Archives: March 2007
Sat Mar 31, 2007
Sadhana Challenge - Day 31
Today is the last day of the Sadhana Challenge. Congratulations!
If you haven't done your practice for the day yet, consider stopping what you're doing right now, and just do it. That's really one of the biggest lessons I got from the month - no matter where you are or what you're doing, you can stop and do some piece of your sadhana.
I learned that a daily practice is about strength and courage, but also surrender. Facing fears of failure or fears of not having enough time or energy, and just making time for it. Developing a core practice that could be done each day, no matter what.
The official Sadhana Challenge ends today, but the real challenge now begins - can you keep this going in your daily life? Can you now set aside a few minutes a day for your practice, to deepen your connection to the Divine that runs through all of us?
I hope you will make that commitment to yourself.
Share your stories here if you like - the floor is open to you. And I thank you for your enthusiasm and support over this last month. May you have peace and joy.
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Sat Mar 24, 2007
Sadhana Challenge - Day 23
What happens when your heart opens? What does it feel like? How do you hold onto that moment, and bring it into the next moment, and the next?
These are among the questions that have arisen in my life during the last few weeks of the Sadhana Challenge. Spring Navaratri began on Monday, Maa Durga has definitely been here! Chandra once told me a few years ago that she noticed Durga entering people's lives when they needed to be held by a strong Mother. Deep work with the fierce Tara and blissful Kamakhya lately have opened a sort of internal churning, a kind of burning away and cleaning out of the cobwebs, facilitated and held by work in community, and by sitting and doing sadhana every day. The strong and yet gentle embrace of Chandi (another name for Durga) has been a welcome energy.
Yesterday, I didn't do my sadhana in the morning. I awoke late, and had to run out the door without sitting. Did I feel guilty? Yes! But then I remembered that we're not allowed to use the Sadhana Challenge as a tool to beat ourselves up. We do the best we can - we make a commitment each day to do our best, to bring ourselves closer to the Divine in our own way. The Challenge was set for morning practice, but what happens when I skip that morning practice?
Instead of giving up, I instead sat and meditated before bed, working with our peace mantra. There was a sweetness to it, and I noticed the subtle difference between starting my day with sadhana, and ending with it. Morning sadhana for me is about building and strengthening foundation, and evening sadhana more about reconciliation - bringing together scattered energy, releasing things I've picked up during the course of the day, calming and centering after being in the world. It reminded me that spiritual practice isn't something we can put in a box and bring out when it's convenient - the work is continual, and the more we can be aware in each moment, the more power we have to transform our lives, to bring us closer to that Divine spark that unites each of us.
I hope that your sadhana has thus far brought you peace and insight. Do feel free to share your progress, your frustrations, how you've handled or felt about missing a day or a week, and what brings you back to the practice again and again.
It's always tempting for me to judge myself, to compare myself to others. But these are just manifestations of my inner demons. This week, I meditate on Maa Durga, and how She killed the buffalo demon, Mahishasura, who was threatening to kill the world. Her myth is a powerful metaphor for the internal work we do, in order to live in peace and harmony in the world. When I focus energy on conquering my inner demons, on examining my actions and reactions with humility and fierce, unrelenting compassion (and a healthy dose of humor!), it helps to direct the way toward peace and understanding. Lately, I see Durga's trident as being made of that fierce love and compassion, of deep truth and kindness, plunged into the heart of darkness and despair.
Wherever you are in the world, and however you are doing with your sadhana, I wish you all the blessings of Maa Durga, and peace and happiness, my sisters and brothers on this spiritual journey.
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Sun Mar 18, 2007
Sadhana Challenge - Day 18
The Sadhana Challenge is officially more than half over - how are you doing? What are you learning about yourself and your practice?
Comment here and let us know!
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Wed Mar 14, 2007
Kali and the Color Black
One of the questions people often ask when they are exploring/encountering SHARANYA for the first time is "Why can't I wear black to puja?". For some it can seem almost counterintuitive, as Kali is black Herself. Others assume that it's because we are buying into "overplayed stereotypes" (that quote came up on a message board a few years ago). My response then was similar to what I wrote recently, albeit slightly friendlier, when it was poised on our global email list, Daughters of Kali .
