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Transitions & Sacred Keys

This is 50

My old school friends and I had a weekend away and we laughed as we placed on Instagram a photo of the hall table with three sets of reading glasses – ‘This is 50’ was the caption.

Since that weekend I have had many conversations with women friends surrounding the nature of this transition time, which falls into the pit of the curve of the psychology model, the ‘U Curve for happiness’. These are thoughts collated from conversations with women who have entered the phase of life ‘This is 50+’, yet there is relevance below no matter your turning point in life.

At our age there is a lot going on, a letting go, quiet unheard sighs, even tears, as we are no
longer required in the intensity of the nurturing role as we once were,
our bodies have shed the physical need to procreate, we are in ‘change’ and in this change an opening
occurs into a space for a new beginning – which is wonderful, as the poet Lesbia Harford declares in her poem ‘Periodicity

‘Women, I say,/are beautiful in change,/Remote, immortal, like the moon they range.’

Moon Women

Like the moon they range

 

Self stories change

Yet we carry fatigue from the past, from farewells to loved ones and an emotional tiredness from the holding onto our old stories that we are having difficulty releasing into history. Our role, our stories in the world  shift, some women comment on invisibility, some on condescending responses from bright young things who are just beginning high on the ‘U curve’ – as Kitty Flanagan depicted beautifully in her show ‘Seriously’.

So it is up to us now to redefine ourselves on our own terms. The need seems to be apparent in many of us no matter where we sit on the professional and family band stands – a need to get to the heart of the matter because perhaps for the first time the years ahead may well be shorter than those behind. This is a true freedom and in most conversations has required a deep period of introspection and often a spiritual seeking. In some cases a withdrawal occurs from social activity a kind of spiritual hibernation, a delving into a pilgrimage if not physical then at least metaphysical. This is 50, can thus create a cocooning effect where the busy-ness is less meaningful and an emergence is sensed as imminent. It
is a massive transition phase of life and yet little is spoken out into the
Western world to offer guidance, there are no rituals – thus there is a perceived aloneness to it too.

It is self care (often articulated incorrectly as selfishness) that will define our next steps. The
flowing outward from us to others, if we dare nurture within, will be an abundance that
will surprise as it gently unfolds – do we dare to let the
petals of our true selves part from their closely held comfort-current-expectation space?

Painting by Jennifer Cope

Welcome colour during the cocoon effect Painting by Jennifer Cope

 

Sacred Keys

It all brings back to my mind the teachings of Tantra x 3 ‘Sacred keys’ and William
Whitecloud x 7 ‘Secrets of Magic’ as shared to me by Andrew Mournehis (Divine Grace Yoga) in his intensive ‘The Three Sacred Keys to a Magical Life’:

3 Sacred Keys from Tantra
1. Iccha: What’s your heart’s desire/passion/intention/how can I share
from the truth of my being – Recognise your heart’s desire to open doors
2. Jnana: Ways to create/information to know ‘How’ to create and manifest
– discover rational and intuitive ways that will lead you to unlock the
doors your heart seeks to open
3. Kriya: What actions do I take to make a reality and manifest my
creations? – The action, structure and ‘will’ that is required from you to
open the doors

Magic happens when we align these keys.

There is likely already recognition of the doors and familiarity with the locks and a ‘knowing’ of how to open them, we have perhaps even sketched out the actions…so now for the will to
implement the structure to meet our heart’s desires – with the courage, the integrity, the sight of the clear eyed warrior within. Balancing and strengthening at Manipura Chakra always helps here – respect the wisdom of the gut, the second brain.

7 Secrets of Magic from William Whitecloud to challenge you and rock your
perceptive reality view
1. Your thoughts and feelings are not real
2. Your focus creates your reality
3. Everyone has a heart
4. There is nothing to do, but there is always action to take (truly accepting the current reality and then acting on it)
5. Structure has integrity – if the structure doesn’t work change it
6. You get energy from a higher source Always focus on the higher vibration
7. It will always take your will…Take action

And Andrew also asks, ‘Can you be with the tension that seeks resolution…’

Friction out into the world is always created when a skin is shed.

