Yoga Diary /

Category: Insight

And let go of what you don't.

We don’t have to be prime candidates for the casting of Season 6 “Hoarders” to have an issue with keeping shit we don’t need.  Holding on to and accumulating unnecessary stuff is really the symptomatic manifestation of hoarding.  In fact health professionals, treating those who hoard, begin by addressing the defective thoughts and emotions that trigger the compulsions to hold onto “stuff” before they tackle the obvious symptom: the piles and piles of god knows what.

With these images of chaos and disorder sifting through our minds let’s take a moment to consider Aparigraha – the fifth yama – non-grasping/ non-hoarding/ non-accumulation.   Not sure about the yamas?  Haven’t got a clue what they are?  No problem.  A couple of posts back we touched on this subject and included some super handy links for extra reading.  Head there now before you read on.

It might seem dramatic to draw similarities between having a severe anxiety disorder that results in “hoarding” with the concept of Aparigraha or “non-grasping” but if you remove all the illusions that separate “you” from “that” and simply ask: Do I take, keep or want more than my own reasonable share [of anything]?   I’m pretty sure we’ll all say YES.  Bear in mind your answer is not meant to incite any judgement only highlight a cultural norm, where we in the Western World, have way more than what we need. 

This is not to say we must chuck on turmeric dyed cloaks, shave our heads and receive alms.  It’s completely ok to enjoy the comfort and abundance afforded to us here and now.  It’s more a question of how attached we are to things.  All the things.  Just understand we are blessed with so much more than material security here.  

Yet we constantly grasp and snatch at ideas of wanting and needing more.  If we practice Aparigraha – we’ll notice it’s the ego that wants more.  The ego operates from fear.  From the place where there is not enough, from neediness and comparison.  Our ego will tell us to keep the thing we no longer need because it may be useful “one day”.  But our heart knows what is enough and is burdened by the unnecessary weight of hanging on.  Those who hoard “things” (whatever they may be: emotional/physical/mental) are driven by attachment.  And the insecurity that creates attachment to stuff is the same insecurity that creates attachment to ideas, labels, relationships even grudges.  

Can we find a way to bring Aparigraha to the mat and trust all that happens on the mat will simultaneously flow into our lives at large?  

Of course!  Here are 3 ideas for you to entertain when the moment seems right:

1. Take only what you need.  Not less, not more.   Consider the most challenging part of class – the peak pose.  Where can your body reasonably go?  What option will you take?  Can you let go of the expectations?  Have integrity and detach from the thoughts that tell you where you “should” be.

2. Receive what you need.  Do you have a lot of questions about yoga?  Your body?  Your limitations within the practice?  These are important issues to address.  Instead of trying to squeeze a few distracted minutes in after class why not book a one on one session and allow yourself to receive the right amount of attention.

3. Detach from labels and associations.  You may be physically a certain way: thin, tall, short, strong, flexible, bald, vegetarian, mother, brother, video game addict - whatever (you get the drill).  When you come to the mat can you drop the labels and separate from the stories you tell and were told about who you are.  Just let go.  And be.  Here lies delicious freedom.

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Are you interested in reading about simplifying life?  Becoming Minimalist recommends 8 different blogs inspired by simple living.  There’s a lot of focus on having only what you need in these…

Over to you now: what have you let go of lately?  How was your experience of letting go?  I really look forward to you sharing in the comments below.

Namaste. Rhy xx

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If you are new to this studio, if you brought your friend, your mum, your lover or your kid along to Satsang week at Camelot there’s every chance you’ve mentally short cut the formula as Satsang = Me + 1.  It is that.  And it’s so much more.  The formula is actually Satsang = All + Truth

Traditionally Satsang is a gathering of devotees in the company of a guru or teacher to receive, share and experience the highest truth.  Satsang is not worship per se rather “giving” without attachment to “getting”.  It is giving for the joy of creating, extending and nurturing a community of likeminded/hearted people.  

Even if we take the term Satsang literally there will be multiple ways of interpreting it.  This is often the case with ancient and traditional rituals or teachings.  We must be able to evolve and interpret the original without losing its authenticity, yet at the same time make it accessible to our current experiences and needs.  

Let’s face it, if you came along this week as the plus one, and had experienced a gathering of chanting enthusiasts, listening to a loin clothed guru with a plaited beard wax on about spiritual enlightenment, well there’s every chance you’d consider it odd. In fact you might even reconsider your relationship to the person who brought you along in the first place.  Perhaps “cult” would run through your mind.  This form of Satsang is practiced in many cultures and communities; we could say all religions practice a form of Satsang: Sunday Mass (anyone?), if we see it simply as a gathering of people to receive the highest truth.  

So how does this Satsang relate to you and your experience coming to yoga as the + 1 or the inviter?  Consider this quote from the book Value Based Wellness by S. Srinivasan (2005)

“…. strong individuals associate only with those who have acquired and cultivated positive mindsets and energy fields around them.  This is the essence of the Indian concept "satsang"…… an act of synergizing with others in order to fortify and multiply 'sattvic' and positive traits"

Compare to this excerpt/translation from a poem by Shri Adi Shankaracharya an 8 Century philosopher.

