The Roman deity Jupiter is known as the king of the gods. He is considered to be the equivalent of Zeus (in Greek mythology) and Indra (in Hindu mythology). Jupiter is the god of thunder and sky. He is often depicted carrying a thunderbolt and was regarded as the “light bringer.” As king of the gods, he distributes the law and is associated with justice, philosophy, religion, and travel.
It’s not hard to imagine why the largest planet in the solar system was named after the god, Jupiter. In astrology, Jupiter is associated with optimism, luck, abundance, expansion, and destiny. Jupiter serves the role of a wise, benevolent mentor. Jupiter is the teacher, the guru. Jupiter points to destiny, the larger narrative, and the journey.
I’ve long been an astrology geek. One of the most amazing things about astrology to me is the belief that within each of us there is an entire solar and mythological system. These potent, magical energies exist in all of us. They are not simply external forces. If you believe in the power and validity of astrology, your birth chart can be thought of as a map to your soul.
Speaking of astrology, a few years ago I had an incredible reading with an amazingly gifted woman. She gave me some fantastic advice that stayed with me to this day. She advised me to tune into Jupiter and truly own all my quirks and idiosyncrasies. Her message was basically the following: “Whatever is peculiar about you, whatever makes you unique or different – instead of trying to shrink it, do the opposite. Enlarge it! Expand it! Place it center stage and make it part of your ‘act’.” Some places might be safer grounds for exploring this approach than others, but her point was very well taken.
So often our families, our jobs, and society at large exert pressure on us to deny our uniqueness and conform. We internalize that message and perpetuate it ourselves. We contract in fear. We drown in feelings of shame. We try to blend in. What if you tried to move in the opposite direction? What if you magnified and highlighted the ways in which you’re different? Not better or worse, just different. Wouldn’t it be a relief to come out as yourself? To demonstrate that you accept and love yourself and think others should too? Wouldn’t that be about a million times more interesting and fun than the alternative we usually fall for?
Too often we fear that which makes us different. But what makes us different is what usually makes us so great. It’s all part of our dharma, our hero’s journey. The joyous, expansive energy of Jupiter exists in everyone. Let’s tap into it together!
Astrologically inclined folks believe that the house and sign that the planet Jupiter is located in your natal chart can you help you identify areas in your life that you might want to expand and which will in turn expand you.
To get your own personal reading, and understand Jupiter in your chart, set up a time with our beloved in-house astrologer, Alice at http://sf.laughinglotus.com/astrology.html
by Brima Jah
Krishna Das, a celebrated American kirtan artist said: “many people do asana to have a nice ass. That lasts for maybe two years. Then someone else always comes along with a better ass. That is suffering.”
I first came to love yoga because of practicing asana, or what I used to call “poses.” I wanted toned arms and legs, sculpted abs and yes, a nice ass as well. And then, as I silently made judgments, I noticed the asana I loved seemed inseparable from stories about Hindu gods and goddesses. Having been raised as a child by a religious Muslim father and Catholic mother, I was a bit weary of the use of the term “god” or “goddess.” I often took these terms and their accompanying stories to be a sign of mindless worship of something that could never have any actual physical form. However, it seemed nearly impossible to take a single yoga class without stories of how these many gods and goddesses were born, how they related to others gods, goddesses and their surrounding worlds.
Yet, secretly, I was becoming allured by the realness in the drama of their lives; how it was filled with tragedy and triumph, sorrow and joy, despair and hope. There were clear parallels between aspects of god/goddess life and real human life. I had many questions. “Can’t we just come to class and do the poses? “What’s the point of a flying monkey god (Hanuman)?” “How come that one goddess (Kali) is bloody all over and has her tongue dangling out of her mouth?” “Who are those people chanting next to me?” “How do they all seem to know what words to chant?”
Amidst all the questioning, I continued to return to yoga class. I kept on asking questions. I did my best to stay curious. I made space for my doubts, fears and reservations both about myself as a person and of yoga. Gratefully, I managed to stay open to more than just the asana.
Part of my questioning can be considered “svadyaya,” a Sanskrit term that is loosely translated as “self-study.” Self-study can be more than literally studying oneself. It is an opportunity to listen to the thoughts in our mind…to discern between which thoughts are and which thoughts are not the truths. What have almost been the most powerful stories I’ve heard are those that I tell myself about myself. The stories about where I was born, my achievements, my sense of self-worth, mistakes I’ve made, or the people, and circumstances that I associate with my own suffering. It’s believing these thoughts, and sometimes, misperceiving these thoughts, as the truth can be the challenge. This misperception is known in Sanskrit as “avidya,“ or is otherwise considered to be “ignorance” or “delusion.”
