Tag Archives: yoga

Out of Bounds

Boundary issues are everywhere. How we define our boundaries is one thing; how we defend them is quite another. In this modern age we are seeking to break the boundaries that keep us from living in space. In this world, we find all kind of political turmoil over national boundaries, border disputes, and of course Trump’s Wall. The movement of people displaced by violence has the whole world questioning their cultural boundaries.

Those of us on a spiritual path (a healing path) also have to face this question of boundaries as we work with our students and teachers; and most importantly, with ourselves. Every social interaction faces this question of boundaries.

We typically think of strong boundaries as way to keep people from getting in, but they keep us from getting out. The boundary we put up defines the relationship we have with the other.

As Yogis we are often coached to look in the space between two things. We often call this space “the relationship,” but we could just as easily call it the boundary. I have my boundaries and you have your boundaries; the type and quality of relationship we have depends on how open or closed our boundaries are, as well as on how we approach or cross each other boundaries and the behaviour we exhibit once someone lets us in.

When we speak of boundaries in the healing community we typically use words and phrases like “surrender,” “let go,” “let yourself be vulnerable,” “be open to what the universe has to give;” in other words: “drop all your boundaries!”

From the other side we are told that we are boundless, we should forget everything we think we know and just follow our heart. There is often the assumption that acting like an idiot is acceptable if we are following our hearts (or “living in the moment” as we say). Since it was the divine voice of God commanded, go forth and act like an idiot, we expect to be absolved of personal responsibility.

Modern Tantra is especially vocal about dropping boundaries and the beauty of living spontaneously. It’s also known to be very dangerous since the mix of openness and spontaneity on one persons part is an opportunity for the other to conquer new territory unimpeded and later say that is way given to me them.

This is how the CIA and George Soros “make democracy” and spheres of influence and ultimately destroy countries, cultures and peoples lives. Even when they are preaching peace, love and belonging they are really only looking out for themselves.

It’s not so different from the toxic addictions that seem to alleviate our suffering but really only cast us more deeply into it.

We hear similar stories of toxic healers, Yogis and others who use their position and their skill to drop peoples boundaries so that they can manipulate them for their own benefit.

Manipulation is an ugly word, but it’s not the problem. We stay alive thru this manipulation. Just think of the baby screaming to make momma change the diaper or give some food. That’s emotional manipulation at its finest. The problem is when one acts for their own benefit without consideration or concern for how it will truly affect the other.

Manipulation is just an ugly way of talking about the diplomacy and negotiation that is on going between people and our numerous light bodies; each with their own boundaries and border controls. These boundaries maybe undergoing subtle changes moment to moment; person to person. Mostly we don’t notice this going on, it all happens fairly naturally and most people respect each other’s boundaries. But of course it’s not a perfect world.

Most of us are still fighting battles with this world, blaming others, pointing always at the other as a source of our misery when it’s our personal patterns, habits, mental narratives, and expectations that are the root causes of our suffering. All of these little things build up and define our boundaries.

Boundaries in themselves are not bad. Healthy boundaries actually empower us; it’s the unhealthy, unconscious, unrealistic boundaries that cause problems in our lives that leads us to seek healing.

Almost every human what’s more from life somehow. We want to expand our boundaries to include more land (more material prosperity), as well as our emotional boundaries to feel more vividly this life, and spiritual boundaries to feel more connected to the universe.

The key to such expansion is awareness. First we have to be aware of who we are. This will take us towards our innermost core. It’s a journey that takes us thru the fields of numerous personal identities. As we stare out the train window we see so many selves passing by: I am this, I am that, this I am, I am until we get to that “I” without a second.

After we have merged with the ultimate (or gone as deep as we can) we come back to a personal identity which has been reborn from a spiritual seed. Every breath cycle is an opportunity to realize such merger with the absolute followed by the rebirth of the individual.

Both sides of this coin represent truth, beauty and an expression of the divine. This is why Tantra says that liberation (moksha) is not a separate matter from enjoyment. Our enjoyment should be liberating in itself and liberation itself should be enjoyable. This does not mean decadent. It means that we want all parts of our universal self to enjoy equally. It means that nothing is isolated.

