All posts by sukiyoga

dristi and saving daylight

One gift that the darkness of winter offers is an appeal to inward reflection. When the outer eye’s view is obscured, whether by darkness, by dream, by death, or by obstacle, we are encouraged to turn in to see. It is here, in and behind what is observable that our intuition, perceptibility, and deep wisdom are nourished, and often, born. Through svadhaya – self-reflection or self-study – the yoga is always an invitation into this intimate work. It refers to honing our consideration of patterns that bubble up from less than our highest places, and a noticing practice for the effects of our habits and behaviors. Svadhyaya is getting to know oneself as an inherent step in the process of improving the way we move in the world. Much of the time, svadhyaya is a commitment made on the practitioner’s behalf. Occasionally, we receive svadhyaya support from the outside – utter darkness, dream space, a particular relationship or experience that forces us to look within for a reflection of the truth. If we are confident that we are in the right place at the right time, we call these things inspiring, even “teachers”. And if we are not so grounded, we might run from the very same things, screaming.

After spring ahead daylight savings, the evening classes at Shree are suddenly completed in the daylight, and at least a little of the internal, intimate energy of a class in the quiet of dark, is lost. Having led 5:30-7 evening yoga classes for bunches of years, this springtime change always tosses me, a bit. As an act of rebellion, ‘cause I think daylight savings is kinda bunk and discombobulating, my classes this week have been all about dristi – focusing the organs of the eyes through the transitions of asana. Dristi has been presented to me as “the eyes look here in this posture”, and I have found great power in following the dristi rules. For sure, looking to one particular place rather than all over the room, is an improvement for a distracted mind. As I understand, there are nine possible dristi points the yogini could be “looking”, though the direction of the outer eyes does not necessarily delineate what we are seeing. Sure, it refers to an internal relationship of the structural form of the posture to the nervous system – by aligning skull and eyes to what is happening throughout the body, channels for optimum movement of prana are also aligned, thus improving the effects of the posture. But also dristi is a external seal of the relationship between inner and outer sight, or perception and attention.

Sutra 37 of the Radiance Sutras 112 Gateways to the Yoga of Wonder & Delight states :

nirvrksa giri bhitty adi dese drstim viniksipet
viline manase bhave vrtti ksinah prajayate

as translated by Lorin Roche :

go to a wide-open space
gaze without looking anywhere.

the mind stops its building of thoughts,
and rests on its own foundation –
immensity.

the light you see by
is the light that comes from inside.

By choosing one point or channel of focus, the mind is stilled. When the fluctuations of the mind are calm, the deeper knowing that the mind is capable of digesting, is more available. To look beyond the veil of what the outer eyes can see is to step through a gateway into the divine mystery of the boundless. A simple practice of concentration, which is where the dristi work fits in to the ashtanga system – the limb of dharana – becomes an open door to see beyond the obvious, to dream, to imagine, and to connect our single selves with something bigger. As we step over the threshold of tomorrow’s new moon, and Tuesday’s new season and new year with the sun’s drop into Aries for another round, mind where your eyes are. What is it you are looking to create? What has been taking up space on your screen? What do you see when your eyes are closed? What do you wish to gaze upon in the coming cycles? As you look with respectful, and curious eyes to your place in the universe, may you be lit up from the inside.

Big respect and Love, Suki Ola

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time soup

if we had never forgotten
and were in a state of
always remembering

there is no mistake
in being here

we might fall
to our knees
in praise of a bee’s buzz
– their sting –
and harvest

we might be easier
about shitty behavior
and traffic
and rather, focus
on how
to heal a planet
a sick society
our children’s lungs
and their heartbreaks

we might
raise one another
up

it is
quite a magic thing
that any of us
are breathing
can laugh still
and ever
fall
in
love

that these miracles
go down alongside
the nightmares
and the way my heart fibers have known
a version of each
is enough proof

for me

time is a bending
resilient
thing, like us
brewing in
a well and slow-cooked broth

bones and aromatics
bubble away with
dreams
as garlic cloves,
bursting

days
duly become decades
and sip themselves
into
the eternal marrow of a
fortified invitation
to do something
with
and within
this living
simmering
soup

Love from the bubbling broth,

Suki

Home Fires

I’ve been putting off writing this and I know why. It’s an uncomfortable subject, perhaps not for you, the reader, but certainly for myself. The subject is homelessness. Not as an abstract idea, nor as a cause for social justice but actual, physical homelessness- specifically my own.

