Monthly Archives: May 2014


Luminosity Lotus Lake

 

I began a recent class with participants seated, right hand over the belly and left over the heart connecting in with two places of intelligence within the body and we asked the third intelligence, the mind, to follow the breath with ‘I am’ or to choose ‘So Ham’ meditation. We sat like this for three minutes then when we reached an inner quiet we sat to ‘be’.
In that state the natural breath flowed and in the background I introduced the final verse for Chapter 3 from the yoga Sutras:

Yoga Sutra 3:55 ‘In the merging of pure being and self there is absolute freedom’

And I hope as the class breathed that I shared aurally some of the substance in the below notes:
To free our consciousness from attachments, aversions, afflictions this leads to clarity – like a murky lake let all the muddied water of your distractions, habits, conditioned thoughts drop like sediment below and reveal the transparency of your inner light – let your lake glow in clear light. This is the luminosity that Pandit Rajmani Tigunat refers to when he discusses the guidance provided in the Sutras – ‘to reclaim your luminous self, your joyous self’, free from preoccupations, acquired conditioning, mind-plays, limiting beliefs. The Sutras provide the means to identify all behaviours that serve to enslave us, ‘get to your essential nature, let the inner wisdom illuminate…the Sutras simplify everything taking us to the main point in life…’

Non-attachment

The lesson of non- attachment is critical to reaching this point of essential nature luminosity. The letting go requires non-attachment materially and mentally, not just our less attractive traits but even when we are serving fully, positively – to serve without expectation, to give with love and unconditionally. This will bring freedom because we stop placing the weight of expectation on every action, we stop anxieties developing because we think were are not good enough or liked enough if some acknowledgement or other didn’t come our way. Offer outward to others freely and do not be attached to the outcome …practiced with clarity, ‘absolute freedom’ –free of doubt, at least in those moments – will be experienced. Practice again and again.
In one of the Yoga Nidra texts Satyananda describes: ‘The water never touches the petals of the lotus flower.

Lotus Water Roots

Lotus Water Roots

Though the lotus is rooted at the bottom of the pond, and it rises up through the water, yet its petals are never wet. Therefore, the sages and yogis advise us always to be detached from everything in the whole universe as the lotus is from water, completely non-attached. The lotus comes from the water; it only survives due to water,yet it does not get wet; the water cannot touch it. …we eat, we enjoy we suffer…yet we should be detached from all of this.’ If we can become the lotus we can never be hurt and yet we can love fully, we can be luminous.

Ultimate Samyama

The Sutras may simplify everything that confounds or limits us – but the work to follow them, in my experience, is rarely simple. Yet when we do let go and let all acquired traits drop as sediment below the lake of pure being, consciousness and self merge – it is another way of standing in the world – another way of saying ‘I am’, or better still ‘Sat Chit Ananda – Existence, Consciousness, Bliss. It doesn’t matter if you are working, enjoying time with family or doing practical chores – in whatever way you serve in the world each day – nothing can shake you from this clear position of being – this is your centre, your light and you can choose to be there and go forward with clarity no matter what life throws your way. Receive each challenge with the grace of your inner light which is revealed to you through the pure and equal merging of consciousness and self – this is freedom.

Lake Practice 10 – 20 mins:

Prepare

Settle into a seated position or perhaps sivasana, let the breath settle, each inhale feel the weight of the body connected to the floor, each exhale release energy allowing the body to rise…play here for a few minutes, you may like to reconnect right hand to belly, left hand to heart.

Visualise

From the eyebrow centre begin to create the image of a murky lake, it may be a lake you know, it may be a classic landscape lake from a photo, painting, your imagination. In this lake you can’t see the lake bed for all the thoughts that are running through your mind, all your thoughts are the mud that clouds the lake. Can you see those thoughts? Can you shape them in the darkness of your lakes water?

Lake Juno

Lake Juno

Perhaps choose one or two thoughts or behaviours that you really would like to let go…then begin to watch that thought lower in the water falling through 10ft, 20 ft, 30ft… of water and see it settle as sediment below. Try this again with another mind imprint, distraction, acquired habit…continue with a few examples until your lake is clear. Then allow your entire being to ‘be’ this clear lake. You are this clear lake.

Add a mental repetition of ‘Sat Chit Ananda’, the perfect mantra to encapsulate the meaning of the Sutra 3.55. The perfect mantra to express the state the Sutras guide us toward.

Release the mantra hold this view of your clear lake, this metaphor revealing the state where self and consciousness have become pure, the same.
Gently externalise, return into your physical body, carrying within the ability to reach your clear lake at any time.

‘With our thoughts, we make our world.’ Dalai Lama

[References from: Govindan, Marshall., ‘Kriya Yoga Sutras’ / Pandit Rajami Tigunant on Yoga International.com / Swami Satyananda Saraswati., Yoga Nidra]


Yoga Sutras – via an Elephant!

