The literal translation of Yama is “restraint”. They are the restraints influencing our social conduct. Yet, in the practice of them, they influence us deeply as an individual as well. Living by them as a guideline, the Yamas alter our inner blueprint of perspective. In their simplicity, they cultivate personal insight that can be game changing. I say “simple” because, when unfamiliar with these codes of conduct, many people commonly bluster, “W-well I’m not violent”. And of coarse we’re not. Each Yama is a code of conduct that any logical adult can understand, it’s our emotions that need the updating. We don’t go about physically hurting others, nor do we carry the intent to do so. However, we are very aggressive (violent) internally, through our thoughts (to self or otherwise), most definitely in our speech to one another, and in our careless actions. All of these have a ripple effect which we never consider.
When we hear the word “restraint”, we opt to run for the hills. We’re a species that wants to be able to do what we want as it suits us; and so, we consider “restraint” a deprivation of that. We think we’re losing our freedom, and that we’re being told what we can and cannot do. We think we’re being stripped of our freedom to make one decision which suits one emotion, followed by a completely different decision based on the emotion which arrives a few minutes later. We think we’re being torn from the ensuing confusion that arises from “liking” and “wanting” based on the highs and lows of what we think and feel. Somehow this is considered “freedom” in the modern world. What’s startling is that this is a form of enslavement. Living in this way is being weak to our whims. The Yamas make it very clear to us, how much of our lives we’re living based on our emotions.
The irony is, that we have freedom only when we learn restraint. The Yamas as restraints, help us to define ourselves, they help us understand who we are as deeper than the whims. The ocean has many waves, all manner of size, chopping along the surface; but within the belly of the ocean, lies the buoyant current that flows cohesively. That cohesive part of the ocean is where the species of the ocean live, they only come up to the surface for play.
To be interested in waking up in the morning and defining our day by that list of Yamas, brings us layer through layer into awareness around behaviours which could be cleaned up, so to speak. We grow to become more familiar with those times when we overstep our bounds into another’s experience, we identify when we want to manipulate the truth so we can make something easier for ourselves, we feel it when we let a door close behind us in the face of the next person coming through. This increased awareness is actually increased knowledge of who we are. This knowledge is what gives us our freedom. Because this knowledge is the deeper buoyancy of the ocean that influences stable choices, unlike the choices of our whimsy, which chop around based on what wave we’re riding in the moment.
The freedom we experience in our personal lives, through honouring the Yamas and seeking the personal information they reveal, is worth the moments of skin crawling discomfort that can arise from such revelations. But once we crawl through one personal discomfort and experience the groundedness on the other side, we never want to return to the careless whimsy of our weakness to a thought, which may never have been our own in the first place. We’re free because we’re holding ourselves to a higher standard, we expect more from ourselves than what is media fed, and we learn that life isn’t about arriving at a perfected point. We no longer need to admire others for their “je ne sais quoi”, because we’ve found that “je ne sais quoi” within ourselves. This is freedom.--with love, Letters In Yoga www.lettersinyoga.com
*photo credit: southernliving
From a moment of meditative reflection, to shared tears and laughter, time spent around a cup of tea is what makes the experience a world of its own. I read a post on social media recently, about a simple cup of tea….or, maybe it was penned as, the simplicity of a cup of tea, I don’t remember exactly. Regardless, my thoughts jumbled into thinking, “But a cup of tea isn’t simply just a cup of tea?! I mean, lives are built around cups of tea!” Whether we sit alone in silence pondering our thoughts with that cup of tea, or share a cup with friends and family (perhaps fumbling with etiquette around pinky up or pinky down), there is so much storytelling, wisdom and light shared around a cup of tea. These times fostering enough compassion and empathy, that frivolities of the pinky surely don’t matter. And maybe that’s it….maybe because tea is so simple, so pure and reliable, that everything opens up (or pours out) around that purity, as any kind of truthful moment provides. Truth just doesn’t require complexities, it has its own legs to stand on.
Cups of tea have heard absolutely everything, from the deepest secrets (taboo or otherwise), to the most mundane, yawn inspiring drivel. Cups of tea have sat with us as our only friend, have nursed us back to health, have gone cold waiting for our conversation to take pause long enough for a sip. A cup of tea has seen us through the loss of family members, the joy of greeting a new child, has blanketed us in the sleepy shadows of 2AM. I will forever remember my Grandmother’s way of asking, “would you like a cup of tea?”…no matter for healing tears, sitting for a bit (with a little biscuit), or just because it’s considered an essential part of the day…sharing the news even when there isn’t any to share.
