I just read a great article this morning in Oprah Magazine by Life Coach Expert, Martha Beck, called “Interior Decorating For a Happier Life”. In this article she shares her thoughts on how “Your surroundings are an expression of your inner state. You can’t change your life without changing your stuff, and you can’t change your stuff without changing your life”.
She goes on to explain that when you fill your space with joy, you lift your spirit, too. So now instead of filling her space with meaningless objects and piles of debris, she takes the time to fill her rooms with things that “energize and delight” her. There are several elements that make her feel at home:
- Artwork– She’s a “megafan” of Kuan Yin, the Chinese Goddess of Compassion….so she surrounds herself with wall art and statues her as a reminder to live from a place of unconditional kindness.
- Vision Boards– these self-made collages hold her deepest desires and subconsciously remind her of the intentions she’s set out to manifest.
- Spirit Guides– These are books that calm and feed her spirit until she feels much braver than she believes she is.
- Love Pictures– photographs of friends and families that provide emotional warmth and light
- Her Menagerie– inspirational things that aren’t objects but living breathing beings….humans, dogs, horses, squirrels and birds…creatures that each remind her to keep enjoying life, whether through playing, resting, feasting, cuddling, rambling and rejoicing.
She ends by posing a series of questions…
“When you look at your home, what kind of self-portrait do you see?”
“Do the things around you spark happiness?”
If your answer to the last question is “Not really”, her advice isn’t to throw everything out, but to start decluttering and adding a few new things slowly, one area at a time. Maybe start with a cluttered dresser and clear a space for a small vase with fresh flowers, then move to your bedside and add a framed picture of that makes you smile, then maybe move to your bathroom and add a little something on the wall that inspires you daily to live intentionally or add an inspiring quote to your fridge. The long and the short is, that before you know it, “one day you’ll wake up enveloped by your own most compassionate, wise, creative, loving self in three dimensions and living color. In every way possible, you’ll be at home”.
So, what kind of things do you fill your home with that spark happiness for you?Leave a comment below…I’d love to hear from you!
Deep Rooted Happiness
As I get ready to celebrate, my “OMG, I’m almost 40!” birthday–I turn 39 years old next week :), I’ve been thinking a lot about happiness. Not momentary happiness, but the kind that is deeply rooted and not swayed by: material possessions that come and go, misunderstandings that inevitably arise as you engage with those around you or by negative Nelly’s, fear mongers and self-doubts that surely have a way of coming to the surface as you take risks and enter new stages in life. I’m talking about the kind of happiness that you catch a glimpse of in very rare and special people. Their happiness not only leaves an impression on your heart forever but lights you up when you think about them. In my opinion, to know even one person like this in a lifetime is a blessing that provides a treasure trove of wisdom to learn from.
The Magic Ingredient
For me that person was my grandfather. He was so happy and content that you could often catch him laughing in his sleep. It’s not that he had an easy life; on the contrary he had a very hard life, filled with enormous challenges, a lot of hard work, great risk and many adventures. In reflecting and studying his happiness, what I fundamentally have learned is that the magic ingredient was not a person, place or thing, but the perspective and attitude that he greeted the world with.
In the late 1940’s he took a leap of faith and moved to Africa at a young age with his brothers to explore business opportunities and start a new life. Over the next two decades, he not only built a family food business, but also got married to a beautiful, strong woman with whom he had 8 children with. With eight mouths to feed and educate, the funds were always tight in their household, yet my grandfather was known to never think twice about giving the $10 he had in his pocket to a stranger or friend in need. He had faith he would be taken care of, so he always gave freely and put those around him before himself.
Then at the end of the 60’s, when the dictator, Idi Amin came in power and went on a rampage to throw out and kill all Indians in the areas, almost overnight, my grandfather and the whole family had to abandon the home, business and life they had built to flee to safety. His kids by then all varied in age; older ones left on their own, younger ones stayed with them. They all fled to neighboring country’s that were taking in refugees and helping them find new homes in different parts of the world. But with no email, cell phones or even great telephone services, there was no knowing who was where. But he kept his faith strong and thankfully, all of them made it out safely and were reunited within a few years.
