Category Archives: reading

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.

Ahimsa and Veganism

by Susan Craig

“The most violent weapon on earth is the table fork.” Mahatma Gandhi

I became a vegan nearly 30 years ago – long before I found Sri Dharma. My decision to stop eating animals was born out of a very hopeless period in my life when I was severely abused. During that darkest days of my life I made a pact with myself that, as small and inconsequential as my life seemed to be, knowing what it felt like to be abused and to be treated as if I had no value, I would do my best not to treat others as if they had no value. This decision included non-human animals; the least that I could do was to stop eating them. Little did I know that this decision, along with the beginnings of an asana practice, would take me on a most amazing journey which recently included finding Sri Dharma Mittra as my yoga teacher.

While the deep pain in my life did not suddenly dissipate as a result of becoming a vegan, I did experience some immediate benefits. My overall physical health improved quickly and dramatically (To this day, at nearly 60 years old, I am far healthier than I was in my teens  and twenties.). Along with that, issues around body image and eating that had been a source of personal torture since my teens disappeared and never returned. These were miracles!

With veganism as a non-negotiable core value, along with the beginnings of an asana practice, I began the slow and arduous climb out of the deep pit that I found myself in. While I have utilized many additional means of recovery support along the way, I believe that the deepest and most profoundly transformative decision that I have made has been to become a vegan. Sri Dharma’s core teachings around Ahimsa certainly support this.

It is a rare individual who has not eaten animal flesh, dairy, and eggs. We have been born into cultures that treat food animals as commodities meant to be eaten. From birth we have been indoctrinated into a culture that tells us that we must consume animals, that it is normal and necessary for health. Upon questioning this indoctrination, however, we find that it is based upon false information. The human body is designed to thrive on a vegan diet. Additionally, on a deeper, spiritual level, the simple act of changing what we put on our plates at each meal – the decision not to participate in the abuse and slaughter of food animals, is liberating  beyond words. The benefits extend far beyond one’s health and spiritual development. As the effects of climate change become become increasingly evident, numerous sources of scientific research indicate that animal agriculture is the leading cause of global warming. (Perhaps the law of Karma is at work here…as we reap, so shall we sew.) What a blessing that, by choosing a plant-based diet, we are improving our own health, we are ceasing to participate in wide-spread violence towards sentient beings, and we are drastically reducing our contribution to the environmental stress on the planet!

In June 2015, I participated in the deeply transformative 200 hour LOAY training with Sri Dharma Mittra. Prior to making the decision to go through the LOAY training, as I searched for my yoga teacher, I started with one screening requirement: I needed a teacher who practiced and taught veganism as a core requirement of being a yogi. This one requirement narrowed the field of potential teachers down to few enough that I could count them on the fingers of one hand. Out of these few, I found myself drawn to Sri Dharma – his wisdom, dedication to his practice and to selfless service, his humility and egoless presence, and his fidelity to practicing and teaching the Yama of Ahimsa or non-violence. Ahimsa literally means A=not, himsa= killing or violence. In the LOAY Teachers’ Manual (2015, p. 4) Sri Dharma says, “Ahimsa means love; ‘thou shalt not kill!’ This applies not only to human beings, but to every living creature.”

Sri Dharma is one of the only yoga teachers of whom I am aware who does not shy away from teaching the yama of Ahimsa to his students truthfully. He regularly states while teaching that one must extend one’s compassion beyond one’s pets and that when one eats animals one is engaging in cruelty. He talks about how when one consumes animal products, one’s body becomes a morgue. In Sri Dharma’s words, “Without taking on the yama of ahimsa, there is little benefit to observing the other four yamas or any other aspect of the holy science of yoga.” (LOAY Teachers’ Manual, p. 5) I know, from the center of my soul, that this information is true and correct. The decision to become a vegan as a core component of one’s practice of Ahimsa will deepen and strengthen one’s  yoga practice. It will simultaneously improve the quality of one’s life immeasurably while benefiting other beings and the health of the planet. I highly recommend it!

Note: For additional information on the benefits of veganism that this blog has room for, I recommend reading The World Peace Diet by Dr. Will Tuttle and viewing the documentary, Cowspiracy.

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.

