Tag Archives: meditation

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.

 

 

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For today, a list of 8 things I believe that I know to be true :

Stay creative, stay open wide, and steer clear of certainty, for it mocks the spirit’s nature of freedom. As the noise of the news is deafening, and I can only stomach so much atrocious information at one time, this is my practice of late. It is like a sweet salve for the parts of me that border on obsession and anxiety to figure out the truth, right now, and fix the issue. My wise and candid Father recently emailed me a link to a list that well-advertised his disposition of keeping a beginner’s mind. One of the most curious humans I know, my father explores the world with childlike wonder. I am blessed to have such a teacher and guide, and found 25 Ways To Kill the Toxic Ego That Will Ruin Your Life to be a funny peek into the state of humanity. The precepts are simple, happy reminders to stay present. The language is wholly approachable, and each facet provides a conversational channel to deeper spiritual teachings.

How easy it is to be swayed into the camp of certain doom, and absolute disgust, when faced with the facts and anti-facts of today’s cacophonous media soundscape. But, I was reminded this week in a community talk about resiliency (thanks, Kyle and Jan!) that it takes time to digest hard information, just as I know so well the slow and uncomfortable process of digesting foods that don’t sit so nicely in my guts. I have been led by fear and anger to make sheer judgements based on fear-producing newscasts before, ok, many times, but am encouraged by things like this new-age-y list with decided inquiry. A doomed planet, rampant hate on and off the streets (in seats of office), and disarray in the pockets of policy that are supposed to be arranged so neatly are not the only news, they’re just the loudest. Reading through the lines is super hot right now, and there are bushels of good people doing good things to meet the challenges of an awkward start to 2017 on earth.

The recent momentum in industries of self-help, wellness, and practices like yoga points to a pursuit of health and peace and happy, as a cultural theme. I happily participate in these ultra-mod industries of wellness, and observe the irony of needing to be ever-reminded of one’s own innate capacity to heal. Plus, it’s nice to be in such abundant company. Thus, I am a student of yoga, every day, and I try to educate myself, reading: astrological forecasts; a slew of online news reports; spiritual wisdom journals; herbalism, meditation, yoga, wellness, and insight blogs; books. Certainly these are a curated set of horse’s mouths, and I choose them carefully, as every tidbit affects the scene and timbre of the day. Some days the ole’ guts are ready to absorb mainstream media, and some days, some things are just impossible to swallow.

The special brand of action that is born from curiosity, which leads to exploration, and then to glimmers of understanding, will well up inside of me if I wait and see what it looks like, feels like, tastes like, and breathes like. I believe that the wisdom that only comes from experience – prajna – is the good stuff. I know this, and I teach this. Yet, I forget. And at the risk of being too a cheerleader, which some days I am really into, We know this. We have gone down weirder paths before, together.

First on the 25 ways list, Epictetus, the Greek philosopher born as a slave (according to Wikipedia, where admittedly, much information first reaches the shores of my peering mind) is quoted to say, “It is impossible to learn that which one already thinks one knows.” Smart, Epictetus. How many times have I talked myself into being sure of something, only to be dashed on the rocks of mystery and chance?

When I think about it, the things I believe to be true fit it one rather small basket. And when I falter, and question the relevancy of what my teaching yoga has to do with anything at all, I recall that these spare lessons feel universal, and totally relevant right now:

Love is a resilient, unbreakable, and indelible force;

Life is fragile;

Health is a balancing act;

Yoga helps me, most of the time;

Breath is happening, but breathing is more fun;

Peace takes effort, and has got to come from inside;

Trust your gut;

All is shifting all the time, so let it, as certainty can surely kill: creativity, the mood, and will at least put a rude scratch into the perfect mirror of divine mystery. 

Love and deep respect, Suki

In the Middle

My obsession with finding resolution has led me down some strange, and awkward paths. Looking back I can see quite clearly how choices I made as a younger human were tethered to some deep yearning within myself to fix… everything. It didn’t matter if it was my motor broken or someone else’s, but just that there was something to repair. Recently as a student (which is, like, my favorite thing to be), in Kelley Tredwin’s Breathing is Good Medicine workshop on mindfulness based stress reduction and the power of the breath, I was rekindled to the knowing that a mind needs to complete a thought. Oh, poor mind, ever-destined to chase resolution around like a mystical bone in a world of unfinished, and beautifully undone cycles.

