Om: The Seed of Our Being

Om is a single-syllable mantra, a sacred chant, known as a bija – a seed mantra. Just as a tiny seed embodies a wondrous tree, in yoga, it is believed that the one-syllable sound of Om contains the infinite spiritual wisdom and creative power of the Universe. Humming the sound of Om reverberates in a manner that leads to us towards the experience of the infinite within us.

Patanjali, the father of classical (Raja) yoga, taught us in the Yoga-Sutra that when we chant this sacred syllable and simultaneously contemplate its meaning, our consciousness becomes single-pointed and prepared for a meditation in which our true nature is revealed. We embody sacredness.

There are 3 primary sounds of Om, which represent the 3 primary states of our being – a, u, and m. Each of these three parts serve as meditative seeds.

“Ah” represents our waking state, which is our subjective consciousness of the outer world.

“Oh” represents our dreaming state, or the consciousness of our inner world of thoughts, dreams, and memories.

“Mmm” is the dreamless state of deep sleep and the experience of ultimate unity.

By contemplating the meaning of each of these sounds as we hum them, we are led through the three states of our ordinary consciousness.

There is however a fourth part of Om, too: the anusvara, the after-sound of silence. This silence is the crown of the mantra. After chanting or humming the 3 primary sounds of Om, the vibration slowly dissolves into silence, symbolic of the transcendent state of consciousness, an enduring, blissful state, where the seed of our being is fully expressed.

The symbol of Om represents these states; the 3 bottom curves each represent the 3 primary states of waking (lower left), dreaming (lower right, and between waking and deep sleep symbols), and deep sleep (upper left); and the top dot represents the absolute state. The curve below the dot (and not touching dot) represents maya, the veil of illusion that gets in the way of our spiritual development and realization of the absolute state.

We chant Om at the beginning of yoga classes to remind us of the sacredness of our practice. It brings attention to the present-moment aspects of our awakened practice, paying attention with all of our senses. It also offers a doorway through which we explore our other states of being and our true nature.

The question is, in our daily lives where we interact with one another, are we in our waking-state or our dreaming-state? As in yoga, when we learn to pay attention to what is really going on in each moment, not caught in day-dreaming, worrying, planning, or just repeating habits and re-living memories, we start to awaken. We start to see. We start to see truths with more clarity. We start to see the interdependence of all things from an ever-expanding perspective. And we start to understand the unity of all things and see the jewels of life in every aspect of our existence.

And we start to understand and experience the chanting of Om, the seed of our being awakens, our consciousness expands, and the infinite spiritual wisdom and creative power of the Universe is unleashed!

In many respects, the seed of our being sprouts as we wake up while we are awake! Don’t go back to sleep! Om Om Om

“The gentle breezes of dusk and dawn have secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep!
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep!
People pass back and forth across the threshold between the two worlds-
That door is round and open.
Don’t go back to sleep!” – Rumi

FIVE KOSHAS: A Map for the Inward Journey of Yoga

We practice yoga to explore deeply the nature of our being. The five koshas (layers or sheaths) are integrated aspects of our being that we explore as we practice yoga and focus our attention on these various aspects of our being.  Yoga is an inward journey of self-study through these layers to our higher Self, our soul or Atman, wherein we find the gift of who we really are, and our oneness with the universe and universal consciousness (Brahman)

As we practice Hatha-Yoga-based yoga asanas (Raja Yoga) and pay attention to our physical bodies, our food and nourishment, we bring awareness to our annamaya kosha. We start to explore the outer, most vulnerable aspect of ourselves, our physical bodies, where deficiencies of deeper aspects manifest themselves – our muscles, bones, organs, and connective tissue.

As we bring awareness to our breath as it pulses throughout our body, we bring awareness to our pranayama kosha. We start to explore energy, prana (life force), as it flows through our physical bodies, our arteries and veins and the other various integrated systems of our bodies – our lymphatic, nervous, hormonal, and circulatory systems. We explore various energy centers of our bodies, chakras, that are located along lines of energy pathways, nadis.

As we observe our thoughts and the space between our thoughts, we bring awareness to the more subtle patterns of our bodies and our ability to observe these patterns, these thoughts and feelings, perceptions and behaviors. We start to explore the subconscious aspects of our past experiences and stored information, our manomaya kosha. More meditative practices of yoga, like Yin Yoga and Yoga Nidra, help us access and explore this deeper layer. When we engage with our subconscious body, accessed through emotional aspects of our being, we enter the doorway (and see through the veil of illusion) to our spirituality.

