Strength in Body and Mind: Tools for Transformation

Clara Practicing

The universe throws events our way to challenge our capacity to persevere and evolve. When we choose to confront our pains, the transformative process we undergo can reveal a courage and compassion that prevails in spite of obstacles and conflicts. Strength comes from a deep space within. Whenever we feel the pressures of the world on our shoulders, we may call upon our inner strength to triumph and endure. Evolution requires that we examine the ways to grow past our individual and collective limitations, that we harness our energy to create a better future for the next generation. To do this, we rely on our mental, physical, and emotional strengths to persist through such times of lack, loss, and uncertainty. 

In a previous discussion in one of the #PracticeWithClara Podcasts, Clara shared some of her growing pains as a new yoga teacher as she transitioned from teaching in New York City to Vancouver, BC. In the process, Clara accepted the challenges she faced and further developed her skills as a teacher. In order to thrive, strength in body and mind are required. The relationship between the body and mind affects how we interact and associate with our environment. Succumbing to fear that grips us when we’re uncomfortable, unsure, or insecure, is to give-in to the body’s immediate physiological response to stress, initiated by the onset of the stress hormone, cortisol. 

To counter the fear and shift the body’s prime response, focusing on and developing a practice for strength may assist in shifting the mindset and attitude to one that’s more receptive to change. Clara’s advice to new yoga teachers is to keep showing up and practice, for we have the capacity to transform new actions into mastered skills through consistency and repetition over time. Mistakes may be a great teacher if reflected upon and perhaps present a way to grow past initial limitations and fears.

In this article are tools to cultivate courage to persevere through difficult times, with courses in meditation, mantra, and yoga that develop strength in body and mind.

Call Upon the Strength of Durga Maa

Durga is the Warrior Goddess and protector of the universe. As an incarnate form of the feminine energy Shakti, she appears to battle the evils of the world. The Mother goddess, Durga means fortress or a protected place. To call upon Durga is to enter the fortress; a stronghold where mankind is protected from evil forces including selfishness, greed, hatred, arrogance, anger, prejudice, and jealousy. Durga wears red to symbolize action, and rides astride a tiger or lion carrying various weaponry in her eight hands. 

Durga’s Origin Story:

Durga was summoned by the Gods who were unable to slay the evil demon who threatened to destroy the world. Mahishasura, the evil buffalo demon, received a great gift from the God Brahma, who said that the demon could never be killed by man or God. Mahishasura conquered the world and was poised to claim the heavens when the Gods called upon the feminine divine forces in the world- Shakti- for the legend did not say anything of the evil buffalo demon being triumphed over by the Goddess. Durga arrives as an incarnate form of Shakti, blazing forward and piercing Mahishasura with her trident, one of the many weapons she brandishes in her

Harness the power of Durga:
Durga Flow (60-mins)

This strong vinyasa practice leads a strong leg and core-centric class, with balancing poses to challenge and test your stability.

Durga Mantra (10-mins)

Chant to Durga and connect to inner courage and discipline.

Durga Meditation (5-mins)

Focus on your courageous heart and inner strength.

strength-clara-durga-flow
Durga Flow

“Durga’s transformative power carries a conviction that comes from deep inside the body, and with it often comes a sense of ‘Now!’–meaning the time is now. When that knowing is strong enough, it is followed by an action. You will willingly put your body and your speech on the line to change the situation–whether it is an internal or external one”.

– Sally Kempton, Awakening Shakti

Get Strong Classes & Playlists ⚡️ 🎧

Whenever we go outside of our comfort zone and experience the discomfort of physical challenge, we develop new neural pathways in the brain that aid in evolving the ways we think, feel, and act. Physical activity isn’t the only means of testing oneself and developing new pathways in the brain. Any new action repeated over time will eventually form a behavior that transforms into a skill and develops the associated neural pathway. 

Cortisol, otherwise known as the stress hormone, is released whenever we feel sensations of fear, potentially causing depreciating states of anxiety and sadness. When we practice focusing our awareness on Durga or other energies that express the fearlessness of the warrior, we train our brain and body to adapt to new circumstances and shift the physiological response to change. Meditation has a profound effect on the way the brain creates stories, associates ideas, and perceives the world, thereby affecting the neurotransmitters and hormones released. Strengthening the mind through meditation, focusing on the breath, and focusing on positive language or imagery that invites a state of courage, calm, and compassion, may create resilience in body and mind. 

Be it physical activity or meditation, the means to strengthen your resolve and invite the capacity for change are many. The initial step is choosing how you wish to move forward and allowing a positive energy to guide the way. 

strength-clara-handstand
Stand On Your Hands
Stand on Your Hands
Handstand Play

A short vinyasa flow sequence that gets your blood flowing and heat building right off the gates!

Handstand play and preparation from downward dog progresses to a fiery flow of twists, upper back strengthening, and backbends. 

