Category Archives: meditation

Indaba Recap

by Adam Frei

It has been four days since we returned from London and somehow it seems to have taken place a few months ago. Sri Dharma said to me at the start of our trip that in a moment it would be over. On our way back to the airport, he said: “You see? Already finished – like a dream.” It was, for all of us that went, a very pleasant dream.

Sri Dharma travels less these days than a few years ago, but he still travels quite a bit and his teaching takes him around the world. For the last couple of years, he has been saying that he really wanted to take the Dharma Yoga Kirtan Band along with him. As the London workshops seemed like they were going to be large and some of the band members had the dates available, we were able to make it happen. Although my position at the Center means that I get to work closely with Sri Dharma, it has been a while since I’ve been able to travel with him. It was, for me, a very special opportunity.

The venue was part of the Lords Cricket Ground in North London. It easily accommodated the 250 plus people that were part of each session. The presenters, Indaba Yoga, did a great job managing every aspect of the weekend. Most of the classes were two hours long. Somehow, Sri Dharma managed to include a full practice of Asana as part of each one, a brief, but focused spiritual discourse, an introduction to basic Pranayama techniques, recitation of mantra, Kirtan with the band and a full experience of Yoga Nidra. The classes never felt rushed, yet he managed to include so much. Spiritual discourse treated such topics as compassion, the Kleshas and the Koshas. What particularly impressed me was how Sri Dharma gave us a full experience of Yoga Nidra, sometimes in as little as twelve minutes, but that included complete relaxation of the body, visualization and autosuggestions. Truly extraordinary. The enthusiasm of the students was wonderful to observe.

Some highlights from Sri Dharma’s teaching as part of and outside of the workshops:

Indicating a small, cube refrigerator: “You see, that’s the perfect size for a Yogi.”

“I’m going to add some extra sugar to all the sessions this weekend.”

“We are doing Rabbit (Pose) here now. I bet if I look around the room, I see many Camels. If I catch any Camels, I throw them out.”

“If G-d come here right now and catch you not singing, that would be a catastrophe!”

“The action of compassion is to see yourself in others.”

“The orchestra is going to come and play now, so leave your mats and come close.”

“Move together like in a parade. Then we share all the knowledge psychically and become one.”

“I have an old car (body). The brakes don’t work so well anymore and some of the systems are starting to shut down. That’s why I always try and put the best quality fuel in. In about 10 or 20 years, I’ll be back with a new car.”

“We’re going to do Spiritual Breathing now so you feel spiritually inspired.”

“If you are interested to go deeper into yoga, you should read The Yoga-Sutras and The Hatha Yoga Pradipika. For those just interested in living a more ethical life, there’s The Dammapada.”

“From the Hubble Space Telescope, we know that there are millions of blue planets. Some are ahead of us. Some, still with dinosaurs. The reason the aliens never come here, is because when they look through their telescope and zoom, zoom in on McDonalds, they see us eating animals, and then they never come here. They are soft and their limbs are tender. They are afraid that if they come here, they get eaten.”

“In one generation, it is predicted that there will be harmony among all the people of the earth. Then no need for the first step of yoga – the Ethical Rules – what for?”

“Do you know about the Koshas? These are the sheathes that cover Atman. It's good to know about them so you can negate them.”

“You become one with G-D at this moment. One with the Supreme Self.”

Special thanks to Kenny Steele, owner of Idaba Yoga, Olga Asmini, Indaba Yoga’s exceptional manager, her wonderful team, Mark Kan, our main Dharma Yoga teacher in London who really established Dharma Yoga there, Andrew Jones who did much work behind the scenes in advance of these workshops, Pam Leung and Yoshio Hama for beautiful demoing throughout the weekend, to Andrew and Yoshio for playing until their fingers bled, for the dedicated students who came from all over Europe and America to be part of this weekend and to Sri Dharma Mittra who somehow seemed fresher, funnier and more energized by Sunday night than he had at the start and who at almost 77 years of age continues to devote his life to sharing what he knows with all of us that are fortunate enough to learn from him.

 

Adam Frei is the director of the Life of a Yogi Teacher Training programs at the Dharma Yoga Center in NYC.

Reflections on Guru Purnima

By Sandra Lafuente

I am writing this on Guru Purnima. There are no words in this physical gross plane that can really depict the gratitude and love I feel for Sri Dharma Mittra, but I will try to use the ones I know that come from the heart.

