Thursday, September 4, 2014

100 Years of Beatitude

  In celebration of Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya and his significant 
contribution to modern yoga...


Monday, August 4, 2014

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a word we hear more and more everyday. It seems however, still so elusive for many us.
In the enlightening words of Thich Nhat Hanh, may we allow ourselves a respite from our daily obligations and simply bask in the true essence of his words and 
in all that is.

Spirit – Srećko Jubić

Thich Nhat Hanh on The Practice of Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the energy that helps us recognize the conditions of happiness that are already present in our lives. You don’t have to wait ten years to experience this happiness. It is present in every moment of your daily life. There are those of us who are alive but don’t know it. But when you breathe in, and you are aware of your in-breath, you touch the miracle of being alive. 
That is why mindfulness is a source of happiness and joy.

Most people are forgetful; they are not really there a lot of the time. Their mind is caught in their worries, their fears, their anger, and their regrets, and they are not mindful of being there. That state of being is called forgetfulness—you are there but you are not there. You are caught in the past or in the future. You are not there in the present moment, living your life deeply. That is forgetfulness.

The opposite of forgetfulness is mindfulness. Mindfulness is when you are truly there, mind and body together. You breathe in and out mindfully, you bring your mind back to your body, and you are there. When your mind is there with your body, you are established in the present moment. Then you can recognize the many conditions of happiness that are in you and around you, and happiness just comes naturally.
Mindfulness practice should be enjoyable, not work or effort. Do you have to make an effort to breath in? You don’t need to make an effort. To breathe in, you just breathe in. Suppose you are with a group of people contemplating a beautiful sunset. Do you have to make an effort to enjoy the beautiful sunset? No, you don’t have to make any effort. You just enjoy it.

The same thing is true with your breath. Allow your breath to take place. Become aware of it and enjoy it. Effortlessness. Enjoyment. The same thing is true with walking mindfully. Every step you take is enjoyable. Every step helps you to touch the wonders of life, in yourself and around you. Every step is peace. Every step is joy. That is possible.

During the time you are practicing mindfulness, you stop talking—not only the talking outside, but the talking inside. The talking inside is the thinking, the mental discourse that goes on and on and on inside. Real silence is the cessation of talking—of both the mouth and of the mind. This is not the kind of silence that oppresses us. It is a very elegant kind of silence, a very powerful kind of silence. 
It is the silence that heals and nourishes us.

Mindfulness gives birth to joy and happiness. Another source of happiness is concentration. The energy of mindfulness carries within it the energy of concentration. When you are aware of something, such as a flower, and can maintain that awareness, we say that you are concentrated on the flower. When your mindfulness becomes powerful, your concentration becomes powerful, and when you are fully concentrated, you have a chance to make a breakthrough, to achieve insight. If you meditate on a cloud, you can get insight into the nature of the cloud. Or you can meditate on a pebble, and if you have enough mindfulness and concentration, you can see into the nature of the pebble. You can meditate on a person, and if you have enough mindfulness and concentration, you can make a breakthrough and understand the nature of that person. You can meditate on yourself, or your anger, or your fear, or your joy, or your peace.

Anything can be the object of your meditation, and with the powerful energy of concentration, you can make a breakthrough and develop insight. It’s like a magnifying glass concentrating the light of the sun. If you put the point of concentrated light on a piece of paper, it will burn. Similarly, when your mindfulness and concentration are powerful, your insight will liberate you from fear, anger, and despair, and bring you true joy, true peace, and true happiness.

When you contemplate the big, full sunrise, the more mindful and concentrated you are, the more the beauty of the sunrise is revealed to you. Suppose you are offered a cup of tea, very fragrant, very good tea. If your mind is distracted, you cannot really enjoy the tea. You have to be mindful of the tea, you have to be concentrated on it, so the tea can reveal its fragrance and wonder to you. That is why mindfulness and concentration are such sources of happiness. That’s why a good practitioner knows how to create a moment of joy, a feeling of happiness, at any time of the day.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014


When we hear the word karma, we often hear it in the context of having done something "bad" and its consequence of justice served, well-deserved. This is a rather small vision of what karma actually is. See anterior posts for more of an understanding: 

A clearer short explanation is that the word karma in Sanskrit principally means action...and as we know, because we dont live in a vacuum, every action has its resulting reaction hence creating a circle of cause and effect. And this can be both positive and negative alike. It is because of this never-ending cycle of the ups and downs of pain and happiness, that the sages and mystics have looked for the relief of suffering, in seclusion, away from society and it´s karmic ties and distractions.

