All posts by Unconditioning The Heart

Do No Harm

In a recently published article in The Walrus titled “Yoga’s Culture of Sexual Abuse” a lens is turned toward the yoga community and a renowned teacher who abused his position of power in a similar manner to many of the #metoo stories which have recently come to light in other industries and organizations around the globe. The major difference in this story is that the abuse took place under the guises of spirituality and spiritual practice. A painful article to read, this expose on Krishna Pattabhi Jois’ inappropriate behaviors as a yoga teacher not only brings to the table an uncomfortable conversation but also the need to recognize blind trust in the yoga community, and to understand its detriment to a person’s health.

While the #metoo movement has made it more common to out sexual misconduct and inappropriate behaviors of men in power, accusations and exposes of the sexual misconduct and deviancy of male leaders of yoga schools are nothing new. Back in 2012 John Friend the founder of the Anusara Yoga tradition, the tradition that I study and teach, was himself accused of deviant sexual misconduct and consequently stepped down from the organization completely. Jois and Friend are not alone, they in fact are in thick company, joining the many male leaders of varying yoga schools who have been accused of sexual wrongdoing. These men are undoubtedly excellent yoga teachers; this is why they have generated enormous followings and grand schools of tradition. Yet these men were always human no matter how beautiful the practice they were teaching was; these were always men with human faults.

The article mentioned above relays the stories of nine women’s accounts of being sexually perpetrated by their venerated yoga teacher, all while being assisted in asana. Reading the article made me very upset. As a yoga student I have only been the recipient of respectful touch. As a yoga teacher I am diligent about touching respectfully and with consent. As a studio owner I expect my teachers to follow the same protocols. To be the victim of sexual assault is detrimental to one’s health on every level, to be the victim of sexual assault while pursuing a spiritual connection is damaging beyond words.

As students of yoga we generously follow our teachers with great swaths of trust. Most yogic traditions espouse absolute and unquestioned devotion to the Guru and in general, a great teacher can charm you into trusting and following blindly with charisma alone. No matter how much the teacher reminds you to be in your own body it is easy to get swept away in the current of the room, the bigger the body of water (i.e. the more students there are) the faster and stronger the pull. Such a pull has a hypnotizing effect, as does the asana, and the subsequent re-wiring of the brain and nervous system make the practitioner ever more vulnerable.

As I understand it Jois’ assaults were not protested in the moment. They were not protested because they took place in an environment that championed spirituality and surrender. The rewiring of the nervous system in the context of spiritual practice must have led to confused minds which muffled the inner knowing that something was explicitly wrong.

Vulnerability is inherent in a yoga practice. For the practice to do its work the practitioner needs to become vulnerable on every level. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to find a teacher who is trustworthy and will respect such vulnerability.

For students of yoga who have become intoxicated on yoga’s goodness it is easy to believe that the leader of an international and long standing yoga school is honorable. It is just as easy to walk into a relationship with the leader of such a school with unwavering trust. Because the roots of yoga sit deeply in principle and ethic, being sexually abused by an internationally renowned teacher is never a consideration. Such a thought would not cross a passionate student’s mind amid the gift of being able to study with their “teacher” or “Guru”. Violating a student in such vulnerable space is disgraceful and must be exposed and eschewed.

After reading the article I have questioned the value of hands on assists. I know that in my own experience they have been very beneficial. I also know that I do not need those assists to have a spiritual connection and therefore must question their weight. In an environment where vulnerability is inherent anything I as a teacher can do to nurture trust is valuable.

When new students arrive at Shree I like to remind them that the instructions are an invitation and not a command. Some schools of yoga approach such concepts differently but in the end, it is all the same. The practice of yoga is about getting to know your own inner voice of authority and teaching it to be wise and discerning and in alignment with something bigger than oneself. That authority which is bigger than oneself is also bigger than the Guru touting it. Questioning authority must be inherent in such a practice. Teachers of self-realizing practices who put the kibosh on self-authority must be left behind. Tolerance of forced deviant behavior from leaders of any organization on their subordinates must never be condoned, it makes everyone look bad and prevents full vulnerability and true personal and spiritual growth.

