Monday, July 19, 2010

The Guest House by Rumi

I was reminded this week of a wonderful prose by Rumi. A reminder that we may all need, especially during the rough times in our lives. Somethings in life come to us because of others choices, some come to us because of our own choices. What we are reminded of in this writing, is that they do come. The interesting thing that our practice of Yoga and its philosophies try to get us to do is to be aware, and then choose to "act" rather than to "react." This is a very hard thing to do, especially when emotions, old and new, are brought into the mix.

In our Hatha Yoga Practice (the physical practice of Yoga postures)we see our reactive tendencies on all three levels of our being. If we pay attention, we see that through out our practice we go through a variety of sensations: physical, emotional, and spiritual. What our practice is really begging us to do is to pay attention and to choose our actions, instead of staying in the mode of reacting. Which do we choose? Action or Reaction? It is a very interesting view if we can step back, as though we are watching ourselves from a distance, and see ourselves as we truly are. In this way we can learn some very valuable things about ourselves, and with this new knowledge, learn to stop the pattern of reacting, and choose our actions. This can help us avoid more of the bumps in life, and with that, possibly our "Guest House" visitors will be more pleasant.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

- Rumi -

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Class #3 - Saucha/Purity

Hi class,

This week we will learn about the discipline Saucha (Purity/Cleanliness)

Saucha - Purity and cleanliness of mind, body, spirit, and environment. We practice this discipline by continually asking ourselves if we are cleansing or soiling our body, mind, spirit, or environment.

We cleanse and are non-harming by making:
- Better food choices
- Better use of our breath (pranayama – extension and
regulation of the breath)
- Choosing asanas (postures) and/or modifications that are
beneficial to us at the present moment.
- Better choice of activities
- Better choice of those we associate with
- Better organized and clean personal space
- Better choices about our 'SELF', mind/body/spirit
- Better choices about our environment at every level

Saucha: Purity

"Purity of the body is essential for well being.
While good habits like bathing purify the external
body. Asana (Yoga postures) and
Pranayama (yoga breathing practices) cleanse it internally.
The practice of Asanas (yoga postures) tones the
entire body and removes toxins and impurities
caused by over-indulgence. Pranayama cleanses
and aerates the lungs, oxygenates the blood,
and purifies the nerves. Cleansing of the mind
through Svadhyaya (self-study) helps to keep the mind clear
from disturbing emotions like hatred, delusion, and pride.

With concentration, one obtains mastery over
the senses. This internal cleansing brings
radiance and joy. It banishes mental pain,
dejection, sorrow, and despair and brings
benevolence. When one is benevolent, one
sees the virtues in others and not merely
their faults. The respect which one shows
others makes him self respecting and able to
fight their own sorrows and differences.
This makes one ready to enter the temple of
body and see their real self in the mirror
of their mind.

Besides purity of the body, thought,
and word, pure food is also necessary. It
should be eaten to promote health, strength,
energy, and life. It should be simple,
nourishing, juicy, and soothing. Men are the
only creatures that eat when not hungry and
generally live to eat rather than eat to live.
If we eat for flavors of the tongue, we over-eat
and so suffer from digestive disorders which
throw our systems out of gear. The yogi
(a student of yoga), believes in harmony,
so they try to eat for the sake of sustaining
health and life. They try not to eat too much
or too little. They look upon their body as
the rest-house of their spirit, and guard
themselves against over-indulgence."

"Remember, if you do not take care
of your body, where will you live?"

(taken from B.K.S. Iyengar, 'Light on Yoga)

In our asana practice we strive to bring purity
and strength by practicing the asanas. We treat
our bodies with repect by keeping in tuned to
what it needs.

This week see how you can use the practice of Saucha to bring a better respect to your whole self: Mind/Body/Spirit. See how you eat, what you eat, and where you eat can have an effect on your energy, health, and even your attitude. Another aspect to pay attention to is your activities. How does what you do make you feel. Movies and TV you watch, parties you attend, people you associate with in all aspects of your life.

I’m not asking you to change anything, just pay attention. Slow down enough that you learn something about yourself (Svadhyaya: self-study). Write about your experience.

'Be sober and temperate; you will be healthy.
Bask in the sun; Spend time in the open air.
The sun and the open air are your good doctor.
Let your food be simple.
Never eat too much, but don't eat too little.
Take sufficient exercise.
Become your own physician.
~Swami Sivananda~

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Intermeditate Class #2

Hi Class,

In tonight's class we will be weaving the Yoga disciplines of Brahmacharya (Moderation), and Samtosha (Contentment), a Niyama.

