Category Archives: action

Yoga For Trying Times

By Sri Dharma Mittra 

In terms of the world today and what the new (U.S.) president may be saying or doing, some people have a lot of fear or concern. What would you recommend for the people who are afraid or worried?

Many years ago, I asked my guru: what about the president now? He said to me with a smile: “Don’t you worry, my son. Everything is just perfect. If the majority of the people chose him, that’s just what the people deserve — are ready for.” So, everything is perfect. Not even one blade of grass moves without the will of the Almighty One. Do you think that the Almighty One is allowing something that is not right? Everything is perfect. We do our best to help, to influence him, but whatever is happening: perfect! People who get hurt in this process: they have their karma. Perfect. Everything is Divine. Don’t worry: there are Celestial Beings that went before us. They are watching the planet, allowing all these people to assume their positions. Everything is just perfect. Let’s do our best and pray for the president. Remember: he is our brother, too. In reality, he is doing Divine work. That’s what I think.

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A Walden State of Mind

by Barrie Rosencrans

You know what they say: sometimes what you’re looking for can be found right in your own back yard.

I live in a place called Walden, about an hour’s drive from Cleveland, a serene and idyllic community built to emanate the tranquility and earth-bound Shangri-La made most famous by Henry David Thoreau.  You don’t bump into Walden; it’s a destination.  Little did I know this fact of life—my life—would come full circle at the top of 2015.

When change is in the air, things are stirred, and sometimes we’re unsettled. Think of the autumn leaves preparing for winter, or a storm that’s beginning to rain. I was fully unaware when I met Sri Dharma for his NYC New Year’s Eve Immersion that he would visit Walden, where I not only live but am also a proprietor of the wellness center. I decided to truly practice one of the yamas (non-hoarding aparigraha,) and share Walden and its beauty with Sri Dharma Mittra.  It’s important to me that Walden, in addition to its serene horse-farm surroundings and organic local menu, also feed the soul.

Sri Dharma Mittra arrived at Walden on April 17, 2015 with a message of compassion, trust, kindness, goodness, friendships, self-investigation, love for all beings everywhere (“even the piggies.”)  His teachings embodied principles of the Yamas, individual precepts of the Niyamas, asana postures, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, chanting, kriyas, mantra, Yoga Nidra and meditation. (Touching all of Patanjali’s 8 limbs of yoga in one weekend!) The medical/ clinical benefits of yoga were also a message that he delivered during his visit.

This was a definite highlight of my pursuit in bringing a yoga studio to Northeast Ohio (NEO,) an area currently in the midst of a cultural boom, but still in need of my native NYC touch. Two years ago, Dharma Yoga teachers first came to Walden, sharing their hearts and opening NEO’s minds to Dharma Yoga’s philosophies.

In Sri Dharma Mittra’s never-ending supportive manner, his teachings encouraged me to take risks, be enthusiastic, and to realize that truly all I have is me. All my fears washed away as I dove into the growth of Walden Wellness.

When Sri Dharma came to teach, he spoke of protecting and saving our earth as well as realizing the world beyond our own conception and even to other galaxies. This brought to mind a statement by esteemed Astronomer Carl Sagan, “For small creatures such as we, the vastness is bearable only through love.”

Sri Dharma’s lectures during the Satsang and Maha Sadhana segments of his Walden immersion truly opened minds up to the possibility of space, time and personal existence.

My karma may be to share yoga- cost effectively- to those people who could not travel to NYC, but who could truly benefit from practicing and studying Dharma Yoga here. Without ever expecting anything in return, I worked on my dream and thought, “If not now… when?”

During a class with Sri Dharma Mittra I heard him make reference to the “Eternal Now”, a concept which stayed with me, in my heart for days- thinking, pondering, and examining what I can do to make the present moments count. We could all think, “What do I currently have that I can share?” It may make your “eternal now” seem significant, promote contemplation.

A true Walden state of mind is difficult to sum up here in words, simply because it’s an embodiment of your lifestyle every single day.  It’s honoring your full surroundings: the people, the nature, the animals.  (As a result of Sri Dharma MIttra’s talk on loving the animals, we scheduled successful vegetarian and vegan cooking classes last Spring.)  Moreover, when we create positive changes we affect all around us, every living thing benefits from our actions.  My dream is to turn my little piece of Ohio into a dreamscape for those who yearn to go inside themselves to be their best and share that magnanimous love.

