Posts Tagged ‘devotion’

Lotus Love Blog

Recognizing the Mother by Alex Crow

Posted on: July 14th, 2017 No Comments

It has been said that we came from the waters. As the story goes, all life was once a seed planted in the womb of Earth’s oceans.  I feel this to be true in my bones when I’m close to the ocean shoreline.  Maybe it’s just in my Mediterranean blood line, or perhaps it is simply the recognition of my body to its mother.  It feels deeper than instinct.   

I grew up without much of a conscious relationship with the Earth.  We didn’t have a garden at home.  My parents did their best to cook for my three sisters and I when they could, but we often ate fast food for dinner with how busy we all were.  I didn’t learn how to speak to the Earth through song or dance. I never learned the ways of plants, and I didn’t camp (except once in my own back yard).  It wasn’t until I moved to California that I began to develop a spiritual relationship with the Earth, mostly the ocean.  As a child I was blessed to visit family along the Mediterranean Sea quite a few times, but never did I truly understand my roots until moving to California.

The ocean calls to me.

There have been days where the only thing in the world that could sooth my “mid-twenty weariness” would be to literally run into the cold Pacific Ocean waves.  The deafening sound of the wind, and the soft but strong force of the ocean currents could rock me back and forth until my worries had simply been washed away. The salty-sandy texture left in my hair and on my sun drenched skin only added to the sweetness of release. I know the ocean as my mother, our mother.  She has shown me compassion through the space she creates for healing, power in the sheer force of her body, and she blows my mind away with her vastness.  Every time I go to her I am renewed; she gives me space to be, and I love her like I love my own birth mother…with an intensity i do not fully understand.  

I sometimes wish I had gills so I could live within the ocean world and be close to Her in that way.  As a child I have memories of submerging myself underwater in my grandma’s pool.  I loved looking up at the surface from below.  It seems I have always been a deep diver… someone who finds joy in going deep within myself and with others.  I just feel comforted by the direction – IN.

This is a story is of recognition.  We all feel the energy of the Mother in our own unique ways.  With me, it’s through the waters.  And now, every time I approach the ocean, I do so with reverence and gratitude.  I honor the connection we have.  The bond is sacred, and I hold it with deep love and responsibility.  I feel it as my duty to do my best to return the love that she so selflessly gives to all of her children, to protect her as I would defend my own mother, and to honor her with every breath, every meal, every sip of water, every bath I take in her healing waters.

Mama Earth, I thank you for all that you do to sustain my life and the lives of us all.  I love you.

<3 Alex Crow

“Knowing that you love the earth changes you, activates you to defend and protect and celebrate.  But when you feel that the earth loves you in return, that feeling transforms the relationship from a one-way street into a sacred bond…I wonder if much that ails our society stems from the fact that we have allowed ourselves to be cut off from that love of, and from, the land.  It is medicine for broken land and empty hearts.”

~Robin Wall Kimmerer

Alex Crow teaches regularly at Laughing Lotus Yoga Center in San Francisco. She is also a Reiki Master and a co-founder of vîv, an all female Bay Area dance collective.


Two Trips to the Lake by Josh Ehrenreich

Posted on: May 24th, 2017 No Comments
Recently I went camping in Los Padres National Forest. I had never been and was awestruck by the range of natural beauty it offered. From amazing views gained by mountain hikes to rock hopping along the river bank, it was a great weekend getting back to nature.
And birds. So so many birds. Each morning I would awake to the sounds of birds and those songs would continue past sunset. Everywhere you went you would hear birds eagerly singing out to the world.
One of those places was a small lake. Walking around it, with no trees to impede their chirps, you could hear a clear and resonant call of red-winged blackbirds perched upon a single reeds, bending in to support the gentle weight.
However I was with a large group and hushed bird watching was not the main focus. It was a party, a friend’s birthday. Lots of talking and laughing, moving fast with loud foot steps. Far too many entertaining distractions to choose over the lake and it’s bird songs.
So after we returned to camp, I resolved to head back to the lake. I wanted to experience it distraction free, with no jokes or questions to call my mind away. No footsteps to drown out the call, just sitting and birds.
Free of distraction, I was able to experience the blackbirds’ beautiful song. I could track them swooping into the reeds only to reemerge a minute later and zip over to another spot. I heard songs from unseen birds in trees surrounding and listened to their warble echo across the lake. It was one of my favorite moments of the trip.
Usually when I think of meditation, I think of it as sitting down and being quiet for 10 minutes or so. The transition from preparation to meditation is so quick that I rarely have thought them as separate. But in this case I feel as if the meditation was the walk down to the lake. Meditation was the action to clear my mind of all the distraction and to allow something greater to reveal itself to me.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna instructs his faithful discipline Arjuna “When meditation is mastered, the mind is unwavering like the flame of a lamp in a windless place. In the still mind, in the depths of meditation, the Self reveals itself.”
The ‘reveal’ is not meditation. Meditation is the work to free oneself from the constant distractions of the mind, from the constant wind against the flame. Meditation is a practice to suppress the mind chatter so that we may experience the reveal. It is not a specific thing that we experience in our chosen seat, it is the practice of taking the seat and stilling the mind.
And if what is revealed to you happens to be soundtracked by a choir of birds, so much the better.
Photo credit: rblood

Josh believes in the importance of moving yoga beyond the studio and into everyday life. His strong and even-tempo flow based classes focus on consistency of effort, and attention to breath. Beyond yoga, Josh spends his free time biking, swimming, and listening to hip-hop.


