In case you needed something to brighten your afternoon, perhaps take a few minutes for some mind-focusing yoga. Or, even better, a video of people doing yoga with a little help from their pets:
Kim, Seoku Jong, the reporter for the Kyungyang Shinmun, one of Korea’s major daily newspapers, recently interviewed me about my book True Refuge, which is now available in Korean. Since most of my readers won’t be able to read the article in Korean, I wanted to share the interview with you hear.
KSJ: How are you doing? Please tell us what interests you most these days.
TB: My mother, who lives with us, recently went into home hospice care. What interests me is that when we face the truth of mortality—that these lives can pass like a dream, that we will each lose those who are dear—what most matters is love. At the end of our lives, the question that will be central is, “Did I love well?” It’s clear that the more we remember to live this moment, here and now, in a loving, awake way, the more our lives will be truly aligned with our values and our heart.
I’m deeply saddened to be losing my mom – she is a wonderful being, filled with generosity, humor, and kindness. She meditates, as do my siblings, and by being together in the present moment, by loving without holding back, this time of sorrow is also a time of great beauty. This experience is, to me, possible throughout our lives. If we can remember what most matters to us, our lives will be vibrant, creative, loving, and beautiful.
KSJ: The world is full of suffering and it doesn’t seem to end. No one is free from suffering. Your book introduces to readers the moving stories of people who managed to heal themselves despite their wounds, and to a number of meditation methods that can be applied for the liberation from suffering. If you can briefly summarize the essence of True Refuge, what it would be?
TB:While the pain and loss that is part of life will continue, we each have the capacity to free ourselves from the suffering of feeling threatened, separate, or deficient. This becomes possible when we can see past our story of egoic self and contact the deeper truth and fullness of who we really are. The essence of each of us is loving presence – an awareness that is pure, wakeful, and boundless. This is our True Refuge. Those who have healed themselves with meditation have learned to pay attention in a way that has carried them home to loving presence, our true nature.
A key part of finding this True Refuge of loving presence is bringing a kind and mindful attention to all the expressions of our egoic self. We don’t find True Refuge by eliminating the ego; we come home when, like the ocean, we embrace all the waves that arise from our Being. In a very real way, this means embracing the aggression and defensiveness, the insecurities and hurts. What we don’t love controls us. Yet, as we enfold more and more of our experience in acceptance and love, we realize the freedom and vastness of our awakened heart.
KSJ: What is false refuge, and how is it different from True Refuge? And why is it so important to have True Refuge?
Being human is challenging. We’re aware of the dangers we face—rejection, failure, disease, loss, death—and our habit is to try to control whatever we can. A false refuge is a control strategy that might give temporary relief, but in the long run does not serve us. For example, we might overeat to soothe our anxiety or to feel some gratification, but we then feel ashamed or gain unhealthy weight. We might work very hard to prove ourselves worthy, but become overly busy and neglect our loved ones. We might brag or exaggerate to get others approval, but inwardly feel like a fake. All these false refuges actually take us farther from the experience of being at home with ourselves, secure in the essential goodness of who we are.To be continued…
Better yet, Deepak Chopra makes an appearance to condemn the process (whoever said Deepak doesn’t have a humorous side hasn’t been paying attention). Unfortunately, even Aziz can’t put up with the ridiculousness of it. Oh well, you can still get the Gene Hackman home gene testing kit for all of your celebrity branded gift needs!
What do you think of the video? Tell us in the comments below!
Yesterday, after Congress failed to pass a new budget (or a continuing resolution to give them more time to work out a budget), the federal government was shutdown. But what does that mean? It means that government services deemed “non-eseential” were closed until Congress passes a bill to allow them to re-open and some 800,000 government employees are currently not working.
VlogBrother Hank Green (the other VlogBrother is NYT Bestelling author John Green) posted a video yesterday that more clearly explains what it means when your government shuts down, what services are effected, and the deeper root of this problem:
To answer that question we turn to Senator Elizabeth Warren (D) from Massachusetts. On Monday, September 30, Senator Warren gave a speech on the Senate floor about her disbelief of the current situation. “[The shutdown] is a last gasp of hope for those that can’t deal with the reality of this democracy,” is a quote from Warren’s speech that you have probably seen plastered all over your Facebook pages. Senator Warren drops even more knowledge about the Tea Party contingent of the House of Representatives forcing this shut down as a way to gut the Affordable Care Act (better known as Obamacare) in the full version of the speech below:
They did. The Affordable Care Act has been through all the proper steps to become a law – passed by the House and Congress, singed by the President and declared constitutional by the Supreme Court. It has checked off all the verses in that infamous School of Rock video we all had to watch in Civics class. And Obamacare is exempt from the government shutdown so it still went into effect yesterday, October 1, making the entire situation even more infuriatingly pointless.
