Whether Evolved or Created…

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As I was sitting on my stoop the other night, staring at the lizards feast on dinner as I do almost every night, I realized the responsibility I hold as a human.  India can wear on you, and it can leave you feeling overwhelmed as a human being.

Almost every night, I sit on my porch and read a book, listen to the sounds of the neighborhood, or enjoy some tunes as I watch the world go by as a way to wind down. Often times, I watch these lizards around my porch light move just a few i times to stick their tongue out and catch a bug.

I thought, this is most of this lizards existence. Hanging out around my light and eating bugs. I mean, I think there is a lot that we don’t know about animals, how they communicate, how they choose partners. I would love to think that while we aren’t looking they are having parties talking about us, but who knows! We are a different kind of intelligent.

No matter your opinion on whether or not we have evolved from primates or were created and set here by a God, one thing for certain is that we as humans have a very special capability to help others, feel others pain, share others joy, and create intelligent solutions to issues that our community (or tribe) faces.

So, maybe you are a single mother working three jobs trying to make ends meet. You might say, I am no scientist, I am trying to survive just like those lizards! So you are a scientist of love. You are a scientist of survival.

We have the ability to learn how to cultivate land in a sustainable way, and have compassion for those who are in a less fortunate situation than our own. Again, you could argue this for several animals who have been filmed and seen on those “cutest” wimp videos helping one another, or a dog rescuing a human from the street… even chimpanzees have created found their own medicine to cure a parasite by swallowing a special leaf folded in a certain way, which eliminates the ailment.

Here is the thing. I am sitting here typing on my computer, allowing my thoughts to flow on to a webpage that has the capability to reach anywhere from zero to millions of people. So here is for the kind souls who read this.

Take whatever gift you have and use it to help your fellow humans. If it is only a smile available that you can give to someone else, lend that smile. If your dream is to become a surgeon be that surgeon. 

Created or evolved, we have a unique opportunity that we have been given in this vessel we call the human body.

We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.
Mother Teresa 

If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.
Mother Teresa 

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A Prayer to the Arabian Sea

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And so it was

A day of pain, sorrow, and the unknown

And so it is a moon to make an offering

To this great abyss, this ocean of mystery and potential.

I walk, I tread lightly

so as to not disturb the mother too much.

Quiet, so she can hear my prayer.

Sweet mother I offer you this cedar oil,

In hopes you may offer it back to my flesh and soul as strength,

For the times to come.

May it find me again, be a wave, a river, rain, or

the sweet morning dew.

Sweet mother, I offer this feather,

As you may carry it as swiftly or slowly as you please,

As guidance to a dear friend,

By spirit of the eagle.

Sweet mother I offer you this turmeric,

So that you may help heal the wounds split open

By my presence,

And may it also heal any other being in need.

May you bless all the people of the earth,

Past and present.

The soil, these granules of sand,

This sacred ground in which I lay my knees tonight.

Sthira Sukham Asanam

Yoga Sutra 2.46: Sthira Sukham Asanam

4-up on 2012-09-28 at 16.56 #4

 

Asanam – just one of eight limbs of what the west has deemed Yoga. I’ve been deeply effected by the fact that every single class here that I teach, somebody comes to me and either says, “my friend was too scared to come,” or, “I’m not bendy, I can’t really do yoga well but I will try….” And the thing is, is that these are all westerners that have come to say this in class. If you ask an indian what asanam is, they look at you like you are crazy. Surely, I am glad that the US has found a new exercise regimen, but at the cost of a sacred eight limbed practice, and the cost of the peoples minds who think they are not good enough if they are not achieving this exercise ‘correctly.’

 

In my opinion, yoga has been almost completely lost, because, the person who can barely do downward facing dog, but is practicing with a focused mind and is working towards a goal is doing yoga more than the person next to them doing a crazy handstand variation while in lotus to prove they can and then leave the class the same person. It is a moving meditation, for whatever body you are in. A chance to look deep within the physiology of the body and mind to explore what’s happening for you.

