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Ancient Wisdoms’ Grounding Forces

Using the Yogic Paths During Times of Unsettlement:

Bhadti Mārga

Yogic scriptures define fear (bhaya) as a modification in the mind. These ancient teachings delineate two kinds of bhaya natural or rational fear, which serves us in threatening situations; and “unnatural or unusual” fear which is not based in any objective reality. When hearing the later I think of ‘phobias,’ as an example. Anxiety and worry are the effects of bhaya no matter the appearance. I chuckled a bit at this physical description in one text:

It (fear) is characterized by pallor of face, palpitation of heart, slowing of pulse or stoppage, tremor of limbs, perspiration, expressionless condition of the eyes, passing of urine and feces unaware, in extreme cases, choking of voice, inability to speak, etc. The body becomes like a log of wood. The mind gets stunned. The function of the senses is inhibited.[1]

From this description it is obvious the physiological effects of fear can be vast and very real on a somatic level. As I mentioned, in a previous post, a cultural hyper-awareness of the body feeds a bhaya mindset, usually stemming from avidyā (ignorance). “It (avidyā) manifests when one identifies with the body and forgets the immortal Ātman.”[2]For those unfamiliar with this aspect of Self, Ātman is the inner part of each individual affiliated with Divineness. Fear tends to separate one from knowing this Divine aspect of Self via negative egoic (ahaṁkāra) qualities. Yoga, in all its aspects, offers multiple ways/paths for stilling these patterns of consciousness.

Sūtra I.2

yogaś citta-vṛtti-nirodhaḥ

yogaḥ – process of attaining union and a harmonious state of mind

citta – consciousness, the repository of thoughts and feelings

vṛtti – turnings, thought constructs nirodhaḥ:  ni – completely, in every respect  rodha – discipling, not allowing to roam aimlessly

Engaging in a consistent sādhanā (practice) assists each of us in working with the mental modifications of ahaṁkāra. Sādhanā disciplines the turnings of the mind, leading the way toward integration of the heart and Ātman. Embracing the Yogic mārga of Bhakti involves a devotional surrender, a courageous embrace of understanding our mind and heart. Cor, the Latin root of courage, actually refers to heart. In the earliest of times to have courage was “to speak one’s mind by telling all of one’s heart.” Bhakti Yoga is a dialogue of one’s heart with God, or whatever the word is one uses to describe and embrace the Divine. Surrender as a Bhakta, a person on this Yogic path, brings the ahaṁkāra to a point where it asks inwardly for guidance through chanting, listening to stories of divine manifestation (līlā), bowing the ego, emptying the mind and filling it and the heart notions of the Divine.

On my first trip to India, just over twenty years ago, I went through a day long ritual, bestowing me with a mantra.* I recited that one mantra for nearly fifteen years. At first the mantra was a tool to soothe my bouncing mind as I sat to meditate. Eventually the words became the default sound of my brain, a sacred hum replacing the noises of doubt and unkindness trying to make their way in at various times. Over the last five years Bhaktisādhanā has been a continuous courageous embracing through an even deeper exploration into nāda, the Yoga of sound. Sanskrit, japa of other mantra-s, discovering sacred sound through voice, and instrument-based practices (tānpūra and harmonium) are also now part of my daily nāda sādhanā.

“By chanting, we strip away our outer appearances, our smaller selves, to let the Light of our true nature, shine forth.”  

– Rabbi Tirah Firestone

Mantra is “a living energy” traditionally handed down from teacher to student. A mantra is a sound that has, as the ancient sages say, “one foot in this world and one foot in a world that transcends ordinary sensory and psychological experience.”[3] The mystical mental practice of mantra provides a framework akin to the physical aspects of āsana. Neuroplasticity, within the brain, and mantra’s effect on the mind’s adaptive nature is being investigated by modern scientists. Their findings are validating what the ancients inherently knew, the vibrational quality of Sanskrit has a profound effect on the brain’s wiring. Swedish researchers are now able to demonstrate the health benefits of Sanskrit mantra, as a conduit for freeing [the] mind… and calming [the] nervous system[4]. A consistent devotional recitation or quiet focus on mantra is proving to insulate against sensory stimulation from the external world.

Auṁ is “described as the audible echo of inaudible sound.”[5] It is a profoundly basic opening to the power of mantra. Auṁ consists of four parts:

1.) ahhh, like stick out your tongue and say…

2.) u is pronounced oooo with the lips coming into a circle

3.) mmm, with the tip of the tongue resting just behind the front teeth

4.) silence

Each part of the sound is given equal time, including the silence before the repeated sounding of the whole mantra.

