Posts filed under ‘Spiritual Almanack’

A Spiritual Almanack – November

November – Darkness

Hexagram 29- Kan

water

over

water

 

In times of danger and darkness, people should cling to one another.

Although this time of year is one of increasing darkness, an expansion of yin, we don’t have to give in to that darkness or sink into fear and despair. There is always the possibility of finding the light within. In life we have two choices: we can choose the path of love or take the path of suffering. Because life is complicated, sometimes the path of love leads to suffering and the path of suffering conversely can lead to love. But when we find the light or choose to move towards it we move towards love and embrace whatever life brings us.

Our existence depends on the light of the sun. It gives us energy, warms us, and gives life to the plants which feed us. But light is important for us not just for physical sustenance but as a spiritual need. Light has always been identified as the source of life, consciousness and the spirit, just as darkness has been identified with ignorance and death.

The Prasna Upanishad says,

The rising sun is the symbol of life; it rises to bring light to our eyes.

The sun is life, the moon is matter. The sun gives light and life to all who live, and is the life-energy of the universe.

Therefore, the wise see the Lord of Love in the sun rising in all its golden radiance to give warmth, light and love to all.

All of us, no matter what colour we are, or language we speak, share the same response to the light. As the yogis and rishis of ancient India understood, we are all part of one united Self and we share this Self – what I experience you too experience, what I feel you feel. This is the foundation of the first law of ethics, the Golden Rule found in so many cultures:

Act towards others as you would like them to act towards you.

When we realise this unity we are able to act together, to collectively raise our faces to the light, which shines not just as a symbol of life but as a symbol of our freedom. We can then stand and stare in wonder and amazement at the beauty of that light, the light that represents insight, truth and understanding, warmth and compassion. It is only our ego driven attachments that obscure this light.

To act together means to find solidarity and community with others, and this is why the I Ching says,

In times of danger and darkness, people should cling to one another.

We are living in dangerous times, and our leaders are foolishly breeding even more fear among us, but at such a time it’s important to realise that whatever dangers we face we do not face them alone, but are all in this life together. Then we are able to understand that united we can be strong and conquer our fears, while divided as individuals we merely cower at home.

The sun is constantly shining, even though clouds sometimes obscure it and the turning of the earth puts it beyond our sight. But even at night the moon reminds us of the sun’s presence. When something that we know exists is absent, we feel its presence even more. These lines were found scribbled on a ghetto wall in 1945:

I believe in the sun though it is late in rising.

I believe in love though it is absent.

I believe in God though he is silent.

What we seek is harmony, the perfect balancing of dark and light, positive and negative, spiritual and material, optimism and caution, consciousness and the unconscious, that will allow us to synchronise our lives with the laws of nature. When we think and act in harmony, then life has an integrity, a wholeness that permeates, surrounds and arranges all of our relationships, giving us an incredible lightness of being that enables us to float up from the darkness of fear and despair into the sparkling radiance of the light. We can become like Chuang Tzu’s Taoist immortals,

Their spirits mount up on the light,

their bodies freed from limitations.

This we call being bright and ethereal.

They complete their destiny,

and leave no single potential unfulfilled.

They enjoy heaven and earth,

and life’s conflicts dissolve.

All things return to their original nature,

merging with the mysterious darkness.

The Svetasvatara Upanishad tells us that our yoga practise is a means of discovering the inner light of our original nature, the light of wisdom and grace,

Choose a clean quiet and cool place for meditation and the practise of yoga, where the sounds of dancing water and the beauty of the place foster thought and contemplation. In deep meditation you may see forms like snow or smoke, you may feel a strong wind blowing, or a wave of heat, or you may see more and more light within. These are signs that you are on the spiritual path to reach the Eternal Spirit of Brahman.

When the yogi has full power over his body, he can increase the spiritual fire within, giving better health, a light body, and freedom from craving.  When a gold mirror is covered with dust, it shines again when it has been cleaned.  When you have been cleansed with the truth of the Spirit your life is fulfilled and you are beyond suffering. Then you become a lamp by which you find the truth of the spirit and see the pure Everlasting Spirit, freeing you from all bondage.

