MARK YOUR CALENDAR!
Sundays beginning August 16, 2015
8:00 (prompt) to 8:45 am
(9:00 Hatha yoga follows for those who wish to stay)
at Inner Sun Yoga Studio
716 Oregon St. Oshkosh. WI
Free Will Offering
For more information, contact Lauri Ann Lumby at (920) 230-1313 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Today’s blog explores one spiritual practice that helps us to integrate the principles described in yesterday’s guest blog, and chapter six in my book, Authentic Freedom – Claiming Contentment and Joy.
As we were reminded in yesterday’s blog by guest blogger, Swami Nithyananda, if we are seeking love in our lives, the first thing we need to acknowledge is that love is NOT something we can get from another person. Love is not a commodity to be bought, sold, earned or denied. Love is our very nature and therefore can only be found within ourselves. If we seek to have loving relationships with others, we have to start by knowing the love within ourselves…only then can we be unconditionally loving toward ourselves and toward another. When we know the love that we are, we resonate with the energy of that love and reflect it out into the world. In doing so, others are reminded of their own loving nature and may also decide to seek to know the love with themselves.
Coming to Know this Love
The journey to knowing the love that we are has many possible paths. For me, I have found knowing God through scripture, meditation, prayer, ritual, worship, service, contemplation, writing, being in nature and working with amazing teachers (including my therapist, spiritual director, family, friends, etc. ) have all been helpful and supportive vehicles for coming to know this love. There is one tool, however, that I have found to be most helpful (for me anyway) and that is the practice of Bhakti Yoga.
Devotion to the Beloved
Bhakti yoga is the spiritual practice of intense devotion to “The Beloved.” While this practice has been officially named as such by the Hindu and Yogic traditions of India, the practice of devotion has also been a big part of the Hebrew and Christian traditions. In this practice, meditation, prayer, chant, and worship are focused and directed toward the Divine imagined as our lover and beloved. In the Yogic tradition, the Divine might be imagined as Krishna, Radha, Shiva, Shakti, etc. In the Hebrew tradition, we may direct our attention toward Adonai, Elohim, the Shekinah, YHWH. In the Christian tradition, devotion is directed toward Jesus. The specific tool that I have found to be most helpful in this practice of devotion is sacred chant or Kirtan.
Hare Krishna/Hare Christos/Hare Adonai
In Bhakti yoga, one of the primary tools of devotion to the beloved is chant or Kirtan (chant done in a call and response format). Chanting the names of the beloved is said to change our own vibration to more closely reflect the love of the Divine and to bring us into resonance with the love that is our truest nature. In chanting the sacred names, we are healed, transformed, brought into harmony with the Divine in love, peace and joy. The Hare Krishna chants, those to Rama, Radha, Sita, etc. all work toward this end. The exciting thing is that in the Hindu and Yogic traditions, these names are universal…meaning that they all reflect aspects of THE ONE GOD and therefore transcend belief, dogma, doctrine or denomination. I have embraced this practice, holding my personal guru (Jesus) in my mind while chanting these sacred names and have experienced great benefit from this practice. I find that chanting the sacred names helps me to calm my monkey mind and to find the peaceful calm within that I had previously found to be elusive and nearly impossible to attain. Additionally, I have found that I have come to know more deeply the love within that is more reflective of my truest nature. I have found that life flows more freely and effortlessly. I know more freedom and joy and my external relationships more closely reflect a deep and abiding love.
So, here is a little You Tube clip of George Harrison engaged in his own practice of Bhakti- devotion to the beloved….and a great way to get started on your own path to finding the fulfillment of love: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X7eFQMakhDE
Authentic Freedom Ministries
Love, relationships, desire, passion….all things that drive the human experience. How do we stay grounded in wholeness and not get thrown out into the ethers as we try to cultivate healthy, intimate, loving relationships? I certainly don’t have the answers….but I do know of a spiritual practice that does help us in our quest for love.
Teaching what I need to Learn
I’m just saying this from the get-go……I know nothing about love. I used to think I knew everything….then I got married, had joy, suffered loss, struggled, got divorced. Apparently I didn’t know everything….and there are a billion lessons I have learned being in relationship with one individual for nearly 20 years. Much of what I learned were all the things I did wrong and all the illusions I brought into the relationship that later proved to be false, along with all my unhealed childhood wounds that probably made an enduring relationship impossible from the start. And while it is easy to be jaded or disillusioned about partnership, I find I still want healthy intimacy and still long for an enduring partnership. HHHMMMM Maybe I’m human.
While it would be really easy to say, “I will just be alone. I know how to do that and I do it well,” I also recognize that as human beings, we are programmed to be in relationship. We are a relational species and function best when in partnership and living in community. So, while there is a profound temptation to escape into the woods into a hermitage all my own, I also recognize that we are all called to partnership and to seek out healthy intimacy. The problem is that sometimes this longing comes out sideways and compels us into compulsive, co-dependent, addictive, unhealthy behaviors. This is where spiritual practice becomes all the more necessary and beneficial toward our goal of healthy partnership.