This is where boundaries get tricky. If the truth is that I am one with the universe; completely unbound then any harm at all that I cause to any part of nature will cause direct harm to myself. This is a spiritual truth suggest a greater degree of personal responsibility rather than the sort of careless way we treat objects and that are easily replaceable.

Such a grand sense of spiritual wonder actually suggest that we respect the boundaries between ourselves and the other to an even greater degree, as a way of respecting ourselves.

When we objectify our external experience, we typically see ourselves in this same way. We typically find some version of the conflicted mental narrative that sets man against nature. This boundary is an illusion and sows the seeds of war, pollution and toxicity. This war has been unleashed against the women of society as much as against Mother Nature herself.

Part 2

Truth and reality represent a similar energy applies to different experiences. You could say that both are representative of the absolute. Truth is The expression of transcendental experience and reality is an expression of immanent experience.

To experience transcendence we must realize ourselves as without boundaries. To experience reality we must realize the individual experience that necessarily occurs within the boundaries of time and space; the individual soul, the human body and the body of nature.

We need to know ourselves both ways: we are timeless, but we have also chosen to experience time by thru various limitations.

Being aware of different ways that we perceive time will help us to understand our limitations and who we are in this life and what is our path.

The linear experience of time allows us to logically understand our life: where we came from and where we are going. This allows us to make sense of our experience, and set expectations. When our expectations are too high we find much disappointment; when they are too low, we sabotage our own growth. We should work hard to find the balance in this so that what happens in the future in pretty much what we expect. This sort of time we experience in short duration. Today I have one story about who I am and tomorrow that story has changed, even just a little bit. The experience of time on this level is not absolute truth, but it should be more or less in accord with reality. This works thru our short term. This is one way of knowing the self.

We also experience time thru timeless emotional impressions. This is just the opposite of the mundane stories we are constantly changing and revising and telling ourselves in order to understand reality. These emotional impression have a very strong influence on our linear understanding of ourselves but the impression is often from a different time, maybe a different life-time. Mostly we recognize this thru our subtle gestures we make with our body (the way we hold ourselves) as well as thru the emotional boundaries and defensive (or offensive) strategies that shapes the story of who we are (linear time).

This is where much most deep transformative healing arts work. We seek to tap into that timeless side of ourselves to find the impressions affecting our present life that are holding us back or are simply inappropriate in some way. Typically it’s merely an inappropriate response to some particular subject. Physically we feel it as allergy; emotionally we feel it as trauma. In either case, the reaction is disproportionate with action; the trigger.

This kind of healing is very delicate since to access this memory with awareness and direct intention we need to drop all our guards despite the feeling of impending threat. We need to do this in a safe environment where there is no actual threat. One needs to follow a deep sense of trust and have that trust reinforced.

Just talking or thinking about a traumatic memory will take us into the past, and despite being no actual stimulus being present the nervous system along with the endocrine system will react to trigger some kind of inappropriate stress response (which brings all of our resources to defend against an enemy from another time).

Talking about these traumas and sharing stories, understanding it all as a part of our story is necessary, but as things fade into the past, we also have to be open to changing the story of who we are. It’s not that we lie, but for simple understanding a single traumatic event is lumped into a broader time frame in life thru which we faced learned from the trauma.

When fire burns us it does no good to try to put our every fire. We learn to place certain boundaries between fire and ourselves so that we can still enjoy the warmth and light of fire without getting burnt.

Many people actually find their life paths thru their traumas by turning them into wisdom. This is transformation; turning poison into nectar.

We also experience time thru change. This is where we measure time and our boundaries are measured by resources: life force, energy levels, moods, physical form, the seasons and all these thing we can see changing from day to day; year to year. We might even measure this time by how for we’ve walked or how much we’ve completed. If we are following our life path, we are typically comfortable here as we focus and meditate thru our work. If we love what we won’t actually think of the time here; we will only see time when we look back at the change or are considering some future actions.

