Posts Tagged ‘spiritual path’

Lotus Love Blog

Mudra Medicine by Tina Spogli

Posted on: August 16th, 2017 1 Comment

As I’m about to embark on my second Reiki training {energy healing through the hands}, I’m feeling especially in tune with the healing power that comes from intentional movement of the hands. Movement is medicine for creating change, and just as we move our bodies in our physical asana practice to unlock healing energy, we can too through our hands. Our hands are extensions of our hearts, with the power to create, transform, & heal. The energy centers of the entire body are located in the hands, so by connecting, bending, and touching the fingers in a certain way, we can begin to bring our bodies & minds back into balance. Each finger represents an element found in nature: Thumb/Fire, Index Finger/Air, Middle Finger/Ether, Ring Finger/Earth, & Pinky Finger/Water. Like the rest of our yoga practice, mudras are great medicine for union within ourselves, and with the Universe.

Below are three of my favorite Mudras. You’ll find instructions on how to move into the mudra, benefits, & other findings from my personal exploration with them.

ATMANJALI MUDRA / Gesture of Prayer

Press your palms together in front of your heart, letting your thumbs touch your sternum. Atmanjali Mudra {Prayer} is commonly used in yoga classes as a greeting, along with “Namaste.” This is a way of showing respect to others, as in “I see you,” meaning I see that divine light & love in you. With the palms resting on the heart, we can think of turning this gesture inward for a dose of self-respect and love. This mudra promotes balance between the right & left brain hemispheres, and calms our thoughts. The way the palms meet, it is a gesture of duality merging into wholeness, a yoking of light & dark, sun & moon, masculine & feminine. This yoking is also true of our experiences, being able to integrate past experiences, good and bad, with the present so that all experience can be food for who we are becoming.

BHUMISPARSHA MUDRA / Earth Witness Mudra

Sit in sukhasana {easy cross-ankle pose}, and bring your left fingertips to the Earth outside your left thigh. Bring your right palm face up on your right knee, and connect your thumb with the ring finger for Earth energy. Whenever life feels a bit up in the air, or I’m caught up in my thoughts, this mudra is able to ground & center my energy. As the left fingertips plug into the ground, it’s a beautiful reminder of our own deep connection to the Earth, and all its creatures. With every exhale, you can imagine roots growing down into the Earth through your left fingertips & sit bones, and with every inhale the spine growing taller. You can keep this breathing visualization going, so that with each exhale your roots grow a little bit deeper into the ground. Eventually your roots will find a large crystal at the center of the Earth, they securely wrap themselves around it. Feel yourself connected to the Source of all things, at the same time knowing that all creatures are connected to this same Source.

GARUDA MUDRA / The Mystical Bird

Link your thumbs and allow your other fingers to fan out wide, right palm in front of left. You can place this mudra at your navel, heart, or anywhere in between. The thumbs represent that element of Fire, which gives this mudra a feeling of strength and fierceness. The way the other fingers spread wide gives the feeling of freedom – I like to even play with some free flowing movement here of a birds wings. The element of the bird is Air, and this mudra works to open the chest for deeper breathing. It also improves circulation and mood. As the bird is able to glide in the air and be carried by the wind, we can begin to let the body & mind be carried by the wings of the breath.     

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 Divine Mother by Genevieve McClendon

Posted on: July 19th, 2017 1 Comment

“Among the trillion mysteries of the cosmos, the most phenomenal is light.”

-Yogananda

Do you believe in miracles? Do you believe in Divine white light? Do you believe there is a life force existing within and around us at all times that is beyond the understanding of our naked eye?  I have a real life account of an apparition that I experienced with the sacred feminine.  In preparing to write this blog in light of the Divine Mother I couldn’t help be drawn to share a miracle I experienced with Her many years ago that I have already written about and I’m still in awe of to this day.  I feel the need to tell my story repeatedly to share that miracles are real and love is all around.  We just need to open our hearts, minds, and listen.

