In the Garden of Gethsemane

Posted by & filed under Inspiration.

A Deep Stillness in the Garden

The walls are lit up at night. They are brightly illuminated, throwing the rest of the city into relief. The gardens, dark and silent at near dawn. Such a beautiful site. It was a blessing to be a part of that pilgrimage, walking in all those places Jesus walked. Such a blessing.

Sitting in the Garden of Gethsemane, looking out onto the walls of the Ancient City of Jerusalem, I realized—a bit more deeply—why Jesus came.

On the way back to the hotel, my hubby commented on a thought/feeling he had after our meditation in those gardens. David had imagined that the gardens would hold a vibration of sadness due to the betrayal of Jesus, by Judas. Instead, it held a strong vibration of strength and clarity.

Our meditation that early morning, was deep with meaning and joy! The sacredness of that space pouring into our souls. The blessings continued.

Christ Has Risen this Easter Morning

Easter is not just a time of death, Jesus went to His crucifixion knowing. He asked His Divine Father to release Him from this karma. His release came, not from the actions that needed to take place, but entirely in His heart and soul. His blessings for all of us are so deep and pure. Filled with strength and clarity!

Joy! Yes, even in the garden of betrayal, joy.

Jesus came to this world in answer to a “call of aspiring love” and need, to show us, not how great He was, but to show us how great we can be.

Working Through the Wobblies

Posted by & filed under Inspiration.

Mark Twain once declared that he loved work so much, he could sit and watch it all day. His remark always draws a chuckle from me as I picture him in a rocking chair on the porch of a stately hotel, savoring his favorite cigar, lazily appraising the bee-like business around him. I suspect, however, the remark did not really describe him except as a wit.

Nor does it speak of me. I love work, and I cannot imagine the day that I would not. But here is the obvious disclaimer: I love the work that I love! Give me a task that appeals to me, and my energy for it will flow for as long as needed. But give me a task at the other end of the spectrum, and whether or not it falls within my range of effort and skill, I confess that I might grumble at first, if only to myself. The end may have its reward, but the journey to it will test my sense of enjoyment and good nature.

What brings this to mind is a helpful article by Gyandev McCord, written in 2005 for Clarity magazine. He offers how to revitalize our sadhanas when the well has begun to run dry. Let’s face it, striving to overcome dry or restless meditations can sometimes be the hardest of a long day’s work.

With self-honesty and humor, Gyandev highlights the subtle mental traps that seem to ensnare us all at one time or another. The question is, what do we do about them? How do we manage to pull ourselves out of falling into apathy? How do we get back on track with a greater sense of purpose and devotion?

The answer, for the most part, is to strive with a brighter attitude and a willingness to turn on the juice. But that’s the point where the petulant baby in me wants to throw a fit: “You’re doing enough already! This is too demanding. It’ll take too much time, and maybe it won’t pay off. C’mon, let’s blow it off.” And sometimes I have.

These little reactive tantrums, like sudden squalls, are not uncommon when threats to our comfort zone are proposed. I am not averse to taking risks when the odds are decidedly in my favor; when my confidence, that is, is sufficiently present. But in the absence of that, saying “Yes, I’ll do it” is a stretch. My ego hates to be at the wheel if there’s the chance of a crash.

Well, enough of that. It’s got nowhere useful to go, and useless isn’t an option. When I look at Swami Kriyananda’s life, aspiring to follow his lead, I know that I cannot afford to shrink from being a better example to myself. We’re surrounded at Ananda by other great souls as well, and I know what they had to do to reach where they are. They worked hard, took chances and pushed ahead when the noisy voice of inertia told them not to. Where would I be without them and the spiritual modeling they do for me?

Sometimes the greatest risk is not to take one, even when the outcome looks a bit murky. And if backing down would only cause your spiritual life to suffer, having farther to climb to recover would only add to the insult. Although we are not always ready to do what must be done when the doing is at hand, hoping we can do without it is folly indeed.

