Give A Little, Get A Little

I was so ready to get back to India. It was the thing keeping me going for the last two months when many other aspects of my life began to feel as if they were slipping from my grasp of control. My self practice and study were basically non-existent, and my lack of connection to Self caused me great frustration while my focus remained largely fixed on the external happenings of work and social life. But it was manageable, because soon I would be in India.

Now here I am and the ancient powers of this land have indeed begun to work their magic. I wish I could say, as if a switch flipped upon arrival, all were well and peaceful. But the fact of the matter is, that it is not always comfortable to meet yourSelf. No matter how much you’ve nourished this connection in the past, how deeply you understand the importance of being your own best friend…the truth is that confronting our deeper natures after periods of disconnect is not without agitation, burning, tapah. I was anticipating some generous reunion, a homecoming, in which my Self greeted me with wide open arms and nothing but love as I stepped upon Indian soil. It wasn’t totally like that. If anything, I arrived even more exhausted and exposed than when I’d left Canada. Luckily we had a couple of days to regroup before flying south to a retreat in Coonoor where my much anticipated meeting would actually take place.

We were set to study for four days at this stellar vacation home belonging to one of my teacher’s students, hidden within the tea fields and eucalyptus farms of Tamil Nadu state in southern India. I’d been before, two years ago for a different retreat, and so looked forward to being nestled high up in the mystical blue mountains (despite the very long and winding, stomach churning road to get there). Bare feet on green grass and hot sun on face, as if this weren’t enough…but here I found myself, with my Guru and a group of such beautifully kind and insightful seekers, ready to study my first Upanishad: Amritabindu, translated roughly as ‘The Essence of Immortality’. When my Guru speaks, the words and energy which pour out of him are like cool, crisp and so clean of water for my dry and thirsty soul. I was drinking it all in greedily. Our four days were a mix of lectures, leisurely mountain walks, asana and meditation practices, only the freshest of local fruits and vegetables, sincere smiles and hugs, and thanks to still being on Canadian ‘time’, one 4am tea time out under the wide open starry sky with one of my dearest friends. But even more valuable than all of this, what will carry me strongly forward in this life and beyond, are the love and wisdom passed on to me from someone who lives what he studies and teaches.

The Amritabindu Upanishad is one of the Bindu Upanishads (ancient scriptures) and centres a lot around the idea of detachment…a hot topic in the spiritual world, though one which often evokes nervousness and much misunderstanding. I don’t know about you, but when I think of detachment, unbinding, release and letting go…it kind of sounds like loss. And in a world of greed and grasping, who is fit for such insanity? But what we will each ultimately realize is that the things we choose (or are eventually forced) to let go of, were never really ours to begin with. We bind ourselves to desires created by the physical senses; a tasty treat, a beautiful bag…bigger, better, endlessssss pursuits of the material world have our heads spinning and souls weeping. Yoga, through scriptures and many great examples, shows us that only in releasing these things we cling to so confusedly can we gradually become what we truly are. And I don’t think anyone has ever really been able to put into words what this mysterious ‘True Self’ entails. But again, scriptures and examples point the way…My understanding is of something so great and limitless and undefined, all powerful and beginning with that one tiny drop, that essence of immortality the Amritabindu Upanishad offers to each of us. We can never lose anything that is real, anything that was meant for us anyway so fear should not even be a question from here.

I get all of this and my commitment to my Self and this path is very sincere. So the real question was; What did I need to let go of to get closer to a realer me? And now this list could be just an endless as the hidden potential of my True Self (should I ever in fact arrive there) and I was determined to get to the real root of the problem. Could it be my expectations of others causing me such grief? This is something I’ve been working on for months and probably lifetimes and have not yet been able to release. It’s a world of exchange, karmic and cosmic connection and it may be that it’s part of the game to have some expectation of others. To let go of this seems a great task. But ah, I found something deeper. After days of berating myself for not being able to give up this thing which I know binds me to the false world of suffering, I gave up something else. Not the trying or the hope. I gave up the over-analyzing, the severe critiquing of self, the mind spinning of imperfect human reality. I gave up my unattainable expectations of me. I cut a little cord between that voice which drill sergeants me forward and the so-loveable-in-all-forms being that I am. Whew! I’m not sure if you’re sighing as deeply as I am in this release but I hope so. This being so hard on myself, it surely isn’t done with completely, not even close. But for now, however little space was created by that letting go has in fact opened room for my Self to move in a little bit more permanently. Set up shop in which to produce the good and lasting, to welcome me in for love and genuine council. It’s in this space I had my reunion and already, it’s been worth the trip.

