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Rethinking Our Standards

In these days following the Spring Equinox as
Jews have celebrated Purim and begin to prepare for Passover, Pagans have just celebrated Ostara, people of Persian descent have celebrated Nowruz, thousands have traveled to the pre-hispanic Mayan pyramids in Mexico,  and Christians are preparing for Easter,  we are reminded once again of the need to prune overgrowth and get the garden ready. It's time to turn over a new leaf. 
New growth requires direction and thoughtful cultivation. Without a careful gardener, the precious incoming energy of the sun is wasted. 
As we engage in purification and repentance, we are wise to refine our standards. Harvests from prior seasons may not have fulfilled our quotas. 
Even if we are satisfied with our lives, now is a good time to anticipate future needs. 
Get a piece of paper and make a gardener's list: seeds, plants, tools, boxes, soil and anything else you need for your 2017 garden. And for the garden of your life, review these items:Physic…
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Vernal Equinox Blessing

Today, March 20, 2017, marks the Vernal Equinox, one of the two days per year when the sun is positioned directly over the equator. (The Autumnal Equinox will fall on September 22 this year.)
At the Equinox, we experience equal parts of daylight and darkness.

Throughout human history numerous festivals and religious ceremonies have pivoted around the Vernal (Spring) Equinox. The Pagan sabbat of Ostara occurs today and every year at this precise time in the solar year. The Christian festival of Easter is set to occur on the Sunday following the first full moon after the Vernal Equinox. Lent begins 40 days, not counting Sundays, before Easter. So then, the Vernal Equinox always occurs during the period of Lent.

Here in the Northern Hemisphere we gladly welcome the return of more warmth and light! This is an auspicious day, heralding the arrival of fertility and growth. It is an opportune time for new beginnings and for physical and psychological re-balancing.

As opposed to the Summer S…

Ritual Water Purification

       Ablution is the practice of ritual washing for purification before prayer and worship. Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, Shintoism and countless indigenous belief systems incorporate ritual washing into their spiritual practices.

       Purification practices are associated with the liturgical season of Lent since it is a time of repentance and fasting, so now is an opportune time to learn about ablutions. You may find cultural and spiritual resonance with ancient ablution rituals from around the world. Most people are familiar with the mikveh and baptism rituals from Judaism and Christianity, and with zudu, ablution before prayer in the Islamic tradition. Hindus consider rivers in India, especially the Ganges, as sacred spaces for purification. In Catholic churches, there is a holy water font near the entrance so that people coming to worship or pray may symbolically cleanse and bless themselves upon entering--this symbolic action marks a separation b…

Embracing Contrition

Confronting our harmful thoughts, words and actions, then taking steps to remedy them, is part of the spiritual path. Even in New Age spirituality, where positive psychology abounds, a practitioner cannot avoid the deep and painful work of repentance. Before we can replace our "negative thoughts" with "positive affirmations" à la Louise Hay, we must first identify our negative thought patterns, see them for what they are, and purge them from our thinking. In this process, we experience contrition. 

Embracing contrition is painful. Yet, we can experience pain without turning it into chronic suffering. Pain refines us. Pain is inextricable with the human experience. Suffering is a phenomenon born of holding onto pain until it defines us. Contrition is a phenomenon which uses pain to extricate us from suffering. 
For Christians who practice Lent, turning away from our sin (harmful thoughts, words and actions) is inescapable. Lent always comes with healthy side of con…

A Return to Simplicity

One of the central themes of the Lenten season of fasting and spiritual devotion is simplicity. This time of year and its corresponding liturgical season in Christianity align nicely with secular Spring Cleaning efforts! People in the Northern Hemisphere from every culture and background are drawn to detoxifying, purifying and simplifying practices in preparation for a new season of growth. 
In Yoga practice, we endeavor to observe a principle called saucha, the first of the five niyamas. The niyamas are personal observances for cultivating happiness and avoiding suffering. The Sanskrit word "saucha" means inner and outer cleanliness and purity. 
"Saucha is practiced on the physical level by fasting to purge the body of accumulated toxins, by eating pure, vegetarian foods, and by practicing Yoga asanas and pranayama, which also have a cleansing effect on the mental level. We further clean the mind by refraining from sensory stimuli that disturb the mind, such as violent…

Acts of Selfless Service

Selfless service, known as Seva in the Yoga tradition, is another universal spiritual practice. It is one of the main themes of the Bhagavad Gita and a central part of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, the Abrahamic faiths. "For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many," Mark 10:45. "And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, 'If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all'" Mark 9:35. 

Selfless service to others is seen as indirect service to God. 


Meditating on Scripture

16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. Colossians 3:16 King James Version (KJV) When we read a scriptural passage from the Bible, the Koran, the Torah, the Bhagavad Gita, the Dhammapada or even from a spiritual poet like Rumi or Hafez, spending some time before and after our reading to purposefully prepare our hearts and allow the words and their vibrations to settle into us is a powerful practice.  Meditating on scripture is not an intellectual or analytical practice. Instead, it is a devotional practice, aimed at getting our hearts and minds in closer alignment with the Divine. When we prepare ourselves for an indwelling of scripture, we are inviting the indwelling of what Christians call the Holy Spirit.  I love to read scriptures considered sacred in every tradition, because I feel spiritually blessed and enriched witnessing the perfect…