If you are new to Sanskrit and mantra please  know the goal is not to parrot the sound. Proper placement of the tongue (there are five positions) is the key. Aim to let your mind rest in the sound of the mantra and the cultivated inner silence that comes with time. Eventually with persistent practice and devotion, the sound will become a resting place for the mind. Mantra provides fortitude along the ever-winding meditative path.

 

LauraLynn

 

 

*you may read more about this in my memoir, Inspired to Live: the Story of an Unlikely Rebel

[1] Swami Sivananda. Conquest of Fear. The Divine Life Society. Tehri-Garhwal, U.P., Himalayas, India: 1997.

[2] Swami Sivananda. Conquest of Fear. The Divine Life Society. Tehri-Garhwal, U.P., Himalayas, India: 1997.

[3] Sovik, Rolf. A Mantra for Your Mind. Yoga International, Summer, 2013.

[4] Moran, Susan. The Magic of Mantra. Yoga Journal, April, 2018.

Ancient Wisdoms’ Grounding Forces

Using the Yogic Paths During Times of Unsettlement:

Rājā Mārga

 

Rājā mārga is also known as the royal road to uniting of mind-body-spirit (Yoga). It is also often translated as the path of meditative sādhanā (practice). Rāja may encompass any of these techniques –  observing thoughts, centering the mind through breath awareness, reflecting on the various levels of the mind, or coming to an understanding of a past impression, saṃskāra.

When one embarks into meditative practices first efforts are likely to encounter impatience, boredom and/or  ego-based attachments, often associated with a variety of fears. Meditative practices as svādhyāyā, the discipline of self-effort and study, provide a space for the routine investigation into surrendering our attachments and facing fears. A commitment to regular sādhanā allows for an expansion of consciousness. It illuminates an understanding of self as more than the just a body/flesh suit.

In reflective practices one comes to see how a saṃskāra, also translated as a habitual habit, can prompt a need for sensory fulfillment. Imagine it is the end of a long day of work and you come home what is your habit for unwinding? Do you consciously reflect on this action or is it merely a habit?

When kāma (desire), an associate of habitual habits, creeps into the mind one may become disappointed or express anger if it goes unfulfilled. For example, if you are someone who likes to go out and about each weekend, meeting friends, and embarking on adventures the current situation of being requested to not do these things may fuel your desires even more. The experience may invoke a lack of fulfillment resulting in an unwillingness to consider alternatives. It may even lead to full-on anger at the situation, looking for someone to blame.

Swami Sivananda, world renown Yoga philosopher, notes another mind temptation, the hidden ego. “The hidden ego is ready to fill those corners which are not so enlightened.” He provides this example of ego’s trickiness.

We are practicing a beautiful sādhanā. But we soon become attached to the way we practice our āsanaand how beautiful we feel. Suddenly, the whole world is no longer as pure as we are. Everything is beneath us. ‘Oh Gosh, this person still smokes! It smells!

He continues to point to how arrogance rises up challenging the power of our meditative sādhanā. Best intentions are replaced by māyā, the illusion of life pulling at us. If the whole of our concentration is more on the physical body the ego is quick to identify any potential loss associated with the somatic attachment. Every cough or heightened temperature one becomes afraid. An immediate assumption of disease easily sets in, especially in the current circumstances.

“The negative emotions you feel have an impact on your heart – and your health,” says counseling psychologist M. Mala Cunningham, Ph.D. For better health and reduced stress, Dr. Cunningham suggests a practice I often use with my private Integrative Health Coaching clients, the three-part breath.

 

Practice

Sit in a chair with your feet on the floor or sit on the floor in a comfortable seating position.

Place one hand on your chest gently and the other on your belly.

Inhale through your nose and let your lower belly expand,

Notice the length of the breath as it comes in and out, you can count…

1-hippopotamus, 2-hippopotamus, 3- hippopotamus as you fill up

Do the same for the exhale noting its length as well.

Repeat this 3-5 times.

If you have more breath at any point draw it up into the middle of the torso…

and even the lungs if possible, this is the complete three-part breath.

 

When exhaling with the full the three-part breath empty from the top down – lungs, torso and then belly.

Pause a moment before inhaling  again.

Do this full process for up to three minutes.

 

On the next Inhale when you have filled up allow a space in the action. with the throat soft, before releasing slowly through the mouth.

Adding a gentle contraction to the stomach at the end of the exhale assists in expelling all of the breath.

Repeat for 8- 10 minutes.

 

Finish this meditative prāṇāyāma sādhanā with 2 minutes of regular breathing.

This practice is especially helpful for surfacing anxiousness. You may wish to notice and track how you feel post-practice compared to when you began the session to see impact of your focus.

