12 January 2018

who am I?

                   Image result for hafiz poems of the divine

 If not.... what then?

Continuing on from my previous post about what mindfulness is not. What is mindfulness if it is not being established in my sense of self, the self whom I believe to be "me"?

Firstly.... if we look at our "mind" in a different context, we can sense (and hopefully realise, in time), that what we believe to be our mind is generally what we believe is who we are. As though everything to do with our life is all pushed into this mythical area of Being. As though we are all of our thoughts, all of our beliefs, all of our wants and dislikes. And including our body. And this, for many, is the personal identity. It is, for many, what defines oneself.

And when I started my yoga spiritual journey, these were my beliefs, my reality, too.

But, to go back to what we think of as mind, and ourselves, is that really all of our mind - the personal sense of identity from thoughts, and also our feelings? In the vast arena of "mind", there is so much more... and it is that so much more that lets us realise that we are not just the sum total of our physical body and "mind."

How do we come to have the realisation that we are not just the above? Can anyone do it?

The Quest to find My Self

Everyone can come to this realisation. For me, it started when I was young with The Quest To Find The Self. I had read books by an american yogi, Richard Hittleman, who brought yoga to millions via television, and books. I read one of his later books, where he repeatedly talked about The Self. I, of course, had no idea of what he was talking about. But I wanted to know. It became a big question inside of me: "what is The Self"? I didn't try to read about it, because I honestly could not understand the yoga philosophy and terms. But the question remained, and I would frequently ask myself: "what is The Self?"

The years went by, with me still pondering the Big Question. With no answer. I did not know during this time, that having such a question is part of Jnana Yoga, the yoga of knowledge. And that behind each answer to such a question, lay an answer, then another answer, then another.... the answers to such questions go far beyond what we can imagine. Within all this, my quest, the aim was to come to The Self.

I found on my journey, that The Self is just part of the spiritual equation of whom we are. It is not the Holy Grail. Just as the little ego, called ahamakara in yoga terminology, that sense of believing that we are our thought and feelings, that they are what matters, is not the Holy Grail of The Self, either. For ahamakara, and also the chitter chatter of the mind stuff, the thought, beliefs, likes, dislikes, are just part of a larger picture of our manomaya kosha, our "lower mental" body (as opposed to the sublime states of very deep meditation and samadhi /enlightenment) and are just part of the vessel, the container, that we call "mind", "Ourself".

seek the answers for yourself

When one asks: "how can this be?" "Is this true?" "What is she talking about?", then I would always say: seek answers for yourself, seek the truths that people proclaim. Then you fill find out for yourself, whether or not they are true. Then they will be YOUR knowledge, your own truths.

whatever we know, there is always more......

But know this: on my journey I have found that whatever I thought I knew, whatever awakenings I have had, there is always more. If you keep this humbleness, that although you may have had great awakenings on many levels, it's always nothing compared to the greater truths to follow.

When I started learning from a Tohunga (Maori spiritual teacher and healer), I realised that for all of my knowledge.... it was nothing. I had to stop trying to match up what I was learning with what I knew from my spiritual yoga journey. For, with the yoga, I had searched for the Self, and gone far past it into more celestial realms. And, I had long known that whatever I knew... there was so much that I was unaware of. But with the Maori deep spirituality teachings, we started with Creation, then the lineage down through the Gods and the roles of the Gods (and Goddesses too) to the spiritual creation and existence of oneself. So it was the reverse of what my journey had been.

Whereas before, I had been having an ascending spiritual journey reaching for The Divine, now it had become a spiritual odyssey, descending from The Divine.

19 December 2017

mindfulness & it's difficulties

                             Image result for mindfulness quotes images

I have been reticent to broach the subject of mindfulness...

It has become the new Holy Grail of the affluent parts of the world, and the new Holy Grail of spirituality.

But is it? I think not. Interestingly, some yoga teachers who have experienced the Deeper States of Being, are a bit derisive of mindfulness, whereas there are yoga teachers (whom I personally suspect have just scratched the surface of Deep Spirituality), who like to teach and preach mindfulness. After all, that's what it's all about - right?

It seems that there are a few 'understandings' of what mindfulness actually is.