A very important concept of time actually combines our awareness of change with a kind of timelessness that we cannot imagine. When we recognize that we are connected to a whole lineage of universal archetypes going back to some unimaginable beginning of time and stretching into some unimaginable future. Here, we find ourselves repeating the the same archetypical patters expressing themselves in a new time and place. Though this sense of time is eternal here, we are capable of making a plan to change the future. This is where we understand ourselves in our connection with the whole. This is our dharma, our truth, our path in life; that path we have be on since the beginning of time; our universal purpose and how we employ that in society.

This is where we need meditation, silence, deep relaxation and contemplation because nobody can tell us who we are or what is our purpose; we can only feel it and know it for ourselves.

This bring me to the final concept it time. Present time; just being here and now. For this we have to be capable of dropping all other concepts of time. We have to have great trust in God in nature. No thought of the past or the future perfectly at peace until some spontaneous activity is provoked. To reach this state we have to know who we are, what our purpose is and have the necessary skills and health to complete our destiny.

We are beings bound by time. By understanding our place in time and how each concept of time binds is in a different way forming different relationships with each other we can then begin a focused course in self realization that will allow us to empower us with healthy boundaries rather than victimizing us they our subconscious patterns.

Ideology

4a1f5-dsc_1055-version2-2009-12-20at09-55-19The main project of yoga is to ground us in reality so that we might be aware of the experience of truth. The truth is now; in the present moment. There is not other reality. The past and the future are merely mirages in the distance. We cannot be sure of either, though on some level, everything that takes form in nature or in our minds has some level of truth to it. As yogis our task is to recognize the truth and keep our awareness fixed there.

This is one of the primary differences between what I would call authentic yoga and and inauthentic yoga; between modern branded yoga and traditional lineage yoga. This is the difference between idealism and reality. You cannot get to reality thru idealism; that’s the first thing that needs to be dropped. Ideology is the mask we hide behind; a popular belief we profess in order to avoid the real work of unmasking ourselves so that we might recognize reality. We cannot even begin to see ourselves thru ideology for it only reflects our fears.

Reality is here and now, naked and vulnerable; a lamb before god. Once one understands that we are always and everywhere at the mercy of time and space, then we can rise above the fear and trembling that keeps so many cowering and gasping to their ideals like a tattered security blanket unable to face the natural rhythms of life and death.

The Ground of Yoga: Why is yoga different from everything else we do?

What is the ground of Yoga? What is it that makes yoga unique and special setting it apart from all the other activities we perform on the course of the day or throughout our lives?

According to Patanjali, Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind.

yoga cittavrtti nirodaha

Thru tradition we are advises to ground ourselves in our practice in a similar way.

Om shree ganesha namaha

Any kind of spiritual exercise begins with supplication to Ganesha, famous as the remover of obstacles, and our mind being the biggest obstacle to spiritual realization. The little rat (rodent) he uses as a vehicle is always chewing like the mind. You’ll also see his image or some symbol relating to him at the entrance ways of temples and some homes.

 

A fairly famous way of opening into a spiritual practice like yoga and meditation goes like this:

Om shree ganesha namaha

Om aparvitro pavitrova sharva vashtang

gato o piva yashmaret pundari

kaksham asavantra suchii

Om madhai namaha

Om keshai namaha

Om Rishikeshai namaha

Om pundari kakshan punatu x 3

Om apsarpantu te bhuta, ye bhuta bhuvi sanshitas

ye bhuta vignakartarste nashyantu

Shiva jnana

Om namaha shivaya

After supplicating Ganesha, it goes on to purify the body internally and externally thru supplication to Vishnu the great preserver and operator of the three gunas within the main trinity of gods at the level of Ishwara. After the purification rights (pundari kakshan punatu), we insist that ghosts, latent desires (apsar) and mental impressions of the past be banished from disturbing us from our practice. This will happen by reaching the level of Shiva knowledge (Shivajnana); universal consciousness. So from this we want to practice from a ground of Shiva consciousness.

As we continue our contemplation of the earth tattva, we have to remember that Shiva descended as far as earth and then stopped. He could have descended further, he can do as he likes, thus they say, he likes earth the best. Shiva descends to the most impure gross dense point of earth before making the ascension back thru the tattva.