I spent a period of roughly two years homeless, victim to my own addictions and lack of skills necessary for coping in regular society. It wasn’t always easy and it wasn’t always hard. There were moments I wouldn’t trade for anything and there are memories I’d much rather not revisit. When you’re homeless you’re either anonymous or conspicuous. One turns out to be no better than the other. Engaged in the business of survival, it’s easy to forget that there’s a world beyond basic necessities or that you might have or deserve a place within it. This, then, becomes the crux of the matter; deserving, feeling worthy of . Yesterday when I awoke it had snowed five inches at my house. For a good twenty minutes I struggled with the question of whether to light a fire or not. It would seem a logical thing- the house was cold, I planned on being in it for the majority of the day, so why wouldn’t I? The why not is because I have conditioned myself over years to get by with less, to remain as unobtrusive as possible, to not be in the way or demand too much. Sure, the house is my own, the wood too, harvested and split and stacked by my own hand- but it doesn’t seem to matter. Somewhere within my being is a residual message telling me to deal with it, to not make a fuss.

Enter Yoga. So much of this practice for me is assimilating myself into a culture that I never thought I was allowed to be a part of. A culture that not only allows but encourages, nay, celebrates, self care. I sometimes tell the story of learning to take baths. Baths as opposed to showers. Luxuriation instead of utilitarian. The smallest things are the biggest things. This Yoga, this practice, to me at least, is about introspection. It’s about manifesting the best possible version of yourself so that you can be of service. That you might be available for what the world is asking of you and make no mistake, it is asking. You are necessary in the grand orchestra and divine play unfolding before you.

On Saturday evening, we will gather, as a community of caregivers, of ourselves and others. We’ll share stories, ideas, perhaps some tears. For the moment, I’ll be tending the fire.

In Love, Clint

 

A good long rest

Good day and hello from the waning twilight of the year. Solstice is coming and the days are quick to finish here in the northern hemishphere. In the depth of the dark is an invitation, silent, invisible, palpable. When our outer eyes are intercepted by darkness, the gaze is turned inward, naturally. By turns, looking in can be calming and soothing, or intense and flashy (literally, flashes of light and images that reveal themselves when the outer eyes are closed). What do you see when you are not looking for anything? What presents itself to your mind and heart when you pause? What sensations do you feel when you are still?

We don’t grow in the light. Looking to the plant world for inspiration, we see that all growth happens in the dark, much occurring beneath the surface of the earth in root systems long before sunlight kisses sprouts. Photosynthesis, like the upright, day-to-day process, feeds us incredible amounts of information and room for growth. But without pausing in the quiet dark to rest, without digesting, all the details become scattered fields of data.

All this to remind you that with the commitment to come to the mat thirteen times in the next moon cycle, you guarantee yourself as many chances to integrate all the information you are harvesting in your life and practice, in savasana. I, personally, am committing to offer longer savasana in my classes through the end of the year. Yum. That’s a promise for everyone, but especially a branch extended in respect for all the To The Moon & Beyond peeps. Join me in movement, probably a whole bunch of caturangas, and stillness to steep in the brew.

Bowing to new beginnings with the coming solstice,

Love and Peace,

Suki Ola

slating time for magic

Perhaps the idea of adding another thing to your plate this holiday season is : tremendously challenging to get excited about, daunting, and even seems the impossible. Me too, a little. I feel a juggler, often, hurrying from one meeting and item on the list to the next, and reviewing at the end of the day an unpacked project that has been waiting in the wings, ignored, and calling my soul. I am a modern-day stress bug. Yoga seriously helps by for real slowing down my roll, especially when its crash-coursing along at a fever-pitch. Sometimes I literally crawl onto the mat, waiting for inspiration to come, and indulging in the pure space of a pause. Most of the time, the pause swings back around to movement. Some days, I just lie there, hardly moving a muscle on purpose.

They say that yoga actually expands one’s capacity and creates time, rather than gobbling it up. But if I pitched that to entice you to join me, I’d feel a bit of a pushy jerk. And to my individualistic and bullheaded brain that all sounds like a big should, which maybe makes you feel like running, faster. So I’ll just say I’m with you. In the middle of the holiday rumble, I am willing to make life an experiment and leave something left open for interpretation. The rest of the agenda is pretty clear – work, party, obligation, commute, blah blah blah. And the thirteen times slated for yoga are hours left free for the divine mystery to fill. And all we have to do is show up? What a relief.

