Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Four Steps to Eliminate Hurtful Speech

“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” Thus reads the Ninth Commandment.  An expanded interpretation of this commandment can help us to reduce gossip and hurtful talk in our lives, as the author and psychotherapist Leonard Felder teaches in his book, The Ten Challenges; practically and diligently applied, it will bring us loving restraint and mindfulness in all of our communication. 

Just this week, I commenced a 40 day Sadhana based on self-control and restraint in my communication.  In combination with my focused meditation practice each day, I am giving up Facebook, incessant e-mail checking and all frivolous communication, whether written or verbal.  It is only day 3 of my Sadhana, so I am still very gung-ho and am feeling quite inspired.  However, I realize that a dedicated and mindful application of the Ninth Commandment in my life is a commitment that (hopefully) lasts longer than 40 days; it is a life-long undertaking and I wish for my present incarnation to last a bit longer than 37 more days!  
We have all been hurt by “gossip and hurtful talk,” coming not only from others against us, but also from ourselves against ourselves.  I believe very firmly that the seed of our hurtful talk lies in that place in our minds that churns out negative thoughts about our own self.  

It goes like this: one day I wake up hearing a little voice in my head that says, “You are not good enough.  You need to stop eating sugar today.  You are lazy.  You overslept.  You aren’t going to have time to look your best today.  Think about your friend Jennifer.  She always looks perfect.  You don’t look perfect,” and that voice gets covered up and pushed into the background by daily activities, but if I stop and listen to it, it just keeps talking, on and on.  And no one else hears it.  So no one else can tell it to shut up.  I have to do it.  And when I don’t shut that voice up, it starts to spill out of my mouth, in the form of hurtful words about: you got it! Other people!  

I may see someone else that day looking at me askance, and I may look back at that person and start criticizing him in my mind, harmonizing with that voice that has been criticizing me.  I may say to my husband seated next to me, “Would you look at that guy?  My God, does he ever smile? What a gloomy asshole!”  And I might be talking to someone else I know in common with that man, and I might say, “Have you ever had a truly pleasant conversation with that man?”  And in that moment, I might get some kind of momentary satisfaction from venting about that man to someone else who knows him.  But everyone in that exchange loses: I lose, because I am just amplifying the critical, hurtful voices in my mind rather than quieting them.  The listener loses because their perception of the man I spoke about becomes colored by my negative words, and also because they absorb the negative energy of what I said.  And certainly, the man I spoke negatively about loses, because we have just added to the negative thought energy surrounding him, which is probably making it even more difficult for him to respond cheerfully to other people.  And it is in this way that our negativity about ourselves just snowballs, creating a big negative energy field in our homes and in our communities.  We have the power to stop this from happening! We really can nip hurtful talk in the bud!
                                                                                                                                                                               Here is a time-tested prescription for putting a lid on gossip and hurtful talk.  I have personally tested it.  It works.  I don't do this all of the time, but I am doing it more and more.  These are habits that can become second nature:  
1. Be very aware of your thoughts;    
2. When you pick up on negative inner chatter about yourself, just listen to it for a bit, accept it, then step back and let it go.  Don’t freeze and panic and try to clamp down on it.  Just listen intently for a little bit… and sit up in your objective seat in your mind…and then watch that chatter just peter out and walk right out the door of your mind, just like it walked in.  In other words, don’t identify with that negative chatter, and it will lose its power over you; 
3. When you feel tempted to say anything at all about another person, stop yourself before you open your mouth.  This is not as easy as it sounds.  In order to practice doing this, it’s a good idea to stop yourself before you say anything at all, just to get in the habit of stopping.  So when you stop, you will have grabbed ahold of a single thought.  Once you have caught it in your thought net, look at it and see if it looks like any other thoughts you have been noticing lately.  If it looks anything like any of the negative thoughts you were listening to earlier, when you were sitting up in your objective seat, then it’s another thought that you can let go.  Let it walk out, and you will have stopped yourself from uttering hurtful talk.  Finally, here is a way to start repairing all of that negative karma you have thrown out into your family and community through past hurtful talk:  
4. Get quiet and still, during prayer and/or meditation, and then apologize; first, apologize to yourself for your negative attitude towards you, then envision the people, one by one, that you have gossiped or talked negatively about in the past; as an image of each of these people comes into your mind, focus your concentration on that image and when you are ready, tell that person how sorry you are about what you said; once you sense that the person has received your apology (you may not sense this, and indeed, that person may not receive the apology yet), then send that person love and support, visualizing brilliant, glowing light surrounding him or her. 
If you follow the four steps above, not only will you greatly curb your instinct to gossip or engage in hurtful talk, you will also begin to repair the negative impact of your hurtful words from the past.  The final step, of energetically repairing harm that has been done, can take a while, so do not force it.  If you still feel aversion for a person you have hurt with your negative words, you will have to work with letting that aversion go before anything can be repaired.  Meditation and prayer will get you there more quickly than just letting time take its course.  You will know when you are ready to go back and heal the hurt, within yourself and surrounding that other individual.  And when you send him or her love and light, you will both feel it.  The feeling may not be conscious, but you will notice the next time you see or hear from that person that something has shifted.  If not; go back and do the final step over again. 

