May 16, 2012



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I heard about this famous yoga festival at the yoga studio, and just decided to do myself a favor and take a retreat up to Joshua Tree, California, for some desert transcendence. It was also a great occasion to get out of town with the RV, and explore this new world (for me) of tribal yoga.

Bhakti is one of the eight limbs of yoga: the Yoga of Devotion, traditionally practiced as a celebration of god in all its forms, mainly through music and dance. Because this particular BhaktiFest fell on Mother's Day weekend, they dubbed it "ShaktiFest" in honor of the Feminine Principal, Shakti.

I have developed an interest in Kirtan music--a style of call-and-response music with chanting, usually in Sanskrit. Although original forms of Kirtan were quite strict about instrumentation: tablas, sitar, harmonium, hand cymbals, and others; the Westernized versions include electric guitars, synthesizers, bass and drums--a sort of kirtan-rock fusion. At this ShaktiFest there were the traditional instruments used in most acts, but for most of the headliners, bass, drums and guitar delivered slow, funky grooves with soaring vocals, simple chord changes and lots of singalong. Dancing is considered an honoring of the music, so everyone dances as they chant, and it is very liberating. Great fun!

The temperatures during the day were in the 90s on the Central California high desert, but cool breezes and cool attitudes, plus low humidity helped create an aura of high-vibe floatingness--indeed, even the young children and babies all seemed to be in a constant state of meditation.

I reluctantly left Monday morning with a wonderful meditative glow or bhav (ecstasy), with the distinct feeling I'd truly found my tribe.

Vibrant Living Tip: BhaktiFest is held 3-4 times a year at diverse locations in the U.S. Check out BhaktiFest.com for the latest info.
BOOK: Shambhala, The Sacred Path of the Warrior

Shambhala This book, by Tibetan Buddhist leader, Chogram Trungpa, came to me very magically.

I read Elizabeth Lesser's Broken Open, and in it she makes several references to Trungpa because he was her guru (which she says was the most difficult yet enlightening of relationships).

This picqued my interest, so I had decided to order some of Trungpa's books. The next instant after this decision I walked by my bookshelf and immediately zeroed in on Shambhala by Trungpa. I had no recollection of ever buying it, and I'm still stumped as to where it came from, yet there it was. I was obviously supposed to read it!

I'm on my second close reading of this remarkable little book. The Shambhala teachings are on the esoteric side in Tibetan Buddhism, said to have been passed down from the high beings in Shambhala, the mythical civilization that some believe still exists in some remote Himalayan valley.

In Trungpa's skillful hands, however, these teachings have given me a whole new take on what it means to be a warrior in life. He re-frames many concepts that we in the West have degraded into dirgeful mundanities--such as: Discipline (actions expressing Basic Goodness), Renunciation (renouncing the distance between self and others), Fearlessness (beyond fear), and many others.

This book is jammed packed with tons of useful and interesting ideas, such as the Four Dignities represented by four animal forms: The Meekness of the Tiger, the Perkiness of the Lion, the Outrageousness of the Garuda (mythical bird-man), and the Inscrutability of the Dragon. These all represent facets of the Warrior's behavior and how he is in the world.

"As a warrior, you are willing to take a chance: you are willing to expose yourself to the phenomenal world, and you trust that it will give you a message, either of success or failure. Those messages are regarded neither as punishment nor as congratulations. You trust, not in success, but in reality." --p. 71, Chogram Trungpa.

Check it out.


yoga I took some time on my way back from ShaktiFest to visit some old friends in Los Angeles whom I hadn't seen in over 35 years. When we last saw each other we were all in our 20s, and looking back, we were really just kids--not fully formed yet, dazed and barely awake in this big ol' world called life.

We shared our trials and breakthroughs with marriages, kids and ourselves, and I was struck by the central theme of all of our lives being spirituality. Keith had taken up meditation with his daughter, and Shawn found her spiritual peace in her art.

