Let’s Come Together: Confronting Illusion of the Mind

confronting illusions of the mind

You choose to shine with the light of your own divinity.
Or you hide it with the shadows you create in your own mind. 


I was in attendance for Clara’s 300-hour YTT with 13 individuals who travelled from various locations across Canada. We were together for 12-hours a day dissecting the movement, ethics, language, and philosophy of all things related to the art of yoga. Given the global response to COVID-19 through social distancing, I felt our group was safe in our own little globe, totally removed and impervious to the sweeping illness many countries face. I was under the illusion that everything was under control despite the statistics posted on the World Health Organization website. 

On day five of our experience together, Clara made the decision to postpone the training as we watched studios across the city shut-down for the foreseeable future. I felt angry, lostt, and irritated by her decision. Hours later, when I’d arrived home and decompressed, I came to terms with my state of illusion and how I’d dissociated from current affairs. In an effort to be present and avoid the amassing fear, I ignored the signals and mounting state of tension expressed around the room and the world. I fabricated a safe space in an attempt to distance myself from the unknown circumstances we’re dealing with internationally. 

Our imagination is a wonderful tool to assist personal transformation and alchemize our experiences as we bring meaning to the roles we play in the world. Ilusion is akin to the imagined realm through the deception of the senses, therefore allowing the formation of opinions based on misinformation. The two play a synonymous role in developing higher states of awareness and consciousness as the brain evolves in how it takes in, processes, and redistributes information. The human species is unique in our ability to analyse, interpret, and believe in real and imagined surroundings, as well as our personal and shared narratives. The capacity for self-reflection sets us apart from other species. It is vital, especially now, to make space to meditate, reflect, and be with the feelings that arise to develop an honest perspective and connect to the truth. Our truth is felt and comes from within, it cannot be rationalized. Our mind is pervasive in creating stories that serve personal biases (thank you, ego!)  so we must make space for self-reflection to discover illusion and sift out the truth. How we create and/or mistake the fictional from the real is a pivotal step in our evolution as individuals and as a collective. When we understand how illusion and imagination are present in our lives and how story creates separation, we may come to a higher level of consciousness as we connect to universal truths. 

Want to connect to the community and continue your practice? Clara’s online apps launched this week so you login and watch on Android, MACs, PCs, streaming media boxes such as Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast, and Amazon fire TV.

Illusion and the Powers of the Mind

In Indian philosophy illusion is known as maya. The earliest mention of maya is in Vedic texts from the mid 2nd to mid 1st millennium BCE where maya is depicted as an extraordinary power or wisdom. Maya has since evolved as a spiritual concept that alludes to the idea that something exists but is not what it seems. Maya is the understanding of reality as a concept that is constantly in flux, cycling through change, and constantly being made. Maya presents us with a deception in what we think we know about the world and reveals how limited our perception truly is. Because the world is always changing and evolving, we can’t know all there is to know in any given moment. Our understanding of reality based on our limited perception is inherently flawed. 

Maya means that the world is not as it seems; the world that one experiences is misleading as far as its true nature is concerned.
– Hendrick Vroom

Maya is a filter that colours all experiences and provides a lens to see the world based on our conditioning, cultural upbringing, social context, traumas and experiences. We may approach situations with a specific story in mind that clouds and confuses our ability to see what is really going on. Our ego has all sorts of tactics to keep us in varying states of maya to protect us from feelings we don’t want to feel, such as sadness, loss, humiliation, and vulnerability. For example, if I’ve been betrayed by a friend in the past, this may cause me to perceive all new attempts in friendship from others with a shade of paranoia and suspicion to protect myself from being hurt again. Continuing to replay the same stories within our lives binds us to a wheel of suffering and keeps us in a state of avidya, ignorance. When we acknowledge our limited capacity to understand and control our surroundings we might create more awareness and acceptance of maya and how illusion works within our own lives.

confronting illusions of the mind

The schools of Vedanta and Classical philosophy are based off the Vedas, a collection of sacred texts of India. They believe that maya is an expression of avidya (ignorance). To come to a more robust understanding of the Self and the world, one must work to realize and remove ignorance. This practice would require an understanding of both explicit and implicit truths, (implicit being the truths we may not immediately perceive or understand), and observing the self in terms of recognizing god or the divine within. The Vedanta and Yoga schools share how the veil of ignorance and illusion is lifted when the practitioner understands Brahman (the divine) and sees their freedom as inseparable from the nature of the Atman (the soul). 

Our true nature is aligned with the divine and connected to all beings in the universe. Our separation from others and our own inner divinity is an expression of maya when we view and identify with our ego-selves as our true nature. Ultimately, we are all incarnate expressions of the divine connected through the Atman. Humans develop constructs to depict varied states of subjective experience which express principles and laws at work. Maya is an expression of this duality contained in our ego-selves and our true Self (Atman). The ego may create stories of separation and keep us from the larger truths of the world if we become focused on power, money, and other forms of labelling that may shade our perception. Maya conceals our true nature through appearances and keeps us separate from discovering the divine within us and all around us. 

Just as when the dirt is removed, the real substance is made manifest; just as when the darkness of the night is dispelled, the objects that were shrouded by the darkness are clearly seen, when ignorance [Maya] is dispelled, truth is realized.
–  Vashistha

It’s important in every situation to reflect upon what we know as well as take into account what we may not know/see/understand before we form an opinion. This level of observation takes practice and patience to cultivate. It requires an openness and flexibility of the mind to see things for what they are without our own layers of suffering and storytelling. Our emotions tend to colour events with varying shades of truths and untruths. Waiting until an emotion has subsided to reflect on a situation may give a little more space to see events with less bias and blame. It is a powerful skill to develop the consciousness and control to see illusion present in our reality and the ways it tricks the senses into perceiving untruths as real. 

Working with the Crown Chakra

The neocortex, also known as our higher mind, is the centerpiece for our imagination, empathy, impartial judgement, conscious thought, and language. Whenever we access our higher mind, we act with more care toward others and move beyond petty biases. We have the ability to approach people and situations with a little more creativity and compassion and a little less comparison and jugement. We may approach situations through the lens of our imagination and see the potential and possibility contained in every moment. We can develop more presence and patience as a result. Leaning into our imagination can help us perceive the duality we live in and fully encompass the varied states of beauty and suffering. Our imagination may give us access to see the stories we create in and all those we meet as characters to teach us a moral lesson. When we create fiction and recognize the mind in establishing roles and projections, we might begin to understand and witness how the mind may embellish and twist events in real life.

To access the higher mind, a practice of meditation, deep breathing, and yoga may assist in creating more awareness and tapping into your imagination, empathy, and conscious thought. One method used in yoga to tap into the higher mind is chakra meditation. Chakras are intersections of nadis/energy lines that run through the body. Yogis focus on the seven that run up our spinal column. When we meditate and unblock the chakras, we can release blockages and allow the prana (life force) to flow more freely within us. The Vedas are the first place that mention the chakras somewhere between 1500-300 BCE. The Vedas is the first piece of Indian literature that mentioned the chakras system somewhere between 1500 and 300 BCE. There are seven chakras from the tip of the tailbone to the crown of the head that correspond to specific organs and influence the physical, emotional, and psychological states of the person. When we work with and unblock the chakras, we may release more energy and allow the prana (life force) to flow more freely within us. 


Connect to Your HIgher Mind in this Crown Chakra Flow with Clara

The chakra is the centre of our spiritual connection to our higher selves, others, and the divinity of the universe, and the crown chakra is known as Sahaswara in Sanskrit and the thousand petal lotus. When we are connected to our seventh chakra it is said we can see the interconnectedness to all beings. We recognize Brahman (the divine) in ourselves and all those around us. A blocked seventh chakra may result in a feeling of loneliness and disconnect when we disconnect, we are unable to see how limitless and expansive the universe is. Meditation and breathwork may assist in cultivating pure awareness and harnessing the energy of the seventh chakra. 

Breathe to Unite Body with Mind

Yoga, equally through physical practice and application of philosophy, strengthens the body and mind simultaneously to bring one into their higher mind where compassion resides. From Patanjali’s Sutras, the Eight Limbs of Yoga are an accessible guide to live with more discipline and awareness of self. I previously discussed two of the Eight Limbs with the Yamas and Niyamas and how they provide a framework to live ethically within the inner and outer worlds. The next two limbs are asana and pranayama, the physical practice of yoga and breathing techniques. 

Asanas are the physical postures of yoga, meant to purge the body of toxins for long lasting health. Initially asana was used to prepare the body for  meditation, assisting the practitioner in sitting in a calm and effortless manner. The practice of asana brings awareness to the body through repetition and proper alignment of each pose. Asana creates a sense of balance and wellness in uniting the body with the breath, and supporting healthy functioning of the organs, muscles, and glands, proper circulation, elimination, and detoxification. As one pursues the asana with dedication and focus, pranayama and meditation are accessible. The body is the temple, the gateway to realizing how we feel and our sense impressions. 

Develop The Power of Prana with Clara

Pranayama is breath regulation and expansion and the life force that we carry. Practice of pranayama will help to clear the mind of any distraction as one prepares for meditation. Our breath is our primary contact with the world, giving us life and energy. We may discover our ability to equally calm and invigorate ourselves just by manipulating our breath. Our breath may be conscious or unconscious, and as we practice, we may develop more awareness of how our breath affects our body, mood, and mental states.