Living Our Practice: Love in Action by Tina Spogli

Posted on: February 8th, 2017 No Comments

In yoga class, we often stress leading with the heart in most asana poses. And surely if you’ve been practicing for some length of time, you know that returning to the mat again and again requires a certain amount of both discipline and devotion – devotion meaning to engage with love. There is a strength of will, but also a strength of heart, when we embark on our spiritual journey. In recent days, it has become even more important to truly live our practice, to wake up, to open our eyes and hearts to a world that needs more love in the battle against hate. The quote from MLK Jr. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that; hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that” has been my mantra lately. The practice of yoga has always been a reLOVEution, removing the veil of separation between us and other, and seeing all life as interconnected.

The bhakti yogi sees the Divine in all living creatures  – in our friends, in animals, in the plants and trees and mountains. When we talk about love in yoga, it is this type of unconditional love. As we begin to remove the veils of ignorance, we realize the work is less about cultivating love, and more about surrendering to it. Indeed this universal energy, cosmic consciousness, The Great Spirit, God, or whatever you’d like to call the source of all things, LOVES us. Imagine that for a moment. Each of us is already loved by the universe, and not in  a tame kind of way, but in a wild, fierce, unconditional type of way. The work we do as yogis is to open up to this love, to surrender ourselves as we are, which requires seeing both the light and dark sides of ourselves – a bit scary and not simple, I know!

The work of the bhakti yogi is dynamic – it happens simultaneously inside and outside. Bhakti yoga urges us to ask the hard questions before we act and speak: What is the intention? Is the act coming from the heart? Is it kind? Is it true? Is it necessary? Just like different organs in the body play different roles, so do we each play our own unique role in the world. However, the heart remains our center and lifeline, so that we become instruments of love in all that we do. One of the most beautiful bhakti sutras says, “Love is manifest where there is an able vessel” (Verse 53). An able vessel is one free of self-expectation and willing to lay their soul out to the universe.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna tells the warrior Arjuna that the way to him is not through inaction, but through selfless action. Our participation in the world is seva, a sanskrit term that can be translated as “love in action.” We are connected to our brothers and sisters, to this Earth, to the plants and animals, to the rivers and the oceans. We know that our own freedom is bound in the freedom of all beings. Love is an action, and in the process we build the bridge to each other.

Come to sit in a comfortable seat. Bring your right hand to your heart, and your left fingertips to the Earth outside the left thigh, in this Earth witness mudra. Our left fingertips on the Earth represent our connection to the world, and our right palm at our heart is a commitment to act with love. Close your physical eyes, come into your breath, and sit up a little bit taller. Focus on lengthening the inhales and exhales. Think of someone in your life right now that could use some compassion. Hold the image of that being in your heart. With each inhale, imagine yourself receiving love from The Great Spirit. With each exhale, imagine giving that same love to your person.

I leave you with words from Ganga White:

“What if our religion was each other
If our practice was our life
If prayer, our words
What if the temple was the Earth
If forests were our church
If holy water – the rivers, lakes, and ocean
What if meditation was our relationships
If the teacher was life
If wisdom was self-knowledge
If love was the center of our being.”

Namaste.

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.


The Goddesses in the Basement

Posted on: October 5th, 2016 No Comments

by Laura S

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Taking my mask off in the final scene of “A Slightly Altered Version of The Divine Comedy.”

Growing up, the basement was filled with both mythological and worldly characters, stored side by side on the shelves. Papier mâché Kali rested beside the Statue of Liberty. A “wild woman” with hair of raffia, a giant golden sun, a bear made from thrift store fur coats, Persephone, Ganesh, Zeus, demons, politicians, skeletons, acrobats, and countless other deities, animals, and archetypes all crowded in. There was never enough room for all the masks my mom made. They were donned by her theatre troupe, 1000 Faces, to perform plays over the past twenty years. Whether Halloween, the spring equinox, a presidential election, or high school graduation, I grew up with the idea that gods and goddesses marked the moments of our life with storytelling, ritual, and meaning.

My mom’s masks always scared my friends who slept on the pull-out couch in the basement. One morning a college friend emerged after a restless night’s sleep. “All those faces,” he said to us, a bit sheepish, but kind of freaked out. We teased him, but I understood. There was something about going to sleep in that room. Your eyes adjusted to the dark, and you’d see someone looking back at you. It was the same unsettled feeling as when an unfamiliar part of yourself stirs and wants to make itself known. Every mythological character, in their own way, is a mirror of some part of us.

In “Close to the Bone” Jean Shinoda Bolen uses myth as a tool to help us face serious illness, trauma, or difficulty in our lives. Through stories of the goddesses Inanna, Ereshkigal, and Psyche (among others), we are guided through the a journey into the underworld, or into the darkness of our own lives. Bolen says, “Myths and symbols are the language of the soul.” She asserts that our negative side will destroy the positive side unless we can admit to having both. Myths will help us do this. In a goddess like Ereshkigal, who lives in the underworld, we can see pain and darkness play themselves out, and thereby understand our own pain with more acceptance and clarity. So often in our contemporary Western society, it is difficult to find a place for the experience of raw emotion, fear, or illness. Ereshkigal is, “angry, and she could strike someone dead–characteristics that [many of us] repress and keep hidden.” The darkness is there; we can move into and through it, the myths remind us.

