I was so fortunate to have a mother who introduced me to Yoga in the l950s. Like my father, she too was a pioneer in the field of “natural” health. She studied with the originators of reflexology, was an honorary member of the Chiropractic Association, a licensed physical therapist, a hypnotherapist and informally, an amazing psychic. She could travel intra-dimensionally through time and foretell the future. However, as a small child, I was most fascinated by what I considered to be her most important accomplishment…the art of analyzing a person’s handwriting. Again, she was on the leading edge of this subject and studied with elders who for decades had carried on this tradition.
As I grew and learned to read and write, she slowly began to share with me what she had learned about this little-known art. I was mesmerized by the way a person’s script could accurately reveal their personality traits. Even though I knew that under all of our personal quirks, there is a deep layer in all of us where our spirit bypasses all the personality issues that divide us as human beings.
One evening many months ago, I was watching the news showing the current President dramatically signing his name to a legislative proclamation. I was about to leave the room when he held it up for the viewing audience to see. I was shocked. His signature seemed to jump off the screen and stopped me in my tracks. I had never seen anything like it.
The strokes were very black and bold. Even though they were coming from a marking pen, the choice of that pen would display a person who enjoys dominance over others. The strength of the strokes suggests a person born with strong internal organs and strong sexual energy. The extreme height of the strokes of the pen reveal a tendency to “color outside of the lines.” In other words, they feel they are above and beyond the laws, rules and regulations that guide the lives of others. The sharp vertical lines are like daggers thrusting out as if to attack others with hypercritical thoughts and words.
This signature unveils an immature being who is cavalier and even whimsical in making decisions that impact the lives of millions of people. A decision can be made one minute and reversed the next. The strokes are straight up and down neither leaning to right or left displaying a person who lives “in the moment” insulated from his own conscience. In some ways this could be an asset and in other ways, it is not reflective of a contemplative thinker. It shows a person who is “street wise” with a law of the jungle mentality but lacking in higher wisdom and integrity.
The knife-like strokes concerned me the most. They are sharp, revealing a tendency to mentally and verbally attack others to the point of cruelty. According to the shape of the letters, I’m sorry to say, there is no sign of a well-rounded and integrated personality. It reveals a person who has a pathological need for attention, approval, and yes, even a need for respect. This is the signature of an expansive thinker but in a way that is self -serving rather than for the greater good of humankind.
The letters that are almost superimposed upon one another reveal a tendency toward excessive secrecy, which can be understandable for anyone in public life who struggles to protect and enhance their own image. The soaring strokes above the bottom line are indicative of one who is prone to exaggeration and distortion of facts. The elongated lines show an ability to stretch truth to a point of deformation where it morphs into a lie. There is no transparency in the writing but there are strokes that reveal a bold visionary, who thinks big and is single-minded in fulfilling his visions. However, there are letters that are cut short revealing a lack of follow-through.
I kept thinking about this person’s need for dominance that is revealed in his signature. It strongly shows an excessive tendency toward autocracy with an obsessive need to control people and situations around him. This signature belongs to a micromanager thinking that he alone knows better than others. It is not the signature of one who can listen. In fact, it shows that the person behind the strokes cannot hear the voices of others even when he may appear to be listening. It shows that the one behind the scribbles takes every opportunity to dominate conversations, mostly expounding in terms of self-aggrandizement. From the handwriting alone, it looks like the one behind the strokes could suck the air out of a room showing an erratic neediness that exhausts the energy and creativity of all those around.
I’m sorry to say…that there seems to be more contractive rather than expansive traits of this signature. However, the elongated strokes are of one who is “bigger than life,” bold, and defiant especially when opposed. This person could heavily push on others in attempts to get his own way
The handwriting strokes reveal a person who, when they think they are wronged, do not seek justice as much as revenge. This person is highly individualistic and cannot work in a committee or team of people for a common goal. The signature shows a highly autocratic person, like a King who dominates, rather than hears and integrates the needs and wishes of his people. The delicate feather strokes on a few letters show an amazing flair for beauty and sumptuous surroundings.
I have been mulling over this signature since first seeing it. Some of my family members are supporters of this president so I have been reluctant to share this with them. And some of you may not agree with this assessment…and that’s okay. Since the Presidential election, I struggle to stay in the Buddhi mind of equanimity, and find it increasingly difficult in light of growing imbalance in our governance at this time.
Sometimes we need to periodically go out of balance to help bring a situation back into balance. I learned this from Yoga Master, Mr. B.K.S. Iyengar. One day in class in India, he was adjusting the body of a Yoga student to help her align in the pose. He looked at me and asked, “Do you see…can you see? I’m throwing my body out of alignment to help her come into alignment.” Are we all at this time being asked to come out of the Yogic state of neutral observation to take a position or stance to help our national body to come into balance?
The person behind the signature has been unique in how he has brought up pre- existing political corruption while adding his own to the mix. We practice Yoga, to bring up what is embedded in our subconscious psyche. And now, we are experiencing this in the collective psyche of our country. Whether Individual or collective, in Yoga it is believed that impressions (samskaras) must surface before they can be seen, healed and in turn, transformed.
In these past two or more years there have been so many things that have been brought up to the surface of our socio-political system that require healing and transformation. However, according to this presidential handwriting, there is a “coarseness” in the personality with few signs, if any, of nobility and graciousness. In his obsessive need to dominate, the one behind the signature can become a destructive and dangerous force.
My evangelical friends think this president was sent by God to end abortions, which would give the government control over women’s bodies. They are also excited because some feel he is the one to usher in the long-awaited apocalyptic rapture of Armageddon. Some think he is God’s messenger and divinely sent, while others think he is sent by a force other than God. Yes, according to this handwriting this person who dominates the news cycles, is shaking up old sediments of the past revealing what may no longer be working. His mere presence in the “highest” office of the land is testing the strength of a democratic system that our forefathers envisioned over 200 years ago.
It’s interesting to note that in Greek mythology there once was a demi-God named Chaos, who was frightening. He would always create a whirlwind of turbulence and confusion before ensuing changes. He would strike fear into the hearts of those who wanted to maintain the status quo. Because Chaos always preceded change, he was eventually excluded from the pantheon of the Gods. Perhaps, the Greek Gods have now reinstalled Chaos and sent him to remind us earthly mortals that some of the old edifices and structures may have to crumble before the new can be born. Could this President be an unwitting messenger of Chaos with all his confusion and destructive tendencies?
However, maybe we should ask ourselves and others, “Are we jumping from the frying pan into the fire?” Is this our tapas as individuals and as a nation? In Yoga, tap means to burn. Are we in the burning times which are a purifying prelude to our personal, national, and global transformation? If so, what is our place and destiny within this evolutionary change? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could embrace the fullness of all humanity? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if one day, I will even be able to embrace the Being behind the veil of his signature?
On April 10, the year of 2019, a great light left this planet. A special Being in the physical form of Barbara Marx Hubbard, has left this world to explore the vastness of inner space and the worlds beyond.