I love him beyond everything that is tangible. Same way I love my grandfather Bernardino, the first guru I ever had, not in his body anymore. Same respect and tenderness. They are so alike. They teach me the same.

Dharma Mittra-ji embodies the deepest meaning of Yoga in the simplest way. The innermost sacred message: life is a game. It’s all an ilusion. If one is established in the Higher Self, in what is Real, suffering disappears while playing the game. One is content. One is sattva. One Is.

Guru-ji takes out of me the child I never stopped being although I concealed it for so long. He helps me bring that little girl back. Fearless, joyful, curious, lively. The child whose divine qualities are stainless. He helps take the dust off and see her as she is, natural wild perfect. A manifestation of God.

That is what practicing with him is about. Do it now, don’t even think about the results. Do not fear. Laugh. It is easy. It is simple. Play!

Five years passed before I came back to New York to be at the presence of Sri Dharma again. Intense purging, purifying, long five years I went through with the main guidance of Andrei Ram. The bitter before the nectar. That period was preparation to come back. I realized I never lost the psychic connection with Dharma-ji, the link became more powerful in the most arduous times. I tuned in and he taught: don’t take it so seriously, don’t be so hard on you, don’t try to be perfect in the changing world of forms and names, you are already perfect in your formless nameless no beginning never ending Self. Act with no expectations. Love. Live!

Then I went back to his temple in June for a whole month. I recognized his voice as if I never stopped hearing it –I never did. It was as if I just took his class the day before and every previous day, non-stop. As if he never left me and I never left home.

And so I heard him saying that the meaning of life is to experience all manifestations of the Creation, that one should enjoy everything but be ready to lose it all.

That’s it!  Go ahead, make mistakes, learn from them, be patient. It is in this very world where you have to be. It is in this very maya where you have to reach for the Light and make it permanent.

And then I played, although the body hurt like hell at the beginning because of old physical and emotional injuries. The mind wanted to win me over, but I didn’t give out. Tried over and over. I did it because it had to be done. Like a child. Like that little girl. No worries, unconcerned, happy.

It is much much easier than the mind puts it. It is uncomplicated. Effortless if one stops resisting. So difficult to get to surrender to God, so liberating once you have accomplished it. I am still working on getting there but have savored it periodically. Ananda. Wholeness. Letting yourself be carried by the Mother-Father, by the Supreme Master within. Freedom!

That is what Dharma Mittra-ji teaches.

I brought a friend who lives in New York to Maha Shakti, the day before I came back to Madrid. He had never practiced with Dharma-ji. I saw his perennial smile while doing every posture, all of them. I asked him how he felt at the end of the session. “It was like going back to school,” he replied.

Thank you, beloved Guru. Thank you to the brothers and sisters who brought me closer to you like angels.  I bow and I am humble. We are One.

OM

 

Sandra Lafuente was born and brought up in Venezuela in this lifetime. She currently lives and teaches in Madrid, where she also works as a freelance reporter and writer. She has realized, no doubt, there is Yoga in journalism, Yama and Niyama being the foundation, although she does not write about spiritual matters. Always grateful to the Supreme Source, to the Guru, the masters and the Sangha, she keeps working ceaselessly for the ultimate purpose of Yoga, God-realization.

(Picture by Fabio Filippi)

Dharma at Wanderlust

By Susan Craig

Reverence, obedience, self-discipline, vegan, being strict with oneself yet kind and compassionate towards all others, a strong desire for liberation. All of these are phrases that Sri Dharma Mittra uses to describe his no-nonsense approach to the Life of a Yogi. Being serious about yoga and teaching at Wanderlust may seem like an oxymoron, yet there he was, teaching at Wanderlust Squaw Valley!

Wanderlust is like an upscale, yogic version of Burning Man. It is a four-day festival of yoga and music in which participants play hard and party even harder. Celebrity yoga teachers and performing artists offer a variety of yoga and music experiences to choose from. There was delicious vegan food available and all things yoga for sale. Everyone was happy and friendly…and it was contagious. The collective consciousness at work!

Sri Dharma taught five classes at Wanderlust and I took four of them (due to a scheduling screw up I missed getting into one of his classes before it sold out) and filled in the holes in my schedule with a variety of classes with other instructors. While I thoroughly enjoyed the event, including the sampling of classes that I took from several well-known instructors, nothing at Wanderlust compared to being in the presence of Sri Dharma. He stood out both in his classical and technical instruction in the practice of yoga, and, more importantly, he was in a category all by himself with regard to his ability to guide individuals towards glimpses of God.