A Welcomed Season
Standing Backbends & Balancing

Connect to your body with this fluid vinyasa practice inspired by a poem by Hafiz. 

This vinyasa flow sequence includes a little bit of everything, with twists, hip openers, inversions, backbends and standing leg balances. This class features standing backbends and a focus on the process versus a peak pose.

strength-clara-welcomed-season
A Welcomed Season
strength-clara-flying-pigeon
Taking Flight with Flying Pigeon Pose
Take Flight:
Flying Pigeon (Galavasana)

Get fired up with a series of arm balances and inversion play in a sequence that builds towards a peak pose.

Including deep hip openers, twists, and handstands, you’ll build toward flying pigeon pose in a sequence designed to test your stability and strength. 

An Offering 
Prep for Tripod Headstand 

A slower paced vinyasa practice with an emphasis on mandala/circular shapes. Open the inner leg line and strengthening the back of the pelvis as you prepare for tripod headstand. 

**If you’re dealing with any neck/shoulders issues, refrain from doing the peak pose.**

strength-clara-offering
An Offering with Tripod Headstand
strength-clara-peacock
Unfurl Your Peacocks Tail
Unfurl Your Peacock’s Tail
Pincha Mayurasana Practice 

Join Clara in a vinyasa practice focused on Pincha Mayurasana, feathered peacock pose. Regardless of whether or not you get the peak pose, all the shoulder and back body opening is beneficial. Along with core cultivation work based off Forrest Yoga, you’ll finish your practice feeling stronger.

Peacocks represent patience, kindness and luck in Indian thought. With inversions, the more patience and kindness you practice with your body, the lighter you can become!

Resilience in Body and Mind

When we strengthen our body we also strengthen the mind. Whenever we go outside of our comfort zone and experience the discomfort of physical challenge, we develop new neural pathways in the brain that aid in evolving the ways we think, feel, and act. Physical activity isn’t the only means of testing oneself and developing new pathways in the brain. Any new action repeated over time will eventually form a behavior that transforms into a skill and develops the associated neural pathway. Confronting your discomfort and moving toward the places where you feel physically, emotionally, or mentally challenged may develop virtues such as patience, humility, and courage. 

Cortisol, otherwise known as the stress hormone, is released whenever we’re feeling sensations of fear and causes depreciating states of anxiety and sadness. When we practice focusing our awareness on Durga or other energies that express the fearlessness of the warrior, we train our brain and body to adapt to new circumstances and shift the physiological response to change. Meditation has a profound affect on the way the brain creates stories, associates ideas, and perceives the world, thereby affecting the body’s neurotransmitters and hormone release. Strengthening the mind through meditation, focusing on the breath, and focusing on positive language or imagery that invites a state of courage, calm, and compassion, will ultimately create resilience in the body and mind. 

Be it physical activity or meditation, the means to strengthen your resolve and excite the capacity for change are many. The initial step is choosing how you wish to move forward and defining the energy that will guide you along the way. 

 

Stay Curious: Retreat Planning for Yoga Teachers

stay-curious-retreat-planning-for-yoga-teachers

Social distancing has provided many opportunities for us to get creative and curious about the ways we might stay connected and embrace community. It was one woman from the West End who initiated the nightly clapping at 7pm in support of Vancouver’s Health Care Workers, an event that’s since amassed with folks across the city who gather each night and light up the streets and seawall with their collective music and cheers. Curiosity insists upon a story of inspiration through a path less travelled and events born of the courage, consideration, and sheer determination to move forward despite obstacles along the way. 

As one of millions who lost employment and connection to community with the turn of events in March due to CO-VID, Clara and I came together to create the #PracticeWithClara Podcast, a space to share yoga related content with our community. With no clear direction or end in sight, the ways in which we come together has and will continue to dramatically shift, causing entrepreneurs, community builders, and creatives to change their perception of work and how to maintain and build relationships. It’s an uncertain period and a time to question how we want to appear in the world; a time to develop an attitude of curiosity; and a time to see all the ways we might innovate and bring our deepest desires to light.  

As one who’s passionate about shaping and contributing to the community, Clara provided insight on how to host a yoga retreat and experiences for guests to go deeper into their practice in one of our podcast discussions. From managing guest expectations, to creating a budget and selecting the location, Clara shared her top learning highlights for yoga teachers and anyone who wishes to host events or workshops abroad. Planning a destination yoga retreat may be a ways off given the current state of the world, but nobody knows what the future holds. Sometimes it’s through events and stories of others that we are able to appreciate and discover more in how and what we wish to offer. Right now is the ideal time to investigate what type of value you might bring to your community, allowing the curiosity for what could be to spark new ways for community contribution and inner growth. 

stay-curious-retreat-planning-for-yoga-teachers

DESTINATION RETREAT PLANNING 101

List the benefits and features of your retreat 

Frame your retreat in terms of the benefits your clients will receive as well as the features in the pricing breakdown and promotion. You want to give as much information as possible to highlight all of the awesome perks provided through descriptive language and captivating photography. Use inviting language and imagery that’s clear and specifies what to expect to attract the guests that are suited for the experience you’re shaping.  For example, the features of a retreat could be: yoga everyday, lodging and food, additional activities such as hiking. Whereas the benefits of a retreat could be: escape in nature, make new friends, learn and explore yoga in a workshop. 

