Happy Birthday Sharon Gannon


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When Padma ( this is how we affectionately call our guru Sharon Gannon) enters a room, she likes to greet everyone by making eye-contact and bowing gently, her face lit with a smile. This can take a while (like during this Jivamukti tribe gathering where hundreds of yogis come to learn from her). All the chitter-chatter stops and silence fills up the room. The atmosphere clears up. It is magical to be part of that.

Every year, at their home in the Wild Woodstock Forrest sanctuary, Sharon Gannon and David Life teach daily classes in August. It is my favorite time of the year.

Last year, on August 18th, she was just about to greet us her natural way and stopped. And gave us a short teaching instead:
« You know things happen in life and you adjust accordingly…It’s a good thing. It’s like rivers. Rivers are master adjusters, adapters. They are steady and flow. When they have to go around something, they go around something.
Sometimes, they get very intent on reaching their goal, they just push everything…. So there’s it that.
Isn’t it annoying when the teacher speaks cryptically? » [laughter] ~ Sharon Gannon

This world is a better place because of this gentle and mighty river!
Please join me in showering my guruma with love and abundant blessings to celebrate her birthday

IN THE LIGHT OF LOVE


FOTM-Placeholder-Cosmic-Snake_2Focus Of The Month – July, 2017


Om purnam adah purnam idam purnat purnam udachyate
purnasya purnam adaya purnam evavashishyate

That is whole. This is whole. From the whole the whole becomes manifest. From the whole when the whole is negated, what remains is again the whole.

Yajur Veda and the Isha Upanishad

Yoga practices are magical practices. Magic happens when there is a shift in perception—what you thought was real drops away to reveal a more expanded enlightened reality. Yoga practices, fueled by a sincere intention for Self-realization, will transform habitual ways of seeing – of relating, to ourselves and others. Our thoughts, words and deeds are all interconnected with our relationship – it is what life is about. But, to the enlightened yogi, there are no “others.” In the yogic state of samadhi, the boundaries that separate you from God, as well as the world around you, the world of otherness, all dissolve. It takes some heavy-duty magic to accomplish a shift in perception like that!

The word perception means “to see.” But it means seeing with more than just the physical eyes. It means more than just to understand, but “to realize.” The English word “understand” implies a duality, as if you’re standing under something. But to really realize something is to immerse yourself and have a complete experience of it—to become with that something. And what is realized, or perceived, during samadhi is the one-ness of being. Otherness disappears as you see your own Self in others, revealing that only Love is real.

The chakras are doors of perception into new dimensions of reality. The bija mantras are the passwords or keys that open the doors to each one of these chakras, to each one of these worlds. Bija means “seed” in the sense of a potency or distilment, where something very large is compressed into something very small, compact and essential. Having something in a compact form is very good for traveling! That’s what we are doing in life. Our souls are journeying, traveling through dimensions of reality to our true home.

All of the yoga practices are purification practices that help us lighten our baggage so our travel is smoother. The system of asana has been very particularly designed to help purify our bodies, which are made of our karmas that come from our relationships. Yoga gives us the tools to purify our perception by removing the only dirt that really is: ignorance or avidya. That ignorance is caused by misperception, not being able to see or perceive ourselves, others and reality clearly.

We purify our perception through the only cleanser that is known to have the most wondrous results with absolutely no side effects. It’s like Clorox bleach without any chlorine. It’s like the most incredible detergent that doesn’t pollute any water system and doesn’t wear out the clothes in the washing machine. The magical cleanser I am talking about is love. When you can truly love others and yourself you can love God. Forgiveness of others and ourselves, as well as letting go of blaming, complaining and explaining, is necessary to allow love to work its magic.

Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati described yoga as “the state where you are needing nothing.” You realize that you are a holy being—that you are whole. Eventually, as the dawning of this wholesome yogic enlightenment appears, you find yourself letting go of selfish tendencies and less compelled to blame others or see yourself as the victim of any type of abuse or circumstance.

Because we carry in our bodies our unresolved karmas, sometimes negative emotions can arise during the asana practice. Emotions such as fear, jealousy, anger, vengeance, cynicism, doubt and lack of faith are the results of karmas or actions we have done in our past that were not guided by love. These dark emotions are obstacles that cloud our vision and can stop us from feeling connected to our eternal true nature. We can address those troubling emotions through love and start to shift our perception away from disconnection and toward stability and joy—in other words towards sthira and sukham.

This way of thinking, where we as an individual do our best to enhance the lives of others and even the Earth herself, is quite new in a culture that is based on the assumption that the Earth belongs to us, and that to be happy, we must take from others. Fear causes us to feel that if we give we will lose – that there will be less for us. Through the practice of yoga we become fearless and daring. Instead of feeling incomplete, motivated by the need to take from others to feel whole, we might dare to ask, “What can I do for others? How could I live in such a way that my life enhances planet Earth?” This kind of shift in perception can be a huge turnaround, freeing us from cultural conditioning that may have been distorting our perception of reality for many years, even lifetimes. But selfless actions motivated by love are the kinds of actions that will lead to samadhi, living liberated, as a jivanmukta living in the light of love as joyful whole, holy beings.

