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Do Bodhi Seeds Make Good Malas?

February 24, 2011 on 10:00 am

Dear Spiritual Explorer: I am tired of seeing those multi colored crystal malas that seem shallow. I feel that a mala should carry the resonance of the earth, sun and sky so that one can truly connect to Spirit. Joan Namath, Berkeley, CA


Bodhi Seed & Turquoise Mala

Dear Joan: Well, that is a tall order, but I do think I have exactly what you want in Ma’s India. It is the Tibetan Bodhi Seed and Turquoise Mala. The Bodhi tree is presumably the tree under which Buddha sat after becoming disappointed that his austerities did not bring him the enlightenment he hoped for. It was only after he rested and perhaps had a cup of soup or tea that he fell into an exhausted sleep and woke up enlightened. What was the difference? As the story goes, it was that he gave up the” I” who was always interested in achievement, When he finally resigned himself to the futility of the ego attempting to kill the ego, his ego died, and Buddha came into full realization of himself. What a perfect story tracing the lineage of a mala.

The Bodhi Seed and Turquoise Mala can also remind one of the stories of a man who realized his humanness and consequent frailities as a human being. Many spiritual folks still hope for transcendence rather than acceptance of themselves. Within the many streams of Buddhism, there is this new secular quality where people are encouraged to develop compassion and acceptance rather than lofty ideals of transcendence. This Bodhi Seed and Turquoise Mala has 108 Bodhi seeds and three turquoise stones adding to beauty and spirituality.

I feel the Bodhi Seed and Turquoise Mala will integrate all those things you have asked for. The Bodhi Seed and Turquoise mala has a wonderful sandalwood scent emanating from the Bodhi seeds. The Bodhi seeds are firmly cast and originate from Bodhi trees in the middle of the Himalayas.

What makes the Bodhi Seed and Turquoise Mala super attractive are the turquoise stones set amongst these Bodhi seeds which add an additional element of the earth. The purpose of turquoise has long been to carry the essence of the earth. When one combines the beauty and round shape of turquoise with the “earthiness “of sandalwood in this mala, you will find yourself present to both the earth and sky influence. Sit in your meditation wearing your mala, imagining the winds of the Himalayas blowing at your back while the vibrations of Mother Earth rise upwards to pervade your very being. What bliss!

Thanks for writing, Spiritual Explorer

If you have a question you would like to ask, send me your question. Ask The Spiritual Explorer

Key Poses of Yoga by Ray Long, M.D.

February 22, 2011 on 10:00 am

Dear Spiritual Explorer: Could you recommend for me a book about the structural aspects of Hatha Yoga? Ron Spires, Indianapolis, IN


Key Poses of Yoga – Volume 2

Dear Ron: As a former massage therapist and yoga practitioner, I heartily recommend Key Poses of Yoga – Volume 2 by Ray Long, M.D. It’s kind of an “everything you ever wanted to know” book about the body, especially the muscles and bones and their performance in the body. Written by Dr. Long, a board certified orthopedic surgeon, you also benefit from his study of Hatha yoga for over 20 years, traveling to India to study with B.K.S. Iyengar and other leading Yoga masters.

What also bring to life this extraordinary book of Hatha yoga are the illustrations by Chris Macivor who has digitally reproduced what he calls “the biomechanical perfection of the human body.” Other than being an inimitable book for yoga practitioners, this is a book for anybody who has wished to know the “inside and outside” of their own bodies so they might reclaim the inherent wisdom within them. If not often explicitly said, sometimes being caught up in achievement, practitioners sometimes forget that Hatha Yoga aims for control and mastery of the body to achieve balance not only in the body, but in the mind. When one can achieve this balance of the body through Hatha yoga, one can hope to still and quell the restless longings of the mind which take us from our serenity and peace.

Part one of the Key Poses of Yoga is about the science behind the biomechanics and physiology of yoga. Part Two, wonderfully illustrated, is learning about the specific poses. Part Two is also the practice of yoga which includes familiar poses and additional chapters devoted to “hip openers,” “forward bends,” “twists,” back bends,”etc., each one showing the form and function of the different muscles and how they activate the joints and bones. Appendix A is a reference for individual joint movement and Appendix B reviews muscle and bone names and locations on the body.

