3 simple and almost effortless ways to grow spiritually every day for budding buddhas . . .

We’ve just had the Spring Equinox and it’s the real start to the year, here in the Western world. I re-post this blog every year at this time, but this year we had the powerful solar eclipse just hours before the Equinox. For the world, this has meant the very end of the Age of Pisces, the end of the era of dominant religions, Patriarchy and Saviour/Messiahs. 

This blog is the result of my insights into how much a year can change your life . . . and this year really is the first year for the growth of the individual and our enlightenment through our own integrity and handling our own issues . . .

. . .  simplicity and grounding will be key, I feel, and so my suggestions below are for those of you who’d like to evolve and grow on a daily basis throughout the coming year: may the buds of your buddha-hood open and blossom.

But, first a bit of a story: I was living in Saltaire, Yorkshire (UK) in the mid-90’s, intensely into my Yoga and Meditation training and dreaming of the day when I could be independent as a Meditation Teacher. I had made my bathroom in my apartment very soothing and beautiful. I had a few Meditation “clients” coming on a regular basis. By 1995 I had found a few simple ways to incorporate zen into my daily life.  And I had been given a little book for xmas 1994 – Daily Meditations for 1995 by Omraam Mikhael Aivanhov.

I put the little book in my bathroom, made a lovely bookmark, and started 1995 with the intention of reading my meditations every morning for the year so that I would be the sincere and dedicated student my teachers deserved. I resolved to grow and evolve steadily and patiently and to look back through the book every two or three months to assess my progress.

What I didn’t expect was that everyone who visited me in my apartment during that year, was enjoying doing the same thing! I got used to people asking if the bathroom was free as soon as they arrived and disappearing for 5 minutes or so quiet time on their own . . . .

Before I give you my 3 simple insights for (almost) effortless spiritual growth, I’d like you to know one very important and fundamental thing to guide and support you on your path of development.

And it is this: Your teacher, guru or your master knows you are not neurotic. Your teacher knows that all you have to do is sit . . . . meditate, sit in stillness or contemplation, practice with honesty and integrity and your buddha nature will awaken – your divine self will shine through. And you must be sincere in your practice, for you do not come to your guru on your ground . . . you come to the teacher or master on his or her ground. And they will allow you to have evolved a little more every time they see you.

So, 3 very simple ways to grow and evolve on a daily basis.

Read daily inspirations:

Choose a source of inspiration that you can draw on consistently: you could follow one or two poets – my suggestions would be Rumi, Pablo Neruda or Kahlil Gibran.

To introduce you to Neruda and Rumi: go here for my free-to-download readings of their love poems.

Give up one weakness and grow one strength every day:

You were born with wisdom. You are a being of energy. You were also born with “shadows”. Your shadows are your weakness or neuroses – we all have them. You can consciously take control of your self and keep moving from the shadow to the light by strengthening the good stuff and letting the weaknesses wither away and die.

This practice takes a few minutes contemplation every day and keeping a journal helps to see what makes you bigger and what makes you smaller. An example of wisdom energy would be: having a profound sense of spaciousness; and the opposite weakness would be: getting very absorbed in a small world. Another wisdom would be: seeing the big picture and having a largeview; and the corresponding weakness would be: being rigid and tight and dogmatic.

Give up one expectation – especially about relationships – every day!

As you now know, you are a buddha with the potential to awaken, and not a neurotic to your teacher in Zen as long as you are sitting in Meditation regularly. Your friend, “other” partner, lover etc is also a buddha . . . give up one expectation in your relationships every day and give the people in your life the respect your teacher gives you in allowing them to have evolved a little every time you see them.

So, I’ll leave you with this thought: evolving and growing spiritually creates magic in our lives, so that we can know the miracle of setting ourselves free . . . and here’s one of those Daily Meditations I told you about to set you on your path for the coming year,  . . . enjoy!

Knowledge must be lived if it is to remain with you for all eternity.

The only thing that will not disappear, the only thing that you can take with you into the next world, is the knowledge that you have proved for yourself in your own life; the knowledge that has become an integral part of your being.” Omraam Mikhael Aivanhov, Daily Meditations, February 19th 1995.

If you are setting out on the path to opening up spiritually, HERE is a free-to-download introduction to Yoga Meditation in the SuZen teaching style.

Namaste, Susan

Note:  As of today, and whilst I am writing my book on the Spirit of Zen in our lives, the suzenyoga website is inactive . . . after the eclipse, I went through an exercise of reclaiming my power from the invisible “master” of the internet*: My LinkedIn and SpeakingTree profiles are now private, My Twitter and Facebooks are on private alerts. This blog and the FreedomToFlow Twitter still feed my Amazon Author page.

