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    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.


    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.


    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.


    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).


    Yoga Sutra Verse of the Week - YS 1 .38 Inspiration and Clarity from Dreams

    YS1 .38 Also, the mind can be inspired or supported in alignment by the understanding or insight obtained in dreaming or deep sleep.


    Yoga describes a vision of human being (read “being” here as a verb) that is broader and more holistic than the largely fragmented psychodynamic, biochemical and behavioral models of modern western culture.

    In Yoga, the mind (and everything else) is structured in consciousness (richo akshare parame vyoman) meaning quality and capability of mind is made up of how awake we are, how aware we are, and how we’re focused. Mind exists as a function of awareness and focus, and life flows from that.

    In the West, mind is believed to exist only because there is a brain. Mind is seen as the subjective experience of the function of the brain. Mind health is brain health. And it goes further: awareness and the ability to focus is seen almost entirely as an attribute of brain chemistry. To modern science, everything about a person, one’s character, one’s tendencies, one’s choices all exist as a function of the neurochemistry of the brain. At one point it was believed that there was some agency in the mind that allowed for free will and self-determinism, however the biological model seems to be consistently moving in the direction of reducing human behavior and experience to a product of genetic and environmental factors. We are entirely subject to our biology.

    Yoga sees it diffently. In Yoga, awareness exists independent of the physical manifestations of the world.

    Awareness is seen as giving rise to the world, not just in experiential terms, but in physical terms. The physical world, including both brain and mind themselves are manifestations of the energy field of awareness itself. The primordial awareness field labeled Purusha is self-aware, purposeful, all-powerful and contains within itself infinite intelligence. It exists eternally at the heart of all matter and energy and guides and directs the flow of life that becomes the movements and the laws of Nature. In sentient beings it becomes the mind and in flowing through the mind continuously becomes the body and the resulting body is how we experience, focus on and participate in the world.

    Everything (Prakriti), both physical and non-physical, is structured in consciousness: animated, illuminated, made aware of and supported by this underlying field of energy and intelligence that are the two basic gifts of pure consciousness itself (Purusha).

    Now to the point of the sutra: states of mind and states of consciousness exist in a continuum, from gross to subtle and refined. The more refined, the more intelligent, the grosser, the more distorted and dysfunctional.

    More resistive conditions of mind, here labeled “grosser,” which means high-contrast, dramatic, stressful experiences of mind (more agitated or more dull) are less clear, less pure, less intelligent, weaker and harmful. This is what happens when the mind-stream is contaminated by resistance to the flow of life. (Rajasic and tamasic states of mind)

    Yoga, in supporting release of all mental and emotional resistance to the flow of life, supports clearer, purer, more intelligent (both intellectually and emotionally intelligent) states of mind, states of mind that are naturally comfortable and balanced, and because they exist in harmony with life, are more adaptive and productive.

    Yoga enumerates three basic states of consciousness, waking, dreaming and deep sleep, which everyone experiences, and brings into being a fourth, transcendent, state of mind called turiya. This fourth state of mind is highly refined waking mind blended with pure consciousness or creative intelligence, a product of yoga practice.

    Waking state is where we actively participate in life with others and focus on growth and development. Sleep is where we release the stress and resistance that is a by-product of being engaged in the work of living. It’s where we are refreshed and restored, where the mind and heart are able to heal and reset. As the mind gets pure through practice, deep sleep is less “unconscious;” we are less dull in sleep, we feel more of a sense of pervasive wakefulness and contentment while sleeping deeply.

    Dreaming is a state somewhere between the two, where we experience, in a magnified way, either the stresses that we’re up against or gain inspiration as to how to reach for greater fulfillment— good and bad dreams. In each case, the good feelings give us inspiration as to a purer form of what we’re reaching for, while the bad dreams give us a clearer sense of the anxieties and upset that we’re struggling with. Dreams can be a window, a fresh perspective on the ways we’re focused during the day.

    The insights and inspiration we receive in deep sleep or in happy dreams can be a very useful support to our continuing growth in well-being.

    Dwelling on these inspired insights in waking state, whether in meditation or in daily life, is a way of further refining and clarifying mind and extending yoga practice towards samadhi.


    Yoga Sutra Verse of the Week: YS 1.15: Explanation of Practice as a Combination of Engagement and Allowing

    YS 1.15 Through allowing, and it's entailment, the systematic release of attachment, one is freed from the sense of absolute lack or need for objective things that are seen or heard of. This demonstrates success in becoming established within the pure unbounded grace and freedom of the subjective self.


    All things are connected. All things exist and develop in relation to all other things. There is nothing truly independent, truly unrelated. How close or involved one thing is with another is just a matter of degrees of separation. And attachment in this sense, the positive aspect of attachment — that things must work collaboratively with other things in order for life to move forward, is a necessary and good part of the nature of things.


