Becoming Your Home

This evening, I had the pleasure of cooking a three-course meal for a friend of mine. I was invited into his beautiful home filled with outstanding artwork and an amazing energy. The moment I walked in I was transported from the noisy, haphazard streets of Manhattan into an oasis of tranquility and calm. I was enveloped in a cozy and comfortable sensation that beckoned my authentic self. There was no need to defend, no reason to hide. This sanctuary was made for acceptance. This was a home.

Living in small apartments and moving year after year has left its trace of stress. It is never anything permanent, nor too much to bear, but rather a discomfort or a strong unease. Uprooting one’s life is never an easy action. Sometimes it is exactly what is needed, other times it is more of an unnecessary hassle. Yet each time I have rerooted my life, I strive for the same sense of home that I grew up with; the same sensation I immediately gathered when walking into my friend’s apartment this evening.

Home.

It is like walking into a blanket that has just been pulled out of the dryer. Or maybe it’s like gliding into a warm body of water. I think I could even describe it as that feeling just moments before falling asleep. It is a perfect harmonious combination of ease and vibrancy. The encompassing nature of this energy is by definition soothing. It is the feeling of unconditional acceptance.

Many people live in a house, but not every house is a home. And that is the one thing that I make sure to bring with me every relocation I make. My life could never be complete without my home. Yet my home is not dependent on things. Beyond all my favorite decorations, homemade artwork and extremely sentimental items the essence of home is something I cultivate from within. Without this grounding anchor, my surroundings would never represent my idea of what home is.

I do love my incense.

Our environments reflect our state of being. I like to think of my home as a divine place, a sanctuary where all are welcome to relax, recuperate and enjoy. When I have guests over I notice they feel at ease the moment they walk in. I also notice that it is not the material things (or lack thereof) of my apartment but rather the energy I have been projecting. I like to think of the furniture, the walls, the colors and even the air of my home as an energetic ledger that is constantly recording vibration. Every thought I think, every song I play, every word I speak gets recorded into this invisible notebook. As these spaces gather specific vibrations, they build upon each other, developing relationships to their own surroundings. In this way, a commons is born.

Singing bowls, gongs, mantras and pleasant music will all support higher vibration.

The more I meditate, chant, pray and bless in my apartment, the more my apartment takes on those actions. Stored in their physical being, their very vibratory make-up (as we are all just the sum totals of sound vibration) takes on what I put out.

Have you ever been to a really crumby place? Maybe a hopeless hospital wing or a drugged out dealer’s pad (not that I would know). These places can be dark, unwelcoming and draining. It isn’t because the real estate itself is possessed, but rather its occupants are emitting a certain vibratory frequency which manifests its self in certain ways. Have you ever noticed a place that has been uplifted? Maybe an awesome yoga center moves into a town or a community garden is completed. When these types of frequencies enter into the energetic ledger, vibrations begin to rise and other results manifest.

This is not to say that one is better than the other. I will leave you to decide which vibration you choose. It is not the duality of the situation I would like to call attention to, but rather the mechanics of it. Our environment is an extension of our self. We are only a product of our surroundings and they one of us. This deep, intimate connection can never be severed, and although we cannot tangible see it (sometimes we can), this principle of existence is more concrete than the voice inside your head that is telling you it is not.

I was graced by great karma to spend just a few hours sharing the wonderful company of another’s spiritual abode. We are all graced by even greater karma that we can remain in that feeling where ever we go by just becoming aware of our vibration.

If you’d like a simple way to elevate your home’s vibration, try playing mantras. You don’t even need to hear them. Their vibratory effect will work just as long as they are playing at the slightest volume. Here are a few free ones you can download.

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Cheating Veganism

Deciding to go vegan can be a tough decision, but with these crafty pointers, your animal-loving self can cheat the ism.

Choosing to bow out from the gastronomic, animal-eating world is never an easy decision. Whether it is for spirituality, saving the animals—and their teats—or just experiencing something new, getting used to eating like a vegan can be a challenging task.

As any cook knows, making a meal without things like butter, eggs, cream and other kitchen essentials is torture. Add a lack of umami to the equation (the savory flavor often provided by meat) and even a seasoned chef would throw in the towel.

