Category Archives: surrender

Yoga For Trying Times

By Sri Dharma Mittra 

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

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

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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.

To Understand “Dharma” as Duty

By Diana Scime-Sayegh

We are a society obsessed with “fulfilling our dreams.” However, those dreams are usually ego based—ones of fame, fortune and “having it all.”  Yet many of these dreams cause great suffering when they are not achieved—feelings of failure, FOMO and not being good enough. This then impedes our ability to move forward in our lives and can result in depression and anxiety.

What if instead of fulfilling our dreams, we grew up excited and present with the idea of fulfilling our dharma?

Dharma is defined as duty, but it is not that simple to fully digest.

Dharma is what we were put on this earth to do for our soul’s evolution, to reach self-actualization, and perhaps most importantly to serve the rest of our community and Lord Shiva.

Beloved Sri Dharma will sometimes (lovingly and joyfully) say during class, “I don’t wanna be here! I wanna go home.”  But he understands his Dharma, and so he shows up and practices with us, teaches us, stays with us.

He left Brazil to follow Yogi Gupta, left India to come to NYC and fulfill his purpose handed to him by Shiva and his Guru, to teach and spread true yoga to as many people as possible.

Sri Dharma has been in the army and worked as a janitor, never feeling any job was beneath him, always willing to work hard, shed karmas, and offer all of himself to something much greater.

He opened one of the first yoga schools in NYC, and at his first class he watched as the one person who showed up left before he could even finish the Om. Regardless, with ego non-existent and no attachment to the outcome of his labor, he kept on going.  He understood it was not about “him,” but rather that this was his offering to the Lord and the purpose of his soul.

Now 76 years old,  he has taught all over the world and is an endless source of compassion and giving.  He is tired, but he knows he has a duty to fulfill (to such an extent his Guru gave him the name Dharma!) and he keeps going.

I have finally come to understand that “Dharma” and our dreams are not to be confused, and that a person must be fully established in a release of ego in order to truly hear their Dharma. I once thought my dharma was to be a world famous yoga teacher, a household name who was being asked to teach at Wanderlust and Bhakti Fest, leading Gwyneth Paltrow through practice.

How wrong I was, how wrapped up my ego was in these ideas! That was my DREAM, not my “dharma”.  As Sri Dharma says, “you might think you are very right, but really you are very wrong.”

As I sat in the garden this summer watching the bees tend to their work day after day I finally understood “dharma” and releasing the fruit of our actions. The bees show up to the flowers every day, busily working and ego-free, with no need for accolades, awards, or notoriety. They show up to the flowers because they must, because it is their dharma to the rest of the community—to nature, to us.  They fulfill their role joyfully, dutifully and with great discipline.

How much the bees have taught me about “dharma”.

I now understand in order to teach yoga in the way it is meant to be taught I must simply get a full time job like everyone else. In that way I can serve without a business mind, without the need to prove myself, without attachment to the workshops and the classes. But rather with the freedom and the joy of understanding that all of my work is actually done by Shiva anyway, and that all I do when I teach yoga and show up to my job are my offerings back to the cosmic consciousness.

All work is spiritual and all work is yoga when we understand all work is an offering.  Meditate, come to know yourself and the supreme teacher within, and be freed from the ego’s constant need for gratification, praise and attention.

Our purpose as yogis is to serve, and we cannot do this fully if we are serving our egos before our brothers and sisters, if we are more concerned with fulfilling our dreams than our dharmas.

 

DianaDiana Scime-Sayegh is the owner of Happy Heart Yoga Shala where she leads bespoke yoga for vibrant living, creating custom private practices to help release people of the blocks that keep them from living their most effervescent, joyful lives.  She received her 500-Hr from Sri Dharma Mittra and regularly practices with him. She is humbled and grateful to have the opportunity to teach yoga and is committed to serving, sharing her spiritual knowledge and transforming lives through yoga the same way she transformed her own.

 

The Nectar of Dharma Yoga

By Jerome Burdi

 

Legs behind the head, stand on your forearms, head, and hands… backbend like the gods…practice with devotion…help others…reshape your body and mind…receive the bliss from the ancient psychic practices passed down by the sages to only those who are ready…then enjoy yogic sleep…30 minutes is like a full night’s rest.