This is the Spirit whose light illumines all creation, the creator of all from the beginning. He was, he is and always shall be; he is in all and sees all. Let us adore the Lord of Life who is ever present in fire, water, plants and trees.

The writers of the Upanishads created this prayer, which epitomises our spiritual quest,

Lead us from the unreal to the real

Lead us from the darkness to the light

Lead us from the fear of death to knowledge of immortality

November 9, 2009 at 3:27 pm Leave a comment

A Spiritual Almanac – October

CONTRACTION

Hexagram: 41 Sun

Mountain above Lake

After yang reaches its peak in the summer solstice, it reverts to yin. Expansion comes to an end and a slow contraction begins, the energy reversing and turning in on itself. The sap sinks from the branches of the trees, draining the vibrant green life from the leaves, drying them to burnt brown and yellow. At last the sap contracts into the earth, just as our own energies contract inwards, preparing us for the long winter’s rest.

The annual death of nature reminds us of our own mortality, and it is easy to become depressed at this season. The warmth of summer recedes in the memory and we have only the bitter cold of a long winter to look forward to. But the knowledge that Nature’s death is only temporary, and will revive again in spring gives us an insight into the cycles that dominate our lives: the contrast of day and night, the ebb and flow of the seas, the revolving seasons, the moving stars and planets, the cycles of the moon all embed us in a cyclical yet ever-changing universe. All of these cycles of nature are patterns of energy. And our body and mind are also made up of these same patterns of energy, expressing themselves in cycles: the contrast of in-breath and out-breath, the heart beating fast and slow, the cycle of digestion from food to waste, and the entire arc of our lives from birth to death, are demonstrations of energy patterning. In our bodies we are aware of this energy as prana or chi, and its free circulation determines our health and longevity.

We long for a vision of wholeness, of perceiving and living a unified life, being at one with all of creation. But this oneness can only come through an understanding of the dualities that are in us and which surround us, and make up the world of appearance that confronts us every day. Just as the Chinese believe that the endless combination of yin and yang are the two forces that make up all the universe, so the forces of duality that we live amongst make up our earthly world: love and hate, war and peace, conflict and co-operation, stress and tranquillity, aggression and compassion, profit and loss, fear and joy, sorrow and happiness, wealth and poverty, health and illness. We are surrounded and embedded in dualities, but our task is to understand that all these qualities are polar opposites leading to a higher unity that encompasses and transcends them. These dualities, since they too are expressions of energy, must represent the same cycles of energy that the universe demonstrates on the larger scale.

Our culture impels us to want to live with the yang side of these dualities: we would prefer health, wealth, joy, happiness, co-operation, tranquillity, but it is not possible to avoid the opposite yin side of things. To want one without the other is to misunderstand the nature of the universe and therefore the nature of our mind, body and spirit. The Tai Chi Chuan master Cheng Man Ching said to his students, “You must have the fearlessness to suffer loss.” For a long time I didn’t understand what this teaching meant. Why should we want to suffer loss? But I came to understand that Cheng Man Ching meant that we must not one-sidedly seek out the positive and desirable parts of life and avoid the negative, but must accept both equally and be prepared to take in the more painful and suffering side, since there is really no way that we can avoid it. If we want yang without yin, we will not succeed in life. There must be the cold of winter to insure the heat of summer. As he said, “It’s only when a person is able to suffer great loss that in the end he will have great gain.” If we want to be whole we need to become aware of and accept the dark shadow side of life, and that also means the dark shadow side to ourselves. In the end we must accept contraction as well as expansion, which means accepting and coming to terms with our inevitable death. As the Tao Te Ching says,

Recognise the white

But hold on to the black

And be the world’s guide.

Being the world’s guide

Don’t stray from ancient virtue

Not straying from ancient virtue

Be without limits again.