Sometimes the best thing to do is to make a joke when explaining the reality is too baffling. Jon Stewart may have made the best metaphor possible on Monday night’s “The Daily Show” with a new segment “Rockin’ Shutdown Eve.”
In essence, politicians are playing chicken with the paychecks of almost 1 million government workers at stake. They have suspended vital services to underprivileged children and the elderly to bargain for their ideological ideals rather than by their desire to do what is best for this country, and that is unacceptable.
Whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, supporter of the Affordable Care Act or not, we can all agree that politicians need to stop holding America hostage for their own agendas – and that goes for both sides. We the people elected Congress to represent and work for us, and they need to do better. That’s really what you need to know about the government shutdown.
What do you think of the shutdown? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Gladys Hardy of Austin, Texas is a dedicated watcher of “Ellen.” She loves the show. In fact, she loves it so much that she called the show’s hotline to insist that Ellen move the spiked plant situated behind her chair due to its distracting nature when Ellen’s face lined up right in front of it. What a caring and observational viewer, right?
Since Gladys was so gracious with her advice Ellen decided to call her back and ask for more suggestions to help improve the show – and Gladys was only so glad to help! Watch as this endearing woman complains about the local news and tells the hilarious story of the first time she was on television.
What did you think of Gladys’s advice and conversation? Let us know your favorite Ellen moments in the comments below!
This summer the ever-expanding internet has been saturated with self-help titles. This year’s ubiquitous How-to columns are last year’s Call Me Maybe. 5 Ways to Know You Have a Sunburn, How to Match Your Socks to Your Underpants, The Best Way to Break Your Andy Cohen Habit. I admit, I’ve cast out a few How-tos of my own. So move over Carly Rae, here’s one more.
Okay, okay, so this isn’t the most serious article you’ll ever read, but I’ll bet my kids’ weekly allowance that mastery of this survival skill will save your butt the next time you’re hand to bellybutton with a ferocious tickler.
You’ve got to admit, being tickled is downright torturous. It’s juvenile, it’s flirtatious, it’s downright… painful? Uncomfortable? Breathtaking? Invasive? Creepy? I don’t know how to describe the feeling of being tickled, actually. But it ranks very high on my least favorite interactions specifically involving my neck, armpits, ribs, thighs, and feet.
Tonight I had an encounter of the tickling kind. My four-year-old was in big trouble. He kept pulling the puppy’s tail and laughing whenever I disciplined him. So I carried him upstairs and pinned him on his bed to keep him from wriggling away while I lectured him. I imagine that his four-year-old mind processed my words like this: “Wah wah wah-wah waaaahhh.” (I am officially a Peanuts cartoon character.)
He laughed hysterically while I spoke. At first I was offended but he kept laughing wildly. He broke me. I started laughing, too. Then I started tickling him and he responded with relentless retaliation. Before I could run for cover he was jamming his little fingers into my armpits and I was curling into fetal position to protect my ticklish parts.
I’m four times the size of him so it was easy for me to squeeze my arms into my ribcage and protect my goods. But I noticed something while he was relentlessly searching for a way under my arms. More so than the tickling itself, the anticipation of the tickling made me crazy. Cracking up, tears rolling, chin pulled into my neck, hooting with laughter. Isn’t this the way? The anticipation of the event produces more emotion than the event itself. (Note to self: Please remember this next time you begin obsessing over your impending mammogram.)
“Why are you so ticklish there?” my son probed.
“I don’t,” snort, “know,” chortle, “Can you stop,” giggle, “pllleeease?”
He wouldn’t stop and I was frozen with red-faced breathlessness so I decided to put my meditation practice to work. I began to draw that discomfort away from my underarms and neutralize it. While he squeezed and poked, I separated my thoughts from my body and somehow extracted the discomfort from my field of feelings. The fingers were no longer tickling, just poking. I don’t know how I did it really, but it worked. And when he realized that his little paws no longer had a dazzlingly humorous effect on me, he stopped.
