Archive for September, 2013
By Kendall Goddard
Taking yoga out of the textbook and into my life: how an assignment on the Bhagavad Gita gave me some very practical yogic direction for dealing with the perceived difficulty of an unused wedding dress.
As a life-long raga and vata driven ‘doer’, an avid digester of words, and a shameless seeker of the big ‘E’ (um…that’s ‘E’ for Enlightenment, not Engagement), I was excited to embark on a six week study of the Bhagavad Gita with the sparklingly wise and ever humble Kamala Angel.
The Bhagavad Gita is employed as a philosophical text by yogis, and as a religious text by those of the Hindu faith. It comprises a small section of a greater epic, the Mahabharata, and traces a conversation between the fearless warrior, and nonetheless very human, Arjuna, and his cousin charioteer Krishna. Arjuna is having a pre-battle freak-out and Krishna, an avatar of Lord Vishnu and incarnation of the Divine, reveals the highest teachings or truths to guide Arjuna on his path. It could have all been over by the second chapter if Arjuna had actually understood what Krishna was talking about, however, like many of us (present company not excluded), these teachings had to appear in varied forms, be repeated over and over, and be expounded in ways that this mere mortal could get his head around: some mind-blowing; some terrifying; some astonishingly beautiful; some inconceivably simple; and some completely flying over his head.
Or was that the bouquet?!
Having previously battled sections of this ancient dialogue on my own, and even having quoted shlokas like ready-made vows in some of my classes, I still felt incredibly fuzzy on the precise themes and teachings, and how their significance translated to my life today. It was as though I’d been reading it with a big wad of tulle in front of my face. I felt as though it was one of those texts reserved for more advanced yogis, those who wore orange and sat in caves or ashrams in India. I was enthusiastic but rather lost. A little like Arjuna, you could say.
Thankfully, in our first session, Kamala explained to us that the Bhagavad Gita is inherently and intensely practical in its teachings. That was good news for a yogi more familiar with the tangible, practical elements of yoga such as asana and pranayama. I was actually going to be able to ‘use’ this in my life, ‘do’ something with it. The ‘doer’ in me got very excited and whole-heartedly committed to the ‘doing’. The perfect marriage. Or so I thought.
By the time week 2 came around, Kamala metaphorically hit me right in the third eye when she gave us an assignment to interpret the following verse:
He who sees inaction in action and action in inaction, he is wise among men. He is a Yogi and a performer of all actions.
Inaction? Inaction in action?? Action in Inaction??? Oh dear. The well constructed tiers of my intensely identified self (aka me as the ‘doer’) started to crumble like a wedding cake dropped accidentally on concrete.
Cue Arjuna standing paralysed in the centre of two armies, facing everyone he has ever known, loved or identified with, knowing it is his duty to fight, but gripped by what seems to be an unshakeable belief that he can’t. We both needed help. So as Arjuna settled into the seat of his chariot and I nuzzled into the cushions of my couch, we both listened to Krishna explain how a wise person performs actions without any attachment to the results of the action, being immune to all the reactionary elements of the task. This wise Yogi, practising Karma Yoga, performs actions as selfless service , in Absolute consciousness, devoid of any expectation, attachment, egoic identification, or dualistic notion, and is therefore acting while being actionless because the notion of the ‘doer’ has completely dissolved into the Supreme Self, the Absolute, Atman etc. In short it is merely the body and the senses that carry out the action but the self, the ‘doer’, the ego, is inactive because the person is not identified with it. This, therefore is inaction in action.
The work of a man who is unattached to the modes of material nature and who is fully situated in transcendental knowledge merges entirely into transcendence.
Merging into transcendence? This invitation had a better ring to it than the bondage of the ‘doer to the ‘done’. I seemed to have gently grasped the theory of inaction in action (without necessarily ‘grasping’ if you get my drift). As far as seeing action in inaction goes, I’ll leave this to you to ponder. Especially if you are considering taking this study with Kamala at some point in the future, which I would passionately recommend. Personally, what comes to mind for me is the age-old saying that if you truly love someone then you set them free.
Experiencing the teachings of yoga theoretically is a powerful happening, and a well-travelled path for Jnana yogis, however it was only when I was able to observe this Divine truth on a very practical level in my life, that I was able to ‘know’ it, at a deep level of my consciousness.
Which brings me to the very day last week, when I set out to collect my haute couture wedding dress, finally back from production in France, and deliver it to a boutique down south for immediate re-sale. When my mother and I had ordered that dress, we were filled with joy and anticipation of the day that it would signify the union between my then partner and myself. It was not something I had ever really longed for or dreamed about, but it appeared as a divine and rather spontaneous gift from my mother and there was much joy had by all involved in celebrating our deep love for one another. Fast forward 15 months and circumstances had changed. I was now picking up this dress, for a wedding that would no longer take place, owing to a relationship that had ended 5 months prior, and an inability to stop production on the dress at that time. This was not something I was looking forward to at all; this action felt heavily laden with expectation of uncomfortable feelings, attachment, egoic identification and dualistic notions in the form of mental chatter and intense emotional reactions. Clearly, there was not a lot of inaction in my action here!
