Yoda? No, that’s my Dad!

Sanyama: Perceive. Believe. Become.

How old were you, when you began to see the wisdom of your father’s words? And I do mean your dad. The one who raised you and said things that you challenged…I’m certain I was more than 25 when my dad’s wisdom became accessible.

My father

This is the night “yogurt” became “yoda.” That is Yoga to the rest of us…

“And what did you learn from this?” Became a reflection instead of a punishment.

“You are who you hang around.” Altered to be more about my conscious choosing of friends than him not liking my boyfriend.

“Perceive. Believe. Become.” Stopped being a pep talk and has turned into a way of life.

In the 8 Fold Path of Patanjali, the final three steps, when practiced together, are called Sanyama.  Concentration (Dharyana), Meditation (Dyana) and Samadi (Samadi). I really struggle to place a single word translation to Samadi and think it is best described through the complete practice of Sanyama. Some people translate Samadi as bliss but that even takes explanation.

Concentration requires you to place your thought patterns somewhere and work to keep them there.  If you are writing a thank you note to your friend, your concentration is on gratitude and word choice.  Keep your conscious mind focused.

Meditation takes concentration one step further. If your conscious mind is focused without distractions, you can alter your state of consciousness and enter meditation.  Here, the object of the mind’s concentration, gratitude for your friend, is managed by the brain in a totally different way and assimilated deeper into the meditator’s belief system.

Samadi is when the object of concentration, has become the meditation and you reawaken the conscious mind with a new, deep, and profound knowledge. By concentrating and meditating, the brain has changed, allowing you to become the object of your meditation, more grateful for your friend.

Oh Dad. Look at this. My Yogurt… I mean Yoda…. I mean Yoga is a lesson you taught me!

Perceive – Concentrate
Believe – Meditate
Become – Samadi

I concentrate on the love I have for my father. I meditate on the love I have for my father. After meditation, I know and feel how much I love my father. This is Sanyama.

Think about it

Even without the vocabulary of Sanyama, my papa’s theory of perceive, believe, become works.

Perceive you are weak. You will believe you are weak. You will become weaker.
OR
Perceive your strengths. Believe in your strengths. And become as strong as you can be!

Beautiful and dangerous! Can that be true?

Beautiful

Beautiful

This is the view from one of my happiest spots in my home, into the back yard. Our Crepe Myrtle tree has many looks throughout the year, including amazing magenta flowers in late summer. But this look… as the ice is melting off the tree branches… is absolutely glowing in the morning sun light! This is amazing and awe inspiring.

Dangerous!

Dangerous!

Meanwhile, outside the front door, my sidewalk is a serious hazard. It is slippery and anyone walking on it may not stay upright. Yesterday, both my neighbor and I salted both of our sidewalks, hours apart from each other, there was still about 1/4 of an inch of ice covering it.

I could spend many pleasant hours watching the ice melt off the tree, but watching the ice melt off the sidewalk was horrifying. Satya is truth.  How can there be two contrary truths about an ice storm? It created both awe inspiring beauty and horrifying danger. Few things, including you and me, can truthfully be described as just one thing. See an early post on Koshas.

As truthfulness (satya) is achieved, the fruits of actions naturally result according to the will of the Yogi. (satya pratisthayam kriya phala ashrayatvam) ~ Yoga Sutra Chapter 2 Verse 36 from Swamij.com

When we accept all truths, our will can honestly become action.
Truth #1 Ice is beautiful.
Truth #2 Ice is dangerous.
Truth #3 I have to maintain my sidewalks and remove as much ice as possible.
Truth #4 I don’t want anyone to get hurt.

When truth, satya, is acknowledged in all its forms, positive action is inevitable. I chipped as much ice off the sidewalk as possible.

Think about it

What truths are you struggling with?  Once you accept these truths, are there any actions that will result? This is sometimes what people call, “Doing the right thing.”

Take action: I love your socks!

Living your life in accordance to the suggestions of the yamas is about acknowledging negativity in your life and taking action towards positive. Key words. Take Action.  Yoga isn’t just a theory of living but requires us to interact among our thoughts and actions.  I love you socks.

When you have a negative thought, respond with a positive action.  Aparigraha is non-possessiveness. I covet my friend Leah’s socks.  Seriously. They are amazing and I would like to have them.  Instead of holding onto thoughts of desire that may lead to hostility (Why does Leah get to have amazing socks and mine are just white… and kind of dirty?!?), create a positive action.  Tell Leah, “I love your socks!”

This is a small example. What if you covet another’s girlfriend? “I wish that I had Jessie’s girl!”  Know the song? What if you covet another’s job and end up harming someone with your desire to have what they have? Instead of sabotaging the good we see in others through negative thoughts and actions, yoga says to take positive action in our own lives in order to achieve desired results. Attend a training so you are better qualified for the job you covet.  Get involved with a hobby where you might meet someone as amazing as Jessie’s girl.