Sri Dharma was the only teacher I took class from who devoted time for the instruction and practice of pranayama, bandha, and mantra. None of the other teachers I took classes from devoted instruction to these important elements of yoga.

Sri Dharma personally modeled many of the poses, including demonstrating modifications for beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels, before asking participants to do them, in order to ensure that participants had options and could do them correctly. In addition, his assistant, Melissa, was at the front of the room demonstrating the asanas while Sri Dharma instructed. The other teachers from whom I took classes did little or no modeling/demonstrating of asanas. Sri Dharma devoted a generous amount of time for deep relaxation during savasana, whereas, in all other asana classes that I took, savasana lasted only about five minutes. Sri Dharma stressed the importance of a long, deep savasana in order to settle into silence.

Sri Dharma began and concluded each of his sessions by discussing the importance of observing the ethical rules, yama. He was the only teacher I experienced who told participants that they should not eat animals, and further, recommended veganism. Sri Dharma made it a point not to miss any opportunities to impart spiritual knowledge to his students. He neither teaches nor lives in a casual manner.

Sri Dharma spoke about how one cannot truly settle into meditation if one is eating animals, he repeated that one “must stop eating animals.” He described how the spiritual heart, located at the right center of the physical heart is there in all of us, “subtler than an atom.” Sri Dharma also spoke on the tremendous pain and suffering that we experience due to attachment, and how a serious practice of yoga under the guidance of a qualified teacher can help free us.

As soon as I saw Sri Dharma, I relaxed and dropped into a silent space. Sri Dharma’s classes at Wanderlust, in which there were 200 or so participants, were the only classes that felt peaceful and meditative to me. Sri Dharma says, “Seek out a person through whom God manifests a little more clearly and make such a one your teacher.” Sri Dharma is “such a one” to many of us. There is something very subtle, yet extremely powerful, that one experiences in Sri Dharma’s presence. To be near Sri Dharma, to look into his eyes, to observe his humility, is to experience a living yoga master who freely shares his spiritual knowledge to all who are interested. He lives this commitment from the bottom of his heart. He knows what he is doing, he is sincere, and his approach and presence are uniquely ego-less. To have Sri Dharma as a teacher is to have entered into a spiritual love affair with this humble man who manifests God more clearly. It is Sri Dharma’s commitment to share and promote spiritual knowledge to all; he says this is the highest form of charity. Whether at the Dharma Yoga Center in New York City, or at Wanderlust, Sri Dharma is the same… he is a rare true Karma Yogi on an urgent mission to impart the truth to us at every opportunity.

 

Susan Craig is a Berkeley, California native who participated in the transformational June 2015 LOAY 200 hour training. Susan strives to practice Karma Yoga each day in her job as a school district administrator where she oversees support services for marginalized youth, as an advocate for animals through vegan activism, and as a teacher of a weekly donation-based yoga class. She resides in Napa in the home of the four cats and a rabbit who rescued her. Susan is most grateful to have found Dharma Yoga and to have Dharma Mittra as her yoga teacher and spiritual guide.

The Fountain of Wisdom Has Many Spouts

By Jerome Burdi

 

Honor the man who is awake and shows you the way.
Honor the fire of his sacrifice.
-Lord Buddha

 

The summer satsangs have been powerful in New York City with Amma and the Dalai Lama coming to visit. All sorts of spiritual seekers and socialites filled their rooms for divine hugs or holy words of wisdom.

There’s much deserved fanfare over their visits and deep appreciation for their loving contributions to humanity. I love it when the holy step foot into New York City, a place that can always use some holiness. But when all the saints and buddhas come to visit, I never feel an urge to go see them. We have Sri Dharma Mittra, the man who I’ve come to love as much as any of the famous gurus. And he’s here all the time! I’m at home in his yoga classes and satsangs and feel full. I do not have any room for another great teacher.

I respect them all, and they all pretty much say the same thing. It comes from the deep fountain of human wisdom. The way Sri Dharma said it recently: “Yoga is this: See yourself in others.”

The way some others put it not so recently:

 

“See yourself in others.
Then whom can you hurt?
What harm can you do?”
-Lord Buddha

 

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
-Jesus the Christ

 

It is wonderful to find teachers who help us express this power and spread it in the world. Then we too become teachers. It is nearly impossible to walk the way alone, without a teacher who can show you the way. They help us by making it easier to trudge through difficult times of doubt and they inspire us to move forward and know that it will all be alright.

