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...

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Letting go...

This seems to be the theme of life right now. Maybe even the theme of the lives of most of those around me at this time!

Not letting go of this mortal coil necessarily, but letting go of my attachment to the outcome, or the way I think things should be. That's a hard lesson to learn from a control freak raised by control freaks lol.

But India has taught me this lesson well. Not getting into specifics about what the letting go is happening with right now, but if you know me then you know what it's about. But still, its a theme that can fit anywhere in my life, or any of our lives.

We're generally taught to hold on tightly to things and never let go of them, but when I began a yoga practice one of the recurring themes was to NOT hold onto things. They are impermanent and in order to maintain some equanimity somehow you have to let go so that you're not so disappointed when things don't turn out the way you think they should.

Letting go sounds awful, it sounds counterintuitive at best, but it really isn't that. It's exactly the opposite.

Especially for someone who's studied the Law of Attraction the way that Abraham teaches it, you have to tell the what and the why, the what so the universe knows what to provide, the why to build up the feeling of how it will feel to have that thing already. But the how and the when are none of your business. So we must let go of those things to allow in the manifestation. Blecccchh... Who the fuck wants to do that. But, nonetheless it is true.

If you hold on to the thing, you're usually holding on to NOT having the thing and so are maintaining that vibration and drawing more of NOT having the thing to you, then you never manifest it.

In the Yoga Sutras, it's talked about abandoning desire. Which I interpret the same way. When you have a longing for something you are living in the not having it, rather than in the abundant state of how it would feel to have it. And its really not about having it, but its about living in the feeling of abundance that is a natural state in the universe. There is enough for each and everyone of us.

I can get there, and I can get out of there, both very easily. I wish I could maintain the former more easily than the latter, but they are about equal. Unless I've practiced the latter more at that time, then that becomes the easiest part.

God, why are humans so complicated?!? Why can't we just feel our way through things the way we're meant to? We have to start thinking about what others will think of us when we act this way, or that way, or have this thing or that thing, or not. Who gives a shit? Why does what anyone thinks about us matter? I know we're often trained that way, but it doesn't mean we have to keep maintaining this silliness.

I'm letting go, right now. Not going to worry about it anymore and just embrace the good feeling of the blessings I already have in my life and release myself from concern about the things I don't!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Last month...

Well, it's the last of my three months practicing with my guru here in Mysore. I'll be here another month after that, but I may travel a little bit, not sure just yet.

This season has been interesting to say the least, more intense than most I would say, but interesting for sure.

It's involved physical injury, wrist pain, cuts and bruises, and all happening on my left side. Left side, right brain, feminine side. Who knows what that means. Maybe I pray to Kali/Chamundi too much! Maybe not enough.

A friend of mine asked me why I'm so drawn to Kali and to write a blog about it, I couldn't come up with anything that sounded poignant enough to write down, but maybe it doesn't have to be, so here it goes.

At first coming to yoga one often sees Ganesh around studios and shalas and then looks him up to find a bunch of his stories, he is known as the removal of obstacles. So is often invoked before taking a trip, before going to work, at the beginning of a day. There is a small Ganesh temple right here in Gokulam that was the first Hindu temple I ever went to, even had a lady who spoke no English have her daughter tell us about the protocol and symbolism in the temple, maybe two seasons ago I think. What you also find out is that he also is often the one who puts the obstacles there as well! So then you have to invoke the energy he embodies within yourself to be able to work your way through whatever problem comes up. Sneaky guy...

Then you find out that his father is Shiva, really he was built from the dirt of his mothers body so has no father, but Shiva is Parvati's husband so he took on the role, and that's a story for another time. Shiva is one of the big three in Hinduism, symbolising the destruction phase of God. Often he is thought of as destroying the things in ones existence that is no longer serving them to make space for new and more beneficial stuff. That's a story I like. When you study him, you find out much more along these lines as well. You also find out there's a whole sect just for him, Shaivites. Then you find out there is another sect that follows Vishnu, Vaishnavites. Then you find out there is a whole sect that worships the mother, the goddess, the shakti. Shaktites, and they believe that the ultimate energy of the universe comes from the goddess energy, the shakti, and that the masculine energy only focuses that, but the real power is from her. That intrigues me, because even though I was never baptised a Christian I was raised in their churches and there really is no feminine principle, not including Catholicism, but the brand of Christian I was raised under also does not even consider Catholics Christians!