Create copy around the benefits of your retreat to give more of an incentive for guests to sign up. You might ask: What will guests leave with? What might they discover? Who and what will they connect with? Retreats are a space to go inwards and create a space for deeper conversations, personal revelations, and intimate connections with others that are not possible in a yoga-studio setting. Communicate these benefits to guests so they understand the value in what this experience offers. 

Manage expectations & be clear in your communication 

Get super clear in what you offer during the time breakdown of your retreat. As soon as your guests sign-up, send an email outlining exactly what to expect day-by-day. Clara provides an itinerary breakdown for guests which includes:

  • Time
    The time of day that you’re together on retreat and the time that you’re apart. Clara gives a lot of space on her retreats for guests to explore the area, pursue activities of interest, and time alone to rest and reflect. 
  • Cost
    What exactly is covered in the cost of the retreat and what is not. For example, state clearly if flights, taxi, shuttle, and other modes of transport are covered. Be really clear and direct up-front about the deposit and whether or not it’s refundable, and include a breakdown of additional costs that may/may not arise.
  • Food
    Depending on the destination some meals are covered and some are not. Communicate where and when guests are responsible for covering their own meals and where they can find food off-site. 
  • Yoga
    You’ll likely include several yoga classes on the retreat in the initial cost. You may want to include bonus classes, workshops, privates, or anything else that you may be certified in (Reiki, Thai massage) at an additional cost for clients to book with you. 
  • Extra activities  
    Depending on the destination you may offer time and resources to events in the area such as snorkeling, guided tours, cooking classes, bike rentals, and so on. 
Pick a location and investigate 

Choose a location that you want to explore and/or you love. Clara chooses her retreat locations based on the areas she wants to visit. Before you host your retreat, be sure to explore the area ahead of time (Clara usually goes to the location a few days beforehand) to get a better understanding of where you are and what’s close-by for guests. Useful resources to share with guests ahead of time may include: a map of the area, potential transit and/or car rental, food/bars, shopping, nature hikes/swimming, as well as local airports and hospitals. 

Plan a year ahead & budget 

Give guests ample time, especially if you’re going out of the country, for people to accommodate for the time off, get child-care, and/or save money. A lot of retreat centres require a deposit well in advance to save the rooms and accommodation which means you’ll be putting quite a bit of your own money down up-front. Clara’s first retreat twelve years ago she paid out of pocket. Some tips in terms of budgeting for your retreat:

  • Accept that you might not fill up all the spots and/or  break even, and that you may take a loss on your first few retreats in terms of making money. 
  • Assume that your first few retreats will have low(er) registration and decide if you have a minimum number of participants to run your retreat. Clara’s rule of thumb is to never cancel your retreat, no matter what! 
  • Anticipate hidden/unknown costs and have the money saved to manage such uncertainties so you’re not surprised or burdened with unwanted debt.

One way to build momentum for your retreat is to host your excursion around the same time each year so your guests can count on the trip year after year. Returning customers is ideal to keep building community and momentum as you learn. 

Co-teach with a fellow teacher 

You’re the host of the party, you have to be ON the entire time and present for questions and conflict should they arise. It may serve to collaborate with a fellow yoga teacher who shares your passion and can assist in holding space for your guests. It may also benefit to buddy up with a co-host who can offset your strength and skills to provide an experience that’s diverse and well-rounded. It supports the teaching community as an entirety when we promote each other and hold each other accountable in all that we do! 

VIRTUAL INVITATIONS: WAYS TO CONNECT

The broad selection of online platforms available has provided many ways to stay connected regardless of physical obstacles. More so than ever before, we’re able to provide value, engage, educate, and entertain through online platforms where content is easy to distribute. Virtual classes, workshops, teacher training, and similar experiences allow individuals to stay connected and consume media at their own pace and time. 

As destination retreats may be on-hold. for the rest of 2020, the #PracticeWithClara Community has gathered in a variety of online spaces to stay connected and learn from each other. Below are some of the ways you can find Clara online, which may also spark some incentive or idea for you to bring value to your online communities. 

stay-curious-retreat-planning-for-yoga-teachers
Practice with Clara Online 

There’s a bevy of online spaces to market and share yoga content with platforms like YouTube and Vimeo where you can create a channel for free. Clara’s YouTube Channel shares highlights and yoga content from her platform: Practice With Clara. You can access Clara’s content anywhere, anytime via desktop, android, iPhone, Apple TV, and Roku. One of the perks on the phone apps is the download feature that allows you to watch the videos offline. With yoga styles including Vinyasa, Hatha, Restorative, Prenatal, in addition to videos on mantra and meditationyou can try for 7-days free

NEW CLASS : Spice It Up 

In this short and spicy vinyasa yoga class you’ll get your heart pumping and blood flowing to build heat and burn off any excess energy and tension. Clara guides practitioners through total-body movement as you shake it out from head-to-toe with Alejandro. 

