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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.

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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

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Octavio's Articles

The Unlikable Road to Freedom

by Octavio Salvado.

Imagine a yoga world where people automatically assumed that when you go to a ‘yoga’ class you will also practice meditation. Imagine a yoga world that taught classes without music, recognizing that silence and single pointedness of mind are the pre-requisite for the deeper inner experiences that yoga promises. Imagine a yoga world that valued tradition and ancient wisdom over innovation and creative sequencing. This is the yoga world that I dream of, and it is coming.

The new paradigm starts with us, the teachers. There is no point us complaining that students these days lack the desire to go deeper. If there is a lack of desire in students, then it is merely a reflection of something lacking in those that are sharing it.

Nowadays I feel that teachers are afraid to lose students, or disappoint them. We would prefer to be liked, followed and paid more than respected and as a result, we seek to entertain students rather than educate them. Class numbers and big followings do not make a great teacher. A great teacher, in my opinion, is forged in the fires of tradition, discipline, loyalty, obedience, failure and humility, shaped over decades of relentless study and practice… and scrubbing toilets.

We live in a yoga culture weakened by entitlement, impatience and a general dislike for hard, unsexy, behind the scenes work. If we can’t post about it, it doesn’t exist and it certainly doesn’t matter. Teachers want name and fame without realizing that there are no shortcuts in the yoga world. Peripheral, quick popularity is an illusion and an obstacle on the path to real progress as a teacher. If you’re a newer teacher, avoid it like the plague. The Masters of the tradition see everything and in the end, it is them pulling the strings from behind the veil and them pulling the rug out from under our feet when we get ahead of ourselves. Their timing is usually exquisite.

There is a wonderful term that addresses this, called ‘Adhikara’, often translated as ‘studentship’. However, the literal meaning is ‘the right to know’. It speaks to the idea that each of us earns the right to receive the teachings based on our own genuine dedication to practice and study. In truth, the age old axiom isn’t ‘when the student is ready, the teachings will appear’, more accurately, its when the student is prepared. In the end, only time, effort and reverence can properly prepare us to move beyond the periphery and share something truly meaningful as teachers.

Furthermore, this progression should be total. Its insufficient to merely evolve our practice and study and discount the importance of simultaneously evolving our relationships, our mental steadiness, our patience, our parenting, and our professional life. To truly earn the right to know and call ourselves yoga teachers, we must courageously seek out constant progress in all areas of life. Then and only then do we become more capable of receiving, assimilating and ultimately sharing the deeper and more profound practices and teachings of yoga.

Maturity, both on and off the mat takes time. I am very familiar with immaturity in both of these areas and believe me, it comes with a lot of karma, so don’t rush. Don’t be in a hurry to be somebody, or to be a visionary, develop a yoga style, or start a movement. If that is your destiny, then the Masters will organize it. Just keep on practicing, dedicate your whole self, your efforts and devotion in a straight, unwavering line along a singular path and don’t deviate from it. Earn your stripes over years and decades, not months and fearlessly commit to improving all dimensions of your life and being.

If we want to see changes in the yoga world and in our students, then as teachers we must be willing to make a stand and make the hard, unglamorous choices, sacrificing fun, insta-fame and numbers to do the right thing. Turn off the stereo and practice at home in silence. Meditate everyday without fail, regardless of whether you ’feel like it’. Remain grateful and open in the wake of one-star reviews. Teach a class of two students with as much passion as you’d teach a class of one hundred. Give zero shits about being popular. Relate to your yoga on the inside.

We all know what the right thing to do is. We just need to stand down from our pedestals and do it and trust that the tradition will support us and that the merits of our own hard-earned efforts will keep us afloat in the chaos that inevitably comes with regeneration and the glorious cycle of death and rebirth.

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Ellen's Articles

Remembering Mantra

by Ellen Arthur.

Mantra is unique, as in, unlike anything else.. and I couldn’t think of a better way of describing the magic that is mantra, chanting and kirtan. All of these three definitions express different ways of using mantra in order to heal, inspire or awaken dormant energies within our very own bodies and mind.

