Sunday, April 1, 2018

April's Theme: THE MIDDLE PATH

April's 2018's Theme: 

The Buddha's Birthday is celebrated April 29th for those in the Buddhist countries of Cambodia and Sri Lanka. India celebrates it on the 30th. The image of the Buddha has become very popular. You can go into any Ross or TJ Maxx and purchase a little Buddha for your home or office and bring in a little energy of peace and zen. But who really was the Buddha and what were his teachings? Let's celebrate that this month.

The Buddha or "enlightened one," began as a man named Siddharta Gautama. He was a Prince who grew up with every advantage. One day he left the palace and saw the suffering of the people who he reigned over and he realized that conditioned experiences cannot guarantee lasting happiness. He embarked on a journey to find truth. He left his grand palace, family and everything behind, and joined a group of ascetics practicing a life of denial and self-mortification. After some time he realized that this was not the way. He again left and went on his own journey, where he eventually landed under that famous Bodhi tree and reached enlightenment through meditation. This is when he began to teach the "Noble Eightfold Path" commonly known as the middle way.

What is the Noble Eightfold Path/Middle Way?

Very succinctly, this methodology or philosophy/way of living is a pathway of moderation, between the extremes of sensual indulgence and self-deprivation. 

The Eightfold Path to Enlightenment is spelled out thusly:
1. Right speech leads to truth and understanding.
2. Right understanding leads to wisdom.
3. Right livelihood leads to sharing.
4. Right aspiration leads to divine inclination.
5. Right behavior leads to goodwill.
6. Right absorption lead to unity.
7. Right mindfulness leads to purposeful living.
8. Right effort leads to highest outcome.

And just what IS the "right" way? The Middle way! 

Of course Buddhism is a way of living (not a religion as some may think) that any and all people can aspire to live by. For the month of April our daily Instagram and Facebook quotes will be Buddha or Buddha inspired quotes on this way. Please follow or like us to receive them every morning!

Here are some yogic avenues for working with the Middle Path this month:
Chant: The most popular and probably one of the oldest chants in the world is Om Manu Padme Hum, translated as "Behold! The jewel in the lotus!" Tibetan Buddhists chant this mantra daily to receive the blessings of Chenrezig, the buddha of the embodiment of compassion. 
Breath: Natural breathing begins our intro to the meditation. Sit quietly, focus on your inhalation and exhalation. Follow the breath for some time, allowing the mind to begin to quiet. 

Meditation: Buddhist meditation focuses on the breath and loving kindness or Metta. In Metta we direct well-wishes towards other people. To do this, simply close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Then focus on a simple wish like: "May you be healthy and strong. May you be happy. May you be peaceful." First, start by directing this wish to yourself (May I be happy...", Next, direct the metta to someone special in your life and feel thankful for that someone. Then visualize someone you feel neutral about (neither like or dislike) and send them the same wish. Finally, visualize someone that you do not like, and send them the same wish - without judgement. Finally, direct this metta towards everyone universally: "May all beings everywhere be happy."
PosturesPadmasana or Lotus posture is THE pose to work with this month. Many people have difficulty performing the lotus posture due to flexibility in the lower back, hips and legs. This is OK. You can perform "easy pose" by simply crossing your legs. We always recommend sitting on a meditation cushion, bolster or block to elevate the hips. This is the meditation posture, but we also begin many yoga classes with it to bring ourselves into the present moment. 

Alter: Grab your Buddha and a fresh alter cloth. Put a small white candle in front of the deity and some fresh flowers. Light incense if you work with that. This will set up the right tone and energy for your daily meditation. Log into Facebook or Instagram to see the daily quote for the focus of your meditation.

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Special Message from Tracey for April

The picture of the Buddha at the top of the email is the image used on my very first website. From the beginning of my yoga journey I was drawn to the Buddhist lifestyle and culture - initially even more so than the Hindu origins of yoga. The messages of the Buddha resonated with me deeply in being a good and compassionate person and most definitely in living a life of moderation through the middle path. I've never understood the rigidity of complete deprivation that many spiritual seekers live by. Frankly, I don't see, personally, how that is living. Conversely, it makes perfect sense not to go overboard into excessive patterns and lose oneself into external gratifications. No, the middle path sounds just right to me.

Growing up with a jewish grandmother who always said, "everything in moderation," was also interesting. I don't believe that she understood anything about Buddhism or the Buddhist teachings. Yet somehow she taught this very simple yet complex theme daily. Her issues with "sugar" never kept her from enjoying a little ice cream. And although she could be heard talking on the phone to someone for over an hour, she could also be caught reading a book for hours on end, quietly. 

My father brought what would be the first image of a Buddha that I would know back from Thailand in 1969. It is a teak-wood carved happy Buddha that now sits in my "Buddha room," the formal living room that I knick-named this due to the numerous Buddhas I have there. Hmm...moderation? Anyway, growing up with this image most certainly impacted me positively. 

My first trip to the Buddhist country of Thailand was in 2009. Immediately I was touched by the simplicity, joy and compassion of the country and its people. I've since traveled back to Thailand five times, and am looking forward to my 6th this January for the LIVING IN JOY - THAI TEMPLES RETREAT that I am escorting. I want to share this country and the Buddhist culture with others and going back myself is certainly an added bonus!

With the celebration of the Buddha's Birthday soon coming up around the world, April is a perfect month to dedicate to the Buddha's teachings. I hope that you will join me at some point - whether it is for daily quotes on the OYC Facebook or Instagram page (please follow us) or in one of the highlighted programs in this email. 

In Love & Light,
Tracey L. Ulshafer, Founder, One Yoga & Wellness Center LLC, Experienced-Registered Yoga Teacher 500 hours (E-RYT500), RYS, CMT, Energy Worker, 11:11True One.

If you would like to meet for private yoga, spiritual counseling or mentoring, contact Tracey at (609) 918-0963 or