I’m always thinking about things Sri Dharma says when I’m alone and the darkness creeps in. His wisdom is like a rope thrown to me at the bottom of the well. The rope is there but I have to use my own strength to pull myself out of the deep and into the light.

Doubt is so strong, so seductive, it’s easy to lose the way. That’s why it’s so important to have great teachers such as Sri Dharma close by and accessible often. Eventually we will have to walk the road ourselves; Sri Dharma is always warning us to enjoy everything but not to be attached, perhaps the most difficult lesson of all.

Thanks to the masters who have come before us, we too can fill ourselves with bliss and learn to circle through samsara, with a smile.

 

 

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 Transformation of the LOAY Teacher Training

by Gabriella DiGiovanni

For the past several years I spent a great amount of time exploring where to get my 200 hour yoga teacher training. Amidst the seemingly infinite amount of programs, I felt that there was no way I could choose among them. How would I know that I made the right choice? How could I possibly sift through all the programs to find the perfect one? And most of all, was I ready?

After practicing many different styles at many studios, I stumbled upon Dharma Yoga from a teacher in my hometown in upstate New York. I knew there was something special in the beautiful reality and simplicity of Dharma Yoga, so I decided to come to the source. I travelled to New York City to take class with Sri Dharma Mittra at the Dharma Yoga Center. From the instant I walked in the temple, I felt at home. After my first class with Sri Dharma, everything clicked. I knew that he was an extremely special teacher, and this was the life-changing teacher training that I had been waiting for. I decided to jump in and immerse myself in the spirituality I had been craving.

In retrospect, the application process itself was an initial offering for me in the journey of the LOAY teacher training. The questions allowed me to search within myself and organize my thoughts, goals, and feelings. Reflecting back, it is amazing to see how much those initial responses have changed and grown throughout my time as a Sadhaka. Additionally, the pre-training assignments helped to give me an intellectual and practical background of Yoga before entering the training. It was extremely beneficial to read the scriptures and develop a more committed self-practice before the immersion. Not only did my heart begin to open, but the calling for me to join the path became stronger every day. I was becoming more ready for the immersive experience I was about to have, and preparing myself to get the most out of the training.

The night before the immersion began, I had countless thoughts running through my mind. Was I spiritually advanced enough? Was my physical practice strong enough? Is this the right time? What am I getting myself into? The mind and ego were playing tricks on me to make me feel unsure, but I was about to find out that there was no doubt that I was where I was for a reason. Everything was perfect. It was time to let go.

The first morning of the immersion, I left for the DYC with excitement, curiosity, and a little bit of nervousness. When I arrived and sat in the temple with the other Sadhakas, I felt a sense of extreme gratitude and serenity. Sri Dharma entered the room, and the vibrations of his incredible energy filled the temple. I felt a great desire to be near him, and listen intently to every word he spoke, and watch the way he explains. His words were simple, deep, honest, and funny. I felt wildly blessed to have the opportunity to learn from such a true master of Yoga. Everything in every moment of my past and my present had led me to this experience. I was home.

From the first day of the training, we entered into a very well organized, detailed, and time-efficient schedule. The schedule offered us the chance to truly live life as a Yogi. Every morning we had the chance to begin our day learning pranayama techniques, mantras, kriyas, and more. Sri Dharma and his amazing senior teachers gave us foundational lectures that helped lay the spiritual stepping stones for developing our own understanding and practice of Yoga. The support system of Sri Dharma, the mentors, and other trainees helped me reach much further than I would have alone in these exercises. As Sri Dharma says, “Imagine yourself in the practice you wish to access.” From this, I am thankful to have been able to watch Sri Dharma and his disciples so that I can now imagine that I can access their practice and continue to advance spiritually.

We were broken up into small groups and given two mentors. The small group sessions gave us the opportunity to practice teaching in a non-judgmental and supportive setting, with people who felt like brothers and sisters. All the mentors guided us with love and compassion, and gave us encouragement in this wonderful time of learning. Each of Sri Dharma’s teachers and disciples are unbelievable teachers, mentors, friends, and yogis. DYC’s senior teachers exude positive vibrations and clearly represent the pure teachings. Here it is okay not to be perfect, but to simply try our best and make our classes an offering. It was a powerful moment to realize that I am a vessel for these sacred teachings, and that we must lose attachment to the outcome of our actions as both teachers and students of Yoga.