Whether we realize it or not, our lives are a search for those of “like mind,” who can expand and stretch our consciousness as if awakening it to a dawn of a new day. We look for those Beings who can be teachers, mentors or friends. Barbara was all that to me.
She entered my life when she was the first woman to seek nomination as the Democratic Party’s candidate for vice presidency of the United States in 1984 (shortly after speaking at the national convention, she withdrew from the race in favor of Geraldine Ferarro). I had just moved with my family to the Seattle area when I received a call from a member of the local Democratic Committee wanting to know if I could drive Barbara from Seattle to speak at a rally in Olympia, Washington. How could I know that when I said “yes,” it would change the future of my life? Ironically, Barbara called herself a “futurist.” She had studied with Buckminster Fuller and was considered to be his protégé.
At the college rally, I stood in awe as she answered every question from skeptical young students and brought them to their feet in inspirational applause. Barbara was magnificent as she won over hearts and minds including my own. Even though I was deeply steeped in Yoga and its eternal philosophical teachings, she opened not just a new window but a gateway of expanded consciousness. She was like a master of the universe showing me how to link theories of ancient eastern teachings to evolution and futuristic visions of that which is timeless and eternal.
When I was asked to travel to the Soviet Union (of which Russia was part) at the height of the Cold War in the 80s, I had a vision to bring a few thousand people there to “meet the enemy.” The vision was to bring Americans to meet with their Soviet counterparts behind the “iron curtain” so they too could change the stereotypes they held of one another.
My concern was that the enemy concept could create a negative critical mass that could actually manifest in what we feared most, a nuclear war between the two superpowers. My hope was that when the Americans met the Soviets face-to-face, they would change their stereotypes of one another, as I had done. My vision was that they too, would see that there was no enemy, only those who shared the same hopes, fears, and dreams of the future. An idealistic vision came to me in Red Square. Soviets were not allowed to travel in those days, so we had to bring the Americans to them.
Shortly after I returned to the U.S. from the first of 57 trips to the Soviet Union, I immediately tried to find Barbara. I sought her out and found her in Topanga Canyon. It was a sad time in her life when the excitement of having her name placed in the vice-presidential nomination was over. “What will I do now?” she asked through her tears. I simply said, “Come with me to the Soviet Union. I think the next era of your work will be found in Russia. She was interested and later said that she felt at that moment she was being guided to the next step of her work.
We arranged for her to speak in Finland at our briefings as well as in Leningrad and Moscow at large meetings organized by the Friendship Society and the Soviet Peace Committee. I had previously arranged for our American delegation to meet with their Soviet professional counterparts. Barbara’s presence and vision of bringing Soviet and Americans together around themes of “the future” brought the work to a whole new level.
We arranged for her to meet with officials as well as the non-official people in their homes and at our hotel, which was not done at that time in the U.S.S.R. It was so powerful for both Soviets and Americans to meet! They bonded like brothers and sisters who have been separated for a very long time.
When Barbara spoke of the Alpha and Omega, she stirred excitement with the Russians who said they had waited for someone like her to come into their lives. Barbara said, “We speak the same language…the language of the future.” They loved her, trusted her, and now and then joked about her name “Marx.”
For the next few years, along with our co-worker Linda Johnson, we worked together on developing proposals to find ever-new ways and methods to expand into nearly every area of Soviet society. At first, I felt like I was clearing a path with a machete. But when Barbara entered the work, together with our colleagues, we co-created new pathways, roads, and then highways. Barbara was a fearless pioneer and partner in exploring forbidden new frontiers.
Together with Linda, we organized themes of trips such as, In Search of a Positive Future and The World Peace Event. With the help of Barbara’s sister Patricia, we brought together Soviet and American military generals to find solutions to the imposing Star Wars program (President Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative). Speaking of stars, one of our projects was also bringing together Soviet cosmonauts with American astronauts.
One day I told Barbara that when we brought Americans to meet with their Soviet counterparts, it was difficult for them to say, “goodbye.” They would hug and cling to one another with tears in their eyes thinking they would never see each other again. I told her that a Soviet official, Slava, said it was because we are like brothers and sisters of the one humanity who have been separated for a very long time. “After finding each other again,” Slava said with tears in his eyes, “it is always difficult to say goodbye.”
Barbara immediately came up with a brilliant idea of having Soviets and Americans working together on joint projects that would keep them linked. One winter day in meetings in Moscow, Barbara along with our brilliant Soviet friends came up with a futuristic title for us to launch joint projects, The First Soviet-American Citizen’s Summit: Social Inventions for the Third Millennium. It was boldly planned to be held in Washington, D.C.
The Summit brought together 100 Soviet leaders representing organizations within their government such as psychology, sociology, philosophy, and medicine. There were educators, Russian orthodox clergy, generals and statesmen. There were musicians, ballerinas, and superb visual artists. The delegation included nearly every editor of every Soviet publication. We arranged for the Soviets to meet with senators and other major representatives of our government. We even arranged for some of the Soviet leaders to attend an early morning prayer breakfast at the Pentagon where we all sang hymns, read from the Bible and yes, stood up with hand over heart to honor the American flag.
It was a powerful experience when the 100 leaders from all walks of life of the U.S.S.R. met with 500 cultural creatives that Barbara brought together from a broad spectrum of American life. This had never been done before. It was an exciting time for all of us as we transcended old worn theories of “the enemy” to creatively explore together possibilities of building new relationships for a better world.
Twelve task forces met for five days and each time new joint projects would emerge such as Education for a New World, or New Frontiers of Health and Healing. We were thrilled! Barbara’s vision was to use computer technology, newly emerging at the time, to record each joint “social invention.” Her amazing network of Global Family would collect the data, work all night to format it and each morning, all 600 participants would receive a news bulletin of projects that were emerging in each of the twelve task forces. The Soviets as well as Americans were impressed.
Of course, this led to the second Soviet-American Citizen’s Summit to be held one year later in Moscow. The title we came up with was Restoring the Global Environment. It was the first time that Soviet officials actually sat in meetings with non-official Russians, those who were the artisans, writers, teachers, healers, economists, scientists and of course, the famed poets. The poet was sacrosanct in the Russian society, which was still recovering from the Stalin purges of the intelligentsia. It was amazing to see Russians sitting side by side not just with the Americans, but with each other. This was another first that Barbara helped to bring about and again, take to a new level.
For those years, Barbara and I were almost inseparable. We traveled together and shared hotel rooms where we groaned with fatigue after long days of meetings. We presented before the United Nations, had meetings with the FBI in the U.S. and the KGB in Moscow. One of our joint projects was bringing the CIA members together with a representative of the KGB. They found commonality in a joint project developing an institute to study causes and prevention of international terrorism.
