Corridors


images3The following post is inspired by a dharma talk by the magnificent David Life at Wild Woodstock.

When I present dinner to my son on a large plate, he often complains that there is too much food and asks me to give him less, on a smaller dish. In doing this, I contain an aspect of his world so that he is able to ingest it without feeling overwhelmed. In this same way, we restrict the nature of many things by placing them into a manageable form, whether it be a spoonful of peas instead of a limitless pot, a river rather than an unending ocean, a tree rather than an impermeable forest. By reining these things into a shape, they obtain individual meaning that we can comprehend.

When a tree stands in the ground from its trunk to its leafy branches, it has a certain value as a whole tree. A coniferous tree, for example, gives shelter through its design of branches and needles in relationship to the ground, and expels sap though it’s bark. If we had only a branch of that tree, or one of its pine cones for that matter, it would have a different value and also a different meaning to us. Nature intended to make the tree in its magnificent form. The tree in its completeness, is bigger than the sum of its parts.

By seeing the tree, however, we see another limited form, for the tree is not simply standing on the ground, but connects into the ground and is continually fed through its roots. It roots draw from the moisture of the recent rainfalls and nearby streams and rivers, that are also dissolving through the boundary lines between the water and the soil. The tree is not separate from the ground, but integrated into the earth and it’s cycle in the greater universe.

It’s is the same with land and it’s uses. The map as we know it, showing its boundaries by state or country and it’s hard lines, is not reality; the earth is organic and curvy and flowing landscapes, one into another. Man has placed those boundary lines on the land for his own purposes in order to strengthen or weaken power of a given individual or group. From another vantage point, these man-made decisions have affected a greater number of lives than probably intended. The natural homes and roaming territory created for the four-legged creatures, water beings and tree beings, is disappearing. Before humans put up fences, knocked down trees and created obstacles, animals had unlimited corridors in which to move. The land for the animals as it is today, is more like individual islands; corrals severing their movement and migration.

We frame our understanding of life with our perspective and motivation in order that we may understand it, relate it in context to something else. Our body is another example of this. Our skin acts as a barrier between us and the world, it defines where ‘we’ end and where other begins, and some people take great comfort in believing this limitation. But are we truly separate? After all, our skin has pores and we are, in reality, breathing the outside-in through these pores, and vice verse, expelling the toxins and moisture out. Rather than a barrier between our insides and the outsides, in actuality, it is more of a meeting point, where we merge into each other. On this note, most of us have felt someone else angry or happy in a room of people, their ‘energy’ seeping into the space, and I have certainly have found myself taking that energy of another being in as my own from time to time. This is no different.

In Rolfing, there is a term called palintonicity: our ability to extend down into the earth, by way of the hips, legs and feet; up, through our torso, upper body and crown; front body, and back body; and even expanding sideways in lateral space. In other words, rather than our feet resting on top of the earth, can we extend downwards through the earth, and likewise, in every other direction. Our physical form is important for so many reasons, but when our context is only diminished, when we absorb ourselves only in the direction inward, it can sometimes feel limiting; isolating. By increasing our awareness of both the limited, framed version of ourself, as well as the greater universal formless form which we can expand from our body, a doorway opens, enabling us to soften our belief system about how we relate ourselves to other. Softening the mind to this understanding is the first step in softening the body out of a fixed point and into something greater.

Yoga asana practice can also be seen as a framing, of sorts. There are different physical postures that have been created as a structure, but the goal of making these shapes is not to hold these postures like a statue, a solid, unmoving mass. A yogi’s interest is in finding the stillness within the structure, even while moving. We understand that the softening body is what dissolves and morphs from one pose to another; what transforms our thinking, cortical mind to our sensory world; what merges the framework of our practice into our life. In other words, while we are not always mobile, we are always motile.

Sometimes the practices of yoga can sound vague if not put into context. Phrases like ‘open your heart’, ‘be one with the universe’ and ‘see yourself in all others’ can be a little overwhelming. Putting a frame on the class, whether it be finding ‘foundation through the feet’, or ‘turning your world upside down’ through inversions, can help us to segment, to separate, so we can reintegrate into something greater. We find corridors in a yoga class, through the Rolfing process, in our life, to connect and transform from one thing to another, while connecting the dots along the way. We are more than the sum of our parts.

Please join me on Sunday, September 7, for the first of three workshops on the topic of the architecture of asana, exploring the various regions of the body in relationship to an integrated yoga practice at Indaba Yoga Studio. Follow the link below to book in:

https://www.facebook.com/events/290000161173856/

Footprints


IMG_0121-0.JPGFrom an early age, well before we are born into our physical body, each of us begins making our mark in the world, our imprint. As we develop, we find our feet and intuitively understand the sensation of movement, and also our relationship with gravity. We learn to fall, and to get up. Sometimes it is easy to regain our balance after a stumble; sometimes it is more challenging. This pattern of falling down and picking ourselves back up remains a thread in the tapestry throughout our physical and also our emotional lives.

