my heart was torn open


Last night I attended a kirtan by Krishna Das and my heart was torn open. I am still feeling the effects of the bhakti so excuse this writing as I am feeling a bit disjointed.

I sat listening with my eyes closed feeling the waves of his amazing voice pour over me. he sang a chant to Durga and when he chanted the word “Kali”, it felt like someone took their finger and hit me between my eyebrows, in my Third Eye, and tears started streaming down my face. immediately. uncontrollable. it is said that sometimes when a devotee merely sees a picture or hears the name of the Divine, the jolt is instantaneous. that is shakti.

When he chanted a mantra to Hanuman, all I saw in my mind was when I was in Rameswaram, India, standing on the roof of a small Kali temple, looking out into the ocean at sunset….

As I stood staring out into that ocean, I thought about Hanuman, the Monkey God, leaping across the ocean to rescue Sita in Lanka. I believed it was possible. pure compassion and love for Sita and for his lord, Rama.

I returned last week from sitting four days with the Dalai Lama in his teachings in Madison, Wisconsin. my heart was torn open by his compassion for a woman who discovered a lump in her breast on the last morning of his teachings.

During the afternoon sessions His Holiness took questions from the audience. his translator said that a woman wanted to ask a personal question. she said she had discovered a lump while bathing that morning and wondered whether she should tell her husband. she said her husband was a non-believer in anything and that two women in his family died of breast cancer. she wondered whether she should tell her husband because that would only create much suffering for him. she also said they had no health insurance.

His Holiness was visibly shaken. his concern was palpable, I could feel it from where I sat. he placed his hands together in the “namaste” gesture and said he was touched that the woman would ask him such a personal question. His Holiness said he did not know whether she should tell her husband, that it was her decision. he wondered if she could get government assistance. then he went back to the text he was teaching from, but I could tell that he was thinking about the question. he seemed distracted.

He stopped teaching and said, “about the woman with the lump….” and said that a doctor of Tibetan medicine was traveling with them for this trip. he said Tibetan medicine is very powerful and has been known to cure serious illnesses. he announced that if the woman was in the audience, that she should contact the doctor that is with His Holiness. pure compassion and love. the tears started streaming down my face. immediately. uncontrollable.

and my heart was torn open.

addthis_pub = ‘yogagal60510’;

where the rubber hits the road

“Buddhism is a practice,” says Levine. “It’s not a bumper sticker. It’s not about attending the Dalai Lama’s teachings with 10,000 other people. It’s about practicing generosity in your daily life. It’s getting on your ass and training your own mind on your meditation cushion.”

from Dive-bar Dharma

Considering that I just spent two days in the Dalai Lama’s teachings in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the last paragraph from this article was pretty potent.

I love that quote — get off your ass to get your ass on the cushion or on your yoga mat.

I am certainly guilty of laziness just like the next person, but when I feel the need to get my yoga butt on the cushion or the mat, I do it. it may not be daily, but I stopped beating myself up about that a long time ago. it is a tangible feeling I get in my body that says “get thee to your yoga room” or to someone’s class.

I teach seven classes a week so I need to feel another’s yoga. I did my first teacher training in 2002 and I still go to my trainer’s studio in Chicago every other week, besides doing my own personal yoga therapy practice. frankly, I don’t understand how any yoga teacher can NOT do their own practice or take someone else’s yoga class because you always have to feed and nourish your own practice or else you become stale, at least in my opinion.

How can a teacher feed his or her students unless they are feeding themselves? in my mind, it’s impossible. when I returned from India this third time I really felt like I needed to stop teaching for a while and totally immerse myself in being a student again. I just might do that — I’m feeling in my bones that I need to spend 6 months in India but that involves giving up my classes, a scary thought giving up my yoga security — you know, all that attachment and clinging.

My siddha yoga sista in California told me that it’s her experience to see people return from long India retreats to find their “material world” suddenly do a change up for the better. she asked me, “what would happen if you went, like you’d come back and nobody would sign up for classes? I don’t think so…because when you’re off on your retreat, you’ll be posting on your blog and otherwise stay connected to your past students and other interested types, even once a month, just to keep it fresh and alive. …I tell ya, sista, when you’re plugged into the divine Ma Shakti of India, good stuff happens…”

In her book Bringing Yoga to Life, Donna Farhi writes:

“…determine whether this teacher has his or her own strongly developed personal practice. Such a teacher will naturally stress the importance of self-practice. Teachers who believe that teaching class is their personal practice are likely using the students as their motivation for practice and have probably yet to develop a strong allegiance with their own inner atman. …Any teacher who claims that personal practice is no longer necessary has probably stopped learning and is ill prepared to foster an appetite for fresh inquiry in students.”