Coming out Sideways
There is one primary fear and its resulting compulsion that drives the “coming out sideways” behaviors of our inborn drive for partnership. In chapter six of my book, Authentic Freedom – Claiming a Life of Contentment and Joy, we explore the fear and its compulsion in detail. In summary….the fear is, I am not loved and the compulsion is Envy. When we have forgotten that love is our very nature, is who we are and who we are called to be, we seek for love outside ourselves, falsely believing that “that perfect someone” will make us feel whole, complete, loved. WRONG! There is nothing outside of us that can do any of these things. Love, fulfillment, completion, wholeness are inner qualities and can only be found by seeking and journeying inward. The good news, however, is that as we come to know the love that we are within ourselves, our external, intimate and personal relationships begin to reflect this love. So in our search for healthy intimacy, the journey starts within!
Seeking and Finding the Beloved – the Practice of Bhakti Yoga
There is a beautiful spiritual practice that comes from the Hindu/Yogic tradition called Bhakti Yoga. Bhakti yoga is the yoga of devotion, specifically, devotion to the “Beloved” within. What is amazing to me is that this kind of practice is also present within both the Hebrew and Christian traditions, perhaps less obviously so, but it is there. In Bhakti yoga, our spiritual practice is given over to rapt attention upon the Divine Beloved that resides within. One might image the Divine Beloved as any of the Hindu expressions of the Divine – Krishna, Ganesh, Kali, Radha, etc. In the Christian tradition, Jesus. Mary Magdalene or Mother Mary would be the image, in the Hebrew Tradition – YHWH or his forgotten feminine consort – Asherah. And what is great about Bhakti practice is that it can take many forms, the focus being attention to the image of the Divine Beloved while engaging in whatever spiritual practice you might feel called to in the moment- Chant, Meditation, Yoga, Creative endeavors, etc. The goal is to keep your mind fixed upon the image and the idea of the Beloved, allowing one’s self to connect more and more fully with the abundant outpouring of Love embodied by the Beloved and to sink more and more fully into remembering the Love that we are as reflected by the Beloved. As Bhakti practice unfolds, we eventually find that there is no longer the illusion of separation between ourselves and the Divine Beloved, but that we have become one. In this space, we remember fully the love that we are and freely and generously live that out in the world and our outward relationships begin to reflect the knowledge of this love.
If you live in the Fox Valley area and are interested in exploring this topic more deeply, I am offering a program, Conquering Co-Dependency and Opening to the Fulfillment of Love on Monday evenings starting on Monday, September 26th. Just know….this is the teacher teaching what she needs to learn….and we will all be students in this process!
Where are you seeking outside yourself for “the person who will complete me?”
What kind of healthy intimacy do you long for?
How can you begin that search through connecting with the Divine Beloved that resides within?
Authentic Freedom Ministries
How are we being called to love God and to be loved in return?
Listen! My beloved!
Look! Here he comes,
leaping across the mountains,
bounding over the hills.
My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag.
Look! There he stands behind our wall,
gazing through the windows,
peering through the lattice.
My beloved spoke and said to me,
“Arise, my darling,
my beautiful one, come with me.
See! The winter is past;
the rains are over and gone.
Flowers appear on the earth;
the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves
is heard in our land.
The fig tree forms its early fruit;
the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.
Arise, come, my darling;
my beautiful one, come with me.
My beloved is mine and I am his.”
Song of Songs
I’m a Freak
I do not expect anyone to comprehend or understand the way in which I have experienced the love of the Divine. If I lived in India, I could say that I was a practitioner of Bhakti Yoga. Indians understand the call to devotional practice, where we accept the invitation to believe that we are the lover and the Divine our beloved. In the Western world, if you try to express this, people just look at you crosseyed. Well, look at me crosseyed if you will….but I love God….passionately, devotedly, overwhelmingly…..more importantly, I know and have experienced God’s love for me….and for all of creation. I do not wave this around as a flag of my own accomplishment because quite frankly, I can only hold this as the overwhelming, profound, humbling gift that it is. This experience of Divine love, I consider to be pure Grace – something that we receive not because we deserve it or because we prayed the right way or the appropriate number of times….it is simply gift – undeserved, unbidden, unearned. Pure, Grace. Neither can this experience truly be described….it is as if your heart is filled with a warm, bright light and expands beyond thought, beyond reason, beyond the universe and we are able to get a tiny glimpse into the heart of God and what we are able to see is a love beyond all love, beyond all imaginings, beyond any ideas of separation or judgment…certainly beyond any thought of sin or condemnation. God is love, pure love, nothing less.