A cup of tea finds itself being poured in the garden, the kitchen or family room, it’s even poured at the front stoop. It’s poured at the corner tea shop, bringing neighbours together for an impromptu social gathering; enabling a community to thrive as neighbours catch up with news and gossip, or endeavour to solve the matrix of a chess game. Most urgently a cup of tea is poured straight from kettle to cup…these ones are a crying shame but loyalty remains. A cup of tea develops and maintains bonds across generations…through its simple ritual and its heartwarming memories that could never be replaced. The heart hears these moments around the tea pot as clearly as the cup does. This is where we heal, even when nothing is wrong…we commune, we do what humans do best…we listen, we contribute, we work things out, but most of all, we engage. We learn that life is not all glitz and glam but nor is it all bad. They seem to be one, the heart and the tea…both knowing the same secrets and dreams without a sliver of betrayal to either. If a cup of tea could speak, I don’t know if it would want to..but what could it say? Like the heart, cups of tea have heard it all, having silently invoked our confidence and trust; gleaning threads of connection from the chatter it invites, yet leaving with no trace of judgement nor threat of exposure.
Tea, it stains our teacups it stains our teeth, from English tea to Assam tea, from Indian Chai to Moroccan mint, Turkish tea to Chinese tea leaves…they all tell a story, and some, even your fortune. A cup of tea is a ritual, it’s a blend. There is science around ritual that when performed brings any event to life. In the deepest teachings of Yoga, the Vedic Seers knew the science of sequence; they knew that, bringing life to a seed required a sequence of steps. The shared experience that unfolds around a cup of tea was preceded by a specific series of steps. As in the simplicity of pure awareness…a cup of tea comes with a series of steps, and these steps can’t be skipped. When something so simple touches the Soul, you sit with it…because somehow you just can’t help it.--with love, Letters In Yoga www.lettersinyoga.com
I know nothing about the black holes of outer space…but I think they are spaces that draw things into themselves? Regardless, I do know they are considered spaces in which light cannot escape. Recently, when reading a dialogue between Krishnamurti and one of his students, I got to thinking….about black holes and about light, and about our modern world.
I notice in our world today, that many people are “suffering”, even within daily life. We’re suffering in an attempt to keep up with a life which many can no longer comprehend, due to all of the global violence; suffering to keep up with financial burden; suffering to explain life to our children when we’re no longer recognizing the ways of the world ourselves; suffering to keep up with the speed of technology…basically, we’re suffering in our attempt to keep up with a life that has become so confusing in its daily, global overwhelm, because we’re trying to fit our very nature into this. Yet this is not possible. The outer world has become so out of alignment that our inner nature knows not to go there. Our inner nature knows not to try to keep up. Yet our minds and egos keep tracking this synthetic construct…as well as its speed. Hence, we suffer, we’re split…and the result is, we’re becoming unavailable…we dim our light, we’re not as accessible to friends and family, to the community and to the environment, because we’re chasing after what we’re told to chase….and we’re falling behind. We feel like we’re losing on a daily basis because the system isn’t designed to be caught, it’s designed to “need” it. So we each end up in our own inner worlds trying to fix what we think we’re doing wrong. We lose sight of the bigger perspective, which is inclusive of others. And this isn’t right.
Embedded within this, we’re fed inspiring catch phrases like “follow your heart”, “live your dreams”, or whatever it may be, but these positive statements remain out of reach because we’re chasing our light, rather than being our light.
Our light and our hearts grow quickly and abundantly through the giving of them. The more we give of our light the more it grows. This is the irony. The more we chase our light in the daily grind, the more we lose it, the more we withdraw into an isolated darkness. The more we offer our light in the true sense of it, the more our light grows and it buoys us. We’re no longer chasing our light then, instead, we’re giving it and therefore being it. We have an abundant Spirit, and the way we follow our heart’s desire is when we’re giving it to others. This is very different from chasing some media fashioned model of the heart. We’re currently in a monetized system of “follow your heart”, meant for the corporate world to profit from all you’ll need to (apparently) learn in order to “follow your heart” or “dream”. This is a self-serving system because it’s designed for profit. It will never work. The commercialism of “follow your heart” is modelled for a construct which is nailed down by the media, which furthers the tumble through the black hole. The heart is anything but self serving, so this commercialized model will never work.
