Pratyahara: Meditation and Breathwork for a Deep Inner-Journey

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I want to talk about Pratyahara and offer a helpful breathing practice to accompany it. First I feel I need to give it a little context.

Yoga 101

Yoga is old. One of the earliest mentions of yoga comes from the Rig Veda, one of the oldest vedic texts dating somewhere around 1700–1100 BC. So, OLD.

Patanjali was a yoga scholar (some say a school of thought—doesn’t matter) around 200–500 CE who wrote a generalized guide to yoga called The Yoga Sutras. Sutra is a Saskrit word meaning suture or stitch. The Yoga Sutras are therefore 196 verses “stitched” together in order to create a larger patchwork of what yoga’s main goal is and how to practice it.

In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali starts by defining yoga as the ability to calm the mind into stillness to arrive at a state of Oneness with all things. He outlines 8 limbs of yoga or ways to practice arriving at this Oneness. These 8 limbs are presented from gross to subtle ways to practice yoga.

The 8 Limbs of Yoga

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The first limb is the Yamas or outward observances, the way we treat the world. If we’re assholes to everyone around us, we’re missing the essential point that somehow I’m everything and only hurting myself.

Second is Niyamas, or inner observances, the way I treat my inner comportment, my cleanliness, contentment, and ability for self-discovery through work and submission.

Third comes yoga Asanas, or the poses, how literally applying this knowledge to the body, mind, and spirit of my personal being and attempting to discover the unification of all of these. This is what most of us refer to when we think of yoga. That’s fine—you don’t have to start practicing at the beginning—whatever gets you onto the path.

Fourth, Pranayama refers to how this work affects one’s energy through breathwork and other energy manipulation through the chakras, or primary energy stations located along our spine.

Fifth, and this is what I want to talk about most today, come Pratyahara or gaining control over external influences and learning to withdraw from our senses as the entrance into the inner-being.

Photo by  Alex Adams

Photo by Alex Adams

Sixth is Dharana, or fixed concentration on one thing.

Seventh, Dhyana, deeper concentration where you begin to lose your sense of individuality and the object you’re observing start to merge.

Lastly the eights limb is Samadhi, or the state of Oneness.

So now you’ve got probably more information than you need about yoga philosophy and ancient texts, what does this Pratyahara business have to do with me?

If you’ve ever tried meditating, you’ve likely tried at least a few ways of meditating and discovered one or two ways that really help you to go deep into your meditation, where something begins to happen and we start to get that meditation hit that everyone is talking about. In part, this ability to go deeper into ourselves starts with Pratyahara.

The senses are a wonderful tools of cultivating presence. Paying attention to our senses help us wrangle in our wild and wandering mind to a state that is here and now. We’ve used our senses perhaps with the “There Is” Practice or similar practices. However, getting stuck into this mode of paying attention to what is outside maintains external attention and might prevent a deeper inner-journey. So, learning to move beyond our senses inward to a state of raw here-and-now-ness may deepen your meditation practice.

Your senses are always firing and constantly giving the brain information. In fact, there’s so much information happening all the time, that our brains have to learn to filter and select what is essential and what it can turn off. Pratyahara experiments with learning to turn ALL the senses off to find a state of deeper inner-awareness on our pathway to discover that the answers are within instead of outside of us.

To to practice Pratyahara start by listening to your senses and then go inward beyond them.


Breathing Practice to Complement Pratyahara

Here’s a breathing practice followed by a meditation that can help you with just this

Brahmari: Bumble Bee Breath

Brahmari breath is kinda weird so bear with me. What you do is sit, close your eyes, and place your hands on your face with your index fingers over your eyebrows, your middle fingers covering your eyes, fourth fingers just below your nostrils, and little fingers under your lips. Your fourth and fifth fingers therefore create a cradle around your mouth. Your thumbs gently plug your ears. This closes all the exits, except your nostrils. Now, you release your pinkies to take in a big breath through your mouth, replace your pinkies and close your mouth and let out a long hum until you have no more breath. When you’re empty, breathe in again and do another round. Continue for several rounds. Have fun with this: try high pitches, low pitches, make up little tunes— whatever. Ideally, you’ll drown out all other senses except the sound of your own humming in your head.

You may also choose to omit the crazy hands-to-face business and use earplugs and an eye mask—less adventurous but probably just as effective.

This practice will confirm to your neighbors peeping through the windows that yes, you finally have gone nuts and that they should probably look for another neighborhood. Better just to have some private space to do this.