My entire practice sky-rocketed through the opportunity to take daily asana classes with Sri Dharma along with hearing his daily lectures. I became so much more connected to the search for my true Self, and shifted the perspective of my practice more towards compassion than ever. My heart opened to Self-discovery and releasing attachment to allow my consciousness to flow freely. During this process I began to lose the initial grip on the results of my actions, and as a result my physical practice was deepened greatly. I did things I never knew I was able to access just by being in Sri Dharma’s presence and focusing on the Self. I felt myself grow by gaining a much deeper comprehension of compassion, and what it means to integrate it into every part of my life. While I was already following a vegetarian diet, the shift towards a complete vegan diet with the support of my co-trainees transformed my views on the subject. As a result, I now feel more connected to others and my practice by practicing ahimsa on a greater scale.

One of the many moments that stands out from the immersion was the Kirtan hosted by our mentors and Sri Dharma Mittra. The music was beautiful and the energy was so pure and full of devotion. I will never forget the sounds and feelings from our Kirtan, and how it transformed and strengthened us all as seekers of the Self. We were all able to connect deeply to ourselves and others through this devotional music.

I felt the bonds between our Dharma Family grow stronger each day. It seemed as though I had known the other trainees for my entire life, and that we were simply meeting again. The love, support, and compassion that came from each Sadhaka made me realize that I will never have to feel alone again on this journey. While we went our separate ways after the immersion ended, I know that we all continue to carry each other along with us.

In summation, there is no way to put the feeling of Sri Dharma Mittra’s presence into words. Just by being in the same room as Sri Dharma, my practice was elevated to a new level. Dharma Yoga is based around compassion and respect for all living beings. From this, Sri Dharma presented me with wisdom that brought me closer to the Divine that lies behind all of creation. Additionally, Sri Dharma revealed to me that the Guru lies within myself. From this I understand that I have all the tools I need to realize the Self. In this space I discovered Yoga as it was meant to be practiced, passed down through generations by enlightened Yogis. I cannot thank the staff and senior teachers enough for all of their kindness and compassion. I am so blessed to have had this amazing experience, and take it with me every day of my life. I am looking forward to taking future trainings with the Dharma Yoga Center, which I am certain will only deepen my journey further. Thank you Sri Dharma and the Dharma Yoga Center for changing my life. It is not possible to give enough praise for this beautiful center and all the amazing beings that are a part of it.

 

GabriellaGabriella began practicing Yoga four years ago in search of spiritual guidance. When she discovered  Sri  Dharma Mittra and embarked on the Life of a Yogi teacher training, her life was catapulted into a new upward direction. Through Dharma Yoga, Gabriella has found a stability and peace through constant practice. She seeks to grow as both a teacher and student of Yoga. Gabriella also works on a farm and apple orchard, and is a supporter of sustainable agriculture and small farms.

 

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.

How to Develop a Dharma Yoga Style Meditation Practice

By Jeffrey Vock

 

About 18 years ago, I was helping Sri Dharma with his computer and I ambushed him with three questions:

1. How important was meditation in your spiritual development?

2. Why don’t we practice longer meditations in class?

3. Why don’t you take a more technical approach to teaching meditation?

 

He answered:

1. Not very important; selfless service and watching his Guru was key to his development.

2. He would lose students if he included silent, sitting meditations that are longer than five or ten minutes and they might never come back.

3. His last answer was silent: he assumed a meditation posture; his back straight, his eyes closed, one palm resting in the other and after an instant; he shrugged his shoulders, twirled his thumbs and expressed indifference with his face!

 

So there is nothing to meditation? Is that what he was hinting at? Maybe for him! However, over time, I’ve interpreted his demonstration differently and it has become the prime directive of my own deepening meditation practice.

Sri Dharma’s teaching has evolved since I’ve known him: he now speaks more of meditation. He has refined his approach to easing his students into meditative practices by adding frequent Kirtans, Yoga Nidra, Psychic Development and Spiritual Discourse classes (which he did not offer, back in the day.)

His students have also changed: many now seem familiar with meditation and I see them sitting enthusiastically before class starts. Are they ready for more?

So, how to meditate Dharma Yoga Style? Is there an approach to this practice that differs from all the established and distinct types of meditation teachings and practices that already exist?