Anyhow, I digress. So when you are researching the divine feminine, often this terrifying image called Kali comes up. She is usually dripping blood from her long tongue and teeth, and holding a head in her hand, skulls around her neck and arms around her waist. No thank you, I want nothing to do with this craziness!

Then some young Indian fellow, who is jealous of all the Western students coming here to study yoga (because he is in school to be an engineer to make his parents happy, and wants nothing more than to be a pujari and study yoga and spirituality) befriends you and as you're leaving, he buys you a book- Yogic Secrets of the Dark Goddess. Brilliant fucking book. Pavithra even carries it in the Green House now because I bought it for so many people last season.

This book talks of a womans many experiences of Kali in all her forms and some are softer, some are harder, some involve Krishna, some involve Shiva, some involve Lakshmi. So you start seeing her in a different light and then begin to chant to her and your life seems to be falling apart, but as quickly as it falls apart, other better, newer things come into it and you see, she is the ultimate destroyer but also is like a mother, giving and loving and wanting the best for you.

So you start with where any good pooja in India starts, you invoke Ganesh, then you move to his father, stronger version of the same energy. Then to his mother , who is the most powerful thing you've ever felt in your life. Really also, you're invoking these qualities within yourself, not from outside you at all. So you're seeing your life and its possibilites more clearly, but your also seeing it from a fresh perspective. From a softer, and yet stronger place. Think of water, its the softest thing you've ever encounter, but it also can destroy a whole country with its power or wear down rock to create a groove to flow through. She is the ultimate in creative power, coming from the lower chakras, but embodying the upper chakras. Just aamazing stuff when you invite her in.

So this summer I did a lot of pooja to Kali, nightly for 108 days to be exact, and once I got here I realised I needed to invite her to stay with me more intently again and began this same pooja along with a morning mantra to her and an evening mantra as well. She's definitely shown her face here. I've learned a lot about myself through physical injury and emotional instability, only to come out feeling more stable and more in my power than ever before.

On the softer side I had a great meeting with Sharath and we talked for about 40 minutes, he also gave me his blessing to teach, but in true Kali fashion the other parts of the process toward authorisation have been muddled and even blocked so far. This energy is very much in the soil in India as well, it will teach you your lessons, but will teach them in its own way, and never a way you expect. It's crazy and its wonderful. More on that meeting once I get my certificate, whenever that may be! Hahahaha...

So, that's enough for this afternoon, off to do my evening pooja and to slowly settle in for the evening so I'm able to get up at 2:30am and get to led class. This is last two weeks of practice for this season. It makes me sad, but I'm also ready to move forward and get to my teaching in Germany and then maybe see Sharath in Copenhagen in August, before coming back to India!

Have a great week!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Surgery month...

So most people know my analogy of three months here in Mysore: First month cut you open, second month surgery, third month sew you up! Sharath says: First month tired, second month paining, third month flying! Both basically say the same thing to me.

My first month here seemed amazing, my body wasn't hurting, my mind was soft and receptive and I was going to all the classes, then my wrist went wonky, that last a few weeks before I got a major sinus issue from the pollution in the city one day which brought on fever to fight off the toxins, then Pavithra helped me clear that up with some Ayurvedic herbs and such, then we had the scooter wreck which scraped the skin off much of my left forearm and in places all the way down my left side. I couldn't do anything but sleep for about 3 days, then a minimal practice, then began full practices again and thats when the other effects started coming out. Sore shoulder muscles that were just weak and taking their own time to get back to normal, a rib out of place which was pinching muscle under my left pec, which popped back in place as I was stretching in bed one night and the next day was when I could finally do the whole practice again, and then a few other bruises and aches from everything landing on my left side, including the scooter...

