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Adam's Articles

Practice!

By Adam Mahmoud

What I love about this Practice is its ability to create a shift in your state of being. You feel one way when starting a Practice and, in the end, you are completely transformed by it. I think everyone remembers the first time they had a Yoga class that woke them up to a feeling they’ve never experienced before.

However, the longer we practice the harder it can be to find the motivation to get on the mat or cushion. But at this time, it is essential to practice more. 

At this moment in time our world is changing, the foundation of society is potentially crumbling. Covid-19, Black Lives Matter, domestic abuse, businesses closing, corruption, riots in the streets, wildfires, and global warming to mention a few… we just need aliens to top things off!

The greed and wealth imbalance has hit an unbearable high! If you’d asked most people before all this happened ‘are you happy with the current global situation?’ most would have said no.

As a global society, we have been using, indulging and taking too much from the world without giving back. We all asked for major change and here it is whether you like it or not. Now it’s time for a radical transformation of our species.

Dealing with it all can seem to like an overwhelming task to bare or undertake but the solution is much closer to you than you think. If you want to create change in the world it must happen within you first, from the microcosm to the macrocosm. How? Through committed daily Practice.

Mastering your inner states of being

The lesson here is that once you master your inner states of being you will be able to remain cantered and grounded no matter what happens to you in life. You are able to go from reacting to responding, from judgment to compassion.

When they were nailing Jesus Christ to the cross he was not blaming, or screaming for his life, He said “forgive them, father, for they know not what they do”. That is the ultimate act of not letting your external world determine your internal state of being. Even at that moment, he was in such deep communion with the Purusha!

Remember we are all spiritual beings having a human experience

Whatever you are going through is an experience. Every day you experience millions of sounds and see countless colors. Be mindful of what you are consuming. Your news, social media, conversation, and who you spend time with… because all of these things become a part of you in some subtle way.

We don’t just practice for one or two hours a day and the rest of the time we are unconscious of our mental fluctuations. We are constantly practicing off the mat as well so that when we do enter on our practice it’s that much easier to meditate. Now is the time to take your Practice to the next level!  

Practice with Enthusiasm!  

Enthusiasm is intense enjoyment, interest, or approval. The word was originally used to refer to a person possessed by God.”

It is such a beautiful word, it has such an uplifting and passionate energy.

Being embodied is a gift!

Remember that life is short, we are only here for a brief moment in time. How about making the most of that time wisely! Master your energy, meditate at the heart, find your Dharma, and live your life to the fullest, in service to your teachers, the world, and humanity. Rod Stryker talks more about Dharma here. 

What I love most about this practice is its depth! You are never done, there is always something to learn and more to practice. It’s a ritual I perform every day to honor the divine within me all around me, to reconnect to the sacredness of all of life and her beauty. My goal as a yoga teacher is simple: to bring more love, kindness, and compassion into the world through sharing these teachings.

Take a life-transforming teacher training with The Practice in Bali in July to take your practice to the next level! Find out more about our 200hr YTT program here. 

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Ellen's Articles

Faith and Devotion

by Ellen Arthur.

I’ve always been very devoted. As a child I remember sitting in the church pews, head bowed in respect and honour, holy communion, eulogies, older people hugging and kissing you saying how much you had grown. We were a devoted family, to community, tradition and faith. Then came school and my friends, relationships and work, all with their own kind of devotion.

Throughout our lives faith is present, in many ways it is what binds one moment to the next, one thought to another. Faith and devotion are often spoken about together. With faith comes devotion, when we have faith, the devotion we need in order to commit to something is taken very seriously, our spiritual evolution depends upon our faith and devotion.

As soon as I was exposed to mantra I knew it was something worth exploring. I connected instantly and deeply with its purity and the way it somehow (magically) fulfilled me. It was as if I was being summoned, mantra was an elixir, a clear voice guiding me down a path I recognised, the path of devotion.

This path of yoga is called Bhakti Yoga and it comprises many different aspects of devotion from the gross to the subtle, from the outwardly expressive to the internal and silent. To western yogi’s, Bhakti yoga is synonymous with Kirtan, but it is so much more. This path is all about devoting oneself to seeing God everywhere, listening to scriptures, meditating upon and acting in service of God.

True Bhakti Yoga or true Bhaktas (those who practice Bhakti Yoga) see God as a personified form, something the devotee can relate to like a mother, a father, a sister. That way the devotion can be sent directly to God or to divine love.

Our true self can only find fulfilment once it has merged with divine love. How do we do this? It is said this union is made possible through the gateway of the heart. If practice is persistent and earnest the portal of the heart opens us to an all pervasive universe that connects us both physically, energetically and spiritually to an inner knowing, to the big idea of life, of dharma. Here the development of sweetness and devotion unfolds.

To invite this sweetness in, it is best to surround yourself with people who sing to God, pray to God and devote themselves to the divine, because naturally and overtime our own hearts begin to blossom. True devotees have hearts like flowers, they are constantly pointing their hearts and their devotion toward the sun, toward Source. This then, enriches and sustains their very lives. Increasing their level of faith and their ability to draw more and more abundance toward them and those around them.