Barbara was an inspiration and supportive when I was bringing together women to share their positive vision of what the world looks like when it works. These meetings were held throughout the U.S. and led to another conference at Georgetown University in D.C. entitled Women of Vision: Leadership for a New World. There were 500 women and 50 men, some famous for their work and others yet unknown. Barbara suggested we create themes around the Wheel of Co-Creation. This brought together women who were leaders and newly emerging leaders in a variety of socio-political fields. Their mission was to 1) realize they were already empowered and, 2) explore what they could do together for healing and transformation of our country and our world. It led to an ongoing network of women working together…on… joint projects.
When Barbara entered one’s life, the vibratory frequency exponentially speeded up. It seemed as if we were all carried by a giant wave, knowing we were in our right place, fulfilling our life’s purpose…our dharma…our destiny. Those were exciting years with Barbara, who at the end of a long day of meetings would love to have a sumptuous meal and toast to the success of our work and to the future. She loved to toast!
One day in Moscow, Barbara and I were invited to a private meeting with Yuri Gagarin, the first Soviet Cosmonaut to venture into outer space. He shared stories of his adventures with space travel as Barbara and I were salivating at the thought of leaving the gravitational pull of this earth and leaping into the unknown of outer space. I asked Yuri if it would be possible for us to accompany the cosmonauts on a future flight to the moon. I explained that I taught Yoga and perhaps there were breathing techniques and stretches that could be helpful to the crew. Barbara looked at me in astonishment, saying, “Rama, I didn’t know you wanted to go to the moon. That has been my lifelong dream!” After all these years of working together, we did not know this about one another. Yuri was thrilled at our adventurous spirit and began sharing the elements of the training we could take with the other cosmonauts. We were so excited in planning this venture with Yuri but, of course, our earthly lives were already so busy and full that we could not give the preparation all the time and focus that it would require.
Barbara was never afraid of venturing into the unknown whether on the earth plane or in consciousness. When formidable obstacles would arise, she was like the Hindu god Hanuman. She could prodigiously leap over any obstacles. She did not waste time or mental energy on being critical of others or believing anything was impossible. She was truly a visionary, guided by spirit and the faith and values that were dear to her heart., just her presence on earth was making it a better place for us all to live.
I am sitting here typing on my laptop computer with a cell phone by my side neither of which existed when Barbara and I began the Soviet work in 1984, at the height of the Cold War. Her framed picture is on the table next to me. Her beauty and radiance of spirit continues to be timeless and eternal. She was ageless in her enthusiasm for life in all its myriad forms and formlessness. She was always on the leading edge of humanity’s next step and was a magnet for those of like mind.
When I last spoke to Barbara it was just before her birthday in December. She had just arrived in Albuquerque and sounded youthful and energetic. “I am here having meetings on,” she laughed, “the creation of an interstellar University.” My heart leapt with joy at the thought of all the potential possibilities.
As I write this, tears are falling and my heart is aching even though I know that this image, this energy we call Barbara has just changed form and is always present. Barbara was always and will always be an inspiration to me as she has been to hundreds and thousands of others over her life span. She no doubt will continue her work in whatever interstellar spheres and planes of consciousness she chooses to play in. Who knows, perhaps she is now fulfilling her lifelong dream of journeying to the moon, and many worlds beyond.
The word conflict means “with friction.” It is defined as, “to strike together.” Like two stones rubbing against one another, we can either produce fire that gives us light to see, heat for warmth, and food for the body. However, if that fire produced from the friction of two surfaces striking together gets out of control, it can grow into a raging inferno that destroys whatever is in it path. This bonfire of destruction can range from the collective of countries to our own personal relationships.
Just as a tiny pebble caught in the turbulent friction of an oyster shell can produce a beautiful pearl, we can do the same by using conflict as a creative force for change. Instead of viewing conflict as something negative, we can shift our perception and embrace conflict as part of our own self-transformation.
The origin of conflict is as old as the beginning of time. Biblical scriptures say, “In the beginning darkness was upon the face of the deep and God said, ‘let there be light and the light was good.’” It should be noted here that according to the Bible, God never said the darkness was bad. Even though 90% of the Universe is comprised of dark matter, and darkness gives the background for light, darkness is usually associated with something we would rather ignore or avoid.
In Yoga, the light and darkness of sun and moon are known as Ha and Tha. Everything we practice in asana is based upon the balance and bilateral integration of these two polarities. In pranayama, we create balanced integration of our autonomic nervous system by balancing our breath in the two nostrils. In standing poses, we balance the two hemispheres of the brain by standing equally upon both feet.
If the subtle qualities of mind are balanced, the Yogin is able to hold two or more points of view simultaneously. This expands our consciousness to be more inclusive without attaching fundamentally to only one-way or one perspective, refusing to acknowledge or listen to another. If we can do this, we are on our way to healing conflicts within ourselves and with those in our lives. When we are secure in our own beliefs, we are able to listen to the perspectives of others.
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras give a specific roadmap of the psychological origins of conflict that begin with the 2 nd Sutra, which is the most important of all, Yogas Chitta Vritti Niroddhah. Yoga is to still the fluctuations and turbulence that arise within the field of the mind.
Chitta refers to the mind that is divided into four parts, l) conscious 2) subconscious 3) over-mind, and 4) ego. Conscious mind receives information from the world around. It receives impressions through the sensory organs. This information is deposited into the varying layers of the pre- and subconscious mind. The stronger an impression, the deeper is its imprint in the psyche. Some of these impressions (samskaras) are already stored within us and new ones are being freshly created.
The overmind known as Buddhi (from Bodh meaning to know) is the more expansive part of Self that can hold two or more points of perspective without making one right and the other wrong. It is discriminating without being judgmental. It perceives differences without comparing those differences such as, “I like this and I don’t like that." It is what Ram Dass would call “choiceless awareness.”
Last but not least is the Ego mind. The Sanskrit word for ego is Ahamkara. Aham means "I Am,” and Kara is from the root verb Kri meaning “to do, or doing.” The mantra of this egoistic part of mind would be, “I am doing.” In contrast, the Buddhi or overmind, might say, “It is being done through me.”
The cute little Tasmanian dust devil of the ego fuels and is fueled by fires of separation that can lead to a variety of conflicts in the atmosphere of one’s life. The Buddhi or overmind only perceives differences, but it is the ego that compares the differences. This leads to polarizing belief systems that we are now witnessing in our country and our world, as well as in our own lives.
Just as there is an individual ego, there is also a collective ego of families, communities, states, and nations. There are actually three kinds of ego that I have related to the three gunas that are the constituents and qualities of the binding forces of creation.
The origin of conflicts can be found in the interplay of the five vrittis, or waves that arise in the field of the mind (Chitta). The Yoga Sutras reveal the origins of conflict through the interaction of these thought waves. Even though Patanjali refers to these vrittis as non-painful, when the ego steps in…they become painful. These five mind waves are: 1) Correct Perception 2) Incorrect Perception 3) Imagination 4) Sleep 5) Memory. What I have found in mediating conflicts both nationally and internationally is that “all conflict is about perception” and that “conflict is rarely if ever what it appears to be on the surface.” This is where it really becomes exciting.