When starting a reflective mind practice consider starting with the first piece of saṃ-yama. (the collective term for the meditative path): dhāraṇā (concentration). The three-part breath practice above is a great starting point. Softly focused, concentrative practices begin the process of psychological absorption eventually leading to dhyāna (meditation) and beyond.

Ancient Wisdoms’ Grounding Forces

 Using the Yogic Paths During Times of Unsettlement:

Jñāna Mārga

Each of you, I’m sure is witnessing how fear is a daily reality right now as this in-the-face unknown looms across the globe. I suspect this unknown is also being magnified, at least in the US, by a cultural norm of focusing on the physical body. If you are uncertain what I mean by this just scroll your Instagram feed for twenty to thirty seconds; there are likely to be multiple examples of this somatic-based mentality. The modern Yoga scene tends to amplify this hyper awareness, with a greater focus on haṭha and the physical practices associated with the term Yoga. So much so that many folks, in this modern culture, associate the term Yoga only with āsana (the physical postures). I am sure, none of this is new news to many of you reading this post. We honor birth and youth as we run in fear from illness and death. We as a culture are truly challenged by the continually spinning wheel of saṁsāra, birth and death.

In this series of writings, I offer you three historical Yogic approaches to facing uncertainty and life as an embodied being. Each path (mārga) – Jñāna, Rāja and Bhakti (hyperlinks offered for further investigation) offer a different perspective in the practice of self-study, svādhyāya and the aim of Yoga’s true purpose to yoke (yuj) or unite with the divineness within and without.

We begin with Jñāna, the path of wisdom and knowledge. This Yogic lens encourages truth seeking. Who am I? What am I experiencing as I live in this body? Swami Sivananda, world renown Yoga philosopher and teacher, encourages us to identify the Truth (as he named it) by understanding it as changing phenomena. “Everything, all matter in the universe, is constantly changing, that is the only Truth there is. The baby is born and we say he or she is already one day old – not one day young.” Here his words connect to how our words come from a basis of future-based fear.  “Fear comes from avidyā (ignorance),” he underlines.

In Jñāna Yoga we investigate and reflect on what is the Truth, what is really lasting. “Is it the body?,” Swami Sivananda asks. “No. It is just a beautiful instrument,” he reminds us. He points us to notice where avidyāattempts to rule our understandings of what life in this body is and means. Personally, I faced this stark realization at a very young age when doctors gave me a fifty percent chance of survival from a life-threatening illness. My “beautiful instrument” brought me to an immediate and obvious first thought, without it (the body) there is no life, a deep quick reality check for a twenty-year-old. During the endless months of chemotherapy and radiation I unsuspectingly embarked into the inner world of self. It was scary and quite disorienting. Though I had grown up with a faith in Divineness I battled often to understand it more, to have true faith in the Truth. As my flesh suit’s, one my teacher’s description of the physical body, insides burned with chemicals and the skin turned a charred black I was convinced all my chances for a “fulfilling” life in a continued career as a model was completely nixed. My ego fought hard as I accumulated scars from procedure after procedure left me marked forever; and as strand by clump of hair fell in the shower, into the sink when I would brush it, and caught in my clothing as I put them on (the prior years I had been a hair model) the only dream I had ever envisioned for myself was diminishing rapidly.

Gratefully, one day as I rummaged through the dusty bookshelves of a used bookstore a series of texts about sages living in a mountainous setting was discovered. Reading this series of books, Life and Teachings of the Masters of the Far East, became my daily sādhanā (practice). A profound inner evolution was set into motion which I continue to pursue still, over thirty years later. I came to discover, through reading the texts, how the turning of every moment comes with temptations and desire, kāma, keeping a constant motion toward a perceived fulfillment. Working, making money and buying things coo us into feeling a temporary fulfillment of these desires. When these desires are interrupted or unfulfilled the ego rears up causing a range of expressions and actions, fighting on behalf of the kāma. Some folks are crushed by these pursuits. Their thoughts turn to words like failure, others ignore the under-stirrings completely by numbing the senses – taking tablets, drinking alcohol, doing drugs, eating disagreeable foods or sleeping too much. Another may blame parents or the world in general so feelings within can be discounted.

The teachings of the ancient sages offers another choice, to surrender to wisdom, as the experience of fear attempts to overwhelm. In Yoga, as a complete life practice, one does not only invest in the body; there is also an investment in the mind. Avidyā is a real disrupter and distractor. The ego can hide behind fear, behind arrogance, behind being “the best.” It wants the power to control everything and it manifests in different ways. Fear often expresses as a very deep-rooted saṃskāra, an impression that often becomes habitual in both positive and challenging ways. I have learned from the ancient saints, sages and many teachers it is habits of the ego facing us when fear surfaces. It took me that year of deep physical pain to realize how I associated losing this body, the beautiful instrument with losing my whole identity.

