Tag Archives: Yoga

Two Stories: An Opportunity for Growth Rather than Grief

forgivenessHere are two situations which I present as examples of ways we allow ourselves to be negatively affected by others. But I show that they may be seen as opportunities for liberation, rather than suffering. Although I have fictionalized them by changing the details, they both resemble recent events in my own life.

Situation #1: You work in an office. You came up with a wonderfully creative idea that you’re sure will be adopted by management. This plan is likely to win a new contract with a highly sought-after company and will also guarantee your upward mobility in the company. But, to your shock and distress, you learned that as soon as the new guy obtained one on one time with the boss, he represented your idea as his own. You feel betrayed and disappointed.

“Wisdom Balm for Situation #1:
” Convert your anger, your hatred and your betrayal into compassion. Suppose somebody betrays me. I feel that god is very kind because he has given me the energy to tolerate it, and I am not the one who betrayed.” ~Yogiji

Situation #2: You wrote a screen play over a year ago. You just got word from your agent that a well-known film producer has made an offer to buy the rights to it. You always had faith in this project and knew in your heart it was a story that needed to be told. You also know how hard it is to get this kind of recognition here in L.A., where the market is so saturated and competitive. When you sent out a celebratory e-mail to your friends and family, most everyone responded with accolades, except the people that matter most to you. You feel hurt and unacknowledged.

“Wisdom Balm for Situation #2:” Happiness is your birthright. It cannot be taken away from you.” ~Yogiji

The first situation portrays an action that is taken as a betrayal. The second is rather, the omission of an expected course of action. What these two stories have in common — for the spiritual practitioner — is the need for forgiveness, or as I like to say, “forth-giveness,” since, as implied in the word, it is through the process of forgiving that we allow ourselves to go forward.

If we permit ourselves to feel victimized us, we are giving away our power. This is especially poignant in the first situation. So, when you see the occasion as an opportunity to practice and go higher in your way of looking and ultimately, in your spiritual awareness, you unchain yourself, at once. Say, thank you for this blessed challenge. And you come away feeling lighter. And lightness is closer to the divine.

In the second situation, the wisdom quote is deceptively potent. Just as we give away our power when we allow ourselves to feel victimized, we do it still, when we wait for someone’s approval to validate our sense of worth and accomplishment.

What difference does it make who notices?

No matter who notices, there will always be plenty who don’t, so this becomes a fruitless concern. You can authorize yourself to enjoy it. Besides, it is likely that the others don’t understand. Especially in a situation like this one—a family in the midwest, for example, simply wouldn’t understand how huge it is to sell a script in Hollywood! They’re probably just waiting for you to get a real job, anyway. The point is that your celebratory moment was never about others’ recognition, at all. It’s about you serving the world in a way only you can. That takes it to a higher level.

And higher still, is to realize, in both cases, that the perceived wrong isn’t about you. It’s about them. It’s a betrayal of their own consciousness. It indicates where they are in their own evolution. They are driven by their own demons, their own fears and insecurities. Far from making us more bitter, this recognition enables us to have compassion for them, since we’ve all been there. To this end, there is a teaching in our Yoga tradition that urges us to recognize that the other person is you.

This way of seeing brings us immediately into humility, as we begin to understand that everyone is ourselves at a different stage. And when we’re humble, we stop fighting and we heal.

So, we become at once, empowered and humbled. Empowered because we let go of our own victimization while authorizing our own experience of joy. Humbled because we come to see that our mission is less about impressing the world than it is about serving it.

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A Prayer Called “Krishna’s Flute” (What Is Devotion?)

Krishna and RadhaThis is a picture of a vintage print. It is from my personal collection and hangs on the wall in my meditation room. The actual size is 18″ by 18.” It depicts the Hindu God, Krishna and his beloved, Radha. He stands behind her, seducing her with the enchanting sounds of his flute. Yet she looks away. Why?

Krishna the Amorous
All the girls in Krishna’s town of Brindavan, loved Krishna. Upon catching a distant high-pitched note or two from his flute, carried by the wind, through the open windows of their homes, the cowherding girls would escape into the night to follow him. He was irresistible and delightfully mischievous. For example, he would hide the clothes that they had hanging to dry—anything to rouse them into play. They would suddenly find themselves overtaken by an unbearable need to follow him, along the river and through the forests, and where ever he may lead them. As his notes transformed into the most delicious melodies, they would lose themselves in irrepressible bliss. And they would all dance together in mutual joy and delight.

