Author Archives: YB

Shakti time! It’s Navratri once again

I always look forward to Navratri, which is celebrated twice a year. Perhaps because it is a true marking of the change of seasons. As I live in Hawai’i, we don’t have much variance in seasonal changes like in the mainland US, so this holiday reminds me that it is fall (or spring). Every night of Navratri I listen to the devotional chants on Youtube and feel the blessings bestowed by each of the manifestations of Durga.

I may have mentioned it in the past, but I have come to really appreciate Skandamata whom I have found through these devotional practices. She is the mother of Skanda, and any reverence given to her gets blessings by both her and Kartikeya. She brings motherly protection and sage advice during difficult times.

I love the concept of Shakti. It is pure energy from the divine feminine source. It gets things done. It ignites action. Perhaps that is why Navratri it is at the front end of each of the equinoxes. It prods us into activity to get through the season.

If you want to follow along with Navratri, I would recommend this creator’s videos. They are animated well and give the story of each of the Nav Durgas.

Many blessings during this auspicious time!

30 day kindness challenge

Oh what interesting times we live in nowadays. I feels since the pandemic, the world has become a much smaller place. For safety reasons, we don’t get out much anymore. We are confined to our electronic devices. Social media has largely co-opted our real social life which used to be done in person. Have you noticed yourself becoming a bit detached from your community in favor of “doom scrolling?” I know I have.

A friend of ours had a tragedy recently. Her small dog was attacked by a larger dog and unfortunately succumbed to a punctured lung. Our friend, who is also my wife’s coworker, was devastated and could not work the next day as she was overcome with trauma and grief. My wife started a text chain with her other coworkers to help support our friend. They all pitched in to buy her family flowers and a sushi platter. We delivered the flowers and platter last night, and our friend looked spent with emotion. She just hugged my wife sobbing. She gave us the rest of her deceased dog’s belongings because she could not bear to throw them away.

She texted back later stating that the sushi was the first thing she has eaten since the tragedy, and that she was able to function a little better.

As we have dog-sat our friend’s lost family member, it felt as though we lost one of our dogs too. That night we hugged or dogs extra tight, knowing that all of our time together is limited. Conversely, that was the first time I have felt tremendous empathy in a long time. We felt the pain of our friend, but also felt the joy of being able to help her through this difficult time.

I saw a bumper sticker on a car the other day that said “Make America Kind Again.” That also struck a chord. Social media has taught us to yell at each other from the safety of our own couch. How many Reddit posts do you see that are trending of someone helping out another human being? Rarely.

I Googled “how to be kind,” and got these very simple tips:

1. Smile 

2. Look for ways you can promote peace.

3. Just listen.

4. Offer a hug 

5. Invite someone new into your friend circle.

6. Send out a kind email 

7. Give someone a genuine compliment.

8. Help clean up, without being asked

9. Hold open the door for the person behind you.

10. Encourage a friend or family member when they are uncertain or unmotivated.

11. Make peace with someone that has hurt you.

12. Strike up a conversation with a stranger.

13. Let someone into your lane while driving.

14. Pay for the person behind you in line.

15. Give your time to a friend or someone who needs it.

16. Say Thank You and Please everyday without fail.

17. Meditate on loving kindness: “May you be happy, healthy, peaceful, and free from suffering, and may my actions in some way contribute to the happiness, health, peace, and freedom for all.”

18. Say “I love you” a little more often to your family and friends.

19. Pause before you speak, and choose words with positive intention.

20. Help someone get some rest (watch their kids, run an errand, bring them dinner, etc).

21. Pick up litter you see thrown about even if its not yours.

22. Remove complaints and curses for one week.

23. Gift something meaningful to someone: loan a book, bring flowers, drop off cookies, whatever suits your fancy.

24. Make a donation.

25. Give up your seat.

These are all simple. So I challenge you to practice one or some of these for the next 30 days. I think it will make a difference in your personal life, your community, and even the world at large.

