Aparigraha. (or my computer crashed)

It happened. My computer crashed. Just a blue screen. On it were countless photos, music, folders, esaays, and a few pie charts and spirographs. It is one of those things that is probably inevitable in the age of fast moving technology. I should have been prepared for it. I wasn’t. Although I did have a nagging feeling a few weeks ago when everything seemed to be running a little slower than usual. I thought I should back everything up, I even said it out loud, but I didn’t. How much info will be able to be retrieved and what is lost I am not sure yet, I will have to wait and see.

While waiting for the result my mind immediately turns to thoughts of one of the Yamas of Yoga: Aparigraha.
There are many interpretations and applications for Aparigraha, this being one of the more literal translations; Non grasping. I may lose all my “stuff” and if so I have to let go of it. This idea of “non-attachment” can be applied to tangible objects as well as to our thoughts and ideas. If we practice Aparigraha we must carefully consider which objects and ideas we choose to hold onto. We must prioritize how our time and energy is spent. Maybe I was spending too much time on the computer, maybe there were too many thoughts tucked into too many folders. When we practice Aparigraha by letting go of something, someone, or some idea we create space for the things that are truly important. We create a space for possibility and begin to understand all that is truly important to us. The important things are those that cannot be lost. A generous heart, a kind spirit, a quiet mind.

It is not fun when a computer crashes, but really, in the overall scheme of things what is lost? Maybe it is time to simply let go of the old to make room for the new.

Yama of Yoga: Satya.

When I was in high school my mother gave me two wonderful little books of philosophy called Notes to Myself and How to Live in the World and Still Be Happy by Hugh Prather.  I read them over and over again throughout my life, his simple words always seemed to make sense, to calm and reassure me.  I carried the books with me until they were so dog eared and highlighted that they literally fell apart.  Even now, so many years later, his words are ingrained in my memory.   One of my favorite Hugh Prather quotes is:  “LIVE your life as if everything you do will eventually be known.”  Now that is a tall order.

Living a life based in truth is one of the Yamas of Yoga: Satya.  Literally translated it means truthfulness.  Practicing satya means being truthful in our feelings, thoughts, and words. It means being honest with ourselves and with others.

When we are honest we can be fearless, living life as an open book.  Honesty is at the heart of all healthy relationships. Practicing Satya in your words is a good place to start.  You might need to deliver the truth to a friend who desperately needs your input.  It may not be what she wants to hear at the moment but you can deliver those words in a supportive, honest and loving way.   Gossip and hearsay are a large part of this lack of truth in our daily lives.  If we were to think for a moment before recounting events in our day, being sure that the words we were sharing were absolutely truthful, we would probably have a lot less to say.  Sometimes, the truth hurts, so it is just as important to know when not to speak if it will cause someone else damage. This idea is stated simply and eloquently in the Mahabharata:  “Speak the truth which is pleasant.  Do not speak unpleasant truths.  Do not lie, even if the lies are pleasing to the ear.  This is the eternal law, the dharma.”  Being truthful means that we must choose our words wisely.

Being truthful with ourselves is another aspect of Satya.  Becoming clear with who we are and what makes us happy.  This means we can let go of trying to achieve perfection and stop being so hard on ourselves.  We can let go of the desire to always please.  When you do things that are not a reflection of the real you, you cannot be happy with yourself.  You will become confused because you won’t know who to please or how.  Find the courage to say this is who I am and be okay with it.  Embrace your truth.  Don’t compromise yourself.  Many friends and relatives with the best of intentions might offer us advice.  Listen to them and then listen to your own heart, it will never steer you wrong.

Once you begin to act in accordance with your fundamental nature; the true you, you will find your intuition growing stronger, decision making becoming easier, and a sense of peace in your daily life. Making a commitment to truth is not always easy, but living without lies is ultimately very freeing.

Live in your truth and live a life of respect, honor and integrity.

Practicing Tapas: Fierce Determination.

tapas

Tapas

As the chilly days of autumn and winter fall upon us, take the opportunity to PRACTICE one of the Niyamas of Yoga; Tapas.   The definition of Tapas is ‘heat’ or ‘ fiery discipline’ or ‘a constant and intense commitment’  I call it fierce determination.

Tapas is a phenomenon of the body as well as the mind. This fire is what can keep you going even if you don’t feel like it.  Getting to class sometimes can be the hardest part. Our mind will always come up with an excuse not to do something.  I am too tired, I don’t have time, it’s too cold outside. If we can summon our tapas we almost always feel better and wonder why it was so challenging to get there in the first place.

When you are holding a pose and give up, feeling that you couldn’t possibly hold it one second longer, think about what might happen if you were offered one hundred dollars to hold the pose for one more breath.  It is amazing how you can summon the strength when you really have to.  We have all heard the stories of men and women exhibiting super human strength.  Lifting automobiles, heavy machinery, even buses to rescue their trapped and injured loved ones.   That is tapas.

