In Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving, I am so grateful for this life…my family and friends, students and sometimes strangers that offer a smile when I’m feeling down, the studio, my yoga practice and the beautiful yoga tradition I am so privileged to belong to. Those who know me will not be surprised to hear that I am also so grateful for books! This holiday, I offer you the beautiful, inspirational words of Swami Vivekananda that I read today:

Therefore, stand up, be bold, be strong. Take the whole responsibility on your shoulders, and know that you are the creator of your own destiny. All the strength and succour you want is within yourselves. Therefore, make your own future. “Let the dead past bury its dead.” The infinite future is before you, and you must always remember that each word, thought, and deed, lays up a store for you and that as the bad thoughts and bad works are ready to spring upon you like tigers, so also there is the inspiring hope that the good thoughts and good deeds are ready with the power of a hundred thousand angels to defend you always and for ever. From a lecture “The Cosmos: The Microcosm” delivered in New York on January 26, 1896.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

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Bear

A bear is a furry person, a relative, that goes underground when the earth sleeps and emerges when it wakes. Giving Voice to Bear, David Rockwell.

BEAR

For my birthday this year, I have started a Facebook fundraiser for the Appalachian Bear Rescue. I have always felt a connection to bears. I have a collection of bear figurines from all over the world. I have been gifted bear images, wood carvings, and journals. I have never seen a bear in the wild, but it terrifies me to think of a world without them.

Some years ago I read in Living with the Himalayan Masters that my guru Swami Rama had a pet bear named Bhola for company as he wandered through the Himalayas. His own guru called Swami Rama a “bear charmer.” 

Bears are honored across the world. Indigenous populations in North America have said that bears are half human because of the similarity to humans in their physical structure. They stand on their hind legs and occasionally walk upright. They stand and reach for berries and have amazing dexterity in those large paws. The blackfeet word o-kits-iks means both hand and bear paw, and the Ojibwa called bears anijinabe, which also meant Indian. Several tribes claim to be direct descendants of bears…that the spirit of the bear is there in all of their gatherings. Remember the Disney film Brother Bear? The bear and the boy were one. Bears can shapeshift into anything. The bear’s fierce maternal instinct, their diet, their knowledge of plants and herbs all were revered by native people. Because of their knowledge of plants, the bear is associated with health and medicine. If you are suffering from an illness, you can call in the spirit of the bear to help you find the right medicine. 

Bears encourage feelings of security and grounding. Did you have a teddy bear as a child? Just looking at images of bears is enough to feel more stable. I carry a silver medallion in my wallet that has a bear carved on one side and on the other it says “Draw upon your inner strength and potentials.” This is the energy of the bear…strong, patient, and resourceful.

There are an infinite number of stories about bears. They have their own mythology in which they display all of the characteristics of human beings, yet remain godly. Bears in these stories are kind and generous or fierce and destructive, depending on the intent of the speaker/writer. Do you know the myth of Devil’s Tower in Wyoming? It varies in detail from tribe to tribe, but essentially some children were running from bears and the Divine saved them by lifting up the earth and raising the kids to the sky. The bears were left to claw at the sides of the tower as they tried to climb up. It was easy for me to imagine this happening as I stood in front of Devil’s tower years ago. It is a sacred place. 

Bears can be dangerous, it’s true. They deserve our respect. They are also wonderful gentle giants that need our protection.

Please, donate to my fundraiser.

If you are interested in reading the book Giving Voice to Bear, you can find the link below.

For further reading:

Mysteries and Fish

I just read something that I am dying to share. Do you remember the Dr. Suess book “A Fish Out of Water?” It is about the boy that buys a fish and is warned by the pet store owner not to feed the fish too much, and of course, he does and the fish keeps getting bigger and bigger. The boy transfers the fish from vases to the bathtub, and eventually floods his house. Then, the boy calls the fire department and they come to take the fish to the community swimming pool. Gutted, the boy has to call the pet store owner (Mr. Carp) to come and help him. Mr. Carp comes, dives into the pool and POOF the fish is restored to his normal size.

WELL…

I am reading the book “Jnana-Yoga” by Swami Vivekananda and there is a story of the great sage Manu sitting by the Ganges River when a minnow swims up to him for help. He takes the fish and puts it in a pot of water. The little minnow explains that he is being chased by a much bigger fish and wants protection. Manu takes the fish home and by morning, the fish no longer fits in the pot. Manu puts the fish in a tank, and the fish becomes as big as the tank. The fish is moved to the river, and the fish outgrows the river. Then, Manu puts the fish in the ocean, and the fish explains that he is actually the Divine Creator and He has come to warn of the great flood. He tells Manu to build an ark, load up all the animals in pairs (sound familiar?), climb on board with his own family and wait for the flood to subside so he can repopulate the world…and we are all called “man” because we are the descendants of Manu.

Stories of the great flood are present in so many cultures. But, I am just so tickled by the similarity of this myth and the Dr. Suess book. And I wonder, did Dr. Suess know this story? Is that where he got the idea. Do I want to research that? Well, not really. I want to finish this book by Vivekananda. So, if anyone can provide real answers to this question I would be interested to know.