Bhakti Yoga is said to be one of the most accessible forms of yoga due to its simple requirement of opening the heart to God. However this simplicity can be misleading. Throughout our lives we have developed many preferences, opinions and ideas about ourselves and the world. Which in turn begins to hardened the wall around our hearts making the journey toward that sacred place turbulent. Our ego can persist and deny our entry, our fears and doubts can halt our expedition. So the message is to go simply and to go sweetly. To remain the witness, the curious traveller. To honour emotion and any discomfort as new territory, new terrain for you to explore. Over time and very subtly our hard exterior begins to soften.

For some of us this softening takes months, for others years, and for most of us decades, even life times. Don’t let this deter you, we must remember that it is not the pace of our awakening that determines our “success” but our dedication and unwavering commitment to showing up for ourselves again and again. For the sake of clearing and cleaning the heart and living from that place of compassion and divine love. Let your prayers be simple and humble. May we pray that the grace of devotion touches our lives and purifies our hearts.

The heart is limitless and, because it has no form, it can contain totality.” – Ramana Maharshi

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Uncategorized

The Truth About Tantra

by Octavio Salvado.

What is Tantra?

To answer the question ‘what is Tantra?’ we would need a thousand years just to begin, so vast is the span of its constituents. Instead I will offer a few insights gleaned from my own personal Tantric sadhana and a few others that have infused themselves into my heart through proximity to my beloved teachers.

What I know for sure is that our bodies are living shrines sporting internal architecture adorned with luminous alters that exude beauty the likes of which outer eyes will never see. Tantric sadhana offers us the precise road map to pilgrimage deep inside of ourselves, plus instructions on the appropriate etiquette required to lay our flower-offerings at the feet of the Lord. As a result we become a light unto ourselves, and a light to others, learning along the way that we can only give to others that which we already have.

Tantra is the relentless inner pursuit to be with Her, that great Shakti who lives inside of us and the subsequent desire to bud open and share Her light with the world, which is an out-petalling of our own soul. Botanists claim that flowers open for selfish reasons; to attract insects and pollinate. Let the scientists have their morbid lists about how selfish nature is. We know the truth! Flowers bud and open for the pure joy of it. The blossoming is unconditional. A flower shares its beauty and aroma for no other reason than to give of itself, because sweetness and beauty are its nature.

Similarly, Tantric practice ultimately leads us to our own inner blossoming and to an understanding of that goodness and beauty within us and what it is here to offer the world. If a flower can share so much purposeful light and life with the world, imagine what we can do with our advanced nervous systems, dexterous limbs, spinning chakras and free will!

As a process, committed Tantric sadhana provides us the intelligence and empowerment to access the primordial pool of healing required to mend our inner scars from this life and all others, which is the highest service we can offer to this world. It is easy to get emotional over the trees, oceans and animals, but fixing one problem will simply cause another to spring up. Until we cut out the root, which is ignorance and fear, oppression and greed will live on.

To truly serve this world, which is the highest Tantric motivation, we must first overcome our own inner poverty. Then, effortlessly, like a blooming flower we will enrich the lives of all who enter our field.

Knowing this, practice becomes service, a way to light our own lamp. Only when our own lamp is lit are we able to help light the lamp in the hearts of others. In luminosity, everything we do then becomes purposeful; all actions, thoughts and words express our inner essence, our sacred aroma, the beauty of our Soul. We walk in freedom and give others permission to do the same.

Tantra today – innocence robbed

Today, Tantra’s innocence is being robbed by charismatic perverts, fooling the masses that Sex is Tantra and sensuality can lead to enlightenment. Maha Maya in Her most dazzling cloak, even enveloping the remedy in poison. Such fun She has! Eventually we will come to understand that sex can be sacred, sex can be conscious and beautiful, but for us, it cannot be Tantric.

The ritualistic rigours of the Left-handed path are far beyond the reach and capacity of people like us. Dabbling in that façade will only increase our addictive tendencies and weaken the mind.

But let’s not dwell too long on dull discussions of delusion, there is only one Mother and She who conceals also reveals. All mothers let their kids play in the muck for a time.

True Tantra teaches us there is no substitute for ‘personal’ sadhana

Tantra, true Tantra, teaches that there is no substitute for ‘personal’ sadhana and there are no shortcuts to Samadhi. We must do the work ourselves. Tantra offers us the framework; a precise science that when practiced and understood, leads to a sacred life marked by spiritual and worldly joy and success.

What I know for sure is that your body is the living abode of the Divine. A vortex of Shaktis! To be born is freedom, if we choose to live in constant remembrance of this. All practices, arts, sciences, disciplines and human endeavours are an outgrowth of this desire to experience oneness with Her. Tantra then, is where the consummation of this desire is finally fulfilled.

Jai Maa.

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Ami's Articles

Changing Our Outlook, A Practice to See Things as They are

by Ami Effendy.

Yoga begins in the present moment, and the present moment begins in silence.  From that silence, words are born.  In the Yoga-Sutra attributed to Patanjali (third century B.C.E), considered to be one of the core text of yoga psychology, we begin with a simple sentence: “Atha yoganusasanam.”  This is translated as ‘in the present moment is the teaching of yoga. 

The first word in the Yoga-Sutra – atha- literally means ‘now’, ‘what is here in this moment.”  Yoga begins in the present moment.  Yoga is the present moment.  We could more concisely translate this opening line as: “Yoga begins now”.  The teachings of yoga orientate us towards this very moment, rendering the future invisible and the past no longer in reach.  Many scholars and practitioners translate yoga as a manifestation of the verb yuj – ‘to unite” – which turns yoga into something one does, a form of willful activity.  Yoga is the act of uniting one thing with another (breath with movement, body with mind, self with other). 