I do not believe that negative words are like "feathers in the wind.”  To some extent, the ripple effect of the words will continue indefinitely and run its course, but if we use our power to energetically heal the hurt that was caused, we can make a huge impact.  As Leonard Felder points out in the ninth chapter of The Ten Challenges, our “inner intention” matters exponentially more than the external result of our speech.  The energy at the heart of any action is what we need to work with.  Developing awareness of how our words are either meant for “harm or good” is key to the elimination of gossip and hurtful talk. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

On Hinduism

       Below are the contents of my open-book exam on Hinduism.  I am sharing this here for anyone like me, who is looking to broaden her knowledge and experience of the world's faiths.  As a yogini, this one is particularly meaningful for me, however I must include the disclaimer that my study program is not academic in nature; while the information contained herein is very likely accurate, it is necessarily schematic and superficial.  It is based on initial study and personal reflection.  Hinduism has been a personal interest of mine for 20 years, and in our program we attempt to bring respect and diligent effort to the study of many faiths; therefore, in spite of the superficial presentation of this information, I hope that someone can find it inspirational.

1.    What are the four desires Hinduism recognizes? What, if anything, surprises you about these desires? Which one is the most meaningful for you, personally?

The four desires are Pleasure, Worldly Success, Duty, and Liberation.  Truthfully, nothing surprises me about the desires that drive humans.  I feel that all of my actions have resulted from these desires and as I age I am moving further up the rung of desires so that I can base a greater number of my actions on achieving the goal of Moksha, or liberation.  Liberation is most certainly the most meaningful for me, personally.  I have been very disillusioned with the pursuit of worldly success.  I am able to achieve goals that I pursue diligently and have proven to myself that I can compete in the world, but I have always disdained competition, from childhood.  Duty is becoming more appealing to me. I like volunteering and serving my community.  I am always a sucker for pleasure, and I am not ashamed of this.  However, liberation is what my soul truly seeks. 

2.    Describe the difference between Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga and Raja Yoga; describe how each one can be practiced.  If you had to choose one, what would your path be?

Jnana Yoga is “the path to the [Divine] through Knowledge,” as described by Huston Smith.  It is the transcendent, transpersonal path to God, passing first through the intellect in order to subdue the mind, and arriving at the center of being and Oneness with All.  Jnana Yoga is the steepest path, followed by the most ardent philosophers.  The Jnani walks this path by training the mind with intense dedication and precision.  First, the Jnani studies philosophy, theology, and sacred scripture.  Second, the Jnani studies herself.  Third, the Jnani connects with the Eternal in herself, via spiritual practice.  She begins to see more deeply.  She begins to understand not only with the mind, but with the deepest part of her being, that there is truly no separation.  In the end, the Jnani merges with God and with All.  The veil lifts and being shifts into the Eternal. 

