Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Dwelling in Wisdom

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali  Book I: 48   “When consciousness dwells in wisdom, a truth bearing state of pure spiritual perception dawns”

With age comes wisdom, so the saying goes, but the passage of time alone does not guarantee that one will also become wise.  I often ask in classrooms, how students perceive an intellectual person and a wise person.  The words associated with wisdom are commonly;  calm, patient, insightful, humble, joyful, peaceful and innocent.   Although certainly not mutually exculsive, the strictly intellectual generally brings a feeling of egoism and proprietary attachment to what they know, while the wise often have no desire to take credit for their knowledge and wisdom.  In fact, to become wise is a process of reliquishing long held beliefs while being open to deeper and more profound understanding.

While intellect expands through analysis, memorization, and rational thinking, consciousness expands through contemplation.   Intellect looks for solutions from known factors often coming up with brilliant discoveries and mathematical formulas that prove what is already evident.  Contemplation is a process of allowing truth to be revealed directly to consciousness.  Einstein’s genius was a unique combination of mastering contemplation and possessing massive intellectual capacities.   He could  “dream” what it would feel like to ride a light beam and mathematically compute that, at light speed, time would slow down and space would collapse!  

Consciousness becomes what it contemplates.  The process is not to strive or over effort, but to become calm and slow down the random image making  energy of the mind (Yogas Chitta Vrtti Nirodha).  There are many techniques in yoga to develop this skill.   The calm mind can then focus on what it desires to know or become.   When we look with the mind’s eye in calmness and clarity, the Truth is revealed regarding the object contemplated or about the correct course of action to take.   When actions derive from wisdom they can prevent much suffering and wasted effort.   There is a story of some monks in a particular order who were pressing for an upgrade to the organization’s computer hardware as their current equipment was sorely out of date.   Everytime they took the propsal to their superior, she would meditate on it and say, “not yet”.   This went on for 6 frustrating months for the monks until one day, she came to them and said,  “its time to purchase the new equipment.”   It so happened that that was the day of the unveiling of high speed internet!   Had they not waited, there would have been wasted time and expense, since they most certainly would have had to upgrade again.  

BKS Iyengar states that, “this illuminating (truth-bearing) knowledge is free from doubts”.   And Patanjali says,  “ A new life begins with this truth-bearing state”.   A new life of seeing and feeling our kindred nature with all of life expands the desire to serve that life in all.

Om Shanti





Monday, August 25, 2014

Trusting the Process of Yoga


Awareness and understanding of yoga, or of anything that is important, grows at a unique rhythm and pace for every individual.  Trying to force a shortcut to maturity results in resistance, confusion, and separation.  This is the antithesis of yoga, since yoga is the unity of heart and soul from which trust and respect arise.  
Approaching yoga as a process, more akin to falling in love than to working toward a promotion, will make the experience one of expanding freedom.   Mastering technique and striving for accomplishment give way to joy and wonder.  In gaining trust in yoga's process there is a loss of trust in old responses that once may have "worked" to attain position or favor.  Relationship takes priority over results.  Trust is gained in the the kind response, the compassionate response to bring about deep and enduring supportive connections that are divinely human.


The basic premises of yoga never change no matter what the specific intention for the practice is.  Quality of attention is more important than the final form of the posture.   Each progressive step has the same potential to open the heart.   It is a matter of attunement and alignment to the inner frequency in every moment.  Like tuning a radio,  all is static until the tuner lines up with the frequency.  Then the whole world opens up.  There are voices and music.  Depending on the station it is uplifting or depressing, inspiring ordisturbing.  A song can take us immediately into joy or sorrow.  Placing the attention on deep inner focal points aligns us with subtle frequencies that open and expand naturally and effortlessly.  


In asana, the shape of the body and quality of attention within determines how and where energyflows.  As we trust the process of inner exploration and alignment,  our attunement becomes sharper.   Motives and actions that were once haphazard take on meaning and direction.  Mind, body and feeling become integrated and the imposing fears and static of the ego dropaway.  


