React or respond?

 

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Reagire o rispondere… to react or respond.  Reagire,  is to go on the same spinning wheel, girare,  where as rispondere offers other possibilities.  The Hardest  yoga to practice: Relationships.  For me, to react is instinctual and useful in life threatening situations producing the fight or flight instinct .  However it is less useful in continuing to have relationships and in growing in my own capacity for tolerance of difference , accepting that there is a force or power or consciousness working on levels I cannot see and often do not understand and that my experience at best is still in the world of appearances, Maya or illusion filtered through my Samskara, patterns set in this or other lifetimes.

It is a classic of Yoga teachers or for that matter anyone to need practice what we preach because we don’t always  walk the way we talk.  But, no finger-pointing here so I’ll say…Though I do my best but sometimes seem to react as though someone were threatening my life, becoming defensive rather than curious to see their side.  I sometimes feel jealous .  I get confused with standing for principles, wanting to be right and wanting to be liked.  I find the world beautiful and in conflict at the same time, often feeling powerless as I look at the lack of peace in the world.  I want to blame them, the politicians or people in power like business etc but the only place I know to look is inside  to try to see what part of ‘me’ is greedy, wants power, thinks to be in the right.

Fortunately for me, my battles are small.  Unfortunately, I don’t have the direct line to Krishna the way Arjuna did in the Mahabharata.  My own inner voice is sometimes like the team of wild voices or unclear.  But if I sit silently, with an inner smile and wait to be called to action I do less harm.  However, Arjuna still had to fight for his principles though he wanted to withdraw, and so do I.  Or at least to stand firm, seeking to be open and accept whatever knowing this too shall pass.

My life at the moment is tranquil, mostly except for the inner storms but the world is not.  As I prepare to go first to New York City then on to the Himalayan Institute in Pennsylvania for 10 days of Tantra yoga practice I reflect, they seem very different but both good place to enjoy and practice yoga.  When I do my practice, I feel less at the effect of my habitual patterns of reacting and more in the flow of responding so looking forward to the next phase of the journey.  I need to do a lot of practice!  Let’s do it together to find where our rough edges rub up against each other and let that polish the diamond so it shines and reflects light rather than cutting, except to cut through the illusion.  The Diamond sutra is in Hridya, the heart where true wisdom is so for a moment, let’s close our eyes together and feel the breath and lightness there. Om namaste.

To reflect upon:  “The world is an ocean of bliss, my body is but an island.” Shankara

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Hanuman: Living… and leaping… between two worlds.

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As I’ve said , “The pose is not the point.” But, it is often a place to start to explore and connect.  Hanumanasana connects the future and the past in one moment,  stretching forward and back while rising up from a firmly planted base with an open heart to fly.  Hanuman leaped between two worlds to moving mountains and battling forces that would pervert love to an act of possession. He’s a monkey faced deity, who serves Rama, the light with all his force carrying the image of Rama and his divine hanumanheartconsort Siva, a manifestation of Lakshmi the Divine Mother and a symbol of prosperity and creativity, or abundance.

Those on a spiritual path will find that as long as we are embodied, we live between two worlds. Sometimes the stretch is almost impossible. I am not going to talk about the asana or even the legend, just use the image to explore. We all seek to thrive not just survive and well, for that we each in so far as it is possible seek the environment where this is possible. Not every one of course has the luxury of choice and really we all just try to do the best we can at any given time or place.

Shakespeare said, “All the world’s a stage…” We all play many parts in our lifetimes . One of the yogic questions is to ask “Who am I? ” When I was acting it was my experience that losing myself in a role was often a way to find new horizons but not to step off the edge into indulgence, always maintaining a certain awareness. This is akin to witness consciousness where acting is less for show than for expressing a deeper truth. Life is for living and Karma Yoga is action. We are born into this world and play our parts. Some of us are lucky enough to find something beyond fulfilling roles called Dharma, our destiny.

Somewhere as we emerged from that infinite sea of Purusha, potential, into Prakriti , manifestation we moved from Buddhi divine intelligence to Chitta ,illusion , Manas , the senses, and The Ahamkara or the “I- maker” . I’ll leave that evolution to more expert explanations except to say that maybe the capacity for awareness was the original function but we humans are great forgetters and separated ourselves completely from source in an attempt to become independent, instead finding just the opposite has happened. That’s just a theory of mine that there’s a right sized awareness of self that is not the inflated ego of I, me, mine which is appropriate for a healthy two-year old discovering itself but not so helpful or healthy for a grown human. Ego is quick to assume credit and assign blame , “My way is the right way …”, while I believe the real “I” is without preference, or back to the earlier discussion a human… being.

