by Jen DeSimone
“47 You have the right to work, but never to the fruit of work. You should never engage in action for the sake of reward, nor should you long for inaction. 48 Perform work in this world, Arjuna, as a man established within himself – without selfish attachments, and alike in success and defeat. For yoga is perfect evenness of mind.”
Excerpt From: Easwaran, Eknath. “The Bhagavad Gita.”
Last year I suffered a career crisis. I hated what I was doing, and I was frustrated by the people with whom I was working. It was so bad that my manager noticed and commented on it. When I realized how evident my unhappiness was, I knew that something had to change. I seriously contemplated whether it was time to change companies or careers even. I eventually came to the conclusion that changing jobs was actually running away from the real problem. The real problem wasn’t the job or other people. The real problem was me.
My yoga students are often surprised when I tell them that my full-time job is writing software. To them, as to many people, yoga lives in a completely separate world from technology. I too am sometimes surprised, but not for the same reasons. When I was in high school I wanted to become an academic. While I was in graduate school, however, I became disillusioned with academia. As a result, I quit school and got a programming job while I figured out what I wanted to do next. Eighteen years later, and I am still coding.
Technology is, as everyone knows, a male-dominated field in which egos abound. Last year during my career crisis, I realized that after almost two decades working in this domain, I had developed quite the ego. To be clear, when I say that I had an overdeveloped ego, I mean to say that my self-worth had become dependent on how my work was regarded. When I was praised, I felt like a rock star. When I was criticized, I felt like a fraud.
When I was trying to figure out what and how to change, I realized that my attitude to my programming was in sharp contrast with my yoga teaching. Since beginning to teach in 2012, I have always regarded my teaching as service (“seva”). The class is never about me. I observe and help my students as best I can. If a class is well received, that’s great. If someone has a critique or a suggestion, that’s great too. I always walk away from the class with a clear heart and head knowing that I did my best. This is in the spirit of karma yoga, the yoga of selfless action. This form of yoga is described in one of the great Hindu texts, The Bhagavad Gita. In it, the god Krishna teaches a reluctant warrior named Arjuna the importance of taking action, but all the while not being vested in the fruits of that action.
As a result, I realized that I needed to carry over this notion of service into my full-time job. Of course putting this into practice didn’t happen overnight, but it helped that I had been doing this in my yoga teaching for a few years. I volunteered to be in meetings more. In those meetings, I listened to my coworkers. I was also willing to toss my own assumptions out the window when they didn’t hold true. And, when things went wrong, I didn’t beat myself up. Instead, I tried to learn what we could do differently in the future and moved on.
When I decided to make these changes, it wasn’t to impress anyone or to get ahead. I simply wanted to end my own suffering. The changes, however, did not go unnoticed. People remarked on them to my manager, who later related them to me. Whenever he brings it up, I simply say, “I try my best.” And then, I silently think, “This is also yoga.”
Jen first discovered yoga in 2001 and has been practicing it ever since. Since completing her 200 hour teacher training with Laughing Lotus four years ago, Jen has been offering classes where students are met where they are. You can follow her on her Facebook page.
I’m a Vata, which means I’m in my head – a lot. When things don’t make sense, I grab a book and I throw on my spiritual tool belt and I pray, sing, dance or whatever else Spirit calls me to do. This past week, after the elections, as I laid in my hammock soaking up the sun, trying to hold space for the over-saturation of hate, confusion and chaos that was surrounding me, I reached for the Bhagavad Gita.
The Bhagavad Gita is a sacred Hindu text. For some who practice yoga in the west, it is a required text in teacher trainings and used as a guide in how us yoga teachers craft our classes and live our lives. A brief synopsis of this sacred ancient text – Arjuna is a warrior on the battlefield with Krishna as his charioteer. There’s an epic war about to go down and it’s up to Arjuna to go to war against his own cousins and uncles to protect and defend the sacred land. At first Arujna is like – no way Krishna, I can’t go to bat with my own family, I’d rather they kill me. And throughout the story, Krishna is educating Arujuna as to why it’s vital for him to follow his dharma (as a warrior to defeat his evil cousins).
Krishna drops gems like “Devote yourself to the disciplines of yoga, for yoga is skill in action” and “Strive constantly to serve the welfare of the world; by devotion to selfless work one attains the supreme goal of life. Do your work with the welfare of others always in mind.” And “The infinite joy of touching Brahman is easily attained by those who are free from the burden of evil and established within themselves. They see the Self in every creature and all creation in the Self. With consciousness unified through meditation, they see everything with an equal eye.”
As I was re-reading parts of the book, my natural Vata nature began to make infinite connections across philosophies, practices and our current reality. Darshana, the Sanksrit word for philosophy, literally means seeing. Ayurveda is a philosophy which allows physicians to see patients in the same way Nature sees them. Yoga is a philosophy that allows individuals to see themselves in their Divine Nature. The sages who codified these practices were called “Seers” because of their ability to perceive reality clearly.