For me, it all began in a modest little yoga shala, in Canggu, Bali years ago, where my teacher (Octavio) lead us through a mantra that would, unbeknownst to me at the time, change my life forever. That mantra was Om Asatoma. A peace mantra that takes us away from the false, illusion filled patterns of life and leads us toward our truth, moves us from the misunderstanding of our “darkness” and guides us to our light, and lastly transforms us from our fear of death and allows us to perceive ourselves as immortal, as beings who never die. Ultimately asking us to become the most embodied and empowered version of ourselves possible. To say that this Yoga Teacher Training changed my life is an understatement.

It took me at least a year to remember that time in Bali when I was exposed to Mantra, and once I remembered, I haven’t stopped chanting, sharing and singing since. I believe that the practice of mantra and self-discovery shows up when you need it the most, when you are ready for a transformative shift to take place. Be warned, that a committed mantra practice will, without a doubt revolutionise the way you perceive not only yourself, but the very world that you are a part of.
At that time, I wasn’t ready for my life to change, there were still a few weeds that needed to be removed and a few past experiences that needed to be revisited so that I could make peace with them. Hence why it took a solid year for me to recall the power of mantra, and specifically Om Asatoma. (Let me be clear, I still have a lot of weeds and overgrown terrain that I am constantly working on, but each day the garden of my life looks a little tidier and somewhat less chaotic.)

As a daily practice along with asana, mediation and pranayama, I would utilise the momentum (the momentum is the fact that these mantras have been used and chanted for thousands of years, in ceremonial practices, so that alone amplifies its impact and its magnetic pull) and the power of this mantra to help relieve my suffering, my ignorance and my self sabotage. After some time marinating in my own mantra practice, the need to share was overwhelming. I began to share mantra with my students in classes and also sharing through regular community kirtans.
Kirtan is typically accompanied with narrating or story telling and then chanting mantra melodically, usually in a call and response manner. I have been lucky enough to be able to see first hand the beauty and the reach of mantra. My students and community would often say to me that mantra feels familiar, like an old friend, even if you’re new to the practice. Technically as a species we have been singing, celebrating and purging our troubles through ceremony, dance and ritual since the beginning of time. So no wonder mantra feels nostalgic and sentimental.

Through Mantra in the Hindu and Buddhism traditions we chant to the gods, deities, figure heads and higher beings with the belief and the understanding that these Gods and Goddesses aren’t outside of ourselves. In fact they represent the very nature of our being, showcasing our vast array of human qualities and emotions. These qualities include, strength, will power, determination, compassion, unconditional love and having the courage to over come our many hurdles/obstacles/heartbreaks. Always changing and evolving, our nature can sometimes be loving and passive, and in some circumstances we need to be more assertive and direct. In these times of shift and transformation mantra can be used as a tool to keep our two feet firmly planted on the ground, to bind us to the infinite possibilities within the present moment. We were designed to awaken, to thrive and to understand that beyond the rollercoaster of everyday life and emotion, there is a part of ourselves that is calm and at peace. Mantra speaks to that very part of ourselves that is beyond form, religion, gender, political views and social construct. When we chant we are liberated, and the heart is directly pierced and touched ever so sweetly.
For me, it’s a real sense of relief knowing that there is mantra, and where there is mantra there is a deity to call upon in times of need. In these times of despair, mantra becomes an incredible ally. Over time and dedicated repetition, mantra helps guide us away from negativity or uncertainty and points us in the direction of rebuilding our inner reservoir of contentment that comes from self-fulfilment, not from an external source, but right within your own heart.

I can happily say that asana is a big part of my daily practice but it is through daily repetitions of the names, that has bought about the biggest transformations in my life. The commitment to a practice that enables me to connect to something bigger than “I”, bigger than “me” has given “me” great perspective on my life, my purpose and overall happiness. I see myself as a fully formed reflection of the divine… I am and you are perfect, nothing needs to be fixed or manipulated, we are enough exactly as we are. Asana (as incredible as it is) can only take us so far along this winding road that is the spiritual path. It wasn’t until mantra and sharing mantra through Kirtan – community Satsang – that my yoga/my life truly started to shine.

It has been through sitting in contemplating and reverie, and using mantra as the metaphorical gateway, that has offered me this beautiful uncovering of self and the constant discovery of how magnificent life truly is.

