Friday, January 29, 2010

Mind and Breath

"The mind (manas) and the breath (prana) are intimately connected and the activity or the cessation of activity of one affects the other. Hence Patanjali recommended pranayama (rhythmic breath control) for achieving mental equipoise and inner peace."
-B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Yoga, 49th paragraph of the Introduction.

From the moment I took my first breath, I began to process life on earth. The womb was a protective before-time for me. Sure I must have heard some sounds from the world, but I didn't have any awareness of my needs because I was totally taken care of by my mother's body. However I think I may have already started to process worldly emotions by proxy. But after I was born, things started to change. A breast became important, for it fed me. And my breath supported me simultaneously, and continuously as well as always responding to my needs. My eating habits changed and many other things happened as I grew. My breath has been my constant companion through all aspects of my life, so it knows me better than any being ever could. My breath is jostled by my fear, fueled by my anger, and enhanced by my satisfaction and wellbeing.

My breath has a force of its own. It sustains me whether I pay attention to it or not. This breath sometimes speaks of my sadness, it expresses the emotion in my body. Breath can speak as an amplifier for the emotional and physiological state of the body, and if I listen it can speak to me about my life without my voice saying a word.

The breath can be seen as a two-way communication system reminiscent of the childrens old fashioned telephone game played with two cups or cans connected by a string. Two children hold the cups and pull the string taut. Then one speaks into the cup at one end, and the other child puts the other cup over their ear and listens for what is said. And of course the children can also switch positions where the one who was speaking becomes the listener, and the one who was listening speaks. The breath is similar to the string-and-cups between the kids if one child represents your body and the other is your mind.

So in addition to listening to the breath to discover psychic baggage in your body, you can also consciously affect your breath to calm your nervous system. It's a two-way street. When we train the mind to focus on and control the breath it becomes possible to affect your physical and mental systems profoundly. Peaceful vibes.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Quiet Mind

"The deeper significance of the fourfold remedy of maitri, karuna, mudita and upeksa cannot be felt by an unquiet mind. My experience has led me to conclude that for an ordinary man or woman in any community of the world, the way to achieve a quiet mind is to work with determination on two of the eight stages of Yoga mentioned by Patanjali, namely, asana and pranayama."
-B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Yoga, 48th paragraph of the Introduction.

Only a mind that is quiet can significantly see the fourfold remedy that Patanjali offered, according to the above excerpt. My impulse is to say that we shouldn't let ideals prevent us from trying, because even after tons of yoga practice and breath and mind techniques a person may still observe that the mind moves, causing a racket. This is similar to my thoughts on alignment: I use the verbal cues in yoga class to give direction to the action. How these actions show up in different body types end up looking different depending on whether the student is tight, more flexible, or perhaps injured or ill. So I'm never intending to describe an ideal "perfect pose" for everybody because there isn't one. Every body expresses the poses using its own language of arms, legs, torso, head, health and age. There is an art and truth to it.

And so we will also have our own individual paths to the wisdom of Yoga. Our personalities and minds can learn to point in a direction, but there is no one "right way" to attain a Yogic Perspective. So don't let absolute-sounding directives wilt your flower. Trust in your own path. For sure!

It sounds like Mr. Iyengar is saying that across different peoples, the best way to quiet the mind is to practice Asana, or the poses in Yoga, and Pranayama, or Yogic breathing techniques. So he is advising a solution for the masses. Even though there might be different ways that would work for individuals, this approach of posture and breath is likely to work for the multitudes. This reminds me of the "shotgun approach" sometimes used in medicine. ...say a patient comes in with a rash on the butt, and the doctor doesn't know exactly what it is and says it is probably either this or this. The MD can sometimes prescribe a cream that helps either problem without knowing exactly what is afflicting this patient. Similarly we tend to come to Yoga with spiritual problems, even if it was something like a "bad back" that brought someone to their first yoga lesson. So Asana and Pranayama provide a broad approach to healing that can work for just about anybody.

