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Spring Meditation

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[reprinted from 4-15-2012] Every year I’m so inspired by the feeling of spring as I watch its gradual unfolding like the stages of a lovely flower, from bud to full blown petal perfection, or a step by step, most profound, yet accessible concert, which carries one to a moving experience, difficult to convey to others. While the basics of earth, plants, flowers, trees, insects, animals, wind, sky, clouds, sun, moon, and stars are obvious, how they affect and teach me by the power of Krishna’s seasonal changes, can be challenging to express in fresh ways. This is my challenge every year as I am stirred by spring and the various natural transformations, yet because I have the desire to share something meaningful with you, making the endeavor to serve and give, I find new inspiration. This is what has come to me:

The cultivation of spiritual life is like setting different small parts of special lenses in place which enables us to view life from a new and deeper perspective. Beginning with the premise that there is a God, we are eternal souls having a relationship with Him, and that this is a purposeful universe gives us insights completely different from thinking consciousness is simply chemical, electrical reactions, and that life has no meaning. As quantum mechanics in physics has taught scientists that the act of observing something changes the phenomenon being observed, life reflects back to us according to our faith or belief about existence. This can be expressed in the words of Krishna in his Bhagavad Gita [4.11],

Give to Live (The Book)

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[Originally published on 05-16-2013, I'm reposting it now, as I want to share the book with new readers who like my blogs. It is still available in many places in the world.] This was originally the introduction for Give to Live, but we decided to cut it, since the size of the front matter and whole book, had to be reduced. Still, I think it gives a good introduction for the book for those of you who don’t have a copy. Additionally, there is a 15 minute video at the end giving a glimpse into the journey of creating the book.

As an introduction to my book, Give to Live, I am thinking about the blessing (or curse) of being a writer. Part of being a writer is the desire to share experience, which is equally true of photographers, artists and the like—people who try to share their perceptions, feelings and thoughts with others through some different medium of one or more dimensions. Yet, sometimes thinking of an experience (or extracting the creative angle) as it is happening makes one less present in the moment. I have taken photos and videos at some temple functions, and felt like I missed the whole thing!

My usual means of sharing experience is what you are reading—words. I think I am very balanced in my “observer’s eye” in that I really have to work at turning it on. It doesn’t come that naturally for me like with some writers. A friend sent me a book about a poet/gardener now in his 90’s who has always loved words, and writing about nature and his garden. His mood of observation and being in the moment is very impressive to me, as I was such a dull, unobservant, and uncreative child. In my current “later years” I am much more present than I could have ever dreamed as a child, though still very inferior to this poet! It is always good to take the humble position regarding our Krishna-given abilities. We are always dependent on His mercy and help in any endeavor and yet we will always find people much better than we are in anything we do. Never the less, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to use our talents and desires in the service of the Lord, his devotees, and people in general.

Vrindavan - India Trip - Clips and Pics

The Kirtan Avatar—Shri Chaitanya Gives Divine Love

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[I am reposting this blog from 3-6-12 which includes not only a general introduction to Shri Chaitanya, but also, in the comments section, many prayers and pastimes.]The appearance day of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has come upon us with the rising of the full moon. Those unfamiliar with the significance of Lord Chaitanya, and/or who want to gain a deeper appreciation for Him—not just intellectually, but practically, personally, and factually within themselves, are recommended to not only study about His life and teachings, but to also chant the Hare Krishna mantra very intently in personal meditation (japa), or with others in loud, melodious song and dance, sankirtan. The ideal environment for this is with those of faith and spiritual standing in the practices Shri Chaitanya taught. If this is not available, you can create a sanctified area in your home, dedicated solely for spiritual practice, praying for good association. The real fruit of knowledge is receptivity, and inspiration to engage in loving devotional service, and chanting brings about both, as it is the means and end of perfection. My teacher, Shrila Prabhupada, using the idea of science to verify theories by experiment, often encouraged us to experiment with chanting.

Prabhupada personally experimented with the holy name when he came first came to the United States in 1965, by chanting with those who had no background in Krishna consciousness, or the Vedic conclusions. Due to his spiritual purity, desire to help others, empowerment by Lord Chaitanya, and full faith in the power of the holy name, his experiment with the Hare Krishna mantra succeeded beyond his wildest dreams.

