Soul Talk

Witnessing the Gayatri

Posted by on Sep 9, 2017 in Soul Talk | 0 comments

Witnessing the Gayatri

I’ve been chanting the Gayatri Mantra for quite a while.  It was probably the first complete mantra that I learned. It is one of the oldest, and generally thought of as being the greatest and most powerful mantra of all. The ancient yogis believed the Gayatri is so powerful that it can protect you from harm no matter where you are or what the circumstances. The Gayatri is said to remove all obstacles on the path to increased wisdom and spiritual growth. I love to chant it. I love the rhythm, the Sanskrit words, and the energy it produces, but somehow I don’t think I ever understood the full meaning. I never quite got it. OM. Earth. Mid-heaven. Heaven. Let us contemplate the most excellent splendor of Savitri so that He/She/It may inspire our contemplation. So we’re supposed to contemplate to inspire more contemplation; meditate on Savitri, (the life-giver and also the principle that illuminates the mind) and that is going to inspire more wisdom. Somehow, I wasn’t getting the download. And then, my husband and I went on a mission, to witness the totality of the solar eclipse. With all the hype of seeing Totality I wasn’t sure anything could live up to the high bar expectations that were set for this eclipse. But it surely did not disappoint. This was reality at its best, no need for the virtual kind.  The moon’s movement across the surface was beautiful in and of itself, with the sun seeming to go through the phases normally thought of as moon phases. I had a strong urge to do a moon salutation, honoring the phases of the sun rather than the moon as it slowly and methodically morphed into a “crescent sun.” The 10 minutes both before and after totality were truly amazing. Everything that was said to happen did in fact happen, with the shadows and lighting eerily awe-inspiring. Our own shadows and that of the trees did in fact look different, sharper, like the contrast was indeed turned up. The feel of the air, the sense of the sun disappearing behind the moon was……… indescribable. Then for 2+ glorious minutes, Totality, what we had made our journey for, there it was, the corona. It was magnificent. Our fellow viewers began to cheer and shout, but for me, I felt a more introspective pull. Witnessing the brilliant ring of light that branched out and embraced the moon with great sparkling lacy butterfly wings, I finally got it. I felt my own deep connection to the earth, the elements and perhaps a glimpse of what the ancient yogis must have felt as they watched cosmic events such as this unfold without the benefit of scientific findings or knowing exactly when they would occur. I understood their need to honor the great giver of life. Standing in the magnificence of this natural phenomenon, it truly did inspire my contemplation. I felt like I had finally witnessed the...

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Winter Solstice

Posted by on Jan 20, 2015 in Soul Talk | 0 comments

Winter Solstice

UTTARAYANAS / SVADYAYA Winter Solstice / Self Study Om asatoma sat gamaya Lead us from the darkness to the light The Yogins believe that each of us embodies an entire universe inside of us, -the sky, the planets, mountains rivers, seasons, – moving with the rhythm and flow of the cosmos. During the Fall Equinox, the days get shorter giving us longer periods of darkness and night. December 21st, the Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year, but with it comes the celebration of the sun’s return. The nights will gradually grow shorter and the light of the day will return. This ebb and flow of the darkness and light brings us back to the balance and impermanence of nature. Yin and yang infinitely at play as we move from one extreme to the other; we are always brought back to the center. We come and we go, we inhale and we exhale, we give and receive. And so it goes, the ever-changing balance of life. As the Winter Solstice is a time of slowing down, it brings an excellent opportunity for reflection; to go inside, to take time to breath, to prioritize what’s important, to reflect on our life’s journey; for Svadyaya. Are we making intuitive decisions? Are we finding joy in our journey? Are we moving through life with balanced awareness or perhaps in an unconscious karmic pattern? Though by our inner nature we intuitively need to slow down during this season, with all the hubbub and much ado of the holiday season, it’s almost an impossible feat to accomplish. Instead of getting quieter, the fun of the holiday season creates inner conflict that can easily throw us out of balance. Here’s a few way to bring yourself back into balance: Eat warms soups and stews to keep up the jatharagni- the digestive fire inside. Include warming herbs in your diet such as ginger, clove, cinnamon, cayenne, garlic and turmeric. Give your friends and family the gift of your presence rather than standing in long lines fighting traffic to give them a material present. Find some time to wrap yourself up in a comfy blanket and sip on hot tea with an inspiring book. Volunteer somewhere where you can make a difference in someone’s life. Insist on finding time for meditation. Meditate to find the peace and joy in your heart, so that you may spread that peace and joy to...