In “Close to the Bone” Bolen examines Psyche’s descent into the underworld with a particular focus that gives us permission to truly care for ourselves. Psyche is armed with cakes and coins in order to pay Cerberus, the hound and Charon, the ferryman. She has two of each because she needs to get both in and out. At various points in her journey, people ask for things from her, and she must say no. She cannot drop the cakes and the coins or she will never escape.

When I first read this, I thought, “Hmmm, how terrible! What is the moral of this story? That you shouldn’t help other people?” Yet, as I read on, Bolan describes the strength, wisdom, and clarity we need when facing a serious challenge in our life. She writes: “What do you want? What could help heal you? Can you ask for it? Insist upon it? Can you say no to what or who depletes you and bring what you need into your life? Might your actual life, and certainly the quality of it, depend upon choosing to do what nourishes your soul with your time and energy?”

As I read those questions, the image of Psyche with the coins and cake clicked for me into a much different analysis than I’d initially made. It wasn’t an image of selfishness at all, but an image of profound self-awareness, bravery, and resilience. In the context of illness, which Bolen was describing, you must more seriously choose what nourishes you. During a recent illness, I held on to this image of Psyche as a powerful reminder that not only was I allowed to focus on healing, but my well-being depended upon it. I’m fairly certain I was only able to consider this idea anew because I pictured Psyche doing it first, and not myself.

Joy Williams, one of my favorite fiction writers, recently published “99 Stories of God,” a collection of stories that explore our relationship to the sacred, and how it is often hidden from us in contemporary life. With a seriously dark sense of humor, Williams tells a series of 99 very short tales. In some, the sacred makes an overt appearance. In others, people look for, but ultimately miss, the presence of the sacred. In the rest, it seems there is no appearance of the sacred at all (yet I suspect there is). In story 49 Williams writes, “We can never speak about God rationally as we speak about ordinary things, but that does not mean we should stop thinking about God. We must push our minds to the limits of what we could know, descending ever deeper into the darkness of unknowing.” It is all of our myths and stories that allow us to do just that.

Join Laura for Lotus Basics on Tuesday and Thursday at 10:45am and Friday at 9am. Connect on Facebook or Instagram!


Mamaste! Bowing to the Divine Mother, Within us and all around us

Posted on: June 29th, 2016 No Comments

by Jasmine Tarkeshi

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As soon as I met my daughter I joined my hands in prayer at my heart and with tears streaming from my eyes I said “Namaste”. Meaning the light in my bows to the light in you. A reflection of myself I had never seen before! I did this ritual all through the first crazy, beautiful, life-changing year of motherhood. Then one day, she said it back! But instead of Namaste she said “Mamaste” with a big goofy toothless grin. I kept correcting her, but nope, it was MAMAste. Although, surrounded by the love of her devoted father, grandma and auntie and community of adoring family, “Mama” was the world she came from. And through her the “ Mama” within me was born! A patience I never knew I had, the most intoxicating Love that cannot be described, protection and fierceness of a tigress, caring and nurturance I never knew myself. This has extended to my relationship with the world.

I recently became active on instagram, vowing to participate in social media with a lot of personal resistance. So many of my Yogic guides kept reminding me of the importance of staying connected to my students and sharing my practice with them even if it was through an iPhone. So I set out to document my yoga practice and share what inspires me, but if you check me out on IG, there are only pictures of my daughter, Indigo! Perhaps it’s because I don’t know how to take pictures of myself, but she IS my Yoga! Through her I feel connected to the universe, Mother Earth and all beings. Through her eyes I see oneness, the miracle in all experience, joy for no reason, complete emotional expression and bravery and courage that inspires. I am tested, challenged, on a daily – moment to moment basis to live my yoga to the fullest, since I am her world from which she learns. And WOW, am I tested! THIS is my Tapas (purifying practice) like I have never known. My Motherhood is messy and imperfect; I lose it, I do things I said I would never do – like have her watch a video while I get work done, order take away a few times a week instead of my vision of making every organic meal in a handstand 🙂 But she has no judgment; she still looks at me and says “ Mamaste” even as I beat myself up. In Bhakti Yoga, the path of devotion, this is known as Pusthi Marg or path of the Divine Mother where we look at the world through the eyes of a devoted mother. Like the Buddha said, “Like a caring mother holding and guarding the life of her only child, so with a boundless heart of loving kindness, hold yourself and all beings as your beloved children.”

In Yoga Philosophy and the great Guru Mantra, our first guru is our mother—Guru Brahma our creation/creator is guru. We all have different relationships with our mother or caretaker. We have fought with, disagreed and misunderstood our parents or guardians from childhood on, some which may not yet be resolved to this day. Teachers come to us in many ways. This first teacher was our mother by birth as the Earth is our mother by creation. To appreciate the power of creation is to see all life as valuable, ALL human life, as well also the life force that flows through all living beings.