To ease the pains of an animal-free diet, I have gathered together some of my favorite vegan-friendly cure-alls for the health conscious culinaire. These eleven items will make your life easier, your meals tastier, and your non-vegan guests happier while keeping your conscience crystal clear.

If you’re thinking about becoming a vegan, stock your kitchen with these items.

You can see the list here.

Who Do You Pray To?

It’s funny how the act of teaching can unexpectedly become the ultimate teacher. This past week, I experienced an influx in the amount of yoga classes I teach. I’ve been subbing for other yogis like a madman. In this process, I have had tremendous amounts of exposure to the lessons I preach. It’s as if my words echo off the walls  and whisper themselves into my ears. I am certainly learning a lot from all this teaching.

One of the most repetitive lessons I have been taught is the concept of self-prayer. Usually, prayer falls into two categories: culturally stigmatized or a form of pleading. These two categories are dependent upon one clause: the idea that who or what we pray to is outside of ourselves. In the former category, prayer is discriminated against because who actually believes a man separate from us in the sky is listening to everyone’s thoughts? In the latter view, we focus on the exterior power of another (be it Jesus, Buddha, Krishna or the all-mighty dollar) to give to us what we think we cannot give to ourselves. In both situations, fallacy is observed and prayer is focused outward.

"No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other."(L16:13) The Self or "God"

Jet backwards two weeks. I was in a yoga teacher’s training focused on conscious communication. Among the many invaluable lessons learned, the one that seems to have stuck the most is the lesson of conscious self-communication. Many times a day we often talk to ourselves. Voices in our heads repeat, reflect, judge, battle and vie for our conscious attention. This inner dialogue is a form of self-communication. And like this self-dialogue, prayer is one of those voices.

Although prayer may be thought of as a more conscious and intentional mental narrative, it is certainly not free from the sliding gradient of unconscious thought. On the lower end, the awareness of prayer is basically exhibiting a pleading/begging posture towards an exterior power. This is like trying to get a full stomach by watching the Food Network channel. It is idealistic at best, but utterly ineffective. Instead of refracting your desires off an unknowable entity, try asking your Self.

Mmmmm. Delicious!

This concept of prayer is a method of conscious communication. It implies that we are God. We are the universe, the physical embodiment creation, stemming from one common source. In this light, we can see that all our prayers, blessings, questions and concerns are capable of being answered with nothing more than our conscious attention.

This transition inward has been a great lesson for me. It has shown me the extent of my patience and will, as many times my belief in this method of prayer has been tested. I often do not see immediate results and begin to doubt my power as the great answerer of prayers. However, when I continue to know beyond faith that I am capable, my questions are answered. I surrender my prayer to the fear of realizing my ultimate power.

There are many psychological and spiritual barriers to making this an easy-as-pie process because we have been conditioned to believe that we are inept and incapable, leaving us at the will of an entity that exists outside of ourselves. The leverage point in this equation is the realization that we are the omnipresent being, the source of creation. Once this old paradigm is expanded, the true extent of the Self can be realized. The key to this is persistance, understanding and the ability to listen.

Listening is the beginning of prayer. ~Mother Teresa

I use a simple technique that was given by Yogi Bhajan. When monitoring your mood and finding yourself in an undesirable place, ask yourself to raise your spirits. Simply say: “I do not like the state I am in. (Insert your name), will you elevate my consciousness.” Now when you say this, you must direct it at your highest self. Recognize that there are other voices that do no represent you highest state of consciousness and avoid speaking to them. Instead, focus on that person who you are when you are happiest, most conscious. Through listening, the proper voice will be heard. This is how you will lift yourself.

So often we beg and plead with the ideas we place outside of ourselves. We send out wasted energy into the ethers hoping that it will return. Disappointment and challenge face those who are not impeccable in the traditional forms of exterior prayer. In these times of spiritual redefinition, old structures of practice are no longer as effective as they once were (although for some—like my Lola [grandmother]—external prayer continues to work). As our minds change, so do the ways we perceive the world, God, and ourselves.

So if prayer has served you fruitlessly, stop sending out a letter to an unknown address and instead try sending one to yourself. Better yet, write an email. The turn around on your prayers will be instantaneous.

