The title of this post comes from cards that were written by Michael Bernard Beckwith who is featured in the movie the Secret and who leads the Agape spiritual community in California. Michael Beckwith has appeared on Oprah and Larry King and he is one of the leading spiritual teachers of our time. I really love him and resonate with his teachings. My friend gave me these cards. They are ‘daily meditations and inspirations to launch your life into the heights of your divine potential.’ This is what this week’s card says:
Take Repossession of Your Greatness
At some point you have to own up to how great you are, how beautiful you are, to how much inner dignity and potential you have. Drop complaining about what other people didn’t give you or do for you, or how they mistreated you. Take repossession of your Self and you will rise to a level of greatness that has been yours all along.
Anyhow, that was really powerful for me when I read that. If I had a penny for all the times I thought things like, ‘I’m not this or I’m not that or not enough to be this or that, blah, blah, blah.‘ Looking outside of yourself and appreciating beauty is a wonderful thing, when, you also remember to realize the beauty you see is only a reflection of the beauty inside yourself. It can be painful to realize the way we can sabotage ourselves rather than love ourselves. Of course, we must look deeper to understand why the sabotage ever happened in the first place. There is a good chance there was some kind of emotional wound or scar from the past. Often, a person will resort to unhealthy behaviors, habits or addictions to cover up the wounds or hurts from the past because they feel that those wounds are ugly or there is shame or guilt there. I realize there was a time I turned to alcohol, drugs, etc. to cover up wounds and pains from the past. Through Yoga, we begin to heal what are called the samskaras of our experience. Samskaras are described as: The imprints left on the subconscious mind by experience (from this or previous lives), which then color all of life, one’s nature, responses, states of mind, etc…
I have written in previous posts about some of the samskaras from my past. Some of the samskaras I’m healing from are also from more recently, as well. There are some things in the last year, and previously, I wish I wouldn’t have done. I realize my actions came from a place of pain. And yet, I know regret doesn’t serve me. All I can do is learn from my choices and make choices which feel better for myself and my body in the present. As I learn to forgive myself for the things I do, it teaches me to be compassionate with myself and forgiving and compassionate toward others. None of us are perfect. Well, if anyone IS perfect, I’d like to know who they are. Will you please come forward? I’d like to meet you. I think we all would. Well, perhaps we could say we are perfect but our choices are not always ‘perfect,’ whatever that means exactly. However, on some level whatever choices we are making are perfect when we are open and willing to learn from our choices. And yet, we can continuously grow to make choices which better serve our Highest Self and others. Although, even when we are making the best choices possible it still doesn’t mean we will be ‘perfect,’ again, with whatever that means.
Let’s say smoking cigarettes, for example. Actually, in the book I’m writing about cleansing there is a chapter about eliminating alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine to grow and be healthier. When I started writing that chapter the other day I noticed I started feeling all of these compulsive desires because I used to (about ten years ago) smoke and drink alcohol and caffeine regularly. All of a sudden, while writing, it brought up strong cravings of wanting to do all of those things again. So, I entertained that possibility for a little bit. I started wondering what if I were to drink and smoke all the time again? I’ve heard of those saints who have reached enlightenment and then fallen from grace only to realize it’s impossible to fall from grace, so-to-speak. I’m not encouraging anyone to do anything that they feel is unhealthy for their body. I believe our body is our temple and we must learn to treat it as well as we possibly can, learning how to do that better and better all the time. But, I also believe we realize salvation the moment we seek to earnestly change. That doesn’t always mean physical healing, because some things could be potentially irreversible from choices made. But, I believe the spiritual healing is always there the moment we realize some action is not serving us and we honestly seek to be and do better. Not long ago, I heard a swami speak here in Dallas who smokes cigarettes. He actually lives in the Himalayas. He came to Dallas because he was invited to speak here. I was a little shocked when he said he smoked. I actually saw him smoking a cigarette outside when I left that evening. But, there was something about it I loved, also. It was so real. He said he is healthier than almost anyone. And, he is in his 60s. He can walk farther, climb higher, breathe deeper and run faster than anyone he knows. Of course, with the altitude in the Himalayas it’s a natural form of Pranayama-control and expansion of the breath. So, I’m sure his lungs get a lot of exercise and conditioning just from breathing. Which, that’s also really interesting to think about.