Actions, not just thoughts.
When you have negative thoughts, respond with positive actions.

Mastery of yoga is really measured by how it influences our day-to-day living, how it enhances our relationships, how it promotes clarity and peace of mind. ~ D.K.V Desikachar

For further reading on the yamas, the first rung of the 8 Fold Path of Patanjali, read the 2nd Chapter of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, verses 29 – 40.

Do Something!

Instead of coveting what other’s have, make a list of all the amazing things you do have.  List tangible items that you value.  List non tangible things  you value in yourself such as you sense of humor or fabulous glasses.  Finally, acknowledge that you have some amazing things and remember to treat them as they have value and be grateful when you use them!

Hari Om, Namaste!

There will be much happy! How to manage expectations.

While hopping on a cruise ship with 25 of my husband’s family members, I looked up at Geoff (my husband) and reminded him of something he often tells me.

Disappointment comes from expectation.

So, we should set our expectations low in order to not be disappointed. This goes against so many things I believe.

Assume the best in people.
Set your goals and aims high, in order to achieve your greatness.
Expect that people will do the right thing.

I was ready to enter a week where the best outcome in my mind was that there would be no fighting or petty squabbling among the family. As a relative newcomer to this group, I really did not know what to expect and I did not know all of the family dynamics. In an unexpected twist of events, after reminding Geoff of his own philosophy on expectations, he looked at me with a suspicious glittering in his eyes and a grin that I couldn’t resist. He responded with.

OH! There will be much happy!

I laughed heartily… maybe at the language choice, but absolutely at the statement. Maybe I had Geoff pulling in my direction to set higher expectations. But if his low expectations were, “There will be much happy…” then this was going to be an AMAZING week! And it was amazing. The trip far exceeded my expectations! We did put effort towards much happy by laughing, hugging, (drinking), water sliding etc. Proof that there was much happy?  A picture says 1000 words!Geoff as a rasta man.

The niyamas are contained within the 8 Fold Path of Patanjali and often called “the rules for living”  suggesting qualities we should cultivate.  My understanding of two of the niyamas used to conflict in my mind and now the two together, rule many of my daily decisions. These sutras are from The Unadorned Thread of Yoga.

II.43 By purification through fiery aspiration, the body and the senses are perfected
Tapas: Fiery aspiration, discipline, effort
II.42 From contentment, unsurpassed happiness is gained.
Santosha: Contentment

If we are content with the amount of effort we put forth, we can never be disappointed with the outcomes.  Taking on this philosophy puts YOU in control situations.  If you did the best you could, then the outcomes can be accepted. If you did not try, or overworked and exhausted yourself, the outcomes might not be what you expect. Instead of being disappointed in the outcomes, adjust the effort you put out.
Think about itAs New Year’s Resolutions approach, think about how you define your resolutions. Are your resolutions about outcomes or effort? If your resolution IS outcome based such as, “I will write a novel” then define the process through effort. I will spend 5 hours a week writing. If realistically, you can only find 5 hours a week to write, you do just that, and the novel doesn’t get finished, then you can be proud of your progress and continue on your path! But if you see the novel will not get finished and you have free time when you do not write, then you are not content (santosha) with your effort (tapas).  Change the effort to a level to where you are content. Does the novel get finished? Does it matter?

Peace is complicated… but everywhere you look!

Context: I gave up on India for a moment and checked myself into a 5 star American Hotel chain and was running on a treadmill with Bon Jovi blaring in my headphones. I realized that while running and breathing (much cleaner air than I had in weeks), I felt alive! Vibrant! And yet peaceful.  How is that possible?  To be so filled with energy and appreciation for the action of life, and yet peaceful.
Explanation: For many years, I tried to make my life fit on a single line continuum with peace on one end and chaos on the other. I felt as if I always lived somewhere in the middle of these two points and rarely ever at peace. Peace is always present. It is in the middle of our being and available if we look for it. We may not always sit in the heart of peace, but it is never far. Among all our other emotions and actions, if we look for peace, it is present!Peace is Complicated
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali explains this phenomenon in the third chapter, verses III.4-7. This translation of the Yoga Sutras is by Alistair Shearer from the book, The Unadorned Thread of Yoga.

III.4 Dharana (conecntration), dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (shining knowledge) practiced together are known as sanyama.

III.5 When Sanyama is mastered, the light of supreme knowledge dawns.

III.6 But, sanyama has its application at every stage of the development of this knowledge.

III.7 It is the heart of yoga, more intimate than the preceding limits.

Explanation of these sutras tells us that we must practice. When concentration on an object (dharana) flows into meditation of that object (dhyana) and then the meditation flows to shining knowledge of that object (samadhi), sanyama is gained as a tool.  Once knowledge is gained, it never departs.  I meditated on God while on the banks of the Ganga and in temples and felt profound peace.  My concentration and meditation on God flowed into a shining knowledge of God.  I can only describe this knowledge of God as a profound sense of peace.

