Happy Birthday Sharon Gannon


20130102-JIVA_TRIBE-2399

 

When Padma ( this is how we affectionately call our guru Sharon Gannon) enters a room, she likes to greet everyone by making eye-contact and bowing gently, her face lit with a smile. This can take a while (like during this Jivamukti tribe gathering where hundreds of yogis come to learn from her). All the chitter-chatter stops and silence fills up the room. The atmosphere clears up. It is magical to be part of that.

Every year, at their home in the Wild Woodstock Forrest sanctuary, Sharon Gannon and David Life teach daily classes in August. It is my favorite time of the year.

Last year, on August 18th, she was just about to greet us her natural way and stopped. And gave us a short teaching instead:
« You know things happen in life and you adjust accordingly…It’s a good thing. It’s like rivers. Rivers are master adjusters, adapters. They are steady and flow. When they have to go around something, they go around something.
Sometimes, they get very intent on reaching their goal, they just push everything…. So there’s it that.
Isn’t it annoying when the teacher speaks cryptically? » [laughter] ~ Sharon Gannon

This world is a better place because of this gentle and mighty river!
Please join me in showering my guruma with love and abundant blessings to celebrate her birthday

PRATYAHARA: WHERE WE PUT OUR ENERGY


FOTM-Placeholder-Cosmic-Snake

Focus Of The Month – June, 2017

Yama-niyama-āsana-prāṇāyāma-pratyāhāra-dhāraṇā-dhyāna-samādhayo‘ṣṭāvaṅgāni.
Restraint, Observance, Seat, Breath Control, Sense Withdrawal, Concentration, Mediation and Ecstasy are the eight limbs of Yoga.

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras II.29

In the practice of pratyahara, one of the eight limbs of Ashtanga Yoga, we draw the senses inward to bring attention to the inner world instead of expending energy exclusively on the outer world. What we perceive in the outer world is just one part of our whole consciousness. Pratyahara provides a bridge from the outer practices of yama, niyama, asana and pranayama (from the gross) to the inner practices of dharana, dhyana and samadhi (to the subtle). The energy freed from focusing outward, freed of the desire to act and to collect information can be wisely channeled instead to the realization of who we really are, which is pure consciousness.

Where do we put our energy most of the time? We give our precious attention to the outside world, invariably, through identification with sensory inputs as well as identification with conditioned personality. For example, take our self-image, how we want to present ourselves to the world. How do I look? How do people see me? How do I want to be perceived? This kind of behavior exhausts a lot of our energy throughout the day. Pratyahara, as a practice, doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t take care of ourselves or that we shouldn’t embrace beauty. It means to be aware of how much attention we give the outer image and to reduce the energy wasted in creating it. Satsang is a potent and helpful yoga practice in this regard. To be surrounded by people who are interested in yoga and self-realization instead of sticking to a carefully crafted outer image supports us to liberate ourselves from false identification.

To be able to turn the focus inward we need to minimize outer disturbances to the extent possible. What do we feed our minds all day? Information from news media, television, emails, social media, magazines and advertising, all of which trigger our emotions and tell us what we need next. What is our strategy to deal with all this information? Some may turn to alcohol, drugs and gossip. We talk and think more in an effort to digest all that input. Unfortunately, it only makes things worse. We should rather make an effort to calm our mind! We have to be able to digest what happens to us and everything that we say and think and do. Choose that which gives you less new things to deal with. As a practice, write down what distracted you during the asana or mediation. What made concentration difficult? By putting it into words you can realize what you are chewing on while you wanted to focus on something higher than your daily distractions. Then you start getting a sense of what is really important to you and what kind of external sensory input you would like to minimize.

