Finding Our Personal Mission and Potential Power—Part 2

 photo 10863915_10152536669226433_55515737_zpsbf2f0443.jpg

One of my main points over many months of writing is that personal growth can be very favorable to our steadiness in spiritual practice. Such work is certainly not an end in itself, but can be helpful along with our sincerity of purpose and prayer in sorting out our life issues, and accessing our personal power for our service to Shri Guru and Gauranga (our spiritual teacher and Lord Chaitanya), and for the people in general. We can judge a thing by its results (phalena pariciyate) and if through such personal growth work one is more enthused in bhakti and in one's life, this is proof of its value.

All change begins with knowing we have a problem, sometimes the most difficult awareness. However, this still isn’t sufficient to create change without working and praying to remove our shortcomings, and replacing them with better qualities or habits. Expert guidance in doing this work is indispensable. My understanding is that assisted introspection (as I have coined it) with experienced mentors will be helpful in rising to the stage of nistha (steadiness), an interim goal on the long road to prema (pure love of God).

The Gita teaches us that to not follow our nature is artificial and unsustainable. So our spiritual practices should be in sync, not just with our work (as important as that is), but with our sense of personal mission. Our power, or empowerment, in life comes from connecting our personal mission to our spiritual mission, making them one, if you will. Some teachers today say that just doing our personal mission, or being a balanced human being, is spiritual. While this is a crucial part of the equation, it is only part of it, and remains incomplete without addressing the needs of the soul.

Staying with Krishna for the Long Haul by Finding Our Personal Mission and Potential Power—Part 1

Giving our life to Krishna photo Old devotee_zpsscemjcox.jpg
In my last blog I spoke of illness or difficulties that can be used to rekindle our spiritual practice. In this blog I am sharing a sample of what of what some friends and I have been discussing about regarding the difficulty in finding one’s personal power and life mission. In a general sense all Gaudiya Vaishnavas, or devotees of Shri Krishna Chaitanya, share the same ultimate mission of prema, or loving service to Krishna and the spiritual practices to obtain it, or sadhana. However, the details concerning how one lives their life to obtain this ultimate mission, whether as a renunciate or married person with countless occupational possibilities, is as varied as are the types of people who come to Krishna. We could think of a personal unique mission, and a general spiritual one. They may look the same or seem very different. Many years ago I discovered I had issues with my personal power—or my lack of it. Reading the comments of devotees on this subject, I realized that I’m not alone, and so the topic of personal mission and personal power is essential to discuss for our long term standing as devotees.

Reflecting on how I grew up in a family situation where I had to turn off my personal power in order in to survive in a negative, violent atmosphere, it is easy to see that using my personal power is a major life lesson. My withdrawal of energy, or not being very conscious of it, continued to cast a shadow over my life when I came to Krishna. At first it helped me focus on my spiritual practices, but later I was practically forced to become a more balanced and integrated devotee. I have always been a late bloomer and so it isn't surprising to me that it is only now, toward the later years of my life, that I have found the gift in this personal deficiency. Of course, we all have our own time to blossom and become aware of what we need to do in our life. I'm endeavoring and praying to manifest my personal mission in the world—or my corner of it—as my offering for my gurus and Krishna, and to encourage others to do the same.

For the spiritually minded, life is really about managing our human energy in relationship to our spiritual path, and giving it shape according to our personal mission. Some intuitives call our personal mission our "sacred contract," and I have called it our "karmic mission."

It Was Only a Test

(this blog is recorded on the full page: quick time player is needed; works best with Firefox or Explorer; if you are using Google Chrome it will automatically play, so if you don't want to listen, mute your speakers.)
 photo test_emergency_broadcast_zps46e9f1f8.jpg
From my youth during the 60’s I remember tests of the Emergency Broadcasting System on TV, where the regular programing was interrupted. A certain symbol was flashed on the screen with a jarring sound to wake you up and get your attention. After a few minutes, we were told that that this was only a test. If there had been a real emergency we would have been given appropriate instructions—like to go to bomb shelter or something. I thought about this idea of tests and being prepared—or not—for personal emergencies in relationship to my wife and my current illness of about a week now.

I have been thinking that this flu, or whatever respiratory infection it is, is only a test, not a nuclear attack, or earthquake—something that may cause death (which is like our lifetime’s final exam—because our consciousness, attachments, and good or bad actions determine our next birth). If I am still alive, that means I have more time left to be Krishna conscious or to go deeper into my spiritual path. No, our illness likely isn’t life threatening, though still plenty miserable. However, at some point in the near future, we will have to move on and out of our current bodily apartment—we are renters here, not owners. Had I died yesterday, save some special arrangement, I would be taking birth again still full of anarthas (unwanted mentalities or habits) and petty desires.
 photo alertx-large_zps61aeb99e.jpg
So my lack of spiritual standing is sobering, but mainly when confronted with the possibility of my death at this moment—which is one reason we are meant to keep death—or the temporariness of our body—before our eyes! Otherwise, hey, I could live another 20 or 30 years, so no worries Mate, still plenty of time for spiritual progress, mañana! Could I use this as a new lease on the remaining days of my life? That would be a great outcome of feeling crappy. Still, I have to choose that outcome, as we tend to forget, getting absorbed in our regular life, job, and family.

Is Happiness a Choice? Part 1 & 2

Amazing sunrise on the last day of the year 2014 photo DSCN1523_zps3679e712.jpg
Part 1
In the midst of my sneezing and a hacking cough this morning I discovered a fantastically beautiful sunrise—breathtakingly inspiring for me—when I went downstairs to wake our home Deities. These days I am very taken by the natural world, the sunrise and sunset, phases of the moon, and my favorite for super variety, the ever-changing clouds. These daily occurrences are often missed in our hectic world, and thus it is no wonder that people are ever more depressed and lonely, feeling the cities are like a fast paced void. Behind Nature, and within it (and our hearts), is the Presence of the Almighty, patiently waiting for us to turn to him.