Yoga gives us a tool belt to be able to sit with our own shadows, our own darkness and allows us to have revelation after revelation for our growth and spiritual r-evolution. It gives us a constant reminder of our Divine Spirit, our interconnectedness, our karma and our dharma. It brings us back into our physical bodies, our breath and our greatest super power – love.
Ayurveda, “the sister science” of Yoga, is the art and science of reminding us that we are the microcosm of the macrocosm and that our natural state of being is one of harmony, of living in unison with the rhythm of Mama Earth. It reminds us that everything we need, we already have inside and if we let our internal clocks mimic Mama Earths clocks, we should be good. “Spiritual health is a dynamic balance between a strongly integrated individual personality and the cosmic personality of Nature, a balance that is possible only so long as a being remembers its debt to Mother Nature.”
Here’s what else Ayurveda teaches us – there are layers to prevent us from getting sick and the body with its infinite wisdom tries to warn us before shit hits the fan. But lucky for us, our immune system and its intricate system is controlled by a single boss – ahamkara. Ahamkara constantly reminds every one of your cells of its identity and allegiance to the glorious entity known as you. Ahamkara is like our own personal Arjuna. Living inside with her own personal army, ready to serve and keep you aligned, safe and healthy.
Healthy in Sanskrit is Svastha. Sva = self and Stha = established in Self. So, Svastha, or to be healthy, means to be established in the Self – mind, body, spirit. And what did the Gita tell us about being established in Self? It said that we “see the Self in every creature and all creation in the Self.”
So this is why I always find it disturbing when one of two things happen – one: the physical yoga practice (‘asana’ – which is a pathway to getting us to be able to sit in meditation to reach these higher levels of our spiritual consciousness) is sold solely as a workout, stripped from the spiritual aspect of it and two: when people fail to see how the spiritual IS political.
If I am to be established in Self, then how do I do this while completely ignoring the ills of the world and all the suffering that surrounds me? If I am to strive to see everything through an equal eye – through a continual practice of mediation – how do I not take what I learn in this individual practice with me with every breath I take? If I am practicing yoga, ayurveda and reading these spiritual texts and yet only applying them to my own individual life, then I am just feeding my ego and not pushing myself into the uncomfortable spaces to have the necessary dialogues needed so that we ALL are established in Self?
It’s not a passive practice. It’s an active one. Being a peaceful warrior, a warrior of light, a Spiritual Warrior does not mean that we pretend that people aren’t suffering. It does not mean that we keep our eyes closed and avoid the uncomfortable conversations, confrontations and spaces. Everything about this practice teaches us the opposite. When we choose to not express what impacts us, when we choose to not listen to how and what deeply impacts others, when that expression is restricted, we lose our resonance and no longer vibrate in the chorus of creation. We become less alive, out of step and dissonant.
Ayurveda teaches us that the longer we stay dissonant and refuse to listen, the further we move from our alignment, and eventually our bodies will force us to listen by shutting down. Remember that the balance is possible only so long as we remember our debt to Mother Nature. So the more we refuse to listen and pay this debt, the louder Mother Nature will scream to wake us up into taking action to get back in formation! I don’t know if she can be any louder than she is right now.
The Spiritual IS Political and mama Earth is waiting for us.
Here are just a few ways to hold space for yourself and to show up for those most impacted by our violent political environment:
Minerva, a devoted yoga mat souljah, loves to lead folx back into their bodies, with their breath, to remember their Gift Of Divinity. She’s all about getting back to our roots – learn more at RootsHealing.org & join her in March for a beautiful trip to Cuba!
With the magic of music, asana, pranayama and meditation, Minerva’s classes are soulful, playful & makes you sweat – #coconutmagic Join her every Tuesday at noon for Soul Sweat, Tuesdays & Thursdays at 5:30pm for Happy Hour Flow, and Saturdays at 11:45am for a sweet Lotus Basic.
by Tina Spogli
This month marks my one-year anniversary living in San Francisco. As a result, I’ve been self reflecting a ton, thinking about all of the changes I’ve seen in my life over the past year – namely a move across the country coupled with a complete change in my livelihood. We all have these markers in our lives that encourage us to look at our unique path from a bird’s eye view, and hopefully feel content with where we are in this moment.
When we reflect on our life, we’re able to see our experience as a continuous wave. We see the moments when strength prevailed, and we also see the moments when we questioned our path and lost our faith. But the important part is that we stayed on the path. Vajrapradama (Unshakable Trust) mudra has been my reminder to believe in myself, and my own unique journey. Just like the poses in our asana practice, these mudras, or shapes we create with our hands, produce a particular feeling within us. The mudra communicates with us through the universal language of emotion. Mudras are like medicine, and Unshakable Trust mudra can be taken daily like a vitamin, receiving a regular dose of self-confidence and strength.
