Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Tapahswadhyayaishwarapranidhananikriyayogah:

Everywhere this week I'm seeing reminders about the Yamas and the Niyamas, the ideas in the Ashtanga Yoga system of the best ways to live your life. I'm not writing a post about them so look them up if interested, or maybe I will write one in the future.

I just listened to a podcast of Sharath which like much of his conference talks is about that way we behave much more than asana. A friend wrote a blog about the Niyamas. They've popped up in many more places in the past three days as well but these are examples from this day in particular. Plus I chant the four padas of the Yoga Sutras almost daily and one verse, the first one of the second pada about Sadhana actually, the one this article is named for, in particular has stuck out and vibrated differently each day when I recite it.

It lists three of the niyamas and states that those three things together determine the yoga of action, or kriya. And those three things are what seem to be most important to me these days, not the asanas, although I do them, not meditation, although I do it within the context of my practice. But those three things. What are they?

Tapas, which is often translated as building the inner fire and that certainly is one aspect of it. But it's so much more. To me it's mostly about the discipline I've cultivated over these 17 years of asana practice. Discipline in that I never not practice, and that doesn't mean I do asana every day. It means that I engage myself spiritually every day. So I have an altar which is formed of mostly Hindu deities on it, although Yoda is there too, and Sharath and a few other things. I sit down in front of it and chant many different mantras in Sanskrit with deep intention. That is what changes things I believe is when the heart get pulled into things. Then your energy goes into it as well and therein lies the tapas or tapah of it. In the ancient scriptures often they would say this sage, or this Asura or whomever did this tapas for 10,000 and gained some boons from the gods. And they were sitting and chanting with strong focus the whole time. Nowadays I think most ashtangis think of their physical asana practice as tapas but don't really know any other thing that it could be, but in ancient times, the discipline of sitting and committing to sit and chant the name of god for thousands and thousands of repititions was really where tapas was. But to me it could be anything you commit to and do daily, possibly at the same time, that really engages you and your energetic focus enough to bring your feeling and emotions into it, and then that transforms you. It can be many other things too, but right now that is what it is to me.

The next ingredient of Kriya Yoga is Svadhyaya, which is often translated as self study. Does that mean studying shit all on your own, with no teacher? It can, but mostly it's not. Sharath mentioned in his book that if your teacher talks about something, say Ganesha, and you don't know anything then you go and find out what that is. That can be svadhyaya. Also study of the self can mean observing yourself when you're doing different things, like your asana practice, like the way you walk to work in the morning, how you feel when you walk through the city streets, or cut through the park on your way to the same place, how do you feel when you eat this, or that, or think this way, or think that way. It's a way of noticing, or rather deepening your awareness of you. This isn't about just blindly following things, it's about studying how they affect you and when you do things with a different mindset, how they are, or maybe if you do something different instead, how you are. All these things, and again, so much more, can be svadhyaya. To me though it's my reading that I do of the Hindu mythologies, that give me so much insight into regular, daily life. It's the observation of my body and mind as I practice my asanas in the morning, or how I feel while I'm doing my morning chanting one time when I light incense, another when I don't light it, and all the different variations I can make of it and how it affects me. It's also maybe even more importantly how I feel when I'm teaching and helping someone in an asana, or noticing that my instincts are telling me to not help them so much today so that they can figure it out through their own efforts, and much more like this. It's being aware.

The final component of Kriya Yoga is Ishvara Pranidhana, which most often is translated a surrender to God. Abraham in the Law of Attraction work that I've studied would call it Allowing. Now to me this means not trying to do the thing, to "make" it happen. But surrendering to the process. Putting your intention out there and then letting God, or the Universe, or whatever you'd like to call it, take care of arranging it in your life. You also have to surrender to the fact that things will usually happen, or get done in your life but often they are not going to happen the way you think they should. That is a big lesson I got from my first trip to India. I was still stuck in this almost OCD way of being that made me think this thing has to happen in this certain way, and then the next thing in that way and even in this order I have derived in my own mind. But everything would get finished just never in the way or order I thought it would. And that drove me crazy! But then it also gave me the opportunity to surrender and allow it to happen as it was going to, rather than having an attachment to how and when, which is a big relief when you let go of that.