After several minutes of this, keep your eyes closed and choose a meditation that cultivates a strong internal focus, something like mantra meditation or mindfulness meditation.

I might suggest using the Insight Timer and setting your timer for 20 minutes using an interval bell to ding after 5 minutes. Do the Brahmari breath for 5 minutes and after the interval bell dings, try a mantra or mindfulness meditation for the remaining 15 minutes.

This will be a great 20 minute practice to really cultivate inner-focus.

If you’re curious, give this a shot and let me know how it goes.

Kauai Yoga

Yoga Nidra Meditation: Does Your Inner 3-Year-Old Need to Go Nighty Night?

Who else can relate to the this . . .

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My 3-year-old has two settings— turbo and asleep.

One evening last summer, he was spraying the driveway with the hose. When we told him that he had to stop spraying because it was his bedtime, he became absolutely undone with emotion. He erupted into screams of anger, morphed into an inconsolable sadness, then began desperate pleading, which then cycled back to anger, more sadness, (this time accompanied with a slumped-over super-sad walk) and more pleading . . . This went on for several minutes making a performance that could have earned him a Tony Award.

I remember standing there unphased, merely watching this drama play out. As the adult with a grander perspective, not only did I not have to get pulled into his emotion, but my heart opened up to him. I could see this situation for what it was: he’s a 3-year-old ball of raw emotion. I understood that because it was his bedtime, he was very tired and crankiness gets amplified when you’re tired. I also had the perspective that his whole world at that moment was spraying the driveway and now his world had ended because of something as arbitrary as bedtime. But thanks to my adult perspective, I could simply observe his tantrum without having an opinion about it.

Minutes later, my son was sleeping peacefully in his bed.

Photo https://o-meditation.com/2017/02/24/awareness-j-krishnamurti/

Photo https://o-meditation.com/2017/02/24/awareness-j-krishnamurti/

Krishnamurti, one of the preeminent yoga minds of the last century, said it best when he proffered that “The highest form of intelligence is observation without assessment.” He’s saying that our highest Self is one that can merely witness something and not react to it.

“Yeah, that’s great when you’re observing your kid throw a fit, but how to you learn to not have an opinion about your own serious adult emotions like stress, worry, or anxiety?” The answer is perhaps easier than you think: observation through relaxation.

I know what you’re thinking and I’m not minimizing these serious emotions. It’s like when you’re worked up into a lather over something and someone rather gratuitously says, “Hey, just relax.” And how often do you then pause, drink in that sage advice, and emerge smiling from immediate relief? Never, because it’s stupid, completely unhelpful, advice.

Like Einstein said, “No problem can ever be solved by the same level of consciousness that created it.” You’ve got to change your state to make any kind of progress forward on a problem.

If you’ve read my blog or emails for long you know how much I love the relaxing from of guided meditation called Yoga Nidra. I Love Yoga Nidra because it brilliantly changes your state of consciousness by using relaxation and observation to arrive at your highest intelligence, or True Self. Your True self is like the adult part of you with the grand perspective that can simply observe without yielding to the 3-year-old part of you with all it’s of its emotions, reactions, and drama.

In fact, relaxation isn’t just merely the byproduct of Yoga Nidra. It’s the special sauce that performs the impossible. Not only can you learn to witness emotions rather than getting sucked in by them, but with Yoga Nidra you also learn that it’s the emotions themselves which are the catalyst that bring you to experience your True Self, that place of boundless equanimity, empowerment, and perspective. Through relaxation, Yoga Nidra changes your consciousness and illuminates your adult perspective which sees everything in your life for what it is: information.

Modern psychology supports this idea of relaxation being the game-changer for state change and stress reduction. Important discoveries during the last century have shown that a person cannot feel both stress and relaxation simultaneously. Therefore, in a state of deep relaxation like in Yoga Nidra, one might skillfully and gradually begin to introduce stressors like emotions into your awareness, but because you’re deeply relaxed, you’ll find that you can merely observe the emotions or stressors and see them as information. You counter-condition against stress and soon begin to identify as the all-seeing calm adult rather than the myopic tantrumy 3-year-old.

This is huge!

What’s more, simply observing an emotion without reacting to it can often break the insidious, downward-spiral that emotions can sometimes inflict on our psyche. In just a few minutes of a skillfully-guided Yoga Nidra practice, you may begin to experience your own “highest intelligence” and begin a new relationship with your emotions.

