Category Archives: Holistic Living
- Thursday 20th April: 9:00-10:30am: Aruna Yoga in Herzliya Pituach
Yesterday was a beautiful day, where I got to speak to Daniel Wagner on the healing power of yoga. We really got to converse deeply on Truth, the questions of ‘Who am I?’ and how we both found our relentless spiritual quest coming to stillness in the finding of our paths, whichever and however they may look!
Daniel’s website simplyconscious.com is a meeting place for those who are, simply conscious 😉
Please visit it, sign up and stay tuned in to a growing community of like minded consciousness. I feel blessed to be a part of it!
Please feel free to leave comments and share your feedback!
This is what I just realized. I felt really sick yesterday. It escalated rather quickly. What started with a sore throat moved into a sleepless night and then into painful ears. I endured the night, with a rumble of kvetch and then this morning cancelled my appointments for the day. Deciding to stay in with my five year old. Take a bed ridden day rather unheard of in my bumper to bumper schedule of life! Today when sharing with a friend how I felt and her normal suggestion of medication to alleviate the pain, I replied,” No I don’t take want to take medication. How would I be able to identify what is really behind what my body is telling me?”
With all this time on my hands, I decided to schedule a private session of healing for myself. The healer suggested taking me out of my comfort zone. I said being out of my comfort zone is my comfort zone. It is where the conscious application of awareness comes into effect. I can understand the bodily alarm bells, as it whispers or occasionally screams out its need for my attention. And my notion of comfort, bodily, emotionally or existentially has shifted so that there no longer is a needing, or wanting of comfort, but rather an acceptance of what is, just as it is. Devoid of any judgment of good or bad and free of desire or attachment to any particular state. Just an acceptance of the here and now.
This is a massive evolution from a lifetime of seeking highs, desire based interaction and recoil in the face of sickness, pain or emotional decline. This was effected initially by recognizing what my mother in law calls, the ‘Yay moment’: The moment when the shit hits the fan and instead of lament, we celebrate the engrained opportunity for growth, adaptation and spiritual evolution. I got some serious practice at it. Yay to cancer in an inordinate amount of my loved ones. Yay to enforced immigration of my parents’ due to my father’s illness. Yay to a steady flow of challenge. Yay. Yay. Yay. I got really lucky I guess. I get to yay through a lot.
And as a result of the healing work that I do, I get to say yay almost daily in the lives of people coming for healing and growth. I recognize pain and challenge to be the doorway into awakening. Indeed it has catalyzed a tremendous kick through this portal for me. Moving out of our comfort zone is where awakening can really start. And somehow in this recognition of the opportunity of the challenge, the challenges morphed into miraculous outcomes, awe inspired healings, and welcome blessings.
Today though, it is no longer even a yay moment. It just is what is here. And if it here, it is perfect. It is here for my growth. It is here for freedom. The sore throat. The undulation of life’s curve balls. The ups. The downs. All are simply here for the opportunity to cultivate steadiness. To recognize the bigger picture and to keep drawing the camera backward until the fullest, most pervasive perspective is in view. All provide the deepening into this that is awareness itself. And this counts too for the desirable moments we would likely aim for, want or strive for. These too warrant the same level of neutrality. The choice to shift from first class into steerage allows me to recognize that I am not even the passenger, but the awareness that watches the journey itself. And that this comfort zone is just a nom de plume for complacency, a procrastination against being awake to the here and now.
In this last trip to India, I managed to do a full 3 minutes of stretch pose. Kundalini Yogis know this pose well, generally loath it. It requires hard core abdominal strength (my weakest bodily part) and a powerful breath of fire. For years I have managed to go in and out of attaining the full timing, but always with a tremendous struggle, excruciating in fact. Now my mantra became ‘Here’ on the inhale, ‘Now’ on the exhale. There wasn’t a thought for the timing, or how long, or when the end would be called. Instead there was just this: Here, Now. The body continued its efforts but with no struggle. My awareness abiding as pure presence. Time became timeless.