Effort as Offering: Changing the way we approach our practice

headstand

by Eileen Lorraine

My life has gone upside down many times; in my yoga life though, inverting has always eluded me. I came up with many viable reasons for this, blaming my gymnastics teacher who denied me my beloved balance beam until I learned to do multiple backward summersaults on the mat. Yawn. I blamed my thick thighs which I felt were far too heavy to lift higher than my hips. Gravity’s got me like. I blamed my unwarranted fear that kept me rooted to the ground no matter how many people kindly attempted to show me their way of going upside down on their heads. Feeling somewhat defeated, I eventually came to accept it as fact. I cannot do a headstand. There, I said it. Let others do it, let others teach it. It just won’t be me.

I suppose all along there was something deeper inside me that wasn’t fully buying such a definitive statement, and what didn’t come as a surprise to those who know my rebellious spirit, I applied to do the Life of a Yogi 500 hour teacher training with the man who dubbed the headstand, the “King of Poses”. In August 2015, I took a micro-sabbatical from my corporate gig and teaching classes in Las Vegas to join 65 other yogis from all over the world in New York’s Dharma Yoga Center (DYC). Feeling much like my first day at a brand new school, I entered the temple thinking, “What the hell did I get myself into?” During our first practice together as a group, Sri Dharma Mittra called sirsasana ten minutes into class. Ten minutes into class?! So I sat while the rest of the room went upside down, all the while trying to fake a look of serenity and confidence in my “watchasana”, when inside I was crumbling. “I want to do that,” I thought. “I should be able to do that! I don’t deserve to be here. I don’t deserve to be a teacher. What am I doing here?” And on and on and on the internal dialog went until sweet relief came when I heard Dharma-ji say, “Ok. Now break the pose.” (Holding self-chastising-asana is remarkably exhausting.)

Soon after, we were paired off into small groups of six. These were to be my peers for the two contact modules during our training, led by my first of two mentors, Andrew Jones. Being paired with Andrew, a senior teacher at DYC, was a gentle gift from the Universe. His soft British accent and kind demeanor invited me to share my dark confession with the group, “I can’t do headstand. And I want to. I really, really want to.” I expected to be met with instructions to go into a headstand and then feel the familiar shame of not being able to go any further than a deep version of dolphin pose. But that’s not what happened. Instead he simply said, “So you can’t do headstand. Its ok, you don’t have to.”

Wait, what?

Four words were all it took. “YOU DON’T HAVE TO,” and I was suddenly set free. Andrew continued, asking if I could consider removing the goal of conquering the pose, to take if off of my to-do list and to remember that asana is not the yoga I was after. That it wasn’t what pulled me away from my life in Las Vegas and called me to spend this time with Dharma-ji. He reminded me that our practice is an offering, and in that sense no matter how little or how much I invert myself, it is enough. For God, it has always been enough. And it was then that I gave myself permission to release the white knuckle grip I had on this pose, to slow down, to open my mind in a way that could finally absorb the technical hints my mentor and peers lovingly shared with me. And little by little over the course of the next eight days, my legs began to go up. It wasn’t until I returned to the security of my home did I fully invert away from the wall, but let me just say, it was an amazing feeling. I’m up, I’m up! I had a huge sense of pride, not for conquering the pose but for being able to let go of my ego enough to make my all my efforts an offering. And let that offering be enough.

Self-realization happens in subtle moments when we witness ourselves for whom we truly are, made of our strengths and our limitations. It happens in the moments when we release what is outside of us and instead go quietly inside, gently encouraging ourselves (with a sweet English accent if possible, it bloody helps!) to experience the moment, not the result. Without bringing compassion to our practice, there is no yoga.

shirshasana1 Shirshasana2 Shirshasana3 Shirshasana4 Shirshasana5 Shirshasana6 Shirshasana7 headstand

Shanti Shanti Shanti Om.

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.

Self-Practice with B.K.S. Iyengar’s Light on Yoga

By Jessica Dodd

Gale_Super_Dancerpose

My self-practice of yoga began in a small village made up of five families, tucked away in the historic Basque valley of Northern Spain. Using B.K.S. Iyengar’s book Light on Yoga as a guide, I rolled out my mat each day and practiced yoga. The room I stayed in had a beautiful bareness, located in a mere corner space of an old adobe building, with gorgeous blue frame windows that let in the light. Before practice each day I swept the floor which collected dust quickly. It was in this room that I developed the confidence to practice on my own.

