As we lead up to Diwali this week, the Hindu celebration of light, I’m thinking about the triumph of light over darkness. Diwali is a celebration not only of light, but of abundance of all kinds, of the restoration of dharma, or righteousness.
Of course, this is not the task of one day or even one lifetime, right? It's ongoing.
As yogis, we play an active and deliberate role in this work. We take on the auspicious responsibility of aligning and re-aligning with our inner light. This light is the essential goodness that yoga teaches shines bright within each and every human heart (even though it can be so thoroughly forgotten, or buried beneath such pain, separation, disconnection, and darkness that it appears to be missing.)
More than just fostering this connection, we are also charged with sharing our light, with allowing our goodness to reflect outward into our world through our words, thoughts, and deeds.
There’s a sequence to this, of...
Out beyond ideas of wrong and right there is a field. I'll meet you there.
What hasn’t changed?
When everything around you is uncertain, what stays the same?
Things being what they are, the world being what it is, we all have a chance to find out.
Sat is the term in yoga that refers to the unchanging truth. That which is true at all times in all places.
It’s the transcendent field beyond right and wrong, beyond all duality.
It's the spacious, all-embracing awareness of wholeness and goodness that has no opposite.
It’s the abiding and constant presence at the very ground of your being.
Let’s meet there.
Here’s the funniest thing I read online today:
“I wish I could be the person I thought I was when I bought all this produce.”
Ain’t it the truth?
I could substitute the end of that sentence for…
…When I had that incredibly peaceful meditation
…When I balanced in handstand in the middle of the room longer than ever before
…When I did that deep backbend
…When I had that sublime Savasana.
Sure, it’s important to remember our peak experiences in yoga, to strive to bring inner peace, calm, and strength, to all we do.
But life has a way of derailing those sublime states, doesn’t it?
The truth is, life is full of less-than-perfect conditions. I (dare I say “we”) are full of less-than-perfect thoughts and habits.
So, here are the questions I’m asking myself today:
Can we accept the moment as it presents itself to us without resistance?
Autumn is nature’s exhale. Can you feel it? The energy of dissolving and releasing is all around us. If you’re feeling called to let go of certain things, whether by choice or by circumstance, it might help to know that not only aren’t you alone, but you’re right on time and in tune.
I’ve always found it apt that the Hindu festival of Navaratri – the nine nights dedicated to honoring the Goddess - coincides with Autumn in the Western hemisphere. The trees themselves reflect the colours of the Goddess in their red, orange, and yellow leaves, don’t they?
After all, like the Fall, so much about honoring the Goddess is also about letting go, about destruction.
There’s the Goddess Kali wearing a necklace made of the skulls of her conquests, drunk on their blood. And Durga riding her tiger into battle, weapons in hand, ready to fight the demon and restore dharma.
As yogis, we’re given the tools and understandings that...
We are like migrating birds,
The sadness of our departure
Is mitigated by
The joy of our reunion
- Author Unknown
Consider how your yoga practice offers you a conduit back to yourself. Through breath, attention, kinesthetic and energetic awareness, the practice brings us home to ourselves again and again.
As we forge the pathway of return, we might recognize how far we’ve allowed ourselves to depart. Our relationship with ourselves might feel fraught or long forgotten. Our inner being might seem distant and far away since we last took the time to connect within.
In those moments, it can be helpful to remind yourself to be present for the reunion that is taking place once again, right here and now. Acknowledge yourself for making the time and space for practice. And, be grateful for the practice itself as the technology that offers us passageway toward reunification with our most essential selves.
Presence, remembrance, and gratitude have the...
Do you remember when you first got lit up about yoga as something more than a physical pursuit? Do you recall what it felt like when the tender shoots of self-awareness first sprouted within you?
It’s mysterious, isn’t it? Somehow the switch gets flicked on and we get interested in our our inner life.
The very first “spiritual” book I ever read was Peace is Every Step by the Vietnamese Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh. I’m honouring him today because by all reports, he will soon be leaving his body. At 94, his was the definition of a life well lived in my book.
When I picked up that book almost 30 years ago, I wouldn't have called myself a seeker though I was definitely looking for something. His sweet and simple lessons about mindfulness opened up a world of possibility for me, one where happiness and contentment could be cultivated from within.
After a recent weekend with a group of bright and thoughtful teachers-in-training, I’m once again blown away by something I've known for 25 years and yet, astonishingly, feels revelatory and thrilling each time I remember it. I mean REALLY remember it, as in sit with it, and consider its implications:
Asana as sadhana, the path of the body as an instrument of yoga. Postural practice as a means to explore our inner being and become situated in our souls.
Asana as not only a physical endeavor, but as a practice that integrates all the eight limbs and addresses the whole of us: yama, niyama, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, and samadhi. They can all be right there in our poses:
We practice contentment, non-harming, clarity, non-attachment, indeed any and all the benevolent virtues we wish to bring to bear in facing these times of challenge.
We expand Prana,
We take the senses into the body,
We hold our attention inside, using energy,...
Autumn is just about to show us how beautiful it can be to let go.
If I see this meme one more time, I think I’ll scream.
Don't get me wrong, I love being inspired by the beauty of nature.
And, yes, the leaves are dying with incredible majesty and grace.
Of course, letting go CAN be beautiful.
It can also be really hard and not very pretty at all.
Can you relate? After all, the last six months have been a master class for all of us on letting go: individually, collectively, personally, professionally, every which way in fact.
Yoga has a lot to say about the importance of letting go and for good reason. There’s perhaps no more important skill we develop through our practice than getting good at riding the waves of change through healthy detachment, a courageous heart, and clear understanding of the temporary nature of pretty much EVERYTHING.
It’s a common response to being introduced to a new, exciting, scary or particularly bendy pose.
It is often said with nostalgia for what was once possible and even a certain resignation that limitations of age, stiffness or injury will keep us from ever doing it again.
It’s true that what we were once able to do might no longer, or at least not right now, be appropriate or useful for us.
The body is always changing. Physical constraints, lifestyle and so much more can keep us from being able to do what we did when we were 9 years old, 25 or even last week.
The quicker you can get past the regret, the sooner you will be able to move on to the point, which is to recognize, respect, engage with and learn from the reality of your body at this moment.
At these moments, the opportunity of practice is to let go of the old story of fear, frustration, and defeat and transform it into one of empowerment and responsibility.
It’s Pitru Paksha, the fortnight of the ancestors. This is the two-week period in the Hindu calendar (September 2-16 this year) dedicated to honoring one’s lineage.
This traditionally includes the three generations that have come before you – your parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents that have passed on. It can also include teachers, friends, mentors, and even pets who have departed.
I believe the support of our ancestors is with us all the time, even when we don’t experience it. It becomes more powerful when we consciously connect to their presence.
During this powerful time I invite you to take hold of the support of your lineage today.
What would your ancestors see if they looked down on you and your life right now?
What would they want to tell you? What would they want you to know?
What blessing would they offer you?
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