Monthly Archives: October 2012

The Morning, the Mosque and the Glandular System

What do the early morning, the pituitary gland and the mosque have in common?

I had done my early morning meditation the other day before taking my dogs out for their walk. I live on the street with the beautiful Mosque, so I always see activity there during the pre-Dawn hours. On this occasion, I saw my mechanic, who is a Muslim. The sun, not yet reflecting off the minaret, was just beginning to lighten the sky as I waved hello and turned the corner.

If I were to walk a little further, I’d see the Orthodox Jews making their way to temple for their early morning prayers. And in the many Buddhist temples across town, the monks are chanting their first sutras while the smoky aroma of sandalwood incense fills the dimly lit room.

The pre-Dawn hours have always been the favored time to engage in spiritual practices, among all traditions, since the time before those practices were subsumed and consumed by religion as we know it today…since the time when all who practiced were Yogis—since, true to the spirit of the word, they were merely seeking divine union. They were mystics, seeking nothing but the experience of God.

Although the façades have changed, the inner motivations are varied and the reasons why are largely unknown, the custom of rising early remains.

In Sikh scriptures, it is known as the Amrit Vela—that special and tranquil time we may call the ambrosial hours. The ancients may not have known that this is the time when our glandular system undergoes a natural shift, but they knew there was something very magical about it. They may not have known about the pituitary gland, whose proper function regulates all other endocrine functions and brings us into that state Yogis called Shuniya, but they experienced this state of neutrality and they knew that this was the gateway to higher consciousness…to that realm that transcends time-space boundaries.

These are the hours when the world sits still. It is when the earth’s magnetic field and its angle in relation to the sun make it the perfect time to sit still with it. It is when we are given refuge from the tug-of-war between those forces known in the Bhagavad Gita as Rajasic and Tamasic. Between fire and sloth. But between them, there is balance. It is therefore, the most Sattvic time to enter into that divine stillness that lies within. It is when ego’s protective wrapping is most easily peeled away, along with those habits that go along with it.

It is as such that in these ambrosial hours, the pituitary gland—master at the helm—secretes optimally and when all those who pull themselves out of bed to practice, can melt into the stillness that was there all along.

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Gratitude (It Goes Both Ways)

It was an ordinary Tuesday morning on campus. On the heels of an especially hot September, it was already stuffy inside the classroom. Amid the pre-class clamor, I sat, perusing the instructions for a meditation that was originally given by my teacher some 30 years ago. I thought twice about it. It seemed too detailed and too complex for a classroom setting. But I went ahead with it, anyway.

We were a couple minutes into it, when I passed my eye over my 80 students, from left to right, across the oddly shaped, wide room. Through the darkness, I saw only fingers pressing together at the heart center, closed eyes and heaving chests pumping air in segments.

After class that day, I saw two of my students hanging out by the field—with exaggerated puffing, one was instructing the other in the correct way to do the meditation. The next day at my home studio, a student, who is also in my college course, was practicing this meditation as I entered.

Truth be told, I was feeling a bit off my game lately. Like I didn’t have my usual spark. So, what happened two days after this meditation, was especially meaningful.

One of my students caught up to me as I was walking to my car after class. She is a young woman who as I learned, is in the middle of a painful divorce. They were high school sweethearts, she told me. The separation process has been so painful she nearly dropped my class before the semester even started because she didn’t think she would be able to handle the extra demands and pressure.

Through tears, she continued to share her story. Then she told me what had happened the day before—how the meditation had helped her pull herself out of another panic attack, just after a particularly difficult phone conversation with her ex. She said it was the first time she had felt empowered rather than crushed.

She wanted me to know that her tears were now the tears of hope and gratitude and that for the first time in months, she was able to experience the taste of renewed joy—even in the midst of crisis. She is looking upon this internal shift—this newfound sense of optimism and inner strength as a rebirth. My own heart melted when she told me she was holding in her mind the image of me giving instructions for the meditation in class, to ensure that she was doing it right.

Her intention was the most important ingredient of all, I reassured her. And that can only come from her. She had decided it was time to heal.

With a long hug we parted. The gratitude goes goes ways. Here’s why it’s so important to share these kinds of things:

1. The other person may need to hear it, as I did in this instance. Positive feedback of this sort is a source of upliftment and inspires the recipient to continue doing what they’re doing. Moreover, it lets them know they’re making a difference.

2. It enables connection and that’s what we live for.

3. We spend too much time criticizing—both ourselves and others. But as my teacher, Yogi Bhajan, has said: It takes the same energy to complain as it does to compliment. When there is a short circuit there is a complaint and when the energy is flowing there is a compliment. Thus, taking a moment to scatter flowers, rather than count the weeds, makes the world feel beautiful.