And considering the incredible growth and expansion of Yoga--especially using the posture and breathing techniques--around the world, I'd have to say that it looks like he was totally right when he wrote this many years ago. The different styles of Yoga teaching stir the mix a little differently: some classes teach the techniques seperately, some classes teach the breathwork right along with the postures, and there are so many differences in pacing and class atmosphere. So the ways of practicing Asana and Pranayama are many, but the goal is usually similar: Quiet Mind.

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Understanding my Faults

"Upeksa: It is not merely a feeling of distain or contempt for the person who has fallen into vice (apunya) or one of indifference or superiority towards him. It is a searching self-examination to find out how one would have behaved when faced with the same temptations. It is also an examination to see how far one is responsible for the state into which the unfortunate one has fallen and the attempt thereafter to put him on the right path. The yogi understands the faults of others by seeing and studying them first in himself. This self-study teaches him to be charitable to all."
-B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Yoga, 47th paragraph of the Introduction.

The fundamental value in life is happiness. To have this important aspect strongly present in ones life experience, Patanjali offered plans.

Upeksa is the fourth in the fourfold remedy of Maitri=friendliness, Karuna=compassion, Mudita=delight and Upeksa=disregard.


It would be WAY too easy to say that this meant to just turn away from people that do not please us, but this instruction is not recommending that we disregard people. This doesn't make anyone happier. It tends to harden the heart of the one disregarding the other, and hurt the one who is ignored.

The long, long road to disregarding

I think what we end up disregarding with Upeksa is the judgement, itself. If I see a fault in someone and turn away from them, I am actually turning away from something in myself that I am seeing. What I see might disgust me, but it is something in myself I am seeing whether I acknowledge it or not. Have you ever heard the following catchy phrase?

If you spot it, you got it.

I got jealousy. I got resentment. I got judgement.

Got milk? Got greed? Got fear?

Don't allow someones faults get in the way of honoring them. What a person does does not change their essential worth, so we should not devalue someone when a fault is perceived, but rather it is time to look at ones own experience for clues for greater understanding. I'd like to do this better. There are a few people I've been hurt by. It's very hard to look inside and say, "Okay, how am I just as nasty, or unfeeling, or aggressive and cold?" Or I might ask myself, "How might a similar circumstance have pushed me into doing what they did?" I could also try asking how I may have been responsible for what had happened, too. This is some difficult stuff. And I realize this might not be a popular approach at this time. However it is a way toward a better place. I believe it. And if I can bring myself into a place where I have an understanding about what might have brought them to this point, then I might be able to let go of the bitterness inside myself because if I had faced similar pressures I may have done just what they did.

Disregarding Judgements

I think that, as someone sees the faults in themself as they learn about how they see others over time, someone can eventually disregard certain judgements. It's sort of like seeing the wizard behind the curtain in Oz. A person might realize that certain judgements weren't their own in the first place or that they just weren't correct.

Like if someone walks around believing that nobody likes them, and judges people for being stuck-up or just not liking them. Over time this person might--especially if they are doing yoga or other self-inquiry--try to see what is going on. And they might see that they weren't giving people a chance to know them. Maybe there was a habit of shying away from others. So nobody felt that familliar or friendly toward this person. It might take a strong resolve and conscious will to change ones behavior toward others, but it could change everything if that was the block to more friendships. And to do this it would be necessary to cast out the old judgements which were false, anyway.

Understanding your faults is a way to become unblocked. Faults are only faults if they are holding us back in some way, so it is worth it to discover how we might live with a freer and happier mindset. Just like the example of the "nobody likes me" person who wasn't allowing anyone close enough to see, we might discover something through examining our judgements of others that might make the world a better and friendlier place.

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Who would be jealous of a flower?

"Mudita is a feeling of delight at the good work (punya) done by another, even though he may be a rival. Through mudita, the yogi saves himself from much heart-burning by not showing anger, hatred or jealousy for another who has reached the desired goal which he himself has failed to achieve."
-B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Yoga, 46th paragraph of the Introduction.