Namaste,
Elle

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Keli's Articles

Taste of Joy

by Keli Dierings.

Recently I have done an immersion training with my teacher Rod Stryker, it was five days immersion in Tantra and five days in Yoga Nidra. Again, it changed my life. It made me to remember why I started and how Yoga always up level the way I chose to live my life on every moment and day by day or year by year.

It bought me back to think how important is to go deep into something that you want, to emerge yourself, to learn, to experience, to feel the challenge, to overcome it and understand it deeper.

My teacher mentioned that he never spent a lot of time with his teachers, but he would visit them around every six months. I understand we don’t need to “live” with our teachers to go deep into our practices so that we can change our lives. We can simply spend some time with them, experience the depth of their teachings and then be committed to continue the work as we carry on with life. Because in fact, Yoga is not an escape from our reality, Yoga is a tool to deal with reality and in a skilful way that we can be more happy and fulfilled on every day.

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Keli's Articles

Dissolving Illusion

by Keli Dierings.

“The most common ego identifications have to do with possessions, the work you do, social status and recognition, knowledge and education, physical appearance, special ability, relationships, personal and family history, belief system and often nationalistic, racial, religious and other collective identifications. None of these is you.” – says Eckhart Tolle……. Ouch! A fundamental rule of Quantum Mechanics states that there is a difference between what the world is and what we see when we look at the world. Most people think what they see with their eyes is the only reality that really exists, and by default, identify themselves with this material reality. It is also common for people to identify with the roles and judgments placed upon them by others, letting others perceptions form their reality.

Many of us have heard of the saying that “Life is an illusion.” Especially at this age the sentence “Let it go” has become one of the most used phrases in Yoga classes. If everything is an illusion, we are faced with a dilemma. If we are to constantly let go of the ego’s attachments referring to the examples of Eckhart Tolle’s quote that I mentioned above. Well, what does it mean to be human then? What remains? Do our experiences really exist? Or are we creating a delusional story in based of our brains ability to process what is the truth? Sometimes it can feel that the goal is to detach ourselves from the human experience. If that is the truth, why do we even need to focus on self-development to thrive in this human life? What is the point?

According to the Yoga traditions we all have one main purpose in this life, which the ancient Vedic teachings calls it Dharma. Dharma translates it back to “the longing for purpose and to fulfil our unique destiny”. Dharma is an invisible universal intelligence that sustains and organizes all forms of life. This purpose is not to create only our own happiness, but yes to contribute to the greater good and ultimately serve the entire fabric that intertwines us all. Give up yourself interest, be selfless. Rod Stryker says on the book The Four Desires “We are each a single cell in the greater body of this world, with a unique role to play in the service of sustaining and advancing the whole of which we are part.” There is a very unique purpose in every single one of us and that is why your Soul is experiencing itself in this temporary human body. We are here to serve each other. Your long term happiness is to fulfil your personal dharma, so you can serve the world and only you can do that! Now, if we are living a life that doesn’t support our Dharma, than that is living an illusion.

Most Illusions are a by-product of the suffering created by not being in balance with the invisible universal intelligence, in another words, not being in harmony with life purpose. Suffering is caused by remaining attached to the ego and the ego is a fascinating thing that will try to convince you that you are separated from the whole. Individuality is an illusion. Illusion is learned and then passed on. If I believe that my happiness come from the external fulfilments that ego holds on to, what happens if suddenly one of those things is ‘taken away from me’? Would I suffer for not having a career anymore, or a house, or a partner/family? The suffering that burdens us comes from separation to those things or people we once thought that were parts of ourselves or our stories. To be clear pain and suffering are different from each other. While pain is inevitable, we will get a little hurt time to time, but is the holding onto pain for too long that becomes suffering. Learn to rest your awareness as the one who observe the situation, process the experience and evolve from it. This is a mind game.

We could blame society for feeding our ego, forcing us to remain insecure about who we are, or blame the government for feeding our fears that keep us blinded under the rules and operating on survival mode. But it’s time to evolve, and the real change starts within, not without. By changing what see about who we are and how we see life, we change our world and that might inspire the change in other people too.

