Meeting the Dalai-Lama

Where do I start? As I walked down to my seat I was already moved by the simple fact of being there! What an amazing experience. You can find out more about this event at www.tibet.ca/2012 and read his Teachings on compassion (click here!), and the speech he made in Ottawa yesterday here.

As his Holiness the Dalai Lama made his way to the stage, the crowd stood up to welcome and greet him with the utmost respect. Fortunately, I had already taken out a tissue as a precautionary measure for uncontrollable eye wateriness!!

It is with great modesty and an attaching personality that the Dalai Lama delivered messages of peace and compassion. He emphasized on the demilitarization of the world and the use of these large monetary resources towards education and the eradication of poverty. He explained and suggested ideas on how to bring more compassion into our lives and the importance to make decisions based on everyone’s interests and well-being for the future of our planet.

Smiling and laughing throughout the Teachings he shared with us this weekend, he spoke about the fear and anxiety that arises from individualistic behaviors. When we decide to take on an attitude of self-centeredness, we become weary of the others around us, resulting in further isolation. And so, although some actions may seem advantageous at the time, they may not be beneficial to us in the long run. This is why intention is key: are we doing so only for our own personal advancement, or are we thinking of the impact this will have on others around us?

He spoke about the advances in technology and the interest of science in spirituality, looking at the effects of meditation on the neurones and the body’s health. He shared his opinion on our current education system, suggesting that it should focus more on the development of the mind and on human relationships than on acquiring material goods. Although money is necessary, it is the use we make of it that could have a greater social impact.

Environmental consciousness and the need to protect our planet and consume more responsibly was also discussed at length. He emphasized on the reality of the relationship we have with the Earth, the fact that by destroying it we are bringing harm to all living things. That we must recognize our oneness, our unity with all life.

Sitting down after sharing his thoughts with us, he answered questions sent in prior to this event. On a question about parenting, he reiterated the necessity for the presence and demonstration of affection by both parent’s in the child’s development, this affection being the seed of compassion. That in order to create a better world for tomorrow we must start now by teaching our children compassion, by showing them the importance of others and the necessity to respect them and to let go of our self-centeredness and fears.

In the end, it is hard to describe this encounter with words that appropriately reflect the feelings I felt, but I will start with these: moved, inspired, relieved, joyful, unity, peace, calm, at ease, and many more. It was a lot to take in and I am glad, honoured even, to have met such a remarkable human being.

Namaste.

Cesser d’exister et commencer à vivre

To live is the rarest thing, most people just exist” ~ Oscar Wilde

J’ai recommencé à lire un livre que je n’avais jamais réellement lu pour me rendre compte, dès le tout début, que j’en avait déjà oublié le début. Idées simples d’un bonheur atteignable au quotidien, je remets en marche la machine à écrire.

Voilà, c’est facile, c’est écrit là, il suffit de redécouvrir chaque tâches auxquelles nous ne pensions plus pour retrouver notre conscience si longtemps perdue. Sous la douche je m’arrête et je vis : je sens l’eau chaude ruisseler sur ma peau, je respire l’air humide, j’hume l’odeur de mon savon, puis en faisant mousser le shampoing entre mes mains, je frotte ma tête où mes cheveux glissent entre mes doigts. Expérience poétique pourtant vécue à chaque matin. Hors, lorsqu’on n’y porte point d’attention, elle s’efface et s’estompe comme toutes les autres.

De cette perspective nouvelle, une tâche mondaine et même sans intérêt peu soudain se transformer en une véritable aventure des sens. Se rendre à l’épicerie devient un voyage à travers le monde, une compréhension de l’effort et de ce que seulement le travail de tous et chacun peu accomplir. Attendre l’autobus, un moment privilégié pour sentir le vent sur son visage, écouter les bruits du matin ou simplement se retirer du monde et n’observer que sa respiration.

Be the change you want to see in the world” (M. Gandhi) parce que c’est avec les changements que nous apportons à notre propre vie que le reste du monde et notre vision de celui-ci changera. Choisir de redécouvrir ce monde à chaque jour et à chaque instant sans attendre qu’il y ait un meilleur moment, parce que celui-ci est le bon, parce que maintenant c’est le temps.

The Power of Practice

Whether you meditate, do yoga, run, climb, train or dance (or do any other activity that makes you feel good really), no matter how many times you fall off the wagon, you notice the difference. You become more irritable, cranky, and you just don’t feel all that good about yourself.