Now I don't know how many of you like the idea of surrendering to God, see my last blog post simply entitled God to see what I think of it, but to me God is an okay word and I would use Goddess more often if I remembered to because I am enamoured of thinking of Kali or Lakshmi being the divine being rather than the old school biblical man with a beard sitting in the clouds watching down at us. I also love the effect when you say "oh, thank goddess!" in front of people, especially people in the midwest who've grown up mostly with this idea of God being a man sitting in the clouds. It just fucks with them something awful ahahahahaha, I know, I'm terrible. But I like to use the word God and to me it doesn't just mean God, or Pan, or Ishtar or Shiva or whomever, it means everything. The boulder, the grass, the water, the building, the person, the whatever. Because to me its all God in some form. See I <3 Huckabees, particularly the blanket theory speech by Dustin Hoffman's character, for a great explanation of this.

These three together are very powerful and in the Sutras considered the actions one needs to take to achieve a state of yoga. That thought makes me happy. They are less things to do, then ways to be or live your life and I think I can make them work, they really y make sense to me and are very practical in showing you results within and without.

Think about it in your life, how do you enact these three things? Do you try to do them daily? Is one more important than the other, and why? Do you even think about this stuff enough to give a fuck?!? LOL, maybe not, and should you? Well, that's for you to decide, not for me to lay on you. It's your life, are you living it consciously? Do you live it at all? Or are you simply dead within the context of "being alive" because you technically are? Hmmm...

Sunday, March 5, 2017

God

This word doesn't have a lot of good press lately, well maybe for a very long time. I've always used it though and I'm sure its because of my Christian upbringing where we insist the title is the actual name, although that's not true.

But when you study religions that mostly embrace all as one then why does it need a name? Maybe it doesn't. Who knows. I personally like having a name, but I don't really need one because often I'll still just use the term God, which is not a name, it is a title.

I'm sure the lack of having a name for God came from the transition as Christianity split from Judaism and they have a name in Hebrew which you're not supposed to say or name, but you can write it, יהוה. Right to left these Hebrew letters are yup hey vav hey. Those are the names of the letters and if you look at them they could be pronounced Yahweh, but usually aren't. Anyhow, I think because of this lack of wanting to speak the name the early Christians, even though I doubt that's what they called themselves, decided to just call him God. Yes I say him because they believed it was a him.

I do truly believe that I believe that God is everything. The law of attraction as taught by Abraham would say the same thing, but they don't like to use the term God. Sharath in conference this season and last used the term energy in place of the word God because that word has gotten such a bad wrap. So whatever you call it, it's everything. I believe this, I'm not asking for your belief system, this is my blog, but an in person discussion about it is always welcome. I love talking about this shit.

I even know people who would say how can I talk about God and use the word shit in the same paragraph. Well, if you believe God is everything then shit is included in that, so get over it. The word and the stuff!

I've mostly been focusing on the Hindu faith these past few years. Actually known as Sanatana Dharma, not Hinduism, a word which came from the fact that as the Aryans (Iranians) migrated into the area commonly known as India, but better known to its people as Bharat, they had to cross the Sindu river, but in their tongue the s sound wasn't so easily available so they called it Indu(s) and anyone past it was a Hindu. Therefor the name Hindu came about and became more common.

A friend of mine thinks of everything as Shiva, since Shiva is the all being, everything is a manifestation of him/her/it. So I often use this term as well. But I digress...

My focus on the Hindu faith has been since 2000 when I started practicing Ashtanga but I let go of it for a long time to focus on other things, then once I started going to India and to temples in India more specifically I got interested in it again. But it started seeping in, and reminding me of the days in the late 80's where I studied Wicca pretty deeply. The pagan feeling and all that is there. But this is all well documented in my blog and on other social media outlets I regularly use.

So do I need a name for god? No. Do I want one? Sometimes, often yes, but much of the time god suffices for me as well. I like saying goddess too because the divine feminine really appeals to me. But does it matter? No. Everything is God I said remember? And I believe this. Even though I forget it often, I have moments of clarity where I remember and KNOW it so fully that it surprises me that I forget it.

And since everything is god does it matter if we argue? If we fight? If we get along, or fall in love? Does it matter if we're nice to everyone? Or mean to everyone? If we feel good, or bad? If we're a whore? Or very chaste? Or if we practice yoga, or not, or meditate, or chant, or do any of it?!?

