focus

Building Confidence and Inner Strength Through Tantra Yoga

Confidence

The Need for Change

In my early days of learning about healing and energy, I experienced many personal challenges. This makes sense, of course, because most people who find themselves exploring Healing and Spiritual avenues do so because they themselves are seeking a life which is more healthy, vibrant, balanced, joyful and peaceful.

I was not an exception in this regard. I knew something needed to change in my life, but I really couldn’t explain it.

See, I had a problem that is probably more common than you know. I frequently found myself caving into other people’s desires and needs. I found myself “going along” with others because I was afraid if I said “no”, or explained how I really felt, or what I really wanted, that they wouldn’t like me. Or they would get angry and then I would still end up caving in anyway.

I kept setting aside my own needs and happiness, because I somehow thought that “if I give them what they want, they will like me, and then I will be happy because they like me”.

Well… that didn’t work out so well. Because, what I was clearly failing to see was that MY OWN NEEDS MATTERED more to my happiness than simply having someone like me. And if having them “like me” meant that I had to set aside my own needs and personal values, well, ultimately it was just a formula for disappointment, failure and misery. And in the end, those people weren’t really interested in my happiness to begin with…

This same pattern showed up everywhere in my life really. At work with co-workers and bosses. In friendships. In family dynamics. And also in romantic relationships.

It wasn’t isolated, even though at some points it seemed more intense in certain areas. For a while, like is so often the case, I simply thought that others were doing it to me. They were “overpowering me”. Or” being too demanding”. Or “being critical”. Or whatever it was.

And, in some cases, they probably were. But more importantly, I was allowing it to happen. I was the one who kept saying “yes”, when I really wanted to say “no”. I was the one who would be treated poorly, and still go back smiling knowing it would happen again.

I needed to find my own inner strength and confidence. But “life” kept throwing me off center, or so it felt.

The Turning Point

It was around 1999. I had been studying energy healing and metaphysics for about 9 years. And I had been a massage therapist and healing professional for about 2 or 3 years. This included plenty of study and training. And I finally found myself in “crisis”. I had learned a lot of “techniques” for healing others. Some for healing myself. But I knew that I couldn’t get myself out of this without some guidance. And at that time, I really didn’t even understand “what the problem was”.

I found myself going through a healing “process” with a woman named Lisa. Every 6 weeks for a period of 9 months, I would spend a weekend with Lisa and about 9 other people. Of the other nine, there was only 1 other man. So, it was two guys and 9 woman. And what I experienced during those 9 months radically changed my life and my understanding of myself for the better.

This Process was the turning point for me to find my Inner Strength and my Confidence. It was a Spiritual community that was focused on exploring the Divine Feminine, and the balance of Inner Masculine and Inner Feminine.

To explain everything I learned and experienced is not practical here. But I do want to share one of the most important principles to get started with. Without this principle, the rest really doesn’t work very well anyway.

So, let me start with an analogy

In order for someone to develop confidence and strength, one needs to be able to “stand firmly” in ones own values, beliefs and self-acceptance. Without “standing firmly”, then even the slightest force can “push you off center”. So, if I am standing on my “Truth” as far as values and needs, and something comes along and I stumble or fall, then I will land outside of my “Truth”.

In the extreme version of this, I would become like a “Tumbleweed”. Even the slightest breeze would have me going in whatever direction the wind was blowing.

And, in my earlier experiences, this is how I often felt. Someone else’s desires or needs were like the “wind”, and as their desire came into my experience, I was blown to where their Truth was. Off of my Truth and my center.

This same phenomenon, energetically, also prevents focus. Because the awareness and mind are easily pulled off course by the influences of what is around you.

So, lacking confidence, strength and focus, the world begins to toss you about. Your directions in life, and the directions of your mind are subject to the outer forces of life: your circumstances, the people you interact with, etc.

In order for you to develop Self-Confidence, Inner Strength and Focus in the outer world, you will necessarily need to find a way to “Anchor yourself” to the location of “Truth”. Once “anchored” and “centered” you will be able to stand firmly in your own Truth and Power, even when the “winds” of life are blowing about you.