The ultimate alignment is that which opens the subtle energy channels or nadis and uncoils the chakras removing the entrapped obstacles to our true happiness.  As BKS Iyengar says in Yoga, A Path to Holistic Health, “the chakras are tangible only by their effects. They are the critical junctions that determine the state of the body and mind."  He goes on to say, " To achieve self-realization the sincere student of yoga will, with persistant practice,  conquer the 6 obstacles to happiness: desire, anger, greed, infatuation, pride, envy.”  

Trusting the process of slowing down, concentrating within, accepting our own unique rhthyms,  exploring and refining alignment that removes physical, mental and emotional obstacles,  increases our happiness and self-realization which feeds back into a deeper circle of trust in the process of yoga.  And on and on it goes.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Traveling Lessons

My mother helped to instill a love of travel in me.  She was determined to have us, "see the USA in our Chevrolet" and reached her goal to take the family to every contiguous state during my childhood.   Albeit, some states were simply pass throughs on the way to a destination, but every one had some point of interest or lesson that piqued our curiosity.   As a primary school teacher, mom was on the lookout for ways to introduce a new word into our vocabulary or cite a lesson from the passing geography or geology.    The word  "meandering"  was introduced on one trip as a description of a stream within our view shed and also the course of our travels on some days.  When I was old enough to travel independently, I took to the highways with two  girlfriends for several weeks of camping in the Rockies.  Two overwhelming impressions from that first trip  remain with me to this day:  Humans as a whole share many of the same qualities yet every individual is unique;  People are basically good and generous.  Subsequent travel throughout North America and overseas have solidified those impressions and added more:   You get back what you put out (corollary to people are basically good and generous);   Stepping into the unknown in faith and trust builds those qualities and often brings about delightful experiences and outcomes.

The latter impression is never more evident for me than when traveling in Asia.   The western mind is boggled by the seeming lack of logic to traffic patterns,  time tables, and efficiency models in the east.  Yet, that is  precisely one reason that draws me back there.  The environment gives you the choice, relax and surrender the mind's control, or be upset and frustrated much of the time.  With approximately 12 million people and 7 million motorbikes,  crossing the street in Saigon (or Bangkok, New Delhi, Siem Reap) requires all of the qualities of meditation.  Be fully alert to everything around you, set your intention, stay focused, step out in faith and stay on track no matter what obstacles arise in your path, BREATHE.  If you hesitate, get distracted or make any sudden moves your experience may be truncated.  Often, in India, I would align with a local cow as my crossing guard in navigating traffic, talk about unflustered!  Bicycles, rickshaws, trucks with horns blaring could not deter the sacred beast from its unwavering path and it always delivered me safely. 

Coming to Viet Nam for the international yoga retreat this year brought home more life and history lessons.   The Viet Nam war defined much about my generations' outlook on life and country.  In Viet Nam they refer to it as "The American War".    Just as many Americans,  questioned why we were there, it turns out, so did many of the Vietnamese we spoke to.  No one we talked to seemed to really know what we were doing there.   And of course in the end,  they were successful in driving the US out.  Although the first Yama or commandment of Yoga is non-violince, yoga does not believe that war is always unjustified, the Bhagavad Gita being one illustration. Daya Mata (deceased president of Self Realization Fellowship) says, "When there is a snake in the room and it is doing no harm, let it be.  But if it is hurting someone, you can defend them against it.   War should only be engaged if there is a truly honorable need to defend against an aggressor, but should never be instigated aggressively."   From what I saw and heard, there was no real aggressor that the US was defending against in Vietnam,  just an ideology that the US government at the time, disagreed with.  Unfortunately too many of our brave service people and countless soldiers and civilians in Vietnam paid the price for government's aggressive actions.  President Obama was recently quoted as saying that war should never be glorified or entered into lightly. 

