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

Upward Facing Dog

Upward Facing Dog is not Cobra.  However, it does begin that way, then takes its own unique route.

Think of Urdhva Mukha Svanasana / Upward Facing dog as a suspension bridge, where the arms, forearms and shoulders are the support on one side, and the knees, ankles and feet are the support on the other side.  The suspended portion being the  chest, abdomen, pelvis and thighs.

Like my post on Headstand, there are STAGES to Upward Facing Dog (UFD).   And as with Headstand, there are FOUR Stages.

As with Cobra, UFD begins with the chin on the floor, hands at chest level, but slightly lower than what you would have for Cobra.   The top of the feet are on the floor and the great toes touching.

Just as with Cobra, pull/drag the body slightly forward, THEN lift the head and shoulders upward.  At all times, the lower body should be  engaged, so not slack/relaxed.  In this way, as soon as you reach the edge of your upward lifting in the spine/back, the elbows fully extend so that the upper body is now supporting the entire body.

Again, the entire body is engaged .. do not relax the lower body here.   Now .. at this juncture .. lift the heart/chest higher than the shoulders .. or, another way to look at it .. allow the shoulders to relax downwards so their natural triangulated point aligns with the kidneys, activating the Pranic line.

That is STAGE ONE.

Now – and again, with the entire body engaged – flex the feet so the toes are on the floor .. one at a time.  The knees stay down at this time, so take a moment to adjust the foot position.   This is STAGE TWO .. where the gastrocnemius and the quadriceps are working as antagonists.  Lol .. or, if your gonna cramp, its gonna be here.

The relationship between these two .. the calves and quads .. determines how far the pelvis will be able to relax or assume its suspended position.  Which is also directly related to any stress one may experience due to underdeveloped calves, quads or pelvic bowl.

Remember, STAGES are essential because they allow us to GRADUALLY develop, instead of simply coming into a pose and injuring our self.  Further, in gradual development, we are better able to sense then be aware of Prana, which allows us to then begin its cultivation and storage.

Next, slowly lift the knees off the earth, so that the entire body is suspended.   This is also where the ‘middle’ part of the body (not hands/arms/shoulders, and not ankles/feet) becomes ‘soft’ or suspended.

This is STAGE THREE, and where one can also play/layla with having either the goes curled under or with the tops of the toes on the earth (body still suspended).   The latter is far more challenging in that the urge is to return to a tense position (or Cobra).

As in all Yoga poses, breathing is CRITICAL.   In fact, this is the first line that demarcates physical exercise from Yogic exercise.  In this case, breath in Cobra is NOT the same as breath in Upward Facing Dog.

And herein begins STAGE FOUR .. gently swaying side to side or forward and back, as a suspension bridge would.   In fact, just like in Downward Facing Dog .. Western Yoga has long forgotten the Traditional Yoga wisdom that teaches how both Dog poses are BREATHING poses.   Otherwise, it is this swaying / suspended movement that opens the thoracic inhalation and exhalation, allowing the spine to deepen into the Wheel (backbend) movements.  This is what makes Upward Facing Dog – when done properly, as described above – so beneficial in helping those with stiff spines open into the more challenging backward bending poses.

Prem and Metta!

Yogini Devi

Headstand

I started practicing Yoga at 11, so doing a Headstand was something I never thought about .. I just did it.

In my 20s, after my grandmother had a quadruple heartpass surgery, at her request, I taught her Yoga.  She loved headstands.  She told me once that she really enjoy Sun Salutations and Headstands.   She would use her kitchen timer to keep track of both.  She lived to see 100.

 

Even so, Headstands should never be approached lightly.  Honestly, Ive met more than my fairshare of Yoga teachers who dont teach it because they simply dont know how.  This is why its best to learn from someone who does them routinely .. like from myself!

 

The key to Headstand is anatomy and physiology.  Again, most Yoga teachers I know dont teach it because they have either never been taught to do it correctly (so it hurts), or they have tried independent of a qualified teacher, and hurt their self.

For example, a safe – and true – Headstand begins on the CROWN, which is the highest point of the cranium.  Next, there are STAGES that MUST be employed.  The majority of Headstands I see .. no one gets the head position right, and no one employs any stages.

Now, back to anatomy and physiology.  The commonly held view .. that the vertebral bodies and intervertebral disks support the body .. is inaccurate.  More accurately, it is the ENTIRE vertebral, intervertebral, vertebral arches, joints, muscles and connective tissue that is responsible for bearing the bodies weight – so that the comparatively small size of the cervical vertebral is not as critical as previously (or commonly) thought.

The second sort of Headstand is the BREGMA, which is located approximately 1″ in front of the Crown.  The two are similar yet different.  For example, the Crown is the traditional Yoga position, whereas the bregma is almost a different pose altogether.   From an energy/Pranic perspective – which all true Yoga incorporates, versus just doing the physical movement alone – the Bregma is a more dynamic (perhaps even ‘flashy’, show-off, sort of lift.

Back to energy/Prana, the Bregma also has a more dynamic effect on our consciousness (compared to the Crown lift).  Now, this doesnt necessarily equate to ‘better’.  For example, the Bregma lift is more akin to an inverted backbend (as seen in Scorpion, for example), whereas the Crown lift is what brings the calm serenity so often mentioned in the ancient Yoga texts.  Both are accurate but have different Pranic ramifications.

