“You have been born in this world as a human being to worship God; therefore try to acquire love for His Lotus Feet. Why do you trouble yourself to know a hundred other things? What will you gain by discussing philosophy? Look here, one ounce of liquor is enough to intoxicate you. What is the use of your trying to find out how many gallons of liquor there are in the tavern?”—Ramakrishna
“Increase your capacity. Purify yourself. Acquire that gentle strength within. God will come and say to you, “I want to enter this living temple that you are.” Prepare yourself for that situation. Remove the impurities – and you will find that he who wants to know reality is himself the source of reality.”—Swami Rama
“This body is His moving temple. The sanctum sanctorum is the chamber of your own heart. Close your eyes. Withdraw your Indriyas from the sensual objects. Search Him in thy heart with one-pointed mind, devotion, and pure love. You will surely find Him. He is waiting there with outstretched arms to embrace you. If you cannot find Him there, you cannot find Him anywhere else.”—Sri Swami Sivananda
Just as one thread penetrates all the flowers in a garland, so also, one Self penetrates all these living beings. He is hidden in all beings and forms, like oil in seed, butter in milk, mind in brain, Prana in the body, foetus in the womb, sun behind the clouds, fire in wood, vapour in the atmosphere, salt in water, scent in flowers, sound in the gramophone records, gold in quartz, microbes in blood.
God dwells in all beings as life and consciousness. God is in the roar of a lion, the song of a bird, and the cry of a babe. Feel His presence everywhere.
Thanks! I just decided to lop off some bangs last Saturday. I am always going back and forth with different hair assortments. Any new crystal friends lately?
no new friends of the crystalline kind— just my lithium quartz point pendant which I’m just absolutely in love with. I have eyes for nothing else… that thing is charged! lisa/sweetsynchronicity brought her spirit quartz over the other night though and it got to play with the one you sent me, they were like little twins. cuteness <3
are you really drawn to any crystal varieties lately?
blessings to you as well my dear. enjoy the venus/sun conjunction <3 <3
tonight’s gift, deep in raja yoga, was another ajna-centered sequence. moving at such a glacial pace can be so lovely, and I hadn’t realized how much I missed that meditation in movement, that mindful loving of the physical body that can sometimes lose itself in the effort of a more strenuous practice. in an asana I’d never taken before (apparently from a tibetan lineage) I felt a straight line of energy from my toes to knee to elbow to peace fingers to third eye— the energy was so powerful that I was able to penetrate & touch my third eye. like, fingers actually tangibly buried in the pineal gland. all soft black velvet, all violet halos pulsing in infinitely brighter & greater circles, meanwhile this sweet heart pounding against the ground in ancient cadence—
we took makarasana instead of savasana, which I’ve experienced a lot in this particular path to yoga. in this asana the weight of your skull melts through your folded palms into the tender earth. I came into virasana to finish, my spine one radiant beam of intelligence and light. all awareness on the vibrancy of the sushumna, no longer focusing on each beautiful breath in & out, surrendered wholly to the loving embrace of all that is, coming home, saying yes: this is healing, this is how we heal ourselves. we have only to slow down.
have I mentioned maral creates the most wonderful devotional practice in this neck of the multiverse? can’t speak to any others, being tied physically to this one, but what a gift it is to practice with her, flanked by my best priya friend and my best yogini friend, in a physical body that is blessed with health and strength and flexibility enough to endure the sweet torture (as t called it!) of her infamously long holds of postures others only flow through— like a baddha parighasana that went on for miles, that became at once a prostration to the heavenly ground below us and a prayer to the divinity above & inside— or like an eka pada rajakapotasana that, with that wide stance of front calf that stretched minutes into ancient hours, split our hips apart to receive the impossible humility, stillness, and ecstasy of yoga—
of course I have. and I know I’ve written at length about her kirtan, about her voice & harmonium that bring all hearts together in one divine voice of worship, of celebration as we chant and rejoice in the names of god like so many mala seeds—
don’t think I’ve spoken, though, about the strength of her hugs & the sweetness of her kisses on your cheek, which have become nearly as precious to me as her teaching. and how, when she asks me how I’m doing or how my life is, the only way I can think to answer is with a silly smile & a word like last night’s exciting that says nothing of the joy in my heart. not one iota.
yes, words don’t say much. I wish I could share the grace of this with all of you. I suspect you’ve found it in moments, as well— in other people or in the various and sundry other blessings of this earth & beyond.