SNOW BOUND (Our Self-Created Prison) and LIBERATION FROM BONDAGE

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Here in North Carolina we don’t get anywhere near the amount of snow of northern states. Mostly the big storms pass us by or don’t leave much snow. Occasionally we get a little dusting, or a few inches of that white fluffy stuff. If there is accumulation we have our Mitra (friend) who uses his tractor to plow our road and driveway. Unfortunately for us, he is out of town, and so we really appreciate his kind service, being unable to move out of our driveway, and with temperatures remaining below freezing, there is no end in sight.

We are stuck, and naturally, this is fodder for writing. Today I thought of the idea of being imprisoned by the life we create to be happy—house, car, possessions, family—which at some point may seem a great burden if we aren’t using our life for spiritual progress, or to fulfill our life’s mission. We may also be psychologically stuck. In these cases we often need outside help to get out of our predicament. For example, we come in contact with a devotee who introduces us to spiritual life and is able to give us a way out of our self-created prison by the holy name and service of the Lord, or as appropriate, tools to change our negative conditioning. We need our Mitra, or well-wishing friend, who can removed the snow of our misconceptions, and give us the true freedom our soul hankers for.

Joyful Prison Program

Early in the morning on Saturday, September 13, 2014, my husband Haripada dasa and I picked up a couple of friends--Sarva-drik Prabhu and his wife Sudevi dasi--and headed north. We arrived at the Medium Security Facility of the Petersburg Prison in Virginia around 11:15 a.m. We were checked through security, our hands were stamped, and we were escorted through several heavy, metal doors until we found ourselves in the prison chapel.

Fate Attraction Part 5—Coming to Krishna

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[I am continuing the reposting of this 5 part series as a way to commemorate this month which marks my 45th year of coming to Krishna. This is the final installment (previously posted 2-16-14)--until I make it into a whole book.] Chris had come back from Muir Woods to Berkeley a few times to restock his food supplies and then return, but this time he felt he would stay in town for a while. He wanted to begin searching the library and alternative newspapers for information about different spiritual orders and groups such as the Trappist monks, Buddhists, and various yoga societies. Somehow to have a new life, a spiritual life, and one by which he could focus on useful life skills, being in harmony with Nature, and helping others.

In his second year of college he wasn’t impressed or inspired by his teachers. He reasoned that if he continued his education he would become like they who were merely part of the materialistic status quo. His teachers didn’t seem interested in changing, becoming better people, or most importantly, in their own souls. Chris felt completely estranged from his old life, apparently lost, even damaged from an external perspective, and yet he felt somehow guided in the process of finding his path. It had been a radical, unpredictable journey and there no end in sight, but his effort to find and live the Truth was worth it, even if his material progress was impeded or lost forever. Without realizing and living the purpose of life, what was the use of any other obtainment, even if praised by the World?

He simplified his life by giving away most of his possessions, and began sleeping on the floor. During the day he would sit on his folded sleeping bag before a small coffee table that he used as a desk. It was covered with stacks of spiritual/religious books, magazines, and notebooks. He dreamed of being a sage or monk, what the I Ching referred to as a “superior man,” not in vanity, but in depth of character. Chris had become a vegetarian rather naturally,

Fatal Attraction Part 4: The Awakening—Learning from the Natural World and the Redwood Forest

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[I am continuing the reposting of this 5 part series.] Growing up in San Francisco, Chris didn’t think it unusual or sad if the sky was overcast or foggy—it was just a different color sky, though he liked the sun too. In fact, in a general sense, even at the young age of four he began a lifelong pattern of not look forward to things, or thinking of too much about the past. Though he was learning to shut his emotions down as much as possible, in a strange way he lived in the present, at least his version of it, safe in his castle of neutrality, yet ever on guard so he could remain at peace, and not angry (like his father). He learned that if someone is angry that will mean pain, so he treaded life very gently. When his family moved from L.A. to San Francisco in 1954, he didn’t feel much different in his new neighborhood in the Sunset district than he had in his previous house in Van Nuys, especially after making friends—but at first he didn’t like the hills. When a neighbor began making skate coasters for the kids, the hills became an asset for fun.

In their flat on 9th Avenue, these were carefree years for Chris, at least on the surface. He had a best friend, Michael Rivers who lived next door, and they played all day, coming home for lunch, and sometimes playing Monopoly. They were loosely under the watch of Michael’s mom, since Chris’s parents were at work, and sometimes there was a baby sitter, but in those times kids were just let out to their own devices without supervision. As they grew older they enjoyed roaming the neighborhood, finding homes under construction to play in, climbing the tree on the corner, or exploring the hill that steeply dropped down from 8th Avenue to the fast and busy street far below. Sometimes on the weekends they would walk over to Sutro forest and climb to the top with Chris’s dad.