It seems to me it is a deeply felt letting go, allowing the unfolding of that tight held bud …the keys are apparent in the
secrets above – now to acknowledge this within ourselves and begin to allow
an inner heart celebration of love to self, accepted with joy from the
great heart of the universe – the higher vibration you are reaching
toward.

A Poem by Pesha Joyce Gertler

The Healing Time
Finally on my way to yes
I bump into
all the places
where I said no
to my life
all the untended wounds
the red and purple scars
those hieroglyphs of pain
carved into my skin, my bones,
those coded messages
that send me down
the wrong street
again and again
where I find them
the old wounds
the old misdirections
and I lift them
one by one
close to my heart
and I say    holy
holy.
© Pesha Joyce Gertler

References: Andrew Mournehis, William Whitecloud as shared by Andrew, Vale Pesha Joyce Gertler, Sally Kempton who introduced me to the Great Heart, Lesbia Harford, ABC RN interview with Renata Singer for her book ‘Older, Bolder’, Helen Garner, Kitty Flanagan, Jennifer Cope, heart-opened-raw conversations with friends.


Inviting in Piranhas and Sharks

The title may not make sense just yet but this is a post about impressions, how we step into life, into a posture or an experience. Specifically, how have we entered into the year 2015.

January

January was a holiday month for me and so I was able to step into 2015 meeting friends, family and indulging in rest – bliss, a wonderful beginning. However my chosen energetic imprint that I’d like to take with me for the rest of the year came from an evening dog walk to the beach. To back track, the holiday dog walks were often shared with my dog whisperer friend who was on her school holidays – I’ll call her T. T has an innate ability and assurance with animals that is quite remarkable. In particular she can take my wilful red heeler in hand like no one else and she carries with her an energy that is uplifting, sincere and fun.

Canine friends

Suspended energy

Evening Walk

One evening I’d been busy with new year set up tasks and hadn’t given the dogs their usual late afternoon walk. T texted and asked, ‘are you walking tonight?’ – I suggested I pick her up at 8pm and we’d go to the beach. It was late enough for the dogs to be off lead. On arriving at the beach we found the wind was up and the tide was rushing in – there was a wildness in the air. Focused on the dogs we began our walk taking care not to let them in for a swim as the waves in the bay were raucous and rough. The wind pushed against us as we threw the ball and kept everyone pretty close. The dogs noses were everywhere as the scents of the sea were tossed about from one direction to the next. We forged on breathing deeply, salt and spray entering our noses and even mouths as we spoke. As we came to the end of the first cove we instructed everyone to jump the sea wall onto the path and then we placed our leads on the dogs. The waves hit the sea wall with great smacks sending heavy sprays over the walking path, over us. There were few walkers that night and it was too hard to stop for conversation. It was tricky enough to even send out a smile. The next cove was somewhat sheltered by a groyne of rocks extending out into the bay to aid in sand erosion management. So we had a short respite where the ball could be sent off in a determined direction and the dogs could settle onto a single scent path. A lone surf kite was being packed up on this cove but other than that the territory was our own.

Piranhas and Sharks

The return walk included more wave-smack-spray action and the delayed drop of weighty foam hitting our backs. The windy cove returned us into a blast but this time it pushed us onward toward the steps and up to the car. We cleaned our feet including all four paws x 3 of our canine family and T provided assistance to a surf-sail boarder packing up his sails. Then we got back into the car where I exclaimed, ‘we are full of prana now!’. To which T questioned, ‘piranhas?’ I smiled, ‘P-R-A-N-A, but yes it could sound like piranha.’ Then without thinking I naively offered, ‘or we could say we feel the sensations of Shakti.’ T gave a cheeky, quizzical smile, ‘sharks?’ By this time we are both laughing, ‘yes’, I said, ‘we are now filled with piranhas and sharks, both the vital life force/life air and the energy of the cosmos.’ We exited the carpark cheeky and laughing and yes filled with the vibration of an almighty energy swirling within us and about us.

So this is how I’m choosing to enter into 2015 – filled with piranhas and sharks! It isn’t that I’ve stepped into this year free of personal afflictions but I am choosing as I notice my faults or my struggles to smile and remember that precious walk on the beach filled with life air and the energy of the entire cosmos. This is the impression I will offer my psyche as it tumbles out of a pose, meets a challenging experience or feels a little low. Piranhas and sharks shared with my dynamic friend T.

