Monday, March 28, 2011

Ask Parvati 5: How To Begin Meditating

How To Begin Meditating
March 27, 2011

Thank you for this weeks questions. This week, we take a look at the power of meditation.

As part of the blog this week, I include a guided visualization for Japan. When I launched my new online store at last weekend, I led a meditation for Japan, which I recorded. Please join us in sending the people of Japan and our planet much-needed healing. The meditation is posted here. Please forward the link to whomever you think may be interested.

To get your question in for next week's blog, please send it to by Thursday, March 31.

Sending prayers for deep peace,

The power of meditation

Dear Parvati,
I have been considering starting a meditation practice, but I'm not sure where or how to begin. Can you please share how you began meditating, and how I might go about getting started?

Thank you for your question. The topic of meditation is very dear to me. It is something that fuels my life. I would even say it is the foundation to all that I do. It is a deepening, ongoing process that continues to teach me the true value of learning to fully live and love.

I first saw the effects of meditation when my grandmother walked out of her room after her quiet time. She seemed bigger, taller, more luminous than ever. The light that emanated from her seemed to make her ageless. I was only six at the time, so through my childs eyes, I saw a truth that has stayed with me ever since.

When I was ten, I saw a friends mother come out of her yoga room after her practice with that same glow. There was a magic surrounding her, a peacefulness and a vitality, something that just said yes to my heart and soul. I wanted THAT.

My grandmother was not a religious person, nor one who had an easy life. In fact, through the war, she was struck with a mysterious illness diagnosed as terminal, with a husband off at war and three children under the age of ten to feed. Somehow she just knew, faced with all of that stress and uncertainty, that all she could do was lay herself down, go to bed and give her whole life over to God.

She was in bed for a year, during which her life completely changed. As she made that choice to let go, a woman she had never met before came knocking at the door of her tiny wartime house asking if she could have room and board in exchange for housekeeping. This woman's need was an answer to my grandmother's prayer. As my grandmother said yes to her health and vitality, a surrogate mother appeared to care for her children while she healed.

It was during that year that my grandmother started to, as she would say, listen to her Maker. Every morning once she rose, she spent an hour, sitting upright, eyes closed, going within, quietly listening. She did that every day, without fail. It was her way of connecting, tapping into the power of life and finding unspoken direction for her day.

All religions that I have been exposed to speak of the need to connect within to touch the true potency of life. Each practice is slightly different, but all seem to point to unifying truths: We are connected to a force beyond our ego. We are interconnected through that force to all things. We realize our connection to that force through a surrendered process that is beyond what we can intellectually comprehend or control.

Just as there are many religions, there are many meditation practices. A meditation practice, in that way, is personally rooted in order to touch the transpersonal. One must find their own way in, a way that suits their personality and temperament. I have most knowledge of Buddhist, Hindu and Christian meditation practices, so my practice stems from my relationship with sacred sound and stillness. As I mention in the bio on the sidebar of this blog, I have always felt that my way in is through the symphonic quiet of Nature and the stillness in all that is.

I have found that for me, the IAM technique (Integrated Amrita Meditation) offered by my guru Mata Amritanandamayi Devi of South India, also known as Amma or the Hugging Saint, is the most potent and comprehensive meditation technique that I have tried. As such, it forms the foundation of my personal practice, in which I also include daily an extensive beingness meditation practice that focuses on mantra (sacred syllables given by a realized master) and mindfulness breathing.

I feel that meditation is my medication. It’s my way of tapping into what is real, important and eternal. And as such, it treats and heals a misperception that we have as humans: that we are in some way separate from all that is. So the practice of meditation is like developing a new consciousness muscle in which our awareness is focused on the vastness of possibility, rather than the seduction of the temporal.

For a yogi, concentration is the first step to a meditation practice. I often hear people say that meditation is the stilling of the mind. I also hear people say that they cannot get their mind to stop, so they cant meditate. Yet it is the nature of the mind to be busy. Through the practice of meditation, eventually one transcends that busy mind and touches and exists within the quiet, open, vast universal mind, the all-seeing mind, a vast field of pure potentiality. Meditation is the state of absorption upon which one concentrates. In a deeply meditative state, there is no me or other, but a oneness flow that returns the perception of individuality to the pure state of undivided consciousness.

There are two primary forms of meditation practice: those that are convergent, that help the mind focus, and those that are divergent, those that help the mind open and expand. The end result is the same, the transcendence of the mind, but the means are different. A convergent practice would be the Zen practice of focusing on a phrase, such as the sound of one hand clapping. The focus on something that transcends reason eventually exhausts the minds desire to divide and control and breaks the habitual field of awareness into new states of consciousness. A common divergent practice is a Buddhist vipassana practice that focuses on the breath. The breath is vast and expansive in nature, so by focusing on it, the practitioner can touch realms that exist beyond the limits of sense perception and physical attachment.

