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 

What is Gratitude?

“In the end, though, maybe we must all give up trying to pay back the people in this world who sustain our lives. In the end, maybe it’s wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices.” ~Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

So ends this journey book.  I wrote here before that reading it will make your mouth water for whatever it is that feeds your soul. Your very limbs will revolt to drag you to the pen or the mat or the wheel or whatever it is that allows you express truth and let it flow through you.

Reading it I found myself reflecting on my own life, of course, and these last words drew from me such salty tears. Having been brought to the altar built of the myriad blessings of my life so far, I have at times felt so tempted to relive and address each one, individually. As naturally as this impetus arises, it’s roots are in the past. In an old way of seeing where each blessing, or demon, or moment is individual, could be addressed as a singular thing. When really each moment is created by and creates so many other moments and each one of those dissolves in each new present which is  really the eternal present, ever re-created.

This is the insight behind the country songs and Hollywood movies all titled something like “Pass it Along.” My own pass it on story stars an amazing individual named Lew. Several years back, when I was feeling every bit adrift, the new divorcee with a new career and a new feeling of solidity at my core but no idea how to let my old stories wear away, I was faced with crisis after crisis. Most of them presented as financial problems, and I was in fear. Lew was an angel of abundance and solidity and he made a donation to my cause. It had been our mutual intention for me to repay him as I became able and I did in fits and starts, as  I did with all my other indebtedness I had dragged from my old life. But I hadn’t completed my obligation to him and I nurtured this obligation not as a blessing, but with worry, and not a little bit of shame. Shame that I’d needed the  help, that I’d received it, that I had not yet repaid it in kind. None of this was part of the blessing of course; it was all an old story I’d dragged along.  

I was finally in a position to repay him. I was so ashamed of how long it had been, how  much he had given and that I was in need in the first place, that even repaying him felt like it wasn’t enough.   When I approached him he smiled so easily and told me to forget about it. He told me to do the same someday, I’d know when it was time. I cried. 

What I learned was that transparency and communication are more prescious than score keeping, even when you’re the only one playing. That dragging around feelings of indebtedness – different than honoring agreements – was not a way to honor what I’d been given. In that moment with Lew I learned that as grateful as I felt, as blessed as I knew I was, as important as it was to express to this all to Lew himself (for this expression is part of transparency), he didn’t need my gratitude. He knew that we both and all are part of something much bigger, that we never know what we’re really contributing to or taking from and that all that really matters is responding out of love in the present moment.

What he knew, the seed he helped me crack open, was that real gratitude is just that: responding out of love right now. Going backwards only re-inforces who we have been. History is important when we find it in the present, like that seed splitting conversation with Lew in the parking lot. It was important just then for me to acknowledge what he’d done for me, what I was prepared to do to honor my indebtedness – which I had instead converted to worry and shame for the intervening time – and this opened the door for his smile, and his new blessing, which is in a way a new obligation to help someone else. But this one, I promise not to convert to worry and shame and only to nurture the seed in my heart knowing that I’ll know when the time comes, because a ray of light will warm the patch of earth under which the seed slumbers, growing roots, and I’ll recognize the seedling as it arises.

Living this way feels like true gratitude.  

You don't need to change…. but you will!

Yoga transforms not by changing but revealing. The asana are technology for revealing meaning, health and connection within your own body.  You are already perfect for this moment of your life precisely the way that you are. You’ll feel this, deep in your being, when you get to know the way that you are. Do you already? Your knowing, your investigating, your moving and feeling subtley shifts your being. Reveal your true self and be astonished!

RPP

 Rhythm, Persistence, Patience.

That pretty much sums up my favorite of Patanjali’s yoga Sutras: II.47

“Yoga pose is mastered

by relaxation of effort,

lessening the tendency

for restless breathing,

and promoting an identification

of oneself as living

within

the infinite breath of life.”

     ~tr. Stiles

Ah, the infinite breath of life!

