Discovering the fusion of Christianity and Buddhism

mirror braid

This morning in deep meditation, I discovered a bright, clear landscape in which my understanding of Christianity and Buddhism were reconciled in my mind, for the first time in my life.

My liberating mental reconciliation has inspired me to write this blog today: I want to share what I’ve discovered with my friends and family. I want to know if other people have discovered this, too. Or maybe I’m just crazy from eating too much chocolate and doing too much yoga. Or maybe….

Mom and Dad sitting together copy

If I had to label myself as a “follower” of any religious tradition (which I prefer not to do), I would say, “I am a Christian,” because I believe in Jesus Christ as my savior. But this doesn’t mean that I cannot study and practice Buddhism, too. I have always been very open-minded and willing to try new things. My parents taught me to make my own decisions and were careful not to impose their beliefs onto me or expect me to do things their way (thanks, Mom and Dad!). So, over the course of my life as a Christian, I have experimented and delved deeply into eastern religious traditions, especially Buddhism.

I became a certified yoga teacher and massage therapist in my early 20s, because I found the philosophy and practice of yoga to be helpful for deepening my understanding of God and the universe. I found many wonderful teachers in Massachusetts, where I grew up; and for years after I continued to deepen my studies and practice with various teachers in New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and California. It has truly been an amazing journey, and I am grateful to many friends who have joined me along the way. (Thanks, everybody!)

Five years ago I moved to Central America, where I was introduced to shamanism by some wonderful teachers and friends in Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize. I now own an acre of land and a thatch-roof hut in Belize; where I write, travel, and offer ongoing classes and therapeutic massage. Come on a jungle adventure retreat!

Krista and Jill

My sister Jill and I at home in Massachusetts (never forget the Princess Bride! I love you, Jill!)

My spiritual path has been somewhat… labyrinthine. You could say… meandering. But interesting, too. I was raised Catholic – baptized as a baby, received my first communion, and attended catechism. Then, my parents decided we’d convert to Protestantism, so I was re-baptized at the age of 11. Throughout high school, I went to a Protestant church, joined the youth group, and studied the bible (I kept my grandmother’s leather-bound copy by my bedside and read it before bed each night).

My college boyfriend and I on my graduation day

My college boyfriend and I on my graduation day

As a young adult, I struggled with my religious identity. I had been fond of Protestantism, but I also felt a strong kinship with Catholicism: I was called back to it. So, I attended a Catholic college in Massachusetts and took most of my courses with retired priests and nuns. I don’t know; maybe it was seeing bloody Jesus on a cross in all my lecture halls, or perhaps something else that disturbed me, but I quickly developed a distaste for Catholicism during college, so I experimented with being an atheist for several years. Actually, for many years – until I went to graduate school in New Mexico, where I joined a Zen Buddhist community and began attending monthly meditation retreats in the mountains. I continued to study and practice yoga.

Years later, I met a guru from India who “initiated” me into the yogic tradition by gifting me a Sanskrit spiritual name (“Parama”). Soon after that, I discovered a Tibetan Buddhist master whose teachings and lectures answered (finally!) many of the questions I still struggled with about God, the world, and how to be happy. Over the past decade, I have studied yoga, meditation, and Buddhist philosophy with many different teachers.

Recently I was baptized (again!) in the name of Jesus with a Pentecostal minister in a beautiful river in the deep tropical rainforest of southern Belize, where I currently live. (I am just trying to cover all my bases, to make sure I get to Heaven!) My baptism happened at the juncture of many life-changing events and transitions: career, relationships, finances, and spirituality. I feel a renewed connection to my understanding of Jesus as my Lord, my teacher, my guru, and my savior. Emphasis on Jesus as my guru.

full lotus copy 2I have since been inspired to turn my focus back to studying the bible, with the guidance of experienced missionaries – lifelong Christians – who have dedicated their lives to building churches and teaching bible school classes in Belize and Guatemala. I have deepened my respect for the Christian way of life and the dedication required to truly follow the teachings of Jesus in the bible.

As I discover a fusion of Christianity and Buddhism, I still practice yoga and meditation avidly, every day, twice a day. I regularly read the bible as well as other texts from the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. I keep a bible by my bedside, as well as every yogini’s bible: a copy of Iyengar’s “Light on Yoga” and Paramahansa Yogananda’s “Autobiography of Yogi”. I find that all of these teachings are not only compatible; they are almost exactly the same, when you strip away language barriers and cultural/historical distinctions. I travel a lot: For the most part, I’ve found that humans are all fundamentally the same on the inside. We all just want to be happy.