When we face the egoic aspects of self an opportunity to transcend is presented. Svādhyāya, self-study, coupled with openness to the teachings of others is the Yogic mārga, Jñāna. If one has many fears, this may be a signal of a strong identification with ego and body/mind. If one chooses to investigate a saṁskāra, habitual habit, space is generated for an expansion into self-understanding. The mind makes mental modifications, cracking and making space for new conditions to exist within the mind. It is then a matter of what one fills those cracks with, such as inspiring texts, meditative contemplation or devotional practices.

The mind is where I began my Yogic path decades ago. I quickly learned, while fighting the egoic attachments fueled by a deep mind-set and societal influences, I am not just this “beautiful instrument” of flesh and bone. It has been a tough lesson for someone who banked twenty-ish years of life on her looks. Over time Yogic philosophy and daily sādhanā has also firmly taught me I am also not just a mind. The mind is also a changing phenomena, hovering around the soul, Ātman or Self – that center point which never changes. It is this aspect of the Yogic journey we will consider in the next post on the mārga of Rāja.

 

If you are curious about generating a Jñāna inspired practice here are a few suggestions for readings:

The Inner Tradition of Yoga by Michael Stone

Letters from the Yoga Masters by Marion Mugs McConnell

Polishing The Mirror: How to Live From Your Spiritual Heart by Ram Dass

Falling into Grace: Insights on the End of Suffering by Adyashanti

LauraLynn

WOULD YOU LIKE TO START on this mārgā now? Join the Yoga Folk Book Club.

ToGetHer – how Yoga brings me to my Self

written by Celina Granato

Nearly 20 years ago when I became interested in learning Yoga, I didn’t notice much beyond stretching and was mostly focused on its benefits to my body.

I imagine that’s how it is initially for many yogis. It’s difficult not to be focused out on the outer world, especially when the mainstream makes it so easy with advertisements of what the masses look like. Yogis sporting trendy outfits and sleek mats. Images of dripping wet vinyasa practitioners or contortionist postures that seemingly defy gravity. That might be a product of the physical practice, but the dedicated student will come to see in time what lies beyond the pose. It’s not about hard workouts or a good sweat—and there’s no such thing as “Nama’slay”.

Yoga as Spiritual Discipline

I can assure you I am NOT a guru. I claim no specialty in Yoga style or limb, but what I am is a keen observer of experience. If there is one thing I can profess, it’s the role Yoga has played in fortifying me as a spiritual activist.

My spiritual life deepened as Yoga provided me application for self-study. I liken this self-study process to observing “layers of an onion”, which are analogous to mental constructs we hold about who we think we are in the world; ideas that make up our experience.

The layers are symbolic of our thoughts, beliefs, feelings and emotions. Upon closer examination, you’ll see that these layers can take on a variety of forms—all functions of ego: personal identification, expectations, preconceived notions, physical limitations, analysis, organization, labeling, judgement, etc. Using an onion as metaphor makes it easier to visualize multiple layers that make up the human mind; moreover, layers can be peeled away.

All these “layers” of mind reinforce a separated and limited identity. Resistance to letting go process does not make peeling easy, but it can be done and having a good thought system is worth its weight in gold. If we’re holding onto mental layers, they’ll obstruct us from having a more fulfilling experience.

Any clarity, increased connection and meaning I have garnered in my life has always been the result of spiritual discipline. The following are themes that have revisited me time and again through Yoga practice and may be helpful to offer here:

  1. Breath is Paramount. Breathing is the first and last thing we’ll ever do. Isn’t it interesting how we can’t live without the breath, we rarely give a thought about it and almost always do it unconsciously? Being mindful of the breath can teach us about presence and lead to stilling the mind. Notice that when you watch your breath, you are here and now.
  2. Resistance – Yes, Pain – No. In the Yoga Sūtra-s, Patañjali addressed āsana practice, for which he said Yoga postures should be “steady and comfortable”. While you practice non-harm and avoid pain, it is possible to experience mental discomfort as resistance. This type of resistance is challenging and used for growth; physical practice should not produce pain.
  3. Nothing in the world stays the same. All things change over time, including relationships. If you hold Utthita Parsva Konasana (Extended Side Angle Pose) for 90 seconds, and I promise you your relationship with the posture will have changed from where it was 2 minutes before! Are you the same person today as you were five minutes, 10 months and 20 years ago? My relationship with my boyfriend today is not the same as it was two years ago. Remaining curious about change allows ease and lessening of control and opening to a greater understanding and acceptance to the transitory nature of the world.
  4. Awareness is Key. Increased awareness happens over time through meditation and mindfulness practice. More awareness naturally leads to better choices in thinking, which is the way you perceive your experience, and opens you to deeper aspects of self.

