Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Gunas

This week in my classes we have been talking about the three gunas (rajas, sattva, and tamas). The gunas are qualities of material things and activities. Everything in this physical world is a combination of the three gunas, and we experience them in what we see and what we experience. To summarize it you can look at any situation and ask is there to much (rajas), is there to little (tamas) or is there a harmonious balance (sattva).

Rajas: activating, stimulating, passion, accelerating, heating, and upward moving energy. Related to fire and air, corresponding with energy.

Tamas: stillness, quite, inertia, dark, cooling, and downward moving energy. Related to earth and water, corresponding with matter.

Sattva: balancing, optimizing, light, luminosity, corresponding with light (Consciousness).

We want to balance out these gunas. When I say balance I don’t mean you need X amount of rajas and X amount of tamas and X = X is Sattva. When I say balance I mean dynamic, it is ever changing. When you got up this morning you wanted more rajas then tamas. You want more energy than inertia and that will be more Sattva. When you go to bed you will have a more Sattva experience if you have more tamas then rajas. The other night I couldn’t sleep at all. I laid in bed for hours in the dark with my eyes closed and my brain was just spinning. I kept thinking…TAMAS I need more TAMAS. You see how it is a dynamic balance depending on the situation.

I really like thinking about these gunas when I practice yoga asana. Because in every pose we come into we can think: am I doing too much (rajas)? Am I not doing enough (tamas)? Or am I experiencing this harmony, this divine marriage of contrary complements (Sattva)? And depending on what you answer is you can make refinements to the pose so you can have a more Sattva experience.

The breath can be a great indicator on this. Once you come into your alignment (alignment is important because if you aren’t in good alignment and you are in pain because of your misalignment you won’t be able to focus on the quality of your breath or you gunas) turn your awareness to your breath. If you are breathing so slow you could just take a nap, then that is too much tamas, you aren’t doing enough. Make an adjustment to add more rajas to your experience. If the experience of your breath is you panting for air, that is too much rajas. Make an adjustment to bring some more tamas into your experience. If the experience of your breath is full and you feel a sense of ease and peace but at the same time alert and vital then you are experiencing a state of Sattva.

What is balance? What is optimal?
Whatever enhances and affirms life in any particular circumstance of time and place. It brings the opposites together in a dynamic way to create a dive marriage of contrary complements.

Resources: The Anusara Yoga Master Immersion Packet, By John Friend

Thursday, May 20, 2010

my outline of chapters 1-12 of The Bhagavad Gita

Okay...So in the immersion #2 Adam asked us to write an outline of the first 12 chapters of The bhagavad Gita. I did this and I summarized the chapters, inserted some of my favorite qoutes, or qoutes I wanted to talk about, and also added some of my own comments and feels. Heads up this is long, but I thought I would post it and put it out there.

The Bhagavad Gita (My favorite translation is by Eknath Easwaran)
The main message of the Gita is to see the Lord/ the divine in every creature and to act accordingly. This reminds me of Anusara yoga because we try to see the divine in all things and then we try to align our bodies/minds/hearts with Grace.

Chapter 1: The War Within
(Krishna teaches about karma yoga, the yoga of selfless action)
Yudhishthira is the right full king should have taken over when his father, Pandu died. But he was so young so his father’s younger, blind brother, Dhritarashtral took over the throne until Yudhishthira was older. But over the years Dhritarashtral liked the power and wanted to pass the throne on to his son Duryodhana. SO the battle is over the claim to the throne. Krishna consoles Arjuna as he goes into battle against family and friends to claim his brothers claim to the throne. Krishna is only Arjuna’s advisor and cannot help fight, he has sworn to be noncombatant.
2)Arjuna talks to Krishna and says “I do not see that any good can come from killing our relations in battle. O Krishna I have no desire for victory, or for kingdom or pleasures…..Even if they were to kill me, I would not want to kill them, not even to become ruler of the three worlds?...How can we gain happiness by killing members of our own family” (81). After Arjuna finished speaking he throws his bow and arrow down and sat down in his chariot in the middle of the battle field.
3)I don’t like when it says “where there is no sense of unity, the women of the family become corrupt” (81)
Sri Krishna: Bhagava “the lord”, the incarnation of lord Vishnu
b)Arjuna & his brothers(Yudhishthira, Bhima, Sahadeva,Nakula): Pandavas “the sons of pandu”
c)Kauravas: the sons of Kuru
d)Dhritarshtra: Pandus younger brother who is King
e)Drona- born a brahmen, became a warrior, taught either side their skill in war
f)Bhishma: “the grandsire” the respected elder
g)Sanjaya: who narorates the entire Gita to the blind king Dhritarshtra. Sanjaya has divine sight

Chapter 2: Self-Realization
Karma Yoga
Arjuna is asking Krishna: Does he have a soul? Does it survive death? Is there a deeper reality than we perceive in the world around us? If so, is it possible to know it directly, and what effect does such knowing have in everyday life? Krishna touches on all the main themes and concepts of the Gita, so this chapter is like an overview of the sixteen chapters. Arjuna asks Krishna to be his guru.
2)Krishna answers and urges Arjuna to fight:
a)You have an immortal nature: the real Self, the Atman, never dies, for it is never born; it is eternal.
i)“The wise grieve neither for the living nor for the dead. There has never been a time when you and I, and the kings gathered here have not existed, nor will there be a time when we will cease to exist. As the same person inhabits the body through childhood, youth, and old age, so too at the time of death he attains another body. The wise are not deluded by these changes.”2:11-13
ii)“You were never born; you will never die. You have never changed; you can never change. Unborn, eternal, immutable, immemorial, you do not die when the body dies”2:20
iii)After Krishna tells Arjuna he is immortal he tells him to fight in this battle: “the body is mortal, but that which dwells in the body is immortal and immeasurable. Therefore, Arjuna, fight in this battle.”2:18
b)5 acts of Shiva (creation, sustenance, dissolution concealment, and revelation):
i)“Death is inevitable for the living (dissolution/concealment); birth is inevitable for the dead (revelation/ creation). Since these are unavoidable you should not sorrow. Every creature is unmanifested at first and then attains manifestations. When its end has come it once again becomes unmanifested.”2:27-28
c)Non-attachment: Krishna tells Arjuna that his basic nature is not subject to time and death; but that this truth cannot be realized if he can’t see beyond the dualities of life: please and pain, success and failure, even heat and cold. If you can’t see past duality you can’t identify with the Atman, the immortal self.
i)“Seek refuge in the attitude of detachment and you will amass the wealth of spiritual awareness. Those who are motivated by only desire for the fruits of action are miserable, for they are constantly anxious about the results of what they do. When consciousness is unifies however, all vain anxiety is left behind there is no cause for worry, whether things go well or ill. Therefore, devote yourself to the disciplines of yoga, for yoga is skill in action.”2:49
d)Krishna talks about yoga (karma yoga) he says if you establish yourself in yoga you will be more effective in the realm of action. His judgment will be better and his vision clear if he is not emotionally entangled in the outcome of what he does.
i)“Now listen to the principles of yoga. By practicing these you can break through the bonds of karma. On this path effort never goes to waste, and there is no failure. Even a little effort toward spiritual awareness will protect you from the greatest fear”2:39-40
(1)What is the greatest fear? To think that you are separate from the divine.
(2)I like this because practicing yoga off the matt can be hard and when I feel like I keep making mistakes it is comforting to remember that effort never goes to waste.
3)Arjuna is interested in how people conduct themselves in life. If a person establishes an ever-present awareness of the core of divinity within himself, how does it affect the way he lives? Talk? Sit? 2:54
a)Those established in wisdom see past the physical body and see the Atman; they see the same Self in everyone, for the Atman is universally present in all (divine oneness).
b)They don’t identify with personal desires for karma, for personal satisfaction. They don’t act on the ego or the senses that entangles us in the world of samsara which draws us away from the core of our being, the Self.
c)They control their senses rather than letting their sense control them. If the senses are not controlled the mind, will, iccha will follow wherever they lead. If you keep following the senses you will lose the strength of will and intuition? of purpose, and your choices will be dictated by your desires:
i)“When you keep thinking about sense objects, attachment comes. Attachment breeds desire, the lust of possession that burns to anger. Anger clouds the judgment; you can no longer learn from past mistakes. Lost is the power to choose between what is wise and what is unwise, and you life is an utter waste” (2:62-63)
d)The supreme goal: knowing their real nature, they know their own immortality and realize their union with eternal being.
4)Krishna 2:55-2:72!!
a)See the divine in all….established in meditation, non-attachment/ appropriate attachment….
5)Vocabulary used in chapter: samsara, jiva

