By Lauren Martin
Winter is going easy on Sydney this year. “Unbelievable day, isn’t it?” is standard small-talk in city queues lately. We post sun-drenched Instagram photos with the hashtag #Sydneywinter. The cheery owner of my local café says he’s hardly used the outdoor heaters that stand like so many metal trees among his footbath tables.
The stats confirm what our skin tells us: last month was the third-warmest June in more than 155 years of record-keeping, and the driest in a decade. And we love the balmy, cloudless days.
Still, we’re all aware that it’s odd. We know experts worry about this weird weather and how it fits into the larger environmental changes being wrought by climate change. Even when it feels good, the unseasonably balmy weather is reminding us of a larger imbalance.
It’s the same inside our bodies – we sense when things are out of whack, even when we are enjoying how it feels. We all know how good excess can seem in the short term, if we just ignore the bigger picture. But deeper, most of us are aiming to live sustainably, inside and out.
Self-described “yogic nerd” Jasmine Tarkeshi came to Sydney on a warm midwinter weekend to teach about exactly that. (The co-founder of Laughing Lotus studios credits her ongoing relationship with Sydney – this is her fourth visit in five years – to her friend and fellow teacher, Sukha Mukha’s founder Idit Hefer Tamir.)
Jasmine’s four workshops, collectively themed Earth, Wind & Fire, were about finding a lasting balance, inside.
“Yoga is a great rebellion,” she says, “but there’s is no escaping the laws of the season, of the tides and the moon and the sun.
“We can’t change the weather, but we can affect our own energy, the elements within ourselves,” says Jasmine, who was here from San Francisco to teach about the doshas – Vata (air/space), Pitta (fire) and Kapha (earth/water).
Dosha means disease, which Jasmine pronounces slowly, deliberately – dis-ease. Funny, she says, that so many of us who learn a little about ayurveda tend to latch onto which dosha we are. ‘I’m all fire’, or ‘I’m super-grounded’.
“We’re here to identify with these dis-eases and go beyond them,” she tells her first class, “to begin to explore and experience all the elements within us as this great harmony.”
Jasmine’s workshops were designed to celebrate the doshas. To welcome their negative and positive forces as part of our lives and our selves. Because each element exists within each of us – and, like all forces of nature, each is powerful. Powerfully good or bad. Beautiful or destructive. You need to work it out.
Take kapha. “These days, kapha gets a bad rap,” Jasmine said. “You know, [as if it means essentially] laziness. You may be overweight, and teachers say, ‘No kapha! Beat the kapha! Fight the kapha! BUST the kapha!’” she laughs.
Sure, she says, kapha’s negative pull can be like quicksand, potentially leaving us trapped in the darkness, holding on to the past and unwilling to try to do anything new. It’s a very winter concern. It’s like phlegm. You can’t breathe. You’re congested in every way. Stuck in the mud.
But mud is protective, Jasmine reminds us, and kapha is a force that drives us to be fertile, virile, and creative. It is not something to just be beaten, busted or avoided like the bitter cold of a typical long night of winter. We need to find its right balance.
“Kapha is so important to have! It’s calming, the energy of love. It’s what allows us to go through with something, it’s sustaining. It’s warm, it’s the energy of the mother, it’s voluptuousness in every sense of the word. Juicy. Enjoyment. It’s a siesta, for god’s sakes!”
And so began a long, strong yoga class designed to get us in touch with kapha as a positive life force. As we moved through the warming asanas, Buffalo Springfield’s old song about resistance came through the speakers: There’s something happening here, what it is ain’t exactly clear … I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound, everybody look what’s going down.
Inside and out, winter is a time to slow down and check out how you are handling the forces of nature. Are we creating internal floods and droughts, or keeping a warming sun and nourishing rainfall? Wildfires and gunfire, or sparks of creativity, heat and light to share?
