Ashram Reopening Party Guided Meditation


Welcome everyone. Thank you for joining us here today. Let us begin with a short guided meditation.

I will give instructions in stages of experience so you can follow along and do what feels right. If any instructions are unattainable today, that is okay. Listen to your body and your breath; it knows best.

To begin, take a nice deep breath, in through the nose, out through the mouth.

Begin to find a comfortable position, whether seated or lying down.

If seated: legs crossed, or feet flat on the floor, or kneeling. If lying down: legs extended straight or knees propped up slightly, feet hip width apart or further.

If seated: make sure your pelvis is tilted slightly forward until you get a small curve in your back. You may need to sit on something so your knees are below your hips.

Whether seated or lying: pull your shoulders up to your ears and then slide them together down your back until you feel your chest widen.

If seated: Lean back until your shoulders are directly over your hips. Drop your chin slightly until you feel a softening in your throat. Keeping this, move your head backwards in space until your ears are over your shoulders. Place the back of your left hand on top of your right palm and touch your thumbs together so your hands make an oval shape.

Take a deep breath, pulling the air all the way down your spine and into your hips. Make any adjustments needed to sit comfortably.

Another deep breath in, this time exhale it out loudly. Do this two more times.

On your next exhale, soften as if melting from the crown of your head down your body. Soften the muscles of your forehead…soften your jaw…soften your neck…soften your chest…soften your shoulders and arms…soften your belly…soften your hips and pelvis…soften all the muscles in your legs and knees…soften your hands and feet.

Soften any effort. Allow yourself to feel any sensations.

Breathe in, breathe out…softness…

Take a nice slow breath and on your next inhale count one. Exhale count two. Inhale one. Exhale two. Keep counting on your own.

// pause for one minute

Notice if there is any tightness or holding, especially in your jaw, between your shoulders, or anywhere you feel a bit stuck. Take a breath into that area, and soften.

// pause for one minute

If you’d like more, count inhale one, exhale two, inhale three, exhale four…all the way to ten, and begin again. If you get lost, that’s alright, just begin again from one. Keep counting on your own.

// pause for two cycles

Again, check in to see if there is any tightness or holding. Inhale for space, exhale release. No judgment, come back to the practice.

// pause for two cycles

If you’d like more, slow it down. Inhale, exhale, one. Inhale, exhale, two. Inhale, exhale, three. Etc. to ten, and begin again. Keep counting on your own.

// pause for two cycles

Begin to let go of this counting practice and just witness your breath again. No commentary, just breath.

// pause for thirty seconds

Some days are more difficult to get settled than others. There is no shame. Your practice is your own, so give yourself what you need. Soften anywhere there is tension. You have all the air and space you need.

// pause for three minutes

Begin to come back to your body.

Feel the chair or the floor beneath you.

// pause for ten seconds

Feel the clothing against your skin.

// pause for twenty seconds

Notice if there is anywhere that can soften even more.

// pause for twenty seconds

Notice any sensations in the feet. Notice any sensations in the hands.

// pause for twenty seconds

Notice if there are any smells or tastes.

// pause for thirty seconds

Notice if there are any sounds.

// pause for thirty seconds

Slowly begin to deepen your breath. Pull the air all the way through your body to bring small movements back into your fingers and toes.

Bring a small smile to your lips.

Take a really deep breath, filling up everything inside, and exhale it out loudly.

You may bring your hands to anjali moodra or prayer position in front of your chest. You may bow your head towards your hands, and thank yourself for this practice.

May all beings everywhere come to realize happiness, and the roots of happiness. May all beings everywhere be free from suffering and the causes of suffering. May all beings everywhere experience equanimity, peace, and wellbeing.

Slowly lower your hands and raise your head. As you begin to open your eyes, just notice how you’re feeling.

Thank you for practicing today, and all days. May you bring this practice in to everything you do. Namaste. I bow respectfully to each and every one of you.

 

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“You pass through life like early morning…”


Sakura Blossom

Dreaming, not waking 

Early morning breezes tickle,

Dandelions dance.


       Amidst many changes in my life I am called to write. There is a certain kind of feeling experienced when you leave everything behind for a completely new path. It’s a feeling like floating on a wave – not quite awake, not quite asleep, dreaming, not waking. Every moment is full of endless potential. But, then again, isn’t it anyway? It is in these times of transition that we find ourselves – our real, true, unbiased, no-illusions, self. We tend to find that the Self is completely unlimited. That, in fact, there isn’t a Self, definable as such, but a series of comings-and-goings. A kind of desperate plea for uncertainty. At first, it feels liberating. You have no responsibilities, nothing in your name, no job to get to, no school, or family, or friends calling for your attention. Everything is just space. Everything is limitless. Driving over the mountains, clearly endless blue skies above us, we felt as though we were on top of the world. We had 14 hours of homelessness, in one of the most beautiful parts of this country. The air is so much fresher all these miles above the busy cities and refineries. It’s almost too easy to forget all of this modern world.

       Forgetting is what our minds want to do. It is the easy way out of responsibility. Caring is difficult. Caring takes time and attention and energy, none of which are easily replenished as every action takes time to see the result. Caring can be overwhelming. Up here, on top of the world, there is nothing to care about. It is here where I experience true release, true happiness. You see children smiling for no reason at all, smiling at the smell of the flowers and the songs of the birds and the feel of the air against their skin. It is up here that I can truly say I understand what they are smiling for. The sun feels so close and so warm, and time slows down.

       It has been one full week since we experienced that. It didn’t take long for the 14 hours to pass and for us to take the seemingly short descent into the valley that we now call home. You see the city before you see the ocean, all lights and busy people. It is like waking from an existential dream of non-duality. The experience is much like taking that first step out of a retreat hall and onto a busy street. It’s a bit overwhelming, but you’re lucky, because you have all this stored up happy energy from the experience of release. This stored-up energy allows you to see the new landscape with fresh eyes, non-judging and compassionate. You make it through the busy city, as your new home lies on the far side, only blocks away from the vast, free ocean. You get here unscathed, still holding that happy, light energy close to your heart. This energy had permeated your whole body, and it lifted you to a lightness that was like you had become a cloud. The flowing and pulsing dance of wind and life-energy still coursed through you, with you, as you.

