Class #21. releasing my attachments to BEing a yogi.

I normally would have skipped today and continued to hang out with friends, but alas, I got my butt to the last available class on a Sunday night in my hood. I went to the 1.5 hot class at Core Power. This class seemed more like an absolute beginner class and it was making me very agitated at first. In my head I was thinking: “why is this bothering me so much?” I guess sometimes your body just wants to take off and, for whatever reason, today I wanted to fly. Usually, I am pretty good about staying with the class, lowering all the way down to the floor instead of to catturunga, baby cobra instead of up dog. But today, I just wanted to go for it and the teacher would not let me! Whenever I tried to take it further, she kept saying lets ALL do “x”. She even asked my name and singled me out. So… finally I just surrendered. In other news (but likely somehow related), friends, co-workers, etc., are starting to hear about my yoga quest and are always asking me to do some “crazy” yoga poses… Ok, I have to point out that just because I am doing yoga everyday, does not mean I’m some kind of crazy gumby and can do every single arm balance out there. In fact, there are alot of things I cannot do. I’m not sure why I feel like I have something to prove. It’s always nice to have something to show for all your work and practice. But why? Who cares what anyone else thinks if I’m feeling better than ever? Yoga goes way beyond having ridiculous upper body strength and a rubber spine. It is a long journey and now that I am practicing every day, I see that even more clearly. It’s easy to make excuses in your head and say: “well, if I practiced more…I’d probably be…”. But now, I’m practicing alot and there are still many many obstacles: physically, mentally, emotionally… But, every day, I am changing my body, discovering something new, and letting go just a bit more of my ego’s need to BE a certain thing (even if that thing is yogi extraordinaire).

January 21, 2011. Tags: , . 365 days of yoga, yoga, yoga challenge. Leave a comment.

SUTRA 1.10: ABHAVA PRATYAYALAMBANA VRTTIR NIDRA

TRANSLATION: THAT MENTAL MODIFICATION SUPPORTED BY COGNITION OF NOTHINGNESS IS SLEEP.

When we sleep or even meditate, we might feel as if our minds are able to exist completely devoid of thought. However, in these moments, when we perceive we have achieved clarity, if we are cognizant of this clarity, we are still thinking… These thoughts might be: “yay, my mind is free of thoughts”, “I feel nothing”, “I see nothing”, “I’m meditating…woohoo!” etc. This act of being aware of lucidity and stillness, of peace and quiet, is in itself a modification of the mind. Can we free ourselves from our cognition of nothingness and experience mere… nothingness? Hmmm, seems to me like a tough habit to kick. But, maybe, with practice and time… who knows where we might go when we don’t know where we are going!

April 11, 2010. Tags: . yoga. Leave a comment.

SUTRA 1.9: SABDAJNANANUPATI VASTU SUNYO VIKALPAH

TRANSLATION: AN IMAGE THAT ARISES ON HEARING MERE WORDS WITHOUT ANY REALITY [AS IT’S BASIS] IS VERBAL DELUSION.

In Sutra 1.8, which deals with misconception, you are actually seeing something real but misinterpreting it. In this Sutra, 1.9, which discusses verbal delusion, you are drawing a conclusion from words alone. For example, say you overhear your friend say: “my dad has just died”. You begin freaking out and expressing your utmost condolences, when she says: “no, no, not MY dad, the character I’m portraying in this show’s dad”…. Oh, oops, you missed that part of the conversation some how… You get the idea.

This is an example of verbal delusion. We create impressions, which may or may not be true, in our minds from what we hear.

April 4, 2010. yoga. Leave a comment.

SUTRA 1.8: VIPARYAYO MITHYAJNANAM ATADRUPA PRATISTHAM

TRANSLATION: MISCONCEPTION OCCURS WHEN KNOWLEDGE OF SOMETHING IS NOT BASED UPON IT’S TRUE FORM.