Heartbreak & Longing
Because everyone loved Krishna so much, it was unendurable to withstand his absence. And so, whenever he would leave the village for any reason, his beloveds, especially his most adored Radha, would ache from the pain of his separation.

Merging
Their sadness and despair were inconsolable until they realized that his love was within themselves, all the while. He was never separate, at all! With his song, He led their souls to Spirit. This is why Radha looks away. She is in the ecstacy and bliss of divine communion—a love so great, so pure and so all-encompassing that it is beyond the confinement of the body of her lover.

The Role of Krishna
To borrow a phrase from Paramahansa Yogananda, each spiritual path is part of an all-encompassing “divine highway,” leading to union with our true Self. Each path invites us into the stillness of the sacred space that lies within—the wordless tranquility that emerges when we quiet the noise. The challenge is always the same, no matter how we refer to it—to become empty like the hollow reed Krishna brings to his lips. To become empty of resentment and distrust. To transform ourselves into a clean and beautiful vessel fit to receive God’s light. (Would you want to live in a dirty house?)

Just as Krishna’s breath blows softly through his flute, Spirit expresses itself through our selfless surrender to the divine will. Here is a prayer I wrote, as a gift to you, that you may use to give voice to this inner longing and purpose, if you find it helpful:

Prayer: “Krishna’s Flute”
Oh, that I may become like Krishna’s flute—an instrument for the melody of divine song…Oh, that I may see through your eyes, hear through your ears and know through your heart…Oh, that I may vibrate at such a high frequency that my absorption with the infinite becomes inevitable…Oh, that I may recognize in my heart and in every cell of my being, the spark of divinity…Oh, that I may see through my temporary role in this grand play and know that I am really an eternal soul—and that I am perfect, as I am…Oh, that I may have the courage to live as a witnessing consciousness, disabused, finally, of my illusions as a do-er.

What Is the True Role and Meaning of Devotion?
It brings us into grace and ease. As my own Dear teacher explains, “when you get a sense that you have to hold everything together, you’re not living in trust.” We all feel overwhelmed at times, but we forget that struggle is the ego’s game. We feel we are more productive if we fight everything at every step. Letting it go requires trust. It doesn’t mean we stop putting in the effort, it just means we detach from the outcome. This is what it really means to live in a state of devotion. And it requires no object. It’s simply a state of being and a way of living. It is not a matter of being devoted to something any longer. It is, rather, a matter of surrendering, in humility, the false illusion of doing. It is allowing whatever needs doing, to get done.

The Paramedic Has a Lifeline, Too

Every once in a while, a student sends me something that is not only heartwarming, but serves as a reminder of why I do what I do. Here is a story of a modern day medic and an ancient Yogic technique. I hope you are just as touched by my student’s story, as I was.

My Sadhana (Daily Practice)

As a young man living in the 21st century my brain is constantly being rushed with all sorts of stimuli. It is quite difficult going about my day with out being affected by social media, subliminal messages, and other avenues of gaining my attention. Due to all of this my mind is essentially never present or clear. I am always thinking about what to do next and move ahead. However, about two weeks into this class, I was introduced to a breathing technique that quickly brought me back into the present.

This technique is called alternate nostril breathing. The first time I tried this in Professor Quesada’s class, I did not fully feel the effects. My brain was not used to being in the present moment, so I started to feel a little restless. At first, I had no faith in this technique because I did not see results immediately. Again, my brain was used to getting things done fast and seeing results quickly. Later that day I went home and looked up the benefits of this ancient breathing technique; everything that was listed was what I needed.

I have had a problem with anxiety for many years. I can now say that alternate nostril breathing has significantly helped me with that.

alternate nostril breathing
About a month or so ago when I started alternate nostril breathing, I started doing it for 15 minutes every morning to get me ready for the day. Those first few days were pretty challenging – it was difficult to stay focused because after sitting for 5 minutes my mind started wandering. Eventually my brain was able to stay focused for longer periods of time. I eventually figured out that this technique could be used any time I feel stressed or anxious. I currently practice alternate nostril breathing multiple times throughout the day in addition to the 15 minutes I do every morning.

