Posts Tagged ‘love’

Lotus Love Blog

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 Spiritual IS Political

Posted on: November 16th, 2016 No Comments

by Minerva Arias
minerva

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:

  • If the election results have left you utterly shocked and you’re just becoming aware of the many ways in which this country does not deem all of us equal or worthy, that’s ok. Recognize where you are and understand this isn’t a competition of whose grief weighs more. Welcome and now begin to unpack your old way of thinking that no longer serves. You can start with “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh. Begin to listen to the people who knew this was going to happen because it’s our every day reality. There are many of Black & Brown women writers who have been describing our reality for a long time.
    • Audre Lorde
    • bell hooks.
    • This bridge called my back: writings by radical women of color
    • Gloria Anzaldua
    • Assata Shakur
    • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
    • Michelle Alexander – the New Jim Crow
    • And so many more
  • INTERSECTIONALITY – learn what this means and why it is vital and important in understanding our lived realities.
  • Join local organizations that are already doing the work to help dismantle systems, which literally kill and displace marginalized groups of people.
  • Find ways you can offer any resources you have to ease others every day struggles.
  • Have the difficult conversations with your loved ones – put that yoga practice to work!
  • Connect and learn from people in real life – not just on social media. Log off and tune in, in person, to the realities of not just your city, state and this country – but around the world, and begin to see the larger picture.
  • When it all feels overwhelming – go to yoga and go back to your breath. This being conscious thing is work. But it’s worth it. Remember we are all a Gift of Divinity.
  • Get Solar Panels! Shop local. Begin to think of ways you can live a minimalist lifestyle. Protect Mama Earth.
  • Join our 25-hour Yoga & Activism conference in January with Jasmine & crew.
  • Love harder. Love tenderly. Love fiercely.
  • Come chop it up with me at the studio (let’s chat) because I have way more ideas and words than I can fit on this blog post.

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.
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The Keys to Spiritual Bartending

Posted on: September 21st, 2016 No Comments

by Adriana Shanti

adriana

As it states in the preface, The Yoga Sutras are, “a living scripture to illumine our spiritual path.” They are threads of wisdom to weave throughout your daily life. There is so much valuable information in the Sutras, and I highly recommend taking one Slokah at a time and letting it resonate inside you. My favorite Slokah is Book 1:33 because it applies to everyone everyday. In fact, Patanjali advises that we commit at least this one Sutra to memory.

Book 1 Slokah 33:
By cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and disregard toward the wicked, the mind-stuff retains its undisturbed calmness.

Patanjali says that there are only four kinds of locks in this world. Suka, duhkha, punya and apunya–happy people, unhappy people, the virtuous and the wicked. The keys to these locks are friendliness, compassion, delight and disregard.

This month marks four wonderful years of working as a receptionist for the front desk at Laughing Lotus. I like to think of myself as a “Spiritual Bartender” more than a receptionist. I greet everyone with a cheerful smile and quickly surmise what key will work to “open” them up.

Patanjali says that the key to opening up the happy is to use the “friendliness” key. Unfortunately, even four thousand years ago, there were people who were not happy at seeing others happy. I greet the happy with excitement! I take great joy in looking at all vacation pictures, and I ask leading questions to find out what made their time away so special. I love hearing about anything and everything that makes you happy. Did you finally clean out that hall closet that has been haunting you forever? GREAT! Please do share! Let’s do a big ol’ high five! I want to be that person you look forward to sharing your life with, my happiness is increased when I know that you are happy. Its a wonderful win-win situation.

Compassion is the key to the unhappy. Patanjali says to be merciful always. “By doing that, you will retain the peace and poise of your mind. Remember, our goal is to keep the serenity of our minds.” If you can lend a helping hand, do it. For the unhappy, I offer empathy and compassion. I want to be that sympathetic ear that you can confide in and know that it will go no further than our conversation. I take great pride in holding a safe place to confide your troubles. I hold everyone’s secrets and pain with honor; I don’t take that privilege lightly.

For the virtuous, feel delighted! I bask in the virtuous! Virtuous people are filled with wisdom and advice. Instead of feeling envy over their accomplishments, appreciate the virtuous qualities and try to cultivate them in yourself. I have learned so much about life and yoga just sitting around in the lobby of Laughing Lotus and chatting over tea…virtuous people are everywhere, you just have to take the time to listen.