IMG_7117 copyMy parents taught me to keep an open mind, to make my own decisions, not to follow somebody else’s rules arbitrarily. I think children understand this: They are not restricted (yet) by rigid thought patterns or strong opinions about how the world should be. Children just want to play together. Similarly, I see no conflict between Christian and Buddhist teachings. I see only beautiful connections. I have had the opportunity to “put it all to the test”: to apply the teachings from both the bible and ancient Buddhist texts into practice in my everyday life. I am convinced that there is no difference between the two traditions.

12072015020 copyA person dedicated to the Buddhist philosophy – a boddhisattva – seeks to perfect herself so that she can help others become enlightened (reach boddhichitta): to see and realize God directly, by having a personal relationship with a living teacher (guru)…. How?… By helping others perfect themselves, by living an ethical life, by deepening one’s meditation, by treating others as oneself, by focusing on helping others…. Sounds familiar, right (you Christians out there)?

Buddhism: a daily, disciplined practice, a way of life

sunrise yoga copyA Christian dedicates herself to evangelism (being a “soulwinner” for Jesus) – helping everybody become one with Christ: to see and realize God directly, by having a personal relationship with Jesus…. How?… By sharing personal testimony, being a living example and inspiration on the spiritual path, by helping others become more “like Christ” by living according to the teachings of Jesus, becoming closer and closer to God, every day. Hmmm…

Christianity: a practical path, a daily discipline, a way of life

Both Christianity and Buddhism are about making a commitment to personal, spiritual growth and helping others do the same by being a living example, an inspiration, a testimony, a guide, and a friend. Like Jesus. Like Buddha.

Thank you to all of my teachers—my friends.

krista photos_0035 copy

Moringa gives birth to twin coconuts in Belize

If you are a reader of my blog, you may recall the big news from last week: Moringa got married to a Banana!

They celebrated their wedding party on the tropical beach in Belize, then they consummated the marriage during their unforgettable honeymoon getaway (Moringa was certain to bring along locally sourced, organic honey for the special event – and to spice things up a bit, some cinnamon, too).

Well, folks, we have more exciting news for this week….

Mr. and Mrs. Moringa-Banana are pregnant with twins – baby coconuts!

coconut tree

(awwww, that’s soooo cute!)

We never expected it to happen this soon, … but, well, … that’s life!

Moringa, being the extremely sensitive goddess that she is, cannot help but keep scrupulous records of every event that has transpired since conception.

First, she heard the babies calling to her from the realm of spirit:

“Mom! We’re up here! … We come from a tree!”

Moringa went outside (she lives in the tropics), looked up at the nearest tree, and saw…

baby coconuts

Baby coconuts!

Coconuts are not actually nuts; they are the fruit of a tall palm Cocos nucifera with large, spreading fronds.

“Oh, my sweet, little darlings!” she cried out, “How can I get you down from there?”

“Ask Junior!” they replied.

Baby coconuts are very smart, because they are high in saturated fats and therefore nourishing to the entire body, including the brain!

Coconuts are excellent for your health, because they are loaded with many health-enhancing vitamins and minerals. For example, coconuts are loaded with potassium. There are 600 milligrams of potassium in a serving of coconut water, which is 17 percent of the recommended daily amount and more than what’s found in a medium-sized banana.

See, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree in this family! (Daddy is a banana, after all).

Junior, her tall, strapping, native Belizean neighbor, came right over to help Moringa. He was the man who had planted the seed for the moringa tree that now grows in his front yard here in Belize.

moringa tree

Junior got busy right away knocking down the most robust, healthiest-looking baby coconuts for the expectant Momma Moringa. (Daddy Banana was in his office, but since his office is at home, he could look out the window and smile and wave at his wife down below).

Junior pokes coconut

Since we are dealing with a goddess, the gestation period is quick and birth is relatively effortless, though there are still some logistics involved. Moringa appointed Junior to be her assistant for the birthing process of the baby coconut twins.

Junior walking w coconuts

The tops of fresh tender coconuts are usually cut open with a sharp machete to access the goodness inside, which includes both the water and the jelly-like meat.

