The Weight of the Nation

Published on July 24, 2012

An exceptional documentary about the way we eat. Do not miss any of the 4 chapters.

Shakti

The following is taken from:

http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/weight-nation-consequences/

The first film in The Weight of the Nation series examines the scope of the obesity epidemic and explores the serious health consequences of being overweight or obese.

The obesity epidemic is a problem that’s emerged over the last 30 years. It threatens our nation’s social, economic and physical health. But, unlike a natural disaster, obesity is often preventable. Although overall obesity prevalence rates appear to be leveling off, there are still far too many Americans who are overweight or obese and who continue to develop health problems as a result. In order to end the epidemic, everyone must be part of the solution.

At the level of our DNA, we’re programmed to eat as much as we can to survive and store the extra as fat for future energy use. In a world where calorie-dense, sugar-laden and fatty foods are available around every corner, that’s a problem. The good news is that, even if the propensity to gain weight is written into our genes, we’re not fated to a lifetime of fat.

Flow One:

Flow Two:

This is where we all came from

Published on May 31, 2012

It’s not just that black people have got rhythm; it’s that white people lost the rhythm long ago.

In the beginning we were all drummers.

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Don’t miss it, this is where we all came from.

Love shakti

Love cannot be used in past tenseIf you loved someone, you are using past tense – so you never really loved them. Love changes but never ends.

What you practiced is the business of love. This means: I love you as long as you serve my needs and expectations.

Love & liking are different.

Love is unconditional, always pulses and never ends. Liking involves reasoning and with reasoning it may end.

 

 

 

 

Religion vs. spirituality

Published on May 27, 2012

Religion vs. spiritualityReligion is based on fears about “right and wrong”, whereas true spirituality springs from freedom and NO moral code.

On the path of spirituality there is no right or wrong – it is simply what it is in each given moment.

Because there is no absolute “right and wrong” we can never be right. It is the perception that we perceive ourselves as right that turns others to be wrong. They are wrong in relation to us, not as an absolute.

But, does Righteousness stand firmly on its own as an absolute  - or is it just a result of our perception?

 

 

RelationShip

Published on February 10, 2012

RelationShip by Pepe DanzaBy Pepe Danza

Well, being Valentine’s Day, naturally February brings up questions and issues related to relationship… and we all know how that kind of Ship tends to sink. We are at a time when the old paradigms clearly don’t serve us anymore, but we really haven’t found new workable models to take us through that ocean of loneliness and confusion. We are in a grey, experimental zone, wanting to have fun and freedom and clarity, yet not at all free of the “happily ever after” myth that we were fed since our first fairytale.

From soul mates to polyamorous, the Ships are bouncing on the stormy sea of the Kali Yuga, a time of darkness when the Light of Spirit and Truth seem to be ever so unattainable and most people’s energies are fully engaged in the mere act of surviving.

One popular saying comes to mind that I think is very valuable as a general guideline,

“Hold on tightly and let go lightly.”

How does it translate to relationship?

Well, let’s look at the first part… In spiritual philosophy there is a great emphasis on unattachment. A great misunderstanding of this principle often leads “spiritual” people to become greatly attached to their unattachment! Added to this is the general North American disposable culture… “easy come, easy go.” Everything is breakable (sooner rather than later), everything is replaceable. Too often this leads one or both parties to not being fully present in the Ship. As a beloved teacher of mine once said, “You can’t have your two feet on two different boats.” On a deep level, this applies to modern life in general as we hardly “show up” for our lives. We live on automatic pilot, survival mode, most of the time dwelling on the past or considering the future or simply daydreaming our time away, hardly ever arriving at the proverbial and mystical, in fact, the eternal Moment, where the real Life is waiting for us in all it’s juiciness and magic.

So… we can take the “hold on tightly” part as “show up fully in the Ship!.” While you are there, Be There!, and show it both in word and deed. A firm and solid relationship that one can trust and depend on is a wonderful gift and foundation for personal power and peace. There is no worse loneliness than the one we experience within a relationship and a Ship that is in bad working condition depletes our energy tremendously. The responsibility is ours to fix it or leave it.

