Sunday, July 31, 2011

Ask Parvati 23: The Voice - To Speak Or Be Silent? Part 1: Soul Confusion, Vocal Tension


Dear Parvati,

I am having difficulty knowing when to speak up or remain silent about what I feel. I experience this confusion with things that make me feel uncomfortable and with things that I like. I thought that perhaps you, as a singer, may have some insight about the voice and how to know when it is a good time to use it, or when it is best to keep quiet. Thanks.


"That" person is coming into the room! Your heart suddenly races. You feel pressure in your head. Your cheeks flush. Your mouth dries and your throat automatically tightens. You feel panicky, sweaty, weak-kneed. With your heart speeding, you feel short of breath. There is something you want to say. It is stuck, like a lump in your throat. You try to speak. Your mouth is wide open, but there is no sound. Suddenly, you wake up. This is just a nightmare.

Or is it? Some dreams reflect back to us aspects of ourselves that we dare not yet see. Many people dream of trying to speak only to find themselves feeling trapped and  unable to find the words or the means to express how they feel. Some people experience that kind of vocal constriction and hesitation more regularly, even when supposedly awake while moving through the day.

Finding our authentic voice can be challenging. Many of us were scolded when we were young and have lost touch with our natural impulses. Growing up, we perhaps heard phrases like “hold your tongue!” or “shut your mouth!” or “tighten your lip!” No wonder we develop vocal tension.

We perhaps were told to either be quiet when we were enjoying giving voice, or speak up when we were enjoying silence. Listening to conflicting signals, we end up unsure when to express or when to listen. If not careful, we end up out of touch with our internal compass and can feel trapped in indecision and fear of disapproval.

Whether or not you experience vocal confusion consciously, because of our cultural tendencies, most of us carry old-story tensions in our bodies. These tensions, incubated when we were children, we hold with us as adults until we pause to question their validity, place and source.

Withheld vocal expression and stress regarding speech and sound are commonly held in and around the mouth, lips, jaw, tongue, throat, chest, lungs, and shoulder area, though they can be held deeply in any place in the body and be the result of any emotional withholding, ranging from rage to bliss.

In order to unwind the tension, we must be willing to explore it. There is no better way to explore vocal tension than through the willingness to make sounds. When we were infants, our sounds were free and primal. As adults, we can become overly hung up on “nice”, “pretty”, “powerful”, “strong” and “correct”. A powerful way to release vocal tension is to be wiling to dive within to where we remember sound as being raw and real.


Find a quiet place where you can lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Begin to breathe naturally, deeply, but without forcing. Allow your body to relax and your awareness to move inward.

Gently massage your jaw muscles that run from the ear, to under the cheek bone to the jaw bone. Then begin to yawn, and sigh. Allow your whole throat to open up. Feel your neck expand. Feel your spine lengthen. Feel your muscles release, not just in your face, head and neck, but through your whole body/being. Keep yawning and sighing.

Now stand. Do the same exercise standing. Allow yourself to relax, yawn and sigh.Then shake out your feet, shoulders, arms, hands. Rub your hands over your face.

Open and close your mouth so that you give the muscles of your face a good stretch. Then take a deep breath and exhale so that you sputter your lips, like you were playing the trumpet, or like you were making a motorboat sound with your mouth. Let your lips relax and your tongue soften.

Stick out your tongue and roar like a lion. Open your mouth wide and exhale. Let it out. Do this a few times until you have had enough. Shake it out and let it go.

(Continued tomorrow with Part 2: Sounding It Raw and Real)


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Ask Parvati 22: It's A Spiritual Life - Part 5, Spiritual Guidelines


(Continued from “Commitment and Courage”)

I feel very blessed by the Grace of a satguru in my life. They say the teacher comes when the student is ready. I stumbled upon and met Mata Amritanandamayi Devi in Kerala, South India in 1993 when I was internally called to go to India to deepen my yoga practice.

Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, lovingly known as Amma, or Mother, is the embodiment of unconditional love, the primordial shakti, or divine life force. Her teachings are clear and simple, practically relevant to our busy, modern lives. Her focus on selfless service as a means of God-realization provides straightforward guidelines on spiritual living. She says, "Fill your hearts with love and express it in all you do."

Here are a few of Amma's guidelines for spiritual growth and expansion. They have become points of regular contemplation for me. As with most spiritual truths, there is a profundity in the simplicity found within them. In each of these points, we can find deeper and richer jewels to guide our way along the spiritual path. May they inspire you at least as much as they continue to inspire me.

Wishing you much grace along your path.

May we all swiftly realize our true nature and merge with the divine.




When thinking about what to do, consider how each of your actions will be of service to humanity.

Progress is being made when you can maintain evenness of mind in the face of praise and shame, honor and dishonor.

Communication begins when you fully understand the other person's point of view.

If you cannot speak with love and respect, wait until you can.

When you harm anyone, you harm everyone, especially your own self.

If someone is doing something you find really offensive, check to see whether you are doing something similar to someone else or yourself.

Make an appointment with God each day and hold that as your highest priority.

Practice withdrawing the mind from sense objects.

Balance your life with jnana, karma and bhakti yoga.

Excessive talking increases mental turbulence, drains your energy and drowns the subtle voice of God within.

Read a passage from the Guru's teachings each day.

Establish a sadhana plan and follow it as sincerely as possible.

Take advantage of the stillness of the early morning hours for meditation and prayer.

Don't just apologize for hurting someone. Make the firm resolve you will never again do that painful act to anyone.

"The goal in life is God realization. Strive for That!" - Amma


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Ask Parvati 22: It's A Spiritual Life - Part 4, Commitment and Courage


(Continued from “Living A Spiritual Life”)

To live a spiritual life, we must make that the goal of our life and commit to it. If we seek enlightenment, we must make our goal God-realization, so that we may experience the divine in everything.

God-realization ultimately only happens through grace. Yet commitment and courage are essential in helping us continue along the path, especially when the going gets tough.

Some people think that a spiritual life is supposed to feel like having rose petals showered under our feet. At times, it may be so. Perhaps when we become enlightened, we will be in a permanent state of bliss where everything feels like that. That I cannot yet say. But I do know that on the road to such freedom, we can feel supported by a force as sweet as a billion roses and yet often step on thorns that painfully hurt.

Especially when the going gets tough, we must remain even more focused on our goal and commitment to realize God. Tough times along the spiritual path are like rock tumblers that help to erode our rough edges. They help us break through the resistance we have to this moment and loosen our attachments to our ego. This is why is it essential that we see all that is as grace, even the stuff we don’t like. This open, non-judgmental attitude helps us remain receptive to the teachings each moment brings, whether the teaching may feel pleasant or not.

Spirituality is a medicine to cure the disease of ignorance. Sometimes medicine is sweet and sugary. Sometimes, it is bitter and makes you want to throw it away. On the spiritual path, we learn dispassion so that we may be non-reactive and keep focused on a bigger, divine picture, maintaining evenness of mind no matter what life brings. With such an attitude, the divine is always near.

(Continues tomorrow with “Spiritual Guidelines”)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Ask Parvati 22: It's A Spiritual Life - Part 3, Living A Spiritual Life


(Continued from “We Are Divine”)

We tend to use the word “spiritual” loosely, easily, and often. But what does being “spiritual” mean? The root of the word is spirit, that which is eternal and non-physical. So to be spiritual is to invite the infinite, non-formed spirit into our lives, into our field of awareness. To be spiritual is to dissolve our illusion of duality, the illusion of separation, the illusion that our ego is in control.

