OPEN DOORWAYS


Focus Of The Month – April, 2017  2017-04-APR-Open-Doorways

nimittam aprayojakaṁ prakṛtīnāṁ varaṇa-bhedas tu tataḥ kṣetrikavat

Causes do not put nature, Prakrti, into motion. They only remove the obstacles and coverings, like a farmer breaking down the barriers to let water flow in the field. The hindrances removed by the causes, Nature impenetrates by herself.

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali IV.3 (Commentary by Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati)

Many people think a yoga practice is about acquiring something, a certain skill or the ability to do an asana. What you are really doing is eliminating the obstacle that prevents you from getting there. You’re stripping away all the excess. It is the restrictive thought, the narrowing of possibilities that disallows the flow of energy or prana. We want these doorways to be open. Yogis are very practical, so to do that, we must investigate how they became closed.

Most often, an asana practice is associated with the physical body. That body is called Anamaya kosha or the food body. Kosha means sheath or covering. But what is moving the physical body? You may think, well, I am. But what actually moves your body is your vitality. Pranamaya kosha is the vital body where prana flows through energy channels called nadis. Now, you can’t dissect a human body and find the nadis. They aren’t visible, but they exist and you can feel them. You can tell when you have abundant energy or when energy is lacking. The koshas are sheaths that cover who we really are. That is whatever you want to call it – spirit, a creation of the Divine, a magical appearance, free, happy, unlimited. That’s your true nature.

You have five koshas or bodies. They may not be visible either, but they all interact with each other. In an asana practice, you could have emotional things going on, you could have intellectual things going on, you could have blissful things going on, and you certainly have physical things going on. But, in the end, what we’re trying to affect is our vitality, the flow of energy. We want to remove barriers that prevent the energy from moving a beneficial way.

Ksetrika is the Sanskrit word for farmer. In India, rice is farmed in paddies. The way it works is the farmer builds a little earth mound around the rice paddy to protect it from a nearby source of flowing water. An expert farmer knows exactly when to take the mound away so the paddy gets flooded at just the right time. The farmer must know how long to leave the field flooded before replacing the mound and stopping the flow. Just because someone has good soil, good seeds and available water, that doesn’t mean they are going to have a good rice crop. It takes a special intelligence to understand what the rice needs to grow. It takes a special wisdom to know the right time of the season, and so forth. All those elements work together to support growth. That is what Patanjali describes in the yoga sutra.

What you do acquire in a yoga practice is that excellent wisdom, that special intellect that allows you to open the gate and let prana flow to places that have become closed off. You gain it by feeling the restrictions in how you can articulate the physical body with your energy. You may want to do an asana, but somehow you can’t get the energy flowing into the back of your leg. The knee is shaky and the foot is bumbling. But, through practice and diligence, you gradually learn to allow the energy to flow freely into the leg. You know how to open and close the gates, like the good farmer.

More than the physical position, your task is to be free while you’re there. Study body language and you can see arrogance, defensiveness or fear in subtle expressions of the body. Are you mainly worried about yourself and your asana? Did you forget why you are doing it? Low self-esteem shows in the physical body’s inability to move with freedom, openness and joy. It is a result of thoughts toward yourself and others. It’s a result of selfish actions taken in the past. This is what closes doors and disallows the flow of prana that would promote growth. If unkind actions close doorways in our lives, then what we’re looking for are kind and virtuous actions.

You are not losing anything by giving away your kindness to others. In fact, you are filled with more vitality. You’ve experienced this at times when you are low on energy, and just really don’t have anything left, but then someone close to you needs your understanding. They need your compassion and support, and you really love them. You love them so much that your own fatigue goes on the back burner. You’re there for them out of a sense of identification with them, out of a love for them. We want that complete freedom, so that wherever you go, you are fully alive and have the ability to surprise everyone with your openness.

~ David Life

The birth of the Christ


December is a special month in our family. I was born in that month and our son’s birthday  is only a few days apart from mine. Then Christmas celebrations.

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Last night, I could not sleep when I went to bed. Totally overwhelmed by thoughts and gratitude.  It is indeed a merry time for those us who feel loved, warm and safe, with more than enough to eat.
But who doesn’t know somebody who is ill this holiday season? Very dear friends of mine are grieving over the loss of their father. Last Thursday, a student shared the story of A., his family is trapped in Syria. That story stayed with me. Christmas can be the hardest time of year for those who are struggling financially, those who are lonely, especially those estranged from close family. And at this one time of year when most human beings are determined to be happy; for millions of animals, Christmas celebrations are the cause of considerable cruelty.
CHRISTMAS is literally “the mass for Christ”, the celebration of the birth of Christ.
It is an awakening, a birthing of the Christ Consciousness  from inside of ourselves.
  • Christ must be lived to be known. In all good actions, in every material and spiritual service, and in the manger of meditation, the immortal Cosmic Christ is born anew. – Paramanhansa Yogananda 
  • The Christ Consciousness is revealed in us as compassion. – Sharon Gannon

When we allow our own light of love to radiate into the world around us, it is Christmas. Christmas is not some grand event happening on December 25th. It is not depending on external circumstances. The word « light » in English,  conveys a sense of not heavy and also illumination, bright. Giving and forgiving makes us (literally) light. Eating a plant-based diet too. Just like meditation unclutters the mind, chanting makes us beam. Yoga practices provide the sincere spiritual seeker with practical means for Self-Realization.

