Category Archives: spiritual

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.

Vegan Delights

by Tracy Bechtel

Wheatberry Green Bean Salad
Servings 4

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1 cup wheatberries, soaked overnight in water
1 lb green beans*
1 large heirloom tomato*, or any type of tomatoes
¼ cup mint, chopped
¼ cup parsley, chopped
1 avocado, sliced
1-2 lemons, juiced, to taste
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
3-4 large handfuls of salad greens*
sea salt and pepper, to taste

In a medium-size pot, boil water. Add soaked wheatberries, lower heat and simmer covered for at least an hour. Drain wheatberries and set aside to cool.

In the same pot, boil water. Add green beans and blanche for 3 minutes. Drain and place green beans in ice water to stop cooking. Cut green beans in bite-size pieces, approximately 2-inch pieces.

In a large bowl, combine cooled wheatberries, green beans and the rest of the ingredients. Add sea salt and pepper, to taste. Toss and enjoy!

 

Wild Brown Rice Pilaf with Cauliflower and other veggies
Servings 4-5

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1 cup brown rice
1/2 cup wild rice
2 ¼ cups filtered water
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
1 carrot, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 small onion, diced
1/2 cup green peas, fresh or frozen
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
sea salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a medium sized pot, heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook until onions start to become soft. Add carrots and celery and continue sautéing for 5 more minutes. Add water and bring to boil. Add brown rice and wild rice; lower heat and simmer covered for 25 minutes. Turn off heat and allow to stand for another 10 minutes covered.

While rice is cooking, put cauliflower on a baking sheet in a single layer. Toss with 1 tbsp of olive oil. Roast for 25 minutes, stirring in the middle of cooking time.

Once rice and cauliflower are finished cooking, toss rice and cauliflower with the remaining ingredients. Season with sea salt and pepper, to taste.

 

 

TracyBlogTracy Bechtel is a holistic health coach and mother of two beautiful children. She discovered yoga shortly after her second child was born over six years ago. After leaving a career in financial services, she began exploring her interests in health and wellness, and yoga was a natural extension to these pursuits. After practicing at different yoga schools in NYC for several years, she found Dharma Yoga and has been a devoted student to Sri Dharma Mittra since. She recently completed the 200-hr LOAY teacher training in June 2015. Since then, she has been teaching community classes at the beach in her hometown in Connecticut.

 

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.

 

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

By Kathy Goelz

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

 

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

 

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.

Taking the Gastro-Intestinal Tract to the Cleaners

By Brando Lee Lundberg

Whether it’s a particular holiday season or the tilt of the earth that provides motivation to renew, cleanse, let go of, or cultivate, there is a natural tendency to change the habits of the body and mind, just as the hemispheres undergo changes each season.

One of the kriyas, or yogic cleansing actions, used to promote internal purity on the physical and subtle levels is called Shanka-Prakshalana.  This technique cleans out the entire gastro-intestinal tract.  It involves drinking lukewarm salt water and performing specific asana postures in a dynamic fashion until the urge to defecate arises.  One relieves oneself a number of times until the entire gastro-intestinal tract has been cleaned – evidenced by clear evacuations that look much like water.  While there are other techniques for achieving the same result of this kriya – such as eating only watermelon for four days or more until what emerges is of a similar color to watermelon, or heading to a local wellness center for colon hydrotherapy also known as colonics – Shanka-Prakshalana is one of the quickest and cheapest ways to achieve the same result in 45 minutes to one and a half hours.

Shanka-Prakshalana is recommended in cases when one slips into following a particularly unhealthy diet, in which case, the kriya is recommended once every few months for a system reset.  If one is following a vegan diet with few processed foods and not overeating, this technique may not be necessary.  Consult a medical professional if there are any doubts.

Having completed two Shanka-Prakshalana kriyas, each spaced apart by approximately one and a half years – the first upon switching to a vegan diet and the second after a particularly unhealthy holiday season eating extravaganza – I have compiled the following notes for those considering this kriya technique.

Preparing the saltwater:

  • Add one tablespoon (15 milliliters) of sea salt or Red Himalayan salt to one quart (.95 liters) of room temperature or warm, filtered or spring water.  It’s important that regular table salt not be used, as it is less pure than the kinds listed above. Prepare at least two quarts.  Mix well.