No longer content to just do mindlessly the postures of Hatha yoga, practitioners now desire to become more mindful of the function of their muscles as they exercise them. This book on yoga should be a required subject for both yoga teachers and practitioners.

Thanks for writing, Spiritual Explorer

If you have a question you would like to ask, send me your question. Ask The Spiritual Explorer

The Story of Parvati

February 17, 2011 on 10:00 am

Dear Spiritual Explorer: I am confused as to whether Siva’s wife is named Parvati or Uma. Nancy Lewiston, Oklahoma City, OK


Statue of Parvati

Dear Nancy: The names Uma and Parvati are usually interchangeable in Hindu lore with some differences between the two goddesses. For instance, after the death of Shiva’s first love, Sati, Shiva isolated himself in a cave and rejected the world because he was so distraught. Shiva, immersed in meditation, was oblivious to some of the problems of the gods, and as he performed his austerities and became even more powerful, it was for naught because of his stance of isolation. The gods invoked Shakti, the mother-goddess who swore to make him father a child. Shakti took birth as Parvati, who became determined to make him her consort. This is another example of interchangeability of the goddess’s names. Each one reflects the qualities of the original goddess Shakti, but with slight variations to reflect a goddess’s unique personality. A wonderful replication of Parvati is the Parvati statue ”which reflects Parvati’s beauty through the pseudo marble patina of the statue.

Every day, Parvati would visit Shiva’s cave, sweep the floor, decorate it with flowers and offer him fruits. But Shiva remained steadfast in his mediations and never opened his eyes to see Parvati. Even Kama, lord of desire, who shot arrows dripping with desire into the heart of Shiva, could not influence him. Parvati, then vowed to find another way to rouse Shiva from his despondency.

Parvati went into the forest and performed rigorous austerities. Parvati matched Shiva in her capacity to cut herself off from the world and completely master her physical needs, and therefore, Parvati eventually won the admiration of Shiva. Shiva then accepted Parvati as his wife and took her to the highest peak of the cosmos, Mt. Kailasa. When one hears the story of Parvati’s austerities, they are usually attributed to Uma. While Parvati is considered a benign goddess as opposed to Kali and Durga, Uma is considered the more motherly aspect of Shakti, the original Mother source incarnated as Parvati.

Parvati awakened Shiva’s concern for the world by questioning him on various issues. Shiva then revealed the secrets of the Tantras and the Vedas to Parvati that he had gathered in eons of meditation. Inspired by Parvati’s beauty, Shiva sang and danced and thus pleased the gods who were happy to see his enchantment with Parvati.

Great question. Thanks for writing. Spiritual Explorer

If you have a question you would like to ask, send me your question. Ask The Spiritual Explorer

Cultivating Well Being and Peace For Children

February 15, 2011 on 10:00 am

Dear Spiritual Explorer: Is there any meditation music designed specifically for children? Joan Miro, Minneapolis, MN

Dear Joan: Yes there are meditation pieces of children, and I would certainly recommend heartily “Meditation for Kids” by Sada. Sada is a songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and melody maker who loves to write music for yoga, meditation and healing, designed to both comfort and please.


Meditation for Kids by Sada

2008 saw Sada’s debut release “Huna,” a collection of sings suitable for massage which she says, are “filled with unpretentious melodies accessible and contagious.” I think that is how one could also describe Meditation for Kids.

One has only to see the cover of this children’s meditation CD with rainbows, boats and balloons, to know that the children meditations, accompanied by soothing music and gentle sound effects, will be tantalizing and appealing. These children’s meditations are suitable for children 3 to 8. Allow me to list a few of the titles of this children meditation CD: Angel bedtime meditation, Dragon, Sleepy night garden, Turtle meditation, Camp fire friends and the Gayatri mantra. The Gayatri mantra is the foremost mantra in Hinduism which inspires wisdom and illumination. Its meaning is “May the Almighty God illuminate our intellect to lead us along the righteous path.” I don’t think one needs go any further than to look at these titles to know that these children’s meditations will bring one into a place of peace.