Chapter 3: Selfless Service, Karma Yoga “The Way of Action”
Karma Yoga

1)Tantra= Life of active engagement
2)Arjuna is confused “O Krishna, you said that knowledge is greater than action; why then do you ask me to wage this terrible war? Your advice seems inconsistent. Give me one path to follow to the supreme good.”3:1
3)Krishna tells Arjuna to act. He says don’t avoid work, especially the duties required by his station in life, but to perform those duties without selfish attachment to their “fruit”, or outcome.
4)Question: Krishna keeps telling Arjuna to fight this war because Arjuna is a warrior, it is his dharma (just like it is the dharma of a scorpion to always sting a monk who keeps trying to save it from drowning). But when he fights to make his actions an offering to the divine, and not be attached to the fruits of his actions. Could you says that we living in this modern world are also born into this dharma of living in the modern world (paying taxes, working, having relations) and so even if we think it is wrong or we don’t want to do it (just like how Arjuna doesn’t want to kill) we still need to because it is our dharma, but if we make our actions in our modern world and offering to the divine and if we don’t get attached to the fruits of our actions, that is the way to live and create a union with Krishna?
5)Obstacles to path:
a)“Those who violate these laws, criticizing and complaining, are utterly deluded, and are the cause of their own suffering”3:31
b)“The senses have been conditioned by attraction to the pleasant and aversion to the unpleasant. Do not be ruled by them; they are obstacles in your path”3:34
6)Arjuna then asks: What binds us to selfish actions? What power moves use then against our will, as if forcing us?3:36
7)Krishna answers:
a)“It is selfish desire and anger, arising from the guna of raja; these are the appetites and evils which threaten a person in this life”3:37
b)“The senses are higher than the body, the mind higher than the senses; above the mind is the intellect, and above the intellect is the Atman. Thus, knowing that which is supreme let the Atman rule the ego. Use your mighty arms to slay the fierce enemy that is selfish desire” 3:42-43
8)Vocabulary used in chapter: jnana yoga, karma yoga, gunas

Chapter 4: Wisdom in Action
Karma Yoga

1)Krishna tells Arjuna that he has taught these “secret teachings” to other sages and Arjuna gets confused saying how could you have taught these teaching to the old sages, they died a long time ago. Krishna then reminds Arjuna about rebirth saying that Arjuna has forgotten his many births but that Krishna remembers all of his.
2)Krishna explains himself more:
a)that he has taken on human birth many times to help the world:
i)“Whenever dharma declines and the purpose of life is forgotten, I manifest myself on earth. I am born in every age to protect the good, to destroy evil, and to reestablish dharma.” 4:7
b)“All paths, Arjuna, lead to me.” 4:11
“The distinctions for caste, guna, and karma have come from me. I am their cause, but I myself am changeless and beyond all action. Actions do not cling to me because I am because I am not attached to their results. Those who understand this and practice it living in freedom.”4:13-14
i)Actions do not cling to our real Self. The Self is untouched by action; whatever we do it remains unsullied.
3)Krishna talks about action, work and things that should be done and should not be done. It is essential, he reminds Arjuna to act wisely, with detachment. The wise never act with selfish attachment to the fruit of their labor; they give their best in fortune and misfortune alike. Such people act in freedom.
a)“The wise see there is action in the midst of inaction and inaction in the midst of action. Their consciousness is unified and every act is done with complete awareness.” 4:18
b)“The awakened sages call a person wise when all undertakings are free from anxiety about results; all selfish desires have been consumed in the fire of knowledge.”4:14
i)I think it is interesting how Krishna talks about fire (raja) here but in a positive way to use it. And in chapter 3 Krishna said desire comes from raja.
c)“They live in freedom who have gone beyond the dualities of life. Competing with no one, they are alike in success and failure and content with whatever comes to them. They are free, without selfish attachments; their minds are fixed in knowledge. They perform all work in the spirit of service, and their karma is dissolved.”4:22-23
4)Krishna tells Arjuna about the different offerings (Yajna).
a)“Some renounce all enjoyment of the senses, sacrificing them in the fire of sense restraint. Others partake (delight?) of sense objects but offer them in service through the fire of the senses (asana?). Some offer the workings of the senses and the vital forces through the fire of self-control, kindled in the path of knowledge” 4:26-27
5)Krishna talks about spiritual wisdom as an alternative to the path of karma yoga. Now he reveals that wisdom is the goal of selfless action knowing is the fruit of doing. The goal of all karma yoga or Yajna (offering) is liberation and spiritual wisdom.
a)“Even if you were the most sinful of sinners, Arjuna you could cross beyond all sin by the raft of spiritual wisdom. As the heat of a fire reduces wood to ashes, the fire of knowledge burns to ashes all karma. Nothing in this world purifies like spiritual wisdom. It is the perfection achieved in time through the path of yoga, the path which leads to the Self within.” 4:36-38
6)Krishna tells Arjuna to cut through the doubts that stifle him.
a)“Those established in the Self have renounced selfish attachments to their actions and cut through doubts with spiritual wisdom. They act in freedom. Arjuna, cut through this doubt in your own heart with the sword of spiritual wisdom. Arise; take up the path of yoga!” 4:41-42
7)Vocabulary used in chapter: Yajna

Chapter 5: Renounce & Rejoice
Karma Yoga

1)Arjuna asks: “Krishna you have recommended both the path of selfless action and sannyasa, the path of renunciation of action. Tell me definitely which is better?” 5:1 Krishna then answers that “both renunciation of action and the selfless performance of action lead to the supreme goal. But the path of action is better than renunciation” 5:2
a)Traditionally sannyasa means renouncing all worldly ties and attachments.
i)Example: the Buddha (Siddhartha)
ii)Krishna acknowledges that sannyasa (renunciation) can lead to the goal; he recommends the path of selfless action.
2)The true goal of action is knowledge of the Self.
3)Karma yoga:
a)The selfish ego should not expect gratification from the work.
b)When there is no selfish involvement in work, the worker does not come to spiritual harm.
c)Be detached from the outcome or fruits of action.
i)The example is the lotus: it spends its life floating in water, yet the drops of water roll off its leaves without ever wetting them. Similarly, as long as the karma yogis do not expect reward or recognition, any evil that might stain them has nowhere to cling.
4)Krishna uses the term “equal vision” when one sees the divine Self in all, regardless of the outer aspect.
a)“Those who possess this wisdom have equal regard for all. They see the same Self in a spiritual aspirant and an outcast, in an elephant, a cow, and a dog. Such people have mastered life. With even mind they rest in Brahman, who is perfect and everywhere the same. They are not elated by good fortune nor depressed by bad. With mind established in Brahman, they are free from delusion. Not dependent on any external support, they realize the joy of spiritual awareness. With consciousness unified through meditation, they live in abiding joy.”5:18-20
b)“Pleasures conceived in the world of senses have a beginning and an end and give birth to misery, Arjuna. The wise do not look for happiness in them. But those who overcome the impulses of lust and anger which arise in the body are made whole and line in joy. They find their joy, their rest, and their light (inner body bright, Nishprapanchaya Shantaya-Niralambaya Tejase) completely within themselves. United with the Lord, they attain nirvana in Brahman.”5:22-24
5)Krishna talks about Samadhi.
a)In deep meditation, breath slow/steady/even, mind quiets down, emotions subside, the spirit is free
6)How would tantra interpret 5:8
a)“Those who know this truth, whose consciousness is unified, think always “I am not the doer”. While seeing or hearing, touching or smelling; eating, moving about, or sleeping; breathing or speaking, letting go or holding on even opening and closing the eyes, they understand that these are only the movements of the senses among sense objects”5:8-9
i)Would it just be aligning with spirit?
7)Vocabulary in this chapter: sannyasa, mukta, sada, moksha