To form Unshakable Trust mudra, interlace the hands at your heart center, and let your thumbs point up towards the sky. The way the hands are linked gives the feeling of warrior strength and connection with ourselves, each other, and the cosmic self. The cosmic self shines through as our intuition – that voice inside each of us guiding our way. Sometimes we build walls in our hearts and minds that make it difficult to follow the path. As we tear down these walls, we get closer to our truth. This past year has brought many changes, and where I’ve resisted change in the past, I’m now seeing the beauty of how our lives can unfold when we let them.
Trust is a practice. We keep coming back to ourselves, to our faith, and to our light – remembering the immense power within. Trust means letting go, and waking up to our true selves. Paolo Coelho in his book ‘Warrior of the Light’ says:
The moment that he begins to walk along it, the Warrior of the Light recognizes the Path. Each stone, each bend cries welcome to him. He identifies with the mountains and the streams, he sees something of his own soul in the plants and the animals and the birds of the field. Then accepting the help of the Soul of the World, he allows his personal legend to guide him toward the tasks that life has reserved for him. On some nights, he has nowhere to sleep, on others he suffers from insomnia. “That’s just how it is,” thinks the Warrior. “I was the one who chose to walk this path.” In these words lies all his power: he chose the path along which he is walking and so has no complaints.
Tina developed a deep love for quieting the body and mind during her time living in one of the loudest cities. Yoga found Tina in 2007 while she was living in New York, and the practice quickly became her sanctuary amidst all of the hustle.
She believes in the transformative process of yoga, with its ability to bring us back into our bodies and breath, and stretch our mental limitations of what we think is possible – both on and off the mat. Her mantra is to come as you are, and observe what unfolds. Tina’s classes are thoughtful and intentional, sharing inspiration from her personal practice and life.
Tina is a 250 RYT, and a graduate from Laughing Lotus in New York and San Francisco. When she is not on the mat, you can find her in nature, exploring
photography, and hanging with her animal friends! She is very grateful to be a
part of the Laughing Lotus community of the east and west, and is thankful for
this space to share her heart and energy with you.
What do you do when someone tells you your opinion is wrong? That your feelings and emotions aren’t warranted. That you should change the way you think. A common reaction would be resentment toward the that person and sadly in some ways, thoughts of dissatisfaction toward yourself.
For so many years I would hear the word “meditate” and draw back from it because of people telling me I should try it to help me with my mental and emotional issues. That it would change my life. Now, this doesn’t sound so bad right? The reason why I cringed at the idea was because I already had thoughts of dissatisfaction toward myself and was defensive at the thought of someone telling me ways to “fix” myself. The last thing I wanted to do at the time was listen to my own thoughts in absolute quiet! I needed distractions, I needed solutions, I needed to actively seek ways to help my situation change with more immediate results.
After many years of seeking my path of happiness to no avail, I finally caved and tried meditating. I took baby steps. First, it was by going to yoga classes and sitting quietly for a few minutes at the beginning and end of each practice. I remember one day we started the class with Dharmachakra Mudra with our eyes closed. I saw vivid colors circling through my fingers and the energy around me soft and with purpose, like I was meant to sit in that room in that exact moment. I felt like I was grounded but floating at the same time. My internal and external was in harmony. My energy was balanced. At that moment I thought, well if this is what meditation feels like, this is great! Well, that moment was exactly that – a moment that came and went.
Meditating is the hardest thing I ever had to discipline myself to do. Meditation takes incredible COURAGE. Honesty. Focus. Compassion toward Self. This seemingly innocent practice challenged me to unearth the layers of imperfections and insecurities I was constantly pushing further and deeper inside to hide that part of me from the world. I had to start listening to my own voice inside. The child-like innocence, the bruised heart that came from years of beating myself up over not being better than I was. Warm compassion would flood through me for that imperfect person I was trying to escape. I started loving that person because my unique journey, just like the unique journey that all of you have, made me the person I am today and in this moment I accept me for me. Those so-called imperfections create depth to who I am and meditation helped me learn to embrace all parts of myself. I can finally learn how to let go of the expectations I put on myself. I can let go of what I now realize as aggression toward myself. That person who was telling me I was wrong and needed to change? Ultimately, that ended up being me, the very person who I was resentful toward in the beginning.
Rather than “fixing” yourself by trying to make yourself a supposedly better person, meditation helps you become friends with yourself. To accept the imperfections which create YOU. Meditation allows acceptance versus change. Letting go versus force. Change is a byproduct. Meditate so you can navigate your current self through the constant flux that is the universe we live in.
Just like there’s no right or wrong way to think or feel, there’s no right or wrong way to meditate. We all have our own poisons and our own path we need to find and follow, which is why it’s important to practice meditation regularly to figure out what YOUR path is. With that said, guidance is wonderful.