One, if not the main goal in Yoga is to awaken the brain. The knowledgeable spiritual teacher Swami Satyananda Saraswati says “we can say the brain has ten compartments, and of these, nine are dormant and one is active. Why are these other compartments inactive? Because there is no energy.” What that means? That we are actually just using that small percentage of our brain capacity, to survive in this world. But remember we are not here just to survive, that is an illusion. We are here to awake to the most magnificent version of ourselves so we can serve our dharma and support the entire Universe. By doing the correct Ancient traditional practices of Yoga (which by the way has a lot more to do with pranayama and meditation than fancy acrobatic yoga poses) we begin to switch on the brain and send energy to the parts that are inactive. That’s how we expand our consciousness and by doing that we remove the veils or layers of mental conditions creating more clarity to understand our dharma, which is the total reason why we are here.

All our experiences are perceived in the mind. So is it true that all the human psychological suffering (or Illusion) could be ended by simply shifting perception? YES! We came into this world absolutely perfect as we are. You are God, God is within you and in everything else, and in this level all things are perfect. Even through the life of inevitable painful losses, heartbreaks and conflicts, believe it or not, it’s God manifesting itself as a lesson to endure to teach us about something that we did not know before. Once we shift this perception, everything is then sacred and the unconditional consciousness becomes the presence of God. There is nothing scary about life, if you are not attached to results.

If the conscious state you are in this moment is the same thing as we call the Divine state, that means you know and recognize God, if you do anything to make it different, might show that you don’t understand it so. Most people struggle to see, but this is the real deal, you are enough! You don’t need external validations or obtain more. What most spiritual traditions tell us is that despite the majority of humans spend their lives looking for outside fulfilment and answers, it all exits inside us. Everybody is looking for something they already have. Our job is to reconnect to that thing and remember who we are before society told us who we should be, and then bring true meaning to this human experience. There is a truth that exist inside your heart that can only be known by a still mind.

The following fable from the Vedic tradition serves as a beautiful reminder of something essential that is all too easily forgotten in our reality “Let the wisdom and love in your heart show you what and who you really are, then let it guide you. Present your heart with a vision of what you know it longs for and it will help you fulfil the aspirations that have been in it all along. Make these steps your life’s practice. In time, you will be richly rewarded and discover that for every step you have taken toward fulfilling your dream, your dreams have taken a step towards you.”

Sourcesc of Inspirations:
Paragraph 1: Eckhart Tolle Quote – The Power of Now
Paragraph 3: Rod Stryker – The Four Desires
Paragraph 6: Swami Satyananda Saraswati – Kundalini Tantra
Paragraph 7 and 8 : Allan Watts – Online video lectures
Paragraph 9: Rod Stryker – The Four Desires

Categories
Octavio's Articles

It Was Never About The Bones

by Octavio Salvado.

When Ice Cube rapped “Better check yo-self before you wreck yo-self” he wasn’t speaking to modern Yogis, although he may as well have been. Because unless every traditional text on Hatha Yoga, including Swatmarama’s quintessential expose on the ancient science, the ‘Hatha Yoga Pradipika’ are wrong, Yoga has never been about the body. It was never about the bones.

To begin with, bones don’t even exist. Not really. As soon as we take an electron microscope to a bone and dial in a few clicks, an intricate web of neatly ordered, vibrating, crystalline molecular strings appear. These, upon closer inspection transform into clusters of atoms sweeping back and forth, dancing in unison to a silent melody like a green ocean of grass blades in the wind. If we then zoom in again, the seemingly solid electrons dissolve revealing a vacuum of space supporting a tiny nucleus that upon even further magnification, similarly dissolves into what could best be described as an oscillating field of energy.

The reality is that bones definitely do not exist, at least not as we typically understand them, and neither does anything else. So why would an ancient culture spend thousands of years developing a science to study a non-reality? Exactly. They didn’t. The ancient Yogis understood that life is the intelligent dance of interlocking, pulsating fields of energy occupying the vast infinity of space, simply giving off the illusion of substance via the bonds created by resonant frequencies interacting with one another. They called this field the ‘Nāda’, the ocean of silent sounds. Meditative absorption into it, Swatmarama suggests, is the very purpose of Hatha Yoga. Not surprisingly, the chapter on Asana is way back in the beginning and the syllabus of postures is slim and primarily seated.