Essay by Sharon Gannon


We Were Made For These Times


My friends, do not lose heart. We were made for these times. I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered. They are concerned about the state of affairs in our world now. Ours is a time of almost daily astonishment and often righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people.

You are right in your assessments. The lustre and hubris some have aspired to while endorsing acts so heinous against children, elders, everyday people, the poor, the unguarded, the helpless, is breathtaking. Yet, I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is that we were made for these times. Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement.

I grew up on the Great Lakes and recognize a seaworthy vessel when I see one. Regarding awakened souls, there have never been more able vessels in the waters than there are right now across the world. And they are fully provisioned and able to signal one another as never before in the history of humankind.

 

Look out over the prow; there are millions of boats of righteous souls on the waters with you. Even though your veneers may shiver from every wave in this stormy roil, I assure you that the long timbers composing your prow and rudder come from a greater forest. That long-grained lumber is known to withstand storms, to hold together, to hold its own, and to advance, regardless.

In any dark time, there is a tendency to veer toward fainting over how much is wrong or unmended in the world. Do not focus on that. There is a tendency, too, to fall into being weakened by dwelling on what is outside your reach, by what cannot yet be. Do not focus there. That is spending the wind without raising the sails.

We are needed, that is all we can know. And though we meet resistance, we more so will meet great souls who will hail us, love us and guide us, and we will know them when they appear. Didn’t you say you were a believer? Didn’t you say you pledged to listen to a voice greater? Didn’t you ask for grace? Don’t you remember that to be in grace means to submit to the voice greater?

Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good.

 

What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.

One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these – to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity.

Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.

There will always be times when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it. I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate.

The reason is this: In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours. They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here. In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for.

 

By Clarissa Pinkola Estes

American poet, post-trauma specialist and Jungian psychoanalyst, author of Women Who Run With the Wolves.

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

Guru Purnima


Tuesday, July 19th 2016 is the full moon of the guru, also known as  Guru Purnima

Manorama explains that: «  This celebration is marked in July because in India the rainy season happens at that time. It is said that teachers and students can’t easily move when the heavy rains come so the opportunity to bond and set a good course of study together is present during this time of year. It is for this reason that July has become known as the month of the guru »

In the Jivamukti lineage as well, the July Focus of the month essay is about the Guru Mantra.

Yesterday, the open class I taught was dedicated  to all the great teachers in our lineage and I read a story from the Jivamukti Yoga book.  The whole chapter is worth reading thoroughly.  Here is a excerpt from it:

A month later [after Shri Brahmananda Saraswati’s passing] we returned to Ananda Ashram. After midnight, as Sharon was heading to her room to go to bed, she decided to meditate for a few minutes in the main room where Shri Brahmananda often sat to teach. His simple seat was still there, as he had left it. All the lights were out; just one candle was burning. Again, Sharon felt that longing to be close to her guru. She rested her head on his seat and once again, those mysterious sounds rushed in. She picked up her head, thinking perhaps she was hearing water running through the pipes in the house. She heard nothing. When she put her head down on the seat again, she heard exactly the same sounds that she had heard emanating from his body. Shri Brahmananda was once again giving her his timeless message that we are all beyond the body and mind; we are the vibration of the I-AM.

We close every Jivamukti Yoga class with this chant acknowledging the guru:

Om Bolo Sat Guru Bhagavan Ki Jai Victory to God, the only real teacher.

God and Guru are the same. When we experience God in a teacher, the devotion we feel is transformational. Guru can remind us of God. We are thus reminded of our own divine nature.

Regularly, I play Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati’s CD « Chanting sanskrit » and especially the guided meditation that closes each CD. His OM always shakes me. Through his powerful voice, I feel the potency of his being, beyond physical form. But sometimes, I forget these precious gems.

Last February, I caught a very bad cold. I was coughing so hard I couldn’t sleep. Sitting was relatively comfortable so I propped myself up with as many pillows as I could find and played the meditation very loudly. For the whole 7 minutes it lasted, I did not cough. Then I thought, it was just a coincidence. I repeated the experiment three times. My cough had stopped. And I was finally able to sleep through the night (after three sleepless nights in a row). The February Focus of the Month was about the healing sound of yoga. At the end of the essay, Jules Febre (who wrote it) asked the question:  «  Why do so many yoga classes start and end with Om? Why is it considered a healing sound? Truly the best way to find out is to start chanting Om, because as Sharon Gannon says, “ through repetition the magic is forced to arise.” »

From other worlds,  Shri Brahmananda Saraswati gave me an answer and manifested a miracle. It took me a bad cough and a certain hopelessness to not being able to sleep, to remember the teachings. Why was I so blind? I could only laugh at myself.

