Posted in Life, Spirituality, Universe, Writing

In The Right Place At The Right Time

2014-03-06 18.54.41When it comes to writing, I have noticed that some times my mind likes to go on vacation. When I need to sit down and focus on my “real” writing, my mind will go blank. I will try to read a book or watch a movie for inspiration. I am still doing my “try something new every day” personal challenge. But when I sit down in front of the computer to work on my writing samples I…(insert sounds of crickets here).

Whilst playing tourist with my mother, I took her to my favorite bookstore in Pasadena, Vroman’s. The minute you walk in the door, there is actually a huge display of books to help writers. I was drawn to a cube-shaped book entitled “The Writer’s Block.” Each page offers ideas to get the creative juices flowing. For me, my inner child was drawn to the irony of the shape and title. If my inner child is inspired, then I will be inspired. But unfortunately it looked like many others were intrigued by this book because the spine was worn. This is where my adult OCD kicks in–you know the one that wants the books and boxes that look like they haven’t been touched by anyone else even though the outer appearance has nothing to do with the inner content. I went to the information desk to see if they had any other copies of the book. With the worn out spine version before me being the only “Writer’s Block” in the store, they offered to order me a new copy.

Fast forward four days and I receive a message that my order had arrived. When you order a book at Vroman’s, you pick it up at Will Call on the second floor. The second floor is also where they have speakers and book signings. On this particular day, they were setting up for a book signing. I noticed a display with a Buddha head and I was instantly intrigued. I picked up my order and inquired about the upcoming event. Much to my delight, I learned that Shamar Rinpoche would be there to speak about meditation, mind training and signing his book “The Path to Awakening.”

Shamar Rinpoche is the 14th Shamarpa, or Red Hat Lama of Tibet. He organized the Bodhi Life Path Buddhist Centers in 1996 (the same year I graduated from high school and moved to California). The Bodhi Life Path Buddhist Centers are “a network of centers based on a non-sectarian approach to Buddhism. The curriculum of Bodhi Path centers is grounded in the teachings of the 11th century Indian Buddhist master Atisha, as they were transmitted by Gampopa. Atisha’s methods are the most effective for taming the mind and deepening wisdom, and in addition can be taught and employed in a secular way.”

After listening to Shamar Rinpoche talk about his book, meditation and his Bodhi Life Path centers, I realized that this is the next step in my personal growth process. I have struggled with anxiety, depression, insomnia and other afflictions because of my own cognitive thought processes. My mind often gets stuck in a loop, I overthink when I should relax and let it be, and I struggle to shut off my mind for meditation and sleeping.

I was third in line to get my book signed and when I approached Shamar Rinpoche, my nerves took over, allowing my basic knowledge of Buddhist customs to escape my mind. I did remember to bow but then I reached out to shake his hand, instantly thinking “oh shit, what did I just do?”

But with pure grace, he shook my hand and simply said, “You are new to this practice, yes?”

“Yes. I have tried Shambhala meditation but I only heard of your Bodhi Life Path today.”

He signed my book then picked up one of the Bodhi Life Path Buddhist Center information cards and wrote his own personal email address on the card.

“This is my direct email.  You read and if you have any questions, you send me an email and I will help you.”

A Tibetan Buddhist Monk…the 14th Shamarpa just gave me his personal email address and offered to personally help me with my mind training and meditation techniques.  Was this really happening?  I was told that I have “Divine Guidance” helping with every aspect of my life, was this proof?  This is what I needed.  I need to work on mind training and meditation techniques.  Did the Universe really just put me in the right place at the right time to hear what I needed to hear to help me fix what I need to fix to get to where I need to be?

Posted in Exploration, Life, Personal Challenge, Relationships, Southern California, Spirituality, Universe

Reflections & Meditations on New Year’s Eve: Personal Challenge, Day 106 (12.31.12)

Well, today started off like any other day.  I woke up and had to figure out what I was going to do for my personal challenge.  I went to the Pasadena Weekly website and found my activities for the day.  Yep, that is plural.  I decided to end 2012 (a rather difficult year) with two new adventures.

The first adventure brought me to one of my favorite places in Los Angeles, The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens in San Marino.  January 2013 will mark the second anniversary of my membership at the Huntington, my sanctuary.  You can never get sick of a place like the Huntington because there is always something new going on.  Right now, there is a “Viewing Stones” exhibit that is only open for a limited time (the last day is January 2nd).  There are viewing stones that are always on exhibit up by the Japanese Garden but the Viewing Stones show that is presented by the California Aiseki Kai is by limited engagement.  This is the 23rd annual show featuring numerous examples of Suiseki (landscape stones) and other viewing stones, an Asian “found” art that dates back for centuries.

