‘Far away in the heavenly abode of the great god Indra, there is a wonderful net which has been hung by some cunning artificer in such a manner that it stretches out infinitely in all directions. In accordance with the extravagant tastes of deities, the artificer has hung a single glittering jewel in each “eye” of the net, and since the net itself is infinite in dimension, the jewels are infinite in number. There hang the jewels, glittering “like” stars in the first magnitude, a wonderful sight to behold. If we now arbitrarily select one of these jewels for inspection and look closely at it, we will discover that in its polished surface there are reflected all the other jewels in the net, infinite in number. Not only that, but each of the jewels reflected in this one jewel is also reflecting all the other jewels, so that there is an infinite reflecting process occurring.’
– Indra’s Net, Rajiv Malhotra
With the ongoing practice of social distancing access to public resources is limited, dramatically shifting the way we occupy and explore space. While our external surroundings are minimized, making our physical worlds much smaller, there’s ample opportunity to develop our internal landscape and create space within. A practice of creating space inside may help to harmonize the body/mind and guide one through periods of upheaval and uncertainty.
This week on the #PracticeWithClara Morning Gathering we discussed the concept of ether, which represents space and consciousness. Clara and I discussed ether and its relationship to Eastern philosophy, yoga, and other meditative practices to instil balance and create harmony in one’s lifestyle. According to Ayurvedic medicine, we contain the five elements within ourselves and the same five elements are reflected back to us through the universe. The elements represent the dynamic forces of nature and are one of the ways we seek to bring balance in our lives and the world.
Enjoy these highlights from our discussions this week!
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Ether and the Birds-Eye View
The five elements are Earth, Water, Fire, Air, and Ether. Ether is unique in that it’s contained in each of the elements whereas the rest of the elements are not expressed in ether. Ether represents space, consciousness, and the expansiveness of all things. When one moves with the essence of ether, one explores the world with a wider lens to broaden their perspective. With a broad perspective, one may move away from the small self (the ego-self) to the higher Self. The higher Self represents one’s consciousness and the capacity for awareness and realization of the interconnectedness of all beings in the universe. One might call this a connection with the Divine or God.
Clara shared a story that captures the idea of broadening one’s perspective based on the bug’s eye-view and the birds-eye view:
There was a bug in a rug who went about his day, seeing only what was in front of him. One day, a bird flew down and scooped up the little bug and flew up high above the rug so that the bug could see the beautiful tapestry of the rug (s)he lived in. All of a sudden, the bug became aware of how big and beautiful the rug was from a higher perspective, observing the full landscape of the rug and all the little bugs who lived in it.
In this story, we might be the bug, occupied with our day-to-day routine and perhaps begin to feel lost, lonely, and/or depressed. With the birds-eye view, we might gain perspective and witness the beauty of the world and remember that we are all a part of a bigger tapestry. The tapestry of the rug represents our interconnectedness. We each play a part in constructing and contributing to the global narrative, no matter where we are or who we are in the world. Sometimes we need to take a moment and step back, to gain the space necessary to see the sacred all around us.
A Practice for Ether and Interconnectedness
The five elements are Earth, Water, Fire, Air, and Ether. Ether is unique in that it’s contained in each of the elements whereas the rest of the elements are not expressed in ether. Ether represents space, consciousness, and the expansiveness of all things. When one moves with the essence of ether, one explores the world with a wider lens, broadening their perspective. With this widened perspective, one may move away from the small self (the ego-self) to the higher Self. The higher Self represents one’s consciousness and the capacity for awareness and realization of the interconnectedness of all beings in the universe. One might call this a connection with the Divine or God.
Clara shared a story, as told by Alan Watts, called a Bug in A Rug:
There once was a bug who lived in a rug. He went about his day doing what bugs do in rugs, complaining about what bugs complain about. One day a bird flew by and picked up this bug. As the bird flew higher and higher, the bug looked down and realized he lived in the most beautiful rug in the world. He never knew what the rug looked like because all he paid attention to was what was in front of him. This is the difference between the bird’s eye view and the bug’s eye view.
The bug’s eye view represents how we generally see the world–what’s in front of us, what we have to deal with on a day to day basis. The bird’s eye view represents how we see the world when we widen our perspective. Some methods of widening our perspective are through travel, meditation, yoga, climbing literal mountains, and the like. The tapestry of the rug represents our interconnectedness. We each play a part in constructing and contributing to the global narrative, no matter where we are or who we are in the world. Sometimes we need to take a moment and step back, to gain the space necessary to see the vastness that is the universe and how we are a small part of the bigger picture.