Bhakti Yoga is the path to the Divine through love and devotion.  It is the path of the lover of God, deeply personal and emotional.  This path stands in apparent opposition to the Jnana path, because of its personal rather than transpersonal approach to the Divine.  According to the way of the Bhakta, the Divine is the ultimate Other whom we are called to seek, worship and adore with all our hearts, with all we are. 
The Bhakti walks her path with her hand in the hand of the Divine, building upon her devotion with each step.  She is ruled by Love, and carried by the flow of Love for the Divine, into the Ocean of Love.  Following her deepest longing and dedicating her life to the Divine, her thoughts and actions are devoted to achieving union with her Beloved. 

Karma Yoga: This is the path to the Divine through work.  The Karma Yogini acts tirelessly, seeking union with God through dedicating the substance of her actions to the Divine.  This is not the way of the dreamer or the philosopher.  This is the way of the busy and selfless servant.  The Karma Yogini transcends her finite existence through losing herself in her work.  “Like the center of a rapidly spinning wheel, they seem still-emotionally still-even when they are intensely busy.  It is like the stillness of absolute motion.” This is my favorite quote from Huston Smith’s description of Karma Yoga.  I imagine the selfless director of an orphanage, working day and night in the service of needy children, running after them and teaching them, clothing them, feeding them and protecting them. This orphanage director also spends countless hours working in her office, preparing adoption paperwork, applying for grants and keeping track of every detail about each child she shelters.  In this work, the work of her life, she achieves union with God.

Raja Yoga: This is the path for the person of “scientific bent.”  Raja Yoga is practiced through completing “psychophysical” exercises in succession.  The method involves the whole person, an entrainment of the mind and body to reach the depths of the soul.  A Raja Yogini will have a dedicated Asana practice and a rigorous meditation schedule that will afford her great self-awareness as well as increased comfort in the physical and mental bodies.  This path is less heady than the Jnana path and less emotional than the Bhakti path, while it is also more mental in nature than the Karmic path.  It appears to be a blend of the other three paths, with a more precise focus on meditation.  I know that it is supposed be distinct from the other three, but I see elements of each of them in Raja Yoga.  I think that modern yogis and yoginis are mostly walking the Raja path.  I include myself in that group, although I am a Jnani at heart.  So I would choose Jnana if I had to choose; but practically speaking, I am following the Raja path. 

3.      Describe:
A.                          Samsara: The endless cycle of death and rebirth in this physical realm.  Samsara ends in the attainment of Moksha (liberation).
B.                          Karma: The doctrine of Karma is closely related to the Western concept of the law of cause and effect.  Karma is action and the fruits of action.  Karma exists in conjunction with Samsara; Karma perpetuates Samsara.  We cannot escape from the spiritual law of reaping that which we sow.  We reap in experiences that which we sow in thought and action. 
C.                          Maya: Maya is the direct experience of the sensory stimuli that surround us as human beings.  Maya is what we perceive of our environment with our senses.  It is not the true nature of reality, but it is what appears to us through our sense organs and the perceiving aspects of our minds. 
D.                          Lila: This is “God’s play,” the spontaneous, creative manifestations of the Divine in the Universe.  We cannot discern any rhyme or reason within Lila, as it is the playful, free will of the Divine unfolding in the Universe. 

4.     Choose one sentence in Ramakrishna’s statement (“Many Paths to the Same Summit”) that is particularly important to you and summarize it in your own words. 