Junior hacked the tops of the baby coconuts’ heads with a machete (Hey, let’s face it: childbirth isn’t all that pretty!) … Grrr, that’s hard work!

Junior chops coconut

Amniotic fluids (coconut water) spurted out, and their umbilical cords were cut, too. Momma Moringa was hanging in there like a champ!

As a dear friend of the Moringa goddess, I was present for the birth and had the privilege of drinking the fresh coconut water straight from the baby coconuts.

Holding the baby in one hand (the perfect size!), I looked longingly out to sea and made a wish. Sammie the dog joined me.

1 looking out to sea

I took the first sip.

2 first sip

I kept on drinking….

4 really good

I drank to the last drop.

5 coconut beach bliss

I was then in an altered state of consciousness where dreams were my only reality.

daydreaming copy

I had a dream about Moringa and her baby coconuts, and when I woke up, I saw this:

coconut moringa in a bowl

It looked so good, so… I ate it! (Goddess forgive me!)

In case you didn’t know, another health-enhancing product can be derived from this amazing fruit: coconut oil. Watch to find out more!

Moringa marries a banana in Belize

beach blissMy friends and family know I’ve always been a finicky eater. My mom told me that when I was little, I annoyed her because I used to play with my food… a lot.

What’s wrong with playing with your food?

Isn’t food meant to be fun?

Well, nothing’s changed. I still play with my food… a lot. I like to experiment. I like to invent my own meals. It still annoys people. (“What are you making?”)

I’ve been house sitting at my friends’ beachside bungalow in Belize, a tiny country just south of Mexico with white sand beaches, tropical jungles, waterfalls, caves, monkeys, … and … more beaches. I normally prefer to howl with the monkeys in the jungle while painting my face with streaks of mud, but for the next few months it looks like I’m beach-bound, here beside the Caribbean Sea. (I know, I’m so bummed out, right?)

So, this morning, a little bird flew into the window of my bungalow with a tweet (a message, folks) and told me to write about what I’m having for breakfast.

First, I had to finish my daily morning yoga routine.

hanumanasana cropped copy

Get your bliss on, baby.

Then, I made my way into the kitchen to inspect the cupboards and see what I could whip up. I found ….

SONY DSC

Well, … I’ve tried over a hundred times to eat all these tantalizing, commercialized cakes, pies, and doughnuts from the grocery store, but my body rebels, no matter how much I want it to cooperate with my taste buds’ flights of fancy. One bite of anything that contains wheat will send my digestive system into disarray. It gets ugly.

I engorged myself on wheat products my entire childhood, growing up in an Italian family where my Nonna and Papi (Italian grandparents) always made delicious home cooked meals (Grazie!) with plenty of pasta, fresh-baked bread, cookies, and more … pasta. (“Don’t you want more pasta? … Here, have some more!”) So, like most Americans, I acquiesced to the family’s mealtime traditions… until I discovered in my adult years that I was, like most Americans, allergic to gluten.

Yes, that most dastardly, nefarious ingredient. Gluten – it’s in all wheat products. It’s evil, I tell you, … evil.

I’ve joined the growing ranks of the health-conscious “gluten free” army, and we’re rising up, folks … Look out, we’re adamant and unyielding, and we’re proud of it.

So, … Lucky Charms? Not for breakfast. Maybe in my dreams. Well, maybe … in another life … if, say, i’m really super stressed out and don’t have any time to make anything because that person keeps instant messaging and i have to answer and i just want to numb out because of that stupid thing that stupid person said and i just can’t relax so i’m going to sit and have some cereal…..

I eat to live; I don’t live to eat. (Well, … okay, the one exception would be chocolate: If there’s chocolate anywhere near me, I have to eat it. It’s an obsession.) I exercise my body every day, so I exercise my right to healthy, conscious (shall we say, intuitive?) eating.

I found a ripe banana.

The gates of heaven opened up, beams of radiant, white light poured out into the room, and I was renewed in the spirit! (Well, sort of) .… My point is, I did not succumb to the temptation of filling my gut with things that would make me feel yucky for the rest of the day. I waited until I had found something nourishing — something that I could have picked off a tree with my own hands, which I can actually do down here in tropical Belize.

Banana trees grow everywhere in Belize! I even have one in my own backyard, and I can eat from it year-round. (Now that’s what you call “food security”….)

bananas hanging copy

With a banana in hand, I was ready to start inventing! Let the experiment begin!