Who the fuck knows. I don't. I know that when I feel connected sometimes I don't want to do any of those things and yet I still feel connected. I know that sometimes I feel good, sometimes I feel bad, sometimes I'm horny, sometimes I'm very against the idea of having sex for a long period of time, sometimes I love to eat too much and sometimes I love to only eat sweets all day long. Sometimes I love to practice yoga, sometimes not. Sometimes I love to teach yoga, sometimes not. Sometimes I just want to lie around and watch tv all day long, and do it, and yes I still feel okay. Or I don't. But none of these things or any of the thousands of other scenarios I could come up with makes me any less god, or you, or that bitch down the street or the tree in the park, or the rocks in the creek, or... I could go on. But why.

My idea is that what does it matter what we call it? Or what we think it looks like? Or where its suppose to be? I believe my way, you believe yours. Even if we're in the same religion, or both not involved in any religion, we're both still God, or a little bit of that energy tucked into our little sleeve of reality, so once you know that how can you not change the way you act or feel towards others? Even if they call him Allah, or Yahweh, or Krishna, or Shiva, or Kali, or Odin, or Jesus, or the Great Spirit. Those are just names, small little titles that we think can name it, but do they really? Or are they just capturing an aspect of this energy? Maybe. Maybe Sat Inder is my little bit of God, and yours is your name, and hers her name, and the dogs his name, etc.

Maybe we're just all in this together and we need to just get the fuck over it and act like it. Or not. But maybe we just all need to be okay with whatever is going on, around us, or within us, because its all God, or in other terms it's all okay.

It is all okay. That quote from Best Exotic Marigold Hotel that I love, even though I love the whole movie, is It'll all be okay in the end, and if it's not okay, then it's not yet the end. It is always the end of one thing, and the beginning of another, so it's all always okay. It's your connection to it or reaction to it that makes it not so...

Saturday, March 4, 2017

I'm not a good surface dweller...

If you're wondering what that means, be patient, I'll explain. But many of you whom I've had in person conversations with know what I mean by that title.

I think everything manifests from us. Our energy creates the reality around us. Many of us are what I call surface dwellers. They live or float at the surface of the ocean but never have the bravery to dive into its depths. This past fall Sharath used a similar analogy when discussing yoga and it made me love him more and know why he's my teacher.

This week I was really diving in and felt deeply everything and so my inner being, which I was in full connection to, was where I was living and therefore creating some great stuff, some of which is manifesting now. But then I had a day I overslept which led to another and screwed my practice up, so I was feeling everything, my body was hurting, my mind was scattered and I couldn't focus or even remember some students names. And it dawned on me why.

When my practice is strong and regular like it was in Mysore this past year, I can manifest amazing things. Even just daily life experiences that are more fully realised and deep than at other times. A few weeks after I got here, the magic of Mysore was wearing off and so I started getting angry about coming to a place that was so cold, that was rainy and overcast, that I didn't know the language, etc, etc, etc. Whine, whine, whine...lol.

That led to a lot of body pains, joint aches, muscles acting weird. My mind not being so clear, my focus being less, just a whole slew of things. When I realised that I started to kick it back in. Started to do my mantras more often, chant the sutras again, be more diligent with my full practice and it started changing, then I screwed up for a couple days and boom. How fleeting this shit is, right?!?

But it is cumulative, so screwing up here and there is okay and the benefits don't lag. Screwing up for three weeks, in different ways or whatever, just screws everything up!

Our attitudes change, and our attitudes are manifestations of how deep we are. Yes, they are. Our eating patterns change, everything. We can't talk badly about other people and expect that it coming from them, its coming from inside us. Its coming from our lack of depth or connection to a deeper place within ourselves. Because when we're in there and doing everything from that place it shows in our attitude, which in turn shows in our life, shows in our behaviour. Are you anxious? Then where aren't you deepening your connection? And yes, it's hard, but damn once you get there you really don't want to not be there, but its easy to fall into those patterns again and again, especially if you're surrounded by people who don't do this as a way of life.