To follow your heart, and to follow your dreams means to give of yourself…your very self and what you find in there….not your money, not a smattering of time to a cause at a designated time of year, not a new self-help book…but a daily, willing, offering of yourself; waking up to the morning and asking God “what can I give today…and to whom”? This draws from the wellspring of your best self, your willing self, your generous and beaming self. Everyone then becomes rich, everyone becomes fulfilled, and supported…the light and the love only grows from that place inside. From there you are living your dream.--with love, Letters In Yoga www.lettersinyoga.com
Once imprisoned, Joan of Arc is said to have felt shattered within herself, that she had backed down on what she knew most deeply. That she hadn’t carried through on what only she could hear. After all of her bravery, her courage and her might, in the end, she felt she had betrayed her most sacred knowing.
The Scottish Pipers of the World Wars ran out into vast open fields, unprotected, armed only with their instruments of war, their sole purpose being to lead armed soldiers into battle. No one was ahead of them to lead…from where did they draw their courage? They had to take it themselves. These men were the front line of battle, because it was from them that the soldiers drew their courage.
Are we capable in today’s world of finding courage within…when so much supports a lazy, uninspired, effortless lifestyle? Is there even a need for courage in our daily lives anymore? Yes! Just as ever before. Can we examine this within our own selves…our behaviours and reactions when courage taps us on the shoulder…because it’s usually a fleeting experience when we are accustomed to denying it.
The yogic asana of Warrior 2 is designed to fuel courage, by sustaining the pose through the discomfort. Anyone who has ever practiced this pose knows how uncomfortable it can be.
Alas, the majority of people wriggle their way out of it…or better yet, never rest fully into it. But can we use this pose instead, as a way of becoming familiar with our response to courage within ourselves? Do we really want to back out in the end, and betray what we know most deeply.
If the men and women of war had the courage to face fear day in and day out, do we have the courage to sustain a yoga practice, or do we slack out of it because it’s so uncomfortable…or even before it becomes uncomfortable? Imagine, if we could find courage within discomfort for even a few moments longer, what we could develop…the courage to be kind, the courage to love and to find answers, the courage to take ownership of ourselves as individuals, the courage to be gentle. The courage to make this a better world.
So let’s sustain Warrior 2, through the tremors of that burning courage that often becomes squelched in tension. Instead allowing the ancient rise of prana, of our calling…too often avoided by a simple habitual strangle of tensed neck and shoulder muscles. Even the jaw begins to clench. Do we have the courage to settle into that tremoring burn as it rises. With trust, with breath, with prayer even. This isn’t insurmountable. Yet sweat begins to blister from our pores, and maybe the veins begin to throb in the temples, but we will make it, we will survive this reactive panic, because we’re not dying…instead, we’re feeling, we’re growing, we’re being human…and we’re meant to feel it, release it, and ease into it. The settling in to the pose is what actually draws us upward into the confident stance that Warrior 2 is.
Warrior 2 is such a grounding pose for this type of anxious energy. We are meant to rest solid in the support of our legs, establishing our footing with full stability so that we CAN ground. Without a foothold we float and hover in the pose, making all improper use of it. We would really rather straighten that front leg, we really want to, with everything we have we want to straighten it, scrambling to find relief. Instead, sink down, face the pose head on, hover more deeply, reach in to that central fire in the belly, draw the outer edge of that back foot even more onto the mat…stabilize. Trust. Establish the feet…the lengthening of the body will come from that…this is the authentic “relief” from the pose. It’s here that the warrior’s courage can rise, having faced defeat. Defeat from wanting to rise before it’s time…and using all (wrong) muscles to do so.
As we sustain, the spine will want to reach upward because that lifeforce has been given freedom again to flow upward. The prana then, begins to pool at the heart, which gives that softness to the shoulders, the dynamic ease of the outstretched arms, so the heart can beam right through your fingertips. From here, through open palms and spread fingers we find the freedom of courage…to follow through on our own heart’s calling toward a better world.--with love, Letters In Yoga www.lettersinyoga.com
I remember being a little kid, on one particular day, I wanted to play Hide and Seek with the seemingly “bigger” kids. They let me play, but it meant I had to be IT…they left me with one instruction, they told me to count for one minute. I remember that I didn’t know how to do that but I didn’t want to tell them…they were the big kids. So I decided to count to ten a bunch of times. This was enough. I was reminded of this the other day, when I came across this:
“One tree can start a forest,
One bird can herald spring,
One smile can begin a friendship,
One hand can lift a soul,
One star can guide a ship at sea,
One word can frame the goal,
One sunbeam can light a room,
One candle can wipe out darkness,
One laugh can conquer gloom,
One hope can raise our spirits,
One touch can show you care,
One voice can wake up everybody,
One life can make the difference.