Kelley used the example of mulling thoughts over until far too steeped in the middle of the night. Without the clarity of daylight, a brain will just continue to ramble about, trying to resolve an issue that cannot, by default, be solved by thinking alone. Some dilemmas, like: the crumbling vitality of our environment; deep veins of hatred and judgement that perpetrate all manner of disgusting behavior; war; and the proliferation of over-packaged, processed food that neither nourishes nor sustains life, just cannot be solved in one act or one day. Even a year with superb collaboration from all beings everywhere might not save the planet, but I believe that even so, the actions we take today matter. What paradox. Dear mind, be patient.

The character of Shiva in the pantheon of deities and gravitational heavyweights of Hindu thought is well known for his offering of destruction, oft-named Lord Destroyer. But dissolution is only one of Shiva’s five acts, or states, of the eternal. The first four of Shiva’s acts are creation, sustenance, concealment, and revelation. Each of these five states charges toward ultimate dissolution, which is perhaps why he is so well known for the end. But every end has a beginning, and a middle, and a place where the path is lost, and then found again before meeting itself in resolution. And upon complete dissolve, an energy has the capacity to be reborn and begun, again.

As I understand the concept, all things in the universe are ever acting amidst the reality of one of these five states. The first and the final – creation and dissolution – are fleeting, maybe even momentary. From the conception of a human being to the emergence of a thought, creation happens in an instant. Often the end of a concept, body, or belief occurs in a similar tiny time frame. In science, such momentous shifts are called quantum, and can be proven to not be arriving out of nowhere, but to be the result of much courting, conversation, and collaboration.

Most of the time we spend in our bodies is settled in the state of sustenance, or maintenance. The acts and habits of preservation that sustain life are where we spend the most time and energy, while living. Though landmarks and aha-moments do plant their stakes into the fecund soil of our consciousness and tissues from time to time, the majority of the day-to-day is just that; brushing teeth and little greasings of the wheels that keep things rolling. To live fully in the act of sustenance is by default, to not know what is to come, but to trust. And unless one is dying to die, and can’t wait to dissolve into the ether in an act of solving all the issues of having a body, for now, let go. I encourage myself to savor the good stuff in the middle, and let more than a few strands remain frayed and untied, just for today.

Love and peace with the messiness,

Suki Ola

Moving Into Meditation

In this present moment, I am grateful. This moment is the one in which life is happening, right now, with all its twists and turns, and strangeness. Though at times it makes good sense, is even a necessary practice to reflect on all that has come before, and in other moments, you’d better be looking ahead to avoid coming traffic, so to speak, all there is, in fact, is now. I recently took on the Sage Institute’s 28 day Turning Toward the Light Meditation Challenge and was pleasantly surprised to find I had much to learn about meditating. Sitting calmly has been a practice of mine for a long time. Thanks to martial arts study (because I sucked at ballet), I learned to sit in meditation in third grade, and found that most of the time, I quite enjoyed the quiet.

Since then, meditation has been a thing I do sometimes: in times of crisis and need for restorative silence; before, during, or after as asana practice as a sweet extra treat; as a part of ritual practice at dawn, sunset, moonrise, equinox and solstice; for a few days at a time here and there. But never has it been a primary, asana has always been the main event. These past four weeks I’ve committed to sitting first, not always first thing in the morning, but before the movement. I followed the instructions that so lovingly landed in my inbox every morning, happy to have guidance, and the effect has been dramatic.

What delicious waves of compassion for myself and others cascaded in! Just as it is an impossibility to know what the hell another is thinking for staying in an abusive relationship until you’ve been in one yourself (and even then, you only know your own circumstances), I am now fully aware that I hadn’t tasted the fruit of real meditation practice, only conceptually puttered about, and occasionally sipped from the well. My meditation practice, like a young child discovering the magic of the garden, has become drunk with experience and curiosity. I am totally thrilled to feel and watch and witness in new ways, and I swear, my voice has settled into a deeper decibel, calm and rolling like the ocean.