Chapter 6: The Practice of Meditation
Karma Yoga

1)Krishna gives an explanation of meditation for the average person. Similar to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, but more simple without any unnecessary mystery or complexity.
2)“Who is the true Yogi?”
a)A person who does his or her job with detachment from the reward 6:1
b)One who has attained the goal of meditation
c)They are samabudhhi “equal mind”
3)The mind must be made one-pointed through the practice of meditation.
a)Find a place and a seat for meditation.
b)Sit with good alignment.
4)Practice of meditation and yoga.
a)Moderation is the path.
b)Krishna says “Those who eat too much or too little, who sleep too much or sleep too little, will not succeed in meditation. But those who are temperate in eating and sleeping, working and recreation, will come to the end of sorrow though meditation. Through constant effort they learn to withdraw the mind from selfish craving and absorb it in the Self. Thus they attain the state of union (yoga)” 6:16-18 (This is also what the Buddha taught)
c)Compares the mind to a steady flame “when meditation is mastered, the mind is unwavering like the flame of a limp in a windless place” 6:19
i)The mind must learn to rest in the Self. “The still mind touches Brahman and enjoys bliss.”
ii)Arjuna says “My mind is so restless and unsteady that I cannot even comprehend anything about this state of mystic peace you are talking about” The mind is so powerful, so turbulent, that trying to bring it under control is like trying to catch the wind.
(1)Krishna again tells Arjuna that the mind can be trained through regular practice of meditation.
d)“The practice of meditation frees one from all afflictions. This is the path of yoga. Follow it with determination and sustained enthusiasm. Renouncing wholeheartedly all selfish desires and expectations, use your will to control the senses. Little by little, through patience and repeated effort, the mind will become stilled in the self” 6:23-25
i)I really like this quote. It is just a reminder to stick with the practice with enthusiasm, and patience.
5)Arjuna asks “what happens to one who has faith but who lacks self-control and wanders from the path, not attaining success in yoga? If he becomes deluded on the spiritual path, will he lose the support of both worlds, like a could scattered in the sky? “ 6:37-38
a)Krishna says that no attempt to improve his spiritual condition could be a wasted effort. You will even be reborn into a better home where spirituality is practiced “into a home which is pure and prosperous. Or they may be born into a family where meditation is practiced; to be born into such a family is extremely rare. The wisdom they have acquired in previous lives will be reawakened, Arjuna, and they will strive even harder for self-realization.”6: 42-43
6)Krishna says Karma yoga is the path for those who wish to climb the mountain of self-realization. At the beginning of the spiritual life, great exertion is required; as the summit is approached, though the climb gets no easier, the dimension of contemplation or stillness is added.
a)“For aspirants, who want to climb the mountain of spiritual awareness, the path is selfless work; for those who have ascended to yoga the path is stillness and peace. When you have freed yourself from attachment to the results of work, and from desires for the enjoyment of sense objects, you will ascend to the unitive state. Reshape yourself through the power of your will (will= attitude (iccha/heart)); never let yourself be degraded by self will. The will is the only friend of the Self, and the will is the only enemy of the Self”6:3-5
i)3 A’s of Anusara yoga. The will has to do with our attitude our intention our heart. So Krishna is kind of saying (in Anusara words) the heart/the intention is the only friend of the Self and the heart/intention is the only enemy of the Self. (This makes sense!)
b)This is like our asana practice. When we start out our practice has a lot of tapas, but as we keep practicing although the poses don’t get any easier we use alignment and breath to allow the prana to flow more fully through us and are experience is that the poses feel easier.
7)Vocabulary used in this chapter: yogi, samabudhhi

Chapter 7: Wisdom for Realization
(Krishna starts talking about the jnana yoga, the yoga of knowledge)

1)Krishna explains himself to Arjuna. He has “two natures”:
a)He has created out of himself the elements of all things that make up the phenomenal world.
b)Beyond this Krishna’s spiritual nature is the transcendent Lord of the universe.
i)Krishna is behind both prakriti and Purusha.
ii)Krishna is the creator of the world.
(1)“There is nothing that exists separate from me, Arjuna. The entire universe is suspended from me as my necklace of jewels.” 7:7
(2)“Arjuna, I am the taste of pure water and the radiance of the sun and moon. I am the sacred world and the sound heard in air, and the courage of human beings. I am the sweet fragrance in the earth and the radiance of fire; I am the life in every creature and the striving of the spiritual aspirant” 7:8-9
iii)Krishna’s true nature is hidden by maya. “Few see through the veil of maya. The world, deluded, does not know that I am without birth and changeless” 7:25
(1)Maya is the capacity to create form and illusion, conceals immortal being. Maya can be both delightful and dangerous. The three gunas are immerged in maya.
2)Sankhya recognized two fundamental principles underlying all things: prakriti, the principle of mind and matter, and Purusha, the principle of pure spirit. The union of these two forces set in motion the creation of the world. In Sankhya, the goal of Self realization is freeing the spirit (Purusha) from mind and matter (prakriti)
3)Krishna is said to have created the world in play (Lila) just as a child might desire to have companions to play with, Krishna desired companions, and made the world. Krishna participates in the game of life; his divine qualities shine through in the world wherever there is excellence of any kind.
4)Krishna does start to mention the importance of love and devotion (but that is mainly expressed in the last six chapters)
5)“Delusion arises from the duality of attraction and aversion, Arjuna; every creature is deluded by these from birth. But those who have freed themselves from all wrongdoing are firmly established in worship of me. Their actions are pure, and they are free from the delusion caused by the pairs of opposites” 7:27-28
a)The self centered attachments which cause confusion and delusion, is similar to dreaming while awake “living in a dream”. The duality of attachment and aversions ties the mind into moha right at birth.
i)Being devoted to Krishna is a way beyond this delusion.
6)Vocabulary used in this chapter: jnana, vijnana, jna, Sankhya, prakriti, purusha, lila, maya, moha