Don’t let the warm winter weather fool you, there’s work to do this winter, outside and within. When the rain finally falls, when the Sydney cold bites deep in your bones, welcome it. Work it. Celebrate it.
By Sophia Somerville – graduate of Sukha Mukha Teacher training, May 2014.It’s difficult to put into words such an embodied experience as a Yoga Teacher Training.I felt welcomed by the communal, spiritual atmosphere of the space from the moment I set foot in the Sukha Mukha studio. This familial quality bled into the training, and we all became our own kindof family – not in a forced way, but special bonds formed in their own time, and continue to bloom and blossom. Ours was quite a large group, and sitting in a circle on the studio floor each weekend, we operated as this kind of moving, breathing, laughing orchestra – there was a gorgeous humour to our training, to our yoga. At times we were a classroom of rowdy kids, at others sombre teens or straightup exhausted adults. I always felt the teacher held the space beautifully for us, and always found a way to restore energy when it was needed.I did the three month training this year at Sukha Mukha and as the poster suggests, it was intense. That first weekend I recall being so nervous, full of anticipation and delight and wondering–Where am I? Who else was crazy enough to sign up for this? What am I even doing here? I am terrified they’ll make me do headstand...You know, all the usual banter of the mind.We came from all corners of life, all to deepen our relationship with this thing called yoga, which simply means ‘union’. We each brought our own reasons for coming, our own demons and strengths that came out at certain points. We all experienced struggles and triumphs with the various teachings that were shared by our teachers: Alignment and Sequencing, Anatomy and Physiology, Subtle Anatomy, the ancient yogic texts, the Yamas and Niyamas, Pranayama and Meditation, and that amazing retreat that somehow bound everything together…just to name a few.I am now, upon graduating, quite astounded at the volume of information we engaged with, the range of ideas we were exposed to, the fluctuating feelings that came up and shifts in energy and mindset that took place within me (and my fellow students) as a result of the training. The elusive quality of this is that all the shifts and lessons are still taking place. After three months, the learning continues – it can’t help but go on. We are at the beginning, and I feel genuinely grounded, supported and inspired by my experience at Sukha Mukha.A big thing I took away from this training was that the state of yoga is one that is ever present in us, it is natural to us all, it is our wholeness. We practice yoga to remind ourselves of what we already are – connected – bringing light and dark elements of ourselves together.I originally thought I had to be at a certain level in my yoga practice or at a certain ‘place’ in my life to embark on such a training as this. What I learned was that there is never a perfect, ideal time to do anything in life. Somehow I managed to listen to that little voice and it lead me here: following my passion (in being a writer, in following yoga, in what I want to my life to feel like) is far less effort than it use to be. It’s not always easy or clear, because you must surrender to aspects of the journey – but there’s such power in trusting the unknown, in going towards the dark with your torch in your hand, shining bright.I felt held, nurtured and challenged by all the teachers at Sukha Mukha. Idit has put together a deeply embodied teacher training program – informative and engaging on many levels. The physical and theoretical material was broad, but also went into real depth. I didn’t feel pressured or moulded to be a certain ‘type’ of yoga teacher. I felt influenced by exposure to a range of teachers, styles and methodologies, inspired to continue pursuing what resonates with me. I appreciated the different qualities, teachings and energy that each teacher brought to the table, with such a spirit of reverence and honesty.Sukha Mukha Teacher Training provided the foundations I wanted, but so much more than that. I didn’t go in with a definite intention to become a yoga teacher – I said to myself I simply wanted to ‘deepen my practice’ (whatever that means) – but always kept an open mind, as we were encouraged from the very first day of training – ‘leave your expectations at the door’ I remember Idit saying with a smile. Sage advice, for life. As the course progressed I ended up falling into situations of teaching outside of class – friends, my mother, stepfather – and surprised myself in how it didn’t feel awful, that I had something to offer, and that it helped me begin getting over a deep-rooted fear and repulsion of the sound of my own voice. Many of my fellow graduates have already begun teaching classes and private clients, as well as assisting in classes.For me the greatest, most unexpected gift of yoga has been a renewed and committed relationship with my own creativity and expression. All that I’ve absorbed from the training cannot help but seep into my life, into my relationships, into my work. This is a gift for life, and is a gift given and received with great love.Throughout the training I felt comfortable to just be in that room – to genuinely allow myself to look within, and begin shedding layers to allow space for the new. This is quite a profound thing, to feel not only safe but powerful in your own vulnerability, in your own truth.Whatever you are searching for, wherever you have come from, whoever you want to be…doesn’t really matter. There is something for you in the experience of a yoga teacher training. If you feel a pull, even the tiniest tug – I encourage you to follow it.As usual, Rumi puts it best: ‘What you seek is seeking you.’See more info on our teacher training by clicking on this link.
