Discover for yourself

“No man can reveal to you aught but that which already lies half asleep in the dawning of your knowledge. The teacher who walks in the shadow of the temple, among his followers, gives not of his wisdom but rather of his faith and his lovingness. If he is indeed wise he does not bid you enter the house of his wisdom, but rather leads you to the threshold of your own mind.” ~Kahlil Gibran

kahlil gibran quote

(photo March 2017 – AD)

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Mindfulness

Inhale. Exhale.

I got lost on the way to work a couple days ago. Not lost lost, as in I had no idea where I was, but lost as in I was day-dreaming so deeply I lost track of where I was. When I remembered I was driving it took a little while to determine if I had driven past work already and where exactly I was.

This has happened before, so that event was nothing new. But, interestingly enough, I’m currently reading “The Miracle of Mindfulness,” by Thich Nhat Hanh, a book which directly relates to this type of experience. He describes several exercises you can do to increase mindfulness – a method of being aware of, and totally in, the moment. All of them involve watching the breath.

tibetan image

He recommends practicing mindfulness all the time. When you are washing dishes you are washing dishes, not thinking about anything else. When you are drinking tea you are drinking tea and nothing else, etc. So I’ve been trying this a little bit, and watching the breath at the same time.

Another mindfulness technique (the one I like best so far) is counting your breaths. Slowly inhale left and exhale right, inhale right and exhale left. That’s one round. Do that again for round 2, etc. until you get to 10 rounds, then count back down. Go really slow, be mindful, and don’t think about anything but the breath. If you lose count start over. Follow the breath with your mind as you inhale and exhale.

I modified it slightly for myself because my breaths are slow and it takes forever, so I count up to 5 and back down for a total of 9 rounds. Maybe that’s missing the point or cheating somehow, but it’s better to practice than not practice so it works for me.

It’s a different form of pranayama than what I’m used to where you count the length of your inhales, retention, and exhales, with emphasis on the exhales.

meditation-basics-breathing

After a minimum of practice I can already see how the mind will benefit from these exercises. I’ll be a better yogi and I won’t get lost on the way to work 😉 . Best of all, and more importantly, they can give you a calming experience, keep you in the now with less stress and worry, and give you some serious mind control ability.

Inhale. Exhale.

Birth of a yogi

A yogi friend of mine died a few days ago. He may have been the most authentic yogi I ever meant, meaning he never tried to adapt any dogma or try to “be like a yogi”, he just was a yogi.

Let me explain.

Six or seven years ago my friend got diagnosed with inoperable colon cancer. Pete was given a month or two to live. His life insurance paid out, and he decided to use that money to cure himself.

The substantial amount of money he received allowed him to travel many times to Germany and other places from Australia to try various kinds of alternative therapies. He did lots of yogic practices as alternative therapies. Mostly they all worked until the last 4 months following complications from a surgery, when the cancer spread to his liver and he lost the battle.

I met Pete in Germany 3 years ago and was impressed by his yogic qualities: unending happiness, spreading joy and love, practicing lots of sadhana, lots of forgiveness, everybody and every religion equal. And all that while battling some pretty serious health issues about which he never complained, he considered it a blessing. He touched a lot of lives these past few years.

Anyway, he’s left earth and has been born to a higher realm.  If he comes back I suspect he will be blessed with many yogic qualities.

pete

“Good night sweet prince: And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!” ~Hamlet

Om tryambakam x 1008. You will be missed by many people.

Most Beneficial Yoga Postures

Many times as yoga teachers we are asked which are the most beneficial yoga postures – which postures will give you the most benefits? While no yoga postures should be treated as prescriptions (they should all be incorporated into a more complete yoga practice), these 6 postures, plus sun salutations, are considered to give the most benefits. Please remember that you benefit from all yoga postures, at the level at which you are. Enjoy!

This video is guided by Sita, and was recorded at Yoga Vidya ashram in Bad Meinberg, Germany, where she worked as staff for 1.5 years.

 

Give Love

One of the most pervasive and difficult to grasp concepts in yoga is Prem, or universal, divine love.

Pervasive because every single great Saint and yogi says that in the true reality all there is, is love. Love is Truth. Love is the essence of everything.

Difficult to grasp because the Love they are talking about is not the kind of “love” that most people experience on a daily basis. Most normal relationships that would be described as loving involve attachments and are influenced by our own emotional and mental issues and attitudes. They come with a fear of loss and lots of desires to fulfill your own needs through someone else. The closest we usually come to Prem in our daily lives is the unbounded all-consuming and all-giving love of a good mother for her newborn child, and even this might be said to include attachment for the one baby that is hers. Because we can’t get away from our minds, it’s difficult to grasp the kind of love that doesn’t involve the judgments of our minds.

hearts

Prem, divine love, has no attachments or requirements. It is unbounded joy and giving. It is Bliss that bubbles up from your core. It includes everyone and everything – even people that don’t look or think like you, that come from somewhere or sometime else so you can’t understand why they think that way. It includes all animals, plants, rocks, rivers, everything. Because it taps into the essence of all these things.

Only by experiencing divine Prem can one be said to truly be working in the spirit of karma yoga or selfless service.

Recently I have been taking an Ayurveda course to learn more about the medical branch that supports yoga. Ayurveda is a natural healing method, which believes that food is medicine, and it affects your mind and your body. So the important thing is to eat foods that are good for you according to your body type and the seasons, so that you can live a long and healthy life, and have more time to practice yoga.

Eating proper food and living a spiritual life will help your mind have the clarity to understand (digest) relationships and concepts that are difficult, and to see them in their True light.

The course is written by Dr. David Frawley, an Ayurveda expert, among other things. I found this quote in his course that is particularly poignant talking about Prem and what you have to do if you really want to feel love:

Love is the only emotion that can really be digested. The others we must learn to deflect with the detachment of our awareness. Love, it should be noted, has many forms as compassion, devotion, joy, etc. It is our failure to love, to be loving, which is the source of all emotional disturbances. The desire to be loved, on the other hand, is a failure to give love. Our real emotional nourishment comes from within as the power of love. We cannot simply pick it up form the outside like we can good food, though as children, when our inner connections are not entirely formed, we require love from outside to sustain us. ~Dr. Frawley

So give love. All the time. It will come back to you.

New Year’s Resolutions

It’s almost that time again. Time to think about your New Year’s resolutions and priorities. This January counts 11 years since I made the New Year’s resolution to practice yoga in a meaningful way.

One of my favorite quotes from Swami Sivananda is excellent to reflect on when deciding your spiritual New Year’s resolutions. I find it to be very inspiring. It’s from the book Sadhana:

“In the spiritual path it is a case of progress or regress. There is no comfortable “sitting on the wall” frequently. To rest is to rust. With a flaming aspiration push forward. Every day must show that you have taken one step more upon the path. Progress is not to be counted in number of days that have passed in practice. It lies in how far you have outgrown your former ways of thinking and living. What is the extent of your victory over external environments? Do you maintain a calm and balanced mind? Do you remain unaffected by little annoyances and irritations? Are you more ready to forgive and less ready to offend? Has your aspiration grown stronger? Are you doing increased Sadhana or are you expecting Divine grace to help you to carry out your resolves and vows? Are you waiting to get blessings or Asirvad from saints and Avatars? Blessings are always there, but unless you prepare to boldly struggle upwards and onwards blessings are just as useful as staff and shoes to a traveller who does not care to march ahead.”

sivananda from life archive

Swami Sivananda