Bow down and worship where others kneel, for where so many have been paying the tribute of adoration the kind Lord must manifest himself, for he is all mercy.” As children of the Creator and followers of our chosen paths to the Divine, we are all one in the family of God.  We can worship with all of our hearts, in complete confidence, in any setting.  I can pray to Adonai in a synagogue, a mosque, a Hindu temple, a yoga studio, a Catholic church, a Protestant church, or standing next to the Ocean.  I see the entirety of humanity as my brothers and sisters.  I know that my Lord is with me wherever any are gathered in honor of any form of the Divine. 

5.     What is the one most important aspect of Hinduism that resonates for you?

The aspect of Hinduism which resonates the most for me is the belief in one God, Brahman, from which everything flows, and Who becomes incarnate on Earth for the salvation of humankind.  From the Bhagavad Gita: “Than Me no other higher thing whatsoever exists,[…], On Me all this (universe) is strung, Like heaps of pearls on a string” (VII; 7).  “For whenever of the right a languishing appears, […]A rising up of unright, Then I send Myself forth.  For protection of the good, And for destruction of evil-doers, To make a firm footing for the right, I come into being in age after age.  My wondrous birth and actions, Whoso knows thus as they truly are, On leaving the body, to rebirth he goes not; to Me he goes, Arjuna!” (IV;7-9).

6.     Identify the following names:

Arjuna: He was a great warrior and the friend and brother-in-law of Lord Krishna.  The Bhagavad Gita is the lesson given by Krishna to Arjuna before the great battle of Kurukshetra. 
Krishna: Lord Krishna is the incarnation of the Divine most dear to the hearts of Hindus and Yogis.  I love Krishna.  He is the brother of Jesus Christ (to me, and to many of us).  He is the eighth and complete avatar of Vishnu, the Preserver.  He is the voice behind the Bhagavad Gita.  Gopala is the infant form of Krishna.  Hence, I see Gopala as the brother of Baby Jesus.  Krishna was God made man.  According to the Gita, all incarnations are from the same God (Brahman), and I believe this to be true.  They are one in the same Spirit. 
Kali: She is the Destroyer Goddess, wife of Shiva.  Kali destroys the power of the Finite so that we may unite with the Infinite.  She is to be greatly revered and her love is fierce.  She is often depicted standing on the body of Shiva, sword in hand.  When I envision Kali, I see a magnificent fire breathing beast with black clouds behind her. 
Lakshmi: She is the Hindu Goddess who embodies grace, beauty and charm.  She is celebrated principally at the Hindu festival of Diwali.  She is the principal Goddess of abundance, both material and ethereal, as well as the Goddess of fertility. 
Mohandas (“Mahatma”) Gandhi: Mahatma means, “Great Soul.”  Mohandas Gandhi was the greatest political and ideological leader of India during her rise to independence.  He is principally known for his doctrine and practice of non-violent resistance to tyranny.  He was an international champion of civil rights and women’s rights and tirelessly fought for justice throughout his life.  It is very difficult to give any kind of an accurate description of Gandhi’s life without going into several pages of detail.  Suffice it to say, he should be declared a Saint by every faith.  My favorite Gandhi quote is “You must be the change that you wish to see in the world.”
Ramakrishna:  He was “the greatest Hindu saint of the nineteenth century.”  He was an interfaith pioneer.  In our training, we should all give a daily thought of gratitude to Ramakrishna for the work he did in furtherance of interfaith understanding.  He was a brilliant mystic, who studied Tantra, Bhakti Yoga and non-dual meditation among all of his other Hindu training.  He was a Hindu priest.  He also spent parts of his life following Islam and Christianity. 

7.     Write a response to a selection of your choice from the Bhagavad Gita or other sacred Hindu text. 

I have chosen Chapter II, verses 11-25.  Quoting from Franklin Edgerton’s commentary in his translation: “Arjuna sees in the ranks of the opposing army a large number of his own kinsmen and intimate friends.  He is horror-stricken at the thought of fighting against them, and forthwith lays down his weapons, saying he would rather be killed than kill them.” Krishna then speaks to Arjuna of the imperishability of the soul, the impermanence of the body, and the illusion of being passing into non-being. 