The practitioner always has the last say on what is right in the pose for them, what is good about the practice for them, what serves in their body, mind, and spirit, and what to leave behind. For many years now I personally have had to wrestle with the ugliness of this industry and the many misguided values of the greater yoga community. The fall of my own yoga teacher invited me to ask the hard questions many years ago and in the end, I do my best to remember to first look for the good, second remember what serves, and lastly choose something that enhances life. Sharing this article sheds light on some of the ugliness of this industry and at the same time the power that it is inherent in everyone to make choices. Doing nothing is a choice. Following blindly is a choice. Listening to your inner voice of authority and saying no to the outer voice of authority is also a choice. The purpose of the practice is to quite the fluctuations of the mind-stuff, not to spiritually bypass them. Be vulnerable, be trusting, and be your own Guru.

With Love and Respect, Always, in All Ways, For Giving,

Genevieve

 

 

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Guest Post By: Liz Fox

I’m 62, And So Are You

As I was checking a visitor into class the other morning, she was asking what style of yoga I taught.  It just came out of my mouth, “I’m 62, and so are you!”  She was likely in her 50s, but she totally got it.  As did I at that moment. I don’t really look my age, and I certainly don’t act my age, and I don’t really feel my age, but my body, especially in the morning, owns its age.

I never thought about it until I started teaching yoga. I would always do the class the teacher provided, inhaling and exhaling on cue, lifting this limb or that, reaching, bending, folding, etc.  It was all fine, but it was actually not fine. I was listening to the teacher, not to my own body.

Once I was in control, it all changed. I realized my body was not usually ready for what the teacher provided, and it was my responsibility to take this on. Let me explain: I remember the first morning I woke up in pain. I was about 28, and had been at an all-day horse show the day before, where I won the All Around. That was 14 classes, really pushing it. (I now wonder how my horse felt the next morning.) I woke up and felt stiffness, and it was really the first time in my life, and I said, “Wow, this is what they are taking about.”

Now, every morning is a form of that first experience. The first thing I do is lower my 14 pound dachshund from the bed. (I try to limit his jumping, which is hard on his long spine.) That experience, which I do every morning, I compare to every other day that I begin with the same movement. Even with super safe lifting technique, I feel it in my back. I joke to myself that I will now move from being a cripple and transform into a yoga teacher.

This is normal for most of us, right? Our bodies have been used, enjoyed, pushed, tested, and that is life.  But many of us, in our 2nd or 3rd acts, are in the best shape of our lives.  I could to a backbend in a doorframe when I was 14, but so what. Those amazing photos on Instagram of young girls doing backbendy and strength moves are impressive, and impossible for most of us. Inspiring, but like a trip to the moon. Yet, we are taking much better care of ourselves now, and appreciate each breath in a way we never could in our youth.

Hence, Morning Yoga.  Sonya told me a story once about a guy in her classes in Mysore. The poor guy was in his 40’s, and the Mysore practice was a strong, early morning Ashtangha practice, so he would get up 2 hours earlier, which was like 3 am, to do Feldenkreiss, to prepare for yoga practice. The point being, that Ashtangha was designed for bodies much younger, like teens and 20’s, the first act of life.

That story resonated with me. First, because I am not that responsible to really get up that early to take care of myself. But wow, yeah, that is what I need. Sure. (Nothing against Ashtangha, not at all. There is so much wisdom in that practice, but it is not for everyone!) But it also gave me total permission, as if I needed it, to look into my own body, and prepare what needs to be prepared, and I saw the value of this.

It is an open secret that yoga teachers teach what they are experiencing. If my shoulders are hurting, I will likely gravitate towards a shoulder opening practice. When my hips feel tight, I will go to that. And since my body is stiff in the morning, it is natural for me to teach to that.

My injuries have been spinal, so for me, a long slow, consistent, somewhat predictable spinal warm up works best. Others might have knee injuries, and need to attend to that. We all have stiff shoulders.

Morning yoga, the way I teach it, assumes we are all 62, or older, and our bodies do not spring out of bed ready for an strong practice. We might get there in half an hour, and might do the most lovely utthita hasta trikonasana of our lives, twisting our spines, lengthening our limbs, lifting our hearts. But first, we listen to our bodies, offer them some time to unwind, and recover the bloom of youth.