3 Breath Meditation Practice (referencing verses 24-27 Vijnana Bhairava)

Making choices no matter what situation we face and arriving with energy

Find your seat on the floor or a chair. Choose a mudra for your hands.

Shakti Breath Waves

Shakti Breath Waves

Reflect on how we make choices in life when faced with the myriad of life events: Take a moment to observe and accept the breath just as it is, perhaps for a minute or two. Then if you like, choose to change the breath by counting 3 for the inhale and sending it down to the sit bones, exhale for 6 letting energy rise and shoulder blades soften and fall. Alter your inhale and exhale ratios as you choose or as you expand into the breath practice. Practice this for several minutes then invite in another choice to ‘let go’ or walkaway from this particular form of altered breath
Return to acceptance, observe the natural breath as it is offered to you now, feel into any sensations in the body knowing you are empowered to change and correct if your posture needs to be altered. Maintain or reinstate your mudra.
Now/atha, bring the breath in from just above the crown of your head and down toward the heart, as it reaches the heart suspend it there for a moment – a breath suspension is not a holding of the breath it is an entering into a different energetic space in which movement can continue – in this suspension feel the presence of Shakti. Then as you need exhale and return awareness and breath to your crown. Again suspending the breath and drawing awareness to the sensation, the movement of energy – Shakti.

Example:

Inhale crown to heart – suspend the breath ( antar kumbhaka)
Exhale heart to crown – suspend the breath (bahir kumbhaka)

Verse 27. When the Energy of the Breath is retained outside or inside the peaceful state is revealed by means of Shakti. This is the way of prana-shakti or the vital life energy giving life to you, to the universe.

***Take care if you have high blood pressure as the suspended breath should not be practiced. As an option, if you have high blood pressure, use awareness to notice when the breath changes from an inhale to an exhale and from an exhale to an inhale but do not suspend/retain the breath – be a witness to the change in movement.


Embodied Anatomy of the Spine in Scoliosis

Look to the natural world where it reflects/expresses the topography of the body so that we can visualise our inner anatomical places and know them as felt experience, learnt through…

…my experience of EASS-y, an online course exploring the Embodied Anatomy of the Spine in Scoliosis – applied to yoga, developed and conducted by Narelle Carter-Quinlan.

 

Rhythm & Review

Spinal-sea-swirls

Spinal-sea-swirls

There is a natural rhythm to the online program EASS-y, a meditative quality and fluid movement in the way the course is structured. Perhaps this is a reflection of Narelle’s embodiment of dance. As a yoga teacher I entered the course with some apprehension as I am weak on anatomy and resistant to a perceived dryness in the discipline in comparison with the energetic and philosophical offerings in yoga. Yet EASS-y could not be more fluid, juicy and delicious. This course is beneficial for those inhabiting a scoliotic terrain, for those teaching and for anyone with a spine! Once you begin to harvest the knowledge contained within this course you realise that your own spine has it’s own unique terrain, whilst perhaps not scoliotic, it may well not be text book either – it may ask of you to enquire, reflect in stillness and in practice to move with what ‘you have’ to create or recreate a skeletal body that merges with the energetic. EASS-y takes you on such a pathway of observation into the poetry of fluid, living, changing bones and the terrain they create and inhabit.

The Course Structure

The EASS-y online course is structured in weekly modules with two PowerPoint presentations which are matched to an audio file per week. There is a relevant audio meditation for each week, practice notes to lead you on your exploration and videos of Narelle’s students who present with scoliosis in appropriate asana. Then there are bonus links and photographic images which allow us to imagine our inner embodiment. It was my practice to sit with the Powerpoint and matching audio then proceed to the video and finish with the meditation awakening the next day to begin the practice notes. The first two weeks immerse you in the anatomical structures, an understanding of which is essential for you to understand scoliosis and the following two weeks introduce asana complete with prop assistance and images. There is also a mid course class call where you can ask questions directly. Now here’s the irony, given my resistance to anatomy, whilst I was familiar and alert toward scoliosis when it presented in my yoga classes my familiarity was based on the anatomy without further enquiry.

