Monday, December 23, 2013

Sutra I.33

Sutra I.33
Through the cultivation of friendliness, compassion, joy, and indifference to pleasure and pain, virtue and vice respectively, the consciousness becomes favourably disposed, serene and benevolent.

The day before Christmas and all through the house,  the vizslas are napping and Angie is weepy.......

This time of year seems to always make me cry.  I cry for many reasons,  watching someone give the Salvation Army guy a $20 at King Soopers.  I cry at silly movies that are so unrealistic. I cry when I wrap a gift because I can actually afford to buy a couple of them now. I cry because I think of where I was 5 years ago and cannot believe how far I have come. I cry because I miss my family to pieces, the ones living and the ones not of the physical anymore. I cry at the generosity of people because these people still exist!

I know what you are thinking.  What about the focus only on Christmas?  What about other people who don't celebrate Christmas? What about the over buying, living out of our means, retail gone crazy mode?  What about the natural disasters? What about people killing each other with guns? What about the poverty in other countries?  Angie, have you gone mad?

No, I have not, I am just choosing to watch the good that happens instead of the bad.  Our yoga practice should be moving us all in this direction. It does not mean that we ignore those in need,  those who are ill,  those who are sad.  We just need to find a balanced approach to it all. 

Having a daily yoga practice is the key for me. I am not saying you should do just because I do. Find something that helps you to focus, to still the mind. Maybe it is creating art,  hiking with your dogs, cooking for your family, sewing, singing, sitting still, reading a romance novel, watching golf....
.  Whatever it is, find a little time where you can be free of distractions, find a little stillness. Most of all think before you act and speak. You never know who might be listening. You may inspire someone else to do something good too. 

Why did I pick this sutra for today?  I will quote right from Guruji himself,

"These qualities keep the mind in a state of well-being. Patanjali here lays the groundwork for our journey towards Self-Realization.  ........This sutra asks us to rejoice with Happy, to be compassionate to the sorrowful, friendly to the virtuous, and indifferent to those who continue to live in vice, despite attempts to change them.  This mental adjustment builds social as well as individual health......This approach to life keeps the mind of the sadhaka serene and pure."
-BKS Iyengar LIght on the Yoga Sutras-

Friday, December 20, 2013

Selfless Service & Wisdom in action

I have been keeping up with a blog written by Lisa Walford who spent the last 6 weeks in Pune studying with the Iyengar family.  Her posts were inspiring, her words are thoughtful, I felt as though I had nothing to write after reading about the classes happening at the Institute right now. 

I also realize that I have been sorely using my excuse of not being in India as the source for my lack of inspiration or inner fire, tapas.  Excuse after Excuse I have been finding. Not having Prashant to push these thoughts into my head, to really make me think about why I do and teach yoga anyways.

 I think of all the people right now in my life I can use for the inspiration.  Students who week after week come to class, my teachers who teach even when they feel a bit down.  The ladies in my women’s group who pay dues to this educational non-profit, come to meetings, do many different fund raising events year after year with very little $ to work with.  They never complain, they always smile, laugh and support each other through the good and the bad.  The IMIYA board members who every month meet and discuss how we can spread the teachings of Iyengar yoga purely out of their love of the subject and the Iyengar family.

One thing I have learned the last few months, is this path of yoga can be a lonely one.  You are truly on the path to self-realization, not a path to popularity and masses of wealth.  It is so funny, I think of all the times where I only had 1 person in a class or no people in a class. Wondering why I still do this?  I do it because this yoga has changed my life.  It has the potential to change anyone’s life who chooses the path. I also find that when you teach from the heart, teach from the place of being humble, students come, they multiply even (not in the Gremlin sense…).  Even the ones who challenge you, ask hard questions, have physical issues, those are the ones we learn the most from.

This brings me to the wisdom in action part.  Even if I don’t have the teachings of the Institute at my fingertips, I have to make myself study.  It is not easy to sit down at 7 am and read the Gita.  I do however realize if I am to continue teaching and learning, this is a part of the process. Not just the physical asana part.  Yes, that part in important, but the real reason I do yoga is to become more open. Open to new possibilities, open to new people, new ideas. All this studying and practice I do to build a strong foundation of purpose and meaning in my life.