In this sense, there are many paths to the center. My own is a blending of Christian mysticism and Tantra Yoga. The Christ is in a certain sense, Rama.  It is the light in each and every one of us and when illumined is divine. Not that I expect or even claim to be close to that but it seems in our current world as I once heard, “Christ has a lot of fans but very few followers.” As near as I can see, there are many roads to the center and many paths may cross without it being necessary to be the one and only one.  Meantime, let’s be kind to one another even those we don’t ‘like’.

Tantra is defined by Rod Stryker in The Four Desires is “That which allows us to safely expand or grow beyond limitation.” Tantra is defined as weaving, “to weave the richness of spiritual experience and everyday life into a single vibrant tapestry.” This tapestry is called Indra’s net where as each strand is woven there is a brilliant jewel reflecting all the other strands. It is also the toolkit or methods which will help us to touch the real nature of who we are and to move towards fulfillment of divine destiny or Dharma. Ultimately it is from this reuniting, a dissolving of self into other while at the same time finding one’s self,  that we experience love.

When we step out of the spotlight and become or experience that we are light itself then something magic happens . We see who we really are and maybe who ‘they’ really are.  Then there’s no more us and them. At least that’s the theory.

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In the meantime, we can find delight  as well as challenge, stretching from the inside out and dancing on the edge between darkness and light without  fear, or even with it,  in this theater of life. Practice Hanumanasana, not the splits of the asana but the leap between two worlds  opening your heart to the light .

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Life is for living, considering all…

bridgethegapUrdhva dhanurasana is fun and full but in the wheel of this lifetime, life is for living not posing… and sharing in loving consideration of all living beings as part of the fabric woven and rewoven through eternity as Indra’s Net.

The important thing is not what pose you do but rather letting go of the image of who we think we are while at the same time nurturing and growing in relationship to All.  No backbend will do it, the bridge we must build and continue to maintain is that which stretches from within our hearts , heart to heart, mind to mind, being to being.  That is built in the silent sacred place of being.  The inner cave of the heart meditation  is a good place to start: you can find that meditation online or just look in your own.cave

Sometimes the gap between human and being seems to be an insurmountable barrier or an uncrossable chasm.  We build a bridge with conscious action.  If in fact, as yoga says we are all one, then the apparent space between us is in fact part of that one.

Life is indeed a koan, a riddle , but living it to the fullest as an expression of the creator, creating  and sharing the space is a gift.

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Human being, an oxymoron

bloomIs the term or compound word human being an oxymoron: words which when connected are incongruous or contradictory like dry rain, sweet pain or make haste slowly?  Human, a limited finite form .  Being , essence and infinite.  Yes , it would seem that it’s an oxymoron this human being.  As we are born we descend to the earth and  take on the form which we identify as ourself.  It appears to be separate from all the other ‘selfs’ around.  Yoga says this is maya, illusion and yet it’s a pretty darn convincing appearance we call reality.  In meditation there is a sense of dissolving the boundaries and experiencing the infinite eternal omniscient essence , being present in and yet not of this world.  When we experience this , with time we begin to bridge the gap between human and being, but we definitely make haste slowly.  The faster we run in our lives of getting somewhere and seeking to be somebody, the farther we seem to be away from that deep reservoir of being.  But, the good news is that it is nearer to us than hands and feet, as close as our breath.  We we stop for a moment to drink for the eternal spring in meditation we are refreshed, the dry ground becomes lush and fertile.  We call lit Prana Shakti, that which rises up from the unseeable and  feeds the soul.  All worldly success is ultimately like dry rain, but the sweet pain of the realization of our impermanence as form and our infinity as being makes for a rich life.

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What Does Yoga Mean?

molomeditate2Yoga has become such a popular practice. What was once the province of far away ascetics now becoming available at your local gym , online or in schools with various brand names to identify the ‘type’ of yoga offered or the nature of the environment.  There are many seekers and many guides each of them referring to Yoga .  I’ve been doing this Yoga stuff for over half of my life and once again am brought to reflect what the word and the practice means to me.  Many people know it as physical fitness.  Some know it as a commitment to a practice that includes meditation and a commitment to a conscious life.  It’s a spiritual practice which requires no belief but rather an openness to experience the divine in and through the vehicle of body/mind.   We have learned that it means to yoke or to connect or at another level to see and experience the connection that makes us all one and yet completely individual.