“Thou hast mourned those who should not be mourned, and yet thou speakest words about wisdom!  Dead and living men the truly learned do not mourn.  But not in any respect was I (ever) not, nor thou, nor these kings; And not at all shall we ever come not to be, all of us, henceforward.  As to the embodied (soul) in this body come childhood, youth, old age, so the coming to another body; The wise man is not confused herein.  But contacts with matter, son of Kunti, cause cold and heat, pleasure and pain; They come and go and are impermanent; Put up with them, son of Bharata! For whom these contacts do not cause to waver, the man, O bull of men, to whom pleasure and pain are alike, the wise, he is fit for immortality.  Of what is not, no coming to be occurs; No coming not to be occurs of what is; But the dividing line of both is seen, of these two, by those who see the truth.  But know that this is indestructible, by which this all is pervaded; Destruction of this imperishable one no one can cause.  These bodies come to an end, it is declared, of the eternal embodied (soul), which is indestructible and unfathomable.  Therefore fight, son of Bharata!  Who believes him a slayer, and who thinks him slain, both these understand not: He slays not, is not slain.  Who knows as indestructible and eternal this unborn, imperishable one, that man, son of Prtha, how can he slay or cause to slay—whom? As leaving aside worn-out garments, a man takes other, new ones, so leaving aside worn-out bodies to other, new ones goes the embodied (soul).  Swords cut him not, fire burns him not, water wets him not, wind dries him not.  Not to be cut is he, not to be burnt is he, not to be wet nor yet dried; Eternal, omnipresent, fixed, immovable, everlasting is he.  Unmanifest he, unthinkable he, unchangeable he is declared to be; Therefore knowing him thus thou shouldst not mourn him.”
I chose this passage because it brought peace and joy to my soul.  I recognized these words as truth.  These are words that echo my inner knowing of my own nature.  We are truly free beings if we can let go of fear.  As Jesus says in Luke 12;4, “…do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more.”  As Krishna and Jesus teach, how wonderful for us to be able to get out from under the fear of losing our bodies to death.  How wonderful for us to truly know that our souls are eternal, that fire burns us not.  And from this seed of truth we can begin to develop equanimity, that supreme giver of inner peace.  As we learn to sit in meditation in the presence of the Holy One, we can begin to shed layer upon layer of aversion and attachment.  We can continually grow in inner strength, our minds coming more and more into alignment with our imperishable souls for whom pleasure and pain are truly indifferent; because our souls are rooted, seated, forever secure in the foundation of the Almighty.  I had a vivid dream as a young child in which I saw masked robbers celebrating in Heaven around an immense, golden fountain.  I knew then that life after death includes everyone, and our Earthly notions of Good vs. Evil and Pleasure vs. Pain no longer apply, as they do in this Earthly realm.  I believe that there is a realm where the limitations of our physical bodies no longer hold us back.  In this realm, we are joined with the Divine.  I do personally believe in reincarnation, but I also believe in the ceasing of Samsara, a time when we will no longer be embodied souls. As it is written in the Koran, “To God we belong, to Him is our return.”  God created us from Himself, and as He has always existed, so have we always existed.  We do not pass from non-being into being, nor do we pass from being into non-being.  Hinduism and Buddhism teach us that such a passage is an illusion.  We are temporarily tied to our physical bodies, yet as spiritual beings we come to increase our faith in the Divine, and as our faith grows, so our deeper knowledge grows.  And we develop the strength and courage to “put up with” heat and cold, pleasure and pain, clinging to that which is permanent.  The path truly does grower brighter and brighter to the full day of our enlightenment. 
WWrite a description/impression of your site visit/experiential this month:

