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Whenever we get a chance to visit Hawaii, we’re awed by the power of life force, or prana, that permeates everything here. It’s amazing to see the variety of plants that grow to a height of maybe four or five inches on the mainland, but that here in Hawaii reach six to ten feet with…

Shivaratri, 2018. The community gathered in Hansa Temple for a nightlong celebration in honor of Shiva, the supreme yogi. Chanting together, meditating, giving and receiving divine love and divine joy, we moved into a realm of Spirit, our own true home. The light of a candle was offered before the altar, offered to each of our Masters, then held up in offering before a devotee. This devotee swept the holy light into her being, drawing her hands toward the spiritual eye, then received the candle and carried it to another, then, one by one, to everyone present — sharing what of God’s bounty had been received, and in sharing, helping that bounty grow beyond measure. In the same way were offered to God and Gurus — and shared with all — incense wafted, blessed water lightly splashed with a feather, a tinkling bell, a blessing of sandalwood paste at the spiritual eye: all the senses offered in gratitude to the Divine, from whom all blessings flow.

Those acting as channels circulated through the temple, weaving patterns of light, joy, love¬—Divine Mother’s tender loving care embracing, comforting, uplifting, thrilling our hearts. The Masters smiled down upon us from the altar, eyes glowing, rejoicing with their children as we opened ourselves more and more to their presence among us. The feeling was of friendship in God — and, even more deeply, friendship with God.

Singing “Many Hands Make a Miracle” during the Attunement Ceremony, we hold hands across the aisle, each row connected with the next, a continuous, looping chain of hands clasped. The heartbeat felt in each palm grows stronger and stronger, until it seems a single heartbeat uniting a temple full of lovers of God — and of God in one another.

Bathed in Divine Mother’s enveloping presence, memories of Her thousand blessings awake in the heart. As a devotee dances in honor of Shiva, an image forms of the line of tall cypresses lining the entry to Swamiji’s Moksha Mandir: a gentle breeze, and the line of trees sway gracefully, and welcomingly — their dance stately, dignified, noble, joyful. “All living things,” Master wrote, “swayed in the incense-breeze of Thy approach, hinting at Thy perfume of bliss.” As we are blessed at the point between the eyebrows, a memory comes: Walking out of the Meditation Retreat’s Temple of Silence after a kirtan, we look up into a night sky lit by a nearly full moon, shining from a dark purple/blue field, aureoled by an orange-shading-to-gold outer ring. Here mimicked in the natural world was the blissful spiritual eye, calling the devotee inward to the Light that never fades. “Open every portal of Nature,” Master prays, “that I may see Thee everywhere.”

For each one there is a portal through which Divine Mother may be known. No one is overlooked. And so we come to the spiritual journey of Stacey O’Brien, whose portal was her friendship with Wesley the Owl. All her life, Stacey felt most at home with the animal world. As a toddler she was guided and protected by the family dog, who allowed her to clutch his belly fur to steady herself while taking her first faltering steps, and who, sensing that his little charge was about to lose her balance, would at once lie down to create a soft, furry cushion for her safe landing. As an adult, now a biologist working with rescued barn owl orphans, she one day met a helpless five-day-old bit of skin and bones. Her heart opened and she committed herself to caring for this tiny life form. She knew what her commitment entailed: Barn owls mate for life; if one of the pair dies the survivor often goes into deep depression, turns to face the trunk of the tree home and dies soon after. Stacey knew that she would be, effectively, Wesley’s other half — that without her, he would not survive.

Thus began a nineteen-year friendship between species, beginning as a human caring for an animal, evolving through a thousand changes as the human learned to understand and respond to the needs, emotional and physical, of her owl friend, then shifting radically when Stacey was incapacitated with an inoperable brain tumor. Day and night she was racked with unbearable pain. No treatment did more than dull the outer edges of her agony. The prognosis was for more of the same the rest of her life. Her savings were gone; her mother, who had taken her (and Wesley) in, was nearing the end of her own savings. Horrified at burdening her mother, with endless pain on the horizon, Stacey was inexorably drawn toward suicide.

What saved her, put her on the road to recovery, and finally to carry on valuable work even in her disabled condition, was her commitment to care for Wesley, whom she knew her own death would sentence to the same fate. Through love for a helpless fellow citizen of our planet, Stacey learned lessons in service, compassion, loyalty — most important of all, she learned to set aside all personal considerations in order to carry through her commitment to her owl friend: “He was my teacher, my companion, my child, my playmate, my reminder of God.”