I discovered  Yoga in a book on the sale table at U.C.L.A Bookstore when I was in graduate school there in Dance.  It was a life saver at a point in my life when I was completely awash in the energy world, a dancing Dervish spinning out of my mind and out of control.  Yoga grounded me and gave me the ground from which to stand and to grow from a child woman rebelling against  almost everything , to being who I am , a grown up though still a work in progress.  It brought me feet back to earth and to begin to walk the path towards the ground of being. I am no longer without a center, which brings me to smile because for years I practiced and taught at the Center for Yoga on Larchmont in Los Angeles. It is also what gave me the freedom to find new ground, to move to Italy, where I now live and reinvent myself once again .

Yoga is and continues to be that which grounds me while at the same time freeing me from the limitations of who I think I am.   So I would define it as experiencing the ground of being and the road to freedom , the latter is in line with ancient texts that say the promise of Yoga is Moksha, liberation.  That in fact is what happens when I let go of who I think I am, this body and experience the eternal, unknowable, presence of love.

Along the way in living my life I’ve learned to value both connection and boundaries, both aspects of the yoke which helps me to focus, to work together rather than at odds with myself and others so that I am responsible.   It has not been an easy task to let go of image, the need to be loved has slowly transformed into well, as someone wise once told me, an act of love which creates something beautiful.  I have learned to practice Karma yoga,  to perceive and act in a way that develops a sense of self worth, a slow and painful process of uncovering, discovering and letting go.

Each time I come back to the breath it is new. Each breath I take I am renewed, or can be if I am present for the moment.  The body breaks down, the wrapping wrinkles and sags yet the process of regeneration continues until we die.  Maybe even after we die to this world, certainly  on a cellular level the transformation continues and our essence is eternal.

I’ve hungered for recognition and found fame, the little bit of it I’ve had, an empty feast that leaves me hungry. The echoes of  that desire still remain but now the song I sing is that of the hunger to experience life and to share that experience joyfully and as fully as I am able in any given moment.  It led me to writing and singing my own songs as an expression of who I am and who I want to be: Songs of longing, fulfillment, joy, pain, silliness, loss and love. I seek new harmony and balance.  I love the life I live   it with a loving mate makes it especially delicious.  Ah, another definition of Yoga, to share in love and savor the deliousness along with the bitter as all part of it .

I continue to practice and teach those who choose to come to me, who are attracted to the particular light which shines . As another wise person once told me, my job is to shine the light so that those around can find their own way.  Sometimes I still hear the echoes of those old voices, “After all these years why am I not known?”  And then a smile wrinkles my already wrinkled brow and a twinkle rises up from within saying, ” I know you.  I love you.”  And that seems to me to be a pretty dandy definition of yoga, being known and knowing you are loved.  One of the primary questions proposed in meditation being who am I?  Om tat sam.  I am that I am being an enigmatic truth.

I don’t know anymore what Yoga is.  There are lots of experts out there, I’m not one of them.  Seems to me that it’s something that happens to you, in you, through you when you just do the best you can and a breath at a time, string together a life with pearls and beads and whatever else you find to create and weave into Indra’s Net. It’s also the grace that arrives when you listen to the still small voice within that says, “I am” without a noun.

Yoga is.  For me it’s not something from India but from within .  An ancient gift from the divine that keeps giving in infinite form and expression.  When we ‘do Yoga’ we become who we really are .  We are ‘named’ or hallmarked.  Recently in a class I took online in Songwriting I chose to be called Shakti Pahr just for fun   Being addressed as Shakti was strange and delightful as well as feeling wickedly presumptuous and silly.  But it also felt like honoring that creative force of Shakti which manifests as you and me individually. We are all Children   of the Divine  with different names and forms .  When we create we touch and are touched by that divinity to share the gift and it multiplies.

Yoga: to share the gift , to create together a world in which living beings thrive.  I’ve heard it said that the world doesn’t need more Yoga Teachers, it needs more Yogis.  I don’t think that means skinnny men or women twisted into strange shapes or sitting in some cave in the Himalayas, although obviously they too serve life.  But rather for those of us living this life in the modern world, to meditate, to play , to create with the enthusiasm of a child in discovering and to share as adults with responsibility and love the fruits of the seeds we plant .  Om namaste.

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Don’t Feed the Monster

Don’t feed the Monster

I was reflecting as I was restringing a necklace I broke. First, on the patience it had taken to string it in the first place and then on being willing to do it again. There was no feeling of failure or blame, just something to be done if I wanted to have the necklace to wear. I could choose not to, be sorry that it happened and move on. It is not valuable but something I enjoy, little crystals dancing light. prism

We’re all little dancing lights but sometimes we choose to stay in the dark or let the dark stay in us as in the old expression, hiding your light under a bushel. Sometimes it’s even necessary to go into the darkness, not to be afraid of the things that go bump in the night or the monsters under the bed that make you pull the magic covers up over you for protection. 

