by Robin Wilner
With my curly dark brown hair askew in the mornings, my big brother once proclaimed, “You look like Medusa!” As avid lovers of Greek mythology and the ‘80s film Clash of the Titans, I knew he wasn’t stroking my ego. Medusa was a cruel and ugly monster, with greenish skin, bloodshot eyes and a ferocious stare that turned all who looked upon her into stone. She also had a den of venomous snakes in place of hair. Thanks, big Bro.
But what most may not know is the story of who she was prior to this curse. The only mortal of three sisters, Medusa was once a beautiful, fair-skinned priestess to the Goddess Athena, with wavy golden locks and kind, loving eyes. She’d taken a vow of lifetime celibacy, but like many young adults, soon found herself infatuated with a lover (Poseidon), and chose to marry him rather than honor her promise. As punishment, Athena transformed Medusa into a repulsive creature, which caused the world to detest and reject her until she was forced to flee from her home to live out her cursed existence in solitude. She was eventually hunted and beheaded by the great warrior, Perseus.
Sure, my brother was making fun in the way that ignorant youngsters often do. My messy, seemingly unattractive hair reminded him of the evil snake monsteress. This myth has an interesting twist, however, when looked upon through a more mature lens. We often forget that a promise is not to be broken, and that there are consequences for being dishonorable. There are also times when we exhibit ugliness (in the non-physical sense) and feel no repercussions; and yet, society tends to perceive physical beauty as acceptable and unattractiveness as dangerous or threatening – symbolic by how Medusa was first shunned by the world and her cursed gaze would turn onlookers to stone if they looked straight into her eyes. We often don’t want others to see us angry, frustrated, sad or hurt; we’d rather they turn away or only engage with the façade of happiness and contentment that we create instead. And Medusa’s struggle was to maintain her authentic sense of identity despite her outward appearance, which she eventually succumbed to in the ultimate form of suffering.
Myths are often stories that reveal our humanity, that help us to see our habitually destructive patterns. We’re encouraged to generate more tapas – the fire we burn throughout the Yoga practice that helps to free us from these damaging behaviors. Each sacred tale bathed in tradition goes even a step further, helping to make sense of the human experience by answering timeless questions that may eventually lead us towards a richer life: Who am I? What is my purpose? How do I want to be in the world? When connected through the common human experience, regardless of ethical or cultural differences, we can even appreciate the humanity in all beings.
While I may not have realized this initially as a youngster, Medusa was as multi-layered as any other mortal. She made poor decisions without weighing the consequences, attached her sense of Self to outward appearance and the external world, and was doomed to suffer for the rest of her shortened life. Truthfully, we all start out just like Medusa, but then the practice of Yoga takes effect in such profound ways. With time, we come to realize that a pure state of Joy is only attainable when we look deeply within ourselves. The internal world must be in harmony in order to find true peace, and no amount of external pleasure or acceptance will satisfy our desire for internal tranquility. It’s completely up to us to seek the truth of our Divine nature in order to lessen the suffering.
Formerly a Broadway dancer/singer/actress in NYC, Robin mixes her love of movement, chanting, energetic healing and yoga philosophy into all her teachings. She believes that human potential is infinite and that the path to joy starts with mindfulness and self-transformation. Known for her inspiring sequences, sense of humor, and juicy hands-on assists, Robin aims to guide students through a rich and heartfelt experience that maximizes their potential. She is also a Holistic Nutritionist. www.nutritiousyogini.com
Classes: Mondays 9am & 12pm, Wednesdays 9am, Fridays 12pm & 5:30pm or Sundays at 10am.
The story of creation(s) in Hindu Mythology starts as so many other stories of creation do, and because these stories have mostly been carried through word of mouth, there are many interpretations. This story, in particular, starts in the complete dark and mysterious nothingness. No space, no earth, no heaven, no hell, no place in between only darkness….darkness beyond darkness.
by Erica Martin
“We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.”
– Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
I remember the moment when I found the yoga in Harry Potter. As an adult, I decided to reread the series of books that I had read on loop as a child. I thumbed through the familiar, dog-eared and chocolate stained pages, and a great sense of remembering washed over me – a remembering much deeper than the narrative itself.
Ultimately, Harry’s story is the story of all of us, realizing on one hand our latent magical abilities, and on the other the darkness that resides within. In the end, Harry is called upon to recognize this duality and release his attachment to this great struggle in order to move past it. If that’s not yoga, I don’t know what is! In this practice we are constantly dancing between opposites; lightness and darkness, sukha and dukkha, adho mukha and urdhva mukha. Our great teachings hold that we observe these binaries, yet find a seat in between them, neither running away from one nor towards the other. We bow to the light within each of us, but also recognize the darkness, and our ability to chose between the two.