For those of us for whom it is not possible to escape into retreat for years to a Himalayan cave, we too can cleanse and reset our karma to be a more positive cycle of cause and effect,
while still remaining active in society.
Here are 12 ways:

1. Make a list of all the things you have to be grateful for right now. Write them down and put it where you can see it easily to remind you when the going gets tough.

2. Write a letter of forgiveness to someone who has hurt you.
(Not necessary to send it. The act of forgiveness takes a load off of you and lets you live without resentment which just makes one bitter. Also helps break karmic ties because anger as well as love is an energy that binds.)

3. Write a letter asking for forgiveness to someone you have hurt.
(Also not necessary to send.)

4. Practice random acts of kindness without recompensation...this lets your ego have a much needed break from the suffering of expectations.

5. Check the intentions behind your actions. Are you seeking some kind of reward and or boost for your ego? Is it really just all about you and what you want or need? Narcissism just hurts the narcissist in the end. Be truthful with yourself and others.

6. Self study and reflexion, daily moments of non-action and meditation.

7. Add beauty and or joy in some way, wherever you go, without needing recognition. Live joy, passionately.
Also lets your hard-working ego/mind have a deserved break :-)

8. Don't worry about what other people think or say about doesn't have much to do with you anyway.
Impress yourself, not others.

9. Always try to put yourself in someone else's shoes and see things from another angle. This develops empathy and compassion but not pity.

10. Don't judge others unless you have walked a while in those shoes of theirs and even then don't judge, because we will never know someone else's entire story.

11. If someone is hurting you, let them know in a neutral (as best as you can) manner. Explain how they are causing you distress. Open channels of communication withought harming, for both sides
If they don´t care to or are not able to stop, walk away...they are just acting out the pain they have inside because they need a way to release it.

You are not obligated to continue the cycle of pain and you have every right to protect yourself from toxic  behavior or situations. Sometimes the best response is to just remove yourself from the situation, do not feed into negative energy exchanges and the cycle therefore is broken. If you manage to cultivate a truly neutral yet compassive state of  mind and feeling towards this person or situation, the karmic link can also be anulled this way.

12. And finally...don´t hurt anyone or anything...we are all one family here on our planet, our great mother, who provides for us so generously and what one does to another, one does to themselves in the end.
Our action is what we experience. We are all tiny reflections of the One, offering and contributing of our small selves to the whole and truly divine picture. 
Just be Love...act Love...and receive Love.

Passion fruit flower foto: Renata

On Children by Kahlil Gibran

Art: Child of The Universe, Josephine Wall

On Children, by Kahlil Gibran

Your children are not your children. 

They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself. 
They come through you but not from you, 
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you. 

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts. 

You may house their bodies but not their souls, 
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, 
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. 
You may strive to be like them, 
but seek not to make them like you. 
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday. 

You are the bows from which your children 
as living arrows are sent forth. 

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, 
and He bends you with His might 
that His arrows may go swift and far. 
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness; 
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, 
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Thoughts on Unconditional Love

Love expects no reward. Love knows no fear. Love Divine gives — does not demand. Love thinks no evil; imputes no motive. To love is to share and serve.Swami Sivananda

Perfect kindness acts without thinking kindness. Do your work, then step back.The only path to serenity. - Lao Tzu

Love is the absence of judgment. - Dalai Lama

Video in English with Spanish subtitles. 
Gracias a Laia por compartir

Swami Bua

My studies with Swami Bua 
by J. Scott Moore

I’m writing here basically everything I can remember about Swami Bua. I hope that what he taught can be preserved, and perhaps I can assist that a little. 