Recently a group of friends who study yoga with me got together to do a book study on The Four Desires by Rod Stryker. It’s been a rich experience in deepening our understanding and sharing but then at a certain point, just before finishing the book somehow or other we stalled and haven’t been able to get together.  Perhaps that’s because we can move forward together but each of us must find a way to go through it on our own.

I still have lots of contact with them individually.  One friend realized that her obstacle was one of perspective; that she already had what she was seeking. Another had the pleasure of seeing a sankalpa realized beyond expectations in an unexpected direction but still carried the weight of her vikalpa right up to the doorway.  She needed a lot of hand holding to get to acceptance of the opportunity being offered her and I began to be aware that there was a certain attachment to Vikalpa. In fact, Vikalpa is defined as a ‘stronger’ desire that stands in the way. In some ways it keeps us safe in our known.   At the same time a third of our group is determinedly moving towards her Sankalpa but seemingly carrying a heavy weight each step of the way .  Therefore, it’s taking great energy and committment but I wish that there were a way to make it if not easier, at least have more ease.    It occurred to me that in some way the Sankalpa and the Vikalpa are not just in conflict but rather raging a war for supremacy. No one wins. The more we battle the stronger the Vikalpa seems to become, as though it feeds off the energy of conflict.
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A long time ago I started saying to myself, “Don’t feed the monster!” Don’t feed it but look at it, see it for what it is. In my own case, it is very often a little me puffed up to protect itself and needing my attention, but a different kind of attention. Sometimes, it needs an invitation to play. I have found that creating something just for the joy of doing it is a terrific antidote for becoming right sized, both me and the ‘monsters’.

I used to think that realizing my dreams was some kind of magic thing, not understanding necklacethat it’s stringing together one bead, one crystal, one breath, one moment at a time. The string may break and I have to start again or I may decide that it isn’t what I wanted after all. But the process of well creating it brings me closer to my Dharma, my real life purpose which is to create and play. More than stringing pearls or events life feels like an interweaving of strands much like Indra’s net, each time a strand is woven there is a gem reflecting all the other gems. Indra the great dreamer had to realize that he had a thunderbolt to free the waters of the Earth by dropping it on the monster who had blocked them. 

In a certain sense, it feels like a thunderbolt, a flash of insight when we see our Vikalpa. That may be enough to dissolve it or at least take away the power of fearing it by seeing it for what it is . However, it seems to me at times that  to ask ourselves ‘Why?” or spend too much time looking at it under a microscope,as the reason, we  become more caught in its spell as it looms larger rather than dissolving.

It’s at this point that we can benefit from play. From creating as a child might just for the fun of it. In fact, I remember rolling around the floor, jumping, stretching, twisting my body as natural expression with a kind of “look at me” glee added in on special occasions. Asana , done with a sense of being an explorer in new territory rather than recreating old forms is an avenue to do this, creating form with our body in space so that a new form becomes visible inside as well as out.

Breathing consciously gives us the sense of putting the moments of our life likep earls on a string and watching the waves of breath can calm citta, the waves of our thoughts. Relaxation, particularly Yoga Nidra help to unknot the strands and of course, can be avenues to deeper awareness. Meditation is a form of creating new ground from which to grow as well as connecting us to the source of all that is. That Source is a creator, and since we are ‘made in its image’, Creating is absolutely essential to thrive, or as an old friend used to say, “Thrival not just survival!”

The monster is a judge and jury condemning us to a life of struggle. But it is also just a character in the dream. There are so many others wanting to come out and play. Who knows, even that ‘old monster’ may want to take time off or even, play a different part. So, I suggest finding the Artist married to the Creator and letting her have her way, giving her a place in our lives so that the unique gift we have can be revealed through union . Then we don’t feed the monster but feed our selves, and others.                                                    (sotto tradotto)       

Non alimentare i mostri! (tradotto da Katia Zamarian)

Stavo riflettendo mentre rifacevo una collana che avevo rotto. Primo, sulla pazienza che ci è voluta nel crearla la prima volta e poi nell’essere disposta a rifarla. Non provavo nessuna senso di fallimento o di colpa, semplicemente qualcosa che dovevo fare se volevo indossare di nuovo la collana. Potevo scegliere che non volevo, dispiacermi che fosse successo e andare avanti. Non è di valore ma qualcosa che mi piace, piccoli cristalli di luce danzante.