This is not a theme exclusive to Harry Potter and the yogic tradition, but one we see playing out over and over again through mythological stories across cultures and religious traditions. From the great Hindu tradition the beautiful goddess, Lakshmi, when examined closely, turns into the great and fearsome destroyer, Kali. In turn, one who is willing to embrace Kali’s darkness, and look at her in the face lovingly, will have her transform into Lakshmi. In essence, they are two sides of the same coin, and the devotee who recognizes them both receives their full delight and love. (It is important to note that the intersection of myth and religion is a complicated one! All religious traditions have mythological stories that are sacred and communicate profound truths. I share this example here in acknowledgement of the divinity of both Kali and Lakshmi and their importance in a religion and culture that is not my own).
This is the great power of myth – to take a truly universal human experience and try to make sense of it through fantastical yet utterly human stories. The great mythologist, Joseph Campbell, notes that one of the most important functions of mythology is, “to foster the centering and unfolding of the individual in integrity in accord with himself (the microcosm), his culture (the mesocosm), the universe (the macrocosm), and that awesome ultimate mystery which is both beyond and within himself and all things.”
This is the stuff of great storytelling. From Harry Potter to Voldemort, from Lakshmi to Kali, the great dance between lightness and darkness is happening within us all.
Erica teaches at 7:00 AM on Tuesday mornings and 8:15 PM on Thursday and Friday nights. When she is not at the Lotus she can be found cuddling her puppy or sharing yoga practices with Bay Area educators through her non-profit Breathe For Change.
by Laura S
Growing up, the basement was filled with both mythological and worldly characters, stored side by side on the shelves. Papier mâché Kali rested beside the Statue of Liberty. A “wild woman” with hair of raffia, a giant golden sun, a bear made from thrift store fur coats, Persephone, Ganesh, Zeus, demons, politicians, skeletons, acrobats, and countless other deities, animals, and archetypes all crowded in. There was never enough room for all the masks my mom made. They were donned by her theatre troupe, 1000 Faces, to perform plays over the past twenty years. Whether Halloween, the spring equinox, a presidential election, or high school graduation, I grew up with the idea that gods and goddesses marked the moments of our life with storytelling, ritual, and meaning.
My mom’s masks always scared my friends who slept on the pull-out couch in the basement. One morning a college friend emerged after a restless night’s sleep. “All those faces,” he said to us, a bit sheepish, but kind of freaked out. We teased him, but I understood. There was something about going to sleep in that room. Your eyes adjusted to the dark, and you’d see someone looking back at you. It was the same unsettled feeling as when an unfamiliar part of yourself stirs and wants to make itself known. Every mythological character, in their own way, is a mirror of some part of us.
In “Close to the Bone” Jean Shinoda Bolen uses myth as a tool to help us face serious illness, trauma, or difficulty in our lives. Through stories of the goddesses Inanna, Ereshkigal, and Psyche (among others), we are guided through the a journey into the underworld, or into the darkness of our own lives. Bolen says, “Myths and symbols are the language of the soul.” She asserts that our negative side will destroy the positive side unless we can admit to having both. Myths will help us do this. In a goddess like Ereshkigal, who lives in the underworld, we can see pain and darkness play themselves out, and thereby understand our own pain with more acceptance and clarity. So often in our contemporary Western society, it is difficult to find a place for the experience of raw emotion, fear, or illness. Ereshkigal is, “angry, and she could strike someone dead–characteristics that [many of us] repress and keep hidden.” The darkness is there; we can move into and through it, the myths remind us.
In “Close to the Bone” Bolen examines Psyche’s descent into the underworld with a particular focus that gives us permission to truly care for ourselves. Psyche is armed with cakes and coins in order to pay Cerberus, the hound and Charon, the ferryman. She has two of each because she needs to get both in and out. At various points in her journey, people ask for things from her, and she must say no. She cannot drop the cakes and the coins or she will never escape.
When I first read this, I thought, “Hmmm, how terrible! What is the moral of this story? That you shouldn’t help other people?” Yet, as I read on, Bolan describes the strength, wisdom, and clarity we need when facing a serious challenge in our life. She writes: “What do you want? What could help heal you? Can you ask for it? Insist upon it? Can you say no to what or who depletes you and bring what you need into your life? Might your actual life, and certainly the quality of it, depend upon choosing to do what nourishes your soul with your time and energy?”
