Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Eat: Week One

The next 3 weeks in the studio we are working with the theme Eat, Pray, Love as a life plan.
Eat: Week One

"Yogis eat for energy, not flavor."
Ken Revell

"Energy = Power"

"Let food be your medicine and let medicine be your food."

Clinically and literally, the way we (Americans) are eating is making us fatter, sicker and dumber. I am not one to get on the soap box, but this is go time, the 11th hour as it were, something needs to change. Americans are the fattest citizens of the world and we use up more of the world's resources than the rest of the world COMBINED. "They", groups that are blindly driven by greed, are growing our food in completely irresponsible and nonsustainable ways and adding potently harmful additives to our food. The cancer rate 30 years ago was 1 in 16, now it is 1 in 2. Because of growth hormones added to our food, young girls now are reaching puberty at an alarmingly early age. We would need several more planets like Earth to perpetually sustain the voracious American diet and I don't see any extra planets around.....

What we have been "fed" about food is shakey at best and criminal and malicious at worst. Many of the sources we have looked to for food, diet and health guidance are guided primarily by profit.

Yogis begin to think outside of the box and for themselves. Here are some resources:

http://www.nymedicalnutrition.com/ for a list of "frankenfoods", foods to be avoided, and a new look at the economics of the traditional food pyramid.

http://www.gerson.org/ for great documentaries about food growing and the power of foods to heal, even for cancer treatment. In this country, doctors are prohibited, by law, to offer any other treatment for cancer other than surgery, chemo and radiation. In other countries, however, many other more holistic courses of treatment are offered with similar or better success rates and minimal side effects. (Netflix has many of the Gerson films)

http://www.rajpatel.com/ is the website of an activist is this area

The documentaries Food, Inc. and The 11th Hour are both very informative as well.

Very easy guidelines for, in my opinion, the healthiest and most Earth friendly diet:

  1. Eat less. We need so much less food than we think and than we have been taught and told. Monks traditionally eat only what can fit into the palms of both hands. Many people (myself included) eat only 1 or 2 meals per day and find that they have even more energy and stamina with less food. There is a great deal of research in this area to be found under RC diet (reduced calorie) and RC diet plus a long fasting duration http://www.fast-5.com/

  2. Buy and Eat Local and Organic.

  3. Make eating fresh fruits and vegetables a daily event.

  4. Practice Yoga regularly to build up the internal fire which will help to flush out old and new toxins. With a strong fire, we can throw in some green wood from time to time.

Food for Yogis means energy and nourishment. Eating includes all the ways in which we nourish ourselves. The Yogic scriptures tell us that Yogis who know breath as food, know the purest food available. Uplifting music and chanting the divine sounds is food for Yogis. Time spent in nature and time spent with friends and family may also be nourishment. Sleep and rest feed the living matrix. The numerology for the studio address is a 4 and 4 symbolizes stability and rest. I love the idea of Yogis finding rest, stability and rejuvenation with each practice. The artist in me is extremely nourished by creative endeavor. The mystic in me is nourished by meditation and ritual. The point is, find out what feeds you and eat regularly.

In the human body, food is turned into energy by metabolic fire. Yogis build their fire with each practice and digestive fire matures into the fire of transformation. From the ashes of this fire, the Phoenix emerges, the new creation that is now possible.

"Each one of us, regardless of our situation, is looking for the same treasure in the ashes. We are in search of our most authentic, vital, generous, and wise self. What stands between that self and us is what burns in the fire. Our illusions, our rigidity, our fear, our blame, our lack of faith, and our sense of separation: All of these- in varying strengths and combinations- are what must die in order for a more true self to arise. If we want to turn a painful event into a Phoenix Process, we must name what needs to burn in the fire."

Elizabeth Lesser

PS: A word about intoxicants-In Yoga, we are attempting to cultivate self-sufficiency. We are much stronger and have more clarity of vision when we choose not to ingest intoxicants. Intoxicants create tamasic energy- the energy of dullness and stuckness. It is very hard to manifest creative urges in that energy of stuckness. Some masters endorse the use of hallucinogenic drugs used ritually to let us know what is possible, but drugs are a crutch to creating that expansive state of mind and the goal is to learn how to get there without the drug. If you use an intoxicant every day, you are an addict. Freedom does not equal running away or checking out and getting to the doorway is one thing- walking through it is entirely another.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

How has Yoga changed your life?

Pam Hall- 8 years of Yoga Practice
Leslie Wilbur- 15 years of Yoga Practice

How has yoga changed your life? This question was asked to some students at Bliss Yoga.