It is never too early to encourage children to engage in meditation for peace and sense of self. I have spoken before of pregnant women meditating with the purpose of instilling a meditative state in their unborn children. I cannot think of a better gift to a child than to instill a sense of self and peace with these children’s meditations. Our children through meditation will then have a skill all their lives to consume life. It is interesting to me that mothers and fathers are anxious to put their children into the best schools so as to give them the most advantages in their later years. How much more sensible to impart tools of meditation that cultivate within the child a sense of well being and calmness to cope with and perhaps even enjoy aspects of this ever more complicated world of ours.

Thanks for writing, Spiritual Explorer

If you have a question you would like to ask, send me your question. Ask The Spiritual Explorer

Great Saints Who Carry the Burden of Humanity

February 4, 2011 on 10:00 am

Dear Spiritual Explorer: Where was Christ in the intervening years before he began his ministry? Jerry Smith, Biloxi, MS


Yogic Christ

Dear Jerry: I have heard your question re-phrased: Was Christ a Yogi? While I am not a biblical scholar, particularly in dating events,I must say that there is a real mystery as to how Christ spent his years after he was 12 and when he began his ministry at the approximate age of 33. It is also interesting to note that many people begin their true spiritual journey around the same age, and those years are called familiarly the Christ years. There has been a strong belief that Christ spent a number of those years in India where he developed a more enlightened and peaceful approach to how to deal with humanity. This of course was a great departure from the God of the Jews which depicted God as quite an angry and vengeful soul when his commands were not carried out. Those of us who prefer that characterization of Christ would particularly like the Yogic Christ Statue depicting Christ in a very peaceful and yogic pose, unlike conventional statues of Christ showing him suffering on a cross.

This brings me to my next insight into those who have adopted the faith of Christ even though the representation of him has been one of a truly suffering deity nailed to a cross. I congratulate these people on their faith and that they did not need some outward show of bliss in order to believe their God was Christ. In fact, I have met one unique scholar of Christ who told me that Christ on the cross has a very deep and esoteric meaning. This woman who had spent many years in a monastery, told me of a vision she had experienced of Christ carrying the cross. As she saw Christ laboring under this enormous burden, she felt she suddenly realized the true nature of that symbol. She stated that the vertical and horizontal posts were representative of men and women and as Christ labored under the cross, he was helping carrying the burden of humanity. She said she was inclined to believe the message because while she was seeing Christ in that vision, she was also experiencing an extraordinary compassion for Christ which extended to an enormous feeling of love and compassion for humanity.

While I personally do not subscribe to the idea of original sin, I do acknowledge that there are great souls on this earth known as saints and gurus, who help us carry the burden of, if not of sins, other human traits that come with an earthly, egoic existence, that we wish to transcend or convert and that these holy people‘s total sacrifice is to help us carry the enormous weight of what I call a burden. For this I am most grateful for people like Christ, Buddha, Ma Jaya, Ramana Maharshi, Nityananda, etc.

How lucky are those who have been in the presence of some of these great saints!

If you have a question you would like to ask, send me your question. Ask The Spiritual Explorer

Notes from the Spiritual Explorer: Reviewing Our Lives

February 2, 2011 on 10:00 am


Practing Peace in Times of War

As we mature in life, it is a common practice to review our lives and reassess our accomplishments during our lifetime. Sometimes we have regrets and feel that we have not lived up to some of our desires for prominence or accomplishment. With those thoughts, we vow to once again make the same promises that perhaps are not very realistic such as hoping to become wealthy or lose weight, two very popular aspirations, or make other radical changes in our lives. It is during this time that I think of what constitutes a real potential for success and what perhaps constitutes a fantasy that eventually winds up with our feeling disappointed in ourselves. On a personal level, I have thought of my own preoccupation with losing those pounds that I have carried around for many years and have not lost yet. This time, however, I realized that I had a choice to either berate myself for that disappointment, or perhaps take a page out of Pema Chodron’s Practicing Peace in Times of War where she talks about exploring the origins of aggression and war, explaining that they lie nowhere but within our own hearts and minds. She further talks about how we respond to these challenges can potentially create a culture of compassion or one of equal violence.

