Early Spring Fast

The Shala will be closed Friday, February 3 for Disting/Imbolc/Vasant Panchami – the first of Spring.

February 3 marks the beginning of Spring.  Not actual Spring – which comes with the Spring Equinox in March – but the seasonal shift that marks a turning away from Winter’s cold.

Disting means ‘woman’s assembly’, and is a traditional European tide that celebrates the beauty and strength of female energy.  Likewise, this time of year – between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox – was considered a time of Learning, a time for concentration and deliberation, of contemplative thought, and dreams.

Likewise, Vasant Panchami, meaning “Spring Fifth Day”, also falls during this time.  This holiday is dedicated to Saraswati, whose feminine energy is that of serene and calm expression.

Both tides are excellent opportunities to fast (meaning ‘refrain’ rather than ‘abstain’).  And with such occasions, there is also a central theme on which to focus .. in this case, a simple question:

Know what you are in the hour of sleep ~

a mere body, a subtle soul, or a secret retreat of Light.

A fun family tradition here is the making of Corn Dollies, which can be given as gifts or hung in the home to bring good luck.  (*)

I will be marking this tide in nature .. beneath moon and stars, sunshine or shade, at water’s edge and about a fire.

Have a joyous weekend and see you all on Monday (February 6).

Prem and Metta!

Yoginiji

~ ~ ~

*Earth Rites: Fertility Practices in Pre-Industrial Britain, by Janet and Colin Bord

Mushroom and Brown Rice Soup

What to eat on Wheatless Wednesday?  How about something warm and umami!

 

Ingredients

4 cups vegetable stock (pure water based)

Mushrooms (2 portabella, OR a small box of buttons, OR 8 shiitakes), sliced

3 green onions, diced (OR ½ a small onion)

2 seaweed strands (OR 1 sheet nori, OR 2 Tbls Bragg’s Amino Acids, OR 2 Tbls miso paste)

½ cup brown rice, dry

 

Prepare

-Cook brown rice.

 

-In a saucepan, over medium heat, add the veggie stock, mushrooms, onions and seaweed.  Bring to quick boil, then reduce heat to low.  Simmer for 5 minutes.

 

When the rice is done, add the soup.  Enjoy!

Pad Thai – Live Vegan Style!

Soaked Cashews:

1/2 cup cashews

1 Tbls sesame oil

1/2 cup nama shoyu

juice of 1 lime

2-4 chilies, seeded and chopped (to taste)

1-2 Tbls sweetener

2 tsp sea salt

Soak cashews for an hour in all the ingredients.  When finished, blend until smooth.

Pad Thai sauce:

1 Tbls sesame seeds

1 Tbls sesame oil

1 small red pepper to taste (or use 1 tsp red pepper flakes)

6 sundried tomatoes, soaked in water for 2-3 hours, drained

2 tomatoes, chopped

1 tsp sea salt

Veggies:

Zucchini shreds / noodles

1/4 cup snow peas, julienned

1/4 cup red bell pepper, julienned

1/4 cup bean sprouts (mung)

1-2 scallions, chopped

1/4 cup chopped cashews (dry)

Put it all together!

Toss veggies (except zucchini noodles) in with the soaked cashew blend.  Coat well, set aside.

Put zucchini noodles in bowl, coat/mix with Pad Thai sauce .. add the veggie/cashew blend.

Enjoy!

The Space Between

Hamsa .. the singular mantra that every breathing being is born and dies with.

 

Ham is our first breath from the womb.

Sah is our final relaxation as we shed the body.

 

Traditional Yoga relates that Yoga occurs ‘between the breath’, or the natural retention of  the breath (kumbhaka).   Due to a misunderstanding, many will hold their breath, seeking the elusive sensation of Yoga.

 

Think on this:

First there is birth and with it, our first breath .. Ham.

Then there is death and with it, our last breath .. Sah.

What occurs between those two is life .. or the retention / kumbhaka.

 

This is no mystery.  Breath naturally falls into three parts: inhale, retention, exhale .. repeat.  So lets look at it another way ..

Beginning, Now, End

Morning, Noon, Night

Below, Middle, Above

Child, Adult, Senior

.. and the list can go on.

 

Poetically, yes, ‘life occurs between breaths’, but from a practical perspective, it means the entirety of our life and the stillness of our life.

 

Yet another poetic expression is that Hamsa means “goose, swan”, and in Traditional Yoga is a symbol of vitality, purity, divine knowledge, prana, and highest spiritual accomplishment.  As a mantra its role is said to encapsulate all the Upanishads (practical wisdom teachings), specifically:

Hamsa = I Am That

Soham = That I Am

So with every breath we are affirming: I Am That, That I Am!

