Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Important Thing

Defending an idea or a position is not important. Justifying or explaining the way things are is not important. Feeling more or feeling less is not important. T he movement of the mind to an imagined past or an imagined future and the feelings we feel when we follow the mind’s wanderings are not important. All of the reasons we can only be a little of who we are, and all of the ways we try to prove them to be true, are not important.

The important thing is to be awake now, to feel the transparency, to feel the universal shining through the individual, and then to allow life to express itself though us.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Our Center

“The larger quantum field-the universe- is your extended body. Not only is the human nervous system capable of becoming aware of the information and energy of it’s own quantum field, but because human consciousness is infinitely flexible through this wonderful nervous system, you are able to consciously change the informational content that gives rise to your physical body. You can consciously change the energy and informational content of your own quantum mechanical body, and therefore influence the energy and informational content of your extended body-your environment your world-and cause things to manifest in it.” Deepak Chopra

In one of the most remarkable passages of a remarkable book “The seven spiritual laws of Success”, Deepak Chopra defines the means by which we are able to effect deliberate creation. The mechanics of creation are an aspect of the nature of the universe. Creation happens; things arise out of non-existence into existence. What is needed to guide that process, to make that process deliberate, is to become self aware.

Jesus’ last words are reported to be “Forgive them for they know not what they do.” This teaching is reflected in the yogic concept of Avidya, or spiritual ignorance. In Buddhism it’s described as Samsara or a veil of delusion. The great teachers of Buddhism, Christianity, and Yoga believe that we live as one lost in a dream. In this dream we have forgotten who we are. The aim of spiritual practice is to experience the truth of who we are, to become self aware.

This is a remarkable understanding of the role of traditional spiritual practice in the evolution of human potential. Techniques like Meditation and Asana train us to be able to steady the mind and thereby access its profound powers of discernment. We are able to experience ourselves not as an idea, a story, a past, a future, but directly, as form, energy, and consciousness. We become self observant and are able to receive guidance from the fullness of our being. The moment this process begins the duality we have taken for granted begins to unravel. Initially we believe we are feeling into the fabric of our being, but as we hold our attention on the inner dimensions of ourselves we discover that there is no point at which “in here” stops and “out there” begins. Eckhart Tolle defines enlightenment as “felt oneness with being”.

We are the at once the individual and the universal. The duality with which we have seen the world is a feature of a moment in the evolution of human consciousness. Einstein famously described it as an “a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness.” The assumption of a dualistic perspective is that there is a part that is somehow separate from the whole is and there is a whole that is not made up of its parts. Or that an aspect of infinity can be separate from infinity. Accordingly our conscious will, or intention, is contained within our separate self and has no power or influence on the universe in which we find ourselves. The teachers of deliberate creation challenge this view. They say that the universe is an unbroken wholeness of which we are all a part and that our consciousness communicates with that wholeness. What is needed is a change of perspective.

A great teacher wrote “We see the world not as it is but as we are.” In a state of disconnection we see a disconnected world. In state of felt oneness with life we see oneness. Meditation and Asana are a means for seeing oneness. Like a mountain climber whose view changes as she climbs higher what we see has everything to do with where we are seeing from. The dualistic perspective views the world from the outside in. This view is deconstructed through meditation and asana so that we come to see the world from the inside out. Our perspective is grounded in our inner experience, our center.