Living a spiritual life involves both surrender and discipline. We must cultivate humility so we may let go of thinking we are in charge and have it all figured out. When we empty ourselves, we receive. When we open, we are fulfilled. When we give, we get.

It requires discipline to train our awareness to see the divine in all. Our habit is to feel disconnected and against what is. We tend to feel lack, so we must strive. We tend to push, fight, rush and constrict due to a deep sense of wanting. Spiritual living requires a complete inner and outer world view retraining, so that we may learn through a quiet mind and open heart, to serve, to love, and truly live.

Our lives are the sum of our choices. What we experience is a reflection of our thoughts, which fuel our actions. If we want to live a spiritual life, if we wish for grace, we must be willing to make spiritual choices.

Spiritual choices come from developing spiritual attributes, such as kindness, understanding, compassion, generosity, love, and selflessness. As spiritual aspirants, we learn to see all in our life as an opportunity to grow, to love, and to serve.

Becoming spiritually aware, we begin to see all that this moment brings as prasad, a blessing from the divine. We may or may not like what this moment brings. That does not matter. What matters is our willingness to learn from what is, and fully open to this moment. In so doing, our ego dissolves and we discover our true, infinite, divine nature.

(Continues tomorrow with “Commitment and Courage”)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Ask Parvati 22: It's A Spiritual Life - Part 2, We Are Divine


(Continued from “It’s a Spiritual Life”)

We each may have a spiritual tradition through which we can realize the divine. For some, the divine is formless, expansive light. For some, it has form as seen in nature, like a tree, a mountain or a river. For some, it is a male godhead. For some, it is the divine mother.

I believe there is no right or wrong in this. We are varied people with varied needs. The divine comes to us in a form we can understand and process. The divine is ultimately pure unconditional love, and as such, it will express itself to us in the best way for us to evolve. However we see the divine, what is essential is that we touch the reality of unity behind the appearance of diversity.

It is as though the light of the divine is a light we see through a window. The window frame may be Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or any other tradition. What is essential is what is seen through the window, the light of the divine common to all.

Let us not get stuck on the window dressing. Let us look through the window and welcome the light that we all are. When we focus on the unity that joins us all, we create a beautiful human rainbow of light, varied colours, all part of the one substratum of pure white light.

As we grow spiritually, we begin to see that we are all expressions of the divine. Our body, our mind, every breath – everything – happens and is because of Grace. The idea that we are separate from the divine is an illusion that our spiritual practice remedies.

We are reflections of the supreme, primordial power of creation. Each one of us is aware of this spiritual truth to a greater or a lesser degree. Our precious and unique life is about becoming more aware of this underlying unity, temporarily masked by our limited vision and ego.

We can practice seeing the divine in all things. The very force of life that sustains us is divine. It is divine grace that we can walk, that we can breathe, and that we exist - at all! By remembering these miracles that we habitually take for granted, we begin to loosen our attachment that we are the doer. When we let go of the illusion that our ego is in control, we see that we are all a part of an exquisite divine play. We see the divine everywhere, always.


With an open mind, and a bit of time, walk over to a private mirror. Look into it and see yourself reflected back to you. Rather than seeing all the things that you find wrong with yourself, look at the light behind your skin, no matter what colour it may be. Look at the light. Look at it well. Open to it. Receive it. Allow it to come forward. Allow your body/being to expand and express that light. It is the divine, your true nature, shining back at you! Hello!

Now walk out into the street. Be open to that same light coming through all things. The tree is not just bark and branches and leaves, but part of the body of the divine. See the light within the tree. The same light exists within all things, even cars and buildings.

Look at the people on the street. Even those who are closed, in pain, and look like they are having a bad day, there is light there, behind the story. That light is carrying them in every moment. That light is love. That light is the divine. That light is their true nature, your true nature, our true nature that sustains and shines through matter. The more you focus on that eternal light, the more healing and love you bring to yourself and to all beings.

We are one with the divine. Our true nature is the infinite, timeless reality of pure consciousness. Spiritual practice and discipline helps us see that reality in all of life. This takes practice. This takes a firm commitment to live a spiritually aware life.

(Continues tomorrow with “Living a Spiritual Life”)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Ask Parvati 22: It's A Spiritual Life - Part 1


Dear Parvati Devi, Do you have any guidance for me? Could you see me through your divine vision and guide me to be pure and spiritual? Could you ask Mata Parvati whom I love dearly, if she has anything to say to me? I am in Kolkata, India. Thank you.


Thank you for your question. Though my guru named me Parvati, I am no more the Divine Mother than you. In each one of us, Devi, the supreme, primordial force, exists, if we are willing to see Her.

Since you write me your question from India, I feel that you are blessed to live in the same country of a great living saint who is a fully realized master and one with the Mother Goddess Parvati. She is the one who gave me the name Parvati.

If you do want a blessing from Devi, go to Kerala and have darshan with Mata Amritanandamayi Devi at Her ashram, Amritapuri. If you cannot get there, Amma, as she is also known, tours India regularly. For information and tour dates and locations, you can go to

Not yet being a realized being myself, I have chosen to see your question as an invitation to share how I have and continue to invite the divine into my life.


At every moment of every day, we are faced with a choice. Do I choose love or do I choose fear? Do I choose to expand and flow or do I choose to constrict and resist the perfection of this moment?

The great saints and sages of all world religions tell us that the purpose of our birth is to realize God, the oneness with all that is. Due to our ignorance and limited ego, we see life as divided by what we want and what we perceive to be real.

By cultivating spiritual understanding, we loosen the grip of our ego and attachments. We begin to see beyond what we perceive, and open to the experience of union with what is. In so doing, we return to the one flow of pure consciousness that is our true nature.

Spirituality is explored, cultivated and expressed through many diverse world religions. Yet all spiritual practices share common spiritual qualities and goals. His Holiness the Dalai Lama says of his Tibetan Buddhist tradition that his religion is kindness. Mata Amritanandamayi Devi says her religion is love.

Kindness, love, compassion, selfless service, unity consciousness are some of the attributes that spiritual aspirants develop along their path. Just as with any seed planted in the ground, spiritual qualities need the right environment in which to grow, ripen and ultimately flower.

To follow a spiritual life, we need what the Buddhists call the three jewels: a strong spiritual community that supports our righteous choices (sangha), the pure and wise teachings of a spiritual master (dharma), and divine grace (Buddha). 
These three jewels can be found in most spiritual traditions. Whatever our path may be, we need the right environment (community) in which to grow spiritually. We must have the correct perspective (the teachings) to guide our actions. We require grace in order to evolve and become enlightened.

To cultivate a spiritual life, we need to make a firm resolve to put God, the divine or pure consciousness as the highest priority in our life. Then we need to practice seeing that divinity in everything, everyday, everywhere, all the time.

To see the divine everywhere, we learn to let go of our habits that tells us that life is against us. We let go of our wants that push against what is. We begin to feel a sense of place within the whole. We feel that we are a welcomed, loved part of nature. We begin to see that the divine exists in everything, even our own self.