Tantra Starts with The Life Force Energy

Tantra teaches that we are energetic beings. And in order to develop a Tantric practice where you access and direct the Life Force within you, you need to begin to think of yourself in Energetic terms.

When you are not “anchored to your truth”, your energy is unstable and scattered. It is easily blown off center, and easily influenced by outside vibrations.

Energetically, then, one of the first steps to take is to stabilize the energy that exists within you. Before you even concern yourself with any more advanced healing method, you just need to get your energy to stop being so easily influenced.

After all, if you can’t stabilize a Higher Vibration in your energy field, because the world around you keeps “blowing it” back to something lower, then you will keep going back to the old pattern.  Learning to Stabalize your own Life Force Energy is the First Step.

In energetic terms, we often refer to this “Stabilizing” process as “Grounding”. You want to Ground your Energy and your Energy Field.

Some of the symptoms of an Ungrounded Energy Field may include:

  1. Inability to focus
  2. Being easily influenced by the beliefs of others
  3. Being easily influenced by the emotions of others
  4. Life feeling chaotic or unstable
  5. Lack of confidence
  6. Difficulty handling the “unexpected” situations and events that life brings
  7. Depression, Fear and/or Anxiety
  8. Difficulty standing up for yourself
  9. Experiencing lots of “activity” with little actual accomplishment
  10. Difficulty expressing your own needs
  11. Difficulty saying “no”
  12. Feeling that you are always attending to others needs, with no time for your own needs
  13. Challenges making Positive Changes in your Life

The above are some examples. To be clear, lack of Grounding is likely a major factor in most of the above. But, there are also likely other Energetic layers of healing that would need to be addressed to fully restore balance.

But, you must start by Grounding your energy first. Some things resolve on their own just from learning to ground. And in other cases, grounding is the important first step to be able to affectively address other aspects of healing.

The Ecstatic Union® Approaches to “Grounding”

Self-Mastery of the Forces of Creation in Tantra YogaIn the Ecstatic Union® Vibrational Healing approach, I look to multiple layers of where an imbalance may be created, and therefore corrected. This provides multiple tools and healing methods to assess where the issue is originating, and also to be able to address it in the way that will best serve the individuals unique circumstances.

Here are a few of the approaches that the Ecstatic Union® System uses for “Grounding”.

Ecstatic Union® Energetic Maintenance approach to Grounding

This involves methods to understand and “retrain” how your energy is being directed. Two common grounding methods are listed below:

1) The “Roots” Grounding Method

  1. Standing up, imagine that roots (like tree roots) are growing out of your feet and into the Earth.
  2. Continue to take slow deep breaths, while visualizing, feeling and imagining them growing deeper and deeper.
  3. Then visualize, feel and imagine the stability of the Earth and how stable and grounded you feel as you are anchored in place.

2) The “Cord” Grounding Method

  1. Imagine dropping an energetic cord from inside your body, just below your naval deep into the earth.
  2. Continue to take slow deep breaths, while visualizing, feeling and imagining it anchoring deeper and deeper.
  3. Then visualize, feel and imagine the stability of the Earth and how stable and grounded you feel as you are anchored in place.

Ecstatic Union® Ayurvedic Approach to Grounding

The “lack of focus” and “ungrounded” are seen as a Vata imbalance within the mind. Vata is the Ayurvedic principle of “Air” which, when unstable will blow around and be unfocused.

If you are a “Vata” constitution, you may have more tendency towards being ungrounded, but the reality is that any of the constitutions can experience this. Our culture is very “vata” stimulating for the mind, with many distractions and a common desire to be “entertained” with short attention spans.

Some general practical tips would be:

  1. Avoid stimulants, such as caffeine and coffee
  2. Create experiences that will allow you to “be in” your body, such as receiving Massages or taking a long warm bath
  3. Avoid “light” and “cold” foods, such as salads, raw vegetables, and chips (especially in the winter)
  4. Favor “warm” and “nurturing” foods such as cooked whole grains and cooked veggies along with using healthy oils (especially in winter)
  5. Establish a regular routine of sleeping, waking and eating whenever possible

The above are general recommendations that will benefit most people, but please note that a proper Ecstatic Union® Ayurvedic evaluation would be need to determine your current Energetic State and the unique imbalances and needs that you may have.