Yoga is a way of being and a mode of existing.  Existence is a play of interconnectedness, and the more we clarity our perception and ways of organizing our experiences, the more openness and compassion we bring to the profound and sometimes confusing undertaking of being in the world.  The authentic practice of yoga is an unremitting attention to present experience, weather in mind, body or heart, with a baby on the hip, preparing breakfast, or balancing the breath in a headstand.

According to yoga philosophy and psychology, the only place to begin an investigation of yoga – or of anything for that matter – is the present moment, because this is all that is actually occurring.  The future has not yet arisen, and the past is passed; the only thing there is to investigate and the only way to begin paying attention is within this very experience as it unfolds right now, right here.  That is why an investigation into the nature of reality and the true nature of the mind begins in this life, this body, and this moment.  The mind, with all its fantastic, distracted and creative potential, is so used to weaving conceptions and preferences all over the present moment that we are often relating not to what is actually occurring in life but reacting to life with our perception which is likes and dislikes.  That is why psychological inquires in the service of awakening begins with what is happening in the here and now – a form of present-centered attention with acceptance.

The mind has a hard time watching anything for very long, especially its own nature that is constantly moving, looking for something that is more interesting and challenging.  The mind has a hard time being present as the breath moves in the body, or as sensations arise and fall away in different yoga poses, and as a result, we are not often here most of the time, we are so easily distracted or interrupted.  This is true not just in relationship with our own bodies and emotions but interpersonally as well.  Other people interrupt our ideas about the way things are supposed to be.  This interruption is precisely what yoga is all about:  becoming flexible enough to have our preconceptions and our elaborative tendencies interrupted.  We usually discover a lot more in the silent space between thoughts and through all the interpretations, ideas, and views our minds generate.  Moments of psychological stillness remind us that there are ways of knowing other than intellectual or habitual.  Yoga practice, both on and off the mat, opens up the heart by revealing our patterns of grasping and inflexibility.  Through a disciplined and appropriately designed yoga practice, we not only see clearly our conditioned ways of living but we learn how to let go of those patterns so that our questions radically outnumber our answers, thats when we arrive in the present moments of life free to respond with an open and creative heart.

Yoga is an investigation into who we are and what we are.  We are looking into the nature of existence by starting with mind, breath, and body.  This requires the ability to be patient and accepting of what is occurring in our mind-body so we can see something clearly enough to study it. 

In yoga posture practice we dissolve the technique of moving the body into pure feeling and then dissolve the mind into that deep experience of feeling.  Then, that is all that is there.  In, chanting, as another example, we dissolve seed syllables into pure sound, and then sound into quite, and then quite into stillness, and then stillness becomes nothing other than a contented mind that is open and receptive, sharp and still.  When the mind returns to this natural state, anything can arise in mind, body and heart, and there is no pushing or pulling, just arising and dissolving, one form becoming, in turn, another. 

If our practice is creating flexibility over the body without a corresponding flexibility of the heart, we need to flag the way we conceive of and engage in practice.

Yoga begins with an honest meeting of our present experience, which means seeing as best we can all aspects of ourselves and our world, including what is most difficult or painful. How much suffering we have felt through our inability to tolerate and live in the midst of change?  How much difficulty do we experience from our reactions to the interactivity of feelings, thoughts, movements in the body, and memory?

In the Yoga-Sutra, Patanjali initiates the path of yoga with two first steps: practice (abhyasa) and letting go (vairagya).  Cultivating more wholesome intentions and actions of body, speech, and mind, and letting go of historical and ensnaring attitudes, is a constant throughout the entire path.  Cultivating positive qualities and letting go of negative factors in our psychophysical makeup gives us a clear starting point for our practice, without which we risk getting lost in the futility of undirected movement.

After a few years of consistent practicing contemporary yoga, I began asking questions.  Many of the classes I commonly found in Yoga Studios were not represented in ancient texts, with the absent of psychological understanding in yoga communities and the eventual vanity that comes on the heels of superficial practice.  I saw around me, people accomplishing great feats of flexibility and wonderful posture practices, but those same practices did not guarantee psychological or spiritual insight.

What do we aspire to in practice? What motivates our practice? What is the reason for practice? Some say we practice for no reason.  But human experience seems always constructed within the context of purpose or meaning.  How does one live a good life? What is enlightenment? Is yoga just about physical accomplishment, and if not, why are the ethical and psychological underpinnings of yoga so under spoken? Does one have to finally hold their own heels in back bends, practice arm balance in full lotus, or is there some other test for the liberative validity of practice? 

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Keli's Articles

From Addiction to Mission

by Keli Dierigns.

The opposite of addiction is connection– says the writer Johan Hari’s (author of “Lost of Connections: Why You Are Depressed and How to Find Hope”). Johan suggests that the reason people are depressed and turn towards unhelpful habits is because of loss of connection. Many studies have shown that depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain, but this is not necessarily what Johan suggests.  