Some meditators are more visual and rely more on using the minds ability to create and invoke divine states or scenes. Others are more sensate and prefer to stay with feelings and physical sensations. There is no right or wrong way. You must do that which works for you. To find out what suits your temperament, try different techniques for a short while and eventually choose one. Choosing one practice is very important. As I said earlier, it is the nature of the mind to be busy, and a meditation practice is to develop the skill to move beyond the mind, so we don't want our busy mind to be restlessly seeking out a perfect" practice that will bring instant bliss. There is no such thing. Meditation practice is exactly that, a practice. You get out of it what you put in. So sticking with one is really key to the success of your practice. And again, remember, it is the nature of the mind to be distracted, so there will be a curious hunger within that will come and try to distract you once the going gets a bit rough. Stick with it. Having many meditation practices is like digging many shallow holes in the ground, whereas sticking with one practice is like digging one deep well that will eventually strike water.


Here is an example of a concentration exercise you could do. It is a classical practice from hatha yoga, called Trataka, which means to look or to gaze.

1. Find a quiet and relaxed environment, one that is away from the busyness of your life. It could be a separate room, or it could be a quiet corner of a room. Choose a spot where you feel safe and relaxed, that is not your bed.

2. Sit upright, either on the floor or on a chair. It is best to sit free from any back rest such as the wall or the back of a chair. You can sit on a cushion and/or prop your legs with cushions as needed so that your hips and spine feel as relaxed and as supported as possible.

3. Light a tall candle or raise a shorter candle (not a tea light) so that the golden flame is about at the level of your eyes.

4. Gaze at the flame with relaxed, focused eyes, without blinking. Keep your eyes open, even if they begin to tear.

5. When you feel the need to close your eyes, do so and keep them closed. While your eyes are closed, you will still see the image of the flame. Focus now on this for as long as you can, until it is no longer visible. While you are focusing on that gold flame, feel that you are the gold flame, that you are internalizing the gold light.

6. Open your eyes again, and return your gaze to the flame as in Step 4. Repeat steps 4 through 6 for about ten minutes.

7. After ten minutes, conclude the practice by keeping your eyes closed, taking three long breaths, feeling the energy of that gold light in your spine and your whole being, and give thanks inwardly for this practice.


Here is a basic breathing practice you can do.

1. Find a quiet and relaxed environment, one that is away from the busyness of your life. It could be a separate room, or it could be a quiet corner of a room. Choose a spot where you feel safe and relaxed, that is not your bed.

2. Sit upright, either on the floor or on a chair. It is best to sit free from any back rest such as the wall or the back of a chair. You can sit on a cushion and/or prop your legs with cushions as needed so that your hips and spine feel as relaxed and as supported as possible.

3. Close your eyes and bring your awareness to the crown of your head, and slowly scan through your whole body. Over the course of about one minute, begin at the crown, move through the face to the top of the spine at the base of the skull, through the neck, shoulders, arms, ribs, lungs, belly, pelvis, sitting bones, legs and feet. Allow yourself to feel rooted. Then return your awareness to the crown of your head while maintaining a rooted feeling through the sitting bones, so that you feel through your spine the rootedness in the pelvis that connects you to the ground, and the lightness through the crown that connects you to the sky.

4. Bring your full attention to your breath. Begin to notice the details of the mechanics of breathing, such as your lungs expanding when you inhale, and contracting when you exhale. Notice the muscles involved. Notice any tension that’s there. Notice any expansive feelings.

5. Begin to become aware of the sensation of breathing, the feeling of the air moving through the lungs, allowing yourself to relax with this process, keeping your mind both relaxed and focused on the breath.

6. When you notice your mind wandering onto random thoughts, gently allow your awareness to return to your breath.

Repeat this process for two to five minutes, for a beginner.

It is best to choose a length of time during which you can maintain your focus, rather than choosing a time that is too long, where you become overly distracted and lose the practice. It is much better to do two minutes of meditation with focus than to do thirty minutes without focus.


- Meditation is a discipline and is best seen as such. Regularity and consistency yield maximum results.
- It is ideal to choose the same place and time of day to do your practice. However, that is not an excuse not to do your practice. Any time is the right time to practice.
- Set a timer so that you dont feel tempted to watch the clock.
- Avoid the immediate urge to talk or get busy right after the practice. Allow there to be a transition for a few minutes.
- It is best not to meditate on a full stomach. The ideal is to meditate after bathing and before breakfast.
- It is of tremendous benefit to meditate under the guidance of a true master. I list a few in the references section.
- No two sits will be the same. That in itself is part of the practice, for you to let go of expectation and keep doing the practice. A meditation practice is not goal-oriented, but an organic, surrendered unfolding that slowly reveals ones true nature.
- It is very important to stay connected and present in your body, and not space out. Meditation is not leaving your body, but developing tremendous relaxed presence in the face of whatever may arise.
- Meditation is not a happiness pill. During a meditation practice, one will become aware of uncomfortable, even painful aspects of oneself. This is natural and healthy and not to be feared. By giving ourselves the space to witness them, and by being present with them as they arise, we are giving ourselves the gift of true freedom and the opportunity to permanently cease suffering.
- During any meditation, you may experience periods of elation or periods of distress. It is very important not to become attached or identified with, nor resistant to, any experience, and to just continue doing the practice.


