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At a dharma talk yesterday, Ari (the speaker) said:

“We are the gods of our own world – we create it. We have infinite potential to achieve anything, but the responsibility to achieve is on us.”

I’m loving this, it’s such an interesting way of saying that we’re the only ones in control of our lives. The choices we make absolutely determine the path our life follows. Karma in a nutshell.

Karma is the law of cause and effect. Our karma determines what happens to us based on actions we have taken, and please note that actions include thoughts and intentions. The tricky part is that we can’t control what the results will be or when they come. It may take minutes, or it may take lifetimes to feel the effects of a particular action. Karma can get a bit complicated, but there are four simple rules that always apply:

  1. The result is similar to the cause. Meaning the action you do will bring you more of the same. If you are nasty, nastiness will come back to you. If you desire wealth, you must give generously.
  2. The result is larger than the cause. So that nastiness you put out there will come back worse. The generosity and kindness you show will come back in spades.
  3. Everything you do is collected and held until the time is right for the karma to play out. This is often referred to as the karmic seed ripening. The situation must be just right for whatever karma, which is why it can take a long time to experience the consequences of your actions.
  4. Everything that happens in your life is a ripened karmic seed. Nothing is random.

If you’re looking to improve your karma, the best way is to give selflessly. This means giving without looking for anything in return –  including the words “thank you”. There are four ways to give:

  1. You can give things, like money or items
  2. You can give protection and eliminate fear
  3. You can give love, compassion, friendship
  4. You can give your knowledge, particularly your knowledge of relieving suffering as this will allow the recipient to end his/her suffering and pass along the same gift

Karma is a very detailed topic, this is just a tiny part. If you have any particular questions, please leave a comment. But ultimately, you need only know Buddah’s Fifth Remembrance:

My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground upon which I stand.

What seeds have you sown in your life so far? Really?

I’m loving this photo! No self = no problem. So true.

In yoga, there are eight areas of practice, two of which are Yamas (moral restraints and disciplines) and Niyamas (self-restraints and observances). There is a good explanation of the yamas and niyamas here. One niyama is Santosa, which translates as modesty, non-greed, contentment with what we have.

From that link:
Santosa
is having a sense of modesty and the feeling of being content with what we have. To be at peace within comes from fostering contentment with one’s life, even while experiencing its challenges.  When we accept that life is a process for growth all of the circumstances and experiences we create for ourselves become valid teachers and vehicles for expressing our highest nature. Accepting that there is a purpose for everything – yoga calls it karma – we can cultivate contentment and compassion, for ourselves and for others.  Santosa means being happy with what we have rather than being unhappy about what we don’t have.

The easiest translation of this I’ve ever seen is, “Want what you have. Don’t want what you don’t have.” When I’m feeling the constraints of my budget (or lack of one), this is something I say to myself often. It’s akin to walking through Target (where I can spend $100 in 15 minutes) and repetitively saying to myself, “Buy what I need, not what I want.”

Santosa is a good topic to meditate on. When meditating on santosa, we’re thinking about wanting what we already have, and being grateful for it and satisfied with it. And we’re thinking about not wanting what we don’t have, not craving or desiring. The craving, desiring, and clinging to what we already have is what causes so much stress and suffering.

A chronic exercise-hater, I took my first yoga class when my son was three because I hadn’t been too many places besides work or home since he was born and I was about ready to lose my mind. I’d just read a big article in the paper about the benefits of yoga, and a small studio had just opened up at the edge of my neighborhood. I took this as a sign, and I vowed to poke my head in and see what all this weirdness was about. It took about 2 months for me to pull on my big-girl panties and go in. I didn’t know what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised to find a clean, yummy-smelling little room that didn’t have any strange statues, symbols on the walls, or odd chanting going on. The lady behind the counter looked normal enough, not the barefoot, thermal-underwear-wearing, unwashed hippie type I expected (I still had a head full of stereotypes back then). Ironically, I’d later come to greatly enjoy strange statues, symbols, and chanting….and being barefoot. Although there were one or two short times when I couldn’t/wouldn’t/didn’t practice regularly, primarily due to family priorities, I feel comfortable saying that I practiced at least once a week for about 9 years and loved every minute of it.

Things changed a year or two ago for two reasons: One, several local yoga studios closed, so class offerings were reduced. Two, I decided that even though yoga’s benefits were wonderful, rushing around after work and fighting traffic to get to a class just left me stressed and exhausted – more than the class would fix. I figured the schedules would shift soon enough, but when they didn’t I finally buckled and signed up for Jazzercize. I took a yoga class here and there when schedules allowed, I practiced a bit at home, and while my physical practice suffered I had chosen long ago to make my daily life a spiritual and mental practice, so that was okay. I was dealing.

About two months ago I discovered there was a yoga class being offered at my local Police Athletic League. It was at the perfect time, and close enough to home that I can walk there. I took this as a sign, and I vowed to poke my head in. It took about a month for me to pull on my big-girl panties and call (hmm, a theme is developing here). It’s walk-in, so no membership required, and my friend Karen was looking for a regular class so we went.