       As you enter your new home and proceed with all the formalities, you take a deep breath, and feel suddenly dizzy with realization. The search you have been on for your whole life, this search to be happy and free like you feel on top of the mountains, you feel it now too. It hasn’t left. The only thing that changed is your perception. Rather than seeing it for what it is, always present, you see it as something only attainable in certain environments. You close your eyes, letting your other senses experience the moment, and you feel this dreamlike happiness. Opening your eyes, it’s still there. You take a step, and still, it’s with you. A smile spreads on your soft lips and your eyes brim with tears. Regardless of what life calls on you for, you are there, completely present, and it is okay. Everything is okay. Everything is okay because inherently, you are free. You are expansive and huge, infinite. You are potential. Everything is potential.

       Cherry blossoms line the streets, mingling with flowers you don’t recognize. You can pick up probably a dozen different bird songs. You tell yourself that the steady thrum and vibration is the sound of the nearby ocean, though you’re probably kidding yourself. The tides pull at you as the pulse closer and further, grasping and releasing. Even the concrete buildings squished into city-blocks pulse and vibrate with life. Everything exists in meditation. Everything meditates.

       Abandoning your few possessions, the first stop is the bay, the soft sand squishing between your toes, the smell of salt-water and fish a welcome reminder that you are home, and you are safe.

Photo Copyright (c) April 2014, Chraeloos

Sitting with Fear


Today was the first day of a six week Kundalini workshop I’m taking part in. I went in excited and thrilled to be there, and I came out wishing I hadn’t gone. This made me wonder. I hadn’t been to any Kundalini yoga classes before, but have practiced it minimally at home. I am familiar with the theory, and much less familiar with the practice. I’m much more familiar with Hatha yoga practice. Today I learned many things – chants, mantras, mudras, asanas. I even learned a bit about the chakras. Ultimately, I should have been thrilled when I left, just as I was when I entered. But, alas, here I was, a bit bummed, even.

So I asked myself, “What is wrong?” I followed the feeling. I learned two things. First, while chanting for the root chakra I had encountered a great fear. This startled me. Second, I was wary of the practice since it was unfamiliar, and I had experienced something new.

In yoga practice, especially when you go to class, you tend to experience a lot of the same things. The asanas are the same, the people are the same, the teachings are similar, and the energy is the same. What you encounter within yourself becomes familiar, and even welcome. So the experience of going to a new class with a new teacher from a different tantric background brought out this experience of fear for me that I hadn’t encountered in my practice before. After that, I was wary and uncomfortable for the rest of the practice. I kept thinking to myself, “Why did I sign up for this?” and “I wish I could just leave.”

I had to ask myself, “Why are you so afraid of encountering fear?” When it came up during the practice, I sat with it. It startled me, definitely, but I didn’t flinch. Kudos to the previous teachers for bringing to a point in my practice where I could recognize without becoming. I recognized it, for sure, but didn’t react. I was able to sit through it and continue the chant, even though with every sound the fear grew. I started wondering if it was the noise that was frightening me – usually I’m a very quiet person. Chanting is a bit out of character for me, though I’ve enjoyed it in the past.

For those who are unaware, I’ll give you a bit of background on the root chakra. Also known as the Muladhara or Mooladhara chakra, it is the chakra that sits at the base of your spine, near your coccyx. It is the chakra that deals with fundamental security and well-being, and innocence. Barbara Herring, from the Yoga Journal, says, “this energy vortex is involved in tending to our survival needs, establishing a healthy sense of groundedness, taking good basic care of the body, and purging the body of wastes.” It is the house of the unconscious. When opened, qualities that we have not realized were a part of us will emerge, “such as destructive rage, all-consuming passion, excessive desires or deep-seated anger.”(1) Others have experienced a closeness with God, great joy or freedom when activating this chakra. Because it is the home of the unconscious, emotions that we have hidden from ourselves, or that we may not even know we are feeling, arise.

In my case, the first thing to emerge was a great fear. It was the same kind of fear I experienced when I had night terrors. Thankfully, I don’t have them anymore, but that fear still lives in me. After class the teacher opened himself to any questions. Once people had left I told him of my experience and he nodded in understanding. He said that my reaction could be based on many things: a fear for my security or livelihood, fear for relationships, fear of uncertainty, or something that arose in my unconscious mind. None of those things really made me go, “Oh, yeah, that’s it!” But they definitely helped me understand that I have to work on my root chakra. He continued to say that through finding a chakra or practice I’m comfortable with, I can ground myself and work my way into the root chakra. I could chant the basic root tone: “Om Lam,” over and over just to slowly open it, and sit with whatever comes.

On the way home from class I listened to a podcast by Michael Stone, from the Centre of Gravity in Toronto. It was titled, “Feel the Fear (Heart Sutra 5)” released Mar 1, 2013. In it he mentioned the question the Dalai Lama was asked about how to deal with “deep fear effectively.” He answered:

There are quite a number of methods. The first is to think about actions and their effects. Usually when something bad happens, we say, “Oh, very unlucky,” and when something good happens, we say, “Oh, very lucky.” Actually, these two words, lucky and unlucky, are insufficient. There must be some reason. Because of a reason, a certain time became lucky or unlucky, but usually we do not go beyond lucky or unlucky. The reason, according to the Buddhist explanation, is our past karma, our actions.

One way to work with deep fears is to think that the fear comes as a result of your own actions in the past. Further, if you have fear of some pain or suffering, you should examine whether there is anything you can do about it. If you can, there is no need to worry about it; if you cannot do anything, then there is also no need to worry.

Another technique is to investigate who is becoming afraid. Examine the nature of your self. Where is this I? Who is I? What is the nature of I? Is there an I besides my physical body and my consciousness? This may help.