Yoga is a journey, often one without goals. Sure, we have goals, and sometimes the goal is to feel better in our bodies, in our souls, to more deeply connect to ourselves. Sometimes the goal is to face reality, putting our limitations into context, yet seeing what might be possible.  For 6 years, I started each class I took with the intention of “I will not get hurt.” Nothing wrong with that, but now I am learning, and hopefully teaching, more thoroughly, that precaution.

My favorite book title is Pema Chodron’s “Start Where You Are.”  Duh, but so profound.  Even if you do not know where you are going, or where you want to go, or where it is possible for you to go, find out where you are now, and start there. Take care, let fear go, and trust yourself.

A Love Manifesto

To be made of Love, unquestionably

   To question everything in the search for Love

To walk in fullness, breathing deeply everyday

To touch the earth and everything living with defenseless courage

   And give thanks for every opportunity to love each other

To dream unconditionally and act Honestly

To create fearlessness where fear is Tempting

To be a fountain of Light where confusion abounds

To liquefy all that is solid in our hearts

    And enliven all that is weary

To listen to the crying of our sisters

To listen to the crying of our brothers

   and not grow bitter but strong

   with unwavering compassion and

   confidence, go forth in the direction

   of Freedom

To Honor our truest selves and remember

   Our spaciousness in Spirit

To celebrate each other uninhibitedly

   with the laughter and Love our deepest thirst is for.

                             Amen (Anonymous)

Winter Poem

 

Winter Poem

Darkness closes in now

Cold, long nights

Crows call

Do not be fooled by bright days

They say

Winter is here

 

Stay in the stirring

Breathe

Deeper

 

Hold fast to center

Hug

Squeeze

Tuck

Yourself

Into yourself

 

It won’t be long

Before the days are long

Breeze

Cool like breath

Skin

Wet with heat

 

Prepare now

Sort seeds

Plan plots

Tend to tools

 

And dream

Bright, Wild, Beautiful Dreams

 

~ Genevieve Oswald

 

No More Bah Humbug

There was a time when the Holiday season would really spark a deep agitation and discomfort within me. I was quickly the first to state I was a Humbug. My hum buggery at the time was grounded in what I considered sound mind, reasonable beliefs, and a fear of repeat past experiences. Bad past experiences.

I am happy to say my previous resemblance to Ebenezer Scrooge has morphed into something less severe and absolute. Not that I have swung so far across the pendulum to the other extreme, I am still far from a Holiday season lover. Nevertheless, the agitations I experience at this time of year are no longer glaring, constant, and without relief. I tell this tale of my past because from the Humbug’s point of view, a commitment to a yoga practice during this time of year is a great antidote to Scrooging out.

This year I’m not sure what I will do on Christmas day, but I do know that for the week leading up to Christmas and for the week after I will be getting on my mat in the company of others. I do know that such a commitment will create room for whatever experience I am having to be bigger, softer, smoother, fiercer, more relaxed, more pleasurable, or whatever the moment calls for. I know this from experience.

I know that through a commitment to the practice during the Holiday season, my own experience has become more bearable. I know that my commitment to practice during this time of year has enabled me to continually make more room. Not only in my body but also in the limited belief structures of my mind which were stifling my ability to previously experience these holidays with joy. Yoga does that, it makes room in the body, mind, and spirit.

While this year I am still not putting up a tree, nor will I be wrapping many gifts, I won’t be saying “Bah humbug”. That’s a thing of the past. I will be saying Namaste, 13 times or more, as the moon waxes to full and the year comes to a close. I will also be saying prayers of gratitude for all that has transpired for each new day to pass. I hope to share my gratitude, my Namaste, and Holidays with you.

With Love, Always, in All Ways, For Giving, In Joy,

Genevieve

 

We Choose To Go To The Moon…

We chose the theme of the To The Moon Challenge because it was a sweet little quip on the scheduling of the event in relationship to the procession of the moon. The name also lends some momentum to invigorate New Years Resolutions, and support end of year completions. In quick succession 321… Launch became the continued theme for a workshop Suki and I will offer on New Years Eve. (Details on our website.)

