Love and Oneness

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I’m reading Michael Pollan’s book, “How to Change Your Mind,” in which he follows the history of altered consciousness through psychedelic substances and meditation and discusses recent research in giving psilocybin to those who are dying, depressed, or anxious. Almost without exception, those who return from these experiences say two things: that the most important thing is love, and that everything is one. 

John Lennon was naively courageous enough to sing “All You Need is Love.” It is an idea that we pay lip service to. The sentiment is simple and profound, and it isn’t about romantic love. Love is a willing immersion in experience, in the radical nature of life itself. Isn’t it amazing that we’re alive at all?  Rather than being guided by the need to be special, better, or higher than anyone else, wouldn’t we make better use of this lifetime if we were guided by love? If we could embrace the spectacularly ordinary in ourselves and in the world?

To put the idea of “oneness” more concisely, imagine that you are a drop of water in an infinite ocean, and at the same time, the entire ocean is in you, in that drop of water. You are part of a vastness and that vastness is part of you. 

Love and oneness. There is an image from Mahayana Buddhism called Indra’s Net. “Here is the metaphor: In the realm of the god Indra is a vast net that stretches infinitely in all directions. In each "eye" of the net is a single brilliant, perfect jewel. Each jewel also reflects every other jewel, infinite in number, and each of the reflected images of the jewels bears the image of all the other jewels — infinity to infinity. Whatever affects one jewel affects them all.  Everything contains everything else. At the same time, each individual thing is not hindered by or confused with all the other individual things.”(1)

To experience the love and oneness practice the transgressive art of sitting with a soft body and a curious mind, sensing for the presence of stillness. Listen for what is underneath the noise, like a spider sitting on the edge of her web, sensing for the most delicate sensations. There is a whole world there, beneath the clang and jangle.

(1) From www.thoughtCo.com

The Language of Yoga

As practitioners of yoga we are among a small percentage of Westerners who have any knowledge at all of Sanskrit. Sure, people are familiar with words like karma and guru, but most are unaware of their origins or even their true definitions. While Sanskrit is one of the oldest languages on Earth, only about 14,000 Indians (out of 1.252 billion!) claim it as their native tongue. Sanskrit is often thought of as a dead language. So why study it? 

Sanskrit is the language of yoga with a capital “Y.” It transports the practice beyond the act of stretching on a mat into a richer philosophic and historic context that is the yogic tradition. Its sounds are perfectly aligned with the human vocal structure so that simply uttering them results in a physical experience through the vibrations they create. The Vedics believed that the sound of each word conveyed its energetic meaning. So when a mantra is chanted or a Sanskrit term is used to name a pose, the practitioner experiences a union of sound and body that resonates deeply within and transmits out in all directions. 

Because of the powerful vibrational qualities and meanings inherent in each sound, it’s important to learn and teach Sanskrit with proper pronunciation. Taking a workshop with an experienced teacher (we happen to have one this coming weekend!) is an excellent way to gain familiarity with the sacred sounds, the alphabet and a few integral words that can help elevate your yoga practice.  An understanding of basic Sanskrit will enable you to delve deeper into, and perhaps gain a renewed understanding of your favorite chants, sutras and philosophical texts.

According to Jay Kumar, the San Francisco-based creator of the instructional CD The Sacred Language of Yoga, “More people are coming to understand that there’s a deep, rich philosophy behind yoga practice—and that Sanskrit is the language by which that philosophy lives, breathes, and flows.”

Namaste. 

Get Your Asana out of Bed!

As if waking up early wasn’t hard enough for many of us, here come the dark, cold mornings of a Seattle fall and winter making it feel almost impossible at times. And yet we know there are a number of profound benefits that can be found in the wee hours of the day. In almost all traditions, early morning is a holy time for prayer, meditation and conscious movement.  The early bird gets the worm and the early yogi can revel in the quiet contemplations of the dawn.   

Luckily for us, Claudette Evans is waking up early this October to lead an inspiring and fun morning series based on the research and writings of Brene Brown: Unmasking our Vulnerability.

If you would like to join the early morning series or just want to turn over a new leaf (autumnal pun intended) to experience the stillness and spaciousness of the early hours, here are some tips and inspirations to help you get up and at ‘em.

  • Establish regular circadian rhythms by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day.
  • If sleepiness is persistent, open your eyes as wide as you can and look in every direction. This will stimulate and wake up your brain.
  • Have a foot massage ball near the bathroom sink and use it as you brush your teeth.
  • Tap your fingertips strongly on your sternum like Tarzan to stimulate your thymus gland.
  • Try to talk very little first thing in the morning. Language brings you into discursive thinking.
  • No radio, newspaper or email first thing in the morning. If you read anything, let it be a spiritual or inspirational book.
  • If your life allows it, do your creative work in the morning. Your mind has just left the depth of its creative source and will be primed.
  • Watching a sunrise is a reminder of the mystery and power in which we usually unconsciously live, and brings a sacred quality to the entire day.
  • Remind yourself that even with struggle and disappointment, each day is one of precious human embodiment. 

What I Loved about the Seattle Yoga Arts 200-Hour Yoga Teacher Training Program

The SYA Teacher Training Class of 2014 on our final day together. What a ride!

The SYA Teacher Training Class of 2014 on our final day together. What a ride!

As the new Director of Outreach and Student Happiness here at Seattle Yoga Arts (yay!), and a recent graduate of the 200-hour Immersion and Teacher Training Program, I am perhaps uniquely qualified to extol its virtues through the lens of my own experience.

I’d been itching to start a teacher training program for years, but kids and jobs kept getting in the way.  When the stars finally aligned and the timing was right, I researched all the programs in the Seattle area.  On paper, the program at SYA met nearly all of my requirements.  In reality, it surpassed all my expectations in terms of what I would learn, how I would grow and what I would discover.  Here is a glimpse of just some of what I experienced:

  • A dedicated staff of passionate, innovative, highly-educated and supportive teachers

  • An accessible and enlightening exploration of yogic history and philosophies

  • A deeper understanding of the benefits of meditation and the encouragement and support to establish a meditation practice in my life

  • The courage, the tools, the confidence and the appreciation of what it takes to hold the seat of the teacher

  • An in-depth study of anatomy and alignment principles necessary to practice and teach asana in a safe and sustainable way

  • A community of intelligent, inquisitive, supportive fellow yoga students with whom it was a privilege to study

Whether you have a desire to delve deeper in your personal practice or feel called to share the gifts of yoga with others, you’ll likely find what you’re looking for in the 200-Hour Teacher Training Program at Seattle Yoga Arts.  Click here to learn more.