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LAST NIGHT THE GRIM REAPER CAME FOR ME

(reposted from 4-14-16)
I saw the grim reaper in my dream,
feeling no fear, I was curious to see him.
Coming near, he pointed his bony, pale hand toward me.
His other palm raised in blessing pose
where it was written, the number 65—my age!
Then with both hands, he pointed to the sky, and shrugged.

Meditation on Seeing Krishna in All Things

(this blog is recorded on the full page: quick time player is needed; works best with Firefox or Explorer; if you are using Google Chrome it will automatically play, so if you don't want to listen, mute your speakers.)
[reposted from 4-10-2010 and included in my book, "The Yoga of Expression"]
Part one: The Metaphysic of Simultaneous, Inconceivable, Oneness, yet Difference

“In my unmanifested form
I pervade the Universe,
though I’m present everywhere
I am also apart from all.” [Bg 9.4]
In the broadest sense
Krishna is everything--
with more knowledge and focus
we learn about His energies.

Within the One Energy
there is spiritual variety
as Krishna is like the sun
his energies, the sunshine.
Here is Chaitanya’s metaphysic
of simultaneous, inconceivable
Oneness yet difference
all-pervading, yet a person.

Yes, the water IS Krishna—
yet NOT Krishna
as we don’t worship water
independently from him.

CONTINUALLY RECOMMITTING TO THE SPIRITUAL PATH AND ITS GOAL

After I finished my 31 day bodily cleanse of my various organs two years ago, I felt disassociated from life and had to regroup and recommit to my life mission--which is the subject of this short blog poem. Then my wife and I helped facilitate the Grihastha Vision Team 4th Annual Couple's Retreat in Gita-nagari PA. I have written and thought a great deal about my life, and the value of keeping death in mind. However, as I share in this poem, my tendency is to forget the urgency of my spiritual life, in my case, when my health seems to be getting better. I have to continually remind myself of the importance of whatever time remains in my life, be it one day, or 20 years, and thus I keep speaking and writing about my journey and what I have learned is most essential in life. When I speak or write, I am also teaching myself! I have been on my cancer healing journey now for 2 and 1/2 years, and according to my last PET scan, there is no change in my cancer. I have learned that some people just live with cancer and treat it with diet and various alternative treatments. If that be the case with me, so be it--even as I explore different options.

I must continually remember that I will die
perhaps today or tomorrow, but soon
because if I forget this truth
I return to complacency and the easy life—
this has happened to me, yet again...alas!!

I must recommit to spiritual life, continually.
Otherwise I may die distraught and resentful

which I have been shown by cancer’s mercy.
But now I am getting better and losing my urgency
so comfort and safety beckon me to return and relax.

CONFESSIONS OF BEING A HABITUAL “SLUMP,” TRANSFORMED BY FULLING MY MISSION TO GIVE

CONFESSIONS OF BEING A HABITUAL “SLUMP,” TRANSFORMED BY FULLING MY MISSION TO GIVE: Generally, I’m not in favor of self-deprecation, especially as a habitual go-to attitude of who we are as persons, which I see as an ill-informed, bad affirmation that can keep us stuck in behavior that needs to be overcome or changed into something positive. We aren't our past sad story, or who we "think" we are, which we only are if we resign ourselves to our limiting beliefs about what is possible.

The more we dwell on something the more power it has in our lives, either positive or negative. Our habitual thoughts and words become who we are, and to begin to change, we must begin changing our self-concept revealed what we focus on and affirm, within, by self-talk, and without, by our actions.

SELF-CRITICISM

Our self-criticism may be true to some extent but such introspection is only useful if it inspires us to change and improve ourselves. Otherwise, what’s the point? A successful life, materially or spiritually, is about change for the better. The purpose of introspection is for personal growth and transformation,

Dying in Prison

One of the inmates who has been in contact with the prison ministry since 2009, Bhakta Sasha, now has terminal cancer. He is fifty-seven years old. The prospect of dying is overwhelming for everyone, but having to die in prison is even more daunting. Prisons are not known for their warm, loving atmospheres; they are cold and impersonal at best. However, Bhakta Sasha is armed with Prabhupada’s teachings and graced with the holy name and he is taking full advantage of it.

Fate Attraction Part 5—Coming to Krishna

(this blog is recorded on the full page: quick time player is needed; works best with Firefox or Explorer; if you are using Google Chrome it will automatically play, so to not listen, mute your speakers.)
[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.] AWAKENING BY GRACE, MOUNTAIN FATHER, REDWOOD TREE PROFESSORS: 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.

FAITH IN KRISHNA'S PROTECTION

FAITH IN KRISHNA'S PROTECTION: Today was a traveling day to observe our shiska guru's appearance day, the day before Gaura Purnima, and while many of us take driving for granted, it is definitely an opportunity to appreciate Krishna's protection. Accidents and road kill remind me of how lucky I am to safely arrive at my destination. For me, night driving especially is fueled not just from years of experience but confidence that comes from faith. There is just so much that we can't see due to the darkness.

Sometimes all we can see are those lines in the road. There is so much uncertainty as we speed down the darkened highway, sometimes surrounded on all sides by other cars, and this evening some rain. I feel amazed that I am driving with such uncertainty and I find I can only surrender to Krishna for his help. This is a good position for me to be in! Yes, I am as careful as possible, though I feel the only way I can be safe is to be in Krishna's hands. That's how it seems to me. I am confident that Krishna is protecting me, and that whatever happens will be for me highest good.

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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