Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.

Hope is on the way

Hi all! We are well into the throes of 2021 with some good things in the air. It doesn’t take much to remember what we were all doing a year ago about this time. We were probably at our job, maybe in an office, maybe in a studio, going to restaurants and public places without a second thought. Maybe we heard some rumblings at this time about the Corona Virus in Italy, but it wasn’t in our collective psyche.

Today is different. If we still have our job, we are either doing it from home or have to put on some PPE just to get through the day. Now most of us know someone who has had COVID, and sadly many know someone who has died from it.

The disinformation campaign continues on FB feeds. We all seem to have a family member or old high school buddy pushing conspiracy theories about the vaccine and downplaying the effects of the virus. As Anthony Fauci said, “we don’t know everything about this virus.” In a recent training, I learned that COVID’s attack on the olfactory nerve may lead to neurlogical complications. But again as Fauci said, we don’t know everything about the virus.

Luckily, the vaccine is being rolled out. My mother-in-law was one of the first wave of people in Hawai’i to get one. Since she has received the Pfizer version of the vaccine, she said she has no side effects. Her arm was sore after the first day, but that’s it. She due for her second shot next month.

When you hear disinformation about the virus, it is best not amplify it. If you disagree with someone, do so on a private chat or text. That way people reading the thread in your conversation aren’t fed untruths which are propagated by those who spread the disinformation.

On a somewhat sad note, I have decided to allow my IYNAUS certification to lapse as I don’t anticipate teaching this year. This is partly due to the reality of safety and partly due to my ongoing challenges as a caregiver and full time employee. I am still practicing, but am taking time for myself to get through this horrible period.

May you all be safe.

Grieving everything

At the beginning of this pandemic in mid-March, our lives as we knew them got thrown into the spin cycle. Suddenly we couldn’t go to the store normally, we couldn’t eat in restaurants, we couldn’t attend family functions without risk. We as a world have somewhat adapted to my newly-hated catch-phrase “the new normal.” An ambiguous term that means one week you can go to the park, the next week it is closed and what ever other amalgamation our local governments cook up to mix public safety with businesses allowed to eke out rent.

My office director gave us all a friendly email and linked an article from the Harvard Business Review called “That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief.” It gave me a useful term to add to my vocabulary: “anticipatory grief.” In short, you know some really bad shit is going to happen, just where when and to what extreme. And as a kicker, how much it will affect you and your family.

Six months into this pandemic, the bad shit continues to roll in. We are stuck in our homes with very few options aside from supply runs and a run to the park if it is deemed legal. My wife and I took our dogs out and there is a “one person” per activity limit. Just as we pulled in to the parking lot with our two dogs, a policeman rolled right up to us and just parked. He was watching what we were going to do. Dutifully, my wife got out of the car got one dog and walked about 50 feet, before I got out of the car and walked “individually,” like we were two strangers that got out of the same car. After a while he left and we were confused like scofflaws with guilt being caught after lifting a candy bar from 7-11.

I understand why we have to do this. Watching super-spreader events like college parties and MAGA rallies boil my blood even more than the oppression of having dog walking supervision from the local PD. It is the super spreaders who make so we have to do this. People tossing science aside because of their “rights” with little regard of who they may spread the virus to and who will later die as a result. Just with the same disregard of setting off a wildfire because of a gender reveal.

As I am writing this, I realize it is more just venting on my part. The reality is that this situation is causing communities and families to crumble apart before our very eyes. It will take enormous strength for us to pull through and make our “new normal” feel normal again.

Be kind to yourself. Be kind to one another.