Prem and Metta!

Yogini Devi

Ancient Wisdom Now

As students of Yoga, many of us understand that our practice is more than physical .. after all, the body does not last forever.  So it is that the dedicated student has come to realize that Yoga is the practice of self.

 

I frequently remind my students and shishyas alike that, ‘Some days are diamond and some days are stone.’  This applies not only to the poses but to our daily thoughts, which are either concerned about the future or worried about the past.  Such thoughts cloud our perception.

 

Thinking ahead to the future over activates the emotions and desires, and thinking about the past keeps us from realizing the now.

 

Traditional Yoga Studies have been passed down to us from great sages who cared enough to share their wisdom.  Their experience of how to rule the unruly mind, to cast off shadow for sun, to do every duty with full attention, to see in each day an opportunity for fulfillment, and to realize that there are no problems, only challenges.

 

So it is, when we read the ancient Yogic texts, that when we are told that before even beginning the practice of Yoga, we must first seek the grace of Ganesha, and before embarking on the deeper studies, we must first have the grace of Shiva, we are not being told to worship gods.

 

Ganesha is the energy of success and good favor.  Think on this: whenever we begin a new endeavor we set out with all best intent, we envision achievement.  Likewise, when we have decided to dedicate our self to seeking the ancient wisdom of Yoga, we invoke the energy of Shiva, which is auspiciousness.  After all, who doesnt start a new project filled with an adventurous spirit, a hopeful outlook, and feeling lucky!

 

Without these two – success and auspiciousness – no matter how hard we try, our Yoga remains only a physical practice.

 

Which is why the ancient sages also advised us to seek a teacher.  Not a fitness instructor who teaches yoga in a gym, or a personal trainer who uses yoga poses in their workout, but a real teacher .. and not just a certified one either .. but someone who has dedicated their life to the living of Yoga.

 

With the help of a true Yogi or Yogini, our meditation moves from beyond sitting in silence to being charged with Shakti, the energy of ability.  Again, the ancient texts tell us that without Shakti, there is no fire – the fire of vigor, eagerness and passion.

 

Prem and Metta!

Yogini Devi

Guidance

Guidance.   We all need it .. whether we like to admit it or not (darn that ego thingie!).  But honestly, guidance is what we have needed since birth .. no one has ever truly gone it alone.

 

That makes guidance paramount.  Likewise, it makes it something that comes in the most unexpected places.  Such as, when we dont think we need guidance .. when we are strumming along at a nice pace, then someone comes along and makes a suggestion .. which we then see the simplicity of .. then implement it, then .. Viola! .. we find ourselves at a new level.

 

And thats just daily stuff.  So what about the real issues .. like spiritual matters?

 

Well, first its a matter of finding out, ‘What sort of spirituality’.  (Ok .. for those of you who know this answer .. no shouting it out and giving it away to those who havent arrived yet!)   😉

 

So .. here are a few ideas for you to ponder regarding guidance.

 

First, is your personal practice assisting in quieting your mindbody energies?  Meaning, is what you are doing along the inward path helping to purify and refine the mind and body?  If what you are engaging in eases the emotional tempest, soothes restless sensations, calms longing, keeps a positive perspective within reach, and gently nudges you towards generosity instead of greed, contentment instead of jealousy, loving kindness instead of hate, and joy instead of anger .. then your doing just fine.

 

Many of us need guidance to realize that we are not the mind, and we are not the body, but that we are radiant, conscious and eternal souls.  And it is our splendid soul – our true self – that guides the mind and body.  Or, as C.S. Lewis so clearly reminded us:  “You don’t have a soul.  You are a Soul.  You have a body.

 

When we realize this .. truly real-ize this .. then the soul that we are directs the mindbody towards the fulfillment of duty and the resolution of action.  (Or, in other words: the fulfillment of dharma and the resolution of karma.)

 

You see, daily living often includes fear and sickness, worry and doubt .. which work to distract us .. keeping us from the truth of our brilliant self.  After a time, we begin to think that we are these things .. even affirming, “I get sick a lot”, “I’m always stressed out”, “There is just so much to worry about”, “I cant do it”, and the like .. all of which are a brick-in-the-wall, or the acceptance of limitation.

 

This is where we need guidance, for before beginning any spiritual path we must first better our self, which means finding out where we are hurting our self.

 

Wow!  Talk about Catch 22!

 

Lots of time is needed here on self-examination .. lots of contemplation and meditation.  Lol .. in fact, this is where we get ‘brutally honest’ with our self.  ‘Brutal’ because many have become adept at sweeping things under the rug.  But you know what happens when you always sweep things under the rug?  Well, after a time, a pile is created, and that pile grows into a road block, which trips you up.  Which is when many ask, ‘Why is this happening to me?’  When it truth, that ‘trip’ was created by you.

 

You know .. the whole ‘forest for the trees’ scenario!    😉

 

So, in truth, there is nothing to do .. no ‘spiritual path’.  There is only realizing that you are already that which you seek.  There is only realizing that you must allow your true self to be; and when you do, it will transmute – like an alchemist – those base qualities into gold.

 

Prem and Metta!

Yogini Devi

 

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