As we pay attention to our ability to observe and question truths with clarity, we bring intention to the choices we make in life. We start to explore wisdom and how we use our knowledge; we are exploring our vijnanamaya kosha. We explore our morals, our ethics, our intellect, and take responsibility for our inner growth and acquisition of knowledge. We explore who we are. We explore our spirituality. We practice Jnana-Yoga – the acquisition of knowledge and wisdom through study of sacred texts and literature.

As we pay attention to our deeper, more expansive relationships in this world, we bring awareness to our consciousness, interconnectedness, and heartfelt feelings of deep happiness and joy, contentment, peace, attunement and tranquility. Here, we explore our most subtle and true nature, anandamaya kosha, even if for only short periods of time at a time. We practice Karma Yoga – the yoga of selfless service, and Bhakti Yoga – the yoga of love and devotion. And we experience Samadhi – the eighth limb of Patanjali’s Yoga-Sutra (Raja Yoga), wherein we find integration with each other and with pure Oneness. We find unity as the relationship of Atman (our inner Self, our soul) and Brahman (Universal consciousness) is realized.

Modern neuroscientists point to our consciousness as being central to our reality. As we tune into our consciousness, we empower ourselves to live the lives we are each meant to live, our dharma, and move beyond our karma, the sum of our past experiences. We empower ourselves to move beyond fear, desire, anger, and pride; and move with courage towards acceptance, love, joy, and peace.

Starting with a practice intended to explore our physical existence, we find a pathway to a deeper understanding of who we are. The koshas provide a map for this journey inwards.

Why? From Professional Engineer to Yoga Teacher?

Almost 35 years ago, after graduating with a Master of Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY, I became licensed to practice Professional Engineering. Today, as my license comes up for renewal, I notified the state professional licensing board that I am essentially retired from engineering; I will officially go on “inactive” status this month.

Why? Why retire from a highly-respected profession in an era when technically-skilled and analytically-minded people are in demand? Why move away from a profession in which I found intellectual-stimulation and achieved business-success?

For those of you who know me, you will understand that this “letting go” of my engineering identity has been happening for over 20 years, ever since about the time that I sat on top of a mountain in the Cascades with a National Outdoor Leadership School group and was asked to tell the group, “who am I?”.

It was around the time when my business partners looked at me with disinterest when I spoke about sustainability that these wheels started rolling. Momentum picked up when I moved to our current community here in Manchester, VT, 15 years ago, and design professionals looked at me blankly when I inquired about sustainable design opportunities. Sure, I found some like-minded professionals to work with in Brattleboro and Burlington, but the thrust of my work was always dictated by the wishes and priorities of the client, the person paying the bill. And then, especially here in Southern Vermont, the perceived completed-project-value provided by a structural engineers seemed to be discounted.

I found myself designing energy-efficient timber framed homes (and quietly designing sustainable-features into the houses I worked on), which was satisfying and creatively-stimulating. But, year after year, the houses got bigger and bigger, and less and less in line with my sustainable design interests. My builder and timber-framer clients were great to work for, and they afforded me the flexibility in my life to pursue multiple interests and maintain family-priorities, but their clients were demanding bigger and bigger houses which started pushing the limits of my personal capabilities and interests.

I realized that in order to influence the sustainable design priorities of the home-building public, I would better spend my time being part of a community that helped bring more and more awareness to the impact of the day-to-day choices we make, whether in construction projects or in how we interact with one another and with nature, in order to sustain life here on Earth. I remembered that my initial interests in pursuing “civil” engineering were motivated by aspirations to help people and communities. I saw new meaning in the business name that I had chosen when I started designing homes in Vermont 22 years ago, Gaia Structures. Gaia, Mother Earth, a concept that all living organisms on Earth are inter-related and will naturally affect the nature of their environment in order to make the environment more suitable for life.

And by cosmic design, I was introduced to yoga – a way of living wherein we “yolk” what we might previously have seen as separate (our bodies, our minds, our physical existence, our higher purpose in life) into daily practices of holistically living in the moment with full awareness, celebrating the joy of community and mutual-support… and making our environments more suitable, more fulfilling, for all of our lives.