Artist Dale Cox...a discovery in the Ballarat Regional Art Gallery

Artist: Dale Cox…a discovery in the Ballarat Regional Art Gallery

Enquiry

EASS-y demands enquiry. EASS-y offers you a physical and energetic understanding of scoliosis taking you by the hand and leading you into a world where other structures are compromised doing too much, doing too little, creating too much bone in the wrong places and compromising not just stature but the breath, mind, movement. A scoliotic terrain is tiring to inhabit not only because of the physical counter actions in the body but because your spatial sense is asymmetrical. Your sense of being in space is not marked by the classical centred axis. There is a different rhythm operating and connecting earth to crown. It is a journey off the classical anatomical beaten path. As a yoga teacher I realise (now) that choosing postures for the scoliotic terrain is not only about physical cues to accommodate, but the cues need to be built into an energetic, particularly breath sensitivity. I need to enquire more, visualise more, feel more how each of my students moves and responds. Narelle offers many slides to assist in this and in point of fact they are relevant to building a class for any ‘body’. In writing up a class Narelle suggests we ask more questions ‘Who’ am I teaching, ‘Why’ this asana/this way/in this sequence/with this class at this time – what change or benefit am I trying to illicit. Enquire and experiment in your own spine, know your own terrain, then visualise another – use Narelle’s images from the natural world and explore what it might be like to have a meandering spinal-river i.e a spine without the normal spinal curves within the sagittal plane. If I have a thoracic scoliosis how would this impact my lung volume and what would that then mean for my breath – where should I direct the breath? What could be happening to my transverse abdominis, multifidus? What could I then do? Enquire. Explore. Converse. Feel. Then perhaps you can teach! Perhaps you can even re-create or ease.

The Gems

• Scoliosis – impact of the scoliotic terrain & Adam’s forward bend test
• ‘Rationale’ for practice developed by Narelle
• Narelle’s ‘Lens of perception’
• Asana, props & the importance of touch
• The course knows when to repeat, consolidate, remind, mesmerise
• Meditation: ‘Hold a vertebra in your hand’
• Narelle’s land photography (also Photograph your own back)
• Use of sanskrit – vibration within sanskrit names resonates in the physical posture

Sandy concavity

Sandy concavity

Online Experience

The online aspects of EASS–y are ‘easy’ the production is seamless, flowing with ‘ease’ within the principles of sthira sukha. The progression through the course is meditative, you fall in to the learnings and find that each module is coming to an end before you are ready to leave – which you actually never have to do as the enquiry and practice are ongoing. I urge you to have a look at all that Narelle Carter-Quinlan offers on her website: http://www.embodiedterrain.com. Be brave, plunge in to the felt poetry of knowledge ‘harvested and distilled’ there.

References:

Influences in EASS-y Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen & Amy Matthews
The bonus links were thorough covering: Anatomy, Yoga & Science, Yoga and further links on Embodiment – not fair to divulge everything here!

Photographs

In this post photographs my own – explore www.embodiedterrain.com for some truly rich land/body resonating photography


Meditating on the World’s Soul

 

How did we become so Separate?

As I open the paper each morning – yes I’m still a hard copy newspaper reader – I keep asking myself how did we human beings become so separate? How is it that we appear to have lost our reverence for life, for each other? We shun the other and yet the other is us…locally we are affected: our humanity toward asylum seekers, child abuse, violence toward women, elderly abuse, homelessness, mental health negligence, murder, corruption; and globally: MH17, Gaza, Syria, Ebola virus, jihadist activities in Iraq…the list goes on and our language itself is weighted down with the words terror and fear. How did we become so separate?

Kali Yuga

In the Mahabharata this age is named Kali Yuga when the world’s soul turns black (http://www.grahamhancock.com/forum/DMisraB6.php) It is not an age of the Goddess Kali but of the apocalyptic demon Kali setting up discord, strife on earth manifesting as greed, anger, deceit, corruption, sin, animosity between peoples and an ever increasing gap between human beings and the divine, peace, faith. It is an age where extremes oscillate and the pendulum of virtue no longer has a centre point – the axis is degenerating toward loss. This concept of Kali Yuga seems evident in our histories of violence toward each other, toward other life forms and toward the planet. It is suggested only one quarter virtue remains and in that we may have some hope and yet it is predicted to dwindle to zero by Kali Yuga’s end.

