Great Teacher

Great Teacher

Some say that happiness is a choice. I believe that it is grace. Perhaps it is a million choices over a million lifetimes, but I don't even agree with that. I don't think happiness can be earned. It is something beyond what could ever be deserved or undeserved. When it comes, the ego says, "I did this." But that is not true. When it comes, if you have known pain to the depths that nothing could rescue you from, the only response is gratitude. In that relief is a sense of awe that most will never know. Seeing happiness as grace is a deep and humble bow. 

Compassionate Return

Compassionate Return

When we work to balance our awareness on the breath, eventually it falls off. Maybe after one breath, two breaths, or even half a breath. The usual rivers of the mind (neuro-pathways or sanskaras) are powerful. Imagine the Grand Canyon and the Colorado river. All of the rain drops in the area (energy) effortlessly flow to join that river in the pathway that has been carved through time. Our rivers of focus might be anger, frustration, doubt, worry, distraction, analysis - and you might see the ways that subtle thoughts wick through to join a large familiar river that could easily sweep you away. 

Loving Kindness

Loving Kindness

It is clear that it is a time where great kindness is required. Both internally and externally. When things happen externally - the surfacing of fear, hate, and violence, things come up internally to heal as well. This is the work of yoga. The most typical response to pain - internal or external - is judgement. But really compassion is a more helpful response - to see BOTH the cause and the resolution of the problem within ourselves so that we can even begin to form the possibility of resolution in the world. Social media makes the tendency towards judgement even worse - it is so easy go around debating words when probably the feeling behind them is much the same.

Being WITH yourself

aka "Does Self-Work" Make you Feel Wrong?  (repost from January 2016)

There is a reason I teach hatha yoga. The philosophy contains a fundamental difference that changes everything.

While hatha yoga is often simply described as physical yoga, that doesn't mean that it is not meditation. It is just the order of things that is shifted. For the arising of meditation, hatha sees the physical body as the too-often-missing preliminary to all systems of meditation, AND also the end point and resolution of duality. The fundamental difference in hatha yoga philosophy from most other systems - raja yoga, buddhism, or any form of self-work or religion is that the idea of morality and mental self-discipline and self-control-- is removed.

The idea is that the body and its elements are the lens that we look through and act through. If we clear the body (physical body and nervous system) of past residue, blocks that obstruct the movement of life force, and things that obscure our clear understanding of ourselves - wholeness and balance will be the result and it will naturally create a state of bring WITH self and others in a good way. In other words, morality comes as a result, but cannot be forced. Also, morality, ethics, yama & niyama have more to do with religion than with a person's inner experience of spirituality.

In the introduction to Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Swami Muktibohhananda writes:
"Often we observe that when we try to practise self-control and discipline, we create more mental problems in our mind and personality. If we were to take the statistics of patients in mental hospitals,, we would find that most of them are religious, because self-discipline and self-control split the personality....If harmony is not created in the personality, then self-control and self-discipline will create more conflict than peace of mind"

"Why do you fight with the mind first? You have no power to wrestle with the mind, yet you wrestle with it, thereby creating a pattern of animosity towards yourself" "Self-control and self-discipline should start with the body"

“There are not two minds. There is one mind trying to split itself into two. One mind wants to break the discipline and the other wants to maintain the discipline. You can find this split in everyone”  - Hatha Yoga Pradipika

The starting point it to be with yourself, not against yourself. This carries with it the understanding of spirit in EVERYTHING - not some outside thing to achieve or connect to. It is through that harmony of self - specifically, harmony of life force and mind - that leads to the personal evolution of consciousness. Through this, comes a non-duality. There is one self - body, mind, emotions, atma, jivatma, paramatma - all the same. Its just that - out of delusion of being something other than god, we divide them up to start a war - the goal of healing is good, but the unfortunate result of feeling wrong. How would we ever feel wholeness when we are fighting with our experience?

This also brings to what some would call a "new yoga" but I think is really the heart of it. This is the shift from seeing yoga & meditation of caging the monkey mind, and the discrediting of the emotions towards seeing yoga as integration of all of these things. Seeing them as essential. Through tremendous respect of whatever state any part of you is in, the coming back to wholeness and perfection.

From times where I really felt at home in yoga, I remember that the most sacred thing was a feeling of embracing myself as I am and trusting that what I am is exactly what is needed. It may just be something inside of me, or it may be a stronger decoy operating in the evolution of yoga and self-help culture, but I sometimes feel this to be hard to come by. Trying to make myself think differently, feel differently... the beliefs that, if I understood, I would feel better (true, but also, where ever you are is the most essential work). Instead. Do the practice and allow for the states of meditation to arise. Do the practice - don't wait to think or feel differently. Do the practice - through all of the human elements so that you can know that they are all one.