Drinking the saltwater and performing the yoga postures:

  • Drink down the first quart. Some find that holding the nose helps get the salt water down.
  • Try to drink the entire salt solution (the first quart) within 15-20 minutes. Some will be able to get it down within five-10 minutes. Others will vomit if they take it too quickly. If you’re super sensitive, try to get it down within 30 minutes.
  • After drinking the first quart, carry out some gentle yoga postures. The following are recommended: Tadasana variation, Tiryaka Tadasana, Katti Chakrasana, Tiryaka Bhujangasana and Udarakarshanasana. Further instructions on these asanas can be found via Swami Googlenanda: http://www.jalanetipot.com/asanas1.html
  • Following the asanas, listen to the body, deeply. If the body is telling you that it needs more rest before starting to drink the salt water again, rest on the left side. If the body is telling you that it could drink more, fill another one quart with the saline mixture. Drink one cup at a time, and then repeat the exercises for two minutes before drinking another cup until you feel you can longer drink anymore. Rest on the left side until the body lets you know you can continue drinking and doing the exercises or have to use the bathroom.
  • Continue this cycle of drinking, yoga postures, resting on the left side, and evacuating until your evacuations are clear as water.
  • Occasionally, some people have to drink up to a gallon of water before evacuations run clear, so plan accordingly. It took me two quarts and two cups (480 milliliters). Others need less than two quarts, however. Each body will be different.

Post kriya:

  • Sri Dharma advises resting for 45 minutes after the evacuations are complete and not planning anything that will require much exertion for the rest of the day. The first time I performed this kriya I had a nice calm energy afterwards and was comfortable moving around the house, preparing a simple meal, et cetera. This second time around I was more fatigued and dehydrated immediately afterwards.  After drinking enough coconut water and filtered water to quench my thirst I rested for an hour. The calm energy appeared after I got up, and I was fine with moving around thereafter.
  • Once one has sufficiently rested and is ready to consume some food, Sri Dharma recommends preparing a simple lentil soup, green peas or starchy grains.  One may also consider consuming only watermelon or fruit juices, or to fast all together for a day or more after performing this kriya.  Use your intuition.

Good luck and much OM!

 

100023096_largeBrando first came across some yoga postures in 2002 as part of a six month get into shape program presented in Outside magazine.  For the next 10 years, yoga served the same purpose – strength and flexibility.  In February 2013, this changed upon meeting Sri Dharma Mittra at Kripalu.

Kick your Asana Vegan Kale Blueberry Smoothie

By Sarah Eve Cardell

Kale, blueberries, maca, chia and hemp seeds, and more! This smoothie is filled with energizing nutrients and is vegan, soy and gluten-free.

Most traditional yogis suggest not to eat at least two-three hours before practicing yoga. For those of us with busy schedules and limited time for meals and body nourishment, this golden rule may be difficult to follow perfectly. I have created this smoothie recipe with no belly-bloating banana and sufficient protein to keep you charged and able to build those sexy yogi muscles. Maca is added for natural energy without the coffee caffeine jitters and gojis berries for their antioxidant value. Did you know that the goji berry (i.e. wolfberry) is revered in Chinese medicine as an elixir of long life? I suppose if you practice yoga and eat these berries daily, you might just live happily and healthily forever.

I soak small quantities of gojis in water and keep handy in the refrigerator for up to a week. The berries are great for smoothies, oatmeal, quinoa, and salads. You can also use the soaking liquid for a fragrant and healing herbal tea.

Enjoy the smoothie before class (I usually drink 30-45 minutes before) and experience a kick your asana (physical yoga) practice.

Kick your Asana Vegan Kale Blueberry Smoothie
Gluten-free • Vegan • Soy-free
Makes 1 serving

Ingredients
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
½ tsp. organic vanilla extract
1 tsp. chia seeds, ground
1 tsp. hemp seeds
½ tsp. maca powder
½ cup organic blueberries, fresh or frozen
1 small handful kale leaves, stems removed*
1 tsp. soaked gojis (optional)
1-2 drops liquid stevia (or sweetener of your choice)
Ice (1-2 pieces, less if using frozen blueberries)

Directions
1. Mix all in a blender.
2. Sip. Om. Repeat.

*Kale leaves can be tough and make a smoothie a bit chewy if you don’t have a high quality blender such as a Blendtec or Vitamix. If a simple blender is all that is at hand, no worries! Chop up the kale leaves a bit first and then blend solo with the almond milk. Then add the remaining ingredients. Make sure to use small(ish) size ice cubes to protect the motor and voila! You will produce a deliciously creamy drink.

 

Sarah Eve Cardell 2-9Sarah Eve Cardell is the culinary shaman, making magic in the kitchen and healing from the heart. She completed her 200 and 500-hour yoga teacher trainings with Sri Dharma Mittra, who deeply inspired her path to become a vegan chef. Combined with her shamanic studies, a student of the late Ipupiara a Makunaiman of the Ure-e-wau-wau Amazonian tribe, she uses the traditional wisdom from the yogic and shamanic paths to share modern day wellness. Sarah offers vegan and gluten-free cooking classes and catering up to 150 people. Whether in yoga classes, healing workshops and private sessions, or in the kitchen, she assists in creating a safe space in which you can heal you!  www.sarahevecardell.com

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.”