There were preceding ages though, Dvapara, Treta and the sublime state of the time of SatyaYuga. Each of these yuga provided a better existence for all matter and living things.

Light or particle or universe?

Light? Particle? Universe?

Yet, yoga also offers us practices to transform this age. Yoga offers us space to see, feel and experience oneness. Patanjali’s Sutras offer a plethora of practices, something to suit all personalities, practices that encourage us to open into full communion with a greater consciousness. Connection, union, grace, love, trust, service…expansion and return to abundance and peace.

In La Luna’s classes this week we worked with verse 1:40 of the Yoga Sutras and ended our class in sivasana with this meditation:

A Practice for Verse 1:40

Begin to imagine what it would be like to see a sub atomic particle, smaller than the atom, composite or elementary… Perhaps focus on an elementary particle named the Higgs Boson or God particle what does this particle look like to you? Don’t worry if you can’t access a scientific textbook image…what does this smallest of all particles look like to you?
Is it spherical? Plain? Patterned? Coloured? If you have no visual can you sense the particle, conceptualise the idea of something so minute?…

Now bring the mind forward to the world that can be seen and imagine a tree the trunk, bark, the texture, the scent, then the branches, leaves, the textures, the colours of each – there is nothing else in your mind right now but this tree formed behind closed eyelids. Can you smell the earthiness, the fragrance of the leaves?

Trees and Consciousness

Trees and Consciousness

Can you sense the mighty root system offering nutrients out into the earthy floor below feeding other plants, animals, matter…generously sharing without an understanding of borders, or different species…without fear

Next extend your mind outward into the darkness of the night and observe a star, a solitary star, go deeper passed the twinkling light that you can see, feel the heat, see the luminosity, sense the magnetic field, the ancient energy billions of years old…the light, fill yourself with starlight, flood it in to your entire being…

Now sense the whole of the universe…which is a complex and orderly system – an example of a cosmos. Our universe composed of all matter and energy including the entirety of the earth, the galaxies and intergalactic space regarded as a whole. See the whole universe, sense the energy, feel the matter and experience cosmic vibration as you immerse yourself within the universe
Bring this state of being as one with the universe back into this room…be the universe
Return the light to the world’s soul.

Learn from the trees: The consciousness of Trees


Book Review: Stepping Stones to Meditation

 

About the Author

Jennifer Hanning was my first Hatha Yoga teacher at Hampton Yoga. I’d experimented over the decades with Ashtanga and Iyengar but although I enjoyed both I knew I hadn’t found a practice that resonated with my centre… then I walked into Jennie’s classes where I found yoga blossoming, beyond postures, settling into my mind and spirit. Each of her classes began with breath and meditation and ended with a visualisation that let me loose in bliss. Jennie’s visualisations are written from her heart to your heart.

I began questioning her about her writing and about yoga until she eventually suggested I take the Yoga Teacher Training course. Jennie was our meditation teacher throughout our studies and she guided us through yogic meditation techniques which both challenged and calmed our consciousness. Our group of students was thus blessed with the gift of meditation.

Stepping Stones to Meditation

Stepping Stones...water

In her book, Stepping Stones to Meditation, Jennifer Hanning has found that rare balance of writing her meditation course into an informative book for beginner and experienced meditators alike. It is indeed a book of insights encapsulating the magic of meditation within a yogic context and instilling it with her own creativity. It is often said by students that meditation is not for them but in this book Jennifer Hanning provides a concise, yet meaningful practice collection where there is something for all personalities to explore. It ranges through breath, muscular relaxation, deeper philosophical moments, physical awareness, a short course on the chakras through to guided imagery. So begin your journey one stepping stone at a time and find what stone your foot rests on most comfortably and practice, practice… coming back again and again and see, feel, experience the benefits that unfold.

I will admit though in a moment devoid of santosha/contentment I wanted more from this book…I was looking forward to its completion to access more of Jennie’s written visualisations…for this though I believe all I need is sahana/patience. One stepping stone at a time.

Find the book here:

http://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B00BZQ2STO


Elemental Awakening – Pre-Dawn???