Our center is the intersection between the individual and the universal. It is the alive, vibrant, experience of the truth of who we are. At this metaphysical crossroads we do not grasp the truth so much as embody it. Like the pilot who flies a plane from intuition and feel, we find we are able to extend our consciousness into a larger field of consciousness. Here existence and non-existence communicate and fulfill one another. Plugged into this larger understanding we do not loose our sense of self rather we experience it in the fullness of its potential. Our heart’s desire moves from a vague sense that fills us with longing to a clear vision the fills us with inspiration. This vision at once inspires the individual to right action and enlists the universe’s infinite organizing power. Creation, evolution, love in action flow. On earth as it is in heaven.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Center of Gravity

In May my son and my daughter celebrated their birthdays, his first her fourth. My wife and I celebrated our ninth wedding anniversary. I also celebrated 17 years of sobriety. All in all it was a wonderful month. In June we went to Mexico where Mariam and I led a week long intensive. Both of Mariam’s parents were there as well as one of her sisters. Two of the staff members brought their husband’s and children along so the whole event had a dreamy pinch me quality as family and friends spent a week at the beach under the palm trees. My daughter Jasmine and I swam with dolphins and some students spent a starry night in a sweat lodge. When we got back the summer weather was in full swing and life has felt very precious.

My meditation practice has taken on a life of its own. There was the initial work to make it a consistent part of my life but that time past very quickly and now it has become the center of gravity in my life. As I surrender to it everything flows into and out of that center.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Being a Student

It’s been three weeks since I completed a nine day meditation retreat. On the last night someone asked how long we should meditate each day to continue the work we had started during the retreat. The answer came from a teacher who I had come to trust and admire during the course of the retreat. He said that rule of thumb was that in order to avoid the build up of “tensions” between now and the next retreat the figure was two hours a day. It was a silent retreat so we all took that in quietly. Mine was the silence of incomprehension.

Once I got back to family and work I made my first forays into home practice. Although I could not really wrap my mind around two hours I could not bring myself to rule it out either. The teachers at the retreat had been exceptional and it seemed foolhardy to think I knew better. I began with one hour and was happy to find out that I could now sit quietly and fairly comfortably for an hour. The training I had received was fresh on my mind and I found myself able to pick up where we had left off. The hour meditation period combined well with an hour Asana practice. I just needed to go to bed a little earlier and get up a little earlier for it not to interfere with the “rest of my life”. As the days turned into weeks I began to find opportunities for a second meditation period. By eliminating periods of emptiness in online or in front of the TV., I found that I had just enough time to meditate for an hour every day and meditate for two hours every other day.

This organizing/experimenting period went on for a couple of weeks and I am now in a pretty proactive routine. Having dealt with the logistics of my new life I began to feel it’s effects. There was the matter of the “tensions” at the time I really had no idea what my teacher was talking about. As my practice has settled into my life I began to observe the compulsivity with which I and everybody around me seeks to get the world to satisfy their demands. This compulsivity is a tension within us born from a disconnection from our true nature. What we have come to call normal is a profound alienation from the day to day moment to moment experience of our true nature. It is as though we have a vibrant sun within us that we no longer can feel because our mind is in perpetual agitation. Meditation and asana quiet the mind and train us to bring our attention inward. Initially we just get glimpses of the sun which we experience as peace and well being. Committed practice has the ability to invert “normal” perception so that we come to experience ourselves from the inside out rather than the outside in. We begin to be able to abide calmly in this profound sense of who we are. As we experience the difficulties of life, the wanting, the not wanting the self-centeredness, we are less likely to get lost in them because we have been slowly releasing our resistance to life as we have been getting to know who we are.

As I embark on my fourth week I have noticed an enthusiasm for life building within me.

Monday, April 16, 2007

9 Days in Barre, MA

The essence of Deliberate Creation is faith that our true nature is unlimited. The Yoga Sutras and the teachings of the Buddha lead one from a limited sense of self to an unlimited one.

When I sit in meditation and bring my attention to the consciousness/energy light within me all of the other “understandings” that I have held about who I am fade like shadows before the rising sun.