To understand what is happening during the process of pratyahara, for me the philosophy of Samkhya is very helpful. We get an exact breakdown of how the human being functions, what has an influence on our behavior and how we perceive the world. We all know our five senses, referred to in Sanskrit as buddhendriyas. There are also the karmendriyas or “senses of action” (talking, grasping, moving, eliminating and procreating). These are almost always immediate, unconsciousness, automatic, spontaneous, and learned reactions to the sensations. I see something I like, for example, a brownie. For others, it would be a cigarette, a steak, a sexy person or a new pair of shoes. I see the brownie, I want to have the brownie and my hand grasps the brownie. To understand why we act like we do, we need to observe the connection between sensation, mind and action. Then we have the chance to change something. Being aware of what drives us to action makes it easier to let it go and calms down our lives. Conscious behavior reduces distraction and increases the ability to concentrate. Focusing inward we discover the three parts of our mental activity. The dominant parts are the thinking part, the mind (manas) and the part having an opinion, our ego (ahamkara). The pure observing component (buddhi) is slightly hidden, but always present. Through training the mind we can interfere and stop our prompt action. We then have time to reflect and act consciously. Do I need the brownie? Am I hungry? Do I need more sweets? What did I eat all day? What are the ingredients? What are the consequences for me and for others? Does my action lead to more suffering of others? What are my ethical and moral beliefs? How do I want to act, instead of just react? Addressing these questions will lead to different behaviors, which are based on a freely made decision, with hopefully less ego involved. Selfless and nonviolent behavior reduces the dominance of the ego and brings more peace to the world and to the mind.

A practical aspect of the training of the mind is to observe things consciously like a witness. Practice observing without judgments, without words, just watching. For example, watch thoughts arising during the Yoga Practice. We don’t have to stick with the thoughts, we don’t have to describe them and we even don’t have to think about where they come from. We can realize this is the mind thinking a thought, and let go of the thought. This will bring us closer to the buddhi, our intelligence, which allows realizing the higher Self, which is pure consciousness.

The practice of pratyahara shows us, how much influence the culture has, the outer circumstances, our experiences, our personal behaviors and characteristics and, of course, our preferences and antipathies. Going inward reveals a sophisticated vision of our entire consciousness. The ego — or better the “maker of our small self” — can be identified and eliminated, revealing the buddhi, a clear and free perception. As Sharon Gannon and David Life say in Jivamukti Yoga: Practices for Liberating Body and Soul, “Through pratyahara we can journey from the outer fixation to inward revelation.”

Antje Schaefer

What A Fish Knows with Jonathan Balcombe


March 25th was The World Day for the End of Fishing (WoDEF)

WoDEF asks for the abolition of fishing and fish farming for fishes, crustaceans and cephalopods.

This webinar by myth-busting ethologist Jonathan Balcombe is a worth a watch.

Wishing you all a happy, sunny day!

Jeanine

 

Cantsbee


cantsbee

Historic silverback “Cantsbee” earns his name a second time, makes astonishing return

Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund trackers report that elderly and historic mountain gorilla silverback Cantsbee, who disappeared from his group on Oct. 10, and could not be found despite weeks of massive searching, was seen in his group on Jan. 4. Although the group was at some distance from the trackers and would not allow them to approach, a closer look on Jan. 5 provided evidence that the gorilla was indeed the missing Cantsbee!

Due to his advanced age (now 38 years old and beyond the statistical life expectancy for a mountain gorilla), the Fossey Fund had earlier presumed that he must have fallen ill, been left behind and subsequently died, since intensive searching over a month long period did not find any traces of him.

On their regular monitoring of Cantsbee’s former group on Jan. 4, Fossey Fund trackers were shocked to notice, from a distance of about 10 meters, that an “extra” silverback was in the group, which is now led by Cantsbee’s son, Gicurasi. They returned the next day determined to get conclusive evidence, including a closer look and photographs, and to determine the condition of the gorilla.

Cantsbee
Cantsbee upon his return, Jan. 5, 2017

More surprises on the second day

Trackers reached the group later than usual on Jan. 5, due to the rough, steep terrain, full of ravines and dense foliage, as well as the distant location of the group. The group was split in two subgroups and our trackers first encountered one of these, led by young silverback Kureba. When they found the second subgroup, it was involved in an intense interaction with another group. But there was no doubt:  elderly Cantsbee and silverback Gicurasi were leading the action and Cantsbee appeared to be in fine shape, running, displaying and smashing vegetation as a show of strength.

After about an hour, the whole group started to move away from the action, led by Cantsbee, with the females and youngsters following him, just like they used to in the past. Gicurasi and the younger silverbacks stayed behind, to continue facing off the intruding silverback, who was still following them. His name is Iyambere and he is a young silverback who just formed his group in 2015. Interestingly, he’s also another son of Cantsbee!

pablos-group-during-interaction-with-iya-can-in-the-middle-5-jan-17-
Canstbee (top left) during an interaction with Iyambere’s group

Field staff are amazed

“It’s hard to believe and to explain what has happened,” says Veronica Vecellio, Fossey Fund gorilla program manager in Rwanda. “We don’t know why Cantsbee left the group, where he went, whether he’s back to stay, and how he will work things out with Gicurasi’ dominance. But we are overjoyed to have him back so we can continue to monitor the oldest known silverback, who has been followed since birth and has such a remarkable story!”