That’s where the “let go lightly” part shows up. From the old patriarchal model we are deeply conditioned to think that unless we celebrate our fortieth wedding anniversary together and in love, we failed… Breaking up a relationship is absolute, personal (and painful) failure. Is this truly so? We know that the only constant in Life is Change. Relationship may serve us for any amount of time, but it may well also, at any given point, stop serving either or both parties. And what does “serving” mean. It means supporting, adding joy, motivating and cultivating our inner growth, empowering equally both partners, creating a whole that is much greater than the sum of it’s parts.

RelationShipThis, however, is not like an instant soup or coffee, it requires deep, long and committed work. When this work is skillfully and lovingly done, the dividends are immense in personal growth and satisfaction. Relationship has the potential for being the greatest spiritual aid, mirror, path, and achievement.

However, if and when we realize it’s time to let go, it is advisable to observe how attached we are to our pain, how we almost build an identity from it. Negative emotions such as anger, self pity etc…, steep into our cellular structure and literally become poison in our systems. We don’t want to deny or repress our pain and it should be fully and honestly experienced but this is not a case of “holding on tightly”. Let your pain wash over you like a deep river that feeds your power to empathize, your compassion, your ability to love yourself and your power to heal and grow.

Always remember that the most solid Ship you are meant to build is the Self… that ship will carry you through any storm.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Genetically Modified Yoga

Published on January 9, 2012

I recommend you read this article from The New York Times

With our brilliant western brains that always believe it knows better, we managed to go to the core of the ancient yoga’s DNA and change it to accommodate our ways. What I mean by “genetically modifying Yoga,” is the manner in which we have modified it to suit our egos and to fit it into the business world by mixing trends and fashion with spirituality.

Photo credit: Danielle Levitt for The New York Times
Photo credit: Danielle Levitt for The New York Times

If originally yoga practice was meant for going deeper, bringing stillness, finding our inner silence and connecting with our higher self, genetically modified Yoga changed the practice to a fast, restless, physical and aggressive practice, where the main modus operandi for “gaining”  is through physical strain and pain, we are all familiar with the expression “no pain no gain”.

When we genetically modify food, by manipulating the natural order of the earth, we pay with our wellbeing. The same happens with the practice of yoga in the modern world. Change it to be a sport or form of performance and you will pay the price in physical injuries and more so by gaining even bigger egos.

You may find, after reading this article, that the descriptions in the article are quite extreme. Trust me, they are not. The only difference is that now the truth of what is happening in the yoga world is starting to surface and this is just the tip of the iceberg. Often I sit with a group of yoga students that are floating from one yoga center to another, from one style of yoga to another and they describe to me the different injuries they collected along the way, since they started their yoga practice. Shoulder, knees, neck, lower back, sciatica, hips, wrists…and the list goes on and on. What amazes me the most is that they do not find it awkward at all that their “spiritual practice” is actually adding more suffering to their being, rather than ease. Look around and you will find more and more balms and other aids for yoga injuries. The New York Times reported that yoga is the second sport that is currently creating most injuries.

The reason for this is first a large number of yoga teachers who, instead of passing on the ancient teachings to their students, mostly approach yoga as performance and they themselves are restless and pushy.

Next are the students who want to change their life but without changing their ways. They bring the same attitude and manners they have towards life, themselves, and others, to the yoga mat, yet they are hoping to experience something different.

I call upon all the hatha yoga teachers who teach the asanas with the understanding that the yoga postures are only a means for higher consciousness and who understand the postures are not intended to be a circus performance, to keep up their very good work. I urge them not to sacrifice the teaching to be trendy, for fame, or to further their business interests.

Lastly, avoid applying external pressure to a student’s body with your hands as you never know what is underneath the skin. Hands are meant to direct, without using force, and intended to transmit love and energy.

Love shakti

Spirituality Wrapped in a Package

Published on November 21, 2011
In a church in Spain
In a church in Spain

While visiting Seville in Spain we went to see a beautiful cathedral. I was walking around in silence, my eyes making the effort to capture all the beauty around and above me. Beautiful Gregorian chant filled up the space with a serene energy. Pepe was standing still, in the center of the cathedral. When I walked by him he said to me “I used to feel very different in places such as these, but I don’t any more. Not because I do not find them special, but because it doesn’t make a difference where I am anymore… it is all special.”