And most of are not around these kinds of people all the time right? I am in Mysore, and even there they're not all that way, but it's easier to maintain my balance because of that. But didn't I just say that outer is a manifestation of the inner? Yes I did, so I'll change that. When I'm there I have an easier time maintaining my own equilibrium and so then manifesting those kind of folks around you happens, less worries happen too, more ease in all situations.

This stuff can happen collectively too, look at the US and the president they've manifested, come on! Now, that's all I'll say about that, too much focus there shows that I'm getting away from my internal connected place.

So I've decided to be happier here in Germany, to embrace the change and the language (which I'm still not getting but I'm meeting all sorts of nice folks willing to speak English easily, or Italian, or Spanish...) and to embrace this life experience I've manifested for myself. And no doubt I did manifest this and everything else that I experience, even the crabby girl at the counter ahead of me somewhere, that shows that I'm not connected in some way.

My goal is to be more and more and more in deep connection with my inner being. I hate goals, but this is the one that I am okay with. I'm going to keep diving into my depths and not only float on the surface of my consciousness. And when I catch myself treading water, boom, back at it. You?

Monday, February 20, 2017

Comfort zone

I left the midwest because it was too easy there for me. Even though it wasn't easy, it was still within my comfort zone. It was easy for me to teach there because I'd taken time to grow a community of students, to share personal time with them in the classroom, but also outside the classroom. In my park class I showed my real self and created bonds with people because of that there as well. So I could mostly make a living there, not a great living, but a living none the less. I was surrounded by friends and family when wanted or needed. It was very comfortable.

Every time I get comfortable I stop growing. I know that may sound harsh, but for me its mostly true. Now I could get deeper into my own personal practices and grow in some ways but mostly I would get more and more into my own head and find reasons to not get out and do things, but to hide away and become more reclusive. Or ways to just stay in my head more and more, and for me that is death.

Going to India for the first time three years ago, yes it was only three years ago even though it was four trips and seems like a decade or more ago, was the biggest time I've been outside my comfort zone. I was entering a very hot place overweight (for me) and having been less active than I had been in years and began to sweat immediately and walk everywhere and do this strong, dynamic yoga daily whether I liked it or not. Had a teacher yelling at me and holding me accountable for doing my practice for the first time in most of my practice life. Made friends that I'm still friends with now and have been in India each of the four trips with. Ate a lot of spicy food that changed my palette to such a degree that now I don't really love much else, other than falafel too...lol. And so many other things.

But most of all, I was uncomfortable. I was being forced into the fullest version of Supta Kurmasana I'd ever been able to muster and stopped there because I couldn't do it fully, no one had ever stopped me before! Once I finally got it and finished primary I was immediately started on standing up and dropping back even though that hadn't been a requirement before in my early practice years when I was doing intermediate and learning Advanced A series. I was hot, it was like 92 degrees fahrenheit in the middle of the night for gods sake. My friend who I was sharing a room with was going through her own stuff, and trust me, our stuff did not mix well at all. My nerves were fried and my body shaky.

But slowly I adjusted and when I finally got home after those almost 8 weeks away I was sad to have to leave, but no matter that, India has never been comfortable each time I've gone back. But each time I've gotten a bit more easy with being their version of uncomfortable and grown to love it and consider it home. When I go back I'll go to the north which is hear is super outside most westerners comfort zone, so we'll see how that goes.

Now enter Germany. I'm getting more comfortable, even though I didn't think I would. But I'm still adjusting and the students are great. I'll have more to write on this as my time here grows but for now I'll leave it with that much.

But I do feel I'm growing here. It's colder again, so my body has tried to close up and make practice harder, again. Which is frustrating especially since I opened up so much in Mysore this year. But I'm feeling more like I did when I first began yoga. I'm more into watching the videos of Pattabhi teaching again like I used to, and using that to build my fire for my practice. I'm chanting my yoga sutras again more regularly, almost daily and I love the way chanting Sanskrit makes me feel. I'm reading more and being inspired more by the inisights coming up from this and my practices. I'm teaching more here, morning and night Mysore and that taking a lot from me, but also forcing me to pull from a deeper place to get up in the morning and do my practice before morning class and that is deepening my connection with my own spirit again.

So growth is happening, again and yes, continually. It's nice to feel it and be with it. To once again be present with it and be enjoying it.