Be that one.”
Likewise, if we want the world to change, we need to be doing something toward changing it. We need to create a new paradigm in our thinking, because the old paradigm, that One can’t make a difference, is proving not to be true. So what does this mean? This must mean that what does work, is the paradigm of belief, that One Does make a difference. That’s one act of kindness, one fair choice, one conscious decision, one turn of a page, one word whispered….all of them count. Put a beaker outside your window, and at next rainfall, watch the drops land one by one inside that beaker….what happens? Take the time to watch it; seeing it in front of you means, you can no longer lie to yourself about the power of One making a difference. Then water your plant with it.
You might do one thing, and you might be the only one doing that one thing….but repeatedly doing that one thing, and you will have made a difference even within one month….for good or for bad, you decide. But that one decision has to be yours. You are the only one who can come up with it because that’s the only way you’ll follow through with it. But try this, and you will never again doubt the power of One. This One is what it takes to change the world. You by yourself, with this one thing, is what it takes to change the world. Don’t believe it? Try it, for one month and see where that one takes you.
If each person who’s reading this makes that one decision to do that one thing, that’s a collective, making one change all at once….that changes the world. That creates enough momentum to move mountains. That creates enough inner fulfillment to stop violence. That creates enough empowerment, through effective decision making, to stop lying. If you want the world to change, you need to be the One to do it. You don’t need to run around with loudspeakers and banners…simply turn off that one light in the empty room, turn off the running tap, turn off the needlessly idling car, eat one supper without your phone… you need to make one decision around one thing and do it for one month. This is the only way to create change in the world.
Yelling at the TV from your lazyboy, waving your remote control in the air while you do it, is no longer acceptable. Speeding past a slow driver while you spotlight your middle finger at him, is no longer an option. No one is destroying our comfort for us. It’s not “the government” or “those people in that religion” or “those people in that race” or “that sex” or “those migrants”….WE’RE the people behind and within, those neat little clusters. WE are the Ones, not THEM. WE create change by recognizing our value within the group, and we use our value to either participate or ride along. We’re at the point where riding along is no longer in the cards. We’re at a point where we need to grow up enough emotionally, that we face what needs to be done responsibly. We show up. Showing up is our duty as a human being. If we’re not showing up, then we’re riding a fantasy and have no place complaining….about anything. If you don’t like what you have to offer, if you don’t like yourself….it’s up to you to challenge that belief, so you can contribute productively to the shared responsibility of balancing out this world. It’s just one decision…how much power does that take….depends on how you see it. But none of us have any right to just tag along for the ride anymore. Buckle up folks and get ‘er done.--with love, Letters In Yoga www.lettersinyoga.com
Yoga has become a very loud, very obnoxious industry. It’s everywhere a person looks…yoga studios, yoga pants, yoga bras, yoga bodies, yoga videos, yoga accessories…yoga yoga yoga. This is the gleaming industry of business…the industry of people who like to make money and know how to make it, through exploitation and through feeding human insecurities. The yoga industry is the same as any other….the cosmetic industry, the vitamin industry, the oil industry, the carpet industry….you name it, it’s an industry like all others. Profitable and glamourized. The more beautiful it becomes with catch phrases and beautiful young girls, the more this industry grows, and remains that subliminal message of “you need this”. When it’s everywhere, we become so saturated in the message, that we don’t even know we’re absorbing it anymore; we just come to terms with yoga being what the industry says it is. Without any questioning of it. And this isn’t going away, there are more people “practicing” various imaginings of yoga than ever before…and these numbers aren’t going down.
We’re refining the nutrients out of Yoga, the same way we do with fast food. This way, it can be the quick consumption that the mainstream prefers, so they can get on with something else. It is for this reason that I created my website. Because there are teachers out there who are still remaining true to Yoga as a lineage, as a discipline, as a way of fostering acceptance and an aligned way of life, as a way of honouring traditional teachers of each lineage. And, believe it or not, there are students who do long to know where to find these teachers; teachers who can support them in their own growth of the practice toward greater self awareness.