Truth in Practice

   There’s truth in what we call practice. Abhyasa. Practice. Meeting the mat, what you bring, what you loose.

Another restorative practice today after indulging in lots of chanting along with Sonia Nelson via her CD of Patanjali’s Sutras. I’m getting excited for a Sanskrit workshop on Sunday and hope that seeing, hearing, saying and stumbling through some on my own in the days leading up prepares the ground.

I’m in the midst of what sometimes seems a very difficult decision career wise. For the second time in my life I’m considering moving to a less prestigious, lower paying position because it supports a grander vision. Career suicide some would say.   Soul support, is what I think.

At least it’s what i know when I leave the mat each day after asking for, listening for guidance on which way to turn.

I love this translation of I.21 by Mukanda Stiles (whose workshop I get to go to in Chandler in less than two weeks – so excited!) so I’ll leave you with it. Time to meet a man about a job 🙂

“For those who have an intense urge for Spirit and wisdom, it sits near them, waiting.”

Echoes something a Monsignor told me once when I was very small, but very absorbant. 

May you follow your passion and your wisdom today, absorbing and radiating love, truth and beauty.

Imagination

When transgressions hinder, the weight of the imagination should be thrown on the other side.

Yoga Sutras

So much I find fascinating about this. I believe it’s a translation of II.33 and the translator Rolf Gates lists in his biblio is one Charles Johnston who lived (or at least published) in Albuquerque, NM in 1912. The translation seems to me to have a distinctly modern slant, though perhaps Johnston had been studying Kant’s schematism.

Part of what I like is that any time we engage the imagination on purpose, we’re de facto dropping certain assumptions and judgment algorithms from our field of consideration. Obviously, we want to keep certain minimum ones on the filter going to action, but the process even helps us to properly consider those.

Imagination is also the place (acc to the aforementioned Kant, and greatly oversimplified) where impressions from our embodied senses and the categories we are capable of using to organize them are synthesized. So to throw the weight of the imagination “on the other side” of our challenge really opens up a whole new world.

Kant was on to the same thing Yogic Philosophy addresses by noting that the world is “nothing” without “us” (interpreters, perhaps.) Certainly we like to think that it’s “there” regardless of the existence of animal interpreters such as ourselves. But, there is no “there” there without a “here” and without self-referential subjectivity (yes, that’s us) there’s no “here”, thus no “there” there.

Why does this matter in my journal? Isn’t this a lot of logical round-n-round, just the sort I left Academia to get outside? Well, first of all a certain amount of this is good exercise for imagination. But most of all, the quote turned out to be quite important for what I called my procrastination journey yesterday.

So, bad things happen to people, and something rather horrible happened to me a year and a half ago. I was out of the country and for all sorts of reasons kept it to myself for months. Until I realized (yes, another “dur” moment) that whether I wanted it to or not it was still affecting me and – more importantly to me at the time – my relationship with my then fiancee, now husband.

So, when really awful things happen, it usually happens that it takes calender pages to sort out the aftermath. More if you try to ignore the original fact, which I did.

So, we started our day yesterday tending to some of that. It left me raw but also lighter. So what did I do? Yes, you may have guessed it… I’m not an overachiever. I’m an excellent avoider.

So, I made lists in my mind (always the first sign my thinking’s going awry) and within hours felt lost and without any space or meaning. Yeah, that sucks. So I made my plan: grocery, eat, brush dog, yoga. Grocery & eat: check.  Pet Hank: break down. Ahhhhh! progress. She realizes she’s raw, she releases and recognizes. She is learning! (Thanks, Hank.)

She makes an appointment at the local massage school for a massage (lovely). She does yoga (feels great). She teaches (such wonderful people at class!).

Back to home with strong, wonderful, attentive, tender Hubby.  Some cobwebs cleared. Imagination was indeed the way out. Some Tapas, some Saucha, some Satya, then trust and process (Ishvara Pranidanani). Ahhhhhhhh.