Having an activity that both engages body and mind, that makes you think or stop thinking, I think is very beneficial to our health and our well-being. I believe that by engaging in such actions, we are able to live more fully into the present moment. Taking climbing for example, for me, it totally puts me right there in the moment for if I don’t give all my attention to what it is I am doing, I’ll fall off! It’s as simple as that.

In practicing yoga and meditation, I find that I can bring this focus and calm to other parts of my life whether it is while climbing or at work, these practices not only make me more fit but they also enable me to take a step back and see the bigger picture.

A lot of the times, I think that many of us need just that: taking a step back. By doing so, by engaging in these types of activities, we allow our creativity, our focus and our conscious awareness to emerge. We come to understand the flow of life and see the beauty of it all. We realize that we were overwhelmed and preoccupied by events happening outside of us forgetting that the stability and peace we seek is inside of us.

And so, by taking this step back, by taking care of ourselves, we slow down time and we truly enjoy every moment. Jivan mukti ~ fully living here and now in a state of self-realization and liberation. I hope you find your own “practice” or way of taking time for yourself, reflecting on where you are now. Only by knowing where you stand can you move forward.

Namaste.

Moving forward in a world of infinite possibilities

I am taking a moment here to acknowledge the great people in my life, and one of them who brought this saying to my attention. Last night I made my ultimate wish, to deepen my practice. I chose to do so for the benefits it has brought to me so far and because I want to continue along this Path, for myself, for others.

I have been practicing yoga for several years now and have started to study the scriptures and practice daily in the last two years. Along with meditation, I have found that it has positively changed my life and my relationship with others. I am continuously learning about myself, my behaviors, my thought patterns, and it has allowed for a better understanding of what is truly important in Life while slowly getting rid of what hinders my growth.

To deepen my practice. Although I will continue the physical practice of yoga that heals my body and the mental practice of conscious awareness that guides my actions and my thoughts, there is more. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras presents this as the Eightfold Path which some describe as the ethical blueprint for living a moral life and incorporating the science of yoga into your life.

I believe that it is now my time to delve deeper into this Path, my practice, and to fully become a practitioner. I am grateful for all of those who have been there. I am especially thinking of you and how grateful I am for your support, for your laugh, but most of all, for being here patiently with me. You are one of my greatest Teachers and I love you.

There is no reason nor sense in looking back, the seed has been planted. I am moving forward in a world of infinite possibilities. Sat Naam and Namaste.

Aum Meditation

Before dawn on a rainy morning, I enter a room adorned with large open windows, overlooking the forest. As I join the others, sitting in a circle in Sukhasana, I listen to the rain in the trees feeling the subtle positive energy in the room. The air is fresh and an aroma of essential oils calms my thoughts; we begin our first group meditation.

After many minutes, whilst I perceive a growing discomfort in my hips and back, I am able to shift my focus back in, allowing myself to simply be. As our Teacher initiates the chanting of the Aum, the first sounds are merely audible. As we repeat this chant, matching our breaths, the vibratory effects are soon overwhelming. As the others continue to sign, I pause to listen and absorb the energy now filling the room.

The chant grows louder, with the many voices creating an incessant wave of sound. With freedom and creativity, some are uttering the Aum fully, while others choose to enunciate only certain parts of the sound: the harmonics are simply breathtaking. I feel a shiver running from the bottom of my spine to the top of my head and down my arms.

Soon, the rain and the wind in the trees return to the forefront of this melody, birds chirping as the last vibration of sound dissipates in the light of the day. As I slowly bring my awareness back to the room, my mind is now opened to receiving the teachings. It was beautiful.

“We only exist in this moment” ~ Guy Tardif.

Namaste.

The power of sound

For many people around the world, music plays an important role in their way of life. A few years ago, while working with Indigenous populations, I was invited to a World Conference where I met a Māori women. Māori people are the indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand or Aotearoa, “The Long White Cloud”. She told us that Māori people believe that they are the children of the mist, fruit of the union between the Earth and the Sky. Then, she sang.

Although I could not understand a word, I was profoundly touched by her song, tears filled-up my eyes and chills ran down my spine. Once she was done, she explained to us the meaning of this song, the story of a warrior yearning for the time when he would be reunited with his Love. Unfortunately, as the song and the story goes, he is killed in battle and thus, never sees her again. Music has a predominant role in Māori culture.

