mother nature is beauty

Yoga Journal Pose of the Day

Rodney Yee's Daily Yoga Pose

Friday, October 1, 2010

How to Talk to a Tree

Take a walk in your local park or woods and learn how to tune into these wonderful beings and listen to the wisdom they may have to impart.

1. Wander through different groups of trees, quieten your mind and practice tuning into their energy. In some parts of the forest, the trees may seem more "awake" than in others. Some may appear to exude warmth and friendliness, while others remain aloof. Notice how different species emanate different kinds of energy.

2. Let yourself be drawn toward one tree in particular, and move closer toward it. Observe every part of it from root to top. Every tree has an energy field, an aura. See if you can detect where the aura begins by walking towards and away from the tree and using the palms of your hands to sense its energy.

3. Send warm energy toward the tree from your heart and ask if it will allow you to draw closer and spend some time with it. If it is granted, walk closer to the tree and circle it slowly in a sunwise direction. Then put both your hands and your body against the trunk and tune into its consciousness. Notice how the tree looks close up, how it smells and how it feels against your skin.

4. Rub a fresh leaf or needle between your fingers and inhale the fragrance.

5. Now sit down against the trunk and open yourself to the power of the tree, and let it take you into a deep state of meditation. You don't have to do anything other than stay relaxed and present and let the tree calm your thoughts and gently cleanse your mind of all the agitation of modern living. Enjoy this state of peace for as long as you want.

6. Open up a dialogue with the tree. You can ask questions about it, about yourself, and also for guidance on any problems. Sit in the silence and wait for a response, which usually comes as an inner sense of `knowingness.'

7. When you are ready, stand up and place your hands on its trunk again, sending it thanks from your heart.

written by Mara Freeman

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Beginner's guide to meditation practice


Although you don't need to formally meditate in order to practice hatha yoga—nor is the practice of hatha yoga mandatory in order to meditate—the two practices support each another. Through your practice of yoga, you've enhanced both your abilities to concentrate and to relax—the two most important requirements for a meditation practice. Now you can deepen your understanding of what meditation is and begin a practice of your own.

What Is Meditation?

An exquisite methodology exists within the yoga tradition that is designed to reveal the interconnectedness of every living thing. This fundamental unity is referred to as advaita. Meditation is the actual experience of this union.

In the Yoga Sutra, Patanjali gives instruction on how to meditate and describes what factors constitute a meditation practice. The second sutra in the first chapter states that yoga (or union) happens when the mind becomes quiet. This mental stillness is created by bringing the body, mind, and senses into balance which, in turn, relaxes the nervous system. Patanjali goes on to explain that meditation begins when we discover that our never-ending quest to possess things and our continual craving for pleasure and security can never be satisfied. When we finally realize this, our external quest turns inward, and we have shifted into the realm of meditation.

By dictionary definition, "meditation" means to reflect upon, ponder, or contemplate. It can also denote a devotional exercise of contemplation or a contemplative discourse of a religious or philosophical nature. The word meditate comes from the Latin meditari, which means to think about or consider. Med is the root of this word and means "to take appropriate measures." In our culture, to meditate can be interpreted several ways. For instance, you might meditate on or consider a course of action regarding your child's education, or a career change that would entail a move across the country. Viewing a powerful movie or play, you may be moved to meditate upon—or ponder—the moral issues plaguing today's society.

In the yogic context, meditation, or dhyana, is defined more specifically as a state of pure consciousness. It is the seventh stage, or limb, of the yogic path and follows dharana, the art of concentration. Dhyana in turn precedes samadhi, the state of final liberation or enlightenment, the last step in Patanjali's eight-limbed system. These three limbs—dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation), and samadhi (ecstasy)—are inextricably linked and collectively referred to as samyama, the inner practice, or subtle discipline, of the yogic path.

Recall that the first four limbs—yama (ethics), niyama (self-discipline), asana (posture), and pranayama (life-force extension)—are considered external disciplines. The fifth step, pratyahara represents the withdrawal of the senses. This sensual withdrawal arises out of the practice of the first four steps and links the external to the internal. When we are grounded physically and mentally, we are keenly aware of our senses, yet disengaged at the same time. Without this ability to remain detached yet observant, it is not possible to meditate. Even though you need to be able to concentrate in order to meditate, meditation is more than concentration. It ultimately evolves into an expanded state of awareness.