The description below was prompted by my visits to a Hanuman Temple in Watsonville, California.  I visited that temple in January of 2010.  Since that time, my knowledge of Hinduism and Yoga has progressed quite a bit, however I feel like I picked up the particular divine energy of that place during my visit.  I was staying for several nights in a cabin just up the hill from the temple.  I awoke to the sound of the bells ringing in the temple each morning of my retreat.  I felt a distinct Holy presence during my entire stay at Mount Madonna (the location of the retreat).  I saw many Hindus in traditional dress making a pilgrimage to the temple.  I now realize that the Hanuman temple was where I experienced my first kirtan (chanting the Hanuman chalisa).  Since then, I have chanted in an audience with Krishna Das, in my yoga classes, and in a local kirtan group.  I sometimes chant mantras in Sanskrit before I meditate.  My children like to chant mantras as well, even though they don’t yet realize what they are doing.  They chant, “Wahe guru wahe guru wahe guru,” and “Gobinda Gobinda Hari Hari.”  I love it.  There were families with young children in the Hanuman temple, and we sat on the floor for worship.  I felt at home.  I plan to visit the Ganesha Temple in Queens, but I am including this site description in my homework in case I don’t get the chance to write up my Ganesha experience before class.  I dearly loved the Hanuman temple and plan to return to Mount Madonna Center. 

“The Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple is a sacred place of worship used primarily by the residents of the community and many Hindu visitors, although it is open to the public.  As the name implies, the temple is dedicated to Hanuman, a Hindu deity.  Hanuman is sometimes referred to as The Monkey God.  I was told that his primary quality is selfless service, as reflected in the values of the Mount Madonna Center.  As a visitor, I was invited to attend two daily services, one at 6:30 a.m. and the other at 6:00 p.m.  I attended three of the evening services.  These were joyful experiences of praise and worship of the Divine, complete with various musical instruments and beautiful bells hanging at multiple points across the entrance, perimeter and covering of the open air temple.  I especially enjoyed ringing the bells.  I also sang, or attempted to sing songs of praise which had been thoughtfully written out in the English alphabet with various accent marks to assist in pronunciation.  I was invigorated and inspired by these rhythmic chants, which I believe were the Hanuman Arati.  I plan to buy a CD containing the Hanuman Arati and the Hanuman Chalisa.  At the end of the service, everyone was invited to receive the tilak forehead mark and to partake of the Prasad, which consisted of sweet foods placed into the hands to be immediately consumed.  We were then invited to partake of blessed fruit from a large basket.  I interpreted this as receiving the bounty provided for us by the Divine following our material offerings along with our offerings of prayer and worship.  I loved the beauty and simplicity of the service and appreciated being allowed into a Hanuman temple as a woman since this is forbidden in orthodox Hindu practice.” 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Embodied Spiritual Practice: Yielding to the Flow of Grace

It has been two years since I started attending Mary-Ann Mastreani's yoga classes in Irvington, NY. Mary-Ann has greatly inspired me with the example of her embodied spiritual practice.  After one class, I overheard another student telling her something that I have often thought: "I love coming to your classes.  I listen to what you say, but your message flows through your movement, and even the sound of your voice is healing."

My church pastor, Anthony Stephens, recently wrote to our congregation about embodied spiritual practice.  Living out our faith is holistic, empowering and transformational;  we have to jump in, mind, body and soul.  What good is disembodied spirituality in a material world?  When we connect to Spirit on a deep level, we power up our minds and bodies.  As we grow spiritually, the light of God will shine through our eyes, our skin, our speech, our voice, our physical movements.  We will step into our power as new creatures.  Christians refer to this transformation as a "new birth."  A Jewish friend once said to me about a Christian woman we know, "When she smiles, I see the light of Christ in her face."  That's a powerful testimony.  

When I think about embodied spirituality, my teacher Mary-Ann definitely comes to mind.  As I see her, she is a spiritual warrior.  She spoke freely to our class about her 10 day silent meditation retreat in 2011.  She has shared with us the fruits of her vipassana meditation practice as she helps herself and others to defeat our maras.  Her dharma talks and the readings she chooses always tie into the asana practice she demonstrates.  Her practice is characteristically strong and graceful.  The substance of each of her lessons is expressed through movement, and this, for me, is a new way of approaching my spiritual practice.