I am always a student first, and a teacher second.

addthis_pub = ‘yogagal60510’;

in his presence again

I leave tomorrow for Ann Arbor, Michigan where His Holiness the Dalai Lama will give a teaching. I will see him again in July when he visits Madison, Wisconsin.

Last year I wrote about the first time I saw him in Madison, which was an incredible experience. to be in his presence is simply amazing. as soon as he appeared on stage I felt my heart chakra open and I broke down in tears — not tears of sadness, but tears of joy, happiness. I expect that I will do that again.

Christian fundamentalists demonstrated against His Holiness last year in Madison. This year the Chinese will be demonstrating — from the Jewel Heart website:

“A Statement by Gelek Rimpoche, April 15th

I am aware that a group of Chinese Students have applied for permission from the University to stage a demonstration during this weekend’s teaching at Crisler Arena. We support all non-violent expression of free speech and expect anyone attending the teaching to respect that right of expression without confrontation. We do not anticipate these demonstrations to interfere with any of our programs.”

To listen to excerpts from Gelek Rimpoche’s teachings on the events in Tibet, compassion, and more, click below:

The Dalai Lama has said how the events in Tibet have upset him:

“As pro-China demonstrators waved signs in downtown Rochester on Wednesday, the Dalai Lama admitted to having feelings of helplessness in recent weeks. “Since March, last month, my mind is much disturbed,”….

When asked about how he keeps his composure amid recent troubles, the Dalai Lama said he never loses compassion for people, choosing instead to focus on the negative emotions that cause their actions.

“I take their afflictions to task,” he said.

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate added that he has coped with recent difficulties by practicing tonglen, a meditation technique in which a meditator mentally takes on the suffering of other people and sends out warm feelings in an effort to alleviate that suffering.

When facing disturbances in life, the Dalai Lama said, it’s important to keep a basic mental attitude of calm and inner strength.”

The Dalai Lama has always said that he is a simple monk. so for him to say that his mind is disturbed comforts me. it comforts me to know that even the Dalai Lama feels helpless sometimes, as I do. each of us can take a lesson from His Holiness about compassion, and next time when I have my own doubts about myself, whether I am “good enough” for this Path, I won’t beat myself up (so much….)

I will endeavor to keep His Holiness’ words about compassion in mind when I see the Chinese flag waved in protest of the Dalai Lama. I admit that it will be very difficult (pictures of Tibetans shot dead by Chinese armed police), but I will recite the prayer that I use to end my classes:

may all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness

may all beings be free from suffering and the causes of suffering

may all beings never be parted from freedom’s true joy

may all beings dwell in equanimity, free from attachment and aversion

I will write about his teaching when I return.






addthis_pub = ‘yogagal60510’;

how does one stand up to evil?

On Christmas night I watched the movie 10 Questions for the Dalai Lama. The movie’s director appropriately called the Dalai Lama a “rock star for peace”. Nice.

One of the questions the Dalai Lama was asked was how does one continue to practice non-violence when faced with evil. A monk who was arrested and tortured by the Chinese told the director that when he was let out of jail he hated the Chinese. He said he told the Dalai Lama that his message of peace and non-violence is outdated, it does not work, and that the Tibetans must take up arms against the Chinese government. He said that after talking with His Holiness for two hours the monk was a changed man, that he returned to his Buddhist convictions of peace and ahimsa.

Unless you’re a jazz fan, you might not know who Oscar Peterson was. This jazz great died just the other day. He had this to say about peace:

…My vision of peace encompasses an awareness of the rights of our fellow man irrespective of race, color or creed. Words spoken and repeated many times on many occasions, political or otherwise, and by many individuals; but so often only used to fill spaces on paper. I believe that if mankind could honestly embrace the true embodiment of those misused words, the world would be much farther along the road to good health….