* I didn’t choose for the internet to be my “master” or my Patriarch, but somehow I got told as did most of us, that we had to be subservient to it, give them all our free creative content and be grateful for the little they give us. I’m enjoying the liberation this little gap of freedom is giving me for my own creativity – a small act of power-reclaiming but a big step for liberation.

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Nurturing our Yoga Teachers – Remembering the Seeds of Samadhi



Balance is what happens when you know in your heart something is right

 

I had a very clear vision of a network . . . and it wasn’t a social network. This vision brought a deep inner relaxation. What was coming to me was, that Yoga Teachers today might start to do what we are here for – to bring a rest and reprieve for our students from the stresses and strains of our modern world.

We are a Tribe.

We have different psychological crises than we did 2,000 – 6,000 years ago. We have different needs of our inner world, to balance our emotions so that we can handle our environment – which means “Balance” . . . our needs for balance are different today from when yoga was codified, or structured, or put into “paths” and systematised by “lineages” by the yoga masters of the past.

My heart was telling me something was not right – and, truth be told, it has been telling me this for quite some time.

My heart is usually right.

A couple of things were troubling me: media is about images and content. Yoga is full of images and content – but that is the surface, as we know. The surface illusion of “Yoga” has taken over, it suits the media . . . and to an extent it has suited us as teachers for a while: coverage of world yoga day recently was vast.

In one way that was heartlifting and positive, and yet . . . ?

The other thing that has been troubling me, for quite some time, is the need to meet the expectations of this vast image of yoga by fitting in: we fit in with community activities, we fit in with expectations of our “image” – we blog for free, we dilute our classes to suit lifestyles: both our students’ and our own. We have to pay big hire fees for our practice spaces, and we can’t always control the noise/light/heat/cold of the environment. Classes are only viable in certain social times: we accommodate by reducing the amount of time spent in pranayama to 5 minutes in an hour and a half class – and the cost has been . . . ?

The cost has been, I consider, to our compassion and our wisdom as teachers.

But mainly at a cost to our authority.

The cost has also been in diluting the yoga teachers experience in nurturing and compassion . . . because what has happened is that in the end, what is a “mind-body-spirit” path to inner life and freedom has become body-oriented with some mind-practice and the spirit has been paid lip-service to. Because most of our yoga teachers today do not spend time and practice in meditation – a reversal has taken place since my time of training when meditation was the primary focus, with philosophy and yogasanas making up our 8-steps to Samadhi.

And the Divine is our source.

But the real cost, as I have been seeing it for a good while now, is that we have surrendered our role of nurturers of the mind to a global industry in “Mindfulness” – and mindfulness does not accept the universal law of three (which is one of the abiding laws of karma) that there will always be polarities between negative and positive, “right and wrong”, “good and bad”, weak and strong – yet we grow spiritually through these because we recognise that the Divine is the source of vitality in our life: Mindfulness has become the new psychotherapy, attempting to cure imbalance with imbalance: a prescription.

Our yoga teachers need nurturing and developing, in our tradition of training the mind to train the soul . . . which is our purpose for being. Remembering the Seeds of our Samadhi is so important for us – and nurturing and growing these seeds.

If we don’t, as teachers: how do we do this for the world?

How else could we reach into our own hearts for balance, and know it is right to do this for our world?

Namaste

Susan Ni Rahilly, at the age of 63, is considered as a Master in India writing on Yoga and Meditation for Times of India, contributing as a Master to their global online community. Susan’s training and experience has been in Raja Yoga, Hatha Yoga, both Iyengar and Satyananda style, and Zen. She works with deep inner listening in breathwork in practice, and trains teachers.

17 Ways to Find Balance for 2017

I publish my list in January every year, and have done since 2012! This is the list of ways for 2017:

Balance in your life, as far as I know it as a teacher, comes with the steps to life-freedom, which is the philosophy of Yoga, together with practice, and values for your life . . . but, there have been so many wise teachers, with much wisdom to share with us and many of us are seeking balance in our lives. It’s an approach to living that can go a long way in a year.

For 2017 I wanted to write about a lasting approach to getting balance. I couldn’t get to interview the people I would have liked to for this article, and so this is a roundup of what I think they would have answered to my question “How do you get Balance?” based on their famous quotations.

1. Your Meditation is your medication … once it has worked for you, you throw away the medication, throw away the Meditation and get a new one. Osho.

2. If you can’t let it go, let it in. Dainin Katagiri

3. You can’t get there from here, and besides there is no place to go. Sheldon Kopp

4. Nothing is missing, Zen Master Lin-Chi ….. the ordinary person probably does already live with zen values.

5. Appreciate happiness: happiness seems like such a small thing when you have it, but when it’s gone you realise how big it really is. Gorky

6. I have only 3 things to teach: simplicity, patience and compassion. Lao Tzu 7th Century Zen master

7. Know Joy, as in … May all beings know joy … (from the 4 Noble Truths of Zen)

8. Anywhere you are is a sacred place. Joseph Campbell

9. Learn to forgive yourself, again, and again, and again . . . (I couldn’t resist getting another wisdom in from Sheldon Kopp’s Laundry List)

10. Religion is not realisation; not talk, nor doctrine, not theories, however beautiful they may be. It is being and becoming, not hearing or acknowledging; it is the whole soul becoming changed into what it believes, into knowledge. That is religion. Swami Vivekananda

11. Spend some time alone every day. (from the Dalai Lama’s 18 Rules To Live By)

12. This is from Astrologer Rob Brezny:  Cultivate mental and emotional states that ripen us to be ready for anything:  form a strategy to avoid being enthralled with the hypnotic lure of painful emotions, past events, and worries about the future;

13. Don’t forget to break the rules ….. Dalai Lama, Sheldon Kopp, Zen, suZen

14. All teachers make a contribution to Yoga. My contribution is Gibberish – every day talk meaningless Gibberish for a few minutes to clear the mundane mind. Swami Vivekananda

15. Balance is what happens when you know in your heart something is right …. from suZen.

16. Be in awe of the mystery . . . this quote from a man to whom harmony in the Universe was of prime importance, something Albert Einstein said with great beauty and lucidity:

“The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mystical. It is the sower of all true art and science. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself with the highest wisdom and most radiant beauty which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms – this knowledge, this feeling is at the centre of true religiousness and art.”

17. All is Well. The ultimate life-lesson of Bhagavad Gita, Krishna to Arjuna.

Namaste, Susan

Eating your Shadow – a way to balance

In Eastern philosophies and cultural ways of being, the light, the energy, personal hope and inner freedom has been found in dealing with the Shadow.

As far as I know, this self-growth practice and process pre-dated Hinduism in India – moving from the dark to the light has always been the soul’s path in Yoga, with the soul power manifesting right at the moment you discern what the choice before you is.

This is my way of teaching the practice – there’s more in Brenda Shoshanna’s book Zen Miracles: Finding Peace in an Insane World:  see the Books page.

So, how do you Eat Your Shadow?

First, Make Friends with the Unacceptable:  Become aware of the qualities you find ugly or unacceptable in others, writing down a list if that helps. Then, realise that these are qualities that also exist within yourself. Make peace with these qualities, both within and without.

The more we repress aspects of ourselves, hiding from them and ignoring them, and project them onto others, the more power these qualities have over us, and the greater likelihood they will appear in our lives as symptoms, bad dreams, or repetitive situations which we feel we have no control over. This has been called the shadow of a human being since ancient times. Carl Jung did much good work on the way we dump all the unacceptable parts of ourselves into our unconscious, and let it fester there as we hide from it.  We then see these qualities in those people and situations that are around us.

Eat Your Shadow:  In order to be free of this process, we “eat our shadow”.  This means we must reclaim and own these hidden qualities, realise they are part of us, and welcome them into our lives.  The very act of welcoming certain qualities or people takes the steam out of them.  We can then “digest” and absorb the energy and transform them into something constructive. (from Zen Miracles)

Zen practice is the practice of doing this – “eating the shadow”, sitting and knowing that we ourselves contain the entire world.

Freeing ourselves to be human.

Listening to the Cries of the World

A very small insight: This week I’m practising the short contemplation in “listening to the cries of the world” a way of opening up to compassion with a pure, kind heart: acknowledging that we can all hear the hurt in the hearts of all human beings. You sit quietly and let the cries in.

This practice comes from the zen concept that “the Regarder of the Cries of the World” is always present and listening (in the journey of Zen from India to Japan, by the time Zen reached Korea, via China, the mythical Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara had changed gender. By now the god had become a “she”, Kwan Yin the Goddess of Compassion).

Humanity’s heart is broken – I like the way Lynne McTaggart says it: we’re suffering from unrequited humanity . . .  in her book The Bond  . My own insight today is that humanity has also given itself a big headache, but then that’s been building for centuries.