It is my understanding that depression can show up in different layers, but his statement made me think much harder. He makes valid points when he mentions that life has moments of grief, uncertainty, confusion and if we understand those emotions better, we do not need to go under medications to numb those feelings. Johan Says in his book;

Now, if your baby dies at 10am, your doctor can diagnose you with a mental illness at 10.01am and start drugging you straight away.”

When I was seventeen years old my parents’ divorced and I had to see a doctor. After only two or three questions the doctor prescribed me anti-depressants. Thankfully, I was surrounded by people who advised against me taking them. It was a long road — often not easy — but I found joy in connecting with my body, exercising and working in fitness.

How can we understand these emotions better, without defaulting toward our diagnoses? By allowing ourselves to feel them.

Through meditation, silence and contemplation, we sit with the emotions rather than pushing them away or masking with distractions. This empowers us to make the clear choices of what is truly helpful to healing. 

Allowing ourselves acknowledgement and experience the emotions is the first step of healing… and… it is not comfortable. 

Stillness and the methodology of traditional Hatha Yoga helps us to understand non-reactivity, which supports us to not rush into unconscious choices.

Even with the rapid growth of information and widespread communication in our modern age, we do not know enough about mental health. As a collective humanity we are undereducated about mental health and our resources which makes it harder to understand how to support ourselves and society in a way that there is universal compassion. I became very curious about the state of human mind both because of my own struggles and as a Yoga teacher (because Yoga initially is about the mind). I wanted to know how I can understand myself and support humanity in more depth. I believe people are depressed for not feeling worthy or meaningful. It does not help that we live in a society and culture that displays happiness in form of material goods, looks, what it seems perfect relationships, etc.. but does happiness really comes from that? 

For so many people, the comparisons to these ‘supposed happiness’ actually leaves a feeling of not being good enough, of being unworthy. Why do we feel this way? How can we help ourselves and also the collective to feel more joy?

But first, what is taking our Joy away? — This is something Johan mentioned in a podcast with Joe Rogan and I loved: “One of the cruellest things of society is to take away what someone loves doing”. For example: to sing/ perform, dance, contact with nature; something that makes people feel alive and connected. Psychology often says that we are all a five year old little boys and girls with dreams and hopes. If society starts to take these experiences away from us and sell that happiness comes from external or superficial things, it will encourage creating a life that will be never enough and fulfilled. External happiness will never feel good enough and perfection is not something ‘achievable’.

This makes more sense to me after watching the movie Joker, which is my favourite movie of all times. I think it’s a masterpiece that reveals when a collective society is unhealed; it creates more traumas and pain (like a chain), one hurting another. I left the movies really touched by it and could not stop noticing ‘pieces of the Joker’ everywhere. It impacted me to reflect deeper on how am I adding to the healing or suffering to every single person that I interact with every day. We are all healing from something and must think how can we support people to keep working or believing in their dreams.

So…what makes us to FIND joy? In that same podcast Rohan says:

“Depression can be minimized by making other people happy”

He also added that many studies have being done in countries that support a culture where happiness is when we serve others. What do you think? I could not agree more! 

We might think…What about myself? I should fix my depression first before helping others? Not really. The act of supporting a community, giving and participating will leave a sense of worthiness, and difference that brings joy to the heart! Serving others is how you find purpose in life and when you find purpose, you find more meaning in it. Yes it requires effort…but it could be something simple. Take friends for coffee and listen to them, bake muffins to someone, clean up the beach, help to rescue a puppy, plant a tree, drive kids to school, help someone to move home, create a simple piece of art and give to someone… truly, we never know where this could lead us. Starting something small can make a world difference, in your world and someone’s else.

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Ellen's Articles

The Source of Your Fear

by Ellen Arthur.

The river of spirituality must have love and devotion woven into its flow. Without this inner experience of reverence and sweetness our practices become fruitless and we lose interest. Practice wholeheartedly, unattached to the outcome is something to be done on a daily basis. What I know to be true is that no one else can work with our mind for us, no teacher or therapist can clean our mind of confusion and make it one-pointed. Even the scriptures say “light your own lamp, no one else can give you enlightenment”. This implies that we are our own guides, our own teachers.

As I practice, both my physical teacher and my inner teacher ask that I dive deeper, into the realms of mind and habit. What I am continuously coming up against are my insecurities and doubts. Some days they are little ripples upon a quiet lake, other days they are all consuming waves of emotion which overwhelm my ability to see clearly. Within these emotions, whether they create large waves or small ripples is fear. Fear is what stifles our growth, keeps us living small and is the source of all our pain and suffering.

This is where yoga steeped in knowledge and Tradition comes in. The intention of the practices are to aid in deep healing and inner transformation. It asks us very specifically to analyse the source of our fear. The judgements, anxieties and resentments and get to the root of them. Only once we acknowledge the source of our fears are we able to liberate them.

Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, PhD, says that we should contemplate two main themes. The first is to be careful of fear and doubt. These qualities are like an army of termites chewing away at our foundation and causing the entire structure of spirituality to collapse. The second theme centres around ego. Our greatest enemy. It is in charge of emotions such as anger, hatred, jealousy, greed and the desire for revenge. Every one of these emotional enemies cause great destruction both internally and externally

In my analysis I have come up with this question, why do patterns repeat themselves? Patterns of self sabotage, unworthiness and confusion. Until recently I never knew to ask these questions or realise that they had remedies. Now that my current practices are informed by contemplation and self analysis. I am beginning to notice incremental shifts through practices such as mantra japa, emphasis on self compassion, self love and also techniques that guide us toward releasing negativity. I can viscerally and mentally feel the transformation talking place within my consciousness. I am less reactive, less driven by egotistical desires and more interested in moving toward things, people and places that inspire, excite and enable me to grow in happiness and unconditional love.