So, teaching yoga for me is more than introducing asana practices, alignment, and individual-body modifications and healthy-living regimens. It’s about raising awareness, increasing ability to see truths more clearly, so that individually-motivated choices from a perspective of separateness turn into community-motivated choices from a perspective of interdependence and togetherness. It’s about inspiring choices that aren’t so much about building monuments to reward personal achievements often made at the expense of others, but more about building thriving communities which reward our abilities to make our lifestyles more sustaining and suitable for all of us.

From my perspective, yoga is entirely about living sustainably. Yoga is totally about Gaia, living in harmony with Mother Earth.

What I continually remind myself, as a yoga practitioner and as a teacher, is that positive change happens one relationship at a time, one moment at a time. If I re-member that all of life is indeed inter-connected, I will always know that each single thought, action, and word that comes from me, influences the world. And with practice, I might also be able to see more and more clearly how my day-to-day choices are indeed influenced by the world. But it is my responsibility to make wise choices. Yoga helps me see this higher perspective. Yoga helps me live with more awareness, more connectedness… and make wise choices.

Teaching yoga feels like the right way for me to influence the world, one class at a time, one person at a time… with a deep, heartfelt sense of humility towards the auspiciousness of the Universe and the Earth we inhabit. To me, this work is intellectually, physically, emotionally, and spiritually stimulating! For me, success is not so much about day-to-day accumulation of assets; it’s more about making day-to-day heartfelt connections with people and with nature, and maintaining a big-picture perspective of helping to make our communities more suitable for all of us.

The problem-solving engineer in me has not died. It has only moved towards the source of the problems we all face, and away from fears associated with feelings of personal separateness and attachment to personally-motivated goals for the future. It takes courage. It takes faith. It takes humility. And it takes work.

Yoga is now my vision and my practice. For me, so far, it has taken 22 years of practice to have the courage to finally let go of one perceived  identity and to trust another. Of course, I am realizing that it was never really about my self-perceived identity; it was (and will be) always about realizing who I really am!

Who am I? That’s really the question…

Photo Credit: Ali Kaukas

 

 

 

A Tribute to a Teacher

Yesterday, my wife and I attended a memorial service for a friend – a teacher. Our kids (my step-kids) and their partners traveled from Boston to speak. After all, 20 years ago, Patsy was their elementary school teacher. She was also our neighbor, where she lived with her partner Mary just a few steps away. At the service, our kids spoke of the impact Patsy had on their lives, how she was always there for them, teaching them to live positively and in joy, and how she always seemed to see the best in them – as if she could see the wonderful people they would one day be. Mary’s words were spoken as if she was just reading the words Patsy would have said if she was there herself at her own memorial service. She used words of gratitude, love, and light.

As I stood there, looking out over the fields of green where our kids once played, where we shared many days in the Deerfield Valley of Wilmington, Vermont, as a family, I looked up at the small rainbow in the clouds as a ukulele-player sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” I remembered the words Patsy said to me years ago, and how she was always there for me then, seeing my perspective as a step-parent-in-training during those difficult family times… and how she also seemed to understand my future long before I could.

I imagined the words she would have spoke to me yesterday as I stood there. Many of the words she had spoken to me before.

“You have been a teacher, a mentor, a father, and a loyal husband. You have chosen to maintain your character and integrity during difficult and challenging circumstances. Indeed, you have continued to seek the essence of what is really meaningful and purposeful in life – expressing selfless and unconditional love. You maintained a sense of quiet humbleness in a situation when the kids’ natural father received the sympathy of a community and while their mom struggled to find her way after tragic times. You maintained a sense of strength when you alone were the one who had to make the difficult family decisions and just be there constantly with no fanfare, taking the heat when things went badly. And you did the best you could even when just being there would be taken for granted. You learned to be open to what comes – and in doing so, you found the gift of who you really are. And, isn’t it so nice now to look out over these fields, to see your kids shine, and to quietly feel the impact of the nurturing home space we all created for them here in Wilmington? Please know that your gift, too, is to be a teacher – to help nurture young seeds of life as they grow, and to see in them their natural gifts – their sacred souls – that they too will one day share with the world. We haven’t spoke recently, but I still walk with you. Now, more closely than ever. Share your love. Keep teaching cooperation and the value of team-spirited togetherness. Always see kids through my eyes.”