I’m continuously learning how gods and goddesses, along with their many stories, help dissolve ignorance and reveal truth. They are meant to remind us of how suffering is universal even if we mistake it to be just our own experience. We can practice asana, often named after gods, goddess and sages to feel their “story” as they take shape in our body. We may chant or sing the names of these gods and goddesses as a means for calling on their qualities—strength, wisdom, abundance, resilience or kindness—to emerge from within us. We gain inspiration and freedom from seeing ourselves in gods and goddesses, and seeing gods and goddesses in ourselves.
We are living, breathing gods and goddesses.
Brima Jah is boundlessly grateful for being part of the LLSF that has nurtured, challenged and loved him in so many ways. He teaches Lotus Flow 2 on Mondays/Wednesdays at 6:45PM and All Levels Lotus Flow on Saturdays at 6:15PM.
by Amy Ruben
Paravati, the embodiment of Shakti, sat meditating for a thousand years in a remote region of the Himalayas. As she sat in extreme austerity, her appearance became anything but lavish. Her hair was matted into long dreadlocks that held the secrets and mysteries of the sky above and the earth below, and on her body she wore tatted deer skin and bark. The purpose of Parvati’s meditation practice was clear and concise: she wanted to reunite with her divine love, from whom she had been separated from through many incarnations. As she meditated, the story of her infinite lives played out before her….
She saw Brahma, the God of Creation, birth from his mouth an odd, indescribable, a-sexual membranous creature that looked much like an egg. Terrified, because he could not describe it, Brahma cried out: “Divide yourself!” The creature instantly split into two halves, which soon assembled into two bodies: male and female, Shiva and Shakti. Shakti was filled with awe as she stared at Shiva, who was clearly her other and herself. She couldn’t tell where one began and one ended. As Shakti reached out a hand towards Shiva, Brahma shouted “NO! You must stay divided!” In the pain of separation, Shakti turned to duality, with the unyielding hope of reconnecting with Shiva. Shiva, on the other hand, found the pain so unbearable that he took off to the Himalayas where he meditated among the ghosts on death and destruction. With discipline, Shiva liberated himself of all desire, thus obtaining the power to create and destroy. Shiva and Shakti continue to unite and separate for eternity, just like we, in our humanness, oscillate between wholeness or oneness and separateness.
Shiva is often called the awareness and Shakti is the aliveness. Shiva is the sacred ground on which Shakti creates. Without the stillness and groundness of Shiva, the creative potential of Shakti becomes unmanageable. Without the creative potency of Shakti, Shiva becomes an observer lacking the ability to create or manifest. Shiva and Shakti merge to create Oneness and dissolve into this oneness where the masculine and feminine cease to exist and the pure consciousness of creation manifests in its place. Shiva and Shakti symbolize an intrinsic duality, balance, and the freedom to embody and dance with our devotion and prayer in any form.
I didn’t grow up listening to stories of Gods and Goddesses. In fact, my Jewish upbringing told me that idol worship was forbidden. When I was 18, a fierce mentor of mine gave me a photo of Shiva and Shakti, the divine masculine and feminine. She told me that the divine masculine and feminine lived and thrived inside of me, and that masculinity and femininity were actually not gendered. Radical. I kept this photo in a hidden place and would glance at it from time to time for a spark of inspiration and guidance. I began to explore what it meant to be gender non-conforming, and to break free from the deeply embedded patterns and intergenerational trauma that lived in my body as I moved through the world as a female-bodied, Jewish woman. This is an ongoing exploration that shifts, morphs, softens, ignites, unites, and separates.
I now have an altar in my room that is graced with symbols of the gods and goddess that have meaning to me, and the many incarnations of Shiva and Shakti. I also honor my Jewish faith on this very altar. I chant to the different forms of Shiva and Shakti in the ancient language of Sanskrit, and I chant to the divine in the ancient language of Hebrew. I believe that all symbols of the divine evoke certain qualities within ourselves that ultimately bring us back to balance or oneness. We can also serve each other in this same way. As Ram Dass says, “We are all just walking each other home.”
Please join us on your mat this month as we dance with all of the forms of divine!
Amy believes yoga acts as a mirror so that we can greet and tolerate our discomfort as it shows up each day, rather than turn away or react against it. Amy trusts in yoga as a daily, embodied practice. She believes that with discipline and devotion, we can awaken the tools inside of ourselves to stay present with whatever arises and begin to trust in the process as it unfolds. Amy is currently working on a Masters in Somatic Counseling Psychology. Catch a class with Amy on Monday at 10:15AM, Friday at 9:00AM, or Saturday at 8:30AM!
by Ella Ben-Zvi
“What do you have on your wrist?”, he asked as I entered the lyft car. “My bracelet? It is a Mala.” I answered with hesitation. “What do you do with it?”, he asked with curiosity. “Well, I am not sure exactly, but I am supposed to use it to count the number of times I say a Mantra.”