Not wanting to diminish the challenges faced coming up against the lower mind. I try to remember that what I am going through is a process of healing. Of moving away from fear and guiding myself toward love. A process that requires trust, compassion and the permission to heal. To acknowledge our negative and harmful traits and have the tools and support to gracefully move beyond them.

Blessed are we with the grace of the inner teacher, to be able to move through life in this human form, with a mind that is able to discern, decide and act. However, the great Yogis realised it’s not enough. It is important that we expose ourselves to the other three forms of grace.
Grace from the scriptures, revealed knowledge, The Grace of God,
and the sweet, nurturing Grace of the Guru.

With these four forms of Grace, really nothing can stand in the way of our liberation, our desire to evolve and meet the higher Self, the all knowing one, where we are reunited with our Soul.

All we can do is practice in an informed and honest way. To be easeful in our approach to our own wounds and desire to heal. To remember that the source of our fear is the very thing that CAN liberate us from all ignorance and suffering.

All blessings,
Elle

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Octavio's Articles

Believe That Both are Possible

by Octavio Salvado.

Where have all the role models gone? Where are the radiant examples of individuals showing us that success in the inner world does not have to obliterate success in the outer world, or vice versa? Tantra’s message is Simple. Both are possible.

Tantra is two things, a life affirming philosophy that views the world as a living expression of the sacred, plus a potent set of methods providing the exact means to experience this philosophy. The ultimate goal of Tantra is to live an extraordinary life, inner and outer both.

According to the tradition, this is achieved through the skillful and willful integration of three separate yet interconnected ideas: Bhoga (Fulfillment), Apavarga (Freedom) and Bhukti (Accomplishment).

In other words, to fulfill our ultimate potential as human beings we must delight in our human lives in a way that’s connected to our highest self and from that place breathe life into meaningful ideas that serve the world.

Bhoga is often defined as the desire for material, or worldly fulfillment. It speaks to the inherent desire to feel pleasure and enjoyment. There are many paths that deny this and try to suppress it.

Tantra sees it as an inescapable part of being human. It states that by meeting this desire with self-awareness, the glory of the soul can be experienced in daily life adding much richness and meaning to it.

Tantra does not support reckless or indulgent behavior. It does not support promiscuous sex, open-relationships, or recreational drug use. This is something we in the West have made up to give ourselves permission to sanctify our general lack of inner resolve. It is much easier to stay engaged in our lower tendencies when we pretend those tendencies are somehow ‘Yogic’.

For this reason, Tantra can be described as a kind of razor’s edge. Many Yogis fall from that edge, or slice themselves in the dance. The number of sexual lawsuits against ‘Gurus’ and international Yoga teachers is a sad and disgusting example of this.

Tantra invites us to enjoy the body and delight in the world from a place of unwavering spiritual discrimination. We should always be asking ourselves ‘who is driving the bus in this moment?’, because the soul will never steer us wrong. When we celebrate life in this way, we give credibility to Yoga, instead of dragging its name through the mud.

Desire, when well informed, is also a powerful tool for spiritual evolution. In fact, without a borderline obsessive desire to evolve beyond our limiting patterns, we simply won’t. The shakti, or power held within those limitations will continue to restrict our forward momentum like a riptide pulling us out to sea.

Apavarga means liberation from these lower tendencies and a subsequent anchorage to the higher Self. Although Tantra invites us to delight in the human world, it also provides an exact set of methods for transcending the limitations of the body and mind allowing us to experience absorption into that which transcends both.

Tantra does not view Bhoga and Apavarga as being in conflict with one another. Instead it views them as major aspects of living an integrated and extraordinary life. The weaving of our human ability to thrive in the world and our spiritual ability to live in constant remembrance of who we are represent two thirds of the tapestry. Yet there is one more crucial thread to living an exalted life – Bhukti.

Bhukti translates to ‘accomplishment’. Tantra does not support shying away from worldly success in the name of spirituality. When Krishna demands that Arjuna rise from the floor of his chariot and pick up his bow to fight, this is Bhukti.

Understanding our soul’s grandest vision and bringing that vision to life is at the core of Tantra? What is your hidden gift? And will achieving that goal bring more light, more healing, more meaning, knowledge and joy to the world? If the answer is yes, then you have a spiritual obligation to exhaust every last resource you have until that dream is a manifested reality. The Gita again reminds us, “Life and death are not nearly as important as HOW we live. In the end, only Dharma gives our lives meaning.”

Tantra is not for the fickle or faint of heart, it demands that we utilize all of our intrinsic power and self-knowledge to overcome struggle and undoubtedly the ambush of inner and outer criticism to accomplish great things in the world. In this way we both serve the world and honor our soul’s innate glory and magnificence.

Believe that both are possible; inner and outer success. If we are not experiencing this, then either we have misunderstood the teachings, our methodology is inadequate, or we are not investing enough effort into our study and practice. Either way, our destiny is where it has always been – in our own very capable hands.