Although there is still recovery work going on to clear UXO (unexploded ordinance) and mitigate effects of Agent Orange on people and the environment, Viet Nam has moved on.  Saigon is a thriving, exciting, clean and vibrant city.  The beaches of Nha Trang and Danang are beautiful.  Very soon a newly accessible natural wonder of the world,  Hang Son Doong, the largest cave in the world will burst upon the adventure traveler's blogs.   The Vietnamese people are very welcoming to Americans.  Most of the ex-pat American vets we know are married to lovely Vietnamese women.   As the world becomes smaller,  my prayer is that our consciousness becomes bigger, our vision clearer, that we see all nations "under God" and all of humanity as family.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Theory into Practice

Theory into Practice   


Yoga is based on a set of theories.  Faith and belief systems don’t require and often discourage testing and questioning.  As a result, they are limited by these restrictions.  Theories, by definition, are to be tested.  Our bodies, mind and breath are our laboratories in which we test the theories of Yoga.


Yoga proposes some grand theories.  For Example:


Theory:   Yoga links the jivatman (limited, divisible self) with the Atman (unlimited, indivisible Self)


Can we experience a state of being an Unlimited Self and what does that mean to us in the 21st century?   In fairly recent times the world view of physics has changed from Newtonian Theory (action/reaction; body in motion stays in motion, etc) to Quantum Theory (everything is fundamentally connected at the subatomic level).  In the former cause of action or change was the result of physical forces acting on each other.  In the latter change has been proven to result from something a subtle as observation.  


Change is no longer viewed as occurring from forces outside of ourselves.  Deepak Chopra has famously stated, “your cells are eves dropping on every thought you think”.  This underscores the importance of our thoughts on physical health and opens up infinite possibilities for affecting change on the material level according to how we clear and use our minds


But this is still limited to the finite;  matter, thought, feelings, affecting the finite.  Yogi’s determined that one cannot know an infinite Selfusing the finite tools of senses, mind and body.  They determined that we must transcend the finite outer senses and go within to develop the faculty that allows us to connect to the unlimited, indivisible Self.


This faculty is known as intuition.  Knowing what we need to know, regarding anything, when we need to know it .  It is most available when we are relaxed and peaceful, but can break through in times of need or danger as well.


Intuition is not based on reasoning or analysis but often precedes these as a flash of insight that must then be “proven scientifically”.   Few of us have the background to do that but the innate faculty of intuition is available when we clear the obstacles of worry, stress, and busy clutter from the mind. 


Einstein’s brilliance was due to his ability to intuit great theories and then prove them mathematically.   His theory of relativity was first intuited by contemplating what itwould be like to ride on a beam of light at light speed.  He “felt” that as one approached the speed of light time would slow down and eventually stop and that space would collapse!   He then set out to find mathematical proof with his famous equation E=mc2


We can know what ever we set our peaceful focused minds upon,  is the theory of Yoga.  We become that which we contemplate.   The mysteries of nature and our unity with unlimited awareness, consciousness, and all of life can be revealed when we put our minds on the Unlimited Self, Atman.


Next quarter’s blog:  Developing Intuition

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Becoming Unlimited

Becoming Unlimited

A current ad campaign for a  digital carrier has an actor affirming,   "I have the right to be unlimited!"   In this case, a tiny device that fits in your pocket grants access to a world of unlimited communication.

Yoga is a practice that grants access to the world of unlimited awareness by using a tool as simple as watching the breath.  How does that work?

·      By watching the breath we break the connection of the senses to the outer sources of stimulation and intrusion
·      Watching the breath brings the scattered thoughts under control and brings focus to the mind
·     The body relaxes, the heart slows down, breath rate slows, mental activity lessens.  Awareness of  inner life increases.
·       Watching the mind think,  the identification has shifted to the sou or SEERl.  The mind is not the soul but rather is a limited aspect of the soul.   Therefore, the soul can perceive the mind.
·      You realize you are a unit of awareness, free from attachment, unlimited in consciousness 

 The Practice doesn't create anything but it removes limiting concepts of ego and ignorance so that we find our awareness extending to include greater areas of Reality.   It opens us to new possibilities and ideas that bring solutions to problems that we may not have ever thought possible before.    Einstein famously said that, " a problem cannot be solved from the same level of awareness from which it was created."    When solutions to daily or global problems are sought from the same level of worry, anxiety, fear or greed that caused the problem, the solution is short lived.    Yoga wisdom says instead to hold the known factors of the problem before the mind's eye and relax.   Don't effort in thinking it through, rather, relax and "look".  The truth will reveal itself as the SEER opens to new possibilities.   This is a process of pure creativity and insight.   Expanded insight taken into new behavior evolves our actions as individuals and societies. 

 One of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras in Book 4 implies that we really do not have to know very much, but we definitely have to practice what we do know to realize this unlimited state.   Meditate, breathe, relax.      Stress less, Be more…unlimited.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Burning the Seeds

A recent article in one of my husband's audio magazines mentioned a study on sensory deprivation chambers.  All of the subjects isolated in the chambers began hallucinating within a maximum time frame of 45 minutes. It was unclear as to whether the hallucinations were pleasant or not, but it was clear that the visual and auditory images were products of their own minds and not invoked by external stimuli.  Yoga calls the movements of mind that produce outcomes "vrttis"(vrit-tees).    Vrtti means revolving or whirled, like a whirl pool or whirl wind.  

Patanjali delineates 5 vrttis or movements of consciousness.  The first is called Pramana, which literally means to place (Pra) the mind (mana) correctly.  This is often described as correct knowledge that is verifiable and intuitive.  The second movement is called Viparyayo and is often translated as incorrect knowledge.   It may mean that we don't have the whole picture, or that what once seemed logical, is no longer valid as we get more information, or have a change of heart.  The third movement is called Vikalpa, meaning fantasy or imagination.   The forth is Nidra or sleep and the fifth is Smrtayah or memory.

 The vrttis are described in Sutra I.5  by the verb "Klishta" which means "to make trouble"  and "aklishta" meaning to "not make trouble".   Yoga is a process for sorting out the troublesome from the trouble free mind states in order to live in freedom from the mind's own tyranny.  All of the vrttis can be very useful for problem solving and creative thinking,  when they are "aklishta"   But these same vrttis can cause great suffering when they are "klista".   We can all relate to times when our minds' obsessions based on false or incorrect knowledge have caused us, or those around us, great trouble.  If you've seen the movie "Ruby Sparks" you know that getting and controlling your fantasy can come with huge consequences!   Memories can bring us great joy or be tinged with afflictions that start an entire chain reaction of fear, attachment and aversion.

Reducing the trouble making aspect of the vrttis is the key to freedom.   For the psychologically healthy, this is primarily an internal process of distancing the self from the power of the vrtti through witnessing the thoughts in a gentle, non-judgemental way.  The vritis may be active, (in the forefront of consciousness--something is really bugging us), distanced or separated (in the back of the mind), attenuated (losing its grip on the mind), or dormant (latent and waiting for the right circumstances for it to spring up).   In any of these stages, the vrttis have the potential to be klishta, or troublesome to the mind.    But there is one more stage which the yogis call "burning the seed".  Just as a dormant seed in winter is waiting for the right conditions in the springtime to sprout, a troublesome thought may lay in wait and spring forth to agitate us given the right scenario.   I used to joke that my visits to my family of origin were my annual enlightenment check up.  Not surprisingly, as I have examined my own troublesome thoughts and attitudes,  my family members have all become much more well behaved people (Ha ha).   Many of the seeds have been burned.

A friend attended a wedding recently where she ran into an old boyfriend with whom she had a very bad breakup.   It was so bad, in fact, that she had made it clear to him in no uncertain terms, that, if she should ever run into him, he was not to even acknowledge her presence!  Well, seeing him started to activate some dormant seeds and she proceeded to avoid contact with him.  During the reception, while sitting at a table, a relative of this person came and sat beside her.  She proceeded to tell my friend of some hardships that the old boyfriend had undergone and was still struggling with.   At some point into the conversation my friend said, "My heart opened and all the animosity dropped away and I completely forgave him.    I know that all of the (negative) energy was completely gone forever." The seeds were burned.   Later that evening she even introduced him to her husband!