Chapter 8: The Eternal Godhead
Jnana Yoga

1)Arjuna asks “Krishna, what is Brahman, and what is the nature of action? What is the adhyatma, the adhibhuta, the adhidaiva? What is the adhiyajna, the supreme sacrifice, and how is it to be offered? How are the self-controlled united with you at the time of death?” 8:1-2
a)Krishna answers 8:3:
i)Brahman: is Krishna’s highest nature
ii)Adhyatma: Brahman lives in every creature as adhyatma.
iii)My action is creation and bringing forth of creatures
iv)Adhibhuta: is the perishable body
v)Adhidaiva: Purusha, eternal spirit
vi)Adhiyajna: the supreme sacrifice
b)Krishna continues to answer Arjuna’s question and talks about death, and the soul’s journey after death.
i)(these ideas did not originate in the Gita and are even more ancient than the Upanishads)
ii)“Whatever occupies the mind at the time of death determines the destination of the dying; always they will tend toward that state of being. Therefore, remember me at all times and fight on. With your heart and mind intent on me, you will surely come to me. When you make your mind one-pointed through regular practice of meditation, you will find the supreme glory of the Lord” 8:6-8
(1)Whatever a person thinks about in life (the deepest motivations) are likely to be the last thoughts at the time of death. So there is continuity between this life and the next, and all the baggage of desire and motivation goes right along with the soul. (choose your thoughts wisely)
iii)Krishna describes what happens to consciousness at the moment of death.
(1)“Remembering me at the time of death, close down the doors of the senses and place the mind in the heart. Then, while absorbed in meditation focus all energy upwards to the head. Repeating in this state the divine name, the syllable Om that represents the changeless Brahman, you will go forth from the body and attain the supreme goal.” 8:12-13
(2)“Every creature in the universe is subject to rebirth, Arjuna except the one who is united with me” 8:16
iv)There is a state talked about that is higher than the cosmos, which is not born and does not die, avyakta.
(1)“But beyond this formless state there is another, unmanifested reality, which is eternal and is not dissolved when the cosmos is destroyed; those who realize life’s supreme goal know that I am unmanifested and unchanging. Having come home to me they never return to separate existence”8:20-22
c)The Days and Nights of Brahma are mentioned. As the Day of Brahma dawns the cosmos comes into being; as the day comes to an end, the entire creation dies and ceases to exist. Then for a night the universe rests. (5 acts of Shiva (creation, sustenance, dissolution concealment, and revelation):
d)Each day lasts for a thousand yugas, which = 4,320,000,000 years
2)Krishna again tells Arjuna that he is God immanent in all things as well as God transcendent.
3)Vocabulary used in chapter: adhyatma, adhibhuta, adhidaiva, adhiyajna

Chapter 9: The Royal Path
Jnana Yoga

1)This chapter Krishna speaks the whole time about being the Supreme Being who has created the world and dwells immanent in his creation. Krishna’s exalted nature is stressed, and a warning is given to those who think that God is limited to his creation.
a)Krishna is in human form, but those who just see his limited human form and show him disrespect will come to spiritual harm.
b)“I am the goal of life, the Lord and support of all, the inner witness, the abode of all. I am the only refuge, the one true friend; I am the beginning, the staying, and the end of creation; I am the womb and the eternal seat” 9:18 (5 acts of Shiva (creation, sustenance, dissolution concealment, and revelation)):
c)Krishna’s compassionate nature: whatever a person deeply desires (whatever he/she worships) will eventually be attained, in some life or other.
d)Krishna is impartial to all creatures; he doesn’t favor or reject anyone.
i)Love is what is important. Even a sinner who takes wholehearted refuge in him becomes good, sadhu. A good person but has come to signify one who leads the spiritual life, giving up all selfish desires to achieve the final goal.
2)Bhakti: to have real, selfless love, regardless of the object, is to love Krishna, The ultimate good.
a)Having devotion without understanding Krishna’s nature is not enough. Arjuna must have devotion and understand it is Krishna’s universal aspect that he loves.
3)Krishna tells Arjuna to make everything- every act, every meal, every sacrifice, every gift, even his suffering and offering to god. This will release Arjuna from the bondage of karma
a)“Whatever I am offered in devotion with a pure heart- a leaf, a flower, fruit, or water- I accept with joy. Whatever you do, make it an offering to me- the food you eat, the sacrifices you make, the help you give, even your suffering. In this way you will be freed from the bondage of karma, and from its results both pleasant and painful. Then, firm in renunciation and yoga, with your heart free, you will come to me.” 9:26-28
b)The Royal secret that Krishna promised to reveal: Anyone who has real love, love for the Lord of Love who is in all creatures, will in the end attain the goal.
c)“Fill your mind with me; love me; serve me; worship me always. Seeking me in your heart, you will at last be united with me.” 9:34
4)Vocabulary used in this chapter: bhakti, sadhu, sudurachara

Chapter 10: Divine Splendor
Jnana Yoga

1)Krishna continues to explain himself, revealing himself as the source from which all things come, the One who is the reality behind the many. He is beyond duality.
a)“Out of compassion I destroy the darkness of their ignorance. From within them I light the lamp of wisdom and dispel all darkness from their lives”10:11
2)Arjuna says “Krishna you are a supreme master of yoga. Tell me how I should meditate and in what ways should I meditate on you? O Krishna, you who stir up people’s hearts, tell me in detail your attributes and your powers; I can never tire of hearing your immortal words” 10:16-17
a)He reveals some divine powers and attributes.
i)Krishna is Arjuna’s innermost Self, Krishna is Vishnu, the sun, Shankara, Indra, Rama, the Gayatri, Arjuna…all the seasons, all the flowers, the symbol Om….
b)5 acts of Shiva (creation, sustenance, dissolution concealment, and revelation):
i)“I am the beginning , middle, and end of creation.” 10:32
ii)“But there is no end to my divine attributes, Arjuna; these I have mentioned are only a few. Wherever you find strength, or beauty, or spiritual power, you may be sure that these have sprung from a spark of my essence.” 10:40-41
3)Krishna asks “But what use is it to know all of these details, Arjuna? Just remember I am, and that I support the entire cosmos with only a fragment of my being” 10:42
4)Purushottama reminds me of Paramshiva
5)Vocabulary used in this chapter: Purushottama

Chapter 11: The Cosmic Vision
Jnana Yoga

1)The chapter starts by Arjuna asking to see Krishna “as the supreme ruler of creation” Krishna shows Arjuna his full nature as God himself, the Lord of the Universe. However you can’t see this with physical eyes so Krishna gives Arjuna spiritual vision.
2)Sanjaya then narrates what is happening to Krishna as he shows Arjuna is full Supreme Being.
a)“You are the supreme, changeless Reality, the one thing to be known you are the refuge of all creation, the immortal spirit, the eternal guardian of eternal dharma.” 11:17
b)Arjuna starts getting afraid when the light of God becomes a fire that burns and consumes all things, he sees people being killed and burning in this universal fire. Gods radiance is both a great light and a burning fire.
c)Arjuna asks “Who are you?”
d)Krishna answers “I am time, the destroyer of all; I have come to consume the world. Even without your participation all the warriors gathered here will die.” 11:32
i)I think Krishna said this to help him fight. By reminding him that he is a warrior, his dharma is to fight and that all the warriors will die anyways. And no matter how they die it is Krishna who is destroying them.
e)Arjuna asks for forgiveness if he ever said or did anything to offend Krishna by identifying him as only a human being.
i)“You are behind me and in front of me; I bow to you on every side. Your power is immeasurable. You pervade everything; you are everything.”11:40
f)Arjuna asks to see Krishna’s more human face.
i)Krishna explains how only pure devotion can allow you to attain the vision of seeing the full state of God.
3)The theme begins to switch to bhakti yoga, the yoga of devotion that is important on a spiritual quest.
a)“Through unfailing devotion, Arjuna, you can know me, see me, and attain union with me. Those who make me the supreme goal of all their work and act without selfish attachment who devote themselves to me completely and are free from ill will for any creature, enter into me.”11:54-55
4)Vocabulary used in this chapter: samadhi

Chapter 12: The Way of Love
(Krishna teaches about Bhakti yoga, the path of love and devotion)

1)This chapter focuses on the importance of devotion and faith (Shraddha) in spiritual development. Love is the most powerful motivation in spiritual life.
2)Krishna says seeking an eternal Godhead is really hard for the average person. And that it may be beyond reach for all “embodied beings”. This path of wisdom may be to spiritual for earths children because those who identify a lot with their physical nature find the way of knowledge too step to climb. That is why Krishna offers Bhakti yoga. The path of love.
“Those who set their hearts on me and worship me with unfailing devotion and faith are more established in yoga.” 12:2
3)Krishna says that if Arjuna is not able to focus his devotion, he should learn to do so through regular practice of mediation. Love and devotion can be cultivated through regular practice. (I like how Krishna isn’t just saying practice meditation but he is saying you must have a regular practice)
a)“still your mind in me, still your intellect in me, and without doubt you will be united with me forever.” 12:8
4)Genuine characteristics of a lover of God 13-20
a)“That one I love who is incapable of ill will, who is friendly and compassionate. Living beyond the reach of “I” and “mine” and of pleasure and pain, patient, contented,s elf-controlled, firm in faith, with all their heart and all their mind given to me – with such as these I am in love”12:13-14
5)Vocabulary used in this chapter: Shraddha, dehavat

