Freeing the Mind

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, (Using Affirmations as Mantras), mantras are usually short Sanskrit sentences that translate often into some form of “I bow to God.” People łiving in religious communities that use mantras are encouraged to say their mantra all day every day. Saying a mantra quiets people’s minds and in so doing they are better able to focus on God.

Months ago, while I was living in a senior residential community, I faced a situation where that knowledge was useful.

I was beginning to have more trouble walking. One day, as I walked, my foot became caught in a paper bag. I was increasingly frustrated. No matter what I did, I couldn’t free my foot from the bag. Since then I’ve been told that that kind of experience and the accompanying frustration is typical in Parkinson’s patients.

About this same time, I started saying “I can’t do it” a lot. Eventually, I realized that I was immersed in negative thinking.

Whenever I heard myself say “I can’t do it. I changed it to “I can do it.” or “I will do it.” At times, I even used the line from ”The Little Engine that Could. “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can”. And once I achieved the challenging task, I said “I did do it.”

I decided if i was going to free my mind from negativity it could be done with a positive mantra. Tochange what I was saying to myself,I would change my mantra. While I knew that it’s best to say the mantra all day every day, I also knew that in therapy group we only expected clients to say it 1000 times a day. For this purpose I would say it anytime I was facing a challenging problem where I was tempted to say “I can’t do it” and if I still had problems I would bump the mantra repetition up to 1000 times a day.

I soon noticed that I was more successful in meeting my goals when I said the positive mantras, i.e. “I think I can” pretending I was the little engine chugging along the tracks or using ”I can do ït” or “I will do it” or “I did do it” as a positive mantra.

(Note: ”I will do it“ is the mantra that is most likely to be successful while “I can do it” and “ I think I can” tend to be less effective. Whatever the mantra is that brought you to success should be changed to “I did do it”once you’re successful. It is important that you reward yourself in this way.)

Using Affirmations as Mantras

Mantras are most often used by Eastern religious communities. They are frequently a short Sanskrit sentence that means “I bow to God.” People are encouraged to say their mantra all day every day. Saying a mantra quiets people’s minds and in so doing they are better able to focus on God.

During the years that I was a psychotherapist who did group therapy, my co-therapists and I had clients use affirmations as mantras. They were encouraged to say the mantra/affirmation at least 1000 times a day for 21 days. Some affirmations you could consider using in this wayl are “I am Love.””I am beautiful through and through.””I deserve respect. “”

Saying mantras/affirmations this way can also be used to change self-defeating beliefs and behaviors. An example of this type of affirmation will be found in the next post.

If you decide to try this process out, please leave a message in the comment section below to let us know how it worked for you.

My Judgments May Be Wrong

I have had a recent reminder that my judgments may be wrong. It can be very difficult for me to open envelopes now. I often end up tearing the envelope and hoping I don’t tear what’s inside of it.

One day I got an envelope that was secured a lot more than normal. There seemed to be no way I was going to be able to get inside without getting help.

I became very judgmental. Don’t you know that I can’t get this open? How would they know? I didn’t even know the person that sent it. I went further into my tantrum. What do you think this is, Fort Knox?

When I tore the envelope open, I felt like the contents were very worthy of Fort Knox level protection. It was a gorgeous 3-D get well card from somebody I didn’t even know.

This incident will serve as a reminder to me that my judgments are not always right. Or warranted. This may have been the most beautiful card I have ever seen.

Laughing is Good for Me- Part 7

In terms of fruit, my son Satvamrita has only put up with bananas or the occasional orange, for most of his life. Fruit was just too messy to deal with. Now that he’s in Seattle taking care of his father who recently had a stroke, he has decided to expand his fruit horizons. The closest big grocery store to him is in the International District so he is exploring Asian fruit.

At the market he discovered dragon fruit and star fruit, as well as more common staples such as pomegranates, papayas, and persimmons. This is proof it’s never too late to teach an old dog new tricks. He’s 47!

***

A friend who lives at Amma’s Amritapuri ashram in India and I have been writing to each other a lot…using Whats App. She has a sign in her room that says “Seize the day. Live, Laugh, Love” I decided that would make a wonderful motto for me.

I had one friend print a copy of the sign for me and another friend put it on my bathroom mirror so I would see it throughout the day.

(The sign is actually in the middle of the mirror under the light.)

I also wrote two staff members from the senior living facility in Woodinville where I am staying now more and told them about my new motto. Their reaction to my announcement and their interaction makes a good contribution to this laughing series.

Pat: LOVE IT ❤️❤️❤️

Although at first I thought it said, “SNEEZE the day”!!!! 🤣

Emily: I LOVE this too!

LMAO Pat!!