 

As a Westerner, when I think of ‘swan’ I think of Mother Goose and the Goose that Laid the Golden Egg.   Mother Goose is either an old, wise woman, or a bonnet wearing goose that dispenses wisdom; she is a fertility goddess, a giver of life, wellbeing and nourishment.  Likewise, the goose gifted its golden egg – divine aid – only to the most humble.  Additionally, in Western mythology, the stork / swan / goose delivers a new born baby, whereas in Traditional Yoga the supreme swan is a degree of highest emancipation.  So there again, where East meets West, is the Beginning / Ham, and the End /Sah.

 

Back to the Middle .. our life is filed with business, working, learning, studying, all on several levels of consciousness.  All this amounts to experience, and the more experience we can have during a lifetime – the space between breaths – and approach these experiences in a positive manner, the more capable we are of balancing the instinctive with the intellectual, the better able we are to mold the atoms / Atman (soul) so that it aligns with the spiritual force that is the Absolute Reality.

 

You see .. the instinctive mind will re-act and resent some experiences, and the intellectual mind will rationalize others, but when we tame the two, we find the middle ground – Raja, Tao, Middle Way – of the superconscious , which is the gateway to our spiritual self.

 

Ham = instinctive

Sah = intellectual

the Still Quiet Center = our true self

 

So it is that we should identify with the kumbhaka, the retention, the pause between breaths, for therein lies true Yoga.

 

Prem and Metta!

Yogini Devi

 

Live Deliberately!

Our everyday should be an exercise in deliberate thoughtfulness, where we take action after careful consideration.

 

Every breath should be one of deliberate intent, for there is only one goal in life, only one yearning, one desire, one direction.  Live Deliberately because god – the creatively lifeforce – resides within you .. within all that lives.  That is the number one defining realization of all time, the one conclusion that all saints and sages have drawn to, the one direction that every heart is naturally inclined towards.

 

All knowing is within you.  The light that we see in the eyes of wise men and women is the light of their soul, the reflection of their superconscious mind.  That light resides within all of us!

 

Yet .. we feel far removed from this, as if it only happens to ‘other people’.

 

To begin, we must be taught Hatha Yoga, the ‘physical’ practice, the basic bodily movements.  Why?  Because most of us do not observe our natural inclinations.  We must learn by repetition because we have become de-sensitized to our natural, divine self.

 

But how did that happen?  Why is our life so complicated?  Why can we only touch the divine for mere moments, only to be dragged back down to the reality of daily stress?

 

This has happened because we have not been taught to use the mind.  For example, the moment we enter school we are taught that the rational mind is the only mind, and that rational pursuits the only worthy ones.  We have been taught that anything not rational is wrong or bad so needs be discarded; things like religion, ritual, mythology, sensitivity, environment, intuition, instinct .. we are told these are wrong so must be thrown it out!

 

No wonder we feel so disconnected.

 

Woman in ‘primitive’ tribal societies know the most natural means of childbirth.  In the West, woman have to take a class.

 

Hatha Yoga is a Philosophy .. the practice of the mind, a practice that re-establishes our relationship with the external world and the internal world, with the lower world and the higher world.  Hatha Yoga helps us exercise our life deliberately.

 

Sthira Sukham Asanam, means “Steady Joy Existence”.  That is a single verse from the Raja Yoga Sutras, a book on the mind practice that comes with Hatha Yoga.  Raja Yoga is akin to Taoism or Zen Buddhism, for it is The Way .. the ‘eternally nameless’  effortless action that prompts us to live as we were born to .. to Live Deliberately!

 

Prem and Metta!

Yogini Devi

 

 

Contemplative Nature

Before I realized what I was doing, I was cultivating a contemplative approach to life.  You see, it was natural for me to seek stillness in the chaos of my life, natural to seek light where there was darkness, natural to identify with the infinite when confronted with the finite.  Over the years, some have accused me of “escapism”, saying that I have “run away” from life’s challenges.  To this I can only answer, “Not even the saints and sages have been able to escape the slings and arrows of life.”

 

As a child it occurred to me that I was auspicious, that life was auspicious.  Not that I was special, because anyone who either has children or has spent time with children, realizes that all kids view the world with such happiness and promise.  Maybe my discovery of Yoga philosophy at the age of eleven allowed me to keep that favorable perspective, even in the face of uncertainty and calamity – which befalls us all as we grow through life – because in my Yoga readings, at such an early age, I was encouraged by the promise of  mercy and metta (loving kindness).