#PractiveWithClara Podcast 

Start a podcast or launch a video-series where you discuss a topic of interest that provides something of value for your community to engage with. You can listen to the #PracticeWithClara Podcast where we discuss yoga and related philosophy, unpack the business of yoga, answer questions, and lead experiential/guided meditations. Watch past discussions.   

 Facebook Group

Facebook Groups are a great way to amass community members and create an archive of content that can be shared and commented on. The #PracticeWithClara Facebook Group is where we share the latest videos, podcast sessions, blog posts, and other resources with our community members. We invite our community to post questions and feedback, and drop journaling prompts to be shared and discussed. Connect with us on Facebook to connect to like-minded peers across the globe. 

Instagram Live 

Instagram Live has quickly become one of the top spaces for individuals to create and share a variety of videos including topics in fitness, cooking ,and beauty. Clara and I host the #PractiveWithClara Podcast on IG Live to engage with listeners before turning it into a video series to share on YouTube and as a Podcast. We’ll be back on Instagram Live with the #PracticeWithClara Podcast on Monday, May 4th @11AM PST! 

LEARN MORE ON THE BUSINESS OF YOGA

What is your relationship to TRUST? ?

inverted vinyasa yoga pose

TRUST /trəst/ A firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.

Trust has always been a hard one for me. I trust myself, my decisions, my instinct. What I don’t trust easily is other people, their theories, their actions or words.

When I was 12 years old, my father signed me up for a coming of age program. On the first day we did a bunch of “trust” games. The last one involved us falling backwards and being caught by the rest of the group. Uhhhhh, I don’t think so. It took me 20 minutes to finally do it.

I had never thought about trust and never reflected on my relationship to other people. Everyone had fallen backwards without a second thought, but not me. I had to talk myself into it.

I spent the next 10 years learning how to let my guard down and trust people….who am I kidding? I’m still working on it. I’ve also learned to be patient with myself and soften in the process.

What is your relationship to TRUST?
Where does it come easily?
Where do you have to work on it?

This talk by Brene Brown (I love her!) gave me a better perspective on my relationship with trust   https://brenebrown.com/videos/anatomy-trust-video/

Here is a free yoga nidra meditation I recorded – its a great relaxation practice
https://soundcloud.com/clara-roberts-oss/yoganidra

Until next time friends

 

 

PS.

Practice online with me or catch me at my next yoga event

 

Allow the world to touch you deeply

A path with heart Jack Kornfield

Depending upon the lineage you follow or study, the practice is either to move away from or towards your strong emotions. As someone who lives in the world, meaning not in an ashram or hermitage, I find that working with and embracing the many aspects of myself has created a more integrated me. I have found that when I shy away from my strong emotions (which I can have many of), I tend to leave my body, to check out. As Jack Kornfield says so eloquently below, the practice of staying present to the feelings/emotions/sensations takes courage and compassion; to be honest with what is arising and to truly feel it. When we can be in the feeling, there comes what he calls “wise understanding”, that pain, grief and sorrow are inevitable. From this understanding, we can find peace with those feelings, with those parts of ourselves and from there the self-inflicted war can stop. This can be a life long process so be patient with yourself but continue to stay present and observe the inevitable shift within you.

I hope you enjoy this excerpt as much as I do. Much love. xo

“The purpose of a spiritual discipline is to give us a way to stop the war, not by our force of will, but organically, through understanding and gradual training. Ongoing spiritual practice can help us cultivate a new way of relating to life in which we let go of our battles.

When we step out of the battle, we see anew, as the Tao Te Ching says, ‘with eyes unclouded by longing’. We see how each of us creates conflict. We see our constant likes and dislikes, the fight to resist all that frightens us. We see our own prejudice, greed, and territoriality. All this is hard for us to look at, but it is really there. Then underneath these ongoing battles, we see pervasive feelings of incompleteness and fear. We see how much our struggle with life has kept our hearts closed.

When we let go of our battles and open our heart to things as they are, then we come to rest in the present moment. This is the beginning and the end of spiritual practice. Only in this moment can we discover that which is timeless. Only here can we find the love that we seek. Love in the past is simply memory, and love in the future is fantasy. Only in reality of the present can we love, can we awaken, can we find peace and understanding and connection with ourselves and the world.