For your reference, these are links to some books and spiritual centers and teachers that have touched me in some way:

Insight Meditation Society:
Shambhala Center:




Chodron, Pema, START WHERE YOU ARE, (Shambhala)


H. H. The Dalai Lama, THE ART OF HAPPINESS, (Riverhead, 1998)



Goldstein, Joseph, INSIGHT MEDITATION, (Shambhala)

Hayward, Jeremy, SACRED WORLD, (Bantam, 1995)

Kabat-Zinn, Jon, FULL CATASTROPHE LIVING, (Delta, 1990)

Kabat-Zinn, Jon, WHEREVER YOU GO, THERE YOU ARE, (Hyperion, 1994)

Nhat-Hanh, Thich, THE MIRACLE OF MINDFULNESS, (Beacon, 1975)

Nhat-Hanh, Thich, TOUCHING PEACE, (Parallax, '92)

Nhat-Hanh, Thich, PEACE IS EVERY STEP, (Bantam, 1991)

Salzberg, Sharon, LOVING KINDNESS, (Shambhala Press)

Trungpa, Chogyam, CUTTING THROUGH SPIRITUAL MATERIALISM, (Shambhala, 1973)


Fox, Matthew, A SPIRITUALITY NAMED COMPASSION, (Harper & Row, 1990)

OBrien, Justin, A MEETING OF MYSTIC PATHS, YOGA AND CHRISTIANITY (Yes International Publishers, 1996)


Mata Amritanandamayi, CONVERSATIONS WITH MATA AMRITANANDAMAYI Volume 1-9, (M. A. Center, 1986)

Swami Amritaswarupananda, AMMACHI: A BIOGRAPHY

(Larson Publications, 1997)

Swami Vivekananda, LIVING AT THE SOURCE, (Shambhala)

Satyananda Saraswati, MEDITATIONS FROM THE TANTRAS, (Bihar School of Yoga, Bhargava Bhushnan Press, 1983)

Paramahansa Yogananda, AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A YOGI,
(Self-Realization Fellowship, 2006)


Ford, Debbie, THE DARK SIDE OF THE LIGHT CHASERS, (Riverhead Books, 1998)

Grof, Stanislav and Christina, THE STORMY SEARCH FOR SELF, (Harper Collins, 1991)

Muller, Wayne, LEGACY OF THE HEART: The Spiritual Advantage of a Painful Childhood (Fireside, 1993)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Ask Parvati 4 - Spring Cleaning: Change Happens Where You Are

Spring Cleaning: Change Happens Where You Are

March 20, 2011

Happy Spring to everyone. Thank you for your comments on my last blog and your question submissions. May we all continue to pray for Japan and the health of our planet and all beings.

Dear Parvati,
There are things in my life I want to change but can’t seem to figure out how. For example, I love my partner who also has some bad habits I really want to change. I also have been trying for years to make more money, but continue to make the same income and not get ahead in debt payments. How do I change things I don’t like in my life?

Thank you for this question. I am sure many can relate. How does change happen? We often say we want change, when really we are afraid of change. Holding on for dear life to old patterns in our thoughts, in our cells, in our action, we find ourselves without the results we want and repeatedly back in similar situations. We blame circumstance, others, even God, for the events in our life and can easily get stuck in self-criticism. Try and try as we do, here we are again right back to where we don’t want to be! So what is going on?

Often our knee jerk reaction, when we want something to change, is to see the problem as ‘out there’ so we go out and try to fix the situation or person to our liking. But this leads to further unhappiness. The funny thing about change is that it does not happen ‘over there’, but exactly where we are. If we could stop the inner push/pull that goes on endlessly within for a moment, the ‘wanting’ for things to be different, we just might find that the steps we thought were an absent mystery beyond are in fact right under our feet.

I love the word “understanding”. To me it shows us that when we fully see what is happening in this moment, we become aware of how we are fully supported. We are standing under, rooted in reality. And there we find sincere inspiration, momentum and traction to meet the possibility of change.

Life is in constant change. What in nature stays exactly as it is? Change happens when we are willing to see things as they are, rather than how we want them to be. By accepting what is, we are not giving in, but tapping into the flow of Nature, which is ever changing. By not resisting, we are open to the flow of life that always moves in the direction of evolution, which is in our highest good and in the good of all beings.