Ecstatic Union® Vedic Astrology Approach

Some ways that Lack of Grounding can be shown in the Astrology chart as a “tendencies” for you:

  1. The predominance of “Air signs” in the chart (Gemini, Libra and Aquarius)
  2. The strength and location of specific planets that could show a higher level of Air influence, especially on the Moon (which is the mind)
  3. Strong Saturn influences often show nervousness and fear tendencies.
  4. Strong Rahu (North Node) and Ketu (South Node) can show influences of scattered Vata like energy
  5. Different Planetary Periods and Transits can reveal periods which will be more or less ungrounded

Seeing the various factors in the chart allows you to better understand your “natural tendencies” as well as see other contributing factors around confidence and the tendencies that you have in relationships and career. The chart can also point the way towards remedies that can assist you in becoming more focused and grounded.

A proper Ecstatic Union® Vedic Astrology Consultation would be needed to properly assess your unique circumstances.

Once Grounded, You can Create Lasting Transformation

These are some of the ways that Ecstatic Union® offers to assist you to address and create better Grounding in your life. And once you begin to stabilize your Energy, then you can more easily Cultivate and Increase your Confidence, Inner Strength, Self-Acceptance and your personal Truth. From there, your vibrancy, joy and peace will also expand as you learn more tools and methods to Consciously create the life that you truly desire.

This “Grounding” step is really a Foundational Key to succeeding in Tantric practice. It is needed for more effective Self-Healing, for increasing and expanding Sexual energy, for developing Intuition, as well as creating higher Spiritual States. It is needed to help create the focus needed to succeed in Chakra healing and meditation as well.

Let me know your thoughts and questions below!

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The Tantric Path: A Simple Perspective that Every Tantric Student and Practitioner Needs to Know

Is Tantra Yoga Complex?Abstract Tantric Goddess

In a recent survey I offered, I was asked this question. “Why is Tantra So Complex?”

Have you ever wondered this? Or perhaps just noticed there is a lot of information about Tantra available, and perhaps don’t quite know what to make of it? Well, Tantra CAN appear complex. So many practices. So many dieties. So much controversy and conflicting information on the Internet.

And in fairness, while I never thought about it as “complex”, I DID experience confusion earlier on in my practice because of the vast information that was available about Tantra. After 25 years of study and practice, I am able to see past the complexity and understand the simplicity and beauty of Tantra. And it wasn’t until I gained clarity that I was able to look back and realize I was confused prior.

Here’s the truth: it is really our own mind attempting to process a large quantity of ideas and concepts that makes it seem complex. It is the belief that each of the statements about Tantra and all the diversities out there are each “some separate and new concept” where one contradicts the other, or multiple practices that feel overwhelming like “I don’t know which direction to go?!?” The mind confuses us. And when we are confused, our practice is confused. And this prevents genuine progress on the Path, because we don’t truly know which direction to face or where we are really headed.

Tantra Yoga teaches us that the Truth cannot be found within the mind, or by the mind. And the confusion that arises from the apparent complexity shows we are searching with and within the mind for an answer to a deeper question that the mind will never comprehend.

Turning Towards Unity to Understand Tantra

There is an analogy that is often used in Yoga to describe the nature of the Self as Consciousness. It states that the nature of the Self (Consciousness) is like the Ocean. The Ocean is all one body of Water. But on the surface, there are waves. And each wave appears as a separately arising thing or event. But it is all water, connected to the single Ocean. When we dive deep, we experience “vast water and stillness”. When we are on the surface, we experience lots of individual waves and activity that causes us to forget that it is all water. Instead, we focus on the waves.

These individual waves are like the individual beings and forms in life: Appearing separate but all connected by the same nature of a single Consciousness. There is One Consciousness, like the one ocean, and that One Consciousness dwells within all Beings and experiences. It is not separate from the waves. And the water or consciousness is the true reality and nature of experience.