    It's good that my hands are attached to my arms, or that our bodies are attached to the earth through gravity. This is not the kind of need or attachment Patanjali is referring to. Non-attachment can't be a false physical independence. To say that we don't need anything or we don't depend on anything is foolish at best. No matter how simply or minimumly we may live, we are still tremendously dependent on and completely interdependent with all that is.


    So what is this "attachment" that we are releasing by learning to favor allowing? We find that this attachment cannot be any kind of self-denial or restraint of need or appetite. Nor can it be a shunning of interest or desire for experience or comfort.


    A baby should seek and cling to her mother. A wave will cling to the shore. All things exist in an interdependent state, and this need is intrinsic to the flow of life itself.


    In the same way, desire is a necessary and good thing. Without desire, there would be no life at all. It is desire that gives rise to growth and expansion. So non-attachment cannot be an independence or a suppression of desire. It's also not some form of restraint, mind over matter, suppression of appetite, need or wanting.

    Granted, desire must be intelligent, guided by perspective and understanding. A baby's growth is rooted in desire, but it also must be supported by, guided by understanding the bigger picture grounded in a proper understanding of the effect the flow of time and the need for cooperation with the others and surroundings. We need to learn what ecology is, and how to channel desire for best results. But simple suppression of desire in an attempt at self-control doesn't work. Desire is the force of Nature itself, urging us forward to grow.

    Understanding of context and insight into interrelationships, learning how things work and how to do things well is a better choice.


    Systematic and continuous adopting and favoring of these two core values of Practice: *abhyasa*, or **engagement** and *vairagya* or **allowing** are central to *nirodha*, or nullification of resistance within the mindstream. “Allowing” means not colored by resistance --that we don’t object to or fight with the actual existence of something. We let things be and we engage with them in a collaborative and cooperative way. Allowing, or “being with” and engagement, or “willingness to work with something” are the methods by which the knot of suffering is loosened and untied, making way for the ease, freedom and joy of flowing as a blended, integrated being.



    How to Understand Ashtanga (Eight-Limbed) Yoga

    According to Patanjali's Classical Yoga, Yoga has what are called eight limbs, eight parts -- in Sanskrit, "Ashtanga," (ash (eight) tanga (limbs)).

    And here's where it may start to get a little confusing for some people, because there is also a popular system of physical culture yoga called "Ashtanga Yoga." But Pattabhi Jois' Ashtanga Yoga, part of what's called the Mysore School, is not the same as the Ashtanga Yoga of Maharishi Patanjali, as described in the Yoga Sutras.

    Here we're talking about the Ashtanga Yoga of Maharishi Patanjali, described in his Yoga Sutras, composed almost two thousand years ago, also called Classical Yoga.

    For Patajali, the Eight limbs are not eight separate practices. They are aspects, dimensions, attributes of all Yoga practice, or of any particular Yoga practice. Patanjali seems mainly focused on what we call inner practice, meditation practice: the mental and emotional cultivation of total unresisted flow to foster a state of total freedom he calls "kaivalya."

    It is worth noting that there is virtually no mention of any physical practice of Yoga anywhere in the Yoga Sutras. What we know as Asana or Vinyasa practice is a relatively modern invention. It seems that originally, Yoga practice focused mainly on training the mind and heart to achieve this state of Yoga, total harmony with Nature. Yoga-on-the-mat came later.

    For Patanjali, Yoga practice entails the concurrent development of all of the eight limbs together. The Eight limbs describe the inner dimensions of the practice, as opposed to the external aspects of the practice. Properly practiced and understood, they align mind, heart and spirit to support, energize, complete and fulfill the external practices of Yoga (physical and behavioral practices).

    It's worth noting that while Patanjali focuses mainly on meditation practices, the eight limbs he describes equally apply to any of the other formal Yoga practices that came later on -- to Vinyasa, or Bhakti, or Jnana or Karma or Raja Yoga practice. All Yoga practice benefits when it conforms to the eight limbed model.

    The Eight Limbs of Yoga are as follows:

    1. Yama (principles or precepts) -- a list of five concepts that comprise the main principles (guidelines) of Yoga Practice. All practice should conform to these five principles. They are non-aggression, acceptance, non-comparison, self-sufficiency and non-clinging. These are to be learned, understood and implemented.

    2. Niyama (observances or attributes) -- a list of five concepts that describe the main manifestations of successful Yoga practice, things we observe in ourselves and others as a result of practice, things that show us we're on the right track. They are purity, contentment, radiance, self-understanding and surrender to God or Nature. Again, we learn, observe and understand these principles.

    3. Asana (foundation) refers to one's attitude or disposition on every level: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. It is one's basic disposition, foundation, or framework of being, and it should be steady and feel comfortable, whether we're on our mat, in our meditation, in the supermarket checkout line, or anywhere else in our everyday life.

    Patanjali's use of the word Asana is not to be confused with the physical postures of Hatha Yoga, also called Asanas. His use of the word Asana is much bigger, much more fundamental and all-encompassing.

    Yama, Niyama and Asana form the basis for the next two limbs. They are the platform on which the next two limbs rest.