Thank you Karuna ❤

I wasn’t familiar with LMAO so I looked it up. When I found out it was the acronym for Laugh My Ass Off I looked at my Bitmoji app to see if it was there. It was.

***

A friend was writing about her yearning to be with Amma again and autocorrect did what autocorrect does.

Her email:

I so cherish all the times we have had with Amma-. And I feel a constant deep connection with her. And yearn to be in her presence again.

(auto correct (actually)changed yearn into urine 🤣🤣 I guess that means I have to pee)

***

Thank you all for bringing laughter into my life.

Laughing is Good for Me- Part 6

I learned this week that earlier this year, Amma (Amma means Mother) had started singing a song about laughing at our ignorance. I don’t know who wrote the song.

In addition to the concept of laughing at our ignorance, three lines caught my attention when I heard it for the first time. One pointed out that we focus on what we don’t have rather be happy about what we have. The second line said that even after we learn our next breath isn’t in our hands, we keep on gathering wealth. The third line was one that said even with people around us dying, we think we are immortal. Each was followed by the statement “Mother told us to laugh at such ignorance. “

A friend found the English translation of this song for me. When I read it, two more lines caught my attention. 1) Mother told us to laugh at fate by using our intellect to overcome it and 2) Mother told us to laugh loudly forgetting our worries.

While my laughter blog series is not about laughing at our ignorance, it is about finding humor in serious situations. And humor definitely decreases my tendency to worry.

***

A friend that was visiting me was trying to convince me that I should replace my mattress. I could imagine flipping or rotating it, but saw no need to replace it. Later in the visit, she was lying on the bed and slipped off the comforter and landed on the floor. Thankfully, she wasn’t hurt.

After going home, she wrote me and said she was still chuckling about being tossed out of the bed. I said for me it was more like full laughter than a chuckle and that she had fallen too gracefully to have been tossed. Later, I added that I thought that if she had been tossed it was the mattress that was the culprit, because she was trying to get rid of it. That image made me laugh even more! In fact, I still laugh when I think about it.

***

This week there was an African drumming performance at the Woodinville Senior Center where I am living. There had been a text and a phone call about it but I didn’t hear or read either of them. The performance was already half over before I was aware that it was happening.

African drumming speaks to my soul. I was filled with memories of being in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco as well as the grassy part of Seattle Center where I had listened to drummers and danced. At one time I had taken African dancing lessons. I never was good at the dancing but I sure loved to do it. I cried deep tears all the way through the performance.

There was a point when the drummers invited everyone to dance. I stood up but my feet wouldn’t move. My dancing days are probably over.

The African drummers got the African employees to dance and that was fun. Pat, an employee I have talked about in previous laughing posts although I may not have named him beforebefore, started leadng a group of residents in a dance. I had an intuition about him later that night. The intuition I had was that he was a introvert masquerading as an extrovert because of his commitment to bringing joy to the world. I asked him about my thought a couple days later and he said he wasn’t sure. He said he definitely was an introvert before he went to seminary but he may have changed to an extrovert there.

My ex-husband AlI had a stroke the weekend before Thanksgiving. On Thanksgiving Day my son Satvamrita arrived from India to take care of him him. Satvamrita was allowed to take his dad back to his apartment at that point. It is certainly not a funny situation but funny things have happened. Like the day Al decided to go to the store. Satvamrita was walking and Al was in his powered wheelchair. Al wouldn’t tell Satvamrita where they were going. Satvamrita videoed part of that experience.I will this post with two video clips of their journey

***

Navaratri Altars

Navatratri is a nine day Hindu festival that celebrates three forms of the Goddess, Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati. The tenth day is called Vijaya Dasham, the festival of victory. In 2016 Navaratri was October 1-10.

Friends of mine built a beautiful altar for Navaratri that year. Every item on it had meaning and many of the statues were handmade. I will never forget seeing this altar for the first time; it practically took my breath away. Oh how it sparkled.

You can see pictures of that Navaratri altar at From Darkness to Light.

This year, 2021, Navaratri was October 6-15. One of the friends who built the altar I had seen in 2016, constructed a Navaratri altar at the Woodinville property this year … with the help of two of her friends.

Click on the smaller pictures to enlarge them.

Continue reading “Navaratri Altars”

Addendum to My “Stay Alert” Post

When my friend Pat mentioned a warning that went through his mind the other day, it occurred to me that I had missed an important aspect in my “Stay Alert” post. The area that I had not thought to include is to stay alert for warnings. We often are warned about impending problems but instead of heeding the warning we may answer the inner voice with a flood of discounting responses.

I wrote a post (Heed the Warnings) about these warnings in 2014. I gave a lot of examples from my life. I suggest you read that post first and then read this one. This post I consider an addendum to my recent Stay Alert post.