Let me first start by saying, the Divine Mother is omnipresent. She is the incarnation of love that takes countless shapes and forms. Not bound by religion or dogma, the divine mother is the infinite light and love that lives inside and surrounds all of us in all spaces, places and things at all time. She IS the sacred source of unconditional love and light.

In Yogananda’s book, Autobiography of a Yogi, he states, “God’s command brought into being the structural essential: light.  On the beams of this immaterial medium occur all divine manifestations. Devotees of every age testify to the appearance of God as flame and light.”

Here is my miracle with our Sacred Mother:

She appeared to me when I was twelve.  It was a Saturday, I had fallen asleep and was awakened by the brightest white light you could ever imagine!  It was the light that you hear about in scared texts. A light so bright I felt like I should be blinded. The Divine Mother herself had awakened me! Time stopped, space no longer existed. She was gazing at me with the sweetest radiant love you could ever imagine! She took me with her for a moment, I don’t remember where.

Just for a moment, think of your own mother’s love times a billion and then some! The frequency of love was so high she was in me, outside of me, taking up my entire room. She was hugging all around me. As she gazed at me with the most ultimate beaming motherly grace, I could see every detail of her. I feel that she took this shape so that my human mind would be able to make sense of her forever-moving force. The crevices and folds of her were so clear, perfect, radiant, loving and peaceful, so peaceful.

She was with me for a long period of time. Though she never said a physical word, she spoke loudly through energy. She just oozed love through every pore and make up of my body and washed my soul.  As I write, recollecting on this, I feel overwhelmed with the beauty I saw.  Her beauty and love is so calm and intense; Ya’ll, it brings me to tears!

I was permanently changed by this event. Being in the presence of her divine love truly affected me on a cellular level. There is never a day that I don’t think about this miracle happening in my life. I am still in utter awe of it. I have never experienced anything that has come slightly close to this miracle. I have so much love for the divine mother in every way and am forever devoted. I feel she is with me at all times. I know that she is all love and loves us more than we could ever truly know! And that is the ultimate message and why I feel the need to share this miraculous apparition.  Her message was, she Loves us so much and don’t forget it!  Connect to her, dance with her, talk to her, love on her behalf, reach out for her.  She is Here.

“I am your moon and your moonlight too. I am your flower garden and your water too. I have come all this way, eager for you, without shoes or shawl. I want you to laugh, to kill your worries, to love you, to nourish you.”

-Rumi

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 http://www.InLightandSoul.com


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.


The Intuitive Ear by Adriana Feliciana

Posted on: June 14th, 2017 No Comments
The practice of Nada Yoga…a time to celebrate the beauty of sound. It makes sense that the first organ developed in the fetus is the ear when you think about sound being the first thing that was made when the Universe was created.
When my children were little, I quickly learned to hone in on the lack of sound – 9 times out of 10 it meant trouble. Once I found my 4 year old son, his little brows knitted together with such silent concentration, as he painted, back and forth in large bold moves, all over my brand new white couch…with my waterproof black mascara.
Now that my children are adults, I am trained to listen to the silent gaps in a conversation that usually mean they have something important to tell me. I can still remember the scary silence I heard when my daughter was trying to tell me she was all grown up and moving out to live on her own. I knew the time was coming, she was over 18, but I still wasn’t ready to hear it. I tried hard to let the silence happen so she could speak,
Staying present and listening to what people are truly saying can be a challenge sometimes. There are so many distractions that can easily lead us astray. Mantras are an excellent way to focus and celebrate the beauty of sound. Easwaran said, “Mantras are handrails for the mind.” So Hum is an excellent mantra for staying present. The meaning of this mantra is simply, “I am.” It helps us enter the ground of our being. Bede Griffiths describes the ground of our being as, “Being present everywhere, in everything, yet always escaping our grasp.”
To practice this mantra, lengthen the spine, roll your shoulders up by your ears, and then press them back to open the heart. Allow your shoulders to melt into your back, and let your heart stay open. As you attune to your breath, use the syllable “So” on the inhalation and “Hum” on the exhalation. Take your time and allow the power of the inner sound to resonate. This mantra can be used in silence with the breath being the only audible sound. Think of it as one of your “pocket mantras” to keep on hand the next time your mind starts to wander during a challenging time or conversation.