Leslie Wilbur

I had practiced yoga inconsistently for about 15 years, although I was a regular exerciser (cardio and weights). Beginning around December, while in teacher training, I began practicing 6 days a week and meditating 7 days a week (without fail). What a difference! In the last 8 months, I have experienced the following improvements: my digestive system has been restored to complete health, I sleep like a baby, my "normal aches and pains of aging" are gone, my allergies are gone, my moods are very stable. And these are only the physical changes.
The other changes are more subtle and yet more profound. I feel more grounded. I feel more connected to everyone and everything. I feel more inner peace. I feel more deeply, and at the same time I am not swept away by feelings. I have more coincidences and synchronicities in my daily life. I feel more contentment and gratitude with things the way they are.
Overall, the changes I've experienced over such a short time are amazing!

Pam Hall

I first started coming to yoga class eight years ago, to "decompress" from the daily stresses of a high powered job in financial services industry, the challenges of raising three teenagers and to find an escape from the day-to-day grind. In the course of those eight years, I have happily abandoned the high powered stressful job. The three teenagers have grown up to be wonderful caring productive adults and I no longer feel I'm living in a day-to-day grind.
There are actually two quotes that seem to best sum up what yoga has done for me. The first, by Denis Waitley "Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude." Yoga is teaching me how to live life with love, grace and gratitude, thus bringing me a happiness that was in the past, elusive.
Yoga has brought more profound changes in my life on a physical, emotional and spiritual level. While the change has been profound, I wouldn't say it has been dramatic. Meaning, I feel I am the same person I have always been, just a much better version. This brings me to my second quote by Sting "The deeper you get into yoga you realize it is a spiritual practice. It's a journey I'm making. I'm heading that way."

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Search for Prana

Shiva statue at Cern ( Shiva was the first Yoga teacher) and the LHC (Large Hadron Collider) at Cern Particle Physics Lab in Switzerland.

Growing up, my brother Gary loved mechanical things. He loved them so much, he wanted to know how they worked so he would often take things apart and try to put them back together with mixed success. My father gave him an old, broken down VW Bug and Gary cut off the top and got the engine working so he could have a homemade dune buggy of sorts. Whoever rode in the passenger seat had to hold the "gas tank", which was a used gallon milk container, seriously. Ah, the joys of growing up in the country....

100 years ago, the idea that all matter was made up of atoms was just a theory. Later, when more powerful means of actually seeing these small particles were invented, atomic theory became truth. Then scientists did what my brother Gary did, and began to look inside atoms to figure out how they work. For the most part, what is inside an atom is empty space. The "stuff" of an atom is at the nucleus and the nucleus takes up the same space that the head of a pin does inside a football field.

With this new knowledge came inconsistencies. If matter is made of particles and is mostly empty space, what holds the particles together and why do objects appear to have mass??

A group of scientists offered a theory of a substance that is all pervasive throughout the material world- the glue of universe- and this theorized substance is called the Higgs Boson. The discovery of the Higgs would resolve the mysteries and inconsistencies in current theoretical physics. What was needed to prove the existence of the Higgs was an LHC- a Large Hadron Collider- that could accelerate particles up to massive speeds and then record and study the collisions. Only two LHCs in the world were powerful enough to run the experiments- one at Firmalab in Chicago and one at Cern, in Geneva, Switzerland. The race was on! As soon as Cern fired up their LHC, the colossal piece of equipment promptly broke down. So Chicago was the first to start observing collisions and both labs predicted it might take years. Unfortunately, Chicago found out that their LHC is probably not powerful enough to be successful. Recently, in November of 2009, Cern's LHC came back online and is now running experiments as we speak in search of the Higgs, which has been nicknamed the Genesis or God particle.

I share this because it is so exciting that modern science is now looking to prove the existence of Prana Shakti or what some believe to be the Holy Spirit. According to Yogic cosmology, Prana is that which animates all of the material world. Yogis work with Prana Shakti in every Yoga practice for practical results- it changes the way we think and feel.
Just because you can't see something, doesn't mean it isn't real or that you can't use it to your advantage.