I wondered, What other fresh, healthy foods could be happily married to a banana? Then, I thought about all the moringa leaves drying on that tray downstairs in my bungalow.

IMG_9125 copy

These are the actual seeds I extracted from the pod (heart-shaped seeds, awww!) and the twigs that came from a moringa tree in our neighbor’s front yard here in Belize.

420px-Moringa-at-house-full-shoto-July-2009

Then, I heard the banana crying out for a companion to join him in a blissful bowl of raw food deliciousness. Poor, lonely fella. So I hurried downstairs to retrieve some moringa for him.

Yes, our neighbor “Junior” – quite a dude. A tall, strapping, native Belizean dude. Years ago he planted some moringa seeds in the dirt with his own hands and left it to grow into a tall tree, which he can shimmy up for anyone who asks him to get some fresh moringa. (Isn’t that great? It’s local; it’s organic!)

Moringa, known as the Miracle Plant, has become quite a fad in America’s health food movement. If you live in the US, you won’t be lucky enough to find it in your backyard, like me (hee, hee). You mostly find it in health food stores, all violently ground up into a powder and sold as capsules, but I prefer the real thing, because I can get the real thing!

Moringa trees are tropical, so I can grow them in my very own backyard (lucky me!)…. All I needed was to ask Junior to give me some of the seeds from his tree!

You can either plant the moringa seed (well, if you’re lucky enough to live in the tropics, like me – hee, hee) or you can eat one or two seeds fresh out of the pod. But be forewarned – the seeds are bitter, and they have a powerful detoxifying effect, which I had the privilege to experience first-hand.

I typically like to fast from food once a week. Recently, I decided to fast all day and then pop two fresh moringa seeds. Within a few hours I was … well, in the cathartic throes of detox. All the toxins came out, and I’ll just leave it at that. Spare ya the details.

The take-home for you, dear reader (Hey, thanks for reading!) is that after my detoxification, I felt like a superhero, because moringa, after all, is considered a super food and will go down in the foodie halls of fame as one of the most powerful, health-enhancing plants.

moringa-oleifera-powder2Native to India, the moringa tree has been planted in other tropical countries all over the world, including my home sweet home, Belize! While many things found in nature can have one or two health benefits, moringa has many. India’s ancient tradition of Ayurvedic medicine cites over 300 diseases that can be treated with the leaves of the moringa tree. Recent scientific research has proven that moringa is a powerhouse of nutritional value (You might even start feeling like the goddess in this picture if you eat lots of moringa).

Moringa leaf is an excellent source of nutrition and a natural energy booster. Moringa is also soothing, as it helps lower blood pressure and acts as a sleep aid. Moringa’s detoxifying effect may come from its ability to purify water: Moringa is a coagulant, attaching itself to harmful material and bacteria.

The other day, I was biting the fresh moringa leaves straight off a twig that Junior had plucked from his moringa tree. My friend noticed me and asked, bewildered, “Why are you eating sticks?”

I whinnied in reply.

Back to my lonely banana. He’s such a demanding chap. I have left him waiting for waaaay too long (sorry, dear, but first I had to come to Belize to find you).

Now that I had my moringa super food, all I had to do was add the filler ingredients – the glue to hold it all together. A newly married couple needs to celebrate with entertainment and gaiety! Let’s party!

I brought down the organic oat flour and steel-cut oats. I broke out the fresh, locally sourced, organic coconut oil, and I popped open the bottle of honey (in my mouth – oooh, baby!) … and….

Hmmmm. 

Still missing something….

gato

A cat? (awww) …

A bird! A plane! …

No, …. Sea salt, of course! We’re at the beach, remember? The waves of the Caribbean Sea are crashing (hear them?) outside the kitchen window to shore, and the salty sea winds are blowing my hair all over my face. [I wrap my long, unruly hair under a green shawl – green to match the moringa.]

And, let’s face it, after waiting this long: No marriage can go unconsummated. Let’s be sure to add a dash of spice to our after party with a few generous sprinkles of … cinnamon!

First, I invited everyone at the wedding party to get to know each other with some ice breakers (the banana had previously been frozen, unable to express himself fully, reluctant to warm up), but after those icebreakers and some casual fun and games, everyone was really having fun! I introduced the ravishing bride and her groom (the moringa goddess and her banana), and they danced together beautifully. Then, everyone wanted to get in on the dance.