(and confidential to you, my love: yes, I used that word again. still counting them. still writing them down, because, as small & meager as the offerings of my words are, each and every blessing, which is alive in each and every particular of this expansive and infinite everything, alone deserves all our awareness and all our praise, praise, praise)
yesterday we at the coast were blessed with the best sky— blue as lapis, luminal, spattered with clouds billowing in all shapes and colors. autumn at last!
we walked from my place, a block from the cliffs that roar with the rolling surf below, up what felt like a small mountain to attend a beautiful yoga class at zoe lane’s home studio. there are no words that could describe the beauty of her home and of our practice that afternoon. but here’s one: luminous.
and maybe four more: quartz crystal singing bowls!
we practiced in a small room facing her garden, which presented us with hummingbirds and wind chimes, and the ocean itself, which from so far away felt still, silent, alive with the essence of blueness, perfect since the first part of our practice was devoted to the blueness that lives within the visuddha, which grew & grew with each asana, pranayam, each touch of the singing bowl, each wave folding in on its ocean self—
the second and third parts explored first visuddha & ajna together, then ajna alone.
at once all was brilliant indigo.
the third-eye singing bowl? even before she told us which was which, when I heard that tone I felt my whole head pulse with a heat I could only describe as astral. with a color I could only describe as cornflower. it was louder than anything, there in our heads— a sonic bloom.
it was a brilliant practice— slow, deliberate, graceful, light on asana (we practiced maybe ten, all together, using each to open either the throat, the forehead, or both), heavy on colors, and on the white light they make as one.
all was full of light.
in final meditation we luminesced together, the four of us, our causal bodies alight with the sound of it.
after: more raspberry leaf tea. more beautiful laughter. more beautiful hummingbirds coming to rest on the citrus trees. on the walk back down the hill, sunset over the water.
I’m used to her soft little grunts of happiness, but in the last couple days yoshimi has started quacking exactly like a duck— loudly! she does it whenever she’s running around, playing, or jumping on my chest. it’s so weird and awesome living with an animal.
“In order to ascend to the pinnacle of the spiritual unfolding, we must first learn to descend down to the roots of primal unity. We must learn to trust our bodies totally and acquaint ourselves with the wisdom of the body, and live in our body fully. This allows the hidden wisdom and the mystery of the primal wisdom to play the most fundamental role in the development of our spiritual potential.”—Yogi Amrit Desai
I’d been curious for some time, and all the classes I’d taken that had been labeled ‘astanga’ seriously strayed from the tradition, so today I was psyched to try a ‘real’ astanga class. in the tradition of sri k pattabhi jois of mysore, india, students follow a strictly set series of asanas, which takes roughly 90 or 120 minutes to accomplish. once you’ve learned the progression of poses, you practice them at your own pace & rhythm, without being guided by an instructor— hence if you’ve peeked into a mysore class or watched footage of astanga yoga, students practicing together are nearly always in completely different poses & flows.
we did the primary series today. (here’s a chart if you’re curious!) it was really interesting to follow this procession so precisely— I can see how certain personality types would really thrive with this kind of structure. (bikram anyone?) once a student has significantly mastered the primary series, their teacher may initiate them in the intermediate series, which they must then also master in order to move on to more advanced series. in a way, it’s a really classic way of teaching, right? you receive new knowledge only when you’ve fully integrated what you’ve learned thus far. you receive new poses, individually, as your own teacher deems you ready for them. imagine the investment!
some more thoughts:
the astanga invocation is really long.
each asana is held for five long, deep breaths. it really does feel like the ideal amount of time to hold each one to let it do its work.
there is no music.
there’s no teacher-talk about anything other than individual alignment advice, and occasionally (when many students would benefit) a demonstration of a certain posture or transition.
adjustments are very physical. at one point, in triang mukha eka pada paschimottanasana, the instructor had her fingers buried so deep in my abdomen I thought she was going to dislodge my intestines.
inversions can only be practiced in the middle of the floor and not anywhere near the wall. if you use the wall, you’ll never leave the wall. a valid observation! nobody attempted any handstands.
a lot of the alignment advice I received was very different from what I’ve learned before— especially different from the universal principles of alignment taught in anusara. I wonder if this is teacher-specific or if it’s because these schools are drawing on different source materials— the astanga method is derived from the yoga korunta, whereas the yoga practices I’ve learned have all derived from the hatha yoga pradipika & the samhitas.
my back hurts.
a very interesting experience, and I definitely learned a lot. but I think I’m going to be taking the advice of jois’ daughter, saraswathi rangaswami:
Something that is very important is to learn one method, from one teacher and not to learn many methods at the same time with many different teachers. That will be confusing. Try until you find a method and a teacher that you like and stay. If you like B K S Iyengar then practice his method. If you would like to learn ashtanga yoga, go to Pattabhi Jois and so on. Chose one method and one Guru. That is my best advice.