Peace is what happens when we stop fighting


A Zen teacher was asked what the benefit of long term practice is, and his answer was, “An appropriate response." I came across a photo of JFK with Tennessee Williams and Gore Vidal. It is 1948, three years after the end of World War II. They are young, glamorous, happy and in Rome. The joy and vitality of that picture says it all.
Life is short
Things change
Have fun

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Indigo Girls

For my birthday this year my sister in-law offered to buy me and my wife tickets to a number of shows. The offer came with a a free night of baby-sitting, so last night my wife and I kissed the kids goodnight and hoped on a train into the city to see the Indigo Girls and their opening act Kaki King, a freakishly gifted guitar player who appears destined to make endless Oscars creating sound tracks for movies. I chose the Indigo Girls because they have been teachers and role models for me and my wife for the last twenty years. Their music has reflected the joys and sorrows of my adult life. Here are five reasons I love the Indigo Girls:

1) They are unambivalently committed to being good at what they do.
2) They wear their hearts on their sleeves
3) They are able to both challenge us to wake up and hold us in their hearts

with great love at the same time.
4) They have stood the test of time. Despite all of the ups and downs of the last

couple of decades they have continued to show up and burn brightly.
5) They are able to give voice to the sadness and fear in the human heart and in

so doing make clear that it is in our connection to our darkness, not
repression or denial, that our capacity for light is realized.

The night was full of tears, singing and laughter. Amy and Emily played without a band behind them. Two women on a stage playing their guitars and singing the songs they wrote to express how they feel.


We cannot achieve victories over one another. The only victories available to us are the ones we achieve over our own fear.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Minding your own business

“You are here to create the world around you that you choose, while you allow the world-as others choose it to be- to exist also. And while their choices in no way hinder your own choices, your attention to what they are choosing does affect your vibration, and therefore your point of attraction.” The Teacher Abraham

Growing up I often encountered a scolding suggestion “to mind my own business.” Sometimes it was directed at me and other times it was directed elsewhere. Either way it did not sound like a good thing. The “business” I was minding was interesting to me and I was being told that I should not want to be interested. This just did not add up. As I grew up and developed more autonomy, it became possible for me to mind as much “business” as I wanted. I could gossip, I could read newspapers, I could watch 24 hour news broadcasts, I could even fill up the spare moments at work going on-line to read about the mostly unfortunate “business” of others. Now that I am all grown up I am free to mind other people’s business as much as I want. In fact I am free to place my attention anywhere I please.

This freedom however is being encroached upon by the effects of my Yoga practice. Over the years I have begun to feel and to take note of how and what I feel, which is to say I am becoming one who notices. For example if I am embellishing a story to be funny or make myself look good I am now noticing that I am lying. If I silently judge someone I am now noticing that I have the sinking feeling that I am probably just accusing someone of behaving the way I do. If I leave trash on a train or in a cab I am aware that I am doing harm. Similarly I have started to notice that there is a profound difference between the way I feel when I put my attention on what I want as opposed to placing my attention on what I don’t want.

I am coming to believe that there is in fact my business and not my business. For example every time I reflect on the 200 million dollars Paul Newman’s company has donated to charities I feel so proud of him, and happy for him, and inspired by him. The same goes for Jimmy Carter whose organization is preventing 10 million people a year from going blind from disease. Just writing this makes me happy and excited. I feel genuinely connected to the beauty of life and the innate dignity of humanity. This is my business. When I think about gun lobbies and tobacco lobbies I feel sad, frustrated, alone, powerless; I feel like a victim. This is none of my business.

Having established what is and is not my business has not prevented me from falling into the pitfall of believing that others’ choices had the capacity to hinder my own. I have spent what feels like many lifetimes in this lifetime worrying about how others choices effected me only to discover that it was the vibration of worry that was the problem. What I am learning is that I cannot be against something and for something at the same time. What I am learning is that when I take my attention away from what I am for I lose touch with the vision that lights my way. What I am learning is that it is my business to make my dreams come true.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Time in the Classroom

My wife and I share a workspace and over the desk we have each placed a vision board that holds images of the future we wish to create for ourselves. At the center of mine there is a drawing that depicts the synergizing of the various areas of my life. In the picture there is a flower coming out of the earth and a blue sky over it. The earth represents the essentials in my life like family, learning, and yoga practice. Time in the classroom is also an element of the soil of life. All of the good I wish to do in this lifetime is directly affected by the skill and heart I can bring to a classroom.