From the reading have I done this week in the Gita, Chapter 4. Arjuna is wanting a quick fix, to get out of his current situation fast. Krishna is teaching him ancient mystical secrets and Arujuna just does not understand that it is not just the physical action that can lead him on the path to fixing his issue, but a path of Spiritual Knowledge. Of knowing the Self, of being Selfless, giving of ones self with no attachments.  At the end of this chapter, Krishna leaves Arjuna with this last piece of wisdom,

“Those established in the Self have renounced selfish attachments to their actions and cut through doubts with spiritual wisdom. They act in freedom. Arjuna, cut through this doubt in your own heart with the sword of spiritual wisdom. Arise; take up the path of yoga!”

Closing thoughts: My mind feels so bouncy these days. Not quite as focused as I would like. These busy times during the holidays can often times cause me (and everyone else for that matter) distress or depression, or the opposite, giddy and hyper. Even if you do not get caught up in all the craziness in the holidays, you are around people who do. Can we learn to find a balance between all of this?  Not get caught up in the buying aspect, but in the giving aspect? 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

First reading of the Bhagavad Gita-Where have I been?

A few months back a friend gave me a yoga shirt from another country. On the back was a quote from the Bhagavad Gita.  My boss and I went online to find out which one it was, from there this obsession with this text has blossomed.  I had never really thought too much about reading it, I always kind of felt it was going to be too long, to hard to understand.   Upon opening Eknath Easwaran's translation I quickly realized that there was nothing to stress over. The translation is so clear, even I, a novice in all this Philosophy, can get it.

I just am moving on from chapter two, the one where we learn about Self-Relization, rebirth, and the meaning of yoga, as it is referred to in the Gita. Eknath says, "It refers primarily to disciplining the mind. Yoga is evenness of mind: detachment from the dualities of pain and pleasure, success and failure.  Therefore Yoga is skill in action, because this kind of detachment is required if one is to act in freedom rather than merely react to events compelled by conditioning." Krishna goes onto tell Arjuna in this chapter, "....if he can establish himself in yoga-in unshakeable equanimity, profound peace of mind, he will be more effective in the realm of action. His judgement will be better and his vision clear if he is not emotionally entangled in the outcome of what he does."  I love the way that Krishna answers Arjuna is a simple terms.  He does complicate things as most of us tend to do.

As a Yoga Asana Teacher I truly believe that the action part of yoga is really important, but as I grow a little older, a little wiser I see that the sitting and being still part of yoga is just as important if not more. When do most of us say, "enough is enough! I am sitting down today and resting, not working, not socializing, not on any kind of social or non-social media."  In this world of Black Fridays, Cyber Mondays and over buying on the Holidays we could use a little detachment from all this material and retail therapy. It makes me sad that our culture has come to this place of extremes. One minute it is "Happy Holidays and May Peace be with you." and the next is "Get out of my way, that's my Furby!"  I really think if these big retail locations would play some sweet Classical Music and offer a quick breathing session before they open the doors, consumers would have a much safer experience....

There is a part of me that says I should not be trying to fix our shopping problem in this country to the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita.  It seems to me that this is where we should be looking.  It seems more people than ever are looking for something to inspire them to make them feel something, feel anything. Why not use ancient texts to help us? They have been around for thousands of years and have taught even more people to feel balanced, calmer, and even more satisfied without accumulating more stuff.

I will end with this from the Bhagavad Gita, translated by Ekanth Easwaran:
"You have the right to work, but never to the fruit of work. You should never engage in action for the sake of reward, nor should you long for inaction. Perform work in the world, Arjuna, as a man established within himself-without selfish attachments, and alike in success and defeat. Yoga is the perfect evenness of mind.
See refuge in the attitude of detachment and you will amass the wealth of spiritual awareness. Those who are motivated only by desire for the fruits of action are miserable, for they are constantly anxious about the results of what they do. When consciousness is unified, however, all vain anxiety is left behind. There is no cause for worry, whether things go well or ill. Therefore, devote yourself to the discipline of yoga, for yoga is skill in action."