When we concentrate, we direct our mind toward what appears to be an object apart from ourselves. We become acquainted with this object and establish contact with it. To shift into the meditation realm, however, we need to become involved with this object; we need to communicate with it. The result of this exchange, of course, is a deep awareness that there is no difference between us (as the subject) and that which we concentrate or meditate upon (the object). This brings us to the state of samadhi, or self-realization.

A good way to understand this is to think about the development of a relationship. First, we meet someone—that is, we make contact. Then by spending time together, listening to, and sharing with each another, we develop a relationship. In the next stage, we merge with this person in the form of a deep friendship, partnership, or marriage. The "you" and "me" become an "us."

According to the Yoga Sutra, our pain and suffering is created by the misperception that we are separate from nature. The realization that we aren't separate may be experienced spontaneously, without effort. However, most of us need guidance. Patanjali's eight-limbed system provides us with the framework we need.

Ways to Meditate

Just as there are numerous styles of hatha yoga, so there are many ways to meditate. The first stage of meditation is to concentrate on a specific object or establish a point of focus, with the eyes either opened or closed. Silently repeating a word or phrase, audibly reciting a prayer or chant, visualizing an image such as a deity, or focusing on an object such as a lighted candle in front of you are all commonly recommended points of focus. Observing or counting your breaths and noticing bodily sensations are also optional focal points. Let's take a closer look.

The Use of Sound. Mantra yoga employs the use of a particular sound, phrase, or affirmation as a point of focus. The word mantra comes from man, which means "to think," and tra, which suggests "instrumentality." Therefore, mantra is an instrument of thought. It also has come to mean "protecting the person who receives it." Traditionally, you can only receive a mantra from a teacher, one who knows you and your particular needs. The act of repeating your mantra is called japa, which means recitation. Just as contemplative prayer and affirmation need to be stated with purpose and feeling, a mantra meditation practice requires conscious engagement on the part of the meditator. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's Transcendental Meditation (TM) espouses the practice of mantra yoga.

Chanting, an extension of mantra yoga, is a powerful way to enter into meditation. Longer than a mantra, a chant involves both rhythm and pitch. Western traditions use chants and hymns to invoke the name of God, to inspire, and to produce a spiritual awakening. Dating back to Vedic times, Indian chanting comes out of a tradition that believes in the creative power of sound and its potential to transport us to an expanded state of awareness. The rishis, or ancient seers, taught that all of creation is a manifestation of the primordial sound Om. Reflected in an interpretation of the word universe—"one song"—Om is the seed sound of all other sounds. Chanting Sanskrit often and properly produces profound spiritual and physical effects.

Many beginners find using a mantra in their meditation very effective and relatively easy. Chanting, on the other hand, can be intimidating for some people. If you feel awkward chanting on your own, use one of the many audiotapes of chants on the market, or participate in a group meditation where a meditation teacher leads the chant and the students repeat it. Although chanting in Sanskrit can be powerful, reciting a meaningful prayer or affirmation in any language can be effective.

The Use of Imagery. Visualizing is also a good way to meditate; one that beginners often find easy to practice. Traditionally, a meditator visualizes his or her chosen deity—a god or goddess-in vivid and detailed fashion. Essentially any object is valid.

Some practitioners visualize a natural object such as a flower or the ocean; others meditate on the chakras, or energy centers, in the body. In this type of meditation, you focus on the area or organ of the body corresponding to a particular chakra, imagining the particular color associated with it.

Gazing. Another variation on the use of imagery is to maintain an open-eyed focus upon an object. This focus is referred to as drishti, which means "view," "opinion," or "gaze." Again the choices available to you here are virtually limitless. Candle gazing is a popular form of this method. Focusing on a flower in a vase, or a statue, or a picture of a deity are other possibilities.