I work as an Emergency Medical Technician for a private ambulance company where I deal with life and death constantly. There is a very high level of stress everyday and I take on a huge responsibility while the patient is under my care. Prior to learning this breathing technique, I would get butterflies every time I was dispatched and they would last the whole ride to the scene. The lights and sirens just made me more tense and even though the adrenaline rush was too much at times, I thought I had no choice but to force my body adapt to the stress and disregard it.

However after becoming comfortable with alternate nostril breathing I now use it when responding to calls. My performance and mental clarity has drastically changed.

For example, a few weeks ago my partner and I responded to a call for a traffic collision. When we arrived on scene I found an 11 year old child in the back seat trapped, with no pulse and no respiration. The patient had suffered a traumatic full arrest and it was the first time I had ever witnessed this. The family was crying and pressuring me. I felt a little dizzy, and just extremely overwhelmed. As my partner pulled out the patient and started compressions I ran over to the ambulance to pick up the defibrillator. On the way to the ambulance I forced my brain to focus on my breath and I quickly slowed down my respiratory rate which almost instantly calmed me down. My whole sprint to and from the ambulance was maybe 30 seconds but in those few moments I was able to stay calm and regain my focus just from focusing on my breath. The patient came back after 2 rounds of CPR and 3 shocks.

In school I have also used alternate nostril breathing before exams. By using this technique prior to exams I feel a sense of calmness and a major reduction in angst. It has also taken away tension throughout my body. Overall it has been useful to me in my work, school, and personal life. It has also made me more aware of living in the present. Thank you so much Professor Quesada for teaching me this breathing practice.

True Freedom Is More than Free Will

“It might sound funny coming from a guy in prison, but never before have I felt so free.” ~Denzel Washington in Flight

The kind of freedom the philosophers talk about in the west is quite different than the freedom of the saints and mystics and Yogis.

The philosophers speak of defining our own purpose and identity through the choices we make, of carving out our own paths and therefore, living an authentic life. In philosophical terms, it means rejecting the traditional notion of destiny and the corresponding idea that things are inevitably the way they are, set and fixed, in a pre-planned, determined universe.

Existentialists like Sartre—so called, because our very existence is ours to shape—would famously ask, where is this plan? The very idea left too much room for excuses, he said, since it would then be all too easy to pawn off our actions on circumstances, falling back on such clichés like It must have been in the cards, or That’s just the way I was made. And so, the urging was to use our free will, the natural byproduct of being born as a conscious human being.

Is this the same as the injunction, in the eastern mystic traditions to wake up? To actively shape our own Karma by making conscious choices and to reshape our plethora of long-established, unconscious habits through mindful awareness? Insofar as we are to create our own lives, with all the responsibility that goes along with this freedom, there is a parallel.

But existential freedom has more to do with conscious choosing than one’s state of consciousness.

For thinkers like Sartre, consciousness is the source and spring of free will. But, this unyielding and often rigidified consciousness is exactly the source of trouble from the point of view of Buddhist and Yogic teachings. Existential freedom (free will) is an ability to choose from among genuine alternatives that exist in the world, whereas the freedom the Yogis speak of refers to an awakened state of mind that shapes what we see as choices in the first place.

* For more on this topic, see my book, Buddha in the Classroom (Chapter 19. Sartre and Buddha—True Freedom is a Settled Mind)
* The next post will expand on this theme, exploring the differences between spiritual development and traditional methods of self help.

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.

Uniqueness vs Ego

The Art Student

One of my international students knocked on my office door one day. She was a 21 year-old Korean girl that I would learn was here to study engineering. Although, as I also quickly learned, she didn’t like engineering. When I welcomed her into my office, she lifted her eyes briefly to say hello before quickly looking down again. When she began to tell me about her situation she could barely hold back the tears. She was clearly under a lot of stress. As it turned out, the decision to study engineering was not her own. It was a decision made by her father as the condition of going abroad. What she really wanted to pursue was art. This was the first time she had confessed her true feelings about the issue, she said, as the tears, held back for too long, flowed with relief down her cheeks, dripping on her notebook. Her father didn’t feel that art would prepare her for any kind of career and refused to pay for a useless major, she explained.