Asana certainly plays a role in Yoga, if and when its done well, which currently it isn’t. The great Yogi Krishnamacharya, the grandfather of modern postural Yoga, never intended for adults to practice Vinyasa the way it is taught today, as it runs counter to the fundamentals of Ayurveda and therefore, Yoga. There are exceptions of course. For example, if a student’s primary constitution is Kapha, or if they are in the Kapha years of their life (between birth and age twenty) or if a Kapha imbalance needs treating, then a dynamic, heating practice could be a beneficial strategy to address the inherent qualities of Kapha.

What’s frighteningly obvious today however, is that the integrated knowledge that truly empowers practice, such as the non-negotiable connection between Yoga and Ayurveda is not there. One glance across the sweaty sea of bright lycra reveals a distinct absence of the Kapha constitution. One or two (God bless their souls) will show up and do the honest work perfectly suited to them and the rest, being a mix of intense Pittas and up in the clouds Vatas will both suffer in different ways the wrath of heated rooms, perfuse sweating, loud music, lack of space between poses, competitive environments and unscientific sequencing. The result? A culture of Yogis burning through Ojas like cheap incense sticks. Yogis destroying their immune systems, disturbing their sleep cycles, destabilizing their digestion and sabotaging any real chance of ever achieving deep states of meditation. Instead, the coating covering the nerves keeps getting thinner and thinner until the 40 year-old Yogi’s personality reverts back to one of an over-reactive teenager. Yes, I said it. Sometimes Yoga can take us backwards.

The complimentary issue is that to an imbalanced system, an imbalanced practice will feel healthy, in the same way that a drink will feel relieving to an alcoholic, but just because it feels good it doesn’t mean its good for us. Raw food and our modern obsession with smoothie bowls are other examples of this insanity. Interestingly, these seemingly separate issues tend to show up in the same circles. Both go completely against the fundamental teachings that Yoga has been trying to get through our skulls for several millennia – that in order to thrive, we need inner fire. If we put cold, wet things into our digestive system, the digestive flame will fizzle out, lose its power to process and assimilate food and in many cases, completely extinguish. And to be clear, inner fire, Agni is not generated by turning up the thermostat or by increasing the intensity or complexity of practice.

Again, there are certain constitutions that manage raw food and cold, wet piles of pink and purple mud more efficiently, however generally speaking they suppress the digestive fire which, digestive issues aside and perhaps most importantly, results in a dimming of our mental fire. We become less able to process information, extract nourishment from our experiences and convert it into wisdom. We become less mentally bright.

Do the Traditional texts speak about lightening our intake of food? Yes, in terms of quantity, definitely they do. Existing on nuts and berries on the other hand only applies if we are forest-dwelling ascetics who have the liberty of sitting in ashrams and under banyan trees meditating for 12 hours a day. We are house-holders, mothers, fathers, business owners, students, life-livers and the reality is that to live an extraordinary life, we need the inner fire burning brightly. So check yo-self before you wreck yo-self because smoothie bowls ain’t good for your health, and for the most part neither are hot, sweaty practices, even if they feel good. As a superior yardstick for balance, check your immune system, check the genuine depth of your meditations, check your digestion, check your sleep patterns and check the way you show up in emotionally charged situations. These are the measures that matter.

Its time for Yoga to return to Yoga and ditch the addiction to feel good, flip your dog and flow Yoga. Sweat til you drop, twenty-day Yoga-shred Yoga. Tone your muscles and not your mind kinda Yoga. People ask, ‘Isn’t all Yoga, good Yoga?’ But this is the same as asking ‘isn’t all sex, good sex?’ And we all know the answer to that. Transcendental experiences, whether on the mat or in the bedroom require a serious slowing down, flavored with love, care, patience, presence and in my opinion, no soundtrack. If what we are seeking are the subtle, inner frequency-rivers of the Nāda that connect us to the electro-magnetic ocean comprising all things, then a human playlist becomes a deadweight, anchoring us to a mundane experience of an illusory, peripheral reality.