On a personal level it makes me think that sometimes we do violence with ourselves when we require a certain standard and struggle against our own personality and habits with aggression also. I am beginning to understand that what is needed is to cultivate compassion towards ourselves primarily for what we have considered as our failures or frailities. This does not mean that we just sit back and become apathetic. No, I feel that what is needed is that we begin again; we get on that wagon or bicycle again and emulate Sisyphus who rolled that boulder up the mountain only to find it rolling back as soon as it reached the top. For those who don’t know, Sisyphus stole fire from the gods and was condemned to roll a boulder up a mountain that when reaching the top, rolled down again. The point was that he would never enjoy the fruits of success or accomplishment. That great existentialist Albert Camus speaks of how Sisyphus, aware of the futility of his burden, eventually “let go” of his hopes of accomplishment and enjoyed the trip for what it was, allowing himself to feel the sun on his back and the view of the trees as he labored up the mountain. Some would say that story epitomizes the existentialist viewpoint where the very fact of existence is celebrated. Like many existentialists, Camus rejected religious sensibilities that the work we do now is but a preparation for the “afterlife,” rather than enjoying it in the present, just for the work itself.

We are such a success-oriented society that we forget to appreciate the learning and experiences that we are incurring in our journey in our lives and are still weighing (no pun intended) and measuring ourselves against difficult expectations. As a person who attempts to live a spiritual life, it is my present desire to extend the same compassion towards myself as I would do for others.

Would I do less for anybody else?

If you have a question you would like to ask, send me your question. Ask The Spiritual Explorer

The Mystery of Tarot Origins

February 2, 2011 on 10:00 am

Dear Spiritual Explorer: Do you have anything in the way of metaphysical tools, such as the tarot? Annabelle P., San Juan, PR


Complete Tarot Deck

Dear Annabelle: I am going to suggest to you the Complete Tarot Kit which provides two pivotal and seminal tarot decks: the Rider/Waite and Thoth tarot decks. The Rider/Waite tarot deck was a symbiotic collaboration between Pamela Coleman Smith, the artist, and A.E.Waite, a master occultist who together with Aleister Crowley, author of the Thoth tarot deck, were original members of the Order of the Golden Dawn. The Order was an esoteric and magical order active in Great Britain during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, practicing quabbalism, astrology, tarot divination and geomancy. The Order of the Golden Dawn has been one of the largest single influences of 20th century Western occultism.
Both the Waite and the Thoth tarot decks were the most widely used and all successive decks in use have been majorly influenced by them, particularly the Waite deck.

Conferring with Uma Simon, a Master tarot reader, she told me that she herself mainly uses the Waite deck. “While I feel the Thoth deck is one of the most beautifully rendered and full of phantastical imagery, I prefer the Waite deck because of its simple representation of most of life’s experiences. The meaning of this tarot deck becomes quite obvious when you view the pictures; they are simply rendered and easier for the beginner to understand the meaning and symbolism of the tarot. A tarot deck must also encompass life’s experiences in pictorial form. I also like the fact that even the most seemingly negative meanings are countered with symbols of light, resurrection and renewal. Aleister Crowley was a true magician and sometimes I feel that his tarot deck represents his preoccupation with power and lack of integrity. He was at best a controversial figure. However, becoming familiar with these two decks and seeing the differences in them is a great way to start learning the intricate nature of the tarot.”

“In actuality,” she continued, “the Thoth and the Waite decks that are included in this Master Kit are a perfect way to start learning the Tarot because you can see how a tarot deck can influence a reading.” The kit also includes Introduction to Tarot by Susan Levitt – a 250-page soft cover book in full color with wire binding – a Special Edition Rider-Waite deck, a Special Edition Crowley Thoth deck, journal, spread sheet, chart and carrying case.

I think you will truly enjoy these age-old decks.  Thanks for writing, Spiritual Explorer

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