Blog

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


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


Make it happen

At this time of year, Christian or non, the year is folding in on itself, the new year is imminent, there may be family functions to attend, histories replaying, celebrations to enjoy or there might be an intense feeling of loss, aloneness or grief for those that did not make it through to the turning of the year. Emotions are heightened, the streets are busy, the roads congested and the weather is warming, or at least here, in the southern hemisphere. This can result in a perception that we are too busy to simply ‘be’. The to do list is long and deadlines loom, tension creeps in, even when we are in excited anticipation of the festive season.

This is actually the perfect time to stop and pay attention to personal practices that restore our equilibrium, our sense of peace and lead us to stillness. A restorative yoga practice can provide this relief, a walk dedicated to ourselves without dependents wanting to play or a ball to be thrown, a swim, a defined time to read, listen to music, all these things and more, can be, should be, sought. As you have your morning or evening shower explore how you would like to shape your, personal, perfect time – and make it happen. It doesn’t have to be a half day or day affair, try for 10 minutes to start with, then think of ways to build on this and plan the time ahead – make it happen.

When in yoga classes you will often here the teacher say ‘create spaciousness’ this is a way of asking you to practice in the tangible body how to make space for extra movement, extra stretch or a momentum for you to step closer into your own light. As we train our bodies, our mind and life practices follow. So when you are next in a yogic posture or any exercise posture think on what it means to create space not just for the body, but for the mind and the self. When you practice for spaciousness you are creating room for inner transformation.

10 minutes is not a lot to ask

Single tree on rock

when you have the promise

of walking closer to your inner light

As your inner light flickers

create more space

so that you can give the gift

of luminosity this festive season

– make it happen!


The whole of the body

In our first restorative class for December at The Fitness Room I thought we’d begin to infuse the entire practice with a greater understanding of Yoga Nidra which is the meditative practice we enjoy in the classes final 20mins. How to do this? Yoga Nidra is an ancient practice of ‘dynamic sleep’ derived from techniques in tantric texts and brought in a constructed way to the west in the 1960’s by Swami Satyananda Saraswati. So where do you begin? How do you deepen the sense of something that has developed through years of experience, self study and scholarly study?

It seemed that an initial step could be made by introducing the tantric concept of non-dualism. My own lineage Hatha is clearly dualistic Ha/the sun tha/the moon and yoga the yolk or union of sun/moon, masculine/feminine etc. So I thought I’d begin with the familiar notion of opposites and draw them in together to reveal the whole – then take the leap into non-dualism as the divine manifesting in all.

The class began in sivasana, the delicious pose where you lie comfortably on your back allowing yourself a moment of utter abandon. At the beginning of the class it can act as a release point for your day, your night or the impending day ahead. It allows you a moment to observe the breath and read what is happening in the body. So I asked the class to release their upright posture down to the mat, to close the eyes if comfortable, relax all the muscles and suggest to their mind ‘here on the ground I am’…….whilst a voice offered “connected, warm, supported by the earth below. Each part of your body supported. Beginning at the right big toe bring attention upward through the right side of the body…the left side of the body…the centre of the body…settle into the centre of the body…notice where you have settled – where is this centre for you: spine, abdomen, navel heart centre? Be aware of this centre and then bring attention to your non-physical sense of yourself, where do you feel the centre of you? …Are these places the same? Different?

Begin to breathe as if you are breathing into this centre of yourself and exhale as if exhaling from this centre. Inhale oxygen merging with prana/vital life force…exhale and feel the energy freeing as you let go…know that the ultimate state is available to you…divine awareness…sacred energy…shakti…open beyond any limitations you cling to within…”

Full Moon

The whole of the moon

And then it struck me to thread through this opening practice and the following asanas to feel into the right side, the left side, the centre, the top, the soles of the feet and realise there are no actual physical borders with sign posts declaring these divisions. What there is, is the whole of the body …that familiar refrain when we are in Yoga Nidra and the voice has taken us through a full rotation of consciousness and repeats either “the whole of the body” several times or “together”, “the whole of the right leg and the whole of the left leg together”

In the actual class I began to use the word ‘borders’, “there are no borders between the left and the right, only what we perceive, feel the right and left of your posture, hold steady at the centre – hold steady the whole body” and the class transformed into a class ‘yoga without borders’**. When I came home I thought how wonderful if both personally and as a world we could have such clarity, such awareness, such inner security that we could ‘see’ that borders are constructs…limiting constructs – that cause no end of conflict within our own minds committing us to the same old behavioral cycles that do not serve us personally or worse commit communities to fear, blood shed and terror.

**Yoga without Borders existed formally before my little non-dual epiphany as www.yogawithoutborders.com a humanitarian and service organisation.


La Luna’s Blog is the Moon-bower

Welcome

Welcome to La Luna Meditations. Specifically this blog. I hope you will enjoy the exploration of the yogic path that will be offered here. I intend to share with you words, thoughts, insights from classes and images that celebrate yoga. It struck me today that I am a yogic bower bird who whilst trained in Hatha enjoys the discoveries and insights from an array of lineages and yogic paths. I delight in revealing parallels between yogic teachings and other philosophies and religions. The Bhagavad Gita, the Bible, Plato’s Republic to name just three texts have their intersecting concepts, even phrases that share similar ideas.

IMG_1006.JPG - Version 2La Luna Meditations as a name came to me as I traced my mind body rhythms with the cycles of the moon. It was a time of great confusion in my life, a time of distress, a turning point where life challenged me to examine who I was by reducing my sense of I to a point of chaos. The moon became my anchor, a waxing, waning anchor toward gentle light. I obsessively photographed the moon in attempt to reconnect with something greater more infinite and vast. In the tangible act of amateur moon photography I connected and reconnected to my sense of self as part of a wonderous whole. The more clearly I observed the whole of the moon with its infinite displays through fine weather, bleak weather, night and day, through foliage, or cloud – the greater the clarity, the greater the awareness of my true nature, that core that had been knocked severely off-centre.

In addition to my moon cycle therapy : ) I returned to yoga. When I say returned, I’d been dabbling for two decades without bringing it in as part of my life, the return was the realisation that this was not something I went to for a class here and there, on and off – this was a way of choosing to be – it was a way of being.

So welcome to the moon-bower! I hope you enjoy the offerings you find hanging in the twigs.