Sunday, March 13, 2011

Life's Journey

Photo credit:

The amazing poem Ithaka by Greek poet Constatine P. Cavafy arrived at my doorstep today, the 5th day of my 40 day personal practice of inquiry. It cocoons me gently in its themes and life-affirming words. I’ve returned to it several times today and during each reading, my soul has fluttered in a tapestry of rich emotional responses. I have felt a quiet and sweet peace, deep gratitude, and even the melancholy heartache of memories as the images of this poem planted its seeds and came alive in the deepest corners of my being. I notice the reactionary signs of my body- shivers up my spine, the softening of the belly, and the melting of my heart. Our bodies speak their own language. Remain perceptive as to what yours has to say.

I invite you to read Ithaka , close your eyes, then re-read again. Feel the fiber of each letter, each vowel, and each pause. Recite the poem aloud, softly, and notice what images your voice lifts up as an offering. Return to these words with your eyes, caressing each syllable. Then raise your eyes slowly and look up and around. Where have you landed on this stop of your journey? What do you see that you have not seen before or noticed in awhile? Where is your journey to Ithaka taking you now?


When you set out for Ithaka
ask that your way be long,
full of adventure, full of instruction.
The Laistrygonians and the Cyclops,
angry Poseidon - do not fear them:
such as these you will never find
as long as your thought is lofty, as long as a rare
emotion touch your spirit and your body.
The Laistrygonians and the Cyclops,
angry Poseidon - you will not meet them
unless you carry them in your soul,
unless your soul raise them up before you.

Ask that your way be long.
At many a Summer dawn to enter
with what gratitude, what joy -
ports seen for the first time;
to stop at Phoenician trading centres,
and to buy good merchandise,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
and sensuous perfumes of every kind,
sensuous perfumes as lavishly as you can;
to visit many Egyptian cities,
to gather stores of knowledge from the learned.

Have Ithaka always in your mind.
Your arrival there is what you are destined for.
But don't in the least hurry the journey.
Better it last for years,
so that when you reach the island you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to give you wealth.
Ithaka gave you a splendid journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She hasn't anything else to give you.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka hasn't deceived you.
So wise you have become, of such experience,
that already you'll have understood what these Ithakas mean.

~Constantine P Cavafy ~

With love & hugs from a fellow traveler,


Sunday, March 6, 2011

Ignite the Flame of Personal Practice- Tapas

Photo credit:

Ignite the Flame of Personal Practice- Tapas

The whiff of spring is in the air. Have you noticed? I am ready to let go of this grey winter and move out into the beauty and birth of spring. I can’t wait to throw open the doors and run out into the world of multi-colored flowers, trees, grass, sun, and birds. I yearn to fully experience the intensity of the invitation of the poet Rumi who beckons us to “Walk out like someone suddenly born into color.” I imagine the vibrancy of my colors, the tones, the depth, the internal shifts of my spirit and my life. I am looking forward to experimenting with the opportunity and renewal of this new season. Are you?

A new spiritual season also begins on Wednesday with the arrival of Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the season of Lent in Christian churches. Traditionally, it is observed as a 40 day period of fasting and reverence. Curiously, the number 40 plays a significant role in the practice of self-renewal and self-cleansing. In the Old Testament, Noah sailed on his ark through rain and floods for 40 days. Moses and the Israelites were banished to wander through the desert for 40 years until a new generation (spirit) sprung forth and was born. In the New Testament, Jesus traveled in the desert for 40 days and nights, was tempted to give up his self-discipline and faith, but persevered. Yoga science teaches us that it takes a consistent 40 day commitment to change a life habit, develop a new one or drop an old. Regardless of your spiritual or religious belief, the dedication of 40 days to a practice of self-discipline is an opportunity to let go of old patterns, create new habits, and look inward to examine our relationship with ourselves and the Divine. It is an invitation to enter our hearts and become transformed on a very deep level. It requires more than the typical practice of Lent of giving up candy or chocolate. It calls for flexing our ‘strength’ muscle, self-discipline, and cranking up the heat. It is this fiery crackle of heat that makes us jump out of our habitual skin and into new possibilities of growth, openness, and transformation. The question is how can we get the heat sizzling? Tapas can lead the way.

Tapas is the 8th jewel of the Yamas and Niyamas, the ethical belief system of Yoga. Tapas refers to the self-discipline and the heat that is necessary to affect change and deep transformation. It is traveling through the muck and not escaping around it to get to the other side. It is not an act of being ‘average’, or using verbs like wanting to, trying to, hoping to, or wishing to. It is putting oneself in the burning embers with a determined focus. Deborah Adele writes that “Tapas has the sense of cooking ourselves in the fire”. Our yoga practice, our belief system, and our lives are the quintessential laboratory in which to work with tapas. I am beginning a 40 day journey of self-inquiry and transformation. Are you curious? Think about what you would like to heat up on your stove. What, in your life, needs to be stirred up, examined, or redefined? Is it your physical, mental, emotional or spiritual state? You, alone, must make that decision. Is the hope of spring inviting you to re-evaluate your life and take a voyage on the path of self-evolution? It requires determination, inner strength, passion, and self-inquiry. Journal daily to note the challenges and emotions that bubble up during this period of certain transformation. What will have shifted after the 40 day period? Tapas is the knowing that if we stay on the path, we will get through. Tapas is not a rejection of who we are or the feeling of being unworthy. It is the decision to practice self- love, evolve and merge with the highest form of oneself and the Divine. Now is the time- dig deep and proceed through the swamp to find your deepest, most vibrant colors and invite your Light to shine!

“You were born with wings. Why prefer to crawl through life?” ~ Rumi
Honoring the highest in you,