Monthly Archives: January 2014


Choices, Bowers and Cakes

 

Choices

A good friend of mine loves to repeat “life’s about choices” and in yoga too the choices we make are important from a number of points of view. In this post I’m thinking about the need to observe the body/mind and provide it with the care it requires on a particular day whilst simultaneously remaining open to possibilities and new experiences.

Moon-bower addition

In this holiday break I’ve opened myself to warm yoga at KX Yoga in Malvern. The studio is new and light, warm of course, and each class provides a teacher with an assistant. I’ve previously been closed to the idea of warm yoga but with the gift of a scoopon off I went – and I have enjoyed each class. Although I’m still not a convert to warm yoga, this is a personal choice not an argument, the classes at KX Yoga have been welcoming and the assistance is a gentle guidance rather than firm physical adjustment. There is an important distinction here – unless a teacher knows all the history of your body or you are attending a chiropractic session any contact with you and your body by another body should be one of reverence, no more than a gentle pressure to move you into the direction of the next level in a posture or a correction into a safer form of that posture. The other thing that impressed me at KX was both; that the teacher Mary Beth Donahue asked us why we had come, what we’d like to work on, and that the students responded with requests that had come from svadhyaya/self study. Some were specific they wished to work on their warrior postures and they stated their concerns, others were interested in balances, grounding and one requested flexibility and stretching as their profession gave them strength but limited their body in other ways. Mary Beth honored us all and took us on a journey in which each request was fulfilled. This is fine teaching.

 

A non-yogic cake & the sky

So svadhyaya comes up again at the moon-bower. I needed to move out of my comfort zone and so I tried warm yoga…I also needed to extend my wings outward as they have been held too close as I’ve been creating La Luna Meditations. Too much focus on one project gives rise to expectations and attachment to outcomes and that is a recipe that bakes a non-yogic cake full of dry personal obstructive and contracted bits that get stuck in your teeth. My choice of metaphorical floss has been to go a little deeper into the practices of the Vijnanana Bhairava and play with the meditation on Swaahaa/offering, as previously mentioned, but to extend this moving into Verse 85 ‘One should contemplate the entire sky which is the nature of Bhairava as if it is pervading one’s head…’

Sky

Cloud Thoughts

In this contemplation I begin to open my head and it becomes the sky, I open my lower body and it becomes the sky, I open my heart centre and it becomes the sky. Each opening to sky spaciousness brings different sensations. Thoughts are the clouds forming, drifting, dissolving and as each personal obstruction or contraction that I carry surfaces I repeat mentally swaahaa and offer it into the spaciousness of this great sky that has filled/become, gone beyond my physical form. As I continue in this practice my mind falls into and away. There is a sense only of presence. Presence in the spaciousness of the sky.

 

Wild thing

In that spaciousness I cannot hold onto the need for project outcomes or comparative-failure tendencies there is only the active energy of all things, all consciousness and I am not separate. If I am not separate there is nothing to compare. There is only the choice to bring that spaciousness and lightness back into the physical body I inhabit and to let it flow into my offerings for release into the world and into the moon-bower with abandon – I need to go now and practice ‘wild thing’ – camatkarasana! Then be quiet and wait with patience for my projects to evolve in their own time.

 

[My guidance for my reading of the Vijnana Bhairava comes from Sally Kempton who offers the doorway of Shakti-Shiva through her teaching,your own practice and the support of a community]

 


Fire, Water and Offerings

Full Moon 16 January 2014

La Luna will provide occasional ‘moon cycle reports’ as they come to her here at the moon-bower…

Symbolism

The moon symbolises the feminine side of the human being, characterised by grace, cycles or transitions, wisdom, perception, illumination. She is both teacher and guide within us, she is hidden from view without the light of the sun.

Full Moon

The whole of the moon

This is where the full moon this week in Melbourne gets interesting – she is being revealed by a fierce hot sun. The first full moon of 2014 is becoming visible through heat. As the moon element is water, and her colour silver, the alchemy is fractious.