Elephant Practice

Chapter 3 Extraordinary Powers

Still inspired by Donna Farhi’s Heart Intensive I looked to Patanjali’s Sutras to theme my next class and landed on Chapter 3 Verse 34, 3.34: ‘By communion/saṁyama at the heart, knowledge [of the nature of] consciousness [is obtained].’* This hurtled my beginners mind back to the beginning of Chapter 3 to understand – at least a glimpse of – saṁyama. Perhaps the heart was a step too far, too soon, for students and myself when exploring this chapter on extraordinary powers.

Sketch of an elephant

Indian Elephant Wikimedia commons

I needed a tangible object to demonstrate and so I chose the elephant, 3.24, but more on that later, saṁyama first.

Accessing Divinity

This chapter on extraordinary powers reveals divinity as accessible, a result of the burning away of the ego through disciplined practice. It is not the actual powers that are valued, in fact it is more important to reach that place where you can remain focused and attentive no matter what extraordinary abilities develop.* The chapter itself is titled vibhūti/holy ash referring to both purity & detachment and it opens with, 3.1, a binding place of consciousness/concentration. We have thus entered into the wisdom of the fifth limb of yoga, dhāranā concentration on a single object or point; we then move to dhyāna meditation where the one who mediates is aware of the object and the ideas related to it in a single stream and we end with the final limb samādhi where any distinction between object/ideas [of] and the meditator have disappeared – the meditator is merged with the object and ideas of that object or subject.
3.4 reveals saṁyama in which the last three limbs are practiced simultaneously or are merged completely. Divine power flows and the object becomes manifest, becomes the practitioner. As the Dalai Lama offers in a prayer, ‘With our thoughts, we make our world…’ Thus it is wise to live with intention and clarity knowing that the universe will work through you and manifest what you practice at all times, all day – not just on the mat.

Elephant Practice

3.24
‘By saṁyama on the powers of elephants and [other such animals], their strength [is obtained].*

You might like to begin your practice with a counted breath focus either seated or in sivasana and introduce a contemplation on the merging of the last three limbs of ashtanga’s 8 limbs. The contemplation may be as simple as – ‘I make my world.’ Return to the breath and on your last exhale fully let go, saying in your mind – ‘I let go, I open space in my world for intention’.
Externalise the body fully aware of your physical form on the mat and roll to the right to come up to seated.

If it’s in your practice offer your prayer, make your intention, chant OM

Practice your asanas, but today take time to actually become each pose – I am warrior, cobra, sphinx etc. Play with truly merging with the object and the qualities of the object, or in deed, subject – if it is an extended leg pose try to merge with the benefits of the pose become the extended leg pose. Don’t excuse yourself because there is not an evident metaphor. Start with softness – move toward strength, easing away when your body speaks and slow with softness ending in sivasana – let the body be a corpse and access the flow of the divine to become the elephant.

Be an Elephant

For sivasana try this elephant practice:
Settle into your floor position – bring the breath in the navel centre – feel a rising of energy from the pelvic floor to the navel and simultaneously from the throat to the navel both energy flows meet at the navel x 6 With the exhale the energies return to their point of origin.
2. Watch this breath note it for temperature, depth, sensations in the body…
3. Release the prana/apana breath you have been practicing. Bring the mind to the eyebrow centre – Dharāna: think about an elephant the whole of an elephant the way the skin wrinkles at the R ear, L ear, how weighty its trunk, the small eyes, the R ear, L ear both ears together, the entire head, the torso and the weight of the torso, the L front leg, the R front leg, both front legs together, the R back leg, the L back leg, both back legs together, all the legs together, the feet, the roundness of the feet, the roundish-ness of the toenails – the whole elephant together. Full concentration on the whole elephant.
4. Dhyana: Draw into the mind the qualities of the elephant and meditate on these…it may be the strength, the memory, the sensitivity to sound, creativity, willingness to serve, obedience, touch, matriarchal/communal societies, groundedness, earth connection…any qualities of the elephant meditate on these…
5. Samadhi choose one or two of these qualities, bring them deep inside behind the eyebrow centre…let the qualities resonate there, in the beginning perhaps use one quality as a mantra. Then as you begin to merge your whole understanding of elephant right up until you are the elephant, embody those qualities you have chosen…if your mind wanders, as it inevitably does return again and again to your elephant word, your mantra…again and again…occasionally you may just ‘be’ elephant.

Elephant parts

Merge with all parts – be ‘elephant’

6. Very gently release your mantra and yet hold to the qualities you have infused within. Feel into your hand imagining it is as round as an elephants foot …and into your feet as though they two are round…then extend outward your own finger and toes opening them wide – feeling back into the physical body of you. Take your time and stretch as your body requests, bend knees, raise arms…respond to your external body as you need, then roll to your R side for a few breaths…before coming up to seated
6. Prana/apana breath as you settle into the upright, perhaps an Om Gam Ganapataye Namah or two.