The Art of Sitting Zazen and the Mind

The goal-less inner journey

We know there is no goal, in sitting Zazen – the cornerstone of living a life with Zen:  Only to be . . . and learn the nature of your own mind. True nature is the “holy grail” of Zen.

And in essence the principles of zazen are simple. We learn the posture, and the breathing and we practice in silence with a regular routine. We sit on a round cushion, the zafu.  Or a small wooden stool. Or of course upright on a chair if we have joint problems. Whichever way we sit, we sit up straight.

But what do I do with my mind?

It was actually a psychiatrist who asked me this question once, before practice. I answered using Master Katagiri’s words (my own personal favourite explanation):

“Be aware of the mind:  usually your mind is very busy. Like a monkey, monkey-mind jumping about all over the place. So we take care of this mind. Harmonising the mind. Like this: let your mind sit in zazen . . .

Don’t let it go. If you let it go, it’ll go wild. Let whatever kind of mind you have – monkey mind, good mind, calm mind – let it sit with you.

To do this, your mind is with your breath.”

To become aware of the breath again, should this mind go wild:  when you inhale, concentrate on your lower abdomen moving out. When you exhale, notice your abdomen moving in. Stay with this ebb and flow, breath moving, abdomen moving. It has been likened to the soft sigh of a baby breathing . . . a sigh as soft as the vibration of the Universe. Breathing so quietly you have to focus your mind on your breath to hear it.

Sometimes you can reverse this, and we would use this practice when we lose focus:  This practice is particularly good if you feel sleepy or lazy, or lacking in spirit: practice breathing so that when you inhale your lower abdomen goes in a little bit, and when you exhale your lower abdomen goes out. This might help you wake up. And you can take a stronger breath at the back of the throat, almost as if you were going to snore!

Your mind should be with your breath. But we know it does often leave. When this happens, bring your mind back to your zazen. Very often your mind darts about all over the place. Just gently bring it back to the breath – you might have to do this for the whole period of zazen: soft baby’s breath and listening, or stronger slightly snoring breath, whatever you need.

When you see your mind going out and coming back, going out and coming back, as Katagiri said: “ . . . you will eventually ask, “What is zazen?” Don’t worry. All you have to do is learn to see where your mind is and, if it goes out, bring it back. This is all we have to do.“  This is what you do with your mind.

This is the art of zazen . . .

Gasho
http://www.suzenyoga.com

Susan’s video ‘The Art of Sitting Zazen 3’ is here on her Master’s blog on India’s SpeakingTree. You might have to subscribe to follow, but it’s well worth it as a huge spiritual resource!

Source for Master Katagiri quote: Dainin Katagiri: You Have to Say Something (Shambala Press)

The Whole, The One, The Way – A Bit of Zen History

The reason why the universe is eternal is that it does not live for itself; it gives life to others as it transforms.

Lao Tzu

 Changing the way we think about life and our world can be one of the hardest things to do, especially when times are changing, but it’s one of the things we have to do in order to thrive, grow and lead fulfilling lives. Sometimes it helps us to expand our thinking, giving us an ability to see our experiences from a different perspective, if we have an understanding of our culture, history and myths. This understanding helps us appreciate how we got here collectively in our history, giving us a framework in our heads for new thinking.

So here’s a bit of Zen history, about the journey and the influence of the Tao on Zen . . . and how “The Regarder of the Cries of the World” became a Goddess.

As Zen travelled through Oriental Asia with the patriarchs, mysticism, deeply rooted in the ethics and discipline of Yoga and India, merged with the spirit of emptiness of Buddhism, the mystery of the One-ness of the true nature of the Tao – the way of Heaven that permeates and guides everything – and the earthiness of Confucionism – the way of Earth, into a deep spirit that is Zen . . . the Way.

As the Bodhidharma (6th century first Zen )Patriarch taught, everyone has a buddha mind, part of the One-ness and uncovered in meditation. There is no hierarchy or superiority and anyone can become a Buddha through meditation’s transformation. The foundation for learning Zen, direct transmission, mind to mind with the teacher, became the spirit of Zen.

Korea’s greatest Zen Master, Chinul (1158 -1210) taught that there is a sentient intelligence within each person, the principle behind seeing and hearing: the individual mind, the buddha-nature. This principle is what makes it possible for human beings to become enlightened – human beings are capable of using all aspects of their intelligence for enlightened living. Each has its place in the grand scheme of buddha nature.

So the essence of Zen, learning the nature of our own minds, became established in the journey that is living in the moment: a journey that is grounded in daily practice.