But, there is something that makes me sad
This love of God is so far beyond what we can possibly imagine or ever experience in our human condition. This is the love that Jesus spoke of….Teresa of Avila, Francis of Assisi, John of the Cross, Hildegard of Bingen, Rumi, Hafiz, Rilke, Yogananda, and all the Indian masters. So if this love of God is so magnificent…..why are we still talking about punishment, condemnation, sin, judgment, etc. etc. etc. This makes me so sad. How can one get across to a fearful world that God loves….PERIOD…..and that this love does not have to be earned, neither can it be taken away. God loves….God is love…..love is God. And……not only does God love…..but God wants nothing more for us than to know this love. This is why I LOVE LOVE LOVE the book from the Hebrew scriptures, Song of Songs. There is absolutely NOTHING else that expresses the passionate love of God for us and the invitation for us to love God in return with a passion that might even be considered erotic!!!! In this poem, we are invited to recognize that we are God’s beloved and to accept the invitation to be God’s lover in return. Scandalous, I know! 😉
Still a Freak
So, I’m still a freak. I love God and enjoy with a bliss beyond all bliss the way that God loves me….more importantly, the way that God loves all of humanity, all of creation. I see the love. I feel the love…..and I know I am the love. In my world, there is absolutely nothing better than sitting in meditation and feeling this love, giving honor to this love through my yoga practice, observing this love move through me as I share my gifts with others. And, there is nothing worse than the moments I feel absent of this love….but it is during those moments of perceived absence that I find comfort in knowing, “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.”
How have you experienced God’s love in your life?
How are you being invited to perceive and realize this love more fully?
Authentic Freedom Ministries
Today’s blog comes to you from the Huffington Post. I could not have said it better myself! Thank you Radhanath Swami. Here is the link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/radhanath-swami/in-search-of-a-lost-love_b_833474.html
And, here is the link to Radhanath Swami’s website if you are interested in learning more about his ministry, books and the practice of Bhakti Yoga. : http://www.radhanathswami.com/
Taking a journey based solely on faith makes us wonder if we have lost our minds or if the gods must be crazy!
Brothers and sisters:
Faith is the realization of what is hoped for
and evidence of things not seen.
Because of it the ancients were well attested.
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place
that he was to receive as an inheritance;
he went out, not knowing where he was to go.
Today, I am taking another step on a journey that can only be described as based solely on faith and faith alone. This weekend, I am attending Kirtan camp, led by internationally renowned Kirtan artist and musician, Ragani. http://www.raganiworld.com/ Kirtan is the practice of sacred chant from the Hindu and Yogic traditions, specifically Bhakti yoga. I first discovered Kirtan through the yoga classes I attend at Inner Sun Yoga in Oshkosh http://www.innersunyogastudio.com/ and then had the opportunity to attend professional Kirtan events led by such names as Krishna Das, Durga Das, Wah! and Ragani. The practice of Kirtan spoke to something deep in my soul and when I found myself at each and every event moved to tears, I knew that there was something in Kirtan for me. I cannot explain why singing words I do not understand and can barely pronounce has had such a profound impact on me, I just know that it has. Then at some point in my experience of Kirtan, I found myself desiring to learn more and in that desire, the idea of possibly leading and hosting Kirtan events locally. Have I lost my mind or am I simply pursuing the unmet childhood dream to grow up and be Stevie Nicks?
Here is where the journey of faith comes in. I am not a professional musician, nor do I have any qualifications to call myself anything other than a hack musician. I studied piano for 10+ years and sang in school and church choirs, but my piano talents are only fair and my singing pretty average. Add to this two past traumas with performance anxiety and I am the last person who should even be thinking about leading or facilitating Kirtan. But there it is…..something is compelling me to attend Kirtan camp with the idea of holding local Kirtan events sometime in the future. I don’t think I have lost my mind, but the Gods must be crazy!
In each of our journeys, there are times when ideas, inspirations, visions, invitations show up that seem to make no sense at all, and yet we are compelled to follow those dreams. Perhaps we are compelled to quit our job, end a relationship, pursue education, embark upon a new stage of learning. Sometimes these visions show up with nothing to back it up, but faith. Faith is what compels us to follow these ideas even in the absence of logic, evidence or proof. This is when all we can do is step into the journey and trust that the gods know what they are doing – even risking ridicule, rejection or even failure. This is where I step as I enter into this weekend of Kirtan camp and all I can do is follow the trail to where – I do not yet know….but follow it I will.
This weekend, I invite you to reflect on your own journey of faith. What are the inspirations, dreams, visions you feel compelled to follow based solely on faith and faith alone? Enjoy the ride!
To see a clip of Ragani’s Kirtan: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0GkVsyIay-g
Authentic Freedom Ministries