Thus did Divine Mother reach down through the unique channel of an orphaned barn owl to carry the soul of Her daughter Stacey to spiritual victory over suffering and despair, to acceptance, inner joy, and deeper levels of service. “You commit for life,” Stacey writes, “you finish what you start, you give your unconditional love, and that is enough. I looked into the eyes of the owl, found the way of God there, and decided to live.”

Ah, friendship! Flowering, heaven-born plant!
Nurtured art thou in the soil of measureless love,
In the seeking of soul-progress together
By two who would smooth the way each for the other.
. . .
There, on that sacred shrine of fragrance,
The Friend of all friends craves to come and remain!

In divine friendship,

For Ananda’s “Thank You, God” Tithing

Last week, at Inner Renewal Week at Ananda Village, meditators shared inspiration and practical tips about what helps their meditation practice. Some of the suggestions come from newer meditators and some came from people who have been meditating for decades. I found their advice both helpful and inspiring and hope you do, too!

Inner Renewal Week 2018 Videos

The Importance of Attunment

The Path of Ananda Seva

Deepening Our Sadhana

Summary of the Week with Questions and Answers

This annual week of classes, music, and discussion took place earlier this month, focusing on helping those already with a meditation or spiritual practice to go deeper.

Here are the classes that were offered by Nayaswami’s Jyotish and Devi on the three pillars of the spiritual path: sadhana (spiritual practice), service, and attunement.

You can also watch videos from previous Inner Renewal weeks.

As a special bonus this year Treasures Along the Path, here are three classes by Swami Kriyananda on the the three pillars:

The Purpose of Meditation

Service is Joy

What is Attunement?

The Three Qualities of the Universe

The ancient yoga teachings stated that the food a person eats affects his state of consciousness. Paramhansa Yogananda (author of the world-renowned Autobiography of a Yogi), in his wide range of teachings, explained that specific spiritual influences are inherent in certain foods. Such influences include cereal for strength of character; beets for martial vigor; maple syrup for mental freshness.

According to ancient yoga tradition, the universe expresses three fundamental qualities or gunas, depending on the degree of clarity with which they express the original, Pure Consciousness out of which all things were manifested. In Sanskrit those qualities were named tamo guna (the which is dulling to the consciousness), rajo guna (which activates the mind), and sattwa guna (which clarifies and uplifts the understanding).

How Does This Apply to Our Food?

Certain foods were described as being tamasic because the effect they have on our awareness is stultifying. Others were considered rajasic because they tend to make one restless and overactive. For mental and spiritual happiness, the foods most highly recommended were sattwic, because they exert a calming and uplifting influence on one’s consciousness.

For a well-balanced and happy life, foods with a tamasic influence should either be kept to a minimum or eliminated altogether. One should moderate his intake of rajasic foods. Foods that help to induce calmness and mental upliftment should preponderate in the diet of people seeking inner peace. Modern life, however, is essentially restless and ego-centered. For people who must cope with worldly attitudes around them, or who have many outward demands made on their time and energy, Yogananda recommend that some rajasic foods be included in the diet. For them, a measure of rajas will help them to deal effectively with the restlessness in their environment.

Tamasic foods include all those which have a deadening or stupefying effect on the mind — foods such as alcoholic beverages and certain drugs, whether medical of hallucinogenic. Foods are tamasic also when they are lifeless, perhaps because they’ve been “cooked to death,” or have simply become stale, losing their vitality. Tamasic foods include also those which are too pungent, which is to say those with a strong, sharp taste. Excessively heavy foods, finally, which emphasize bulk rather than vitality, are also considered tamasic.

Rajasic foods include spicy foods such as mustard, onions, garlic, chili peppers, hot sauces, and other foods that have an irritating or over-stimulating effect on the body, and especially on the nervous system.

Sattwic foods are those which are calming to the nerves. They include especially fresh fruits, nuts, and vegetables.

Yogananda specified further that certain foods — as we stated above — exert not only a sattwic influence generally, but also help to develop specific spiritual qualities. Of fruits and vegetables that are produced from blossoms, cherries help to develop a cheerful nature; grapes, to develop love in the heart. To develop specific spiritual qualities one should consume especially foods that are imbued with those spiritual vibrations.