I smiled quietly as the music stopped while the next generation of kids still played. I watched as the breeze took bubbles and balloons up into the sky.

I stood proudly as community members offered complimentary words of gratitude to my kids. I saw in them what I had dreamed for them 20 years ago, as if my eyes were Patsy’s.

I stood honorably as person after person went up to my wife and congratulated her on raising such wonderful kids.

I stood happily, looking out at smiles and hugs, as I remembered the importance of community and mutually-supportive relationships.

I stood with humility, attempting to let go of the weight of the perceived mistakes I still carry, and trying to understand the underlying perceived need to be recognized for what I might have done right.

I stood emotionally, with feelings of deep love towards my family… and towards Patsy.

I stood in forgiveness.

I stood with compassion.

I felt love and a sense of unity with the world… and with a teacher.

After all, I know now… Patsy was, and still is, my teacher too.

Bringing Heart to Life

For me, it all started when I started to let go of the mental thought-processes of doubt, worry, and fear, and allowed myself to fall into heart-centered feelings of unconditional love and deep faith in a higher power. For me, it was a process of realizing that life was much more than using my intellect to figure things out, or even just having a positive-based belief system. For me, it was learning to follow a path that included diving more deeply into my yoga practice – being more deeply devoted to the ideal of oneness, of One Love, of Christ consciousness, of learning to live in the eternity of each moment. For me, it was about embodying with wholeheartedness a lifestyle of loving awareness and authentic presence.

Of course, these awakenings usually come about in our darkest moments, right? It was no different for me. I remember the moment specifically – my body shaking in fear, my mind lost in endless cycles of unanswered questions. When the essence of life smacks you in the face, you wake up. When you get lost inside your head consumed by who you think you are, sometimes it takes a storm to help you re-member who you really are.

All of these years later, I look back at the wonders of life that have unfolded since that time. All of these years later, I look with amazement at the community that has come together at Heart of the Village Yoga to support one another – not only in the practice of yoga, but also in the quest to live more satisfying, heart-centered and community-building daily lives. All of these years later, I realize innately that it takes a village to realize the essence of life – it takes a community to practice loving awareness and to build loving relationships.

So now… a dozen years after I was smacked in the face… 9 years after a US Army veteran from St. Croix looked me in the eye and said, “You’re not leaving, are you?”… 6 years after I shared a vision with a US Air Force veteran from San Diego and co-founded Warriors Live On… and 4 years after I started a new journey with my wife at Heart of the Village Yoga… I have the opportunity to bring my heart to life by bringing the essence of our “Village” to California. Next week, Memorial Day weekend, I will have the opportunity to bring yoga to a group of veterans on a nature excursion on the Pacific Crest Trail outside of Big Bear. I have the honor to walk with presence and authenticity, as a warrior and alongside warriors, carrying with me the heart of our Heart of the Village Yoga tribe on a trek with Warriors Live On.

You might say that Warriors Live On initially grew out of our own healing experiences and practices, from those darkest times when my wife and I struggled through PTSD utilizing the practices of mindfulness and yoga and nature-based living, to our shared experiences of healing with Eva Belanger and other United States veterans, to our shared vision of bringing our own successes with holistic practices to a wider population of veterans through a new non-profit organization called Warriors Live On. Since its founding, Eva has been the force behind the actual manifestation of the vision; I have only been a voice of support from the other side of the country. (I remember writing a letter of support when WLO set out on its first nature excursion shared here on this site.)

Warriors Live On is now an organization which provides integrative healing processes for post 9-11 combat veterans who are battling the debilitating symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Recognizing that the effects of PTSD on both mind and body can be healed, WLO now offers integrative programming incorporating nature treks, acupuncture, Somatic Experiencing, Organic Intelligence, yoga and nutrition. This multi-modal approach eases the symptoms of PTSD and opens the door to a new way of living.

To those of you who have become my family and my circle of friends at Heart of the Village Yoga, please know that I carry with me your love as I bring my heart – our collective heart – to a new circle of friends next week with Warriors Live On. To those of you who I will have the honor of being with next week, please know that I am humbled, honored, and excited to share this new journey with you.

