The ultimate goal of yoga is kaivalya, total liberation and freedom
We use the methods and practices of yoga to deliberately and gradually release into our true Self, which allows us to feel free from the shackles of emotion and the layers of human life that bind us to our earthly experience. This involution requires us to still the fluctuations in the mind, to discern between emotion and Truth, to listen to our intuition and inner wisdom.
Layer after layer, detail after detail, we reduce our habit of relating to the identity of the ego and rid ourselves of the myriad of things that keep us from seeing the ultimate Truth. To do this, we must learn to let go -- trustful surrender. It has been said that until you can 'burn your own house down, you will never truly be free'. In other words, as long as we feel our survival depends on factors of the external world, we deny our connection to the Infinite and thus, deny ourselves liberation.
Like Arjuna in The Bhagavad Gita, we need to cultivate Inaction In Action: to find a passionate and meaningful way of moving through our experience on earth with dispassion, detached from the outcome of our choices. We must consistently invite and create peace -- moment to moment: in order to be free, we must practice Vairagya.
Vairagya (non-attachment) literally means 'colourless.' Every desire brings its own colour to the mind. The moment you colour the mind, a ripple is formed, just as when a stone is thrown into a calm lake it creates waves in the water: Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 1:15.
Ripples of thought and emotion are distractions to the peaceful, calm waters of our mind and spirit beneath them. In yoga, we learn we are not our thoughts or emotions, we are not our desires or our bodies. We want to remember what we really are so that all the ways we colour our mind begin to dissipate. Vairagya teaches us how to practice letting the colours go.
Vairagya goes hand in hand with Abhyasa, discipline. Becoming more at peace, surrendering, letting go -- it actually takes work. We must have the discipline to monitor our thoughts, actions, and choices.
Abhyasa is defined as consistent practice and is more than getting up at the same time every day and practicing asana and meditation; that could be part of it, but it is also the discipline of moment to moment. It takes discipline to remember our raw beauty, to remain vulnerable and untouched by our hurts, to repeatedly see the transient everness of the Universe. Time and again, we have to choose to tap into the sameness, the Divine essence of everything.
The effort, the practice, is in the choosing. Peace.
Note: We often hear these words used in yoga classes where neither the time or space is afforded to explore the philosophy and application of these two words, nor the acknowledgement given to the source of the scriptures themselves -- yet this is where our yoga sadhana originates. The hyperlinks provided above will lead you to some articles in the Himalayan Institute's Wisdom Library on Vairagya and Abhyasa, and to the source texts, whose beautiful translation by Pandit Rajmani Tigunait are awaiting your eyes and heart.
The beautiful Sanskrit word 'Kshama' is usually used as the equivalent to 'forgiveness'
As is with most translations, this too limits the depth of the meaning. Kshama is much more than just saying 'I am sorry'.
Kshama comes from the Sanskrit root verb 'ksham' and has several meanings; patience, forbearance, pardon. Root meanings of the word kshama also includes 'to release the grip, to let go, and to lift up' -- letting go of our attachment to a grievance with another. It also means to have capacity to be 'large hearted', to have the ability to absorb and dissolve all assaults, the ability to accept the validity of diverse points of view.
Kshama has a quality of spacious equanimity and the promise of compassion. It is restraining intolerance with people and impatience with circumstances and implies remaining serene, patient and observing self-restraint, doing good to all, even to those who may want to harm you.
Another interpretation offered by the wise is -- Kshama consists of ksa meaning to destroy and ma meaning to protect i.e. ksama means to protect from destroying the nature or virtues of soul. And this bears the closest semblance to the Jain meaning of forgiveness...
It's important however, to remember that forgiveness doesn’t excuse the behavior that caused your hurt. Forgiveness prevents the behavior from destroying your heart. When you forgive someone who has wronged you, you take away the power of the hurt. Only then can you begin to heal. Only then is your heart free enough to take on the healing process. If you continue to be hurt, healing cannot begin.
If you are the one seeking forgiveness, it is often hard to muster up the courage to say you’re sorry. And then it can be even harder when someone doesn’t accept your apology. But that’s ok. People are allowed to not accept your apology or need some time and space to think on it. You cannot control what they say or do, but you can control what you say and do. So stay steady and calm, manage your emotions of rejection and hurt, and show your apology through consistent actions -- demonstration.