The love of a mother is unconditional. She knows that through our existence we cause harm to her—yet she continues to nourish and support us with all her heart. Each year thousands of forests are being cut down, oceans, rivers and lakes are polluted and giant holes are mined into Her. But it is not only the Earth herself who is exploited; it is also her human and nonhuman inhabitants.

The Earth itself is referred to as the Mother, Divine Mother or Ma. She is the sustaining and creative force providing food and water for the survival of all the beings that inhabit her. In the west, we endearingly refer to our beautiful blue/green planet as “Mother Earth” as a way to express our interconnectedness with all beings. Our own relationship with the Divine Mother may be very similar to the relationship with our own mother! Sometimes we fight; sometimes we ignore her and definitely do things that we know will upset her! But through both our birth mother and the Divine Mother we are undeniably linked to the source of all life.

In Hindu mysticism, the earth is always referred to as a very patient mother. She has to bear with all our misdeeds. We are all her children. Perhaps there is no greater sorrow for a mother than to see her children quarreling among themselves. In my village, two brothers quarreling or two sisters quarreling will be taken up as a village issue, since this is considered to be something that should never happen; it’s no longer a domestic issue, but a community one. “The word for sibling in Sanskrit is sahodara. Saha, “together,” udara, “womb”: they come from the same womb. They have lived in the same womb. So they should always help each other. Similarly, we all come from the womb of Mother Earth. We are all brothers and sisters.

Just as a human mother is in agony when she sees her children fighting against one another, so mother earth is in agony when she sees nation fighting against nation, race against race. Through the enthusiastic practice of meditation and the allied disciplines, each of us can become instruments of peace and harmony, drawing upon our deepest resources to prevent nation from rising up against nation, race against race, and brother against brother.

Peace is not created by governments and fighting forces. Peace is made by little people like you and me getting to know other people, other countries, other races.– Eknath Easwaran

Our personal relationship with the Divine Mother Earth lives within us in the Muladhara Chakra. Chakras are energy centers within the body that correspond with the elements as well as the endocrine system and physical, emotional and mental systems. “Mula” means root and “adhara” means to support. Located within the perineum at the base of the spine from the tailbone through the legs and feet, it connects us with Mother Earth as well as our own roots, our maternal mother or support when we were children, as well as our ancestors. It is within this most important Chakra that our early childhood experiences are recorded like magnetic tape and influence all we do including our feelings of survival, belonging, and guardedness and whether or not our basic needs were met. When Muladhara is in balance, we feel strong and confident; we can stand up on your own two feet and take care of ourselves and feel connected to the earth and others, grounded and present. We are trusting in others and feel a part of nature, a family, tribe or community. We feel safe in the home of our bodies and create a safe environment to live. We care for and nurture others and ourselves and stand up for others and ourselves. We take care of the planet and see the Divine in a all beings and the sacred in everything. We care as much about our own survival as the survival of others.

This is the philosophy behind most shamanic and indigenous healing. That our own well-being is interconnected with the whole.

When it is not in balance we feel like victims and blame everyone and everything for our misfortunes or are over materialistic, hoard and disrespect others and the planet. When it is blocked or out of balance, we can become needy, have low self-esteem, or have self-destructive behaviors.

Here are a few ways to become aware and honor the Divine Mother, our own, Mamma Earth and the Divine Mother within! Jai MA!

1)Create an ancestral altar: Place pictures of your parents, family and ancestors, artifacts from their countries of origin to connect to your roots and feel the support of this deep connection as well of the pain that may be associated with it. We cannot change our pasts but we can vow not to be lineage barriers of past traumas by healing the wounds of the past through actions and sadhanas (spiritual practices) we can take today.

2)Practice Yoga and care for your physical body through diet and exercise. Cook your own food as much as possible, eating organic food from local farmers markets. Move toward a vegetarian diet, which lessens the suffering of other beings and damage to our mother planet. This self-care and discipline wakes up the Divine Mother within as a doorway to truly care for all beings. Nourish your self with healthy habits and move away from toxic ones. Surround your self with a “tribe” of like-minded but diverse people to create community and healthy family, work environment and relationships based on mutual respect. Look for ways you can use your privilege to be of service to others less privileged due to the color of their skin, sexual orientation or class.

3) Connect to Mother Earth. This does not have to be only through spending time in nature, although, get out and spend time in nature! Get your feet in the dirt and your body in the water and the sunshine, smell the flowers and taste the fruits, meditate on the moon and stars. At the same time, Our Urban/ Concrete jungle is just as sacred along with beings that inhabit it. Have plants and animals in your home. Walk the city streets to connect with the world around you, yes, the muddy, mucky mud and try to see the beauty and divinity that surrounds you within it. Meet your brothers and sisters from different cultural backgrounds; go to cultural events with music, dance and food celebrating diversity. Do selfless service and volunteer. Oneness does NOT mean we are the same in every way, the true nature of oneness to celebrate the uniqueness in every being by acknowledging equality and non-duality and honoring the sacred within every being.

With my hands at my heart in prayer, “Mamaste”!

This beautiful Mantra honors the Divine Mother in all her forms and sends me into an ecstatic state!