As I read those questions, the image of Psyche with the coins and cake clicked for me into a much different analysis than I’d initially made. It wasn’t an image of selfishness at all, but an image of profound self-awareness, bravery, and resilience. In the context of illness, which Bolen was describing, you must more seriously choose what nourishes you. During a recent illness, I held on to this image of Psyche as a powerful reminder that not only was I allowed to focus on healing, but my well-being depended upon it. I’m fairly certain I was only able to consider this idea anew because I pictured Psyche doing it first, and not myself.
Joy Williams, one of my favorite fiction writers, recently published “99 Stories of God,” a collection of stories that explore our relationship to the sacred, and how it is often hidden from us in contemporary life. With a seriously dark sense of humor, Williams tells a series of 99 very short tales. In some, the sacred makes an overt appearance. In others, people look for, but ultimately miss, the presence of the sacred. In the rest, it seems there is no appearance of the sacred at all (yet I suspect there is). In story 49 Williams writes, “We can never speak about God rationally as we speak about ordinary things, but that does not mean we should stop thinking about God. We must push our minds to the limits of what we could know, descending ever deeper into the darkness of unknowing.” It is all of our myths and stories that allow us to do just that.
Īśvara-Praṇidhāna was my word for sutra day during Love School–aka–my 200-hour yoga teacher training at Laughing Lotus. The last of the Yamas and Niyamas (the ten living principles of yoga), it means an ultimate surrendering to the divine. According to the yoga sutras of Patanjali it is the highest practice.
Key word: Practice. When I began exploring what Īśvara-Praṇidhāna meant, it made total sense that it was the concept I was to explain to the group. I have always had a need for control in my life, blame it on the various societal factors of being raised as a (insert multiple identity labels here). When I thought I had everything in control, it all came falling apart, and I felt at a complete loss and standstill. I could not understand what had happened, and I had no other option but to say “OK universe, you win, you take the wheel because I cannot drive anymore, YOU tell me what I should be doing.” And, with that, the pieces began to fall back into the place, the way they should, which is not how I planned! I welcomed and ushered it all in, my newfound blessings and healing, which lead me to my yoga teacher training and receiving Īśvara-Praṇidhāna as my sutra day word.
Īśvara-Praṇidhāna means understanding that I am you, that you are me, that we are all a piece of the Divine. It means understanding, committing and surrendering to the fact that we are guided by this powerful energy. It means accepting that we may not always get what we want, but we always get what we need. That we are exactly where we are suppose to be and that if we continue to trust in this Divine energy, in this Divine plan, our dharma, that we will continue to be provided for, taken care of and guided.
In rereading the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, I came across this line that has become my favorite line of the moment: “Let us all dedicate our lives for the sake of the entire humanity. With every minute, every breath, every atom of our bodies we should repeat this mantra: “dedication, dedication, giving, giving, loving, loving.” Īśvara-Praṇidhāna also means THIS! It means with every minute, every breath, every atom of our beings we must stay dedicated, giving and loving.
Dedicated to our practice! There are NINE practices that come before Īśvara-Praṇidhāna:Ahimsa (non-harming), Satya (truth), Asteya (non-stealing), Brahmacharya (not squandering energy), Aparigraha (non-grasping), Saucha (cleaniness), Santosha(contentment), Tapas (austerity), Svadhyaya (study). It’s called practice for a reason; we have to show up every day, in some way, in every breath.
Īśvara-Praṇidhāna: it means that we constantly surrender. It means that just because we’ve let go once, or in one situation/moment, does not mean that we go back to trying to be in control of it all again. It means that we constantly come back to being dedicated, giving, loving, connected with the divinity within us that connects us with everyone and everything else.
Minerva, a devoted yoga mat souljah, loves to lead folx back into their bodies, with their breath, to unity with 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, meditation, Minerva’s classes are soulful, playful & makes you sweat. 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. .
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!
It is a new moon tonight and there is a sense of emptiness in the sky. I have longed for this sense of emptiness to be so in my head. I chased all sorts of behaviors to quiet the chatter in my overactive mind.
This overactive mind, which feels like a dangerous neighborhood at times, is what brought me to my knees and lead to my spiritual practice over 20 years ago.
My mother had been urging me to meditate long before I fell to my knees but couldn’t hear it coming from her. As they say when the student is ready the teacher appears.
