This next week-end is Thanksgiving in Canada. It’s a bit too early for my friends living in lower latitudes but here the wild geese have already flown to Florida. Thanksgiving is a time of gratitude and celebration although that celebration comes traditionally at the expense of many innocent birds.  In an agricultural society the feeling of gratitude at harvest time was probably spontaneous and sincere. Today, we are so removed from Mother Earth and its cycles that expressing gratitude at this time might feel a bit artificial. Nevertheless, cultivating gratitude has always been praised by all religions and now medical science confirms that it makes us happier and healthier. It is always good to hear what we already know because who has not experienced the positive effects of gratefulness?

When I am grateful my heart expands and I feel love, my nervous system relaxes and for a moment I have peace of body and mind. I briefly forget about my desires and fears and I trust.  It’s a bit like jumping into the abyss because what will happen if my expression of gratefulness is not acknowledged or returned or if I am denying reality?  Actually gratitude only works when we are grateful for something real and denial is not the answer. But it is true that it takes some courage to let go of our doubts, fears, worries and, in general, our negative baggage which we carry with us most of the time.

By practicing gratefulness I have slowly come to trust its amazing results.  The feelings of relaxation, peace and contentment do not take long to manifest. Gratitude is indeed a very valuable antidote to anxiety, alienation and sadness.  In the after-glow of gratitude it is even possible to glimpse that we are whole and complete just as we are, lacking nothing.

Gratitude should be practiced all the time. Just as we take a life-saving medication every day we should get our daily dose of gratitude. There is always something to feel grateful for: a sunny day, a rainy day, a roof over our heads, a beautiful flower, an Autumn leaf, our walking feet, our listening ears, the next breath, etc, etc…

Gratitude, like everything else, can be learned.  Here are some guidelines to start with until gratitude becomes a habit, a way of thinking and being:

  • When waking up and before going to sleep think about 3 objects of gratitude
  • Every day tell a spouse, friend, etc… something you appreciate about them.
  • Look at yourself in the mirror and say something you like about yourself.

And when you see some dark clouds approaching, quickly make a long list of things you are grateful for.  I have also re-published below my audio recording on love and gratitude and the chakras. Enjoy it!




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There are many exciting courses offered on line on how to retrain our brain to achieve specific goals in life.  If committed to their program they claim success in increasing our income, finding a soul mate, fulfilling our desires like being able to afford an expensive car, a wonderful big house and even becoming a millionaire. Supported by the results of the latest scientific research on the workings of the brain they coach you on how to change the mental and emotional patterns that have blocked you from achieving your goals.  By developing specific exercises that teach you how to focus or meditate regularly and tenaciously on the object of your desire you eventually attain your vision. I am sure that some of the testimonies they present as part of their marketing strategy are genuine.  The yogis have known for a long time that the mind determines who we are. Indeed the mind is a powerful tool that creates heaven and hell, friend and foe, depression and happiness.

Unfortunately, these programs fall short of providing their clients with a lasting sense of fulfillment as mind training is not finished with the development of one-pointedness of mind and least of all with the attainment of material goals.  The cultivation of positive qualities and the elimination of greed, pride, anger and delusion is the other aspect of mind training which is done simultaneously with meditation.   Vedanta, Buddhist philosophy or any other great philosophy can help us to better understand human nature, the futility of trying to fulfill our incessant desires or the perils of attachment given the impermanent nature of physical existence.    When  we take time to study and ponder on  these truths which are also the result of deep insights, we can chose our goals more wisely.  A philosophical system that makes sense to us can provide a framework within which to live our life wisely and avoid the potential pitfalls of a passionate mind pursuing the wrong vision. Science, the “new religion”, confirms what we have known for a long time, that mind creates our reality, therefore let’s use it with extreme wisdom. Otherwise we can end up becoming a millionaire selling water very successfully by the riverbank.

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programme-retraite-septembre 18 2015

(English version follows)

La fin de semaine du 18 au 20 septembre un petit groupe d’âmes curieuses se réunira dans un coin de la forêt laurentienne pour se plonger dans la paix de ces belles montagnes mais aussi dans la paix intérieure.  Cette paix si précieuse ne peut être perçue que dans le silence profond lorsque notre mental, confronté à un flot de sensations, pensées et émotions incessantes, se calme petit à peu. Alors l’acteur devient l’observateur et nous percevons pendant un instant notre vraie nature.