I hope to give this to people. The dance through all the elements and archetypes of life. The poetry and perfect position of the emotions as the are, mind as it is, life as it is - as absolutely perfect. Maybe this is not something that can be said, but rather that arises through doing. But also it is something that must be said. To be willing to do the practice, but to consider that fundamental piece of releasing yourself from mental contortions. To start by being with yourself. To know that, as things clear, they must be breathed in. To balance the life force and the mind and, through full embrace, let consciousness arise.

“If the preparation is perfect, there will be no need to learn meditation from anyone. One fine morning while practicing pranayama your mind will be lifted into a new realm of consciousness” –Hatha Yoga Pradipika

Living from the Neck Down

"Get out of your head and into your body." I first heard this as a teenager beginning to study movement. But even this has existed mostly as a thought. The necessity of living from the neck down is becoming more and more clear in my own life and in the world. The consequences of living in thought are far reaching: compromising our enjoyment, our treatment of each other, and even our ability to think clearly.  But it is difficult. And not only because it is new. Not only because culture has taught the opposite–encouraging us to live by reason. But because of pain. If the heart has been broken, it makes sense that someone would not to go there. Many have no idea the depth of pain their system has learned to avoid. 

Without the heart, I do not know what I want. I may get frustrated when I get other than what I desire, though I had no way to know that desire...but feel its absence. Without the body, I make decisions that look good on paper, but have no reference to how it will feel. I design myself, I push myself, I do what I think I "should" do. I continue patterns of the past where my feelings were not acknowledged, only now I am the one who forgets to consider how I feel. In the mind alone, I try to hold things still. There are ideas of how things should be or who I am, but when these forms fall apart, and the heart starts to break, I run back to the mind and wonder "why." Why what? "Why anything at all." "What's the point?"Or, in the head alone, I try to control others, I divide the world into right and wrong. "Here's what you should do."

Now, the mind most certainly is important. But it is very interesting that a culture so focused on the intellect has trained it poorly. It's funny to say that living in the head makes it hard to know what to do and compromises our thought, but we must be a whole system of wisdom. In order for thoughts to be clear, they must be connected to the whole body, the other, the environment and source.

A lack of a firm foundation send us into the ego. And the ego is not the place for contemplation. Hearts are broken, and so people are in the egos. We need the safety of being from which we could learn think clearly. Not defensively. From which we could open our minds while still living in our bodies. And land the contemplation in our hearts. We must be able to live skillfully in duality. But the mind cannot hold a paradox. It can hold the idea of a paradox, but two opposing truths in the mind are called a conflict. And this is the way of the world. A paradox can only be embraced in the heart. This is a level of ability to think and contemplate that we need to learn.

The truth is that most of us were raised by people who lived from the neck up for various reasons. It may be fair to say that they managed to survive, but did not learn how to live. A combination of escaping the pain of the broken heart, and of just trying to get by. We may be the first generation where the heart can start to melt and cry these tears. For many generations, survival was all that could be done. Repetition of patterns of survival was essential. Even now, even in more-stable, less-dangerous places in the world, the difficult of just getting by could easily send us back into the head and just add one more generation to the repetition of pain. 

But in living from the neck down, life becomes the medicine. Even in our difficulties, we have the chance to seek the beauty and the pleasure (notice that pleasure does not actually avoid the pain). The pain is the medicine that begins to melt the heart. It feels like it will kill you, but when the tears come, it is the coming back to life. It is the not-feeling that will kill you. We are all learning how to do this. Sometimes, it's as easy as following thing breath down into the body. Many times, its more complicated, like convincing a soul to return from a place it has been hiding, far far away. Letting it know that this life can be good. It can be ok. And that, actually, in this life time, is enough beauty to heal so many life times of pain.

I say these things as someone whose soul often leaves. As someone who too often lives in the head. As someone working to heal generations of depression and and dissociation. And as someone who has had glimpses and knows the necessity of melting the heart and continuing to do whatever it takes to get back to the medicine of this life. We must have compassion for why people have left the heart. A full knowledge that everyone is doing the best that they can. Kindness, self-love, forgiveness, infinite love and non-judgement of the other are so important. Now is the time to heal and its sometimes ugly. But we must feel the pain and begin to heal.

Joseph Campbell wrote, “People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.”