At the experience of the Individual, this same ocean metaphor can be used, where our deeper nature is still the full Ocean of Consciousness, and the waves are the movement of Consciousness that appear as separate experiences, thoughts and feelings. That what we experience as the ups and downs of life, are in fact waves and ripples arising in the One Consciousness appearing as the world. But the nature of the Individual remains as Pure Consciousness (or the Ocean/Water).

I invite you to consider this same metaphor in relationship to Tantra. The Goal and Source of Tantra are like the One Ocean. It is a singular thing that is equal to Consciousness. And each of the practices, deities and contradictory statements about Tantra are the waves at the surface. If you continue to look only at the waves on the surface, and try to understand the whole ocean, you never will. And if you look only at the outer practices and expressions of Tantra, you will also never understand Tantra (even though your mind may convince you that you do).

In order to really understand Tantra, you must dive into the Ocean and into the depths where you will be able to experience the Wholeness that is the Essence of Tantra. And from that place, you can understand that all of the “complexity” of practices, deities, and apparent contradictions all arise from a single place and a single process. Until you are able to see the SINGLE process, then the diversity will continue to confuse you.

The reality is that Tantra Yoga is wanting to take us to a place of Simplicity and Unity. We will not find the Truth by creating complexity of thought. The Truth is simple. SO SIMPLE that the mind cannot grasp it. It can only be EXPERIENCED, which is what Tantra yoga is designed to create.

Creating a Simple Understanding of Tantra

Instead of focusing on the vast number of practices and ideas, let’s simplify the SINGLE PROCESS that Tantra is accomplishing. For now, forget about Tantric concepts like Mantra, Kundalini, Chakras, Energy, Asana, Pranayama. Forget about notions of Sacred Sexuality, lingams and yonis. Forget about whether you are single or in a relationship or whether you need a partner to practice Tantra (you do not). Forget about all the fantastical things you may have heard about Tantra such as orgasmic bliss, full body orgasms and awakening psychic powers. Forget it all, and let’s look at the “Wholeness” or “Ocean” of the Unifying Single Process that Tantra is creating.

First, let’s remember that the Tantric PATH was offered to us for a single primary purpose. And the term “PATH” also implies there is a “Destination”. After all, we walk along a path because it is supposed to lead us somewhere, right?

So, on this Path, we have THE DESTINATION and we also have “The starting place”, which is wherever you are in this moment.

The Purpose of the PATH is to lead from where you are now to the Final Destination. The Final Destination in Tantra is called by many names: Non-Duality, Wholeness, Enlightenment, Self-Realization and Moksha to name a few. These all essentially mean that you will have a sustained experience of your True Self as Pure Consciousness. You will know yourself, by direct experience, to be “The Ocean and not just the waves”.

According to Tantra, the reason that we suffer and the reason that we do not already know we are “The Ocean” come from a single Cause: “Ignorance of our True Nature”. (With a reminder that ignorance doesn’t mean you are “stupid”. It simply means that you are not aware.)

So we now have a single Purpose: The Destination of Self-Realization
and a single obstacle to eliminate: Ignorance of our True Nature.

To that, Tantra offers a SINGLE PROCESS, whereby we eliminate Ignorance of our True Nature in order to reach the final destination of Self-Realization.

All of the practices and philosophies that are connected to an Authentic Tantric Path are a part of the Single Process of eliminating Ignorance and revealing the True Self. There are, to be fair, multiple forms of ignorance, which is why there are many different practices: each practice addresses different forms of ignorance with the needed approach. But the SINGLE FUNCTION of each and every practice and philosophical concept is to eliminate the SINGLE OBSTACLE of Ignorance.

A Simplified Understanding of the Spiritual Path

To simplify the SINGLE Process of an Authentic Spiritual Path, let’s break it down into two general components:

  1. The Action/Implementation: These are the practices/tools/philosophies that help eliminate the obstacle of Ignorance and teach us how to Awaken to our True Nature as Consciousness. (Including what we are doing and why we are doing it.)
  2. The Effect/Results : These are the responses/reactions/experiences that we have while following the path on our journey towards the Truth, and how we manage and use those experiences as part of the journey itself.