So, state of mind is a big thing to me. How we feel and what we're thinking in combination tell us where we are, and I believe, or rather know that these things manifest in our physicality as well. So things in my psyche were being dredged up and here they were being shown to me. Of course, as one tends to do, I forgot that and was feeling bad mentally and blaming it on the physical things that had happened to me. I had this also in my second trip here where I had my SI joint go out and pinch a nerve and also had a parasite I'd gotten from a salad cause me to have diarrhea for three weeks and I lost 37 pounds. But since then my body has been behaving pretty well, even when my mind was out of it. Of course there were a few things here and there but nothing big. When in the US I can always have a chiropractor pop me back in place and avoid the psychological stuff if I want!

All these things had been muddling my vibration quite a bit and so I would get caught up in an internal dialogue about how I shouldn't be still doing this intense practice and maybe it was time to give it up again, for good this time, and blah, blah, blah. There are many around me who are sensitive to this stuff and haven't been around as much, of course I was in the rotten place and didn't notice that, I'd also been making excuses for myself, to I'm a mess. Well, I"m human, as are we all. I like to fool myself into believing I'm a superhuman yogi who could live in the Himalayas naked and all that, but I'm not there quite yet!

So Saturday in conference Sharath talked about many things, which we're no longer supposed to report on(the idea being that if someone wants to hear conference they need to make the pilgrimage here to hear it in their own words. And if they're not here to listen to it in context it can be taken very wrong and misunderstood and cause a lot of talk to happen), but at one point he was talking about pushing oneself just a little bit and seeing the benefits of how that day may be your best practice yet. At this time a friend looked right at me, and this I noticed right away. During that whole section he kept looking at me and I averted his gaze. Then this morning wrote him a message asking if he thought I wasn't pushing myself enough. To which I got a long, supportive, love filled explanation saying yes basically. And we had a dialogue throughout the day that helped me further, this also started a processing of thoughts and feelings that was much needed and a few conversations with others about it as well.

Not saying I'm all processed and ready for the easy sew me up month, but I'm on my way that direction and the negative slant my thoughts had taken has been shifted in a better direction and I am going to make it back to my first led class since all this physical stuff has happened. Yes, I know, I come here to practice and I'm avoiding it. Not completely, I've been practicing at home at a slower pace, but I've been missing out on that energy and the pace which is something I need to keep me going while I'm here, and more importantly, while I'm not here! And I was doing well this trip and going to them most of the time, but that's a story for another blog entry.

So, I'm feeling better, my mind is in a better state and I'm feeling rededicated to this practice in a way I haven't in five weeks. So surgery month is almost over, that doesn't mean the third month will be completely a breeze but it does mean that I'll be approaching it differently.

Thanks for reading, have a great week!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

New body...