Each of us has a story to tell and new stories to compose. But each of our individual stories are part of an ever-expanding larger story. Each chapter unfolds, usually where we direct our attention. When we embrace intentional practices, life has a miraculous way of letting those practices turn into reality. Sometimes, it takes a journey of a hundred steps to look back and see the first step. Sometimes, it takes a journey of a thousand miles to look back and realize you’ve been sharing the path with many, many others. Sometimes, it takes a lifetime of experiences to realize that it is all about living a life of loving awareness in the eternal gift of each moment.

Bringing heart to life begins with the first step, yes. Its enlightening now to have the good fortune to look back and see those steps, those chapters in my own life. But it begins again with the next step. And it expands as your heart expands. And it expands again when you have the love and support of a village. And it expands again and again when you realize that you a part of an ever-expanding field of relationships, mutually interdependent and connected. Bringing heart to life is about embodying loving awareness in each timeless step. Its about bringing your authentic self and your whole heart – a full heart, a clear heart, a strong heart, and an open heart – to life in each moment. Its about being a warrior and a healer for the benefit of all.

I am honored to recognize the warrior in each of you, and I am humbled by the wonder of our ever-expanding circle. To those of you struggling in this moment, take heart – and take the next step. And the next. It takes work. It takes practice. But, one day at a time, life unfolds. The gift of the current struggle will be the lesson learned that will help awaken the essence of who you really are. Have faith in your higher purpose… and take your next steps with intention and with open eyes, bringing your heart to life!

Please support Warriors Live On here.

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Awakening a Deeper Sense of Home

Yoga is a practice to re-awaken the natural loving-kindness that rests deep in our souls.

We re-vitalize feelings of love for all beings and all of Earth.

We direct awareness both inward and outward to feel deeply connected and at One with all of life.

We realize the gift of the present moment.

We feel humbled by the sacredness of Life, and empowered by our abilities to serve with integrity and dignity.

Practice might take the form of the classical methods of posture practices, breath work, and meditation; it could also take the form of service work, intellectual study, or devotional practice.

When we take care of our bodies and our own way-of-living, as well as how we live our lives in our communities and in service of the greater good, we each lay the foundation of a deeper yoga practice… and a healthier, more fulfilling and sustainable lifestyle.

When we each realize the sacredness of our own life and its importance to the greater good, we each see how isolated self-interests and personal feelings of separation and day-to-day living challenges are just pieces of a bigger picture, opportunities to see a greater good and a deeper sense of life-purpose.

When we let go of previously held perspectives which hold us back from these heart-opening practices, we feel free to explore the limitless nature of our spirit and the awesome adventure of our life and the gift of each moment.

We realize that our personal adventures are never alone, that we all travel through time and space together… that we each share the challenges and the opportunities that each moment in life offers us.

In this place, in these travels, we awaken a deeper sense of being-at-home… in our bodies, in our hearts, in our communities, on Earth, and in the Cosmos.

Here, we are One.

And in this spirit, I get on a plane Thursday to fly to India to explore a region said to be the home of yoga, ready to take an adventure into my own heart and re-awaken a deeper sense of being at home… Here.

To my friends and family, to my Heart of the Village community, I travel with you… and I am at home with you. This adventure is possible because of you!

To Jo, I look forward to this adventure of a lifetime… to the opportunity to explore the limitless nature of our spirits as we soar together… with open hearts!

I humbly offer these words with feelings of Love for all of you. Peace.

A Story Shared by Sean Buranahiran

One day a young boy asked his father, “What is the value of his life?”

Instead of answering the father told his son to take this rock and go sell it at a market.

If anybody asks the price, raise two fingers and don’t say anything. The boy then went to the market and a women asked, “How much is this rock. I want to put it in my garden.” The boy didn’t say anything and raised up two fingers, and the women said, “Two dollars? I’ll take it.”

And the boy went home and told his father, “A women wants to buy this rock for two dollars. “The father said, “Son, I want you to take this rock to a museum. If anybody wants to buy it, don’t say a word and just put up two fingers.”

The boy then went to the museum and a man wanted to buy the rock. The boy didn’t say a word and put up two fingers. And the man said, “$200? I’ll take it.”

The boy was shocked and went running home. “Father, a man wants to buy this rock for $200. His father than said, “The last place I want you to take this rock is to a precious stone store. Show it to the owner and don’t say a word. And if he asks the price just put up two fingers.”