Sri Dharma often mentions meditation and the importance of cultivating solitude, silence, stillness (metaphorically and literally as in NOT MOVING) and disconnecting from stimuli. But he also frequently says that other aspects of Yoga practice “are even better than meditation.”Once I heard him say that meditation is for lazy people and I think he was looking at me when he said it. Touche. He also mentions a range of practices from diet to following ethical rules and asanas that are “preparation for meditation,” and essential to a balanced practice that includes all eight limbs of Yoga.

The health benefits of meditation are scientifically validated. But that knowledge is usually not enough to motivate or facilitate a deeper practice. I enjoy my practice because it gives me an avenue of exploration that agrees better with my aging body than perfecting my asanas (which everyone knows are quite sloppy.) Meditation takes the edge off my introverted nature. It inoculates me against the demand to be constantly networked and interactive. It helps me fight depression and find contentment and joy. As a bonus; it helps me experience some of Sri Dharma’s more cosmic and far-out claims.

So, in between the “preparation for” and “the better than,” what is this meditation? What type is it? How do you do it? for how long? Where are the instructions? Should you do it lying down? Walking? Sitting? What counts as meditation? And how do you gauge success? What does it take to develop an effective and enjoyable meditation practice? And how to do it in a way that’s true to Sri Dharma and his brand of active urban mysticism?

Sri Dharma talks about the need to “allow the muddy water to settle,” by being motionless to “see” and “witness” clearly. He has replaced his former “High Definition” analogy with a new one about a “cell phone.” Can you realize yourself as the signal and not the device? What are the practical steps that can lead you to having this experience?

“You have to be interested.”

Dharma Yoga Style meditation is motivated by simple curiosity. You have a body, senses, thoughts and consciousness. WHAT’S UP WITH THAT? What is the nature and the mechanics of your consciousness? What is your true nature?

“Use your intelligence.”

This inquiry leads to Knowledge or Wisdom that can reveal itself with sudden insight or after deep, reflective analysis, but you have to gain confidence in this pursuit because you are on your own.

FORGET ABOUT CONCENTRATION: When you meditate with curiosity for the purpose of gaining self-knowledge you can bypass the oppressive concentration exercise that defines meditation for so many and creates so much self-defeating frustration. To meditate successfully you need just enough attentiveness to proceed. Concentration as we conventionally define it doesn’t have much to do with it.

“Everything depends on your attitude.”

This exploration of your true nature is motivated by curiosity, but driven by ATTITUDE. Your mental attitude is one of the few things in life you can actually control if you want to. An attitude is complex– think of a teenager.

So when Sri Dharma answered my question silently, assuming a meditation posture; his back straight, his eyes closed, one palm resting in the other and after an instant; he shrugged his shoulders, twirled his thumbs and made an indifferent expression with his face! He was demonstrating an attitude:

You sit; comfortably.

You observe; but not too hard.

You are a witness; because you don’t know what is going to happen.

You are curious even if there seems to be nothing there.

You don’t expect anything and you don’t care about results.

You wait: patiently… it is a long haul.

You reconcile with your Karma, because you are limited “according to your condition.”

And above all:

Your attitude should “Remain Unconcerned.”

Any reaction is counter-productive.

You observe and allow rising obstacles or impurities to burn themselves out under your non-judgmental gaze.

 

If you can stay still and engage the process for 20 minutes or more, you are on the right track.

And the brilliant thing is: The attitude you develop to sit comfortably still, overcoming any obstacles, for a long period of time IS the benefit of the endeavor. The quality of your effort enables your meditation and is the successful outcome of your practice. This style of meditation is just a re-set or a calibration of attitude to enhance your daily life. This to me is Dharma Yoga Style Meditation!

To succeed you have to sensitize yourself to the subtlety of WHAT you observe AND the subtlety of HOW you observe. And this is only to get started; this creates the right conditions for Dharma style SIGNAL REALIZATION, which is the natural, un-coerced by-product of the meditation process and is accelerated by the Yoga Nidra technique.

But even if you are motivated by curiosity and driven by the right attitude you will still encounter obstacles, both physical and psychological, that challenge your ability to sit peacefully for longer periods of time. To overcome these, you need to choose your initial mind sharpening technique such as the breath, a mantra or third eye, and develop a strategy keeps engaged on your own path.

Or better yet: “Do you know any tricks?”