Master Chinul also taught that all external sign-oriented phenomena are invitations to experience a truer, deeper understanding at the absolute level of wisdom. In the caligraphy of Cha’an (Chinese for Zen) the symbols are translated as “Solitary person opens heart and mind to signs from Heaven”. The path of enlightenment is here and now, through symbols and words, as well as through experience.

And, experientially at the time that all this discovery and learning was going on as the Masters travelled geographically and culturally thro Oriental Asia, another journey and transformation was taking place: by the time Zen reached Korea, via China, the mythical Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara had changed gender. By now the god had become a “she”.

That the Gods of Yoga in the Hindu tradition could be both male and female, and there being no sanskrit male/female pronoun for Divinity in India, was a strange concept when Buddhism arrived in China. But as usually happened with myth in culture, benign deities could be easily assimilated, and so when the Buddhists imported statues of Avalokiteshvara to China, the Chinese didn’t have a tradition of bisexual gods containing all the Divine male/female energy of creation, they understood the figure to be female. He/she became the “Goddess of Compassion” Kwan Yin, and in the manifestation as “The Regarder of the Cries of the World” in the Zen tradition, became “she”.

There is an ancient Taoist story of the separation of the yin and yang, which seems to be an origin for the Tao version of the Avolokiteshvara myth, The Regarder of the Cries of the World, and it’s about the origin of The Cry: tens of thousands of years ago just as humankind was beginning to be able to think, we were also beginning our separation from the One, in order to evolve and develop as humanity. The Yin and the Yang separated and the pain of separation was expressed in the deep cry of the heart of mankind – a hunger and a yearning. In the story, our cries are always heard and our yearning to return to the whole is watched over with great compassion. And in order to return to the whole, we must learn to surrender our thinking-mind back to the One Reality: Consciousness.

The early Chinese Zen patriarchs were well versed in the Chinese classics, and they integrated Zen with the accepted philosophies of China, particularly Taoism. Each of the patriarchs contributed in their own way to integrating Buddhism and Taoism to form the uniqueness that is Zen: Taoism sees all phenomena in the world as yin and yang opposites, whilst Buddhism views all as emptiness, and Zen blends the two in the “vast Great Way that is neither easy or difficult” (Seng-ts’an 6th Century third Zen Patriarch).

As usual, Zen changed with the culture and the culture changed with Zen.

And so, compassionately and non-judgementally, caring for the Whole and all the while watching over the innumerable, countless numbers of humanity . . . . the goddess/god of compassion had made her way through India, through the lands of the Tao and Confucious, to Zen in Japan and, in listening to our cries of hunger . . . eventually to us in the West.

In one of the elegant, completing-the-circle brushstrokes of Zen, a couple of years ago we in the West heard the deep-heart cries of those in difficulty in the land of Zen, Japan.

As a final aside, Zen Master Eisai who established Zen in Japan in the 12th century, was responsible for bringing the tea ceremony with him from China to Japan, in yet another blending of art, culture and Zen – he brought tea seeds back with him and planted the first tea garden on monastery grounds which eventually lead to the Tea Way: tea drinking as a Zen Art. Elements of the Tea Way are to accept, appreciate and revere what naturally occurs, exactly as it is – in an atmosphere of harmony, tranquillity, purity and reverence: we are all equal when we take time out for tea, with the concerns of the world temporarily distant.

I’m leaving with you with my own words that the light dancing in the dark brought to me this week, in contemplation of what a struggle times of shifting change can be for some of humanity:

 

Our lives are so fleeting, floating motes

dust on the light of the Universe’s dark canvas

that is the night of the soul

and still, we dance in the mystery

 namaste susan

Sources: Sheldon B. Kopp: If you meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him!; C. Alexander and Annellen Simpkins: Simple Zen; Simple Taoism: A Guide to Living in Balance; Dainin Katagiri: You have to Say Something; The Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara: The Myth of the Great Secret: An appreciation of Joseph Campbell (Celestial Arts, 1990); Brenda Shoshanna: Zen Miracles: Finding Peace in an Insane World.

Founder of suZenYoga, Susan Ni Rahilly is a published author, Meditation and Hatha Yoga Teacher.  Her teaching typically draws on breathwork in deep Hatha practice, as well as Raja Yoga (the Yoga of Meditation). She lives in West Cork, Ireland where she writes and teaches. Susan’s Hatha Yoga teaching is inspired by Zen and her ongoing research into our innate abilities for deep listening and intuitive practice.