Silent Sundays: Open To Interpretation…

This Silent Sunday morning began with a misread. As I considered various sources of spiritual inspiration and practice ideas to bring myself into the day, I honed in on a series of kundalini yoga kriyas (movement sets). My half-open eyes tried to decipher the title of one in particular: “Hearing Ezra and Esther”?

Because this was a compilation of kundalini yoga practices, I determined that “Ezra and Esther” must be “Earth and Ether.” (The name of the kriya in question is: “Healing Energies of Earth and Ether.”) My fuzzy reading turned my aim from practice to inquisitive research. I pulled out my graduate volumes of biblical concordance and interpretation, and set out to discover why Ezra and Esther had been called before me.

As I delved into the underpinnings of each story—one primarily historical and the other a seeming biblical anomaly—my inner questions continued: What was I supposed to gather from this unexpected theological research? What in my own life could relate to the substantial earthly tasks accorded to Ezra and Esther? 

Despite the wealth of bible-related tomes on my shelves, I am not prone to consulting the Bible: Rarely is it my source of inspiration or comfort. The books do, however, remind me of a time when a lack of confidence was assuaged by a kind and wise seminary president. In response to my concern that my lack of biblical knowledge—pointedly, that I had never opened a Bible—would limit my ability as a potential student, he assured me with calm certainty that it could be to my advantage.

I thus ventured into graduate school, found that the studies fed my soul, and emerged with the highest academic honor granted by the seminary. This portion of the tale is itself another reminder that all is ephemeral: After graduation and the subsequent beginning of a doctoral program, i fell apart. The epic that began in doubt, bolstered courage, and led to success and more success, culminated in a crushing defeat.

Why tell this story? The nature of the tale represents the journey of all human beings: No life is as it seems to observers. Further, the academic version of my experience of joy, blessed work, dismal failure, and hopelessness sits on my shelves in those books about the Bible.

Alongside the biblical volumes reside the writings with which I am more familiar, those that I would say characterize my spiritual beliefs, philosophies, and direction. These are comprised most notably of the works of Paramahansa Yogananda, a plethora of yogic teachings, and a slew of Eastern religious studies. 

Yet, this morning, I was compelled by way of blurred vision to consult those volumes dedicated to specific Bible books: Ezra and Esther.

From there, I tried to insert my answer to “why” I had been led to these stories. Immediately, I thought of the current situation concerning my mother’s passing and the money and property to be shared by me and my siblings. As it turns out, “Ezra” most often is read in relation to another book, Nehemiah. There, perhaps were my siblings: The two whose task it seems is to restore, rebuild, and uphold principles and traditions. 

While Ezra was more Job-like in his insistence that God was to blame for struggles and misfortune, Nehemiah was more prone to undertake his work with the wisdom and grace that God likely intended. Very much in line with the mindsets of my brother and sister…

But then why Esther? This correlation was more subtle: The actual Bible book is seen as a bit of a mystery, with regard to its inclusion at all. Whereas Ezra and Nehemiah may be seen as periods of biblical history (post-exilic stories), Esther’s tale makes no mention of God: Her narrative is one of feminine power in the face of an oppressive society.

To me, though, the book as an outsider resonated with my own sense of floating on the outskirts of family.

At this point, I began to wonder if my interpretation was too self-centered. Perhaps “Ezra and Esther” had a greater meaning in store, one that would speak to the universality of that which would truly signal a message from the divine realm.

I continued to flip through the pages of the now 8-book-high pile before me. As I perused, I was repeatedly stymied by the pages of an “interloper”: Esdras. Each time I moved to find Esther, Esdras foiled my search. Finally, I deigned to give the book some attention.

Lo and behold, Esdras is the expanded form of Ezra! Further, the narrative put forth in Esdras is of an apocalyptic nature: More than an historical piece, it explores personal enlightenment and evolution, by way of angelic vision. Finally, I seemed to be on the track of an explanation for my unexpected introduction to Ezra and Esther.

After several hours of reading and contemplation, my sense is that I needed yet another lesson to be cognizant of the sometimes subtle obstacles toward clear interpretation, if not spiritual discernment. When one’s circumstances flow too freely through the reading of a situation, the interpretation is partial, at best: Most likely, that which one is meant to see and learn will be marred, if not altogether inaccessible.

Once again, I have been reminded that interpretation can be led astray by preconception and perception. One can so easily become bogged down in earthly tasks and relationships that their role as propulsions toward divinity can be misinterpreted as strife designed to trip up or limit. 

As I emerge from this Silent Sunday’s pre-dawn call to intuit, investigate, discern, and decipher, I am left in a state of deep calm. The tensions of wrangling with inheritance; the self-loathing of past missteps; the unsettledness of wondering what comes next… All have been, are, and will be gifts of information and opportunity.

Special note: The aim of today’s writing is to offer fodder for your own contemplation and discernment of Meaning. In the piece, I address the interpretation of what I considered a divine cue: As such, the tale reveals the connection between Interpretation and Discernment, both of which require culling and clarity.

To that end, I include the following short meditation. It may be used anytime you need an open, flexible mind in pursuit of insight. 