The title of this entry refers to a famous quote from K. Pattabhi Jois, "new body, new body, new body is making..." Which referred to the fact that yoga, maybe this specific practice even, changed you on a cellular level. Your body sweats, detoxifies and evolves as you practice. Even most peoples diet and approach to life change from it. So as cells go they replenish more quickly with all the excess sweat forcing the old cells off the epidermis. Your muscles change, they get strong but also longer and more pliable, along with many other things. I tend to get here and sweat so much here, more than in my former home, and break out. The zits only last about a week but they are annoying and painful, then boom, gone, it may happen again if my diet falters while I'm here but again, goes away fairly quickly. My hair and nails grow faster here, I believe because of the energy flow of the place, there is a LOT of prana here, both in the shala and outside of it. But this is maybe the first time I've experienced the feeling of a new body. I have practiced this path we call Ashtanga Yoga since March 1 of the year 2000. I began primary series and didn't really complete it for two years, when I was on the island of Maui studying with Nancy Gilgoff and Guruji for a week as well. Nancy immediately started me on intermediate series and then began me on advanced A during my time there. Maybe during those weeks I was in less pain, but for the majority of the time I've been engaging in this practice I have hurt. I hurt myself as well and that is why I quit in 2008 and studied Kundalini Yoga and Anusara Yoga, to heal, physically, but also emotionally and spiritually. When I came back to Ashtanga Yoga I was safer, studied with many certified and authorised teachers and began my yearly treks to Mysore, India to study with Sharath, who had taken over guiding the lineage once Pattabhi left his body. But even then, I still hurt all the time. I felt better when I was practicing at home because I would take an extra day off here and there but when here and having to do this 5-6 days in a row each week I was just sore, joints, muscles, one season my SI joint went out, this season I'm having a wrist issue, etc. But this is the first season that I am not sore all the time. I've always been jealous of those people who can just get up daily and practice, no matter what. This is another issue, no segway, sorry. I always have a battle of internal dialogue telling me how awful it is to do this daily, that I'm going to kill myself or worse, going to lose my mind! haha, as if... And the soreness always made my mind choose to do the same as I was doing back home, takes extra days off and such. I felt justified for following my body's needs, yay for me! But was I? Or was I just telling myself that? In some ways both. But this season I'm here, I'm practicing 6 days in a row (okay those in the know, yes I still sometimes skip the Saturday led class to avoid the crowds, but I did go once, but I've practiced at home all but one!) and my body is okay with it. Dare I even say my body feels better than it ever has? Yes, I dare. Because it does! I will also state that Sharath still has me doing mostly only primary series. He's always talking about how important it is for the basics of the body, and now I finally believe him. When I was practicing the first go round I love intermediate and after you practice it you feel just ethereal almost, although I hear this isn't so when you're doing it daily. I was on Nancy's regimen of primary one day, intermediate the next, back and forth. Which was pretty good, so we'll see how it goes if I ever get there again. But for now doing mostly primary and adding on pasasana and the backhanding, it's working and making my body feel great, and my mind feel strong and I'm feeling more open than ever, heart-wise and mind-wise. And I will say I love feeling open, even though I fought hard against it for so many years. No, now it feels great. So whether or not you agree with this, that's fine, but from experience let me tell you to keep practicing. Things change, eventually, physically of course (even though that took the longest for me) but emotionally and mentally especially. Then that's when you can enjoy life a little more. I enjoy going out around town with people, or by myself. Or staying in with people, or by myself. Eating, or not eating. Reading, writing, watching tv shows, scanning social media. All of these things, or none of them, I enjoy doing them, or not doing them. Just being okay with whatever comes up, that's a new thing for me. But yogascittavrttinirodhanah, right?

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The hard and the soft...

Now, those of you who know me well will likely think the title of this entry is sexual. I do like my potty humour and have a terribly naughty mind, but alas, I'm sorry to disappoint that it has nothing to do with this.

I've been really thinking, most of the summer actually, about the hardness of this practice. The intensity really, which seems like hardness. It comes across to those who don't practice it that it's all about pushing further and further and forcing yourself into these postures that don't seem natural.

In fact, its the exact opposite.

If you try to push yourself into these posture you will do nothing but hurt yourself. I used to do that when I was first practicing Ashtanga yoga, hurt myself a lot while teaching myself third series (I'd previously learned primary and Intermediate with a teacher).

The key to this practice, which already brings a strong yang vibe in its intensity with all the focus on the breath, bandhas and dristhi and the sheer amount of jump backs, jump throughs and posture sequences, is to allow it to happen. Is to soften and just breath without a lot of muscle tension or mental tension to make it worse. It's to find the softness, the feminine energy, the yin, within all that yang.

It took me coming to Mysore and having Sharath poke me with his toe saying relax, relax, relax, thirty times each practice to realise the maybe he wanted me to relax and not push so hard, not focus so much on my alignment, which I'd gotten into with the study of Anusara yoga, and just breathe. Breath really is the softest thing we can offer ourselves, and it changes our postures.

It slowly seeped into my practice that I'm meant to just practice, not thing about everything while I'm practicing. They've given us enough to focus on during our sadhana, so just breathe and do it and look at your nose and do it and just do it, do the next posture! hahaha...