Just as it is when you are starting a fire, it takes time.  Collecting the wood, stacking the logs, fanning the flames, it is a process. Yet once the embers are lit, they generate more and more heat. When a new log is set on the existing fire, it takes very little effort to ignite.  Tapas will grow over time and will be extended to other aspects of your life.   That is the good news, we have the ability to redirect our energy.  We can listen to all of our minds objections and then decide to do what’s good for us anyway.  That tapas, that fierce determination exists within us at all times, we just have to tap into it.

Pranayama and Diaphramatic Breathing.

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The Sanskrit word for yogic breathing is Pranayama.  Prana is the life force that keeps us alive.  Yama refers to expansion and extension, the ability to expand the breath and increase energy in the body.

Breath is the most important tool in yoga.  By connecting with the breath we find a feeling of lightness and clarity; create an instant support system for the postures.  When we are feeling challenged in a pose our natural instinct is to want to hold our breath, to grit our teeth and push through it. Holding the breath can create tension, dull our awareness and often cause us to feel light headed or woozy.

Diaphragmatic breathing (the expansion and contraction of the diaphragm) is the cure for reducing tension in the body and quieting the mind.  In a normal healthy breath, the abdomen puffs out as you inhale and relaxes in as you exhale.  One type of inefficient breathing is “reverse” breathing.  In reverse breathing you are working against yourself and using the diaphragm in a completely inefficient manner.  Reverse breathers pull the abdomen in as they inhale and push it out as they exhale.  Breathing this way can be very taxing on the nervous system.  Take a moment to check in with the breath to determine if you are a reverse breather.  Finding this out can change your life immeasurably and is very easy to correct.

“Several researchers have reported that pranayama techniques are beneficial in treating a range of stress related disorders, improving autonomic functions, relieving symptoms of asthma, and reducing signs of oxidative stress. Practitioners report that the practice of pranayama develops a steady mind, strong will-power, and sound judgment, and also claim that sustained pranayama practice extends life and enhances perception.”

It can also be a most important tool in our daily lives.  We have all heard the phrase “take a deep breath” when confronted with a stressful or upsetting moment.  By taking a slow deep breath through the nose we can relax the nervous system and calm the mind.   We may not have time for a full asana practice, but we certainly have 2 minutes during the course of a day to close our eyes and bring our awareness to the breath.   Inhale expand the belly, exhale deflate the belly.  Just.  Breathe.

The 4 Immeasurables: Maitri, Karuna, Mudita, and Upeksha.

shoes

Today is my wedding anniversary.  I am filled with love and joy and gratitude.  And so, today this post is dedicated to love.  You can’t really LIVE without it.  Many of the principles that yoga teaches are easily applied to a loving relationship.  The word yoga itself means “to come together”; “to unite”; “to attain what was previously unattainable”.

By embracing the 4 Immeasureables as discussed in Pantanjali’s Yoga Sutras, we have a wonderful support system that encourages positive attitudes and behaviors to create a fufilling relationship.

These 4 sublime attitudes are: Maitri (Lovingkindness)  It is a gentle, loyal acceptance with a deep sense of appreciation and regard. Karuna (Compassion) “ It is the intention and capacity to relieve and transform suffering, to lighten sorrow.” The Buddha described karuna as the “quivering of the heart” we experience when we are open and able to truly see suffering and are moved to do something about it”.  Mudita (Joy)  “True love brings joy, and mudita is the joy we take in the simple pleasures. When we love, joy seems to surround and pervade us”.   Upeksha (Equanimity)  “ It is the ability to feel  a connection fully, without clinging or possessiveness.”

Through these immeasurables we can talk honestly and openly without harm,  we can cultivate a greater awareness of our partner’s needs and put those needs before our own, revel in the simple joys of the everyday, feel a greater connection that allows us to trust that we are always with each other and that this love is constant.  A knowing that this love is greater than ourselves and that all beings are tranquil, happy, and aware of their gifts and accomplishments.  We in turn then feel interconnected to everyone and everything.

As Maharishi Mahesh Yogi said:  “Love is the supreme blessing of life; love as love is universal.  Personal love is concentrated universal love.  Ah my heart flows when I say: Personal love is concentrated universal love.  The ocean of universal love flows in the streams of individual love.  What a blessing in life.”

Indeed.

Niyama Of Yoga: Santosha.

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Embrace the concept of Santosha, one of the Niyamas of Yoga.

It is the feeling of contentment with what we already have, in all aspects of our life.  Focusing our energy on what we have rather than on what we are lacking.  These things can be material like a new car or more conceptual like a better relationship with a family member.  There will always be someone who has a bigger car, a more lavish house, the seemingly perfect relationship.  These “things” are not our concern.  We can take refuge in knowing that we already have all that we need.  However, Santosha is not to be confused with complacency, it simply means that we are at peace with where we are right now.   We can be content where we are while we are working toward something.

Be content, be grateful,  and be truly happy.