Yoda, Thich Nhat Hanh, & Winnie-the-Pooh

Is anyone else getting excited about the next Star Wars movie coming out on December 20th?! (Trailer here: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker)

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker will be the final episode of the nine-part “Skywalker saga” and it is the third installment of the Star Wars sequel trilogy, following The Force Awakens (2015) and The Last Jedi (2017), both of which I totally loved! Did you see them? Did you also love them?!

Are you surprised to hear that I love Star Wars?

Perhaps it goes back to that very first movie in the Summer of 1977, when I was a little seven-year-old and my parents took us to the drive-in theatre to see Star Wars on a big screen under the stars…

I can’t say that I have seen every single Star Wars movie… Nor can I say that I remember much from the early episodes… But what I can tell you is that these last two movies made me feel so “woke” as the young folks say today… After seeing The Force Awakens, I felt sure that all of humanity could be enlightened by watching that movie! The power of the Light winning over the darkness felt so tangible to me, as if I could hold that power in my hands!

One scene from The Last Jedi particularly touches me. I have watched this scene countless times. (You can view it here: The Last Jedi Yoda’s Force Ghost Scene.) Yoda, who had died at 900 years old in The Return of the Jedi, appears as a ghost right as Luke Skywalker is about to burn down the tree and the Jedi texts. Luke holds up the torch of fire, but then he cannot go through with it, so Yoda closes his eyes and summons the power of lightening to strike the tree and burn it all down. He laughs (oh, that laugh!), while Luke is horrified that the sacred texts are burning…

Yoda says calmly, “Wisdom they held, but that library contained nothing that the girl Rey does not already possess. Skywalker, still looking to the horizon. Never here, now, hmm?” Luke replies, “I was weak. Unwise.” Yoda says, “Lost Ben Solo you did. Lose Rey we must not.” To that, Luke crumbles in his despair: “I can’t be what she needs me to be.”

Yoda’s answer is profound: “Pass on what you have learned. Strength. Mastery. But weakness, folly, failure also. Yes, failure most of all. The greatest teacher, failure is.”

And the punchline… “Luke, we are what they grow beyond. That is the true burden of all masters.”

So, I am super excited to see how Luke is going to rise above his feelings of failure. I can really relate to him hanging out alone on an island and giving up on life… It will be very interesting to watch how he interacts with Rey in this final episode… And will the Light finally conquer the darkness?!

Dear reader, if you’ve been following my blog for a while then you know that this Summer I began studying the mindfulness teachings of Zen Buddhist Master Thich Nhat Hanh… Well, in the trailer for the movie about him (you can watch the trailer here: Walk With Me), one of his young monks says, “You know Yoda in Star Wars? He’s a little bit like that.”

Indeed, in his teachings, Thich Nhat Hanh does not focus merely on cultivating the positive, but rather, he also stresses the importance of working with our negative feelings… Yoda advised Luke to embrace his failures… And in his book Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through the Storm, Thich Nhat Hanh writes:

“We embrace our feelings with tenderness, with nonviolence, and we soothe those feelings…. After some minutes of being recognized and embraced, that painful feeling’s zone of energy will recede, and you will feel a welcome relief from the grip of fear or pain. A seed from the depths of consciousness manifests, it stays for a while as a zone of energy, and then it goes back down to its original place as a seed. But after being recognized and embraced with mindfulness, it loses some of its strength. The seed is a bit weaker than before it manifested…. Every time the pain manifests, we have to let it manifest; we should not push it down. We shouldn’t try to suppress it. We have to let it come and take good care of it.”

In this book Thich Nhat Hanh also teaches about generating joy and happiness, as well as “gladdening the mind” in which he says there is “an added element of reinvigorating and energizing the mind”… (What I like to call “Happy-ing Up”!)… And in the last section of the book, he advises, “Do whatever you can to bring happiness to the air, the water, the rocks, the trees, the birds, and the humans.”

Winnie-the-Pooh, that lovable bear from the stories by A.A. Milne, brings a simpleminded sort of happiness wherever he goes… Recently I re-read a book from my shelf called The Tao of Pooh, by Benjamin Hoff, in which he explains Taoism through the characters in the Winnie-the-Pooh stories. I highly recommend this fun little book!

Hoff also stresses the importance of working with difficult emotions: “Instead of struggling to erase what are referred to as negative emotions, we can learn to use them in positive ways…. So rather than work against ourselves, all we need to do in many cases is to point our weaknesses or unpleasant tendencies in a different direction than we have been.”

Throughout the book, Hoff explains how Pooh Bear’s natural positivity makes him the ideal Taoist, who lives in harmony with “Things As They Are” in the present moment. He says, “The Wise are Who They Are. They work with what they’ve got and do what they can do.”

Very similar to Yoda’s advice to Luke, eh?!