Seeing Our Stories as Stories and Not Ourselves

One of the greatest lessons the practice of yoga has given me is the ability to be with the truth that arises when I sit with myself. Illusion and the imagined have distinct roles to play as we navigate the world and experience life’s lessons. As I evolve and come to a greater understanding of just how vast the universe is and how small our part is in the great chain of being, I see how maya affects our mental constructs. My ego keep me bound to limited narratives where my expectations, assumptions, and emotions conceal the truth. But when I make the space to be with my breath, my bodies, and really listen to what arises, I discover a higher mind where non-judgement and compassion allow me to connect to all beings.

Do not lose heart,

Grace You Move Me

Purification of Greed with the Yamas of Yoga

Out of such chaos, of such contradiction / We learn that we are neither devils nor divines…


There’s some skill involved in cultivating a decisive attitude towards ourselves and our actions in the world. Knowing when we have enough and learning when to stop takes a discerning mind, especially if we’re on a path of pleasure. When we’re on a path that proves rewarding, even if the reward comes at a great cost, it requires discipline and discernment to examine the cause and effect of our actions. Temperance is a virtue and the best advice may be a lesson in self-restraint. 

Greed is a character trait formed through repetition unlike our emotions which are instinctual. Habits rule our world, equal in thought and action, and when left unchecked something that started out as a necessity may shift into a possessiveness as the habit persists. Our past impressions and conditioning may inform our impulse for greed, consuming like the Hungry Ghosts who wallow in attachment and addiction. 

I’ve experienced many moments of greed. A more recent example occured when I was asked to examine how much I worked in respect to how much I needed to survive. At the time, I was teaching upwards of 20 yoga classes per week and saying yes to as many subbing opportunities as I could. I didn’t have a day off and kept telling myself that what I was doing was necessary to learn and build on my skills as a yoga teacher. When I examined my lifestyle I felt the grips of grasping as I inquired into why I worked so much. The pivotal moment in my observation occurred when a cold-shot of fear plunged through my lower belly and I heard a little voice say: what will you do with all of your time if you’re not working?! In manufacturing a routine where I could do what I enjoyed and earn money to supplement my lifestyle, I had stunted my inner growth by not questioning my habit of simply saying yes to more work. My habit formed from an unconscious and unexamined inner fear. It was easier for me to stick to my comfort zone of always working. My fear was linked to questions of my identity and how I would fill my time. The uncertainty and letting go of this habit created a fear that needed to be questioned and challenged. 

It’s important for us to reassess our life choices and question if they are continuing to serve us. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, a sacred text for yogis, offers a code of ethics to live by known as the yamas and niyamas. The Yamas are observances to practice with the world around you and the Niyamas are observances on how to maintain a pure body and mind. Together, these two limbs set the foundation for the student who wishes to pursue yoga as a means to enlightenment and attain a higher consciousness. In working with the Yamas and Niyamas, the student begins to observe the self and work toward self discipline in cultivating positive and productive lifestyle choices that serve the community as a whole.

Aparigraha and the Yamas of Yoga

A man who found a magic cup learned that if he wept into the cup, his tears turned into pearls. But even though he had always been poor, he was a happy man and rarely shed a tear. So he found ways to make himself sad so that his tears could make him rich. As the pearls piled up, so did his greed grow.
– Khaled Hosseini 

Aparigraha is one of the five Yamas. The Sanskrit word aparigraha contains the word ‘parigraha’ which means to amass, crave, seize, or receive material goods from others. Parigraha would translate to the idea of hoarding, greed, and possessiveness. In adding a ‘a’ at the beginning of a Sanskrit word, this negates the word and means the opposite, so aparigraha is the idea of taking only that which is necessary and no more. It’s a practice of receiving gifts with discernment and letting go of the excess. 

Greed is not only expressed in terms of lust through material objects. For example, if you’re late to meet a friend for dinner, you’ve hoarded some of your friends precious time. Respect for others and their time and managing your time and honouring your commitments is a practice of aparigraha. 

When observing/practicing aparigraha, we have the opportunity to reflect what we are lusting after, what are we holding onto and how these attachments may be hindering ourselves or harming others. Examining our attachments gives us the chance to go deeper into what our underlying fears may be. When examined my attachment to work, I realized how my need to work all the time came from a deep seated fear of not knowing to fill my time. 

Release physical and emotional stressors in this Free Your Spine Flow with Clara!

The Five Yamas of Yoga

Ahimsa nonviolence in thought, word, or deed
This is a practice of non-harming towards self and others through any physical, mental, or emotional violence that we create. To work with ahimsa, one may practice accepting things for what they are and work with the concept of compassion to approach things with an open heart and concern for others and the environment.  


This is a practice of living and speaking truth at all times. Gossip, assumptions, and lies are the opposite of living with satya. One may speak from a place of honesty and act with integrity when honouring satya. 

Asteya – freedom from avarice

This is a practice of abstinence from stealing and taking what doesn’t belong to you or what is not freely given. Generosity and rejecting oppression, social injustice, and exploitation are ways to honor asteya. 

Brahmacharya control of sensual pleasure
This is a practice of continence in controlling our physical impulses for pleasure through attachment and addiction. When we break the bond of attachment we develop more courage and confidence in ourselves. To live a life of balance is to free the self of addiction through pleasure-seeking activities. Brahmacharya sometimes translates to the idea of celibacy but this practice can be one of moderation to conserve our energy. 

Aparigrahafreedom from covetousness and possession beyond one’s needs 

This is a practice of letting go of what no longer serves and any excess. Taking only what is necessary and observing how our habits inform our lives would honour aparigraha.  

More on how to work with the Yamas, here.

Observer of Obstacles

Mantras are to be recited together. Mantras are an instrument to please the celestial deities.
Dada Bhagwan

Ganesha (aka Ganapati), the elephant-headed god, is known as the Lord of Obstacles in Hindu mythology. Ganesha is the one who removes obstacles from the path and also places them the obstacles in our path that we need to deal with. Ganesha is also worshipped as the god of new beginnings and prayed to before taking on anything new projects or goals. 

Working with Ganesha allows us to contemplate where we are on our path and what we continue to encounter. Through mantra, we can call upon the archetype of Ganesha to help us gain clarity on what we may not be seeing or learning from our obstacles.

Cultivate awareness to remove obstacles with this Ganesha Mantra


Making Space for Inquiry and Forgiveness

All of your unfulfilled desires are from your greed for gain of fulfillments.
Let go of them all and they will be sent as gifts.
– Rumi 

When we ask the hard questions and allow space for the answers to come to us instead of pushing for a desired result, we may see things we missed in our motives. The world is cycling through an era of personal gain. The little black mirror has us locked in a very small reality where greed may get the better of generosity. When we inquire into how our actions affect others we might be able to slay that monster of greed and work towards the betterment of humankind on a global scale. It can be disquieting to sit with the greed expressed in the Americas and the devastation that results in those exploited countries that gave birth to the wealth in the west. And yet there’s always space for forgiveness and acceptance of the past.

In order to shift our narrative we must own our actions and acknowledge the insatiable greed that’s unleashed in the world. Through our practice of inquiry, forgiveness, and living by a code of ethics (niyamasa), we can own our actions. We can break our unconscious patterns and hopefully inspire others to do the same.

Change starts with us.


Free Your Spine

Tending the Fire: An Inner Alchemy of Desire

Fire: Tending the Inner Flame of Desire

The thornbush is the old obstacle in the road. It must catch fire if you want to go further.


Last year I visited Dharamsala, India, to experience the culture and the roots of yoga as passed down from my teachers. I had many expectations and assumptions for my travels. None of them manifested. Bless India for hosting with humour, contradiction, and irony. Midway through retreat, I attended a Fire Puja Ceremony where I was layered in gold flowers and dabbed with a spot of turmeric paste at my third eye between my brows. I sat with a small group in a circle overlooking the Himalayas. Eagles soared overhead. Monkeys danced on the rooftop. Drowsy from the heat of the fire and sun, and pulsing with a desire dark and alive, I was elated with trepidation. For hours we sat with the medicine of the fire, feeding the spitting flames a concoction of rice and flowers. With each palmful tossed we were asked to feed our inner flame with the same dedication and fervor, burning away any obstacles and impurities that obstructed our path.

In the presence of fire we may experience an alchemical transformation in our ability to shift our perspective, provoke change, and blaze forward into the unknown. Fire may present us with a healing balm, an inner alchemy, as we dedicate ourselves to the mystery and magic of our will to power. The Fire Puja presented me with an experience to metaphorically feed my inner flame and refine my focus to manifest my desires.

An Expression for Healing and Transformation

We are the alchemists of our own experience.
– Clara Roberts-Oss

Fire Puja is a traditional ritual of healing and purification to cleanse the environment and grant blessings. The significance of a Fire Puja serves to remove obstacles, clear negativity, and repair broken promises. Many cultures honour fire ceremonies as rituals to bring light to the darkness. To honor fire is to revel in the light and heat of its flame, a flame we each have within us that asks us to stand in its intensity and move forward with more clarity. 