Yogic teachings honor the biological mother, as the first guru;  guru literally means, dispeller of darkness. Not only did my mom give me life but her departure (she abruptly left us on August 30th 2010) was an invaluable life teaching. We truly never know when and how death will occur. The journey of the loss and the gain can be a deep cycle of growth. May we all learn from it. The yogi strives to live an impeccable life, always ready for “he whose date and time of arrival we do not know”. For the realized yogi,  the time of death is a conscious departure. In sanskrit Mahāsamādhi, literally means the great merger.

Shymdasji took his  Mahāsamādhi reciting mantra and dedicated his life to the teachings of the path of Grace. He had me fall in love for the Pushti Marg’s sacred texts and sounds. I am forever indebted and grateful to him.

I honor and respect Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati , the gentle swami Nirmalananda, the great Sri K.Pattabhi Jois;

Deep pranams and love at the feet of Radhanath Swami Maharaj. His last book « The journey within » is a treasure for every seeker, irrespective of her or his faith.

I feel so fortunate to have found teachers I can trust. They have and are still affecting my life very positively:

Lady Ruth, my adored mentor;

My teacher Yogeswari, a force of goodness in this world;

Our precious teachers Padma (Sharon Gannon) and David Life, I look at them and my heart is filled with awe and love.

Yes, it all comes back to love. The Love of God. It is the true ground of being.

Aside from my home altar, I carry with me always my prayer beads, a book, a recording, a small gift, all those are little reminders of love. We have embarked on a sacred journey, the journey of remembering our eternal, divine souls. May we never miss an opportunity to say « Thank you » to these high beings and saints who have touched our hearts.

As we rise in love, may our know-it-all-ness, our fears, our doubts and our lack of faith gradually melt.

To all of my teachers, I bow and say: Thank you for being in my life and for the many miracles of your love.

In gratitude always.

Jeanine

Story 6/366


“Life is but a dream we renew each day. It is up to us to infuse this dream with light, and to cultivate, as best as we are able, the ways and habits of love.
Those of great heart have always known this.
They have understood that, as honorable as it is to see wrong and to try to correct it, a life well lived must somehow celebrate the promise that life provides. The darkness at the limits of our knowledge — the darkness that sometimes seems to surround us — is merely a way to make us reach beyond certainty, to make our lives a witness to hope, a testimony to possibility, an urge toward the best and the most honorable impulses that our hearts can conceive.
It is not hard. There is in each of us, no matter how humble, a capacity for love. Even if our lives have not taken the course we had envisioned, even if we are less than the shape of our dreams, we are part of the human family. Somewhere, in the most inconsequential corners of our lives, is the opportunity for love.”
Excerpt From: “Simple Truths.” By Kent Nerburn

Guru Kripa


Words fails me to express how I feel…

Today, June 21st, is David Life’s birthday, the first day of summer and the first International Day of Yoga

DLDavidji once said « If you believe in coincidence, then you aren’t paying attention ». And I could quote him again and again; and of course, that’s not the point. It is not about his words but his very presence, his realness and above everything his immense, loving and tender heart.

A few years ago in New-York, as I went to say my goodbyes, I met his eyes filled with tears. He said « already leaving? how I wished we could stay with all of you forever ». Then he cracked a joke. My heart skipped many beats.
And a week after, the doctor looking at my knee MRI’s said « there must be a mistake … » Miracles that even non-believers can witness. 
And the year after, as I was saying my goodbyes, Davidji went « Nothing to fix? boooring » we laughed. His eyes were the same. Pure unconditional love. All embracing. 

During the Wild Woodstock Ashram summer classes, every day there is one hour dedicated to Q&A. Students can ask the teachers any question, about anything : gardening, cooking, art, asana, music, meditation, astronomy, money, relationships, divorce, war, vegetarianism … anything. These moments are unique, precious and indescribable. I always leave Davidji overwhelmed with gratefulness and praying that we could have many more years in his presence. In sanskrit they say « Guru kripa » . The grace-filled ways of the Master.  He cuts right through you. Your intellect is challenged but your resistances melt. You surrender. You experience things that you can’t even imagine even existed. It is beyond intellect and it is not blind-faith. You fall in love again and again….

You awaken to the goodness of your own soul. And you begin to see « it » in others too… 

I am very fortunate to have found a spiritual practice and teachers I trust. Davidji is a living master and a healer. I am blessed beyond belief to have him in my life, to be part of the Jivamukti yoga lineage. 

« Our true power is the power of friendliness, the power of kindness, the power of One, the power of Love » – David Life

It is all Divine Grace,

Jeanine