By being unwilling to see what is in this moment, we perpetuate our feeling of dissatisfaction and as a consequence, pain grows. By resisting what is we create a push/pull dynamic in which we are identified with being the doer rather that a co-creative participant or an unattached witness. As such, we become frustrated, feel alone and experience a roller coaster of highs and lows from conquest to defeat. This cycle is draining and does not serve anyone.

So then what really is change? Change arises from a place of active beingness, when we are willing to live fully awake and surrendered to the moment. What is so great about the moment anyway, you ask? Life. In the moment, there is a spark that guides us to our next evolutionary step that is perfect and uniquely tailor-made just for us.

The next time you move to inwardly or outwardly criticize your partner’s behaviour, pause for a moment. Practice instead seeing that person exactly as they are.  You may not like what you see. That is ok. You may feel uncomfortable. That is ok. You may want to run and hide. That is ok. You may feel alone, angry, sad, etc. That is ok. Whatever is right there, be with it.

The same goes for your finances. The next time that bill comes in the mail, notice your feelings about it. Rather than making a joke of it to push away any feelings of discomfort, or rather than getting angry about it and feeling like a helpless victim, just see it, for what it is. Notice the situation with eyes awake. Only by being willing to truly see, can you truly see what is the expansive course of action. Knee-jerk reactions cause pain. Rooted, surrendered, expansive responses are a win-win for everyone, even if some people may not see it that way. It is a win-win because in that choice, you are in flow with the very force of life itself and in so doing, you are in support of the good of all beings everywhere.


1) Acceptance is not blind and resigned, but active and awake. Life is not happening to you; you are an active co-creator in actualizing what is. You are not an isolated island, but part of an intelligent whole. So try this exercise to help you feel more rooted, expansive and vital in your life and embrace the possibility of change:

2) Find a quiet place to lie on your back, so that you can relax without the risk of falling asleep. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor about hip width apart so that your breathing is easy, deep and relaxed.

3) Breathe into your belly, allowing the rhythm of the breath to bring your mind deeper into this moment, into your body, into the feeling of the here and now. Go deeper into yourself and feel the connection your body has with the floor. Then feel the connection your breath has with the outside air and how it flows into your body. Know that the air you breathe that feeds your being is also connected to all of life, all animals, all humans, all things alive.

Take a moment to feel that interconnection between you, life and all things. Feel the immense possibility of life itself. Allow your being to expand, to open to this life force that is in you, around you, everywhere. Stay rooted in your body by still feeling the ground, your breath, and include the expansive awareness you also feel. Allow yourself to open to receive this possibility in this moment, feel it in your breath and in your cells. While maintaining that presence, say to yourself:
  • I am supported. I am open, ready and willing to receive support. I am. I am. I am.

Feel that truth in your whole being. Repeat it like you were feeding your cells with this lush, rich, expansive place. Repeat it until you truly feel it. Then say:
  • I am open to abundance. I am open, ready and willing to receive abundance. I am. I am. I am.

Feel that truth in your whole being. Repeat it like you were feeding your cells with this lush, rich, expansive place. Repeat it until you truly feel it.

Keep going, making statements that feel expansive and are about yourself. Keep the focus within and on yourself, not on another. Focus on the positive possibilities of being you, not on wanting to change either someone else’s or your own impossibilities. Be present with the possibilities of the now because change happens exactly where you are.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Ask Parvati 3: Awakening to Disaster

Awakening to Disaster
March 13, 2011

As I write, I am feeling raw and vulnerable. The power of the earthquake in Japan and the tsunami that followed shook me deeply and leaves me focused on prayers for those who were struck by the disasters and for all beings, including our living planet.

The questions I received this week were powerful, mirroring the intensity of the natural disaster that also came. The question answered here is in response to dealing with family tragedy. Both this tragedy and the planetary disaster to me are a call to enlightened action and to learn to truly love.

(If you would like your question to be in a draw to be answered next Sunday, please send it to me by Thursday, March 17th at

May you feel inspired this week to be the light you are.

Dear Parvati,
My husband's niece was killed by her husband last week, leaving four small children behind. I have always believed that we choose our experiences in this birth, that we choose our birthplace and parents/siblings and, to a certain extent, our death and time of death. Given the horrific way this woman’s life ended, I have a hard time believing that we would actually choose to die in such a way and also leave four children behind having to deal with this traumatic experience. Can you explain more about the cycle of birth and death?


Thank you for this question. I found it arresting, painful, tragic and so very sad for everyone. What is this human experience, when such painful things occur? Man is capable of such magnificence, yet does choose this kind of darkness. It is a very big question. Here are some thoughts I felt moved to share:

Our lives offer us a perfect environment for our evolution and growth. To say that “we choose” it to me sounds too harsh. I would say that our soul patterns our life before we are born. Our life reflects our attachments, our resistance and our openness. The experiences and people in our life are an expression of these. As such, our life offers us a perfect place to awaken to who we truly are and to what truly is.