Coincidentally, I had been asked a few days earlier to write this piece about one of the assignments I had completed during the study of the Bhagavad Gita. In this way, I was drawn back to the teachings and subconsciously applied them to this task. I spoke with one of my spiritual guides prior to the event and she helped me come back to the inner ‘knowing’, the wisdom of this shloka. She is Krishna in the form of an Irish/Australian housewife. Rather than approaching this event with fear about the results, I could re-connect to inner wisdom, and perform the task as selfless service to the Divine as a Karma Yogi would. This was so very easy in theory! But I was willing. After all, I am a seeker. And it is always most helpful to me to have an ideal to reach towards. I wish to continue to reach for the highest, and let go of as much of my ‘self’ as I can along the way. And so off I went.
On the first stop of my adventure, as you can imagine, there were a few reactionary elements to deal with. As I entered the high-end boutique, I spoke about the weather with the generous and mindful sales attendants. All was going rather ideally, according to my mind, until they insisted on carrying the gown to my car, at which point tears started to flow and I was overtaken by an overwhelming urge to grab the garment and rush off down the street towards the vehicle, spluttering and snuffling that I was ‘ok’ and thanking them profusely for their help. After I took a few deep breaths in the vehicle, I said a silent prayer of thanks that Part 1 was complete, and tried to see the situation without my ‘self’ involved. I had merely collected an item from somewhere, and interacted with some divine souls during that process. The rest wasn’t worth entering into!
On the road, I chatted with a close friend briefly, injected some humour into the emotional, dualistic notions of my mind’s perceptions, and started to feel excited at the prospect of arriving at the beach in Cronulla on what had turned out to be a very unseasonal warm, summery day. I enjoyed a meal on the beach front, served by a waitress who seemed to reflect the deep, divine blue of the Krishna-coloured ocean in her eyes, and then dived into that very ocean myself for the first, cleansing swim of the season. Something borrowed, something blue…it dawned on me that the events of this day in my life were rather simple: I was merely acting as a courier: a courier of a beautiful dress from one shop to another shop, from one person to another person; a courier replacing an old life situation for a new one; a courier of the Divine in all its manifestations. My body and senses could continue to do what was required of me that day, without ‘me’ being involved. The ‘doer’ started to dissolve a little as I floated in the waves.
Part 2 was rather enjoyable and effortless. I chatted with the saleswoman and we opened the beautiful black satin zip bag containing the gown, marvelling at its craftsmanship. I felt very clear, and free. The dramatic ‘doer’ had disappeared. As I drove back to Sydney, there was within me a deep acknowledgement of the Absolute consciousness and presence of God in all that had occurred that day and in all the great fabric of situations, individuals and interactions leading up to it. I saw the simplicity of the action, as fuelled by these glimpses of inactivity of my ego. I saw and bowed down to God in my ex-partner; God in our relationship and all its colours; God in my mother, the seamstress, the tears, the meal, the hope, the shop assistants, the road-rager, the devastation, the traffic lights, the ocean; God in myself.
So, although I hadn’t been immune to all the reactionary elements of the task, and hadn’t merged entirely into transcendence (I’ll let you know when this happens!), this particular teaching had come alive in a very tangible and practical way for me. I’m so very grateful to the Bhagavad Gita, Kamala and all my teachers who continue to shed light on this yoga practice that is my life, on and off the mat.
By Olivia Rae
Over a month ago now I started Shivambu.
What is Shivambu, I hear you ask. Shivambu means literally “Water of Shiva”. So where am I getting this water of Shiva…well without graphics…I collect it each morning.
Shivambu in English terms refers to Self-Urine Therapy. Okay, I heard you gasp, just hang on a second. Let’s get this clear, urine is not actually a dirty, toxic waste product. Our urine is a by-product of our blood filtration. Nutrient-filled blood passes through the liver where toxins are removed to be excreted as solid waste. Eventually, this purified ‘clean’ blood undergoes a filtering process in the kidneys, where excess water, salts, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, antibodies, urea, uric acid and other elements not usable at that time by the body are collected in the form of a purified, sterile, watery solution that is urine. The important elements in the blood are not filtered out because they are toxic and harmful to the body, but simply because the body does not need a particular concentration of an element at that specific point in time.