I asked Pat to write down and send me a copy of the warning so I would be sure to report it accurately. What he wrote was an expanded form, written after he read my 2014 post. I am going to include most of his comments. He wrote:

Loved the “inner voice”! Reminds me of the times I have heard “that voice” – that quiet voice …

And as Karuna knows, I heard it just recently about ten days ago when I was walking through the fraternity’s renovation project and heard that voice say, “watch out for nails!” . . . Just before I stepped on a nail! OUCH! 😳😲😀😂 (and just between you and me 😂 I didn’t listen to nurse Karuna’s voice telling me to get a tetanus shot . . . But I survived and all is well!)

Stay Alert: What We Need to Learn Will Be Revealed

I have learned during my life that the answers to our questions are often nearby; Likewise, if we keep our eyes open and stay alert, we will be able to see ways we have been prepared for what is to come. The knowledge that an event was preparation may not be evident until sometime in the future.

Amma has taught me a lot about those things and has given me lots of opportunities to practice them but I also learned from other writers and experiences.

I remember reading that often where there are poisonous plants, the antidote to the poison is a plant that is nearby. I also read that whenever our path crosses someone else’s, we have something to teach them or something to learn from them.

I used to teach a workshop called Lessons on Lessons. There was one exercise where I asked participants to go outside and ask questions of inanimate objects such as rocks, fences, or light poles as well as plants, trees, and animals. And after asking their question, participants “listened” for a response. What amazing wisdom we can gather that way. If you haven’t already tried it, then do!

I learned the benefit of accepting lessons as they come as opposed to resisting them which often results in prolonging the lesson and any pain that comes along with it.

In addition to teaching content related to some of the areas above, Amma also taught and gave opportunities to practice lessons such as: “Be like a bird perched on a dry twig, ready to fly at a moment’s notice”; discrimination between right and wrong; detachment; the importance of staying alert and putting in effort; and the importance of love and compassion.

Now that I am dealing with major health problems, I can see ways that I have been prepared for that experience by Spirit , the Universe, God, Guru, or whatever we call our higher power.

Most of these occurrences happened before I knew that there was anything wrong in my body. But each has been invaluable since I have known.

Some examples that I am aware of:

In the mid 1980s, a friend of mine took a workshop with Virginia Satir that lasted a month. I wanted to do that too. But I had young children and a job so I rationalized that I couldn’t do it then, I would do it later. She died before I took the training. Having lost that opportunity, I reacted very differently when I met Amma.

I met Amma in June 1989. That weekend I spent a day at her Orcas Island retreat, six weeks later I was at her East Coast retreat and six months later I was with her in India. I continued spending time with her each summer on the US tour and each winter in India for the next 30+ years. I had learned an important lesson from my Virginia Satir experience. I no longer put off doing what was important to me.

In 1997, I was on a plane headed for India when it had a decompression problem and dropped 25,000 feet in about a minute. Amma was aware of our plight at the time that it happened. Part of me believes that I was meant to die that day and that every day I have been alive since then has been a gift. So if I died tomorrow, I still would have lived a full life

In the early 2000’s, I had another experience that impacted my life. I read what I think was the last book that somebody I respected wrote before her death. She was asked if she still thought God was a loving God. She responded “No”. I thought she sounded very bitter and had the distinct impression that it was due to her not accepting help when it was offered. I vowed that I would learn to accept help so that when I needed it, I could let go and gratefully accept what was being offered rather than push it away saying “I can do that for myself.”

Now that I am having physical problems, I am receiving lots of opportunities for doing that and experiencing the benefits of following through. I really appreciate all the help I am getting.

In 1973, I broke my right wrist just before I started graduate school. In 2017 or 2018, I broke it again. Again, I had to learn how to do many things with my non-dominant hand. I don’t remember much about the earlier experience, but in the more recent one I remember having considerable difficulty figuring out how to put on a bra and fasten it.

Because that incident happened then, when my left arm and hand became weak with my current illness, I knew how to put on a bra. That may seem to be a minor thing, but it meant a lot to me.

In 2018 or 19, I started noticing a man in my Seattle neighborhood who I believed had had a stroke. I did not know him but I watched as he walked for long periods every day without fail. He even walked up and down big hills seemingly unafraid. I was so impressed. He was an inspiration to me and gave me hope when I started having trouble walking.

Because of my years as a psychotherapist and a nurse I am prepared to speak up and advocate for myself when I think that’s in order.

I have many friends, colleagues and family members who have dealt with cancer or serious chronic illnesses. All of them have modeled courage in the face of adversity. I hope I can be like them.

When I came back from my last trip to India in January 2020, I had an intuition that I would not be going back to India the next year as had been my practice. In fact, I wasn’t sure I would ever be going back. By then I knew I had a physical problem, but I didn’t know about Covid. I didn’t realize essentially the whole world would be on lockdown and I wouldn’t be the only one not going where they wanted to go.