Simply put, when you practice Yoga Nidra, you put your inner 3-year-old to bed. Maybe that’s why everyone falls asleep during Yoga Nidra. Don’t worry, it still works even when you sleep, cuz the part of you that I’m speaking to is something beyond your rational mind and is always paying attention.

Click the button below to listen to this free Yoga Nidra practice I created called Awakening Through Body and Emotions. It’s designed to help you become very relaxed in your body before leading you through some fairly benign emotions to help you see past emotions and experience your True Self. It’s about 30 minutes long and I’d love to hear back from you about your experience. I also set this to some original chill music: me playing the clarinet with a drone in the background. I hope you like it.

Also, if this topic of using relaxation and observation to rejigger your relationship to emotions resonates with you, this is what my entire 6-week Yoga Nidra series will be about starting THIS Sunday at 9 am MST. This is a virtual Yoga Nidra series (live and online) where we will be exploring the theme, The Magic of Maya: Working Through Illusion, to learn to access the inner adult inside of you for your own change of consciousness and to experience your own boundless equanimity and learn to witness things like emotions. Please join me!

Each session will be recorded and transcribed so if the time doesn’t work for you, you can always catch the session at a time that works for you. Check out the details below

6-Week Virtual Yoga Nidra Series

January 20–February 24

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By the end of this course you’ll be ready to teach Yoga Nidra!

31-Day Meditation Challenge: Your Most Most Incredible 2019 Starts With This!

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Christmas is Over, Now What?

Meditation

You’ve indulged. You overate, you overdrank . . . and might just be feeling in sum: over it. Hopefully these next few days before the new year can be quiet and simple. Consider my up coming 31-Day Meditation Challenge.



The week between Christmas and New Years is actually a very special time. It’s that dead-of-winter time where you get to hibernate, meditate, and plant the seeds for what will live for you in the new year. What are you visualizing for 2019?



Power of Visualization

I have a faith in visualization that borders on religious—religious, because it work miracles, both in my life as well as the lives of millions of other people. My belief is simple: If you can see it, you can live into it.



Modern neuroscience agrees with me. Scientists say that the brain does not differentiate well between the images it translates through the eyes versus what it translates via thoughts, images, or ideas. Think about watching a thrilling movie— your heart pounds and your hands sweat, though your rational mind knows they are merely images on a screen.



This proposes a provocative idea: if your brain can’t differentiate well between reality and other images, why not visualize your ideal life and enjoy the feeling of success now? Speaking of seeing is believing, my wife has brilliantly constructed images set to music that reflect her ideal life using “mind movie” software, which she watches on a nearly daily basis to see where she’s directing her life.



Just like countless world-class athletes have shown, visualizing yourself succeed floods your system with all those feel-good and excitement chemicals like Dopamine, Serotonin, and Oxytocin, just like if you had recently accomplished your dreams. It makes you perform at your peak. Plus, since seeing is believing, visualizing yourself succeed shuts off the amygdala, the part of your brain that puts the brakes on doing scary things like jumping out of airplanes, risking talking to your boss about a raise, or hell, quitting that soul-sucking job once and for all and stretching yourself to do that thing you’ve always dreamed of doing. In short, when you see yourself succeed, you live into your vision of it.


This is because you are truly more powerful than you can imagine. Most likely, the biggest thing holding you back from experiencing your own innate magnificence is your lack of vision for it. Do you ever get comfortable with “good enough,” lose your sense of purpose, or busy yourself so much as to distract your mind from what it truly makes you feel alive?



Well if so, starting today, that’s going to change. I invite you to join me for a revolutionary, 31-day meditative journey that gives you the tools and the support to visualize and live into your own magnificent life.


31-Day Meditation Challenge

We’ll start together on New Years Day with a guided and vivid visualization of what your incredible life looks and feels like. This meditation will relax your body and put your mind into a flow state that boosts your creativity, optimizes your learning, and inspires your productivity to work toward the fulfillment of your dreams. Then, for the the entire month of January, you’ll meditate every day for 15 minutes a day. You’ll regularly revisit your visualization for the year as well as use any other form of meditation you like.



Once you register, you’ll get all the details for how the challenge works as well as information about several styles of meditation you can choose to do in addition to our New Year Visualization.


