Sunday, April 25, 2010

Memorial Day Holiday Schedule

Heads up for Memorial Day weekend:

Regular Schedule remains the same except:
Monday, May 31: 9:05 am Class ONLY

Have a great holiday weekend!
Bliss Yoga Shala

Friday, April 23, 2010

You and Your Heart

You and your heart shouldn't be so far apart...
Jack Johnson
I love to encourage students to set 2 intentions when they begin a Yoga practice. The first intention is concrete and timely- the honest reason why you walked into a Yoga class- a friend invited you, you are going through a stressful time in life, you want to lose weight, tone up, etc. This bhavana is easy. For the next intention we need to get loftier and more expansive. Allow yourself to explore the world of magic and fantasy. What is the secret desire of the spiritual heart?
Joseph Campbell calls the divine the Great Mystery. The spiritual heart is the part of us that is most connected to the Great Mystery. Throw practicality and logic out of the window. If you could move heaven and earth with your thoughts and your desires, what would the spiritual heart fancy? Would you like to fly? Would you like to know the time of your death? Would you like to see all of your past lives? Would you like the strength of an elephant? Would you like to know all there is to know and have the answer to every question revealed to you? The recipes for all of these siddhis, psychic powers, and more are written in the Yoga sutras. The way to mystery and magic and the path to the world of what we call impossible is the science of Yoga. Those things that we call miracles now are those events that science will explain in the future.
Of course this path begins with the first step and the acquisition of power is progressive and gradual. Maybe we start with those things that seem impossible right now......the ability to overcome anger, the ability to love unconditionally, the ability to do what we love for a living, to know absolute abundance, to become master over our senses and our emotions and maybe even to do a handstand.
Yoga makes that which seems impossible, possible, and with regular practice that which is now possible becomes easy.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

This week in the studio our focus is the Crown Chakra. The lesson of Sahasara is connection- your connection to the Earth, Bhumi Devi, to the mineral kingdom, the plant kingdom, other humans and animals on the planet and ultimately, to the divine. The path of connection, quantum entanglement, is a recipe for reliable happiness. We may think that the path of acquisition is the way to happiness- acquisition of power, friends, money, things and even the acquisition of health, but the end result of getting what we want is still feeling empty inside because what we really want is to be reunited with our Source, to remember who we are. Yogis still walk the path of acquisition, we still work to achieve material world goals, but we are open to the possibility of being happy right now, a reliable happiness that does not depend on external circumstance.

So tell me what you want, what you really, really want.....
world famous rishis, the Spice Girls

Friday, April 2, 2010

"You can't handle the truth!"

The Universe teaches me lessons like this: I hear, see or experience something that I find interesting. I make a note of it in my mind, I say hmm, and then I wait for the other parts of the lesson to unfold in countless, fascinating ways. The Universe knows now that I pay attention to signs. We have established, over the years, a viable method of communication.

Recently, I noticed in 2 people the interesting inability to hear stories of animal abuse. It is not that they simply do not like to hear those stories, who does?, it is that hearing those stories raises so much anxiety that there is the possibility of a panic attack coming on. A simple definition of the experience of a panic attack is when one is completely overwhelmed by their emotions. I am an animal lover myself, but I find it perplexing to not have the ability to process the emotions that arise from just hearing about real life. There is brutal suffering in this world, to be sure, but becoming paralyzed in the face of suffering is not helpful to either the observer or the situation. We need to find a way to go on- to serve, to love and to find peace and joy. Thinking about those 2 people made me think of that movie with Jack Nicholson where he growls, "You can't handle the truth!" Less than 3 days later, while watching television, I happen upon, you guessed it, that very movie, A Few Good Men! Now I know it's on like donkey kong- this is a full fledged lesson so I am really waiting and watching now.
The next part of the lesson, unfortunately, was me hearing about something that I did not want to hear about, something that was true but was a hard truth for me to hear and carry around. Immediately I felt compassion for people who cannot hear and handle the truth because now I was one of them.
Last week a shaman came to the shala for a workshop. Shamans are the medicine men and healers from indigenous traditions. I met with this shaman for a one on one "journey" as private sessions are called. As I sat holding a severed chicken foot in one hand and spoke to a man with a coyote pelt headdress (really), the conversation turned to what was happening for me right now. I spoke of the painful truth that I was carrying and I said fleetingly "ignorance is bliss." The shaman said, profoundly, that part of growing up is learning to hear the truth, to speak the truth, to recognize the truth and ultimately, to live the truth. No matter how painful the truth might be, if we want samadhi, union with the Divine, this is part of the path.