A recent example of the value of staying alert and of the answers to problems being nearby occurred when I decided to put together another issue of the Pacific Northwest GreenFriends newsletter. I completed it but it was much too hard for me to do, I needed to put this in my past.

Then it occurred to me, that I had gotten direction for the next step in two emails that came while I was doing that project. Both emails said something like “Why is this newsletter still a PDF, why is it not a blog or a website?”

I realized that in the 11 years I had been organizing our newsletter, GreenFriends- North America had started a website and a newsletter. Our newsletter could end and I could encourage our writers and photographers to contribute to that publication. I got support for that plan from the appropriate people and then announced it.

So in summary, remember that if you stay alert that you will be more likely to find the answers to problems nearby. And you might also discover ways in which you have received preparation for some of the problems that you have faced in life.

There is value in keeping your eyes open and making these observations. Perhaps the greatest value is feeling you are not doing this life journey alone. There is help all around you.

Sadhana: Chanting the Meal Prayer

I am resistant to doing spiritual practices (sadhana) other than bhajans (singing) and since sound is bothering my nervous system I can’t even do that.

I decided four or five months ago that I would start praying before meals. That is a practice that I am very lazy about doing. And I would like to change that. I made a new rule- if any food touched my mouth before I chanted the meal prayer, I had to do the chant three times instead of once.

Amma has us chant Bhagavad Gita 4:24 as the meal prayer:

Sanskrit Prayer: 
brahmaarpanam brahma havir brahmaagnau brahmanaa hutam brahmaiva tena gantavyam brahmaa karma samaadhina
Translation: 
Om, the ladle is Brahman. The offering is Brahman.It is offered into the fire of Brahman by Brahman. Brahman alone is to be reached by him who sees Brahman in each and every action

I started that practice sometime before my daughter arrived from india. When she got here, she decided to join me in the endeavor. At that point, she would remind me to pray, since she didn’t want to chant it three times.

After some time, she realized that we frequently weren’t eating at the same time. She changed her mind about participating at all. At that point, she also quit reminding me.

As time went by, I found myself often chanting it 9 times at night! I obviously haven’t integrated this practice yet. At least this week, there have been several times I have remembered to chant the prayer at mealtime… before I ate. Today, I had visitors during lunch so I had them pray with me even though they weren’t eating!

Laughing is Good for Me- Part 2

I am staying, temporarily, in a senior living facility in Woodinville. I really like it here and it is wonderful to only have to navigate one room instead of a multi-story house. (I’m in a studio apartment now.)

***

More than twenty people live in my wing of the facility. Most I have never seen. But there is one couple that I have passed in the hall so many times. I see them when I’m going to pick up my to-go dinner and they are coming back from their dinner in the dining room. (Both options, and more, are available to everyone.) We often come out of our rooms and enter the hallway at the same time. Now, we laugh whenever that happens.

It reminds me of being in Amritapuri. There are many people there I never see. And there are others that it feels like are around every corner I turn. Those people often become major parts of my trip.

I wonder what the frequent meetings mean in this case, in addition to giving us something to laugh about.

***

This morning when I went to the bathroom a mosquito caught my eye. It was in the toilet. I felt a dilemma. I didn’t want to sit down and have it sting me. but I wanted to use the toilet! I decided to flush the toilet and see if it would leave. It did. But did it come right back? I would have to take my chances.

Soon thereafter, there was a mosquito on the window screen of the main part of the studio. Was it the same one or a new one? To be determined. Maybe. This is a new experience but is one I will laugh about.

***

Probably the person that has caused me to laugh the most is a staff member named Pat. He is quite a jokester and to me is committed to seeing beauty and joy all around, and adding to it whenever possible.

Whether it is by wearing mismatched or playful socks or forwarding a file to my daughter and adding a note saying that I am behaving myself, he brings light into the world. And he always waves and calls me by name when I walk by his office.

My earliest memories of him happened on my first days here. The first thing I remember him saying is that at one time he had been a priest for 15 years. That certainly peaked my interest.

He came to see how I was doing for the first three days. The first time he asked me where I got my spiritual guidance and I gestured to a picture of Amma. “The hugger!” he exclaimed. (Amma is known for having given 39 million hugs. So far.) I was amazed that he even recognized her picture because it was a really old one. During that visit, a mother duck followed by seven ducklings walked by my window.

Since then when people visit me, if he knows that they are coming to see me, he asks them if they are huggers. If they look at him like he’s crazy then he asks if they’re devotees. Most are. This process has brought much needed laughter into my life.

***

I think there was one other thing I was going to write about but I don’t remember what it was. The mosquito incident drove everything else from my mind. I guess there will be a part three to this series at some point!