Over time, our brain evolves and involves us in numerous and increasingly complex concepts and activities, and falling down and getting up become almost as automatic as a reflex. Most of the time we don’t think about it, unless there is a particular instance that is cause to slow down, evaluate and even change how we approach being in our body, or being in our life.

When we take a tumble, either physically or emotionally, it can sometimes be painful, even traumatic. It can also be seen as a wonderful opportunity to titrate past experiences, to break habit patterns that may not be serving us, and to re-establish a simple, steady foundation and to affirm the path beneath our feet.

The path is important, because beyond the up and downs of our lives, there is also the potential to traverse and transform. The process of bridging, whether it be connecting two physical places or two seemingly disparate moments in our lives, is an powerful aspect of integrating our life’s story. After all, being truly present in a moment, stabile and grounded yet alert and up-lifted, includes not only how we stay in the moment, but also how we span; how we journey through hardship and joy to incorporate an expansive landscape of life as one rich experience.

In today’s world where the motto of moving ‘onwards and upwards’ is celebrated as a mark of success, all too often the obsession with making, meeting and surpassing goals overtakes the importance of simply staying still and finding the joy and the beauty in the sameness, in the quiet of a forest or in the journey we have taken. Reflecting on the past enables us to acknowledge where we have come from and informs where we are now; it can also provide guidance to where we may be headed.

Recently, I have travelled back to a place important to me; a place rich with family history, and a place where I grew up. It had been a few years since my last visit, and during that time I went through a period of life threatening illness resulting in a successful liver transplantation. While I had been excited to return to family and friends, I had no idea how emotional and reflective it would be to be back in a location imbued with such meaning, in the presence of beings whom I love so dearly. At every sign post memories emerged, and I was forced to dive deep into the reflection of who I was from an early age, to who I have become today. The result has felt like both heartbreak and celebration. I have observed past footprints dissolving into deep waters while standing in my present reality, and have given pause to allow a path to unfold for my future.

Like the oceanic tides, we must fall to rise again. All of us will eventually but inevitably witness the passage of time and the transience of all of life. May each of us learn to appreciate each and every moment, for these are the imprints we leave across the diverse landscape of our lives that makes each of us unique and complete.

Maha Samadhi for BKS Iyengar


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“Health is a state of complete harmony of the body mind and spirit. .”- Guruji BKS Iyengar
BKS Iyengar | 1918 – 2014

It is with great sadness that we share the news of the passing of Sri Guruji BKS Iyengar. Guruji Iyengar was a beacon of support, carrying the light of Yoga into every corner of the world. The world will dearly miss this wonderful teacher who has been one of the most influential advocates of Yoga. Our founder and teacher TKV Desikachar, was very close to his maternal uncle and joins us in this moment of sadness.
Sri BKS Iyengar, who turned 96 this year, had been battling some health concerns in the past weeks, and attained the lotus feet of God early this morning on the 20th August 2014. Our heartfelt condolences and support go out to his immediate family, and the family of Yoga he has created.
Sannidhi of Krishnamacharya Yoga, will hold a prayer meeting for him today to honor this great man.

Jivamukti Focus of the Month, August 2014: Identity, by Sharon Gannon


tat twam asi
That Thou Art, or You Are That
-Chandogya Upanishad

To see yourself in others, in all others, to see so deeply that otherness disappears…when that happens only One remains and that is Love. You are that. In the words of the Chandogya Upanishad: tat twam asi. This is what it means to be enlightened. An enlightened being is one. One what? One who has dropped the pretense of self, one who does not see themselves as separate from other selves. One who has lost themselves in Love, lost themselves in Oneness. My goodness, how to get there?

A person is either actively seeking knowledge of the “lowercase” self—jivajñana—or knowledge of the “uppercase” Self—atmanjñana. The Sanskrit term jiva refers to the individual self, atman refers to the eternal, cosmic Self, and jñana means knowledge. To seek atmanjñana is to seek enlightened Self-realization—dropping all egoic tendencies. We awaken to who we really are beyond our individual body, mind and personality. We let go of the sense of I, me and mine.