“The best that could happen IS happening” – Sri Dharma Mittra

Jan. 2015- New Year’s Immersion

 

IMG_1857Barrie, a New York City native and professionally trained dancer,  discovered yoga in 2001 while pregnant with her third child. Since then Barrie has wholeheartedly embraced the Dharma Yoga 8 limbed path of Raja Yoga and is a devoted teacher of daily donation based classes, spreading yogic love via Walden Wellness. With much heartfelt gratitude Barrie attributes her road to Sri Dharma Mittra in 2015 after learning under Sri Andre Ram at Walden in January 2014. Barrie–wife, mother of three teenage boys, and two golden retrievers–holds a masters degree from Case Western Reserve University’s Medical School in metabolism & nutrition, is currently the proprietor of Spa Walden (www.yourwalden.com).

Removing Desires and Rising to Raja Yoga

By Jerome Burdi

Of all the yamas, brahmacharya is the greatest struggle for me. It is, however, possibly the most important to really taste true freedom –freedom from desires. Even the gods admire the one who is free from desires.

Swami Sivananda mentions the importance of brahmacharya time and again in his book, Raja Yoga, detailing the Yoga Sutras. I read the book in preparation for the 800-hour Dharma Yoga Life of a Yogi Training in August.

The other yamas — non-violence, not stealing, non-greed, and truthfulness –are much easier practices for me and many other yogis. Curbing desires is the toughest and if it’s not done successfully, all the other yamas can be tainted.

Only when desires are quieted can one progress along the spiritual path.

This is also the essence of Lord Buddha’s teachings: Desire and ignorance are the root of all suffering.

I enjoy Sivananda’s technique of destroying the evil vrittis, or thought patterns. It’s a sort of meditation, an awareness that one must maintain to have success on the path of yoga.

When an evil thought arises, think of its opposite and all the benefits of the good vrittis. When the thought of lust arises, think of brahmacharya; when anger rises, think of love; when pride shows its ugly head, chop it down with humility.

Desires will keep you in a rajasic, overactive state of mind, always unsettled. One must work properly, from a calm, sattvic state of mind.

“When sattva increases, the mind becomes steady like the flame of a lamp in a windless place,” Sivananda wrote. “He who is sattvic can do real concentration and meditation, and can enter into samadhi easily.”

The difficulty is how to find that sattvic mind and finally concentrate.

“Have perfect trust in God and be steady in your sadhana,” is the advice Sivananda gives. “Faith sustains the yogi like a kind, affectionate mother.”

Faith is a crucial component as one moves along the path. Sometimes I feel like I’m getting nowhere in my practice, but then come those moments of holding a difficult asana or having a steady stream of concentration. And that’s it! There’s the bliss! It may not last long, but it’s enough to get me through to the next episode. There’s falling along the way, but the faith gets us back up again and back on the path. We can’t beat ourselves up over the past. We get up and keep moving forward.

“Everything is present for the yogi,” Sivananda wrote. “Everything is here. Everything is now only.”

When the mind is filled with passions and desires, you cannot sit still to do your sadhana. The mind is always moving. The asana comes easily for many, but we must remember this is only a preparation so we can sit and work on the higher limbs of yoga that lead to the goal, samadhi, complete union with all of creation.

When I read about the states of mind a yogi can reach, I am reminded of how much work I have to do to reach the goal. The distractions are always coming like hurricane rains, like waves in the sea, or wind atop a mountain. But with practice, the yogi finds stillness. That’s why we do our practice, why we have our faith, why we stay on the path despite the digressions.

Stillness.

In those blissful moments we are mountains. Desire cannot touch us. We are truly free.

 

 

Jerome Burdi is a Brooklyn native who discovered yoga during a shamanic retreat in Brazil in 2010. Since then, he’s been enveloped by the path of the yogi. He left his job as a newspaper journalist to go to Rishikesh, India, and become a yoga teacher. Upon returning to NYC, he discovered Dharma Yoga and has been hooked. Though Jerome grew up in NY, he had to go to India to come back and see Sri Dharma with clear eyes and to hear the truth that is Dharma Yoga. Jerome is also a Middle Eastern style percussionist and holistic nutritionist

Jerome Burdi is a Brooklyn native who discovered yoga during a shamanic retreat in Brazil in 2010. Since then, he’s been enveloped by the path of the yogi. He left his job as a newspaper journalist to go to Rishikesh, India, and become a yoga teacher. Upon returning to NYC, he discovered Dharma Yoga and has been hooked. Though Jerome grew up in NY, he had to go to India to come back and see Sri Dharma with clear eyes and to hear the truth that is Dharma Yoga. Jerome is also a Middle Eastern style percussionist and holistic nutritionist.

