Category Archives: words

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.

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.

The Search for Peace

by Marci Moberg 

©Enid Johnstone

Everyone is searching for peace –peace within themselves, with others, in their environments, and in their homes.  Still, somehow peace escapes out the back door, and continues to elude people.  The search for peace faces multiple obstacles along the way that block the path and keep serenity at bay.  One supporting mechanism to finding peace now is through the practice of ahimsa.

Ahimsa, according to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, is one of the five yamas, or ethical practices, that together form the first limb of the eight-limbed path of yoga.  While often translated as non-killing, the concept carries more nuance and depth.  

 

Sri Swami Satchidananda describes ahimsa as not causing pain. What he means by that is not causing pain in thought, word, and deed.  While many think of this as an externally focused practice, it is just as much an inside job, because neglecting the practice of ahimsa towards one’s self can create harm to others. 

Practicing ahimsa in one’s every day life may seem simple at first. On the surface it appears easy to not harm others and cause them pain.  People easily identify avoiding physical harm, using words unwisely like slandering another person, and other deeds that appear to overtly create pain and harm to another person.  

This makes the initial layer of the practice easy for many to adopt.  But the practice is deeper.  First the practice should include beings other than human beings.  This includes not killing or harming insects, eating a vegetarian or vegan diet, and even being mindful of the treatment of plants and trees. 

Second, the practice should include the way our words and deeds affect others in subtle ways to cause harm that may otherwise not be obvious to us.  The effects of our actions on others are subtle and easily missed if we are not mindful of another person’s perspective and the potential ripples our actions may create. 

While we may have the best of intentions, beautiful intentions do not always result in beautiful action.  It is this delicate balance that makes practicing ahimsa a true art, rather than a hard science. 

While practicing ahimsa with word and deed can be challenging in subtle ways, even more difficult is the practice of ahimsa in thought.  The ego rarely comes up with something nice to say about another person.  It often moves us into a place of survival, protection, and defensiveness automatically without even taking pause. 

 

One of the beings it often most attacks is one’s self. I discovered that practicing ahimsa with one’s self truly requires a careful look at one’s thoughts throughout the day and the subtle messages we tell ourselves that perhaps are not so helpful.  Sometimes the thought is obviously harmful, like telling ourselves that we are unintelligent for forgetting to do something.  Other times the language is subtler. 

When I started to watch my own thoughts I discovered that negative messages that were harming me were sneakily sliding into what otherwise appeared to be efforts to be productive.  For example, when trying to get myself to focus on something like my research for my dissertation, I would tell myself internally that I was banned from checking e-mail or prohibited from calling a friend back so I would finish the task. 

This harsh language with myself set me up for an uncomfortable reality where I felt like doing my dissertation or any other task was punishment.  It drained all the enjoyment out of things I needed to spend my time on that I truly loved.  Sometimes it caused rebellious behavior in me as I rebelled against my harsh instructions to focus and checked my e-mail anyway, like a teenager rebelling against her parents.  In the end, this harsh internal language to myself was not helping me be productive, nor nurturing me. 

 

And the ripple effects it created were probably more harmful than I am even aware of now, and a pattern I continue to watch and slowly undo.

It is said that when the Buddha and other saints practiced ahimsa in the forest, animals would only kill if they were hungry and would otherwise dwell peacefully together.  The practice and non-practice of ahimsa I believe has more subtle energetic affects on the environment and relationships around us than we realize, especially with ourselves. 

SriDharma Mittra always emphasizes that what we focus our thought on is also where we direct our prana energy. As a result, it is key that we are sensitive to where we are directing prana.  In the end, if someone wants to truly experience peace with others, with his or her environment, and above all within his or herself, ahimsa is an essential element in unlocking the serenity we seek.


 
Marci Moberg came to yoga, meditation, and mindfulness through her own spiritual and healing journey.  First connecting to yoga in college as a form of exercise, she later connected to its deeper roots as an avid student and practitioner of many ancient contemplative traditions.  Marci is grateful to be a dedicated student of Felix Lopez, a former Buddhist monk and energy healer.  She is a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT) and is currently completing the 500-Hour Life of a Yogi Teacher Training with Sri Dharma Mittra.  She teaches yoga, meditation, and mindfulness in the greater Washington DC area.  Off the mat and cushion Marci works in international development, is an experienced conflict resolution practitioner, and a doctoral candidate at George Mason University’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution.  You can learn more about Marci and find her reflections on the study and practice of different spiritual traditions here: abhidhammayoga.com and seekreflectimplement.com

 

 

Ten Great Quotes To Inspire You

by Sorsha Anderson




“You are never bereft of your inner guidance.” ~  Jane Roberts


“Nearly everything you do is of no importance, but it is important that you do it.” ~ Mahatma Ghandi

“You are never too old or too broken.  It is never too late to begin, or to start all over again.” ~ Bikram Choudhury