We needed that because with 14-hour days like this, no one was sleeping for a full night. But still, I would get up excited for the next day, even before my 5 a.m. alarm went off.

Besides being physically and mentally challenging (as one would expect from Dharma Yoga,) the 800-hour Life of a Yogi teacher training was an amazing experience of the higher practices of yoga. The practices can change your life in this incarnation and the next. During the 500-hour teacher training, we students found ourselves eating a lot during the day and sleeping deeply when the day was done. There was a lot of asana during that training.

In the 800-hour, the trainees were pulsing with prana from so much yoga nidra and psychic development. We ate very little, and slept even less during the short nights and long days.

The room was charged at all times. Sri Dharma was giving us so much during his classes both public and private. One must be ready for these higher practices of yoga. A yogi on the first steps of the path gets a taste of how seasoned yogis can go without food or sleep, living off the energy of the universe.

“Go slow, but steady,” Sri Dharma said about developing one’s practice. This is how one becomes fully established and reaps the full benefits.

Before the training, I could not keep from slipping off into unconscious sleep during yoga nidra and I had no concentration for the esoteric practice of psychic development. But through the fire of the 14-hour days, practicing these techniques over and over again with the master’s guidance, I and others started to taste the nectar.

The asana is so alluring and such a delight to nail poses you thought you’d never get. But it is these higher practices that will reveal the deeper meanings of existence and how to be free from suffering. As Sri Dharma says, the asana is just a stepping stone. Enjoy it and work hard, but don’t stay there.

How fortunate we are to still have the ancient teachings available to us. May we all find our way to be liberated from pain and suffering in this very lifetime. May all the Dharma Yoga teachers preserve the integrity and power of the teachings handed down to us by our beloved and humble guru, Sri Dharma Mittra.

 

Jerome Blog

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

Jerome is also a Middle Eastern style percussionist and holistic nutritionist.

 

Guru from Within

Devotional Writings
Dedicated to a Living Inspiration:

 Sri Dharma Mittra

Guru from Within

By
Anne Marie Gordon

 I bow to the Supreme Self

the Creator of all beings.
May my life be an expression
of your will.

Om Namah Shivaya

 

Dharmaji –
With love
& fidelity,
how can I keep you close (to me)?

Send please, the strength
to carry on this light
that dispels all doubt.

Every day, a brand new dawn
breaking new horizons
that somehow seemed long gone –
before they even saw the light
of day.

In true reality, let my heart practice
wholeness in knowing (truth),
and in each moment liken
myself to you.

Your devoted sadhaka

 ***

May I always express the current of Truth
that flows through this being;
always knowing the Real from the un-Real,
maintaining strength and balance
to remain unaffected by the delusions of dreaming.

 ***

In my heart
I’m your disciple,
though my mind may be oft confused;
my body may be weak and feeble,
but my soul hearkens towards you.

In my life,
the senses wandered,
in the dark they saw it too,
given strength and will to go on
still and still more they foresee truth.

O Dharma, be my Guru,
help me dispel this doubt!
I am but a black sheep wondering
when at last it’s all ‘figured out.’

I don’t need a written answer,
I don’t need a brand new name,
I have felt the plane of Atman,
I would do it all again.

“I have no one else but you, only you my lord.”

 ***

Dharmaji,
May we become wise like you.
As the minutes, days, years
go by.

Truth is reflected in us all;
It’s a guiding inner light.
When all around is dark and menacing,
one feels strength,
instead of fright.

When the mind weaves webs of doubt,
and sadness wanders through;
shake-off the mind as impermanent,
and remember the calling within you.

I hear voices saying random things!
Recall and allow their mutability. 

Words may arise with little inspection,
only after they’re thrown can one see the waves;
with each ripple and sense of unalterable reception,
one firmly sees cause to withhold – for days.

Let all I do here shine out a pure pattern,
let me be not ashamed for all to see.
I am the love between children and nature,
I have you, and you have me.

***

All my life
I’ve been searching for Truth;
to realize the infinite All Mighty –
all I could want to do.

Sometimes in loneliness, fear struck, with pride,
Still aware, from my Self, there was nowhere to hide.