(Continues tomorrow with “We Are Divine”)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Ask Parvati 21: Jealousy - Part 2, It Is Not Happening To Me



It Is Not Happening To Me


(Continued from “Freedom Through Understanding”)


It is easy to blame others for what we feel. There is a passive power we can get in complaining, in feeling hard done by, in feeling powerless. When we complain, or feel self pity, or jealousy, we feel like "life sucks". Thing is, when we feel life sucks, it is actually we who are sucking. By focusing on not enough, we are energetically trying to pull energy towards us, draw upon the perceived fullness of others and try to fill up our perceived sense of lack. But this will never work for a few reasons.


One, there is no such thing as something happening “to” us. Nature can not support that thought, or it would be supporting our ego, which thwarts the flow of evolution. Everything that we perceive, is just a perception that we are having. Everything that we feel, is a reaction to our perceptions. Everything that we experience, is a reflection of what we decide (however unconsciously) to perceive.


We are subjects of our perceptions. We must learn to see beyond our attachments to the illusion of feeling like an unloved victim, and find our sense of unique, perfect place in the world and our feelings of self-love. (If you have not read my blog on self-love, please do).


Two, jealousy comes from feeling not enough, which is a reflection of our own perceptions. When we feel enough in ourselves, we do not feel envy or jealousy. Feeling not enough will never be filled by any outside thing, only through the spiritual realization that we are enough, that this moment is enough in every way.


Like a bottomless pit, no matter how many raises we get, how many kids we have, how great an intimate relationship may be, what kind of house or car we have, the feeling of not enough may be temporarily masked, but will not be fulfilled. We must address the underlying feelings in ourselves for feeling not enough.


Feeling anger at God is usually a projection of unresolved anger we have towards one or both of our parents that we have not yet admitted to ourselves. It also is a reflection of feeling like a victim, that life is happening "to me". As a child, we perhaps did feel trapped, perhaps finding our parents attitudes and behaviour unrelenting. But this is not real for us as an adult. We have free will and the capacity to create our reality. Nor it is real in relation to God. God does not trap us! The universe vibrates at the reality of our deepest joy. Not that I can "speak for God", but it seems to me that what the universe wishes and supports is our deepest joy.


Feeling that we deserve something – or that we are being punished – comes from feeling judged by others, or from judging ourselves and feeling not enough. To think of life from that perspective will only bring unhappiness. Again, the universe supports our greatest joy. Life reflects our perceptions. Our happiness comes from the willingness to free ourselves from limiting beliefs.


In order to free ourselves from the grip of habitual jealousy, we must have the humility to see that it reflects the way in which we believe that we are not enough and that we are victims. Neither is real. When we see clearly and fully understand the patterns of jealousy, we see that what we believe to be true is in fact an illusion, one that we alone perpetuate.


We can find tremendous strength when we see that we create our own suffering through the way we perceive. If we cause our suffering, we can cease it by changing the way we see ourselves and the world. By addressing our root sense of feeling not enough, we will cut jealousy off at the pass and start to see the fullness of others lives as a reflection of the fullness within our own selves.


Be gentle with yourself as you begin to look deeper at the root causes of your jealousy. Watch the tendency to feel like a victim and remind yourself that you are love. You are loved. And all that is, is absolutely perfect.


Sending love,


Monday, July 18, 2011

Ask Parvati 21: Jealousy - Part 1, Freedom Through Understanding


Dear Parvati,

I have a real problem with feeling jealous of other people whose lives seem to be going better than mine. My best friend got married to an awesome guy two years ago and she just had her first baby. I want to feel happy for her, but part of me just feels so bummed out because I want a husband and kids so badly but I haven't found that special someone yet and I wonder I ever will. Also, two of my co-workers just got raises (but not me) and I just keep thinking how nice it would be to have that extra money. It seems like all around me wonderful things are happening to everyone else but me. Sometimes I think I must just not deserve to have good things happen to me. Other times I get angry at God because it seems like he doesn't play fair and he never gives me a break. I even feel angry sometimes at my friend and co-workers for having what I want. I feel so ashamed of feeling this way, but it keeps coming up. How can I get rid of these feelings of jealousy?




Freedom Through Understanding


Thank you for your question. It takes courage to recognize that you have a stuck spot and could use support in understanding how to deal with it.


Jealousy is common. It can be expressed as anger, self-pity, sarcasm, feelings of revenge or sparks unhealthy competitiveness, all of which perpetuate a feeling of being separate, against the world and alone.


Jealousy is a painful emotion. No one likes feeling it. Yet many people repeatedly find themselves struggling with the feelings of scarcity and constriction that jealousy brings. Like anything, it can become a habit, even an addiction, a way in which we identify with seeing the world and ourselves. As with any habit, we must seek understanding to unlock the grip of the pattern and once again regain a fuller, healthier perspective.


I understand the temptation of feeling jealousy. I remember a time when I had to step back from performing for a bit due to a family emergency. During that time, I found myself feeling sparks of surprising jealousy for some friends I knew who were still actively performing.


Though I could have judged these feelings and tried to push them away with the attitude that they were bad, instead I took the opportunity to welcome them more into the front of my mind so that I may get to know the reasons for this visit from my shadow self.


We all have the potential to feel any painful emotion. When our shadow self visits, we can see it as a chance to take a look at this aspect of our mind and get to know what fuels the feelings. Through understanding, we can see more clearly and ultimately find release from suffering.


(Continues tomorrow with “It Is Not Happening To Me”)


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Ask Parvati 20 - Tantra: Yoga Is Everywhere, Part 7 - Being Relaxed And Alert


(Continued from Tantra)


There are many faces of Yoga. Ultimately, yoga (that is, the face of the divine) is everywhere. If you feel stuck on your yogic path and you feel you need to expand and try something new, ask yourself a few important questions before any big changes:


- What motivates my desire for change?

- Is the desire to move coming from a place of agitation and constriction or from a place of expansion and ease?

- Is this period of transition a reflection of me having met aspects of myself I find challenging and am trying to avoid by changing my practice?

- Is this the voice of my soul guiding me to expand into new areas of possibility?


As a rule of thumb, when I first started my sitting meditation practice, I would allow for the voice that said “enough, time to go” to come knocking three times before I got up from my cushion. Our minds are hungry. We tend to be agitated. Our egos want. We are habituated to feeding these tendencies. Spiritual practice is about overcoming and retraining these tendencies so that we may experience eternal bliss. We must therefore train our mind into moving through and beyond these hungers so that we may be truly fulfilled.


I believe deeply in the notion that digging many holes leads to just a lot of incomplete holes. But by digging one hole deeply, you will strike gold. It is important to stick with a practice, but one must do so with a sense of serious delight, focused playfulness and surrendered joy.


If you feel you are not moving away from your practice from a place of avoidance, always trust your gut when you feel drawn to try something new. Another rule of thumb is that that which feels rooted, vital and expansive supports your highest good and, as such, the highest good of all. That which feels constrictive and ungrounded is not in your highest good and is best released.


I do believe we are on the planet to have fun, to experience the bliss of the divine. We learn in both Hatha yoga and meditation practice to balance that which is alert and that which is relaxed. Discipline, when overly rigid, limits. But too much free flow is unguided and has no clear avenue for expression.


If you have developed a practice that is disciplined, keep that fire alive. It will serve you well. If you need more flow, do so in ways that bring delight into your life. See if you can shift your practice into a sense of freshness. What has been habitual may be experienced as new, with a beginner’s mind.


Ease up where you have been tight or pushy. Apply more attention where you may have been missing aspects of the practice. But above all, remember that yoga is not limited to your mat. Yoga is in how you perceive your mat as well as how you stand on it. Yoga is everywhere.


