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Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States
Karen is a yogini, writer, student, teacher and meditator. She founded Garden Street School of Yoga in 2000. Karen lives with her husband Chris. They have two amazing sons, Eli and Leo (both of them young men).

Jan 2, 2011

Making Ghee

"We have to practice, because suffering must blossom into bliss,
and limitation must explode into unboundedness
we must drink of the Ecstatic Serenity."  ~~ Paul Muller-Ortega
 “Happiness consists in finding out precisely what the 'one thing necessary' may be, in our lives, and in gladly relinquishing all the rest. For then, by a divine paradox, we find that everything else is given us together with the one thing we needed.”  ~~Thomas Merton

For me, the one thing necessary is attention. Attention is love.  The way I clarify and consolidate my attention is through sadhana / practice. Steady practice over a long period of time, with devotion (abhyasa).  I must practice.  Practice is Attention is Love.

Yesterday, as I contemplated “the one thing necessary” (prepping to teach the New Year Morning practice) I was also making ghee. Ghee is highly a clarified butter used in Ayurveda and East Indian cooking. What it takes to make ghee is alchemy.

First there’s sunlight and water and earth – then grass – and then a cow to chew the grass.  There’s a lot of chewing and re-chewing of the cud. And then there’s milk. There’s a lot of churning of the milk and then the cream to reach the stage where the grass becomes butter. It seems crazy to say that grass is ghee.  It doesn't nourish me if I eat it.  If I put it in a ghee lamp it doesn't give light - and in fact puts out the light and makes smoke.  But ghee IS grass. It's just that there's been a lot of working of that grass to make it into ghee.

About sadhana – It’s a process and there’s a sequence to it. It’s not random. You don’t clip a little grass  and then try to make it into butter.  You must stay with a coherent sadhana -  take things in sequence. It’s important to have a Teacher to teach the steps and the sequence.  And you must stay steady through much chewing and re-chewing and churning and heating and filtering..  Sadhana is a way of purification and transformation – and it’s not casual or quick.  

It seems inflated to say that our nature is unbounded light.  The daily round is not usually full of radiance and bliss.  Mostly we don't experience ourselves as a source of eternal light and often feel  we are slogging through a dullness and a flatness that dims the light and generates smoke.  But we ARE light. It's just that there's a lot of sadhana necessary to turn dross into gold.

The butter goes into a very sturdy cooking pot –and is subjected to a long slow cooking.  I cook the butter on a low heat for 12 hours. There is no hurrying. Then comes a time-intensive, patience-demanding filtering process.   I have to stay with the process. I can’t just wander away or lose interest.  I have to stay with it. 

About sadhana: Practice involves heat – tapas. The heat requires a good chamber - a strong vessel of body and mind which can withstand the rigors of sadhana.  Sadhana is rigorous.   You have to stand steady in the fire of your own transformation.  You have to patiently endure the filtering of all aspects of your self.

About ghee: It’s like preparing a meal. If I stop in the middle I have neither a wonderful meal nor do I have the fresh ingredients. I just have a mess in the kitchen.  If I stop in the middle of making ghee I have neither the fresh butter nicely packaged nor do I have the liquid gold of ghee stored in beautiful jars.  I just have a bubbling mess in the pot. 

About Sadhana: The path is long. Hurrying is not skillful. To be fervent is skillful but to be in a hurry is not.  Steady practice over a long period of time – with devotion – is skillful. And you have to stay with the process - not wander away – otherwise you have neither what you started with – (innocence and the freshness of beginner's luck) - nor what you hoped to achieve - (true transformation into enduring gold).  Instead you have an indigestible mess in the alchemical chamber - the kitchen of your Work-body.

Finally there is ghee.  Ghee keeps for a very long time without refrigeration, lends a wonderful flavor to foods, builds ojas (strength and renewal). When warm it pours like liquid gold and can be used to fuel the ghee lamps that are often used in sacred spaces. It burns clean and long and bright.

Through practice, we are transformed to ghee, just as "suffering blossoms into bliss". Ghee is like pure attention, clarified love, distilled desire.  The heat of tapas together with patience and steadiness have already burned off the distractions and confusion that can cloak the clear light of the heart.  Instead the light of consciousness burns clean and long and bright. The clarified gold that is our own true nature can now be  poured into the sacred fire of offering, into our heart's work, creativity, service and ultimately into the Great Heart that lives in each of us - as us. 

For me, the one thing necessary is Attention. Attention is Love.  The way I distill and clarify my Attention, my Love, is through sadhana: steady practice over a long period of time, with devotion.  I must practice.  Practice is Attention is Love.

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