Saturday, 28 April 2012

Sattvic Movie Saturday: Tibetan Book of the Dead - The Great Liberation Through Hearing

My Bodhi Seed Mala and the Bardo Thodol
It's Saturday again!  Time for another sattvic movie offering! 

This one from the National Film Board of Canada is as much a teaching as it is a documentary. 

It is the story of a young monk's first experience visiting the home of a dying man to assist his teacher in easing the pain of passing for the man and his family. 

My most vivid memory of this film is watching it in a small, makeshift theatre in Dharamsala, India filled with sweaty travellers and gentle monks. 

How wonderful and otherworldly it was to crowd around a television set on thin matresses and cushions on the floor to listen to the voice of Leonard Cohen narrating these ancient and timeless teachings.

The next time I saw it was with my peers in a Literary Tibetan class at the University of Alberta.  We had memorized the entire Tibetan alphabet in 48 hours and spent the rest of the course transliterating and translating lines from this text, the Bardo Thodol

The images in the film and the stories our professor (a wonderful German woman in her last year of teaching) told us about life with her Tibetan husband have blurred in my mind. 

Watching this now, I am flooded with memories from the bardo of my own existence and a new sense of urgency to wake up!

"Anything that has a shape will crumble away. Anything in a flock will disband. We are all like bees, alone in this world, buzzing and searching with no place to rest. So we offer this prayer: Delusions are as various as the reflections of the moon on a rippling sea. Beings become so easily caught in a net of confused pain.
May I develop compassion as boundless as the sky, so that all may rest in the clear light of their awareness."

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

The Meaning of Om

Om Painting by Omkari

My Guru appears to me in the most unexpected places and moments! 

Yesterday I was given a pop quiz on Om by a gas station attendant. 

He looked at me intently as I paid, and then gesturing to his own throat and my necklace asked, "You are knowing the meaning of this?"

Yak bone Tibetan Om necklace from Nepal

"Yes", I said "It's an Om, a Tibetan Om."

"Ok..." he grinned with a slight Indian head wobble, "but you are knowing the meaning?"

I said the first thing that came to my mind.  "Well, it depends who you ask."

"It's very good for concentration."  he stated matter-of-factly as he took the next customer's payment.

"Yes, very sacred.  Thank you!", I replied and scurried out. 

The whole way home I pondered the meaning of Om and how to express it in a nutshell. 
  • Om is the echoing hum of the universe.  Some astronomers refer to this as "interplanetary harmonics".
  • Om is Pranava, the breath of the Divine.  Religious folks might call it the Name of God.
  • Om is the Bija mantra, the seed of all creation.  Yogic cosmologists compare it to the Big bang theory.
  • Om is the fullness of the range of human vocalization.  Linguists consider it a progression of enunciation.
  • Om is the essence of the Vedas.  Vedantins believe chanting this mantra is as powerful as chanting all of the Vedas. 
Om represents the multitude of sacred trinities.  For example:
  • past, present and future
  • body, mind and spirit
  • Brahma shakti (creation), Vishnu shakti (preservation) and Shiva shakti (transformation or dissolution)
  • the three states of awareness; waking state, dreaming state and unconscious state

But how to best express what it means?

Om sticker from India

Ultimately the true meaning of Om cannot be expressed in words. 

At best, words can only point the yogini toward the direct experience like the teacher who points at the moon and admonishes the student for staring at his finger.

I heard a story in South India about the difficulty of expressing the meaning of Om: 

Kartikeya, the son of Lord Shiva approached Brahma, the Lord of Creation and asked him to explain Om.  Although Brahma claimed to understand and recited twelve thousand verses, Kartikeya found his explanation insufficient and was displeased. 

He approached his father, Lord Shiva who readily admitted to not fully understanding Om, and submitted himself humbly as a student to his son to receive the teachings on Om.

Om plate from India
So the real answer to the gas station attendant's question is in the heart of each individual to be revealed through practice over time.

Ramakrishna said that people immersed in the world cannot know the full meaning of Om, in fact, cannot even hear it.

As it says in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras 1.27-1.29:  (Please forgive my liberal translating!) 