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Who’s calling the shots here?

Where’s your head at currently? Has it been a tough day? Are you dreading the week ahead? Do you just want someone to listen to your complaints, tell you that it’ll be fine and not to worry? Well snap out of it! I’m writing to share a bit about what I’ve been realizing as far as the importance of proper perspective in life.

If you haven’t already figured it out, your mind is a mess. Swirling around an endless pit at a mile a minute, poor thing…give it a rest. It’s Sunday, day of regrouping and connection. And that’s true for me because I say it is. What we see and how we feel, everything that we believe, all stem from the creative powers of our minds. Ask yourself, how are you using these super powers you may not even know you have? Creating our own realities…may sound very elusive and out of your current state of affairs. But come on, this applies to EVERYTHING. There are infinite cheesy quotes centred around this concept; ‘where thought goes, energy flows’, ‘change your thinking, change your life’, ‘all that we are, is a result of what we have thought’, and so on…

In yoga, this power of thought can be traced back to the vijnyanamaya kosha, aka the ‘belief body’. There is a model in yoga science which breaks down our being into five separate yet totally interconnected layers/bodies. The belief body being a very deep layer, second only to the deepest, our True Selves…the anandamaya kosha/bliss body. So when our belief systems are messed up, based in fear or ignorance, perpetually repeating these common spirit killers of ‘I am not good enough/feeling threatened/disconnected from the whole’…our other layers (physical, breath & emotion bodies) suffer and our lives are no where near what they could be. This belief system you carry goes father back than we can even fathom. As far back as all the things you were told in your childhood, what your mother told herself while she grew you and what many would know to be true…as far back as countless lifetimes past. So all those times you were rejected, or under threat, lacking some basic human necessity, your belief body is likely still holding onto that somewhere deep within. Why else would we see so many people in our part of the world, lacking for nothing yet still so totally stuck in a poor me mentality? Where is the knowing of our blessing and power to be living in Canada, land of freedom and opportunity? If you’re reading this, I guarantee you have more power than you could ever possibly fathom. So whatever twisted ideas your mind’s been playing on repeat for all these years, wouldn’t you say it’s been enough?

Luckily for us, there are some super basic tools to turn it all around. But let’s get real, you need to find your own motivation to really want to step into this power I swear you possess. That fear of our own true potential can be a very limiting thing. It creates another wrong belief in that we’d have to give up some things which keep us ‘safe’ in order to move forward, or that we’d be put into situations outside of our comfort which may test us…and sure, maybe this is true. But look, when you claim your real power- nothing, and I mean nothing, can measure up to that. You release the garbage thoughts and you’ll be in a position to move forward only towards what you choose.

Anyways, you must be ready for at least a tip or two to take you closer towards superhuman status by now. And you guessed it, it comes back to positive thinking. DO NOT entertain limited thoughts. As simple as that. Discipline yourself to cut off those thoughts patterns which make you feel or act small. It’s annoying, frankly. Not just for yourSelf but to all those around you. I’d like to think that many of you know by now that yoga is not just a stretching on a mat practice, it’s a whole system of liberating and loving yourself. One of the best tools of yoga I have discovered to date is the practice of japa. Meaning, the constant repetition of a positive thought. It could be as simple and powerful as ‘I am safe and secure’, ‘I am loved, guided and protected’, ‘I am whole’, ‘I am beautiful and confident’…honestly, whatever! As long as it’s positive and makes you feel good. Pick anything, because the real trick is that you use it. Say it to yourself, over and over and over again. Every time the mind is being a cranky little asshole, repeat it. When you start to feel sad and alone, repeat it and repeat it. If you’re bored, you better repeat it. Anytime a negative thought fires, you just repeat it. As I mentioned, this will take some discipline, especially at first. I mean we’re talking about years and lives of poor mind conditioning but better to get to work on it now, wouldn’t you say? Stick with it and your whole life will absolutely change. Of course you have to sincerely want it to change. This is why life will test us, knock us down, take away all that we cling to…so that we reach this point of fierce resolve. This point where no, I will not take these bogus ideas any longer. That I will explore who I am and what I am capable and ain’t nobody going to tell me otherwise!