The Ying and Yang of the Dharma Yoga 200 hour LOAY Teacher Training

By Kathy Goelz

The temple seems so large and spacious — then suddenly it’s the size of your living room.
You’ll ask yourself when, where, and why –then realize: “Everything is perfect.”
You may come with anxiety, but leave “with a mind settled into silence.”
You will develop a sense of pride — then realize “I am not the doer.”
You’ll stand firm as a warrior– then fall and roll like a circus clown.
You’ll sing and laugh– then cry.
You’ll have doubts– then learn “I can have the best of the best.”
Your pranayama practice will change from “Breathing like a mouse” to “breathing like a horse.”
Yoga becomes not just poses, but an offering. “This is for you my Lord”
You may feel as though you can’t take another class, but do “because it has to be done.”
You will be exhausted and fatigued, but give 100% because the mentors and Sri Dharma will.
You may be confused about God, but that will change to devotion and surrender.
You may not be sure what Yamas and Niyamas are, but just watch Dharma-ji and you’ll learn instinctively.
Maha Shakti will energize you– then 5 minutes later you’ll struggle to stay awake during Yoga Nidra.
You may eat meat now, but learning about compassion and ahimsa you won’t let “your stomach be a grave yard.”
You may never have done volunteer work, but hearing about selfless service will change that.
You’ll walk in alone, and leave as friends and family.
You’ll come with questions, and leave with Self Knowledge!
Om Shanti , Shanti, Shantih

 

KathyKathy Goelz has practiced yoga for 17 years and is now embracing the teachings of Sri Dharma Mittra with a full heart. Goelz started teaching after a Senior Yoga teacher training at Shanti Niketan Ashram’s North Carolina School of Yoga under the supervision of Chandra Om. Since October of 2014, Goelz has been teaching a chair yoga class at the Love Yoga Shala in Patchogue, NY. In March 2015, she completed the Dharma Yoga LOAY 200-hour immersion and hopes to graduate in May. Goelz will continue to teach in her community and at Love Yoga Shala.

 

Washington D.C. – A Dharma Yoga Mecca

By Brando Lee Lundberg

With 24 certified Dharma Yoga teachers, including four studio owners, over 50 Dharma Yoga classes offered per week, and a packed house at the convention center last year for Sri Dharma’s visit to Washington, the D.C. area has quickly become a mecca for Dharma Yoga– second only to New York City, where Sri Dharma lives and shares his practice at the Dharma Yoga Center.

What has led to this phenomenon?  The close proximity of D.C. to New York City – a four to five hour car ride or three to four hour train ride – has certainly helped by making weekend or even daily trips possible for D.C. area Dharma Yoga practitioners. But this is true for other metropolitan areas of a similar size and demographic. While understanding the reasons behind the growth of Dharma Yoga in D.C. may elude linear or even rational explanation, one of the most significant factors lies in the service of two now-senior Dharma yoga teachers who first started sharing the practice: Justin Blazejewski and Hannah Allerdice.  Justin participated the Life of a Yogi teacher training in 2008 and Hannah in 2009.

They offered the following thoughts about their experience of sharing the Dharma Yoga practice.

How did you first come into contact with Dharma Yoga?  How long had you been practicing yoga before then?

Justin: I was practicing yoga for about six months before I went on my first yoga retreat in Bali. Once I returned I was inspired to look for a teacher training to help deepen my practice.  I came across Dharma’s website and saw the 200-hour teacher training intensive and my curiosity was piqued. When I arrived to Dharma’s old studio in NYC, I walked up the stairs and Dharma was in the middle of the studio fixing some electrical wires and said, “Welcome, I’ve been waiting for you.” And then walked away. I knew in my heart I had found my guru.

Hannah: I came into contact with Dharma Yoga in 2007 through Saraswati Lorie Om, who has the beautiful Dharma Yoga Syracuse center. Before then, I had practiced on and off for about six or seven years.

When you returned to D.C. after your first training in 2009, how did you go about sharing the teachings of Sri Dharma?

Justin: I returned from teacher training on a Sunday and boarded a plane the following day for Afghanistan for a three-month work trip. While I was overseas I gathered local military personnel and contractors on the base every day and taught them the Level I Shiva Namahskara sequence, pranayama and meditation. My group grew from one to three people to about 10 people before I left to come home.

Once I was back in D.C. I began organizing free yoga classes in Meridian Hill Park every week. I encountered a similar pattern that I had overseas, with only a few students at the beginning, but after a few weeks the group grew. After a few months of teaching, a beautiful soul walked into one of my classes. She had just returned to D.C. after her 200-hour teacher training with Dharma. That beautiful soul was Hannah.  I remember a feeling of love and joy knowing that I was no longer alone in sharing Dharma’s teachings and knew deep down in my heart that something special was about to grow and expand in this city.

Hannah: I started in our little apartment with three to six friends, teaching them Dharma 1 and Dharma 2, according to our internship requirements. About a month after that I met Jasmine (the owner of Yoga District) and started helping out with Yoga Activist.  She then asked me to teach a class at Yoga District.  And then I started to teach more and more classes.

What is it about Dharma Yoga?