In our tradition and lineage, black is a color only worn in ceremony by the Initiated. The color that is appropriate to worship Maa as Bhadra Kali or Dakshina Kali is red and her priest/ess in India would wear that color for Her puja. Dakshina Kali is the benevolent aspect of Maa that is generally approached by devotees. However, (the Initiated) Kaula, working within the Vamamarga or left-hand path of Tantra, worship Her as Smashan Kali, or Kali of the cremation grounds. The initiates are equipped with practices and knowledge that help facilitate experience with that aspect of Maa's energy. However, initiates do not generally wear black in community pujas as it invites in an energy that requires clear intention to contain. SHARANYA certainly doesn't turn away people who come wearing black, but there is a responsibility that comes with calling Smashan Kali in, as that energy can be very overwhelming if one is not prepared to embody it.
Ultimately, every one has to make their own decision about what is appropriate to wear/call in within their own practices. It is not meant in any way to say "I know Maa better then you" etc. Every tradition and lineage has specific practices that may seem unnecessary to those not directly involved. That being said, non-Sikhs for example, still have to cover their head when visiting a sacred site. It might not make sense to me, but I still observe that practice out of respect.
May all that we do be in service to Her. Jai Maa!
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Tue Mar 13, 2007
My Sadhana Today
My sadhana today came (again) with a multimedia kick to it. I started learning new softwear, After Effets, and Ma "made" me create this. It took a whole day, but I think it came out pretty sweet :)
In addition, I must say that I was deeply inspired by our Matrika meeting this past Sunday. Fierceness, kaula, and the love of Ma re-inspired me yet again.
I am not sure if it's sadhana, or seva, or both... but I hope you guys like it.
I was thinking mainly to use it on our new myspace —http://www.myspace. com/maabatakali — but we could add it to the website too.
Can't wait to hear what you think.
Jai Tara Mata.
Add to My Profile | More Videos
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Sun Mar 11, 2007
Sadhana Challenge - Day 11
What wonderful weather we're having in the San Francisco Bay Area! Wherever you are, I hope you're having a wonderful day.
How was your sadhana today? As we move into the week ahead, I may not be blogging every day, but I am continuing the Challenge. I would really love to hear your stories of your sadhana, or how you move through difficult times in life, what connects you and grounds you, helps you speak difficult truths with compassion, love and respect.
This morning, as every morning, I enjoyed connecting with those who were doing the Challenge, and felt such deep love and gratitude for the opportunity to connect in this way. Thank you all for making that possible.
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Sat Mar 10, 2007
Sadhana Challenge - Day 10
It's Day 10 of the Sadhana Challenge, and it's Saturday, one of Kali's sacred days. Tuesdays and Saturdays are especially sacred to our beloved Mother Goddess, just as other days of the week are especially sacred for other Gods and Goddesses.
How have you spent this Saturday morning? Did you get up bright and early to do your sadhana, are you taking a break from the Challenge today? Or did you do like I did - catch up on sleep, and then do sadhana in the early afternoon?
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Fri Mar 09, 2007
Sadhana Challenge - Day 9
This morning, a quote from the Bhagavad Gita (trans. Barbara Stoller Miller):
When ignorance is destroyed
by knowledge of the self,
then, like the sun, knowledge
illuminates ultimate reality.
What is the "self" that Krishna here is talking about to Arjuna? It can't be fully explained. Simply put, it is the undivided Self, the Self that is connected to all reality, that breaks through illusion by fully realizing its inherent and intimate connection with the Divine.
There are many paths to the Divine, each working for a different person. In India there are many kinds of yoga, or disciplines, for reaching that place of union. Jnana is knowledge, and jnana yogis, like the famed teacher Shakaracarya, seek union with the Divine through a combined rigorous practice of knowledge and experience, study and meditation, scholarship and devotion - continually seeking the true Self, always asking, "who am I, really?" This realization and illumination of the true Self is easier to talk about, but much more difficult to do.