If you’re new to meditation, no problem. You’ll love this. If you’re an experienced meditator, great. We can use your meditation muscles to bolster the spirit of our group. Either way, this will be a fantastic opportunity to join a group of people all over the world benefitting the world with greater mindfulness. All month I’ll be sending you regular emails that offer instruction, support, and encouragement.



This will be fun, easy, and the perfect way to start 2019.


This 31-Day Meditation Challenge will also bless the lives of the people around you. In addition to visualizing an incredible life in 2019, regular meditation will also:

Yoga Nidra Meditation

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Yoga Nidra Meditation
  • Lower your stress levels

  • Decrease your reactivity

  • Increase your mindful responsiveness

  • Improve your sleep

  • Reaffirm your sense of purpose

  • Give you personal and spiritual insight

  • Improve your overall happiness


Do this for yourself. Do this for those privileged (or not so privileged on those off days) to live around you.


This costs only $31. And guess what, if you complete the challenge, you may opt to GET. YOUR. MONEY. BACK. (drop the mic).


Please join today and share bless the world with a more-mindful YOU. Please share this with anyone who would benefit.


Happy New Year!


Meditation
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Meditating on 2018 and 2019

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I can’t believe that we are wrapping up 2018. Damn, this has been a big year!

Wanderlust Hollywood

Truly some life-changing events happened including: Moving from NYC, hosting some breathtaking yoga, writing, and meditation retreats to Hawaii, Italy, Ireland, Idaho, and Utah, teaching classes, courses, workshops in NYC and SLC, attending a life-changing retreat to Costa Rica where I saw God, launching two online courses, published over 50 articles online, traveling internationally on a writing assignment, conducting my first silent meditation retreat, conducting two Yoga Nidra immersions, making a career-high monthly income, completing a 75-hour Vinyasa Flow training at Wanderlust Hollywood, and attending a mind-blowing Flow for Writers workshop by NYT Bestseller author, Steven Kotler.

Oh, and moving to Southern France.

Can I just pause and breathe for a second, maybe take a bite of this croissant and sip some Bordeaux . . . thanks. Much better.

Yoga Southern France
Yoga Southern France

I realize that much of what happened in 2018 was the result of a regular visualization and meditation practice. It was the product of regularly getting quiet, learning to listen to my heart, and visualizing what was possible. I strongly believe that if you see if you see it, you can live into it. Often what you visualize doesn’t play out exactly the way you planned—often it’s much better than what you planned.

Again, seeing is believing so by visualizing your goals for 2019 regularly you will literally begin to manifest them into your life.

Other benefits of regular meditation and visualization are:

  • Clarity of mind

  • Clarity of purpose

  • Calm and stress management

  • Greater compassion

  • Better sleep

  • Spiritual advancement



How was your 2018? What do you envision for 2019?


I challenge you to rise to your potential, to up-level your game, and to think big into 2019 by visualizing outrageous possibilities for yourself and then to grow into those possibilities with the help of a daily meditation practice.

Starting January 1st I’ll be hosting a 31-Day Meditation Challenge. Join me!

We’ll start with a visualization of an incredible 2019 which defies expectations. Then, for the next 31 days, you’ll meditate every day, affirming and materializing the visualization by building a foundation of mindfulness. After the month is over, you’ll already be launched into an incredible year.

Come on, this will be fun! There will be tons of us doing this together. Join us!

A group of meditators benefits the world in vast ways, bringing magnificence into the world like expanding ripples in a pond.



The Challenge:

Meditation Challenge

We’ll start the month with a powerful visualization (you can attend live or listen to a recording) of what’s possible for 2019. Then, all month I’ll send you support via emails with encouragement and instruction for meditating every day for 31 days for 15 minutes or more.

That's it.

We’ll be using a great meditation timer app called Insight Timer. This app has literally over 10,000 guided meditations to choose from that you can use to enhance your meditation practice.

Insight Meditation Timer

With the support of the group, you will have the encouragement and connection to tap into the power that happens when a collective of people are meditating together. Even if we are meditating at different times, the power of intention that connects us will empower you and enable your greatest benefit.

If you are new to meditation, this is a perfect way to start 2019 with a new life-long practice. I’ll send you easy, in-depth explanations, teachings, and follow up to demystify the art and science of meditation, and establish yourself firmly in your practice.

If you are an experienced meditator, this is also a perfect way to join this powerful collective to bring new heights to your practice and open nedoors and awarenesses.

While I will be sending out guided meditations for you to use, you can also choose any style of meditation you'd like. We will each be tracking our meditations every day using Insight Timer which will track your meditations, enable you comment to each other, and help you feel connected to meditators all over the world.