Grown out of darkness,
and into my life,
You arrived!
now confiding in me
a path that is right.

With each mantra I pray,
I’m more my Self each day,
loosening the hold of distractions.

And so often I can,
using voice, using hands,
I let Spirit shape these movements.

And I know it’s to thee,
my yearning soul guided me;
so in my heart you will always be.
For I am you, and you are me.

I am Dharma Mittra

***

Anne MarieNurtured from a young age by the curiosities of existence, Anne Marie Gordon has always dreamed of expanding her world view through travel, poetry, and self-study.
After relishing the experience of studying English Literature and teaching in Prague, she landed back home in New York to unravel her path to yoga. During her first hot yoga training in 2011, she was introduced to the teachings of Sri Dharma Mittra and the flame of inspiration was ignited.
Since settling in Sheffield, England, she has maintained a solid yoga and teaching practice, opened Hot Yoga Sheffield, and has attended the Life of a Yogi 500-hour teacher training with Sri Dharma Mittra. She’s living each day with joy and gratitude.

The Yoga of Truly Seeing

By Barb Cooper

When I finished my LOAY teacher training requirements and graduated in 2013, I felt like it was the end of the most transformative chapter in my life.  It turned out to be the beginning of an entirely new way of serving the world.

In 2007, I had reconstructive foot surgery, during which something went wrong that left me on the couch in abject chronic pain for three years. It was yoga (and acupuncture) that triggered my healing, and then brought me to study with Sri Dharma Mittra. In Sri Dharma, I found the Guru who resonated with my hungry, directionless soul.

Although I have never had a conversation with Sri Dharma (I am too shy to approach him,) I know he sees me. I feel a deep connection to him. And there have been some funny moments: There was the time I came back after a coffee break to a session during a weekend immersion, sat down in a group in front of him, closed my eyes and tried to connect with my breath.  I opened my eyes to find him looking directly at me.  “How are you going to find bliss, “ he said, smiling, “when you can’t even give up coffee?”

Yep. He sees me.

So, I began teaching in March of 2013. In August of that year, after my family moved back to Texas, the dream of opening my own small studio became a reality. And things started to get weird and, um, magic started happening.

I know how that sounds.

In addition to the students for my Sri Dharma-inspired regular vinyasa classes, people in chronic pain and with chronic conditions began sort of…well, appearing in front of me, seeking healing through yoga. It wasn’t the usual injuries due to age or over-use, either. These were people with dramatic and excruciating physical needs. The first client who came to me had her entire spine fused except for three vertebrae, a frozen shoulder and muscles that her brain couldn’t talk to!

I had no idea what I was doing.

I did have an enormous desire to see others find the kind of healing that I found. Much of what I learned about yoga therapy, I learned by watching videos and reading medical texts.  I did hours of research on the specific conditions of my students. For each student, I developed a customized yoga sequence, modifying poses and sequences to suit their needs.  Every few months, we adjusted the sequences together, just seeing what was possible and what accommodations were no longer necessary.

Because I had such a profound experience with chronic pain myself, I know how to touch and talk to people who are hurting. I know, above all, that people in pain need to be reassured that I am not going to hurt them –that they are safe with me. I am very careful to ask permission before I adjust my clients, and then I do so in the gentlest way I can.  Often, I just hold people in the poses until they can hold themselves.

One of the most transformative things about my teaching practice has been developing the eyes to really see my students. I’ve learned that my students are used to feeling invisible –this is true of both the healthy and those who are struggling with health issues, actually. I make sure my clients know that I am truly seeing them. I see where they hold their pain, how their bodies change as their pain levels change.  Sometimes I see things in their bodies that they aren’t aware of until I mention it.

Healing is happening. It’s amazing and miraculous, and it is real.  Recently, over the holidays, I had a 15-year-old concussion victim, who had losses in balance and short-term memory.  After three private sessions, she was almost back to normal! My first client’s shoulder unfroze, her brain started talking to her muscles and today, she can do headstands.

I know that this healing isn’t coming from me. (Heck, I still haven’t been able to give up coffee.) First of all, it is in my students’ unwavering willingness to persevere. They come back to every class, and they come willing to work. It is so inspirational.