Ya Devi Sarva Bhutesu, Matri Rupena Sansthita
Namastasyai Namastasyai Namastasyai Namo Namah
(repeat after each line)

Ya Devi Sarva Bhutesu, Buddhi Rupena Sansthita
Ya Devi Sarva Bhutesu, Shakti Rupena Sansthita
Ya Devi Sarva Bhutesu, Nidra Rupena Sansthita
Ya Devi Sarva Bhutesu, Chaiya Rupena Sansthita
Ya Devi Sarva Bhutesu, Daya Rupena Sansthita
Ya Devi Sarva Bhutesu, Kanti Rupena Sansthita
Ya Devi Sarva Bhutesu, Bhranti Rupena Sansthita
Ya Devi Sarva Bhutesu, Shantih Rupena Sansthita
Ya Devi Sarva Bhutesu, Tushti Rupena Sansthita
Ya Devi Sarva Bhutesu, Lakshmi Rupena Sansthita
Namastasyai Namastasyai Namastasyai Namo Namah

Translation:
Salutations to the Goddess who resides in all beings in the form of:
{wisdom, light, abundance etc}
To that constant, eternal Presence, I gratefully offer myself again and again.
The feminine energy or nature resides in all beings (RupenaSansthita). As the flow of life, she is expressed in us as wisdom (Buddhi), sleep (Nidra), the shadow (Chaiya), misunderstanding (Bhranti), peace (Shantih), contentment (Tushti), abundance (Lakshmi), Matri (Mother), Daya (Compassion, Kanti (Radiance) and Shakti (primal Source Energy).

resources : Doug Whitiker, Eknath Eashwaran, Amma’s Mantras

#Mamaste #DivineMother #JaiMa #MuladharaChakra #Yoga #GuruBrahma #LoveIsMyReligion #LaughingLotusSF #JasmineTarkeshi

Jasmine Tarkeshi is Co-Founder of Laughing Lotus Yoga Centers in NYC and SF. She is a humble student of the ancient and transformative teachings of Yoga and has been sharing the passion for the practices for 20 years. She comes from and bows to her mystical heritage of Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Yogic backgrounds that all merge into her love for the performing arts and healing traditions of the world. She is a dedicated activist through her life and practice and beloved foundation Love Saves the Day and teaches nationally, internationally and daily at her home studio at Laughing Lotus Yoga Center in San Francisco with the belief in everyones ability to awaken and heal to be true agents for change as intstruments of Love.


This Too, This Too, This Too

Posted on: May 18th, 2016 1 Comment

by Laura

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Ten thoughts on my current meditation practice in honor of Meditation Month at Laughing Lotus!

One:

This morning I cleared out a space in my storage closet by the water heater, pulled my bolster in, sat down, and closed my eyes.

Two:

Yesterday, I didn’t meditate.

Three:

I’m in week 4 of an 8-week mindfulness meditation class. The first week when we were assigned a body scan meditation as homework, much to my surprise, I cried, became despondent, and refused to do it. Such a wild swirl of emotion!

Four:

I read that meditation can decrease inflammation at a cellular level and increase the gray matter of our brains. I’m interested in the cooling and calming of my cells. I’m interested in the gray matter of my brain. And that’s just for starters.

Five:

I’m also re-reading my very dog-eared copy of Jack Kornfield’s beautiful and practical guide to meditation, “A Path With Heart.” If you are interested in meditation, I highly recommend it. He writes this of meditation practice: “each of us experiences whatever arises again and again as we let go, saying ah this too. That simple phrase: this too, this too, this too.”

Six:

I have a meditation app on my phone that is mostly just a timer with an alarm that sounds like a meditation bowl. I like it, though, because it has no other function than to sit beside me while I meditate. It will remind me that I have a “meditation streak” of zero days from time to time. It also records how many hours I’ve meditated while using it as my timer. I have meditated for 9 hours and 40 minutes since I downloaded it, which strikes me as funny: it seems like a lot and like nothing at all.

Of course, the beautiful and essential thing about meditation is that it isn’t quantifiable. It is stillness and fire and quiet and explosions and breath and all of the invisible work inside of our cells. It is ferociously qualitative, giving a very specific texture to our relationship with the present moment.

Seven:

If I’ve learned anything about meditation recently it’s that sometimes when you sit with yourself unpleasant things arise. That is where the phrase, “This too…” comes in. Because the unpleasant passes just as the pleasant does. When I really, really believe that truth then the result of meditation is a certain softness that arises where otherwise I would have the hardest edges. Sometimes the result of meditation is that I feel no distinction between the air and my skin.

I find myself with that simple phrase, this too, or some version, as an echo in my mind these last few days. This echo encourages me to stand just a bit longer in front of a piece of art and really look at it. It lets me bike against the wind with the fog rolling in and not struggle against the cold and the frustration. It inspires me to walk through my neighborhood at dusk with no destination in mind. This too, this too, this too, my body remembers even when I don’t consciously say the words. There is no end result I’m aiming for; it’s simply a way to be.