Doubling Up On Sweetness
And, at the age of 55, with no formal education or ability to speak the english language, my grandfather entered Canada as a refugee with my grandmother and a few of their children. At this point, my Grandfather could have become depressed, disgruntled, resentful or even a miser. But instead, he took the lemons that he was given and doubled his helping of faith so that he could continue to serve the sweetest lemonade in the form of kindness, generosity and inspiration. As one of the hardest and diligent workers I’ve ever witnessed, he gave more money, food and love in generous portions to strangers and friends alike than anyone I know. And in return, he was blessed with another thriving business (that’s still flourishing today) + a lovingly, close-knit family.
These are just a few examples from his life, but the point is that he could be remembered for the amazing business empire he grew from nothing, but instead what truly stands out for me is the resilience he had to get through the countless struggles he endured over his 90+ years. The magic of his resilience, resulted in a constantly, infectious, happy soul that was rooted in faith, kindness, generosity and love–the core tenants of basic yogic philosophy. No matter what situation he was in, I always remember him as having a smile on his face, a deep desire to share what he had (money, time, food, a laugh) and an unshakeable faith in God and the assurance that he would always be taken care of. With that amazing attitude, he always produced the sweetest lemonade for himself and everyone around him to enjoy.
Creating Joy That Lives Well Beyond Our Years
So my recipe for the happiest people is not about having the best of everything, but making the best of everything. A mindset rooted in faith, surrender, kindness, generosity and love; virtues that not only help us keep marching forward but help us find the silver lining through all of life’s ups and downs. The best part, is that in turn, our joy leaves an impressions on the hearts of those around us that lives on well beyond our years. I hope that like my grandfather, as a collective, we have the ability to keep a positive perspective, share & love generously with friends and strangers alike and hold onto faith in God and ourselves, so that as our inner worlds emanate joy, we inspire others to do the same.
Have faith, let go and be happy, friends—-life’s too short to be otherwise. What kind of impression do you want to leave on the hearts of those around you?
Here’s to learning how to make the sweetest lemonade, EVER! :).
Lots of love,
EVERYDAY REMINDERS FOR STRIVING MEDITATORS
This Friday night is one of my all-time favorite nights of the year; Shivratri; a night dedicated to Lord Shiva, the Lord of Yoga, the ultimate renunciate. This hindu deity, known for his deep states of meditation, ability to destroy the ego and capacity to bring about extensive changes and transformation (inside and out) is said to reside at the summit of Mt. Kailash (in Tibet), where he sits in a state of perpetual meditation, along with his wife Parvati and his bull, Nandi.
I love gazing on images of Shiva because of all the symbolism that his form contains. On an external level, Shiva is known for his prominent third eye, a serpent around his neck, a cresent moon adorning his dreadlocks, the holy Ganges river flowing from his matted hair, a trident as his weapon of choice, and a little drum known as a damaru that accompanies him and his faithful bull, Nandi, wherever they go.
What do all the symbols around Shiva represent?
Well, as a meditator, let me share with you what I’ve learned over the years from my teachers, Shri Anandi Ma and Dileepji :).
THIRD EYE – While his two regular eyes represent the physical, everyday world, his third eye represents the Ajna Chakra and the spiritual wisdom and power acquired through meditation, that allows one to see beyond maya (illusion).
SERPENT AROUND NECK – The serpent represents the Kundalini, the source of divine energy that lies dormant at the base of the spine, until awakened. Once awakened, she moves in an upward direction, piercing various chakras along way until she reaches the Sahasrar chakra, thus leading spiritual aspirants to the ultimate state of consciousness.
CRESCENT MOON – There’s a long story behind this symbol, but the jist is that it represents the waxing and waning of the moon, the mind and the continuim of time, which when adorned on Shiva signifies the control over the mind and time.