It’s also the healing power of yoga and, I believe, it’s Sri Dharma’s gentle healing spirit. Before each session, I repeat the Mantra for Purification, and another one where I ask, “free me from my ego, fill me with love and healing.” I know that when I can set aside my own ego, yoga can use me as a channel through which healing comes.

All of this has changed my life in a truly amazing and profound way. Although I still struggle to set my ego aside off the mat, when I can do so, I can really see the people in my life– my yoga students as well as my friends and family. I find I am less reactive to things that might have once angered me or hurt my feelings.  I am beginning to see people without judging them.  I may never be able to do this as comprehensively as Sri Dharma does, but it has given me a glimpse of how peaceful life can be when lived in a life of service.

 

Barb Cooper, 50, is a mother, a well-socialized introvert, a Texas-to-New York-to-Texas transplant, and a writer by nature and training. Barb graduated from the Dharma Yoga Life of a Yogi Teacher Training in June 2013 and teaches yoga at Rasna Yoga in Austin, Texas. Read more of her musings at sothethingisblog.blogspot.com

Karma Yoga

by Danielle Gray

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

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

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

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

photo by Jeffrey Vock

photo by Jeffrey Vock

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

Not Invincible. A Tale on Loss and the Reality that Follows

by Fay Inger

Fay_Inger

I am a yogi, but I am not invincible. I know this because I was recently injured in car accident and X-rays (and later an MRI) revealed a total of 5 herniated discs in my lumbar spine. Two in particular are pressing on a nerve, shooting pain in to my glute and down into my leg and knee. The painful throb feels as if a red-hot fireplace iron is constantly and firmly poking me. My injuries are relatively small compared to serious injuries people sustain in auto accidents, but hearing that this will never ever fully heal, and the best I can do is manage the pain, is a difficult reality to accept. And because my profession involves movement and demonstration, the first questions that came to mind were about my ability to teach and practice yoga.

Yoga. Yoga is the love of my life and has been my life since 2001 when I was first introduced to it, and especially since 2008 when I began my voyage into the world of teacher trainings. From that point on, I was on a trajectory of feel-good body awareness and meditation. My life orbited around yoga to the point where it was no longer a hobby and it became my chosen profession. I loved the way it made me feel and I became obsessed with introducing other people to how good it could make them feel. I became a teacher of yoga.

I was high all the time from feel-good endorphins, increased circulation, length, and expansion in my body, meditation, and deep yogic breathing. It was exquisite. But the higher we are, the harder we fall and this experience has brought me back down to earth’s orbit, where for the first time in 12 years I feel…mortal. I am now like Superman in the second film when Clark Kent gives up his powers to grow closer to Lois Lane, except I didn’t willingly submit myself to this. Now I am forced to deal with the truth that 1) I am not actually invincible, 2) I can bend and break, and 3) I am emotionally attached to the experiences of my physical body.

Up until now I (sort of, half jokingly) believed that being a yogi equaled being invincible.  It is as if all the physical practice of yoga formed a protective shield around my body, just as Superman’s shield of invulnerability did.  Like I said, as if.

Every point of opposition between fantasy and reality is an opportunity to grow. While I am mourning the loss of my imagined super powers, I, as well as many yogis connected to the Dharma Yoga Center, experienced the loss of a dear friend, mentor, and inspiring yogi, Bernadette, who recently passed away. Bernadette was a strong yogi who was known to practice Bikram yoga to warm up for teaching a class. She was warm and genuine and knew exactly what to say to someone in a given moment. I was lucky to have Bernadette as a mentor and I will never forget the conversations we had. She is and will be missed. Her passing is a painful loss to all who knew her, but it also served as a lesson to naïve yogis who think we are invincible: We yogis are not inoculated against life any more than non-yogis. We may have been armed with tools to deal with life and conflict compassionately and with non-attachment, but if you have a date with karma, it will find you despite all the yoga and meditation practiced in the world.  In the end all we (yogis) can do is what anyone can do: deal with the matter at hand and make the most of the situation, and maybe keep a smile on your face in the process.