It felt like home.

Yoga is a strict taskmaster. Even with the regular Jazzercize, one thing you learn in yoga is you have muscles in places you never paid attention to before. And if you skip class for more than a week or so, yoga will be happy to remind you why a consistent practice is a wise path. Boy, did I ache the next day… in all those weird spots like my armpits (yes, there are muscles there). But, aaahhhhhh, it was good ache. Ache that reminds you how much you worked your body and loved yourself.

Ironically, the class I found has stopped until September, probably due to low attendance which is the norm around here for all types of indoor exercise. Too many other options when the weather is nice. But I’ll be back when the class resumes, and I’m not going to let it slide again.

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

I learned just by chance this morning that today is the 65th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. I’m a little ashamed to realize how little I know about this piece of history, although since it’s not one of our country’s proudest moments I’m not surprised that it doesn’t get the same History Channel kind of coverage that other war events get.

Just hopping quickly through the internet this morning I found this link, a story about a man who has been painting the portraits of survivors. But more impressive than his paintings are the couple of survivor stories the article shares. I’m kind of surprised there are any survivors, as my mental vision of a nuclear bomb implies total and complete destruction. Yet there are survivors, who have felt ashamed all these years – imagine feeling ashamed for being a victim of such a brutal event! The people who lived in Hiroshima in 1945 are senior citizens now and soon will not be here to tell their stories. I hope more and more of them do, in the same spirit that Holocost survivors tell and retell their stories in the hope that history will never, ever repeat itself.

I have some reading to do.

PS… Hiroshima looks like a beautiful place today. If you have a strong stomach, do a Google Image search on “hiroshima”. The people of this city have come a very long way.
Photo credit to TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP/Getty Images.

Beautiful Blogger Award Look! I got an award! Melissa at Sugar Filled Emotions was very kind to recognize my blogging efforts. Melissa is a really great and brave blogger, writing very honestly about her life and how she is working with some medical issues. I appreciate her vote of confidence.

So, according to the rules, I have to pass this on to seven other bloggers, as well as tell seven facts about myself. Some of my favorite bloggers are professional authors and don’t allow comments on their posts, so I don’t know how I’ll pass it on to them but I will pass it on to the others.

Here are some of my fave blogs:

Tom Peters is an author and business guru. What I love about Tom is his energy and constant emphasis and encouragement that everything you do should be EXCELLENT! (always written in all caps, by the way). While he doesn’t blog as often any more, he Twitters like mad and I enjoy that very much. I find Tom inspiring as I sit in my little beige cube every day.

Leo Babuta writes Zen Habits. It was one of the first blogs I started reading. Leo writes about simplifying your life, and has successfully changed his life – documented in real time on his blog, of course. When I was doing professional organizing, I often recommended my clients read his Zen to Done ebook.

Seth Godin is an author and marketing specialist, but you’ll find more than marketing tips in his posts. He really understands how and why people behave the way they do, which I find fascinating. You’ll never look at your Tribe the same way again.

Garr Reynolds’ blog is Presentation Zen. The main topic at Presentation Zen is improving how you present yourself when giving a talk in front of an audience. Luckily, I don’t have to present often, but reading his posts totally changed the way I create support graphics and work with an audience. Besides that, he often links to fascinating video clips of other excellent (there’s that word!) speakers from around the world.

The Being Brand is written by Judith Ellis. I discovered Judith through tompeters.com. She gets political sometimes, so it may not be for everyone, but I find her to be quite interesting. Her “Being Inspired” series is just great… wonderful video clips of speakers and singers that are sure to inspire.

THXTHXTHX is by Leah Dietrich and I’ll let her speak for herself: “Leah Dieterich’s mother always told her to write thank you notes. So she does. To everything. thxthxthx is her daily exercise in gratitude.” Leah can find something special in the smallest things – today she was thankful for short fingernails. She has pretty handwriting, too.

Heidi Bayer writes Brooklyn Allergy Mom. Heidi is a good friend and great mom. Her blog is full of wonderful recipes, resource links, and stories about her life deep in the trenches of the food allergy war. I wish she’d come cook for me.

Brooklyn Bunny isn’t so much a blog as a webcast. Roebling doesn’t say much, but he “transmits soft white soothing signals” that chill me out in the middle of a stressful day. He’s kinda like meditation with fur.

And now, seven things about me. Hmmmm….

  1. I love to laugh, and have been known to snort as well as have Hawiian Punch come out my nose
  2. I’m really lame about pop culture… I don’t watch much tv or see too many movies. So I never know what people are talking about at lunch.
  3. I’m socially awkward and think too much
  4. There was a time when clear was my favorite color. And rainbow.
  5. I really love my family
  6. I suck at math
  7. I’m addicted to reading

How’s that? Those are some things that most people don’t know about me.

Thanks for the award, Melissa! You really made my day!

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