Sometimes the world just gets to be too much and we find ourselves in a “bad way.” We shut down and no amount of kindheartedness can soften our thoughts. When you find someone in a “wicked” way, it is best to treat them with indifference. Don’t let them penetrate your happiness and dim your inner light. I always greet people who appear to be having a bad day with a smile and space. Tomorrow is another day, hopefully whatever woes there are today will be gone tomorrow.

Pantajali says these four keys…Friendliness, Compassion, Delight and Indifference should always be with us. “If you use the right key with the right person you will retain your peace. Nothing in the world can upset you then. Remember, our goal is to keep a serene mind.”

Adriana teaches Wednesday and Friday Sunrise Flow at 7am and Thursday Soul Sweat at 12pm. Find more information at www.spottedelephantyoga.com!


The Divine Mother and all her forms

Posted on: July 13th, 2016 No Comments
by Astrud Castillo

astrud meditation green heart

My experience with this theme always comes back to the way I relate to the Earth and Mother Nature and how that reflects in my relationships and Yoga.

This topic now has a name, it is called Eco Yoga. This would be the study of the environment in which plants, animals, and humans live, and the application of moral and spiritual principles of Yoga, an ancient practice, while applying it to our modern situation.
We can apply the Yamas (how we relate to others) and the Niyamas (how we relate to ourselves) to how we relate to Mother Nature.

I heard the acronym G.O.D standing for the Great Out Doors.
I believe in the sanctity of the great outdoors and know the power of connecting to spirit through a walk in the woods, a hike on the mountain, or a nap in the park.

So I ask myself: How can I apply the Yama-Ahimsa (nonviolence) to consciousness about what our planet needs? In what ways am I harming the environment? And how can I lighten my carbon footprint?

I picked some examples of how we can apply these principles starting with the Yamas:

AHIMSA translates to Nonviolence or reverence to ALL forms of life. The main practice here would be to adopt a vegetarian or vegan diet. We are invited to be mindful of how we may cause suffering to animals and even plant life. If you choose to consume animal products, be mindful to not support the widespread and cruel practice of factory farming. Get educated! Join P.E.T.A

SATYA means truthfulness. Can we be honest about our situation with the environment? How can we stay informed and not fall into a pit of ignorance around these issues. We must remain awake on all fronts, not just for our own salvation but for the salvation of our surroundings. We might be concerned about the local air quality if we practice pranayama (breath control). And in order to sustain healthy bodies and eating habits we want to make sure our fruits and vegetables have not been laden with pesticides. Here is a site to keep you informed and to inspire you! earth911.com

APARIGRAHA means not hoarding or taking only what we need and relating to life in a balanced, non-grasping manner. Do I respect the rights of others to share limited resources? If you take something, consider how you can replenish it.

Here are a few examples of some Niyamas and how they help us relate to the environment:

SAUCA means cleanliness. I may consider how respectful of the environment I am. Do I pick up after myself or ask how I contribute to pollution? How I can eliminate it from the environment and my own life?

TAPAS means discipline or commitment. Am I personally committed to making an effort and making a difference no matter how small?

ISVARAPRANIDHANA translates to devotion to the Divine or to reality. G.O.D, the Great Out Doors! Do I revere nature and make an effort to commune and connect to my source and have respect for not only my inner environment but my OUTER environment too?

There are numerous efforts we can make. Maybe riding a bike instead of driving a car, or changing light bulbs to compact fluorescent bulbs to avoiding products with a lot of packaging (reducing your garbage by 10% reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 1,200 pounds). Planting a tree (a single tree absorbs one ton of carbon dioxide over it’s lifetime) or turn off electronic devices when not in use. The most powerful effort you could consider would be going vegetarian. 51% or MORE of global green house gas emissions are caused by animal agriculture!!!

These are some basic concepts most of us are familiar with.
We are now starting to look at them through the Yogic lens.
It is said we have two eyes we look out of, but really one we truly see from. Developing a relationship with the natural world and what sustains us as a species helps us to rediscover wisdom and live in the harmony and balance we seek as Yogis.

