Friday, December 23, 2011

Peaceful Holiday 2011

Another holiday season is upon us. As usual the holidays can stir up quite a lot of stress. When we combine this with the general unease that seems to pervade the world at the moment, it breeds difficulty and uncertainty into our daily life. And while many are caught up in the distractions that appear to be growing louder and more insistent, a lot of people are truly ready for some sort of shift in awareness that will change the dynamics of this situation.

In truth there is no other place to look than within ourselves. We are only going to find the way forward by turning inwards and getting our own house in order.

This holiday season let’s all try to be a little more forgiving and humble in our thoughts and actions. We always have a choice as to how we react in any given situation. Everyone has felt the energy change when an angry person walks into a room. Everyone gets a little on edge. Remember…this dynamic works both ways. If we can find a calm center within ourselves then we give others a reference point to find calmness within themselves. The holidays really need to be about cultivating peace and harmony in the world. Finding faults in others or laying blame for things elsewhere simply creates friction and unease.

2012 is around the corner. It is the Chinese Year of the Dragon. Change is here whether we are ready or not. It is time to stand in your place of wisdom and be present.

I wish you happiness, health and peace for this holiday season. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Poetry of Yoga

Poetry and Yoga… as inseparable as ocean and sand. Together they create a mirror glass reflecting the enlightenment inside of us. Yoga turns us inward as we discover the graceful flow of our bodies interacting with breath and spirit; poetry channels expression outwards, pouring in the shape of words onto paper. Letters bend as a yoga asana, creating paragraphs with our lives. Feelings unravel in the form of sentences buried deep inside.
HawaH, Creator & Visionary, The Poetry of Yoga

It is an honor to be included in HawaH's new book.
Please take a look at it if you have the time.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Revisiting the Tao

A recent wood carving of mine
The word Tao (pronounced daĆ¼) in Chinese means "the way," indicating a path of thought or life that concerns the essential unifying force of everything that exists in the universe. Taoism is following the way if living in harmony with that force. Many people on a spiritual path embrace the principles of the Tao without realizing it.

The Tao-te Ching is the earliest document in the history of Taoism. It is a viewpoint that emphasizes individuality, freedom, simplicity, mysticism, and naturalness. Considered one of the great philosophical works of ancient China, Tao-te Ching literally means “The Classic of the Way and Its Power.” The book is less than 5,000 words long and is very likely one of the oldest written texts in the world. Authorship of the Tao-te Ching is generally credited to a man named Lao-Tzu but knowledge of him is so scarce that only legends remain. His name itself, means “old master” or “wise sage” and his teachings are very pertinent in our modern world.

The Tao is all encompassing. Despite the appearance of differences in the world, within the Tao everything is one. Since all is one, matters of true and false or good and evil are irrelevant and only arise when people cannot see beyond their narrow perception of reality. Taoism is a system of philosophical thought that puts emphasis on the spiritual life instead of the material world. The Tao is considered unnamed and unknowable.  Followers of the Tao avoid wasting their energies on the pursuit of wealth, power, trivial knowledge and other distractions. Instead, they concentrate on the reality of life itself of breathing, moving and living in harmony with the natural world in the present moment.

Living the Way of the Tao can be expressed by the term wu-wei which means doing – not doing. This concept does not signify non-action, instead it refers to action without attachment to the action, action without thought of the action. This is very close to the concept of Zen.

The roots of Zen also come from ancient China as well as India and fundamentally focus on the concept of pure human spirit. It can be imagined as the integration of the disparate aspects of the self into one complete and divine being. Zen is also the foundation of the Bushido code, the way of the warrior. The samurai, who lived their lives at the edge of a sword and could die at any moment, were taught to concentrate on and immerse themselves in the here and now in order to connect with the fundamental core of their being. It helped them develop the powers of concentration, self-control, awareness and tranquility. If they approached each battle as if it were their last, they would be able to have every part of their being at their disposal.

Zen itself has no theory. It is not meditation. It is not thinking. It is not not-thinking. It is not something you learn. It is simply something you are. To practice Zen is to live fully and completely, not in the past or the future, but right here and right now.

As with the Tao, the power of Zen is in simplicity, and yet it teaches one to become a master of all things by learning to go with the natural flow of the universe. Trying to walk upstream against the river is pointless. It is better to accept that change is inevitable, learn to embrace it and make the most of it when it comes. Both of these concepts are based on simplicity. If you have no expectations, then everything that happens is a surprising success. If you have no desires, then everything you get is a bonus. It is being alive in the present moment, experiencing life as it happens and reacting to it in a calm and natural way. It is living fully and completely.

In the words of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, one of India’s most widely respected spiritual teachers, it is known as “aliveness.” It is a feeling independent of any outward forces. It is being happy without having a reason to be happy. The difficulty lies in reaching this state of being and experiencing it. It is easy to speak of it. Living it is another story.

Lao Tzu, in writing the Tao Te Ching, observed that plants, animals and humans are born supple and soft, yet when they die they are stiff and brittle. In order to experience the kind of “aliveness” Lao Tzu and Rajneesh are referring to, we must be supple and soft. We must breathe, move and relax. We need to learn to allow the soft and supple aspects of life to prevail. We need to pay attention. That which is hard and stiff will be broken.