The body is a microcosm of the cosmos. As individuals, we contain and reflect the five elements in the atmosphere known as earth, air, fire, water, and ether. We use qualities of the elements to gain an understanding of the ways we interact with the world and ourselves. Fire is sharp, acidic, and mercurial. Expressed as unpredictable, mutable, emotional, and wild. To step into the element of fire is to open ourselves to the possibility of healing through confrontation and manifestation of our desire. To move with the intensity of fire, we examine our inner longing, our deepest desires, and how we want to create and will our thoughts into action. Once anything touches fire, it is never the same. It changes physically and chemically. Once we enter the fire, we are also changed, physically, mentally and emotionally

The flames of fire consume, destroy and create space for growth within the devastation. This may be likened to our ability to receive lessons from the past, let go of all that doesn’t serve, and use our experience to build a better foundation for the future. The flames of fire consume, destroy and create space for growth within the devastation.  The flames will wither and die if we don’t move forward with new ideas and action; cycling through repetitive patterns that may or may not serve us in creating a better future. 

Sankulpa: Cultivate an Inner Will to Power

Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion.
― Rumi

To create patterns that build toward a specific goal or purpose we act consciously and observe our thoughts. When we act unconsciously, we may run the risk of creating habits that don’t serve and contribute to negative samskaras. Samskaras are based on our past impressions and represent deeply rooted, unconscious patterns that affect our way of thinking. All actions and thoughts create memories that are conscious and/or unconscious and contribute to shaping our present habits, behaviors, and tendencies. Whenever a thought or action is repeated overtime, it creates a groove in the neural pathways in the brain that get harder and harder to overcome. This is how habits form. When we consciously establish a habit that serves, such as exercising daily or eating healthy, this builds towards a positive samskara. When we act unconsciously, like scrolling Instagram while eating peanut butter off of a spoon, over time this shapes a negative samskara that we may not be aware of.

Fire: Tending the Inner Flame of Desire

When we continue to do the same things in the same way or fail to question the rules or ideas of the world we live in- and are creating together- we limit ourselves in our capacity to grow and develop emotionally and spiritually. If we don’t question our actions and thoughts, we may never develop the self awareness necessary to break our cycles and shape our destiny as an individual or a collective. To have the courage and confidence to question your habits and confront the ways you do things is to tug at the thread of fate and reveal your own will to power. 


Develop strength and discover your inner flame in this Power Centre Vinyasa Yoga class with Clara!

To transcend the limitation of samskara, one may use heat, passion, and discipline to metabolize the experience. It takes patience and practice to break away from the past and build new habits that lead us down the path of self discovery to a destiny we consciously create and will into the world. This takes discipline and a high commitment to stick to what you believe and what you hope to achieve. 

A Sankulpa is the inner resolve to join the mind, heart, and body to align with your deepest core truth or value. Sankulpa comes from the ancient Indian Sanskrit. The root san means (connection to the divine) and kulpa (a vow, heartfelt intention). Sankulpa usually translates as resolution or resolve. It’s a short positive phrase or affirmation to inspire us to create or pursue a particular goal. One who commits to their sankulpa may turn the wheel of fate in their favor or overcome hardship. It takes commitment and confidence to establish a strong sankalpa, to stay in the present and overcome the grooves embedded from your samsaras that threaten to keep you stuck in old habits. 

To break free of the unconscious chains that keep you tethered and stuck, you must move with will and determination into the fire of transformation. It is in the heat, the tension and combustion that we discover our inner resolve and freedom. Once we step into the fire and commit ourselves to the sankulpa, we are on the way to transforming our destiny. It takes inner resolve, a willingness to let go and forgive, and the strength to endure the intensity of the heat, to honour your sankulpa and will your desire into the world.

Sadhana: Tend the Inner Flame of Desire

Act in accordance to your desire without attachment to a preferred outcome.
– Bhagavad Gita 

Living a life of passion and feeding your flame is to honour your sankulpa. The ritual and worship that comes in tending to your passion and living fully with an awareness for presence. When our hearts are full, we are more capable of love and compassion. When we live a life that brings us joy, we are better able to meet the world with kindness. When we act in according to our inner wisdom, we build the confidence to create a life we want for ourselves. This style of living is open to the mysteries of life. It requires a deep appreciation toward all the things that feed your flame, and an inquisitiveness toward those things that diminish it

The Tantrikas, worshipers of the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra (an ancient text for Tantra and yoga) viewed desire as the way to attain enlightenment and used the realm of the senses to access a higher Consciousness. Desire, for the Tantrikas, was an expression of the Goddess (Shakti) that exists in all things. It is the movement and pull of the universe. To be cut off from desire is to cut ourselves off from the nature of the world and our existence. The Vijnana Bhairava Tantra conveys a practice for non dualism, the idea that the divine exists within you and therefore everything that you do is a manifestation of the divine. Therefore, the senses and our desires are not something to run away from, suppress, or overcome. Desire and the richness of our sense experience should be welcome and expressed to access the diving within.

Desire exists in you as in everything. Realize that it also resides in objects and in all that the mind can grasp. Then, in discovering the universality of desire, enter it’s radiant space. 
– Vijnanabhairava Tantra, Stanza 105

There are two types of desire: one being the spontaneous expression of embodied consciousness (an expression of Shakti and/or the divine) and the other as desire arising from past impressions and conditioning. We may experience the spontaneous expression of the divine when we move with the body’s senses and allow ourselves to feel fully and receive each unique experience. The Tantrikas saw the body as a vessel to receive the world’s incandescence, in contact with the whole of reality through touch, taste, sound, sight, and smell. Navigating the world through our sense experience may give birth to freedom through expressing our desires in movement. When we go and experience things for ourselves, we gain greater awareness of our inner landscape and the world around us. 

Move with the spaciousness and compassion of your heart in this 5-minute Durga Meditation with Clara.

Fire: Tending the Inner Flame of Desire

An expression of desire through our past impressions and conditioning is limiting and based on the experience of others, not direct contact for ourselves. An obstacle in experiencing spontaneous expression of desire may also be pursuing desire as an object external from ourselves. The Tantrikas saw desire as an ongoing expression, every action was an outlet for desire. Desire was pure love, an expression of Shakti meeting Shiva to give birth to pure consciousness. 

A sadhana is a spiritual exercise to accomplish one’s goal with the ultimate aim of enhancing the expression of reality. Sadhana literally translates to “an effort exercised towards achievement of a purpose”. One who undertakes a practice of sadhana would cultivate a practice to honour their desires and overcome the limitations of the ego to pursue the divine state of consciousness. Sadhana in yoga may look like meditation, mantra, and asana practice where you would take the discipline of completing your sadhana for a specific interval or period. 

Sādhanā is a discipline undertaken in the pursuit of a goal. Abhyāsa is repeated practice performed with observation and reflection. Kriyā, or action, also implies perfect execution with study and investigation. Therefore, sādhanā, abhyāsa, and kriyā all mean one and the same thing. A sādhaka, or practitioner, is one who skillfully applies…mind and intelligence in practice towards a spiritual goal.
– B.K.S. Iyengar

Fire: An Acceptance of the Divine

When we acknowledge our desires or make the decision to focus on a specific goal or sadhana, we accept the trials that come with fully committing ourselves. No practice is easy, it takes a lot of discipline to keep showing up for what you want and reap the rewards of your choices. This is where fire, through its passion and purpose, may serve in developing the compassion and courage needed to stick to your resolve. Fire power may show us where we need to shed a bit more light on our uncertainties and grow through the intensity. The power of fire is its alchemy to burn and transform. We may use fire as an acknowledgement of the divine power we each have within us; an inherent ability to resolve, refine, and revitalize our living experience.  May our inner flame feed our desire, a passion in-tune with the spontaneous flow of the universe.


Anger as an Expression of Vulnerability

Anger as an Expression of Vulnerability

A mind that is lively and inquiring, compassionate, curious, angry, full of music, full of feeling, is a mind full of possible poetry.


In 2017 I was rushed to the ER where I was hooked up to a morphine drip for five days. Once the swelling in my abdomen lessened, I had a  laparoscopic cholecystectomy to have my gallbladder removed. Prior to surgery, I’d undergone a significant upheaval in my career, moved twice in 10-months, and broke-up with my significant other. Instead of acknowledging how I felt or asking for help, I put up my defences and suppressed how I felt. My body was telling me to slow down, but I didn’t want to accept or reflect on the obvious turn-of-events in my life. It all came to a head when my lower abdomen literally ruptured with pain so acute I blacked out. Post-surgery, I spent two weeks at home to heal. Cut-off from all the spaces and activities that soothed and distracted, I was forced to sit with my feelings. I was angry at how my life was evolving and my lack of control over events. In my refusal to acknowledge how I felt, I didn’t give myself a chance to let the anger move through me to see what was underneath my vexation. 

Our bodies provide us with all sorts of signals through our emotions to assist in our mental, emotional, and spiritual growth. If we’re willing to observe our sensations, every emotion- be it anger, sadness, shame, envy, or guilt- is valuable. Ancient Eastern Civilizations understand the interrelatedness of the emotional and physical body in expressing our thoughts and mental fluxuations. Western science is beginning to accept the relevance of our emotions as guiding our physical nature and communicating possible symptoms. will be expressed in other areas of our life. This is why it’s integral to accept, express and release emotions as this process keeps the mind and body healthy.

Anger is an expression of our inner vulnerability. It’s a defense mechanism that constructs a wall between you and all the other emotions you may not want to feel, such as sadness, fear, anxiety, loneliness, and/or grief. When our defences go up, it can block the emotion from being expressed. This cuts us off from truly feeling the emotion and generally, it remains stifled and unresolved. 