“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing.  Knowing is not enough. We must apply. Being willing is not enough.  We must do.” ~ Leonardo da Vinci



“Any path is only a path, and there is no affront to oneself or to others in dropping it if that is what your heart tells you.  Look at every path closely and deliberately.  Try it as many times as you think necessary.  Then ask yourself, and yourself alone, one question – does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn’t, it is of no use.” ~ Carlos Castaneda


 “A good stretch is like a yawn.  One doesn’t feel satisfied until it is complete.” ~ Unknown

“Knowing Love, I will allow all things to come and go, to be as subtle as the wind and take everything that comes with great courage. As my teacher would say to me, Life is right in any case. My heart is as open as the sky.” ~ from Kamasutra: A Tale of Love


“As with a labyrinth, you must sometimes move away from the place you long to be in order to eventually come to the heart of the matter.” ~ Sorsha Anderson

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Sorsha Anderson is a certified Dharma Yoga Teacher who lives and teaches in Vermont.  She has been practicing since 1991 and worked with very gentle and restorative yoga until her 30’s when she wandered into a hot and sweaty, but meditative vinyasa studio.  Neither a dancer nor gymnast as a child, and after having had two children, she surprised herself by balancing in crow for the first time at 36.  She never looked back.  Sorsha approaches each new pose with a sense of optimism and adventure and delights in encouraging others to try what only seems impossible at first glance.  She particularly enjoys teaching older women who are trying to find their way back to their bodies after a sometimes very long absence.  Sorsha is thankful to have found her way to the Dharma Yoga Center and makes the trip from Vermont as often as she can.  She offers gratitude for the beautiful physical and spiritual teachings of Sri Dharma Mittra.  

What is a Mantra?

By Alan C. Haras


©Natasha Phillips

In the 3rd and 4thcenturies, many spiritual seekers left Europe and traveled to the Egyptian deserts to approach wise men and women who had been living prayerful lives looking for God.  When they finally arrived at the cell of these wise men and woman (abba or amma), tradition says that these seekers would ask: “Abba, speak to me a word, by which I might have life.” They might then receive a “prayer-word” or some brief instruction.  The pilgrim would take this “word” back with them to their home country and build their spiritual life around this one “word.” 


In the yogic tradition, these “words of power” are called mantras, and they are traditionally whispered into the ear of the disciple by a guru.  The guru is someone who has realized the essence of a mantra.  The Sanskrit word guru actually means “weighty one”.  These gurus have gravitas, and their words carry a lot of weight.  Because the guru has yoked their mind and heart with Truth, when they are approached by a seeker who is humble and sincere, the Truth emerges from them as the perfect thing the student needs to hear to continue their journey.  Indeed, such words give life to the soul who is thirsty for God.


Traditionally, at the time of initiation one receives a mantra, a mala(rosary) and a spiritual name.  The ceremony marks a new birth for that individual into their spiritual family.  But in order to realize the full benefit of the mantra it should be “awakened and put into action.” 



©Jeffrey Vock


Along with receiving the mantra comes both the permission to us it, as well as transference of psychic power from the master.  The mantra contains within it the enlightened wisdom of the spiritual preceptor, and like a zip file, must be unpacked through continued repetition to reveal its full meaning and power.   


 The word mantra comes from two Sanskrit roots – man or manas which refer to the mind/heart, and tra which means “to protect”.  The root tra also means “to cross over” and comes into English words such as “travel” and “traverse”. 


The practice of mantra protects the mind and heart from distraction, and helps us to cross over the discursive mind.


There are many types of mantras.  Some are used to produce specific results – to overcome illness or to achieve worldly success – while others are employed solely for the purpose of Self-realization.

©Jeffrey Vock

Mantras sung in the spirit of devotion, with melody and rhythm, are known as kirtan– the foundational practice of bhakti yoga.  Other mantras are performed silently, like the Hamsa/Soham mantra which is produced effortlessly by the sound of the incoming and outgoing breath.  But the Guru Mantra is given special importance in the world of mantras. 


The mantra given by one’s guru at the time of initiation provides invisible protection for the disciple, and acts like the “red phone” at the White House during the Cold War – it is a direct line to the Supreme. 


Swami Satyasanghananda says that “the mantra is a link between you and the cosmos, between you and the deeper mysteries of the universe.” The specific number of the syllables in the mantra given by the guru is designed to make up for any deficiencies in the disciple’s aura or energetic body.  The more one recites the mantra, the more one gains spiritual wealth.


By establishing the psychic link with the guru through recitation of the mantra, one becomes receptive to spiritual guidance across all planes of existence, and is able to stir the spiritual awareness which resides in one’s spiritual heart.



As Sri Dharma Mittra says, the outer guru shows you how to find the inner guru, situated in the right side of the heart, in the center of the chest.  The practice of mantra is one proven method for gaining access to this sacred chamber of the heart – the goal of all spiritual disciplines.