I don’t believe that painful things happen as a sign of being a bad person. I don’t believe that people who seem to have it all together are so because they are being rewarded. I don’t believe in that kind of punishment and praise. I believe we can completely miss the lessons we are here to learn, whether we seem to have it all together or have a life that is a mess. How we respond in any given situation is what shows us who we truly are.

We are each an essential part of a vast, multidimensional whole. What we put out comes back to us for us to see. There is an intelligence that is constantly teaching us, if we are willing to open, see and listen. There is no such thing as "a man is an island". He may believe himself to be, but in essence, he is connected to everything, whether he sees it or not. As such, all we think, do, feel, believe and act affects not just our selves, but everyone we know and don’t know.

Life is not happening “to” me. I am not a victim in any situation. I have free will. Being an essential part of a vast whole, what I think, feel and do is continually reflected back to me in my life. As such, I know that life is not happening "to" anyone. What exists today on our planet is a reflection of who we are as a species at this time. There is no one to blame. We are all equally responsible to switch on and serve.

In the process of awakening, we begin to realize the power of free will. We can choose at any moment to act in ignorance or in love. Until we embody pure consciousness, there will be a tendency to resist what is and experience suffering. All that occurs in our life is an opportunity to awaken to see patterns of our resistance and let them go.


We live in a dark time. The Earth is agitated. People are agitated. There is mass suffering. But just because it is so, does not does not mean we need to be in the dark. We can see it as a reflection of our possibility to be dark.

How much we embody suffering is up to us. Because we have free will, we have the potential to embody that murkiness and perpetuate more suffering, or use this moment as an opportunity to purify our psyches and live soul-directed, spiritually inspired lives to serve all beings.

In each moment, we can choose to expand and meet the moment or we can choose to constrict and resist it. When we resist, suffering persists, until we embrace what is. Through resistance, we experience pain, and cause pain. Through expansion, we offer healing and support evolution.

I believe that, because we are all connected, what happens to another affects all beings. The pain the now motherless children feel is my pain. The pain the Japanese feel is my pain. Of course, that can quickly seem theoretical because the actual incident is not “happening” to me. But is it?

The night I was sleeping during the quake and tsunami, I had unusual, restless dreams. I woke up to my morning meditation practice and had unusual difficulty meditating. Usually I “drop in” to stillness quite quickly. Instead, I felt the atmosphere agitated, murky, painful. I felt pain in my whole body, like my body was lead. Instead of my usual sitting meditation practice, I lay down and did deep breathing. In that, tears just started to flow. I felt deep pain and sadness but had no particular cause. Later that afternoon I heard the news about the trauma in Japan. 

It is easy to become judgmental, angry or self-righteous when we hear about tragic situations like the murdered mother or what is happening in Japan. Though it is natural to feel these things, those feelings do not ultimately express how we truly feel nor do they serve healing. Instead, they sidestep our own feeling of pain, helplessness and continue the notion of feeling divided, isolated islands rather than interconnected beings.

I believe situations like these disasters ask us to question what is going on in our lives and find healthier ways to co-exist with each other and with Nature. The family tragedy brings to light the way in which we live personally disconnected with our truest magnificence and offers us an opportunity to develop that more deeply. Can we feel compassion for everyone in that situation, including the murderer? Can we see the potential for violence within ourselves, no matter how big or small? How loving are we really? How do we serve others? Are we listeners, co-creators, open to others; or are we judgmental, righteous know-it-alls, controlling, angry and ultimately afraid? What are we choosing to evolve?

The natural disaster offers us opportunity to feel part of our human family. Not only do these disasters call us to serve with selfless, compassionate action, but once the immediate trauma is healed, they ask us to look deeper into the cause of the disasters. The nuclear threat in Japan obviously brings to light the ultimate question of using nuclear power. Do we really need it? The earthquakes show us that our planet is agitated and overtaxed. The tsunami shows how interconnected we are, how one thing leads to another like a domino effect. What are we doing to ease the stress and suffering in ourselves and on the planet? Are we willing to see the interconnection?

We are left with a raw, powerful opportunity to go within and grow. As I say, a heart can break open or closed. The choice is ours. We learn to love ourselves better, which leads to being able to love all beings better. We can learn to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem.


If you know peace prayers in your spiritual tradition, please practice them daily, as often as you can. If you don’t have any, here are some suggestions:

A Buddhist peace prayer starts with sending loving kindness to oneself, then expand that offering to others and eventually the world:
May all beings be at peace.
May all beings be well.
May all beings be at ease.
May all beings be happy.

A Hindu peace prayer in Sanskrit translates to “May all beings in all the worlds be happy”:
Lokah samastha sukhino bhavantu.