Nous sommes tous capables d’avoir cette expérience, ceux qui ont médité longtemps et ceux qui débutent.  En Zen, le mental du débutant est très apprécié puisqu’il est libre d’idées préconçues. Vous devez cependant pouvoir rester assis immobiles pendant des périodes de 15 min. Mai si la posture de jambes croisées est trop douloureuse vous pouvez utiliser une chaise.  Il y aura des mots d’encouragement (“pep talks”) et des étirements de yoga pour calmer le corps et l’esprit et des périodes libres pour la contemplation ou marcher dans la nature.

J’assisterai Jean Christophe, un hôte, organisateur et professeur expérimenté et une karma yogi dévouée sera en charge de repas délicieux. Ne manquez pas cette opportunité d’ approfondir votre pratique et de célébrer l’équinoxe de l’automne, un moment sacré pour la contemplation et pour retrouver notre équilibre.

J’espère vous revoir bientôt!

___ 0 ___

The week-end of September 18-20 a small group of curious souls will gather in a magical forest to taste some moments of peace, the peace of the beautiful Laurentian mountains but also the inner peace that dwells within our hearts and minds. This precious peace can only be perceived in the deepest silence when the mind, confronted ceaselessly with thoughts, sensations and emotions, finally quiets down. Then the actor becomes the spectator, the load of the performer is dropped and there is an “Aha! moment”.

We are all capable of experiencing this moment, long time meditators as well as beginners.  In fact, in Zen the beginner’s mind is very much praised as the less pre-conceived ideas we have the easiest meditation becomes. You must however be prepared to sit still for 15 min. periods.  If the cross-legged posture is too painful you can sit on a chair. There will be yoga stretches and “pep talks” to soothe bodies and minds and free time for contemplation or walks in nature.

I will be assisting Jean Christophe, a perfect host, organizer and teacher and a generous karma yogi will prepare delicious meals.  Don’t miss this opportunity to deepen your practice and celebrate the Fall equinox, a sacred time for balance and contemplation.

Hope to see again.


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(Scroll down for the English version)

C’est comme un rêve.  Des fois je suis heureuse et je ris, des fois je suis triste et je pleure.  Les sons, les images, les sensations, les pensées, les émotions se succèdent sans fin et je suis émerveillée par ce spectacle où tout est en mouvement. C’est tellement réel que j’y crois. J’assiste éblouie à ce spectacle merveilleux et je me demande d’où viennent ces pensèes?  Je ne sais pas.  Où vont ces pensèes? Je ne sais pas.  Je deviens un enfant curieux, fasciné par la danse d’ombres et lumières du ‘lila’, le jeu cosmique de la création où les formes apparaîssent et disparaîssent guidées par la main invisible d’un magicien divin.

J’entre dans le jeu et peu à peu j’apprends à maîtriser mon rêve, à le changer, comme un artiste maîtrise les mouvements de son pinceau sur la toile et je deviens créatrice et spectatrice en même temps. Je ne rejette rien, tout mérite mon attention mais je ne m’attarde pas.  Je laisse aller une et autre fois. Et lorsque mes vieux amis la confusion, l’hésitation et le doute sonnent à nouveau à ma porte je les accepte tel qu’ils sont. Je peux même les inviter à prendre le thé sans crainte car je sais qu’ils ne resteront pas longtemps puisque, finalement, ce n’est qu’un rêve.



It’s like a dream.  Sometimes I am happy and I laugh, sometimes I am afraid and I cry. Sounds, images, sensations, thoughts and emotions appear and pass away constantly and I become an amazed spectator of a wonderful show.  It  looks so real that I believe in it and I ask myself where do these thoughts come from? I don’t know. Where do they go? I don’t know.  I am just a curious child fascinated by the light show of the “lila”, the cosmic play of creation where forms appear and disappear guided by the invisible hand of a divine magician.