Studying Light on Yoga played an important role in my development as a yogi. The text begins simply with “What is Yoga?”  As a recent college graduate who spent four years earning a bachelor’s of fine art in sculpture, this was the perfect introduction for me.  I had decided to change hats from learning and expressing myself through three-dimensional art to using my skills as a maker and give back more significantly to the world. I turned to small-scale organic farming, a respectable way of life that brings nourishment to the people. This journey of giving back and serving others led me to work on many parts of my being.

I had been traveling and volunteering on small family farms for a year when I arrived in that tiny town of Spain. I read through Iyengar’s opening words in Light on Yoga multiple times. I appreciated his straightforward writing which clearly illustrates the techniques, history, and path of yoga.

If it were not for his book, it may have been some time before I attempted to study the sacred science of yoga. Iyengar’s descriptive photographs were helpful to a beginner without a guru to learn from in person. He provides a thorough text describing the philosophy and practice of yoga that gives his readers a clear understanding well beyond a beginner level. I immediately began applying the Yamas (restraints) and Niyamas (observances) on and off the mat. These codes of conduct helped me to realize yoga was not just done on a mat or cushion, but rather the practice was with me always.

Light_On_Yoga_BKS_Iyengar

With the book as my guide and my inner being as my greatest teacher, I practiced confidently on my own. Abhaya (non-fear) was a constant in my mind. I released any fear towards the practice of yoga. Instead I embraced it with the entirety of my being and learned to stay in the moment. Doing so helped me to consider the effects of my difficult childhood as cause for some of my personal traits as an adult. Once I learned to dislike only the actions done by persons of my life, rather than the persons themselves, I became free of ill feelings and full of forgiveness.

Iyengar’s fourfold remedy to overcome common obstacles, which were drawn from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, were also at the forefront of my thoughts. Maitri (friendliness) taught me to connect more easily with new people I met when I traveled. Karuna (compassion) was the backbone of my decision to work only for room and board on each small family farm as most farmers have very little money. Mudita (delight) enveloped me as I admired each farmer for their talents and the beautiful bounties they produced for their communities. Upeksa (disregard) helped me through challenges with other persons, reminding me to first look within myself.

Light on Yoga is a sacred book in my collection. Though I do not practice a classical Iyengar style of yoga today, I believe this book helped me develop a strong foundation for my practice. Learning to manage fiery dedication, honoring the light within, and being light at heart takes courage. Today I have that courage and I look forward to sharing it with others within the Dharma Yoga community and beyond.

Jessica_DoddJessica Dodd is a craftswoman living in the mountains of Western North Carolina.  She founded and runs a sustainable textile business that focuses on organic linens naturally dyed with plants.  Her yoga practice is present in all threads of her life.  She enjoys living a simple homestead lifestyle, getting her hands dirty tending the soils, and preparing meals for others.  She participated in the Dharma Yoga LOAY Teacher Training in February 2014.

The Power of Thoughts

By Dawn Kopecki

The book Yoga and Yogic Powers by Yogi Gupta was a revelation when I first read it more than two years ago. It completely transformed how I think about yoga, what I knew at the time about yoga, and how I have approached my yogic studies since then. It is, by far, one of my favorite books on yoga.

“There is a close association between a material thing and your invisible thoughts,” Yogi Gupta writes at the beginning of the chapter “Thoughts are Things.” That idea was one of the strongest messages I took away from reading this book.

Our thoughts are basically electrical currents or vibrations that are carried throughout the universe and can physically impact, even manifest, other people’s thoughts as well as physical matter.

This is a really important concept to understand in yoga, since we are ultimately trying to master control over our thoughts. Negative thoughts translate into negative energy, and increase the likelihood of negative events. Positive thoughts attract more positive energy to your aura, and increase the odds of a good outcome on whatever it is that you’re focusing on.

A person’s thoughts have a direct impact on a person’s mood and physical health. All the cells in the body are under direct control of your higher mind, not your conscious mind. Your higher mind, which never sleeps, literally controls all mechanical and electrical functions in the body; therefore, it can heal disease. However, negative thoughts can affect your higher mind and, in turn, your physical body in negative ways. Yogis are able to gain control of their higher minds and to access or control the forces of nature, which is also known as supernatural phenomena.