All this moon and rocket talk has had me thinking about the race for space and the literal journey to the moon. Inspired, I went on an internet journey and came across the famous John F. Kennedy Moon Speech at Rice Stadium on September 12, 1962. I had never heard or read it before. Nor had I come across any excerpts or quotes. Surprising for a person with a penchant for inspired quotes, of which this document has more than a few. What a treat it was to read.

I was so inspired I thought I would share

Following is a self edited, largely abbreviated version. For the whole document you can go here https://er.jsc.nasa.gov/seh/ricetalk.htm

With Love, Always, In All Ways, For Giving, In Joy,

Genevieve

‘We meet in an hour of change and challenge, in a decade of hope and fear, in an age of both knowledge and ignorance. The greater our knowledge increases, the greater our ignorance unfolds.

The vast stretches of the unknown and the unanswered and the unfinished still far outstrip our collective comprehension.

Man, in his quest for knowledge and progress, is determined and cannot be deterred. The exploration of space will go ahead, whether we join in it or not, and it is one of the great adventures of all time, and no nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in the race for space.

We mean to be a part of it–we mean to lead it. For the eyes of the world now look into space, to the moon and to the planets beyond, and we have vowed that we shall not see it governed by a hostile flag of conquest, but by a banner of freedom and peace. We have vowed that we shall not see space filled with weapons of mass destruction, but with instruments of knowledge and understanding.

Yet the vows of this Nation can only be fulfilled if we in this Nation are first, and, therefore, we intend to be first. In short, our leadership in science and in industry, our hopes for peace and security, our obligations to ourselves as well as others, all require us to make this effort, to solve these mysteries, to solve them for the good of all men, and to become the world’s leading space-faring nation.

We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people. For space science, like nuclear science and all technology, has no conscience of its own. Whether it will become a force for good or ill depends on man.

I do say that space can be explored and mastered without feeding the fires of war, without repeating the mistakes that man has made in extending his writ around this globe of ours.

There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet. Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation many never come again. But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic?

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.” -John F. Kennedy

The Threads Of Consistency

After all these years, I still find coming to the mat to be the most nourishing thing I do for myself. Though it isn’t always easy to get to the mat. Or even enjoy what is taking place beneath the surface of my skin while I am there. No matter the texture of the experience I am always grateful to have done it when I am through. Beyond gratitude in my heart there is in addition a general calm peace of mind and a quiet relaxed quality to my body. Type of practice, time of day, time of year, what is taking place in my life, what is taking place in my mind, are all variables that contribute to the quality of my peace and calm post asana. Yet, however fleeting, in all cases the nourishing calm holds me and reminds me of the unconditionally loving spaciousness of spirit.

I’m not sure this is anyone else’s experience but I like to think most are in some way similar. This is why yoga asana has become, and continues to be, so very popular. All that twisting, bending, breathing, and stretching really works. As some wise sage once said “quiet the body, quiet the mind, enjoy the spirit”.

Though I know all this to be true it is still not always easy to get on the mat. I have watched myself through the years avoid my practice at the hardest times when I knew it would benefit me the most. Perhaps that aversion is similar to holding onto anger. We hold onto anger to not have to feel the pain it hides, and coming to the mat always reveals what’s lingering beneath the surface. Other times coming to the mat has been the only solace in my life when everything else felt out of control.

No matter my own inconsistent habits and behaviors, I know that consistent practice is really where it’s at. Consistent practice cultivates nuance and growth, maturity and patience, fortitude and humility. Consistent practice sets a tone for everything that takes place off the mat as well, enabling the deep integration of what is garnered from practice and remains long after the asana has gone. With consistency asana practice becomes a long and steady candid voice narrating the story of truth, consciousness, and bliss through one’s life.

Cultivating any new behaviors or habits requires effort. For this reason, doing new things with the support of others is beneficial. Groups and buddy systems keep people motivated to accomplish a goal, as well as accountable for not showing up. In addition is the joy of the shared celebration of triumphs and successes.