To eat heavily, however, even if one’s diet is otherwise sattwic, can have a tamasic influence, since excessive bulk darkens the mind rather than uplifting or energizing it.

Particularly important is the consciousness a person holds while eating. Important also is the consciousness with which the food is cooked or otherwise readied for the table. Even unspiritual food can be spiritualized by a cheerful, uplifted state of mind while one eats.

Getting an Extra Boost

It takes time to reap the full benefit from even the best of foods. In the present age, with its exaggerated restlessness, people are impatient for results. A fruit’s essence is most highly concentrated in the blossom from which the fruit appears. The essences are made from the blossoms — which would be impossible to do from the fruits themselves — and contain in potent form the spiritual quality of each food.

A major benefit of flower essences is that they affect their users without bloating their stomachs! (How many cherries, after all, would one need to become appreciably more cheerful? or grapes, to become more loving? Their sheer bulk might have a tamasic, rather than a sattwic, effect!) Two or three drops of flower essence taken several times a day can greatly increase the spiritual power of these foods.

An interesting aspect of these wonderful essences is that they have also been found to help animals. Animals, in fact, respond more spontaneously because there is no negative “placebo effect” due to doubts or other mental reservations.

However people are slowly becoming more open to energy-based solutions to challenges. Flower essences work with a person’s spiritual nature. They help people to reclaim inner peace, innate sense of dignity, and indomitable strength in the face of obstacles.

Commissioned by Swami Kriyananda, Lila Devi founded Spirit-in-Nature Essences in 1977 to create blossom-essences from the foods Paramhansa Yogananda described. Lila Devi is also the author of The Essential Flower Essence Handbook, published in 6 languages, which has been used by Doctors Across Borders to train their physicians.

The spiritual qualities, and the specific food from which each blossom-essence has been made, are listed below:

1) Lettuce: Calmness

2) Coconut: Uplifted spiritual awareness

3) Cherries: Cheerfulness

4) Spinach: Simplicity and guilelessness

5) Peach: Unselfishness

6) Sweet corn: Mental vitality

7) Tomato: Mental strength and endurance

8) Pineapple: Self-assurance

9) Banana: Humility rooted in calmness

10) Figs: Flexibility and self-acceptance; moderating over-strictness in self-discipline

11) Almond: Self-control, vitality, and moral vigor

12) Pear: Peacefulness

13) Avocado: Good memory

An apple blossom for peaceful clarity.

14) Apple: Peaceful clarity

15) Orange: Enthusiasm, hope

16) Blackberry: Purity of thought

17) Dates: Tenderness, sweetness

18) Strawberry: Dignity

19) Raspberry: Kindness, compassion

20) Grapes: Devotion, divine love

These essences act with or without our affirming their spiritual qualities. Their effectiveness is greatly enhanced, however, when combined with affirmations, uttered out loud or mentally with concentration, will power, and energy. Spirit-in-Nature Essences offers suggested affirmations to use with each essence.

About the Authors

Swami Kriyananda (1926-2013) is a direct disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda and the founder of Ananda. He has written extensively about the spiritual path and composed many pieces of spiritually uplifting music. In his final years he traveled and lectured around the world, showing others how to more fully live in their Highest Self.

Lila Devi is an Ananda minister and the founder of Spirit-in-Nature Essences. She is an engaging seminar leader with over 40 years’ experience who lectures nationally and abroad. She has authored 4 books: The Essential Flower Essence Handbook, Flower Essences for Animals, Bradley Banana and The Jolly Good Pirate, and From Bagels to Curry, a spiritual memoir about a Jewish yogi’s journey from a traditional religion to a spiritual community (Ananda). Lila is considered one of the foremost flower essence developers in the world today. She graduated with honors from the University of Michigan with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Psychology and a Secondary Education certificate.

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Daily Inspiration
March 22, 2018

Whenever you feel inspired to make suggestions, concentrate not on your own need to make them, but on the other person’s need to hear. Wait even then — for months, if need be — until you perceive in your partner a readiness to hear what you have to say.

Be the Change You Want to See in the World

“I pledge to meditate daily, to open my heart and to radiate peace and harmony to all the world.”
Take the Pledge

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We are part of a great tide of loving, joyful energy that wants to give and give as long as people are happy to receive it.

—Swami Kriyananda

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