There is a recent article stating that Ashtanga is not fun. And it talks about yoga trying to be fun for people and the the western approach that's brought that ideal up. And while Ashtanga can be fun, yes sometimes it can be, it is not fun. But it in enjoyable because you feel your growth, you can measure your physical changes and achievements against themselves the day before (if that's something you feel the need to do) and you can see and feel the ease one day, the tightness the next, the openness the next, the laziness the next, the strength the next, the fat the next, the thinness the next, the deeper twists the next, the tough backhanding the next, the easy backbending the next, etc...ad infinitum!

It's good. I like it. Even when I'm hating it, I still love it.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Change...

Change is always hard, but as the cliché says, it's the only constant, right?

Leaving India was not the thing I wanted to do. Last year while I was there in February, after my time with Sharath was over, I completely allowed myself to fall in love with it and found that it was the only place I wanted to live. But at the time had to go home to make some money to be able to return for the next season with Sharath and of course, that was good that I went. Lots of things changed. This time I also stayed an extra month but was invited to take over my friends Mysore program while she was out of the country, and it's for four months which is a long time. So I'd be living in Germany,which was not in my plan. Not that I plan anything, I go on my feelings and it felt right to say yes when she asked me.

So now, I'm in Germany. My sister took German in school and probably would be able to pick back up on it pretty easily. I took French and so many other romance languages are easy for me to pick up on. Even Kannada (what they speak in Mysore) isn't so hard to figure out what they're talking about to me, even though I don't know it at all. So I'm having a hard time with German. But the area is adorable, streets are mostly brick and the little shops all down the block are pretty great too.

The people are nice, and on the street will often look you in the eye and say "morgen" much like saying morning in the US, but it doesn't often happen on the street. But mostly they also speak English or know enough words to answer your questions about what it is a quiche you may be looking at (yes, this example is from my breakfast experience this morning lol).

But reading a language you have no clue about is hard, and even harder sometimes to have your google translate open and typing in each phrase or word to find out what they mean. Let alone the trials of trying to get your sim card to work when all the texts are in German, but we got that figured out finally after a few days. The good thing is that I'm good at getting things quickly. But listening to a language that you don't know, but your brain is still trying to translate constantly even though its to no avail is tiring. So therefor, this, my first week here has worn me out.

Add to that that not only is there a morning Mysore program, but there are three night Mysore classes as well. And anyone who knows me well knows I haven't taught an evening class in some years. One a week here and there, but always done before 7pm, because I just don't function well after 7pm. Thinking doesn't happen in my brain I should say after 7pm, but here I'm teaching till 7:30-8 depending on when the students finish. So, I'm tired. But still been able to practice each day, so I'm getting enough sleep. It's just the tiredness from adjusting and functioning in that way again.

I also keep taking wrong trains and having to walk much further than I mean to, but that will come as well. And I will say that I usually walk the whole time in India, and getting that scooter this year made me walking lazy! I love the scooter though, so much fun and nicer to get around to places more quickly, but damn, the walking is killing me now since I got unused to it lol.

Now, all that said. The students are great and make it worthwhile to be there and I love that. It's been over four months since I last taught and now I'm teaching as a teacher authorized to teach by my guru, which is maybe even more of a responsibility, but it also makes me feel happier to teach. And now people who practice with me can apply to also study with Sharath, that makes me even more happy.

So as change happens, it's kind of like growing pains and so the pain is there, but your body is getting bigger. Or your spirit is getting bigger. Things are expanding. However one wants to say it. You can't grow or have expansion of self without the pain of change. So this new experience will be great, is going great already and I can imagine will help me grow more than I expected. I would love to see you here, come visit me!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Leaving...

Well, my time in Mysore is coming to a close shortly. Last year when I was here one month past my time in the shala is when I really fell in love with being here and decided, no matter what comes up I have to live in India, in some way shape or form...

When I got asked this past summer to sub for four months in Germany this spring I got excited because making the money would facilitate me being able to travel around and see where I want to live in India. But I never realised that leaving was going to have such a hard effect on me.

Now it's here and boom, my heart feels like its being ripped from my body. Germany for sure is going to be a great experience and a great opportunity for my first travel and teach, so I'm not complaining. Just saying boy this is hard!