Love, Suki Ola

Open to all the possibilities

The point of the To the Moon and Beyond yoga challenge is as you like it. There is no intended goal beyond an invitation to take a peek – a glimpse into what might benefit you to bring into your life, and what might be ready to drop away. We’re banking on the idea that in the stages along the way from dreamy conception of a commitment to practice thirteen times sandwiched between the new and full moon, to the dripping pomegranate seeds of culmination with the full moon and new year, there is magic in the mix that couldn’t have been imagined at the outset.

Personally, I’ve not seen the end of the yoga tunnel. There have been fruited apex moments on the mat, sure, and progress and happiness in relationships off the mat that I have been able to cast clear linking lines to the yoga. I can only truly say that thanks to my time exploring this yoga stuff I’ve : gotten better at moving in my skin; gotten better at dealing with conflict; gotten better at taking deep breaths when I’m stressed, when I’m resting, and when I might otherwise retreat into headspace and check out; gotten better at taking care of myself and others; I’ve gotten better at being me. And there is oh, so much more coming down my line and more fruit, for sure.

I’m curious to see what pops up with the commitment to be at the studio a whole bunch, to forgo other things in lieu of the grind of practice, to sit with what is stirred up to begin and what the gates will close in upon and finish, and to be with other people embarking on their similar and all the way original journeys at the turn of a new moon cycle and year. All in the light of the magic, reflective, and constant love of the moon, for who better to witness the outer work of all that asana on the surface, and to measure the profound alchemy that just might unfold in the dark cave of our hearts?

Ready.

Love, Suki Ola

To The Moon & Beyond – an adventure of commitment, discipline, and community through the holiday weirds.

It doesn’t matter if you love or detest the deep winter holiday season, there is no escaping it’s tug. Like the moon pulling the tides, this conglomeration of celebratory days is in no way casual. And whether you’re super into gift and party, or find the holidays stressful and sad, the impulse and effect of a culture pushed to consume and come together in these short-short days is strong. This year we invite you to the mat, beginning on the dawn of a new moon cycle December 18th, and reiterating your link to practice and to your Self through to the new year full moon of January 1st, 2018.

A consistent and steady yoga practice is one of the many ways we can learn to honor our ever-changing selves, from cellular structure to our interrelationships with the world, and beyond. It is a litmus along the way as we transform, and bolsters the courage it takes to allow habits that no longer benefit, to fall away like the last oak leaves, sinking into the stir of early winter wind, and gone. I, for one, believe that the yoga has saved my life many a time, providing a safe space to process, to grieve, to make sanctuary, and to learn in about joy amidst of all my other moves and shakes.

Asana is a friend that heats the body, and cools the mind. Meditation encourages the mind to steady, and settle on what is actually important. The deeper teachings of spiritual tradition warm the heart, connecting individual soul to the expanse of divine mystery. I’m surprised we’ve not offered a yoga challenge at this time of year before, really. It’s a season in which a human body seriously benefits from movement, not only to untangle indulgence, but because the tamas, or inertia, is quite high in the abbreviated days and cold, heavy nights. And there may be some very good medicine in the brew, avoiding the dilution and distraction of what is surely meant to be a sacred time, oft lost in the fray of festivity.

Come. Move. Gather around something progressive, healing, and nourishing amid the end-of-year madness. I’m jumping in, and happily anticipate sitting with some of my favorite and most powerful humans – all of the amazing teachers at Shree – through the holiday chaos parade. I look very forward to gathering together with presence and intention, and making a new commitment to the moon’s sweet pulse below the surface. We’ll set the tone for a fresh cycle and fresh year as the light builds in the day, and in the night.

In radiance, in self-reflection, in love and mucho respecto, Suki Ola

Everything is medicine, and everything is poison.

The climate, literally, and in a broad view of humanity and politics, is feeling pretty v(olati)ile at the moment. And so, our opportunity to discern – to really truly get honest about what is helpful and life-affirming, and what is blighted behavior – is real. As autumn’s patina wends its way into the high desert sunshine and the gardens dry, I marvel at what the last year has brought. What a story I am tempted to tell about our lineage of human relationship with each other, and the planet! And I am aware that knowing what has gone down and how it got us to where we are, is invaluable information, but that the story, which lends itself to blame and shame, is venomous, and nary helpful.