 

A personal weakness

This is a post for all those practitioners out there, who like me, are a little less inclined to bounce out of bed ahead of the sun – especially on these chilly wintery Melbourne mornings. Yes, what is required is tapas – the heat within to bring disciplined action on our path to purification and not only restricted to mornings but to all our disciplines and actions. Yet it is the morning practice that trips me up. I do not rise out of my warm bed with a fire burning within to greet the sun – solar energy reflector/attractor I am not…where does this leave me on the enlightened path? In the dark? Or in sync with Judith Lassater’s recent Facebook post of a haiku with a repetition in the correct syllable count:

Get out of bed Haiku posted on FB by Judith Hanson Lasater

Get out of bed Haiku posted on FB by Judith Hanson Lasater

What does interest me is that I will get out of bed before the sun for the needs of others or if there is a class to take, but offering myself that service…there is an inherent weakness and a tamasic (the least attractive Guna/charater trait of inertia, ignorance, sluggishness) snuggling back into the doona until I just must get up as tasks are calling. Then tasks are imminent and the prime predawn sattvic (most attractive Guna knowledge, purity) personal practice time is missed. For it is ideal to practice before the sun, before the world calls and the birds chirp. What to do?

Now the 10 Tips

Patanjali’s sutras begin with the word atha or ‘now’ begins the explanation on yoga. This is where we begin – Now. Always in the now.
1. On going to sleep focus in on the eyebrow centre for several minutes until you feel the shift as you enter chidakasha behind and mentally declare “I will rise before dawn” or at whatever time you are going to commit – be honest with yourself but do give yourself the gift of the precious extra time before everyone wants & needs something from you. Repeat the commitment 3 times then soften the focus with chidakasha – let go into whatever you see, feel or sense there. Sleep.
2. Wake respecting your commitment and place the seed in your mind – how can I best serve today? and then entice yourself – What form will my ritual take this morning?
3. Earth Element: Stretch out in bed, consciously through each limb, then arms together, legs together. Inhale & exhale and sit up. Take the time to plant the feet on the floor and feel the support of the earth below – without that support you will never reach for the sky.

Sunrise over hills

Sunrise over hills

4. Water element: Walk to the bathroom and if showering is to much of a challenge rinse the mouth several times. If you like to scrape/clean the tongue do so. Then splash the face. Take a drink of water or herbal tea you brewed the night before. Put your Yogic/any comfy clothes on! Pj’s are good : )
5. Offer yourself a ritual. This may be a prayer you love, a walk into the garden, cutting a flower for your altar, feeding animals, hugging a pet or loved one, lighting a candle. The ritual needs to be inspiring, irresistible & nurturing to you
6. Fire Element: Go to your practice space, sit a moment to pause and sense how your body has awoken. Begin NOW. Practice a pranayam first to tune in to the body and perhaps palm over the eyes to awaken. Then whatever practice your body yearns for – there are many suggestions based on the doshas on the internet and indeed many teachers have shared morning practices on Youtube. Yet, the best practice will come from within – one morning it might be sun salutations, another the Tibetan 5 Rites, another all that arises is the need for balasana/child with a nadi shodhana/alternate nostril breath, or perhaps a few kriyas from the kundalini series.
7. Air, space Elements & consciousness: My biggest tip is to begin with the breath and read the body from there…my second tip is from Kara-Leah Grant’s Forty Days of Yoga you need only start with a commitment of merely 7 minutes and see where you go from there – but set a parameter. The parameter for this post is a morning practice but this may in all honesty not be appropriate for your life so be open to who you are – you may work shifts, have other predawn commitments so the shape of your day, yourself will need to be respected. My third tip is to end with a meditation so that the day begins with clarity. On this website: Listen here. Read here.
8. Return to the seed you planted whilst still in bed “In this day how can I best serve” Set your intention for the day ahead
9. Celebrate with a meal
10. Step out now to meet the sun

These tips may help but it strikes me that letting go of the attachment to yogic perfection, the should be up pre-dawn or at x y z time, is the magic key that will open up the space and let the practice happen in the natural rhythm of you.