So why re-ingest it, if our bodies did not need it. Well, for numerous reasons…
- when re-utilized, these elements and nutrients in the urine act as natural vaccines, antibacterial, antiviral and anticarcinogenic agents, as well as hormone balancers and allergy relievers
- it wakes up the healer within, which works on a mechanical level as well as an energetic level, healing all levels of body, mind and spirit
- urine is considered a supernatural, living food because it is a by-product of the blood and contains ‘life force’ or prana
- can take you deeper on the spiritual path, awakening and rising kundalini
So why am I doing it? Well last year when I was doing my teacher training, Natalia (one of our beautiful teachers of Ayurveda, Chakras, Yogic Psychology, and all round amazing, wise and beautiful person) mentioned Shivambu, and it caught my attention. However back then, I was quite hesitant…I guess I was not ready for it. Everything happens for a reason though…and this year when I was gifted a spot in the Yogic Psychology & Shat Karmas course with Natalia…she brought it up again. I knew this was the right time. There was no mucking around I was to start it the next morning.
Why I had felt as though it was the right time was because I had been trying different healing modalities all year and had done lots of work on myself (I had healed a lot of physical and emotional issues already, but I was still determined to get my menstruation back naturally – which disappeared during an abusive relationship I was in), and yes a lot did shift and change, but something still wasn’t right (my menstruation was still missing). I had a yearning for something deeper. I knew that the deepest of my core had been damaged…my spirit had been hurt…it felt as though everything had shut down…had been cut off. The different healing modalities were helping, but their approach was from the outside in…I needed to start deep healing from the inside out.
Day 1 – 30/7/13 – 04:30am
Woke up easily, slightly excited. This was it. As I got onto the toilet with my cup in hand – waited for mid stream and then filled it up. It really dawned on me then, exactly what I was doing. I was about to drink my own pee. I finished up my business, washed my hands, and then came back to sit on the toilet (with the lid down), somehow it just seemed right. The anticipation built, as if I had just taken a pregnancy test. My body started to pulse with energy (quite strongly). I really did feel safe, and that this was the right time. I said a little prayer to the universe. ‘I am grateful for your support, I am grateful for your love, I am ready to completely cleanse, body, mind and spirit, so I can be the best human I can be this lifetime’. As I looked at the glass, it just reminded me of apple juice, so I just rolled with that, however as I brought it closer to my mouth, it didn’t smell the same as apple juice. The smell wasn’t that bad (as I have a pretty clean diet already). What was it that was stopping me drink this right now? My mind – thoughts of – this is gross, yuck, what the hell are you doing, this is crazy, you’re not going to drink your pee…but I choose not to identify with them…my hunger for higher consciousness, for depth, for deep cleansing and healing was too strong. I brought it up to my lips, and just started with a sip. Wow, I couldn’t believe it. I’m not going to lie, it is an extremely strange experience, but it wasn’t that bad. Natalia was right, it is a pungent flavour – like I have had other food that has been much worse than this. I was able to bring myself to have another sip – this one the flavour was much stronger. Then that was all I could handle. I poured the rest down the toilet. Only to remember that I should have kept it for my skin (for a face mask). Oh, well, there’s always tomorrow!
Day after day, it got easier. Now I don’t even think about it. It’s normal…well, for me. My make up is for energy to start in chakra 1, Muladhara chakra, and for it to work up (some people do actually start with their energy up the top, and they need to work down). So healing, shifting and cleansing of chakra 1 commenced.
I am currently working through chakra 2 now…I will write up about my chakra 1 experience shortly so stay tuned!
If you want some more information on Shivambu press here.
By Kate Dawkins
When I was a child, my mother used to take me to yoga classes and I have continued to practice throughout my adult life however it wasn’t until I was pregnant with my son that I became truly receptive to what yoga had to offer, beyond asana.
Here are a few of my discoveries.
Motherhood was not what I expected, in so many ways. My first year with my son Bodhi has been a process of undoing expectation, of learning to be truly present and accepting the twists of each day. As it turns out these are also yogic practices!
It all started with a prenatal yoga class when I was about six months pregnant: I sat on my yoga mat feeling heavy, flat and grumpy. The previous day I had felt amazing and during the sharing circle I told everyone of my energized, positive, wonderfulness. So when it came to my turn to share again, it seemed bit awkward telling everyone how utterly awful I now felt, but then I figured every day is different and if I was going to cope with today, I had to release my expectation of what it should be. My teacher commented this was a great thing to recognize and it would help me through early motherhood.
“Everyday is different…” I said it over in my mind a few times and now it has become a mantra of sorts for me. I like it because it sounds so totally obvious, but it reminds me to unexpect, and it’s often the most simple things that can really surprise us; we think we understand because we are intellectually familiar with the concept, but there is a deeper level of knowing to reach if only we could get out of our own way.
So, I accepted my heaviness and instead of wrestling with myself over why I didn’t feel good, I just focused on my breath and practiced yoga. By the end of class I felt amazing. Something changed and I wasn’t even ‘trying’. Everything I needed was right here, right now and yoga helped me access that.