“Every action, physical or mental in your life, is preceded by a specific thought in your mind and that thought is preceded by specific astral pictures or astral images.”

The astral image may be your own or someone else’s. People who have don’t have strong protection around their auras are more prone to receive negative thoughts or psychic attacks. You can psychically “charge” yourself and protect yourself against attack by generating more prana and strengthening your aura. A yogi shouldn’t attempt to heal herself until she has mastered the ability to protect her aura and strengthen her prana.

Every single thought is its own form comprised of energetic vibrations that are transmitted and picked up by other human beings. Those thoughts and currents can also manifest themselves in forms of disease or health and, among the extremely evolved yogis, can take physical shape.

Every thought we have in our earthly bodies is stored in our astral bodies for the afterlife. Those thoughts and actions form our Karma, which helps determine the course in our next lifetime.

 

Dawn_KopeckiDawn has had a consistent yoga practice since 2006 and completed her first 200-Hour Teacher Training in 2009 in Washington, D.C. She found her real calling when she stumbled upon the Dharma Yoga Center‘s website that year and moved to New York in 2010 for a new job and to train at the DYC. She completed the LOAY 200-Hour Teacher Training with Sri Dharma Mittra in 2011 and the LOAY 500-Hour Teacher Training in 2012. She’s also certified to teach children’s yoga and has trained with the Lineage Project, which teaches yoga to incarcerated teens in New York City, hoping to eventually bring Sri Dharma Mittra’s teachings to people who can’t afford classes. Yoga has not only transformed her body, strength and overall health, but it brings a sense of balance and calm to her high-stress job covering finance and politics in New York and Washington, D.C.

Yogic Wisdom from Sri Dharma Mittra, Part III

You may remember our last collection of quotes from Sri Dharmaji; we thought it was about time for a few more!
Enjoy, and share with those who may benefit…

 
1.  Chanting OM brings the Divine’s attention to you.
 
2.  As you go deeper, obstacles become more subtle.
 
3.  Everything needs an update.
 
4.  Fear attracts accidents.

 

5.  After 20 minutes of Positive Breathing, you are ready to face a firing squad.
 
6.  If you have trouble with it, just pretend.
 
7.  Purifying the mind develops contentment.
 
8..   If you have a little spiritual knowledge, you should share it.  This is the highest form of charity.
 

 

9.  Sit still, meditate, and all the answers will come.

10.  Let’s dedicate our practice to something or someone beyond this personal self; that they may enjoy it through our mind & senses.

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We thank Dharma Yoga teacher Katherine Labonte for compiling this list of Sri Dharma Quotes.

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.

    

      

Why read the Dhammapada?

by Fay Inger
 
©Enid Johnstone
 
When reading through the Dhammapada, I found that many verses resonated with me and I wonder if this is because I read the verses with yogi colored glasses because I studied with Sri Dharma Mittra
 
When a modern day Guru such as Sri Dharma recommends a book, it makes it less obscure and more approachable. Certainly, many verses touched upon themes I learned in the Life of a Yogi (LOAY) Teacher Training program, and when reading, I imagined seeing Sri Dharma’s face with a glimmer in his eye! 
 
Because of the similarities between the words of the Buddha and Sri Dharma, it is no wonder that Sri Dharma recommends this text as an important read for any new or experienced yogi. 

 
There is a misconception that you must be a Buddhist or a person on a spiritual path seeking enlightenment to study the texts. In reality, this text is an important read regardless of one’s religious affiliation, because it transcends religion. In fact, there is no mention of religion at all. The book is not about religion or a higher power; it is about empowering the reader to be his or her best possible version by realizing that all the power is already within. (As I type this, I am aware of the strong correlation with how Sri Dharma encourages students to find their inner Guru). 

 
Jack Kornfield, who wrote the foreword of the Gil Fronsdal translation of the Dhammapada, himself touches upon this very concept in the introduction, where he points out the contrast between the opening verse in the bible and the opening verses in the Dhammapada. As the author points out, the bible “emphasize God’s role as creator and, by extension, our reliance on God’s power.” This implies that we are weak in God’s shadow. Conversely, the Dammapada reflects “the importance and effectiveness of a person’s own actions and choices.” This observation highlights how we are in charge of our own path and indeed, the masters of our own destinies. The entirety of the text is reminding us of this fact in every capacity and function. 