I know as a child I was taught that once you realised you had hurt or upset someone (intentional or otherwise), you should move quickly to correct that, apologise -- set things right. In my grandmother explaining this, it also involved a discussion about sincerity, which is often part of the challenge of an 'I'm sorry' being genuinely heard or received -- incongruence in the energy between saying and meaning. Each of us has our own challenges on either end of the process, and taking responsibility for our thoughts, speech and actions is a foundational aspect of living our yoga off the mat. I'm a big fan of the 'pause', though sadly being human at times I fail, falling into reactionary mode when triggered, particularly if emotionally invested or tired. Mmm, Viveka, Vairagya -- more on these other important Sanskrit terms later.
Some other things to consider...
'..forgiveness is really not for the other person’s benefit at all -- it’s for our own. Regardless of how illogical it may seem at times, it is through unconditional forgiveness that we surrender the past to the past and enter the present, freeing ourselves to stand in the infinite Light that knows how to heal our deepest and most painful wounds.' Dennis Merritt Jones
The ho’oponopono prayer goes like this: 'I’m sorry, Please forgive me, Thank you, I love you.'
At any time we can ask ourselves, 'what would love do?' it's a beautiful space from which to consider any actions.
Every thought we think and every action we take has an impact on the world around us
To be aware of this is to be conscious of our impact on the people in our lives. Sometimes we just want to do what we want to do, but considering the full ramifications of our actions can be an important part of our spiritual growth and awareness. At first, being more conscious requires effort, but once we have made it a habit, it becomes second nature. The more we practice this awareness of others, the more we find ourselves in easy alignment with our integrity.
Our thoughts are an important place to begin this practice because our thoughts are the seeds of our actions. It is not necessary or beneficial to obsessively monitor all our thoughts, but we can perhaps choose one thought or action per day and simply notice if we are in alignment with this experience of integrity.
For example, we may find ourselves replaying a negative encounter with someone in our minds. We may think that this doesn't affect the person about whom we are thinking, but the laws of energy tell us that it does. When we hold someone negatively in our minds, we risk trapping them in negativity. If we were this person, we might wish for forgiveness and release. We can offer this by simply letting go of the negative thought and replacing it with a wish for healing on that person's behalf.
With regard to our actions, we may have something difficult to express to someone. Taking the time to consider how we would feel if we were in his or her shoes will enable us to communicate more sensitively than we would if we just expressed ourselves from our own perspective. When we modify our approach by taking someone else's feelings into account, we bring benefit to that person and ourselves equally. The more we do this, the more we reaffirm our integrity and the integrity of our relationship to the world.
In the quest to create a gentler, more loving world, kindness is the easiest tool we can use. Though it is easy to overlook opportunities to be kind, our lives are replete with situations in which we can be helpful, considerate, thoughtful, and friendly to loved ones and associates, and even strangers.
A beautiful mantra to consider:
Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu लोकाः समस्ताः सुखिनो भवन्तु
May all beings be happy and free, and may my thoughts, words, and actions contribute to the happiness and freedom for all.
In the morning, send yourself and others love for the entire day and be sure to collect that love along the way.
Just being here, being ourselves, is enough
Most of us have the feeling that we are here to accomplish something big in our lives, and if we haven't done something that fits the bill we may feel as if we are waiting. We may feel incomplete, or empty, as if our lives don't yet make sense to us, because they don't line up with our idea of major accomplishment. In some cases, this may be because we really are meant to do something that we haven't yet done. But in most cases, we can let ourselves off the hook with the realisation that just being here, being ourselves, is enough.
As we live our lives in this world, we share our energy and our spirit with the people around us in numerous ways. Our influence touches their lives and, through them, touches the lives of many more people. When we strive to live our lives to the fullest and to become our true selves, we are doing something big on an inner level, and that is more than enough to make sense of our being here on this planet at this time.
There is no need to hold ourselves to an old idea in the back of our minds that we need to make headlines or single-handedly save the world in order to validate our existence. We are designed to work collaboratively and to pass on, share our experience and wisdom as we move through this life. Legacy is an easy hook, however if we change our mindset to one of 'redundancy', we can more easily approach our roles as teachers, parents, scientists or other with the intention to create strength and autonomy, or at least healthy inter-dependency in our relationships, affiliations or projects. Soon we will see the blossoming of inspiration, freedom and creativity that radiates out from these touchpoints of our influence. This is an inherent joy of kavi.