It would be silly to be jealous of a flower... A flowers beauty comes from the seed, and through careful cultivation and sunlight, it grows. Similarly, people develop out of their origins. Accomplishments come from a persons qualities and where they apply their time. So it is silly, not to mention wasteful of ones personal resources, to indulge in negative reactions to the accomplishments of others.

It would be absurd of me to be jealous of other bloggers when I realize that just like a flower is flowering, Jay is "jaying", Christine is "christining", Laura is "lauring", etc. I can appreciate how they create. Their blogs come naturally from their backgrounds and experience. If I want my blog to be better I simply need to do more "brooksing". This will lead to increased satisfaction.

I have felt jealous of yoga teachers that are blessed with great opportunities that I wanted. Time has taught that there are usually great reasons why people are where they are. When I have taken the time to learn more about them I tend to apreciate them more. And I think that I am learning to open myself to see the craft of other teachers I once felt competitive with.

There was also a time when a yoga teacher in town apparently felt that they were better qualified to teach a class that I had been teaching successfully for years. First this person applied for my job. When that didn't work they wrote a letter to my employer that attempted to discredit my abilities, and signed it! So when questions came around, I asked to see this letter. Wow. I saw this letter that had a malicious intent directed at me. So I wrote back to this person and asked them to please not go after my jobs in the future, and I recommended that they direct their valuable energy toward themself in a helpful way, rather than using their energy attempting to tear others down. I kept my job.

So... Yeah. It can be helpful just to realize that everybody is a creation of who they are and the forces that form them like genetics, upbringing and culture. It's also important to realize that this everybody includes me. So if I catch myself baring an envious eye for someone else, it is most likely an indicator that I need to do something more with myself. Maybe I feel that I am lacking in the presence of someone who seems so far along. But if I really see what is going on, this can't be so. I'm not really lacking. I may have a lot more work to do to feel accomplished, but I am not lacking because I have me.

There might be times when jealousy comes from an intuitive sense that someone else is showing up more authentically than ones self. And that is so difficult to experience. It hurts!

Mudita is a feeling of delight at the good work done by another...

It is relatively easy to delight in the beauty of a flower. But to experience the beauty in the work and presence of rivals is raising the bar to a new level of happiness and authenticity. And don't people grow just as naturally and beautifully as a flower grows from a seed? To compare myself with someone who has a different past is a false comparison. I am not other people, I am me and I have my own unique beauty to show.

So when I feel inadequate next to someone else, I am lying to myself. I am expecting that my blessings are the same as someone elses which is totally untrue.

What I believe that I can do is work. I can work to create a life situation that is true to myself. And when I am doing that to the best of my ability and making the best use of my resources I can stand in contentment. I do think that my ability to celebrate and delight in others is related to my commitment to myself and applying tangible effort toward making a life that is truthful for me.

Thank you for reading! I celebrate YOU! Because I've dug deeply into myself...

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Devoted Action

"Karuna is not merely showing pity or compassion and shedding tears of despair for the misery (duhkha) of others. It is compassion coupled with devoted action to relieve the misery of the afflicted. The yogi uses all his resources -- physical, economic, mental or moral -- to alleviate the pain and suffering of others. He shares his strength with the weak until they become strong. He shares his courage with those that are timid until they become brave by his example. He denies the maxim of the 'survival of the fittest', but makes the weak strong enough to survive. He becomes a shelter to one and all."
-B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Yoga, 45th paragraph of the Introduction.

"It is important to remember, however, that, while he was so widely recognized for his stirring oratory, all of the words" ... "were forged in the crucible of action."
-Coretta Scott King, about Martin Luther King, Jr.