Time in the classroom means many things for me. It means the willingness to accept a discipline, the willingness to take part in a process that has no finish line, the willingness affirm my belief in the essential goodness of humanity everyday, every class. Above all, time in the classroom comes down to two things: Honoring my intuition, and honoring the individuals who pass through my classes. Honoring my intuition is essentially listening. I am learning to listen. Honoring the students that come to my class is about seeing them as they truly are. I am learning to see. I am like someone who has been asleep and a loved one is calling them awake.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


For Valentine’s Day I thought I would take the plunge and share what I know about love:

1) After my first date with Mariam, I went home and told my roommate that I would ask her to marry me. This places me firmly in the camp of when he or she is the one you know.

2) On May 21st 1990, I prayed without any sense of who or what I was praying to for help with my alcoholism. I immediately felt better and knew that everything was going to be ok. I have been sober every moment since then and the desire to drink has never come back. At about the same time an overwhelming desire to express my thanks took root in my heart and this desire has proven to be two or three times the strength of any negativity I can muster. Day after day year after year I have found that love is stronger than fear. Much stronger.

3) Over the last few years I have watched my son and my daughter come into the world. I have looked into their eyes countless times. Their eyes are always filled with love for me a love that I have not earned, they just shine their love on me
because they know of no other way to be. Love is what we are born with.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Habits of Mind

In the pantheon of the parenting Olympics taking young children to Disney World is definitely in the running for best time, worst food, and most physically demanding. It is also a time in my family when I and several generations gather around and try to make decisions. It’s as if Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin, Hitler, and Mussolini, were all living in the same retirement home forming the old alliances, airing the same grievances. Hitler would invade everybody’s space, Churchill would make speeches about fighting him in the hallways, the anterooms, the bathrooms. Mussolini would be trounced by a maid while coming to Hitler’s aid, Stalin would do all of the real fighting, and Roosevelt would jump in at the last minute and make it possible for them all to get to lunch on time. Only in my family they would do it day after day year after year.

The great saint Ramana maharshi was once asked what causes human suffering, his reply was short and to the point, “Habits of the mind.” The Buddha described suffering as being stuck in our point of view like a wheel stuck in mud. Some of this stuckness gets externalized in the form of addictive behavior like smoking or drinking which makes it readily identifiable and treatable but most of it is seen “as just the way things are.” There is a famous scene in “Archie Bunker” in which Archie argues with “Meathead” about whether or not you put on both socks then your shoes, or you put on one sock one shoe then the other sock then the other shoe; neither Archie nor “Meathead” can imagine that there could possibly be another way of seeing things. As someone who worked for years as an addictions counselor and now for years as a Yoga teacher I honestly believe that we are far too identified with the mental habits that cause suffering to be able to effectively deconstruct them intellectually. The habits of mind that cause our suffering are embedded in the logic with which we make sense of our world.

Then we go to Yoga class or sit in meditation and for a time we suspend compulsive thought. Compulsive thinking is like the scroll of “News” at the bottom of a “News” broadcast repeating the same stories over and over again coming to the same unhappy ending over and over again. Time on the mat or the meditation cushion wakes us from the spell. We start to spend moments out of the trance, out of the matrix. It may be barely perceptible, we may only know that our day is better if we get to yoga or if we spend a few minutes in prayer and meditation. But it is better. We find that we are able to get unstuck. We find that we are able to see our life with new eyes. Over time we learn to distrust the stories, the beliefs, the fears that make us unhappy. If we find ourselves in a conversation about socks and shoes we are open to new information and, once in a while, are able to refrain from defending our point of view. We have this new freedom because we are coming to understand that the love and peace we seek has nothing to do with intellectual positions or external circumstances.