This is my new comfort zone: Here. Now. Indeed a yay for every moment no matter what it looks like. A yay for this moment, just as it is.
Sat Nam and blessings,
On the Seven Year Itch:
On the seventh year, Brahman rested.
I’ve been in this relationship for a while now. It was a true coup de foudre as the French call it. A thunderbolt from the sky! Bamboozled, deeply in love. There wasn’t as aspect of this newfound passion of mine that I didn’t see through rosy coloured dristi. Yoga and me were made for each other. I felt a true coming home.
My appetite was insatiable. Like most grand passions, it was initially expressed though the body. Every imaginable position, contortion, concentrated breath, deepening as the relationship did, resulting in ecstatic states of bliss. Yoga and me fell deeply, madly, truly in love. Yoga means Union. And it wasn’t kidding.
It became my entire world, travelling, studying, practicing, reading, teaching to satiate the call for more knowledge, deeper development, more service, plunging head first into the yogic state of being from body, mind and spirit.
And as with all honeymoons, its transient nature determines an inevitable end. This was, granted a lengthy honeymoon period, a truly sublime stay in the 5 starred luxurious abodes of infinite consciousness. But then the body began to redirect my attention, first with injury, then with pregnancy, dramatic and traumatic birthing procedures and ultimately invasive surgery. Throw a second immigration into the mix and I, and my relationship with hatha yoga (the yoga of the physical postures) hit the skids.
My asana (postures) practice dwindled. Indeed there were periods where I was beyond a working body anyway but a new relationship to asana needed to be sculpted from the shattered preconceptions of my wants and aspirations as a yogini.
So beyond the body was were I started unconsciously conduiting that which essence is yoga. Through emotional work like the Journey, through study of Kabbalah, through less asana focused practices where energetics is the engine of transformation. And let me tell you. It was beautiful. Another passion. A little less tactile and blissful but conceivably a deepening into being into that which is the embodiment of yoga, the union with Self.
Still there was the resistance to get back into bed -in this case my mat – with the asana practice, fully letting myself go with it.
The Kundalini Teachings talk about the Five Stages on the Path to Wisdom. Saram Pad is the honeymoon period which I speak of. Then comes Karam Pad where we begin to work on ourselves. Our awareness grows and we start to apply what we learn to our lives with evident growth.
Then comes Shakti Pad. This is the crucial ‘make or break’ point where we either go to mastery or quit the study altogether. The so-called spiritual crisis! Make it through Shakti Pad and you might have a marriage for all of your lifetimes!
Even Patanjali, all those years ago predicted the seven year yogic itch when he tells us yogis that:
‘perfection in practice comes when one continues to practice with sincerity and respect for a long period of time without any interruption’ (1.14).
Patanjali , like my mother, is pretty clear on commitment! Stick it out, go through the ups and downs. Stay sincere and respectful and it will all work out.
So after my 72,000th Yoga Teacher Training, I decided to see if doing another one with beloved Roxy, a teacher who inspired me wholly, spoke from Truth as Truth and also exuded true mastery of asana, could stimulate my yogic juices, help me get it back up so to speak. Off I went for teacher training number 72,001 in pursuit of sought marital counseling for my asana practice.
The first thing that I received from the weekly meetings was a joyful surrender into this that is yoga and all its accouterments! The time for myself, the breath, the community, the meditative delights. Indeed even the mat! My most delicious reconnection with Patanjali. This therapy was working and more!
Patanjali says that in order to attain perfection in practice you have to
- practice for long periods of time
- without interruption, regularly
- practice with love and respect.
This sounds very much like a concoction for long-term, healthy commitment. Really what Patanjali is prescribing is building new patterns, creating through habitual reconditioning healthy, wholesome highways to clear the body, mind and connect to spirit. Letting these healthy directives become automated patterning. In other words we recondition ourselves. We turn our habitual patterns into subtle impressions of the mind called samkaras. Consolidate these enough and we create vasanas, which are groups of impressions powerful enough to take over our minds and allow us to function from. In other words we are our vasanas! They are deeply embedded and are the fabric of being from which we operate.