A sign in a Las Vegas casino aptly says, ‘You Must Be Present to Win’. Stopping the war and becoming present are two sides of the same activity. To come into the present is to stop the war. To come into the present means to experience whatever is here and now. Most of us have spent our lives caught up in plans, expectations, ambitions for the future, in regrets, guilt, or shame about the past. When we come into the present, we begin to feel the life around us again, but we also encounter whatever we have been avoiding. We must have the courage to face whatever is present–or pain, our desires, our grief, our loss, our secret hopes, our love–everything that moves us most deeply. As we stop the war, each of us will find something from which we have been running–our loneliness, our unworthiness, our boredom, our shame, our unfulfilled desires. We must face these parts of ourselves as well.

You have may have heard of ‘out of body experience’, full of lights and visions. A true spiritual path demands something more challenging, what could be called an ‘in the body experience’. We must connect to our body, to our feelings, to our life just now, if we are to awaken.

To live in the present demands an ongoing and unwavering commitment. As we follow a spiritual path, we are required to stop the war not once but many times. Over and over we feel the familiar tug of thoughts and reactions that takes us away from the present moment. When we stop and listen, we can feel how each thing that we fear or crave (really two sides of the same dissatisfaction) propels us out of our hearts into false idea of how we would like life to be. If we listen even more closely, we can feel how we have learned to sense ourselves as limited by fear and identified with that craving. From this small sense of ourselves, we often believe that our own happiness can come only from possessing something or can be only at someone else’s expense.

To stop the war and come into the present is to discover a greatness of our own heart that can include the happiness of all beings as inseparable from our own. When we let ourselves feel the fear, the discontent, the difficulties we have always avoided, our heart softens. Just as it is a courageous act to face all the difficulties from which we have always run, it is also an act of compassion. According to Buddhist scriptures, compassion is the ‘quivering of the pure heart’ when we have allowed ourselves to be touched by the pain of life. The knowledge that we can do this and survive helps us awaken the greatness of our heart. With greatness of heart, we can sustain a presence in the midst of life’s suffering, in the midst of life’s fleeting impermanence. We can open to the world–it’s ten thousands joys and ten thousand sorrows.

As we allow the world to touch us deeply, we recognize that just as there is pain in our lives, so there is  pain in everyone’s life. This is the birth of wise understanding. Wise understanding sees that suffering is inevitable, that all things that are born die. Wise understanding sees and accepts life as a whole. With wise understanding we allow ourselves to contain all things, both dark and light, and we come to a sense of peace. This is not the peace of denial or running away, but the peace we find in the heart that has rejected nothing, that touches all things with compassion.”

Jack Kornfield, A Path With Heart

 

 

PS.

Practice yoga online with me or catch me at my next yoga event

 

 

 

Take Care of Your Mind First

equal vision quote

Take Care of Your Mind First.

The greatest gift meditation has ever taught me is that a much larger percentage than I thought of the world around me is self created. All the stories I make up about what’s going on around is exactly that, stories. So sit still Clara and really see what’s going on around you.

A great excerpt that nails it:

“Sri Ramakrishna Parahamsa told this fine story: A few people were walking along the road early in the morning, and they saw a man lying on the side of the road. The first one said, ‘He must have spent the whole night gambling and couldn’t reach home, so he fell asleep here. Gamblers are like that. The don’t reach home safely.’ Then he walked away.

The next one spoke, ‘Poor man, he must be very ill. We shouldn’t disturb a sick man. Let him rest there.’ Then he walked away.

The third one came and said to the man on the roadside, ‘You’re a bum. You don’t know how to drink. Don’t you know one or two is enough? Probably they gave you free drinks, and now you’re down.’ He treated him as a drunkard.

The first fellow thought the man had been gambling and was sleeping. The second thought he was sick, and the third thought he was drunk. Then the fourth man spoke: ‘A saint doesn’t care where he is. Probably he’s in higher consciousness, samadhi. A saint can be anywhere…This man is probably above physical consciousness. Let’s not disturb him.’ Then he bowed and walked away.

We don’t know who was right. All four may have been wrong. They all saw the same person differently because they projected themselves. A drinker thinks the other is a drunk. A saint sees a saint. The world as you perceive it is nothing but your own projection. If there is hell in your mind, you won’t see heaven anywhere. If there is heaven in your mind, you can’t see hell anywhere. That’s why it’s said, ‘Correct your vision, and you will see the truth.’ Self -reformation will bring the right view…The teaching given here is: Take care of your own mind first.”

Sri Swami Satchindanada, The Living Gita

 

 

PS.

Practice yoga online with me or catch me at my next yoga event

 

 

 

 

 

 

Equal Vision

equal vision quote

“Having equal vision means you don’t see anybody as low or high. To you both thief and police officer are equal. You don’t see the superficial. The Self of the thief is the same as that of the police officer. Something is playing the part of the thief, and that same something is playing the part of the police officer. Because the sage is rooted in the Self, they see both as Self. So, for the sage, they are equal.