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ON CHANGE by Gloria Munoz

Posted by on Nov 20, 2014 in Soul Talk | 0 comments

ON CHANGE by Gloria Munoz

“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.” Alan W. Watts Change can be scary. In fact the threat of looming changes can keep us awake at night full of anxiety, questions and resentment. These emotions can wreak havoc on the mind and body. These emotions can leave anyone feeling helpless and vulnerable. Why is all this negativity attached to change? Mainly, because there is an incredible degree of uncertainty that comes during a time of change, and we, with our five-year-plans, smartphone calendars and diehard attachment to social standards—we do not like to be left in the dark. In a more positive light, change probably teaches us the most about the yogic principle of non-attachment. Consider one of the most challenging yoga poses: Shavasana (Corpse Pose). What could be more terrifying than lying on the ground, limbs splayed, jaw limp, palms up, eyes closed, while imitating a corpse? Shavasana embodies the fear and uncertainty that often come with change. As we are cradled into Corpse Pose at the end of a yoga class we are reminded to: let go, release expectations, be present. Similarly, change requires us to let go of the need to be in control, relinquish ideals of people or situations, and, most importantly, change causes us to consider our present selves. As we wiggle fingers and toes, our senses return and we are are “reborn” through Shavasana, through a deep state of non-attachment, into a brighter and more present version of the self. After being pummeled by a tumultuous wave of change we resurface with a clearer, more mindful version of the present self. We learn most when we allow change to come into our lives. Yes, you can put up a good fight until you accept that change is an inevitable part of life. The ever-changing world and the people we encounter in it teach us how to love and how to deal with loss. Practicing non-attachment during times of change is one of our greatest challenges. Yet, life demands this of us, because sooner or later change will come. And when it does, it is not our job to dismiss it, fear it, or label it as a mistake or failure. It is our job to embrace change, hold it close to our beating hearts, to fully experience the nauseating mix of emotions that comes with it, to search for truth in change, to let go so that we are able to look into our present selves. Next time you are faced with change, try returning to Shavasana a state of non-attachment and mindfulness where your pulse, breath and mind experience clarity and acceptance, where your being prepares for...

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JAWASANA

Posted by on Nov 19, 2014 in Soul Talk | 0 comments

JAWASANA

Saying that my Guru, Baba Hari Dass, is “a man of few words” is a monumental understatement. The few words he “says” are written on a small chalkboard. Babaji has taken the “vox mauna”-a vow of silence and hasn’t spoken for well over 50 years. Whenever I mention this to my students, the reaction is always the same; faces filled with complete disbelief; foreheads scrunched into ? marks; and then the inevitable question- “BUT WHY?!” (I would imagine he is asked that question as many times as a vegan is asked-“But how do you get your protein?!”) Ask Babaji himself, and you will be met with his sense of humor- “So I don’t yell at everyone!” I can’t begin to tell you how many crazy scenarios my fellow students came up with in order to coerce Babaji into saying he would speak under “these” circumstances. But he always managed to find another answer to the dilemma. Where to us it seems like a complete impossibility to maintain for any length of time, the silence is a means to quiet the mind. To get rid of all the many unproductive thoughts and develop a peace inside that will in turn bring peace to society as a whole. Babaji explains it as his way of finding peace amidst a chaotic world. Constant chatter keeps us in a superficial world where we allow ourselves to detour around unpleasant situations. We cover up what we don’t want to delve into, and avoid having to look inside (or outside) to meet reality head on….just another means of distraction. How many of us like to talk just to hear ourselves talk? Or feel the need to have our opinion heard above all others because ours is the “right” one? Might I suggest Ego anyone? Silence is a means of letting that go and expressing humility. Speaking uses up a lot of energy. Traditional yogins want to preserve as much energy as possible so that every conceivable smidgen can be used to help them reach moksha- or enlightenment. Some traditionalists believe the goal of yoga itself is silence and that silence equates to Samadhi(the highest level of the 8 limb yogic path). Behind all the noise and sounds is silence-one’s innermost soul. Babaji is silent to find his inner Self, to connect with God. So do I think we should all take the vox mauna(which still sounds to me like some kind of a Star Trek Vulcan ritual that Mr. Spock would take)? Absolutely not. But it certainly wouldn’t hurt each and every one of us to let go of our ego and find some time to go into silence. To listen to others; to listen to ourselves. To learn to know one’s self and let go of illusion, to understand who we really are and to find our dharma-our reason for being here at this...

