Tag Archives : practice


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


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.


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