1)Advaita: having no dualit; the supreme Reality, which is the “one without a second”.
2)Ahamkara: Self-will, separateness.
3)Akasha: space, sky, the most subtle of the five elements.
4)Atman: “Self”, the innermost soul in every creature, which is divine.
5)Avidya: Ignorance, lack of wisdom, want of knowledge
6)Dehavat: those who have bodies
7)Purushottama: the supreme purusha, the supreme person.
8)Sudurachara: sinner
9)Sadhu: A good person but has come to signify one who leads the spiritual life, giving up all selfish desires to achieve the final goal.
10)Brahman: Krishna’s highest nature
11)Adhyatma: Brahman lives in every creature as adhyatma.
12)Adhibhuta: is the perishable body
13)Adhidaiva: Purusha, eternal spirit
14)Adhiyajna: the supreme sacrifice
15)Moha: delusions
16)Lila: play
17)Purusha: the principle of pure spirit.
18)Prakriti: the principle of mind and matter
19)Sankhya: school of Hindu philosophy (prakriti, and purusha)
20)Jnana: highest kind of knowledge, direct knowledge from God, spiritual wisdom.
21)Vijnana: to know intensely or to a greater degree.
22)Jna: to know
23)Samabudhhi: “equable mind”
24)Shama: the peace of contemplation.
25)Yoga: integration of the spirit, wholeness or the process of becoming whole at the deepest spiritual level.
26)Yogi: one who is accomplished in yoga
27)Moksha: spiritual freedom
28)Sada: always
29)Samnyasi: a lonely austere monk
30)Sannyasa: renunciation
31)Mukta: liberation, Samadhi
32)Yajna: worship or offering- that may be performed by spiritual aspirants
33)Jnana yoga: yoga of knowledge, the contemplative path of spiritual wisdom.
34)Karma yoga: the active path of selfless service.
35)“Law of karma”: Actions determine destiny. If anything happens to us that is truly good we must have done something in the past to deserve it, if something ill befalls us, then at sometime in the past we did something that was not so meritorious.
36)Brahmavidya: Supreme science, seeking knowledge of an underlying reality would inform all other studies and activities.
37)Rishis: “seers” of ancient India
38)Brhamn: the god head, in Hindu mythology there are three Shiva, bhraman, Vishnu
39)Atman: the divine core of personality, atman is Brahman the self in each person is not different from the Godhead
40)Dharma:that which supports, the law that expresses and maintains the unity in creation, the path. (remember the metaphor about the monk and the stinging scorpion)
41)Dukkha: pain, suffering
42)Gita: “the song”
43)Gunas: the three qualities which make up the phenomenal world: sattva, law, harmony, purity, goodness; rajas, energy, passion; tamas, inertia, ignorance.
44)Karma: the web of cause and effect, everything that happens to us good and bad originated once in something we did or thought
45)Samsara: the self wears the body as a garment; when the garment is old, it is cast aside and a new one is put on. And the should travels from life to life. the cycle, might refer to the cycle of birth and death
46)Moksha: the spiritual liberation that is life’s supreme goal
47)Advaita: not two
48)Jiva: soul
49)Tat tvam asi: “thou art that” (chandogya Upanishad)
50)Nishkama karma: selfless action
51)Original goodness: since the self is the core of every personality, no one needs to acquire goodness or compassion, they are already there
52)Shraddha: faith “that which is placed in our hearts”
53)Right shraddha: is faith in spiritual laws. In the unity of life, the presence of divinity in every person. The essential spiritual nature of every human being
54)Wrong shraddha: isn’t necessarily morally wrong, just ignorant.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Even as humans we can defeat our demons! A myth about Ram (Vishnu)

(I started thinking about this and researching and reading about this story after being inspired by Cltie)
Long ago, the story goes, the entire earth was overrun with demons. The ten-headed demon king Ravana had prayed to his grandfather, Lord Brahma, asking to be granted to be immortal. He asked Brahma to make it so no god, demon, plant or animal could harm him. Brahma said do you want to be protected by humans too? Ravana thought humans were a joke and he said he didn’t need protection from any human. Because of this immortality, Ravana and his demon army caused a lot of damage and chaos on earth.

As the situation on earth was getting worse and worse the three gods of Hindu mythology Lords Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu decided that something had to be done to rid the earth of the rampaging demons and restore peace and order… Whenever Earth has problems, one of these Gods reincarnates themselves on earth to restore peace and balance. They decided that Vishnu should be incarnated upon the earth in the form of Prince Ram. As a human he had a chance of destroying Ravana.

Vishnu and Lakshmi are lovers. Whenever Vishnu is reincarnated Lakshmi is reincarnated too, and they find each other on earth and get married on earth (sigh, how cute!). In this myth Lakshmi reincarnates as Sita. Ravana finds Sita and kidnaps her, then a lot of stuff happens… Hanuman (the monkey god) who does a giant leap over the ocean (which is where hanumanasana (splits) got its name). In the end Ram defeats Ravana.

I think this is a really good reminder because I know when I have a problem or a demon in my life I turn to things like books or self help tapes, and this story reminds me that I don’t need anything else. That I have the strength in my little human form to defeat any demon even a ten headed demon like Ravana. In the case of Ravana not even the Gods could defeat him but a human could. When I think about defeating my demons I also think how courage is important. Well, sometimes, fear is appropriate. We do not say, we should be fearless. However, the teaching suggests that instead of giving into the fear that you dedicate yourself to something Higher." Courage after all, is not the absence of fear. It exists in the presence of fear. The root word of courage is couer, in French means “heart”. To have heart is to have courage.

How can we practice this on and off our mat? On the mat, when a pose comes up that has a lot of demons saying “you can’t do this” smile remember that even as a human you can overcome your demons, with courage in your heart. And off the mat? Remember that you don’t need to always turn to external things, that you have the strength and he power to conquer your demons.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

3 A’s of Anusara Yoga.

“A pose can have exquisite alignment and be balanced in its Action, but without a pure spiritual expression from the heart, it loses its power of deep inner transformation. A pure spiritual expression in a posture is an unfolding of the deepest qualities of the heart, such as love and joy, into the body and surrounding environment. These pure heart qualities make a posture sing with a beautiful inner music, which harmoniously joins into the grand symphony of life. This heart energy (attitude) is the key element that makes the practice of hatha yoga into a profoundly transformational art. A pure attitude during the performance of an asana purifies the body and mind, and lets the light of the heart freely shine out.” John Friend

I think karma yoga and the first six chapter of the Bhagavad Gita (see earlier post) is very similar to the 3 A’s of Anusara yoga. Both focus on the ways in which we act, the reasons we act, and the outcome of our actions. The Three A’s are attitude, alignment and action.

Attitude (divine will (Iccha/heart)): The power of the heart is the force behind every action we take. It is our intention. I think everyone’s attitude is to be happy, the aspiration to reawaken to our divine nature, and the celebration of life. In Anusara they use a metaphor to explain the three A’s. The attitude is the desire to unlock the door and be free. If attitude had a voice it would say “I want” or “my heart wants”.

