YAMAS AND NIYAMAS – 03.10.15 (Svadhyaya – Projections)

I began my public education career as a middle grades science teacher almost twelve years ago.  I started with vis-a-vis wet erase markers and an overhead projector.

Now that I’ve dated myself a bit, there is no difference in the technological advances of today.  Classrooms have become equipped with Promethean ActivBoards or SMART Boards (and other competitor variations).  The concept remains the same.  The content that is on the transparency or in the computer is projected from one place to another.  Participants study the material and prepare for an assessment of some sort.  What is in is sent out, what is sent out is taken in.

Let’s apply this concept to ourselves.  What is in is sent out.  Svadhyaya asks us to take time to self-study, self-reflect.  Math, science, language arts, social studies and school in general is relatively straight forward in what is inside.  We can open a textbook and have a pretty idea the content that is inside.  We are quite the amazing variable.  We can look at each other and make inferences about the past, the present and the future.  However, we will never know a complete story.  We will never know each other completely.

What is in is sent out.  Therefore, we are asked to look inward and see our content, our character.  If we see hate and anger and bitterness in the world, then are those a part of us?  Where did they come from?  Why are they there?  If we see love and beauty and joy in the world, then are those a part of us?  Where did they come from?  Why are they there?  The projections that we see in our world cannot come from the outside in.  They come from the inside out.  Before we move quickly to judge the actions of the world around us, let’s first ask … what is inside us?

Svadhyaya – Projections

Do this experiment now:  without thinking, quickly write down the first five things that come to your mind that describe the world as you see it.

Every comment that you have used to describe the world will tell you more about yourself than about the world.  Every comment you make about the world, about another person, about an event, about life, is a projection of yourself and a clue to your interior landscape.  The world is your autobiography.

The world and others simply reflect back to us what we are seeing, not what is there.  It is as if wherever we look, there are only mirrors that show us pictures of ourselves.

“We cannot love or hate something about another person or the world unless it is already inside of us first.”

The world changes to fit the story you are telling.

As you begin to steadfastly pay attention to what you are saying to yourself about the moment, the other person, yourself, and life, you will get clues about the “boxes” you have wrapped yourself in that create you own little universe.  All of these utterances are projections of the parts of yourself you love, don’t love, can see, don’t want to see, or accept or can’t yet accept.

Book – “The Yamas and Niyamas” by Deborah Adele (BUY IT!!!)

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YAMAS AND NIYAMAS – 03.03.15 (Svadhyaya – Self Study)

We enter into the month of March continuing our study of the Yamas and Niyamas.  Svadhyaya, or self-study, asks us to look inside.  Self-reflection and self-study can be difficult to swallow.  We may find ourselves drifting back into the past and filled with regrets spiraling down into depression.  We may find ourselves looking to far forward into the future and becoming filled with anticipation that takes off into anxiety.  So let’s take a look inside our box …

The analogy of a box allows us the safety of the interior and the unknown of the exterior.  Our physical bodies are represented by the box.  My physical body has many forms.  I am a hockey player.  I am a guitar player.  I am a teacher.  I am a triathlete.  I am a friend.  And I have so many more roles in life.  Our bodies are quite sturdy and capable of withstanding a decent amount of what life can throw at it.  Our box may be kicked, punched, yelled at, screamed at, defaced or covered with graffiti.  The world can see the damage done to the exterior.  The world cannot see our interior.

The safety of the interior can initially seem like a prison.  I am guilty of becoming trapped in my own thoughts and becoming stagnant in my life.  It was not until I became comfortable with what was on the interior of my box that I began to smile more, give more and love more.  As we look deeper into our box, a place where no one but ourselves can dwell, we must become comfortable with what we find.  Do we love ourselves?  Even when the world attempts to destroy us, what beauty is inside the box?

