobs and professional expertise!
My daughter Mira, who represented the health and healing professions of Yoga and Ayurveda was tethered to apron strings as she served aromatic lentils and brown rice to those daring to enter into the tasty labyrinth of healing through foods. There was so much that could go astray with a family of so many professions, religions, and political persuasions, but that day, all divisions and separative belief systems were transcended into an amazing field of love, and a joy of just Being together.
Aunts and uncles, parents and grandparents, first and second cousins, meeting for the first time, and not-so-first times, mingled and meshed in the home of my daughter Andrea and her husband Elio Angel. They were the angels that gave the gathering space by opening their home as well as their hearts to all those who entered the portals of their life.
When it was time to take the family picture, it seemed impossible to try to put the immediate families together so it was ordained that anyone could stand or sit anywhere they wanted. This was a wild array of a family, finding itself in the reflection of one another. The sun had long set before we said our goodbyes. I held each one in my arms with the hope that the field of love created that day would be taken with them into all corners of their lives and into the world.