Also, someone who is engaging in the Bodhisattva practices seeks to take others’ suffering onto himself or herself. When you have fear, you can think, “Others have fear similar to this; may I take to myself all of their fears.” Even though you are opening yourself to greater suffering, taking greater suffering to yourself, your fear lessens.(2)

Michael Stone went on to say that there are three steps to a mindfulness practice:

In one sit you can go from extreme bliss to extreme fear. What is interesting is not to know the bliss and know the fear, but to start to know the knowing mind. So to look at the mind that knows bliss, and to look at the mind that knows fear, and then to start to see that the knowing is stable. So when we’re fist meditating, we’re always focusing externally on the object of what we’re noticing. So if fear is arising there’s a sense of Me noticing the Fear. The second maturation of practice is when you can fully just feel fear, until there is nothing left of you – there is just Fear. There is just being terrified. And then, I would say, you could just keep going, one more level, where when you can really be in what you feel, you can then look at the consciousness that’s knowing the feeling. Look at that part of the mind that knows. Just like the Dalai Lama said to ask, well who’s knowing. So it’s like your turning around, and instead of looking at the object, you’re looking at knowing. And then you can see that the knowing is totally stable, like a mirror. It doesn’t take the shape of fear. The knowing doesn’t take the shape of bliss. It’s just knowing.

I’m sure in the following weeks we’ll be working with the chakras more, and I’ll encounter things in class that I may not be expecting, but I’ll be ready for them. In the meantime, I’m going to be doing a lot of sitting and chanting to explore what’s in here that I don’t know, and to work with this fear.

And here we think we can judge other people, when we don’t even know ourselves.

At this point, I am excited to go again next week.

1. http://www.chakras.net/energy-centers/muladhara
2. From, A Policy of Kindness: An Anthology of Writings By and About the Dalai Lama

Eastern Perspectives on Compassion


Isis Pleiades has honored me with inviting me to host at the official launch of Spirit Park! So, at 10am SLT on Saturday Sep 21 I will be hosting a meditation followed by some discussion, in humble consideration of the International Weekend of Peace. Please join us to share in an exploration of the energy within ourselves and how we can transform it into compassion for all living beings.

I’m so thrilled to be back in SL and connecting with you all!

The entire weekend is full of events at this same location. The lineup is as follow:

Saturday Sept 21

6:45 am – Opening address form Isis Pleides
7 am – Rtada hosts Vedic chanting
8 am – Andre Farstrider hosts Starseed Connections
9 am – Kana Koray hosts New Hero Journey
10 am – Chraeloos hosts Perspectives on Chinese Medicine
11 am – Lyle and Sedona host Reincarnation and Immortality of the Soul
12 Noon – Elizabeth hosts The Oz Experience
1 pm to 8 pm – Live Music!
8 pm – Rtada hosts Vedic Chanting

Sunday Sept 22

7 am – Rtada hosts Vedic Chanting
8 am – Divali hosts I Ching Revelations
9 am – Andre Farstrider hosts Pleiadian Discussions
10:30 am – Regis Roubodoo hosts Inner Harmony
12 pm – The Companions Tea Ceremony/Tour
1-9 pm – Live Music
9 pm – Rtada hosts Vedic Chanting

I do hope to see you there! Namaste _/\_

**

International Day of Peace Guided Meditation and Presentation
at Spirit Gate, 10-11am SLT Saturday Sept 21 2013

Welcome everyone to Spirit Park at Nirvana Island. Thank you all for coming to share and take part in our celebration of peace, love and harmony. Thank you to Isis who invited me to host this discussion today. I’m so happy to be here!

On this day of International Peace I present the following practices to you so that we may see that each and every one of us is connected. If one of us suffers, all of us suffer. If we show compassion to all living beings as much as we can, if we feel that we are even slightly responsible for the well-being of others, and that our actions affect everyone else, we would live in a much more peaceful world. Only through love can we achieve world peace. And by love I don’t mean the type of love where you can’t stand to be apart or are reliant on the other person for your happiness, but the kind of love that is unconditional and accepting regardless of the situation. If we can all open our minds and bodies to the feeling of pure love and pure energy and send that love out to all who need it, remembering to nurture ourselves at the same time, we can achieve true happiness and true peace.

In Buddhist practice, we commit to three things:
1. Not causing harm
2. Taking care of one another, and
3. Embracing the world just as it is

Pema Chodron says, “May we all learn that pain is not the end of the journey, and neither is delight. We can hold them both – indeed hold it all – at the same time…”

With this in mind, I would like to introduce you to a practice called Tonglen. The idea is to breathe in pain, and breathe out relief. For this short meditation I will go into voice. I will also post the instructions here for those who do not have access to voice.

If you could get comfortable, whether sitting, standing, or laying. Regardless of what position you are in please make sure that your spine is aligned, so if you were sitting your tailbone would be drawn towards the front slightly, straightening your lower back, and your shoulders would be dropped out of your ears and resting in a line above your hips. Pull your chin in slightly, bowing it to your chest to make the back of your neck straight. Place your hands where they fall comfortably.

Now, take a deep breath, and close your eyes. Let the sounds of the world surround you; listen to the birds, the air, the children playing outside. Notice your breathing getting calmer, deeper, and steadier. On your next breath in, try to feel it fill up your entire abdomen. Hold it for a moment. Let it out. Repeat… Take a deep breath in. Feel it fill up your entire abdomen. Hold it for a moment. Let it out. Try to see if you can make your in breath the same length as your out breath.

Now, following this in and out pattern, bring your attention to how you feel. If there is any sadness, anger, pain, or other strong feeling, don’t judge it. Instead of labelling it, just notice it. What does it feel like? Where do you feel it manifesting? Play with it a bit. Does the feeling move? …

Now, bring your mind to something that makes you very happy: a loved one, the beautiful Harvest Moon, the sound of the ocean. Whatever it may be, let the feeling of joy and love fill you up. Let it wash over the fear or pain. …

Let us together breathe in the fear and pain and sadness that we feel. When we breathe out, send the joy and love out to the world. At first, send it to someone close to you. Then try sending it to an acquaintance. Imagine this joy and love going out to all the people you know. Then imagine it going out to everyone sitting in this room. If you can, slowly spread it out every living creature. …

With every in breath we can pull in all the pain and sadness that we feel and with every out breath we can turn it into productive, compassionate energy. I’ll leave you in silence to practice this for a few minutes. …

Slowly bring your attention back to your body. When you’re ready, deepen your breath, wiggle your fingers and toes. If you’d I suggest drinking some water to help ground you.

~~

Norman Fischer talks about us all “swimming in an ocean of compassion.” He goes on to say that everything is compassion. If we can see that everything exists in this ocean of compassion, we can be free of suffering. The practice we just did is a good way to open ourselves to this ocean of compassion.