No one will ever truly see the inside of our box.  A family member, friend, loved one, spouse … we will share some of what is inside, but the lid will never be fully open.  We are the only person with knowledge of its contents.  As we take a moment to look in our box, do the contents make us smile?  make us laugh?  make us fall in love with ourselves?

Svadhyaya – Self Study

Svadhyaya, or self-study, is about knowing our true identity as Divine and understanding the boxes we are wrapped in.  This process of knowing ourselves, and the boxes that adorn us, creates a pathway to freedom.

The yogis teach that we, as human beings, are packaged much like this diamond ring.  We are, at the core, divine consciousness.  Around this pure consciousness, we are packed in “boxes” of our experience, our conditioning, and our belief systems.  These boxes are things like how we identify ourselves, what we believe to be true, our preferences and dislikes, our fears and imagination.  All of these boxes are informed by country, culture, gender, town, ancestors and family history, groups we belong to, and our personal experience.

We suffer, the yogis tell us, because we forget who we are.  We think we are the boxes we are wrapped in and forget that we are really the Divine “holding” inside.  We can find clues about our boxes by watching our projections, by the process of tracing our reactions back to a belief, and by courageously looking at life as it is.  This process of knowing ourselves, and the boxes that adorn us, creates a pathway to freedom.

Book – “The Yamas and Niyamas” by Deborah Adele

YAMAS AND NIYAMAS – 02.24.15 (Tapas – The Control Burn)

Farmers use the concept of a “control burn” or “agricultural burn” to clear their fields of material that is no longer needed.  Growth has occurred and the crop has been since taken away.  What is left no longer serves a purpose and it must be removed to make way for new growth.  The removal of the waste material is the foundation for new growth.  Fire provides that transition.  In the presence of the fire, the organic material releases energy from the burn and cycles through the Earth.  In the wake of the destruction, new life grows and the waste has been the foundation!  

http://www.kinston.com/news/local/controlled-burning-prepares-ground-for-season-s-crops-1.160681

In the article, there is a quote that stands out.  “The only thing the farmers have to be really careful of is making sure that the fire doesn’t hop over that fire break and get into nearby surrounding woods,” Adams said. “On rare occasions, that does happen.”  The fire itself is all consuming and some of us are just not ready for the transformation.  Transformation cannot be forced upon us.  Maturity through Tapas happens when we are ready to let go.  I ran and ran from Tapas for a majority of my life because of the fear of what I would lose in the fire.  We all hold something with a tight grip because of fear.  A memory, a possible future, a person, an object … and we are driven by fear to not let go and possibly miss the experience of what may rise from its burning.

When we enter into Tapas, we are entering a field that is on fire.  We may not be aware of what that fire will consume about us, but we rest assured that we will be changed for the positive.  This doesn’t occur magically once in our lives, but becomes a routine.  As farmers practice this annually, what can the practice of Tapas grow in us each present moment?

Tapas – The Control Burn

Somewhere we forget that we had to learn how to walk, like young birds had to learn to fly.  We forget how many times we fell.  We forget that things take practice.  Ray Charles was asked later on in his career if he still practiced and prepared for concerts.  He replied that he played scales everyday, because when the scales were in his fingers, he could play anything.  The question becomes for us, what are we practicing for?  When is the last time we asked ourselves this question?

In yoga, having a daily disciplined practice is referred to as Sadhana and is much like doing a small controlled burn on ourselves.  It is the discipline of putting ourselves in places where the old debris that has collected in us can be removed.  We engaged in this process when we pay attention to the amount and kind of food we put in our body, when we move and exercise our bodies through walks, yoga, and other activities, or when we expand our mental ability.

Lord make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
– St. Francis of Assisi

This is a profound plea to change us from haters to lovers and from disturbers of peace to makers of peace.  This is the prayer of Tapas, and it invites us to be in life in a different way.

