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    Sunday
    May132018

    Yoga Sutra Quotes from last Saturday's Workshop

     

    For those who attended, here are the relevant quotes from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Translation is my own.

    4.2 All transitions or transformations from one form of being into another happen naturally; life (and life energy) flows on its own into the next appropriate form.

    4.3 Actions or efforts, meaning assertions, intentional or otherwise, are not what gives rise to attainments or realization, but rather, progress comes into being through the natural removal of obstacles, the same way a farmer removes a barrier (a sluice gate) to naturally allow water to flow and irrigate his field.

    4.4 (In this way) individual body/minds come into being as pure consciousness flows into individual fields of awareness.

    4.5 While the activities of various individual body/minds may be separate and diverse, one conscious awareness is giving rise to and overseeing all (individual) body/minds.

     

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    2.46 One’s overall stance (asana) (both in life and also in the practice of Yoga) should be steady and stable as well as comfortable.

    (sthira sukham asanam) 

    • sthira = steady, stable, motionless 
    • sukham = comfortable, ease filled 
    • asanam = meditation posture (from the root ~as, which means "to sit") 

    2.47 The means of perfecting one’s stance (in life as well as in the practice of Yoga) is that of relaxing or lessening of effort, and allowing one’s attention to merge and coincide with endlessness, with the infinite.

    (prayatna shaithilya ananta samapattibhyam)
     
    • prayatna = tension or effort (related to trying to do the posture) 
    • shaithilya = by relaxing, loosening, lessening, slackening 
    • ananta = infinite, endlessness 
    • samapattibhyam = by focusing attention on, by coalescence, coincidence, merging 

    2.48 And with this perfected stance (in practice and in life) comes complete freedom from disturbance or suffering due to the contrasting values of opposites (good/bad; hot/cold; pain/pleasure).

    (tatah dvandva anabhighata) 

    • tatah = then, thereby, thence, from that 
    • dvandva = the pairs of opposites, the dualities, dichotomies 
    • anabhighata = unimpeded freedom from suffering, without effect or impact, cessation of disturbance

    2.49 And with that perfected stance (in life and Yoga) being accomplished, and the consequent lessening of effort and struggle, we see the movement of breath naturally becoming more regular. This is a sign of the life energies becoming more expansive, more regulated. (pranayama)

    Thursday
    Apr122018

    New Upcoming Workshop Saturday May 12, 2018 at Firefly Yoga, Westwood MA

    Deep Focused Flow: The Inner Work of Asana

     Continuing in our popular series of workshops on Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, we’ll explore how to unite the traditional inner work of yoga that aligns and integrates heart, mind, and body with the physical practice of contemporary Asana and Vinyasa. 

    Yoga is about flow, both in life and on the mat — moving from one task to the next with commitment, grace, and effortless ease. The sequence of poses and the full expression of each asana are a metaphor for this flow, supporting our movement through the challenges we face in life on a daily basis. When we come from an emotional place that is steady, confident, and fully alive, we not only flow and grow — we heal, we thrive, we shine.

    May 12 at 1pm

    Preregistration on MINDBODY or at Firefly Westwood is recommended. Space is limited.

    Sunday
    Mar042018

    Yoga Sutra Verse of the Week YS 2.1 - 2.11

    YS Part Two: Sadhana-Pada The Path

    2.1 The practice of Yoga-In-Action (kriya-yoga) gradually brings about: 1) the release (elimination) of one’s resistance to the flow of life (tapas); 2) attunement to one’s true identity and nature (self-realization or svadhyaya); and 3) alignment with Inner guidance and Nature in the world around us (ishvara-pranidhana).

    2.2 These three outcomes support the development of Samadhi (progressive attunement to the nature of reality) and sytematically reduce the interference of the kleshas (mind/body disturbances).

    2.3 The kleshas are the five major resistant mind/body patterns (disturbances or interference patterns) that block self-realization and cause suffering. They are: avidya or ignorance; asmita or individuality; raga or attachment/identification to objects; dvesha, meaning aversion to objects; abhinivesha or clinging to the forms of life as if the were life itself as well as fear of the loss of those forms.

    2.4 All of the last four mind/body interference patterns or disturbances (kleshas) originate within the first one: avidya, or a basic ignorance of the nature of reality. And each of these five disturbance patterns (kleshas) exists in one of four conditions: dormant or latent, attenuated or weakened, interrupted or temporarily suspended, or active and generating resistance to varying degrees.

    2.5 Avidya, or ignorance of the true nature of reality means 1) confusing the temporary with the eternal 2) being mistaken as to what constitutes purity and confusing the pure with the impure 3) being attuned to misery instead of appreciation and 4) substituting objects of perception for the self, the perceiver.

    2.6 Individuality (asmita) consists of confusing the part of the power of the mind that “consciously knows” and speaks as “I” with the one, actual, true self-nature.

    2.7 Attachment to and identification with objects, (two degrees of the same thing) (raga) stems from the attraction of the mind to those objects of experience that are associated with remembered experiences of comfort or pleasure.

    2.8 Aversion, (dvesha -- the opposite of raga or attachment — dvesha is the impulse to avoid) is the consequence of a mental association with a remembered experience of pain, sorrow or suffering.