Adriana loves yoga because the practice allows her to truly inhabit her body and find a comfortable and livable space deep within. Inspired by Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga, Adriana blends compassion for all beings with a challenging mindful asana practice that supports where her students are while encouraging them to explore their edge. Come to class with her, and your prana will be stoked through conscious breathing techniques while cultivating inner perceptual awareness and increasing concentration.


The Art of Meditation by Tina Spogli

Posted on: May 17th, 2017 No Comments

Atha yoganushasanam, Now begins the study of yoga (Patanjali, Sutra 1:1). Please begin in a comfortable seat, crossing the ankles and sitting up nice and tall. Bring your palms face down on your knees, letting there be a soft bend in the elbows so that they drop right below the shoulders. Close the physical eyes. Bring your attention to your breath, with no need to change anything about it, just noticing this breath in, and this breath out. As thoughts or sensations begin to pop up, notice and acknowledge them, then choose to bring the attention back to the breath. Be the observer, watching the thoughts pass with less judgment and attachment to them. Open yourself up fully to everything within and around.  

We are training the mind this month with the magic of meditation. Just as we learn the discipline of body in our asana practice, we learn the discipline of mind in our meditation practice. When we harness and focus the energy of the mind, it can be a powerful tool to help bring us back into the present moment. We can think of meditation as mindfulness, in that we are opening up every part of ourselves to sip in the nectar of NOW. Bringing the energy of mindfulness to wherever we are, and whatever we are doing, is meditation. The Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh says, “Meditation is the practice that consists in bringing the body and the mind back to the present moment, and every time we practice that, we come to life again.” The yoga practice is about waking up, again and again, to the fullness of the moment.

Meditation practices can take many different forms. We can find our focus through the opening of the senses – particularly the eyes with our drishti, meaning ‘soft gaze’ – and other traditional ways including breathing meditation, walking meditation, mantra and chanting, visualization meditation, qi gong, and many others. Any activity that moves your attention into the moment is a meditation. One of my latest favorite ways to meditate is through drawing, a creative outlet from the past resurrected. Letting myself be a clear channel, I sit down with pen and paper and draw what comes, rather than setting an expectation of what the drawing will be beforehand. So much of meditation is an openness to everything around and within us, to be able to observe without judgment and attachment, and to let the divine energy move through us like water flowing in a stream.

Our meditation practice is a discipline, but it’s important to note that we can give our practice permission to change and evolve. I like to cycle through different meditation practices throughout the week, based on what I’m drawn to that day. The moment we tell ourselves we have to meditate in a certain way, creating too many rules and restrictions, we have let the mind take over and leave room for the possibility that we will get stuck or bored. We want to look forward to, and be inspired by, our meditation practice.        
When we give our attention to only one thing, we quiet the thoughts to a whisper and are able to hear the inner voice of truth. Much of our practice becomes being able to look at ourselves completely, the dark and the light, and making peace with all of it. In this way, we accept both sides of ourselves, body and mind working together, the two unite and become one. Those more negative things that have been buried tend to re-surface here. Embarking on any meditation practice takes a warrior strength of heart. We come as we are, and practice embracing our emotions – including the negative ones – with the energy of mindfulness. As Thich Nhat Hanh says, we embrace our emotions with the same love as a mother to a child, or big sister to little sister. Not denying, not judging, but with a level of understanding. This is how we begin to find freedom through our humanity, the freedom that comes from looking deeply, recognizing our wounds, and beginning the process of healing. As we heal ourselves, we heal the world. By living peace within, we manifest peace without. 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 Programming Karmi

Posted on: January 18th, 2017 No Comments
picture1

Jen at the Tirta Empul Temple in Bali in 2013

by Jen DeSimone

“47 You have the right to work, but never to the fruit of work. You should never engage in action for the sake of reward, nor should you long for inaction. 48 Perform work in this world, Arjuna, as a man established within himself – without selfish attachments, and alike in success and defeat. For yoga is perfect evenness of mind.”