 

042Jeffrey Vock is a free-lance photographer based in Jersey City where he lives with his wife and 2 older kids. He takes photos for DYC but he is a strictly amateur Yogi. In 1984 he spent 3 months in a Buddhist Monastery in Thailand studying Vipassana Meditation. In 1986 he picked up a New York City Yellow Pages looking for a Yoga studio. He dialed a number and Sri Dharma answered the phone. Jeff has been taking classes at Sri Dharma’s various centers for almost 30 years (with occasional lapses) and has never felt the need to find another teacher.

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.

Yoga Journal Estes Park and Sri Dharma Mittra

By Brendan Lentz

Over the past two years, I had been contemplating doing some long-term travelling. The basic idea was to take a self-created sabbatical from my career in technology in New York City and travel around the world.  I planned to visit family, friends and cities with Dharma Yoga communities. In late June of 2014, I donated, sold or stored my things and packed up what remained.  This past summer I assisted at the Charm City Yoga festival in Maryland, taught workshops in Ohio and generally had a great time making new friends and enjoying my newfound free time.

A major stop on my journey was to visit longtime friends who had recently relocated to the Boulder, Colorado area. The timing of this visit worked out so that I would be able to be in Colorado at the same time Sri Dharma would be there for the Yoga Journal conference at the YMCA of the Rockies.  I had never attended a Yoga Journal conference and I thought this was the perfect time to do it.

blog1Entrance Drive to the YMCA of the Rockies

I arrived at the YMCA  (elevation 8,010 feet) on September 19th, on the heels of a grueling 1,000-mile drive from Illinois to Colorado the day before.  The setting is breathtaking. Beautiful views of snow covered mountains surround the YMCA campus and wildlife is abundant. It is a perfect setting for practicing yoga! I had just enough time to pick up my conference badge at the Administration Building and make it to the first of four classes taught by Sri Dharma over the next two days.

blog2View of the Historic Administration Building

 Sri Dharma gave an extended discourse before we started the physical asanas during the first class.  He spoke about food and the importance of offering the food before we eat it.  “May all beings enjoy this food through my senses,” is something he suggested we say before eating. I like this idea because it not only reminds us to be grateful for what we have, but it goes beyond.  One way I look at it is this: I can use this food as nourishment so that I can maintain good health and use my body and mind in order to serve others.  In that way my actions can create ways for more people to enjoy healthy food on a consistent basis.  Later during the conference I joined some new friends for lunch at the cafeteria. We all agreed that this part of the discourse struck a chord and we all said the offering together before enjoying a delicious meal.

Sri Dharma offered ideas on how to transition to a vegetarian diet. The suggestion is to eat vegetarian Monday through Friday. You can buy one of the new Bullet blenders and use that to make blends in the mornings. If you are living with someone you can share the task. Each day you can alternate who makes the blended drinks to make it easier. As an example of blend Sri Dharma recommended some spinach, kale, fresh pineapple and protein powder. On the weekends you can be more relaxed in the diet. He suggested you might try a vegan pizza from Trader Joe’s. Sri Dharma stressed that it is important to let the senses enjoy food and not to be too strict. If you are too strict with yourself, then it won’t work.  Over time you might find that you don’t even want to the pizza as much, but in the beginning he advises its best not to be overly strict. In my own experience I’ve noticed that the more I eat healthier food, the more I enjoy it and, over time, cravings for unhealthy food falls away.

With regard to the asanas, or the physical postures, Sri Dharma suggested that they are not required. If you don’t like to do the postures you can go to the gym, use the bike or swim as alternatives. He stressed that is important to keep the body in good shape. When I arrived the first day I had a fair amount of trouble breathing comfortably. While on a phone call to my father that day I was winded and had trouble even speaking. I know from studying with Sri Dharma in New York that he is in excellent physical condition but I wondered how he would handle the high altitude in Estes Park. When we did pranayama – breathing exercises, Sri Dharma did not seem to be impacted at all by the thin air. Towards the end of the weekend he shared with us that the first year he came to Estes Park he was winded but each year he returned he became more acclimated. At 75 years young, he is a living example of how you can maintain excellent physical health for many years through a committed practice of yoga and exercise.

blog3Sri Dharma Mittra on the Dharma Yoga Wheel (http://www.dharmayogawheel.com)

Although Sri Dharma is known for being able to perform difficult poses, his classes at Yoga Journal were accessible to all levels. He spoke on compassion and the ability to place yourself in others. Along these lines I believe he made the classes less challenging since the altitude and the full days of classes already challenged many students. Instead he offered a little more discourse and made himself available before and after each class if anyone had questions.

