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.

– FRANZ KAFKA –


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
@MarianneSimonin

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.

Stephanie
stephaniedawntrembath

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.

– MARY OLIVER  


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
@isabellemduarte

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.
Stephanie
stephaniedawntrembath

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*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

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,
Stephanie
stephaniedawntrembath

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. 

– MARY OLIVER –



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,
Stephanie
stephaniedawntrembath

Enlightenment is _______

Enlightenment

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

 

PS.

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