Jai Ma…
Astrud

Astrud teaches Yoga, leads her Kirtan group https://www.facebook.com/Astrud-and-the-Cosmic-Caravan-126578667531850/ and leads retreats to India. *Upcoming retreat to India October 20-November 17th 2016 – For Info on all the above check out http://yogawithastrud.com/ Or my FB page https://www.facebook.com/AstrudMaitriYoga/


Mother Pie

Posted on: July 6th, 2016 2 Comments
by Adriana Feliciana

Adriana

*repost*

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.

Catch Adriana on Tuesday & Friday mornings for sunrise flow as she subs for Erica all summer loving long.


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.


The Source

Posted on: June 22nd, 2016 No Comments

by Genevieve McClendon

HEART-26

The Source
The lovely melody of a flute
is found neither in the instrument
nor in the player’s fingers.
You might say it comes from the composer’s heart,
but if you opened his heart
you would find no melody.
Where, then, is the source?
It is beyond—in the supreme cosmic Energy
which the ego will never know.
Only if you act from your heart
will you know life’s divine power.
-Amma

When we are born our heart is one of the first organs to develop along with the spinal cord, its beat setting the tone of our lives. We are then born into the world and given the constant rhythm of breath, synchronizing all the sounds and tones of life force. Nada yoga is the union through sound, inner transformation through sound and deeper listening. We honor them as the source and vibration of Om (also know as AUM, broken up into three letters) and anahata, the sound that is always in you, the vibration within the sound, the sound within the sound. It is the vibration within each cell of our being. Nada yoga is to feel the sound of God within us.

This past week I went to visit Amma, the “Hugging Saint” at her ashram in San Ramon. Being there was like being bathed in a celebration and party of blessed sounds and an intoxicating vibration of omnipresent love. Whenever first entering Amma’s ashram there is a restoring of harmony within my inner sounds as I receive all vibrations and sounds of the temple. It takes moments to synchronize myself with her loving presence and the sounds of chanting, repeating mantras, and the vibrations of all the people. There is a change in the atmosphere when a true Guru is present. The vibrating sound of the crown chakra and OM is everywhere. Communing with the Guru I am left feeling focused and relaxed. A feeling of hOMe.

As I was sitting in my seat waiting for my turn to receive a divine Amma hug I was mesmerized by her japa, or repetition in hugging one being after another. To me it was as if each hug was a mantra on a mala bead. And these aren’t just hugs, she snuggles you into arms with all her divine love and it’s as if a thunderbolt of love moves through your body. This alters your vibrational field and awareness. I could feel my heart’s capacity expand and my energy cleansed. Being in her energetic vibrational field I could feel all the cells in my body shift by the immense love she was radiating. Helping tune every one of us back into who we really are. Showering everyone in the purest vibrations of love. Restoring our hearts divine rhythm and tone. Shedding pain and suffering.

Patanjali states, “vibration is still there in the mind in an unmanifested condition. Scientifically, we can say that when manifested objects are reduced to their unmanifested condition, they go back to the atomic vibration. Nobody can stop that atomic vibration.” The omnipresent vibration of love is never changing – it’s always constant. Whether it’s through chanting mantras, thinking good thoughts, giving silent empathy, prayer, singing your heart out, dancing, being in nature, visiting a Guru, laughing with friends, we are given the opportunity to vibrate with our truest self, the sounds of divine love. The rhythm of our heart, the tide of our breath, the sound of divinity that vibrates inside and outside of us are reflections to the ever present Om and love in the universe. Nada yoga transforms our inner and outer sounds into love, vibrating our truest self. Sending waves and sounds of love from me to you through this blog. Om Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu Om Shanti Shanti Shanti

“Your heart is the real temple. It is there you must install god, good thoughts are the flowers, good actions the worship, good words the hymns, love, the divine offering.”
-Amma

Genevieve is committed to serving and helping others come into their best self. 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 also teaches Restorative yoga with Reiki at Laughing Lotus on Friday from 6:45-8:00pm and Sunday from 6:15-7:30. To learn more, please visit her website at www.InLightandSoul.com


Meditation: compassion towards Self

Posted on: May 4th, 2016 No Comments
by Yurina Kim

Yurina

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.


THE PATH OF THE HEART THROUGH SONG

Posted on: February 3rd, 2016 No Comments

by Robin Wilner

robin

“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.