I remembered these words by Coretta Scott King to a yoga class today. I had seen an aspect of the pose that we had just done that would benefit from some work and was about to do a demo to show the action that could help. I had said the words describing it before, but didn't see the difference in the poses, so I needed to communicate better. And so when I referenced Ms. King's sentiment using my own words, I followed it up by expressing that it's not enough just to think the action, we must also do it. And so I showed what the "doing" looked like as I said the words. The next time we did the pose, the class was transformed! The poses looked so much stronger, and some students shared that it felt really good. Yeah!

Teaching in this way gives me an opportunity to make a difference when I see that the bodies could inhabit the poses more vibrantly. I could have just moved on and accepted that this is just how it is. But when I see a way that the students' poses might be helped and the timing is reasonable to break something down, I think that it is totally worth it to do so. In this way I am devoted to the Action of Yoga.

Now if I had just "shown pity or compassion" for the struggle of the students, that just wouldn't have been enough according to the above excerpt from Light on Yoga. I had to do something about it to be in line with Karuna. It is not enought to think compassionate thoughts, we must follow it up with Compassionate and Devoted Action.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A More Complete Truth

Isabelle is four years old, and I am her "Auntie Brooks", too.

Here she is, in the above picture, after having a snack and holding two remote controls.

She was saying something like, "The little one has buttons, and the big one is plain."

And I said something like, "Well, from what I see: the big one has buttons and the little one is plain."

Isabelle's eyes widened, and her Grandfather said something like, "Yes, it's just the opposite!" And then he moved to the side of the controllers, so they appeared really skinny with no buttons at all, and said, "It looks totally different from here, see?"

And I just thought it was a cool moment that demonstrated how we all hold a piece of the truth. What we saw looked different, but none of our perceptions were wrong, it's just that from where we were positioned things looked a little different.

Wouldn't it be nice if we could listen to one anothers different viewpoints in all things, with the same kind of respect and understanding? Isn't it true that depending on my experience up to any given moment, that I might see things a little differently than you? Of course the opposite is also true. And together we hold a more complete truth than we were able to hold separately.

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Feeling of Oneness

"Maitri is not merely friendliness, but also a feeling of oneness with the object of friendliness (atmiyata). A mother feels intense happiness at the success of her children because of atmiyata, a feeling of oneness. Patanjali recommends maitri for sukha (happiness or virtue). The yogi cultivates maitri and atmiyata for the good and turns enemies into friends, bearing malice towards none."
-B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Yoga, 44th paragraph of the Introduction.

With kids it might be easier to cultivate a feeling of oneness; they need you to think for them when they are small. The picture above is of me being "Auntie Brooks" for sweet Sebastien. He is so cute and joyful! Easy to LOVE!

Maitri is the first part of the "fourfold remedy" to have pure happiness.

Patanjali recommends maitri for sukha (happiness or virtue).

As Mr. Iyengar says above, "Maitri is not merely friendliness, but also a feeling of oneness with the object of friendliness." And he gives the example of a mother's happiness because of the success of her child. So are we called to feel happy for the success of others? I think so, but, WOW. Depending on who it is, there can be the tinge of jealousy or the tang of resentment. Yes? Aren't there sometimes thoughts like "It should have been me..." or "Why not me?"

The yogi cultivates maitri and atmiyata for the good

Okay, it seems reasonable to cultivate Friendliness for that which is perceived as "good". But to cultivate Feelings of Oneness (atmiyata) with the good in others isn't something that comes naturally in our culture. We are a people of competitors. If I see something good, I want it for myself, and quite possibly I actually want something better for myself than what I see you having. It might be hard for me to celebrate you having something good when I don't have it.

But if we identify with our human family I think there is potential for celebrating the good in each other, because it can benefit who we are as a group. Our group is stronger when more of us are successful. So trying to keep some people down actually weakens us, instead of making the strong stronger. I just don't believe that oppression of people helps anybody. Superficially, some might appear to prosper when others are oppressed, but this kind of success is illusory.

and turns enemies into friends, bearing malice towards none.

I have turned a "friend" into an enemy when they were mean to me, but here we are asked, as yogis, to "turn enemies into friends". No mercy! But it is a remedy for unhappy feelings to bear no ill-will for anyone. To cultivate friendliness and a feeling of oneness includes all friends, because we have made our enemies into friends, remember? So this generous spirit should include everyone.

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Monday, January 18, 2010

Unalloyed Happiness

"To overcome the obstacles and to win unalloyed happiness, Patanjali offered several remedies. The best of these is the fourfold remedy of Maitri (friendliness), Karuna (compassion), Mudita (delight) and Upeksa (disregard)."
-B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Yoga, 43rd paragraph of the Introduction.

Happiness without the Seeds of Sadness

A metal alloy is a mixture of metals, or a mixture of metal with another substance. An unalloyed metal is pure, nothing else is mixed in. Happiness that is alloyed might have sadness or despair mixed into it. Happiness that is unalloyed is pure happiness.

I've heard that when someone starts a new relationship, inside the elation of the new connection are the seeds of sadness and loss of the relationship ending. And I've bought into it. It seems to have followed what I've known so far: the loss and sadness of endings.

The above excerpt offers a "fourfold remedy" for embeded negative emotions: the ones that are mixed into some instances of happiness, or impure happiness. The aim is "unalloyed happiness," or Happiness that is pure.

A "remedy" is usually something that relieves or cures a bodily disorder, but in this case we are talking about curing anything that might interrupt the experience of Happiness.

The Fourfold Remedy:

1. Friendliness
2. Compassion
3. Delight
4. Disregard

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Keep at It

"Anavasthitattva: A person affected with anavasthitattva has by hard work come within sight of reality. Happy and proud of his achievements he becomes slack in his practice (sadhana). He has purity and great power of concentration and has come to the final cross-roads of his quest. Even at this last stage continuous endeavor is essential and he has to pursue the path with infinite patience and determined perseverance and must never show slackness which hampers progress on the path of God realization. He must wait until divine grace decends upon him. It has been said in the Kathopanishad: 'The Self is not to be realized by study and instruction, nor by subtlety of intellect, nor by much learning, but only by him who longs for Him, by the one whom He chooses. Verily to such a one the Self reveals His true being'"
-B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Yoga, 42nd paragraph of the Introduction.

Don't give up on Yoga!

It can easily happen: we feel some benefit from yoga, and then we slack off. Don't give up! Continue, or go back to your Practice.

This obstacle is for someone who has gone some distance on the path of Yoga, and then starts to slack off! Becoming slack in the Practice is an obstacle in the Path of Yoga.

Why would a person who has come so far begin to slack off?

I think that it might be because nobody can see the big picture when it comes to their own life. I know I don't have that kind of sight... We know where we've been, but we can't entirely see where we are going.

It's hard to know what's just around the corner when I'm still on this side of it. I might say to myself that I'm doing very well with the Yoga. And I might compare myself with other people I know and things that I've read and I might feel comfortable with where I am right now. To go further might take me into unknown and therefore scary territory. It is much more comfortable in my minds eye to stay with the pack than it is to go off on my own into places I have never been. However the notion that I ever was with the pack is suspicious to me because I may have just assumed that we were stepping similarly without really knowing.

I need to keep going in spite of my resistance and fear which were constructed out of the building blocks of illusion, anyway. Also, there is no way of going back. Wherever I am now is just where I am. And I need to keep going just to see, and to take my experience where I need to go.

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Saturday, January 16, 2010

Concentration is Key

"Alabdha Bhumikatva: As a mountain climber fails to reach the summit for lack of stamina, so also a person who cannot overcome the inability to concentrate is unable to seek reality. He might have had glimpses of reality but he cannot see clearly. He is like a musician who has heard divine music in a dream, but who is unable to recall it in his waking moments and cannot repeat the dream.
-B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Yoga, 41st paragraph of the Introduction.