Awareness of.... everything

One is to be aware of everything. Absolutely everything. What you are experiencing through the senses: seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, any physical feeling such as the wind touching you. Plus what you are thinking, and what you are emotionally feeling.

All at the same time. Total information overload.

This is simply too much to process at once, and I have seen people who have learnt mindfulness technique in this manner, get completely overwhelmed and distressed. I feel that it is damaging: it contributes to a restless and worried state of mind.

Or, awareness of your thoughts

There is also the mindfulness technique whereby one is aware of their own thoughts mostly, but also feelings. I have seen people get very distressed by this. Why?

It is helpful to understand that out minds are always busy. It simply is not possible to be aware of all of our thoughts. and to give serious credence to everything that you are thinking (and also feeling) Although I always noticed how the emphasis until recently, in the yoga world, including the Big Ashrams of India, was to do with being aware of the mental activity.

Over decades of being involved with yoga, I soon began to feel that this also made people disturbed, and yes, I too bought into it for a few years. But when I looked around me, and at myself, I started to get dis-quietened at what I saw and felt.

I saw people, myself included, have great problems with being disturbed by lots of thoughts, and I can tell you that focusing on your thoughts... makes more come... faster. Again, agitated brain wave patterns, which make us restless.

"To block the patterns of consciousness is yoga": Patanjali, 2nd sutra.

How can we block those mental patterns of consciousness? When our minds are agitated, our thoughts go around and around, like sad little mice running on a wheel, unable to get off.

What is a quick, easy, yogic way to do this? We are after peaceful brain waves ... caused by the slowing down of the mental and emotional fluctuations. Which then gives us space. Space between the "bits" of mental activity. And a quietening of the emotional fluctuations.

To put it simply, this mental activity ranges from agitated with lots of thoughts, through to lesser mental activity, and corresponding states of peace and happiness. Our feelings can range from intensely difficult through to sublime happiness.

How to slow down our agitated mind

The quickest, easiest, method of quieting mind and emotions, is to be aware of the breath. Then start to slow it down. Counting the breath is often helpful, especially when you count backwards, as this automatically takes our main brain activity away from a disturbed area, to the pre-frontal cortex where we have more discernment.

Other tools with the breath, are to completely relax on the exhale. The exhale can be longer or about the same count, as the inhale.

And then bring in a minute pause after inhale and after exhale, so that the breath is held in, or out, during the small pauses. This is miraculous for creating spaces between the thoughts, and also for calming the emotions.

More to follow on mindfulness......                                       



1 December 2017

Meditation and Pranayama

                                   Image result for meditation

A lovely breathing and meditation practice

This post is in response to some facebook comments about my previous post, in particular, about meditation, where I gave a link to a breathing and meditation technique in my blog.

The practice in this link is amazing for combining pranayama (yoga breathing practices) and meditation, in one technique.

Why is it so amazing? For several reasons:
  • it quickly quietens the mind. Anyone who has tried to meditate with one's mind going at a frantic pace, will know how difficult it is to meditate under these conditions. 
  • it balances the flow of breath in both nostrils. The technique causes the breath in both nostrils flow in unison with each other.
  • our mental faculties focus. Our mind stops wandering.
Why do we need our mind quietened?

I feel that there is a great deal of misunderstanding about The Mind. It seems to have become The Holy Grail of Yoga.  But, what most perceive of as their mind, is but a small part of the different layers, realms, and aspects of what we can put under the Umbrella of "mind".  Suffice to say, that when the mind is restless, our brain waves are moving through the brain in a way that we cannot relax. We cannot come to one-pointedness as one should be in meditation.

But mostly, there is identification with everything that we perceive of as "oneself": our body, our thoughts, and our feelings. Plus our likes and dislikes. Although all of these are part of our human journey in a lifetime, they are only a small part of oneself, and they obscure our Higher Consciousness. They obscure our True Self.

                   Image result for meditation

Why do we need the flow of breath in both nostrils to be in unison?

Each of our nostrils relates to a brain hemisphere:
  • left nostril   - right hemisphere
  • right nostril - left hemisphere
Each hemisphere usually has different functions. There are always exceptions. And generally, one nostril is predominant at any given time, usually for about 90 minutes. Each nostril flow also has different functions.

                                 There is a third, most important nostril flow.

