Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Ten things that made me smile today

Okay nothing deep, nothing esoteric, just ten things that made me smile today. I make lists like this in my head sometimes to help me remember how it really is the simple things that make life the sweetest.

1) a silly dog named mingus

2)An adorable boy with beet juice all over his face

3) Realizing that when all of the Dr. Bronners in the bathroom ran out, that I actually had more to refill the  dispenser because I finally broke down and bought a gallon of the stuff. (BTW- Dr. Bronners is the SHIT! I use it to wash dishes, hair, skin, clean toilets and kitchens...this year I actually had it do my taxes for me. There is NOTHING it can't do!)

4) Picking the last of the peonies in the garden

5) A sweet man who desperately needs a haircut, but looks like such a cute overgrown kid that I just don't have the heart to ask him to cut it....

6) My studio Shambhala Yoga Center

7)Hearing  from a neighbor about my cat Charlie who loves to casually walk into other people's houses in the middle of the night so he can sleep on their beds and spoon with them.

8) The vegetarian meatloaf I made for dinner along with greens from the garden.

9) Ruth Stout. I love this woman and am using her gardening method. I wish you could see interviews with her, but they have all been removed. She died ages ago, but still lives on in her amazing book "Gardening Without Work" you can read more about her mulching system here

10) Holding and feeding a baby for a new mom while I taught yoga and she took my class. A challenge to multitask like that, but OH- that new baby smell......

Monday, May 17, 2010

SEVA- why can't can't live without it, and can never give too much of it

What is SEVA? Super Enthusiastic Vegetarian Aviators? Stop Endless Verbiage Alltogether? Sunrise Encounters Visiting Australia? Though those do seem like wonderful and completely fun possibilities- SEVA is nothing so complicated...
Seva is... love in action. 
Seva is.... the spiritual practice of selfless service. 
To assign a dictionary definition here it is:
"Seva, a Sanskrit word, springs from two forms of yoga, Karma Yoga which is yoga of action and Bhakti Yoga, the yoga of worship inspired by divine love. Seva is one of the simplest and yet most profound and life changing ways that we can put our spiritual knowledge into action. Seva is asking “How may I serve you?” Or ask “Can I help you?” Another way of doing service is to roll up your sleeves and help where you notice that you are needed."
Service-  love that word.... used to seem so powerless to me when I was younger (to get a little bit better picture of what younger me was- think pissed off, black wearing, Bikini Kill listenen' to WOMAN...cause girl is so pejorative, thank you very much). But now with a few more miles under the hood- the word Service seems so powerful.  To be able to serve people, to give of myself just because I love....woah that is some radical stuff. We have been given the gift of being able to serve, help, reach out.
SEVA doesn't have to be these crazy, grandiose acts of love and devotion..."Did you hear about Angela? She sold everything she owns to pay for 12 orphans to have shoes for their entire life and is now living in Mozambique, digging wells for villagers with her bare hands because she used all of her money to buy orphans shoes and doesn't even have enough money to buy a shovel."  Seva can be small acts...Picking up someone's child from school when they can't, paying that extra dollar for the person in front in line of you who doesn't quite have enough to cover their bill, helping someone with a heavy load of bags at the grocery store. Those bigger acts are great too....starting a non for profit, volunteering on a weekly basis at a soup kitchen, taking a hot meal to your elderly neighbor every day...but all these acts are all the same in that they come from LOVE. They come from a place of devotion to the world you live in. So SEVA doesn't ask to be huge....as a matter of fact we all practice SEVA every day in  small powerful ways. Ultimately we will all arrive to the same place as we are all on the path of love. Some people just choose to take a thousand small steps on their way there...and some people just two or three big ones. All just as important, all acts of devotion, all humble  moments of service.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


So sometimes I hear people talking about how everyone sucks...okay so sometimes talk about how everyone sucks. I mean really sucks. I started talking about how everyone sucks just today as I was taking Harrison to the train station and I got cut off- people stopped in the middle of the road to have conversations with a driver in the opposite lane (hmmmm- never crossed your mind that there are people behind you trying to make the train?nice)and people beeped at me because I din't have the foresight and driving skills to fly over the car in front me that is stopped in the middle of the road to have a conversation with a driver in the opposite lane. AAARRRRRGGGGGG- thoughtless, selfish, self involved!!!!!!!! (WOW- I am really applying that compassion I talked about) 

Then I think about all of the people that I work with at The Center for Growth and Development . The Center provides verbal behavior based ABA services to children with Autism and related disorders. The services that the center offers are so needed-yes, but more importantly it is staffed by the most giving, generous, tireless, people that I have ever met. These people deal with things every day that most people would not be able to deal with for an hour. They don't ask for applause, for accolades, even for attention for what they do. They just DO it. They do it because they are mothers. They do it because they love the amazing children they work with. They do it because it is who they are.