IMG_9116 copy

Drumbeat, please…. [Live drummers enliven the place with native rhythms].

By then, it was time to get real close together and start sweating (oooh, that can be so messy and embarrassing, but in the end it’s always worth it, to let loose)…. So, I used a fork to mash all the ingredients together.

IMG_9118 copy

Here is what all these naughty ingredients looked like when I had everyone partying together and relishing in newlywed merriment:

IMG_9120 copy

Rather have the Lucky Charms? (Believe me, I understand). Health food is … well, let’s say, an acquired taste. (You can add cacao powder, which I would have done in a heartbeat, but I was all out because I ravenously consume all cacao products in my midst).

Notice the white sand beach in the background (We just had to have the wedding in Belize; I mean, where else can a lonely banana find his moringa goddess? And this goddess, my dear readers, having suffered for so long, loved and respected the banana, and she had earned her white dress.)

I went for it, folks…. Banana moringa bliss on the beach.

IMG_9122 copy

IMG_9124 copy

And how did I feel after tasting the first bite of naturally wedded, tropical splendor?

IMG_9128 copy

Hmmmm, maybe I should let my hair down for this one….

IMG_9166 copy

Divine….

IMG_9167 copy

Like a goddess

Emerging from the sea

Holding a trident

IMG_9112 copy

Early in the morning, when the sea is calm, I like to swim in the Caribbean. Yesterday I came out holding this three-pronged stick—a trident. 

My spiritual teacher Geshe Michael said, “Always try your best to treat everyone kindly. No exceptions. It could be the most annoying person you’ve ever met. It doesn’t matter. Everyone has something to teach you. You never know when you’re talking to an angel.”

(Look, mom, I’m an angel! Sorry I annoyed you by always playing with my food.)

And finally, some inspiration for you to play, too! 

How yoga works: the relationship between prana, your thoughts, and your chakras

chakras labelledWhat is the real purpose of yoga?

Whether you are a beginning or advanced student of yoga, it is important to understand how yoga works, why it works, and how to maintain an effective yoga practice. There is a relationship between the inner, subtle energy of the body (prana), the quality of your thoughts, and whether your energy centers (chakras) are blocked or open.

I would like to thank my teacher, Geshe Michael Roach, for sharing the teachings presented in this article, which has been adapted from his lecture, “Principles of Yoga: How Yoga Works” given in Tucson, Arizona in 2004.

To fully understand the purpose of yoga, we have to understand how yoga works. First, let’s explore how prana flows through our inner bodies. We have 3 main channels of energy in our bodies: (1) the central channel (sushumna nadi), (2) the left side channel (ida nadi), and (3) the right side channel (pingala nadi). According to the ancient Vedic text, Hatha Yoga Pradipika, there are 72,000 channels in the body, but these three are the major channels. Inside the central channel flows a subtle physical energy called prana, or inner wind. Your thoughts are riding on this energy called prana.

Your central channel (sushumna) starts between the eyes, goes right under the skull and down your back, inside the spine. The spinal cord has formed around your central channel, the ancient texts say, like ice forming around a twig, or like an ice cream cone that has been dipped in chocolate. The central channel goes down to your perineum, which is the base of your sexual organ, whether you’re a man or a woman. The central channel is translucent. It has a crystalline quality to it, and if you could hold it in front of you and see through it, you would see a fiery golden color inside the central channel.

In Sanskrit, the central channel is called sushumna. Su means good. When you repeat it, it means “really good,” so sushu means “really good”. And then mna is where we get the word “hymn”, which means “a holy sacred song”. So, sushumna means “beautiful song.” When prana is flowing freely through the central channel, you have pleasant, happy, healthy thoughts and feelings. You feel joy, generosity, kindness, love, etc. The central channel is the ecstasy channel, the joy channel.

When you have an orgasm, all the wind flows into the central channel and out from the side channels. That’s why an orgasm feels so good, and why it’s highly addictive: The entire world wants it! To have an orgasm is a profound, powerful desire. According to the ancient texts, The only other time you get all the winds collected into the central channel is when you die.