When someone asked Cheng Man Ching, “What is the most important reason to practise Tai Chi Chuan? “ he said, “The most important reason is that when you finally reach the place where you understand what life is about, you’d have some health to enjoy it. “ One can repeat this about yoga practise and study – when yoga helps us to finally come to an understanding of some of life’s meaning, it also gives us the health and energy to enjoy and revel in it. When Jews celebrate together, the toast we make is ‘L’Chaim’ – To Life – and the decision to always choose life means to choose the path of spiritual life rather than death, to choose light rather than darkness, to always try to do the right thing, and in all of life to seek out and follow the truth of our own being, as far as we are able. It is only by following this true path that we can find any happiness, satisfaction and true meaning in life.

October 14, 2009 at 2:24 pm Leave a comment

A Spiritual Almanac – September

Hexagram 45  Cui: Gathering

Lake  over Earth

Fruit falls from the trees in Autumn, leading to the image of gathering. The fullness of the earth’s bounty, the richness of nature, gives us a feeling of abundance, of sufficiency, that there exists more than enough for all living creatures. Life overflows, a cornucopia of creativity and wealth.

Commentary on the symbol:

Lake over Earth.

An image of gathering together.

In correspondence with this,

The superior person repairs his weapons

To guard against unexpected happenings.

When we eat the fruits and grains of the earth we take in the goodness and natural medicines they contain. In this way we gather the medicines in our body that lead to health and well-being. By eating well we immunise ourselves against physical illness, strengthening our energy. But how do we immunise ourselves against spiritual illness, the malaise of our times?

When we gather together and meditate, there is a heightened atmosphere in the space, an electrical charge that is sometimes missing when we meditate alone. This communal atmosphere created by our spirits tuning together is the sense of presence, of something greater than ourselves that is at the same time part of us. The sense of this presence can give us a feeling of security and tranquillity.  In Judaism the word for presence is shekina, and it is one of the words for God. When we meditate together we are calling this presence to us, opening ourselves to an essence beyond our small and temporary lives. When we chant together we create an energy field around us that we can also feel within ourselves bringing us closer to our inner spirit.

The promise that God made to the Jewish people, and therefore to all people, is that even if we turn away from the divine, the divine will never turn away from us. Martin Buber’s translation of the Bible has God saying to Moses:

When you need me I will be there.

So if we ever need spiritual help from the presence it is always there, just waiting for us to turn to it. The word Religion comes from religio meaning binding together, and yoga means union. Union and binding together are both forms of gathering. Religion gathers people together, while yoga unites and integrates all the fragmented parts of ourselves, the parts that modern life has separated. But when we manage to discover and live the feeling that mind, body, spirit and soul are one whole living organism, then we feel the joy of being. We recover our true selves, and understand that all selves are really one self. With this knowledge we lose the feeling of being a stranger in a strange universe and instead feel at home in the universe that has created us.

When we practise the yoga asanas and breathe with awareness, we can gather energy from the earth beneath us.  With each exhalation we surrender to the universe, with each inhalation every cell of our bodies is renewed and restored.

Just as we gather medicines together to heal the body, so we gather with others to heal the body politic. When we are able to bring multitudes of people together, then the power of presence is very strong, strong enough to create new communities, new tribes, new nations. When people come and assemble together, as in the demonstrations against the Iraqi invasion, there is a tremendous feeling of solidarity, of togetherness. We realise how insecure and fearful we are when we live lives of selfish isolation, and how powerful is our connection to other people. The Taoist I Ching says,

When people gather in their spirit and energy, cultivate essence and life, and restore the original natural reality, that is coming back to our roots.

When we come back to our roots we are strong and solid, and we have trust in our ability to cope with all of life. That trust can be radiated outwards to other people, and can be used in all of life’s situations.  In difficult times, people are happy to work together with one heart and one mind, as long as they can find faith or trust. Faith, trust and confidence are all one thing: the knowledge that the universe has order and can sustain justice, and that we, as microcosms of the universe, also have an inherent order and a desire for justice. When people gather in accord with others, and seek justice for everyone, as those marchers did, then the time is truly joyful.