Eight:

One of my favorite meditations recently was accompanied by a mudra (a symbolic and meditative gesture of the hands). It is called the Pushan Mudra. In your right hand you connect the thumb, pointer finger, and middle finger. In your left hand you connect the thumb, middle finger, and ring finger. While sitting in a cross legged position, allow the backs of your hands to rest on the tops of your legs and keep this connection of the fingertips. While you inhale, imagine that your right hand is drawing in everything you need. While you exhale, imagine that your left hand is releasing everything that you don’t need. Perhaps even try naming what those things are with one or two words. Name what you want to cultivate and name what you want to release.

I think it is important to really think about what some of this means…we talk a lot about letting go but how can we really do that? I believe it is something we can do with the intention, gentleness, and discipline of a meditation practice.

Nine:

Someone I love wrote this loving-kindness meditation inside a card for me:

May I be grounded in love.

May I feel the love love and support that surrounds me.

May I relinquish fear and worry and find places of rest and comfort.

May I know gratitude, even in the midst of challenges.

May I find that still center of equanimity, acceptance, and freedom from suffering.

May I and all beings be free from suffering.

May I and all beings experience wholeness and healing.

She wrote, This meditation helps enlarge one’s world.

 Meditation is, of course, impossible to summarize neatly or succinctly. Our meditation practices are unique to each of us: singular, strange, beautiful, difficult, ongoing. But I do like that definition: that it can help us enlarge our world. We get to return, every day, to a practice that is never the same. We get to return to a self, every day, that is never the same. We get to pause, even for just a few moments, to take note.

Ten:

The day before yesterday, I sat down, set my timer, and closed my eyes. Immediately, I thought about who I had to email, some responses were time sensitive, others not. I thought about what I had to do later, what groceries were in the refrigerator and what I could cook with them. I thought about meditation and about how I was thinking too much, but at least I was doing it. I thought about how thoughts are supposed to be OK and I just needed to stop worrying about it, and I thought about how ridiculous this particular train of thought was currently getting. I thought about summer and the month of June. I thought about coffee, the next basketball game, my novel. I wondered how long I’d been meditating. Time felt very slow, very sweet, and I suddenly realized I shouldn’t try to rush it, or wonder about how much of it had just gone by. And so I just sat there in my storage closet, very still, very quiet, very present…for at least one whole and uninterrupted moment.

Laura grew up in the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia and has lived in San Francisco for the past 14 years. When she isn’t practicing and teaching yoga, she is hard at work on a novel. Come practice with her at the Lotus on Tuesday (10:45am Basics), Wednesday (7am Sunrise Flow), or Friday (9am Basics)! More yoga info and inspiration can be found at Yoga with Laura on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/futurecircayoga/).


The Day My Heart Chakra Blew Wide Open

Posted on: March 9th, 2016 No Comments
by Robin Wilner

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I have a great friend and yoga teacher who can, with one intense Jedi-like stare of his giant, piercing eyes, bring me immediately to tears. He has a way of looking through me rather than at me…I’m talking about seeing into the depths of my soul with a gaze that speaks a thousand words. It’s equally both creepy and amazing!

He was leading an intensive training on the study of energy and the subtle body. On a break, he caught me asking a series of profound questions about our homework assignment in my passionate, fast-paced speech pattern. How could I bring more life into my blocked chakras? What postures did he suggest I practice to fix the imbalance in my left-side body? Should I even be practicing postures or just doing breathing exercises? Blah blah blah… And then the EYES – that long, deep stare into my being, burning a soft hole through my energetic armor, and he simply said, “Robin…”

Whoa.

I wasn’t breathing, apparently. I was speed talking with an anxious desire to fix myself, like I was a car and he was the mechanic. He said my name slowly, deliberately, and waited. I used to fear silence in conversations, but I knew at that moment what he was trying to tell me. Stop. Breathe. Listen to your Self. You know what to do. Allow the vulnerability to surface, and see what happens. And you know what happened? I burst into tears.

I absolutely despise crying in public. I always thought that crying showed a sign of weakness in me that I would refuse to let others witness. As a woman, I have been conditioned to think that shedding tears makes me less capable of handling pressure, of performing well in the workplace, or of communicating without letting my girlie emotions get in the way. So for years, I had shut off the part of me that desperately needed to express vulnerability…my heart chakra.

A chakra, or “wheel of light” in Sanskrit, can also be described as a vortex of spinning energy that emanates from the spine. Chakras are said to serve as the place where subtle (metaphysical) energy and concrete (biophysical) energy come together and then disperse throughout the body. According to the Hindu Chakra model, there are seven chakras found along the spine, from the base to the crown of the head, all of which are interconnected with 72,000 nadis or meridian-like channels that spread energy in all directions.

Each chakra is affiliated with a color, an element in nature, a vibration or sound, a major bodily organ, and relates to the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects of being human. In the case of the heart chakra, called Anahata, the respective color is green, the element is air, and the seed sound is “Yam” (which reminds me of yum or delicious, appropriate words to describe how it feels when your heart is full); the organs include the lungs and heart, and the Anahata chakra relates to love and compassion and a feeling of great joy for life.

When I burst into tears, it was as if the floodgates of my heart chakra had sprung open. I suddenly had permission to connect to my truest self, to allow emotions (read as vulnerability) to cleanse my innermost being and leak out through my eye sockets. Tears that result from strong feelings like stress, pain, anger, and sadness are even classified by scientists – they are called psychic tears and are known to carry leucine enkephalin, which is a natural painkiller. That would explain why I felt a million times better after I actually released whatever was pent up inside of me!