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Ami's Articles

The Art of The Innate Joy and Self Contentment

by Ami Effendy.

Like the ability to learn a language or love another human being, the ability to feel joy is something we are all born with. We are born happy; we are born free.

However the human being has to face the facet of changes, our conditioning. Everything is changing, the season is changing, the day is changing, and our body is changing. More importantly our mind is also always changing, our mood is changing, and the world is changing. All that changes creates a certain level of uncertainty, in deeper level even fear. The other change that we rather think about is mortality.

Many of us still believe that joy isn’t innate – that is only comes with possessing a specific item or achieving a particular outcome. So we keep searching for joy through objects, relationship, and experiences, which prevents us from realizing that this essential emotion is already within us, patiently waiting to be experienced.

Unfortunately, when you resist or deny feelings of joy, your life and relationships can lose their meaning and value. For instance, when you feel you’re not living life fully, or when you’re feeling bitter or jealous about that which others have and you don’t, these feelings can overshadow your ability to feel your innate joy.

Research shows that regularly experiencing joy—whether in the form of laughter or of activities that promote happiness and well-being, can produce healthy changes throughout your body. Joy can strengthen your immune system, boost your energy, diminish your perception of pain, anxiety, and depression, protect you from the damaging effects of stress, increase your ability to sleep restfully through the night, and more. And the best thing is that you can access feelings of joy at any time through meditation.

Another practices for welcoming joy is to spend time experiencing gratitude moments—welcoming feelings of gratitude and joy into body and mind. You do this by taking time to recall that which you’re thankful for. Research shows that people who regularly practice gratitude moments are more joyful and experience less depression than those who don’t.

Heart – Brain Connection According to Science

Many believe that conscious awareness originates in the brain alone. Recent scientific research suggests that consciousness actually emerges from the brain and body acting together. A growing body of evidence suggests that the heart plays a particularly significant role in this process.

The human heart has always been a symbol love and romance. In reality, however, it is an organ that pumps blood around our bodies, or there is something more?

Where has this emotional connection to love come from?

No other organ in the human body has this connection with an emotion, so could there be something behind the literature and poetry, and if so, could science provide an explanation?

There are neurons in your heart.

Many people assume that the brain is controlling our emotions, but Professor David Paterson, Ph.D. at Oxford University, disputes this. He says that the brain is not the only organ that produces emotions. This is because the heart actually contains neurons similar to those in the brain, and these fire in conjunction with the brain. The heart and the brain are therefore connected:
When your heart receives signals from the brain via the sympathetic nerves, it pumps faster. And when it receives signals through the parasympathetic nerves, it slows down, says Professor Paterson.

In 1991, a scientific discovery published in the journal Neurocardiology put to rest any lingering doubt that the human heart is more than a pump. The name of the journal gives us a clue to the discovery of a powerful relationship between the heart and the brain that went unrecognized in the past.

A team of scientists led by J. Andrew Armour, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Montreal, which was studying this intimate relationship between the two, found that about 40,000 specialized neurons, or sensory neurites, form a communication network within the heart.

In each moment of every day, a conversation is taking place inside us. Without a doubt, it’s one of the most vital communications we will ever find ourselves engaged in. It’s the silent, often subconscious, and never-ending conversation of emotion-based signals between our hearts and our brains, also known as the heart brain connection.

The reason this conversation is so important is because the quality of the emotional signal our hearts sends to our brains determines what kind of chemicals our brains release into our bodies.

When we feel what we would typically call negative emotions, for instance, anger, hate, jealousy, and rage, our hearts send a signal to our brains that mirrors our feelings. Such emotions are irregular and chaotic, and this is precisely what the signal they send to the brain looks like. If you can envision a chart of the ups and downs of the stock market on a wild and volatile day, you’ll have an idea of the kind of signals we create in our hearts in times of chaos.

The human body interprets this kind of signal as stress, and triggers the mechanisms to help us respond appropriately. The stress from negative emotions increases the levels of cortisol and adrenaline—often called stress hormones, which prepare us for a quick and powerful reaction to whatever is causing us stress—in our bloodstreams. This is our instinctive fight-or-flight response.

The research has shown that when we create rejuvenating emotions, such as appreciation, care, gratitude, and compassion, the signal from heart to brain becomes more harmonized to reflect the quality of the emotions. In the presence of a harmonized signal, there is no need for the fight-or-flight response. The stress hormones decrease, allowing the heart and brain to shift and produce the chemistry that supports stronger immune response, healing properties and greater amounts of DHEA, the precursor to all other hormones in the body.

Whether it’s based in emotions from stress or harmony, the conversation and connection between heart and brain—specifically, between the sensory neurites in our hearts and those that make up our brains—is constantly occurring as a dialogue of very low frequencies.

Heart – Brain Connection According to Yoga Tradition

This is one of those places where science and spirituality overlap beautifully. While the science describes the electrical relationship and connection between the heart and the brain, ancient spiritual practices and techniques have helped people apply the relationship in their lives—and do so without a scientific explanation.

As with any technique that’s passed from teacher to student, however, the steps for creating heart-brain connection and coherence are best experienced with a seasoned practitioner to facilitate the process.

This heart-brain connection according to the Tantra is called “Pran Vayu”. The word Pran is taken from “Prana” which commonly known as energy, breath or lifeforce. The Pran Vayu is one of the five primarily Vayus.