Here are a few basic things I learned in my own routine to prepare myself for meditation:
● Morning distractions? Push those aside! How many of you check your phone right after you wake up, before your feet even touch the ground? Keep that phone outside of the bedroom.
I wake up, take a deep breath of air, say thank you to whoever I feel grateful toward that morning, feed my dog, oil-pull with sesame oil, brush my teeth, drink warm lemon water, eat breakfast, read a few pages of something yoga-related in the morning to exercise my mind, walk my dog, then I open my laptop and start my work day.
Trust me when I say, my first instinct in the mornings is still to check my phone and sometimes I slip. And on those days that I slip, I do feel off in the morning but will close my eyes briefly, take a deep breathe, and let it go.
● Mantra with mala. I switch between my rosary my mother gave me when I was younger, and a mala bead necklace. They both speak to me so I use both of them! I recite a morning mantra that I need during the day. Sometimes it’s a simple “So Ham”, which translates to “I am that, that I am”.
● I love mudras. Usually I use Gyan mudra on my left hand with my beads in my right hand. I also love Dhyani Mudra because of the bowl your hand creates which represents receptivity in the purest form to whatever path lies before you in that moment. Knowing the meaning of a mudra and using the physical act during meditation helps to create more space in the mind for clearer, non-cluttered focus.
All you need is the basic energy of life that already flows in you to experience moments of enlightenment. Enlightenment itself can be a loaded, intimidating word because some people strive for this fantasy-like place that you stay in forever once you reach it. This defeats the goal of release, of letting go. So it can be a simple “a-ha” moment or a feeling of complete and utter satisfaction. That passing moment of seeing colors coursing through my hands that I mentioned earlier? That energy was always there since the day I was born through all the ups and downs, is still inside of me now, and will still be there as I survive through what life throws at me next. These little moments of enlightenment come and go but they help you remember that the energy that creates those moments channels through you with every breath you take. Sometimes I find myself in these periods of total surrender to the universe when I’m not in a seated meditative position because the meditative tools I’ve cultivated stay with me. One example is when I’m scuba diving, particularly muck-diving. From the outside, you would find me staring at one square meter distance in the sand for a good hour. But from my eyes, I see the symbiotic relationship of a gobi fish and shrimp, the spots of a hiding stingray, the head of an eel poking out from a nearby rock, a baby octopus changing colors. Ignoring the big school of fish everyone is trying to photograph because I’m focused on the teeny tiny frog fish barely perceptible to the eye, slowly making its way across the sand. All this color and beauty made me become one with the vast ocean surrounding every part of me, and I felt total freedom. These are the moments we live for and to feel. Freedom that comes from being honest in your truth, in the space you occupy, in your present moment with who you are, just as you are.
When it comes to finding this joy, we all have the lotus flower inside that’s always ready to bloom, to show its existence while pushing through the mud. This mud full of of insecurities, worries, fears, doubt. This beauty, wonder, and mystery that is life, is present in every ordinary thing we do. Every breath, every step, every time we blink our eyes and realize we’ve been staring right past the very thing right under our nose that makes us smile, in an attempt get a better view of whatever it is that everyone else is looking at.
From the outside, someone sees you staring at nothingness, not really doing much of anything. But inside, there is so much more than what meets the naked eye. Meditation allows you dive deep, look within, and find freedom to love who you are and where you are right now.
Yurina Kim is our Marketing and Community Relations extraordinaire.
“When you say something like (“I love you”) with your whole being, not just with your mouth or your intellect, it can transform the world.”
-Thich Nhat Hanh
When was the last time you looked at yourself in the mirror and said I love you? I don’t mean checking to see if your makeup is in place or if you feel you look the part for the day. I mean to truly look into the depths of your own soul and emanate love for your own being and to marvel at the essence of your soul. When I first heard one of my teachers suggest this as a daily practice I felt my ego say, I don’t need to do that , that is so vain and sometimes I don’t feel the love. Then I heard my higher self say, what a different way to see and activate love. This is my Bhakti practice I want to share with you. This is my act of love and compassion towards the Beloved that lives in all of us.