"Good and virtuous company gives rise to non-attachment.  From non-attachment comes freedom from delusion.  With freedom from delusion, one feels the changeless reality.  Experiencing that changeless reality, one feels, 'I am not the body and mind, although I have a body and mind'. "

We can see how despite being written in settings more than a thousand years apart, these quotes have threads of similarity in the truths they offer.  

Thus Satsang week at Camelot is an opportunity to grow our community, to share in the joy and truth we find in yoga.  We come together (gather) in our studio to take part in a practice that helps us access our inner truth.  During our practice we move inward but our energy is shared and exchanged with our community.  The teacher (guru) leads us through the practice with their knowledge and wisdom.  We are therefore gathering in a sacred space to share and extend our community, to access and assimilate the highest truth through the practice of yoga.

And you thought it was just + 1 week.  

Namaste Rhy xx 

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Note: the following texts were helpful in writing this post, for further reading check out these links:

http://jivamuktiyoga.com/teachings/focus-of-the-month/p/satsang

Value Based Wellness - For The Service Sector Executive By S Srinivasan (p.63)

Endless Satsang


 

In a traditional sense the practice of devotion seems to lie inextricably with the concepts of religious spirituality. Bhakti yoga also has its roots embedded in religion and worshipping of “the guru” or God. But don’t worry, there’s nothing hocus pocus about it. Quite the opposite in fact, Bhakti is devotion, but more than that it is connection with the Divine within. However you personally interpret this Divine is completely and totally up to you. Divine can be anything: Nature, Source, Universe, One Love, Self, you get the picture. The important thing is that we have something to reach into, be devoted to, to love.

If you are interested in more structured yogic ways of including Bhakti yoga into your experience and spiritual evolution there are practices to help you do this. 

One way is through chanting, Kirtan (translates to “praise”) is the call and response pattern of chanting and is thought to be a way to literally sing yourself into enlightenment. Another option is good old prayer, but not the bedtime ritual of prayer from childhood, nor the “I’m in a crisis, please fix this God” kind of prayer but rather the classical Hindu style of japa – which is the repetition of a Mantra. If singing, banging a tambourine or repeating the same word over and over again isn’t your thing, that’s ok. Some of this stuff can bring up all sorts of resistance, it’s not about judging yourself or others it’s about finding your own personal way to feel the power and joy of devotion.

In fact one of the best ways to begin your practice of Bhakti is to devote time to self-care, self-acceptance and self-love. When we give ourselves over to this practice our hearts can soften. We can eliminate jealousy, mistrust, judgement and unkindness. We can actually connect with the Divine just through speaking kind words to ourselves, by being grateful for the opportunities we have, for living in a country where we are free to express ourselves. For this to be Bhakti it must become a dedicated daily practice, devoting time everyday to filling our own spiritual cup with love, gratitude and praise.

As with any practice discipline is required. For Bhakti to really feed your soul and for the effects of love and devotion to shine through you, it’s important to create a sacred time aside from the hustle of everyday life. If you are a yogi with regular home practice set up then it’s ideal to tag a bit of extra time onto the beginning or the end to practice Bhakti. If you are yet to establish home practice but still want to include Bhakti then first thing in the morning as you wake up or last thing at night just before you fall asleep is just fine too.  

Creating a ritual of devotion needn’t be a huge event. Simply stating an affirmation such as this one everyday could bring about enormous positive change.

I am grateful that I receive the wisdom of the Universe, knowing that I am guided to my highest good in every moment. – Excerpt from the Enneagram prayer of Gratitude

So, over to you now, how do you practice devotion? What rituals do you already have in place to set you up for the day, or settle you down at night?

We’ve all heard and certainly used the expression “go with the flow” - it’s synonymous with the idea of being happy go lucky, feeling chilled, being flexible with change, open to challenge and just generally having an altogether cool with life vibe. But... Did you know this concept of “FLOW” is a scientifically studied experience that’s been well documented by positive psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi? (Ok –this is how you say his name MI-HIGH CHIK-SENT-MI-HIGH). And as a side note: this awesome guy accidently or serendipitously developed a fascination with psychology when he was a broke teenager in Switzerland, having no money to go to a movie he took himself to a free lecture in the town hall. The speaker that evening was none other than Carl Jung. Minor digressions aside, this is going somewhere – I promise. Stay with me.

In developing his interest in psychology Csíkszentmihályi studied people who were heavily involved in art, philosophy, religion and music. He interviewed them and discovered that all them had one thing in common. They were most happy when immersed in the subject of their choice. They all noted that when totally absorbed and focused on their chosen task time slipped by, they felt no pangs of normal biological needs such as hunger, thirst or needing to wee. They could in fact go for hours or days without noticing anything but pure engagement with the task at hand. Language accompanying such experience included “being in the zone”, “finding a groove” and “everything just flows effortlessly”. Csíkszentmihályi then went on to write a thesis on “The Flow Experience” for his doctorate back in 1972. You can read more about Flow Psychology here and here.