However, the translation of word “Prana” is falls well short than the actual meaning of the words. The words “Prana” infers to a quality of alivenes, which also speak towards our emotions and feelings.

The Pran Vayu is the upward and inward subtle energy movement within the body that is responsible for recharging the mind and the body, that is located in the heart primarily (lungs and chest) and the head, related to the inhalation which is our ability to take the “life in”.

The Pran is associated with emotional Intelligence, heart intelligence. It’s constant. We can trust it. It’s important to acknowledge this, because it means that the wisdom of our heart—the answers to the deepest and most mysterious questions of life that no one else can answer—already exists within us.

Rather than something that needs to be built or created before it can be used, the link between our heart and the place that holds the answers is already established. It’s been with us since the time we were born and has never left us. It’s up to us as to when we choose to access that link as a “hotline” to the deepest truths of our life. It’s also up to us as to how we apply the wisdom of our heart in the reality of our everyday life.

This is where discernment comes in. While our heart’s wisdom may be true for us, it may not always be true for someone else. Our friends, children, siblings, life partners, and families all have their own heart wisdom.

Few simple steps to create heart-brain connection. Each steps sends a signal to the body that a specific shifts has been put into motion. Combined, the steps create an experience that takes us back to a natural harmony that existed in our bodies earlier in life, before we began to separate our heart-brain network through our conditioning.

Step 1
Settle into a comfortable sitting position with supported prop (blanket, pillow, or block) so that your lower back is fully supported, as you sit up high positioned the crown of your head over the based of your spine.

Step 2
Take one or two deep breath to ensure freedom, both in the spine and in the breath. Just relax and be aware the sensation on the breath, without trying to make anything happened.

Step 3
Continue to watch the breath, remaining completely effortless, you adsorb your body breathing. Notice if there is any tension and stress on the breath, if there is, just relax a bit more. Let go.

Step 4
Bring your awareness to the space between your brain and skull. Just relax and be aware. One of the thing you might notice is that in that space, the general area of the brain is highly sensitive to light, to presence. There is definitely a feeling of openness and spaciousness there. As you deep into your relaxation, you start to notice that there is an innate goodness or delight or ease in that space. Kind of presence of inner joy, while you stay mindful of that feeling, or of that presence, notice your body breathing again.

Step 5
Now, as you breath out, sense that light of presence, to descend to the heart, as your body breath in allow that presence to rise back up to the space between the brain and the skull. Each time you breath out, there is the descend to that heart, each time you inhale there is ascend back to the space between the brain and the skull. Continue to direct the mind to move on into the flow of the breath. Gradually the mind becomes absorb to this movement, if it wonder or drift re-direct the mind to follow the flow of the breath. To descend and ascend, the experiences of goodness, a spaciousness and joy.

Step 6
As you continuously, effortlessly to ascend and descend. As the mind increasingly absorbed on the technique, you noticed that this presence, inner delight, inner joy, contentment begins to collect in heart.

Finally in this last stage, simply rest in the heart.
Be aware that you have gain access to this inner domain of unconditioned joy and peace. As you rest in that space, there is timeles experience of oneness, and wholeness. You are no longer rising and falling through the spine, you open the door to your heart.
Where you experience a complete oneness and unconditioned joy. Rest here for as long as you desire.

Join the complete version of this Meditation including Pranayama with me at The Practice Online “Pranayama & Meditation” on August 2019’s issue.

Infinite love and Gratitude,

Ami Effendy

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Keli's Articles

So Hum: “I Am-ness”

by Keli Dierings, artwork by Alex Ruiz,

Your self-worth cannot be defined by what you do or accomplish. These are temporary, while who you are is infinite. When you identify who you are with what you do, you set yourself up for disappointment and heartbreak sooner or later. If we think “I, and what I do, are not enough,” we can end up doing more and more to always be chasing a sense of temporary worthiness. And then what happens if one day you cannot complete a task or goal for some reason? Do you then think that who you are is a failure? The reality is, the things that you do won’t always be a success, and sometimes you won’t be able to accomplish them all or in a way that you initially wanted. This will never mean that you are not worthy, or not enough.

SO HUM is a Sanskrit word meaning “I AM – I am that/he.” I am that which is eternal, that which is one with the Source. When we embody So Hum, we begin to understand that our bodies, minds, careers, tasks, and accomplishments are just temporary in this human life and constantly changing. It becomes crucial to choose carefully the word we put after “I AM” because it becomes our identity, our reality. If we attach to or identify with something that we can’t always control, we can end up creating for ourselves an enormous amount of pain. We as infinite, divine, and luminous beings limit ourselves when we our identify ourselves to the things that are finite and temporary. Of course we can have goals, do things, and follow our passions for thriving! But we must remember that these things are parts of our lives, yet not who we are as beings.

When we experience ‘negative’ emotions such as anger, insecurity or jealousy, we tend to tell ourselves “I am an angry person” or “I am a jealous girlfriend”, rather than saying “I am experiencing the emotion of anger, or jealousy”, which is temporary. We tend also to have thought patterns like “I feel worthless, therefore I must be worthless.” When we learn from society that there is no separation between doing bad and being bad, it leaves us with the feeling of shame, and we may tend to compare ourselves with others or identify with others’ opinions and reactions that we can’t control. We might think that if you don’t do certain thing, you are not worthy of others love and appreciation.