Anger, Ego, and Akrodha

Sometimes we put up walls that we believe will keep us safe, but those walls only end up blocking us. Seek out those walls, and gently tear them down so that your vulnerability can shine through. – RUMI 

The ego may build walls of defense to protect us from feeling negative emotions and expressing and/or feeling our vulnerability. It may feel easier to bury our emotions and live in a state of denial, or it may feel easier to stay angry- in a state of self-righteousness where we feel we have more control over ourselves and others. Anger is defensive and tends to indicate that there may be a whole lot more to address underneath. Releasing anger may allow the deeper emotions of sadness and fear to well up, which would reveal a state of vulnerability. Releasing anger may look many different ways. If it involves another person, it might require a conversation to express how you feel. Stating why you’re angry or how the person hurt and/or offended you may help shift how you feel . 

Exercise and/or meditation are ways to burn off the excess energy your body may be holding onto when you’re angry and induce a calmer state. Any sort of physical movement is a wonderful way to purge the excess and calm yourself before approaching the person or situation that you have anger towards. Venting anger and releasing anger are very different things. Venting does nothing in resolving how you feel. So with exercise and meditation, in purging the tension from your body, we still have to talk about how we feel to move through the angry emotions. If you can’t talk to the person who’s offended you or resolve the situation on your own, journaling about it or discussing it with someone you trust may help you move through your anger and release it so you can move forwards. 

According to Iyengar, there are two types of anger that a person experiences: self righteous anger, fuelled by the ego that is destructive if it lingers in the body’s system, and righteous anger. Righteous anger is constructive and used skillfully to help rather than hurt others. Iyengar demonstrated righteous anger in his classes to ‘break the inertia’ in students to teach them proper methods of yoga and put an end to any delusion or fantasy. 

All cruel words should be endured. None should be treated with disrespect. No anger should be directed in turn towards one who is angry. Only soft words should be spoken, even when violently pulled by another. — Narada Parivrajaka Upanishad

In Indian philosophy, the concept of Arkodha is impressed throughout many texts, including The Mahabharata, The Upanishads, and The Bhagavad Gita. Akrodha literally translates to ‘one who is free from anger’. Living with Akrodha is one of the highest virtues of humankind and among the twenty six virtues described in The Mahabharata. Akrodha is demonstrated through a calm and even demeanor especially when provoked. In the Upanishads, one who remains free from turmoil and temper and seeks knowledge through kaivalya yoga, is one who possesses Akrodha and is on the path to liberation. 

Anger as Medicine to Refine Our Attitude

Don’t use your anger to conceal
A radiance that should not be hidden – RUMI

Anger, the heat and intensity felt in the body, is an indication that something must be done. Anger is a force presented to us that we must act in some way. When we accept our anger, we may use it constructively to develop skills in communicating how we feel. When we repress one emotion, we repress them all. We cannot hide from our emotions, they represent energies in motion and are meant to flow through us to transcend suffering

Anger as an Expression of Vulnerability

Conflict is a necessary step in growth and personal development. It takes practice and patience to identify our anger and then take the necessary steps to reconcile this emotion so we may move on. We may not be taught how to identify or acknowledge our anger, which is where one may discover suppression or denial. Anger is a natural and necessary emotion. It may provide tension and cause an energetic rupture that makes space for you to grow and move forward in your relationships. Anger may give the impetus to act where one was wronged or a situation was unjust. 

We may use our anger as a medicine to refine our attitude and discover an inner luminosity through a capacity to evolve in relationships. 

The body is sending a very clear and bold signal through anger. We may listen to it, sit with it, and decide the best course of action, or give in to our more base and possibly immature emotions. To move through anger, we may have to alter our perception, broach a difficult conversation, let go when we are not ready, or accept that we may be wrong. 


The Roots of Resolution with the Yamas of Yoga

Bring anger and pride under your feet,
turn them into a ladder and climb higher. – RUMI

Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga provide an ethical guide for the yogi to attain peace and harmony. The Yamas are one of the Eight Limbs, and comprised of five moral principles to assist one in living ethically in the world. Yama translates to ‘restraint’ and is the root of the foundation for moral discipline in yoga. When taken into practice, the Yamas may help to absolve unnecessary anger and help one let go of that which doesn’t serve to create a more harmonious state of being. 

The Yamas of Yoga:
Ahimsa – nonviolence in thought, word, or deed
Satya – truthfulness
Asteya – freedom from avarice
Brahmacharya – control of sensual pleasure
Aparigraha – freedom from covetousness and possession beyond one’s needs 


If we observe the Yamas in our daily life, we act with more integrity in all aspects of our life. If we approach the Yamas with an open mind and willingness to work on ourselves, we create more awareness in ourselves.

Our thoughts and emotions are interrelated. If we think negative thoughts, this will feed our emotions and therefore affect our physical state. If you’d like to change the way you handle your emotions, it’s vital to become more aware of your thought patterns. You’ll become more conscious of how you think, speak, and act. When we are ignorant of what our emotions are trying to tell us, we may act out-hurting ourselves or others. When we make friends with our strong emotions (anger, jealousy, rage) and they arise–we know we must pay attention and listen to their messages. 

Applying the Yamas and dedicating oneself to yoga, through asana (postures) and pranayama (breathwork) may assist the yogi in gaining awareness of how one perceives reality. The yoga practice can help one feel how all things change overtime, nothing lasts forever. When work through challenging postures, such as arm balancing, and stay with it and breathe, we may feel the heat and the prickly sensations that arise. Building tolerance and training the body through physical postures may introduce one to an understanding of how physical sensations don’t last forever. In this way, we might come to an understanding of how our emotions, like the physical sensations in yoga, move through us and dissipate. Negative feelings will pass and we may become stronger and more resilient in the process. 

Build strength in body and mind with this Durga Flow Vinyasa Yoga.

Anger as an Expression of Vulnerability

Living With an Open Mind and Curious Heart

The garden of the world has no limits, except in your mind. – RUMI 

Allowing the full spectrum of sensation to move through us is an essential step in honouring our emotions. Our sadness, joy, and anger are all indicators of how we feel in any given situation, adding context to our experience and providing a rich foundation to learn. Receiving each experience and exchange, without holding onto our ego, ideas, and impressions, may create space for connection with others. We may become more compassionate individuals as we work within the framework of the Yamas. 

When we dedicate ourselves to yoga, we act in accordance with a higher discipline through body, mind, senses, and consciousness. All sensations of the body and impressions of the mind are little pokes to turn inwards and acknowledge each experience with an open mind and curious heart. Yoga provides us with an entry point to observe, and a way to release tension and rinse strong emotions from the body so we can sit with ourselves and get a little bit more clarity in how we feel. 

A practice to flow with an open heart:
Heart Wide Open.

Classic Vinyasa Yoga with Clara

*A note on learning to work with strong emotions: Mindful practices such as yoga and meditation may unearth emotions or past traumas. If you are new to working with these emotions or experiences, we highly recommend seeking professional help such as a therapist, counselor or social worker to help you gain tools for working with these emotions or past traumas.*

On Becoming: Forging a Path of Authenticity


You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand. 

– MARGERY WILLIAMS, The Velveteen Rabbit –

You become; gently and with much patience. It may be a lifelong practice to fully understand the subtle nuances that shape us into who we are. In forging a path of authenticity, we might acknowledge our madness and misalignments and use yoga as a discipline to overcome hardships and challenge the forces that keep us tethered to unnecessary attachments and addictions.

Authenticity is becoming more aligned with the truth of the self and the higher truth of the world. When we are more aligned with ourselves, we’re better able to attune to the world and harmonize with others and the environment. Alignment looks and feels different for everyone. This is clearly demonstrated in yoga. Everyone breathes at a different depth and pace. All bodies are unique in shape, size, and mass. Participants of yoga may flow and move freely through space in a manner that their body allows. A proper teacher is one who adapts and uses specific cues to assist the student in aligning his/her body correctly with each pose in accordance with the bones, muscles, fascia and their development in the practice.

When we focus on aligning ourselves in our breath and body, we become more aligned with ourselves on an emotional/mental level. Yoga is a refinement of the body’s alignment to yolk the body, breath, and mind. On a physiological level, a consistent yoga practice increases neuroplasticity in the brain. When we learn new things and adapt to challenges, this creates new neural pathways in the brain and increases our capacity for growth.

To challenge dogma, popular belief systems, mainstream politics, cultural norms and values is to question your reality. Questioning leads to breaking the cycles of samsara as one clears the avidya (ignorance) and maya (illusion) that clouds our perception.

Aligning with oneself and cultivating a lifestyle for authenticity takes a courageous heart. Overcoming hardships such as addiction may serve as a trial for suffering where the soul may be strengthened. Many artists live in varying degrees of despair and addiction, providing us with an honest expression of what it means to be human. We might cherish those brave and beautiful souls who reveal their hearts to the world and strive to overcome their hardships. This struggle is a profound step in the development of a path of alignment and authenticity. 

Discipline in Motion through Yoga

Dedication to yoga asana may create alignment and harmony in breath, body, mind, and ultimately, the spirit. This alignment fosters authenticity as we may become more aware of all the complexities that make us who we are, unique in form, expression, and style. The practice of yoga may help to cultivate a more profound awareness in how one creates and connects to their purpose or service in the world. The yogi who dedicates themselves to this process is aware of the karmic residue one leaves and aims to take action with regard to a higher purpose and/or selfless service.