Meaning

What this may mean is, subtly since the new moon and more strongly as we approach the full moon, our emotions may be intense – anger, frustration, despair, doubt may be very present. We may find ourselves lacking the clarity of thought to make sense or meaning to what is a transition within. For Melbourne dwellers there will be a tinder box effect – a dryness building to fire – the emotions unchecked will have the potential to ignite. This could end with confrontation or it may create a burning away of old samskaras, old patterns of behaviour that no longer have any validation in our lives.

Practice

Take care in this time. Call to compassion for self, love for self and increase your meditation time.

Try this ‘swaahaa’ or ‘so be it’ meditation. A meditation of offering, a releasing or letting go into fire.

Fire offerings

Fire offerings

  • Settle in a comfortable seated position, choosing a mudra for yourself
  • Commit yourself to a time, you may choose to set a gentle timer
  • Close the eyes bring the focus to the breath – observe only
  • Shift the breath around the body so it is as if you are breathing in through the crown of your head, neck, shoulders, heart centre etc and breathe out the same spot you breathed in x 3 breaths per body section
  • Settle the breath to an inhale down to the heart centre – or wherever it lands down through the body and working with your diaphragm on the exhale release up through the crown of your head, continue for at least 6 breaths until this flow is natural to you
  • Check in with your self here, are thoughts distracting you? Consider how in all those thoughts, throughout your entire body and in all living things and matter there is shakti, the energy of the divine consciousness – release those thoughts to the understanding that everything that comes up for you is infused with shakti
  • Once you have welcomed the thought of shakti in all things introduce ‘swaa’ to the inhale to the heart and ‘haaa’ to the exhale.
  • Continue with the movement of the breath and your mantra
  • When you finish take time to let the meditation settle so that the offering is released – restoring the true calibration of the moon within as calmness and grace.
  • Know that there will be an easing with the illumination of the full moon and you may be very tired by the end of the week.

The above meditation was inspired for use at this time by Sally Kempton and her current Freedom, Ecstasy and Awakening Telecourse


Words

Yoga Poetry

 

Lines that can’t be drawn

 

Knowing my layers like I do now

not knowing too

I begin with the sheath I am born with

a physical structure

a sculpture

Interacting with the universe

Annamaya Kosha

I feed this body

move this body

through asanas

small, large, complex

Yet it is layered too

with energy

Pranamaya Kosha

energising all the other koshas

without respect for the lines drawn

by artists

For the art is energy flow

from sources I imbibe

breath – food – water – ideas – universe

Maha prana (energy of the universe)

flowing through nadis

creating connections

firing at chakra synaptic moments

Sun and moon combining

igniting

functioning too

through the vayus

leading into the mind

Manomaya Kosha

base instinct – needs & desires

monitoring

the world I move in

with antennae formed through

instinct/manas, ego I-ness/ahamkara, memory/chitta, intellect low/buddhi

and I reach toward, interconnect with

Vijnanamaya Kosha – my wisdom

the higher buddhi, higher chitta

reaching toward oneness

through openness

for knowledge, joy, vistas of infinite creative fields

and through  these fields

I cross fences

that begin to crumble to the earth

as I begin to sight a glimmer ahead

a glimmer of the divine

Sometimes shadowed by a tamasic mood

overglorified by raja

balancing, balancing

moving through the chakras

I can reach sattwa

I can know more

and rejoice in knowing less

on this journey

On this journey

where the way points

are Yamas, Niyamas, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana

Samadhi

 

Yes, samadhi

if not in this lifetime

in the next

or perhaps the next

depending on time

depending on practice

on my constitution –

my doshas: Kapha/child, Pitta/adult, Vata/aged

indeterminate constitutional shifts in between

 

What I know now

there are no lines

for the artist to draw

Each day a new opening

to see the shimmer

of samadhi

the wordlessness

of Anandamaya Kosha

Wholeness

Bliss


Images

Welcome to our gallery of inspiring and evocative images by Jennifer. Click on any image for title and canvas size.