Pictures of the Dalai Lama are not allowed in Tibet. If I visited Tibet and wore my pendant containing the Dalai Lama’s likeness, any number of things could happen to me — if a Chinese guard or soldier saw it, it would be taken from me and that would be the easiest thing I would have to endure. Would my American passport protect me from a government that shoots Tibetans in the back when they try to cross the Himalayas into India?

When the Chinese army marched into Tibet, the Dalai Lama, then a young man, asked the US for help. The American government did nothing because there was nothing to be gained by helping a country that has no oil.

and so the genocide continues.

Where is the outrage over Tibet?

Why there’s blood on the Olympic rings

Boycott 2008 Olympics : Free Tibet & Darfur

a note from the Universe for all of you

“If it’s not yet obvious to you, the real reason for this season is you. A more perfect child of the Universe has never lived. Until now, only a celebration cloaked in myth and mystery could hint at your sublime heritage and divine destiny. You are life’s prayer of becoming, and its answer. The first light at the dawn of eternity, drawn from the ether, so that the Universe might know its depths, discover its heights, and frolic in endless seas of blessed emotion.

You are a pioneer into illusion, an adventurer into the unknown, and a lifter of veils. Courageous, heroic and exalted by billions in the unseen.

To give beyond reason. To care beyond hope. To love without limit. To reach, stretch, and dream, in spite of your fears. These are the hallmarks of divinity – traits of the immortal – your badges of honor. Wear them with a pride as great as the unspeakable pride we feel for you.

Your light has illuminated darkened paths, your gaze has lifted broken spirits, and already your life has changed the destiny of all who will ever follow.

This is the time of year we celebrate…each and every one of you.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

those of you who regularly read this blog know that I get “Notes from the Universe”, daily emails of inspiration. Sometimes they are right-on with whatever I am going through at the moment. This is the one I received today, specifically for me, but I’ve removed my name and put in…yours.

Religiously speaking, I am not Christian. I believe Jesus walked the earth, but he is not my personal saviour. I believe the spark of the Divine is everywhere, in everyone, in every thing. I don’t call the Divine “God”, for me it is about ishvara pranidhana, one of the niyamas as Patanjali wrote in the Sutra-s. It is about stepping outside the ego and connecting with the Highest Good, the Supreme Consciousness, the energy that pervades all life, whatever it is YOU call it. Ishvara pranidhana focuses on the sacred ground of being, reuniting us with our True Self. As B. K. S. Iyengar wrote in Light on the Yoga Sutras, “Through surrender the aspirant’s ego is effaced, and . . . grace . . . pours down upon him like a torrential rain.”

So Christmas has a different meaning to me and has had for a very long time. Jesus’ message was timeless and had nothing to do with any specific religion in my opinion. Other religions also have as their base what Jesus said — unfortunately it is certain believers who spin those messages for their own purposes and egos.

I really do not understand the frenzy that has become inextricably linked with the “holiday season” over the years. It is the new holiday ritual to show people’s craziness and greed on “Black Friday”, the day after Thanksgiving, the official start of the Christmas shopping season. Reporters now all over the country wait in anticipation as the doors open of a particular store, filming customers as they knock each other over to be the first one in for that half-price sale. Yup…nothing says Christmas like being trampled.

Call me stupid, but I think the “Christmas spirit” (does that phrase still have any meaning?) is better served if we try to live it all year round to the best of our abilities. Surrendering to that Highest Good, not just between Thanksgiving and New Years, but in each present moment and trying to live mindfully.

As His Holiness the Dalai Lama said:

“A religious act is performed out of good motivation with sincere thought for the benefit of others. Religion is here and now in our daily lives. If we lead that life for the benefit of the world, this is the hallmark of a religious life.

This is my simple religion. No need for temples. No need for complicated philosophy. Your own mind, your own heart is the temple: your philosophy is simple kindness.”

with metta and blessings of the season to all of you.

see peace
breathe peace
be peace

where is the outrage over Tibet?

(photo from ICT website)

Tibetan Monastery Surrounded by Military After Dalai Lama Award

“Tibetans in Tibet celebrated the award of the Congressional Gold Medal to the Dalai Lama last Wednesday despite a stepping up of security and severe restrictions on religious practice in Lhasa and areas of eastern Tibet.

