Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Aparigraha


Aparigraha has us ask the question: What is enough? Will we ever feel that we have and ARE enough and stop grabbing at things and trying to be "better" than others? Can we stop comparing? How?

As you go through your day are you constantly assessing your worth against what others have? You would not be alone. This is a common and dangerous cycle that simply has no ending. If we judge ourselves this way we will never be happy.  It will always appear that someone has more or seems to have more money, power, beauty talents, etc, than we have. Envy and disappointment will stress us and cause illness and sadness inside.

What to do? How do we know how we are doing if we don't look at how others are fairing? Is there another measure of our success?  I believe there is. In fact, I believe our very ability to be satisfied is a true measure of success.  Otherwise what do we want all these THINGS for except that we think they will make us finally satisfied. We get a new toy and for an instant there is happiness, but it is superficial at best. Days or weeks later the feeling is gone and we need something else to bring us that rush of joy and satisfaction. This cycle never ends. To find lasting happiness we must probe deeper. What is the acquisition of the object giving us? How can we find that feeling by going inside instead of looking to some outside source to fill the void? What is inside we know we can rely on. A car, a position, even a compliment may not always be available to us, but the beauty and truth inside is always there if we only look for it. Go there when you hear the mind chatter begin to become envious.

Say "I am enough" and press your thumb and pointer fingers together each time jealousy creeps up. In time you'll create a new mental pattern.



Many people question how one can be satisfied with what they have and still keep the drive to do their best work. These are not mutually exclusive.  In fact, they are separate topics all together. Your work is your dharma. If you are doing the work in life that you were sent here to do, whether that is baking cakes, cleaning floors, or counseling, you are on the right track. HOW you do is more important than WHAT you do. Again, HOW, over WHAT. Whatever your work is you should do it best you can and with out attachment to result, meaning you should not teach a certain way because you hope to be nominated Teacher of the Year. You should teach THE way that is the best way to teach your students the information at hand for the reason that it is the best way to convey said information, stepping away from the desire for recognition or reward. This is harder than it looks. It often seems to us that we want nothing in return and yet an unconscious desire is there that buds and bursts out years later as deep resentment. To avoid this we must do the great internal work of discovering our doubts and confronting why we feel we need outside recognition to feel we are valid. We must sit with the FEELINGS that come up and be with them, observing till they change or diffuse. There is no permanent change and release from the pain cycles until we go to the FEELING VIBRATIONAL level. That is why physical yoga practice (asana) is important. It releases tons of held emotion.



From Brahmacharya we get immeasurable strength.  From aparigraha we come to understand the why  and how of who we are.  Aparigraha is non-possessiveness, non-attachment, non-hoarding.  From taking nothing but what is necessary we are free to explore and realize the truth of our existence.  Each object we own occupies a space in our minds.  A new fancy object may take up lots of room. Acquiring a car brings with it the worry of a scratch on a city street.  A new dress may fill our minds with thoughts of rips and stains. Was it the right car/dress to make the statement we desire? Should we have spent the money on something else? How will we care for our new item? What will others think? These are just some of the churnings that may occupy our minds after a new purchase. These and others pull us from deeper focuses such as life purpose and bonding with The Divine.

Coveting is endless and demonstrates an insatiability inside of us.  We can counter it by recognizing our own unique internal beauty and by practicing gratefullness around what we've been given. After all, as we're wishing we had another's attributes, someone is out there envious over ours. Why not end the cycle and give thanks? They can see what is desirable in us.  Let us turn inward and see it as well. 


*** Share your thoughts on Aparigraha on Instagram. Tag us at @landyoganyc and hashtag #alleightlimbs to win a unique prize 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Brahmacharya



"On being established in celibacy, vigour is attained."

If you were aware of even the tiniest sliver of your power, you'd be established in Brahmacharya.  You are energy. Every act you take, intentional or non ripples for eternities. Every intention you have whether you act on it or not bounces through the universe shaking everything in its path.  You are magic. 

To practice Brahmacharya means to walk in the path of the Creator. 

To live Brahmacharya means that each expression of your energy is perfection. No waste. No misdirection.  (See why we can't call ourselves yogis? This practice is HARD!)

There is a downward current of energy that is naturally occurring in our human experience in this world. Think gravity, digestion, blood flow.  The aspiring yogi is not concerned with "going with the flow" (a common misconception) but with reversing this downward pull and moving energy upward. Using Mula Bandha, Pranayama, and other techniques, we create a dam and harness the energy of this current redirecting our energy upward and outward toward unification with the Divine. 