As the numbers of yoga teachers multiplies, the fewer there are who can really support their students, who can really provide the true nature of the practice of Yoga. The yoga we’re forced to gulp down is a message of “already having arrived” and “having arrived perfectly” (bleached hair, bikinis and ponytails) with zero effort to get there. Where is the self-knowledge in this? Traveling to India for a YTT without knowing that Yoga is about self-knowledge? What a joke…traveling to the “Source” for your teacher training without knowing this! Yoga has become beyond a dream, it has become a fantasy. Oh, the irony.
I’ve traveled to India many times and I’ve experienced the learning curves in the same way there, as I have at home. It’s not necessary to go to India for this self awareness. If we know self-awareness is the Yoga of yoga then we can sift the fantasy out of the image. We can get down to brass tax and deal with ourselves, wherever and whenever we are. To know that Yoga is based on self-awareness, it’s absurd to travel to the “mother land” for a certificate, without knowing this…it’s abhorrent. It’s abhorrent because of its destructiveness.
Yoga takes a lot of grit, Yoga takes a lot of courage, Yoga requires daily reminders and discipline. Yoga is to be respected to the extent that it respects you. Because it will guide you through your challenges…and anyone who says they’re never challenged and never have been, are living on another planet entirely. I have deep respect for the Yoga Teachers who are committed to sharing the teachings they have learned (and lived) from their own Teachers. I support them the best I can through the community of sharing their works on my website…as they struggle to stay afloat in a world of “Barbie yoga” (as one of my students calls it). There are beautiful stories shared from each teacher on my website, because they have the strength and personal confidence to have been vulnerable enough to reveal themselves…..their loves and struggles with the practice.
A vast majority of teachers today don’t even know what that is…and they don’t know that they don’t know. I strive for honesty on my page because Yoga will strip you to the bone in the most beautiful way, if you let it….and this is a scary thought for those who are just stepping in to it…they need to trust that others who have gone before them have survived the journey. Yes, many have and we’ve got your back. You alone walk through your own journey, but it’s comforting to know that it’s normal to be afraid, it’s normal to think you don’t know what to do, it’s normal to want to turn back but you can’t…it’s normal to have walked half way into the rushing river and have no idea what to do. And then it’s normal to come out the other side, having benefitted from the few bruises you’ve been left with. You will be ok on this journey because Yoga will take care of you. Get gutsy, get real, be afraid…you will be so glad that you did. I trust any one of those Yoga Teachers I have listed on my website to support you as you go forward…and I’m always on the lookout for adding new teachers and what they offer, so keep your eyes on it.--Letters In Yoga www.lettersinyoga.com
Always remember your humanity…for good or for bad…you will fall, you will blunder, you will do things splendidly, and you will rock the boat…but to love and be kind is the best we can do with it all. Our best is really all that things ever come back to…and our best is better on some days than it is on others. But our intent behind what we do is what makes it all count. From our intent we bring our heart, and from our heart we acknowledge our humanity.
It’s from our humanity that we draw our courage. To thrive in today’s world takes courage…not to survive as a daily existence, but to really thrive as a daily experience. Showing up to anything we do is the most important part of it all….because showing up with good intent to do our best, the best we can with what we have, can do no harm. It is in this aspect of our humanity that we bring our most valuable tools, skills, and attributes, because we haven’t succumbed to our self-doubt or undermining our capabilities.
Once we begin to doubt ourselves, and insecurity sets in, automatically we drop into making choices that are not true to our nature, they become choices which are more culturally acceptable, whether they are good or not, whether they are innate to our own heart or not. From here we begin to chip away at our humanity. We mold ourselves into something we’re not. This shuts down a piece of us and it shuts down a connection to that piece…we’re no longer a fully integrated human being. And when we’re not fully integrated, we’re not functioning optimally. This is when we begin to get depressed, lethargic, angry, any number of imbalances arise. To this we search for a “remedy” which we know won’t fix anything, but we no longer know what will fix it. And we begin to make outward mistakes which really aren’t so great.