Stamped, sealed and self-addressed.

A new, favorite quote of mine from Yogi Bhajan:

“Blessed are those who bless themselves.”

It is time to quit thinking you are incapable, limited and separate from the energy of the universe. Omnipotence is your birthright, and you are as powerful as you will let yourself be. Release that which does not serve this purpose. Recognize this and you will become limitless. Turn off the TV, get into the kitchen and start cooking.

Just Decide Already

It all leads to the same place.

If you never had to make a tough decision again, would it lessen the quality of your life? If you could turn back the hands of time and re-choose your choices, would it serve you in the long run? Does the famed and extremely comforting idea of “keeping our options open” actually provide us with any solace?

The ideas behind these questions were spurred from an article a friend shared on Facebook.  It focuses on the idea that reversible decisions are less conducive to happiness than decisions we stand behind. The article touches on psychosomatic concepts describing how the mind can adapt to any given situation, making the present situation the best possible outcome. On the other hand, keeping your options open creates an endless query of uncertainty. This unknowable outcome produces stress, distraction, and ultimately unhappiness.

Deciding to not to decide is one of the worst decisions to make. I know this from experience.

My life circa summer 2009.

The mother lode of life-altering choices came to me just after graduating college in Southern California. I had been in a ridiculously long-distance relationship with a woman from halfway across the world. For most of my entire senior year, I was hell bent on leaving everything I ever knew behind and transforming myself into an Argentine. As the months drew closer and summer approached, I crossed paths with an old fling that never really took off. Well, needless to say, it began to take off.

I was stuck in the middle of two roads and time was running out. On top of this, I felt horrible. I tried to deny the problem and enjoy the moment, but behind every action, was a thousand pounds of guilt. I will never understand how men can be proud of cheating. Anyways that is another story.

I had a decision to make. I could clearly see down each path and they were as opposite as day and night. To make matters worse, I decided to keep both doors open as long as I could. I would have been better off trying to eat soup with a fork. Not only was I unsuccessful, but I had changed my mind about 100 times a day. The stress was building and I could no longer decipher what I actually wanted. I felt responsible for the lives of three people, and I was blowing it on every account.

Not exactly effective.

It finally began to be too much, to the point of breaking down. I didn’t remember who I was. I felt like I had a growing lump of coal burning a whole through my stomach. I knew I was afraid to leave my family and the life I had known for years, so I decided to stay in California.

As soon as I made this decision, the weight lifted. I became a new born soul, ready to live up to my choice. I had not an ounce of proof that the choice I made was correct, but I had all the time in the world to prove it. Within the first two weeks, I had already chosen to see how beautiful my life was going to be and how unfitting it would have been had I chosen the other direction. My mind was adapting to my new reality.

The choices in life do not matter as much as we lead our selves to believe. Surely, there are some decisions where a definite yes or no is understood, but in the more ambiguous choices, the most important factor is commitment. Once committed, we can begin to fulfill our decisions.

The part that we most often do not understand is that the illusion of choice—the idea that one path will lead us to something different than the other—holds us back from moving forward. In any given decision, the outcome will equate to the same result. This may be difficult to understand, especially in the example I have given between Argentina and California, but when you decide to change the focus from the decision at hand to the person deciding, a different story unfolds.

Oh the choices!

Although the choices may look different, the one deciding them is the same. Any decision made will reflect the state of the person deciding. So whether I choose to move to Argentina or stay in California, I will attract exactly what I am already attracting. This is not to say that once I have lived in either place I will not have different experiences, but in the moment of choice, either decision will bring forth the same exact result. The choice at hand is a product of who I was in the past. In this light, the decision has already been made.

It is not choosing the correct path that is required, but choosing a path. All paths are correct. This is the same concept behind spirituality. Every spiritual practice is valid. There are infinite ways to reach Enlightenment/God/Satori/etc. It is not the path you choose, but the fervor for which you traverse it.

So choose. And stay committed. Don’t look back and steady on. The path you are on is correct because you are on it. There is no judgement, only progression or stagnation. Move forward and you will reach your goal.

The key to happiness is commitment.

Unlock the door.