Fay_Inger

I always like to say, “Think good and it will be good.” Yoga has given me a lot to think good about. I can also see how yoga is a metaphor for life: How I deal with my stuff on my mat directly correlates to how I deal with stuff in my life. If I get bent out of shape when my “spot” in class is taken by an innocent and unknowing bystander, how will I react if I am cut off on the road? And on the days when my practice just isn’t strong and I allow that to ruin my day, how much more so will I come undone in the wake of an actual catastrophe?  If I cannot breathe through the hard poses, how can I possibly breathe through the tough moments in life? And if I cannot be grateful in a 90-minute class, how can I ever be grateful for the blessings in life, big and small?

Yoga mirrors life and provides a safe space to exam yourself in the confines of a piece of a rubber yoga mat, 2 feet by 6 feet: the space is small enough to allow you to move but not large enough to get away from yourself mentally or physically. So I explore. I take those 90 minute intervals to be fully present with myself so that I can be fully present with other people in the infinitely large world. On my mat I accept my imperfections and injuries so that I can be compassionate and loving to others’ imperfections and injuries. But most of all I love myself so fully and completely so that there are no imperfections, just a collection of stamps in the passport of my life that prove that I am not “perfect,” but I am whole.

So when you next see me in class and on my mat or teaching you in class, there is no need to ask if I am okay, because I am and will be. Instead just smile and catch my eye and know that in that moment we will both be whole.

(This post first appeared on the blog Fay Inger)

Fay_Inger Fay is an 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!

Internal Spring Cleaning: Time To Let Go of What’s Holding You Back

By Kali Om 

“Be kind to everyone; forgive everyone everything.” Sri Dharma Mittra

Flower_by_Cyndi_Lawler

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”  —Mahatma Gandhi

On the season opener of Yogi Cameron: A Model Guru, ayurvedic therapist YC treats a 25-year-old with autism named Zach. Zach is angry, and YC wants to know why. Zach says other children at the synagogue he attended harassed him. “How old were you when that happened?” YC asked. “Seven or eight,” Zach replied. “That was a long time ago,” says YC. “When are you going to let it go?”

In modern American culture, we tend to hold on to ancient grievances and use them as an excuse to avoid dealing with the things we don’t like about our life: I’m not living up to my potential because my parents beat me / spoiled me / weren’t there for me / were too strict with me / gave me too much freedom or attention / ignored me / favored my siblings over me / [your excuse here]. In America, we like to play the blame game and say that our problems are someone else’s fault.

But in yoga we understand that the soul is eternal, and that our soul, or Atman, chooses the parents we will have, and the circumstances we find ourselves in. In yoga, we know that these birth families or circumstances give us the best possible opportunity to burn off our old karma and learn the lessons we need to know in this lifetime—that each unpleasant thing is happening for a reason, according to our deeds from the past.

Cali_Om_by_Cynthia_Lawler

I first heard about the laws of karma and reincarnation in the 1970s, when the film The Reincarnation of Peter Proud aired on TV. But I didn’t really believe in it until 30 years later, when I heard about it from the lips of my guru, Sri Dharma Mittra, and realized that everything we are going through now is a result of our past deeds. He shared his own experiences and backed them up with passages from the great yoga scripture the Bhagavad-Gita. When I thought about what he said, I realized that everything “bad” that happened to me in my life—and believe me, there was a lot of unpleasantness—led to something good. Every single time. I realized that these “bad” or unpleasant experiences taught me a lesson, fostered personal growth, or set my life in a new direction (such as when my mother died, and I started practicing yoga) and stopped taking them personally.

As Bhagavad-Gita says, “That which is like poison at first but like nectar in the end—that happiness, born of the clear knowledge of the Self, is said to be of the nature of sattva [peace and harmony].”  Sri Dharma often says he is thankful when something unpleasant happens to him, because it means he has burned off one more karma.

This is easy to understand on an intellectual level. Yet many of us still have doubts and see ourselves flogging the same old dead horse, over and over, stuck in our old ways of being, thinking, and acting. If we do this long enough, we could end up with a terrible illness. Because in yoga, it is believed that all disease begins in the mind (and then migrates straight to the colon).

So give it some thought: Is there something you haven’t let go of that is holding you back? Is there someone you need to forgive, or someone of whom you should ask forgiveness? Is there someone you need to thank?