Once you register, you'll begin receiving emails and resources to encourage you and support you along the way, including teachings and explanations about visualizations and about the why and how of meditation.

Plus, you'll receive an invitation to some live group meditations via Zoom. In the app, you'll be able to see and comment to the others in our group who are also doing this 31-day challenge.

This next 31 days will positively formulate 2019, change your life, and benefit the lives of everyone around you!

Once you Register

Tuscany Yoga Retreat

Once you register, you'll receive a welcome email with information about:

  • Specifics of the challenge

  • Live meditation times

  • Many forms of meditation you might choose to do

  • Downloading the app

  • A catalogue of guided meditations, both my catalogue of recordings as well as literally thousands of others on Insight Timer, which you can keep to help support you on your meditative journey.

  • Receiving supportive emails

What does this cost?

I'm more interested in you building a powerful 2019, succeeding in your meditations, and the world becoming more mindful than I am making money, so here's what I'm offering:

The 31-Day Meditation Challenge costs $31, so that you'll commit to it. And everyone who completes the challenge – meditates every day for the 31 days using the app for 15 minutes or more – can opt to get a FULL refund of their tuition. No hassle. No questions.

So, essentially this is free! My deepest desire is that I don't make a dime on this project!

I invite you to visualize an outstanding 2019 and commit to your own personal, mental wellbeing. I know you can do it and I'll support you every step of the way. Join me!


Unique Tunings for Guitars

The Sound of Heaven

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Joni Mitchel.JPG

I play the sax, but the sound of the guitar does something profound to me. Guitars are a heavenly instruments because they rest against the chest, vibrate the heart, and teach us something profound about the resonance within all of us.

Earlier this year I was in a sacred ceremony where I was transported into a vision that will haunt me for the rest of my life. In the vision I was stabbed through the heart and Seneca, my wife, ushered me through the veil of dreams, first with pain and tears of loss, and then with ineffable joy as I reached a world of unspeakable beauty. Welcoming me into this eternal world of white was my 3-year old son Elio, but as an adult, playing me the most holy, beautiful, and intricate refrain on a guitar, his fingers blurring up and down its neck, his face in sacred concentration. The sounds of his guitar filled my heart with an indescribable rapture as tears streamed down my face for hours. I believe I will continue to hear and feel that sound for the rest of my life.

And no, he was not playing Stairway To Heaven.

Heart Strings

Some of the people I love most play guitar. One of them is my friend Megan. She’s happy, generous, and has a boisterous laugh that is positively infectious. Megan invites me and my family to stay with her when we are in Salt Lake City cuz she loves us, has the room, and understands our brand of crazy. She even smiles when Elio and her dog Javier—best friends, our man-pup and her canine-pup— chase each other through the house, barking, screaming, and working themselves into a blissful lather. Megan is the kind of person who knows how you like your coffee and has it waiting for you, hot and steaming on the kitchen counter when you wake up. Recently, when I arrived at Megan’s house to stay a few weeks while we figured out our move to France, she met me with a warm hug and a sincere, “Welcome home.”

The best room in Megan’s house is her living room. Built of warm wood and stone, it’s adorned principally with several hand-crafted guitars hanging on the wall or resting on floor stands, guitars that are meant to me handled and played. A defining moment in Megan’s life was when she was 12 years old and bought her first guitar from Acoustic Music in Salt Lake City. For the next 40 years, playing and collecting guitars would become her passion. At Megan’s house, it’s not uncommon after dinner for the party to move into the living room for an impromptu concert from Megan and anybody else who plays the guitar (which seems to be most of her friends), concerts which often stretch long into the night. And joining in the mix of musicians you might see Elio’s curious toddler fingers plucking a guitar or strumming a ukulele and pitching his little voice to the chorus.

Tuning

If I didn’t know better, I’d say that there are ghosts in Megan’s living room. That’s because a guitar is tuned at a particular frequency so that every time you strike an E string, for example, you get the same sound. And when I play my sax alone in that living room, surrounded by all those guitars, something other-wordly happens: I’ll pull my sax out of my mouth and hear a low hum of the note I just played coming from the guitars. It’s almost like there’s an invisible person in the room playing along. This phenomenon happens because when the strings on those guitars hear something vibrating at the same frequency in which they are tuned, when they hear someone singing their song, they automatically vibrate in tandem. They can’t help but sing along. This phenomenon is called sympathetic vibration.