From the experimental, even theoretical knowing and cosmic grab-bag of meditation that has infiltrated my last 25 years, I can now say that I sit. Direct experience, that only could have come from a well-tended commitment, has deepened roots into my own stillness, and has changed me, forsooth. And the ripe fruit I am savoring now seems to be just bare beginnings. It is hopeful fun to trust that much more is coming down the line, obligingly following the breath. The experience has been baring and deliciously fresh. So, sweet and quiet solstice, thank you.

Love and Space, Suki

 

 

Let It Be

Life is a series of events, happenstances, and circumstances which, for the most part, we have very little control of. When we contemplate truth and true stability, safety, and consistency, our contemplations eventually lead us to the reality that everything is always changing. What is true today may not be true tomorrow. What is stable today may be dissolved tomorrow. What is rigid today may be malleable tomorrow.Life is a series of events, happenstances, and circumstances which, for the most part, we have very little control of. When we contemplate truth and true stability, safety, and consistency, our contemplations eventually lead us to the reality that everything is always changing. What is true today may not be true tomorrow. What is stable today may be dissolved tomorrow. What is rigid today may be malleable tomorrow.

Have you ever seen the bumper sticker “shift happens”? It’s a great reminder that changes will come. Despite our desire to control the shifts, most of the time they come when we are not ready for them. Alternately, when we are ready we find ourselves sitting around agitated that they haven’t come on our demand. Whether we are ready or not, change is a constant in nature and will arrive upon our doorstep. It is one of the the natural laws of the universe, cause and effect, or in sanskrit, Karma. And though we don’t always have the ability to affect its timeline directly what we can do is to let be what is, before, during, and after its transformation from one state to another.

In the context of our ability to live a life of more peace, the more comfortable we allow ourselves to get with the reality of change, the more adaptable we become. Giving ourselves the freedom to be in the flow of what is, rather than fight against it, enables the possibility to experience life as it is while we are having it. Many call this presence. Presence in turn enhances our respond-ability, and our experience of life as joyful no matter what is rising or falling away. This is the practice of living life as a meditation, and practicing on our mat in such a contemplative way translates off our mats and into the world.

The practice in this function provides us the template to explore the parameters of letting be what is. We learn to let our breath be what it is while observing it change, contracting and expanding, lengthening and shortening. We learn to let the body be as it is in the same vein. The translation of this kind of practice into our lives looks like learning to let ourselves be in dissatisfaction and/or contentment, in love and/or grief, in excitement and/or fear while we are there and not fighting away to another state we desire to be in more. Because we all in some essence want to feel at peace with our lives the value of learning to be comfortable in a state of letting it be isn’t gained in taking the agitation away, it is added in the gain of no longer giving the state of being an ability to nag at us. Life is going to happen. When it happens you can fight against it and spend your short experience of embodiment in a state of suffering and pain, or you can let it be, knowing you are the key holder to your peace.

As Lao Tzu so eloquently wrote, “Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” 

With Love, Always, in All Ways, for Giving, in Joy,

Genevieve

All the wild flavors of existence.

The nine rasas (flavors), wheel is a self-help tool that describes the feeling, taste, and hue of all of our experiences. Rather than flavor as just something the tongue and palate process, in yoga theory, our entire being is in the midst of savoring (or repugning), all the time. To me, this explains nicely the relatedness between the inner and outer worlds. Thanks to the incredible workings of our nervous system, we process information all day long and feel (or taste), each bit we take in. Think of the response your heart rate has to the feeling of deep love, how your skin seems to soften when in the arms of your beloved, and the way the world is brighter upon just thinking of the things that cultivate feelings of love in your heart. And conversely, what a full spectrum experience it can be to sit in deep fear with a racing heart, skin sweating bullets, eyes pinpointed to track and discern a pending threat. We are whole beings and the nine rasas speak to this healing.