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BURY THE BAD

Posted by on Nov 19, 2014 in Soul Talk | 0 comments

BURY THE BAD

Society teaches us to bury the bad. Headache? –take a pill. Hard day?- eat some ice cream, have a drink, smoke a joint. Or in other words, bury it. From a yogic standpoint, using drugs (legal or otherwise) or food to alleviate pain only serves to cover it up, leaving the underlying cause of the pain to gravitate to some other place in the body. Like in our neck, shoulders, hips, or back-or to create some chronic illness. Teaching yoga at the Veterans Administration has been an awe-inspiring experience that has afforded me the opportunity to meet many Vets suffering from PTSD. Recently I worked with one Vet whose PTSD has manifested in night terrors so extreme that he awakens in the middle of the night screaming, shaking, sobbing, with sheets soaked in perspiration. To heal this, he has been prescribed medication that completely erases all memory of the dream. So now, he awakens in the middle of the night screaming, shaking, sobbing, with sheets soaked in perspiration, with absolutely no recollection of why. I realize I am no doctor, definitely no psychologist, but doesn’t this just bury the issue? Doesn’t this just push the issue down so deep that the root of the problem will never be confronted and the pain will continue to manifest as night terrors or maybe something even worse? In yoga, we strive to master the concept of samatva, or equanimity, which basically means maintaining calmness even in the most difficult of situations. A balanced response to all situations rather than an emotional reaction, whether the situation is good or bad. Sometimes, you just don’t know. What’s good may not turn out so good and what’s bad may not turn out so bad. Yoga philosophy defines samatva as the sameness that underlies all phenomena; what remains when all activity ceases; a calmness; a union of the individual self with the inner (true) Self. A consistent yoga practice will inevitably bring up the ”bad” that we have buried deep within our bodies-and I would imagine in terms of war, there could be some horribly horrendous things to bury. But allowing issues to surface also allows us to examine them, deal with them and then begin the process of healing. Examining the issues is difficult to say the least, for anyone, but all of our experiences, good or bad, are life lessons that are part of what made us who we are, a part of our growth, a part of our ability to transform. If we continue to bury them, they will forever have their hold on us. If we can find the strength to conquer them, we will then be able to let go; to find our true Self; to live in...

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FALL FINALLY

Posted by on Sep 19, 2014 in Soul Talk | 0 comments

FALL FINALLY

Although we may have to wait a month or two to actually feel the nip in the air, with the recent Autumn Equinox, we say goodbye to summer and it’s officially Fall. It’s the time to restore balance from the ever-changing shift from one extreme to the other. According to Ayurveda, yoga’s sister “science of life and yogic healing” where the approach to life is based on living according to our seasons and surroundings, human energy is divided into several mind-body types, or doshas, which have both positive and negative effects. Balanced doshas create health and happiness, whereas unbalanced doshas create discomfort and disease. Fall is dominated by the Air element and brings out our “spacey” Vata traits. Our Vata dosha is the easiest to get out of balance, especially in the cooler and drier air of the Fall season. So if you’ve been feeling nervous, anxious, spacey, having trouble focusing, excessively thinking or worrying, or experiencing insomnia, you just might have a vata imbalance. Joint popping during your asana practice is also an indication of a Vata imbalance in Ayurveda. (In which case, with all the popping going on in my back, shoulder, and neck during my own yoga practice, I am extremely Vata deranged!) One of the main principles of Ayurveda states: “like increases like and opposites create balance.” To balance “Vata”, (the dosha comprised of air and space; with cool and dry qualities) we need to stay hydrated, warm (avoiding cold foods and drinks), calm (maintaining a consistent breathing and meditation practice) and grounded (practicing slowly moving stable postures like warrior, balancing and back bending postures). In last month’s newsletter, we talked about Yoga Sutra 1.12-1.14, and Abhyasa,-practice- which states we need a sustained, vigilant, persistent practice to attain and maintain a state of stable tranquility. Nothing could be more helpful than this for grounding a Vata imbalance. With anxiety attacks, sleepless nights and our minds running out of control, we need our yoga practice of both asana (postures) and meditation to bring us back into balance. However a Vata imbalance can also cause us to push ourselves...

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