Sound heavy?  In some ways it is. But as with all aspects of the yoga practice, we are advised to move slowly and consistently towards our goal.  Especially with Brahmacharya, the practice should feel natural and gentle and not at all forced. Whenever we speak of an aspect of the yoga practice we are mean to acknowledge its expression in thoughts, words, and actions. It's important to point out that this remains true with the practice of Brahmacharya.  Any restraint in action that causes confusion, anxiety, or any mental frustration is not correct implementation and is moving AWAY from yoga.

So, what does it mean to be a Brahmachari? For the monk, this practice is celibacy and restraint from thoughts, words, and actions which are sexual in nature. Most of us are not monks, however, so I will concentrate on exploring the practice of Brahmacharya as it relates to the householder.



For the house holder, the interpretation is more complicated.  This yama is requiring that we be wise with our energy especially our sexual energy so that it is focused and we are not depleted.  When we focus our energy in one direction, toward one goal, we see that we become very skilled in that subject.  When we allow distractions to pull our energy and fragment our thoughts, we do not master said subject.  Keeping energy focused and avoiding distractions such as doubt and laziness is one way to practice Brahmacharya. For the aspiring yogi, the goal is enlightenment and all energies should be focused toward union with Divine Energy.  Our sexual energy is very powerful. Harnessing it is one way to do this.

Where your energy goes, you go.  As we begin to understand our true power, our responsibility to ourselves to be careful with our energy also increases.  One of the biggest ways to deplete our energy is by talking. Try not to talk before your asana practice, or too much at all. Practice being mindful of your energy.  Worry and negative thinking also are energy zappers.  So are negative people.  Experiment for even a short time cutting these energy stealers out of your life and notice the immediate boost. You are under no requirement to keep relationships with those who bring negativity into your life. Especially in the early stages of practice, surround yourself with those who lift you and energize your spirit. 



It is important to speak of oneness and loyalty to a single partner when discussing Brahmacharya as well.  Just as with hobbies, jobs, and tasks, we find that when we commit to the right partner, energy is increased.  When we focus on a single partner, the energy created through the partnering actually fuels back into the individual, so not only does one not lose, one gains.  Contrast this with the loss of energy which occurs by taking multiple partners and the choice is clear.

Misuse of sexual energy is big temptation and common trap even amongst the greatest of practitioners.  Remember that simply refraining from wrong doings in the physical sense is not enough to satisfy the conditions of Brahmacharya.  Using sexual energy in thoughts or words to manipulate others to give us status, comfort, ego boost, or recognition is a misuse of our very powerful selves and should be avoided at all cost.  Looking closely you will probably observe, however, that this occurs all the time even in some seemingly platonic arrangements. Avoid misuse of sexual energy by focusing strictly on your work. Put your energies there and take ownership of your actions.  Look to yourself and to The Source for moments when you feel lacking, not to other beings.

We are living in a time of extreme lack of commitment.  There are so many choices that most find themselves afraid to make one for fear of missing out on another.  Sadly when we try for a bit of everything, we really end up with nothing.  Having a personal mission statement and checking frequently (every six months) that our energies, decisions, and commitments are supporting our larger life goal is the best way to stay on track and avoid projects, people, and situations that rob us of our energy and purpose.  Discovering our true life purpose and how to continuously moving toward it is what we do in my Train Your Brain Workshop.  I share this work locally and abroad to help individuals as well as communities meet their goals.  Invite me to your city or join me for my FREE session this September at the Harlem Mind Body Soul Conference.  I will be posting exact details on that shortly on the Land Yoga site.

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Understanding Brahmacharya in its many interpretations is the goal of our Instagram challenge this month.  As always, I hope you will participate.  Each contribution enhances the conversation and opens us up to learning more from each other.  Keep your eyes open. I will be sharing some personal discoveries about the practice of Brahmacharya in my life. 

Here are the guidelines: 

*Nominate THREE friends to join you in posting on the subject of Brahmacharya (At least ONE of your followers must participate for you to be considered for the final prize.)

*Post THREE times each week quotes, pictures, or video on the subject of Brahmacharya.  Could be related to Focus, Commitment, Energy, Sexual Responsibility, Keeping on your personal mission statement, Conserving energy in asana or anything that inspires you on this topic.

*EACH POST MUST TAG @LANDYOGANYC and hashtaged #alleightlimbs.

This is a very important conversation for us to have. I look forward to sharing more on my personal experience with this yama and to hearing from you as well.