Practice options

Internet Searches you can try:

Anmol Mehta: A morning wakeup Kundalini practice

Sunrise Dreaming

Sunrise Dreaming

Yoga International: 7 Morning Makeovers
Yoga Journal: Wake up Routine
Tibetan 5 Rites
Mind Body Green: 10 min morning wake-up sequence
Esther Eckhart:Morning Yoga Flow on Youtube
Byron Yoga Morning Meditation
And the best resource to really examine what it ‘the thing is’ about you, resistance and practice: 40 Days of Yoga Kara-Leah Grant…again & again return, listen, breathe practice.


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


Simon Borg-Olivier: Souls Singing in Balaclava

The Workshop

Simon Borg-Olivier embodies and indeed quotes Sri B.K.S Iyengar:

‘Yoga is when you make every cell in your body sing the song of the soul’

Although I love the imagery of the cells singing not all my cells were singing throughout Simon’s workshop ‘Internal Health, External Power’. Yet I can say that I felt ‘sthira steadiness’ and ‘sukha ease’ in all the yoga synergy postures he offered to participants. This is the first time I have felt both sthira and sukha consistently in my practice and I’ve been enjoying sharing the spinal flex series with students at the beginning of classes in the hope that we may take the sensation of this gentle flow throughout our class. Thank you Roman of Southside Yoga for bringing Simon into our neighbourhood.

 

The Mind

My problem was thinking too much not allowing the mind to dissolve out of its analytical state as I entered the physical movements and yet even for me there were moments of bliss when my body was completely in the flow reflecting without attempting to ‘copy’ Simon up on the podium. Reaching back into the mind, of course, I asked myself how did my body ‘know’ those movements? The Bhagavad Gita discusses this restlessness and inconsistency of the mind and in many ways the workshop was a practice in the teachings of Krishna to Aruna. A natural undeclared lecture and demonstration of life practices, life challenges and a release from tension to bliss.

Godfrey Miller Sketch

Godfrey Miller Sketch

Indeed the format followed in three hour sections ‘internal energy – mudras’, ‘internal cleansing – shatkriya/shatkarma’, ‘internal stability – bandha’, ‘internal power – pranayam’, ‘internal bliss – dharana, dhyana, samadhi’. The weekend finished with a dynamic to static meditative Yoga Synergy sequence and I can honestly say that this method of practice did not leave me tired or hungry – I walked out each evening well fed.

Less everything

Simon was very fond of repeating: eat less, breathe less, heart beat less, tense less, think less, sleep less. If we bring into our practice a little less of all things imbided, our bodies will respond and carry us toward bliss. The mat is not the place for ‘hyper’ anything the mat or practice place is the place for the dissolution of pain and sorrow…to unite with the divine as Iyengar says ‘it means the disciplining of the intellect, the mind, the emotions, the will, which that yoga presupposes; it means a poise of the soul which enables one to look at life in all its aspects evenly’.

Jewels

Little gems I walked away with:

  • Inhale into most postures letting the abdomen rise with the breath because in this way you create spaciousness and when when you settle exhale…inhaling frees the spine. this is particularly wonderful for twists and sit ups
  • Think when approaching a posture if a bandha can be created, that is the coactivation of opposing muscle groups e.g. internally rotate shoulders and round the back activating armpits and shoulder muscles as you move through spinal flexion series
  • From standing when raising a leg a subtle tilt up of the pelvis will let the bent knee float up without effort and then extend out into straight leg rising to your ability
  • Learn lolasana before yogic push ups…in fact take care to prepare the body through preparatory postures before attempting anything prematurely
  • Kechari mudra although traditionally taught as taking the tongue to the back palate and eventually right through nasal passages with focus at the third eye – could be practiced externally tongue to chin, tongue to nose drishti/gaze at the third eye
  • Generally we can all, when in seated positions, check in with ourselves hips back/ribs back and although it feels like we might be rounding we invariably aren’t our spines are now straight!
  • I also walked away feeling like a kindergarten student in the face of the pranyam techniques Simon shared ….that’s a whole other discussion

During intensive workshops such as these it is easy to get disenchanted as a teacher as you realise your journey has barely begun and you have the audacity to TEACH! Yet Simon took care of each and everyone one of us by framing the closing of each day with an emphasis on:

Ahimsa to not bring any suffering while you are learning, to yourself or others

Tapas discipline in your practice

Santosha contentment at the end

…and so with santosha we all walked out inspired into a hot Melbourne sunday afternoon