Is there someone you need to confront, or to cut loose from because the relationship is no longer serving you?

Do you need to forgive yourself for something?

What is holding you back from doing what you want with your life?

Cali_Om_by_Cynthia_Lawler

It is never too late to ask these questions, and spring is a wonderful time of year to let go, an opportunity to begin anew. The most direct way is to do this internally, by practicing svadhyaya, or self-study. This can be done in meditation and through journaling, by asking and answering the questions posed above.

Svadhyaya can be helped by the physical act of letting things go and clearing out the clutter in your living space. Because if there’s clutter at home, there is clutter in the mind. Perhaps it is your stuff—mental, physical, spiritual—that is holding you back.

Often, when we make an external effort, what we need to do internally becomes abundantly clear. After all, cleaning and organizing is a type of meditation (and spring is the best time to do it). Still not convinced?  Read my comprehensive March 2010 Yoga Chicago article, “Paring Down Can Improve Your Yoga Practice and Help the Planet.Another wonderful resource for getting started is Karen Kingston’s book Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui: Free Yourself from Physical, Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual Clutter Forever.

Once the physical debris is out of the way, it is much easier to work on internal letting go.

There are many ways to express forgiveness. It can be done in person, or on the phone, or in a letter (I do not recommend doing it via e-mail, voicemail, Facebook, or texting, which would smack of insincerity). It can also be done mentally, if the person is no longer around or still poses a threat to you. (There is no need to stir up trouble or reopen old wounds; in some cases it is best to let sleeping dogs lie, and offer forgiveness mentally. Sri Dharma always says, “Love the bad man, but keep the distance.”)

Sometimes, we come to realize that we have caused harm and need to ask forgiveness, which can be done in much the same way. Just keep it simple and straightforward, name exactly what you are sorry for, express your regret at causing harm, and do not make excuses for your behavior.

There are many types of forgiveness meditations. One of the most simple and direct is from former Buddhist monk and author Jack Kornfield. As with any meditation, begin sitting comfortably in a quiet place where you will not be disturbed (if the floor is not comfortable, sit in a chair with the head, neck, and spine in a straight line). Breathe deeply and comfortably, and contemplate how forgiveness can help you soften your heart.

Begin by asking forgiveness of others you have harmed. Visualize each situation where you have caused pain, and experience the emotions it elicits. Realize that you only caused them harm because of your own pain, fear, anger, or confusion. Then, say to each person, “I ask for your forgiveness, I ask for your forgiveness.”

Orchids_by_Cynthia_Lawler

Next, focus on forgiving yourself for all of the times you have wittingly or unwittingly been the cause of your own pain. Visualize each instance and feel the emotions. Then, say to yourself, “For the ways I have hurt myself through action or inaction, out of fear, pain, and confusion, I now extend a full and heartfelt forgiveness. I forgive myself, I forgive myself.”

Finally, focus on forgiving those who have harmed you. Imagine each episode, and allow the emotions to come up. Then, repeat the following: “I now remember the many ways others have hurt or harmed me, wounded me, out of fear, pain, confusion, and anger. I have carried this pain in my heart too long. To the extent that I am ready, I offer them forgiveness. To those who have caused me harm, I offer my forgiveness, I forgive you.”

Don’t be surprised if this practice is difficult at first. It can take a lot of time to master it. You may find it helpful to start with small things, and work towards bigger ones.

As Kornfield said, “Forgiveness cannot be forced; it cannot be artificial. Simply continue the practice and let the words and images work gradually in their own way. In time you can make the forgiveness meditation a regular part of your life, letting go of the past and opening your heart to each new moment with a wise loving kindness.”

You may find you prefer a different forgiveness meditation, such as this simple yet very specific one from the Buddha Dharma Education Association. Or you may create your own; it is important that the practice feel authentic to you. That way you’re more likely to actually do it, and your efforts will be unforced.

Just remember that any sincere effort to let go of physical and emotional clutter, no matter how small, will yield rewards. As if by its own accord, you may find your practice starts to deepen, roadblocks fall away, old injuries disappear, and wonderful new things start to appear in your life.

