Wednesday, January 30, 2019

A Blessing for You

In India, there is no river more sacred than the Ganges.  She gives life to millions and receives their cremated remains at the end.  She is considered not just a river, but literally a Goddess, Ma Ganga, who is prayed to, honored with lights and flowers, and from whom blessings are received.

I asked my husband and daughter during their visit to Varanasi, a city on the banks of the sacred river, to say a prayer of blessing for all the students and friends of Shree Yoga.  At sunrise on January 23rd, a blessing was said for you all.  Candles and flowers are offered and there is a magic in connecting so deeply to nature and the life giving force of our rivers, oceans, mountains and valleys.  Know that you have been blessed.  If you have a moment, sit silently now and open yourself to fully experience the beauty of countless blessings that are pouring out to you all the time.  This is the meaning of “Shree” – a vast abundance of beauty and a perspective on life that looks for the blessings amidst all that is.



1/23/19 Sunrise on the Ganges in Varanasi

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Chapel of the Bones

During my travels earlier in the month, we had an interesting and rather unexpected church visit in the Portuguese city of Evora. We encountered the transience of life up close and personal. “The Chapel of the Bones was built in the 17th century, with the intention of provoking by the image the reflection on the transience of human life. Both the walls and the pillars are covered with a few thousand bones and skulls from the burial spaces connected to the convent.” By the 16th century, there were as many as 43 cemeteries in and around Évora that were taking up valuable land. Not wanting to condemn the souls of the people buried there, the monks decided to build the Chapel and relocate the bones. 5000 corpses were moved. The inscription over the door reads: “Nós ossos que aqui estamos, pelos vossos esperamos,” or: “We bones, are here, waiting for yours.”

It was both beautiful and somehow terrible to behold so many bones artfully decorating every vertical surface.  There was a pillar of sacrums, stacks of femurs, masses of skulls and arches of tibias.  The monks would meditate here on the ephemeral-ness of the body and life finding inspiration to commit fully to their religious practices.  I wished there was somewhere to sit and contemplate because it certainly did stimulate this awareness in me. It also brought home the unity of all bodies and all peoples regardless of color, creed, religion or ethnicity – all the things that seem to divide us and make us feel better than, less than, and certainly different from one another.  Tantric philosophy teaches that we are all made of the One energy and nowhere was this more apparent to me than in the Chapel of Bones.  The Bone Chapel brings perspective, one of the 8 Pillars of Joy.

Here is a poem by Father Antonio da Ascencao, that hangs from one of the pillars:

Where are you going in such a hurry traveler?
Pause… do not advance your travel;
You have no greater concern
Than this one: that on which you focus your sight.

Recall how many have passed from this world,
Reflect on your similar end,
There is good reason to reflect If only all did the same.
Ponder, you so influenced by fate,
Among all the many concerns of the world,

So little do you reflect on death;
If by chance you glance at this place,
Stop… for the sake of your journey,
The more you pause, the further on your journey you will be.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The Initiation Well

     Last week I visited Quinta da Regaleira in the beautiful town of Sintra outside of Lisbon, Portugal.  This UNESCO palace and extensive grounds was full of mystery, mysticism and intrigue.  What fascinated me most was the Initiation Well. It is a stone tower that descends through nine spirals 27 meters into the earth. 

      It is believed that various rituals and initiation rites took place here for practitioners of Tarot and Free Masonry or even the Knights Templar. The intention, we were told, was for the initiate to move from the known, the light of day, down through nine spirals into the depths of their own selves, darkness and the unknown. We entered through a stone portal and began our descent in silence circling deeper and deeper into the earth. The act of walking the narrowing spiraling inward well brought me into a contemplative quite place in myself.  We arrived at the bottom where the four cardinal points of the compass are inlaid on the floor and gazed up at the small circle of daylight.

      The way in is not the way out.  We headed into the subterranean tunnels.  First we arrived at another well, similar to the first but more crudely built.  You think you can ascend here but the path is blocked. It is a false exit, a trick.  Another tunnel led to a grotto- opening onto a waterfall spilling into a green pond, but this was also not an exit.  We then moved into an unlit tunnel, further into the unknown, true darkness and mystery.  This short tunnel led to the side of the pond and the true exit – a balancing act of crossing the green pond via 15 stepping stones.  

     I made my way across with fingers touching the stone wall on my right only to have the wall end and still 4-5 stones to go.  Fear rose up.  Though I have fairly good balance, I felt trepidation at taking these last few steps with no support.

     I found the whole experience a poignant metaphor for the spiritual journey.  We leave the known and venture into the depths of our own beings to encounter whatever is there; to know it, experience it and embrace it entirely.  There are often false exits and trick stairways until at last, overcoming our fear, we carry all we have understood and become back out into the light of day.  This is why we practice yoga: to know the depths of our own being and all that is in us so that we can live fully and completely; at one with ourselves.

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