Then I think about Kate Perna.  Kate has started an organization called Bent on Change . Here is the  Mission Statement and vision statement.......

To bring hope, possibility, and peace to individuals and their communities

We will improve communities by extending holistic care and the physical, psychological, and emotional benefits of yoga practices to underserved and at-risk populations as a means of reducing violence, facilitating empowerment, and increasing overall wellness . We will serve all community members equally regardless of economic and personal circumstances . We will utilize the practices of Yoga Therapy as a complement to traditional medicine in an effort to improve patient quality of life and to provide holistic care.

Bent on Change is focusing on the town of Newburgh (read more about the cities stats here ). Kate wants to make a difference in a place that most people have given up on. She has faith and love that is overwhelming. She doesn't ask for applause, for accolades or even for attention for she does. She just DOES it.  She does it because it's who she is.

Then I think about Michelle and Kim. Michelle is a yogini and mother I know. She is also a nurse practitioner who works in pediatrics. A few weeks ago she met Kim....
Let me tell you about Kim. 
Kim is a single mom. 
She works as a CT tech. 
She's older than I am. She has two kids. 
Matthew is 15 and Judy is 9
They're both adopted... They both have Down syndrome. 
Kim adopted one baby with Down Syndrome and then 5 years later she adopted another
Oh, and did I say she's a single mom?
There you go

Michelle met Kim- who loves these children. Kim- who has so much love in her heart that she also works to make the wishes of other children with Down's Syndrome come true...here are just two of the wishes she has granted with her cell phone, time and love.

A 7 year old with leukemia who has just gone through 2 years of chemo needs a new bed. Mom had put a bed on layaway at a store in Michigan, but can't afford to pay the balance. Kim gets on the phone. When she's done, the wisher has a complete bedroom set and a bedroom makeover. And her brother has a new bedroom too. And the family has 2 new couches and new wall to wall carpeting. In time for Christmas

A young man, who lives in Texas, wants to arrive at his 30th birthday party in a limo. He wants to wear a tux. Kim gets on the phone, and talks to the mom who has been unemployed for a while and says there is no party. When Kim is done, they have a banquet hall, a limo, a tux, a DJ, a videographer, food and drink from Panera and Pepsi for 50 guests , a limo shaped cake, and paper and plastic wear from Target. Kim also gets Delta to donate a plane ticket to fly his sister in from Washington. And Marriott to donate a hotel room for sis and transportation to and from the airport. So when the wisher steps into the limo, his most favorite sister is waiting for him. Surprise!
 (Thanks Michelle for letting me steal this from your blog

Kim wants to go to Down's a conference in Fla. She has no money. Michelle decides she is going to make that happen for her since she has done so much for so many others.... Make HER wish come true. (read more about Kim and her work, and Michelle's fundraising efforts 
 They don't do it to be GOOD. They don't do it for the applause or accolades. They do it because it is who they are. They do it without thinking about it. They do it because they love.

I'm sure my friends at work cut people off in traffic. I can imagine Kate stops and talks to people in the middle of main street. Michelle probably beeps at the person who is trapped behind Kate. Hmmmm- they don't suck. Maybe all of these people who make us feel so angry at times are people just like Michelle, my friends at work, Kate. People who are full of love- people who just DO. Maybe not in such measureable ways like the people above...but in meaningful ways nonetheless.  I think we are allowed moments to be human (hell to even say people suck).  The same humanity that makes people steal your parking place, is the same humanity that allows people to love so fully and deeply.

Thank you to all of the amazing people I have the honor of knowing and learning from. You are a constant inspiration. Thank you also to Amma . My Guru, my ultimate inspiration.


Saturday, April 10, 2010

Compassion through non-attchment....man it's hard!

Therefore, do not judge people:
Do not make assumptions about others.
A person is destroyed
By judging others

adapted from the  Anguttura Nikaya

So in the not too distant past someone really hurt me. Deeply. One of those wind gets knocked out of you hurts. I quickly went through the stages of dealing with that kind of hurt....sadness, denial, depression, blah blah blah. Very quickly I came to the space that I have always felt the most comfortable in..."THE PLACE OF COMPASSION". Good place to be, right? I can be in that space- talk in a very magninomous way about everything- I have it all figured out. I feel so good about how BIG I am being about everything. Strong, brave, COMPASSIONATE, Shannon.