The reality being that this creates a cyclical spiraling effect of a SINGLE PROCESS, where they flow into each other. Practice something. Get a response. Take that into practice. Get a response. etc. When Done properly, there is a Spiraling inwards towards the True Self.

And we can break the Effect/Result/Experience into one of two things:

  1. An opening (however slow or fast) which reveals to us greater freedom/love/peace/wisdom/clarity as we touch into True Self more fully.
  2. An arising experience of a limitation or obstacle which reveals a place where we need to heal and transform our Karma in order to move deeper into Freedom/love/peace. This will often come in the form of judgment/resistance/sadness/fear/anxiety/anger. etc in a variety of expressions and forms. In other words, we discover a layer of Ignorance that needs to be removed.

Putting it all together, this is a simple way to understand Tantra:

Tantra is a Spiritual Path that implements a SINGLE PROCESS designed to eliminate a SINGLE OBSTACLE (Ignorance of your True Nature) in order to reach a SINGLE DESTINATION (Self-Realization of your True Nature).

To Engage this Single Process of the Tantric Path in the simplest terms we need:

  1. The proper practices
  2. The proper way to manage the responses that are created through that practice
  3. The proper context and understanding of the Path to work with #1 and #2 in an effective manner.

If we forget this simple perspective as we navigate the Tantric Path, then the illusion of diversity will confuse the mind. A confused mind will lead to confused results because our “Spiritual Compass” will have us turning in lots of different directions, instead of clearly walking down the Path in the proper direction.

Light Destroys Darkness. Truth Destroys Ignorance.

Reaching For True SelfTo offer another analogy to the simplified Single Process, we can also think of our True Nature as “The Light of Truth”. And the Ignorance as “Darkness”.

The Implementation of Practices or Philosophy allows us to access the Light of Truth within the Self. As that Light is shown into the Darkness of Ignorance, we will either experience the Light directly and touch into the True Self. Or, The light will shine upon a limitation and bring it into awareness. Further activation of the Light eventually destroys the Ignorance that is revealed. Light (Truth) destroys Darkness (ignorance), and repeatedly activating the Light of Truth through the SINGLE PROCESS is the Path.

Tantra contains both the Destination (The light of Truth) and the Process (Revealing the Light of Truth) to get there within its own Wholeness. And while it is a Single path to a single destination, we must also keep in mind that each step towards the final destination on our journey will potentially change the scenery we are experiencing. It is a DYNAMIC SINGLE PROCESS. But, the Underlying process doesn’t change, even if the scenery changes. We just continue to remove the arising Ignorance in its new form until we reach the SINGLE DESTINATION.

(You can learn more about the process of Light/Truth destroying Darkness/Ignorance in my blog post about Ego Purification)

The Guru or Spiritual Teacher Destroys Ignorance and Darkness

Interestingly, the word “Guru” used in the Tantric Traditions to refer to a “Spiritual Teacher” also points to this Single Process. Guru is a compound word with means “Light” and “Darkness”. Thus, the Spiritual Teacher, or Guru, is the one who activates the “Light” within the “Darkness” of the student in order to destroy Ignorance and awaken Knowledge of the True Self.

All of the practices and philosophies that are taught by the Teacher are different tools to accomplish the task and support the activation of Light. Just as it takes different tools to build a house (hammer, saw, drill, paint brush, etc), it will also take different tools to reach the Final Destination of Tantra. But in both cases, ALL of the tools are being used to create a SINGLE result through a Single Process.

Therefore, a good Teacher understands the Single Process and the Single Destination, and how to introduce appropriate tools, concepts and practices within the context of that Single Process that will effectively remove the Single Obstacle. Everything taught should support and further the Single Process of removing the Single Obstacle as we move towards the Single Destination.