May we become fully awake so as to experience yoga everywhere, always.

May we all realize oneness soon.

Jai Ma,



Friday, July 15, 2011

Ask Parvati 20 - Tantra: Yoga Is Everywhere - Part 6, Tantra


(Continued from Nada Yoga: The Yoga of Sound)


Tantra is greatly misunderstood in the West. Incorrectly thought to be the yoga of sacred sex, confusing orgasm with spiritual bliss, Tantra is instead an ancient, wise and powerful yogic path that few can tread even with the necessary guidance of a fully realized master. Hatha yoga, the notion that yoga is everywhere and the belief that one may find the divine through creative arts all have their roots in the tantric yogic tradition.


Ajit Mookerjee, tantric art scholar, says, "Tantra is both an experience of life and a scientific method by which man can bring out his inherent spiritual power.” His writings stress the awesome potential inherent in true spiritual art, defining this as "art created through spiritual discovery". He believed such art to be loaded with the Power of the Goddess and that it was actually part of the body of the Great Goddess.


According to the Tibetan Buddhist Tantric master Lama Thubten Yeshe, “each one of us is a union of all universal energy. Everything that we need in order to be complete is within us right at this very moment. It is simply a matter of being able to recognize it. This is the tantric approach.”


I love the descriptions of Tantra by the widely respected yogic scholar Georg Feuerstein who penned one of my favorite books, “Yoga: The Technology of Ecstasy”. For those of you who have seen me perform my song “Yoga In the Nightclub” (and if you have not yet, please come out!) I use elements of the following quote from Dr. Feuerstein in my extended yoga studio version of the house music track:


“What Tantric masters aspired to was to create a transubstantiated body, which they called adamantine (vajra) or divine (daiva) – a body not made of flesh but of immortal substance, of Light. Instead of regarding the body as a meat tube doomed to fall prey to sickness and death, they viewed it as a dwelling-place of the Divine and as the caldron for accomplishing spiritual perfection. For them, enlightenment was a whole body event.”


Tantra refers to both an esoteric school of Hinduism and Buddhism and to a group of scriptures known as The Tantras. The Sanskrit word tantra is derived from two Sanskrit words “tanoti”, which means to stretch, to extend, or to expand, and “trayati” which means liberation. As such, Tantra can be seen as a technique for stretching ourselves, for extending our capacity for attention to the utmost, for expanding our sense of awareness to meet the fullness of what is. According to some, the word tantra also means "to weave", suggesting that reality is a seamless whole, one continuum of interwoven fabric made up of spirit and matter.


This path to enlightenment focuses on the worship of the Goddess or Shakti. Through spiritual practices and ritual forms of worship, the goal of a tantric practitioner is to find freedom from ignorance and the cycles of death and rebirth through realizing the universe as the divine play of Shakti and Siva, the male and female principle.


Unlike any other yogic path, Tantra insists that spirit and matter are aspects of one whole. In some yogic traditions, a yogi learns to separate himself from the world. Tantra however urges the need to join seeming opposites and revel in a synthesis of reality and consciousness. While some yogic traditions encourage students to seek liberation from the body and the world, Tantra sees liberation in the world. For the tantric, the world is an expression of divine play of which we are an integral part. The body is a microcosm of the universe. As such, it is a powerful vehicle for liberation, an alchemical crucible in which spiritual transformation can occur.


In his book "Tantra Asana: A Way to Self-realization", Ajit Mookerjee says, "Tantra itself is unique for being a synthesis of bhoga and yoga, enjoyment and liberation. There is no place for renunciation or denial in Tantra. Instead, we must involve ourselves in all the life processes which surround us. The spiritual is not something that descends from above, rather it is an illumination that is to be discovered within."


“Wow! A spiritual path that embraces all of life as divine! Sounds perfect!” you may be thinking. Here is the catch. When a spiritual aspirant begins to look at matter and the body as vehicles for spiritual evolution and personal transformation, he begins to walk the razor’s edge journey to spiritual enlightenment. He must learn to discern between the ego’s tricky wanting and expansive evolution. He must learn to balance the relationship between Nature’s involutionary tendency, that is, the rootedness of being in form, and the evolutionary cosmic play as it unfolds spiritually.


A tantric aspirant can easily either become overly mired in the pleasures of the physical and lose spiritual expansion, or he can become overly lofty, detached and ungrounded by the spiritual and lose the presence of the physical. Like a gracious balancing act, the tantric yogi walks an extremely potent path that is both delicate and dangerous.


I agree with Georg Feuerstein who stresses the need for tantric aspirants to find the guidance of realized masters. I could not list the number of people I have seen over the years in my teaching and healing work – beginner and advanced practitioners, even teachers - who feel they have found their path through Tantra, yet are more lost than ever. Without a guru while on the tantric path, one runs the risk of losing the plot altogether and sinking into the mire of seductive wanting.


I have met many people in the yogic world who expulse wise teachings, but vibrate with constrictive and involutionary energies. Void of humility, openness, honesty and pure spiritual shakti, people can easily become trapped in the tantric path.


The ego is a tricky and hungry thing that has power only when we feed it. But sometimes – even often - we are unaware we are doing so. Just as a chameleon can change colour to blend with its surrounding, so too our ego can shift and fool us to suit our desires. We may think we are evolving when in fact we are unconsciously justifying our self-serving ego.


The ego can even quietly adjust to fool us, so that we think we are growing when we are actually becoming more attached. It can even feign enlightenment. A spiritual aspirant must be careful of this. Only when we have surrendered to the guidance of a fully realized master can we overcome this.


(Continues tomorrow with Being Relaxed And Alert)


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Ask Parvati 20 - Tantra: Yoga Is Everywhere - Part 5, Nada Yoga: The Yoga of Sound


(Continued from Yoga Is Everywhere)


The ability to open to finding yoga (the divine) everywhere, even in a nightclub, came from my willingness to trust my still small voice and open to possibilities beyond the boundaries of my yoga mat. One of the greatest gems I found in the period of transition and exploration out of my rigid Hatha yoga practice, was discovering Nada Yoga, the yoga of sound.


The notion of art as a means to express our relationship with the divine is as ancient as the first people that walked this planet. From cave paintings to Bach, man has always felt moved to express love for the divine through art.


In East Indian yogic traditions, there is a yogic path recognized as a means to attain God-realization through music. It is called Nadopasana, singing, playing and composing music as an expression of the divine. Music is not seen as a form of entertainment, but as a means to attain moksha (liberation).


In this tradition, God is known as Nada Brahman, the embodiment of sound. Form, that which we experience as material, was created by sound. The ancient Rishis knew this. The Christian Bible says: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…" The ancient Hindu texts that predate the Bible known as The Vedas also say something very similar: “In the beginning there was Brahman (God) with whom was the Word, and the Word is Brahman.”


The practice of Nada Vidya, music as spiritual practice, is considered a powerful form of yoga in which an aspirant may quickly realize underlying spiritual truths. There are said to be two kinds of sound: the sound that exists in the music of the spheres and the sound that we create through our effort.


When a yogi sees music as a meditation, he begins to express a oneness relationship with the sound of the spheres, rather than expressing the noise of his chattering thoughts. To find and express from heartfelt stillness becomes a point of engaged, meditative focus for the Nada yogi. A quote from the Vedas, attributed to having been said by Lord Narayana Himself, expresses this succinctly: “I dwell not in Vaikuntha nor in the hearts of yogins, nor in the sun but where my devotees sing, there I will be.”