The exhibit is at the Friends’ Hall, right next to the ticket booth at the entrance to The Huntington.  When you first walk in, there are a few examples of viewing stones and poster boards telling the story of what makes a viewing stone.  Viewing stones are considered “found art,” untouched and “inspire their audience to think and question.”  The stone could evoke a feeling or emotion and is often used in meditation practices.  (aka Zen Rock Gardens).  The Suiseki stones on display are meant to look like landscapes or landscape scenes.  There were rocks that looked like distant mountains, some with a waterfall cascading down the middle.  Others had markings that looked like a field of flowers and one of my favorites looked like the celestial heavens seen in the night sky.  There were even stones that looked like an animal, usually a bear or a dragon.  They definitely spark the imagination, reminding me of my times as a kid (and as an adult) when my mother and I would look for shapes or scenes in the clouds.

If viewing stones peak your interest, it turns out that there are groups of people who go out together, hunting for viewing stones.  The exhibit at the Huntington is presented by one such organization, the California Aiseki Kai.  They go out to the rivers, deserts and mountain areas looking for special rocks that spark their imagination.  They may not all travel together but they do have meetings where they can gather and share their findings.  I think I might just have to go to one of their meetings and learn more.  I loved searching for Petoskey stones in the Great Lakes so what an adventure it would be to find “viewing stones” in the many different terrains that make up the great state of California.

Ironically, the Viewing Stones wound up tying in with my next New Year’s Eve adventure, “Silence and Celebration: A New Year’s Eve Retreat (and party)” at the Shambhala Meditation Center of Los Angeles.  I have read about the different meditations and classes offered through the center but never had the chance to go.  This seemed like the perfect introduction and the perfect way to start off the New Year.

When I arrived, I was greeted and presented a one-on-one tutorial of the Shambhala Meditation practices.  They walked me through the techniques and explained how their meditation sessions work.  Once I was ready, they led me into the shrine room where I was able to begin my meditation session with the rest of the participants, ranging from experts to first-timers like me.  During the hour-long meditation session, they broke up the time with sitting meditations and walking meditations.  It was very different from the Sahaja Meditation session that I had tried back in September.  There was no instructor talking you through every part of the session.  There was no music playing.  You didn’t even close your eyes.  You sat there, looking down about 2 to 3 feet in front of you and focused on your breathing.  You weren’t trying to move the negative energy out of your body, you were just learning how to “focus.”  I did notice that my mind stopped racing the more I focused on my breathing until eventually the only thoughts in my head were “Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out.”  I wasn’t thinking about my to-do lists or hurt feelings or even the loneliness.  I was just thinking about my breathing until the gong sounded and we were told to move onto walking meditation.  Again, just like the sitting meditation, I found myself only thinking about the task at hand.  “Left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot.”  I was pretty proud of myself for getting away from my “oh look, a chicken” moments and staying focused.

After the end of the first meditation session, they played “Creating Enlightened Society,” a DVD of a talk given by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche at the Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.  Sakyong Mipham Rinopoche is the current leader of Shambhala and is introducing the Shambhala teachings of basic goodness and self-reflecting to help create an enlightened society.

I am the kind of person who looks to the Dalai Lama as my Yoda and I love listening to his talks.  I didn’t think I would ever enjoy listening to any other Lama but this DVD changed my mind.  I loved listening to Sakyong Mipham and couldn’t wait to hear or read more of his thoughts.  While watching “Creating Enlightened Society,” I instantly thought, I want the podcast of this talk so I can listen to it over and over again.  I even started to think of friends and family who could benefit from his wisdom and ideas.  Oh, I have found my Obi Wan Kenobi.  (Sorry, I am a Star Wars geek).  I have already started downloading podcasts on itunes.

After the DVD, we went into the second session of meditation.  I was doing really well at the beginning but towards the end, I was losing my focus.  My foot was falling asleep, there was a spider on the wall, I had to pee, and other thoughts interrupted my meditation.  I am still a beginner so I am proud that I made it through the first 45 minutes of the second meditation.  But there was no way I would last through the final two-hour session after the second screening of “Creating Enlightened Society.”  I left at the beginning of the dinner but took plenty of information.  I definitely plan on going back, perhaps this Thursday for the Intro session.  Yep, I have definitely found my Jedi Academy.

But overall, I think this was a good way to end 2012.  Even though I am alone and not out partying the night away, I am content.  I am so ready for 2012 to end.  I am beyond ready for a new beginning and since 13 is my lucky number, I think 2013 is going to be an amazing year!!!