If you are interested in purchasing one of these images please contact Jennifer directly by email [email address]


One approach to meditation

 

Start

1. Start with 10 mins a day. You can build on this but it is more important to introduce a practice that is sustainable

Prepare

2. Enter into the meditation without expectation, without the striving that weaves itself into the action parts of your day. Your experience of meditation has no right and wrong.
3. Sally Kempton asks us to enter meditation with a beginners mind, a mind that understands there is much to learn – this is a request for openness

Move

4. Move: Allow your body some physical movement, these may be asanas, but whatever movement comes to you: dance, touch your toes, flex each muscle in the body and let it go, stretch your arms and release.Single tree on rock Connect to and acknowledge the body.
5. Sit: Then sit on a chair with feet to the earth, cross legged on the floor or in a meditative position and relax your hands, eyes…soften into the seated posture. Yes, the back should be steady but your back has it’s own unique curves – respect how your own back supports you

Breathe

6. Breathe: Observe how your breath flows, in through the nostrils and out. Watch the breath with your full attention – how does it move my body, what do I feel…

Mantra

7. Repeat: Offer the mind a mantra, or any word for repetition. As your mind distracts you bring it back to the mantra or word…again and again. Smile to yourself as you notice your mind took you off on a tangent to solve the worlds, your friend’s, family problems. Smile and play, explore again and again.
8. Stillness: may be found in a fraction of a millisecond between an inhale and an exhale, it may be longer. The magic is in the offering of stillness to your self. The magic is in simply stopping to consciously remove the necessity for perpetual stimulus. The magic revives the whole of you.

Time

9. Time: You may have set a timer, you may have an inner alert. When the time is up keep the eyes soft, gently release the mantra or word. Connect mentally back into the sense of the physical body. Take a deep conscious breath. Imagine the room in your mind before you open the eyes and consciously reenter the external world.

Returning to the external world

10. Return to the external world: You may choose to get up and walk, complete the next task at hand or reflect on how your meditation felt…you may want to keep a meditation journal – all or none of these things. This is your experience of meditation, be empowered to explore the best method for you without getting sabotaged by the need to follow precisely these 10 steps or any others!

Permission as a gift

The only requirement is to give yourself the permission for timeless time.


Listen to meditations

These meditations have been prepared by Barbara especially for you.

Listen to samples

Meditation on water – a short meditation to refresh your spirit when it feels low. This can be listened to in a reclined or seated position as long as the spine is comfortably straight and you have found your inner connection through the breath. Then begin.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Download full meditations

Right click the button to hear and download the meditation of your choice.

Yoga Nidra Practices credited after Swami Satyananda Saraswati with La Luna visualisations – enjoy the exploration through your Koshas and the transformative benefits that will unfold in your life through continued practice

 

  Yoga Nidra 1

  Yoga Nidra 2


Introduction to meditation

We are busy, we are active and we perpetually lament there are not enough hours in the day. Many societies across the world are facing the transformative impact of the information age where a multitude of media streams pummel us with political, social, technical, scholarly, cultural and entertainment content and we are in part reveling in this access and recoiling. Stress levels are up and fatigue conditions are rising as we are subjected to the good and bad of this busyness, this incessant noise for action, this expectation of perpetual striving. All this, before or after, ‘care’ for each other and our respective family and communities. There is an irony inherent here, and that is, the necessity for busyness takes us further away from ourselves…further away from awareness, clarity and joy. The more we privilege action we move further away from our true nature, we lose the ability to truly ‘see’ where we should be acting, where we would be of most service and we become removed and isolated from our own voice, values and commitments.

IMG_0763This is exactly where meditation has a place.

Mediation simply asks you to stop.

Stop and revive your physical, neurological and spiritual centre.

Allow stillness in…feel the welcome as you give yourself permission to stop.

The experience of stillness is soothing, healing, liberating.

The old cliche, ‘to stop to smell the roses’ is meditation.