This story (from my upcoming book) shows why it is so disastrous to compel others to fit into a pre-carved mold, to fashion them by the we-know-what’s-right-for-you pattern.

I began reflecting on what it means to truly live authentically. It means living by the light of our own uniqueness, embracing it and more importantly, sharing it, for, our uniqueness endows us with gifts that are multiplied when offered back out to the world. How may this girl help shape the world through her art? Who can know the future of her life on either path?

But isn’t this ego? Isn’t it more spiritual to not press and push and assert ourselves? What is the difference between personal empowerment and ego? Or, between uniqueness and ego?

Ego just wants to stand out.

Individuality without YOU is just difference. ~Catalyst Yogi

Standing out, or, being different for the sake of being different, is not true uniqueness.

True uniqueness is the acceptance of your own gifts, talents and capabilities. It is the willingness and courage to live from your own authority, shape your own beliefs, forge your path and create your own destiny. It is the right to be yourSELF.

Ego is not yourSELF. It is an impostor shaped from images, roles, expectations and ideas—your own outdated ideas, as well as other peoples’.

We affirm our own existence. There is no one exactly like me. My attributes are singularly my own. My uniqueness is to be respected, cherished, honored, trusted. ~Guru Rattana

While ego, in its search for approval, fame, pleasure and glory, leads us inevitably into disaster, embracing our uniqueness—our true Self—allows  us to better serve in this existence. After all, only you can offer what you have to give.

The Brahmin and the Cobbler (A Story of Enlightenment)

Here is an old story from Indian lore. It takes for granted the spiritual expectation, in Vedic philosophy, that with good karma and spiritual advancement, we may gratefully escape samsara, the seemingly endless cycle of birth and death that keeps us trapped in the torment of our own karma and misery. It also takes for granted the assumption that the Brahmins—the high-caste priests—would have earned the privilege of liberation first. But watch for the twist! Here, The God of time, Narayan—another name for Lord Vishnu—offers a surprising decree. I am retelling the story as I remember it.

—   —   —   —

Once on a sunny day near the Ganges, a Brahmin priest, who had just finished his oblations, came across Narada, the messenger of the Gods. After bowing deeply in respect, the Brahmin took the liberty of asking the divine sage for a favor:

Brahmin priest: “Could you be so kind as to ask the supreme Lord, Narayan, when I’m going to be liberated from this world and joined with him in holy bliss? I know it will be soon because of my station, and all, but I would just like to know, all the same.”

Narada: “No problem, my sir. I’ll ask when I see him.”

Further along down the river, a lowly cobbler, fixing shoes by the wayside, also stopped Narada, as he was passing through, and chanced to approach the great emissary:

Cobbler: “Could I appeal to your kindness by asking you to speak to the great God on my behalf?”

Narada: “I’d be happy to.”

Cobbler: “You see, I’m growing more weary each year, and I’d just like to know how many more lifetimes I am doomed to suffer in this material world?”

Narada: “I’ll be sure to pass on your message.”

And Narada continued on, passing seamlessly through to the spiritual world. When he saw the great Lord Narayan, he bowed to his feet, as is the custom in approaching great spiritual masters. The Lord then asked if there was anything he could do for Narada, who proceeded to put forth the concerns of both the priest and the cobbler.

As Lord Narayan can see through the barriers of time, and into eternity, he thus knows all. With a brief pause, he informed Narada of the destiny of his supplicants:

Lord Narayan: “The cobbler will come to me at the end of this present lifetime. But the Brahmin will live through at least 100 more lifetimes.”

Seeing the confused look on Narada’s face, the Lord only smiled and gave these instructions:

Lord Narayan: “Next time you see the cobbler and the priest, they will ask you what I was doing when you saw me. Tell them I was threading an elephant through the eye of a needle. When you see their reactions to this, you will then understand everything.”

So, Narada went on his way. The first man he saw was the Brahmin, who was shocked and insulted by the news:

Brahmin priest: “A hundred rebirths in this hell! I don’t believe it! You probably didn’t even see the Lord! Tell me, what he doing when you saw him?”