The smoking swami was one of the favorite experiences I’ve had recently. It reminded me to be real. Will I really smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol all the time? No. I don’t even like smoking or how it has me feeling, at all. And, I also find the experience of drinking alcohol, excessively, i.e., more than one glass of wine or beer increasingly unappealing, as well. There are those moments where it’s easy to drink a couple of drinks such as at gatherings like celebrations, etc. But, in general, I don’t like the feeling of consuming anything excessively. That will be one of the messages in the book…moderation. I believe anything is ok in moderation. Which is also one of the Niyamas, or personal vows, in the 2nd limb of the eight-limbed path of Astanga Yoga. However, what that definition of moderation is changing for each of us in time. What moderation was for me a year ago is no longer the same thing. Perhaps two glasses of wine a night or every other night or two times a week felt like moderation then. And, now, drinking a glass of wine occasionally thinks like moderation. So, it changes. We must be willing and open to the evolution and change as we seek to grow and evolve spiritually. What we did in the past may no longer serve us in the present.
“We must always change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves, otherwise, we harden.” – Goethe
I do not believe in denial. I loved when I read Russell Simmons book Do You! how he said he lets himself have one cigarette a year. I think that’s awesome. Actually, not long ago I smoked a cigarette when I attended a full moon pipe ceremony. The shaman had us bless our cigarette with prayers. It was the best cigarette I ever smoked. We all went outside and smoked it, sober of course, in front of the full moon in silence. It was incredible and I felt no ill effects afterward or the next day. But, I want to be clear. I am a non-smoker. I think habitual cigarette smoking is disgusting. For me, anyways. No judgment. But, I have no idea how people do that regularly. Other than the once or twice a year occasional blessed cigarette, nothing about it feels good to me. To each their own though. As someone in class said just yesterday…as we progress on our spiritual path those detrimental unhealthy habits seem to just fall away.
So, it’s not black and white. There are saints who smoke a cigarette and maybe even drink a glass of wine, occasionally, or perhaps, maybe even smoke a joint. I’m not condoning anything. It’s not my place to condone or condemn. But, I’m certainly not denying anything either. I like to live life spontaneously. Even if I decided to stop drinking completely there’s nothing that says I wouldn’t decide to have a glass of wine if the spirit moved me to at some special moment in my life. Who knows. I’m learning about myself every day. What’s best for me and what’s better for me. But, I also believe a little indulgence is a healthy thing whatever those indulgences that you enjoy are. I’m learning how to find healthier alternatives to the luxuries I enjoy, like carrot cake, for example. The other day I was at Whole Foods and I ate a piece of vegan carrot cake. It was delicious. I encourage you to try it if you haven’t yet.
On the path of spiritual purification remember the smoking swamis and to let yourself enjoy the things you enjoy, too. Sometimes, somewhat sinful, naughty pleasures, in moderation, are a good thing. That’s the message of Yoga teacher David Romanelli. Livin’ the moment. He encourages people to be present. If you are going to have a glass of wine or a piece of chocolate then be present while you enjoy it. (And, eat raw chocolate, which, I’ll be putting an AWESOME and healthy, nutritious recipe for raw chocolate in the book, as well.) Let it be a gift you give to yourself. If you are going to smoke a cigarette, or anything else, occasionally, then maybe even say some prayers while you smoke it. Be conscious, be well, be present, live life fully and enjoy the pleasures in life when you realize the pleasures are not the source of your happiness.
‘But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” Mat 6:33
Once you realize that, you can enjoy the occasional indulgence in life because you know it is not the source of your happiness. Of course, this requires self-control and discipline which is also something our Yoga practice is helping us to cultivate. It seems to me when a person falls into the delusion of thinking pleasures are the source and wellspring of happiness, that’s when they end up depressed because, eventually, when they ’sober up’, they realize that’s simply not true, or even possible, for a pleasure to bring happiness. Pleasures are impermanent. True happiness can only come from that which is eternal, which is the Force of Life itself, your Higher Power, Energy, God, whatever you want to call it. The only way to realize it fully is to plug into it continuously. The way to plug in continuously is through meditation. Obviously, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to meditate under the influence of anything. I just heard Wynona Judd say on Oprah today that she meditates now. The only way to find and know true everlasting happiness and joy, they say, is through meditation. But, when choosing to indulge in anything, always listen to your body. Your body knows what’s best. Your body knows what it wants and what it doesn’t want. I even listen to my body about eating these days. If I don’t feel like eating, I don’t. If I do, I do. I don’t just eat because I can or that’s what I’m supposed to do. I eat because I feel like it and because it’s what my body feels is best at that moment.