Interestingly, from today’s perspective, in his youth Chris didn’t learn to make any distinction between the city composed of concrete, asphalt, cars, and houses, with the natural environment he encountered in his back yard, in vacant lots, or at Sutro forest. He hadn’t yet spent time in country settings which were at least partially undisturbed and full of trees, bushes and wildlife. Although later he and his friends spent time in Golden Gate Park, and had family vacations in scenic resort areas, he still didn’t understand that where a city now stood was once a scenic, natural habitat, free from human intervention and “progress.” To Chris, human beings seemed to be the center around which everything else revolved, while Nature and its laws were but an afterthought, or only of secondary importance to cities and their inhabitants. It was only when he was in his existential crisis at 18 that Chris really appreciated the natural world. He discovered a Nature that wasn’t secondary to human beings. Instead, humans were only a part of Nature. The natural world, the planet, and the Universe, were the basis of all life, having to be properly respected and cooperated with.

Fatal Attraction Part 3—Choosing the Path of Light

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[I am continuing the reposting of this 5 part series.] An unusual cold, rainy day in Berkeley, California, but for a particular person, it was a fitting, useful, backdrop for an epiphany, or deep “aha moment.” Chris Cox, in a contemplative mood that was becoming almost normal, was sitting on the floor in his minimally furnished room. A single light bulb hung down from the ceiling by a cord speckled with white paint from an ancient paint job. Warming himself in front of the gas heater, he would occasionally look around the room or out the window at the gray day, as if looking for special meaning, or some clue about what was missing from his life. In fact he felt like he, himself, was an existential question waiting to be answered, and for the first time in his life.

Chris had lost his job and was getting food stamps. His hippie house was on “rent strike,” having banded together with other renters to withhold paying rent until the “pig landlords” lowered the cost, so he hadn’t paid his rent in months. Still, the electricity and water were on, and he had food and shelter. How was this possible that he could live here with no effort? He could just sit here and live, having time to read religious and mystical texts and think about the purpose of life. It all seemed magical, yet purposeful.

He didn’t know it yet, but he was experiencing how simple living can foster deep thought about life. As it turned out, this was a rare time when life conspired to make certain results more likely by arranging the environment like a perfect supporting cast.

Fatal Attraction Part 2: Illuminating the Shadow of our Past

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[I am continuing the reposting of this 5 part series. The basic premise of this series is to posit that our greatest challenges, problems, reveres, difficulties, hurts, or pain, have the power to crush us (if we let them), or offer the greatest opportunity for personal and spiritual growth. Specifically here, I am speaking of our childhood, and how huge a shadow it casts on our life—which could be good or bad, or likely, a mixture. Our parents are instruments of our karma and are meant teach us valuable lessons for living our lives. Many people don’t really worry about this and simply live without a lot of deep introspection about how their past has shaped them, which isn’t a bad fact if one is happy and fulfilled.]
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(Fast forward sixteen years from the marriage spoken about in part 1.) This seemed like any typical San Francisco summer morning, foggy and cool, but it was anything but normal to Chris, who was going to do something he didn’t want to do, while his Dad, Johnny, was happy. They were driving to the courthouse for a divorce settlement. Parking, they walked up the stairs and into the building. John found the appropriate courtroom and they took their seats to wait their turn. Chris felt sick to his stomach and wished he could just run away, but knew he couldn’t, so instead, he retreated deeper into himself. It was like he wasn’t even there. Disassociation was how he survived childhood and it had served him well. While a good temporary protection strategy, it was a poor way to live at all times. Later in life, Chris would find his biggest challenge was learning to be present, and to feel, whether sadness or love, but depression became a way to be numb, though it gradually became his clue that something was wrong, very wrong.

For all practical purposes, the memory of this courtroom experience was gone, buried under the debris of pain and disappointment. He only knew it happened on the rare occasions his dad recounted how proud he was hearing that Chris, when asked by the judge, wanted to live with his father—which was totally untrue. Even though Chris couldn’t remember the last time his dad beat him, he still was afraid of him and on guard in case his father would become angry and hit him, so he didn’t speak his mind at court, or for that matter, much at all.

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