The Christian St Francis of Assisi peace prayer is a personal favorite of mine and of many:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love,
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith,
Where there is despair, hope,
Where there is darkness, light,
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much
seek to be consoled as to console,
not so much to be understood as to understand,
not so much to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
it is in dying that we awake to eternal life.


Next time you feel that the problem is “out there” and you feel disconnected from it, as though you are somehow either a broken and forgotten or a perfect and self-righteous island in the midst of the world, pull out this poem as a sobering reality check to bring you back to balance:

This poem by Thich Nhat Hanh embodies what he calls "interbeing," the inner connectedness of all things. This excerpt is from his book: Peace is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life.

“In Plum Village, where I live in France, we receive many letters from the refugee camps…. It is very painful to read them, but we have to do it, we have to be in contact. We try our best to help, but the suffering is enormous, and sometimes we are discouraged….
There are many young girls, boat people, who are raped by sea pirates. Even though the United Nations and many countries try to help the government of Thailand prevent that kind of piracy, sea pirates continue to inflict much suffering on the refugees…
When you first learn of something like that, you get angry at the pirate. You naturally take the side of the girl. As you look more deeply you will see it differently. If you take the side of the little girl, then it is easy. You only have to take a gun and shoot the pirate. But we cannot do that. In my meditation I saw that if I had been born in the village of the pirate and raised in the same conditions as he was, there is a great likelihood that I would become a pirate. I saw that many babies are born along the Gulf of Siam, hundreds every day, and if we educators, social workers, politicians, and others do not do something about the situation, in twenty-five years a number of them will become sea pirates. That is certain. If you or I were born today in those fishing villages, we may become sea pirates in twenty-five years. If you take a gun and shoot the pirate, all of us are to some extent responsible for this state of affairs.
After a long meditation, I wrote this poem. In it, there are three people: the twelve-year-old girl, the pirate, and me. Can we look at each other and recognize ourselves in each other?...

Call Me by My True Names
Do not say that I'll depart tomorrow
because even today I still arrive.

Look deeply: I arrive in every second
to be a bud on a spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with wings still fragile,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
in order to fear and to hope.
The rhythm of my heart is the birth and
death of all that are alive.

I am the mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river,
and I am the bird which, when spring comes, arrives in time
to eat the mayfly.

I am the frog swimming happily in the clear pond,
and I am also the grass-snake who, approaching in silence,
feeds itself on the frog.

I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks,
and I am the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons to Uganda.

I am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea pirate,
and I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and loving.

I am a member of the politburo, with plenty of power in my hands,
and I am the man who has to pay his "debt of blood" to my people,
dying slowly in a forced labor camp.

My joy is like spring, so warm it makes flowers bloom in all walks of life.
My pain is like a river of tears, so full it fills the four oceans.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and laughs at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up,
and so the door of my heart can be left open,
the door of compassion.


I leave this blog entry with these points of contemplation, questions you may ask yourself to support your evolution and compassionate action:

  1. In which way do I resist this moment?
  2. What is this resistance showing me about what I fear?
  3. What do I need to do to release my attachment to that fear?
  4. In which way is the fear an obstacle to my growth?
  5. What does loving myself look like?
  6. What does loving others look like?
  7. What simple, self-compassionate action can I do today that would help my life feel more fulfilled?
  8. What simple, compassionate action can I do today to ease suffering in another’s life?

    If you are not already actively volunteering in your local community, do so. We learn to truly love by living a life rooted in serving others. We are all connected, as one human Earth family.

    Sunday, March 6, 2011

    Ask Parvati 2 - Family Relationships - Breaking Free of Feeling Judged

    Family Relationships – Breaking Free of Feeling Judged
    March 6, 2011

    Thank you very much for your comments to my past post and for your submissions this round.
    If you would like your question to be in a draw to be answered next Sunday, please send it to me by Thursday March 10th at I look forward to hearing from you!

    Have a super week and enjoy the week’s read.


    Dear Parvati, I have been brought up in a very controlling family, with very dogmatic religious beliefs. Even though I am an adult now and have been living on my own for a long time, I still feel this fear of being controlled and judged by them, to the point where I don't even want to talk to them or visit them anymore. How can I move past that and have a healthy, balanced relationship with them?


    Dear Friend,

    Thank you for your sincere question. Many, I am sure, can relate. No matter what kind of family we are born into, good, loving, kind, abusive, indifferent, we have an opportunity to grow. At a soul level, deeper then the personality, our family members are very powerful teachers that I believe are perfectly matched for what we need to learn in this life. Whether or not you have a postcard happy relationship with your family, whether you speak to them every day or once in ten years, all that is in your life is there to support you learning and evolving.