This one is pretty self-explanatory. But, here are some examples. For instance, out of the corner of your eye you mistake a reflection of light that passes across the floor as a mouse scurrying by. This misconception might cause you to scream or jump up on the couch and panic. In reality, there is no mouse, but in the moment, your brain doesn’t know the difference between right knowledge and illusion. Through yoga we make space in our bodies. And in doing so, we also create space in our minds. We increase the distance between the stimuli we receive and the conclusion we draw from this stimuli. This pause in between experience and judgment is what we cultivate through our practice of yoga and meditation. Are ya dizzy yet? I sure am…

March 28, 2010. yoga. Leave a comment.

SUTRA 1.7: PRATYAKSANUMANAGAMAH PRAMANANI

TRANSLATION: THE SOURCES OF RIGHT KNOWLEDGE ARE: DIRECT PERCEPTION, INFERENCE, AND SCRIPTURAL TESTIMONY.

Bringing peace to your mind is a little like spring cleaning. You get to a point where you know it’s time to downsize and get rid of some junk that you don’t need. But, you don’t just throw out or give away every single thing you own all at once. That would be traumatic! Ah! First, you begin to organize all your possessions into groups to determine what absolutely MUST go (the pink and yellow duck sweater from when I was 5… really scratchy, smells like moth balls…), what maybe can go (my ice-skates… I live in LA now..?), and what you are absolutely not ready to part with (my senior prom dress… even though it soooo doesn’t fit… and my BFF might have puked on it…). You start by tossing out the articles and objects that you are emotionally attached to the least. Once you have done some sorting and organizing, you stuff as much junk as you can handle into trash bags and haul it over to good will. Although you haven’t gotten rid of everything, you still feel a huge sense of relief, sigh… Most likely your next thought is: Wow! I have so much space, now I can buy more stuff!! Haha, that’s kinda not the idea we are going for here ūüôā We all know there is freedom in letting go of stuff, whatever that stuff might be. Sometimes we cling so desperately to our, forgive me,…. crap (whether personal items, or thoughts) that we are completely paralyzed and can’t move forward in our lives. When clearing out the vrttis of the mind, we don’t have to throw out everything all at once. We can start by relieving ourselves of the clutter that is most obviously in our way and causing pain to ourselves AND/ OR others.

One of the vrttis that Patanjali speaks of is: right knowledge, which can be attained through direct perception, inference, or scriptural testimony. Direct perception means that you decide something is true because you witness it firsthand, you see it. For example, I am watching you eat ice cream, thus I know you are eating ice cream. Inference means that you decide something based on something else, because of the way the world usually functions. For example, you see a rainbow, so you infer it has just rained. You see smoke, so you infer there is a fire. You haven’t actually seen rain or fire, but you assume your inference to be true and accurate based on your experiences in the world to date. And lastly, we come to scriptural testimony. This means that you believe something to be true, because you read it in one of the ancient scriptures and you trust the word of the saint/ sage/ or prophet who wrote it. Patanjali believes that any spiritual practice should be rooted in the ancient scripture of your choice. How modern! He believes that all ancients texts have a similar foundation and underlying truth, but merely present the facts in a different way. The truth is always true no matter what form it takes. Patanjali doesn’t really tell us the order in which we should detox our minds. But, I’d say that direct perception might not be the first to go…¬† What do you think and why?

March 21, 2010. yoga. Leave a comment.

SUTRA 1.6: PAMANA VIPARYAYA VIKALPA NIDRA SMRTAYAH

TRANSLATION: They [the 5 kinds of mental mods that are either painful or painless as discussed in 1.5] are…

1. Right Knowledge

2. Misconception

3. Verbal Delusion

4. Sleep

5. Memory

March 14, 2010. yoga. Leave a comment.

SUTRA 1.5: VRTTAYAH PANCATAYYAH KLISTA AKLISTAH

TRANSLATION: THERE ARE FIVE KINDS OF MODIFICATIONS OF THE MIND, WHICH ARE EITHER PAINFUL OR PAINLESS.