I enter the play and little by little I learn to direct my dream like an artist guides his paint brush on the canvas and I become creator and spectator at the same time. I do not reject anything, everything is worthy of my attention but I do not linger too long. I let go over and over again. And when my old friends confusion, hesitation and doubt knock on my door again I accept them as they are. I may even invite them for tea fearlessly as I know they will not stay long because, after all, it’s only a dream.




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sacred tree

There was a beautiful young woman in Calcutta who used to stop passers-by in front of her house and asked them, “Have you see Shyam Babu? If you see him, please, tell him I am waiting for him.”  Her husband was dead, kept alive by her love but her love had betrayed her.  The passers-by laughed at her and played cruel tricks on her.

After a while she began clinging to young men as they were going by and saying, “You are my Shyam Babu, you have come back…” Those men drove her away and ill-treated her throwing stones at her.

Years later one of her neighbors who had known her in the past noticed her sitting all day at the foot of a sacred tree.  She had aged, but her face was radiant with joy.  She asked her, “Have you found your Shyam?” “Yes,” she replied with a smile, “Look, here he is…” and she pointed to her breast.

This story told by Lizelle Reymond in To Live Within, illustrates how much pain we cause  ourselves when we cling to an emotion that does not serve us anymore.  The story however has a happy ending. The madwoman finally renounced the thought of finding her husband and in turn she became alive.  Renunciation  (vairagya) in Yoga is the voluntary giving up of all emotions.  This method is the exact opposite of psychoanalysis which exposes the emotions by bringing them to the daylight, reliving them over again but also amplifying them.  The Eastern traditions on the other hand pay no attention to emotion. Even bakthas or devotional practitioners use their emotions to transmute them into devotion.

However before we are able to renounce an emotion we need to acknowledge it otherwise we are like the madwoman, in denial of what had happened to her.  To know an emotion is also realizing that it is a karmic debt to be paid, the beginning of a process that eventually uproots it. Then also comes the realization that an emotion has a recurring pattern, it is part of an automatism which gets triggered according to conditions and circumstances. In the example of the madwoman her trigger was the sight of the young men who reminded her of her husband.  So after getting to know an emotion through observation and evaluation one eventually comes to the decision of disposing of it or keeping it.  Letting go requires courage, the fearlessness of facing the unknown, while hanging on to an old habit is like keeping an old friend that does not treat us well but that we tolerate because it is someone familiar.

When we have an upset stomach we stop eating or we change our diet and yet when we are emotionally in pain we do not apply the same remedy right away like analyzing how long have I been suffering, what is the root cause of my pain, what responsibility do I have in it, and then taking action like considering change or letting go.

But if you do not have time for study and introspection, may I offer you this simple recipe for quick relief of emotional pain:

1. Keep yourself free of things.

2. Hope for nothing in the future.

3. Die consciously every evening, which means be reborn every morning.

This recipe is guaranteed to work and keep you emotionally sane. It has the backing of countless wise beings. Om Tat Sat!







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meditation hands(This post is only available in French.  For my anglophone and hispanophone friends this is your opportunity to review your high school French!)

Dans mes classes on me demande quelquefois si la méditation a un effet aussi relaxant que les postures de yoga (asanas).   Les pratiques de Yoga aident à nous détendre et la méditation fait partie du Raja Yoga, le Yoga des 8 étapes ou Ashtanga Yoga.  Dans ce système de Yoga la méditation est l’avant-dernière étape après la concentration, le contrôle des sens, les asanas (les exercices physiques), le pranayama (exercices respiratoires) et les normes d’éthique. Selon le Raja Yoga pour pouvoir méditer il faut passer premièrement par une série d’étapes préparatoires et si on ne suit pas ces sages directives on est vite confronté à de nombreuses difficultés.

Imaginez que vous revenez chez vous le soir fatigué et stressé après une journée de travail.  Vous voulez vous détendre, oublier les soucis de la journée, faire le vide.  Vous avez entendu que la méditation calme le corps et le mental, alors vous décidez de suivre les indications: jambes croisées, dos droit, respiration  profonde et point de concentration entre vos deux yeux ou le coeur… Que se passe-t-il?  Et bien, beaucoup de choses, en commençant par le défilé de tous les détails de la journée avec commentaires révisés et ajoutés.  Nous réalisons alors que notre état mental est très agité et que nous avons très peu de contrôle sur nos pensées.