By Idit Hefer Tamir
It is extremely hard to believe but we are indeed reaching the end of 2013.
For me, personally, this year flew by so quickly and I am amazed as I look at the date and at the fact that another year has passed.
As most of you know I had my second child, a baby girl called Shaya, 2 months ago, and that has consumed most of my time and energy.
It took over 2.5 years to actually conceive and keep the baby, having gone through 4 miscarriages. It was a difficult journey and an interesting one from a Yogic point of view and I truly thank the teachings of the ancient texts of yoga which guided me through the hard times. Of course I experienced sadness and grief after each miscarriage and could see just how quickly I had become attached to an idea, to hopes, to expectations and how disappointed I was every time these were taken away from me. I could see the shame and the judgement, the self criticism and blame as they arose but thanks to the yogic practice I was also able to let these go…
It was after the 3rd miscarriage that I decided to take my creative energy and invest it in another form of a “baby” and this is really how Sukha Mukha was born.
Looking back now it is needless to say that I see how everything worked out for the best, how in a mysterious way the universe led me in the right direction, and that not only have my immediate family been there for me, but I have a much larger yogic family and community who have supported me on this path.
I recently watched a movie (not a very good one I must admit which is probably why I can’t remember its name) where the main character was asked whether the cup was half full or half empty, and his answer was that it truly depends on how thirsty one is… I liked this answer and I admit that for 2.5 years I was very thirsty for another child and often the cup seemed half empty but thanks to all of you it is much more full than I could have ever imagined!!!
I know I was not alone on this journey, and as I was able to let go of the shame and talk more to people, the more others started opening up to me and sharing their personal journeys. For all those who still struggle out there I just send my love and advice to never lose faith and as Winston Churchill once said: “When the goal can not be reached, do not change the goal! Change the means to achieving it!”
By Maryanne Edwards
So compelled was I to register a business and start building a brand around a personal mantra that has been relevant in my life this year – I began exploring what it is to be organically wealthy? Primarily it’s just a frame of mind and one that I can thank my yoga practice for but I have a feeling it has depths to it I haven’t even explored yet, thus I begin to here by attempting to articulate it.
A student said to me this morning as she was leaving my class that she has been practicing for a long time but in the last year she has felt a very subtle yet powerful shift, at first I thought she meant in her asana practice, she went on to explain this undefinable skill of being able to remove the mind even for a micro second out of a moment and observe the thought processes as they happen. It was such a poignant observation and one which I can totally relate to. It’s this ability to take pause or find stillness and experience a moment to its fullest no matter how simple or complicated the situation. It’s the craft of finding inherent meaning in the otherwise meaningless. It’s yoga!
I am constantly in awe of the power our thoughts hold over our quality of life, even just a simple reminder like ‘be happy’ or ‘be kind’ brings a smile to my face as the energy these thoughts emit is so strong. ‘Be grateful’ is a goodie too – I feel so blessed to be living the life I am that sometimes I feel my heart swell in my chest as I take in my surrounds (my modest but light filled apartment, the beauty of the eastern beaches I live near, the local organic produce from the markets, yoga studios in every direction), it’s a simple life I lead but so full in just the right way.