And when we are in the peace that nature can afford (if we can turn off our phone) we can feel closer to the Source of Everything, who for Gaudiya Vaishnavas, is the charming, extraordinarily gorgeous, irresistible flute player and cowherd, Shri Krishna. So I felt inspired and happy in the midst of a distressful condition—which gives a clue on how to be happy. This is the opening for today’s topic on happiness.

My wife and I gave a class last week titled, "Is Happiness a Choice?" guided by the 14th chapter of the Bhagavad Gita on the three modes, or qualities, that govern the material world. Our answer to this question was a conditional yes, since happiness is really an attitude toward life, and not the result of our material adjustments or attainments. Another way of thinking of happiness is that it is not a “thing” but a by-product of a state of consciousness. Thus we might reframe the question to read, “What state of mind is required to choose to be happy?”

From a higher spiritual perspective, one of the qualities of the soul is happiness, so the closer we come to the spiritual platform, the more joy we will naturally feel, and the less we will be searching for happiness in the world of ephemeral things. The potentiality of material goodness (sattva) is that it is the portal, or gateway, to the soul, since it can bring wisdom and spiritual illumination. The downside of material goodness—and all material qualities or things have shortcomings—is that one can become attached to being a happy, virtuous, and wise person, and remain materially bound.

Discovering and Using our Gifts--the Fruit of Inner Work and Prayer

(this blog is recorded on the full page: quick time player is needed; works best with Firefox or Explorer; if you are using Google Chrome it will automatically play, so if you don't want to listen, mute your speakers.)

 photo talents-gifts_zpsf076c49a.jpg

This blog is a continuation of the last two about undercurrents in groups and for each of us, personally. In a sense the fruit of dealing with our personal undercurrent, or unresolved life issues, is discovering and sharing our gifts, and the joy and fulfillment that ensue.

Many of us feel that being a soul in a physical embodiment is a strange combination. So strange in fact that some people, even without any spiritual awareness, have the experience of feeling they don't fit into the world, or are depressed for no apparent reason. A few of us have taken this angst as an impetus to search for the meaning of life beyond the status quo, finding the spiritual quest as the solution. I understand though, that being on the spiritual journey doesn't mean to deny the physical, or to just live our life waiting to transcend—as I did for many years as a single monastic (brahmacari). Awakening to our spiritual nature requires being fully present in the world and understanding our unique contribution to the family of the Earth while focusing on our Source through spiritual practice.

There are many dimensions to life. My feeling of emptiness and depression with the world led me to begin my spiritual quest. This search inspired me to regularly visit and live in the redwood forest, observe Nature, and read spiritual books. That led me to Krishna and I lived a spiritually focused life in various temples around the world for 12 years or so. That was good for me and gave me standing in, and a taste for, bhakti. Then I came to another dissatisfaction, or inner prompting, which led me to the journey of interfacing with the world and understanding that I was out of balance with my material self; I had to attend to what I would come to understand as my life lessons and "karmic mission."
 photo imagesqtbnANd9GcRBtxwDKnfwOSImPWwgf_zps4ab4a3f3.jpg
Both our spiritual practice and understanding what we need to do in the world are essential. It is better to live in the world near devotees hankering for our spiritual ideal (Krishna Consciousness), then to live in a temple, hankering for material facilities and wondering what is wrong.

Our Personal Undercurrent—And What We Can Do About It!

(this blog is recorded on the full page: quick time player is needed; works best with Firefox or Explorer; if you are using Google Chrome it will automatically play, so if you don't want to listen, mute your speakers.)
 photo imagesqtbnANd9GcQVlGyiVgX0gHS8loc20_zps8a66ae7d.jpg
As I was working on last week’s blog about undercurrents in communities, I also thought about a related, important topic concerning our personal undercurrent, and how that affects our life, relationships, and whatever groups we are part of—such as family, school, occupation, and religious organization. I did bring up the subject, without naming it, when I spoke about how devotee’s unresolved “life issues” or undiagnosed mental health problems can create difficulies in any group they are part of. However, that was about “them,”—you know, those “other” devotees that cause all the problems—and I wasn’t specifically addressing you, that saintly person who never causes any conflicts. (Smile!) Many “you’s” make up any group, and each person has an effect on the whole. We must soberly consider that we can’t change others, but only ourselves—and that with great difficulty and endeavor. Never the less, changing for the better, within and without, is our most important work in life, and specifically for those on the path of loving devotional service to Krishna, or our conception of Divinity.

If we are in a leadership position, we can carefully and lovingly point out problem areas we observe in others, or if serious enough, recommend they seek professional help. Ultimately each person has to accept their shortcoming and see the value of working toward improvement. Taking personal responsibility for relationship conflicts is the first step, combined with a willingness to do the difficult work of introspection and self-examination. I have written before about our “shadow” side, or those disowned or repressed parts of our psyche, that we don’t want to accept or deal with. “Undercurrent” is another way to label those problematic parts of ourselves and encourage everyone, in addition to spiritual practice, to be engaged in self-improvement and developing less reactionary ways of dealing with others. The principle to “Seek first to understand, then to be understood,” applies if we are to minimize our problems with others, and be a positive force in our family and/or community!

Texas Faith 136: A cup of coffee and other holy rituals

Dallas Morning News,

4 Minute Krishna Podcast @ BKS Iyengar Yoga - Wine VS Yoga

Texas Faith 135: When is a city ban on feeding the poor an infringement on religious liberty?

Dallas Morning News,