Friday, 17 October 2014

Coming Home - Yoga Sutra II,4

When we practise yoga we are engaged in the process of coming home to ourselves, committing constantly to keep our life's focus on what really matters. 

What really matters is having a kind and forgiving outlook on life, both towards others and to ourselves.  What really matters is acting wisely and creating enough energy within to be able to be available when other people need us. 

The events of our lives - the story - is just the surface matter - in yoga we dive beyond that choppy ocean's surface into the deep and abiding stillness that we always find within.  It's inside that stillness that we discover that we are nothing but peace and love. 

More than this: when we plumb the depths of peace and love consistently in yoga practice, we discover that all of our responses and decisions begin to come from that place and that we cannot help but become more loving and peaceful people as a result, people who are slow to judge and quick to ask instead what we can offer.

Yoga brings us home to who we really are - not mothers, fathers, children, workers, lovers, friends, providers, or any of the other labels we could give ourselves - but just this: human beings living a short life and finding meaning in it through the giving and receiving of love, through an appreciation of beauty, through simplicity and kindness.

Patanjali told us thousands of years ago that our suffering comes from our forgetting that love and peace is who we really are.  He called it avidya, lack of understanding, or ignorance.  And he explained that the way through that wrong-thinking is to practise yoga

Samadhi bhavanarthah klesa tanukaranartasca
The practise of yoga reduces afflictions and leads to peace

Yoga is a simple practice; we use it to strip away the distractions that engross us; and then we set up camp within our hearts and live for it and from it, to the best of our ability and always.

Om shanti x

Thursday, 2 October 2014


My teacher told me that life is full of circles, that we go round and round in ever more subtle circles, further and further inward, ever more profound; she told me that we fall and are crushed, that we emerge from the fall into something like a renewal, that we live for a time in that honeymoon period of new understanding, deeper compassion and growth and that then, once again, we begin to become troubled, confused, the path ahead obscured by weeds, perilous with potholes and befuddled by switchbacks and seeming wrong turns.  Off we go again towards a fall.  The falls can really hurt.

My teacher is a wise lady, considerably older than me; as old as my mother; my teacher stands humbly before a crowd and leads us into the quiet and personal depths of meditation; my teacher shines through the darkness of a fall, sharing the compassion grown in the falling and letting us know that all shall be well and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well, as another great woman told us.

Before the fall there is confusion and disappointment, or anger and dissatisfaction, or loss on a sometimes great scale; the period running up to a fall is characterised in my life by the feeling of struggling against a rip in the sea, battling for all I am worth against the pull, when everybody who knows the sea knows that you don't fight a rip, you let it take you where it wants to take you.  I know that too, and I have seen enough stumbles in my life to know not to be afraid of the falling, yet still I struggle.  Ishavara pranidhana - surrender - so very difficult; so hard to let go of the illusion of control.

In the midst of a fall I have known people to leave off their practise, I don't know why, for I have found meditation during periods of loss and pain to be revelatory; how else do we understand that alongside great suffering there is always, always joy; a deep and abiding joy; how else would we learn that if not by sitting quietly with that which we call Divine moving through us during those dark, dark days.

Then, afterwards, when the ashes of whatever has been lost or has had to change have settled around us and we are ready to begin again, always beginning again, over and over renewing our faith in the process, our trust in our teachers who show us that this must be the way, a sense of clarity and purpose renewed; a conviction that although there has been loss, it has been a kind of scorching of the earth, clearing the way for new and subtler understanding and an ever-widening openness of heart; the kind of heart that welcomes in other people's pain without judgement; the kind of heart that brings forgiveness to others, but also, importantly, to ourselves.

We step forward from blackened earth into colour with our newly cracked-open hearts on our sleeves, our bodies open up and become softer and more yielding, we understand now that only brittle things break: things which are soft remain solid in spite of everything and only softness can comfort those who are in pain.

We have a better understanding now of who we are and what we are here for; we resolve again to stay true to that knowledge.  It is not always easy and we have learnt this by now: people do not always understand, some things must be left behind if we are to move on and there will be parts of ourselves that we have to let go.  But once this is done, we can breathe again, there is space and possibility and we are reassured by our own clarity of mind and by how the road seems to rise to meet us in our new endeavours.

If you understand this blog; if you are on your own journey and this makes sense to, then I hope you find encouragement here.  None of it is in vain.  We are walking up a mountain together, each of us is following a different trail, but all paths lead to the top.  If you are roaming the foothills lost, know that others have been there before you and have made it through; I am sorry for your trouble, but I would not rob you of it, because I know what it has to teach you if you are willing to learn.  If you are reading this, then you are willing.

Namaste x