If we stay focused on this Single Process of Tantra following a clear and consistent set of Good Tantric Teachings, then the mind remains focused and the Practice of Tantra remains Simple. Otherwise, we become distracted. Best to keep it simple.

Ecstatic Union® is a Tantric approach to the Spiritual Path that has this Single Process build into the very core of its teachings and practices. It starts with the development of a strong foundation, and then leads the practitioner step by step along the path in a clear and focused manner. It integrates and layers Tantric Wisdom and Transformational Practices in context to the Single Process designed to eliminate a Single Obstacle in order to reach a Single Destination, while teaching you how to navigate and manage your current life experiences as part of the Single Process in order to use them as fuel for the Tantric Path.

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Divine Grace and Tantric Practice

October 31, 2011

What is Grace? Many on the path of Spirituality are seeking it, but do we always recognize it?

Grace is always a positive thing for our Spiritual Growth. There are no exceptions to that rule. And because of that, many people are also assuming that Grace will come in a way that is pleasing to them. And sometimes it does, but we cannot put Divine Visions, moments of Bliss and deep meditation experience in a box of “Grace”, and assume things that are not pleasant are not grace. The more we open to the spiritual Path of Tantra, the more we are always flowing in Grace. The question is, can we see it, and can we accept it in all its forms? Not just the extraordinary, but even when it seems ordinary? Or painful?

Grace can happen as synchronistic moments that point to the next step to take, or that validate something for us. There are moments that are so statistically improbable that one who is consciously expanding his or her awareness can only explain it as Grace, or the intelligence of the Divine Revealing itself.

About 7 months ago, I was laying in bed, thinking about my study of Ayurveda and Vedic Astrology. Thinking about how much I would like to find a way to blend them into my Yogic teaching and my private healing sessions with clients. I began to feel a sense of excitement in the possibility of integrating these techniques together, and as I felt the excitement, the Blackberry on my nightstand vibrated indicating that I had a new message. I reached over to check, and the message was from the Ashram where I did my teacher training inviting me to attend the Yoga Therapy Training Course starting on October 7th, 2011. I smiled.

My initial reaction was this was confirmation and a Divine message to tell me the next step. I felt the “rightness” of it. I felt the same excitement that was present during my contemplation time. Everything pointed to this being the right step, but a small part of me struggled. Doubts began to creep in. Could I afford to take that much time off? What about my clients and students? I discussed it with my partner and a friend of ours. They both said, “Go.”

I began to mentally make my plans, while still struggling a touch. How long should I stay if I go? Should I fly into Mumbai or New Delhi? Is this really the right thing to do? Sometime later that day I received another email. It was from one of my travel email newsletters. The email subject simply said: “It’s time to book your flight to New Delhi.”

This time, I not only smiled, but I had to laugh out loud. I have been subscribed to this newsletter for several years. I had NEVER received an email with this subject line before. And, so that sealed it for me. The Divine intelligence was clearly telling me to go.

Grace can also happen in ways that ask us to look at our attachments and our expectation, or that challenge the status quo. In other words, sometimes we need to have things “Shaken up a bit” in order to grow. This is also grace.

About 5 days before I was supposed to leave for India, someone I had known for over 5 years had a massive heart attack right before my eyes. It happened so fast that there was no real chance to save him. I went through many stages as this unfolded. At first I thought he was being playful. Then I began to suspect something was really wrong. I could not get a response from him. I tried to check his heart beat and his breath, but by this time my own heart was beating so fast that I could not tell if it was me or him. Within a couple minutes of his collapse, I was on the phone with 911, following instructions for chest compressions. No response. The ambulance team finally arrived. Compared to my own state of panic, they seemed to have a rather casual approach to the whole thing. They took over chest compressions, introduced IV’s and asked me to help find a number for his family.

It was pretty clear to me that there was no sign of life. And perhaps they already knew that when they arrived, and thus the reason for their casual behavior. They worked with him for a while, got in touch with his daughter, and then took him out. And then I was left in an empty room, still in a bit of overwhelm.

Over the next several days I made conscious efforts to witness and process what was happening in me. There was sadness at the loss of a friend. There were remnants of panic. Doubts and wondering if I could have done something different that may have changed the outcome.

I also had to witness all of this from the lens of my Spiritual Path and growth. The impermanence of the body. Everyone will die eventually. It was his time. The True Self cannot die. His consciousness just left the body, and will live on. Perhaps being reborn. His suffering with the body and worldly life had ended, but he himself as consciousness was now free. From that perspective, there is no death, only transformation of form.

I thought about the state of my own health, the inevitable end of this body, the loss of loved ones as time moves on. Challenging my possible attachments to others, and my relationship with death itself. And as part of that, my relationship to life as well.

My Tantric path and experience is that nothing happens without cause. This was not a random event, but a Divinely orchestrated moment in my Spiritual Sadhana. I did not see it coming, which made it all the more potent. To experience first hand the transitioning from life to death. To feel the energetic essence moving out of a body, while the body became lifeless. To come face to face with the inevitable impermanence of this experience. To experience my human sadness, but also see through it to deepen my faith in the Grace of God. To realize, once again, that I am not in control. There is a force which is operating behind the scenes that I must surrender to, and my goal in my personal Tantric Sadhana is to lift the veil and reveal to myself directly that Divine Power which is operating the Universe. Or rather, let go of my false sense of control enough, so that the veil will dissolve.

This experience also made the reality of disease and illness forefront in my mind as a headed to India. It made me more interested in learning how to use Yoga as a Therapy to help with diseases. More present to the suffering and pain that is present globally, and more inspired to find some compassionate way to serve others who are wanting to end that pain. That is the result of the flow of Grace.

Grace also presents us with frustrations, and challenges to help us grow.

In 2007, my first time in India, I visited Satya Sai Baba in Puttaparti, India. On the third morning, which I planned to be my last Darshan with him, I went outside to find my sandals were stolen. I was quite shocked and disappointed. I couldn’t believe that in a town that revolves around the spiritual teachings of this man, someone would steal. I told a security guard what had happened and his only reply was “Well. Come back to the afternoon Darshan. Maybe they will be returned.” I doubted that, but I decided to stay anyway. And I am glad I did. My sandals were not returned, but it was the most spiritual inspiring Darshan that I attended with Satya Sai Baba. I felt more Divine Grace and energy in that session than any of the others. My sandals were gone, but I was blessed in the end.

This trip, I took a day to visit the Shirdi Sai Baba temple in Shirdi, India. For those who do not know, this is the first incarnation of Sai Baba (before Satya). Both of whom are considered in India to be incarnations of God, and Self-Realized Masters. I waited in line for over 2 hours to get into the temple. (This, by the way, is a normal to short time to wait. It is often much longer). As I got into the temple, I was instructed to sit on the floor as they were getting ready to start a special ceremony called an Aarti. What auspicious timing. That lasted 30 minutes, and then there was a stampede to get to the main alter to make an offering. I finally got up, made my offering, which was blessed and returned to me, and as I left, I felt and connected to his energy, and asked simply to be blessed in whatever way was most helpful for my spiritual awakening. Within 10 minutes, while I was bowing to another small shrine with his picture, my wallet was stolen by a pickpocket.

So, both visits to Sai Baba resulted in something material being taken away. It would be easy to be angry. To think horrible thoughts about whoever did it. But, for me, while I admit feeling a little surprised, I was quickly able to see it as Sai Baba’s Grace. It was Grace for me to have a chance to realize I am not in control. Grace for me to have a chance to see how strongly I may be attached. It was not sandals or wallet really being taken away, but my attachment to them being removed. In this case, I was much less attached the second time than the first. I surrendered to what happened, and could only wish that whoever got it was able to benefit from what they had taken from me. Tantra teaches that all things belong to God anyway, and God dwells within all Beings. So the Divine grace was simply redistributing wealth within its own Self.

While in India this time, I spent several weeks trying to get my Blackberry internet service activated. It kept telling me it could not process my request. I called customer service, spoke to the shop owner, went to this office, and that office, and was finally told it was a problem with my handset. Further conversation with “an expert” revealed that it was because my handset was registered with another provider, and thus it would just not work. I surrendered, gave up, and decided “well, I guess I am just not supposed to be distracted by this while I am in the ashram.” I let it go.