The regularity of practice breeds deeper samskaras, breeding deeper vasanas. It’s like a genetic reprogramming through consistent reconditioning that generates new restructured patterns of being.
But more than this Patanjali talks about practicing with love and respect which is the secret yogic ingredient that turns personal transformation from sounding like a computer coding or Pavlovian laboratory into the realm of the infinite expansive consciousness and transcendent states of being that it is. Throw in a pinch of love and respect, and you have more than a healthy marriage. You have amrita: the elixir of immortality for all relationships. Allowing you to overcome and ride the waves and itches of most of our interactions!
This that Patanjali talks about for regulating our commitment is the foundation of Abyhasa (practice). What is an essential for all working relationships to continue to hold the space for its evolving participants is varaighya (non attachment). In 1.12 of the Yoga Sutra, Patanjali suggests taking an approach of non-attachment. The combination of committed, constant practice to tame the mind’s impressions and fluctuations is premised on non-attachment. We disentangle from desire and from our cravings and cultivate a strength, equanimity and flexibility to go with the flow of life with its varying gradients.
And then you ease into the Sahej Pad, the fourth stage Kundalini yogis refer to in the five stages on the path to wisdom. Where ease, balance, instantaneous manifestation happen. We align with our destiny and we are in this relationship with Truth for the long haul. It is in this stage on the path to wisdom that we drink of the fountain of youth. This is the result of consistent practice seen not just in the exuberant youthfulness of our physical form but expressed in the balance of being. The eternally youthful yogi, gracefully recognizing the ephemerality of form is the product of Sahej Pad.
The result of True Yoga is Sat Pad: The great Truth and final stage to Wisdom. Even graciously as consciousness, the yogi exits the body epiphanically with choice in mahasamadhi, rather than through the usually choiceless and sometimes, inelegant path of death. Harmony with the universe itself, limitless peace and the quintessence of the true goal of yoga, that of union ensues. This union lifts the veil of disillusion that obfuscates our merging identity as Truth. The realized yogi is the embodiment of the eternality of the unborn, undying, unchanging true Self. The yogi is the expression of pure consciousness.
Yesterday whilst dressing I noticed the ageing in my skin. It was something new, a sagging that hadn’t been there or one that I hadn’t yet noticed. And I felt a great sense of joy evoke within me. Born in that moment of recognition of the inescapable decline and evanescence of my physical form, I noticed that my relationship to all form has shifted. As I watched my children grow in my womb, through birth into toddlers, kids and now, some of them, into teens, attached to this process of change was great excitement and joy. Yet when ageing happens on the other end of the scale, there is despair and a holding on to the perception of the beauty of youth.
On seeing the signs of my ageing, the greying hairs that daily seem to come out in alert of Times winged chariot, the deepening of lines, creases and gravity’s inevitable decline, I decided to invert the whole perception process and immediately resolved to embrace the ageing process with euphoria in the same way I did watching my children grow. I have resolved to regard it as a metaphor reminding me of my own personal evolution and signaling the finite and fleeting facets of form. Like my alarm wakes me up with a resonant bell each morning, my ageing shall be a similar alarm, reminding me to wake up from illusion to the truth that I am not this finite form, but the formless, unchanging Self as pure, pervasive consciousness, footloose and botox free.
Yoga is about moving from the gross to the subtle, through the postures themselves to the energy to pure consciousness. As I practice, not just through posture but through awakening consciousness, my relationship to all aspects of Yoga becomes immortalized. My body is just an incidental vehicle to express the mobility of the mind and to embody the limitless of being. So yes I choose commitment to my mat. But more than that is the ultimate flexibility of self and identification to the subtle sense of Self that ensues. Perhaps this might herald the beckoning of Sat Pad in its least expected form and from the most unlikely angle. As this application of the true union intended in ‘yoga’, yoga is not a well to enable us to drink of the fountain of youth. It is the source of the fountain. It is indeed the elixir of immortality.
Sat Nam, Truth is indeed my identity!