ADD, or Attention Deficit Disorder seems to be one of the mental diseases of our time along with Depression which yields its own fogginess and inability to concentrate. Being able to Concentrate is important for the Path of Yoga. And the challenges of our time can make this difficult. There are always so many choices everywhere someone looks these days. And I think that behind our decisions of what to do or look at next is a real desire to do something worthwhile with our time. This might lead to many changing choices as we continue to seek satisfaction. It's hard to concentrate on one thing when something better might follow the next choice. And depression can also get in the way of concentrating. If someone thinks that nothing good is going to come out of the experience anyway, no matter what then why bother? In depression it's impossible to get up the energy to concentrate, because there is no point to it. A depression might bring thoughts about all choices being hopeless. There's no light at the end of the tunnel, here. And with an ADD mindstate there just might be too many lights behind all the unexplored possibilities.

Believe and Choose Something

To find a way through the mental muck and disorganization I think that a person would do best to Believe and Choose Something. Not that we want to be one-dimentional, but there is wisdom in Choosing Something and Sticking to It. And to have the fuel necessary to stay with something--whether it is a relationship, career or other pursuit--through life changes we have to Believe. We have to believe that it will yield something good even if we can't see the exact result that our effort will make. Trusting in the process of life and death is necessary to become whole.

When I am fearing death and therefore fearing life, it is difficult to concentrate. Only when I am peaceful and accepting of my life situation can I find a moment of concentration. Even though I will die one day, I'd like to be as focused and bright as I can be for as long as I can be.

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Friday, January 15, 2010

The Company of Great Souls

"Bhranti Darsana: A person afflicted by false knowledge suffers from delusion and believes that he alone has seen the true Light. He has a powerful intellect but lacks humility and makes a show of wisdom. By remaining in the company of great souls and through their guidance he sets his foot firmly on the right path and overcomes his weakness."
-B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Yoga, 40th paragraph of the Introduction.

How does someone know if they have been afflicted by "false knowledge? I'm gathering from this excerpt from Light on Yoga that the afflicted person thinks that they Know. This sounds a lot like some teachers: "He has a powerful intellect but lacks humility and makes a show of wisdom." Making a show of Wisdom is seductive. Don't many of us want to be told the Truth? Wouldn't it be nice if someone else could do our work for us? If it were possible for someone else to do Yoga and gain Wisdom, and then we could just buy it from them, wouldn't that be easy? Problem solved. Except it's not really like that. Everybody has to do there own Yoga. That's just how it is.

The Teacher is valuable and even a blessing, but we need to understand what that is, otherwise we might be led astray for a while. The Teacher is everything; the Teacher is the World, Your Life and Your Heart. And yes a beautiful form of Teacher stands before you at sacred moments for the purpose of "teaching" or supporting your Self-inquirey in a direct way.

If we ever get too high on ourselves a good way to come back into balance is to connect with other good people in our lives. Limited periods of isolation can yield positive learning, but make sure to get connected again. Together, we have an opportunity to grow great, but alone, we could fall into just tooting our own horns.

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Contented and Tranquil

"Avirati: This is the tremendous craving for sensory objects after they have been consciously abandoned, which is so hard to restrain. Without being attached to the objects of sense, the yogi learns to enjoy them with the aid of the senses which are completely under his control. By the practice of pratyahara he wins freedom from attachment and emancipation from desire and becomes content and tranquil."
-B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Yoga, 39th paragraph of the Introduction.

Sensuality is a distraction on the Path of Yoga. When the mind is consumed with objects of sense, there isn't room for spiritual awareness. Pratyahara, or withdrawing your attention from the senses, can offer a window toward living more deeply and authentically. If we are only propelled by our sense impulses alone, we are purely biological, almost like meat-based robots. And I know that there are those among us who believe that this is just how it is. However, I think that this inquiry leads into interesting territory, so I choose to take it further. I believe that I am more than my biology. I am also my psychology, and my spirituality. And I am somewhat undefined, for all my specificity.