So how should we start to identify with the divine beings we are?

Begin the journey of self-knowing. Meditate! Meditation is the key for self-knowledge, and self-knowledge is the key for finding growth and freedom. You come to own your growth, and understand too that the journey is not perfect all the time. In the tradition of Tantric Hatha, SO HUM is one of the most potent Mantras to meditate on for self-realization.

Practice contemplation of all the reasons you ARE enough. If you focus on lack and insecurities, you get more of it. But if you focus on the things in your life that you feel good about, this will shift into thoughts of appreciation for yourself. For example: I value myself because I care about others, humanity, or I value myself because I am loyal.

Speak to yourself with love! Give yourself words, advice, and guidance that you would give to a dear friend. When we can show ourselves kindness and compassion, we rewire the brain and our patterns of self-talk, self-love and self-worth.

And attune to being in gratitude by searching for appreciation in your experiences. Begin to see that being defines you more than doing and being goes way beyond anything that is subject to change in this life. The essence of who you truly are it is beautiful, wonderful and even beyond your experiences.

Categories
Ellen's Articles

Practice as Seva

by Ellen Arthur.

Why do we practice? What keeps us coming back? The reason we practice anything, whether its yoga, a language, a sport, is so that our knowledge of that thing deepens. Our thirst for understanding propels our desire to practice.

These questions were never something I considered when I first met the mat. It wasn’t so much of a conscious decision to return to practice as it was a deep visceral desire to feel good and to evolve. To feel that through practice I was able to connect to something beyond the bazaar world my mind usually dwelled in. The mind (my mind, your mind) is a tool. We can use it to enhance the way we view the world (Worldview – Santali) or we can use it to destroy and destruct. For a long time I didn’t know I had a choice, I just resigned myself to the fact that I was going to be at the mercy of the mind forever!!

It is an assumption to say, but for the most part, we practice firstly for ourselves. To make ourselves feel more energetically rich, strong, healthy and attuned to the environment around us, making us more connected and conscious of our actions. In order to progress along any path, this step is essential. To feel good within our own skin, to find love for ourselves first.

Then something magical happens. The lens of our practice starts to shift. We begin to realise that by healing ourselves we inadvertently begin to heal those around us. Our devotion, our discipline, our capacity to feel and engaged from a deeper pool of emotions has a ripple affect. After all… isn’t that why we are here? To be of service to each other and therefore to be of service to the world?

In Yoga we have a word that embodies this concept. This word in Sanskrit is Seva; having an interest in the well-being of others as well as oneself. Service gives us the opportunity to lose the concept of “self” that we have programmed/created so that we can offer our time selflessly to others.

Serving others is considered a great siddhi, a great power. In order to serve others we must confront very real and impressionable thoughts and ideas that we have about ourselves and the world. Service asks us to renounce our own selfish desires and needs. This can be quite a hurdle to overcome. Through the practice of Seva we are able to see quite clearly where our patterns and conditions arise from. Ultimately the things that we unconsciously repeat, whether they are thoughts, actions or addictions, are the very things that keep us stuck and habitual.

Karma Yoga, meaning deed or action, refers to the law of cause and effect. The idea is that every action leads to a reasonable result – and that everything that happens can be traced back to something done in the past. Actions determine destiny, this is the basis of Karma Yoga. We reap what we sow.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says that we must work not for our own sake but for the welfare of all. Pointing out that this is the basic law underlying all of creation. That each being must do their part in the grand scheme of life.

Krishna tells Arjuna, “we must perform our duties without attachment to their fruit or outcome. We must act in a selfless spirit, without ego-involvement and without getting entangled in whether things work out the way we want; only then will we not fall into the terrible net of Karma”.

Arjuna asks Krishna, what powers bind us to our selfish ways? Even when we want to act rightly, often we do the wrong thing. What power moves us?
Krishna replies… “Anger and selfish desire are our greatest enemies. They are the destructive powers that can compel us to wander away from our purpose, to end up in self delusion and despair”.

So as you can see, this is not an easy task to undertake when we are confronted by our biggest hurdles and demons in the process of serving others. This is why our practice and what we practice is so essential. Practices that amplify our demons, struggles and our ego will obviously take us further and further down the path of self destruction. Whereas practices that soften us, humble us, connect us to our hearts and challenge us mentally give us strength to walk the path of purpose, the path of Dharma.

To be of service is to ask the questions… When I do something, why do I expect something in return? Why do I think the world owes me? What am I trying to gain by giving to others? What am I trying to fulfil or suppress?

Practice brings self inquiry, and through this we are able to ask the harder, deeper questions. Our capacity to look at our darkness, our greed, without judgement or reaction based on habit, is what allows us to progress and overcome selfish tendencies.

When was the last time you really considered the impact your practice is having on you and the world around you? When was the last time you did something without attachment to individual gain? What would that look like for you? How would that feel? I encourage you to use the science of yoga as a way to deeply connect with your truest nature so that in turn you are able to share and be of service to the world and those around you.

I will leave you with this from Krishna…

“Fulfil all your duties; action is better than inaction. Even to maintain your body Arjuna you are obliged to act. Selfish action imprisons the world. Act selflessly without any thought of personal gain”.

Many blessings to you,
Namaste,
Elle