A Nada yogi understands that the purity of the soul desires to express, speak or sing. This stirs the mind. The mind activates the body. The body creates sound. The aim of Nada Yoga is to realize the essence that shines behind sound. Music is seen as a spiritual practice, which inspires us to experience the light of pure consciousness.


(Continues tomorrow with Tantra)


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Ask Parvati 20 - Tantra: Yoga Is Everywhere - Part 4, Yoga Is Everywhere


(Continued from Yoga In the Nightclub)


My song Yoga In the Nightclub is a spiritually artistic expression that celebrates the notion that God-realization, yoga, the divine can be found, practiced, lived, celebrated and embodied everywhere. Perhaps even in today’s day, when we are called as spiritual aspirants to engage the world and be lights in the dark, we must find yoga everywhere, even in the nightclub.


We like to think one thing is spiritual and another is not. Our minds tend to judge, categorize and divide. In so doing, we may miss seeing the fullness and the beauty of life. When we walk into a yoga studio, we hope to find peacefulness and spirituality. We may find that. We may also find lots of egos stuck to their mats. When we do our own practice, we hope to let go of our ego, but we may end up having a tête-à-tête with our shadow self.


When we walk out onto a noisy street, we may only see speeding cars and hear loud noises. But what about the small voice within? What about the stillness we found in our meditation practice? Where have these gone? Are we still anchored, even in stormy seas? Have we have lost the eternal quiet that exists perennially beneath the noise?


We may go to a spiritual center or ashram and indeed, feel blessed by the spiritual energy there. But if all we see as holy is the ashram and then the world as mundane, we miss an opportunity to find the divine everywhere, in everything, even in things we find harder to like. Perhaps the world is our ashram and our body is our temple. That way, our yoga practice is everywhere.


When I first started to work with my music manager, he had spent his career navigating the murkiness of the music industry. The consciousness found in my music and my dedication to my yoga practice was for him a breath of fresh air. As we walked the yoga tradeshow floor together, he felt he was in bliss-land. But soon, behind the shiny, clean surface, he started to see similar patterns in people as those he had experienced in the music industry.


People are people and our tendencies are with us wherever we may be. Sometimes the darkest energies hide closest to the light. Ego and greed are everywhere. Though it is essential while on the spiritual path to take refuge, as the Buddhists say, in the three jewels: the Buddha (the guru or the awakened one), the Dharma (the enlightened teachings), and the Sangha (the community that has attained enlightenment), we must also engage the world. Wherever we are, whatever we may be doing, we learn, as true yogis, to be Yoga.


Practice seeing yoga everywhere and the whole world becomes your yoga mat. Practice seeing yoga even in the nightclub and that which you may once thought to be dark, becomes a creative seedbed for the birth of new light. Out of the darkness of the womb, new life is born.


(Continues tomorrow with Nada Yoga: The Yoga of Sound)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Ask Parvati 20 - Tantra: Yoga Is Everywhere - Part 3, Yoga In The Nightclub



(Continued from Yoga Flowers)


It was because I had no good answer to give my now life partner when he asked me why I was keeping my music and my yoga practice separate, that I entered a new phase in my exploration of yoga and all its many faces.


Creating my song Yoga In the Nightclub was a yogic experience for me. A spontaneous, expansive and rooted arising from my soul, through my body, that activated my voice, it expresses for me the very meaning of my life: the celebration of merging with the divine while in human form. The process of creating is a yogic act, through which a yogic state can be reflected.


Yoga In the Nightclub is not meant to be a yogic practice. It is a way for me as an artist and yogini to perhaps touch and inspire people and plant seeds of possibility. My prayer is that the inspired source that created my songs may resonate in listeners so that they too may be motivated by the expansive expression to lead their most honest and divine lives. The presence of expansion and spiritual transformation exist within the very fabric of sound.


I have often been asked in interviews, what inspired me to bring yogic expression into the club scene. I answer easily. Yoga is not a physical practice but a way of life. It is about learning to be present in all one does, to see the divine here, now, in this moment. It is about feeling connected to something much greater than our limited ego or will. It is about being in service to life, feeling interconnected to that very life force.


It seems to me that the world could always use more inspired, loving food for the body, mind and spirit. People are in need of and can benefit from the lush wealth found in the yogic tradition. We are active beings, living in a vast, polluted and busy world. We need to learn yoga off the mat and live as integrated, spiritually awake beings in the world.


Dance clubs may be thought by some to be seedy, certainly not pure places where one would think to experience yoga, that is, a oneness with the divine. But for me, and for those I know, they are places where I celebrate the joy of being alive. Friends gather and together we have fun, move, connect to life-force energy, connect with each other and share through sound and movement.


When you move through your day today, ask yourself, in which way are you practicing yoga, right now? Do you feel connected to something greater than your limited ego or will? Are you aware of how your individual self fits into the whole? Do you feel rooted and connected to the Earth and open to the vast sky? How does expansive expression arise through you? Do you speak reactively, to defend your sense of divided self? Do you express yourself from wholeness, from spaciousness, from joy and delight? Does your soul guide your actions and move you to express? What drives your life?


(Continues tomorrow with Yoga Is Everywhere)


Monday, July 11, 2011

Ask Parvati 20 - Tantra: Yoga Is Everywhere, Part 2: Yoga Flowers



(Continued from Part 1: Freedom in Freedom)


There is tremendous value in discipline. The riches found in yoga and meditation practices blossom with frequent watering. I had already established a wonderful rhythm now in full motion, which felt expansive, so I kept the momentum going. I began to meet my morning practice with a willingness to listen to and serve the still small voice within. By being quiet and receptive, I was open to answers.


Having become stifled by my rigorous Hatha yoga practice of “shoulds”, I went through a two-year period when that still small voice told me to lie there, every day, for an hour. Each day, during my regular practice time, all I did was savasana (lying on the floor, face up), allowing myself to dissolve into the ground, into my body, into the moment.


As I followed the spacious impulse that fed my yoga and meditation practice, I was drawn to express that same joyful expanse through my musical compositions and performances. I became clearer about the spiritual impulse and intentions that fed my musical compositions and performing.


At that time, I was also guided to take more modern dance classes. Though I had seen her perform prior to this, it was then that I came into contact with Margie Gillis, her teaching schedule and her immensely inspiring body of work.


In one of her workshops, I was arrested by the thought that I was hearing myself speak. At that time, I was regularly teaching yoga classes, using similar vocabulary that she now was using to teach me. In her, I saw an aspect of myself that had become bound by yoga routines. My world expanded exponentially when she invited us to begin exploring all of life as choreography, doing the waiting-for-the-bus dance, doing the sitting-in-a-chair dance, doing the getting-dressed-in-the-morning dance. Life is dancing, so dance it.


Margie’s spiritually and artistically integrated worldview helped me bring my already bursting-at-the-seams yoga practice even more off the mat and into the world. I translated her guidance to my yoga and meditation practiced and started doing waiting-in-the-supermarket-line tadasana (standing tall pose) or cleaning-in-the-shower tadasana. I began to see that wherever I stood was my yoga mat. Life became more of a fluid dance in which I could play, moment-to-moment with what is. The possibility of yoga, union with the divine, began to flower everywhere.


