Tuesday, May 12, 2009


This month I travel to the Himalayan Institute in Honesdale, Pennsylvania for initiation into the Tantric lineage of Swami Rama. The Sanskrit word for lineage is parampara which literally means one after the other. A lineage is an unbroken line of teachers all linked by empowered teachings. A lineage is like an uninterrupted electric current that does not diminish in power....

Tantra is strictly an initiatory tradition, which means that its sacred and secret teachings are passed on in the age-old fashion of oral transmission from teacher to disciple. In this respect, Tantra is markedly different from Neo-Tantrism, which is all too often practiced and promulgated by enthusiasts who have not been properly initiated but have acquired their knowledge largely from books.
The Tantric adepts consider initiation (diksha) crucial to one's progress on the spiritual path. And for the initiation to be truly empowering, it must be granted by a qualified Tantric master.
George Feuerstein

Friday, May 8, 2009

Cave of the Heart Meditation

Or by concentrating on the supreme, ever-blissful Light within.
Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 1.36
Commentary by Swami Satchidananda:
.....imagine your heart to contain a beautiful glowing lotus. The mind will easily get absorbed in that, and you will have a nice experience. In the beginning one has to imagine this Light, which later becomes a reality.

The next few days in the shala we will be practicing the Tantric kriya meditation called the Cave of the Heart. This practice elaborates on Yoga Sutra 1.36. Patanjali describes a method of meditating on a light that is beyond all sorrow as one way to overcome all of the obstacles in the mind. This technique allows us a tangible experience of this light and is one of the key practices to overcome emotional imbalances, turmoil, confusion and despair.

Bright but hidden, the Self dwells in the heart.
Everything that moves, breathes, opens and closes lives in the Self- the source of love.
Realize the Self hidden in the heart and cut asunder the knot of ignorance here and now.
Upanishads- translated by Eknath Easwaran

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Rishikesh Travel Log

Rishikesh, India Travel Log- 2006

Muktananda’s whole body shakes when he laughs. He is quite tall and perhaps even a bit rotund, the proverbial gentle giant. There are frequent pregnant pauses as he speaks. He looks up and seems to be waiting to receive information from the ether. I make a mental note to be sure to pause regularly in the Yoga classes I teach at home.
My husband and I have traveled to Rishikesh, India, the international capitol of Yoga, for the time honored tradition of retreat and pilgrimage. Rishikesh is one of India’s holy cities and a yatra (pilgrimage) destination for many Hindus. The sacred Ganga River flows through the city. One wakes every morning to the sound of chanting and the smell of incense as the devout perform pujas (worship rituals) on the banks of the river. The same rituals are performed every evening at sunset and the river sparkles with candles from aartis (fire ceremonies) that are sent down the river in small boats made of leaves. The whole city is strictly vegetarian, so as I make my way down the beach, families of pigs, goats, cows, monkeys and dogs roam freely. It is the week before Christmas. The city is very cold in the mornings and evenings, but warms up with sunny afternoons. Muktananda, a swami in the Sivananda lineage, gives satsangs every morning. Satya is the Sanskrit word for truth, so a satsang is a meeting to talk about truth. In my experience, the Indians do not posses the customer service siddhi, or not at least our western idea of customer service. Mysteriously, some mornings the satsang is at 8 am, some mornings at 8:30 am and it may be cancelled completely without warning or apology. As I make my way up to the second story balcony that overlooks the river, I am not convinced that there will actually be a satsang until I see the shoes scattered outside the door. Inside, a gathering of 40 or so mostly western students of Yoga have assembled to ask questions and to listen. Over and over, a bird pecks at its reflection in the mirrored glass panels of the French doors. I am reminded of samskaras- the long standing self defeating beliefs and habits that most of us struggle with. We unconsciously find ourselves in the same situations over and over again and habitually perform the same actions that result in the same unsatisfactory results. The shala is cold; I watch fascinated as steam rises off of Swamiji’s head as he speaks. This morning a Chinese woman struggles with the concept of love. She has not experienced it and does not understand it. She asks where does one find love? A long explanation ensues with many references to the water and ocean metaphor that Swamiji uses often in explaining our relationship with the Source. The Chinese woman is still clearly confused- perhaps there is a language barrier. In the end, Swamiji says that the mature, red apple simply cannot explain sweetness to the young, green apple. The young, green apple has no concept of sweetness. There is a ripening that happens as we practice and sweetness is revealed as the ripening unfolds. That ripening has its own pace and rhythm.
There is no talk of triangles and down dogs. It is assumed that one will practice asana, but the passion with which westerners study asana does not exist here. After 9 years of Yoga practice and study, this feels right. How much more can down dog be studied? And to what end? The asanas are simply the doorway to the higher practices and one needs to cross the threshold at some point. American Yoga has warmly embraced asana, but is still on handshaking terms with meditation, pranayama, ritual and chanting. I look forward to the monumental shift in American consciousness that will happen as more students ripen and cross the threshold.

As Dr. Deepak Chopra says, Christianity started with 12. Buddhism started with one.