Sunday, December 8, 2013
LAst night J and I attended a special pot luck dinner hosted by a classmate. 10 monks from the Drepung Loseling monastery joined us at her home and shared a multi-phonic chant to the Medicine Buddha to bless our Ayurvedic studies and the success of our future practices for the benefit of all sentient beings.
Listening to and absorbing the deep vibrational tones of their chant I was transported, no longer sitting in a modern living room but in an ancient monastery surrounded not by ten but by hundreds of monks and the spirits of lineage holders standing behind them.
When the chant ended they spoke (via one monk who acted as interpreter) for a little while on the importance of intention in healing, echoing my Teacher's words that a practioner must be sattvic, pure of heart, and compassionate - qualities not confined to any one religion or spiritual tradition but available to all by choice and through self-study and practice.
Afterwards we shared a vegetarian feast of soups, roasted vegetables, brownies and chai and finally a classmate went outside beneath the stars to perform a traditional fire dance she learned as a child. The monks huddled together excitedly in front of the window to watch the circling, swirling patterns of flame and there were lots of smiles and "wows" followed by clapping and cheers when she was done.
I'm waiting for a classmate to share one more group photo with all of us. Until then...
Saturday, December 7, 2013
Friday, December 6, 2013
After the agnihotra class last Saturday J and I stopped in at the 25th Annual Winter Spanish Market in Old Town, Albuquerque. I've never seen so many beautiful hand painted retablos on display as well as tinwork, jewelry, furniture and other traditional Spanish crafts. Many of the artists and craftspeople were carrying on the work passed down to them from many generations of their family.
Artist Sean Wells was holding a demonstration in the lobby and we stopped to try our hand at retablo painting. I brushed some of the blue on this portrait of St. Francis holding a rabbit and J added a bit of sgraffito (decorative scratches) to the yellow background.
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
The following day we hiked up to one of our favorite hills in the Sandias to try our first sunset agnihotra. Other than the wind threatening to extinguish our fire and J sitting on a good-sized cactus just before we began, I believe we achieved a 'successful' agnihotra and in thanksgiving for not being devoured by mountain lions on the way back to the car last night we performed another at sunrise this morning. This time we rambled no farther into the wilds than the casita porch.
Agni plays a leading role here in the Southwest - shining in the ever-present sun above our heads; inherent in the pungency of New Mexico's beloved chilies; latent in the pinion pine and cedar burned in winter; glowing in the holiday luminarias beginning to appear on rooftops; steaming from the hot stones of Native American sweat lodges; bubbling up from the earth in the water of the natural hot springs — even the people here exude warmth. Mexican art often portrays a bright yellow sun wearing a big smile and more modern variations of the motif grace many an adobe home here - the adobe bricks themselves derived from the heating and drying aspect of agni.
In Ayurveda agni governs transformation, discernment and all metabolic processes and fittingly enough this week we have begun to study its profound role in health and disease.
Sunday, December 1, 2013
Thursday, November 28, 2013
Though we had a open invitation to a "stray cat" Thanksgiving meal today, J and I realized as the morning progressed that we felt very content spending the day together and going no farther than the mountain for a sunset hike. So that's what we did.
Thanksgiving was different in the past. Thanksgiving will be different in the future. But the Thanksgiving of the present wasn't affected by either looking back or projecting ahead. I just felt thankful for all the experiences we get to have over the course of our lifetimes, all the people we get to know and love and even be challenged by, all the miles we get to cover, all the sunsets and moonrises we get to watch.
"Well I'm thankful to live with a woman who ditches Thanksgiving plans for a hike in the mountains" proclaimed J, scrambling over a patch of frosty prickly pear.
On the way back into the casita we did grab one of our pumpkins off the doorstep to make a fresh pie (currently in the oven) and I cooked up a cranberry/apple/ginger chutney to accompany our dahl and rice. Aren't those the two best parts of the meal anyway?
Sunday, November 24, 2013
Friday, November 22, 2013
You need not do anything.
Remain sitting at your table and listen.
You need not even listen, just wait.
You need not even wait, just learn to be quiet, still and solitary.
And the world will freely offer itself to you unmasked.