I observe friends or acquaintances that live fairly fast-paced, high-intensity work lives, with substantial monetary reward but next to no time to enjoy the benefits of financial stability. I see that they work at this pace with the view to buying some sort of freedom further down the track and I suppose I dream of that freedom too. Don’t get me wrong I do not think of money as bad energy by any means in fact when one is abundant in anything it gives them the ability to share it with others which is a beautiful gift, I just wonder whether there is any point making a lot of money if one does not have the time to enjoy it?
As I move further down the yogic path I have been pleasantly surprised to discover how little we actually need. The need to acquire ‘things’ or ‘stuff’ just kind of fades away, I take joy in buying beautiful produce or consumable products that sustain me and those that create them but the desire to have things simply because they are nice has fallen away. It’s a gradual refining of my immediate environment, how cleansing is it to have a big clean out of your home or wardrobe? Or your pantry? The yogi term for this purifying is ‘shaucha’ and it translates to ‘that and nothing else’ meaning a cleanliness in body, mind and environment. It’s about making choices about what we want and don’t want in our life allowing us to experience this world more vividly.
I also believe our thoughts are like magnets, so when we sit within our own abundance we attract further abundance toward ourselves and towards those around us (those in our magnetic fields if you will).
As I begin down the path of teaching, sharing the joy of yoga with others, I hope to be of service by emitting this energy of having all that I will ever possibly require – of being organically wealthy. I hope that others will be drawn into my magnetic field, seeing the beauty of their own immediate experience and the fullness of this simple life. Realising your inner riches is a powerful anecdote to almost any negative emotion.
By Peggy Cuthbert
It’s easy to underestimate the power of human touch. A casual kiss goodbye, the palm on palm press of a handshake, an accidental brush against another person’s back on a train. We often don’t even notice these small daily exchanges that happen as a matter of course. Sometimes though, the healing power of physical contact with others can be overwhelming – so overwhelming that it can change the very quality of our life. We forget that once our basic needs of air, water, food and shelter are met, what we require most for our very survival is connection with others, or put another way, love.
Love can be transferred in many ways and often the verbal communication is simply a confirmation of the many other messages we send – the slightly longer held gaze of eye contact, when we meet another in pure openness without judgment, the little shivers of energy that run up and down our spine when someone close to us comes to mind. But sometimes the best and easiest way of all to communicate our love for another is with the gift of touch.
From a purely scientific perspective, our skin is a labyrinth of receptors, designed to first receive messages and then send signals to our brain to interpret pressure and sensation. On a deeper level, our skin holds the ability to give and receive love when pressed against the skin of another. We can take our cues from the world around us – the kiss of bills between two swans who mate for life, the polar bear nursing her cub for the first three years of infancy, the newborn puppy who can only sleep when lying against his mother’s flank. Even amongst non-sentient nature we see the signs of love and touch intertwined:
In trees and plants one may trace the vestiges of amity and love…The vine embraces the elm, and other plants cling to the vine. So that things which have no powers of sense to perceive anything else, seem strongly to feel the advantages of union.
But plants, though they have not powers of perception, yet, as they have life, certainly approach very nearly to those things which are endowed with sentient faculties. What then is so completely insensible as stony substance? Yet even in this, there appears to be the desire of union. Thus the lodestone attracts iron to it, and holds it fast in its embrace, the attraction of cohesion, as a law of love, takes place throughout all inanimate nature.
- Desiderius Erasmus
So next time you come across someone who looks like they could use some hug-love, or maybe you are unsure on how to speak the words you feel about another, you might give a hug instead. Here is a little how to on embracing someone using the language of love: Set your intention to give a beautiful hug. If there is any doubt about how your hug might be received, ask first ‘can I give you a hug?’ and be perfectly happy if the answer is no. Take a long breathe in to soften your body and then exhale to release any lingering tension. Gently enfold the person in your arms. Breathe deeply a few times, softening again, smile, and then release and step back. Now enjoy the warm glow as it spreads throughout.