One of the major monasteries in Lhasa, Drepung, is sealed off and surrounded by armed troops after police stopped an attempt by monks to peacefully mark the honor to the Dalai Lama last week. Another significant monastery in the city, Nechung, is also apparently closed. Tibetan sources report a buildup of armed police in the city, checkpoints on roads out of Lhasa, and an order to Lhasa citizens not to carry out any religious or celebratory activities.”

This upsets me. My teacher, Gelek Rimpoche, was among the the last generation of lamas educated in Drepung Monastery before the 1959 Communist Chinese invasion of Tibet. I am in the process of sponsoring a monk from this monastery.

Where is the outrage? Why has Tibet been ignored all these years? What is happening in Burma has been happening in Tibet ever since the 1940s.

Tibet: The Story of a Tragedy

If you want to know the story about Tibet, take an hour to watch this video.


buddhist monks protest in Burma

(photo credit: The Buddhist Channel)

How can anyone not be moved by the sight of thousands of Buddhist monks marching in peaceful protest against a military regime? Witnesses reported that the monks marched from their monasteries chanting the “Metta Sutta” (the Buddha’s words on loving-kindness.) The army has been told to be prepared to fire at demonstrators when the command is given and hospitals have been told to clear their wards.

The monks have vowed not to back down. Their alms bowls remain overturned. Which will prevail — metta or bloodshed?

For the last week, thousands of Burmese monks have marched against the repressive Burmese military regime in cities across that nation. This is the largest public demonstration against the junta in nearly 20 years. As the Alliance of All Burmese Buddhist Monks march, chant, and overturn their almsbowls (patam nikkujjana kamma), refusing to accept donations from members of the military regime, the Buddhist Peace Fellowship offers our full support and solidarity.

Monks Challenge Military Rule

Aung San Who?

Statement by the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, USA

There is an appeal to pause and meditate.

The monks of Burma are taking a great chance, trying to transform the the ruling military regime with metta (loving-kindness), quiet courage, and discipline.

They have asked the people of Burma and those who support them, to meditate and pray silently for 15 minutes at 2000 hours this Tuesday, tomorrow:

Will you join them? Thoughts are energy. Can we collectively send our thoughts of metta to Burma, indeed, to the entire world? Can you afford a mere 15 minutes of your time to concentrate on peace and loving-kindness?

2000 hours Rangoon time
1430 hours GMT
1030 hours New York
0830 hours Chicago
0630 hours Los Angeles
2030 hours Bangkok
2130 hours Kuala Lumpur/Singapore/Hong Kong
2230 hours Tokyo

Message from His Holiness the Dalai Lama
September 23, 2007

I extent my support and solidarity with the recent peaceful movement for democracy in Burma. I fully support their call for freedom and democracy and take this opportunity to appeal to freedom-loving people all over the world to support such non-violent movements.

Moreover, I wish to convey my sincere appreciation and admiration to the large number of fellow Buddhists monks for advocating democracy and freedom in Burma.

As a Buddhist monk, I am appealing to the members of the military regime who believe in Buddhism to act in accordance with the sacred dharma in the spirit of compassion and non-violence.

I pray for the success of this peaceful movement and the early release of fellow Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

will the real reincarnated Buddha please stand up?

Starting September 1, all reincarnated living Buddhas will first have to be approved by the Chinese government.

Excerpts from a recent news story on the website

“…The measures, which are deliberately targeted at one of the core belief systems of Tibetan Buddhism, reveal the Party’s agenda to undermine and supplant the Tibetan religious hierarchy and weaken the authority of legitimate Tibetan religious leaders including the Dalai Lama….

The new “management measures for the reincarnation of living Buddhas in Tibetan Buddhism”, which are described by the official press as “an important move to institutionalize the management of reincarnation” [emphasis added] were passed by the State Administration of Religious Affairs (SARA) for implementation from September 1. The Chinese authorities use the term ‘Living Buddhas’ to describe reincarnate lamas or tulkus, individuals who have consciously decided to be reborn, often many times, for the benefit of all others…

In the measures, the State Administration for Religious Affairs states that reincarnations of ‘living Buddhas’ who do not have government approval are “illegal or invalid” [emphasis added], which is intended to convey that the Tibetan system of recognizing and educating reincarnate lamas is no longer relevant, because it is the government that decides whether a reincarnation is a legitimate religious figure or not. The government intends this to apply even to tulkus who have been recognized some years ago by Tibetan religious authorities, as part of their systematic attempts to undermine the traditional religious hierarchy in Tibet….