As peers and fellow yogis rallied to my side during my sobfest, I realized that my wide-eyed friend (the subtle energy yoga-guru-Jedi-master) had been guiding our group so deeply into our subtle bodies that there was bound to be an explosive opening. Through the power of asana (movement), meditation, pranayama (breathing), and mantra (sound healing) the smallest shifts were bringing about profound transformations. And I made some great discoveries in regards to my personal yoga practice:

Breathe into the back of your heart. I’d been missing out on the finer elements of heart opening. For years, I had just been overworking my already flexible spine, pinching my shoulders together to lean further into a backbend, and letting the front of my heart do all the work. In other words, how I project myself into the world (by way of the front of my heart) as a loving and kind being was being reinforced, but how I felt about my Self and my connection to the Divine (via the back of my heart) was disconnected. The real work was in standing still with my arms elevated and breathing into the space between my shoulders…the BACK of my heart…the depth of my soul…and I need to continue to work with that simple action every day.

Touch and be touched. Let your arms and hands be conduits of your beautiful heart, so that that spark of Divinity within you is caressing everything and everyone that you touch. This loving kindness and compassion will come your way too if you let others do the same for you.


Cry in front of others. Yes, there it is. Allow those around you to see your vulnerability and let them in on the big secret…that you’re HUMAN! It will feel incredible to shed some tears (remember that natural painkiller?) and connect to compassionate beings that understand whatever you are experiencing. I promise they will have felt it at some point as well.

The beauty of the yoga practice is that it contains so many layers. You may come to your mat at first excited by nothing more than the physical practice…then you come back hungry for that natural high that accompanies each class…and then you start to tap into the subtle realms of the deeper practice, the realization that the high you seek is simply you discovering the real you…that your subtle energy body is igniting and slowly creating profound shifts in your life. And one day, your heart will burst wide open, too!

Robin Wilner is a former Broadway dancer/singer/actress who took a leap of faith, moved to the west coast, and is devoted to teaching and practicing yoga. Mixing her dance background with a love of chanting, meditative healing, and philosophy, she strives to lead her students to a state of being that reflects their own inner radiance. Flow with Robin on Mondays & Fridays at 12pm, Tuesdays & Thursdays at 9am, or Sundays at 10am


Mirror of Love

Posted on: February 17th, 2016 1 Comment

by Genevieve McClendon

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“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


THE PATH OF THE HEART THROUGH SONG

Posted on: February 3rd, 2016 No Comments

by Robin Wilner

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“There’s nothing you can know that isn’t known / Nothing you can see that isn’t shown / There’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be. It’s easy / All you need is love, all you need is love / All you need is love, love. Love is all you need.” – The Beatles

I’ve always adored these lyrics, simple in their phrasing yet so profound in their meaning. Imagine if life really was that simple? What if every thought, deed, or action we experienced was fully surrendered to the extraordinary power of Love? How would we interact in our most intimate relationships if we regarded every being with a tender heart? This is the essence of Bhakti Yoga, the yoga of devotion, or the pathway of the heart.

The Sanskrit word bhakti comes from the root bhaj, which means to “engage with affection.” Bhakti yoga has been called “pure love” or “devotional service.” While the word yoga means “union,” Bhakti yoga thus refers to engaging in a union with the Divine through a chosen path of love and devotion. Like the other paths of yoga – Jnana (the path of knowledge and introspection), Karma (the path of action and service to others) Raja (the path of transcending the mind) and Hatha (the path of the physical body) – Bhakti Yoga is a gateway to self-realization and the experience of Oneness with every aspect of the universe.

You can call it the Beloved, the Divine, God, or more simply, the deep connection to all other conscious beings on this earth; no matter the chosen words, the language is universal. With bhakti, we are inviting compassion and empathy into our relationships, using acts of love and service to help others, and in essence practicing our connection to the universal concept of yoga.

I used to be terrified of saying the word God out loud. Somehow, it seemed so inappropriate, as though the reference instantly invited more vulnerability into a conversation than I was willing to let in. And yet, I never had trouble SINGING the word. In Hebrew prayers growing up I hummed Adonai; in choral groups in college, we harmonized to Deus or Dio in Latin and Italian hymns; then I found myself vacationing at an ashram in the Bahamas and chanting to Ganesha, Krishna, Saraswati and numerous other Hindu deities. Somehow the power of song had been guiding my heart all along towards a universal idea – all worship in the form of love (no matter the chosen words) ultimately leads to the same Truth.

My first real exposure to Bhakti as a practice came on my first night at that ashram in Nassau. Each morning and evening, the residents and guests would come together for satsang (a spiritual gathering) under a great dome. After thirty minutes of meditation, someone would begin to play the harmonium and lead this beautiful call-and-response chanting. I remember the hundred or so voices in the room coming together so harmoniously and passionately that it took my breath away. I had absolutely no idea what the words meant, but I followed along in my manual and soon got carried away clapping and swaying and singing at the top of my lungs, as other yogis took to various instruments laying about the room. It was the most joyful experience to have with a community of people I’d never met before; I felt an overwhelming connection as my heart started to burst open towards this unknown pull. These morning and evening satsangs became my favorite aspect of ashram life. Then on my return trip, I had the incredible opportunity to attend several Kirtans with Krishna Das. As we belted out the various names of God together in a series of Sanskrit chants, our group of voices merged together to become One Voice. I was hooked.