Once upon a time......

Yashoda, baby Lord Krishna's nanny, was watching the dark blue one play with some other children. One of the children lied and said that Krishna had eaten dirt. Yashoda said to Krishna harshly, Lord, please open your mouth. When baby Krishna opened his mouth, inside Yashoda saw the entire material Universe- stars, moons, planets, infinite space. She said, Lord, please close your mouth.

We all think we want to see God/Goddess, but the scriptures are full of stories about people who are offered just that and cannot handle the truth. Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita sees the now grown Lord Krishna in all His fullness and he also asks for the vision to be taken away. Prajna, full understanding of the divine plan, is so unfamiliar to us, so immense that we need to prepare for more and more clarity of vision. Progressively, the light of understanding dawns and learning to live in harmony with truth is part of the quickening.

What is Sadhana?

A student recently spoke to me about Sadhana, the Yogic word for practice.

Tatra sthitau yatnah abhyasah.
Effort toward steadiness is practice.
Yoga Sutras 1.13
Everyone it seems, struggles with the "for a long time, without a break and in all earnestness" definition of a well grounded Yoga practice from Patanjali. But, the student asked, if a person chooses actions that are consistent with a spiritual practice and is making an effort to elevate their inner consciousness, isn't this also a practice?

In my opinion, while seeking to grow and to be a better person is good and positive, what separates this ambition from Sadhana or Abhyasah is the use of a system to reach that goal. Yogis use some system or systems like Tantra, Hatha Yoga, Raja Yoga, Karma Yoga, etc. and in addition to using a system, they also maintain some schedule with the system. A Yogi with a dedicated practice knows that they do this technique for 30 minutes every day and that technique 3 times per week- the work is not free form or just when we feel like it. Why do we practice this way? Because it works. Maintaining a practice schedule adds just a bit of austerity to the Yogi's life. The fire of Tapas is transformative and mighty powerful.
It is said that there are 2 ways to achieve the enlightened state: Practice and Grace. One way is through a system and a schedule and the other way is by Divine Grace- a boon or gift from the Universe.
I often think of my grandmother, Lois, as a Yogi without a Yogic practice. She is someone in my life that I have admired and tried to emulate. When you walked into her house, you felt loved. She was eternally cheerful, could tell a good story, loved to laugh, could cook up some amazing southern food, was an accomplished gardener and a natural healer. She would often do some calisthenics as she called them for exercise outside in the mornings. She had a long, happy marriage and produced 10 children and many grandchildren. She never went to church, but she was reverent and spiritual and tried to see the good in people. I happen to love stones and rocks. I actually see and feel the life force in them. I see them as stone "people". I learned to love stones from Lois. We often went on hikes with her and she always returned home with pockets and handfuls of natural treasures- rocks, flowers, Indian arrow heads, feathers, pine cones and often, produce from her large garden. The sacred objects were displayed over the sink on a sunny windowsill and the produce was gobbled up on the way home. She seemed to possess that state of contentment that I seek, yet, when I look for spiritual teachers, I specifically look for those who have accomplished the exalted state through a system so that they are able to teach the method for the path. One of my teachers says that practicing Yoga without a teacher is like building a house by yourself. It might be possible, but wouldn't it be more efficient to get some help from someone who has done it before?
On this path no effort is wasted,
no gain is ever reversed;
even a little of this practice
will shelter you from great sorrow.
Bhagavad Gita 2.40