    2.9 Even in the wise or learned person, there is a powerful momentum toward the continuation of identification with objective, outer life and a fearful resistance to the loss of one’s sense of objective identity. This is the final klesha: clinging to physical life, worldly life (abhiniveshah).

    2.10 If these five types of resistance can be experienced in their subtle, merely “potential” form, they can be reduced or eliminated by dissolving the understanding-sense-of-things that gave rise to them and resolving that energy pattern back to it’s source.

    2.11 The progressive experience of sensing mind-patterns on subtler and subtler levels allows us to experience these resistant thoughts at these subtle levels where the resistance can be resolved and the energy released.

    Friday
    Jan192018

    Yoga Sutra Verse of the Week YS 1.14  Practice

    # 1.14 This state of Yoga, or non-resistive freedom, becomes firmly established through regular and appropriate practice over a long period of time.

    Practice is the heart of the development of yoga, or blended being: without deliberate, dedicated practice there is no release of resistance, no experience of non-resistive flow or freedom from suffering.

    But what is this "practice?" It can take many forms, but no matter what form it takes, in essence, it is first and foremost a certain practice of deliberate and selective focused-awareness rooted in an context of preparation or readiness formed from listening and understanding the teachings.

    The first aspect of this understanding is the necessity of being surrendered to the inevitability of the present moment with a willingness to engage with and welcome whatever experience may come next. This is abhyasa. We surrender to being in a life that is in many ways confusing and inexplicable and sometimes hurtful. We could actively resist being here, but all that would do is make things worse. We are here, and we are a part of things, like it or not. Opposing or resisting the flow of life with anxiety or irritation doesn't untie the knot of suffering, it draws it tighter. We could also submit, and adopt a stance of being sullenly resentful or mournfully self-pitying, but this suppression of upset is just another kind of resistance.

    Non-resistance is being open, willing, ready to engage. It's a state of feeling a part of things, responsible, with a collaborative intent. It isn't passivity or resignation, nor is is a fake acceptance masking a deeper anxiety or resentment. Non-resistance is participatory, but in a non-adversarial way. It's pure willingness to discover, to take part, to learn and to add value to the present situation. (Content or context)

    At first spontaneously arising, then later sustained and cultivated, practice begins as an the simple awareness that one has a choice as to how one would prefer to be about something. This awareness makes practice possible, but real practice begins when one deliberately chooses to redirect one's attention from stressful to unstressful, from restrictive to unbounded, from sorrow to joy. This simple act, repeated over and over through time, constitutes real practice.

    This movement of attention derives it's strength and efficacy from the felt context in which it occurs, the understanding that grounds and stabilizes it within the person's mind and awareness. There must be a proper understanding of who is focusing, how this focusing is to be carried out, how it feels, and why it is necessary.Then there must be repeated practice of the movement of mind and awareness toward less stressful focal points and states. This must happen in formal practice like meditation, but also informally, in all the contexts of everyday life.

    Saturday
    Jan062018

    Yoga Sutra Verse of the Week YS 1.33 Steadying the Mind Through Equanimity In Relationships

    1.33 Using our relationships, we can purify the mind by cultivating feelings of friendliness towards those who are happy, compassion towards those who are suffering, delight toward those who are kind and benevolent, and equanimity towards those whom we perceive as wicked or hateful.

    This sutra is one of several in the first section that describes different methods of stabilizing the mind and clearing the mind of resistant thought as preparation for samadhi, or integrated and comprehensive awareness.

    This particular sutra is aimed at one aspect of what is called kriya-yoga, or yoga in action, in which we make use of everyday life as an opportunity to practice yoga. Here we have a summary of the teaching of how cultivating an appreciative disposition towards the virtues or or a neutral attitude toward what we see as deficits of others supports our own peace and well-being.

    At the heart of the practice is the use of attention and focus as a way to deliberately attune oneself to positive values. To observe is to attune, so by practicing discrimination as to what and how we observe, we attune our energy and being to the aspects of our experience that are worthwhile, and fade our connection to things in our experience that are less than worthwhile.

    In this practice we internally refrain from competing with, condemning or being upset by what we see as undesirable or wrong in other people. We acknowledge what seems wrong, we respond to it and deal with it, but without internal resistance, without negativity, without losing our own sense of peace, poise and well-being.

    Purification of the mind-flow means the release of upset, tension, opposition — all aspects of mental and emotional resistance as a way of opening up to and supporting positive or life-supporting values in the flow of life. It’s one part of learning to focus primarily on the resources and positive aspects that are abundant in everyday life and not focusing on what we perceive to be negative aspects of everyday life.

    Happy people, appreciative people, are people who are aligned with life in a positive, productive way. Unhappy, wicked people have lost their connection with well-being, both inside and outside of themselves, and even when they achieve their aims they fail to live well. The virtuous see only virtue. The wicked see only wickedness. The world is as you are.

    By attuning oneself to the virtues of friendliness, compassion and delight, we attune ourselves to be able to see the world from a place of joy and well-being. We focus on the good, and the good increases.