And when both nostrils are flowing in unison, this is when the third flow takes place. This third flow automatically happens when we are deep in meditation. So, to get this going before meditation, means that we have a "head start" on going deep into the Inner Realms. It is a very relaxed, highly energised state of being.

                                Image result for meditation

Where does this energy come from?

Mainly, it comes from the life-force, the prana, within the breath. But a big secret is that, when you are  easily able to slip into the Deeper Realms, your spiritual energy seems to increase when you are in those realms. Actually, it is these realms that we have that energy, that energy already exists inside of you, hidden. 

But we do need, for quite some time, to do something that helps us, in meditation initially, to build up the prana. Our brain is working when we are meditating, and it needs fuel. The two most important fuels are oxygen and water.

Initially, we do need extra oxygen supplies, for prana, to enable us to move into the different realms of our being, in meditation. Over the years, one becomes able to slip in and out of the meditation state, without extra oxygen.

The best thing to do, to build up prana, is breathing exercises. Most of them are specific, they have specific purposes. But if you can only do one, do the one that we have been talking about above, or, the alternate nostril breath.

Why do we need our mental faculties to focus?

Surprisingly, our brains use up more energy when our minds are drifting. Although there can be a lot of drifting in meditation, having awareness is the goal. I hesitate to use the word mindfulness, because true meditation is by far above and beyond the parts of mind, that are used for mindfulness. Mindfulness also utilises the senses, whereas the State of Meditation does not. One is in a state of sensory withdrawal, that is to say that the senses are inactive during real meditation. However, this can take a while to happen, and doing a meditation practice regularly, is the way to get us there.

Personally, I do know that the correct way of breathing in meditation will get you great results from your meditation practice. For those who don't know how to do this - try mindfulness, if you know how to do it.

13 November 2017

On being a yoga teacher

                           Lotus, Natural, Water, Meditation, Zen

about me......

I've taught yoga for most of my life. I still do. By choice, I did cut down on the number of classes that I taught each week, a few years ago.

Because teaching classes, which usually means physical yoga, postures and relaxation, is not what I am about, as a yoga teacher. I did that for years, and of course, I still do teach that way. Because that is what people want. And it makes sense to follow what one's clients actually do want.

But my forte is very deep spirituality, which, I must confess, is not what most people are looking for. And, of course, there is also the misconception that one can just google a subject, read about it, and thereby be an expert on it. Which is not how we really gain true knowledge.

                              Image result for royalty free yoga photos

now about you.....

If you are looking for work as a yoga teacher and you want to teach, for example, advanced pranayama (breathing practices) and strong meditations, you need to do three things. It might not be strong pranayama and meditations, it could be flow yoga, Iyengar yoga... whatever.

first steps for specialising in yoga:
  • go and learn from someone who knows their subject well. It just isn't the same learning out of books, or using you tube. I have listened to many 'experts' spouting off about this and that, without them actually walking their talk. 
  • practice what you learn. Regularly. It doesn't have to be a long practice, it just needs to be regular.
                    Image result for royalty free yoga photos

secondly, when you have finished training:
  • get some classes going. Anywhere. It could be at a gym, in a hall, in someone's home, or at a yoga studio. Actually, this is the hard part. It can take quite a while to get classes up and running.
  • never underestimate the value of having to teach in different types of settings. A really good yoga teacher, in whatever area, is able to teach a wide variety of people, with differing needs, differing levels of ability. Teaching in different places will give you skills that are invaluable.
  • for this reason, wait until it's appropriate before you teach your specialty. To be honest, you will never be able to introduce your forte to some people, and that's okay. A good teacher is not dogmatic, and can adjust whatever and wherever. 
  • start at the level that your students are at, whether it is beginners, strong athletic moves, holding poses... whatever! When we want to teach in a specific way, after training, it isn't always possible, so do what's needed, and how it is needed.
  • only teach what you know. Teaching actually increases our knowledge. Be observant as you teach.
  • so the message is... build a good foundation. Teach where and how you can.
  • teach good yoga, and gradually introduce your field that you want to specialise in. Introduce gradually, and slowly. Take your time. Make it enjoyable. For example, use this easy pranayama to introduce both pranayama and meditation. People love this technique, it's so do-able for everyone.
  • If you are wanting to specialise, you do need to be an expert at whatever aspect it is. And the only way to be an expert, is by doing it yourself. Consistently. Learn all the ins and outs.
  • Develop your own knowledge from simply being a dedicated practitioner. This is how one becomes an expert. By doing.
  • live the knowledge. Keep it to yourself, don't boast. People will start to want to do whatever you are doing that is making you happy. We all want that inner essence that comes from spiritual practices.
  • there are a lot of "experts" out there, who actually aren't as knowledgeable as they think. Ignore what they write and say, and keep on practising.
  • start at beginner level, and work upwards with yourself. Some of your students may prefer to always stay at beginner level.
  • learn how to adapt things for your students. Contra-indications. Benefits. What to do, and when to do it. What you need to do, to round things off.
Never underestimate the rewards of practice, dedication, and sincerity. These will serve you well in all areas of your life, not just spirituality.