The essence of Bhakti yoga is showing up and loving in every moment in all that one does. Loving the Divine within and the Divine all around, Bhakti yoga is the path of spiritual devotion to love. It is realizing the connection between the self and omnipresent love, also known as God, Goodness, Higher Self, Breath, Spirit, Atman, Beloved, Buddha, Mystery, Universal Life Force, Divinity, Supreme Love or Source. The Sanskrit root of bhakti is bhaj, “to engage with affection”. There are nine different forms in Bhakti that one can use to practice devotion:
1.) Sravanam- hearing stories of gods/goddess and vibrational sounds
2.) Kirtanam- chanting or singing
3.) Visnu smaranam- remembering God
4.) Pada sevana- serves at the feet of God
5.) Arcanam- deity worship
6.) Bandanam- prayer
7.) Dasyam- executing order, doing your duty
8.) Sakham- serving as a friend with God
9.) Atma Nivedanam- complete surrender, releasing the concept that we are separate from anything I believe that one of the greatest acts of love is moving inside and deeply loving all the different aspects of ourselves. We deserve love even when we let down our friend, even when we show up late for work, even when our relationships fails, even on the worst day of our lives. There is true essence of goodness in all of us and we don’t come any closer to finding it if we don’t love ourselves. Love is the most powerful force in the universe. That is Bhakti yoga, connecting to the supreme love within everything.
In Narada’s translation of the Bhakti sutras he states, “Supreme love is love for everything and everyone at all times. It is a love that gives without limit and receives without limit. One sees God everywhere and loves what he sees, and one feels himself a part of God and accepts the love of the Divine. It is activating our ability to be the Lover and Beloved.”
When we tap into our willingness to love ourselves, with active awareness, we are serving as a friend to God (Sakham). I say, I love you three times to myself in the morning. As I look in a mirror, standing before myself in vulnerability to see through my ego’s judgments, I actively engage that day, I allow an act of presence with myself. Saying those three words, I love you, I love you, I love you, causes a ripple effect of gratitude for the wonder of my life. It allows me to open the floodgates of love into my world as the day starts. I feel the sweetness of this gift to myself. At first, this practice of love felt pretty awkward. Some days I may not feel as well as other days, some days feel like nothing is going right, but I still enter into this daily practice giving conscious love. This discipline and commitment to loving oneself, despite the trials of life, have contributed to my stability, perseverance and gratitude. That is my act of devotion to self. Now I can engage with the lover in me, the mother in me, the father in me, the child in me, the beloved in me as I allow myself to be present with devoting conscious love. Next time you look into the mirror, look deep into your own eyes and say I love you three times. See what comes up for you. Then everyday for the rest of your life, give this sweet, fun, deep act of love to your Self.
When you realize that you are the light of the world, you will also realize that you are the love of it; that to know is to love and to love is to know.
-Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
I love you, I love you, I love you!
Genevieve is committed to serving and helping others come into their wholeness. She is a compassionate teacher that invites all her students to live their truth and celebrate who they are as they are. She is a passionate Reiki Master/Teacher. Genevieve teaches Restorative Yoga with Reiki at Laughing Lotus on Friday from 6:45-8:00pm and Sunday from 6:15-7:30. Her website is www.InLightandSoul.com
You’ll be holding the railing on bart and looking at your inbox, walking down 24th street on the phone with your mom or in Whole Foods in front on the bulk bins and you’ll have to make a decision. The decision will feel very important or maybe it won’t. The decision will end up affecting your whole life or maybe it won’t and you’ll remember this moment for the rest of your life or maybe you’ll forget about it by Sunday. Lives are made by decisions. Well thought out decisions, rash decisions, dissected, split second and decisions which are made by never being decided.
The Bhagavad Gita is a part of the Hindu epic Mahabharata and is 700 verses set on a battlefield in the moments of indecision before a shot is fired. The Pandavas (the “good”guys) and the Kauravas (the “bad” guys) are face-to-face, bow and arrows in hand and the leader of the Pandavas, Arjuna, seems to freeze time with his doubt.
“Standing there, Arjuna saw in both armies: uncles, grandfathers, teachers, cousins, sons, grandsons, comrades, father in law and friends. On seeing his friends and relatives positioned on both sides, Arjuna was overcome with pity and said “Oh Krishna my limbs fail me, my mouth is parched, my body is shaking and my hair stands on end seeing my relatives here and anxious to fight.” His bow fell from his hand. “My skin is burning, I can’t keep standing, and my mind seems to be reeling….” (1:28-30) Arjuna finishes by recounting the tremendous suffering that war causes and asserts that he would rather be killed then to begin the battle and retreats to his chariot.
It’s then that Krishna comes to speak to him. Krishna is the spark of divinity present in everyone. Later on he says, “I am the true Self in the heart of all creatures. I am their beginning, middle and end…whenever you see anything beautiful, powerful or prosperous, know that this arose from a spark of my effulgence.” (10:41)
Arjuna asks Krishna what so many of us, pulled down to our knees in agony have asked. “What am I supposed to do?” Specifically, he questions his dharma or duty. Krishna answers by talking about Arjuna’s soul, or Self. “Weapons do not affect the self; fire does not burn it, water does not wet it, wind does not dry it. The Self cannot be pierced or cut. It is endless, all pervading, stable, immovable and everlasting….this Self, which exists in everyone, the indweller, is invulnerable.“(2:23-24)
At first, it’s hard to see how Krishna is answering Arjuna’s question. Arjuna is asking what he should do in a very specific moment- (should I go to battle or not?) and Krishna seems to be glossing over the answer by talking about his soul, but he is actually showing us a new lens by which to make decisions. Krishna says the material, physical world is always changing and if we base our decisions on things that are impermanent we will be constantly thrown around by the winds of fate. In order to find stability, we must be able to find equanimity in both pleasant and unpleasant sensory experiences. Basically, because we cannot control the sensory world, it’s silly to base our happiness on it. If you base your happiness on tamari cashews from Whole Foods, what happens when they’re out of stock? If you base your happiness on your partner, or job, or bank account what happens when those realities shift? Instead, we should focus our minds and our work on that which is permanent- our soul.