They say that music is a way for us to express what cannot be said through words. And so, while Aristotle pondered “Why do rhythms and melodies, which are mere sounds, resemble dispositions, while tastes do not, nor yet colours or smells?”, Darwin suggested that music preceded speech, as a sort of mating call, a bit like bird song. Perhaps this may be a reason why we seem to respond so strongly to music?

Some suggest that the origin of music likely stems from naturally occurring sounds and rhythms. A great example of this is throat singing, or katajjaq, by Inuit women in Canada, to which I was introduced to during a First Nation’s Ceremony. The two women sang facing each other, repeating sounds in a rhythmic fashion, re-creating the sound of a gushing river. It was bewitching: everyone in the room was speechless, captivated by this beautiful performance.

In an article entitled History of language and music in humans, Alan Harvey, Professor of Neurosciences at the University of Western Australia in Perth, suggests that “apart from keeping many of us sane, there is considerable evidence, that music has therapeutic powers. Numerous recent brain-imaging studies confirm that there are identifiable regions involved in the processing of music. It seems music has biological and not just cultural roots. Interestingly, areas of the limbic system, associated with emotions, are also activated when listening to music.”

Finally, in Vedic tradition, the role played by primordial sound is very important. In fact, the Vedic tradition suggests that the very creation of the universe, or the Big Bang Theory as we refer to it, was in fact a result of the vibrational impulse and energy that emanated from the sound “Om” or “Aum”. And so, in Vedic practice, sounds are used to cure and to heal the body and the mind.

As explained by The Chopra Centre, Primordial Sound Meditation isn’t about forcing your mind to be quiet, but about experiencing the quiet that is already there. It is a healing practice that allows us to experience inner calm and deep relaxation. In fact, for thousands of years, people have used meditation to move beyond the mind’s busy activity and emotional turbulence into profound peace and expanded awareness. The term “restful awareness” captures the unique combination of physical relaxation and an alert yet quiet mind.”

And so, if we choose too, music has the power to heal us and to make us feel happy. Use this gift to motivate and make you feel better. Crank up the volume and dance and sing! For life is beautiful and music is one of the many ways to enjoy it. Namaste.

Climbing and Buddhism?!

Recently, while on a climbing trip to the Shawangunk’s Ridge region, near New Paltz, NY (USA), I purchased yet another guide-book entitled: “Bouldering in the Shawangunks” by Ivan A. Greene and Marc E. Russo. I am bringing this up because I’ve had many conversations with other rock climbers about why it is they climb. For most people, climbing is more than a sport, it’s a way of life some would say. In fact, it is as much a way to release and regain energy, as it is about being in communion with nature. Better yet, I have not met a climber unhappy to be climbing ;)

For my part, climbing has always been a sort of active meditation. Whether I am listening to music while endurance climbing on our wall at home or whether I am climbing outside, the only thing I am doing at that moment is climbing. All my attention, all my focus has to go into what I am doing at this present moment or else… well, or else it just doesn’t work! Climbing for me is as much a way to enjoy the scenery as it is to relax and forget about whatever went on that day.

In a conversation with my partner, he read me an excerpt from Greene and Russo’s guide, which he found, describes very well how he feels about climbing:

“To fail on a route feels the same for everyone. […] Everyone has a threshold that, when reached, stops them. The discipline of climbing is about finding that threshold, and moving through it to a new, unknown level. […] Pushing through your normal failure boils down to a willingness to preserve through pain, fatigue, panic, indecision, frustration, and fear of the unknown.

One of the illustrious Buddha’s Four Noble Truths says, ‘All suffering originates in our desires.’ […] The desire to climb harder is not about bigger numbers, it is about exploring your personal limitations, understanding them, and moving past them. […] In pushing up to and beyond your own threshold, you begin too see who you are: your strengths, your instincts, your creativity, and your willingness to persevere.

Desire may lead to suffering, but it is in suffering that one can learn the most about oneself. And when you actually do your project, you may just notice that the key to success was, in fact, to be in the moment, free of desire.” (written by Mike Call)

Climbers find bits of happiness in climbing. However, anyone seeking to find who they really are will also come to face their own strengths and weaknesses and only through one’s willingness to persevere will they lead a happier life. So don’t give up, move past the hard part (crux) and continue trying and striving towards your goals because you may find that you’ll meet some really nice people along the way.

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