A good meditation starts with showing up. And showing up to do it is the one and only way to make it good.

How to Take Meditation with You Throughout the Day

Posted by & filed under Spiritual Teachings.

Meditation, in a Broad Sense

It is that practice which brings you to a place of stillness where you may commune with your inner reality, your highest self. Meditation is coming to a point of stillness where all thoughts of past, present, and future are suspended in the one eternal now. This gives you the opportunity to experience a deep sense of peace, joy, or any other aspect of your true nature.

It’s not enough just to meditate for a short period of time and expect to make much progress.Paramhansa Yogananda brought us the Path of Kriya Yoga, with meditation and seva, selves service.

“The wave must realize that its reality, as a mere wave, is temporary. It may appear again and again as other waves, but in the end it has to realize that its reality lies not in its separateness as a wave, but in the ocean of which the wave is a manifestation. Realization of its true identity demands merging into the ocean and becoming one with it.”—Paramhansa Yogananda, The Essence of Self Realization, pg. 118.

With “longer, deeper, guru given meditation” there is a shift in consciousness that takes place. It may seem subtle at first, but it is real and all who meditate regularly, will tell you the same. We are asked to meditate routinely for at least one and half hours a day before taking Kriya Initiation (our highest meditation technique). This is not just another hurdle to overcome before receiving the award of Kriya. It is basic training that all must go through, in order to have a chance at finding your true self.

Meditation as a Life Experience

It doesn’t end with meditation twice a day. That is just the beginning. As pointed out earlier, we meditate to experience what it is like to be free from all attachment, all desire, all reactivity, and to bask in everlasting peace. But if we don’t carry that experience with us throughout the day, we will only suffer, and perhaps cause others to suffer, too. The second purpose of meditation is to give you something to reflect upon, an anchor of truth. You really are one with the Infinite, as long as you remember! How can you remember, if after meditation you drop that consciousness, and go back into separateness?

When you finish your meditation, be aware of your state of mind. Use your breath to help keep you in that state. Be fully aware and conscious of your actions. Live from the inside out. Just as meditation helps us to withdraw the senses, let the breath keep you in your center. Keep your consciousness at the point between the eyebrows and enjoy! Be grateful for all the glories of the day.

See the challenges and victories as a movie, and you are playing your role. Say Yes to life! What comes will come, but it is much more enjoyable if we can go with the flow, rather than trying to beat it back, or hide from what is coming. The only way through the day, is to go through the day. Have a sense of adventure, be courageous and enthusiastic in your role. At the end of the day, as you lay on your pillow, reflect, “well, that was an interesting movie!”

At Ananda House, we encourage both our residents and our staff to make a minute by minute choice, to see every day as a unique opportunity for living fully in the moment. We don’t want to wait until it is too late to create the skill and habit of living and enjoying life. It is with constant meditation and skillful living, that one finds true happiness.

Meditation—for Real

Posted by & filed under Meditation.

Meditation Is Part of the Conversation

Today I had a conversation with two women about meditation, while we were at a mutual friend’s birthday party. It was not an Ananda gathering and even while enjoying the exchange, part of my mind was fascinated that meditation has become a mainstream conversation topic.

One woman expressed confusion and asked me to explain meditation to her; because every time she asks, the answer is different. She then shared her experience with a meditation class in which the teacher led students through a guided visualization technique that was relaxing, but unsatisfying.

She said, “I think I’m missing something, but I’m not sure what it is.”

Meditation Is Focused Concentration on the Divine

When I told her that Ananda teaches that meditation is focused concentration on God, or an aspect of God, her eyes lit up with interest. I felt that was enough encouragement to continue, so I offered the possibility that the visualization of walking through lovely imagined scenery was limited because it wasn’t real.

Spending time in a relaxed state thinking of nice things can be beneficial. If you are looking for lower blood pressure and escape from stress, it is a good practice. But there is a point where part of you realizes you are playing a nice game and the game only takes you so far.