These measures on reincarnation, and the fact that China continues to hold in custody the boy recognized by the Dalai Lama as the 11th Panchen Lama, Gendun Choekyi Nyima, are also part of the government’s efforts to ensure they are in a position of control over the next incarnation of the Dalai Lama [emphasis added]. But the Dalai Lama has clearly placed on record on numerous occasions that if the present situation regarding Tibet remains the same, he will be reincarnated outside Tibet away from the control of the Chinese authorities. Tibetans believe that individuals such as the Dalai Lama who have gained a high enough degree of meditative stabilization can choose their next rebirth…”

The notion that the Chinese government will now “govern” reincarnation strikes me as not only ridiculous but also Kafka-esque. The idea that “living Buddhas” need to be “approved” by the Chinese government would be hilarious if it weren’t so sad. It sounds like a good Seinfeld episode where instead of the Soup Nazi there would be the Buddha Nazi: “WHAT?!? YOU DON’T HAVE OFFICIAL GOVERNMENT APPROVAL TO BE A BUDDHA! GO AWAY! NO ENLIGHTENMENT FOR YOU TODAY!”

(Sigh)…don’t they know that everyone has buddha-nature?

I am curious to know what Chinese Buddhists think of this ruling. But since the number of readers from China stopped at 30 a long time ago which leads me to believe that this blog has been blocked in China, I guess we won’t be getting any comments posted from that country. That’s OK – I’ve been banned from more than a few places in my life (insert winking smiley.)

“I vow to awaken for the benefit of all beings, and to realize its immense value, and to know that it is possible in this life regardless of conditions.”




help free the Panchen Lama

Most of you know who the Dalai Lama is, but many people do not know that the Panchen Lama is the second most important figure in Tibetan Buddhism. The Panchen Lama traditionally recognises the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation. There will be consequences for Tibet if the recognition of the next Dalai Lama was to come under Chinese influence. The Dalai Lama has stated that if he dies in exile his reincarnation will be born in exile and not in Tibet.

From the Free Tibet website:

“In May 1995, Chinese occupying forces abducted the six year-old Panchen Lama from his home in Tibet. No one there has seen or heard from him since. His abduction was a crime not only against an innocent child, but against the Tibetan nation and its way of life.

The whereabouts and welfare of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima are still unknown more than 11 years since he was abducted by the Chinese authorities. China defied numerous calls on the case, including one from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child to “allow an independent expert to visit and confirm the well-being of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima whilst respecting his right to privacy, and that of his parents”.

Despite additional calls from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arnour, and the UK through the EU-China and the UK-China Human Rights Dialogues, China maintains that ‘the so-called Panchen Lama was a normal child, leading a healthy and happy life.'”

Help free the Panchen Lama by signing this petition

For more information about the Panchen Lama, read this post by my gal pal in India, Sirensongs.

Let’s try. Global community, global voices.



if you only had one hour…

…what would you ask the Dalai Lama?


“Why do the poor often seem happier than the rich? Must a society lose its traditions in order to move into the future? How do you reconcile a commitment to non-violence when faced with violence? These are some of the questions posed to His Holiness the Dalai Lama by filmmaker and explorer Rick Ray. Ray examines some of the fundamental questions of our time by weaving together observations from his own journeys throughout India and the Middle East, and the wisdom of an extraordinary spiritual leader. In an era when many religious and political leaders are viewed with suspicion, and when cynical agendas rule both government and clergy, the Dalai Lama is undeniably authentic. Along with Martin Luther King, Gandhi and Jesus, this great leader inspires millions and has influenced the world in so many ways. This is his story, as told and filmed by Rick Ray during a private visit to his monastery in Dharamsala, India over the course of several months. Also included is rare historical footage as well as footage supplied by individuals who at great personal risk, filmed with hidden cameras within Tibet. Part biography, part philosophy, part adventure and part politics, 10 Questions for The Dalai Lama conveys more than history and more than answers – it opens a window into the heart of a great man.”