Tapas is the Sanskrit term for heat, fire, and focus. It relates to discipline and burning off impurities that no longer serve. Dedication to tapas would be a discipline in dedicating the self with a specific focus in mind. For example, tapas in yoga may be demonstrated through breathing deeply into difficult poses and sticking with the heat and fire that arises. Tapas in daily life may translate to overcoming difficulties that arise through dedication and discipline; the inner strength to endure and push through whatever ails, contradicts, or despairs.

This is where the practice and teachings of yoga may prepare the yogi to endure whatever hardships appear in day-to-day life. Breathing into yoga poses such as binds, which may include Garudasana (eagle pose) or Svarga Dvijasana (bird of paradise) are strenuous and challenge the body and the breath. Such postures build heat and test the yogi’s strength. When we place such physical demands on the body and focus on breathing through the strain, stress, and sweat, we may teach ourselves to stay calm and endure the stressors that appear in our day. A practice for tapas is a practice for discipline to endure whatever experience arises, the good and the bad, to stay on the path we’ve chosen for ourselves. Authenticity may be born as we witness the evolution of our alignment, within our bodies through the practice of yoga and a commitment to tapas, and our alignment within the greater fabric of the universe.

Hungry Ghosts & Cycles of Samsara

In Buddhist teachings, there are six realms of existence characterized by the different ways in which we live. The six realms are beast, human, god, demi-god, hell, and hungry ghosts. As we enter different phases of consciousness, we move through the unique realms in the Buddhist Mandala of Life with the ultimate aim of freedom from the realms altogether.

The Realm of Hungry Ghosts is the realm of the addict and perhaps a means to escape the Hell Realm where characters of rage and fear where the characters of rage and fear rule. The Hungry Ghosts are depicted as bloated creatures with small necks, tiny pinhole mouths, and large bellies with no limbs. The bloatedness of the Hungry Ghost expresses craving, an emptiness inside satiated (momentarily) by an external substance. The Hungry Ghost is exquisite in showing the longing we may carry and how our addictions may thwart our path of authenticity. When we are bound by the chain of addiction, this may hinder our capacity to evolve and align with the harmonies of the world.

I previously discussed the Buddhist method of Emptiness, or sunyata, in sitting with loneliness to remedy the longing that craves external validation. Addiction is an expression of avoiding this longing and seeking an outlet to numb the pain. It becomes a way to kill the time we face each day. If one has the money and resources available, one might spend their time pursuing higher levels of education, indulge in sports, create a family, or advance their career. The poverty and despair in Vancouver’s East Side houses addicts from all conceivable backgrounds, many who lacked proper care and resources to focus their attention. Some may never transcend the Realm of Hungry Ghosts. Addiction is a disease for many who suffer drug and alcohol abuse. Providing a safe method to get high may be the best way to manage. The realm of the addict is a constant struggle to live with and without the substance of desire.

In Hinduism, the cycle of birth, rebirth, and death, is known as samsara. Sanskrit for ‘to wander’ or ‘to flow through’. Samsara is a result of our karma in this life or a previous life and based on one’s thoughts, words, and actions. The yogi strives to attain moksha, or enlightenment, and overcome the cycles of samsara through purging all karmic residue. The jiva is the soul of a person and in constant flow moving between the states of birth, rebirth, and death. The body, emotions, and senses keep the jiva tethered to the cycles of samsara in a state of maya, illusion. The metamorphosis and/or reincarnation of the soul is expressed as the jiva moves through samsara. The maya we experience is the stories of separation and avidya, ignorance. Maya causes one to act in ways to perpetuate the seeds of karma, keeping one bound to the cycles of samsara and furthering the separation.

Maya is from the Vedanta school of thought and was originally believed to be a magic power possessed by a god to make humans believe in something that turns out to be an illusion. Today, maya may be perceived as a cosmic illusion that the phenomenal world is real. Buddhist and Hindu traditions maintain that in order to move away from the realms of suffering, such as the Realm of Hungry Ghosts and addiction, one must transcend the limited perceptions caused by the ego where we feel lonely and seperate, to arrive at the higher truth of human existence where we know we are one with the universe.

Our true self knows this to be true: the interconnectedness of all things. Carving out a space for your authenticity is a part of the process in recognizing the oneness in the universe amidst the unique colors and textures in expression, idea, and form.

Madness and Misalignment On the Path

We’re all a little bit mad, striving to overcome anxieties and addictions. Addiction may be a symptom of the madness we all live with, the insecurity and fear. The pull towards addiction might be transformed into a will for tapas; the ability to overcome our suffering through persistence, patience, and love, to create authenticity and alignment within ourselves and the universe.

A little bit of madness and misalignment sheds light on our experience. It may be through our failures and our flaws that we gain a greater capacity to understand the inner workings of the self and a life of authenticity. Life is a mystery, rules were created by humans to establish order and reason. What works for you, may not work for someone else. Life may be illogical, messy, prone to disorder, and full of craziness depending on where you’re standing. There’s no guidebook to living. Our becoming is a solo journey where one might arrive to refine, accept, and awaken to what it truly means to be you.

May our madness wake us up to transcend our limited perception of reality and connect to the authenticity we have within.

In madness,

 The Art of Solitude: A Practice of Kaivalya Yoga

 The Art of Solitude: A Practice of Kaivalya Yoga


“Love your solitude and try to sing out with the pain it causes you. For those who are near you are far away… and this shows that the space around you is beginning to grow vast…. be happy about your growth.


A significant rupture in a friendship over the last month left me angry and spiralling, unable to let the situation go. My go-to coping tactic is to call my sister, Amanda, to vent and validate my side of the story. In the midst of processing my discomfort and hashing out the details of my drama, Amanda said, “Steph, stop intellectualizing. Stop all the headstuff. You do yoga; quit writing about your life and go experience it. Go sit in solitude. Go sit and be with how you feel. That’s it. That’s the story right there. Take seven minutes to go sit and feel and listen to your heart and cut out all the intellectualizing and storytelling.” 

I took her advice (as I often do), lit some incense, and breathed slowly as I’ve practiced in meditation. I felt the sharpness of anger. I cried. I clenched my fists in frustration. I turned my face to the dark clouds to mimic their ponderous glare. As the seconds slid by, my tears stopped. My heartrate settled. My body relaxed. I felt the frustration and sadness and I saw the situation for exactly what it was: an Ending. An unpleasant one at that, albeit inevitable and necessary. I breathed it in and then I let it go. I did that again and again until I was able to move forward without the acute anger poking at my ribs nor the stories I’d created pounding in my temples.

Solitude is fine but you need someone to tell you that solitude is fine.
– Honoré de Balzac

Avidya; A Practice to Clear the Mind

In my last article, I talked about the kleshas (poisons of the mind) and how the kleshas may keep us bonded to suffering. One of the kleshas, avidya, comes from the origin vid (knowledge, reason, understanding). The prefix a denotes wrongful knowledge or ignorance of the situation. Avidya creates wrongful knowledge and misconceptions of ourselves and our reality. When we move from a place of misconception, we create stories that are rooted in triggers from our past which may cause us to react in ways we may or may not understand.  The best metaphor I’ve heard to describe avidya is of a dusty mirror that obscures our ability to see ourselves. As we learn how to be with our emotions, experiencing the riddles within our mind, the dust may clear and we may get a fuller picture of ourselves. 

Mistaking the transient for the permanent, the impure for the pure, pain for pleasure, and that which is not the self for the self: all this is called lack of spiritual knowledge, avidya.
– Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras II.5.

Questioning our reactions is the first step in confronting avidya. Emotions are energy in motion, and need to be expressed in order to move through us. Yoga is a tool that can teach us how to be with our reactions/emotions/thoughts without them dictating how we react or act to a certain situation. Everyone is entitled to how they feel, but to become more aligned with true knowledge/reality we must remember that we are not our thoughts or feelings, as our emotions will continue to change moment to moment.

 The Art of Solitude: A Practice of Kaivalya Yoga

Kaivalya Yoga vs A Purchased Narrative of Happiness

Raja yoga is one way to cleanse the self of avidya and the kleshas. Raja yoga is based off Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, a philosophical text on meditation and guide on how to live a spiritual life. The ultimate desire of the raja yogi is to attain kaivalya, the Sanskrit term for solitude or detachment. Kaivalya encompasses a state of aloneness or isolation. The practice of kaivalya asks the yogi to let go of false stories relating to the ego, relationships, attractions, aversions, and the cycle of birth and death. In the practice of detaching ourselves from false narratives we witness the mind in its constant fluctuations and states of reactions to how we feel. 

The mind is pervasive and powerful in creating biases and conditions based on conditioning and past experiences. This is why it’s so important to meditate and observe the fluctuations of the mind. Through direct observation, we can learn that our thoughts and emotions are not permanent. What we think is true one day, may not be true for us the next day as Patanjali writes in the Yoga Sutras. 

In the practice of kaivalya, in solitude, we may discover that we are not separate from others. We create stories to maintain control, to secure our identity and assert who we are in the world. We tell stories to preserve history and create collective narratives to build community and culture. We share stories to bond with others and establish politics, philosophies, and ethics. Stories are the way we build our reality, which is problematic when it comes to competing narratives and an unwillingness to compromise, evolve with change, or let go. 