Révisons alors les étapes préparatoires à la méditation puisqu’elles devraient aider notre pratique.  Avons-nous fait suffisamment d’exercice aujourd’hui? Avons-nous pris des petites pauses pendant la journée en respirant profondément pour nous recentrer?  Avons-nous pris trop de stimulants (cafés, cigarettes, mal bouffe, etc…)?  Avons-nous pratiqué la pensée positive?  L’état de calme et paix mentale se cultivent continuellement et non pas seulement pendant les 10, 30 ou 60 minutes de méditation formelle. Evidemment le fait de s’asseoir en silence et d’essayer de calmer le mental quelques minutes par jour offre nombreux bienfaits physiques et mentaux qui sont bien documentés par la médecine mais une approche intégrale qui tient compte de la diète, l’exercice, la respiration consciente et la méditation est beaucoup plus efficace.

Alors nous sommes dans une posture de méditation immobile et en silence afin d’aider notre mental à se calmer, à réduire le flot de pensées.  Un corps et une respiration détendus se reflètent dans un mental détendu.  Les trois vont ensemble et tant que le corps ou la respiration sont agités le mental sera également agité.  Nous choisissons un objet de concentration et nous nous centrons mais…  pas pour longtemps.  Nous devenons  distraits, nous nous perdons dans des histoires sans fin, nous revenons à la source et nous nous perdons à nouveau.  Nous recommençons une et autre fois.  C’est un travail ennuyant et fatiguant qui exige détermination et patience.  On est loin de la relaxation.  La méditation c’est du travail,  le travail de connaître, d’entraîner et de calmer notre mental,  Et ce travail ne finit jamais.  Un jour, dans une méditation profonde,  nous avons une grande révélation, nous sentons un état de paix et de béatitude merveilleux mais le lendemain, horreur! nous nous retrouvons obsédés par la liste de choses à faire ou la petite chanson idiote qu’on a écouté le matin.

Je ne veux pas vous décourager mais si vous cherchez la relaxation instantanée (on a tendance a vouloir tout instantanément) il vaudrait mieux  faire des étirements, de faire une marche dans la nature,  de prendre un bain mousseux ou encore mieux de vous faire masser… Cependant si vous insistez avec la méditation et vous vous sentez bloqués dans votre pratique il y a toujours la méthode du chat. (N’oublions pas l’humour en méditation, fréquemment oublié).

Avez-vous déjà eu une relation avec un chat?  Vous tombez en amour avec un beau chat, vous voulez le caresser, le câliner, mais il ne veut rien savoir.  Tant que vous lui prêtez attention il vous ignore, mais le moment que vous l’ignorez, il vient vers vous.  C’est une relation frustrante mais une fois que vous comprenez la stratégie vous avez un chat qui ronronne autour de vous.  Permettez-moi de faire un lien avec la méditation: tant que vous vous efforcez pour cultiver le calme, il vous échappera et tant que vous vous efforcez pour éloigner les pensées inopportunes, elles deviendront  plus tenaces.  Alors quoi faire? Et bien RIEN du tout.  Restez silencieux, déconnectez-vous, ne faites plus d’effort ou de manipulation mentale, accrochez-vous à la respiration:  Où est-elle maintenant? à l’inspiration? à l’expiration? ou entre les deux? Continuez à respirer consciemment et laisser agir le calme.  Ayez confiance en votre état naturel et organique qui sait comment se réorganiser.  Abandonnez-vous à votre intelligence intérieure qui régit tous vos systèmes sans votre aide.  Donnez-lui une chance d’opérer en passant au deuxième plan quelques instants.  Sommes-nous capables de nous abandonner à ce pouvoir inconnu?  C’est prendre un risque car s’il ne répondait pas, qu’est-ce qui pourrait nous arriver? Le Zen parle de laisser aller notre prise au bord du précipice et nous rappelle que cela demande un grand courage, le courage du guerrier spirituel.  Ce pouvoir inconnu pourrait également nous rejeter comme nous avons peut-être été rejetés ou oubliés auparavant. Cependant tous les grands maîtres orientaux nous rappellent que nous sommes tous nés avec cette vraie nature et que notre droit de naissance est notre potentiel de sagesse et compassion. Nous doutons et nous nous demandons encore: pourrait-il être aussi simple que ça? Ne devrais-je pas continuer à raisonner, invoquer, réciter ou prier?  Essayons de rester en silence.  Rappelons-nous que le silence peut être subversif.  Alors continuons à respirer consciemment et avec chaque expiration laissons aller tous les doutes, les raisonnements intellectuels, les comforts religieux…  Après laissons aller l’idée même de celui qui laisse aller, tout simplement soyons présents sans aucune attente.  C’est alors que l’on devient un spectateur émerveillé à chaque instant.