Mistakes made from the best self are not the same as mistakes made from a self which has become more narrowly focused. From our best self we’ve opened up our perspective which brings forth our compassion. But we need to move away from equating our “best” with “success”, as defined by modern day cultural perceptions. To equate our “best” with the material “success” of the system of society, is to define our self by a measure of nothing. Society is made up of humans and humans are fickle…and all of us are fumbling along figuring it out as we go. We’re a humanity which, for the most part, has proven it will turn its face toward whatever new and easy and gleaming trend is next. There is no loyalty in that, no stability, nothing long lasting…so why base our belief about our success, and the evolution of our own dream, on humanity's measure of it. This measure is nothing at all…nothing could be more defeating. Considering the real success in life is not valued culturally. This lack of popularity engages us in acts of success which leave us feeling empty, and yearning to fill that emptiness. Our purchasing, eating, sex lives…so easily turn into unbalanced, unhealthy acts of grasping, as we attempt to use them for gain. We don’t experience them as expressions of fulfillment, of an inner harmony of being well on the inside. These leave a trail on our heart that constantly remind us that our internal best and outward success don’t necessarily dance together in glitzy glam fashion. Gauging our wellness instead, by knowing we show up and we offer our best in any situation…our “best” is our “success”.
Traditional value systems of any culture which are quickly losing popularity, are life’s guide to success…rely on these as you measure your steps…they’ve been brought forward through millennia for a reason. Anything that stands the test of time has integrity, and when aligned with this, our best is infused with love and kindness, and this is the true form of success (whether we like to admit it culturally). Dreams are meant to endure…so don’t base its unfoldment or its fruition on what others think. What humans think is whimsical, and is about whatever suits our fancy in the moment. Instead, define your dream by whether it has value to life…measure your success in that way, and show up as your best for that purpose. Define and form your dream to what is successful in the eyes of life, of enduring values which are life’s mathematical precision of success. Live the dream which serves life and fosters life, this is your best.--with love, Letters In Yoga www.lettersinyoga.com
Upon seeing a yoga class from a view at the door, my eyes wide, my mouth gaping, a foreign world of thought tumbled forward:
Look at all those people! How do all those people fit in one room arms in the air, front knee bent? What is that teacher offering them that they want to crowd into a room like that? How does this happen? What is the teacher thinking when he sees all of this…does he feel inspired by the turnout? Can he see everyone who he’s talking to? Is it just a business for him? How did all these people find out about the class? What made ALL of them feel it was a good idea to go to THIS class? Do they know why they went and what they’re there for? Is the teacher part of the industry…or is the teacher really that authentic? And teaching to that many students, who’ve all come crowding in, wouldn’t our world be a little better than it is? Or maybe it’s not the teacher, but what these students are willing and ready to receive from the teacher? Are they ready to receive authentic teaching, or did they crowd into this room because everyone else did? Do they know this answer? Are they connected to their heart, or are they only going through the motions? Are they aware of their capacity to grow? Are they aware of this concept, or are they just taking in the instruction from the teacher (physically, philosophically)…so that they have more to say…more yoga to talk about?
So many questions, and are they valid? I rarely have a positive experience in these rooms full of people. I usually feel like running out of them, I can’t roll up my mat soon enough. But I do know when I’m in a space which is welcoming and inclusive, even if we’re still practicing and growing our comfort zones. I do know this. Inclusive spaces can be crowded too, but somehow, in a different way. I don’t know about these other crowded spaces, they feel foreign to me. What do these people do with themselves when they’re not crowded into this space? Do they consider their practice further, or was it an hour they got done in their day, and have now moved on to something else? Like, what are they doing now that they’re not in that crowded room listening to the teacher’s instructions? What are they interested in when they’re not in this room? With so many millions of people “practicing yoga”, wouldn’t our world be heading in a better direction than it seems to be?