These comments are memories of my experience with Swami Bua. I can only vouch for what I saw and heard, and some of this may contradict what others have said. The obvious thing, on reading my comments, is how I could not have been more grateful, or taken greater advantage, of the opportunity of learning with him. All I can say is my own darkness and ego prevented me from seeing what a tremendous gift the universe had given me by leading me to him. 

Some of my comments below will relate to my disability. I had polio at age 2, with residual paralysis below my diaphragm. I’ve had extensive orthopedic surgery, I have weakness in my legs and can’t spend too much time on my feet. As far as yoga is concerned, I have a lot of tightness in my hips and there are many things I’ll never be able to do. 

About his age: I would love to have seen his passport. From what I heard he refused to talk about his age and I never asked, but there’s plenty of evidence to confirm that he was born sometime around 1889. Students who knew him in the 1960s said he seemed to be in his 70s then. I’ve heard about, but not seen, a photo of him where he’s teaching Sai Baba when the latter was about 14 years old. Swami, in the photo, is middle-aged and has just a little gray in his beard. Sai Baba died a few years ago at 85. Interestingly, Swami kept a photo of Sai Baba on his desk. I did see, on Swami’s wall along with many other photos, a photo of Swami as a young man posing with Sivananda in an obvious teacher-student pose, their relative ages appearing to confirm that birth date. Also there were plenty of other photos there where the photography, background, objects like cars, etc., seemed to confirm it. 

After I finished grad school in 1981, I moved my present location, about an hour north of New York City, glad to live in a place where I could travel to a number of yoga classes. After a while a friend of mine told me about a class she had attended, where the teacher was over 90 years old. She cautioned that he was very cranky and sometimes shouted at his students, but somehow I figured if he was that old, he must know something. So, I called him up and soon after went to class.

He lived on the 11th floor in a high-rise on W. 58th St. in Manhattan, just west of Columbus Circle. It was a small, pretty standard one-bedroom apartment with no furniture in the living room other than a few chairs that looked like they came from a family restaurant, and a small desk that allowed him to sit at on the floor to write on. For the asana class on Saturday afternoons, I’d show up with about eight or 10 others. We’d sign up on a list, which was actually signing onto a legal disclaimer, and I’d leave five dollars. 

I didn’t have much interaction with him in those first few classes, but he seemed friendly enough. It was interesting, he seemed so light on his feet it looked like he was floating and his feet were just trying to keep up with the rest of him. He was hard of hearing, though, and talking with him was difficult in any case. He wasn’t always patient with people whom he couldn’t understand or couldn’t understand him.

He would take us through a strenuous class, which was difficult for me because about 15 minutes of it was standing poses, more than I was comfortable with. While my experience with yoga at that time was not great, I was struck by how long and complex the sun salutes were. He didn’t hold us in a single pose for very long, but sometimes repeated poses. 

Swami insisted that we never synchronize our breathing with our movement, they should be independent. I found that difficult to implement, but once I did, it produced pretty interesting results. 
Swami never referred to poses in their Sanskrit terms (and I’m not sure he ever referred to a pose in English either, he would just tell us what to do), and seemed very amused when people would try to use Sanskrit. He did, however, have a tall stack of very large books next to his chair, including a multivolume Sanskrit dictionary, and always seemed to be in the middle of writing something, so I believe he was well-versed in Sanskrit. 

I didn’t go to too many of these asana classes, since the standing poses were so difficult and I was in so much pain, but he started mentioning to me, and sometimes one or two other people, that we should show up Saturday morning for his pranayama class. Figuring I might have gotten as much out of the asana classes I could, and I had already been practicing pranayama from what I learned in books, I gave it a try.

For pranayama, typically three or four of us would be sitting in his living room on those wooden chairs any would give us instructions. He said we should never do retentions, and never taught any. He did teach us Agni Sar, which he apparently considered pranayama, and made the comment that it was more important to learn how to hold our breath with our lungs empty than with them full, but I’m not aware that he ever taught or practiced internal retentions.