Use this technique with your eyes fully opened or partially closed, creating a softer, diffused gaze. Many of the classical hatha yoga postures have gazing points, and the use of drishti is especially emphasized in the Ashtanga style of hatha yoga. Many pranayama techniques also call for specific positioning of the eyes, such as gazing at the "third eye," the point between the eyebrows or at the tip of the nose.

Breathing. Using the breath as a point of focus is yet another possibility. You can do this by actually counting the breaths as you would in pranayama practice. Ultimately, however, meditating on the breath just means purely observing the breath as it is, without changing it in any way. In this instance, the breath becomes the sole object of your meditation. You observe every nuance of the breath and each sensation it produces: how it moves in your abdomen and torso, how it feels as it moves in and out of your nose, its quality, its temperature, and so on. Though you are fully aware of all these details, you don't dwell on them or judge them in any way; you remain detached from what you're observing. What you discover is neither good nor bad; you simply allow yourself to be with the breath from moment to moment.

Breath observance is the predominant technique used by practitioners of vipassana, commonly referred to as "insight" or "mindfulness" meditation. Popularized by such renowned teachers such as Thich Nhat Hanh, Jack Kornfield, and Jon Kabat-Zinn, this is a form a Buddhist practice. The word vipassana, which literally means "to see clearly" or "look deeply," is also interpreted to mean "the place where the heart dwells," and reflects the premise that thought arises out of our hearts.

Physical Sensations. Another way to meditate is to watch a physical sensation. Practice this with the same degree of detail as you would when watching the breath. In this context, you will look deeply at, or penetrate, a particular sensation that draws your attention, such as how hot or cool your hands feel. The increased sensitivity you gained due to your asana practice may provide you with other points of focus: the strength of your spine or the suppleness you feel in your lower body, for example. Observing a particular emotion or any specific area of discomfort is also a possibility. Whatever you choose remains your point of focus for the whole practice. You may find that observing a physical sensation can be more challenging than observing the breath. For most beginners, mantras, chants, and visualizations offer more tangible ways to replace or calm the scattered thoughts of our minds, which seem to be perpetually on sensory overload.

Meditation Postures

Sitting. Although you can meditate, or become fully absorbed in any activity or position of stillness, sitting is the most commonly recommended posture. There are a number of classic seated poses, but Sukhasana (Easy Cross-Legged Pose) is obviously the most basic. More flexible meditators prefer Padmasana (Lotus Pose).

Sitting in a chair also works. It's no less effective and certainly no less spiritual, and it's often the best choice for beginners. The most important things are that your spine remain upright and that you feel steady and comfortable, the same two qualities necessary for performing asanas. To maximize comfort on the floor, place a cushion or folded blanket under your buttocks to elevate them and gently guide your knees down toward the floor. This helps support the natural lumbar curve of the lower back. Some people prefer kneeling "Japanese-style." You can buy small, slanted wooden benches for this position.

Relax your arms and place your hands on your thighs or in your lap, with the palms in a relaxed position facing up or down. Roll your shoulders back and down and gently lift the chest. Keep your neck long and the chin tilted slightly downward. Depending upon which technique you are following, the eyes may be opened or closed. Breathing is natural and free.

Walking. A moving meditation—highly recommended by many teachers—may be an enjoyable option for you. The challenge of this form is to walk slowly and consciously, each step becoming your focal point. Destination, distance, and pace are all incidental. Relax your arms at your sides and move freely, coordinating your breath with your steps. For instance, you might breathe in for 3 steps and breathe out for 3 steps. If that feels awkward or difficult, just breathe freely. Although you can practice walking meditation anywhere, choose a setting you particularly love—the ocean, a favorite park, or a meadow. Remember, getting somewhere is not the issue. Rather, the complete involvement in the act of walking becomes your meditation.

Standing. Standing is another meditation practice that can be very powerful. It is often recommended for those practitioners who find that it builds physical, mental, and spiritual strength. Stand with your feet hip- to shoulder-distance apart. Knees are soft; arms rest comfortably at your sides. Check to see that the whole body is aligned in good posture: shoulders rolled back and down, chest open, neck long, head floating on top, and chin parallel to the floor. Either keep your eyes opened or softly close them.