(Continues tomorrow with Yoga In the Nightclub)


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Ask Parvati 20 - Tantra: Yoga is Everywhere - Part 1, Freedom in Freedom


Dear Parvati,
I started studying yoga ten years ago. I have traveled to India, taken teacher training programs, and adhered strongly to an orthodox yoga style. Now I find my practice shifting. Rather than doing rigorous asana (yoga exercises), I want to explore a more playful sense of moment-to-moment mindfulness. As I follow this, I find my asana practice moving away from the pattern I have followed for so long.
I really like your song Yoga In The Nightclub and it got me thinking about this juncture I am at. When is yoga actually yoga? Just because you call something yoga doesn't make it yoga, does it? If, as you say, yoga is everywhere, even in a nightclub, why wouldn't my current practice still be yoga?


Anything in our lives can become binding. We can feel joyfully free while jogging, later to find that running feels like a constrictive chore. We can find freedom in the new yoga classes we just adore, to later find that we are bored with the teacher and the routines. We can experience heights of bliss never before experienced when we first take up meditating, until we hit bumpy bits in our psyche when sitting practice starts to feel more like listening to nails on a chalkboard than to sweet, angelic music.

For years, I was religious about my yoga asana practice. I woke up and first thing, practiced every day without fail. I had to. Somehow I felt wonky if I did not. My day would unfold more smoothly when I did and I loved that feeling. Yoga and meditation provided (and still provide) an unequaled opportunity for centering, inner spaciousness and evolutionary support. But anything we do can turn from expansive to constrictive. Soon I began to feel confined by my yoga and meditation practice.

In my highly disciplined Hatha yoga practice, I hit a wall. I began to feel stiff rather than relaxed. I began to feel agitated, rather than expansive. I was no longer getting my fix from what I called my meditation medication. So I went deeper.

The practice started to reveal to me ways in which I was hard on myself. In some unconscious way, I felt that if I did not do the practice, I was a bad person. The drive that had led me to doing very well at school and university, that also drove me to wanting people’s approval, had now shown up as a sour motivator in my spiritual pursuits.

I turned more inward and listened to the impulses that made me feel expansive. I listened to joy and how it moved through my being. How did joy express itself through my being? I knew enough to know that living by “shoulds” would only lead to unhappiness. I knew that trusting that still small voice within would lead to greater and greater joy. It, after all, had led me to meditating and doing Hatha yoga in the first place. Where did that voice want to lead me? What did it want? How could I get out of the way and serve it?

(Continues tomorrow with Yoga Flowers)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Ask Parvati 19: What Is Home? Part 5, Finding Home in Non-Resistance to What Is



(Continued from What Is Home? Part 4: Home In The Vertical Hour)


These days, home for me has everything to do with non-resistance to what is. People have been asking me, especially as I have been blogging about it recently, what does it mean to be non-resistant to what is? To me, it has a lot to do with the “vertical hour”, the feeling of home being now.


When I feel unsettled, or somehow not quite in the flow, I realize that in some way, I am in resistance. So I go inside and practice non-resistance to what is. As with all things wise, it is really simple, though takes skill and practice. Here is what I do. Give it a try if you like.


Wherever I am, whatever I am doing, if I notice I feel disconnected I immediately pause. I notice that I feel unsettled and begin my non-resistance practice. I start simply, with just looking at my surroundings, and noticing what I see. I just watch, without adding stories to things. For example, I see a tree out the window. I just watch it. I notice the tree, the dancing leaves, the light and the colour. I just notice. Should I hear a car drive by, I just notice it. I hear it drive towards me then pass me. So it is. I notice it.


Then I feel my body within my surroundings. If I am sitting, I feel my body on the chair. If I am lying, I feel the weight of my body towards the ground. I just notice how I feel. I notice the softness or hardness of the surface supporting me.


Then I draw my attention to my breath. What does it feel like? I breathe in. I breathe out. I move my awareness inward and just notice. I feel the quality of breathing. Is it heavy? Is it light? Is it easy? Is it restricted? What is going on?


In this, everything begins to settle and I feel not limited to my thoughts, to the sense of being separate in a body. I begin to feel divisiveness dissolve, replaced by energy, flow and abundance. I feel connected and interconnected. I feel flow. I just stay with that, watching.


When I start to think about what I will have for dinner, or if I will get that call, or whatever, I notice I am going into thinking and simply and gently bring my attention back to the feeling of being rooted and expansive, here and now.


From this place of expansion, I am guided to the next steps in my life, without having to push, manipulate, fear or control. Life arises in each moment. All is unfolding in balanced perfection. All I have to do it get out of the way and enjoy being here, being now, being home.


May all beings feel at home.

May all beings feel home now.

May all beings feel home in all that is.






Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Ask Parvati 19: What Is Home? Part 4, Home In The Vertical Hour




(Continued from What Is Home? Part 3: Inner and Outer Home)


There is a song I wrote, that I have yet to produce and release, that expresses what home means to me. In it, I sing: “Home is here. Home is now. There’s gold in the dark, as I bow down…” When I am willing to let go of wanting things to be other than they are, though I may feel in the dark, I bow, in humility to what is, and I find the gold in this moment.


The relationship with home that I cultivate in my present life is the eternal home found within this perfect moment. In some of my poetry, I call it the “vertical hour”, when time collapses and I rest in the vastness of the infinite.


My most recent blog “To Do Or Not To Do” explored some of these feelings. “Wherever you go, there you are”, says Jon Kabat-Zinn. We may run. We may try to avoid. But no matter where we are physically, we bring our self with us. There is a perfection in all that is when we learn to be with what is, rather than what is not. We find meaning in the fullness of the now, rather than dreams of the past or future.


More than ever, I am aware within myself of any places that resist that perfection, that are attached to striving, to doing, to identifying as being separate. Those old thought patterns feel painful to me, as I know in my cells that pushing, divisiveness and wanting only lead to suffering. Instead, I focus on interconnection, on flow, on wholeness, on the fullness, the abundance of what is. I don’t push away old tendencies. I just notice them for what they are and open to what I know to be real.


When I am surrendered to the whole, I find a sense of place. That place rests in the vertical hour. It is as though when I let go, open up, look around, my feet naturally reach in to dig into the earth. As a result, I expand. As I feel part of the whole, I find meaning in the now. “What is” then takes on the sense of home.


(Continues tomorrow with What Is Home? Part 5: Home In Non-Resistance To What Is)



Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Ask Parvati 19: What Is Home? Part 3, Inner and Outer Home



(Continued from What Is Home? Part 2: Home In Meditation and Music)



If April is the cruelest month, then July is the most gracious. Out in my back garden, I look up to the canopy of leaves of a large maple tree that stands guardian at the back of my house. The sky that peeks through is cloudless and as blue and open as the sea. (Maybe this world is upside down and the ocean is really up there and the sky bordered with sand.)


The golden sunlight that shimmers through the fluttering leaves feels like the passing thoughts that trickle through my mind. The scent of the juniper bushes near my resting place is sweet, rich and moist. Water in the fountain splashes into the pond. The water flows like the continual, rhythmic flow of my breath. Birds and baby squirrels keep stopping by to check me out. We connect for a moment until they flutter off. Children’s voices, chirping birds, distant whizzing cars and my neighbour’s murmuring music create a symphony of sounds. This moment feels immense, vast and perfectly home.


