Morning Gatha

Feb 2, 2014


Yoga thought for the day: Surfing the web, I’ve found oodles of quotes about living in the moment, approaching each day as if it were your last, making the most of every day, and related themes. My absolute favorite of these is this short and eloquent verse:


Waking up this morning, I smile                                                                                           Twenty-four brand new hours are before me                                                                         I vow to live fully in each moment                                                                                           and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion.                                                                – Thich Nhat Hanh (b.1926, Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, teacher, author, poet and peace activist)

What I like about this gatha, this verse, is that it assumes that a day well spent would assortee Feb 4th 025necessarily include the quality of my interaction with others. The quality of my day is not just about my self, but about others. And not just other people, but “all beings.”

I also like that the thought of the new day first thing upon waking makes me smile – makes me happy. Even if on a particular day there may be things I am not looking forward to, or even possibly dreading, if I can start the day from this place of delight, it’s bound to be a better day than if I cannot. Each day is a gift. But I have to want to believe it, and then I have to believe it, and I have to do that before any negative thoughts have a chance to be the welcome wagon for my day.

I like the word “vow” in this gatha. This word choice gives the verse some weight. I’m not just going to “try” or “aspire.” I vow. I am serious about this. I solemnly pledge.

And finally what I like about this gatha is that each and every morning I have twenty-four brand new hours to take this vow, to make this happen – to live fully in each moment and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion. Not just occasionally during the day, but “in each moment.”

If I decide that it’s worth it to cultivate this kind of present attention in each moment, this kind of awareness, compassion and kindness, then I must practice.  Through all my thoughts, words and actions, throughout the day.  And with that, it’s time for breakfast!

muffins and marmelade 006

breakfast muffin with triple citrus marmaladechutney and cookies 004

pineapple, orange and cranberry-apple sauce compote

Lemon Speak


lemons 002What’s your first thought when you see these lemons? It’s interesting that we recognize these objects as lemons even though they don’t accord with our normal expectation that a lemon be oval. Our initial reaction might be to call them “deformed” or “misshapen.” But these words have a negative connotation implying that something is ugly. And are these lemons really ugly? There’s nothing complicated about the meaning of “ugly.” It means unpleasant or repulsive, especially in appearance. But did you know that “ugly” has its origins in Old Norse uggr, meaning fear or dread. If you’ve ever been frightened, perhaps as a child, by a witch or a monster, this word derivation makes sense to you. But you’ve probably all also heard the expression, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” and are likely to agree that judging something beautiful or ugly in many instances can be quite a subjective matter. Did you know that this expression was first used by 19th century Irish novelist Margaret Wolfe Hungerford in her 1878 novel Molly Bawn? I didn’t, and it doesn’t matter – the expression has taken on an existence of its own, independent of its original context. So that we use it regularly especially to express mock surprise in someone’s questionable (in our opinion) personal taste.

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” reminds me of several other similar expressions, lemons 008which have taken on a life of their own. “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so,” says Shakespeare’s Hamlet. “The mind is its own place, and in itself Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven,” says Satan to Beelzebub in Milton’s Paradise Lost. All three of these quotations point to the immense power of our thoughts to create, or at least shape, our world. And, quite naturally, and too often unconsciously, our words and actions follow our thoughts, and thus we affect the world, people, animals, plants, rocks, waters and all else around us.

Getting back to our lemons, most of us are familiar with the use of the word lemon to describe a product that is not well made or that doesn’t work the way it should. And we probably also know the expression “when life hands you lemons, make lemonade,” which encourages an optimistic attitude in turning something negative into something positive – sour lemons into sweet lemonade.

So these lemons, and the thoughts, images, and other mental and emotional stuff they trigger, remind us that how we see things, react to them and think and talk about them are all highly influenced by our tidbits of knowledge, prejudices, and assumptions, our likes and dislikes, all of which are themselves the products of cultural, societal, familial and individual cues, contexts, and pressures. They also remind us of the power we wield with our thoughts, words and actions. We can choose to think, speak and act skillfully, i.e., in a way that is at the very least not harmful and at the very best helpful. Or we can choose to think, speak and act unskillfully, which would be deliberately to cause harm. We can also think, speak and act unconsciously, without paying attention, without forming conscious intentions, without noticing our interdependence with all beings and with all that is.lemons 011

Our differently shaped lemons suggest, too, that just because something doesn’t meet our immediate expectations doesn’t mean it’s “bad” or “worthless.” “Don’t judge a book by its cover” right? It turns out that these wondrously sculpted lemons are the way they are because citrus bud mites entered the flower buds and sucked out the sap. This causes the ovary of the flower to be misshapen causing the fruit to look different.  Apparently, the citrus bud mites don’t affect the lemon juice.