The son then went to a precious stone store and he showed the rock to the owner. “Where did you find this stone? It is one of the most rarest stones in the world. I must have it! How much would you sell it for?”

The boy put up two fingers.

And the man said, “I’ll take it for $200,000.”

The boy, not knowing what to say, ran home to his father. “Father, there’s a man that wants to buy this stone for $200,000.”

His father said, “Son, do you know the value of your life now? You see, it doesn’t matter where you come from, where you were born, the color of your skin, or how much money you were born into. It matters where you decide to place yourself, the people you surround yourself with, and how you choose to carry yourself.”

You may have lived your life thinking you were a $2 stone. You may have lived your whole life surrounded by people who saw your worth as only $2. But everybody has a diamond inside of them. And we can choose to surround ourself with people who see our value and see the diamond inside of us. We can choose to put ourself in a market or put ourself in a precious stone store. And you can choose to see the value in other people. You can help other people see the diamond inside of themselves. Choose the people you surround yourself with wisely. That can make all the difference in your life.

You can choose to be around people who see you as $2, or you can choose to be around people who see you as $200,000.

And some people… will see you as priceless.

I wish you all the best. I love you all.

 

 

Babamanji’s Time to Remember

It had been a long week and Babamanji had lost his way. He felt separated. Amongst friends and family, he felt a little lost. Yes, everyone saw his outward smile, but somehow his thoughts wandered to past memories and he lost his presence.

He decided to spend the evening sitting under some trees and gazing at the constellations. There, he always felt at home. There, he always felt safe. There, he knew he would begin again to find his way and recognize from deep within the true nature of what was going on… and find his natural rhythm with the world again.

As first, as he gazed to the sky, the constellations were not visible. As he consciously slowed his breath down to access a place of inner peace, he started to feel content. He started to see that the constellations were obscured by clouds. He reflected on his ability to at least see the clouds.

As he looked to the eastern sky, he saw the constellation Ganesha, and he was reminded that many of the obstacles that we face in life come from our own thoughts and judgments, our own ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing, and our own self-created feelings of separation. In every moment, there is a new opportunity to walk beyond these obstacles and across the threshold to see your higher self and to feel more connected with your true nature. In every challenge, there is a new opportunity to gain knowledge. Things started to get clearer.

As he looked to the northern sky, he saw the constellation Shiva, and he was reminded that life is indeed cycles of transformation, and that it was necessary sometimes for him to lose his way in order to express his true nature again more fully. He was reminded that the practice of yoga would help him find his way and help him embrace his life more fully. As he practiced some meditative yoga, he started to access the knowledge held deep within his subconscious mind – deep within his physical body. He started to access his natural compassionate emotional body. His gaze became more aware. He marveled at the wonder of the sky.

As he looked to the southern sky, he saw the constellation Hanuman… and his heart melted. For a moment or two, the clear image of Hanuman right in front of him took his breath away. He saw himself in the stars. His own light began to shine again. He wondered if he had lost his way because he was not being himself and letting his own light shine, or if it was because of the others who did not see his light? He wondered about all of the judgments people make of others and wondered if people put down in others what they fear in themselves. He wondered about his own ego, his own attachment to how he thought things should be, his own refusal to see truths, or his own fear of living authentically. Of course, these thoughts just seemed to melt away as he let go and settled wholeheartedly into his own feelings of unconditional love and devotion to a more sacred perspective of the world. Being immersed in nature always helped him do that. He felt the warm support of Mother Earth below him. He was reminded that we all come from the same place, that we are all living our lives together.

He started to see the constellation Lakshmi in the background, and he was reminded to embrace life fully, to feel the abundance of nature, and to express beauty and every aspect of his life. It became so clear to him that our bodies are indeed evolved to be happy and to build supportive relationships with one another. Our true nature is really quite remarkable.

By this time, it almost felt like his mind itself was becoming transparent as the evening sky became clearer and clearer. His mind felt still. His body felt at peace. His feelings of love and openness emanated from deep within.

He was humbled by his growing feelings of responsibility and empowerment.

He was humbled by the beauty which surrounded him in all directions – each tree enriching the earth with its own light. Each hillside reflecting iridescent light and vibrant beauty. With a glance northward, he saw his own responsibilities in these infinitely-connected reflections.