In just the right proportion, at the right time, and for all the right reasons, we can take in poison, and heal. Shiva did it, we all have. I’ve also dosed inappropriately something I thought was “good medicine”, and made things way worse. Peppermint tea isn’t actually a panacea, and neither are antibiotics, this is the premise of the medicine-poison thing; nothing is for always.

People can also be medicine, and poison. Those we learn from, whether it feels delicious or bitter, are catalyzing change. We are all medicine people if we walk with awake eyes and hearts to how we affect each other, and we are pushing poison if we walk with closed-minded attachment to what is no longer true. Life is powerful! It is no small gift of being that we incarnated with human life. Wise living strikes the ultra-fine equinox balance between healing and harming inside of each breath.

And since we’re s’posed to be talking yoga, the asanas, pranayamas, and deep wisdom teachings of the yoga are also, medicine and poison, alike. Maybe one day a posture feels magic, and another, it causes pain. The pranayamas, inappropriately used, diminish life force, create stress, and can do serious harm. And scriptures written for the climate of a few thousand years ago may not be applicable verbatim to us, today in 2017, trying to figure out how to “be ahimsa”, or “cultivate peace” in the wake of bigoted buffoons playing as world leaders. Reading the news by default negates our opportunity to focus only on breath all the ding-durn day. We can’t do both, see? It feels dangerous to pretend to “stay cool” while watching devastating images of life destroyed, and a t-shirt that says “Namaste, Bitches” doesn’t feel loving to me, but who am I to say? Prescribed snippets of media-free moments, and critical doses of stress-relief during urgent times set the tone for healing in the now, and in the ancient ways. Small acts of self-and-together-care help us to rise from the ashes of judgement that keep us all down, and move forward in equity, respect, health, and love.

This is what healing looks like. I do believe that a guiding light and divine wisdom – God – is everywhere. And I commit to making and tending a thread of personal connection (context), between individual and the vastness, or else, I’m just prescribing unrealistic and ofttimes harmful concepts and practices. Anything we learn from is a guru. Taking the reins, then – even taking power back – is a process of making choices in every moment with intention (the thread), and willingness to transform (openness and humility amidst the vastly immeasurable spiritual stew of life-altering potential) through the experience. In the brewing process, maybe we learn to put poison into context, and make medicine with our words and actions that will actually begin to heal the wounds of the past? Apply love liberally.

Blessings for this equinox time, friends.

In deep respect,

Suki Ola

Shanti Mantra

Maybe I’ve already written about this mantra before, but holy Ma, has it been soothing my fires of late, and so, I’ll lay down the Shanti Mantra for you again. Shanti means peace in Sanskrit. What is happening in the world at large is discordant and uncomfortable. In my smaller world, I find myself ridden with anxiety and less-then lustrous behaviors, poor knock-offs of my fretfulness for the big issues. On the bright side, I am alight with fresh fervor to ease the disharmony that is born in hatred and judgement. And I know that I am not alone.

Translated through my heart and head, and with the help and guidance of the luminous Joe Barnett, the mantra goes thusly:

Aum sahana vavatu: Maha (big, humongous, ever-alive) mantra aum – sound and vibration of all things in the perhaps not infinite, but immeasurably large universe – may our practice be protected. May the practice space be safe for all beings, and a sanctuary from the distractions of the external world, and its fleeting states of chaos. May those who partake be held in the nourishing net of good support and community, and do no harm to themselves or others.

sahanau bhunaktu: May the practice be pleasant. Let’s be honest, if we don’t like it, we won’t come back. There is plenty of yuck and crud up, there must be a bit of pleasure left in the world, hey! Let it reverberate and come through our work together. And may we be filled up, nourished and fed with the deliciousness of rekindling connection to our bodies, minds, and souls. Let the practice beget more joy, as in the sharing of joy, great growth occurs. Rather than suffering, may the practice spread comfort, ease, and happiness.

sahaviryam karavavahai: May the practice be courageous. It is not without effort that we will turn this shitpile of misunderstanding and mistreatment of ourselves and others into wine. We are going to have to be wholly courageous, full of vim and vigor and unyielding vigilance to stop the disharmony from further jarring our communities, our entire population, our planet, and our connection to all that is beyond our imagination. (Interjection of my belief : the damage is not done, but there isn’t a moment to spare. Never has been.) It is the selfsame fires of our commitment to study that will conduce productivity, making our practice potent and sufficient. May we not doubt our capacity, but have faith in the process.