But before we can awaken and know the Self, we must have knowledge of the self—jivajñana. Everything in our lives revolves around identity. We spend the first part of our lives trying to find an identity and the rest of our lives doing our best to defend that identity. We are attracted to certain things, people, situations, music, books, food, clothing, lifestyles, etc., because these fit in with how we would like to see ourselves and how we would like others to see us. How can we avoid becoming trapped in the prison of our identity, disconnected from the mercurial essence that feeds and connects us all as one complex cosmic entity?

Yoga teaches that to realize the eternal Self, we must first come to terms with our seemingly individual self, and that means becoming comfortable in our own skin, with who we are as a person, with our relationships with others and the experiences of our life. No one can escape their destiny. A person must acknowledge the karmic seeds they have planted in the past and when they come to fruition do their best to work through the ripening process. The Bhagavad Gita, an ancient yogic scripture, is a story of the necessity of doing one’s duty, as well as a manual on how to reshape one’s destiny by planting the right kinds of seeds that could help one evolve and eventually be liberated from the wheel of samsara and the illusion of the ego. In the Gita, Krishna instructs Arjuna to do his work but at the same time to think of God; in that way one’s karmas become purified, as selfish motivation is overwhelmed by selfless action. Misidentification (avidya) is cleansed from our souls, and the atman is revealed. The yoga teachings are quite clear about the importance of bringing past actions to completion before we can renounce the world and become Self-realized. To resolve an action is to bring it back to its original nature, and love is the original nature of all things.

In the Yoga Sutra, Patanjali suggests that we offer ourselves to God and our success will be assured: Ishvara pranidhanad va (PYS 1.23). We ask to be made an instrument for God’s will as we relinquish our “own” will. Becoming a Divine instrument is to identify with the atman. A jivanmukta—a soul who has awakened to the atman while still living in a body—lives in the world and might appear like a normal person—a separate individual—but in fact they live liberated from that separateness because they don’t identify with it, but rather with the atman. The key to shifting this identification is to strive to become more other-centered, to awaken compassion, which will bring the clarity needed to see through otherness.

If we live to enhance the lives of others, by doing our best to contribute to their happiness and freedom, then eventually but inevitably there will be a shift in our perception of ourselves and others. We will begin to see in a more expansive light and perhaps get a glimpse of who we really are—tat twam asi—and that is when the magic begins. Or as Bob Dylan might advise, “So when you see your neighbor carryin’ somethin’, help him with his load, and don’t go mistaking paradise for that home across the road.”

— Sharon Gannon

Convergence


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YS II.46 stira sukam asanam
the connection with the earth should be steady and joyful

YS II.47 prayatna shaithilya ananta samapattibhyam
the means of perfecting the connection (posture/seat) is that of relaxing or loosening of effort and allowing attention to merge with endlessness, or the infinite

YS II.48 tatah dvandva anabhighata
from the attainment of perfected connection (posture/seat), there arises an unimpeded freedom from suffering due to the pairs of opposites (such as likes and dislikes, or pain and pleasure)

All of life, it seems, can be boiled down to moments of coming together, and separating apart. Things all around us are in a constant state of fluidity and change, and this can be very destabilising, especially if the body and mind are busy processing all this change; especially if we perceive the transience all around us as important, as real.

When I look back over my own life, I have been moved to a place of instability, disconnection and loneliness at the time I have felt insecure in myself. The insecurities have come from what boils down to a longing for togetherness, a longing to belong. What I did not realize (and still sometimes forget), is that I never didn’t belong. We all belong, we have a reason and a purpose to exist. We are all complete just as we are, and our completeness comes from our connection. When we recognise this, the points of divergence, the things that limit and separate us disappear. Each one of us has the potential to do beyond-human things. Each one of us has the potential for magic. When we perceive reality as the things around us that are constantly changing, however, we forget how to simply be, and instead end up longing. The magic comes in shifting our perception of what is real, of what is important. We are so much more than the body and the mind and the events that shake our foundation. When we realise our connection and points of similarity with all other beings, we cease to see other beings. We see ourselves in everything, we realize we are, in fact, united. This is when we can stop trying to Belong, and simply Be. This is when we have perfected our asana.

When we are able to fine a place of ease in our body and mind and let go of the entwinement of the daily happenings around us, the moments in our life that once defined us become but a thread in our rich life’s journey that we create together; and together, we are more than the sum of our parts, we are limitless.

When we come to the mat to practice asana, we aim to create a connection that is steady and joy-filled by way of making shapes that resemble beings with diverse physical forms: the tree, the crow, the mountain. The more we see beyond the shapes we assume with our body into the very nature of each form, the more we have the potential to merge with the form. This is when we cease trying to create a ‘pose’ and simply inhabit the connection, the asana. We can relax into the asana, we can relax in our life, we can stop identifying with all the things that lead to separation and longing. This is convergence, this the state of yoga.

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