Tantric yoga is a path of union – yoking – between the one and the many. It is the path to liberation of the “self” – the entity that the ego insists is individual, but is merely a piece of the macrocosmic world. Where would we be without each other?

Tantra worships the divine dance of Shiva and Shakti, which we can safely relate to yin and yang in Chinese medicine. The breakdown works a bit differently, though, with Parama-shiva as the umbrella of ultimate reality. This is characterized by sac-cit-ananda, or Being (sat), Consciousness (cit), and Bliss (ananda).

David Bohm described reality as movement that occurs as “a series of interpenetrating and intermingling elements in different degrees of enfoldment all present together.” This accurately describes the tantric world-view, which only adds that this dynamic Being is conscious.

Tantric practitioners believe that all of us have this Consciousness within us. They believe it is located within the heart, the heart meaning here: “that which I truly am.” “[The heart] is not the body or the mind,” says Georg Feuerstein, “but pure Being-Consciousness-Bliss.” Remember here, that these terms don’t mean what they mean in ordinary western context, as in the ultimate being there is no differentiation between subject and object.

Shiva, is the aspect of the ultimate reality that is consciousness. It is pure subject rather than object; the notion of “I,” without a sense of “I am.” You may be familiar with the mantra for this aspect, located in the heart, “aham.” This sound means “I.” Shiva is often interpreted as the masculine aspect.

Shakti, is the second aspect of the ultimate Reality. It is creativity, energy. Shakti coexists with Shiva to create the universe. Shakti is considered to be the Bliss aspect of the ultimate Reality. Shakti is often interpreted as the feminine aspect.

We can view the union of Shiva and Shakti much like we do yin and yang: as a seemless continuity of Consciousness and Power within one and the same Reality. One cannot exist without the other, one exists within the other, and one manifests the other. This union is often viewed in the west as a sexual union between a couple, but we must keep in mind that this union is transcendental and therefore also asexual.

Shakti plays the active role, whereas Shiva plays the passive role. He manifests the absolute stillness of consciousness, and she expresses the unlimited potency of Power or Energy. “Together they symbolize the play of life and death, creation and annihilation, emptiness and form, dynamism and stasis. This interplay is found on all levels of cosmic existence because … it preexists the ultimate Reality itself.”

One of the first concepts that Eastern practitioners focus on is nonattachment. The Kula-Arnava-Tantra, an ancient Tantric text, reads: “nonattachment (nihsangha) alone is the means if liberation. All defects spring from attachment. Therefore one becomes happy by abandoning attachment and relying on Reality.”

Reality is seen as a continuous process in which everything is constantly in flux. This is mirrored in modern physics: “[current models show] that the properties of a particle can only be understood in terms of its activity – of its interaction with the surrounding environment – and that the particle, therefore, cannot be seen as an isolated entity, but has to be understood as an integrated part of the whole. … The fact that the mass of a particle is equivalent to a certain amount of energy means that the particle can no longer be seen as a static object, but has to be conceived as a dynamic pattern, a process involving the energy which manifests itself as the particle’s mass.”

Here we can see that everything, on both macro- and micro-cosmic levels, is continuously flowing and changing. By teaching nonattachment we learn that change is inevitable, and that only by letting go of our preconceptions and expectations will Reality reveal itself and all the Bliss that it contains.

Georg Feuerstein, in his book, “Tantra: The Path of Ecstasy” gives a typical path of the tantric practitioner, which you may be familiar with if you know of Patanjali:

1. Yama – moral restraint consisting of non-harming, truthfulness, chastity, and greedlessness, which are said to be valid on all levels, at all times, and everywhere.

2. Niyama – self-restraint through purity, contentment, austerity, study, and devotion to The Lord.

3. Asana – posture, which makes the practitioner immune against the onslaught from the pairs of opposites (dvandva), such as heat and cold or dry and moist.

4. Pranayama – lit. “Extension of the life energy” by means of breath control.

5. Pratyahara – sensory inhibition

6. Dharana – concentration, or fixing ones attention upon a selected object, be it a mantra or the graphic representation of a deity

7. Dhyana – meditation, which is a deepening of concentration marked by a progressive unification of consciousness

8. Samadhi – lit. “Putting together,” or ecstasy, which consists in ones complete merging with the object of meditation

The Sharada-Tilaka-Tantra adds five practices to the moral restraint category: compassion, rectitude, patience, stability, and moderate eating, and in place of greedlessness, cleanliness. Through all of these practices, the sages believe one can achieve self-transformation. In my own experience, through these practices and many more, one can achieve an understanding of our connectedness to each other. Through these practices we can move beyond our limited sense of the world – how we want it to be versus how it is – and find our true happiness. Once it’s been found, once Bliss or enlightenment has been reached, one can live in the ocean of compassion with all other beings, free of violence and hatred, free of shame or greed. Through compassion for others you will grow to love yourself, and through loving yourself you will be able to feel more compassion for others.

Just remember, the people that it is hardest to feel compassion for are the ones who likely need it the most. If someone is acting really rotten, just remind yourself that you don’t know what they are going through in life. Maybe your smile or small reassurance or understanding would turn their whole day around. Just knowing that someone cares, even a stranger, can be a very powerful thing.

You may hear me use the term Namaste quite often. This is an ancient term which means: my soul honours your soul. I honour the place in you where the entire universe resides. I horn the light, love, truth, beauty & peace within you, because it is also within me. In sharing these things we are united, we are the same, we are one.

I will leave you with one final quote:
“The opposite if consumption isn’t thrift, it’s generosity. ” – Raj Patel

Thank you for your time today! May all of you soak in the ocean of compassion, whatever path may lead you there! Much love and peace to you all. Namaste! _/|\_

Becoming Vegan and Eco-friendly, and Why


Recently I’ve decided to become vegan. Full-fledged, clothing and household products included, vegan. I thought I’d give a little introduction to the idea of it, and some of the things that helped me make the decision. Vegan by the numbers

I wanted to give you a recommended list of movies. These are ones I watched that ultimately made me make up my mind about GMO, healthy eating, and veganism.

All of these are based on data from the states, for the most part. But, Canada imports a lot from the states, and we are kind of like their “little sister”, so we need to take all of this into account in our lives as well. These are all available on Netflix.