I extolled my 10-year love affair with yoga, and Shawn was inspired enough to say she was going to check out some yoga studios doing gentle yoga, perhaps as a way through her migraines.

To our super-literal and image-centric American culture, yoga is still mostly thought of as the postures (asanas). Indeed, even people going to yoga asana classes say, "I'm going to yoga," or I "do yoga" and everyone just knows they're in a class with people doing yoga poses.

For me, yoga has become many more things: how I pay attention, how I breathe, how I react to life, how I create, and how I am generally with my life. Even the great Patanjali, who is considered the ancient founder of yoga, gave little mention to asanas other than to say one needs to maintain a strong and flexible body in order to walk the yogic path to achieve communion with the Divine.

All that said, I do go to "yoga classes" several times a week, as it is a good focusing discipline for me to feel I'm doing something good for myself. And, it reminds me what life is really about--finding and being the Greater Better Self in Service to the Goodness of Life.

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Personally, from the president...

Vibrant Messages

message As mentioned earlier about the Chogram Trungpa Shambhala teachings, there is a certain basic goodness to life, and the warrior is a warrior for that basic goodness.

To extend this concept to health, there is a basic good health that resides in us all. In fact, everything the amazing human body does is to maintain health. That's ALL it does--constantly adjusting and balancing, it has remarkable powers of rejuvenation and harmony.

Of course, when an illness sets in, or we have an injury, it doesn't feel much like an experience of "basic goodness." And yet, in times of illness or injury is when the human body really shines in all its phenomenal mechanisms and strategies to regain balance and health.

This is specifically why I do not use painkillers or drugs of any kind. I occasionally use herbal medicines, but only if it is obvious my body can use these substances to speed up healing and balancing. My first decision, though, is to hold off on remedies, and this is because the body has become impacted by my thoughts and behaviors. It has been injured or stressed because of some choice or perception (or choice of perception) I've made that does not align with the its basic health patterns. In fact, I can usually trace any ache or pain to some sort of mindless, egocentric behavior, sloppy thinking or decision I've made, or some feelings I've blocked or stuffed.

My best case in point lately has been the pain in the heel of my left foot. I initially banged it on a metal bed frame and suspect I may have either cracked the heel bone, or deeply bruised the tendons around it. It hurt at the time--a lot--but then the pain subsided, and settled into a low-grade intermittent ache for a while. When Shay (my life partner) passed away, the pain came back full force, and I realized I needed to get to the bottom of it once and for all.

I meditated, prayed, observed, re-capitulated events, and waited for messages to come for many days. I felt at times like the answer was sitting right in front of me, but I was simply blind to it. Then, one morning it hit me: Stand in your Truth. That seemed to resonate deeply into my foot. I had just endured three months of intense caregiving to a dying loved one, and had been carried away down the rabbit hole of the medical matrix, and into my own self-denial.

stand I hadn't really stood in my own truth through the entire caregiving time and Shay's subsequent dying process. I felt at times like I was chasing a rabbit who was just fast enough to stay ahead of me, yet slow enough to give me hope that I could catch it. Frustration had built up and hope kept waving its deceptively attractive flag, even into the eleventh hour of Shay's process.

Had I really stood in my truth I could have acknowledged my intuition, firmly inhabited my heart center, and proceeded forward with helping Shay with her process assured of my part in it, and fully accepting all outcomes. This is not to say I regret my response to this situation--it was the first of its kind for me in this life--but, I am saying that my body knew all along what was going on, and my denial of the process resulted in slowing the healing of my foot. My body needed truth and honesty instead of hope and denial.

So, my left foot pain has become a source of deeply personal messages. Why would I want to deny this by using medications that merely cover up or numb out the truth?

As warriors in this life, we are all serving basic goodness. We are all serving basic health. The discipline comes in when we know what we're supposed to do in service to that basic goodness, and we do it. The pain and suffering comes around when we don't.

In vibrant health,

Boyd Martin, Caretaker

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