    Learning to see a situation as it is, beyond hurt and the grip of emotional reactivity, is to me the first step to finding healing. When you look deeper, you see that a judgmental person is a fearful person. We can all relate to being afraid. We all share deep, primal fear of not being loved.

    Being able to see a person as they are helps us to understand what really is, and in so doing, we to learn to love. A judgmental person likely does not feel loved. Knowing that behind a judgmental person is a fearful one helps us to feel more connected to them at a soul level. Maybe our personalities don’t jive, but somehow, we can relate to another’s human experience. We too can feel afraid. We too can judge. Rather than falling into the trap of judging those who are judging us, which just perpetuates the cycle of suffering, we learn to be present for their fear of not being loved, which mirrors our own fear of not being loved. So in essence, you really are not dealing with judgment at all. You are learning to let go of identifying with the fear of not feeling loved and not taking someone else’s fear of the same personally.

    Once we know what is really going on, we can find much greater inner peace. We can be more honest within ourselves about how we are afraid of not being loved by the people who were our primary caregivers. Biologically, our very life depended on these people when we were children. So we wanted and needed to feel loved – for survival. But as adults, our life no longer depends on them the same way. Instead, we learn to connect inwardly to the true source of love, which is not our parents, but the universal flow of pure consciousness that is in all things, all the time. We learn to see ourselves as a reflection of that love, and our family also.

    So, you may ask, if my judgmental family is a reflection of that pure consciousness, why do they act in a way that I find hurtful? A judgmental person is not plugged into the reality that he/she is a reflection of pure consciousness. Nor is that person seeing you as such. The key is, it does not matter if they see you that way or not. You find freedom by seeing it yourself. You cannot control when they wake up to seeing things as they are. But you can control when you can. They may never see you as you are. But you can learn to see them as they are right now. In seeing them as they are, you are actually seeing yourself more clearly, because you are tapping into unconditional love. And your true nature is Love.

    When you plug into the reality that you are love, that you are loved, when you choose to live in the positive possibilities, you can see that their fear is a reminder, a teacher that guides your choices. Their judgment shows you that acting in disconnect causes pain for everyone. So you learn not to do the same. Their pain teaches you to let go of the hurtful cycle of judgment so that you love yourself and others, something they, at this time, are not able to do, likely not because they are mean, but because they don’t yet know how.

    We are geared to see our biological family as our safe place, as our source of love. As children, we needed our families to be that for us. But now, we learn to see ourselves as part of a much bigger family, the human family, and find our source of love from the timeless universal rather than from the limited personal. As we grow older, we must leave the nest to find our own expression of I AM. We can fear that we will surpass our parents, and that then we will not get the love we had hoped we would as children. But being able to see our parents and siblings as they are is essential in becoming who we are. As we see them for who they are, as they are, rather than as we want them to be, we learn to accept them as they are, and love who we are. Our source of love no longer is held captive within them, limited mortals that they are, but found beyond all things temporal. Life then becomes a co-creative dance with the timeless source of love, through the temporal expression of it. We learn to see that what is before us in our lives is teaching us to love better, but is not the source of love.

    All that happens, happens for a reason. We are part of a much greater, intelligent infrastructure than what our little ego can perceive. As such, what happens in our life, offers us an opportunity to grow beyond the grasp of our ego. I believe that our family members provide us with the perfect setting to learn to truly love and realize who we are.


    1) The essential questions

    No matter what happens in life, we can choose to grow. We can choose for life to break our heart closed or break it open. So as a starting point, I would be asking myself some key questions:

    •  What am I learning here?
    •  What is this situation gifting me with that only this situation could offer?

    2) Seeing things as they are

    We are distracted from the present by being attracted to what we like (thinking that will bring us happiness, however fleeting) and repulsed by what we don’t like (running from what we fear). Both attraction and repulsion are based on running: running to, and running from the fullness of life. When we allow ourselves to see things – as they are – without a story attached to it, we begin to experience that which is.

    All relationships provide us with a very powerful mirror. If we like what we see, we tend to say: “I like that.” If we don’t like what we see, we say: “I don’t like that.” We tend to attract again and again similar people, who at some point we don’t like, because we have not learned to accept that part inside ourselves.

    Perhaps, having grown up in a judgmental family, you may find yourself prone to being judgmental. Even when we tend to not like things in our family, sooner or later, we find they exist in us. Being judgmental about judgmental people is a quick and easy trap to fall into. Practice finding a neutral point of view, to the best of your ability. Practice seeing your family members as they are with no story attached.

    For example, when you hear one of your family members being judgmental, do you immediately think, “Oh! There he/she goes again, being so judgmental!”? By reacting to another’s judgmental nature, in effect, you are judging. Instead, see if you can develop a point of view to see things as they are. So he/she judges and you say to yourself, with neutrality, “Ok. There is judgment.” As though you were saying, “The sky is blue.”