Yoga’s future depends on the past. A return Tradition, starting with balancing the food-body with a constitutionally sound diet that for the most part, you guessed it, will not include smoothie bowls. Supporting smart food choices will be intelligent Asana practices that don’t over-heat the body or agitate the mind. Practices with space, stillness, silence and slowness built into them, fleshed out with deep seated twists and folds, belly-down backbends and the occasional elbows thrown in the abdomen. Medicine for the modern mind. These are the game changers for the majority of modern Pitta and Vata dominant Yogis. Not hand-standing, not grand-standing, not hollow back anything. Asana is there to pave the way for Meditation by clearing energetic blockages that tend to coalesce in the area between the navel and the pelvic floor, again, the home of Agni, the abdominal fire. When the navel is free, the mind is free. Then we can we evolve the presently backwards moving Yoga dialogue to include the more advanced methods that pulse at the heart of the tradition.

Kriya Yoga and Raja Yoga are two such suggested methods that speak to Swatmarama’s opening verse regarding Yoga’s intended trajectory. The author begins with his praise to the original Yogi, Lord Shiva, who he then tells us instructed his wife, Parvatti in the teachings of Hatha Yoga, considered the ultimate stairway for those who wish to ascend to the highest state of Yoga, Meditation. Hatha Yoga, including Asana, Pranayama, Bandha and Mudra are merely a stairway guiding the mind towards absorption into the vibrating waves of the Nāda, the ocean of primordial sound-currents.

Kriya Yoga as a higher octave of Hatha Yoga, involves the consolidation of Hatha’s Prana-driven practices. It is considered the ideal form of Yoga for modern Yogis who genuinely aspire to advance towards the sublime heights of meditation. For Sattvic minds, namely those people who don’t have jobs, homes, families, partners, pets, parents and worldly lives to attend to, Raja Yoga is the suggested road. The Raja path is not for people like us. Our minds are too Rajasic, too busy, they are constantly moving because our lives are full of activities and responsibilities. Therefore, we must meet our minds where they’re at and skillfully guide consciousness towards the Nāda through the systematic manipulation of energy.

Kriya is a dynamic form of meditation designed for active minds. It appropriately opts to bypass working on the mind directly at the risk of splitting it open even further into duality and instead uses simple, accessible postures with inner visualizations and mantras to guide energy into the spine and upwards to awaken the latent areas of the brain. In doing so, through consistent effort, a refined sense of self arises and a corresponding expanded understanding of a non-solid reality.

Our constant obsessing over the body, putting the bones into increasingly more complicated shapes, shredding the body, sculpting it, flipping it, popping it and ignoring the subtle body is no longer serving us, or humanity. ‘Meditate. Meditate. Meditate’. This is the mantra of the future of Yoga. Same as it was in the beginning. The time has come to evolve the conversation and move beneath the periphery and beyond the shallows. The Masters are calling us from the deep and only in stillness will we hear their call. So pause, be still and listen, because in the silence, we truly can hear the entire universe.

Octavio and the team at The Practice deliver weekly Kriya and Nidra meditations on a Tuesday and Thursday at 3pm. Plus at The Practice Online you can get to experience Kriya and Yoga Nidra classes with Octavio and The Practice Teachers.

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Keli's Articles

Hatha Yoga Basics with Keli Dierings

Not only is this presentation about Hatha Yoga Basics, it is even more about what it means to PRACTICE the philosophies of yoga, moment to moment and day to day.

Keli starts her presentation – her first that she has delivered at The Practice and was nervous about – by saying that, “Today (because of a personal situation) was perhaps the worst days she has experienced in 10 years.”

She then went on to deliver a very heart-felt, raw, informative, engaging and even humorous presentation on the basics of hatha yoga, but even more so on how to use yoga as a tool to navigate your way through life, and its trials and tribulations, with as much ease and grace as possible.

For those of us there that witnessed this; it was a moving experience and as vulnerability expert Brene Brown talks about, Keli’s vulnerability in the face of heartfelt pain, was a sign of pure COURAGE. Thank you for showing us how Keli.

Keli fully encapsulates what The Practice is all about. Using conscious traditional yoga as a way to evolve into an even better human being.

Please enjoy.

