Lost and Found

January 15, 2010

The first thing I purchased as a new resident of New York City was a Mala. I felt like it sent a strong message to my psyche about how my time in New York would be spent and would really focus me as I entered into a rigorous conservatory program. A string of 108 beautiful Rudraksha beads hung around my neck and I was rarely seen without them. I made a point of only taking the mala off only when I absolutely had to, and even when I wasn’t reciting mantras I would often run my fingers over the textured beads. Passing the beads through my fingers always calmed me, and I found great comfort in knowing that a link to the divine was always around my neck.

And, just like a child on Christmas, the novelty of our possessions usually wears off.  One morning I woke up, and sure that I had taken my mala off before bed, I began to search through my dressers in my tiny dorm room. As time went by, I began to search more and more frantically for the mala, taking things our of drawers, stripping the sheets from my bed; turning my whole dorm upside down.

My roommate walked in, and sensing my panic he questioned me, “Jimmy, what’s wrong?”

“I lost my mala! I can’t find it anywhere!”

“The beads you wear around your neck?”

“Yes!”  I responded. I was really beginning to freak out.

“Jimmy, they’re around your neck.”

I looked down.

Sure enough, there they were.

In the same way we forget about God. As children we are incredibly in tune to the world around us, constantly filled with wonder and as we age we begin to forget that wonder and lose that ability to recognize the Divine in everything. The most tragic of these losses in ability is the ability to feel the presence of God within us.

Through our practice of yoga we experience, both on and off the mat, that divine spark.

We spend so much of our lives searching for the things that will make us happy when, in reality, most of the things we desire will only bring us a temporary happiness. In this passage of the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna tells Arjuna that he is in our hearts. Even when we’ve forgotten or lost hope, there He is. Just like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, we’ve had the tools we needed the whole time. We just needed a little reminder.

Once we see that divine spark within ourselves, we can recognize it everywhere.

Spend time today in silent meditation. My teacher once told me, “Prayer is us talking to God. Meditation is us listening to God.”



Do you hear what I hear?

January 12, 2010

Tasya Vachaka Pranava - God is Om

-The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

For almost a year I’ve lived in a small apartment in Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan, literally an avenue away from Times Square. At all hours of the day and night, the sounds of the street rise up from west 43rd street and enter my home. When I first moved to the city I used to find the noises of the city very distracting and got into the habit of sleeping with music. I compiled all of my favorite mellow songs on one epic sleep playlist and put all the songs onto my iPod. The playlist is now about 4.5 days of music (according to iTunes) and it’s  become a part of my pre-sleep ritual. Every night as I start to get ready for bed, I turn on my iPod and start the playlist and soon I am fast asleep. A few months after moving to my Hell’s Kitchen apartment my speakers broke, and for one reason or another I never seemed to get around to buying new ones. The first night, I lay down in bed and had an amazingly difficult time going to sleep! I had become used to my playlist–my sweet indie-acoustic melodies putting me to sleep. But there I lay, tossing and turning as I listened to the noise of the city 4 floors below me.

This not sleeping thing continued for quite some time and was really starting to have an effect on my day-to-day life.

A few days into my sleepless nights I was doing work-study at Jivamukti Yoga downtown. I go once a week and spend three hours washing and folding yoga mats and towels in exchange for free classes at the yoga center. I’ve learned to really treasure this three-hour time-slot in my life. In my day-to-day life I teach yoga while still pursuing a performing arts career. I’ve come to realize that I waste a lot of words in my day-to-day life and really love time at work-study. For three hours I can devote myself, in almost complete silence, whole-heartedly to a pretty mundane task. The whole thing has become very meditative. It was during my time in Jivamukti’s laundry room that I had a realization, or an “ah ha moment” as my teacher would say. While cleaning the mats I heard a class finishing up. I heard the students chanting as they finished their class and was reminded of this yoga sutra. Om Vachaka Pranava, which translates roughly as “God is Om”.

From our Yoga practice we’ve learned that Om is the sound in everything; the sound that created everything. In this yoga sutra, Shri Patanjali refers to the sacred syllable Om as the Pranava, the all-pervading sound. Hearing that crowded classroom chant Om’s inspired me. I began to find the Om in everything. I sprayed the mat cleaner, Om, Om, Om. Wiped down the mat. Om. Tossed it in the dryer. Om. Om was everywhere!

I went home that night after a day full of hearing the world with new ears. I heard the city street, but it was no longer a collection of random noises preventing me from sleep… I heard God singing to me, lulling me to sleep. The whole city became my sleep playlist that night and I honestly don’t think I’ve ever slept so well in my entire life.

Through our yoga practice we are taught to see the Divine, Ishvara, in everything. Sound has always been another one of the primary ways we experience the Divine. In the Gospel of John (1:1) we read “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Today I challenge you to hear the Om in everything.  Find Om in the busy New York City streets, the crowded subway cars, in your own heartbeat, and in the silence.