Moving with (and through) intense feelings
Parenthood has been a haze of highest highs and lowest lows and I’ve come to see that half the battle in dealing with frequent unpleasant circumstances (long sleepless nights, constant crying, spew everywhere) is in releasing the feelings I hold towards them (which is not easy because first you have to identify the feeling and often there’s a zoo of them to trawl through!) If a situation defied my expectations, crushing my wish for what ‘should’ be, I felt defeated; I was too easily swallowed up by emotion. But, as I began to separate the inner battle with my feelings from the situation itself I found I had more energy to direct towards acceptance or finding solutions. Once I accepted the circumstances, solutions would often emerge without me trying, and so things began to get more manageable.
Some days I spent hours walking with Bodhi in the carrier because it was the only way to get him to stop crying (he cried a LOT) and fall asleep. My mind fought at the injustice; ‘why wouldn’t he just sleep in his cot so I can nap too’ or ‘why wont he go in his pram so I can go out for coffee with adults’. I found so many reasons to not like the situation, there were so many things I’d rather be doing, but the only way out was to go head first in to it, to be cool with it and get on with the walk, because getting out in to the sun and fresh air is actually pretty nice. The walks were exercise, the sun gave me vitamin D and I could listen to music or podcasts. So by allowing things to be as they are, by not fixating on a wish for something else I begin to see things more clearly.
The Yoga of Housework
I’ve been a ‘stay at home’ mum for the past year, while also completing my yoga teacher training at Sukha Mukha and starting a yoga business. So you can guess what I prefer to do in my spare time… yes, YOGA! But the cleaning and cooking always calls. The ordered person in me doesn’t mind a good cleaning session and cooking nourishing food is very important to me, so I find myself doing pretty well in my role at home, however the work is very repetitive and dull, and no matter how on top of it I am, the clean and tidy never lasts more than a moment before it’s chaos again.
I have often found myself powering through the housework, with tense shoulders and shallow breath, my sympathetic nervous system wired for escape, as I rush to get it done so I can have time for myself. It is not pleasant and it certainly doesn’t make the cleaning go any faster. Now that I’ve noticed myself doing this, I try to turn the chores into a mindfulness practice: deep slow equal breath, sensing and appreciating the warm washing water on my hands, moving with breath in a kind of dance around the house, efficiently and mindfully. It totally transforms the chores!
Ahmisa and the midday bath
Ahimsa is the first of the Yamas, which are a blue print for right and ethical living outlined on the 8 limbed yogic path. Ahimsa translates to non-violence, but it’s more than the absence of harm, it’s also about practicing kindness, towards others, the planet and ourselves.
If I’m going to be the mother I want to be: present, kind, loving, patient, I need to create moments of nurturing myself each day. Yoga is usually my answer—reading from yogic texts, practicing asana or meditation whenever I can grab the time, but the midday bath was an interesting one. I thought about it long before I did it. Is it just me, or does a midday bath sound really indulgent? Out of guilt I told myself I would have just 15min in the tub, but it seemed so hard to find the time! Time continued to elude me because it wasn’t the problem; it was a lack of the headspace and commitment to do it. It was very revealing and quite surprising to me how resistant I was to my bath plan because I LOVE BATHS and I thought I did a pretty good job of looking after myself. Finally, I named last Wednesday “Bath Day”. I committed to doing it, no matter what, and yet, as soon as Bodhi went to sleep I chose to slog through washing up first, if he had woken early I would have missed the opportunity again, but luckily he slept for a good hour and the bath finally happened. And it was REALLY NICE! I slathered my dry wintery skin in coconut oil, lit candles, played relaxing music and sunk into the warm water. BLISS!
I realized this was the first bath I have had (alone) since my labour day, and I have a thirteen month old!! Experiences in self nurturing must continue!
The littlest Guru
Bodhi is the ultimate teacher, he requires my patience as I sing (chant) him to sleep, sometimes endlessly; my presence as we play and explore together; my acceptance as he throws quinoa all over the floor; my love as he experiments with his new passion for ‘gardening’.
As Bodhi grows into a bright and confident little being I am continually becoming a more joyful, confident mother. I still feel frustrated and exhausted sometimes but the feelings don’t linger like the used to. All I need to do is watch Bodhi for a moment and see how quickly he releases his feelings from what was happening only a few moments ago. He is the ultimate teacher, my littlest guru and he’s not even trying.
Kate Dawkins is a Sukha Mukha 200HR Teacher Training Graduate and runs a boutique yoga studio on Sydney’s lower north shore called Shambhala House of Yoga. She is currently running a crowdfunding campaign to kick off Yoga for Change a 5 Day Yoga Challenge for changemakers to help them be the change they wish to see in the world. Connect with Kate on Twitter: @k8alexandra.