Roam the Hub of All Sacred Places….

“The light which shines above this heaven, above all the worlds, above everything, in the highest worlds not excelled by any other worlds, that’s the same light  which is in you.” ~Chhandogya Upanishad

What if all the thinking, all the words, ideas aren’t our minds? What if they’re the covering over our minds? Don’t get me wrong – they’re great tools. But what’s overseeing the job site? They’re not the tools you’ll need if you’re looking for your true self or for a steady place to stand.

Science tells us our minds are decentralized in the body. Yoga helps us settle into our heart, where wisdom and intelligence reside. Of course when we talk about heart in yoga, we’re not just talking about the juicy pumping muscle to the left of center in our ribcages. There are a lot of bits housed around there – chemoreceptors, baraoreceptors, lungs, thymus, arteries, lymph nodes, spine, circulating blood and air, esophagus, diaphragm. When we bring our attention to this area, when we just feel what comes up, we are contacting the heart of yoga. Our yoga.

Bringing ease to the muscles and joints around this area can be the beginning or development of this process. This is where many of us Western Yogis start, with asana. Maybe a little breathing practice. Then we might start calling that pranayama. Maybe we meditate for stress reduction. Somewhere along the way we realize these pesky emotions are less pesky, the aches are less achey, the mind is less muddled.

“The heart is the resting place of the pranas, the senses and the mind. It’s your true self, which is identified with intelligence and which finds repose in the space within your heart.” ~Nikhilananada’s Intro to The Principal Upanishads

So then we explore pratyahara – sense withdrawal. But then, where do the senses go? Niky above, says to the space within your heart, your true self. Makes some sense – it’s quieter there than the head or stomach. The feelings come up, but maybe we’re in a place where we can uncouple them enough from the words and judgments to just let them be a bit.

Now we’re practicing saucha in our hearts. Saucha – cleanliness, purity. We don’t often think of it in regard to our hearts, but after we’ve gotten glimpses of the Love that lives there, it makes sense not to store our crap on the porch. If we keep the windows clean maybe it will shine more brightly. The Sanskrit word for this place – Anahata – can be translated “unstruck”. “The space within your heart  is omnipresent and unchanging.” (~Chhandogya Upanishad ) Always with us, always available for us to touch and feel is a place that is unstruck by the blows of life, unmoved by the compliments and criticisms, the lost jobs and the awards. It is always what it is. We are always who we are. Sometimes we just cover it up with judgments, which are really old experiences in new clothes. Film on our windows.

Maybe this is the impetus to poke our noses into the pesky ethical side of yoga.  But if you’ve been cleaning your windows all by yourself, and someone gives you a step ladder and an extension for your sponge, you’ll be pretty glad to pay attention. And they’re pretty simple, deceptively so. Love, Truth, Conserve your energy, Be quiet, Be fierce, Stay Open, Be present, Learn you’re not in control, Study your experience, Respect Others’ Boundaries. But Wow! try to practice ’em all at once! That’ll give any college Ethics Professor a run for her money.

So you keep coming back to the place of quiet stillness to which your mat has become the doorway. “The heart is the hub of all sacred places; go there and roam.” ~Bhagavan Nityananda 

Reflections on Eng's take on A New Earth and Yoga

I was listening to Elizabeth Lesser’s discussion after A New Earth aired last week (I download it on iPod for my walking pleasure) and was so taken with Kim Eng’s integration of the spirit and silence evoked in the book on which the web class is based. She teaches movement based awareness, and counts yoga among her “modalities” with Chi Kung and T’ai Chi. She talked about progressing from breath, to sensation to innerbody feeling. I’ve been using this as a sort of template for myself and for my class, and the results have been, well, peaceful.

She brought people to their own silence by first suggesting a breath focus. She progressed to noticing sensation – usually tension, stress – but not naming it. Just being it, being with it.  She calls this the outer body. And finally, casting your attention, awareness, your inner gaze on your own sense of aliveness. She suggested the question “How do you know you are alive?” Answered not by words, not by concepts, but in silence, by feeling.

This corresponds in essence to a yogic view of embodiment. Since I don’t relate to yoga as a modality, but as a way of being – like the Tao – encompassing and companioning other ways, I just see the reality to which different systems point. Yogic Philosophy describes embodiment as “koshas” – sheaths. There is a purely physical, the food body, there is energy or breath, there is interactive mind, there is the wisdom body and finally just bliss. Each within and among the others. One way to say what yoga is, is to focus on allowing the alignment of these koshas, or bodies. Allowing, because it’s not a relationship that can manufactured, only facilitated. The kinks and blocks are part of the whole and awareness is alchemical element that dissolves what demands dissolution, cleanses what clings to what is not its own, awakens what is dormant and grows what is nascent.