Images of gathering together, of massing things together, mean that we work purposefully together towards some end. This is why the Commentary says,

The superior person repairs his weapons

To guard against unexpected happenings.

To repair our weapons is to put our house in order, to bring ourselves to a peak of fitness that is mental and spiritual as well as physical. When we feel good in ourselves we feel good towards the world, and when we heal ourselves we help to heal the world. Inner healing and peace are the only way we can find peace in the world. There is no way to peace – peace is the way.

September 16, 2009 at 4:40 pm 2 comments

Spiritual Almanack- August – Fullness

Hexagram 55. Feng.

feng images

Thunder
Over
Fire

Harmony and peace naturally lead to fulfilment.
Those who find harmony and peace in life will surely reap prosperity.

Do not worry
Be like the sun at noon

The image: Flourishing.

“The flowers of the pear tree have gathered and turned to fruit.”
Chen Yi

Nature has performed her miracle and transformed the flowers into fruit. The light and warmth that makes the fruit ripen ripens all of life, filling our bodies and minds with light and warmth, opening us to the truth and goodness of the universe.

Commentary:

When the sun reaches its height
Declining begins.
When the moon attains its fullness,
Waning starts.
The waxing and waning of heaven and earth
Accord with the course of time.

Our bodies, if we allow them to, will naturally stay in tune with nature and its cycles. We are also nature, human nature, and the energy cycles of the universe manifest in us. When there is a full moon we react like the tides with a rush of energy, and the new moon’s darkness contracts the tides and draws us to seek rest.

After a time of fullness and abundance, there is a natural waning and emptying, since things cannot stay full for ever, but they rise and fall just as yin gives way to yang and yang gives way to yin. This is the nature of the universe, a law of life. Yang is the same as the constant expanding force of the universe, while yin is shown in the force of gravity that contracts and holds things in.

After the fulfilment of yang there is always the contraction of yin. The days grow shorter and as night draws in the air grows cooler. But it is important to treasure and enjoy the time of fullness, and not worry about the decline. If we are humble and share our abundant and prosperous times with others, and not try to selfishly hoard them out of fear, then we spread our enjoyment widely, and increase communal harmony. This can create prosperity and abundance in the future. Real abundance means peace and joy, good health, love, the sky and sun, the sea, mountains, all the natural world and its beauties.

Yang and yin, expansion and gravity, are the same dynamics found in the solar system and in our bodies. We experience expansion when we take an inbreath and we feel contraction on the outbreath. In our bodies the rise and fall of the breath reflects the rise and fall of the sun, the moon and all natural dynamic processes.

There is a normal human desire to want the pleasureable and the abundant to continue, and this leads us to try to stop or deny loss and pain. But we need to accept and welcome decline in the same way that we want to have abundance, because profit and loss are two sides of the same yin and yang coin. To be fully human, we need to embrace loss as well as gain, since one cannot exist without the other. Rabbi Joseph Gelberman tells how his father dealt correctly with loss,

When I was a young boy in Hungary, my father taught me an important lesson. He owned a big department store, and one day while we were at the synagogue, his store was broken into, looted, and set on fire. And to make it worse, he found out it was our neighbours who did it! But it was the Sabbath and on the Sabbath you don’t talk business. So we continued with our prayers.

That night we finally talked about it. He wasn’t the least bit angry.” We have to build the store again. This is our home. What else can we do? If I lose my store and allow my blood pressure to rise, that is paying double. I don’t believe in paying twice.”

The book of Genesis tells this famous story of abundance and decline,

And it came to pass that Pharaoh dreamed; and behold, seven ears of corn came up upon one stalk, rank and good. And behold, seven ears thin and blasted with the east wind sprung up after them. And the thin ears swallowed up the seven rank and full ears.