I've gotten closer with many people this trip, including myself. My body as figured out how to be in a comfortable place much more than any previous trips. But more so than that, my mind has made a lot of space and learned how to be there, and maintain it, without much work. Which will be likely to change, but let's see, maybe it will still be not so hard.

There is so much change going on back in the US I don't know how I'd feel if I were having to go back there, so I'm very glad I'm not.

Anyway, to focus on the good, almost this whole week I've gone to temples that I usually frequent and its like they know that I'm leaving and have brought me special prasad or given me more, bigger flowers, or this morning in the Lakshmi Venkateshwara temple I was invited into the sanctum to sit right in front of the deity, which never happens. So cool and yet so melancholy inductive experiences lol. I love these things and know that I'll be back and know that this stuff is all in my heart, so I know that I'll be fine and happy and whole. Maybe even for my deep experiences within myself this season in Mysore I'll even be better than usual and maintain this inner place I've managed to make.

So if you happen to read this I'll be at Santosha in the morning for breakfast, and likely at Diba's Cafe for lunch, not sure about the rest of the day but come say good bye will ya!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Saturday mornings...

Saturday mornings are a very relaxed morning here in Gokulam. Of course when I was still at the shala they involved going to conference, I always say behind Sharath a bit and turned on his mic and equipment for him. Now that is no longer a part of it, I miss it, but I can do my normal Saturday morning ritual.

Typically I go to the Ganesh temple here on the main road, which I do daily anyway. Ganesh is the starting point for worship and is in most temples to remove the obstacle between you and the deity you're coming to visit. Then I go to Shani. Most have never heard of Shani. The planet Saturn in the navagraha (nine planets which have a space in every temple) he is the sun of Surya, or the sun, and is worshipped as the deliverer of your karma. So the Shani Dev temple here in Gokulam is quite packed on Saturdays (Saturday is so named because it is ruled by Saturn/Shani) with people coming to give him thanks and hopefully buffer their karma as well. Then I go to Hanuman, who is also worshipped on Saturdays although I'm no so sure why. His day is Tuesday as it is ruled by Mars and he rules Mars, I'll have to research that one some more maybe.

Recently, this past week especially, I've been drawn to go the Shiva temple up near Loyal World daily. So I went last night and at night its most amazing, I love it there. As I rounded the corner on my scooter to go to the little Anjaneya(Hanuman) temple on KRS Road that I love, I felt this strong pull to go to Shiva instead. As I drove past the little temple that has been so much a part of my journey on these mornings I saw how packed it was and decided that yes Shiva was the right move for me this morning. So I turned around and went there and felt completely fulfilled by the experience. I didn't even want to leave when I did. This being my day off my asana practice now I really get a lot from the temples since the asanas weren't there for me to burn through that mornings stuff.

Now what I didn't mention was that this morning every deity was covered in silver! Ganesh daily has a different covering, often leaves, turmeric, vibhuti, different combinations of things, or his usual black basalt self which is my most favourite. But today he has a silver sheath over him and was surrounded by bananas! I loved it. Then to Shani, Shani Dev is always made out of silver so that was normal but the temple was draped in more flowers than usual and as I drove by Hanuman I saw him in a silver sheath and then got to Shiva and the lingam was also covered in a silver cone with a face on it. I was wondering why and then remembered that today is Sankranti, the day the sun crosses into Capricorn, some see it has a celebration of the harvest, or as the 12th such transition of the sun into a new sign, but its a day of celebration and they even cleanse the cows by making them jump over fire and many other things. Likely there will be firecrackers going off all night tonight as well, they do that here as often as they can find excuse to hahaha...

What I felt this morning was special though, each temple was so packed for those celebrating this transition. But more than that there was a deep calm over it all and a since of inclusion. They embrace me coming to these places and they embrace each other as well. It's a big feeling of belonging to a tribe. Some pagan ritual that draws them all together and in this they are happy and peaceful and full of connection. That sense this morning was overwhelming and made me want to write about it. Here I'm more embraced than I've ever been, and as I leave for Germany in two weeks I will miss this and long to come back to it more than anywhere else I've ever been. I know the temples aren't needed for this experience to happen but that coming together, daily or weekly, of all those with such deep intention of connecting to God is such a thing that I've never seen or felt anywhere else.

I love you India and you will always have a big piece of my heart...