We are all tuned in such a way that we come alive when we feel or hear or see something that is tuned like we are. We might resonate with a lover, a friend, or an idea. Certainly when Seneca sent me a text saying, “Hey want to go live in France for a while?” it resonated with me perfectly, so I harmonized with that question to the sound of, “Hell yes!” Have you ever been stuck at a crossroads, negotiating the many loud voices about which way to go, and a soft hum of truth vibrates somewhere deep inside of you and lets you know which way is right for you? That’s sympathetic vibration.

Maybe sympathetic vibration is why our family fell in love with Megan. Maybe sympathetic vibration is why after 40+ years it was most natural for Megan to buy not just another guitar from Acoustic Music, but the entire business. And maybe sympathetic vibration is why her store attracts so many big hearts to come inside with their need to play their 3 chords and the truth. Just listen to this left-handed guitar player, a vet who strolled in and sat down to play an original tune about healing from the war of feeling separate from one another. (Check out the video of him playing here), it’s haunting and beautiful.

If you’re tuned in a similar way, I invite you to go to Acoustic Music and sing your song. While you’re there, check out the wall o’ ukuleles and the homage to Joni Mitchell in the room with all the fancy guitars. Or just drop by to feel Megan’s generosity and to be surrounded by all those stunning guitars, those ghosts hanging on the walls.

Learning to Hear

Whether it’s guitars or something else, whatever rings true to you, learn to recognize those vibrations, know that sound.

I believe that yoga and meditation is about listening to how we are tuned. They are mechanisms that help us reduce the excess noise inherent in a busy life. As we listen, we start to vibrate in tandem with our deepest nature, and our most divine qualities will likely sing to the tone of patience, compassion, and love, because that’s how we are all tuned. Yoga and meditation are simply listening stations where we can hear the spirit our True Nature ring.

It is my personal practice to hear those things that resonate deep within me and to bravely organize my life to sing along.

One thing that vibrates like a ghost note inside of me is the inclination that someday I’ll buy Elio a guitar from Acoustic Music, that as he grows he’ll learn to play that guitar like a god, and that someday his music will guide me like a stairway to heaven.





Leaves Falling: The Beauty of Disillusion

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The following is a version of an article I wrote for Conscious Life News

 
Dogma of Fall Leaves

I wish I knew the beauty of leaves falling.

To whom are we beautiful when we go?

~David Ignato


And to whom are we beautiful as we go? This poem seems to point to the fact that even in our failing, there is a part of creation and therefore a part of ourselves that can grant a magnificence to any loss.

A beautiful concept. A bittersweet truth. Perhaps this is why Autumn is so colorful: it is the opulent  funeral procession of the death of so much. It is the rush of fireworks before the quiet stillness of winter.


Shiva Nataraj

Shiva

Many of the Hindu statues tell stories and offers insight which transcends dogma. The Shiva Nataraj, the Dancing Shiva, is a storytelling icon depicting Shiva, the creator of the universe, and illustrates his five acts which, in part, give understanding of death and dissolution. Through understanding the Shiva Nataraj, we too might understand "the beauty of leaves falling" as penned by poet David Ignato.

This statue depicts a person with several arms holding different tools, his hair on fire, body wreathed in flames, standing on an impish creature with one leg, and his other leg in motion.

Creation

In his first hand, Shiva holds a drum putting everything into motion through vibration. It's true that everything from the smallest particle to the largest galaxy, even the Universe itself, is in constant motion. As a musician, I love the idea of DJ Shiva laying down the backbeat that sets the Universe into motion. This represents the birth and spring in our lives and the events and circumstances therein.

Sustaining

His next hand holds a mudra or a gesture called the abhaya mudra. This Mudra is the power of sustaining. It's like Shiva is saying, "I've built this, now I'm supporting and nourishing it." For me this represents summer time when everything is in full bloom and thriving. It's also a reminder to be present, especially to our tendency to get attached to things when they are going well, or looking over our shoulder for the other shoe to drop. If possible be right in the moment as things are. The subtle message here is that things are in flux and don't get either attached or resist what's inevitably in flux.

Death and Disillusion

In his third hand, Shiva is holding a flame suggesting not to get too attached because just as soon as he will give birth to and sustain something, he'll also burn it down. This flame reminds you that not only does everything has a life cycle, but that even as things are changing and dying they do so as part of a perfect cycle. Shiva has no remorse about any of this, he simply stares straight ahead with a little grin as if to say, "This is what death looks like," meanwhile the beautiful fall colors are exploding in their passing.