Divine opportunity and celestial abundance has afforded me the opportunity to satiate the calling of my soul in the pursuit of Truth and in the quest for wisdom. My whole life has been parenthesized by one singular compulsion in this pursuit. I remember as a child sitting in existential angst, a deep void of emptiness, one that was clouded by despair, questioning the existence of God, and the purpose of life. I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up then, but I always had a deep knowing that there was something Divine about existence, something grand about the bigger plan. That the form of this body was a container for something magical, something more. Indeed it had to be as there seemed a void of futility without some understanding. I spent the next four decades exploring this mystery and seeking answers.
In my lifetime I have tasted freely of the Smörgåsbord of Divine offering. On this sacred buffet I first sampled the dishes of which I was deeply familiar, the religious inclinations into which I have been born, and then through a ravenous insatiability, I read, and learnt and travelled the spectrum of religion, mastery, technology and yogic technique.
In all these pursuits I received the Prasad (blessed food) of the deepest of wisdom. I imbibed of the elixir of Truth, an amrit passed through the darshan (transmission of light) of some of the greatest sages to be incarnate on this earth at this time. I have prostrated at their feet, awed at the blessing of such Infinite exposure, be it to their teachings, satsang or simple blessing. The devotional Bhakta (Devotee) in me delighting in this heart opening experience of boundless Love.
My extremely analytical mind demanded its own consumption, so course after course, lineage after lineage I greedily shoveled in platefuls of knowledge and teachings. Piling my plate with Jnana Yoga (yoga of wisdom) after Jnana. I sighed in grateful satisfaction yet only momentarily. Even a taste of Truth it seemed offered only instantaneous gratification.
These efforts of using the body as a temple and the mind as a conduit for Divine connection has proven deeply fruitful and generated boons, of which shining health, happiness and wholeness have been accessible and attained. I have helped heal from depression, participated in the service of supporting other’s through healing and transformation and generally become fulfilled, whole and clear. Yet simultaneously underlying this was a sense that I was like a donkey pursuing a carrot on the end of a stick. This goal oriented approach of seeking some perceived sense of enlightenment outside of myself, an almost impossible attainment, formed the backdrop for this lifetime’s pursuit of Truth.
And then Arunachala! How is it that a mountain, a so called inanimate, elevated structure of the Earth, could evoke in me so deep a revelation. As it turns out, I was called to her. I felt this compulsion instantaneously and I followed it, as I always have with all the spiritual callings that have propelled my journey so far.
There I was met and greeted by a sanghat (community of Truth) of the Journey, led by Brandon Bays in a manner teeming with Grace. As she recognized the mastery in each of us, suddenly a real shift started to take place, a possibility that indeed she might be right. That we are all masters, simply deluded by our egos into thinking we are anything less than that.
Arunachala’s welcome was magnificent. The mountain replaced my feet with wings, and I glided along her effortlessly, joyfully. It was a veritable falling in love, a mutual marriage of mastery as mountain and Mohamed met in spiritual matrimony. And yet as with all marriage, things were not going to be easy.
The week at the foot of the mountain was arduous. Despite the beauty of the surroundings, the excellence of service, the most opulent of luxuries from food, and accommodation, to care, to all forms of nourishment, this was no easy baby. The mountain demanded nothing less than the fire of real tapas (austerity) and Arunachala, Ramana Maharishi, Papaji and Brandon exacted the proverbial walk into this fire. I literally wanted my mommy! This was deeply challenging. There was nowhere to go, nowhere to hide. Nothing to do but to sit in the core of this fire and let it consume me.
A great despair overcame me during this time. It was somehow a negation of all that I had learnt, an eradication of the spiritual crutches I had so carefully amassed with a consequent instability, and the hopelessness of the futility of the fabric of my and all existence. I was caught between a rock (in this case a mountain) and a hard place. The ultimate impossible bind of having spiritual tools and technology and yet being so displaced, so consumed by the fire of the mountain, that they could no longer even serve me.
And then the words:
“Nothing to do. Nothing to learn. Nothing to unlearn. Nothing to achieve. Nothing to attain. Nothing to become. Nothing but this. Right here, right now.”