Mantras – these short phrases packed with energy and intention – were my way to find the Source with words, as dance had for years been my way to find God without words. My love for chanting grew as I continued to practice at Laughing Lotus, where I knew that each class would begin with a devotional mantra and an opportunity to generate unity with my fellow yogis through sound. I learned to play the harmonium while immersed in an advanced Bhakti training module, and soon discovered an infinite array of Sanskrit mantras designed to promote healing, insight, creativity, and spiritual growth.

Ever since I bought my own harmonium, the floodgates of creativity have been unleashed, and I now write music almost every day! Never did I dream that I would have the ability (or even the desire) to compose music…but when I chant, I feel passionate but peaceful, joyful but meditative, withdrawn from my troubles but powerfully connected to the Source.

There are many layers to this path of devotion – whether through the simple acts of showing kindness to a fellow being, saying a prayer of gratitude before a meal, chanting a mantra for peace on your way to work, reading or writing poetry about Love, or devoting your yoga practice to someone in need of healing energy. All of these acts have the power to enhance your relationship with God / the Beloved / the Divine / your true Self. Choose your language, but know that it all leads down the same path to the same truth. And all you need is love, love…Love is all you need.

Join us all month long at Laughing Lotus as we bathe in this yoga of devotion through movement, mantra, and the joy of being together on the path of Love!

Robin is a passionate dancer/singer and yogi who loves to explore the power of expression through creative movement and mantra. She also happily speaks, writes, and sings the word God with pride. Catch a class with her at Laughing Lotus on Monday/Friday at Noon, Tuesday/Thursday at 9am, or Sunday at 10am.


Morning Prayer and The Bhagavad Gita

Posted on: January 20th, 2016 No Comments

by Amy Ruben

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There is nothing like the sweet, melodic hum of prayer before dawn. The names of the divine mother tumble out of mouths and into the temple walls for all to see, hear and feel–together, in unison, all dressed in white and wrapped in shawls to escape the cool morning air. One thousand names of the divine mother are chanted, to be exact. This was how I greeted each morning while living at Amma’s ashram in Kerala, India. At the ashram, they taught us that the ideal time for spiritual practices, such as meditation and chanting, is brahma muhurta, or the period between 3:30AM and 6:00AM. During that time, sattvic (balanced) qualities are predominant in nature; the mind is clear and the body is energetic. Thus, each morning we rose at 4:30AM. At first, waking up that early seemed absurd, and I felt lethargic and sluggish throughout the day. Over time, this daily ritual began to bring me energy, alertness, and and a yearning for a richer connection to prayer, an understanding of the intention behind my daily practices, and a deeper connection to God.

The Bhagavad Gita, which translates to “The Beloved Song of God,” is a piece of the Hindu epic The Mahabharata, which takes place on a battle field. In the twelfth chapter of The Bhagavad Gita, called “The Yoga of Devotion,” Arjuna asks Krishna which devotees are better established in yoga–those who worship him in the personal or impersonal form. Rather, Arjuna is asking Krishna if it’s better to give human form, attributes and characteristics to the divine, or to see the divine as something without and beyond form. Krishna then says to Arjuna that his devotees can come to him through either path, they both are good, yet the path of worship through applying form to God is a much easier route. Krishna says, no matter which path you choose, give your whole heart to it, and don’t think of it as the only way. Krishna tells Arjuna that because we are embodied beings, and therefore limited, it’s very hard for us to imagine a realm outside of an embodied state; our minds simply can’t grasp it. For example, Amma’s devotees see Amma as the divine manifested into human form. She carries divine characteristics that are easy for us to relate to and connect with, such as limitless love, compassion, and kindness. Amma, like Krishna, tells her devotees to fix their entire minds on her and offer the fruits of their actions to her. However, Amma also says that if worshipping her doesn’t work for you, then choose another access point or path and devote yourself to it fully; there is no duality of right or wrong.

While staying at Amma’s ashram, not surprisingly, I deemed it nearly impossible to devote all of my actions and prayers towards Amma without a wavering mind. In The Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says to Arjuna, “if you are not yet able to fix your mind on me, then seek to reach me by Abhyasa Yoga (regular yoga practice).” Krishna tells Arjuna to build a daily practice as a reminder to bring his wandering mind back to God.

A daily practice becomes a ritual, which quiets the mind and allows us to build a one-pointed focus on the divine. A one-pointed focus does not mean we are grasping or reaching for achievement, rather, it’s a persistent effort towards self-understanding, and a surrender of worldly attachments. Abhyasa builds on itself; the more we practice, the more we want to practice, and the faster we reach the destination of God, or your higher self. In my busy life, it’s a necessity for me to set aside time each day to purely devote myself to my practice without other distractions. The potency of a practice without distraction is invaluable; it leaks into everything that I do and the way I move in the world.

Come build your daily practice with us this month as we explore the The Bhagavad Gita!

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!