1.     Yogi Gupta, Yoga and Yogic Powers (New York, Yogi Gupta, 1958), 52 – 62

2.     Swami Satyasanghananda Sarasvati, Light on the Guru and Disciple Relationship, 101
3.     Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, The Wisdom of the Desert Fathers and Mothers, (Paraclete Press) quote taken from Introduction.

4.     Maha Sadhana bySri Dharma Mittra (DVD) – Spiritual Discourses, The Importance of a Teacher



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Alan Haras (Bhaktadas Om) is the owner of Hamsa Yoga in Lake Orion, Michigan.  He holds a B.A. in Religious Studies from Michigan State University, is finishing up a two-year training in Spiritual Direction from the Manresa Jesuit Retreat House, and is pursuing his Masters in Religious Studies at the University of Detroit Mercy.  He has been blessed to spend three years studying Advaita Vedanta with Dr. John Grimes, ten years studying the Jivamukti Yoga method, as well as having spent time in India with the late kirtan-wala and bhakti yogi Shyamdas.  In 2012-13, Alan completed the 200, 500 and 800-hour Dharma Yoga Life of a Yogi Teacher Trainings with Sri Dharma Mittra, made a 12-day pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and completed the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.  As a teacher, he is deeply grateful for the opportunity to offer “the greatest charity of all” – sharing and promoting spiritual knowledge.

3 Ways To Cultivate Compassion In Your Life

By David Jozefczyk 
Ahimsa (non-violence/non-killing or compassion), the ethical guideline that stands in the forefront from the others, is life’s law of non-harming

Once this ethical guideline is mastered, all other ethical guidelines fall into place. Also true, is that the more compassion is studied, the more layers of understanding appear.



Most people understand Ahimsa in regards to non-killing or not causing physical pain to other human beings or pets.  But Ahimsa goes beyond that. Prior to learning about Ahimsa, I fell into this category.  The first time that I had the honor to receive Sri Dharma Mittra’s teachings regarding Ahimsa, it changed my life.  This intricate ethical guideline (Yama) was explained to me with such simplicity and in such a compassionate manner that it brought tears to my eyes and struck a chord deep within me
A vegetarian lifestyle is a great way to practice Ahimsa as it covers three areas – through thought, word and deed. 

1.    Thoughts

With thoughts, for example, when eating with friends and family who are not educated in Ahimsa, my thoughts do not judge or think bad of them.  I have realized their true Self does not mean to harm, it’s just their physical mind is not ready at this point in their evolution and so I feel compassion for them.



Ahimsa of thoughts not only applies towards others, but towards the self as well.  Negative thoughts can manifest themselves, so any negativity or harm towards yourself (as well as others) should be avoided.  A good amount of bad karma can be accumulated in this regard and no one wants that!

2.    Deeds
In regards to deed, leading by exampleand consistently living as a vegetarian is a very powerful way to influence and it may eventually change another person’s outlook on diet.  

3.    Words

Lastly, being vegetarian and practicing Ahimsa in regards to word, conversation arises from time to time and I am asked “what made you become vegetarian?”  I always choose my words carefully, as some friends and family members love to play devils advocate by mentioning plants.  I answer that it is impossible for most people to be completely non-harming due to the physical body needing sustenance, so I chose what I feel to be the lesser of two evils.  This type of conversation has the ability to transform others not aware of Ahimsa.

Words can be very powerful and life changing in both a positive and negative way.  Even a simple “hello” with the right intention to someone passing by can brighten his or her day! 

I feel it is a good practice to keep your words to a minimum and positive and uplifting in nature.  Many yogi masters teach that if you do not have anything good to say then this is a good time to practice silence or Mouna, which Swami Sivananda describes as “Tapas of speech.”
I am still learning from the masters to eradicate negative traits and to bring more compassion into my life by practicing Ahimsa.  Through a steady and consistent practice this can be mastered and then applied towards all Yamas and Niyamas!


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Dave Jozefczyk began practicing yoga in 2006 by taking class with his wife ‘chelle in his basement.  Having a consistent flow of friends who attended three days per week made it an official class.  The next chapter in Dave’s spiritual journey was experiencing a long weekend immersion with Sri Dharma Mittra at Kripalu in 2008 with his wife.  Since that transformative weekend, he has been faithfully practicing Dharma Yoga.  During these five plus years of practice and observing his wife’s transformation after completing her 500-hour LOAY Teacher Training, Dave realized that he also had the ability to help others and serve in so many different ways. In June of 2013, Dave was very humbled to experience the 200-hour LOAY TT at the Dharma Yoga Center in NYC.  He is currently teaching at the CNY Yoga Center (Dharma Yoga Syracuse) to fulfill his internship credentials.  It brings him such joy to be able to share the Dharma Yoga teachings, which he continues to learn from Sri Dharma and the Dharma family.