Patanjali does not say these modifications are either painful or pleasurable. He specifically states painful or painless. He words it in this way because pain and pleasure are relative. A seemingly pleasurable thought might in the end lead to pain and misery, while a painful thought may actually lead to pleasure and peace. For example: love can turn to jealousy and resentment and excitement can result in disappointment. On the other hand, anger can fuel positive change in another and bring peace. Patanjali goes on to further describe the difference between these two types of modifications¬† by saying painful= selfish and painless or inevitably also pleasurable= selfless. If you love something or someone because you expect something selfish in return such as financial comfort, status, physical pleasure, etc. these thoughts will eventually lead to pain in one form or another. In my book, figuratively speaking… I don’t have a book… yet…, selflessness pretty much= love. On the other hand, have you ever loved someone so selflessly that you are infuriated with them for not living up to their potential or the like? You want the best for them so purely that it’s makes you angry… This person may feel shitty at first because of your anger, but eventually comes to a higher understanding of themselves etc… Everyone needs a kick in the butt sometimes, right?¬† It’s the motive behind the thought, not so much the character of the thought that truly determines the outcome.

On our longgggg yogic journey towards mental clarity, Patanjali suggests we begin by filling our minds with positive/ selfless thoughts and toss out negative/ selfish thoughts. If we make others happy we will always be happy. He even says, ok, if you neeeeeeed to be selfish, be selfish in demanding your own peace and happiness… through selflessness. Haha, such a trickster! But it’s true. Can an act of service ever be truly selfless if you get something out of it in the end?? The verdict is: WHO CARES!? If you are making the world a better place and getting a kick out of it, more power to ya! As long as you don’t get a big fat ego about it… because frankly that’s just painful all around…. don’t be that guy… Through yoga we become better and better at sorting through our thoughts and deciding what stays and what goes out with the trash.

March 7, 2010. yoga. Leave a comment.

SUTRA SUNDAE! SUTRA 1.4: VRTTI SARUPYAM ITARATA

TRANSLATION: Sometimes your Self seems to take the form of your mental modifications.

In the modern world, identity, individuality is everything; we fight for it. We pride ourselves on being unique. The media tells us that what we achieve and our stuff = who we are.¬† I go to the store and see a dress and feel like I have to have it because it is SO me! In these moments an idea about self is created in our heads. Yet, does self reside in our heads or even bodies for that matter? We don’t like to be labeled and yet we label ourSelves with our thoughts ABOUT ourselves: our careers, social positions, race, age, relationships, ideas, behaviors, tendencies, likes, dislikes… We say, I’m a doctor, I’m rich, I’m poor, I’m a father, I’m a teenager, I’m middle aged, I’m outgoing, I’m smart, I’m an amazing this, or I suck at that, my style is this… But, when we strip away all these classifications that describe us, we are left with the reality of who we are in the purest sense. This can be difficult because we live in a world that has so many distractions. Not to judge this as good or bad, it’s just the way it is. We don’t have to live on a mountain and dress like a monk in order cultivate self awareness. But, in order to connect, we do need to understand what the self IS NOT. Anything that can change is not who you are. Getting down to the essence, de-accessorizing ourselves, we begin to uncover our unshakable truth. We like to put everything into a box. We also label animals, plants, even inanimate objects. If you ask a scientist what a table is, they will tell you it is made of energy. This same energy takes different forms and we chose to identify and classify it in various ways. According to Yogi’s like Patanjali, behind everything is a universal unchanging energy or self. In this common self, nothing is ever created or destroyed. The question then becomes: if you are not who/ what you THINK you are, who are you? The way we commonly define ourselves in a sort of: this is my body that is your body way,¬† only serves to further isolate and distance us from each other and creates reason for conflict. Through our practice, we begin to see that we exist separate from all that is material and start to experience the unity of all things. No two people will ever have the same body or mind. But, in the self, there is a sort of sameness, oneness. Have you ever had that moment where you felt like someone read your mind? Maybe you text or call someone at the exact moment they are contacting you. This sense of being in sync with another or with the world is Yoga, union. Underneath all of these superficial dividers, there is a common thread, a universal oneness. Try for a moment to describe yourself without saying what you do, how old you are, where you are from, or what you look like. Kinda tough? What’s left is what we discover one day at a time through our committed and consistent practice of Yoga. WE do not reside in our minds or bodies, this deeper exploration is the pursuit of Yoga. So what do you think? These are of course merely my interpretations of Sri Swami Sachidananda’s interpretations. And what do I know? Wow, I used the word self a lot in this post…

February 28, 2010. yoga. Leave a comment.