The modern lifestyle in our Western world runs counterproductive to the concepts of  the Tao and Zen. We give the highest value to technology and progress, believing that we have unlimited resources to continue along the path we are traveling. We think it is our right to take as much as we can for ourselves regardless of how it impacts other people or the planet we live on. We embrace the distractions of media, television and technology because they allow us to ignore the real truth of our predicament. We are caught in a hoax where we acquire and discard anything and everything in an endless cycle of mindless consumerism that is rapidly destroying our world.

We have lost our grace. When the world rewards competition and selfish acquisition, while the ideas of cooperation and sharing are seen as a way to fall behind, something is wrong.

Living in Zen or embracing the Tao is about existing in the present moment. It is enjoying life regardless of the circumstances. It enables us to find the freedom to enjoy whatever we have at this present moment. It enables us to break free of the technological, consumerism trap we find ourselves in. We must recover our grace. True freedom is adapting to the infinite variety of life conditions without losing confidence in our ability to connect to the deeper spiritual essence within.

Being distracted is no longer a valid excuse. We should all be aware by now that we live on a finite planet and taking whatever we want goes against the natural flow of life. It will only lead to difficulty and disaster. It is not the way. To reclaim our grace we need to remember that we are all part of the whole. Help others. Give of your time and resources. We can only succeed together.

Wishing you much peace,


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Honoring the Journey

It is good to have an end to journey towards, but it is the journey that matters in the end.
--Ursula LeGuinn

Life itself is the journey. Learning the hard lessons of life and improving ourselves is a never-ending process. Often the lessons we are given appear as mistakes, misunderstandings or failures, but in truth the only mistake, misunderstanding or failure is not learning the lesson itself. If we don’t learn it the first time it is very likely that the lesson will be repeated over and over until we actually do learn it. We only realize that we have finally learned a lesson when our behavior and actions begin to change. Changing our actions and behavior takes place when we convert the knowledge we gain from the lessons into wisdom that we can apply to new situations. For some this process of conversion from knowledge to wisdom lasts a lifetime. For others, the wisdom gained moves them along the path more quickly until they reach a point where they need to go deeper within themselves in order to make further progress. 

The deeper journey takes place within the self once we have reached a point where the wisdom we have gained from the lessons tells us there is more work to be done. It is a journey that in which we become a seeker of a deeper wisdom that lies at the core of our being. The journey inward can be a perilous and frightening trek. In this journey we must peel away all of the masks and illusions our ego has created and look into our soul. We must start to realize that all of our actions and behaviors have consequences that may not be apparent at first glance. Many people are very good at fooling themselves and pretending what they do doesn’t have any real negative impact on their lives or the lives of others. Once we start that journey inwards we can no longer accept that illusion.

Most or us know that eating fast food, smoking cigarettes, and watching television are activities that can be detrimental to our body and mind, while strip mining, pesticides, and pollution are detrimental to the environment, but many people engage in these behaviors and fool themselves into thinking they are not actually causing any harm. They convince themselves their behavior is not bad enough to actually cause a problem or that they are personally strong enough to resist any negative vibrations that might result. It becomes too difficult to really look at their behavior and admit the truth of what they are doing to themselves or the planet we live on. The reason it is difficult is because if they were to admit that truth to themselves it would become impossible not to take action to change the behavior…and too often the behavior is easier, economical or pleasant than the alternatives. Instead they choose to pretend to be ignorant so that they can continue their behavior and perpetuate the illusion. However, admitting the truth to ourselves is, in fact, the only way forward on this journey.

Until we are able to turn our attention inwards and own what is ours, we are merely fooling ourselves. Yes, we may be fooling everyone else as well, but that doesn’t really matter. It is our self that we must live with. And the only way to do that is to wake up. It is time to wake up to ourselves. When we wake up to the present moment and our place in the world, we are truly on that journey inwards.

Waking up comes at different times for different people. Often it comes at a time when the path forward, continuing the same behavior, is no longer possible. People who have heart attacks from poor diet and exercise choices are a good example of this. They have reached a point where they must either change their behavior or their progress forward stops…dead. In this type of situation the journey becomes much more difficult because their body has abandoned them. And life only lasts as long as the body continues to function.

Waking up before there is no other choice is a much more agreeable option. If you are reading this it is likely that you have already made that choice. Recognizing that we have a choice and choosing to wake up takes place for many people when they have spent enough time in practices that develop mindful awareness of the present moment. In those practices we are able to find ourselves. The most effective practices for cultivating mindful awareness are meditation and deep, conscious breathing.

Meditation calms the flurry of thoughts in the mind and settles all of the hectic noise that seems to pervade every moment of our day. It gives us an opportunity to cultivate clarity of thought. Regular practice teaches us to create space between the thoughts for mindful awareness to blossom.  The simplicity of sitting in meditation belies the profound benefits of the practice. It provides a solid base to begin the process of waking up to the present moment.

Breathing is a fundamental action of our physical body, something we are doing all day, everyday, throughout our lives. For the most part, breathing is unconscious and shallow. The more we are able to become aware of our breathing, the deeper it becomes. With deeper breathing we are able to center ourselves. Conscious breathing is a practice done with both the body and the mind. The body executes the action while the mind brings quality and depth to the breath. This connection between the body and mind is essential to the journey inwards.

As our journey continues, we can begin to explore other practices that assist in deepening our experience. Meditation, tai chi, yoga, mindful eating, ceremony, ritual and communing with nature are all methods moving further along the path.

No matter what your practice, no matter where you find yourself along the path, take a moment to honor your journey. It may be a struggle at times and there may be demons you have to face, but the courage to face them grows stronger the more you use practice.