Reclining. Even though lying down is associated with relaxation, the classic corpse posture, Savasana, is also used for meditation. Lie down on your back with your arms at your sides, palms facing upward. Touch your heels together and allow the feet to fall away from one another, completely relaxed. Although your eyes may be opened or closed, some people find it easier to stay awake with their eyes open. A supine meditation, although more physically restful than other positions, entails a greater degree of alertness to remain awake and focused. Therefore, beginners may find it more difficult to meditate in this position without falling asleep.

The Benefits of Meditation

Research has confirmed what the yogis of ancient times already knew: Profound physiological and psychological changes take place when we meditate, causing an actual shift in the brain and in the involuntary processes of the body.

This is how it works. An instrument called an electroencephalograph (EEG) records mental activity. During waking activity, when the mind constantly moves from one thought to another, the EEG registers jerky and rapid lines categorized as beta waves. When the mind calms down through meditation, the EEG shows waves that are smoother and slower, and categorizes them as alpha waves. As meditation deepens, brain activity decreases further. The EEG then registers an even smoother, slower pattern of activity we call theta waves. Studies on meditators have shown decreased perspiration and a slower rate of respiration accompanied by a decrease of metabolic wastes in the bloodstream. Lower blood pressure and an enhanced immune system are further benefits noted by research studies.

The health benefits meditation produces naturally reflect the mental and physical effects of this process. At the very least, meditation teaches you how to manage stress; reducing stress in turn enhances your overall physical health and emotional well-being. On a deeper level, it can add to the quality of your life by teaching you to be fully alert, aware, and alive. In short, it is a celebration of your self. You are not meditating to get anything, but rather to look at and let go of anything you do not need.

Starting Your Own Meditation Practice

We highly recommend a period of daily meditation. Add it to the end of your asana practice, or set aside another block of time. The important thing is that you find a time that works best for you. Don't do too much too soon; you're apt to get discouraged and stop altogether.

When and Where to Practice

To establish consistency, meditate at the same time and in the same place every day. Choose a place that is quiet, one that is pleasant, where you'll be undisturbed.

Traditionally, the morning is considered the optimal time because you are less likely to be distracted by the demands of your day. Many people find that a morning meditation helps them enter the day with a greater degree of equanimity and poise. However, if a morning practice is a struggle, try an afternoon or early evening meditation.

If you are new to yoga and meditation, you may find adding five or 10 minutes of meditation at the end of your asana practice enough. When meditating independently of your yoga practice, a 15- to 20-minute time frame seems manageable for most beginners.


Choose a position that works for you. If you prefer sitting, either on a chair or on the floor, keep the spine erect and the body relaxed. Your hands should rest comfortably on your lap or thighs, with the palms up or down. If you choose to walk or stand, maintaining good posture is also critical, with your arms hanging freely by your sides. When lying down, place yourself in a symmetrical and comfortable position with the appropriate support under your head and knees if needed.


Decide on your point of focus. If sound appeals to you, create your own mantra, silently or audibly repeating a word or phrase that is calming to you, such as "peace," "love," or "joy."

Affirmations also work. "I am relaxed" or "I am calm and alert" as you breathe out. Using a tape of chants or listening to a relaxing piece of music are also options.

If you choose imagery, visualize your favorite spot in nature with your eyes closed, or gaze upon an object placed in front of you: a lighted candle, a flower, or a picture of your favorite deity.

One way to observe the breath is to count it: Breathe in for three to seven counts and breathe out for the same length of time. Then shift to simply observing the breath, noticing its own natural rhythm and its movement in your torso.

Whichever posture and method you choose, stick with them for the duration of your meditation period. Indeed, once you find what works for you, you'll want to maintain that practice indefinitely.

Do not be surprised or discouraged by how frequently your thoughts wander. When you realize that your mind has become distracted, simply return to your chosen point of focus.

How Do You Know If It's Working?