So, I feel like this trip is really going well because I've integrated that softness by now, my fourth trip here, and my back feels great, my wrist was hurting but keeps getting better and my mind I'm mostly able to shut off during the asanas.

I ran across someone I've seen around at the shala on Facebook and found out he does Thai massage, which I also do, but that I never have the opportunity to receive. So decided to contact him about getting some bodywork, even though I didn't really need it, I've been craving that human touch and was following my instincts and they'd told me to contact him.

I must say it was the most bizarre massage I've ever had, very strange techniques that I've never encountered, but my god, it was also the best bodywork I've ever had. I feel better than I've felt in a long, long time and he mostly focused on the wrist, but using the whole body to get the energy flowing to the wrist, and everywhere. But the one thing that stood out is what he said to me after the experience. He told me he felt that I've worked hard on myself and I've achieved a lot but there is some last bit of resistance and that is whats affecting the wrist. I also felt this so agreed and now need to figure that out and let it move on through.

But he also said that he so much appreciated my softness. He could tell I worked hard to get to that point and it was a pleasure to work on someone who received so well. How masculine it is to be with and admit your softer side, rather than harden up (as we're taught to do so intently back in the midwest, maybe everywhere actually) and he appreciated it.

So, I'm soft. I've always wanted to be and I guess I have achieved that. But my hardness comes out a lot as well, as it has in pissing a few people off this week via social media. So it's always a balancing act, isn't it? Finding out when to comment, or not, and if you do to deal with the consequences of it, good or bad. But then good or bad are just labels, and I'm so tired to death of labelling everything.

Put that way, aren't hard and soft just labels as well? They are also ways of being I guess but labels to those ways of being still. Maybe one day I'll learn to just be, to just be content and at peace with whatever comes, as the sutras state. Maybe not. For now I'll be who I am and sometimes I'll remember to back off, and sometimes I won't and Ill make that comment, and sometimes when receiving bodywork I might tense up, but sometimes I'll be able to relax and fully receive it and just breathe.

Those who know me and love me get me either way, they may get irritated when I'm a bit too hard edged, but they know that underneath it I'm just a big soft teddy bear. Now I've spilled the beans and you all know it huh? Oh well, maybe that's part of it too. The catharsis of letting you all know my secrets, or maybe not having secrets at all? Ahhh, I like that...

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Practice, practice, practice...

This trip has been very different for me, not sure of all the reasons just yet, but they are there. One thing is my wrist is jacked up, but its slowly healing. Have to take care with that one, we use our wrists A LOT in this practice. So my ego has been poked already around what I think my practice is supposed to look and feel like, which has so far been a good thing.

One thing that's surprising to me is how much I'm looking forward to practicing each morning. I just like being in that room and there is a whole different group this year, well, not all different, but there are many new faces and they seem to be much better behaved than the other groups I've encountered in past trips. Including going in at the gate each morning, it's been not a heart wrenching nervous system jarring experience, it's been quite pleasant and calm mostly, even on led days. And speaking of led class, I'm enjoying them for a change and have been able to get in the room each time, not just been relegated to the change room.

People here seem to be socializing a bit less, less people in the cafes most of the day, not including Santosha in the mornings which has been busy. But not as much going out and about, and that's okay too.

I've taken to visiting the area temples more this trip, much like the end of my last trip. And am getting a lot out of it, more encouragement and welcomeness from the locals too. Not they ever made me feel unwelcome, just looked at me like wtf? lol, but not this time, it's been amazing.

Also, I'm eating less. Not interested in being super full and eating things with more nutrients I think has helped that too. But I feel much more energized, maybe putting that stuff about diet I learned back in the US before I came has been helping that too, interesting to use my body as the experiment and seeing where it takes me. I like having more energy and I like not feel super full all the time, or excruciatingly hungry, as I used to.

Not much more to say right now. Not a lot of deep stuff coming up for me yet, not that it won't, it usually does, but that I'm in a different place so its not affecting me as much maybe? Or maybe I've just not dug deep enough yet? Or maybe I should just enjoy it either way...