Your journey is unique. Embrace it and travel onwards.

Wishing you much peace.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Summer Gardens and Thoughts

Snake Terrace Garden
It is really quite amazing how quickly time passes in the summer. I've been spending so much time outside in the gardens, not to mention the woods or the horse farm, that there has been little time to get on the computer. And even when I do get on the computer I can't seem to get too excited about sitting in front of it. And with our Zen Yoga Retreats coming up we have plenty of work to do.

Of course part of it is that the summers here in the mountains of Vermont are short and you want to take advantage of it as much as possible. Another reason is simply that sitting in front of the computer gets old. Being out and experiencing life is a true joy. We tend to fool ourselves when we blog or text or surf the net, thinking we are interacting with other people and the natural world, but it just isn't true.

I've written a bit recently about the vibrational changes that many people are feeling taking place in the world. It is hard to turn a blind eye to these changes once you start to feel them.

We really need to take some time for ourselves. This time needs to be spent out in nature, away from the technological chains that are binding us to the modern world.

Ask yourself; When was the last time you stood in front of a huge bonfire and watched the flames dance into the night sky?

Strengthening our relationship with the element of Fire is vitally important. We take all of the energy we use for granted. We flick a switch and the lights come on.

This goes for the other elements as well. Are you aware of the water you use in daily life? Do you let the tap run while you are brushing your teeth?

We can no longer choose to be ignorant of these issues. There are too many of us on this planet and not enough of everything to go around. It is time to pay attention.

Spending time honoring the elements and nature should be a daily practice. We need to be a bit more humble in our approach to things. We are not the center of the universe.

Anyone needing a deeper exploration into these studies is welcome to join our SELF-MASTERY ONLINE COURSE - The Fundamentals of Zen Yoga

until next time...wishing you much peace

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Conscious Breathing

It’s time to focus on breathing again…

Breathing is essential to life, yet it often the most neglected aspect of any physical training program. The simple fact is that breathing is the fundamental aspect of our physical body. It is a continuous rhythm that runs throughout our whole life. The body can go for days, even weeks without food. It is able to survive two or three days without water. But it is virtually impossible to go without breathing for more than a few minutes. Without fresh oxygen to the brain the bodily systems quickly shut down and we die. Breathing is natural, and automatic, something we rarely tak e the time to notice, unless we are winded from a burst of exercise or emotional stimulation. This is fine for most people for much of their lives, since the body was created to work efficiently without having to pay attention to breathing. 

This normal, everyday breathing can be defined as subsistence breathing. The amount of oxygen taken in during subsistence breathing is sufficient for everyday life. It brings just enough oxygen into the body to keep it functioning. Imagine a subsistence farmer who works the land and scrapes just enough food together to feed his family. Quite possibly he can continue this way for many years. His existence, though meager, seems sufficient. But, what if there is an unforseen disaster, which affects his ability to continue, such as a prolonged drought, flooding, or an early frost? If the farmer has not stored up his reserves, then simple survival may be almost impossible. The same goes for breathing. Subsistence breathing, though meager, is adequate as long as the body is healthy and active. But what happens if there is an accident, sickness, or trauma? Without an excess of stored energy, there are no reserves to tap into when needed. It becomes difficult for the body to repair itself.

Conscious breathing is the process of becoming aware of the body’s inhalation and exhalation of air. Nearly four thousand years ago in ancient China and India people understood that becoming conscious of the body as it is breathing is the key to a long, healthy life. Just the action of noticing the breath brings our awareness to it and increases its quality. One of the most common themes in the teachings offered by spiritual leaders is the principle of internal cleansing, getting rid of that which is old, worn out, and stale, and exchanging it for what is new, fresh, and energized. That, of course, is the central principle of conscious breathing as well. During inhalation we are bringing in fresh oxygen, nutrients, and vital energy. During exhalation we are expelling carbon dioxide and other toxins and poisons that we produce or collect in our daily living.

Give yourself a few moments every day to take a few long, deep breaths. Stay focused on that moment and enjoy!

wishing you much peace,

If you want to learn more about breathing try Breathe Smart.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Taoist Path

Taoism is a 5,000 year old tradition. It is not really a religion but more a way of life. It is based on living in harmony with the natural world and uncovering the connection we have with all things. True Taoism or Inner Taoism (tao jia) is focused on the internal spiritual unfolding of the individual as he/she comes to an understanding of the forces of balance (yin/yang) and energy (chi or ki) that govern all of creation.

At the core of Taoism is the Tao. The Tao is all encompassing. It is the energy of everything in existence. Despite the appearance of differences in the world, within the Tao everything is one. Since all is one, matters of true and false or good and evil are irrelevant and only arise when people cannot see beyond their narrow perception of reality. Taoism is a system of philosophical thought that puts emphasis on a deeper exploration of life instead of the shallow materialistic world.

Taoism is a holistic tradition that addresses all three parts - body, mind, spirit - of the whole individual. The physical practice of Taoism is concerned with breathing and movement exercises to circulate energy and maintain health. The mental practice of Taoism is meditative in nature and focuses on introspection into the nature of existence. The spiritual practice of Taoism seeks to understand and reveal the grand interconnection of the universe and merge with it through esoteric and mystical experiences.

The Taoist masters of old recognized that most people are only recreationally spiritual, meaning that they are not really interested in anything beyond surface spirituality. Life is too hectic and busy to spend time in contemplation of the Tao. They developed simple exercises of energy circulation to enable people to live healthy, peaceful and successful lives. The idea was that if people practiced these arts for their own gain long enough, they would eventually stumble upon a deeper realization of the Tao and their connection to it.  