In order to uncover our souls, we must find equanimity and in order to find equanimity we must train the mind to stay centered through the constantly changing material world. And how do we do that? By focusing on what doesn’t change, which is, of course, the soul. According to the Gita, our Dharma is so much deeper than our duty or work or designated roles, so much more than being a solider or sister or father or wife or an IT specialist or yoga teacher.
Our Dharma is the work of uncovering our soul. Uncovering the soul is different for everyone. Some people find it in books, or faith, or love, or meditation or walking through a field at 5am or service or the family dog, or staring at the sunset or playing the perfect 5 notes on the piano. Many of us find it like Arjuna, on our knees in something close enough to prayer, begging for answers from whoever is closest. According to the Gita, these are the moments when it’s most important that we stay.
These moments can be an opportunity to unravel our egos and find ourselves. Retreating can look like going back to the chariot or like looking at your iphone or like closing the door and every time we retreat we lose an opportunity to connect and connection almost always comes right after the awkward, painful, scary part- right at the part where we feel the most vulnerable and alone.
The Gita tells us when we’re deciding to go into battle or to write that email or to reach across the table the take his hand, we should consider first our soul. Does this uncover my soul? Of course, the mind is loudest during times of uncertainly but the Gita asks us to listen a little deeper in order to hear the call of the soul. Literally translated the The Bhagavad Gita is just that- the “Song of the Soul.” At one point, Arjuna asks Krishna- how do I find you? How do I find my soul? Krishna answers, “ want me more than anything else.” It’s easy to get lost in the sensory world- in the painful, sexy, fearful, dreamy, annoying, ecstatic, mind-numbingly boring physical world, but ultimately the Gita asks “what do you want more than anything else?
And then comes that yoga magic. Because when you’re in pursuit of uncovering your soul- of uncovering yourself, then, only then, can you start to connect with universal soul and everybody else. And isn’t that what we’re really searching for? We seek out connection by posting our new haircut, or what we look like when we wake up or our avocado toast or the things that tear us to pieces or the things packed in our suitcases or how long we can run or the places we drink margaritas and we count up our followers and likes and it feels something like happiness but not quite. With every post, we’re asking for confirmation that we’re loved and seen and matter.
According to the Gita, this path is misguided. We are already seen and loved and matter, but seeking validation from the outside world will lead to sorrow, because it’s a distraction from real Love, or soul. The Gita says “One whose happiness is within, who is active within, who rejoices within and is illumined within, is actually the perfect mystic. He is liberated in the Supreme, and ultimately he attains the Supreme.”
In the end, Krishna boils it down to this. “Fix your mind on Me, be devoted to Me, offer service to Me, bow down to Me, and you shall certainly reach Me. I promise you because you are very dear to Me.” In the epilogue to his translation, Satchidananda boils the whole thing down to 4 words. Be good, do good.
The beloved Song of God, the Bhagavad Gita, a piece of the Hindu epic the Mahabharata, is a story of Arjuna’s great battle between light and darkness with poetic responses from Krishna.
When I first picked up Eknath Easwaran’s translation of this epic battle, it was because I was thirsty for more spiritual words to help me remove some of the darkness I was experiencing, feeling, breathing. Yet, as I got closer and closer towards the end, I found myself feeling so much resistance to reading it; feeling completely turned off by the language of God and surrendering and praising. It stirred up all the issues I had with other organized religions I had explored in the past. As I read it again for the fourth time, I laugh at my initial resistance to the end, and other times when I’ve had moments of resistance in re-reading it.
I laugh because I can see clearly how I was standing in my own way. I laugh because I can clearly identify the moments where certain lines from the book triggered things in which I did not want to have to confront. I laugh because the book put me on the battlefield of my own light and darkness, just like Arjuna.
“Devote yourself to the disciplines of yoga, for yoga is skill in action” chapter2.49
We’ve all heard it I’m sure- the real yoga happens off the mat. And that is exactly what the Gita brings to life. It is not a book of commandments, but rather a book of choices. Krishna is that best friend you have, who no matter how many times you make the same mistake, tries to find news ways to tell you because obviously you did not hear them the last time! The Gita teaches you how to cultivate a basic detachment from pleasure and pain, allowing the individual to rise above the conditioning of life’s dualities, it teaches you how to put your yoga into practice, off the mat.