    Patanjali gives us a road map of how to proceed in a world where we encounter people in different stages of alignment with Nature. He encourages us to align and attune with the happy, to be patient with and forgiving of the unhappy, and calm and steady and refrain from hating or condemning the wicked. To hate hate is to become hateful.

    The central idea being that one should dwell on what is wanted and what is rewarding, and not dwell on or resist what is not wanted or painful.

    When we resist those who are themselves resistant, or when we resist our own resistance, through criticism or complaint, we merely add to our difficulties. By welcoming, appreciating and selectively focusing on what’s worthwhile or good in any situation, we keep our own sanity and connection to what is good in us.

    Friday
    Dec222017

    Yoga Sutra Verse of the Week: YS 1.3  Self-Realization

    1.3 As a result (of the practice of Yoga) one progressively comes to know, understand and experience one's essential being as pure awareness, knowingness itself -- formless, unbounded and eternal.

    Commentary:

    Release of resistance within the mindflow (the flow of subjective experience, which includes thinking, understanding, cogitation, feeling and sensory experience, including inner sensation and intention -- in fact anything felt or experienced on a temporary or ongoing basis) results in all aspects and all parts of the person being experienced as flowing and moving and operating in mutuality, harmony and rapport, both within the person and the individual's relationship to the world around them.

    As a result, one’s unique nature and way of being is brought forth, strengthened and clarified, and, that nature being a subset of greater Nature, one comes into alignment with all the laws and forces of Nature itself. One’s personal dharma is expressed as a subset of the Universal Dharma. Unity is achieved.

    There is resolution instead of conflict, harmony instead of dissonance, insight instead of confusion and peace instead of upset. The alignment of mind and body precipitated by the release of resistance is not a static thing, it is a movement, a flow that exists apart from any conscious or deliberate act on the part of the individual. We are "lived" by the totality of Being rather than "living" as a separate egoic entity. The sense of separateness, of finite and irrevocable personal identity and personal history becomes largely irrelevant, along with the accompanying sense of anxiety and vulnerability.

    The gradual and systematic release of resistance allows a natural harmony to take over. Ease and well-being ensue. A sense of connection, interrelatedness, common being comes to the forefront of awareness. One begins to know one's own essential nature as the wakefulness and awareness that underlies and establishes a context for all the activities and movement of mind, body and all events within our experience.

    With this, we also begin to understand this essential nature as being fundamentally unbounded and eternal, self-effulgent and untouchable.

    Alignment of all aspects of the mindflow creates a channel to Spirit or essential nature, allowing more creative and sustaining energy and intelligence to flow into us and through us into the world. A harmonious mind is not only an effective and comfortable mind; it is an illuminated and enlightened mind. The wisdom and power of Nature itself flows effortlessly into the individual, healing, sustaining, supporting and inspiring them and their purposes in life and in the world.

    And thus the person becomes more and more established in his or her own nature, in his or her own personal way of being and as a result is better able to express more and more life sustaining and life supporting conduct and behavior.

    In practice, the release of resistance happens episodically at first. The normal everyday pattern of resistance and struggle is interrupted by moments of acceptance and welcoming. This emerging sense of acceptance, of "going with the flow," alternates with periods of the usual confusion, conflict, upset and tension.

    This experience, of relative momentary awakening to the easy and natural flow of life, often accompanied by a sense of ease, well being and enjoyment, is experienced as temporary freedom from struggle. It feelslike grace descends for the moment and we are relieved to experience things seeming to go our way.

    next verse:

    YS 1.4 At other times, we remain identified with the mental objects, narratives and apparent entities that are spun out of our resistance to Life.

    Saturday
    Dec162017

    Yoga Sutra Verse of the Week: YS 1.39 Meditation on What Is Agreeable

    1.39 Or by contemplating or dwelling on whatever object or principle one may like, that is, anything agreeable or anything that interests us in a positive way; in this way the mind becomes stable and tranquil.

    Perhaps the simplest definition of the proper technique to achieve and support dhyana, or yogic meditation — the unbroken, unresistive, contemplative flow that is a precursor, intermediate step and support for the experience of yogic samadhi (insight or merger of the personal subjective mind with spirit, the creative energy and intelligence all physical reality.)

    For obvious reasons, it's easier to hold the attention on a wholly agreeable concept or theme than it is to stay focused on one that has little or no interest for us. It's even easier when we begin to feel a sense emotional ease or well-being as well.

    When we are able to focus and dwell completely on an agreeable thought, feeling and sensation, any dissonance or disagreement within the mindstream is dissolved or nullified, which allows for the progressive experience of samadhi.

    For this purpose, we can use a mantra: an agreeable mental concept, a positive “theme,”, which we experience first in the form of a word, then deepen it as an understanding, then an abstract “knowing,” and then eventually dwelling on it as a feeling or sensation. This allows for agreement at all levels of mind, the gross verbal levels of mind, the subtler levels of knowing, understanding, and extending to the deeper, clearer levels of positive feeling and emotion, sensation and even intention, extending all the way to the subtlest levels of incipient being. By training the attention to hold and propagate a single agreeable “thought,” we achieve internal alignment (dhyana) and set the stage for complete insight (samadhi).