When we regularly practice yoga or meditation, where we commit to a posture and commit to a length of time in that posture we can learn to be less reactive to stimulus in the environment. This is a helpful skill, even though it might not make sense when seen in a certain way. Response to stimulus is helpful for survival. Let's say I am under attack so I run, either physically or psychologically, and this response offers the potential to escape and possibly survive the attack. However if our responses are "trigger happy" then we might find ourselves overreacting, and constantly distracted and afraid. Yoga practice offers a school where we can learn about ourselves and how we run and try to escape challenging situations. It also offers a place where we can learn to be centered and calm in the midst of distracting stimulus. And the way to do this is to go inward and practice.

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Friday, January 8, 2010

Yogic Healing Salve

This is a Guest Muse by Gina LaCerba.

It feels like a lifetime ago that I was first introduced to yoga. At that point in my life I took the classes (with Brooks) and really enjoyed them, but I didn't really take much away from it spiritually. I did however love the fact that I had found something physically challenging that I was actually good at. (At least that's what I told myself.) You see, growing up, I was more of a spectator than an athlete. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed sports, I was just really uncoordinated. So. . . I loved that yoga was something that I could do and could modify for my body. I also loved that yoga helped me with some back pain that I often experienced.
It wasn't until recently that I began reaping the spiritual and emotional benefits of yoga. I had fallen off the yoga bandwagon. I quit my job and was looking for my life's passion, so yoga was not high on my priority list. Then I reconnected with Brooks and my yoga craving started to creep back. It took me a while to decide to go to one of her classes at Yogaview-Division, but I am so glad that I did. My life this past year has been incredibly trying. I many times wondered why these horrible things kept happening. While yoga by no means put an end to the craziness in my life, it certainly provided me with the opportunity to deal with it all on a spiritual level. My yoga time is my "me time." For those few hours - starting when I step on to that "el" platform to make my way to class to the time I step back off the "el" platform after class and resume the reality that is my life - I am focused on me. During my yoga practice I was able to discover many things about myself. I have discovered strength in me that I didn't realize existed. I have found that I am more peaceful about my life's circumstances when I finish. I know now that I cannot change my circumstances, but I am able to think about things more clearly and will persevere no matter what life throws at me.

"For those wounded by civilization, yoga is the most healing salve."
-T. Guillemets

Gina's blog:

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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Unflagging Enthusiasm

Alasya: To remove the obstacle of laziness, unflagging enthusiasm (virya) is needed. The attitude of the aspirant is like that of a lover ever yearning to meet the beloved but never giving way to despair. Hope should be his shield and courage his sword. He should be free from hate and sorrow. With faith and enthusiasm he should overcome the inertia of the body and mind."
-B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Yoga, 38th paragraph of the Introduction.

"I want to be in such passionate adoration
that my tent gets pitched against the sky!

Let the beloved come and sit
like a guard dog in front of the tent.

When the ocean surges, don't let me
just hear it. Let it splash inside my chest!"

-Jalaluddin Rumi, as translated by Coleman Barks

I think that in order to steer our lives in a helpful direction, we need to do things that Turn Us On. Otherwise life gets boring, and when boredom becomes a habit we can get kind of lazy, lacking the motivation to move forward creatively.

Obviously, laziness can get in the way of the Path of Yoga. How can I practice regularly and well if I am lazy? Good question...

According to Mr. Iyengar, "unflagging enthusiasm is needed." But where does this tireless zeal come from?

Virya=Power, Strength, Spiritual Potency, Prowess, Valor. These are Warrior words! Maybe we can kick lazyness in the butt! Strong daddy gets us going.

Where do you feel Powerful and Courageous? I think it's important to know this and to discover this. We are not here to be herded around by the messages of advertisers! We are here to feel our Good Stuff! Where is the Courage, the Chutzpa, the MoJo, the Zest? I believe that these are important qualities in life. And they just might be the antidote to laziness.

