Saturday, June 20, 2015


Saturday, June 20, 2015

A number of years ago I spent a brief period of time living as a Yoga Service and Community (YSC) participant at Mount Madonna Center (MMC). As noted on its website MMC is a conference and retreat center located on a large acreage of mountain-top redwood forest and grassland overlooking Monterey Bay. I first spent some time there in late 2002. I really enjoyed the YSC program. It still exists today though it has since been expanded into a program of twelve weeks duration.

As a part of the program YSC participants would meet on a weekly basis to check in about their ongoing experience. Check-in time would occasionally be complemented by discussion of topics relevant to living in a community like that which exists at Mount Madonna. Among the topics discussed which still interest me today was the topic of ahimsa.

Ahimsa is an ethical principle whose origins can be traced to the Indian religions of Jainism, Hinduism and Buddhism. I first took a serious interest in Buddhism a number of years ago shortly after I ceased being actively involved with the Catholic Church. I went in search of an inspiring spirituality or religion due in part to my feelings of being unmoored once I left the Catholic Church behind. I found Buddhism especially interesting. Ahimsa is the ethical principle of not causing harm to other living things.

A question I live with on a daily basis is how I can live a life guided by this principle when the world around me causes so much injury to so many. Even if you have the intent to live your own life according to principles such as competence, kindness, generosity, integrity and non-injury it is still quite possible that the broader social, economic and political structures around you might be causing harm to you against your will. I feel this has been happening to many Americans in recent years. One only need consider issues such as the financial crisis, racism, pervasive unemployment and our gridlocked Congress to appreciate the depth of the challenge many Americans face in our present moment. And the United States is still considered a developed nation! Circumstances are at least equally challenging in many parts of the world. It is very easy to feel deep sadness and despair if you spend too much time reading about events in this country and abroad. Much of the world seems riven with chaos and beyond repair.

It seems to me the first and most important step in living a good life is to deeply examine just your life and consider the ways in which you might be living a life that is less than what you could potentially realize. What habits do you have that might be counter-productive? Do you have ways of coping that provide you relief in the short-term but may cause grave harm to you later in life? Are there issues you are avoiding? Are there fears inside of you that you are not confronting? If and when you reach the point that you have successfully attended to your own issues it seems to me you will have reached a level of functionality and serenity that many people rarely actually achieve in their lives. I feel like I am finally at this point. This milestone alone is something immense to celebrate. The accomplishment of successfully confronting your issues is not to be undervalued.

So I now find myself actively contemplating what I wish to do with the rest of my life. The dark events that caused the suffering of my early childhood are not something I can personally alter a few decades later. But I can make the healthy choice of relating to my circumstances in a new way. And that is what I am doing now.

Here is a meditation I offer to my friends and readers today:

May the powerful light of the Summer Solstice burn away the dross and pain in our hearts. May we experience gratitude for all the gifts we enjoy each and every day. May we open our hearts and minds to possibilities that will allow us to meet our needs in new and powerful ways!

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I invite you to accompany me as I document my own journey of healing. My blog is designed to offer inspiration and solace to others. If you find it of value I welcome you to share it with others. Aloha!