GANGES RIVER – The holy ganges river is known as the holiest river in India and is personified as the Goddess Ganga. The story says that Shiva was asked to break her descent from heaven to earth as the force of her fall would have flooded and wrecked havoc rather than help the inhabitants of the world. So the Ganges flows first through Shiva’s matted locks and then from there he lets her gently flow out so that devoted souls can bathe in her waters and purify their souls.
TRIDENT- The trident in his hands represents several things, the most important being the trinity of supreme divinity which oversees the cosmic functions of creation, maintenance and destruction. Brahma is known as the creator, Vishnu is known as the preserver and the Shiva as the destroyer/transformer.
DAMARU (drum)- The damaru represents the heartbeat of life, the cosmic sound of AUM and the process of creation.
BULL- Nandi, Shiva’s bull is not only a great devotee of his, but is also his trusted vehicle and represents truth. He’s a reminder of the strength and power that comes from living truthfully, righteousnessly and harnessing the infinite consciousness that lies within you.
So to honor his greatness, many yoga studios, meditation centers and hindu temples locally and abroad celebrate Shivratri in various ways. Some partake in a day of yogic fasting, some enjoy all-night chanting, while some prefer just meditating. No matter what, devotees enjoy carving out the time to pay homage to Shiva with the hopes of getting a chance to experience his greatness and be blessed with a deepened yoga and meditation practice.
If you’re in Northern California, Dhyanyoga Centers will be hosting an all-night event filled with chanting + meditation this Friday, Feb 24 from 9 pm to 7 am. And if you live elsewhere, google Shivaratri events near you….or invite some of your favorite yogini/yogi pals over for a little late night yoga, chanting, meditation and chai :).
Lots of love,
I don’t generally talk about politics on my blog, however, it’s hard to look the other way when the past few months and especially the last few days have been such a pivotal time not just in American history, but world history. And, as a yogini and artist, I do believe these are the times when we should do our practices regularly, but also stand up, speak out and come together.
BEING A VESSEL
As a yogi I remind myself daily, “you are not the doer, merely a vessel for the divine to work through you”. These words have always provided me with perspective, faith, humility and a gentle nudge to let go of whatever was sitting heavy in my heart. Yet, since November, it’s been hard to fully wrap my “mind” around how universal morality of truth, compassion, generosity and peace was being pushed aside for dishonesty, greed, selfishness and deep-seated aggressions. At times I’ve felt like I was losing my faith in humanity.
Then this weekend happened.
A coming together of millions, standing together in peace, love, compassion and kindness. A large part of humanity saying we don’t want to live in a dark world, where fear rules and immorality dominates. Can you believe 3.5- 4 million Americans rallying together, without a single arrest or outburst of violence? It’s phenomenal.
THE POWER OF THE YAMAS (universal morality)
As I’ve been reflecting on the past few days and what it all means, I see this outpouring of love as an example of yoga at it’s best. Patanjali, the father of the Yoga Sutras, explains that the very first limb that a yogi must learn are the Yamas that represent Universal Morality. Five basic characteristics that remind us that our fundamental human nature is that of compassion, generosity, honesty and peacefulness. Which, if tended to, purifies human nature and contributes to the health and happiness of society.
The yamas are broken down into these five characteristics:
- AHIMSA – Compassion for all living things. The word ahimsa literally mean not to injure or show cruelty to any creature or any person in any way whatsoever. Ahimsa is, however, more than just lack of violence as adopted in yoga. It means kindness, friendliness, and thoughtful consideration of other people and things. It also has to do with our duties and responsibilities too. Ahimsa implies that in every situation we should adopt a considerate attitude and do no harm.
- SATYA – Commitment to Truthfulness. Satya means “to speak the truth,” yet it is not always desirable to speak the truth on all occasions, for it could harm someone unnecessarily. We have to consider what we say, how we say it, and in what way it could affect others. If speaking the truth has negative consequences for another, then it is better to say nothing. Satya should never come into conflict with our efforts to behave with ahimsa. This precept is based on the understanding that honest communication and action form the bedrock of any healthy relationship, community, or government, and that deliberate deception, exaggerations, and mistruths harm others.