Pepe’s words at once transported me to those moments of my life where I keenly searched for the right spiritual formula. In those moments, I felt that so many forms and shapes were between me and the state of enlightenment I wanted to reach. I was convinced that eliminating these barriers was the only way to reach realization- my highest state as a spiritual person. I went through different phases of obstacle eliminations, trying to find the ultimate recipe for spirituality.

Over time, I developed conceptions regarding how a spiritual person should dress up. In my mind, clothes and fabrics where THE obstacle between me and realization. So I made sure I dressed up in a very specific way, wearing what I considered to be spiritual clothes and fabrics. Now when I look back at those days, and to the spiritual insecurity I suffered from, I smile. In retrospect, the main role for my spiritual uniform was to announce to the world, and to myself,that I am a spiritual seeker.

In the market in Spain
In the market in Spain

Later on I felt that all the colors in the color spectrum were standing between me and realization. So I eliminated all of them, and for years I wore only white. White was pure, white was spiritual and I felt that by wearing white I was one inch closer to realization ;-) When I realized that the colourful rainbow cannot be declared as non-spiritual phenomena, and that white is as wonderful to wear as the rest, all colors gradually found their way back into my wardrobe.

A time arrived when I felt that my beautiful long hair (I was twenty years old ;-) was standing between me and my higher self. In my mind, the long thick dark hair of my twenties represented beauty, seduction and temptation, so I shaved my hair- with a bold head I felt closer to my essence.

Then I discovered that greatest obstacle of all, standing between me and being an enlightened yogini: the obstacle of “making love.” So I chose celibacy to speed up my arrival into Nirvana.

Needless to say, none of the above restrictions I applied to myself brought me nearer to the ultimate state I was striving for.

However, the self-image I created for myself had its own benefits:

  1. It helped me to focus my mind around my practice and center myself.
  2. Making these choices made me feel that I belonged to a different “tribe,” which eventually helped me attract like-minded people into my life.
  3. Following my spiritual convictions gave me the assurance that I am doing something for my spiritual evolution.
  4. I was able to forge a new ‘me’, a self-concept beyond what I had inherited from my family and tribe.
In the quiet mountains in Spain
In the quiet mountains in Spain

This self-image was definitely helpful and comforting most of the time, but it was never the “solution” for my inner state.

For some years I managed to combine all the above, creating the ultimate spiritual persona: a celibate bold yogini in a white sari chanting Om Namha Shivaya!… However, I was still struggling with a huge question: had I arrived at my destination?

As long as there is a question… any question… as long as we dwell in doubt… any doubt… the answer is: not yet!

It is known through science as well as direct experience that different places, colors, shapes, sounds, and even fabrics or clothes ;-) have different frequencies. Everything is energy and energy is frequency. Some places, shapes, sounds or colors may have higher frequencies… others have lower frequencies… and it is all vibrating us in different ways. We can choose the right places for us, the right people to be with, the clothes that we feel most comfortable wearing and the colors we like around us. Even so, these are external circumstances.

The greatest practice, which the mind would evaluate as the hardest one, is to find peace and stillness no matter where we are, what we wear, and how we look.

True spirituality has nothing to do with time, space, form or shapes…. This does not mean we cannot enjoy and play with the endless forms and energies that create our physical world. All spiritual practices and disciplines use shapes, forms, colours and sounds for enhancing the state of awareness.

Finally, you arrive at the ultimate state of emptiness that encompasses all.

So be it.

And have fun.

But avoid any identification with the package you are wrapped in…

Namaste,

Shakti

Honesty

Published on September 27, 2011
The Dao of Honesty and Truth Fine Art Print - Laree Alexander
The Dao of Honesty and Truth - Fine Art Print - Laree Alexander

Most people have high expectations that their lovers will always be honest with them. Most people rate honesty as a high priority in their lovers’ desired virtues.

