Are You Giving with Integrity?

“Don’t hide behind your compassion,” says Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, a classic book of timeless wisdom.

The Gita emphasizes that we each have a very specific purpose.  In Sanskrit, the work we were created to do is called our, Svadharma.  Deep down, we know what we are meant to do.  Krishna warns us: “Where there is personal attachment, sentimentality arises and we may fail to follow through with our purpose.”

I had to really sit with this for a while.  Of course, we love our children and families.  We put our energy in making our family members healthy and happy, to the best of our ability.  There is no denying this and the importance of this.

In the Gita, Krishna’s friend and student, Arjuna, does not want to follow through with his life work because of attachments he has to certain family members.  He does not want to hurt them to pursue his purpose.

To me this is a familiar story.  I don’t want to hurt my parents, so I make such and such decision.  I don’t want to hurt my partner and child, so I decide x, y and z.  Out of compassion for them, I neglect some aspect of myself.

This echo’s one of my earlier blog entries entitled “Connection.”  I am still working on connecting with all parts of myself, and living with absolute integrity.

Of course, it is all of our missions to take care of each other, be kind and compassionate to one another. I believe this firmly.  The question that arises is how are we being compassionate? Are our actions compromising our integrity? I encourage each of us to dig deep into our souls and notice if there is specific work that we are neglecting as we practice compassion towards others. Do we need to make changes in the way that we give so that we are more aligned with our truths? After all, our offerings to others will hold more power if what we give is an expression of our deepest truths and greatest gifts. Perhaps if we take the time to pause and consider the way we are compassionate, we will ultimately care for each other on deeper levels. When we give in a way that honors our deepest selves, then our compassion has great power to deeply touch another.

When my daughter Mila was about nine months old, and I was spending most of my time caring for and nursing her, I saw a TEDx video entitled “If Only” while she was sleeping. In the video, the speaker was encouraging us to begin our life work now and not grow old and look back and say “if only…”

I find it tricky being a mother. The first two years there was nothing else I wanted to do but mother Mila. Now, I feel differently. She is becoming her own person and I am rediscovering myself. I could fall into a habit of caring for and nurturing her completely. And, I also know deep inside, that it is time for me to bring forth other parts of myself beyond the role of mother. Reflecting on the Gita, I am inspired to not hide behind my compassion.  I trust the path looks different for every parent.

 

 

Spiritual Warrior

Day before birthing September 30, 2011  Outside my home in SW Portland by the Willamette River

Day Before Birthing  September 30, 2011     Portland, OR

 

 

A spiritual warrior refuses to die to his/her true self.

From the very beginning of my pregnancy, I was clear that I wanted to do a home birth. My parents were extremely upset and worried. How could I risk the life of my unborn child and that of my own? I don’t blame them for being scared. I was scared of giving birth too. Yet, my vision and desire were strong to birth at home.

I began to do a great deal of research. I read many birthing books, spoke to doctors, midwives, mothers, took three birthing courses. I loved reading how animals find a quiet, dark, solitary place in nature and give birth on their own. I learned that 9 out of 10 first time mothers who birth at home stay at home. My chances were high. I also understood the risks. 1 out of 10 women will need to go to a hospital. In the chance that this was the case for me, I wanted my home to be very close to a hospital.

When I found out I was pregnant, I was living on Kauai. The only major hospital was one hour away without traffic. Depending on the time of day, traffic could make the trip significantly longer. By the time I was five months pregnant, I was clear that I did not want to give birth on Kauai. The hospital was simply too far and I also did not feel a strong connection with the birthing team at that hospital.

When I meditated, for some reason, a mystery to me, Portland, Oregon kept coming into my consciousness. I had never lived in Portland. In fact, I had only ever spent two days in Portland.  Yet, I was pulled to go.

Everyone thought I was nuts.  Ryan wanted to stay on Kauai to give birth, which is understandable as it is an incredibly nourishing paradise there.  My family wanted me to come to Maryland which is also completely logical as having their support would be tremendous just after having a baby.

My heart kept saying Portland, and when I was six months pregnant I moved there by myself as Ryan had another month of training to complete on Kauai before being able to join me.