SUTRA SUNDAE! Sutra 1.3. TADA DRASTUH SVARUPE VASTHANAM

TRANSLATION: Then the seer [Self] abides in his own nature.

You are not your mind or body. You are the Seer, watching your mind and body at work in front of you. Yoga expands the space between you and everything else in the physical world including: thoughts and emotions. You witness and are aware of the actions of your mind and body, but are at the same time uninvolved and separate from them. The seer, your true self, is what is behind everything else that exists. If you look into a lake to see your reflection and the lake is choppy, your image will appear distorted. In reality, your image hasn’t changed, it merely appears to be different. Only when the water is completely still, can you see the truest reflection of yourself. The same is true with your mind and self. Only when the mind is clear and free from modifications, can you see your truest self. This self, the one who sees all else, is always the same. It is everything around us that causes a distortion in our perception of ourselves. The seer just is, no matter what. It lives inside itself, is one with itself and attached to nothing else. The self is not defined or bound by anything superficial or on the outside.

February 21, 2010. yoga. Leave a comment.

SUTRA SUNDAE! Sutra 1.2: YOGAS CITTA VRTTI NIRODHAH

Translation: Yoga is the restraint of the modifications of the mind, or yoga is the cessation of the whirlings of the mind.

The entire world around us is our own projection. Things are the way we think they are. If we allow our minds to run wild, they will gladly turn our lives upside-down. Values, relationships, situations, and experiences can alter with the blink of an eye. Our assumptions about them are merely that.¬† Nothing outside of you makes you what you are, but our attitudes towards the outside world do. If you can learn to control your mind and the way it interacts with the world then you can do anything. Easier said than done. Our minds work out of habit and like to go back to the places that are the most comfortable. Learning to quiet your mind is kind of like training a puppy. Every time the puppy has an accident, you kindly pick the puppy up and put it outside. When the puppy does it again, you correct it again by picking it up and bringing it back to the right spot. Gently and over time, the puppy finds the spot on it’s own and has formed a new habit. Sometimes it’s more difficult than others to bring the mind back. You might be sitting in a yoga class and for example, you get a whiff of perfume from the girl next to you in class. Your mind starts to wander: why is she wearing that in class, how annoying, her boyfriend probably bought her that, I wish I had a nice perfume like that, I wish my boyfriend would get me perfume, they’re probably married, I want to get married! All¬† this chaos and insanity is caused by one simple external event that has taken you completely out of the moment and also created want and discomfort. Whereas before, you may have been feeling great. Now, you have allowed this event to completely alter your day and you have new expectations, which unless met, will leave you feeling unfulfilled. Satchidananda explains that these “mental modifications” are what get us into trouble. Our minds don’t just have a thought and move on, they have the thought and then continue to expand on and modify the thought beyond what is actually happening. These modifications start to really exist for us. Our minds are very very good at cross- associating one thing with another thing, which might be/ most likely is completely unrelated.¬† Silly minds. We create a whirling tornado of thoughts in our head and they become real. The goal is not to clear the mind of all thoughts. The goal, I think, is for our minds to be present in the moment and for our thoughts to flow in and out of us without amplification and modification. Only from this reality, can we truly have clarity about ourselves and the world around us. How many precious moments are missed because our minds are still busy creatively developing a single event that occurred a minute, an hour,¬† or years ago? If you could drop a pebble into still water and not make a ripple… that’s the idea…

February 14, 2010. yoga. Leave a comment.

Next Page »