The worst time of my life and loss led me here, and still sometimes I play victim to a mind of illusion but I am changing. And I want everyone that I love, which is (most) everyone, to move closer to their potential with me. So together we can create a better place to live and annoy one another less. It’s time we start taking as much responsibility for our thoughts as we are told to do for our actions. Because if thoughts create action, and by now I hope I’ve convinced you that they do, what sense does it make to claim our actions as being under our control, without the same understanding of our thoughts? Sounds like a totally confusing disconnect eager to be sorted out. Best of luck all!

Transform Yourself, Inspire Others

The first time I saw this [Transform Yourself, Inspire Others] motto of the Yogaprasad Teacher Training I’d signed up for, I knew I was in for it. My dear friend who’d invited me to the training did her best to explain the depth of this course, the legitimacy of the teacher and the incredible gift she was now offering, but how could I ever have known the turn my life was taking? 

On the first morning of the training during our introductions we were asked to share why we were there. I can recall telling the group and teacher how I’d long since felt this calling to make a lasting and positive difference in the world, but knew that first I had some real work to do on myself. Yes, I was in the right place. Terrified and with nowhere to hide, in exactly the right place. I had been avoiding my Self for some time up to this point and had created quite the mess of my surroundings.

See, I have a compassionate heart, if someone is suffering I will want to fix it. The deeper the pain, the greater my intrigue it would seem. And sometimes I can’t quite distinguish the suffering of another to the feelings which are my own. Of course this has created problems; being taken advantage of, getting stuck in depressive states for far too long, giving all of my energy away, thinking surely if I fixed another they’d return the favour and then take care of me. It never happened like this. Trying to help someone out of pure compassion is one thing, but doing it without boundaries or with some expectation of return is call for severe disappointment. Some people haven’t even heard of the concept of helping themselves before considering offering to another. In our modern era everything seems to come from outside of ourselves and happens so fast. But helping ourselves, the return to loving ourselves, is not like this. 

We have to do the real work on our own, but the beauty in this is that once we commit to the work, the helpers and guides appear. On my own path, once I sincerely committed to facing myself without fear, incredible guidance has been with me every step of the way.  It can only be described as magic and could come by way of a dream, as a new and empowering friend, a work opportunity which genuinely supports, a perfectly timed message by book or song, experiences that cannot be put into words or maybe, if you are among the most lucky, a real teacher who is always, always there. And I met mine, when I showed up for this course which promised to help me transform myself to better be of inspiration. My teacher, my Guru, Prasad, he was living this example and to be honest, at first it confused the hell out of me. Why was he giving so freely? How did he seem to have this never ending supply of energy and knowledge and patience and kindness for any who crossed his path? What was he getting out of this? What did he want from me? I’m not sure if we’re born untrusting, but I know we become this way and I was skeptical. He seemed to operate totally outside of the paradigm within which I’d been raised. One where helping others fulfills some lack within ourselves, it makes us feel purposeful or like better people, it distracts us from the void within, it gives us something to boast in social circles or post on the internet, or barter with God to say see, we did do good and I think we meant it! Not to totally belittle those who are giving back and not entirely clear on why, of course it’s nice, I just want to share what I realized; That if we aren’t giving to ourselves what we offer to another, it is empty. How can you take away from a source that is already running dry? Who wants that dirty water anyway? And then you’re left running to the well of another and begging for a sip. It creates so much drama unnecessarily.

So I asked my teacher in earnest, where the motivation to give comes from if not from some twisted selfish gain. He explained to me that through sadhana (self practice), you ultimately reach a place where there is so much welling up inside of your own heart, that the overflow spills out into the lives of those nearest you. It’s a natural outpouring of the divinity within. We all have this seed of divinity within our hearts, but we don’t all tend to it. Imagine what it would feel like to have a heart near bursting at the seams, so much peace and love to contain that it needs to find outlet. And what better outlet than those we love who are lacking in themselves. The love can now pour upon them from a strong and steady spout, one they can rely on and trust in it’s source. When he told me this, it sounded nice and shook me a bit as it was so far off from how I’d been operating and achieving such a state seemed totally far out. I had always craved so badly to be needed, to be given some value by another, to not have to confront any of the darkness within on way to the light. But I did trust him and I saw him in action- someone who had transformed and fast became my greatest inspiration. So I did as I was taught, I continued to work on myself consistently and sincerely. I’ve been pulled off course many times in many ways, tempted to fill my well with cup of another, but it never lasts and I always come back to my sadhana and my determination to be my own best friend, my own greatest caregiver.