In this regards, I think of all these people who ask about past lives and such things. If we consider the tattva of tantra, the individual soul exists below the maya tattva, so even our soul is subject to time and the rest, which allows for linear progression and thus past lives. Time, of course takes on a different dimension relative to the birth and death of that soul so when we think about past lives we need to consider that that soul too will make a complete cycle from purity to impurity to purity once again. Such a realization might be the Sankya ideal of kaivalaya for the duality is still there, but Tantra advises to press on beyond the knots, otherwise known as the universal womb, that separate us from from the supreme consciousness, which is the realization of the non-difference between the universal and the individual: moksha; liberation in this life. Patanjali’s yoga cittavrttinirodha is both the the definition of yoga and the means to stopping the fluctuations. We stop (nirodha) the fluctuations (vrtti) of the mind (chitta) by bringing them together in union (yoga). You could say that the project of yoga is to harmonize the mental fluctuations; the cittavrtti.

Going back to the original question of this article, what makes yoga unique. Yoga shares many similarities to creative projects like dance and the arts which also seek a kind of harmony between the artist and the mythical spirits which moves his hand to draw of feet to dance. But there is a subtle. Of course, one could make arguments for dancers at the highest levels reaching a kind of samadhi; but this says little stress, tension and competition that mark the a climb. The truth is that dance very typically has numerous undesirable side effects related to vata and pitta excess and diminished kapha. This is the exact opposite of what yoga is trying to do: cool, calm, lubricate and nourish the body and ultimately the universe. Harmony is something we seek on all levels, but only when we act for something far greater than ourselves or our limited sphere of perception to we strive for yogic perfection: balanced body, balanced mind, balanced spirit.

Sankya will take you to a firm notion of duality, while Vedanta will soften that sense of duality with the Brahman, but will maintain some sense of maya, while Buddhism is said to take you to the void, Tantra is said to carry us beyond the void to the very source of the arising, sustenance, falling away of every mental impression, experience, and the whole universe. I suppose you could say that dance will allow one to harmonize with some few others, Sankya will aid in harmonizing with most others, but only Tantra seeks harmony with the entire universe.

Mike’s Story: Just getting started

d937d-dsc_0216Many people are interested to hear my stories. I’m one of these lucky fellows who have had the pleasures of travel and the leisure for philosophy. I’ve spent about half of the past ten years in India following pilgrim routes and spiritual places; I didn’t intent to, that’s just the way it happened. I’ve spent considerable time in various destinations around the world that have some connection to healing, spirituality and indigenous cultures.

I consider Varanasi India to be my home and I hope to one day own some kind of home/workshop there some day. Sanjay is my brother, his family – my family. I’m the beloved outcaste brother. This is not a negative designation, but rather the reality of the foreign values and western corruption I have brought into their home. I don’t even write corruption in a negative way; but the individuality, lack of traditional values and other things are a corruption of the traditional life still represented so strongly in Varanasi.

Eden Halt

Varanasi is not just a spiritual city. Varanasi also has a strong culture of arts and entertainment. Worldly enjoyment and deep spirituality in one place makes it the epitome of Tantra. Dark and light are equally present in everything here. Looking at many of the spiritual practices that go one here; one might even think that the light, the pure, the sattvic is better represented in the worldly enjoyments (bogha) than the worship (yagya).

Varanasi is famous for many other things beyond culture and spirituality: garbage, shit, pollution, corruption, poverty, mystery, cheating; it all goes on here. Everywhere Varanasi gives off a dark and disgusting image on first look; everyone looks so poor, just covered in pieces of cloth that have never been stitched together. Tourist often ask: “What’s the difference between a holy man and a bum?” Only when we see more deeply within ourselves can we see within others. If you have a holy man within you; you will find one.

The places we choose to live tell a lot about a person. Home and happiness are closely connected. I’m happy in Varanasi. I love all this filth that keeps people away. We don’t need to clean India, or clean Varanasi, or even clean Ganga; the filth keeps the image conscious people away.

I haven’t had a home in Canada for many years. Even when I did have a steady apartment I was constantly on the road somewhere living out of my car, my tent, or hotel rooms. I’ve spent time all over Canada in the mountains, forests, prairies; small towns and cities; on the rivers, the ocean, and some of the massive lakes we have in this country.