 

What occurred to me later was that all of us are auspicious, that we are Auspicicus Sapian, or that this is our real identity.  After all, as I rationalized early on, we are all born this way.  And those slings and arrows of life, well those are ego and ignorance, or the darkness that comes over us the further we move away from our auspicious self.

 

A few years after discovering Yoga (while still in my teens), during meditation, I heard a clear voice say, “In the darkness of our lives, there was a spark of existence”, and in that moment, a light literally came on inside my being.  That fire – that tapasya, that heat, that incandescence – transformed me.  Where there was heat to digest and metabolize the food I ate, now that fire sent the Prana of what I ate and drank through the seal in my head.  Where there was experience there was now knowing, where there was learning there was now perception, where there was past and present there was now Now, where there was deception and uncertainty there was truth, where there was separateness there was shared-ness, where there was many there was now One.

 

Beyond making a connection, beyond finding higher self, beyond replacing the negative with the positive, there is simply a presence of being, an identity as ‘I Am’.

 

You see, Yoga means ‘yoking’ or ‘union’ of body and mind.  But it also means the union of the lower self with the higher self, the base nature with the exalted nature.  It is not a matter of bailing out of the troubles of the world but embracing them as part of the larger self. It is not about ignoring or destroying or overriding the lower / ego self, to replace it with the higher self .. but to wed the two.

 

We all live in the world, along a horizontal line, yet many seek the higher world, along a vertical line.  Life is about living at the intersection of those two.

 

Prem and Metta!

Yogini Devi

Karuna .. Unconditionally

People tell me they became vegan because they feel ‘compassion for animals’.  Yet, they are quick to condemn fellow humans for not being vegan.  At this time, I gently point out the obvious, that humans are animals to.

 

In Sanskrit, the word compassion has two words: daya and karuna.  The first is means “suffering in the suffering of all others”, and the second means “the ability to relate to another with such intensity that their plight becomes our own”.  In the West then, the word compassion means “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.”  In every definition above, I see a direct relation with empathy, or “the vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts or attitudes of another”.

 

In any event, true compassion – our ability to relate to the feelings and attitudes of another – must begin first with our self.   So that for me to truly befriend another, I must first be a friend to self; and for me to be honest with others, I must first be honest with self; and for me to be accepting and genuinely caring about others, I must first genuinely accept and care about my self.

 

You see, when we feel comfortable in our own skin then that comfort extends organically outwards to others, regardless of ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion or diet.  Therefore, it seems to me, that to remove the obstacles from my heart, I must seek out the path of compassion towards my self.

 

Ive said it before .. that in all my years as a vegetarian, I never met a “radical vegetarian/vegan” .. not until I signed onto facebook.  Since then, I have seen my fairshare of what all the fuss is about.  Subsequently, I have unsubbed myself from several vegan groups on facebook (and other places) because of the harmful words and disdainful attitudes among those that claim to promote a “compassionate” lifestyle.

 

For me .. life is short and precious and full of promise, as such, I choose support and education rather than attack and show disdain for others when discussing my lifestyle.

 

You see, for me, being a vegetarian or a vegan or someone who simply decides to have a plant-based diet, has never been about a competition (or a pissing contest), but about exploring who I am in the wonderful world around me.  Equally as it is about finding others of likemind and sharing the adventure together.

 

You see, from my perspective, there is a path for everyone, and this vantage has been arrived at by my living a compassionate lifestyle. Clearly, not all of us have arrived at this place .. and honestly, its not a race to do so, let alone do so.  Its just how I see things from my view of the world.

 

My path is the path of peace – in my life, among my friends and relations, in my country, in the world.  As such, I seek to ever expand my capacity and opportunity to extend compassion and forgiveness unconditionally – even toward those who harm others through their diet.

 

That makes my karuna, my compassion, unconditional .. or as close as my breath.  This means that my karuna means accepting my self and others without condition or judgment.  And in this on-going practice, I have been able to remove many barriers that would impede the flow of genuine good will and gratitude that I have come to feel are natural to all beings.

 

Unconditional Compassion then is my sadhana, my “means of accomplishment”, or the means by which my divine potential has come to heal myself and heal the world around me.  And for me – in regards to diet – that first step is assistance through education – which can be as gracious as recognizing that each of us my first learn to walk before we can run.

 

Prem and Metta!

Yogini Devi

Previous Older Entries