Love from The (very proud) Practice Team

Below are some of the visuals from the presentation. We think you will understand when they come up in the presentation. 😉

Or download the complete presentation slides by clicking here.

Categories
Octavio's Articles

Let Us Be Respectful and Intelligent Also

by Octavio Salvado.

Modern Yogis have been handed the keys to the kingdom and instead of using them to unlock the door to higher consciousness, we’ve made them into flimsy, plastic replica keys, fashion accessories. We’ve mass-produced them and attached them to strings of cheap mala-beads that will never see the light of real Sadhana. Some people say that all Yoga is good Yoga. I don’t hang out with those people.

When my beloved Sat Guru, Paramahansa Yogananda addressed the American crowds gathered to hear him speak in the 1920’s, his message was clear, “God is in your Spine. Yoga is the science of realizing this truth. Do not fail to take full advantage of what I am telling you.” Yet here we are, a century later and Yoga has been watered down so much that it is barely recognizable as the Royal path it once was. We have taken something sacred and precise and made it mundane and chaotic.

Imagine taking the traditional ceremonial practices of the Indigenous Australians and making sixty-minute fitness classes out them. THURSDAY NIGHT ‘HOT’ CORROBOREE PRACTICE or LEVEL 3 DREAMTIME CORE FLOW CLASS, with live DJ and a real-life didgeridoo player!

It would be a fucking outrage. A concept so outrageous and obviously inappropriate that undoubtedly every major newspaper countrywide would plaster it over their pages and without hesitation, rip it to pieces, and rightly so. Yet this is exactly what we have done. We have taken an ancient culture’s spiritual practices and transformed them into a trendy, commercially driven exercise cult. Yoga is about God. It always was and always will be.

It is estimated that 90% of human cultures have ritualized ways of achieving higher states of consciousness. A clear indication that innately we sense there is more to life than this depressing story of birth, going to school, getting a job, starting a family, old age, sickness and death. Deep inside we know there is more.

As a white Australian male from an agnostic white Australian family I was never taught rituals to help me connect with the divine part of myself, so like most kids, sensing I was being lied to at some fundamental level, I turned to drugs and alcohol to achieve altered states. The correct intention was there, but the correct means were not, so instead of switching on dormant areas of the brain, which is the intention of Yoga, I destroyed brain cells. Rather than increase serotonin levels, amplifying my motivation, inspiration and ability to deal with stress, I intoxicated myself and achieved the opposite.

This is my culture, well intended but method-poor. Somehow however, through fluke or divine providence, the scientific map of God-realization landed right in our laps. So, my friends let us not fail to take full advantage of this blessing. It is time we put aside misguided and disrespectful notions about Yoga and started taking the gift of this life a little more seriously.

Even from the vantage point of Darwinian evolution, the purpose of life is clear. The bodies of Earth-bound organisms are getting smaller, yet brain size seems to be increasing. We are not here to get fit, flexible and accrue followers. We are here for one reason, to evolve our consciousness.

The other side of the argument for re-routing Yoga’s current peripheral trajectory is more self-serving. As long as we are practicing Yoga as a body-based system, the results of our practice will never pierce the subtler layers of our being, make lasting changes to the state of our minds, let alone positively impact our destiny.

The Worldview that birthed these practices was a spiritual worldview, therefore, if our own personal way of seeing the world is not spiritually oriented, any positive affects will simply rise for a few brief moments before fading back into the ethers, lacking a resonant belief structure to bond with.

Practicing a spiritual discipline in a non-spiritual way is like trying to run new software on an outdated operating system. It won’t work. The old system won’t allow it. This is why many practitioners will be positively impacted by their Yoga in the immediate short term after a session, however at the first sign of post-practice conflict or confusion, be it an unfavorable text message or getting cut off in traffic, the old and well established belief programs will kick back in. The result is a short-circuiting of the newfound, short lived altered state.

Whether we look at things from the perspective of respecting an ancient culture’s spiritual practices or just maximizing our own returns, using Yoga as a fitness modality, or worse, a fashion accessory is not ok.

Not all Yoga is good Yoga. So let us be respectful, and for our own sake, intelligent also. Let us grow some spine for this science that enlivens our own.