tejas vinavati tamastu: Through the efforts of our practice, may the effulgence of understanding move and spread between us. Let’s turn all this effort into good energy, good feeling, and good will. Nature’s way is collaboration and balance, and compassion is a force of light that will cut through the murk of enmity, which is not the nature of humanity.

maa vidvishavahai: Dispelling hatred is just what this light of understanding will do. When the lights go on upstairs and in our radiant hearts that we are all connected and in this together, may polarization and judgement disperse and be gone. This light is not harsh, but gentle and yielding, integrating of all life force as it brings all beings together in life, and love. That’s how powerful we are, people! Go.

aum shanti shanti shantihi: and fostering peace peace PEACE. Peace in our minds, in our hearts, and in the world. Peace in all the worlds. Peace throughout the humongous vast universe that begins at home, and on the mat.

For aspirant and teacher alike,the request is the same, as the journey we take in a class, and in the world, is one of together energy.                                               

                                                                                                                                                                                I love you. Suki Ola

Aum sahana vavatu                                                                                                                                                                      sahanau bhunaktu                                                                                                                                                                     sahaviryam karavavahai                                                                                                                                                                        tejas vinavati tamastu                                                                                                                                                                           maa vidvishavahai                                                                                                                                                                                 aum shanti shanti shantihi

 

 

 

June 20th, 2017

Aum asatoma sad gamaya tamaso ma jyotir gamaya mrtyor ma amritam gamaya

For the solstice I had big plans to write on a mantra I very enjoy. From the Upanishads (some of the OG texts on Hindu spiritual life and practice), it acknowledges the consistent transformative nature of nature – that all is always changing – and appeals to Aum, the vibration of all things, to lead a transition toward spirit. One might say it’s a prayer for immortality, and so stretches to the depths of the yoga practice. I have always seen the prayer to taste the nectar as a metaphor for absolution from a fear of dying. Years ago when I first really listened to the mantra (oh, these songs we listen to in yoga class are ancient prayers that carry with them eons of experience?!?!), I was struck with the practice of sipping in the nectar of the moment as best I could. I began acknowledging – out loud, and often – that I might be going soon. This birthed in me a sense of urgency, and a new peek into relationship with these funny fleeting shapes we get to live in and play with called bodies. While I was really sitting with the practice saying adieu like “I hope we get to see each other again,” and making plans like “Maybe tomorrow… if I’m lucky,” I fell really in love. Looking through, I see how the mantra helped me to keep calm in the face of quite a delicious drowning, as life turned topsy in a wash of passion and authentic partnership. For the first time, I tasted loving that did not disturb or rewrite my own story, and only brought more light and positive vibration to my every day. What a sweet gift of nectar.

The literal idea of the mantra is to move from : asat (untruth), to sat (truth); tamas (inertia, darkness), to jyot (divine light); and from mrtyor (death, impermanence), to amritam (the nectar of eternal life and bliss). I like to read it like thusly:

Aum, lead me from unreality, obscurity, and fear of death to reality, illumination, and eternal bliss.

I quite like the story of my own process with the mantra, but wanted to tell a bigger picture. Yearning to share a shade of the idea of how big this prayer can be, I thought about all of the ways to play translator to these powerful words, and I got stuck in the mud of tamas. Maybe my curiosities about if the Sanskrit word for death is the root word for martyr are not the way to go for a solstice supplication. Instead of a literary probing, here’s the poem that popped out instead. Happy solstice. Love, Suki

 

As time comes to pause

and the sun stands still

you

too

stand

toes in the mud

surrounded by snail shells, floating.

Their story rides below the surface

untold

as their soft bodies are gone

and only brittle bits of a home remain.

 

You imagine that their life was good

full of laughter

and sunlight streaking from above the surface tension

into the depths

of a pond’s murk, and quiet.

It is in these deep spaces

that life

breathes, amphibian.

Here, the snails are celebratory

for each duckweed bit that drops

for the diffuse light

down in the mud

for another day respiring 

at a snail’s pace

whatever that may be.

It is here that fish burp

and sway

sending up bubbles that tickle your ankles

in the shallows

where the sunglow still reaches.
And so

nature converses

sending messages

from one height to another

from darkness to lightness

and back around again.
Thank you

you say aloud

into the willow’s branches

and the message

slowly reverberates

and

perfectly sinks

to silt.