Begin seated with your hands on the knees, palms down. With eyes closed and gazing to the Third Eye, breathe in deeply through the nose for 4 counts. Exhale through open, rounded lips for 6-8 beats. Repeat 3 more times for a total of 4. 

On the fifth breath, inhale through the nose as long as you can, counting the beats; exhale through the nose for at least 4 more beats. Repeat one more time.

Then, bring the left hand to shoulder level, palm facing forward and elbow bent in to the side, as if taking an oath. Curl all fingers into the palm except the index finger: Extend it straight up.

With the right hand remaining on the knee or thigh, turn the palm to face up. Touch the middle and pinky fingers to the thumb tip.

Now, breathe naturally, yet fully. As you sit and breathe with these mudras, you connect the mind to Universal Wisdom (index finger), while fostering discernment and intuition (middle and pinky, respectively). Remain here for 3-11 minutes.

Happy Sunday… 

Silent Sundays: How To Abide Duality

Yesterday, I attended an online 3HO (kundalini yoga) event for the March Equinox. Before one lecture, the speaker, Madhur-Nain, gave a brief introduction about how she came to blend her work as a therapist with her role as kundalini teacher. She described how for many years, she kept the two separate: She regarded those compartments of her life as a necessary duality.

Like most dualistic experiences and awarenesses, the situation was inherently incomplete: The separation of one from another intrinsically negates the chance for wholeness, for balance. Thus, she created a professional life for herself in which her two therapeutic backgrounds—yoga teacher and counselor—could inhabit the same space.

A few days before this, I had heard an interview with a singer, Michael Buble, who, when asked how he balances work and family, answered that ultimately, there is no balance: Family, for him, would always take precedence.

While these two situations may seem antithetical—one affirms that balance is possible, one states that one thing must always “weigh more”—they both relate to my personal and recent tussle with dualistic sensibilities and circumstances.

Certainly, it is no coincidence that this topic has leapt to the fore, given my mother’s recent death. What could create more of a sense of duality than the awareness that a loved one is no longer in the same dimension? But that is not the piece that has crept into my psyche the most: Instead, it is a conversation that I had with my sister soon after our mom’s passing.

Following her death, I began to feel a sense of emotional and mental discomfort with regard to a childhood situation that, for the the most part, was not mentioned in our family. As I talked about this with my sister, she commented that it was “not really in my life; it was its own separate thing.” I knew in that moment that, counter to my sister’s view, the situation had very much infiltrated my life; it had been with me—in me—ever since its occurrence.

Although I think my sister meant that I had compartmentalized it, her words struck me as false: The very nature of the childhood issue meant that there was no way it would not become part of my perceptions, views, and even my physicality. What her words revealed is that I had done a good job of living with it and of intellectualizing it.

But upon Mom’s death, I was faced with how something I had forced into a place of duality—then and now—was, in fact, ever-present. It happened, it infused my being, and it remains.

Duality comes in many different forms, many of which occupy the category of “inner vs. outer”: professional vs. personal self; private vs. public behaviors; honesty vs. secrets, and so on. 

And then there are the larger themes, such as earthly vs. divine realms; or reality vs. illusion. For me (and, I suspect, many others) that is perhaps a karmic task: to exist on this planet as a human being, despite the sense that this lifetime is one of an illusory nature.

How does one abide dualities large and small, emotional and physical, spiritual and intellectual?

First, I have come to believe that it does no good to ignore the inherent imbalance of duality. Rarely, if ever, do two discrete beliefs or circumstances or identities share equal importance to the person experiencing them. Duality is not a constant state of separate, but equal; rather, it is one of ongoing adjustment and adaptation.

Duality thus indicates the continual need to abide flux and dis-ease. To abide duality is to learn “how to live, despite….”

Now, to be perfectly frank, I am not happy about this realization. It does, however, offer a spiritual challenge, which is a context that I can, do, and will always accept, even welcome.

Contemplation and Meditation

So, on this Silent Sunday, I offer no “remedy,” nor even a singular way to approach Duality. Rather, I suggest contemplation of the dualities in your own life; how they affect seemingly unrelated areas of your life (e.g., patterns of behavior or cognition); and which “half” of the duality more often than not tips the scale.

After some quiet thinking time, bring your awarenesses to meditation. As a practice, the aim is to acknowledge any dissonance created by duality; calm it; and then release it into the universal realm, where it can be observed and accepted as a piece of your personal puzzle.

Mudras for Contemplation

As you sit and ponder the duality in your own life—impostor syndrome? mom or dad vs. professional power person? logic vs. emotion?—try one of the following mudras. Each will help to settle your thoughts, so that you can identify the nature and effect of the duality.

1) On each hand, hold the index finger down into the palm with the thumb. The other fingers remain straight. Then, place the hands on the knees or in the lap, palms up or down;

2)   Place one hand in the palm of the other, both palms up. Thumb tips touch;

3)   Touch the fingertips and thumb tips of one hand to the corresponding tips of the other. Palms are apart. Hold the mudra at any level in front of you; fingers are apart and point up.