    4. Pranayama (energy control) Prana is life-energy; it is also the breath. (Much like the the two uses of inspiration in English: referring to both the breath and the spirit.) Achieving balance in the flow of energies (experienced mostly as attitude, mood, motivation and vitality) throughout one's system is essential to Yoga. Working with the breath is only the beginning. Next we learn to work with emotion and then intention to produce a steady state of even-temperedness and equanimity relative to loss and gain (samapatti). The three stages of pranayama are mood balance, energy balance and intentional energy attunement (shaktipata).

    5. Pratyahara (de-identification) Refers to the ability to withdraw from mental/emotional identification with the objects of perception.

    We could also understand it as disengagement from the kleshas, the barriers to Yoga: identification with the finite, the temporal (avidya); identification with the individual ego (asmita); attachment and aversion, (raga and dvesha); and clinging to life (abinivesha). Patanjali lists these five "afflictions" as the chief barriers to Yoga.

    But on a simpler level, Pratyahara means being able to shift mental frames of reference to allow for free movement of attention, allowing for freedom regarding mental/emotional attitudes and choices. It means a mind with no fixed attitudes or ideas, free movement of attention.

    Pranayama and Pratyahara are necessary to stabilize and free up the mind and attention in support of the next three limbs. They make the last three limbs possible.

    6. Dharana (focus) the ability to naturally and easily hold one's attention on a specific point; to hold a specific attunement of mind and heart energy. We use a mantra or mental theme to develop and strengthen Dharana.

    7. Dhyana (attunement; flow) The ability to maintain that focus so that rapport and polarity develops between the individual and the universal, allowing for a deeper, more profound experience of attunement and energy exchange between the two.

    Dhyana also refers to the systematic development of alignment between mind, heart and spirit. This experience must be a part of any and every practice of Yoga -- vinyasa, meditation, service, study or devotion. The proper use of mantra is an easy way of learning to achieve and maintain a state of dhyana.

    8. Samadhi (insight; absorption) The collapse of subject/object separation and the experience of unity or oneness between observer and observed. Profound intimacy and inter-subjectivity. Total flow. There are many different levels to samadhi, but the two main distinctions are samadhi with thought (savikalpa) and samadhi without thought (nirvikalpa). Both are the product of full engagement of all eight limbs in practice.

    According to Patanjali, the last three limbs are three parts of one process he calls Samyama. Becoming able to enter into Samyama (total unrestricted flow) is the fundamental objective, the main mechanism of all formal practice of Yoga. It's where the real benefits start to happen. All else is preliminary to that.

    Each of the eight limbs (eight aspects, attributes or dimensions) of practice must be present to some extent in order to fulfill the practice and the promise of Yoga -- physical and material well-being; enjoyment and happiness; life-supporting and life-supported behavior; and liberation. They must all be brought forth together for Yoga to take place.

    They are not to be understood as separate practices, steps, or rungs on a ladder, but rather as eight aspects of one complete practice -- eight limbs of one tree. All eight limbs must be active in practice if the promise of Yoga is to be fulfilled.
    Any and all formal practice, vinyasa or meditation, for example, must rest on, include and conform to the eight limbs in order to be complete and effective.

    We learn and understand them one at a time; we practice them all together. This is Ashtanga Yoga. This is Patanjali's eight limbed practice.


    New Workshop Jan 22, 1pm Firefly Yoga, Westwood, MA

    A Workshop on Patanjali's Eight Limb Yoga

    Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara: Attaining Emotional Comfort, Ease, Balance and Stability

    Sunday, Jan 22 1-4pm at Firefly Westwood, 311 Washington St, Westwood, MA

    Do you feel grounded in a good way? Comfortable & steady in life? Asana in Yoga usually refers to being steady in physical postures,but in the context of the Yoga Sutras it has a much broader meaning. Asana in Eightfold Yoga means our overall stance in life. It’s where we’re coming from in every situation: how steady, confident, comfortable & responsive we are facing our circumstances. Asana means being secure, aligned, ready, willing & able to face life. Not shaky, not dependent, not uncomfortable, and certainly not anxious. Asana is feeling comfortable and steady in every situation.

    Pranayama is more than breathing exercises to steady your nerves. It’s learning how to be even-tempered, open, loving & happy. In this workshop we’ll be moving beyond breathing exercises & learning to directly work with energy to balance our emotions so we’re calm, even-tempered, buoyant and confident

    Do unhelpful habits of mind drive you crazy? Do you obsess or perseverate? Or have fixed ideas or feelings that weigh you down? If so, then you need to learn more about the limb of Yoga called Pratyahara. Simply put, it’s the Yoga of how to release fixed ideas & feelings in order to be free of negative or unhelpful mental habits. Pratyahara isn’t withdrawal or resistance. It’s perspective. It’s releasing fixations; letting go of old habits & self-stories. It’s being able to look at the same old things from fresh new points of view so you can see possibilities where once you only saw obstacles.


    Click here to sign up: