Friday, January 20, 2012

Get Shaktified!

The ancient stories are either myth or scripture depending on which house you were born into- either way they are here to teach us lessons.

Once upon a time there was a family- Shiva and Parvati, the father and mother, and 2 sons- Ganesh and Skanda.  Shiva and Parvati found a near perfect mango, ripe and beautiful.  So beautiful that they had the sons compete for the mango by proposing a race around the universe.  Skanda immediately went to his vehicle, a peacock, and sped away.  Ganesh, on the other hand, first sat in meditation.  Skanda was already 3/4 of the way before Ganesh finally got up and went to his vehicle, a mouse.  Ganesh and his vehicle made a circle around his parents and he said you are my universe and I have completed a circle around you.  And so Ganesh won the race and collected his prize, the nearly perfect mango.

The lesson from the story is that there are always many different paths available to us.  There is not one perfect way to get from point a to point b but rather a choice of different means and methods to accomplish the task and to arrive at the desired destination.  Ganesh as an archetype represents the energy that clears obstacles- sometimes Ganesh goes around an obstacle and sometimes he pushes right through the obstacle in order to clear the path.

Ganesh is an elephant god.  He has enormous ears for listening.  In our story, Ganesh first sits in meditation before the race while his brother immediately dashes off.  Meditation is the act of actively listening to the Divine- whatever your name is for the Divine.  When we study the Ganesh story, we are reminded that we get more clarity on the different paths that are always available to us when we sit regularly in meditation.  It is by quieting the mind and listening regularly that the possible pros and pitfalls associated with each distinct path are made clear to us.  When Ganesh meditated he discovered that his parents were his universe- when we meditate we naturally begin to see what is most important to us in life and we tend to focus more on what we do want rather than obsessing about what we do not want.  Ganesh has a huge belly and it is said that in his belly he holds the entire universe.  In Tantra we are taught that all humans are an exact replica of the universe- microcosm/macrocosm.  We really do hold the entire universe in our bellies, just like Ganesh.

There is not one perfect, one size fits all way to practice asana.  Because all humans are beautifully unique, there are many different traditions and ways to practice asana- some styles are heated, some are not, some practice the inverted poses, some do not, backbends may come first, forward bends may come first, some use the ujjayi method of breathing, some do not- the list and differences go on and on.  One point we stress in our Yoga teacher trainings is that in Yoga it is not a question of what is right and what is wrong, but rather what is appropriate and therapeutic for me right now.  This week in the shala, we will practice our asana sequences without sun salutations at the beginning of our practices (gasp!), which is a departure from our normal flows.  There are different paths to get from point a to point b and we can prepare for meditation with or without sun salutations.

Ganesh has long twisting trunk which represents the kundalini energy- the highly creative energy that in Tantra we are taught is inherent in every single human being in a dormant seed like form.  Spiritual practice awakens this energy and when it is awakened it is called Shakti- a vibrant force of Grace and Transformation.  This week we will also explore the many means and methods for awakening Shakti- to get Shaktified.  We will work with mantra, mudra, bandha and meditation.  The awakening of Shakti is the quickening, the fire lighting that propels human beings toward enlightenment- the realization of our greatest potential.

Om Gum Ganapatayei Namaha is the mantra, the sound vibration that brings us into alignment with the Ganesh wisdom.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Chakra Flow

In a study I saw recently the US ranks 23 out of 29 countries for math and science proficiency in students. We are near the bottom of the list.  But, what I found even more interesting was that when the researchers asked the students how they thought they did on the tests the American students ranked #1 in confidence, a misplaced confidence apparently.  Because our children are a reflection of us, my conclusion is that we think we are smarter than we really are.  There is a perception problem with we Americans- a lack of clarity of vision.  In Tantra, this is considered a problem with the Ajna Chakra energetically- the 3rd eye.  We don't know what we don't know and worse, we think we do know.

The image above is the cadudeus- it is the modern symbol of the AMA- the American Medical Association.  This image is also a representation of the Chakra system in the human body- the part of us that is energy.  Where the snakes criss cross are chakras- major intersections of energy lines, where the snakes meet is the 6th chakra- the 3rd eye where the 2 energy lines that the snakes represent, ida and pingala, merge and the center staff is the central line of energy- sushumna.  We can reasonably conclude from this image that at one point, healers in the west knew about chakras and energy and used that knowledge for healing.  The vintage medical term and concept humours are part of that past knowledge.  I can easily see how when scientists began to learn about viruses, bacteria and the like, that doctors chose to let go of this knowledge and methods in favor of all the new wonderful things they were now able see under microscopes. Only recently do we have holistic physicians who are choosing to practice medicine using a fusion of the old knowledge and the new.

Dr. Joseph Campbell taught mythology and the power of myth for the bulk of his lifetime.  He taught that the truths that we discover in myths come from the study of the symbols and metaphors in the myth rather than looking at the story of the myth literally- he even believed it was a perversion of myth to study the stories literally.  Trying to use energetic methods of healing alone for say, a broken bone, is a perversion of the energetic method and using modern western medicine alone is just as foolhardy. Both systems work best when they are practiced together- using wisdom and techniques from both models.

What causes stomach ulcers?
For years scientists and doctors thought that stomach and intestinal ulcers were caused by stress, eating spicy foods or drinking too much alcohol.  But in 1982, two Australian doctors discovered that H. pylori, a bacterium that lives in the lining of the stomach can cause what is known as peptic ulcer disease.
BUT, it turns out that h. pylori infection is common in 2/3 of the world's population and most people will never experience negative symptoms.
The holistic view for the cause of stomach ulcers is that both theories are true- they are caused by a bacterium AND something compromised the immune system enough for negative symptoms to manifest.  Holistic healing would address both systems- physical and energetic.

The same could be said for any illness including the common cold.  We know from modern science that colds are caused by viruses but not everyone who is exposed to the virus will develop a cold.  This is where the building of health and wellness comes in which is integral to energetic methods versus the focus on cessation of negative symptoms which is integral to western medicine.  The efficiency of immune system can be cultivated - making it better at discerning what to let in and what to keep out of the system.

This week in the shala we'll be practicing a flow through the chakras- developing the energy system of the body for healing and we'll learn some methods for cultivating the clarity of vision that comes with balancing the 3rd eye chakra.