AHIMSA- non injury/non violence.
-Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras
“Do no harm.”
Kind of a universally accepted phrase. Doctors pledge this in the practice of medicine. For most of us this makes sense. Don’t cause damage to others with your words or actions. But– doesn’t it also mean do no harm by NOT doing anything. If you stay silent and someone will be harmed by your silence…is it your duty to speak up?
Go even further….do no harm…to yourself. Be kind to yourself. Love yourself. Forgive yourself. Protect yourself. By doing no harm to yourself, you actually begin to cultivate this energy for the world. Having an awareness of the prevention of suffering is a key to the connection we have to each other. If you are kind and generous to everyone around you- but beat yourself up and put yourself down….all the good you gained by caring for others just evaporates. Easy to do….. We live in a world where it’s every man for himself.
We are disconnected from each other and most importantly ourselves.
Cultivate Ahimsa in your life. Even just the tiniest bit. You will create a tiny ripple of change. Care for yourself as you would for those you love most. It is the small steps that bring us to the great rewards.
I know what you are thinking. Mmmmmmmmmm….tapas. Yummy Mediterranean food…….wine…….laughter. Well. You’re not wrong…
However, in Yoga, Tapas is a very, very different experience. It is a mindset-a decision to go to a deeper level of sensation and brings the gift of purification. Tapas is the act of staying in the intensity and holding strong to create intense heat and healing. It can be likened to the smelting of metal. If you heat gold to the melting point, it purifies and condenses into a solid-with new purer properties. Our mind body connection is similar to this. Quite often the mind is the first to give up. It tells the body- this is too intense, we need to stop, we can’t take this!!! The body usually blindly obeys and we miss out on the deep and important changes that take place when we are pushed to our limit and stay calm and focused. If you really listen to yourself…..you can go to the deepest level of your ability and discover new territory. The physical obstacles that we encounter in Yoga practice are there to become a teaching tool. The act of embracing intensity- Tapas-can create intense sensation- but only in those deep, intense and well earned moments can you purify yourself and your baggage and create a beautiful, new being. The ability to stay and deal with uncomfortable situations is a valuable tool. Only the most confident, grounded people can triumph in these situations. Even on a basic level….physically….tapas can jumpstart healing, wake up a sleepy immune system and even melt away scar tissue. The ability to triumph over pain is a revelation indeed.
It takes pressure, heat and time to make a diamond. And baby, we got carats!!!!
It is good to have an end to journey toward,
But it is the journey that matters in the end.
–Ursula K. LeGuin
I am deep into my second week of training and now the REAL work begins. I still have hope and a sense of newness…..but now the physical and emotional obstacles are making themselves known. Sore bodies, full brains and even strong emotions out of nowhere are popping up. Our daily practice in the morning now consists of 2-3 hours of yoga and workshops on particular poses and how to teach them. We are now speaking the names of the poses only in Sanskrit and learning about sequencing the poses together. More importantly we are practicing meditation daily. I have meditated before and found it very soothing and focusing, but have never made it a daily thing until now. And boy does it tell the truth fast!
When you sit and quiet the mind—- ahem…..TRY to quiet the mind you can get down to business with yourself. It makes you feel the subtle movements of energy in yourself and the space around you in a highly sensitized yet distant way. We’ve been discussing the yogic belief that there is a constant vibration- a universal vibration that has always existed and is always present. When you can focus the mind, you can begin to tap into that universal vibration and feel a sense on calm, focused oneness. A focused mind operates in a more efficient way….and the energy can flow freely. People have been trying to master the mind for literally thousands of years. I find it amazing that we still sit quietly with our eyes closed and feel the same frustrations, the same fleeting calm moments and the same connection with the vibration. The sound of “OM”-really “AUM”-is the verbalization of the tapping into the universal sound. Isn’t that cool? And even cooler???? Energy cannot be destroyed. Once it exists it can’t be destroyed-it merely changes form. It literally TRANSFORMS. So throughout our journey we can have small transformations of our energy-taking us to new levels along the way to our final transformation– When we become one again with the universe and vibration.
Until then…..I will be working on sitting quietly for 10 mins and not thinking about my grocery list. small steps…….small steps……
YOU MAY BE CAPABLE OF GREAT THINGS,
BUT LIFE CONSISTS OF SMALL THINGS.