Concealment

So, when you're at your lowest point, your house has just been razed to the ground and you're really hoping Shiva will give you a helping hand, he does just the opposite. His fourth arm is concealing his heart. At the moment when we are humbled and look to a higher power at our low points he covers his arm to say, "You don't learn heart of God for free." Sometimes this feels like just when you couldn't get any lower, you in fact do.

This lowest point is what Shiva is standing on, a little demon thing called the apasmara and represents the unrealized, naive or innocent part of ourselves. Shiva is standing on this representation of a part of ourselves, not in any way to be mean or spiteful, but rather as a way of literally taking a stand for our higher selves.


Revelation

Revelation Scott Moore Yoga

And once the old self has fully been put asunder, with the only limb left, Shiva last leg is swinging upward to invite you back into the a new and elevated cycle of new birth, sustainment, death and dissolution, concealment and revelation. Here is where everything is revealed and we continue to ride the circle in a spiral of evolution and growth. After such revolutions, there is no going back. And after several times around one might begin to start to expect the different cycles as they appear.

With the full picture in mind, whenever we encounter death, change, or dissolution we can resist it less and perhaps see if for what it is, one of the beautiful steps on our way to our full understanding being.

Mary Oliver writes about learning to accept death and loss in her poem, Maker of All Things, Even Healings. I love the title of the poem because it suggests that the healing, the bringing back to life for a fuller measure of life as in the Dancing Shiva, comes only after accepting death which she does so humbly.

All night

under the pines

the fox

moves through the darkness

with a mouthful of teeth

and a reputation for death

which it deserves.

In the spicy

villages of the mice

he is famous,

his nose

in the grass

is like an earthquake,

his feet

on the path

is a message so absolute

that the mouse, hearing it,

makes himself

as small as he can

as he sits silent

or, trembling, goes on

hunting among the grasses

for the ripe seeds.



Maker of All Things,

including appetite,

including stealth,

including the fear that makes

all of us, sometime or other,

flee for the sake

of our small and precious lives,

let me abide in your shadow--

let me hold on

to the edge of your robe

as you determine

what you must let be lost

and what will be saved.




As we celebrate the panoply of fall colors, may we, too, remember the beauty of leaves falling, the beauty and magnificence of this amazing dance in which we are all twirling, living and dying.

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Valuing Perplexity

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Yoga Nidra Training

We all have problems. We all grapple with the unknown, about the big things like the origin of the Universe, sure, but more specifically about our own complicated life. We all want to solve our problems as quickly and painlessly as possible.


But sometimes it is only by questioning or struggling that we are driven to earnestly understand an otherwise hidden part of ourselves. Sometimes it is working through our struggles that we truly come to understand our full potential. Our questions fuel us to open our hearts, to seek for inspiration, to perform the necessary work, and more profoundly, to abandon our will to the grander wisdom of the Divine, whatever your concept of that is.

We must at once be willing to seek and do. What's most difficult is that we must also be willing to sit comfortably and simply be with what we don't know or understand. And sometimes to get real answers we must be willing to sit in our own darkness for a while.

This human tendency for control occurs regularly in our yoga practice as many of us strive to either know everything there is to know about yoga or try to perfect our poses.

Instead, let us practice this week the yoga principle of Santosha, or contentment, by learning to sit with and even value perplexity, to sit in the not knowing. There is a practice of allowing things to be just the way they are, perfect with our problems, as unseen forces that are working in mysterious ways to evolve your body, mind, and heart. 

The following poem by David Whyte seems to speak directly to learning from the not knowing and leaning into the darkness rather than running from it.

 

Sweet Darkness
by David Whyte
 

20-Hr. Yoga Nidra Training

Virtual or in-Person

September 28–30 2018

When your eyes are tired

the world is tired also.

 

When your vision has gone

no part of the world can find you.

 

Time to go into the dark

where the night has eyes

Meditation for Sleep

to recognize its own.

 

There you can be sure

you are not beyond love.

 

The dark will be your womb 

tonight.

 

The night will give you a horizon

further than you can see.

 

You must learn one thing.

The world was made to be free in.

 

Give up all the other worlds

except the one to which you belong.

 

Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet

confinement of your aloneness

to learn

 

anything or anyone

that does not bring you alive

 

is too small for you.