Here’s to smoking swamis, the purity, the impurity and everything else in between.
Peace, love, health to all of us and I’ll be back soon. Thank you for reading the True Yoga Blog.
Oh yea, this Friday I’m attending the master class with Yogarupa Rod Stryker here in Dallas. I’m really looking forward to it. I love Rod Stryker and the teachings he shares. He is full of so much wisdom and knowledge from over 30 years of studying and practicing Yoga. I am blessed to call him a teacher. Also, in October I’m planning a retreat to a beautiful place called Buffalo Gap. The picture above is taken from the front porch of where we’ll be staying and practicing Yoga. I hope you’ll be able to join us. It will be a beautiful, enriching, life opening and expanding experience for your body, mind, heart and soul. I will post more details here when I have them. It will be October 15th, 16th and 17th. If you are interested in attending or if you have any questions, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you feel like you would like to smoke some wine or drink anything else, be my guest. We will honor the practice of moderation. But you are welcome to enjoy what you enjoy. Your body is your temple and your teacher. So, listen to it and be good to it. Remember, it’s about progress, not perfection. Also, when I wrote about Wynona above I remembered she actually attended a healing center in Buffalo Gap, called Shades of Hope, which is literally about 200 yards from where the retreat will be. Oprah is currently filming a special feature on the retreat center.
Also, I think this quote by Rumi is so incredibly beautiful. It speaks to the fullness of all that is and the wholeness of all that we already are. There really is nothing that can be given to us because we already have everything we need. It’s all inside of us simply waiting to be discovered and found. I do believe healthier choices help us to find and rediscover our already existent greatness. But, that still doesn’t mean you have to live up to some unrealistic idea of perfection. You can still smoke a cigarette a year if that’s what floats your boat. Gotta let yourself live a little, too, whatever that means to you.
’You don’t know how hard I’ve tried to find a gift to bring to you. What’s the use of bringing gold to the goldmine or water to the ocean. Every gift I came up with was like bringing spices to the orient. It’s no use giving my heart and my soul, you already have these. So, I’ve bought a mirror. Look at yourself and remember me.’ – Rumi
OH MY GOSH!!! This is wild. I receive David Romanelli’s newsletter, and, after I wrote this post, I read his newsletter and it was about the exact same thing, basically. Check it out!!! We really are becoming increasingly telepathic. That’s what Yogananda says, eventually, all, or at least most, of our communication will be telepathic. Thank you, David, for shedding your Light onto the situation in your hilarious and truthful way.
The Schtick (Yoga Teachers Who Smoke)A few weeks back, I attended my buddy Drubner’s wedding. As the party reached full tilt, I ran into a group of people smoking cigarettes.
“Hey, can I bum a smoke?” I asked.
Most of them know what I do for a living (teach yoga) and looked at me with an expression of such surprise and disappointment as if I’d just unzipped my fly, hung some brain, and said, “Do you guys mind? All that dancing is making sweaty.” It was that awkward.
Big deal, so I have a cigarette 3 times a year. Go ahead, circumcise me, or wait, that’s not the expression…crucify me! But while I’ve got the opportunity, let me just say I know of no less than 7 well-known yoga teachers who will tag butts on a big night out. I say that not to sell my fellow yogis down the river, but to suggest that vices (in control and on occasion) are not entirely bad.
“This is blasphemy! Where’s the unsubscribe button?!” you exclaim. Hold on. Let’s take a moment to define the difference between wellness and repression. Wellness is one’s honest aspiration to a healthy diet, consistent exercise, loving relationships, and here and there allowing those cute little inner demons to come out and play. Otherwise, those demons, repressed, will scratch and claw their way into your life via what the Bhagavad Gita defines as their 3 entry points: lust, anger, and greed.
Now don’t get me wrong. Smoking and drinking are TERRIBLE for your health, horribly addictive, and make you smell bad. Have you ever taken a yoga class by a teacher with bad breath who wreaks like cigarettes and alcohol? G-R-O-S-S (see the “Dirty Smelly People” chapter in my book)
People who are too healthy are annoying. And I’m pretty darn healthy, but on occasion, I enjoy a cold Negro Modelo, an intermittent shot of Anejo, and 3 times a year… a Parliament Light. But suggesting a path to wellness that eliminates all vices entirely is completely unrealistic for 95% of Americans. Life is a grind and we must reserve the right to sometimes let loose. Or the stress we keep in and the frustrations we hold back will be as toxic as the worst addictions.