Happy Birthday Insight Meditation Center!

Today is also the birthday of The Insight Meditation Center in Barre, MA.

That is Sharon Salzberg’s base and she and others founded it today 36th years ago.

I am not absolutely sure about this but I think that’s where one of my favorite political writers Robert Wright did a meditation retreat, which he hilariously wrote up for the New York Times in 2009 (it’s really funny), and which I highlighted here.  He recently landed a blog at The Atlantic.  He hasn’t written about meditation there.  Yet.

Relaunch of nilambu notes

With this reboot, I am introducing some new features. My goal is to make it easy for you to discover yoga things that will enliven and enrich your life.

My aim is to offer a helpful curated site for all things yoga as well as to offer compelling original content. I hope to build an fun and cool online arena where yogis can encounter an inspiring quote, an enticing event, an intriguing article, a meaty podcast or even another resourceful web site. I also cover controversies in the yoga community whether it’s an advertisement for Equinox gym, or the founder of Lululemon’s resignation or if Yoga Can Wreck Your Body.

So please, if you see anything neat or intriguing about yoga or meditation, please shoot me an email, so I can highlight it. And send along any questions you might like addressed about the wide and wild (and growing) world of yoga.

I aspire to send these emails out once a month, approximately in the middle of the month.
If you like to go looking for your yoga news, you can always check out the nilambu notes blog. There I highlight cool and intriguing articles, essays, podcasts, events on yoga and meditation that might stretch your mind and should. I write posts several times a week, so the content is rich.

I’ve also developed some lists for specific interests. So if you’re keen on free podcasts or want to know about events and workshops or are especially interested in meditation, you can indicate that by clicking on the “Join Our Mailing List” bottom in the upper right hand column. That will take you to a page where you can sign up for speciality notes.

I also hope to start teaching again soon, so if you want to be kept in the loop on that, you can also indicate your interest there as well.

If you find your news on Twitter, you can now follow nilambuyoga on Twitter (which I confess now is primarily retweets of good stuff).

If your newsfeed on Facebook is your primary source for news, you can “like” the nilambu yoga page there.

And here you are at the nilambu notes blog where I feature cool and intriguing articles, essays, podcasts, events on yoga and meditation that might stretch your mind and soul. I write posts several times a week so the content is rich.

You can check out the full range of topics by checking out the labels in the right hand column and see what fun material is here. Please feel free to comment.

For Your Yoga Playlist

If I were still teaching this song, My Valentine, would be on my playlist. I love it!

I can easily see the choreographed vinyasa – moving into ardha chandrasana – with a feeling of certainty we can fly!

I just love that new ballads like this are being written, and yes that it’s Paul McCartney.

I love even more that Diana Krall is on the piano, and she is barely mentioned. Her albums are great too! (And she is married to Elvis Costello).

Their performance at the Grammy’s last night was awesome.

What is the Heart Chakra? What Does Anahata Mean?

What is the heart chakra? Back up – what are chakras? And what does Anahata (the Sanskrit name for this chakra) mean? Who cares? Why should we care? Just because it’s Valentine’s Day?

The heart chakra, also know as Anahata, is located over the heart and is in the middle of the seven common chakras, which gives this light well a special significance. In the middle, this chakra integrates opposites – male and female, self and community, mind and body, lust and reason, earth and divine. A healthy, balanced heart chakra enables us to offer compassion, love deeply and bestows a sense of ease and centeredness.

In Sanskrit, chakra means “wheel.” Some think of the chakras as energy centers or filtration systems or “wheels that heal.”

Anodea Judith offered that last definition. She also describes the chakra system as the architectural of the soul. She is most knowledgable and accessible writer about the chakras I have encountered. Her book Eastern Body Western Mind is, as John Friend puts it in his blurb, an “Absolutely brilliant synthesis of the chakra system and the heart of Western psychology.”

In the Hindu tradition, seven main chakras exist –

  1. Root Muladhara, which means root
  2. Sacral Svadhisthana, which means sweetness
  3. Solar Plexus, Manipura, which means lustrous gem
  4. Heart, Anahata, which means unstuck
  5. Throat, Vissudha, which means purification
  6. Third Eye or Brow, Ajna, which means to perceive
  7. Crown, Sahasrara, which means thousandfold

The three below focus on the physical and emotional realms and the three above the heart chakra focus on the spiritual. The heart is the connector between the two realms along this system. And it’s the place of human love and feeling.

According to Dr. Brenda Davies, there are 27 minor ones and many lesser chakras. I read a book last summer by Alberto Villoldo who there noted that in the Native American Indian tradition, there are 9 chakras. Unsurprisingly, he elaborated that other living beings have chakras, even trees. I found his teachings very interesting because of the similarities and dissimilarities between these two distinct and apart cultures. Though separated by the Atlantic Ocean, each culture came to recognize these energy locales in the human body and soul. In the Inka tradition, chakras are called ojos de liz, or eyes of light. His Inka mentor called them pukios, light wells. Isn’t that lovely?