The problems we face around the world concerning gender inequality, racial bias, and unequal distribution of wealth, are the direct result of competing narratives and ego-driven storytelling. We create stories to validate our ego-driven desires to varying degrees. We make false assumptions about the nature of reality. We focus on our own self-centeredness and become stilted by our fears. This is perhaps why we see public shaming, fear-mongering, and regression through guilt all over the news and social media. Thanks to Twitter and Instagram, everyone has their own microphone to fill the void with how they’ve been hurt; why their story is the best story; how their life is so devastated and/or desired. 

 The Art of Solitude: A Practice of Kaivalya Yoga
Photo via @inspo_nectar

When the yogi realizes that the perceiver in the form of consciousness is not the real perceiver but an instrument, the seer or purusa (Spirit) begins to discard its fluctuations and also its outer form, ego, so as to blend into a single unvacillating mind. This allows the single mind to merge in the seer, and the seer to shine forth in the light of the soul.

The aim of kaivalya is to see that the mind is the ultimate storyteller. It can help break through the false narratives and the emotional, ego-driven drama. The separateness that some of us feel is created by a story of materialism, of capitalist gain that tells us we need to purchase our happiness. When we buy into stories that are not our own, we create global narratives that shape the laws and social hierarchies that dominate the world. Catholicism, Trumps Republic, Nazi Germany; all are structures of ignorance manifest from the wide-spread, deeply rooted beliefs of people all over the world. 

In Solitude; A Step Toward The Truth

We can’t avoid identity biases that have shaped some of our global infrastructure and discourage how we relate and express ourselves. In order for there to be significant change on a global level, we must sit with ourselves first. It starts with kaivalya, being in solitude and detaching from the ego and the stories it tells. When I sit in solitude and take space  from the day to day and the competing narratives, I discover a freedom within that’s removed from all influences. When it comes to contributing to the narratives that shape the realities we share, we might ask what the dominating emotions are of those in power. Examine the language used and who’s being supported and/or denied. We might ask if this narrative is bringing us closer to each other, or, if the narrative is creating more hatred, disease, and chaos in an effort to separate and drive us apart. 

Through supreme detachment toward even sovereignty and omniscience, the seeds of future karma are destroyed, which results in freedom (Kaivalya).
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras III.50

With others, we might enjoy the sensations and wonders of the world. Through others we may acknowledge the space we take up and how we interact with reality. Through others we may indulge and express the stories that bring us together. Through solitude we may discover the immanence of the universe.
In solitude we meet our capacity to love, forgive, and let go.
In solitude we may come home to the truth.

Be happy about your growth,,

 The Art of Solitude: A Practice of Kaivalya Yoga

Avoidance: Transform Your Cycle of Suffering

?Avoidance: Transform Your Cycle of Suffering.

If you are in the garden, I will dress myself in leaves. If you are in the sea I will slide into that smooth blue nest, I will talk fish, I will adore salt. But if you are sad, I will not dress myself in desolation. I will present myself with all the laughters I can muster. And if you are angry I will come, calm and steady, with some small and easy story. 


When I was small, I’d avoid the monsters who secreted themselves at the clothes in my closet by staying up all night; I’d hide under the bedcovers with a book and a flashlight. Nevermind the fact that I read Stephen King novels. Those were psychological spooks I could manage by taking a break with a Betty & Veronica comic. As a teen, I avoided phys ed classes by joining jazz band, so as to avoid any game involving a ball (which was every game when I was in school) thus pointing out my devastating hand-eye coordination along with ridicule from the cool athletic girls. My cheeky attempts at skipping the conversations I couldn’t handle in my youth, be it ghouls or teenage girls, fostered my love of literature and musical aptitude. I wouldn’t be who I am today had I gone to bed when asked or obliged to playing team sports. 

?Avoidance: Transform Your Cycle of Suffering.

My parents worried over me in elementary school when they discovered I ignored all the kids to sit on the bench and read The Chronicles of Narnia at recess and lunch. I’d remove myself from any situation I didn’t prefer, crafting ways to opt out of classes I didn’t enjoy and skipping social settings where I felt uncomfortable.

My avoidance is a character of suffering; a result of my inability to come to terms with how I feel and sit with all the sensations we experience in life. 



I still prefer to witness and revel in the conflict of characters marked by the turn of a page, which caused me a major step in development. Conflict is necessary to develop boundaries, discover your voice and personal power, and more importantly, the skills to resolve disagreements. I never established such skills in my youth, and what little skill I did cultivate, wasn’t strong enough to match my super power of avoidance. I’m not alone in my distaste for sticky situations in relationships, but there has to be a space where you acknowledge all of these uncomforting, sickly, swollen, belly-aching emotions in yourself and with others. There has to be room to express the full spectrum of emotions in the darkness and the light for you to truly face all that you are and the space you take up in the world. 

“Character — the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life —
is the source from which self-respect springs. – Joan Didion

I avoid tricky conversations with others to escape how I feel. It has little to do with the other person and it isn’t personal. As a kid, instead of saying “I’m scared,” I said, “I’m going to read my book.” As a teenager, instead of saying, “I suck at sports, my feelings are hurt,” I said, “I’m going to join the school marching band.” And now, as an adult instead of saying, “this relationship doesn’t work for me, here’s how I feel and why,” I say, “everything’s fine, I just need space.” 

Same coping tactic, same character, same storyline; just a few different twists thrown into the equation to thicken the plot.

?Avoidance: Transform Your Cycle of Suffering.
Image source, Ann Arbor District Library.

The Kleshas and Our Bondage to Suffering

In Buddhist and Hindu traditions, removing the self from dukkha, suffering, is the ultimate goal to attain enlightenment, or samadhi. Suffering is caused by the five afflictions or mental states, known as kleshas. In Sanskrit, kleshas translates to the form of poison as they are toxic and cause mental suffering through bondage. The five kleshas were identified by Patanjali  in the Yoga Sutras. 

The five kleshas are: Avidya (Ignorance), Asmita (Egoism) Raga (Attachments), Dvesa (Aversions), Abhinivesa (Fear). 

  1. Avidya is wrong knowledge, or ignorance. Each of us approaches life with preconditions ideas based on our culture, education, social conditioning, past experiences, expectations, values and preferences. We create our own reality based on these judgments and believe this to be the true reality when in fact, it’s subjective. Our subjective identities are important in shaping who we are and giving us our independence and yet we need to live in harmony and co-exist with each other to survive. Acknowledging our own ignorance, that what we believe to be true may not in fact be, creates less suffering.
  2. Asmita is the ego-self, the small-self that clings to attachments and desires, acting from a place that serves the singular self over others. We need our ego for survival and to develop emotionally and psychologically, but an ego-centric individual takes everything personally, feels disconnected from others, and sees only a very small portion of what reality is. Understanding asmita would mean acknowledging others, striving for selfless service, and seeing the vastness of the universe and the connectedness of all beings and events.
  3. Raga is the pull toward attachments and desires. Attachment affects our behaviors, moods, and actions, causing suffering through stress and anxiety when things don’t go as we hoped or planned. Addiction is a very big component of attachment as we become addicted to things that bring us instant gratification inclusive of food, drugs, sex, technology, relationships, and the like. When we become so dependent on something outside of ourselves, we suffer when we don’t receive or attain it. Overcoming attachment would mean welcoming all the experiences, and learning to sit with how we feel. 
  4. Dvesa is the avoidance of the things we don’t like and works with raga in a tug-of-war to avoid negative sensations and pursue positive affirmations. Labeling things as good or bad is a judgment based on our past experiences and cultivated in our upbringing. What resists, persists. It is important to face our emotions as they arise, especially sensations we don’t ‘like’ such as sitting in our own fear, resentment, anger, shame, guilt, sadness. Avoidance provides insight to look into why we are feeling how we feel, our triggers, and why we feel this way. It’s a crack to peek through to examine our misinformation and judgments of the world and how we may shift our perception.
    Aversion (dvesa) is the opposite side of attachment (raga). It is a repulsion that leads to enmity and hate, like the same poles of two magnets pushing away from each other. ” – B.K.S. Iyengar. 
  5. Abhinivesa relates to our fear, the fear of the unknown and ultimately the fear of death itself. Examining our lives and accepting our eventual departure from this world can bring joy to the life that we’re living. When we accept death we have to opportunity to see the blessing we have in this life, in this moment. The fear of the unknown requires a deep trust in the universe and greater powers outside of the self, outside of your ego, and coming to terms with being present and open to all that the world offers. 

“There is only one reality, but there are many ways that reality can be interpreted.”
– B.K.S. Iyengar

Examining the way the kleshas appear in your world is the first step to seeing how ignorance, ego, attachment, aversion, and fear keep you tied to patterns of suffering. B.K.S. Iyengar believed in the power and practice of yoga to heal the body, mind, and soul. Meditation, yoga, and studying Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, is a way to align yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally to transform your limited perceptions of the world. 

The Stoics on Avoidance and Obstacles

Buddhist and Hindu traditions weren’t the only cultures to identify the avoidance of pain in causing immense suffering. The Stoics believed in the virtue of judgement to lead a contented life. Stoicism was practiced and preached by Zeno, Seneca, and Marcus Aurelius in the early 3rd century BC. Stoicism was founded on the idea that we don’t control our surroundings, all is in constant flux, and the only way to manage the uncertainty we live in is to rely on ourselves and our response to our external environments. 