Alignment (divine knowledge (Jnana/mind)): Alignment has to do with how various parts of ourselves are integrated and interconnected. Through self study, and self observation we can learn how to align ourselves physically, energetically, emotionally, and mentally. It is the knowledge of technique. How do we want to align our self with this situation? With life? With the divine? The alignment is the knowledge of how to align the key in the lock, and how to turn the key to open the door to freedom. If alignment had a voice it would say “I think” or “my mind thinks this is the plan”.

Action (freedom of Action (Kriya/body)): It is taking the action of the alignment. It is the manifestation. Action is actually turning the key in the lock, and involves knowing the amount of force needed to turn the key. If action had a voice I think it would say “let’s do this” or “my body is going to do this”.

Example: Your attitude in life is to be happy. Then you get hungry, you think I am hungry? What shall I eat? This is where the alignment comes in, when your mind (Jnana) comes up with a plan or a technique to align your actions with your attitude of being happy. You have many choices in this situation: pizza, steak, veggies, sandwich, salad, ice cream….Depending on what your mind chooses (alignment), then the body makes the action, which is eating the food your mind decided on. Depending on what you choose your alignment will determine if you are happy in the long run.

Everyone has the same attitude. Everyone at their core wants to be happy. The problems start to arise when the ego gets involved with the mind and the alignment. When the ego comes into the 3 A’s, we start to think we will be happy (attitude) by seeking things that bring us pleasure and avoiding things that bring us pain (alignment) so we act accordingly (action). Because of the influence of the ego, our alignment is thrown off and the actions we take will never result in bringing us delight (at least not in the long run). The Gita reminds us of this when Krishna says, what appears pleasant at first is “bitter as poison in the end” (18:38).

Krishna explains what happens when we choose to align with our ego and act out of attachment, and what happens when we choose to align with the divine and act free from attachment. Krishna says acting out of attachment “breeds desire, the lust of possession that burns into anger. Anger clouds the judgment; you can no longer learn from past mistakes. Lost in the power to choose between what is wise and what is unwise, your life is utter waste. But when you move amidst the word of sense, free from attachment and aversion alike, there comes the peace in which all sorrows end and you live in the wisdom of the Self” (2:62-2:65).

To me the first 6 chapters of the Gita sound like Krishna explaining to Arjuna how to choose good alignment in his life, so his actions will be selfless. Encouraging him to let go of the ego and the attachment to the outcome based on the self. And instead align with Krishna, with the divine essence that manifests everything, with this essence, with the divine, with nature, and with God.

Practicing the 3 A’s is hard. It is so much easier for me at out of the ego and seek gratification quickly. It is easy to see what will quickly bring me pleasure and what will quickly cause me pain and align and act off of that. However when I align with my ego my actions never bring me lasting happiness and delight. I work hard at trying to not align with my ego and instead align with nature/divine and act for the higher Self. However, I often make mistakes. Sometime these mistakes happen because I simply forgot. Sometimes I think I am choosing my alignment correctly and then I realize the ego tricked me into thinking I was acting without the ego. It can get frustrating. It is reassuring when Krishna reminds us that “On this path effort never goes to waste, and there is no failure. Even a little effort toward spiritual awareness will protect you from the greatest fear. Those who follow this path, resolving deep within themselves to seek me alone, attain singleness of purpose”(2:39-2:41)

I am reading Christine Sells book Yoga from the Inside Out, and she talks about sadhana, “the work”, this really reminds me of alignment. She says “The work involves enlarging our focus beyond our ego’s limited viewpoint into the larger context of spiritual life”. She continues to say later in the book that when “we offer ourselves to the Divine to be used for service…We create fertile ground in which the seeds of the Divine can grow and bloom.”

How can I use my mat and my asana practice to remember the 3 A’s? How can I use my practice on my mat to help inspire me to choose better alignment in my life so that my actions lead me to my attitude (to be happy)? When I physically practice poses on my mat that is my action. As I do this I make an offering with my body to this moment, to nature, to the Divine. This offering reminds me to choose an alignment, mentally and physically, that will better serve the Self. This means if I am doing a pose and I feel pain instead of pushing into and being driven by the ego, I acknowledge that this physical alignment that I am in is no longer honoring my Self. Practicing like this encourages and motivates me to align with the divine on and off my mat, instead of the lower self which is fuelled by the ego. When I practice like this I am happy, because I know that the actions I take are helping me align and serve the higher Self verses the self.

One thing I really love about Anusara yoga, and the tantra philosophy is you don’t use the 3 A’s to avoid any situation. Instead you align with every situation in a way that allows for the most progress. We align so that we can karmically move forward better and faster and as a result get happier and smarter. Since I have been studying Anusara yoga, doing immersions, practices, reading the Gita and studying the 3 A’s, I feel more and more like my yoga asana practice has been shifting in a wonderful and powerful way. The experiences with the 3 A’s on my mat have been really fueling me to practice the 3 A’s off the mat.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Bhagavad Gita, Karma Yoga= Selfless Service

I have been rereading The Bhagavad Gita. I have read the Gita a few times and have always found it inspiring, but I have never felt the connection, and impact of these lessons like I am now. I am reading a new translation by Eknath Easwaran his translation is really helping me grasp the knowledge much better, I also think I am in a different place in my life right now and I am being shown new aspects because of where I am now. That is one thing I love so much about myths and spiritual books, you can read or hear a teaching many times and yet each time something new is revealed, something else sticks out. I am really connecting and understanding that the Gita is not about this external war, but instead addresses “the war within, the struggle for self-mastery that every human being must wage if he or she is to emerge from life victorious”. And “Krishna is not an external being, human or superhuman, but the spark of divinity that lies at the core of the human” (21). The Gita is a map of how to connect to the divine, within and without; it reminds me of the Anusara invocation.

I am now focusing on the first six chapters. I have read, taken notes, contemplated/meditated, reread my notes, and I am now rereading the first six chapters again. I think there is so much knowledge in this book. If you read through it to quickly you miss a lot. I choose to break the Gita up in these 6 chapters chunks since there are 18 chapters of Krishna teaching Arjuna about yoga. “The Gita is brahmavidyayam yogashastra, a textbook on the supreme science of yoga”. However, what can be confusing is that Krishna teaches about yoga but he presents three different forms of yoga but he never distinguishes between the different forms of yoga and just refers to them all as yoga. These three forms of yoga are taught in six chapter sections, chapters 1-6 is focused on karma yoga (the yoga of selfless action), chapters 7-12 is focused on jnana yoga (the yoga of knowledge), and chapters 13-18 is focused on bhakti yoga (the yoga of devotion).

As I read the chapters on karma yoga, Krishna keeps saying that we shouldn’t be acting out of our ego, out of our selfishness. The Bhuddha called this tanha “thirst”: the fierce, compulsive craving for personal satisfaction. Krishna teaches that it is this tanha, this selfish craving that comes from the ego that makes a person feel separate from the rest of their life. Instead, Krishna teaches to act whole heartedly without selfish attachment because acting without the ego purifies your consciousness. When we act based on selfish attachment we are driven by the ego. All of our actions are based around wanting that which is pleasant or avoiding that which is painful.

Krishna tells Arjuna to renounce the fruits of his action. Krishna tells Arjuna that he needs to act for the higher Self and not for personal gain. By surrender to the Divine out of love, Krishna teaches that you can transform the motivation from “I,I,I” to “thou, though, thou”. When we act without the ego, without trying to better the “I” we become more established in identification with the higher Self. When we are integrated with the higher Self instead of the self (the lower self driven by the ego) we have inner peace and harmony. He teaches Arjuna this when he says “you have the right to work, but never to the fruit of work. You should never engage in action for the sake of reward, nor should you long for inaction. Perform work in this world, Arjuna, as a man established within himself- with- out selfish attachments, and alike in success and defeat. For yoga is perfect evenness of mind” (2:47-48).

