Posted in Pilgrim's journey

Are You A Refugee Or A Pilgrim?

Refugees dominate the news recently. My heart breaks for all the people called to risk their lives journeying to unkown shores. The situation is bleak, and makes me wonder. What is the difference between a  refugee and a pilgrim?

Aren’t we are all refugees?

To become officially “Buddhist” we commit by “taking refuge.” It’s not that we are taking refuge in anything particular, but rather we acknowledge that there is no other choice than to accept the fact that there is no solid ground to call home forever. Impermanence reigns and until we accept this, we will suffer. The illusion of stability lulls us into believing we have solid ground under our feet. But we all know things can change in an instant. So a Buddhist is essentially a permanent refugee, or if you prefer, a pilgrim. A pilgrim is someone who embraces this inconvenient truth and uses it to fuel a spiritual path.

A refugee travels to seek a home in a new place. A pilgrim travels to seek a new home inside.

I feel the pain of all who are homeless and cold and hungry. I was also “homeless” for many years while I was working in South Asia. I never had to worry about food or shelter, but I didn’t really have a permanent place to call home. I had a series of temporary assignments, and stayed in a variety of lodgings that ranged from dilapidated shacks to luxury hotel suites. There were times when I felt acutely the fact that when my contract was up I had no idea where I was going next. Sometimes I went on retreat just because I had no idea where to go. And things always worked out.

This is my point: when the situation falls apart, the only reliable refuge is inside.

Click here to read the rest of this article.

Posted in Musings, Pilgrim's journey

Hillbilly Pilgrim

Found myself at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival last week. A foot-stompin, hoot-hollering, jig-dancing good time. Yeehaw! Nothing like great music and dancing for world peace.

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Posted in Resources, Yoga

Do You Have What it Takes to Be a Great Yoga Teacher?

So, you’ve done your teacher training. You learned how to lead a good yoga class. But what is the difference between leading a yoga class and inspiring your students? Take the quiz below to find out if you have what it takes to be a great yoga teacher.

1. Do you have a dedicated committed daily SELF-PRACTICE?

Taking classes is not the same as having your own practice. When you show up for yourself, whether or not anyone else is watching, your practice develops depth. People can see this. Great teachers have enough understanding of the tools of yoga to create and maintain their own practice that supports them through life’s ups and downs.

2. Do you have a great teacher?

It’s so important to have someone you can go to when you need guidance. You’ve learned the foundations of yoga practice with a wise and compassionate teacher who has devoted years to the practice, someone who has been there before you.

3. Do you have a meditation practice?

The Yoga Sutra names one asana, which is the most important one—that of sitting for meditation. Speaking of which…

4. Have you studied (or at least read) the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali?

And perhaps the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Shiva Samhita, Bhagavad Gita, Upanishads)

Practice is important. So is study.

5. Have you addressed your own psychological garbage?

I cannot stress this enough. Obviously you don’t have to wait until you are completely neurosis-free (good luck with that!) but PLEASE, don’t burden your students or fellow teachers with unfinished psychological business. You are responsible for your own state of mind, but in this situation, as a yoga teacher, you are also responsible for guiding, protecting and expanding the state of mind of your student as well. It’s a big responsibility. Please take care.

6. Do you have healthy boundaries?

Do I need to say this? Please recognize the power differential and the position you hold as a yoga teacher. Don’t make a habit of sleeping with your students, and understand the difference between a student and a friend.

7. Can you accept where your students are?

Allowing is the first step to working with any habitual pattern. Can you have “bad” students without trying to change them? If you as a teacher cannot accept a student’s weakness, how do you expect them to? It’s about the student, not you.

8. Are you still (and always) a student?

If you always continue to be a student, you will retain what Suzuki Roshi called, Beginner’s Mind. “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind, there are few.” Keep evolving through regular intensive practice and study, retreats and continuing education.

9. Do you live what you teach?

Practice what you preach, not because it’s expected of you, or out of a sense of duty, but out of joy from experiencing the fruits of practice.

10. Do you share from your heart?

Trust your inner wisdom and experience to guide you.

11. Are you able to say “I don’t know?”

My first teacher Richard Freeman gave me great advice when I first started teaching. He said, “Teach from your heart and teach only what you know.” Words of wisdom that I still follow.

12. Can you accept other teachers and traditions?

Please don’t badmouth other styles of yoga, or other teachers; it’s just not good practice. We are all making our own way through this treacherous terrain called life, doing the best we can. If you have found a spiritual path that helps you, that is wonderful. Please respect my path as being valid, for me.

13. Can you laugh at yourself?

This may be the most important qualification to be a great teacher. Relax and enjoy! You’ve discovered a practice that you love enough to teach, and you get to help people at the same time! Lucky you! If you make a mistake, use it as material to prove to your students how yoga can make you a flexible, compassionate and wise human being.

 If you think you have what it takes to be a great yoga teacher, click here to join the upcoming webinar, How to Make a Fabulous Living Teaching, Traveling (and Saving) the World.

A 6 week Online Course designed to show you how to take your message and your teaching to new horizons, both inner and outer.

Click here to learn more.

 

NLF for MBG

Posted in Asia, Dharma, Meditation, Pilgrim's journey

A visit with the 17th Karmapa

In March of this year, I went to Sarnath, India, where Shakyamuni Buddha gave teachings for the very first time. While I was there I had the incredible good fortune to have a private meeting with His Holiness the 17th Karmapa. _MG_2528 My meeting was limited to 3 minutes, so I had time for one question and one photo. In answer to my question, he essentially reminded me that the best way to  use this precious human birth is to practice taming the mind through meditation, and to use that training to develop compassion for all sentient beings.

Posted in Meditation, Pilgrim's journey, Psychology, Resources

Inner Worlds, Outer Worlds

Buddha in golden clouds

We are all connected, you’ve no doubt heard this before. A friend recently sent me a link to this incredible video that shows why, from a scientific and a spiritual perspective. Rather than looking to the outside world to create peace on earth, we can change our planet by changing how we see things.

Please have a look.

Posted in Asia, Dharma, Psychology

Raising Consciousness with Thich Nhat Hanh

Just back from a long weekend with the Thai Plum Village people (not to be confused with the Village People) (sorry, I couldn’t help myself), which is the local sangha of revered Vietnamese Buddhist teacher and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Thich Nhat Hanh. We spent the time in the mountains near Chiang Dao, in Northern Thailand, meditating in various ways: breathing in, breathing out, smiling, sitting, singing, lying and walking. The message of this simple practice is powerful: make yourself peaceful, and you can make the world peaceful.

Here is a video of Thich Nhat Hanh sharing his vision of world peace, in a speech given to the 2009 Parliament of World Religions in Melbourne, Australia. It’s strong medicine, so don’t be deceived by its sweetness and simplicity.