Justin: After over six years practicing with Sri Dharma, my heart truly sings and feels the love for my guru every time I see him or bring him into my awareness. He is always with me in my heart no matter where I am in the world, and anytime I feel my energy drained, I take a bus to NYC and plug into the source for a recharge.

Hannah: Everything. Particularly the love that radiates from our beloved guru. It is infinite and through him takes so many forms, according to the student he is teaching. And, through his example, I learn how to love more and more.

What do you attribute to the success of Dharma Yoga in D.C.?

Justin: It was hard in the beginning, as I was the only Dharma Yoga teacher in D.C. Not many people had heard about him and I was a new teacher so it was hard to get exposure. I began by writing to all the yoga studios in the D.C. area, asking them if they wanted Dharma Yoga at their studio and nine out of 10 of them turned me down or didn’t reply. In the end I attribute “angry determination” and “doing the work because it has to get done,” as Sri Dharma Mittra often says.

Hannah: The teachers here are so dedicated, and are fully committed to living a life established in ahimsa.  Just like Sri Dharma says, “everything comes from there [ahimsa].” And it is contagious, the love and deep truth of living life like this. Students can feel it. And, we are all so committed to updating our learning from Sri Dharma. We are all practicing with him regularly and sharing his love, his lightness, his simplicity, his humor. The students feel this too.

How did you contribute to building the Dharma Yoga community in D.C.?

Justin: I was the first Dharma Yoga teacher in Washington D.C. that shared the teachings in a yoga class environment. I continued to teach and sub in Virginia and D.C. as much as I could to expose as many people as possible to Dharma’s teachings. The first year was pretty slow but I started getting more and more students in my classes. By then Hannah and I were teaching at Yoga District and we started to get a lot more students coming to the Dharma Yoga classes. After a while the students began to be inspired by Dharma’s teachings and eventually decided to head up to NYC to do the LOAY teacher trainings. Once there were a few Dharma teachers in D.C., the roots of the sangha took form, and the tree of Dharma Yoga in D.C. just kept growing.

Hannah: I don’t really know. I helped water some plants I think, through Sri Dharma. There were a lot of yoga teachers here in D.C. when I moved here, and many of them hadn’t found a real, living master. When they came to the classes, and we all got to know each other, something was sparked. So, they all started to go to the trainings too.  And then it blossomed. Now we all just love on each other and support each others continued growth, and keep welcoming new people in the community.

Any advice or words of encouragement for Dharma yogis seeking to build Dharma Yoga community where they live?

Justin: Angry Determination! Do the work with love and compassion, staying true to Dharma’s teachings no matter what! And the rest will come!

Hannah: Yes, serve just as Sri Dharma serves; embody his teachings, his way. Remember, we have been given the highest teachings, from a realized Yogi, stand supreme in that knowledge. And, keep charging up by staying connected to Sri Dharma physically, mentally and psychically.

 

Brando Blog

 

Brando first came across some yoga postures in 2002 as part of a six month get into shape program presented in Outside magazine.  For the next 10 years, yoga served the same purpose – strength and flexibility.  In February 2013, this changed upon meeting Sri Dharma Mittra at Kripalu.

I Am No One

By Julie Bach

During a retreat one year ago to this day, my spiritual teacher turned to me and said, “You are ready.”  I said, “Ready for what?”  Felix Lopez, my teacher, said, “ You are ready for Sri Dharma Mittra.  We have worked hard for two years to prepare you and I am excited for your next step. Let’s see what happens…”

Ten days later I was in NY getting my head shaved as part of a ceremony one of my friends hosted for my transformation. Diana was a yogini in service to her guru for 30 years. She took me in to her home to show me what life was like for her as a yogini in service.  We sat in her home temple as she showed me publications and trainings she had written and marketed in service to help her teacher and to spread the teachings globally.

I am a trained businessperson and I remember asking her, “So you got paid nothing for all of this? ” I was shocked because 30 years is a long time. I was listening, perhaps for the first time, to someone who was in service and seeing the beauty that was created.

The next afternoon with a better understanding of what a life of yogini could look like, I took a train back to the city to get situated and learn from Sri Dharma Mittra during Life Of A Yogi Teacher Training.

I remember sitting there that first day introducing ourselves and listening to why people were taking training.  I remember looking around and saying, “I am here because my teacher told me to be and to see what will happen next.” This is part of a transformation process is all that I know and I shaved my head last night to shed the old patterns that reside in me.”

I remember when we got our karma yoga jobs. Mine was lighting the candles and the incense and I loved doing this as an offering. I continue to do this at home alongside the picture of Sri Dharma given at the training.

The first time I saw a picture of Sri Dharma Mittra, I remember saying, “He’s the guy.  He’s the guy with the silver hair I have been looking for since I was a teenager.”  I was excited to see what exactly it was that I was to learn.