There is a debate about whether or not vegans eat honey. Some do, some don’t. Well, here are some links to the current honey-bee “crisis” (as they so kindly put it)…

As you can see, many, many things likely contribute to the decline in the bee population, but I’d like to not eat honey and reduce my use of pesticides (not that I’ve used them anyway…) to help support the bee population. Every species will decline and die eventually, but I fear that we (humans) are the cause of too many extinctions of species.

My goal is to be green (environment-friendly), and advocates, including WHO and PETA (obviously), all say that one of the best ways to help the environment is to stop supporting industrial farming, and a great way to do that is to stop eating animal products. At this link is an article about a report released by WHO and the UN supporting plant-based diets for health reasons, the original report is linked to from the article.

This link from the PETA website says, “Every vegan saves more than 100 animals a year from horrible abuse.” That may not seem like a lot, but if we were out hunting for our own animals, it would take approx. 1 cow to feed an individual for about two months, if they ate it every day and could preserve it. That is six cows a year, and yet by being vegan you are saving over 100 animals a year! On the same link, they say that all the food used to feed the livestock could be used to feed all the people in the world. I’ve seen info like this elsewhere too. “It takes tons of crops and water to raise farmed animals. In fact, it takes up to 13 pounds of grain to produce just 1 pound of animal flesh! All that plant food could be used much more efficiently if it were fed directly to people.”

So, the issue I can think of with all this, is just because one person doesn’t buy the animal products, the same amount of animals are slaughtered and produced for food consumption – and then thrown out when they aren’t bought. The difference is when 1 million people in the US alone are vegan, and 7.3 million are vegetarian. Every little bit helps, and when the demand decreases, the supply is decreased.

As you can see, there are many factors as to why being vegan is the common-sense option for me right now, and maybe for you too. It is the biggest help for the environment. It saves many animal lives (and stops them from being tortured). It decreases the support for GMO products and companies such as Monsanto. It could feed the whole world. It is super healthy for you, assuming you can find the right supplements that your body needs (every individual is different – please talk to your doctor before you decide to go fully vegan!). And even though all of this could be the benefits, veganism is not for everyone. I am in no way trying to convince people to go vegan – even just not eating meat one meal out of the week makes a significant impact. If veganism isn’t for you, then that is okay. But if it is something you are considering, there are plenty of books and websites out there to help you get started. One I suggest is called “Generation Green” by Linda and Tosh Silvertsen. It is geared towards teens, but it’s an easy and accessible read. Another good one is “Main Street Vegan” by Victoria Moran. Or even, “Becoming Vegan” by Brenda Davis, R.D. and Vesanto Melina, M.S., R.D. Take a look around on the web; search “Monsanto,” “GMO good or bad?”, “What supplements do vegans need?”; or browse on the PETA site, the Vegan Society site, or look for a local vegan group.

Please feel free to ask any questions you may have! It all helps me learn more about my own opinions, and critical thinking is key to making a difference (and knowing what differences need to be made!).

Does anyone else have other suggestions or comments about becoming vegan? This is only the tip of the iceberg!

Loving-kindness, Metta, Vulnerability, Compassion, and Bravery.


Or, in other words, how to love yourself and others.

Any being who’s experienced emotions knows that, instead of you experiencing the emotions, sometime your emotions are experiencing you. Many religions and philosophies throughout history have taught that we should learn to be a witness, stepping back and not letting our emotions get in the way of rational thinking. Some even go so far as to say that we should become friendly with our emotions, get to know them, and therefore come to know when they are arising, recognize what it is, and stop yourself from feeling it. What I’m wondering, is what happens if you stop yourself from feeling emotions? Despite the fact that it must be extremely hard if not impossible to not feel any emotions, if we have evolved as the only beings that can recognize that we are feeling an emotion, should we embrace this? I’m not saying that we should let ourselves become overwhelmed with our emotions, but be able to step aside and let them coexist with us.

One of the most basic emotions I can think of is fear. For millennia fear has warned prey that there is a predator close by. These days, humans tend to be the predators more often then not, but in many cases fear has saved lives. It is a basic instinct. I’d go so far as to say that it is necessary to the survival of any living being. So, if a negative emotion such as fear can be such a good thing, what other emotions are necessary? I’d argue that love is necessary, as without love we couldn’t exist together peacefully. (Some would argue here that you can’t feel love without having felt hate, but I’d like to politely disagree. In my studies of metta meditation (loving-kindness), I’ve come to learn that even in hate there can exist a certain kind of love. I could go into this in detail, but that’s a whole other entry). But, there are three other emotions that I think are also necessary (among, likely, others) that I’d like to go into here: vulnerability, bravery, and compassion.

In my understanding of vulnerability, which differs greatly from the common definition of ‘weakness’, it seems that a vulnerability is a place for growth, connection, and individuality. I’d go so far as to argue that without vulnerabilities we would all be the same. Most people think of a vulnerability as a potential for harm, either physical or emotional. But, it’s only a potential for harm if there is something to be harmed by. Some would argue here that death is a vulnerability – but this is not so, as we all die. There cannot be life without death – and this does not make us weak. If anything, this should make us stronger as we realize that our time on this plane is limited and that we should spend the time we have with our loved ones with as happy an outlook that we can. We all have suffering in our life that can either be caused from, or create vulnerabilities. But, suffering is inevitable as we live in physical bodies that manifest physical emotions that don’t always coincide with the emotions of others. In my own experience, all suffering that I’ve endured has taught me more, and opened me up to more than I ever would have experienced had I avoided the suffering. Because we are never the same people from one moment to the next, let alone one lifetime to the next, we can’t possibly avoid suffering. Our cells are continuously dying and birthing, rewriting itself and changing in minuscule ways. Our bodies are always aging, our minds always growing. If we can look at this cycle of life and death, suffering and growth, as a positive life experience, we can fully embrace ourselves and each other for the way we are – our true beings – without shame. In doing this, we are actually eliminating much of our suffering.