Narada: “Threading an elephant through the eye of a needle.”

Brahmin Priest: “Threading an elephant through the eye of a needle? That’s totally absurd! You must be lying about everything!”

So, Narada excused himself and pressed on until he found the cobbler. He gave him the news that he would soon be liberated and would be joining the realm of the Lord at the end of this lifetime, at which point the peasant exclaimed in joy:

Cobbler: “Oh, what blessed and glorious news! But, alas, tell me my good sir, what was the Lord doing when you saw him?”

Narada: “He was threading an elephant through the eye of a needle.”

Cobbler: “Lovely. Absolutely lovely.”

Narada: “You mean, you believe that?”

Cobbler: “Why, sure! You see that huge old oak tree up the hill? It grew from a tiny acorn. So, if the Lord can squeeze a gigantic oak tree into a little seed like that, He can just as easily thread an elephant through the eye of a needle.”

And with that, Narada understood the difference between the priest and the cobbler, as well as why the priest was not yet ready for liberation.

Five Tricks to Get your Mojo Back

Mojo, as popularized in the Austin Powers movies, is defined in the Urban Dictionary, as The ability to bounce back from a debilitating trauma and negative attitude. This is how I think of it, as well.

One of my students recently found herself in a funk (depressed mood). She asked me if I ever find myself in this sort of situation. Of course! She then asked me if I have any tricks. Of course! And that is the only difference.

Here I share my top five:

1. Before getting out of bed in the morning, do 1-3 minutes of Breath of Fire. This is a powerful breathing technique used in the form of Yoga that I teach. Among a long list of benefits, it not only balances the nervous system, but very effectively oxygenates the system, which is vital in kick-starting your body’s natural healing mechanism. Your body responds to this boost of vitality both physically and psychologically. Doctors who recognize the interconnectedness of mind and body stress the importance of breathing in the healing process. An example is Dr. Sarno, who cites oxygen deprivation as a prime cause of what he calls mind-body disorders. Whether the roots of your funk are psychological or physical, the Yogis have known about the power of breath for thousands of years. As an aside, film buffs will remember the scene, in Harold and Maude, in which the full-of-life Maude tells Harold to “greet each dawn with a breath of fire.”

*Here’s how to do it: (Remember, do this before getting out of bed!) Begin panting like a dog. Notice how the inhales and exhales are of equal duration. Notice also, how the “pumping action” comes from the belly. These are the proper mechanics of it. Now, close your mouth and continue on through the nose. This is Breath of Fire!

(To make it even more powerful, lift your legs and head six inches off the mattress while you do breath of fire for at least one minute. This gets easier with time!)

2. Super Food! 38.00 for magic-in-a-bottle. I’m lucky to live five minutes from Dr. Schulze’s famous warehouse, but they ship anywhere—and people fighting illnesses of all sorts use this product. (Note: I have no stock in this company!)

If you have a juicer, add a scoop of this green powder to freshly juiced spinach, apple and lemon. The super-trick is to make sure you drink it first thing in the morning, on an empty stomach, so that it goes straight to your bloodstream and to your cells. If you don’t have a juicer, add a scoop to a glass of water with freshly squeezed lemon, or shake it up in a bottle of apple juice or V8. Remember: on an empty stomach! Wait a half hour before eating.

3. Take a half-hour walk, first thing in the morning, before eating. The earlier, the better—preferably at the break of day when the street lamps are still lit. This rejuvenates psychologically, as well as physically. You are drawing on your own prana, or, life-force, free from the weight of digestion. Similar to the mechanism of homeopathy, this has the effect of stimulating your own inner power. On a subconscious level, you understand that you are capable of waking up your own inner vitality.

4. Switch to the heart-perspective. This has been an enormously important element in my own journey. What does this mean to you? If the funk has come about because of physical illness, how might the heart-perspective facilitate healing? This is subtle, but unspeakably powerful. It may be a simple matter of letting go of the inner fight against your physical body. And letting go of the fight allows healing. The inner acceptance of the time needed to heal, allows healing. In the case of mental disturbances, for example, an exchange with an irritating person, it may mean reminding yourself of how trivial the situation is, in comparison to worldly issues, or reminding yourself that the offensive action was done out of ignorance and not out of intent to provoke. Both perspectives engender forgiveness, and ultimately, healing.