“To those who have conquered themselves, the will is a friend. But it is the enemy of those who have not found the Self within them.” Chapter 6.16. This beautiful song of God shows you how you can allow yourself the freedom to move out of your own way to step into your own divinity, your own light, your own warrior power. It is no secret that difficult conversations are …difficult… to have! But we all know they are necessary, and some of the most difficult conversations we need to have are with ourselves. Beginning to destroy our misconceptions, assumptions, and comforts/discomforts takes patience, time and skill. We can rest assured that the love of our Krishna God is always there ready to listen and counsel. We just have to be open to hearing.
“Be fearless and pure; never waver in your determination or your dedication to the spiritual life. Give freely. Be self-controlled, sincere, truthful, loving, and full of the desire to serve. Realize the truth of the scriptures; learn to be detached and to take joy in renunciation. Do not get angry or harm any living creature, but be compassionate and gentle; show good will to all. Cultivate vigor, patience, will, purity; avoid malice and pride. Then, Arjuna, you will achieve your divine destiny.” Chapter 16.1
A devoted yoga mat souljah, Minerva believes a new world is possible but it must be born from a place of love. Join her for BASICS on Tuesdays 10:45am & Saturdays 11:45am or Lotus FLOW Tuesdays/Thursdays 5:30pm, Wednesdays 7am & at Noon. Learn/Read more at www.namasteitup.com
There are 2 very powerful and effective practices that enable one to find the balance between effort and surrender.
In Sutra 1.13 it speaks of ABHYASA=PRACTICE
and in Sutra 1.15 it speaks of VAIRAGYA=NON ATTACHMENT.
It is through daily practice of these two ideas that Yoga or Sutra 1.2 Yoga Citta Vritti Nirodhah,
ability to lose mis-conceptions or fluctuations of the mind stuff, occurs and it is from there that the
realization of the TRUE self is revealed, not imagined self (Sutra 1.3).
How does ABHYASA reveal itself in your life? What daily practice or ritual feeds you?
How important is it to you to maintain stability and tranquility?
These were 2 qualities I longed for when I first started practicing and I hadn’t a clue how to cultivate them.
I wasn’t feeling it in my personal life or my job.
I was living in NYC feeling depleted and empty.
I lacked inspiration and motivation at the time,and had no time or energy to do, let alone practice anything.
A spiritual bottom was occurring, yet again.
I was introduced to the practice of meditation around this time and Yoga shortly after.
I was intrigued and smitten by the tranquility and calm I would experience and most importantly the feeling of connection.
The intimacy of my breath led to a new found intimacy to my own life.
I was falling in love with what was right in front of me.
Nothing on the outside had changed, but I was changing from the inside out.
I was cultivating an inner strength and discipline/commitment.
I was able to maintain a daily practice that I showed up for every morning at 7am.
I was “building” a practice, a foundation.
This was all so new for me as I did not grow up with much structure or discipline.
I was strong, ate incredibly clean vegetarian food, dropped some weight and was completely devoted.
Basically, I was attached, like a child to its mother’s milk, to this lifestyle.
I had no relationship to anything other than my work once again and Yoga this time.
I was suffering once again.
My relationships suffered.
Isn’t Yoga about relationship, I asked myself.
Is it not about consciousness, mindfulness and how I relate to the world, food, my actions, people etc..
So I started to let go a little and with the help of my teacher I began to recognize that Yoga is the DIRECT PARTICIPATION WITH LIFE!
I had heard someone say “Let go or be dragged”,
WOW! That resonated.
So I started to live a little. I started to see the meditation and mindfulness approach to daily house holding practices such as cooking, deepening relationships and Kirtan! I started to see and feel the beauty,spirit and peace that could transform my actions through continued practice AND letting go of any attachments I had to outcomes.
These continue to be ongoing daily practices that are infused with mindfulness and consciousness and on most days I can tap in and let go of the results. But, I am VERY human, and struggle with them as well, but honestly thats what keeps me coming back to the music, to the mat, my community and what inspires my teaching. I encourage you to find and explore the balance to practice/ commitment AND letting go!
The Bhagavad Gita is a wonderful text to support this practice on a daily basis.
Feel free to reach out if you have questions.
One breath at a time…
by Nikki Borodi
It is a beautiful dance, when we move, connecting the languages of our minds, bodies and spirits. We have transformative gifts that allow us to use our bodies to calm our minds, our trust in spirit to calm our bodies and our minds to thread the pieces together that invite us to utilize different expressions at the ends of our fingertips.