 
As the Buddha points out in the very first verse, it is our minds. “All experience is preceded by mind, led by mind, made by mind.” This sentiment reflects that Sri Dharma taught us that it is not we who are “bad,” it is our minds. It’s an important distinction, as it allows the individual freedom from our own thoughts and therefore actions – not to shirk responsibility of our deeds, but rather as a way to reflect on our own thoughts and regulate them before they turn into actions. 

 
According to the Buddha, our very experiences start with the mind! Is it any wonder, then, that when going into a situation thinking it will be bad, it usually is? To tie this into asana: if, before attempting a posture, the thought is, “there’s no way I can do that,” you are right and it will indeed be impossible to do.  Sri Dharma, in his infinite wisdom has said, “If you can bend your mind, you can bend your body.”  How liberating then to take ownership over your own experiences! 

 

 
The verse that I believe sums up the blueprint to living the life of a yogi is found in Chapter two, verse 25: “Through effort, vigilance, restraint and self control, the wise person can become an island no flood will overwhelm.” This is a powerful lesson to heed, as it sums up so much of Sri Dharma’s teachings. The Yamas and Niyamas, making an effort in asana — regardless of what happens around you, inside you are unchanged. This is essentially the same lesson from the Buddha to Sri Dharma just in different words! This concept is again reflected in Chapter 3 verse 38: “For those who are unsteady of mind, who do not know true Dharma, and whose serenity wavers, wisdom does not mature.” In essence, if you want to be wise, the reader is given the exact route to take to achieve wisdom.  It is through steadying the mind, finding your Dharma and becoming serene. And the ultimate goal is to conquer oneself. 
 
According to the Buddha: “Greater in combat than a person who conquers a thousand times a thousand people is the person who conquers herself.” 

 
And if one is simple and does not wish to be wise or to conquer him/her self? The Buddha has a blueprint for this person as well: “Doing no evil, engaging in what’s skillful, and purifying one’s mind: This is the teaching of the buddhas.” 

 
I find this book to be a perfect companion to Sri Dharma’s teachings for a student like myself who is across the country from the center, or for a student who has never participated in a LOAY teacher training. While the words are different, the direction and ultimate goal is the same. If it is mastery of the self one is seeking, then the Dhammapada is a text that will help set one on the right path. 

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Fay Inger is a 800-Hour Certified Dharma Yoga instructor living in Los Angeles, California. Fay is a private yoga instructor, writes blog posts on yoga and wellness and is learning nutrition to better help her students reach their health and fitness goals. As she always says, “yoga is a gift” and it is her favorite gift to share!

 

Six Ways to Get the Most Out of Your LOAY Teacher Training

By Jennifer Helgren

©Jeffrey Vock

First and foremost: GO



“Always do what you are afraid to do”   –Ralph Waldo Emerson



When the thought of attending the 500-Hour Life of a Yogi Teacher Training first entered my mind, I almost automatically dismissed the idea.  I had so many reasons NOT to attend (mother of two young children, travelling husband, a plane ride away from NYC, no housing in the city, etc.)



What I learned was that when I committed to my dream, the obstacles fell away. It may take some time, and definitely some effort, but the result – well, is simply too great to put into mere words. Dive in, take a chance, and find a way to GO.

Second:  Open your mind and heart



“Be Receptive” —Sri Dharma Mittra



There will be moments in the training that will challenge you – physically, mentally, spiritually – and you must always remember that is why you are here. Open the whole of your mind, even the places that you are least aware of: the places that hold onto resistance.  Allow the words, people, experiences, and lessons to pour into those hidden places. Listen with an open heart and mind, and the information will be absorbed.  Weeks, months after you leave, you will hear these words and learn these lessons…they will reside in the mind and heart, and the space you created within. 



©Jeffrey Vock
Third: Put forth effort and use imagination



“Imagination is powerful. You go as far as you can imagine”– Sri Dharma Mittra



You are going to be tired at some point. You will physically and mentally hit the proverbial wall.  You will move past it. I promise you, a second wind comes along and you will be renewed.