Most of the class was just conventional kapalabhati and bhastrika, but the main thing was bhramari. It’s what we would start out with and spend the most time on. For most people, bhramari seems to be a minor pranayama, if it’s done at all. Swami’s version was different, though. He was careful to tell us not to use our vocal cords, but instead, constrict our throat below the vocal cords, enough to generate the humming sound. This changes it completely. It’s a wonderful exercise, and I would hate to see it die out with him gone.

When practicing bhramari, we would try to maintain a smooth sound but he was on the lookout for an uneven sound, that he compared with a truck trying to get up a steep hill. This was one exercise I could do very well, and drag out for a long time, and he made the comment, “you are well on your way.” He would also, with no prompting from me because it wasn’t something I was thinking about, talk about how my disability and trauma I had gone through with extensive orthopedic surgery, and say how that could possibly kick off kundalini. He mentioned that a couple of times, and talked about someone else, I think it might’ve been Sai Baba, who had been a normal kid, was bitten by a scorpion, went into a coma, and emerged as an enlightened being. Anyway, as it turned out, I was warned by a couple of other spiritual teachers that something like that was headed my way and a few years later I went through a kundalini emergence, so I guess he was right.

Swami was irascible and very difficult to deal with. I’d be doing pranayama, and would swallow my saliva in the middle of it and he would lose his temper. Of course if I didn’t swallow, I’d choke. He seemed to think I should just stop salivating and I never figured out how to do that. Of course he did the same thing once, when he was demonstrating something, so I guess I just don’t know. Couple of times we ended up shouting at each other, which I can’t, for the life of me, fathom why I did that.  I’ve never shouted at anybody else. 

Anyway we managed, and after a while he initiated me into pranayama. He assigned me ujjayi as my main pranayama which would be the focus of my practice, and said I should do the others just often enough that I don’t lose them. On one of my last visits to him, when I had already been ding Ashtanga for a while, which I never discussed with him, we were talking about something else when he stopped, he looked at me and said I should not do pranayama while doing asana. 

One day I showed up for pranayama, he seemed just a little sad or not himself, and mentioned that his teacher’s teacher had just died. Swami, at this time, would have been in his mid to late 90s. He said his teacher, who was still around, was 110. The guy that died, according to Swami, had been over 140. I wish I had tried to get a little more information.

I showed up one day, walked in the door, and he looked at me with what seemed to be a lot of anger. I thought he might have lost it, that perhaps he had gone senile (which didn’t seem like much of a stretch at that time), and couldn’t understand his mood, so I stopped going, feeling I wasn’t welcome any more. It didn’t seem like much was happening in my practice anyway.

Looking back, I think he didn’t realize that I don’t live in the area and couldn’t get there that often. Also, I think he was thinking in terms of the traditional guru-student relationship, which Westerners, or at least I, have difficulty understanding and dealing with. Furthermore, it seemed like he always thought he should have been accorded more respect, or esteem. He never specifically said so, but he would talk about the places he went before he settled in New York, like North Korea, and how well he had been treated in those places. I, being immature and kind of an idiot at the time, wasn’t really in the mood to encourage that kind of attitude. Also I remember once, earlier on, he had a sign there in his living room to the effect that it looked like they weren’t going to be able to raise the money for an ashram and they would have to make other plans. I just sensed disappointment in his students but I could be wrong.

Around 2004, after 20 years of practicing Zen meditation and realizing that I hadn’t really gotten anywhere, I gave up on Zen and started reading about Vedanta meditation, hoping that a better match for my aptitudes would mean more progress. Somehow I heard or came across a reference to Swami, called his phone number and unbelievably, found he was still alive, so I arranged an appointment with Swami. He looked much older, of course, and could hear very little at this point. I had to write my questions on a pad of paper and he would answer them verbally. After a couple of visits, he initiated me for the second time, this time in meditation. He gave me a mantra at that time. 

At that first visit after my absence, he didn’t remember me, and his eyes appeared cloudy, his left eye looking pretty bad and pointing to the upper left, apparently not useful. The second visit, he seemed much sharper, his left eye improved somewhat, and remembered not only teaching me in the late 80s and early 90s, but also meeting my wife back then. The third time, both eyes seemed perfect and he remembered even more but our earlier interactions. 