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Living in the Matrix

All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force…
We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind.
This Mind is the matrix of all matter.
---Max Planck

Max Planck was the German physicist who was generally regarded as the inventor of quantum theory. He was the first person to coin the term “the Matrix.” The concept of the matrix was popularized in the movie The Matrix starring Keanu Reeves. In the movie the matrix was the sinister creation of the machines that turned on mankind and created a reality to keep humans ignorant of the fact that they were being harvested for their energy.

The reason this movie resonated deeply with so many people is that there seems to be some kind of conscious awareness in the back of the mind, (a hintegedanke?) of the basic precept - that most humans spend their waking lives hypnotized by their sensory world, which gives them the illusion of a material world, while in reality, they are merely living in a construct, a world of thought created to keep them ignorant of their own place in the universe. Disconnected from their real identity and their creative potential, they wander through life unaware of what they are missing.

Now, the idea of a reality created by machines to subjugate humankind is pure fiction, yet it has a strange ring of truth that comes very close to something basic, almost primordial, deep within us. In daily life it is not uncommon to encounter people who seem oblivious to the reality of what is going on around them. These folks, when faced with the many unknowns of life and questions about its purpose, gradually relinquish conscious control in order to have their basic sensory needs satisfied. They are so plugged into their matrix that they become accustomed to being told what to eat, what to think, what to believe, and how to act. They get caught up because they lack an awareness of how potentially powerful their own thoughts are and of their connection to the whole.

Unfortunately, when people are caught up in the matrix, their thoughts and concerns revolve around competition and mistrust in all of their encounters. Their political, economic, religious, and social agendas become battlegrounds for flexing their misguided individuality. These people often feel as if there is much that remains unknown, yet blindly accept superficial answers to philosophical or existential questions because to find out more might shake the ground they are standing on. Their reality is the only reality.

For many, fear becomes the great motivator. Attempting to overcome fear by facing it becomes a constant obsession. Paranoia and violence are the acceptable norms because it provides a feeling of aliveness. For these people greed, lies, mistrust and a lack of care are rewarded and power becomes the ultimate goal.

Most of us are not ready to be unplugged from the matrix of our own minds. We have become too comfortable. By staying mindlessly connected to this construct of the ego, we remain trapped in their matrix, a prisoner of fear.

It can seem a rather bleak picture, yet one we cannot ignore if we are to become aware of our place in the web of life and the fundamental truth of existence: we create our own reality.

wishing you much peace,
the wandering sage 

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Web of Life

The idea that there is an intricate web-like structure connecting all things is not new. The concept of a web that connects all life has been used by philosophers, poets and mystics throughout the millennia to describe the interconnectedness of all things. Similar concepts are found in diverse traditions, both ancient and modern, throughout the world. It makes no difference from what angle it is viewed, ancient or modern, spiritual, religious, philosophical, or even scientific, the idea remains fundamentally the same - there is something that connects us with everything else in existence. 

While each of the various different views may define or describe the web of life in differing terms it always ends up resembling a network of interwoven strands creating a universal interdependence among all things.   

One way of describing this web is to call it The Mind of Nature. All living things are connected by the life force that flows through them. If you can imagine this connection as billions and billions of tiny weblike fibers linking all things in creation, you can begin to understand how we are intertwined within the web of life. This web is made up of the life force energy that is part of everything. And every living thing is part of the web. The plants and animals of the world including humans all have a relationship to each other. At the most basic level this is obvious. It is no accident that the oxygen we breathe is a by-product of the plants as they go through the life process of photosynthesis. Just as the carbon dioxide we exhale is exactly what plants require to live. 

But the connection goes even deeper than that. In The Secret Life of Plants Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird proved, in experiment after experiment, that plants have a much more complex interaction with the world around them, than we think they do. They react to thoughts, feelings and emotions in a manner that could be described as quite humanlike if we were to be so arrogant as to assume we are the ones that originally developed such reactions. This is the same for animals as well, yet humans often treat them as inferior beings.

The web of life links everything, but we, as individuals, seem to be blind to this linkage as we rush to cut down the forests and destroy the habitats of wild creatures. We don’t realize or care that we are damaging the web and, ultimately, ourselves. Nor do we understand that nature, with the web at its core, will respond – inevitable responds – to its mistreatment or mismanagement and will eventually take retribution in severe disruptions and major catastrophes within the human environment. 

The web is strong and resilient, but it is fragile at the same time.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Doing Something Different

The waters around our Ark seem to be moving ever swifter. This phenomenon has been called the Quickening or Earth Changes. Whatever name you decide to give it, the bottom line is that for many people there is finally a dawning recognition of the dramatic changes we are facing in the world as events begin to impact daily life. This brings with it a palpable sense of upheaval and disturbance that can breed fear and uncertainty. And while many people are scared or confused at the disruptions that are taking place, they fail to recognize their own behavior that continues to contribute to the situation.


At a fundamental level these changes are vibrational. Everything is vibrating. We are all in a state of energetic vibration. However as the finite limits of the planet are neared these vibrations are starting to shift and grow in intensity. With the increasing intensity we start to become more aware of the vibrations. These vibrations can affect our lives in many ways, but most often it results in higher levels of stress and tension during the daily interactions we have.