The Stoics believed strongly in transforming obstacles into moments of opportunity. Avoidance was not an option; those who chose a stoic life would welcome hardship and use challenges to strengthen their character. Acceptance was a virtue of the highest regard and management of the self through sound judgement, discipline, and control of emotions. By observing the emotions and responding accordingly, and welcoming hardship and using conflict as a means to express and resolve, Stoicism is still a relevant guide to live without bondage to suffering.

?Avoidance: Transform Your Cycle of Suffering.

In Conversation with Your Avoidance

A bildungsroman is a coming-of-age novel that deals with a character’s psychological growth. Some of my favourite books of this genre include Donna Tartt’s, The Goldfinch, John Irving’s, The World According to Garp, and Wally Lamb’s, She’s Come Undone. The main characters undergo considerable spiritual development and are repeatedly confronted and challenged by the five kleshas. This is one of the ways the authors created memorable characters who evoked the readers empathy. 

When you confront your patterns of ignorance, avoidance, ego, attachment, and fear, you create the space and power to shift your cycles of suffering. The only way to overcome this cycle is to see it for what it is and accept it and move through it.

Last year, I started seeing a therapist who specializes in professional development more so than sifting through childhood traumas. I went to one appointment where I was asked questions concerning how I feel about my current lifestyle, what I desire most in life, and what steps I could take to get to where I desired. I went on to repeatedly cancel and reschedule the following appointment on three separate occasions. Seeing my pattern, my therapist messaged me to say, firm and polite, that she did not work with people who wouldn’t commit to themselves. Her message hit hard and I’ve kept my original appointments ever since and made a conscious effort to sit with how I feel instead of running away

“The willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life is the source from which self-respect springs.” — Joan Didion.

Commit to yourself. Find something that helps you meet your character of avoidance and break the cycle of suffering. For me, it’s through writing. Unlike the characters I meet in fiction, I cannot escape who I am once I’ve committed words to paper. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras is one way to understand the world and how you operate in it. Yoga is so much more than asana practice, it’s a way to unite your body, mind, and sense so you may accept and align with yourself within the greater context of the universe.

Big love,

Always Lonely: Quiet Teachings from the Heart

Solitude, choosing to take space from the distractions of the day to day to contemplate, experience and quite simply be. It is a foundational piece of the practice of self-inquiry. Take time, take space and get quiet. You will begin to hear the great teachings of your own heart.

Always lonely; the tattoo Florence Welch got on her left arm as a reminder to accept her loneliness and create joy from her despair. Loneliness is perceived as a sad state and something to avoid through cultivation social networks and relationships with others. In exploring loneliness and what it feels like to be alone, we may discover the quiet teachings of the heart and a deep inner solitude where creativity, courage, and compassion reside.

Hiking in the woods last week, supported in the silence of the trees, I felt a deep longing inside. I’ve used fitness as a form of escapism for years (swimming, running, cycling, yoga, dance) as a coping mechanism when I’m feeling anxious and unsettled. It’s easier for me to push my body and burst with sweat and hyper-stimulation than it is for me to be with the less-dopamine fuelled sensations that arise when I’m alone. This is my cycle. This is how I/we may avoid being with our loneliness. Fitness, food, drugs, booze, Instagram, shopping, sex; the list of ways we distract ourselves are numerous and multifaceted. 

The path I refer to is one we will always walk alone. It’s transforming your loneliness into solitude. Walking your own path is listening to your heart and fostering the most important relationship you’ll have in your life: the one with yourself.

Loneliness without Despair

The first relationship you have is with yourself. Feeling cut-off, lonely, and disconnected from others and your environment is a symptom of the complexity of longing we each carry within. The world and our relationship to it is in constant flux; many variables contribute to how we feel moment-to-moment. 

In The Taming of Solitude: Separation Anxiety in Psychoanalysis, the authors show how the root of loneliness is a separation anxiety unresolved since childhood. As adolescents, our growing pains extend beyond the biological demands of puberty as we learn how to set boundaries, communicate, and negotiate space in our private and public spheres.

Exploring the vastness of what it means to be alone is made more complex when we consider the online echo-chambers and realities we’re presented with through online communities where we seek external validation. As a species, we create meaning through social context. Our perceptions are based on the environments and relationships we develop and exist within. It’s a lot harder today than it was before the SmartPhone to remove oneself from social spheres and develop an individuated identity to explore our own thoughts. I was at the cusp of my teenage years when the cellphone evolved into a piece of technology where we could access the internet in the swipe of a thumb. As a teenager, I grew up in a world where I could be immersed in my aloneness once I left the public realm. Today, teenagers have iPhones, Tablets, iPads, MacBooks, and dozens of social media apps that allow them to connect and engage with people all over the world. It’s exhilarating to be heard and seen and liked by so many people. The trade-off is our time spent alone and what it means to be alone in the era of virtual technology. 

Loneliness is only
an opportunity to
cut adrift and find
yourself. In solitude
you are least alone.

Jack Fong, philosopher and sociologist, said it best when he stated, “When people explore solitude, they will be confronted with who they are.” The precarious balance between your inner and outer worlds will continue to test your capacity to be alone. The ongoing exchange of internal and external relationships will have you feeling like a yo-yo as you strive to negotiate the needs and desires of others against your own. Developing the awareness to be alone and observe all the facets of the self is uncomfortable and requires patience, compassion, and idle time to explore. This process is one that never goes away; you’ll constantly be challenged with the task of fostering relationships with others in your societies, and you’ll constantly be asked to make time to come back to yourself. If technology translates one thing beautifully, it’s in how the world is constantly changing and your relationship to it will continue to evolve with or without your conscious consent.

Surrender to Your Hearts Longing

  Know thyself, truer words were never spoken. Greek Poetess Phemonoe spoke thus at the Temple of Delphi in Ancient Greece, and later a little more loud and clear by Socrates and Shakespeare. Observing, understanding, and accepting what motivates you and why you do what you do is essential in understanding how to navigate the world. We’re driven by our emotions: an unresolved formula that hinges on our hormonal complexities and past experiences. 

The yogi strives to break this chain of events; questioning habits, forming new patterns, and ultimately, admitting to the utter lack of knowledge of our existence. The best you can do is what Kurt Wolff calls the surrender and catch theory: give yourself over to moments of personal epiphany, surrender to what is, observe the totality of self, and give so you may receive.

Surrendering to what is allows for space to accept yourself and all of the events in your life exactly as they are. Observation leads to greater awareness of self in body and mind. Giving is living a life of love and compassion and trusting in the reciprocal process of nature. Personal moments of epiphany arise spontaneously when you make space to be alone. We fill our lives with so much external noise to avoid being alone and investigate our inner longing. You don’t have to look very far to see it. Technology is a great device if you know your intention. The incessant use of social media and search for fulfilment through external applications is crippling to not only our self esteem, it takes us away from developing the confidence, creativity, and comfort in being alone. 

We all need space to let our subconscious wander. To breathe. To be. Without external stimuli; without external provocation or validation. A good friend, mentor, and fellow yogi, Sandra Stephanson, has termed her alone-time as, Solita TimeSolita is the spanish term for lonely. Solita is also a name for a female in Spanish, this origin is from a variation of Soledad, or Solitude. This interconnectedness of loneliness and solitude is captured beautifully as Solita Time.

Wisdom through Accepting the Emptiness

The Sanskrit language illustrates the essence of loneliness beautifully as sunyata: emptiness, loneliness, desolation, distraction, nothingness, non-existence, non-reality, illusory nature of all world phenomena. The essential idea of sunyata is that the world is in constant flux and nothing is entirely independent from anything else. All is connected, nothing is permanent. Acceptance of sunyata, according to the Buddha,  is the cure for all suffering.

Emptiness is the central teaching of Buddhism. Buddhists have a very practical and accessible approach to meditation and what it means to exist. There is no Atman (soul). There is no Dharma (greater purpose for your life). Things just are as they are, and that’s it.

In 2015 I took a Vipassana Meditation where I became acutely aware of the impermanence of all things by observing the sensations of my body and the goings-on of my mind. In Vipassana I would witness how an itch or irritation would eventually pass with or without my active involvement and how the rapid, reckless, and whirling thoughts of my mind would spin stories and attempt to rationalize each moment. In Vipassana you sit for approximately 9 hours a day in meditation. It’s hard to escape who you are under such conditions. In this setting I was able to identify and appreciate the flux and emptiness of the Buddhist teachings of the Heart Sutra. You don’t need to sit in the extremes of Vipassana to become aware of this process. Seated meditation at home, walking in the woods, being alone; each could be a practice of observing the impermanence of self. 

Emptiness in terms of sunyata, is the idea that we’re all connected and part of something much larger than ourselves. The Dalai Lama calls this dependent origination, or in Sanskrit, Pratītyasamutpāda. Dependent origination is a Buddhist concept that the basic law of the universe comes down to cause and effect: nothing exists independently and all comes from earlier circumstances. If you start to think of your existence and actions as influenced and influencing everything around you, you begin to see and understand the interconnectedness of all things. You’ll see how what we do now directly affects others and our future. In this context, we are never truly alone. 

We’re all a part of a greater tapestry, a grand mosaic where you cannot separate the one from the many, or the many from the one.

Transform Your Loneliness into Solitude

In my experience of loneliness, it seeps into my heart when I’m disconnected from myself; when I haven’t made time to be alone and luxuriate in activities that bring me joy. Reading, writing, and being in nature ground me and bring me back into a space where I trust, accept, and love. Loneliness is a signal to me that I haven’t fulfilled my needs in someway, that the inner lack/longing I’m experiencing is causing me to reach outside of myself for the answers. Svabhava is the Sanskrit term that would relate this process. Svabhava is a poetic expression of solitude in that it represents the intrinsic nature of the self, the becoming of a particular entity in the fullest capacity of truth and love.