The two side channels of prana run alongside the spinal column, where the central channel is located. The left side channel, called ida nadi in Sanskrit, means “white as a sheep.” The right side channel, called pingala nadi in Sanskrit, came into English as “pink.” It means “a reddish-pink color.” The two side channels are the reason why we have two halves of our bodies: the left and the right side. That’s why we have two nostrils, two eyes, two hands, etc. Our physical bodies have formed around the two side channels of inner energy. The two side channels run down the left and right sides of your body. The two channels follow alongside the central channel except at the nose, where they extend down to the left and right nostrils. Then, they go under your skull, inside your spine, and go down, curve around, and come up at your perineum, at the base of your sexual organ.

Imagine three pipe cleaners side-by-side, representing the three inner channels where prana flows through your body. At certain areas in your body, the two side channels cross over the central channel and then cross back, creating a knot. This knot chokes the central channel (sushumna). Then, the prana cannot flow freely through the central channel and instead gets re-routed into one or both of the side channels.

When the prana is flowing through the side channels due to a knot in the central channel, then you have negative thoughts, feelings, and emotions. The central channel is then choked, and prana cannot flow freely through it. What happens then? You were being kind, nice, and feeling happy. Then there was a traffic jam. You started feeling angry and frustrated. Maybe you had thoughts about cutting the guy off or giving him the finger. Your prana started moving in the right side channel (pingala nadi), in which run our thoughts and emotions related to anger, sadness, and shame. This choked the central channel. Now you are not feeling kind and happy.

The worst place for this to happen is directly behind your heart, at the anahata chakra. Anahata means not struck, like the sound of a drum with no one beating the drum—the sound of your heart. There are three twists around this chakra. This is the only place in your body where the side channels twist around the central channel three times. It is the most difficult chakra to open for this reason. The most difficult thing to do is to love people and to be concerned about loving people.

When the side channels cross over the central channel, that’s called a knot—a granti. When you have your next positive, loving thought, it has nowhere to go, because the central channel is choked. Then, like a clogged pipe, the central channel gets “backed up” above and below the knot. This build-up of pressure inside the central channel causes it to burst! This is what creates a chakra, which means “wheel.” The chakras are caused by a knot in the central channel, resulting in a build-up of prana that spurts out as a wheel.

Let’s consider being in a traffic jam. You are now feeling angry and frustrated. Then, you start having thoughts about cutting people off so that you can get to work on time. Your prana starts flowing through the left side channel, which has to do with fear, greed, and craving. Every time you have a negative thought, it chokes the central channel. In your desire and your anger, you’ve ruined your day, because you can’t perceive anything as pleasant, because of the knot in your central channel. You arrive at work feeling angry and upset. You are easily frustrated and lose your patience easily. You feel especially annoyed with that irritating guy in the next cubicle. You have cravings for junk food. These are all disturbing, negative emotions that result from prana running through the left and right side channels. Your central channel, your joy and happiness channel, has a knot, and prana cannot flow freely through your central channel.

What would happen if you could untie these knots in your central channel before work? What if you could make sure that prana was flowing through your central channel? If you could avoid these knots, what would happen at work? You would have a better day. You would not get angry during the traffic jam. You would have patient, loving thoughts. You would arrive at work feeling happy and peaceful. You wouldn’t feel irritated by that guy in the next cubicle. You would feel creative, focused, fulfilled, and happy.

The purpose of yoga is to release the knots in your central channel so that you can have kind, loving thoughts. If you practice some exercises in the morning that loosen these knots, then your job will change. Your life will change. This is how yoga works: It changes the way you perceive your world, because it changes the flow of subtle, inner energy (prana) in your body.

The heart chakra is the most difficult place to loosen the knot in your central channel. The only place in your body where the side channels twist around the central channel three times is at your heart, where your spine is, where the central channel is coming down. That is why it is so challenging to love people and let people love us. You have to open the heart chakra in order to feel love for other people. How do open the heart chakra? You untwist the three knots! Thus, we practice twists in our hatha yoga (asana) postures. Granti moksha means “to free up the knot.” Twists open up the chakras by loosening the knots around the central channel.

In hatha yoga, there are specific postures (asanas) that twist and stretch the body in different ways. Each yoga posture is designed to open specific energy centers (chakras) in your body.

Classically, there are seven chakras located in front of the spine, from the base of your spine all the way up to the crown of your head. Stretches direct inner wind (prana) out of the side channels and into the central channel. When you practice locks (bandhas) in yoga, you pressurize and direct prana to flow up the central channel, from the bottom to the top of your spine. Linking one posture to the next with steady breathing (vinyasa) distributes the prana evenly throughout all the chakras.