Mudra for Meditation

In your seated position, touch the pinky sides of the hands together; turn the palms up. Let the hands be soft, so that they create a subtle bowl. Extend the arms out in front of the Heart Center; again, keep this relaxed—allow the elbows to be slightly bent. 

Consciously place your realizations from contemplation in the vessel of your hands. Let them be soft, but discernible, like dandelion fluff. 

Turn the closed eyes up to gaze at the Third Eye. Inhale deeply through the nose. Exhale through slightly open lips; direct the breath toward the hands, as if trying to blow the Duality “fluff” into the Universe. Continue for 3-5 minutes.

Happy Sunday…

Purpose–An Afterword (with Mudra Meditation)

In the previous Silent Sunday piece (“In Pursuit of Purpose”), I discussed the idea of Purpose, versus purpose. In sum, Big P Purpose alludes to one’s destined role with regard to the whole of a lifetime; little p purpose can—and usually does—arise multiple times, in different guises, throughout ones life (e.g., as a job, goal, or relationship).

Since that time, I have found myself reconsidering and expanding some of my initial thoughts. First, I began to wonder: What if Big and little p are not distinct, nor mutually exclusive? What if the accrual of circumstantial purposes all along are the route to—or even the manifestation of—Purpose?

Alongside these queries, I also thought about the concept of a Calling, i.e, “being called” to/from the place of Knowing. I thought of young people who arrive in this world with great gifts or talents: Were they called before arrival, or is it up to them to heed the call, and thus move through this earth-life as a vehicle to display their gift?

Or, what of folks whose gifts go unattended or squelched by circumstance or lack of guidance? Does that mean that their Purpose goes unfulfilled, or does it mean that their Purpose is to unleash and exalt their talent?

With this continued pondering, I circled back around to my own distinction between purpose and Purpose. Could it be that little-p is a necessary, inherent subset of Big P? Could it be that similar activities and vocations (e.g., in my case, movement and bodywork) are the manifestations of one unifying, umbrella theme?

Perhaps, then, each of us already and always are heeding our Purpose, even if we do not recognize it as such. If Purpose is the through-line of Destiny, then each breath, thought, and action motors along that trajectory: The fervent desire to identify Purpose thus signals its existence within us; the urgency to locate and uphold it is a beacon toward its conscious discovery. 

To direct that light and to feel aligned with one’s individual Purpose may be the task of Life, the universal Purpose of humankind. For some, the means of connection is mental or spiritual; for others, the doing—dharma—is the way. 

Regardless of how one pursues the acquaintance of Purpose, discernment and patience will be powerful companions in the quest. And if one has met and become connected with Purpose, the qualities of awareness and intuition ease into the equation: In order to maintain the sense of Knowing Purpose, one must remain attentive and adaptable. Purpose may change its guise, but its essence will remain. It is to that eternal seed that one must offer consistent and nurturing attention.

MUDRA MEDITATION

As a technique to summon and discern Purpose, I have created a mudra practice to harmonize with Purpose-related vibrations from the divine and the Universe. Rooted in the classic hand gestures of Shunya and Bhudi mudras, the meditation is comprised of three parts: traditional mudras; moving mudras; and pointedly placed mudras.

To begin, sit in your favorite position for meditation. Place the hands on the knees, resting them on their pinky-side edges: Palms thus face each other. Use the thumbs to hold down the middle fingers into the palms. With closed eyes gazing to the Third Eye, breathe normally, but consciously; ensure that each inhale and exhale are fulfilled. Enter into this opening portion with the intent to shift from ego and earthly aims, to a state of welcoming and accepting that which is meant for you. Continue for about 5 minutes.

Next, turn the hands to rest palms up on the knees. Release the mudra to create another: Touch the thumb tips to the pinky fingertips. In this gesture of openness to that which the Universe has to communicate, we align our intuition with divine wisdom. Breathe here for another 5 minutes.

With patience, discernment, and intuition activated, instinctively select one of the previous mudras. It may well be that you choose the middle finger gesture on one hand, with the pinky mudra on the other: Whatever combination resonates with your current energy vibration is the optimal selection.

Now, with the palms up and holding whichever mudra(s) feel right to you, begin circling the hands and forearms: The upper arms rest in by the body. Treat the movement as a round, i.e., the right side begins its outward (clockwise) circle; about 1/3-halfway through that circle, the left side kicks in (also moving outward, or counter-clockwise). Moving in this way will begin to create a sense of a Figure 8 moving through your magnetic field. Continue fluidly for 3 minutes.

Finally, bring the hands in front of the Heart Center, palms facing each other. Bring the tips of both thumbs, both pinkies, and both middle fingers together: All 6 tips are connected with each other. Extend the index and ring fingers as straight upward as possible. This mudra aims to invoke and energize divine guidance (via the “antennas” of the first and third fingers), and to channel it into your heightened and awaiting intuitive power. Breathe steadily and deeply here for 5 minutes. When finished, place the hands, palms down, on the knees, and allow the energies of the practice to consolidate and settle: Remain here for as long as you like.