 

Not sugar coating it, this idea that you have to be bendy, or that you are not as good at yoga as the person next to you doing a handstand makes me want to scream

 

To save the world a long rant, I will just say this;

 

The point of asana is to find a comfortable seated position, in order to meditate and calm the mind without disturbance of the mind from the body being tight, stiff, poisened. The point of asana is to cleanse, detox, strengthen, and lengthen the body so that we can lead a happy fulfilling life, and achieve greater things with good health, maybe Samadhi some day, the connection to the universe where there is no duality and your mind is free.

 

Yoga sutra 2.46 actually defines Asana as “A comfortable seated position.”  That’s it. That is the purpose of asana, and the eight other limbs of Astanga Yoga. 

 

So please, please, I beg with all of my heart, know that yoga is a journey that anyone can begin, at any age, at any stage, and it never ends. It is not complete when you achieve the splits or put your legs behind your head… sure you may look cool, but that alone does not bring you true joy and peace.

 

Why practice asanam in silence?

00055 The more you listen the more you know

Ahhh, the age-old western question of whether or not asanam (the physical aspect of yoga) should be done to music. I usually avoid this question, because I do feel that there is no “right way” to practice asanam, and yoga is a way of life as well, however, I do personally believe in practicing in silence, and teaching in silence, and thought I would share why. This is just a blog, isn’t it?

Now, I came into my real discovery and love of yoga at a studio that believed whole-heartedly in music during class. I’m talking postal service, death cab for cutie, reggae, bluegrass even, and I loved it! So what happened? I went to India, and practiced in a concrete room in dead silence for 30 days in a row. My world was rocked. I heard every breath, every movement, how loud my movements were, every word in my mind that would bully my body, and every positive thought, too.

I just had my first practice back in India yesterday, and it hit me again, this is what it’s [yoga] is about. In India, there is no option for music, asanam is a time to look inside our human vessel, our body, which displays our mind. As I go deeper into my postures I have to control the mind even more, and in this control I have to block out those voices that say, “You can’t do it,” and listen to the voices that say, “your body isn’t ready.” The times where I have injured myself in yoga were with music, and I could guess that it is because I was so into the song I forgot to listen to my body.

This begs the answer to a question some might ask; why does she post pictures of herself in crazy postures?  

The answer is this: I do it as an example of what can be accomplished through the practice of yoga, as classical yoga, which means following practices like Ujjayi breathing (pranayama) during practice, clean eating, control of the mind (Dharana), meditation (Dhyana), and being present with where my body is now.  When I first came to yoga, I could not sit in Virasana, let alone supta virasana. I have torn my ACL twice; my knees were not going into that posture anytime soon!

Yoga is in fact the joining or union (Yuj) of the body to the universal consciousness (or God), or, in a more practical sense, yoga is the practice of balancing and harmonizing the body, mind, and emotions. As B.K.S. Iyengar says, and one of the eight limbs of yoga, it is also a controlling of the mind (Dharana). Asanam is a time to practice the ability to control your emotions, not run away from them.

So my question is this; how are we supposed to practice looking inward and examining what is happening in our deepest physical and mental being when we are saying, “oh, I love this song!” How are we supposed to hear our breath in each moment of practice when postal service is on a speaker above our head? How are we supposed to really hear what is going on in our mind when Ben Harper is telling us we can save the world with our own two hands? [I had to; I used to play that song in my classes!] I know for me music is a cop-out. It is a way to avoid listening to what is really happening, whether it be pain in my leg that I am not respecting, or thoughts like, “wow, this teacher is really annoying me,” both extremely important things to hear yourself saying in practicing control of the mind. It’s my only option in advancing my asanam practice.

Now here is what I will also say, and close with. I came to yoga loving music during class for three years, and taught class for a year with music until studying in India. This doesn’t mean you are not practicing, and it’s not to say that it is wrong, either. I will however, say that if you wish to take your practice deeper, silence is a pretty sure way to do this. Maybe today you only enjoy physical practice with music, and that is where you are; so be where you are.