While running and feeling an active sense of life, I looked in my heart and mind and could feel, within the intensity of life, a profound sense of peace!

Application:  Now that the knowledge of God (peace) is present in my life, I can use Samadhi or sanyama as a tool to reconnect with God (peace) anytime I wish.  This understanding of peace in my life provides stability and an ability to let go while practicing non-attachment. As Alistair Shearer translates the sutras, “This is the heart of yoga, more intimate than the preceding limits.”  Connection. Union. God. Peace. It’s all here and this is the goal of yoga. Peace is always in us.  We simply must practice observing it and making space for peace to reside.

Do Something!

Sutra III.6 says it is the application of sanyama at every step that allows the development of the knowledge of peace or God.  We must never stop applying concentration, meditation and samadhi. So get on it!  Shut down the computer and take a few minutes to meditate of the object of your desire. God? Love? Peace?

Hari Om, Namaste

Short questions with LONG answers. What is yoga?

What is yoga?
Yoga, defined is a union. A union between you and all that is not yourself. Modern interpretations of yoga call it a union among mind, body and spirit.

What is the goal of yoga?
If yoga is a union, the goal of yoga is to obtain union.  Think about words that can be both nouns and verbs.  I am going for a walk versus, I walk to the store.  Yoga is a union (noun) but is also the actions required to obtain union (verb). The goal of yoga is to take all necessary actions to attain union.

Why bother with union?
It helps you understand your place in space.  Answers the question, “How I fit within the world we live?”.   Union allows you to appreciate the people around you and live in harmony and I believe that harmony is better than plain old peace.  Harmony is a form of union that allows differences to make the collective more beautiful.

How do you reach this union? 
There are many paths to union.  Wisdom. Devotion. Asana. Deep Faith. Meditation. Imagine these methods as plants in a flower garden of opportunities. You can smell or appreciate the beauty of any one of these flowers individually or as a collective just like you can choose any or all actions toward union.

How do we know these things?
There are many ancient texts that lay out the lifestyle suggestions that will lead you to yoga, or union.  While these texts have survived, the dates things were written and/or compiled are not in a super clear timeline. These five documents are paramount in explaining not just what yoga is, but how to attain it.

    The Vedas
    These are the oldest Sanskrit hymns. They were passed on through oral tradition.

    Want to know what’s cool as a cucumber? It is believed that the author of the Vedas is the great divine source itself! It is information that was simply known and not heard.  Think about that.  Known and not heard. The Vedas include directives about devotional practices.

    Written copies of the Vedas are as old as the 11th Century but keep in mind that the oral tradition passed on the Vedas long before this. Of the four primary Vedas, the Rig Veda is the oldest.

The Sutras
Patanjali gathered existing sutras about yoga and put them into a document of 196 sutras describing yoga.  They are organized into 4 chapters: Concentration, Practice, Progression & Liberation. Patanjali’s Yoga sutras create the knowledge of Astanga Yoga.

What’s super duper amazing about The Sutras?  They contain the 8 Fold Path of Patanjali. I believe these specific sutras offer clarity as to how to do yoga, or live a yogic lifestyle in only 8 simple steps!

Patanjali collected these sutras about 400 AD.

    The Upanishads
    These were written by multiple authors in an era of multiple beliefs. It is possible that the Upanishads were written by different people in order to answer questions that people had about The Vedas and Sutras.

    What’s the most spectacular quality of the Upanishads?  It is the fact that they answer the question “Why?” and provide deep discussion instead of just directions and statements as the Vedas and Sutras offer.The Upanishads gave way to the Vedantic school of thought which states that non-dualistic beliefs bring you closer to a relationship between you (your atman) and God.

    The Upanishads were collected 1100-500 BC.

The Bhagavad Gita
The Bhagavad Gita is an allegory between Lord Krishna and Arjuna and was written as part of the Mahabharata.

Why is the Bhagavad Gita such a powerful story?  The Bhagavad Gita brings together devotion, action and knowledge as multiple paths to union.

500-200 BC is the era believed to be when the Bhagavad Gita was written.

    Hatha Yoga Pradipika
    This is the paramount text about the physical practices of yoga.  No matter the philosophical or spiritual belief, the practices laid out in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika are designed to bring you to samadi or wisdom.

    Super cool? This document is radically different from the others as the approach is physical, not spiritual. BUT, even within that context, meditation is still the ultimate vehicle to finding bliss.

    1400 AD.  Notice that the Hatha Yoga Pradipika is a much younger text than many of the other wisdom texts.

Do Something!
Start reading a wisdom text of yoga. Amazon will sell you a paper or digital copy. You can find text and commentary online. Yoga is not just a noun but also a verb so do something. No half asana!

Hari Om, Namaste