Yoga is more than physical exercise; it has a meditative and spiritual core. It is a system of philosophy and practice to yoke the mortal self to its divine nature of pure consciousness. It is not a religion but a path to realization through physical, mental and spiritual disciplines. In our yoga practice we heat and cleanse our body, train our senses, and let go of physical and mental attachments and aversions to our body and thoughts. As we move from asana to asana, focusing on our breath and staying present in each moment, we are brought to awareness in the ecstatic edge of our experience. It turns us inward to face something harder to comprehend. It dissolves the coverings of separation and anxiety that obstruct our realization of the creative force that is ever arising from the center of our being. We learn that happiness is not attached to an outcome or circumstance but something that resides inherently within us based on our peace of mind.
When we are seeking and investigating happiness not found through external pleasures but through peace of mind it becomes evident that it is the absence of the uncomfortableness that we call suffering. Suffering ceases when we have an understanding of life in which happiness is not the gaining of anything but a functioning of our perceptions and relationship that we have towards ourselves. Guilt, blame, pride, worry, and expectations keep us bound in this psychology that our happiness is outcome driven versus the real phenomenon of our attitude. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali provide us with the tools to suppress the activities of the mind. The Bhagavad Gita gives us real-life skills to separate from contact with suffering. I am beyond thrilled to share A History of Yoga next weekend which will delve into these sage wisdoms to live a more fulfilled life off our yoga mats. Lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu.
The Bhagavad Gita, originally delivered in Sanskrit, is a sweeping saga on the epic war about the Kuru dynasty of India translated today in nearly every language. This story of a 3,000-year-old battle is considered a foundational text for the practice of yoga. But how can reading about war lead to inner peace? And what does this have to do with yoga today? The Gita serves as both an ancient story of battle and a spiritual text on the inner struggle for self-mastery and the attainment of happiness through yoga.
The Bhagavad Gita takes place as a dialogue between Prince Arjuna and Sri Krishna who is disguised as his chariot driver, friend and council. The story opens with a scene on the battlefield with Arjuna asking Krishna for guidance. Knowing that by engaging in this war family members and friends will be lost on both sides of the battle line, Arjuna is faced with a personal and ethical crisis. The resulting conversation between Arjuna and Krishna develops into a discourse on the nature of the soul, the purpose of one’s life, and the threefold path of yoga. Scores of philosophers have likened the battlefield of Kurukshetra to the battleground that lies within each of us. Though Arjuna’s conversation with Krishna is deeply personal, it touches on topics of concern to people everywhere that continue to trouble us today.
For students of yoga, the Gita brings to life its foundational principles and methods: discernment, equanimity and non-attachment. By incorporating the yogic philosophies within his responses to Arjuna’s dilemma, Krishna patiently and eloquently teaches Arjuna how to apply them to his life to relieve him from his suffering and to attain eternal happiness. Through hearing Krishna’s examples and allegories, we too learn how to further understand and apply these teachings to our daily lives. With every age, the important words will carry new and expanding meanings but its central teaching will never vary. Join me Friday, June 1st at 6:30pm for An Introduction to the Bhagavad Gita in which we will dive into this deep well which reveals the complete science of yoga and self-realization by refining our understanding and practice of the tools of yoga.
I love yoga because of the way it makes me feel. Breath, movement, focus. Pranayama, asana, drishti. With movement, the oceanic-sounding ujjayi breath is long and smooth drowning out the mind stuff, the citta vrtti. In the pose, it becomes more subtle and everything quiets like the surface water on a lake. I am reminded of those rare days living on the southern California coast when the Pacific Ocean resembled Lake Michigan in the days of my youth and I am humbled. I feel smaller than small, greater than great as the ego settles and comes closer to communion with Self.
Every morning I watch the sunrise overlooking the Tennesse River. Existence, ego, consciousness. Samsara, ahamkara, Purusha. It’s calm glassy surface carried by a swift current fluidly moving everything downstream to the source, the ocean. Nothing stays constant yet everything is the same. Dynamic yet everlasting. There is so much excitement, peace, and relief in the realization that this cosmic manifestation is a chance for our conditioned souls to go back to Godhead, back to home. There is no doubt that the place of freedom– of enlightenment– lies within the infinite palace of the heart within all of us. Persevere on yogis, Namaste.
I attended the Denver premiere of ‘Hare Krishna: The Mantra, the Movement, and the Swami who started it all’ last night at Sie FilmCenter with an enlightening post-screening Q&A with co-director and screenwriter Jean Griesser. The film was a beautiful portrayal of A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and his work in a very tumultuous late 1960’s America. What struck me was that this man began his quest at 70 years of age in a country where he knew absolutely no one and came with absolutely nothing. It was his devotion that fueled his purpose to “offer spiritual wisdom to the people of the world!”
The film takes us behind-the-scenes of a cultural movement born in the artistic and intellectual scene of New York’s Bowery, the hippie mecca of Haight Ashbury, and the Beatle mania of London. I was particularly captivated by never before seen interview footage of Allen Ginsberg and George Harrison. I have always been fascinated with that historical time period, which ultimately led me to the Grateful Dead and turning on, tuning in and dropping out in my youth. What I believe was lost in those times was vibrating at a higher consciousness masked with getting high. To be high is not to be realized. It is a beautiful tool to alter our awareness and reality, also known as Maya, the illusion, opening us to wider perspectives in this transformation. We often look outward in this exploration seeking knowledge and experience, however, the ultimate truth is found going deeply introspective to self-realization. The spiritual path is deep, hard and exceedingly difficult to comprehend for the earthly mind but as Prabhupada says “Krishna consciousness resolves everything. Nothing else is needed.” What a long strange trip it is yogis, Namaste.