But don’t take my word for it. Try it for yourself and see.

(All pictures by Cindy Lawler)

 

Cara_JepsenKali Om (Cara Jepsen) , E-RYT 500, is a disciple of Sri Dharma Mittra and has been teaching yoga since 1998; she is the senior teacher of Dharma yoga in Chicago and has completed Sri Dharma Mittra’s LOAY 200-, 500-, and 800-hour trainings. She also studied five times in India with Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga master Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. She will lead yoga and meditation retreats November 1-2, 2014 at the beautiful Port for Prayer in Frankfort, IL and in Belize February 7-14, 2015. For more information, visit yogikaliom.com.

Comparison: The Thief of Joy

by Rachel Carr

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” Theodore Roosevelt

Comparison and competition go hand in hand. Without comparison, there’s no need to compete. Without competition, there’s no need to compare. If there is one thing that yoga has taught me, it’s to let go of my competitive edge and “release any expectations of the fruit of my actions.” The practice is not about the achievement, but rather, the journey. In order to succeed on the path of yoga, one must refrain from comparing oneself to others.

I like to think I have a good handle on this. However, recently I almost walked away from my hard earned career as yoga teacher. That’s right, this Fall, I became so frustrated with the yoga industry that I started polishing up my resume, convinced it was time for me to get a “real job.” Even participating in the life-changing experience that is the LOAY 500-Hour teacher training with Sri Dharma Mittra did little to pull me out of how I was feeling. I was losing my footing on a path to which I felt so connected, and what is important to me as a yoga teacher and student started to become very unclear.

After much introspection and self-reflection I realized that the reason I was feeling this way all boiled down to comparison. Without knowing it, I was comparing myself to all of my peers in my community, especially in the digital and social media world, and it was making me second-guess everything I so fervently believed in. This realization completely humbled me, but at the same time propelled me forward.

My comparison to others was stealing my joy. 

I was so unhappy with how I was measuring up to others’ perceived success, that I was stopped paying attention to the good work I was doing. I have always believed there is a yoga practice and teacher for everyone. Like attracts like. You serve the students who show up to your classes and remain unconcerned by those who don’t. I have never believed that standing on your hands is a prerequisite for being a good yoga teacher, but in these past few months I let my ego lead the way and started to believe that was true. Self-defeating stories swirled through my head. “You’re not good enough.” “You’re not popular enough.” “Why can’t you do more?”

On second thought, perhaps my intention should be to stop caring so much about what others think about me. 

When you think about it, they go hand in hand. I wouldn’t feel the need to compare if didn’t worry so much what others thought about me and my ability to teach and practice yoga.

In theory, letting go of comparison seems easy enough, but in reality, there is a lot of work to be done. My first action step is to take breaks from social media on regular basis, and spend more time on my practice, relationships with friends and family, and writing. It’s so easy to be consumed by what appears before your very eyes. We are inundated with so much unwanted messaging these days.

Further, when the stories start to swirl, I’ll reconnect with the teachings. Sri Dharma says that instead of comparing yourself to someone else, you should see him or her as yourself. For example, if someone is doing an asana that you are still working on, then you think, “look, that is me. Look what a good job I am doing!” Instead of the ego driven, “why can’t I do that? I’ll never be able to do that. I must not be that good.”

This brings to mind Yoga Sutra 1.33 and the four keys to happiness. We are all made of the same eternal consciousness, so everything we experience is already experienced by all. What you can or cannot do is based on conditions from your karmas (previous actions). So you do your best, but know that everything is perfect just as it is. This is true contentment (Santosha). It doesn’t really matter what you can or cannot do physically, but what’s happening on the inside that matters most.

 

This post first appeared on the Blog Capricious Yogi.

Rachel Carr

 

Rachel Carr, E-RYT 200, RPYT,  is a Washington, DC based yoga teacher currently working on her Dharma Yoga LOAY 500-hour Teacher Training certification. She completed an interdisciplinary 200-hour yoga teacher training in 2008 and has been teaching ever since. In 2011, she participated in the Off the Mat, Into the World Leadership Training and became a Registered Prenatal Yoga Teacher (RPYT) in 2012. She chronicles her yoga journey on her blog, Capricious Yogi.