It has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.
– Franz Kafka
My Teacher once said that after you've read 1,000 pulses you're ready to call yourself a beginner.
I read my first three this week. Actually I wasn't "reading" as much as listening to three stories being told. Nadi Parkisha is a deep meditation in addition to being a powerful diagnostic tool and seems to dovetail very naturally with learning to read Sanskrit (which, fascinatingly enough, can also be used as diagnostic tool). We sit silently in pairs for five minutes at a time, reading the pulse in both wrists at once as my Teacher does, attempting to drop through the 7 levels to the constitutional pulse. This deep pulse reveals the psycho-physiological makeup our client came into this world with at the time of conception, a unique blend of ether, air, fire, water and earth as well as a particular amalgamation of the qualities associated with each - 20 major qualities in all.
Sarvani dravyani panchabhauticani: All organic and inorganic substances are created from five basic elements.
During these first few days of practice I've made an interesting discovery - as soon as someone begins to read my pulse my lungs begin to struggle for air, as if an elephant is sitting on my chest. I experienced this same predicament during Reiki treatments last summer and during my interview with a psychic the year before. However, when roles are reversed and I'm the practitioner's seat reading a pulse (or giving Reiki) I regain my ability to breathe freely.
When I meet with him in January I'll ask my Teacher about the breathlessness. Right now despite the discomfort it's just another sensation to be observed, like the rush and lift of a pulse beneath unaccustomed fingers.
The things we really need come to us only as gifts, and in order to receive them as gifts, we have to be open. In order to be open we have to renounce ourselves, in a sense we have to die to our image of ourselves, our autonomy, our fixation upon our self-willed destiny. We have to be able to relax the psychic and spiritual cramp which knots us in the painful, vulnerable, helpless “I” that is all we know of ourselves.
– Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
The Self cannot be pierced by weapons or burned by fire; water cannot wet it, nor can the wind dry it. The Self cannot be pierced or burned, made wet or dry. It is everlasting and infinite, standing on the motionless foundations of eternity. The Self is unmanifested, beyond, all thought, beyond all change. Knowing this, you should not grieve.
— Bhagavad Gita, 2:23
Sunday, November 17, 2013
As the sun began to sink yesterday afternoon I left a pot of corn chowder simmering on the stove top and took a short walk. I wanted to see the marriage of orange-pink sunlight and bright white snow crystals on the mountaintop. As the sun set over one horizon, the full moon rose over another. Getting to witness both phenomena at once is a gift of wide open space.
To begin class last Wednesday our teacher read the first few pages of a Native American children's book about silence and listening. While walking with his grandfather a young child is observing the elder's ability to "hear" the thoughts of lizard and rock and even the sound of seeds bursting and roots growing beneath the ground in springtime. After she expresses the desire to be able perceive in this subtle way, the elder assures his grandchild that one day he thinks it will be possible. Between elder and child/Teacher and student the sacred knowledge of true listening is passed down.
We'll continue the story this week.
The story was shared as an introduction to the art of pulse reading, which is all about silence, subtlety and developing intuition. Both Native American tradition and Ayurveda (as well as other traditional healing modalities) share similar respect for silence and its place in diagnosis:
"The virtues of silence are implicitly in the Apache concept of igoya'i, "wisdom." Igoya'i is a state of heightened awareness and sensitivity that allows one to detect and avoid potential sources of harm. To a traditional Native American healer, listening to a patient means silencing one's thoughts to gain a more direct perception of the patient's physical, mental and spiritual health. The native healer forms a kind of intuitive and spiritual first impression against which the relevance of knowledge and clinical experience can later be weighted. Inner silence creates an outer state of "active listening" in which the healer can pick up messages hidden in the patient's words, tone of voice, and body language."
— from Honoring the Medicine by Kenneth Cole (an amazing book, btw)
What I love about the program I'm in is that we are expected to have a daily practice of meditation, pranayam and yoga in the same way that we are expected to complete homework assignments, participate in class and pass tests. Sadhana and academics hold equal weight on the scale of learning, since intellectually knowing what techniques or herbs can heal is useless without also developing oneself as a healer. And who is a healer, really? One who is clear, stable and grounded enough to bring forth the innate healer within the patient themselves — so this development of knowledge is really more of an "allowing."