But focusing on what is changeless and always true—the inner peace and calmness that is your true nature, and clearing away the debris so you can experience the highest within you—now that’s real.

Then, with deep feeling, she told me that what “works” for her is to repeat the 23rd Psalm:  The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul.

She turned and asked her friend, “Do you feel that way? That God restores your soul?”

After considering, her friend agreed that when she took communion, she felt like that.

Everyone Experiences Meditation Differently

I felt their sincerity and their longing, and I affirmed, “That’s because it is real.” The Psalm is inherently true, but it also has truth and meaning on a personal level, so it “works” to take her to a place of deep stillness and expanded awareness, just as communion does for her friend. After some more friendly discussion, I was asked to come teach meditation to their service group.

If you ask twenty people, “What is meditation?” you will most likely get a variety of answers, as this woman did. Even if you ask different people within Ananda, the answer will vary somewhat, depending on a variety of factors. But always, Ananda techniques of meditation are for discovering, experiencing, and living the truth of your own highest nature.

I’ve struggled with many wrong ideas about meditation over the years. I have been concerned about what a model devotee should do, or anxious for immediate signs of sainthood. I’ve been worried about pleasing others, guilty of feeling guilty when I didn’t meet my goals, or painfully embarrassed when comparing myself to every meditator I know. I could write a book on “101 ways to try to get yourself to meditate more.”

Despite all the wrong thinking and the failed attempts to find a shortcut to sainthood, I keep coming back to meditating, because it puts me in touch with the only thing that is always true every time I sit down in the silence. In that silence, I know what is real.

I encourage you to try it. Try meditating, for real.

Stepping Into the Presence of Christ

Posted by & filed under Ananda Music.

The Oratorio Brings Great Blessings

When you bring together 40 singing meditators to perform Christ Lives: an Oratorio, magic is sure to happen.

Perhaps it’s because these extraordinary singers have not only spent months fine tuning their voices and the notes, they have also dedicated decades to attuning their souls to the living presence of Christ within through daily meditation.

We have honed the external musical experience of melody, harmony, rhythm, timbre, and blend. When you hear all of these working in perfect synchrony, it becomes a magical experience in itself.

But what sets our Ananda choir apart is our focus on the internal musical experience. We consciously invite the living presence of Christ into our hearts and souls through every song we sing.

Most importantly, we use the silence after each piece to dive deeply into any genuine presence awakening and responding within us, like the resonating strings of a piano. We focus on receptivity and absorption, and then infuse our own genuine response into our voices. Consciousness is conveyed through sound–make no doubt about it.

The Oratorio Is Not Only for Yogis

This internal musical experience is not something only yogis tune into. In fact, we all do!

How often do you hear:

“That really moved me”
“I was deeply touched”
“That really resonates with me”
“I’m in tune with that”
“That struck a deep chord in me”

We are talking about an inner experience that we don’t know how to quantify, but we know it when it comes.

As we were rehearsing the other week, a gentleman new to Ananda came and observed. He was deeply impressed by what he experienced. “You turned a practice into a prayer.”

So when you come to hear us on Saturday, April 1 (no foolin!), you won’t be just hearing well-tuned notes. You will experience a living prayer and a living meditation. Join us as we call to the presence of Christ, and as we feel for His response in the silence.

Performing is the Northwest Ananda Choir, made up of our Ananda Portland Choir joined by a dozen singers from our Ananda Seattle choir, who have also felt this presence of Christ awaken in them through this masterpiece.

Come. Open your hearts. Receive, absorb, and transform your consciousness through the magic of this music, the magic of this choir.

Details

This masterwork by Swami Kriyananda features selections for choir, solo voices, keyboard, flute, strings, and small ensemble. Run time approx. 90 minutes. Ananda Portland Temple, Saturday, April 1 at 7pm. Tickets on sale now.