Years ago, when staying with the former President of Costa Rica and his wife, my husband and I realized we shared a common interest and experiences in international conflict resolution. The president said that he found, in working with the El Salvadorian negotiations, that if the warring factions could travel back far enough to the roots of their conflict, it was no longer conflict resolution but conflict transformation. He said that if they could get people as close as possible to the origin of their conflict there was a true healing, not a surface pretense of resolution to put in their back pocket to use at a later time.
My husband and I were invited by officials in Moscow to mediate the conflict between the warring Republics of Armenia and Azerbiajan on the border of Iran. We asked the leaders to share their stories of how the conflict impacted them personally and their families. As they spoke, there was a major shift in the atmosphere of the room. Instead of the previous anger, rage and resentment, they were deeply listening to one another. When they heard each other’s stories, the tearful response of these two warring factions was, “you sound just like me.” Their tears fell, as the leaders of these republics rushed to hug and hold one another in the recognition of their similarities rather than differences. In one day, they moved from conflict to convergence and made verbal and written agreements to ensure peace for their countries, their children and future generations.
Afterwards, the Ukrainian president approached me asking the secret of these successful negotiations. He said, “three governments have tried but failed to bring these two factions together…tell me…was it,” he hesitated and then whispered, “Was it Yoga?”
I was startled at first and then thought yes! This IS Yoga. Yoga brings us from the illusion of separation to the convergence of Divine consciousness that transcends all polarities…all divisions. I understood that day, that the work in mediation and conflict resolution was Yoga. Our work was to help warring or opposing factions to lift the veil of illusion (Avidya) that keeps us from seeing another as ourself. I also discovered over the years of working in dialogue and conflict resolution that there are no spiritual boundaries separating nations, states, and people. It is only the ego nature of the mind that wants to build walls instead of bridges.
Years ago when I was with the Dali Lama in Israel on the border of Egypt, he silently looked out over the land where the boundaries of four countries of the Middle East met and said, “I don’t see any of nature’s borders or boundaries here…which makes me think… that the only borders are within the human mind."
I'm reminded of the inhumanity and suffering of both adults and children at the U.S. southern border. When I think of that suffering, I remember a quote from the Mahabharata, the great epic of India.
“When one prefers one’s own children to the children of others…war is near.”
New Year's Reflections ~ Staying centered in the midst of personal, national, and global instability and change
December 31, 2018
As we stand on the threshold of a New Year, a government shut down sends its shadow over this country along with the worst economic December since the great depression. Top-level officials are bailing out of what they see as a “sinking governmental ship," commandeered by a leader known to be lacking in discernment, morality, integrity, and compassion. The dawn of a new cold war looms with a new age arms race of hypersonic missiles, while outdated policies on southern borders still divide families seeking asylum.
Many Yoga teachers and students are expressing anger and rage at decisions being made by elected leaders that are divisively impacting people of this nation as never before.
Unless we live in a remote cave in the high Himalayas, the atmosphere around us is influencing our personal thinking and feelings. We take it on! However, just as the collective atmosphere of volatile emotions and fear can negatively impact us, Yoga can reverse this. Regardless of what appears to be chaos and confusion, if we hold the remembrance of the Universal that transcends all polarities, we can beneficially influence the atmosphere around us.
This time of year is a wonderful reminder that Love is greater than anger, and forgiveness is greater than them all. The New Year is a wonderful time to re-evaluate our emotional environment to stay centered in the midst of personal, national, and global instability and change.
How do we do that?
1. Take a media fast now and then, without the Ostrich mentality of totally burying your head in the sand.
2. When knots of anger and injustice gather in your solar plexus do a backbend over a chair, elongating the lumbar spine to stretch and relax the navel center. You will feel a release of emotional buildup that can coagulate in the midsection of the body. Keep extending the spine on each exhalation while keeping the navel passive.
3. Yoga teaches us bilateral balance of the body. Do the same with mind and emotions. Listen to opposing points of view while securely being established in your own. We can develop this by practicing tadasana, the Mountain Pose. The Mountain is known as the central axis of creation and is the central core of all standing poses. As a mountain, we caress the earth with our feet to rise up from the shadows of the valleys to sunlit peaks of consciousness. On the top of the mountain, we can expand our consciousness by seeing what we couldn’t see before. In tadasana, we also learn to stand equally on both feet to balance right and left hemispheres of the brain.
4. Develop the ability to hold two or more opposing viewpoints simultaneously without making one right and the other wrong.
5. Attempt to stay in the Buddhi, or over-mind consciousness by perceiving differences without comparing those differences. Ram Das calls this “choiceless awareness.”
6. Explore fear of the unknown through asana. Practice postures that you have been avoiding and reflect on how this may relate to people and situations in your life.
7. Practice new variations of basic asanas. By venturing into the unknown through exploration of ever-new variations in asana, we can break free of past fears and limitations. When we expand our comfort zones, we in turn expand the periphery of consciousness.
8. Elongate and stretch, moving in and out of the poses only with the breath…preferably the exhalation. As commentaries on the sutras say, “It is through the exhalation that the ego disentangles itself.” The ego perceives separation, not unification. If we move into asana with the exhalation, we move in an egoless state where we do not DO the pose but the pose is done through us. This can bring us into a state of transcendental awareness giving a deep sense of serenity and peace.
9. Meditate and chant AUM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti. This is a powerful Sanskrit mantra that invokes the vibration of the universal consciousness through its six syllables:
i) A and Ah represent the beginning sounds of creation. This is the sound that symbolizes Brahma, the creator, who was born out of the lotus stalk of the sleeping Vishnu’s navel.
ii) The second syllable of AUM is U and OO, the vibratory symbol of Vishnu the lord of preservation. In Hindu mythology, this is the energy that sustains the planetary body. It manifests in our body as the beat of our heart, the rhythm of our lungs, and all systems that maintain the life force.
iii) The third letter of AUM is M where the closure of the lips produces the humming sound of mmmm. This represents the end of a cycle not just of Aum but of creation. It represents Shiva, the lord of dissolution, destruction and transformation. This mythological God, is the universal energy that destroys old structures so the new can be born. This may be what we are witnessing in our country and our world.
At the end of the M when the mouth barely begins to open the sound is mng where the top (not tip) of the tongue presses against the cerebral pallet to vibrate the uppermost chakra in the crown of the head. The mouth then opens to make the sound of A… a new cycle, a new beginning, a new era. This A could actually represent…a New Year.
Note: There is a 7th syllable of AUM that is silence where the sound sent out eventually returns.
Shanti means peace and is so powerful for healing. The first Shanti is personal. It sends the vibration of peace to our body, mind, emotions, and soul. It encases our Being with an aura of peace regardless of life’s challenges and health concerns.
The second Shanti sends the vibration of peace and love that encompasses all those within our life. It embraces our families, friends, co-workers, colleagues, and especially those with whom there have been difficulties and challenges. This vibration helps heal our own heart from any past hurts that have been knowingly or unknowingly caused by others. It also helps heal the wounds we may have knowingly and unknowingly inflicted on others.