I grew up going to Disney World because we have family in the area. One day it rained and everybody left. We came back a couple hours later and had the Magic Kingdom to ourselves. That night we watched the fireworks. It was a warm summer evening after a perfect day. Thirty years later there are many more “Kingdoms.” Dino Land is in Animal Kingdom and was a big hit. They have a play ground there designed like an archeological dig complete with bones to be dug up. My daughter showed me how she can climb up a rope bridge all by herself. At the top there was a rubber pad as long as she is tall. It gave her no traction and as she paused to negotiate it I was afraid for her. She hesitated for only a second then scrambled across it with the same skill she displayed climbing across the ropes. She is three and a half and could almost fit into a detergent bottle. I am now forty three and will never forget that moment. Thank you Disney World and thank you Jasmine for reminding me that life is too beautiful to be afraid to change your mind.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Eddie Vedder

I recently discovered Youtube and have spent the last few days watching live footage of my favorite singer songwriters. It is an authentically enjoyable thing to do. On September 30th 2004, David Letterman had Pearl Jam on his show to sing their rendition of Bob Dylan’s song “Masters of War”. The context of Bob Dylan’s song was the Vietnam War but it resonated perfectly with the second year of our second war in Iraq. Eddie Vedder’s performance is extraordinary, he is Bob Dylan and he is himself; the song he sings is from another time and it is from his heart now. David Letterman put’s a lifetime of work behind sharing this moment with the world. All in all, anyone associated with this performance, in the weeks before to the 2004 presidential election, has to have felt that they were making a difference. The spiritual power and political relevance of Pearl Jam’s performance that night is palpable even years later on Youtube.

Reflecting on that night, I could imagine the sense of excitement and purpose, a sense of the power of truth, the power of art, the power to affect the collective consciousness in the name of love. Then the election comes and with it confusion, disappointment, disillusionment. Maybe what we felt that night was not real. We were there, we felt the power of what we did, why do I know doubt that power? We often find ourselves like someone who sows a field and a week later, looking out over an open field asks: Where’s the corn? I worked hard, I planted the seeds at the right depth, at the right time of year, time of day, just enough shade, just enough sun. I even said a prayer for each seed, I felt the power of what I was doing, where is my corn!

We feel the power of love often. What we must learn is to trust it.

Monday, January 15, 2007


MLK day and Easter are days of reflection for me; Easter because of my own experience of resurrection from addiction and MLK day because of my own experience of American racism. As a black child being raised by white parents in the 1960’s and 1970’s the topic of racism in America could not have been more personal, more painful, or more confusing. In adulthood I have found resignation rather than peace. Martin Luther King Jr. represented a spiritual destiny beyond resignation. He embodied the possibility that the word community could extend beyond the boundaries of our personal preferences. He stood for the possibility that unconditional love could be our future. He championed the tenderness that makes our hearts jump and gives us goose bumps. He dreamed of a life worth living.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Al Gore and the New Year

The New Year ended for my daughter Jasmine around 845 pm after doing a little “Bear Yoga” with dad and snuggling with mom. My son, Dylan celebrated the New Year by sleeping and eating in turns. My wife and I spent the last hour of 2006 watching “An Inconvenient Truth” which is now on pay per-view. As the year came to an end I was drawn to this documentary because I wanted to finish the year watching someone live up to his potential.

Whatever one might feel or believe about global warming or the former vice president/almost president one cannot help but be impressed by the sheer follow through of Al Gore when it comes to this issue. “An Inconvenient Truth” documents a lifetime of work whose legacy, for now at least, is a film of tremendous importance. I have watched this documentary five or six times over the last six months and I never tire of it because of its extraordinary nature. It is a film that simultaneously outlines a global crisis and depicts, in the response of an individual to that crisis, the human capacity to rise to the challenge. It never fails to stir the heart. I watched Al Gores film as the new year approached to be reminded that we are the ones we’ve been waiting for.

Happy New Year to all of you, God bless and Namaste Rolf