"Of course it was not I who cured. It was the power from the outer world, and the visions and ceremonies had only made me like a hole through which the power could come to the two-leggeds. If I thought that I was doing it myself, the hole would close up and no power could come through. Then everything I could do would be foolish."
— Black ElkNot only do we all share an innate capacity to heal, but beneath the chatter of our individual thoughts and spoken words we share in a deep, common silence, the silence of Essence. When we allow that silence to emerge, we allow the healer to emerge, we allow love to emerge. But this takes time, dedication and practice, especially in a culture which constantly entices (practically demands, in fact) us to keep our focus turned outward rather than in - constantly entertained, constantly distracted, constantly caught up in one drama or another. People fear silence, which might be why they go out into the quiet of nature and feel the need to fill the space with chatter.
In silence the particular, tiny stories about who and what we are disappear and the boundaries between student/Teacher, parent/child, human/animal, black/white, male/female, ourselves and nature are not only crossed, they too dissolve completely. A healer develops both the ability and stability to dissolve into this silent space even in the midst of chaos in order to hear the unexpressed symptoms in a patient, to feel the particular energy of plant medicine or to transmit healing energy. So even if achieving A's in class proves to be easy this year, it is only one small part of the larger process.
“It has always been the business of the great seers (known to India as 'rishis,' in biblical terms as 'prophets,' to primitive folk as 'shamans,' and in our own day as 'poets' and 'artists') to perform the work of the first and second functions of a mythology by recognizing through the veil of nature, as viewed in the science of their times, the radiance — terrible yet gentle — of the dark, unspeakable light beyond, and through their words and images to reveal the sense of the vast silence that is the ground of us all and of all beings.”
— Joseph Campbell in The Historical Atlas of World Mythology
Saturday, November 16, 2013
“Everyone transmits. All of you are transmitters. Each one of you emits invisible forces. These forces are locked up in your limited messages, and they reinforce the same limitations in others. Realizers of one or another degree of spiritual development likewise by nature spontaneously transmit what they are. Those less evolved transmit their realization, and those more evolved transmit their realization. Everything transmits. The stones transmit, the sky does, the TV does. Since everything and everyone transmits states of existence, since life, or existence itself, is participation in transmissions of all kinds, the best thing you can do is to associate with the greatest possible Transmission. You become what you meditate on.”
—Avatar Adi Da Samraj
This is the old sign outside the new building at The Institute.
I suppose one day they'll change it, but they needn't bother.
It does sum up rather well what actually happens there.
I suppose one day they'll change it, but they needn't bother.
It does sum up rather well what actually happens there.
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
I had to take a break from the books this weekend and get some fresh air, sunlight and exercise. Rather than hike in the nearby mountain range I thought it would be fun to explore Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, an easy 40 minute drive from the casita.
Though the tent-shaped hoodoos - formed by 6-7 million year old volcanic eruptions - were absolutely gorgeous, we very quickly regretted visiting the park on a Sunday. The narrow paths were crowded with people who, even in the most awe-inspiring sections of the canyons and at the spectacular 7,000 foot peak of the trail, could not seem to stop talking at the top of their lungs for even a moment in which to enjoy or even notice the peace, the sound of the wind, the squawking of ravens.
We have a much different way of being in nature, and I'm not saying that our way is "better" but it's definitely a whole lot quieter and we try to be more respectful of the surroundings. For us, nature is a cathedral - sacred. Yet there were times on Sunday I felt we were walking through an Epcot display instead of upon sacred land.
The Native Americans of the Cochiti Pueblo share similar feelings about this place...
"This is the church we were given. Us Native Americans, we pray in this place. And as such we would want visitors to come with respect and leave with only what is in their minds and what photographs that they take. When you walk in the canyon, it's just like walking among our ancestors, amongst our spiritual leaders giving us that wisdom, that guidance, that leadership we all look for."
— Cochiti Pueblo Assistant War Chief Wilbert NaranjoI think they need to erect a sign with this quote on it at the start of the trails.