The usual perception about honesty is that it is the responsibility of “the other” to always tell us the truth. In fact honesty starts with the one that receives it and not with the one that delivers it. On the spiritual path if someone lies to you, you cannot blame them for it.  On the contrary, you are the one that needs to check where and when you set up the ground for the other person not to be truthful with you.  On this path, each of us is the center of our own galaxy of reality.

Imagine honesty as a stream of water that runs towards a dam. If the dam does not have the capacity to take the water in, the water will flood everything outside of the dam. If you would like people around you to stream honesty in your direction, you have to have the capacity to take it in- otherwise it will overwhelm you.

It is one thing to demand truth from others and another to have the capacity to face the truth.  In other words, simply because we demand the truth does not mean we can handle it and often our lovers can sense it in our actions and energy.

Scenario:

Linda and Bob are just in the beginning of their new relationship. Being fed-up of messy relationships that involved lies and dishonesty, they promise to always be honest with each other, and they both mean it and want it.

Not long after…

Linda just bought an expensive sexy dress she was dreaming about for long time. Linda can’t wait to show it to Bob.  When he comes home from work Linda asks Bob to sit down, she runs to the bedroom with excitement, to try on the new dress.

When she is back to the living room, she is asking Bob with a sexy voice:

“Do you like my new dress”?

Bob replies casually, “It is a beautiful dress but you don’t think it makes you look fat?”

The unexpected honest words stop Linda’s breath, her lips frost in a middle of a word that is now hanging down from her bottom lip like an icicle. Even though she tries to keep her facial muscles pulled up to form a smile, they are all collapsing down with gravity projecting painful expression.

Bob misses nothing in the situation, he immediately understands the impact of his honest words but it is too late, the damage has been done.

An hour later dinner carries on in piercing silence, there is no lovemaking for 10 days and Linda’s communication with Bob during the week is terse.

The traumatic event registered in Bob’s mind as “don’t repeat this mistake again, ever!!! If you want peace, keep what you think or feel to yourself!”

This event, where Linda demonstrated the opposite of what she declared as her true wish for honesty, will affect Bob’s honesty in their relationship forever.

So when you ask your lover to be honest with you, you have to ask yourself first if you can handle honesty, as often our energy and actions deliver opposite messages to what we say or demand.

People lie when they need to survive a situation.

People cannot handle the truth when the truth threatens aspects within them that they identify with.

Often relationships become a battle for survival and as a result lovers keep juggling the above mentioned extremes.

If you would like your lover to treat you as a master, you need to become that master!

Instead of demanding honesty, create space so that honesty may flow in naturally.

Lies sprout from fears. So the first step towards a spiritual honest relationship is to remove all fears.

If you do face dishonesty in your present relationship, instead of indulging in accusations, sit down and replay the dishonesty sequence of events backwards.  You will find the seeds you sowed which brought about the undesirable outcome. By taking responsibility for the consequences, you empower yourself, your lover and the relationship you both have.

Yes, it is a definite possibility that your lover may already have arrived into the relationship programmed by previous life experiences. In this case it can take some time until she or he will put down their defenses which take the form of not sharing the truth with you. It is up to you to bring honesty and truthfulness into your love relationship, not by demanding but by inspiring.

Shakti Mhi

Some Thoughts on Mantra and Deity worship

Published on August 22, 2011

Some Thoughts on Mantra and Deity worshipBy Pepe Danza

As we know from recent scientific developments, the “material” aspect of matter is an illusion. Everything is vibrating, everything is alive. If we were to accelerate any given vibration until it was audible, we could hear the signature note that each object is broadcasting. In other words, if essentially all is vibration, then essentially all is sound.

Most scriptures tell us that the first seed of Creation was Sound. In esoteric texts there are innumerable references to the use of sound for healing and/or potentially destructive uses. Some sources explain how the Pyramids were built by moving enormous stones through the power of sound, and we all know the famous image of the opera singer breaking a glass at a distance with the power of her voice.

These are all bits of information and knowledge that can help us start to understand the potential behind the practice of Mantra and Chanting.

We can think of a Mantra as a unit of energy that connects us with, and awakens in us, a certain primal force that could be said to reside dormant in our very DNA. They can be keys that unlock certain forces within us, and once awakened, or remembered, they can bring us closer to our center and our full power as human beings.

In the Hindu and Buddhist traditions, for the most part, Mantras are connected with what is imperfectly termed “gods”. In western terms I think we can understand these forces better with Jung’s term Archetype. Each of these “gods” or deities has a certain “power” that can be actualized in us through their invocation.

In other words, these are not actual beings residing in the “clouds”, but Archetypes that reside in us as potential, and through tools such as Mantra, Chanting and Visualization, we can access and cultivate these potential powers consciously.

Lord ShivaFor example, Shiva is a most beloved deity in India. He represents the destructive power of “God”. In order to build something new sometimes we have to destroy or let go of that which doesn’t serve us anymore. The pain we may have to go through is directly proportional to the attachment we have to that which needs to be destroyed in order to make space for the new. The dance of Shiva is a reminder and in fact a celebration of the reality that the only constant in Life is Change, and that it is actually a fabulous Dance, a dance performed to the sacred rhythm of Time, and that ultimately it is all Maya , or illusion. This is not an excuse to bury or deny our need to mourn and/or feel our emotions fully, but it is a very important perspective that can help us move through life with more ease, wisdom, and a lighter step.

So… when we find ourselves stuck with outmoded behaviors, or we need to change our physical reality, we can call on the power of Shiva by using Mantra. This is a powerful psychological tool that can empower us, almost instantly, depending on the strength of our connection with the Archetype.

There are a myriad forms that can connect us with the energies of forgiveness, compassion, abundance, joy, creativity, assertiveness, love, etc. Whatever capacity we want to cultivate or enhance, it won’t be hard to find an Archetype to aid us and accelerate our process.

GaneshNow, having talked about the psychological aspect, the student of spirituality may well be puzzled by the devotional aspect of the practice from the Hindu standpoint. Do these people really believe there is some fat guy with an elephant head in heaven that can grant us wishes? To that I would reply that the western mind doesn’t seem to question fat naked little children playing trumpets in the clouds in our own culture, or babies being born without sexual contact, or saints in “heaven” listening to our needs.

All of these religious aspects need not be ridiculous if we again approach it from a Jungian perspective. Maybe we can allow for the possibility that these Archetypes, through the working of the Collective Unconscious over literally thousands of years, do take a life of their own in some metaphysical realm. In other words, they become a specific reservoir of energy that we can tap into in order to further our spiritual path.

RamaWhen we express our devotion to Rama, we are expressing devotion to the qualities of faithfulness, unconditional love, protectiveness of the family, and high values that the figure of Rama represents. Ganesha opens our capacity to move through life with joy, ease, devotion and wisdom.

AvalokitesvaraIn Buddhism we have figures such as Avalokistewara (related to Kwan Yin in China). He/she represents the quality of total compassion, and the total commitment to help our fellow passengers on this existence to attain their highest potential.

Each of these entities has their mantras, usually several, through which practice we can call upon their particular energy for our own healing and empowerment.

All of these philosophies, or religions, as the case may be, believe in the ultimate Oneness of the Creator, or Original Creative Source, but they allow for the fact that within Creation the One divides into the Many, and different aspects then take certain “personalities” in order to accomplish the Work.

In Africa, for instance, these gods or archetypes usually line up with the elements, and so we have the personification of Fire: Shango, or Water: Iemanja. In the Hindu system Indra is the personification of the energy of Fire, and we could say that Saraswati, the patroness of the arts and learning, is the equivalent of Africa’s Mother Iemanja.

 Iemanja Indra Saraswati

When we practice devotion to these figures we are bringing their energy into our lives. To the outward eye it may seem that we are paying homage to “idols”, and in some cases this may be accurate, but the proper practice is a sound spiritual and psychological technique that mirrors techniques such as NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming), where these figures would be called “anchors”.

That in the East many believe in the “objective” existence of these “deities” and the power of their mantras, there’s no question, and, at the end of the day, Life is a vast and fascinating mystery where, literally… anything is possible.

Pepe Danza

Pepe will teach a yoga class based on the above principles beginning in September – Mondays at 5:30pm in Prana Yoga College center. Please see schedule.

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Shakti is the author of the book "The Enigma of Self Realization"