And here’s another paragraph by Hoff that reminded me of Yoda’s talk with Luke: “A way of life that keeps saying, “Around the next corner, above the next step,” works against the natural order of things and makes it so difficult to be happy and good that only a few get to where they would naturally have been in the first place — Happy and Good — and the rest give up and fall by the side of the road, cursing the world, which is not to blame but which is there to help show the way.”

I am really ready to see Luke come into his power in the here and now, as advised by Yoda, Thich Nhat Hanh, and Winnie-the-Pooh!

As Hoff puts it, “In order to take control of our lives and accomplish something of lasting value, sooner or later we need to learn to Believe. We don’t need to shift our responsibilities onto the shoulders of some deified Spiritual Superman, or sit around and wait for Fate to come knocking at the door. We simply need to believe in the power that’s within us, and use it.” (bold lettering added)

Dear readers, I really hope you have enjoyed reading this post as much as I have enjoyed writing it for you!

May the Force of Happiness and Goodness Be With You!

With much love,
StarFire Teja

 

Image of Yoda from Star Wars: The Last Jedi… Image credit unknown, this image is on many websites… Background SunStar image Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech. (If you are reading this post in an email, please click on the title of this article and you will be taken to the StarFire Teja Blog where you can see Yoda. He is such a love!)

 

Happy-ing Up With Images

I am pretty sure that color saturation increases serotonin, that neurotransmitter which helps us to happy up… At least it seems to for me! How about you? Do you love looking at bright images? Do you notice how color saturation affects your mind?

When I first started blogging, I used a lot of NASA space images with my posts, because I didn’t know that there were other sites with free images… Discovering those other sites opened up whole new colorful worlds for me! One of my fave tasks of blogging is scrolling through images on Unsplash or Pixabay to find just the right image for each post… That scrolling has become like a spiritual practice which really helps to happy up my mind!

Another fun practice with images is collage-making. Do you ever make collages? Some people get really artistic and elaborate with their collages, but mine are pretty basic, as you can see in the photo…

HappyingUpWithImages

This collage is glued onto my next journal cover, and I really had fun creating this one. I think it’s going to be one of my favorites ever. Lately I’ve been struggling with a Fibromyalgia flare-up, and my mind can get pretty negative, especially about financial issues, so in this collage I added some humor to lighten up the situation. I laugh every time I see that phrase at the bottom, “You need financial solutions.” Then I say, “You’ve got that right, I sure do need them!”

The meditating Buddhist image* in this collage reflects my current studies of the teachings of the Zen Buddhist master, Thich Nhat Hanh. Soon I will write some posts about him and his Plum Village monastery in France. In his book, Peace is Every Step, he says, “The foundation of happiness is mindfulness. The basic condition for being happy is our consciousness of being happy.”

When I look at bright colorful images I feel happy, and I am aware of feeling that happiness. The next time you look at some beautiful photos, notice how they make you feel, and enjoy any happy feelings which arise!

May All Beings Be Happy! 🙂

 

* Buddhist image is a painting called “Serenity” by Anyès B. ~ AnyesEmotionArt.com

 

The Mind Needs to Be Worked With First

To open the heart, first calm and happy the mind.

Some people say that first you have to open the heart, but after many years of studying this, I have come to understand that the mind needs to be worked with first, and then the heart naturally opens.

The human species has reached a state in which the human mind has become quite dense. Many people’s minds are tangled up by the anxieties and traumas of this fast-paced world. So, sitting and focusing on opening the heart may feel soothing temporarily, but it won’t be lasting unless the mind is calmed first.

When you work with your mind, calming it down and happy-ing it up, then your heart opens naturally, and you can relax into the sweetness in your heart.

Choosing to be happy is the first practice listed in my new book, Reaching for Orange: Practices, Visualizations, & Blessings to Help You Happy Up Your Life. Here is that practice:

Choosing to be happy ~ You really can choose to be happy. Per the Upanishads (a collection of wisdom by the ancient mystics of India), the mind is the means to happiness. You really can decide to be happy. This doesn’t necessarily happen immediately, but if you regularly tell yourself that you are choosing to be happy, then over time it will become true for you. So to apply this in your daily life, try this: anytime you have to wait in line or at a red light, think to yourself, “I am choosing to be happy.”

Focusing on calming your mind down, and also happy-ing it up, will open your heart, and then you will feel overwhelming love for everything and everyone!

May All Beings Be Free of Suffering.
May All Beings Be Happy!

If you haven’t already, please read my previous post, “23 Possible Benefits You May Gain Through Reading Reaching for Orange.”

TheMindNeedsToBeWorkedWithFirst_ReachingForOrange_StarFireTeja

 

Beyond Memes

Original creative content catches my eye. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good meme… But have you noticed that the memes sometimes take over on social media?

When I’m scrolling my Facebook feed, for example, I love to see photos of flowers, animals, families, and places in nature. Bright colorful images inspire me and make me feel happy.