Krishna also talks about how we are all a part of one essence, and that through maya (a clock of illusion) we get confused. We believe we are separate and as a result we get overly attached to the physical body. Krishna says that “the wise grieve neither for the living nor for the dead. There has never been a time when you and I and the kings gathered here have not existed, nor will there be a time when we will cease to exist. As the same person inhabits the body through childhood, youth, and old age, so too at the time of death he attains another body. The wise are not deluded by these changes” (2:11-:2:13)… “Realize that which pervades the universe and is indestructible; no power can affect this unchanging, imperishable reality. The body is mortal, but that which dwells in the body is immortal and immeasurable.” (2:17-2:18) This sounds very similar to the non-dual Shiva-Shakti Tantric philosophy of Anusara yoga.

Practicing yoga is hard. I practice, study, and contemplate on the teachings of yoga. I try very hard to act in ways that serve the higher self, and work very hard to let go of the pull of the ego that makes me want to chase after pleasurable things and run away from painful things. I work so hard at this, however I make many mistakes, I think I am acting toward the higher Self and then I noticed that along the way maya has tricked me and I am really acting out of the self. It can become discouraging. I am reassured when Krishna tells Arjuna “…now listen to the principles of yoga. By practicing these you can break through the bonds of karma. On this path effort never goes to wastes, and there is no failure. Even a little effort toward spiritual awareness will protect you from the greatest fear. Those who follow this path resolving deep within themselves to seek me alone, attain singleness of purpose.” (2:39-41). I remind myself of this often when I feel discouraged that my “effort never goes to waste and there is no failure.”

How can we practice this Karma yoga on are matt? Easy notice when are actions are being driven by our ego. This happens when we push into pain so we can get deeper into a pose, when we move out of stability to go deeper, when we look around and judge ourselves to others. And instead we can make actions that help us remember our Self, that help use connect to our divine essence. The more we do this on the mat the easier it becomes off the mat.
“Reshape yourself through the power of your will; never let yourself be degraded by self-will. The will is the only friend of the Self, and the will is the only enemy of the Self” (6:5)

Took Clyties Advanced Practice

Yesterday I took Clyties Advanced Practice in Farmington at Bodyworx. It was a small group and it was marvelous. We laughed and sweated and did wonderful back bends. We talked about demons and about how not letting those demons talk us out of doing poses. It was great talking and laughing about our little demons when it comes to asana, and then doing the poses that scare us. Because if we can get into our heart and do things our demons were telling us we can’t do on our yoga matt. Then when we get off the matt and into the world we have that connection to our heart, we have been there before and we can overcome our demons in our life.

padangustha danurasana: I requested this pose after saying I can never get my hand to grab my second foot. But the first time I tried my foot was there for my hand to curl around, elbows up, shoulders plugged. It was so great to get into something you have been working towards for a while especially in such a wonderful environment, with encouraging friends. Robin even whipped out her phone and took two pictures of my first attempt. I did it again and was able to plug my shoulders more and kick more. Once you’re in the pose you don’t want to get out, you are just held there so nicely it is kind of relaxing.

urdhva dhanurasana drop backs: I haven’t done drop back in a while and was a little nervous to do my first one. They were fun!
urdhva dhanurasana to ustrasana to urdhva dhanurasana:We wanted to work on coming back up with more control so we worked urdhva dhanurasana to ustrasana, which really helped me come up more gracefully and really work on letting my head (heavy dreads and all) come up very very very last.
sirsasana (headstand) drop backs: I recently learned how to do one legged drop backs and have been working at getting them as controlled and quite, which has been going very well. In the practice we did one leg drop back and went back and forth. I was debating trying my first double leg drop back which is much harder and I was not planning on trying, until Clytie beautifully demoed and then reminded we that we are almost to shavasana...So I did it, two times! And they were pretty controlled and quite.
padmasana: we ended with some padmasana, which always makes me smile that I have learned how to safely practice this pose with my knee history.

Thanks Clytie, Robin, and Joanne...Fun Wednesday night!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Perspectives are powerful.

The weather has been crazy in SLC, it was snowing the other day. (I worte this blog April 28th , the day it snowed in the valley, but forgot to post it) As I went along the day I could feel and hear everyone’s resistance and anger about the snow. At first when I saw the snow on the lawn as I was about to walk out of the house in my shorts and Choacos, I felt myself getting a little upset. Then I thought about my perspective, I could choose to make myself miserable thinking about how I was planning on going mountain biking, or I could choose a perspective that would help me enjoy my day, snowflakes and all. As I walked out to the car I stuck out my tongue and spun in a circle trying to catch snowflakes. I was thinking these lovely flakes could be the last snowflakes to fall into my mouth until next winter. With this perspective I headed off to school.

Thinking about perspective reminds me of one of my favorite stories, the story of the Nataraja. There are many lessons that you can learn from the Nataraja, I posted earlier (Friday, March 19, 2010) about how we should make authentic offering and not to compare or to compete with others. This time as I thought about the story of lord Shiva, when he was a dancer, I thought about how perspective is key.

The story of the Nataraja is the story of Shiva as the dancer. In this story Shiva dances the ananda tandava (the blissful dance) at Tillai Vanam in the Pine Wood Forest. Two sages, Patanjali (the half snake sage) and the Vyaghrapada (the tiger-pawed sage) were searching the Pine Wood Forest to witness the Ananda Tandava, the cosmic dance. After searching the forest for a very long time and finding an authentic offering both sages found each other at a very well worshiped Shiva lingam. A Shiva lingam is a holy symbol for Lord Shiva that is considered sacred and worshipped. Both sages made offering to the lingam. The Vyaghrapada offered beautiful flowers that only grow at the top of the Tillai trees, and Patanjali offered wonderful seeds that can only be found deep within the soil of the earth. (I love this part of the story I think it is a good reminder that we all have unique talents that allow us to make authentic offerings). When both sages meet at the lingam with their offering, the lingam explodes into dancing Shiva in the form of the Nataraja. When the Nataraja dances the Ananda Tandava, he teaches about the universe and about yoga.

As Shiva starts dancing Patanjali sits on Shiva’s left and the Vyaghrapada sits on Shiva’s right. Its important to remember the Patanjali and the Vyaghrapada could have sat anywhere, and on any side to witness this dance, however they both choose to sit where they did. Both sages witness Shiva dancing this blissful dance, the dance of yoga. However both sages have different perspectives and the yoga and knowledge they receive are so different. In this story their perspective has more to do with where they choose to take their physical seat but perspective also has to do with how we choose to position our mind in different situation. All because of the perspective and position from which they viewed the dance.

As I describe the different lessons Patanjali and the Vyaghrapada learned as they watched Shiva dance it is helpful to picture the statue of the Nataraja dancing in a ring of fire (see picture above). Patanjali who is on Shiva left side see the side of occlusion. He sees Shiva arm crossing in front of his chest and his legs crossed… From this Patanjali see that there is something past the arm and the leg that he cannot see, he learns that you need to overcome the body that you need to move past the body to get to the other side. Patanjali learns a yoga that turns him inside. The Vyaghrapada who is sitting on Shiva rights side sees an open invitation with his hand, leading him toward the heart; he sees the graceful up turned food. The Vyaghrapada sees that you can celebrate the heart with the body, that we can rejoice and experience the heart. He learns that through experiencing the world we can connect to the heart and the world.

It is so interesting to me that Patanjali and the Vyaghrapada witnessed the same dance but based on the position they took learned different things. In this story the empathies is on the physical position about where the two sages sat but it is important to remember that we choose are perspective by both the position we take physically and mentally.

We have the choice on how we see things. In every situation has a darker side and a brighter side. Even the most horrible situation still has a brighter side. In Anusara yoga we choose to see the brightest side in each situation. We choose to see the goodness and beauty. We choose to see the Shri, the divine beauty in all. It is a choice and many people choose to see the bad, the darkness, and the evil of life. But why look for the bad, why not choose to take a different perspective to look for the good.