The third time, Shanti is the peace that radiates out from the central core of our Being. It crosses all illusory boundaries that separate nations, states, and people. It transcends race, religion, ideologies, and political belief systems to embrace all Beings as brothers and sisters of the One Humanity. This Shanti holds all sentient and insentient Beings within the light of Universal consciousness honoring differences as well as commonalities. This brings us to the vast storehouse of the Peace that already is, where Peace is not just a state of doing…it is a state of BEING
May this New Year bring you inner peace and happiness in the remembrance that you have never been separated, and are already One with the Divine Source of all creation.
Love and Blessings to you all. Rama Jyoti
I watched as a bright golden leaf framed by a clear blue sky floated lightly to earth. My mind was transfixed on the leaf that marked the advent of autumn and the cycles of seasons within life.
I was reminded of a quote by the great poet of India, Rabindranath Tagore, "Let life be beautiful like summer flowers and death like autumn leaves."
What a wonderful way to view the seasons of life! Birth and the beginning of life in spring and the activity peaks of life’s summers are a prelude to the closing of a cycle in autumn.
Fall is a favorite time for many people, as its cold crisp air pierces the ripple of late summer winds, and I wonder if it is possible to make these transitions from the early years to the later years in life without mourning the passing of time? Is it possible to make the transitions from one era of life to another without clinging to what was? Is it possible to let go if we can’t perceive what is yet to be? Or is it possible to live in a suspended state of fearless expectancy of what is yet to be revealed?
As the golden leaf lingers in the crisp morning air, my thoughts travel to those affected by loss and tragedy in our country, and around the world, those forced into life’s changes with little warning. I hold all beings everywhere in my heart, and want to see them transcend the pain of the past and move into the transformative unfolding of the future. The leaf that was once the bud of spring now is a beautiful reminder of its lovely past in a future that is yet invisible to its own transcendence.
And always, Yoga offers us flexibility in body, which represents the agility in mind that makes us bend with the winds, whether chilly or warm. It helps us make these transitions through the seasons of our lives, not with a sense of failure or foreboding, but with joyful expectancy of faith in the Divine loving hand that is guiding us from one place to another in the fulfillment of our life’s destiny.
The Thanksgiving holiday is a reminder that it is far greater than simply a gathering to share a meal based on age-old tradition. It is a time to truly give thanks from our hearts for all that has graced our lives, rather than dwelling on what has been lost. What a great opportunity this coming holiday is for forgiving the past and releasing hardened places in our hearts! Thanksgiving is not only once a year but also an attitude of appreciation that we can practice every day of the year. As we transcend our own tears, we can see and feel the tears of others.
One great Bhakti (devotional) teacher who was a living saint from India once said to me, “Be thankful for judgments and criticism…through them, you will have greater compassion for others.”
During this holiday, and each day we can send love and healing to those whose lives have radically changed and those who have experienced losses in our country and all countries of the world. The healing power of giving thanks can silently radiate out from Self, to community and our world.
Rama Jyoti Vernon
Many people of good will are overwhelmed by what we see going on around us these days. Now, we mourn victims of the shootings in the Pittsburgh Tree of Life Synagogue, and those in the Tallahassee Hot Yoga studio, along with victims of seemingly endless mass shootings, and gun-related tragedies too numerous to mention here. My heart goes out to all who are affected directly and indirectly…family, friends, and colleagues. I cannot help but think how this might magnify the already prevalent fear and lack of trust throughout this country.
I often ponder how the timeless teachings of the Yoga Sutras emphasize the ways we can remain true to ourselves and our values, through Yoga. Instead of losing heart during turbulent times, now more than ever, we can truly practice the tenants of Yoga. We can rise above the fray of polarization to remain in discrimination, which in the Yoga Sutras is called viveka.
Viveka is one of the first words Patanjali, the father of Yoga, gives in the first chapter of the Yoga Sutras as a way to “still the turbulent waves of the mind.” Discrimination in ancient times was another word given to describe the function of the Buddhi mind. Buddhi is from the Sanskrit root verb bodh meaning to know. It is known as the “over” or “higher” mind. This part of our mind sees differences but does not compare the differences, as "This is good, that is bad. This is right and that is wrong.” The Buddhi mind is like standing on a mountaintop where we can get a 360-degree view of the valleys and lands far beyond.
This is a challenging time for Yogins to leap to an ethereal vision and hold it for the highest and best of all humankind. It is so easy to be pulled into the fray of what Patanjali calls the alternating state (vichinna) where one emotion overwhelms another and then later reverses itself. Vichinna is a state of mind where we struggle to rise above painful contractive thoughts of the past. My husband, a Unity Minister calls this alternating state “wrestling with Angels.” At one point in our life we may forgive a past hurt and injury to rise above it and feel only love and understanding. Then one morning we may wake up and find that the wave of forgiveness and love is overpowered by the old emotions of hurt, anger, and an inability to forgive.
At this time in our country’s history, our anger and disillusionment may be directed to our political leaders, because these emotions can arise from feelings of powerlessness to make needed changes in a democracy that is supposed to be based upon transparency and honesty. I have been wrestling with angels in this alternating state of emotion, related to our political leaders. At times, I feel my consciousness lift above the polarities where divisions converge beyond the clouds of illusion. But at other times, I am caught in the valley of the play of this world where I cannot access the Buddhi mind. At times, I lose my discrimination where I don’t just objectively observe differences; I begin to compare those differences, which is more of an element of the ahamkara, the ego mind.
As I wrestle with my angels of discrimination and ego, I keep thinking about an ancient saying in the scriptures of Yoga, “When we focus on another persons defects…we take on those defects.” In the Yoga Sutras, there are brief passages that say if we send good thoughts to others, we will grow stronger. It is also believed that when we send out negative thoughts towards another, we may lose strength and grow weaker.
This seems to be a time that requires more discrimination of the Buddhi mind than ever before. Can we see the bigger picture by ascending the rarefied peaks of consciousness? Or are there times when we are pulled from the higher and more expansive views into the valleys of deception where our greater vision is obstructed by our own lack of true discrimination?
I don’t know about you but I am pulled from my journey of ascension into the pit of sadness when the wheels of injustice continue to roll over what may be perceived as the powerless. But, at the same time, it is incredible watching how people are now taking back their own power and standing up to what we perceive as injustice. Could this also be Yoga? After all, we do our standing posture to strengthen us, not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well. The standing poses give us the resolve not to rely on others for support, and the independence to stand alone when needed. We no longer are influenced by the opinion of others as we dive deep into the central core of our being and our psyche to find stability and what is true and just, and what actions (or inactions) are right for us.