It’s been over two years since I joined that course and met my Guru and embarked on the real journey, and I have changed a lot. I still attract people in desperate need, people in who I see such potential and want nothing more than to pull it forth. At times I am still tempted to sacrifice my health in order to show them their worth. But these days I am not so easily pulled apart and given out to the needy in exchange for a little misguided self satisfaction before sleep. I am not so empty that the passing thanks of another is worth more than my own truth. I still want to give and I am relearning to do just that. It does require some apparently ‘selfish’ action on my part in protecting my own sensitive nature. But I swear I am stronger now, growing more so by the day, and if you ever need something please don’t hesitate to ask.  

Sadhana > Suffering 

You can say the same words one thousand times and give them all different meaning. You can go back to the most familiar place and not find anything you were looking for. You may one day see your best lover with entirely different eyes. Yesterday, the park was sunny and sweet and today there are too many flies. When you were young you wanted to be an astronaut and now you hardly have interest in planet Earth.

 Circumstances change, we evolve and life is in a constant state of flux. Nothing is really able to last to match that deep craving in your heart. Nothing is built so strong as the desire we all have within to satisfy our longing.  So then you wonder, what is consistent in this mixed up place? If there is nothing out in the world to hold onto…then…? We must totally switch the flip! The one thing that remains steady is the indwelling You. We all have it, that aspect within that is forever watching this transient world unfold. That constant observer and best listener to all our changing ways. They are waiting for you to grow tired of spinning around and around, waiting for your external desires to quiet just enough so you might hear them whisper, calling you deeper within. 

This all sounds so magical, don’t doubt that it is. Then how to take this magic and apply it to a better way of being in this world we are so wrapped up in? Because let’s face it, our relationship with the world is the one we are most invested in. The one we ponder our role within more often than any other. Practicality is our relationship to the world. Spirituality is our relationship with our Selves. We spend our lives trying to increase status within our position in the outside world, yet how much time goes into cultivating relationship with our own true Selves? If there really are 24 hours in a day, shouldn’t we devote at least a fraction of them in connecting to the one thing we now understand as permanent? The one aspect in this ever-flowing universe that isn’t actually designed to elude us?

In the science and philosophy of Yoga, we refer to spiritual practice as sadhana. This can include infinite things…breathing as you twist and bend and hold steady on a mat, sitting in meditation, repeating positive affirmation again and again and again. It could be writing, dancing, singing or crying. One day it may be walking amongst the trees, and the next, sitting quietly with only your breath. Who is to tell you what most connects you, with You? What matters is that you find out, that the idea of connecting and growing with your own steadiness motivates you daily. Because the outside world is not slowing down, not in the least, and more and more people are getting tripped up by stuff that isn’t even real. The significance of a daily sadhana is more important now that ever. Wouldn’t you feel more equipped to navigate the twists and turns of this planet if you were rooted in truth and permanence? Wouldn’t you be a better friend/parent/person/employee if you had something to hold you sure as times got tough? And they will get tough, it’s a part of the game. Sadhana is like a shield from the suffering of the illusory world. We’re going to battle together and I want my friends as fellows soldiers. 

Commit to a daily practice that suites your lifestyle and watch as the entire world shifts, from the unshakeable seat within. 

 

Women Yogis of India and Today

There are different ways to build things. Look around at the furniture and walls, road repairs and the structures of the city. Our modern world has evolved so technically that without proper reflection, we might miss what has been woven between buildings, that which truly holds up the walls of ours homes and drives the humanity forward. 

Last night I had the blessing of listening to my teacher share wisdom regarding women Yogis whose inspirations and writings have survived the journey from medieval India and travelled straight into the place that is my wide open heart. These were my friends and my sisters and today they inspire me still. Is this not creation, igniting a spark in your fellow soul’s heart? To build here you must clear out old beliefs and ways of being, you must build a strong foundation and you must be driven by faith in something which you cannot yet see. True invention…My sisters did this. Despite their complete lack of encouragement or education and without even being included in the ways of an outside world, some found way to explore the world that is within. Into the world of mind which ultimately leads to the heart. Every heart has platform from which we might build truth and the most lasting of hopes. I prefer this type of creation…the unseen and subtle unfolding, drawn up as diagrams of the heart. 

Does this sound too elusive to you? The rational mind is strong in some. But what is there to judge when it comes to the ways of the heart, the path to the Divine? We’ll all get there. 