- ASTEYA – Non-stealing. Steya means “to steal”; asteya is the opposite-to take nothing that does not belong to us. This also means that if we are in a situation where someone entrusts something to us or confides in us, we do not take advantage of him or her. Non-stealing includes not only taking what belongs to another without permission, but also using something for a different purpose to that intended, or beyond the time permitted by its owner. The practice of asteya implies not taking anything that has not been freely given. This includes fostering a consciousness of how we ask for others’ time for inconsiderate behavior demanding another’s attention when not freely given is, in effect, stealing
- BRAHMACHARYA – Sense control. Brahmacharya is used mostly in the sense of abstinence, particularly in relationship to sexual activity. Brahmacharya does not necessarily imply celibacy. Brahmacharya suggests that we should form relationships that foster our understanding of the highest truths. Rather, it means responsible behavior with respect to our goal of moving toward the truth. Practicing brahmacharya means that we use our sexual energy wisely and to regenerate our connection to our spiritual self. It also means that we don’t use this energy in any way that might harm others.
- APARIGRAHA – Neutralizing the desire to acquire and hoard wealth. Aparigraha means to take only what is necessary, and not to take advantage of a situation or act greedy. We should only take what we have earned; if we take more, we are exploiting someone else. The yogi feels that the collection or hoarding of things implies a lack of faith in God and in himself to provide for his future. Aparigraha also implies letting go of our attachments to things and an understanding that impermanence and change are the only constants.
HOPE & LIGHT
We’ve definitely seen the opposite of these tenants being acted upon by tyrants that have wreaked havoc in large and small countries. But, we’ve also seen them put into action by visionary activists and leaders, like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.. Proving that deep shifts can take place when compassion, generosity, honesty and peacefulness are the instruments that people choose to break walls down with, rather than weapons that inflict pain, create divisions and ultimately cause destruction.
Whatever lies ahead, I know “the road will be long”, but I am hopeful and inspired knowing that the Womens March and other sister organizations are following suit of these great leaders and being a beacon of hope and light. Because as Dr. King so beautifully said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that”.
With lots of love,
What a week. So many emotions. If you’re attending a march somewhere around the country tomorrow, please feel free to print this poster, share it and carry it proudly. I’ll be attending the march in DC and look forward to showing that HOPE, UNITY, COMPASSSION and LOVE are the pillars of this country. #artistsforlove #whyimarch
With lots of love,
FEEDING MY SOUL
When I started my spiritual quest in college, my appetite for spiritual insight, wisdom and inspiration was insatiable and I devoured all the spiritual books I could get my hands on. Reading about saints, yogic philosophy, and recipes on living a yoga-inspired life was like nectar to my soul.
Over the course of the past 20 years, I have read MANY books, but these ten classics are the ones that have a special place on my bookshelf and that I still turn to often. Each book is a touchstone, that reminds me of the magic and beauty of yoga & meditation and just how grateful and I am for my practice.
SHAPING MY WORLD
If you get a chance, I would highly recommend checking out some…or all of these recommendations :). They have each played an integral role in shaping my world, and continue to provide much light, direction, warmth and nourishment through the deep valleys and windy mountains that my life adventures take me on. I hope that they can do the same for you. So, without further ado, here’s my list…
Top 10 Yoga-Inspired Spiritual Classics:
- This House is on Fire, as told by Shri Anandi Ma
This biography of Shri Dhyanyogi, the kind of Indian saint who only exists in legend, provides tales of his exploits—at 100 years old he could walk faster than any of his followers—that are intertwined with his spiritual teachings. After 80 years of solitude in rural India, Dhyanyogi came out from seclusion to teach in India and the United States. Tales of the gentle yogi facing down tigers, battling hunger and thirst, and traveling through the treacherous mountains and scorching deserts of India are all told here. In his unending desire to be a resource to followers, Dhyanyogi is known to have said to his followers, “This house is on fire—loot all you can!”—referring to the wisdom he had and how little time he had on earth to impart it.