The truthfulness of our practice is Satya…and I wonder about this a lot, especially when we do things because of popularity. Truthfulness is not only about not lying, it is the ability to self-reflect. We define our perceptions by what we say and do, so understanding why and how we do what we do, is critical to Satya. Following through with being accountable for what we say and do is a marked sign of our development. Are we willing to mature in our practice of Satya? To become more knowledgeable about truthfulness, and wise with it, creates an intimacy with our practice. Being intimate with our practice is both uncomfortable and liberating, because it’s honest. This is why Satya is so scary for many people…we don’t want its discomfort, we don’t want its inconvenience, and we don’t know how to do it. When we do, we become removed from the crowd. But can we just do it anyway? Being accountable means we’ve thought through what we’ll say before we say it, or take action after having thought about the possible consequences, and whether these consequences stand up to what we talk about. Are we willing to clear up misunderstandings and consider others? Our society today fosters no accountability, nor do most crowded yoga studios, so we’re not required to develop this skill nor our practice. I’m not saying this about all crowded classes…I just wonder about the chronically crowded classes.--with love, Letters In Yoga www.lettersinyoga.com
“I just want to be ok”…we can often think this about ourselves when we practice Yoga. It’s a harsh thought, no matter how quietly we might hear it. Yoga is about greater self awareness and the acceptance that comes from that; but sadly, we naturally apply our culturally developed thinking as a framework around it. Almost like we try to catch it in a net that is already familiar to us. Unfortunately, Yoga is advertised in the same way as everything else, as a commodity. It has become a product to sell. The glory of the perpetual industry drives us to believe that there is something to “Get”, to “Attain”, to “Have” from Yoga. The marketing of Yoga tells us that what we’re getting is the promise of “Happiness”. Wanting to “be Ok” is a harsh and aggressive self attitude because it usually comes from a desperation for happiness, and industry is financially fueled by a desperate society. We deceive ourselves by believing that this cultural framework will support the unformed newness of a deepening and authentic Yoga practice. So there can be a tendency to fall into the shadow and use Yoga to fuel our belief that there is something fundamentally wrong with us.
Sometimes, I think an aspect of ourselves which pops up in our practice, is an unanticipated relentlessness. The gift of increasing self insight can instead be turned into a drive for continual “betterment” of ourselves…suddenly it can seem that there is so much to look at and address personally. As if we’re realizing we’ve been doing something wrong all this time and now how are we going to fix it. Firstly, know you weren’t doing anything wrong…hopefully what you were doing was the best with what you knew about yourself. Have this compassion for self, ultimately it will help you recognize a connection with others. This feeling that “If we’re not careful…” can create a critical eye which stems from the competitive internal space which needs to get to an “other” than where we are. Take care with this, don’t lose the supportive purpose of Yoga through a thick blanket of market based perceptions.
But what if there is nothing to “Wrong”, nothing to “Attain” from Yoga? Humans generally aren’t ok with that. What if Yoga is just our pedestrian walk through Life? Daily life for the most part, is pretty uneventful and again, we’re trained to perceive that as boring or uninteresting. We usually rely on this passive perception when we’re not really getting the message. The message of Life is usually embedded within layers of understanding and perception. For example, we’ve all had those moments that come on like a light and we say, “Oh yeaaah”, smiling brightly, finger in the air, like pointing out layer upon layer of things that are suddenly understood, and were all embedded in that one moment. The gloriousness and magic of life is in this simplicity, but we’re trained to omit this experience for the obnoxious sounds and visuals that constantly override it. Egoic stimulation is exaggerated for the purpose of driving up our level of anxiety. The neediness that this anxiety creates forces us to run after and desperately chase whatever is being dangled in front of us. This leaves residing in the quiet simplicity of life as a big challenge. It grows to feel like simplicity is not enough, and so it doesn’t capture our attention. It usually captures our attention though, but in that underground gnawing kind of way. We really personally have to be the one to call our own self to attention on this. It has to be a personal choice to really discipline our own self, and to stand firm because no one else is going to do it for us. Culturally it’s not accepted or fostered. It has to be your choice.
Yoga is the last thing of a human developed ideal. It is the most natural independent flow of spontaneity. This can’t be controlled in itself, it can only arise. We tune our personality toward it through our practices, but Yoga isn’t necessary as a practice in itself, because it just arises. It’s that same spark that creates the heartbeat. It’s our attention to Yoga that is the practice. The practice is our refinement of what we’ve grown to perceive. By refining our own self, we give the freedom for the Yoga to arise; we’ve given it the space to move in and as our daily life. So you see, the cultural framework around Yoga won’t work, it won’t support the mystery of the Soul; if anything, the framework will suffocate our personal Yoga as it’s done all along. The real reality is, you’ll sort it out as you go.--with love, Letters In Yoga www.lettersinyoga.com
Cocktail Umbrellas are more important than we realize. Usually accompanied by a maraschino cherry and a slim slice of orange, those bright little, paper decorations are always found in a cheery coloured cocktail drink in yellow or pink. Innocently, and unbeknownst to them, these umbrellas hold a lot of power. And they are so important in fact, that there are countless images of them set in front of a sun bleached seascape, gliding us off into the Lala Land of our scintillating, romantic dreams of far-off sunsets and clear blue skies. These umbrellas are important because of their symbolic power; their ability to take us to our sense of imagining, which is our creative center.