“Cantsbee was named by Dian Fossey because she thought his mother was a male and so when she gave birth she said ‘it can’t be’.  And now he has earned his name for a second time,” says Fossey Fund president and CEO/chief scientific officer Dr. Tara Stoinski.

“There are cases where younger males go off and return, usually as they try to establish their own future groups or status, but we have not seen a situation like Cantsbee’s return before. This shows that even after 50 years of close study, the gorillas can and will still surprise us and that there is always more to learn!”

Cantsbee photographed on Jan 5
Cantsbee, Jan. 5, 2017

Story reposted from http://rwandaupdates.com/longtime-missing-and-declared-dead-rwanda-n-silverback-gorilla-cantsbee-38-found-alive-leading-his-group/

The birth of the Christ


December is a special month in our family. I was born in that month and our son’s birthday  is only a few days apart from mine. Then Christmas celebrations.

lightart

Last night, I could not sleep when I went to bed. Totally overwhelmed by thoughts and gratitude.  It is indeed a merry time for those us who feel loved, warm and safe, with more than enough to eat.
But who doesn’t know somebody who is ill this holiday season? Very dear friends of mine are grieving over the loss of their father. Last Thursday, a student shared the story of A., his family is trapped in Syria. That story stayed with me. Christmas can be the hardest time of year for those who are struggling financially, those who are lonely, especially those estranged from close family. And at this one time of year when most human beings are determined to be happy; for millions of animals, Christmas celebrations are the cause of considerable cruelty.
CHRISTMAS is literally “the mass for Christ”, the celebration of the birth of Christ.
It is an awakening, a birthing of the Christ Consciousness  from inside of ourselves.
  • Christ must be lived to be known. In all good actions, in every material and spiritual service, and in the manger of meditation, the immortal Cosmic Christ is born anew. – Paramanhansa Yogananda 
  • The Christ Consciousness is revealed in us as compassion. – Sharon Gannon

When we allow our own light of love to radiate into the world around us, it is Christmas. Christmas is not some grand event happening on December 25th. It is not depending on external circumstances. The word « light » in English,  conveys a sense of not heavy and also illumination, bright. Giving and forgiving makes us (literally) light. Eating a plant-based diet too. Just like meditation unclutters the mind, chanting makes us beam. Yoga practices provide the sincere spiritual seeker with practical means for Self-Realization.

Christ Consciousness refers to the Light, that we are. It is the Self (with capital S), the Atman, it is our Buddha nature- It is Krishna Consciousness.

As the gentle swami Nirmalananda said:  Love alone can dispel present madness of hate. Let your light (of love) so shine before all, as Christ asks us, that there may be ever more bright and radiating light which hatred cannot overshadow. When the heart rules the mind, life has altogether a different quality and dimension.

Let the Love that you are shine and Merry Christmas!

Shine on and Merry Christmas!

Jeanine

Further reading:

Yoga and Christ by Sharon Gannon

The Need to love by Thich Nhat Hanh

Op-Ed Thinking of giving up red meat? Half measures may end up increasing animal suffering


 

la-1476472008-snap-photo
4–week–old Leghorn chicks in Valley Center, CA. (Los Angeles Times)

 

Peter Singer and Karen Dawn

To animal protection advocates, a pledge to eat less meat is good news. Even a small step like Meatless Mondays is generally better than nothing. All too often, however, aspiring ethical eaters choose a favored animal or two to exclude from their diet, without actually reducing their total animal consumption. Despite good intentions, they may end up increasing animal suffering.

Many people, for example, swear off pigs and cows but continue to eat chickens and fish. Perhaps they categorize animals into those they eat and those they keep as pets; mammals, with their fur and their “windows to the soul” framed in long lashes, may seem more like the latter.

Replacing pigs and cows with birds and fish, though, usually leads to the slaughter of many more animals, because, with a few exceptions, birds and fish are smaller. If you were to eat a pound of beef a day — say a huge steak or four beef patties — you might take a year to consume a single animal. If you were instead to eat a daily pound of chicken or salmon, you might eat hundreds of animals per year.