Shanta = peace, Sringara = love, Hasya = joy, Karuna = compassion, Raudra = anger, Vira = courage, Bhayanaka = fear, Vibhatsa = disgust, and Adhuta = wonder. Going around the circle, each flavor begets the next. See if you can track the development by creating a story: from the peace that meditation brings, I experience love for myself and others. Love makes me joyful, and softens the edges of my being to be able to see what suffering is happening around the world, which feeds compassion. Recognizing how dire things actually are for so many people, I am angry at the injustice, muster courage, and begin to act. In the face of my work, fear rises its ugly head in challenge, and I taste disgust for the level of corruption in the world, which ultimately leads me back to the heart, to sit in surrender and contemplate paths of less violence and more wonder for what is, in fact, good. It’s a crude sketch, but it’s a start. Create your own wheel, I promise it will be an interesting exercise in untangling your process, if nothing else. Across the wheel lies the perfect foil to each sensation, for example: the cure for disgust is to cultivate joy (make light of it), and compassion (everybody poops). Cool, huh?

Love and wonder, Suki

 

Meditation on (what you) love.

Perhaps the practice of meditation has left you daunted and alone, hung drying from a rail of judgement and ill-communicated invitations.  Meditation is not supposed to make us feel unworthy or incapable, nor does it seek to laude the wiser ones, and leave the rest of us lost forever.  Meditation has no goals, no means and no attachment to us, and so, therefore, is for everyone.  Kahlil Gibran’s “On Love”, reads “Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself.  Love possesses not nor would it be possessed; For love is sufficient unto love.”  If you have been presented with meditation as a discipline you cannot live up to, two things for today:      1.  the person who presented it thusly was rude and unfair in their sharing, perhaps driven by ego?                        2.  You are free to create your own destiny around meditation and its influence in your life.  A little is good, a lot is only better if it serves, and no other practice will be as potent as the one that feeds your soul and is of your own wild creation.

According to wikipedia, which, like meditation, is in and of itself a funny and beautiful example of a user-owned and managed operation, meditation is “a practice in which an individual trains the mind or induces a mode of consciousness, either to realize some benefit or for the mind to simply acknowledge its content without becoming identified with that content, or as an end in itself.”  This says nothing of the how, just the goal, which is also up to the individual.  The wiki waterfall goes on to light upon various modes of spiritual and religious tradition, each with similar and perfectly unique definitions of what it means “to meditate”.  In Patanjali’s ashtanga system, dhyana – meditation, occurs after dharana – concentration, and only when the concentrator witnesses the object of their devotion as a part of a whole and unifying force.  In the subtle shift from mindfulness in relaxed breath and body to a deep state of blissful consciousness and peace, the line is fine, perhaps immeasurable.  But the alteration comes from a particular shift of attachment to the external world, liberating the thinker to become a non-thinker, and a lover.  Concentration on a candle flame is dharana.  Concentration on the light within, burning and flickering, steadily glowing as the winds of universal breath wash over, is dhyana.  Rather than counting the backs of the heads in front of you on the bus, counting the cadence of your breath and noticing minute alterations as the bus rolls over potholes, is dharana.  Watching the bobble of everyone’s head over the potholes and recognizing a shared cadence of respiration in everyone on the bus, a shared destiny of inspiration and expiration in each individual’s breath that merges into oneness with the pulse of an entire city, is dhyana.  The big difference?  The I.

In allowing your egoistic attachment to what your meditation must “be” to float off like a fart, meditation can begin.  “Now we will meditate”, only rang from on high for me when the idea of what it might mean to meditate had become so blurred and illegible that I surrendered to continuing to sit down and see what happened.  Sometimes the old standbys of candle-gazing and counting the breath are a welcome respite for a tired mind.  The purpose is, of course, to awaken from the slumber of unconscious drudgery.  To not forgive oneself for coming to the practice stuck in the mire of unconscious drudgery is equivalent to expecting one five minute meditation to change the whole world.  On some level, every moment changes everything, yes, but we are often too distracted to see any effect whatsoever from our actions, especially the subtle ones we spend alone, breathing lightly and sitting still.  If the purpose of the meditation is to weave an individual consciousness with one that is universal, representing all that is immeasurable and god-filled, rather than empty, then it seems sensible that the object of focus leading to integration would be just that universal God energy.  Herein lies the rub: for many, God is a virtually impossible image or feeling to conjure up.  (That’s why I’m meditating, geez.)

