If you were to type, “what is tapas?” into your favorite search engine, you’ll likely get a bunch of results for a type of Spanish appetizer and local restaurants for it in your area. In yoga, however, tapas is defined … Continue reading
“You are already happy. The reason you don’t experience it is that it’s covered up by layers of suppressed emotions and negative thoughts. Shift your attention and your inherent happiness flashes forth.” – Steve Ross The other day, I had … Continue reading
I always get a little excited and do a non-visible happy dance when a student, friend or peer asks me about meditation. I hear things like, “I know I should start meditating,” or “I don’t know how to meditate,” or “I tried meditating once and it doesn’t work for me,” all of which I’d experienced at some point in my life as well.
After I’d been practicing yoga asana for a few years, my perception naturally started to shift, and I knew I wanted to pursue more in this spiritual journey beyond physical poses. I began reading about the various types of meditation and what others had experienced.
I’d learned about guided meditation in which you’re listening to a CD or an instructor and you are walked through a type of visual experience in an effort to direct you toward your inner spaciousness and unconscious. Through visualization and imagination, you shift your active mind in a different direction. The issue with this type of meditation, for me, is that it’s still just another form of mind activity. Patanjali describes yoga as “the settling of mind into silence.” I remember thinking that I should be experiencing vivid visualizations and be transformed to a different plane of existence. But, I wasn’t going anywhere and that made me frustrated. I didn’t see any mystical creatures or fabulous lights, and I felt like a failure.
The funny thing — and I didn’t know this at the time — is that there is no goal, there is no “place go to.” In meditation, the only thing you need to do, is sit in silence.
I recently spoke to a friend who teaches yoga in India. She said when people call to inquire about her classes, it all follows a surprisingly similar pattern:
“Hi. I read you teach yoga. Can you tell me what exactly you teach?”
“Sure – I teach asanas, followed by a relaxation at the end.”
“Oh – I assumed it would be meditation and pranayama. Do you teach that?”
“Well, not really. I teach mostly the postures and deep relaxation.”
“Sorry, that doesn’t really sound like the right thing for me.”
You have to digest that: People calling up for yoga classes in India simply assume that it’s meditation and pranayama that will be taught. They don’t care that much about the asanas. To them, yoga means something else. Yoga, that’s a way of living. Not a way of stretching yourself, sweating until you’re able to mold your body into pretzel postures, and then for days relishing that feeling of success. I guess many of them would just shake their head (no, not the head wiggle that means YES) when being told what became of yoga in the Western World. Continue reading
There’s a quote in the book Bad Dog! by Lin Jensen that I try to come back to when I feel I’ve lost direction and an inner compass, “If we are true to the steps we take, the travel makes sense and the journey confirms itself.” In essence, if we are putting one proverbial foot in front of the other from a place of integrity, the journey unfolds before us and becomes less of an effort born of suffering.
So often, we are just “going through the motions” with little recognition of what got us to the present state or why we’re continuing on a given path.
Let’s go back to the dog theme. Have you ever known a dog to lie or put on a facade? No. Dogs are brutally honest in their demeanor and actions. Hungry? Eat. Happy? Wag tail. Threatened? Bite. Nowhere does the dog engage in the inner struggle of what they should do vs. what they want or need to do.
Now, I’m not suggesting that you live selfishly without regard to how your actions impact others, but if you start to trust your gut and become aware of your truth at the core, your perceptions shifts which may even change your path. In either case, the struggle and suffering begin to wane. Continue reading
In the first two posts of this series, I talked about the yamas or “laws of life” and the niyamas or “rules for living,” so now we come to pranayama and meditation, both of which flow through and are essential for the previous two limbs. When I was going through teacher training and we learned about each yama and niyama, I started to feel anxious thinking about all of the work I had to do to change myself. I had this mental checklist running through my head. As I began to examine the deeper meanings behind the yamas, such as violence which can be as subtle as thinking a harsh thought towards someone who is making your life difficult at work, I really started to panic.
When you really dissect all of the subtle ways we can be “in violation” of these universal moralities and personal observances, it can quickly become a challenge to stay present and not judge yourself. So, I read more and listened more and started to see that simply ‘noticing’ when I’m in a situation in which I have an opportunity to practice non-violence or moderation, my actions naturally began to shift. Add pranayama and meditation to the mix, and these qualities of living a yogic life begin to arise unconsciously; they become part of your DNA.
With all of the controversy and distortion about yoga in the media lately, I thought I’d take us back to the basics — before ridiculous sex scandals and unfounded sensationalized books — to examine the foundational text of Raja Yoga, The Yoga Sūtras. Raja yoga which includes asana (poses), focuses on transcending the mind through meditation. in fact, Patanjali refers to yoga as “the settling of mind into silence.” P.S. asana helps set the body up for meditation.
While Patañjali was not the first to write about yoga, his sutras have become an authority text along with the Bhagavad Gita and Upanishads (which make up the sanskrit Hindu epic, the Mahabharata). The yoga sutras are aphorisms that outline the art, science, and practice of yoga and meditation. Yoga means union or join — the uniting our ourselves that isn’t actually separate — and sutra means thread.
The yoga sutras are referred to as the eight limbs or eight fold path of yoga because the path is not necessarily sequential as one can be practicing many concurrently. The first limb of yoga are the yamas, or laws of life (sometimes referred to as restraints). They can be thought of as the universal moral code for living. Continue reading
But, you don’t have to move to the woods and live deliberately to simplify your life. Purification can begin with a gesture as simple as cleaning out your closets, donating long forgotten books and shoes, or clearing your mind to make room for…space.
What’s cluttering your cranial cupboard? For me, fear is the demon I struggle with that can take up a lot of real estate. And yet, fear is not only immaterial, but it’s rooted in a fictitious future that hasn’t happened. You would think that filling your mind with space would allow more negative thoughts to fill it, but it’s just the opposite. When you let go of the thoughts that pre-occupy and already overworked egoic consciousness, what’s left is infinite space that pushes out the mental chatter.
So, empty your walk-in wardrobe, clear out the closets of your mind, get rid of what doesn’t serve you, and live Shaucha.
-Your Charmed Yogi