 Love is a practice. When you focus on something that engages your entire interest, the mundane world dissolves and all your troubles are transformed.  – LORIN ROCHE

Project your wildest fantasy onto your current reality; this is possible when you transform your loneliness into solitude.  There will always be moments of ache and longing. Cherish these as gentle reminders from your heart, little nudges that point to where your attention is needed. 

Always lonely,


Questions for Quiet Consideration

  • When I feel lonely, where does this feeling live?
    (Belly, Heart, Bowels).

  • What is the emotion attached to this feeling?
    (Fear, Sadness, Angst).

  • What are my actions (if any) that I’m unsettled by? 

    • Do I have the capacity to sit with what I feel and accept my past actions, my guilt and/or shame and/or betrayal, in order to move forward and be filled with loving compassion.

  • Do I act from a place of love and integrity in my relationships?

  • Do I have things that I do just for me, to create ritual and honor my relationship to myself?

Homecoming to Ourselves: A Metaphor on Stability

Where does it all lead?
What will become of us?

These were your young questions,
And young answers were revealed.
It leads to each other. We become


At the end of August 2019, I gave away most of my material possessions save for a few boxes of clothes and books to move onto a 37’ sailboat moored at a marina near the Cambie Street Bridge in Vancouver, BC. In the past decade, I’ve moved around Vancouver eleven times, from Kitsilano to the West End, Main Street, and Commercial Drive. My strive to harmonize my external world through controlling my living situation, not to mention my work and relationships, only led to ongoing stress and chaos. The more I strove to build a world outside of myself, the more I had to work to maintain a lifestyle I wasn’t sure I wanted

The life I’ve created for myself at the marina is a metaphor on stability: I’ve let go of all the things I thought kept me grounded and connected to what it means to be me and connected to an inner landscape where I no longer need to question myself or what it means to be stable in body and mind. In the solitude and space at sea, cocooned in the rhythm of the water and calls of nature, I’ve been able to carve out some quiet for myself. In the process of letting go, I’ve been able to grow and connect to an inner stability that was there all along, I just never knew how to find it. 

In my travels around Vancouver cohabitating and adapting to varied personalities and living styles, I’ve discovered a lot about what it takes for me to feel grounded in any given situation. I’ve come to realize that my feeling of security may be influenced by external factors but ultimately comes down to my inner awareness. Stability is important in our lives for the simple fact that when we feel secure, we’re able to interact with our environment, and our communities with more integrity and love, overcoming insecurity and fear.  

 You have to create within yourself the experience of beauty, liberation, and infinity. -BKS Iyengar

BKS Iyengar, Father of Iyengar Yoga and author of Light on Life, discusses stability at length in terms of the yoga practice and how yoga asana may create a sense of lightness, precision, strength, awareness, balance, and overall harmony in the body and mind which ultimately translates to a higher state of consciousness and discovery of the Self. Iyengar’s approach to stability comes from an awareness of the physical self through yoga poses; to train the body and calm the mind. Ultimately creating harmony and inner stability that isn’t thrown off-course by our external surroundings. 

Iyengar provides that as stability becomes a habit, maturity and clarity follow.  In exploring the yoga asana, one will discover balance in the body and stability. Balance is not possible without stability and balance assists in stabilizing the mind. In the physical practice of yoga, the more grounded you are in your lower body through the feet, legs, and pelvis, the more lightness and flexibility you’re able to explore in the upper body through the spine, arms, and head. We explore this idea in our bodies when we move: the more connected you are through your feet and legs in any physical activity, the more ease and balance you have in your body through movement.

According to Iyengar, working with the body and discovering a physical balance produces a balanced and stable mind. A stable mind is one that is focused on the present. A stable mind is one that is free of judgments and limitations. A stable mind is one that is concerned with the higher Truth of what it means to be human and alive. A stable mind knows the Self as unchangeable and yet flexible regardless of external circumstances or forces. A stable mind is one who questions and constantly evolves.

Keep asking yourself the hard questions, continue evolving into who you truly are.
smiling vinyasa yogi
Clara Roberts-Oss
Yogi, Teacher, Student

Stability is a sense of inner groundedness that doesn’t come from where you sleep or who you’re friends with, though these factors contribute to whether or not you feel stable and safe. My current sense of stability comes from a deep knowing within that no matter where I live or what the external factors are in landscape, space, neighbors, and possessions, my sense of stability comes from a well within me. I am more grounded and secure in who I am now, more so than where I was ten years ago. I feel it’s a combined factor of pursuing yoga as a means to physically, mentally, and emotionally ground myself in my body and the present moment, my ability to let go of the small stuff that doesn’t matter and really shouldn’t affect my inner being, and my decade of experience putting myself in situations where I tested my strengths and fears.

On an objective level, stability means you have access to shelter and food and water; relationships where you feel cared for and loved and accepted, and access to resources that provide measures of safety. This is why it’s so devastating that a majority of human beings around the world, including the downtown Eastside of Vancouver, are lacking in such areas and will always be struggling at a level of mere survival. It’s elitist for me to say that stability is subjective when I’ve always had access to healthcare and healthy food and a roof over my head and a loving family who I can reach out to when I’m scared or lonely or frustrated. From my vantage point, stability is subjective in that what makes me feel grounded may be vastly different from what makes someone else feel happy or safe or stable in themselves.  


A Homecoming to Ourselves

Our lives are a narrative of trial and error; of beauty and terror. No one knows the answer and no one can tell you what is best for you. You have to go out and ask the questions and experience it directly for yourself. The best access point I have to get more clear and grounded is through my body. This I know to be true because I’ve directly experienced it through yoga and the words of BKS Iyengar. They ring pure and true for me through the dedication to my yoga practice. In all my years of picking stuff up and putting it down again, in diverse homes and careers and relationships, my constant has been my yoga practice, first in asana and later in breath and meditation. 

So, what is stability? I would ask each of you to sit down and contemplate for yourselves what makes you feel grounded; what relationships you’ve cultivated to give you a sense of belonging; if you’ve established a lifestyle that’s balanced and gives you purpose. For me, stability is a deep sense of trust in knowing I can handle whatever may come my way.

Stability is a homecoming to myself. 

Much love,

Enlightenment is _______


One of my favorite topics of discussion, enlightenment. I find the term used frivolously within the spiritual community but rarely dissected. When asked what it means, I’m given the usual spiel: “Freedom”, “Free from suffering”, “Bliss”, “Stillness of the mind”, “Joy”, etc.

There are so many definitions of the term, which one is right? How do you know? Have you every experienced  enlightenment? How do you know you have? Is enlightenment the point of the practice? Is our goal as practitioners the same as the lineage creators had? Why are we trying to put our foot behind our head?

The inquiry continues.

I came upon this article and thought it relevant.

Stay curious 😉

(Below is an excerpt. Link below for full article)

Enlightenment Is ______.

The poll results may also reflect a deep confusion about what enlightenment is—after all, sages and scholars have been debating the definition for millennia. Depending on whom you talk to, enlightenment is a sudden, permanent awakening to the absolute unity of all beings or a gradual,back-and-forth process of liberation from the tyranny of the mind. Or both. It is freedom from feelings or the freedom to feel fully without identifying with those feelings. It is unconditional bliss and love, or it is a state devoid of feelings as we know them. It is a shattering of the sense of a separate self, a transcendent experience of unity, a radical freedom available only to the few who are ready to give up everything and surrender the ego to pure awareness.

Buddhists and yogis tend to agree that in a sense we are already enlightened; we are already there. “Enlightenment is really just a deep, basic trust in yourself and your life,” says Zen priest Ed Brown. The work that awaits us is stripping away the layers of delusion that we have accumulated through our karma, so that our natural state of peace and wholeness can be revealed. “Enlightenment is not a new state that is in any way obtained or achieved,” says Richard Miller, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and founder of the International Association of Yoga Therapists, “but rather, it entails the uncovering of our original nature that has always been, and always is, present.” Or as Robert Svoboda, the first Westerner to graduate from a college of Ayurveda in India, says, “The enlightenment process is much more about getting rid of stuff than grabbing hold of it.”

To understand how the concept of enlightenment is framed by today’s Western ambassadors of the yoga tradition, YJ interviewed five prominent teachers whose practices in yoga and meditation collectively total 125 years and span many traditions. When we asked them whether we must aim for enlightenment to practice authentically, the conversations often turned to intention—a word that comfortably carries the weight of hopes yet doesn’t sink under our expectations. The teachers agreed, and their own stories reflect, that our intentions often start with ourselves—we want to soften our stiffness, dampen our anger, quell our fear—but widen and deepen organically in the alchemy of practice. And this is a good thing.

When asked how they hold the goal of enlightenment in their own spiritual practices, not surprisingly, they each had unique ways of relating to liberation. But whether they view awakening as rarefied, permanent, and sacrosanct or hard-won, human, and imperfect, they all spoke of enlightenment as coming home to our deepest truths and aspirations—a gift a teacher gives or one that emerges from the depths of solitary practice. And like most precious gifts, it remains a mystery until we receive it, until our hearts open and do not close.


–Written by Colleen Morton Busch, at yj.com



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