A mudra is a tool that can invite our spiritual, mental and physical bodies to work towards the same goal. In Sanskrit the meaning of ‘mudra’ is a seal or closure. By creating specific hand positions we consciously connect a physical gesture to focus transitioning the energy flow of the body, which invite us to shift spiritual and physical aspect of ourselves. This seal is a pact we make between the divine and ourselves to call in change.
I love the using of tangible symbolism, whether it is the pieces on an altar or a gesture of the hands to intentionally call in evolution. Just like there are different ingredients for various recipes there are many mudras to call in specific energy shifts.
One of my favorites is the Padma or Lotus Mudra. This beautiful coming together of the hands in a way that forms a lotus flower invites in purity and an opening of the heart. To explore Padma mudra place the base of the palms together allowing the pinkies and thumbs to touch while the rest of the fingers blossom widely open. Inhaling the lotus flower from your heart up past your crown chakra call in the invitation to allow your heart to open to receive whatever comes your way, on an exhale draw your hands in prayer down to your heart closing the lotus pedals off to any fear of your spirit. Repeat this cycle for as few or as many times as you wish with a full intention focused on this expansion.
You can also visualize your lotus flower freeing itself from mud and muck as it grows towards the sunlight. The lotus flower that shifts from darkness to light is a magnificent mirror to the human condition of how we all grow through murky waters to ultimately transform, shine and grow. We must honor the dark, pain, and struggle along with the joy, success and blessings within us that offer the lessons that most inspire our evolutions.
So anytime you are looking to add some mindfulness to your day and have even a few minutes to spare take seat, join your hands and enjoy the benefits of incorporating mudra into your meditation and pranayama practice. The shifts can happen anywhere and anytime when you invite yourself to be open to them. So whether you are on a yoga mat or waiting for the bus enjoy exploring the gestures that activate you the most.
As a kid I read a book about a teen who was looking for a mother figure because she felt her own mother was lacking in some “mothering departments.” She would find qualities and strengths amongst the women she was around and began to construct the mother she was looking for, she called it her “mother pie.” The idea of a “mother pie” had a profound impact on me.
My mother has always been a kind and loving soul who made sure that my sister and I always had the very best of things, but she was not much of a communicator or a homemaker. I was always searching for a mother who would dispel sage advice to me and make me a comforting meal. So, when I became a mother at age 17, I felt like I had so much to learn. While I couldn’t provide the material items my mother had, I made sure to be the “domestic mom” to my son, which I had been craving for in my own mother. When my son Tonio was going into preschool they had a potluck dinner and I remember strolling in with my homemade apple pie so proudly. What no one knows is that it took three attempts at a pie that day, it just had to be perfect because that was what a good mom did in my teenage way of thinking.
By the time my daughter was born five years later, I was already over the domestic scene and into finding some financial stability. We lived in the Marina, where restaurants were everywhere. I remember my 2-year old daughter, Audrey, telling me one evening “I’m hungry! Call somebody.” That was a shocking truth that perhaps I needed to find some balance.
I had also wanted to be the “cool mom”, the type of mom with the perfect hair and eyeliner, dressed in all black with the sleek black designer handbag. I frowned at the moms in the brightly colored comfy pants and ponytails who always had tissues and cough drops in their big floral canvas “mom bags.” I used to think they were crazy to extend their mothering skills to other kids that were in need. I made great efforts to close myself off from the outside world because it seemed like too much effort to love everyone.
A lot of times, I felt completely overwhelmed because I was so young and for the most part on my own. My mothering advice was sporadic and unpredictable because I was still just a child in so many ways. I had some severe addiction problems, which I needed to address before I could really flourish into being the mother I was knew I could be.
Once I became sober, I took a long hard look at my lifestyle and made dramatic changes. Gone are the days of expensive leather handbags and other expensive luxuries. Today I embrace a life of simplicity and colorful comfy yoga pants. I carry a large canvas bag filled with spare tissues and cough drops for everyone (now vegan cough drops, thanks to some mothering advice from our Beautiful Lotus Mother Jasmine). I have also changed my perspective on mothering.
I am not only the mother of the two I gave birth to, but also to anyone who needs a slice of “mother pie”. The Universe has provided me with many children who need some special mothering. It has been such an honor to be a part of the Laughing Lotus community, I really feel like everyone who enters the door is my family. I love to greet everyone by their names, hearing about their triumphs with inversions and encouraging them when they get discouraged with their setbacks. I especially love mothering the new Yoga School Students, seeing their faces light up with all the possibilities Yoga can provide truly warms my heart every time. I actually tear up with great pride when I attend graduations and come to their first Community Classes.
Thich Nhat Hanh wrote: “It is possible that the next Buddha will not take the form of an individual. The next Buddha may take the form of a community-a community practicing understanding and loving kindness, a community practicing mindful living. This may be the most important thing we can do for the survival of the Earth.” Such beautiful words, I am so thankful that I can be part of such a loving community that is Laughing Lotus.