It was the second weekend of Yoga School and we were asked to chant a mantra in Sanskrit to one of the Hindu deities. “We need to repeat the mantra 108 times, every day over 40 days,” I told the driver. “You don’t sound very excited about it,” he laughed. I smiled back, but my heart was heavy. How can I sing in a language I don’t understand to Gods I don’t believe in?
“Maybe I can help, I grew up in the Hindu tradition,” he said. ”Really?” I was shocked! “Yes, all of my life I’ve been chanting Mantras for the Gods. I can help you choose a Mantra”.
“First, let’s talk about The Word” he said. “The Word?” I asked, unsure of what he was referring to. “Yes. The Word ‘God.’ This is one of the most loaded words I know, in all languages.” Just hearing him say the word, I felt an intense emotional reaction. He took a big breath and continued, “As opposed to “Table” or “Moon” we can’t point it out, we can’t share its meaning, not only because it is intangible, and sometimes taboo, but mainly because it is personal. Each and every one of us has our own personal story about God. So maybe you can tell me your story?”
Growing up in Israel, the birthplace of Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Bahai, God was everywhere. Wherever you go there are holy places, synagogues, churches, mosques and gardens where people pray and worship God. Everyone believes in the same one God, but in many different ways… The driver looked me in eyes through the mirror and asked “Which route should I take?”, “I don’t know” I replied. He turned to Folsom and said “I guess they will all take us to the same destination.”
“So in your story God is everywhere?” He challenged my words, “Yes, but you can’t see, smell, hear, taste or touch him!” I explained. “Can you feel him?” Silence filled the car. “Sometimes, when I am practicing Yoga I feel like I am not alone. Like there is something bigger than me with me. In me.” For the first time I heard myself expressing those sensations out loud. “Namaste” he bowed his head down, “In you, and inside each and every one of us.”
Now it was my turn to ask questions, “So if there is one God everywhere and in everyone, why are there so many different deities?” I demanded an answer, “They are all One, but they represent different aspects of the One. Inside of you, they represent the different aspects of your being. So when you are chanting a mantra to God, you’re actually chanting to yourself” He clarified. “Now the question is which one of them can help you?”
“Let’s start with Ganesha,” he opened. “I know him! He is the elephant with the human body!” I declared. “Yes, he is the remover of obstacles, so he can help you with any challenge you face.”
“I’ll take him”, I jumped. “Great! Just note that he is also the one who puts the obstacles there to begin with.” He laughed. “What about the beautiful lady with the four arms who looks like Beyonce?” I asked. “Are you referring to Lakshmi? She is the goddess of abundance, too much of her sweet honey will turn into poison.” he explained with a smile, “There is always a catch!”
“And the jumping monkey?” I tried another one, “Hanuman. He is a devoted servant, if you want to chant to him, you should chant to his master – Ram. And this is where it gets tricky – Ram is an incarnation of Krishna”. I tried to follow, “So should I just chant to Krishna? Is he the dude with the snakes in his dreadlocks?”. The driver was amused by my confusion, “No, that is Shiva, he is a dancer and the meditator! But he is also the destroyer…” Now I was even more frustrated than before, which one should I choose?
“Here we are”, he turned to my street and pulled over next to my house. “But what about my mantra?” I begged for his help as I opened the car door. “Maybe you can give me your mantra? Which one do you use?” The driver smiled and said, “It is actually a very famous one, maybe you know it, Lokah Samastah Sukinum Bhavantu. It means – May all beings…”, “Be happy and free!!” I ended his sentence. “So you do know the mantra!” he said happily, “Of course, I love when teachers say it at the end of class!”. “Start today and repeat it for 108 times every day over 40 days” he reminded me. “And then what will happen?” The driver placed his hands together on his heart, “Namaste” he bowed. “Namaste” I thanked him and waved goodbye.
The days went by, everyday I repeated the Mantra silently in my head for 108 times. It was ok, but I was ready for it to be over… On the 40th day I decided to try and sing it out loud, and my life was never the same. The vibes and the sound filled my body with joy and light, my mind and my heart were wide open. I’ve never been so happy and free.
Looking back on this conversation with my Lyft driver, I now see he was teaching me how to be open, and to try new things even if they sound crazy at first. We all see the world from the perspective of our own story, but the world is much bigger than our words.
Ella believes the most adventurous journeys begin on the Yoga mat. In her classes, she creates space for self exploration and self healing through movement, relaxation and breath. Join her on Friday nights for Yoga with Live Music, Gentle Flow on Mondays, and Level 1 on Wednesday and Thursday.