Pour ceux qui veulent s’engager dans une pratique de méditation sérieuse voici quelques  directives de base:

1)  la posture de méditation avec les jambes croisées est importante mais si votre corps ne le permet pas utilisez une chaise en gardant le dos bien DROIT, sans support.   Ne pas vous coucher car vous voulez être éveillés et ne pas vous endormir.

2)  le sujet de concentration peut être tout ce qui vous inspire: la visualisation d’une image, d’une déité, d’une flamme, du soleil qui brille et réchauffe votre plexus solaire, votre coeur ou le point entre les sourcils, la répétition d’un mantra ou la respiration consciente que vous pouvez compter, visualiser ou suivre simplement. Une fois que vous avez établi votre sujet et point de concentration, gardez-le et appliquez-vous avec ténacité et régularité.

A part la période de méditation formelle qui pourrait durer 10, 20, 30 ou 60 minutes par jour,  il nous reste un grand nombre d’heures dans une journée.   Même si nous sommes capables d’atteindre un état de concentration parfaite pendant notre méditation formelle, combien de temps pouvons-nous maintenir cet état le reste de la journée?  Quoi faire lorsque nous sommes au travail, au métro, en conduisant, etc…  Sommes-nous condamnés à vivre distraits et éparpillés le moment que nous quittons notre coussin de méditation?

Je vous propose la méditation 24 heures, un peu comme le dépanneur ouvert 24 heures par jour auquel on peut accéder en tout temps. Il s’agit d’être attentif à tout moment:  à chaque pas, à chaque son, à chaque mot, à chaque sensation, à chaque bouchée, à chaque respiration et même lorsque nous dormons, en état de rêve!  On n’a plus besoin d’avoir des conditions idéales pour méditer, donc plus d’excuses… Il s’agit d’être pleinement conscient (mind-full) continuellement en ramenant doucement mille et une fois notre attention vers le moment présent.  La science médicale reconnaît les bienfaits de cette pratique et plusieurs programmes de réduction de stress sont basés sur la pleine conscience comme celui du Prof. Kabat-Zinn (voir Kabat-Zinn en Youtube).

Il y a lontemps,  avant que la science donne son OK à la méditation,  un étudiant Zen   demanda à son maître qu’elle était la vérité la plus profonde et le maître répondit: “Attention!”.  L’étudiant, sans comprendre, lui posa la question à nouveau et le maître répondit: “Attention! Attention!”.  Et une troisième fois l’étudiant, encore confus, posa la question et le maître répondit: “Attention! Attention, AT-TEN-TION!”.

Ah!  Plus rien à dire.

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heart on fire 2

Join me on July 25-26 for a Meditation Weekend at the Sivananda Yoga Camp, Val Morin, Quebec.  Here is a preview of some of the reflections I’ll share with you during the retreat.

When in meditation  I fall in a state of reverie or sleepiness I imagine what I would do if, all of a sudden, I found out I had only five more minutes to live.  Even though I’m only imagining that possibility my brain gets a real jolt, my heart starts beating faster, my eyes open up and I breathe harder.  I feel a sense of urgency and become present and awake.

There is a story about the Buddha who compared our human predicament to children at play in a house that is on fire. Someone outside calls the children urgently to get out of the house but they don’t hear the warning and keep on playing. The mindlessness of the children in this story could be applied to the way we do so many things in life, including meditation. We want to meditate or we have been meditating for a long time but we feel that our practice is stale and uninspiring.  The repetition of the mantra lacks devotion or heart and the following of the breath becomes monotonous. We easily get lost in thoughts, imaginings and sleep, specially if it is late at night and we are tired..