When I was a child, I felt an inner restlessness. The voice within spoke of something more than what I saw brought others temporary happiness. I found joy in singing, through writing music and creating art. I felt alive in connecting with nature and communing with what I now simply call “the unseen”. I always had a sense that there was more than the material. I wanted to touch it, rest into it and be it – whatever that “it” was.


The church I went to called “it” God. To me “it” was everywhere, in the very fabric of life. I feel like it touched “it” and found in it a tremendous sense of home when I was recently in the Arctic traveling a few months ago to the North Pole. I went to sing at the top of the world to help raise awareness of the melting polar ice caps. There I also offered healing and prayers to the planet, our mother Earth, the vibrant living being that sustains us all, that is our home.


The feeling of singing at the top of the world remains impressed in me, like a tattoo on my soul. In the midst of the infinitely still desert of crystalline snow dusted over the icy ocean I stood upon, I felt as though the whole world was my home and an attentive audience, quietly listening. As I opened my arms, heart and throat to sing, I felt the world was in my body and I was the world. There was immense quiet, a profound presence and aliveness. The Inuit people I met en route seemed to embody that Arctic quiet wisdom. Being with them and traveling there ignited the spark of a baby Inuit in me. In the Arctic desert, I felt home.


I have been quite nomadic for most of my adult life - traveled a lot, seen the world, and enjoyed many varied cultures. As I have learned to “think turtle”, as my last blog discussed, I have learned how to find home wherever I may be, inspired by the turtle that carries its home on its back.


At first, home was literally my backpack in which I carried my necessities. But I have learned to put my pack down now and lessen the load I carry. Who is “doing” anyway? As my teacher says, when on a traveling train, why still hold onto your luggage? The train is my life, and I am carried by Life, supported by all that is. I let go.


We are in constant motion both metaphorically and literally as vibrant beings. I also move a lot as I travel to tour my music. Being so mobile, I learn to surrender to what is and to serve what is right in front of me. My sense of home now comes from my state of internal being. Not as attached to what is happening on the outside, I see life as receiving me. This moment, like a mother, is waiting at the family home door with open arms.


I have traveled outwardly through our colourful world. I have also traveled inwardly through my mind, heart and soul as I explore art and music, and as I develop through my spiritual practices. In some ways I could say that I have traveled both internal and external landscapes searching for a deeper meaning of home. Through loving, sharing, expressing and meditating, I have found a deeper, spiritual meaning of home, one that transcends geography and taps into the transpersonal and timeless, one that exists in the “vertical hour”.


(Continues tomorrow with What Is Home? Part 4: Home In The Vertical Hour)


Monday, July 4, 2011

Ask Parvati 19: What Is Home? Part 2, Home in Meditation and Music

(Continued from What Is Home? Part 1: The Home Body)

I feel a surrendered sense of home when I meditate. Quiet, perfect, here, now. Sitting practice has been a huge part of my life, feeding me in ways that are truly hard to describe. Everyday I wake up and open to what is. I practice being. In this, I meet the fullness of the moment that a habituated, busy mind would completely eclipse.

The more I practice, the more alive and the less constricted I feel. It is not a linear thing, but evolves, mysteriously unfolding beyond understanding. Through meditation, the relationship I develop with the now feels like a homecoming. Through the dissolve of divisiveness, I return to the one flow of pure consciousness, eventually able to rest in the One. This practice of non-resistance is home to me and also brings me home to the One.

I also feel a surrendered sense of home when I create music. Similar to meditation, the process of creating feels like it moves through me, not something I am doing. When I meditate, as soon as I notice “wow, I am meditating”, the feeling of expansion collapses. Suddenly there is an “I” that is back in the picture and duality returns.

Similarly, when “I” try to create, the juices don’t flow as effortlessly. But when I align myself to watch the flow, to be in service to it, something vast moves, dances and expresses through this body/being. It is pure vitality and joy. It feels like life itself. It is living. It is home. It is.

I have similar feelings when I perform. Though there is always a threshold I need to move through before I get on stage, when performing, life is. The threshold I move though is a form of ego surrender. It is like jumping off a cliff, to find you have wings. In the surrender, there is the death of a divisive self that thinks it is in control, giving birth to a timeless being. In this way, performing is a meditation.

As I meditate, I either witness inner resistance or expand into the bliss of letting go. When I step out on stage, I face that same letting go. In that letting go, I find home. As I perform, there is a sense of something moving through me that is so much greater, broader than a limited sense of “me”. It is like my body is dancing. My voice is singing. My soul is expressing. I am joy. I just am. My mind open, quiet, focused, present. Performing is very much home for me.

The character I play in my show is called Natamba. Clad in gold, like the light of pure consciousness, Natamba brings the timeless message: “Be Here. I Am. Now.” As I step into the costume, I feel a transformation take place. Something expands. Something downloads. Something aligns. The character Natamba represents home to me, the feeling of expressing a more expanded self. That is part of my joy of art and theatre. On stage, I can express timeless truths. Those truths are home to me.

I believe we each find home in things that give us meaning, that make us feel connected to something much greater than our selves. We find home when we love, when we share. Home lives in a transcendent place, beyond “me”. True home lives in “I am”. When we touch the infinite, we have touched home.

(Continues tomorrow with What Is Home? Part 3: Inner and Outer Home)

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Ask Parvati 19: What Is Home? - Part 1, The Home Body




Dear Parvati, I have traveled a lot and found many places to be beautiful, inspiring, even places I thought I could call home. But I feel I have not found home yet. Or maybe, I don’t really know what home means. I was curious, what does home mean to you?




Home means many things to me. As far as I can remember, I have felt like the world was my home. I speak several languages and feel comfortable in many cultures, with varied people. Perhaps it is no coincidence that my name is Parvati, daughter of the earth. I feel very connected to this planet in a cellular, soulful and spiritual way.


I am not much of a homebody, in that I have traveled a lot and lived out of a backpack for much of my adult life. But I could say that one way I find home is in my body, my body being a temporary place of inhabitation while I am in this world. I feel that this body is part of it all, connected to everything. It is made of the very stuff that makes up all matter. So for me, literally, my home is the world.


We have all heard the saying, “home is where the heart is”. Home is where we feel belonging. Where we feel accepted, whole, understood, received, grounded and alive. While I had friends over at my home last month, I was arrested by a momentary “a-ha!” when everything felt absolutely perfect. I felt completely supported, loved and accepted as though everything was in its perfect place. I felt profoundly at home.


Our birthplace may be home, where we have memories from our childhood, where our foundations were built. Montreal is my birthplace and is definitely my hometown. When I travel there with those that know me now, not then, I am told that I express a freedom and expansion in Montreal that is evident. My body language changes. I feel more relaxed. There is something in the air, in the light on the streets and buildings, in people’s attitudes, in the way we interact that just says, “home” to me - deeply.


I feel similar feelings about speaking French. It is, I say, the language of my heart and home has a lot to do with the heart. When I get tired, I have been known to just start speaking French, without even noticing I am doing so. People have also noticed how my personality changes when I speak French. I feel like an inner part of me comes alive. English for me is a more cerebral language, more practical and touching a place of worldliness. French reaches in to touch my emotions and reveals another inner world with greater ease.


No matter how many times I leave Canada, nor how many amazing connections and adventures I have abroad, somehow coming back always feels like home. I am not just saying this because it is Canada Day weekend! There is something about the trees, the air and the land that just says home.