This seems to be a time in our country’s history when, as Yogins we can make a decision to involve ourselves in society. Some people may perceive the teachings of Yoga to guide us towards inaction within the material world. But indeed, they could be to move us deeper into action. We can do this while holding the greater picture, like the image of one of our hands reaching up and connecting to the heavens while extending our other hand to the earth plane in the service of humanity. Could this be the Yoga of this millennium? Is it possible to remember "the union of Yoga that already is" while integrating our growing strength through our practice into the service (seva) of the needs in our world today?
“If our desire is to serve humanity, we will be crushed and broken-hearted. But if our desire is to serve God, no amount of ingratitude can keep us from serving our fellow (sic) human beings.”
The Yoga Community is now mourning the transition of another beloved teacher, Baba Hari Dass, who passed on September 25. Babaji was one of the early pioneers of the l960s who brought the spiritual teachings from East to West.
I was traveling when word came to me that one of my beloved teachers, Baba Hari Dass had left this world for another Loka. I had been thinking so much of him for several weeks before his passing, remembering the wisdom he had shared with me in letters and in person over so many years.
I first knew of Babaji as the teacher in India with whom Neem Karoli Baba instructed Rama Dass to study. When I heard that Babaji was coming to the United States, and would be within driving distance of my home in the Bay Area, I knew it was important to see him. I quickly organized a group of my Yoga students to attend one of his first satsang gatherings here in the United States.
We were surprised to find that Babaji was silent, but as in a game of charades, he was highly animated as he gestured with his hands, nodded or shook his head when we didn’t understand. A small blackboard hung around his neck held by a soft thick twine. It was a miraculous experience to watch this wiry little sadhu scribbling quickly in chalk, to answer life’s universal questions. He seemed to transcend the spoken word as he transmitted his vast wisdom through the gesture of silence.
A man sitting near him in the front row asked a profound question, “Babaji, how can I practice ahimsa, and remain in non-violence if a robber breaks into my home and I have to protect my wife and children?” There was a moment of silence where I thought this must be a Zen Koan with no answer…only the question. Then Babaji wrote swiftly on his little blackboard as one of his devotees read out loud, “If you were truly in non-violence, the situation would never occur.” I was stunned! He went straight to the core of the question. He didn’t diplomatically spiral around the question. His answer was like an arrow that awakened my sleeping consciousness.
When he finally settled in Santa Cruz, California, I would again take small groups of Yoga students and teachers to see him. Mt. Madonna was a small rustic building in the early days. We would hang out in his room as he encouraged our questions and delighted in our dialogues. He was so joyful, enthusiastic, and playful that he lifted our spirits, and always inspired us. Whenever I faced life’s challenges, Babaji was constantly there, striking to the heart of any issue with his impeccable insight and wisdom.
At a time when I was struggling with the issue of having several spiritual teachers but no Guru, he wrote me a three-page letter that soothed the pain in my heart. The last passage of his letter said, “Be like the Bee that sips the nectar from many flowers…but remember, don’t stay on the lotus after the sun goes down.” When the sun goes down, the petals of the lotus close so the bee is locked in and cannot fly. He was one of the few teachers in those days that didn’t emphasize the need to dig a well in only one place.
When I contacted Babaji with a severe Kundalini experience after the birth of my next to last child, he knew instantly what was needed. He sent me a message that I needed to come to Mt. Madonna for special Ayurvedic treatments and remain in seclusion for a short time. When I hesitated, the words he conveyed went through my heart like an arrow, “You will either go into Samadhi or go crazy.” His perceptions were like a profound laser beam. When I finally responded to his suggestion, I was healed.
There are so many memories of this great Sage who illumined the path of Yoga, and helped close the gap between East and West. His memory and legacy transcend his physical form, as his presence and teachings live on in those devotees closest to him and all those whose lives have been touched by him.
As I write this now, knowing that Babaji is no longer in his physical form, my heart is filled, not with sorrow but with joy. His name Hari Dass means “servant of God.” His lifetime was dedicated to serving God whether it was building a Hanuman Temple, putting on plays of the Ramayana, helping those who sought his council, or infusing greater understanding of Yoga through his teachings and writings on the Yoga Sutras. He has left a spiritual legacy for all who have been touched by his vast teachings.
There is the joy of knowing that those closest to him will carry on his wonderful work. Mt. Madonna continues to be a beacon of light in learning and healing modalities where the land infuses the visitor with unspoken spiritual awakenings. In his silence, Babaji has touched the heart of humanity through his presence of Being. I once asked him if he would ever end his vow of silence and he hastily chalked his reply…”When God Wills.”
JUNE 16, 2018
Rama Jyoti Vernon
It is three o’clock in the morning.
I was awakened by vivid images: children being ripped away from their parents on the borders of our country; a baby pulled from its mother’s breast; two and three year olds weeping and wailing for their parents. For the rest of their lives, the endless pain of lack of trust will haunt these children and their parents. There have been repeated inhumane acts throughout history that have demonstrated the inhumanity plaguing the human condition. As Pete Seeger wrote, and many have sung, “When will we ever learn?”
How can those of us in Yoga, who understand the law of cause and effect, be silent and allow this situation to continue through the support of our current leaders who are deaf and insulated to the pain and suffering of others? Are they our representatives? I think not!
We become part of these decisions when we are born into a country of origin. We are part of the dharma of the laws of that land and if that law of dharma, which is supposed to bring order, social stability, and organization, creates chaos, instability, and suffering, it is no longer dharma but adharma. Adharma goes against the grain of the laws of nature and humane social conditions. It destroys instead of builds, and we become part of its destruction if we acquiesce in our silence.
In the scriptural studies of Yoga philosophy and the law of karma, it is believed that
if we are born into a country that unjustly makes war upon another and we do not
protest, at least in our own hearts, then in another life we will be born into a country that is made war upon.
What can we do? It is the eternal question wherever people feel helpless in making
changes. Yes, in Yoga it is possible to rise above the sea of samsara, the sea of
endless pain, to experience in consciousness a place beyond the duality, separation,
and forgetfulness of the unified soul consciousness. However, in Yoga, even if we
have a glimpse of this paradisiacal state, does it mean we cannot try to alleviate
human suffering on this earth plane?
Swami Vivekananda would say that the world (and its problems) is like the kink
of a dog’s tail. As long as we are holding it we think it is straight. But the moment
we let go, it will just kink up again. Does this mean we can never effect change? Is
this the difference between pragmatic action and static inaction?
When we see injustice do we remain silent, thinking someone else will do something
or do we go into our meditation and practices asking what our dharma, our destiny,
our life’s purpose is in this instance? Do we shed our own tears for the suffering of
others? Do we go to the border to light candles, participate in a “sit in” or go on a
hunger strike? Do we write our government representatives or participate in a march on our state and/or nation’s Capital? Or do we continue to turn a deaf ear to the lies told by leaders that thrust the blame on everyone else but themselves? Do we continue to share our thoughts with those who we feel are lacking in discrimination due to radical political choices they are making?