During training I had the opportunity to approach Sri Dharma. I did not know what to expect, but I had questions. No sooner than I had opened my mouth, Sri Dharma said, “You are here to be in service. To be in service to your teacher and to humanity.  To truly realize your path, you will need to learn to become invisible.To become, nothing. To become no one.”

The words continue to ring in my head, especially during times when I see my ego getting excited about things. I step back and hear Sri Dharma.

The Life Of A Yogi Teacher Training has changed my relationship with yoga – changed my relationship with my spiritual teacher, and changed my relationship with my community.

When I do my asana practice or pranayama, I close my eyes and feel that I am back in the temple in NYC where Sri Dharma is the teacher.  And when I am in service to my guru, I picture how I think Sri Dharma Mittra was in service to Yogi Gupta while he was alive in physical form — as if a roadmap had been laid before me to show me the way to humbleness and selflessness.

It has been almost one year since the training and my life is completely different.

The three governing ethical guidelines as a Sadhaka have been:

1.     Cultivate an open mind regarding the Supreme Self or God.
2.     Be kind and non-judgmental in all circumstances, especially when dealing with students (or students of my teacher,) and abstain always from acts of arrogance, cruelty, greed, or harshness.
3.     Work constantly toward the freedom from “I” and “mine,” growing ever less concerned with name, fame, prestige or personal property.

I have built a retreat house for the local community and for the regular students of my teacher to come and study.  My primary role at the retreat house starts with preparing juices and snacks for the students who come to stay and coordinating their stay. My primary role in the local community is to share my daily Dharma yoga practice. It is intended for people who want to cultivate a home practice, but may not want to practice alone.

I am most at peace in the retreat house, which feels like the temple in NYC. I am most joyful being in service in this manner.  I am in service to God; I can think of no greater gift.

I remember crying at the realization of how my life has changed. How I built this center years ago and it has waited until I was ready to be of service. Until I really understood this is not about me. This is something far greater than I can imagine, something my head cannot understand.

I also have learned there is no negotiating with God. The one attempting negotiation is my ego –the one who is trying not to see my path and the one trying to make it unfold in the way that I want.  But in the end, God has some big boots and will use them when needed. I have been negotiating this move to live full time in the retreat center for one year.  Many things are changing, affording space to unfold. And in my moment of surrender, the retreat center had its first student call to book a private immersion.

And so it unfolds….. Ever so thankful…

Learning to be of service.  Learning to fall in to nothingness.  Realizing that everyone is on his or her own path.  And who am I to judge or question?  I am no one.

 

Julie BachJulie Bach is on a mission to authentically integrate yoga and meditation through the spa industry. As a child, Julie was not quite aware of what she was doing as she used to “knee” around the house and quietly sink to the bottom of the pool in full lotus.  And when she grew out of her childhood years, Julie had a certain restlessness to her.   It was not until 2010 when she connected with her spiritual teacher, Felix Lopez, did she begin to understand this restlessness and the calming effects of yoga. Julie worked with her spiritual teacher to prepare her for the 200 hour Life of A Yogi Training with Sri Dharma Mittra. Since her first step in to the temple, she knew she was home with Dharmaji and has established a center to share this feeling with her family and her community.

The Spiritual Impulse

By Alan C. Haras

“Fire exists in the firewood, coal and charcoal, but without ignition from a spark of fire from without it cannot burn.  So the forces Divine within you do not grow without the impulse from the Preceptor.”

~Yogi Gupta (Sri Swami Kailashananda), from Yoga & Yogic Powers, p.46

There is an ancient tradition practiced by some yogis to continually tend a sacred fire.  This dhuni fire represents the fire of self-knowledge and it reduces all apparent phenomenon into a single, irreducible essence.  This sacred ash, or vibhuti, is often given to others seekers as prasad – a blessed and healing substance.  It is the duty of such yogis to keep this sacred fire going, offering the benefits of their dedicated practice as a healing remedy to all beings.

As sadhakas, we are all tending the sacred fire that we have received from our Guru at the time of initiation.  The Sanskrit word for “initiation” is diksha, which means “to ignite,” and interestingly enough, the English word “ignite” is related to the Sanskrit word agni – meaning “divine fire.”  A yogi who seeks initiation from a guru is seeking to be ignited by the sacred fire or “spiritual impulse” of the guru.  This invisible power is a “quickening” agent that speeds up the spiritual progress of the disciple.

We all contain within us great treasures of spiritual forces, but they typically remain asleep until awakened by the grace of the guru.  This grace cannot be received from any book.  In Yoga and Yogic Powers, Yogi Gupta says, “By reading the menu, your hunger cannot be satisfied.”  Similarly, any amount of reading about spiritual topics will not satisfy our spiritual hunger.  We must seek out a qualified Preceptor, and in receiving instructions from him or her, become receptive to the transmission of this spiritual impulse.

All genuine gurus have received this divine spark from their teacher.  Having received the blessing of the spiritual impulse, they continued to cultivate that sacred fire through their own sadhana, or spiritual practice.  It is not enough simply to “get” initiation – one must “give” themselves to their practice.  In this sense, initiation marks a new beginning.  One entrusted with the sacred fire becomes responsible for tending it and making it grow.  “Being initiated” means “becoming a disciple” and making the life-long commitment to the path of self-realization.

The word “disciple” comes from the Latin root discere which means “to learn.”  All are able to learn, but each individual learns at his or her own rate.  According to Swami Sivananda, an individual’s capacity is based upon their readiness to receive the divine spark of the guru’s instructions.  Some, he says, are like gunpowder – when the fire of knowledge is brought near to them, they are instantly ablaze with realization.  Others are like charcoal, who need only a little time in the presence of fire before they are completely consumed and transformed.  Still others are like dry firewood and need to stay in the fire a little while longer.  And then there are those who are like wet firewood – when they are in the presence of Truth, all they do is “smoke.”  This kind of disciple will need ample time to “dry out” before any real learning is possible.

If we approach a fire without proper respect, it is possible that we could get burned – not through any intention made by the fire, but simply through our own inattention. And yet, if we stay too far away, we won’t be able to enjoy the warmth that the fire provides.  Similarly, when a disciple approaches a guru with the divine qualities of reverence, humility and obedience, her or she is able to receive the spiritual impulse of the teacher.  Yogi Gupta says that this impulse is the “energized thought” of the teacher, and although it is invisible, it is “far more powerful than electricity.”

One receives the spiritual impulse through transmission.  The Guru received it from his or her Guru, and blesses the disciples with that same impulse upon their initiation.  It is like a lit candle passing the flame to an unlit candle – it is now up to the disciple to protect that flame, keep it burning brightly, and eventually, to pass on the living flame to a qualified disciple.  The flame does not belong to anyone, but is pure grace; the pure gift of the enlightened teachers to those who are sincerely seeking Self-Realization.  It is transmitted through the Guru’s presence and teachings, and is received only by those who have cultivated the necessary qualities of a disciple.

 

Alan Alan C. Haras (Bhaktadas Om) is the owner of Hamsa Yoga in Lake Orion Michigan, a commissioned Spiritual Director in the tradition of Ignatian Spirituality, and a disciple of Sri Dharma Mittra. He is currently pursuing a Masters in Religion Studies at the University of Detroit Mercy, and completing his 800-hour Advanced Dharma Yoga Teacher Certification.
www.hamsayogacenter.com

Karma Yoga

by Danielle Gray

As we have been told, karma yoga is the practice of selfless service – doing deeds with “no strings attached”, as Dharmaji would say. Karma yoga was a major part of Dharmaji’s path with Yogi Gupta, according to the LOAY teacher training manual. For me, the practice of karma yoga has begun to help me understand what “dharma” truly is, as well as to teach me how to interact with other people in the world in a better way.

Occasionally I find myself feeling unmotivated to do my sadhana for some period of days. Usually the cure for this lack of enthusiasm includes reading the section of the teacher training manual that talks about Dharmaji’s life when he was studying with Yogi Gupta. The fact that he was both paying for every class with the Master (meaning he had to work several paying jobs), as well as offering his services as a karma yogi is incredibly inspiring. Reading this  portion of Dharmaji’s story helps me realize that life is fairly simply if we allow it to be – just do what has to be done to move forward on your path, and forget the energetic charge that comes with complaining or creating stories about what it means to do the things you have to do! This is what it means to truly live your own dharma – to remove all resistance to what is happening or what must happen, and go forth with your best enthusiasm and your best efforts.

Keeping these things in mind helps me view each day differently. It helps me to remove the sense of self-entitlement that seems to permeate many of my peers’ lives. It helps me break the ego a little more, stay humble, and realize that no task is beneath me – no matter what I may have “accomplished” in this material plane.

When I am able to maintain this perspective with focus and clear intention, the world around me changes. Other people sense that I am receptive and deeply appreciate my openness and ability to listen. I accomplish every task that is given to me much more easily, and simultaneously, I create no attachment to any of this external feedback. Approaching everything in daily life as karma yoga simplifies my existence a great deal, and helps me reconnect with the act of giving constantly from a place of pure devotion. As Dharmaji says, “Devotion leads to the total surrender of ego,” and eventually to the goal: Self-Realization or God-Realization.

photo by Jeffrey Vock

photo by Jeffrey Vock

The practice of Dharma Yoga found Danielle in 2010, and after her very first class, she began to immerse herself in it, feeling a deep calling to share it with others. She participated in the 200-hour Life of a Yogi Teacher Training program in June 2011 (completing her certification the following May), and she completed her 500-hour certification in May 2013. Additionally, she has over 18 years of experience studying dance & movement, which greatly informs her yoga instruction, especially in the aspects of anatomy and alignment. She is currently living in Sedona, AZ, teaching Dharma Yoga at several local studios.