But the do-ing part is the important part. And that's where sadhana comes in. Our daily practices support that unfolding, that exploration, that deepening into realization of oneness with Maa, our Divine Mother, Kali, or whatever face you put on Her. The practice is both the journey and the destination, for through our practice, we briefly touch on moments of bliss and connection. So whether your path is jnana (knowledge), bhakti (devotion), kriya (action), raja (physical) or otherwise, East or West or anywhere in between, know that consistent practice will support your path in a deep and meaningful way.
I applaud your hard work on this ninth day of the Sadhana Challenge! My own practice shifted somewhat this week, and I've begun to include gentle Tai Chi and Qigong to open my spine. The blog itself has become part of my sadhana, too. Linking in to all of you is such a gift!
May you all realize your oneness with Her, and may you all have peace and happiness.
Saa'ham. Lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu.
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Thu Mar 08, 2007
Sadhana Challenge - Day 8
Week two of the Sadhana Challenge begins today! How are you doing? Remember to be kind to yourself; if you haven't made it every day, don't worry. Simply re-affirm your commitment and try again. What works for me is to make a commitment each day to start again the next day. It seems more digestable and do-able that way.
Chandra already shared her experience in a post yesterday, and some of our other community members will be posting about theirs, too.
An email from Pushpa, one of our yogini initiates and a new mother, warmed my heart, and I wanted to share it with you. Read more to see how this mother of a newborn has worked the Sadhana Challenge into her own schedule...
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Breath in tantrick practice is of the utmost importance. Breathwork, the expansion of breath with consciousness that is pranayama, strengthens our bodies, clears our minds and prepares us for deeper relationships with the Divine. I mentioned yesterday that I begin my daily practice with pranayama and wanted to share some simple thoughts and exercises.
There are many different ways to do pranayama. Different yoga traditions offer different avenues of exploration, and depending upon your temperament or disposition, you may find some more beneficial or agreeable than others. Trust your own body and intuition to discover what methods are best for you on your path.
To begin a practice, one needs very little external paraphernalia to support the effort. The most important thing is to bring a clear commitment to yourself to the work. With willingness, anyone can succeed in finding greater peace and strength through pranayama. To start, I recommend finding a comfortable spot you can create your seat upon every day. Try to let natural light be present. If you can, sit cross-legged or in padmasana, which is lotus pose. Otherwise, simply sitting with a straight back on a chair will work just fine.
Here is a simple pranayama technique. Arrange yourself comfortably and close your eyes. Begin to concentrate on the space between your eyebrows. Remember to relax your face and let your spine remain upright, holding your head as if a string came from the top of your skull to the heavens and Maa herself was gently pulling it up. (This is not meant to be difficult, just a gentle reminder to sit straight, letting your spine be a conduit between heaven and earth.)
Now, close your right nostril with your right thumb. Start to inhale slowly through your left nostril taking in the breath as deeply as you can without exerting effort. As the in-breath finishes, begin to transition to your exhalation through the very same nostril. This constitutes one round of breath.
Next, transition your inhalation to your right nostril by closing the left nostril with your right ring and little fingers together. As before, exhale slowly through the same nostril. Again, this is one round. Between rounds, you may wish to breathe normally for a short time in order to feel the difference in energy flow in your body. At first, start with just a few rounds and gradually work your way up to longer and longer durations. You will likely feel increased vitality and presence doing so.
If you wish, you can also add a short time of breath retention between inhalation and exhalation. A recommended ratio of inhalation to holding of breath to exhalation is 1:4:2. To keep this ratio, you may wish to repeat the syllable "OM" silently. Pranava (the sound of the creation of the universe, or "OM") here constitutes what is called a matra, or the unit of time used to count in any pranayama practice.
Also, as you do the practice, try not to make any sounds. Allow yourself to relax into the process so that it feels increasingly natural. Happy breathing!