The 3 most effective means of "burning the troublesome seeds" that I know of are forgiveness, compassion and gratitude.   Criticism and judgement keep the seeds of trouble alive.  But judgement and compassion cannot exist at the same time; and criticism and gratitude are mutually exclusive.
When we can listen to our own troublesome minds with the compassion and gratitude that we use to listen to a  heart broken friend klishta becomes  aklishta,  trouble is transformed into clarity and peace.
Deeper, stronger and more profound transformation occurs in the stillness and silence of meditation.  Then spiritual and practical insights, no longer blocked by trouble, more easily come to the forefront of awareness.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Something occurs to me

I haven't been to my website in awhile.  I think about going there often.  Since I am not a computer geek,  just thinking about maintaining the website makes my cortisol levels rise.    I have everything written down in the exact order to get to the starting gate, but it still hasn't happened hassle free.   Today, the log in wouldn't accept my password, then it wouldn't even take my customer name in full.  So, I'm writing the blog first and will get to the homepage update later, when the stress hormones balance out again.  One of the best quotes I've heard lately is from Robert Frost, "How often does something have to happen to us before something occurs to us".  In this instance it could mean that I need to delegate the website maintenance to a paid professional, or it could mean yet another opportunity to apply the skillful actions that yogic wisdom and discipline call for, such as being Asana.

With concise clarity, Patanjali describes the nature, process and result of being the Asana in Book II, sutras 46-48.

II:46  Sthira sukham asanam
II:47 prayatna saithilya ananta samapattibhyam
II:48 tatah dvandvah anabhighatah

The word asana was mentioned by Patanjali long before the term became associated with the modern yoga practices of physical postures.   Asana is a seat, situation or place.  Asa implies a sense of reigning or royal.   That royal seat or place is said to be "Sthira" or changeless, resolute, and firm and "Sukham",  pleasant, happy, and easeful.  To me this says that the royal seat of the soul is changeless and easeful.   Patanjali gives even better news with the next sutra (II.47) that describes the process of coming to the seat by applying "Prayatna" correct or appropriate effort that is "Saithilya"  relaxing or unwinding and through "Samapatti"  total meditation on that which is "Ananta" or infinite.   Often our efforts are frustrated simply because of trying too hard.   That hardness blocks energy and intuition that could unfold naturally and simplify many seemingly complex situations were it not blocked and choked off by stress.  Intuition by definition is the simple act of knowing without analysis or argument.   It is not limited by the senses or the rational mind or the ego.  It is the infinite wisdom available in the moment and sufficient for the situation at hand.   It is an aspect of our True nature.

Finally in II.48   Patanjali says that when established in the seat, one is not disturbed by "Dvandva" dualities or opposites.   The pull of opposites creates tension due to setting up preferences which lead to attachment and aversion.  I know I'm locked into a duality conflict when my attitude or actions are disturbed by the following sentence;  'I would do (fill in the blank),  but its too (fill in the blank).   For example,  I would do my yoga practice but its too (hot/cold, early/late, the floor is too hard/soft,  I'm too busy/bored…blah, blah, etc).   Sri Daya Mata,  president of Self Realization Fellowship for decades prior to her passing in 2011, was known for her evenness of mind and equanimity with whatever task was before her.  Her colleagues often remarked that, unlike most of us who sort tasks according to our mood or preference,  Daya Mata would take up whatever task was before her with an equal sense of  interest, focus and sense of purpose. 

My translations from current understanding of these sutras are:
II:46 "The seat of the soul is changeless and easeful"
II:47 "The seat of the soul is realized through relaxed effort and total meditation on the infinite aspects of Self (peaceful, intuitive awareness)"
ii:48 "Then, one is invulnerable to the dualites"

I love the saying that we teach what we most need to learn.   This blog has served as my own little pep talk. It occurs to me that the message has brought a sense of unwinding to the nerves and a reminder to get back in "the Seat".   So now, with resolve and ease I can return to the task of updating the website.