Excerpt From: Easwaran, Eknath. “The Bhagavad Gita.”

Last year I suffered a career crisis.  I hated what I was doing, and I was frustrated by the people with whom I was working.  It was so bad that my manager noticed and commented on it.  When I realized how evident my unhappiness was, I knew that something had to change.  I seriously contemplated whether it was time to change companies or careers even.  I eventually came to the conclusion that changing jobs was actually running away from the real problem.  The real problem wasn’t the job or other people.  The real problem was me.

My yoga students are often surprised when I tell them that my full-time job is writing software.  To them, as to many people, yoga lives in a completely separate world from technology.  I too am sometimes surprised, but not for the same reasons.  When I was in high school I wanted to become an academic.  While I was in graduate school, however, I became disillusioned with academia.  As a result, I quit school and got a programming job while I figured out what I wanted to do next.  Eighteen years later, and I am still coding.

Technology is, as everyone knows, a male-dominated field in which egos abound.  Last year during my career crisis, I realized that after almost two decades working in this domain, I had developed quite the ego.  To be clear, when I say that I had an overdeveloped ego, I mean to say that my self-worth had become dependent on how my work was regarded.  When I was praised, I felt like a rock star.  When I was criticized, I felt like a fraud.

When I was trying to figure out what and how to change, I realized that my attitude to my programming was in sharp contrast with my yoga teaching.  Since beginning to teach in 2012, I have always regarded my teaching as service (“seva”).  The class is never about me.  I observe and help my students as best I can.  If a class is well received, that’s great.  If someone has a critique or a suggestion, that’s great too.  I always walk away from the class with a clear heart and head knowing that I did my best.  This is in the spirit of karma yoga, the yoga of selfless action.  This form of yoga is described in one of the great Hindu texts, The Bhagavad Gita.  In it, the god Krishna teaches a reluctant warrior named Arjuna the importance of taking action, but all the while not being vested in the fruits of that action.

As a result, I realized that I needed to carry over this notion of service into my full-time job.  Of course putting this into practice didn’t happen overnight, but it helped that I had been doing this in my yoga teaching for a few years.  I volunteered to be in meetings more.  In those meetings, I listened to my coworkers.  I was also willing to toss my own assumptions out the window when they didn’t hold true.  And, when things went wrong, I didn’t beat myself up. Instead, I tried to learn what we could do differently in the future and moved on.

When I decided to make these changes, it wasn’t to impress anyone or to get ahead.  I simply wanted to end my own suffering.  The changes, however, did not go unnoticed.  People remarked on them to my manager, who later related them to me.  Whenever he brings it up, I simply say, “I try my best.”  And then, I silently think, “This is also yoga.”

Jen first discovered yoga in 2001 and has been practicing it ever since. Since completing her 200 hour teacher training with Laughing Lotus four years ago, Jen has been offering classes where students are met where they are. You can follow her on her Facebook page.


A Missed Shot

Posted on: January 4th, 2017 No Comments

by Josh Ehrenreich

josh-yogaKrishna totally missed, Arjuna thought.
 
The first arrow fired, a shot symbolizing the start of war between good and evil, didn’t hit anyone. It didn’t even hit a warhorse. All it did was sever a rope holding a bell, dropping to the ground with a clang.
 