My torturer was outdone by my amazing power of equanimity. Take that How-to little man. Until next time…
More by Vanessa:
“For these campers, I’m their Joan of Arc. It’s like I’m Joan, and their vag is the arc.”
These words come from the mouth of a young girl in a recent ad for HelloFlo, a new company that specializes in making menstruation as painless as possible. You can help but do a double take (did that girl seriously just say “vag”?), and that is perhaps exactly what the ad creators intended.
But neither the company nor the controversial ad were rooted in any “feminist agenda,” says HelloFlo founder Naama Bloom. The company functions by sending boxes of tampons, pads, and candy to women in alignment with their personal cycles, all for $14-18 a month.
As Bloom said in an interview with CNN, “I just wanted to talk the way women talked and the way I talk and talk the way I am teaching my daughter to talk.” But even that is remarkable. After all, how many girls really feel this way about their periods? For that matter, how many moms, teaching their daughters about menstruation, feel this way?
The onset of puberty is happening earlier and earlier for girls in the United States, a trend that does not bode well for future generations’ rates of ovarian and breast cancer. Poor diet, lack of exercise, and exposure to toxic chemicals can all affect the timing of puberty, and the increase in all three in this country has obviously contributed to an earlier onset of menstruation.
On top of that, menstruation has been a consistent point of embarrassment for girls and women, and this has unfortunately perpetuated a culture of body shame. Whenever menstruation begins, it is not something to be ashamed of nor fight against. Girls need all the information they can get to be prepared, both physically and emotionally, for this powerful rite of passage. In a way, periods are what makes the world go ’round. Right?
What’s your relationship with menstruation like? Tell us your stories in the comments section below!
“Real love is something so deep, so energizing, that you will not know it unless you experience it. Love is an expression of energy, not something that is transacted. Tell me one thing: can you love people when you meet them for the first time?”
(From the audience: No Swamiji! We don’t even know them, then how can we love them?)
Exactly! This is what you think. Let me tell you, with a little bit of intellectual understanding and meditation, you will realize that you can love anyone without a reason! You can love the trees on the road, you can caress them and feel the energy flow from you. You can love people whom you pass by on the road without even knowing them. Love is actually your very being, not a distilled quality that you possess.
Nothing is as misconstrued as love is today. Today, love is more of a transaction. If someone says something nice to you, you love him; tomorrow if the same person falls short of it, you don’t love him that much or you probably hate him.
Even your lifelong friend, with whom you chat everyday on the computer, will seem suddenly not-so-close if he says something that goes against your approval. Where is your love at this time? It has suffered temporarily!
It is just games that you play; a game in which love and hate surface alternately and interchangeably. And this love-hate relationship is not love at all. Be very clear. It is simply your reaction to a person or a situation, that’s all. This is what we call love. This is not real love. It is subjective love, that’s all.
Real love knows no object. It is simply there whether there is an object or not. Real love is the subject itself. It does not know any object. You are the subject and you have become love, that’s all. Any object that comes in touch with it, feels it. Just like a river flows naturally and people enjoy it at the different places that they encounter it, real love exudes from a person and the people around him will be able to feel it.
There is absolutely no room for conditioning in real love. The energy in you should overflow and express itself as love. It is then that you can break through the highly knotted boundaries of relationships and express yourself beautifully, as a loving being!
In order to discover the quality of your being, that is love, two things can be done. The first thing: repeatedly listen to words like these so that they create a conviction in you about real love; so that a space is created in you for the process of transformation. Second thing: meditate so that the transformation can actually happen.
In practical life, when you go deeper and deeper into relationships, you will understand that all that you feel is not real love, but just some form of give and take. It is all just adjustment, some compromise, some duty-bound feelings, some fear, some guilt. It is all there in the name of love.
Meditation will take you beyond these mis-understandings of love. Meditation will work at the being level. That is why it is a shortcut! When you have to go through life and know it by yourself, it will take you a lifetime. But with meditation, a space opens inside you to experience these things clearly for yourself, whatever your age may be.
Just understand this one thing: when you are able to love without a reason, you will expand like anything. Your world will suddenly seem larger than life. It will be so ecstatic. You will become an energy source to yourself and to others. You will be so overflowing that the energy in you has to touch others. There is no other way. Others will be naturally drawn to you.”