I had one friend in Portland.  No home, no doctor, no midwife, no hospital.  My one friend, Angie Prewitt, is an angel.  She helped me in every way to find a home, a midwife, help me take care of the details of my health insurance, cooked for me when I was exhausted, the list goes on and on.

Thankfully and quite smoothly, things started to fall into place.  After interviewing many midwives, we found one that was perfect.  We found a gorgeous home on the Willamette River in Southwest Portland.  The living room and bedroom are all windows overlooking this beautiful river.  The healing and grounding energy of the water right in front of me was exquisite.   Usually this house is rented out as a vacation home for $150/night, but, the owners gave it to me for an incredible rate, the same as a rent I would pay for an average two bedroom apartment in Portland.  Yet, this was a beautiful, spacious house decorated with artwork from India and Nepal and full with books on Buddhism, Yoga, Healing and Transformation.

There were two excellent hospitals within a ten minute drive from this new home.  Ryan joined me one month later and the end of my pregnancy was finally a time of relaxing and preparing for birth with things in place.

I went into labor around midnight October 1, 2011 and Mila came into my arms about nine hours later in the living room of this blessed home.  Everything went smoothly.  No need for a trip to the hospital.  It was the birth that I had dreamed of.  Quiet in a sweet, peaceful, comfortable home with Ryan by my side.  Even the midwife kept her distance and let the birth happen organically, giving us the comfort that she is close if we need her.

Mila’s birth is the one thing I am most proud of in my life.  It happened exactly as I had wanted.  And, the truth is, like all good things, I worked hard for it.  I don’t even mean the labor.  I mean everything else.  Leaving Kauai on my own, not going to Maryland, landing in Portland with one friend and nothing else, lining up a midwife and hospital, having the difficult conversations with my family that I wanted to be alone while birthing and thus risking hurting their feelings, etc, etc, etc, etc….not to mention the fear and loneliness.  Despite all of that there was some TRUST in myself and in the universe to follow my impulses.  And, the reward of this – the beauty of the birth –  that satisfaction is something I get to live with.  It feeds me, it makes me alive, it brightens my light, it gives me real happiness.

Why do I tell you this story?  Because I see Yoga as an experiment.  The Vedas say “Do not believe anything unless you experience it yourself.  Only what you experience is real.”

Is there potential if we let ourselves move beyond fear?  Is there grace and support when you take the plunge to follow your impulses?  “Jump and the net will appear,” say the Zen Buddhists.  Yes, yes, yes.

“Answer every call that excites your spirit,” says Rumi.  To follow your natural impulses, trust your instincts and your intuition are teachings that spiritual leaders from every tradition echo.  “Drink all your passions, and be a disgrace,”  Rumi goes on to write in another poem.

“Yogis are rebels, anarchists, free thinkers,” my teacher Danny Paradise emphasizes.   We listen and follow our truths even if it is out of sync with the norms of society, culture, practicality.  This is the courage and strength and vision of a yogi.  A spiritual warrior holds a fierce determination to follow his/her truth no matter what, even at the cost of being ridiculed.   Spiritual warriors refuse to die to their truths.

The road is not smooth.  But, go for it, encourage the ancient yogis.  The Bhagavad Gita states clearly, “It is better to do your work poorly than to perfectly do another’s.”  Go for the challenge of honoring yourself in all of your actions, words and thoughts.

If you are looking to live a satisfying life, it can only come from you.  Unwind your mind to find the truths that lie at the center of your being and go for it, go for it, go for it.  You got it.  You are strong, capable and pure.  You have the ability to live your dream.  One step to honor yourself and the universe will take 100 steps towards you.  Start now because we have no idea how long we have of this life.  Our death is certain yet the time of our death is uncertain.  It can happen anytime.  Honor yourself now.

Namaste,

Reema

Reema Homebirth 3:30am, 5 cm dilated

Reema Homebirth 3:30am, 5 cm dilated

Slow Down Time

As soon as you sit down and take five slow, deep breaths letting the mind rest on the present moment, you know that it is possible to slow down time.

Try this once a day for a week, then twice a day for two weeks and then thrice a day for three weeks. Then try to breathe slow and deep all day. In the midst of your day notice when the breath becomes shallow and slow it down no matter what you are doing.