The sacred word representing the Source of All is Om, or Pranava. (1.27)
Repeat this sound with deep reflection on its meaning. (1.28)
From this (repetition with reflection) comes Self-awareness and the removal of the obstacles to bliss. (1.29)

So, repeat Om.  Concentrate with reverence on all of the auspicious aspects of its significance and we will discover its true meaning for our Selves. 

Thank you, Gas Station Guru!  Your observation was a gentle and timely prompt!

Monday, 23 April 2012

Spring's Here!

Blue Squill in my Mom's Garden
Spring has finally sprung!  What makes me so certain? 

Today I saw five sure signs:

1.  The grass is turning green around the water in the ditches, eh!  Tiny flowers are popping their heads up.  I even saw my first dandelion!

2.  The motorbikes are roaring, Canada geese are honking and frogs are croaking!  Sounds like spring to me!

3.   We have no leaves but it's +21!  I even did a little yoga outside on the deck!  (Well, mostly savasana...)  But need I say more?

4.  The lake is thawing and stinks to hiiiiiiigh heaven!  Scent-sational!

5.  The bugs are back!  First the flies and the ants, then the spiders and the worms, and today I saw Painted Lady butterflies! 

But the surest sign of all is:  I got my first mosquito bite!

Woo hoo!!!  Welcome back, spring!

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Happy Earth Day!

Bhoomi Devi, Mother Earth
I hope you're having a wonderful day, and were able to get outside to plant some seeds or walk the dog, or just breathe in the sights and smells of Spring!

Its such relief to feel the sun on my face and get my fingers in the soil again.  To celebrate, I planted some marigold seeds, with a prayer for peace and plasticity. 

May we receive the blessings of the Earth's abundance with thanks and praises, and tread lightly on her graceful form.

Happy Earth Day!

Here is a beautiful performance dedicated to Bhoomi Devi, by Vrinda Devi and the bhakti-ful Mayapuris.

Click here to watch it full screen on YouTube.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Sattvic Movie Saturday - Sita Sings the Blues

My second offering for Sattvic Movie Saturday is one of my very very very favorite movies of all time!

Annette Hanshaw
Sita Sings the Blues by Nina Paley features the music of 1920's jazz/blues singer Annette Hanshaw.

Nina Paley's storytelling and animation are each marvels in themselves. 

Together, they are a masterpiece of spectacular beauty and humor; an uplifting and intelligent commentary on life, The Ramayana and the timeless affairs of the heart. 

Perhaps most amazing is Nina's free distribution of this film, insisting that copyrights are actually an impediment to artists.

She cites the case of Annette Hanshaw, whose stardom has faded into relative obscurity thanks to the companies who own the rights to distribute her songs, but feel no obligation to.

I hope you will enjoy it as much as I do.  Click here! Ya gotta watch it full screen!!! 

And share it with others - lots of them!  Nina wants you to.

I also highly recommend this presentation at the University of Baltimore by Nina Paley on her work, her inspiration, and copyrights. Click here to watch it full screen on YouTube.

"That's all!;-D

Friday, 20 April 2012

Light in the Lotus

Radha and Krishna Standing on a Lotus
The Sacred Lotus or Padma is one of the most prominent symbols in yoga, representing purity and enlightenment.

"One who performs his duty without attachment, surrendering the results unto the Supreme Lord, is unaffected by harmful action, as the lotus is untouched by water."
Bhagavad Gita 5.10:
With its roots in the mud, and its fragrant, pure beauty rising up, the lotus is also a metaphor for our human experience. 

We have roots in the muck and mire, and yet we rise above the waters of life to fulfill our aspirations and blossom into the light.

Many spiritual teachers use the image of the lotus to encourage us in times of difficulty to show our highest Self to the world no matter how murky our circumstances.

In other words, they advise us to allow insult and injury to roll like "water off a lotus leaf", or as we say in the west, (like) water off a duck's back. 

It is also said that in the lotus of the heart, or the Anahata Chakra, there is a divine light.

Lakshmi (left) and Saraswati (right) seated on Lotus flowers
beside an altar at the Sivananda Ashram. 
Note the Lotus rising from Vishnu's navel. 
Seated in the Lotus, is Brahma, the God of Creation.
Chapter One, Verse 36 of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali says:  "Vishoka va jyotishmati"

Meaning roughly, "Concentration on the inner light brings stability and tranquility."