In an effective hatha yoga practice, the yoga postures must be practiced in order. You open up the bottom chakras first, and that frees up prana to the middle chakras, and that lets prana flow to the top chakras. Moving from the bottom chakra gradually up to the heart, throat, 3rd eye, etc. is more powerful than moving down, because you are trying to get prana to flow up to the crown chakra, where you can experience feelings of bliss and ecstasy. But in order to get there, you have to first open up all the chakras underneath. That is the purpose of yoga.

If you want watermelons, you have to plant watermelon seeds.

WatermelonsLast week a friend asked me to write a recommendation letter for her graphic design work. I was happy to recommend her, but I was busy with something else at the time I received her email. I was in the process of writing letters to editors of magazines where I wanted to publish some of my articles. I decided to put off writing my friend’s recommendation letter and finish my letters first.

But then I remembered the wise words of Geshe Michael Roach, one of my favorite teachers, “If you want something, you have to give it away to someone else first.”

I thought to myself, “I want to be noticed by magazine editors so that I can publish some of my articles.” In that moment, I realized that I wanted the same thing as my friend – to be noticed for a job well-done, and to then be offered a new job. I remembered my teacher’s metaphor, “If you want to grow watermelons in your garden, you have to plant watermelon seeds.”

I decided that instead of finishing my articles, I should drop my personal agenda for a while and spend an hour writing a recommendation letter for my friend. I thought, “If I plant the seed for my friend to get a job, then I will get “a watermelon in my garden” – an editor will notice me and offer me a writing job.

I wrote my friend’s recommendation letter and emailed it to her right away. I was pleasantly surprised to find that my watermelon seed sprouted and grew quickly. The next day, I checked my email and found a long response from a writer and editor whom I respect.

She had taken the time out of her busy life to read my website in detail and to provide positive, encouraging feedback. She offered to connect me with her professional network, and since then I have been able to publish articles in online venues that I didn’t have access to before.

Whatever I give to other people, I get back a thousandfold. This is the highest yoga. Thank you, and blessings to Geshe Michael for sharing this teaching with the world.

If You Want Watermelons, You Have to Plant Watermelon Seeds

WatermelonsLast week a friend asked me to write a recommendation letter for her graphic design work. I was happy to recommend her, but I was busy with something else at the time I received her email. I was in the process of writing letters to editors of magazines where I wanted to publish some of my articles. I decided to put off writing my friend’s recommendation letter and finish my letters first.

But then I remembered the wise words of Geshe Michael Roach, one of my favorite teachers, “If you want something, you have to give it away to someone else first.”

I thought to myself, “I want to be noticed by magazine editors so that I can publish some of my articles.” In that moment, I realized that I wanted the same thing as my friend – to be noticed for a job well-done, and to then be offered a new job. I remembered my teacher’s metaphor, “If you want to grow watermelons in your garden, you have to plant watermelon seeds.”

I decided that instead of finishing my articles, I should drop my personal agenda for a while and spend an hour writing a recommendation letter for my friend. I thought, “If I plant the seed for my friend to get a job, then I will get “a watermelon in my garden” – an editor will notice me and offer me a writing job.

I wrote my friend’s recommendation letter and emailed it to her right away. I was pleasantly surprised to find that my watermelon seed sprouted and grew quickly. The next day, I checked my email and found a long response from a writer and editor whom I respect.

She had taken the time out of her busy life to read my website in detail and to provide positive, encouraging feedback. She offered to connect me with her professional network, and since then I have been able to publish articles in online venues that I didn’t have access to before.

Whatever I give to other people, I get back a thousandfold. This is the highest yoga. Thank you, and blessings to Geshe Michael for sharing this teaching with the world.

Why would anyone take a vow of silence for one year?

I have taken a one-year vow of silence, meaning that I will not speak with anyone … for an entire year. I know, you’re asking, Why would anyone want to do something like that? Good question.

I have been preparing for this since 2008 by practicing with month-long vows of silence every few months.

Inspired by Baba Hari Dass and other masterful teachers, I have made this commitment because I believe that if I want to see peace in the outer world, I must cultivate peace within myself first.

Many of my friends and family members find it difficult to understand why I choose this practice. One can imagine the many benefits. But only by committing myself to the practice can I learn, grow, and realize these benefits for myself and the people around me. I have to try….