Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Art of Giving

Holiday time might be a little stressful and hectic. Overwhelmed with shopping for gifts and many house arrangements, people are in a rush to buy more and more, being afraid to forget something in a shopping list. You can search in a shopping marathon for weeks and still didn’t find a satisfying gift. 
Yoga teaches us to be fully present in each moment, and a moment of giving is important. The meaning of true giving is when your share something from your heart, when you try to make a difference in someones life.  If we share our energy, wealth and knowledge in this way we always receive back, from heart to heart. There is a simple technique I like. While looking for a best present, imagine a face of your loved one, with all the little details so familiar to you,  connect to this energy of Love, and the best present comes to you. You’ll feel the smile of this person in your heart. 
Consider non-traditional gifts, that are not purchased from stores, such as cooking a famous dish, cleaning and arranging the house, or employ your creativity for some art project, - make your gift an expression of your heart.  

In this season of giving I am offering a free yoga class to the community. I’ll teach on Christmas morning, at a beautiful studio Downtown Yoga Shala. All proceeds will go to Second Harvest Bank. This giving reflects my inner desire to generate more Love, Peace and Joy in the world. I hope you’ll accept my heart-to-heart gift, and this would be the best holiday gift for me. I am very grateful to all of you for being with me in 2011!
With Love,

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Thoughts on Enlightment and Obstacles

The word enlightenment conjures up the idea of some superhuman accomplishment, and the ago likes to keep it that way, but it is simply your natural state of felt oneness with Being. It is a state of connectedness with something immeasurable and indestructible, something that, almost paradoxically, is essentially you and yet is much greater than you. It is finding your true nature beyond name and form.
                                                                               Eckhart Tolle

One of my favorite asanas in B.K.S. Iyengar's Light on Yoga is a very graceful and feminine pose Natarajasana, which requires a combination of balance and flexibility. Only some people can perform it. A person needs to increase sense of balance and develop flexibility of the particular groups of muscles. Next step is to develop a sensible and well-structured practice which would continuously increase flexibility of these muscles without injuries. Even after all these steps are done it doesn’t guarantee that one will be able to perform the pose since every person has different starting point and limits.

The same concept can be applied when one attempts to reach the state of Enlightenment. The only difference is that instead of developing physical body one needs to train mental and spiritual condition.
T.K.V. Desikachar in his book The Hart of Yoga defines yoga as “to attain what was previously unattainable.” Our yoga practice brings change every day, changes with our body as well as changes with our mind, and brings us an understanding of ourselves. Just like we want to achieve perfection with our body while performing Asanas the same is true about our state of mind, our attitudes and perceptions of life. Everybody wants to have a better life but only a small percentage of people recognizes how to attain it. This brings general misunderstanding of true happiness, as if happiness could be derived from outside source while in reality true joy and ever-lasting happiness can come only from our inner connection with Universal Truth.
I agree that Pride, Envy, Greed, Desires, Anger, and Delusion are obstacles on our way to Enlightenment. A person, who gets overcome by one of them, loses his freedom and control over the life. He/she directs his/her inner energies in a wrong course to attain fake happiness.
In Bhagavad Gita Krishna let Arjuna know that enlightenment, which is the identification of an individual soul with the Universal Soul (the Atman) comes through spiritual yoga exercise, starting from separating self from ego, the “false self.” Also Krishna in his dialogue with Arjuna underlines the importance of detachment from the material sense of ego,

This body
Is called the ‘field’,
And he who knows it is the ‘knower of the field’…

Desire, hate, pleasure, pain,
Sensus comminus, thought and constancy –
These, in briefest span, are called the ‘field’…

To be detached and not to cling
To sons, wives, houses and the like,
A constant equal-mindedness
Whatever happens, pleasing or unpleasing…
Hindu Scriptures, edited by Dominic Goodall, p.267

Many people try to get satisfaction in life through pleasures. However, fulfilling their desires today, will inevitably bring suffering tomorrow.
For example, what one takes as Love gives him/her excitement but also can bring him to an addictive state, can bond him/her to another person, so that absence of this person or breaking the relationship will generate great pain and suffering. I would suggest one to develop an inner strength to deal with the situation but I know that it’s not an easy task. I think that among all obstacles, to get free from desires is the most difficult job.
If we are learning to perceive and love the world from attachment to non-attachment toward detachment we are moving on the way to superconscious level of life. “The senses provide us an objectively agreed-upon reality that is seen, felt, heard, touched, and tasted” (Sharon Gannon and David Life, Practices of Liberating Body and Soul).  Since we perceive reality through our limited five senses it often brings us to delusion and suffering. Ego says, “Look your neighbor has a better house, a more expensive car, and a more beautiful girlfriend. You deserve more then him.” That’s a simplified example of how typically a search for a false happiness starts. If person cannot attain these values, he/she becomes frustrated and experiences suffering. Even if this person gets bigger house, bigger bank account, and more prestigious car, he/she experiences only momentary sense of pleasure. Soon after that he/she stops noticing other people around except of in terms of exploiting them in his own interests. The integral part of his new relations is profitability. Even when one realizes that he/she already has enough one cannot stop anymore. Greed overcomes one’s personality, and makes him obedient to his own greed, to satisfy which appetite becomes the only source of relieving the person’s tension. People cling to the things that they don’t really need (sutra 2.30 of Patangali). Thus, Greed and Envy are thieves of our vital energies.
Our addiction and attachment to things or people causes delusion that possession of outer objects will bring happiness. However, “at some point in our life we become disappointed in the degree of happiness that unrestrained five senses can provide” (Sharon Gannon and David Life, Practices of Liberating Body and Soul). At that point we should look inward instead of outward sources. Lord of the Death, Yama, in Katha Upanishad says,

The intelligent man gives up happiness and sorrow by developing concentration of mind on the SELF and thereby meditating on the old Deity who is inscrutable, lodged inaccessibly, located in the intellect, and seated in the midst of misery.

Through Pratyahara and Dharana we refine our knowledge to perceive the Universal Truth. These inner practices help us build up new sensibility to observe reality. Thus, we are directing our senses inward, connecting the two poles of the knowledge, which helps us see the whole pictures of the world. We become free from fear of loss or death, from attachments, envyness, and desires, and we become very joyous and full of love persons.
I like the Buddha’s definition of enlightenment as “the end of suffering.” This is indeed a consequence of reaching enlightenment. To live in peace with oneself and others increases our quality of life. The real liberation is when we free the mind and recognize what is truly important and matters – love, beauty, and inner peace.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Golden Middle

A few days ago one of the students came to me after class, “I can always learn something new in your class. Thank you for being encouraging and pushing us to deepen our practice.” Another student complained that other teachers didn’t give “advanced” asanas in their classes.  One of my Indian students complimented, “You are the only teacher who ever chants The Gayatry mantra.”  Seems like I am on a right way, am I?

There are some other students who say nothing and will never return to class again. I remember reading an anonymous feedback about my teaching in one of the studios. There was one that caught my attention. The lady was complaining that I tried to turn everybody upside down into headstand, and she would never come back to my class.

There would always be different perceptions of the same situation. How to find a golden middle while teaching? Is it possible to make everybody satisfied? Should I make it my goal to please everybody in the class?