9 days after my last attempt, and having been told it wouldn’t work, my Blackberry internet service activated without notice. I received a text message saying it has been activated for one month of service. There were only 5 days left at the ashram when it happened. It came just in time to allow me to use it to research my final paper on the internet using my phone. What I could not accomplish with the assistance of multiple people, and hours of my time spread out over three weeks, happened unexpectedly in a flash, without any “doing” on my part 9 days after I gave up. I also checked my prepaid balance. I was not even charged for the service. To me there is only one explanation.

While many may explain these things away as “coincidence”, or “bad luck”, or “good luck”, or even “blame it on India”, to me these are all examples of Divine Grace. Grace offers us the experiences we need to grow Spiritually, and most of us need to let go, surrender and see new perspectives on the nature of Reality a lot more than we need a blissful vision of God. We must learn to trust that we will get the exact experiences we are needing, and not necessarily the experiences we are desiring.

What we begin to realize when we grow spiritually is that Grace is always happening. The real change that happens is learning to surrender to “what is”, and ending the struggle against what life brings us. When we can do this, then everything that happens is for our growth and for our good, even if it doesn’t initially feel that way. We learn to flow with Divine Grace.

As I was feeling inspired to write this blog this morning at breakfast the following quote was written on the board in the Dining hall of ashram:

“Through the practice of yoga you can learn to smile at circumstances, you can learn to see every stressful situation as a challenge, or an opportunity to learn, give, serve and love.” – Swami Niranjanananda

To me, another moment revealing Divine Grace.

10 Things Every Beginning Yoga Student Should Know

It is so easy for beginning yoga students to be hard on them selves, or focus on non-beneficial things.  I know I did.  Even advanced practitioners sometimes can over-emphasis a particular posture or philisophical point.

I have injured myself trying to do postures my body was not ready to do.  I have compared my ability to do or maintain a posture or a pranayam to others in a class to the point where I became distracted from my true practice: to embrace the present experience with compassion and self-love. I have even become so focused on a philisophical aspect of Yoga, that I got lost and forgot to simply practice and open to the experience it brings.

I have also watched my students be too hard on themselves.  I have suggested someone try yoga, only to have them respond back “I am not very flexible, so I can’t do it.” 

Amidst the many postures, practices and techniques, the simple act of being mindfully present and opening the breath and awareness into your experience will do more good for you than any specific “ability” ever will.

I ran across this blog post about the “10 things every beginning yoga student should know”, and felt inspired to share its simple, practical and light-hearted wisdom.

Let me know what your thoughts are after you click the link below and read it.

10 Things Every Beginning Yoga Student Should Know | elephant journal

Enjoy!

Namaste,

Jeff

Benefits of Mantra Meditation and the Meaning of “AUM” (Video)

Discover the practical benefits of Mantra Meditation and the advantages of Mantra over other types of Meditation. Learn the spiritual benefits of Mantra practice and the Nature of the True Self that Mantra practice reveals. Understand how the Mantra “AUM” or “OM” relates to the process of Creation, Spiritual Devotion, and your True Self.

Part 3 of 8 in the Introduction to Mantra Meditation Series.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=blChL3znrGM

Beginning Your Meditation Practice (Video)

To begin any Meditation practice, we must gain a proper understanding of what meditation is and our relationship to the mind. Finding Peace of mind through meditation requires the proper perspective for effective practice. Additional information for why Mantra is such a powerful Tantric Meditation practice.

Part 2 of 8 in the Introduction to Mantra Meditation series.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VhBgu5YoTz8




Latest CDs from Jeff Craft

Beginning Meditations: Expanding Peace by Jeff Craft

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Living with Awareness: Tantric Meditations for Expanded Conscious Living by Jeff Craft

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Expanding Consciousness (A Tantric Meditation to Awaken the Bliss of the Self) by Jeff Craft

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