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Monday, January 4, 2010

Loving your Path

"Pramada: A person suffering from pramada is full of self-importance, lacks any humility and believes that he alone is wise. No doubt he knows what is right and wrong, but he persists in his indifference to the right and chooses what is pleasant. To gratify his selfish passions and dreams of personal glory, he will deliberately and without scruple sacrifice everyone who stands in his way. Such a person is blind to God's glory and deaf to His words."
-B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Yoga, 37th paragraph of the Introduction.

I heard someone say that the opposite of love is not hate but indifference. Indifference can be the ultimate annihilation. I am saying that you do not exist, or that your existence is unimportant to me when I am indifferent to you. My actions say, "I don't care." It hurts me to be treated this way.

In our culture we seem to be cool with indifference, it is considered an acceptable way to act toward people we don't agree with. "You do it your way, and I'll do it mine" is an example of a situation with the potential for indifference. And while it also holds the potential to avoid overt conflict to say something like this, it also lacks compassion and understanding for others. It rings a bit disrespectfully, and seems somewhat self-aggrandizing to me. As in: I think I see what you are doing, and I choose to do it another way and by doing so I also congratulate myself for having gone a better way than you.

I do believe that it is correct to have freedom to choose how we do things. So on the surface there isn't anything wrong with one person doing things one way, and another doing it differently. There is nothing out of place when it comes to the bare facts.

It's the context and how we do it that says everything.

Even Yogis can get extremely self-important when it comes to the kind of Yoga they do. Even Yogis can totally lack humility when it comes to the subject of Yoga.

"Let them do their (half-baked, crappy-assed) yoga! I will do my (pristine authentic) yoga (that makes my practice so traditional and my body so perfect and my experience so spiritual), and have nothing to to with Them or Their Practice." **extra words added for clarification.

But isn't this really what we are saying, sometimes? I think that I hear this hidden (or not always so hidden) in the words of others, and hopefully not too often out of my own mouth because I do hold opinions about the Yoga I teach and practice. I think it might be the hardest thing because we all form opinions--it is a natural part of living as individual human beings. ...especially when we are Teachers.

This human tendency to be insensitive and indifferent to others is an obstacle in our Precious Path of Yoga.

What is another possibility? What can I choose instead of indifference? How can I open my heart to a new response that is more in line with Yoga, and still hold the level of specificity that my preferences support?

I think that the answer might come from looking at the situation more fully. Different people are drawn to different styles of Yoga. Some prefer an athletic approach. Some are into Meditation. Others like to stimulate the intellect with Yogic discernment. Some want to open their hearts to the world. And there are so many other variants, combinations and approaches that people apply to their paths of Yoga. My own path hasn't been only one thing, but it's been right for me. And I can trust respectfully that your path is right for you, even if I don't understand it fully. Strangely, this seems to mean that I also am called to trust that the path of those who put down other styles of Yoga is right for them, too. Of course there must be learning in that path!

Love the path you are on! I honor YOU!

Be well.

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Friday, January 1, 2010

Trusting my Steps

"Samsaya: The unwise, the faithless and the doubter destroy themselves. How can they enjoy this world or the next or have any happiness? The seeker should have faith in himself and his master. He should have faith that God is ever by his side and that no evil can touch him. As faith springs up in the heart it dries out lust, ill-will, mental sloth, spiritual pride and doubt, and the heart free from these hindrances becomes serene and untroubled."
-B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Yoga, 36th paragraph of the Introduction.

"I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go."
-from a beautiful and mysterious poem by Theodore Roethke

I've learned to trust my steps because I've gone where I've had to go. The wonderful thing to me is that a coworker at the last Production Management job I did quoted that last line to me: I learn by going where I have to go. He didn't know what it was from or anything. It was posted (on a wall) somewhere when he was in school, and it stuck with him. Now it sticks with me. And it just seems so true. A door opened and I walked through it. How amazing!

My passion for Yoga overcame any doubt. I went where I had to. An incredible pull magnetized me to the Path of Yoga. And I continue to trust where I'm going, even though I can't see how it will work out, exactly.

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