In Sanskrit the word Kula translates loosely to community. A Kula is a group of people with like-minded focus. The community of a yoga studio is a Kula. Sharing growth on the yoga mat with a Kula enriches not only the relationships inside the studio but also beyond. Every time we learn to be vulnerable we empower ourselves to experience more intimacy in our lives. Yogic journeys are by nature vulnerable. The shared vulnerability in a yoga class transforms fear of intimacy into openhearted courage and a desire to truly know others with the ability to connect, another powerful gift of a regular and committed practice. And a Kula is not limited to the community within the walls of a yoga studio. The yoga Kula is world-wide and as diverse in its stylized forms as the world of people who practice.

This holiday season we at Shree invite you to join the Kula and commit to practicing through the season as a gift to yourself and your spirit. As Suki so beautifully wrote about recently we are offering a special yoga challenge which will support this gift to yourself. (All info on our website.) However, you don’t have to be here in Taos or practicing in the walls of Shree to participate. Feel free to play wherever you are. Connect with self and others. Remember even if fleetingly calm that nourishes, expands, and stokes the fire of your heart.  I’ll be there and I hope you will too.

With love, always, in all ways, for giving, in joy,

Genevieve

 

Walk Strong, with a Gentle Heart

Current political circumstances are intense. To say the least. With blatant outright bigotry, lack of tolerance, and escalating violence it is nearly impossible to stay away from, or uninformed of, the present political environment. In such palpably contracted times one’s commitment to their yoga practice, or any mindfulness practice for that matter, must be exercised as diligently in the world as it is on the mat in order to walk strongly with a gentle heart through this crazy realm.

At times like these apathy has no place. The fundamental teachings of yoga demand attention too higher ethical and moral values. Ahimsa-lovingkindness; classically non-violence, is at the top of the list. And what is lovingkindness? In its simplest it is the pure intent to love all with kindness and care. It is easy to get caught up here. Does lovingkindness only exist for that which an individual knows and understands, resonates with and is aligned to in belief? No. Lovingkindness is the most basic notion of its value as the first Yama-precept for being with the world, (and self must be included in this) has to extend to all existence. So then the question becomes, must we be loving and kind to people who actively hate, are violent, seek out ways to harm others maliciously and subversively? Yes. If your aim is to truly practice lovingkindness or non-violence then yes, the teaching demands that you love them in the company of their faults. However, the word love and the practice of love is not synonymous with making oneself available for abuse, nor acting and speaking out in alignment with something bigger.

Mindfulness practice means using the mind in a discerning manner. In this vein to use the mind to acknowledge that while a human or a group of humans are severely misguided they are not outside the circle of deserving love. This discernment is then followed with action. What is the appropriate action to take in the face of true racist hate? When the teaching is to love? Love exists with boundaries. There is too much awareness, knowledge, wisdom, and understanding in this world to play ignorant to the harm racism, bigotry, and simply the belittling of any human for any reason. Therefore appropriate action in the company of such ignorance is to first acknowledge with love the lack of value in such awareness and behavior, and to withdraw contact with such a person until the time when they can see beyond the limited vales of their perception. To share the premise of your choice with such a person may or may not be valuable to them, but is ultimately valuable to the greater good. To do so with words that emanate from love is to act in alignment with the precept of Ahimsa. This is Sakriya-with action; one who performs one’s responsibilities; putting into effect what one has learned from their spiritual teachings. Acting with a moral compass.

To do nothing. To say, “it is all good.” To say, “I am practicing non-violence and lovingkindness and they are only doing the best that they can.” To be apathetic. To avoid confronting the ignorance for fear of making waves, especially when the hatred is espoused by someone you deem friend or family, this is Niskriya-without action; one who does not perform one’s responsibilities; one who does not put into action what one has learned.

Apathy, fear of rocking the boat, just plain old doing nothing does not cut it for the sincere yogi. Such Niskriya is far from in alignment with a good moral compass. This is nowhere near doing the best you can.

A true yogi assigns themselves to shining the light of awareness into the darkness of ignorance. Lives in their responsibility of practicing the Sakriya of love in the abyss of discrimination. From love, with love, for love.

A Yogi has a large toolbox from which they can pull the correct tool for the situation at hand. Mudras are such tools. A mudra is a hand gesture which correlates reflex reactions from hand to brain. Mudras are powerful tools which redirect energy flow. And in the case of standing strong with a gentle heart in a crazy world, mudras can bolster a yogi’s capabilities. A combination of Varada Mudra and Abhaya Mudra can be used to support and enhance a yogi’s aptitude of Sakriya in harmony with Ahimsa.