Dealing with these vibrations can be a challenge as they can often be very destabilizing to our inner equilibrium. At times, it can even seem as if everything is on the verge of falling to pieces.
People in the spiritual community have more skills to deal with these vibrational shifts than the average person. They usually have some type of meditative and/or healing modalities that help to counter effects of shifting vibrational energy fields, yet even those who are grounded in spiritual practices can be knocked off balance by people or events beyond their control. In addition modern technologies including phones, computers and televisions create their own vibrational fields that disrupt our connection to the planet. Becoming aware of these vibrations is imperative if we are going to move forward towards a more enlightened way of being.

Modern society appears to have reached another important crossroad. We have had a number of opportunities in the recent past and it is hard to know how many more there will be. Like the pendulum that swings from one extreme to the other, our way of living has reached the point where going forward in our destructive all-consuming manner is no longer feasible. As a civilization we have come to consider the Earth, the plants, the animals, other human beings and everything else, whether it is nailed down or not, resources to be exploited. This no longer serves us (it never did to begin with) and we must do something different.

Relationship with the World

Long ago humans lived in harmony with the world around them. They had a relationship with spirit, and an underlying reverence for the life-force that flowed through everything. They entrained with the vibrations of the Earth. From the Celtic concept of dana to the Chinese tao, people used to live in reverence of the world and pay homage to the spirit that exists within all things. And that spirit was strong within them. We need to return to this way of being. Our connection to the world is vital to our survival. We need to break out of the shell created by the vibrations of the technological distractions of the world. We need more time with the trees and the animals. We need to listen to silence.

Global awakening was never going to come from the top down. It must start with each of us as individuals. We can continue headlong over the edge of the abyss or step back and turn down a different path. And while many have chosen to relinquish their will and courage to embrace the excessive materialism of today, many others are starting to feel unsatisfied with that world.

It is imperative we regain our sensitivity to the vibrations, lest we become like those doomed animals in Pink Floyd’s “Sheep” Meek and obedient we follow the leader down well-trodden corridors into the valley of steel.

Changing Your Mind

I have always believed that if you always do what you’ve always done you will always get what you have always gotten. The logical conclusion to this is that if you are unsatisfied with what you have then in order to change that you need to do something different. This is easy to say but can be extremely difficult to put into practice. This process starts in the mind. You have to make a mental commitment first if you want to succeed at this.

A great cycle is coming to an end and a new age is dawning. It is time to turn away from the lower vibrations. It is time to focus on our spiritual development and vibrate on a different wavelength.
10 Things to Do To Change Your Life

  1. Turn off the television. Unplug it. Toss it out the window. Everyone enjoys a movie or show sometimes, but end your relationship with commercial television today.
  2. Spend at least one day a week away from the computer, phone and internet. No calls, no emails, no Facebook…just leave it alone for a whole day and see if you can notice a vibrational difference.
  3. Grow a plant from a seed. Water it, nurture it, experience it growing.
  4. Cultivate a relationship with a tree. Sit with it and see if you can learn something.
  5. Give up junk food. No excuses, just stop eating low vibration food.
  6. Give thanks to spirit at mealtimes for the blessing of having food to eat
  7. Learn a new spiritual discipline like yoga, tai chi, meditation, tea ceremony, or anything that teaches you to be more mindful.
  8. Learn to play a musical instrument. It doesn’t matter if it is a harmonica, drum or trumpet, allow the vibration of music to move through you.
  9. Walk outside in nature everyday. Feel the vibration.
  10. . Make someone else feel good about themselves.
We stand on the threshold of a profound shift in our world. Wake up, strengthen your body and clear your mind. There is much work to be done.

Wishing you much peace.

The Zen Yoga Website is being revamped...please stop by and let me know what you think.


Friday, April 1, 2011

Intention Mind: Manifesting Reality

The Path Ahead

The Body of our Ark is being repaired and we are under way. Our mind is clearing as we journey onward. The path ahead may be fraught with uncertainty, but we possess the ability to direct our lives. There may be times when our way is obscured, but doubt and fear have no place in the Peaceful Mind. As the mind quiets, we begin to take notice of our lives. Like taking a moment to peer over the railing of your Ark, you are become aware of the ebb and flow of life and the world as it washes around you.

The Ordinary Mind

The Ordinary Mind is just what it sounds like. It is the state of our normal waking consciousness, that part of the self that is concerned with day-to-day living. It is where all of our likes and dislikes live. It is where our emotions are created and acted upon as we respond to our environment and the other living beings we encounter. The Ordinary Mind is a state of going through the motions of life without being aware of actually living.

Before beginning meditative practices the Ordinary Mind is often a chaotic jumble of fragmented thoughts, emotions, regrets, desires, and memories of past experiences (and of course the nonstop reverberation of advertising jingles…if you haven’t unplugged yet.)
As the Ordinary Mind becomes peaceful we notice an awareness within us. This awareness is our higher self. By bringing peace to the Ordinary Mind we enable that higher self to grow. Usually it is noticed at moments of peak experience when we are tuned into the flow of the present moment. That awareness of the present moment is based on intention.

The Intention Mind

If the Ordinary Mind is the navigation system of our Ark then the Intention Mind is the pilot. The Intention Mind enables us to make choices about how we live and how we act. It has the ability to clearly focus on the path ahead. Intention is a concentrated focus of the mind, causing the occurrence of events in our lives. When you intend to do something, you have the ability to cause it to happen. The action of Intention Mind plants that seed which, if allowed to grow undisturbed, will eventually attract to itself all the conditions necessary for its manifestation in outward tangible form. Learning to stay present is training intention. Training intention creates the potential to be successful in whatever you attempt.

