Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.

~ Naomi Shihab Nye ~

(Words From Under the Words: Selected Poems)

2017-01-31T21:57:47+00:00 January 31st, 2017|Tags: , |1 Comment

Reflect on What Matters Most to You

At a satsang in New York I raised the question, “What matters most to you?”  I spoke about the importance of clarifying what we value and reflecting on the ultimate purpose of our lives. Speaking to a group of yogis, I was not surprised that someone suggested right away that Moksha or spiritual liberation was most important. We all might understand liberation, or self-realization, to be the goal of Yoga, but what does that really mean to us?  It remains a vague and distant idea that may have little relevance to our daily lives.  How do we actually go about pursuing enlightenment?

We often think of realization as something passive that happens by stilling the mind, as the Yoga sutras imply.  But it is better understood as an active response to life, as a way of bringing to life or embodying the qualities we associate with our spiritual nature:  compassion, peace, joy, etc. True awakening is not something that happens in isolation.  It takes place as a product of both our Yoga practice and our conscious choices in relationship to each other and our environment.

Imagine how it would feel for the spiritual Self to be as tangible and active as the body and mind while pursuing our goals. Every time we are fully present to life and act with mindfulness, we take a step toward this reality. Our true nature is expressed each time we recognize with gratitude all the ways we are blessed, and allow that sense of abundance to overflow as generosity with others.

Pausing and breathing to allow a sense of peace to arise in a quiet moment is a beautiful step toward liberation.  Bringing more compassion into an interaction in line at the store or in heavy traffic is a genuine stride in spiritual growth.   Taking the time to be fully present and experience the joy of playing with children or listening deeply to a friend who needs to talk are enlightened choices.  These are examples of how spiritual realization is pursued in each moment that we act while holding in our hearts a clear vision of what matters most to us.

2017-01-27T23:03:53+00:00 January 27th, 2017|1 Comment

Practicing Enlightenment Now

The idea of becoming enlightened may not mean much to us right now in our daily lives.  I prefer to focus on the behaviors that I think are expressions of that enlightened state.  When we live with compassion towards others, find joy in serving, and practice gratitude and contentment, we align our actions with that Spirit within. This is how we can practice being enlightened right now.

2017-01-23T23:03:32+00:00 January 23rd, 2017|Comments Off on Practicing Enlightenment Now

Our Personal Contribution to the Collective Consciousness

When we can keep alive even a small flame of peace and equanimity in ourselves, we will have already contributed to world peace.  Establishing peace in ourselves is the only way we can expect to have the clarity to then express it in our daily lives, in the difficult interactions we have, where peace is sorely needed.  Our ability to embody nonviolence and compassion will bring those values more powerfully into the world than any speech we can make.

We have literally hundreds of opportunities every day to make a choice to be loving, to listen and understand others, to give without expecting something.   If we can open our hearts to even a few people we encounter, we begin to live as a light for peace, one step at a time.  I think there is nothing more important for us to do and nothing more fulfilling.

2017-01-18T00:41:51+00:00 January 18th, 2017|Comments Off on Our Personal Contribution to the Collective Consciousness