And breath awareness is lovely, immediate access that defies conceptualization, making it an open and wide entryway into the space we all are.  Sensation really takes the open awareness and gives it a finite determined object  with which to practice open awareness. And aliveness, chi, prana, spirit: awareness opened on this vista gives rise to presence and joyful action. That’s really the point of it all.

Fall back into your Self

Yesterday my practice was crunched between writing and dog walks and getting off to work, quick sun salutations to warm and move me. The familiarity helps me connect to contentment and stay open for the surprises of my body and my day.

I’d just finished writing on Gather about the pain body Eckhart Tolle talks about, so this way of relating to pain and perceived burdens was much on my mind. As I entered the rhythm of practice and my mind began to clear of such entanglement, I rose from the forward bend at the end of a cycle, arms circling wide, dropping my tailbone to raise my heart. The heaviness of these thoughts lifted and I sensed them as a cloud gathering from my root, up my core and coalescing in front of my third eye. As my hands rose and I lengthened my side bodies in Urdva Hastasana I felt lightness and clarity. And as I brought my hands together in front of my third eye to trace down my midline to touch my heart, it was as if my hands had come together to form a knife’s edge which dissipated the cloud.

Try it for yourself, intentionally imagining what weighs on you as a cloud in front. Standing, circle your arms up and out, coming together and slicing through the pea-thick murkiness. See how you feel.

In some cultures the Self is believed to live in the back of the body, around the spine. I was told this when I first had the bodily sensation of falling back into myself years ago. As if I’d been living out in front, disconnected, and becoming present felt like finally coinciding with myself. Fall back into yourself today. Take a quiet moment, ask what will bring you back. Even if you’re not sure what the “right” answer is, try your first idea and see how it feels, if it gives you another idea, or if you just want to stay with the feeling you’ve now found. Fall back into your Self today, again, and again.

yogaeveryday.gather.com

You can find our dedicated group for discussion of Eckhart Tolle’s new book A New Earth at yogaeveryday.gather.com.

The cool thing about joining the group – aside from being quick & easy – it becomes a co-blog. You can comment on what others write or make your own article (blog) reflecting how you are digesting your experience.

Look for this icon newearth_iconleader_christine1.jpgon the groups page.

Let me know if you have any difficulty and I’ll help. yogaguidesatgmaildotcom

Awareness & Thinking: A User's Guide to Recursive Consciousness

Something Tolle said from the very beginning rubbed the trained Philosopher in me the wrong way: Stop Thinking. That’s like blasphemy for someone who deals in definition, analysis and understanding. Or so I initially reacted.

Tolle makes a deeply subtle distinction between thinking and awareness that helps to illuminate the nature of reflective, or recursive, consciousness. Simple on its surface, the fact that human consciousness is multileveled and that the levels are free to act independently or interact together has been the bedrock of philosophical observation since the Ancients. Plato and Aristotle used the metaphor of the tripartite soul. The Medievals related to God as the ordering principle. Descartes made a crucial, revealing and powerful error in taking as his bedrock “Cogito ergo sum” often translated “I think, therefore I am.”

Tolle directs us behind thinking, defined as unbridled naming or language using. Who is it who thinks, and thus knows “is”? (Yes, Billie, it does depend on what the definition of “is” is.) Tolle’s work is no polemic against analysis or language, but a careful understanding of its relevance, which has for so long been taken to be universal. Language depends on distinctions, on duality. The very structure of sentence making depends on the subject object distinction and is remarkably useful. We are often seduced by this usefulness, however, into mistaking description for experience. Tolle’s call is one to experience, to silence punctuating our endless naming which breaks the present apart into past, present, future, memory and expectation, subject and object.

Take breathing breaks to interupt the stream of unconsciousness and bring awareness to thinking mind. Do you know where your mind is and what it’s up to? Check in, surprise yourself.

Asana & Self

Enough to love. Enough self to love and feel love. What kind of self is that?

Perhaps that is what the asana teach us. As we engage in any given practice we model our bodies after a series of animals, plants, planets, archetypes. Ideally we fully inhabit each one and move on to fully inhabit the next. At the end, we let it all go in savasana. And most people will report they feel most themselves right after all this.

In Western Philosophical tradition there is much talk about what “constitutes” the “Self”. Perhaps what I like most about yoga is the uncovering, the stripping away of proposals til we reach a moment of real possibility. Enough to love.