Which brings us to the discussion of…

Manifesting Reality

Manifesting reality is something that sounds absolutely wonderful in theory, but doesn’t always work in practice. The reason for this gap is undisciplined intention and the misdirection of focus.

The Intention Mind provides the focus to manifest a better reality. However, there are challenges. The more scattered and unsettled the Ordinary Mind is, the harder it is for the Intention Mind to stay on course. The undisciplined, unconscious thoughts of the Ordinary Mind are contributing to the manifestation of your reality. It can be like having a monkey running around inside your head. Manifesting anything positive can be rather difficult with the monkey sabotaging your mental process. 

Misdirection of focus is even more troubling. While we actually do have the ability to create our own reality, it is not in the sense that most people tend to focus on. Manifesting reality is not a free pass to fill our lives with monetary wealth or material distractions, yet many people think that truly believing in the object of their desire and focusing on it will lead to that object or goal being realized. Of primary concern should be cultivating peace, joy, happiness, integrity, honor and purpose in life. If you are focused on material gain you are missing the point.
Start by recognizing where you are right now. The present reality you are living in is a direct result of the actions, behaviors and thought processes you have engaged in throughout your life. You have created the reality you exist in already. If you don’t like who you are or what you are doing, it may be time to take a long look at the choices you have made and determine the role they have had in creating the reality you are living in. Everything we are is a direct result of our actions and behaviors. Manifesting reality is not something you start doing now to get something in the future. It is what you have been doing your whole life and the reality you exist in now is a result of what you have already manifested.

If you are not happy with the reality you are living in, perhaps it is time to do something different.

Further Training:
The Inner Sunrise CD is a guided meditation journey that can assist in calming the mind and relaxing the body.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Prayer for Japan

Remembering Ourselves

The Earth quakes
The Water flows
And Ripples Through the World
Sending waves of Fear and Doubt
Of Life and Death Unfurled
Today it’s Here
Tomorrow Where?
The Time has Come
We are not Separate from this Earth
Not Separate from 
Each Other
by Aaron Hoopes, 2011

Please keep the people of Japan in your prayers, however you may pray.

And for everyone who is overdosing on Media


Remember Now
The Time has Come
To do Important Things
Go Outside
Touch the Earth
Breath, and Cry and Sing
I Know It’s Hard
A Very Tough Decision
Make it Now
Turn it Off
Unplug your Television

by Aaron Hoopes, 2011

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Peaceful Mind: Noticing the Flow

As we continue building our Ark it is helpful to have some idea as to where we are and where we are going. Your mind is the navigation system for your Ark. Having it working properly is essential if you want to get anywhere. Unfortunately, many of us are overwhelmed by the excessive stimulus of our technological society. There is so much out there vying for our attention, it can be difficult to discern what is useful and what is merely distraction.

For many, the practice of meditation instills an ability to gain some control over the, often hectic, thought process of the mind, the success of which is usually in direct proportion to the amount of time actually spent in meditation. If you throw a handful of dirt into a glass of water and shake it up, you have a glass of muddy water. If you set the glass aside and allow things to settle, the dirt sinks to the bottom and the water becomes clear. This is the basic meditation process. The mind is the glass of water, the swirling dirt makes up the myriad thoughts we have filling our heads during every waking moment of every day, and meditation is setting the glass aside to allow the thoughts to settle. It's that simple.
Most of the time we spend our days listening to this nonstop monologue inside our heads. Do this, go there, buy that, eat this, look there, smell that, I like this, I hate that, she’s funny, he’s smart, I wonder if, etc. It never ends. From the moment we wake to the moment we go to sleep, the chatter continues unabated in our heads. On and on it jumps from subject to subject, idea to idea, emotion to emotion, and thought to thought like a butterfly flitting from flower to flower, occasionally stopping to drink more fully of some idea or thought, and then off again. Sometimes, when it finally does stop on one subject it clamps onto it tightly, causing us to think continuously about it, processing the subject from every angle over and over until it borders on or becomes an obsession. We have all experienced this at some point when we have stressed about something so much that it seemed to consume us - maybe it was an unexpected money issue or a personal confrontation with someone. We can get so caught up in the worrying that even eating and sleeping become difficult. Our glass of water can get very our Ark starts to drift off course.

Mind Like Water 

In traditional martial arts the concept of Mind Like Water is used to define the state of perfect readiness in preparation for executing a response to any given situation. Imagine a pool of water. If you throw a pebble into the center of the pool, the water ripples out in a totally appropriate response in relation to the force and mass of the input. The water’s reaction is in exact proportion to the size of the pebble. If we toss a big rock into the pool, we get a large splash and bigger ripples. Each and every time the response is exactly as it should be, given what we throw into the pool. The water doesn’t overreact with a huge splash when a small pebble is thrown in. Nor does it under react with a small splash when a boulder is dropped into it. When applied, this concept can be very useful for anyone in the process of navigating through the distractions of daily life.
Water is shapeless. If you put water into a glass it becomes the glass. If you pour it into a bucket it becomes the bucket. It reacts to any situation just as it needs by following the path of least resistance. If you place a large rock in a mountain stream, the water will find a way to flow around the rock and continue on.
Mind Like Water is the process of mindful awareness. When our minds are full of thoughts and distractions, we have difficulty responding effectively to situations that come up. If we have too much stuff going on in our heads, we can miss opportunities or fall into difficult situations. On the other hand, if we are focused on the present moment, we are able to see our situation clearly and react in an appropriate and effective manner. We basically become ready for anything that life puts before us. In this way we are able to bring a sense of calmness and peace to our lives.