Birds and fish are not demonstrably less sentient than mammals. People who have rescued turkeys report that when treated as pets they respond as such; they enjoy attention, affection and mental stimulation. Anybody who has spent real time with backyard hens knows that they have individual personalities. And while many of us were taught that fish have memories of only a few seconds, scientific experiments have shown that they can remember the location of a hole in a net many months after first learning about it. They can also recognize faces — one another’s and ours. Divers tell stories about, and have filmed themselves petting, friendly Groupers who swim up to them.

Few people are aware of the level of suffering experienced by a single bird or fish killed for human consumption, which is shocking even before that suffering is multiplied by the hundreds a person might eat in place of a cow or pig over the course of a year.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture interprets the Federal Humane Slaughter Act as not covering birds. That means that 95% of land animals slaughtered for food in this country are excluded. They may have coverage under individual state laws, but that is far from sufficient. They are commonly thrown around, stuffed into shackles, and have their throats slit while conscious. When killing blades miss their necks, they are tossed alive into the scalding water of defeathering tanks. A recent Washington Post article reported that approximately 1 million turkeys and chickens are boiled to death every year.

While the differences between the nervous systems of fish and other animals has long been used as the basis for the argument that fish do not feel pain, recent experiments have left no doubt that they do. Fish who have irritants injected into their lips will rub their lips incessantly against their tank walls — unless those irritants are accompanied by pain relievers. So when a fish spends three days on a hook attached to the mile long line of a fishing vessel, that fish is probably spending three days in agony — and that’s before the fish is hauled onto a deck to die slowly of suffocation.

Marine mammal admirers may not know that dolphins, sea turtles and whales are killed by those fishing lines and caught in fishing nets. Further, the crisis of overfishing that depletes our oceans robs fish-eating animals of their food. Dead penguins wash up on coastlines, their bellies empty. When the fish are gone, the animals who depend on them cannot order tofu instead.

Crueler still than a diet that simply kills animals is one that also causes them egregious daily torment. In the U.S., most laying hens are still kept in battery cages, each hen crammed with four or five others in a space so small she is unable to stand up straight or spread her wings. She will live for at least a year in conditions worse than those that most of us find hard to handle on a five-hour flight across the country.

Though conditions are slightly better for hens in California, where traditional battery cages have been banned, the law does not require that hens be released from cages, only that the cages give them enough room to stand up and spread their wings. They may still live in stacks, showered by the excrement of the hens above them, and deprived of the ability to fulfill their natural instincts — to sunbathe, dustbathe and raise their young.

Even cage-free eggs generally come from hens who live in massive barns, choked by ammonia fumes.  Though hens raised on pasture, the highest welfare standard, enjoy better conditions, they produce a negligible percentage of eggs in the United States. As there are no federal laws regulating their slaughter, their lives can end in horror. “Spent hens” may be thrown live into ditches and buried by bulldozers.

We recognize that people may avoid red meat on environmental grounds. Research suggests that pound for pound chicken is responsible for less environmental degradation than beef. Though some people may snicker about the impact of methane, or “cow farts,” the warming potential of methane is 30 times that of carbon dioxide. Nevertheless, a diet that is responsible for hundreds of times more suffering is not made ethical by producing a lower level of greenhouse gas emissions.

Anybody who gives up red meat on environmental grounds should also consider the methane emissions of dairy, as well as its local pollution. California’s San Joaquin Valley, responsible for a fifth of the nation’s milk production, has some of the worst air quality in the country. And dairy has built-in suffering. Mammals do not give milk until they give birth. People who work in the dairy industry report that mother cows will bellow for days for calves who have been carted off to veal crates. Veal calves are the waste product of the dairy industry.

We understand that most people are not yet ready to eschew all animal products and embrace a vegan lifestyle. But while substituting one meat or animal product for another may do more harm than good, making half of your meals plant-based is a superb half-measure. It’s not hard. We aren’t the only ones who think that Just Mayo’s plant-based mayonnaise tastes just as good as Hellman’s regular. And last year, when Whole Foods mistakenly sold plant-based “chick’n” in its regular chicken salad, not a single customer complained.

Peter Singer is professor of bioethics at Princeton University and the author of “Animal Liberation.” A selection of his short essays “Ethics in the Real World,”  is out this month. Karen Dawn runs DawnWatch.com and is the author of “Thanking the Monkey: Rethinking the Way We Treat Animals.”

source http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-singer-dawn-vegetarian-half-measures-20161016-snap-story.html