Which leads us to compassion. If all beings have even a slice of compassion in them, then there is no need for a vulnerability to be a weakness. Instead of being shameful of your vulnerabilities, let them show so that people can get to know who you are, and love you for who you are. A vulnerability could be a broken heart, a broken bone, a bullied soul, amongst various other things not even a fraction of which I could name here. All of these things do heal when given the proper environment. Compassion is that environment. To give compassion shows humbleness, selflessness, and empathy. To be able to receive compassion shows even greater strength and trust, as you are letting the person see your soul. With this connection, we are able to communicate clearly, have stronger relationships, and end suffering all over the world. And, when I say compassion, I don’t mean in the form of money. I mean, opening your heart to the suffering of others; realizing that they suffer just as you do, and allowing them to experience it however they may without judgement. Compassion is so strong an emotion, and an action, that even if you open if up to one person a day you’d be doing yourself a huge favor, and helping those around you, even if just by setting an example. You never know what people are going through, or why they are acting the way they are. Don’t take their actions personally, as most of the time they aren’t reacting to something you did, but rather projecting their feelings from something that happened earlier onto you.

This brings us to bravery. In order to surrender yourself to someone – showing them your vulnerabilities, sending out your compassion, and trusting them to treat you with compassion – shows great bravery and courage (I use these two words simultaneously, as I think that backing down from a battle shows just as great, if not greater bravery and courage than running into it head-first). By opening yourself to them you are placing trust into their hands and hoping they won’t throw it back at you or drop it to the ground to stomp on it. I can guarantee you that they will recognize this, even if they don’t know they do, and they will treat you with respect and trust in return. Now, everyone’s capacity for respect and trust is different, so it may not seem so obvious to you that they are reciprocating, but every time they are given the opportunity to grow into that compassion, vulnerable environment, they are given an extra pull up the mountain, where at the top lays true trust, respect, and friendship. An exercise I would like you to try in order to practice bravery is to look into the eyes of all the strangers that pass you with acceptance. Don’t judge them. Don’t assume that you know what they are going through or why they are acting the way they are. Don’t assume that they are judging you. Let there be a complete exchange of introductions – how you really want people to know you, “Hi, my name is _____ and I see the good in you, and accept you for who you are.” See what happens in return – how many people’s faces will soften, aura’s will shift, and how many true connections you can make. Now, this isn’t a contest – the number doesn’t matter – but you will be surprised how many people are looking desperately for that kind of acknowledgement and kindness. Be brave – stick your foot out first, and see how many people catch you.

If we can give and receive these three things we would have very strong, trusting, and safe relationships – be them love, friendship, family, or connections with complete strangers. If we can accept ourselves enough to let our vulnerabilities shine through, show compassion even when all we want to do is lash out, and do this all with courage – imagine how much happier we would be. If we embrace the practice of separating our selves from our emotions and stopping them from happening, how can we exist as a co-dependent species? If we can accept our emotions, recognize when they are arising and why, and learn to scoot over and let them have a seat on the pillow beside us, then we can have a conversation with them, instead of trying to become them.

What do you think?

Impromptu Discussion “The Power of Vulnerability”


This morning I sent an notice, not really expecting anyone to show up:

Good morning everyone! I’m sitting at the teahaus watching Brene Brown’s video “The Power of Vulnerability” and thought I’d host an impromptu discussion about vulnerability. Come join me! 

…This is what came of it:

(There is a notecard mentioned, given to me by Sedona. She is offline so I haven’t received her permission to post it here, so perhaps I will post it at a later date.)

Chraeloos: So, make yourselves comfortable, feel free to have some tea if you’d like 🙂

Chraeloos: The video is running on the screen behind me, you can also open it in your browser if its easier

Chraeloos: Wow, everyone has notecards about this already haha

Professorette Violet Ninetails (ataraxia.azemus): I don’t!

Chraeloos: haha well let me send you one

Chraeloos: Good morning Kelian 🙂

Wisdomseeker (lissena): please send me one too

Kelian Chayoo: Good morning

Professorette Violet Ninetails (ataraxia.azemus): Thank you 🙂

Chraeloos: most welcome

Chraeloos: would anyone else like a notecard?

Kelian Chayoo: yes please

Wisdomseeker (lissena): yes

Chraeloos: The notecards were written by a great friend Sedona

Professorette Violet Ninetails (ataraxia.azemus): Oh, I see….I had no idea what “the power” of vulnerability could be…but allowing our vulnerability to be seen can foster intimacy, too 🙂

Chraeloos: Exactly Vi – and letting go of shame. So many people feel that they aren’t worthy of love. But, if you can’t fully give yourself to your partner, how can you love them?

Chraeloos: I think it is so important to recognize that vulnerability is what makes us human. It isn’t a weakness, but a place for character and learning and growth, in the sense that we can learn from each others vulnerabilities

Chraeloos: If we didn’t have vulnerabilities, how would we interact? We’d all be exactly the same. How boring!

Professorette Violet Ninetails (ataraxia.azemus): (I like what she says early on about “Life is messy–clean it up” vs. “Life is messy–love it”

Professorette Violet Ninetails (ataraxia.azemus): )

Chraeloos: haha, right? She is hilarious and so true

Chraeloos: Really, aren’t us humans messy? Aren’t we all experiencing something in every moment? Whether it has a good or bad affect, it still influences us and perhaps how we treat others

Chraeloos: And, the notecard explains that we think of vulnerability as “no protection”, but what do we have to be protected from? If we can open up and accept ourselves the way we are, it shows great strength, not vulnerability.

Kelian Chayoo: Oh! I have to run. Excuse me everyone

Chraeloos: take good care Kelian, thank you for stopping by 🙂

Professorette Violet Ninetails (ataraxia.azemus): Take care, Kelian!

Kelian Chayoo: Thanks, and bye

Chraeloos: Hm, this leads me to bravery. I don’t think bravery is running into battle despite all costs – I think bravery is being able to step away from it without feeling shame. Recognizing when something is too much and letting it go. Accepting responcibility

Chraeloos: Good morning druth 🙂

Chraeloos: Good mornign Catrina 🙂

Chraeloos: morning*

Professorette Violet Ninetails (ataraxia.azemus): This reminds me of some stuff by Susan Johnson, a relationship researcher… “The power of attachment, emotions and needs are such that even partners who’ve never known safe loving responsiveness from others, or have been violated by those they depended on, will still risk reaching out for care. And even if partners see their lover as scared and vulnerable, they can access a protective empathy that even they didn’t know they possessed.”