Pharaoh’s spirit was troubled, and when no one could tell him the meaning of the dream he called Joseph out of the dungeon to interpret it, and Joseph said,

The seven good ears are seven years; and the seven empty ears blasted with the east wind are also seven years, and they shall be seven years of famine. Behold, there come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt. And there shall arise after them seven years of famine; and all the plenty shall be forgotten in the land of Egypt; and the famine shall consume the land.

Joseph interpreted the dream correctly, and he advised Pharaoh to set aside a fifth of the corn from the seven good years so that there would be food available for the people during the seven lean years. We need to do the same. I failed to do it when I was in my full earning years.

The Tao Te Ching tell us ‘ Don’t try to be full’, and explains how to maintain a sufficient level of fullness, one that does not become over full and therefore topple over into its opposite- emptiness. Chapter 9 says,

Instead of pouring in more
Better stop while you can
Making it sharper
Won’t help it last longer.
Houses full of treasure can never be safe.
The vanity of success
Invites its own failure.
When your work is done, retire
That is the way of heaven

To know when to stop, to know when you have enough, is the key. When it says retire it means do not become possessed and possessive about your work and accomplishments. In other words, practice non-attachment, avoid pride and overdoing things.

If we can purify our heart and mind, and be at one with the divine, then the swings and roundabouts of fullness and emptiness, gain and loss, success and failure, abundance and scarcity will not affect us. If we only desire what we truly need, and are generous in giving away the surplus, then we are always in a state of fulfilment, a state of love naturally filled with compassion, joy, peace and light. Knowing that enough really is enough is true harmony and contentment.

August 3, 2009 at 2:53 pm Leave a comment

A Spiritual Almanack – June

Hexagram 30: Brightness

images

fire over fire

The sun illuminates the sky while our inner illumination is the radiance of self-awareness, spreading thoughts and feelings from our deep heart’s core to the endless expanse of the universe.

The projects we start in spring begin to develop and blossom in summer. How can we nurture them so that they continue growing and do not fail prematurely? What we mustn’t do is to give way to doubts and anxiety and try too hard to help things grow.

The Taoist way of acting is to act without acting, and this is called wu-wei. It means not interfering, and has been translated as non-striving, not trying, or doing nothing. It’s a principle of the Tao, as the Tao Te Ching says,

The Tao does nothing
And yet nothing is left undone.

How can things get done when there is no doing? Wu wei does not mean literally doing nothing, but it implies not forcing things, being willing to sit back and watch as things develop naturally by themselves before making a move, rather than jumping in nervously and disturbing them. We must give up the sense that we can control things; all we can do is what needs to be done, and to let go at that point, trusting in the power of nature and the universe.

Vanda Scaravelli teaches that we can practise yoga with action in non-action, doing the asanas without the slightest effort.

Movement is the song of the body. Yes, the body has its own song from which the movement of dancing arises spontaneously. The liberation of the upper part of the body produced by the acceptance of gravity in the lower part of the body is the origin of lightness, and dancing is its expression. This song, if you can tune into it, is beauty. We can say that it is part of nature. We sing when we are happy and the body goes with it like waves in the sea.

We often believe that someone must be sitting in silence in the middle of a mountain retreat before we can say he or she is practising non-action. But taking no action does not mean folding one’s arms and closing one’s mouth. If we are simply content to let everything act by itself, then all things will be contented with their own nature and develop on their own. If we only embrace Tao and cherish simplicity, and allow everything to run its maximum course, then the world will naturally be contented with itself.

The idea that all things are accomplished without our control is described in the Bhagavad Gita when Krishna tells of the three gunas, or forces of nature:
The forces of nature are three: sattva, the light, clear, and serene harmony of pure intelligence and goodness; rajas, the fiery restless energy of anger, hatred, greed and lust; and tamas, the darkness of dullness and inertia.

Although the harmonious force of sattva is pure, giving light and health without obstructions, it still binds your mind through an attachment to happiness and knowledge. The restless active force of rajas is of the nature of passion, creating a thirst for acquiring worldly things and thus leading to the bondage of selfish attachment and compulsive behaviour. The dark lethargic force of tamas arises out of ignorance and deludes all creatures, binding them to sleepy dullness, carelessness and laziness.