This explains the Biblical commandment, “Love your neighbor as your Self.” It doesn’t say, “Love only your good neighbor as your Self,” or “Love your neighbor who has the same label. If he’s Catholic, love him. If she’s Protestant, throw stones at her.” No. It simply says, “your neighbor.” And who is your neighbor? The one sitting next to you now, or in the next room, the next house, or the next town. Everyone close to you is your neighbor.

But how to love your neighbor as your own Self? You have to see your Self in that person. Otherwise, you can’t love them as your own Self. How can you see your Self in another if you don’t know your Self? Suppose I say, “Here’s a banana. Please see the banana that you had yesterday in this banana.” To do that you should have had a banana yesterday in order to know what a banana is. Only then will you recognize one and the other as the same. If I don’t know what a banana is, I can’t say this one is the same as the other, and I love his as I loved the other banana.

The clue here is to know your Self and then see your Self in your neighbour. Then love them as you love your Self. That’s why someone who has realized Self will always have equal vision based on that Self or that spirit. A Divine-realized person will see nothing but Divinity everywhere, even though that Divinity may be clothed in different forms and using different names. That’s why Lord Krishna says that whether it’s a dog or an outcast or a great spiritual person, it’s all the same to a person of wisdom.

How can we truly come together? Only with this spiritual knowledge—not by mental, physical or financial knowledge. We can never find oneness in any of these areas, no in the name of a country, race, creed, community, money or education. They only way to see everybody equally is in that divine vision. The we see the same truth coloured different ways.

I’m stressing the point here because we often talk about unity, oneness and harmony. But true harmony can be experienced only by realizing spirit and seeing that spirit in everybody. In all other areas we see differences. Such harmony won’t last long. When people dress the same way or speak the same language, they in a sort of harmony. But if somebody speaks a different language, they are seen as different. It’s not universal harmony then. There ’s only one universal truth. That’s the great advantage of realizing one’s own true Self.”

Sri Swami Satchidananda, The Living Gita

 

PS.

Practice yoga online with me or catch me at my next yoga event

 

 

 

 

 

The Tension of Opposites

The tension of opposites

There has been a big debate as to whether or not someone on the spiritual path can also be a householder. Can someone who is devoted to gaining a deeper awareness/understanding of the internal landscape also be in charge of getting the groceries?

Tantric philosophy believes that we can do both. Sally Kempton articulates it so well here in Shakti Awakening.

Note: Think of Parvati and Shiva as different aspects of yourself. Shiva being the seeker and Parvati being the householder.

“Parvati and Shiva hold a creative tension of opposites. He represents the eternal drive for freedom, the yogi’s need to disentangle himself from the world; she represents the feminine drive toward expressive fullness–emotion, rhythm, even the creative flow of thoughts.

When Shiva–who stands for everything that is antithetical to society–unites with Parvati and creates a household life, they are making an enormous statement. Their partnership resolves one of the most embedded dualities in culture: the duality between life in the world and life of the spirit. In Indian life as well as in the Christian mysticism there has always been an opposition between the ascetic yogi, who withdraws from the world in order to realize his nature as spirit, and the householder, entangled in domesticity. Traditionally, the demands of the world, epitomized by family life, are diametrically opposed…

In the Tantric path, however, this dichotomy is transcended. World life and spiritual life, spirit and flesh, are recognized not as duality, but as manifestations of the same power, which is Shakti. The Vijnana Bhairava describes a practice where you discover the ecstasy of the ultimate reality by going into the throbbing heart of pleasure, inside the joy of sex, of song, of delicious food, then meditating on the ‘perfect condition of that joy’ until the supreme bliss reveals itself…

Tantra is the Goddess’s path, which means that it is for people who know how to use the physical and imagined worlds as doorways into the ultimate, as well as for world delight. The Goddess is the mistress of these worlds as she is of the physical world, which is why at the heart of Tantric practices there is a deep respect for the feminine as spiritual authority. In Tantric Quest [one of my favorite books of all time!], Daniel Odier’s teacher tells a story about how a group of hermits debated all day about whether the ultimate truth is a self or a non-self. Finally, one of the ascetics says that the argument can only be resolved by a dakini, a women practitioner. The yogini then goes into meditation on the nondual oneness between self and non-self, and in the space of presence that opens up in the circle, all agree that the discussion has been resolved. They recognize that spirit is not higher than matter, nor is matter devoid of self. Instead, it is the nature of spirit to creatively express itself in form, just as it is the nature of silence to express itself in sound.

The is the recognition that arises out of the union of Shiva and Parvati. Parvati is Shiva’s capacity to express himself in action.Without her, he is simply inactive, iner. Parvati, in scholar David Kinsley’s words, ‘not only compliments Shiva, she completes him.’

 

PS.

Practice yoga online with me or catch me at my next yoga event

 

 

 

 

 

Widen the pot and let the universe spill in

Daniel Odier's Tantric Quest

Happy Autumn Equinox!