I had a great time meeting new people and seeing friends who came from New York just for this event. I spoke with some people who wanted to learn more and I shared information about the Life of a Yogi Teacher Trainings that Sri Dharma offers regularly in New York. I had such a good time that I purchased pre-sale tickets for next year. The gorgeous natural setting with Rocky Mountains in the background are the perfect setting to practice yoga with Sri Dharma Mittra – the “Rock of Yoga.”

 

 

 

Remarks on "The Shiva Samhita"

By Yama Om
 
The Shiva Samhita is a collection of verses of Shiva, which are in the form of a dialogue with Parvati.  The text contains the essence of Yoga as well as more esoteric teachings.  This post will briefly touch upon a few of the important themes of this text.
 
The Shiva Samhita claims to contain the “consummate” teaching of Yoga and therefore the aspirant need not concern him or herself with other sacred texts.[1]  The text succinctly teaches the laws of karma as, for example, in this verse: “Through the power of sin there is sorrow; through the power of good deeds, pleasure.  Therefore, one who desires pleasure must perform various types of good deeds” (7).  Heaven and hell are the results of good and evil deeds (6) but Heaven and hell are not forever because when the results of good and evil deeds are exhausted one is born again (7).
 
Karma is the cause of everything that appears and not just those things that appear pleasant or unpleasant, as stated in this verse: “Everything that is seen in the world results from karma.  A living being reaps rewards according to its karmas” (35).
 
It is through renunciation of both good and bad deeds, however, that the yogi begins to acquire the highest knowledge (8).  Says Shiva, “That which impels the workings of the mind into bad and good acts is me” (9).  The yogi understands him or herself to be the instrument of the higher Self or God.  As Sri Dharma teaches, “I am not the doer.”  Indeed, everything is God, as stated by Shiva, “nothing in this world is different from me” (9).
 
The highest knowledge of the nature of reality leads to liberation, as pointed out in the verse “suffering is destroyed through true knowledge, resulting in a happiness without beginning or end” (15).  The Self or God is this eternal knowledge which, when realized, destroys ignorance — the cause of the world — and the world itself.  Shiva says, “It is Maya [illusion] who is the mother of the universe.  She can be completely destroyed by one who knows the truth.  When she is destroyed, the universe no longer exists” (16).
 
Therefore, the importance of a guru to the aspirant on the path of Yoga cannot be stressed enough.  In the words of Shiva, “After finding a guru knowledgeable in Yoga and receiving instruction in Yoga, the yogi should carefully and resolutely practice in the way taught by the guru” (45).  Similarly, Sri Dharma teaches that “The role of Guru is of the highest importance, as is the sincerity, humility, and loyalty of the student” (The Importance of a Guru in Yoga Tradition).
 
There are precisely six marks of perfection in an aspirant which are enumerated in this text as follows: “The first mark of perfection is the conviction that one’s practice will bear fruit.  The second is having faith, the third is honoring one’s guru.  The fourth is equanimity, the fifth restraint of the sense organs, and the sixth curbing of the diet.  There is no seventh” (44).  Similarly, Sri Dharma teaches that “Diet is very important.”  Again, Shiva: “Until the practice is complete, the yogi should resort to a restricted diet.  Without doing so, the wise man is unable to carry out the practice in this life” (159).
 
Through the practice of meditation, the aspirant stills the mind of all activity and realizes wholeness, or absolute identity with the Self or God.  Shiva teaches that “Having made the mind free of fluctuations, the yogi automatically becomes complete” (155), and as a result, the yogi sees unity everywhere and is eventually liberated (156).


[1] The Shiva Samhita 5 (James Mallinson trans., YogaVidya.com 2007).  Please note that all parenthetical citations are to this edition.

Yama Om_Shiva SamhitaYama Om studied religion and philosophy for two decades at universities in the U.S. and in Europe.  He was blessed to have worked with some of the world’s great teachers, including the Dalai Lama and the Archbishop Desmond Tutu, whom he served as a teaching assistant.  Yama began studying yoga in 2002, but it was not until 2008, the same year he completed his Ph.D. in Religion, that he met his Guru, Sri Dharma Mittra.  Over the next five years, Yama completed the 200, 500, and 800 hour “Life of a Yogi” Teacher Training Programs.  As a public interest attorney, he works to prevent homelessness by providing free legal services to poor people facing eviction or foreclosure.