Given practical access to a tropical getaway or not, this time to daydreaming that a Cocktail Umbrella provides, is so significant, that it is essential to our wellbeing. This meandering space of aimless mental wandering is our most precious resource, because it’s where we begin to sense what makes us tick in a very deep and personal way. Everything begins from the space of emptiness whether we realize it or not. Our imagination is the beginning of tapping in to what that vast silent space is telling us. Paying attention to what it reveals is productive, which is unlike finger-painting colours around in a fantasy. To take those hard earned hours of focused mind and allow it the free reign of creativity is the only way to produce our purpose, what we’re here on this Earth to do. It’s a beautiful, enriching, soul nourishing time, to be in this state of imagination.
While in the thick of it, when the seemingly ridiculous pops forward as some unexpected thought, instead of kicking it out, ask yourself some questions around it, with a practical purpose in mind. This will begin to harness the dream and bring it into logical form. Once the mind accepts it as manageable, you’ll see ways to act on this new idea within your own creativity. To immediately slough it off as ridiculous is a misunderstanding of the dream as a whole, it’s to be blind to all of what it is…once you start questioning it into form (not with doubt but with inquiry) then you will begin to see its practicality and its possibility. To immediately poo-poo this new insight and deny it, is a misfortune not only to your own life but to anyone else it might serve in the long run. Should you bring this daydream into form you have no idea how many people might benefit from its goodness. There is as much of a ripple effect of not doing something as there is in doing something. Think about this. What you withhold could be hindering another by the very withholding, but sharing it could be benefitting that someone. Many don’t understand what it means to give of yourself, of your love in this way.
So, the next inspiring dream you have, try what’s next:
First, Be at Peace with your Dream: Anxiety arises with anything new and unrecognized. It arises in many different forms (anger, jangled nerves, overwhelm, etc.) and it arises for many different reasons…but keep going because anxiety simmers down. Many of us deny and rail against our imagination because we judge it as unrealistic. So, we jump on it, trying to put it out in the same way we would throw a blanket to suffocate an unexpected fire. Of course a dream is unrealistic and impractical at this stage of the game, it’s never been done before! Nothing has yet been learned from it or by it, or how to do it. You need to focus now, hone in on it and refine your skill around it. The dream will show you how as you walk along with it. But be prepared because it will require you to be more of yourself…this leads to step two.
Step Two is, Bring It Back to Focus: Now that we’ve let go and given enough free rein for the imagination to kick in, we bring it back to focus (remember those focused hours you’re used to?). Focus and listen, listen deeply and with your whole heart. This is a refined listening, through the space of the heart, not the mental searching and grasping of the mind. Listening can come through sound definitely: through a snippet of what someone says to you at a seemingly odd time, or something unusually relevant in a song you’ve heard many times, or a confirming sound of a pindrop as you blink at the moment of a bright idea. But if our other senses are more dominant, then listening can also come visually, or as a deep knowing at the deepest heart sense, it can come as a symbol that simply uplifts you…you will recognize your own language because you experience it as set apart from other experiences. Give credence to all, in all senses it comes to you.
Now Step Three is, Take action: But this isn’t willy-nilly action of desperately doing SOMEthing, it’s the taking action according to how opportunity is presented. Now this takes a continued refinement of our senses. To continue to be watchful for opportunities is a new muscle being developed. There are indeed those moments when opportunity appears to come and you sit and question “is this the one?”. Usually the need to question shows that this is the one showing you that THE ONE is on its way…so continue as you are. When it IS the ONE there will be no doubt. Taking action will require habit adjustments, and you may need to give something up (most likely you will) and that can be uncomfortable…but you will do it when the IT you’ve been aiming toward arrives. And it all arose from your daydream on the beach or in the bookstore, your time dallying in the canoe on the lake or sewing a new quilt. It arrived in that time when you were meandering, wandering idly and free in your mind of creativity…that is when it arrived. By the time you’re at step three you’re seeing it but it was alive long before then.
You can do this. It might not be perfect, and it most likely won’t be, but maybe it will be, and maybe it will be beautiful in a way you never expected. In any case, it will be better than where you are now because you will be connected to your purpose, and this brings contentment and fulfillment like nothing else can. We can often rail against what we’re meant to do, thinking it’s not what we want to do…but what we’re meant to do is really what we want to do, Ego or no Ego. I think many don’t understand the luxury and necessity of healthy, dynamic dreaming.--with love, Letters In Yoga www.lettersinyoga.com