Mindfulness with the Foot on the Pedal

by Lisa Markuson

Mindfulness. It’s a hot topic on social media outlets and the news.  But what is mindfulness?

Well, have you ever seen a cyclists whizzing around on the road, texting while biking? You don’t have to be a yogi perusing the Dharma Yoga blog to know that bike-texting is not being mindful of the task at hand and foot.

But I’m not here to berate masochistic compulsive communicators, I swear. In fact, the opposite is true. I want to talk about how cycling isn’t just the ecologically, physically, and socially healthful mode of transit, but is also a means to improve your mental and emotional health, strength and equanimity – much like a regular yoga practice. When riding a bike, every pedal is a new opportunity to be grateful for your legs, your feet, your trusty steed, the home you are leaving, the destination you are approaching, the air filling your lungs, society that paves the roads…you get the idea. I’ve always had a sense of this fact, but my recent experience of the Life of a Yogi yoga teacher training program at Dharma Yoga Center this February really catalyzed these ideas.

Bike_NY_©Enid_Johnstone

Mindfulness isn’t about being a Jedi who can fine tune proprioception to the point that you could take apart and reassemble a bike while blindfolded in a sandstorm. It is also very closely linked to the crucial tenets of compassion and loving-kindness, which can also be embodied while you are on a bike. What could be kinder and more compassionate then being a safe, engaged, calm cyclist, sharing the road, being present, and appreciating the people around you? If nothing else, it may keep you from yelling threats at tourists riding tandem in your way.

So here are five ways to make your bike ride more mindful and compassionate:

  1. When you’re getting ready to ride, take time to do a few simple stretches to wake your body up, get your blood pumping and stimulate your brain. A few sun salutations are a great start. Side stretches, loosening up the spine, hamstring stretches, and hip opening movements will improve your cycling, and an inversion like a headstand or a forward fold will bring oxygenated blood to the brain and wake you up better than coffee.
  2. Before you push off for your first pedal take 20 seconds to pause and visualize a safe, pleasant ride, and smile. Seriously, actually smile – it tells your body to produce all sorts of calming, pleasing chemicals.
  3. While riding, be aware of the mechanical processes and symbiosis of your body and your bike. Allow the body awareness that you’ve developed through your asana practice to translate to your ride and acknowledge the muscles of your legs and feet that are working in harmony to propel the pedals of your bike, the graceful simplicity of the machine amplifying your movements.
  4. Notice your breath and you may be surprised to realize how shallow it usually is, and how often we hold our breath because we’re focused elsewhere. Gently remind yourself to take full, slow, luxurious breaths while you ride, especially in heavy traffic or challenging terrain and you will be calmer, happier and will ride better overall.
  5. Develop new thought habits. Sri Dharma Mittra always encourages us to use each movement or action as an offering to God and you can do the same thing while on your bike. As a cyclist, it is easy to feel like you’re getting pushed around by cars, thwarted by pedestrians and on the defensive. However, if you give yourself permission to feel compassion and empathy for the other people with whom you share the road and the world, you’ll be amazed at how much happier and safe you feel. If a car cuts you off, wish them a safe and stress-free day. If another cyclist blows through a light, don’t curse at them but send a positive thought their way. It isn’t easy at first, but once you get started it quickly becomes second nature and it is worth it.

wheel_Lisa_Markuson

See if you can give some or all of these a try on your next ride and notice if it makes a difference in how you feel on your bike and off. If even one person who reads this finds that they have a better ride or a better day overall I’ll be thrilled so let me know how it works and how you feel. So let’s go ride! And of course, be receptive.

 

Lisa_Markuson

Lisa helps run an indie bike adventure company in Brooklyn, NY, and has completed Dharma Yoga Teacher training, splitting her time between NYC and our nation’s capital, Washington DC. Lisa is a Buddhist, queer, nomadic, New Age nonconformist, and likes to listen to jazz and funk and ambient sounds while collecting ideas on her blog, Disco Granola. She is only mostly vegan and gluten-free. Inspirations and role-models include but are not limited to: Gertrude Stein, Bill Murray, Mark Twain, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Elena Brower, Haruki Murakami, and her father. Find her on twitter/instagram @lisamarkuson or tumblr at http://discogranola.tumblr.com

The Four Core Concepts from the Bhagavad Gita

By Gary Mark



Krishna and Arjuna at Kurukshetra, c. 1830 painting

“Bhagavad” means “God” and “Gita” means “Song.”  “Bhagavad Gita,” therefore, can be translated as “The Song of our Lord.” Krishna, one of many incarnations of The Lord, explains that he lives in each and every one of us, meaning that “Song of our Lord” is also the song that praises the beautiful divine within each one of us! As I type these words my heart cries tears of joy. I feel so fortunate to have found the Gita and to have found Sri Dharma Mittra.