It’s possible that some of us sometimes look at ourselves and see physical, emotional, moral or spiritual deformations. Next time you catch yourself doing this, pause, breathe and remember the lemons that were not oval. Set an intention to react skillfully. Accept yourself exactly the way you are – your weaknesses as well as your strengths, the things you like about yourself as well as the things you don’t. In other words, “the good, the bad, and the ugly” – another well-worn expression taken from the 1966 Italian Spaghetti Western starring Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach. And then and only then, figure out where to go from there, allowing yourself to be guided by as much kindness, compassion and wisdom as you can muster. Just see if you can approach every moment with kindness, compassion and wisdom. What would it mean to live every moment with kindness, compassion and wisdom? It would mean you live in a world of kindness, compassion and wisdom.

Candied Lemon and Orange Slices candied  lemon & orange slices 2





lemon coconut cake 009Coconut Lemon Cake

Let Kindness Be Your Mantra in 2014

Yoga Thought for the Day – “I hope you will have a wonderful year, that you’ll dream dangerously and outrageously, that you’ll make something that didn’t exist before you made it, that you will be loved and that you will be liked, and that you will have people to love and to like in return. And, most importantly (because I think there should be more kindness and more wisdom in the world right now), that you will, when you need to be, be wise, and that you will always be kind.” – Neil Gaiman, British novelist, b.1960

I’ve not read anything by Neil Gaiman, but when I came upon this quotation, I latched onto it, because I am a true believer in the power of kindness – in any circumstances, as much as possible, to all beings, including one’s self. We all have the capacity to be kind – it is a quality innate within us. But like any quality, it benefits from practice.  So let this be a year in which we actively practice conscious, intentional, thoughtful kindness – both on and off our yoga mats.

Fall 2013

Happy New Year! May compassion and kindness encircle the earth today and every day in 2014 for you and for all beings everywhere.

Yoga, Sacher Torte and Eka Pada Koundinyasana I

The_Thinker,_Auguste_RodinYoga thought for the day: Tapas, variously translated as “self-discipline,” “effort,” or “internal fire,” is one of the five niyamas (internal disciplines) explored by Patanjali in The Yoga Sutras.  “Tapas is the willingness to do the work, which means developing discipline, enthusiasm, and a burning desire to learn. You can apply tapas to anything you want to see happen in your life: playing an instrument, changing your diet, cultivating an attitude of loving kindness, contentment, or nonjudgment. In yoga, it’s often seen as a commitment to the practice. You figure out what you can do, and do it every day. If it’s only ten minutes, fine – but make that time sacrosanct.” Charlotte Bell, Iyengar Yoga teacher, Buddhist meditation practitioner, and author of Mindful Yoga, Mindful Life

Tapas connects you to your own will and determination directed toward healthful or skillful ways of being, speaking, thinking, and acting. Clearly it takes discipline, effort and practice to excel at algebra or improve your serve in tennis, but these qualities also are required as we work to become ever more kind, patient, compassionate, generous to all beings at every moment of our lives. I have found that for me, it’s only by truly putting my best foot forward over and over again that I feel and observe myself making progress toward reaching my fullest potential as a spiritual being having a human experience. “I tell you today and I’ll tell you tomorrow and I’ll tell you every day: you have only one friend – you and your discipline, which will give you all that you need.” – Yogi Bhajan, spiritual leader and Master of Kundalini Yoga who introduced Kundalini Yoga to the West and inspired thousands of people to live in their excellence.

sacher torte 008So whether I am trying for the first time to make a vegan Sacher Torte (Austria’s signature dessert) for a new friend, a New Yorker originally from Austria, or practicing again and again to enter into eka pada koundinyasana I, effort and discipline fueled by breath help to make the experience a joyous and satisfying one.

My photography skills could use some work, but this cake was super delicious. The cashew cream that accompanied the cake is easy to make and absolutely scrumptious. Although I made some changes to ingredients and amounts, this cake is based largely on a recipe I found at  Yukiko’s photos will make your mouth water!Yoga Poses sculptures by Bob Clyatt



Yoga and Veganism

Join me for my workshop on Yoga and Veganism: Twin Paths to Self-Knowledge, Happiness and Liberation Saturday, August 10th, from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. at Yoga Jai Ma ( in Rancho Bernardo.

“Awareness is the greatest agent for change.” – Eckart Tolle

In this workshop we will:

  • learn more about the practice and philosophy of yoga
  • learn more about the practice and philosophy of veganism
  • explore the connection between yoga and veganism
  • gain practical information about becoming vegan, being vegan, or incorporating more vegan alternatives into our diet
  • work through a variety of vegan recipes and learn how to transform our nonvegan recipes into vegan recipes

The workshop will begin with a short yoga practice and group meditation to boost our openness and compassion (45 minutes).  Please bring your yoga mat, a writing instrument, and water, and eat a light lunch at least 1.5 hours before the workshop. Recipe handouts, paper to write on, and a list of books, web links and web resources will be provided, along with samples of vegan sauces, chutneys and cookies.

“Within us lives the most calm, serene lake of wisdom, the most beautiful, powerful pond of kindness, compassion and clarity. Let us understand and let us dive into it within ourselves.” – Yogi Bhajan