Sattva binds you to happiness, rajas binds you to incessant activity, while tamas leads to confused thinking and bad judgement. The light harmonious Sattva is dominant when the light of wisdom shines from all the gates of the body. When the fiery Rajas is dominant, we see greedy behaviour, busy activity, restlessness, discontentment and desire. When the dark Tamas is dominant, there is a disinclination to act, ignorance, laziness, delusion and confusion.

The yogis who understand that the forces of nature are only the actors in the drama of life and can transcend Nature, attain the Supreme. When a yogi goes beyond the three forces of nature which constitute her mortal body, she enters into immortality, free from the cycles of birth and death. She is aware that the forces of Nature are merely playing their part, so she is able to be unperturbed by changing conditions, remaining steady and unmoved. She dwells in her inner Self, viewing pain and pleasure alike, seeing stones or gold or earth as one and the same, maintaining equanimity in the midst of pleasure and pain. She is beyond praise and blame and keeps a steady and quiet mind. For her, honour or disgrace is the same; and she has the same love for her enemies as for her friends. Surrendering all selfish actions, she has gone beyond the three forces of Nature.

We need to find a way of inner silence and peace that will allow us to trust the universe enough to let it dictate what happens, and not to force the world to fulfil our demands. This is what the Tao Te Ching means when it says,

Attaining utter emptiness,
maintaining single-minded stillness,
as things act together,
I thereby watch their return.

By maintaining stillness and emptiness, we trust that the world will support and sustain us. This kind of stillness transforms our striving mind into a perfect mirror, which reflects life perfectly, but doesn’t attempt to grasp anything. It becomes like a still lake high up in the mountains on a clear day, its surface unruffled by wind or rain.

Chuang Tzu explains:

Heaven does nothing, and so maintains its serenity.
Earth does nothing, and so it has its peace.
By the union of these two non-active forces, everything is produced.
How vast and imperceptible is this process!
Things seem to come from nowhere!
How imperceptible and vast!
We can’t begin to see it!

All things in all their variety grow from this inaction.
Hence the saying, “Heaven and Earth do nothing, and yet there is nothing that remains undone.”

But can we find anyone who trusts the universe enough to live according to “doing nothing”?

June 15, 2009 at 10:31 am Leave a comment

A Spiritual Almanac – May

Flourishing

Hexagram 46

Hexagram 46

Hexagram 46:  Growing Upward.

Earth over Wood.

Wood grows up from the earth,

An image of flourishing.

In correspondence with this,

The superior person cultivates his virtue,

Accomplishes small things

And evolves to a higher level.

Karma is a mysterious path.

May 1st – Mayday- used to be the day created by the workers to celebrate their unity and solidarity. But now that almost all of us are workers (or unfortunately at this time- unemployed), we no longer feel there is anything to celebrate. For many of us work has become a drudgery, a form of indentured slavery that we must perform to make money to pay for our daily needs; a kind of curse, without joy, without pleasure, without satisfaction, without meaning. It is rarely performed as an end in itself, but as a means to an end.

The Bhagavad Gita presents a yogic view of work that is radically different than our contemporary view. The yogic view of work is called karma yoga, and is a transforming vision of how to live. If we could follow its teachings we would create a revolution in the way we think of ourselves, our actions, our relationship to others, and to the world, and this would reinvest our lives with deep meaning and purpose. The Gita shows us how to transform work from a mundane and deadening activity to a form of spiritual teaching and inner evolution.

In the Gita Krishna, a God who is the incarnation of the Hindu Trinity – the gods Brahma the creator, Siva the destroyer and Vishnu the preserver – teaches the warrior Arjuna about spiritual duty and the search for spiritual freedom. In this dialogue Krishna makes the clearest statement about karma yoga, the yoga of selfless action,

Do your work, but don’t go looking for any benefits from the results. Don’t be motivated by the fruits of your actions, but you must never become inactive either. Do your work in the peace of Yoga, free from selfish desires, not moved by success or failure. Yoga is evenness of the mind, a peace that is always steady.