 

WelcOMing hOMe

The peeling of layers isn’t always easy. In fact, it’s felt like burning at times. But Yoga has assisted me in this disidentification of what the world has us believe and it helps me better understand that there is only Spirit. For me, Spirit represents perfect love and unwavering peace, an experience we’re all walking towards.

Sometimes I like to think of Yoga as an agent for Spirit, and that has been out to get me. Over the years it’s become an old friend. Not only is it a path, but it is also walking the journey with me. Assisting me as I let go of old ideas that no longer serve, which in return has created space for an upgraded system of thought to start looking in a way that is beyond how the world sees.

In some ways, Yoga appears to be this thing that people do. Something for personal development, like it’s a road to get us to a place, somewhere we are not. But instead, Yoga facilitates a process of Undoing, not a doing. The Yoga practice takes the student inward because the student really has “no-thing” to do with the outside world. Our experience in the world is that we’re bodies, but that’s not what we really are.

What does it mean when all the mental layers are peeled and cast away? The linear mind sees it as there is nothing left. And that’s just it, a paradox. You learn that all those layers really are not a thing! And as layers of the onion begin peeling away, the student recognizes they are also not their thoughts. Going all the way means giving up nothing for everything in return. It is both a welcoming home and realizing that you never even left Home in the first place.

Ego, Leadership & Self-Study

Our unique strengths and personal power can have a tipping point.

The moment these two go from being helpful,

to getting in the way,

the divine play of ego is happening.

This awareness is the beginning of Yoga and the modern theory of self-leadership.

Over the last couple months, I’ve been percolating around these thoughts of ego and leadership and the study of Yoga. In the midst of the brewing a message from one of my teachers, Janet Stone, appeared in my inbox. She too spoke of ego and the trappings of false identifications. She shared this translation of a Sūtra.

dṛg-darśana-śaktyor-ekātmata-iva-asmitā

False-identification is confusing the nature of the seer or Self with the nature of the instrument of perception. In other words, false identification happens when we mistake the mind, body, or senses for the true Self.     

 – Yoga Sutra II.6

 

Do you ever fall into the habit of identification

with something that really isn’t who you are?

Experience has taught me, and Janet also noted, Yogic practices can assist us in dealing with our story-maker.

Have you ever caught yourself making up stories because

you think the person you are isn’t enough?

My answer to my own mis-leadings and mis-identifications is to engage in the all-inclusive offerings of Yoga as a form of self-study. No matter which lotus petal (see below) I choose to engage in, I am magically reminded of my true essence, big ‘S,’ Self. It assists me in moving beyond ego and the outward personas that can take over in interactions as small ‘s,’ self.

Some enter the world of Yoga through āsana, the physical postures. Another may add to this prāṇāyāma, breathing exercises and the development of life force (prāṇā) awareness. Dhyāna, the engagement of meditative-related practices, is also as common entrance point. It is also where my small ‘s’ self began to comprehend what my big ‘S’ Self is, several decades ago.

Within the analogy of an eight-petaled lotus, āsana, prāṇāyāma, pratyahara (sense awareness) and the three levels of mind awareness (dhāraṇā, dhyāna and samadhiI) each occupy a petal. What lies beneath all of these practices is the ancient philosophies of the yamas and niyamas. They comprise the last two petals of the Yoga lineage lotus. Together the yamas and niyamas are ethical guidelines for leading one’s life from within and without. Altogether these multiple threads are a guide as we live inside, what another teacher of mine calls, this “flesh suit.”

The roots of Yogic philosophy, meditative practices, prāṇā-related awareness and āsana guide me on through an all-encompassing study of self, also known as svādhyāya. Yoga/Yuj (in Sanskrit) is simply and literally translated as union. Though it is one simple word, it stands for the lifelong quest of cultivating faith in the most Divine aspect of Self.

The theories of the modern Self-Leadership model have many similar pointings to the ancient teachings within the practices and philosophies of Yoga. As I am learning through the academic studies of a PhD program there is a process to the interpretation of data, whether it is words of theories or the hard data of numbers. So, my aim over the coming time is consider how Yogic ways may be part of a modern leadership movement.

Where do our unique strengths and personal power tip us into an understanding of the divine play of ego with humbleness and self-compassion?

How are our understandings helpful and assist us in getting out of our own way?

Can such an awareness become the beginning of a new evolution in this modern Yoga movement?

 

So, I am curious are you willing to examine the false identifications for the sake of your ‘S’ Self?