Take a look at the following commentary from

Concentration on painless inner luminosity:

The easiest way to practice this is to place your attention in the space between the breasts, the heart center. Simply imagine that there is a glowing luminosity there, about the size of the palm of your hand.

Whether or not you literally see with your inner eye is not important; the practice works either way. Maintain an inner attitude that it does not matter what other thoughts, images, impressions or memories might arise in the mind field; you will hold that stance that these will not disturb or distract you. Stay only with that glowing inner luminosity in the heart.

And here is an excerpt from The Himalayan Academy, Merging with Siva, Chapter 9, The Lotus of the Heart:

"A beautiful practice is to try to sit quietly, visualizing within the lotus within the heart a light, a strong light emanating clearly, a light that is always there. This light is radiating at a higher vibration than any form with which you are familiar.

Let us say, if you were to have this light in your hand and were able to use it in the external world, each form you turned it upon would disappear under the vibration of the light itself. That is as powerful as the effulgent light emanating from the Self, the Sivaness, which you will see within the lotus of the heart."

Lotus Candle Holder Photo Courtesy of one love origami
If you would like to create an outer reminder of this inner light, I invite you to fold an Origami Lotus Candle Holder.

And if you would like some music to accompany your peace-crafting, click here to listen to a beautiful track from The Beatles, called The Inner LightIt was recorded in India, inspired by a letter from Sanskrit scholar Juan Mascaro.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

This Day in Her-Story

Trustee Ron Roth, right, talks to protesting students at Sherwood Park separate school board’s office on April 19, 1990.

Trustee Ron Roth, right, talks to protesting students at Sherwood Park separate school board’s office

on April 19, 1990.   Photo borrowed from the Edmonton Journal.  

Ok, weirdness of weirdness... 

That's me with the short dark hair in the center, directly below the exit sign. 

I randomly came across this online today.  I swear I didn't know it existed and wouldn't have gone looking for it even if I did! 

I never would have imagined the Journal had articles this old posted online.  When this was taken the internet didn't even exist!

When I brought it up again this evening, I noticed the date:

April 19, 1990, exactly twenty-two years ago today...

The strangeness of that co-incidence is boggling my mind, so I just had to archive it here!

Click here to read the article. 

And check out this excerpt:

“We’re urging you to solve the problem,” Tara Woltjen told trustee Ron Roth during a morning meeting at Archbishop Jordan High School. “We need our class time. We have no choice; we’ve got departmental exams coming up.”
Hahaha!  In addition to being an outspoken rebel with a cause, I guess I've always been a keen student and an advocate for education!

Have you ever experienced a co-incidence like this?  What do you think it means???

Update April 20, 2012:
I thought it was weird yesterday when I stumbled onto this that the Edmonton Journal would have articles this old archived.  Then I realized they don't!

They chose this article out of aaaaaalllll the articles over aaaalllll the years to represent April 19th on their "This Day in Journal History" segment!

I'm in awe... 

Monday, 16 April 2012

Tara Chants the Invocation to Patanjali - Free Audio!

Swami Swaroopananda

Blessed Selves,

I have something special to share with you! 

My dear friend Shyaama just emailed me an audio recording I forgot even existed. 

It's me chanting the Invocation to Patanjali with translation while we were studying the Yoga Sutras at the Sivananda Yoga Ashram with our beloved Teachers Swami Swaroopananda, Geshe Michael Roach and Lama Christie McNally.

Thank you, Shyaama Devi!

I learned the melody from Swami Swaroopananda, and to this day, I always hear it in my heart in his beautiful voice. 

Please be aware that any mistakes are mine, and mine alone.

Limited time offer - free download:  

Tara Woltjen chanting the Invocation to Patanjali

Note* This file is available for one week only!  You must download it by April 23, 2012!

You are most welcome to listen to it, to save it, and even to share it with others! 

I have just two requests:
  1. Please watch these short videos by my hero, Nina Paley first. 
  2. Leave me a comment below to let me know you've downloaded it. 
With love and gratitude to you all, Tara

Watch for Nina's masterpiece this weekend on Kali's Kitchen Sattvic Movie Saturday!