The practices in yoga beg us to make every effort to study for ourselves. To research, experiment, to look into what has come before us, and be willing to change wrong ideas when we find they are incorrect. Just because it is in writing, or someone we deem more prestigious than ourselves says something, does not make it so.

A teaching of Budda states:

“Believe nothing … merely because you have been told it… Do not believe what your teacher tells you merely out of respect for the teacher. But, whatsoever, after due examination and analysis, you find conducive to the good, the benefit, the welfare of All beings -- that doctrine believe and cling to and take as your guide?”

“Your work is to discover your world, and then with all your heart, give yourself to it.”

Yoga and its disciplines were originally designed for and by the monks. As Yoga has evolved to be useful to the masses, adaptations on the practices and meanings have been made to fit into the lives of ordinary people with everyday lives. Originally this discipline meant to practice celibacy. As we know, if this were practiced by all, there would be no You or I. So, this next discipline, Brahmacharya, a Yama (Social Discipline), in particular, presented a need for a variation for the masses.

Self-Study (Svadhyaya)

A new young monk arrives at the monastery and, as with all new monks, he is assigned to help the other monks in copying the old cannons and lows of the Church by hand. He notices, howerver, that all of the monks are copying from copies, not from the original manuscript.

So the new monk goes to the head abbot to question this, pointing out that if someone made even a small error in the first copy, it would never be picked up. In fact, that error would be continued in all of the subsequent copies.

The head monk says, "We have been copying from the copies for centrueis, but you make a good point my son." So he goes down into the dark cves underneath the monastery where the original manuscripts are held as archives in a locked vault that hasn't been opened for hundreds of years.

Hours go by and nobody sees the old abbot. The young monk gets worried and goes downsstairs tolook for him. He sees the abbot banging his head against the wall, wailing "We forgot the 'R'! We forgot the 'R'! His forehead is bloody and bruised: he is crying uncontrollably.

The young monk rushes to the old abbot, asking, "What's wrong, Father?"

In a choking voice, the old abbot replies, "The word is celebrate! The word is celebrate!"

Making the effort to study for ourselves. Research, experiment, look into what has come before us, and be willing to change wrong ideas when we find they are incorrect. Just because it is in writing, or someone more prestegous than ourselves says something, does not make it so.

Budda states:

“Believe nothing … merely because you have been told it… Do not believe what your teacher tells you merely out of respect for the teacher. But, whatsoever, after due examination and analysis, you find conducive to the good, the benefit, the welfare of All

beings -- that doctrine believe and cling to and take as your guide?”

“Your work is to discover your world, and then with all your heart, give yourself to it.”


Having moderation in all things. Controlling our passions and desires for pleasure: addictions to food, spending, work, drugs (especially caffeine, the most commonly over used drug), sex, etc. Being moderate also in moderation. Allow for joy to be present in life while cultivating a vigilant practice of Ahimsa(non-harming), toward yourself or others in your search for joy and happiness. Never let the need for any type of pleasure be in such excess that in controls you, instead of you controlling it. Keep alignment and balance in your life, stay connected with your Highest Self: mentally, physically, and spiritually.

Samtosha: (Contentment)

Equanimity, peace, tranquility, and acceptance of the way things are in the present, right here, right now. Cultivating a sense of joy in just being alive, an awareness and an appreciation of the moment, and not feeling bad for what isn't, but being able to truly enjoy what is. Samtosha is the ability to be honest ( Satya: truthfulness) with where you are right now, and be okay with your 'self,' and then growing and learning from that place. Samtosha does not mean 'putting up with' but rather, 'working from.' The yogi (a student of yoga) feels the lack of nothing, truly enjoying that which they have. Constant comparison with others creates discord and a lack of appreciation for what one has and who one is. So, see what you have, work to acquire what you NEED, and then be content. Set the goal to "Live Simply, so that others may simply live." (because) “The more we have, the more we have to manage.”

In our ansana practice we use Samtosha and Bramacharya to see where we are each day. To use our energy for the best good of all. We look to bring balance into our life through our Asana practice. We become aware of who we are and where we are each time we come to our mat, and then work from that place. We learn to recognize changes and to accept those changes as part of life and our learning process. We learn to stop comparing ourselves to others, to lose the desire to be better than someone else in order to feel content with ourselves and with who we are. We become and appreciate our 'self' and begin to recognize our 'True Self.' Our mat is the stage we practice playing out life and its outcomes in order to then step off our mats and into life with better awareness.

Monday, July 05, 2010

The Web of Life

“Humankind has not woven the web of life, we are but one thread within it. What ever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.”

Chief Seattle

Some possible things to journal about:

What does this philosophy mean to you?

How have you effected the 'Web of Life' thus far?

What effect would you like to have on it in the future?