Training the mind to flow like water is done with meditation. Find a moment to sit and imagine a gently flowing stream. Breathe and stay present. If a thought comes into your mind, step back from it and visualise it as a leaf that falls to the stream and floats away.  Stay with the breath. It is your link between your mind and body.

A peaceful mind is smoothly able to navigate the landscape of life with all its distractions, interactions and altercations. Then, all we need to do is determine where we are going.

Intention Mind: Manifesting Realit

Further Reading
Perfecting Ourselves contains some in-depth practices for training the mind.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Body: Maintaining the Structural Integrity of Your Ark

Your body is the foundation of your Ark. When building any structure, if you want it to last, it needs to have a strong foundation. The pyramids of Egypt and South America have lasted thousands and thousands of years because they are built with a firm, solid base. You wouldn’t start building a pyramid from the top down, or build it upside down with the point on the ground and widening out at the top. Your structure needs to have a foundation that will support everything that you place on top of it. The same goes for the metaphorical Ark we are building to meet the wave of changes that are rolling towards us. You wouldn't build your Ark out of brittle, rotten or termite-infested wood.

Our body is the foundation of our being. It is our physical presence in this world. The better we care for it, the longer it is able to function effectively. Unfortunately, modern society is starting to make caring for our body more difficult. The sedentary lifestyle of our age, brought on by technological innovation and cheap energy, has made everything excessively convenient. We have evolved into a people who spend most of our time sitting at a computer, behind the wheel of a vehicle or blooped out in front of the TV.

But it is not just the sedentary lifestyle that is a problem. Our diets have changed as well. With the population of the planet closing in on 7 billion, food production has had to adapt to meet the growing demand. Sadly, much of the response to the demand has resulted in a massive increase in food with little or no nutritional value. Processed foods, full of chemicals and preservatives, have become our staple diet. And while hopefully most people would agree on this point, the effort and attention it takes to monitor the food we eat is siphoned off by the numbing distraction of all the stuff we are preoccupied with.

Realistically, the eventual outcome from being sedentary and eating chemically processed food is some form of deterioration. Deterioration starts either with musculoskeletal difficulty in the bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons and nerves; or it affects the internal systems causing diabetes, cancer and a host of other non-communicable diseases.

Is your way of living drilling a hole in the bottom of your Ark?

Repairing Your Ark

The 18th Hexagram in the I Ching-Book of Changes is KU - Repair. It is about realizing that some of the perceptions and beliefs we have been taking for granted are incorrect. It is a time of diligence work and assertive action. Repairing your Ark requires sincerity and resolution.
This list provides some basic guides to plugging the hole in the bottom of your Ark, healing your body and reinforcing the structural integrity of the foundation of your being.

1. Breathe More. Breathe Deeper. I know, I repeat this often, but it is necessary. Getting more oxygen and energy into the body is vital to the process.

2. Rotate your Joints. The blood and energy get trapped and constricted in the joints. Rotating your joints opens the passageway for it to flow. Circle your wrists, elbows, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles regularly.

3. Stretch your Muscles. Stretching creates space for the blood and energy to flow into. There are stretches for every part of the body. Feel where you are tight and stretch there...gently.

4. Read the labels on the food you buy. Cut out processed food, chemicals and preservatives. Beware of artificial flavors and colors. Eat Smart.

5. Abandon Fast-Food Forever...really.

6. Go outside and spend time in the natural world. This is vital. We need to remember our connection with the Earth. That connection cannot be found on the Discovery channel. You need to touch it and breathe it.

7. Persevere. Nothing of value is gained without effort. Cultivate the discipline to keep your attention focused. Don’t be Distracted!

Obviously, repairing your Ark is not always necessary if you are already practicing much of the items on the list. However, there may be times when we need a little upkeep here and there.

With the bottom of our Ark on the mend we can begin to focus on our navigation system.

Next: Peaceful Mind: Noticing the Flow



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Friday, February 11, 2011

Ark: Preparing for 2012

While there is much speculation on the precise meaning and significance of 2012, it is not in dispute that 2012 marks a moment in time when a rare event takes place. On the winter solstice of 2012 our Sun and Earth come into precise galactic alignment with the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. This is an event that happens once every 12,960 years. This is not a prophecy. It is not a conspiracy theory. It is a scientific, astronomical fact. It is an occurrence that civilizations of ancient times deemed important enough to track and monitor for thousands of years. While the Mayan calendar is most often cited, Egyptian, Celtic, Islamic and Vedic metaphysical traditions all had knowledge of the importance of such an event.

We, in our modern, technological world have forgotten much of this knowledge. Though it would probably be fair to say that most people 12,960 years ago were probably just as ignorant of the event. It is usually only those who take the time to put all of the pieces together who are able to see the big picture. Be that as it may, it is time to start paying attention.

The idea of 2011 being the time to build an ark for a proverbial flood of 2012 is a metaphor for the age we are living in. Whether we are prepared to admit it or not, fundamental change is upon us as a civilization. Our population has grown to an unsustainable size. The resources of the planet are rapidly being used up. The climate is going haywire. Change is upon us. Most people are probably starting to notice at least something is happening to our planet. As it accelerates, this change is very likely going to wash away much of the excess and overindulgence we have become so accustomed to.

