The Devotional Heart of Deva Premal

May 18, 2010

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Tami Simon speaks with Deva Premal, a classically trained singer and musician known around the world for her devotional chanting and the inspiring music she creates with her partner Miten. When performing, Deva and Miten both have incredible presence on stage and transmit a kind of openness and emptiness that is beautiful to be with and quite rare. Deva speaks about her experiences sharing music all around the world, mantras, and how devotional music can actually create a space, which she believes welcomes all of our emotional experience. (55 minutes)

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Poetic Mindset Tip: Your Awe Can Be Connective

POETIC MINDSET TIP: YOUR AWE CAN BE CONNECTIVE

Try applying a mentality of awe when you’re interacting with someone who lives a life very different from yours. Let your awe be the inspiration for a connection. How did they come to believe something that makes you so uncomfortable? What is the root of their behavior? Maybe this person has a dissimilar political view. Maybe they live in a rural town, and you live in a city. Maybe they grew up practicing a particular religion, and you didn’t. These are the big facts that surround the difference between you, but maybe this contrast can be intriguing instead of off-putting? When I find myself on a disparate page from someone else, I try not to close up. I try to lean in to discovery. It’s frequently these occasions that surprise me the most and give me new insight.

When I let myself stay curious about another person’s point of view instead of shutting down, I’m challenged to see with a new lensand that feels creative. What would I have overlooked if I hadn’t led with a sense of reverential respect? For example, through Poem Store, I developed very unlikely friendships that are still a huge part of my life.

From a familial bond with a timber baron to a deep camaraderie with a wealthy businessman, I found myself open to all kinds of folks I might normally shut out if I weren’t in the mode of poetic openness.

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These relationships continue to teach me how to develop compassionate language and an availability for dialogue that focuses on similarities, respect, and humanity, as opposed to difference, disdain, and judgment.

Letting your interest in a person’s inner world outweigh your differences could have unifying results. Awe is often the key to the similarities we all share. It’s our curiosity that links us, and these connections can cause the largest transformations.

poem

Housemates

Pierre Talón lives

in the kitchen,

close to the kettle

with an invisible web.

His brothers and sisters

share the same name.

Long glass-like legs

and dark teardrop bodies.

Penelope is on the front porch,

blending with the potted plant,

her green abdomen longer each day, 

her hind legs like mechanical armor. 

Pierre Talón catches the flies

and Penelope reminds me

to pause, peering between blossoms. 

The spider never leaves, just changes 

corners and sizes, and dodges the steam 

when I make tea. The grasshopper 

greets me for months, until one day

she sheds her skin and leaves me

with a perfect paper version of herself.

This is an excerpt from Every Day Is A Poem: Find Clarity, Feel Relief, and See Beauty in Every Moment by Jacqueline Suskin.

 

 

jacqueline suskinJacqueline Suskin has composed over forty thousand poems with her ongoing improvisational writing project, Poem Store. She is the author of six books, including Help in the Dark Season. Her work has been featured in the New York Times, the Atlantic, and Yes! magazine. She lives in Northern California. For more, see jacquelinesuskin.com.

 

 

 

 

 

book cover

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The Courage to Stand Alone

The Courage to Stand Alone

It can be scary when we are called to confront our aloneness, the seemingly infinite depths of that empty, homeless feeling inside of us. When all our old protections fall away and the abandoned and neglected ones inside come begging for our love and attention. It can feel sometimes as though there’s nowhere to turn, like we want to crawl out of our own skin, urgently get out of the Now and into some other time or place.

It takes bravery to stop, breathe, and—slowly, slowly, slowly—turn back toward the lonely, dark, empty “void” inside (in reality, there is no void). To actually turn to face the sense of abandonment buried deep within our guts, to soften into the sense of separation that has been with us for as long as we can remember. We don’t have to make the feeling go away today, only lean into it, breathe into it, begin to make room for it, maybe even learn to trust its presence. 

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Perhaps loneliness is like a cosmic nostalgia, a preverbal memory of a deep womb-connection, with ourselves, with the planet, with every being who has ever lived. In leaning into our own loneliness, shame, and existential anxiety, we may be able to touch into compassion for the loneliness of every human being, for every heart longing to connect, for every grieving heart, every frightened heart. 

We are alone, yet never alone. This is the great paradox of existence. Our loneliness, when not resisted or numbed away, may actually end up connecting us more deeply to life and each other, like it did for me and my sweet father that winter evening. 

Let us learn to be alone, then! Alone, without distraction, which is true meditation. Alone, communing with the breath as it rises and falls. Alone with the mind and its incredible dance. Alone with the rain and the morning sun. Alone with the crackle of autumn leaves under our feet, or the crunch of winter snow. Alone with the hopes and joys and anxieties of this human form, living a single day on this remarkable planet. Alone with our precious selves, with this unfathomable sense of connection to all things, with birth and loss and death and their myriad mysteries. 

Alone, with all of life.