Chraeloos: Ah, very nice point Vi

Ari (arisia.vita): Weakness prevails over strength–gentleness conquers. Become the calm and restful breeze that tames the violent sea.

Chraeloos: Ari – beautifully said

Chraeloos: Why see vulnerability as negative? Why not open up to it and let it become you?

Professorette Violet Ninetails (ataraxia.azemus): Mm…I like that, Ari 🙂

Chraeloos: Please help yourselves to a tea if you’d like, and if you have media activated the video is on the screen behind me, or you can open it in your own browser if you’d prefer

druth Vlodovic: I’ve seen it before

druth Vlodovic: an interesting talk

Chraeloos: /me nods at Druth.

Chraeloos: It got me thinking haha

Chraeloos: if we all let more vulnerability into our lives, would that make us better people?

druth Vlodovic: I’ve always thought that people who are tough and invulnerable are really displaying fear and weakness

Chraeloos: what affect would it have on our relationships? Jobs?

Professorette Violet Ninetails (ataraxia.azemus): Me too, Druth.

Chraeloos: Druth, interesting! Like creating a shield?

Professorette Violet Ninetails (ataraxia.azemus): The world could do with more tenderness for sure

Chraeloos: LIke bullies…

Chraeloos: /me nods at Vi.

Chraeloos: I think so too

druth Vlodovic: jobs? we’d become more interested in accomplishing our work and less on politics

Chraeloos: Ah, good point

druth Vlodovic: shields are a good idea if you exlect to be attacked

Chraeloos: Perhaps we’d be more (sorry to use a Buddhist term, but I cna’t think of a better one) mindful about all our actions

Chraeloos: druth – exactly. Why do we expect to be attacked all the time?

Catrinamonblue: fear of pain

Catrinamonblue: hurt

druth Vlodovic: but a fellow I know who worked with the american navy pointed out that once you’ve spent allthis money and effort on destructive toys you can’tresist the urge to play with them

Chraeloos: Catrina – perhaps we have all felt pain before and we are afraid to face it?

Catrinamonblue: nods

Chraeloos: druth, well said

druth Vlodovic: setting your mind in a defensive pattern can be seen as creating battle toys

Ari (arisia.vita): from that example druth, I wish they had spent more money on “love toys” 🙂

Chraeloos: why do we shy away from pain and hurt? We know that we will experience at least once in our lives, even if its as small as a paper cut or as large as death. Isn’t is all an experience for growth and to see who your true friends are?

Chraeloos: Druth, yes, very true. You attract the way you think…

Chraeloos: Ari, yes!

Chraeloos: I believe the Buddha said, “All that we are is the result of what we have thought.” If we think defensively we are bound to encounter problems. Wehreas if we think tenderly we are bound to encounter love and friendship and ease.

Ari (arisia.vita): He also said…

Ari (arisia.vita): When life hurls stones at you, whether they be pebbles or boulders, remember that love is the great protector, protecting us from anger and jealousy, and from harm inflicted by spirits. When Buddha Shakyamuni was meditating under the Bodhi Tree he was attacked by all the terrifying demons of this world, but his love transformed their weapons into a rain of flowers. Ultimately our love will become the universal love of a Buddha, which actually has the power to bestow happiness on all living beings.

Chraeloos: Isn’t it true that when you love someone you love them for all the strengths and all their weaknesses? Whtether it’s family, friends, or a partner.

Chraeloos: Ari, beautiful

Professorette Violet Ninetails (ataraxia.azemus): I think we learn too much bitterness and caution from pain, sometimes…that’s the “closing in” reaction Ran Prieur sometimes talks about; limiting our possibilities to limit our chances of being hurt again. We usually can learn empathy and compassion from hurt, too, though…that’s the “opening up” reaction–broadening our experiences to take in more beauty before us that helps us address the pain.

Catrinamonblue: Lovely Ari

Catrinamonblue: yes Professorette I agree

Chraeloos: Vi, well said

druth Vlodovic: “transforming their weapons to flowers” takes time we are afraid we won’thave before being hurt

Professorette Violet Ninetails (ataraxia.azemus): 🙂 Ari

druth Vlodovic: but in the long term feuds never stop and only peace lasts

Chraeloos: HI Starhaeart 🙂

Chraeloos: wow sorry typoes haha

Professorette Violet Ninetails (ataraxia.azemus): Hi Star

Friend of Trees (starheart.mcmasters): Hi

Friend of Trees (starheart.mcmasters): sorry to be so late

Chraeloos: Druth, time, good point. How long does it take to be able to face the hurt and pain we’ve experiences?

Chraeloos: No problem Star 🙂 You’re welcome any time

Chraeloos: Pardon me a moment irl, am going to move to the kitchen…may get booted in the meantime

Professorette Violet Ninetails (ataraxia.azemus): Good luck!

Chraeloos: thanks…looks like I’m safe haha

Professorette Violet Ninetails (ataraxia.azemus): That was a good talk…thanks for sharing, Chrae 🙂

druth Vlodovic: we have the time we give ourselves i guess

druth Vlodovic: but it takes tons of equanimity to be willing to pay the price over and over

Chraeloos: no problem, any time 🙂 haha

Chraeloos: druth, good point

druth Vlodovic: and tons more courage to face the potential costs which are usually much higher

Chraeloos: I’ve found in myself that it is so much easier to let the pain in and encounter it and then let it go rather than hold on to it and carry it around for years

Chraeloos: true

Chraeloos: I mean, get friendly with your emotions…haha

Chraeloos: why not let yourself experience what it is you feel?

druth Vlodovic: “make friends with suffering”

druth Vlodovic: when i first heard that i was horrified

Professorette Violet Ninetails (ataraxia.azemus): That can be really difficult, but I agree….it’s usually best to allow yourself to feel what you’re feeling, even if it’s devastating…it’s usually better in the long term

Thє lovєlɣ Alíz: Nathalia (aliznathalia.raviprakash): that was lovely, thank you for hosting these wise words

Chraeloos: druth, haha yes I was too

Chraeloos: Aliz, most welcome, glad you could come

Chraeloos: Since this is impromptu there is no time limit, so feel free to stick around as long as you’d like