Namaste

*Stars indicate referenced material Sutra translations from Govindan, Marshall., Kriya Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and read material Bachman, Nicolai., The Yoga Sutras Workbook. Any incorrect interpretations – the authors own.


Heart Aroused

Donna Farhi Intensive, Melbourne, 2014

Find the flow

Find the flow

Delving into the heart with Donna Farhi at her recent Melbourne intensive, I traversed an intimate terrain of my body…discovering the body below the skin, the muscles, the organs, the bones and deep down into the cells. I learnt to access body and mind using my head, heart and gut as my navigational tools. The doorway into the body is entered, according to Philip Shepherd, through ‘the brain in our belly’. This is an ancient idea that our autonomous nervous system is made up of 3 systems, rather than the generally considered 2: sympathetic & parasympathetic, we should return to adding the enteric system and offer due respect to the enteric system that governs the gastrointestinal function which nourishes us both in a digestive, mental and hormonal sense. The contemporary world, it is posited, has become lost in their heads and lack a connection to the body. Donna guided us through this material and challenged us each day to ‘find it’, find the body and then listen.

The heart-filled intensive was interspersed with shared materials: Philip Shepherd, Richard Miller – IRest, prayer, chants (called by the sublime Joan Miller from Mosman), meditation, asanas, poems, slides on the physiology of the heart, discussions, the Sutras, Tantra, individual enquiry and partner work. Too much to share in a single blog post! However I will endeavour below to share some key aspects that resonated with me.

The Heart

I can begin with the heart ….to discover the intelligence of this organ nourishing itself via the coronary arterial system and then flooding the body with oxygenated blood…the intelligence of this organ that transforms our breath into a transportable fluid that flows, feeds and sustains all other organs, muscle and tissue. This is the metaphor for us to approach ourselves so that we may continue to serve in this life we must nourish ourselves first. Begin each day with a ritual to nourish your self thereby creating an inner energy reservoir that can flow outward to serve humanity. Donna suggests: cutting a flower and putting it in a vase, a movement to welcome the day into the body, meditation, a breakfast ritual – find your own, ‘find it’.

Stacking the centres ….listening…instinct & intuition

Take a moment at anytime in the day to observe the posture, seated or standing, and make the enquiries: am I centred in my hub at the navel (also known as the ‘mind palace’)? Is my heart stacked above it? And my head? Can I sense the anchor of this energy centre, the anchor it provides for the centres above it? Do I tune into the gut and listen there to sense impeding events before the brain wakes up? This is instinctive intelligence. Donna answered the query about intuition by offering that intuition in comparison comes from the higher faculties of the mind & heart guiding us and assisting us to spiritually reach out to fulfil our potential in this life. The art is to listen to the intelligence within.

A guide to the bodies terrain

1. ‘Find it’ – explore & experiment, tune into the intelligence within and go deep, study the anatomy & physiology
2. Soften & hydrate particularly before stronger asanas to increase fluids and nutrients to the joints – key here is the breath
3. Lengthen & release with the breath
4. Find balance
5. Strengthen
6. Generalise all of the above – apply them all day, everyday

Sankalpa

Yoga Nidra arising from Tantric sources… an expansion toward liberation
Richard Miller’s ‘inner resource’ was introduced to have the resource sit with you in case the Yoga Nidra practice leads you into areas of the subconscious that are uncomfortable. Donna also set up a detailed list of enquiries to assist with Sankalpa (vow or commitment to your higher truth) development.

Nature's table

Inner Resource – Dream Place

Particularly pertinent, ‘remember the Yoga sutras begin with the word ‘atha/Now’ to call attention to the beginning: Sutra 1.1 ‘Now the exposition on yoga’. The present tense calls attention for the efficacy of a vow to self so that it rests with immediacy within the subconscious. Choose a vow/affirmation that feels right to your true essence, trust, have faith and remember a sankalpa may come to you as a form, colour, image or words…What would you do if you had no sense of failing? Enquire, enquire…to ‘find it’.

The Heart

I can end with the heart
Brahmavihara from The Path of Purification – Vishuddhimagga
Qualities of the heart:
Loving kindness to ourselves and others/Compassion suffering is universal not personal/Empathetic joy celebrate the good fortune of others/Equanimity not being overpowered by positive or negative emotions detach to find the strength at your centre

A Heart Practice

Explore the heart as you feel today – be honest – move through the below four quadrants and listen for the instruction
Am I at this moment…
1. Open heart or closed heart 2. Strong heart or weak heart
3. Full hearted or half hearted 4. Clear heart or confused heart

Community

I walked away from an amazing intensive. I walked away with friends and in our car pool we discussed and recapped and tried to share a deep inner sense of: ‘find it’, ‘listen’ ‘Now’. The joy of connection – heart-aroused community in dialogue.

References shared:
‘Out of our heads’ an interview with Philip Shepherd
The Dalai Lama’s Cat by David Michie
Blessings by John O’Donahue
How Life Moves by Caryn McHose & Kevin Frank
www.donnafarhi.co.nz