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I’ve traveled hard, I’ve dug deep to find my inner will power; I’ve pushed hard, broken too many bones, explored every kind of fear and too many emotions and too much pain in every way. I’ve cried like a baby in the face of the most trivial fear. I’ve never conquered my fears; not once. When they come, I feel every bit of them, but what choice do we have but to keep going in life.

Many people think I’m crazy, many others think I am freer than most, living the good life. I think many people imagine their two-week vacations and assume my life follows that pattern. Most don’t know what to think: I’ve been years wandering foreign lands; I’ve become as foreign as the lands I’ve been traveling; an outcaste in my own land.

And I have to argue against being any more free than the next person. We are all free; we just need to cultivate the awareness to recognize it. The limitations of our bodies and minds and our place in time and space are incredible. All of nature limits us in the ways we think we are free, and we are free where we think we are limited. But if there was no nature and thus no limitations what would there be?

Many modern people don’t believe in anything higher than nature. I have no difficulty in believing that nature has tremendous power, but if there is only nature, it becomes impossible to express freedom. Nature is well represented by the movement of the planets that are, from our perspective, in perpetual motion due to the complex balance of various natural laws that are the domain of the modern science.

I come at life as a skeptic, doubting everything and always asking: why? I’ve always been this way. I want to know for myself. You could say that besides the question, “who am I?”, the next main question I’ve spent my life on is: “how am I free.” I can assure you I have not found any evidence of freedom in the material world. I’m sure scientist would agree that we are, for the most part, just carrying out the activity of the natural laws. Hormones triggered in the spring become more dormant in the fall. Our attachments and repulsion are merely chemical and electrical signals in our bodies responding to chemical and electrical signals in the world.

So why am I writing this now? Why not wait until I’m an old man and can avoid the criticism of self-indulgence? Who am I to write some story of my life? I’m certainly no one special. I have not achieved anything that is particularly noteworthy; unless you count my joy of living. And perhaps this is enough these days when so many people are unhappy and feel trapped in their situation; unable to do what they think they really want to do.

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Perhaps I’m at a turning point in life. I feel secure in my spiritual life. It’s not something that comes and goes; there is no struggle to maintain a spiritual outlook despite living in the Canadian cities again. I can safely mingle with the material world without it dragging back into its oblivion. There is actually nothing spiritually negative about the material world, it’s the distraction it causes, making us oblivious to our true nature; bringing our awareness up to the surface of things and making us think that “image is everything” (as one young man recently pointed out to me). As long as we can maintain awareness of that true nature then matter is just another extension of consciousness; a power, or a means for consciousness to express itself.

Anyways, you get my point. I’ve done nothing, yet people are amazed. I have nothing, yet people a jealous and want what I have. Everything I have is inside of me; I can offer with my words and my presence; but what people take from this has little to do with me. I don’t take it personally: neither the praise nor the criticism. Whatever they get from me was already there inside the person; it didn’t really come from me. At best, I’m a signpost; at worse I’m a distraction.

In any case, lets go back to 2007 when I found myself buried in debt and facing a work lay-off with a Canadian winter quickly approaching. I thought about several options: wintering in the back country, throwing away whatever I had left on a week or two in Cuba, living out of my car and perhaps heading to the southern USA. At some point I decided on Cuba and actually made it all the way to the travel agency before suddenly changing my mind for India in the moments I waited for the agent to get off the phone.

I had already managed an Indian restaurant, loosely followed Buddhism, and had dreamt of going to Asia, so, why not? I gave myself five weeks to prepare. These days, five weeks preparation for a trip would feel like a lifetime, but for my first really foreign travel it seemed like an insanely short timeline.