5. Pray. This is like supercharging the heart-perspective. It took me a long time to fully appreciate the power of prayer. Especially “nondirected prayer,” which invokes the natural healing ability of surrender, and ultimately brings about an “inner unburdening” (and gives you back your mojo!)  Here’s a little something about this from one of the teachers in my tradition, Dr. Dharma Singh Khalsa:

One of the most potent forms of the mind-power effect is the type of prayer called nondirected prayer. In nondirected prayer, there is no request for a specific outcome. Instead, the person who prays focuses on the feeling that things happen for the best, and focuses upon his or her desire to see events unfold naturally, according to the benign flow of the universe.

Hence, it doesn’t matter to whom you pray. You are attuning yourself to the higher powers that be and to your own higher consciousness, which is the ultimate perspective changer. After all, as the Yogis also say, it’s all maya! Just a dance and none of it is as serious as we make it out to be. This enables a true liberation.

And don’t get stuck on the word desire in the quote above. They’re made out to be terrible things, but it depends on what kind and how we’re able to direct them.

God and Prayer

I remember my beloved grandmother teaching me how to say my bedtime prayers when I was little. I liked saying them. They made me feel secure. And for many years, I felt that something was missing and incomplete if I forgot.

Perhaps a certain spiritual longing was always there. Because I also remember relishing the opportunity to go to church with a very religious friend, during my adolescent years.

But then, as a college student — especially as a philosophy student — I encountered all of the arguments against God and later even lectured on Aquinas’ notoriously flawed five proofs for the existence of God, in my own classes. I pointed out all of the irrefutable logical fallacies in those five proofs, to my own students.

During those years, I wondered about the absurdity of it all. God, that is. And by extension, the whole idea of praying to a God. In my logically trained young mind, I wondered about the idea of a God that would proceed with his plans for annihilation and devastation, only to suddenly cancel them at the request of a petitioner. After all, I reasoned, that’s why people pray, to convince God to alter some undesirable course of events. I wondered about the idea that he might change his mind so whimsically.

But then one day, I realized how differently things can look when you flip them around. One day, I flipped around my own viewpoint about it all. Or, it was flipped around for me.

I came to see that God is within, not without.

Additionally, praying isn’t about loving a God out there, somewhere. And changing the course of events is secondary to the understanding of prayer as connection, rather than petition. It is about connecting with that which may be called, infinity, for there is no adequate way to convey the sense of going beyond the confines of what you thought of as your finite self. (Nor is there any adequate way to convey that which is beyond the confines of reason.)

And it isn’t about fear, as in the idea of fearing God, for, there’s no room for fear where divinity lives.

And about the business of changing some course of events; coming to divine consciousness – becoming conscious of our own divine nature – reveals our role in creating that very shift we seek. And that makes it nonetheless incredible, but all the more awe-inspiring and wonderful.

As Zen says, “you create your own universe.” And as Yoga says, “you control the universal consciousness.”

But alas, it isn’t really about personal pleas, petitions and procurement, at all. It is really just the personal expression of gratitude and completeness. Praying, that is. For no other purpose. Like a flower reaching up toward the light, leaning over permanently to one side with time, devotion expresses this feeling of affection and longing, but with no object of desire.

How to Turn Anger into Forgiveness (Four Tools)

Lists are cute, but…they can only take you so far. The reason is usually because they tell you the “what” at the expense of the “how,” rendering them entertaining, and perhaps inspirational, but simplistic.

For example, I saw this piece of advice, in a list, just last week:

Give up the need to always be right.

 

A good pointer, for sure. After all, the need to be right is not worth the price of your inner peace. But, alone, it’s a bit like that pair of shoes that looks really good, but won’t help you much when it rains. First, we need to understand where this need comes from. Yes, it’s the ego’s obsession. But for practical purposes, the need to be right arises, all too often, in the midst of conflict, and in the nub of an argument. And it comes with anger (the deeper problem), which is escorted by the inability, or unwillingness, to let go, which, in its turn, comes with the inability, or unwillingness, to forgive.

