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Monday, April 26, 2010

Elemental Awareness: As Above, So Below

My wife, son and I are preparing to relocate to an old country home outside of town in Sandford, Nova Scotia. We have been doing our research in an experiential sense. We have spent time in the woods outside the home, on the ancient rocky beach and in the fields (Yes, the local ticks have introduced themselves to us). Spending time outside as a family has been amazing, it really feels as though Spring has sprung. Getting close to nature may be the best reminder of the simplicity of life that escapes us in our busy days. Most ancient cultures tend to observe life as an interplay of fundamental elements: earth, water, fire, air and ether. In the yogic system we have centers for each element in the body. I have been considering the action or non-action of each of these elements:

EARTH is STABLE like the ROCK

WATER FLOWS DOWNWARD like the RIVER

FIRE RISES UPWARD like the CANDLE FLAME

AIR EXPANDS in all directions (like filling a jar)

ETHER PERVADES all and is the most subtle

As we go through our day today let's notice the interplay of the elements, the natural world is the greatest teacher offering tremendous insight into ourselves as individuals and our relatedness with others. Remember those potent words that come to us from a variety of sources but known as Hermetic Law, "As Above, So Below". By understanding the process of life that we witness in the natural world we will gain insight into our own interiority, into who we are.

Namaste,

Steve
Yogi Jayanta

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Step off!

The sky is bright and blue as Spring is making a comeback here in our beautiful community. The emptiness and expansiveness of the blue sky is similar to the spaciousness of mind that we can cultivate through meditation. Our days are filled and our minds are filled with thoughts of yesterday and tomorrow. As we sit for meditation we simply observe those same thoughts and step off the wheel. You know the little wheel the hamster runs around? In meditation we step off that wheel. The wheel is the story that you are running about your life, the complaints, the regrets, the thoughts of revenge. The wheel is still there, the mechanisms of the mind, the old thought patterns and habits are still there but something else manifests. A vacuum is created as we "step off" and drawn into the space of the vaccuum is a deep sense of peace. When do you experience deep peace in your life? I bet you know how often you experience its opposite. Peace is not a luxury to be felt by the unencumbered but rather the very foundation of health, the proverbial fountain of youth. Find a way to experience peace every single day and if you do a little peace inventory and find your life wanting then get to yoga class and take back what only you can give away.

We will have yoga at the boathouse tonight with Claudette as I am traveling today. She may not want me to say this but Claudette radiates peace in a way that is deep and rare. She will guide you to move your body with awareness and with the intention of peace; to strengthen and to lengthen the body within the embrace of peace; to contract your muscles and relax your muscles with the attitude of peace and finally to relax deeply your mind and body so that you may realize peace to the very core....AS the very core of who you are.

I read a quote the other day that said, "Tension is who you think you are while relaxation is who you really are."

Namaste,

Steve

Monday, April 19, 2010

Take a God's Eye View

So many of us use the term "unconditional" when referring to the Divine, the Source, the God of your understanding. We have "faith" there is a Being out there who loves us unconditionally. Ironically, many faiths talk of an unconditionally loving God and then immediately impose limits on whom that God will unfold its unconditionally loving attitude. The practice of mindfulness is like "trying on" an unconditionally loving attitude.

Sit comfortably straight, pay attention to the breath and observe thought, emotion and sensation without judgement.

This could be the entire manual on mindfulness meditation. Volumes and volumes continue to be written on this ultimately simply subject and I am no exception. Our minds go to great lengths to avoid simplicity in favor of complexity.

Give yourself the gift of simplicity and practice being non-judgemental with yourself. There is a ripple-effect that will touch your spouse, children, co-workers, friends and family; even random strangers will recognize that simple presence when it is present. Try taking a God's eye view and attune your mind and heart to unconditional love. Just try it for a few breaths every day.

Namaste,

Steve

Friday, April 9, 2010

Buddha's Gift of Mindfulness

Yesterday was celebrated by many as Buddha's birthday and in honor of the Awakened One I thought we could reflect on a verse of the Dhammapada.

"The mind is very hard to perceive, extremely subtle and wanders at will.
Let the wise person guard it; a guarded mind is conducive to happiness."

The mind is hard to perceive because it is the instrument of perception, it is extremely subtle in the face of the denseness of our attention and focus and it wanders faster than we are able to witness. How then, can we guard it? A guard is attentive, watchful, single-pointed. The guard holds the needs of another as supreme to their own. Be the guard of the mind today. Watch it closely. Notice the thoughts arising in reaction to the events you are perceiving throughout the day. Notice the effect of thoughts on your emotional nature. Sometimes you will not be present to the thought that triggers the emotional response, these are opportunities to root out the source which lie in our own pain and attachment.

I try to hesitate before blaming another for these reactions. This can be harder at some times than others and harder with some people than others. Usually we do not want to see the pain that lies at the heart of our reactions and the ego will do almost anything to scramble out of the way of that awareness. We practice being present on the yoga mat and on the meditation cushion so that we may cultivate the strength of presence that will allow us to remain steadfast in that trigger moment when our buttons get pushed. We practice being the guard so that we are protected from ourselves as are those around us protected from our reactive tendencies.

Be mindful this day, do one thing at a time and take it to completion. It is Friday and the end of the week so let us work with awareness and intention. I think of my desk which carries the residue of a busy week and will be mindful as I resolve things that have been left unresolved. Resolution is an effect of mindfulness and mindfulness may have never been articulated as beautifully and passionately by anyone as it was by the Awakened One, the Buddha. Thank You!

Namaste,

Steve
Yogi Jayanta

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Look for the Hook: Build Strength and Stability

Hello All,

As the new season unfolds itself and the earth's creative potential transforms into new green growth it is a perfect time to bring our attention down to the earth. Too often we spend our days moving from the neck up as though our entirety is contained in the head. By bringing our attention down to the feet, legs and core we access a strength and stability that flows to every part of our life. One way to do this in our yoga practice is through something my Teacher called hooking. This is where we actively hook one part of the body into the earth exerting a force that is directed into the floor and towards the core.

A simple way to understand hooking is to place your hands on your knees or thighs while sitting in a chair and press the palms downward and simultaneously pull back towards the center of the body. You will feel your core muscles engage and even some heat generated. For me, this is a central practice of yoga postures and can be applied to any yoga style. You may remind yourself from time to time during the day to "hook-in" to the earth gripping the ground with your feet and legs. No show need be made but your attention will be brought to the earth and the qualities of strength and stability will be realized.

We will practice hooking in our postures this evening at the Milo Boathouse in Yarmouth and then we will work on the mental equivalent in our meditation practice afterwards. Bring this powerful concept into your yoga practice wherever you may be and observe the deepening that occurs. Let me know how it goes.

Namaste,

Steve
Yogi Jayanta