My pastor has also exemplified an embodied spiritual practice through participating in marathons, triathlons, karate and more recently, yoga.  I have heard him and other runners I know speak about running as a meditative practice.

My husband Jamie is a lifelong swimmer, and has told me that swimming is similar to yoga for him, in that it calms and restrains the mind.  

To keep my spiritual practice embodied, I now set physical goals that link up to my spiritual goals.  I have recently worked on opening my heart.  In the Bible, there are many references to the "hardness of [our] hearts;" yogis speak often of healing and opening through the heart.  Spiritually, we can open our hearts through prayer, heart-to-heart communication with God and with others, laughing and crying (allowing emotion to flow), singing and chanting.  As my heart opens, my asana practice changes; the heart based poses start opening up to me.  This is an ongoing process.  When I first came to yoga, I had a back injury.  Back-bending was not happening for me.  Over the course of several years, I am finding great relief and release through camel (ustrasana), wheel (urdhva dhanurasana), locust (shalabhasana) and bow pose (dhanurasana). 

For 2012, my spiritual goals are boldness and confidence.  "Be strong, be bold, don't be afraid or frightened of them, for ADONAI your God is going with you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you" (Deuteronomy 31:6).  I pray this year for the strength and courage to walk my path upright, without fear.  In my asana practice, this will translate into stronger inversions and arm balances.  Because of fear, I still do my headstand practice (sirsasana) next to a wall, but my goal is to practice it unsupported going forward.   I also hope to overcome my fear of arm balances which is holding back my practice.  

A woman in my church congregation has recently opened up about her struggle with cancer, and how she has been sustained through spiritual practice and the support of other believers.  She says she is now stronger than ever, in mind, body and spirit.  I know that others in her church and yoga communities are inspired by her example.  She is now opening up to the new possibilities born of emerging from illness.  

Following my prolonged illness with Lyme disease diagnosed in late stages, and  having suffered from the resulting nerve damage on the left side of my body, I can relate very much to a feeling of mental, physical and spiritual transformation.  I am not who I was before.  But neither are any of us.  No matter how static our lives may appear to us, and no matter how well we think we know ourselves... we must be reminded that the only constant is change.  We are constantly being transformed, whether we like it or not.  We have the power to decide if we want that transformation to occur in accordance with our Higher Selves.  Ultimately our bodies will succumb to decay, but we can always grow in spirit, reaching ever new heights.  In closing, please find below the song lyrics that Mary-Ann Mastreani read to our class last Wednesday.  I thought of these words today when I heard my pastor speak about finding a new calling in life, and then saw what another parishioner wrote about finding a new purpose following illness.  This is a recurring theme everywhere I go!

The only constant is change. The only constant is change. Go...

The human heart is born without legs, sliding back and forth,
And never once does it truly rest, unless accompanied by death... Sliding back and forth.

Even the strongest remnants of history, they have begun to crumble against time.
Sliding back and forth.

The only constant is change. Nothing remains the same.
The only constant is change. There's only growth or decay.

Let's go... Unvarying scenes only found in pictures can never breathe life.
For nowhere else does level ground exist, unless it has been captured by a flash of steady light.

Sliding back and forth,
The only constant is change. Uncertainty awaits.
The only constant is change. There's only growth or decay...
The only constant is change.

There is nothing that stays the same, from the foundation of our lives.
There is nothing that stays the same. There is nothing to erase time.

The only constant is change. Nothing remains the same.
The only constant is change. There's only growth or decay...
The only constant is change. The only constant is change.

(Lyrics from the song, The Only Constant is Change, by the band: As I Lay Dying)

(Image by Bethany Webb,