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Wed Mar 07, 2007
Sadhana Challenge Thoughts
My sadhana has been liberating, although the form it takes, while shaped by common desire and recitation of the mantra we’re using, has varied. My goal is to better understand how I can live more directly connected to Maa in every moment. Right now, relationship has been an amazing container and testing ground for the enactment of my intention. As my practice has taken shape over these past few days, I’ve noticed a greater sense of calm in difficult moments and a wider window of opportunity from which to make choices. This is quite empowering; that is, knowing I have a choice in how I wish to act rather than letting my emotions take over and simply reacting to a situation. This is what I mean by liberating. The affirmation of my practice is coming in the love that’s able to flow more freely in my life and with my partner, even when the going gets tough.
Specifically, once I finish my pranayama, I recite the mantra a number of times, letting it fade back into my breath. From there, I visualize community, our strength and the bond we all have with one another. I take in that energy and open my heart, letting it flow back out into the cosmos. I imagine the gifting back to Maa and then let that experience settle back into my breath, now much richer. This is the ground from which I engage my recitations and inner work. Some of this emerges in the moment, some is birthed from current engagement with certain verses. In the end, I offer my gratitudes, go back to an inner focus, and then return to waking consciousness.
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Sadhana Challenge - Day 7
It's Day 7 of the first week of the Sadhana Challenge. How have you done? How many days did you make it this week? What have you learned about yourself and your practice? How has being part of the Challenge affected your practice?
I feel that this Challenge has been a huge gift, in many ways, and I am grateful for your participation and support!
This morning I woke up late, taking advantage of my sometimes somewhat flexible work schedule. But I was reminded of why the early morning is such a wonderful time for sadhana. As the world wakes up, there are more and more distractions! Cars driving by on the busy street outside, my partner getting ready to leave the house, my own brain drawn to other thoughts about what will happen during the day. My brain was chattering more this morning than usual.
When doing any kind of meditative practice, it can be helpful to remove as many distractions as possible - so if you get up before the rest of the world (and the rest of your house) wakes up, it can be a fertile time for meditation, especially because you are freshly rested and have not yet engaged with the outside world. Morning practice creates a solid foundation with which to step out into the world, affirming your connection to the Divine, to that authentic Self, which is connected to all beings.
Regardless of what time you perform sadhana, the main thing is to make time and space for it. How has this looked for you in the past week? Email us at email@example.com to share your story.
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Tue Mar 06, 2007
Sadhana Challenge - Day 6
What have your difficult moments been with sadhana, and how have you overcome them? Let that inspire you - and if you feel moved to share in the comments, let that inspire others.
Read further to see more about my own process with this difficulty this morning, and how I'm learning to get through it... More...
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Mon Mar 05, 2007
Sadhana Challenge - Day 5
Asana is a Sanskrit word that means "posture" or "seat." Most of us in the West are familiar with this word because it is appended to the end of famous Hatha Yoga postures such as padmasana or shavasana, "Lotus Pose" or "Corpse Pose," respectively.
While yoga is best known in the West for its popularity in the exercise world, in reality it is an ancient path that manifests in many ways, and has an entire philosophy of personal development within it. In one form, Raja (or Ashtanga) Yoga, developing posture conducive to meditative states is one of the eight limbs (ashtanga means literally "eight limbs") of the path toward spiritual freedom. In an embodied practice, developing mastery of physical yoga postures helps to prepare the "seat" for deeper meditation.
My own experience is that when I practice physical yoga postures, my body opens up and relaxes more readily - which is important, as two serious car accidents have permanently damaged my spine. It also helps me accept and inhabit my body more fully. Even though I have a long way to go before mastering these poses, I already feel the benefits of the physical yoga practice - hips are more open, spine better supported, body more comfortable in the silence.
Surya namaskar, or Sun Salutation, helps to strengthen and lengthen the spine. Postures such as padmasana - or even ardha padmasana (Half Lotus Pose) - support the spine for long periods of sitting, and developing skill at holding them helps to deepen both dharana (fixed-point concentration) and dhyana (meditation). Shavasana brings deep relaxation and release, so important for integrating the work and de-activating stress on a deep, internal level.
So if you find that body aches and pains, or self-consciousness, are obstacles to your meditative practice, consider adding a physical yoga regimen to your practice. If you have injuries or other body issues (physical, mental or spiritual), be gentle with yourself, and always consult a medical professional before beginning any kind of physical practice.