The concept of the flow experience has infiltrated many levels of society today, from big companies such as Microsoft to small businesses and the personal development industry. We often use the language of flow experience within our own lives without even knowing its origins because it feels so natural. And that’s the key. This is an experience gifted to all of us when we find our passion. Our drive.  It’s The Holy Grail in a sense. Now, the thing is flow doesn’t just land in our lap like a little present from the angels. It actually takes effort and challenge. In a nutshell it is the intercept of challenge and skill. There is a fine balance hanging there where challenge can be too great and it creates stress and worry, or challenge can be too low and it creates boredom and apathy. Flow happens when the challenge of the task pushes us to the point of heightened awareness but not beyond our actual capabilities. 

So, getting to the nitty gritty of Flow and Yoga: How can we apply or tap into the flow experience on the mat? Here are 4 ways:

1.    Get real about your reasons for doing yoga. We hear this all the time “Yoga is so much more than good stretch” but if you do yoga just because it makes your body feel really great then own it, it’s the best start! Pretending to be or experience more isn’t authentic and you will automatically resist “flow”.

2.    If you have to force anything in your practice, you will not be able to experience flow. Challenge good. Force not good. Be honest with yourself, no one feels peaceful or happy if there is pain and struggle. Let challenge meet your skill level – from there you can progress.

3.    Boredom is a teacher. If you find yourself thinking- F... this, I just want it to be done. Don’t judge. Notice. Why? Are you feeling underwhelmed or over stressed? Being bored is the antithesis of flow. Being bored means your skills have increased and therefore your challenge must increase. It’s actually a GOOD thing. 

4.    Revisit what feels too hard. Sitting still or lying in savasana is the hardest thing to do.  Our monkey minds just want to chatter all-the-day-long. We have lists and conversations and stories and problems that constantly compete for attention. Eventually though, through the effort of coming back time and time again, meditation and savasana will provide the ultimate flow experience. Practice it. Honour it. And your internal world will be lit up, free of ego and timeless.
 

Now join me for your next 'flow' on the mat!

Namaste. Rhy xx

No doubt this time of year sparks up a little bit of reflection and some forward thinking. Did I achieve what I set out to achieve? Am I moving forward? It is when we look back, we ask ourselves where to from here? 

Which leads to…New Year’s resolutions. Yup, we’ve all heard of them. We’ve probably all made them at some point…and probably all broken them at some point too. Quite possibly this year’s resolves are long forgotten already.

So are they worth it?
Are they useful?
And what’s yoga got to do with it?

Firstly, yoga teaches us we’re enough. That we’re not defined by what we achieve, by our weight, by our wealth – the unchanging Divine within us is always everything that we need to be. The closer we can align ourselves with that truth, the more we realise that resolutions like I want to lose xxkg or I want to be in xxxx position in the company or even I want to achieve xxxx pose in yoga this year really hold no place in our thinking. We kind of have to make an ‘un-resolution’…instead of entering 2016 to be ‘better’, or to change ourselves, we change our thinking and find a resolve to be more authentically ourselves.

But we can still have goals right? After all, tapas (our discipline) and abhyasa (our consistent practice) is what keeps us going and what keeps us focused on the mat…how do we bring that to our lives?

It lies in embracing impermanence – understanding that our world is continuously cycling through the three phases of creation, preservation and destruction. It’s through this flow that we can allow ourselves to let go of what no longer serves and welcome the opportunity for new possibilities.

We can think about how impermanence exists in our lives a little bit like traffic lights. The obvious: RED means stop, YELLOW means slow down (yes, yellow means slow down and not put the foot on the accelerator and gun it…), and GREEN means go. As inconvenient as traffic lights can feel at times, they get us to our destination. The changes that occur in our lives unfold in a similar fashion. There are moments in our lives that force us slow down. Sometimes we’re stopped completely – opportunities to find clarity and ask where am I actually going? And then there are the times we get the green light to move forward with momentum.

If we think about what traffic lights are actually designed to do, they’re there to keep everyone flowing smoothly, getting them where they need to go. When we truly understand impermanence, we see that everything we’re currently experiencing is moving us to the direction we need to be. Even when it may not feel like it at the time, everything is moving at the proper speed. Sure we can cheat it, try to race ahead and run the yellow light (or the red one…)…but ultimately life catches up with us at the next red light. We just gotta let it play out.

So let’s bring it back to the mat, because that’s where it starts. It’s not about changing ourselves, or about being better, about being this or being  that, but about finding a firm resolve that honours the incredible being that is Self. The universe is always going to throw at us what we need, when we need it (even when it reeeeeeeeeally doesn’t feel like it at the time). What we can choose to do is stay consistent in our efforts. Choose to keep showing up. Choose to embrace all the changes we experience along the way (the stop’s, the slow down’s and the go’s)…let them be the opportunities that await us in this exciting year ahead.

Namaste. Rhy xx
 

Image credit: Gemma Correll via Society6