If we can each look within our hearts to discover what is true for us, what gives our lives meaning, and what excites us, we can release ourselves from any pressure to perform that comes from outside of our inner sense of purpose. Staying in tune with our own values and living our lives in tune with our own vision is all we need in order to fulfill our time here. Our lives are a process of being and becoming so that we cannot help but co-create; being who we are, responding to each moment as it comes, we can trust that this is enough to become just what the Divine intended for us this lifetime.
Be well. Be happy. Be free. Nurture in nature. Bhakti.
If we aren't clear about what we want in life, it won't be able to find us
The best way to get what we want from life is to first know what we want. If we haven't taken the time to really understand and identify what would truly make us happy, we won't be able to ask for it from those around us or from the universe. We may not even be able to recognise it once it arrives.
Once we are clear about what we want, we can communicate it to those around us. When we can be honest about who we are and what we want, there is no need to demand, be rude or aggressive, or manipulate others that are involved in helping us get what we want. Instead, we know that we are transmitting a signal on the right frequency to bring all that we desire into our experience.
As the world evolves, humanity is learning to work from the heart. We may have been taught that the way to get what we want is to follow certain rules, play particular games, or even engage in acts that use less than our highest integrity. The only rules we need to apply are those of intention and connection. In terms of energy, we can see that it takes a lot of energy to keep up a false front or act in a way that is counter to our true nature, but much less energy is expended when we can just be and enjoy connections that energise us in return. Then our energy can be directed toward living the life we want right now.
Society has certain expectations of behaviour and the roles each of us should play, but as spiritual beings we are not bound by these superficial structures unless we choose to accept them. Instead, we can listen to our hearts and follow what we know to be true and meaningful for us. In doing so, we will find others who have chosen the same path. It can be easy to get caught up in following goals that appear to be what we want, but when we pursue the underlying value, we are certain to stay on our right path and continue to feed our soul.
What makes a woman confident is her ability to call upon her feminine wisdom
So often in our world we tend to think of strength as a quality that arises from a place of firm determination and a will to succeed no matter the cost. Even though we might want to think of a strong woman as being defined in this way, what really makes a woman confident is her capacity for listening to her true self and being able to call upon her feminine wisdom to any situation that may arise.
A woman does not need to step into an assertive role or act like a man in order to be effective at what she does -- she simply needs to get in touch with her insight and sense of compassion to truly demonstrate the depth of her strength.
Listening to the feminine side of ourselves may not seem easy at first for this type of energy is something that is often overlooked in many aspects of our everyday lives. If we can connect with this part of who we are, however, we will find that there is an unlimited wellspring of strength available to us. Our capacity to tap into our intuition and listen to our inner guides, to take into account the needs of those around us, and to view a situation with compassion and love are ways that we can show the world the true power that is part of our feminine nature -- our true nature.
When we learn to integrate this source of strength into our daily tasks and decision-making, we will find that we can be more flexible and open to the things that happen around us and more receptive to new ideas. Not only will we see the world in a different light, but we will truly start to realise the potential for this form of energy to both empower ourselves and those around us.
As we cultivate our feminine energy we can redefine the meaning of strength. By embracing our feminine power as something that is strong in its own right, we are able to use it with true assurance and determination and draw upon what truly belongs to us.
Honouring the daily OM.
When it comes to designing a yoga practice, it’s easier to picture doing seated forward bends and downward dogs than engaging with the yamas and niyamas (the first two rungs on the ladder of classical yoga)
Postures fit solidly into a daily schedule and have beginnings, middles, and ends. But yogic attitudes such as non-harming and contentment are more contemplative in nature and require a measure of self-examination. As a result, they tend to fall off our practice map.
Suppose, for example, that a fellow student in your yoga class turns to you and says, “I’m working on the fourth niyama. Do you have any suggestions for me? I could sure use some help.” Would you have advice to offer?
If you think you might be stumped, perhaps it’s time to dig a little deeper into the underpinnings of yoga, where classroom work merges with philosophy, and the point of practice is to explore the nature of yoga itself. The fourth niyama is a perfect place to begin.
That mystery niyama? It’s svadhyaya—“self-study,” although the translation is a bit awkward. This Sanskrit word, like many, has a richer history than can easily be captured in one or two English words. Even within the Yoga Sutra (the bible of yoga, so to speak) the term svadhyaya picks up increasingly richer meaning as it winds its way through the first two chapters.
To translate svadhyaya as “self-study” is, on the surface of things, quite precise. The first part of the word--sva—means “self.” The second part--dhyaya—is derived from the verb root dhyai, which means “to contemplate, to think on, to recollect, or to call to mind.” Thus, it works to translate dhyaya as “study”—to study one’s own self.