I awakened in the middle of the night asking the invisible Masters what I can do,
and wondered if Germans in l930s Germany did the same. It is always difficult to know when the tide of human decency turns into a cruel regime that conditions the minds of its people while insidiously stripping away the freedoms they are accustomed to. Why is it that so many leaders come to power only to have power over others, but not to serve the needs of their people? Are we being lulled into a hypnotic slumber until it will be too late to awaken? A frog when dropped into a boiling pot will jump out. However, if the heat is turned up gradually, it will be too late for him to escape the boiling cauldron. Is this the acceptance of the abnormal becoming the “new norm?”
Dawn is breaking, the birds are singing, and now rain is softly falling as my tears fall with it. Some might say this is not yogic thinking. We are to be unattached. However, there is a very thin line between non-attachment and indifference. As the Masters say “until we know attachment, we will never know true non-attachment."
I arose to sit with eyes closed, holding the people in all war torn countries in my consciousness. I felt the mother’s grief of the loss of her children, and the children’s loss of the parent. I felt the pain of the wounded in body and in heart. I felt the loss of those who will never return to their homes and lands wandering to seek refuge wherever they are accepted. I held the children and parents fleeing violence and persecution seeking safety and protection in the embrace of Universal consciousness.
That is what I can do! What can you do?
Now is the time to arise from within, like a spiritual warrior guided by the power of compassion, and discrimination, in whatever way we are called. Perhaps for some it is a time not to be silent but to speak out, and stand firm in the winds of growing tyranny and divisive policies that separate nations, states and people. For others, there may be a call for inspired, transformative action, or some may wish to offer the power of silence, prayer and meditation.
Yoga means Union, transcending the allusion of separation to see the Oneness of all humanity and human unity. Together let us hold a vision of a world where peace can prevail; where our thoughts, words and actions are no longer weapons of destruction but are divinely guided to lift the hearts, minds and spirit of others. Perhaps if enough of us hold this vision we can reach a critical mass to impact the collective consciousness of all humanity.
It was a full moon night as our plane touched ground in the garden island of Kauai, Hawaii. The fragrance of exotic flowers wafted through the indoor/outdoor airport. As Hawaiian music played in the background, Mira, my daughter and I just looked at each other. Her look was of joy to luxuriate in the warmth of the air and sounds of the sea. Mine was of longing for the cold and snowy climate of Christmas.
In the morning we awoke as the sun rose over the distant mountains. A river lazily passed by the screened lanai where we were sleeping. Exotic birds were singing as a family of geese pranced by with their small offspring sandwiched between them. Bandied roosters sped by our window as a whitish looking owl flew over the calm river where the fish would jump at dusk.
My heart filled with love and gratefulness to be brought to this place after a year of continual travel and teaching. What a blessing it is, wherever I go, to share yoga and the Yoga Sutras! The green all around was exhilarating and brought vibrancy back to my tired body. After a summer of heat waves my attachment to snow and cold dropped away as I slipped gently into this paradisiacal moment in time.
Even though Hawaii was testing it’s siren that would warn of a missile attack from North Korea, the people did not seem frightened, and life on this island drifted on as usual. Right here and now, this felt like a fiefdom of serenity and sanctity in the midst of political storms swirling around the planet. Mira and I decided to take a media fast and live in the beauty and peace of each moment. The world cannot reach us here, I thought as concerns of the future dissolved into an ocean of “all-thing-ness.”
The ever-changing clouds passed over the peaks of majestic mountains, one range taller than the next. They seemed to stand like sentries of protection for those who live in their shadows. As I gazed at the mountain, I was reminded of a passage from the Mahabharata, the great epic of India, “As a man on the hilltop sees a man on the plains, so one having ascended the palace of knowledge and becoming free from sorrow now sees others who are suffering.”
As I reveled in the embrace of this magical island, the concept of suffering seemed a world away. As the lyrical songs of birds swirled through the air, I realized that in the perfection of this moment, there is no conflict between nations, states and people. There is no suffering of the pathos from the aftermath of war or fear of impending wars. In this moment there is no regret of the past or anxiety of the future, there is no justice or injustice, rights and wrongs. There is only the eternal “Now!”
All of yoga seems to be about cultivating that “Now” through practices that create calmness of the waves of the mind. In that state I wondered, is there any pain or suffering in self, community or the world? Is there a place of peace that already shines like the sun above the clouds and is always shedding its light even though we may not always see or feel it.
I walked a few feet to the edge of the river. Its placid surface was like a mirror reflecting my own image. As I gazed into the water, I thought of the Sutra 1.3, “Tada Drastuh Swarupe Avasthanam.” When the waves of the mind become calm then, “The seer and seen become one,” or is it “realize the Oneness that already is?”
Suddenly, a fish jumped creating a circular ripple that expanded to the banks of the river. Even though I could no longer see my own reflection, I thought how these ripples were like the unending rings of compassion. How can we feel what another feels until we have ascended the hilltops and dried our own tears so that we can see and feel the tears of others? Until then, as the ancient yogis say, what we think is unattachment, is only indifference.
There is a wonderful commentary in the Yoga Sutras, “To the yogin, who is as sensitive as an eyeball, the world is painful.” Yoga awakens our sensitivity like a cobweb drawn across the ball of the eye. If the same cobweb is drawn over the thickest skin of our arm would we feel it? The sensitivity of an eyeball is an example of our conscience. Things we may have not felt at one time, now through our practices, we can feel and understand its affects upon ourselves and others.
When we realize how we have knowingly or unknowingly wounded the hearts of others and actually feel their pain, we cultivate compassion. When we soften the hardened areas of our heart to forgive those who may have knowingly or unknowingly wounded our heart, we cultivate forgiveness and in turn, compassion.
There is a practice in Hawaiian culture, which works with forgiveness and reconciliation, called Ho’oponopono. Although many people are familiar with its modern day application, many do not know its history and use within the ancient Hawaiian culture. The Hawaiians, much like the yogis, believe that illness is a result of breaking ‘spiritual laws’ called Kapu in Hawaiian, transgressions that may have harmed another (like the law of Karma in Yoga). They believe illness is caused by the stress of anger, guilt and holding on to the memories of the past. In order to heal the illness, the deeper issues of the mind must be healed and forgiveness sought from the person/s involved. Or if that is not possible… from the Gods.
This was done using a Kahuna, a healing priest who would perform Ho’oponopono ceremony by gathering the family or persons involved. The priest would open the gathering with prayer allowing the stories to be told and emotions released. Once the roots of the hurt had been acknowledged, then they would release the held emotions and end with a reconciliation feast. Perhaps this is the origin of why families get together for holiday feasts.
In modern times, Ho’oponopono was combined with practices from India and China and the concept of Karma. It took the form now known as a mantra repeated over and over, “I love you. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you.” This involves healing the origins of conflict by taking full responsibility for our own actions knowing that everything that exists outside is a projection of the inner landscape. This is aligned with the practices of yoga and the sutra that speaks of the yogin as being as “sensitive as an eyeball.” This means that whatever hurt ripples from our own consciousness is immediately felt and rectified in the moment.