Offerings and Aha moments

Self Study on the road as I drove to a friend who was assisting me in building this website…

As documented in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras svadhyaya or self study is listed as the fourth Niyama or daily observance. Each observance provides us with a practice to apply to our day to day activities as we open toward our spiritual path. Svadhyaya, sometimes spelt in english as swadhyaya (to assist pronunciation) in itself has an inner series of practices: studying the scriptures; viveka – discrimination; contemplation; witnessing and cultivating awareness. These are all discussed beautifully in this article Swadhyaya (Self Study)

What I wanted to add here is how once we begin on this path the practice of svadhyaya can become less self conscious. It actually occurs naturally through us once we have planted the seed. Yes, we may consciously choose to read a yoga sutra a day or a verse from the Bhagvad Gita and contemplate these teachings as we move through our work, tasks, chores and interactions, but insight may be gifted to you when you least expect it – spontaneous svadhyaya.

It happened for me this week, as I said I was on the road driving in my car focused on the route I was taking, and not particularly thinking about anything more when the Spirit of Things program came up on the radio. Rachael Kohn was interviewing the musician Ben Lee – so whilst it is a program about spiritual things I had no expectation of a spiritual shift inside me.

A little aside here to give you some back ground. I, in my middle years have embarked on yoga teaching this came about as I hit some personal road blocks and I could no longer ignore that the corporate world was not my fit – I also needed healing. Along this journey of setting up on my own to teach self doubts crept in…the difference when practicing yoga is that you have a tool box to reach into when you need to work effectively through ‘stuff’ – however at times I need to repeat lessons again and again. Sometimes the tool box actions are not quite enough – you need someone to articulate things in a different way so that you can have an aha moment – a flickering towards your own inner light.

Steps through tea tree into sand dunes

Ben Lee did that for me. His words resonated on several levels.

Despair

Those times when you feel knocked flat, that all your efforts are not getting you any where. My motto for those times is ‘Do the work, keep showing up’. Yet, if we repeat our mottos too often they become brittle. Lee reflected on belief systems, that any system needs to be practiced with an open heart, to really activate a spiritual system you need to reach into the juiciness. This is essential when practicing a religion where you can get caught by tradition, ritual and perhaps through ego-expectations you let the heart close in an effort to be a perfect practioner. It is also essential within svadhyaya. Keep the heart open and the juiciness will follow. So for Ben when despair knocked on his door in the form of criticism it made him… “I made more music…I kept going…you can’t allow yourself to become stagnant…waiting…The Buddha’s test: only one person needs to ‘get’ my work…only one person.”

Consciousness

Lee distinguished between Jesus the individual and Christ the consciousness.
He applied this to Swami Narayani Amma. Who is both an individual Lee visits in India and female consciousness an expression of the divine mother who took him closer into the embrace of understanding, feeling unconditional love. Amma said to him that music was his dharma but he questioned the what and the how of music and Amma answered “bring joy”. In that moment Lee understood that through his music he served others, his music was the offering. Once he could envision music as his ‘offering’ criticism of his work was no longer relevant – “this is my offering to you, enjoy it or if you don’t move on.”

“I feel guided …how if we get with the program, the rhythm of the universe and allow it to turn me[you] into what it wants me[you] to be… the universe desires us to blossom, unfold”

In the svadhyaya series after studying the scriptures we practice viveka-discrimination the opportunity to…as Lee says:

“In any moment we have a choice to move towards the divine or choose self importance, materialism…a sort of spiritual death” There is a magic moment before we perform, any action that allows us to choose wisely. In choosing wisely any one of us when following our true path to serve can become a ‘Peak Experience Generator’ (Lee references Ken Wilbur in reference to actual performing) where our offerings given with an open heart take on a heightened status purely because we have drawn on our inner light to create and offer to others.

Aha Moment

A Cuban musician plays the trumpetBefore any action surrender to the gift of the moment that allows you to draw your offering up from the divine within you. Know that your offering when it comes from awareness is just that an offering, your offering of joy. Self doubt no longer has currency.

Thank you Ben Lee and Rachael Kohn

Link to the podcast