So, what do you do when your mind is spinning, your composure is slipping and your heart is raging? Here are four tools to use, either alone, or in any order you choose:

1. Affirmations. To diffuse anger.

And you thought a Zen person would only tell you to stop talking to yourself! It all depends on what you say. Talking to yourself can either be a help or a hindrance. We talk ourselves into things and out of things all the time and can skillfully talk ourselves out of being angry if we commit to the task. We can start by reminding ourselves that it is our choice to refuse anger and turmoil and instead choose peace and tranquility. It’s also a choice to be offended and if we’re not offended, there’s nothing left to “prove.”

Anger starts out as a feeling and can quickly turn into words, or even worse, violence. And as both the Yogis and the behavioral therapists say, you are not your feelings. Meaning, that bit of anger that starts out as a nudge can be nipped before escalating into a coercive shove.  It’s a kid, talking out of turn. “Thank you for sharing,” you might say, and move on.

But, what about those television shows that tell us to punch things and get it all out? Anger is not something that needs to be nurtured or “practiced.” Which is why, “venting” doesn’t work. Venting is destructive, rather than constructive. Anger is a habit, like everything else. By venting, you are nurturing the combustible mixture of blame and resentment, clinging to the short-lived illusion of relief due only to the effect of exhaustion.

So, how do we talk to ourselves effectively? A positive affirmation is a bit like a mantra, which, when used properly, results in healing and restoration of the mood and emotions. By repeating a mantra, you are enabling your mind to focus on what you want it to focus on, rather than on the continued negative self-talk that only spins the anger. An affirmation can create a powerful shift in your attitude, resulting in peace of mind. An example would be something simple, such as, “I Am Love,” or, “I Am Forgiveness,” or, “I Am Light.” Notice these are all grounded in presence, as opposed to the past or the future realms, which keep us grounded, in turn.

2. Perspectives. To diffuse anger and enable forgiveness.

The need to be right is a poorly covered power struggle, with you vying to maintain control. The palpable tension it creates is driven on by your belief that there is a price the offender must pay, for their wrongful words or actions.

Remember back, for a moment, to a time when you acted rudely to someone you loved, when you unintentionally hurt someone either because you were distracted by your own troubles or because you let your emotions take you for a ride. Sometimes we don’t even know why we do certain things. We can hardly understand, let alone control, our own moods and behaviors—how much more difficult to fathom someone else’s? It’s seldom even about us, at all. Remembering our own slips and blunders brings us quickly into a state of equanimity and calm compassion. It lets us remember that we too, have been there, done that.

3. Visualizations. To Forgive and let go. 

This is a powerful Buddhist meditation I learned many years ago from one of my teachers. It is both startling and highly effective—if done with concentration. Here is the shortened version:

Imagine the dead body of the person who angered you. Visualize their body as distant, pale and lifeless. See, in your mind’s eye, the lifeless body beginning to rot. Imagine worms crawling in and out of the eye sockets and the mouth, and all of the crevices, eating away at the putrefying flesh. Finally, see nothing left, at all, but a strewn pile of dried-up bones. 

This ancient meditation will remind you of the fleeting nature of existence. It will remind you of how silly it is to get hung up on what usually turns out to be nothing at all. It will remind you, most powerfully, of the precious, short time we have to spend with our loved ones and to cherish that time, rather than waste it on nonsense.

5. Breathe.  To diffuse anger and quickly switch gears.
Truth: Most people breathe unconsciously. Which means, too shallow and too fast. We don’t fill up our lungs, which means, we’re not getting enough oxygen and we’re not expelling carbon dioxide. Aside from the health problems that would likely be ameliorated through deep breathing, what it means for our purposes here, is that we’re irritable. The Yogis have long known that shallow breathing is associated with anger and ill temper. And to make things worse, stress uses up even more oxygen. To turn things around, take three big, long breaths—but really do it! With one hand on your belly to act as a guide, bring that breath down toward your belly, expanding your diaphragm until you look like you’re pregnant! This activates the parasympathetic nervous system and effectively kick-starts the relaxation response, immediately bringing you into a different state of mind.

“The art of deep breathing is also the art of real living.” ~Yogi Bhajan