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Sun Mar 04, 2007
Sadhana Challenge - Day 4
This morning I'd like to talk about compassion. Kali in the Sri Kali Sahasranama Stotram (The Song of the Thousand Names of the Blessed Kali) is known as Karuna, She Who is Compassionate. Cultivating compassion is as important a discipline as others - not only compassion for others, but also for yourself.
Rather than getting up extra early this Sunday morning, I slept longer than usual, restoring vital energy. The sadhana still got done, and my day is still open ahead of me, but now I feel rested as well as revitalized.
The insight given to me, as well, was that one kind of opening facilitated by the Sadhana Challenge is a kind of personal spiritual compassion. Rather than beating myself up about not doing sadhana, or guilting myself into doing it, I am participating joyfully, supporting and being supported by others. Our sankalpa mantra is a powerful reminder to cultivate this compassion continuously, to use that as a foundation for interaction with others, especially when difficult things must be said or done.
My own journey with compassion has been difficult and necessary, but along the way it has given me such amazing gifts.
So, my question is this, both to myself and to those reading - how might you cultivate compassion for yourself and others? How can you hold integrity, personal authenticity and compassion together?
I wish you well with your sadhana, whatever it looks like! And remember to just do your best, and be gentle with yourself.
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Sat Mar 03, 2007
Sadhana Challenge - Day 3
How are you doing with the Sadhana Challenge? What has your practice looked like? We all walk our path with the Divine in our own ways, and so our practices will surely be different. What matters is answering that yearning to connect more with the Divine, in whatever way we choose.
Read more to hear a little about my practice, about a great film by someone in our community, and the sacred mantras for fierce and wonderful Tantrik Goddesses Tara and Kamakhya.
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Fri Mar 02, 2007
Sadhana Challenge - Day 2
It's day two of the Sadhana Challenge. If you're doing the Challenge with us, how are you doing? If you're just running across this and wondering what the Sadhana Challenge is, see our March 1 entry.
In addition to some of our local community members (Bhagavati, Bhaktisukhini, Chandra, Kalabhairavi, Maya, Puspa, Raia, Ranapandita and myself, Sundari), one of our global community members has joined the Challenge. Welcome, Anna!
Now, on to today's practice, including some instruction on basic pranayama, active meditative breathing.
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Thu Mar 01, 2007
The Mantra for the Sadhana Challenge
For a full description, visit our mantras page.
Say this mantra to begin and end your sadhana (practice) each day of the Challenge. Jai Maa!
* This entry has been edited and corrected.
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Sadhana Challenge - Day 1
It all started out with my feeling that I really wanted to get back to my daily vinyasa yoga and meditation practice, but being overwhelmed by it. I would set my intention to get up in the morning, but then failed every time. It's a common dilemma, not something new to me, and certainly something I knew everyone had experienced at some point in their lives.
So, I started to think about what would help me to be successful, and remembered the fitness challenges my friends had joined in the past. And that's where the Sadhana Challenge came in.
Sadhana simply translated is "intentional practice." In Tantrik parlance, it's something you do with a goal in mind, typically meditation or japa (repetition of divine names and/or mantras), or specific rituals. The main thing is that there's intention and regularity behind it.
The Challenge is simple - for the month of March, get up every morning earlier than you normally would, to perform your sadhana, your practice. For me, it's getting up at 6 a.m., starting with meditation and japa practice, followed by vinyasa yoga. Keep a log of your progress, and don't beat yourself up if you're only able to do two minutes one morning - consistency is the real key to success in this Sadhana Challenge.
The other part of the intention is to offer the fruits of this sadhana for the benefit of world peace. To that end, we're using the Upanisadic prayer:
Loka samasta sukhino bhavantu
May the Divine bless the entire world with eternal peace and happiness
I sent an email to our local SHARANYA community, asking if anyone might be interested - and I was blown away by the responses! All together, there are nine of us attempting the Challenge. I'll be blogging about the progress of the group. You're welcome to join us in your own way, too. Let us know if you're inspired to join us - we will link you in with our prayers so you can be included in that web of support.
This morning I learned why we're calling it a "Challenge"... More...
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