Siamo tutti piccole luci danzanti, ma a volte scegliamo di restare nelle tenebre o lasciamo che il buio soggiorni in noi, come si diceva una volta, nascondendo la nostra luce sotto un scatola. A volte è perfino necessario entrare nelle tenebre, per non avere paura delle cose in cui ci imbattiamo di notte o dei mostri sotto al letto che ti fanno tirare su la coperta magica per coprirti e proteggerti.

Recentemente un gruppo di amiche che praticano yoga con me si è riunito per studiare il libro di Rod Stryker, The Fours Desires. È stata un’esperienza intensa di approfondimento della nostra conoscenza e di condivisione, ma ad un certo punto, proprio poco prima di finire il libro, in un modo o in un altro ci siamo bloccate e non siamo più state in grado di incontrarci. Forse perché abbiamo fatto progressi insieme ma ognuna di noi deve trovare il modo di completarlo da sola.

Sono ancora in contatto con loro individualmente. Un’amica ha realizzato che i suoi ostacoli erano legati alla prospettiva; che lei ha già ciò che stava cercando. Un’altra ha avuto il piacere di vedere il suo Sankalpa realizzato oltre le sue stesse aspettative in una direzione inaspettata, ma si è portata dietro ancora il peso del suo Vikalpa fino alla porta d’entrata. Ha avuto bisogno di molto sostegno per accettare l’opportunità che le veniva offerta e io ho iniziato ad essere consapevole che c’era un certo attaccamento al Vikalpa. In realtà, Vikalpa è definito come un desiderio “più forte” che ostacola. In un certo senso ci mantiene al sicuro in ciò che conosciamo. Contemporaneamente la terza del gruppo si sta muovendo con determinazione verso il proprio Sankalpa, ma apparentemente con estrema fatica ad ogni passo. Perciò, richiede molta energia ed impegno, ma mi auguro che ci sia un modo per realizzarlo, se non più facile almeno più comodo. A me è capitato che in qualche modo il Sankalpa e il Vikalpa non sono semplicemente in conflitto tra loro, ma che piuttosto scatenano una guerra per la supremazia. Nessuno vince, più combattiamo più il Vikalpa sembra rafforzarsi, come se traesse energia dal conflitto.

Molto tempo fa ho iniziato a dire a me stessa, “Non alimentare i mostri!”, non dargli da mangiare, ma guardali, vedili per quello che sono. Nel mio caso, si tratta spesso di un Piccolo Me che si gonfia per proteggersi e che ha bisogno della mia attenzione, ma di un diverso tipo di attenzione. A volte ha bisogno di un invito a giocare. Ho scoperto che il creare qualcosa per il solo gusto di farlo è un antidoto micidiale per ridimensionare sia me che i mostri.

Ero abituata a pensare che realizzare i miei sogni fosse una sorta di magia, senza capire che si tratta di infilare insieme una perlina, un cristallo, un respiro alla volta. Il filo si può spezzare, e devo ricominciare da capo o posso decidere che non è ciò che volevo in fin dei conti. Ma il processo di creare bene mi avvicina al mio Dharma, il vero scopo della mia vita, che è creare e giocare. Più che inanellare perle o eventi, la vita sembra un intrecciarsi di fili molto simili alla rete di Indra, ogni volta che un filo viene tessuto c’è una gemma che riflette tutte le altre gemme. Indra il grande sognatore deve realizzare che ha un fulmine per liberare le acque della Terra scagliandolo sui mostri che le hanno bloccate.

In un certo senso è come un fulmine, un lampo di intuizione quando vediamo il nostro Vikalpa. Può essere sufficiente a dissolverlo o almeno a toglierli il potere di spaventarci vedendolo per quello che è. Tuttavia mi sembra che a volte ci chiediamo “Perché?” o spendiamo troppo tempo osservandolo al microscopio, e di conseguenza diventiamo più intrappolati nel suo incantesimo e così incombe minaccioso invece che dissolversi.

È a questo punto che possiamo trarre beneficio dal gioco. Dal creare come farebbe un bambino, per il solo gusto di farlo. In realtà, mi ricordo che mi rotolavo per terra, saltavo, mi allungavo, piegavo il mio corpo come espressione naturale che in occasioni speciali si arricchiva di un gioioso “Guardami!”. L’Asana, fatta con il senso di essere un esploratore in un nuovo territorio invece che creare vecchie forme è una via per fare ciò, creare forme con il nostro corpo nello spazio così che una nuova forma diventa visibile dentro e fuori di noi. Respirare consapevolmente ci da il senso di infilare i momenti della nostra vita come perle su una collana e osservare le onde del respiro può calmare ‘citta’, le londe dei nostri pensieri. Il rilassamento, in particolare lo Yoga Nidra, aiuta a sciogliere i nodi e certamente il respiro e il rilassamento possono essere la via per rendere più profonda la consapevolezza. La meditazione è un modo di creare un nuovo terreno da cui crescere e da cui connettersi alla fonte di tutto ciò che è. La Fonte è il creatore, e siccome siamo “fatti a sua immagine” creare è assolutamente essenziale per essere felici, o come un vecchio amico era solito dire: “Godersela, non semplicemente sopravvivere!”