Happy New Year!!!!

Posted in Astrology, Exploration, Life, Music, Personal Challenge, Southern California, Spirituality, Tourism, Travel, Universe, Writing

The Teacher Becomes The Student: Personal Challenge, Day 10 (9.26.12)

This morning, while watching the news, I saw a commercial talking about a website called Discover Los Angeles.  I thought this would be a great place to find new ideas for my personal challenge.  And today, my allergies were still acting up so I thought it would be best if I found something indoors.

So I went to the Discover LA website and clicked on their link to “100 Free Things to Do.”  I am a broke teacher who lives paycheck to paycheck (gotta love budget cuts where you are making less money then when you started your job).  There were so many interesting ideas but I thought it would be best, in my current state, to check out the “Free Health and Beauty Things to Do.”  The last item caught my eye, “Get self-centered,” at the Sahaja Yoga Meditation Center.

Unfortunately the link what is disabled but being the tech savvy photo teacher, I just deleted the last part of the web address and was redirected to the Sahaja Yoga Meditation Center home page. 

On the home page, I read the following:

“Sahaja Meditation is a simple yet very powerful technique which brings meaning, balance and gravity into our lives. Everyone can do it! And remember… it’s always free! Your self-realization is your birthright. You should never have to pay for the touch of Divine Love… Sahaja Meditation is a unique method of meditation based on an awakening that can occur within each human being. Through this process an inner transformation takes place by which one becomes moral, united, integrated and balanced. One can actually feel the all pervading divine power as a cool breeze, as described in all religions and spiritual traditions of the world.

Perfect!  I noticed that there were several locations and I found one in San Gabriel that was meeting tonight.  I always wondered what it would be like to take an actual meditation class so this was my chance.  Plus the description mentioned something about one becoming balanced–that is every Libra’s dream, their mission to find balance.

So I drove down to the San Gabriel Library (a place where I had never been before).  The parking lot is small so I had to park on a neighborhood street.  When I walked into the library, the teacher in me almost had a heart attack.  It was loud and children were chasing each other around the book stacks, no parents in sight.  The teenagers at the information desk were busy texting that they didn’t even notice I was standing there, waiting to inquire about the location for the class.  I cleared my throat, loudly, and then just asked them about the class.  Without even looking up from their phones, in unison, they said, up the stairs.  WOW!  I was a little concerned about how a group of people would be able to meditate in this Chuck E. Cheese atmosphere.

Thankfully quite a bit of the noise was inaudible once you reached the meeting room.  But when I arrive, I was the only person there.  I thought that maybe I had the wrong place.  This wasn’t what I expected.  I had imagined a room with Tibetan prayer flags strewn about and a big Buddhist alter.  This was simply . . . a meeting room with off-white walls and industrial gray carpeting.

A few minutes later, the instructor arrived.  Again, not what I expected.  I think my mind had assumed that a meditation class would be something like the ones run at the monasteries.  I was expecting a guru in his robes.  Not a man in business attire carrying a Macbook.

A few minutes later, another person arrived.  Again, not what I expected.  I had dressed the part of what I thought a meditation student should look like.  I was in my yoga pants and tank top, wearing my sandals and all of my crystal bracelets.  I had my hair up, dangled earrings and my Buddhist necklace.  The young woman who came in looked like she had just come from work, or the mall.

As it turns out, we were the only students that evening but that was actually to my benefit.  The instructor told me the history and ideals behind Sahaja Meditation.  Then he guided us through a Chakra meditation sequence followed by meditation with music and then the conclusion of the meditation process.  It wasn’t what I expected but it turned out better than I imagined.  I basically had a personalized course with the meditation instructor, once again proving that a teacher is more effective with a smaller class size.

I left there feeling calm and relaxed.  I was drama free and happy.  I think I will be back next week.  Who knows, perhaps my meditation skills will improve, allowing me to ignore my noisy teenagers.  This was definitely a good experiment.

Posted in Life, Spirituality, Universe, Writing

Let it Rain!

It is very odd for a rainstorm to occur in Los Angeles in the summer but last week it happened. It is happening again at this very moment and I am loving it. This is exactly what I needed.

The smell of the moist air, the sound of the raindrops landing on the concrete and the diffused sunlight seeping through the gray clouds, this is my idea of heaven. I can easily slip into a meditative state, clearing my mind of dilemmas and focusing on the positive. This is when I am my most productive self.

Even though the rainstorm will pass and the harsh sunlight and scorching heat will return, I am going to savor every moment I do have in my ideal setting.