At the beginning you might feel uncomfortable meditating—sitting for 20 minutes may cause your legs to fall asleep or cramp up, walking slowly may bring up feelings of impatience or agitation, and reclining poses may merely make you fall asleep. Conversely, you may have some profound experiences the first few times you sit, only to spend the next few frustrating days trying to duplicate them. Relax. Meditation shouldn't cause you to feel unreasonably stressed or physically uncomfortable. If it does, reduce the length of your practice time or change your position (from walking to sitting; from sitting to standing). If that doesn't work, go back to incorporating a few minutes of meditation into your asana practice instead of holding onto a formal practice. After a few days, try returning to your normal meditation routine.

If you continue having trouble with your meditation practice, you may need to seek the guidance of an experienced teacher or the support of a group that meets regularly to meditate together. Indications of your progress, with or without a teacher or group, are feelings of mental calm and physical comfort, and the ability to be present in all your experiences.

By Mara Carrico

Friday, July 16, 2010


I took a Kundalini class years ago and I loved it. It was a 2 hour session with lots of breathing, chanting, poses and interaction with others in the class. The teacher also gave us a lot of history and facts about Kundalini. After the 2 hours was over, I felt like I had slept for 8 hours. It was wonderful. I felt so refreshed and rejuvenated. I was truly amazed.

Kundalini literally means coiled. (aka serpent power)
The Kundalini resides in the sacrum bone in three and a half coils and has been described as a residual power of pure desire.

Kundalini is a psycho-spiritual energy, the energy of the consciousness, which is thought to reside within the sleeping body, and is aroused either through spiritual discipline or spontaneously to bring new states of consciousness, including mystical illumination.

The power of kundalini is said to be enormous. Those having experienced it claim it to be indescribable. The phenomena associated with it varies from bizarre physical sensations and movements, pain, clairaudience, visions, brilliant lights, superlucidity, psychical powers, ecstasy, bliss, and transcendence of self. Kundalini has been described as liquid fire and liquid light.


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Fourth Chakra: Love

The fourth Chakra, Anahata (not struck), is located at the heart (center of the chest). Its color is green and its issues are love, compassion, acceptance, and trust.


May I be free to feel my true feelings, desires and passions, and be at home in my heart.

Yoga Poses to Activate this Chakra:

Standing yoga mudra
Standing backbend
Prayer twist

Yoga Practices to Activate this Chakra:

Mudra: Hridaya and Anjali
Mantra: Yam
Meditation: Heart Chakra Meditation

The fourth Chakra, Anahata (not struck), is located at the heart (center of the chest). Its color is green and its issues are love, compassion, acceptance, and trust.

Affirmation: May I be free to feel my true feelings, desires and passions, and be at home in my heart.

Yoga Poses to Activate this Chakra:

Standing yoga mudra
Standing backbend
Prayer twist

Yoga Practices to Activate this Chakra:

Mudra: Hridaya and Anjali
Mantra: Yam
Meditation: Heart Chakra Meditation

written by Timothy Burgin

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


~ ~ a koan is an paradoxical anecdote or riddle that has no solution ~ ~

they are used in Zen Buddhism to show the inadequacy of logical reasoning

make a teapot walk around the room

why is the sky blue?

where will you go after death?

ride a buffalo while walking

what is, is what?

what is insight into impermanence?

great understanding comes with great love

how do you keep a mind that is clear like space?

how many stars are in heaven?

why is that thing not you?

without anxious thought, doing comes from being

while you are living, know that you are dying

the essence of the wind and the working of the wind - what are they like?

the wise do not strive to arrive

what is the place without cold, without heat?

do not attach to anything that arises in the mind

everyday is a good day

what is mind?

what is the one pure and clear thing?

how many strands of hair do you have on your head?

passion is the highest wisdom

what is destiny? is it the choices you make?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Five Buddha Families

The Five Buddha Families. Which one are you? ~ Linda V. Lewis

buddha families trungpa

The Buddha Families—Buddha, Vajra, Ratna, Padma, Karma—are like Western Astrological Signs. Only totally different.

The Buddha families as presented by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche are a description of five qualities of energy.