I was in a big transition, ending a relationship, moving, confused, uncertain of my work and completely lost. At that time I was introduced to a wonderful women named Nancy, who was in her 70’s at the time but looked like she was in her 50’s. She had quite a story and had been a big time fashion model in NYC in the 50’s – a wild child of sorts. She was trying to rebuild her life after her long stint of modeling and addiction and in her 40’s had found Meditation. Nancy invited me up to Dai Bosatsu Zendo, a Zen Monastery located in the Catskill Mountains of upstate New York.
It was a life changing experience for me.
I was completely ready to embrace where I was, I was ready to sit with myself and not run away. I was so gently reminded – THE ONLY WAY OUT IS THROUGH. In stillness, I would continuously struggle with berating myself with violent thoughts that followed with brutal actions towards myself. This was the farthest behavior from the Yoga practice of AHIMSA, non-violence. Sitting for me was uncomfortable to say the least more along the lines of terrifying. I believed the hype in my head and I thought I WAS the hype in my head. As I began to practice sitting regularly I started to recognize the little spaces between my thoughts and I could see and feel the light of love not fear and self-hatred. I started to watch my thoughts and recognize the mind was simply doing what it does best, entertaining me! I began witnessing and not participating in my thoughts.
THAT was REVOLUTIONARY for me!
Like Chogyam Trungpa said, “Meditation is one insult after the other.” I completely understood this. If it wasn’t “you’re not good enough,” then it was “you don’t have time for this.” It was a constant roll of negative mantras and insults. As a result of discipline, which for me translates into commitment, I started to develop a spine by sitting up tall and taking my seat. I became less dependent on outside forces, I became more responsible for my action, I became much more compassionate towards myself and as a result towards others and I developed and embodied the practice of Ahimsa. I became aware of an inner strength and the ability to comprehend what was real and what was not.
Meditation has been one of the most precious and transformative gifts of my life and is what lead me to Yoga. My meditation after many years is not a formal sit today. Communing with nature and music have replaced a formal sit. These practices have allowed for me to be completely absorbed and engaged with what is right in front of me. I shower in the morning, have some tea and engage for 20-30 min of chanting. After chanting, I sit and embody the power of sound and vibration and how it wakes me up on a deep cellular level. I engage with stillness. Every Monday (Moonday) I commune with nature. I take a very intentional walk and or adventure and let myself reap the healing effects, such as peace of mind, connecting with my breath and with that which breaths me.
Sri Desikachar, a beautiful man I had the honor of studying with in India over several years and the son of Sri Krishnamacharya, talks about linking the mind to something good-subha (auspicious) and how this is a necessary aspect of meditation. He says: “What is subha, what is auspicious, is something that only a caring guide can indicate, one who knows you well enough to choose.” I am eternally grateful to Swami Satchidananda for this reminder, “Don’t think that only when you close your eyes, you are meditating. Anything that you do with total attention IS meditation.”
“All those who love Nature she loves in return, and will richly reward, not perhaps with the good things, as they are commonly called, but with the best things, of this world- not with money and titles, horses and carriages, but with bright and happy thoughts, contentment and peace of mind.” – John Lubbock
“The object of Indian music is the training of the mind and soul, for music is the best way of concentration. When you tell a person to concentrate on a certain object, the very act of trying to concentrate makes his mind more disturbed. But music, which attracts the soul, keeps the mind concentrated. Besides, the beauty of music, there is that tenderness which brings life to the heart.” – Hazrat Inayat Khan, the great Sufi master and musician.
A simple, profound & gentle instruction by Jack Kornfield goes like this:
To awaken, sit calmly, letting each breath clear your mind and open your heart.
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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.
by Alex Crow
I didn’t journey to India looking for anything in particular. I wanted to experience the land that I had already learned so much from through my practice of yoga, with an open mind and heart. Of course I came to know that what they say is true, “the guru finds you when you aren’t looking.” I can safely say that the term “guru” is generally misunderstood and misrepresented here in the West, but in India, “guru” is commonplace. In fact, there are hundreds (if not thousands) of men claiming to be gurus, exploiting their own “powers” of extreme flexibility, intense discipline, or ridiculous skill. While these men deserve recognition, it would be unwise for anyone to follow them as you would a true guru.
We all have many teachers, people that help to light our path. But, there are some things that make a guru…a guru. The great mind of Osho, speaks to the qualities of the guru:
1. “A guru is a person who has realized truth. Now he is the original source; he himself has encountered reality, he is face to face with it.” Truth can only be experienced directly. At times, we are slapped in the face with reality, at other times it sets in slowly. Regardless, it is only the truth that is worth repeating. If it doesn’t resonate as truth, it probably isn’t.