I second-guessed myself initially, but that fell away after time. My mind let go of the attachments to thoughts and emotions that often distract us and inhibit us from fully committing to something.  We live in the real world, and the world does not like to be left behind. It will pull at you, distract you, and sometimes overwhelm you.  Give yourself time to allow these things to come up. They are natural and they will pass.



Apply disciplined effort to your practice. Let the physical practice act as a brush to scrub away at whatever negative tendencies you may have.  Let it invigorate you, regenerate you. Your physical practice will grow by leaps and bounds through dedication and practice, practice, practice.



Finally, use your imagination – Sri Dharma talks about this often and it truly resonated with me. Imagine yourself to be a better person, mother, father, daughter, son, friend, partner – a better yogi. Use your imagination as fuel to show yourself that what you pursue is attainable through effort, dedication, study, and time. 

Fourth: Be a Student



“In learning you will teach and in teaching, you will learn” Phil Collins



Lose all preconceptions. Take off the teacher hat and allow yourself to commit to being a student. Listen and learn: from Sri Dharma, the mentors, your fellow trainees. Watch your own mind and learn how to apply all that you receive to yourself, your life, your teaching.  Apply the lessons to every aspect of your life. You will be amazed at how the things you are exposed to relate to your roles in life – as a person, yogi, teacher, parent, child, friend, partner, spouse. This is truly the LIFE of a yogi training!



Listen as much as possible. You will want to take notes, but if you can, take time to just be still and listen. Let go and simply absorb the information and the words.  Listen to other people’s questions and answers and try not to be too eager to answer them for yourself, even in your own mind. Let other people share, and let their knowledge and experiences become part of your own.

©Jeffrey Vock


Fifth: Smile, live, learn, laugh…and do your homework!



“Knowledge is a treasure, but practice is the key to it” Lao Tzu



Enjoy the training! Every day, it becomes more of a part of you and integrates itself into your very being. 

Sri Dharma is always quick with a smile and a kind-hearted joke. He understands the power of laughter and the importance of joy.  The training will go faster than you think, so soak up every minute! When you leave between sessions or after the final interval, do your homework!  Remember that you are going to be able to do it and what’s more, you will enjoy it. After my internship ended, I found that much of the homework has become a part of my daily life.  After talking with many other trainees, this is the case with most of us.  Carry it forward. Apply it. LIVE it. 

Sixth and finally: Go back



“Well, sometimes home is a person” –B.Revis



I understand how hard to is to travel to New York City. Still, I would encourage you to go back as much as you can. Go home, and by home I mean return to Sri Dharma and be in his presence. 



However, if you are very far and it is not possible for you to physically go, keep in touch with people through the internet, the phone, however you can to maintain the connection. I have found myself using Facebook to keep in contact with other trainees and to touch base with the Center – daily! You can see pictures of Sri Dharma, the mentors, your friends. You can read quotes from Sri Dharma (and yes, you hear his voice!) You see familiar faces and smiles and all at once, you are home. 



In closing, ultimately this experience is a very personal one. I wish that everyone who is undecided about going could understand one thing – you will never regret going, but you may regret having never been. 


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Jennifer has a undergraduate degree in Psychology and a Master’s Degree with a specialty in Counseling.  She had a career as a counselor working with clients of all ages and backgrounds, in varying environments, with a wide range of needs and concerns.  After her time as a counselor, Jennifer began her life as a mother, the most rewarding and challenging career of all. She believes that her education, practice, and history as a counselor, and mother, play an important role in her yoga practice and her teaching. She believes strongly that a truly dedicated spiritual and physical yoga practice can transform, enhance, and expand the life of the practitioner. Jennifer had the honor to study with Sri Dharma Mittra for both the LOAY 200- and 500-Hour Teacher Trainings, and recently graduated from the 500-hour Life of a Yogi Teacher Training. Jennifer studied with numerous other teachers, but continues to find her strength, inspiration, knowledge, direction, and guidance from Sri Dharma. She lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia with her husband and two children.  Jennifer teaches regular weekly classes in Virginia Beach and continues to travel to NYC at every available opportunity to study under Sri Dharma and the Senior Teachers at the NYC Center.