Christ Consciousness refers to the Light, that we are. It is the Self (with capital S), the Atman, it is our Buddha nature- It is Krishna Consciousness.

As the gentle swami Nirmalananda said:  Love alone can dispel present madness of hate. Let your light (of love) so shine before all, as Christ asks us, that there may be ever more bright and radiating light which hatred cannot overshadow. When the heart rules the mind, life has altogether a different quality and dimension.

Let the Love that you are shine and Merry Christmas!

Shine on and Merry Christmas!

Jeanine

Further reading:

Yoga and Christ by Sharon Gannon

The Need to love by Thich Nhat Hanh

WHAT IS THE USE?


09_Sept-Whats-the-UseFocus Of The Month – September, 2016


shariram surupam tatha va kalatram yashashcharu chitram dhanam merutulyam
manashchenna lagnam guroranghri-padme tatah kim tatah kim tatah kim tatah kim

Even if you have good looks, a beautiful lover, great fame and mountains of money, if you are unable to bow at your teacher’s lotus feet—What is the use? What is the use? What is the use? What is the use?

Shri Adi Shankaracharya from Guru Ashtakam

Thousands of years ago, as a way to encourage his students to realize how precious their lives were, the Buddha invited them to imagine a vast and deep ocean with a golden life preserver floating on its surface. The Buddha then asked, “How rare would it be for a turtle living at the bottom of the ocean to peek her head for a breath through the middle of the golden life preserver just at the right moment?” In unison, the students answered, “Indeed, it would be very rare.”

Life is that rare and precious. It is so rare and precious that we wouldn’t want to waste it. This invitation to not let our lives go to waste is what this verse from the “Guru Ashtakam” is calling for. When chanting this verse, we embrace worldly life and the desires that accompany our human birth: a healthy body, a loving partner, heaps of money to cover our rent or mortgage and do the things we enjoy, a successful career, respect in our social circles, knowledge that is not only book-based but experience-based as well. This prayer gives us the permission to recognize and accept all of that without judgment or harshness, but it also comes with a warning.

If we always keep ourselves busy, acquiring and attaining all that comes and goes without being genuinely open to learn, to practice and to transform ourselves, what is the use of all we have acquired? Without our minds intent on “uplifting the lives of others,” as my dear teacher Sharon Gannon would say, and without allowing ourselves to be overcome with humility, devotion and a feeling of being part of something greater than ourselves—a lineage or a community to cherish and celebrate—then what is the use of all we have attained? What is the use—tatah kim?

We all lead very hectic lives. It can often feel like we are wandering aimlessly without a focus or purpose. The Sanskrit word samsara describes this feeling. It means “same agitation” lifetime after lifetime (sam means “same,” sara “agitation”). It’s a feeling of being stuck at the bottom of the ocean, in the lower realms of existence, not being able to see where we’re going. It is said that humility and devotion are like the two oars of the boat of sadhana (conscious spiritual practice) that takes the student across the ocean of samsara.

Humility requires accepting that everything is in flux, that the things we acquire and attain come and go. Hence, humility allows us to embrace impermanence and to remain open to the inevitability of change. Humility cuts through our resistance and our crazy urge to remain in a protected bubble where we get only what we want, where life unfolds only on our terms. Humility softens us to the point where we can move with fluidity and show up for life and its unpredictability. Humility grants us the openness and courage to move in a direction that feels purposeful.

Moving in a purposeful direction, we inevitably begin to feel a sense of belonging to something greater than ourselves. The English word humility is derived from the Latin humus, which means “earth, ground, soil.” When we place our forehead on the earth, on the floor in front of an altar, at the feet of a teacher, when we bow to the circumstances of our life, we humbly offer something of ourselves and acknowledge our longing “to be”—to be an instrument, to be of use, to be part of a community of men and women who honor the earth, celebrate life and have devoted their lives to practice and share methods that will stop us from wandering aimlessly in search of things that will never feel like enough—the perfect body, the perfect lover, the perfect career, the perfect house, the perfect investment.

A guru is anything that removes (ru in Sanskrit) this common misunderstanding (gualso translates as “misknowing” or “ignorance”). When we devote ourselves to recognizing that our life experiences—the birth of a child, the loss of a job—can clear away our confusion, can be our guru, we become struck by the poignant clarity of how precious and rare the life we share with every sentient being is.

The practices of Yoga are designed to nurture humility by encouraging us to cultivate kindness, compassion, connection and receptivity no matter what is going on in our lives. Through practice, our devotion to all that is guiding us to stay on course and to remain open will naturally arise from within, reinforcing our understanding that a life well lived is a life that puts us in touch with something larger than ourselves and allows us to get out of our own way. This very notion can shatter the limited and fixed view of ourselves, of others and of the world. Such a life is rare and precious. Such a life will indeed never feel wasted.

—Rima Rani Rabbath