This is my favorite time of year because we move from being very externally focused to the internal. As I wrote my intentions for the coming season, I came upon this passage and felt it was only fitting. In joy!

More good words from Daniel Odier’s Tantric Quest…..

 

“You see, ecstasy is the natural human state, and the obstacles we create to ecstasy are part of a dictatorial state our thought makes us live in. Ecstasy is simpler than suffering. It smells good. It is present throughout. It is with us always. There is nothing to do and nothing to look for. It’s enough to stay totally open and let things occur without worrying about changing their nature. By our being really present, continuously present, all reality becomes a source of joy and happiness.

You know that the moment for us to take leave of each other has come, and you won’t suffer because the bond that unites us doesn’t unite us to each other but simply passes through us to extend to the whole universe. You don’t belong to me; I don’t belong to you. We belong to the world, to the divine, and at this moment we know what with our whole being. Our bond isn’t subject to time or space. I will be everywhere you look. You have planted yourself firmly in the heart of the goddess, in my heart, just as the goddess remains in yours, as I remain in yours. We are a divine waterfall for each other where we can bathe ourselves in light and quench our absolute thirst.

The universe is a great pot that we never stop shaping with our flesh, our hearts, our thought–with all those little things that we love to separate from one another by artifice. But a good potter sinks their hands into the divine and lets the divine take varied forms. They know that the earth contains the thirty-six modalities of consciousness, and they don’t spend time analyzing them.

While man thinks, the tantrika [practioner] makes a pot. While man confines his consciousness, the tantrika widens the opening of the pot and lets their consciousness experience the void. Distinguishing between what’s insides the pot and what’s outside is possible only if you forget that a pot needs an opening, without which there is seclusion, darkness, rot, and decay.

The tantrika widens their pot. They enjoy letting the universe spill in and penetrate it. When they meditate, they experience a single space. When they undergo change, they experience a single space. When they dream, they experience a single space, and when they die, they experience nothing other than a single space. So for them, there is no difference between meditation, living, dreaming, and dying. To experience a single space–that’s absolute love.”

What I love about Tantric philosophy is that everything is an opportunity to get you closer/discover/remember divinity. Why shy away from adversity or uncomfortable situations that make their way onto our paths? It’s all an opportunity to go deeper into ourselves and let go of more stories/shit that we think we need to hold on to. Widen your pot, watch with wonder as the universe spills into.

Wishing you an awe-inspiring autumn!

 

PS.

Practice yoga online with me or catch me at my next yoga event

 

 

 

 

Personal Cuirasses – armour

Personal Cuirasses

I’m rereading one of my favorite books of all time, Tantric Quest. In it, the author goes on a spiritual quest to learn about Kashmir Shivaism. He meets a tantrika who teaches him the philosophy. This passage makes my bones sing. I truly believe that this is a great illusion we’re feeding ourselves. If we just stay open and willing, the armor (curiasses) will crack and the light of our true nature will be seen.

Hari Aum.

 

“The play of purusha [spirit] and prakriti [matter] is limited by the action of these six tattvas called the six cuirasses. They are time, space, lack, limited knowledge, limited creativity and overall illusion.

This is extremely important point of Shivaism, since the consciousness is founded on and set free by these cuirasses, and that’s enlightenment or awakening. These cuirasses are like veils that prevent a spontaneous view of the self. Without them there would be no practice, no search. Everything would appear to us in its absolute nature.

The first cuirass is that of being subject to the illusion that time exists and that we are bound by it. This illusion fixes us within a limited time frame. It gives us the impression that time passes. After awakening, one discovers with wonder a new terrain where nothing is subject to time. It’s like waking up after a bad dream and realizing that this restriction was artificially imposed upon consciousness…That’s the first breath of awakening. It gives back a vitality, a color, and a clarity to everything seen outside of time.

The second cuirass is that which makes us believe we are subject to the illusion of space and that we are located there…After awakening, we realize suddenly that we are omnipresent…We are everywhere. There’s no point in space that is not our center…Once the boundaries of the ego shatter, the divine returns to the divine, energy to energy, space to space, the heart to the heart. Then anything is possible but nothing is certain…The highest Tantric teachings say that fundamentally there is no birth and no death, only the illusion…The debate over annihilation or eternal life is something adepts transcend as soon as they recognize the nature of their own minds.

The third cuirass is the illusion of believing that we lack something, that we are not whole. This is the illusion that pushes us to always be searching for a way, a teaching, a practice, one realization after another. It’s the one that pushes us beyond the Self. It’s the one that makes us unhappy, that makes us keep looking for new ways to be complete…Knowing this, the master invites the disciple to stop all external searching. No route leads to the Self. The true Tantric teacher is not me, nor some other; it’s the Self. There’s nothing to find out there. Everything divine that we look for out there is in us. To realize that is to find freedom.