As he looked to the western sky, he saw the constellation Saraswati. And he was reminded to just let go and flow with nature, to just be his best self through a sense of moving with grace, gratitude, and openness to whatever comes his way… and to learn to express himself more fully by using his voice. It is time to play music, to read poetry, to sing, to spread joy… and to do his work with vigor.

By this time, as he looked directly overhead, all of the constellations were dancing together. Their light lit up the sky and filled Babamanji’s heart. His soul rested in the peace of the moment. His spirit soared with the stars.

In the background, he wondered if he even saw the constellations of Buddha, Jesus, and Kokopelli… and the images of his father, uncle, and other ancestors. He thought he heard them reminding him of his path… a path that he has naturally always walked… a path that inspires healthy work, self-reflection, and a yielding to the ideal of our interconnected nature.

And then, it was time to walk forward again, with intention, with integrity, with wholeheartedness, and with the wisdom gained from a time to remember.

Role Reflections

Today, would have been my father’s 91st birthday. This blog is a tribute to him and my other mentors.

Last week, I celebrated my half-birthday in my 60th year and my 20th wedding anniversary.

I thought I’d reflect back on my many roles in my first 59-1/2 years, and write the first thought that comes to mind about what I’ve learned from each role:

SON: Integrity, Kindness and Unconditional Love;

HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: Independence; Being Different is Okay;

COLLEGE STUDENT: Perseverance; Have Faith in the Future;

RESEARCH ASSISTANT: Scientific Analysis and Technical Writing;

STRUCTURAL ENGINEER: Understanding Forces;

HOME DESIGNER: Creativity; Seeing Synergistic Solutions; Understanding Relationships;

LANDSCAPE and GRAPHICS DESIGNER: Artistic Expression;

SKI and SNOWBOARD INSTRUCTOR: Understanding Movement; Understanding Different Ways to Learn;

BUSINESS MANAGER: Leadership, Vision and Teamwork;

OUTDOOR EDUCATOR: Facilitating Groups;

SCHOOL TEACHER: Communication, Empathy, and Being Open to Learning in Each Experience;

TRAINER: Dedication – You Become What You Practice;

ENDURANCE CYCLING: Strong-Heartedness; Mind and Body Work Together as One; You Can Get to Where You Want to Go – There’ll always be Hills and Valleys;

COACH: See the Gift in Each Individual; Motivation

MOUNTAIN BIKE GUIDE: Understand Risk vs Reward, Holding On vs Letting Go;

BACK COUNTRY GUIDE: Be Prepared;

ADVENTURER: Adventure Learning is Life-Learning;

WRITER: Clarity and Truth; Clear-Heartedness;

SKIER and SNOWBOARDER: Freedom; Bliss; Being at One with Nature in the Moment;

ADAPTIVE SPORTS VOLUNTEER: Acceptance; Empowerment; Selfless Service;

ATHLETE and BODY BUILDER: Power Comes from the Inside, Expressing Yourself Authentically and Fully; Maintaining Long-Term Perspective;

YOGA PRACTITIONER: Embody Your Life’s Higher Purpose; Everything is Connected and Interdependent; Love is The Way;

MUSIC-LOVER and ASPIRING MUSICIAN: Humility; Respect; The Flow of Life;

HEALER: Intuition, Loving-Kindness, and Open-Heartedness;

HUSBAND: Devotion, Full-Heartedness, and Partnership;

STEP-FATHER: Be There for Others at All Times;

MENTOR: Be There for Others at All Times;

FRIEND: Be There for Others at All Times;

ROLES THAT AREN’T IN LINE WITH LIFE’S HIGHER PURPOSE: Get out;

ROLES THAT ARE IN LINE WITH LIFE’S HIGHER PURPOSE: Give it YOUR BEST!

Hmmm… That’s It For Now! Stay Tuned…

(Photo by Ali Kaukas)

The Guest House

When learning to live a life of learning, I am reminded that each experience that I have, each person that I meet, and each feeling that I embrace are my teachers – my guides. Some show me the way to go, some show me the way not to go. Each is here to help me see my way more clearly – if I pay attention.

I am reminded of this Rumi poem:

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

(Mewlana Jalaluddin Rumi (Born 1207); Translation by Coleman Barks)