By Lauren Flaherty
“The French mathematician Blaise Pascal wrote, ‘All man’s miseries derive from not being able to sit quietly in a room alone.’ We have become experts at filling our lives with noise and activities. We wake up to the sound of the radio blaring and dress while the television is on. We drive to work listening to the latest traffic report and spend the next 8 hours in a bustling office. When we come home, at the day’s end, we delve into the evening’s activities against the background sound of television, ringing phones and humming computers”
This excerpt from Life Lessons from the Monk who sold his Ferrari by Robin Sharma articulates why for the month of October I have chosen to participate in Quiet Quest, an initiative by The Yoga Foundation to raise money for people suffering with mental illness and cerebral palsy.
The challenge is to spend 30 minutes silently and mindfully each day for 30 days without all the usual distractions of the modern day. No electronic devices, smart phones, music, TV, radio or talking etc.
Having suffered for a number of years with anxiety, I know first hand how debilitating it can be and there was a time when even just the thought of having to be alone with my mind and thoughts was enough for me to start having a panic attack.
Over the last couple of years, and particularly the last 5 months while completing the Teacher Training at Sukha Mukha, I have learnt that yoga is so much more than stretching your hamstrings in downward facing dog or being able to touch your toes in a forward bend. I have been inspired to take my yoga off the mat and have realized that my daily dose of yoga doesn’t have to be an asana practice and that I don’t have to be a yogi living in a cave to practice mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the practice of being fully present and engaged in each moment. It is an opportunity to see the true nature of who you are and how you live your life. The benefits of mindfulness are widely known and include an increased ability to focus, experience greater clarity and decrease stress, anxiety and depression. Overall it promotes greater happiness and well-being.
In his compilation of The Yoga Sutras, Patanjali writes that yoga is the cessation of the fluctuation of the mind. While Quiet Quest has given me the perfect excuse to have 30 minutes all to myself, it has also reminded me that my mind is in a constant state of fluctuation.
Quiet Quest has also taught me a lot about my own asana practice, particularly my reliance on music to distract me from the mental and physical discomfort I experience in certain poses. As an example, where I would usually tune out of myself and into the music in hip opening poses, for the purposes of Quiet Quest, I have had to sit with and accept the feelings of anger that come up for me in these poses, where on a subtle level, I clearly hold a lot of negative emotion.
My teachers have often told me that the attitude that we bring on to the mat can often be a mirror of our attitude towards life off the mat. During a silent practice focusing on forward bends I was forced to admit that I still experience a case of the “I’ll be happy when” mentality. Specifically I’ll be happy when my chest is lying on top of my thighs and my back is flat. My off the mat “I’ll be happy when” equivalent is usually something equally as superficial like I’ll be happy when I buy that dress and matching pair of shoes. And while I’m embarrassed to admit this – I was forced to hear it was the case in that silent practice.
Overall, through my experience with Quiet Quest I have been able to recognize how much noise is in my life and how beneficial it is to unplug and listen to the sounds within. I have learnt the importance of making room for quiet each and every single day and I intend to continue on this quest long after the fundraiser ends.