    3) The power of raw and real

    By learning to pause when you tend to react to feeling judged, you can begin to truly feel what you are feeling. Beyond the discomfort of feeling judged, you may feel disconnected from the person who you feel is judging you. And in that disconnection, you may realize that you feel sad and alone. In that aloneness, you may notice that you feel afraid. In that fear, you may doubt that that you will ever feel love or loved. In that feeling of disconnection you are left raw, real and honest in that moment. The reactivity of being judgmental was masking that vulnerability of your naked, open honesty.

    The question you may be asking is, why would I want to feel naked, raw and vulnerable, any time especially around people who I feel judge me? True power comes from honesty, not from masks. We can say nothing to someone who hurts us, and pretend it does not matter, but all the while, our stomach is churning and inner pain builds within. Our masks grow heavy and are tiresome to carry. We think we are protecting ourselves, but in effect, we are hiding ourselves from ourselves and the world. How can we feel love in that state of hiding?

    We hide because we are afraid that who we really are is not good enough. And that feeling of not good enough is easy to feel when we are around judgmental people. But the cycle stops cold when we stop giving it energy. In being honest, raw, vulnerable and real with ourselves and with others, we stop the cycle of disconnect. We have taken the leap into connecting with ourselves. And once we do, we can tune in, powerfully, to find out if it is right for us to share that feeling with others.

    4) Share what feels expansive and witness the rest

    It is not always right to share with another person all and everything that you are feeling. But it is always right to share whatever feels expansive to share of what you are feeling, from a place of personal connection and honesty with who you are. Whatever you say from that vantage point, everyone has the opportunity to gain, whether they decide to open to that opportunity or wish to continue to judge. What they do, you cannot control. But what you see and say, you totally can.

    5) Manage your relationship

    Define the relationship as it suits you. You are in charge of all relationships in your life. You never need to feel, in any relationship, that you are powerless. All relationships in your life need to work for you. So ask yourself, with regard to your family,
    • What kind of relationship do I need in order to feel healthy?
    • What changes do I need to make in my behaviour with them to honour my needs?
    • In what way am I still looking for their approval?
    • How do I give them power?
    • In which way do I still see them as the source of my love?
    • At what point do I start to feel like I am losing my energy when I am around them?
    • Do I feel this way with all my family members or just a few in particular?

    If you are learning new self-management techniques, let your family know that you are changing things in your life so they can expect changes. They may not understand. They may even react. That does not matter. If you need to, you can let them know that you need some space to figure things out and that it is not personal.

    Take care of yourself first. Unless you have a positive possibilities relationship with yourself, you cannot have a healthy relationship with others. And just because you have a positive possibilities relationship with yourself, that doesn’t mean you will ever have a positive possibilities relationship with certain people. Those people just may not want to go there.

    I do believe it is not possible or even healthy to have relationships with certain people. It is always healthy to wish people well, to sincerely wish them happiness. Sometimes the most loving thing we can do is not interact. No one benefits when two drowning people cling to each other and pull each other down.


    Next time you know you are going to interact with people who tend to judge you, see if you can set up boundaries that support you having space to keep tuned into how you feel. Also make sure you have the space you need to leave, if you need to.

    1. Before you engage with any of your family members, prepare yourself to practice seeing their behaviour as a reflection of their own state of consciousness and not as a reflection of you.
    2. When you feel people judge you, take a deep breath and go within to shift your perspective. It is not “happening” to you. Their judging reflects their own state of fear and subsequent desire to control.
    3.  Ask for clarification. “You said [this]. Is that what you mean?”
    4. Should you feel judged, take a deep breath and shift your perspective into seeing that the judgment is a reflection of their own disconnect and fear and has nothing to do with you. Then you can choose to voice, if it feels expansive to do so, that you feel judged by what was said. Not because you want their approval, but out of self-love; it is healthy for you to be honest with who you are. Being honest ultimately mirrors back to them how their behaviour makes you feel and provides them with an opportunity to see you better and to learn to love.
    5.  If you do choose to voice how you feel, practice being not attached to what they say in response. Remember, you are doing it for yourself, not for approval.If you choose not to voice how you feel, continue to practice witnessing how the other is behaving. If you feel like you are losing energy by being in that environment, leave. Doing what feels expansive for you is best for everyone.


    • Everyone in your life is a teacher.
    • Everything in life provides an opportunity for you to embody wisdom-compassion and realize your true nature as Love.
    • Set healthy boundaries. You don’t need to hang out with anyone that does not make you feel expansive. Sometimes people come into your life to teach you to say no.
    • Being real, honest and raw is powerful. The more honest you are with yourself, the more honest you can be with others. The more you live by honesty in all you do, the less burdens you carry and the freer you will feel. The freer you feel, the more love you will feel, and therefore, the more able you will be to share and enjoy living.