Work done for reward is much lower than work done through the Yoga of wisdom. Take refuge in wisdom, because those who are motivated by the rewards of their work are to be pitied. With this wisdom and stillness of mind, we can go beyond good and evil. So practise yoga, for yoga is perfection in action.

Looked at in this way, work can be an evolutionary process by which a human being progresses towards a state of being which is at one with a greater purpose, which we call the divine, or God, or Tao, or the Spirit. This aspect of the divine is not a stranger to us, as it lives within our inmost core as our deepest self, and the aim of yoga is to allow it to emerge and flourish so that it can inform our very consciousness. Karma yoga is a process of spiritual evolution.

Karma yoga calls on us to perform the ordinary activities of life, but to remain detached from their fruits or results. It asks us to concentrate only on the act itself, operating solely in the moment, considering each act as an end in itself, and not motivated by future results.

If a person’s reason is unwavering, and she is free from the desire for the results of action, she is liberated from the limiting aspect of actions performed while being attached to the objects of sense.

The unenlightened do things with attachment to results.  The enlightened, however, do things with the same energy but without attachment, and so guide others on the path of selfless action.

The modern view of karma yoga is of selfless action undertaken for the good of others. But this is not the way the ancient Gita sees it. To be truly selfless does not mean to be altruistic, since actions undertaken for ends, even good ends, are still attachments and are less perfect than acts undertaken exclusively for themselves.

Krishna says that the wise, aware that there is no escape from the duties of life, fulfil their duties and submit to their work in a spirit of joy. However mean the work, they do it well, but without attachment or selfish desire. Work undertaken like this can perfect the soul, so the type of work does not really matter. As Swami Satchidananda says,

Once you are free of selfish desire

You work for the joy of it

And all your actions are as play

People worry that if they give up their ego-driven focus of work, nothing will get done. Without desire won’t we just vegetate and stagnate? Krishna explains,

The forces of nature accomplish everything. But when our minds are clouded with ego, we think that we have made things happen. The person who understands the relationship between the forces of Nature and actions, and sees how the forces of Nature work together with other forces of Nature to make things happen, does not become their slave. If we are deluded about these forces of Nature then we become attached to nature’s functions.

It is the forces of Nature (The Three Gunas) that really make things happen, but we delude ourselves into thinking that it is our will that has actually accomplished something, and so our ego and pride inflate, taking us further away from reality.

Once we understand that it is the potent energy of the universe that makes things happen we can stand back and let go, and this letting go allows us to function freely and easily in the world, and through this playful freedom we are able to effect the healthy flourishing of body, mind and spirit.

May 27, 2009 at 4:01 pm Leave a comment

A Spiritual Almanack

A few years ago Jo Manuel and I wrote a monthly spiritual Almanack for Yoga And Health magazine. I had a look at what we wrote for April recently and since it’s the last day of April I thought it would be apt to include it as the 10th post.I’ve a few alterations to bring it up to date. I’ll add them monthly from now on.

A Spiritual Almanack

April : Blossom


I Ching – Hexagram 1: Heaven (The Creative Principle)

A flower opens to the sun; our hearts open to the universe.

The rising sun radiates energy throughout the sky, filling the space below the heavens and covering the earth, its heat penetrating all things, quickening them into life and nourishing their development. Whatever the light touches it illuminates and clarifies, exposing hidden shadows, just as the energy of our consciousness – our awareness, thoughts and feelings – illuminate and clarify everything within and without.

Commentary On The Symbol (Heaven):

The creative principle acts with vitality and persistence.

In correspondence with this

The cultivated person stays vital without ceasing.

Heaven covers everything on earth, and originates all creatures. It is a single flow of energy, continuously circulating, never ceasing, moving forward endlessly and inexhaustibly. The way of the creative is constant change and transformation, allowing each being to evolve into its own nature and opening a path to its true destiny.

