Tag Archives: solstice

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.

 

 

When the sun is standing still.

Go to the place within you that is both silent and cacophonous in the same breath. It is there, in the moving within the stillness, and the light inside the dark, that all is. And it is there that all is happening.

I have learned in some years of “practicing”, and “refining”, and “being good”, on and off the mat that nothing that seems to be the real goal, is it. There are endless caverns of respite within effort, and deep tides of peace that only come from restlessness and disease. I believe that it doesn’t have to always be this way, but that for many, like myself, we must crawl through the rocks on our knees to find what is real. And simple. And good already, birthed from the sweat and grunt of time. Looking back, I heard this wisdom from many mouths, but who was I to listen? And who is any teacher to tell? We all must learn and find ourselves.

It is now, facing the winter solstice 2016, when the world is been cracked open, yolk broken and spilled, once again, and I feel it is safe to relax and begin anew. There is no less passion, just less me in the way of the work. And oh, so much more urgency for the process of unveiling the truth about real: medicine; politics; religion; health and wellness; love, trust, and compassion than ever before. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it once again, as many times as needed: a mantra, a prayer – practice is over. No more suffering at our own hands for perfection, only forward motion and steps toward something we can all feel at home in.

As the sun comes to a momentary pause, may we also sit still and source a link to the rhythm of the movement that is never absent, in all things. Blessings for your own moments of stillness, may they bring to you just what you are seeking and need – healing, rest, self-reflection, irreverence, reverence, faith, or just the chance to BE, and quit doing, if only for a breath or two.

Love and respect, 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

 

 

A prayer for a day such as winter solstice, when the sun stands still.

May all beings be safe and protected.

In your journey of seeking, of learning and digesting, be wary of those people, practices, and promises that offer certainty, for it is not a natural part of the process. Certainty is not a part of process at all. The best I can present is a guess, a prayer for growth and betterment through consistency and practice. The only absolute is that nothing is, and nothing is a concept we can barely give life to. In the organic world, all is in flux, steadily changing shape, form, and identity through life’s cycle. By dissolving the edges of form, the Universe provides consistency in her shifting footholds on reality. A boundless vessel can never truly be filled, nor depleted.

May all beings be healthy and strong.

I believe we can look to the steady currents of nature for assuredness and when we forget, we ask to be reminded. There is benefit in knowing that all is well. A day like today, when the sun pauses on track, still for the slightest moment, is as close I can imagine ever coming to absolute anything. The moment is fleeting, but real. And in taking pause in the breath, (antara kumbhaka at the top of inhalation, or bahya kumbhaka at the base of exhalation), we emulate the enterprise of stillness while still in life. Amazing.

May all beings be peaceful and happy.

Begin with just a moment, a whispered retention of breath’s movement and course. As you become more comfortable, the invitation to pause for longer will present itself. Wait for the call, honoring the limitations that a body has (at least in the beginning), for such powerful exercise in reservation. Life is a precious and moveable feast. Remember that holding your breath is not a casual practice and to be entertained with a good guide, clean fresh air, and an attitude of non-attachment.

May all beings be well.

My prayer for today is to find stillness at the center of all the movement.

Love, Suki