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Meditating at the summit of Pike's PeakMe, meditating at the summit of Pike’s Peak

I’m a bit of a sucker for Oprah, and especially love when she gets on a spirituality kick. I just think it’s fabulous that she uses her global platform to spread awareness of things of a spiritual nature that others might shy away from. If you haven’t seen the marketing juggernaut already, her new project is in partnership with Deepak Chopra — a free 21 day meditation workshop: Oprah’s Lifeclass® and The Chopra Center 21-Day Meditation Challenge®—Perfect Health.

While I sit with a Zen meditation group once a week, my daily meditation practice is spotty at best. So I signed up for the Oprah and Chopra thing out of curiosity, albeit with low expectations. Reminders (presumably to get me hyped up prior to the official start of the program) were promptly deleted from my inbox, and the Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3 emails sat unread.

Then yesterday, sitting on the couch, having caught up with my Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and RSS feeds  [oh Google Reader how I will miss you *sniff*], and having a little time to kill before yoga, I figured I’d clean out my inbox. After catching up on several adorable videos of my baby niece, I opened the Day 1 Meditation Challenge message, and headphones in, clicked to access the first meditation.

“Welcome everyone, I am so happy you’re joining us for our 21-Day Meditation Challenge — Perfect Health.” Oprah’s voice cuts through the atmospheric music. She follows with one minute introduction of the program, then passes it on to Deepak to provide an abbreviated lesson around an affirmation.

“There exists in every person a place that is free from disease. That never feels pain. That is ageless, and never dies. When we journey to this place, limitations we commonly accept, simply cease to exist. They’re not even a possibility. This is the place called perfect health.” Deepak’s deep voice intones.

He continues, “Stepping into this realm, no matter how brief these visits may be, can bring profound transformation and healing. In this state of true mind-body-spirit connection, all previous assumptions about ordinary existence disappear. And we experience a higher, truly ideal reality. Sometimes our health is less than perfect, but we need to understand that’s not our permanent state, it’s only a snapshot.”

Comparing our state of being to a picture taken on a beach, he reminds us that everything in our life is in constant motion, in a continuous state of change. Just like you can never take the exact same photograph of the beach because the waves are constantly moving, the sands gently shifting, the clouds floating by in different formations, every moment in our life is transitory, ephemeral.

“We are the controllers of our own physiology, and we can take steps to restore our health and vitality.” Dr. Chopra states, eloquently summarizing the findings of research that meditation can retrain our brains and have positive impacts on our physical heath. He then wraps up with an affirmation he suggests we focus on that ties it all together: “I commit to living perfect health.”

The clincher for me though, and the reason I’ll be making these part of my day for the next 21 days, was that before the 8 minute meditation begins, Deepak introduces a mantra applicable to the theme of the day; in this case Om Bhavam Namah. Translatated from Sanskrit, it means “I am absolute existence. I am a field of all possibilities.” Following in the Japa Yoga tradition, Deepak suggests the mantra be repeated silently over and over again in order to help clear and release the mind from other thoughts. After repeating the mantra a few times, Deepak leaves us to focus on the mantra while soft, ambient music plays in the background.

As an adherent of yogic philosophy  I am a strong believer in the power of mantra. While I have the voice of a sick frog, I adore chanting, and feel nowhere more spiritually uplifted than at a kirtan [that’s a call-and-response type of chanting for those of you who don’t frequent yoga studios]. Raised Catholic, I was always a bit uncomfortable with prayer —  it seemed somehow like conjuring to me — but when I found Sanskrit chanting, I deeply understood that we are all part of something greater than our individual selves.

Now, the marketing folks at Oprah could easily have scrubbed out the Sanskrit in an effort to make this program more mainstream; say, encouraging the listener to repeat the affirmation rather than the mantra. But I love that they didn’t. In incorporating these ancient words, they truly made something more real. Each of these words carries with it a host of vibrations, and as we are made up of vibrating energy, those sounds can have powerful effects on us.

The entire audio for each meditation is just 16 minutes long, making it easy to squeeze into your day. And while the official start of the program was March 11, everything is pre-recorded and available for 10 days after original post, so you can still participate if you haven’t signed up yet.

I’ll be listening and hope you do too. I’d be curious to hear your perspectives if you do participate, so please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Peace, love and light to all.


I just returned from my second Gong Bath by Richard Rudis. For those of you not familiar, in a Gong Bath is a sacred sound ‘concert’ in which a large gong is played such that the tonalities and vibrations invoke a healing experience.

The room is very crowded, with several rows of people lying on yoga mats mere inches apart on their backs, often covered with blankets or eye pillows for comfort. Heads are pointed in the direction of the gong to allows the vibrations to enter in through the crown chakra (sahasrara) and facilitate the removal of negative energies out the feet and hands. Participants are staggered so that when there are many rows of people, the feet of a person in the row in front of you doesn’t align to another’s head, so that  impurities can be transmitted back to the earth rather than absorbed by another.

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reiki hands illustrationHow exciting to see an article yesterday in the Wall Street Journal about reiki. While not all the folks consulted in the article were convinced of its effectiveness, the very fact that it is being discussed as a complementary therapy in traditional medicine circles is yet another example of the greater openness to possibility our culture seems to be shifting to.

For those not familiar with it, Reiki is a specific type of healing energy that is transmitted through the palms of an attuned practitioner to the recipient. This is either done via direct touch, or by hovering the hands over the body. From scientific studies that have been done, the energy seems to work at a vibrational level to promote healing.
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The word “yoga” has become nearly ubiquitous today, and while that in itself is heartening, it seems to be most often used to refer to a physical practice, e.g. “I’m going to yoga class”. But the beautiful thing you discover is that this common interpretation of yoga is only a small part of what yoga really is. For those who decide to follow this path further, you will find that these poses you may have once called yoga (more accurately referred to as ‘asana’) are in many ways merely a tool to lead us to spiritual enlightenment.

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So to make a long story short, I got locked out of yoga class tonight. And it’s been one of those days—has been one of those days for a while now actually—so I really needed to escape to asana for a spell.

Home practice never has been one of my strong suits though. Unless I’m structuring a sequence for a class, I tend not to practice outside of class. But I was desperate to quell the mental mind-stuff for a while, and my body was aching to stretch. So I put together a practice just for me, just for tonight.

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Ah, the new year.  A time when yoga classes are packed mat-to-mat — for about a month. Yep, come February all those folks trying yoga for the first time, or coming back to practice as part of a New Year’s resolution, seem to disappear.

It reminds me of an article shared by my teacher when I first began my yoga teacher training. Taken from Swami Sivananda’s Sadhana: A Textbook of the Psychology & Practice of the Techniques to Spiritual Perfection called “The Mind of the Aspirant: A Psychological Study”. While focused more on the pursuit of a spiritual path, we can also deconstruct his teaching to reflect up on our experience in asana class.

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