Mila will be three soon. I want time to be slow. It is possible when you remain present. Every moment with her is precious, I want to hold on — not to the past but to what is happening now. Her world is expanding. She has started pre-school. Friends are becoming a more integral part of her life, a shift from the intimate days of her world being mommy and daddy. Where once she was snuggled to mommy’s chest practically all day, her attention is moving outward. She only goes to preschool two mornings a week, but, it feels like a big milestone as she has a whole world outside of our home and family.

I feel grateful that I stayed home with Mila as much as possible the first three years. I struggled in my heart with this, feeling that I should work more. But, from this side of the road where three years have passed, I am so happy that I didn’t rush back to do anything else.

As a new chapter begins. I pray that I can remain more present and use what I have learned in yoga to let time pass slowly. Breathe deep. Stay aware of the wonder and magic that is this and every moment. Flood my heart with gratitude for what is.

There are a million things that I want. And, there are also a million things that I have. Slowing down time entails deep gratitude for what you have. This gratitude makes staying present easier. Gratitude and presence go hand in hand.

Yogis are always encouraging us to release the ego and move deeper into the heart space. I did have to let go of my ego when taking a break from working. I had to learn how to receive help after years of being independent. The rewards for this have been priceless.

We never know what the reward will be for following our hearts. “Let go of the outcome,” the Gita tells us again and again. Just go for it – be who you are, follow your truths and don’t worry about the outcome. Your truths hold a power. Develop shraddha, faith in who you are and what you want. Your truths have the power to bring peace and harmony to yourself and to others, even if the road is extremely rocky. Go for it. Say “yes” to yourself. Like the Zen Buddhists say “jump and the net will appear.”

Love is my net. When I feel like I am falling, she puts her little arms around me and envelops me with unwavering love. “I can feel this for all beings,” my heart whispers to me. “My heart has the capacity to love all beings with as much intensity as I love her.”

This is my practice. This is what the Buddha asks of us. Equanimity is not spreading our love thin to embrace all beings. Equanimity is making our hearts so incredibly large that we love all beings as much as we love our favorite person.

Imagine that net.

I Choose Rhythm

We are all pulled in so many directions.  At least, I can say that I surely am.

Before having my daughter, Mila, I spent years traveling and teaching yoga in beautiful places.  It was exciting and wonderful to meet many amazing souls and to share my passions in this way.  I learned an immense amount and I also sacrificed having a daily rhythm.

Mila is two and half years old now and I could leave her to go on trips and pursue my career.  Or I can take it slow as I am, spending time with her and going back to my career gradually as I feel ready.  Thankfully, I have the support to have that choice.

I could judge myself as being “just” a mom. (what a joke!) I could give in to self-imposed pressure to rush back to work.

The truth is right now and for the last three years, all I have wanted is to have a harmonious life with Mila and Ryan. One home. One rhythm.  And, to put my energy into this feels so right.

Yet, there are voices that pop up inside of me that say I should be doing “more.”  I should be “working” more.  I should be making more money.  I should be contributing more to our daily expenses.  I should be developing my career.  These voices sometimes bring me down with confusion and anxiety.  And, then I turn to yoga.

This is what yoga has taught me: to slow down, listen to my heart and have the courage to follow it…no matter how someone may judge me and no matter what another may expect of me. This is scary.  This is also the courage of a warrior yogi.  To honor one’s heart is the only freedom.  I have been met with disapproval and judgement, and this is painful.  Truth is not an easy path but it is one that eventually breeds peace.

My other truth is that I miss traveling and teaching. I do want to work again and at the same time I want to do it only when I am ready and at a pace that feels right for me and my family.

I write this to acknowledge that these decisions have been difficult for me: To stay home with my child as much as I have, to wait to go back to my career for as long as I have, to not have the financial freedom that I was so used to.  When my heart struggles with these issues, I keep the words of the Bhagavad Gita close:

“You must develop your inner spiritual nature, relate to the world in ever new ways and grow into freedom where the integrity of the self is never compromised.  Live not by external authority but the discipline of listening inwards.”

The Celtic philosophers say “To be spiritual is to be in rhythm.”

I am trying my best to honor my rhythm.  Instead of waiting to go back to the Reema that I was before becoming a mother, my practice is to embrace who I am now.  My practice is to be receptive to the ways the world opens up to my new rhythm so that I can grow into freedom rather than try to mold myself to an image, even if that image is a past version of myself.