By Olivia Rae
As I was swimming this morning at the beach, diving under the crashing waves, I came up with this, and thought it may help you to understand my post the other day about realising we are not our emotions and feelings…
Our feelings and emotions are like waves
They come and they go
Our smaller self (ego/mind) is the swimmer
The swimmer goes into the ocean and picks ‘faults’ with it
Its too cold, too rough, there’s too much seaweed
And is jumping over and avoiding the waves
They only like it when it’s smooth and flat
Nothing that makes them uncomfortable
Nothing that takes them out of their comfort zone
This prevents them from enjoying the ocean
Then when we start Yoga
We get used to being uncomfortable
Being out of our comfort zone
Yoga brings us to the same level as the waves
Now we can feel the effects of each wave
Sometimes it dumps us, shakes us, or even scares us
This is when we either run away
Or choose to stay and go deeper
Once we acknowledge and accept that waves will continue to come
We learn not to attach to the waves
And instead we dive under the waves
We swim deeper
To come to understand our true nature
Diving deeper into our being
And as we sit deep inside
We watch the waves come and go
They no longer affect us
We now know we are not the waves
Or the swimmer
We are this stillness
Deep within the ocean
By Olivia Rae
We often hear that yoga is a transformative practice. We’re told/expect that we will ‘feel good’ when we leave. You know, we drift off into that blissed state somewhere after all the moving in the standing sequences. Our mind quietens, we’re riding the wave of the breath, and we feel good, at peace…until we don’t. Yes, that is right; it will not always leave us in a ‘feel good’ mood. Our feelings and the emotions constantly change. You are not doing anything wrong, if you are not in a ‘feel good’ mood. It just means that you are experiencing what it feels like to be alive, to be human! This means feeling the full spectrum of emotions. To experience the higher highs, we need to experience the lower lows. Each time we roll out our mats, we are allowing the walls, veils and shades we have put up, from experiencing these states, to slowly drop and shed away. We are able to experience the raw us, the truth, we are able to become honest with ourselves.
Sadly, it’s when these raw, honest, often uncomfortable emotions start to arise, that we want to run away…and sometimes we do (it can feel easier to stay home, on the couch, and eat ice cream…yes, I used to do it!). But what this does, is, just supress the emotions even deeper. Bringing the walls, veils and shades back up. Numbing and cutting us off from life.
To experience both the feel good and the uncomfortable emotions, we just need to sit with them, allow them to be, and allow yourself to be (e.g. if you feel sad, be sad, experience sadness, what does it feel like body, mind, spirit). Remember you are not the emotion, you are simply feeling the emotion. You feel frustrated; this does not make you frustrated. By becoming the observer, you get to experience what feeling frustration feels like. So without creating a story in your head, about whom or what made you frustrated and blaming them, can you stay with the raw honest feeling. Close your eyes, and experience frustration. Start to understand it, what does it do to you, how does it become expressed in your body? Perhaps you start to hold your breath, perhaps parts of your body tighten, perhaps it makes you want to give up. As you keep walking deeper into the feeling, becoming conscious to each layer around the external emotion, you may get to the core of a pattern you have created around that emotion. For example, I would feel frustrated, walking deeper into it brought me to a feeling of heaviness in the body, feeling that I just wanted to give up…then getting to the core, I was experiencing powerlessness. I would act out this pattern in different situations off and on the mat, feeling frustrated…but actually experiencing powerlessness without knowing. Once identified, then you have something to work with. And this is where the transformation takes place.
We have become so programmed in society to supress and shut off our emotions, to supress our feelings. We turn to food, alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, exercise, TV, unhealthy relationships, anything to cut us off, to numb the feelings, to shove them in deeper, so we don’t have to deal with them.
Allowing ourselves to fully experience all of these emotions without judgements, allows us to experience life even more fully. Embracing all emotions in the same way, inviting whatever you feel to come up, and maybe walking deeper, will have transformative effects to your life both on and off the mat.
You don’t need to ‘just get over it’ and you don’t need to ‘just be positive’…neither of these attitudes will take the feeling away, or take you deeper into the core of your being, or to experience life even more fully. They are simply supressing or building up another layer of numbness/avoidance over the emotion.
Our emotions constantly change, so allow them to flow freely just like waves. So next time you’re on your mat (or off) and you don’t ‘feel good’, before you open the freeze and pull out the ice cream, just sit with however you’re feeling, and just be. Close your eyes, focus on the breath, allowing the awareness to ride the breath as if it were a wave throughout the body.
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.