Now the Earth was formless and empty. Darkness was on the surface of the deep. God's Spirit was hovering above the surface of the waters.
Genesis 1:2

Friday, August 13, 2010

Dwelling at the Edge of Melancholy

Buddhist teacher Sylvia Boorstein says that all seekers dwell "at the edge of melancholy." We hover right at that border between joy and sadness. We are easily cheered, some of us easily agitated, but we dwell perennially perched at a vantage point which offers a crystal clear view of the suffering of others. Clarity of vision is cultivated with each practice, so with each progressive month and year of practice, the view gets clearer and clearer. All seekers arrive consistently to the same conclusion as that of the historical Buddha. Life is suffering. Life on planet Earth will include pain, loss, failure, sadness and disgrace, even though some of us live our lives thinking that if we plan enough, or pray enough, that somehow miraculously we and those dear to us will be spared the full spectrum of the Earthly experience. Sooner or later, we understand that no one is exempt from suffering and that knowing sadness makes joy all the sweeter.
The path of Yoga is Agni Vidya, the science of fire. With each practice, we cultivate the desirable qualities of fire. Fire produces light. Experienced Yogis light up a room when they enter. Fire also produces heat. An emotional warmth and tenderness begins to develop in the heart. Our emotions become more vibrant and our capacity for compassion and empathy for others expands. We find that we are more tuned in to the suffering of others, so much that we feel as though we are walking around with a broken heart much of the time. Some seekers find themselves paralyzed at this point, overwhelmed by the depth of emotion that is experienced by seeing the suffering of others with so much clarity. Becoming paralyzed in the face of suffering is not the answer, nor does it bring anything positive to the table, for you or for the person who is suffering.
Life is suffering. So what is to be done about that? Doing is exactly what is required- action is required. The path of Hatha Yoga- Asana, Pranayama and Meditation- is a life plan. It is a method for learning how to navigate through this world of suffering without becoming paralyzed or dying of a broken heart. We learn to cultivate a reliable happiness that is not affected by outside circumstance.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The World of the Unseen

Inside and outside her head, a billion, trillion stars, beyond count, circled and exploded....Songs were heard in spheres within spheres, electric, crackle, sharp. She heard nothing. How could she, when not once had she even heard the sound of her own breathing?

This is the world of Christian mystics, Kabbalists, Sufis, Yogis and Tantrikas- the unseen world. With the discovery of dark matter, electromagnetism and the infrared, ultraviolet and ultrasound frequencies, we know now that what humans are able to perceive in the world is only less than one percent of all that there is. Less than one percent! The world of the unseen is much greater than the world of normal human perception. This is the realm of prana, angels, ghosts, fairies, archetypal deities, Naguals, synchronicity, signs, symbols and the hall of Akashic records. Even modern physics theorizes about this realm with the possibility of countless alternate universes- spheres within spheres. The path of all Mystery Schools is access to this realm of the unseen. The first step on the path is getting comfortable with the sound of our own breathing.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Until You Merge, You Serve

Myths are stories from which to learn for some, but scripture and truth for others, depending on which household one was born into. The stories of Hanumanji are lessons in strength, devotion and a life of service, seva. Hanuman was the perfect servant and devotee of his ishta devata, Ram, and eventually his perfect service matured into union with Lord Rama. When Hanuman opens his chest, we see now that he carries both Ram and Sita in his heart. His words are now the words of the divine and his actions now are the actions of the divine. He has become a walking incarnation of Rama, a holy instrument of peace and healing.
Actions performed in service are not bound by the laws of karma. Hanuman's lesson to us is the joy of living a life in service to humanity and the possibility of merging with That through service. Union with the divine is a concept that is also taught in the Catholic tradition of Christianity, but the techniques are only taught to monks and nuns, not to lay people. In Tantra, this path is open even to householders.
Just this morning, my stepdaughter and I went to a bookstore and on the way there, we stopped at Starbucks for a coffee. We ran into Delores Morford, a longtime teacher of astrology in Jacksonville. Delores spoke to me of what I had been feeling recently. She said in May, we all entered into a time of cosmic weather patterns where those of us who are called to a life of service will feel a sense of urgency in this calling. Now is the time to make manifest our dearest desires. Now is the time to discover your gifts and to use them in service. It is a time to let go of anything and anyone barring the path to growth, expansion and service. Basically, #&*@ , or get off the pot. Be discriminating in your choice of friends and draw from the strength of your sangha. If you are dabbling with a practice, devote yourself with a full heart. If you are practicing, take your practice to the next level.

"There is a river flowing now, very fast. It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold on to the shore. They will feel they are being torn apart and suffer greatly. Know that the river has its destination. The elders say we must push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open and our heads above the water. See who is in there with you and celebrate. At this time in history we are to take nothing personally, least of all ourselves, for the moment we do that, our spiritual growth comes to a halt. The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves, banish the word struggle from your attitude and vocabulary. All that we do now must be done in a sacred way and in celebration. We are the ones we've been waiting for."
Hope elder