Il mostro è un giudice e una giuria che ci condanna a una vita di lotta. Ma è anche semplicemente un personaggio in un sogno. Ce n’è così tanti altri che voglio uscire e giocare. Chissà, perfino quel “vecchio mostro” potrebbe volersi prendere una pausa o addirittura recitare un’altra parte. Quindi suggerisco di trovare l’Artista sposata al Creatore e lasciarle il suo spazio, darle un posto nella nostra vita di modo che il dono unico che abbiamo si possa manifestare attraverso l’unione. Così non diamo da mangiare al mostro, ma a noi stessi e agli altri.

 

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Whats my yoga today?

What’s my yoga today?  I started asking this question thinking of creating an app, very 21st century, with a program that would ask some relevant questions regarding physical, emotional, mental state or from Ayurvedic dosha and then respond with a ‘personalized’ short practice.  The idea was partly to stimulate a home practice by giving a starting point and partly to look at prescriptive practice and it’s benefits.

In the end, it just seemed too complicated and too im-personal as I continue to say it is a personal practice which includes both an asana/pranayama/meditation sequence and applying it in our daily life.  To be yoga now, means to practice the principles.  So, I decided to ask the question as a real question at first requesting a one word response I got: Balance. Pause.Breathing. Stepping away from reactivity. Transform frustration into joy. Transformation. Grazie. Atonement. Surrender. Insight. Liberating. Flexibility. Moving. Un-attachment.

Now I ask myself and friends/students .  No longer limited to one word, which was hard to stick by I have continued to ask this question and decided to renew my blogging commitment to ask it here.  So, if you like answer the question.

“What’s my yoga today?”

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The Feet of the Guru and Yoga Lineage: Ancient Tradition Made Commercial

Okay, so it’s important to have a teacher. It’s useful to have a guide who’s trudged the road before you to give you direction even though it’s likely that each and every one of us will stray along the way, trip and fall into unseen holes or come up again seeming dead ends. It is there that a teacher can be especially helpful, not by saying “I told you so” but by giving  a helping hand and perhaps some reassurance that we are still loved in spite of our failure to live up to our own expectations. But when does it stop being useful? When does it become fawning at the feet of the guru? When do we stop bowing down and stand in the center of our own being whether it’s in our yoga practice or that greater school – life?

I’m beginning to get fed up with the brand naming of yoga with requirements to be part of this or that lineage. Each lineage, each brand in some way centered around a particular teacher who forgive me if I say it seems has created their ‘brand’ as a way of marketing their product. The commercialization of Yoga as a product.  Many of the ‘products’ are very good, being offered by sincere people who truly believe in what they are offering. Somehow though it all seems very hierarchical to me with inner and outer circles. Not quite in the spirit of Union that I understand the Living Tradition of Yoga to be, a gift of the divine to realize our true Self.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think we should all be starving students or spend our lives in poverty. Part of the teaching at least in Tantra Yoga is infinite abundance and joy seeing the divine in all aspects of her being. I value my teachers. I have sat at the feet of them to learn and continue to honor that . However, part of what I’ve been taught is that it’s necessary for me to stand on my own two feet and walk away with love, bowing in gratitude for the gifts of insight given to find my own path. There is no one who can show you ‘your way’, the best a teacher can do is direct you towards it, share their experience and pass along what they have learned to give you what you need in order to find your way.  That plus a little inspiration, Shakti.

When I began doing yoga it was a joyful path of discovery and sharing. My teachers were my peers. No one was getting rich from yoga , it was a practice to enrich our lives. It was something to be shared. There was present the realization that being in the consciousness of someone who had touched or been touched by the divine is invaluable. My first teacher said that it was like going to be with his mother with nothing in mind , nothing to get , just to experience joy of being in her presence , in love. And the mother, sensing the open heart gave what was needed without requirement even for a thank you but rather because it is her essence and joy to see her children grow and flourish. To thrive.