The Raja Yoga system, also called Ashtanga Yoga, is one of the four main paths of yoga.  It is a gradual 8-step system where we slowly prepare for meditation which does not come until the 7th step. It is good to remember that there is a preparation process and that it takes time for the body and mind to be ready for meditation. According to Raja Yoga we first work on observing an ethical and healthy lifestyle, then we purify our physical and energy bodies by doing asanas and pranayama and unblocking energy knots in muscles, organs, psychic nerves and chakras.   By this time our body and mind have quieted down, the energy has increased and we are able to withdraw the senses within and be still and silent.  At this point we are ready to start concentrating on a specific point or object and keeping our attention there for a while without being distracted by a fidgeting body and a scattered mind.

This does not mean that we have to excel at all these stages before attempting to meditate but we have to be aware that the body/mind needs time to get strong and stable.   This also applies to the breath as we cannot slow down our breath as long as our body is uneasy and our mind preoccupied with many worldly thoughts. Finally when we find the strength, time and  motivation to sit on a cushion we can start concentration.  Many of the practices that we call meditation are in fact concentration.  We try to keep our attention on a focus (breath, image, mantra) and when our mind wanders away we bring it back to the object of concentration.

As we all know concentration requires effort and the sharper the concentration, the more clarity and focus we get. A Zen teacher used to say: “Big effort, big result; little effort, little result”. I would like to add that it is not so much a question of quantity of time on the cushion but rather of quality and intensity.  This is why I suggest keeping the sessions SHORT but INTENSE, applying yourself 100%.  Throw yourself into the practice you have chosen for 5 or 10 minutes like if those were your last minutes left to live, or like if your house was on fire.  That is a lot of intensity, I agree, but you already know that if you apply yourself halfheartedly nothing much happens. If in spite of applying yourself fully you still feel drowsy or distracted, break the session, stretch your legs, drink some water and even splash your face with cold water if you feel sleepy.  Then resume with your practice. This may sound extreme but we need to approach our practice in a radical manner to move out of our comfort zone.  Keep this plan for a few weeks and then increase the duration of the session little by little as you feel that you want to meditate longer.  The trick is to always get up from the cushion on a positive note feeling that you could have stayed longer.

Have you ever become involved in an activity, perhaps writing or playing music, when you totally forgot about yourself?   It is an amazing experience to realize suddenly that one or two hours have evaporated.  Maybe you even forgot that you were hungry or that you needed to stretch your legs.  That intense concentration is what we need when we sit on our cushion and then, eventually, we may find ourselves moving into a state beyond form and time while at the same time remaining intensely aware.  This is meditation, the 7th step of Raja Yoga.  The next and last step is samadhi, a super conscious state with many  levels of depth.

Finally, Swami Vishnu’s main recommendation for meditators in his excellent book Meditation and Mantras is regularity as through repetition we learn and create new habits.  In this case we are trying to establish the habit of meditation to the point that if you don’t do it one day we miss it.

To summarize, concentration or meditation is not drifting into a placid state that can lead us quickly into distraction and sleepiness. Concentration requires effort and until we can reach one-pointedness of mind, it is work. Because it is difficult to sustain a sharp focus for a long time it is important not to strain ourselves, so short bouts of intensity and periods of rest are very important. After you have followed this strategy for some time, try once in a while to meditate for the fun of it, forgetting about the time limitation, the effort or the goal.

And speaking of goals, why do we put ourselves through this training? It is good once in a while to refocus our intention.  We want to increase our concentration to be able to meditate.  And we want to meditate because we want to rest, to disconnect from the body/mind tyranny that keeps us bonded to our preoccupations, imaginings, anxieties and fears. When we are able to let go of our story, even for a brief moment, the energy can finally flow through us unimpeded and the result is an intense experience of belonging, love, clarity and bliss, that which we are.  And the reverberations of that surge of energy can last more than a brief moment, they can actually transform deeply the way we think, move, see, talk and approach life.  That is why we practice.

May you all apply yourselves wholeheartedly and may you all drop body and mind!  This is my wish.

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