They describe qualities we all have. They are not meant to solidify one’s ego through identifying them the way some people identify with their astrological signs. They are instead a fluid working basis for recognizing our current sanity or neurosis.

Practitioners of the buddhadharma are not expected to be uniformly cool or warm, smart or spacious. Especially since these families come from the vajrayana tradition, they permit a great openness for us to work on ourselves in order to bring out our intrinsic wisdom. The main demand is to be honest and to be willing to see how we are manifesting—sanely or neurotically.

Each Buddha family has an emotion associated with it, which can be transmuted into wisdom, as well as a color, element, landscape, direction, season, and even a time of day. Since we change both physically and mentally, our styles, modes of being, likes and dislikes change over the years. Thus the predominant Buddha family of a person may change, influenced often by age or circumstances. This is because we all embody and have access to all the five Buddha energies.

The central Buddha family is Buddha, which has the quality of space and accommodation. If a friend asks you, “Would you like to see ‘Avatar’ or ‘Oceans’?” you might say, “Oh, either one,” if you were in a Buddha frame of mind. It’s not that you don’t care. It’s that you have no sharp edges, no strong likes and dislikes. Your mode of being is even and does not tend to react to excitement, yet you are open if not enterprising.

But the neurosis of the Buddha family is dullness, a kind of bubble-gum or molasses mind. Buddha neurosis ignores the vividness of life because it does not want to see. Think of someone in a Lazy-Boy chair in front of a blaring TV who cannot find the remote and who doesn’t want to bother to get up to change the channel. Although the stupor is thick, if there is a flicker of wakefulness, it can transform the sloth into the Wisdom of All-Encompassing Space. That flicker of wakefulness can encourage him to be tired of nesting in indifference and inertia, and can provoke him to get out of the Lazy-Boy, turn off the TV, and clean up the living room, creating space.

This is the wisdom, which makes it possible for the other Buddha families to function. It is like wakeful oxygen, the air of life. The Buddha energy is usually portrayed as blue, like the sky or cool space. Its symbol is the eight-spoked wheel of dharma.

The Vajra family is known for precision and intellectual exactness. It is associated with the East and the lightening sky of dawn. Its symbol is the diamond-like or adamantine thunderbolt called a vajra. If it were a Vajra person who asked the Buddha friend which film he would prefer, the attitude of “either one” would be puzzling and require investigation. At times a Vajra person may seem cold or sharply cutting like an icicle, because there is a tendency to analyze or at least question, “How can you have no preference?”

The Vajra personality works with white-hot anger. Vajra neurosis tends to have a short fuse, super ready to criticize or at least to analyze what is wrong with an idea or situation. But if a Vajra person can just feel and stay with the emotion of anger, rather than either self-righteously expressing rage and getting off on it—or suppressing it tightly inside—the clarity of anger turns naturally into Mirror-like Wisdom and he can begin to express intelligently and without blame his concerns and insights.

Usually when we’re angry we want to get it off our chest, or, out of fear, suppress it. In both cases we are trying to get rid of the anger rather than acknowledging and staying with it. But by registering the emotion, we can touch the clarity within the emotion and find a skillful way to express ourselves, without polluting and emoting all over the place, and without bottling it up for another day.

The Ratna personality tends to be proud and loves to collect and draw in richness. Ratna literally means jewel or precious gem. A Ratna lady’s home may be like a comfortable fortress full of various rich collections. Perhaps she has a great library or collection of paintings. In the kitchen where she loves to cook, she has every imaginable utensil, herb, and spice. Her garden may be a rich jumble of vegetables and colorful flowers, surrounded by vine-covered walls and planters overflowing with velvet petunias. She probably has a multitude of scarves, or silk ties if a man, and enjoys wearing a great deal of gold jewelry or “bling”. Such a person is gregarious and enjoys being surrounded by companions.

The sanity of Ratna expresses itself in the Wisdom of Equanimity. There is balance, and earthy stability. She is aware of self-existing richness in herself and her world and doesn’t have to always go “over the top”, replaying certain opera arias or dressing in brocade!