Book – “The Yamas and Niyamas” by Deborah Adele

YAMAS AND NIYAMAS – 02.03.15 (Tapas – Self Discipline)

The social and personal ethics of Yoga, the Yamas and Niyamas, allow us observe how we treat ourselves and those we interact with.  If I could have a favorite, then it would be Tapas.  I have gone through my life playing competitive sports and the concept of “burning” is not new to me.  In my adult life, I have continued with the several athletic hobbies that I have listed before.  I am in love with the “burning” sensation that I feel in my muscles from a long bike ride, the third period of a hockey game, and the final set of a tennis match.  Love it!

Where I had to look at Tapas from a different perspective was in regards to my habits.  Stress is a funny thing.  Sometimes we tend to live with it for no apparent reason.  We hold on to thoughts and feelings that are either rooted in the past or present.  When we do that, it affects our physical bodies.  Not cool.  

So I have a choice … continue to damage my physical body staying lost in the past and possible future I may manifest or use the “burning” to remove those choices and habits to become active in the present moment.  Which will we choose this moment?

**  Side note … anyone got any good soup recipes? 🙂  Tapas always makes me hungry for some reason too.

Tapas – Self Discipline

Tapas literally means “heat,” and can be translated as catharsis, austerities, self-discipline, spiritual effort, change tolerance, or transformation.  Tapas has the sense of “cooking” ourselves in the fire of discipline to transform ourselves in the fire of discipline to transform ourselves into something else.  It is our determined effort to become someone of character and strength.  Much like cooking an egg denatures the egg, changing it into a different structure, Tapas eventually changes our nature, turning us into a cauldron that can withstand any of life’s challenges.  Tapas is the day to day choice to burn non-supportive habits of the body and mind, choosing to forsake momentary pleasures for future rewards.

There is a bumper sticker which states, “A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.” We can chuckle all we want, but there is great truth to this statement.  Tapas can take us to the place where all of our resources are used up, where there is nothing left but weakness, where all of our so-called “props” have been taken away.  It is in this barren place, where we have exhausted all that we have and all that we are, that new strength is shaped and character is born if we choose to fearlessly open ourselves to the experience.  It is perhaps the greatest gift life could offer us.

Book – “The Yamas and Niyamas” by Deborah Adele

YAMAS AND NIYAMAS – 01.27.15 (SANTOSHA – The Paradox of Not Seeking)

I am guilty of trying to fit a ridiculous amount of challenges, successes, failures and opportunities into my moments.  I love to experience as much as possible, but at the expense of being content.  For a number of years, I would revisit the past and argue with myself over time lost here and time lost there.  However, my thinking has changed.  Each and every one of those moments is framed in ice.  They sit there for me to see as they are.  They cannot be thawed out and manipulated into what I may think is more beneficial or pleasing.  They are there…forever.

Where I can find joy is in the moment that lies presently.  I use this blog to send out my thoughts to those I meet physically and digitally in hopes that my research and struggles may help in some way.  Writing on here takes time.  I’m not a fabulous writer, but I rest in the fact that my writing is honest and sincere.  This moment that I type right now I could be on my bike trainer, I could be doing some dirty dishes, or I could still be asleep.  I chose this moment for myself and for you.  Be content with each moment and fall in love with you.

SANTOSHA – The Paradox of Not Seeking

Discontentment is the illusion that there can be something else in the moment.  There isn’t and there can’t be.  The moment is complete.  That means if I am bored or sad, I will only be discontented if I am not content to be bored and sad.  Building contentment with boredom, sadness, impatience, depression, disappointment, and loss, builds our ability to be that tall tree so rooted in the earth that great winds cannot topple it.  Being content with our discontentment is itself a gateway to the calm depths within.

Santosha, or contentment, is performing duty and right action with pure joy.  It is the true understanding that there is nothing more that can or does exist that this very moment.  When we are purely in the moment, the moment is complete.

Scholars have learned that there is nothing missing; life is complete the way it comes to us in each moment.  When we understand this, we sink into contentment.