This is an excerpt from You Were Never Broken: Poems to Save Your Life by Jeff Foster.

jeff fosterJeff Foster shares from his own awakened experience a way out of seeking fulfillment in the future and into the acceptance of “all this, here and now.” He studied astrophysics at Cambridge University. Following a period of depression and physical illness, he embarked on an intensive spiritual search that came to an end with the discovery that life itself was what he had always been seeking.

 

 

 

 

 

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Tools for Opening Ourselves to Our Deeper Nature

A few months ago, I found when getting up from the table that I could no longer walk. A meniscus had ruptured and wedged itself against my knee joint. It was very painful, but luckily, thanks to my friends, I was able to get an MRI that same day and be operated on the following day. For the operation, whether I liked it or not, I had to submit to a general anesthesia, and I remained unconscious a little less than two hours.

Unexpectedly, when I woke up, I had a very enriching experience. I had the impression of not being completely there. I was in a light and luminous state of mind. My first thoughts went toward my spiri- tual teachers. For a good hour, their presence illuminated my mental landscape. I experienced a state of bliss, of devotion, and unalloyed trust. I was alone in my room, and I began softly to chant verses that reminded me of my teacher. My thoughts also went to other people who are dear to me.

I said to myself that if things go this well at the time of death, it won’t be too bad! Could anesthesia be a kind of dress rehearsal for dying? Could such a moment show us what is present in the profoundest depths of our mind when the thought processes that clutter the field of consciousness have been silenced? All in all, I was very glad to have gone through this anesthesia experience.

Later, I wondered if such experiences could be revealing about our basic nature. This feeling of lightness and bliss could perhaps result from not immediately reifying the world around us when waking up from the anesthesia. At that moment the mind is not yet distorted by myriad conceptual constructs. This is the antithesis of dwelling on thoughts; it is perfect simplicity. I felt like a young child discovering the beauty of life with a fresh and transparent mind.

— Matthieu Ricard

Toolbox for Opening Ourselves to Our Deeper Nature

MATTHIEU RICARD:

Keep your mind open. Experience the key moments in life with an open mind, welcoming the range of constructive possibilities for oneself and others.

Discriminate. Let what really counts come to the surface from the profoundest depths of consciousness.

Be confident. No matter what happens, you will find a way to utilize adverse circumstances as catalysts for making progress on the spiritual path and for manifesting greater compassion toward those around you. 

Inhabit the space of interdependence. Resituate the events that affect you in the much larger context of the interdependence of all beings and all things, who like you, experience countless joys and sorrows.

ALEXANDRE JOLLIEN:

Contemplate the little persona that you play all day long. Look at the labels, the functions you use to define yourself. Examine the outfit that you dress up in from morning till night so that you can go naked to meet your deeper nature.

Be aware of the heavy weight of education, of the mass of prejudices, of the heap of illusions that have ended up as an overlay on reality. Just identify this factitious layer so that you can take in daily life as it is without the intervention of ego, of concepts, and of the thousand expectations that shape your world.

Discover the deep personal aspirations that inhabit you. What do you expect out of life? What is it that you are running after so avidly?

Accept losing your grip. Ego defends its territory tooth and nail. It sets up boundaries, busies itself delimiting its world. In its folly, it isolates us, confines us to solitude, to distance. Opening your heart, going beyond the bounds of narrow individuality, means facing the experience of leaping into the void, of swimming in the open sea of freedom.

CHRISTOPHE ANDRÉ:

Discover your inner resources. The deeper nature we have been talking about is not just a theoretical matter, but a very practical one. We should do our best never to forget all the strengths and resources we have within us. They are not an illusion. Our mindset is such that we quite often underestimate our personal capacity to deal with adversity. And then there are the strengths and resources all around us, the help and inspiration that others can supply us. We are better equipped than we think. To access these resources within us and outside us, the best thing is not to shrink back into ourselves and dwell on our fears and bitterness or on our certainties, positive or negative.

What if nothing happens? What if no tangible sign of the existence or emergence of our deeper nature comes along? Well, it’s not that serious! In any case, it’s there. Let’s just not forget to live, act, love, work, and enjoy ourselves; to help others the best we can; and to continue to be open to this profound and universal aspect of ourselves that we all have within us.

This is excerpted from the newest book from Matthieu Ricard, Christophe André, and Alexandre Jollien, Freedom For All Of Us: A Monk, A Philosopher, and a Psychiatrist on Finding Inner Freedom.

MatthieuRicard-AlexandreJollien-ChristopheAndré

Matthieu Ricard is a Buddhist monk, a photographer, and a molecular geneticist who has served as an interpreter for the Dalai Lama. 

Christophe André is a psychiatrist and one of the primary French specialists in the psychology of emotions and feelings.

Alexandre Jollien is a philosopher and a writer whose work has been attracting an ever-growing readership. Together, they are the authors of In Search of Wisdom and Freedom For All of Us.

Learn More

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