So there I am, talking about how I feel about this person who hurt me so deeply to a friend, when she says"Wow Shan, you are so COMPASSIONATE".  Hearing those words from someone else mouth instead of having them rattle around in my brain made something in me click...."but I don't feel compassionate right now. I just feel shitty."  Hmmmm- wait- isn't compassion er about ending suffering?  Hmmmm- isn't the only way to end that suffering is to realize that you yourself are suffering? Hmmmm- so up to this minute I was FINE (or so I was obviously trying to tell myself) so I hadn't been able to even identify with that suffering. Heeeyyyy wait a minute- now that I really think about it, my COMPASSION feels a whole lot like JUDGEMENT!  I feel a lot better about things when I can hold onto my hurt and pile it up, standing on top of it after I have wrapped it in the pretty trappings of compassion. So EASY to look DOWN on the person who hurt me by feeling sorry for them. "Sigh, it's just so sad how lost they are."
So I ahem, guess I haven't been feeling compassionate....I have instead been attached to the hurt. Holding onto it for dear life. It just feels so much safer in that space.

So what is true compassion? True compassion is wanting others to be free from suffering. So compassion is the definition of the highest scope of motivation. It is said that to generate genuine compassion, one needs to realise that oneself is suffering, that an end to suffering is possible, and that other beings similarly want to be free from suffering.
 To  make this whole compassion business even more challenging- I am going to throw in a quote by his holiness the Dalai Llama "Compassion without attachment is possible. Therefore, we need to clarify the distinctions between compassion and attachment. True compassion is not just an emotional response but a firm commitment founded on reason. Because of this firm foundation, a truly compassionate attitude toward others does not change even if they behave negatively. Genuine compassion is based not on our own projections and expectations, but rather on the needs of the other: irrespective of whether another person is a close friend or an enemy, as long as that person wishes for peace and happiness and wishes to overcome suffering, then on that basis we develop genuine concern for their problem. This is genuine compassion."
Oy! This is getting harder and harder! Ah, but I know the loophole you are looking for in this one..."Ha! I have no idea if this person really wishes for peace and happiness and wishes to overcome suffering...how can I develop a genuine concern for them?" Sorry, that argument doesn't work. Truly, is there anyone on this earth who does not want to be happy? Want to be loved?  Nope, didn't think so.

  So I realized with stunning clarity, that what I had been labeling as compassion, was really attachment and judgement in fancy wrapping.  I realized I had to LET GO of that emotional response and understand that this person wants the same thing that I want in life-  they are hurt, they are doing the best they can, they don't want to hurt anyone else, they are doing what they think is right- SO THEY CAN BE HAPPY...i know that THAT IS ME. I am not living their reality, but I understand their truths.....THAT IS ME.

I would love to say that when I realized these things, the hurt went away and I became this great enlightened being who upon seeing this person will give them an honest hug and only wish them joy and happiness. But it didn't, am I'm not. I am however, more aware and on the road to compassion. It is a great a challenging journey. But i know I will get there. Someday.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Ahhhhh- the first iconic days of spring....blisters on the hands from clearing out the garden.

So many children on the front porch it seems like they are multiplying by the second.
 (I came out  5 minutes after this picture was taken and there were four more added to this collection of kids)

First official gathering on the deck- wearing short sleeves and sandals even though you have goosebumps.

Looking out onto Mt. Beacon, the snow has finally lost its battle with the sun.

Eggs from our neighbor..... milk, cheese,vegetables from local farms.

A beautiful bottle of Morgon.

Sun kissing my forehead as I move through my salute to it.....abundance.

thank You Universe for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday; this is the birth
day of life and love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any--lifted from the no
of all nothing--human merely being
doubt unimaginably You?
(now the ears of my ears awake and now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

- e.e.cummings

Happy Spring.  Simple blessings are beyond measure.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Thoughts on love, life and other things....

I am often inspired by these thoughts and quotes....I wanted to share! Om Shantih...

On love......
"Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built."

Have only love in your heart for others.
The more you see the good in them,
the more you will establish good in yourself... 
Paramahansa Yogananda

The important thing is not to think much,
but to love much; and so,
do that which best stirs you to love.
Saint Teresa of Avila

Will someday split you open
Even if your life is now a cage...
Love will surely bust you wide open
Into an unfettered blooming new galaxy...
A life-giving radiance will come...
O look again within yourself,
For I know you were once the elegant host
To all the marvels in creation...
From a sacred crevice in your body
A bow rises each night
And shoots your soul into God...

Om Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu
May all beings everywhere be happy and free from suffering!!!!! 

On the One-ness of the universe....
Who you are is absolutely unimaginable.
When you stop imagining yourself in any form,
there is a revelation that has never been spoken,
but is directly experienced.

True communication is communion―the realization of oneness, which is love.
Eckhart Tolle : Gaia Explorer
The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes within the souls of people when they realize their relationship, their oneness with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize that at the center of the universe dwells the Great Spirit, and that this center is really everywhere, it is within each of us
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