It probably was that little bird’s fault.
One of my favorite stories regarding the Bhagavad Gita isn’t even in it. It’s a story I’ve heard that takes place after. Krishna had just finished explaining to Arjuna why he must rouse himself to action and fight. Arjuna took what Krishna had said to heart and was ready to lead his army.
That’s when the little bird flew up. He flew right up to Krishna and Arjuna and perched on their chariot.
‘I can’t let this war happen,’ he said. ‘In the middle of this battlefield are my five babies, just hatched with their mother. If this war starts my family will never survive the trampling of feet’
Mighty warrior Arjuna was kind. He shared with the little bird that, at times, our life circumstances seem overwhelming, impossible even, and that the lot we have been dealt may seem cruel. But these lots, these circumstances, are temporary. And once they are over, we return back into the unified whole.
The bird looked down. Sad as he was he saw the truth and beauty within. He made ready to fly away and spend the few remaining moments with those he loved.
But right before he flew off he paused, then cried out: ‘Krishna, if this is truly the case—if this is my fate to have, then let me send out my own little battle cry. Be victorious and mighty in this battle that awaits!’
And he flew away.
It can be difficult to accept the hands we are dealt. We can easily feel powerless in the face of mightier forces, helpless to lessen the suffering of others, whether that be a flock far off, or the one in our nest right now.
What we can do is face our circumstances with equanimity and perseverance. To work towards good regardless of scope of impact. Who knows what our future may bring, regardless of today’s predictions?
Upon Krishna’s fired arrow, the battle raged on. It was a terribly bloody battle, many deaths on both sides. Eventually Arjuna led the righteous to victory.
As he walked amongst the former battle field, he came upon the bell that Krishna had shot. He remembered, with slight embarrassment, how Krishna had missed the first shot of war, and kicked the bell over.
How could he have missed? Arjuna thought.
And suddenly, a little bird, the same little bird from before, and his five fledglings and their mother flew up. Protected underneath the heavy bell, they had avoided the ravages of battle and lived to sing of Arjuna’s victory.

Josh is a teacher at Laughing Lotus whose classes emphasize a mindful approach and steadiness of breath. Beyond yoga he is a project manager, hip-hop enthusiast, and coffee connoisseur.


Waking Up

Posted on: December 14th, 2016 No Comments

by Tina Spogli
tina

“People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on Earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child – our own two eyes. All is a miracle.”

-Thich Nhat Hanh

Open your eyes. What do you see? Notice the sounds. Let your vibration mingle with those around. Witness your breath flowing in and out. Feel yourself as part of everything. Wake up into now.

Our presence is a gift. Often it’s something we have to remind ourselves to bring into our everyday lives. As yogis, we feel the overwhelming sense of truth that comes from a practice of tuning awareness – connecting body with breath, breath to the mind, and everything to the moment. I remember in my early yogi days, feeling this great sense of shift and change. At the time I didn’t fully understand what was happening, but I knew I felt closer to the entire world around and within. And so I was hooked, running to the mat any chance I could!

As we continue along this path of mindfulness, our perspective shifts, and we see not only our time on the mat, but our entire lives as a practice of tuning in to receive the teachings right in front of us. It is meditation in each moment, a spiritual waking up that flows into the way we eat, sleep, breathe, walk, work, talk, and think. I like to compare it to John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ video, the way Yoko Ono opens up curtain by curtain in a dim room to let the light in. The light was there the whole time, but it takes some warrior training to see it.

Yoga is one of the several different kinds of practices that provide us with the tools to dive deeper into the moment and see the lessons life has to offer. Other mindfulness practices include martial arts, tai chi, qigong, walking meditation, seated meditations – such as vipassana, zen, loving-kindness, and mantra. But I like to think any activity that sparks our full presence is an avenue to experience the magic of the world, from photography, to going to the gym, or doing the dishes – whatever vehicle resonates with you!

As these moments of mindfulness grow, we acquire knowledge and information that cannot be found in any text. The realization is that everything is the guru, everything is acting as remover of ignorance and revealer of light and truth. Even in challenging moments, when we fall, wobble, and shake, there is something to learn. Every moment is an opportunity to say ‘thank you’ – thank you for moments of happiness, thank you to the plants and Earth that make it possible for us to be here, thank you for this breath, thank you even for moments of confusion and doubt, thank you for LIFE.

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.


Let’s All Be Dangerous Yogis

Posted on: December 7th, 2016 No Comments

by Laura S
me-in-the-dark

It seems especially dark to me this winter as we move toward the Solstice. Others seem to agree; it comes up in conversation a lot lately. As I try to compose this, news of the fire in Oakland is almost more than I can even bear. I feel helpless and devastated when surrounded by such darkness. Words frustrate me. Even yoga frustrates me. No response seems quite right or like it’s anywhere near enough.