Chraeloos: Vi, very true. It can be devastating, and you can experience depths you never have before – which is where the bravery comes in. But the idea is to be the witness…realizing that there is a life ahead of you that doesn’t have to include this moment

Professorette Violet Ninetails (ataraxia.azemus): “Sorrow isn’t something I want, but if it’s standing by my door, I’ll let it inside and love it like anything else.”….I wrote that in a letter to a friend; we were both going through very difficult things.

druth Vlodovic: in buddhism they talk about allowing suffering, and how it is good for people to suffer

Chraeloos: Vi, very well said! Thank you for sharing that

druth Vlodovic: ah,violet said it better than me 🙂

Professorette Violet Ninetails (ataraxia.azemus): 😛

Chraeloos: Hm, I would disagree about it being good for people to suffer, but good to let it in sometimes for sure…I can see what you mean

Catrinamonblue: through suffering we come to kow what true joy is, you can’t have one without the other

Ari (arisia.vita): sorry for yet another quote, but they are coming freely today…

Ari (arisia.vita): The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” – Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

Chraeloos: Catrina, agreed! Well said

Professorette Violet Ninetails (ataraxia.azemus): It’s good to acknowledge that you are suffering.

druth Vlodovic: we get defensive because so often martyrdom is mixed with violence and mindlessness

Professorette Violet Ninetails (ataraxia.azemus): 🙂 Ari

Chraeloos: No need to apologize Ari!

Catrinamonblue: Yes Ari exactly

Chraeloos: Druth, agreed

Professorette Violet Ninetails (ataraxia.azemus): It’s good to acknowledge that others are suffering, too….it helps, to tell someone you see their vulnerability. It can be tricky to do, though, without poking them in tender spots..

Catrinamonblue: nods

Catrinamonblue: I been there and done that 🙂

druth Vlodovic: many good things are corrupted by those with agendas that it can be hard to know wisdom when you hear it

Chraeloos: people are funny with how “in the moment” they are – I mean, I work at our equivalent of a DMV, and people come in and get so mad becuase they owe fines…well, don’t speed…lol but they see it as a huge offense to them instead of seeing at something they caused

Chraeloos: Vi, yes very true. I like to practice that at work too – realizing that I don’t know what is happening in other peoples lives so can’t judge their reactions to things

Chraeloos: druth, agreed.

Chraeloos: Everyone has their own idea of right and wrong

druth Vlodovic: I suspect they are angry because they know they did wrong,but not “that” wrong and it irks them

druth Vlodovic: second arrow suffering 🙂

Professorette Violet Ninetails (ataraxia.azemus): I do that out of habit, now, Chrae….even when people harrass me or act in willfully hurtful ways, I kind of reflexively assume THEY’RE in pain

Chraeloos: haha druth, well said

Chraeloos: Vi, yes me too

Chraeloos: its so much easier that way because you don’t take everything personally

Professorette Violet Ninetails (ataraxia.azemus): I need to get going, though….be well, everyone 🙂

Friend of Trees (starheart.mcmasters): compassion and empathy are sorely needed in our world

Friend of Trees (starheart.mcmasters): yes druth

Friend of Trees (starheart.mcmasters): I’m very laggy today

druth Vlodovic: “Forgive your enemies and it will be like heaping hot coals on their heads”

Friend of Trees (starheart.mcmasters): often saturdays

Chraeloos: Starheart, I agree completely that compassion and empathy are sorely needed

druth Vlodovic: a mangled quote from the bible somewhere 🙂

Ari (arisia.vita): better still, turn them into friends

Ari (arisia.vita): If I turn an enemy into a friend, have I not also destroyed my enemy? – Abraham Lincoln

Friend of Trees (starheart.mcmasters): “love your enemies, bless those that curse you”

Chraeloos: haha druth

druth Vlodovic: though I’m not sure it displays the right attitude, unless it is offered as a warning 🙂

druth Vlodovic: love the quote from Lincoln

Chraeloos: nice quotes

Ari (arisia.vita): one more…Kung Fu wisdom…

Ari (arisia.vita): Master: Vengeance is a water vessel with a hole. It carries nothing but the promise of emptiness.

Disciple: Shall I then repay injury always with kindness?

Master: Repay injury with justice and forgiveness, but kindness always with kindness.

Chraeloos: ah, well said!

Catrinamonblue: dispelling anger with compassion and understanding (or forgiveness) works so much better than reflective anger

druth Vlodovic: someday I need to get a reading list from ari 🙂

Chraeloos: catrina, so true

Ari (arisia.vita): you think I don’t remember all these? have them all in my head?….you are correct 🙂

druth Vlodovic: a reaction that is based on reason and compassion is usually more considered than one based on anger

Chraeloos: druth, yes lol agreed…Ari you should make one

druth Vlodovic: you still have to love yourself enough not to put up with too much though

Chraeloos: druth, yes! Realize when it is time to walk away

Catrinamonblue: nods

Friend of Trees (starheart.mcmasters): that may be the hardest thing to learn

Catrinamonblue: yes it is

Chraeloos: how do we open up others to the idea that vulnerability is not negative?

Chraeloos: yes, very true. Who wants to give something up?

druth Vlodovic: I remember when I was thinking about my moral: be good to people, when i suddeny l realized that I am people too!

Catrinamonblue: 🙂

Friend of Trees (starheart.mcmasters): you can feel compassion for the person, but that doesn’t mean you have to keep them or their behaviour in you life

druth Vlodovic: but being defensive isn’t really being good to yourself

Chraeloos: druth, well said

Ari (arisia.vita): you are a special people druth

Catrinamonblue: agreed

druth Vlodovic: ty 🙂

Friend of Trees (starheart.mcmasters): yes, its “love your neighbour AS YOURSELF”

druth Vlodovic: not more than

Chraeloos: starheart, true

druth Vlodovic: hence the idea that you can’t love others without loving yourself

druth Vlodovic: you can,but it often ends up being unhealthy

Chraeloos: yes, druth, exactly

Chraeloos: you can’t love others without loving yourself

Chraeloos: hm, looks like its getting time for Sims discussion, should we perhaps call this the end? Please feel free to stick around and come back with firends, this is an open sim..

druth Vlodovic: I figure it comesfromthe sort of politics required to raise big armies

druth Vlodovic: evolution is about the best survivor,rather than the best liver