I have completed exactly 4 days of yoga training. My feet hurt, my lower back is sore from sitting cross legged most of the time and my brain is so full I have sanskrit coming out of my ears. But I am smiling. On the first day, my fellow classmates and I—(about 20- all women) nervously sat on the floor in a circle silently sizing each other up. We spoke a bit about ourselves and what brought us to this teacher training and then—we literally dove in headfirst to the land of yoga. Although most of us have been studying yoga for a long time and are quite advanced, we all realized that we really don’t know that much about yoga itself. We were all terrified when our amazing and respected teacher/guru Jeanmarie informed us that we would be doing a practice teach in pairs on the second day. REALLY? Like actually lead someone through a yoga pose? I have done these poses for 15 years….but I realized I had no idea how to tell someone else how to do it!!! and safely….well……hmmmmmm. Facinating. We were all so ready to give…..but we really had no idea how to even begin. We didn’t have the technique or the tools yet as teachers.
Slowly we are learning the proper sanskrit names for the poses……and things like the most effective way to teach a beginner how to just stand in Tadasana. Just stand and be. (and ground all for corners of your feet down AND pull up the front of the quads AND soften your front ribs AND…….) We are deepening our practice of meditation. It will help us to focus our own minds so we can be more helpful as teachers and more focused people in general. Deepening our own yoga practice is part of teaching….we are all students.
Each day is a baby step. Each day is another small step forward….another individual pebble added to the giant sandy beach of yoga teaching. All of these little tiny steps will someday be something great. It is so easy to get caught up in the monotony of life….the everyday-ness of it all. But if we look closer, our lives truly are the sum of the parts. The little things ARE essentially the big things in time. The challenge is to live in the small, so you can earn the great.
This is the moment of embarking
All auspicious signs are in place.
– Deng Ming-Dao
Sunrise symbolizes the dawning of a new day. It happens every single day. The sun rises and it sets. Some days we rise early and take note of the morning sky. It brightens and turns colour, there is a sensation of anticipation. Then the sun appears; just a sliver at first-and then it slowly rises up from the horizon. Another new day.
In the beginning, hopes are high. The first steps of a new journey may be tentative but they are filled with honesty, optimism and innocence. That is where I am today. I am taking my first steps towards more knowledge. The first steps towards expansion. I know all days won’t be filled with this level of newness and hope. But during the times when I doubt myself, I will try to remember the feeling of the first step and my hopes for my journey.
Yoga School……here I come.
Be Like Water – Bruce Lee
World renowned martial artist Bruce Lee founded the martial arts and philosophy known as Jeet Kune Do. Unlike more patterned, fixed traditional martial arts, Jeet Kune Do’s guiding principals are that of being flexible in life and combat. That each situation is different and cannot be planned for. Instinct, ability and freedom are the tools to dealing with each situation. Having the upper hand means giving in to the moment and not choosing a pre-planned attack.
One of the main principals- “be like water”- is echoed in yoga teachings. Watch water travel over rocks in a stream. It easily glides around the rocks in it’s way. Smoothly and without stress it splits to go around the river rocks and meets on the other side to continue it’s journey. It pools and is still; it rushes and froths-but it doesn’t try to stop the natural flow. It’s strength is it’s flexibility- it doesn’t try to pool when it should be frothing. It goes along it’s way flowing around and through until it comes together in the end.
Sometimes our ability to just let go and go with the current of life is our greatest strength. The greatest wisdom is knowing we will eventually get to where we need to go. The choice is whether we do it smoothly and easily or if we strain against the current.
USE A MIRROR IN DIFFICULT TIMES
YOU WILL SEE BOTH CAUSE- AND RESOLUTION.
Recent events in the world have proved that human beings and nature are intricately connected. Whether we like it or not, we are a part of the earth. It is easy to forget- in our busy modern lives-that without simple fresh water or microbes in the soil, our lives would not exist. The trees churning out oxygen, the seas teeming with aquatic life.
In yoga, the unity of nature and the soul is called prakrti/purusa. The belief is that our lives here are a quest to live in balance-between the earth and the sky. That is our predicament…honoring ourselves and honoring nature. When we forget, the balance is off. It is a strong but fragile connection. To know ourselves and to know where we are going…. we can look to plants and animals. Are they diseased due to pollution? Are they struggling in a dying environment? Are we so disconnected that we believe that we are immune to the cycle of life? Nature is our great mirror. It will always answer honestly. It will always show our mistakes. Yet it will always provide the solution. What happens in nature will happen to us. I am seeing a new respect rise up in the world. We are starting to grasp the bond between us and the earth. We can no longer look away from ourselves in the mirror.