If you have any queries, please leave them in the comments section, and I'll get back to you.

28 October 2017

Emotions and The Prana Body

                       Related image

                                      (what lies beneath our blocked energy)

prana is needed for all aspects of our life

Definitely prana, life-force, affects our koshas, our body sheaths. And when our physical body is low on prana, we are low on vitality. Our body doesn't work so well.  Prana starts to leave the body before death, so we can assume then, that prana is essential to our well-being, to our very existence.

but it gets blocked

Sometimes, though, prana gets blocked, inside of our body. And this happens to us all. What is blocking the prana? It is our emotions. Emotions are an integral part of our existence. Emotions make us human.

emotions talk to us

We could say that emotions are part of a communication system. Firstly, they are not the only communicators, see here, plus our senses communicate to us too. But, feelings are a more direct form of communication. When we get past thinking that we are a body with thoughts, wants, desires, when we start to accept that it's not just about the little aspect of oneself, then we start to experience the totality of being a human being.

Sadly, this is not often the case in the yoga world. Too much emphasis is placed on whatever one thinks of as one's mind, and too little emphasis is given to how the complexity of the human being, actually works.

Our emotions 'talk' to us, in the form of sensations, and feelings. They are part of the human journey in a lifetime. They are linked to the body, and to more etherial parts of us, as well as that magical part of us which is to do with self-expression in a lifetime.

Our feelings are our friends. They are part of us, but are not all of us. They are always communicating to us.

action and reaction

A basic 'law' of life is that for every action, there is a reaction. And emotions are strongly involved in this.

There is a Morepork (New Zealand native owl) calling as I write this. An action. My reaction is to pause, smile, and listen. I also notice that I am experiencing happiness on hearing the bird's call. Some part of my being is letting me know, via the feeling of happiness, that this is a good, and pleasurable sound. It is a safe sound.

We hear a scream of fear. We react by rushing to see if the person who screamed is alright. We don't even stop to realise that a similar fear reaction has taken place in our own psyche.

In both of these examples, there was an action, and a reaction. Our emotions were involved. In the first instance, happiness, in the second, fear for the person who screamed in in fear. Our senses were also involved, both times it was the sense of hearing.

All parts of us, work as a whole. Each part needs the other.

It is the same with the more esoteric aspects of our being. They too, work together as part of the whole.

And so do our emotions.

sometimes we shut down our emotions

This is a major problem in life, and spirituality, today. We are encouraged to 'be detached', not react emotionally, in yoga. As one progresses along the spiritual path, ideally one should develop more equilibrium emotionally. And yet, more often than not, with the expectations of what is spiritual, we often just appear to have equilibrium, whilst deep inside, our feelings get pushed down, and they hide in the body.

where do the emotions go?

This is where both the annamaya (food sheath) and the pranamaya (life-force sheath) kosha are both affected. Emotions are often stored in our gut, and the less than desirable emotions can start to amplify. Such as sharp pains in the gut, causing digestive upset. The pranamaya kosha is intimately involved with Manipura (navel) chakra, for this chakra is the seat of energy in our body. Not kundalini, but prana. So it can be difficult for the portal to the pranic sheath, at the navel, to open and reveal the prana body., when it is tight with difficult emotions which we have hidden.

what is the true emotion

And yet, the main emotion from that area, the emotion which lies beneath our sorrows and pains, is happiness. Intense happiness. That happiness cannot be a true ongoing state of being whilst our emotions are blocking it.