- The Living Gita, by Swami Satchidananda
The Bhagavad Gita tells the story of how Arjuna, the great warrior, is seated in his chariot about to engage in battle, when he sees his own kinsmen and his revered teacher arrayed in battle against him, and feels that he cannot fight. It is then that Krishna, the Cosmic Lord, comes to counsel him. Arjuna represents the human soul seated in the chariot of the body and Krishna is the inner Spirit, the God within, who is there to consel him. Today we see humanity divided against itself and threatened with nuclear war and mutual destruction. No political means are adequate to deal with this problem, and many are driven to despair. It is then that the message of the Gita comes to teach us that it is only when we rise above human schemes and calculations and awake to the presence of the indwelling Spirit that we can hope to find the answer to our need.
- Autobiography of a Yogi, by Paramahansa Yogananda
This book is a beautifully written account of an exceptional life and a profound introduction to the ancient science of Yoga and its time-honored tradition of meditation. Profoundly inspiring, it is at the same time vastly entertaining, warmly humorous and filled with extraordinary personages.
- The Himalayan Masters: A Living Tradition, by Pandit Rajmani Tigunait
In a nutshell, this book describes the lives of 8 saints who lived in the Himalayan mountains. The struggles they went through and eventually attaining Self-Realization is truly a source of inspiration for all those souls embarking on the spiritual path. It gives new hope to thousands of people who have decided to embark on the yogic path. And answers common experiences faced by spiritual novices.
- Shakti: An Introduction to Kundalini Maha Yoga, by Shri Dhyanyogi Madhusudhandas
Describing the nature of the universal divine energy of Kundalini and its relationship to spiritual growth, Shri Dhyanyogi Madhusudandasji, a great saint of India and a master of Kundalini Maha yoga, explains how to awaken this dormant energy in spiritual aspirants. In this new edition, Shri Dhyanyogiji shares his energy, wisdom, and technical knowledge of this sacred tradition, making it accessible to both the beginning and the more advanced student of yoga. Featuring helpful charts and diagrams of the chakra system and the 18 major nadis, questions and answers about meditation and the spiritual path, as well as encouraging experiences from students, this guide brings together knowledge that had been formerly unknown outside of this yogic lineage.
- The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies, by Vasant Lad
Based on the ancient healing tradition from India that dates back thousands of years, The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies offers natural alternatives to conventional medicines and treatments with practical advice and easy-to-follow instructions.
- The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho
The only fiction novel on my list, this magical book combines magic, mysticism, wisdom and wonder into an inspiring tale of self-discovery. Paulo Coelho’s masterpiece tells the mystical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure. His quest will lead him to riches far different—and far more satisfying—than he ever imagined. Santiago’s journey teaches us about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, of recognizing opportunity and learning to read the omens strewn along life’s path, and, most importantly, to follow our dreams.
- Light on Meditation, by Shri Dhyanyogi Madhusudhandas
In “Light on Meditation”, Shri Dhyanyogi explains how meditation transforms body, mind and spirit. In his simple down-to-earth voice, he clarifies the meaning of Kundalini, the spiritual energy within us. This vibrant book provides a map for the spiritual seeker, offering clear guidance about how to deal with the victories and challenges along the path.
- The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, by Swami Satchidananda
This valuable book provides a complete manual for the study and practice of Raja Yoga, the path of concentration and meditation. This new edition of these timeless teachings is a treasure to be read and referred to again and again by seekers treading the spiritual path. The classic Sutras (thought-threads), at least 4,000 years old, cover the yogic teachings on ethics, meditation, and physical postures, and provide directions for dealing with situations in daily life. The Sutras are presented here in the purest form, with the original Sanskrit and with translation, transliteration, and commentary by Sri Swami Satchidananda, one of the most respected and revered contemporary Yoga masters. In this classic context, Sri Swamiji offers practical advice based on his own experience for mastering the mind and achieving physical, mental and emotional harmony.
- Raja Yoga, by Swami Vivekananda
This book is a little bit of a hard read, but is packed with such an abundance of wisdom on the practice of Raja Yoga. The method has been called the soul of all the yogas. The emphsis here in on the control of the mind through concentration and meditation. Raja yoga is also called the yoga of meditation. It is regarded as the psychological way to union with God. Rousing the Kundalini is the one and only way to attain Divine Wisdom. The rousing may come in various ways: through love for God, through the mercy of perfected sages, or through the power of the analytic will of the philosopher. Wherever there was any manifestation of what is ordinarily called supernatural power or wisdom, there a little current of Kundalini must have found its way into the Sushumna. Thus, what most people worship under various names, through fear and tribulation, the Yogi declares to the world to be the real power coiled up in every being, the Mother of eternal happiness, if we but know how to approach her. And Raja Yoga is the science of religion, the rationale of all worship, all prayers, forms, ceremonies, and miracles.
I’m excited to share that we were featured in the Editor’s Pick Section of Yoga Journal’s Jan/ Feb 2017 issue :)! If you want to take a peek at this issue, it’ll be on the stands until mid Feb 2017. What a blessing and wonderful way to start the year :)! Can’t wait to see what else 2017 has in store for us!
Thank you for your continued support, we are so grateful!
Lots of love,
Happy New Year, friends!
I don’t know about you, but moving into 2017 has been a very slow process for me :). Generally every New Year’s Day, I wake up excited and energized at the possibilities that lay ahead for the new year. I spend time collaging and choosing a word/phrase and intentions for my year. (Above are a few examples from previous years).
But this year was different. I didn’t seem to have the same enthusiasm as previous years. Between hearing about sad events around the world, getting news that my Guru (spiritual teacher) was still not doing well and just overall feeling a little down, I decided to change up my traditional routine of collaging and opted to paint something instead.
My annual setting intentions process, is pretty simple. I spend time reflecting on my previous year’s accomplishments and learning lessons and then dig deep and dream big of how I want my new year to unfold. This year all the words and phrases that I played with just weren’t resonating; none of them really captured the essence of what was in my heart. I felt so stuck. So, for the past week I did a little dance with this piece….I’d step away from it, then come back and then step away again and then repeat all over.
And then, I had a breakthrough. As I was scrolling through my Instagram feed, I read these words:
“I remember so many times saying that “one day these days will all just be memories”. Time keeps moving, life goes on. What do we do with our precious, precious moments? How do we “spend” our time? Because one day it will all be just memories. May we spend each passing moment in remembrance of God, our eternal nature, and in relationships based on awakening our soul. May I feel deeply connected to my deepest purpose while spending time with people I love, without distracting myself, or thinking that there’s something else that’s more important. These are the moments to remember.”
–Dhyana Masla, founder of Stanton Street Yoga
Keeping God at the helm of my ship, surrounding myself with like people who awaken my soul and living in the right here, right now, distraction free….making these precious moments count…because time does really keep moving and life goes on….these words instantly felt like someone had peeked into my heart and had a conversation with my soul.
So needless to say, this year I don’t have a word or phrase, but a manifesto called Right Here, Right Now. I hope I can truly live this prayer so that all the other stuff—-dreaming big, letting go, growing inside and out, cultivating peace, making healthy decisions, taking risks, believing in myself—-follows naturally.
Thank you Dhyana for your wise, wise words, they are a comfort and joy to me. A compass towards my True North this year.
Happy 2017, everyone!
Lots of love,
What a year it has been :)! Thank you so much for joining me through my 2016 adventure! I feel so fortunate to do what I love to do everyday. I have tons of gratitude for you all!
This holiday season, I hope you have time to slow down, hug your loved ones, count your blessings, have the fortune of doing a random act of kindness and enjoy all things near and dear to your hearts!
With lots of love,