Is gardening art? — The Windward Gardener

To get accepted into the All Souls College at Oxford, applicants have to take a rigorous test known touted as “The World’s Hardest Exam .” They have to answer three thought provoking questions in the form of an essay. Questions range all disciplines. For fun, I located a site that publishes questions from previous tests. […]

Is gardening art? — The Windward Gardener

Guru Poornima notes, or why I went from an asana-based practice to a mantra-based practice

Hi all, today’s full moon hails in Guru Poornima, or the annual event where one’s guru is observed and honored. Although I don’t teach asana anymore, I still honor what I have learned from the Iyengar family, whom I consider my guru. When I was learning to be a teacher, I heard of the time when Prashantji was in a terrible accident. During his convalescence. it was said that the Iyengar family chanted mantras to assist him in his recovery. It is said that prior to that, the invocation to Patanjali was not chanted at all during classes they taught. Not only did Prashant survive, he later became one of the world’s most influential teachers not so much on how he taught asanas, but how he used asana as a means to gain adhyatmik knowledge combining body, mind, and breath. Now the Invocation to Patanjali and Guru Mantra are included in Iyengar classes.

I chanted the Guru Mantra today. Shortly afterwards, a friend who reads my blog reached out to me. I gave him a call and we had a nice conversation about yoga, life and writing. It reminded me that mantras produce daily miracles, much like prayer. In fact Prashantji calls mantras prayers. They are one in the same.

There was a time in my life when I really needed and benefitted from asana. I probably still need them as much, but have not been as focused on them as my nightly mantra practice. I feel they have given me blessings and the fortitude to withstand a lot of pain over the past few years.

If you have read my blog the past few years, I would like to impart that yoga can take you on journey that is only yours alone. You can use techniques from teachers to learn certain skills, but only you can walk your path. Use what you learn in any form of yoga you practice to gain insight to take the next step whatever that will be. For me, this is the path of yoga.

Many blessings during this auspicious day!

Leftovers, or follow up from “lemon squeezy” — The Windward Gardener

I got inspired a few months back by a recipe from Ina Garten. It is a simple pasta recipe that only involves two lemons, butter and some pasta. Now that I had a big juicy ripe lemon on the table, I had to give it a try. Just to get it out of the way, […]

Leftovers, or follow up from “lemon squeezy” — The Windward Gardener

Unlike Asana, Mantra is not a step-by-step instructional process

Hi all, just letting you know I am still doing yoga, but mainly with a mantra practice. I would say once I started exploring this practice, it grabbed me and directed me. Reflecting if I could “teach” this to someone, I would say it would be next to impossible. Everyone has a different constitution and that constitution is guided by the practice. Your practice could never be replicated by someone else with the same results.

Mantras give the practitioner a very deep inquiry guided by devatas. Repetition gives them fuel, or a battery charge if you will. Once the power is a certain capacity, things change dramatically. Once you have “been charged” with one mantra, others will find their way to you depending on what you need.

The one result of regular mantra practice is that it accelerates the burning of karma. This can be a painful process. You may lose things that you think you need, but don’t. Relationships may go into upheaval and even end. That is because you are changing.

You never notice the bad habits that get lopped off. You just lose the desire to do them. They are replaced by a feeling of santosha, or contentment. Santosha will radiate through the practitioner who becomes unbothered by worldly things, but maintains them more easily some how.

You become sensitive to the universe. It is painful for a while. Planet placements effect your core being. Then you notice how mantra practice somehow protects you from malefic astrology. You become immune to emotional hardship, and simply radiate contentment.

At least that has been my experience, and as I have read others, it seems to be a somewhat universal experience. Things may change, and I will update you. But for now I have found contentment and power.

I am posting a picture of my amaryllis that blooms once a year. This flower is a good metaphor. I water it regularly and take care of it with faith, and then it rewards me with its annual flowers. When one “waters” their practice with mantra, you too will bloom in a short while. Have faith.

Mantras are adaptable to your life

A good mantra practice requires meditation. First you need to be aware of what you need in life. It is easy to say “money” and then do Lakshmi mantras solely. Given the number of hits on Lakshmi mantras found on Youtube compared to others, this is common for a lot of people. But many who are reading this already have their basic needs taken care of for now and probably need something different.

Always start with a mantra for Ganesh. Om Gam Ganapataye Namah is a good mantra to start even if uttered a few times. After repeating this a few times, really try to “see” what you need in this life. Chances are it’s not money. During the past year, I have focused on mantras for protection from COVID. Like Narasimha and Durga mantras.

Do you need better health? Try the Mahamrityunjaya mantra which is a Siva-based mantra. Do you need help at developing a skill? Try a Saraswati mantra. Do you need courage and strength: Try Hanuman mantras.

I have noticed that my life has “themes” to it and I try to be mindful of what those are and do mantras accordingly.