Perhaps if our attention is just focused on the things and the ones and the feelings that we love, shifts will begin.  In the Narada Bhakti Sutras, the way that we love food is distinguished clearly from the way that we love our people, and also from the way that we love God.  And yet, all are love.  If we can learn to apply the way that we love something, anything at all that truly gathers the full force of our heart, to higher forms of loving, then we are in a state of meditation.  To begin, bring to mind the bits of your life that elicit joy.  Pick one and think on it.  Allow the sensory experience of your mind to flood and then ebb away, leaving a sweet residue of retained happiness.  This is at the very least better than feeling an evil and elusive club of meditators have perfectly ornate pictures of a godhead in their minds and hearts at all times, leaving your silly frazzled self standing outside on a doorstep, waiting.  Separation hardens a heart and Love, in any form, softens a heart.  Meditation draws a mind from states of darkness into the light, then into the well-prepared and softened, loving heart.  In time, love for a cat, or catnaps, can merge and blend with infinite bliss.  Let the people on the other side of the door (who are you), know that exclusive behavior is lame and step in with an open heart.

Love, Suki Ola

What Lies Beneath

The yoga journey is fundamentally rewarding even when extraordinarily challenging. So much of what takes place on the mat or in the meditation practice translates to our lives outside of the practice. It is truly no wonder that people have been utilizing it for thousands of years. I myself have only been on the train for nine years and have seen the power of transformation steeped in the cauldron of the yoga practice sweep through every aspect of my life. The more I practice the subtler yet more inspiring the challenges get.

In the beginning is a valuable and profound unfolding of the physical body, a revelation of joy in the fulfillment of strength and flexibility gained through attaining new heights in the asana. Over the journey the challenge crosses over into relationships with others and with behaviors that for the first time get attention and fall away from being habitual and done mindlessly, inviting a knowing of Shraddha (belief structures our lives operate on that are empowered while unconscious), and ultimately its transfiguration. Then like a good flow class the practice aligns with life to throw one into the deep well of pain, challenge, transformation, and in the end transmutation. The Tapas, the burning away of the desire to be comfortable in the known, morphs into an all-consuming desire to align with something greater than self, which arises when we sweat on the mat and as life falls apart. In the renunciation and reconciliation life gets put back together again. In the wake and the puddles of sweat or tears there is quiet like the stillness before the gestation of a seed and its great journey into mature life.

This has been my journey and I know I am not alone as I see similarities in my story with those of others. This is life, it’s not always easy, it’s not always pain free, and it’s not always about the next big pose. This is where the real yoga starts to show up and we are asked of ourselves to be present for the journey rather that the results of our labors. When we allow ourselves to be present for the journey then no matter the result we gain. This is the gift of our lives not only our yoga practices, when we realize that sometimes the only way out is through.  Even if that journey is just getting through a book a friend recommended that you do not enjoy, you will probably find in the end something of value was waiting for you to just unveil it.  Not unlike precious gems hiding in the deep belly of the Earth, we often find our most valuable meanings in life in the deep darkness of the underbelly of our being.

“When you are in conflict or doubt, or are afraid, when you lose hope or lose people that you depend upon, move beyond the pain and fear; there is an awareness there. An awareness that has always been there. In your loneliness and suffering and darkness and fear, silently, behind it, the awareness is waiting for us to return. This awareness is the field of consciousness from which all life came, the absolute energy that precedes all and is beyond all and is within all. It is within you.

We all have this in common, but we have been convinced that we are alone. This energy, though, that compels one cell to become two, that heals wounds, that spins quarks and planets, is within us all. And all language can do is rest on top of it, or point to it, never really describing it. This force, this undeniable compulsion to come together-we know that it’s there and we all know when it’s absent and we all know that we must be open to it now. And in spite of its ethereal and indefinable nature, we all know that it’s love.” –Russel Brand

It is there in the midst of it all when we become quiet that we find ourselves in the presence of the consciousness that pervades the universe. This consciousness is always present and always available to us to experience. In its company we feel the tenderness of embrace as well as the brightness of inspired transformation. In the presence of its company we withstand the travails of all challenge. In presence we see the beauty and experience the rewards all along the path of our journeys.

Happy spring, may you fee blessed by the challenges that call you to the doorstep of your transformation.

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

Genevieve