Adjusting to the darkness

Posted on: December 23rd, 2015 1 Comment

by Laura

yoga teacher pic

Lately in Savasana I place my hands over my stomach. Last night it was my fifth class in four months, and my skin was practically vibrating. This is what I do in Savasana now, even though I love the feeling of my arms out to my sides. Last night I almost started to cry. It was dark outside and the room was dark too. I felt such an outpouring of love toward my body. Mixed in with the caring gesture of hands to stomach was a profound and intense feeling of understanding the temporariness of this body I care so much for. During the past two years I have been dealing with a serious illness and have had two major abdominal surgeries. When I put my hands on my stomach I remember that I am healing, that I am strong, and that I am immensely more fragile than I can comprehend.

I am only recently back to my physical yoga practice, and I am awed at being able to move with relative ease after not even being allowed to open doors for myself for so long. When I say that I am grateful for all of this, I don’t want to suggest that it has been easy or that there have not been terrible moments. But when I tried to think of the guru I want to honor this month as I explore our December theme, the only teacher I could think of was illness.

Yoga, so rooted in the body, has been a profound way to explore every fear, contradiction, limitation, and uncertainty of illness and recovery. Somehow yoga has allowed me to remember and forget my physical form, attach to my living self and feel a deep sense of softness that can only be described as letting go. It has allowed me to navigate the scariest thing I have ever experienced with a genuine calm. Some of the time I didn’t even realize that I was doing yoga, but I was.

The word guru means, simply, teacher. Etymologically gu is dark and ru is light. We often think of the guru as being the light that shines into the darkness or the knowledge that breaks through ignorance. For the past months, illness has been my guru. But, it hasn’t been an experience of the light illuminating the dark exactly. It may be better described as an experience of my eyes adjusting to the dark, perhaps.

This particular version of guru will visit all of us in one form of hardship or another, of course. One lesson I have learned is that none of us are spared. I am still turning all of this over in my mind and probably will be for the rest of my life. Being confronted with the tangible prospect of death, as opposed to the conceptual knowledge of death, does something startling. We see with a clarity health just doesn’t afford us much of the time. I remember being in the hospital and writing in my journal: I hope I remember this. Already, I don’t quite remember what I meant. But what I think I meant was this. Being alive in this very second, being fully present in it. I mean that viscerally. Sometimes, when we are really, really present it can be incredibly intense, and so we flit away from the present, in harmless, natural ways. I have learned to take a deep breath and come back, if I can. My hands on my stomach in Savasana help me do that. I am here, in this room, right now, alive. I feel the tenderness of each second as it is immediately gone.

Many people have lost and left their bodies before me, and I am not spared simply because I have been spared for now. Illness has taught me a gentleness toward myself. My skin, my bones, my eyes, the incredible scar, these things are all terribly precious and not to be grasped or kept. Illness is the teacher that let me understand this in my body, not just on paper, not just in a book or philosophy. It is really scary sometimes. It is sad. It is still, of course, impossible to fathom in many ways. But it has also never felt so good to exist in my body as it does now.

I feel so much I didn’t feel before. I have more empathy. My experience of fear and pain made me less able to turn away from it when I see it elsewhere. This manifests itself in tangible and intangible ways. I can speak to a friend who is going through her own health issues with a different capacity. I can stop for a woman on the street who needs help. I read the news differently, I watch movies differently, I am open to things I was not open to before. Even love feels different.

One sort of funny, but wonderful, example I will end with is that a lifelong fear of flying has magically disappeared. Before, even when I was able to intellectually work through my anxiety on a flight, I would still have sweaty palms, my heart would race. That simply doesn’t happen anymore. It’s gone. And the reason I love this example is because that fear of flying was something I couldn’t control and felt everywhere: in body, in mind, in emotions. But now the fear is gone in much the same way. The calm is something I feel on a physiological, intellectual, and energetic level. The shift has occurred totally.

The philosopher Wittgenstein says, “What you say, you say in a body; you can say nothing outside of this body.” I re-read this line often. Illness introduced me to my body in a way I could never have imagined, it introduced a language I had never heard or spoken, it introduced sensations I am still examining. The feeling of my hands on my stomach in Savasana is a feeling of vastness, and of the invisible, it is the feeling of what the body says that is beyond words, and the ways in which darkness can be a teacher that blasts our entire life full of light.