Weave Ether into your practice in these classes with Clara:
Crown Chakra Vinyasa
New Class: Ether Flow
Seeking Balance through Ayurveda
To be in the subtle state of ether where one feels calm and at ease, the rest of the body’s energies and elements must be in balance. Ayurveda is one of the oldest holistic practices of medicine, originating over 5,000 years ago in India. Ayurveda holds that overall health and wellness of an entity depends on creating balance in both body and mind. Ayurveda believes that true healing happens when you fix the source of the problem versus the symptoms. When you see a Ayurvedic doctor, they ask not only about physical symptoms but ask about your state of mind and stress levels. Heal the whole human.
According to Ayurveda, each individual is made up of a particular blend of the five elements, this is known as your dosha or constitution. There are three doshas, pitta, vata and kapha. Pitta is the combination of air and fire. Vata is air and ether. Kapha is earth and water. Your constitution has two states, prakriti and vikriti. Prakriti is the constitution you’re born with, which depends upon your parents doshas, what happened in utero and the first two years of your life. Your prakriti does not change. Vikrti is the doshic constitution that you’re in at the present moment and includes the last six months of your life. This state is affected by sleep, activity, diet, stress, relationships, and environment among other things. Understanding your dosha is a two-part process. First, you would look at your prakriti (what you’re born with) based on your bodily structure, how you handle stress, how dis-ease shows up in your body, your digestion and what habits you are naturally drawn to. Second, you would look at your vikriti, what’s going on for your right now. Are both these states the same or have you veered off course?
A Brief Introduction of the Doshas:
What kind of yoga they gravitate to: Flow and Vinyasa classes
Constitution: airy, light, anxious, imaginative, creative, forgetful.
Balance: yin yoga practice, grounding meditation, deep breath, root/lower chakras to bring the energy downwards, heavier and warm foods to nourish.
What kind of yoga they gravitate to: Ashtanga and Bikram
Constitution: fiery, hot, dry, sharp, quick, angry, intelligent, assimilation of new ideas.
Balance: cold and cooling foods, emphasis on longer exhaled breath, grounding/calming meditations, yin-style practice or moving meditation, very little caffeine/stimulants.
What kind of yoga they gravitate to: Yin and Restorative
Constitution: heavy, lethargic, smooth, glossy, grounding, warm, loving, slow.
Balance: strong breath-work (breath of fire), cold drinks, vinyasa/hatha yoga practice to get things flowing.
The rule of thumb in Ayurvedic Medicine is “like attracts like and opposite heals.”
If you’re feeling anxious and your energy is high (vata) you may want to seek the opposite energy to ground with yin-yoga (kapha). If your energy is excessive to the point of feeling hot/angry/over-stimulated (pitta) you may want to seek the opposite by doing slow, fluid, moving meditation (vata). If your energy is heavy and slow (kapha) perhaps that serves where you are in the day, or perhaps you should perform some fiery breath exercises to stimulate and get things flowing (pitta).
The foods and beverages you consume, hours slept, stressors at work or in relationships, and various other factors all contribute to your doshic constitution and affect how you interact with the world at any given moment.
To bring balance each morning you might ask yourself:
- Where am I emotionally?
- What food choices can I make today to create balance?
- What does my practice look like based what I need to find balance?
Tour the Element Series to discover a playlist and practice to honour each of the elements: Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Ether within.
Understanding the Energy of the Gunas
Samkhya is one of the oldest philosophies of yoga dating back to the Vedic period in the 14th Century. The word Samkhya translates as “numbers” and is a philosophy based on theory and empirical data. There is no Atman (Divine/God) or soul in Samkhya, instead the philosophy centers around the concepts of Purusha and Prakriti to explain how the universe works. Purusha is consciousness and would be best described as the ether/space element. Prakriti is matter. All the tangible things in the world are made of prakriti. Prakriti is expressed through the three gunas that create matter: tamas, rajas, and sattva. Akin to the doshas, each of the gunas relate to a particular type of energy. The interplay of the gunas and energies each creates and determines the life it exhibits.
Tamas: inertia, lethargy, darkness, ignorance | KAPHA
Rajas: passion, power, action, will, potential | PITTA
Sattva: compassion, lightness, truth, balance, purity | VATA
Classical yoga philosophy is based on Samkhya philosophy. Patanjali, the author of the Yoga Sutras, wrote extensively working on being more sattvic. Sattva is free from anger and judgement, there is a higher intelligence and wisdom that comes from a clear self-understanding and trust in what simply is. Practicing a sattvic lifestyle would mean observing and balancing your doshas, depending on what you need (opposite heal’s!) each day. Typically, sattva is associated with eating local foods and lots of greens and whole grains, exercising and spending time with nature, getting enough sleep, and honouring relationships and environments that do not contribute to adding stress.
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