I used to feel more enchanted by all the memes, but lately not so much. It seems like the memes just say the same things over and over, and I would rather read what my friends are thinking themselves, rather than quotes from the “Power of Positivity” page. Can you relate to this?

I do appreciate some of the more creative memes, especially the humorous ones… One of my favorite memes ever had this quote by Bob Ross (American painter, 1942-1995, who had a TV show called The Joy of Painting): “Ever make mistakes in life? Let’s make them birds. Yeah, they’re birds now.”

When I was googling to make sure I had that quote right, I found this other really great quote by him: “We want happy paintings. Happy paintings. If you want sad things, watch the news.”

That quote really resonated with me, because I think it is so important for all of us to continually work on happy-ing up! There is so much sadness in this world, and watching the news can really drag you down. If you feel that you must watch the news, consider viewing it weekly rather than daily, and if you feel anxious or negative afterwards, do some spiritual practices or visualizations to happy up and raise your vibration.

Anyhow, back to the topic of memes… I rarely share memes on Facebook, because I prefer to see original, creative content, and so that is what I offer myself… But I do appreciate a good meme, and I just discovered that The Hummingbird’s Journal has a page on Instagram, and Andrea is creating memes that are beyond the usual memes. She is pairing quotes from her own blog posts with beautiful images, resulting in high caliber, high vibration memes! Bravo, Andrea! 🙂

What do you think about memes? Do you enjoy them? Do you get tired of them? Do you long to see more original creative content on social media?

 

Photo* of flowers on desk taken by Teja! 🙂

* If you are viewing this post in an email, click on the title of the article and you will be taken to the StarFire Teja Blog where you can see the flowers!

 

The Yoga of Chocolate

As I shared in a recent post (“What Kind of Yoga do You Practice?”), there are many ways to practice yoga beyond just the physical poses. In today’s post I’ll be sharing how to practice the yoga of chocolate!

Do you love chocolate? Or do you know anyone who loves chocolate? I’m guessing you are answering yes to at least one of these questions!

Chocolate is made from cacao beans which grow inside pods on small trees, and besides being high in antioxidants, and helpful to heart health, it can greatly improve your mood. Chocolate creates excitement and sends a signal to your brain that something fun is about to happen!

The word yoga means “union” and so the goal of the yogic practices done by a yogi (male) or yogini (female) is to achieve a state of union with divine consciousness. Depending on your beliefs, you may call that consciousness God, Goddess, Divine Love, Nature, the Universe, or many other names. In the yoga tradition it is believed that your deepest self is connected with that divine consciousness, so when you do yogic practices you feel that union inside yourself.

Eating chocolate in a conscious way can enhance your feelings of union with your deepest self. Some ways to practice the yoga of chocolate include ~

~ Offer the chocolate to the Divine, or to your deepest self. Bless the chocolate with your highest gratitude vibrations.

~ Imagine the tree on which the cacao beans grew… under sunlight by day, and under starlight by night. Cultivate fascination for the miracle that this superfood grows naturally on this sacred Earth.

~ Take small bites, close your eyes, and eat the chocolate as slowly as you possibly can. Savor the taste and be fully aware of all sensations in the present moment. Allow your heart and mind to open to all the love in the universe!

~ If you have time, do some spiritual practices after eating your chocolate. In Bhakti Yoga, the yoga of love and devotion, chanting (singing sacred mantras) is one of the primary practices, and it goes especially well with chocolate. Both singing and chocolate open the mind and heart to deep feelings of love, so combining the two is like giving yourself a superblast of big love energies!

Like coffee (see my post “Coffee Is Good Medicine”), it is important to buy organic, fair-trade chocolate… And, dark chocolate is best for many reasons, including health (dairy nullifies cacao’s benefits), and compassion (the cows suffer greatly when their milk is stolen from them)…

For many years my absolute favorite chocolate bar has been this salted almond 70% dark chocolate bar by Theo, pictured here on top of my Grandma Hazel’s floral tin, in which I store my chocolate stash…

YogaOfChocolate_TheoChocolate_StarFireTeja

I have been enjoying chocolate as medicine for decades, but sometimes I take a break from it, just to make sure that I’m not addicted to it, and to make sure that I still enjoy life without it! So, I did not eat any chocolate for the month of July, and I had so many seriously happy days, which proved that I am not dependent on chocolate… But, some days I do enjoy it as one of my many happy-ing up tools!

I hope you enjoyed this post on the yoga of chocolate… This is day 3 of my Virtual Book Launch Week! You will learn much more about yogic practices beyond the physical poses in my new book, Reaching for Orange: Practices, Visualizations, & Blessings to Help You Happy Up Your Life, available now on Lulu! ~ Thank you so much to Andrea, of The Hummingbird’s Journal, for ordering a copy! 🙂

May All Beings Be Happy!

 

Photo* of cacao beans by allybally4b on Pixabay.

* If you are viewing this post in an email, simply click on the title of the article and you will be taken to the StarFire Teja blog where you can see the photo of cacao beans.