1 + 1 = 3

Sometimes the most exceptional lessons in life are heard between the most unexceptional moments.

Just the other day I was speaking with a wise friend of mine about some very ordinary things. We came about relationships and our respective states within them. We began to mumble about this and analyze that. After a few fleeting moments of rather darb commentary, a sagacious spark shot across the room. We immediately looked at each other. I repeated the phrase: one plus one equals three.

No more than five words. Simple and—quite literally—uneducated. Yet the words were extremely potent. The conversation was about relationships. This was not just about lovers. The small proverb-like sentence was referring to the essence of all authentic and prosperous relationships. It was the secret behind all bonds.

A real relationship is one that brings forth a sum greater than its parts. It is an illogical, unexplained phenomena bordering the line of a magician’s trick. The end result of a relationship is more than what could have possibly been created had one calculated the pieces separately. This marvel of relationships is why we are attracted to having them with others.

Looks like chem lab paid off.

An energy, a chemistry, a connection or a vibration. I have heard all of these terms used when describing a meaningful connection with another. It is something literally magical.

I first understood this concept in probably the most blue collar, laymen’s terms that existed. A couple teaching yoga taught a tantric class on relationships. The male was a former carpenter and electrician. He described relationships in the form of voltage.

Any one person is capable of emitting 110 Volts—the power expelled from a regular US electrical socket. 110 volts is a decent amount of power, but to really get things flowing, 220-volts might be needed. Now, if two 110-volts try to fuse together improperly, they will be unable to obtain 220 volts. Instead, they must use a transformer. This will reach the desired output.

Git r done!

The metaphor of the transformer is that two people can create a larger output if their relationship is properly established. Properly established is he key concept. In today’s world, many people carry out relationships without transcending past the surface levels of formalities and physicality. By venturing past these barriers to authentic relationships, deeper levels of trust, intuition, connectivity and love await.

The first and only step is trust. Faith in the art of giving is the foundation of all great relationships. A pertinent example is my relationship with the wise friend who inspired this post.

Trust, its what’s for dinner.

I will never know what our friendship will bring. There are no guarantees, no promised rewards and no IOU’s. All there is, is what I choose to give. When I give unconditionally, I know that my friend will receive that which he needs from our relationship. In this process, I learn to surrender to any sort of control or unknowingness while at the same time enjoying the gift of giving. Our relationship grows because we both believe in this concept. Because of this, our relationship can defy simple arithmetic.

When a relationship is about the sum and not the parts, it becomes a greater entity, capable of achieving unimaginable heights.

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The Art of Giving

Originally posted at theamorist.com

“You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you” ~ John Bunyan

Whether it is a handful of change or a lifetime of devotion, the act of selfless giving is the most important action one can take. At its core, giving is the ultimate form of spiritual practice.

For ages, religions and spiritual groups have honored the art of giving. In India, the word seva, or selfless service, is expanded by the phrase, “Manav seva Prabhu seva,” meaning service to mankind is service to God. By carrying out seva, one is giving his or herself to the universe by offering time, money or prayer. In Christianity and Judaism, the concept of tithing, or an offering of 10 percent of one’s time or money represents spiritual giving. And in non-spiritual circles the common concept of donation represents the art of giving. In each case, the idea behind selfless service is that one will be covered (be it spiritually, financially, or consciously) by giving up something important.

Giving doesn’t have to look like this.

It is sometimes difficult to see that true wealth and prosperity—be it fiscal or spiritual—begins with the relinquishment of such objects. The other day I was speaking to a friend about his financial problems and I suggested he donate some of his money to a cause he felt strongly about. He retorted, “How can I become rich if I give all of my money away?”

This question is the boundary that separates those who are prosperous from those who are not.

First, a prosperous person is not determined by how much money he or she has, but rather their state of mind. In the case of my friend, he believed he was too poor to give. His financial insecurity stopped him from creating a prosperous mindset. People who attune themselves with the vibration of prosperity receive money and success after they have aligned themselves with that specific frequency. Only for a select few does it work the other way.

Second, giving is ultimately a question of faith, for there is no tangible promise or guaranteed return from giving a gift. There is no proof of gain other than the conviction that you are doing the right thing. This challenge is often daunting to those with empty pockets. Yet the saying holds true: “You only get what you give”.

It can look like this.

Of course, there are some clauses. Obviously, selfless giving is an act that requires no desire for reciprocity. To truly give is to surrender to the relationship of commerce and instead initiate one of complete compassion. Intention plays an important role in this process, as one who gives just to receive is not truly giving. It is only through selflessness that the act of giving will create true prosperity.

On Saturdays I teach a donation-based yoga class. In this class I begin with a story about why we offer these classes. I end the story with, “I ask that you donate what you can, but I recognize that the greatest donation you can make is simply being here.” Most students find this welcoming, but I see it as the true donation.

Each individual has given and hour and a half of their (prime Saturday afternoon) time to spend working on themselves, elevating their consciousness. As they leave the class calmer, happier, and relaxed, they raise the consciousness of all they come into contact with. By coming to class, they have donated themselves to selfless service. In that action, they uplift their own consciousness.

“A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle” ~ James Heller

We often think of donation and giving as something that has to be measured by numbers and fiscal value. Many times the most important gifts are not those carrying a hefty price tag, but rather the ones that come from within: the homemade meal, a hand-sketched picture, a daily spiritual practice or a few kind words. The opportunity to give is never dependent on income.

We all have something to worth giving.

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.

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.