I think that’s why I choose to branch out at all these days— it’s a beautiful reminder that I’ve already found my own personal path. it’s wonderful to walk a mile or two in another, but a thousand times more wonderful to know where your heart is, and how to walk it home.
tonight’s double-header was astronomical. the stars aligned! this was perfect and that was perfect! first, a brilliant burst of sun-power in bonnie’s vinyasa— incidentally, hers was the first class I tried at this yoga center, back in the heat of summer itself— bonnie, whose bright & commanding words bend you into any asana, each more impossible than the last, with more grace & ease than you can believe. somehow I was able to hold pincha for five long deep breaths without support. somehow I vaulted into handstand as if the earth itself had released all gravitational hold on everything but my hands; and somehow, also, astavakrasana presented itself to my body as a lovely challenge, not a threat.
bonnie, whose dark features and lilting voice, whose amazing latin & south american music and strong om take you with her to some sensual space inside (and yet beyond all space), where all is love— at one point, in an eka pada rajakapotasana II variation (elbow to ground, shoulders open like wings), our hearts offered themselves up like altars, a sacrifice to our own divine energy, held aloft to the only every god within & around. and, at one point, supervising my transition from a bound parsvakonasana to ‘reverse warrior’ she said perfect, then moved along to the next yogi.
and my heart leapt!
bonnie, whose exceptional teaching brought tears to my eyes several times— whose own tears I remember from some weeks ago, when I was working the front desk & she’d left her yogis in savasana to come tell me the reason she was crying: a pregnant couple was in her class. during a final supine twist, the pregnant woman had turned to face her partner, whose face was turned the other way. she had taken his hand, and kissed it. it was a moment of sweetness she couldn’t bear alone. how did I get so lucky? she asked me. my heart leapt then, too.
did I mention we started class in malasana?
yin yoga, later, was the perfect complement. slower & softer, like the moon, but the farthest thing from ‘easy’. nan left us in supta kapotasana for what must have been much longer than the usual five minutes— it went from a pleasant releasing of emotional residues (the hips, after all, being the seat of all of our most hidden feelings) to a great dredging of all deepest darkest remains down there. ‘uncomfortable’ doesn’t even come close to describing that kind of full-body catharsis. nearly everyone in the room was in sighs, or near tears.
but then it was over! (until, some minutes later, it was time for the other side.)
so tonight, I find myself also wondering how did I get so lucky? of course we count our blessings every day, but sometimes it kind of just blindsides you. how everything could be so lucky and so sad and beautiful and so perfect at the same time, all the time— this cosmic lila we take so seriously in most moments, when we should be laughing, in tears, in love with it all in every moment, thanking our lucky stars.
here at the coast, when it rains, it pours. all day it’s been pelting our little seaside lives with thick silver pellets, spilling in cold silver rivulets over every surface, including the ocean itself.
on my way to the studio it shrouded mountains, ocean, sky evenly, equally. even insouciantly. made rivers where there were none.
the studio was divinely hot, the heat rushing out of the vents onto our bodies to make them sweat rivers, oceans, to make rain, our vinyasas like a dance to pray for it, for our hearts’ strong lights to move over its surfaces with great pleasure and happiness.
on this rainy day, my favorite asanas are those that build heat: parivrtta ardha chandrasana, parivrtta parsvakonasana, pincha mayurasana; those that hold heat inside: parsva bakasana, eka pada galavasana, koundiyanasana; those that open the heart like a beautiful gift to the sky: pasasana, svarga dvidasana, natarajasana, camatkarasana; and those that yield the body with utmost sweetness to the longing ground: parsva dhanurasana, salambhasana, ananda balasana. and that’s a short-list of all that was so lovingly explored today. wow— it’s a rare teacher who gives you so many beautiful poses! and with such sweetness and support, too.
in the final supine series I was transfixed by the patterns of the rain falling onto & moving across the hemispheres of the skylight directly above me, like tears on a face, like a dance only I could see, like tiny rivers of cloud-light cooling, coming to rest after their earthward dive. submerging, merging with the streams as they head in unity to sea, then back to sky.
it’s such a consummate pleasure to practice yoga with my lover— looking over in the midst of a hot & heavy vinyasa sequence to see his body working as hard as mine to embody the asanas; how sweetly his eyes closed as he pressed his forehead to the ground in utthan pristhasana, in eka pada kapotasana, with such reverence for the earth mother; laughing in visvamitrasana (wow— it’s been too long!); watching his toes float in mid-air close to mine in sarvangasana; facing him in sirsasana, our eyes smiling at each other as we stood on our heads like mountains— what a delight— and what a beautiful final meditation—
happiness is only real when shared—
on a less sentimental note: wow, it’s been too long! as nice as it was to take a break from classes over such a magical weekend, my home practice is obviously lacking. I practice the asanas I feel like practicing, which don’t usually (ever) include any virabhadrasanas. so, wow. it’s hard to come back to your own strength, it’s best just to stay there.
“winter by spring,i lift my diminutive spire to
merciful Him Whose only now is forever:
standing erect in the deathless truth of His presence
(welcoming humbly His light and proudly His darkness)”—ee cummings