2. “A guru is not aware of his guruship; he cannot be. A guru cannot claim that he is a guru-there is no claim like that. A person can only know whether or not he has fulfilled the condition of egolessness; otherwise he cannot encounter truth.” The truth tends to purify all individual opinions, which leaves no room for the phony.
3. “The guru is not necessarily present, he is a presence. His very non-claiming, his non egoistic, non teaching attitude, and his living the truth, are the communion.” Ram Dass speaks about Mahara-ji (his guru in India) as being like a pillar of pure unconditional love. He didn’t have to say anything to express the truth that was in his heart.
It is in this that I recognize the divine beauty of the guru – while there may be authentic individuals with followings (such as Amma “the hugging saint”, and Neem Karoli Baba “Mahara-ji”), the love and honest truth that these gurus emit is a strength and power that all beings posses. So who was the guru that came to me when I wasn’t looking? The guru revealed itself to me in the glimmer of every eye that I met along my path. She was in the gaze of the old woman who blessed me with flowers in Hampi. He was in the smile of the young rickshaw driver who helped me when I was lost and a bit frightened in the streets of Mumbai. She is in the heart of every friend, and inside every word of truth. The guru winks at us in the words of mystics such as Rumi and Hafiz, and sings to us in the ancient mantras of the Vedas. And most of all perhaps, the guru reveals itself when we are at our most vulnerable, most present and exposed state. When we finally surrender the effort of understanding, and unveil the truth and knowing at the deepest layer of our being, we come to find that the guru is also within.
“I am the Self, dwelling in the heart of all beings, and the beginning, the middle, and the end of all that lives as well.”
-The Bhagavad Gita (10:20)
Guru Brahma Guru Vishnu
Guru Devo Maheshwara
Guru Sakshat Para Brahma
Tasmai Shri Gurave Namaha
Alex Crow is a teacher at Laughing Lotus Yoga Center, a space where she can share what she loves. You can catch her teaching Yin and Lotus Flow on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Alex is in unending gratitude toward all of the teachers that have helped to light her path, especially her Laughing Lotus Family, Jasmine Tarkeshi and Keith Borden. You can find out more about what Alex Crow is about at: alexcrowflies.com
The Roman deity Jupiter is known as the king of the gods. He is considered to be the equivalent of Zeus (in Greek mythology) and Indra (in Hindu mythology). Jupiter is the god of thunder and sky. He is often depicted carrying a thunderbolt and was regarded as the “light bringer.” As king of the gods, he distributes the law and is associated with justice, philosophy, religion, and travel.
It’s not hard to imagine why the largest planet in the solar system was named after the god, Jupiter. In astrology, Jupiter is associated with optimism, luck, abundance, expansion, and destiny. Jupiter serves the role of a wise, benevolent mentor. Jupiter is the teacher, the guru. Jupiter points to destiny, the larger narrative, and the journey.
I’ve long been an astrology geek. One of the most amazing things about astrology to me is the belief that within each of us there is an entire solar and mythological system. These potent, magical energies exist in all of us. They are not simply external forces. If you believe in the power and validity of astrology, your birth chart can be thought of as a map to your soul.
Speaking of astrology, a few years ago I had an incredible reading with an amazingly gifted woman. She gave me some fantastic advice that stayed with me to this day. She advised me to tune into Jupiter and truly own all my quirks and idiosyncrasies. Her message was basically the following: “Whatever is peculiar about you, whatever makes you unique or different – instead of trying to shrink it, do the opposite. Enlarge it! Expand it! Place it center stage and make it part of your ‘act’.” Some places might be safer grounds for exploring this approach than others, but her point was very well taken.
So often our families, our jobs, and society at large exert pressure on us to deny our uniqueness and conform. We internalize that message and perpetuate it ourselves. We contract in fear. We drown in feelings of shame. We try to blend in. What if you tried to move in the opposite direction? What if you magnified and highlighted the ways in which you’re different? Not better or worse, just different. Wouldn’t it be a relief to come out as yourself? To demonstrate that you accept and love yourself and think others should too? Wouldn’t that be about a million times more interesting and fun than the alternative we usually fall for?
Too often we fear that which makes us different. But what makes us different is what usually makes us so great. It’s all part of our dharma, our hero’s journey. The joyous, expansive energy of Jupiter exists in everyone. Let’s tap into it together!
Astrologically inclined folks believe that the house and sign that the planet Jupiter is located in your natal chart can you help you identify areas in your life that you might want to expand and which will in turn expand you.
To get your own personal reading, and understand Jupiter in your chart, set up a time with our beloved in-house astrologer, Alice at http://sf.laughinglotus.com/astrology.html