The creative, Heaven, is the ultimate of health, vitality and strength, and is the source of our own health and soundness. If we follow the Way of Heaven, we are in harmony with nature, and can adapt to the changes we face, knowing when to move forward and when to stop, when to seize the moment and when to let the moment pass by. Adapting correctly to all change, we find a way that is prosperous and smooth, the obstacles we encounter do not block us, and our path reveals itself in time, each footstep and each decision opening new vistas, new possibilities.

A lily produced in spring is a marvel of creativity. It embodies the ultimate unfolding of yang, the true positive energy of creation. When positive energy is born, all things cannot help but blossom. They are all in process, are transforming and happening, are flowing events rather than fixed and solid objects.

Someone asked Chan Master Wen-Yen,

“What is the fundamental idea of Buddhism?

The Master answered,

“When Spring comes, the grass turns green of itself.”

The rain falls, clouds disperse, the sun emerges, and all forms develop of themselves. To follow the way of Heaven is to actualise Tao in your daily life, to interfuse the sacred and mundane in your own body, mind and spirit. This opens the doors of perception, as it did for William Blake:

To see a world in a grain of sand

And a heaven in a wild flower

The energy that opens the flower wakes you in the morning. The quality of strength in people is this same primal creative energy of heaven. This energy comes spontaneously to everything from nature, is strong but has no need of force. It is bright and lucid, illuminating everything like the sun at midday. When it appears the earth is covered with growth, the world is filled with golden flowers.

They gave her the name Shi Die Lin. She was twenty months old and at one month her mother had abandoned her at the steps of an orphanage. The passport picture they sent us showed a sad, perplexed little girl. Did we want to adopt her? Having waited for six frustrating years, there was no hesitation, no matter how deep her sadness. She was healthy and needed a home, no more to be said. They delivered her to our hotel room, a scrawny, tight-jawed, bowl-legged tyke with dozens of ugly mosquito bites on her legs, and a strangely-shaped head. What had we taken on? Six years later, she has blossomed into a smiling, bonny, slim, straight-legged 8 year old who loves life. Love, human warmth, food and security have made her bloom. We call her Lily.

Vanda Scaravelli writes,

As the sun opens the flowers delicately, unfolding them little by little, so the yoga exercises  and breathing open the body during a slow and careful training. When the body is open, the heart is open.

Yoga gives us openness and flexibility of mind and body, and opens our spirit, so that we feel the relationship between heaven, earth and all sentient beings. This feeling of one-ness and unity gives us a sense of connectedness to all creation, so that we never feel alone.  The asanas help develop a core strength that gives us an inner confidence and centeredness that allows us to blossom into our true self without fear and doubt.

The Brihad Devata says: ‘All that exists is born from the sun’.  The ancient yoga exercise, Salute To The Sun (surya namaskar) puts us in touch with the universal energy of the cosmos.  The harmonious pattern of postures united in circular movements flowing into each other are part of a whole, just as a petal is part of a flower.  Traditionally  the sequence is performed at dawn facing east towards the rising sun so that in raising our hands upwards we offer the sun and the universe a respectful salute.  The golden warmth of the sun is received by our hearts and welcomed with great love and thanks.

We need to open ourselves to the light so that we can learn to trust ourselves and the universe.   As the Mundaka Upanishad says:

The Lord of Love shines in everyone’s heart. When we are wise and see the Lord of Love in all living things, we lose ourselves in the service of all and find ultimate peace and joy. With truth, meditation, self-control and discipline, we can find ourselves in this state of joy and see the inner spirit, our real essence, shining in our hearts.

Every day the sun rises to say “You are alive – enjoy it!” and every night when you go to bed, reflect on how wonderful it is just to be alive, to breathe and feel the joy of existence itself.

© 2003/ 2009 Mark Forstater and Jo Manuel

April 30, 2009 at 3:48 pm Leave a comment

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