There are four core concepts from the Gita which extolls the beautiful potential that exists vibrantly in each one of us and, indeed, in every atom of the entire cosmos, known and unknown, seen and unseen.


Concept one:  Look to your Dharma


Dharma can mean “law of the universe,” “social and religious rules,” and/or one’s own individual mission or purpose.  On the individual level, it can also mean a number of things. For example, in the Gita, Krishna points out to Arjuna that his Dharma is to be a warrior whether he likes it or not. He cannot escape his Dharma and he must fulfill it. Arjuna is a warrior for what is right and just. He is not just a warrior for fighting’s sake. His Dharma must be grounded in a proper purpose. Whatever role we are fulfilling at the moment is our Dharma at that moment.


Applying this on a personal level, I followed my Dharma as a Finance and Accounting professional for the last 30 years. Recently, coinciding with my new practice of Yoga Asana and study of Hindu or Yoga scriptures, I began to find less and less meaning in my profession. I am now in a period of transition, seeking to find a new and more meaningful personal Dharma.  I am a “householder” (someone who lives among and provides for his or her family), and as much as I would love to throw caution to the wind and become a Sadhu, I need to be mindful of the effect of my actions on those around me. Therefore, following the counsel of the spirits, I am proceeding on a step by step basis, finding my way with the Lord’s merciful guidance.


Concept two:  Do it full out


Both Hinduism and Buddhism extoll this virtue of absolute commitment.  In fact, many books have been written about the power of focus and single-mindedness, including the Gita. I first learned about this concept when I began practicing Buddhism in 1977 and I poured myself wholeheartedly into my career development. As a result, I was very successful from a materialistic standpoint. Success in life is no accident and it is a result of pursuing one’s Dharma full out, no holding back.


Upon looking back, I see that I did not always carry out my Dharma as a husband and father and I have made mistakes that have impacted others’ lives unfavorably. Had I had the vision to take the longer and broader view on things, I may not have made these mistakes. I feel that I was more concerned with material success at any cost, even if others had to pay a price. I now see that I was not acting properly in these and probably many other cases. In this last chapter of my life, I would like to pursue my new Dharma with more mindfulness and focus on proper context and big picture focus.



Krishna displays hisVishvarupa (Universal Form) to Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra (Bhagavad-Gita, chapter 11).

Concept three:  Let go of the fruits of your labor


When we invest our efforts or resources, it tends to take on our self-identity in our minds. Subconsciously, we associate this identity with life/death.  This mistaken association leads us to regard all critics or those who appear to get in our way as mortal threats to be neutralized, lest we “die.”


The Gita exhorts us to release this incorrect view and to realize that our self and the phenomenal world at large are not real.  What is real is “Self,” the divine within all life, sentient and insentient. Even the air we breathe has the divine nestled in every particle. Therefore, instead of jealously guarding our self-worth, we are much better letting all that go and acting out of gratitude for the opportunity to work on our Dharma. Krishna says we our entitled to work, but not to any of the fruits of our work. When we adopt this attitude, all we can feel is gratitude, no matter what happens.


I have found that as I endeavor to embrace this concept, I am shown which areas need work and I am grateful to be shown these things and grateful to be able to improve so I can one day serve others with gratitude and without attachment to the fruits.


Concept four:  Offer it all up to the divine


I feel this concept is closely related to its predecessor. How much easier it becomes to let go of the fruits when one is offering every moment up to the divine. The ultimate form of this is when one feels that God is acting through him/her.  In truth, this is what is happening all the time, we just fail to see it and that failure results in suffering and angst.


Sri Dharma Mittra has a saying on his website and in his teachings.  He says, “Reduce your wants and lead a happy and contented life. Never hurt the feelings of others and be kind to all. Think of God as soon as you get up and when you go to bed.”  

I believe this last sentence resonates with this fourth core concept from the Gita upon which this post is focused. It provides a very practical way to begin to incorporate this concept in one’s life. Begin the day focused on God and end the day focused on God.  What a beautiful way to live! Om Namah Shivaya.



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Gary Mark has practiced yoga for the last three years and studied Bikram and Dharma Yoga during this time. He has spent the last year studying intensely at Dharma Yoga Los Angeles and completed his LOAY 200-Hour Teacher Training and Certification at the Dharma Yoga New York Center in June to September 2013.  Gary is currently enrolled in the LOAY 500-Hour Teacher Training at the Dharma Yoga New York Center.