The Yogi is attuned to the ever present play between the masculine and feminine, Shiva and Shakti, that which is stable and that which exists in all of the space inbetween. Femininity in form is elusive. It’s magic works to harmonize that space between discord, to nurture the downtrodden and to warm those who feel forgotten. Women, forever soft and subtle in battle, have birthed every warrior. And should it all come down, the creative principle exists solely with the Universal Mother.     

Trying to envision the lives of women in medieval India and express my thanks and wonder at the fact that some of their messages were preserved despite all odds splits right into my heart. I feel for all of the women who were, and still are, oppressed without even realizing it. My connection to the ones who have broken free and found way back to the real home is everything. For they are me and I fight still for them, for every woman who forgets that the nurturing principle we possess must first be directed towards our own beautiful natures if we are to create the change this world needs.

 

The Decision Maker

When your heart is exploding not much else matters. With the last attack, did you think yours was breaking? Or did you know it was growing? These hearts we have are so commonly referenced in regard to our health, our happiness, our…everything. We try to bond over this universal master and yet the words never seem to be enough. The heart is big, bold and entirely unmatched, while greatly unknown. 

Look at your body, designed with the sole protection of heart in mind; rib cages and mass of muscles covering what is no doubt the centre. And as if that were not enough, we stoop the shoulders and lean the head forward, forbidding the heart to ever lead way in such a messed up world. Left with the mind as master, tension builds physically and each subtle slight is an added twinge. Armour hardens and the spirit sinks. That little light that was meant to shine bright and connect us with the others is now sad and dim. So we look all around following flickers for anything that might ignite a spark bold enough to cause a stir. Maybe when we think we are looking for love, it is only our own dynamite we crave…that which may take down some layer around this precious and completely vulnerable space that we will return to. 

It would seem fair to say that the mind is not equipped to rule the world. It’s rationale and systems of classification have done some good and a whole lot of ridiculous. So lean your head back before keeping on reading, one deep breath into the chest for the brave. Lightly lift the heart, who from here on out we call the ‘Decision Maker’. Ask it how it feels…it may need a few more breaths and an OK to ease up on the armour. Remember, anything perceived as danger could be your dynamite in disguise. Life is only this totally magical string of experiences meant to crack and shatter all things which envelop the potential inside. Give the heart a little room and follow it forward. There will absolutely be resistance and lessons and big time aches. But the key is that now you will so quickly find the others, those with their lights a little bit brighter as well. One heart with a little light and bravery finds their friends without effort, like some kind of law. And here the Decision Maker’s power is doubled, tripled and entirely encouraged by the Truth. Little by little we go on, shedding defences and burdens every day. Eventually with enough support and ease to take leaps into the heart light without care for what awaits and absolutely none for that which is left behind. 

Just ask your heart where it wants to go and I will see you there.

Trying To Get Home

I have been seeking balance since before I could walk. I was born uneasy into this physical world. My preferences changed according to my surroundings. I was always just looking for something to hold onto. Some people are steady and sure and I could never figure out how and so regardless what they represented, I used to follow them. I could go from happy to sad in no time flat so there was no wonder why I just needed something to hold me still. Even if untrue and only for a moment…

I am still working at this same steadiness and the confidence that should come with. After much seeking and following, I have found something to grasp which goes to the bottom of the earth and beyond the end of time. It is too real to understand but I know it is valid so do not ask me why. It is as deep within me as anything could be and this is all that can ever really hold me. Now I have found myself in unchartered territory, in such a state I do not think I have ever been before. I am being pulled back by my limitations so fiercely and being coaxed forward so sweetly by all of the support in the material world one could dream of. I believe this is what happens to all of us when we start to really see that space within and the solidity of our Selves; it is tested. And I cry because I thought the world would see that I needed more time, that I absolutely was not ready to be of value in any real way. And then I rejoice and smile upwards because I am so very grateful for the blessings that have found me at last. Surely I am worthy because I never doubt the order, only myself. So here I am obviously evolving. Before I could change so many times in a day. Now I just feel it all at once…Fear, love, joy, despair, isolation, overwhelming connection…They happen just like that and I suppose only I can choose which to hang onto, which to hold in the mind and follow into action. I never knew I had these choices until now.

 It is not easy, getting deeper and deeper within yourself because you have to entirely let go of these phoney things you once held onto and begged for support. I know I was born brave so I should be able to do it. I also know that the deeper I get within my Self, the more steadily I will be able to navigate the push pull of this physical world until I can go home.