Present Moment Living

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Right now it looks weird. There are turkeys on the side of the road, a small aloe plant beside a telephone, a twin bed on blue carpeting, dozens of yellow butterflies, bells ringing at noon and then again at six. And there is me. Living in it. But I don’t know this story, this character. I’ve never watched this one before. 

If I were a movie, this would be the good part. When life looks strangest, let that be the good part of your movie. And if you have to keep something in mind, remember who is watching, and that at some point, before you decided to go out to the theater, you thought this would be fun.

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Inspiration

Was it worth it?

Light of Truth Universal ShrineI don’t know how it happened, but all of the sudden I’m back in the city full of its noises, lights, tumult, and excitement.  In my mind I’m still walking beneath a blanket of stars to a dark meditation hall, watching Swamis dressed in orange quietly manipulate their patterns of breath.

At the Satchidananda Ashram inner peace is laid out before you as a banquet for an honored guest.  There is no end to the forms in which it is presented.  Hatha Yoga, pranayama, meditation, selfless service in places like a kitchen or farm, immersion in nature, chanting, study of holy texts, and the loving-kindness of friends are all abundantly offered as pathways to the peace within.

And while it had never been so easy to have a joyful open heart, the sweet Swami guiding me through my month made it very clear; nothing outside will change, only your perspective will change.

Gurudev's KitchenBeing back in Chicago I understand these words more clearly than I did immersed in the sacred space of the ashram.  Everything is the same.  People are the same. Work is the same. The loud noises that wake me when I’m trying to sleep are the same. Even the thoughts in my mind are the same.  But the fog clouding the lens of my heart has been wiped clear so that I can surrender to the infinite love that pervades all things.

Of course while that may sound quite romantic, in practice it isn’t.  It means waking up hours before work to sit cross-legged, feet completely asleep, in the silence before dawn.  It means doing a half hour of poses and breathing even when my mind is asking me to skip it and take a nap.  It means convincing the voice in my head it can have some more chocolate tomorrow, but not today.  It means looking at what is happening with my own mind when someone is upsetting me, and letting go of judgement.  It means relinquishing the misguided hope that something “out there” will make me happy.  (And I still haven’t kicked that coffee habit.)

Loving Friends!Each moment is another chance for this practice.  What I learned living this way for a month is that it is worth it.  There is nothing in this world worth more than inner peace.  And, in the words of Eckhart Tolle, “If peace is really what you want, then you will choose peace.”

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Life

“We have to go back, Kate!” -Lost

Katie At The AshramThis time last year I set out on a month of adventure.  I am about to venture out for another August, but this story is very different than the one I was telling a year ago.

After returning from last year’s excursions I found myself jobless, and quite without a sense of direction.  The time seemed ripe to return to a place of great importance to me, the Satchidananda Ashram.

I had once sought the ashram as a refuge at the age of 20.  That period of time was one of great turmoil in which I found myself suddenly living alone, instead of with my partner, and feeling crushed by the weight of my own responsibility for my life situation.

The brief time I spent at the ashram was one of the most meaningful experiences of my short life.  But it was just that, brief.  Instead of the planned month of service I was to do there, I rushed home as soon as the voice in my head told me it had had enough.

The work was too hard.  I missed my family.  I couldn’t stomach the health food.  And God didn’t want or need me to worship Him this way.  These were the patterns of thought that I let drive me back home.

However, I never regretted my short stay.  I loved my time there.  I loved my roommates and the lifestyle.  I knew I would be back.  I knew there was some purpose in this brief introduction.

Cut to last fall, six years after leaving the ashram.  It was time to go back.  But the tumor living incognito in my skull caused a seizure, and the long road to surgery and recovery began.  I was okay with this, I was just happy to be alive.  And I knew my time would come.

Then it was February of this year.  I felt more myself again.  Now that I’m more recovered I can see how ambitious I was being, but I decided February was my chance.  I was finally healthy, and I had been looking forward to this since before my surgery.  Then the phone rang, and a job opportunity thrust its way into my life.  It was a blessing, but I felt let down.

Now all these months later, with many hitches along the way, I’m packing to leave in a week.  I won’t be back until September 8th.  I can’t really have any expectations about it now.  Just getting to be there will be a tremendous gift.  And that is one of the major lessons about life that I’m constantly losing sight of.  Just getting to be here is tremendous.

Life can easily feel like one burdensome situation after another, but I know it doesn’t have to.  If you’ve ever experienced a moment of inner peace, of the stillness of nature, of laughter with people you love, you too know life doesn’t have to feel like a burden.  It is as if a bright light is shining down on all of us, and if we shift just one step to the right we will be completely immersed in its glow.  My going to the ashram is taking that one step.  What is yours?

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consciousness, spirituality

“Part of the Cosmic Body”

Swami Satchidananda

I received an email from the Satchidananda Ashram, with one of Swami Satchidanada’s quotes, that contains a vital key to living peacefully.  I hope this quote can reach you in whatever way you most need it to:

You don’t have to do great things. Sometimes we compare ourselves, ‘Oh, he is doing so much. She is doing great things. I am not doing anything.’ Don’t ever put yourself down like that. Imagine, there are so many parts in the body. And you don’t see all the parts working. Some of them seem to be sitting there, insignificant, doing nothing. For example, we don’t even remember that we have a little toe. Is that toe unnecessary? No. We are all like little parts or cells in the cosmic body. Every part has its own importance. When we realize that then we believe, ‘Yes, there’s a great purpose behind it all and that all wise God will do something with me when it’s time. I’m happy to be part of the cosmic body.’ That should be the attitude.  
God bless you. Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.  (Swami Satchidananda)

Thank you Swami Satchidananda! And now for day 1 of the “1 new thing a day challenge!”  Today I downloaded an app for learning Chinese!  It won’t be as good a teacher as my cousins and their parents (the Li family), but hopefully I’ll know a few phrases by the time they visit for the winter holidays.  What new thing did you try today?

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consciousness, spirituality, Uncategorized

Laughter: Fake It Till You Make It!

I am a huge Michael Jackson fan.  Since I was in grade school MJ’s music has had a profound effect on me, lifting me up and inspiring me.  The day MJ died I was at the Satchidananda Ashram. I found out by overhearing some other people from the dorms causally discussing it.  I was completely beside myself.  It may seem silly to be so mournful over the death of a celebrity, but I had loved MJ for so long and was looking forward to him creating new music.  I had even purchased a ticket to one of his shows in London without having any clue of how I would get there.

The day after his death I was very low.  I didn’t want to do anything, let alone something enjoyable (the pain body can’t stand enjoyment).  My roommates then tried to persuade me to go to “Laughter Yoga” with them.  Laughing was the very last thing I felt like doing, but eventually they convinced me.  In Laughter Yoga you “fake it till you make it.”  I’m not sure if  I truly laughed or not, but afterwards I felt considerably lighter, more peaceful, and even a little bit happy.  Laughter doesn’t have to be real to have positive effects on your mood, thinking, and physical health. Now I try to remind myself to laugh every day, no matter what.  And this video really helps with that:

Thanks to Marc and Angel Hack Life for introducing me to this video!

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