Are you willing to join this new evolution in considering Yoga’s impact on the mat and beyond?

Do you want to discover a world within where ‘S’ Self regins supreme without an ego battles?

 

Yes… great let’s go!

Retreat Reintegration

Written By: Dipika Delmenico

To retreat is to take quietude for renewal.  To reintegrate is to make meaning of, upon re-entry from such act of retreat.  Reintegration phases can often feel anything but, like the renewing quietude experienced during retreat.

One of the first questions I ask people on their return from retreat, a transformative experience away from the grunt and grind of the daily schedule at home (whether it be a training, vacation, pilgrimage) is “how is your digestion?”.

Years ago for my 40th birthday, my husband and children gifted me a Pilgrimage to the Heart retreat in the aśram I’d lived and served at in India.  It was a silent retreat.  With four children at the time, our home was busy and noisy. I yearned for spacious inner silence.

The retreat was divine.  The silence was elixir for my soul.  While it was, at the time, difficult to leave my family, my young children, I was going to a place of such intimate and deep familiarity, refuge and renewal.

On returning home however, I felt the immediate dispersion of the renewal I’d acquired during retreat. I did not wish to dilute the expansion and joy I’d experienced.  However, the contrast of worldly life as a householder was intense and it was difficult to hold.

My husband laughed at the wide eyed expression I wore as I sat in our family vehicle driving down the coast from the airport, wedged between children all talking at once and yearning for my attention.  It was wild and I love the symphony but slow down …. I was assimilating. My physical body had only just landed. My soul, I’m not sure had yet fully arrived!

A week or so after returning from retreat, I observed that I became Irritated with one of the retreat’s teaching Swamis. I was annoyed that he had  not addressed how the participants could support and  assimilate the heightened retreat experiences, on return to our homes in different corners of this magnificent globe.  I was irritated and made him the object of my discontent while I struggled to digest and find ways to make meaning of my experiences. Leaving the cocoon of the retreat to the demands of worldly life. “Did he truly have any understanding of what I was going home to?  Toddlers, nappies, teenagers, tantrums, juggling shift working partner with my own clinical practice, international distributorship business, baking, hands on mum, running a house, a rural property”. Oh yes, I was cranky. How could I hold this expansive, loving space.  Where was the time in my day to devote to my own practices?

This was a story I was creating.  Everybody has their own story. I acknowledge and honour that each of you have your own individual demands, challenges and triggers.

The truth is whether you take retreat for a day, a weekend, a week or longer, the emerging is delicate and sensitive.  If not managed with considered sensitivity there can be discord. Disharmony  between where you find yourself and where you have been. Contrast in the environment, company, daily schedule, the satsang.

When you place yourself in an intentional environment and circumstances like retreat, you can experience an activation, mobilizing even eliminating the accumulated residue of life.  There can be a purification of the different sheaths of yourself, the  kośas.Your more subtle layers, sheaths or bodies. Those that are not visible but are part of your wholeness.

Often people have new experiences on retreat. It may be feeling and meeting whole new frontiers and sensations within yourself. This can be peaceful, blissful, loving, painful, irritating, frightening, overwhelming, sad but oh so alive!

If the environment is one that fosters spaciousness, safety, restoration and ease there can be an opening of you.  A heart opening if you will that sees you even MORE loving and sensitive to all impressions you encounter.  While in the cocoon of retreat it can be heightened in a way that feels, well good.

Then this precious time comes to it’s natural close and you emerge. You may emerge somewhat fine tuned in resonance.   There’s a moment of spark when your resonance and nourished state of being meets with that of the world, which may not have changed in resonance with you. It can be a moment of friction, perhaps even tension or chaos. It can be a moment of great compassion, love, acceptance depending on you and your circumstances.

Of course it looks different for all. Perhaps it’s smack back in a traffic jam, deadlines, demands and expectations, running, juggling, same old patterns emerging, the inner clutter, lack of silence and noice jangling the nerves. And, that sweet, sweet heart space slipping from your grasp.  And, be gentle and loving with yourself, for it could be the contrast between your state and those you love, perhaps family, friends, work colleagues.

Being able to digest everything you are feeling, experiencing is key to how you transmute the qualities of your retreat time.  You’ll be digesting on all levels of your being.  Physically, emotionally, mentally, soulfully there will be a need to fully digest.

Breaking down, assimilating into a substance that nourishes all aspects of you, understanding, making sense of, reflecting and integrating will be inwardly occurring.  Having an awareness of this, eating and living in a way that supports this process is key to how you sustain all the gifts of your retreat period.  Whether it’s been for a day or a year, the same principal applies.  Whatever your circumstances, this applies to you.  To understand these principals in practical and profound, yet simple and effective ways I encourage you to read the Chapter on digestion in my best selling book The Ayurvedic Woman.

There are simple, effective and practical ways you can support how you digest these experiences.  Eat foods that are warming, easily digestible and nourishing.  That includes more cooked foods and less raw foods. YES, that’s right.  Soupy stew like one pot meals and soups are perfect.  Slow cooked is great.  Raw foods have more nutrient dense energy but are less nourishing for this time as they require far more digestive energy and power to transform into a substance that is nourishing for your body and being.

In addition, sip on ginger tea after meals to bolster your digestive fire. If you are feeling like there’s a lot of gas and wind in your gut, your mind and you are overthinking, over emotional or over sensitive then start the day with drinking a cup of hot water with a teaspoon of ghee to pacify you.

And, massage yourself with warm sesame oil before you take bath or shower to nourish your nervous system and impart strength and grace to reintegrate well.

May your digestion be strong and bright, your resonance light.

 

About Dipika:

Dipika Delmenico is an Ayurvedic Medicine Practitioner, Anthroposophic Naturopath, Yoga of Sound teacher, Speaker and Author.  She’s practiced clinically for more than 20 years, treating thousands of patients globally with holistic healing wisdom and Mantra.  Dipika is a best selling author of The Ayurvedic Woman and Shine Your Light. She’s the founder of Conscious Woman Rising and The Radiant Woman Foundation; holistic practitioner trainings, wellness courses and programs.

Dipika works therapeutically with Mantra and Sacred Sound as the original medicine, and medicine of our future, integrating and bridging physical and spiritual sciences for true healing potential.

Dipika is in service to the renewal of ancient healing mysteries and healing the divine feminine in each of us and our planet.

You can download my free ebook A-Your-Veda: Your inner roadmap treasure on dipikadelmenico.comfor more tips and tools to support you.

Retreat

Written By: LauraLynn Jansen

 

Why Retreat?

Why Step Away?

What does Drawing Back Offer?

 

Withdrawing from regular life allows you moments to gather in energy usually dispersed into multiple directions. The word, retreat,comes from the Latin verb “to pull back.” By retreating you allow yourself time to focus deeply in one direction and gain a new perspective.

 

Each one of us possess an essential nature that is untethered by the confines of modern life. Retreating from everyday life and leaving behind the usual distractions allows an inner change and redirection toward what really inspires our life.

Continue reading “Retreat”

The Struggle Is Day 4

Written By: Stephanie Keiko Kong

 

Dear reader,

            The following article is based on a journal entry I wrote as a letter to myself back in 2014. At the time, I was at the very beginning of my journey into meditation, feeling frustrated and blissful by turns.

            Currently, I teach mindfulness and meditative singing, and I’ve enjoyed a strong, consistent practice for years now. However, as you’ll read, this wasn’t always the case.

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I’m a meditator. Sort of.

I meditate on a daily basis for about four days in a row. Then, I miss a day. Like today.

It’s day 4 of my brand-new-again daily practice. I’ve squirmed every time I thought about sitting on my cushion today. It’s as if my butt is a magnet of the same polarity as my meditation spot. I get near it, and I can feel invisible forces driving me away.

Somehow, on days 1, 2 and 3, I woke up knowing I had to start meditating immediately. Maybe it’s because I knew I would otherwise get distracted. I didn’t even brush my teeth first. From my horizontal sleeping position, I slid off the side of the bed, onto the floor between the bed frame and my closet, and there I sat. I picked up my mālāfrom my nightstand and off I went. Continue reading “The Struggle Is Day 4”

Yoga Will Save the World

Written By:   LauraLynn Jansen

 

It is everywhere!!! It, meaning “Yoga.” Versions of it are used in advertisements on the television and in magazines. Corporate heads write of its’ underlying benefits and relate how engaging Yogic philosophies and practices aid in being a better leader in business settings. And, of course folks doing postures are all over social media channels. So… I thought I would take a moment to share some details of how Yoga is demonstrating impact in the scientific realm. Plus a few other ponderings.