And while this may seem like doom and gloom to those who are attached to the material distractions of an unbalanced world, the changes have the potential to usher in a profound stage of spiritual evolution for the planet as a whole.

Building an ark to weather this change is a logical and necessary process if we want to thrive in the new age we are headed into. For our ark is nothing less than a harmonization of the five aspects that make up our being: Body, Mind, Heart, Soul and Spirit. Refining and polishing these aspects will enable us to more easily adapt to the changes 2012 and the future have in store for us and the planet.

In the next 5 weeks I will discuss each of these in turn.

Next: Body: Maintaining the Structural Integrity of your Ark

If you are eager to go deeper try our Online Learning Courses

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Year of the Yin Metal Rabbit

February 3, 2011 marks the beginning of the Chinese Year of the Rabbit.

The ferocious Yang Metal Tiger of 2010 has left some scratches on the world.
Is it enough to wake us from our distractions?

The year of the Tiger is traditionally associated with massive changes and social upheaval. 2010 will not be a quiet or peaceful year. We are very likely to experience erratic circumstances that we will need to adapt to quickly. --- last year’s post

Fortunate we are that the Year of the Yin Metal Rabbit has begun.

The Rabbit brings a relatively calmer energy. It is an animal of peace, introspection and luck.

2011 brings the message Slow Down
Remember to Breathe

Rabbit is the symbol of the moon
Metal is the symbol of contraction
Yin is peace

It is time to turn the attention inwards and begin to look at ourselves, our home, our family, our nation, our beliefs, our race, our planet.

This is a moment in time to make some decisions as to how you want this whole thing to go.

2011 is the year to build your ark

2012 is the Yang Water Dragon

intelligent comments welcome

Next: “Ark”

Zen Anti-Diet: Mindful Eating for Health, Vitality and Weight Loss

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Exercise and the Obstreperous Mind

We all know the benefits of exercise. It makes us Breathe. The oxygen enters the bloodstream while the heart pumps it through the body to the muscles, ligaments and tendons that are being used. It helps keep the body healthy and alive. The question is, why does exercise become such a burden at times in our lives?

Everyone has felt a lack of motivation for exercise at some point in their lives. Many feel it regularly. As with most of the major challenges we face, the main culprit can probably be found inside ourselves. In this case, the biggest hurdle to effective exercise is an obstreperous mind. Obstreperous means unruly. An obstreperous mind is one that doesn’t submit to discipline or control. It is an immature monkey in the library of our being.

The obstreperous mind feeds on the distractions and stimulations of the hectic outside world. When this happens we lose sight of what is really important. We start to think and consider all the various options, possibilities and permutations. We begin to get stressed. Stress scatters our attention and gets us worrying about irrelevant things. We start to run out of time for anything. It can quickly get out of hand if the body is in a weakened state. Even if we realize we are stressed, we have difficulty doing something other than try to laugh it off.

I’m soooo stressed out, haha!

Without focus and control, the monkey is in charge.

However, if we are able to breathe a little and move the body a bit, we can start to get the obstreperous mind under control. Exercise doesn’t have to be vigorous. All we need are some simple breath and movement exercises to get stared. It is an upward spiral as the more we breathe and move, the stronger our bodies get. The energy we generate begins to flow through us, breaking up stagnation and revitalizing us. This affects the mind in a positive way. Exercise focuses the obstreperous mind and disciplines the monkey.

Daily life in the modern world can be extremely distracting and often make it quite challenging to remain centered. Life can get difficult and confusing. In order to navigate the challenges one needs a healthy body and an unobstreperous mind.

Wishing you much peace...

Please visit my new Zen Anti-Diet page.
Mindful Eating for Health, Vitality and Weight Loss.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Cultivating Silence

How many people do you know who need to have the television or radio on continuously when they are alone? How many people do you know who talk just to fill what they feel is an uncomfortable silence? Silence should not be uncomfortable. Yet many people avoid it like the plague. The reason is that silence offers an opportunity to examine the inner self, something many people simply don’t feel comfortable doing. To open our inner self to the light of day is to acknowledge that some of the behaviors in our lives are not healthy and may not be contributing to the health of the planet. It becomes all the more important to begin this process as the difficulties in the world escalate. Only if we can care for ourselves will we realize the necessity of caring for the Earth. Silence is a wonderful place to start the process.
In silence, life slows down of its own accord. You begin to experience the beauty and joy of life more intensely. Cultivating this serenity brings a deeper appreciation of your own life and the world around you as you begin to truly observe what is happening and as your body learns to relax and function naturally without the blockage that stress and tension bring.
Put aside five minutes in the morning to be silent. No talking, no TV, no radio - just silence. See if you can find one moment where there is absolutely no sound. In today’s bustling world this is much harder than imagined. Try to experience that moment. Keep it with you throughout the day. Spend another silent five minutes in the evening. Notice the feelings that emerge during your silent time. See if you can get used to silence and make it a comfortable feeling. Next try to expand the time frame, ten minutes of silence, an hour, two hours. Refrain from talking for as long as possible for a day. Only speak when spoken to and then reply only after you have taken a moment to think seriously about what the other person said. The silence should be reflected in your actions as well. Try to do everything quietly. It might be helpful to inform those around you before you begin this exercise. They might even decide to join you in silence!

wishing you much peace...
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