By Rolf Sovik of the Himalayan Institute
Read more of the complete article here: Yoga International
It is a great act of love to leave the earth a better place when we leave, than which we found her
We inherit this great planet from our parents and from the generations that came before. Then, in concert with the surrounding culture, our elders teach us how to care for the land and the sea, ourselves and each other. They model ways of being in relationship with every other expression of life on earth.
But whether they act with care or carelessness, compassion or cruelty, generosity or greed, we have the ability to choose our own individual way of relating with the planet and her inhabitants. From our first breath here to our very last, we will find infinite opportunities to influence our environment for the better. We can decide now to act with intention in order to leave this amazing planet brighter and more beautiful than when we arrived.
If we enjoy environmental activism, we might feel moved to clean up beaches or to plant trees. But, we need not feel limited in our ability to contribute positively. There are many ways to leave a legacy of love. We might begin by radiating affirmative thoughts and feelings about how magnificent the earth truly is. We might create and tend a special garden, one that provides an abundance of food and herbs for ourselves and our loved ones. Or we might create a garden filled with sweet smelling flowers to uplift our hearts. We might even honor the earth simply by trying to be the best person we can be while we are here. Such good will can have a domino effect, inspiring others to contribute in their own way as well.
We spend our lifetimes being nourished and enlivened by the rain, sun, soil and wind. Our experience is blessed by other living beings, from plants to insects to birds and humans. We receive so much; giving back just naturally feels good. When we live our lives with intention of leaving this temporary home a better place for generations to come, we are perhaps leaving behind the best gift of all.
Yoga creates an awareness of our connection to all of life...one way to enter is to begin to reflect on the teachings of the Yoga Sutras, and the Yamas and Niyamas are a perfect place to start your exploration of applied philosophy. One breath, one practice at a time, we begin from where we are and move towards where we want to be in the world. To shine bright and be of service to all.
Om Tat Sat.
Today I borrowed some words from the beautiful Madisyn Taylor.
Can you Imagine a life free from pain and sorrow, and infused with joy and tranquility?
The ancient yogis called this state Vishoka and insisted that we all can reach it. The key is a precise set of meditative techniques designed to unite the mind and breath and turn them inward.
Grounded in the authentic wisdom of a living tradition, the simple—yet profound—practice of Vishoka Meditation is the perfect complement to your existing yoga practice, as well as a powerful standalone meditation practice.
Each person I have shared this practice with has so far has spoken of a sense of joy, peace and inner nourishment - whether experienced yogi, meditator or new - that they tasted a glimpse of that state we are all aspiring to in our yoga sadhana.
I began this practice with Pandit Rajamani Tigunait in his inaugural training at the Himalayan Institute in Honesdale PA USA, in May 2020 and have been practicing each day since. I was honoured to become a teacher of Vishoka in March 2021 and am now offering opportunities for you to experience this beautiful practice personally.
I am teaching the foundations of this sublime practice online each Thursday and Friday in 45 - 60 minute small group sessions. Please contact me to arrange your personal introductory experience before moving into the group practices. email email@example.com or phone 0408061265.
Om Tat Sat.
How are you raising yourself and others up?
The strength of your will can carry you forward as you reflect on what you hope to achieve in this life. Upon closer examination of the course you have set for yourself, you may come to recognise that your current rate of goal realisation is causing you to fall behind slightly in the pursuit of your purpose.
You may be delighted to discover how assertive you can be when you want to move forward more quickly. This can be a good time to take on a greater degrees of responsibility at work, home, or in the community.
One of the best ways to demonstrate that we are comfortable with the level of responsibility we currently shoulder is to expand our efforts so that we are once again challenging ourselves. We often do not realise how broad our potential really is because we have never seen the extent of our capabilities. The more proactive we are about undertaking new duties and obligations, the more others will sit up and take notice of our talents and abilities.
Though the extra work we do may not be recognised as vital at first, the people with whom we share our environments will soon come to realise that we are worthy of their further consideration and be more than willing to go above and beyond the call of duty. Your assertiveness will take you further, and it is likely that you will not stop pushing yourself just because you can.
In all ways, be gentle and patient with yourself and others as you expand, rise, and work to support and encourage others in elevating and thriving in the world. Shine your light bright on the path so others can see their way home.
Be loving. Be kind. Be compassionate. Be friendly. Reflect on Yoga Sutra 1.33.