Book – “The Yamas and Niyamas” by Deborah Adele

YAMAS AND NIYAMAS – 01.20.15 (Santosha – Gratitude)

Western culture is built upon comparison.  I compare what I have to what you have.  In that comparison comes a number a number of responses such as jealousy, greed, stress, anger, frustration and the list goes on.  The possessions we do not have play so many tricks on us.

The “Thank You” game is fun to play.  However, don’t dip into the past and resist being thankful for the future.  Play the “Thank You” game in the Now.  What do you find yourself thankful for right now as you read this?  I am thankful for an open mind.  I am thankful for my health.  I am thankful for my love of helping others.  Your response may be similar to mine or completely different.  But I challenge you to stay in the present and play the game.  The results are quite interesting …

True joy and gratitude doesn’t come from the next possession, but rather the level of contentment we have with our true self.  When we let go of the image we believe others want to see and remove pettiness and smallness from our lives, there we will find true contentment with who we are.  Our own unique true self.  You’re beautiful.

Santosha – Gratitude

Let’s play the thank you game.  I had no idea what the thank you game was, but I began to search hard for clues and cracks and pauses in which I could, with some kind of honesty, say thank you to life.  What I discovered turned my world upside down.  It wasn’t long before my step was lighter and slowly almost everything began to bring a smile to my face and words of gratitude to my heart.  I was alive again, and my life was enchanting.

Practicing gratitude protects us from our own pettiness and smallness and keeps us centered in the joy and abundance of our own life.  When stimulation pulls at us and disturbance beckons us, it is the gratitude uttered from our lips that keeps us strongly rooted in contentment.

Book – “The Yamas and Niyamas” by Deborah Adele

YAMAS AND NIYAMAS – 12.9.14 (SAUCHA – Purity as Relational)

As with all things, there is a superficial layer and a layer that goes much deeper.  There is the epidermis on the surface and then the dermis as we dig deeper anatomically.  Purity is the same way.  On the surface, we might initially think of physical purity in the sense of cleanliness and sexual purity.  As we head farther down, we start to look at purity on an emotional and spiritual level.  Our purity is relational.

As a middle school educator and a human being, I see different levels of understanding regarding purity.  It doesn’t matter the level of maturity, we all experience relational purity.  When we sit down for a family meal, interact with a neighbor, get rear-ended at a stop sign, or even get into an argument with a co-worker, these are all moments of relational purity.  We have an opportunity to bring our past or our present into the moment.  If the past attends, then we might stain an amazing opportunity.  If the present attends, then we have an opportunity to experience joy, love, peace and who knows what else!

Our past can cause us to want to fix the present.  We act as if there is something wrong with the moment.  The moment is the Now and is free from the past.  Allow this moment to be free of our past and read below with an understanding that we have the freedom to think and feel however we’d like.  We don’t need to be fixed and we don’t need to fix others..  We’re already beautiful and so are the people we interact with.  We can strive to be pure with the Now and interact with it with our true self :).  Each moment is new!  Namaste!

SAUCHA – Purity as Relational

Purity is not our attempt to make something different than it is; rather it is to be pure with it, as it is in the moment.  We fail this guideline in any of our attempts to change, judge, criticize, alter, control, manipulate, pretend, be disappointed or check out.

When our thoughts or actions are presumptive like this we actually stain the purity of the moment.  When we find ourselves stuck in a traffic jam, disappointed with our meal, tripping over messes in the house, or dealing with a crabby family member, we are invited to simply be with these times in a pure way, not to judge them as impure moments.

So stop imposing our staleness on things.

Matthew Sanford, speaking from the experience of an accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down, says,

“I am not afraid of my sadness.  My sadness is an incredible gift that allows me to be with people who are suffering without trying to fix them.”

Being pure with all the pieces of ourselves increases our staying power with our own suffering, intimacy, joy, boredom, pain and anxiety.  We become safe with ourselves, and we become a safe place for others.  We become a person who can comfortably and compassionately sit with another without the need to fix them.