And here's the link to my rendition of the Invocation to Patanjali

Remember, you need to download it by April 23rd, 2012!  Then chant to your heart's content!

Patanjali Maharishi Ki - Jai!
Swami Swaroopananda Ki - Jai!

Om Tat Sat

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Sattvic Movie Saturday - Yogis of Tibet

Another April snow storm is keeping me indoors tonight.  Ah, Alberta...

But it's inspired me to launch a new series of posts called Sattvic Movie Saturday!

I'd wish you could come over tonight.  We could watch a movie and eat popcorn and raw chocolate and drink chai, but here's the next best thing!

Staff Meeting, Sivananda Ashram, Bahamas
(Me, Upper Right)
Kind of reminds me of "staff night" in the Bahamas at the Sivananda Ashram which happens only ever so rarely. 

The staff (all karma yogis/volunteers) almost never take a day or a night or even a moment off.

As Swami Brahmananda says when someone asks for one, "Does your karma take a day off?" 

"No, Swamiji... sigh...", is always the answer. :-D

But once in a while in low season, someone takes the guests for evening satsang on the beach and the staff indulge like sixth graders at a sleepover, with chai and lemonade and chips and popcorn and whatever sweet treat someone can concoct in the kitchen in addition to their "real" karma yoga. 

Sometimes... oh dare I say it... we even have ice creammmmmmmm....  and hang out all together and giggle and eat, enjoy a movie and a well deserved change of pace. 

Some of my favorites:  The Princess Bride, Kung Fu Panda, Lord of the Rings and Baraka

Less favorite films but great memories:  Oh, God! (my favorite part being Swami Brahmananda's boyish guffaws), Brother Sun, Sister Moon (it seems Brahmachari Shankar knows every song and line as well as he knows The Princess Bride) and Avatar (which I would have just walked out of, but the tahini cookies Mahadevi made were sooooooo good...)

There we're immersed in yoga 25/7.  Here, yoga movies are the only ones I make time for. 

So starting tonight, watch for Sattvic Movie Saturday posts and we can discuss or review the films here. 

In honor of the Tibetan Heart Yoga class this morning, let's begin with Yogis of Tibet (Click here to watch full screen on YouTube).

I've got my Veggie Quesadillas ready!  Go grab your snacks and a drink.  Curl up and enjoy!

Let me know what you think in the comments section below! 

Or email your movie suggestions to:

Om Namah Sivaya Gurave

Lord Shiva as Nataraja, the Cosmic Dancer

I'm excited to be teaching a session called Basic Sanskrit and More this morning at Yoga for Today as part of the Continuing Education Certification for Yoga Teachers.

This session offers an introduction to the Devanagari script, transliteration, linguistic diacritic marks, pronunciation tips, and basic Sanskrit vocabulary through a beautiful mantra from the Niralamba Upanishad dedicated to the Lord of Yoga, Lord Shiva.

It is a beautiful teaching on the Guru, both internal and external.  Well known by yogis, it is chanted in many different melodies (including the one on my cd!!)

To whet your appetite, here is a lovely version by Manorama.  See you there!

Can't make it today?  Not a yoga "teacher"?  Want to attend this workshop or offer it at your studio?  Email me at:

Friday, 13 April 2012

God Says Yes To Me

Jasmine blooming on my altar
I asked God if it was okay to be melodromatic
and she said yes
I asked her if it was okay to be short
and she said it sure is
I asked her if it was okay to wear nail polish
or not wear nail polish
and she said honey
she calls me that sometimes
she said you can do just exactly
what you want to do

Thanks God I said
 And is it even okay if I don’t paragraph
my letters
Sweetcakes God said
who knows where she picked that up
what I’m telling you is
Yes  Yes  Yes

-Kaylin Haught, 1995

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Where in the World?

Kali's Kitchen is well on the way to our goal of raising one million grains of rice for the United Nations World Food Program on!

Congratulations to Omkari, our top player, who has raised more than 147 000 grains so far!  Jai!!