Varada Mudra is represented with the downward facing palm of the left hand. It is the mudra of the accomplishment of the aspiration to devote oneself to human salvation. The five extended fingers of the mudra symbolize respectively; generosity, morality, patience, effort, and meditative concentration. This mudra expresses not only the act of giving and benevolence, but also the act of receiving. Varada Mudra is seldom used alone and is regularly used in combination with Abhaya Mudra.

Abhaya Mudra is represented with the upward facing palm of the right hand. This mudra is not only known worldwide as a gesture of waving and salutation; it is also known worldwide as a gesture which means “stop.” Abhaya in Sanskrit translates to fearlessness, and the mudra is also one which dispels fear and symbolizes protection and peace as well as being seen as a gesture of good intentions, offerings of love, and reverence to the highest.

Together the combination of these two mudras powerfully express an individual’s capacity to simultaneously be generous with love and maintain discerning boundary. This is what is called of all humans who seek to live in the awareness that dispels ignorance in this world, at this time. This is what is called for from those who have committed themselves to the primary tenant of yoga, Ahimsa. As crusaders of awareness, as practitioners of love and non-violence, it is a yogi’s responsibility to hold the human race to a higher standard, knowing that standard can be met. To say “they are only doing their best” when one knows that they can do better if they are liberated from the veils of limited belief, is to be apathetic. Is to walk in Niskriya. This is not the time for apathy this is the time for courage. Now is the time for Sakriya. To speak and act with love and a gentle heart.

With Love, Always, in All Ways, For Giving, In Joy,

Genevieve

Hurdling the Monkey Mind

As humans it is all to easy to get myopic in our view. The minds tends to eclipse broadened perspective with the excessive cataloging, sorting, dialoguing, and chatter of the mind. Practices such as meditation and yoga have for centuries been medicine for this, and many other challenging aspects of the human experience.

Simply being in concentrated relationship with the breath enables the faculty of the mind to do what it does best, focus. The continued focus of the mind on the breath relieves the mind of its grasp on the other stories it has latched onto. Similarly, a challenging and vigorous asana practice directs the minds attention to sorting the movements of the body in concert with the breath. In essence this distraction liberates the mind from the ceaseless chatter of monkey mind.

If we sit long enough with our breath, if we practice hard enough on our mat, there is a moment of freedom. And while this moment might be fleeting, the space experienced there expands into a subtle yet sustained spaciousness that spans the course of a lifetime. If not more.

Practice is a discipline that leads to freedom. It may require hurdling the monkey mind to get to the practice. But once arrive, the gift of the spaciousness that is your natural heart space will be revealed there. Worth the leap every time. Even when your feet get caught up on the hurdle along the way!

A simple practice for these coming weeks in the epoch of eclipse season where the mind moves fast, and then faster, is the practice of sama vritti pranayama. This is a simple breath practice of inhaling and exhaling in equal portions. The basic rhythm of this breath practice enables a calmer mind and a calmer autonomic nervous system response, naturally reducing stress hormones in the body.

To practice this simple, yet profound breath exercise, begin with a comfortable seat. Take a few moments to watch your breath rise and fall in its natural, unadulterated rhythm. When you are ready inhale for a count that does not create a feeling of anguish or anxiousness, a count that you can sustain without extra or exerted effort. At the top of the inhale pause momentarily in the feeling of fullness. Exhale for the same length of your inhale. Again, pause momentarily at the bottom of the exhale in the spaciousness of emptiness. Continue like this for as long as you are comfortable. Attempt to continue beyond the agitation of monkey mind discomfort and into the spaciousness of your heart. A general marker for a beneficial meditation practice is 20-25 minutes. However, three breathes may be enough for you. The beauty of designing a practice that enhances your life is that you get to decide.

No matter what course you choose for your journey may it be a course that brings you into the light of your own innate beauty.

With Love, always, in always, for giving,

Genevieve

Contemplations on Supreme Consciousness

Everything is supreme consciousness. Supreme consciousness is as the heart of all things and simultaneously permeates all things. It is muted by the laws of maya, the veils of the koshas, and the bondage of the malas, appearing to be something other than it is. Atman, pure divine consciousness is as much a part of every living thing, as death is the fate of all things living.