Please take care not to do mantras during Rahu Kalam, a time span of about an hour and a half each day which is “Rahu” time. To find what time of day that is in your time zone, I’ve found this website helpful.

However, if you want to do Rahu mantras during that time, you will receive benefits.

May you have a blessed practice.

Busy March: Vaxes and Taxes

Hi all! I am pleased to announce that I have taken the first part of the Moderna vaccine in February and am slated to finish my second shot later this month. My wife and mother-in-law have already took the full two doses of the Pfizer version with no issues. Using this post to dispel disinformation I am hearing from some members in the wellness community.

A large myth is that once you get the vaccine, you no longer have to wear a mask in public. The vaccine helps you build antibodies so if you do get the virus, you will not get as sick as if you didn’t get the vaccine. The worst case scenario is that you get the vaccine, you get COVID-19 and don’t have symptoms. Then you walk around without a mask thinking you are okay, and spread the virus. Early in the pandemic, the golden rule is to assume that you are the carrier and take all precautions to prevent others from getting it.

Another source of disinformation is people who don’t look at a complete picture of data and cherry pick adverse reaction rates of the vaccine. Yes, the vaccine has side effects. I was tired for most of the day after taking it and my arm was sore for about a day. Everyone will experience different side effects. Vaccinated people are taking a dose of similar proteins of to that of COVID in their body. Of course they are going to feel a bit off until their body builds antibodies. However, there is a significantly low adverse reaction level for people who get the vaccine. If you have at risk health conditions, you will probably not be able to take the vaccine until your health conditions improve.

That being said, it is encouraging that millions have already been vaccinated and supply is increasing. In Hawai’i we are seeing a very low infection rate as it went below one percent and we are getting about 50 new cases per day with a state population of about one million.

Because of COVID-19, I didn’t earn much money last year from yoga teaching. As blessings are sometimes mixed, the upshot is that my taxes will be much more simple this year. If all goes well, I will have them done by the end of the month. As I have not earned money teaching yoga, my practice has somehow been “enriched” with daily mantras. They are a true miracle!

Revisiting Mantra as a practice

About four years ago, I wrote a post on how to start a personal mantra practice. I noticed the date of the blog post, and it was right before a lot of things radically changed in my life: my mother and stepfather moved away, America got very strange with Trumpism, my father-in-law just passed away a few months prior. I wrote about how the pranava, or AUM (OM) can “dissolve” one completely, unless tempered with the assistance another deity. In many ways, after I started my mantra practice, my reality “dissolved” right before my very eyes.

Four years on, my practice has changed quite radically. I am not apt to do asana as much if at all. Almost as if that part of my practice has “dissolved.” The one constant is that I have a mantra practice. Every night I listen and chant silently. The practice has not only helped me cope with the Trump years, and has increased my sense of resiliency. Mantra feels like it is beyond prayers. When one prays, one is apt to ask for personal favors from the divine. Mantras align you with the vibration of the divine, and allow you to realize all you need is within, and you have far more than you can ever realize in this lifetime.

Mantras fall into the most of yoga’s categories, like Bhakti yoga (the yoga of devotion), Nada yoga (the yoga of sound), and Laya yoga (the yoga of absorption). On a broader level, it could be Karma yoga (yoga of action) and even Hatha yoga (as it can work with chakra sound forms). A few years ago when I started, I simply used “LAM” which activates the Muladhara (root chakra).

I am not trying to proselytize here, as everyone is different and will have different results from this practice. I am simply stating that mantras feel like they are working for me at this point in my practice. They are transcendent of all the physical aside from the ability to listen and speak.

Gandhi once said: “One must be completely absorbed in whatever mantra one selects. The mantra becomes one’s staff of life and carries one through every ordeal.” It was a mantra that gave him peace and inner power to face adversity and the greatest of challenges with equanimity.

I cannot tell you how many times in the past four years how many times I’ve faced my personal fears and was at my lowest emotional points, how much mantras have given me strength to face them and emerge victoriously.

If you want to start your own practice, I would recommend just setting time aside to listen to the Ganesh Mantra: Om Gam Ganapataye Namah. Here is a nice version of this chant. Ganesh, always comes first, as he is the breaker of obstacles. Even if one just uses this mantra, it is sufficient. I feel after a long practice with this mantra, others will reveal themselves to you as needed.

Many blessings on your practice.