Surely this has to do with the familiar. I have spent most of my life in Canada. There is something about familiarity that breeds the feeling of home. Familiarity feels grounding and stabilizing. Upon what else would a home be built?


We may find home in the familiar. We may find home in our sense of place and accomplishments that we achieve at work. We may find home in family, landscape, territories and feelings of patriotism. These may add a sense of purpose, belonging and meaning to our life.


However much I find home in something physical, there is something deeper that brings a true feeling of home to me. One way I touch the feeling of home and find meaning in my life is through my meditation practice and my creative work. In those, I rest in a timeless home not bound by borders or bodies. There I am.


(Continues tomorrow with What Is Home? Part 2: Home In Meditation and Music)


Saturday, July 2, 2011


PART 7: The Tortoise and the Hare
(Continued from “To Be And Not To Do”)

The Ayurvedic doctor Robert Svoboda once encouraged me to “think turtle”. I was very ungrounded after a year living in India, where I had a near death experience and an entire unraveling of all I knew. With this simple slogan, Robby was kindly trying to help me ground and be more rooted in my body/being.

I have thought a lot about turtles over the years. The motto “think turtle” helped me grow calm when I would get wired up. It helped me feel more connected to the Mother Earth. Turtles in their slow moving bodies, seem powerfully connected, wise and humble.

The classic fable "The Tortoise and the Hare" became a personal favorite. The story is about a hare that mocks the slow moving tortoise and challenges him to a race. With cocky confidence, the hare quickly leaves the hare behind. With a strong lead in the race, the hare decides to take a nap. He awakens to find the tortoise crawling slowly and steadily across the finish line before him.

To me our minds are like the hare, jumping around, racing ahead in spurts and starts. The tortoise is like our deeper selves that we learn to trust, with which we must connect. We learn to see that the slow and steady ways of the tortoise are like a cool stream of consciousness that moves continually forward.

The tortoise is like the loving force of life in which we can rest. With the zippy vigor of the hare, we may find our tasks done, but with eventual exhaustion and not necessarily having enjoyed the journey. The tortoise flows with a quiet assurance along its path, without fight, without resistance, in humbled surrender to what is. He is more like the karma yogi that Krishna describes.

I know that the more I meditate, the more I go deeply within and find that place of immense perfection and expansion, the more I get done during the day. I have fooled myself at times and thought I had too much to do and could not possibly meditate that day, so I would cut my practice short. Sure enough, as the day progressed, my mind would become more scrambled, my thoughts less clear, my actions less direct. I know it to be true that when we take the time to slow down, we actually get more done. We also enjoy what we do far more than if we were in a stressed hurry.

Ask yourself what is your deepest joy and make sure you do that every day. Life is too short to be full of “shoulds”. I feel the best practice is to eliminate the word “should” from our vocabulary. Should comes from the outside, imposed upon us like Father Time. Joy arises from within, like a flower blooming to meet the sun. When we open to what is, we are happier. We relax. We enjoy. When we do not resist what is, we expand and so does our ability to think, to feel, to process and to act. We accomplish more in less time.

When we act by aligning to our deepest truth and to our highest potential, we experience the divine. Life flowers in joy, rather than in resistance and resentment. Time seems to expand to meet that which is essential. Small miracles seem to unfold, without effort. Slowing down, we meet the fullness of what is.


Every action is part of a whole. There really is no starting and stopping or beginning and ending. We exist within one flowing continuum.  We see our actions as finite, but everything we do affects a greater whole, beyond what we could ever conceive. Our place in this universe is perfect, precise, and interwoven into a fabric of existence that extends beyond our perception of a finite self.

This world is a reflection of the Divine. What we perceive, we experience as solid. Yet all that exists is dancing light energy in constant motion unrestricted by form. We experience reality as a reflection of our perceptions, what we want to see, until we learn to see through the grip of our ego into what is. Beyond our ego lay the dance of pure consciousness arising, which manifests all that is as a cosmic dance of which we are a part. We see ourselves as finite, but really we have no beginning or end.

In the Old Testament, time was understood as a medium for the passage of predestined events. Ecclesiastes 3:1–8, everything has its perfect place:

“There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven.
A time to give birth, and a time to die; A time to plant, and a time to uproot what is planted.
A time to kill, and a time to heal; A time to tear down, and a time to build up.
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; A time to mourn, and a time to dance.
A time to throw stones, and a time to gather stones; A time to embrace, and a time to shun embracing.
A time to search, and a time to give up as lost; A time to keep, and a time to throw away.
A time to tear apart, and a time to sew together; A time to be silent, and a time to speak.
A time to love, and a time to hate; A time for war, and a time for peace.”

May we learn to free ourselves from the grip of fear of being not enough and awaken to trust the flow of the divine, of which we are an integral part.
May we enjoy all we have in gratitude.
May we meet each moment, as it is, with mindful presence and with a heart willing to humbly serve.


Friday, July 1, 2011


(Continued from “When Is Enough Enough?”)

The very energy of life is dynamic. We hold on tight to the notion of our selves “doing” to grab onto some sense of solidity, some sense of control, some sense that we, our perception of a divided self, matters. From that perspective, we fear that if we were to be, we would turn into a puddle and do nothing. We fear we would not know how to even get out of bed in the morning because we would melt into an amorphous oblivion.

But as we start to let go of the idea of i-dentity, the i-dea of being i-solated i-slands, separate, each fighting for our own sense of self-importance, we begin to touch a sacred dance that has been carrying us all along. We then see that the fear of doing nothing, if we were to let go of the idea that I am the doer, is in fact not at all possible because all that is, is dancing. When we are in non-resistance to what is, we are all like cosmic dancers, dancing within life’s sacred dance.

When we live on auto-pilot and do not question the nature of reality, we believe that we are the doers. We believe we are in control, in charge, creating our lives. But do we really have control? Perhaps it seems so, for limited times. We feel we made it this far and got the job we wanted or we succeeded at completing a daunting task. We feel puffed and proud until we find ourselves fired from our job and our sense of accomplishment from completing a task unravels as things start to go awry.

What is it that moves life forward? What force propels evolution? Mystics will say that this is the force of life and it is divine. We have no control over it. It is our folly, our misperception due to our limited senses, to think that we are doing, when in fact we do nothing at all.

The mystic Nisargadatta Maharaj says through his non-dual teachings in his classic book “I Am That” "Doership is a myth born from the illusion of 'me' and 'the mine'."

The Buddha is quoted as saying, "Events happen, deeds are done, but there is no individual doer thereof."

We think we are separate, so we need control to try to regain connection. But we cannot find a solution to a problem with the same thought patterns that created the problem. From a divided mind, we cannot find connection.

We must learn to see beyond our attachment to separation and see ourselves as part of a whole. We must not identify with our actions, but see ourselves as servants to the divine, vessels for the energy of the sacred to move through us.

It is when we get out of the way that our lives flow. The tighter we hold on, trying to get it all perfect and right, the further we move away from the reality that all that already is, is perfection. We squeeze the life right out of life.

When we pause, when we open, when we begin to truly see, we feel immense power in the reality that we have no control, not because we are not powerful, but because we are powerful beyond belief. We have no need for a finite sense of control. We see that the idea of “I” is finite, a limited lens though which we see life, but is not the whole picture. We begin to understand that “I am” is more than enough. It is all that is.

(Continues tomorrow with “The Tortoise And The Hare” and “Living Within The Sacred Whole”)