Originally posted September 2011
You pick up a cell phone several times a day, but can you imagine a cell phone picking you up? Well, they do it all the time. We all know your cell phone makes your life easier. You can order pizza, get directions, chat with friends and even send photos when you feel like doing so, but this little device can also make you feel better when you feel blue. There’s truly no limit to what technology can do these days. Next time you feel down, pick up your cell phone. It will return the favor.
Hunt for Feel Good Music
If you are feeling low, the easiest way to pick yourself up is to play a song. With Music Hunt, an app for smartphones, you can find the right song to pick you up. Search for an old favorite, such as a hit from the 80s, or surf through a variety of recent hip-hop hits. Satisfy your craving for some feel good rock ‘n roll, sure to blow your blues away in a heartbeat.
This app is perfect for rainy day blues. Add this to all of your work phones and give your crew something to smile about on those long flights. You can do this in a few clicks (or taps) with using just your tablet or smartphone.
Stream a Video, Enjoy a River of Laughter
Streaming videos on your phone is a great way to improve your mood. With today’s phones, you have hundreds of video apps to choose from. Open the YouTube app and search for funny, short videos for a quick laugh to lighten your mood. It’s also free, which will make you smile.
Hulu Plus is also available on select smartphones. You can immediately brighten your mood by watching your favorite sitcom on your phone. You can also download and watch comedies on your phone for a minimal price of around $7.99.
Crack a Joke a Day
Many apps feature jokes to force you to look at life from a different perspective. Try YoMama Jokes or go for quantity with the app 5000 Jokes, or Best Bar Jokes. All of these apps will make your mood improve immediately.
Chat With a Friend
Another mood-booster is to have a chat with a friend. Open up your favorite messaging app and send a quick note to a friend, or repair a damaged relationship with a nice text. It’s a little easier to start a conversation using texts.
Relive Feel Good Moments
Load your phone with your favorite pictures of friends, family, and great moments. Put them in a folder called “fun photos” or something similar and browse photos when a blue mood strikes. You’ll start thinking about all the fun times in your life.
You always have your phone with you. When you feel blue, use these suggestions and add a little creativity to turn your smartphone into your personal mood-booster.
Image Via Flickr by photosteve101
Image Via Flickr by gagilas
Image Via Flickr by c&rdunn
A few months ago, one of my oldest friends, Alex (we’ve been friends since age 13), set me up on a friend date with Toni Nagy, the bold and bright voice behind the Toni Balogna blog.
We met for tea and a hot yoga class at my old stomping grounds of the Baptiste Power Yoga Institute. Ten-minutes underway, I realized Toni mentioned she wasn’t accustomed to heated yoga and was likely melting on the mat next to me. It was absurdly hot, even for me, someone who previously spent upwards of 6-hours a day teaching and practicing in the same soupy environment (sort of like the weather in Boston today). I was bombing on our first date. Toni probably hates me, I thought.
That’s my version. Here’s hers, for the she said/she said perspective.
To make matters worse, I had returned from Asia the day before, so life during this period of jet lag (and for the following near two weeks it took to recover) is a bit foggy. From what I can recall, Toni and I hit it off at tea. I’d even say there were friend fireworks. She made it through yoga, possibly enjoying it– at least the part when it was over, and she was still alive. We parted ways with the familiarity of two people who gainfully assume: I love our friend Alex. You love our friend Alex. We shall love each other as friends!
And what do you do with people you love? You make crazy Internet videos with them.
For our first blog buddy collaboration, I sharpened my acting chops as– wait for it– a yoga teacher! The subject matter hits close to home, too. It’s called Competitive Yoga Chick, referencing a familiar breed of yogi that Toni brings to light in a very funny way. We all know this yogi or have behaved like this yogi (in our less enlightened days, naturally…), and I think the video does a great job of parodying the temptation to develop a “more than you” mentality through yoga.
Take a peek, and please share your laughable or lovable competitive yogi moments, especially if you have an all out I-AM-SO-MUCH-MORE-SPIRITUAL-THAN-YOU tirade like the talented Bridget Barkan, who plays our over-the-top Competitive Yoga Chick. Alex also makes an appearance. She’s the blonde with nice alignment in Warrior I.
To close, I’d just like to reiterate that I was acting, and if anyone tried this crap in a real class, I’d have to regulate. Check out Toni’s blog for Elephant Journal on being a recovering competitive yoga chick. It’s so good, you’ll want to go on a friend date with her, too. But, remember, I was friends with her first.
Originally published on my blog, Om Gal