Long over due, I'd like to commemorate the passion, beauty and strength that is B.K.S. Iyengar, who passed away last Wednesday. In many ways through his books and eloquent thoughts on yoga he was a dear teacher to me although I never personally met him. He will be missed and no doubt the dedicated energy of his sādhāna will carry on and carry us on. Thank you, Mr. Iyengar. Thank you for the paving the way. Your light continues to burn bright within all who you have touched.
I love the following story. If we followed this example there would be much healing in the world. The best part is we don't have to wait. We can start today. I think even recent news guides us that one just never knows what pain is held inside someone.
There is an old story of a farmer who was proud of the fruits produced in his orchard. There was one diseased tree that never produced anything of value but merely took up space in the orchard. He tried everything, but couldn't get rid of that tree. He tried cutting it down, but it would grow again from a shoot. He tried poisoning it, but it never quite died. Then one day, following someone's advice, he planted many healthy trees around it. They were vigorous and healthy trees that suited the environment well. Soon it was difficult to see where that diseased tree was amongst them. Gradually those beneficial healthy trees took over the entire space and when the farmer looked for his old adversary, that diseased tree couldn't be found; it had become healthy and on its branches were growing crops of beautiful fruits.
(B.K.S. Iyengar, from Core of the Yoga Sutras)
"What is to give light must first endure burning"
Sādhanā is often referred to as spiritual practice. However, much more is intertwined in the term and has been one of the main themes of the course here in Mysore this summer. In another light, sādhanā is our own masterpiece we create to connect to the Divine. This in turn takes consistent effort and determination and by no means comes easy and at the same time is a worthwhile endeavor that gives more everlasting happiness and fulfillment than we could ever imagine, but first, there is a climb. Each step reaching us closer to the goal while playing with the paradox of detachment.
Sādhanā is also viewed as an ego transcending practice. The goal being liberation and freedom from bondage (samāra). The steps take daily effort where in my case includes regular asana practice, pranayama, and self study and also evening japa, prayer and/or chanting. Tapas (the effort to achieve self-realization) comes in those days where the warmth and comfort of the bed tells us better to stay put but instead we throw the covers off and take the necessary steps toward the mat. Tapas can also be viewed as discipline, an important ingredient in cultivating one's sādhanā.
The practitioner is referred to as a sādhaka, an aspirant. One who skillfully applies the learned rituals and practices, uniting body, mind and soul toward the spiritual goal. A sādhaka is dutifully committed and enthusiastic, though that can wax and wane in the beginning, and doubt part of the path for some, overtime the wavering ceases as the sādhanā strengthens and becomes a way of life. The important part being the intention behind it, something R. Sharath Jois has stressed time and time again this summer. Simply bending the body and/or going through the motions of ritual with no internal reflection often bring fruitless results. Another word for this heart/mind intention is bhāvanā. Bhāvanā can be thought in terms of planting seeds. Our sādhāna makes for fertile ground but what seeds will we plant?
"The practice of yoga, as a whole, is a profound science of internal purification which leads practitioners very gradually to the realization of the non-difference between the jīvātma, or indwelling Self of the individual, and the paramātma, or Universal Self. For this to occur, a proper intention and direction of energies needs to be established from the outset of a practice; in Sanskrit, this is known as 'bhāvana.'"
(Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, Sūryanamaskāra)
The thirst needs to be there. Yes, there may be days we feel apathetic; however, the beauty of our sādhāna is what it is pointing us to. This keeps it alive. It must stay alive within us. We must fan the flames. Each day carving out our masterpiece of transformation. The beauty being, no amount of effort is wasted. Each step, leading toward illumination.
It's hard to believe our trip here to Mysore is already more than half way over. Like I always say, coming here feels like being in a time warp. The days go by at rapid pace and yet a deep sense of feeling at home in the practice sink in, as if I've been here for much longer. It comes at no surprise and yet it always startles me in a way. The monsoon rains have given opportunity for internal reflection and is indicative of my time here. There are periods of darkness within, a pouring out, a purging as one could say, and then the clouds part, the sun shines, drying up all that was washed away. To then see things in a new light, a new perspective. I feel filled up. I also have sense of what new areas that are present for new growth. Ever endless. An exciting opportunity to peel new layers of existence to the surface. It must not go wasted.
“People can forgive toxic parents, but they should do it at the conclusion—not at the beginning—of their emotional housecleaning. People need to get angry about what happened to them. They need to grieve over the fact that they never had the parental love they yearned for. They need to stop diminishing or discounting the damage that was done to them. Too often, “forgive and forget” means “pretend it didn’t happen.”
(Susan Forward, Toxic Parents)
Just rounding out our third week in Mysore. The weather has been touch and go with bouts of daily rain and glimpses of sunshine. Most trips have been during the winter months, usually December/January. The last time I was in Mysore during monsoon was in 2007. I like it here during this time of year. It's still warm but not stifling with refreshing breezes. The rains clean the air. The dryer months are lovely too with endless sunshine. Mysore is like an oasis.
Practice has been running rather deep. With it being Friday I can feel it. A good tired. Like everything has been rung out of the body at an intense level. There are lapses in the practice where I feel as if I have no more to give but somehow I make it through anyway. More than a physical challenge it's a mental one. No matter how high the climb all you can do is take it one breath at time.
As the toughness of my practice arises there is an opportunity to dig deeper inside. To be in it, fully. Not wanting to be anywhere else.
Leaning in. Letting go.
I live in yoga clothes. Practice, teach, repeat, practice, teach repeat, and with all that being said I have tried just about everything out there. In the beginning I remember I used to practice in anything that gave free range of movement. Often that meant some type of sweat pants I had lying around. That didn't last long because I would sweat so profusely the bulky fabric would not only soak all my sweat but literally weigh me down because there was no evaporation factor. As I became more serious about daily practice wearing something that hugged the body with no distraction became essential. Breathable fabric, comfortable fit, all that good stuff.
I began to literally live in my yoga clothes when I became a full-time yoga teacher. Now I like to have fun with what I wear. To feel light. To enjoy. To have a bit of fun. Not to take myself too seriously within a quest that at times can feel rather serious, if not arduous. No, clothes don't make the yoga practitioner. We know this already. It really doesn't matter what one wears when they practice just as long as they feel comfortable within themselves. But if you are looking for an alternative to what is out there already, I'd like to recommend Onzie. I just recently tried them out and have to say I'm a satisfied customer. With fun prints, breathable fabrics and quality wear, they bring it all together at an affordable price without skimping on durability.
Some of my favorite pieces include: Elastic Top (So comfortable!), X Back Fitness Top, Racer Top Bra, Capri Pants and Long Leggins.
Finished our second week of the course, starting our third. There has been a gradual build up which has been nice. It reminds me how important it is to simply deepen the areas already visited many times before, exploring each movement with a fresh open mind. Coming to our mats with a beginners mindset everyday brings it alive. It's a way of being present within everything. More postures don't always bring maturity in the practitioner. Doesn't matter how fancy or complicated they are. It can be a feast for the eyes but the true beauty is the intentional mindset of the one who inhabits the posture. An alignment of what this practice points us to. Being here has continued to re-establish the beauty of this tradition and also the brevity of it. There is lightness in it. It brings us to the light. We can't cling to it, we can only dwell in it, because we are it.
“If you're going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don't even start. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives and maybe even your mind. It could mean not eating for three or four days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail. It could mean derision. It could mean mockery--isolation. Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it. And, you'll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds. And it will be better than anything else you can imagine. If you're going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It's the only good fight there is.”