Maya creates delusions of appearance. Also from maya arises illusions of reality. Such illusions are tied intrinsically to perceptions of identity, perceptions of ego, and perceptions of self in place. The essence of supreme consciousness is an eternal dance of Shiva and Shakti, the knowledge and the expression, the energy and the form, united and forever bound. In the Koshas, maya is the Shakti (the creative force of the universe) pulling us away from ourselves while simultaneously manifesting all that is beautiful about life itself.

Revealing themselves in five sheaths the koshas expressions are explained as follows. Annamaya Kosha, the physical sheath or even more literally the sheath of food. The body needs food for survival, without food hunger limits perception of the divine. Pranamaya Kosha, the energy or prana sheath is the vital force which produces the subtle vibrations related to breath and connects the physical body to its senses allowing the Atman to animate in the manifest world. Pranamaya Kosha ties perception of divine to the senses, if it is not tangible it does not exist. Manamaya Kosha, the sheath of the mind. The mind is the supervisor of information reception and distribution. Manamaya veils the capacity to clearly perceive thoughts and emotions without doubt and illusion. Vijnanamaya Kosha, the sheath of wisdom, the knower, the judge, the discriminator. In the delusion of the veil of maya the Vijnanamaya Kosha attaches wisdom to the story that is written by the outer sheaths. The koshas simply tie our identity to their veils of delusion. Liberation from these veils of consciousness enables supreme consciousness to reveal itself as the eternal center of experience and knowing. As the veils of the Koshas are lifted, perception expands.

In consort with the veils of the Koshas are the malas, the delusions of impurity. Anava-mala, Mayiya-mala, and Karma-mala all manifest in the human experience to create the illusion of finite and mundane experience. Anava-mala generates the experience of feeling incomplete and imperfect, it is the primary structure that creates the basis of the limited illusion of finite life. Mayiya-mala forms the perception of separation, the “I am alone and will always be alone” thoughts. Karma-mala creates and sustains the perception that one is unable to do anything of worth or value, that all efforts are without aim or satisfaction.

Why would supreme consciousness manifest itself hidden in the veils of such limited perception? Why would feeling incomplete and insecure be built into the fundamental principles of human being? Why would the capacity to know oneself as the essence of the nature of the supreme be veiled from consciousness by design?

It is said that the reason for human life in general is that supreme consciousness wanted to experience itself so it veiled itself from itself to be rediscovered again. In rediscovery is the revelation that generates such a spaciousness within that the amrita, the nectar of the bliss of knowing the nature of the divine becomes so sweet its flavor cannot be ignored. In revelation is connection, in connection is bliss. In life is forgetting so the dance can be done over and over again. Forget, remember, experience bliss, forget, remember, experience bliss, and on and on. The experience of the bliss becomes the incentive to stay committed to the practice of remembering. Over time the waves between remembering and forgetting get closer, get smaller, and are perhaps completely washed away when all that remains is supreme consciousness.

Additionally, when we allow ourselves to perceive everything as supreme consciousness than we allow ourselves to remember that are never really truly alone. Through such a perception we remember that we are connected by the web of consciousness, the breath of life, that from which all arises and all returns. We remember consciousness is what is at the heart of all energy and is what enables energy to align intelligently, to manifest into life forms that are more than rudimentary and single celled. We come to know without question that consciousness is what generates thought and simultaneously the energy that turns thought into action. If all of life arises from consciousness than all life is connected through consciousness. Even when the energetic imprint varies, it is consciousness that makes the imprint. So while an experience of life is so often singular, it is also an experience of consciousness as a whole, which ties all things together. Consciousness is the thread of connection, from nothing to something, from breath to action, from thought to form, from heart into the world.

Through the awareness of consciousness and the realization of deepest connection as a result of the web consciousness weaves we have the great opportunity to step out of questioning and self-consciousness and into confidence and community. The veils of maya lift, the bondage of the malas is broken, and all that remains is the supreme self. Self with a capital S.

 

With love, always, in all ways, for giving, in joy,

Genevieve