The Christmas hustle and bustle may not be outwardly evident in this corner of the world, but the spirit of Christmas is ever present within this ancient wisdom tradition. Here, the Hawaiian Christmas tree stands solidly in the ground, free from ornaments, shining in its own symmetrical glory. The spirit of Aloha supports the spirit of the Holidays, which in the Hawaiian culture is timeless and eternal. “I love you. I’m sorry.Please forgive me. Thank you.”
Have a Happy and Healing Holiday
~ Rama Jyoti ~
Rama with Bhavani Maki, founder/teacher,
Yoga Hanalei; author, The Yogis Road Map
Photos by Mira Murphy
This morning, I was awakened by the crow of a rooster. When I opened the door to feel the fall air, a gust of wind suddenly blew the dry autumn leaves into the house. As they circled around my feet, I thought of nature’s seasonal changes and how they relate to changes in our lives, our country and in the world. The fall winds of change are symbolic of the withering and dissolution of one era before the rebirth of another.
As we enter into this Thanksgiving season, and the coming holidays, we are reminded to give thanks and gratitude for what we have rather than regret for what we don’t have.
I am reminded of the gratitude I feel for the many seasons I have spent studying the Yoga Sutras. And now with the help of so many, I am grateful for the miracle of publishing the first segment of a study manual, Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, Gateway to Enlightenment, Chapter 1, for the many students who have come before, and those who are yet to come, immersing themselves in the study of these ancient texts, whose meaning I have been blessed to receive.
In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali refers to afflictions in our lives as kleshas, which comes from the root verb, klisht meaning to inflict. These kleshas are considered to be the reason for our afflictions, pain and suffering in life:
1) Avidya - not knowing the nature of our oneness with the divine and with all beings, sentient and insentient
2) Asmita - egoism, which is the I-sense that identifies with the body, mind and personality
3) Raga - attachment to objects, or people; wanting to maintain the status quo
4) Dwesha - aversion, resistance, avoidance, not wanting to see things as they are
5) Abhinevesha - clinging to life and the fear of death; fear of change, fear of the unknown
The essence of all of yoga is to transcend the kleshas so that the mind can remain in the state of Yogas Chitta Vritti Nirodhaha (yoga is to quiet or still the waves of the mind). This means in all circumstances, all instances, all seasons, and phases of life.
These kleshas go through five stages of transformation. They exist within each of us, individually and they exist collectively as family, community, and country. They lie in the hidden depths of our subconscious and are known as the origin of samskaras (indelible impressions in the psyche). Samskaras are the product of our desires, actions and experiences throughout life or lives. Asana, pranayama, and meditation practices are meant to bring these impressions up to the surface of the conscious mind where they can be seen, healed and released from our cellular memory. As Mr. B.K.S. Iyengar would say, “The invisible must become visible before it can be eradicated” (or transformed).
For many people, this year has been one of uncertainty, instability, doubt and fear. For so many it has been a year of loss — of loved ones, property, jobs and security of the future. In an instant, the unprecedented winds of storms, flooding, and fires have changed lives. In times of change there is a sense of grieving — for the loss of what was and the uncertainty of what lies ahead. We are now experiencing this as individuals and as a nation.
It seems as if our 45th president is a catalyst for change. He has inspired so many kleshas in us as individuals and communities. Instead of seeing this as negative, we might see the positive influence of bringing the alligators up from the muddy waters of our own nature as well as the swamp of the collective. When that which has been hidden comes to the surface, it can be a bit frightening at first.
As stated in the Yoga Sutras, these kleshas at first arise from the hidden depths of the subconscious psyche to become fully blown and out in the open. As we continue our practices, they eventually move into the alternating state where one emotion or event overcomes the other. Eventually, they come into a thinning state where they no longer have the same emotional hold and power over us. This state is where the mind is not as scattered and comes into a concentrated one-pointed state of awareness.
When the kleshas arise out of the hidden depths of our subconscious whether individually or collectively, it can be a startling experience. It looks like all hell is breaking loose. But, perhaps it is just the light of heaven trying to break through.
The ancient Greek goddess Chaos always preceded change. Change can be frightening but out of chaos comes a new dharma, a new order or societal structure. I cannot help but observe collectively that this is what we may be witnessing today in our political, religious, business and entertainment community. The greater the light, more shadows appear.
It is an exciting time in history when the collective samskaras that have been hidden and repressed for a very long time, are now surfacing for healing and releasing. It is a major time of transformation when those who have had no voice in the past are now coming forth and speaking out regardless of repercussions.
Wow! Are we practicing yoga as a nation? When that which is lying in darkness and confusion begins to surface and comes up into the light of new understanding, it is a time to give thanks. This is what I am thankful for this holiday. I am thankful for the voices of those who have finally been heard and those who have yet to be heard. This includes the native people of this land who, at first, welcomed and helped the pilgrims survive the freezing winters. As history tells us they shared a communal meal on the commemorative day we call Thanksgiving. I have always wondered if this is a day we should be celebrating? However, it seems as if now, Thanksgiving has morphed into a day when we actually do remember to be grateful and give gratitude and thanks. It’s interesting that the words grateful and gratitude come from the same source as grace. In grace, we give thanks for those in our life, we give thanks for the love we share and have shared with others throughout our life, regardless of the hurdles and patterns of the past.
Thanksgiving gives us a glimpse into the possibility of a heart free of the burden of past wounds. It can be a time of forgiveness that opens our subtle heart to receive the light of universal love. This is a love that embraces all beings. It transcends all boundaries, walls and belief systems that separate nations, states and people. In the light of deeper understanding, subtle passageways within us will continue to open to ever-expanding compassion we might call grace. Grace is the universal gift of divine love, forever omnipresent and omniactive, and those who live in this state of grace, consciously and constantly live in eternal gratitude and thanksgiving.
As I sat on the porch of our log cabin looking out at the acre of green grass encircled by tall trees, I thought of a verse in the Bhagavad Gita. “The yogi who perceives the essential oneness everywhere naturally feels the pleasure or pain of others as his or her own.”
The autumn leaves continued to fall. The leaves of the maple trees were starting to turn their usual bright scarlet of the season. A red cardinal landed on the porch railing in front of me. We seemed to delight in each other’s company before it darted off to new exciting adventures. After a long hot summer of travel and teaching, it felt so good, not to be somewhere or do anything. The sun was playing peekaboo through the tall pines as the birds called to one another through their songs. I inhaled the crisp air of the changing season. My heart filled with the beauty and serenity of the moment. In the moment, there is no pain no physical and spiritual hunger, no wars, suffering or lack; it is a moment where leaders of nations truly DO care and those in positions of power are there to serve the highest good for all people.
While the sun began to set behind the trees, a cool wind began to blow. As I walked through the fallen leaves back into the house, I wondered if I had awakened from a long dream, remembering that dreams can come true.
Have a Thanksgiving full of love and gratitude,
Photo by Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash