How do we take our yoga practice off our to-do schedule and into our hearts? Living consciously – which is the fancy way of saying be happy is what we all want. My evolution with yoga is a combination of hard work, the very best kind of desperation, and a longing for the divine. We’ll go over three of the topics covered in the yoga sutras to begin to build a foundation to live our yoga and then I’ll give you some of my simple real world tips for yogic living.
Roni’s Opening to Class:
Feel your own existence and remember that sensation when you saw an amazing magic trick. Embody that sense of wonder as you think about your life. Life is a confusing, emotional, breathtaking kaleidoscope of moments. Right now you are in this moment. You can’t be anywhere else so be fully here, on your mat. We may have come to the mat for different reasons tonight. But the mat doesn’t care why you’re here, just that you must put all your weight on it and breathe. I’m willing to bet for most of you the moment has already happened, that moment that creeps up on you and all of a sudden you get yoga – this strange combination of physicality, spirituality, emotion and yet detachment. You feel the magic like a tingle in your skin, like a tiny bomb went off in your mind. All the sudden it’s gone again, and you want it back so badly but your thoughts get too loud. But now that it’s happened you’ll never be the same, you’ll be on a journey the rest of your life to find it again. And you will, over and over you will find it, and with every tiny bomb that goes off you feel your mind get larger, you feel the limits of who you thought you were expand a tiny bit further and it’s like trying on a new outfit that fits perfectly. Right now you are wearing this moment and it fits perfectly – like the place you’ve been headed to all along. Feel a sense of having arrived right now, like the moment you sit down after a long journey. You’ve made it, you’re here. You’ve arrived at yourself. Welcome.
“Until one is committed, there is a hesitancy, the chance to draw back. The moment one definitely commits oneself then providence moves too. All sorts of thing occur to help one that would otherwise never have occurred. Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.” – Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
Atha (Atta) – Readiness and Commitment
Atha is the very first word in the Yoga Sutras. Atha means beginning the study of who we are, where we are, and how we can make incremental changes to our inner and outer self. In the Path of the Yoga Sutra’s it talks about letting the information seep into your core gradually and intentionally, being in no rush. This is a difficult request in our culture. You are seeking to make internal changes that can only be done slowly or else we miss the point. It can be tough for us to go from a world that, more than ever before, can create big things quickly. But when you begin the process of making yoga a way of living, it’s like being a graphic designer that is pulled away from the computer, set before a mound of marble and handed a chisel. It’s like when you don’t have a cell phone for awhile when you go camping – at first it feels like the world got ripped away from you, but after awhile you realize how much more you are in the world without it. By the time you get it back, it looks like a leash sitting in your hand. It takes a more deliberate pace to pursue this life, a gentleness with yourself, a resolve. Ask yourself if you are ready for Atha. Invite a slower pace into your life right now in your mind. A willingness to roll around in each breath, to simmer in your experiences, to see the questions of your life float across the screen in slow motion. Are you willing to slow down and make a commitment of the heart?
Purusa (Parusha) – Pure Inner Light of Awareness
In every cell of your body lies a conscious, intelligent awareness. “This divine inner spectator, also called the seer, simply watches events unfold in the heart-mind. It sees only what the heart-mind presents to it. The Purusa provides the light that shines through the moment-by-moment frames in the heart-mind, projecting our personality out onto the screen of the world.” Can you meditate right now on the part of yourself that never changes? Go to that place within yourself for the next five breaths to that part of yourself that has never changed. That is the light, the Purusa, which is you. We are each a ray of light, yet only when we are put together can we actually create sunshine. It is the indestructible source of love. The Bhagavad Gita 2:23 says, “Weapons cannot cut this, fire cannot burn this, water cannot wet this, nor can wind make it dry.” (Like the dog’s collar in MIB!)
Viveka – Keen Discernment
Dr. Suess said, “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.” This is the choice to train yourself to see the truth of things. To recognize the difference between habitual tendencies and the prison of involuntary conformity. Once you understand Atha and have made a commitment, and once your heart knows Purusa and connects to your divine – the source – the next step is more practical. “Viveka helps us make healthy choices in life. Stepping back and quietly contemplating what we want in life can initiate actions in that direction.” Viveka is an awareness between what changes and what doesn’t, the ability to see the transitory and to not cling to it. See it, experience it, enjoy it, but do not hold on. Viveka is where the rubber meets the road. For many this is welcome news because it is a slightly more tangible step in your personal development, changing the choices you make. Just remember to not dramatize, slow down, consult your purusha, and act from that place of perspective.
Roni’s Real Life Tips
There is much, much more that the Yoga Sutras have to say about the path of living your yoga. Everything from your relationship to the past, to clinging to objects, to cleanliness and conservation of your energy. But for right now these three – Atha, Purusa and Viveka – are a foundational place to start. These are all ideas that must be meditated on, they are emotional and spiritual facets of your humanity. But I want to talk honestly with you for a moment about what everyday life actually looks like trying to be a yogi. We don’t usually wake up, look in the mirror and see our inner divine light. So here are some of my practical tips for the HOW of living your yoga.
Create a mantra that you hang on your bathroom mirror that you will repeat out loud three times in the morning. For instance, “Today I will be patient, loving, and conscious in all that I say, think, and do. Because I know I have a dramatic impact on others and this world. I know that the world is conspiring to support me today, and no matter what happens I will greet it all with open arms, a light heart, and big smile.”
Then pick a favorite quote of yours and put a copy of it on the dashboard of your car so that you will see it regularly.
Before you go into any big meeting or approach a moment you believe to be particularly special, say a prayer that you will be completely present and that you are grateful for the outcome now matter what it is (and mean it).
When you catch yourself not behaving the way you would like apologize even if you have to turn around and go back somewhere, then forgive yourself, and decide to do better next time.
Find a picture of something that inspires a sense of awe in you, a picture of the Milky Way, a mountain range … and put it up in your office. Whenever work feels overwhelming look at it and remember that we are just a spot in the universe, our problems are temporary and not worth the cost of our health and happiness.
Practice the ujaii breath at all red lights. It is a controlled amount of time, when you can’t be accomplishing much else anyway. With your eyes open, turn down the music and practice deep breaths expanding into your belly and exhaling as slowly as you can.
Before you go to sleep say thank you ten times. Don’t get caught up with counting, just repeat this mantra of gratitude until the natural volume in your head begins to soften.
Together we pray today that we can find ways to live more consciously. We want to live effortlessly. We long to know ourselves, each other and our creator. We ask that you would feel that longing within us right now and see it as an offering. We are humbled by the enormity of creation; we are honored by our influential place in it. But we seem to have trouble remembering how to be the people we want to be, how to live our yoga, how to embody unity. We strive and strive and feel like we’re running in circles. We sense a greater truth that always feels just beyond our reach. We’ve been white-knuckling through our problems, out of breath, with sore hearts and thirsty minds. So we come now with a new plan. We lay all of our efforts at your feet. Remember that one cannot see their reflection in rushing water, only in still ponds. We will no longer struggle, we open our fists, we remember now how lovable we are. We’re so sorry we forgot. We ask for grace, not because we deserve it, but because we remember now that it’s our birthright. We re-commit ourselves to a slower and deliberate way of life, we will return to that un-changing source within us as often as it takes, and we will make real world steps toward a different way of existing. Our hearts are swelling with gratitude as we ask for your help. This is our prayer.