Recognizing the tendency to be prideful is the beginning of loosening up into the Wisdom of Equanimity. As the tendency to defend herself and to maintain ego’s way of doing things elaborately relaxes, she feels inspired instead to be generous and hospitable to everyone in her world.

Ratna is connected with the South, to the fertility and abundance of autumn. It is like sunshine mid-morning on a luscious, ripe and juicy peach!

The Padma family is provocative and magnetizing. Padma literally means lotus. This family is connected with fire and the burning red of the setting sun in the West, and with springtime, the time when winter softens into tender growth and brightens with the brilliant color of wild flowers. Many artists are of the Padma family. Padma people tend to be attractive and warm, with an instinct toward union.

But Padma neurosis is prone to fascination and seduction, followed by disinterest because the desire is to attract more than to have. This neurotic form of passion can be transformed with self-discipline into Discriminating Awareness, which knows what to attract, what to reject, in the first place. Then respect and communication can occur along with the warmth of genuine compassion, instead of the cycle of entrapment-rejection.

The final Buddha family is that of Karma, symbolized by a sword. This is the most efficient and active family. Karma literally means action or activity. It is like the energy of a good wind, which blows away any leaves still clinging from winter’s stasis, or like a summer breeze in the Northern Highlands of Cape Breton, whipping through the tall, sword-like grasses, for it is summer when all living things are most active and growing. The color of the Karma family is green but the mood is that of dusk, post-sunset, like an early summer night teeming with the activity of everything from insects to partying humans!

Karma people like things to work, to be functional, and timely. They are pragmatic, with a tendency toward competition. The neurosis of Karma is speed, restlessness, and jealousy. Karma neurosis feels that if something isn’t functional all the time or doesn’t fit a predetermined scheme, it should be destroyed!

But again, recognizing this tendency toward speed, competition, and jealousy is the first step in having the neurosis loosen its hold. As one slows down, action becomes appropriate. Then one can be less self-conscious, competitive, and jealous. And one can learn to delegate. This is the beginning of All-Accomplishing Action.

These families represent five different approaches and styles, which are equally valid. A practitioner may relate predominantly to any one of them, or partially with several of them. My son, for instance, is Karma (speedy, busy) Padma (loving, sensitive, passionate) and Ratna (business-focused, enjoys food and style and “things”…and he’s not at all Buddha or Vajra).

There is no fixed type-casting. Each family has the potential to be a different expression of sanity. In that way our various styles do not need to be considered as hang-ups but as the display of a variety of valuable energies.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Give Thanks

Cultivating gratitude can boost well-being—and may help you sleep better.

By Jill Duman


Gratitude is a fundamental component of most spiritual paths, and a growing body of research suggests that it has important health implications, too, including better sleep, fewer physical ailments, and a greater ability to cope with stressful situations.

"Gratitude elevates, it energizes, it inspires, it transforms," says Robert Emmons, a University of California, Davis, psychology professor who has helped champion the study of gratitude as a factor in mental and physical health.

A series of studies he conducted in 2003 found that people who kept weekly written records of gratitude slept longer, exercised more frequently, had fewer health complaints, and generally felt better about their lives when compared with those who were asked to record only their complaints. In another study, he found that students who wrote in gratitude journals felt more satisfied with their lives and their school experience.

Practicing conscious gratitude has also been linked with positive mental health. Todd Kashdan, associate professor of psychology at Virginia's George Mason University, found that when veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder kept gratitude journals, they experienced a greater sense of overall well-being in their lives. "There are two parts of being grateful," Kashdan says. "One is recognizing that someone benefited in some way, then mindfully seeing the connection to yourself. You have to really be in the present to see what's happening in your life, what's causing things to happen, and how you fit into things bigger than yourself."

A gratitude practice is a natural companion to yoga, which "offers numerous opportunities to reflect on all there is in one's life to be grateful for," says Emmons. To begin consciously cultivating gratitude, try considering what life would be like without a pleasure you now enjoy, or think about who you are grateful for. A daily gratitude journal can help you be more mindful of these things in your life. But your gratitude practice doesn't have to be scripted: Simply taking time on a regular basis to mentally note your blessings is a big step in the right direction.