Your True Purpose for this Life

Visualize a ship setting off on a long voyage and how it must point itself in the right
direction to reach the intended destination. Then imagine that the course it sets is
slightly off target. By the time it travels a great distance, it will be far from its goal.

The same thing can happen to us if we are not clear about the direction we really want
to go. There are so many influences that can throw us off course, so many diversions
that vie for our attention– like glass jewelry, shiny but of little value.

The beginning of a new year can be an ideal time to reflect and clarify for ourselves
what is most important to us, to ask ourselves, “To what overall purpose do I want to
devote my life?” There is a great benefit in reflecting on this, jotting down ideas, and
ultimately stating clearly for ourselves what we want to achieve.

This statement then becomes a potent tool for evaluating both the major decisions and
many smaller choices we must make on a daily basis. I like to ask myself the question,
“Is the way I am using my time and energy in harmony with what I really value in this
life?” The clearer I become about what is most important to me, the easier it is to say
no to the many activities that may be interesting but not meaningful.

If we want our lives to be centered on spiritual values, we must consciously make time
for the teachings and practices that attune our hearts and minds to Spirit. Since we are
so strongly influenced by the culture around us—which has also shaped our
subconscious minds—most of us need to reconnect over and over to the spiritual
truths we have come to believe in.

Thus, I believe it is essential to build into our lives some regular method of calling forth
the Divine Presence within, whether it is by meditating or serving, chanting or praying,
studying or loving others. Otherwise, our ships can easily be blown off course by the
strong winds around us. Each of us can create a personal vision for this life, and take
the steering wheel in hand, so let us make good use of this opportunity. Doing so
makes our lives much more meaningful and enjoyable.

2017-01-03T22:09:23+00:00 January 3rd, 2017|Tags: , , |Comments Off on Your True Purpose for this Life

The Significance of Sangha

swamiandgroup
Both the Yoga and Buddhist traditions use the word sangha to signify spiritual community – those who share the same spiritual values and offer a source of support to each other.  In Buddhism, sangha is considered one of the three forms of refuge for a spiritual seeker, along with the Buddha and the Dharma.  Yoga teachings also consider spiritual community to be an essential element of a spiritual path.
Walking the spiritual path challenges us to examine the moments when we find it difficult to be at peace in ourselves and compassionate with others.  It requires a steady effort to disengage ourselves from habitual, self-centered thinking and most of us need a regular meditation practice to be free of such deeply ingrained patterns.
Both of these efforts—to self-reflect on our behavior and to meditate regularly–can be difficult when we feel upset or overwhelmed, and we can easily get discouraged when we don’t have any support.  Sharing our struggles with like-minded seekers puts things in perspective, helps us develop self-awareness, and brings relief from feeling alone with our efforts.
The support and safety of a group can help us let down defenses and be more honest with ourselves. It can inspire us to have more compassion for ourselves and each other and be a great source of inspiration.  When we practice Yoga or meditation together, the group energy helps us focus and uplift the mind beyond what we can do alone.
Our culture instills in us the belief that happiness can be acquired, which keeps us stuck in the head, measuring, judging and planning to arrange our lives. Spiritual community brings us back into our hearts where we can feel our natural connection to the whole web of life.  In the heart, we can sense that the events in our lives are part of a bigger picture than our limited minds can know.
I encourage all Yoga practitioners to gather with sangha whenever possible to share the ups and downs of living a spiritual life, to give and receive support. Even when it’s not possible to practice Yoga together or attend a scripture study group, books and videos can be another source of sangha.  We don’t need to walk the path alone.

 

ramsign2-2-e1385786811733

2016-12-02T21:37:03+00:00 December 2nd, 2016|Tags: , , |Comments Off on The Significance of Sangha

Simple Aspects of Life

img_1368-compressor

When we practice contentment, we begin to enjoy many of the simple aspects of life that we
normally take for granted: the smile of a baby, a walk in the park, the satisfaction of clean
laundry, the blessing of a good friend. We can also practice appreciating our own good qualities
instead of always dwelling on our shortcomings.

ramsign2-2-e1385786811733

 

2016-11-25T16:51:47+00:00 November 25th, 2016|Tags: , , |Comments Off on Simple Aspects of Life

Spirit of Compassion

peopleontrack

Whenever we look deeply into our behavior, we begin to recognize that many of our interactions with each other are unconsciously based on protecting our self-image, trying to control the ever-changing world around us or win the acceptance of others.  We can practice having compassion for the ways that we all suffer from our attempts to arrange for happiness, reminding ourselves of the innate goodness within, like the light beneath a lampshade.  We can also acknowledge the ways we may have hurt others when we’ve been preoccupied with our own safety and desires, and in this spirit of compassion, forgive ourselves for these mistakes.  

ramsign2-2-e1385786811733

2016-10-15T01:44:19+00:00 October 10th, 2016|Tags: , |Comments Off on Spirit of Compassion