  1. The physical movements associated with āsana, the postures, leave a ripple of benefits – flexibility, muscle coordination, and assist in healthier functioning of the organs and tissues. 
  1. Prāṇāyāma, the conscious movement of breath and bodily energy, has a full list unto itself. On the physical level it improves blood circulation and improves concentration. It also invokes a relaxation response to the body and mind. When engaged regularly these breath focused practices are being proven to address and release anxiety and depression (components of post-traumatic stress).
  1. The ability to self-regulate, also known as having the skill to respond and relate to stress in a healthy manner, is addressed by almost every marga(Yogic path), whether it is āsana, prāṇāyāma, meditation or nāda (sound, chanting, etc).
  1. One’s ability to focus attention shifts as an increase in mind-body awareness is acquired. Literally, the brain’s neuroplasticity changes through the engagement of attention networks and other mental facilities used in the aforementioned practices. This increase in mind body awareness, also known as metta-cognition, enables folks to stand back and watch what is happening from a more neutral mindset.
  1. Lastly, is the bliss factor, some call it the endorphin rush post a physical practice. However, the intense state of flow, unity (what Yoga/yujactually means in Sanskrit) and peace/calmness can present a deep change in an individual’s perception of self and their path in life.

Continue reading “Yoga Will Save the World”

The Teacher Mold

by Emerald Ralston

 

“I….. I just don’t think I enjoy teaching yoga…” I muttered to a friend, a fellow graduate of my 200-hour yoga teacher training. We were warming up at a studio of another fellow graduate, preparing to take class there, and I was contemplating her offer for me to teach there as well.
We’d all been teaching intermittently, subbing whenever we could and getting as much experience as possible, to attempt to bring to others what yoga had brought to our lives.


“Well, maybe you just haven’t taught enough classes, or you’re just not confident enough in the words,” she offered, in the purest, most encouraging way possible.


I allowed myself to sit with this suggestion, one I had considered several times before.


Maybe I’m just not confident enough. Maybe I just don’t quite fit the mold of the studios I’ve encountered or the students I have had in front of me. Maybe I’m just simply not a good teacher, maybe I’m just not good enough.
The doubt spiral took hold and didn’t let me go until I was halfway into Savasana. That is when I realized that it wasn’t true. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy teaching Yoga… it was that I simply didn’t enjoy teaching Asana.
When we consider yoga, in the West particularly, the first image to come to mind for most is the asana. The poses, the leggings, the catch phrases on the tank tops. But there is so much more to Yoga than that, Asana is only one of the eight limbs of Yoga. There are the Yamas, or the restraints and moral principles we follow. The Niyamas, or the positive observances. There is Pranayama, the breath work; Pratyahara, gaining control of the senses; Dharana, focus; Dhyana, meditative absorption; and finally Samadhi, or total enlightenment.


Anything that brings people to yoga is incredible, powerful and likely life changing, in my opinion, but there was always more to it than asana for me. In my YTT I wasn’t the most flexible, I didn’t know all the sanskrit names or possible variations of each pose, I wasn’t interested in perfecting the picturesque and beautiful poses that the other incredible yogis in my class excelled at as much as I was just there to move my body and spirit around.
But when it came time for papers and class presentations on the sutras, on the spiritual side, the academic side, I lost track of time and space. I connected with a side of me that needed to be awakened and I discovered Yoga. I discovered the yamas and niyamas, I truly dived into my breath, I sought the divine, I found it within myself.


Asana got me there, as it gets most people to yoga. Asana teachers are a gift, but not every 200-hour YTT graduate is going to be cut out for teaching asana, and I am here to tell you that is okay. I beat myself up for months, after spending so much time and money, seeing many of my fellow classmates moving on to teach incredible classes and truly find their calling in that. I felt the anxiety that yoga usually relieved for me creeping back, comparing myself to other people, wondering why I had failed. I even quit going to studios for class, only occasionally practicing my asana at home. My only connection to yoga on the surface seemed to be my daily spiritual reading and Instagram. My escape had become my prison, and everything that brought me to yoga wedged itself between us now.


Suddenly I realized I was no longer practicing Yoga. I snapped out of it with the help of my mentor and friends, and the spiritual foundation YTT had given me. I realized that even if I wasn’t arbitrarily teaching asana because that’s what was expected of a 200 hour YTT graduate, I had been teaching Yoga all along — even more so by following my truth that teaching asana was not for me.


I was reminded of stories of ancient yogis where there is not a single mention of Asana. Conversations that went well into many evenings about the impact yoga has had on the lives of me and my friends. This is because Asana does not have to be the focal point of yoga.


Teaching Yoga is reminding your coworker to breathe when they’re overwhelmed. Teaching Yoga is donating excess to charity because you are consciously practicing non-attachment. Teaching Yoga is setting boundaries to fill you own cup before you try to help fill others’. Teaching Yoga is living in truth and modeling that for others. There is so so much more to teaching Yoga than guiding someone into a pose with your words.


Grant yourself the grace you grant others if you are at this crossroads in your teaching journey and allow and trust your own path to guide you.
You might find that you can teach yoga in a different way, like I found that while I don’t love teaching asana, I do love teaching Yoga.


Namaste <3