In the simplicity of this, the rebirth of epiphanic clarity, the get out of the illusory jail free card in the Monopoly game of consciousness. The realization that I was not the donkey frantically pursuing the carrot on the end of a stick, but that I was the carrot all along!
And indeed who is this I? A deep fascination with this awareness that observes the machinations and manipulations of the mind and a recognition of the maya or illusion that is the projection of the ego. This is my tratakum (focused point of concentration). The mind has an anchor and Self has its realization. Satchidananda. Truth. Consciousness. Bliss. Everything that I have been seeking, is right here, right now, wholly accessible. It is a simple shift of perception. Into this moment. Now.
Quite simply, I am that.
Deepest pranam to Arunachala, Sri Ramana Maharishi, Papaji and Brandon Bays and the Journey luminaries for an Inspired Journey into the recognition of Self.
These last two classes we have shared on Mondays have focused around the idea of using the technology of yoga in application to our lives. This means different things to each of us, our relative experience a unique expression of our respective states of consciousness and opening that is deeply personal.
My intention in class was to transmit the understanding that everything we do in our yoga practice is a microcosmic laboratory for life itself. An experiment whereby we can apply the teachings in every thought, word and action and to events and experiences we encounter in daily life. What we face on the mat, be it our emotions, our habits, our reactivity or even a sense of centeredness is a reflection of our lives. The sacred space that a yoga practice affords helps us to zone in on a deeper understanding of self in a context where we can work easily through these issues and in a way where we feel safe to do so.
What we can observe through our practice in respect of our emotional states, natures and conditioning can then be directly translated into our lives, processed and seen in parallel. This process is one of the fundamentals gifts of yoga. By developing the ability to become an observer or witness to our conditioned responses and reactivity and in developing neutrality, (observing without judgment) we create the platform to be less reactive. I call this the witness protection programme. This neutrality borne of impartial observation is when we know the application of yoga to life is in effect. Being aware of this shift in response is also an indicator that the yoga is working!
Another main gauge for me which was a strong theme in the last two weeks of class, was the idea of synchronicity. You might notice as a trite new ageism the negation of the idea that anything is coincidental. ‘Everything happens for a reason’ and ‘there are no coincidences’ has become incorporated into the general spiritually tinted lexicon. But the reason clichés are clichéd is that often they are based on truth. For me the word coincidence has become synonymous with the word synchronicity.
In my spiritual process, synchronicity has a profound presence, and the series of seeming coincidences seem to grow more apparent, almost laughable in the gigantic footprints they leave. I was asked recently if there is always such profound coincidence in my life, with Baron Von Munchausenesque tales of miracle and wonder lending an almost unreal quality to my life. I said absolutely yes! I believe this is based on a perception shift that is birthed through application of spiritual teachings. When perceived from the point of view of love and truth, life is miraculous, wondrous and tinged with the rosiest of spectacles. Do I look for the signs I was asked? I believe they are always there. Our shift in perceptions determines whether or not we see them.
In June 2013 following a series of stark breadcrumbs, I wrote the following piece that I promised in class I would share with you. My prayer is that it speaks to the awakening process within you, reminding you of your growing awareness and of the telltale signs that life is evolving in understanding and shifting into awakening.
of the breadcrumbs left
by the soul’s emissary,
offering ectoplasmic clues
like a dream,
of why and how
we are here.
This road seems like
a mellifluous meander
with utter distraction,
until the reminders
bring us gently to the point.
Lest we miss it.
It is our choice to pursue spiritual growth and to commit to the discipline of a regular yoga practice. This choice is amplified by being in the presence of like-minded people and developing in a collective spirit of sanghat. The commitment to our yoga sadhana (practice) in whichever form we pursue are tangible efforts we make in the awakening process, ones which empower us, grow us and facilitate elevation of body, mind and spirit. While we take these efforts of discipline and commitment, Grace stands alongside us, watching, facilitating and encouraging us. Throwing us one breadcrumb after the other. Lest we miss it.