In this vast darkness, we need our gurus more than ever. Our teachers guide us, but they are also people capable of holding space for both the light and the dark. Pragmatically that ability is a lot harder than it sounds in poetic or symbolic terms. In the past, I’ve often interpreted the translation of guru to mean that the light illuminates the darkness. But this winter, I’m thinking about the light and the dark side by side instead.

In a recent NY Times article, “I Am a Dangerous Professor,” George Yancy discusses being put on the Professor Watchlist, a conservative website that targets specific teachers over the content of their courses. Reading Yancy’s words struck a nerve; our teachers are so vital to our survival, and it’s important to remember that the work they do on behalf of their students (us!) is not always easy or safe.

Yancy writes, “In my courses, which the watchlist would like to flag as “un-American” and as “leftist propaganda,” I refuse to entertain my students with mummified ideas and abstract forms of philosophical self-stimulation. What leaves their hands is always philosophically alive, vibrant and filled with urgency. I want them to engage in the process of freeing ideas, freeing their philosophical imaginations. I want them to lose sleep over the pain and suffering of so many lives that many of us deem disposable. I want them to become conceptually unhinged, to leave my classes discontented and maladjusted.”

I’m especially moved by the words “discontented” and “maladjusted.” Previously, these sensations were not necessarily ones that I invoked as a yoga teacher, or that I sought as a yoga student. Yet, I think we should, and I plan to start now. Our yoga practice should not help us sleep more soundly; indeed, it should cause us to lose sleep. We should feel unhinged!

Here is wisdom I’ve encountered in the last few days that has offered me some light AND kept me up at night:

Gandhi reminds me, “Those who say spirituality has nothing to do with politics do not know what spirituality really means.”

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi reminds me, “Now is the time to refuse the blurring of memory…Now is the time to call things what they actually are, because language can illuminate truth as much as it can obfuscate it. Now is the time to forge new words…Now is the time to talk about what we are actually talking about…Now is the time to discard that carefulness that too closely resembles a lack of conviction.”

(I highly recommend her recent article in The New Yorker “Now is the Time to Talk About What We Are Actually Talking About.”)

Jack Kornfield reminds me, “You are not alone. You have generations of ancestors at your back. You have the blessing of interdependence and community. You have the great trees of the forest as steadfast allies. You have the turning of the seasons and the renewal of life as your music. You have the vast sky of emptiness to hold all things graciously.

You have been training for this for a long time. With practice you have learned to quiet the mind and open the heart. You have learned emptiness and interdependence. Now it is time to step forward, bringing your equanimity and courage, wisdom and compassion to the world.”

Pablo Das reminds me, “While non-reactive presence to what’s happening within you and around you is foundational, for me non-reactivity simply creates the conditions for a wise response. Non-reactivity is not the end game. Action is! Please don’t be another privileged person who thinks sitting with YOUR sadness is enough. It’s not!”

As sad as I’ve felt in recent weeks, thanks to my gurus, I’m reminded again and again that my individual sadness is not enough. The words and inspiration of my teachers calls me to take action, participate, and be vigilant.

There is a lot of noise to sift through out there. But our teachers are everywhere. We must listen to them, and we must use their guidance to harness our own courage and strength. Our yoga practice cannot just be a solitary pursuit. If we come to our mat only to feel better and only to address our individual needs, then we’re missing the profound and much larger impacts our practice can and should have. Each person’s Trikonasana looks different, feels different, and is a specific expression of who they are. So too, we can each step off our mat and take action in our own unique way. Let’s use our practice to be dangerous, discontented and maladjusted!

I’ll end with one last mantra, a reminder from Sri Rainer Maria Rilke: “Let this darkness be a bell tower, and you the bell.”

There are many fundraisers to support the victims and families of the Oakland fire, and here is one through the Gray Area Foundation for the Arts: Fire Relief Fund for Victims of Ghostship Oakland Fire.

Slow down and reconnect with your practice in a Lotus Basics class with Laura on Tuesday/Thursday mornings at 10:45am and Friday morning at 9am.

Look for an Absolute Beginners workshop in the new year on January 22!


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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