We can practice this positive perspective in our asana practice. We have the choice about our perspective in every yoga pose we come into. We can look for our faults in the pose; we can notice how we don’t look like our neighbor. Or we can choose to see the beauty in every pose, we can choose to enjoy the brightest side of each pose. We can choose to see our intrinsic goodness, our divine beauty, our Shri, with in every pose and with every breath. The more we practice choosing our perspective on the matt we can get better at choosing to better select our perspective off the mat.

Monday, May 3, 2010


(I am first and foremost a student of yoga. I teach yoga and like to share what I am learning and what I am experiencing because it is fun and fascinating. Yesterday I was happily reminded that I am a student and have so much to learn. Yesterday I receive an email from Andrejs Gailis, the new owner of Flow yoga. Andrejs is full of knowledge on the Vedic sciences and I was grateful to receive some feedback about my mantra blog, so I can share correct knowledge and Sanskrit grammer in the mantras :). Andrejs teaches on going Vedic Lectures at flow yoga

Lately I have been talking to a few friends, and they have been telling me different stories about troubles they are facing in life: loneliness, confused about life choices, sad, sick… In most of these conversations I find myself suggesting that they try mantra meditation. The words we say produce an actual physical vibration, which can be more positive and healing or can be negative and toxic. For example, do you ever think or say “this sucks”, “I suck”, “I hate my life”…all of these words that we say to our self emits a vibration that affects the energy of our being. So yes we might be in a bad situation, but when we say things like to our self, we are just making the situation worse. Maybe next time you are in a bad situation try saying “I love my self”, “life is great” although you might not be feeling that way, you are choosing to spread positive energy and vibrations throughout your being.

When we use mantras we say a word or a series of words, normally in the Sanskrit language that are known to have a certain meaning as well as a certain vibration and energy. When we say these Sanskrit mantras, we manifest this vibration and this energy in our self. When we practice a mantra consecutively over a long period of time, our energy gets aligned with the energy of the mantra. Mantra is one of my favorite forms of meditation that I do quite regularly. Whenever I am feeling out of balance, unhealthy, unhappy, or when I confront a situation that is challenging in my life, I recite mantra.

It is important to commit to a mantra and give it some time. I like to commit to a “forty day program”. You can say these mantras silently or out loud. The chanting is stronger when done silently but it requires a lot more focus. I recommend trying both, beginners are normally recommended to chant out loud so you can stay focused. Chanting mantras help manifest energy into your life. I don’t think length is as important as consistency. Many people suggest you work toward 15-30 minutes of mantra either one time or two times a day. I enjoy long seated mantra repetition, but I also will use my mantra when I am walking (outside, in the grocery store, at school...) when I am driving my car, taking a shower, anywhere doing anything is a great opportunity to practice mantra.... I think when you put a time frame on it like 15-30 minutes it gets overwhelming and the tendency is to think “well I don’t have 15-30 minutes to do my mantra so I just won’t do it right now”. I used to use this reasoning a lot. Then I thought even if I just say the mantra one, two, three times at least I am cultivating that energy and vibration even if for just a moment. The more I think like this, the more I found myself saying my mantra multiple times throughout the day in little chunks of time. The more frequently you say your mantra, the more it becomes like background music in your brain. Which means you can CHOOSE to create a background energy for your life. Isn’t that wonderful!

Here are just are mantras, that I have connected with and use often in my life. I tried to briefly summarize these mantras and highlight some of the fun facts of each mantra. (If you would like to know more about one please let me know and I would love to elaborate and go deeper into the meaning of the God and into the Sanskrit words). Mantras are great and help me a lot in my life. Here are some of my favorite mantras:

The gayritri mantra: is a very ancient mantra that is used to help you transcend the experience of suffering. It can be used to balance the different energy levels of your body, and balance the seven chakras. This is one of my favorite summaries of the mantra, “Through the coming, going and the balance of life, the essential nature which illumes existence is the adorable one may all perceive, through subtle intellect, the brilliance of enlightenment” (Deva Premal) here are two versions of the mantra. The first is the full length of the mantra and the second is a shorten version, I normally recite the second version:
•Om bhur bhuvah swaha
tat savitur varenyam
bhargo devasya dhiimahi
dhiyo yo nah prachodayaat

• om bhuuh, om bhuvah, om swahah
om mahah, om janah, om tapah, om satyam
om tat savitur varenyam
bhargo devasya dhiimahi
dhiyo yo nah prachodayaat

Ganapathi/ Ganesha Mantra: This mantra is to Ganapathi or Ganesha, the elephant headed god, who is the remover and placer of obstacles in our life. I think it is important to remember that when Ganesha places obstacles in our life he isn’t doing it out of anger; he is doing it to protect us or to help us learn a lesson. When the time is right, when we have learned what we needed to learn then he removes the obstacles. This mantra is used to remove energy blocks, to find the path to success or to achieve mental clarity and overcome obstacles.
•Om gam ganapataye namaha*

Lakshmi Mantra: Lakshmi is the highest essence of divine beauty. This beauty that Lakshmi represents resides in all of us and is the essence of life itself. This beauty is what shines through the sun and is the beautiful light that fills everything on the planet. Lakshmi is the goddess of wealth/ good fortune, beauty and auspiciousness. Lakshmi is the principle of abundance. This mantra will attract abundance. "I bow to Maa Lakshmi who everything, who grant favors to all, who terrorizes the evil and who removes the misery of all. I bow to the divine goddess who is the provider of success and intelligence and the benefactor of both worldly pleasure and freedom. I bow to the Ultimate Mother who is without beginning and without end. I surrender to the auspicious Mother who can remove even the greatest of sins. I bow to the great Mother who resides in the hearts of devotees is the goddess of wealth, luxury, beauty, power, generosity and auspiciousness".
•Om shriim mahaa lakshmyai namaha (shriim has a long i, and mahaa has long aa.)

Durga Mantra: Goddess Durga is the Divine Mother and representation of compassion, strength, morality and protection. She protects her devotees from evil powers and keeps them safe. Durga is the mother of the whole world and all nature, she protects her children from all troubles. It is believed that by chanting this mantra regularly, that the Universal Mother would remove all the physical, mental, economic problems in our life:
• om dum durgayai namaha

Saraswati Mantra: Saraswati represents creativity, love, beauty and inspires creativity of art. She is the keeper of spiritual knowledge, goddess of wisdom and learning. She possesses the powers of speech, wisdom and learning. A translation of the mantra: "May Goddess Saraswati, who is fair and beautiful like the jasmine-colored moon and whose pure white garland resembles frosty dew drops; who is adorned in radiant white attire, on whose arm rests the veena, and whose throne is a white lotus; who is surrounded and respected by the Gods, protect me. May you remove my lethargy and brighten my life with the light of knowledge.":
•Om aim saraswatyai namaha*

Shiva Mantra: considered as the destroyer of the world. He is one of the most popular Gods of the Hindu religion. Shiva is the supreme reality, the inner Self. It is the name given to consciousness that dwells in all. Shiva is the name of your true identity- yourself. I like to think "I am capable of becoming what i want to become" when I chant this mantra. I bow to the spirit of universal truth that pulses in and as all beings. This mantra helps us remember our intrinsic goodness:
• om namah shivaaya

Simple mantras:
•“Om” (The sound of the Universe)
•“Sat nam” (I am)
•“Shanti” (peace)

*Namaha- I offer
**Swaha- I surrender

You can replace namaha and swaha in any of these mantras. Namaha is more masculine and active, swaha is a little more feminine and passive. Most translations say namaha, however recently in my own practice I like to change it to swaha because I like the idea of surrender.

Intention and Testimonials

Testimonials & My Intention

My Intention It is my intention as a yoga teacher to help you bring more health and vibrancy to your body, ease and alertness to your mind...