Yoga promises Moksha, liberation and also for some Samadhi , higher consciousness or Nirvana, enlightenment and living in the kingdom of heaven while still on earth. Is the key to enter the kingdom a pass saying “Joe Sent Me”? Is being part of a lineage where one finds the word or mantra which leads the way to find the door to enter or knowing how to open it? It was my impression that this Yoga was to pass along one consciousness to another, to give that which had been given freely to those able to receive it. It is of course true that in order to receive there must be an individual development of consciousness. The vessel must be fit to hold and cherish the gift. In fact, the warning is given to keep it secret within the depth of our being letting the outward signs attract but sharing essence only with those who can see it. For that a certain amount of study, svadyaya, is necessary. Tapas as wall, burning away the old consciousness to the point where one can recognize the master. At that point, bow down to receive the blessing then go forth and share the seeds. That is seems to me is the school of yoga which may be called lineage.

My first meditation teacher told this story. Students on a retreat said , “Ah, wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a place here to come and meditate?” He replied , “If the students want it they will create it.” He told of being awakened with a jolt in the middle of the night and being told, “You’re the teacher. It’s your consciousness that creates the space.” And so he did. At the same time, he said “I teach those who come to me but have no need of them to support me, it is “I” who must support the seeker.” Now, he didn’t mean that he was there to write checks but rather in saying, create no organization around my name or the teachings as once you do, the organization needs to be supported and you lose sight of the message.

These are very fine lines to tread between the other saying, “That which supports not the wayfarer is no way to fare upon.” We are not sanyasin, begging on street corners but rather filled with the light of consciousness we live in abundance and harmony. Our needs are met because not only ii is “The Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom of heaven.” It is the mother’s good pleasure to give you herself. She is a part of each and every one. We are born from her womb and live in her embrace when we stop trying to be something separate and apart, we are unique individual expressions of the divine.

That’s what I understand the gift of YOGA to be. A personal realization, a practice which each individual can do in order to support and lead them to find their own true passionate aliveness. It is not a renunciation of Life but a letting go of one’s attachment to the form in continual transformation while living in the eternal dance of breath breathing life breathing you. But then, maybe I’m still in school.

Maybe instead of looking up to to someone to see the feet of the guru, I need to look down.  Having your head and your feet in the same place is a good ways along in being present.  As long as I live there’s learning so what I understand today may evolve.   I certainly hope so.  I’ll keep studying and meditating , walking the path while tempered by the fires of life to become a fit vessel both to receive and to share , to “Be Yoga Now”.

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In the darkest days…. the light… ness

There is no true visual, no picture I could find for this for in the dark we cannot see outside.  There are times of darkness and times of light, this is a truth eternal. According to Hindu Scriptures we are in the Kali Yuga, living in the ‘Dark age’ .  As more is revealed, we shrink from seeing what is there.  And yet, we are called upon to look into the very darkness we fear and to see that as the world appears to be crumbling, and all that we believed in challenged by ever greater super powers disempowering the individual the Kali Yuga is definitely a time to practice Yoga.  

“The world is eternally subject to change. We perceive these changes as being favorable or unfavorable, depending on the state of our mind. Thus we experience happiness and unhappiness. The cause of unhappiness is our bondage to the senses and to external objects. This happens through our mind, because of certain samskaras (latent impressions) or avidya present in it. These can be removed through the practice of yoga.” ~ Sri T. Krishnamacharya (“Krishnamacharya: His Life and Teachings” by A. G. Mohan)

We think of spirit lighting the dark places but what if we are asked to go into the darkness without a light, into the place we cannot see. It is true that we each carry the light within but sometimes, it is necessary to enter where that light cannot or does not shine. Think of the frission of fear entering complete darkness. Can we let that energy heighten our awareness beyond the sense of sight upon which we are so dependent. When we understand, we say “I see.” Seeing is believing and yet we are called upon to believe in that which we cannot see, hear , taste, touch or smell. That which is beyond our sense of knowing.

In this sense the darkness may be a velvet embrace of resting in the unknown, the unknowable and trusting that even when we cannot see the presence reveals itself and we are born in the womb of the Eternal Mother until we are ready to return to the world of illusion revealed before our eyes. Can knowing go beyond mere believing, can perception bring us to a place of awareness where we are certain that there is a something, not just a something lurking in the dark which is what we fear as children and continue in some way to fear even as we outgrow the stage of monsters under the bed. Until we have rested in the darkness, including rather than excluding whatever is there even the void as part of the spectrum not something to be blocked out or overcome we fear that which we cannot see. A death of the self I identify as me because in this place I have no identity separate and apart from I am. The ‘me’ I know must die daily and above all I fear death yet know that it will come to us all, and what will remain when I am gone? Will I dissolve into the light or be absorbed in the darkness, or both?