Laying pipe. 2005

Anyways, I was fed up with Canadian culture and society, and I certainly felt like I had more to offer than the physical effort of my construction job. The romance I was involved in was completely dysfunctional from the very beginning, and the truth is that I didn’t know either what I wanted, or what I had to give. Life was pretty much lived without vision. I was mostly too exhausted from work and worry that I didn‘t even have a concept of awareness. Chronic pain was still a serious issue for me then. At the time, I felt more like a passive agent only able to react to what life threw at me. But I can see how it all arose from me. It helped me to forge this sense of personal identity that I am now projecting onto the page and use daily in subtle ways to fulfill all my material and social ambitions. Life is not actually as complex as we make it out to be: our egos are useful in the material world; even the most out of balance ego completes its task. Like children, we don’t have to worry about the many things mother is taking care of, yet we do worry all the time.

So, off I went to India in 2007. It really did blow my mind. It shattered my dreams and made me realize just how small my vision of myself was compared to what it could be (or compared to who I really am). How small was my vision of life?

“When a yogi walks; behind him is nothing, before him is the infinite.”

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How often do we hear people say, “I’m only human,” and then insist on their free will? Can we choose for ourselves or can’t we? Are we free or are we bound? Are we personally responsible, or are our actions the result fixed laws of the universe?

Thank god Indian logic allows us to accept both propositions. We are free. We are bound. We are free, but due to incorrect knowledge, we have, as it seems, chosen to be bound. Too much freedom can be a dangerous thing.

Integrity in Yoga

Yoga was once shared among friends. Someone would wander off to India or some ashram, blowing everyone’s minds in the mean time, and then come back and perhaps start teaching a few hesitant friends in someone’s living room. That was before the Yoga Alliance stepped in to “promote and support the integrity and diversity of the teaching of yoga.”

Yoga had much more integrity before weekend workshops started selling for 500 bucks, before people playing on their SUP boards started calling their balance games yoga, before arm balances became in integral to a yoga practice, and well before yoga got associated with temperatures above 40 degrees and pools of sweat at your feet.

I noticed Mr. Chopra, the famous self-help guru has taken it upon himself to certify people who have likely never read the Vedas or heard of Panini as “Vedic Masters.” I would assume that anyone carrying the title of Vedic Master would have mastered the Vedas. I have Brahmin friends who have the Vedas memorized who would blush if I called them a Vedic Master. Where’s the integrity?

It seems to me that organizations like the Yoga Alliance and the one headed by Mr. Chopra are more concerned with promoting entrepreneurship than yoga. And I don’t mean to suggest that yoga and materialism are mutually exclusive. The Charavakas were hedonists seeking only self-pleasure for pleasures sake (or perhaps as a way of avoiding pleasures opposite), and Tantrics (especially those on the left hand path) are all about achieving their desires. The Tantrics, of course, follow the path of non-dualism, which, if they follow this philosophy to its conclusion will only intentionally harm others to the same degree that they would intentionally harm themselves.

And this is what I see when I look at yoga and meditation and other such things here in Canada and even in Rishkesh of today: everyone is trying to cash in on everyone else. There is no integrity in teachers trainings, they’re just a cash cows. The moniker “yoga” tagged on to the anything that involves movement other than walking seems to be all you need to create the newest yoga style.

Now I understand that one of the benefits of yoga is that ones sense of shame becomes diminished, and Osho, one of the biggest gurus of modern times (now dead) was famous for his lack of shame, but anyone claiming to be able to make a yoga teacher out of someone in a month for 3 grand, or a meditation teacher out of someone over a weekend for 500 buck ought to be ashamed.

Since the Yoga alliance seems to be doing the opposite of promoting true integrity in yoga, I would think it would be up to those yogis (or even discerning non-yogis) who do have integrity to do so, but modern yoga eschews positivism to the point where it’s bad manners to criticize anyone or anything – criticism is so unyogic. But it’s been said that even Adi Shankara was thoroughly berated before he created the ashram style of living and learning, and formulated Advaita Vedanta. Rumour also has it that even Goraknath had a precious amulet tossed into the river by a sweeper-woman who likewise berated him to go find his own power inside and forget about obtaining any sort of power outside of himself.

Some of the main reasons people turn to the path of yoga is to seek truth, to get in touch with their own personal power and to obtain the holy grail of self knowledge; but in the post Yoga Alliance world, image and the right certifications trump truth and knowledge, and seem to have acquired power unto themselves. Where’s the integrity?