So great to see Alexander Medin speak on his current project, "Back in the Ring" on Tedx!
Warsaw, Poland. For the past three years I've arrived during the first weekend of October as the Fall coloring begins to form. A beautiful time of year. A time of transition. I've done a fair amount of work in Eastern Europe and an affinity for this part of the world has begun to form. The people understand hardship and they also understand triumph. It's interesting being in places that have experienced a fair amount of upheaval as well as healing. When it comes to the city of Warsaw I love it. Right now it seems to be a good time for the people here. There is a vibrancy emerging bringing a sense of aliveness and change.
I feel grateful to have had the chance to return to many of the places I have done workshops. Each return there is a chance to more deeply get a feel for a place and the community. There is a familiarity and at the same time always new places to discover. Meeting yogis in various parts of the world once again bring to light how our sameness is much stronger than or difference.
Entering the Red Square
Last weekend I was in Moscow. My second time there and all I can say is, WOW, Moscow! This city is massive. They say it is around 15 million but locals claim it to be closer to 20 million. The landscape of the city is more spread out unlike metropolises of New York, or let's say Hong Kong. In the center the historical sites are in tact and in amazing condition. There is something about the architecture in Moscow that really gets me. A mix of beauty and power united together. Everything is on a big scale if you know what I mean. It has spurred my interest to visit more of the cultural sites my next trip. There will be loads of ground to cover and much needed planning. It is also a dream of mine to see one of the Bolshoi Ballets. Tickets sell rather quickly so I'll have to be proactive in terms acquiring them.
When it comes to the people and the workshop I led, I am further impressed by what is instilled in the people here. There is a formality and a respect, but at the same time a warmth and resiliency that has no doubt been a big part of their history. A history that is complex, rich, provocative and tumultuous. It has always been a great experience to visit. Another dream on of mine is to see St. Petersburg. That's next on my list!
On Moscow's Riverfront
Chia seed pana cotta at Fresh
At Fresh - One of Moscow's vegetarian restaurants
With Leonid - The best Ashtanga teacher in Moscow!
The weekend before last I was in Cologne, Germany teaching a workshop or better known as Köln. I so enjoy this city. Like Stockholm there are many green areas and the city is made for walking as well as biking. There are quaint cafés that line the streets, perfect for people watching. When in Germany I can still feel the stark contrast from Sweden even though the two countries aren't that far away from each other. One country has felt the travesties of multiple wars in the last century while the other came off affected by pretty much unscathed. It makes a difference in the energetic make up in a country and it isn't necessarily bad. Next visit, I'd like to see some of the well known museums and get more of a feel of the history. Somehow I'll get it inked in the schedule.
Just under a month I've been back home after an intense and transformational summer in Mysore, India. As always it took me a while to land and digest all that transpired, and in many ways I feel as if I am still digesting. I know transformational is a word that is thrown around a lot these days, and the only way to describe it is something shifted, for better or worse, who knows. I felt challenged on every level, mentally, emotionally, physically and most definitely spiritually. I cried this summer more than I had in a long time. I was broken down to be built back up. A toning from the inside out. A reckoning. The buzz of practicing there has just about worn off. It seems like the more you hold on to it the faster it goes. At the same time there is an inkling of a light that has been lit and the knowing it won't ever burn out.
Having the opportunity to immerse oneself in the way that we did this past summer was an opportunity of a life time, and really every trip I feel it, but this was on another level. I am always so grateful to have the time and space to focus on practice, ultimately focusing on the truer parts of life. I need these reminders. If I didn't I would be lost. It all goes back to the quality we lead in our hearts and minds in day to day living. Thankfully the practice of yoga helps to lead us there.
Moving forward there is so much that comes to mind. It is so easy to be swept away by the rhythm of our rushed society. I'm learning not to be so dictated by it. I too see how distracted I can be and how challenging it is to maintain this internal connection, but no one said it would be easy. It comes down to one's thirst for ultimate freedom as I contemplate what is that really? What does that look like? I'm getting the tiniest sense of it and yet it feels exciting and scary at the same time. Funny how that works. It's like balancing on the edge of a razor.
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)