At the moment I can’t think of one single expression of consciousness which does not refer to light, enlightenment, illumination, yet I ask if there may not be value in not only bringing light into the darkest parts so that there are no more monsters hiding under the bed but also to embrace the very darkness itself saying and this too is part of me. And this too I need not fear for ‘thou art with me…in the valley of the shadow of death…” So maybe it is death that darkness, that passing from sight . We like to think of it as going towards the light , but we know that light can blind us, if we look directly at the sun . I haven’t found the answer yet but I am certain that darkness is both the absence of light and the void,and yet not the void. When I was younger I wrote a story about how there was a blanket round the world at night and that the stars twinkling in the skies were where moths had eaten holes in the blanket in order to get to the light. That the blanket was also like a cocoon and at night, as we slept there were forces of nature transforming each and every one of us so that someday we could unwrap from the cocoon and become butterflies.

Now, let’s take a deep breath and descend into the darkness, then rather than holding our breath and holding on to what we know, to rest in the unknown, unknowable where perhaps we too shall be transformed. Perhaps dissolving in the depth of that ocean and dying to what we believe in to know that even there, I am .

I don’t know if I’ve described it very well but I feel a frission of excitement in letting the screen grow black, turning the projector off and resting , not sleeping but wide awake. Yoga Nidra resting on the cloud of spirit in the deep velvet cushion and if ouch, things do go bump in the night getting to know them without sight to separate and define. Yoga is union, inclusive rather than exclusive if we practice pratyhara as the ocean. As we dissolve our sense of separation there is nothing out there, or in fact in there to fear.

There’s the old adage, where ever you go, there you are.  Let’s take it to where ever I go, there “I am”…. Kali om shakti om namas te.

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Yoga among Friends

In Downer’s Grove, just a train stop outside of Chicago I found good mid-western hospitality and a place for this warrior to rest and share the yoga .  This is the portal to enter into the Yoga ….Among Friends *
The Workshop was: The Spiritual Warrior: Moving from Gratitude to Grace

GRATITUDE- Svadhyaya – The literal translation of asana is to be seated. Whatever pose’ you are in, whatever situation you life presents you, when you are seated in self there is gratitude. Class will center around asana, pranayama and seated meditation.
ACTION – Karma yoga with Sankalpa – The right ‘use’ of desire Intention creates the direction but then we must walk the path moving towards grace. It takes guts to walk towards your Dharma and clear vision to know what it is. This class will go
deeper and stronger asana and pranayama.
GRACE – Hyrdya – the eternal dwelling place of your heart. “Be still and know that I am …” This does not mean only to sit but also that it is a joy to practice and fulfil the promise of yoga, a direct experience of the divinity which infuses all. Joy permanently resides in our spiritual heart. Experience deeper meditation and learn new techniques.

We explored the elements with svadhyaya, moved deeply and slowly, sweated a bit, laughed and sang and opened our hearts with courage to see what was inside and where we hide.  Once again I see that Yoga is more than asana yet how asana is like a language of ancient hieroglyphics with keys to unlock the body cellular intelligence when we do it not just to ‘do yoga’ but experience the present as well as the possibility of observing where we’ve stored our past .  Sanchita karma, the residue of our past actions which is held and continues to hold us , continually resurfacing so that we often wonder what, this again?!  We continue to suffer. When we are caught in our own net, we need to look for the elements which formed the net.

One of the questions we explored was to look at the Five Elements, their qualities and effects.  These are the qualities that the group came to identify.                                              Perhaps you can add some qualities both of the physical and personality traits.   Try during your practice to see how you might bring each of the elements in : observe how it changes your experience.  What is the principal element that is ‘you’?  And what element do you have need of to balance?

I had always thought of myself as air but on this journey the element in play was clearly fire and space was what I need.  This is what I learned from sharing yoga with a group of committed yogis.  To be a Spiritual warrior requires as noted before, strength with an open heart ,commitment with a clear focus, flexibility and adaptability to change while still directed towards the goal, ability to penetrate and yet remain unseen, a light touch sometimes goes farther than a blow in defeating a seen enemy, and finally – generosity and love , the ability to forgive even while standing up to and fighting against the forces of darkness.  In this way, Arjuna practiced Karma Yoga without Samskara, Scars which continue  creating more Karma … in fact fulfilling his destiny, his Dharma.

It is truly a time when we need to recoup our forces and find a way to be of service in healing ourselves and the planet.  I have no prescription for this but I see that when we practice together, share our hearts out and let each other in the circle embraces and we are truly in a circle of which the center is everywhere and the circumference is nowhere.
In this very breath that we take now lies the secret that all great teachers try to tell us, every breath is a prayer and connects us one to another in a never ending cycle.   So breathe in and sing …. Our favorite mantra was:  This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine….

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