In 2005, I went to Swami for my last asana class. He refused to teach a class with only one person, so he called one of his students to come over and take the class with me. What I really wanted was to relearn the sun salutes, as I realized there was nothing like it elsewhere. He didn’t seem to want to do it, and instead the focus of the whole class seemed to be around my limitations and working with them. There were lots of leg lifts, variations on poses like dhanurasana (crossing the wrists, crossing the ankles etc.), shoulder stand, and just cycling through again and again so there are many repetitions of a small number of poses, mostly focused on strength. It was very productive, and when I can’t do Ashtanga for reasons of injury or whatever (which is usually at least a few days every week), I work in his poses in a non-vinyasa routine. I believe his version of cobra, where you lay face down, arms outstretched, and then gradually walk your hands in toward your chest, to be far better than any other version I’ve tried.

I only made a few visits to Swami after my long absence. Sometime around, I think, 2007 or so I was planning another visit and started making a list of questions. I called Swami, and a senior student answered who was conducting a yoga class in Swami’s place. He said Swami had gone back to India and would be back after a few months. Meanwhile, this person was teaching the classes. I checked in a few months later, there was no news on when Swami would be back and this person kept teaching the classes. I called back every few months, and it was the same thing, no news but he was pretty sure Swami would be back in a couple of months, but he sounded a tiny bit exasperated.

My calls became less and less frequent, until sometime in 2011 I did a web search and found articles about how Swami had passed away the previous summer. When I had started coming back to Swami, his daughter, Swarna, who seemed very glad to see me, had me write my name and contact information in a small notebook with a bunch of others. I always kind of thought that if something happened, I would’ve gotten a phone call or some kind of notice but I guess not.

Swami’s death affected me more than I would’ve expected, given our rather limited interaction. Perhaps it was the growing realization of just how I had neglected what had been a tremendous opportunity, and how I could have treated him with more respect or understanding.

Some time after learning of Swami’s passing, I called his number and his son-in-law answered. Knowing that he was associated with some organization or ashram in India, I asked if someone would be coming here to take over. He said that things were still in confusion and flux (even after about eight months, apparently they were taken by surprise by the whole thing, which is a little odd) but that someone would be coming to take over. I always kept in reserve the possibility that I would meet with that teacher and perhaps get a tuneup on my pranayama. 
As I write this, I just tried calling Swami’s number and found that it has been disconnected. I still have the numbers for one or two of his senior students, they haven’t answered but I’ll try them again. My focus these days is on Vipassana meditation, and Swami’s regular asana routine may be too much for me, so I haven’t been in a hurry to resolve some of these things. 

A few more memories come to mind. When I first met swami, he asked about my disability, and I told him I had had polio. He told me that he, too, had had polio, and in fact his feet seemed misshapen. At the second initiation, around 2005, in the middle of it he stopped, sat back and closed his eyes for a few moments. He then said I had never had polio, it was something in my family. I do recall discussion of there being a disagreement among the doctors when I got sick, and I’ve tried to do some family research to find out if there’s anything like this among my relatives but haven’t found anything. So that will remain a mystery.

I realize I only scratched the surface of what he could teach. One day, as we were sitting in his living room doing pranayama, there was a screen there and on the other side I could hear his senior student, at least that’s what I called the guy who was hanging around and taking care of all of Swami’s business, doing a very vigorous exercise. There was a lot of heavy breathing, slapping, rapid movements and when he came out from behind the screen, he was drenched in sweat. I’d like to know more about that exercise, whatever it was, and wish I had asked.

I’ve had the privilege of meeting a few quite remarkable, even enigmatic, people over the course of my yoga and spiritual practices. Swami was one of those people that will, to some degree, always be a mystery to me. 
One thing I’ve learned is that our normal, irritating and difficult behaviors don’t necessarily go away with spiritual realization. I see now what’s different about Swami and other teachers that I’ve been judgmental about is their orientation, what makes them tick and what they really try to accomplish. Swami was here just to help people, that’s all he wanted to do, and he had a very long time to do that.

Source and full article:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...