As I feel the itch to travel and teach again, I am happy to be booking workshops again.  I am also excited to be grounded with my family.  As I try to find balance and honor my rhythm, I am most intrigued to see how the world dances with me.

 

Holy Tastebuds! Cashew Coconut Curry in 25 minutes!!!

I never realized that a meal so decadent and delicious can be prepared this fast.  The best part? The curry is made in a blender!

For a small family, the below recipe will give you leftovers as it serves 8 people:

Curry Sauce:

1 cup raw cashews

1 cup coconut milk

4 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tsp coriander powder or seeds

1 tsp garam masala

1/4 tsp turmeric powder

2 cloves garlic

1 inch ginger

2 tsp honey

Blend all ingredients and set the curry aside.

In a large non-stick pan, stir fry tofu for 8-10 minutes (until golden brown) and set aside.  In the same pan, steam green veggies such as snow peas, broccoli, and kale. (add the veggies with 1/4 cup of water, cover pan and steam for one minute – veggies should turn bright green)

Bring a pot of water to boil and add medium sized rice noodles.  Let cook 7-8  minutes and drain.

To save time, put the water on to boil while you are cooking the tofu.  That way veggies, tofu and noodles will be done around the same time.

To serve, place noodles on plate first.  Mix in about two tablespoons of curry into noodles. Top noodles with tofu and veggies and another dollop of curry.  Garnish with a sprinkle of finely chopped cilantro.

Mmm…enjoy!

Rice can be used instead of noodles.  You can also use leftover curry as a dipping sauce with carrots or any raw or roasted veggies.  The sauce will taste even better the next day.

“If we are to r…

Quote

“If we are to realize peace and harmony in the world, the time has come for us to dedicate ourselves to the reawakening of motherhood.” – Amma

 

I will be holding a monthly new moon woman’s circle at my home 4737 NE 28th Avenue Portland, OR to discuss further….The first one will be this Sunday, June 29th from 6:30pm-8:00pm.  Please join.  Namaste, Reeema

Your Power Over Me

I notice that when people tell me that I am strong and capable, I step up, inspired to explore my potential more.  When people believe in me, I remember to believe in myself.  As I notice that people have this power over me, I realize that we all have this power over each other.

Recently I read some words by Michael Franti.  He said every night he asks his partner “Who did you make feel significant today? And if you didn’t today, do it tomorrow and then tell me about it.”  This is a beautiful practice to do with a child or an adult.

Spiritual goals are so wonderfully lofty; total liberation, complete freedom, pure peace and joy, vital health, living to one’s full potential.   Before we reach the stage of not needing anyone or anything, we need each other.  We are not meant to reach these goals alone.  Community, Sangha, Family, Friends, we are here to help each other.

The more we remind others of their strength, capacity, purity, wonder, the more we will remember our own.  What a beautiful dance.

Eventually our own example will inspire others to live fully.  But, let us not wait or assume anything.  Use your words to help your children and everyone around you remember their capacity.

Traditionally, when practicing Sun Salutations there are 12 mantras that are recited; one with each salutation.   As you say the mantra at the beginning of each sun salute, you remember and awaken those qualities within yourself.  With each salutation, you bow to the you who is:

1. friendly to all (Om Mitraya Namah)

2. the cause for change (Om Ravaye Namah)

3. initiates activity (Om Suryaya Namah)

4. diffuses light (Om Bhanave Namah)

5. moves in the sky through all obstacles (Om  Khagaye Namah)

6. nourishes self and others (Om Pushne Namah)

7. contains everything; is inseparable from everything (Om Hiranyagarbhaya Namah)

8. possesses rays of light (Om Marichaye Namah)

9. God of Gods (Om Aadityaya Namah)

10. produces everything (Om Savitre Namah)

11. fit to be worshipped, worthy of praise (Om Arkaya Namah)

12.  the cause for luster (Om Bhaskarayah Namah)

Mila is a little too young right now, but as soon as she is old enough, I would like to make it a morning ritual to do 12 sun salutations with her, reciting the above mantras and meanings.

I would also like to take Michael Franti’s question and make asking it a nightly family ritual.  Please join me.

May we all help each other to live our highest potential and remove all self-doubt.

Namaste,

Reema