The fourth cuirass is the illusion of believing that what we can know, what we apprehend of the absolute, is limited. We torture ourselves. We want to experience awakening…We are like a maharaja who owns unlimited land and walks along the wall that surrounds his palaces, mistaking himself for a beggar. No on would give him anything to eat for fear of insulting him or being punished. We have such thirst for knowledge that we are fooled by our power to know. It focuses on the exterior and deceives us with the illusion that we are going to find what we lack. Divine knowledge doesn’t grow by accumulation. The more you try to pile knowledge and experience, the more you paralyze your consciousness. Let’s abandon this knowledge. It inflates pride. When I say intelligence is not the way, I don’t mean to say intelligence must be rejected. I am simply saying that intelligence which accomplishes anything appears unsolicited. In tranquility it shines like a diamond. Let us return simply to the source of our consciousness and find there the treasure we sought on the outside. It’s enough to sit down, to forget books and discussion, to direct our attention toward the heart. There the divine is found. There is the place of respiration where our breath mingles naturally. The infinite is no more than that harmonious breathing, free of all thought.

The fifth cuirass is the illusion we harbor in believing our creativity is limited, sometimes even doubting that we possess the least trace of it. That’s what pushes us to revere what others produce. To have beauty flow past us isn’t enough. This urge, which can open us up to our unlimited creativity, is restrained by the idea that we aren’t capable of such splendor. We remain without a voice, the ribcage is constricted, overwhelmed by the beauty of the world. If we truly breathed, this cuirass would explode, and the object of our admiration would no longer be found in duality. The beauty of the world would then be ours. Mystical ecstasy is just this sudden explosion of the small me, which recognizes the divine Self. Everything gathered up in the consciousness is then projected into the infinite, and one can cry out in joy because in this moment all the beauty of world becomes part of the Self.

The five cuirasses are surrounded by a supreme cuirass, which is that of maya, illusion, in its own nature, which welds these different protective plates together and insures their artificial cohesion. We are decorated like fighting elephants, forever goaded by their driver. We advance with all our weight to get through life, never ceasing to battle. But one day, the battle takes a turn that leaves us covered with poisoned arrows. A young girl brings us something to drink…She bathes us in the river, and suddenly we find our grace, our lightness, our beauty again. So nothing stops us from spontaneously grasping the divine in ourselves. What we don’t know is that the smallest experience can be just this miraculous meeting with the small girl. So little can suffice. The scent of a flower, an open look, a breeze brushing against us–and suddenly the most solid of the cuirasses cracks, and through this gap all reality penetrates us, freeing us forever from gravity and separation.”

Daniel Odier, Tantric Quest

 

 

PS.

Catch me at my next yoga event

To see my latest playlists follow me on spotify

 

 

 

 

I Belong Here

I belong here

To create balance and calmness in your life, you have to go towards yoga as meditating allows you to just calm down for some time and get in touch with yourself. There are many teachers around the world who instil this calmness in their student through yoga. Lorin Roche is a teacher of this living tradition. According to Shiva Rea, he is a champion at this as he helps awaken consciousness in his students. Even though yoga is an Eastern concept, Roche brought it to the Western world. If you have found a connection with the world of Rumi and Hafiz, you will be fond of Roche’s words too.

Lorin Roche’s Writings

He writes about everything that you need to look for in yourself. As human beings, we often forget that we are a representation of his whole universe. There is a universe inside every single one of us and Roche’s profound verses help you in looking for these parts of you. His poetry is filled with an insight into the divine things and the importance of meditation for personal development.

Lorin started his journey when he was just 18 years of age. He worked alongside people who were doing a research project on meditation and its physiology. Being the control group of this research, he had to sit and do nothing. For many weeks, his brain waves were studies. During this time, he entered a state that is called intense alertness. Later, he read a book 112 Meditation Practices and he was delighted to find out that he had similar experiences in the lab. The same book also introduced him to yoga text from centuries ago.

Lorin Roche’s ‘Belong’

Roche talks about the importance of your heart. It is the centre of your body where everything comes together. If you want to look for a person, his heart is where you would find his. This is where the senses, mind and soul come together. Even though so much is happening in the heart, this is where you will find a spot to rest. If you are looking for a sense of regal steadiness, it is in your heart. Once you find the way to your heart, you will be called towards it again and again because that is where you Belong.

The One Who Is at Play Everywhere says,

There is a space in the heart
Where everything meets.
Come here if you want to find me.
Mind, senses, soul, eternity–all are here.
Are you here?

Enter the bowl of vastness that is the heart.
Listen to the sound that is always resonating.
Give yourself to it with total abandon.
Quiet ecstasy is here–

And a steady, regal sense
Of resting in a perfect spot.

You who are the embodiment of blessing,
Once you know the way,
The nature of attention will call you to return.
Again and again, answer that call,
And be saturated with knowing,
“I belong here, I am at home.”

 

Read the full book here:

 

PS.

Practice yoga online with me or catch me at my next yoga event