My new favorite subject is World Landmarks.  Identify awesome places around the world including many that are of special interest to yogis.  For example:

Plus identify lots of other cool places like the Dead Sea,  the Snake Temple and Timbuktu!

Each correct answer donates 10 grains of rice to hungry people around the world. 

Click here to join the Kali's Kitchen group of Karma Yogis.

Warning* This game is free to play, super fun and may make you smarter!!!

What's your favorite subject?

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Snow Day Cupcakes

A BRUTAL spring storm has me house-bound today. 

Well, except for tons of shovelling that is... 

I've already done two rounds of cement-heavy-snow removal on the driveway, walkways and deck and saw that when things clear up I'll have some broken tree removal too. 

Thankfully, nothing on the roof!

Om Trayambakam to everyone on the road today, and to all the emergency service workers out there looking after everyone!

Can you spot the robin?

Before I venture out for round three,  it's time for a break. 

All these wintery workouts call for cupcakes!

Since I can't actually invite you over to share them, here's the recipe:

Mini Vegan Chocolate Cake for my Mom's birthday

Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes:

1 1/2 cups of flour
1 cup of sugar
3 Tablespoons of cocoa powder
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt. I'm using Pink Himalayan Salt for added sattva ;-)

Mix together the dry ingredients.

Ha ha ha - ignore the sloppy icing!
In another bowl combine:

6 Tbsps of vegetable oil
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 teaspoon of lemon juice
1 cup of water

Add the wet ingredients to the dry, mix with a fork.  Spoon into a muffin tin.

Bake at 350 F for 18-22 minutes. 

Makes one dozen.


Sunday, 1 April 2012

Third Eye Vision

To paraphrase Mahatma Gandhi,
Sivananda Yogini Veronica Ruelas is:

"Being the change she wants to see in the world."

Loss of sight is sometimes considered the greatest tragedy next to death, yet millions are suffering with PREVENTABLE blindness, which means the visual impairment can be prevented or treated.

Of the 37 million people across the globe who are blind, over 15 million live in India.

Our goal is to help them.

This is where our story begins:

In 2008 we traveled to India and visited the very remote Himalayan town of Uttarkashi. We immediately fell in love with this rural area and its people.

The agricultural and labor nature of this society puts them at a greater risk for cataracts. Dense cataracts due to high elevation, strong sun exposure and no UV protection are very common, including in people as young as the age of 30.

We have gone yearly since 2008 allowing us to track our patients, including the ones we referred for surgery to the local hospital.

We learned, with astonishment, that patients were coming out worse than when they went in. This is mainly due to lack of equipment, manpower and education.

Our mission is to help raise funds to establish an eye clinic in this remote area, providing access to quality eye care.

Going there and helping them from time to time does help, but we want to do something more sustainable.

The clinic’s structure is currently being built by locals on donated land out of brick and mortar. This empowers them as they are working and contributing to their community.

The clinic will provide comprehensive eye care and glasses, along with cataract and other minor surgeries. We plan to create a sustainable clinic where international doctors can come to treat and provide training to the local hospital doctors and staff.

Imagine the possibilities!

All donations will be used to purchase the ophthalmic equipment needed to ensure the people of this region have access to quality eye care, glasses and cataract surgery.

We invite you to join us on our mission and share in our passion to restore lives by restoring vision. Making a difference one person, one family, one community at a time.

We have partnered with our friends at Give2Asia so that your contribution is tax deductible.

93% of your donation will go directly towards our mission (and we hope yours now as well).
7% will go to Give2Asia to cover administrative costs.

Thank you in advance for your donation,
Veronica and the thirdeyevision team

T  Total Transparency.
H  Humbly helping and healing wherever and whenever possible.
I   Integrity within ourselves and our thirdeyevision partners. 
R  Radiate love, compassion and a little humor.
D  Do good. Be good.
Enjoy ourselves and share joy with others. 
Y  You can make a difference!
E  Empower those who grant us the opportunity to serve them.

  • Your skills & medical services
  • Used or New Ophthalmic Equipment & Instruments
  • Glasses
All donations will be used to purchase the ophthalmic equipment needed to ensure the people of this region have access to quality eye care, glasses and cataract surgery.
Or click here to learn more or offer your support.