Chakras can be imbalanced if there is too much energy or too little. With the heart chakra too much energy there is characterized by possessiveness, jealousy and poor boundaries. Too little is associated with isolation, loneliness, bitterness, critical, shyness and lack of empathy. Imbalances in this light well are deeply connected to our own self-acceptance.

Associated with the the element of air, Anodea Judith writes of the Anahata,

Air is formless, largely invisible, absolutely necessary, and the least dense of our first four elements. Air is expansive as it will expand to fit any space it is put into, yet it is soft and gentle.

So, too, is love. Love is the expansion of the heart, the transcendence of boundaries, the interconnectedness of spirit. Love is balance, ease, softness, forgiveness. And love at the heart chakra is felt as a state of being, existing independently of any object or person.

Rather than reinvent the wheel (pardon the pun), for a brief overview of the heart chakra, I refer you to this terrific brief essay Anodea Judith wrote on Anahata – The Heart Chakra for the Llewellyn Encyclopedia. There she notes that the Sanskrit name Anahata means “sound that is made without any two things striking.” She elaborates the meaning clearly and beautifully and also refers to the Celestial Wishing Tree, which is related to the heart chakra.

I also took a very rewarding online course Chakra Activation with her at Sounds True last fall. You can check out her other offerings here.

Also for your information, Villoldo runs the Four Winds Society in Park City, Utah. They had an exhibit booth at the Yoga Journal Conference in May, and I find the work they are doing very intriguing and personally meaningful. Another really good book on this subject is The 7 Healing Chakras by Brenda Davies, MD. Her book is short and is really a workbook – offering guided meditations, exercises, questions to ponder. Indeed, turns out she also has a workbook based on her book! Check it out here.

NPR Dives Into NYT’s Yoga Wreckage

So two NPR shows interviewed William Broad, the author of that fiery New York Times Magazine piece last month on Yoga (and how it can “wreck” your body).

The first is with Terry Gross of Fresh Air. I have not listened to this podcast yet.

The second is from Talk of the Nation’s Science Friday show. (You can listen there or read the transcript) John Dankosky interviews Mr. Broad. I’ve listened to this one, and while I may have been predisposed not to like him, I did not like Mr. Broad. He talks of the “yoga industrial complex which has economic incentive.”

I honestly don’t know what yoga planet Broad is on – yoga industrial complex? Seriously? After all, look what happens to greedy, Ayn Rand capitalists who try to sell selfishness to yogis and yoginis.

Listen to it for yourself and let me know what you think in the comments.

Both are available on iTunes, too, for free download.

“The Buddha Walks into a Bar….”

I just find this effort and book terrific. The Daily Beast headlines Meditation Teacher Lodro Rinzler Rebrands Buddhism to Deal with Drinking and Sex. I’m not sure how much rebranding is going on here, but it’s interesting nonetheless. I read Rinzler column occasionally over at the because the title alone is funny – What Would Sid Do

The take on how to mindfully drink alcohol is worth the click over alone. Well, alright, I will highlight it here,

Rinzler gave me a crash-course in “right drinking” over a pot of Chrysanthemum tea. The first step is to know your intention: Is the drinking celebratory or to eliminate sorrow? Next, he says, taste the thing. You’ll drink better, he says, shirking the inferior sauce. As in silent meditation, he recommends observing your mind while consuming the beverage and labeling ideas or feelings that come up. And lastly, he advises knowing your limits, qualifying that he drinks less than he used to. “I try not to get to that point where I would say things that cause harm.”

but click over anyway for some more enlightenment or buy the book – The Buddha Walks into a Bar…

Ethan Nichtern is mentioned in the piece and he is the founder of the Interdependence Project, which is also worth the click. I’ve never met Ethan, but I know his father David (whose Tuesday night Facebook Dharma Talks have been fantastic) and a dear friend of mine, Kim Stetz, teaches yoga there. And here is a podcast where Lodro and Ethan talk about Lodro’s book. It’s on my list to read now.

Plans For Valentine’s Day?

Have no plans for Valentine’s Day? Here are some good suggestions from a family therapist Joe Elliott, via Elephant Journal – 10 Things to do for Yourself on Valentines Day. Excellent ideas, all.

Elliott concludes:

Don’t forget that the most complex and important relationship that we have is with ourselves and that we must remain true to ourselves in order to feel whole and complete about our lives.

I am also thinking of Whitney Houston this morning, with deep sadness. One of her most popular songs Greatest Love of All is really a ballad about self love —-

I believe the children are our future

Teach them well and let them lead the way

Show them all the beauty they possess inside

Give them a sense of pride to make it easier

Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be

Everybody searching for a hero

People need someone to look up to

I never found anyone to fulfill my needs

A lonely place to be

So I learned to depend on me


And if by chance, that special place

That you’ve been dreaming of

Leads you to a lonely place

Find your strength in love.

So I wish for you this Valentine’s Day lots of love, of all kinds.